2084 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009
Facts of support life
It's quite simple really. Win7 is here, XP is here. All support organisations have to deal with both versions NOW, and will have to continue dealing with them for some years to come. Whether you like that or not is immaterial - unless you are in a position to issue a diktat that everyone in your company will henceforth, only use the one or the other.
For the rest of us it means we will support Win7 - generally on all new desktop boxes that turn up during the 5-year replacement cycle and the diminishing number of XP boxes, until someone issues said diktat and tosses them.
It's not really even worth discussing the ins and outs, or advantages and disadvantages of either flavour. But it is worth talking about the least painful way to manage the transition and to realise that any talk of "cost saving" is thinly veiled talk of reducing support staff numbers.
First time-phone message
Hello Zir, my name is .... John. I'm doing a lifestyle survey, could you please spend a few minutes answering some questions?
Let's cut to the chase
The simple answer is to give The Vote to companies, as well as (or instead of) individuals. Let's set the stakes at one vote in any election for every employee. That way the politicians can at last "come out" and start publicly courting the corporate agenda - instead of having to do it illegitimately through bribes (sorry, I meant: campaign donations), bribes (ooops: charitable works), bribes (err, that should read: a seat on the board) and corruption (dammit: ... nope, that would just be straight corruption).
At least that way, we could see who we, ordinary people, were really up against in an election. I'm sure that if all agendas were out in the open, the traditional right-vs-left of personal politics would get kicked out of sight, when we saw where the real threats to our freedoms were.
> I honestly don't know what he's talking about, so I'm afraid I can't help him with full and frank disclosures,
When confronted with a difficult question, politicians usually claim ignorance. This is quite a successful strategy as it's what most citizens think of them anyway.
What proportion think fictional surveys are real?
This is an old, old, apocryphal piece that comes up time after time¹. I recall smirking at the idea decades ago when I read a "survey" that said people believed the stuff in Star Trek was real. It's good to see that not only are poeple still responding to the same silly claims, but that they also think that survey results are real, too.
 and not because it's discovered the secret of traveling through time faster than we all do naturally.
"Best Practice" is to blame
"We are a professional organisation. We demand the best from our people. Therefore we require that our systems are the best, too. This will reflect well on the team and on the company."
What this means is that all a salesperson has to do is mention the word "enterprise" (which automatically doubles the price of every component, much as "gaming" does for home users), throw in a few "integrated" "standards compliant" (which standards? doesn't matter - there are so many it's bound to be compliant with one or another) and "expandable" and they can spend the rest of the day leafing through the Mercedes catalog in the expectation of the commission they'll get from a few random buzzwords.
The thing is, everyone's afraid that their systems won't measure up. Hence they are desperate to find out what their industry leaders consider "best practice" and slavishly emulate that. Not a thought is given to whether their requirements are the same as the multi-billion, international, FTSE-100 "leader" who did a vanity piece in a glossy mag that the IT directory just happened to see. No, that's "best practice" and since we're the "best", too we should have it. No matter that it's only meant for a 9-5, Mon-Fri email server for the part-time office manager in a far-flung outpost. It simply MUST by resilient, redundant, expandable, remotely managed, fully monitored and covered by a gold plated service contract - with 5 minute callout times.
Afterall, we want to be featured in a glossy sales publication, with the IT director swaggering about, boasting about redefining the boundaries of best practice. That is just before he/she/it jumps ship seconds ahead of the outsourcing deal which will cut the IT budget in half, as we can't afford all these gold-plated systems - forget best practice, good enough will be the new watchword.
This validates the device, not the user
> It makes no sense for O2 to check the customer's age at 2.1GHz (3G) and not at 2.4GHz (Wi-Fi) or even over ADSL
Most people have a 1::1 mapping between their phone and their eyeballs. Most individuals won't (rightly) let others use their phones or see what pops up on its display (or is stored on it). That is not the case with a PC. How would a family "prove" that everyone who accessed a communal computer was > 18? A simple credit card from the ADSL account payer won't do it. All that proves is that ONE individual is over 18, not that everyone is.
