Saturday, October 01, 2016


Why I Chose Telegram

I've been monitoring the world of messaging for a while, looking for the next messaging platform to be my primary. After trying several applications, monitoring their development, reading how their software and networks work, and how they protect privacy, I've come to the conclusion Telegram is the best option. No solution is perfect, but Telegram checks the most boxes. It's available here,

Why Telegram was chosen and answers to common objections will be addressed in the concluding paragraphs. There's also an app that gets an honorable mention.

Here are the ratings...

In regards to privacy...

Privacy is a hot topic. Privacy is not just about keeping prying eyes out of your conversations, but also about how your information is being used by the hosting company, e.g. phone carriers, Google, Facebook, et al. There is no total privacy. (Signal is near complete privacy.) Given that, how much of your privacy is forfeited for features is up to you.

My philosophy is if privacy is to be forfeited, don't put it all in one basket. Don't give one company as much non-public pieces of information about yourself or those you know. Companies like Google and Facebook harvest your messages, images, likes, etc and draw connections to those you know. All of this together develops a more complete picture about you. The more you give, the more they get.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (Facebook owns WhatsApp.) have been making the news about end to end encryption. End to end encryption is great with the caveat of feature limitations. Certain features are not available when encryption between 2 parties is engaged.

Even when E2E is used, these companies still collect metadata about you, i.e. who you are talking to, his/her contact info, and how long and often. Combining information collected from Messenger/WhatsApp with Facebook traffic, Facebook get can get pretty good picture of your life. Ditto with Google, Google+ and Allo if you use these services.

This tight relationship compromises a messenger's privacy rating. If WhatsApp was not tied to Facebook, I would more than likely recommend it as the messenger to get. They made promises about privacy which have since been compromised and rewritten since joining Facebook.

One last important note on privacy and use of the latest generation of messengers. The old generation required signing up for an account with a user name and password. You would join a friend's list by exchanging user names. The new generation uses your phone's address book to match you with your friends. It makes the level of entry very low, and match making convenient. But it makes it that much more important to know how the company is storing and using that information.

Some messengers, like Telegram and Wire, allow using phone numbers or user names. That's a nice option.

Least honorable mention goes to...

SMS. An entire article could be written on my frustration with this tired, old protocol. From what I understand, it is popular primarily in the U.S. Move on America. Make messaging great again! :-) I am ready for this dinosaur to go extinct.

Honorable mention goes to...

Wire. This application was created by a co-founder of Skype. It comes with a lot of features, including video chat, voice chat, and group voice chat. It's open and open sourced. The company is very up front about privacy. 

The choice goes to...

Telegram. Telegram has always aimed to excel at being a messaging system. It's one of the reasons it does not have voice or video call support (I hope it's added one day.). This aim has led to some to copy its features. You appreciate the value of these features and how they make a conversation more expressive than dinosaur protocols like SMS.

Combined with a desire for strong privacy and broad set of clients, Telegram is a winner. 
If you want, you could stop reading the article at this point. What follows are some common objections to Telegram, which are somewhat geeky.

Addressing objections to Telegram...

I know some are reading what I said about privacy and face palming in regards to Telegram. Here are common objections and my responses.

Objection 1: It uses home grown encryption, MTProto.

I have never been of the mind that there is only one way to do something. Using tested industry standards across the board would be great, but different does make it dubious.

Objection 2: MTProto has not been vetted.

MTProto has been studied and tested to a limited extent. Telegram has documented MTProto and the app's security for review. The source code is available on GitHub. It's not a complete mystery.

Objection 3: No credible cryptographer supports MTProto .

Comments from cryptographers fall into 2 categories: a) MTProto is broken, b) Not enough is known (info and tests) about MTProto to make a judgment. Comments from A are usually from people who have competing interests or prejudice. Comments from B come from cryptographers with less bias and more interest in something new.

Objection 4: MTProto is like having no encryption at all.

