Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app 1

Trying out Abra, a new mobile payment app
JISHOU, HUNAN — While exploring ways to move my money more easily around, I stumbled across Abra, a mobile phone app that transfers funds using the Bitcoin network. I gave it a try, and I like it. For one thing, it simplifies my transfers from China to the USA. Before Abra, there were several steps to transfer money from my bank in China to my bank in the USA, whether I used PayPal or Bitcoin. Abra reduces that number, and removes some fees in the process. There still remains one major drawback: Abra has no working relationships with banks in China. So, I still need to jump through a few hoops to buy Bitcoin to drop into my Abra wallet, but once it is there, it’s a breeze to send it to my bank account in the States. I’ve done all sorts of stories about moving money across borders, but to review, here are the main steps. For PayPal: Log into my China PayPal account. Send funds from my Chinese bank to my American PayPal account. PayPal charges a 4% foreign exchange fee. Log into my American PayPal account. Transfer funds to my bank account. Not bad, right? Unless you ...

Loose change found in a backup

Loose change found in a backup
JISHOU, HUNAN — You know that nice feeling you get when you reach into a pocket and find a $20 bill you’d forgotten all about? Imagine it happening while you’re rooting around a computer backup file. I’ve been dabbling in cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, since 2013. At the beginning, I was pretty much at sea, and in any event it was hard to see which of the several cryptocoins back then would really catch on. Then, as now, I had small caches of Bitcoin and Litecoin on my computer. But I also had even smaller amounts of two other lesser known tokens, Namecoin and Peercoin. Neither of these seemed to be catching on, so over time I just forgot about them. Day before yesterday, a friend asked me if I could send her some photos I took in 2015. This required me to hunt through my backup drive for the pics. After I found the photos and emailed them, I decided to poke around my backups a little more. Scrolling through the list of program files, I came across Namecoin and Peercoin wallets. Hey, I asked myself, I wonder if there’s any money still in those wallets? Really, I had no ...

Malaysia trip, part 5 SIDEBAR: The quest for Singapore’s Bitcoin ATMs

Malaysia trip, part 5 SIDEBAR: The quest for Singapore's Bitcoin ATMs
HONG KONG — As you can guess from the dateline here, I’ve come to the end of my Malaysian adventure, and I’m still running behind in talking about it. This post is a sidebar to the forthcoming narrative about my three days in Singapore. It’s about my efforts to find Singapore’s Bitcoin ATMs (plural), and finding perhaps the only surviving member of the species. I’m still a cautious booster of Bitcoin, the computer-based “cryptocurrency” that’s been behind both scandals and successes in the financial world. For my purposes, it’s a relatively low-cost way to channel Chinese yuan from my Chinese bank account to American dollars in my US bank account. Depending on market prices, sometimes it’s a no-cost way to move money, and if you time transfers right, somewhat profitable. I move funds roughly once a month, after payday. Usually, I use two exchanges, BTCC, which is based in China, and Coinbase, in the USA. [Coinbase is not technically an exchange, but it does permit you to move between dollars and bitcoins. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call it an exchange for now.] Buying bitcoins in China used to be a piece of cake, using a Chinese version of PayPal called ...

Testing out a new Facebook app 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — As often happens in the land of open source applications, the developer who created Wordbooker has abandoned the project. So, now I’m trying a new WordPress plugin called Facebook Auto Publish. If you can see this post, it’s working. Wordbooker allowed me to automatically post from this blog to my Facebook timeline, but occasionally it would fail because FB would require re-authorization of the app, or FB would change its APIs, breaking the feed. Facebook Auto Publish promises to do the same thing. I have just set it up. So here goes! — Twenty-five minutes later, I believe I have it working right. We’ll see if it takes this update and pushes it to Facebook.

Site was down for a while

JISHOU, HUNAN — Spammers or hackers were attacking all the WordPress sites hosted at Planet Earth Hosting over the weekend, at least on the server this sites shares, so our hosts shut us all down until they could resolve the issue. So, if you tried to access Wheat-Dogg’s World recently, you probably got nothing at all. Even the DNS entries were coming up blank. But all seems OK now. We are back in operation. The hackers or spammers were apparently hitting the login page for WordPress, trying to gain access to the WP sites on the server. Earlier versions of WP may have had a vulnerability they were trying to exploit, but this site is up to date. The shutdown was frustrating, because there was nothing I could do about it, and I had blogs in mind to post over the weekend, which was when I had time to write. Now classes have started, so you’ll just have to wait a few more days.

Runaway plugins re-send my blogs to Twitter, Facebook

JISHOU, HUNAN — Today’s website weirdness is the simultaneous flooding of my Twitter and Facebook feeds with “edits” of previous posts from this blog, some from as far back as 2006! I was sleeping at the time, so I know it wasn’t me! I have two WordPress plugins that link to my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline. If they are behaving themselves, as I post something in this blog, WP-to-Twitter sends out a tweet with a shortlink, and Wordbooker puts a snippet in my Facebook timeline. Some weeks ago, I added another plugin from AtContent, a blog sharing service. Last night (China time), I decided to re-post an interesting article from another AtContent user, and activated the plugin. Then I went to bed. In the morning, I found an urgent email from my friend, PK, telling me my blog had run amuck. And sure enough, my Twitter feed had tweet after tweet of blogs, in somewhat random order, and my Facebook timeline contained blogs from years ago. So, I pulled deactivated all three plugins, and went about cleaning up my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Right now, only the Twitter plugin is turned on. I’m going to turn on Wordbooker just ...

