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This is probably not good news, huh?

Any error with BIOS in it scares me shitless. I got this message on boot about six weeks ago. After I click the continue button, I get one of those awful ARE YOU REALLY TOTALLY POSITIVE YOU WANT TO HIT THIS RECKLESS BUTTON, FOOL? messages and then it pretends to give me a firmware update.

I say pretends, because I got the message again a week ago and then I got it five times in a row this morning before it finally booted into Windows. This is at work, mind.

I know a little weasel who’s getting a new desktop computer.

First, I’m having our tame IT guy come have a look, though. If I get a new machine, it’s positively going to be Windows 11 and I don’t know if a machine can be ghosted from a Windows 10 to a Windows 11.

If not, I’m going to spend weeks tracking down and re-installing apps. Imagine the world’s smallest “yay!”

The other computer at work, which is much newer, ‘upgraded’ itself to 11 without asking. I can’t see anything new about except, as usual, they’ve moved all the buttons around to different locations.

Why they do this?

April 25, 2023 — 7:19 pm
Comments: 20

I don’t mean to brag…

I’m one of the Community Notes contributors on Twitter now. I mean sure, anyone can sign up, but it was ages before I got confirmation.

They claim they get a balanced set of opinions, which probably means Elon has sicced an AI on my posting history to decide if I add enrichment.

The irritating part is shooting down a bunch of notes I agree with because the tweet doesn’t need a damn note.

And alas, Spoony is gone for good this time. I looked through my old posts today and, my goodness, she got herself into a lot of scrapes. Up a tree, on the roof, in a hedge. She disappeared for more than 24 hours once and I was sure that was it. Turns out, she was in the kitchen the whole time, standing silently in the corner.

The strangest of all my chickens.

Sorry about this. I try not to post when I lose one. I hate to be a downer. Some days, Twitter feels like one long montage of dead dogs and cats.

April 12, 2023 — 6:29 pm
Comments: 5

thispersondoesnotexist does not exist

Well! Uncle B was combing through his old bookmarks (the browser equivalent of rearranging your sock drawer) and discovered that thispersondoesnotexist.com is gone. Or, rather, the URL was bought by Stability AI and redirects to their product.

Confirmed by Reddit r/TPDNE a month ago. Though they don’t seem to know the story.

Stability AI’s product is called Stable Diffusion and it does a similar job to TPDNE, among other things. You’ve probably seen some illustrations created with it.

They offer a free Photoshop plugin, which got me all excited, but it only works with Photoshop 23.5 or newer.

I think my version is 9. Poop.

Anyway, TPDNE was always good for a fascinating half hour. The faces it generated were scary good – for the most part. It had problems with glasses, earrings, other people in the shot.

People used it a lot for things like fake Twitter profiles. I wonder if that played a part in its demise.

Oh, thiscatdoesnotexist is gone, too. It sucked.

March 30, 2023 — 7:49 pm
Comments: 5

The future is soon, maybe

Lookee here. I asked Brave a question and I got an AI answer. And it’s right, too. I’m not sure that I buy all the wonderful things AI will do for us, though.

Microsoft’s Bing AI sounds like a lunatic. Arguing, insulting, gaslighting…even flirting.

ChatGPT is the soyest of wokesters. I’ve signed up to play with ChatGPT, but I’m having trouble getting myself properly registered. It’s an email thing.

Oh, that thing I was asking about? The Key? It was a really stupid VR freebie. Twenty minutes of dark but unimpressive imagery and the final reveal is – surprise, the main character is a refugee. Then the narrator reads a bunch of statistics about refugees while you stand in one place staring out the window of her former hovel. There were no decisions at all, that I remember, and the only difficulty was moving around because the controls were retarded.

I’ve come to the conclusion that free VR content is the way it is because creators can get government grants to make it.

March 2, 2023 — 7:41 pm
Comments: 4

How many fingers am I holding up?

The is AI, naturally. I don’t know why, but it really cannot work out fingers, teeth and how many legs a cat has got. (Pinched from Reddit, where I believe the key phrase was “The correct number of fingers”).

I spent an enjoyable hour browsing this Twitter account for funny AI generated images. It’s amazing what it can do, and what it can’t.

Then I spent another happy hour playing with the AI programs themselves. That is, until I uploaded a picture of myself. I AM NOT THAT OLD AND WRINKLY – thank you! – stupid computer program.

You can try it yourself on Craiyon or DeepAI or DreamAI. I’m sure there are many others. Just…be careful uploading a selfie.

February 8, 2023 — 8:28 pm
Comments: 5

For this one feature, and this one feature alone

Did I tell you guys I was elected secretary of the local art club? I’m very unhappy about it. It’s a tragic tale of blackmail, intrigue and very, very old ladies.

One of the things that came with it was a Mailchimp newsletter. I introduced that, actually – before me, it was all done on paper and mailed out. Endless envelope stuffing and mail merge.

Have you had the pleasure? I shouldn’t complain about a free version, but Mailchimp can be pretty clunky to work with.

One of the things I promised was a file version of the newsletter that can be printed or emailed. Turns out, that’s a whole lot harder than it sounds.

Warning: boring geekery to follow.

I thought I’d just print to pdf and be done. It never occurred to me that the printer driver would insist on breaking it into A4 pages. Okay, fine. But it also insists on printing all the various web dinguses and controls on the top of every page (even with “headers and footers” turned off) and cover some of the text with them.

That won’t do at all.

