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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chismillionaire's no nonsense tipping giude---To tip or not to tip

Chismillionaire, while not quite having a Reservoir Dogs no tipping policy really only sees the need to tip for very good/excellent service.

The girl at TGI Friday's doesn't deserve ten bucks on your 50 dollar check because she brought out your free refills and said the warm cookie dessert is the best OK?

However the waiter at the steak house who crumbs your table and is always on time with every single element and is knowledgeable and cheerful deserves a little extra. The waiter/waitress who brings your credit card back and tells you thanks for coming and uses your first name makes a mental impact. When you leave the table and you return to find your napkin folded warrants a little extra

Other places for no tip- the golf course club drop off. They are useless- keep your money.

Valet-no tip, especially if there is an up front charge. Tip if the weather is extremely foul- hot cold raining etc or you are driving something very high line and they keep it close by for you.
Chinese Buffet - Never tip, they are just getting you drinks.

Housekeeping at the Hotel- dollar a day unless they do something out of the ordinary or bring you something you ask for.

Hotel Concierge- tip well. You can really get some value/build a relationship here

Bartender- Tip heavy- usually right when you get there- slap a $50 on the bar, say that's for you just remember me tonight. Solid technique that really works.

Airport curbside porter- $10-20. They really are helping you out here

Room service- no sir.

The barber? 2 bucks tops

Shoe Shine Guy? a Buck

Gentleman's Club- tip generously!!!!

Crested Butte, Colorado

Firefox 3- 8.2 million downloads on the first day

Mozilla’s Download Day ended at 11:18 PDT Wednesday, well on its way to setting its Guinness World Record goal with a staggering 8.2 Million downloads of the Firefox 3 browser — shattering all expectations the company had when organizing the event.

According to the Download Day FAQ, Mozilla is the first company to attempt this record, thereby setting the bar for most downloads in one day. The foundation’s goal was to beat the number of first-day downloads of Firefox 2, which was 1.6 million downloads. The “sky is the limit” number was 5 million. A Mozilla representative confirmed it crossed 8 million about 30 minutes before the window closed.

In the upcoming week, Guinness World Records judges will verify the number using count records and logs while removing duplicates before it becomes the number to beat in the future.

For those who took part in the “historic” day, Mozilla is handing out personalized Firefox 3 Download Day certificates that you can download, print, frame and hang next to your high school diploma.

If you are late to the party, you can still download Firefox 3 at Mozilla’s Spread Firefox page.

Citibank server cracked in ATM crime spree

A computer intrusion into a Citibank server that processes ATM withdrawals led to two Brooklyn men making hundreds of fraudulent withdrawals from New York City cash machines in February, pocketing at least $750,000 in cash, according to federal prosecutors.

The ATM crime spree is apparently the first to be publicly linked to the breach of a major U.S. bank's systems, experts say.

"We've never heard of PINs coming out of the bank environment," says Dan Clements, CEO of the fraud watchdog company CardCops, who monitors crime forums for stolen information.

Yuriy Ryabinin in a 2003 photo taken at a ham radio convention.

Credit card and ATM PIN numbers show up often enough in underground trading, but they're invariably linked to social engineering tricks like phishing attacks, "shoulder surfing" and fake PIN pads affixed to gas station pay-at-the-pump terminals.

But if federal prosecutors are correct, the Citibank intrusion is an indication that even savvy consumers who guard their ATM cards and PIN codes can fall prey to the growing global cyber-crime trade.

"That's really the gold, the debit cards and the PINs," says Clements.

Citibank denied to's Threat Level that its systems were hacked. But the bank's representatives warned the FBI on February 1 that "a Citibank server that processes ATM withdrawals at 7-Eleven convenience stores had been breached," according to a sworn affidavit (.pdf) by FBI cyber-crime agent Albert Murray.

Federal prosecutors in New York have charged 32-year-old Ukrainian immigrant Yuriy Ryabinin, aka Yuriy Rakushchynets, with access device fraud for allegedly using the stolen information to go on a cash-withdrawal spree. Ryabinin, who is allegedly an active member of underground credit card fraud forums, is not charged with the intrusion itself. He and a co-defendant "received over the internet information related to Citibank customers, which information had previously been stolen from Citibank," according to an indictment (.pdf) in the case.

