Electronic Cigarettes: Affordable Advanced Personal Vaporizer (APV) & Accessories

Vamo V5 Stainless

Vamo V5 Stainless

I’ve been using e-cigs for over 5 years & thought I’d share my experiences, along with what I’ve found to be the most affordable advanced personal vaporizer & accessories that I’ve been using for nearly 2 years.  But before starting, if you’re an e-cig newbie (or even an experienced e-cig user), I strongly recommend you read The Complete Guide to E-Cig Safety.  It has a wealth of useful info that’s applicable to ALL e-cig users.  When I first started there wasn’t nearly as much info available on the web yet.

Before trying my first e-cig in Feb 2009, I had been smoking for 41 years & was a solid 2+ pack/day cigarette (analog) smoker.  My reasons for switching to e-cigs is documented in a previous blog post.

I was fortunate when I first tried e-cigs, as the tobacco companies were not yet involved.  There were very few, if any, disposable e-cig devices available.  I started out with what they called “pen style” electronic cigarettes.  They consisted of a battery & an atomizer/cartomizer with e-liquid that was easily refillable.

My first purchases were from epuffer.com (Elite Classic pen style), but I soon migrated to minicigarette.com and then settled on Vapor4Life products a year after my first e-cig purchase.

The problem with the numerous beginner e-cigs styles available is that each brand usually locks you into a particular thread type and expensive batteries ($15-25) that aren’t readily interchangeable with other e-cig brands.  That means you often cannot share batteries or atomizers/cartomizers with other brands of e-cigs, which is one reason why I stayed with Vapor4Life.  An e-cig compatibility guide can be found here.  Most e-cig guides & forums recommend that beginners start out with “mini” (AKA “cig-a-like”) style, but I’d caution you to stay away from most all devices being offered by the tobacco companies.  They are producing products that are in THEIR best interest (disposable; non-refillable; & expensive).

Below are some articles discussing the various e-cig types available, along with their pros and cons:

There’s a ton of information about e-cigs on the web — look for it!  In addition, I strongly recommend new e-cig users visit the “e-cigarette forum (ECF)” website.  They have numerous forums that cover just about everything you’d ever want to know about electronic cigarettes.

V4L Handle

V4L Handle

My “e-cig upgrade path” went from a year with pen style w/refillable cartridges; a year of tanks attached to the same pen style battery; and to my first mod in 2012, the variable voltage “Handle” (Vapor4Life).  It is powered by a Li-ion 18650 flat-top battery & had the same KR808D thread as all my other Vapor4Life cartridges, cartomizers & tanks.  It’s variable voltage was adjustable from 3.0 to 6.0 volts and allowed me to select the perfect vapor strength.

Although I’m still using the Handle’s that I purchased 2 years ago, I wouldn’t recommend them due to their fragility & cost.  They are always one drop away from breaking apart.  The battery door on both of my VV Handle’s are held together with rubber bands.

After my variable voltage mod (VV Handle) with it’s selectable vapor strength & my first unprotected Li-ion 18650 battery, I was hooked.  Li-ion batteries of sufficient capacity (>=2000 mAh) last for nearly a day before needing a recharge and are available for as little as $5 each.  With pen style batteries, with capacities between 150 – 420mAh, you need several for a day of vaping.  By this time I had lots of V4L tanks with cartomizers of different resistance (1.5, 2.0 & 2.5 ohm), so I decided to pursue “variable wattage” (VW) APVs.  With variable voltage (VV) APVs I needed to change the voltage every time I changed to a cartomizer/atomizer with a different resistance in order to get the proper vaping strength.  With a variable wattage APV, I can use the same wattage setting on all cartomizers/atomizers, because it will measure their resistance & assign the proper voltage for any particular wattage selection I’ve made.

This led me to my current e-cig APV eqmt set-up, which is listed below:VAMO V5 Stainless

