Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Charla is my darling

I finally got myself a gmail account thanks to Charla

Friday, April 01, 2011

Personally I don't think it's about Bing

"Google has enabled its own Android phones to access YouTube so that users can search for video categories, find favorites, see ratings, and so forth in the rich user interfaces offered by those phones. It’s done the same thing for the iPhones offered by Apple, which doesn’t offer a competing search service. [The Bing thing]

Unfortunately, Google has refused to allow Microsoft’s new Windows Phones to access this YouTube metadata in the same way that Android phones and iPhones do. As a result, Microsoft’s YouTube “app” on Windows Phones is basically just a browser displaying YouTube’s mobile Web site, without the rich functionality offered on competing phones. Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide."

From http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2011/03/30/adding-our-voice-to-concerns-about-search-in-europe.aspx

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Phone Scam

So, the other week, my mother-in-law arrived (to drop off los niƱjos) in a state of high dudgeon about her laptop. It had been infected, or compromised, or been turned traitor: she had been informed so by telephone technical support.

Telephone technical support had phoned her up, unsolicited, to advise her of this fact mind you. They made her type in some commands which proved her laptop was now malevolent, and offered to fix it for £49.99. They sent her off to some website which provided some supporting evidence.

So, of course, I said "BRING IT FORTH AND PLACE IT BEFORE ME" in that kind of welcoming customer-friendly way us geeks have.

I remember the laptop well - when she got it I had put Firefox 0.7 on it, and deleted the Internet Explorer icon. When I got it back later in the week I remembered I had also added another shortcut to Firefox with the Internet Explorer icon, just in case anyone told her to "click the blue 'e'", as no doubt these phone scammers said: as far as I know, though, this laptop has never suffered from virus problems, despite my mother-in-law's understandable cluelessness about the intricacies of things computering. If it has then I haven't been asked to fix them: admittedly, I see that random-looking software (DVD rip etc) has been installed so she has probably been lucky if none of that has had a malicious payload, but at least the phone scammers couldn't get her to IE her way to a nasty infection - it wouldn't have to be a 0day, as laptop was stuck in 2007 as far as updates are concerned.

I looked in the Run box's list of previous commands and found what the scammers had used to persuade her that the laptop had turned against her:

temp spyware
prefetch unwanted

Both of these consist of two parts - the first is a valid directory in Windows, and the second is a value-loaded term indicating the presence of such banality - sorry, 'evil' - that only £49.99 can restore it's electric virginity.

So, typing 'temp spyware' opens the Windows\Temp directory, and the meaningless second word is ignored: and likewise Prefetch Unwanted just shows the content of the Windows\Prefetch directory. Quite effective, though, as all the files in these directories are likely to have gnomic names and be log files or have the clunky 'unknown' icon, and they're going to open in Icon view as that's the default and defaults don't change with 90% of users. (Note - I made that figure up)

So, I have the laptop, and it's dead meat with in 48 hours: it died while being updated, I think XP Service Pack 3 was the last straw. It started blue-screening constantly: at first I thought that finally after 8 years System Restore was actually going to do something useful for me, but then it started beeping really loudly when it was powered on (bit like an ingress alert, except it doesn't have one: it has a battery beep, but I don't think that was it) and then a silent boom and now it won't power on at all. Either it was on it's way out already and the activity of being updated freaked it out so much it died, or the scammers who phoned up my mother-in-law have remote psychic computer destroying powers. Edit: it didn't die in the end - I put Hannah Montana linux on it and it's in a cupboard somewhere. Although it may be dead by now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On The Occasion Of An England Football Match Played In Dnepropetrovsk Only Being Available To Watch On The Internet

And when his work is done -
Ha ha! - begins the fun.
From Dnepropetrovsk
To Petropavlovsk,
By way of Iliysk,
And Novorossiysk,
To Alexandrovsk to Akmolinsk
To Tomsk to Omsk
To Pinsk to Minsk
To me the match will run,
Yes, to me the match will run!

