29th December 2004 ::

Updates to report today: another bundle of parasites, ’cos I know how much you love ’em an’ all. Namely: DialerMaker, Enconfidence, NeoToolbar, RichFind, SmartestSearch, SuperSpider, Tubby and TopConverting, plus new variants of CoolWebSearch (WinUpd, XPlugin, DOMPeek, InetDoor), FlashTrack (Flcp, Xmod, XML, Reg2, RegB, RegJ, RegX), MarketScore (MKSC), nCase (saie, sais, salm, sapp, sain, 180ax, 180adsolution), NetDotNet (QuickSearch), OnlineDialer (Ole), Roimoi (mm21) and Transponder (BTGrab, ZServ, Ceres and sPeer).

And detector script updated to match, natch.

Also I’m soliciting comments on Hotbar. They’d like not to be considered as unsolicited commercial software any more, but this rather depends on the interpretation of ‘unsolicited’: they claim no longer to be bundling with third-party apps, but current installation practices still seem murky. I’m open to your opinions here. Have you had Hotbar on your machine within the last few months? If so, did you put it there knowingly, accepting the possibility of pop-ups, or do you feel misled? Let me know.

* Current music: Rongtones’s quallitty tunes for the handy ::

[Note: ‘handy’ is the German slang for mobile phone. As it’s a much less cumbersome and ugly term than ‘mobile phone’—or the ghastly ‘cellphone’—I fully intend to keep using it outside of Germany even if no-one has a clue what it means. No, especially if no-one has a clue what it means. This is my site and it’s for my gratification alone. Up yours, reading public!]

So anyway I hate handies of course. And I especially hate their aggravating ringtones. And I especially especially hate their offensively crap ringtones that are supposed to be that irritating song out of the charts a couple of months ago but aren’t because all the notes are the wrong length and anyway it doesn’t go like that.

The fact that someone has paid for this, though, the fact that there’s a massive industry siphoning cash off idiots for this worthless cack, and they’re filling my life with endless adverts for it, that’s was I hate so much that I can’t adequately express it. Not even by over-using the word ‘especially’.

Which is why Rongtones kicks arse. They get extra comedy excellentness points for:

More quality handy logos. Not available on Rongtones (though they should be).
Adrian Juste026 0001
Smoking weed cool!!026 0002
Byron out of Babylon 5026 0003
the olympics026 0004
Official Olympics logo
Anel sex026 0005
Noki026 0006
026 0007
Ghost + ironing board
YES!!026 0008
Pokey the Penguin
.026 0009
Pokey the Microdot
Marry Cristmas026 0010
I like web design026 0011
W3C official HTML 4.01
Alfred, Lord Tennyson026 0012
P Diddy
Chlamydia trachomatis026 0013
Pop Idol
  • being an amusing piss-take, even if the basic idea was nicked from that issue of Viz last year with the fake handy logo adverts which probably no-one noticed at the time as all the ads in Viz are for terrible handy logos, though at least that’s better than a few years ago when all the ads were for porn and sex chatlines. It’s always depressing to find that advertisers consider my demographic to be mostly sad old lonely men. I know I am a sad old lonely man, but it’s nice not to be reminded of it. Erm, anyway;
  • despite being a piss-take, still having the bare-faced cheek to try to charge three quid for a deliberately useless logo or a ringtone that’s just the same note six times in a row;
  • also I had just eaten a load of blaukraut* when I saw their site, and it made me laugh farts. Which was funny in itself. This is not strictly speaking relevant, but adds local aroma.

[The Christmas tunes up at the moment aren’t quite a good/terrible as the others, unfortunately.]

* Current pineapple: (%/;) swirly ::

Well never mind “wacky” then... you Americans sure are touchy. I suppose I should have known better than to say anything about the election* really. I didn’t consider “you guys want another four years like the last?” to be especially controversial; you have to admit that, regardless of the politics behind it, the previous term had been really rather unpleasant and unsuccessful, in economic as well as military terms.

But obviously some people were nonetheless offended.

Listen asshole,
keep your politic to yourself...

Dear James,
thank you for your refreshing and honest mail!

if i wanted to hear from you i would have bush tell Blair what to say!!!

So Bush isn’t already doing that? oh, this is a good bit:

when was the last time you voted for anything...with your dying queen and queer prince...

Which I think is meant to be offensive, but I’m not quite sure how. Though I have no particular fondness for the royal family (cf. Losertown reunion show, excerpt 5), it is perhaps worth pointing out that the Brits do still hold perfectly good elections despite the monarchy’s existence. I wasn’t aware the Queen was dying though, so thanks for the update on that. And not sure which prince you mean... could be any of them really.

just keep doing the computer stuff and stay out of my country! communist!

You’ll be pleased to know the computer stuff will remain in the computer stuff sections of this site, untainted by politics. However this page is my personal log* and may contain politics, sarcasm, swearing, vegetable extracts, funny smells, solecisms and traces of nut. You have been warned.

Here’s another good commie-themed one, from William:

Many of us also understand that the Socialist movement continues to march toward a one-world government, a one-world religion, and a one-world military.

If this is the case it must be marching ve-e-e-e-r-r-r-ry slowly. After all these years of hard work overturning the capitalist bourgeoisie and that, the Socialist Movement in the UK still comprises a couple of soap-dodgers handing out Socialist Worker newspapers in the town centre. Messrs. Blair and Howard are not shaking in their shoes.

[Kerry’s] military discharge was upgraded, the previous being sealed forever, to honorable when Jimmy Carter was sworn into office as President. One of Carter's first official acts was to grant amnesty to the many dissidents and traitors of the U. S. during the Viet Nam War.

This is a funny turnabout I noticed this year but can’t explain. Previously, Viet Nam was always given as the canonical example of a misconceived, unproductive war, blighted by especially bad abuses. But in this election, suddenly this was turned on its head: Viet Nam was rehabilitated as a right and just war, and anyone who said anything bad about it must be a traitor.

Strange. When did this change of attitude occur and how did it happen so quickly?

We are still a moral-based society, despite all the infiltration and imported dissident leaders.

Maybe someone more familiar with US politics can identify the ‘imported dissident leaders’? Schwarzenegger maybe? Not a card-carrying Socialist as far as I’m aware...

Anyway, John send a somewhat more measured missive:

Just a comment on the election. Did it ever occur to you that the majority of people that voted for Bush may be right.

Actually that’s a good point. I had never considered that as any kind of possibility at all. [ed. note: remember to insert smiley here so as not to look an arse]

Maybe, if one choose to stop the emotional triggers that the propaganda causes they would be able to see a broader picture of the global danger of terrorism.

