Honk if Pluto is a planet (and if you HATE the Windows startup sound!)

August 25th, 2006

WindowsJust reading Adrian’s post over on Hardware 2.0 about Microsoft’s intransigence by in future not allowing us to turn off the Windows start up sound in Window Vista.  It seems it’s all about branding and we’re supposed to hear the sound – enjoy it even – whether we want to or not.  I’m definitely on the side of not, having been subjected to PCs running Window’s Vista at home and at work making that damn noise day in, day out for months.  It’s not branding, it’s noise pollution and not allowing users to switch it off is audio terrorism. 

Imagine an office full of Vista machines starting up, all making that nasty little jingle first thing, and then intermittently throughout the day as they need rebooting (let’s face it that sound is already synonymous with Windows crashing!)   Imagine being a patient in hospital in a ward where the computers at the nurses station and the doctor’s offices are all doing it.  Or what happens next time your laptop crashes when you’re using it to take notes during a meeting or in a lecture theater?    I swear murders will be committed, possibly in my house!

I’d thought up till now it was a bug with Windows Vista and that one morning, possible soon, after downloading and installing the latest and greatest build, I wouldn’t start the day by being jarred from my slumber by that hateful noise.

PlutoI guess you can tell I’m pretty steamed about this!  Likewise a lot of people are surprisingly steamed about the loss of Pluto as a planet and are creating their own noise pollution, accordingly.   Listening to some of them (and even some of the sensible folks) you’d think that the dear icy rock that we love so much had drifted from of its distantly erratic orbit out into the Kuiper Belt never to be seen again, rather than merely being downgraded from full planet to the lesser designation of dwarf planet.  It all makes for some pretty funny reading.  Lots of folks seem to have some pretty mixed up ideas about how long we’ve had a planet Pluto anyway, but they sure seem to identify with it.  Perhaps it’s a sign of how folks are feeling these days and maybe we’re all a little afraid that we might just lose planet status in our own lives some day soon…

If we could rule the world by consensus, sentiment and sheer vehemence, Pluto would be upgraded right to gas giant!  So, I too think Pluto at least deserves to stay a planet, out of respect to the gentleman who discovered it, Clyde Tombaugh, not all that long ago in 1930.  And since the textbooks will all have to be rewritten either way now, perhaps we should instead have some new planets added.  At least that would all give us some new information to learn, rather than having to unlearn something.

So yes,  if we can rule the world by consensus, rather than by shadowy meetings of Astronomers in Prague (or developers in Redmond!)  I will honk for Pluto being a planet …  just as long as we can tack on a resolution to get rid of that damn Windows Startup sound!!!

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Love is … never having to say I trust you not to mess up my WordPress

August 6th, 2006

Oh he of little faith!

It’s nice to know he trusts my skills!

Live Messenger Yahoo Contacts Bug

July 20th, 2006

Windows Live Messenger now allows you to add your Yahoo contacts too – great news!  

One bug I’ve found with it is if your Yahoo contact is in the UK, then Live Messenger seems to think they have a .com email address rather than .co.uk address, and although you can chat with your Yahoo contact just fine, if you send email to them at that address it gets bounced.

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Blackmail Pop-ups? Whatever next…

July 19th, 2006

I was on About.com earlier looking for a link for a class I’m teaching, when I got this popup:

About.com popup screenshot - click for larger image 
[click for larger image] 

What caught my eye with this one was the language … Sure it’s not the first such popup to say it’s tracked all the adult sites it says I’ve visited (which I must point out indignantly, I haven’t, but that’s not the point) this is the first one I’ve seen that seems to be quite so blatant in threatening to compromise my career and my marriage.  Should I be expecting the cyber equivalent of some 50s private eye in a trench-coat to come sidling up to me armed with a brown paper envelope and saying in a husky voice that he’s ‘got the negatives’ some time soon?? 

Hmmmm.  It’s certainly taking on a different tone … but then psychology and social engineering are the greatest tools in the hackers, spammers, and online scammers’ arsenal these days, praying on our fears, weaknesses, greed and guilty consciences too. 

Another issue I have with this type of popup appearing on a legitimate site is that it is aiming to trick you into thinking it’s a legitimate error message from Windows.  I expect you’ve seen this type of popup before, but where do you click to get rid of it?  If you’re suckered into thinking it’s a Windows message (and you don’t have a guilty conscience about having visited any adult sites lately) then cancel will probably be your first choice or the red X ‘Close’ button.  In this instance both of these take you to the software that tries to download on to your computer, as does the OK button. So once you’re in  there’s no way out.  Better double check the popup blocker’s on!

I’ve gotta say I’m really not impressed with About.com having these type of ads.  I’ve linked to them many times in the past from online classes and blogs, but I won’t be doing so in future …

Update: Adrian checked it out and he got a different popup and get this About.com actually downloaded a trojan onto his PC.  Definitely off my list of sensible trustworthy sites!