And then I watch
By morning, night,
And afternoon,
And pretty soon
My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
When they find out I watched it first!
Apologies to Tom Lehrer

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Blast From The Past

Can you name the year?

Election looming - check

Unpopular, unelected Prime Minister taking the country into recession - check

Opposition ahead in the polls for 3 years leading up to the election - check

Just had a war with Iraq - check

Impending tax rate of 50% for the highest earners - check. (*)

That's right, 1992. Government returned to power against the odds, five more years, ker-ching. A lot of disappointed people.

A couple of 2009 Tory policies caught my eye - no stamp duty for first time buyers up to a purchase value of £250,000 and no inheritance tax up to a property value of £1,000,000. One thing about the Tories, they always look after their own people - which is why they love high interest rates, because this is good for people with lots of cash in the bank. After all, how many first time buyers spending a quarter of a million pounds, or their parents in a million pound house, or their grandparents with thousands of pounds squirrelled away are going to vote anything other than Tory? Fortunately for them, most of the rest of us seem to have forgotten how much the Tories fucked the economy between 1979 and 1997. For any of you youngsters who don't remember - on 16 September 1992 the newly-returned Tory government raised interest rates from the current 12% to 15% to try and stop currency traders raping the pound. They failed, and in the meantime, my take-home salary no longer covered my mortgage payment. I'm going to look into transferring to a fixed rate mortgage myself, if such things still exist.

(Nitpicker's corner: In 1992, the Labour opposition proposed a 50% tax rate on people earning over £40,000: in 2009, the Conservative opposition announced they would not repeal Labour's proposed increase of tax to 50% on incomes over £150,000)

(References: 1992 election, Gulf War, Labour Conference 1991, Labour Party Manifesto 1992, Black Wednesday)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

New TV

(Sorry for all the TV jargon in this post)

I bought a Panasonic TH42PX80B TV the other day - a 42" 720i plasma beast. My old CRT TV lasted me more than a decade and it wasn't broken, but wifely pressure saw me splashing out.

I do like it - a good picture, a decent remote, and I've bought a component video cable for my Wii, and it turns out my crappy old £30 DVD player is a Panasonic too (who knew?) so the DVD controls on the TV remote control work. I was thinking of buying a new DVD player with decent hardware upscaling and an HDMI out but I don't think I'll bother now (even though they're only £50 now). I've seen Blu-Ray in our local Sony shop (me and Mr Boy pop in there on Saturdays to watch 5 or 10 minutes of Blu_Ray WALL-E but they're too expensive for me (the players, not the disks.) WALL-E looks just great on Blu-Ray, extremely crisp and great colours. Incidentally, the first time I watched it, I forgot it was animated for the first half because it's so beautifully done..

Anyway, my point is, while I was shopping around to find the best TV at the best price I came across something I haven't seen before - websites purporting to sell TVs and computers cheaper than everyone else, which are just scammers.

At first, I thought I wanted a TV capable of 1080p (which is the highest HD quality) so I looked at the Panasonic TH-46PZ80B. A 46" monster, it's £900 from Amazon including shipping, which was more than I wanted to spend. So I looked on Froogle, as you do, ordered by lowest price first, and I found a site called UnionTechPC (which doesn't seem to be in the Froogle results now). Quite a bit cheaper - but when I registered it only accepted Western Union payments. Ah, Western Union, the scammer's friend - you send money, the scammer withdraws the money, no goods are ever shipped: Western Union is only good for transactions between trusted parties, as they themselves know. Plus, no SSL on the checkout page, very suspicious. A quick search finds this page and this page. You'll notice if you view those pages - or if you register at UnionTechPC - that they are now accepting credit card payments, of course no goods will be received and you just gave your card details and security code to a bunch of scamming scum.

