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Archive April 2003
Tuesday 29 April 2003
Cor blimey, my laptop has shipped. Anyone taking odds on it having the wrong components when it arrives? [06:47] [4 comments]

Friday 25 April 2003
About time! My laptop order has finally changed status. The first change since the order was placed, on April 4th. (Other than the "delayed" status change, which is really more of a lack of change.) The web-status now predicts a ship date of May 9th, though the phone person today said April 28th.

It seems that the best way of dealing with Dell is to repeatedly phone them and bug them about things. So many corporations seem to work on the basis that if you're not complaining loudly then you're satisfied, no matter how badly they're treating you. No wonder the society is litiginous, when nobody cares that their service is unsatisfactory until you start making legal threats. [22:17] [3 comments]
If you have a domain that gets lots of spam, or if you have a domain that you don't use for mail at all that you could get added onto spam lists, here's a nice anti-spammer idea I just had.

I've noticed that a lot of spam is being sent using software that just goes through every mail exchanger for a domain, so if you have a secondary mail server (as a backup) you get an extra copy of the spam. When configuring the DNS for a domain, you can configure whatever mail exchangers you want. So, if you have a domain for which you no longer wish to receive any email at all, why not configure it with a whole crapload of non-functional mail exchangers?

Any email (which should now be only spam) sent to the domain will go through trying to send to each of the entire list of MX servers. Ideally, those machines won't exist, so it will take 30 seconds or so to determine that each connection is non-responsive. If one were to configure just 20 MX servers for a dead domain, and get 20 email addresses at that domain onto spam lists, that would be over 3 hours worth of spam not getting sent, and at virtually no cost to your bandwidth (just the DNS request). I have now done this to liveandfrivolous.com, configuring it with mail exchangers in the non-routable address ranges to make sure that only the spamming machine and its network are troubled by it. So, if any email address collecting robots want a go, here's some addresses: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20. I realise that some spam-sending programs will do all the addresses at one domain in a single message - even so, they'll be inconvenienced, albeit less so, by the list of duff MXes. Hoorah! [18:39] [7 comments]
Hoorah, an evil snail-mail scam, perpetrated by one icls.net. A letter from them that very closely resembles a bill or invoice. Only very small print says "This Internet Listing offer is provided to millions of Websites throughout the United States to enhance their Website exposure. This is not a bill, invoice or statement of account due. You are under no obligation to make a payment unless you accept this offer". This "offer" being described only in the form of something that looks like an invoice, and doesn't resemble an offer at all. I don't doubt that domain managers for large companies glance at this, see it as an invoice, and sign off on it. $37.50 gets you "Domain Name submission to 14 major search engines; Eight Keyword/Phrase listings; Quarterly search engine position and ranking reports". ie. $37.50 gets you something less than you can get from any of several free websites. And it seems you don't even get to specify your eight keywords/phrases (no doubt because offering a box for that would reduce the "resembles an invoice" effect). What absolutely fucking disgusting scammers. [05:50] [21 comments]

Thursday 24 April 2003
Hooray! Not only do Dell tell me my order is delayed, but the subject line of the email is "First Notification of Order Delay". I wonder if that's intended to imply that there will be more later. [00:34] [2 comments]

Wednesday 23 April 2003
Learn the Tai Chi long form from a cartoon poster. It's the easiest way. [19:16] [0 comments] Hoorah for turning bloody guts into black gold. Now all we need is a way to turn the inevitable resulting black rain into food or something. [19:14] [0 comments]

Tuesday 22 April 2003
An entertaining idea for practical jokes; reverse Van Eck Phreaking. Using strong electromagnetic fields to interject information into electronic signals. Forging information onto the victim's screen. Lots of scope for amusement, from the obvious "YOU HAVE A VIRUS" genre, to semi-transparent disembodied heads mouthing words, or, by using it in conjunction with standard Van Eck Phreaking, replacing small pieces of text in offensive ways. This process should be dubbed "Van Eck Phreaking Out". [04:43] [4 comments]

Friday 18 April 2003
Er. Google sent me a blanket. Because it's their birthday. Or possibly the birthday of Google Answers. It's quite a nice blanket; soft non-itch-causing black fuzziness with a Google logo embroidered in the corner. But it's still a blanket. That they sent me. [04:38] [10 comments]

Thursday 17 April 2003
This is moderately diverting. 13 levels before I got bored of it. Test your puzzle solving skills and patience, at the same time. [15:35] [15 comments]

Wednesday 16 April 2003
I have a theory of social measurement. I think McDonalds advertisements are representative of the prevailing attitudes in the country in which the ad runs. Most notably this set of parallel ads (summarised with an eye towards the hidden focus) seem representative:

England: "Are your parents divorced? Lie to them so that you can get two burgers in the same day!"

America: "Screech obnoxiously until your parents capitulate and take you to McDonalds."

Australia: "Do sports, then ask your parents to take you to McDonalds as a reward." or "Keep quiet if your parent starts to take you to McDonalds under a misapprehension, and only mention it afterwards."

Certainly the prevailing attitude in America, with regard to child-rearing, is one of capitulation to the manipulative techniques of whining or screeching, and subtlety and deception are certainly staples of a normal English upbringing. I can only hope that positive and negative reinforcement really are staples of an Australian upbringing.

An example of how these attitudes would tend to manifest would be the different ways a parent will deal with a non-compliant child. (Australia example is second-hand, since I haven't been there yet.)

England: "Not coming? Okay, stay here." (starting to walk away) (turning back again) "Look, we really have to go."