Also charged is 30-year-old Ivan Biltse, who allegedly made some of the withdrawals, and Angelina Kitaeva. Ryabinin's wife is charged with obstruction of justice in the investigation.

In addition to looting Citibank accounts, Ryabinin is accused of participating in a global cyber crime feeding frenzy that tore into four specific iWire prepaid MasterCard accounts last fall. From September 30 to October 1 -- just two days -- the iWire accounts were hit with more than 9,000 actual and attempted withdrawals from ATM machines "around the world," according to Murray's affidavit, resulting in a staggering $5 million in losses.

Ryabinin was allegedly responsible for more than $100,000 of the stolen iWire cash, which he pulled from Brooklyn ATMs. St. Louis-based First Bank, which issued the cards, declined to comment on the matter, citing the ongoing prosecution.

At the time of the ATM capers, FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents had already been investigating Ryabinin for his alleged activities on eastern European carder forums.

Ryabinin allegedly used the same ICQ chat account to conduct criminal business, and to participate in amateur radio websites. The feds compared photos of Ryabinin from some of the ham sites to video captured by ATM cameras in the New York Citibank and iWire withdrawals, and determined it was the same man -- right down to the tan jacket with dark-blue trim.

When they raided Ryabinin's home, agents found his computer logged into a carding forum. They also found a magstripe writer, and $800,000 in cash, including $690,000 in garbage bags, shopping bags and boxes stashed in the bedroom closet. Another $99,000 in cash turned up in one of the safe deposit boxes rented by Ryabinin and his wife, Olena. Biltse was also found with $800,000 in cash.

Ryabinin's wife told investigators that she witnessed her husband "leave the couple's house with bundles of credit cards in rubber bands and return with large sums of cash," a Secret Service affidavit (.pdf) reads.

Notwithstanding the court documents, Citibank said in an e-mailed statement that it was not the source of the breach. "There is no evidence that Citi servers were compromised in connection with this fraud," the company wrote.

Asked about Citibank's denial, a spokeswoman for the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York, which filed one of the criminal complaints in the case, said the office would not comment beyond what was in court documents.

Citibank added that it does not hold customers responsible for fraudulent withdrawals, but would not disclose how many customers were affected. Spokesman Robert Julavits did say in an e-mail that "Citibank has complied with all applicable notification requirements." Under New York's Information Security Breach And Notification Act, companies must generally warn consumers of data breaches in the "most expedient time possible."

The timing of the caper -- which prosecutors say began in October -- overlaps Citibank's previously-unexplained lowering of ATM withdrawal limits in New York last December.

Citibank was taciturn at the time, when New Yorkers began noticing that their ATM withdrawal limits had been slashed in half. The bank told the New York Daily News that the move was a response to "isolated fraudulent activity" in New York.

In an earlier incident in 2006, Citibank put transaction holds on some Citi-branded MasterCard debit cards. In that case, the action was later linked to a breach at office-supply retailer OfficeMax. That intrusion remains unsolved.

In the new case, the FBI affidavit says that Citibank knew by February 1 which accounts were leaked, but it left those accounts open while the fraud unfolded.

"Citibank identified all of the account numbers involved in ATM withdrawals during the period that the server was compromised … and established a fraud alert system that notifies Citibank each time one of the compromised Citibank account numbers is used," the affidavit reads.

That language suggests that the attackers may not have had access to stored account numbers and PINs, but instead were tapping into transactions in real time to vacuum up PIN codes as they flew past.

Update: If you've received a notice from Citibank about your ATM card being compromised -- either now, or in recent years -- or have observed fraudulent cash withdrawals, I'd like to hear from you.

Oil tumbles $5 per barrel

NEW YORK ( -- Oil prices sank nearly $5 on Thursday after the Chinese government said it would raise prices on gasoline and diesel by lifting subsidies that have been blamed for driving oil prices higher. The move could curb demand from the country's rapidly growing economy.

Light, sweet crude for July delivery was down $4.81 at $131.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in midday trading.