So there you go: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Google the name of the website you're thinking of buying on, or if you can't find anything post on somewhere like the AVForums to see if, at least, anyone has successfully bought from the website. Doing a WHOIS search (which tells you who owns the website) is a good idea too: see the results for UnionTechPC: hmm, registered in January this year, the contact is a person not an organisation, the contact address is a PO box, dodgy, dodgy and dodgier. Just because they offer credit card payments is not an accreditation (though if they don't it's fairly obvious they're not legitimate) as above. Be careful out there..

Monday, November 24, 2008

Not a PC

Microsoft's 'I'm a PC' ads in the UK flick up the URL windows.co.uk on screen at the end. Shame it doesn't work as it stands, requiring the www prefix to redirect to www.microsoft.com/uk/windows/. All that money spent on ads and they can't apply a simple redirect or DNS record to get it right. Oh dear..

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I, Mac

As of yesterday I am the happy owner of an Apple iMac 24/2.8/2GB/320GB/SD, refurbished from the Apple store. I used Migration Assistant to copy all my user data and applications from the faithful old G4, bloody marvellous I have to say as everything is there and everything seems to work. I still have to transfer music & photos as they were on separate disks, but I'm sure I will be able to keep all my metadata (play count, ratings, tags etc)

Redundancy FTW! And I have a new job, here..

Friday, September 26, 2008

Key Mapper

I wrote an open-source scancode mapping program for Windows - a program which lets you remap and disable your keyboard keys. A sample usage (i.e. my own) disables the Num Lock key, disables the Insert key and remaps Caps Lock to Left Shift. What this means is the Num Lock and Insert keys now do nothing, instead of being subversively annoying (I never want to turn Num Lock or Insert off) and when I press Caps Lock it's as if I have pressed Left Shift (although I occasionally might want to turn Caps Lock on, 99% of the times I do turn it on it's not what I want, I just mashed the A key with my fat finger). Also, I got so fed up with not being able to remember how to get the hash symbol using Windows under Parallels on my MacBook that I remapped the ±/§ button on the MacBook keyboard to it the other day. Much easier to remember. Plus I remap "Left Windows" to "Left Control" under Parallels so I can still use Command-C to copy.

You can find the program's website here - there's an auto-updating version available from the Install page, or alternatively get a standalone build from the project's downloads page on Google Code.

You can also use it to assign keys to things that you may want but which aren't on your keyboard, like starting your email program or browser, or controlling your computer's sound volume.

I'm quite pleased with it as it handles all different keyboard layouts - all different languages, US vs European vs Mac keyboard layout: it has a drag-and-drop interface, lets you browse through the different keyboard languages installed on your computer, and even explores new ground for the (admittedly small) world of scancode mapping programs - you can have per-user mappings (as opposed to mappings which apply to every user) and remap your Pause key to a command which requires two keystrokes (e.g. Windows-L or Alt-F4 or Right-Alt 4 for the Euro symbol)

Here's a screenshot of the program with it's child windows open:

It's funny how such a seemingly shallow subject as keyboards becomes so deep when you get right into it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Parallels Tools for Ubuntu 8.0.4 Hardy Heron

Parallels have finally released a build which allows the Parallels Tools for Linux to be installed in Ubuntu 8.0.4 Hardy Heron: get build 5624 from here. Mouse synchronization and desktop resizing make for a much nicer experience. I still have to click the Network icon and select 'Wired Network' to get a network connection, but that's easy enough to do on each VM reboot, as there aren't many of them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Points Per Game

It seems to me that ordering the football league tables by the average number of points per game is a better indication of how a team is doing than simply by points scored, especially when the variance in number of games played by each team gets beyond one or two. Teams generally go through the season getting the same average number of points per game (or, to put it another way, it takes a big change in form to achieve any significant change in the average).

I've got fed up figuring it out manually so I've done a little web site where you can look at any English or Scottish division ordered by points per game. I'm thinking of adding to it so only home or away results can be shown as well as the total.

