Tag Archives: GBP

Website Members Take Over Football Club

A new model of football ownership? The BBC website reports that

Fans’ community website MyFootballClub has agreed a deal to take over Blue Square Premier outfit Ebbsfleet United.

The 20,000 MyFootballClub members have each paid £35 to provide a £700,000 takeover pot and they will all own an equal share in the club.

Members will have a vote on transfers as well as player selection and all major decisions.

What’s interesting is that the website has only been going since April. It has 50,000 members, 20,000 of them paying the registration fee. MyFootballClub was actually approached by nine of them clubs, none of them from the Premier League, before deciding on Ebbsfleet. The £700,000 was raised in 11 weeks.

I have no idea what the implications of this are. But given that the members/owners will now demand a say in the picking of the team, it could be more like the Israeli model I mentioned a few weeks back. Not everyone agrees it would work.

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Ebbsfleet United | Fans website agrees club takeover

FriendsReunited, At a Price

 image

Before Facebook, we had to find our friends on FriendsReunited, a very successful UK site that achieved critical mass but had one flaw: users had to pay to communicate with each other. It only struck me now that there’s something a little unethical about that.

Take, for example, what just happened to me: someone I haven’t seen or heard from in more than 35 years just got in touch via Friends Reunited (one advantage of the site is you can list the schools you attended right down to primary level).

Needless to say, it’s great to hear from him and I’d love to reply, but now I balk at the £7.50 ($15) I have to pay to do so. FriendsReunited lets you list your details there, but controls the communications between you, a little like LinkedIn.

But whereas with LinkedIn the communications are not controlled in a way that leaves the other person hanging; this old school chum now has no idea whether

  • I’ve received the message
  • I have any interest in communicating with him

unless I cough up the $15.

Of course, you could argue there’s no price on getting in touch with old friends. To which I would say, why should a company tell me what that price is? Now my old school chum is hanging there, uncertain whether I want to get back in touch.

Needless to say, I’ve tried to find out an email address or contact number through other channels, and maybe I’ll get lucky. So far nothing; FriendsReunited, like Facebook, both helped to extend the social networking model beyond the normal early adopter range, so not everyone on it has a big web footprint outside those walled gardens.

But if Facebook has changed nothing else, I suspect it’s altered our perception of community websites: from now on we expect to be able to find and connect with old friends on them, and if we have to pay to do that our interest wanes. Have to pay to contact a friend? Isn’t that a bit Web 1.0?

PS: Simon, if you’re out there, email me 🙂

FriendsReunited

Revenge of the Bollards

Is it a design fault, or is there some malice afoot in the Bollards War?

The UK city of Manchester has introduced something called ‘retractable bollards’ (non UK folk may call them posts) that sink into the ground when an approved vehicle approaches. (Sensors trigger the bollard’s retraction.) Great idea, right, since it means that buses and mail vans can get into pedestrian zones of the city but others can’t. The only problem is other drivers:

  • who assume that if a bus can get through, so can they; or who
  • try to cheat the system by sneaking through after the bus

This is what it looks like in action (thanks to Charles):

Now Manchester isn’t the first to try these bollards. Edinburgh ditched them last year after spending £150,000 when a local paper led a public outcry (I always love a good outcry.)

As you can see from the video, getting impaled on a bollard is not fun. They come back up as soon as the permitted vehicle has passed, so even the fastest driver isn’t going to have much luck. The Manchester Evening News reports some folk being taken to hospital and cars being written off. A 63-year old man died in Cambridge after crashing into one. This is all somewhat ironic given, according to another report in the paper, the bollards were introduced “on a trial basis because of the street’s high casualty rate.”

Surprisingly, many of those commenting support the bollards (variously spear bollards, rising bollards, those bollards, bollards from hell, and, inevitably, Never Mind the Bollards.) One points out the guy driving the SUV/4×4 is clearly trying to speed thro before the bollards come up. You can only imagine the conversation taking place as his partner grabs their kid and struts off (“Bollards! You bollarding idiot! I told you you’d never make through the bollarding bollards!”).

