Category Archives: Tech

Tool review: Aeries for twitter


A bunch of years ago, I did some comparisons between popular twitter applications. My choice at the time was MetroTwit, which looked great and had lots of well-thought-out features. I eventually paid for the “Plus” version which removed all advertising and allowed you to deal with multiple twitter accounts.

But a few years ago, the guys who developed MetroTwit suddenly quit due to changes in Twitter’s policies on users. Luckily the app continued to work, but new features supported by twitter were not integrated into the application. So when Twitter started removing links and user account names from the 140 limit, MetroTwit tried to handle it as best it could but sometimes I had to go directly to the Twitter web site to see the full text of a tweet or continue a conversation. It would also notify me of mentions but sometimes I didn’t get notified of retweets. None of these problems was a big deal and I continued to use MetroTwit.

But recently, Twitter expanded the tweet length to 280 characters from 140, and now a much larger percentage of the tweets I see in MetroTwit are truncated with a link to the web site to see the rest. This has made the app basically unusable, so I need a replacement. Using the twitter web page directly isn’t as bad as it used to be, but being able to split the timeline into columns is invaluable so I really need an app.

After some googling, I came across one called Aeries, described simply as “the best Twitter client for Windows”. One of the first drawbacks of this app is the lack of any trial software, meaning that in order to see what it’s like you have to buy it. It’s $3 or something, so not a big deal, but it would have been nice to try it out first.

One of Aries’s features is the ability to customize how it looks – font size, image size, colours, stuff like that. But it seems to me that basic functionality was skipped while they worked on customization.

Pros

  • It does look great and the ability to customize font and image sizes and such is very nice. I just don’t think that should come at the expense of basic functionality.
  • When you leave the app running for a while, or minimize it, it keeps each column (roughly) where it was when you last looked, and updates the unread count for each one as new tweets arrive. You can then scroll up to see new stuff and the unread count drops as you see new stuff.

Cons

  • No autocomplete of twitter handles. This should be an absolute requirement of any twitter app.
  • The app crashes every time I switch users
  • Cannot re-order columns. There’s an up/down arrow icon in the setup page but clicking on it or grabbing and dragging it does nothing.
  • You can have a column containing all of your lists (with a small menu at the top for switching between them) but not just one column with a single list
  • You change the contents of columns and add and remove them, but you have to restart the app to see the changes
  • There’s a way to see all the tweets that I’ve liked but no way to be notified when someone likes my tweets
  • The columns are all the same width and cannot be resized
  • There are no tooltips on any buttons. Some are obvious but others aren’t and there’s no way to find out what one does without clicking on it
  • It doesn’t yet handle display or posting >140 character tweets. This is not a big deal (yet) since that ability is very new. But it better show up within a week or two (Update: two weeks later, still nothing.)
  • Clicking a link in a tweet does nothing
  • I have one column with all my lists. In the menu bar thing on the left, each list is shown with an unread count. But each list shows the unread count for the list being displayed, so they all have the same number.
  • Retweets may show up in two columns (i.e. “Home” and a list), but they sometimes look different. If the original tweet had an image, sometimes you see it, sometimes not, or they may be displayed differently.
  • No way I could find to check for updates to the app.
  • I tweeted a couple of questions to @AeriesWindows and got no response.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I originally downloaded Aeries and I have since gone back to the “unusable” MetroTwit. Long tweets are not directly supported, but they show up truncated with a link to twitter.com. Some of them I just ignore, but for others I click on the link and read it on the twitter web site. Other than one check this morning to see if it had updated with 280-character support (nope), I haven’t even launched the Aeries app in a week. Meanwhile the Aeries team has my money.

Advertisements

Phone reviews: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. HTC Sensation


I recently upgraded my phone from the HTC Sensation I’ve had for three years to a new Samsung Galaxy S4. To say I’m pleased with my new phone is the understatement to end all understatements. Of course comparing the two phones directly is not really fair – we’re comparing new technology in the S4 (actually not that new; the phone was released over a year ago, but it’s new-to-me technology) against a phone that’s well over three years old. In the cell phone industry, three years is a lifetime.

