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30 December, 2002

RIAA's Web Site Hacked Again

According to Andy Baio at waxy.org, the RIAA's web site has been hacked once again.

The RIAA foolishly left the content management administration page for their homepage open to the public: anyone can add a new press release here. The real-time edits are reflected immediately on their homepage. (Old entries are archived on their press releases page.

Well, I guess this doesn't really qualify as a hack since they left their press release submission page unprotected. It's just plain old stupidity -- which seems to be the norm at the RIAA.

As I write this, the press release submission page is publicly available -- but the rest of their site is not available. Strange!

Update: The Register has a bit more information about this.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

The Ice Hotel

Located in Quebec, Canada, The Ice Hotel is made out of ice and snow. It costs $12 to visit -- and considerably more to spend the night.

Imagine sleeping in a huge and amazing structure made every year out one of the purest materials found in nature and destined to disappear every spring: ice and snow. Have a closer look at this sparkling jewel!

Posted on 30 December, 2002

The Ideal Computer User...

... from the perspective of a spammer:

  • Is in debt, has tax problems, has a house that's being foreclosed, and has poor credit that needs fixing
  • Gets excited when a subject line contains multiple exclamation points
  • Needs to accept credit cards
  • Gets excited when someone sends "the information you requested"
  • Wants cheap web site hosting, likes the idea of registering domains for $1.00, and wants to be #1 in all search requests
  • Is open to financial offers from strangers in Nigeria
  • Is intrigued by the possibility of making money at home
  • Is addicted to porn, and wants free passwords
  • Needs to copy DVDs
  • Has a small penis, and also needs Viagra
  • is not adverse to taking investment advice from strangers
  • Wouldn't mind receiving 57 million email addresses for $99
  • Is losing his hair, and needs whiter teeth
  • Needs a free cell phone
  • Is curious about a message with a subject of "If you read nothing else, read this!!!,"  and gets a bit apprehensive when a message reads, "Last chance!"
  • Wants to get high with legal herbs
  • Wants to discover the truth about anyone
  • Needs to lose 13  pounds in 14 days
  • Is curious about a "very humor game"
  • Is flattered to read that someone "saw your web site"
  • Likes the idea of free cash
  • Has a special place in his heart for Symantec software
  • Is thrilled about getting in on the ground floor of a new casino launch
  • Is thankful that someone would actually reveal their best-kept business secrets
  • Can read Chinese and Korean
  • Has an IQ of about 63

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Microsoft's Worst Enemy

Joel Hruska writes a year-end analysis of Microsoft. He expresses an opinion that I've held for years: The people who work for Microsoft are, by and large, a great group. But, somehow, the company itself is much less than the sum of its parts.

The Dr. Jekyll of the Redmond campus may well be the collective body of programmers and designers--the true technicians--working on the software giants vast body of programs, operating systems, and other projects. If these were the people running the company, I daresay Microsoft would be perceived very differently by the collective IT community, but this is not the case.

And the other side of the coin:

The other aspect of Microsoft, and unfortunately, the dominant one, seems to be reserved for a type of marketing peon whose former job involved financial extortion, pathological lying, or a brief stint as one of Lucifer's demons.

This paragraph sums it up nicely:

Add it all up and what you have is a company that, at the least, displays a profound level of arrogance coupled with the unshakable belief that they have not only the ability, but the right to dictate to the rest of the world, from charities to corporations, how the world should look. The only place we see Microsoft backing away from this type of overlord status is when it comes to organizations such as the RIAA or MPAA -- and there, rather than standing strong as a champion of consumer's rights (its customers) the company has chosen to slavishly ally itself with them, incorporating ever-larger restrictions into its operating systems on how users can and can't use their equipment--and how they'll be monitored for doing so.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Preventing Burglaries in Russia

The English language version of Pravda is often good for a few laughs. Here's an example. The problem: Cottage burglaries in the Vladimir region.

Although the man himself is neither strong, nor awesome, he turned out to be a wonderful psychologist. He made special veneer bootprints which are extremely large: these devices leave too big prints on the snow around the cottages where the man is working as a watchman. When burglars attempt to break into the cottages, they first study the enormous bootprints left by the resourceful watchman here and there on the snow. Judging by the shoeprints, burglars think that the watchman is a huge and strong man, and they prefer to retire. The watchman says, the number of burglaries has reduced by almost 50% since the innovation was introduced.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

The Scam Called Ashcroft University

Yesterday I received an email with the subject line, "From the Dean." With a title like that it just couldn't be spam, so I took a look. It was from Ashcroft University, which is described as "one of the only accredited on-line schools." I visited their web site for a closer look.

