emusic.com are spam friendly

A long while ago I signed up to try out emusic.com as it seemed like someone doing the right thing with non-DRMed music files. Their business model didn't really suit me, what with it being subscription-based and quite expensive.

As usual, I gave them a sneakemail email address, in case they are spammers. Well it turns out they are, or at least they're happy to give out your email address to any number of dodgy fuckers. Sascha Welter details it. Technically they're only doing what their privacy policy allows. Great way to piss off your customer though guys!

Stop the jihad on badly-behaved RSS

Following up my earlier jihad, after discussing it a bit with Martin of the khymos food nrrd blog, then doing some investigation when it happened again on Rozie's blog it appears that it's Bloglines that is the problem, not the RSS. At least as far as I can tell. The RSS seems innocuous enough, yet Bloglines marks everything after the post that's actually new as "updated" with the same datestamp.

I've written a note to Bloglines themselves reporting it. Hopefully they'll fix it, otherwise I'll have to find another aggregator. That could be painful.

Jihad on badly-behaved RSS feeds

I've had it with RSS feeds that spontaneously reload the entire backlog. It's surprising how common this is, and I'm unsure why it happens as it's never happened on my blog. One that just did this seems to have re-dated all articles to today's date, which isn't really ideal.

The trigger for me was the (several) Google blogs I subscribe to all doing it multiple times this week. Most annoying!

So if this happens with a blog, I'm gonna ruthlessly unsubscribe. I suspect this might have a positive impact on my productivity too.

Seek you numpties!

Seek is one of the job sites in Australia. Like most big Australian sites, it seems to have been built by people still living in the bad old days of 2000 web design. Someone, probably in a suit and with pointy hair, said they have to get this "Web 2.0" thing, so they've added RSS feeds.

Unfortunately, here's what you get when you click on one of the links in their RSS feeds:
Warning - your session on SEEK has expired and the page you have requested is no longer available. Please return to the SEEK homepage to restart your session.

What's more, going to the front page and then returning to the linked URL doesn't fix it. Fucking numpties! Given this is another disaster by PBL Media though, it should be expected. I mean, just have a look at myhome.com.au. A great site where you also can't bookmark or email URLs around. I mean, when you're looking for a house you're never gonna send links to people, are you?

Seek responds

Carey Eaton, Product Director at Seek responds to my post from this morning:

Thanks for alerting us to this issue - its obviously not supposed to work like that and this is the first complaint we've had about it so I'll make sure we get it fixed asap.

I should also point out that whilst PBL is a shareholder in Seek, PBL is also a shareholder in many other organisations including organisations which are shareholders in MyHome. There is no relationship between MyHome and Seek directly, in the same sense that there is no relationship between Seek and the very large number companies in which our different shareholders have invested. I should also point out a common misunderstanding: Seek, whilst being a media company, is not part of PBL Media either.

So there you go. Hopefully the bug there will get fixed. I'm pretty impressed that someone working there found my blog -- I imagine through one of the Planets. Carey: let me know if you need any diagnostic info (cookie details et al).

For the future reference of others: never throw an error for session expiry unless you're collecting something important from the user. Having them view something read-only doesn't constitute such a situation -- just open another session.

Interesting that he distances Seek from myhome. I would to -- their site is an absolute disaster.

Dave also wrote to point out recruit.net which pulls in job ads from all the main sites and allows you to setup custom feeds. Very nice.

I bought a PS2: I'm so up-to-date

After playing Guitar Hero at my brother-in-law's place last weekend, I went out and bought myself a PS2 for cheap on eBay. I've done this before, buy a console when they're nice and cheap at the end of their lifespan. In fact, I bought a PS1 some months after the original PS2 came out.

It's quite amusing because I was in Tokyo shortly after the PS2 was launched there. Walking through one of the back alleys of Akihabara there was a van dodgily selling PS2 consoles. I nearly bought one, figuring I could flog for big bucks back in Oz, but they already wanted mega big bucks buying it from the van.

The game that came with the console is pretty crap, though the opening sequence has a funny bit about "UN special forces troops" getting ready to defend Kueait, which is kinda laughable. Similar to when the yanks were bombing the no-fly zone and CNN reported "UN bombs Iraq" while every news outlet that wasn't in North America reports "US bombs Iraq".

Being quite an old console, there's loads of games available for not very much money on eBay. Anyone got any recommendations? I'm not really into shooters or racing games. I'm big on drunken party games for many players, so I think I'll get an Eyetoy and Singstar. I've always enjoyed the SSX games so I'll see if I can get one of those too. Oh and Tekken was always a household favourite with the PS1.