So while this scheme may just about be more-or-less viable for a personal device, it is structurally incapable of proving age for a more accessible piece of equipment.
and who is "Tesco"? it's the shareholders. Who are the shareholders? Mostly pension funds.
> The Treasury reckons it is losing about £130m in tax per year
The british public is benefiting by about £130m in reduced prices per year.
Overdressed or spelling mistooks
One place I worked, the course we had to go on *before* being allowed to interview candidates informed us that were were only to assess the technical content of CVs. We were not allowed to consider their appearance at interview, or their writing skills - as that could be considered discriminatory.
Uhh, yes - we were trying to discriminate: the probables from the possibles.
However the HR lady was adamant that this was THE LAW. As a consequence no-one ever got recruited and the place filled up with contractors. It cost three times as much, but at least we could ditch the crap ones. And yes, they did attend interviews in suits (and BMWs)
Only discriminatory until the first claim
2 people apply for first-time car insurance. Both have just passed their test, neither has any criminal record nor has had a car accident. Should they pay the same amount of insurance, for the same cover? Until there's some DATA to say otherwise, the only realistic answer is yes.
However, once one driver can be shown to be more careful/responsible/aware/lucky or the other one shown to be the opposite. the situation changes. At that time you now have the smallest amount of information on which to assess the risk involved in insuring these two people - you can now expect their insurance rates to change, however unfairly to reflect the new conditions. That is no longer discrimination, it's actuarial analysis. (Though with only one single datum, not very reliable but better than nothing - barely)
So maybe we can expect a future where people start off by paying the same premiums for the same cover but very quickly, given the frequency that some individuals have accidents or cause claims, diverge in what their insurance costs. Maybe even to the point of it changing every few weeks depending on the miles they drive and the conditions (day/night/summer/winter/city/country) they encounter. Of course, all that extra administration would cost money, so premiums would inevitably go up, but at least the premiums would be fact-based.
It's not a question of security
It's a question of what is an appropriate level of security?
Sadly, that question very rarely gets asked. Most IT departments view security in the same way a thug views violence - if a little doesn't work, you need more. The problem is that when it's done badly, intrusive security becomes more of a problem itself than the situation it was meant to solve.
Most users don't care about security. They can't see it. They can't measure it. It doesn't make their jobs faster, easier or more efficient. From their point of view people who try to impose more of it on them are the enemy. The trick is to put the right levels of security at the right place and doing the right thing. Unfortunately almost no-one does this. We're all so fixated by the FUD/CYA mentality that we forget what our computer systems are for.
Ultimately, the only way they can be made completely safe is to lock them in a room behind a steel door, with the power turned off. They might not get any work done, but at least they're secure. What the security industry needs more than anything is a few sensible people, taking a realistic approach and finding the right balance between utility and keeping the baddies out. Not just slapping on another layer each time they read about another theoretical possibility in a technical publication.
A different sport
No, but talking b@@@@@@cks is. Sadly we didn't decide that in time to get it into the olympics (we already have a world-class stadium for it, too). If we had, we'd have won gold, silver and bronze in every possible combination of the event: Mens, Womens, mixed, team events, short-distance, long-distance and relay. Not forgetting long b@@@@@cls, high b@@@@@cks, pole-b@@@@@cks and triple b@@@@@@@cls(!!!) too.
The giveaway in the article is NOT that she was shocked by the amount of porn ...
> And so much of it for absolutely no cost at all.
There we have it. She was really disgusted that the government had allowed this to continue without carving themselves a slice of the tax revenue.
Yes, you're right, I was looking for the right word. Subjects was the closest I could get. I realise that it's not correct, but none of the alternatives seemed to work, either. What I wanted was the inverse of "rulers" or governors (see later) and "subject" is listed as a valid antonym.
