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back to article Baffling barcode-on-steroids stickers plaster the EARTH

QR codes are everywhere. They have completely overrun Japan and are becoming well-established in the rest of the world as well. There are plenty of convenient uses for this technology, as well as several less carefully considered uses. QR codes were created in 1994 by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave. There was a need for a machine- …

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Mushroom

What really annoyes me

Is some w*nker ad agency has started sticking little boxes next to the billboard at bus stops containing a QR Code, NFC tags and a ring of flashing blue LED's.

Catch them out the corner of your eye when driving and you think the plod have you in their sights. How on earth were they allowed to be deployed?

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Re: What really annoyes me

Bigger question: Why do you panic when you see blue flashing lights?

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Anonymous Coward

@Lee Dowling

"honest men have nothing to fear from the police" comes second only to "I won't come in your mouth" in the Great Lies of Our Age stakes.

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Re: @Lee Dowling

Has nothing to do with honesty.

Why *panic*? That just MAKES people suspicious. If your immediate reaction to blue lights is to think the police are behind you - okay. If this then provokes panic in you, maybe you shouldn't be a naughty boy, or maybe you should learn not to look like a drugs mule shuffling through customs holding their stomach.

There is a certain in-built human response to authority to jolt slightly in the "Who? Me?" way, and a tendency in the guilty and inexperienced to give themselves away by such over-sensitivity of the reaction (sweating, nervousness, shuffling, etc.). Don't trust the incredibly calm, either. It's a sign of professionalism and them being accustomed to a police presence.

If you panic at the sight of blue-lights, if I were a policeman, I'd probably pull you over, just to see. Most people just look, indicate, make way (usually in 1-2 foot "edge-forwards" if in traffic).

It took a cop over a mile to pull me over the other day. He looked at my car at a roundabout, followed me, then blue-lighted when we were both in the middle lane (so I waited until it was safe and pulled into the left-lane), where he then followed me and blue-lighted again (at which point I realised he wanted *me*, not to get past), and then again at a suitable layby where I pulled in. If I'd been "oh, crap" and just pulled in, I'd have been suspicious of me too. I'd seen him at the roundabout, of course, but he was just a car. I was just driving as I normally would. I pulled over to make way for him like I normally would. I wasn't running down the street thinking "Oh, blue lights, he's after me", or making my driving reflect that.

But he'd already picked me out for pulling because he'd seen my lovely un-matching two-tone bumper and bonnet on a clapped-out Mondeo. I think he thought it would be an easy pull. I had the MOT certificate on the seat next to me from the previous day. He got out, I waited in the car (because I don't know why he's pulled me or if he is worried I'll jump out into the traffic), he came to the window, he looked at the MOT, we exchanged pleasantries about me not having the compulsory gaffer-tape-on-the-bumper to warn him of a Mondeo driver, he went on his way and barely looked at the car itself. He told *me* that I'd seen him at the roundabout, because I didn't know it was the same cop car. I think the slightest jerk of the car (or jerk in the car) when the blues and twos come on would have made him take a much closer look at things.

Whether you trust the police or not, whether you've done wrong or not, unusual reactions to their presence makes them doubly suspicious instantly. "What speed were you doing?" - the correct answer is "X mph" or "I don't know, officer". Not "Why should I tell you?" or "WE DID NOTHING WRONG!".

Blue lights should NOT make you jump or change driving patterns - whether you're doing something wrong or not.

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Anonymous Coward

Blue lights? What blue lights?

If those are the ones being trialled in sunny Berkshire, then the local product testers have removed them with extreme prejudice from the shelters on my route home.

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Re: @Lee Dowling

"the compulsory gaffer-tape-on-the-bumper to warn him of a Mondeo driver"

So true.

Did mk2 Mondeos come with this as standard from the factory?

Do they have particularly weak bumpers?

The US Contour version seemed to have bigger bumpers.

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Re: What really annoyes me

Good question - if people also mistake them for other emergency vehicles then it makes quite a case to remove them/spray them black and not distract diligent motorists.

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Re: @Lee Dowling 2

I didn't say I panicked. It was certainly an unnecessary and potential distraction as I worked out what it was.

Given that they are on bus shelters mostly with lay-byes in them it's a reasonable assumption that a plod may be in the vicinity and either want you or want you out the way.

A light is which is totally unnecessary to sell a product ffs.

Sod the bankers - the first people hung in my own private utopian dictatorship will be the ad execs. (hello Eric Schmidt)

Oh and Mondeo drivers.

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Big Brother

Re: What really annoyes me

Flashing lights NEVER mean a pleasant thing is occurring or about to occur.

Take that to the bank.

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Facepalm

Re: @Lee Dowling

Off topic. I bumped a Mondeo in the car park once. I was driving an Escort. Not a scratch on the Escort bumper, the Mondeo fell apart into a million pieces. I paid for the repairs, but they must have made them out of plaster of paris or something.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Lee Dowling (why *panic*)

Jokingly ...

