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Google Web History? I’ll pass thanks…

Like lots of other peeps I was intrigued by Google Web History but for the same reasons Tim Anderson notes in a blog post yesterday, I had to pass:

To sign up for full Web History, you need to install the Google Toolbar. This is how Google gets a record of pages you visit beyond your searches. However, I have a minimalist approach to add-ons, especially those which run all the time. My reward is a more stable and better-performing operating system.

I mistakenly thought with this being Google it would just work automagically. Having to install an add-on seems so old school, but if think about it for five minutes, how else can they track and data mine what you view?

Also, as was pointed out, minimalist is good. I currently have four add-ons installed for Firefox (All-in-One Gestures, Download Statusbar, Tab Mix Plus and Web Developer) and I’d like to keep it that.

Plus I’m not so keen on this part of how Web History works:

Finally, Web History helps deliver more personalized search results based on what you’ve searched for and which sites you’ve visited.

Is that really a good idea? I want an unbiased search. I’d don’t want my search results to be restricted down based on previous searches and what I’ve visited. Surely the idea of searching is to help find something you don’t normally look at?

So that’s why hell has frozen over…

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has gone gold. Whoopee and stuff. After 6 years of development do I care? No, not really. I was really hyped up and interested in it about 2 or 3 years ago when Edge magazine ran a bunch of features on it but now in a post Gears of War world it’s going to have to be absolutely amazing.

Prey took a gazillion years to appear and it’s unique features over all the floods of FPS’s we’ve endured over the years were that you could walk on ceilings and fly around like a ghost. Oh and that you were a Cherokee. Great!

And this is why I don’t hold out much hope for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Games that are in development for years and years are usually a big disappointment.

However, I will probably still play it, see what all the fuss is about :).

Worst marketing email ever?

Update – 2007–02–27

The post below prompted an exchange of emails between myself and the companies proprietor, Peter Thomson. Peter was keen to resolve the issues I’d listed and from his initial comment on the site I emailed him further details. A full investigation was then undertaken and our replies via email are now listed in the comments.

Peter has done an excellent job of taking our complaint seriously and replying to all of the issues we had. Furthermore he took full responsibility and refunded the remainder of what we’d paid and you can’t say fairer than that. I think in our particular case we were just very unlucky with the service we received.


Valentines-eporttravelI received this wonderful shambles of an email today (pictured right) from eporttraveluk.com, the company we “hired” taxi’s from for our wedding / honeymoon back in September.

Whilst they may say they “love our customers”, that isn’t what we think of them. Far from it. The taxi that took us to the airport was nearly an hour late picking us up and probably would have been longer since the taxi driver was lost and I had to go out and find him to go give him directions to our house!

The taxi in the opposite direction was even worse. It was no where to be seen and when we rang to check they thought we landed the following day. It then arrived over an hour later and the driver then drove like an arsehole at over 100mph on the motorway, only slowing down when he saw the police. My 80 year old grandparents were visibly shaken afterwards.

I actually think they want to kill off their customers by leaving them at the airport to drink the diabolical coffee (it’s like warmed up pee that’s stewed for several days and then mixed with grit).

But lets ignore my rantings. If you received this email what would you think? It’s spam? It’s a joke? You’d probably not give it a second thought, but to me it’s a really weird thing to do, email people on Valentines day like that.

I suppose I should mention that we were refunded half of what we paid for the half arsed job they managed, but I would highly recommend not using their services.

The competitive world of SSL Certificates…

At work we have an SSL enabled site which basically means we’ve been stupid enough to pay hundreds of pounds for a text file that makes your web browser display a pad lock. I’m sure there’s some fancy pansy technology behind all the gubbins running it, but from my end it’s pretty simple stuff.

SSL certificates are issued for set periods (usually in years) and our said cert was up for renewal next month. VeriSign, the world’s larger supplier of text files, let me know about this last month by email and post. Repeatedly. And it’s pestering paid off handsomely because I renewed it for 3 years just to stop them pestering me any time soon.

I kind of wondered how many more emails and letters (and god forbid phone calls) I would have received if I’d have left it and renewed the day before it expired. But of course if I had, sods lord would have reared it’s ugly misshapen head and a delay would have occurred and our Citrix hosting would have fallen over in steaming pile as a result. A public stoning would then be in order and I don’t want to go through that again.

