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* Posts by Saul Dobney

59 posts • joined 18 Mar 2007

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Finally, a USEFUL smart device: Intel boffins cook up gyro-magneto-'puter bike helmet

Saul Dobney

Re: All that safety...

Hearing is most useful when passing parked cars and blinded junctions joining from the left as the sound of an engine acts as an alert for something about to pull out. In mainstream traffic where cycling with the stream with one vehicle behind you it allows you to judge the proximity and attitude of the driver behind including if the engine note changes as they plan to overtake. You still look, but sound acts as an early warning.

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Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

Saul Dobney

Re: A slice off the top

That'll be because screen resolutions have got worse (ie from 1920x1200 to 1920x1080 or worse, a lot worse...). Means I've delayed upgrading my currently laptop in the hope that someone in the PC world sees the light, and I might even switch to Linux to stick with the decent screen resolution I have now.

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What's up with that WhatsApp $19bn price tag? Answer: Voice calls

Saul Dobney

I get confused here. Why is VOIP with Whatsapp any different from Skype or other VOIP? Don't telcos already ban or curtail this type of traffic? And telcos already know who you call, where from etc. so why is Whatsapp different? Isn't there a risk that adding voice brings in other regulatory bodies who might spoil the party?

Wouldn't the main reason be to get at better location-based advertising? Users will have their phone on and will be receiving chats. So Facebook tracks the location and sends localised ads/offers/coupons via chat based on location, demographics or other profile information that it has. The coupon is scanned off the phone at the till (or payment by phone) and then 'liked' to friends in the vicinity.

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Windows 8.1 to freeze out small business apps

Saul Dobney

I don't mean open as in open source or open as in friendly, but open as in opposite to 'closed' or 'walled-in' in that you could dig around the innards and tinker and make things work. Want a different graphics card, load in a new driver and away you go. Want to automate some Excel, tinker in the back with VBA. Not pretty (and often not secure) but it allowed for a lot of mix-and-match hardware and a lot of custom in-house programs and scripts to get things bolted together.

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Saul Dobney
Facepalm

Why is Microsoft aping Apple? Apple has always been a consumer electronics company (it took them a couple of decades to realise this mind). Microsoft on the other hand has always been business and developer focused. The bits which made Microsoft strong were the openness of their systems, compatability and relative ease of development and deployment with low entry costs which created a big third party infrastructure.

The Apple model doesn't work for business customers because businesses need the flexibility to tweak, customise and innovate to stay ahead of the competition, and they need volume-based administration, security and management specific to the business needs to keep those systems running. When Microsoft tries to apply consumer logic to businesses and to wall-in users or programmers, more often than not their products fail.

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More brutal PC numbers from Dell as revenues stay flat, profits sink

Saul Dobney

Resolve resolutions

Still waiting for Dell to sell a 17inch laptop with a screen resolution as good or better than the ones were buying 6-10 years ago. They just don't seem to be listening despite enquiries.

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Superstar cluster-Zuck as Facebook tries out celeb-only edition

Saul Dobney

It's about money, always about money

Been waiting for this as a logical next step. I'm guessing is that the VIP areas are more like private fanclubs. The sort of place ordinary folk will need to pay to join, but with Facebook taking the subscription (probably on a share with the celebs). Publicity needs means celebs will still have some bits public, but then use the private space for exclusive or early release bits. So want to keep tabs on your idol? Pay for the privilege.

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Ahoy! Google asks US gov't to help sink patent 'privateers'

Saul Dobney

There is an easy better way...

The simplest approach would be that any case involving patent infringement should require a re-investigation of the contested patent by the Patent Office prior to further legal action. Only if the Patent Office review concludes there is still merit in the patent, could any other court action take place. This review could be done for a fixed few thousand dollars in an open format (ie open for submissions from the public, but at the judgement of the patent examiners).

