AT&T discouraging the use of credit card, wishes you to pay via debit/checking account

For my AT&T cell phone bill, my bill payment due date is usually 15 days from the bill closing date. For example, if the bill period is 12/14 to 1/13, my payment due date would 2/2. They now changed it so that if you are paying by credit card, your payment due date is within 6 days.

For this month, my bill period was 1/14 to 2/13 and my bill due date is 2/19 and if you want to keep the 3/2 due, you have use your debit card or checking account.

It looks like AT&T gets money late when credit card is used. With Debit card or Checking account, they get the money quickly. If I were to run my business, its reasonable to expect the money right away after providing the service.

For more info look at this

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How to get MD5 checksum or SHA1, SHA256, SHA512 of a file on Windows

Windows comes with a built-in command to get MD5 checksum of file

1. To get MD5

certutil -hashfile <filename> MD5

2. To get sha1

certutil -hashfile <filename> SHA1

3. To get sha256

certutil -hashfile <filename> SHA256

4. To get sha512

certutil -hashfile <filename> SHA512

To see all the algorithms supported, see below

C:\Users\mvr12>certutil -hashfile -?
Usage:
CertUtil [Options] -hashfile InFile [HashAlgorithm]
Generate and display cryptographic hash over a file

Options:
-Unicode — Write redirected output in Unicode
-gmt — Display times as GMT
-seconds — Display times with seconds and milliseconds
-v — Verbose operation
-privatekey — Display password and private key data
-pin PIN — Smart Card PIN
-sid WELL_KNOWN_SID_TYPE — Numeric SID
22 — Local System
23 — Local Service
24 — Network Service

Hash algorithms: MD2 MD4 MD5 SHA1 SHA256 SHA384 SHA512

CertUtil -? — Display a verb list (command list)
CertUtil -hashfile -? — Display help text for the “hashfile” verb
CertUtil -v -? — Display all help text for all verbs

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Port Vonage to Google Voice via T-Mobile Prepaid

Vonage has been my landline phone for almost 15 years now. At some point the price of landline is too much to swallow for not much of usage. Sometimes I wanted to cancel it but we all are used to having a landline and not having a landline feels like missing out.

Vonage keeps raising prices. If you call them, they will give you some offer and then it will slowly keep raising with out your knowledge.

After some thought I decided to cancel it but want to keep the number. After exploring options I decided on to move it to Google Voice. For making international voice calls I now use Google Hangouts. Its a lot cheaper.

Google voice does not port in landline phone numbers. They port in number from cell phone carriers only.

After googling few folks have suggested AT&T Go phone or Tmobile prepaid. Few folks have mentioned about the sales pressure at AT&T stores etc. T-Mobile prepaid sim cards are easy to find, so I decided to use T-Mobile.

You will also need a cheap mobile phone. I choose an old Android phone Samsum Galaxy S5 AT&T. Note down the IMEI number of this phone.

Step 1. Login to your Vonage account and note down your account number on paper. Because you wont have access to your online account later.

Step 2. If you haven’t setup a pin for your Vonage account, setup now and note it down on the same paper.

Step 3. Jump onto the T-Mobile pre-paid Activation site and scroll all the way and click on “Ready to activate your phone?”

Step 4. Input all your details like a) SIM card serial number, b) your phone imei number, c) SIM card’s activation code.

Step 5. Follow all the steps and at some point it will ask if you are port in number and if so it will ask for the phone number and the carrier details like Vonage account number and pin.

Step 6. It will also ask for the what type of pre-paid plan to choose. Select basic $3/month plan.

Step 7. Follow the on-screen steps to the completion including credit card info for refill amount. The minimum amount to fund the account is $10.00. Sometimes, the credit card will fail because the number is not ported and so the account is not yet opened. (For this we need to wait for number port to complete and accounted opened for funding it).

Step 8. After all the steps, submit. You will receive a confirmation email from T-Mobile.

Step 9. Now insert the SIM card on your Android phone and power it on. You will get a Welcome Text message.