My tupennies’ worth: I think traffic maiming (as opposed to traffic calming) is a great idea but doesn’t go far enough. We need similar measures to punish, sorry deter, drivers who routinely flout the law and common decency. Why not, for example, deploy the retractable bollards elsewhere, like

  • the centre of a restricted parking space, so it would rise at the end of the designated period, impaling the vehicle if the driver had overstayed his alloted time;
  • at random points on the hard shoulder on toll roads/motorways so that cars illegally using it as a fast lane would be impaled,  or flipped over into an adjacent field

Where necessary, bollards could be replaced by other features such as

  • a mechanical arm, installed on the roadside and connected to a speed sensor, which would crush cars passing by too fast or too slow, depending on what irritated other drivers the most.
  • or cars driving through built-up areas too fast would be taken out by snipers deployed in trees/tall buildings. If necessary the snipers could be automated.
  • cars straddling two lanes or changing lanes without indicating first would be sliced in half by retractable blades intermittently rising out of the demarcating lines
  • motorbikes using the sidewalk (a particular bane in my neck of the woods) would risk having their tyres slashed by strips of spikes activated by the annoying sound of approaching underpowered Chinese-made engines.

Of course, there’s always a less, er, physical option. The retractable bollard contains a second sensor, which tells it that there’s a second, unauthorized vehicle passing over it. It doesn’t rise, but instead squirts evil-smelling goo onto the bottom of the car which renders the vehicle uninhabitable for at least a month. The driver is suitably chastened but no one dies.

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Directory of RSI Software

This is the first in a number of posts about RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury, the subject of this week’s column, out tomorrow. Here is a collection of software designed to ease RSI. RSI software tries to help in a number of ways:

  • working out how long you’ve been at the keyboard and reminds you to take breaks;
  • suggesting exercises for you to perform while you’re taking those breaks;
  • records macros (shortcuts) to specific tasks you do a lot so you don’t have to use the keyboard as much (especially keystroke combinations);
  • reduces mouse usage by allowing you to control the mouse from the keyboard (including dragging)
  • reducing mouse clicks by automating the process (move the cursor over something you want to click on and hold it there, and the software figures out you want to click and does it for you)

Here are some programs I found. I’m sure there are more. Let me know!

RSI Shield provides breaks, records macros and controls the mouse via hovering or via the keyboard. For Windows only. About $40 from RSI-Shield.

RSI Guard includes a break timer that suggests breaks at appropriate times, mouse automatic-clicking option and shows animations of exercises. Windows only. £81 from Back in Action, or $40 for the Standard and $65 for the Stretch Edition from RSI Guard.

Workrave frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit. For GNU/Linux and Windows (can be run on a Mac using Fink). Free from Workrave.

WorkPace Personal charts your activity, reminds you to take breaks and guides you through exercises. For Windows and Mac. $50 from Wellnomics.

AntiRSI forces you to take regular breaks, yet without getting in the way. It also detects natural breaks so it won’t force too many breaks on you. For Macs, free (donations welcome) from TECH.inhelsinki.nl.

[resting]

Xwrits reminds you to take wrist breaks, with a rather cute but graphic graphic of a wrist which pops up an X window when you should rest. For Unix only. Free from Eddie Kohler’s Little Cambridgeport Design Factory.

OosTime Break Software for reminding yourself to take rest breaks from your computer. For Windows only, from the University of Calgary. Another break reminder: Stress Buster for Windows, £10, from ThreadBuilder. Another break reminder for Windows, also called, er, Break Reminder for $60 a year (that can’t be right) from Cheqsoft.

Stretch Break reminds you to stretch, then shows you how with Yoga-based stretches and relaxing background music. For Windows only, $45 from Paratec.

ergonomix monitors keyboard and mouse activity and helps structure computer use. For Windows only, $50 from publicspace.net.  (A Mac version called MacBreakZ is also available for $20.)

ActiveClick automatically clicks, drags content and makes you stretch. For Windows only, $19 from ActiveClick.

No-RSI monitors keyboard and mouse activity and suggests you to take a break regularly. For Windows only, $15 from BlueChillies.

Also check out the Typing Injury FAQ for some more RSI software. A more recent collection can be found in a piece by Laurie Bouck at The Pacemaker. A good piece, too, by Jono Bacon at ONLamp.com.

There are also mice that try to help counter RSI. The Hoverstop, for example, “detects if your hand is on the mouse. It then monitors if you are actually using it (clicking, scrolling). If you are not using it for more than 10 seconds, it will vibrate softly to remind you to take your hand away and relax.” About $90 from Hoverstop.

My favorite? Workrave, though I must confess I often ignore the breaks. More fool me.