China's National Development and Reform Commission said that prices of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel will increase by 8% beginning Friday.

"The news out of China surprised the market," Ray Carbone president of Paramount Options, said from the NYMEX floor.

Analysts were expecting China to follow the lead of other oil consuming countries that have lifted subsidies in recent weeks. "But no one expected it before this summer's Olympic games, which is why the market reacted so violently," Carbone said.

Strong demand from China's booming economy has helped support crude prices. A change in the government's policy of controlling gas and diesel prices could mean higher gas prices for Chinese consumers, undercutting demand.

China's decision is a "blow to demand that can't be taken lightly," Carbone said.

Separately, Iraq's Oil Ministry said it is nearing an agreement with a number of major Western oil companies on service contracts to help boost the country's output capacity. The contracts, if approved, would be the first major deals between Iraqi and Western oil companies since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Saudi summit

The oil market is also preparing for the outcome of a summit between oil producers and consumers set to take place in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Saudi energy officials have signaled their willingness to increase oil production though some analysts doubt it will be significant enough to bring prices down.

Dan Flynn, a market analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago, thinks the Saudi's will add more oil to the market because it's "psychologically important for one of their best customers."

Carbone thinks the oil market could "break out of its range" depending on what develops over the weekend.

The price of oil has varied between $131 and $139 a barrel since the June contract spiked nearly $11 to an all-time high of $139.01 a barrel on June 9.

"A dramatic move is coming," Carbone said. But prices could go either way, "determining the direction is the hard part," he added.

Nigerian attack

Earlier Thursday, the Associated Press reported that rebels had attacked a Royal Dutch Shell installation in Nigeria, highlighting concerns that white-collar workers in the country will go on strike.

The AP also reported that Nigerian militants said they captured an American worker on a supply vessel in the area of the rig but later released him.

Amanda Kurzendoerfer, an energy analyst at Summit Energy, notes the Nigerian rebel movement does not normally attack offshore oil installations and that Thursday's attack was a "bigger more structured attack."

Though China has taken center stage, Kurzendoerfer said Thursday's violence "doesn't bode well going forward."

Inventory report

The oil market is also digesting a government report released Wednesday that showed crude inventories fell by a smaller-than-expected 1.2 million barrels last week.

Wednesday's report also showed a large increase in supplies of distillates, used to make diesel and heating oil, and a surprise decrease in gas supplies.

Meanwhile, gas prices fell for the third day in a row. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas fell two-tenths of a cent to $4.073 from $4.075 the day before, according AAA

Celtics Parade - as promised...

Here they are! The "extra-curricular" shots were hard to come by - folks were moving way too fast, I'm not bold enough to be blatantly obvious, and I had the wrong camera. It was perfectly suited for getting good shots of the guys on the boats, but not so much for discreet "from the hip" shots of parade "attendees."

Celtics Parade

430 Scuderia Tested

That's right. The 430 Scuderia, a V-8-powered, aluminum "volume-sales" model we all kind of assumed was just another lightened, mid-cycle riff on the F430 turns out to be one serious supercar. It may be Ferrari's best-performing GT car ever, despite its fire-sale $272,306 price. It is unquestionably the Ferrari that mere owners -- not factory test drivers or F1 world champions -- will be able to drive the fastest on demanding roads or race circuits without winding up on

Granted, the 503-hp 430 carries 18-percent-more weight per filly than does the 651-hp Enzo and it lacks the Enzo's exotic pushrod-actuated suspension, active aero-gear, and a few other racy touches. And yet with Michael Schumacher at the helm, the 430 Scuderia circulated the fast track at Fiorano in 1:25.0, equaling Dario Benuzzi's best run in the Enzo, circa 2003. And indeed our own test equipment recorded a quicker launch in the 430 (1.2 seconds to 30 mph versus 1.4 in our last Enzo) and a blistering 0-to-60 time of just 3.1 seconds to the Enzo's comparatively pedestrian 3.4. Granted, by the quarter mile the Enzo's power advantage vaults it ahead by 0.2 second and almost 7 mph, but on shorter circuits like the 1.8-mile Pista di Fiorano there's precious little time spent at those speeds. In fact, as development engineer Michele Giaramita explained the many advantages the 430 enjoys at different spots on the track, we had to wonder if Michael might have been sandbagging just a skosh in the name of saving Enzo's face until the next limited-run V-12 super-cavallino arrives. Follow along and see if you agree.

