Duplicate MAC address on Cable Modem – The Fight Goes On

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TLDR: Arris/Motorola SurfBoard Cable Modems (and perhaps others) are constantly showing up with Duplicate MAC Addresses, even though each manufacturer must only make Single device with same address.

Looks like it is time for another fiasco/fight with Comcast for us, something that has become at least annual affair. It all started about a month ago, when we saw Comcast truck nearby adding another “happy” customer to their poor network.

As expected, our signal instantly degraded to impossible, with even (digital) TV channels disappearing at times and mostly becoming “blocky” with compression noise. Being busy people, we thought “surely comcast monitors their network and will fix it in a week or two”. Alas, nothing like that happened so a week later we called in.

Technician reluctantly showed up another week later – checked the signal to the “Curb” and shockinly proclaim “it is Way too weak, but I Can’t Do Anything“. He promptly left assuring us that “network people will resolve it”.

About another week later I called in for status, and was told there is no status, no issue, no tickets, no problems. Few days later our Internet died completely, with Modem reporting “no signal” at all. This is where more fun started – A Call to Comcast about modem was met with “What Modem? You Don’t Have One on the Account!”. Really? So how come you were happily charging me Overages for months and months? Turns out my MAC Address is used by someone else somewhere on the West coast, and I must urgently take this modem to local XFinity Center. About half an hour drive later, and another half an hour (with screaming child) waiting for service – happy Rep told me “Oh Yea, we see Many people with this issue. For some reason the phone guys sending customers to us, but really there is Nothing we can do either”. Showing happy clerk the receipt for our modem from 2 years ago (which I kept), the physical device, the assurances that it worked fine until few days ago, and even request to check with manager – Resulted in ZERO progress. I left upset and just stopped by the local Fry’s to buy new modem.

Well, guess what – new modem registered fine (for now at least), but still there is mostly No Internet. The signal is too weak and all corporate escalations are not helping so far. Whenever the new modem does work it is very slow and unstable, nowhere near advertised speeds we are paying good money for.

Apparently Comcast is aware of the issue and it has happened to many people, at least since 2011. In fact even though there is Stupid practice of putting MAC Address right on the outside of the box where everyone can just see & steal it while “browsing” local store shelves, we bought ours brand-new from reputable online store (Newegg). This further leads me to think there is manufacturer issue or Comcast simply spoofing these themselves on some older devices?

So chime in the comments if this has happened to you. Perhaps together we can figure out how a brand new sealed modem bought straight from-the-manufacturers-truck still had stolen MAC Address already? Meanwhile there is still no competition offering Internet in our area – seems like Comcast is aware of this and enjoying their monopoly all the way.

PS: I also called Arris/Motorola support on this, they said that it does happen a lot and normally they replace modems for customers, but since I bought mine so long ago they will not replace mine.

My Advice for Dealing with Anxiety (Social, Disorder or Otherwise)

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First, a quick primer to anxiety itself – it is actually an important human feature which evolution perfected over many millennia. Humans (just like animals) needed to be able to elevate themselves above their normal “calm” state to “energized” state, boosting every function of the body to fight for survival. However seldom in modern society are you faced with real threats of this nature, nor will it help you to climb the nearest tree with just your bare hands in order to survive.

In fact, in modern society it turns out that key to success and survival (and thriving) is reacting Intelligently to any perceived external threat. Here are some modern examples:

  • You realize that you forgot the car key inside the car which you just locked – while climbing on top of the car and screaming is natural first reaction of your brain, actually staying calm and figuring out where is the backup key or how to get locksmith there faster, is what will really get you out of that predicament
  • In the middle of critical presentation to 20 important people from your company, someone points out that your solution is totally flawed due to incorrect key assumption you made. Again, brain tries to help you by getting you ready to run away from the room and hide in the closet somewhere. However, channeling that anxiety into “tweaking your solution on the spot and presenting even better approach” is the key to winning that day, and in rest of your career.
  • Even if indeed you are in an ally and staring at a barrel of a gun of someone demanding your money, running or fighting is only likely to get you killed. Again staying calm under pressure is what will get you out of that situation alive.

