Blog DOB: 22 Aug, 2006
Name: Mark O'Connor
Me in the Antarctic
Really Annoying Sh##
This is my blog where I can dump all the sh## that really annoys me. It stays here, I can get on and enjoy myself. It's like therapy, and you can join too for free. Just add yourself as a blogger and get rid of all your sh##.
As much of a fan as I am of Google I find it incredibly annoying to click on a link in a page of search results, only to have to wait while Adobe Acrobat wakes up, yawns, stretches, puts on its slippers, scratches, walks to the bathroom, brushes its teeth, gargles, goes downstairs, puts the kettle on, starts frying sausages - and I am still waiting for the page to display. Lately when I see this happen I just click the back button quickly and exit. Why does Adobe Acrobat take so long to start?
But now in our page of Google results we can also click on a link and be presented with an RSS or XML file. This would be great if we were computers, rather than human, as we're not, opening the page is a waste of time. You can't easily read the content, so it's not as if we're going to say "just what I was looking for, I'm going to add this to bloglines".
One small thing we could do to make Google even better would be to put a little icon against each entry indicating the type of file we are about to click on. That we don't have to endure the "surprise" of clicking on a .pdf file.
More about search results: I hate clicking on a link only to be presented with another site offering nothing but sponsored searches or sponsored results. I hate clicking a link and not having access to the content without subscribing or giving away my email. I hate clicking on a link where the content is completely irrelevant to what I was searching for.
Having the morning off I decided to give the garden one last cut of the year and pulled my Mountfield HP470 hand propelled petrol mower out of the shed.
I bought this red mower, with it's Briggs & Stratton engine, earlier in the year when the pull cord on my old one snapped and disappeared into the lawnmower.
It hasn't been going well from the start. On its maiden cut two of the wheels fell off, and the pull cord, over six and half foot in length (what size arms do they think we have?) quickly cut through the red plastic engine cover. Although the mower claims "Reliable starting" among its credentials, having just spent over half an hour trying I have proof that it is not.
The clouds are now discoloring into darker shades of grey, it looks like rain, will I try for another last half hour to get it working?
The Telegraph today reported HMRC staff would have to use their annual leave to attend their Christmas lunch. I had actually heard the story yesterday on local radio and had been wondering since how a lunch could last so long that you would have to take annual leave to enjoy it.
Perhaps its an indication that HMRC are working in a different time continuum. Those waiting months for VAT registration numbers might be quick to agree. It's a time zone where everything takes longer or slows down. A process that should take a few weeks, like VAT registration, stretches out to eternity, and a lunch that should take a couple of hours needs a holiday.
Interestingly, the Telegraph article also quotes an HMRC spokeperson as saying "it is vital that we continue to provide a good level of service to taxpayers and claimants."
I had to read the sentence twice, did it really say continue?
Black Cabs and the London Cabbie may be regarded as part of the cultural collateral of London, in the same way as red buses and the familiar red and blue symbol of London underground. For the tourist, clambering into the back, might be as much a part of their sightseeing as is visiting the Tower. The London cabbie has almost become synonymous with words like honest, hard working and working class. With so many unlicensed, illegal cabs crawling the curbs in clubland, the black cabs are also viewed as safe.
However, the cabbies like their short distances. They run a business after all, and maximise their income if they take short fares. Even though they can use the bus lanes, and are not meant to refuse fares, they do. Their best excuse when they hear where you're going to is to say they've had a fare come up over the satellite. They take precedence.
I remember one Christmas standing on Oxford Street, the West End, unable to walk beyond the curb at Selfridges. I left my shopping to the last minute, then did it in one swoop, arriving out onto the street and the rain as if on a tight rope with an unsteady, cartoon like, tower of packages, and bag handles, literally, beginning to dig through my fingers.
I needed to go six and a half miles to Brent Cross where my car was parked. A succession of black London cabs pulled up, only to drive off again with some excuse. In desperation, and almost after an hour of agony, debating whether I would ditch the presents, I had to bribe a London cabbie as he was pulling off, "I'll give you a hundred pounds", I pleaded.
Of course he stopped, and took the fare. You know, I was so grateful, I gave him a tip as well.
Don't you just love it when you buy a product and, having struggled to get it out of the packaging, you find it's incomplete. There's a part missing. You can't use it or you can't assemble it.
I was surprised to find this happen with a software installation disc. A copy of TAS Books Basic, purchased from Amazon, contained no serial number card. You can't install the software without the serial number, or maybe you can, but there's not much point as you won't be able to use it for long.
When I call the TAS customer care team an automated voice asks me to choose an option. Being fairly typical of automated phone filter systems, or offshore call centres, there is no natural option for my query.
When I do speak to someone the solution is to fax my invoice from Amazon, plus a letter containing details of who the software will be registered to, off to the anonymous Customer Care team.
Customer Care? I might agree if someone had actually apologised for the inconvenience, had said this very rarely occurs, perhaps thanked me for buying the product, and, more importantly, were actually able to sort it out over the phone. Afterall, the company promises their customers to "deliver services so good that you, our customers, recommend it to your friends and colleagues".
This is another call where I'm advised it may be recorded for training purposes.
Now I need to decide. I can either take the time out to fax the details off or I can return the software and get something else from a different supplier. The latter is my preferred option. I don't actually feel valued as a new customer, and if I settle for the product I'm basically saying "ok" to low standards. Why do we do this in the UK? We can be eating the most horrific meal and when the waiter asks us if everything is ok, we respond with "mmmm, delicious, thank you."
I defer the decision to make a coffee.
Call me old fashioned, but if I go to a filling station it's to put petrol in the car. I may, occassionally, also buy a newspaper or milk. I wouldn't go there to do the weeks shopping.
