* Posts by PH

37 publicly visible posts • joined 23 Apr 2007

Skiving Aussie fingered on Facebook

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Australia's brightest

Well, he's a Liberal (read: Tory / Republican) and he's only 21. Bless!

What d'ya expect?

Wacky Jacqui's yoof ID site goes silent


Re: Virtual Surveys director Ray Poynter comments @ Economist.com

Over on the Economist's site, "mylifemyid" Virtual Surveys director Ray Poynter has been posting some comments on their coverage of the story.

Mr Poynter demonstrates the project's 'openness' by writing "Over 50 million online ads were placed... to promote the site". Yet a look at the mylifemyid.org web site code suggests very much the opposite intention, specifically: http://mylifemyid.org/robots.txt.

All robots/crawlers are blocked from the site, without exception. If you scroll to the end of their robots.txt file there's a line of human-readable comment that says it all:

# [nall]: generally we don't want to be indexed

Disallow: /

So much for efforts to "promote" the site!

[Errata: is it just me or should a site associated with promoting Security and ID for all maybe NOT have a Drupal file called install.php sitting on the server???)

Yahoo! shares! hit! five! year! low!


Re: ...somehow increase Yahoo!'s revenues 25 per cent

For those existing customers who have bought a domain name through Yahoo there might be a nasty little surprise waiting next time their credit card is debited. Annual fees for some dot com customers have leapt a whopping 200% - and Yahoo is making no great effort to forewarn them of this fact.

Having accidentally discovered this increase hidden in a shady corner of my little-used Yahoo account I contacted the search-meisters and asked them for further information. Specifically, I wanted to know: 1) why the domain renewal price-rise is so substantial and, more importantly, 2) why it isn't being clearly flagged to customers. Responses were not forthcoming for my first few queries.

Several mails later, when I threatened to move to another domain reseller unless I was offered a more realistic domain price, I received the following:


Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Billing.

We do understand that you are not happy about the domain renewal rate increase. You are right, there are companies out there that will offer you similar service at a price other than what we are charging.

We have raised the rates for our domain registration renewals based on business reasons. We understand that this may present you with a decision to make regarding your service with Yahoo!

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Billing. If we can provide you with any further information, please reply to this email.



Yahoo! Billing


Note that yet again they have failed to address the key question - why are they failing to clearly inform their customers in advance that they are jacking up the price so substantially?

As it stands, unless a customer specifically logs in to their customer account and then looks at their billing information page for the 2009 figures they will be none the wiser until debit time.

To illustrate the point, here's some figures for my dot com renewal fee through Yahoo since 05. Each transaction was for a 12-month renewal of the same .com address:

2005 - $9.95

2006 - $9.95

2007 - $9.95

2008 - $12.95

2009 - $34.95 - noted only on the billing page and nowhere else.

Now, I don't know about you but when I buy anything many times at a certain price I tend to assume that next time the price is going to be round about the same unless I'm told otherwise. I think most other people will think this way too. Certainly, I wonder how many of Yahoos long-term customers are going to be consistently checking their annual billing after say half a decade? I only came across it by accident when I was in the account checking some DNS data.

By not clearly disclosing this increase in advance Yahoo will effectively "catch out" thousands of long-term customers; and substantially increase that revenue as if by accident.

"Yang has said - over and over again - that his primary goal is "maximizing value for our shareholders.""

Yeah? Well, this customer is fucking off, mate. Go sell that to your shareholders.

BBC iPlayer upgrade prompts new ISP complaints


iPlayer... an interface abomination

Why oh why oh why oh why oh why did Beeb web underlings not revolt when the tossers in charge of iPlayer announced in the bar:

"Hey, y'know that excellent web/radio interface thingy we've got, you know the thing that pops up in the one compact window with the list of all the programmes that you can see right in front of you in the player, the one that lists shows by station or by genre, yeah? Yeah? Well, we've been having a think in the strategy meetings, kicked around a few ideas, and we've concluded it's just not black and glossy enough.

We want a new player that oozes sex - glossy like an Apple icon, sexy like a First Direct homepage, like a Prada thong carelessly discarded on a Christmas Eve, yeah?

