Category Archives: amusing

Compiler author demanded ownership of all programs written using his compiler

(from 1982. Blogged now because … the named individual who apparently came up with this scam)

http://imgur.com/a/P9kFa

(for those that haven’t been following: four years after Langdell tried to bully an award-winning iPhone game into giving him their money, using his invalid trademark to threaten legal action … the USPTO has finally started cancelling each of his trademarks. Trademark law is FUBAR: 4 years for a fraudulent(*) TM to be cancelled? Ouch.)

(*) – my opinion, but: read the case notes … he apparently committed blatant fraud to keep-alive a trademark that legally had already expired

Modem dialup noises … visualised (and transcribed)

Visual spectral diagram showing the noises modems make, and box-outs for what they’re actually saying:

…and Transcription for txtrs

Modem A: hey babe, you dtmf?
Modem B: u know it
Modem A: what u up 4 2nite? wanna v.8?
Modem B: i wanna ack u like my daddy net2phone use 2 ack me
Modem A: um ok… v.8 then
Modem B: lol jk, u comin?
Modem A: brt just gotta turn off echo suppressors n cancellers
Modem B: ok i wait
Modem B: my pcm is so modulated
Modem A: lol rly? u think u can handle V.90/V.92?
Modem B: D/A?
Modem A: …D?
Modem B: wtf no, im not into that
Modem A: lol jk we can do V.42 LAPM if u want im down 4 nething
Modem A: up to 3429 o/c
Modem A: u know i give as good as i get, ne way u want it, loud or soft, high or low, fast or slow, i got all the time in the world 4 u babe, my clock source is internal
Modem B: of course no 3429. and same 4 me. except i might lose track of time, lol
Modem B: and honey if u with me we gon be makin sum NOISE
Modem B: 6db at LEAST u know how i like it
Modem A: lol i hear ya, 3200 all nite long, the way u get me goin maybe we even go 2 4800 lol
Modem A: set ur pre-emphasis filter params n put on that 1920 hz carrier frequency i got u
Modem A: im here baby
[SCRAMBLED]

Virgin Atlantic – how to get them to phone you back

Here’s the magic URL, that you can’t access directly from the site:

http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/gb/bookflightsandmore/bookflights/callme.jsp

Huh?

In 5+ years of flying with Virgin, their online booking system has always, every single time, failed – and redirected me to a page where I get that link to get THEM to phone ME.

(which is useful, since the evil mobile network operators don’t like Virgin’s 08-something numbers, and turn them into premium-rate bills)

It’s a pain going to the site, going through the pointless online booking, knowing that you’ll end up on the “our booking system sucks, click here” page.

So I’m blogging this so I never need to do it again!

HSBC’s web team: WTF?

Why does the login URL for internet banking:

http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/marketing/businessinternetbanking

…redirect to the newsletter for global investors:

https://investments.hsbc.co.uk/article/world-selection-newsletter

?

Do you *want* people to think your website has been hacked?

Or do you just not know what a cool URI is?

I think your VP Marketing / Marketing Director needs a slap upside the head…

4 reasons NOT to install iOS 6

As a developer, I’ve been using iPhone’s since they first came out. I have to test my apps on every version!

iOS 6 is the first version of iOS “post Steve Jobs”. But it’s terrible – it seems to be a 2nd-rate product rushed out by a small team of startup programmers, working from their garage.

As a developer … I’m dismayed. Consumers are famously slow to change (en masse) – but they are neither stupid nor indifferent. Their tolerance is high, but not infinite. The iOS 6 experience is going to force a lot of people away from iPhones. Looks like we’ll be doing a lot more Android development in 2013 than I was expecting …

1. It will DELETE your photos

Yes, really. You can recover them (from what I’ve seen so far: all of them) if you use backup recovery tools. But seriously: WTF?

Many google hits for this, plenty on Apple’s own support forums, with no response from Apple.

Or … it will randomly delete half your photos (happened to a phone I saw).

Or … it will REDUCE the quality of all your photos until they become tiny pixellated blobs.

AND … photos taken after you upgrade iOS 6? Forget it – they’ll be inaccessible too.

Deleting people’s photos is – commercially – unforgivable. I was amazed the first time I saw this happen.

2. It crashes. A LOT.

Until iOS 6, Apple’s OS was getting better and better with each release. I don’t *try* to crash phones, but it happens accidentally when you use the phone a lot. But iOS 6 is a total disaster.

  • iOS 2: took me 3 days to crash it
  • iOS 3: took me 3 weeks to crash it
  • iOS 4: took me 3 months to crash it
  • iOS 5: …never managed to crash it…
  • iOS 6: took me 3 seconds to crash it

    To be clear: this is through normal usage, nothing special, nothing “developer-y”.

    The iOS 6 crash was 100% reproducible, triggered by simply moving an icon on Springboard to a differnt screen, and then hitting the home button. Wow.

