07 Apr 2015
Sneak is not a man with much to celebrate. He treads a sad and lonely path and is rarely exposed to any kind of news that might be considered uplifting.
Yes, there are Google's balloon plans and, yes, he can see that there is some pun to make on the ‘uplifting' part of that, but even Project Loon and, indeed, Bill Gates drinking poo water have failed to raise even an eyebrow, never mind a smile, on his bitter, beaten visage.
His blog, and live-in lock-up premises, are filled with sad reminders of his errors. And each day as he wakes and navigates his way to a noodle-based breakfast through stacks of books and piles of T-shirts that bear the legend 'I Zune Celine Dion'* (the result of a particularly bad business decision) he waits for a positive break.
So Sneak is delighted, nay overjoyed, as he emerges from his cave today to read the news that monkeys, yes monkeys, are to blame for problems with the internet in India.
Sneak is beside himself at the news. Actually he is beside a tribute that he has made to the great Jeremy Clarkson underneath a rather poorly thought out air conditioning system - a hole in the roof.
The news, which he found on the Reuters pages, says that the northern Indian city of Varanasi is being plagued by temple-dwelling monkeys who have developed a taste for fibre-optic cables.
Sneak, who has been told many times that he needs to increase (or was it decrease?) his fibre intake, is rather amused by this, but understands that prime minister Narendra Modi is less amused.
Modi, with whom Sneak has decided not to share his Mbps (monkey bites per second) gag, is presumably upset at our tiny relatives and can't understand why they want to keep chomping on his cables.
"We cannot move the temples from here," said communications engineer A.P. Srivastava to Reuters. "We cannot modify anything here. Everything is built up. The monkeys destroy all the wires and eat all the wires."
Reuters says the monkeys keep eating and there is not much that can be done about it. Chasing away the problem might annoy the locals, never mind the monkeys, and no one seems keen on herding the simians. Sneak would volunteer, but frankly he loves the sound of the situation.
If anyone would like his advice, Sneak has suggested that cables be dipped in strong mustard or something else that monkeys do not like, or that the monkeys are patrolled and protected by larger monkeys. He is of the opinion that both these options have their merits, and offers them for gratis.
*Withdrawn from sale**
** At boot fairs
Sneak has a lot of admiration for Taylor Swift, from a technological point of view you understand.
She took her albums off Spotify, thus boosting sales (clever), and has now bought the taylorswift.porn and taylorswift.adult web domains to stop nefarious internet trolls using the domains for unsavoury purposes (even cleverer).
Swift made the move to protect her image as part of a rush by brands to acquire their name and the new domains realised by ICANN, which had decided that domains such as .com and .co.uk weren’t cutting it anymore and released new ones such as .porn.
Swifty (to her friends) is not the only one to realise that she needs to stop her good reputation being dragged through the mud with such domains. Everyone's second favourite pop starlet, Microsoft, bought the same domains for its 'so hot right now' Office brand.
This should stop those who find gratuitous entertainment in filthy Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations filled with smut being able to create a safe haven online to store and access such content.
Brands have plenty of domain buying to do, as the .sucks domain is also up for grabs. This is another domain that has caused controversy after many questioned why anyone would want this for positive purposes, but the website selling the domain claims there are benefits.
"By building an easy-to-locate 'central town square' available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism," it says.
"Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organisation’s customer relationship management programme."
Sneak agrees. If you have any complaints about his columns please head over to sneak.sucks and leave your comments, where they will be pointedly ignored.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee and The Lord of the Rings. Two of Sneak’s greatest loves. So, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, Sneak was there, popcorn at the ready, hoping to hear the great man hold forth on major topics such as net neutrality and how to protect the open internet.
What really brought him joy, though, was when Sir Tim was asked what he thought about memes. Showing a strong command of memes and the power they wield, Sir Tim responded: "One does not simply ask the inventor of the WWW what he thinks about memes."
For those of you who live under a rock, this is a wonderfully witty use of the line ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’, as said by Boromir, son of Denethor, brother of Faramir, played by Sean Bean.
The Reddit community was quick to turn his response into the very meme he was using to undermine the question put to him about memes.