Things I have tried: finding a printer driver with a “continuous roll” paper option, “print to fit” on tabloid paper size and then snipping the sides off, every browser on my computer, various iterations of making Mailchimp print it for me.

In the end, I resorted to one of my oldest workarounds: Firefox. It’s been so long since I used it, I had to download a copy. It’s the only browser I’ve ever used that lets you right click on a frame and print just that frame.

I’m sorry. I know this is boring. I had to get it off my chest. Goodness knows I can’t describe it to the very, very old ladies.

January 16, 2023 — 8:08 pm
Comments: 7

That was boring. Here’s a picture of a stoat

I thought I’d stumbled over an interesting story today, but I traced it to the end and it was kind of boring. I’m going to tell it to you anyway.

We’ve been desperate for stuff to watch on TV over the holidays. The BBC has been dire. I haven’t watched any of the popular Netflix serieses (we have – ahem – access). I thought I’d check the reviews on Stranger Things (unrelated: have you watched it? Is it good? No spoilers, pls).

In the Wikipedia article, there was this curious statement: “Netflix did not initially reveal subscriber viewership numbers for their original series, and Symphony Technology Group compiled data for the season based on people using software on their phones that measures television viewing by detecting a program’s sound.”

Wait, what? Phones listening in on what people are watching? Symphony Technology Group is just an investment firm, why wouldn’t they name the actual app, unless it was some other sort of app that covertly snooped on people? Something interesting afoot!

Nope, not very. It was a real app with the sole purpose of tracking your TV habits and people signed up for it on purpose. In 2015, Symphony Advanced Media built an app called VideoPulse. They paid people $5 to $11 a month to let this thing listen in all the time (but not conversations, pinkie-swear).

I guess Nielsen doesn’t track streaming services effectively, and certainly not YouTube. It was a big gap in the data for people who rely on viewership figures. They got at least 15,000 to sign up.

VideoPulse learned some interesting stuff – like millenials aren’t really watching less TV as everyone thought, they’re just watching more YouTubes. Nobody was sure how good their numbers were, though, and they didn’t make money on it, so they dissolved in 2017.

On the other hand, if you follow @STOATBOT on Twitter, you get an adorable stoat in your feed every three hours.

December 27, 2022 — 7:38 pm
Comments: 10

Timeline of a scam

I received this email about eight yesterday morning to my work account. It’s obviously a scam, but it is a legitimate email coming from PayPal. Correct name, all the links check out. Hm.

First thing I did was search that phone number – it’s obviously the heart of the scam. Sure enough, the first person ever to go looking for that number was two hours earlier. He got exactly the same message, but with a different senders’s name.

Here is the lookup page. I’m the seventh commenter down. At that time, the number had been searched around twenty times.

As of now, the number has been looked up 338 and 42 people made remarks. The messages are kind of interesting. A couple of people called the number and played along (dangerous – there are numbers that automatically charge you a bunch of money when you connect to them). Some people called PayPal.

Oh, yes – I checked the work PayPal account and this message was in it, verbatim, with the proposed transaction. I cancelled it, natch.

Here’s what happened. Let’s say I’m your gardener and I do 5 hours of shitty, lazy gardening for you at £10 an hour. If I know your account address, PayPal has a function where I can send you a message that says, “hello, Yourname. Please send me £50 for my crappy product. Love, Stoaty.” Which seems a reasonable sort of function to have.

Unfortunately, the message can also say, “FRAUDULENT TRANSACTION FOUND IN YOUR ACCOUNT OF 890. 00 GBP, TO STOP OR CANCEL THIS AMOUNT CALL US IMMEDIATELY @ +44-800-058-4853 OR THE AMOUNT WILL BE DEBITED WITHIN 12 HOURS’ and there really isn’t a way for PayPal to tell the difference. They’re well aware of it now (they got an earful yesterday) but I’m not sure what they can do but get rid of that feature.

Oh, look – I’ve just received a less interesting phishing email that *almost* passed the smell test, but the “refund here” button links to something called rebrand.ly and stoaty@sweasel.com doesn’t have a PayPal. Nice try, assholes!

BTW, the correct reporting address is phishing@paypal.com.

November 29, 2022 — 4:57 pm
Comments: 8

I don’t mean to brag…

…but I got a thousand followers on Twitter now. And it only took 14 years, a change in ownership and firing half the staff.

Twitter does seem a little different. The big accounts say their numbers are galloping. Mine are slinking, but seldom moved at all before. Definitely not seen an uptick in ‘hateful’ language. Not as much stuff seems deboosted (hidden under a “click for more” button). And he says he hasn’t actually changed anything yet.

He did urge everyone to vote Republican tomorrow – for the perfectly libertarian reason of a divided government – but you can imagine how the blue-checks have reacted.

So far, none of the people who’ve said they are leaving have, in fact, deleted their accounts. The ones I’ve checked, anyway.

November 7, 2022 — 6:36 pm
Comments: 7

Wait for it…

I’ve been F5’ing it every few minutes. It’s going to happen.

Mood on Twitter is jubilant. People are shouting “learn to code!” and “transwomen are men!” It’s like the fall of the Berlin wall, except pointless and stupid.

I just passed Katie Hopkins in my timeline. Elon Musk has replied directly to Catturd. Oh, it’s pandemonium!

Exit question: what in the heck is a Castro nudist protestor?

Have a good weekend!

October 28, 2022 — 7:35 pm
Comments: 17