Its encryption has been around 4 years and has no known major hack. If MTProto is so flawed, why hasn't it been hacked? Why are international intelligence agencies having such trouble cracking it? Enough talk. Prove MTProto is weak by breaking it.

Telegram's security is not just MTProto. Its de-centralized network design provides additional protection. It makes re-assembling a conversation difficult. Some will say obscurity is not security. I agree to an extent, but obscurity is what makes encryption cryptic.

Objection 5: You have to opt in Telegram's end to end encryption conversations.

This is true, and it is how most other messengers work. This will always be the case if participants wish to enjoy all the features the system provides. If you must have complete privacy all the time, then always opt into private conversations. 

You cannot conclude the requirement to opt into private conversations means other conversations are not encrypted. Telegram does encrypt non-private conversations and store the data encrypted on their servers. The traffic and data are not traveling through the Internet in plain text.

Final note: Do not conclude from the responses that I do not prefer Telegram to use a tested encryption solution or that I do not want to see MTProto continually improved.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


PSA: Gary "Tony" Fairris is a con man disguised as an AC repair man.

On 6/10/2015, my air conditioning heat pump compressor stopped. I contacted Gary Anthony ("Tony") Fairris (469-682-9279) to inspect it. I suspected the compressor motor since the fan stopped turning.

Gary was scheduled to arrive on 6/11. However, he notified me he would be able to see it the evening of 6/10 at 8 or 8:30pm. He arrived late and it was a little dark, but he was confident he could fix it blind folded. I left him with the compressor.

He reported back to me the problem was more than the fan. The entire unit had shorted. He showed be the control board with black soot and explained a short fried everything. I needed a new compressor. He said if my coil had no leak, I should replace the compressor with another R22 unit.

My previous system was a SEER 12. He told me SEER 13 is the minimum available now and would be compatible with my system. I agreed with his recommendations on specs and brand of compressor.

He told me his supplier had one left which met our requirements. I gave him a large check so he could acquire it. (My mistake. But I figured as an independent, he needed some money down.) He did purchase the compressor and came the next day, 6/11, to install it.

Again, he was late. He installed the compressor. The air conditioner was working again. I cut him his last check. He had nothing job related left to say. We said our goodbyes.

The next day. The empty compressor box was in the house. I planned to use to make my kid a playhouse with it. On it was the product's label. I decided to do a Google search on the model # and find out more about what I paid a lot of money for. To my surprise and contrary to the written work order, the heat pump  was not a heat pump. It was a straight cool unit. This was the first serious red flag.

Consumer Fraud Exhibit A

Not believing what I was reading on the Internet, I called the manufacturer to verify what I was sold. It was not a heat pump. I called Gary immediately. He answered and told me he knows it's not and he was going to turn it into one. All he needed was a "reversing valve" and "branching hoses."

New red flags were being raised. Why did he not mention any of this before leaving? When he left, we were both under the impression the job was finished. Did he make up the parts story because I told him I verified with the manufacturer what I had?

I am no technician, so I had to verify with the manufacturer if conversion was really possible. I was not surprised when they said no. I was angry. I called my bank to cancel the last check I wrote before he cashed it. Cutting a new check upon his return would be a little incentive for him to finish the job right. That and the possibility of me reporting him to the state attorney for consumer fraud and going to small claims court.

I called him back. He was not answering. Eventually I did reach him. He said he did one better for me and located a replacement heat pump. It was shipping and was going arrive the evening of 6/16. Installation would be 6/17.

At this point, I did not tell him the manufacturer said conversion was not technically possible. I wanted to get the job done and over with. So, I waited for the unit to arrive.

6/16, I texted him to ask if the unit arrived and he received it. No answer. I was able to reach him on 6/17. He could not install that day because storms were in the area. He said he would be there at 8am on 6/18.

On the morning of 6/18, I repeatedly tried to contact him with no answer. It was heading into the 11am hour. Did he skip the job? Was the order a made up story? I didn't know. I began to contact law firms to hear my options.

He did eventually contact me and told me he was on the way. He showed up with a heat pump and began to install it. He finished. The A/C seemed to be working. I gave him his last check.

