Archive for July, 2006

Quote of the week: July 31st, 2006

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Self-scanning checkouts

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

A few local grocery stores here have self-scan checkouts, and they still have cashiers standing at the bag-area in order to prevent you from shoplifting. The store has also used the existence of the self-scan area to actually reduce the number of cashiers on duty, so the regular lines are pretty long.

Many times I have been standing in line at the cashier, and the ‘wandering’ cashier will come up to me and say “You can take your stuff to the self-scan”. I use the usual reply:

“Do I get a discount for using the self-scan?”

Of course, they say there isn’t, “Well, then I’ll stay right here then”.

As far as I’m concerned, if you want me to do your job for you, I get a discount. Otherwise I’ll stay in line and make you run every item over that scanner. All the self-scan is is an excuse to not pay cashiers. Demand a discount if they don’t want to pay people to checkout your stuff. My least favorite part is the produce. I picked up several onions once, and, no, I’m not an expert on onions. The computer wants to know which of eight types of onions I’m buying. Hell if I know, the round ones.

The store is wasting my time so they can cut their head count. Screw them.

Here’s a suggestion. Scan a dozen items, and then walk away, throwing up your hands in frustration, saying “I can’t believe this store wants me to do their job for them!”

Don’t pay, don’t try to take your “purchases” with you. If a manager sees you do this, tell them flat out that their “self checkout” sucks, and you will not waste another second in this store that has no concept of “customer service” and that you are taking your business elsewhere.

You have every right to decide at the last minute that you don’t want to make the sale.

You now have a self-checkout lane that is effectively blocked until a real live human clears out the items from the machine and from the computer tally. That human will probably also have to restock the items, although those items may simply go into a queue area for people whose job is to restock. Either way, it allows you to vent your frustration and make a point. AND… since a real employee has to get involved, it makes the machine slightly less able to become a cost saver.

Heck, have a group of friends “slam” all the self-checkouts this way as a form of organized protest. Include people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, etc. Do it a few times to a store before the management refuses to let you enter the store, and then go on to the next store. Or…do it to a bunch of stores, round-robin, returning to a store a week and a half later when some other manager is on duty. Lather… rinse… repeat. If possible, tell the local news station or newspaper what you are doing, and see if you can get other people similarly frustrated to join your cause. The more people doing this, the better!

It’s called “customer feedback.”

Government meddling with something they don’t understand…again!

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Yet another bill that makes no sense. That’s right, the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that can easily make anyone a criminal.

The quick and easy summary:

They passed a law that made it so when “describing” your site using HTML tags, it can’t be using “misleading words”. Well, there is no specific definition of what is misleading and, of course, there is no list of these words. Oh yeah, and it’s punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Must be an election year…

The examples they give for this new bill are “Using Barbie in search criteria and getting porn results”. Well, I’m sorry, but take that up with the search engines or perhaps turn “Safe Search” on (google, MSN, etc). Otherwise, don’t let your kids surf the net by themselves – I don’t need laws to do my parenting for me because you can’t satisfy your parental duties.

For example in IE you can set an option on the Advanced tab to not search from the address bar. Or you could install NetNanny or something similar. I know these aren’t perfect options but a little public education and parental responsibility seems to me to be a better place to start then passing laws like this. This isn’t the first law to try and do something like this and it’s getting out of hand.

Again the cries of “someone needs to think of the children” seem to drown out all common sense and parental responsibility. As long as people insist on Congress playing guardians to their children we will continue to see our rights eroded as legislation such is this is eventually used for other then the intended purpose.

Here are some arguments:

First of all, why would a porn site “trick little kids into visiting pornographic sites by using meta keywords” in the first place? Little kids don’t have credit cards.

Second, there is no way to legislate this because the English language simply has too few words to express all there is to express.

Third, while they’re making their “list of words”, be sure to include something about using a meta tag like “bush”, and implying a fetish for pubic hair on an adult site. For some reason, I’m thinking that word will be left out of any “lists”.

Fourth, how common is it to visit a porn site when you where really looking for Barbie dolls or anything else for that matter? It’s not something that has ever happened to me. The only time I see porn on the internet is if I go look for it.

I’m sorry, but with Senators like Ted Stevens trying to describe the internet, the last thing we need is for them to pass laws on it. Said Stevens: “They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”

That’s right folks…the internet is just a series of tubes. Good thing we pay these people insane amounts of money to come up with fluff, feel good legislation instead of dealing with the real issues (illegal domestic spying, Iraq, privacy, etc)

Here is the actual bill:

SEC. 703. DECEPTION BY EMBEDDED WORDS OR IMAGES.

(a) In General- Chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 2252B the following:

`Sec. 2252C. Misleading words or digital images on the Internet

`(a) In General- Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 10 years.

`(b) Minors- Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the Internet shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 20 years.

`(c) Construction- For the purposes of this section, a word or digital image that clearly indicates the sexual content of the site, such as `sex' or `porn', is not misleading.

`(d) Definitions- As used in this section--

`(1) the terms `material that is harmful to minors' and `sex' have the meaning given such terms in section 2252B; and

`(2) the term `source code' means the combination of text and other characters comprising the content, both viewable and nonviewable, of a web page, including any website publishing language, programming language, protocol or functional content, as well as any successor languages or protocols.'.

