The Spam Queue

This column attracts spam. As do all the others I write. So, I would imagine, would a note left in a bottle for the milkman – given the ever-reaching greed of internet pests.

Fortunately there is a program that drives away most of this traffic, putting it into a bin for me to empty periodically. I have learned to give the contents only the most cursory glance before flushing it. Once, within a space of a decade, there may be a genuine message leaking into the cesspool. More often the seepage is the other way. I am prepared to lose one real comment amongst the dross.

Like the Indian scam phone callers, I am at a loss to think that anyone could ever be interested enough in these fraudulent pests to ever respond to them…and I imagine that it would only spark a greater onslaught. Yet, the fact remains that they keep coming. This suggests some profit from it for the criminals and therefore some engagement by the unwary. If there is a trail of anything, it will be a trail of money and stupidity.

It is tempting to go on the hike as well. If others can pick an occasional drachma from the pockets of the unwary, surely I can put my hand in there too. I have been able to persuade people to all sorts of folly in the past, and I hope my skills are still with me. It’s just thinking how to do it…

Will they fall for sending me money directly? That’s been tried by everyone from Nigeria to Nunawading, and unless you have  dewy-eyed kittens marching on Parliament House, you are unlikely to access the right level of gullibility. I can be dewy-eyed but kitten suits are hot and itchy.

I could threaten. If they are frightened of the Immigration Department there is a chance that they’ll pay to avoid deportation. If the Taxation Department is their nightmare I can put on my best Jobsworth manner and impose fines left, right, and center. But I have no need of iTunes cards or anything else that might be duped out of them. It’d have to be cash or nothing, and that leaves the operational problem of collecting it. I don’t mind the victims being dumb, but I don’t want to join them.

Perhaps cajoling would work. I could try to shame them for eating meat, or vegetables, or sugar, or really anything…with the absolute certainty that they will feel guilty about something. It’s just finding out that secret shame and whacking it with a mallet.

I wish I was better at begging in rags. I’ve got the rags, all right, courtesy of a lifetime of never cleaning the wardrobe out, but the thought of panhandling in shopping centres leaves me cold. I don’t like the places all that much when I’ve got money, so doing the urban poor act would be even worse.  I suppose I could send out invitations for people to visit me here at home and I could do it in the lounge room, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that promising.

 

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I Wish To Buy Some Malware Please…

Good morning. I wonder if your could help me. I want to buy some malware, please.

My in-law’s birthday is coming up and he’s a big fan of computers and video games and mobile phones. I want to get him something that he’ll appreciate and that he can use for years to come.

I’m not worried about the cost, as long as it doesn’t go over the top. I’ve got a budget of $ 200 as this is a significant birthday and we want to make it memorable.  I looked in JB HiFi and the Apple store but all they seem to have is headphones or Bluetooth speakers – I want something a bit more high-tech. I’ve read that malware can reduce unwary people to financial ruin and gibbering madness, and I thought that this would be nice.

Actually, I have no idea what it actually is. Is it a book or something or a tape that you play?  Can you get it on vinyl, because I know he has a record player…I’m sorry if I seem a bit vague, but I didn’t get a chance to talk much to the lady from India who said she was the Technical Department of Microsoft when she rang the other week. After I could not find the thing on the computer that she wanted me to press she just started crying and rang off. I would like a second chance to make her day.

 

 

Letting The Hooks Do Their Work

We often read about how complex things should be to work well. The endless choice of fashion and fad –  together with tech and toy – will have us doing 5 procedures to maximise our pleasure, safety, or monetary return…and in many cases we will have wasted all the effort. A simpler solution was there on the counter, or in the drawer all the time.

No sphere of activity sees this more than the photographic world – except the self-publishing weblog one. We are continually being bombarded with must-do extra steps. We are looked upon as fools and dinosaurs if we do not do them. I saw one instance yesterday of this sort of built-in confusion but I saw that it has been disabled – and by the people who set it up in the first place. This gives me hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel and that it is not an oil fire…

The car parks of Perth that are run by Wilson Parking have had a variety of operational systems over the years – from grumpy old men in little hutches beside the gate to massive ticket machines in the multi-storey parks. These machines started out simple, got complex, then more complex…then I stopped going to the multi-storeys because I feared for my sanity. The outside parks got a new wrinkle a few years back – a machine that demanded your license plate registration before it would accept your cash or credit card entry for parking.

I was always having to restart the procedure to key it in as I either forgot a number or hit the wrong key. You could see lines of people doing the same thing and getting frustrated and angry. Added to this the practice of wheel clamping to extort money and the whole idea of going into entertainment or city areas became untenable. I stayed out and so did others.

Yesterday the Wilson outside machine was one of those license plate jobs but they had disabled the function and turned on one that just issued you a ticket based on the time you paid for. The charges weren’t excessive and as it was a pay-wave job your card stayed in your hand. Finally the automatic features were allowed to run unhindered and the experience was good.