Once the Patent Office has stated there is still merit to the patent, the rest of the court case a judge/jury led investigation of the validity, if infringement has taken place, and to what level, and with what financial impact can take place and then sanctions and penalties.

Patent trolls would then be required to pay upfront for the initial re-examination (a barrier to frivolous claims). If the Patent Office throws out the patent at re-examination, the trolls would sue the Patent Office, not the target company and so, only strong and pre-tested cases would make it to the courts.

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Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

Saul Dobney

Do Microsoft/manufacturers understand the market any more?

It seems to be becoming difficult to buy equipment now. Everything is a bit of a mis-mash. I don't think Microsoft/manufacturers understand that people now have several computers, tablets, phones and these are used for different tasks. Instead we still seem to be trying to shoehorn one computer for everything. I can't get a decent screen'd laptop for proper production work. I'd like something small and neat with a keyboard and a monitor connection for light travelling. I have tablets but they're for browsing/info gathering. And I have a phone. I don't need one thing trying to be all of these.

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Dell launches Sputnik Linux Ultrabook

Saul Dobney

Further screen downgrades

The last three laptops have all been 1920x1200, now everywhere I look I have to downgrade to 1080 at best for the next one. You'd have thought people like Dell would have taken a leaf out of Apple's book and realised some us who do a lot of work across a lot of applications (and don't care about playing HD videos) actually want more screen real-estate, not less.

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Google's UK grip slips a bit, brutal dominance basically unshaken

Saul Dobney
Unhappy

Google's search results have gone downhill

I'm probably not a typical Google user (instant turned off, 100 results per page, personalised results turned off), but I am a longstanding intensive user and in the past six months the quality of Google's search has totally gone to pot. Way too many results from individual sites particularly Youtube (but also ehow, fixya). I almost have to search with a permanent -youtube option. I did a few checks about a month ago and of the 100 results on the first page for some searches I actually only had 5-6 different sites listed. In some cases a single site had 40+ of those links from the first 100 and it wasn't even that they were good quality results.

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Patent flame storm: Reg hack biteback in reader-pack sack attack

Saul Dobney

First thing is that patents are good in that inventors should be encouraged to invent. It would even be a good idea if copyright became more like patents (20 year limit for a start). The problem is the gaming of the system. Things are being patented without sufficient invention, and there is a confusion between things that should be copyright (rubber band display effect), versus patentable which should be physical in their nature.

For instance, X on a website/fixed screen is 're-invented' to become X on a mobile device, or X over a network and then becomes 'patentable' again simply because the base form has changed. We can envisage X on a foldable/rollable screen-based device will be the next round of patents or X within a 3D display system.

The point of a patent is that it's about invention of something new. These types of 'extension' is never and can never be an invention - a simple clarification of this point by the patent office would greatly reduce the scope for trolling.

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Review: Raspberry Pi

Saul Dobney

The interesting projects seem to be ones that are more hardware based - so writing software to control things like motors, sensors etc where the controlling computer sits on the device giving it some autonomy.

The Pi is small enough and cheap enough that you can add it to lots of wheeled devices then program the devices to be dodgems, or catch, or football... and see what happens.

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Publishing giants sue open textbook startup over layout

Saul Dobney

The probable comparison will be with TV gameshows or theatre productions where there is copyright on the 'format' of the show even if the precise content is different. Copyright on maps may also have a similar precedence. However, the text book manufacturers may be shooting themselves in the foot. There is no dispute about the content and changing formating or rearranging the order of the content is relatively easy and could be done via crowd-sourced editors quite quickly. The law suit draws publicity, and attracts the interest of crisis-stretched educational departments. The publishers could easily win the battle only to find themselves opening a war they'll never win.

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Facebook: 'We didn't patent stalking logged-off users'

Saul Dobney

Straight from the Big Brother manual

How on earth did this get to be a patent?

On the other hand Facebook aren't trying to hide their intentions...