Governments don't have citizens, countries do, likewise population. Customers implies there's some choice in the relationship. Recipients is too vague. Targets doesn't quite do it either. Underling sounds too personal or small-scale. Some urban slang has the right measure of contempt and disdain - if anatomically incorrect, but let's try to keep some standards, eh? what-ho?
I suppose "electorate" is technically correct, but "serf" better conveys the balance of power. Despite our lords and masters being called "public servants" there is absolutely no doubt in their minds who is in charge - maybe we get "served" the same way that lunch does.
It's not about the census, really
It's about the lack of trust that recent governments have worked so hard (and been so successful) at engendering. The reasons for knowing how many people there are is quite reasonable and necessary. But the problems these guys seem to have is that they don't believe that the information won't be abused,
As is usual, the more a government denies something, the more people will think it's true - so the more we're told the information is "safe" the less likely we are to believe it. Since trust is truth multiplied by time (for a simplistic but quantifiable definition) there is no easy way to fix that situation. It would take any government a long period of not lying to it's vict^H^H^H^Hsubjects to regain that trust and there's little indication they are prepared to put in the time, or have the inclination, for that to happen.
Only that the requirements to win are a 10 y/o's grasp of english and access the a large body of information.
Given that yer average tabloid has a "reading age" target of 10-12, then a computer with those abilities should be able to answer most questions that a tabloid reader would be likely to pose. Though whether a computer would be able to simulate the hysterical moral outrage that tabloids have made their own is a more interesting issue..
Watson vs. a 10 year-old + internet?
OK, so a computer plus the massed brains of IBM beats merely the massed brain of 1 person. Fair enough. However what would be a more interesting comparison would be to pitch this (presumably standalone) machine against a reasonably net-savvy child with a search engine.
I've never seen Jeopardy (is it an "only in america" thing?), but it seems to revolve around the contestants extracting a subject and some keywords from a "clue" and then solving the subject from the greatest correlation of keywords. In which case it needs a large knowledge base, some experience of how to extract the salient elements of the question and a strategy on deciding your confidence level / how much to bet. That's where the future lies.
Presumably tv-watching nerds already play along on their computers while watching the show. I would be surprised if they didn't wipe the floor with "ordinary" players - even the best ones.
@Sorry but I disagree.
> I downvoted you, and here's why.
First of all, respect for saying that and the explanation.
The point I was trying to make was not one about nuturing/caring, there's plenty of that - some of it's even genuine (though personally I'd prefer teachers who were complete b.....rds, but efficiently and consistently transferred knowledge and skills). What I would like to end is the "stove-pipe" effect of schools. A teacher presents their subject to one class, then goes on and does the same at a different level to another class. Repeat this process for every teacher in every school. Each one does their job in isolation, is assessed in isolation and never has to consider what any of the class is taught by any other teacher - and in some cases actively avoids "stepping on other teachers' toes". That's a bit of a simplification, but the general case stands.
I suppose the basic problem is the emphasis on choice. While this may seem like a good idea, in real life choices always come with consequences. Those are never made known to the kids when they decide what courses to take. It's almost put as a "free lunch" - with the only limitations being ones of timetabling, not practicality If there was the possibility of some kind of sanity check on those choices - preferably run by an outside, independent body that both presented options before the choosing began and support during it. Along the lines of "you _do_ realise that if you do X, the following opportunities will be closed to you?" or "if you want to go into Y, you'll need a minimum of .... "
This is not even just about getting a job. Exactly the same principle applies to purely academic courses - although it would be nice if schools set the expectation that people leaving education should support themselves - rather than work merely being one option open to them. Even the old chestnut of "Legal / interesting / well-paid - choose any two" would be worthwhile careers advice to anyone, at any time during the education process.
The question that's never asked
And then, what?
Having watched the process of two of the Pete 2 clan setting out for university (or 3 years of booze, partying and occasionally handing in an assignment, as they thought it would be) nobody ever takes the whole school/qualifications/university/job process to the next logical step. Nobody in secondary education appears capable or interested in what happens to the little kiddy-winks once they depart (running) from the hallowed portals that was school.