I find it bizarre that I have to join a que for a petrol pump while the car owners are dithering inside what has now become a supermarket, and I have to wait yet again while a succession of shopping baskets are swiped through the checkout. All I want to do is pay for petrol.
Spamming is a numbers game. The more you send out the greater the probability that someone is going to open, read or act on the contents. It's all about arithmetic. The evil spammers are playing a numbers game. For them it's not personal, it's business. If you send out eight million emails there's a far greater chance of some "mug" opening one than if you only sent a hundred. The more emails you send the more successful you'll be.
The spammers use increasingly sophisticated techniques to circumvent and confuse anti virus programs and avoid detection. You've probably seen some of these in your inbox. Emails, which contain strings of random words, where the text is written on a graphic, which contain graphics and words, which seem to come from yourself. They don't care who the recipient is, so you get young kids being sent links to pictures and sites "caligulinks") which are wholly inappropriate.
Worryingly there is also a trend to hijack genuine mail domains. I've had this happen to me twice on two different domains. Every email contains header information such as the reply to address, the sender address etc. It's very easy to forge email headers so they appear to come from elsewhere, a genuine source. All of a sudden you start to receive hundreds and hundreds of mail delivery system errors in your inbox saying the mail program wasn't able to deliver your message. You become inundated with bounced email messages, in addition to your normal quota of spam. Your mail domain can also be blacklisted.
Spammers have a number of distribution channels. These include free email accounts like yahoo and hotmail, hacked servers, relaying messages, mail servers purchased with stolen credit cards, your own PC infected with a worm or Trojan virus ("zombie PC's"), even that innocuous contact form you have on your website can have alternative email headers injected into it.
Your details can be guessed at, harvested by program crawlers, be purchased, stolen, or be already included in a "marketing database" (wow..., email advertise like this to 8,000,000 people - sound familiar?). Genuine database directories can be "scratched" for your information, as it's too readily accessible.
All companies seem to view the collection of your data as an asset but fail to adequately protect it. Web sites are designed so you have to opt out from mailing lists. The opt out buttons can even appear on each page of a multi page form. I did a double take when I saw this on the application form of a major UK bank. Spam can contain illegitimate "unsubscribe" links. When you click you're added to a database, your identity reduced to currency. Instead of reducing your spam your increasing it.
A report out today by IT security firm Sophos reveals that both the US Republican and Democratic parties distributed spam in the run up to the mid-term elections. Of course, we can't call it spam, as US political parties are exempt from legislation like the CAN-SPAM Act. Is this leadership? Sophos also reveal the top twelve "dirty dozen" spam producing countries.
Can we ever hope to do anymore than stay one step ahead of the evil spammers? There are a few actions we can take to help reduce the volume, they won't eliminate the evil
When a second domain of mine was hijacked, and I had time to calm down from the "web rage" I started to wonder if Don Corleone had a website....
If Don Corleone had a website, I imagined, just a small site he put together for the family. He had links to his favourite sites, an updated news section, and he even had a contact form. This internet thingy was a breeze. Then one day, after breakfast, he opens up his email and watches as hundreds of bounced email messages are downloaded to his laptop....
What would he do next?
Despite being unable to book an EasyJet Flight online due to a bug or lack of information on their website I'm still very much a fan of this low cost airline. But now that they've discontinued the Gatwick (LGW) to Cork(ORK) route, choice is limited.
In fact, there were no available flights on BA when I wanted to travel, and I didn't want to fly from Heathrow. This only left me with one choice, Ryanair.
After you've paid for each direction on the flights, added almost £50 in taxes, another £7 for a bag, and a further £1.40 to pay by debit card, the total price comes in just shy of £300.
Surely it's wrong to pay this for a Ryanair flight where you don't even get a seat pocket.
After my Toshiba had to be binned I got an IBM T21 and an IBM T22. I still keep the hard drive of the Toshiba as a reminder to myself to take backups. It sits over the fireplace with an old clock, a picture of Freud, a fossil, and a photograph frame made from cactus wood.
There still is some very useful data on the drive, but I've never been prepared to pay the sums needed to retrieve it. But back to my IBM's.....
The T21 I always used as a reserve, it's been the presentation machine, not cluttered up with some of the servers and applications I've been running on the T22. That was until I started getted the BSOD (blue screen of death) on the T22. It finally got to the point where it wouldn't restart after a crash.
After some internet searching I replaced the memory with two 256k cards, and for a while everything was great. The laptop powered up, and the overall speed improved - until yesterday, three weeks after replacing the memory, now the machine is a dud, the memory is burned out. Fortunately I've been able to slot the hard drive out and plug it into the T21, but the T21 is so slow. The screen freezes, I get terribly annoyed with it...
Is there anything better out there, I need the portability of a laptop with the resilience of a server?
It begins like a trumpet call. The Goodman Masson website announces, "You may have noticed some new and exciting developments at Goodman Masson" and continues with, "Over the past six months we have been asking a lot of questions. We've asked our clients, candidates and ourselves how we can improve Goodman Masson. "
You would expect, following the intro, that this agency would be deadly serious about customer service.
How is it possible then, that after apparently spending six months on marketing activity, that the best they can seemingly come up with "as a result of all this hard work" (terrible hard work talking to customers) is to ignore candidates when they apply for advertised jobs? You would think someone, during that time, might have conceived the idea of an auto responder saying, at the very least, "thanks for sending us your cv".
Unless of course, the result and conclusion of their research was a new customer service method. They've already implemented it here: Ignore your customers, they're terrible hard work.
The automated voice recording on the HMRC National Advice Line says you can also visit the HMRC "internet website".
So they have their website on the internet eh?
Hmmm. I wonder if it starts with "doubleu doubleu doubleu"?