How to stop spam emails from Amazon third-party sellers

Our family orders something from Amazon at least once a week. Increasingly, we order items from Amazon third-party sellers, many of whom honor Amazon Prime shipping and are almost indistinguishable to the common buyer throughout the entire purchase and delivery workflow. We have very few problems with third-party sellers, but there is one major difference between buying something Amazon-stocked and from a third-party supplier: the inevitable follow-up email that essentially puts the buyer on a mailing list they never opted into.

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Cold calls

Do people answer random phone calls anymore? I basically do not answer the phone unless Caller ID matches a (good) friend, or I have a scheduled call in my calendar.

I also use Google Voice to transcribe voicemails (I never listen to them). The transcriptions are never perfect, but I usually get the gist. It's much more effective to hang up and send an email or text, but if someone just writes "call me" without saying why, I usually do not call.

And this is coming from me! A middle-ager! Imagine what happens when you cold-call an actual millennial: you've just advertised yourself as someone who has not adapted, probably will never adapt, and possibly doesn't ever want to adapt.

ZEVO ZFS over Thunderbolt on a Mac

After years of threatening, I finally set up a ZFS pool in a Mac OS X (10.8.5) environment. Today, I downloaded ZEVO Community Edition, which is (self)-described as "a momentous, much needed and long-overdue improvement over Apple’s status quo file system (HFS+) that was designed in the mid 1980s — before the Internet existed!" I totally agree. HFS+ is a turd, allowing "bit-rot" to silently corrupt your data over time. I am a working photographer with many terabytes of data that I need to store securely. Although I keep many copies of the data (and versioned copies of important stuff), I have, on occasion, gone back to old pictures only to find them to be corrupted. This scares me. Luckily, ZFS is a file system that has been designed not to allow silent corruption. If you want to know more about ZFS, read its Wikipedia entry.

I've been warned that ZEVO may not be supported in the future, and that their version of ZFS for the Mac has the following limitations:

  • No GUI
  • No Deduplication
  • Limited storage capacity (16 TB)
  • Other natural limitations ("resource diet," they say)

Still, people seem to be successfully using ZEVO on a daily basis, and I'm told it's very stable, so here I am.

I'm not really a unix person, and I hate configuring storage via the command line. But ZEVO and ZFS is really brain-dead simple. Anyone can get a ZFS volume up and running by following instructions carefully.

Here's what I did:

  • I bought an Areca ARC-8050 Thunderbolt RAID 8-Bay. I am pleasantly surprised by how quiet this box is. When you first power it on, it sounds like a jet, but it's apparently just doing a fan test. The fan is adaptive and typically runs quietly. I can hear the box, but it's not annoyingly loud.

  • I filled the box with 8 x 4TB Western Digital Red SATA NAS hard drives.

  • I revived an old-ish Mac Mini and upgraded it to 16GB of RAM and an inexpensive SSD. This is the Mac I am going to use with the Areca box because my Mac Pro doesn't have Thunderbolt. When the new Mac Pro comes out, I'll move the connection over, assuming that OS X Mavericks doesn't do something stupid like disallow such things.

  • I registered at the ZEVO website, downloaded ZEVO Community Edition, and installed it.

  • I downloaded the latest firmware for the ARC-8050, unzipped it, and applied the firmware updates using the web interface for the Areca. The firmware update comes with 3 .bin files for the ARC1882 (which is correct), and you have to apply all of them. There is no feedback from the web GUI after you hit "Submit" until the update completes (or fails!). Scared, yet? I was, when I got here. The documentation is poor.

  • I went to Physical Drives->Create Pass-Through Disk in the Areca configuration interface and created a pass-through disk for each of the 8 drives. Creating a pass-through disk allows Mac OS X to see the drive, but doesn't allow you to use the disk in a RAID set. This is fine because we are going to use ZFS to manage the RAID instead of the Areca's RAID controller.

  • I initialized and partitioned each disk as GUID and formatted as Mac Extended (Journaled). I don't think it matters what you format as, but ZEVO definitely wants you to initialize and partition the drives.

  • At this point, running "zpool showdisks" returned:

DISK DEVICE      SIZE  CONNECTION    DESCRIPTION  
/dev/disk1    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk2    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk3    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk4    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk5    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk6    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk7    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media  
/dev/disk8    3.64TiB  SAS           WDC WD40EFRX-68WT0N0 Media
  • I created a RAID-Z2 (2-drive fault tolerance) by running:
sudo zpool create -f -o ashift=12 copepodzfs raidz2 /dev/disk1 /dev/disk2 /dev/disk3 /dev/disk4 /dev/disk5 /dev/disk6 /dev/disk7 /dev/disk8

I used "-o ashift=12" because pretty much every consumer drive is an "Advanced Format (AF) Drive," which means that it has large, 4K sectors, but fools computers into thinking that it uses the old, 512-byte logical sector. ZFS can be told to align with a 4K sector size by giving it an ashift of 12. This results in better performance.

I used "-O casesensitivity=insensitive" after being given advice by Graham Perrin. Some applications in Mac OS X do not do well with case sensitivity, which is the default setting in ZEVO. You cannot change this after the fact, so you should decide during pool creation time.