I don’t think Europeans are under any illusions as to the danger of terrorism. We’ve had the likes of the IRA and ETA attacking civilian targets for decades, after all. It remains unclear, however, how Bush’s policies are going to solve or help the situation.

They would understand that their actions are sacrificial and unselfish, and that they are demonstrating great courage by facing freedom's enemy in Iraqic and this action will help future generations.

Yet who, exactly, was freedom’s enemy in Iraq? Saddam was a shit of course, but lots of countries have equally awful dictators; this one posed no special danger to the West. It’s a breeding-ground for anti-Western radicalism now of course, because invading a country, killing lots of their civilians and getting caught torturing them tends to make one rather unpopular with the locals. A self-fulfilling prophecy?

Freedom is worth fighting for and America is determined to stay free, and we are willing to help other countries that cherish democracy stay free, even when they are afraid to fight for it.

Right. The American model is held up as an exemplar of how to promote freedom. Which is why it’s mystifying that the US seems to be stepping back, abolishing the traditional civil liberties (and even basic human rights) that have made the country so free.

Well that’s how it looks from this side of the Atlantic anyway. Thanks for not calling me a communist!

Longwalker (amongst others) said:

What it seems is a failure to understand how "We The People" think was greatly responsible for the election outcome. We do not take kindly to opinion without influence no matter which continent it might come from.

...in effect, that the US voted Bush partly out of simple spite for the rest of the world, countries Americans do not like. It depresses me greatly if this is really the case, but there is probably some truth in it.

Ah well. Thanks to the above [first names only unless anyone would like otherwise] and everyone else who mailed in on both sides of this one; sorry I can’t reply to all, or indeed anyone much with my inbox as sadly overflowing as it is these days.

* Current reading matter: c’t ::

Is c’t the last decent computer rag left in Europe? It manages to cover all flavours of computing, without being biased towards Windows, Linux, Mac or anything else. It isn’t afraid to diss rubbish products in reviews (this week’s characterisation of Norton SystemWorks as “Norton Nervig”—“Irritating”—is typically spot on), and even still features buildable electronics projects, like those great old BBC Micro magazines from the ’80s. Twice as much content as any of the remaining lame PC mags from the UK, at half the price and coming out twice as often to boot. Fantastic. Worth learning German just to read it, I say.

Anyway c’t isn’t shy of the political aspects of computing either. The last edition of 2004 features this excellent editorial by Gerald Himmelein on more film industry idiocy. (rubbish Babelfish translation)

The situation is that the German film industry has produced a series of rather offensive adverts to be shown in cinemas before the film begins, under the slogan Hart aber Gerecht (“Firm but fair”.) I’ve seen two so far: one featuring a small child crying because her father has been sent to prison for watching copied films, and another ‘humorous’ ad featuring prisoners ‘hilariously’ considering subjecting new film-copying convicts to anal rape.

As you can probably imagine, this sort of thing is a bit of a mood-killer when you’re anticipating the beginning of a Fun Exciting Movie. Himmelein makes the points that—

  • the annoying advertising is seen only by those who have actually paid to see the film, not those who downloaded it from the internet;
  • the customer, once ‘king’ is now routinely seen as nothing more than a suspected thief, to be threatened and intimidated, and this treatment doesn’t exactly make the cinemagoer feel welcome;
  • the adverts do a great job of letting anyone know who doesn’t already, that films can be downloaded from the internet for free;
  • they are in any case misleading, as jail sentences are aimed at the commercial pirate rings, not the home user;

—well enough that I don’t feel the need to rant about it here, as I had intended to.

This is just another case of the content-owning industries trying to compete with authorised copying, by, er, making their official outlets more and more unattractive in comparison. I’ve never downloaded a film from the net before, but I’d definitely consider it now, so I could watch the without being called a criminal and hectored on how evil the Internet is.

Copy protection is another reason the official outlets suck right now, as discussed by Cory Doctorow after an article in Wired.

It’s computer games where all this crap started out, and sadly they still haven’t worked out that Copy Protection Doesn’t Work there, either... Y’see, I’d actually rather like to buy Half-Life 2. I enjoyed the first one and the sequel really does look rather good.

But I can’t buy Half-Life 2. All I can buy is a bundle of bits on a shiny disc, that will connect to Valve’s ‘Steam’ thingy and allow me to ask permission to play Half-Life 2 for a bit.

Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t—which is apparently a relatively common occurrence —I’ll be left to try and get through to helplines and plead with them to let me play the game I’ll have paid good money for. And thanks to the activation code stuff I can’t even take it back to the shops for a refund. Great!

Oh, and even if that bit works, I’ll still have to deal with the normal CD copy protection, which with some games makes my drive spin for a few minutes before deigning to start the game. (And I though the Jet Set Willy colour code chart and Lenslok were bad! We’re back to the load times of cassettes, here!) Now normally I could download a no-CD crack to get it working, but with Steam I run the risk of Valve arbitrarily removing my ability to play the game if they notice it.

And even if it works now, will I be able to play it again a couple of years down the line? Who knows? It’s all in the hands of Valve, or whatever company ends up buying them, if they even still exist at all then. How many games companies from five years ago are still going today? (Or software companies full stop, for that matter, as BitBeamer users found out recently when the domain used by their software’s activation system disappeared, leaving them with an inoperable bundle of bits instead of the program they had paid for.)

Nah, forget it. Valve, I’m going to give you six months to release a version of Half-Life 2 that just works without having to ask for permission from your servers. If you can’t do that, I’m afraid I’m going to have to get your game from the pirates instead. They don’t insist I jump through hoops to get it running, which makes their product much more attractive than yours. You may think I’m being a bit harsh. Yeah, it’s hart all right. Hart, aber Gerecht.

Still, you don’t even really need industry propaganda to make cinema-going unattractive at the moment. Until The Incredibles [v. good, but you know that, obv.] finally came out the other week, the cinemas round here were showing naught but a load of badly-dubbed rubbish-action films. After deciding to go out to the fillums one week, we couldn’t find anything at all we wanted to watch. Half of the screens in town were playing Aliens vs. Predator alone. Ugh.

Whose idea was ‘versus’, anyway? You might as well call a film “This is Obviously Going to be Crap IV”. But apparently the industry is now so unadventurous that not only does every film have to be a sequel of an established franchise, but it’s best if a film can be made a sequel to two established franchises.

In a daring moonlit infiltration raid resulting from playing too many first-person stealth shooters, I gained access to the Miraline Studios lot in Hollywood and staged a successful e-cyber interhacking attack on the Paul W. S. Anderson Memorial Dreck Drawer to find out what other new films were on the books.