One question for those in the know: are there wireless controllers? Our telly is a long way from the couch and with the console on top of the telly, the cables get in the way.

Tufte goodness

Page from Beautiful Evidence by Edward R Tufte

Being the end of the tax year, I ordered a full set of the books by Edward R Tufte last week. I've owned The Visual Display of Quantitative Information before, but it went walkabout somewhere. Now I have the full set again, including his latest.

If you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about, Tufte is the guru of information display. His books are beautiful, inspirational works of art that also come in handy day-to-day. I'd recommend anyone who has to present complex information at least flip through these books. Developers in particular could learn a lot from these books, and the thought processes they kick into action.

example from Wikipedia page, incorporating graphics by Kmf165

One of Tufte's ideas, Sparklines, a method of graphically displaying time-series data in an incredibly small space. This method has been cropping up in more and more places. The following example is from Google Analytics, plotting data about visitors to my web site. (Yes, I won't be retiring to live off my site just yet.)

Usage stats sparkline example from Google Analytics

So I'm rather looking forward to getting to know Tufte's ideas again. Quite exciting!

Nice printer

I picked up an old HP laser printer a while back and got it running. Problem was, it just kept jamming and driving me nuts. I'm sure if I wanted to spend a few hours with some cotton buds and metho I could clean the rollers and have it going again, but life's too short and printers too cheap. It's going to freecycle for someone who wants to spend that time.

Instead, I bought a lovely HP Laserjet 2200D. The "D" means it does duplexing: it can print on both sides. It's got two trays for a total of 350 pages of hopper. Sweet! Set me back fifty clams, which is next to nothing. Best of all, it plugs into the same JetDirect so I can connect it straight to the network for no-fuss printing. Brilliant!

And it works. Nicely. Double-sided even! Holly will be happy. The last one was driving us both nuts.

Regional broadband plan

Peter Lieverdink blogs on the government's regional broadband plans. I actually think they've done a pretty good job of balancing service provision with cost. It's never going to be easy to provision all of Australia's vast, mostly uninhabited regions, and I don't think it really should be the government's job. Governments aren't forced to provide free water, gas and electricity connections, so I don't see why broadband has suddenly become some must-have.

That said, there are clear economic benefits to getting the regions some form of connectivity. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh showed this at a base level when it covered the country with mobile towers and built a workable way of getting phones out there. It meant farmers could phone ahead to see what prices they could expect for their crops before paying a truck driver to take their crop to market.

Similarly there's a lot of tangible benefit farmers in remote areas will get from internet access. Climate information. Remote education. The latest best practices in farming.

But we shouldn't necessarily be writing a blank cheque to subsidise this. The cost of communications should be factored in as part of the farmer's cost of doing business. Just as transport costs, rising and falling market prices for their crops and the inputs like fertiliser are built into their costs.

Many years ago, when Telstra still had a monopoly and a duty to provide telephones to anyone who asked for one, I visited a vast sheep station outside Quilpie in Western Queensland. The homestead had a phone line, provisioned by a huge microwave tower. He'd paid only $5,000 for the phone line, a tiny fraction of what must have been an immensely costly installation. Because of the massive subsidy, he also had such a phone line put into their other, uninhabited, house across the other side of the property. Previously anyone staying in that house had, quite effectively, used HF radio to keep in touch with the main house, but due to a massive subsidy they'd installed a phone line that would rarely ever be used.

What needs to be kept in mind with the Opel rollout is that the most important factor is the rolling out of ADSL2+ to regional towns and cities. For people living in these towns and cities, they'll soon have access to the same broadband we currently get in some parts of the capital cities. That's a major step forward, and the fact it's being done as an open, competitive platform open to all ISPs is an incredible leap forward, and something Telstra would never have offered.

Peter's quip about hosting servers in the regions misses the point. You'd never dream of hosting out in the bush when you can, much more cheaply and much better-connectedly host in a world class data centre in the big smoke. Hell, I'm amazed anyone bothers hosting anything in Australia at all given our high prices and the ridiculously cheap, reliable hosting you can get in the US.

All up, and somewhat surprisingly given how clueless Coonan is, I think the government have made a good decision here. It remains to be seen if they are rushed into making a poor decision under Telstra's hectoring when it comes to the FTTN proposals that are (in the case of the G9 at least) on the table. I would much prefer they deferred a decision on this until after the election, or we risk seeing Telstra effectively re-monopolize the entire telecommunications market in Australia. Again. Remember when it used to cost $300 (probably $600 in today's money) to get a phone line connected?