And that easy-to-use interface - guys, let's ditch that while we're at it. What are you like?! What's this - public service or something?! Guys, up-size that click path - say, five-fold. Get the punters jogging round the site - do them some good. Put them through, oh I don't know, say, though some long rambling Listen Again schedule, one day per view, or a programme A to Z, maybe - that's what we're thinking.

What? Add an audio stream search? Ha - yeah, good one! No, no no, absolutely not - route all those via the main search and then whatever you do don't send directly to the feed they're trying to listen to.

What's that? What's the real reason behind this interface redesign? Ahem, well we can't say at this stage but, well... lots of great things will come of it: at least now it'll now be a little harder to spot that BBC7 really just endlessly recycles the same handful of tired old shows. Eh?"

BT starts threatening music downloaders with internet cut-off


@ AC hahahah

Interesting to hear how they still treat/resource their staff.

Back round about 1998 I remember there was a wonderful site at the address www.ihateBT.?? - think it might have been dot.nl. Anyway, the site was set up by a former BT engineer who wrote he'd been unfairly dismissed for "merely asking" if it were possible to reverse engineer some technology BT had. His, ahem, let's be careful here, "allegations" about the company and, in particular, the BT Security department and their antics when phone-tapping their own staff made for interesting reading.

As a customer, I dropped BT years ago. I've blocked out the memories of the many things they did to me but I still have a Pavlovian gag-reaction when I see the logo. So good to hear they're still on form. I'm astonished they've still got the market share they have.

Who's up for going round with some pitchforks and torches?

AVG scanner blasts internet with fake traffic


Simple Sword of Truth

On a free-to-read site dripping with advertising, I suppose it's little wonder this story is given the editorial line it has.

And that panicky one-sentence paragraph - "That could destroy web analytics as we know it" - had me thinking I was reading one of the red tops. No irony intended.

Let me fill you in on something for free, though. Marketers, like salesmen and politicians, frequently say one thing but mean another. Trust me, I've worked in and with Marketing for years.

The Barry Parshall quote defends analytics: so "businesses can serve their customers properly". As any contemplative business person will confirm, the primary aim of being in business is making money. Analytics isn't about "serving" customers, it's about working out better ways of extracting money from them, and increasing their growth.

Web analytics is up there along with Customer Loyalty Cards as one of the great intrusions on privacy that the public simply goes along with because they're ignorant of what's actually happening behind the scenes.

If AVG helps disrupt marketing analytics then I, for one, am all for it.

PS: 10 December 2008 – International Clear Your Cookies Day.

Apple store detains teens for installing iPhone game


Messing with the Apple pies

Though I'm greying nicely if I'm bored I still get a kick out of taking a screengrab of the Finder (couple of windows open, maybe) then setting that grab as the desktop pattern. Broken? Hilarious!

A long time ago it was rumoured that you could POKE a Dragon 32/64 with a certain "smoke poke" and the showroom device would literally short-circuit.

Ah, those were the days...


Privacy? Forget it. Sell your brain and desires to the highest bidder


The beginnings of a revolution

The one thing people - even those who want to protect their privacy - never seem to think of is a campaign for legislation that makes their personal data (i.e. data about themselves) their own property.

Trademark your own face; copyright your own name; assert your moral rights to be identified as the author of your own bank statement. And so on and on. And then sue any f*cker who scrapes your data and sells it to the highest marketer.

UK punters love Nokia, hate McDonalds


RE: MacDonalds aren't always so bad...

Oh, come on!

If any retailer was ever due for a prosecution over the massive discrepancy between the product shots of its food as advertised and the shoddy lukewarm imitations you actually get handed by the staff then it's the dudes in red'n'yeller.

Clearly not a comment from someone who's ever served as a "crewmember" on the good ship McD's!

Oldham murders owl with whalesong



Sheesh! Guys, I hate to rain on another pint-sized think-fest but if any of you worked in the industry you'd know that the cost always covers far more than simply 'making a logo'.

It's like you're confusing the cost of an international flight with the cost of the paper ticket in your hand; confusing the cost of your software with the cost of the DVD it comes on; the cost of a wedding with... well, you get the idea.