Aliens vs. Dr Who

For years, fans have wondered who would win out of the two infamous galactic wanderers.

Will it be the Aliens, with their super-swift movement, acid blood and razor-sharp fangs?

Or the Doctor, with his stripey scarf, jelly babies and assistant (with excellent getting-captured powers)?

In 2005 we find out.

Godzilla vs. the girl out of Ring

What could be better than a Hollywood remake of a cult classic Japanese flick? A Hollywood remake of two cult classic Japanese flicks, of course!

Some controversy still exists over the casting, but it is believed Will Smith and J Lo are set to sign up for this exciting summer spectacular, which pits the the wise crackin’ mega-reptile against the murdering ghost with a secret. ...A sexy secret.

Joel Schumacher to direct.

Freddy vs. Thatcher

Not really a fair fight, this one.

One is a truly terrifying betaloned undead monster, merciless and unstoppable.

The other is... ahahaha, duh Freddy of course, do you see what I did there. I make a funny, give me yoghurt. Mrs Thatch jokes are so cutting-edge This will be even more ‘hilarious’ when she finally snuffs it too I’m sure

oh sod it enough of this nonsense

4th November 2004 ::

* Current badly-drawn smiley: (confusion) perplexed

I mean, wow! You Americans sure are wacky!

Look, I know you don’t generally like voting out incumbent presidents, and I appreciate the Kerry campaign was hardly the most inspiring ever, but seriously... you guys want another four years like the last? Are you nuts?

No, really. Is there something not quite right?

Ah well, I can but look on the bright side:

  • It’s not 2000 again; the result wasn’t close enough for us to have to sit around waiting another painful week for provisional votes and legal challenges. And hopefully the relative dirtiness of this year’s voter fraud won’t prove to have had a deciding effect.
  • I get to say “told you so” to my friends.
  • I don’t live in America.
  • Erm.
  • That’s it.

With Administration allies taking hold of all the other branches of government too, all sorts of weird and wonderful policies await us, I fear. Interesting times ahead, indeed.

* Current music which most people won’t like: Plus-Tech Squeeze Box

...whose latest, Cartooom! (sic) gives up any last pretence of compos-mentis songwriting that was present on Fakevox and gives us non-stop batshit-crazy kitchen-sink silly-rpm super-busy wall-of-sound nonsense beginning to end. Hooray! It’s good, if you like music that gives you seizures.

Annoyingly difficult to get hold of in the West, sadly. Here’s an Amazon Japan link for what good it’ll do you.

Anyway. I have nothing new to declare but another vile portion of parasitica today, I’m afraid. Namely: MegaSearch, RXToolbar, Supaseek, UCSearch, and new variants of DownloadWare (SED), FavoriteMan (NP, Icm, On, Benceed, LSTB, N3t, Cal and ATPartners), IPInsight (Alchem, Stub), nCase (Zango), NetworkEssentials (RH, MS) and Transponder (MXTarget, MultiMPP, LocalNRD, VoiceIP, Stub).

Of course to cover these there’s a new release (3.3) of the detector script.

I’m enjoying seeing this script turn up in unexpected places. Like parasite manufacturers’ own sites. I suppose this is to be expected when you license it as ‘use freely’, but there’s a certain shamelessness to IGetNet and MyPCTuneUp (Mindset/ABetterInternet/Transponder/FavoriteMan/etc.) altering it to their own nefarious purposes that amuses me.

And then there’s exploits. More altered versions of the script have turned up on dodgy pages, most recently the achtungachtung hijacker, where it seems to be trying to detect whether the desired parasites are installed first, before trying to exploit security holes in IE to load them. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, as it fails to check a real class ID, but still.

A bit like the phishing site that attempted to use one of the demos from my IE interface spoofing advisory verbatim, only forgetting to include the bit that sets the toolbars properly, thus resulting in an address bar sloppily balanced over the wrong toolbar for most users.

D’oh. Keep trying fellas.

1st November 2004 ::

Hullo, all!

I seem to have uploaded some things and forgotten to mention that I had done so. Sorry about that. There now follows a list of some of those things. Yes.

First, new parasites: 404Search, MediaTickets, PurityScan and WildMedia, plus new variants of AproposMedia (SysAI, CxtPls), BrowserAid (Stlb2, RSS, INetP, LB, CHP), ClearSearch (CSBB), DailyWinner (vern, vernn, kvern), KeenValue (SearchUpgrader) and ZeroPopUp (zp).

There’s also a new major version of the parasite-detector script, which has actually been up for a while on this site as a test, and doesn’t seem to have caused any particular problems. If you’re linking to it, note there’s a new <script> tag syntax; the old one will still work fine, but the new version is a bit simpler, and faster for non-IE browsers. Unfortunately the script now requires IE 5.5+. This is because it has to use a new method of ActiveX-sniffing to be fully effective with the increasingly widespread XP Service Pack 2, and unfortunately this isn’t compatible with IE 5.0.

In other software, I’ve finally, after promising for three years, put releases of some of my old RISC OS stuff up, with source code. Not especially nice source code, admittedly, unless you like reading barely-commented ARM assembler where most of the labels are called things like .john_prescott anyway. But still.

And finally, there’s a new release of pxdom, the Python DOM implementation. Lots of little changes for bugs and annoyingly twisty little Level 3 compliance issues, so still [beta], but in my opinion this is probably the best release so far for general-purpose use, and unless any particular clangers are found something very like this should be the first [final] release of the external-entity-capable series.

Also, much against my better judgement, I’ve been persuaded by Pauly G to add an RSS feed to cover these site updates. How appalling! Any day now this’ll turn into a proper blog with multiple entries per day instead of per year, and pointless little interjections like:

* Current mood: (sickness) hungover

[Yes, Halloween parties will do that. A bit alarming to wake up and remember you shaved all your hair off to ‘do’ Dr. Evil as a last-ditch costume, though. Ooh, my head itches.]

* Current music: Ditty Bops

[Lovely twee pop duo that seems to have been magicked out of nowhere. Their apparent multi-talentedness combined with an wholly uncalled-for winsomeness (plus judging by the Flaunt magazine photo, willingness to pose in pants, yay) and sudden appearance on a major label make me very suspicious! As the thinking man’s tATu they must surely have been manufactured by a hidden evil lurking svengali, or something.

Produced by Mitchell Froom (Finn-related bands and oh, too many others to mention; always reliable), the CD is finally available now, after a very irritating and drawn-out period of only being available on iTunes.