But the story doesn’t stop there, I got a cold call today from Digi-Sign also telling me our certificate was about to expire. Wonderful! I’m glad everybody knows. There was then some confusion whilst she explained she was from Digi-Sign and not VeriSign, and that we were using VeriSign and not Digi-Sign, but she wanted us to switch to Digi-Sign from VeriSign… and DigiVigiPigiSign something.

Anyway, whilst I enjoyed listening to her dulcet Irish tones I had to eventually admit I’d renewed last Friday. It felt like cheating, but you know you have to honest in these things. There was obvious disappointment, shortly followed by disbelieve and then the realisation that she was too late. Such is life.

So now I know why they cost so much. They really are just text files and a fancy padlock. What you’re actually paying for is to keep the marketing and sales departments afloat that try to keep you as a customer. Great!

And on a complete tangent, I really dislike companies that ring me up for “a chat”. It seems that whenever I evaluate software someone inevitably rings up and asks me how the “experience is going”. By doing that you’ve just lost some of my interest in the software. Just don’t do it.

Whenever I try software out personally I usually put in details along the lines of Mr. Squirrel at the Tree Tops so I don’t get followed up. Unfortunately, if it’s work related, I have to be sensible… although there was that one time when I did enter stupid details but by accident put in our real phone number and so someone rung up asking for Mr. Ironside in the Wheelchair Department. Oops.

Login to an expired Windows system?

So this chap comes up with a novel backdoor for getting at your files if you’ve been daft enough not to activate your copy of Windows in time so that it expires, which I though was great. However the resulting comments have turned into your typical cesspit of Windows hating, Linux loving asshats. 

The response is just so stereotypical. To fix Windows just install Linux. Great idea! How can an Operating System that has at least 30+ different distributions be a “fix” for Windows?

Why would your average Windows user want to use something where they can’t even decide on what the default GUI for it is? GNOME or KDE anyone? If they can’t even manage to activate Windows, how the hell are they going to install Linux? And would they get any help? No, it’d be RTFM stupid! What F**king Manual? There’s only a half written howto file?!

Linux is never going to achieve mass market usage (on the desktop) with such a twatish behaviour from it’s existing users. And to be honest, until that changes, I hope it never does.

As an aside, I do keep trying various distro’s to see how it’s progressing, but nothing has yet made me feel that I need to switch.

Sports Personality of the Year

Tara Phillips? Who’s that then? Oh, an equestrian. Yes, a real national sport that is! Pffft. I just can’t fathom the logic as to how she has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year when they were far more worthy candidates.

There were the likes of Joe Calzaghe (current WBO and IBF boxing World Champion, also amazingly, 42 fights with 42 wins), Phil Taylor (current 13 times World Darts Champion) and Nicole Cook (current winner of La Grande Boucle, the womens version of the Tour de France) in the short list. But what do I know, I think the result just shows the warped audience the BBC gets. 

Fortunately I’m not going mad since I’m not the only one who thinks it was a weird result.

Things that annoy me – #439

Websites that resize my web browser window, specifically Gears of War. They really bug the shit out of me. Not only does this site resize the window but if I have the nerve to resize it back, it then promptly resizes it down again. So a big thanks to the fuckwit who implemented that.

However, as always, there are ways and means to avoid should fuckwittery. Using the Web Developer Toolbar in Firefox you can simply select Disable / Disable JavaScript.


Tada! No resizing…

…erm, unfortunately disabling JavaScript permanently does break things like Gmail… oops. A greasemonkey script would probably be the best thing to do in this case.

Damn you Automatic Updates!

So I left my laptop on last night downloading some files off FileShack and went to it this morning to find it sat there at Windows login. I logged in and the oh so helpful Automatic Updates green shield was happily sat there in the system tray proclaiming it had just successfully installed various updates.

Great! I don’t remember turning Automatic Updates on, but I must have. I usually get it to notify me of updates and then download them myself via Windows Update because Automatic Updates gives this annoying dialog…


…which must have appeared whilst I was snoozing. If you click Restart Later and then leave your computer alone, it’ll automagically reboot itself. Very annoying.

Now you can just turn the service off but the blasted Security Center complains about it. However I found out you can tweak the dialog / auto reboot settings:

  • Click Start / Run
  • Type gpedit.msc
  • In Group Policy Editor navigate to:
    • Local Computer Policy
    • Computer Configuration
    • Administrative Templates
    • Windows Components
    • Windows Update
  • Now either tweak one of the following:
    • Disable No auto-restart for schedule Automatic Updates installations
    • Enable and set a big interval on Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations

Yay! No more stupid automatic reboots!

