I felt pretty silly the other week.
I stood in the street and queued for a new telephone.
Now, part of me knew there was always a possibility of this. I've got definite nerdy tendencies, and Apple's technology has an undoubted fetishism about it. But I still told myself as I got to the shop just as it was opening "I'll only stay if there's no queue". Two hours later, I had a phone. Just as well, really, as the old one was falling apart.
I've had it about a month now. It's nice. I wouldn't call it revolutionary, but it's undoubtedly nice. So nice, indeed, that I am looking for another one.
I'd foolishly thought that after the initial rush died down, you'd pretty much be able to get an iPhone without any trouble. And I expected that initial rush to last a day. Maybe two. But no. O2 appear not to have a single iPhone in Edinburgh. Indeed, the closest iPhone they can offer me is in Larne. Which is quite a drive away. Google tells me it's four and a half hours, if I take the ferry from Troon.
If I go for the model that I actually want, then the position changes slightly. There's one in Downpatrick, an extra hour's drive from the ferry.
I don't know whether to be happy that I've got one already, impressed by the technology that allows me to find my nearest phone, impressed by the popularity of the phone or just annoyed that I can't pick one up in my lunch break.
I've been designing web sites in a kind of amateur way for a few years now, and I only have one big gripe in other people's designs.
The features available in web pages are evolving all the time, and new browsers are required in order to interpret the code that people are putting in to their pages. Web design is big business, and companies are always pushing for their web sites to be the best and the snazziest. So I'm not blaming web designers for upgrade nags, but I am blaming their clients and the design process.
What do I mean by an upgrade nag anyway?
Well, there's a certain site that I visit occasionally that has a big banner along the top telling me, over four lines of text, that I am using an unsupported browser and that I need to update. It's got some pretty icons on it that link to download pages for browsers. It's on every page of the web site. I have no idea what in the site I can't see, but I see this big red message. A lot.
Now, yes - there will be some features on the site that the people behind the site want me to see, and that I won't be able to. Probably advertising, but possibly content, or interaction, or a tedious facebook login. But the main reason I now don't want to use the site is the annoying banner. On every page. Telling me that my browser isn't supported by the web site I'm looking at.
Now, there is a good reason why my browser isn't supported by the web site. It's an old browser. Internet Explorer 7. And all the computers in my workspace have it. I'm not allowed to upgrade. So I don't.
As an aside - surely the browser doesn't support the web page, rather than the other way around?
There are established techniques for allowing a web page to display properly in older browsers. They're messy, yes, and time consuming. But around 6% of internet users are using IE7 or earlier. All of them will get this banner. Instead of a discreet message telling the user that "as you are using such and such a browser, some features of this site are disabled" and disabling them, this site - and it is not unique - chooses to make itself considerably more annoying.
I do sympathise. With the site owners, who want to drive everytone to the most bandwidth-rich experience, with the coders who want to write standard code rather than bespoking everything for individual browsers. All I ask is that, in return, they have some sympathy for me, stuck on a browser that their web site doesn't support.
The other day, I tweeted a reply to a comedian.
It was a little joke. It was clearly a little joke. She's a comedian. It made her laugh. She tweeted it on to her followers.
And there, the madness began.
There are a few basic outcomes when your tweet is forwarded on to 138,000 strangers. Most of them will ignore it. In fact, most of them won't even see it.
Some will be amused, forget about it and move on with their lives. This is a sensible result.
Some wil be amused, and will start following you on twitter. You might check them out, follow them back. This is a good result.
Some will try to top your gag. They'll reply to both you and the comedian that retweeted you, and they'll add a new punchline on top. This is a bit weird. It might work if the new punchline was actually funny - so it's not completely stupid - but most of them weren't. In fact, all of them weren't. We just ignored them.
The weird ones, though, they were the ones that pointed out that my joke didn't make sense, and explained why. I wanted to reply to them. I wanted to thank them for their comments, for opening up the debate. I wanted to ask them why they followed comedians on twitter when they clearly had no sense of humour. I wanted to point out where they could go to check their facts, because while yes, they were right in some of their assertions, most of them were errant nonsense. I wanted to thank them for sucking a little bit of joy out of my life and making me feel a little bit empty inside. I wanted to ask them if that made them feel good.
I didn't, though.
I've come up with a brilliant way to encode the written word in such a way as to make piracy virtually impossible.
The idea is this.
eBooks, as they currently stand, require two purchases - the purchase of the reader, and the purchase of the eBook itself - the classic separation of content from player. So far so good. This allows the content provider and copyright owner effectively to reproduce the content as many times as it wants, and sell licences to as many people as want the content. Tying the user in to a particular player creates built in obsolescence, so eventually there will be a resale opportunity where the eBook you want to read is no longer compatible with your hardware, so you have to play it again.
The bReader combines player and content in a way that effectively forces the reader to purchase both at the same time - leading to the purchase of one book player for every book purchased. This is good, because it means that the text of the book is hard-coded in to the player rather than being delivered via the internet - true, there is a loss of immediacy of delivery as a solid bReader must be delivered rather than just content, but this means that the content itself is never stored online. As no encryption or DRM system is entirely unbreakable, this drastically reduces the opportunities for piracy.
Indeed, the storage mechanism within the bReader will be analog, so there is no quick way to rip content from the device. True, analog:digital conversion is possible, but it is intensely time consuming and will almost certainly require the destruction of the original bReader.
There are also opportunities for re-selling content. Users may view bReaders as disposable, so they may not retain the content indefinitely. bReaders can be mass-produced cheaply in low quality, so they fall apart after a period of time. It is anticipated that some users would even purchase new bReaders to match existing bReaders on their "bReader shelf" as we are tentatively calling the bReader Storage Environment (bse).
Some may say that replacing eBooks with bReaders is a fanciful solution to a problem that doesn't exist. But isn't that the point?
I don't understand television any more.
I used to understand television, and this is how it worked. All three channels were beamed out of transmitters, in to space where they got caught in aerials. The signals then ran down the wire into the box, which got warmed up and then little pixies ran along 625 lines turning off and on the red, green and blue dots that you could see if you scrunched yourself up to the screen really really close.
Then they introduced new stuff like satellites and cables, so you didn't need to get television through your aerial as you could get it out of the ground, or out of space. That was fine too. You paid for television from the ground or space and you got to watch The Simpsons and endless US imports. I could get to grips with that.
And guess what, you could still connect up your old gremlin-run television to the aerial, and you could still get all three channels, and that was all good.
Then they got even more digital, sending more television programmes out through aerials, but these were squeezed up really really tightly, rolled up in a ball and kind of stuck together. You needed a special decoder to take these squeezed up programmes and translate them into real moving and talking pictures. That was okay, though. Generally, it worked pretty well, except when the signal is bad, when the picture jumps rather than getting snowy, and the sound crackles in a "hello I'm going to break your speakers" kind of way.
However, as I come close to buying a television which I will be watching through a wire connected to an aerial pulling programmes from a transmitter that's probably up a hill somewhere, I realise I have no idea what I am doing.
The television will have a digital tuner - which I can understand. It'll automatically unroll squeezed up programmes. Hurrah! That means I don't need an unsightly box (insert "unsightly box" gag here later). However, which unsightly box is it replacing? Freeview? Freesat? Top up TV?
And critically, do I really care as long as Mr Twinky can watch Saturday Kittens?
Interestingly, it appears that web pixies have abducted my layout. This is called 'an upgrade'.
It's all my own fault, really. I should have thought about what I was doing as I gleefully clicked that yes, over-writing all these files was fine and no, I didn't want to back up.
And so it's gone, as though to outer space. Hours of hard HTML, hand-coded by a fumblefingered amateur, and replaced with uniform grey, bland and uniform, simple, clean, functional.