Directory of RSI Software

This is the first in a number of posts about RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury, the subject of this week’s column, out tomorrow. Here is a collection of software designed to ease RSI. RSI software tries to help in a number of ways:

  • working out how long you’ve been at the keyboard and reminds you to take breaks;
  • suggesting exercises for you to perform while you’re taking those breaks;
  • records macros (shortcuts) to specific tasks you do a lot so you don’t have to use the keyboard as much (especially keystroke combinations);
  • reduces mouse usage by allowing you to control the mouse from the keyboard (including dragging)
  • reducing mouse clicks by automating the process (move the cursor over something you want to click on and hold it there, and the software figures out you want to click and does it for you)

Here are some programs I found. I’m sure there are more. Let me know!

RSI Shield provides breaks, records macros and controls the mouse via hovering or via the keyboard. For Windows only. About $40 from RSI-Shield.

RSI Guard includes a break timer that suggests breaks at appropriate times, mouse automatic-clicking option and shows animations of exercises. Windows only. £81 from Back in Action, or $40 for the Standard and $65 for the Stretch Edition from RSI Guard.

Workrave frequently alerts you to take micro-pauses, rest breaks and restricts you to your daily limit. For GNU/Linux and Windows (can be run on a Mac using Fink). Free from Workrave.

WorkPace Personal charts your activity, reminds you to take breaks and guides you through exercises. For Windows and Mac. $50 from Wellnomics.

AntiRSI forces you to take regular breaks, yet without getting in the way. It also detects natural breaks so it won’t force too many breaks on you. For Macs, free (donations welcome) from TECH.inhelsinki.nl.

[resting]

Xwrits reminds you to take wrist breaks, with a rather cute but graphic graphic of a wrist which pops up an X window when you should rest. For Unix only. Free from Eddie Kohler’s Little Cambridgeport Design Factory.

OosTime Break Software for reminding yourself to take rest breaks from your computer. For Windows only, from the University of Calgary. Another break reminder: Stress Buster for Windows, £10, from ThreadBuilder. Another break reminder for Windows, also called, er, Break Reminder for $60 a year (that can’t be right) from Cheqsoft.

Stretch Break reminds you to stretch, then shows you how with Yoga-based stretches and relaxing background music. For Windows only, $45 from Paratec.

ergonomix monitors keyboard and mouse activity and helps structure computer use. For Windows only, $50 from publicspace.net.  (A Mac version called MacBreakZ is also available for $20.)

ActiveClick automatically clicks, drags content and makes you stretch. For Windows only, $19 from ActiveClick.

No-RSI monitors keyboard and mouse activity and suggests you to take a break regularly. For Windows only, $15 from BlueChillies.

Also check out the Typing Injury FAQ for some more RSI software. A more recent collection can be found in a piece by Laurie Bouck at The Pacemaker. A good piece, too, by Jono Bacon at ONLamp.com.

There are also mice that try to help counter RSI. The Hoverstop, for example, “detects if your hand is on the mouse. It then monitors if you are actually using it (clicking, scrolling). If you are not using it for more than 10 seconds, it will vibrate softly to remind you to take your hand away and relax.” About $90 from Hoverstop.

My favorite? Workrave, though I must confess I often ignore the breaks. More fool me.

Bob’s Background

Am reading Griff Rhys-Jones’ To The Baltic With Bob which is not quite as hilarious as the blurb promises, but has its moments: Bob goes along to a London art school to apply as a mature student on a computer graphics course:

‘What’s your background?’ asked the professor who interviewed him.

Bob swivelled in his chair and looked behind him. ‘Well, it’s a sort of tangerine colour,’ he said. According to Bob, this answer so amused the professor that he was instantly enrolled on the course, therefore qualifying for a large and useful grant and access to several hundred thousand pounds’ worth of expensive graphics equipment.

Kind of reminds me of those silly pub jokes we used to try out on bartenders in college:

Me: I’d like a beer, please.
Bartender: Bitter?
Me (looking into the distance, heaving a sigh): Yes, yes, I suppose I am.

or:

Me: A glass of white please.
(Not Overly Bright) Bartender: Wine?
Me: Aaaiioooowwww.

Of course, these work a lot better when you’re there. And British. And slightly drunk.

Scams, Dialers And Urban Myths

When is a scam a scam or an urban myth?

Dinah Greek of Computeractive writes that Britain’s premium rate line watchdog is being inundated with calls from worried consumers about scams that turn out to be untrue.

One email warns of a scam that says people have received a recorded message on their phone informing them that they have won an all-expenses paid holiday. The email goes on to say people who receive these calls are asked to press 9 to hear further details and when they do are connected to a £20.00 per minute premium rate line. This will still charge them for a minimum of five minutes even if they disconnect immediately. It is also claimed that, if callers stay connected, the entire message costs £260.00.

