Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Man Rents Computer From Rent-A-Center, Immediately Pawns It

When you need cash quickly, selling or pawning something that you own can be a good option. Generally, though, you want to make sure that it’s something you actually own, and not something that you just got from Rent-A-Center.

A Florida man “owed people money,” as he told police, so he came up with a foolproof plan: he signed a rental agreement on an Asus computer, then turned around and pawned it before making the first payment. He got $125. Once the owner of the pawn shop figured out where the computer came from, he called police.

Of course, once you’ve paid off the item and it’s yours forever, pawn away. Not that we recommend renting to own your electronics in the first place.

Man says he rented laptop, pawned it, because he ‘owed people money’ [NWF Daily News]

Monday, 14 January 2013

How Rental PCs Loaded With Spyware Snooped on and Photographed Their Users

When you pay to use a computer, you don't expect it to be tracking your each and every digital move as a result. But that's exactly what happened to Aaron's Sale and Leasing customers—who had their rental computers snooped on in incredible detail.

Ars Technica has a great, detailed feature about the saga, which originally came to light back in 2010 but has developed ever since. The privacy problems are a result of PC Rental Manager—a piece of software that can be used to snoop on customers as they use their computers. Ars Technica explains how it worked:

    When activated, this so-called "Detective Mode" operated at various levels. The first siphoned a screenshot and 30 characters worth of key strokes every two minutes for an hour. It then used DesignerWare servers to attach the data to e-mails that were sent to a designated manager...

    A second level collected a screenshot and keystrokes every two minutes until a command was issued for the collection to stop. A third level worked the same as Level 2, except that it snapped a picture of whoever happened to be in view of a PC's built-in webcam. It also displayed a fake software registration screen that prompted end users for personal information. Detective Mode had been updated in September, 2011 to make it possible to pinpoint a PC's geographic location by collecting the machine's IP address and the names of nearby wireless networks.

Fortunately, people became suspicious when their web cams were switched on without any input on their part—but, obviously, that was already too late. If it leaves you slightly stunned that an outwardly responsible business was willing to stoop to such lows, you should go read the article on Ars Technica. Taken as a whole, it's a compelling reason to never rent a computer. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Abuzuaiter rental issues not all city's doing

Ongoing housing violation issues with the rental company of Isa Abuzuaiter, husband of Greensboro City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter, don't seem to all be explained by computer problems or negligence on the part of city staff.

It seems the Abuzuaiters have some inexplicable difficulty receiving mail. City inspectors send letters to landlords to notify them of violations. In several open cases certified letters were sent to the Abuzuaiters and returned because they were not signed for.

When a letter is sent by certified mail, the recipient is required to sign a green card to receive the mail. The sender is given a receipt by the post office confirming that their mail has been received by the intended party. If no one is present to sign for the letter the postal carrier leaves a note informing the recipient that they need to sign for the letter at the post office.

The cases involve Isa Abuzuaiter's rental company IMAS LLC. Violations include plumbing not properly connected to the public sewer system, pest infestations, improperly installed electrical equipment, faulty appliances and missing or broken smoke detectors.

All the notices in the open cases for IMAS have been sent to 3601 Brassfield Oaks Dr., the Abuzuaiters' home. While some notices have been signed for others have not. Marikay Abuzuaiter confirmed that is their address.

According to current city records, the Abuzuaiters have at least 44 outstanding violations throughout their properties, and have failed to sign for at least two certified letters, each of which covers multiple violations.

When asked why certified letters sent to her home address were returned to the city undelivered, Marikay Abuzuaiter said, "I have no idea."

Marikay Abuzuaiter also said, "If we knew about anything we immediately fixed it." And she asked how they were supposed to fix something they didn't know about. But the city sent certified letters to the Abuzuaiters' home to notify them and the letters were returned. It's a method of notification that is used to make certain someone actually received the letter. She said that being accused of not fixing violations was, "A slap to my reputation for something I didn't even know about."

Several of the Abuzuaiter cases from 2010 are listed as active according to city records, but don't show whether letters have been signed for. City staff has raised the possibility that the cases were closed but inadvertently listed as open in the process of transferring data to a new computer rentals system.

The Planning and Community Development Department changed databases in 2011 and, according to city staff, some data had to be transferred between the systems manually, and in some cases were not entered or were entered incorrectly.

However, since 2011 when the city had no known computer issues, cases show a problem on the IMAS end, with some certified mail sent to the Abuzuaiters' home address being returned unclaimed.

A notice of violation regarding 3704-B Flint St. was sent by certified mail to the Abuzuaiters' home address on April 1, 2011, but was returned. The letter was later hand delivered by a city employee.

There are 18 violations included in the 3704-B Flint St. case, all of which are listed as the owner's responsibility in the city file.

According to an older report, the violations were discovered during an inspection on Nov. 24, 2010, and corrected on Jan. 1, 1900, which indicates a problem with the city computer system.

The violations include missing smoke detectors, a broken smoke detector, rotting wood on the building exterior, plumbing problems and a leaking air-conditioning unit that is causing the floor to buckle. According to current city records, the case is still active.

Marikay Abuzuaiter said the fact that a certified letter about the case was sent to her home and returned to the city unclaimed "Just boggles the mind."

