Monthly Archives: June 2010

Facebook Scrabble unstoppable advert

Oh Scrabble, you bastards.

Facebook Scrabble unstoppable ad

This new advert appears when opening up Facebook Scrabble (the international version).


  • Total advert length might be 45 seconds or more
  • Sometimes it’s a video advert, sometimes it’s a moronic Flash game or one of those stupid “You have a new message!” mock emails
  • Looks like you can’t stop it until there’s only 15 seconds left. After that it seems a Continue button appears
  • For videos, once advert has buggered off and the game fully loaded, the player details don’t appear properly. The video advert has stuffed it. Everybody remains “Anyone”

Apparently we weren’t paying the adverts enough attention, now they want to shove it in our faces.

Way to piss off your users.

Looks like I can stop recommending Scrabble on Facebook to people.

Damn you Facebook

I just want to look at a photo a friend has posted. No doubt the app in question makes it very easy for my friend to post the photo, but it’s difficult for me to see it without handing over a bunch of control to the app.

Facebook Photo of the Day app permissions

Now, I know it’s not Facebook’s fault specifically, but c’mon, why do I need to give an application access to my Profile and details of my friends just to look at a photo? I don’t want to do that.

Surely they could change the FB API around so it’s easier to have simple interaction with an application (eg to just look at the photo, not post my own) without handing over this kind of permission?

But then the app wouldn’t spread so fast virally, would it.

The fact that this kind of stuff is so typical is not exactly training users to be careful about minding their privacy online.

Fortunately in this case, it appears that the app is just re-broadcasting a photo from the user’s existing collection of photos, so I’ve been able to hunt it down and look at it there.

Of course, it’s in the FB photos standard lowish resolution, no bigger copy available, but that’s another story.

Is Django MVC doing it wrong?

I’ve just starting fooling around with Django (a Python web framework), and was looking to produce a form. Bear in mind that Django doesn’t really do MVC, but follows the philosophy – separation of logic, representation and appearance:

class BookForm(forms.Form):
    title = forms.CharField()

def BookView(request):
    form = BookForm()
    return render_to_response('book.html', {'form': form})

With boot.html containing (amongst other things):

<form action="" method="get">
{{ form.as_table }}
<input type="submit" value="Search" />

Which is great! MVC, separation of data, presentation and business logic. Now, how do you get a CSS class onto that title field? CSS, being the way of separating out the presentation part of a HTML page from the data that’s embedded in it? As above, but chuck it in as such:

class BookForm(forms.Form):
    title = forms.CharField(

Seeing this crunched the gearbox in my mind. All that messy designer stuff, where they make things look nice, that’s worming it’s way into my business logic? Perhaps it’s not so wrong, as the business logic does indeed know that this is a title-field. But it doesn’t quite sit right with me. I’m not convinced it’s wrong, but if you were, you could instead do this in your CSS and HTML:

.title-field input {background:#ccC68f;}
<form action="" method="get">
<tr><td class="title-field"> {{ form.title }} </td></tr>
<input type="submit" value="Search" />

Which pretty much forces you to individually place fields — you get to specify the order of fields plus their individual CSS classes.

I’m not sure what the answer is here. Anyone care to enlighten this noob? Bear in mind that there’s a thing to magically tie a model to a form meaning you don’t even need to specify the fields in both the form and model, which you can’t use if you start tossing styles into each field.

Google’s buggy and annoying custom backgrounds

Google’s introduced custom background images for its plain search page.

You know what? I find it annoying. It’s just slowing down the page, and making it less readable.


And the clincher is… you can’t turn it off! Initially there’s a very well-concealed link at the bottom left to do it, but once you take a look at the options and try it out, that becomes a “Change background image” option, and there’s no way to remove it completely.

I’ve also seen it momentarily change to a “Remove background” link, but it doesn’t work — instead it changes back to a default picture.

Seriously, if I wanted this kind of crap, I’d use Bing.

Under Editor’s Picks, there is an option for a white background (as well as other colours), but choosing white is not very readable, because the writing has also been changed to white, with a grey shadow. For now, I’ve switched it to the blue one, which isn’t excessively bad, but I’d like it gone completely.

Mashable has found there are a couple of not-very-convenient ways to turn it off:

Go to

or use HTTPS, eg

Attn: Google, by all means offer this as an option, but for heaven’s sake provide an easy way to turn it off.

