Mata-WhatTheFcek-Lan

This morning I had a few hours to kill with the kids while the missus was getting her hair done so I headed down to Boucher thinking I could check out a few car showrooms, but the lure of the new-ish development with Matalan and TKMax proved more enticing.

I’ve never been into either of these stores (these ones in particular, or any others of the same name) so I thought it was worth checking out.

TKmax was fine, reminded me of Poundstretcher and nothing much to write home about so we went to Matalan which was a bit more of the same.  Except for some Spider Man underpants my son took a liking to, so off we trot to the checkout.

Assistant: Do you have a Matalan card?
Me: No, it’s ok (thinking pretty much every store these days offers you a store card)
Assistant: You can’t buy anything without one.

Now, paint me pink and call me princess, what the fuck?   This has to be a joke.  Now I’m concerned about privacy as much as the next Joe, I am aware of the data mining capability and that they’ll be able to tell when I’m likely to buy, and quantity of, and sizes, of every school uniform for the next 14+ years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a nut who refuses all these cards, I’ve got my tesco and boots cards, the boots card comes in very handy in buying my sandwich when I have no spare change saving me a trip to the ATM.   But when someone *requires* me to have one I draw the line… so

Me: Excuse me?
Assistant repeats: You can’t buy anything without one. (and proceeds to tear one off a paper card handing it to me to fill in)

Transaction complete, he hands me my receipt and the shiney new Matalan card which I promptly hand him back with a "Please bin that".   I’m even surprised that he looked shocked at my behaviour.

So, my one and only expercience in Matalan is likely to remain my one and only experience.  However, should the occassion arise again I think I’ll do the same thing, perhaps someday they’ll rethink stupid policies such as this.

Freedom of Information, Request #1

Tis that time of year when my car tax disc is up for renewal, and it being so close after christmas means it is a hefty whack (�165) to find.

So, I’m thinking, I can pay my TV license, Council Rates and most other things via monthly Direct Debit, so why not my tax disc?

So I plan on finding out

I’ve sent a request to the DVLA under the new FOI rules to find out.
———————————————————————
To: foi.dvla@gtnet.gov.uk
Subject: Request documents pertaining to deliberations on VED payment methods

I write to request documentations from the dept on discussions, meetings, etc
specifically on the methods of payment available to the public when paying
for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, Road fund License, Car Tax).

Specifically, any reference to monthly payment options discussed, rejected
or otherwise planned for the future along with any expected introduction dates.

Thank you for your attention in this regard,

Paul Gregg
———————————————————————

I’ll let you know what I find out.

Surf Automatic – Removes 99 “top” stains.

Anyone else noticed, on the back of the Surf packet, that they list 99 different substances that Surf will remove from your clothes.   So, I thought of the one thing my kids’ clothes always has and looked for it on the list…

Nope, no reference to Chocolate.

End of useless blog post.

Chip and Pin – Excuse me?

If you like in the UK or Northern Ireland, you’re probably finding that, instead of writing your signature, you are being asked to enter your PIN on a little keypad when you use your debit or credit card to make purchases.

Now, please forgive me if I’m way off the mark, but how is this supposed to increase security?  Seems to me that we have simply replaced one flawed system for another.

Flawed?  How so?  Well, in "the old days" scammers used to run your card through a magnetic strip reader and they could create "cloned" copies of your card.  The data would be written onto a fresh, blank card and they could sign the back whatever way they wanted.  The criminal would then go use your card in a store to pay for goods and the signature would be good. And you are out of pocket.

Now, they are asking you to enter your pin.   Excellent – now they also have your PIN number – how they get it via electronic interception between the keypad and the device,  over the wire, or by "shoulder surfing" – doesn’t matter.  Joe Crim now has your pin.  They also have a swipe of your card (all the shops I’ve used my card in so far with "chip & pin" have both swiped it and put it into the pin keypad).   So, not only can they burn the magstripe onto a fresh card and use it, they can pop it into an ATM and withdraw cash directly from the account with my PIN.

Lovely, who comes up with these ideas?

Referrer spam – a possible solution?

Ok, so referrer (HTTP_REFERER) spam is really starting to get on my wick^H^H^H^H goat (does anyone say wick anymore?), so after adding the latest ip to by referrer spam blacklist firewall the following potential solution hit me.

Give the spammers what they want.  They want people to click on the links that they are spamming, so why not.   Sounds like madness? No, let me explain.

In the same way we report spam, ala spamcop or other blacklists have a site that you can report URLs of referer spam to.  Submissions would need to be checked by a list of moderators (perhaps in the slashdot moderator/metamoderator style).  Once a submission has reached a certain threshold – e.g. +5 posive votes with zero negative notes then the URL is added to the database.

