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Thu 29th Jun 2006 @ 01:23 2006: Javis on The Internet

I gave up and visited the URL that AOL keep pushing on their TV adverts - It turns out that they commissioned Jarvis Cocker to write a monologue describing his duality about the internet and music delivery. He ends with

"I hope you've enjoyed this little excerpt from the on-going domestic drama inside my head. Cyber-Jarv seemed to win this round, but then Music is only one tiny aspect of this thing we call "The Internet" - there's so much more to discuss. But I think even those two guys would have to agree on one thing; no matter what your opinion on it is - The Net is Here to Stay."

After the article was posted in April, they've garnered 4 pages of comments, that's about 40 comments at a rough guess; that's not too promising for AOL. The content itself ended up being pro-internet - that's probably not too surprising, given that it's hosted by AOL. I'll have to see what their other topics are, but I suspect that somone like AOL will tend to go with the flow, and make sure that the editorial and the comments support that... or am I being too cynical?!

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Thu 29th Jun 2006 @ 00:37 2006: Marc Andreessen: Going against the Grain

Sun have an interview with Marc Andreessen, about his new venture, in which he explains why he chose Sun's AMD-based servers running Solaris 10.

He reckons that "Power usage, rack space, and software support account for a much bigger slice of the pie" than the hardware purchase cost.

It boils down to the following (not entirely complete, as a comparison tool) data, for running a server for 3 years:

White Box Intel / Linux $10,350
White Box AMD / Linux $9,180
White Box AMD / Solaris $5,700
Sun AMD / Solaris $4,700

I can't see that rack space could be a huge issue when comparing the options; Andreessen reckons that the low power utilisation meant that they could cram more servers into a rack... Okay, if you say so, I'll let that slide for now.

He then says that he was looking at $107/month for Linux support, or $10/month for Solaris support ... that's a factor over 10 times. As he was taking this over 3 years, or 36 months, $107*36= $3852 - $10*36= $360 = $3492 difference per server over three years, or $139,680 for the 40 servers mentioned.

I have to say that I find the $10/month and the $107/month figures surprising; let's have a look at the few figures we can sensibly compare here:

For a white-box AMD/Linux server, we should save $3492 in support costs alone by switching to Solaris; $9,180 - $5,700 is $3,480... okay, that's close enough, I won't quibble over the $12 difference. However, I would be inclined to question the support costs. Unfortunately no evidence is provided for either the $10/mo nor the $107/mo claims.

The other figures have no frame of reference provided, so there's no point in looking at those numbers.

Marc Andreessen says: "if you need commercial-grade Linux support, you're going to pay through the nose for it. I guess you can run without support, but that's not feasible when you're using Linux to run your business."

So, what Sun are saying here, is that if you're paying $107/server/month for Linux support, then a Sun solution, at $10/server/month for Solaris support will be around half the price.

There is no mention of whether this is hardware-and-software support, or software-only support, nor how far any software support might go - operating system only, or bundled applications too? Since the support costs are the key argument here, that detail would be appreciated.

Jonathan Schwartz also said recently "what's Ubuntu? The fastest growing GNU/Linux distro out there (and as you know, volume matters).", so he can't be too down on GNU/Linux.

So, roll the numbers how you like - personally, I don't think that the numbers i see here match the numbers I've seen IRL. I started out with the view that I'll have to include an ObDisc "I used to work with Sun", but there's not much Sun fanboy spin I can put onto this article; it just seems to be a classic case of "believe our numbers, and see how good we look". A number of factors are mentioned, but the difference in support costs seem to be too high to be a real comparison.

There is still some good news for Sun - Marc's company chose Sun and Solaris over White-Box servers running Linux; that's a definite plus for Sun. The way they're promoting it doesn't seem terribly clever, though.