Elsewhere in his AMA, Sir Tim answered questions on topics such as artificial intelligence and the potential threat it poses to humanity.
"Well, the fact is that machines are becoming smarter. It seems unreasonable not to imagine that they will become smarter than us. What happens at that point is not obvious. That we have to think about it now is clear," he said.
Sir Tim also urged everyone on the net to do all they can to make sure governments and other powers don't try to change its open nature by maintaining a close eye on their work. The full question and answer is listed below:
Q: What is the single most valuable thing I can do on an individual level to help defend the open internet?
Berners-Lee: Great question. Keep asking that question. Don’t take it for granted. Keep an eye on the situation in your town, your country, your company. In each year of using it, spend some time with others working or writing or lobbying or protesting as needed to keep it open.
Sneak agrees, but would argue that a witty meme that goes far and wide would promote this even more succinctly.
You shall not pass ... laws that amend the fundamental idea that the web must remain an inherently open platform that treats all traffic equally to ensure that all ideas have the chance to succeed.
Sneak loves updating his browser. In fact it happens so often these days, with Chrome 37 this, Firefox 32 that and Internet Explorer...no, let’s be serious, even Sneak doesn’t use IE.
New browsers are great, though. They offer new features and functions and protect you from old security woes that came to light on older platforms. Some folks, though, bless em, like to stick with old, nay, ancient browsers, covered in dust, sat on the desktop.
Google clearly wants these people to join the modern world, and so instigated an ingenious – some might say devilish – plan to scare these people into upgrading. By showing them old versions of Google pages. You can just imagine the manic laughter of the coding team that came up with that idea.
A Google forum saw panicked users wonder if they had been hacked or if Google was having problems when they saw old versions of the home page.
“A few minutes ago, Google's homepage reverted to the old version for me. I'm using Opera 12.17,” wrote a concerned user. A flurry of activity saw people test out the issue on other browsers, with Safari 5.1 also found to be affected.
Eventually, though, like something from an episode of Scooby Doo, a Google rep popped up, revealing it was Google all along, writing: "I want to assure you this isn't a bug, it's working as intended.
“We’re continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers. We encourage everyone to make the free upgrade to modern browsers – they’re more secure and provide a better web experience overall.”
Users were not too impressed with this, though, with the post receiving 109 little downward red vote thingies, compared with only 31 green uppie ones.
Sneak can’t help but wonder if Microsoft may have more success getting people to upgrade from Windows XP if it had tried a similar trick on users, perhaps forcing them to see all websites as they were in 2001 to force them to update. It probably wouldn’t have worked, though.
Sneak's heard some good excuses for internet downtime in the past – such as the old lady in Georgia who chopped through a major connection with an axe – but a shark attack is a new one.
Such is the menace of these creatures of the deep, though, that Google is said to be planning to reinforce its connections that run under the sea with Kevlar, in order to stop the fishy-blighters from chewing through connections and bringing down the internet.
Sneak wasn't really convinced such activity really takes place, so he turned to YouTube (owned by the put-upon Google) where he came across this video that shows just how much sharks really do hate the internet.
No-one is clear on why sharks hate the internet so much, but from the above evidence it's pretty clear that they're no fans of Facebook, Dropbox or indeed YouTube. Or perhaps its a warning to adopt IPv6 sooner rather than later.
Google's move to use super-tough Kevlar is a wise one, as the company is now planning another major project to boost internet capacity across the Pacific Ocean, to the tune of $300m.
If those web-hating sharks get wind of the project a great shiver of sharks (Sneak looked that up on Google – don't tell the sharks!) may head for the site of the cable-laying and start attacking it in frenzy.
The course of true love never does run smooth, but the news that OkCupid purposefully tried to set users up on bad dates certainly gives off some mixed messages.
Sneak was surprised to see that the founder of OkCupid Christian Rudder so enthusiastically admitted to this behaviour, given the recent furore that surrounded Facebook when it was found to have done the same thing.
However, entitling his post ‘We Experiment On Human Beings!’, Rudder is clearly not shy in coming forward. The exclamation mark also suggests a fun, outgoing, GSOH-kinda guy.
"We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook 'experimented' with their News Feed. Even the FTC is getting involved. But guess what, everybody: if you use the internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work."
