MonthJuly 2004

It’s nice to know it isn’t

OK, so this will be a dynamic result, but the Google News Search: desuetude reveals four hits right now. Seems like a lot, even if they stretch back two weeks. (Perhaps a daily “desuetude count” for the sidebar?)

Odd that three of them should be from the Guardian. (If you’re wondering what on earth I’m on about, here’s the definition.

And I have to say I’m very excited about the possibility that I could “Get the latest news on desuetude with Google News Alerts.” What – like that it hadn’t fallen into itself?

What’s the difference between a Blackberry and a smartphone?

A sub[-editor] asked me this question just now.

“Well,” I began. “The Blackberry…”
What? Doesn’t make phone calls? Yes it does. Can do email and browse the web? A smartphone can too.

I stopped talking. Fortunately, he only wanted to know what the difference in appearance was. Anyway, I figured out that the difference is that the Blackberry has a dedicated keyboard on the front.
At least I think that’s the difference, if there really is one at all. Anyone from Blackberry care to comment?

“Some lunatic with too much time and money on his hands disassembles the new device… and posts pictures”

OK, I’d been seeing the links all over the place, but it’s only when you take the trip over and read The Apple Product Cycle that you begin to laugh. And laugh. Marvellous piece of satire about what happens whenever Apple even farts in a gadget-y way. I particularly liked, umm, all of it; but let’s not go without including

“Taken completely by surprise at the success of Apple’s new gadget, executives from Dell or Sony or Microsoft appear on CNBC and offer vague suggestions that they are beginning development of a new product to compete with Apple. In its next issue, PC Week magazine publishes an article declaring that Apple’s dominance of the [insert gadget here] space is in jeopardy.
“Weeks before most users are able to hold Apple’s new gadget in their hands, “What features would you like in the next version?” discussions take place on Mac mailing lists. Mac-heads cook up droves of far-fetched, often bizarre ideas. A cursory reading makes it readily apparent why Apple executives pay no attention to their fanatical customers.” [Yup, certainly seen the latter occur all the time – CA.]

And one shouldn’t ignore the author’s self-description:
The author has been a Mac user since 1984… He currently uses a Dual 2.0GHz PowerMac G5 and a 12″ PowerBook G4. In spite of his loyalty to the platform, he finds most “Mac people” to be tiresome and annoying. He is pretty sure that if he had to attend WWDC or Macworld, he would wind up slapping the shit out of a bunch of people.

HTML?? What’s that?

Now, I’m the first to admit I’m pretty rubbish at HTML coding (what you see here is the result of those clever folk at WordPress) but I think they need to buy, rent or lease a clue over at Aquaminds. They make a product called Notetaker which I paid for – probably the most expensive piece of software I’ve ever bought and hardly used.

Occasionally they do updates. Well, fair enough. But look at the AquaMinds NoteTaker – Updates page.

Here you go: download the entire damn thing, 16.1Mb, for a 0.1 update. How does that make sense? Why not just have a small downloader with the changed files, which you drag+drop onto your old version?

And worst of all, the “Release Notes”. A 24k Stuffit file? (That’s equivalent of a zip file for you Windows readers.) Eh? Why not just have a link so you can read *online before you download* what’s new, so you can decide, rather than the dance of

  1. download
  2. expand
  3. click to open in different program
  4. peruse text explanations
  5. decide whether to download
  6. return to browser and click link. Or not.

Seriously, this is daft. I contacted them about this a while ago. Clearly my pleas were filed in the circular metal filing cabinet.

Update 18:03: OK, I downloaded it. I’ve put the changes into a comment – can’t be doing with filling up the page with stuff they should have done. HTML was generated from the file by Tex-Edit, the very fine scriptable free shareware text editor by Tom Bender.

Did you read about the USB vacuum cleaner?

This week’s Network features are up: Charlotte Ricca-Smith with this month’s best gadgets and my own take on, which also has a look at some of the errors embedded from birth in Outlook Express which won’t be fixed until Microsoft releases WindowsXP SP2.

Pop go the comments

Some slight changes – countdown to broadband (see middle right); also comments now appear in a popup window. If this is a problem.. umm.. it shouldn’t be, surely, unless you have a hyperactive popup blocker. Try clicking on the link and choosing to open it in a new window.

“Worse that Bill Gates doing the white-boy rap with Eminem”

Wow, Jim Louderback really skewers (Michael Gartenberg’s totally appropriate word, so why change it) the Portable Media Center/re in Another Dumb Idea from Microsoft. Selected quotes:

“The PMC tries to be good, but it’s so full of compromises it winds up being worse than Bill Gates doing the white-boy rap with Eminem.
The screen is just too darn small. Even relatively video-simple shows like Letterman will look terrible. You’ll barely be able to catch Dave’s smile, let alone pick out the gap between his teeth. But you’ll feel really emasculated when Courtney or Drew stop by because the, um, details you’ll want to see will be indiscernible from the rest of the background. You’ll never catch a costume malfunction on one of these things.