Ferrari took a holistic approach to enhancing the F430, whittling away at anything that slows a car down and applying the latest tricks learned in Formula 1 racing. Power, weight, tires, and suspension were the low-hanging fruit. Using carbon fiber extensively throughout the interior and engine compartment, ditching sound-deadening materials and fitting a Lexan rear window and titanium springs and lug bolts helped shave 220 lb off the F430. A host of detail refinements to the 4.3L flat-plane-crankshaft V-8 added 20 hp and 4 lb-ft of peak output, but fattens the torque on either side of the peak by a bunch more, making the overall performance feel like much more than a four-percent improvement. Stickier Pirelli PZero Corsa tires (10 mm wider in front), plus lowered (0.6 in.), stiffer springs (35 percent front/32 percent rear) boost handling, braking, and acceleration-launch performance.

The rest of the improvements are pretty much all Formula 1-inspired, starting with the aerodynamics, which are optimized to increase front and rear downforce without resorting to large wings by creating suction underneath the body. A patent-pending "base bleed" method of relieving aerodynamic pressure from the rear-wheel housings helps bring the 430 Scuderia's drag coefficient in five percent under the Enzo's. Next, the ever-evolving F1 paddle-shift automated manual gearbox controls have been hyper-caffeinated to deliver shifts in an unfathomable 60 milliseconds. This new F1-SuperFast2's shifts happen in about a quarter of the time required for a manual shift-or for a shift in the first-generation F1 box in the Enzo, for that matter.

But perhaps the most significant technology transfer from F1 to the 430 Scuderia is the F1-Trac traction/stability control system, which for the first time on a road car also has authority over the electronically controlled E-Diff2 wet-clutch limited-slip differential. Put simply, this system is designed so that in the Manettino's "Race" mode, any driver should be able to approach the apex of any turn and simply flat-foot the throttle and steer through letting the electronics modulate brake pressures, engine torque, and differential lockup. The electronic processor time is so fast that you're never aware of any brake pulsations or electronic jiggery-pokery, you just feel like a pro shoe motoring out of every bend. That faster processor also controls the anti-lock brakes and shares credit with the larger front carbon-ceramic brakes for trimming the F430's already impressive braking distances by around eight percent to 93 ft from 60 mph and 255 ft from 100. Initial brake bite also is considerably improved from the F430's, allowing deeper braking points on corner entry. Check out our Fiorano circuit graphic to see where each of the above improvements help the 430 Scuderia catch the mighty Enzo.

Out in the hills above Maranello, these many small improvements combine to form one awesome piece of machinery, made all the sweeter by being a surprisingly complete and comfortable car. There's no radio (the engine note is worth 1000 iPods), but it's well air-conditioned and trimmed in rich Alcantara and leather inside like a proper road car, not a stripped-out racer. Just pulling out of the parking lot, the zillion bits of road grit being thrown up from the tires to the undercarriage suggest these summer gumballs will die young but live spectacularly until then. Motoring through town, it's a docile sweetheart until you have to reverse. In keeping with Raul Julia's first rule of Italian driving ("What's behind me is not important"), the view out the mirrors is limited, and the four-point harness makes it tough to turn for a better look.