Ooh, that iTunes Music Store does irritate me y’know. Not for what it is — just another outlet for user-hostile DRM-hobbled files, no different from the cookie-cutter Microsoft and OD2-based storefronts that came up like mould in sweaty trainers over the course of last year. What annoys is that, unlike the rightly-derided Windows Media stores, iTunes somehow has been given a free pass. Apple being oh so cool somehow excuses a product that takes ‘insanely great’ and forgets to do the ‘great’ part.

The Apple DRM scheme FairPlay is no more ‘fair’ than the DRM on Windows Media. It has all the same problems: you’re always reliant on an external licensing provider to allow you to play your music files, and if anything goes wrong, or you do anything at all they don’t like or didn’t anticipate, you run the risk of losing access to your music. Ugh, no thanks.

Add to this the intrusive iTunes application — which, like the disastrous Rhapsody, would really like to take over your life for you — and you’ve got a proposition I find deeply unattractive.

I could buy from iTunes and then get rid of the DRM nonsense using hymn/iOpener, and presumably it’d work until Apple next changed the encryption. But I still need to install the iTunes app just to download the files, or even, apparently, to search the track listings for songs I might want to buy! How is that supposed to attract customers? What happened to your user experience people, Apple?

Gah. Wake me up when I can buy access to a perfectly normal MP3* downloaded by HTTP, like iCrunch used to do many years before all the OD2 clones claimed to be the first online music store and that.

I opened a square bracket up there, but then I got carried away and forgot to close it, sorry. Insert this where you will: “]”. Cheers then.

PS. Readers in the Ingolstadt area can briefly catch me on Radio IN tomorrow at half-past six. Don’t expect any Losertown-style wackiness, though — I’m merely reading some news...

PPS. Oh, and you really don’t need me to tell you Bush is crap, do you? Nah, thought not. Let’s leave the whole election mess there for now then.

20th July 2004 ::

Yeah, I’m a miserable git I know. As a counterweight to the previous entry’s typical litany of complaints, here are some things that are actually good.

Lite-on DVD burners ::

Woo hoo! My 851S burner can be upgraded to burn dual-layer DVDs for nowt! (It even seems to work, and everything. Gosh.) And I can easily fiddle with its region code for playback (pretty important when I’m rarely in the same country for more than a few months).

Oh, and it seems to cope with all the horrible ‘copy-protected’ CDs* I’ve fed into to so far too. In summary, HOORAY for Lite-on drives YES.

JVC HD cameras ::

So we’ve just got our hands on the JY-HD10, the slightly higher-end variant of the GR-HD1. These two are the first and — still, after over a year — the only high-definition video cameras available to the consumer. (The fat US consumer with a fat TV screen and an obscenely fat wallet, natch, but still it’s an order or magnitude cheaper than the silly-money pro kit.)

Immediate reaction: it’s fantastic. It’s not really full ‘High Definition’ as it only outputs the 1280x720 resolution at thirty frames per second instead of the full sixty, but this does still look great and is massively better than plain NTSC as output from a DV camera. There is also an 720x480 mode at 60fps, which looks very smooth.

Although it can output such to a monitor, there is no support for recording the 1080-line resolution. Sony are planning a 1080i high-definition camera based on the same standard (‘HDV’) as the JVC ones. But 1080i is of no interest, because it’s interlaced. And interlacing is evil, a foul hack for yestercentury’s inadequate broadcast technology, the cause of countless problems for video editors, something that must be scoured from the face of the earth, obliterated completely and forever until even in memory it exists no more. So there.

The idea that a committee designing a new standard for high-definition video signals (which will in any eventuality be completely incompatible with current television receivers) would allow interlacing to continue is very depressing.

The oldthink also continues in the confusing names given to resolutions. You will sometimes find the 480-line output misleadingly described as 525p instead of 480p, as some kind of ass-backwards-compatibility with NTSC, which is sometimes described as having 525 lines for analogue timing reasons, despite only 480 of them being used for the picture. Similarly, ‘750p’ actually means 720p, and ‘1125i’ is 1080i, despite these being stored and transferred digitally with absolutely no ‘unused lines’. Aarrrrgh.

Add in the PAL resolutions and we’re left with a maze of confusion and traps for unwary customers. Oh dear. We had the chance to replace a mess of incompatible video formats with a single simple non-interlaced global standard (720p/60 would have been a nice choice), but we muffed it.

Speaking of PAL, JVC do a different version of the camera for the PAL market, called GR-PD1, which I can only advise avoiding. There is a good high-frame-rate PAL-resolution mode (576p, or 625p in stupid-lying-speak), but the ‘high definition’ mode is just 659 lines high — worse than the HD1’s 720p resolution whilst also being at the lower frame rate associated with PAL. As the PD1 is no cheaper than the HD1 it seems us Europeans getting a big bag of screwage again, bah.

So anyway, either version of the camera uses standard MiniDV tapes as the storage medium, but puts MPEG-2-compressed data on them instead of the simple frame-by-frame compression scheme employed by DV.

The compression is overall quite light: usually there are no artefacts visible to the eye, but they can become noticeable in very complex material, for example in a crowd scene with lots of movement combined with a camera pan. (This was the very first thing we wanted to film, natch.)

It’s a shame you can’t get the original uncompressed image out of the camera. There is a component output port (which the Japanese call a D-connector and the Americans call Y/Cb/Cr or Y/Pb/Pr at random, just to be contrary), but these are analogue signals and the degradation due to analogue noise is worse than the digital artefacts.

There are other minor problems. The resolutions of the LCD display and viewfinder are low, and their contents are scaled down from the high-definition source material using nearest-neighbour resampling. This results in some nasty aliasing (ugly jaggy edges etc.) at filming-time, which can make fine-tuning the manual focus tricky.

As a single-CCD camera, color reproduction isn’t completely brilliant. Mostly this manifests itself in slightly washed-out colours compared with high-end DV, an effect that is fixable in post-processing assuming your video editing software isn’t crap...

...but, in another consequence of the MPEG-2-based HDV standard, it’s a pain to connect to the camera and edit the footage. JVC’s answer is to bundle a special capture utility and a video editing package with the camera. Unfortunately, these programs are a unmitigated bag of arse.

The inappropriately grandiosely-named Victor MPEG Edit Studio Pro LE is written by KDDI, a Japanese telco not usally known for their software (with good reason, as it turns out). It is, apparently, a cut-down version of their full MPEG editor which they want $5000 for. Ouch!

Unless the cut-down version’s faults — endless crashes, incomprehensible interface, sloth-like reaction to user interaction and inability to read any file at all that isn’t MPEG 2 TS — are in fact deliberate cuts to make the bundled version look crap in comparison, I’d describe the $5000 asking price for MPEG Edit Studio Pro [non-LE] as the biggest video compression rip-off since Pixelon.