  1. VAMO V5 VV/VW APV.  Available from many websites, my latest purchases were from Varitube for $39.95.  There are many similar tube style APVs like this available, and many exceed $100 in price.  The VAMO has a 3-button configuration, which I greatly prefer over the 1-button config that is much more common.  The VAMO V5 has a 510 & EGO type thread.
  2. Vapor4Life’s Smileomizer.  I switched from tanks to the Smileomizer over 16 months ago and seldom use anything else.  They come in two sizes, a 3.5ml small and a 6ml large.  I prefer the small 3.5ml size and it can be refilled over a dozen times.  I usually get a solid 2 months use for each one as long as I don’t run it dry. I’d recommend signing up for the V4L newsletter, as tV4L Smileomizerhey have at least one or more sales a week & you can get as much as 40% off the current price of the Smileomizer, which right now is $59.99 for a 10-pack of the small size.  At 40% off that comes to about $3.60 per Smileomizer.  Right now the Smileomizer only supports the KR808D type thread, so’ll you need to purchase a “510 to 808D” adapter in order to use the Smileomizer with the VAMO V5 (and most all other APVs, as nearly all have the 510 thread type).  V4L has stated that they plan to market 510 type thread Smileomizers in the future.
  3. 510 to 808D Adapter.  You’ll need this to connect your Smileomizer to the VAMO V5 or other APVs.  They’re 510-to-808D Adapteravailable from many websites, including V4L, but Madvapes has one of the cheapest prices @ $2.49.  I’ve been using these adapters on several tube & box style 510 APVs for nearly 2 years and haven’t had any problems.
  4. E-Juice.  Up until a year ago I purchased all my e-juice from Vapor4Life.  When I purchased my first VAMO V2 from Madvapes, I tried their “Top Vapor” e-liquid and really liked it — plus, it’s about 40% cheaper at $8.29 per 30ml bottle.
  5. Li-ion Batteries.  There are many, many different types and brands of Li-ion batteries — Li-Mn (IMR); protected vs. unprotected; flat-top vs. button-top, , etc.).  You need to do your research, as there are apparentlyPanasonic NCR18650B 3400mAh Li-ion many counterfeits out there, even on mainstream sites like Amazon.  Many sites, including e-cigarette forum, recommend that you only use protected or safer chemistry batteries (Li-Mn, or IMR).  I’ve used over half a dozen APVs, and each one had built-in battery protection.  I strongly recommend this feature on any APV you purchase.  For APVs with built-in protection, I’ve found that unprotected, flat-top Li-ion or IMR batteries work best.  In fact, I’ve had very poor luck with any protected Li-ion battery in APVs with built-in battery protection.  The battery I’ve been purchasing for nearly two years is the Panasonic NCR18650B 3400 mAh. I’ve purchased nearly a dozen, all from Amazon, and have had excellent performance.  I’ve paid as low as $8.50 per battery to as high as $9.75.  Here are test results from BudgetLightForum.com and battery specs from Panasonic.

    So… are Li-ion batteries dangerous?  They can be… but not if you follow common sense & heed all the warnings.  One of the most important warnings is to NEVER allow your batteries to short circuit.  Always store them in a plastic or non-conductive case that prevents them coming in contact with other cells or anything conductive.  And yeah… that means you DO NOT carry bare Li-ion batteries in your pocket with change, keys, etc.  Another important warning is DO NOT overcharge your Li-ion cells, which is why your want a high quality Li-ion battery charger that ensures this will never happen.  And lastly, DO NOT leave your batteries or e-cig unattended when charging and DO NOT charge your batteries overnight.  The Complete Guide to E-Cig Safety mentioned above has a dedicated section titled A Guide to Safe E-Cig Charging & I suggest that you read it.  Many e-cig websites have FAQs and/or tips on Li-ion battery use, care & warnings.  Seek them out… they’re easy to find.
  6. Li-ion Charger.  I’ve come to believe that the Li-ion battery charger is one of the most important devices in your e-cig kit, especially when dealing with Li-ion batteries.  I’d venture that most all the chargers that are provided with APV kits are basically crap (not necessarily dangerous… just crap).  I unfortunately wasted money on two other relatively cheap chargers before stumbling upon the Efest LUC V4 charger at WhimWhamVapes.com.  It is by far the best Li-ion charger that I’ve ever used, and also comes in a 2-cell version (I have both).  These chargers have way too many features to list (including LCD readouts of each battery’s voltage), so visit the WhimWhamVapes or Varitube web sites to read about them.  BTW, you may find these chargers elsewhere (i.e., Amazon) for a cheaper price, but they usually don’t include the car charger adapter cord & other cables.  The models sold at WhimWhamVapes & Varitube both include all accessories.

That’s my current e-cig eqmt, and since switching to VV/VW APVs I haven’t once had the urge to smoke an analog cigarette.  I can’t say the same thing about pen style or “mini” e-cigs.  Apparently tanks are a hot item these days, along with rebuildable atomizers.  I still use tanks occasionally, but I’ve had too many flooded or leaking tanks over the past 3 yrs.  There’s nothing like a leaking or flooded tank to completely ruin your e-cig experience!  I’ve never had any problem with Smileomizers and they provide every bit of the vaping experience that I previously had with tanks.