There is a lesson here for us all, I think. As we travel through life there will be times when we do stupid, illogical things. These may be small things like overwriting files or big things like rigging national elections. We won't always step back and think through the consequences fully and these may be minor, like the layout of a website changing, or major like setting the progress of a country back a century.
The test of personal character and integrity is how you behave after these mistakes. I like to accept that I screwed up, and hopefully learn and become stronger.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some elections to rig
We had the auditors in at work.
Well, not us precisely. Our marketing team. Or, as we've started calling them, "document management". It was decided that our document store wasn't secure enough. So this week we had the password routines upgraded.
This is a system that stores technical documents and my sarcastic comments on them. It has no personal client data. No financial information.
Now we've got to change our passwords regularly. I use the system roughly every couple of weeks, so now I have to change my password every second time I use it.
The password has to contain letters and numbers, a mixture of upper and lower case, and a punctuation mark. That's good password practice anyway, but they're a swine to remember. Really, they should be saved for important things.
This is a system that stores technical documents and my sarcastic comments on them. It has no personal client data. No financial information.
Eight of us in the office have logins for this system. All of us now have our new passwords written on post-its on our desks.
Yes, we got our security upgraded really well.
In this day and age, colleagues of mine will use Wikipedia as evidence to back up claims in their presentations, kids will use Google to produce their school projects, and instead of going to shops we go to online stores. But I've noticed something recently.
It's all getting a bit rubbish.
Part of this is obviously the trend to let users create their own content. 103% of everything written on the internet is patently tripe.
Part of this is also down to the increased rubbishness of internet retailers. They're stretching, bless them. Trying to offer products that they don't actually have, for instance. "We'll have that in four weeks. In the mean time we've got your money.
Part of it is doubtless down to the development of sufficiently sophisticated filtering software that allows people to read news at work but not to write about it. This limits the internet awfully - being in an office is like being in China, although with less pornography probably.
Part of it is an increased regionalisation, oddly, as increasing numbers of sites restrict their content based on where you are.
It's bizarre that as the internet matures, it seems to become less accessible and less usable.
I mocked 4OD, oh yes I did. Why would you want to watch television on a computer when you've got a perfectly good video recorder sitting there? Eh?
And anyway, in this day and age if you miss a show it'll be repeated on the sister channel, and the sister channel "plus one" and probably back on the main channel at four in the morning with in-vision sign-language. It's almost impossible to miss a television programme these days, so why would you want to download one?
And then I missed a programme on Channel 4, and I missed the single repeat. I think it was when we were living in sheltered accommodation and all of our days merged in to one, same after same after same. One Thursday turned in to the next Thursday and we missed something. So, with trepidation, I fired up "4OD".
It worked rather nicely. It worked even better when I worked out how to connect the laptop up to the television and play the programmes back through that. Downloaded television programmes to watch on demand. And the quality is better than the broadcast version.
I've gone download mad, now. Still just with the free stuff you can get from Channel 4, but the freedom to watch what you want when you want to has led me to reduce the amount that I watch and freed up huge chunks of time. I now have nothing to do with that time, so I watch more soap operas than ever. Probably.
There's a downside. I need a remote control for the laptop, as it's permanently wired in to the television. Something not a million miles away from Apple TV, it's true, but not that because I have a pathological hatred of iTunes (evil, evil software, and I know that 4OD isn't much better, but at least it doesn't try to take over my computer whenever I sneeze). A simple pause, play, rewind, next track remote would do it.
It's the way of the future.
"Prominent" blogger Kathy Sierra has called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online. ... What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs... blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers. ... It has led her and others to question some of the unwritten rules of blogging. Tim O'Reilly has helped draft a code of conduct. At best, it's amusing.
1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.
We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.
We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
- is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
- is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others
We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]
Basically, it's saying that we're responsible for what's on our web site, and we can delete anything we don't like. Hurrah.
The thing is, if we're in the US or most of the civilised world we're already responsible for the content of our own web sites, whether or not we say we are. We've signed up to that in our hosting agreements, we're covered by the perfectly good laws that already stop us from infringing copyright or committing libel. And we can delete spam comments if we want, and we can delete comments we don't like if we want because it's our site and we can do what we like. Hurrah.
2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.
Balls. Utter balls.
I spend minutes thinking about what I say here. I'm not this erudite in public, you know. I might say, controversially, that Adolf Hitler was a bit of a nasty man, but I wouldn't say it to his face. I might say it to yours.
But it's a written medium. It's not a conversation.
3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.
When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved--or find an intermediary who can do so--before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.
Not bad, but needs work. The fact is, though, conflict and misrepresentation is rife and some would say it's the basis of many blog entries. It's provoking, it creates debate. Stuff like that. But a private response isn't always appropriate, possible, or effective. Because blogging isn't a conversation.
4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible--see above) and ask them to publicly make amends.
If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.
And we all live in a happy world, where bullies back down when you ask them to publicly make amends. Well, they do if it's not important or accidental, and if not - then hello escalation time!
And as for cooperation with law enforcement - again, I don't see why I need to state this? Either I will or I won't, and chances are I will, so why bother saying it? If I don't, then I'll be in trouble and that's back to my whole point - this isn't actually adding any protection to anyone, is it?
The only time I've seen a group of bloggers have any influence is when they googlebomb someone.
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.
Must we? What about people without e-mail addresses? What about the comical wheeze of making up an e-mail address that LOOKS valid but isn't? Are we going to shove people through validation routines? Are we bollocks.
6. We ignore the trolls.
We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don't veer into abuse or libel. We believe that feeding the trolls only encourages them--"Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it." Ignoring public attacks is often the best way to contain them.
Sadly, it's not easy to identify a troll, and it's not easy to ignore them. Every time I've closed down my blog, it's been because I've not liked something that I've read in my comments (hey, revelation, kids!), and that's absolutely my right if I want to.
So why is this going to fail?
There are literally dozens of blogs. New ones are created every minute, and the "blogosphere" doubles in size roughly once every twenty minutes. And guess what? It's completely impossible to force everyone to sign up to a blogging code. Apart from anything else, everyone's definition of a blog is slightly different. And not everyone allows comments. Comments weren't even available back when I started blogging. That's how old I am, so I know what I am talking about, kids.
So if any blogging code is going to work, then it's going to have to be entirely voluntary and customisable. Maybe something like the Creative Commons Licence. How many people have a Creative Commons Licence, eh? And how many people realise what it actually means?
But what will it achieve? And why is it being proposed?
I mentioned that right at the beginning, didn't I? A prominent blogger had some death threats.
And here's the questions that raises.
How prominent is Kathy Sierra? As I believe I mentioned a paragraph or two ago, I've been at this for years. I'd never heard of her. Which is not to say she isn't prominent, just that the blogosphere is a varied and diverse group of people that in no way can be described as a community. We just have one thing in common. We're no more a community than people who use credit cards are a community. So while I think what's happened to her is awful, I'm really not certain it actually merits all the brouhaha and kerfuffle.
And secondly, and more importantly, how on earth is a voluntary code of conduct along these lines going to stop defamatory comments on someone else's web site?
And a reminder of this site's position on the matter
This is my site. Think of it as my living room. You're here as my guest. If I don't like you, I will throw you out. Don't shit on the sofa.
I read something interesting this evening. It was in some blurb I got from Microsoft pushing Vista.
On my Windows Sidebar, I have a notepad to make notes to myself, a small calendar so I can see the date, local weather so I know whether or not to bring the dog in from the cold, a clock to tell me when it's time to stop working, and a newsfeed so I can stay in the loop with the outside world. Having exactly the information that I want and need at a glance saves me a lot of time. I don't have to search in multiple areas to find it, because it's already there.