But how do we fight this core response of our subconscious brain? Here are several tips that help me and other people, so I decided to collect them here for everyone’s benefit:

  1. Often anxiety elevation is ongoing for people, which actually prevents Frontal Lobe from kicking in to Override this primordial response system. For that, start with Meditation – to help your brain return control to the Frontal Lobe. Start with quick Beginners 5 min intro and then later explore more in-depth techniques. If you had prolonged anxiety, try transitioning directly from meditation into some simple fun – like watching comedy or sitcom, listening to relaxing music, etc. You need to “retrain your brain” to recognize that there is a normal “relaxed” state, which is different from your “anxious” state. Deep breaths and various breathing exercises are a good quick fix to try and keep anxiety levels in check when it starts coming back.
  2. Now, even with your Frontal Lobe functioning, most likely it will successfully return you to “high anxiety” state pretty quickly. There are few mechanisms at work here, biggest one being Confirmation Bias. What that means is that your brain is actually Looking for things and Interpretations to Explain your anxiety state, which of course leads to Further elevation in Anxiety. This never-ending Cycle is the big killer, so here I revert to my computer programming training and .BREAK THE LOOP. This is probably the trickiest part, so some sub-bullets are in order:
    • Recognize that most of the “bad outcomes” that your brain projects for events are totally unlikely and even try to think of them as “funny”. For example: “why the heck would they ever arrest someone for filing taxes late or filing with mistakes, the prison is really just for violent criminals.”
    • Track down “the culprit” – often it is lack of clarity as to what is expected of you, or “how to succeed”. Solution to both is usually simple, track down each expectation and write it down (digitally or on paper) the minute you identify it. Make it a habit and that way you will always know that “Everything needed is tracked, so no need to speculate about ‘what am I forgetting’”.
    • For Social Anxiety – Focus on recognizing that other people around you are also Children who just landed in older bodies. Even people in a position of power were children not so long ago and now really just “play the part” because society is asking them to, but inside they are often just as anxious as the rest of us. Focus on inner child in everyone, it is definitely still there, and often ignoring the current “outfit” of that person and looking straight in their face to find that “inner child” is the best way.
    • Try scientific approach – challenge your brain to come up with fully experimental and non-anecdotal proof. For example: “what studies were done to establish beyond all doubt that indeed your own beauty is below norm in any way, or that it even matters right now”.
    • Gather inner strength to attack “bad thoughts” by recognizing that only by fighting them you can survive (yea, twist the survival instinct on it’s head). Focus on winning small immediate battles, but also develop longer term Dream that will lend you strength to work towards. It can be something as simple as “to present to large crowd easily”, or as elaborate as “travel into space”.
    • Build up Self-Image – that really helps over long term to ignore what other people may try to say and to give you inner strength to act with confidence. Recognize that this takes time, but constantly keep this important in mind and work tirelessly toward this goal.
    • Hang out with family and friends as much as possible – and give out lots of hugs. It’s amazingly relaxing to hug things out, if you haven’t yet discovered…
    • Practice calming yourself and eliminating your worries Before going to bed. That way while your frontal lobe rests, your subconscious won’t be flooding your body with anxiety totally unchecked. Focus on seeing the next day as “Solution for All Problems “. Even if sometimes it is unrealistic tell yourself before bed that you may “Win the Lottery” (or equivalent) the next day, so always look forward to it.
  3. Recognize that you need to take care of Yourself first. Just like on the plane they always tell you to Put On Your Own Mask before putting on mask for your child, same principle applies to your life. You Must Be in your best shape to be able to help others and contribute to society. Focus on getting Proper Nutrition on consistent daily schedule.
  4. Ready to read some more on this, try this excellent Wikipedia take on Emotional Self-Regulation. There are also several books on this (which admittedly I didn’t read yet).
  5. If you aren’t making progress, try some modern Online CBT. I know of one that is not-free, but something you can instantly access and do in total privacy of your home.

Remember that high anxiety state is directly detrimental to your health! Your body can only last so much in that “adrenaline pumped state”, before things start creaking under pressure, or worse. Identify this and actively fight it – if nothing here helps, go seek further help – there are medicines today that are not addictive.

Try to get yourself calm enough to watch 1h:16m video, it will give you strength to act with even more confidence in the future: Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams


Biggest Microsoft Security Lapse in Recent History – Skype’s achilles heel

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Yet again I come to you with rant, but this time seems like the reason is Microsoft’s huge lapse in basic Skype account security. Probably like mst of you, I have created my Skype account Many years ago.

About a week ago a message popped up on my phone (where Skype is installed also) saying that my account is now suspended. Surprised, I followed their instructions to fill out Microsoft support “Un-suspend form”. That only prompted email 24 hours later requesting an even Bigger un-suspend form for me to fill.

I of course suspected potential Skype account compromise from the beginning, but checking history of access in my Microsoft account showed no unusual activity. I have switched to using my Microsoft user the moment Microsoft started the migration from Skype to Microsoft accounts.

This ridiculous cycle continues now for 3 or 4 times at least. I fill out same Un-suspend form that Skype support emails me, and they email me same form link again 24 hours later, asking me to fill it out. Worse yet, it is clear that they aren’t even trying to read anything I write, as every time they say “be sure to request password reset”, which is not at all what I need! I fully know my password and confirmed that it’s fully secure!

