Radio Australia topics, Nov 7

I make an appearance on the excellent Breakfast Club show on Radio Australia each Friday at 01:15 GMT and some listeners have asked me post links to the stuff I talk about, so here they are.


Follow football on your cellphone through vibrations: a team in Scandavia has come up with a way to convey movement of a ball via vibrations. This would allow folks wanting to follow a soccer game with the phone in their pocket, in theory.

This is how it would happen, as far as I can understand it: someone would watch a game and input data whenever the ball was kicked. This data would translate into vibrations—short if the ball is in midfield, longer and more insistent as it got nearer the goal. The researchers claim that users quickly figure out what is happening and can follow a game pretty well.

Reminds me of when I was a kid trying to follow a soccer match on a bad radio: You kind of guessed when things were getting exciting by the rise in crowd noise and the voice of the commentator.

Obama’s victory has quickly translated into an opportunity for bad guys. Sophos reports that 60% of malicious is Obama related, including what looks like a link to his acceptance speech, but which is in fact a trojan which, among other things, captures keystrokes and sends information back to the Ukraine. Obama-related malware has even been seen in the sponsored ads appearing on Google News.

EA has made another boo-boo: some copies of its Red Alert 3 CDs are missing a character on the serial number. “Try guessing the last character,” explained the support site until someone pointed out that this was dumb and encouraging amateur cracking.

Lost in translation: The continuing saga of Welsh being a language that non-speakers are never going to be able to guess at took another twist with a sign that, in English, reads  “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only,” but which in Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

I don’t think I need to explain more, except to say that the sign has been removed—apparently by the council that installed it. What Welsh truck drivers made of it has not been recorded.

Photo credit: BBC

It’s All About the Backstory

If you’re going to do a scam, have a good backstory. Here’s how.

It’s from a Mrs. Sarah Welsh of 26 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL, England who says in an unsolicited email that illustrates how best to do the old Nigerian email scam:

I am Mrs. Sarah Welsh, an English woman who is suffering from cancerous ailment. I am married to Sir Jim Welsh who also is an Englishman though dead now. My husband worked with the British Railways for over two decade before the cold hand of death took him away on the 23rd of July 2003 at about 2:00AM.

I am glad she still feels married to Sir Jim, despite the clammy hand of death. That’s loyalty for you. But this is good stuff; it sets up the story nicely, although perhaps actually giving the time of death might be a superfluous detail.

Unfortunately their decade-long marriage was without “any fruit of the womb.” This might have been because the late Sir Jim spent too much time on a very modest and narrowly focused effort “to uplift the down-trodden and the less-privileged individuals within the United Kingdom, Europe, North and South America, Africa and the rest of the globe as he had passion for persons who can not help themselves due to physical disability or financial predicament.” This must have taken up quite a bit of his time for pottering around in the garden. His widow, showing perhaps a trace of bitterness, says “I can adduce this to the fact that he needed a Child from this relationship, which never came.”

Anyway, this timeless sadness aside, there’s dosh. Ten million quid, to be precise. It’s not clear how a career with British Rail secured this kind of money but it might explain why British Rail had to be privatised. Sadly Mrs. W. is not going to be around to spend it, since “my Doctor told me that I have a limited or numbered days on earth and that my life span will not exceed 150 days due to the cancerous problems I am suffering from.” A precise doctor indeed. Still, that’s not what is really bothering Mrs. W. “What bothers me most,” she says, “is the stroke that I have in addition to the cancer.” Good little extra layer of ailment, though some might think it’s being laid on a bit thick. Anyway, here comes the denouement, better known as The Bit Where You Get Ripped Off:

Mrs. Welsh (shouldn’t she really be Lady Sarah, what with Sir Jim and all that? Points deducted for not knowing the English honours system) has decided to give the 10 mill to “a non governmental, or a non religious, and or a non profit organization or better still an individual, that will use this gift which comes from my husbands sweat to fund the upkeep of widows, widowers, orphans, destitute, the down-trodden, physically challenged children, barren-women and persons who prove to be genuinely handicapped financially.” Another tightly focused project, it seems.

If you were the suspicious reader you might wonder: Aren’t there other members of the family who could make use of this money? Mrs. W/Lady Sarah has already thought of this, and helpfully sets up another strand to the story: “I took this decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons and I do not want my husband Jim Welsh hard earned money to be misused or invested into ill perceived ventures.” Sounds like it’s not the first time that Sir Jim has bailed out his wastrel siblings and others from his side of the family. In-laws. A nice touch, bound to win over the most skeptical of readers. Who doesn’t have some ne’er-do-well relative?

Indeed, they are already proving a bit of a pest. Lady Sarah asks for help urgently to distribute this cash via the usual power of attorney, bank account numbers and transfer fee scam, but doesn’t want phone calls. “I do not need any telephone communication in this regard due to my deteriorating health and because of the presence of my husband relatives around me. I do not want them to know about this development.” A very good idea. They’re bound to be eavesdropping on the line in the spare bedroom, the leeches. (Not to mention the difficulty of disguising the fact that an elderly female member of the British aristocracy on the phone sounds a lot like a man with a West African accent.)

As Mrs. W. points out, “with God, all things are possible.” But a good back story helps. If you need one you can always copy it off one of the numerous websites collecting this kind of thing. Sir Jim’s has appeared on several, including here and at Scam o Rama, which helpfully organizes them according to ill person, cancer type, life expectancy, sum involved, purpose and location of money.