America: "Not coming? Okay, stay here." (starting to walk away) (Child starts to screech and cry and wail) (parent returns) "Oh you poor dear! Did mommy frighten you?"

Australia: "Not coming? Okay, stay here." (starting to walk away) (Child starts to cry) (Child realises that parent is still walking away, stops crying, scampers to catch up.) [08:27] [28 comments]

Tuesday 15 April 2003
From discussion of Kevan's link to an analysis of what makes good text adventure games, I found myself at a sometimes-entertaining list of the various responses adventure games give to the ancient magic word xyzzy.

I was inspired by the design-tips with several ideas for ways to fly in the face of the advice in ways that would remain entertaining. Most notably:
Practically speaking, this means that the player should in theory be able to complete the story without using any information gained from fatal dead-ends. An obvious violation: hiding a magic word at the bottom of a (full) well so that you see it just before you drown, and pass it on to your next game-incarnation.
The above made me want to write a reincarnation-based adventure, where you would explicitly have to die repeatedly to solve some puzzles, and then would have to retrieve your previous corpses in order to reclaim necessary objects. No, wait, it didn't; it made me want to magically create such an adventure without having to spend time on it. XYZZY! [20:45] [13 comments]

Friday 11 April 2003
Fantastic. Randomly on the subject of being hungry and eating people or paper (two readily available resources where food was not), I wondered whether it would be possible to print out edible pictures of people. Indeed it is; edible flavoured inkjet inks and A4-size rice-paper. I'm sure there's a market for that somewhere.

Also on the subject of incredibly frivolous products; in consideration of lack of snow in Australia, and wondering about an alternative to visiting snow-prone places, I thought there might be such a thing as a small-scale snow machine; indeed there is; $4000 for a snow machine seemingly capable of covering a ten feet by ten feet area in two feet of snow overnight. [09:34] [44 comments]
BEEEES! 80 million bees escaped onto the I-95 median. "The cargo was worth about $10,000." That's just over one cent per hundred bees. If I'd known bees were that cheap, I'd have, ooh, ten thousand of them.

"Witnesses said that the moving truck slammed into the rear of a motor home and then caught fire." Like a cartoon. Crunch. "Phew, that was close." Woof.

"...a semi tractor trailer carrying several cases of hives..." That must be a very nasty-looking trailer.

Do all news story undergo MST3K analysis this easily? [04:04] [3 comments]

Tuesday 8 April 2003
Just encountered a rather nice alternative answer to the annoying "glass half-empty/glass half-full" pessimism/optimism dichotomy. The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

If I encounter such a glass in reality, the glass is just 'of'. [05:57] [17 comments]

Monday 7 April 2003
I haven't posted anything political for a while, but hooray for John Kerry. Send him supportive mail. [01:44] [13 comments]

Saturday 5 April 2003
Grargh. Stupid stupid stupids.

The exact same laptop I ordered a few weeks ago is now $160 cheaper and has a $250 mail-in rebate. It also doesn't have a huge lead-time associated with it. So of course, I cancelled the original order that hadn't shipped yet and put in a new one, at the proper price. I suppose they probably get away with charging the "pre-order" hiked-up price to a lot of people, though, or they wouldn't do it.

Dell's online ordering system is a bit pap, too (I know, I said that before, but there's more), what with not actually creating an order number, nor updating the status page when an order is cancelled over the phone (though clicking on the "InProduction" status does go to the "this order has been cancelled" page - so why does it still say "InProduction" on my main status page? The database obviously knows this is not the case.)

On second thoughts, cancel that 'grargh' and perhaps replace it with a 'hoorah'; $410 saved from the foul murky maw of The Dude. [00:29] [39 comments]

Friday 4 April 2003
Hm, looks like maybe Dell's projected insanely long lead-time is a gross overestimate so that one can be pleasantly surprised rather than irked with them being late; it's been 'only' 18 of the more-than-40 days, and the laptop is now past pre-production (which I think was originally suggested to be still up for another two weeks or so), and past three of the four stages of production too. Bizarrely, the future timestamp estimates haven't changed correspondingly with the earlier one having been completed early, so it's now suggesting that "Boxing" and "Shipping Prep" will take 27 days.

I hope that doesn't mean I'm now a low priority because of being ahead of schedule, but rather is just laziness with updating. [04:13] [0 comments]
Now who's out of order?

Someone's idea of civil disobedience consists solely of inconveniencing the populace. I thought that, when dissatisfied with the government's actions, you're supposed to inconvenience the government. Anyway, this is the aptly named Out Of Order Project.

The site quotes from some who have taken up the 'cause':
"Tomorrow morning, people will find that they're going to have to walk a lot further to find a 'working' ATM / phone / parking meter."
"Coincidentally, as I was waiting, have a fag and pretending to write a text message, some bloke walked up to the machine, card in hand, frowned and then walked off - success?"
Yes. Success. Congratulations, you have successfully inconvenienced a complete stranger who wasn't even aware that they were the object of a stupid prank. For the next act of 'civil disobedience', why not push a stranger from a train? [01:41] [15 comments]

Monday 31 March 2003
More lessons from the ankle:
1. Carrying cups of liquid and hopping are two activities that don't mix well.
2. Showering without putting any weight on one leg is difficult.
3. The "oof" noise that FPS computer games make when you fall too far is surprisingly accurate.
4. Discovering that the leg you've been hopping on also has a minor sprain is lots of fun. [04:56] [9 comments]