"In one embodiment, a method is described for tracking information about the activities of users of a social networking system while on another domain ... logging the actions taken on the third-party website in the social networking system ... correlating the logged actions with one or more advertisements."

"the actions taken by users can be correlated to the vast array of information attributes that the social network system maintains in order to improve analytical and targeting processes"

"...the user can be informed of online activities that the user's friends have taken outside the social network system ... Social ads thus allow advertisers to enjoy the credibility that consumers naturally give to their friends through word of mouth advertising"

"One benefit of mixing the newsfeed stories and the social ads in a single list presented to a user is that there may be little or no differentiation between advertising and general information that a user would want to know"

"The user's experience can be integrated between the third party website and the social network system such that the information is used in both domains"

"...If the user clicks on a particular friend, the social network system may communicate to the third party website a list of items that the friend has purchased"

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Skype: Microsoft's $8.5 billion identity tool

Saul Dobney
Thumb Down

Err...

So all that Skype spam I get with fake IDs seeking connections is good ID data?

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HP's UK PC boss: We're going nowhere

Saul Dobney
Holmes

Been saying this for a long time

My guess is that no-one's done good quality price research here yet. A good quality full-specced sub £170 tablet will sell in huge huge volumes because people will buy several (it's a bit like Nintendo DS's once one child has one - all the children in a family have to have one). I can be reading tech news while watching football on TV, while my other half reads the Daily Mail and the children mess around on Facebook for instance.

Apple's shown there is demand at the luxury end of the market (a bit like a coffee table showpiece) but it's not at a one-per-child price. Rather than compete to sell one against Apple, compete for the much larger volume of several per household.

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Man reveals secret recipe behind undeletable cookies

Saul Dobney

Europe is very different

In continental Europe there's this thing called Privacy written into various national constitutions and actually European Human Rights directives, which says even stuff which is apparently public is still subject to privacy rules. The exception is if you can show an explicit public interest. A shop tracking a customer does not have a public interest defence - the only way allowed in certain European countries is for the customer to have agreed to the data collection (explicit opt-in). Even if you think the information is public. Without the opt-in the shop is not allowed to do it. The principle is that organisations/businesses hold the minimum information. Information being public is not a defence.

As you're in America, I'll give you some time to pick your lower jaw off the floor.

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Isolated human genes can be patented, US court rules

Saul Dobney

Wrong call

The judgement is interesting to read - including the dissenting judge. Hopefully this will go to the Supreme Court because it is weird. They say that the isolated DNA for the specific gene does not exist in nature and is therefore a created entity - as such it can be patented.

But, lets say I apply a process to an extract of human DNA. If in doing so, I get sections of DNA that fall under the patent simply by the process of snipping and extraction, I can't see how the patent has been breached. These samples would be elements discovered and are not creations as such. The ruling is perverse - it's like patenting an animal's fur or skin. The fur does not exist in nature other than as part of the animal which is the test they have applied here. But the process of even though that fur or skin or leather has useful properties, simple removal or extraction does not make it any less natural. Just because DNA is a molecule, doesn't make it any less like fur, skin or flesh.

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Google plans cheapo YouTube programs

Saul Dobney

Buy a TV channel

Take it as a loss leader. Make the programmes. Put them on real TV, then put them on Youtube. Use Real TV ads to part fund the process, and repeat. Eventually you get a channel on Youtube from all the series Google has part-funded. Or buy a TV station.

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Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM's wasted R&D billions

Saul Dobney

You only see the winners

There are huge numbers of new ideas and new start-ups pursuing new ideas. You only notice the ones that win out at the end of the day. Why? The problem isn't having the idea, but getting the implementation right - Microsoft had tablet touch screens in the OS before Apple; it had a pocket device OS. It didn't get them right. But it had them.

From a pool of start ups, you know something will develop, but you never quite know what will be best. A corporate can hammer away billions trying to guess. Or it can co-invest small sums with potential winners and see which ones thrive and which die. Going for a single company-line approach will always have the risk of being too slow and simply not hitting the sweet spot.