Happy Vaping!!! (and Cheers)


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Recent Keurig 2.0 w/DRM Demo – get ready for more expensive K-Cups!

Keurig 2.0Update to previous post:  The new Keurig 2.0 with DRM was recently demonstrated, and as Techdirt reported a few weeks ago, the incorporation of pods with Digital Rights Management (DRM) has nothing to do with safety.  Rather, it’s about eliminating competition.  Oh, and by the way, this new Keurig model WILL NOT work with previous model K-cup pods (according to Techdirt).

According to The Verge, since K-Cup patents expired in Sep 2012, “third-party companies have been making pods & selling them at lower prices.

In addition (also from The Verge),

A report from Credit Suisse published this month found that sales of private-label cups grew by 203 percent over the last year, while Keurig’s Green Mountain cups grew by only 12 percent.

This is a particularly threatening form of counterfeiting for Keurig. Like printer companies with their inkjet cartridges, Keurig’s business model is built on selling machines cheap and then reaping huge profits on the refills. Now, bereft of a legal monopoly on pod making, Keurig is trying to establish a technological one: its new brewer, which goes on sale this fall, has a mechanism that scans each pod for Keurig’s markings and locks out any unapproved capsules. It’s essentially digital rights management (DRM) — a mainstay in music and video — adapted for coffee.

So, there you have it.  The ‘Keurig Green Mountain‘ monopoly just wants to suppress any competition, or as a minimum (should it choose to license it’s coffee pod DRM technology), it just wants to ensure that the competition cannot undersell it’s own coffee pods.  Aren’t monopolies just simply wonderful!

What can we do???  Say NO to DRM — in everything you purchase!  There’s plenty of competition for K-Cup brewers, many cheaper in price, and many that are of much higher quality.  As for third-party, non-DRM coffee pods?  I’ve almost always found them as good or better, at a much more reasonable price.

The “free market” is all about competition & innovation.  Almost all monopolies, including Keurig Green Mountain, are all about suppressing competition & innovation.  Do the right thing & don’t let them succeed!

DRM in New Keurig 2.0??? (greedy little bastards!)

Can you believe it?  Applying “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) to lock-down coffee pods?  Why, you may ask?  To prevent you from using K-Cups from competitors! And to think that I was primarily concerned with DRM on purely “digital” products (i.e., ebooks, software, movies, etc.).  Remember…  DRM, in any form, only RESTRICTS your rights or use of a product.

Of course, we can be sure this doesn’t have ANYTHING at all to do with the fact that their K-Cup patent expired, allowing cheaper (& sometimes tastier) competitor “pods” to appear on the market over the past year or two.  A recent lawsuit against Green Mountain by Treehouse Foods, Inc., says it all:

… Green Mountain previously owned certain patents that allowed it to exclude competition for the sale of the most popular format of those “portion packs” — the “K-Cup” format — but those patents expired in 2012.  However, rather than compete for market share on the merits or fulfill its statutory obligation to enable competitors to practice its invention after its patents expired, Green Mountain has abused its dominance in the brewer market by coercing business partners at every level of the K-Cup distribution system to enter into anti-competitive agreements intended to unlawfully maintain Green Mountain’s monopoly over the markets in which K-Cups are sold. …

You can read the entire lawsuit here (beware… it’s 141 pages in length & approx 2MB).

DRM_241x240Gee… like having 85+% of the coffee-pod market isn’t enough? Green Mountain has to have more???  That’s precisely what is wrong with much of corporate America today, be it Comcast, AT&T, Monsanto, etc., basically most any monopoly.  They NEVER seem to have enough, and strive to obtain even more & more… at the expense of? — yeah, us — their pathetic consumers.

Anywho’s… am I concerned or upset about Keurig’s announced DRM plans?  Not really, as I’m not that interested in single-serve brewers.  If — and I say “if” — I were to consider a single cup coffee brewer, I’d choose only the BUNN MCU Single Cup Multi-Use Home Coffee Brewer.  For about the same price as a Keurig, you get a multi-use brewer that handles K-Cups, pods, coffee grounds, tea bags (or leaves), soup, etc, and IMO is constructed much better than any Keurig on the market.  I bought one for my 90-yr-old resident mother-in-law nearly a year ago & she loves it, using it daily for coffee; tea & soup at lunch; and tea in the evening.