So I took a step back and analyzed things further and the only logical conclusion is that Microsoft is STILL allowing login to Skype using 10 year old credentials that existed before Microsoft accounts! Worse yet, Even for users that already migrated away from using Skype login, the old Insecure password!

I am pretty sure that by now, with so many industry compromises, old insecure passwords some of us used 10+ years back are “Floating” out there for sale or otherwise. For Microsoft to allow that old login to still be active is borderline Criminal! There are no indications in one’s Skype account that old Skype credentials stay active, nor Ever any requests to update/replace that old password yearly. To confirm my theory I in-fact tried to login with those old insecure credentials, only to see that I do still go through and face the evil “Account Suspended” message!!!

Skype provides no customer service phone number to contact, not even Chat support. Their email/forms to fill out only return after 24 hours or so, and as mentioned, no-one even tries to read what I put on that form. Truth is, there isn’t much for me to fill out in that form. It asks what month and year did I open my account – would any of us remember? It also asks about any financial transactions I made with Skype, which I never did (since other VoIP services were always cheaper and more convenient, working from real phones). It asks for date of birth, which I never submitted to Skype as even back in a day I registered I already was concerned with online security. It asks for billing address, which they obviously don’t have because again – I never paid for anything. So that form is fully useless, of course, as seems to be their whole customer service. Sadly, Microsoft is probably paying good money for that “offshore support” (responses always come at night), but obviously they don’t have any iota of understanding how to actually provide it or even when to know to escalate to someone who can help.

I will update this post if something develops, but meanwhile – here’s something you should do Right Now. If you have registered like me, Many Years Ago, go to Skype.com and see if there is any way to change/disable any old credentials you may have used before switching to secure Microsoft account. If there isn’t any way to disable that old insecure login, at least see if you can change that old password to some jumble of letters and digits, that won’t be easy to crack as our 1999 passwords used to be…

UPDATE: I was finally able to restore my Skype access. It is as I suspected, the old Skype account is still active “underneath Microsoft account”, even if you never use it. Please ensure it has complex or even “random jumble” style password. Furthermore, looks like Skype’s own password policy has been greatly improved over the years and my old password was Not Even Nearly secure enough to meet their current policies. However, there was never an alert to change it, not a single email reminding me that old password is too short or too old. Nor any notice ever came out when new device in Africa logged into my account – not a single email on that. So Skype seriously needs to update their security practices, and so should we all.

SteamBurglar Malware – Theft in the Digital Age

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My son started screaming few hours back, scaring us half to death. Apparently he reacted this way to what seemed like a virus infecting his computer, after he ignored all long standing advice from me and clicked on nasty link from another Steam user sent via chat.

Indeed this malware is very nasty – somehow it manages to bypass all Chrome guards and download + execute right away, without giving any option to avoid it. I immediately submitted the site to Google for blocking in Chrome. Then I proceeded to submit to Microsoft, since their silly Microsoft Security Essentials continued to insist that no malware/virus found.

Here’s link to analysis: img_012.scr  (MD5: 6e7ccceb2685044d443474ce1efc7bbf)

So, the biggest question is What Does It Do? So far I only saw that it communicates with Steam client, managing to Spam a link to an infected site hosting this malware to ALL of one’s Steam Friends. From reading online, the malware also attempts to steal your Steam account credentials, presumably to steal you Digital Loot, like Game Objects and even complete “Giftable” game copies (if you have any). I couldn’t confirm this as we didn’t see any adverse impacts, but maybe it wasn’t able to fully work. Sadly, since no Antivirus properly detects it yet, it is very hard to tell if it’s fully cleaned. I saw it already submitted to Malware Bytes and they promise to analyze it ASAP – so I recommend you go there first and install that Excellent (and Free) scanner on your PC.

Here’s some more recommendations if it happens to you – immediately proceed to Steam Guard (in Steam client Settings) and make sure it’s active. Then double check that you don’t have any screen-saver installed (use Personalize and reset Screen Saver to None). Reboot after this – and then proceed to relaunch Steam and select “De-authorize All Computers” under Steam Guard. I would recommend changing password also – and another reboot. Disclaimer: This is new attack so I am not sure this wipes it out. I’ll update this post as I learn more info about this nasty critter.

Since this attack is specifically tailored to attack Steam, the image sandbox PCs virus companies use as honeypot may not be able to fully realize it’s attack as their image would not have Steam client installed and configured.

To be extra safe, we are also going to re-install Steam client – I would recommend that as well, as I was seeing some steam files being updated after this attack, but it may have just been a coincidence also. Since you can have Steam libraries, you can even fully re-install Steam client without having to re-download the games. Ping me in comments if you need further instructions for this – and Good Luck!