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Microsoft embraces ARM with Windows 8

Saul Dobney

Running late

Microsoft's risk has been developers moving out of Windows to program apps and mobile phone devices. Particularly if corporate IT depts move to developing for non-PCs. They have to bring Windows and .NET to ARM and small devices. It's just surprising it's taken so long for them to see the danger.

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Jobs savages 7-inch tablet competition

Saul Dobney
Thumb Up

For once he's right

Tried a 7inch tablet UMPC at 800x480 and it's just too much of a compromise. Webpages are either made smaller and unfocused and unreadable on a zoom out, or get clipped one side or the other with too much scrolling left and right needed. May be a higher resolution 7" screen will work, but it doesn't make a good web-experience.

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High Court: Moderate user comments and you're liable

Saul Dobney

Blog-spammers charter

Does this mean you can't clean our spam entries from comments sections without then falling foul of Chapter 19?

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ARM boss forecasts mass migration to netbooks

Saul Dobney

Additions not replacements

Multiple systems, not replacements. There are a lot of us now out there with a number of computers in the family, each for different purposes. Netbooks are sort of like magazines lying around the sofa. A film comes on, you flick over to Rottentomatoes to see if its any good. Or just browse for houses/cars/books/gadgets while the footie is on the TV. Or to save buying the paper in the morning, you just pick up the netbook/iPhone by the bed and flick through the newspaper sites without bothering to get out of bed.

Cheap. Fast start up. Cool on your lap. Readable resolution for the web. WiFi. Simple to keep charged/long battery life. Don't know if it will be ARM or Intel, but it certainly isn't Windows. And as price is the key (sub $250), I'm not sure that it's Apple either.

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Hotmail phish exposes most common passwords

Saul Dobney

Or...

Add a random token to the login URL. Offline the user hashes his or her password with the URL+ token. The user log-ins with the hash. The real password is never sent and it can't be worked out through a man-in-the-middle attack. Easy to implement, impossible to phish.

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Texan judge outlaws Word

Saul Dobney

Think this is what it's about

There seem to be three parts to this

1. Something to parse a stream and break it up separating out the mark up from the content - creating content as a flat file/continuous stream and an index based on the mark-up (the metamap)

2. The principle of a flat file with a metamap. This is obviously ancient technology since it's the basis of all market research and stats software (eg SPSS and VAX based survey software)

3. Something to rebuild the document from the flat file and ad hoc indexes. Again market research software would fit here rebuilding individual questionnaires from data plus a question map.

The first should be obvious but I can't find a specific example. Obviously parsing a text file for control data pre-exists - It's the way email works, or earlier forms of EDI etc but it might be claimed these might not produce a direct map and data separation?

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Junk email volumes hit high

Saul Dobney

Less too...

For me it dropped from 1000+ a day down to about 50-100 around the first/second week of May. I assumed that some of the bots had been turned off.

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Wall Street Journal wants your micro-payments

Saul Dobney

Dow Jones is no longer on the front of the FT

The FT (this month) switched to the S&P index on the front page instead of the Dow Jones. Open source stock market indices anyone?

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Google sued for 'stealing' Android name

Saul Dobney

Trademarks aren't patents

Trademarks are partly for the protection of the consumer (but also help the owner). Think of buying a camera on Ebay. If some tries to sell you a Cannon camera and you think you're buying Canon. Trademark means that if they are 'passing off' the fake Cannon brand as Canon then the seller can be sued. It allows consumers to make mistakes but still get the brand they expected.

Now of course IP lawyers, being lawyers, try and use the law for extortion. However, the law on trademarks isn't that bad and nowhere near as mad as US patent law. US companies do register their tag lines but "The best a man can get" being registered is the whole phrase - not words, since you can't register generic terms and you have to look at the categories for registration. You can't register the single word 'best' for instance in any category.

