Monthly Archives: February 2005

Replacing the PSU

I need a new Power Supply Unit for my main PC. Why do so few people in this town seem to sell them? Or if they do, they’re not advertising effectively.

The local Dick Smith ran out yesterday (sometime between 4am when their web site stock level updates, and when I got there).

I had to hunt around, but seem to have found a retailer in the CBD that has a fair range (better than Dick Smith’s choice of one). Will have to go shopping at lunchtime.

The bandwidth hogs at allresearch.com

It seems like some others my sites are being bombarded with hits from a mob called AllResearch. Apparently one of the things they do is hit RSS feeds and suck down every page referenced, for some kind of indexing. Judging from the amount of traffic they’re burning up, they suck big-time, in fact. I mean, indexers usually put in a lot of hits on web sites, but these guys are hitting more than 10 times as much as the next one down the list, MSN.

These are the top hitters over at toxiccustard.com:

  • 45541 sp1.allresearch.com
  • 3448 msnbot.msn.com
  • 3110 index.atomz.com
  • 1328 crawl25-public.alexa.com

Time for a little .htaccess magic:

order allow,deny
deny from 38.144.36.
allow from all

Ad blocking begins to have an economic effect

So I was checking out copper (as you do), and followed the wikipedia copper entry link to EnvironmentalChemistry.com’s copper data, and I discovered that ad blockers are beginning to change the economics of the web. The web site whinged that they had detected ad blocking, and if I wanted to get the content I’d have to turn it off (and provided directions – which I followed, but it just turned out to be a bunch of atomic numbers and covalent bonds and useless crap like that).

The economics of a lot of the web are not dissimilar to those of free-to-air television; there’s a covenant between the producers (broadcasters/webauthors) and the consumers – we will let this stuff out to anyone, and you will consume our advertising. Advertisers give the producers cash to cover the costs of publishing. There’s a profit in it, and everyone’s happy.

Except that consumers have decided they don’t like the deal anymore. People are taping TV shows, and skipping the ads. People are using ad blockers in their browsers. The economics of the model are breaking down. I personally am behaving this way because I find the advertising increasingly intrusive and irrelevant, and thus annoying. The ads suck, for products that suck, and they’re shoved down my throat. So I avoid them. This is how a character in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact became the richest man on earth – by selling TV ad blockers.

The three outcomes I can forecast from this are:

  1. increased relevance of advertising (unlikely, the reason advertising is necessary is because of an inherent suckiness of the products, otherwise they’d be compelling)

  2. decreased expenditure on content provision (on TV, cheaper nastier shows – if that’s possible; on the web, uneconomic sites being pulled or at least not updated)
  3. product placement, which is a bit like 1, ‘cept different because it’s more about appropriate products in appropriate places

I for one have no idea how this will play out, but I’m sure advertising will get more subtle. It’s done that over the last century, and will continue to in response to increasing consumer sophistication. Perhaps advertisers will find a way to back off, and only offer their products to customers who want them; they certainly want to act that way, because it’s a waste of money advertising women’s sanitary napkins to the gay male viewers of Friends — unless they’re planning to fix their car’s leaky roof with one.

BTW, how did they figure out I was blocking their ads?

iPod prices drop

Well the advance warnings the other day were a bit muddled up, but Apple has announced new iPod models and a price drop in the old ones. I don’t have one, but I’m certainly thinking about it… if you buy one in the next little while, make sure you don’t pay the old price!

To me the full-size iPod appeals because you can literally chuck all your music onto it, and the wide range of accessories available. But the iPod mini (especially the new bigger capacity ones) appeal for the smaller size and longer battery life. Maybe I’ll go shopping.

Printer problems

About two metres from my desk at work, is one of those new multi-function polisprinter things. It’s been churning away all week, page upon page upon page. Most of the time the noise isn’t unbearable, but sometimes it does get difficult to concentrate. Whiz, whirr, ka-chunk, all week.

So yesterday morning, for the first time this week, I needed to print something – two measly pages. Do you think it would do it for me? Hell no! Some kinda of network printer server outage.

And what’s particularly annoying is Word didn’t just come back and say “hey, I can’t do it”. No, it sat there for about two minutes with the print dialogue hung, Word disabled, while it worked out that it couldn’t do it. Somewhere, there’s a timeout setting that’s set way too high. I reckon if it’s not working in 30 seconds, it’s not working period. I’ll go rummaging around in the settings.