Step 10. Wait for couple of hours and call for T-Mobile to verify that they have all the information for porting. The number is  1-877-789-3106. For more help refer to help link.

Step 11. After T-Mobile has confirmed it, now we wait for the port to complete. T-Mobile says it may take from 7 to 10 days.

I also heard in the forums that Vonage does not let go of phone numbers easily and they will delay the port.

My Vonage account is on a month to month. So start this process 2 weeks before your credit card gets charged for the next bill. In my case I started this process when where are 4 days before my card about to be charged.

Step 12. For me on the third day, I got the text from T-Mobile that number port is complete and account is active.

Step 13. Now go to tmobile.com and register and create an online account using your phone number.

Step 14. Again choose the same plan ($3/month) or another plan and fund it with your credit card. For me I just went with the basic $3/month plan as I don’t plan to make or take calls on this number.

Step 15. Waited for another day, to see if vonage would let you login to your account. I got an error message saying something to the fact like account not found. Now this is good, because vonage closed it on their end.

Step 16. The next day, I received an email from vonage saying your account is closed.

With this the porting from Vonage to T-Mobile prepaid is complete.

I will write another post for porting to Google Voice.

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Windows 10 clone hard drive to SSD

I had Dell Inspiron laptop that came with a 5400 RPM. I know before hand its going to be slow. I thought that if it is too slow then I can migrate to an SSD.

In the beginning, it was not bad, but all that changed Microsoft released the Windows 10 Anniversary feature update and every thing slowed and it became unbearable.

In the past I did migrate many laptops from spinning hard drives to Samsung EVO 840/850 SSDs and used the accompanied Acronis imaging software.

This time, I went to Best Buy got the one on sale, which is Sandisk Ultra Plus 240 GB SSD. My laptop had 1TB disk.

So following is what worked for me. For this you need the following

1. USB flash drive with atleast 2 GB capacity. We will use this for creating bootable USB drive to boot Ubuntu.

2. USB flash drive with atleast 8 GB capacity. We will use this for creating bootable USB drive to boot Windows 10 by following this tutorial

3. Download Ubuntu Desktop ISO. You can download it from Ubuntu Desktop ISO 

4. Download Bootable USB creator from PendriveLinux.

Step 1 : Backup your contents from your current laptop hard drive.

Step 2 : Run the Bootable USB creator and create the USB flash drive bootable with Ubuntu ISO with the 2GB usb flash drive, by following the wizard when you launch it.

Step 3 : Boot the laptop with USB into Ubuntu Linux. You may have to change the boot order by pressing F12. Sometimes you may have to go into BIOS and enable legacy boot or UEFI boot.

Step 4 : When Ubuntu boots up, choose option “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer” like in this tutorial

Step 5 : When the Ubuntu desktop is ready, Click on the start button and open a terminal/console.

Step 6 : switch to root with the below command

$ sudo su -

Step 7 : Started gparted program from the prompt

# gparted &

Step 8 : From the GUI window, select the hard drive and find the partition that holds Windows. Select that partition and right click and select resize/move option and get the current size of the partition. Note down on a piece of paper.

Step 9 : If you SSD is smaller than the current hard drive, then resize it to shrink it to the size of the SSD and then note down the final size of the partition. Click on Apply or tick mark to commit the changes.

Step 10 : Exit this window and shutdown the laptop.

Step 11 : Replace the hard drive with SSD.

Step 12 : Insert USB flash that has bootable windows 1o disc.

Step 13 : proceed installing windows into the new SSD,

Step 14 : use custom install and create a partition to match the size of the partition that you noted down and install windows into that partition.

Step 15 : After the install is finished, shutdown the laptop, connect the old hard drive with a USB to SATA cable like this one

Step 16 : Now boot the latop with Ubuntu USB flash drive

Step 17 : Open the terminal and sudo to root

sudo su -

Step 18 : Open gparted program

# gparted &

Step 19 : On the top right you will see /dev/sda as the first hard drive

on the bottom pane, you will see all the partitions that windows created during the windows install.  note down the partition mount point, like ex : /dev/sda3

Step 20 : On the top right change the device to /dev/sdb which would the second hard drive(old one) and you will see windows partition, note down the partition mount point, like /dev/sdb3

Step 21 : now copy the contents of the old hard drive windows partition to the new SSD partition like below

dd if=/dev/sdb3 of=/dev/sda3 bs=10M

Step 22 : After the dd command finishes, exit and shutdown Ubuntu and remove all the cables and remove the USB boot flash drives and boot the laptop, so that it boots from the SSD.