The author needs Vista so that she knows whether or not to bring the dog in from the cold. It's hardly a selling feature, really, is it?
Now, don't get me wrong, much as I may claim to hate computers, I'm sitting here typing on one now, I use them all the time, and I've been through a pretty impressive range of music players, personal organisers and mobile phones in my time. And I believe that the various technologies are evolving, and will continue to evolve and converge over the next few years. But honestly... there's evolution and there is taking the piss.
I remember a few years ago, Windows me was launched. At the time it was launched with the phrase "The Me Generation: Get upgraded to first class with Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition. Available on September 14, it's all you need to bring your PC into the digital age." At the time I found this amusing because I'd been using a digital PC for years by then.
And now, Vista can tell you when it's a bit cold for your dog to stay outside. There's already an analog device that does that perfectly well. It can also tell you all sorts of information, like when it's getting dark and whether or not it's raining. You probably already have several. And of course, it's simply called a window.
So, Windows Vista finally launched. So what?
It's hard to miss it if you're anywhere near a technology web site, and I had it installed on my PC back in the golden days before it died. Admittedly it was a test version and not the real thing, but frankly, I thought it was okay.
Neither good, nor bad, but somewhere in between.
On the one hand, yes it looks nice, and I dare say that all of the changes under the hood make it much more secure. But it doesn't really have anything compelling for the user. It does the same stuff as xp. In pretty similar ways. It does them about as quickly, probably faster. But at the moment that's about it. There's no compelling reason to move.
And, at 150 of your Earth pounds for something that does the same thing only prettier, there are some pretty compelling reasons not to bother.
For the third time since we got it, the PC has died. This is a real shame, as it's one of the sexiest looking pieces of kit we own. It works really well, up to a point.
That point is when you turn it off. You press the buttons, it all starts turning itself off, and then it just sits there. Still working, but not doing anything. And it does this for a loooooooong time. And then you pull the plug, and when you turn the power back on - nothing.
The power supply just rolls over and dies. The first time, I panicked. The second time, I was pissed off. And tonight?
Tonight I'm just tired of the whole thing.
You see, the great thing about the modern, interconnected world is that it's all supposed to be easy and just to work. But although it's supposed to look easy to the end user that's hiding all the complexity beneath it. And the thing about increased complexity is that it brings with it an increased range of ways for things not to work.
I like to think we're at the dawn of all this stuff. That people used to think the same way about electricity, or fire, or making quiche. That given enough time, we'll master it. We'll be able to take it for granted in the same way that we take breathing for granted, or tea, or nose hair. But while I like to think that, I don't really believe it.
I believe that technology's on a roller coaster that's only accelerating, and has been since the days of the Luddites and the Whistling Nancy. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know that sometimes I find it hugely exciting and sometimes I find myself wondering if maybe it would be nice if we made sure we had something finished before we started something new.
And there's me writing this as I re-do my templates again, and I'm far from certain if they're working properly. The irony isn't lost on me.
I'm going to throw this thing in the bin and get a new one.
So you're lying, half asleep in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to be doing is some sort of analysis of how dreams work. For one thing, it will never make any sense, but it will continually feel as though it might. And so I present bubble theory.
The basic premise of the bubble theory of dreams is that there's a huge range of influences on dreams. I'm not particularly well at the moment, and knew tht I'd be dreaming about it, but I could dream about how it would impact work, what the doctor's visit would be like, and so on. Each different scenario was represented by a different set of bubbles. The "logical" reason for dreams often being confusing is because the right bubbles get mixed up. And so, to get the right dreams, you need - for want of a better word... bubble magnets.
Yes, bubble magnets. By attracting the right bubbles to your dreams, you can gently massage your dreams towards being what you want them to be. It's not perfect, and takes time, because other bubbles get in the way, and the magnets aren't terribly strong. It's kind of like sticking your head out of the kitchen window shouting for the kids to come in for their dinner. You can be pretty sure they'll come, but you can't be sure when, or even if they actually heard you. Although they probably did. The magnets aren't great, though. They do help. But there are some that are better than others. Yes, there are super-magnets.
Super-magnets are great. They'll attract all of the right bubbles for one core focussed stream of unconsciousness. Mind you, they have to be pretty focussed. You couldn't set a super-magnet for dreaming about fish, for instance, you'd have to be more specific. Haddock, perhaps. Unless you start to differentiate, yourself, between live haddock and dead haddock - or within that dead haddock raw and dead haddock cooked. Cooked how? And if in batter, what sort of batter. That way lies madness, obviously, but then this whole theory is fundamentally screwed. Super-magnets can be very useful, but they do use up a hell of a lot of Concentration Points.
And this is where the whole rubbish theory falls unspectacularly into tiny little fragments.
To get the bubble magnets to work, you need to focus on them. To get them to work effectively, you need to focus on a number of them. Each magnet you place uses up one concentration point. Each super-magnet uses up two. You only actually have two concentration points, although you think you have three - but every time you place that magnet that uses up the third concentration point, something slips. So what do you do? You concentrate harder. More concentration, more points, surely? Perhaps that's true. But also - more concentration, less chance of drifting off to sleep. Less chance of getting some rest and relaxation.
That's how ill I am. I am delirious.
(Well, I was. I'm feeling a lot better now)
I'm in an internet café in a launderette. Outside it's pouring with rain. The dropdown boxes are prefilled with the remnants of other people's lives. 26 Gay guy seeking accomodation. Bttm fr Tp. And so on. And why am I here? Why have I hauled my shiny metal ass out of the office in to the grey world beyond?
Everything went dead. That's why.
Our broadband at home - dead. My e-mail box - dead. And then I got - third hand - a message from my mail host. I'd had a spam attack. All the mail was getting sent on to google, and so google got upset. This is fair enough. But they blocked my mail provider from sending them any more mail - and my mail provider got upset. So they called me. And what could I do?
My mail provider said they couldn't do it automatically. Our firewall at work won't let me anywhere near anything of any help. Our broadband at home remains dead, so I couldn't instruct Mr Twinky through the "pressing four buttons" that it took to disable the mailbox. And so here I am, sat in a small enclave of Eastern Europe, typing away while awaiting mail back to let me know I can breathe again.
It's all go around here. Except for my computer. Last Saturday, everything was fine. Since Sunday, nothing. No power, no juice, no oooooomph.
So... normal service will be resumed soon.
In about four years, Microsoft is going to unleash Windows Vista on the world. As an operating system addict, I signed up for the Beta release in the vain hope that by doing so I might get away from the horrible blue-and-green lego operating system and in to a world of beige and calm.
So, I've been running it for two days now. And my considered opinion after that tiny trial is... I like it. It's not ready to ship yet, kind of obviously, but the gripes that I have found are relatively minor. Except for Internet Explorer. It doesn't work. Admittedly, this is probably my fault.
And the help doesn't help. It comes up with a couple of useful hints on how to fix my problem, but they both involve opening up Internet Explorer. Which, I may have mentioned, doesn't work. So it looks like I'll have to reinstall everything.
That's not bad for beta software, though. It's not eaten all my data, decided that I want to have cheese recipes delivered to my desktop, or harnessed my hard drive and driven it around the flat like mice with a cheese sleigh. So that's something.
It's weird, this thing where I don't get junk mail. So weird that I went to visit it today.
Hello, junk mail, I said.
It didn't reply.
Six days, six thousand e-mails that I don't miss any more.
Yesterday, I was sick. So I redid my spam filtration. That's what I do when I am sick, you see. That and jumping around caves in a tight-fitting evening gown. More on that another time, I think.
So, being the celebrity and playboy that I am, I get a lot of mail. I mean a lot. I mean, about 1200 bits of junk e-mail a day. This is not good. This is worse than not good, it's really, really bad. If I was to take up all of the offers, I would have the world's biggest chicken, I would be irresistible to women, and I would never be depressed again. What would the fun be in that?
