Totally believable spam

Occasionally I open up one of the  e-mails that Google files away in my Spam folder, just to see what’s on offer. This one made me laugh, several times.

Firstly with its claim that “Your Name And Your Contact Details Was Given To This Office”, yet the e-mail is addressed to “Dear Customer” and then goes on to ask me to supply them with my name and contact details and identification documents!

But the biggest laugh is the assertion that my $7.5m USD is sitting unclaimed “Because Of Your Unbelief Of The Reality Of Your Genuine Payment”. Its funny because its true.

How long for a ULL ID confirmation?

After years of waiting, the National Broadband Network is finally available at my home address from today.  I had pre-ordered an NBN deal from a different provider than my current phone/ADSL provider which is Optus. My new soon-to-be provider rang me this afternoon to tell me that they are ready to connect me, but to do so they needed me to confirm my ULL ID with Optus.

What is a ULL ID? It seems that it is a 10 digit number (starting with 161) that uniquely identifies the copper line connected to your house. Given the frustrating and time consuming interactions I’ve had with Optus in the past, I wasn’t too excited or hopeful about extracting this information from them.

So how long does it take to confirm a ULL ID with Optus? The answer turned out to be 44 minutes.

Time Duration (minutes) Activity
18:44 – 18:50 6 Try to find a phone number on the Optus website to ring technical support. It is almost unbelievable how hard it is to find a phone number to ring a phone company!
18:50 – 19:04 14 Give up on ringing Optus and have a go with their Live Chat support. After initiating a request for live chat, wait ….

19:04 – 19:10 6 Live chat with service agent for six minutes before she decides that it would be better to ring me and have a vocal instead of written conversation.
19:10 – 19:12 2 Brief conversation with service agent where she understands what the request is and that she will need to transfer me to the technical support team.
19:12 – 19:24 12 Waiting … listening to horrid hold ‘music’.
19:24 – 19:28 4 Brief conversation with technical support agent who reasonably quickly understands what I’m asking for, confirms my details, puts me on hold for a minute or so while he looks up the ULL ID and then supplies me with the ULL ID.

Yay.

TOTAL 44

Lets see how things go now with my new provider in connecting me to the NBN.

CNET Newsletter broken

For years I have been receiving a CNET Daily News e-mail newsletter . Despite it’s US-centric view of the world, and slight obsession with reporting on Apple stories, it has been occasionally useful in alerting me to relevant IT and tech stories I might not otherwise have seen.

Recently they updated their newsletter format to a less cluttered layout with more white space and larger images. But in my view the new layout is fundamentally broken, and this is exemplified by the image below where I’m viewing a newsletter in my e-mail client.

CNET's new and worthless newsletter layout.

CNET’s new and worthless newsletter layout.

Assuming that the intent of a newsletter is to convey new, how is CNET doing? My monitor resolution is 1920×1200, giving me 2304000 pixels. And what does CNET do with those 2.3 million pixels? They show masses of empty white space, two meaningless, generic and over-large images, and just six words of actual news content! (Or only five words if you count ‘once-unthinkable’ as a single compound word.)

And those six (five) words don’t even convey what the story is about!

There’s room for improvement here – approximately 2.3 million pixels worth of room.

Unable to download podcast

I manage a podcast feed for my church, and recently had a problem where I was unable to download episodes using the iOS Podcast app on my iPhone.  The podcast would download OK on other Android devices, and it would stream on my iPhone if I tapped the play icon, but if I selected “Download Episode” then the download would appear to happen, but then at the end a message would pop up saying “Unable to download podcast”, with a “Retry” and a “Done” button.

Googling this problem shows that other people have experienced similar issues, but no amount of unsubscribing, deleting, restarting, rebooting, or switching to airplane mode would fix the problem.

In the end I discovered that the problem was due to a misconfiguration in the XML file for the podcast feed. In the <channel> section of the XML file there is an <itunes:image> tag where you can put the URL of an image. I discovered that this tag was pointing to an invalid URL, to a server that I had used several years ago. After setting the tag to a valid URL, and refreshing the feed in the iOS podcast app, I was able to download episodes.

 

Not much of a Jewel

LambtonIn Google Maps, if you search for a suburb name, as well as the map result the page will show a photo from the suburb, which presumably is auto-selected by the Google-fairy-bots according to some secret algorithm. Mostly this works. For example for “Lambton NSW” you get a nice photo of Lambton Park and the rotunda.

But search for “Jewells NSW” and you get … a burnt out car and assorted rubbish on a beach track. The Google-fairy-bots might need a bit of help on this one.

Jewells

NewJewellsUpdate 23 Jan 2016

Searching for Jewells now shows someone’s driveway. A step up from a burnt out wreck, but not exactly showcasing the suburb.