Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Permission to Spam? Nope

I love spammers, especially South African ones. They are so sleazy, stupid and dishonest that they are quite entertaining. They make promises that any sucker can see through, and yet they are so enclosed in their own little reality distortion field, that they just don't get it.
For many years I have run, a web site dedicated to worship music. At the bottom of each page there is a line that reads: "If you spot any errors, inaccuracies or other bloopers, please send an e-mail to Donn Edwards" followed by my email address, encoded as <>, which is designed to thwart spam bots, but still be legible to human readers after the browser has decoded it. It would seem this little bit of obfuscation is no longer sufficient, end the bots now decode the page before looking for email addresses. Of course the "" part should be a clue to anyone with a brain, but then some marketers aren't that bright.
Take Silver Solutions Marketing for example. They violated their M-Web Terms of Service by sending out unsolicited emails, using a bulk mailing program called SmartSend.2.0.104 on their ADSL connection All of this information is included in the email header of the message they sent. DUH!
And the service they are selling? You guessed it: "email marketing". I'll give them kudos for putting their money where their mouth is, but clearly these people have no idea. They must be part of the 1% of the population who doesn't get enough email and who enjoys reading the ads for Viagra. Maybe they bought their marketing degrees online, or paid $59 for a course on "how to make money on the internet".
When I called their number to ask where they got my email address from, I got the lame "from the internet" excuse. When I asked them to be a little more specific, they emailed me the graphic above, showing the page they got my address from. I have now updated the page so that it specifically mentions not to use the address for marketing purposes. It feels a bit like those coffee cups that say "Caution: Contents Hot". I guess we have to spell it out for the dummies of the world.
As an added bonus, I have added the email addresses of Silver Solutions Marketing to the bottom of the page, in the HTML code, so they can find out what it is like to get their names in a spamming database. I guess they'll get a clue eventually.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Clever Beer Commercial

This ad has been showing on TV during the world cup. Personally I think it is one of the best commercials I have seen, because it is highly entertaining and visual. I have been wondering which beer brand was used, but it doesn't matter in the end.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Testing the new Defrag Review site

I have got my trusty FRAGG computer back, and have spent some time during this week setting up and tweaking my new web site: I chose the name because I want my defrag reviews to be based on facts and benchmarks as well as user opinions. I chose "fact" because it is the opposite of "hype".
I am asking regular readers of this blog to take the time to check out the site, and leave comments (either at this blog article or using the Disqus facility on the site). Please bear in mind that the content is very sparse, and there are a lot of links that don't work because the pages haven't been created yet. If you don't like incomplete sites, stay away!
I have managed to get the left column of the menu to work, so it isn't a complete disaster. Over the next few days I am hoping to add some real reviews and benchmarks. I welcome all comments, questions and suggestions.
Update 26 June: A big thank you to readers from 24 countries who have visited the site to see what is happening. I have received some positive feedback, and will continue to work on the site to make it useful.
Update 27 June: I have added two new articles: "Why Defragmentation is Needed", and "Linux Defragmentation Issues". The Linux one will be quite interesting to Windows users too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Font Upgrade to this Blog

I'm a self-confessed font junkie. If my wife wants to buy me a book, she can always buy me another font book. Now I'm trying another experiment with fonts, courtesy of Typekit. I signed up for a free account and selected two fonts: Droid Sans and Droid Serif.
I've written about the Droid fonts before, but unless you installed them to your PC, you won't have seen them yet. Now Typekit will enable your browser to see the fonts without any installation stuff. The fonts are provided by the Typekit web servers, and if your browser supports it, you'll see the fonts correctly.
At a later stage I may upgrade my free account to a paid one, in order to add more fonts or more web sites. For now, I'm a happy font junkie. Click on the Typekit icon on the bottom right corner of your browser to find out more about the fonts, etc.
Update 20 July: I took advantage of a special offer to upgrade my account to "Personal". Now I can include the web site in the same account, and have 5 fonts per site, if I really want to.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Our Soccer Trip to Rustenburg

Click on the image for more details

This is a composite picture stitched together by Windows Live Photo Gallery from a dozen or so photos taken on my new Nokia 6303i phone. I took them at half time in the England-USA match at Royal Bafokeng Stadium on 12th June 2010. The match was a 1-1 draw, and quite exciting. There was a great atmosphere in the crowd, spoilt only by the insane loudness of the Vuvuzelas. Fortunately we had good earplugs so we managed to preserve our hearing and not get a headache either.
The inset on the left shows a picture of a modified Vuvuzela that has to be the longest I've ever seen. The inset on the right is Penny doing her best to drink a Badweiser beer. If you look at the details of the picture you'll notice how many VIP seats are empty/unsold, and you can also see the non-functional TV screens on the left and right of the stadium.
In spite of the deafening noise, the overpriced beer and not being able to see the replays, we had a great time. Everyone was in a good mood, and even though the US fans were completely outnumbered, their shouts of "U-S-A U-S-A" could be heard above the din, and made the mood pretty festive.
The US team played well, but didn't seem to be able to finish off their attempts at goal. They were very sporting, and acknowledged their fans at the end of the match. I'm glad I supported them and hope they go on to the next round, even if their home country has no idea how well they did.
Logistics have never really been a strong point in South Africa, and the official FIFA web sites provided no useful information on how to get to the stadium. The map in the fan booklet is laughably bad. But there is a great graphic and information provided by the "Royal Bafokeng Nation" web site. I printed it out and it is shown behind the tickets (above). As it turned out the route to Sun City is well marked, and in combination with the directions to our hotel, we arrived safely and on time to check in at the hotel.
A very helpful lady from the Rustenburg Accommodation and Tourism Association suggested we try the Sundown Ranch Hotel. I'm glad we did. The cost of the stay at the hotel was less than the cost of a single FIFA ticket. And it included breakfast for two. Fortunately we didn't have to pay for the tickets (thanks to MTN who gave two to a friend of ours) and we have avoided buying anything with the FIFA logo on it, except for the food and drinks at the stadium.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stop Autoplay for YouTube

YouTube is a bit tricky to watch when you have a slow internet connection. Then I found an extension for Google Chrome called "Stop Autoplay for YouTube". It makes YouTube a pleasure again.