As for me, I’ve been grinding my own beans now for over 15 years and it’s getting harder to accept pre-ground or any “pod-like” coffee.  IMHO, even the cheapest 2.5 lb bag of coffee beans from Costco’s or Sam’s Club tastes orders of magnitude better than any pre-ground or K-Cup brew, and you can’t beat the price advantage — less than 10 cents/cup vs. 45-70 cents/cup via K-Cup coffee.  Even when I’m splurging on gourmet beans, my price/cup seldom exceeds 25 cents.

Here be da scoop:

So… enjoy your cuppa Joe!  No matter how your brew it!

Three More Great Ryes, & Two Yummy Whiskeys


Here are three more great ryes that I’m fond of, along with two whiskey’s, Tin Cup & Wyoming Whiskey, that are EXCELLENT, too.  Tin Cup is actually a “high rye bourbon cut” whiskey.  Tin Cup’s founder Jess Graber, the creator of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, uses a blend of 64% corn, 32% rye and 4% malted barley.  The master distiller of Wyoming Whiskey, Steve Nally, who spent 33 years of his career distilling for Maker’s Mark, uses a blend of locally grown corn, wheat & barley in this great tasting small batch bourbon whiskey.  Wyoming Whiskey is the first, and only, legal distillery in the State of Wyoming, located in the town of Kirby.

To read the back labels, click on the thumbnail below.



Gap between Stove & Countertop? Fill it with Door & Window Rubber Weatherseal

We recently replaced our counter tops & installed a new gas range, and lo & behold, we now have discernable gaps on both sides of the stove next to the counter top.

Not finding any solutions I liked online, I remembered the rubber weatherseal I recently used around our doors in our house:

weatherseal-1  weatherseal-2  weatherseal-3

I purchased the above weatherseal at Lowes, but I’m sure any decent home improvement store will have a similar product.  The one shown above is a high performance EPDM rubber D-profile weatherseal.  You could probably use it ‘as is’ in the gap, but I split it down the middle (split shown in 3rd image above) & only used half of the weatherseal in each gap.  I found it in two sizes (1/8″-7/32″ and 3/16″ – 5/16″) and in two colors (white & brown).  Here’s what it looks like installed:

countertop-1  countertop-2

countertop-3  countertop-4

I didn’t remove the self-adhesive strip paper.  I just gently pressed the weatherseal into the gap for a pressure fit, and it hasn’t moved.


Selected Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

Courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), here are a number of Congressional Research Service reports published over the past year that you might find of interest:


Some of my favorite ryes…


Say NO to Internet Censorship!!!

Say NO to Internet Censorship!

Say NO to Internet Censorship!

Managing your Digital Afterlife

Scientific American posted an article a couple days ago titled How to Manage your Digital Afterlife that’s well worth reading.  Salon re-posted the same article today, just in case you can’t get to the original article.

I posted a blog article over three & a half years ago titled “What happens to your online accounts when you croak?”  in which I discussed the importance of providing access to all of your online accounts & activities to your loved ones or next-of-kin, and how you might go about doing that.  The Scientific American article above covers an entirely different aspect of death, in particular, how “your online persona and possessions can help assuage grief over your passing,” and the following:

In the modern world, however, another echo of us exists that will outlast our physical existence: our writings and records in the digital realm. Our digital “selves” are composites of mementos such as images on Shutterfly or Flickr, books on e-readers, and our musings and correspondence on e-mail, blogs and social-media accounts. This full array of data deposits, legal experts say, is your digital legacy.

The increasing importance of our online identities adds a new layer to grief and mourning. Growing evidence suggests a person’s contributions to the cloud can be dear to mourners and, because they are easily accessible, potentially lasting and interactive, can help them cope with the loss. Yet many of us have given little thought to what will happen to our online accounts after we die.

Most of what I wrote 3 1/2 years ago is still applicable, because our legal system has yet to establish a coherent system for governing the inheritance of digital assets. If you leave it to chance, you may have little control.  Only six states have laws that allow next-of-kin access.  The article states:

The lack of legislation means that the ownership of your profile can revert back to the company who owns that site after your death unless you specify otherwise.

Although you could specify in your will what you’d like done with your digital life after your death, the article also recommends:

creating a locked paper document or secure database that has passwords and security questions for your e-mail, banking and other online accounts so friends and family can access or deactivate your profiles, notify e-mail correspondents of your passing, and take care of any financial concerns.

Possibly more important than your own digital afterlife, especially if you’re an old fart like me, is the digital afterlife of your children.  I know personally that I’d like to have access to my child’s online persona should something happen to him.  (You know… to help assuage my grief?  Yeah!  That’s it!)

