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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


Microsoft trolls Samsung on its Heathrow doorstep

27 May 2014


Sneak expects to be disappointed. He was disappointed when he read that Samsung wanted to brand part of Heathrow airport, and is disappointed by the obvious reaction that this has elicited from Microsoft marketing trolls.

Sneak has seen Microsoft cough up marketing efforts that are designed to make its rivals look bad, and Sneak has often come away from them with a view that it is the source, and not the target that is tainted.

This latest wheeze, ushered into Sneak's sphere of attention via the Nokia blog page, has him wondering whether he actually ever wants to go back on the internet at all.

"Imagine how excited we were then to learn that you can now reach "the Galaxy" via Heathrow's Terminal 5. This weekend, to make the most of this stellar opportunity, we sent four intrepid Lumianauts to Europe's busiest airport," writes Nokia's finest on the Conversations blog.

"Microsoft Devices gathered the excited Luminauts early in the morning to head to the airport in their brand new space-buggy. With one small step out of the moon-lander and a leap through the doors of Terminal 5, the Lumianauts set out to find the gate that would shoot them out of the world's gravitational atmosphere and into the Milky Way."

So far so this serves to highlight Samsung's investment at Heathrow and the increased presence that this gives it and the Galaxy. Microsoft has other objectives though, which include a desire to make its rival look silly.

It claims to have invested in bespoke Luminauts spacesuits and other ephemera because it believed that Heathrow airport is offering flights to the galaxy. Sneak knows that sometimes the Redmond firm is behind the times, but is shocked by this.

"Once the brave Lumianauts stepped foot in to the brand new terminal, though, they quickly learned that there was no such thing as a flights to ‘the Galaxy'. Rather, the terminal had taken over by advertising for another mobile phone company," it said.

"With constellation map in-hand they bowed their heads in disappointment and rang HQ, ‘Microsoft...we have a problem.'"

Sneak suspects that heads were bowed for reasons other than disappointment, unless it was a reflection on career choice of course.

The blog ends with the suggestion that Nokia phones are ‘out of this world', and the great god of marketing claims another soul.

Yahoo unveils new logo, going from fairly jaunty to reasonably quirky

05 Sep 2013

Yahoo's new logo for 2013

For the first time in 18 years Yahoo has changed its logo. Sneak is a big fan of design; his favourite movie is Helvetica, so when Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer took to her Tumblr blog to talk us through the changes, Sneak was naturally excited.

The old logo was certainly jaunty to say the very least. A serif font, which seemed to lollop up and down like a faithful golden retriever fetching a stick, it certainly worked back in the 1990s. But times have changed.

Yahoo Logo

Mayer describes a weekend away with a small design team, putting together the new icon, which sounds like quite a lot of fun. "We spent the majority of Saturday and Sunday designing the logo from start to finish, and we had a ton of fun weighing every minute detail," she wrote. "We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo – whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud."

Yahoo 2013 logo design blueprints

Much like Samsung's groundbreaking ‘designed for humans' slogan, Mayer and her team wanted a logo that represented nature. The team also made sure that the letters all had different stroke sizes, in addition to little "scallops" at the tip of each line to supplement the now-defunct serifs.

The biggest non-font change was the addition of a slightly 3D effect, with the letters getting a chiselled look with slightly different shades of purple to show depth – much like the depth of Yahoo's diaspora of products, Sneak presumes. And, of course, the exclamation mark is tilted by exactly nine degrees, much more daring than eight but thankfully safer than 10, which would have been far too quirky.

Marissa Mayer was especially happy with the firm's intern Max Ma, who created this video to show the design process.

 Sneak is now off to design a new logo for V3. Suggestions?

IT Sneak has begun a re-brand of V3

LinkedIn pulls sexy coder image from site in disbelief at IT beauty

05 Aug 2013

For reasons that have always escaped Sneak, the world of IT, and especially those that work in it, have never really been considered sexy.

This is unfair, as any profession will have its lookers and, erm, not so-good-looking people – Sneak wouldn’t care to guess which category most people would put him in, he’s just happy as he is.

However, folks at LinkedIn clearly disagree, picturing a world of hideous, hunched-back, acne-riddled weirdos, slobbering over keyboards deep within the bowels of IT departments, only peeking out to scowl at the sun before scuttling away again.

The web developer LinkedIn believes is too attractive to work in ITAt least, that’s the impression given from the uproar on the web that caught Sneak’s eye when an advert for web developers on the networking site was taken down because the firm didn’t believe the woman in the advert could be a coder as she was too damn hot (see picture).

The firm in question, Toptal, was so outraged by this discovery that its chief executive, Taso Du Val, took to the web to vent his anger.

“The fact of the matter is: members of the tech community (LinkedIn users) saw it as impossible that our female engineers could actually be engineers, and a leader of the tech community (LinkedIn) agreed with them,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately we’re banned from showing anything except 100 percent, all male software advertisements from now on and so, that’s what you’ll be getting. I’m disappointed both on a personal and professional level.”

He also said that while the image in question was a real member of staff, why shouldn't attractive people be used to illustrate web engineers anyway.

“Even if they were only stock photography, who cares? The point is, they’re perfectly fine and represent normal professional people. Our male versions are no different. They’re male engineers, smiling, some with glasses, some without; the whole idea LinkedIn had was just ridiculous," he said.

He’s damn right. For too long IT has laboured under the impression it's unglamorous and populated by social rejects, rather than attractive, talented, charismatic people that make up the sector - right gang? Sneak has a great idea to make everyone realise this – a sexy IT calendar!

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?

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