Greetings from Brisbane, California

My town of Brisbane, California is a suburb of San Francisco, butting right up against The City’s southern border. And Brisbane has a lagoon, and Caltrain railroad tracks, which are nice to have…

(Picture taken at sunrise in Brisbane, California on October 22nd, 2014)

The Home Front, a cyber warrior’s guide

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Android users: your phone is under attack. You know that Swype keyboard that’s so much nicer than clicking on each letter? That’s a surveillance device that logs every word you input. Switch to Google Keyboard right now. Swype Keyboard Free lists the following Permission Details: approximate (network based) location, precise (GPS) location, read your text messages, read call log, record audio, read terms you added to the dictionary. Google Keyboard contains none of that. Why does a keyboard app need GPS coordinates? Continue reading

The most beautiful college campuses in America: 10 thoughts on a new list

There’s a new list out ranking the 20 most beautiful college campuses in America. These things are always subjective, and they can start more arguments than they settle, but I have to admit that this is a not-bad list.

I haven’t been to all the honored campuses, but I am familiar with several of them. Heck, I hold degrees from two of them.

Here’s the list, then I’ll have a few comments.

1. University of Virginia Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

The final, hopefully completely updated 2014 reading list…

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” – Oscar Wilde

This is a stack of books. There are lots of these at my house. (image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net)

(For previous posts in this series look here, here, and here.)

After several threats to do so, I finally take a bit of time to update the 2014 reading list. Several elements have played into the list expanding well beyond its original limits: new friendships with publishers who asked me to review books, interesting finds at used book stores, decisions to read books so I’d know a little better what I was talking about when I castigated their authors.

So here we go. This, I hope, will catch up the 2014 reading list. Anything else that swims into view will go on the 2015 reading list. (I offer links for books that I have already written essays about.) Continue reading

Sports

Jurgen Klinsmann vs. Don Garber at Hell in a Cell: it’s just not that complicated, folks

A few days ago there was another dust-up between US Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann and MLS Commissioner Don Garber. In the aftermath we’ve heard analysis upon analysis, take after take, all trying to sort things like why can’t we all get along and why does Jurgy hate America’s domestic league.

I get that controversy is good for certain corners of our society – say, those who make money off of ratings – but I really don’t get why this is so complicated for people. In truth, Klinsmann’s position is straightforward and logical, totally in line with a fact that we all know about athletics: To be the best, you have to compete against the best. Continue reading

Renewable-Journal-1

An electric car means partial immunity to gas prices – Renewable Journal for 10/18/2014

My Nissan Leaf means that I don’t really care much what gas prices do. It’ll be a good day when most people have this same freedom.

For more posts in this series, please click here.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when a story about dropping gas prices came on. The reporter interviewed a couple of people filling up at a gas station and they, quite understandably, loved that gas prices were going down. While I was thinking about the story and how falling gas prices are not the good thing that the reporter indicated they were (more on that another time), I had an “electric car moment.”

I realized that gas prices don’t matter to me, at least not directly. Continue reading

Solarlease.com

How to avoid Solar Home Inc’s online presence

If you find comment spam, domain speculation, cybersquatting, and sockpuppetry to be as unethical as I do, here’s how you can more easily avoid conducting business with Solar Home Inc.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Over the last three days I’ve shown that Solar Home Inc uses comment spam, domain speculation, cybersquatting, and sockpuppetry as means to boost their business. If you’re someone who thinks it’s OK to conduct business using these practices then there’s no need for you to read any further. However, if you have read through the evidence I presented over the last three days and concluded, as I did, that Solar Home is behaving unethically, then I invite you to read this final post about how to quickly identify the vast majority of Solar Home’s websites. When you’re done you’ll be able to more easily avoid conducting business with them or their affiliates.

First a word of caution – Solar Home has demonstrated itself capable of maintaining 6,300 websites with some degree of automation. Given the fact that changing the appearance of a website is relatively simple and inexpensive, especially with automation, I have no way to know how long the examples below will remain representative of Solar Home’s websites. Continue reading

Homelessness

The Healing Blues: musicians unite against homelessness

An old friend, Jon Epstein, is involved with Greensboro College’s Healing Blues Project, which aims to to raise $30,000 for the Interactive Resource Center, a tax-exempt, nonprofit day center in downtown Greensboro for people experiencing homelessness. I’m not even going to bother explaining why this is a worthy cause, and honestly, I’m not sure what I could say that makes the point any better than track 14 on the CD, “I Die a Little,” which reunites Jon and his Haymarket Riot collaborator Pat Lichty on a track co-written by Jon’s wife, Kim Thoré, and voxed by Charlotte Whitted.

As you can see on the project’s IndieGoGo page, they have a ways to go to meet their goal. I encourage you to give it a listen and contribute if you can.