Fixing Windows 7: erratic iTunes volume

JISHOU, HUNAN — Fix one thing, then something goes screwy — one of the corollaries to Murphy’s Law. This time, iTunes was randomly dropping the playback volume to nearly 10% while a TV show played. (NCIS, if you must know.) This glitch was easier to fix than my “invisible” CD-ROM problem. Win7 by default will automatically drop playback volume if it detects other sound events, like an incoming online call, or in my case, the “knock knock” my QQ app emits whenever someone on my friends list leaves or enters QQ. Apparently, it has something to do with the built-in mike and Win7’s odd idea that my external speakers are headphones. Whatever. Here’s the fix, taken from this forum. This is a default Windows 7 feature. The reason that some people don’t come across it is because some audio drivers which are compatible with the operating system don’t properly implement this feature. Anyways, basically the feature is intended for VOIP communications (but works with other notification sounds, like Windows System noises) to tune out your music if someone calls you or whatever. You can alter or disable it by taking the following steps: 1. winkey -> type “sound options” -> ...

Fixing Windows 7: DVD-ROM drives and USB keys

JISHOU, HUNAN — Windows 7 upgraders, are you having trouble with Win7 not recognizing the CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive after the install? China Construction Bank users, is Win7 refusing to see your USB key? If so, read on! Last week, I successfully upgraded my Lenovo laptop from Vista Home to Windows 7 Ultimate. Everything went well, except for the DVD-ROM drive not working. This made it somewhat more difficult to re-install Office, but I got around that by creating a Virtual CD-ROM folder on my hard drive and fooling Windows into installing from that folder. I used PowerISO, by the way. This drive has been giving me problems since I got this computer almost five years ago. I don’t use the DVD-ROM drive much anyway, so I put dealing with the malfunction off for another day. That day came today. Happy New Year! Win7 also did not recognize the USB key from my Chinese bank, which I need to access online banking. That’s a bigger problem than an erratic DVD-ROM drive, so I dove into trying to fix it. China Construction Bank’s USB key imitates a CD-ROM drive, to install the necessary security certificate on first use. When I used ...

Back in business again

JISHOU, HUNAN — I took about 10 days off from blogging, focusing on school work and planning for a short junket to Guangzhou on the 15th to 17th. When I got around to blogging about the trip, I discovered my site was G-O-N-E. Vanished. Desaparecido. Nearly all the files in my public_html directory were missing. I was hacked big time! Not only that, my webhosts backup server had also had problems, so they had no backups of the files. On the bright side, the databases were untouched, so rebuilding the site is not a big deal. Just a nuisance. Thanks so fucking much, Mr Hacker Dude. It’s not like I have anything else to do this afternoon. So, depending on when you visit this site, it may look different than before. I am considering changing to another theme, but for right now it’s the same look as before. I need to re-enable the plugins I had running, and take care of a few other cosmetic items first. Other than that, I’m fine. How’s your day going?

My gmail account has been compromised

JIANGMEN, GUANGDONG — Someone has hijacked my gmail address and is spamming people on my contacts list. If you get an email from “me” with a link to a pixfoto site, DO NOT OPEN IT OR FOLLOW THE LINK!! I have changed my gmail password and will notify gmail’s service department. Meanwhile, I will investigate myself

WordPress to Facebook feed working again, but for how long?

JISHOU, HUNAN — There’s a new plugin for WordPress — Wordbooker — that once again restores the connection I had between my blog and my Facebook timeline, at least until the wonks at FB change their code again. A previous plugin just stopped working, so I resorted to a kludge: automatically tweet my posts, using a functional WordPress plugin, and link my Twitter feed to my Facebook status. This worked fine, but also meant anytime I (rarely) tweeted, those tweets would end up on FB, puzzling anyone who was not following that particular Twitter thread. Wordbooker solves the problem, so I’ve turned off the Twitter-to-FB feed. The new plugin may also make it possible to once again transfer comments between FB and the blog, a neat function that another obsoleted plugin had provided. The kludge also tended to post random images in my Facebook timeline if there was none in the post: the Akismet graphic and the TigerDirect sales logo in the righthand sidebar, for example. Those thankfully have gone away, making the feed look somewhat more professional.

Edinburgh student creates iTypewriter, a manual interface for iPad

JISHOU, HUNAN — Admit it, oldtimers. You really miss those times of jammed keys, inky fingers and bottles of WiteOut. Forget the iPad, you say, I want my old Smith-Corona back! Yeah, well, I don’t either. But these young people nowadays yearn for a simpler time, when all we had were manual typewriters and music that came on black vinyl discs called “LPs.” And so, Austin Yang, a design student at the University of Edinburgh, has prototyped the iTypewriter. Instead of a sheet of paper, you insert your iPad and merrily pound away at those Smith-Corona-like keys. In a cute way, the concept appeals to me. Though I don’t have an iPad, I do have an Android tablet, and typing on its virtual keyboard takes some getting used to. Even with that handicap, I still think i could type faster without iTypewriter than with it. So, nice idea, but no thanks. Next up: iSteam, the steam-punk iPad power supply.
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