Obligatory 'Minority Report' quote: "Everybody runs, Fletch."

Obligatory 'Troops' quote: "They wouldn't be supects if they weren't guilty!"

Seriously ...

As police continue to act high-handedly, the number of law-abiding citizens whom have unpleasant contacts with the police rises, and hence the number of law-abiding citizens with a police *panic* reaction rises.

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Anonymous Coward

@Lee Dowling

In some parts of the world, there's a crime which isn't on the books, yet people are pulled over for. It's called "DWB" (Driving While Black).

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Hey Gordon!

Seems like your utopian dictatorship sounds about on par with my own. How about we join forces and impose our collective will on this fucked-up planet? ;D

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@AC 01:35

In some parts of the US it's "DWH." An old friend of mine once got pulled over by a cop for speeding. The cop apologized and let him off the hook because "I thought you were Hispanic."

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Re: @Lee Dowling

Interesting story about the mondeo. I wonder though, being as the police already knew you had an M.o.t before they interrupted your day, what was their real reason for pulling you over? I doubt that you know as they wouldn't have told you. Sounds like a fishing expedition to me.

Hope you weren't late for anything as a result.

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Re: What really annoyes me

Not so much panic as caution.

I slow down on the motorway when I see flashing lights up ahead. This is not 'Rubber necking'. It's just so I lower the risk of mowing down an emergency worker as I pass. If I see a flashing light in the mirror I get prepared to pull over to let an emergency vehicle pass. Anyway, if a police car is coming up fast behind you there is a chance that an idiot in a stolen car is coming up a bit sooner.

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Re: What really annoyes me

A bigger problem is drivers who *don't notice* flashing lights. Once on the motorway some guy was hogging the outside lane. I could have just gone round him but why should I? I had to flash my lights for almost a full minute before the driver in front noticed and got out my way. I was so annoyed I followed him flashing my lights for another 5 minutes. My finger ached after that but I think he got the message. I mean seriously some people don't have a clue on the road.

This other time coming home from work one evening I spotted a driver was using his mobile so I have him a long dose of full beam to dazzle some sense into him, but he didn't even notice. I just gave up on that one - I am not getting paid for it after-all, that's the polices job.

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re I bumped a Mondeo in the car park once

That was you???

you owe me £50

You can reclaim it from ford if you like for issuing cars with bumpers made from glass

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Flame

@NomNomNom

You drive a BMW or Audi, believe you own the road, and think you are a better driver than everone else on the road. AICMFP.

Driving behind someone flashing your lights 'to make a point' is only likely to distract the other driver from what is in front of them. Deliberately dazzling other drivers with your full beams is just plain dangerous. You probably won't realise you're the one in the wrong even after you've killed your first biker.

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Re: @NomNomNom

you guessed right about the Audi

"even after you've killed your first biker"

I like how you assume I would go on to kill more

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Fridayage: http://wtfqrcodes.com/

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Go

Colour QR

I'm sure I read, oooo about 10 years ago, about a bright idea to store data on a4 sheets of paper using a colour printer. The capacity was pretty impressive (for 10 years ago). Certainly several orders of magnitude higher than a QR code.

And by the magic of Google: http://www.vestaldesign.com/blog/2007/01/rainbow-format-missing-the-point

So hardly original. But then, few things ever are...

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Re: Colour QR

I spent years looking into "homebrew" backup solutions back in the days of dodgy CD-R's and floppies. I even had a Video Backer that I took to pieces to find out how it worked. And I looked into paperising data too, as a sort of side-hobby while doing my Coding Theory courses at uni.

Turns out, anything with high enough a data density to be useful, the format was unreliable and weakened far too easily over time, and more and more unreadable. And anything with lower data density to be able to effectively store it - you might as well just print it out as English text / Hex codes. There's a tiny sweet spot but it's really been sucked into the real of 8Gb Flash drives nowadays, so it's not worth the effort.

So the world revolves again, keeping its data safe by just constantly moving it onto multiple copies of newer and newer media and expanding the data size by parity, checksum, etc. to check that its (probabilistically) okay. Not much of our data will survive to become archaeology, but that's pretty true of anyone that's ever lived anyway. Why should our data be more useful to future investigators than the Roman coins?

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Re: Colour QR

Microsoft proposed their own colour QR using triangles. But it's not took off, colour costs more.

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Happy

Re: Colour QR

I believe that was closer to 15 years ago. I remember some crazy stuff from that period that never took off.

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HCCB

The HCCB failed not because of its color nature. It was intended for use in ads and other materials ALREADY in color, so the print costs are incidental. Also, the four-color version was designed to use the CMYK colors normally used in offset printing, so the colors were easy to produce and thus easy to read. Anyway, a B&W version exists, too. No, what did it in was Microsoft wanting to be the gatekeeper by turning it into the Tag format. If the HCCB decoded into straight URLs and other useful stuff, it probably would've had a better chance.