Now… how to go about convincing my son that it’s in his best interest, too???




… and may the force of the U.S. government shutdown NOT be with you!

PLEASE! Stand By the 4th Amendment & Against Mass Surveillance!


132 People Provided 60% of SuperPAC Funding in the last election!!!

132 people equates to 0.000042 percent of the American population, according to a TED Talk given by Lawrence Lessig last month.  His talk outlines the corruption that is at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens.  I strongly urge you to take 18 minutes out of your time to watch this video!


The transcript of this talk can be viewed at TED or downloaded here; the audio MP3 here.

Watch the video; get mad; then do something about it.  It’s not too late to turn this around.  This “corruption” is not only the root of many of our current (& past) problems, but is also gives credence to the statement:

We have become a government that’s “of” the Corporations; run “by” the Corporations; & “for” Corporations

As a first step, please join Rootstrikers.  If you want to learn more about the corruption that’s overtaking taken over our political system, then read their FAQ and view (or download) “Goodnight Democracy.”

For even more detail about this corruption and a credible plan for fixing it, a TED ebook titled “Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It” by Lawrence Lessig is available for $1.99 from Amazon, Nook or iTunes.

Like I said above… it’s not too late to turn this around.

Internet Sales Tax — Looks Like It’s Inevitable…

no_internet_sales_taxesAhhh yes… our fearless leaders are at it again, this time trying to squash what little value & joy us ‘little people’ experience when shopping on the Internet.  I’ve signed two petitions and sent multiple letters to my representatives, but I’m sure it’s to no avail.  I believe they call it the “Marketplace Fairness Act.”  Yeah, sure… ya betcha.

According to Bob Rankin’s article “Internet Sales Tax Is Coming,” total Internet sales in 2012 was only 5% of total US retail sales.  So…  for this meager 5% we’re allowing states to expand their tax authority & tax across state borders (despite clear legal and judicial precedent arguing otherwise); saddle small Internet businesses with state-infested bureaucratic red tape; discourage tax competition among states; and threaten Internet user privacy because all of our purchase details will now be available to the states/localities in which we live.  Such a deal!

Should you desire to sign a petition (here & here) or send a letter (here or here) to your representatives, PLEASE DO SO NOW!!!

On a totally unrelated note, ever wonder just how well (rich) all the Obama staff veterans are doing?  This article from Techdirt covers it well:

A long piece for the New Republic written by Noam Scheiber details the large number of former Obama team members moving into the private sector, leveraging their administration connections to start lucrative consulting firms. Nearly anything goes without anyone inside the administration blinking an eye — provided certain political lines aren’t crossed.

You can read the full New Republic article here.


Why Don’t We Have Free, Simple Tax Filing? Blame Intuit (maker of TurboTax)

According to Pro Publica:

Intuit, producer of the top-selling tax software TurboTax, has opposed letting the government do your taxes for free – even though it could save time and headaches for millions of filers.

and Salon.com (same article):

Conservatives and software companies will keep tax season miserable

Return-free filing could save taxpayers billions, but the GOP and companies like TurboTax maker Intuit don’t care

and NPR (audio):

Opposition Blocks Return-Free Tax Filing In U.S.

As far as I’m concerned, Intuit has NEVER had their customer’s best interests at heart.  After using TurboTax for 12 years, in 2005 I switched to TaxACT due to the rapidly increasing price of TurboTax & it’s increasing restrictions on the user.  TaxACT offers completely free Federal Income Tax filing with no restrictions — either online or via downloadable desktop application.  You do have to pay a nominal fee for the State return, but it’s only half the price of what TurboTax charges.

And how many of you have used Intuit’s Quicken?  Do you realize that each version released expires after three years, and no longer allows you to download bank or investment transactions (e.g., no online banking)?  Same thing with QuickBooks.

As a minimum, the government should provide most all taxpayers with appropriate software to prepare their tax returns.  Ideally, they’d allow taxpayers a choice from popularly available software (i.e., TaxACT, H&R Block, TurboTax) — at no cost to the average taxpayer.

So… any chance of this ever happening?  Nope.  We have a government that’s “of” the Corporations; run “by” the Corporations; & “for” Corporations.  Anyway’s… you wouldn’t want that $11.5 million Intuit spent on federal lobbying to go to waste now, would you???

This Techdirt article says it all:  Intuit Continues To Make Sure Filing Taxes Is Complicated

Recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports… for your reading pleasure

Courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), here are a number of Congressional Research Service reports published since the first of the year that you might find of interest:


Finally… the REAL Purpose of DRM Exposed!!!