Branding is not a synonym for a "making a logo".

P.S. I don't have any connection with any of the businesses in the story.

Australia to restrict laser-pointers - Minister


But Australian's love prohibiting things...

As someone who is resident in the country, this proposed ban doesn't surprise me at all. Australians LOVE creating prohibitions. Here you can't drink in public, you can't cross the street ('jaywalk'), you can't mod your games console, you can't bicycle without a helmet, you can't travel between states with an apple in your pocket, and you can't exit most supermarkets without showing staff the contents of any bag or parcel you may have with you. A kid with a laser pointer and the opportunity to legislate is enough to give your average Aussie lawmaker a wet dream - so to speak.

Brown ignores scientists and pushes pot reclassification



Re: "The Association of Chief Police Officers has lobbied hard for the drug to be effectively recriminalised."

And I always thought the role of the cops was to simply enforce the law of the land, not to revise, interpret or create it.

If the root problem is a health issue then surely the NHS, BMA, or MRC should be doing the lobbying, not the boys in blue.

It's high time ACPO had a nasty slip on the steps on the way down to the cells...

Apple sued over 'inflated' iMac claims



I've been meaning to say this for years...

Anyone who has actually got some genuine IT industry experience under their belts should have ample experience of BOTH platforms - and they'll know that BOTH Mac and PC are shit, in their own different but equally irritating ways. I won't bother with examples - if you're a pro you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

To the rest of you gentlemen: Guys, it's 2008 - give the Mac vs PC debate a frickin rest, will ya, it's really getting as tired and boring as Northern Ireland did.

Happy poisson x

Trial for T5 mandatory biometrics kicks off at Heathrow


No Future

"God save the queen

The fascist regime

They made you a moron

Potential H-bomb"

Glad I migrated to Oz!

Fasthosts customers blindsided by emergency password reset

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FH even screwed up with my NEW passwords!

Yesterday, 30 November 2007 at 00:43 I noticed none of my company's Farcehosts email login passwords were working. This is despite us changing them as instructed AFTER the FH security breach. But then after about half an hour all the passwords "magically" started working again. No notification - shame I was trying to work at the time.

FH might claim to be "The UK's number 1 web host" but they must surely be haemorrhaging customers after so many schoolboy errors. Certainly, I've started looking around in earnest for an alternative host.

Datapocalypse Now


More tales of HMRC incompetence

Here's another two to add to the pile:

In 2002 HMRC (then the Inland Revenue) contacted me to ask me to fax to them copies of some of my tax records from previous years, including a P60 (my end-of-year tax certificate). The reason? They were sorry but they'd "lost my files".

In 2007 HMRC was contacted by me with regard to a P85 (migration notice) that I'd sent them. This was "never received", they told me. But they must have received it, I told them: "you have my correct new address on record and the only way you could have that is if you got the P85". "I hear you, but we don't tend to lose things," the operator maintained.

Lords debate airline liquids ban


Liquids ban indicator of "US client-state" status

I have taken excessive (i.e. 100ml +) quantites of liquid on to flights several times since the ban, usually water or similar to drink. And these liquids have originated outside the "clean zone".

Why do I do it? To be honest, it's mainly because I feel the ban is designed to soothe largely "manufactured" fears, despite inconveniencing millions of people. I do it as an act of protest – though I am increasingly aware some trigger happy cop may be lurking with his dum-dum bullets and get-out-of-jail-free card.

What is fascinating, though, is that I can so easily "get away" with it. While at some airports the security staff jiss themselves stupid at the sight of anything moist, there are other airports where no one appears to give a flying fuck about liquids. (Note: I always declare, show and/or surrender a liquid IF ASKED by security.)

Less than a year ago I was security screened for a London flight departing from Berlin Tempelhof airport. I had a large bottle of coke clearly visible in an outside pocket of my carry-on luggage. None of the three security officers so much as blinked. And last month I boarded an international flight at Kathmandu Tribhuvan airport. Same story with the liquids – in fact my hand luggage wasn't even x-rayed or visually inspected. Different story if I'd been boarding at these flights' liquid-hysterical destinations.