Will corporate blogging go worldwide?

An article from The Economist on Robert Scoble, and the whole corporate blogging thing, and also revealing why Microsoft’s developer TV “channel” is called Channel 9. (And here’s Scoble on the tree in the picture in the Economist article.)

Corporate blogging has certainly taken off in the States. But will it be worldwide like personal blogging? Will it move out of the IT industry into other sectors? Does the rest of the world enjoy evangelising for their companies like the Americans do? Do companies in the rest of the world have that kind of online community that American IT companies do?

Indeed, since the IT industry is largely driven by American innovation, are there companies elsewhere that have the kind of geek following needed to bring corporate blogs up to the kind of readership where senior management consider them worthwhile?

Scoble is unrepentant, considering it inexusable for a corporate web site not to be doing this and making it clear it’s not technology for technology’s sake: it’s marketing, and feeding your web site with visitors.

Despite the global village, in some respects those of us in AU remain a little way behind the pack. Mick at G’day World talked on one of their recent podcasts about trying to set up a corporate blogging conference, and it seems to have died for now for lack of sponsors.

I recall that I saw URLs on US TV ads in early 1996. It must have been another year before they popped up in Australian TV ads. Maybe there’ll be a similar delay until corporate blogging takes a foothold here and worldwide.

Default passwords, iPod mini and mobile games

Common default passwords, most-used passwords, lists of trojans, all good stuff for the network admin or hacker. (via Office Weblog)

Hot rumour department: iPod mini to get a colour screen and a bigger drive, probably 5 or 6Gb, with a probable announcement next week.

This mob is selling well-known games adapted for mobile phone use. They vary from clone games like Packman to the apparently fully licensed stuff like Shrek 2. My kids are addicted to Midtown Madness 3 on the XBox… would they go for it in 2-D on my phone? Dunno, but at AUD$8, it’s not too exhorbitant. Might give it a try, when they get bored of Bounce Back.

Wikipedia down, and MyDoom hits again

Wikipedia down: We’re currently recovering servers from a power failure in our colocation facility. This means backing up 170gb of database on several servers and running recovery. Back soon. … Let’s hope they’re back soon, and that that rumoured deal with Google goes through. Despite rumblings of lack of accuracy, Wikipedia is still a terrific resource.

Another MyDoom variant (rumoured to be Mydoom.o@MM) is playing havoc with mail servers and networks, particularly in big corporations. This one puts SCR, EXE and COM files in Zips, and sends them around. From the sounds if it, there’s still enough gullible people who blindly open attachments that it’s spreading fast through corporate networks. Time to remind all your non-geek friends to take care around attachments. Happily for me, most of my family are running Macs!

Skype: good or bad?

Skype now has a momentum that makes it hard to ignore — almost anybody on broadband who is interested in dodging long distance call fees is now happily chatting away. And though it doesn’t always “just work”, it’s certainly good enough and easy enough that it has mainstream appeal, unlike most previous VOIP applications, at least the freebie ones.

But its proprietary nature has got some commenters hot under the collar. In this month’s Australian Personal Computer, Dan Warne takes a swipe at Skype (heh), and suggests we shouldn’t use it (not online alas). Ted Wallingford has a similar beef.

Personally, I’m just following the pack. I don’t have the time to look around for a good open source, standards-based alternative, and even so, would it have the critical mass of users that Skype has? A number of overseas friends are now on Skype, so I’m happy to have the client running, alongside Trillian — which is for my many ICQ contacts. Yes, ICQ. I also haven’t been convinced to switch to Jabber, the open source IM client… why would I? Only one person I know uses it.

It’d be great if Skype had embraced existing standards. They say SIP and other protocols weren’t good enough for them, and they had to go down their own road. But if likewise it would be a gesture of goodwill to open up the protocol, and get it ratified as a standard. Maybe when they’ve made their first billion.

The other night I had a surprise Skype call from a friend in Poland I haven’t talked to for about five years. It may have its problems sometimes, but by and large it does just work. And for me as a consumer, I’m afraid that’s more convincing than some open source, standards ideal.

WordPress 1.5

WordPress 1.5 came out overnight. Well actually it came out on Valentine’s Day, but they didn’t announce it until a few hours ago. From the sounds of it, there’s been a lot of work done on the template system, comment control, a way to make non-dated pages run in the system (ooh, getting more CMS-ey). All sounds rather good to me, and I’ll be checking it out and (all being well) implementing it on the blogs I run directly.