As he was driving off, I was giving the unit a look over, checking the factory label and the install. The install was shoddy with wiring not properly secured. But, the unit is what was ordered and the A/C was working.

We used the unit a couple of days before leaving on a week's long vacation. I kept the temperature high since no one was home. When we came back, I restarted the thermostat program. The A/C turned on and cold air was blowing, but not for long.

After a couple of days, the house temperature felt off. The middle of the house was cold, but rooms outside the center were not. It turns out the upstairs unit was furnishing all the cold air. The downstairs unit, i.e. the unit with the new compressor, was not blowing. My fear was the new compressor was already dead, but it wasn't. So, I suspected the blower motor.

This time, I called a reputable A/C company. They discovered the compressor had a little less than half the freon it needed. It was this way because of one of two scenarios, neither one making Gary look good.
1) Gary did not fill the compressor in order to maximize his con profits.
2) Gary broke the head on what's called a shrader fill valve on the compressor, which caused freon to slowly leak out. There's no way he could have left the job and not know it was broken.

Since the head was broken off, the tech could not remove what remained of the valve without doing a costly repair on the compressor. So, he did a make shift repair, which does work, and filled the compressor. This cost me several hundred dollars more.

BOTTOM LINE: Gary "Tony" Fairris committed a case of flagrant consumer fraud. When caught red handed and possibly fearing legal reprisals, he covered it up with a story about acquiring the parts to convert the unit. Knowing I'm in touch with the manufacturer, he stepped away from his parts story and ordered what was supposed to be ordered in the first place. Feeling upset he was caught and having to make right, he performed a shoddy job installing the compressor out of spite, e.g. broken valve head, terrible weld, etc. Further, it is my suspicion he either a) broke the head to create a slow leak so he could return to say I needed to pay for more services or b) withheld freon to maximize his returns.

IF IN THE DALLAS OR FORTH WORTH AREAS OR WHEREVER ELSE HE SLITHERS TO, DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH GARY "TONY' FAIRRIS. He is a dishonest man and brings shame to the good independent technicians in the field.

You do not want to see this truck when you call an air conditioner technician. It's Gary's.

Friday, January 13, 2012


The Pain of Bain for Conservatives & the GOP

[Disclaimer: I write the article below as a supporter of Rick Perry.]

Character Matters

In the early 1990s, conservatives stressed the importance of evaluating a candidate in an area which it seems to have been forgotten, character. The idea was to get voters to consider not only the exterior qualities of a candidate, but the interior ones too. Qualities like honesty and fidelity should not be overlooked. The benchmark to judge these qualities were made by examining the decisions a candidate has made. These decisions often affect the direction a candidate has taken in life. They contribute to how a candidate sees himself, neighbors, and the nation.

No one expects a candidate to be perfect. It is certain we all veer a little off the proper course in life. One has to judge the general trajectory of their path in life. Has a candidate learn from his mistakes? Is a candidate showing a consistency in growth? Or, do he keep falling back to previous errors?

The Election of Clinton (The Other One)

It was in the days of the 1992 presidential election when the issue of character arose to prominence. The GOP, out of an act of conviction or desperation (I'm not sure.), embraced the conservative idea that you judge a candidate by the "content of his character." And so, the preface to the Bill Clinton "bimbo eruptions" were written.

The GOP and conservative media began its examination of Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs. While it would embarrass Bill Clinton, its primary goal was to point out his character flaws. The problem was not a woman or two coming forward to tell their story. Several came forward. This was scandalous, but what made it more scandalous were the circumstances surrounding each affair. State troopers were appropriated to bring Bill mistresses to hotel rooms.

The choices Bill made showed a consistent lack of decency and a lack of an effort to correct course. It raised the question of whether Bill Clinton would have the integrity and decency to occupy the Oval Office.

Conservative media, especially Rush Limbaugh and the American Spectator, embraced these scandals. It's expected. The opposition exposed a vulnerability and character matters after all. Conservative media gave Bill Clinton's personal life a full examination, including the marital relationship between Bill and his wife Hillary.