Step 23 : if it boots you are golden !!!

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American Coradius International LLC Paypal Credit Account Letter

Recently my wife received a letter from American Coradius International LLC regarding a Paypal Credit account that she never had.

So I called the phone number on the letter and they would not give any details unless we provided the date of birth and last four digits of social. I didn’t want to give this info and they don’t want to give any more details and so I ended the call after mentioning that she never had a paypal account or a paypal credit account.

The letter said that I have to reply in writing to dispute it and if they don’t receive any response they will automatically assume that this debt is valid. So they force you to respond in writing.

I tried to call Paypal general customer service 1-888-221-1161 and after waiting for 30 mins to speak to an agent I gave up. That was on a friday.

Again I tried to call Paypal on Monday, and after waiting for 30 mins or so, I got an human. I explained the situation and she transferred me to  paypal collections dept : 877-380-6578. Again after telling a whole story, they transferred me to paypal credit card account : 888-334-6210.

Here the lady asked for all the details ( I had to give the full social, I guess I had to trust Paypal instead of someone that sent a letter). She concluded that someone used my wife’s name and a different social to open an account and marked it that we are not liable.

I asked her about this letter, she said we should call them and let me them know that someone used my name and wrong social. So I asked her is this company legit that is trying to collect Paypal debt. She said American Coradius is the collection company they work with and its safe share personal info with them.

She gave their number 800-213-7163 to call (The letter had a different number 855-224-5193). I called them and in two mins they cancelled the notice that was sent to us and done. At the end she mentioned, as per their investigation this is already marked as fraud and we have been disassociated from this debt.

Going to what happened, how could Paypal open a credit account when the social and address didn’t match ?

I have included the Paypal direct phone numbers so that its easy for anyone looking to resolve similar situations without having to wait in the line.

 

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Google Project Fi, port your number after trying it

You may have heard that Google became cell phone service provider like straight talk.

Google uses bandwidth from T-Mobile and Sprint and your cell phone would automatically switch between Wi-Fi, T-Mobile and Sprint depending on your coverage location and etc. It is heard it will try to use Wi-Fi first and then T-Mobile and then Sprint as a last resort.

Recently I received an invite for Project Fi. I was hesitant to use it for the following reasons

  1. There are no option for family plan. If you are on a family plan, then you are out of options
  2. You have to get a new phone from Google. Phone choices are limited.
  3. Not sure how the service is going to be ? like switching between Wi-Fi and Cell. I was not that happy when I was with T-Mobile. The call gets dropped most of time during hand off.

With this in mind, I was sure to go ahead and experiment with it.

But you need to ask, like Google itself ?

I had a chat with Project Fi representative and found the following points.

  1. You can try the Project Fi service first for few days and if you have happy, then you can initiate the number porting. All give them the call.
  2. Family plans is one of the popular requested feature and is in the works
  3. More supported and cheaper phones is also being requested more and is in the works.
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2015 Acura MDX real world mileage on a weekend

Recently on a weekend one hour drive to Germantown, Md gave me above 30MPG. Following is the snap shot. 31.2MPG to Germantown and 36 MPG on the way back.

IMG_1823

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Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter – Book Review

My book review is on the amazing story Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii
. Curses and Smoke
 is a 311 paged book by Vicky Alvear Shecter.   This book takes place long ago when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Pompeii.  This detailed book is the fast-paced adventure of two young teens aching to break free.  Both enslaved in their own ways, both looking for the right opportunity to break out.  However, neither of them thought their ticket to freedom would come in the form it had.

