Posts in category internet - page 5

Google Reader – contender for the online aggregator throne?

Screenshot of Google ReaderI wrote a while back about how Rojo’s upgrade was a disaster and that it had led me to look for alternatives.

Bloglines didn’t have the same feeling of a polished interface that Rojo has tempted me with but unlike Rojo but it has been happily consuming the feeds of all my sites and presenting them without fuss or issue since I started using it a few weeks ago.

I got back from London this weekend and found that Google has finally upgraded the user interface for their online reader offering to something on-par with some of the others (at last!)

Apart from looking like Google Mail it also has a great feature whereby as you scroll down items it highlights the current one and if you scroll past it then it assumes it has been read.

This is great compared to the “I’ve read everything in this group” button of Rojo and Bloglines “Well you clicked group X that had 100 posts so I’m assuming it’s read”.

Another cool feature seems to be the response time at which Google Reader picks up articles. It even picked up this article within 3 minutes on my little blog.

Of course the best part of all this is thanks to the guys behind OPML moving from one reader to another is just a case of exporting from one and importing to another – even groups are preserved.


The Scam: Winning a lottery you didn’t enter

The stream of spam, scams and phishing attempts increases day after day. Reporting phishing and spam inside Gmail is all well and good but it doesn’t help anyone outside GoogleMail nor solves the issue at heart.

I can only assume the recent increase in scamming and phishing is because either:

  1. It’s so successful more and more scammers are taking it up
  2. There are less gullible people to go around and so they are fighting to find who’s left

But how gullible are people to believe these emails? I somebody came to your front door and announced:

Hi, I’m from bank X! Can you just fill in your account details and passwords on this piece of paper for me. It’s ‘due to security concerns’ and look, it’s legitimate – there’s a bank logo at the top of the page.

Who on earth would believe them? And yet it works on-line even though lately the phishers aren’t even trying to fake an SSL or even obscure the URL.

Here’s another lottery scam to arrive in my inbox complete with comments. For those not aware the scam operates by convincing people they have won money in a lottery they never entered.

Once you claim your winnings you find there are fees, duties, taxes followed by an endless list of excuses and expenses. You may even be invited to claim the prize yourself at which point you could find yourself kidnapped and held for ransom.

What a win indeed.


Ah, the “International Prize Award Dept”. With a name like that how can anyone doubt their integrity.


Just in case you fell asleep since starting the message…

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the last final annual draw of our LOTTERY INTERNATIONAL Programs. The online cyber lotto draws was conducted from an exclusive list of 25,000,000 e-mail addresses of individuals and corporate institutions,picked by an advanced automated random computer search from the internet.No tickets were sold.

Hold on, no tickets were sold? Wow, they must have a mysterious benefactor who just keeps wanting to give away money then.

How advanced would a computer be to pick an email address from 25 million email addresses?

After this automated computer ballot, your e-mail address emerged as a winner in the category “A” with the following numbers attached Ref Number: GP 14-M-146-04,Batch Number: 573891545-NL/2006 and Ticket Number: PP 3802 /8707-01.

No less than three different long reference ‘numbers’…

You are therefore to receive a cash prize of $2,500,000.00. ( Two Million Five Hundred Thousand ) from the totalpayout.

Thanks for clarifying a 7 digit number was because I can’t read numbers that big. Clarifying the currency might have been more useful, what with the $ dollar sign being used all over the globe.


Made from all capitals and three exclamation marks so you know it’s real.

Your prize award has been insured with your e-mail address and will be transferred to you upon meeting our requirements, statutory obligations, verifications, validations and satisfactory report. To file in for the processing of your prize winnings, you are advised to contact our Certified and Accredited claims agent for category “A” winners with the information below:

Apparently my email address is now an insurance broker.

I wonder who certified or accredited their claim agents and in what. It certainly wasn’t in use of the English language.

MR.JERRY LAWSON Phone:+31 xxx xxx xxx


Ah, the international country code for the Netherlands, home to the lottery scam. A company that gives away millions of dollars operates of course from an individual Yahoo address – and one in Germany no less. I mean they couldn’t possibly afford a $10 a year domain name of their own.

Forwarding a copy to to get it shut down….

