The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Technological coincidences

Having done some time in the world of software test, I have trained my mind to reject coincidence as an explanation for anything. If something breaks, look first for what changed last. Simple and almost always right. Almost. I guess.

Two weeks back, I cancelled a long-standing ATT cell phone account, moving to Verizon. All was well (very well, in fact -- best move I've made in years, phone-wise,) except -- that I couldn't get my POP3 email to work. I could receive mail just fine on the Droid, but outgoing wouldn't work. wasn't having any. And it still worked from accounts set up on PCs and so on.

And then it didn't. Outgoing mail failed everywhere. We have DSL from ATT thanks to the demise of's DSL business, which they fobbed off on ATT. I wonder, I said to myself, if somehow cancelling my cell phone account triggered something within the bowels of the great satan of telcom, screwing up their knowledge of me and my account with them. On the PC side, anyway, the symptom was a rejection of the password I'd been given when ATT took over from 2020.

So, with great reluctance, I called support, hammered the 0 key to get out of the robot "reboot your DSL modem" instructions, went through two different tech reps, to discover that -- completely without connection to anything else, the ATT systems had changed to using a password associated with your "Yahoo account," I thing I did not have and certainly did not need to have -- except that now I did need it, and nobody had bothered to let me, a paying-through-the-nose DSL customer, know.

So I guess I can no longer rule out coincidence. Funny thing is, the failures weren't consistent. For a while, mail would still sometimes go through, using the old password. So somewhere, ATT's code is caching something. Hackers, take note.

And what is the lesson learned? I'm looking into other sources of broadband. That's a lesson for ATT, not for me, by the way.
2011 06 22: Ok, and here's another one. I visited an IRS site to download a form. Within minutes, one of my lesser-used email accounts received a copy of the well-known "The IRS has rejected your bank payment" scam messages.

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