The secondary education process is essentially a sausage factory. Raw meat comes in at age 11, gets stuff added, shaped and wrapped up. Eventually it gets squeezed out of the other end of the educational machine and, with luck, adds to the tables of academic achievement with the requisite numbers of GCSEs and A-levels. The End.
At no point during the years spent listening to semi-qualified grownups (in the loosest possible definitions of both terms) is there any strategy given to the kids. Sure, some of them might get some careers advice from people who went into the education system aged 5 and are still in it, 30 years later - albeit giving instead of taking. But none ever get told that if they get a degree in art-history or french, all they'll be able to do with it is work in a museum (sweeping the floors) or in a Burger King in downtown Marseilles asking the punters "Voulez-vous quelque choses à boire, avec ça?"
For most of them, the whole point of school is survival. Getting through with the least amount of hassle, selecting courses that aren't hard - or that they like. No-one apparently ever suggests that Geography, German and Religious Studies might not be a good combination or that people won't be falling other each other to employ you, with English Literature and Physics side by side on your resume.
No. Education is far above such practical, materialistic things as earning a living or paying off your student loan. It's all about EXPANDING YOUR MIND, releasing your potential (for what?) and becoming a balanced and valued member of society. Just like your teachers were. That's just as well, since by the time these future dole-claimers get to studying for GCSEs, the deadlines for career changing decisions is far behind them. If yo want a career in science, it's no good thinking about that at age 21 after you've graduated. Or even at 18 when choosing a degree course - your available topics are decided by your A-level subjects and grades, not by what you WANT to so. Even at 16 your path is already cast in concrete as it's then too late to correct poor GCSE choices and take different courses instead. So at the tender age of 13, either you want to be a scientist or you don't - any other time is too late. But, at 13 what possible experience would you have to base a life-choice on? Only your parents and teachers - God help us.
We know that sheep produce methane. What I want to know is whether the digestion products from the TNT act like a "nitro" injector into their already flammable emissions. If so, anyone fancy trying to exploit this source of alternative energy?
It just needs a good war
In peacetime, military projects get bogged down for years. Since there is no immediate need for that new fighter, or submarine, or helicopter the designers tend to let their fantasies run wild: "why don't we give it underwater capabilities?, or the ability to disguise itself as a flock of birds?" or whatever flights of fancy they saw on TV the night before. All this project creep not only increases the cost but also pushes the development time back, too.
Come a hot war, when there actually is a need for a newer, better gizmo then things move much quicker, since people are actually dying for lack of it. A JFDI attitude comes into play.
So what I propose is america declares war on some celestial object. It shouldn't be too hard to come up with some sort of threat that (say) Dark Matter or Alpha Centauri poses. Once that is done and all the politicians are busy saluting the flag, some real development can be started. They'll probably need nuclear fusion and some tough new alloys, but since the price of failure would be too high to contemplate, there shouldn't be the need for more motivation - and since we are always told that all you have to do is want something badly enough ...
Even better, once this thing is assembled and fired off at our new mortal enemy (for you just *know* that the british govt. is going to get in on the act, too - probably saying we could be attacked within 45 minutes) we could even declare victory - that the baddies saw it coming and scarpered back from whence they came, which is why there's no evidence of them any more. However, since eternal vigilance is the price of something or other, we'd better build a whole fleet of these interstellar gizmos, just in case. In fact, now the baddies have seen what we have - we ought to build better ones, for if they do come back they'll have likely as not, an improved gizmo of their own. And we wouldn't want a gizmo gap now, would we?
Let the interstellar arms race begin.
If the person with the speed gun was traveling at 1100kph in the other direction.
A simple kinda guy
Yup, simple is good. Multilayered is good, too. Artsy-fartsy: no thanks, gore-fest: not my cuppa.