The old phone had a dual-core processor; the new one has a quad-core. It also has more than twice the memory (2 GB vs. 768 MB) and an amazing eight times the storage space. The HTC had 4 GB with 1 GB available while the Samsung has 16GB with 8GB available. This is good since I was to the point of removing one app in order to have enough space to install a new one. The camera is an unbelievable 13 MP (only 8 MP on the HTC) and the front-facing camera is 2 MB while the HTC front camera is a pathetic 0.3 MP. Yay, better selfies! Oh wait, I never take selfies.

Samsung Galaxy S4

And the battery! Holy crap, the battery. I have yet to see the battery drop below about 45% charge, even if I’m twittering and facebooking and cameraing and even watching streaming video. I haven’t tried the GPS (i.e. driving directions), but I know that really sucked the battery dry on my old phone. I do charge it overnight every night but I did that with the HTC as well and if I was using it a lot and not being careful, it’d be dead by dinner.

It turns out that taking a picture of your phone with your phone is a challenge, and I couldn’t take one with my old phone because I moved the SD card to the new phone, so I found a picture online. This is probably a better picture anyway. And yes, I did get the red one though I have a black case.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy with my HTC phone. It was my first smartphone, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, but it did pretty much everything I wanted it to. It did have its problems, which either weren’t there or I didn’t notice for the first year or two. Google search was really slow – if I entered something in the search box, it took at least 20-30 seconds before the search results came up, and I don’t think it was the search itself that took so long. The 3G network would sometimes just drop and not reconnect. I’d disable the mobile data entirely and then re-enable it and that frequently worked, but other times a reboot was necessary. Very occasionally I had to take the back off and remove the battery for a few seconds. I must have rebooted the phone at least once or twice a week just to try to speed it up.

I had no real problems with phone part of the HTC. It didn’t drop calls often, the call quality was fine, I could bring up the keypad easily while talking, and I could put the caller on speaker and check email or whatever at the same time (though I think I did that twice in three years). But the call quality on the Samsung is great. I was at Nicky’s soccer game the other day and Gail called me. It was quite windy but despite not doing anything to block the wind, I could clearly hear her and she could clearly hear me. I asked her if the wind was a problem and she didn’t even hear it.

Both phones have an “auto-brightness” feature, where the phone adjusts the brightness of the display based on how bright it is where you are. I enabled this on the HTC but it didn’t work very well and I had to continually turn the brightness up manually until I ended up turning the auto thing off and leaving it on full 24/7. That probably didn’t help the battery life. The Samsung auto-brightness thing is outstanding, and the screen is really clear. It’s a bit bigger (5 inch display vs. 4.3 inch), so that helps too.

One thing that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE is the slidey keyboard. It’s not actually a Samsung thing at all, it’s an app called SwiftKey. Rather than typing each character individually, you put your finger down on the first letter of the word, then just slide it to the second, third, fourth, etc. until you’ve entered the entire word. Not only is that much faster than typing the word, but the word prediction and auto-correct is excellent. It turns out that this app actually was available on my old phone, though I didn’t know it. I never got good at dual-thumb typing on my HTC, I always stuck to the right index finger so it wasn’t terribly fast. With SwiftKey, I still stick to the one finger but it’s much faster.

The only thing that I prefer with the HTC is the lock screen. I had to swipe and then enter the PIN to unlock the device. But if the device had been locked for a short time (under a minute I think), you didn’t have to enter the PIN again, just swipe. The new lock screen doesn’t require the swipe, just the PIN so whether I locked it 5 seconds or 12 hours ago, I still have to enter the PIN. Slightly inconvenient if I lock the device and then remember that I needed to do something else right away.