1 Comment               

Tue 27th Jun 2006 @ 01:48 2006: Selling out To Da Man

In-Text adverts ... Yes, it's bad. You can vote on it at the shell tutorial

I really don't know about this - they sent me a personalised spam a while ago, and I ended up signing up to try it out.

I don't mind the Google ads, they're not on every page, and they are really quite subtle.

These new in-text adverts are on the shell tutorial pages - the stuff under /sh/sh.shtml for a trial week or so, since that's where most visitors go. I've sorted out the "don't put it in this part of the page" code, so it should only be in the body content.

It comes up with a few relevant-seeming links, and some irrelevant ones, but that's probably not too different from Google.

The real niggle with this is how irritating it could be. I just don't know. I'm not a usability guru, and I don't know how smart their database and code is. If it gets me buckets of cash without annoying users, then that would, of course, be a Good Thing. If it irritates the feck out of everybody then it's totally pointless.

I activated it on Sunday night; now, on Monday night, I've added a "Vote" feature. In the intervening day (I've no idea how long changes take to propagate through the system) I've apparently had 1971 visits; Google reckon 2997; I reckon more like 3500 real-people visitors per day (logfiles seem to be running behind schedule these days ... Kontera and Google use JavaScript, so robots are unlikely to hit their counters).


Sun 25th Jun 2006 @ 00:11 2006: Apologies

My apologies if you have tried to comment on the previous two items; I've got a dev box and the live system, which are both LAMP, but otherwise have very little in common. I added a new field to the dev system, but failed to update the live database, which meant that new comments on the live system failed.

Silly boy. Go stand in the corner.


Sat 24th Jun 2006 @ 00:08 2006: MySpace

I have no idea what all this MySpace stuff is about - it seems to be a GeoCities for the current decade, with some crap templates thrown in, so far as I can tell.

It's all rather Web 1.4 (nothing ever really gets beyond about 1.4 without becoming something else; I reckon that 1.4 is to software what "e" is to maths, statistics and all that.... 2.712 or something)

So, is, erm well, a URL to a rather blank page with very little information (other than my starsign, which it appears I cannot disable).

There is also a blog, hopefully more likely than my own, to produce valid RSS feeds, at - I think that's it, anyway. Maybe that's just the maiden post. Who knows? Not such an old fart as I, anyway.

Myself, I thought that this was my space; maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I can reach a wider audience via MySpace. I have no idea.

Still, using something akin to a blog to announce another blog makes me feel really web 1.3 at least, maybe even 1.4 on a good day.

Will it change the world? Probably not. But hey, it's a bandwagon.

Still at least I know why, with only a little hype, the myspace website keeps falling over with random error messages - it's written in .NET. And as for virtual networking, etc, you have to be in LA. Nice.


Wed 21st Jun 2006 @ 13:43 2006: Letter to the American people from her Majesty's Home Office

Letter to the American people from her Majesty's Home Office

To the citizens of the United States of America,

In the light of your failure today to beat even the Czech Republic at soccer, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchial duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise". You will learn that the suffix 'burgh is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of
communication. Look up "interspersed". There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize".

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to Cockney,
upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon". If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US rugby sevens side by 2007. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders" which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You should declare war on Quebec and France, using nuclear weapons if they give you any merde. The 97.85% of you who were not aware that there is a world outside your borders should count yourselves lucky. The Russians have never been the bad guys. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new
national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day" after your last election

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are shit and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps". Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From December 1st the UK will harmonise petrol (or "Gasoline" as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2007) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon - get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your cooperation.

1 Comment               

Tue 20th Jun 2006 @ 00:24 2006: Anonymous

A corporate email I saw recently... this is an interesting interpretation of the word "anonymous":

Participation in the survey is voluntary and all responses remain completely anonymous.

To participate:
Confirm your id and password
Employees that do not have access to the intranet should contact their leader (or a colleague) to obtain an MS Word version of the online survey from the Intranet.

1 Comment               

Sun 18th Jun 2006 @ 22:23 2006: Future versions of PHP5?

