A Slice of Life

commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology

14 May 11 Have You Sold Your Soul to Facebook?

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago Facebook changed it’s image viewing feature.  There was some discussion at the time around the social media traps, many commenting that they weren’t in love with the changes but eventually this died away and most seem to have accepted the changes without thinking too much about them.  The problem is, sooner or later you realise that the changed layout means you can now only view images, you can’t actually download them.  This may seem like no big deal but the implications are actually quite sinister.


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03 Jan 11 Flash not working in Firefox? Solution: downgrade

CHARLESTON, SC - NOVEMBER 29:  Rev. Dick Reed ...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I had noticed that for some time Flash had not been displaying properly in Firefox.  In fact, not displaying at all, yet behaving absolutely absolutely normally in Internet Explorer.  I had ignored this but when you have to design web pages that require some Flash content the problem becomes impossible to ignore.  I tried the usual Mozilla support forums and came across helpful pages such as ‘Flash not working properly after update to Firefox 3.6.7‘, but of course, the problem remained.  I tried numerous other trouble shooting fixes, some of which involved uninstalling then reinstalling the Flash plugin while others involved creating a new user profile within Firefox.  I’ve lost count of how many solutions I tried but none of them worked.  The problem seems to be quite widespread judging by the number of people reporting to Mozilla that they too have this problem.

The solution was incredibly simple as is usually the case…


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04 Aug 10 Consume, Be Silent and Die: A Valediction Against Lurking

flock of sheep

Image via Wikipedia

The vast majority of internet users are lurkers; passive users who never generate any content, never participate in discussions, never post comments.  This to some degree explains the extraordinary success of Facebook.  The ubiquitous Facebook ‘like button’ allows passive users to interact with online content with a simple click; you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to exercise your brain at all.  Perhaps it also why social media platforms such as MySpace have been less successful.  You can customise MySpace profiles a great deal more than you can with a Facebook profile, especially if you’re comfortable using a little html, but you really need to post some content to get anything out of it.  The simple fact is, most people just aren’t interested in how their profile pages appear.  Posting the odd trivial message, clicking ‘likes’ and playing games like ‘Farmville‘ is a rewarding social media experience for many. Just what is wrong with that?! I hear you ask with a rising tone of indignation and outrage.


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30 Jul 10 Ask and Ye Shall Recieve: Dealing with Twitter Complaints Part II

MC Hammer speaking on the power of social media. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In a previous post on this topic, I related how I experienced dissatisfaction with a company’s services and how I sought satisfaction from the company in question by making my complaint online via Twitter.  Had a made my complaint by more conventional means, say by telephone, I’m sure it would have been much less successful.  “Yes sir, we’re very sorry but there’s not much more we can do…”  Most are familiar with being fobbed off by less than sympathetic sales staff, getting nowhere and ending up feeling frustrated and angry.  Complaining via social media is much more effective; you have a potential audience of millions and the whole thing ends up being a PR exercise which may be mutually beneficial.  If you are involved with an online complaint, there are a few things to be aware of that might help. (more…)

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27 Jul 10 Ask And Ye Shall Receive: Complain on Twitter

hitler on the phoneI first noticed how effective a Twitter complaint could be some time ago.  I was casually discussing a problem I was having with a WordPress plugin ‘SezWho‘.  To be honest, I wasn’t terribly fair; I tweeted something along the lines of “this plugin sucks” when in actual fact, the problem was most likely caused by conflict with some other plugin and not really a problem with SezWho at all.  I was surprised that within hours of making my comment, SezWho contacted me via Twitter and went out of their way to resolve the problem.  I apologised to them for jumping to conclusions and I was very pleased and impressed by their diligence and professionalism.

Many companies now have a social media presence.  If you have a complaint, you can easily find their social media profile and complain to them directly.  Just Google “so and so on Twitter” or “so and so on Facebook” and you’ll find the company you’re looking for very quickly.  Don’t make the mistake I inadvertently did: do a little research before you complain to make sure the problem is actually the fault of the company in question.

Dealing with complaints on social networking sites has become an important public relations exercise.  Many companies employ a ‘social networking team’ to deal with such complaints.  Dealing with a problem positively can turn bad publicity into good and an angry customer can change from a bad mouther to a singer of praises.  As is usually the case, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if you are dissatisfied you might as well get some grease. For example:


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23 Jul 10 Chasing Mummies: Archeology as Reality TV

Dr. Zahi Hawass at the British Museum - Speech
Image by vintagedept via Flickr

Dr Zahi Hawass the Egyptian archaeologist is well known to those who enjoy historical documentaries.  He is highly respected in his field and is the current Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.  I have always found his manner rather abrasive and have tended to avoid his offerings.  However, his new TV show program on the History Channel: ‘Chasing Mummies‘ is quite a different affair; this is actually riveting and addictive television.  The producers of ‘Chasing Mummies’ seem to have recognised the potential of Dr Hawass’ explosive temper and have harnessed it to great effect.

In one incident, Dr Hawass’ assistant Casey Fitchner gets completely blasted by the good doctor for being late to work.  Later, while exploring inside the Stepped Pyramid, Fitchner asks if there is somewhere she can go to the bathroom.  Dr Hawass informs her in no uncertain terms that the pyramid is a holy place and of course she can’t go.  Later, she can no longer resist the call of nature and wets herself on camera.  Dr Hawass’ outbursts make Gordon Ramsey look kindly and avuncular.