Oh no, wait, there’s one other thing I don’t like about the Samsung. When dialing the phone, it has a setting for whether hitting the number buttons makes a sound, but there’s no way (I can find) to change what the sound is. I don’t like the “drip” sound it makes but I can’t figure out how to change it. But I think I’ll survive.

Maybe once I’ve had this phone for a few years I’ll decide it has problems too, and then the next new phone I get (with 8 processors, 32 GB of RAM and a terabyte of storage) will be awesome compared to this thing. But for now, I’m very happy with this thing.

I am Two-Face to Maynard James Keenan’s Joker


Last week, I bought a few music CDs. Like, CDs with music already on them. And not MP3s. I know, totally old school, but I’m an old school kind of guy. Anyway, a couple of them were from a band called A Perfect Circle which features Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of Tool. I had never heard any music by this band, but I like Tool and Keenan has a distinctive and strong voice so I took a chance. But the band isn’t what this is about.

A Perfect Circle - Thirteenth StepThe CDs I got were their first and second albums Mer de Noms and Thirteenth Step. On the back of the Thirteenth Step CD case, it says “Copy Controlled”, which I assumed was some technology to prevent people from making copies of the disk. It never occurred to me that this would prevent the tracks on the disk from being ripped by programs like iTunes, because everyone uses iTunes or Windows Media Player or something like that, right? I mean, considering the number of iPods and other MP3 players out there (recent surveys say there are approximately 4.23 gazillion of them), no record company in their right mind would knowingly put technology on an audio CD that prevented it from being imported into iTunes. Would they? Yes. Yes, they would.

(Note that I’m giving the record companies the benefit of the doubt here. It’s possible that they’ve done this so that people who wanted MP3 copies would be forced to buy the album twice. I’m going to assume that the copy protection is there solely to prevent piracy and not as a way to rip off consumers.)

Neither iTunes nor Windows Media Player can read the disk at all. I can’t even play the disk on my computer. So now I have an audio CD that I legally own and yet I cannot listen to it on my computer or iPod. If I’m in the car, I could use the CD there (if it works on that player), but that means either leaving it in the car all the time or deciding in advance what music I’m going to listen to when driving. That’s a pain, and avoiding that is the reason I bought an iPod in the first place. I sometimes listen to music at work through my iPod, but this album would be unavailable. The other A Perfect Circle album rips and plays fine. Keenan’s voice is obviously a big part of it, but the songs are shorter than Tool, and a little more mainstream. There is far less ambient stuff – one of the songs on Undertow (a Tool album I also bought) (and successfully ripped) contains almost ten minutes of near-silence. But the band isn’t what this is about.

So what are my alternatives? I’ve searched the internet and have found some instructions on how to rip such CDs, so I may try one of those. I could just buy the album digitally, but that means paying for it twice and since I haven’t even been able to listen to it yet, I’m a little reluctant to pay again. But there’s another alternative.

I could steal it.

Music pirate

I could probably search the internet and find an illegal copy of the album someplace and download it in ten minutes. Make no mistake, I realize that this is theft, but I already paid for the album, so the band / record company is not really losing out on anything if I download it. At least, I could use that logic to justify it to myself. But I’m not a music pirate.

I work in the software industry. The software package I work on is not a huge piracy target, but the concept is clear – people downloading SQL Anywhere and not paying for it are stealing from my company. Similarly, downloading A Perfect Circle would be stealing from the record company and, indirectly, the band members themselves.

I’m also a little gun-shy. A few years ago, I downloaded some torrents of TV shows (just episodes I missed of CSI or something from network TV, not PPV or anything), and I got an email from my ISP saying “we’ve been told that you’re downloading copyrighted material. You’d better stop.” I did stop, and so if I decide to look for A Perfect Circle’s album online, I’m a little concerned that I’ll get caught and they’ll cut off my internet.