You can verify that your drive is telling the OS that is uses 512-byte block sizes by running "diskutil info /dev/disk1" (assuming one of your drives is "/dev/disk1") and looking for "Device Block Size." Mine says, "Device Block Size: 512 Bytes"

Creating the RAID-Z2 was instantaneous. ZFS is amazing.

  • I checked my ZFS pool status by running "zpool status copepodzfs" (my pool is called "copepodzfs"):
pool: copepodzfs  
state: ONLINE  
scan: none requested  
config: 
 
NAME                                           STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM  
copepodzfs                                     ONLINE       0     0     0  
raidz2-0                                     ONLINE       0     0     0  
GPTE_BB07001A-8B58-4C54-AF77-D71CEE3BE391  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk1s2  
GPTE_FF882147-9E69-4CD2-AD64-EE216275F239  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk2s2  
GPTE_BE799326-E888-4EDE-9CFD-4D604FB728C5  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk3s2  
GPTE_22475434-3E60-491A-BD9D-8BE9EDF3239D  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk4s2  
GPTE_957351BC-43EC-4F2F-9120-1791090539EF  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk5s2  
GPTE_03AB5A7A-BD0A-4EF1-8613-FAB64EFBBFE4  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk6s2  
GPTE_EAD32B39-2FEA-4B62-BD7C-E0FA115706C5  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk7s2  
GPTE_E66C7105-DF1B-4B4A-9C72-CB74E722C1B9  ONLINE       0     0     0  at disk8s2  

errors: No known data errors
  • I claimed ownership of the new volume using "sudo chown echeng:staff /Volumes/copepodzfs".

Here's the volume (below). One thing that is strange (but consistent with what others have seen) is that it is reporting 22.4TB even though ZEVO Community Edition has a 16TB cap.

volume
volume

Speed Tests

Local speed test on the Mac Mini, using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. This thing is FAST! It's a little freaky that writes are faster than reads.

blackmagic speed test-local
blackmagic speed test-local

Speed mounted over SMB / gigabit ethernet:

blackmagic speed test-nas
blackmagic speed test-nas

Note that this is 100% Mac Mini-limited, since running the same speed test to the Mac Mini's internal SSD yields similar results:

blackmagic speed test-nas to macmini ssd
blackmagic speed test-nas to macmini ssd

I get 100MB/s over my wired network when talking to a Synology DS1812+ NAS box, so the network is capable of running at full speed. Hopefully, accessing the device over the network is temporary. If the new Mac Pro and OS X 10.9 works with ZEVO, I'll be connected directly. Fast, redundant, corruption-immune and rebuild-friendly? If this works, I'll be super happy!

I sold my Pebble watch without opening it

Recently, I was at dinner with someone who had a Pebble E-Paper Watch. I love the idea of the Pebble, but during dinner, the guy kept looking at his watch. He looked at his watch almost literally every 5-10 seconds. At that point, I decided that I no longer wanted one. I am not sure that I have the discipline to totally ignore the watch when I need do (like I do with my phone), and I don't want to be the person who looks at his watch every 5-10 seconds.

Today, my gray Pebble watch arrived (I backed their Kickstarter project). I sold it without even opening the box (people are really interested—it sold in just a few minutes). I think I might have kept it if I were planning to do some development work to make it more interesting, but I know that I won't make time to do that.

A poorly-worded Stanford CS account phishing email

I received a pretty crappy attempt to get me to give up access to my lifetime Stanford computer science department email address. I hope no one falls for this!

From: Stanford University Subject: Computer Science- Web Upgrade Date: May 29, 2013 1:20:01 PM PDT To: you Reply-To: noreply@cs.stanford.edu

This email is being sent to you because of violation security breach that was detected by our servers. Our server detected that one of the messages you received from a contact has already infected your mail with a dangerous virus.

You can no longer be allowed to send messages or files to other users to prevent the spread of virus to other @cs.stanford.edu mail users. Please follow the link below to perform maintenance work needed to improve the protection of the web-mail for us to verify and have your account cleared against this virus.

CLICK HERE

WARNING!!! E-MAIL OWNERS who refuses to upgrade his or her account within 48hrs after notification of this update will permanently be deleted from our data base and can also lead to malfunctioning of the client or user's account and we will not be responsible for loosing your account.

The link goes to: http: //www.123contactform.com/form-591874/Web-Upgrade (I didn't click on it)

The full headers are below:

Stanford University 
To: you 
Reply-To: noreply@cs.stanford.edu
Delivered-To: [redacted]
Received: by 10.194.174.6 with SMTP id bo6csp23125wjc; Wed, 29 May 2013 13:26:10 -0700 (PDT)
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Computer Science- Web Upgrade

Scam: traveling, mugged, and need cash

I've gotten this email from more than one person in the past. If any friend asks for cash via email, please make sure you talk to them directly on the phone before you even think about helping them. Usually, it means that their email account has been compromised, so they should also immediately change all of their passwords.

Hello

I'm sorry you're getting the mail from me at this Point in time,my family and I came down here to Manila(Philippines), for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we stayed,all cash credit cards and cell were stolen off but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

I have been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves pretty soon from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills.Please be so kind to reply back so I can tell you what to do and how to get some cash to us.

I'm freaked out at the moment

Here's a helpful snopes article that talks about this scam. Also, all the telltale signs of scam from non-native English speakers are there: poor grammar, arbitrarily capitalized words, missing spaces, and the use of the word, "kind" or "kindly."