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Linux

So do people actually scan these things?

I've noticed them popping up in ads all over the place recently, but I've never seen anyone actually use one.

It also opens up the possibility of hard to detect advertising redirection or trolling. Overpaste the QR of your choice with a sticker containing either competitor information, or a link to a shock site... It's only a matter of time.

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

You, sir, are a genius.

I'm off to print out a thousand sticky labels with "rickroll" QR codes. If you were really unscrupulous, you could even direct them to, say advertising sites that generate revenue....

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

They seem like the sort of thing that augmented reality would be handy for. A QR placed somewhere on a static poster could then trigger a 3D advert when viewed through an AR app. The video would replace the poster.

It would also make a "They Live" augmented application possible, just need to replace the faces of random people with alien faces :)

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WTF?

Sure, why not?

Once you see the resulting text and accompanying URL, you don't have to actually CLICK on it! What kind of smartphone OS immediately opens the QR code URL in a browser without displaying the full information and asking for permission? (Not iOS or Android, certainly.)

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

I see here the modern replacement for the traditional "Mandy - Slow and Easy - 01-423-9999" tartcards which were a standard adornment to 1980s phone-boxes.

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Devil

Re: So do people actually scan these things?

So you read B3ta too?

The newsletter today suggested a link to Goatse was the appropriate thing to do, via a URL shortner of course...

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

Heh, haven't been to b3ta for a while, pretty sure I will have stolen the idea from somewhere though, it's just the way of the world these days!

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

Most QR codes these days are directly printed onto advertising material. A sticker pasted on top of such a code would likely draw suspicion.

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Re: Sure, why not?

Depends on the reader. My Android Barcode Scanner shows the decoded text, yes, but I've seen at least one other Android phone go straight to the Browser after scanning a QR Code with a URL in it. Maybe they changed the behaviour since then, but...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So do people actually scan these things?

I saw someone scannig once. I asked them how they would know that the link was not to some kiddie porn site.

The person looked at me blankly, as if I was from another planet. They had not even contemplated that someone might even remotely possibly display a bad QR code.

That said it all.

QR Codes are a disaster waiting to happen (IMHO)

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

It's another form of communication. You just need a prompt of some sort. Or only use reliable sources. How easy is it for someone to replace phone numbers on billboards? Easy to get everyone to call your premium rate line that way. Yet I've not heard of it happening. So the risk to QR codes is probably just as low.

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FAIL

Re: So do people actually scan these things?

A phone number is usually quite large, and not in a consistent format or size. A QR code is a funny looking square of black on white. Much easier to over-stick than unknown shape, unknown colour, unknown background phone numbers.

It probably won't ever be a big thing (it takes effort) but it could be done pretty easily.

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

Thanks. I'll try and remember that. So we need QR codes overlaid on images, so faking them is harder. That should be easy enough if the system used does not insist on black/white colour codes.

Then it becomes a kind of watermark.

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Trollface

Re: So do people actually scan these things?

Beware Mr Q R Goatse

That's all I'm saying.

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Pint

Re: So do people actually scan these things?

Make big ones for telephone poles, walls, etc advertising new clubs, over priced 'cool' exclusive restaurants, civil unrest meetings, underground Jedi movements - tap into the younger, tech-as-way-of-life-and-would-die-if-off-grid segment of the population to make it a trend, eventually gets to older generations. Be a moneymaker if the marketing is worked out properly.

Big thoughts for a Saturday morning. Cheers!

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Re: So do people actually scan these things?

>How easy is it for someone to replace phone numbers on billboards?

Quite tricky. You need to get font, size, colour, any glow effects, drop shaddows etc. correct. Often the number will be overlaying another image or color so you have to get that right too.

As opposed to a QR code where you simply have to ensure the square is big enough to cover the original/.

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Devil

I think I shall form my own protest by pasting over public QR codes with my own stating: "I prepared Explosive Runes today."

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Anonymous Coward

Bring e'm on!

As it's quite dificult doing an SQL injection using self-service tills and conventional bar-codes, I for one look forward to the hours of fun QR codes will offer...

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Pint

Re: Bring e'm on!

Well damn you ninja'd me!

Just another attack vector we'll have to deal with.

Pint coz not only is Friday but also to deaden the pain.

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Pint

Re: Bring e'm on!

My preferred defence against QR-based attacks is not to bother with them. From never having seen anyone else use them it seems that's standard.

+1 for beer!

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Pint

Re: Bring e'm on!

Indeed. Same here. If they intrude in the workplace I'll be taking them down.

Pint - always a good thing.

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Pirate

Re: Bring e'm on!

Imagine, 2,953 bytes of virus to work with!

It's only a matter of time before someone figures out a way to do some imaging thing analogous to a buffer overflow so all your camera has to do is see the QR code, not even try to read it.

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Facepalm

I developed quite a headache...

That looks nothing like a dolphin! These are the worst MagicEye pictures I've ever seen!

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