Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Geek Spam

[reading: George R.R. Martin, "A Feast for Crows"]

Today's peculiar spam:


TO ALL INVESTORS!
WATCH ABC.D!!
Symbol: ABC.D
Company: xxxxx xxxx xxxxxx
5-day Target: 0.95
Current Price: 0.33 (UP 70%)
WKN: xxxxx
ISIN: USxxxxxxxxxx
Market: Frankfurt

WE ARE EXPECTING GAINS OF 
UP TO 500% IN A MATTER OF DAYS!
The TRACE statements got me to the problem and it has to do with threading. Rectangles typically are described by upper-left and lower-right corners.
I am positive that in the vast majority of cases we are hammering nails with microscopes.
You can control the compilation driver.
Normally since there is only one sound card in your system only one front panel at a time can be used for SSTV transmission or reception. The two sisters at once called on Mrs Bolton, in a newish house in a row, quite select for Tevershall.
Her thirst was gone, her aches.
Notice that a NDIS packet filter value of zero disables packet reception.
The component for which you want to find a site.
Specifies whether the type should be marshaled using the Automation Marshaler or a custom proxy and stub.
It's just impossible to include full list of them on this page.
Examples of real-world spotlights include desklamps, headlights, and flashlights. So he's been in London all this time seeing his lawyer.

Unsurprisingly, this slipped past my spam filter (particularly as the text on the left is in a GIF image). However, my question is this: for the recipients whose spam filters this is designed to get around, how many of them are likely to respond to a pump-and-dump spam email?

In other news, I'm off for my first Slacker's Lunch in ages—almost a year to the day. The plan is to go bowling, so we may stay relatively sober.

[A:42265 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:92248 Total:147324]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Joy of UNIX

UNIX credo: you can do anything from a single command line (as long as the line is allowed to be arbitrarily long).

Case in point: generating a white noise audio file

sox -t sl -r 44100 -c 2 /dev/zero \
-r 44100 -c 2 -w whitenoise.wav synth 10:00 whitenoise vol 0.6 fade q 10 10:00 10

Friday, April 13, 2007

Internet 1 Banks 0

[reading: Neil Gaiman, "Fragile Things"; recently Gina Ford, "The New Contented Little Baby Book"]

Maybe this Internet thingy will catch on after all.

I wanted to change my savings account to something that paid more interest, but it seems you can't just fill out a form. Instead the branch staff told me I'd have to wait until I could get an appointment next week and spend 45 minutes discussing it with a financial advisor.

So I went home and rang up to close the old account anyhow. This took more time than setting up a new savings account with an online bank—I know this because I did it during the 12 minutes I was waiting on hold.

<rant subject="banks">

I picked my existing savings account because it had their highest rate, so I was surprised that its rate had dropped low enough that I was losing money in real terms. On asking, I was told it was because it was an "old" account, and that they only have their best rates for the newer products. The rates are even worse for the older accounts that can't be opened any more.

So you can't just pick an account and assume that natural competition between the banks will keep the rates fairly close to the best of the market—you have to check every couple of years to see if your account has been superseded.

Presumably this also means that there are plenty of customers who never notice this and just trust that they're getting a fair deal. To me, that seems effectively the same as a door-to-door conman, scamming little old ladies, except it's being done wholesale rather than retail.


And another thing, while we're on the subject of dubious business practices from banks. When I looked at the comparison sites for cash ISAs, the Barclays 'Tax Beater' cash ISA stands out with a rate (6.5%) that's distinctly better than any of the competition.

However, the devil is in the details. Looking at the small print, this rate only applies for the first 12 months; the true equivalent long-term rate is 5.5%—which would put them rather further down the comparison tables.

This is a common trick, relying on customer inertia as above. But there's more: extra small print that says they don't allow any existing cash ISA funds to be transferred in—which means the higher rate will only ever apply to £3000 (at most) for one year.

So the headline rate of 6.5% that gets them to the top of the tables (and that they trumpet on their advertising) only costs them £30 per customer—which is pretty reasonable, as customer acquisition costs go. Nice scam.

</rant>

[A:42265 B:3278 C:346 D:9187 E:91866 Total:146942]

Monday, April 09, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Done/Abandoned

[reading: Charles Stross, "The Hidden Family"]

"If you've ever written a book, it's not really finished but abandoned."Lemony Snicket

The second proof copy of the printed version of my witterings about software engineering arrived, and (unlike the previous proof copy) I couldn't immediately spot any egregious errors (although I'm sure there are many still lurking).

So I've finally made it visible to the world: "High-Quality Software Engineering", available as:

In theory, the Lulu distribution process means that the printed version will eventually trickle through to an Amazon listing, which would be good.

As an aside, it's been interesting to find out more about the where the money goes with book prices. It seems normal that the book seller (e.g. Amazon) gets 50% of the cover price. The other 50% covers the production cost and then what's left goes to the publisher and eventually the author. This means that the author of a reasonably popular book can make more on Amazon referrals than on royalties!