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05 Jul 10 Referees Clowns but FIFA Remains Ring Master #worldcup

2014 FIFA Announcement (Joseph Blatter) 7

Image via Wikipedia

In the aftermath of a succession of what must have been some of the most awful refereeing decisions in football history, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has issued a statement saying that FIFA will re-open the debate on the use of video technology later this year. Well, he had to respond in some way; the poor decisions have been highly embarrassing and have surely compromised what has otherwise been a very entertaining World Cup.  In actual fact, FIFA remains resolutely opposed to introducing any kind of technology.  FIFA has said it wants to maintain ‘the traditions of the game’.  If the current mess is the outcome of staying with tradition, perhaps the tradition of the referee as absolute judge isn’t all it might be.

FIFA’s stubborn stance harks back to a time when people mostly accepted authority almost without exception.  Once a decision has been made, referees obviously feel they have to stick to it whether right or wrong or risk having their authority undermined.  This might have been easy to get around in the past, but with half the world watching on high definition TV, persisting with this position has become untenable and really, completely farcical.


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09 May 10 The Golden Age of (Digital) Piracy?

The Pirate Bay LogoThe period known as ‘Golden Age of Piracy‘ lasted from the 1650s until the 1720s. Colourful characters such as Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny (yes, there were even female pirates!) perpetrated outrageous deeds on the high seas with near impunity until the authorities finally cracked down using a divide and conquer approach. During the Golden Age, pirates posed a serious threat to shipping and even held whole towns to ransom. An increased Royal Navy presence in the Caribbean and the the offer of pardons for pirates seriously reduced their numbers and by 1725 pirates no longer posed a serious threat.

The early 21st century may well have seen the Golden Age of Computer Piracy come and go. Those that argue for a free internet have many supporters. Wasn’t the internet originally set up to allow a free exchange of ideas and information between individuals? Surely Tim Berners-Lee never envisioned the commercial juggernaut it has become.

Colourful organisations like The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites have come and gone (remember Napster?). It’s interesting to note that even The Pirate Bay’s logo is not covered by copyright. Under ‘permission’ on Wikipedia Commons, the following is listed:

This work is labeled as Kopimi, meaning that the copyright holder of this work does not only release it, but specifically requests that this work be used and copied for any purpose, including unlimited commercial use and redistribution. It is believed in good faith that a work classified as Kopimi is free to use in any way, including modification and the creation of derivative works.

Given The Pirate Bay’s free internet position, they could hardly copyright their logo. Specifically requesting that the content be copied for any purpose might well be a novel and successful promotional strategy. Making your brand as visible as possible might well be enough of a benefit to offset all that illegal file sharing but this, of course, is never likely to happen.

The game is up for The Pirate Bay and their brethren, just as it was for Blackbeard and co. back in the 1720s. The stakes are simply just too high. The large content corporations are circling and pumping an ever increasing stream of financial and legal resources into crushing digital piracy. NEC has created a pirated film detection algorithm with a 96% success rate. More and more control will be taken from the user until any use of digital media will be strictly monitored and restricted. Using the internet will be subject to just the same level of control. If the odd 13 year old girl is dragged through the courts for downloading a few Justin Bebier tracks so be it; just collateral damage.

It has never been reasonable for corporations to target little people like this but it has happened often enough. Many have argued that corporations that make their content accessible via the internet for profit bear the responsibility for safe guarding their products. If products are not copy protected, should individuals be prosecuted for copying them? Before very long, copy protection technology will develop to the level that will only allow us to use digital media in the precise manner intended by the providers and will render all these arguments obsolete.

Brave idealists might try to oppose the corporations but it is a battle they can never win. Soon the golden age of the internet might well be nothing more than a dim memory.

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05 May 10 Windows Desktop Search Solution for Vista

Internet Explorer 1
Image via Wikipedia

At last!  I have finally fixed the annoying indexing problem in Outlook 2007 that I’ve been obsessing about for the last few days.  I must have trawled just about every site on the web with discussion on how to fix the problem including the automated MicrosoftFixit‘ solutions with no success.  Every time I tried to search in Outlook I got an indexing status message with thousands of entries to process and nothing happening.  Going to the control panel > indexing options > advanced > rebuild index also had no effect.  I got a message indicating indexing was not running due to user activity.  I made sure I was doing absolutely nothing; still no success.  Grrr.  There are any number of solutions out there; going to control panel > administrative tasks > services > Windows Search , starting, stopping service, going to tools > instant search > search options in Outlook 07, selecting, deselecting folders to be indexed etc. etc.  Still no effect.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The solution turned out to be very simple:

  1. Install Service Pack 2, unless you have already done so.  If the ‘modify’ and ‘pause’ buttons are not available in control panel > indexing options reinstalling SP2 might well be the solution.
  2. Indexing options, Services > Windows Search all look okay but Outlook still won’t search?  A corrupted registry is most likely the cause.
    Download this registry update
    *I found Internet Explorer was the best choice for downloading this update.
    *Select ‘Open’ and allow the update to run
    (it’s safe; it can be found in it’s orginal context here: http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/85803-index-windows-search-service.html an excellent tutorial which I followed to the letter with no success.)
  3. With SP2 installed and the registry update installed, my Outlook search now works perfectly, and I didn’t even need to restart my computer!

If your problem persists, rebuilding the index might be the way to go.  Try this:


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