Another email says some people receive a missed call from a number beginning 0709. It is then claimed that, if callers dial this number, they are connected to a £50.00 per minute premium rate line.

ICSTIS, the watchdog with a name that sounds like an unpleasant disease, point out that these emails are incorrect. But with the whole rogue dialers thing going on, people are scared. (What I like about this story is that the problem seemed to have started in my old hometown: “We believe these emails started off years ago from a neighborhood watch liaison office in Northampton who got the facts wrong,” an ICSTIS spokesman says. (This, based on my experience of that town, seems plausible.) Since then it’s blown out of all proportion: ICSTIS points out that “these scams just can’t happen. Premium rate tariffs of £20 per minute and £50 per minute do not exist – the highest premium rate tariff available is £1.50 per minute.”

Does the fact that we don’t really know what’s going on in our computer make us prey to these kind of myths? Ignorance, superstition and credulity rise in inverse proportion to our understanding of our environment. Do computers make us more superstitious?

Why You Should Never Give A Company Your Data

Here’s a great example of why you can never really entrust your information to anyone but yourself.

The Register’s John Leyden reports that Pointsec Mobile Technologies, a data security company, has obtained via eBay a hard disk apparently owned by ”one of Europe’s largest financial services groups”. On the hard disk were, in the words of Pointsec, “pension plans, customer databases, financial information, payroll records, personnel details, login codes, and admin passwords for their secure Intranet site. There were 77 Microsoft Excel documents of customers email addresses, dates of birth, their home addresses, telephone numbers and other highly confidential information, which if exposed publicly could cause irrevocable damage to the company.” The disk cost Pointsec £5 (about $8).

The purchase wasn’t just a one-off, either. Pointsec says they bought 100 hard drives as part of research into this kind of problem, and found they were able to read 70% of them, despite the fact that all had supposedly been reformatted to wipe off data. They also visited airports in Sweden, the U.S. and Germany where laptops lost in transit were being auctioned off. In one case, using password recovery software, Pointsec was able to access information on the laptops even before purchasing the laptops. In Sweden the company bought a laptop on which they found ”four Microsoft Access databases containing company- and customer-related information and 15 Microsoft PowerPoint presentations containing highly sensitive company information.”

Ouch. I can’t find anything on Pointsec’s website about this but John’s report gives us enough to show this kind of problem is not an obscure one. Not only does it raise serious questions about company (and government) data security, but it also highlights how stupid we are to give any of our information to a company unless it’s absolutely necessary. This would, sadly, include folks like Plaxo, who may be sincere when they say they’re doing their utmost to protect our data. But what happens when they replace one of their hard drives?

Personally I think Pointsec should name the companies whose data they have retrieved: The Register says they won’t, and they’ll destroy the hard drives. This kind of research may prove to be good for Pointsec’s business, since they can take the data to the companies in question and offer to fix the problem, but what about all the thousands of other companies that don’t think it’s their kind of problem? Unless they are named and shamed I don’t think there’s enough incentive for companies to double check their data security and privacy policies.

Counting The Cost Of Online Crime

Phishing is beginning to bite.

British police at a high-tech crime congress (noted by USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review) say that 83% of Britain’s 201 largest companies reported experiencing some form of cybercrime. The damage has cost them more than £195 million ($368 million) from downtime, lost productivity and perceived damage to their brand or stock price.

Much of the damage is being done to financial companies, three of whom lost lost more than £60 million ($130 million). Phishing has hit banks like Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds TSB and 50 other British businesses, Reuters quoted Len Hynds, head of Britain’s National Hi-Tech Crime
Unit (NHTCU) as saying.

Of course, it’s probably much worse than this. Most companies don’t report ‘cyber-crime’ to the police for fear that making the matter public would harm their reputation.  The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) said that of the companies hit by cyber-crime, less than one-quarter reported the matter to police. But that’s better than two years ago, when NO companies were reporting.

Security experts warn that a new wave of cybercrime attacks will be nastier than what companies have already experienced. David Aucsmith, chief technology officer for Microsoft Corporation’s security and business unit predicted criminals would target banking systems, company payroll and business transaction data.

Here are some other interestnig facts from Bernhard Warner’s Reuters report:

  •  Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were the victim of a virus attack, costing nearly 28 million pounds.
  •  Criminal use of the Internet, primarily by employees, was reported by 17 percent of firms at a cost of 23 million pounds.
  •  More than a quarter of firms surveyed did not undertake regular security audits.