Back from my blog Vacation…

July 13th, 2006

OK so I didn’t actually go anywhere.  Just didn’t feel like blogging.  But just because I didn’t feel like blogging, didn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about blogging, just that the words never made the conversion from brain to keyboard. 

So what have I been doing?  I built a new PC, which I’m very pleased with.  Well I love the performance I’m not overly in love with the case.  It comes with a smart door on the front to hide up the drives and the on switch etc, but I’m not overly big on appearances, so I whipped the door off so that I could get to the DVD drive easier and the combined card reader, temperature & fan monitor, USB & firewire port that I installed.

It’s been good to be goofing off for a few weeks while I installed everything as well as putting the system through some hard-core Oblivion benchmarking!  

(currently leading a couple of video and digital photography classes over at CNET )

Browster thoughts

June 3rd, 2006

Browster is an interesting little plugin for both Internet Explorer and Firefox that I came across today via Roland Piquepaille at ZDNet. Browster is free to download and easy to install, which is always a bonus.

But, while it is very handy (particulary with blogging in mind) to be able to see the entire content of a link without moving to that page, I do have my concerns specifically in regard to Browster’s prefetch function.

For example if you’re searching for a term that has an alternate meaning, Browster is by default set to prefetch all those pages turned up in the search results. Let’s face it we’ve all at one time or other searched for a word or phrase then thought better of it once we saw some of the unsavoury search results that were returned! In that circumstance I don’t like the thought of the targets of those links being downloaded to my hard disk.

Legally that’s another issue again. Theoretically, prefetching those pages (caching them to your hard disk) would be a criminal act and could land you in a heap of trouble. I seriously doubt the law would make the distinction between pages that were automatically prefetched by the software and something which was deliberately and consciously downloaded.

Think I’ll be turning off the prefetch option!

    Updated to add…

Google Adsense and Browster
If you run Google Adsense on a website you will probably be aware that you mustn’t click on your own ads. Doing so violates Google’s terms and conditions, and Google can and will track you down! When I click save on this WordPress post my browser will refresh to the front page of my site where my Adsense appears. Browster will prefetch all the links on that page, hence my predicament. On the upside Browster doesn’t seem to be displaying the little icon above the link that indicates that I can view the entire page by hovering over it when I hover over the Google links, but I still can’t be sure that the pages haven’t been prefetched. Need more info!

(There is a partial answer to the question of ads on Browster’s forum suggesting that possibly ads are blocked ‘by design’, but again this needs more clarification as they may be referring to whether or not the plugin is designed to deliver pop up style ads to the user, rather than whether ad blocks such as Adsense are excluded from the hover to view function.)

As Blarney rightly pointed out yes my Google ads are being prefetched, so this is more serious than I thought. Not just due to the issue of prefetching (which can be turned off), but also because it can be difficult enough at times not to accidentally click on my own Google ads, it’ll be even harder still not to accidentally hover over them … thus opening out the Browster window and racking up a click-through.

For me, I think it’s time to uninstall Browster … shame because I do think it’s rather cool. But it represents too much danger because of:

  • the issues of unintended unsavoury content being downloaded,
  • the possibility as Adrian pointed out of opening sites which have active content that could be malicious
  • the risk of getting kicked off Adsense for ‘clicking’ my own links via prefetch or by accidentally hovering over Google ads


How to tell the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0

June 2nd, 2006

This is so true!

WordPress 2.0.3

June 2nd, 2006

The WordPress team have released an updated version of the WordPress blog platform.  WordPress 2.0.3 includes the following updates:

  • Small performance enhancements
  • Movable Type / Typepad importer fix
  • Enclosure (podcasting) fix
  • The aforementioned security enhancements (nonces)

Upgrading should be a pain-free process of overwriting files and running a database upgrade when accessing the admin panel.

Adrian’s got a new blog over on ZDNet

June 1st, 2006

Exciting news today. Starting today Adrian will be talking about Hardware in his new blog over on ZDNet. No he’s not abandoning PC Doc; the two sites will complement each other very well, I think.

Go for it Adi!

Click to run an ActiveX control on this webpage

May 31st, 2006

It seems to me that Microsoft is always very good at covering their own backs but not so good when it comes to protecting the user.  How many times do you see a Windows Genuine Advantage update come in that’s out of step with Windows Updates (even when there’s a serious vulnerability about)?  Quite often, I find.

I feel the same way about the changes that Microsoft made to Internet Explorer is response to the patent dispute between themselves and Eolas Technologies which basically meant that you have to click to run certain kinds of ActiveX.

Click to run an ActiveX control on this webpage

I have a question though – since Microsoft decided that pestering the user with a dialog box was a good way to go in this case, why not add a second option to the dialog box – a Cancel option.  That way users would get the option whether or not to run the ActiveX control.  It might make people think a bit more about security issues surrounding ActiveX.

Additionally, as far as most users were concerned, Microsoft introduced this change silently.  One day users just start seeing this box appear.  Think usability!  How about some help people?  We’re already telling people to be on the lookout for suspect dialog boxes and you introduce one without making it clear what it’s about.  Sloppy.

Read more …

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