So integrity and fear means that I probably won’t steal it. If the methods I’ve found of ripping the CD don’t work, I’ll probably just buy the damn thing online. I’ll grumble and I’ll complain, but I’ll fork over the $10. And I’ll probably buy their third album as well. But the thought of downloading a pirated copy of the album did cross my mind, and not just for a few seconds. I seriously considered it.

The record industry is trying to prevent piracy, but the method they’ve chosen (this type of copy protection) is making a non-pirate like me consider stealing the album. They have taken a law-abiding citizen who is against piracy and turned him into a potential criminal.

Talk about unintended consequences.

My first business trip: Elizabethtown, PA


I have loved programming computers since I wrote my first program on my Commodore VIC-20 back in grade 9 (that would be 1982 – damn I’m old). I also got pretty good at it, which explains why I’m still doing it over 30 years later. Being a programmer has had many rewards for me over the years, and one of the perks (before Sybase/SAP, anyway) was travel. I worked for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington for four months on my last university co-op work term, and flew out there again a few months later for grad interviews. While working for Corel, I went to New York City for a day. I was only at Comnetix for three years, but while I was there I went to Boston countless times (roughly once a month for those three years, sometimes for weeks at a time), Washington DC, New York City (again, for a day), Ottawa, San Francisco twice, Naples Florida, and I would have gone to Spain for a project if I hadn’t already had a vacation booked at the time. In my sixteen years at Sybase, I’ve only been on three business trips, all to Baltimore, but now that I have a family, I’m fine with that.

But my very first programming-related trip was to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Now I know the programmers among you are wondering “Damn, Graeme, how did you score that?” This is a place that I would wager very few of you have ventured. And if you actually used the term score, you have definitely never been.*

When I was in grade 12 (this would be the spring of 1986), a few of us were asked by our computer science teacher Miss Gray if we wanted to participate in a programming contest run by the American Computer Science League. We would be given a few questions, and we’d have a limited amount of time to write programs to answer the questions. This sounded like fun, so we entered and did really well – well enough to garner a trip to the finals. And not just the Canadian finals, this was for high school students across Canada and the US. (Actually, another guy that went, Faisal, reminded me that we didn’t actually make the finals, but some other team wasn’t able to make the trip so we took their place.) The finals were held in, you guessed it, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Five of us were chosen to go: me, Faisal, Glen M., Glen F., and Paul. Miss Gray and our school principal Mr. Peleschak came too.

Mr. Peleschak was an interesting guy. He was the principal of the school for our entire five years there. He was an older gentleman, very friendly, almost grandfatherly. He had a full grey beard and always wore a smile. Back in the politically incorrect past, every school day began with a recording of O Canada followed by the Lord’s Prayer. (I remember being a defiant atheist and not bowing my head during the prayer. I was such a rebel.) There were numerous different recordings of the Lord’s Prayer, all done by Mr. Peleschak himself, and all different in some way. For example, in some he said “forgive us our trespasses”, others had “forgive us our sins”, and still others had “forgive us our debts”. His various forms of prayer earned him the nickname “The Pope”. Note that this was not a Catholic school.

We all drove down in Mr. Peleschak’s van, and I think I remember more about the trip down and back than the contest itself. iPods were still 15 years away, so a few of us brought tapes and Walkmans (Walkmen?) to listen to music. Mr. Peleschak said he would put our tapes in the van’s tape player so we could all listen, but we’d have to alternate – one of our tapes, then one of his. This was OK with us, except that all of his were John Denver. I wasn’t much of a John Denver fan at the time and after that trip, I’m still not. But I don’t think Mr. Peleschak was much of a Triumph or Van Halen fan, so I guess we were all even. Mr. Peleschak also smoked a pipe, so now and again the van was filled with pipe smoke (though I believe he opened a window when he lit it). Certainly by the end of the drive I was sick of the smell, but I did have to admit it was better than cigar or cigarette smoke.