I've been having a bit of grief with RSS recently, in terms of HTML, XML markup, Microsoft's "interesting" view of standards, etc.

It seems that PHP are working on it: for now, I think that the answer is to roll my own version of htmlentities

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Sun 18th Jun 2006 @ 21:17 2006: eh


This is a new line

This is italics

It looks as if the get-rid-of-ms-crap also takes the deHTMLifying out :-(

1 Comment               

Sun 18th Jun 2006 @ 21:15 2006: Yet more RSS woes

RSS still being a pain; you'd have thought stuff like this should be dead simple... maybe that's why people use things like blogger!

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Sun 18th Jun 2006 @ 01:37 2006: Nero

I have never made any claims to being up-to-date with Wintel software, but when I accidentally downloaded a Ubuntu ISO to my Wintel laptop tonight, I thought that I would save the time of copying it over wifi to a Linux server, by just burning the CD from the Wintel laptop.

It turns out that the Wintel laptop doesn't come with CD-burning capability (is that not built-in? really?!) so I went for what I have heard most Wintel users talking about - Nero. I like the name, anyway; there's a certain amount of wit in there. I want to burn a 698Mb CD, and the download to allow WinXP to burn CDs is an extra 123Mb download!

Is it me, or is 123Mb (without helpfiles) rather a large amount for a glorified "dd"? If the software download itself ever ends, then I'll let you know if it seems any good or not. As it is, I can't believe that I've already got a fully-featured OS but still need to download 123Mb to create CDs. What crud could they possibly write to use up over 100Mb of code?!


Fri 16th Jun 2006 @ 17:40 2006: Keep off the Ice

There's a tree next to a pond near to where I work, and it's got a sign on the trunk, warning people not to walk on the ice in winter.

I'd love to think that this was by design - if it is, kudos to whomever thought of it - but in summer, when the warning is irrelevant, it is covered up by the leaves; as it gets colder, the leaves fall off, revealing the sign!

I like that, that's elegant!

1 Comment               

Thu 15th Jun 2006 @ 21:53 2006: Sniff Petrol

SniffPetrol is a new(ish) quite refreshing petrolhead website - and they also have this piece of pure class

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Thu 15th Jun 2006 @ 20:54 2006: Broken Windows Theory

This blog post disappeared from MSDN, then reappeared with the message:

[This was originally posted a week ago, and yanked of my own volition. What followed was a firestorm of speculation about how The Man beat me down, etc, which is completely untrue. Now I repost this back, only to quell the speculation. Blog on.]

It then got posted on slashdot, and then disappeared again, with the comment:

[I have removed the rest of this post of my own volition, without any external pressure whatsoever. What started as an opinion on the challenges of managing large software projects has turned out to be a rallying point for detractors, which isn't interesting or productive. - Ed.]

It strikes me as a little strange that it was Ed's volution, not philipsu's volition - an unfortunate slip there, perhaps?

Anyway, if it's going to keep coming and going, it may be worth reproducing it here

1 Comment               

Thu 15th Jun 2006 @ 11:45 2006: ah have broken the rss

I've broken the RSS somehow - I think it's something to do with trying to be clever with the quotes :-(


Thu 15th Jun 2006 @ 01:10 2006: Happy Birthday, OpenSolaris

People seem to be celebrating OpenSolaris's first birthday... Here's a fun thread from when the project was a few weeks old, if you enjoy religious debates about OS choices and decisions: I am wondering if anyone would be interested in discussing Solaris_86 (10 and later) vis-a-vis Linux?, featuring a few big names* and some really bad arguments.

Schilly gets into some really silly side-debates (the star one is quite fun), Solaris and Linux fanboys rant ahoy, and Eric B takes the role of mediator...

Schilly is now the proud father of Schillix of course, as well as being author of cdrecord, star and other good and useful software incorporating 'interesting' design decisions

* depending on your definition of "big" and "name" - Casper Dik, Jörg Schilling, Eric Boutilier, etc

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Wed 14th Jun 2006 @ 20:28 2006: Who Broke PS?