As of yesterday, I now get virtually no mail. None. Want to know how I did it? Course you do.
I set up a new e-mail address. Easy enough, nice and secret, and I'm never going to give it to anyone. That's where I'm collecting mail from. My old e-mail address still exists, though, and it forwards mail on. But not to my new address, no. It forwards it on to Google.
Like 99% of the right-thinking people in the civilised world, I used to think that Google was benevolent and kind, like a favourite uncle who brings you sweeties. That's still partly true, and so they give away lots of free e-mail space in an effort to encourage you to tell them all your problems so that they can sell your psychological profile to the CIA. Mibby. Google offers lots and lots of mail space, pretty good junk filtering, and autoforwarding.
So my mail goes to Google, Google picks out the precious special ones and forwards them on to the new address.
Pop... mail drops in to Outlook. By now it's pretty clean, but I'm running two spam filters on there, so it gets picked clean and at the end of the day... nothing. Nobody writes to me. Mind you, when they do I don't reply for months, so why would they, eh?
Still, it's the thought that counts.
I know I'm being naive, but prohibition is the surest way to promote piracy I know. I'm thinking here about something like a Digital Right Management system that allows you to play a CD on your PC, but not copy it to your MP3 player. Now, most people would consider that to be a fair use, but that's really beside the point. Companies want to protect their intellectual property - that's not really the point either. The fact is that we're told that making a copy of a CD for personal use is fair, we're marketed devices to let us do it, and as nobody is clamping down on them, society and the legal system are telling us that it's okay to make a single copy for personal use.
So you've bought your CD, you want to listen to it while you are sittng on a train, running in a park or doing press-ups on a willing volunteer. And you can't. What's the next step? There are two alternatives. Either give up or download a copy.
If you're a record company (or CD company) you're stuck here. You've sold the music once. If the customer gives up on listening to it, then on the one hand you don't care, because you've made your money. On the other hand it may discourage them from buying any more CDs by the same artist or - if they're smart enough to notice the difference between them - the same label.
It'll be hard to sell them a download After all, they've paid for the thing once, and the new technology isn't new enough, different enough, to make them buy it again. It's not like the 1970s, where you bought the book, the 1980s where you bought the videocassette, and then you bought the DVD in the last couple of years. This is a CD you bought yesterday. The customer isn't prepared to call it obsolete.
So, let's be honest. The copy protection makes it more likely that the customer will steal a copy.
And once they've stolen one, they'll see how easy it is to steal again.
And that hits sales of CDs, hits profitable sales of music, and hits the artist. And more, because the customer doesn't pay anything for the music, she doesn't place any value on it. She may not even listen to it more than once, maybe not even that as it's so easy to flick from track to track.
Is copy-protection killing music? And if so, does it matter?
Today I have learned that the controllers for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360 are wireless. This is just as it should be.
In an ideal world, I'd have all of this up and running by now. It would look good in Firefox. The menu thingies would work correctly. I'd actually have written some stuff. But I've just got vague ideas and they're unformed and floating around.
And I need a drink.
Because I'm thirsty.
Maybe when I've got my day off, and I'm not working on my job I can work on the site. We'll see.
Finally, at the age of 36 - 37 in a couple of weeks - I am no longer able to programme a video recorder.
Trying to tape four programmes this week, I succesfully taped one of them, and got two completely unrelated programmes as well. Admittedly, this is all my own fault, as part of it was failing to press a button, part of it was getting times wrong, and part of it was forgetting about the clocks going back. But there was one particular disappointment, and it really shouldn't have happened.
You see, it turns out that I don't understand BBC Three as I am two years too old for its target demographic, presumably.
BBC Three has some pretty good programming. It broke Little Britain, it's bringing us Torchwood, and The Smoking Room and Nighty Night rank as two of my favourite comedy shows of the last couple of years. But it's programming policy comes across as verging on the schizophrenic. Maybe I am just too old to understand it.
Take "Funland", which I recorded last Wednesday. I taped episode 1, watched, it last night and enjoyed it, foolishly thinking that episode 2 might be tonight. No, it isn't. I was lulled into a false sense of security by the channel's old policy of airing a show four or five times in a week, then airing the next episode, then airing the previous episode again a couple of times so people could catch up. Not Funland. I've already missed episode 2. And episode 3. And their repeats Tonight's showing is episode 4, and episode 5, with episode 5 repeated tomorrow and episode 6 the day after that. They've only recently added schedule information to their Funland Page so I can work out when the episodes I missed actually were on. Last Friday.
I was out anyway, and if I'd set the video recorder I'd probably have taped the wrong channel anyway.
And now I'm left wondering when they'll be repeating the whole series as a Funland Sunday Marathon. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
The network is down here at work. This means that out of an office of 20 people or more, only four of us can actually turn our computers on. I'm lucky. I can get at most of my files, and I can get some e-mail, although I don't have internet access. Most people are sitting twiddling their mental thumbs. Some of us have learned how to use the telephone. Some of us are wandering around, in shock. One of us is a liar. One of us is a sinner. One of us is a saint. One of us just got sucked into the giant propellor that we use to cool the server. Some of us are thinking back to the good old days.
I still believe myself lucky. When I first started in an office in Scotland at age 20, there were a hundred of us. We had a hundred and three computers. One hundred were terminals, which were only good for getting access to our mainframe. One was an Apple. Two were Olivetti PCs - for those that care, an 8086, and an 80286 ('the fast machine'). Those two belonged to our team.
I learned programming on those machines, really. I was producing user developed applications, and running batch calculation jobs, and basically hiding behind it for oooh maybe two or three hours a day.
The rest of the time, I was working at a desk. That's what we used to have before we had workstations. My desk had three drawers, plenty of space for laying out papers, a telephone that didnï¿½t have a digital display, and that was it. When I looked up from the stack of papers I kept there, do you know what I saw? Another human being. And beyond him, the outside world. We talked to each other all the time.
Now admittedly, my minion Nuala talks all the time, but that's just because that's the way that her brain is wired. If her jaw stops working, then she seizes up. I've seen it happy, and it's not a pretty sight. We work at workstations. The view ahead of me is my monitor, and the walls of my cubiclette - neither low enough to be able to see over comfortably, or high enough to insulate me from distractions. The walls of my cubiclette are solid, but covered in a togh fabric. They look like a pin board, but mankind has not yet invented a pin that will penetrate them. The air conditioning drones overhead, and the lights are positioned in just the right place to maximise the glare on the monitor.
Digressing again. The thing that amuses me today is that the current problems in our office are all driven by our desire for security. Our fanaticism to avoid risks of viruses, to ensure that anyone can log on to any machine anywhere in the company, is largely responsible for the huge degree of connectivity, of networking that we rely on. When that fails - and this is the second time this year that this has happened - it fails catastrophically. The weakest link though is - rather worryingly - our reliance on machines and our inability to function effectively without them.
Four times now, I have accidentally rendered the site unusable. And why?
I could cope with comment spam. I could just about manage trackback spam, which I did by deleting the script. But now I'm tackling referrer spam.
Referrer spam is bloody annoying because it appears to be utterly pointless. All it means is that my number of hits goes through the roof, and the hits appear to come from gambling sites. And I get a link back to that gambling site appearing in my stats, which don't get indexed by any search engine.
I'm tackling it. I am. My new-found enthusiasm for the site is too strong to be ruined by the junk-mail spam-meisters. But I can't do anything direct to express this, unlike my ongoing conversation with the world's worst telephone salesmen, so I'm blocking them. One site at a time.
Now this is a techy thing. And I'm not very good at techy things. So I accidentally make mistakes. And that's why I've made my site unusable. Four times.