Not so long ago there was the story of a Russian who thought he'd brought the 'patent' to some word or other, clearly sold a trademark by an unscrupulous lawyer who should have known better, so if you don't know the difference between Trademark and Patent, I'm sure there is someone out there who'd be pleased to take your money.

This on the other hand is a plain FU by Google.

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Saul Dobney

Sue the lawyer

Google screwed up. They should sue their trademark lawyer, who shouldn't have let them get close to trying to use the name. The original owner has got lucky because of the lawyer's blunder - there really isn't any excuse.

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Google accused of UK tax dodge

Saul Dobney

Anyone can do it

Big companies (with deep pockets) can move their business anywhere. They simply open an office, 'transfer' ownership of something nebulous and intangible like a brand and then use things like 'brand licensing' fees to extract money from one country as an expense to the place they want to pay corporation tax in - eg Ireland or a canton in Switzerland. The 'license fee' just absorbs all profit in the high-tax country. If you play this game enough then you end up being Enron.

On the other hand VAT is important for consumers, but not corporations (because they claim VAT back). So if you sell VAT items of less than £15 you pass them through the Channel Islands where VAT is not liable for competitive advantage, but so long as you're not at a price disadvantage choosing where to pay VAT may not be that important.

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Microsoft conjures imaginary 'Apple Tax'

Saul Dobney

But can Open Office trounce MS Office

This comment is being written on a Mac. The PC workhorse (XP) is over on my desk. The children use Ubuntu. If I'm honest, the Mac is a disappointment. It crashes a lot more than XP even though it's used for fewer hours in a day. I was disappointed the UI hasn't really moved on since the 1990s and it's still has a one app at a time focus and many elements just aren't intuitive in a way that I thought they should be on a Mac (Ubuntu works better than XP or a Mac for a few things). The mac does boot quickly though and has a great power connector and sits comfortably on my lap while I'm typing.

However, to be fair, I don't really care about the OS. The real test is can I replace MS Office with Open Office over the next 6 months without customers noticing. At that point the OS becomes redundant and it will just be the hardware spec that will be important when purchasing.

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Budvar beats Anheuser-Busch in latest Budweiser battle

Saul Dobney

The next step is...

I wonder if Budvar would up the ante and now claim trademark infringement against AB? This has shown is that AB don't have the trademark. Do Budvar actually have it?

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French court fines Google over trade marked keywords

Saul Dobney

Fish

@Paul Taylor

"Why should one company be allowed a monopoly on ordinary words?"

That's because that's what a Trademark is. It's the whole point of a trademark since Bass in 1875 (fancy naming your beer after a fish).

Wikipedia at least has an argument of fair use and is non-profit making. I've got a feeling Google will struggle to wriggle out of this other than by trying to pass liability (and costs) back at the advertisers.

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Tories put toes on Linux bandwagon

Saul Dobney

Publish it

I would have thought the Government could do worse than require all specs, docs and code to be published as open source code for all Govt projects then allow evolution to happen. We, the taxpayers, do own the code I presume.

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Microsoft eyes metered-PC boondoggle

Saul Dobney

The context makes this interesting

Patents appear and disappear without making it to a product, but still this has to be placed in the context of Microsoft reinventing itself as a rental company delivering OS and software and services to multiple devices in the home and office (and not just the normal 3 box PC) eg with Azure. As the netbooks show, an Microsoft OS is on is the major component cost in a low-cost PC. This is unsustainable for the manufacturers or for Microsoft itself. And with multiple devices sharing resources you need a different sales and delivery model. Splitting up the OS allows M$ to move to a light and cheap base OS. And secondly offering it via rental means a mobile phone model of low cost upfront fees and long term revenues. After that it's simply a question of price - say £100 a year for full MS or zero for unfamiliar Linux? Which do you choose.

