eBook publisher insanity!

I just got myself an eBook reader – the new Sony PRS-300. Sony PRS-300

It’s a new device, and while it doesn’t have many gizmos and features it does have a great little screen that is pleasant for reading books. I read a lot of books, and my first thought when I got it in the post was to – you guessed it – buy a bunch of books for it ๐Ÿ™‚

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Define Word for Firefox 3.5

It is the same every time a new version of Firefox is released: plugin authors need to check whether their extensions work with the new version, and then create a new package that includes the flags to say it indeed works.

So far, so good. But the next step, after uploading the package to the add-ons site, isn’t working very well.

A few days after FF 3.5 was released, I uploaded Define Word 0.9.2, to make it easy to get it to work in the new browser version. Today, the extension is still not approved, and anyone that used the extension in the past have probably given up by now.

If you haven’t yet given up, feel free to download it from here. Eventually, you may even be able to get it from Mozilla, but don’t hold your breath ๐Ÿ™‚

Precentages are simple. No, really.

I think percentages are simple. Take 100%, for example: it means everything. And 0% means nothing. 50% is about half.

Per cent of course means “per hundred”, so 27% is just a short way of saying “27 per hundred”, or 27/100, or 0.27. Really, is that hard?

In Britain, it seems to be. Whenever there is a change in tax, it’s not “an decrease of 2%”, it is “an decrease of 2 pennies in the Pound”. The Lib Dems do it, the Torygraph does it, and even the Independent does it, even though it seems like an awkward, round-about and much too cumbersome way of saying something simple.

Today, I read an article about the Chrysler bankruptcy filing, where lots of percentages are thrown around, but this time using “20pc” to mean 20%. What is the idea with that? “pc” means “pieces”, I think, and I constantly read “20 pieces of silver” – most distracting, not to mention unnecessary.

Even Wikipedia’s article on percentages doesn’t mention either of those uses. I’d encourage them to go away – just use “percent”, or the fine sign with the same meaning, %. It’s clear, it’s unambiguous, and it’s really not hard.

Or am I missing something? Not having grown up in the UK, I may this moment be violating any number of cultural taboos, or trespassing on ground that is off-limits for some reason. Did the French use percentages in a particularly bad way, perhaps, or does the % symbol carry some hidden meaning of which I as a foreigner am unaware?

If that is the case, please do let me know. If not, well, then please use percentages: it’s what they are there for ๐Ÿ™‚

Can I have a blog, dad?

This was a question my son asked me yesterday, and in this internet-connected, twittering age of facebook and social networking, it’s probably a natural thing for someone to want a blog.

What I thinks is unusual is that Iain, who wants his own blog, is just 6 years old. ย Or am I wrong, and this is something that happens a lot?

Either way, let me share the short story of how we got to this amazing place, where a 6-year old who only just learned how to read wants to publish his own thoughts on the internet, so that others can Google what I have learnedย as he puts it…

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Spam Control now supports mailcatch.com

After around 6 months of thinking about it, Mozilla finally approved Spam Control as a publicly available extension.ย  Until now, it has languished is an unapproved extension that only logged-in users see – and has therefore has seen little attention.

Since it was made public around a week ago, more than 2,000 people have downloaded and installed Spam Control – and left several nice reviews.ย  I like that; it’s the kind of thing that makes me want to do more work on it ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the reviewers mentioned that mailcatch.com has a good service similar to temporary inbox – but since it’s newer, it’s less likely to be blocked or busy.ย  It does indeed look like a nice, free service, and v0.2.7 of Spam Control supports it.

Note that I find Spam Control most useful in conjunction with the awesome Secure Login extension.ย  I wouldn’t like to be without either of them.

Check them out.

Cheap backups that work!

I have decided to take a new approach to backing up my most precious, irreplaceable personal data. Things like my pictures, documents, drawings, source code, presentations, etc. If I lose this, I can’t get it back, ever, which makes backups particularly important…

The irreplaceable stuff needs to be backed up somewhere that will last for a long time, preferably in multiple locations, and ideally can survive it even if the house burns down. I used to back it up to CDs and DVDs, but the capacity is just too low and the hassle factor (including remembering to change disks) too high. Not to mention the fact that most CDs and DVDs will last for no more than 3-5 years before they start developing enough errors that they can be hard to read!

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Updated Spam Control

I have just finished a new version of Spam Control, v0.2.3, which includes the ability to hide categories of email addresses from the pop-up menu (leaving it as uncluttered as possible). This version also fixes a bug where the list of domain prefixes or suffixes is empty.

Download Spam Control 0.2.3 here.

If you like it, please make sure you go to the Firefox add-on page and add a review – that way, it may eventually make it out of private-beta-obscurity on the site and be shown to anyone looking for what it does. Until then, it can only be found by people like yourself who find my blog, or by users that bother to log in ๐Ÿ™‚


Mysterious outbound calls?

Every month when I receive my phone bill, it shows a mysterious call made to 08712005023. The number is marked as “SERVICES G7”, and with recent changes to how calls are charged, it costs me 14p for every one of these calls.

They are normally made at 23:50 each night, and I simply can’t figure out who makes them. Googling for the number finds nothing – except shortly it will find this post, so perhaps someone else with the same problem will find it and comment so we together can find the culprit.

I can only really think of 3 likely culprits:

  • Is it my Sky TV setup? The Sky box needs to be connected to the phone line in order to work, but Sky insists this isn’t their number. Hmm.
  • Is it my ADT alarm system? It calls the police if there is a burglary or fire and stuff, and of course is connected to the phone system too. I have spoken to roughly everyone in ADT, being passed from person to person, and nobody seems to think it relates to them. Hmm hmm.
  • Could it be an error from TalkTalk‘s side? They provide my phones, and they don’t want to rule it out – a technician even told me he’d seen something before and that it might be the case. In order to troubleshoot it, they want me to disconnect everything from the phone system and see if it still happens. But if I do that, I can’t watch TV, and my alarm gets really unhappy. I tried it anyway, and I’m none the wiser.

Directory inquiries can’t help either. I mean, hello: surely someone owns 0871 200 5023, which something in my house calls for 5-6 seconds every day, at around 23:50. And I get charged ยฃ4.20 per month for this – enough that it’s a bother. TalkTalk recently increased the minimum charge from 6p to 14p, so now it’s annoying enough that I want to do something about it.

I’ve even thought of changing to a different phone provider, just to eliminate TalkTalk as the cause. But that seems silly, and Sky charges 42.28p per minute for calls to mobile phones in Denmark; since my brother lives there and only has his iPhone, this is a no-no.

Any other suggestions? Does anyone else have this issue? It’s driving me crazy ๐Ÿ™‚