Monday, 25 May 2015

SEO scum?

So, a friend of a relative had some company design a web site for her new business. It was a simple web page.

Now, companies doing this are fine. They can do a good job, and the site in question looks fine as a really simple "shop front" web site to provide company details, a few pictures, etc.

There are, of course, a load of "self design" services that exist and could probably do just as good a job for way less money or even free.

Anyway, this is where the underhand part comes in.

They designed the site and then they tried to sell her search engine optimisation (SEO) for yet another fee.

Now, SEO is an odd business. At one end you have the simple matter of ensuring the web site is well written, contains all of the right things technically (headings, meta tags, and so on), to ensure it is correctly and hence prominently listed in search engines. A well designed web site does all that anyway.

Then there are the "tricks" - the less ethical methods that involve basically trying to trick the search engines in to highly ranking the site, at least for a while. I guess these have value to some, but it is a tricky business.

Well, this particular web design company has done a couple of odd things...

1. They registered the domain in their name, not the customer's. That is a tad naughty if they did not explain this. It makes it hard, or even impossible, to move the site to a new provider if unhappy with their service.

2. They added this to the pages:

    <meta name='robots' content='noindex,follow' />

What does that mean? It tells search engines not to list the page at all. It is the total and utter opposite of search engine optimisation. It is telling search engines to totally ignore the site.

To put that on the page and then "sell" SEO to the customer is really underhand, in my opinion. The SEO they sell may simply mean removing that one line!

Our advice? Get out! In this case they can get the corresponding .uk domain and use that as a new site. As a new company it seems that will work fine, and maybe the will come up one day.

Why do people think it is OK to run a business like that - it may not actually be illegal, depending on the terms agreed, but it is underhand and devious as far as I can see. Not the way to build a loyal customer base or get referrals!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

When to give up?

I start to wonder.

I see so much stupidity in government, especially after the election, where things like banning encryption seem more and more likely to be taken seriously. I see Australia seem to want to ban teaching encryption - it's 1991 all over again.

I see more and more police state happening. Monitoring all that we do, just in case we become one of those terrorists that are marginally less dangerous than bee stings. Then we have the latest crazy idea of repealing the Human Rights Act. It is just unbelievable.

I mean, seriously, can anyone point to any single part of the Human Rights Act that, if repealed, would be better for me, or anyone I know or care about, either directly or indirectly?

It is really hard to see how that could happen - to benefit me, I'd have to be Hitler or something, wanting to detain people without trial and such shit.

A friend of mine said that obviously the Human Rights Act is "inconvenient" and that is why they want to repeal it. I pointed out that it is meant to be "inconvenient", especially to tyrannical dictators. It is certainly meant to be "inconvenient" to those that would like to deny me those basic human rights. That is the point!

I was really bad at history at school, and now it seems to matter. Maybe they'll just ban teaching history in schools - that would avoid the inconvenient truth of why the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act came in to force in the first place.

Anyway, I was wonder.

I am 51 now. Do I eventually decide that it would be easier to shut up, install the telescreen so I can be watched all day, and be a good citizen of the police state? Or do I try and find a sane country and emigrate, and would that even work? Or do I keep trying to speak out and trying to make a difference until I drop?

Friday, 22 May 2015


The last time I was stressed at the unfairness of the legal system was when we had an ADR case. For those that do not recall (!) the arbitrator basically found in our favour (that we had not broken the contract) but still insisted we paid money to the customer and that we wrote off a load of outstanding invoices that post dated the complaint, oh, and also that we paid the arbitrator for this madness. I got very cross.

I know life is not fair, but some things in life have the scope and possibility to be reasonably fair, and the legal system is one of those things that should at least try for that aim.

Well, today I am facing a similar annoyance as this bozo in Scotland suing use for £3k, even though the service was fine, and even though we limit our liability (something we point out on the order form itself). He is just trying it on.

It seems that we have no way to get this resolved without someone going to Scotland for a hearing, even to dispute the jurisdiction of the case - where the key reason for doing so it to avoid a trip to Scotland. It seems cheapest is probably to engage a solicitor in Scotland and that we are unlikely to get our costs for that even if we win. This is all in spite of the fact that the case is plainly bogus as the pursuer (claimant) is a newly formed company created after all of the events in the claim and with which we have never had any dealings.

