It’s Friday!

Woohoo…no work for 2 whole days.

What to do, though? I have this habit of finding it’s sunday evening and I’ve done nothing all weekend. I could go find some pretty locations to take pictures of…there may be a competition in Practical Photography this month, thinking about it. I could paint the ceiling in my room…This is riveting stuff for you all, isn’t it 🙂

I notice that Hidden and Dangerous Deluxe has been released for free download! It’s to get publicity for H&D2, which is as good a reason as any, I suppose. May give it a try later, though I’m not normally into war games.

The last game I really got into was Neverwinter Nights. It (the single-player game) was fantastic for a long time, but I had some problems with the structure. I got to a point where I simply wasn’t powerful enough to kill the monsters I was facing. In the end I resorted to a walkthrough, which simply said that I should be able to kill them by now (you ‘level-up’ as you progress, and I wasn’t at a high enough level). Unfortunately, other than restart the game there is little you can do about this and in the end I got fed up.

The only FPS I’ve ever got totally hooked on was Half-Life, which was simply superb. I broke my golden rule and got excited about HL2, so it was really disappointing when everything went nuts and it got pushed back. Unreal Tournament was fun for a while, but I was never much good and didn’t have the patience to practice when I was getting fragged two or three times a minute. UT2K3 was a similar story, but UT2K4 looks promising…Onslaught mode sounds great (aircraft!) and Assault returns!

“The level starts off with both sides flying around in ships, trying to blast each other to smithereens, but eventually the action moves inside the base. Once the attacking team secures the docking bay, everybody spawns inside and engages in some more traditional, gun-to-gun combat.”

w00t 🙂

Condoms don’t stop Aids

It must be true: the vatican says so. More here.

Some quotes:
“Aids…has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms” – The “Archbisop of Nairobi”
“The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ that is formed by the condom” – a “senior cardinal”

No…words…

Ozzy & Millie

I’ve been reading Ozzy and Millie for a while, and this struck me as particularly funny. While I’m on a religious bent, this is a great quiz, which isn’t quite what it may seem at first…Questions 20, 21 and 28 are particularly interesting. Please flame me, I’d enjoy the attention 🙂

Eudora

Imagine the scene: I need to reply to an email, so switch to Outlook and open my work folder. I select the email, and go to hit the ‘Reply’ button. But no. Outlook, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that the menu bar and associated icons will no longer respond. Buttons do not depress, menus do not open. I can change folder, but I can’t click ‘Send and Receive’ or any other email manipulation tool. In the grand scheme of things, Outlook doing annoying things is infinitesimally insignificant. However at this particular moment in time my entire language banks were devoted to producing new phrases with which to describe this once useful POS (piece of software). As Yoda would say: colourful it was; bleach out his mouth, he should.

What to replace it with, though? There is no other major program that combines email/calendar/tasks/address book. I don’t mind paying, providing I’m going to get something good. After a bit of searching it was obvious I’d have to separate the calendar and email programs. Eudora seemed to receive universal praise, so I downloaded it. I’ve tried it before, albeit briefly, and didn’t get on with it. However version 6 just came out so I thought I’d give it another go.

Now it’s a week later, and I thought I’d give you my first impressions.

It’s available in three versions: free, sponsored, or paid. Free is, as you may expect, free, but limited in features; sponsored has nearly the entire feature set but with ads; paid has no ads and a by-all-accounts effective spam filter. Sponsored it was. After installing I fired it up. First impressions were ok. It looked reasonably attractive, although it provided no escape from the ubiquitous beige. As any self-respecting habitual-computerite would, I delved into the options straight away, turning off the annoying beep when email arrives (I’m subscribed to 2 high-traffic mailing lists, so I get something pretty much every minute), setting the server addresses, that kind of thing. The columns weren’t very intuitive at first, but they were easily rearranged. Setting up accounts was slightly tricky, but that’s probably due to it being different from Outlook / OE, which are all I’ve ever used.

I decided to use Eudora for personal emails, but stick with Outlook for business, as I’d rather the former get screwed up than the latter. Importing from Outlook turned out to be a hassle. It would find the emails fine, but there was no option to select which folders you want: it was all or nothing. After copying my personal emails to a separate .pst file they imported ok, but nothing I could do would import the address book. After reading many FAQs I eventually came across Dawn – a freeware address book converter. It copied the email addresses but nothing else. Oh well, it’s a start.

After I’d got it configured how I wanted it, I found an email from Ben, and hit reply. Annoyance No. 1: Eudora adds a ‘you wrote:’ to the top of the recipients info, but doesn’t insert a line feed. So you have to press enter (twice) to put any blank space between the reply and the original text. I’ve yet to find a way around this. It’s possible it’s just me having done something wrong, as nobody else seems to be complaining. Or I could just be fussy. After much reading on the Euroda website, I found that there are about 1,000,000,008 more options available in the eudora.ini file. Many of them, however, aren’t in there already, so you have to find them on the website to add them. You can change the ‘you wrote’ text, but can’t add two line feeds as far as I’m aware.