Much of the spotlight was earned by the Clintons. In some cases, women came forward, either voluntarily or coerced. In addition, Bill and Hillary spoke of their marriage as shared presidency. Hillary would be the co-president. Nonetheless, conservative media had little reservation about raising the character issue and properly so.

Campaign of 2012

It's 2011, and the 2012 campaign is underway. The candidates have come forward. The debates are scheduled. It is the debates which provide an intellectual gladiator-like arena where candidates introduce themselves to the public, define their campaigns, and outline their ideas and vision. It is here the character issue rose its head again.

In the December 10, 2011 debate, the issue of Newt's three marriages and past affairs was a concern for conservative voters. A question about Newt's affairs went to Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. Perry's response was blunt and straight forward, "If you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner. It's a characteristic people look at." Santorum echoed what Perry said in his own words, "Certainly, it's a factor and it should be a factor when you're electing a leader." (Source) The book on Newt's personal life, like it had been for Bill Clinton, was opened.

That was not the first time Newt's marital troubles were an issue. A story had been floated by the liberal press that Newt brought his dying wife divorce papers while she laying in the hospital. Conservative media did not defend Newt until his daughter came in 2011 and dismissed the story as untrue. And, in a Thanksgiving presidential debate hosted by Luntz, conservatives waited on baited breath for Newt's answer when Luntz asked a question that turned the debate stage into "True Confessions" reality show. No defense of Newt was provided. No charges of looking into his private life was going too far.

First Stop: Iowa

Riding high on his debate performances, Newt was ready to enter the Iowan caucus. His poll numbers looked great. He was clearly the front runner. That was... until Mitt Romney came to town.

A political action committee (PAC) for Mitt Romney began to run negative ads about Newt in Iowa. The ads were non-stop. Newt repeatedly asked Romney's campaign to tell his supporters to call off the dogs. He said the ads were inaccurate or outright lies. Romney's response was it was not his or his campaign's video. He went further by defending the ads as part of the vetting process.

If you can't stand the relatively modest heat in the kitchen right now, wait until Obama's Hell's Kitchen shows up. Obama's putting together a billion dollars. He's going to be attacking us day and night.
It's probably a good time for people to see these things to make up their minds.
Romney and other candidates are handcuffed to an extent by campaign laws in what they can and cannot do with PACs. Romney could not order the PAC to stop, but he could broadcast a message to supporters to tone it down. Instead, he stood by the attacks. The GOP and conservative media did not hear Newt's cry of "foul!" Newt finished 4th place in the Iowa caucus, a long way from his first place position in the polls just a couple of weeks before.

Next Stop: New Hampshire (or South Carolina)

The outcome of Iowa was going to heat the kitchen up. Newt, who had been positive in debates and on the campaign trail, could no longer ignore the negative campaign against him. He began to plot a Romney-like strategy so subtle the media, especially the conservative talking heads, would be unable to figure out.

All of the candidates went to New Hampshire while Perry went directly to South Carolina. (Perry knew NH was Romney's.) While the other candidates were fighting for New Hampshire, Perry began to attack Romney in a way that remained off the media's radar. He periodically mentioned in interviews and on the stump Romney and his company's, Bain Capital, involvement in the closing of two businesses in South Carolina. He felt South Carolinians probably would like to have a say about those closings. This was not resonating with any of the media. It went right over their heads.

South Carolina Becomes Hell's Kitchen

While the race for the New Hampshire primary was underway, a PAC was forming for Newt. This PAC was purchasing a film which told the stories of some of the companies Bain had closed and, to an extent, how. Newt began to make his case against Romney and some of Bain's decisions. Romney had been boasting about his private sector experience. By doing so, he essentially invited candidates to review his record.

And so it happened. Newt officially opened the book on Romney's experiences at Bain.