Amusingly, the big electronics stores over here are trying to charge an extra ¥50,000 ($500) for this cut-down bundle of software pain, and further claiming that (a) you can’t get video from the camera at all without it and (b) Windows XP is the only OS that’ll talk to it. Cobblers, of course.

The capture software is easily replaced with the freely-available CapDVHS, which as a bonus can save normal MPEG 2 files as an alternative to the camera’s native wacky Transport Streams.

A number of other video editors can read high-definition MPEG 2 these days, but I’m hesitant to recommend them as none of them are actually good. Vegas with the MainConcept codec is probably the least bad I have seen, but it’s damned expensive and the interface is still annoying. (I must get around to writing my own video editor. Along with all the other things I must get around to writing, natch.)

Drivers are a problem, too; there aren’t any on the camera software CD. They’re supposed to be installed as part of Windows XP, and detected by plug-and-play, but this seems sometimes not to be the case, for some reason. For non-XP Windows versions these drivers seems to do the trick too. Not quite sure what’s available for Linux and Mac at the moment, but a lot of software from the DVB/DVHS world tends to be compatible with the HD1’s MPEG 2 TS.

(Actually, there are some drivers on the CD, but they’re to allow the camera to be used as a webcam through USB, which is entirely not worth bothering with as the video size is smaller than the cheapest webcam and the scaling makes the image quality absolutely dire. One wonders why they bothered including such a pointless feature, especially when the drivers have to be installed four times before they work — it’s true, the manual even explains this is normal — due to a brokenness in Windows XP’s piss-poor Add New Hardware Wizard. I don’t know what Microsoft have done to make the Hardware Wizard so slow and prone to misbehaviour under XP; it was much better in Windows 2000. Though still bad obv.)

Anyway, we just laughed and bought the camera off the internet of course, saving 40% of the asking price and getting the crap software thrown in for free. One shop was abused to test the camera with a laptop before purchase elsewhere; at another we couldn’t even do that as their display model was broken and they were uninterested in getting another.

No wonder bricks ’n’ mortar consumer goods retail is in trouble...

Media Player Classic ::

Somehow I have failed to mention this application so far, which is silly as it’s bloody great!

Something I’ve been looking forward to since Microsoft lost against the EU antitrust regulators is the demanded Windows version without the bundled Windows Media Player. Because ever since version 7, WMP has been a complete disaster. The ugly and unusable skins, the excessive screen space it takes up, the unwanted functionality (no, I don’t want Media Player to take over and organise my music, video and life), the callbacks to its controlling server, the blatant advertising (no, I don’t want to buy music on the Internet, at least not from the crap vendors you’re going to pimp at me — I have no interest in DRM-crippled WMA music thanks very much)... it’s all unpleasant and not at all what I want on my desktop.

Getting rid of Windows Media Player is tricky: to do it properly you have to hack a system file to turn the dreaded Windows File Protection off, which is hardly something I’d recommend for the beginner. But in the meantime you can at least as a replacement use Media Player Classic. So-named because it adopts the simple, no-nonsense interface of the old (6.4) version of WMP. Refreshingly, it still looks like an actual Windows application, is quick and simple to control, and adds all the important missing functionality that WMP 6.4 lacked, whilst taking up a minimum of screen space (unlike that sad parody of 6.4 that is available as a skin for WMP7.)

It plays everything, too, including MPEG 2 and (recently) AC3, which means you can dump WinDVD or PowerDVD or whichever horrible ugly-skinned unusable DVD player you got saddled with and just use MPC instead. It even has no trouble with the MPEG 2 Transport Streams from the GR-HD1 video camera. Blimey!

Oh, and there’s a playlist too, so you could also dump Winamp, the inexplicably popular but ugly-skinned and unusable (and newly sluggish, that’s progress) music player. MPC isn’t 100% there as a music player yet, as it lacks a few features like the ability to queue up tracks from the context menu, but it’s more than good enough for me.

Add Real Alternative and QuickTime Alternative* and you can even dump the universally reviled Real and QuickTime players. No more tasks running at startup, stealing your GIF files associations then farting on your sandwiches and laughing.

So that’s five obnoxious screen-hogging applications each with a massive ego problem (self-promoting branding all over the shop, and the constant attempts to take over everything you do), and each with a skin disease (fifty-seven skins and nothing usable). All replaced by one unobtrusive little .exe that just works. And on top of all that it’s free software and everything.


PearPC ::

PearPC hasn’t even reached version 0.3 yet, but the rate at which it has been developed and the usefulness of the software is already amazing.

What is it, then? Only a bloody open-source Mac emulator for Linux and Windows. That runs Mac OS X. And works. And everything. Coo, eh?

All right, so it may not be quite the optimum speed for doing actual creative work. But for PC-based web authors it’s a godsend: finally we can easily check how our pages work in Safari and the dreaded IE/Mac. (Which has notoriously different bugs from its Windows counterpart.)

This is really my first chance to play with a Mac properly since System Seven-Point-Something-Old, which was incredibly nasty and annoying to have to do a university project on, especially when crashing and then rebooting with the Smiley Mac logo staring at me, staring and laughing, crooked smile beaming extra-contentedly at his cruel handiwork the evil little pixellated bastard. Beep beep beep I am Ellen Feiss in reverse. Though mine was not a good paper (I was rubbish at uni).

So Mac OS X is an improvement from those days, obviously, and in general seems pleasantly simple. But everything they all said about the brokenness of the OS X Dock is true, and then some, and the menu bar at the top is a wrongness symptomatic of the old computing way of thinking of programs as standalone running applications rather than system components.

(Mac users love to point out that this design must be right because Fitts’s Law says so, but they’re wrong, smug and wrong, so there, you Mac users, hah!* In any case, pop-up menus make much better sense than menu bars whether at the top of the window or at the top of the screen, and they don’t often don’t require one to move the mouse at all — the best Fitts there is. Admittedly the Windows and Mac pop-up context menus aren’t really properly designed for this yet. Because they’re poo. But still.)

Somewhat more controversially, I was surprised to find Panther’s graphics a bit... well... rough-edged. After all the lickability hype this was a tad disappointing. The scrollbar arrows look particularly ugly in my opinion, and when you get a horizontal and vertical scrollbar one together you end up with a really nasty abrupt empty square at the join. Then there a the sharp ends of progress bars, and data fields displayed on white. And the arbitrary selection of different font and button sizes on some windows. I thought Apple were supposed to be consistency fascists!