The contest was being held at Elizabethtown College, and all the competitors stayed in residences there. Faisal and I were in one room (foreshadowing our time at the University of Waterloo, when we were roommates or housemates for almost four years), the two Glens were in another, and Paul was the lucky one who got to bunk with Mr. Peleschak. Miss Gray got her own room. I have no memory of what we did for food, or even how many nights we were there. Everyone got a welcome package, though the only thing I remember it including was a baby blue frisbee with “American Computer Science League” on it. Outside the residence where we were staying was a large open area. I don’t remember if it was a football field or just a big green space but much of the time we were there, there were blue frisbees flying all over the place. Twenty-seven years later, I still have mine (pictured above). The words have faded a little, but it’s still functional. It takes a lot to break a frisbee, when you think about it.

The contest itself was a complete disaster for our team. Each team could request the types of computers they needed, and we asked for Commodore PETs, which were the computers we were using at school. When we arrived, we found that they had provided us with the right machines though an older model. But the problem was that they had a different language installed. The machines shipped with a version of the BASIC language, but our school computers were using Waterloo Structured BASIC**, which was BASIC with extra stuff added. We were forced to adapt to using regular BASIC, and while not a huge disadvantage, it was certainly frustrating and distracting. I don’t remember where we finished exactly, but I have a feeling we might have had full solutions for one or maybe two of the five questions, and partial solutions for the rest. And I think “partial solution” is pretty generous. In short, we got smoked.

The way home should have been memorable, since we stopped at Hersheypark in nearby Hershey for a day of fun. But the only thing I remember about that part of the trip were the street lights in town (shaped like Hershey Kisses) and the fact that many of the street names were chocolate-related. I have no memories of the park itself, though apparently we played mini-golf, since Miss Gray wrote something in my grade 12 yearbook about that.

About a year and a half after this contest, I began my studies at the University of Waterloo, though I didn’t choose computer science as a major until second year. I guess my next computer-related trip was to Seattle in 1991 to work at Microsoft. That trip was pretty memorable as well, but you always remember your first.


* – That was just a joke, really. I have no negative memories of Elizabethtown itself, though we made fun of the place while we were there because it was so small. We lived in a town of about 50,000 just outside of Toronto, a city of 4 million. Elizabethtown had a few thousand people and wasn’t close to anything big. At one point we saw three people walking together and Faisal said “hey look, an Elizabethtown gang!”

** – This ended up being an interesting coincidence years later. Waterloo Structured Basic was developed by a company called Waterloo Computing Systems, which later renamed itself WATCOM. In 1994, WATCOM was acquired by Powersoft, and a year later Powersoft was acquired by Sybase. I started working for Sybase, in the same office where WATCOM was located and with many of the same people, in 1997. We’ve moved buildings but I’m still there, and some of the people who were on the languages team in the ’80s are also still there though many have moved on and some have retired.

Facebook advertising


This is hardly a revelation but ads on Facebook are targeted, which means that Facebook looks over your profile and shows you ads that it thinks you’ll be interested in. For the most part, it does a pretty decent job. I’ve seen ads for Rush and the Tragically Hip, both of which I like. I even once clicked on an ad for a musician that I had never heard of because the ad said he was similar to Dream Theater, which I also like. I’ve seen ads for programming jobs (I’m a programmer), guitar lessons (I play guitar – sort of), books that are along the lines of what I might read, and games that I might play if I were into video games at all.

The other day I saw an ad for a golf video game and another for golf equipment (I like golf), another about Blackberry tips (I’m an Android guy myself, but given my technical job and interests this is a good guess), one that said “Western graduate?” (yup), and another that said “Star Trek fan?” (yup) – all on the same page at the same time. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the ad selection.

I’ve even seen ads for lacrosse-related things. You may or may not be aware of my interest in lacrosse.

FacebookAd2

Just the other day, I posted a status about my garage door spring having died. A day later, I saw an ad for a company that services garage doors in my area. Neither Home Depot (where we bought the door) nor Rona service garage doors, so seeing this ad was perfectly timely. I gave the guy a call and he came out on Saturday to give me a quote. Thanks Facebook.