And who exactly do we have to thank for these rules? All around the world those various governments who shaft their publics just so they can get a pat on the head from kind Uncle Sam. Makes me puke.

Manhunt 2 leaked by Sony Europe employee


Absolute Power

Are SCEE pressing charges? Smells like an advertising wheeze to me!

Given the censorship of the original and imminent re-release of the downgrade, I'd be looking to the marketing department for the real source of the leak, not some vanished freelance John Doe.

Hey, let's have a heated debate!

Fasthosts customer? Change your password now


A Fasthosts customer writes

Fasthosts are starting to piss me off. Their webmail has always been painfully slow, their support people are frequently not on the ball, their web control panel can be temepramental – and now this password fiasco! One more balls-up and I'm certainly taking my hosting and my clients' hosting to another provider.

The terrorists I party with


I second, or third - or fourth – this!

Couldn't agree more – except...

I initially trained as a journo but the reason I gave up early on in the game was straight-forward: if ever I wrote anything remotely controversial my writing received the editor's red pen. And this isn't unusual in the industry.

It's easy to bag spineless journos for propping up Bush and his WOT but the real criminals in the media are the publishers, editors and advertising sales managers – these are the guys who really choke the content that reaches the audience.

Otherwise, though, great article – nice to see some mainstream journalism keeping it real. And my hat off to El Reg for publishing it!

A serious browser vulnerability, but whose?


Simple solution

Surely a simple test will sort this one out: can any other browser trick firefox in a similar way?

If you can't get Netscape, Safari or Opera to pass the bad info then I'd say it was an MS issue. If you can, though, it's an FF issue.

Men jailed for inciting terrorism on the internet


re: steve roper

Andy - the Swiss population are all obliged to keep a gun at home, just in case any of the neighbours pop round the mountains for an visit unannounced.

Nice to hear Steve's viewpoint.

Indeed, it's abundantly clear that the pro-corporate two-party dictatorship we have in most Western countries has far more flaws than it has advantages for the average citizens of earth. And it's pretty likely that this power balance will eventually prove unsustainable.

Criminalising popular access to information on resistance tactics means we've got to count on the Next Big Revolution being either a velvet one or hope for a benign military to help us through our coming troubles. Yeah, right.

Another day, another iPhone rumour


Carphone Warehouse – Apple

Having gone thorough the painful and ultimately futile experience of trying to connect my mum's OS X Apple Mac to her Carphone Warehouse broadband in late 2006 I think it's hilarious anyone's seriously suggesting Apple releases the UK iPhone in partnership with them.

CW broadband staff, I found, have very little Apple product knowledge and at one point when I'd had enough I was informed that CW "don't have a customer complaints department". If Apple want the iPhone to be a serious contender they'd be crazy to release it through these cost-cutting budget amateurs.

Digital data can bite you in the ass, researcher warns


Cuts both ways

I was last year in a contract dispute with a certain Northern Irish web hosting company* – and the Google cache saved the day.

The host had advertised FP server extensions installed as part of the hosting package, which is why I had signed up with them in particular – on a 12-month contract. The host then withdrew this facility without any warning and removed all relevant text about it from their site.

When I told them I wanted the remainder of my money back as the service was no longer what I'd signed up for, they denied the FP server extensions had been made available and effectively called me a liar. Oh, what to do?

Fortunately the Google search engine cache had a snapshot of their site offering FP extensions plus a copyright notice on the cached page showing that it was recent. This fact was passed on to the rogue host who then (still reluctantly) refunded me.

Okay, it's not quite as good as solving a murder but hey the little guy can use feral data as a "tool" against the big boys. Now that's gotta be worth something?


*I won't bother naming them as I'm sure Ed will wield El Red Pen.

Sentient world: war games on the grandest scale


Mirror Worlds

Re: "SWS to match every person on the planet, one-to-one".

Some interesting fractal iterations will kick in at this point because some of the emulated humans within SWS will behave due to having just used a reality model as a decision-making tool. A model within a model within a model...

Now that's going to give really accurate predictions, isn't it?

Congress chops economy-class nuke programme


re: No vision at all, Neil?