It is almost as if Mikey Mouse, the magic castle, fairyland could issue a summons and force someone to go to the cost and hassle of defending the case. Why don't courts have some option to at least question the basic validity of the claim without having a hearing - even if we had to pay the judge a fee to look at it for us before considering a hearing. That would be sensible for stupidities like this.

The court say no - we have to either admit the claim, or say we will go to the hearing. The solicitor suggested it is worth trying too reach an out of court settlement. That just seems wrong.

Heck, the guy did not even bother with any notice before action or threats or try to negotiate, yet this breach in process is just ignored - we have to go to the hearing.

Last time I got wound up I did come up with a somewhat hypothetical idea that would be morally wrong, and somewhat psychopathic: What we need is a sort of hit man clause in a will. Well, not quite actual hit man, but something whereby money goes to a company that specialise in hounding someone - taking all legal (or untraceable) means to make someone's life hell. Bogus court causes. Starting rumours. Anonymous tips of child abuse, fraud, terrorism, whatever. Just everything to make someone's life a misery as a parting gift if they are still alive. OK, it is hypothetical, but it would feel great to say that you are "adding someone to the list" that is in your will and that park that anger and annoyance.

The problem is that I am too nice to actually come up with something like that. Shame.

OFCOM being very special

Got an email claiming to be from OFCOM, subject "Service Charge Modified", email Cc myself and someone called, and starting "Dear User Windettj1". It goes on to say an area code and the new pricing point.

Does that look like a scam or spam of some sort? Obviously.

Well, no, guess what, it is genuine, and really is from OFCOM. So I asked what was going on.

The explanation of the "Dear User Windettj1" is: "June has made changes to Andrews & Arnolds SCs, hence it is her user name that appears on this e-mail".

OK, but I am not June, so why send me an email saying "Dear User Windettj1"?

The explanation for the is even odder: "When NMS was migrated all e-mail address were randomly scrambled, is a scrambled address"

I'm sorry, but WTF?

  • Why "scramble" email addresses?
  • Since when is in any way "randomly" scrambled. is a real domain, so that is probably a real email address. Are OFCOM deliberately leaking other people's email addresses? Or are they making up email addresses to create annoying backscatter to innocent parties? Or are they copying random third parties with emails that should be sent to us?
  • Why include a random scrambled email address in the email anyway? It just makes no sense!

They don't offer any explanation - it is like they deliberately made a system to send total nonsense to people, and when asked about it they just explain how total nonsense it is, as if that was what they intended all along.

It is like having a conversation with the mad hatter?!

And these people regulate our communications industry in this country.

3D print show

Went to the 3D print show in London yesterday - it is on today and Saturday too.

My first impression is that it is rather disappointing in size - I was expecting bigger. They even sell 3 day passes! 3 hours was more than enough.

The main reason I went was to see things in action, obviously, and there were plenty of printers working, and lots of print samples to look at and touch. I went because we got a Maketbot Z18 a while ago. After the Replicator 2 we had high expectations and it turned out to be crap so it was sent back. Markerbot were there and assure me it is a lot better now, but the easy option of simply buying the next model up from the same supplier was missed, and I was already at a 3D print show now.

So, things of note...

A seriously big printer! Seems they sell to universities and artists. Very cool if you are in to that sort of thing. I can't see it being something we can sell as a service well though. Shame, as it would be rather fun!

Very impressive to see something that big working well, and some of the sculptures they had on display were very good.

A printer that uses paper! Yes, it works a sheet at a time, pressing and gluing it to the sheets below, and cutting an outline, ink jet full colour printing over the cut edge, and depositing glue for the next sheet. Eventually you end up with a block of paper. You pull off the pre-cut blocks of paper around the edge of the print and are left with a full colour solid paper model which needed no support printing or messing about. Recycle the waste paper, maybe varnish the artwork, but the results were impressive, albeit perhaps a bit slow.

A magnetically attached flexible print bed mat. The idea being you print on it directly, but can lift the mat off the base and it flexes to allow the printed artwork to come off easily. We may have to get one of these for the Replicator 2 that we use.