It turns out that they can give you a university degree (Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate) in any field -- except Medicine (Doh! That's the one I wanted!). Even better: no tests, classes, books or interviews. What a deal!

Their philosophy:

We believe that during the course of your life you have aquired (sic) various life experiences, and gained valuable skills and knowledge which, we feel, deserves to be officially recognized. This may or may not include classes you have taken in a particular field or course of study.

It's really quite easy. Start by filling out an online form that describes your "life experience." If you can't remember the exact details, no sweat:

As a non-profit institution, we do not have the financial resources to check the validity of each and every application that comes before us from applicants around the world. In other words, "We take you at your word".

Pay your money, and you'll get a diploma, along with an official transcript. The transcript lists the courses you "took" and your "grades" -- completely fabricated, of course. They even provide a sample transcript and diploma.

But hurry, there's a sale going on. A Doctorate Degree and Transcript is only $495 (normally, a $1,478 value)! And in case you're no good at math, they put it in perspective for you:

Heck, a measly $1.38 per day is nothing -- you can easily spend that much on a medium-sized cup of coffee!

At first, I thought the Ashcroft University web site was joke -- a very well-done parody. But it's for real, and (of course) it's a scam. The first sign was the flashing banner ad urging me to "HIT THE BLUE DUCK." It turns out that this university uses a free web hosting site, and the banner ad is part of the deal. How many other universities are forced to use free web hosting?

But what good is a university degree if the institution is not accredited? Ah, but they are "fully accredited by and registered with the United Collegiate College Association (UCCA)." A Google search for this agency turned up exactly two hits -- both of them pointing to the Ashcroft University site.

The FAQ is particularly amusing. You'll learn:

  • They are a member of the Web Chamber of Commerce -- an organization that appears to be just as dubious and sleazy as Ashcroft University.
  • Acceptance into the program is determined by the "Board of Regents." I'd just love to sit in on one of their meetings!
  • What about those transcripts? Well, you're in luck... Quote: There is no mention of "equivalency", "evaluation", "non-traditional", "distance learning" or similar expressions on any of your credentials.
  • And the diplomas? We don't offer the 8 1/2" X 11" 'High School size' Diplomas like many Universities do. Instead we offer our graduates a full-sized 11" X 14" Diploma, the kind you find on fine wood paneled walls in prestigious Doctor and Lawyer's offices.
  • How long does it take? We usually figure approximately 21 days from the time your payment is received. We will send everything to you via airmail. If you desire "rush service," just add $45.00.

But wait! There's more! Earn your degree from Ashcroft University, and you'll get an exciting vacation package, plus a $500 casino certificate.

If you're short on cash, there are other web sites that simply sell fake diplomas -- for example, Fantasy Diplomas and Diplomas For Less. And those who are less ambitious might be willing to settle for a high school diploma.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Who Owns Your Garbage?

In Portland, the answer depends on who you are. Here's the most interesting story about garbage that I've ever read.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Crufty User Interfaces

Matthew Thomas writes about crufty user interfaces. "Cruft" refers to electronic garbage in software -- remnants of earlier days that remain in the software, and are not revised, updated, or replaced.

Microsoft and Apple don't want to make their users go through any retraining, at all, for fear of losing market share. So rather than make their interfaces less crufty, they concentrate on making everything look pretty.

That paragraph is a perfect description of the last few updates of Microsoft Office. Note that the word "pretty" isn't used literally. The Windows version of Microsoft Office is, by any standard, an ugly application. Rather, "pretty" refers to new features that look good in the marketing literature, but are virtually ignored by most users. Smart Tags is a good example.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Why Tristan Will Never Have a Girlfriend

A mathematical analysis indicates that the world has 18,726 potential girlfriends for this guy. But...

At first glance, a datable population of 18,726 may not seem like such a low number, but consider this: assuming I were to go on a blind date with a new girl about my age every week, I would have to date for 3493 weeks before I found one of the 18 726. That's very nearly 67 years. As a North American male born in the late 1970s, my life expectancy is probably little more than 70 years, so we can safely say that I will be quite dead before I find the proverbial girl of my dreams. Come to think of it, she'll probably be dead too.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Bloody Finger Mail

BloodyFingerMail.com. Create bloody messages and send them to your friends. This is two months late for Halloween, but it's still pretty slick.

Posted on 30 December, 2002

Headlines From Parallel Worlds

That's what you'll get at NewZoid. It has a prominent warning, which hardly seems necessary:

WARNING! DO NOT ACT ON THE BASIS OF THIS NEWS! NewZoid Headlines do not refer to any persons or events in this world.

Posted on 30 December, 2002