Info / screenshot from Coding Horror and The PC Doctor.

Pre-installed crap on a Dell laptop

So my shiny new laptop arrived yesterday and I booted it up to check it was all working as expected. It was, but I was disgusted by all the crap installed on it by default. Take a look at these two screen shots, one from Process Explorer and the other from Autoruns:

640mPreinstallProcExp 640mPreinstallAutoruns

In the ProcExp screenie the bottom four or five are processes I ran, but other than, that’s what is running after logon. I’m not really surprised since that’s what Dell do, but this is the first consumer Dell I’ve bought (the rest have all been work machines) and it seems to have a lot more chaff installed than I’m used to seeing. This week a colleague at work, also got a new laptop, a Sony Vaio, and that too came pre-installed with tons of useless crude.

Stuff like this annoys the crap out of me since you have to waste time removing it and tidying up, however in the case I just scrubbed the OS and started again with Vista (or at least that was the idea…).

6 weeks on…

…since the crash. So where are we at? Well, health wise I’m not bad. My bruises are mostly gone, same with the aches, pains and general stiffness but I still have odd lump in my stomach but they’re going. Unfortunately the rest of the process hasn’t been so quick or particularly pleasant. I’m still without a car of my own, and will most likely be for a couple of months. So I’ve nabbed Kate’s car until I get one since I need it to travel to work (which is 15 miles from home).

I’ve found it to be a very drawn out process (unfortunately going on honeymoon hasn’t helped since that gave the impression I wasn’t bothered) and when you’re looking for an insurance company you don’t tend to look for one on the grounds of how quickly they can get you back on the road when your car is written off, but a balance between cover and cost. 

But anyway, it took nearly two weeks to decide that the car was to be written off and this was because the cost of repairs (yes, they calculated it) was very close to the value they use as the limit for writing it off. Given I had a new car the logic is pretty simple. If the repair cost is more than 60% of the list price of car then it’s written off and then one of two things happen. A cheque for X amount is written or a new car replacement is given (the latter being some fancy option on my insurance policy), but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

In my case the car’s list price was about £17.8k whilst the repair cost was estimated to be £10.9k (yep, 10,900 pounds). 60% of the list price is £10.7k, so there was just £200 in it and insurers don’t like spending more than they have too, so I can kind of see why it took so long, but I had to keep calling the various parties involved to get updates since no one appeared to be talking to each other. In the process I heard a scary story of there just been a couple of quid in favour of repairing and that’s exactly what happened. Personally I’d have refused to take the car back (and I would have done in this case if they’d repaired it).

There have been further complications because it’s a company car, which means I’m not the legal owner of it and this caused lots of confusion to begin with. It also means the company I work for is involved, as well as a hire and finance company (who are the legal owners of the car). I’ll not go into too much detail because it’s complicated, but essentially it took another couple of weeks to sort out what they wanted to do. Plus my work will be out of pocket since we’ll need to get another car.

I’m also pretty pissed that the other party hasn’t admitted liability (their insurers are doing their own investigation into it). Their logic on this was that the diesel (or whatever was on the road) caused them to lose control of the car and crash into me so technically it wasn’t their fault. The police don’t see it that way and neither did the witness. If they had admitted liability straight away then I’d have had a hire car until I got a new car… and unfortunately until they do I’ll incur various expenses that perhaps I’ll be able claim back. 

And speaking of claiming… that means solicitors. Hmmm yes. Don’t get me started. I was assigned one by the insurers to start a personal injury claim (hey, everyones doing it) and spoke to them last week to just keep them up to date with progress and they couldn’t give a monkeys. Great! I’ve also been given a date for an independent medical exam in November but by then whatever injuries I have will have gone (hopefully?). Plus the fact the surgery is a good 10 miles from home in a place I’ve not been before… and if I didn’t have Kate’s car how would I (easily) get there?

What’s annoyed me most though is the amount of time and effort I’ve wasted having to sort this mess out by speaking to various asshats and incompetents given I haven’t done anything wrong! Plus it’s caused disruption at work. Fortunately, work has been incredibly good about it all and on the plus side, I’m slowly getting it all sorted!

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