Liked: 2001 (in the list), Local Hero (also in the list)
Disliked: Pans Labyrinth (not in the list), Clockwork orange (?)
As a guide, if it conforms to Mark Twain's Rules of Fiction then there's a good chance I'll like it. If it spends more time showing off the prowess of the writers/actors/technicians than it does telling a story, I'm out.
It's long been my belief that most of the films critics "like" are ones I absolutely hate. (Not all: I quite liked The Third Man). The main reason is that I watch films to be entertained: for a good plot. I care very little for the quality of the cinematography or the expert touch of the lighting or most of the other things that seem to send critics into paroxysms of adulation.
So on that basis, I'd be more interested in knowing what the bottom 20 films were. Although having checked out the list, it apparently doesn't go low enough as a lot of numbers 100 -80 still appear more "worthy" than cracking good stories.
security makes dedupe irrelevant
If you do what we're always being told to and encrypt your files there is no possibility that a deduplication process (or a file compression regime, for that matter) can work.
All this tells us ...
... is that people are selective. They tend to read articles that support their views. They tend to remember (and quote) them, while dismissing, ignoring or twisting information that runs contrary either to their pet beliefs - or how they think things "ought to be".
The difficulty with the internet is that you can't tell the difference between a journalist and a 13 y.o. american, They can bother write blogs. They can both create forums (and the level of debate in either's forum will probably be at much the same level). They can both claim to have researched their material - although I expect this research is mostly just plagiarising the work of others - with whom they agree. And you can't tell if they miss a deadline because their mum has revoked internet privileges or because they've just spent a week in rehab.
The wonder of closed systems
The biggest difference between these phone-enabled mobile computers ("super phones"? pah!) and their stone-age cousins is the app store. One thing that Apple have succeeded to do is shut off the flood of "stuff" that made PCs what they are today. Now, yo can only run stuff that Steve himself has blessed.
They've effectively got back to the 1960's when IBM ruled the roost. You rented the hardware from them. You rented their apps and ONLY their apps. You upgraded when told to, You clucked like a chicken when required and gave thanks and praise for their little logo on the side of the box.
It was only when those people from Amdahl came along and effectively "jail broke" the mainframe (a thing that would never be allowed to happen today) to let all the exploited and bitter users feel slightly less exploited and bitter with a slightly cheaper competitor that things started to go wrong. And from there we ended up with computers that would run any old software ... and viruses ....
In some respect the closing and uber-controlling of OUR iPads, phones and gizmos is just a symptom of the uncertain and fearful world we now inhabit. However, from the perspective of the new-generation of portable appliances it's all they could have ever hoped for. They don't have to worry about people running any old stuff, they are getting to the point where you can only load the DATA they want to you (and take their 30% for pimping it to you). This form of marketing is obviously a success. While Apple have a smallish share of the flash-git phone market they have an enormous profit-share of modern phones an' stuff. A position all the other vendors must be looking at to see how they can do it, too.
The answer is to close off as much of the feature-scape as possible. Control the access to the device and make money off the content (old man Gillette would be proud). While this may well be a route to shutting off security issues, it vastly reduces the utility of portable devices - which presumably means they won't be sold on their uses, but on their looks.
This was the RETURN flight
> a massive suitcase then start bitterly complaining about the charges
Unless they had all been on a suitcase buying spree in Lanzarote, they would have taken their suitcases with them on the flight out - and presumably been charged for the privilege. So to start whinging when the same thing happens on the flight back makes no sense.
Burden of proof?
So you have two or more people standing on the street. A policeman walks by <sniff, sniff> looks at the people - how does he know which one to arrest?
All I can think of is invoking the old playground rule which would mean turning himself in.
The real benefit of change management
It does for organisations what an operating system does for a computer: slows things down to a manageable speed.