FacebookAd5

But it doesn’t always work. I frequently see ads for “Find Mature Love – for Singles over 40”. My status is clearly “married”, so I’m not sure why it decides to show me that. I wonder if it takes into account the fact that my wife is not on Facebook.

Some of the ads are premium and show up regardless of whether they match anything in your profile, like these ones from a group that tries to get pardons for convicted criminals. I’m OK with this idea in general – if someone commits a crime, pays his or her debt to society, and is unlikely to re-offend, in certain cases granting a pardon may be reasonable. But the advertising people in this group may want to re-think the pictures they choose. I know this is totally judging a book by its cover, but I’m not sure I want these scary-looking people who have already committed crimes walking the streets:

pardonsFacebookAdFacebookAd4

I found it interesting that each of the ads (captured at different times) has a different “deadline”. I’m not saying these deadlines are all meaningless and fake, but… oh wait, yes I am.

Many people complain about advertising on the web, but we all know that Facebook and Google and Microsoft and all these other companies aren’t providing all of these services for free just because they’re nice people. They’re in it to make money. They can do it in a number of ways but the easiest two are (a) sell advertising, and (b) charge users to use their services. Most companies choose (a) because if you charge people directly to use your services, your services better be useful, reliable, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and popular, not to mention either unique (i.e. nobody else offers such a service) or the best available, otherwise who’s gonna pay for it? But lots of people will use a web site that’s free, even if it isn’t the absolute best available. And having to sign into your account in order to do things like web searches is a pain (to say nothing of privacy concerns) so people won’t do it.

But the only way a company is going to allow you to do stuff for free is if someone else is paying for it. You don’t pay to listen to the radio, do you? Nope, because there are advertisers. TV used to work the same way, but now you pay the cable and satellite companies. Technically, they’ll tell you you’re paying for the delivery mechanism and not the TV content, so I guess it kinda still does work the same way. But anyway, if some advertising is what lets me use gmail and blogger and google and twitter and facebook and the majority of the rest of the web for free, I’m OK with that. As much as I like facebook, I’m not going to pay for it.

Yahoo decides this mobile thing is a fad


According to All Things D, Yahoo has made a change to their company policy on working remotely. The new policy is, in a nutshell, don’t. Employees who currently work remotely will have to either move so they can work in a Yahoo office or resign. This seems to apply to workers who work 100% remotely as well as those who work from home one or two days a week. Does Yahoo really not understand mobile yet? The entire point of the mobile industry is to allow people to do stuff wherever they happen to be – you don’t have to go to your bank to do your banking. You can shop without going to a store. You can send email, surf the web, watch TV and movies, and listen to whatever music you want from anywhere. But Yahoo employees must be physically located in their offices in order to be productive? Really?

The reasoning Yahoo has given for making this decision makes little sense: they had lots of people who worked remotely and weren’t productive. So instead of firing the unproductive workers or making them come into the office, they decide to punish all of the productive remote workers as well.

Many tech companies talk about hiring the brightest and the best. Google is notorious for their hiring conservatism; they’d much rather pass on someone good than hire someone who turns out to be a bad fit. Yahoo is obviously not concerned with this. It sounds like they’d rather hire someone who lives physically close to a Yahoo office (or is willing to move) than someone awesome who doesn’t (and isn’t). Maybe they have great people up the wazoo and have decided they can afford to lose some of them, which they will. Maybe this is a cheap way of getting rid of some employees without having to pay them severance. That strategy would only work if the remote employees are the ones you want to get rid of and you don’t mind having some that you’d rather keep quit.