Who Broke the ps command? (warning, some bad language)

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Tue 13th Jun 2006 @ 00:24 2006: Vista: It could kill the interweb (or maybe not)

The FT were reporting that the Windows Vista Beta download could kill the internet or something so silly:

“It’s not that we didn’t anticipate this level of interest or demand, but that we are at the threshold of what the internet can bear,”

"We are literally saying that if we increased our bandwidth any further there’s a possibility of taking down the internet – people might have problems with World Cup viewing, etc.”

Akamai described this as "unlikely", and - as it happens, it seems that the Vista downloads are available again after all.

So - when MS try to unbreak the internet, they fail ... when they try to break it, they fail at that, too.

The death of the superinterhighweb has also been predicted by the BBC's decision to broadcast some football game on the interhighweb, as republished here: - apparently from "TV Scoop", which I guess must be a TV listings magazine who believes such "experts" because they are "experts" and not because of any particular understanding of the topology of the internet.

It seems that MS chose not to use BitTorrent or similar technologies because of "legal and privacy issues" - how ironic, but apparently there are now torrents available, for anyone whose Windows installation isn't buggy enough for their tastes.

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Mon 12th Jun 2006 @ 23:08 2006: Welcome to the 1990s

You can add markup to the comments now. Wow, this is so 1990s.


Mon 12th Jun 2006 @ 00:01 2006: Bugatti Veyron

Just stumbled across this (Jeremy Clarkson) review of the Bugatti Veyron - that's the silly 1001bhp VW he reviewed last year. It can do 252mph, which he puts into perspective in this way:

At 200mph you can feel the front of the car getting light as it starts to lift. As a result you start to lose your steering, so you aren’t even able to steer round whatever it is you can’t see because of the vibrations. Make no mistake, 200mph is at the limit of what man can do right now. Which is why the new Bugatti Veyron is worthy of some industrial strength genuflection. Because it can do 252mph. And that’s just mad — 252mph means that in straight and level flight this car is as near as makes no difference as fast as a Hawker Hurricane.

But then he tells us how they managed it:

mating two Audi V8s to create an 8 litre W16. Which was then garnished with four turbochargers.

Now that is scary. Not as scary as the gearbox, though

"God, it was hard,” said one of the engineers I know vaguely. “The gearbox in an F1 car only has to last a few hours. Volkswagen wanted the Veyron’s to last 10 or 20 years. And remember, the Bugatti is a damn sight more powerful than any F1 car.”

So there is only one really scary thing left: the brakes.

A VW Polo will generate 0.6g if you stamp on the middle pedal hard. You get that from the air brake alone on a Veyron. Factor in the carbon ceramic discs and you will pull up from 250mph in just 10sec. Sounds good, but in those 10sec you’ll have covered a third of a mile.

That’s five football pitches to stop.


Sun 11th Jun 2006 @ 02:49 2006: US-III

KernelTrap have a discussion about OpenBSD support of the US-III, when the US-IV has been out for a long time, and the US-IV+ is old news, really.

I had thought that support for the US-III was ancient history, and whilst I admit that I had not followed the story, I had assumed that support for the US-IV and US-IV+ was going the same way.

The media seem to have a rather simplistic view : "SPARC == RISC == SUN" which is not the case, but surely Sun can release the specs of the UltraSPARC III, USIV and even the USIV+ so that it can be supported on other OSes?

I have always been a fan of Sun, and particularly of the quality of the hardware, and the operating system also. Providing the specs of the CPU woulnd't be a huge loss to Linux, because the Solaris OS is so scalable, to an extent which (with the best will in the world) Linux can't yet compete with; it wouldn't provide hardware rivals with any particular benefit either, because IBM and HP have their own focus, and it's a long way away from SPARC, in reality.