I might just end up grinning and bearing it. Or I might change domain again. But they won't win. Sorry for any inconvenience. And if anything else goes wrong, I will make a sound like a dying giraffe.
Update, Friday Morning
I've made another change - this one seems not to have caused the web server to vanish, and might be more flexible. Hurrah for the holy internet.
I had to re-edit this post, though, because it originally contained a reference to a word I've now banned. Cool.
I hate junk mail as much as the next person. And now it turns out I'm sending the stuff out.
Well, not really. But there's junk mail out there with my e-mail address on it. For which I'm truly sorry, but I'm not aware of anything much I can do about it. It's not coming from an address that I actually use (so far) but it's coming from my domain, and that kind of upsets me. There's enough junk going on as it is.
So it's a good time to remember the three rules of opening mail.
Rule One: don't ever open e-mail. Not at all, ever.
Okay, obviously sometimes you want to open e-mail. But thinking about it, never opening e-mail is a great idea. I think I might try it out at work today - setting up an out-of-office message along the lines of "Due to the increase in junk mail, I am no longer responding to any e-mail. Please put it in writing or call my secretary. And while you're at it, make sure I actually need to see it."
Rule Two: if you must open e-mail, don't ever open any attachments. None at all, ever.
Only open attachments if you're sure that the source is legitimate. Firstly, do you recognise the e-mail address? Secondly, do you trust the sender? If you're not certain on that one, check your security files. Thirdly, are you sure that you'd want to look at an attachment they've sent you. This is usually a matter of taste. Fourthly, are you expecting to get an attachment from them? If you write to your mother and ask for photos of your nephew, and you get a reply back with an attachment that looks like a photo, then the chances are high that that's what it is. Fifthly, always scan for viruses before opening. And sixthly, if there's any doubt at all, call the sender and ask them to open the attachment on their computer and read it out to you.
Rule Three: if you must open e-mail, don't ever reply to it. Never.
Admittedly, sometimes you must. If it's a mail from your mother again looking for a copy of your recipe for Mole and Salsa Surprise, then you should probably reply. But don't then copy in your Aunt Susan, your work colleague Craig and your Grandfather. All of these people are computer illiterate. Craig has a program on his PC that harvests e-mail addresses and sends them out at random. And your Grandfather has an adult toolbar that he can't get rid off and he's too ashamed to ask for help. The more people that have your e-mail address, the more likely you are to get junk mail. And by copying in all of these people who don't know each other, all you're doing is spreading the love around. Be careful when you send an e-mail to multiple recipients.
Rule Four: if it's all getting too much, have a little lie down.
Any other (more serious) hints?
Some rules for you to consider today. They're important rules, and they're particularly relevant if you're already scrolling down to the bottom of this post to see if I've enabled comments. I haven't.
The rules are about writing weblog entries, and about commenting on them. I'll just dive in with the first one.
1. If you're writing about something other than yourself, the chances are that somebody out there knows more about what you're writing about than you do. Respect them.
Imagine the Internet as a street, and not just a vaguely connected international network of computers. Then your weblog is your front window. Anyone can see it. By all means put the poster in the window that suggests that the local community are all idiots, but don't be surprised if someone throws a brick through it. Or opens your door and comes in.
2. To enable comments is to invite comments.
Unless you've got something in there to block certain comments, to enabling comments is inviting people to respond to you. Just as you can write what you like, so can they, and they may not agree with you. Particularly if you write something inflammatory, expect dissent. Ideally, try to deal with it before it arises.
3. Comment respectfully. Remember you're a guest.
If putting up a weblog post is putting a sign in a window, and enabling comments is leaving the door open, then leaving a comment is the equivalent of coming inside, sitting on the sofa, and telling the writer what's on your mind.
What you can get away with depends on who you are, and how well you know them. The top tip here, particularly if you're a new commenter, is to look at what the writer of the original post was talking about, and comment on that. Feel free to disagree, but remember you're a guest. Don't come in and talk about something that's going on three doors down, and don't come in and make a different point entirely. That's rude, it's presumptuous, and if you stretch the metaphor earlier, it's the equivalent of walking along a street, seeing an open door, popping in and using someone's sofa as a toilet. Don't do it.
A side issue here is that if someone doesn't enable comments on a particular post, it means that they don't want comments on it. It's incredibly impolite to then post comments on that post to the next post that comes along.
4. Manage comments.
The first three rules here are really common sense - stuff that everyone should know. I'm prepared for someone to disagree with me on the final one here, but since I'm not enabling comments on this post, it'll have to be on someone else's weblog.
If you can delete comments, then consider doing it. There are arguments for and against this, the most obvious argument against being that it's stifling debate and censoring people if you delete their comments.
However, if you want to delete a comment, and your comment system lets you do it, then politeness shouldn't stop you. If someone uses your sofa as a toilet, you've got the right to clean it up. Don't let it sit there and fester.
Ultimately, remember that a weblog is not a conversation.
There are timing differences, non-verbal cues are lost completely, and you can't usually go back and gloss over things you've said, because they're still there for people to read.
Thank you for reading. Blog responsibly.
I found a site the other day - can't remember where it was, or what it was about, or anything. But it was a beautifully designed site that met all sorts of web standards. The reason that I mention it was that it came with a politely worded suggestion that I should change my browser.
Now, I'm not a fan of Internet Explorer. I find it a pain in the bum to design sites on, I find it a pain in the bum to use. I much prefer Firefox, with nice things like tabbed browsing. But - and this is a big one - I have to have both available to me.
Firstly, at work, I'm on a corporate network and I have to use whatever browser they suggest. Secondly, one of my online banks only works in Internet Explorer. If I try to use Firefox it politely fails on me.
It would be great if both of these points were to disappear. If suddenly our office migrated to Firefox, or my bank updated their code (or even had the politeness to put a warning on one of their many front pages). But in the mean time, sometimes I'm browsing the web using Internet Explorer.
It's not a niche product. It may not be standards compliant, but it's incredibly common. I don't like it, but I don't like being told to change, either.
Last Thursday I sat down with my boss. He asked me when I was going to do piece of work X. I didn't know.
At that stage, I was about to go on holiday for two and a half days, then I was going to be in meetings for the best part of three days. I could only foresee doom, gloom, and misery. And when I came back from holiday, I had 90 e-mails in my "to do" list. I had another hundred in my in-box, of which I'd read 40-ish, and left them there as a reminder.
I was ruthless. Sorry, Ruth. I took an hour, and that was all it took, and I went through those 200 e-mails. I emptied my inbox. And it's stayed empty all week since then, despite three days of meetings. At the end of the week, I had an empty inbox and the space to do job X.
This is the guts of my technique.
Start with the oldest e-mail in the inbox.
If I've already dealt with it, file it.
If I can deal with it within a couple of minutes, do it, and file it.
If I need longer to do it, file it in a "pending file", and review and prioritise that.
Now all I need to do is actually do some of the work... but I feel a lot better about it.
"So you deleted your web site?" asked Laura, peering at me over the narrow frame of her glasses.
"Err, yes," I replied, looking down in to my cider.
"Would that be something that you would classify as, perhaps, foolhardy?"
Personally, I could think of a number of excuses. The pressure of work. The novelty of the whole thing, and the excitement of having a new, clean set of templates to work with. A vagary of the browser at work, where sometimes it'll jump half a screen between the start of a mouse-click and the end. It's Bill Gates. Always Bill's fault.
"You should be more careful, Doctor Oddverse, shouldn't you?"
"Errr.... " you get the idea.
I've learned since then a salutory lesson about backing up. Backing up is one of those lessons that one should learn early and learn often. Because in today's world it's incredibly easy to throw things away and not be able to get them back. I read that in a fortune cookie once.
I then ate the fortune cookie, and felt much less than fortunate. Fortune cookies are not nice.
