July 2006

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New Rules

  • 2:28 PM

On behalf of the committee, I would like to announce the following addendum to the rules. These rules should be inserted into appendix 4.1: "Even Irony has an Expiry Date".

For more information, please read the "How To Play" guide that was provided with your Internet access.

  1. If you refer to the Internet as 'internets', you lose ten points.
  2. If you refer to the Internet as 'intarweb', you lose fifty points.
  3. By the multiplicative rule, 'intarwebs' is an immediate five hundred point penalty.
  4. The committee's decision on 'series of tubes' references is pending, but be warned that after something is mentioned on The Daily Show, it's not an in-joke any more.
  5. If you turn an adjective into a noun ("That is just too much awesome for one person to handle."), you lose five points.
  6. If you turn an adjective into a noun, then use it as an adjective anyway ("That is the awesome."), you lose fifty points.
  7. Any variation on OMGWTFBBQ is immediate loss of game.

The penalty for confusing "lose" and "loose" remains the same.

Last week, the weirdest thing happened. Photo-sharing site Flickr went down for maintenance for three hours. By the time they came back up, people liked them more than they did before the system crashed.

How did they manage this? By holding a colouring competition? Well, not entirely.

  • They promptly explained what was going wrong
  • They reassured everybody that their data was safe
  • They made it clear that they were working hard to fix the site
  • They showed empathy with those people who were inconvenienced

Knowing that Flickr has a storage problem and need to move twenty terabytes of of data doesn't help me in any practical way, but it reassures me that somebody knows what the hell is going on.

A Flickr Pro account (the competition's sole prize) costs $25. The competition was a token gesture in every sense, but it was a humanising gesture. Everything about Flickr's message turned them from a faceless website owned by a big corporation into a bunch of guys and gals who were just as upset about this as you, and were working hard to make things right again.

Now to the aforementioned big corporation.

This morning, I couldn't log onto Yahoo! Instant Messenger. And as far as I could tell from an informal survey of people I could find on other networks, neither could a lot of other people. You wouldn't know this from visiting the Yahoo or Messenger homepages, though. They remain cheerfully oblivious.

(Addendum: Yahoo! IM ended up being down for about five hours or so. No explanation or even public acknowledgement of the problem was ever forthcoming. It's at times like these that I'm so happy that instant messaging is still dominated by centralised services with single points of failure.)

My friend Danna is a marine biologist. She has also been obsessed with squid since the age of thirteen. I asked her opinion of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie:

Danna: As you can imagine, I was pleased with the strong cephalopod theme.

Charles: I thought you might be upset by the reinforcement of negative squid stereotypes.

Danna: This might be another "take what I can get" moment.

I was somewhat upset that the Kraken had all those teeth instead of a beak, though.

Charles: Well, lots of teeth are scarier.

Danna: I'd have to disagree, having spent a couple of weeks getting very personal with jumbo squid beaks. They're very, very sharp.

Charles: I'll take your word for it. I've never been personal with a squid before.

Danna: That's probably just as well. Ink and mucus isn't for everyone.

After mostly-not-seriously Googling for a way to build a Faraday cage wallet to protect my overly promiscuous passport, I found:

"We slept well for the first time since 1998. The high pitched tone in our ears is much less under the canopy and we feel much less nervous. It's a wonderful feeling to be under the canopy"

I renewed my passport today, an act that makes me a proud new owner of a chipped 'ePassport'.

A short office discussion about what one could do with a high-tech passport was derailed when one cow-orker suggested that it could be used in an emergency to request urgent consular assistance, like a kind of bat-signal. The thought of being rescued from possible foreign disaster by a latex-clad Alexander Downer was a little too much for our brains to handle.

On one hand, my government assures me that the information encoded on the RFID chip in my passport is perfectly secure, and can only be read by authorised personnel. On the other hand, The Register points out that the Dutch equivalent, which was presumably built to the same international standards, has been cracked, and that while I carry this passport my personal details are probably available to anyone within ten meters with the right equipment and some patience.

(Like most things in El Reg this is probably exaggerated for tabloid effect, but the more serious analysis is still quite off-putting.)

I'm tempted to write to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and ask them, in the light of this information, what steps I should be taking to shield my passport from unwanted radiation. However, I suspect that even asking such a thing, let alone turning up to the airport with a passport wrapped in tinfoil, would put me on some list somewhere of People With Something To Hide.

What delightful times we live in.

Apple have been taking a lot of stick over heat issues on their new Intel range of laptop er, notebook computers. Even after you've cleared the air vents of your MacBook of the plastic strip they forgot to remove in the factory, Apple still warn you not to keep it on your lap for too long.

Which is why I was amused to receive this little marketing gem in my .Mac inbox over the weekend:

The New MacBook. Knows all the hot spots.