MSN Mess

I’ve been having problems with my Mac for the last couple of working days. It’s been really, really slow, and everything drags and takes an age to do. I work it hard, and have a lot of things running together so I couldn’t easily put my finger on the cause. So I had a look in the activity monitor and what did I see labelled in red? A Microsoft application. Bloody Microsoft MSN Messenger was using 98-99% of my 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor, which is impressive for a supposedly tiny instant messaging app. I killed it and all is good.
This explains to you why I may not be visible on messenger…
2006-10-10--Msn Mess

Disconnection disconnections

How hard is it to cancel a service via modern company phone systems? I recently signed up for a contract with TalkTalk after discussion with a sales rep as to how it would cut my phone bill. After studying my phone bills in more detail and finding a £3.95 monthly charge that would appear after 3 months of use (no-one mentioned that) I decided to cancel. I rang TalkTalk several times during the 10 day cancellation period, each time choosing the options that would take me to the appropriate cancellation department. Each time I failed to get through to a real person because: 1) “sorry all our operators are busy right now, call again later” disconnected… 2) I was just randomly disconnected with or without being on hold, 3) “sorry but that international number is not recognised” disconnected (after connecting to the TalkTalk phone system). When I did actually get through to a real, live human being it was because I had not chosen the cancellation options, but picked sales. That’s rather dodgy, isn’t it? Of course that real live human person then had to transfer my call to the “cancellation department”. The first time I actually got through to them (the third person I spoke to) there was no record of my contract yet, so they couldn’t cancel it. The second time I was transferred to the Carphone Warehouse, and after holding for 8 minutes was told that they (of course) could not cancel a TalkTalk contract. I was given a direct number to the cancellation department. Could I get through? Not a hope. Days went by repeating these processes, and the 10-day window cam and went. I gave up trying, as I’m sure was the intention.
So now I am a TalkTalk customer. Oh, how happy am I?
I just rang Orange to cancel my contract. Well, actually I don’t want to leave Orange entirely, just drop the contract and swap to pay-as-you-go because I use my phone much less now that I’m not commuting. So I carefully followed their phone system’s options to take me to the cancellation department. Can you guess what happened? “At Orange we value your call and the quality of our customer service, and your call may be monitored and recorded for training purposes”… disconnected. Aaaaargh!

Teen Horror Films

I’m watching “House of Wax”, and as usual I’m rooting for the killers. It must be my age, but the kids in these films annoy the hell out of me. They’re rich, sexy, sex-focused, moronic, insensitive, stereotyped, serial-killer-fodder. I’m just glad the secretive nutters that prey on them keep coming up with new and interesting ways of killing them. It doesn’t help that the psycho in this film looks like a short Ozzy Osbourne, making the chase scenes a little Benny Hill, and I keep expecting to see Scooby Doo sitting in amongst the waxworks hiding from the killer.
Should I be worried about this (not the Benny Hill thing, the rooting for the killers thing)? I think I just see through the Hollywood tricks (direction, camera work, special effects, etc) too easily unless the film draws me in properly. The George Romero nods at the beginning didn’t help with that. Truly original horror films still freak me out.

Scan scan scan (cont)

Naturally, after yesterday’s network installation of new virus scanning software to my work PC nothing works now that I’ve rebooted. I’ve spent most of this morning either waiting for File Explorer to wake up or trying to view an Excel sheet. I’m seeing a lot of those joyless “(Not Responding)” tags on the end of explorer windows. Fun.

Scan scan scan

I’m not PC bashing, really I’m not, and I do understand some of the problems of running the same operating system as 90% of the rest of the world. You see my office PC has just had a network-delivered install of Symantec anti-virus software. This is on top of the Windows Defender beta, Zone Alarm’s software firewall, Ad-aware, Hijack This, SpamBayes’ anti-spam software and who knows what else. My PC always seems to be scanning itself for spyware, viruses, trojans, malware, spam, iffy cookies, adware and the rest of it. Scan, scan, scan. Really there’s no wonder I gave up on the PC as a platform for getting any work done on.

No XBox360 for me

Some of the reasons why I won’t be buying the XBox 360:
Microsoft really seem to have missed the point AGAIN. Lots of people may sway towards the 360 as a living room multimedia hub, but not if it is noisy, not if it doesn’t interact with existing kit, and not if you can’t do basic internetty things with it.
The reason I’m looking at this is because I’ve been playing with Media Player 10 for the last couple of days on my home theatre PC. I normally use iTunes to rip and tag my music, but it doesn’t put album art into the folder for XP to see, so my music and video organising software Meedio shows ugly folder icons instead of pretty album art. Media Player will solve this, but I have to right-click each album and ask it nicely. If I leave Media Player running it leaks memory and freezes. Nice. I regularly forget how much hard work Microsoft software can be. I’ll give up with that and download a nice simple piece of third-party freeware to do the job instead, no doubt written by a very competent 13 year old.