Iamfanboy - all those tired arguments for "nuclear deterrence " are sooooo similar to the arguments in favour of every citizen carrying a gun. Hey - and we all love going to those places, don't we?

HP hails Print 2.0


Journalism 2.0

Excellent – a story by a company rather than an author, and written with all the insight and analysis of a press release. More of this please!

Boffins put encrypted bio-copyright watermarks in beer DNA


Re: Inadvertent patent infringement...?

"A year or two down the road, the downwind farmer has a field of redwood-sized cornatalks with "property of MegaGrainCo All rights reserved" marked on each husk and the corporation's lawyers are knocking on the screen door."

Reminds me of the current debate about the alleged theft issues when accessing WIFI networks that someone has left wide open. Using this precedent, I guess the downwind farmers will be obliged to purchase a herbicide to ensure they don't pick up any of MegaGrainCo's DNA information. I wonder if MegaGrainCo will be selling herbicide?

Data Analysis 2.0


Chaos - theory

Will allowing data consumers to “speak for themselves” create chaos or a more accurate and complete definition?

Chaos - absolutely. In the hands of non-professionals, garbage data will frequently be picked up and disseminated as "truth" (think of urban legends, wrong phone numbers, or propaganda). This data has the potential to be disseminated further and further, the more it spreads. Sure - sometimes a reader's real-world experience will create a safety check but not always, especially if the data-fact is dormant.

Metadata studies regarding a workforce's capacity, competence and inclination to properly tag their corporate data are revealing. Most employees really don't have any interest in effectively managing data and its inter-relationships on a day-to-day basis as data management is usually seen as being an inconvenient aside to their "real job".

Doubtless some bean-counter will sooner or later sponsor the idea of upgrading their company data systems Web 2.0-style. Good luck to them!

Cloudmark takes anti-spam to the edge


RE: don't actually have a comment...

Jim bloke – I agree and it is frustrating. I liked that chemicals piece myself and wouldn't have minded putting a comment or two.

Mind you, the BBC news site is really bad at not letting readers comment on serious stories whilst letting everyone comment on the magazine fluff. Given how the Beeb seems to copy a lot of Reg tech news maybe there's now a reciprocal back-flow ;-|

Anyway - SPAM. Surely the best way to deal with spam is to find those ultimately responsible (i.e. follow the ad to the seller) and, rather than take them to court, leave them in the company of a mob armed with blunt instruments who've had to delete spam on a daily basis for the last decade. Primitive, I know - but it might just work.

Enron emails inspire GCHQ spooks


Stealth mail wrapper

Me, if I'm passing something outbound and I want to mask it I simply zip the file then manually change the file extension to .jpg and then attach it to a mail. Personally, I've never ever had that method blocked.

Endemol in 'win a kidney' TV show rumpus



I always thought "Endemol" sounded like a cream you might use to relieve an itching anus.

What's next from these geniuses? Live snuff porn?

Google wants to really get to know you


Data mining

No matter how good their algorithms, at the end of the day the analysis will be done by wet-ware in grey suits.

Royal Marine helmet-cam auteur hit during Afghan gunfight


Britain's brightest making us proud

"Afganistan"? Jeeze, whenever I invade a country and shoot "photo's" of my colleagues topping people at least I try to get the place name right. Where's he going next? Irain?

Orange Value Promise not as much value as promised


A former Orange customer writes

All this doesn't surprise me in the slightest. I was an Orange UK customer for about three miserable years and after I finally left them they repeatedly removed money from my bank account without my authorisation, eventually refunded me, though without an apology, and refused to compensate. I will never again be an Orange customer as long as I live and I'm more than happy to dis them. They really, really do suck.

Communist spy ring tried to steal Space Shuttle plans


Put on Disc??

Doh! "put on disc in order to be taken to China"? Hadn't these guys heard of sending stuff via the internet? I've heard it's great if you want to avoid carrying data through an airport.

If Google kills penguins, is it doing evil?


Google Goes Glacial

Here's me been thinking all day it's an iceberg, not a glacier.

The lack of the 4/5 under water presumably being, er, artistic licence...