At some point, Newt's criticism and Perry's concern for the two businesses were married. While their messages had overlap, the scopes varied. Ultimately, both were questioning decisions made in closing the affected businesses. The idea was to raise the issue of the character and attitude of a candidate. If a candidate's personal decisions affect the integrity of a candidate, why wouldn't business decisions?


The GOP and conservative media reacted fiercely. Newt and Perry touched the GOP's third rail, free enterprise. The response was knee jerk and strong. The GOP establishment, sensing the first serious shot at Romney in a vulnerable area, came to his defense and accused Newt and Perry of being over the top. Conservative media, possibly reacting from guilt of success in a free market, charged the two with heresy against capitalism.

The center piece of the conservative media's complaints is the two are using the language of the left. The crime is using "demagogic" language.
What does it mean to be a demagogue? American Heritage Dictionary defines it as follows:
A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
Republicans have often complained of the demagoguery from the left. Some examples of liberal demagoguery:
  1. Any criticism of a minority equates to racism.
  2. Reform of welfare equates to hating the poor and starving children.
  3. Reform of social security equates to pushing elderly ladies over a cliff.
Newt and Perry have requested reviewing some Bain cases, specifically two in Perry's case. The response from the GOP and conservative media has been to label Newt & Perry the following:
  1. Anti-Capitalistic
  2. Anti-Constitution (Mark Levin)
  3. Anti-American
  4. Anti-Business
  5. Stupid/Dopes
One conservative talk show host, John Gibson, said on his 1/12/2012 show that Newt and Rick should leave the country.

Question: Who sounds more like the demagogic language of the left? GOP and conservative media or Newt and Rick Perry?

Calling Rick Perry, the governor of the state with the #1 economy in the union and one of the most business friendly environments, an anti-capitalist is like calling Michael Moore a fitness guru.

Keep in mind it was conservative media that had no problem exploring the business ventures of the Clintons in the 1990s, such as the Whitewater deal from the 1970s. It is true Whitewater eventually brought forth criminal charges, but nothing criminal was known until the Whitewater deal was opened for review. Was it anti-capitalistic to touch the Whitewater issue or the business of Rose Law Firm?

Some other charges made against Newt and Perry are major in the minds of the critics and minor in reality.

"Newt and Perry are giving the left their talking points."

As Rick Perry said, it would be naive to think the democrats are not going to touch Bain or do the research. This information either comes out now or as an October surprise by the democrats. Do republicans want to outsource their vetting process to the democrats in a general election?

And while they criticize for raising this issue, right talk radio has no problem basking in its fruits. Monologues were spoken talking about Romney's weak and socialistic answer to the Bain questions, i.e. it being the same Obama bailing out the auto industry.

Indeed, even the GOP is writing articles about his this is healthy for Romney's campaign. It gets grievances out early so it's less potent in the general. It tests Romney's abilities to answer the Bain question head on. All the while, they rip Newt and Perry.

The right further harms their cause by citing democrat strategists who say Newt and Perry's comments are an early gift. Conservatives are once again being played. Of course the left will say that. What's the end result of such criticism? A destruction of two your most conservative candidates. It is not Newt and Perry helping the democrats; it's the conservative pundits.

"Newt and Perry are talking like Occupiers."

Occupiers have railed against crony capitalism and bank bailouts, and so has Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and more. Would they call themselves Occupiers? Illogical and uncalled for charge from the right on the right.

When Mitt Romney Came to Town

Newt and Perry maintained their positions. Again, the two positions were of different scope. Newt wanting to open up Bain's cases for review, and Perry focusing on two cases in South Carolina. Both want to bring Romney's character to light as an opportunist tempted to place profit before principle from time to time. The question planted in the voters' minds is "Do I want a president who thinks of self before others?"

As South Carolina became the focus, the PAC supporting Newt releases a hit piece on Romney and his ex-employer Bain. The 27 minute film is loose with facts and high on emotion. Its intent was to give viewers an idea of the kind of environment Romney conducts business and, in comes cases, directly involved with. Criticisms of the video came.