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Junk science and booze tax - a study in spin

Saul Dobney

Read part B

Read part B. The data they use is up-to-date and much better than for part A in terms of use for estimating price elasticities (though mind you GHS and EFS are both self-reported studies, albeit very long term and well regarded). The Neilsen supermarket data will be live and real. I can't comment on the results, but at least the data for this half is better.

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What Ray Ozzie didn't tell you about Microsoft Azure

Saul Dobney

There's more

The article's good so far. It doesn't quite factor in the links in to the M$ office apps to the cloud and synchronisation and personal spaces this is just a starting point in the same way .Net was. Oh, and I would expect a bunch of non-M$ companies to offer Azure and Azure-level services. If you have to stick with M$, M$ will seriously damage it's channel relations.

And please not the preposition argument. You are soooooo wrong. English is not Latin. Go and read a decent book on English usage then go away, clear out, take off...

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Microsoft's Azure means dark days for storage vendors

Saul Dobney
Boffin

Many places many devices model

The cloud is not about taking stuff off your personal computer or internal network, its about having your data and applications anywhere, irrespective of device or where you are.

If you have a single or even just two computers then the cloud doesn't make too much sense. But once you realise that some people work off 5-6 or more computers in different locations (saves carrying them about and the risk of loss or damage) and then need access via non-computer resources such as mobile phones, or want to connect devices like cameras directly, and want to be able to share and distribute that data to others then the cloud is very strongly the direction things are going. You can't do it non-cloud - what are you going to do, walk about with a memory stick and hope you don't lose it and that it doesn't get stolen?

Yes, big corps with big data centres already have some of this type of stuff running internally under remote access. But it costs. If people like M$ (and I don't think M$ will be the only people offering these M$ services because of competition rules and issues like some people don't trust M$) run these services then the cost will be strongly driven down.

And the data will be distributed/mirrored with redundant backup and sync'd to your offline hard-disk. M$ is betting very very very big on this model of computing. These small-scale announcements and press releases really aren't doing justice to the scale of the Microsoft gamble.

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Lights out for Microsoft 2.0?

Saul Dobney

Missing the point

So far off beam it is untrue. M$ has assets of $73bn and cash or equivalent of $23bn according to it's company report. Yahoo was going to be a cash purchase and they'd still have had plenty of money in the bank.

It has been true that M$ has been trying to play catch up on search and websites and they have burnt money and failed big time so far. But the current SaaS direction for M$ is not about search or websites. It's beyond that and more about software and access to software and data - traditional M$ areas of focus. Software now has to work online and offline. Applications have to be available what ever the point of access. Data needs to be stored somewhere and sync'd between offline and online instances. Merge current desktop apps like Office so they are available anywhere and no longer device reliant and merge seamlessly into online storage, sharing and access and protection control. You rent apps, rent space, sign in for access and get advertising and private search across friends. That's the bet M$ looks like it is taking and would be expected to announce during the coming months.

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Next Windows name unveiled: Windows 7

Saul Dobney

The OS is becoming irrelevant

I can remember a time when people argued about what the operating system should do, rather than what it should be called (eg pre-emptive vs co-operative multi-tasking, the battle of the GUI's, plug-and-play, network management etc).

My problem is apart from 'support new hardware' I struggle to think of a 'feature' that would make one OS really better than any other. XP is stable enough now that I can't remember the last BSOD, Ubuntu is knocking rough edges off Linux and is usable 90-95% of the time. OS10 is OK if a little one-app-at-a-time in terms of usability. But I switch between the three daily and it's relatively painless. With things like Open Office and open source cross-platform and web-apps the OS is becoming irrelevant.

So what one OS feature would really make a difference?