So... some things still won't quite work right, but that was always the case, wasn't it? I've rebuilt 26 templates today. Yes, 26. So much for having a clean design that's easy to maintain. I've also consumed about a gallon of coffee, and that will doubtless have caused my coding to speed up and my accuracy to degrade dramatically.
So... a deep breath, and relax. Welcome back. I missed you.
When I was last looking at portable personal audio equipment, I didn't buy an iPod. I can't actually remember why, but I suspect that it was something to do with the software, compatibilty issues, blah blah something like that. So I got myself a snazzy little jukebox thing that held something like eight billion tracks, was about the size of a cigarette packet and didn't need its battery replaced every four songs. Rechargeable from the mains, it's the way of the future.
And I use it. Mainly for walking home, because otherwise I get bored in that fifteen minute period, and my mind starts working. And since I've just come from work, my mind starts thinking about work. So when I get in I'm bursting with ideas for new position papers, or restructuring the team, or writing pompous letters to professional journals. And if my head is full of that when I get home, then I need to vent it before I can relax properly. You can imagine. I get home and suddenly I'm spewing forth jargon to Mr Twinky and before you can say "long term strategic positioning" we're talking divorce. Or madness. Neither of which is an attractive proposition, so it's important for me to fill my head with something inconsequential, like Leonard Cohen, Leonard Bernstein or Fuzzbox before I push open the door and announce "It's me" in a way that suggests that I might possibly have been someone else for a while.
About two and a half weeks ago, the unit died. It ran out of juice, and no matter how long I left it plugged in for, it didn't whizz, whirr, clunk or make any other reassuring noise. It didn't even get warm. So I hit it a lot. Didn't help. I even found the manual and read it. That didn't help either. So I was left with trying to find a group of disillusioned owners, see if any of them had come across a similar problem, and find out how they fixed it. So I turned to the home of disillusioned technophiles. Usenet. It told me basically what I expected.
My MP3 player was completely shafted and there was nothing I could do about it, except to send it back.
Sending something back to the manufacturer? The horror of it. Finding the original box... finding all of the original manuals and stuff... getting hold of proof of purchase... getting to a post office during working hours... filling in an opaque and badly-worded form to ensure that it gets registered - and then sending the thing in to the ether, knowing that here in Ireland, registration stops when the packet reaches the border, and that Creative's service centre would probably be in Bottislava. Fantastic.
I found my receipt and decided to give Creative a ring. Creative, bless them, don't have telephones. For a while, I thought they didn't have e-mail either, but they do, buried at the bottom of a pile of disclaimers, round the back of the web site once you've got through all of the frequently asked gubbins. In the end, customer service turned out to be quick and efficient, the service centre turned out to be just on the other side of town, and they've now had the unit for almost a week.
I asked the internet how long it would take before I got it back. They didn't tell me, but I get a feeling that when it does come back it'll be fine-tuned, tweaked and slightly snazzier than before.
Or it'll be in eight pieces.
An e-mail with no topic is more likely to be read than one that reads "Kelsey, FW: RE: FREE PPV from your Digita| Cab|e B..."
An e-mail that includes spelling mistakes never inspires confidence.
Sending four copies of the same e-mail to the same address suggests overenthusiasm.
"Yearbook haunch finnish trill transmittal" is a beautiful sentiment.
An online dating service created by women would probably be discreet, mature, and tasteful. An online dating service CREATED BY WOMEN! is probably offensive, possibly pornographic, and almost certainly not created by women. Neither is of interest to me.
Sometimes, I despair. Quietly.
Blogger has redesigned, and it's been hit with the features stick. The current "word of mouth" on the new look and the new features is basically "hmmmm."
The new design is chunky, novice-friendly, and looks awful on Internet Explorer 5.5, due to some CSS tricks that doin't downgrade very well. However, it still does what it says it does, and I dare say we'll all get used to it.
The only real downside to the design, however, is the fact that the vastly increased font sizes mean that now, absolutely everyone in the office can see which weblog you're writing when you should be working.
The most compained-about feature of old blogger - its lack of native comment support - has become the most complained-about feature of new blogger - its implementation of native comment support. The approach seems clumsy at first, and may indeed be clumsy, requiring first navigation to the individual entry for a page, and then navigation to a blogger-branded input screen. It's hardly a replacement for a Haloscan click-n-pop-up solution, is it?
The more I've thought about this, however, the less I think it matters.
Nobody is being forced to use Blogger's comments. The current solutions are still out there. Blogger's offering a one-stop solution, true, and it's great for beginners, but by the time you get to the stage of being comfortable editing your own code, then adding a comment script is not hard. Indeed, Blogger's comment implementation may well drive users to learn enough about their pages to change them themselves.
But there will always be people out there who want an 'out of the box' solution, and now Blogger offers one. And I suspect it will be refined and improved over time. It's disappointing that the company that invented 'push-button publishing for the masses' hasn't produced something better, or something new, but their commenting system does have a number of strengths over, say, the movable type comment system - in particular it seems to have been designed to reduce the risks of comment spam.
In the words of Tim Burton, it's not exactly commenting as we know it, but a re-imagining of commenting. It's something new, something different, and someone somewhere is going to find a great new way to use it.
We're getting increasingly amused by our search requests here at Oddverse Towers. One might say one is lovin' it. Or not.
Anyway, to help the lost and the lonely, here is a quick guide to some recent searches.
There's been a lot written recently about the phenomenon which I'm going to call "fantasy blogging".
Mainly, it's focussed on one particular weblog, which purports to be the diary of a woman in London. It's deliberately provocative, but doesn't contain any contact details, links or any sort of interaction with the world around it. Almost from the moment it was first published it's been controversial. Not because of the content itself, but because of the perception that it was, somehow fake.
There's a lot to suggest it's fake. For a start, it's well written, it's salacious, and it pays little or no heed to the world outside its own interests. It reads as something crafted rather than something reactive. It also shot from obscurity to mass acclaim, winning the Best written category in the Guardian's British Blog Awards 2003, within weeks of its launch on 24 October.
All of this tends to suggest that it's a work of fiction rather than an accurate account of the life of a real person.
This has been commented on ad nauseam. Many people seem to feel slightly violated by this, and not in a good way. Others are amused, and watch from the sidelines as various parties huff and puff, laying claim to clandestine knowledge of who or what the real author is. There's an air of paranoia. Or maybe that's just what they want me to think.
If this particular weblog is a work of fiction then, as far as I can see, the argument is that:
All of these points are easily refuted. The weblog may well have been constructed as a hoax, but so what?
Let's start by defining what a weblog is and isn't. I've got my definition, and you've got yours. They won't match. If they did, all weblogs would be the same, and that would be very boring. Some link more that others, some count down the minutae of days, some have long tedious posts about fantasy bloggers, and some manage to ignore the issue completely. They're all different. In this case, most people would classify the site in question as a weblog if they didn't think it was a hoax.
They think it's a hoax because the underlying premise - that the writer works in a particular field of the entertainment industry - is a construction, and that the writer is in fact just that - a writer. Therefore most weblogs are hoaxes. Most weblogs conceal something about the writer - usually their name, age, location or occupation, and possibly more. Facts are often tweaked to be more amusing. Stories are retold with the writer being funnier, taller, sexier. It makes for more interesting reading.
True, most personal weblog entries are based on the truth. That's much, much easier than writing a fictional weblog - a fact I discovered when I did it myself. Writing a hoax weblog is hard, so shouldn't we applaud anyone who can do it convincingly?
The fact that the site in question won a prize for being well written reflects the fact that the site is well written. Whether it was well written by a professional writer, or well written by an amateur, is, I suspect my only real issue here. However, as the rules of the competition did not exclude fantasy weblogs written by professional writers, I really can't find any reason to begrudge the site winning.