Another notice of violation for a case at 3706-H Flint St. sent by certified mail to the Abuzuaiters' home was signed for in April 2011. The violations include exposed wiring in a utility closet, rotting wood on the outside of the building, missing smoke detectors, an improperly installed water heater valve and a loose toilet. The case is still open according to city records.

A notice of violation about 3507-A North Church St. was signed for in April 2012, and the case is still listed as open and uncorrected.

Many of the 30 violations at 3507-A North Church St. are related to electrical problems including outlets missing cover plates, exposed wiring and a busted thermostat. There is also extensive fire damage to the interior and appliances.

Marikay Abuzuaiter explained that the apartment, which is currently vacant, had been damaged by a fire and that all of the damage had not been repaired.

A notice of violation for a case involving 3503-E North Church St. sent in April 2011, was signed for, and all 13 violations in the case are marked as corrected.

The first notice of violation for 3820-A Mosby Dr. was sent by certified mail July 12, 2012 but was returned. The letter was resent Friday, Oct. 26, and there is no indication in the city records that that letter has been signed for either. The violations are still outstanding according to city records. According to Marikay Abuzuaiter all the violations have been fixed but the apartment has not yet been re-inspected by the city, so it is still listed as open.

That case involves nine violations including failed heating, leaking plumbing fixtures, missing smoke detectors, a kitchen sink that isn't properly connected to the sewer system, and an order for a licensed exterminator for roaches and bedbugs.

Similarly, a certified letter sent to the Abuzuaiters for 1825 Merritt Dr. in February 2012 was returned. The case contains 20 violations including a rotten ceiling, leak damage, holes in the wall and leaking and clogged plumbing. All of the violations are still active according to city records.

Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that when the Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancy (RUCO) was still in effect that they never lost a RUCO permit and that they had never been before the Minimum Housing Board for any of their properties. She said they had also passed stringent Section 8 housing inspections for properties.

Marikay Abuzuaiter insisted that they fixed violations as soon as they found out about them, and never offered any explanation for why somebody didn't sign for or go pick up certified mail from the City of Greensboro. She did say that the city inspectors had their phone numbers and implied that the problems were with one city inspector, although the violations are signed by at least three different inspectors.

According to Marikay Abuzuaiter some of these problems were caused by the fact that electricity to the apartments had been disconnected.

She said that when the electricity, which is the tenant's responsibility, is disconnected that the apartment is supposed to be condemned and the property owner given 48 hours to get the tenants out or fix the problem. She said the city was not supposed to inspect apartments that had no electricity because there was no way to tell if the appliances, heat and/or air conditioning worked.

Marikay Abuzuaiter has been critical of which parties are held responsible for the violations, claiming that some of the violations listed as the owner's responsibility are the tenant's. These responsibilities include maintaining electrical service to the unit and keeping the premises in the order in which they found it.

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Source  http://greensboro.rhinotimes.com/Articles-Articles-c-2012-11-07-213752.112113-Abuzuaiter-rental-issues-not-all-citys-doing.html 

Friday, 14 September 2012

GM to hire up to 500 for Texas computer center

General Motors, which is shifting computer technology functions into the company from outside firms, plans to open four new information technology centers in the U.S., each staffed by at least 500 people.

The first of the centers, in Austin, Texas, is already open with a handful of people, and hiring will ramp up gradually as GM finds the right workers to fill the jobs, the company said Friday.

It's all part of a move to bring 90 percent of GM's information technology from outside companies in-house, which GM believes will make the company more nimble and efficient. GM could add as many as 10,000 people to do the work globally in the next three to five years, said Randy Mott, the company's new chief information officer.

"We are changing the mix very substantially to have a lot more people doing development and innovation," Mott said on a morning conference call.

The positions would have to be self-supporting, an investment with a return that helps GM cut information technology costs and bring changes that would boost market share and revenue, Mott said. The innovation centers would develop software and change processes to help GM bring new vehicles to market faster, he said. "Every area of our company is in the midst of transforming," Mott said.

Currently most of GM's information technology is contracted out to other companies, spokeswoman Julie Huston-Rough said. The work now done in-house focuses on keeping the company running rather than new technology, she said.

GM is talking with other cities about the remaining three U.S. sites, and it would not reveal which areas are candidates. Government tax incentives were not part of the decision to locate in Austin, but it's something GM continues to look at as it opens the centers, Mott said.

The automaker said Friday that it is hiring software developers, project managers, database experts and business analysts in Austin, which was picked because it has a ready workforce with the skills General Motors Co. is looking for. The Austin metropolitan area is home to a growing technology community that includes the University of Texas at Austin and computer maker Dell Inc.

GM says its information technology innovation centers will help to get breakthrough ideas into the company's cars and trucks. It's also intended to improve GM's business processes and drive down costs.

Huston-Rough says the new technology centers are separate from a GM plan now under way to consolidate its 23 global data centers into two in an effort to cut costs and increase speed and efficiency.

GM shares rose 52 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $22.97 in Friday morning trading. In July the carmaker's stock hit $18.72, its lowest level since selling for $33 in an initial public offering almost two years ago. But the shares have risen recently.

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