(b) Table of Sections- The table of sections for chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 2252B the following:

`2252C. Misleading words or digital images on the Internet.'.

AT&T wiretap lawsuit dismissed

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

This is referring to the lawsuit started by the ACLU arguing that our constitutional rights had been violated by the actions of AT&T and the NSA.

Article here.

“The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government’s intelligence activities”

In this case, we know what they are doing and that it’s wrong. A credible witness has come forward and told us about wiretapping, which violates the fourth amendment by violating your right to be secure in your home and private papers. What’s missing is proof of the extent of the crime. It’s not if they were doing something wrong or what that wrong was, GWB has admitted it, it’s how much wrong was done.

Shutting down the investigation for “security” is outrageous and disgusting. They might as well tell us, “if we have to get search warrents to violate you, the terrorists will win.” There are laws against domestic spying and they are being violated.

I’m very disturbed at this ruling. It seems like the slippery slope we’re riding on, that of trading freedom for security, is not going anywhere good. But, more than being disturbed, I’m confused about two things.

(1) Quote: “He also said Terkel and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which sought class-action status, had not shown that their own records had been provided to the government. As a result, they lacked standing to sue the government, he said.”

Okay…this lawsuit is fundamentally about secret wiretapping, right? So how can the judge say “you don’t KNOW that you were wiretapped, so you can’t sue” with a straight face? _NO ONE_ knows whether or not they have been spied on. THAT’S THE ENTIRE FUCKING POINT!

(2) How can the judge possibly say that “news reports amounted to speculation and in no way constituted official confirmation that phone records had been turned over.” Isn’t Bush getting in front of a podium and denouncing the liberal media for revealing state secrets enough of an “official confirmation”?

I’m partially bitching about the sorry state of affairs here in the USA, but I’m also asking a serious question: Is this shit for real? Is there anyone, anywhere, who wants to defend it? Seriously, I know some hard core conservatives. I’d actually like to see how some of them view this ruling… does ANYONE want to defend it?

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Ben Franklin, 1759

VISTA

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Had to get this off my chest…

Viruses
Intruders
Spyware
Trojans
Adware

ahhhh….I feel better….

Write to the RIAA

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

If you have decided that you think that the RIAA’s practices are all too similar to racketeering because rather than press charges they give you the “opportunity to settle” before they “press charges” feel free to write them…often:

Recording Industry Association of America
Frank Creighton
1020 19th St., NW
Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: (202) 775-0101
Fax: (202) 775-7523
Fax: (202) 775-7253

(He’s the contact person for prosecution of violations of intellectual property rights).

Most phone-based tech support sucks

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Like when I called Charter Communications for a friend because their cable modem kept dropping its connection for a day at a time, every other day. Both times I called, I suggested it was a line problem, the second time because I had actually looked to see what the signal strength was when it managed to connected.

Some of the amazing things that were asserted to me:

* I needed to turn off the computer, even though there was a wireless router between me and the cable modem, as that might have some bearing on whether the cable modem was able to find a usable channel.

* I needed to plug the computer directly into the modem, even though I already had the very same cable modem HTTP diagnostic pages we were headed for pulled up on the wireless laptop through the wireless router, as though those were a figment of my imagination or somehow flawed.

* I have to power-cycle the cable modem anytime I change the plug in its Ethernet port so that the computer plugged into it will be able to discover it. Amazing advances like hot-plugging 10Base-T and DHCP apparently don’t exist.

* The cable modem’s signal strength indicator “usually lies”, even though it amazingly registered just about exactly what a physical test of the line showed on a following service call.

While some of these steps were probably in the tech support checklist, I suspect the tech support workers were filling in the reasons behind those steps with their own misconceptions. I’ve taken to simply lying to the tech support person when I can tell a step is totally pointless, and that shouldn’t be necessary to get prompt resolution.

The sad truth is that many of those staffing front-line tech support are clueless, too, just at a slightly higher level.

* One last bonus one. Okay, this wasn’t Charter, but my phone company when I was checking out their new DSL product a couple years ago. This “technical” guy I was transferred to insisted that you couldn’t put together a LAN behind a Linux-based router and share an outbound Internet connection because–not in his words, but what he feebly tried to explain–that the HTTP requests would serialize, each computer waiting for other computers’ HTTP requests to finish before theirs began.

I can’t really blame the people though – it’s the companies that hire them and expect to obtain/retain good employees regardless of the fact that they pay sub-par wages. As with most other things – you get what you pay for.

Quote of the week: July 24th, 2006

Monday, July 24th, 2006

I was calling to sign up with a new DSL provider. When the guy asked what operating system I was using, I said, “Linux.” I was put on hold for five minutes, and then a supervisor came back and told me, “You can’t use Linux to connect to the Internet. It’s a hacker tool, anyway.” I almost fell out of my chair.

Quote of the week: July 17th, 2006

Monday, July 17th, 2006

If vanity is a sin, isn’t it a sin to dress in your Sunday best to go to church? Or is that respect? Who decides where the line falls?

Why switch to Linux? Applications.

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

Posted on Slashdot:
Besides why would anyone switch to linux? The are few to no applications.

Surely you jest.

Don’t even get me started on games