There were a lot of stands doing consumables, and everybody's PLA was better than the others. Rovosavvy have a new line in PLA which they claim is of the highest quality - no impurities, very close tolerances on size, etc. But they are doing it in 10kg reels, which, as you can imagine, will not work well. Mostly the filament is fed from the extruder pulling it off the reel. So they have a novel approach of using these motorised dispensers that have a tension triggered microswitch that reels off more material. May have to get some of these :-)

I did eventually find the printer I was actually looking for - the WASP. It is a delta printer using three fixed motors to drive the 3D, and one floating extruder motor. It does a 200mm diameter base and 400mm high. And what can I say, a delta printer just looks cool. With very few exceptions, almost all of the printers were traditional X/Y/Z printers, some with moving bed, some enclosed, and a variety of sizes, but delta printers were much less common. One of the cool features of this printer is the visibility of the ongoing print - which is much better than the more traditional arrangements.

The fact that three of the motors are fixed also allows much greater speed - they claim up to 1m/s even, and they did have one printing pretty fast on the stand.

So I suspect this will be the next one we get.

There were several other things. Several contract printing companies, some of which are very impressive. There were a few very expensive and very impressive printers. Only a couple of dual head printers. Some full height people scanners. One hand held stereo scanner. To be honest I expected to see more scanning stuff and was a bit disappointed.

There were also laser based printers that pull print from a pool of resin - very precise, but small area. There were CNC machines that milled things from a block of solid wood. Lots of different things to see, but still not a very big show. If you are in London, it may be with the £20 or so for a ticket.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Right When Tested

We had an interesting fault on a line in Nottingham last week, and for a change I have something nice to say about BT!

The first engineers decided it was a REIN issue (Random Electrical Impulse Noise), which is basically some sort of interference. So an engineer was dispatched to investigate the REIN issue. Hw spent some time testing at the exchange and cabinet and DP and tracked down the cause, which was, it turns out, the lift in the flats.

This is not the first time we have seen a fault like this, and the engineer said he had seen cases like this himself. He then called us to confirm in detail what the issue was and that he had found it. The end user is contacting the building maintenance people now to sort it.

But this means it was correctly diagnosed as a REIN issue, and BT engineers actually tracked it down to a cause which outside our customer's premises, and BT's side of the master socket, but not their fault as such.

So well done to the competent engineers on the ground - many of them are good and technically able.

Of course, the rest of BT lets that down, sending the fault back as "Right When Tested; IP/SP Network Connection;Line tested ok by BT engineer at customer premises".

Well, actually he demonstrated it failing at the end user premises, and explained it to the end user in detail as well as calling us (their customer). It was wrong when tested, ie. breaks every time someone uses the lift. Also, it was definitely not the "IP/SP Network Connection", we did not cause this.

So once again it looks like we will have to spend time disputing a charge for an engineer.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Age of Empires

Well, anyone who played back in the day would have concluded that Age of Empires II (2) was the one to play - the III was not any good, but II was. With the Forgotten expansion, obviously.

It was fun, but at the house we played on some whacky network that was a wireless link from Reading on Tele2 which caused hassle as I played against a neighbour on the same system but the way it worked, even though we had real IP addresses, it did not allow people not the same LAN segment to communicate, which was crazy. We had do to some special ARP and/or route logic to work! Yes, it was that long ago...

It was something of a game we'd play at Christmas.

I had no idea that it is all making a come back, and, apparently, there is now an Age of Empires II HD, on Steam. They have redone all the sprites in higher definition and colour. It is meant to be windows only but it works under a wine steam install under my 5k Mac, and, well, FFS, it works! Well worth the £19 or so.

So maybe I'll play a few games.

What fun.

P.S. couple of quirks on the Mac, as usual with wine - the message box is black on black or something, so you type blind, and the stuff that does steam things generally does not work, but the game works, and multiplayer works, and I trashed James (KE55ARD, Also known as: SON GOHAN, kappa, Ailuj, TOP 3 PLAYER WORLD, DIETER HACKING, Hi Im Good, Hi im God, riot pls, rip in peperoni) on my fist multiplayer game. I was killing him, converting him, and building a wonder all at once, so sad.