Sunday, June 22, 2008

Identity theft protection

You have no doubt heard LifeLock's ad on the radio. It's where the CEO of LifeLock says: "My name is Todd Davis. My social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx" (he actually provides his real social security number in this ad, and you can also find it on LifeLock's home page). The point of the ad is that LifeLock protects you from identify theft, and Mr. Davis is so confident of their service that he is quite comfortable publicly sharing his social security number. When I first heard the ad, it definitely piqued my curiousity.

So how does this service work and, more importantly, is it effective? Not surprisingly, there's been a lot of controversy in the news about whether or not it works. Bruce Schneier has a great post on the controversy and how LifeLock works. The controversy really stems from the core of what LifeLock does: they put fraud alerts on your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies, forcing lenders to verify your identity before they can issue credit cards in your name. Lenders and the credit reporting agencies hate this (it makes it harder to give credit), and so they've started a smear campaign against LifeLock (thus the controversy). In addition to the fraud alerts, LifeLock apparently does a bunch of other clever things to limit your exposure to identify theft.

So is this a service you should run out and sign up for? Probably note. Schneier notes: "At $120 a year, it's just not worth it." It's unlikely you'll be a victim of identity theft. And even if you are, it has become relatively easy to clean up the mess. Furthermore: "... it's hard to get any data on how effective LifeLock really is."

And the best part is: " can do most of what these companies do yourself." The second link (from the blog at is particularly useful. They provide a series of relatively easy steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. One key step is to regularly monitor your credit reports. And here's what they say about doing that for free:

You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You get these reports through Only use this site. Others that sound similar require you to pay.

The important point here is that you should go to for your free credit reports---don't sign up for any other service that's going to charge you for this free service.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I just saw Tiger Woods birdie the 72nd hole at the US Open to force an 18 hole playoff tomorrow with Rocco Mediate! And this after his tee shot went in the bunker, his bunker shot landed in the rough, and the shot from the rough landed on the green but required a long putt. And he made it! Amazing! The man has nerves of steel!

Monday, June 9, 2008


Ever since we saw the Bristlebot created by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, the kids and I have been wanting to build our own! It's taken us a few months to get to it, but last weekend we finally did it! Here it is for your viewing pleasure:

We basically followed the instructions provided in the original. A few things of note:
  • You can get the pager motor out of an old cell phone. I tried doing that, but I didn't have the right kind of small screw driver, and I found it hard to open up the cell phone. So instead I went to and bought a few 7mm Namiki pager motors.

  • The pager motors I bought come with leads attached, so there was no need for any soldering. You simply place one lead under the battery, with the lead and the battery stuck to the foam tape. We attached a piece of tape to the other lead and stuck it to the top of the battery to start the motor running. The tape at the top worked nicely as a switch: simply pull off the tape to stop the motor.

  • Make sure that the back of your toothbrush is smooth. Some of the newer Crest toothbrushes have raised patterns on the back, and the foam tape doesn't stick properly to it.
All in all a really fun little project that, once you get all the parts, can be completed in less than 10 minutes!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I knew of Ubuntu as a Linux distribution, but I didn't know what the word meant. Then this morning, while I was belting out a 45 minute run at they gym, I heard on TV that the Boston Celtics break their huddle with a shout of "Ubuntu!". It seems Ubuntu roughly means "I am what I am because of who we are".

Wikipedia tells us that it is a Bantu word describing " ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other." It is one of the founding principles of the new Republic of South Africa emphasizing "...the need for unity or consensus in decision-making, as well as the need for a suitably humanitarian ethic to inform those decisions".

What a nice meaning for this simple word. I look at much of the professional success I've had over the last 15 odd years, and I can unequivocally say that the main reason for that success has been the amazing people I've worked with---I am what I am truly because of the teams that I've been a part of. Ubuntu!
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