In the gutter again

People suck.
I had a short cycle on the road today, on my way home from work. Just 200m or so from the gates at work to the cycle path. Believe it or not, that was almost enough to get me knocked off my bike. Impressive, eh?
In that short distance on a dual carriageway with a 40mph speed limit only 4 cars overtook me, but 1 of them decided that as a cyclist I shouldn’t be there, I should be on the cycle path. Unfortunately he wasn’t psychic, otherwise he would have known that was my target, but on that stretch of road a steep bank of grass separates the road from the path. Instead he was moronic, and overtook me as close as he dared, even though he had all the room in the world, forcing me into the gutter and my arms into the air in an exasperated, “What the f&*k are you doing, dickhead?” He saw my display and pointed to his left, but I wasn’t sure if he was suggesting that I should be in the gutter or just pointing out the lovely sea view.
I know you guys think that you are far better drivers than the average Jo, and seriously believe that you could give Coulthard a run for his money, but that’s just not high quality driving. If a copper sees you he’s going to pull you over. Worse, if you do clip that cyclist (we’re often wobbly if the surface is poor) he’s going to end up in hospital with at least some broken bones and you’re going to end up in court shelling out a lot of cash with a very red face. What sort of argument is, “It’s not my fault, he should have been on the path”? A good driver will anticipate cyclists and adjust to overtake well in advance. We’re really not holding you up as much as you think we are – several seconds at most (count them next time). The road is usually faster and has a smoother surface, and don’t forget we pay road tax too.
Tolerance. A little bit does a lot for humanity.

Valentine’s Day

I hate Valentine’s Day (sorry Kim). Actually, that’s not totally true, I’m just very, very annoyed by Valentine’s Day. It all feels so false, contrived, cheap and tacky.
I guess when you’re single it can be fun (or can drive you to suicide or a killing rampage or both), but I don’t really remember that. (Being single that is, not the killing sprees.) Kim knows I love her, and I occasionally do something that will remind her of that. But a card on Valentine’s Day? What the hell does that mean anymore? Usually it means, “I bought you this card because if I didn’t your feelings would be hurt”, which isn’t really what you meant to say at all, was it? Dinner and flowers? The cost of those two doubles or triples because of the date. Shouldn’t you do things throughout the year to show your partner that they’re special? I doubt any of you disagree with me, so tell me, what is St. Valentine’s day for? Is it just a reminder to blokes, giving them a chance to redeem themselves after the crap Christmas presents they gave to their partners?
And is it correct that we’re really celebrating his death, like most saints? And how on earth did sexual love become linked to a martyred priest or bishop? Answers in the comments, please.
Is it for the ladies? Kim certainly genuinely enjoys the card I give her. But even the ladies seem sceptical these days.


Over the last couple of days the interior of my house has been getting its third paint. You may remember that they rushed the job to get us moved in on time, and then had to repaint the whole house from top to bottom to bring it up to standard, because the previous painters had done such a shoddy job. They had completely forgotten to paint the back of the bathroom door at all, for example. So they re-glossed, re-emulsioned, re-painted all the ceilings, and did a very good job.
Now cracks have started appearing, which are not due to the house settling or drying, but seem to be appearing because the paint is crap. The impressions of tacks are starting to appear in the ceilings, and the tape used in the corners of walls and ceilings is moving to show the seams. So they’ve been re-skimming these areas to smooth out the surfaces, and now they’re painting it all again. I think they’re using a different paint this time. So the house is dusty and smells of paint, and Kim has been cleaning up the dust each day. Annoying. And it’s all magnolia again. We can’t paint the walls in the colours we want until the house has properly dried out in a year or so’s time. I guess I had better get some of my photos printed up so we can frame them and put them up on the walls. Maybe this one? (Click for a larger version.)
New50Mmlens Home Svw 061

Comment Spam on the Up?

When I sit down to write a short blog entry, a list and number of recently posted comments is included in the login page. Usually I don’t have any comments (poor me and lazy you), but recently the comment spam has been on the increase. Comment spamming is the use of automated programs on some evil spammer’s computer to search the web for blogs and to post comments that include the spammer’s advertiser’s web page and keywords. The aim of the game for the money grabbing scum of the internet here is to increase page rankings within major search engines for their clients. You see, the search engines have their own automated programs (bots, spiders) that crawl the web searching for all those keywords that you’re going to tap into your search bar sometime in the future. When the search engine’s bots read those keywords and web addresses, that website’s ranking will go up in the search engine’s list. Of course the spam ruins the feel of the person’s blog, filling its pages with adverts to enlarge your penis or reduce your mortgage.
Anyhoo, most modern blogs, including the engine I use to run my website, allow the blogger to review all submitted comments before they are posted. I can easily delete all comment spam before it appears on the web, and that makes me feel kind of good inside. Like I got one over on the spammer. The truth is, they don’t care. Their bots hit so many blogs that the payoff is likely to be positive for them, and they can make a lot of money. However, if we all delete comment spam then they’ll have to look elsewhere.
Usually I get a few spammy comments a week. The last week or so I’ve been getting maybe a dozen every other day. Today I had 186. What’s going on? Is comment spam rapidly on the increase or have I just been “found” by a particularly persistent bot? It’s a little worrying.
On the flipside, I think the amount of email spam I’ve been getting has been going down. Has yours?