Either someone came to their senses or the machine was broken…

The Watch Tower And The Listening Post…

We should all be prepared to realise that the things we write on the internet:

a. Will never go away, unless they are useful and vital to our well-being. Then they’ll vanish without trace.

b. Are overseen by any number of state and private agencies and snoopy individuals.

c. Are carefully noted when they contain trigger words that deal with state security or criminal activities. Even if we innocently write the words ” bomb plot ” or ” My Kitchen Rules ” they will trigger an automatic recording by someone in Langley, Virginia, Beijing, and Moscow. Also probably in Pyongyang and possibly in Canberra. They will certainly be noted in Bombay and used to provide the telephone scammers with a target.

This is a problem for those of us who routinely write about shelling the local council offices with a howitzer because we can never tell whether the federal government snoopers will think it a bad idea…or a good one. I guess we’ll find out if someone leaves a free basket of 250mm shells at the front door tied up with a pink ribbon and bearing a ” Thank You ” card.

My chief fear is that the things that I write will lead to my friends being arrested, tried in secret, and jailed for long periods. And that I won’t be there to see the fun.

Still, there is always hope – you are reading this right now, and your internet address has been sent to a group of hackers in Athens. With any luck you should be getting your ransom demand in a couple of hours. They are not greedy – you can pay in moussaka and retsina.

 

 

 

The Start Of Experiment Two

This last month I experimented upon the friends in my Facebook connection – this month I experiment on me.

July I refrained from turning anything off – I let it all hit me and carefully noted what that was like. I looked at who posted what, and how their writings or shares affected me. I mentally separated the wheat from the chaff and then the chaff from the horse shit. I now have a darned good idea who deals in these undesirables.

I also noted who wrote or shared happier things. I was alert to actual intelligence as it manifested itself, and again now know who is cheerful and smart.

This month -August – I am going to find out what being without this daily feed of social information is really like. And what the time normally spent scrolling through it would yield if I used it for other purposes. The discipline is simple:

I will link over my own WordPress columns as usual, but I will not scroll or read the rest of the feed. I will read the Messenger section each day and use this as per normal…but no kitten videos or political rants or advertisements will take up my day. I won’t de-friend or unfollow anyone in the next month – i’ll just keep my eyes off what they write.

This’ll be a good chance for those people who want to traduce, insult, or cajole me to get in there and give it a good month-long kick. I won’t be reviewing the posts of August when September rolls around – whatever goes through there will be a train of thought that has vanished into the night.

When September comes I’ll reopen my eyes and analyse what a month Facebook-free meant. I’ve no idea whether it will be wonderful or horrible, but here’s to 30 days of experimentation to find out.

The Quiet Season Starts

Monday was the first day of my pledge not to react to Facebook taunts. I publicly promised to read the thing as usual for a month but not edit what I see.

It was, perhaps, a rash decision – coming as it did just on the month that contains Dominion Day, Independence Day, and Bastille Day. All occasions that may draw forth the bray of the Great Australian Ass on social media. I am now bound to hear it but ignore it…

Fortunately I can still write my own thoughts in my own columns, and hope that someone in the great somewhere reads every word. But even here I am bound by the laws of gentlemanly behaviour not to attack people with scurrilous rumour and unsubstantiated slander. I am not allowed to mock the afflicted. It’s most disheartening.

However, good will come of it. At the same time that I am reading, marking, and inwardly writhing at the stupidity and bias of Facebook posters, I am going to be making a daily note of the way the site works. I’ll make a list of the postings that I see based upon:

a. Normal cheerful posts. ie kittens, babies, dance shows, hot rod cars, etc. Things that make me happy.

b. Cries for attention done in a genuine manner or similar cries done by copying and posting some senseless thing plucked of a North American website.

d.Noxious political propaganda – whether it be a shared rant or an original piece of bad humour or bad taste. Things that make me feel bad.

e. Advertisements. These also make me feel bad, but not in a personal sense – they are just an intrusion.

f. Messages. This section is generally of quite some use to me -a secondary link to people that can get a faster response than an email or postal contact.

In addition, I shall log the number of minutes each day spent on Facebook.

At the end of the month I’ll have a good idea whether I’m personally getting more happiness or more sadness from the social network. It is not a judgement on the people involved per se, but rather an analysis of what it has actually become for me.

Then the second part of the experiment in August…

The NBN Scam

Here in Australia we are just a phone call away from India. And in the case of our house that phone call is at 4:05 every afternoon.

The amazing part is that it is a different caller each time – apart from the silent ones or the hissers – and there is a slightly different pitch thrown with every one.

Today’s was the ” NBN “-  supposedly our developing national Broadband Network. It’s an ongoing fustercluck from both the federal government and a private quasi-corporation who pretend it is going to replace wires with optical cables and then up the speed of our internet connections. If it promised to connect us to unicorns and Judge Crater I would give it some serious credence, but as it is…

Now the Indian scammers have picked up on it and are ringing with either threats or promises to get us to allow malware to be installed in our computers. Today’s question revolved around technical work that was going on and what download speed we had. I suspect it was a complex shell game to allow some sort of ” test ” that would install a spyware program looking for passwords.

When the confused girl asked what speed we were experiencing I told her that we generally got about 350 MPH but this fell to 320 with drop tanks. Full throttle and water injection could up it to 385 but if you ran the computer too long at this setting the exhaust manifold would burn away. I was dead serious about this.

I’m not sure I cleared up her confusion.