Update: Here is my list of extensions:

FIFA World Cup sponsors fleece their fans

If you believe the official FIFA Fan Guide, Cokes cost R8 and Budweiser beers cost R10-R20. Only this doesn't apply at the Royal BAFOKeng Stadium, where the "sponsors" choose to engage in price gouging by charging R15 for a Coke and R30 for a beer. They are sold opened, so by the end of the match there isn't much fizz left. And the beer should be called BADweiser because the only way they can get the fans to drink it is to ban all other competing products.
I took this picture of the price list with my phone, and so the R15 label under the Coke is a bit blurry. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
Do the sponsors really think they can insult their customers by charging double or triple the normal price? Does Budweiser think I will ever voluntarily buy a Bud when they left me with such a bad taste in my mouth during the FIFA World Cup? The only good thing about their beer is that it is mostly water.
I have written to the sponsors but I doubt I'll get a reply. And in case why you are wondering about my capitalisation of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, it's because the two large screens didn't work. Befok is the Afrikaans equivalent of FUBAR and since the screens were broken the stadium deserves its BAFOKeng status.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Who to Support? England? USA?

There is a lot of weirdness going on in South Africa at the moment: FIFA and MATCH are screwing the tourism industry; Vuvuzelas are on sale for 5 times their normal price of R20; and motorists are shredding the national flag by driving too fast on the motorways.
Then there is "Zakumi San", the world cup mascot who is made in China, along with the national team T-shirts. Such is the nature of business and trade unions. I vowed not to buy anything with the FIFA logo on it, because I don't support organised crime.
But I was given tickets for the England vs USA match on Saturday, because a friend is doing temp work for the USA team. So who do I support, apart from Bafana Bafana? Do I acknowledge that my grandparents came from England and my brother lives there? Or do I support the USA team because the US needs to get a clue about soccer and catch up with the rest of the world? Of course we'll have to put up with bolshy US Secret Service people escorting Joe Biden around the place, but is that any worse than the chaos created by the English soccer hooligans? Its going to be an interesting time. Will I be able to pluck up the courage to wave a US flag? I doubt it. Why is it the English team and not the UK team? More weirdness.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

WebHost4Lies: incompetence as a business model

WebHost4Life proudly proclaims two outright lies on the front page of their web site. The first is that they provide "99% uptime" by which they mean (presumably) that you can access your web site 99% of the time if they host it. Not so. See my actual measurements below:
Nowhere near 99%. That means that if you tried to visit a page on then in some cases you would have waited longer than two minutes for the page. That's when logs a "timeout". These measurements are made by an independent company with multiple testing servers around the world.
The second lie is that they are "powered by 100% wind energy". Wrong. They have diesel generators for backup and they get their power from conventional sources. Their "Green Hosting" page states
Since generating wind energy on site isn't feasible, we're offsetting all of our electricity use with wind-generated Renewable Energy Certificates
That's very different from being powered by wind energy. It's a bit like saying "I'm not a racist because I know some darkies who aren't racist."
So from now onwards I am calling them "WebHost4Lies" because that's what they do: they lie, either directly or by omission. It's part of their business model. If you don't like it then they are quite happy if you leave, because they have too many customers anyway, and their tech support staff are too overloaded to bother. They aren't delivering on their promise of "an outstanding customer experience" because they aren't enjoying "an outstanding employee experience".

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Celebrating 100 years of inept colonial bureaucracy

(Click for a larger image)
On 31st May 1910 the Union of South Africa was born. The former colony of the British Empire because a semi-independent colony. On 31st May 1961 the Republic of South Africa was declared, and we were no longer a colony but an independent racist state. In 1994 we got rid of legalised racism, but retained our glorious history of bungling government bureaucratic inefficiency.
In 2007 one aspect of this bureaucratic nightmare got a new name (eNatis) and two years later it's still eBroken. The queue above takes about an hour or so to process. There are big signs saying that the credit card machines don't work, and that they don't accept R200 notes either. Notice the TV in the top left of the picture. It used to display adverts to its captive audience, but that's broken too. There is a much shorter queue on the right for windows 11-13, where they will accept payment of traffic fines, but nothing else. I got the traffic fine because of the length of the other queue. Because I paid the fine first I couldn't pay the license fee. Go figure.
I tried to enter this door to get my Driver's License renewed, but they wouldn't let me in. I think they have more security guards than employees. Apparently their fancy new eNatis system isn't working and they are only processing 100 people per day. Doors open at 7.30 but get there early. The sign on the door says they closed yesterday at midday, but by 11am today they were turning people away. never mind the economic impact of denying people a valid driver's license. After all, the fine for an invalid one is a mere R1200. I will try to go back tomorrow.
One of the "benefits" of the eNatis system is that you can go to the Post Office to renew the license. The queue was a little shorter, but still took about an hour. The difference was that there was only 1 terminal instead of 5 or 6 (out of 10 counters) at the Licensing Department, and the Post Office employee complained that if she typed too fast the system bombed out. Now for a Post Office person to complain about a slow system speaks volumes, since they aren't that fast themselves.