I work from home at least once a week (and more if there’s nasty weather), and have for ten years. Even though I don’t work for Yahoo, I take it personally when I read stuff like “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”. I obviously can’t speak for everyone who works at home, but it’s quite the contrary for me. I frequently get a fair bit done at home – at least partially to avoid this very stereotype. If my manager decides that I don’t get as much done at home as in the office, he may decide to revoke this privilege, and that’s a privilege I greatly appreciate and don’t take for granted. I certainly have the occasional work at home day where I don’t get much done, but I also have the occasional work in the office day where I don’t get much done. I also have days both at home and in the office where I’m very productive. And this is all ignoring the fact that I work at least two hours longer when I work at home since I’m not driving to Waterloo and back.

I’ve done work in a number of different rooms in my house. I’ve brought my laptop and gotten work done in mechanic’s waiting rooms, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, hotel rooms, friends’ houses, my parents’ and in-laws’ places up north, and even a couple of Tim Horton’s. Every SAP employee worldwide is given a laptop so that they can work remotely if necessary. If I worked for Yahoo, their company policy would ensure that none of that would ever happen again.

Dear SAP/Sybase: I’d advise against this strategy. The goodwill that you’d lose from your employees would vastly outweigh any potential (and purely theoretical) productivity gains. Not only does it limit the people you can hire in the future, but I know of a few people who’d likely quit. In fact, I know of one brilliant engineer who you’d lose because he lives far away from the office and works from home a lot. And trust me, you really don’t want to lose this guy.

Yes, that’s right – you’d lose Ivan. Oh, and I’d probably be outta there too.

Disclaimer: I am not speaking for Ivan, nor am I making any kind of ultimatum to SAP/Sybase. Just saying that I disagree with this policy.

Dumbest spam ever


I received a spam email this morning with the subject “Summary of junk emails blocked – 1 Junk Emails Blocked”. It was ironically intended to look like a report from some kind of spam filter saying that an email was blocked. There were a number of links on the page for how to manage lists or configure your settings for this non-existent application. I knew it was spam because (a) it didn’t mention what spam application or web site it was using (I’d expect that in big letters across the top), (b) I have never signed up for any such service, (c) my company used to have a similar service but stopped it a few years ago (and this wasn’t it), and (d) the email was sent to an old email address of mine that I no longer use but still works.

But the real giveaway that this was fake was that all of the links in the email go to the address 192.168.0.22:10080. Any address beginning with 192.168 is what’s known as a private address, which means that it’s a special address that’s only accessible from another machine on the same network. By “network” I don’t mean the Internet, I mean, basically, the collection of computers connected to your local router. My machine currently has the IP address 192.168.0.108. Posting your IP address on the internet for all to see might be considered a security risk, but there is no security problem with posting private addresses because unless you are connected to my network, you can’t get there. Not because I’m clever and have set up fancy rules or anything, just because that’s the way TCP/IP addressing works.

So if I were to click on a link in this spam email, first of all you’d have my permission to come to my house and smack me upside the head. Secondly, nothing bad would happen in this case, because for it to work, there would have to be a machine inside my network with that address, with an HTTP server listening on non-standard port 10080. The odds of there being a machine on my network that just happens to have that IP address and just happens to have an HTTP server listening on that port and just happens to have evil software running on it are beyond remote. The only other possibility is that some hacker has already penetrated my network, set up a machine with that IP address and an HTTP server complete with malware, and then sent me a spam email to get me to visit that machine. This is unlikely as well – you’ve already broken in, why bother with the spam? This is like breaking into a bank in the middle of the night, then calling a bank employee from the inside, and while pretending to be the bank manager, asking him to unlock the front door. You don’t need the front door unlocked, you’re already inside.

dumbpeople

The most likely scenario is that the people who created the spam email are idiots. They set up a server on the internet that they wanted you to connect to (that had malware or whatever on it). Since they set up the server in the first place, it’s likely on their local network and the way they connect to it is through the 192.168 address. That’s not the way the rest of the world would get to it, but they didn’t know that. The result is that they have sent out this spam email (and likely paid to do it) and will never get any hits, even from people who do foolishly click on the links.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.