a blog from

Google urges browser upgrade with terrifying glimpse into the past

02 Sep 2014

Sneak loves updating his browser. In fact it happens so often these days, with Chrome 37 this, Firefox 32 that and Internet, 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.

Shark attack! Google turns to Kevlar to protect internet from web-hating monsters

15 Aug 2014

Sharks hate the internet

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.

Let's also hope the sharks have not been reading V3 and our recent tales of the deep concerning undersea cable deployments in Scotland and the Isles of Scilly.

OkCupid gives users mixed messages with love experiments

29 Jul 2014

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.

BBC broadcasts bizarre breaking news alerts

25 Jun 2014

Strange BBC Breaking News push test notificationsIt'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.

BBC apology for weird breaking news messages


BBC tick-tocked off over alarming clock complaint

05 Jun 2013


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?

Google has to take down take-down requests

05 Apr 2013

share-files-legally-illustrationIt doesn't seem that long ago that the Twittersphere worked itself into a furious lather on the issue of super injunctions. Sneak can understand that: there's nothing more infuriating than not knowing that someone is not supposed to tell you something. Or something like that, it's all far too meta for Sneak's simple brain.

Because Sneak gets easily confused, it was utterly perplexing to see that that movie makers are now sending out take-down requests to get their own take-down requests removed from the web.

The problem has arisen because Google reports any Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) infringement notices it gets – these are typically sent from movie studios asking for pirated material to be removed from Google's results.

The trouble is, as P2P news site TorrentFreak reports, these take-down notices list the sites that hold allegedly infringing material. In effect, the take-down notices are proving to be one of the riches sources of pirated materials on the web. Fox Legal Group alone has been responsible for seeking to get more than 50,000 urls removed from Google's results in a mere two-month period.

Clearly, Sneak can see that the only way to put a definitive end to this is for the movie makers to now issue more take-down notices for the take-down notices for the take-down notices. The lawyers must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Richard Branson wades into Yahoo's home working kerfuffle

26 Feb 2013


Sneak was alarmed to learn this week that Yahoo chief executive Marissa Meyer has issued a ban on staff working from home, presumably over fears that workers are slacking off when away from the office.

According to the widely reported memo, staff were told “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

Given the number of trendy working practices that make their way across the pond, Sneak only hopes Meyer's latest initiative doesn't follow suit.

After all, Sneak regularly takes advantage of flexible working, and would never consider spending long sunny afternoons in the pub garden under the auspices of having a broadband engineer round to fix a troubling fault. Sneak's router really does play up more when the weather's good. 

So thank goodness for cable company boss and unabashed publicity seeker Sir Richard Branson.

Branson chided Meyer for her “perplexing” decision: “We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they're at their desk or in their kitchen,” he wrote on his Virgin blog.

“Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will,” he opined. 

Sneak's hoping that with Yahoo having promised “communication and collaboration will be important”, that Mayer takes on board Branson supportive message. Let's be honest, why wouldn't one of the most dynamic chief executives in Silicon Valley want business advice from an ageing hippy with a ridiculous beard? 

And perhaps in the spirit of collaboration and in return, Mayer could offer Branson some tips on how to carry off the blonde look.

Pope Benedict passes on God's message via Twitter

12 Dec 2012


And lo it came to pass that on the 12/12/12 Pope Benedict XVI would tweet and the people would rejoice for they looked and saw that his tweets were good. Well, grammatically accurate at least.

What words of great wisdom and insight did God's representative on earth have for the mortal masses who hold the scriptures dear? Like most people on Twitter it's all very self-involved stuff.

"Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart," he wrote first, before asking: "How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?"

The punch line to this zinger, is wait for it... "By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need."

Ha, that old chestnut! Oh, Pope Ben, you're so witty.

So far the Pope has only followed seven people, though, all called Ben too, bizarrely, but Sneak is hoping he may get a follow soon after he retweeted what the Pope wrote to his 74 followers.

Previous 1 3 4

About IT Sneak's undercover reporter offers odds and ends from the odd end of technology.

Data Analyst

Data Analyst Up to £35000 per annum + Pension +Bonus...

.Net Developer - Winforms / ASP.Net / C# / AGILE / JavaScript

.Net Developer - Winforms /ASP.Net / C# / AGILE / JavaScript...

C# Developer - Financial Services - ASP.NET / MVC5 / jQuery

C# Developer - Financial Services - £35K - £45K - ASP...

Service Desk Analyst

Service Desk Analyst - Windows, MS Office, Backups, Customer...

Browse posts by date

Cal_navigation_previousJanuary 2015Cal_navigation_next