I’m also underwhelmed by the proliferation of the brushed metal look; the new Apple Human Interface Guide rule for when brushed metal should be used appears to be “all the time, except for system applications, except for some of them, or if you feel like it, at random”. I generally dislike applications that are skinned to look different to the rest of the Desktop (see Media Player hatefest above), but brushed metal is an egregious case as its slight tackiness is a sharp contrast to the pleasant, understated Aqua pinstripes.

Aqua Astro Brushed concrete OS X-cretia

Perhaps I’m not alone. Aqua’s release was quickly followed by a rash of copycat stripes&gel in icon design, web sites and even print materials. Hell, even the new North Korean official Communist web site uses Aqua’s gel effect. There has, however, been comparatively little enthusiasm for ripping off brushed metal.

So what’s the Next Big Thing? Windows XP’s Luna interface was met with widespread derision for childishness as well as ugliness. It’s not yet clear what Microsoft have in mind for Aero, the successor theme for ‘Longhorn’ (the far-away future-soup next release of Windows) but what pictures have emerged so far show little progression from the simplistic gradient fills and too-dominant blues of Luna. Perhaps this is not the graphic design trend of the future.

So I’ve decided to help Apple out, and mocked up three tasteful new themes [left]. I’m sure you’ll agree they are very lovely; it’s definitely worth petitioning Apple to use your favourite in Tiger (next year’s planned 10.4 release of OS X). Oh yes.

Er, yeah. My point is — or was supposed to be, anyway — that PearPC kicks very much arse. Scientists prove it!!

Firefly ::

Yes, yes, I know I’m pretty behind the times here. I’m terrible at seeing TV programmes, as I’m never in one country for long enough to get into a TV series, and besides, German and Japanese TV channels never show anything good without hilariously horrible dubbing. So I only got to see this by visiting a friend with the DVDs.

It’s really rather good, y’know. Very cleverly made. Except for:

  • the guest actor in the episode ‘Shindig’ — oh dear!;
  • the episode ‘War Stories’, whose tricky concept involves juxtaposing brutal torture with knockabout comedy, which doesn’t, in my view, entirely come off;
  • the abrupt end of the series before anything had really happened.

But wait, I’m supposed to be listing things I like this time, aren’t I? Well, er:

  • the taking of the pitch “it’s a sci-fi western!” to its absurd logical extreme, generating amusing anachronism as well as coming up with stuff that a million other spaceship shows haven’t already done to death;
  • the inter-episode story references which providing nice continuity without requiring a Babylon 5-like attention to every episode to keep up;
  • as always with Whedon shows, the preternatural winsomeness of the entire cast. I’d ’ave any of them, including the blokes, although technically since I’m a sad and desperate programmer type, this is not saying much. Where do they get all these cast members? Whedonland, where ugly children are euthanised, ground up and recycled as skincare cream for the beautiful people?
  • a film! Woo and yay!

(Next week, And discovers an amazing obscure little series called Big Brother. Always first with the topical news here at DOXdesk.)

Microsoft ::

Yeah, you heard. I like Microsoft today.

Why this unexpected reversal of conventional wisdom ? Well, they win great big bonus points for this: they’ve nailed BrowserAid for the spam (purporting to be from Microsoft, y’see), promoting their QuickLaunch parasite.

Microsoft are the last people to need more money, but let’s hope they do manage to get their pound of flesh from these scumbags, before they disappear. (Then reappear a month later with another dozen faked-whois domains, front companies and fraud-based business models.)

In other parasite-related stuff, I haven’t mentioned other sites in ages, so I should really plug Ben’s work, as he’s doing a great job of publicising exactly what the larger parasite vendors are up to, exposing their PR statements as blatant lies. Another useful recent site is the Spyware Warrior blog, which Suzi updates much more often than I can manage with this silly thing. Finally, there’s Conrad’s all-too-convincing Slimeware.

Speaking of updates, here’s the first tranche of new parasites I promised: SearchSprint, Roimoi, TVMedia, Sidesearch, MoreResults, GAMsys, IEDriver, AdRoar, and new variants of Wink, BookedSpace, HuntBar, ClearSearch, FavoriteMan and Gator.

Much more still to come. I’ll be concentrating on the more widespread threats and particularly on things for which no-one else has yet put up good information pages, but to be honest, I can’t even hope to keep up with 100% of the parasites any more. What started as half a dozen irritations when I started detecting and documenting this crap three years ago has really become an enormous problem, affecting perhaps the majority of computer users. (Certainly a majority of the Windows users I’ve met.)

Fraud and exploitation are the fastest-growing sector of the software market, and even in the most blatantly criminal areas (use of IE security holes, leaking credit card data and so on) there is no law enforcement at all. Neither is there usually any co-operation from the ISPs, advertisers, networks and suppliers when informed — after all, they’re making substantial quids from it.

This leads to ludicrous situations like Yahoo offering a spyware remover, whilst at the same time profiting hugely (through their Overture subsidiary) from adverts triggered by spyware, installed by another company’s IE exploits or even by one of their website’s own advertisers.

Join up the connections between advertising purchasers, the networks buying each other’s inventory and the parasite vendors both profiting by triggering network ads, and using network ads to spread (through drive-by downloads and IE exploits), plus the affiliate marketing networks profiting from commission-stealing parasites and spammers, and we see an Internet advertising industry that is tainted by fraud from head to toe.

That’s why I do not and will not have networked advertising on this site. No-one is clean.

(Except maybe Google. They’ve developed a good anti-parasite policy working with the white-hats, and they’ve actively fought against bad advertisers, for example blocking the rash of AdWords campaigns from the impostors targeting Spybot S&D and Ad-Aware. But still, if I were to include Google AdSense adverts on my parasite page, I’d overwhelmingly get disreputable advertisers.)

Service Pack 2 build 2162 ::

Also known as “definitely the last build before the final one, we mean it this this time, honest”. A mixed blessing, this, actually, but it’s probably better than the build I ranted about in the last entry, principally because it — at last! — fixes the security-UI problems I highlighted some 18 months ago. Yes, in-window pop-ups now appear just above the window, instead of floating above its dialogue boxes.

Additionally, the ‘info bar’ thing that now (since Release Candidate 2) appears at the top of IE windows when an ActiveX download is requested is a much better solution than the pop-up query dialogue, partly due to its unobtrusiveness, but mostly because as a modeless interface element it doesn’t take over the browser and require answering before anything further can happen.

(It looks like Firefox will be copying this style of interface for the 1.0 release, as a response to annoying XPI downloads beginning to appear targeting Mozilla, and though I’d have liked to see it pop-up, cookie and download blocking work with the same interface, this is definitely an improvement on the current situation for both browsers.)