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'Windows Cloud' to descend this month, says Ballmer

Saul Dobney

My guess

M$ has had something brewing for at least 24 months. My guess is that it involves big data centres, application streaming, remote storage and synchronisation, and remote software distribution and cloud-based development tools. I'm sort of expecting that Microsoft will start renting space on the internet and that space will include applications (eg M$ Office), data, shared areas and collaboration tools so rather than buy Office, you'd pay a monthly streaming fee that means you get your apps that can be used from any machine you have available with access to your and shared data immediately from that machine. Essentially what you need if you start having two or more personal computers/data access devices for different modes of use.

Streaming apps means you get to work offline too and with full blown adult apps - the major weakness for Google. Then once you have data in the M$ cloud, M$ does the searching and indexing for you across files that you have and have access to. Google can't cross the access permission boundary so can't provide the same level of search possibly reducing it's value overall in the long run.

In time you get your full OS distributed this way too - a lite OS to connect to the cloud, then stream down non-standard device drivers and necessary apps, but move a chunk of services off the PC (eg scheduled tasks, database) and into the cloud to give faster start up times and better more robust performance.

However, I would guess they will not be the only supplier, so you can sign up with M$ directly, or sign up with a third party running the same stuff if you don't trust M$. Box shifters will add subscription options for Office on their price list.

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Cross-site hacks and the art of self defence

Saul Dobney

Responsibility of web-apps to avoid this

For a web-developer, don't perform actions on GET variables without a check token. GET should be for display only otherwise.

Secondly for CMS builders don't allow anyone to include a <FORM> or <INPUT> variables in a user-defined content area. One big reason is that it makes it simple for a rogue user to fake the login page for the CMS and harvest usernames and passwords. Second reason is it allows people to build fake Google Checkout or Paypal pages that redirect to harvester sites. And, naturally, never allow the user to include JS in any way.

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Yelp 'pay to play' pitch makes shops scream for help

Saul Dobney

Old idea being dredged up again

it's not new as a concept - the idea flows back to 1996. It's just no-one has made it work because making money at it is going to be difficult and dangerous. If you get great ratings you have no need to advertise. So you want people to advertise on a site that might give them a bunch of bad ratings.

But then the gaming starts. Competitors start writing bad reviews on your business. The business starts writing good reviews (Tripadvisor suffers from this). The comments descend into a mess and then someone realises Yelp are responsible for the listing and, if they are surpressing good reviews, they are artificially reducing your ratings themselves - that's corporate liable. So I wonder when the first writs will fly.

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Ryanair cancels aggregator-booked tickets in escalating scraping war

Saul Dobney

Pluses and minuses

Flown with everyone in the last three years (from BA to Thomsonfly) and things are becoming more difficult as the airlines become squeezed. Even BA is introducing maximum bag sizes for hold luggage from November.

Things I like about low cost flyers.

1. Normally, they are lower priced than the regulars and it's easier to arrange routes and fly into places near where you want to go and there are more departure options (eg Swiss were trying to charge me £1571 for a regular single from Zurich to Birmingham this summer - eh?!)

2. They try to leave and arrive on time and don't wait for late passengers. BA is so useless - it's always late.

3. You don't have to pay for stuff you don't want and you can always buy water/sandwiches on the ground first - BA only provide a drink and a small bag of snacks - hardly great service.

4. You can change the ticket for a small fee without having to pay for the outrageously expensive flexible ticket that the majors sell - regular £60, flexible £320.

5. You can avoid Heathrow - even with T5, still hate it. Still rubbish connections to anywhere but London and always late to leave.

But they are getting much more pernickity. You really have to check the small print, especially on baggage now.

* BMIbaby has a smaller check-in bag size and some European low cost have introduced a 6kg check-in bag maximum, presumably to increase the number of hold bags

* Ryanair has a 15kg maximum hold bag size, BMI it is 20kg. No aggregating - which isn't very good for a family - and the policy is not evenly applied, you might travel out with a heavier bag OK, but then get charged on the return. And it's extremely expensive for heavier bags. (By the way BA will do this too from Nov)

* Some airlines force you to go through check-in even where you have no bags

* On board prices are extreme (Easyjet is cheapest but still expensive)

* You have to unclick a lot of options they try to add - it's easy to miss that insurance option, particularly since it will probably be invalid if you already have other travel insurance.