Solar Home

Solar Home Inc engages in online sockpuppetry

In addition to its comment spam, domain speculation, and cybersquatting, Solar Home Inc also engages in sockpuppetry

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “sock puppet” as “a false online identity used for deceptive purposes.” Wikipedia’s entry describes a sock puppet as “an online identity used for purposes of deception” including but not limited to using the extra identity to talk to/about the original, praising/defending/supporting people or organizations, and bypassing site bans.

As part of my investigation into the online practices of Solar Home Inc, I have read dozens of comments on blog posts, news articles, online solar tech articles, and investor notices written by Solar Home’s founder and CEO, Ray Boggs, and a Solar Home employee named Ron Winton. In only two cases did I find either acknowledging that they work together. This makes Winton a Solar Home sockpuppet himself. In one case, a mistake by Winton in Motley Fool comments revealed that at least one of the three usernames affiliated with Solar Home was a sockpuppet. And I found several additional usernames that are also supporting Solar Home’s resale business, but no indication that any of them acknowledge their connection to Solar Home. Continue reading

Book-Review

The Song or the Singer? Trying to Understand the Success of Nicholas Sparks

In the case of a writer like Nicholas Sparks, perhaps it’s that he gives readers a familiar story arc time after time that explains his success…

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (image courtesy Goodreads)

After reading a couple of superb pieces of literary fiction by J.F. Powers and Shelby Foote, I detoured from the 2014 reading list to take a look at the work of a writer whose success I’ve wondered about for some time.

Yep. That’s right. Literary fiction snob and crusty old professor Jim read him some Nicholas Sparks.

It happened accidentally. Lea and I were doing some book rearranging a few days ago and, as we shifted books from one bookcase to another, we came across a copy of Nicholas Sparks’s third novel, A Walk to Remember, a book Lea received from an aunt several years ago that had languished on our shelves. She moved to toss it into our donation box for the local library, but I stopped her. My words were something to the effect of “I’ve abused this guy’s work without having read it. I am going to read this novel and write about it.”

And so we proceed. Continue reading

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Solar Home Inc uses domain speculation and cybersquatting to support its business

Solar Home Inc has not only supported its business with four years of comment spam, it also engages in domain speculation and cybersquatting on other companies’ trademarks.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

In the process of investigating Solar Home Inc’s comment spamming, I came across dozens of websites that were all linked to Solar Home, either in the copyright notices on individual pages or on the About/Contact Us pages. Since most businesses don’t bother to maintain more than a handful of websites, the fact that Solar Home seemed to have dozens caught my attention. When I broadened my investigation into Solar Home’s websites, I found that Ron Winton (as “Ronwiserinvestor”), an acknowledged employee of Solar Home, admitted in a Motley Fool comment that Solar Home controlled “800 active websites” as of April 2014.

I also found that the 800 acknowledged websites actually represented a small fraction of the nearly 6,300 solar-related websites registered by Solar Home. Of those 6,300 websites I personally verified that over a hundred of them were explicitly tied to Solar Home and that, by offering several of those websites for sale, Solar Home is engaged in domain speculation. I also identified a few websites that contained the trademarks of other companies, including one that could be a Solar Home competitor, indicating that Solar Home also engages in cybersquatting. Continue reading

Solar Home

Solar Home Inc’s business supported by comment spam, domain speculation, and sockpuppetry

Solar Home Inc controls over 6000 websites, cybersquats on other companies’ trademarks, posts hundreds of cut-and-paste comments on news, technology, and investing sites, and posts those comments using at least eight separate usernames.

Solar Home

Solar Home

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

On my first Renewable Journal post, a commenter by the name of Ray Boggs dropped a list of reasons not to go with a solar energy lease like the one I have with SolarCity. I briefly looked into his points and found that some were valid while others were not. In addition, I discovered that Boggs is the founder of Solar Home Inc, a Victorville California solar system reseller. This makes SolarCity and other solar lease providers Boggs’ competitors. So I responded in the comment thread, pointed out that Boggs was a biased commenter, and left it at that.

On July 16, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story about solar leases and how they might not be all they’re cracked up to be, and when I glanced at the comments on NPR’s website, I noticed that the very same Ray Boggs had posted another comment attacking solar leases. But the fact that his comment at NPR was nearly identical to the comment he posted at S&R got me wondering if Boggs was more than just a businessman trying to undercut his competition. It got me wondering whether or not Boggs was essentially a spammer. So I did some digging.

What I discovered is that there are hundreds of nearly identical comments posted on solar articles and websites going back to September 2010. I discovered nine distinct usernames and/or individuals responsible for posting those comments, usually without acknowledging their connection to Solar Home. And I discovered a network of literally thousands of nearly identical websites controlled by Solar Home that serve the dual purpose of attacking solar leasing companies while also promoting Solar Home’s products. Continue reading