Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…
Saturday, January 25, 2003 ↓
How the music business could learn from the porn industry is the topic of this Wired article.
Interesting idea, but the nettle that the music business would have to grasp is that, legit or not, people will only want to pay a modest price for each track they download. After all, there’s no packaging involved, no retail overheads, and the delivery mechanism costs the buyer, not the seller.
I’d quite happily purchase music this way, and maybe start getting some value for money. Think how many times you’ve squandered up to £15 on a CD that carries maybe a couple of decent tracks, and seven or eight steaming piles of crap. Now instead, if you could legitimately download just the two decent ones, for no more than, say, 50p each…
A product of something I needed for myself recently, this might be useful to you, or it might not (anyway, it’s free): bounce.cgi, a script for controlling access to a web page so that visitors can only get to it after they have visited another page you specify. For example, if you want them to read or accept terms and conditions before seeing your special page.
If you don’t know much about using or installing CGI programs, these notes might help.
I receive a few hundred spam messages every week, many of which the excellent MailWasher zaps for me. Recently I’ve started receiving messages from one of the companies that sells spam tools, namely these bastards. Their all-in-one-single-huge-page web site provides an interesting insight into the minds of these people, notably how they are always looking for new ways to get around the system. For example:
Software that will "spam check" your email promotions and newsletters. Automatically avoid the dangerous words and phrases that'll trigger the spam filters. Without this special software, 50% (or more!) of your subscribers may never see your emails!
Outsmart the "bulk mail filters." When you email a group list, most ISPs will mistake your email for spam, and filter it before itís ever received! My Email Manager delivers each message as a "solo" email, keeping your opt-in subscribers (and their ISPs) from seeing that you mailed to a group. Only the recipientís name appears in the "To" field!
The people who make these kinds of tools are as repellent as the people who use them. It’s interesting how often they mention subscribers and opt in lists on this page, but I didn’t opt in to anything before they started sending me e-mail.
Their e-mails to me didn’t trigger MailWasher’s SpamCop filter. They will in future… I’ve reported ’em.
Thursday, January 23, 2003 ↓
BUSH ON NORTH KOREA
As usual, the very best in satire is to be found at The Onion.
“CONGRATULATIONS, HERE’S YOUR DEGREE — OH, AND YOUR OVERDRAFT STATEMENT”
That leading member of the Not Terribly Good Club, Estelle Morris, must be glad she bailed out of the Education Secretary’s job before the going got really tough. It takes a robust old stager like Charlie Clarke to stand at the despatch box and make himself heard above the jeers and cat-calls while announcing the “good news” that universities will be able to charge tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year — meaning graduates could leave university with average (average, mind) debts of £15,000.
Not surprisingly, a good number of the noises of dissent come from the government’s own benches. Not surprisingly, because a good number of those currently parking their backsides on the green leather are graduates, some from the country’s most prestigious universities, and who graduated at a time when they paid precisely nothing for their tuition. Doubtless they never expected to see the day when a Labour government would introduce such fees.
Of course, education has to be paid for. But in this country we’ve become used to it being paid for out of the public purse. I have no problem with that. Everyone needs the basic education furnished by the school system, and for the social and economic well-being of the country (which benefits all of us), we need graduate-calibre people to carry out research, to power our industries, to look after us when we are ill, and the list goes on.
Perhaps the difficulty the government now seems to be facing with the finances is one of its own making. After all, it came up with the stupid target of having 50% of all young people go into higher education. Stupid, because you can’t arbitrarily mandate how clever people are going to be. Whether someone gains admission to a university or college should be based on their ability, not simply on the fact that they want to go (or that the government wants them to go). Allowing everyone the “opportunity” may be a noble aim, but it is flawed in its logic — and it is exactly that kind of half-baked thinking that has led to the proliferation of Mickey Mouse courses (yes, I’m with Margaret Hodge on that one) from which just about anyone could walk away with a degree that “may not have huge relevance in the labour market”. (Which not only makes those specific degrees worthless, but devalues degrees in general, as some folks make the mistake of tarring all graduates with the same brush.)
Perhaps if we reduced rather than increased the number of people going to university, we could pay for it from Treasury funds as we did in the past. How about ditching some of those Mickey Mouse courses? We will always need engineers, physicists, chemists, doctors — but how many more “art historians” or media studies graduates do we need? (We also need plumbers, a perfectly respectable trade from which, we are told, you can pull down as much as 70 grand a year, without need of a degree.) Or here’s a thought: how about all those people who want to study art history or tourism should pay for their tuition, while those taking useful subjects don’t? After all, I have to pay to indulge in my hobbies…
And of course, under this new regime, I get to decide what qualifies as “useful”.
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 ↓
21 REASONS WHY…
Francis Strand might think learning Swedish is difficult, but think how it must be for Swedes learning English (which despite everything, so many of them manage to do so well). Just consider these little follies, all of which make learning English somewhat tough (tow? too? or maybe tuff?).
Francis’ Swedish word for the day is one of my own favourites, skitbra — which he translates as “shit-good”; I suppose in the current idiom you might say “shit hot”. Scots wouldn’t have too much difficulty understanding what it means, since when spoken, it sounds pretty close to shitbraw — and that fine Scottish word for “good”, braw, has exactly the same root and meaning as the Swedish bra.
DRUNKEN SWEDISH BIRDS
I feel that 2003 has really begun now, since I made my first trip of the year back to Sweden last week. This week, I’ve been immersed in a sea of admin tasks, trying to catch up on a huge backlog that I thought I might clear over the Christmas/New year break, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. And some things (like tax returns, damnit) really must be done before I head back to Gothenburg next week.
I couldn’t find any articles about drunken Swedish blokes, though there ought to be. In real terms, booze is a lot cheaper in Sweden now than it was when I first wen to the country more than fifteen years ago, and it was common then for Swedes to nip across to Denmark to stock up. Denmark was expensive enough compared to UK prices then, but it was cheaper than Sweden. Even on a very short crossing like that over the sound between Helsingborg in the south of Sweden and Helsingør in Denmark, a lot of Swedish guys felt obliged to see how much they could get down their necks while still on board the ferry. As a native of Helsingør once said to me, rather unkindly, “You can spot the Swedish people in this town. They’re the ones lying drunk in the gutter.”
Older material is stashed away under Replays.