The first chapter in the book is narrated by the young teen, Lucia Titurius. “Lucia was sure that the white-haired gentlemen reclining on the dinner couch would make a delightful grandfather. As a future husband, though, he left a great deal to be desired.” Lucia is a bright, young, and caring girl who loves science. She often reads books by Pliny, an illustrious geologist.  After her mother died, she’s had trouble persuading her father to buy any of Pliny’s new books, an unfortunate problem for Lucia.  As she reads some of Pliny’s old books, she realizes that there may be an earthquake coming along.  In reality, she seems like the only wealthy lady who realizes the true signs of these frequent and catastrophic tremors.  Though that may sound like a major problem, her real problem is that she is being sold off to a wealthy grandpa who needs a new play toy. She doesn’t want to move to Rome, where her betrothed lives.  She wishes to stay in Pompeii, her hometown, to stay close to her best friends. She wants to marry because she chooses too, not because her father needs the money for his failing gladiator school. Her version of free is the freedom of choice.  Her only path to freedom would be to run away, and her life in Pompeii to vanish from her memories. So what is holding her back?

Then there is Tag.  A poor boy literally enslaved by the Titurius household.  For the past 3 years, he has been in Rome, learning to be a gladiator and hoping to win a fight in the future.  Then suddenly he is called back to Pompeii, for a reason unknown to him until he reaches the household. He serves the Titurius household by being a medicus, a doctor that treats gladiators.  When he reaches the household, he meets a boy named Castor.  Whenever Castor goes near Tag’s father (another medicus), his father believes that Castor is Tag.  That’s when Tag realizes that his father’s sight is failing.  What will Tag do, when his apa (father) is thrown out of the household because he is of no use anymore? For a slave to win their freedom without their Dominus’s (master) permission in Pompeii, they must win in a gladiator fight. Tag hopes to win someday, and take his father to freedom as well. To Tag, freedom simply means not being owned by another man. To be able to live a happy life with his dear ones. So what is holding him back?

In the mist of it all, there is Lucia’s best friend Cornelia, who is pregnant, Quintus, a wealthy man that supposedly falls for Lucia, and Tag’s chance to be trained as an actual gladiator and win his freedom.  When Tag meets Lucia in the cave they had built as children, a forbidden love takes place.  For Tag and Lucia, the boundaries between the rich and the poor, the domina (mistress) and the slave are forgotten.  When they make hidden plans to leave and claim the amazing life that they so badly want, their plans fail. Who will look after Tag’s father, will he be beaten to death?  What will happen to Castor, a unique boy that Lucia and Tag have grown so fond of as mater (mother) and apa (father)?  If you don’t solve the mystery of these  severe tremors, are you betraying your city, your hometown, your friends?  How can Lucia and Tag be so selfish and take so many risks, for their loved ones?  A volcano’s eruption as an escape, however, is a risky and the ingenious perfect plan for Tag and Lucia.  The only real risk, is what if they can’t make it?

I give this book a five/five rating.  A story with twists at every corner, and a completely unpredictable ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say that the ending isn’t exactly happily ever after. There are many pages of detail, but unlike my last book review, the details and feelings written down are amazing and doesn’t end with snooze fest plastered everywhere.  Each thought sparks a new question, a different and crazy emotion, and a totally unexpected outcome. It has a sad ending, but even then, the ending doesn’t answer all my questions, and it forms new ones too.  I always thought the best book isn’t the one with a happy ending, it is the one that keeps you awake at night wondering what might have happened to the characters, but doesn’t leave you completely hungry for the next book so you can find out.  It’ll let you create the ending that you want to happen. Curses and Smoke can be sappy from time to time, but I think that is the beauty of this totally amazing story.

The Ending of Curses and Smoke

“Almost there,” he half-whispered and half-croaked to the sleeping child.

But Castor had not been sleeping. He raised his head and looked up at Tag.

“Are we still free?” he whispered.

It was a long time before Tag could answer through the jagged rock of grief lodged in his throat. He would never be free of the sorrow and regret of losing her. But he knew that was not what the boy meant.

“Yes,” he answered finally. “She set us free.”