Hopefully this could be the end for the ‘aggressive installer’ — currently often used to bully the user into allowing spyware and diallers to load by triggering an ActiveX download again and again until they give in and click Yes to get the modal dialogue window to go away. It could also stop ActiveX drive-by downloads triggered by pop-up adverts completely. About time. I wonder what foul trick the parasite vendor will come up with as a replacement.

So that’s the good stuff in SP2 build 2162. New and less-good is the unwelcome return of ‘System Volume Information’, Windows XP’s irritating addition to the root directory of every drive it touches. Having ‘RECYCLER’ there is annoying enough (It’s my drive, Windows, not yours, I don’t want you filling the root directory with system crap) but at least the Recycle Bin has some functionality; apart from data for System Restore (which I detest and always turn off), the System Volume Information folder never seems to contain anything useful at all.

It used to be enough to turn of the Distributed Link Tracking service, then add yourself to the access control list for the System Volume Information folder (Security tab) and delete it. But now it keeps coming back, with a zero-byte file called MountPointManagerRemoteDatabase, even though I don’t use dynamic volumes at all. Argh. Does anyone know how to get rid of this annoyance?

Following on from the questions posed last time, it turns out the prevention of My Computer Zone threats is indeed using a different mechanism to the normal security policies. Local Machine Lockdown, as it is known, is a separate layer of restrictions on top of the My Computer Zone settings, and is also application-specific. This is a bit of a worry because any program that embeds the IE ActiveX control for browsing files is just as at risk as before.

The mechanism used to escape the newly-restrictive My Computer Zone is simply putting a magic comment near the top of the file; the reason it fooled me before is that, rather arbitrarily, the file must contain DOS-style line endings (CR+LF), or it doesn’t work. This is called the Mark of the Web, and allows possibly-malicious local HTML files to escape not just into the Internet Zone, but also, when a hostname with no dots is used, into the Intranet Zone.

Luckily the Intranet Zone isn’t that much more privileged by default, but it can still do things like — sigh — chromeless window UI spoofing, which is denied to the Internet Zone.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just change the security settings for the My Computer Zone to something more sensible? After all there is no reason for having ActiveX controls set to download and install automatically without prompting ever. This would have avoided the need for another extra confusing layer of wobbly security features without breaking anything. Sigh.

Oh, damn, this has just turned into another list of things that are crap again. Optimism is much harder than it looks.

27th June 2004 ::

Evenin’ all. Long time no wossname. Sorry about that, been a bit busy and everything. So, yeah, I’m back in Japan at the moment, but over the last six months I’ve been distracted by a lot of nonsense, including:

...large companies ::

which, it turns out, are damnably obtuse. Especially large software companies. They just love flushing huge bundles of cash straight down the toilet.

No names, no pack-drill and that, but you might expect a software firm of the odd thousand employees to be capable of fixing or at least diagnosing basic system flaws on their own, given several months’ leeway. Instead, it would appear that there aren’t any actual programmers around to work on the system, so it’s more expedient to wait until the day before the deadline then ferry a codemonkey (sorry, I mean ‘independent software engineering consultant’) such as myself over at zero notice and enormous expense to fiddle with it.

This is why you can never get a flight at short notice: businesses are happy to spend orders of magnitude more on a plane ticket than you or I would ever countenance. This, and a million other sources of waste — enormous taxi journeys, exorbitant entertainment, launch parties, rip-off accommodation, dodgy expenses and all the rest — are presumably the reason why the actual products are so obscenely expensive.

But customers — other large organisations — love this. They would, apparently, much rather spend millions of dollars on an over-specified ‘platform’ and a team of horrifically expensive consultants to attempt to build an application out of it (eventually succeeding months behind schedule and with half the feature set missing) than simply to get a few in-house programmer nerds to hack up a bespoke system in half the time and one hundredth of the cost. I certainly could have done such myself, and I’m hardly the world’s brightest programmer. (No, really.)

What’s depressing is not that the previously unnamed company is still one of the most successful in its field, despite its record. What’s depressing is that — judging by the high-profile failure of each computing project the government farms out to the big consultancies, and by the MO of other software firms I’ve worked at — this is how the entire software industry works.

Maybe, for that matter, it’s not even just the software industry. Big businesses have, it seems to me, created a kind of parallel economy, unconnected to the everyday economy where consumer competition results in cheaper hard discs and baked beans. Instead, in the silly-money business economy it’s perfectly normal to spend thousands of pounds on quite unnecessary expenses, quite reasonable to employ people who essentially do nothing, and acceptable to need dozens of support staff running around trying to help customers who can’t be helped because the basic product is, at a basic level, broken.

Surely this cannot be good for the wider economy.

...HSBC adverts ::

which, it turns out, are ubiquitous in airports; having been through many of those recently I’ve been subjected to more than my fair share. And their “local knowledge” campaign must rate amongst the most insipid ever run, even against the aggressively bland corporate-promotion competition.

The idea* is that despite being a faceless multinational corporation (previous slogan “We’re soulless even by banking standards!”), HSBC knows and cares, no it really does, about how things work in your locality, just like a lovely (imaginary) olde local-bank-for-local-people, which had an kindly old man with glasses to take care of customers instead of a menu tape which loops for five minutes then cuts your call off.

So to demonstrate its localness HSBC have plastered the walls of the the world’s airports with examples of their in-depth knowledge from various locales around the world. Unfortunately, their self-satisfied campaign doesn’t seem to notice that the precious “local knowledge” involved, that, apparently, one should “never underestimate the power of”, appears to come exclusively from the Ladybird Kids’ Bumper Book of Widely-Known Cultural Fun Facts.

Such trite superficialities include, for example, the different shapes of the American and British football (a surprise to absolutely nobody), the fact that the Japanese read books from right to left (gosh mister bank! what amazingly obscure facts you know!) and that insects westerners may regard as pests are sometimes eaten, in countries like Thailand. Which is true (as every schoolboy knows), but it’s not something I can see being terribly “powerful” in a business context.

Mr. Ankleduster: Good morning. As you know, I’m here on behalf of British Weapons Ltd...

Mr. Boingmee: Indeed. I must say, I was very impressed by the quality of the peasant shredder you showed at the International Pain and Hurting Exhibition in London this year.

Mr. Ankleduster: Yes, actually I’ve just come from London Heathrow, where I saw from a helpful HSBC advert that you eat insects! Ha ha ha! Smelly insect-eating savages!!

Mr. Boingmee: Please leave now.

Mr. Ankleduster: Insects though!!! Bleugh, that’s disgusting!!!!!!11

If this represents the depth of HSBC’s knowledge — and let’s face it, as an absurdly large company it probably does (see large companies, above) — they may be in trouble.