Once past the city limits with a long stretch of open road ahead and no traffic around, you come to a stop, twirl the Manettino to CST-off, engage manual shift mode, first gear, and then hold the downshift paddle until the gear-indicator display alternates between "1" and "L" and a tone sounds. Then simultaneously release the brake and floor the throttle. Get it right and the tires spin briefly, then hook up for one serious G-sled ride. LEDs on the optional carbon-fiber steering wheel illuminate at 500-rpm intervals above 6000 rpm. Pull the upshift paddle when they blink at 8500 and with what feels like a strike to the rear bumper from a giant polo mallet, the car jolts forward in the next gear, bellowing with newfound basso profundo. Within minutes, you're scaling the Emilian Apennines, and a switch to "Race" mode seems prudent. With each curve and switchback, you brake a little later, astonished at the power of these carbon binders. Hit the apex and flat-foot the go-pedal, letting the superfast computers sort out apportioning torque for the hastiest possible exit. A particularly uneven stretch leaving Pavullo reveals the wisdom of Schumacher's soft-suspension mode switch, the relaxed suspenders providing better comfort and better braking and road-holding. After an hour of hard running, the route has circled back to Maranello just in the nick of time. Another 10 miles of acclimation to the 430 Scuderia and you might be forever jaded toward lesser machinery. Like Enzos.

The Down-Low on Torque
The bump in peak output appears modest, but at lower speeds torque is boosted by up to 10 percent. Using an auxiliary air pump to direct air into the exhaust collector under certain conditions permitted elimination of the precatalyst, which, along with the F430 Challenge Stradale's back-pressure-relieving exhaust valve accounts for much of the improvement. Larger inlet tracts and finer control of combustion via ion-detection across the spark-plug gaps following each power stroke fattens the torque (and hence power) curves almost everywhere above 2500 rpm. And a bump in compression from 11.3:1 to 11.9:1 helps at all speeds.

Seeing Sound
An enormous amount of engineering went into tuning the 430's bark while passing muster (barely) with the sound police. The exhaust system is closely related to that of the F430 Challenge Stradale and includes the same bypass valve in the muffler. The intake system includes special resonators that punch up the sound the driver hears in the cockpit, ensuring that each of the engine's natural frequencies is heard clearly from inside (those are the bright red lines in the Scuderia's sound plot).

As Good as a Dual-Clutch?
Our respect for the performance-enhancing nature of twin-clutch transmissions like the Nissan GT-R's has inspired us to proclaim them "the transmissions of the future." But Ferrari's F1-SuperFast2 prompts a reconsideration of that pronouncement. The shift time is shortened to as little as 60 milliseconds by compressing the gear-change time and overlapping it with the clutch opening and closing events so that the clutch begins engaging again almost the instant it is fully released. Further examination of Ferrari's shift event indicates that, while 60 milliseconds elapse between the time when the acceleration begins to fall (as the shift paddle is flicked) and the time full engine power resumes accelerating again, the time spent at an acceleration rate at or below zero is more like 40 milliseconds. That's quick enough to feel instantaneous from the driver's seat and to be virtually unnoticeable on an acceleration chart. Ferrari argues that its solution gets the job done with about half the mass and better durability under race conditions. Off the track, however, there's no matching the dual-clutch design's shift smoothness, comfort and parking maneuverability.

The 430 Scuderia's front fascia has a more pronounced splitter and redesigned center inlet that better manages airflow around the nose and under the car en route to an F1-style venturi diffuser at the rear. Together these changes and a subtly taller rear ducktail spoiler result in a downforce distribution that mirrors the static weight distribution, with front and rear lift coefficients of -0.145 and -0.211. This ensures the handling demeanor doesn't change at speeds of up to 195 mph. Furthermore, the high-center mounting of the exhaust outlets allows low-pressure air exiting the rear diffuser to suck the high-pressure air out of the rear wheelhouses through a mesh screen, which helps bring the drag coefficient in at 0.343 (up from the F430's 0.330)-impressive for a car with this much downforce.

Fiorano Track Notes

The Enzo and 430 Scuderia both enter their hot lap in third gear coming onto the front straight, braking from fifth at the end (note that the speeds indicated are the 430 Scuderia's). The Enzo's 16-percent advantage in weight-to-power is eroded somewhat by gearing that averages 13 percent taller and by gear changes that take four times longer, subtracting about 0.4 second of acceleration time relative to the 430. Enzo still reaches a higher top speed, but then 430's fifth-generation CCM brakes and better tires outstop Enzo's first-gen units. Less curb weight and grippier PZero Corsas probably more than cancel the cornering advantage of the Enzo's wider rear tires, giving 430 an edge in slower corners like 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8. Both cars carry a lot of speed through the 2-3 S-turn and the Turn-7 kink. Enzo's active aerodynamics may deliver more downforce for added stability and cornering power, but 430's F1-Trac and E-diff optimize power delivery to win back much of the difference, as in Turn 3 when E-Diff2 delivers 75-percent axle-locking on overrun just before the apex, and in Turn 7 where it locks for a speedier exit. Visit to see telemetry traces of the 430 Scuderia at Fiorano.

