is a Scam

A couple of weeks ago some of my friends sent me (IWNL) invites, so I could join the network and send “free” SMS messages. I had joined the network a good while ago and remember making sure that I selected all the privacy options and so on and so forth, but still getting emails from them every so often. I left that account (and the email address registered with it) well behind.

These invitations don’t just get sent to you once, either, they make sure you receive 3 such invitations from each person, regardless of whether this person actually invited you to join Yes, you read that correctly. When you sign up for an account they apparently ask you for your Hotmail or Yahoo! (IWNL) ID, and if you happen use the same password on your account as your Hotmail / Yahoo! account (who wouldn’t), they login to your email account and “invite” your whole address book.

There are plenty of other blog entries about this on the web: Boing Boing, Joi Ito’s Web, and a plethora of others (just Google it).

WordPress 1.5

Like many other bloggers using the wonderful WordPress, I’m in the middle of upgrading my version from 1.2.2 to 1.5, which promises more improvements than the upgrade from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X! To this end, my blog might randomly stop working periodically. If this happens, please don’t tell me about it: I probably already know about the problem! I’m also working on switching back to my blog design as we speak, so don’t moan about me ‘changing my mind’: I haven’t. Update: 22/02 15:28 BST: 70 minutes after I started the upgrade, I’ve got everything sorted and the bugs hopefully ironed out. Can you now please let me know if anything looks wrong, or if you have any comments!

Price fixing

We were just on our way down to Devon for the weekend and as we got into the station I really felt like a soft drink. We popped into WH Smiths and had a look, and it got me thinking about how all the shops in rail stations, airports, bus stations, and motorway service stations fix the prices of their bevvies and snacks. How can these companies get away with such blatantly obvious price fixing? If you walked into a supermarket you could get the same product for a third of the price, or less!

I wonder if any company has ever tried to undercut these fat cats? They would probably make an absolute killing (cue the obvious supply / demand diagram), but then again they would probably either get bought up or forced out of the market somehow. Long live capitalism! Instead the newcomers just seem to bend to the ways of the old-timers…

See, I find myself in an interesting situation. I like most of the facets of capitalism and feel that a free market is essentially a very good idea, but at the same time I’m leaning more and more towards communistic ideas (see the logo at the bottom of this site). I certainly feel that Open Source and the Creative Commons are some of the best things that have happened to computer software and creativity for a long time, especially these days when copyright and patent law is being twisted in such strange and nasty ways (by price fixing fat cats like the RIAA and MPAA, oh and SCO, might I add).

Direct Marketing: The Bane of My Life

I’ve been wrestling with SPAM (not the meat kind) ever since I got on the ‘interwebnet’ (to borrow a word from Petite Anglaise). This is the sort of thing you just magically start receiving, despite having tried hard not to give that email address to anyone or anything that you don’t know personally. Do you know that sinking feeling you get when you set up a new email address and it starts receiving spam before you’ve had a chance to use it at all? Fortunately, using a collection of tools including SpamAssassin and its companions, I eventually have it mostly under control. Phew.

Well, now that Jess and I have our own postal address and even phone line, we’ve encountered a new (for us) and much more intrusive form of advertising: telesales. We have had more than our fair share of ‘free’ kitchens, ‘cheap’ telecoms, and we’ve won far too many competitions to list. I have absolutely no clue where these bastards got our address and phone numbers from, but this is starting to drive me bonkers! The absolute worst of the lot is those recorded messages you get: they play them 6 or 7 times in a loop to make sure you heard it.

Now all of this wouldn’t be much of a problem if you could hang up on these people (oh the joy it gives me to smack the phone down on these people), but the telephone system here in the UK is so broken that both ends of the call have to hang up before the call is actually over! What this means is you can whack the phone down all you want, but your line is still busy for as long as it takes the crooks on the other end to decide you’re not listening anymore. Nothing you do can clear your line until they hang up. It’s positively disgusting.

Before you start telling me about the TPS, I have registered our phone number to be cleaned from companies’ phone lists, but unfortunately crooks don’t follow guidelines.