Newt's response to the video has befuddled left and right media. In their eyes, he embraced it and then backed off. 
“I’d like to ask you about your video that you released about Romney, about Bain Capital,” the woman said as she held a recorder out to the former speaker of the House.

“Oh, I didn’t – that’s not my video,” Gingrich responded, cutting her off as he made his way toward his campaign bus.  
Newt continues to stick by his message that Bain experience should come under review while giving answers like the above. The media doesn't understand what is going on. Conservative media doesn't understand. Conservative radio certainly doesn't understand.

This is the clever Newt. Newt is sending a message. He's pulling a Romney. Primary followers have seen this behavior pattern before... in Iowa. Romney embraced a negative message on Newt; facts be damned. And when confronted with doing something about it, Romney says "That's not my video." Now, it's Newt's turn. This is Newt's thumb in Romney's eye. Feed the beast and claim to be helpless to do anything about it. Newt, message received.

The media is foolishly fact checking the "documentary" like it matters to Newt. The further from the truth, the better the joke becomes. Well played Newt.

The Fallout

The conservative media are not the independent thinkers they portray themselves to be. When one conservative source gets the ball rolling on the talking points, they begin to echo the same points, stopping occasionally to add a few more points. Critical thinking skills are at a low on conservative radio. I say this as someone listening since the early days of Rush in the early 1990s.

The GOP establishment will do whatever it takes to get their candidate nominated, including killing off their own. One tweet aptly said:

"Democrats fall in love with their candidate. Republicans fall in line."

Double standards are plenty in the conservative movement. When to apply one standard over the other depends on the political realities. This is an unfortunate situation for a movement which reveres principles as being of the highest order.

For myself, I am not sure where this puts me politically. The GOP playing political hardball against its own. The conservative movement compromised in principle. I and others have been branded anti-capitalistic for questioning the sacrosanct private sector experience of Mitt Romney.

If this is being a republican or conservative, then I guess I'll be an independent thinker.

Update: Damn Dirty Rino has an excellent article tapping into the frustration I have about this issue that may not be seen here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Update: USPS & Blue States

This past week came with two major updates to posts I previously made here.

In my post about health care, I mentioned the government run company called the USPS is one of many examples of government failing to do what the private market can do better. The same will be true of health care.

News came out this week that the U.S. Postal Service is going to lose $8.5 billion and will be broke in 2011 without additional funding. Time for another bailout? And, this is after its massive losses in 2009. And we want these guys running health care? Why do we continue to reward failure, especially the paragon of failure - the U.S. government?

In an incomplete post, I alluded to the fact the blue states are a mess because of union dominance and liberal policies, and the red states are having to pick up the tab. The success of conservative principals in red state governments is changing the face of the U.S. population via migration from blue states to red states. An article has come out confirming my suspicions. I say to those moving into red states from blue states: "Welcome! Now leave any leftist ideologies you may still have at the border."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Obama & Hugo Chavez - BFF

Here are some pictures of Obama and crazy dictator Hugo Chavez yucking it up together and looking at each adoringly...

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Bush vs. Obama on Privacy

Bush wanted to tap international phone calls between the U.S. and terrorists overseas without a warrant. There was outrage. As a follow-up, the Supreme Court never shot down Bush's program when it was challenged. In addition, the practice was formalized again in the Protect America Act of 2007, United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review found nothing unconstitutional with the act. What this means is that while Obama expressed his outrage over the practice and won some votes on that sentiment, he has no problem using what Bush has put in place.

Now, news has come out that the Obama administration is tapping domestic cell phone calls without warrants. What is the rationale for this cell phone tracking without warrants? The Obama administration has said cell phone users should have no "reasonable expectation of privacy." Where's the outrage? If warrantless international phone tapping was enough reason to initiate the desires of some to impeach President Bush, what is this?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Interactive Unemployment Map (Time Lapse)

This video confirms my post from November 2008. The effects of poor financial decisions in liberal regions in America are moving into red state territory. Watch the video and see what direction the unemployment spreads. From the plains of America to the coasts or coasts to the plains?

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