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Sun 11th Jun 2006 @ 01:43 2006: Bizarre Troll Site

There are other random trolls there, too, but that just seemed like the most bizarre of the lot. Thanks, slashdot!

Update May 2010: Link has moved here:
Thanks for the update, Grant.

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Sun 11th Jun 2006 @ 01:18 2006: Home Taping Isn't Killing Music

The BBC are reporting that we can make copies of music for personal use, after all ... presumably, that makes it okay to use services such as for obtaining such copies, also?

The wording might be a bit inaccurate, though - does this apply to UK consumers, or to consumers of UK-signed artistes?


Sun 11th Jun 2006 @ 00:53 2006: F1 Progress Monitor

ITV have a Form Card for all the drivers in F1.

In other news, the German Cheat qualified third at Silverstone today. Go Alsono and Kimi !

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Sun 11th Jun 2006 @ 00:02 2006: RSS

Thanks for the hints Andy, cleaner looking RSS for web browsers now. I also noticed that the Live Bookmark thing wasn't working in FireFox, so that has been fixed too (a LINK tag in the HEAD section missing since the move to the new URL (urandom from random) - d'oh!)

So, we should be fully RSS'd up again now


Thu 8th Jun 2006 @ 16:31 2006: Unhappy sysadm kicks off mass "rm -rf /"

Prosecution Witness Describes Chaos In UBS PaineWebber Attack: 63yr-old Roger Duronio expected a bonus of $50k but only got $32k (a much nicer number), so he set a "logic bomb" (I think that's mediaspeak for "cron job") to trash the files across the datacentre and remote sites.

Apparently his script was called "MRM -r" - maybe that stands for "mass rm -r"

The worrying part is at the end of the article: "Many of the servers were down that whole day and part of the next. Some servers in remote locations were down for weeks." - are UBS admitting that they don't back up some of their remote servers?


Mon 5th Jun 2006 @ 00:51 2006: Renault F1

Earlier today (Sun 4th June) I was on the southern part of the M25 motorway, and drove past a Renault F1 lorry... last weekend was Monaco (great win, Fernando), but next weekend is Silverstone. If the car has only got to London by now, then they are pretty well behind schedule for getting to Silverstone by Saturday ;-)

Seriously, though, what reason would a Renault F1 truck have for being in Kent this weekend? They can't be testing somewhere as crazy as Brands Hatch, surely?

Still, it was nice to see the chaps on the road - I was somewhat tempted to slow down to give the lads a cheer, but I wasn't sure that they would appreciate a few flashes and beeps from some geezer in a Ford.

Still looking forward to Silverstone this coming weekend - it seems as if tickets are still available (apparently there's some football thingy going on around the same time) - it would be great to get some cheap tickets, a weekend-long babysitter, free hotel, etcetc, but I guess I'll have to settle for the visit we made to Silverstone a few years ago, when our presence helped Mika beat Schumacher for the British Grand Prix win.

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Mon 5th Jun 2006 @ 00:14 2006: Spam - not from me

I have had a number of email bounces, which indicate that somebody is forging the domain to send spam (eg, from jose at, which is not a valid email address). These all target a certain large company (with whom I have no connection) and look like test attempts prior to a further attack.

This domain ( does not send unsolicited emails of any kind; to receive an email from an address, you must subscribe to the WishList and/or uRandom account (, or have already sent me an email - either directly, or via

I am not in the habit of sending attachments (of any kind), so - as always - if you receive an unexpected email, it is safer to delete it than to read it.

If you are using a particularly common combination of Operating System (eg, MS Windows, Mac OS) and/or a particularly vulnerable email client / web browser (eg Outlook, Outlook Express, Internet Explorer) then this advice should be taken even more strongly.

So - what software should I use? There is no "right answer", but the "wrong answer" is probably any combination of MS Windows and MS Outlook (or Outlook Express) and Internet Explorer.



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