You are advice to provide him with the following information: Names: Telephone/Fax number: Nationality: Occupation: Age:

Sounds suspiciously like the start of an identity-theft set-up. Two scams for the price of one?

You are to keep all lottery information confidential, especially your reference and ticket numbers. (This is important as a case of double claim will not be tolerated).

Translation: Keep quiet, we don’t want your less-clueless friends pointing out this is a scam.

Members of affiliated agencies are PROHIBITED from participating in this program.

Affiliated with who? Law officials perhaps. I thought I’d already won anyway…

Furthermore, should there be any change of address, do inform our agent as soon as possible.

What? You never asked for my address so why would you care if it changed.

Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you for being part of our Promotional Program.

Thanks, I can’t quite describe how it feels.


Walter Jones.

Cheers Walt. Hold on who’s Jerry Lawson then?

Lottery Coordinator.

I guess scum doesn’t have the same ring.

Check out the 419 Eater for more information on these sorts of scams.


Rojo – how not to publish updates to your site

Rojo has been my favorite on-line reader for a while despite the annoyances and quirks but this weekends ‘upgrade’ got me wondering how incompetent the team behind it is and what exactly Six Apart have purchased.

There were a couple of problems before the upgrade – the one most users would have seen is the crazy unread counts which are almost always wrong – but you can learn to live with that.

The second problem was Rojo failing to pull feeds in – if you drill down and there’s nothing to read you are given the “This feed is failing” message which tells you zip about what they think is wrong.

In the case of’s RSS feed I was told by their support staff this was because they couldn’t connect to my server. GrinGod created a feed to my site’s Atom feed that was still updating so that excuse was shot down quite quickly.

It’s not just me either – major big blogs such as would sit for hours with the same message before springing back into life.

Then came this weekends upgrade.

I have some experience with publishing code to commercial sites. This is the sort of plan we use:

  1. Install and configure secondary set of servers
  2. Load software to be tested onto those servers
  3. Let internal testers loose on them
  4. Let trusted end users loose on them
  5. Run load testing software to ensure performance
  6. Repeat until it passes
  7. Schedule the switch with the appropriate teams
  8. Make an announcement
  9. Switch over to the new servers

But the team at Rojo went with a different approach. As far as I can tell here was theirs:

  1. Take current servers off-line with a notice
  2. Load software for 20 hours
  3. Bring servers back on-line

I certainly don’t see testing on that plan.

Even basic developer-level testing should have spotted that the lower “Mark Page Read” link is missing a javascript: prefix rendering it a useless link to a 404, the fact that the “Mark Feed Read” isn’t refreshing the page along with “Add Mojo” too.

“Show unread only” may as well read “Show nothing” as that’s what it’s doing.

These aren’t boundary conditions but primary use-case scenario’s that are failing.

To cap it all now every single feed has disappeared in the last half-hour.

It has been reported that Rojo have raised at least $3.5 million in venture capital so why their software development process looks like an inexperienced developer publishing from his laptop is anyone’s guess.


QXL disregard their own privacy policy

On the 16th of June an email appeared in my inbox with the subject “Love football, gambling and DVDs?”. Strange, the Gmail spam filter normally does a sterling job of blocking these.

Dear entertainment lover, It’s not long now until the first England game, and everyone’s talking about football and making bets. Well we at are no different but we also realize that there’s plenty of time between games for other forms of entertainment. “

A quick scan showed it was for DVD rentals from a company called ScreenSelect but claimed;

You have been sent this email as you have previously registered at If you do not wish to receive emails anymore please click here. To view our Privacy Policy click here.”

That’s strange, I clearly remembered unchecking these boxes so I shouldn’t get them. I logged back and in lo and behold both check-boxes to accept own mailings and third-parties were unchecked…

I fired off an email to about this discrepancy and got the following response;

Thank you for your email and we welcome your enquiry.

We have now removed you from all QXL mailing lists as requested.

Should you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind Regards


Which of course totally fails to address my question as to why they are ignoring their own privacy and mailing policies. I rephrased and resent my previous email – after all I shouldn’t hesitate to contact them.

That was on June 17th and I’ve yet to receive a response.