Ian Hickson, who works at Google, put together an excellent post on Google+ that exposes the true purpose of Digital Rights Management (DRM):

DRM’s purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is satisfying that purpose well.

Mike Masnick @ Techdirt further expounds on this with:

All of this shows a legacy copyright industry that is so focused on holding back innovation so that they have a veto right and control over the pace of innovation. That, of course, is bad for the economy, bad for the public and bad for society. Innovation is important in growing the economy, and due to silly laws around DRM, we are purposely holding it back.

Numerous examples of the negatives of DRM are provided, such as unskippable FBI warnings, previews & ads on DVD/BluRay Players that prevent you, the legitimate BUYER & OWNER of the product, from jumping right to the movie; not being able to transfer your Amazon ebooks to other non-Kindle devices such as the Nook; not being able to view a Netflex movie from two devices at the same time; etc., etc., etc.

For pretty much every example, tools exist to remove the DRM from the content — be it movies, video games, software or ebooks.  In addition, non-DRM versions of most all this content are available on file sharing sites.  Without DRM, you can do pretty much anything you desire to do with your content.  All DRM does is PENALIZE THE LEGITIMATE PURCHASERS of digital content.

DRM is one of the PRIMARY reasons for the existence of piracy, and the content industry is solely responsible for this!

If you’re one of the many who belong to the “More Copyright is GOOD!” and “Piracy is Bad!” crowd, then I suggest you read Cory Doctorow’s recent book “Pirate Cinema” as it might change your mind, or at least get you to think about copyright laws in a new light.  He’s provided free downloads of his book here.  If you like the book, I suggest you purchase a copy, or better yet, donate a copy to a library or school.

Love & Farting…

Salon.com had an interesting article this past Saturday titled “Farting in Love” that discusses the role “farting” has in relationships.

After 15 years, our only real rule is that you can’t NOT comment on someone’s fart.” She added, “If I ever farted and my husband said NOTHING, I would know we were doomed.

How true.  In our case, we just blame each other & that usually works.  When we still had a kid in the house, he got all the blame (and rightly so!  His farts were DEADLY!!!).

But back to farting & relationships… here’s a site that shows you how to use fart mathematics to determine your relationship strength.

Happy Farting!

Can Copyright Be Fixed? The Content Industry (monopoly) won’t allow it

GIZMODO had a great article on Digital Copyright a few days ago titled Everything Wrong with Digital Copyright (And How to Fix It).”  It provides an excellent summary of many of the biggest problems with copyright today.  Unfortunately, it didn’t mention the obnoxious length of the current copyright term (which is well over 100 years when you include the life of the author/artist/creator).  Despite that shortfall, if you’re one of the majority who think that copyright is just fine the way it is (& that all file sharers are thieves), then I strongly recommend you read this article.

Recently, the head of the US Copyright Office, Ms. Maria Pallante, gave a speech & spoke to Congress about the need for improving US copyright law.  She even proposed reducing the current copyright term from 75 yrs (plus life of creator) to 50 yrs + life of creator.  I’m sorry… that’s still about an order of magnitude too long.  Five years, renewable only once for maybe 5 more years, would be more than appropriate.

But no worries… the content industry (MPAA, RIAA, book publishers, etc.) isn’t going to allow ANY changes which could reduce their monopolistic hold on our culture.  They have Congress in their pocket and have been responsible for all of the copyright extensions over the past several decades.  They’ve pretty much stolen the public domain from… guess who?  Yeah… from us, the public!  Nothing entered the public domain again this year, and won’t until 2018 or 2019 (assuming there’s no more ‘content industry’ copyright extensions).

Speaking of copyright reform, the MPAA Talking Points on Copyright Reform have just been leaked.  As usual, the MPAA does an excellent job of disinformation by completely rewriting copyright history (along with the real purpose of copyright) as pointed out by Mike Masnick at Techdirt.  It’s an EXCELLENT read.

Even worse, with “official” talk of copyright reform, the Copyright Lobby (aka content industry) is doing everything they can to ensure that the Public will have no place in any future copyright policy discussions.  In reality, there is only ONE true stakeholder in copyright policy, and that’s us — the PUBLIC.  I’m afraid that it’s the “content industry” that has NO place in copyright policy, and yet they’ve been writing US copyright law for decades.  It’s time to wise up, folks.  Please read the full article “Copyright Lobby:  The Public Has No Place In Policy Discussions” by Mike Masnick @ Techdirt, which states:

Apparently the public is simply too stupid to understand copyright law and is easily led astray by groups like Public Knowledge.

