Stopping Spam Calls with VoIP Menu System

I was getting two to five calls per day from fake IRS agents, web development companies based in India, cruise offers, and hotel deals.

Nearly all spam calls were coming to two numbers. Both of these numbers were VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) numbers. Both of these numbers are hosted on the service. I think I’m paying $0.85 per month for each number. And then maybe $0.01 per minute talk time. The cost is minimal. Amazingly, included with these minimal rates is the ability to set up a voice menu system.

I suspected many of the spam calls are automated and sometimes gang-dialed. (Gang dialing is calling more than one number at the same time and going with the phone that answers the call first.) Consequently, there would be no one on the line to hear which button needed to be pressed to actually route the call to a phone and make it ring. Working on that assumption, I set up a simple voice menu system.

The initial announcement that a real person would hear goes something like this:
Thanks for calling 206-xxx-xxxx. Press one to ring a phone that a human can hear and answer. Press two to leave a message.

Once I had this menu system in place my spams calls — so far — have gone to ZERO!

On a side note, I used to help a lawyer get phone service in two locations. He has two residences: one in Seattle and one on the coast at Pacific Beach, Washington. He has two phone numbers. With the service I set up a system that would ring the phones at each location simultaneously. Voice mail is sent by email and is accessible by phone and not dependent on any of the two locations.

UPDATE February 22, 2018: Since I implemented my anti-spam calling menu system, not one spam call!

If you would like some help implementing something like this, get in touch. My fees are reasonable.

Capturing Webinars

Lately I’ve been attending a lot of webinars. Unfortunately, during webinars, I’ve been getting interrupted or otherwise distracted (which can happen when the kitchen is taking five months to remodel). Also, I don’t always want to wait for a link from the webinar producer. Sometimes there is no opportunity to view a recording.

To solve this problem, I’ve began capturing the webinars myself. I’ve been using Camtasia from Techsmith for screen recordings. Another great feature of this software is the ability to capture live webinars — video and sound.

With three monitors on the main computer, I can move the webinar to the third, less important monitor, define the screen area in Camtasia, and begin the recording. When done, pressing F10 on the Windows machine stops the recording and provides the save option. (Stopping is also simple on the Macbook Pro.)

By making my own recordings, I immediately gain control of the educational resources and can easily skip through the recording to find the information I need.


Basic Tools and Knowledge Would Help Journalism Joins the Sloppy Journalism Club

On May 7, 2017 (KOMO TV, Seattle) posted this short story.

Example of sloppy journalism by Seattle's

Example of sloppy journalism by Seattle’s

SEATTLE — A man was fatally wounded in an overnight shooting in White Center, Seattle police said.
Police say a fight broke out around 2 a.m., near E Madison Street and 17th Avenue.
Someone opened fire, and a man was found shot in the head, police say.
Detectives have not released any other details on what led up to the shooting, or information on a possible suspect.
This short story is full of errors to the point it does not make any sense, and the use of fundamental Internet tools would have prevented this terribly written story.

Problems with this Report

The report begins with a man shot in White Center, which is a city south of the Seattle City limits.

Then the report says a fight started at an intersection in Seattle (about 7 miles north of White Center).

Then someone was found shot in the head — in Seattle or in White Center? According to the text, a reader would believe the person was found in Seattle.

How is it then that he was shot in White Center, shot in Seattle, found in Seattle, and died in White Center?

None of this makes sense.

Basic use of mapping tools on the Internet would help any reporter determine the seven mile distance between the intersection and White Center, which should raise concerns for how the story is put together.

Additionally, Seattle Fire Department responds to medical issues, such as gun shots. Had the reporter taken the time to check the publicly available dispatch log, the reporter would have found that the time for the incident near E Madison St and 17th Ave was 12:49am, not 2:00am.

Seattle Fire Department Dispatch time for the incident.  Courtesy SeattleFire.US

Seattle Fire Department Dispatch time for the incident. Courtesy SeattleFire.US

Aside from the basic inaccuracies of geography and time, the story just does not make sense because of the different jurisdictions. If indeed the event involved different jurisdictions, how? The reporter has led the reader into confusion, not clarity.

Clean Your Computer

Computer Clogged by Dust

Extend Computer Life

I frequently run into folks who have NEVER cleaned the inside of their computer.

Take a look at my own computer! It was way overdue for a cleaning and these pictures show what I found.

  • Dust build-up clogs creates heat problems in two ways:
    dust adds a layer of insulation to electronic components that causes the components to become hotter (and maybe even burn out)
  • dust can clog the heat-dissipation system, causing overheating and component damage

Desktop computers are a lot easier to clean than laptops, but laptops can accumulate dust as well. For laptops, the best method is to blow canned out in the opposite direction of the intake.

Eugene Cernan

Man on the Moon Picture

Many years ago I drove a car from Seattle to a Chicago suburb in what was then known as a “drive-away” car. Basically, the car needed to be moved from point A to B and drivers, such as myself, would drive the car, paying only for gas. This was a way to get some reasonably cheap transport from point A to B.

Upon arriving at a home in suburban Chicago, I had a few minutes to relax in the front room of the household receiving the car. As I looked at the pictures on the wall, I cam upon one picture that absolutely grabbed my attention. The high-quality picture was of a man walking on the moon. It was autographed — to “Mom” — as I recall. The picture was signed by Eugene Cernan.

Shortly thereafter the “Mom” appeared in the room. I said “You must have been a proud mother.” Response: “Yes, I was.”

Only then did I get confirmation that I had landed in the boy-hood home of Eugene Cernan. What a treat. And to see a unique picture autographed by a unique man.

Not many moms can display a picture of their son walking on the moon. All mom’s should be proud of their son’s achievements.

In respectful memory of Eugene Cernan’s passing.