I'm just tired of all the attention it gets on the weblogs that I read. I've been bored of it for months now.
Ignore pants for a minute, and look at me. I am the great panjandrum himself.
That's what a weblog means, really. It's a means of communication that puts the writer firmly at the core, unassailable. For example, on this site, I write everything that appears on the main page, and comments are only available because I want them to be. Indeed, I can edit individual comments, delete them, and I do - regularly. The weblog puts the writer at the centre of his world, and allows him to control feedback.
In that respect, the weblog is a public facade. By commenting on this post, for instance, you're not actually interacting with me, you're interacting with my weblog persona. I realise I'm not making myself clear here, but what I'm trying to get to is:
Leaving me a comment here is not the same as e-mailing me. A comment is quite clearly public, and an e-mail is - as a result - more intimate.
Which is ironic, as I receive a huge amount of junk e-mail, much of which has very intimate content. But very few personal mails.
I'm only thinking this because I got an e-mail this morning, from someone who has said nice things about my weblog in the past, and someone whose weblog I follow. It's odd the way that the pervasiveness of comments has given us a world in which actually daring to e-mail could be seen as assuming a degree of familiarity. I know that I personally feel nervous about daring to send someone an e-mail.
But it was an unexpected pleasure to receive.
For about a week now, I've been attempting to set up a small local wireless network. The idea of this would be that I'd still have my main PC, all wired up and sat ina dark dingy corner, but I would also have a laptop that I could wander around with, pacing through the corridors of our beautifully proportioned two-room apartment as I look things up, leave comments on weblogs and break wind in an amusing manner.
It took me a week of installing, and reinstalling, of looking up and treble checking before I discovered that the security that I had installed on my main PC was treating my attempts to network with it as a threat, and cutting me off without warning.
My, how I laughed when I found that out.
Now, all I have to do is work out how to resolve it...
There's something very liberating about coming in to the office, finding that your IT department have migrated you from one server to another, and in the process everything in your inbox has disappeared.
No work for me today!
Update: 11:09 am
Damn, found them.
I must say that - personally - I'm quite enjoying the MyDoom virus. It's only got another fortnight left - catch it while you can.
I'm fortunate that no computer that I used is infected by it, but I'm impressed at the range of e-mails it is generating.
For example, in the last five hours, I've received about 120 e-mails. Of these, maybe seventy are infected with the virus. They're pretty easy to spot once you know about them, so I'm not hugely worried. Also, they're all addressed to random e-mail addresses on oddverse.com, and so they end up in my special e-mail box for telemarketers and addresses that I leave in public places. That one's usually empty.
MyDoom has so far avoided my two main e-mail addresses.
The bulk of the other e-mails that I've received are automated responses to tell me that I've been sending out e-mails to people that don't exist, or that I've been sending out e-mails with viruses attached. These are also sent to addresses that have been made up. So I know that it's more of the same.
But I love the delicious irony of it - sending almost as much unwanted e-mail to follow up on unwanted e-mail in the first place. I'm thinking of giving it all up and going back to memos.
Favourite junk e-mail of the day. Say it three times backwards.
proportionate doorkeeper forensic dignity hypotheses profundity sacred dean sanctimonious ghoul halcyon heaven barrage ombudsperson accomplice preview constipate deteriorate colloquy backpack
What's interesting about this mail is that it has no payload at all. There's no virus in here, and no marketing message. I can only assume that it exists solely to try to lessen the effectiveness of Bayesian Filtering, often lauded as the most effective spam solution.
Bayesian filtering works by working out the probability that a message is spam. It picks up on words and groups of characters that would appear regularly in spam, and similarly with regular mail. Over time, a Bayesian algorithm works out the probability that a message is junk with a fairly low chance of marking genuine mail as junk.
The strength of Bayesian filters is that they evolve. If you get a lot of junk mail that contains the word v!@gra, for instance, the filter would "learn" that this word only appears in undesirable mail...
So, the aim of this mail seems to be
Damn clever, really. Spoofjunk, I salute you.
Why don't Microsoft make old versions of their operating systems available through a discount brand?
Slap the last version of Minellium Edition on a CD, cover it with disclaimers that it's not supported and that people need to upgrade to XPloitation if they want recent stuff, charge ten quid for it. Or give it away free with magazines.
It's currently a product that's not generating revenue for them, this way they'd make a few bob on it, and they'd reduce the number of users out there using really, really old operating systems.
I like running Windows 3.1. It goes fast.
But you can bet Microsoft have workshopped this idea to conclusion already.
I reckon I've got spam under control. It's a nuisance, sure, and I don't look on it as something that I can avoid, but it's a nuisance that I manage.
My problem, if I have one, is with genuine real e-mails. I'm currently averaging around sixty e-mails a day. If I spend just five minutes dealing with each of these, that's five hours gone from my day, and that's before I start doing any of the high powered thinky work that I am actually paid for.
Note to Mr Twinky. That could be how we describe my job in future. I do High Powered Thinky Things. And answer annoying e-mails
Mind you some of them are really easy. Like the chap who sits next to me inviting me to a meeting over lunch. Not going to happen, matey. Click, delete, gone.
Life's too short. And I'm too hungry.
One of the major problems with the e-mail system is how easy it is to send huge documents. Sending out a document of a couple of megabytes to half a dozen colleagues is a matter of seconds.
Sometimes it's useful. Sometimes not.
Currently: Siobhan tracks all the changes to our marketing material. She produces a master document that includes notes of all the changes we want to make, with the current versions of the documents as embedded pdf files. Then, when proofs come in, she circulates this document, together with the new pdf.
Pros: It makes it insanely easy to check everything.
Cons: She sent me the same master document twice today. And I only needed it once.
Lotus Notes could have helped here. Except Lotus Notes is an incredibly powerful piece of software with virtually no usability. It does, however, have the advantage of using a central mail store, to avoid storing multiple copies of the same document in multiple locations. Unless it's changed in the last two years, though, its complexity and power is its weakness.
Simply sending a pointer to documents on a shared file server would have worked. There are risks around documents being corrupted, but these could have been solved by using a password.
However, that's a two step process. Siobhï¿½n receives the new pdf files in an e-mail. Fair enough, they're coming from outside the company. So the easiest, most natural thing for her to do is just to forward them on.
Longer term: This might be too esoteric a problem to develop a simple solution to. It might just be my problem.
Macro mode on a digital camera allows you to do close ups. That's about it, really.
Actually, there's a little more to it than that. By using a very short focal length (ooh, sounds like he knows what he's on about there), you can get a very sharp foreground image. You need to hold the camera very close to the object that you want to photograph. You need to be very careful with the light, as the chances are that having the camera so close to the object you're photographing is going to block any ambient light that you have. But the quality of shots you can get is great.
The BBC News site has been redesigned. I've got mixed views on it.
Some parts of it work very well - the four column approach is well implemented, and the navigation on the left-hand side of the page is improved. The relocation of the BBC logo to the head of the second column emphasises this change in structure, and works well.
I've got three gripes, though - all minor.
In the old design, the grey navigation bar at the top - which is implemented across all BBC sites, stopped in line with the end of the maroon BBC News header. This has changed, and the grey bar now heads way off to the right of the screen. Looks odd.
In the old design, the main photograph spanned the middle column, between the article heading and the lead paragraph of the article. In the new design, the photograph is smaller, and falls into the third column. The lead paragraph appears in column two, to the left of the photograph, and this feels squashed.
Finally, the footer at the bottom of the page looks odd. There's a maroon closing stripe - which works, but after that comes all of the navigation to other parts of the site. And while the article fills columns two and three, the navigation fills columns two, three and four - which looks odd. I'd either incorporate this into a thicker maroon bar, move the maroon bar further down, or have a second bar.