What Rudder went on to say was that his site, like millions of others online, constantly changes its algorithms and sometimes likes to experiment with this to see just how accurate its love matches are.
So, it deliberately gave users who were bad matches information that suggested they were actually made for one another, and others who should probably have scored ‘Soulmates’ were told they were chalk and cheese.
“We took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do,” he wrote.
“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”
However, this worried Rudder as it meant that, really, OkCupid had no ‘scientific’ merit to its matching claims, and was just helping people hook up through the power of suggestion. So it roped good matches into its experiments
“We told people who were actually good for each other, that they were bad, and watched what happened.”
What happened was that those who were told they were not good matches, but were in fact potentially a good couple, did still exchange messages, although perhaps not as many as they would have had the true score been presented.
Pleasingly, though, those with a 90 percent match, who were told of this, were most likely to share the most messages. This suggests, to Rudder at least, the site’s profile scoring system does have some merit after all as strong matches turn into potential connections. Phew.
Some users were heartbroken over the news, though, with many ending things with OkCupid by proclaiming the experiments creepy. "This is not OK. I just cancelled my account," wrote one, while others said the company should be ashamed for messing around with people's love lives.
Others, though, were fine with it, and said anything that could, ultimately lead to more matches, dates, walks in the park and marriages, was welcome.
To Sneak, this all sounds like a lot of hard work just to arrange a drink at a branch of Slug and Lettuce.
25 Jun 2014
It's always tempting, when you're testing out a service or setting something up, to write funny messages in the place where more serious communiques should appear.
Sneak has seen many a journalist write 'blah blah blah' in the place where a more witty, informative headline will go later, while developers the world over probably have fun writing "Bob Smith declared King of the Universe" or other such light-hearted nonsense when testing out an app.
However, the risk is that if something goes wrong, it makes you look rather foolish.
So it was that the BBC ended up with a lot of yolk and albumen on its face on Wednesday when its BBC Breaking News service sent out some rather odd messages.
Pictured left is the notification Sneak received. Sneak will now guide you through his thought process as he looked at the message in bewilderment.
The NYPD Twitter hashtag story sort of makes sense, although Sneak was a mite confused. It is hardly breaking news, as he covered it months ago.
Reading on and the "Push sucks! Pull blows!" comment, while possibly accurate, doesn't seem to warrant a notification to millions of BBC app users.
Then, the claims that the latest episode of Game of Thrones has no nudity is definitely not right. Not only did the latest season finish only a week ago, but there never has been, and never will be, an episode without some nudity.
Then all becomes clear. "IIIIII like testing." Ah, it's all a big mistake by a silly developer who probably forgot to tick the test box before sending out the alert. Oh you fool.
The BBC apologised and we can all go about our lives again. Except that dozy developer, who's probably been banished to work on the My Family Quote Generator app. Shudder.
Ah time, such a tricky concept. What time is it? Well, it depends where in the world you are, or as the BBC found out, what time your computer tells you it is.
A complaint from a BBC website user with, ironically, perhaps too much time on their hands, raised the alarming fact that the clock on the frontpage of the BBC website does not display the ‘correct’ time, but it merely draws data from the clock on a user's device.
This meant, to anyone who relies solely on the BBC clock to the tell the time, there was a risk of ending up late for an important event by relying on the data supplied by the BBC as it could be wrong – even though it would be the user’s fault for having their computer running on the wrong time. Or would it really be the device manufacturers fault for creating a faulty clock? The legal repercussions could be endless. No doubt someone would end up with a ticking off.
All in all, the BBC Trust agreed it was a serious matter and one the BBC should strive to get right.
"Having a homepage clock which does not necessarily reflect the right time in the UK, and which is not labelled on the homepage as deriving its time from a user's own computer clock, is not consistent with the guideline requirement for the BBC to do all it can to ensure due accuracy in all its output,” it said.
In response the BBC has taken a course of action that Sneak himself wholeheartedly approves of – giving up.
"Given the technical complexities of implementing an alternative central clock, and the fact that most users already have a clock on their computer screen, the BBC has taken the decision to remove the clock from the homepage in an upcoming update."
Well creating an accurate, working clock application would take too much time wouldn’t it?