Other than that, things have gone pretty well.The program starts up in a reasonable amount of time, unlike Outlook – which has been known to take up to a minute on my machine (granted, there are a few more emails to open, but it’s Just Silly sometimes). Eudora also doesn’t hang around in task manager after it’s been closed, receiving all emails but not applying rules so that next time I go to check there are a billion flakes (?) of spam sitting in my inbox. Guess which program does that. But comparisons with stupid quirks aren’t very fair. How does Eudora stand up as a program on its own?

So far, I think it’s pretty good. Not yet great, but getting there.

  • The filters are extremely powerful and easy to use once you get the hang of the interface.
  • Multiple signatures are useful, as you can quickly apply a personal or business signature to any given email.
  • The ‘personality’ system for controlling user accounts seems a little awkward, but it’s not a real problem. The address book is somewhat simplistic – it can’t do birthdays, for example – but it’s not really designed to be a contacts manager.
  • The UI is generally clear and easy to use, although a couple of screens seem a little amateurish.
  • There’s a ‘MoodWatch’ system, which tries to allocate chilli peppers to each email based on their offensive content. A couple of group emails, mainly from Mr Wells, have got 2/3 chilli peppers, which means ‘message is probably offensive’; nothing’s yet got 3. You can also configure it to warn you if you’re sending an email it thinks is likely to offend, which could be handy for grounding me during occasional group arguments 🙂
  • There’s a statistics report, which will show you how much time you’ve spent actually using the program (it doesn’t count idle time), and in what way.
  • There’s also a label system, which can highlight emails with up to 7 different colours, each with its own message. This is somewhat more powerful than just a flag. Easier to notice, too.

  • The Half-Life 2 saga that has erupted over the past week has strengthened my resolve to move away from Outlook. I’m not one of those people who thinks every Microsoft product is devil-code – I’d like to see how Linux would stand up to every hacker in the world trying to nuke it – but the fact remains that Outlook / OE are the major targets, so not using them is another level of security. This works the other way, of course. If there’s a bug in Eudora will it be fixed straight away, or will they wait for the next scheduled release? How would they let people know? There’s nothing as simple as Windows/Office Update to fix it for me. In a way it’s less secure than Outlook / OE, because less people are using it so less bugs are being found. Therefore it could take longer for exploited holes to be found and fixed. However I think that the benefits outweigh the potential disadvantages; for now, anyway.

    The full version is $49.95 – so &pound30ish. I’m not paying that just yet, but I may if I continue to get along with it. Now if I could just figure out how to insert line feeds…

    Advantages:

    Fast
    Easy to use, one you’ve got to know it.
    Powerful filters
    Free sponsored version has unobtrusive ads
    Not Outlook – increased security and less quirkiness

    Disadvantages:

    Limited address book
    Occasionally unclear UI
    Reply line-feed issue
    Not Outlook – everything that needs access to addresses/emails is compatible with Outlook. ActivSync and programs that synchronize with mobile phones, for example.

    Data Protection Agency Services

    If you register under the Data Protection Act, you will likely receive one of these letters. One of my clients received one this week. From a company called ‘Data Protection Agency Services – Enforcement Section’, this letter explains how failure to comply with the Data Protection Registrar constitutes a criminal offence, and you need to send them £95.

    As you may have guessed from the fact I’m posting it at all, this letter is not what it seems.

    It’s not a con, it’s just brazen. This company have nothing to do with the ‘Information Commissioner’, who handles all data protection registrations.

    The first bullet point says ‘You are not held on our records as having registered under the Data Protection Act 1998, to comply with the Data Protection Registrar”. This is likely to be true, they probably don’t have any records of these things or they couldn’t send out the letters. It then warns you of the dangers associated with not registering and various gumph about the reasons behind it etc. There’s a little booklet you have to fill in, which is remarkable in its lack of spelling / grammatical errors (which makes me wonder if it’s just taken from something that actually is official). Then we come to the following:

    “Once your cheque has reached us we will register you with the Notification Department, and provide you with helpful documentation for developing your codes of practice, under the legislation set within the Data Protection Act 1998″ (bold type theirs)

    Whoop tee do.

    The official term for registering under the DPA is ‘notification’, so many people assume this is an offical government thing, but it isn’t. The “Notification Department” of this company isn’t an official body, so it won’t matter one jot whether you are registered with them. It will, however, cost you £95.