We know this works, since my W7, 4GB, 1TB box takes as long to boot now as my CP/M, 64k, 3½" floppy box did in 1986
ticking the box
If you can boost the output power by 20dB then your transmitted signal will go further. However, unless the equipment you're talking to has also ticked the box, their transmissions back to you won't have the added ooomf (technical term) so won't reach you - or the SNR won't be high enough to sustain the same data rate in both directions.
Whether the kit you've got has the smarts to deal with that sort of asymmetry would be an interesting thing to know
P.S. In that sheep field you had to dig up, how close together do you plant your sheep?
Here's what you do.
You pretend you bought a Galaxy Tab and that you've had it just long enough so the novelty has worn off and all your friends are sick to death of hearing about it.
By that time you will have come to the conclusion that at nearly 8 inches long and nearly 6 across, it's too big to fit in your trouser pocket - so you need to carry a bag to keep it in. You have further realised that having it in a bag is very inconvenient when someone calls or you want to plug your head in for some tunes (esp. if your bluetooth connection gets shielded by the bag) so you carry a phone in your pocket, too.
Since you now have to carry a bag, you might as well have a laptop in it - with a decent sized screen and a proper keyboard, rather than that greasy, dirty and fingerprint covered touchscreen (where you cover up with your finger exactly the thing you're trying to access).
You are now ahead of the field. Whereas most people are still in the thinking-of, or buyers remorse stages, you have a good 3 months on them. You can talk sagely to prospective buyers about the advantages (for you have read the reviews, too) and you can warn them of the disadvantages - or not. You can feel superior to people with even the latest tablets and if you really, really can't shake the desire to actually own one - don't despair, they'll be up on eBay soon when everyone who did buy them in the first flush of enthusiasm discovers the drawbacks for themselves.
possible != probable
So there's a possibility (Q: has it ever, actually happened) that a bad person could change the details of a fliers booking, or cancel it. So, apart from doing mischeif what the hell would be the point? There's no possibility the bad person could make a financial gain for themselves from this - which therefore rules out 99.9 ... percent of the motivation for doing bad things to other people via the internet.
At best the miscreant would cause an unknown amount of inconvenience to a person they've never met. [If the target was someone they knew, they would surely have more direct ways of annoying them and could use their knowledge of that person to much greater effect].
So, yes. In theory this sort of activity may be possible. In practice the reasons for doing so would be so slight that an argument could be put that the person doing it had a mental health problem. In the real world it would be interesting to hear if there were any stories of this happening - either proven or even hearsay, to let us quantify the actual size of the problem.
And when the dust settles
collect up all the usernames, nicks, contact info, friends lists and "likes". Find out the real people behind them and start the reckoning.
BTW. In that case, it doesn't matter which side won, there will be a purge/backlash against those foolish enough to associate themselves with the losers. The internet never forgets you.
Egypt: not as internet driven as we thought
> Egyptian protests continue - without Twitter and Facebook.
It's a common conceit among the interneterati that the unrest in Egypt either came about, or became significant, due to the effects of masses of people using the internet. It didn't. The unrest had been growing for a long, long time and Egyptians using the internet made practically no difference to the level of unrest within the country.
What t' 'net has effected is our methods of receiving news. So people wrongly assumed that just because we, in the west, almost require stuff to be fed to us through an internet connection - that the same MUST therefore apply everywhere else. It doesn't.
More dangerously; we make the assumption that somehow the internet is a sort of anti-establishment tool. That information we get from people "on the ground" makes us somehow closer to the truth and free of government spin and propaganda. In fact, believing information from one unknown, unvalidated and anonymous source is just as likely to be incorrect as believing it from any other. So while we might think that just because we're seen a posting from someone at the riots, that somehow everything they say must be true. Bzzzzzt. It's just as easy for either side to post stuff - we use our own biases and opinions to select which snippets of information we choose to believe, without having any clue abou the big picture.
