Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Linkfest Garage Sale

Not so much going on this week.

Well, that's not exactly true. There was, but not so much that interested me in either the world of Web or individual software releases.  Mostly yawners.

Thoughts on On-Line Bill Pay

I've gotten where I pay maybe 85% of all our bills on-line now.  Took me a while to get comfortable with that concept. I would pay 100% of them on-line, but a few of the companies we pay bills to, still haven't figured out (or have retreated from)on-line payment capabilities.  I'm still trying to convince my Dad to go this route. He's old-school and prefers to write the silly things out.  I like it as I get payment tracking numbers and confirmations. 

A few times before I've been burnt with a mailed payment going "missing" in the USPS system and then had to debate the cost/hassle of canceling a check and dealing with the "late-payment" fees (and the worry about it being stolen or ID theft).  Or how about this one? Trying to gauge when to send in the payment so it lands at the payment center and is processed before the "due date" so you don't get hit by a late-fee?  I generally now allow at least 10 full days for postal and processing time to calculate my mail-out time. If there is a major mail-holiday in there, I will mail it 15 days in advance.

With on-line payments you can schedule it in advance, get your confirmation #'s, and (generally) forget about it.

Only it is still a good thing to make your on-line payments a few days in advance.  Once I waited to the due date only to find out that this company switched it's on-line payment structure and wasn't able to credit the same day if that fell on a weekend. Bummer.

I went to pay my Reliant Energy bill this month and kept getting transaction failure messages.  Their system kept reporting that I had already made a payment for that amount, and as a safety measure to prevent multiple accidental payments, had rejected the payment. Only the payment hadn't gone through. I tried in different browsers but to no avail. I ended up calling the customer service line and the specialist told me that was odd because he had already taken two other calls that night that were similar (you think?). He confirmed my payments didn't go through. He offered to process it for me over the phone and waive the $3.50 telephone processing charge (kind wasn't it). Only guess what?   His system ended up with the same error.  He told me they had a grace-period window for late payments of a few days, so to try again later and see if that cleared up. I successfully processed the payment the next day.

So now I do my on-line payment scheduling at least five days before the particular bill is due to both give me time in case the payment center's servers are borking and to avoid a "you can't pay it when it's due" scenario.

I make sure my web-browser is fully patched and current. I also open my browser just for a bill-paying session, then delete the cache, delete the saved form-fields, and delete the authenticated sessions.  I don't save bill/financial website passwords and id's in my browser. I do use KeePass Password Safe to generate complex and ridiculously randomized passwords AND user id's wherever possible and supported. I change out passwords on these sites quarterly to bi-annually. Once done with these steps, I always close the web-browser before opening it again to begin a general-web-surfing session.

What are your opinions on on-line bill paying? Safer than snail-mail now?

The Links

Nirsoft has released three more new and free mini-tools:

Didier Stevens provides a fantastically well documented and illustrated review of how PDF's may be manipulated for malicious purposes. Definately a "must-read" for malware fighters and security fans: PDF, Let Me Count the Ways… « Didier Stevens

Fast Explorer - (freeware) - another tool to "Add, Customize and Clean Up Context Menu Items of Files and Folders".  Neat little gadget for you Windows Shell Game tweakers.

UNLOCKER 1.8.7 - (freeware) - Recently updated to address a number of bugs including addressing that nasty Flash*.ocx file as well as some behavior and Vista GUI improvements. Warning, does now include an option to install "eBay shortcuts". Yuck.  This tool assists with "unlocking" and removing of stubborn files from your system.

Sun xVM VirtualBox 1.6 - (free) - You may or may not know, but the wonderful virtual machine emulator VirtualBox recently got acquired by Sun Microsystems. This new release under Sun's umbrella claims to have over 2000 improvements since the last release. It is supported under a remarkable list of platforms, that include many major *nix builds, Mac OS X, and Windows.  Take a look at the 200+ page User Manual for more information.  Does require you to uninstall previous versions of VirtualBox. And during installation, if any older VirtualBox virtual drive files are found it will offer to either convert them entirely, or convert and save the previous version.

PC Decrapifier - (free/$) - got a new version release at the end of April.  New version covers Toshiba laptops now as well.  Also detects and removes the following applications: Norton 360, Microsoft Office 2007 Trial and Activation Assistant, Quickbooks Financial Center, Napster, Memeo AutoBackup and Picasa 2, and handles bug-fixes for removal of WildTangent games and Symantec LIveUpdate.  Full list of "crapplications" it can remove here.  Used as a great first-pass tool to remove "crap" pre-loaded on Windows systems by OEM sellers.  Simply Crap-tastic!

CCleaner - (freeware) - I always thought the "C" in CCleaner also stood for "crap".  Not much has changed, but each version release continues to provide a bit more support and coverage for features.  Cleans up Internet Explorer temp files, URL history, cookies, autocomplete form history, and index.dat.  Cleans up Firefox's temp files, URL history, cookies and download history. Cleans up Opera's temp files, URL history, cookies. Removes the contents of Windows Recycle Bin, recent document lists, temp files, and log files.  Cleans a slew of registry items. clean up lots of third-party applications including their log files, recently used file lists, etc.

Excitingly noted in the most recent version's (v2.07.575 released 4-28-08) now I spot that it supports Firefox 3.0 which uses SQLite files to maintain some of these items. (version history)

- Firefox 3.0 support added.
- Fixed bug where figures were missing for KB/MB sizes.
- Fixed bug where some IE cookies were being missed.
- Improved scan time accuracy.
- Internal memory management improvements.
- Registry settings moved to HKCU\Software\Piriform\CCleaner.
- Fixed bug where CC could get locked in System Tray.
- Renamed MSN Messenger to Windows Live Messenger.
- Added MS Office Picture Manager to applications.
- Fixed uninstaller tool bug on 64-bit OS.
- Minor GUI improvements.
- Minor bug fixes.

Yeah, it's all good.


No comments: