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Rupert Murdoch redefines irony with Google privacy attack on Twitter

19 Aug 2014

Sneak loves to spend his lunch hour lurking on Twitter, scrolling through the tawdry thoughts of bored IT execs and publicity-hungry tech corporations.

But sometimes, when the hum of the server room is getting too much, Sneak stumbles upon a wonderful gem of bile, hypocrisy, anger and opinion.

Today's nugget of controversy comes courtesy of Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted: "NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google."

Sneak's hypocrisy alert sounded so loudly that he nearly choked on his cheese and pickle sandwich.

Sure, Google may have courted criticism over privacy issues, and the NSA has basically been sniffing through emails like a spaniel with a nose for binary, but Murdoch wading into the argument is such a dose of irony that Sneak can taste ferrous metal.

Given that Murdoch was all but forced to put the century-old News of the World out to pasture over phone hacking, to call out Google's approach to privacy is so hypocritical that a new catalogue of pot and kettle-esque idioms needs to be written.

Then again perhaps one could consider Murdoch to be an expert on such issues, given how far the News of the World went to destroy the concept of privacy for so many.

Sneak also finds it ironic that a quick Google search of Murdoch reveals a litany of information on the mogul, much of which digs down into his position in the hacking scandal. Perhaps Mr Murdoch is pushing an agenda, but Sneak doesn't speculate on rumours unless he can tap into a source.

Of course, Sneak doesn't necessarily trust Google either and has taken advantage of the Right to be Forgotten ruling to a new level. Sneak can't even remember his own name; he's sure it was something that sounded like Dave.

Nor is Sneak a big fan of the NSA, but that's probably because the No Strings Attached agency refuses to return his calls. Sneak is forever alone.

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.

HP and Chubby Checker legal app spat reaches happy ending

25 Jul 2014

Sneak loves to see hard justice acted out upon big IT companies but sometimes a peaceful settlement is more of a happy ending. That's what happened this time around, after HP settled one of the stranger legal spats on the case books of a court, after an action brought by music legend Chubber Checker.

The strange-but-true story behind the lawsuit comes from Mr Checker - real name Ernst Evans - getting wind of an app from the short-lived HP Palm operating system, that mangled cutting-edge science, technology and witchcraft to correlate the long-rumoured shoe size = penis size metric.

With the subtle-as-a-shovel-to-the-head moniker ‘The Chubby Checker', the app incurred Chubby Checker's wrath in 2013 as the rock god insisted that it infringed upon his trademarked name, as well as being somewhat lewd.

In what must have been a surreal moment, HP removed the offending app from the Palm app store that has long since followed the dodo into extinction. But for the legal teams of HP, this was just the tip of the problem.

Evans declared that his "internationally known" stage-name should have meant that HP's app approval process prevented The Chubby Checker from ever making it onto the store.

He was seeking millions but now an out-of-court agreement between HP and Mr Checker has prevented HP from ever using his name in vain again.

Sneak is left in no doubt that Mr Checker is not a man to be trifled with and will now cease work on his gentleman's companion app under development as Project Rod Stewart.

Germans to avoid spying eyes with typewriters

22 Jul 2014

Typewriter Man Smoking Pipe

Sneak is working on a novel. It's a labour of love that is so complex, clever and cunning that it makes Game of Thrones look like Spot the Dog. When it's ready, and yes Mum it will be, the world will proclaim the greatness that is Sneak.

So good is this work that Sneak has always been concerned that writing it in the traditional method – on Microsoft Word on a laptop – posed the risk that if someone got wind of it and hacked into his machine, they could steal the idea and make gazillions.

To avoid this fate, Sneak has for many years used an ancient, bashed-around typewriter left to him by his great grandfather (the dapper chap pictured above).

Yes his friends mock him when they come round (OK, see it over his shoulder on the webcam) but it’s a trusty machine and no-one’s going to hack into it, that’s for sure. In fact, he often wondered why other security-conscious organisations don't have the odd typewriter kicking around for important intel.

Well it appears the Germans are catching on after Sneak read that the German government is considering using the old-fashioned machines to help stop spies, such as those from the US, from accessing, intercepting and reading the country's most secret data.

The Guardian reported that Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg, after being asked, as a litte joke, if the country was considering typewriters to avoid spying that, "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either."

"Really?" came the response (in German though, no doubt). "Yes, no joke," Sensburg said back. He never jokes.

Good for you Germany! Let’s see you crack a unnetworked, decades-old, ink and ribbon typewriter, NSA. As for Sneak, he's off to write chapter 247 of his novel. It's an exciting bit, as the Orc King Gringarlos battles the Dragon Wizard Zilarbeth in the Moon Palace of Zingador. Excited? You should be.

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


Congrats internet, you just made adorkable an actual word

10 Jun 2014

A new word is being added to the Collins English Dictionary and it is adorkable.

Sneak does not approve of the word adorkable because despite wearing bottle thick spectacles and more tank tops than a munitions outfit, no one ever associated the word with him and his sartorial work.

Adorkable, you see, is a spin on adorable that nods in the direction of dorkish geekery. But don't take Sneak's word for it, let's hear it from dictionary corner.

There, specifically the Collins' Dictionary pages, we read how to spell it, how to say it, and what it means. We also learn that it has been around for seven years but really sparked its way into the collective consciousness in 2012.

adorkable (əˈdɔːkəbəl) adj slang
socially inept or unfashionable in a charming or endearing way

"With 30 percent of the vote, and despite a strong rally by ‘felfie' fans, adorkable will be entering the 12th print edition of the Collins English Dictionary! We loved reading the #Twictionary votes, debates and tweets from around the world, as ‘nomakeupselfie' devotees tackled ‘fatberg' fans," says the word firm.

"However, adorkable - a strong contender from the start - came through to win the coveted dictionary spot. The winning word is a more than worthy addition to any dictionary."

Felfie, which was second, is what happens when farmers take selfies, and a fatberg is what builds up in drains and sewers when grease and oil goes down the plughole.

Duckface, which Sneak can get behind - mostly to avoid seeing it - came in rather low with just a six percent share of the votes.

Adorkable will make its way into the 12th edition of the dictionary.

Central Intelligence Agency joins Twitter and Facebook

09 Jun 2014

Sneak finally has some decent people to talk to on his social networking accounts, the venerable chaps, and ladies, at the US Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA to close friends.

Sneak is often found to be on the receiving end of a mute or blocking order, he hopes that the new social CIA will embrace him and his own brand of unclassified disclosure.

Certainly it looks like the CIA is open to the social experience and it has promised to share outwards. Sneak hopes that it will be equally open to responses.

While looking at the CIA account Sneak realised that other people have the same hope, and he noticed that a chap called @Wikileaks has promised to respond to official disclosures with some of its own. Sneak is looking forward to that.

However, while he is hoping for messages that are juicy like so many peaches, the truth is probably - and this is often the case - that things will be very boring indeed.

Take the CIA on Facebook. Sneak was expecting to see a video of a monkey sniffing something, a picture of some lunch, or hell, even a selfie, but none of that is in place. Instead there is a message that promises no fun at all.

"CIA welcomes your comments, however we wish to maintain the decorum appropriate to a taxpayer-funded organisation, we will moderate, and delete as necessary, comments deemed inappropriate. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in the author(s) being blocked from this page without notice," it says in a cat-free early post.

"Do not post graphic, obscene, sexually explicit or racially offensive comments or content. We also will not tolerate comments that are abusive, hateful, slanderous or that are intended to defame anyone or any organisation. All content must be unclassified. Do not post any content that may be considered classified, sensitive, or that would cause immediate and undue harm to a person or organisation."

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