And if anyone involved in advertising happens to stumble across this post, I’d like them to know that I refuse to buy from any company, including its subsidiaries and other relatives, that advertise using any form of intrusive advertising or direct marketing like SPAM email, telesales, or junk mail (the snail mail / post type) as a matter of principle. Any company that has to resort to this sort of advertising is obviously doing something wrong that it can’t get new customers: I’m not about to get involved with a failing company.

Time is Running Out!

Various organisations have been trying to introduce Software Patenting into European law. Software Patents are generally a very bad thing™ and have led the way to such stupid patents as the one awarded to Amazon for their One-Click ordering system and another that has more recently caused the death of a word processor called Ichitaro (that I would love to link to, except everything is in Japanese).

The interested parties have used some crafty tricks and loopholes to try to get the act passed as silently as possible, and so far this important story has managed to escape the mass media. Poland managed to block the bill twice from being rubber-stamped at the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (!), but has finally caved in to pressure and says it will support the draft in a new vote.

The fate of this European software patent directive will most likely be decided as early as next week, so that means we have very little time to make as much noise as possible about the issue. Boing Boing has a call to arms, and you can find more information at the No Software Patents! site.

New Design Coming Along

I’m still working on getting the new design incorporated into my WordPress install. I’ve got it mostly finished, but there are a few things that still need a bit of work, like comments, which don’t work at all in the new design. I hope I’ll have something to show soon! Update: 06/02 21:30 BST: The new design is now up. Please let me know any suggestions you might have. Enjoy!

Hamilton College in the Press

Last summer, the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society, and Culture, an on-campus organization at Hamilton College (where Aram is studying) invited Ward Churchill to give a lecture to around 150 students tomorrow (3 Feb). Mr. Churchill had previously offended many an American by sharing his views about the 9/11 disaster in an article he wrote, comparing the United States’ 10 year offensive against Iraq to Hitler’s invasion of Russia and neighbouring countries. When Fox News (“Fair and balanced” my arse, they’re owned by Rupert Murdoch) got wind of this invitation and, of course, made a great fuss about it, the college was deluged by protests and eventually had to cancel the appearance of this controversial character because of credible death threats directed at Ward and Hamilton officials. Ward was even planning on donning a bullet-proof jacket and was to have two body guards!

I find it incredible how the US moulds itself as the keeper of world democracy, a “free country”, and all sorts of other things and, simultaneously, manages to harbour such truly hateful citizens angry about someone simply trying to exercise their right to free speech (even if the whole nation feels so strongly about the subject and the article was very provocative). Hamilton has a very interesting news page about the subject, which has generated an extraordinary amount of hate mail and such remarkable fliers as this one.

So instead of offering the chance to 150 interested students to listen to Ward’s views, if they wanted to, the university was forced to cancel the speech because of the immense threat of violence.

More sensationalist stories, and one slightly more balanced (free reg. required) about the event.

Linux Software RAID Hack

You need to install a piece of software that requires 66GB of free space, but you don’t have that much in one place. Sure, you have 30GB free on one partition, and another 40Gb free on another, but the installer will still complain about the lack of space. How do you combine the free space on those two parititions into a new, much larger partition, without reformatting the existing partitions?
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Un peu de Français?

Petite Anglaise has to be one of the funniest weblogs out there. Her latest blog entry, caramel shoe shoe, recounts the twisting of the English language that occurs when in the hands of the French. We’re not talking “chien chaud” (hot dog) but more “ambeurgueur” type. How the Académie Française can complain so much about the use of English words is beyond me: as soon as the French get a hold of them they are no longer English!

Dying Hard Drives

Does this ring any bells? This time at least it’s not my server, so this blog is here to stay… I hope! Nope, it’s Gromit, my PowerBook, and the hard drive has been making grinding noises and running very slowly. I phoned Apple and while it’s still under warranty, I’m not sure I can wait a week or so while it gets fixed. Even then I’d only end up with a 40GB drive, as I have now, which just isn’t enough for the things I use it for. So I’m considering just buying my own replacement and doing it myself, so that I can get a bigger drive, and possibly a faster one too while we’re at it! Let’s hope I don’t cock it all up again…

Another thing that gets me is the sheer price of laptop hard drive. With £80 I can get myself a 200GB desktop hard drive, or bigger even. The same amount of money, I can only get myself an 80GB laptop hard drive. Where’s the justice in that?!