This image shows Ferrari telemetry for a warm-up lap, two hot laps, and a cool down. We've numbered the turns and put some of the corresponding numbers on the vehicle-speed trace (obviously each valley corresponds to one of the turns numbered). The green trace indicates accelerator position (most often it's at 100 percent), the red one is braking. The magenta and blue lines indicate lateral and longitudinal acceleration in gs. The blue "cloud" at the bottom right is another representation of lateral and longitudinal acceleration, with longitudinal on the Y (up and down) axis, lateral on the X (side-to-side) axis. Obviously, the bigger this cloud, the better the performance of the car.

In this image we've expanded the two hot laps for closer examination. The speed trace is still on top, with the turns numbered, and the green line still indicates accelerator position, but this time, wherever you see the red trace, it indicates the F1-Trac traction/stability-control system is reducing torque. The blue line is longitudinal acceleration, and the magenta line at the bottom indicates the percentage of lockup F1-Trac is ordering up from the E-Diff2 limited-slip differential. Note that in some areas of the track stability can be managed with either torque modulation or E-Diff2, and some require both. Turn 3 and Turn 7 get a lot of lockup, as we'll see in the next graphs.

Turn 3 is a high-speed S-turn, and here the two components of the stability-control system sort of complement each other. The E-Diff2 locks up as the driver lifts, and begins releasing as the F1-Trac begins trimming torque at the corner exit.

Turn 6, the "tornantino" hairpin is the slowest point on the track, and the correct line is to brake deep in a straight line, turn sharply, and then accelerate as you unwind the wheel. In Race mode, that means floor the throttle in second gear and let F1-Trac dither the throttle a bit, returning to full power briefly, and then trimming throttle and locking the E-Diff2 a bit. Entering Turn 7, the fastest on the track, the E-Diff locks during the brief lift, then releases as the F1-Trac manages torque on its own while the driver powers out.

BMW Gran Turismo update

What it is: The CS concept car first seen at the Shanghai show in 2007 will go into production as the four-door Gran Turismo, positioned just above the 7-series upon which it is based.

Why it’s important: This model will give BMW a competitor to the Mercedes CL-class and will be BMW’s new flagship.

Platform: Will be based on the upcoming 7-series but will feature a sportier chassis and extensive weight-saving tweaks, such as composite body panels and aluminum structural members.

Competition: Aston Martin Rapide, Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes-Benz CL-class, Porsche Panamera.

Estimated arrival and cost: We’re expecting the production version to see the light of day in 20

2009 Jetta TDI priced

HERNDON, Virginia — Volkswagen of America said the 2009 Jetta TDI sedan will start at $21,990, while the 2009 Jetta SportWagen TDI will be priced from $23,590. Both models go on sale in August and are rated by the EPA at 29 mpg in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway.

The TDI's clean diesel meets stringent emissions standards in all 50 states. But diesel advocates had expected much higher EPA mileage ratings on the VW turbodiesel, due in part to the automaker's own aggressive positioning. On its Web site, VW says the TDI engine has "an anticipated fuel efficiency of mid-50s highway (and) mid-40s city."

But even the company's own testing, conducted by an outside firm, fell well short of that mark.

In part to blunt some of the negative feedback generated by the lower-than-expected EPA numbers, VW hired a third-party company, AMCI, to conduct what it calls "real-world testing" on the '09 Jetta TDI. The automaker said the AMCI tests showed the TDI achieved significantly better results — 38 mpg in the city and 44 on the highway — than the official EPA ratings.

What this means to you: VW takes some of the sting out of high fuel prices — and steep new-car stickers. But diesel aficionados who expected to rack up huge mileage gains may be disappointed both by the EPA figures and their own real-world driving experience in the new TDI. — Paul Lienert, Correspondent