Plus the battery life is awful, and his description of how transcoding from your PC which recorded (you hope) the TV show onto the PMC is a hoot. As he points out very reasonably, why not just get a DVD-R recorder for the TV, burn the disc, and put it into a portable DVD player? Hell, why not just into a notebook? You’d save a ton of money and heartache.

OK, so I’m going on about the PMC (I’ll stop now until they ship), but people are going to spend money on it, and I wish they’d reflect a bit first. I hate it when people are betrayed by their lust for technology.

How Google News penalises exclusive journalism

Listened to an interesting talk last week by Matt Loney, editor of ZDNet UK, who pointed out an interesting trend for online news sites: being first with the news isn’t the best, because Google News doesn’t think something is worth listing as a news story until a few sites are running it.

But then Google News puts the most recent story at the top of its list. Which means that the site that got the exclusive sits at the bottom. And, people being what they are, they click on the top link. So that most recent posting, which is just following up the rest, gets the eyeballs.

That’s a complete inversion of what journalists have hankered after for years – the exclusive, the scoop, the ‘beat’ [US]. Now, the way to be seen is to have the most recent timestamp, not the first, groundbreaking story.

So Matt said that what many sites are now trying is simply reposting their story once it’s come to GN’s radar in order to push themselves up the list. Perhaps I should start an “unintended consequences” category; I think the murder of scoops by robot would come under that.

A quick survey: does anyone believe surveys?

I get at least one “survey” – sometimes two or three, depending on the season – from PR companies whose clients think that by asking 12 visitors to their website whether they have a pressing need for Product X, which by chance is sold on that website. Or else it’s “X per cent of people think dirty thoughts during boring meetings”. Er, are you surprised by that? News has to surprise.

Surveys, in general, have become pervasive among the stuff that gets sent out, and pervasive among the stuff that gets binned. Here’s why:
1) too rarely tries to find out stuff we don’t already know
2) doesn’t seek to highlight surprising findings; instead The Client’s desires get pushed upwards
3) not representative, because they have a sample that’s too small, or self-selecting. To be representative of the UK population a survey should have at least 1,000 randomly chosen people. That’s expensive to do. Self-selecting is asking people who come to a website “Do you like websites like this one?” Probably a lot of gambling stats are built on surveys like that.
4) not interesting. Sorry, but that’s the news test. Survey finds that dogs bite men: not surprising. Survey finds that men bite dogs: surprising.

My advice: save your money for something useful.

No, Google *isn’t* because of MyDoom [though I could be.. I *am* wrong..]

Amazing that some folk aren’t able to figure this out. Or maybe I just got exceptionally lucky linking to Scoble’s blog about what’s been going on with Google.

Anyway, to recap: someone subverted its DNS, which has now spread so that you keep getting the fake Google. (Notice how when you mouse over “News” on the Google page it doesn’t point to “”.

So here at 6.13pm is the BBC suggesting Virus blamed for Google problems. Sorry, people, but this fails the “thinking first” test.

1) has any virus managed ever to spread this fast?
2) the underground who mount DOS attacks increasingly do it for money. Has Google had an extortion note? (Ooh, must ask.)

I’m sitting here amazed that this isn’t all over the blogs. Or am I just reading the wrong blogs? Or is it that everyone’s so stunned by what’s happened they can’t make their fingers work?

Anyhow, you don’t knock 50,000 Linux servers off the Net with a single virus. That much is obvious.

Update 11.25pm: So, Google is saying that it was MyDoom. (Though there’s no press release on its press area – something they’ll have to improve as a public company.) I still don’t buy it. How do they explain the altered whois record at – which gives the output GOOGLE.COM.SUCKS.FIND.CRACKZ.WITH.SEARCH.GULLI.COM

To single out one record, look it up with "xxx", where xxx is one of the
of the records displayed above. If the records are the same, look them up
with "=xxx" to receive a full display for each record.

Last update of whois database: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 08:37:55 EDT

A bad whois spreads like poison in the well. A virus… well, howcome that didn’t take out Yahoo? They must have a pipe the same size. Something about this is not quite right.

And if I’m wrong (perish the thought!) then it really isn’t very clever for Google to get knocked off the Net by a virus’s first day. I’d not buy those shares.

Update 11am Tues: OK! I was wrong! Here’s the lowdown from Danny O’Brien of NTK.
From: “Danny O’Brien” ..Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2004 01:39:08 -0700

Nah. The whois stuff is just an old joke — “whois” searches for any DNS record that has in the title, and people have been filling the searchs with noisy subdomains for years — try whois Or whois, as the text below it indicates. …

Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. Wrong? Me? With my reputation?