Update: Google blog post about this (via Richard Thornton.)

Update 8am Friday: They’ve fixed the bug, so the Remove Background Image link now works. As this update notes: Due to a bug, the explanatory link did not appear for most users. As a result, many people thought we had permanently changed our homepage, so we decided to stop today’s series early.

Call me crazy, but maybe they should have tested it properly before turning it on. (Thanks again Richard)

Month one with NetSpace: two support calls

One two occassions I’ve had to call NetSpace, my new ISP, because the Intertubes went away.

On both occasions, I was on hold for quite a while – 40 minutes, Thank the Lord and Maker that He Invented handsfree telephones.  On the second call the support guy helpfully pointed out that they could have called me back if I’d pressed “1”, and then clarified that I wouldn’t lose my position in the queue.  Mental note for next time.  Trouble shooting in both took more than a half hour, and assumed that there was a working Windows box in the house – that was a bit of a stretch.

Both calls to NetSpace were for the same problem – Authentication Failure.  No, we didn’t forget the password to the account.  For the first call, it appeared that the problem was resolved when the modem settings were altered from the factor default (and ISP specified) PPPoE to PPPoA (VC-BASED); the second required changing the account password, and changing it back.

This does not bode well, and I expect there will be a next time.

What am I meant to do when my home phone is a VoIP phone?

Sensis Yellow Pages

Dug this up from a five-year-old draft:

Sensis are nuts. They’ve totally shot themselves in the foot, and they’ve only got a limited amount of time to plug the gap before their Yellow Pages foot falls off completely.

Yellow Pages on the web doesn’t contain entries for all of the businesses listed in the physical Yellow Pages. Sensis charges businesses extra to list on the web. Not many have taken Sensis up on that option, meaning that YPW has remarkably few businesses listed – and because YPW has few businesses, consumers don’t turn to YPW to find businesses. And because of that, fewer and fewer businesses are listing… and so the death spiral goes.

If anyone there had one ounce of sense (sic), they’d be giving web listing away for free, or even negative price. For a while, while the network effect was being established. Then the charges would start hiking up, and the profits rolling in. But no, they had to try to be profitable before the monopoly was established. Bang! bang! Wow, my foot hurts.

I don’t think I was wrong.  When’s the last time you used the yellow pages online to find… anything?

Pressing a button does not demand JavaScript

The state of software produced by web developers is highly variable.  The things the good programmers can do is little short of astonishing, as it always has been with limited environments.  But the bad programmers…

Fifteen years ago I did a Microsoft certification thingy, and now they want me to do a satisfaction survey on it – for no compensation.  I think not.  But I notice an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email, so I follow it:, see the Submit button, click on it… and nothing happens.  And then I realise – it needs JavaScript to press.  A button, one of those things right at the heart of HTML 2.0.  What is this, amateur hour?  Turns out, yes it is because if you follow the hacked URL above — which if filled with bogus data — and click on the Submit data, the back end proceeds happily without validating any of the data, and asks you another question before confirming that it’s done:

We’re sorry you no longer want to receive e-mails from us. Please allow one week for us to process this request, during which time you may still receive e-mails from us. We apologize for any inconvenience.
To help us improve our service, please tell us the primary reason why you no longer wish to receive our messages:

There appears to be some kind of problem with their computers.  Last time I checked, the time it takes a computer to remove a record from a database is in the vicinity of “I’m already finished”, not one week.

I’m of the opinion that people who construct software ought to be required to put their name on it in a visible way, so they can go on my list of people to smack in the face when I meet them.  It’s for the best.

Outlook’s HTML message bloat

I was cleaning up my work mail, which is in Outlook using Exchange. I was staggered to see a relatively short email taking an inordinate amount of space.

Copied the text including headers to a text editor. It was 6300 bytes. But Outlook claimed it was taking 485 Kb — some 76 times the amount of text.

How can this be?

The message was in HTML format. Ah… Microsoft-generated HTML, a receipe for bloat. It seems particularly bad when the message contains a whole email trail.

So, using Outlook’s very handy Edit Message function (I’m surprised it’s not abused more often), I changed it to Plain Text. It’s not as if anything in there relied on the HTML in order to be legible.

Switcheroo, save, presto! 17 Kb. Not 6, but not 485 either. Much better.

Shame there isn’t an option to clean up MS HTML.

Another thing one can do is zip the attachments.