Taken together, you see both the fear and outright contempt that the copyright lobby has for the public.  To them, the public are interfering with “the industry’s rights” and are apparently stupid, gross and easily led astray and into mob behavior.

It’s high time we, the “public”, got off our arse and put the content industry in their place (which, ideally, is NO WHERE NEAR any copyright policy discussions).  But that’s not likely to happen, so stand by for even more ridiculous copyright law additions/modifications that further lock up our culture and make criminals of millions of more Americans.  Yup… copyright is seriously broken… and you know what’s really sad?  It’s probably just going to get worse.

Electronic Cigarettes… Greatest Thing Since Toilet Paper!!!

Have you noticed the commercials on prime time TV for these devices?  Electronic cigarettes (or “e-cigs”) are finally becoming mainstream.  I’ve been using them since Feb 2009 and they are, literally, a life saver.  I went from over 2 packs per day to approximately 1 pack per month.  I actually completely quit smoking regular cigarettes within a week after I started using e-cigs.  But after gaining nearly 25 lbs during the first three months without regular (analog) cigarettes, I started smoking an occasional homemade cigarette to suppress my hunger urges.  (Unfortunately, appetite suppression isn’t due to the nicotine… it’s apparently due to some or all of the other toxic by-products of regular cigarettes)

So just what is an electronic cigarette?  It’s a device that uses electricity from a small battery to vaporize a nicotine-containing solution so that the user can breathe it in.  Are they safe?  While e-cigarettes may give smokers more or less the same amount of nicotine as a conventional cigarette, they do not produce the same toxic smoke that can cause lung disease and cancer when inhaled over time.  Since there are no products of combustion to be inhaled, no tobacco toxins are inhaled besides nicotine.  Only water vapor is exhaled, although there haven’t been any thorough studies to prove this definitively.

According to The Economist,

Electronic cigarettes do not just save the lives of smokers: they bring other benefits too. Unlike cigarettes, they do not damage the health of bystanders. They do not even smell that bad, so there is no public nuisance, let alone hazard, and thus no reason to ban their use in public places. Pubs and restaurants should welcome them with open arms.

Unfortunately, because electronic cigarettes seem just too good to be true (for smokers trying to do less harm to themselves), we can probably count on the health lobbyists to do their utmost to stub them out…  not to mention higher taxes & restrictions being proposed and/or imposed by both state & federal government.  Also according to The Economist,

Some health lobbyists are so determined to prevent people doing anything that remotely resembles smoking—a process referred to as “denormalisation”—that they refuse to endorse a product that reproduces the pleasure of smoking without the harm.

This is wrong. Those charged with improving public health should be promoting e-cigarettes, not discouraging their use

I switched to e-cigs over four years ago, primarily due to the continuously rising price of cigarettes along with increasingly ridiculous restrictions on smoking.  Since switching to e-cigs, my lung capacity has vastly improved; I no longer cough; and I no longer experience an annual bout of bronchitis.  Electronic cigarettes have definitely been “too good to be true” for me.  Which, of course, means that now that they are becoming a viable (& healthier) alternative to smoking, they most likely WILL become over-regulated; their use overly restricted; and vastly more expensive.  (Me thinks I’ll stock up on supplies before this happens)

Two vendors of electronic cigarettes that I can strongly recommend are Vapor4Life and Madvapes.  I’ve been purchasing products from Vapor4Life for nearly three years, but have recently used Madvapes because of their inventory and excellent service.

If you’re a smoker, I strongly urge you to at least try an electronic cigarette as a healthier alternative.  I’ve been smoking for over 40 years and I can honestly say that e-cigs have been a 99% solution for me.  But if the “naysayers” have their way, e-cigs may become too expensive and difficult (if not outright impossible) to obtain.

Happy Vaping!

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Universal Plug & Play (UPnP) Security Flaw discovered 6 weeks ago

RouterAlthough there have been fundamental problems & security issues with UPnP for over a decade, those are small potatoes compared to this new UPnP security flaw reported at the end of January 2013.  UPnP has always been assumed to be applicable only to the LAN-side of your router (i.e., your home network).  This new flaw effects the WAN-side of your router, meaning someone on the internet can easily use UPnP to exploit your router & network.   Approximately 6,900 products (including popular routers) from over 1500 vendors are susceptible to this UPnP vulnerably.  Rapid7 is credited with the discovery of the UPnP security flaw and they strongly recommend disabling UPnP on all internet-facing systems & replacing routers that do not provide the ability to disable this protocol.  They’ve produced a whitepaper on this security flaw here.  An extensive list of the vulnerable routers is posted here.