    The “Data Protection Agency Services” do exactly what they say they’ll do, so there’s nothing against the law about this. It’s just that many people will read the letter, assume it is from the government, and send off a cheque. Personally, I would say that’s the whole point, but that’s just my opinion. It’s a bit like me sending you an invoice that says “I thought about your computer last week – you owe me £50”. Most people would see this for what it is, but if I made it look similar to Microsoft documentation and crammed it full of warnings about how failure to comply with the EULA can get you fined, there’d be people who would simply send the money without paying too much attention.

    According to the official website, the annual statutory notification fee for official notification is £35. There are no other charges.

    I’ve just found this page on the official DPR website, warning about this kind of thing, and listing the addresses of the companies involved.

    UPDATE on 18/05/04

    Well, this page seems to have helped a fair few people! For a while I was in the top three google results under a ‘data protection agency services’ search, but I appear to have now disappeared from that. I appreciate all the kind words, although, please, if you want to go on an anti-government rant, this isn’t the place (and mentioning cars in the same sentence is a sure fire recipe for an email on road safety 😉 )

    I’m updating to add a copy of the letter you’ll receive if you really do have to pay. You can see that the scam attempts to copy as much as possible from the official documentation. The real letter comes from the ‘Notification Department’ at ‘Wycliffe House’ and does, to be honest, look more professional. The official email address of ‘data@notification.demon.co.uk’ doesn’t help in this regard! It is, however, only £35 as opposed to the newly-increased total of £135.

    Official DRP Letter - Small Version

    The Information Commissioner’s Website (down at the time of writing) apparently maintains a list of the addresses of these scammers. Trading Standards will also take action if informed – you can find your local office from the central Trading Standards website.

    UPDATE on 23/11/05:

    Somebody has commented that the fraudsters have been prosecuted successfully. Excellent news!

    Doing accounts…and scooby-doo

    I’ve just found out that I am one of the characters in Nod’s comic crossover! See here for the first instalment. I hope it’s based on the cartoon and not the film…I’m thinking I’m probably Fred, but have my fingers crossed for Daphne. Ahem.

    Andrew’s Useful Tip of the Day:

    Get a folder for your bank statements, because it’s really annoying when you can’t find one

    Site ready for deployment

    Hopefully the latest round of tweaks have sorted out the majority of problems. It looks ok in IE6, Opera & Mozilla. I can’t think for a minute that it works in Netscape 4.x, but there’s little I can do about that as nothing works in Netscape 4.x. Please let me know any problems/ideas/mumbles you may have.

    The funeral was, as you may expect, sad. Peter was apparently a very popular man, given that we think over 100 people were there. I didn’t know he was into powerboating. According to the sermon, he used to embark on a trip for the weekend while his family sat at home and placed bets on what time he’d be back. He would always see the dawn then realise he missed his family, and come home. That summed up the Peter I knew, and the world is a worse place for his loss. He died of skin cancer, and for that reason I encourage everyone to read this article, which summarises both the signs of skin cancer and the causes. I assume everyone reading this knows that tanning salons are a stupid thing, but in case you don’t, let me point you here.

    Fresh Start

    Today was meant to be my new start business-wise, as I’ve been coasting a little for the past few months and need to extract my digit. However it hasn’t got off to the best of starts, as I was ill last night until 2 in the morning, and consequently have only just got downstairs…

    To make the day even nicer, I’m going to my nextdoor neighbour’s funeral shortly. I was told he was ill at the beginning of August, and he died last Sunday. I didn’t know him that well but we’d spoken a fair few times. It was a shock that it had happened so quickly. As the cliche says: it makes you stop and think.

    Other than that, I’m doing my accounts today. Woohoo. Will be ok until I discover I’m missing some bank statements…

    Design tweakage

    So it looks ok-ish in IE, has an annoying gap in Opera and Mozilla’s just mad. I think it’s just a CSS issue. Sometimes you have to explicitly set margin widths to 0.

    Kate left today 🙁 Spent the day cleaning out the various pet enclosures, lovely…

    Tomorrow is a fresh-start work-wise, more details then.

    New Design

    So what do you think? It’s purple 🙂 I haven’t applied this to the archive pages yet, so they’ll still look like they did before. Am quite happy with this for now…there’s an annoying gap at the top, and Pegasus is already irritating me. Kate wouldn’t let me use the nymph picture…can’t imagine why.

    My favourite problem with the text wrapping around the left-hand column has come back to haunt me…It’s an irritating one. May have to move column over to the right hand side to get it to look ok.

    I can’t believe someone stole the Half-Life 2 source. Given the number of people annoyed at this, I can’t see that they won’t be caught before long. Everyone slips up somewhere.

    Anyway, Kate’s looking bored, so I shall stop typing…