The Zeitgeist Movie Series – My Take

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Let me open by saying that these movies are a classic definition of Propaganda. They follow the tried and true model of massaging real facts to their own needs, and using strategic omissions or worse. That said, I have long wondered whether monetary system is the best way to organize Planet’s resources at this stage of evolution for our mighty civilization. It is rather clear to me that human race is much further along thanks to invention of Money and evolution of Markets and Banking, but is Monetary System in it’s current form truly the best method to propel us onto the next stage of evolution as a species?

For those not familiar with the series, let me start of with by focusing on particularly ugly misinformation in the films:

  • The films pile Communism along with Capitalism and others as a Monetary system. That is just a complete fib, and if you don’t believe me, just read the first 2 sentences on Wikipedia definition of Communism. In fact The Venus Project and various others like it are just pure Communism solutions, but of course they stay away from being labeled as such, seeing how Communism got nothing but bad publicity in the past.
  • The Evil “Profit” is really not an aspect of Monetary system, but rather a key element of Capitalism. Meanwhile Evil “Interest” is not inherently there to enslave us, but rather an aspect of Monetary system that ensures that Money is properly allocated and remain “active”, instead of piling up idly “in someone’s mattress”.
  • Artificial Scarcity goes hand in hand with Price Gauging and other Capitalism evils that are well known, hence US and most other Western countries have laws to abolish these practices and prosecute anyone engaging in Collusion or Monopoly. Free Market is designed by definition to eliminate scarcity and encourage competition, driving price and the Evil Profit down.
  • The current “Glue” of society, that which guides us as humans, is Money. This is how we got our Technology to progress as far as it has. This is the key principle that allowed us to combine “Human Ingenuity” of many people towards the common goal. Without it, we each would be exploring duplicate or disparate ideas and likely progress would be much slower. Furthermore, without it most likely no-one would take the time to fully educate our children generation to pass on the knowledge collected over time. That knowledge and education is what allows us humans to continue and excel – Standing on the Shoulders Of Giants as we often call it.
  • Ecological impact remains 100% relevant even with Money-Free society. There will always be someone who feels it is fine to dump pollution, as long as it is not in our “city limits”. Or another who is fine mining Lithium, even if it may collapse a mountain where 1 million “other” people grow their crops today? How will we resolve such disputes? Weapons?
  • Problems without monetary gain are “not solved” today – absolute fib, obviously. Society richest people pledging their funds more than ever now, and even large corporations are engaged with philanthropy, more so than ever before. Furthermore, most of humanity’s crippling diseases are being researched on a massive scale, thanks to donations and large R&D budgets of established Pharmaceuticals. This is exactly where Monetary system shines, whereas in pure Communism it is unclear whether we could guide so many of our brightest minds into these important common goals.
  • Planned Obsolescence is presented as big evil also, while I contend that it is actually great positive as our society faces accelerated progress forward. With more and more investment into R&D (mostly to stay competitive, another big positive) there are continuous new discoveries that benefit all kinds of products. Another thing one would learn in business school (ahem), is that various brands position themselves for different durability, which is signaled to consumers in price and generally in brand. I will fully agree that we have big issue with lack of good recycling techniques. There seems to be lack of incentive there, for our economy, but I am seeing increased interest there as well, as we dispose of more and more useful things.
  • Israeli Kibutz is mentioned as non-violent place, which is true. However, I think it is of greater interest as one of the best incarnations of working communism on the planet now, albeit on a small and isolated scale.

Technological Utopia (what they call “The Venus Project”) was envisioned years ago, and even subject of one of the original Star-Trek episodes. I still believe that key issues that approach suffers from are still unresolved, including all essential Human Incentive problem, predicting and managing demand/supply and covering all critical “professions” for sustainability. Presence of Money solves all these via signaling mechanism, same one that movie presents as “evil” and “leading to inequality”.
Similar ideas have been tried and failed, so far. Latest example, and perhaps most similar to the series, is the Israeli Kibbutz cooperative. In conclusion, here is an interesting read about how they are faring today.
Although one way to look at money is debt, the true essence that we use it for in our economy is signaling. Here is a simple example where moneyless economy runs into trouble: You have newly designed holocam coming off the manufacturing line. First one is due to ship tomorrow, and both 19 year old gifted woman and 70 year old scientist are interested in it. How do we decide who gets the first one? First come first serve? what if 70 year old scientist happens to be the one who found cure for cancer? What if 3rd person is interested, one who invented faster than light space-travel? How do we measure one contribution against another? Today the answer is pretty much Money.

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