Update: it would appear that the “local knowledge” exhibited in the campaign was actually collected by another company, EMIC. That is to say, HSBC didn’t possess even the minimal local knowledge they vaunt at airports, instead choosing to ask a company who thinks full-saturation red and cyan go nicely together on a web page*.

Mind you, from the company so unimaginative that its corporate logotype is ‘HSBC’ in Times New Roman this is not entirely surprising.

...airport bookshops ::

which, it turns out, are always disappointing. But not always as bad as Hong Kong airport, where the shelves are stacked with undigestible management-platitude-philosophy books (for which I have decide to coin the hithertofore unknown to Google term platosophy).

For some reason, the memoirs and business experience of aging, ineffectual manager-patriarchs of staid western companies are of such intense interest to the travellers of Hong Kong that they outnumber every other genre of book.

This makes the Stansted WH Smiths, containing nothing but Tom Clancy, look like a literary paradise.

It’s slightly worrying that, whilst the business is busy flushing money down the toilet (above, again), the CEO is devoting his non-golfing time to sculpting his thoughts into little nuggets of content-free wisdom for the subsequent platosophy book. It’s more worrying that Asian businessmen may want to study and reproduce this model to the extent of actually reading Leverage Your Way to Synergies! How I successfully steadily steered General Biscuit Corp. through the uneventful period of 1993-1997 by not doing anything (and then retired with an fat bonus) by Thomas P. Selzinger III.

...Windows XP Service Pack 2 ::

which, it turns out, is still not properly available. Which is a great shame as there are a lot of security fixes in it that are desperately needed. It’s a bit of a disgrace that there are fixes in it for IE security holes stretching back a year, which have never been released as stand-alone patches. Microsoft’s claim to fix bugs quickly, which was always questionable, is now utterly in tatters; the claim that Windows fixes take 48 hours as opposed to 90 days for open source software is so laughably far-removed from what we users experience it makes one wonder if Gates is even still using Windows.

Despite the improvements, some of the design decisions in the SP2 betas are IMO a bit questionable.

On the plus side, Microsoft have finally noticed what an enormous security hole the My Computer Zone is and done something about it. Up until now, the My Computer Zone, with its wide-open security settings (settings that are unchangeable short of registry hacking), has turned every cross-zone-scripting bug into a full run-arbitrary-code install-spyware-and-spam-trojans system compromise. All browsers have had occasional cross-site-scripting bugs before, but none as often as IE, and none with such disastrous results. Not only that, but it makes any other Windows program that saves data from the net in a predictable location a potential security risk; because most application authors don’t even consider that IE would do something as daft as execute arbitrary code in a web page saved to disc, this has happened a lot.

Locking down the My Computer Zone in SP2 is a good idea, but Microsoft have done it in a rather odd way. Instantiating and downloading ActiveX controls is supposed to be disallowed, but from what I’ve seen this isn’t done with the usual security setting controls, but with some other sort of undocumented block. Given Microsoft’s history of security patches that hide the problem instead of removing it this is not encouraging. Secondly, the security settings for the My Computer Zone are now actually stricter than in the Internet Zone; for example you cannot run a Java applet from a local web page in SP2. Thirdly, pages that are saved to the filesystem seem to be capable of ‘escaping’ the My Computer Zone and being treated as whatever Zone they were originally in when they were saved. The mechanism this uses is, again, not currently obvious, but the suspicion is always that a page placed onto disc by an attack might be able to escape to a Zone with looser security such as the Trusted Sites Zone. All in all it would have been easier for everyone if the My Computer Zone had simply been removed, and the Internet Zone used instead.

At least some progress has been made on the interface spoofing issue I reported last year, but it doesn’t look like it’ll make it to adequacy by final release. IE DHTML ‘popups’ are now limited to the spawning window area, which is good (so the example vulnerability I posted where the address bar is overwritten is now thwarted), but at least in the last beta I tested they still appear over the top of other dialogue boxes. This means the bookmark-hijacking and code-installing exploits still theoretically work — although the examples I posted now look wrong due to graphical changes in the targeted interface, and the ActiveX installer won’t actually execute without a valid code-signing certificate. (Since the default CAs are quite happy to issue certificates to parties who have signed malware with them, I don’t count code-signing as an adequate security measure.)

The new add-on manager is an interesting idea, but unfortunately won’t, as touted, be any use against spyware, which having already infected the machine can quite easily re-enable its own add-ons. (cf. spyware that deliberately disables known personal firewall software.)

And the new pop-up blocker, the feature everyone’s been waiting for... gets mixed feelings from me, for entirely selfish reasons. Let’s face it, we all know how this one is going to go. IE users will absolutely love the popup-blocker for about six months. Then, as more and more of the market has popup-blockers, the internet advertising industry* will deploy scripts that get around them. (There are lots of possibilities here — scripts that capture any click on a page, embedded Flash or Java that pops up windows, and so on.)

This will then intrude on the pleasant, popup-free internet I’ve been experiencing as a happy user of Firefox, humph. A small arms race may then follow which will either end up with IE users seeing just as many pop-ups as before, or pop-up windows completely banned and advertisers having to find an alternative obnoxious method of sticking unwanted crap in your face.

But still, here’s hoping that SP2’s default-on firewall and somewhat-less-wide-open IE will improve the disgusting state of the internet security a little. And, whilst we’re at it, let’s applaud Microsoft for starting to join in with the SPF effort rather than attempting to kill it as Not Invented Here. As someone whose mail address is spoofed on an industrial scale, I want to see something like this catch on as soon as possible, and will certainly be publishing SPF records, as soon as I get around to it.

(Update: done. And SPF just got a sparkly new web site too. Hooray! ...usually ‘as soon as I get round to it’ is much less soon though...)

...anyway. ::

So yeah, I will do some of them there parasite updates sometime soon, promise. (NB. Promises made by And Clover may not be wholly reliable. Your statutory rights are not affected.) Today’s update, though, is just a bunch of Python stuff:

  • The pxtl package reaches version 1.4 [beta]. Seems pretty stable; consider this a release candidate for the [final] version of pxtl-with-optimised-implementation. The PXTL language itself has been very slightly updated too: in brief, writing incompatible values to None, False and True is now deprecated.
  • The 1.1 release of pxdom, the first to support external entities and the DTD external subset, is now available. This has seen lots of additional bug fixes and code changes internally, so is also considered [beta].
  • I’ve added the domts module — now up to version 0.6 — to the site. domts is a harness for running the W3C DOM Test Suite against Python DOM implementations, but it’s also a bit quick ’n’ dirty which is why I haven’t mentioned it before now.
  • A minor new version of the form module, 1.9 [final], adding optional Unicode character normalisation.