If you haven’t done so already, I strongly recommend you test your router for the presence of this vulnerability.  Over 81 million individual routers were discovered to be vulnerable as of January 30th, 2013.  Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation (grc.com) has added a vulnerability test on his  “ShieldsUP!” web page located here.  Just click on the “Proceed” button, followed by clicking on “GRC’s Instant UPnP Exposure Test.”

In addition, Steve Gibson & Leo Laporte have a detailed discussion of the UPnP Security Flaw in their Security Now podcast, Episode #389.  You can find the audio, pdf and html files for this podcast on the “Security Now” homepage.

Here’s hopin’ that your router passes the vulnerability test!

ISPs Now Copyright Cops — “Six Strikes” Copyright Alert System

If you or anyone in your household (or even a neighbor) use a BitTorrent client to download alleged copyright material using your Internet account, then be wary if your current Internet Service Provider (ISP) is any of the following five:

  • Comcast
  • Time Warner Cable
  • Cablevision
  • AT&T
  • Verizon

This week these five ISPs join the Recording Industry Assoc of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Assoc of America (MPAA) in bringing the Copyright Alert System (CAS) online.  CAS is an agreement between Big Content and large Internet Service Providers to monitor peer to peer networks for copyright infringement and target subscribers who are alleged to infringe—via everything from from “educational” alerts to throttling Internet speeds and even lawsuits.  Note the word “alleged” — that’s right.  There is NO DUE PROCESS and the “alleged” infringer is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Of course, they “claim” that the intent of CAS is to “educate” alleged copyright infringers.  IMHO, it’s Big Content (including RIAA & MPAA) that need the education.  All you’ll find on the CAS website (Center for Copyright Information, or CCI) is the copyright maximalist point of view.  To them, 100 yrs of copyright isn’t enough.

As I’ve blogged before, copyright is BROKEN!  Big Content has almost completely locked down the Public Domain for another decade or more due to copyright extensions.   Since our beloved Mickey Mouse is coming to the end of it’s latest copyright extension in a few years, you can bet your shiny nickel that Disney will be pushing for yet another “Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act – Version 2” that will push copyright to well over a hundred years!  And to think copyright was originally granted for only 14 years with only one 14 yr extension allowed (and only if requested by the copyright holder, which seldom happened).

But back to the CCI’s goal of educating “alleged” copyright infringers…  even if you do not download files via a BitTorrent client, you still need to “get educated” about how to protect yourself.  Is your network locked down (especially your wireless network)?  Do you have children (or their visiting friends) that might be downloading files with peer-to-peer software?  Then watch out, because the CCI claims that subscribers are responsible for making sure their internet account is not used for copyright infringement.  (Make that “alleged” copyright infringement). That means if you have an unprotected wireless network and your neighbor is using it to download copyright protected files, then YOU are the responsible party.

So how do you protect yourself?  CAN  YOU  SAY  “V   P   N“?  That stands for Virtual Private Network.  If the CCI wants to educate us, then let us all learn about VPNs.  VPNs are also great for use on Open WiFi Networks (like Starbucks or McDonalds) to protect anything you might be doing on the Internet, i.e., online banking.  Of course, due to the Copyright Alert System, we’ll probably be seeing fewer & fewer Open WiFi spots.

NOTE:  Just to be clear — a VPN only protects the person actually USING the VPN.  It won’t protect you from an alleged “Six Strikes” warning if a neighbor is downloading from your unprotected (or cracked) wireless, or if your children (or their friends) are downloading alleged infringing files via your home network.  The only way to protect your entire network is to use a VPN Gateway or VPN Router, which puts your entire LAN behind the VPN.

Last November the Republican Study Committee (RSC) got it absolutely right & hit a home run with their “RSC Policy Brief: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it.”  Unfortunately, it wasn’t even on their website for 24 hrs before Big Content jumped on the Republicans and had it removed.  Not only that, they got the main author of the report fired.  If you haven’t read this report, I urge you to.  You’ll find plenty of similarities as in the book “The Case for Copyright Reform” that I blogged about last April.

Below are just a few of the many articles covering “Six Stikes”:

Time to look for a new ISP!  Oh…. that’s right… I don’t have any other choices where I live due to the Comcast monopoly & lack of competition.  Damn!