    3. It removes GPS and Maps from your phone

    Apple’s “Maps” app simply Does. Not. Work.

    iOS 6 REMOVES Google Maps, and there is NO WAY to get it back.

    So, now … unless you buy an additional “mapping app” (and there are none that are as good as Google Maps, unless you spend a huge amount of money), then … that GPS chip in your phone, that’s part of the cost of the phone? For most people it’s now a hunk of useless metal.

    In the last 10 years, very little in mobile phones has changed the way people live their lives quite so much as the instant availability of detailed, accurate, maps with GPS no matter where you are on the planet.

    Apple says you can “use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.”. Wow.

    4. You cannot return to iOS 5

    iOS 5 worked. It was stable. It had a GPS! and Maps!

    …but Apple forbids you from running it if you ever install iOS 6.

    As a developer, this has been a recurring nightmare: we had to make sure no-one ever upgraded a phone – even by accident. (as a developer: you test your app on every old version of iOS that you can. Not just on a simulator, but on each physical phone)

    Now consumers get to find out quite how (unnecessarily and unfairly) painful that process is…

GitHub User-Interface: admission of failure?

Screenshot taken straight from the official blog post:

You see, they wanted to add a feature where you could “watch” a repository.

Only … due to some weak design (or perhaps: technology-led) decisions in the past, they already had a feature with this name, which didn’t really do what it claimed to do. Rather than fix it … they added a meaningless button that does what the existing button (Watch) pretends to do. So now, when you want to watch a project, you must NOT CLICK the Watch button, with its excellent icon, but instead the “burning lump of gas” button. Um.

Here’s a hint: if you’re designing a UI, and at any point you decide:

“STARS! Starring items is the answer!”

…and the question was anything other than “how do we Rate items?”, then: you’re wrong. Try again.

(PS: they’ve also fixed the extremely annoying long-time bug that people could raise Issues, or Comment, on your repository – but you’d never find out, again because of technical decisions / implementation issues on their system. Apparently alll fixed now. Yay!)

Unity: spamming game-developers?

So far this week, from Unity3d, I’ve received:

  1. A “personal” email asking me to respond if I want to know more about Unity4.
    • When I replied, I got an auto-responder saying “I’m away for two weeks and will not be responding to email”; which reminded me this account manager had told me they’d be leaving a few days *before* I received the email “From” them
    • So, I re-forwarded my email to the named “in my absence, speak to” contact – no response
  2. A few days later: a new “personal” email, again asking me to respond to their marketing push for Unity4, but this time from the “in my absence” contact
    • This despite no response to my email I’d already sent about the last such email from Unity
    • And, again … when I replied … no response

If someone’s on holiday – no problem there, of course!

If someone’s ignoring your emails *responding to their marketing* … and then “personally” sending you marketing emails days later … that’s mildly offensive.

If the company is sending out fake emails that pretend to come from people who – by the sounds of the auto-responder – were already out of the office and not responding to email … that’s definitely offensive.

I think Unity needs to do some a bit of work re-thinking their spamvertising – sorry, I mean – their marketing.

Firefox 3 dead? StackOverflow ends support completely

StackOverflow.com now blocks anyone running Firefox 3.x (probably not deliberate – just someone wrote some bad code and didn’t test it?). But it’s interesting that sites that decide to go anti-HTML and pro-AJAX/JS can so easily break their whole site, just from some errant JS code.

(it appears to be some new pieces of crappy javascript that cause the AJAX requests to fail on Firefox 3 – and ALL THE BUTTONS AND FORMS ON THE SITE ARE DISABLED. Since you can’t click on anything any more, that makes the site unusable)

WTF is an Archveult?

One of the peculiar distinctions of Jack Vance’s writing is that he vomits obscure words onto the page as if he’d just eaten a dictionary that severely disagreed with him. Sometimes he seems to be parodying his characters – but other times he happily does it for himself.

To be clear: I’ve never seen him mis-use or abuse a word. When you know what all the words mean, it’s a joy to read (although he uses very few words – preferring to use the exact correct – single – word … than to use 10 more commonly-known words to describe the same thing)

Many of them I know – although I know that most people don’t. But at least as many I *don’t* know – although I do recognise them as genuine English words.

And then, occasionally, you meet an Archveult. And then it gets interesting.

JustF***ingGoogleIt: Google: Archveult

The only dictionary hit I could find was an evil bit of SEO that claimed – in the lies it told Google – that it held a definition for the word, but actually just provided a page that said: “I think you mistyped XXXX instead”.

Next step: commercial, offline, paper dictionaries. Real ones, Shakespearean ones, etc.

In the meantime, my best guess – and this is rather funny if true – is that it’s a deliberate portmanteau of “Archmagician” and “La Reyne le Veult” (the Royal Assent). Because the only story I’ve found it in so far (where the word is used repeatedly) is about an (almost) all-powerful woman attempting to conquer the universe by turning all men into women.