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Matched, by Ally Condle – Book Review

An interesting book that I read recently was the 366 paged book, Matched
 by Ally Condle. This book takes place sometime in the future, when technology has failed the previous generation. A government group called the Society takes control, and decides that the human race and everything associated to it, is too cluttered. To solve this problem, they make a hundred of everything, and destroy the rest! (Hundred poems, books, paintings, history lessons, etc.) They make many more changes to the world; a world that young girl named Cassia Reyes and her friends struggle in as time goes on.

Before her Matched Banquet, Cassia was a girl that always followed the rules set before her. The Matched Banquet is the most important occasion for someone that is part of the Society; it is the celebration where a person is given their ideal mate. It is celebrated with great pomp, and is one of the only times these citizens are allowed to wear nice clothes.  Before the banquet, her grandfather gave her an amazing golden compact as an artifact to take with her. This compact has a small hidden compartment in which her grandmother had stored hidden poem, a poem that shouldn’t exist. As Cassia chooses a bright green dress that makes her stand out and lets her embrace her individuality, there are many that find her rather beautiful. She is matched to her best friend Xander Carrow, and everybody thinks she is very lucky, and of course, vice versa.

After the Matched Banquet, the moment comes in which Cassia’s inner rebel stirs. Unlike many of Cassia’s friends, Cassia was matched to somebody who lived in her province. (A province is like a city) Cassia is lucky because she already knows Xander, but her friends have no idea who there match is as a person. For everybody else (including Cassia), the Society provides them with a microcard. A microcard is a device that can store information and videos. This particular microcard is set to display information on the person’s match. Cassia is sure that she already knows Xander, but decides to view the microcard anyway. As she is met with information that she already knows, she sees the face of Ky Markham before the microcard’s screen goes black.

Cassia is worried about why the Society had given her a microcard that viewed two separate faces, but decides to shake it off and join her friends at the game center. There, Cassia is greeted by an Official who wishes to have a private word with Cassia. The Official and Cassia have a conversation outside in which the Official assures Cassia that she is not in any trouble (yet). Instead, the Official gives Cassia some reassurance and that the other face she saw was a mistake, and that she is still matched to Xander. At the same time, the Official tells Cassia why Ky was not supposed to be entered into the matching pool. The Official told Cassia that Ky was an Abberation and that this piece of information was confidential so she could not tell anybody. An Abberation is somebody who’s family has been Reclassified because they have committed an Infraction (crime). Cassia is shocked as she never knew that such people existed in her own community, but gives her word that she will not interfere with Ky, or his life. Before the Official leaves, Cassia asks if she could tell her grandfather about what happened today, as he is fated to die the next day. The Official nods a yes, and goes away, hoping that she will not have to make another visit on the account of a broken promise.

Cassia’s grandfather dies the next day, as he was supposed to. Cassia, as the person that is closest to her grandfather, is deeply upset. As a leisure activity, Cassia decides that she will take on hiking, a sport that was recently brought back from the time when her grandfather was a child. She takes it on, as she believes it will help her stay close to her grandfather. On her first hiking trip, she hides in the bushes and reads the poem that her grandfather had mentioned before he died. She knows immediately why this poem is not part of the hundred, it sends out the message which tells people to fight for what they believe in.

Ky and Cassia meet at the top of the hill, as Ky finished first, and she finished second. She and Ky start spending time with each other at the top of the hill. Ky teaches Cassia to write and a few other skills in which Cassia is impressed upon. Cassia knows that if an Official were ever to find the poem, Cassia and her family would be in great danger. She knows that she has to destroy the poem and commit the words to memory so that the poem may live on. That next day, she destroys the poem in a fire, and regrets in immediately, but knows that she did the right thing. Along the way, she grows to trust Ky more and more, day by day. She grows to trust him so much, that she tells him the poem, bit by bit from memory.