The tables are scraped from the Guardian website, so fingers crossed they don't change their format. Edit: site changed

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Piratical Doodles

Like Google, The Pirate Bay keep their one-off logos on a page for our nostalgia and amusement, they have a new one up for which the site has been renamed The Pirate Bat. Fun.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

For Tom

If you're looking for a birdwatching or birding holiday in Spain, look no further than Spanish Birding Holidays.. and I'll leave exploring the double-entendres there to you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Virginal Box

We traded in our old NTL set-top box (the one that used to display NIT on boot) for a Virgin Media box.

Upside: it's remote control receiver is better, and can actually be controlled from the far side of the room

Downside: TCP ports 1433 and 1434 are unavailable for outbound connections. As these are the Microsoft SQL Server ports and I need these for work, I now need to get a cable modem. I just can't face trying to explain this to the script-driven robots in their callcenter.. maybe I will have to upgrade to 10MB internet!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The internet welcomes a new word

I'm reading a collection of sci-fi short stories from 1957, and I come across a new word - fripoons - in a story from CS Lewis called "The Shoddy Lands". Google has no record of it, so I thought I should document it here in context:

The male faces were not the sort I cared about: a flashy-looking crew - gigolos, fripoons.
Anyone got OED access to look it up?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Good, bad, not particularly ugly

Microsoft have a Customer Experience Improvement Program. In order to try and get people to use it, though, they use a cheap trick.

This is the Windows version of the dialog: note that "I don't want to join the program at this time" is selected - as it should be, customers should have to opt-in to being snooped on. However, the OK button is disabled and the only way to enable it and get rid of this dialog and get back to what you were doing is to click "Join the ... program". Of course, you then click back on No and then click OK but it's tacky, and I bet people sign up even though they don't want to.

Visual Studio does it right: gives lots of info on the program and enables OK when you click yes or no.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Todays MessageBox is brought to you by OMFG!

AKA "You had me at 'unable to start debugging on the web server'"..

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Two stupidities in one.

I was watching some TV programme the other day when Virgin Media popped up this large message, right at the end of the programme, centre screen:

Please wait. Some settings are being updated so you won't be able to use your remote for a few minutes.

Press OK to continue.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shut Up And Install Updates

I don't know why, it seems to be the new thing in Windows - Shut Down To Install Updates. I don't understand why I can't just restart as usual? Shutting down is a pain, as I have to get up off my arse and walk to the PC to turn it back on again if I'm remoting into it. Had it on Vista as well as XP.

My new server came today! It is whisper-quiet, not like the old Dan server I had (remember Dan computers?) which was noisy as hell. I have ordered 2.5GB of ECC memory from Crucial for £50, so my spending is still less than £200 and I can still sell my old PC (which has a GeForce 5500 graphics card in it) The server only takes PCI-e cards anyway, and there's a lot of stuff about heating up screwdrivers with candles to remove bits of plastic on the motherboard or taking a hacksaw to a graphics card, I really don't want to go there though as I can just imagine what would happen if I tried that. The onboard graphics are reasonable enough, won't run Aero (Vista's fancy graphics) of course but as I'm hoping to remote in there's no real need. Now I need a wireless card or USB thing that's actually going to work with Window Server 2008 and WPA2. and I also need to think of something the server can do apart from crunch SETI work units (Om nom nom nom alien radio signals :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Annoying but probably necessary

Registration web pages seem to have this new thing - "Please confirm email address". Ah, I think you mean shift-tab to go back to the previous field, command-c (or control-c as appropriate) to copy the email address I already put in, tab to go to the next field, and command-v to paste. And don't even think about trying to disallow copy and paste.

Mind you, I regularly get emails which are meant for other people. I had one the other day from Dell for a David Stuart (or is it Stuart David?) about returning a defective part: I get some from a pseudonym where I know the real address so I forward it to the real Sue Donym: and I received this cracker the other day:

Hi all,

Eric and I looked and determined the porn URL's began w/post #145 dated 12/29/07.