(and read the story before you get too excited by that)

Filed in “game design” because … well.

Toshiba’s “failed vs. Apple” marketing

I feel sorry for Toshiba; they make good products, but their marketing
seems to belong to a much smaller, poorer company.

Take this advert, from April 2012, when Apple is already far along with shifting their whole laptop lineup to “ultra thin” MacBook airs (rumour suggests the non-thin models will continue to be phased out next cycle – doesn’t matter so much for this post, but if true, it adds extra emphasis to the post):

…and compare it with Apple’s photo from the same period:

Apple’s problems

The iPad 3 is considerably heavier and thicker than the iPad 2. This is a pain for users, but for Apple Marketing it’s a disaster. They’ve been fighting to prevent people equating “iPad” with “low power, low utility, inferior Laptop”. The iPad 1 had a fair go, but struggled. The iPad 2 went a long way to achieve it with it’s ultra slim/light/long battery life.

With other companies (e.g. Google) we’d assume that Apple did intensive market research on iPad 1 vs iPad 2, and found that weight didn’t factor into the purchase decision much. Given this is Apple … I expect it was an internal decision instead. They decided that the sheer awesomeness of the Retina display meant the pain of the weight + thickness would just have to be accepted. Personally, I agree: the Retina makes such a huge difference that it’s a no-brainer to buy an iPad 3.

(NB: even with the considerable increase in weight, and in battery quality, the iPad 3 has a considerably shorter battery life than previous iterations)

So, what does Apple do?

It’s not a bug, it’s a feature: Apple redefines Reality

All previous Apple marketing for iPad/iPhone has included side-on photos on the front page. iPad 3 is the first to use an isometric view – not just on the front page, but *everywhere*.

APPLE LESSON 1: If it’s bad, hide it.

The photo they use is EXTREMELY poorly positioned. The iPad 3 is contorted, the image is squished by perspective, the flower image looks terrible.

But you won’t notice any of that (unless you’re a product-photographer). No, you’ll notice HOW THIN IT LOOKS!

Apple carefully chose the angle to use perspective to hide the actual width of the product. It’s just shallow enough an angle to make it appear that you’re seeing the width – but just deep enough an angle to hide most of the width. (recall that the iPad 2 and iPad 3 both have a very deep bevel on the underside).

Apple also carefully chose the lighting: white iPad 3, ultra bright lights (my gut feel is these are even brighter than normal in Apple ads, which is very bright to start with), even the photo of a delicate thin flower (see what they did there?) is itself over-exposed a little. The iPad itself seems to almost … disappear … on the advert.

APPLE LESSON 2: If it’s really bad, make a photo that lies.

Toshiba: Fat, dark, and ugly

Let’s revisit Toshiba’s photo:

  1. the angle TRIPLES the width of the lid
  2. the angle DOUBLES the width of the base (look at the extreme bottom right edge – the base appears to mirror around the white hilight stripe)
  3. the inside is DARK, with HEAVY, THICK, DIRTY lighting
  4. the shadow underneath the laptop is ALMOST AS THICK AS the laptop itself, and coloured DARK BLACK

OK, so I could forgive poor colour scheme – marketing had no choice in that.

You could (maybe) forgive the stupid choice of perspective – maybe the laptop just looks ugly at any other angle. Or maybe they “needed” to show the ports on the side (if so, they failed: the lighting is so bad you can’t see the important ones).

But … who in Toshiba Marketing approved a photo with a black shadow underneath that makes their “thin” laptop look considerably thicker than it is? There’s no excuse for this: it’s a terrible photo (should have been rejected during the photo-shoot) – but it’s a catastrophically bad piece of marketing.

TOSHIBA LESSON 1: ?

Cloud Computing: Google Translate has stopped speaking Chinese, and we can’t get it back

Finally, I worked out how to type pinyin on a mac, using only the keyboard.

Nǐ hǎo!

Only, GoogleTranslate acts like a prick, and pretends it has no idea what you’re saying. This, Google, is just silly:

(for comparison, I tested – if you hit the “switch” button, and type “Hello”, you can copy the output, hit switch again, and Google still pretends you’re talking gibberish)

To add insult to injury, if you don’t manually hit the “Turn OFF instant translate”, it keeps manually switching the From language … to English. Every time you type a letter, it reverts to “English –> English”. HOW MANY WORDS IN ENGLISH EVER USE ACUTE, GRAVE, OR CIRCUMFLEX? Sigh. Not very smart.

Worst bit is … this was working fine a couple of months ago. Then Google “rewired it”, and now it’s broken. My friends at Google say this (constantly breaking things, never letting the user keep a working version) is “good” and “the future” because it puts control into Google’s hands: one version, on all desktops. If this is the future of Cloud Computing, Cloud Computing is dead and buried already… Version control is not a “feature”, it’s a right.