I can see a time when, far from cutting off the internet during times of strife, governments will realise that they can manipulate foreign opinion just as easily as protesters - by using their own people, tweeting/FB-ing that the riots are really justa small group of criminals and there's really nothing to worry about. Of course, then human nature takes over. Since we all love a good crisis (especially when it doesn't affect us, directly) we're predisposed to always believe the worst. That means that whichever side can paint the most disastrous stories will easily win our sympathy. Maybe it's time to go back to believing what we experience ourselves and treating everything else with a healthy dose of skepticism?
Worst advice ever
> best chance of reducing UK youth unemployment was to get people to start their own businesses
So you come out of college with £20k of debt round your neck and a credit rating that makes Greece look like Fort Knox.
"Oh well, if you can't get someone to employ you - just start you own business" Get a grip! For a start, people coming straight out of school (or university - same thing; different name) have literally no idea about working for a living - I know, I didn't and most new graduate recruits flounder just as much as I did. They've never done it, they don't know the disciplines involved or what is the difference between a saturday job in Tesco and a career. The absolute last thing they should be doing is making their own precarious existences more complicated by adding on to of that the extra burden of running a business: PAYE, VAT, billing, marketing, product design, dealing with suppliers or (worse) customers.
Since most of the academics in university (and almost all of the ones in schools) have never had a proper job outside their cloistered calling, they are in no position to offer careers advice - even though they often do. They won't offer their charges any training in how to "do" a career, let alone how to "do" a company - ask them to fill in a VAT return and they'd probably cry.
So what _should_ the outpourings from our academic institutions be looking for? First of all, count their inherent advantages: they can legally be employed in Britain, they live in the country, they speak good enough english and can often write and read it, too. Some can use a calculator and a few will own a suit. Sounds like the ideal qualifications for an estate agency. For the non suit-owners? well, there's always the saturday job in Tesco's that they scorned, for three years of carefree drinking.
The easiest business case in the world
Boffin: "We've got to keep the LHC running for another year - that way we'll open an interdimensional portal and we will be able to communicate with the future"
Bean counter: "How can you be sure"
Boffin; "Simple, I got am email from myself, dated 2013 telling me how to do it"
Wouldn't it be cheaper
... just to bribe the judge on the case?
More things to get rid of
Before we embark on a crusade against an insignificant pattern of pixels, how about tackling things that actually matter?
Before ridding the world of Comic Sans, let's fix poverty, disease, repression, oppression, suppression, ignorance (ooops, we're back on fonts again), intolerance (gah - and again), fear, guns (doh! same thing), greed, exploitation, climate change, crime, smoking, baldness, inflation, nagging, corruption, commercial fusion, algal blooms, spam, obesity and late trains.
Once we've got all of that nailed, then it's time to worry about the trivia - though I've got to say the ability to spell has got to come before what font you misspell your language in.
Too much spare time
It's only a font. Nobody cares
Ever read The Economist?
If you do read The Economist, you'll find that it's probably one of only two (FT being the other) newspapers that is willing to give a balanced and dispassionate view of events: whether in Britain or around the world. Sure, it takes a view that money matters and that having it is nothing to be ashamed of (assuming it was obtained legitimately), but that's surely better than measuring a person's worth by the size of their chest.
As for Egypt: To quote from http://www.economist.com/node/18010573 "The ruling party is arrogant, nepotistic and corrupt. ... " and nothing in the piece makes any mention of business (nor Vodafone, for that matter).
 They do refer to themselves as a newspaper these days.
Meanwhile, across the world ....
> the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it
> Virtually all internet access was cut off late last night.
many, many other governments are wondering if they could get themselves some laws like that. And whether it would be best to present them to their citizens as "child safety" legislation or anti-terrorism regulations.
The message, not the medium
I suspect that what really sold you was the access to a knowledgeable person - not the fact that they communicated with you through instant chat. You would have been just as happy, maybe even more so, if you had spoken to them on the phone, or via a video conferencing system.
Likewise, if the IRC fairy had said "please enter your 128 character customer ID." ... "now enter the answer to your security question *what are the names of the pets of everyone in your street" "Now please enter your date and time of birth, to the nearest second - using the Julian calendar" you might have been less happy, even if the communications medium was trendy "chat".