On the whole, though, I like it - a simple and effective redesign that aims not to break what's working, and at the same time take advantage of the fact that a 640 pixel wide display is more of a rarity these days than ever.
I've discovered in the last half an hour or so that closure is a great feeling. Sets you up for the weekend.
I've also censored some comments on the web site.
Now, this is something that I've only done once before, when someone who had never seen the web site before used a comment box to advertise their own site. Not appropriate, so it went.
This time, I have temporarily removed a couple of comments, because I felt that the tone of one of them was inappropriate. It's not really a big issue, and one that I hope can be resolved peacefully.
So I think it's time to put up a general reminder of my policy here.
That's my small rant over. Sorry.
I'd just like to mention at this stage, that when I redesigned and started fresh in August, I took out a hosting package with 34sp. They're a company that are (a) low-priced and (b) efficient, which I guess makes them cheap and cheerful. But so far, they've proven to be excellent.
BLOGGER has just turned three. This means that I started using it before it was even one, and callously abandoned it while it was still a toddler.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I hate computers.
We've always had a tempestuous relationship, computers and I, ever since I first discovered that armed only with a screwdriver and a little knowledge, you could open them up and you could improve them. Like a surgeon, I would make computers better, faster, leaner and meaner. Or so I thought. Computers thought otherwise.
I spent an aeon, or so it seemed, trying to get a simple USB connection to work. I tried upgrading the bios. I tried a USB add-on card. I even replaced my mainboard. Nothing. In the end, I gave up, and bought a brand new computer. Let someone else worry about getting it to work.
And it seemed to work fine. And then I had problems with the CD Rom drive. I thought I could cope with this ailment. I should have known better. Computers win again. Not only did I fail to make any progress with the CD Rom, I managed to snap the modem cable. I've also managed to do something to the modem, so that even with a new cable, I still can't get the darned thing to work.
I hate computers.
Long, long ago, I was looking for web sites relating to Grant Morrison's comic "The Invisibles". This was back when the internet was cool, when web sites were generally run by fans for fans, and the idea of an official site was a good thirty minutes in to the future. I found The Bomb. This site was cool. It looked great. It had good use of colours, great use of simple images (including the delightful young man who appears on the left here), and it had a wealth of information. It was clearly a labour of love.
The web site was maintained and largely written by Tom Coates, and held his web log before it migrated to its current home at plasticbag.org. I read this for at least six months before I realised that this was something that I might enjoy doing myself. The old web site was a masterpiece, really. Simple, fast loading, but with just enough colour to grab the attention. I remember fabulous oranges and blues.
Sadly, I think that the last few months have seen something of a decline in the quality of Tom's work. The last two designs for plasticbag.org have been less than stellar, if the truth be told (although he currently has a picture of himself up on his site - a sure fire way to attract). It's a true shame, as the man is clearly capable of greatness. Fingers crossed that he gets himself a job soon, and finds some inspiration to build brave new sites. But until the inevitable resurrection, The Bomb still looks great.
I thought that this page was popular, with its three or four hits per day and its regular comments and lively sarcasm. I am humbled.
You see, it turns out to be nothing in comparison to a page belonging to a friend of mine where she's posted a few files relating to the 1901 Census. Now more than two dozen people are trying to see her page, which I found surprising since when I looked I couldn't really see anything of interest on it. I mean, the sort of stuff where I could lose myself for hours scanning through oddities and discovering strange new facts, but there was nothing that absolutely MADE me want to go there. Curious.
Sometimes, people come here by mistake. Sometimes they find a link to another site. So here are the last ten search requests that brought up this page (or hereabouts).
I'm actually incredibly creeped out by a couple of those. No prizes for guessing which ones.
Well, I finally finished reading the internet. It was fun while it lasted.
I started reading it when it was a world wide web, full of news and information, on everything from sausages to potatoes, all the way to Blakes 7 episode guides. But it's changed now. It's smaller.
There's the commercial web. I don't need to hunt for on-line shopping, I can find it. No more joy of discovery there.
Then there's the adult web. In your face, unavoidable, and as a result losing what little charm it had in the first place.
The personal web is where things are thriving at the moment - web logs, small creative projects, innovative design, almost all privately funded. Even that's actually pretty small though, and hugely incestuous, but that's okay.
The web for news is only half a dozen sites. The web for movies is a couple of sites and anything directly linked to by the IMDb.
Portal sites, never the best looking or most usable sites in the world, are dying. Largely because of the polarisation of the web. I only ever use two search engines these days, and one of those is by accident.
In other words, something is gone from the web. It's no longer there for discovery, to explore, to find new and unusual links. It's a group of polarised areas now, all easily found and surprisingly small.
We've finally actually entered the era of computer viruses. After all the years of hype, we're now at the stage where viruses are becoming a common occurence. I've avoided infection myself, but we've had a couple of cases of people e-mailing us viruses (entirely innocently, of course) - most recently BadTrans. I also talked someone through the process of removing Navidad earlier in the year.
Viruses have always been around. But they've usually been low-impact, not really spreading, and caught by people before they caused too much damage. This is changing.
There are a few basic precautions that I take.
There are probably other things I could be doing, but this has seemed to work for me so far.
Any search on Amazon finds Pearl Harbor. This is kind of annoying. The more I find out about the film, the less I want to see it, and this saturation marketing merely serves to make me not want to see it even more than I not wanted to see it before.
Marketing and hype can kill a film. So easily. I resisted Titanic because of the hype, and I quite enjoy that. I resist every film that has the word Hanks associated with it because of the hype and the fact that I have seen some of the films. Yes, the man can act. Yes, the opening of Private Ryan was horrific and realistic, but it was also self-indulgent, award seeking and kind of... tedious. Mind you, I was ill, and slept through most of the film.
But then, I sleep through most of most films. Except last night, when I had insomnia, and found myself watching Buffy at 1.30am, and staying awake until at least 2.30, which was round about the time that Buffy faced Adam. And just as it was getting interesting, I dozed off.
I stand at point x and push a button. This sends a signal to point y, one light year away. This signal bounces back, and I get confirmation of the receipt of the signal some 2 years after I send it.
Now put an observer, Bob, at the other end, and let him come towards me when he gets the signal. Say he travels at a uniform velocity of half the speed of light so it takes him 2 years to get to me. From my point of view, I see him leave at time 2 and arrive at time 3. From his point of view, he sees me moving at half speed for the 2 years he is travelling.
Bob gets new trainers. Now he can cover the same distance in 6 months. So I send the signal, 18 months later Bob arrives and 6 months after that I get confirmation that Bob has left. I see him leave. So, 21 months after I send my signal, I am chatting to Bob, but I can also see him half a light year away.
I need a spreadsheet.
I want this to be a joke. From Amazon.co.uk
The Me Generation: Get upgraded to first class with Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition. Available on September 14, it's all you need to bring your PC into the digital age. More in Software.
I've had a PC for almost ten years now. For almost all of that time, it's been digital.
And in my right ear, Air, the so-called "French Band" with their lilting lift-music made palatable, and in the left, my secretary discussing time travel.
Which reminds me that on Sunday night we broke from an evening of enjoying Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies, to indulge in a lengthy consequence of the perceived effects of faster than light communication. My postulated position is this: Consider pushing a button to make the word 'oops' appear on a computer monitor, where the computer works at faster than light speeds, and everything is slowed down to ridiculous levels where the delays can be perceived.
My problem with this is that causality doesn't break down and time never goes backwards. I think I need to go back to basic relativity and build a new hypothesis from scratch.
When I checked this name's validity on names4ever it gave me a range of suggestions. Some of my favourites were cyberthrustkin, cyberimpelkin, cybersuck-outkin and the overall winner cyberforcekin.