If they do cancel flights they have to pay and there's a penalty charge they must pay (up to £250 per person). It's EU law. Naturally this is not widely advertised by them.

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Microsoft and HP tackle SQL-injection scourge

Saul Dobney

Useful but...

On the plus side it is a useful tool to verify good practice. On the negative side, the release of the product means anyone and everyone can run it against any website they like, so in the short term more sites are likely to get plundered.

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Live Mesh: Hailstorm take 2?

Saul Dobney

Head in the cloud

If you go to cloud computing, accessing the cloud through multiple devices and multiple applications that may or may not be on-line you end up with a data in different places with different levels of synchronisation.

For instance, you take the office's presentation portable for travelling. Edit the presentation off-line while on the plane travelling to the client. When you get to the presentation you will need to synchronise with the cloud version. You then give your client access to the presentation in a read only version. And when you're get back at your desk on your production PC you can fix the typos and clarify a few points to ensure the version the client is using to communicate the presentation around his building is up-to-date as possible.

In a multiple device, multi-access framework on- and off-line and collaborative synchronization and access control are fundamental. Why take a laptop home? You can have a whole bunch of devices in different locations.

From what I've read this is the area Live Mesh is targeting, but it's not entirely clear, but someone has to be targeting this since it's a cornerstone for using the Cloud.

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Billy Bragg: Why should songwriters starve so others get rich?

Saul Dobney

Up the workers

There's a lack of perspective. Artists have come believe that for six weeks in the studio, they're due 46 weeks off because they should be able to live off the sales of that 6 week's work (and even retire off the proceeds).

As an alternative look at classical musicians who don't have the luxury of large recording contracts and work at music like a regular job. It's how musicians used to work - you don't play, you don't eat. It doesn't stop you becoming rich or famous, it just takes more time, more dedication and more skill.

The thing with the internet is that for small bands it doesn't make that much difference - it increases the audience, gets more people to gigs and has the potential of getting more buyers to find your music. And the upside is there with the internet you should be able to earn a hell of a lot more per copy of your music sold with no middle men involved (at least if the MCPS dragged itself into the 21st Century). If you're a musician who is willing to work, the Internet should work for you as it has the ability to increase your income as a live act and distribute your music to willing buyers, network with fans and generally make money at your music.

It's the larger and more famous acts that copytheft affects most as it slows down the gravy-train and cuts into the stupidly large income for them and for their record producers/advisors etc.This is what's hurting the industry - major acts simply stop being so valuable because of the copying. But then they do have really abnormal expectations of what they should earn from a few days work.

I'd be after more working musicians playing live please, and fewer high-rollers, fat cats and manufactured acts. I would have thought Billy would be with the workers on this one (and Billy was the first live music I ever paid to see).

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Phishers offer credit card discounts to prospective marks

Saul Dobney

Rogue sites are more worrying

It's man-in-the-middle attacks with a redirect from a rogue website that I'm most worried about. Email is obvious and relatively simple. But what happens if someone sets up a fake website includes a payment link to a fake checkout.google.com page and simply harvests credit card details rather than sending them to Google. It can look secure, SSL certs can be bought for $15. All it needs to do is show a 'Sorry timeout page' and you wouldn't know you've been hit.

Even spotting fake URLs can be hard even with plain text. Would you spot the difference between http://checkout.google.co.uk and http://checkout-google.co.uk on a quick glance (or http://www-mastercard.co.uk or http;//www2-barclays.co.uk etc)?

The only way I can see to beat phishers is that any access codes you use should be created as a hash of your password with the page URL through a simple offline coder. You never enter the real password/code, only the hash, so rogue URLs will always generate an incorrect hash.

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