The latest web addresses are then published in XML format / RSS feed.

Finally, we have a tool which reads these feeds and causes a single "click" download + all images on that page.   It might cost us 10-100KB of bandwidth, but it also costs the spamvertised website.  Now have 10000 or more people using the same tool, all clicking only the most recently advertised websites within 15 minutes of it being added to the database.

You’ve got a website killer right there… sorry, I mean you’ve got a really excellent response rate for the spammer – just what they wanted.

Workable? Viable? Illegal? Does anyone really care?

New addition

I would like to announce the birth of little Lauren Gregg at 8.30am today.

Both mother and baby are doing well.

I would write more but I am posting this entry via my mobile phone.

Update:

Now I’m back at home and out of the hospital, here’s a pic or two, I’ll get more up on "her" site in the coming weeks.

read more….

Annoyances

If you are any kind of a geek, you’ll be checking your web site’s access_log on a semi-regular basis to get an idea of who is linking to you.  Call it an ego trip if you must 🙂 but, of late, it has become a little more annoying.

You see, spammers have started “referer spamming” (sic) where they spam your referRer logs with URLs that don’t really link to your site in order to get link backs, con people into visiting the URLs, or hopefully find some sites that publish their web site log stats/analysis.

I know it is tempting to believe that jennaloveshack.com or somesuch loves to link to your pages, but this really screws up the logs.  And, so I have taken to firewalling the offenders and it is proving remarkably effective.  So for your perusing pleasure, the “bad guys” list provided in PeerGuardian format (which I convert to ipfw firewall rules):

 

Link Referrer Spammer:66.6.223.190-66.6.223.190
Care Initiatives linkref spammer 123gotcash:63.227.76.25-63.227.76.25
Linkref spammer:66.119.34.39-66.119.34.39
Linkref spammer:216.104.196.225-216.104.196.225
Linkref spammer:212.253.2.204-212.253.2.204
thebestofnet.com spammer:194.228.211.200-194.228.211.207
linkref spam:148.244.150.52-148.244.150.52
Possible linkref spammer:195.244.37.80-195.244.37.80
Hacked / scanner machine:80.109.48.242-80.109.48.242
whois.sc / nameintelligence “bot” ref spam:64.246.160.0-64.246.191.255
petalsnetwork.com/se/coral-springs-florists spammer:211.157.8.41-211.157.8.41
teens-photo.com spam:12.22.85.3-12.22.85.3
teens-photo.com spam:12.33.10.164-12.33.10.164
refspam:211.157.8.44-211.157.8.44
refspam:209.44.12.250-209.44.12.250
catagoryhound.com linkspamming their own service:205.236.189.0-205.236.189.255

 

Since I added firewalling to those networks/ips, my referer log is much cleaner and my irregular ego boost can continue largely uninterrupted.

Microsoft XP Retarded Edition to be launched.

Microsoft is launching a cut down version of Windows XP, as "Starter Edition".  This version will feature (or rather not feature) limited graphical capability and will only allow the user to run three programs at once.

Full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3554084.stm

"… in an effort to halt the rise of low-cost Linux software"
"…  it hoped the new software would also help deter consumers from buying pirated versions of its XP system"

I don’t see a XP Retarded Edition helping in either of these battles.

EasyIrony

So Stelios is launching easymobile using all the usual orange livery that all the easy* companies under Stelios’ control use.

However, now Orange (the mobile phone company) is upset at his planned use of the colour orange.

Stelios says there is no problem.

How ironic after Stelios started suing any company using the word "easy" or "easy" in their company name.

Orange Farce

This is a mini-rant. 🙁

So, I’ve got an Orange contract phone and the wife has a Orange pay-as-you-go phone, both are in my name.  Tried calling her, except the stupid Orange network has assumed that since she didn’t answer one call and it dropped to voicemail, then all future calls should immediately go to voicemail.  Her phone doesn’t even ring.

I figure this will reset if she calls to collect her voicemail – except neither her nor I know how to do this.  Personally I detest mobile voicemails and the first thing I do on my phone is permanently have it removed.   Thus the solution is to do the same to her phone.

No problem you might think.  Both phones are in my name, I’ll just call up Orange and they’ll sort it.  Not on your nelly mate.

Orange contract customer service don’t help with PAYG phones and the (very helpful) guy told me I would have to call 07973100451.   “Ok, thanks for your help”, I replied and proceeded to call the supplied number.

So, I call the number and immediately the standard Orange female recorded message informs me “This number is permanently barred”.   Excuse me?   I call customer service to clarify.  Turns out you have to call from a land line.

So not only will Orange contract not help with Orange PAYG, Orange contract actually block you from phoning Orange PAYG.  Perhaps they are afraid of people moving from contract to PAYG.  What a stupid, stupid setup.