Chat does not magically transform an obtuse call agent into your new best friend. It does not raise their IQ by 120 points (so that it becomes at least a positive number), nor does it necessarily circumvent a poorly designed customer interface. The only reason it appears more helpful is that it is small-scale: not yet mainstream. Just as soon as the world's major call centres realise that by using chat instead of voice, each agent will be able to hold 3 clients on the "line" simultaneously it will become just as slow, annoying and obstructive as every other "lowest cost wins" form of customer interaction.
The _real_ reason to use flash
As a fly on the wall when a few website designers have been in, hawking their warez, sorry: wares. The person the website has to be sold to is NOT the person on the end of a search engine, it's usually the least savvy, most superficial person in the room: the M.D.
In order to get that person to sign on the dotted, it's not necessary to talk about keywords, content, rankings, load-time, bloat, Java, accessibility, CMS or any of the things that make a site successful (or not) to the end user. All you have to do is go for the "ooooh, shiny" reaction and possibly wipe the dribble off their chin. It's only once the site has been delivered and gone live that reality starts to bite - and features that were paid for get removed (but the fees never come back) in order to make it even slightly usable.
As with all sales: it's a case of "know your client" and in most cases, web-designers do, and we have to live with the consequences.
 The household name that so stuffed their home page with widgets, gadgets, trivia, effects and popups that the only time it ever loaded within the contractually stipulated time was on the internal 100MBit network.
If content is king
Then search ranking must be power behind the throne.
The basic problem with search engines (and by that I mean Google, none of the others really matter in the english-speaking world) is that they rank sites based on their popularity. You can have the world's most authoritative source of information, but if no-one knows about it, then no-one will link to it and the crawlers that our sites live or die by will note that and it will be lost in the noise - on page two of the search results (which with Google Instant, means outside the top 10). Once it disappears from the only place that 95% of people will look, it simply becomes invisible, and will never get the visits or links to improve its position ...
Now there are plenty of strategies for bootstrapping yourself - and (I'm told by their creators) that a few of them might even work. The difficulty is having the webmeisterly knowledge to separate the sump-oil from the antifreeze and be able to judge which ones will produce results and which ones will just take your money. Especially when the odds are stacked against finding truth as opposed to beauty.
So while a lot of companies have reached the conclusion that "everyone has to have a website these days, so we'd better have one too", most of them - the ones that are NOT household names, are getting next to no benefit from it. For most, the only traffic their sites generate are sales calls and SPAM from people promising to get them into the top rankings. Maybe that's where the money really lies.
The lessons of Standard Oil
We know what happens when one company becomes dominant. It starts off well then discovers how easily it can abu^H^H^Htake advantage of its commercial might, but it ends in tears.
BTW, if you're not aware of the story, you can errr.... Google for it.
Help is at hand
I'm sure the british police's bodyguard unit could send someone over
Just like Tesco
Try this. Go to your local supermarket, corner a shelf-stacker and start asking them about the calorific value of their chunky pickle, or whether "I can't believe it's not butter" is better than "Olive spread". You'll get just as poor quality advice from their untrained and disinterested staff as you will from the untrained and disinterested staff in any computer store.
The big difference is that shoppers in computer stores generally know even less about the products they are prepared to hand over money for, than the untrained and disinterested employees. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Now, I appreciate that yer average ASDA doesn't advertise about how every checkout person has a PhD in nutrition or food science. But it's *advertising*, people - you really shouldn't expect facts, truth or fairness. They're after your money, for the least cost to themselves, surely that's not a surprise to anyone?
The good thing about computer stores (and those ones that sell electronic toys) is that the staff know that they know bugger all about any of the products and will go to great lengths to avoid talking to or eye contact with, any potential customers. In that respect at least, they're helping us.
No need to wait
there are plenty of colonoscopy videos on youtube already