At the same time, the Society strengthens themselves. They start to take away all the artifacts. Cassia lets them unwillingly take her and her brothers Bram’s artifact away. with thoughts in her mind that word themselves into the sentence that means that she will get her stuff back. Along the way, she was able to protect Ky’s artifact, a compass that he had entrusted the safety of to Cassia. She protected it by giving it to Xander to bury so that the Officials won’t be able to find it.

As Cassia is upset, Ky consoles her, and she grows to love him. She finds her every waking moment wondering and wrestling in her mind the same question, Who does she want to be with, Ky or Xander? As she finds herself answering the question all the time with the answer Ky, she decides that she has to tell Xander that she has fallen for somebody else, that she couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.

A few days later, she was walking down the street and she spots the Official that she had talked to her before. She tells Cassia that putting Ky in her microcard was not a mistake, and that the Matching Department had done it on purpose to play around and have a little fun. She said that if Ky wasn’t an Abberation, he would have been matched with Cassia. Cassia is furious with the Society for messing up her life like that, but keeps her anger in check and doesn’t say anything. Cassia asks who specifically put Ky in the matching pool, and the Official responds and says that she did. Cassia knows that the Official is lying, and is determined to find who committed such a terrible act. Before the Official leaves, she reminds Cassia that Ky is an Abberation, and they were not allowed to be together. Of course, by now, Cassia would never listen.

The final event in the book is when Ky is taken away from the Oria Province to be sent to a remote place, the Outer Provinces. They put up quite a scene, but nevertheless, Ky was still taken away. Before he unwillingly boards the airship, Cassia points toward the sky, their secret symbol that means, I will find you! 

Yes, I liked the book! It was mysterious in a way that always kept you reading. Matched was a first-person book narrated by Cassia. Matched is also a trilogy in which each book was as exciting as the last. Matched has so many pages because there are several pages that contain just Cassia’s thoughts. Although those pages can sometimes be very boring, they also contained a lot of imagery and other figurative language that made them worth reading. This book and the unique story that tells is a very intriguing and amazing story.

 

Do Not Got Gentle Into That Good Night

A Poem by Dylan Thomas

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rage at the close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night

 

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on it’s way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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The First Space Mission, an Epic Fail?

The First Space Mission, an Epic Fail?

One of the most interesting facts that I learned today, was that the first space mission was programmed to land and discover more about Earth’s “sister planet”, Venus! NASA called the spacecraft Mariner 1, and launched it in 1962. Sadly, the scientist in charge of its programming hadn’t done the math right! (He forgot to add a minus sign to the equation! Whoops!) The whole mission went haywire, and the Mariner 1 took a nosedive into the Atlantic Ocean! Luckily for NASA, they had a back-up. On December 14, 1962, NASA had made history. The Mariner 2 had successfully reached Venus and given NASA immense information. NASA was so excited over their first success; they launched 10 more Mariners to various planets over the next two years! Layers upon layers of gases, remote temperatures, volcanic activity, and giant dust storms are just some of the few stunning facts that the Mariners’ have discovered about other planets. Let’s just say, by the end of 1975, (the end of Mariner 10’s voyage) mind-blowing facts were discovered, and spectacular photos of amazing scenery were revealed to the inhabitants of the Blue Planet!

One of the reasons I thought this article was interesting, was the fact that one little mistake could cause a disastrous outcome. This thought had entered my mind as I was reading about the part where the NASA scientist had sent the Mariner 1 on a detour route to the Atlantic Ocean. I thought about how that scientist might’ve been treated after the tragic crash-land of the spacecraft. He only forgot one little thing, and the entire mission had gone wrong! Another fact that interested me, was how much information NASA had gotten from the other 9 Mariners’ that had gone to Mercury, Venus, and Mars. They had taken so many pictures, that the Mariner 10 was taking a picture every 40 seconds! I think that this part of history really emphasizes the theory, “If you don’t get it right on the first try, then try try try again!” Perseverance! I’ve always been interested in space so this article was really engaging when I first read it. These are some of the many reasons of why I thought the article about the first space mission was really interesting!

Mercury  Updated calibration and subsequent mosaicing led to substantial improvements in NASA's Mariner 10 color image data; the spacecraft launched in 1974.

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