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 🙂

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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.  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 learned as he puts it…

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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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More blog comment spam

It’s amazing: I have been running this blog for a few months, and while there are a few visitors, I don’t think anyone has mertner.com/allan as their home page 🙂

The people who visit the site the most are… spammers! I have tried to keep up with these by implementing various increasingly aggressive anti-spam measures, and the latest one is that users now have to type in a random string of letters shown in a picture in order to comment on a post. Thanks to gudlyf for his authimage plugin!

This is really annoying: how many people actually visit the online poker or viagra-selling sites because of a comment posted in my blog? I guess that if it didn’t create at least a few hits, they wouldn’t do it – but it still boggles the mind. To put the issue in perspective, there are perhaps 20 “real” comments on this site that have been left over the past few months (thanks!). But the site also get between 5 and 50 spam-comments every day: a noise-to-signal ratio of 100:1 or so.

Until now, standard anti-spamming measures (keyword matching, etc) has worked reasonably well, but in the past few weeks, a new type of spam has arrived where this just doesn’t work. The new approach is for the spammer to leave an innocent message such as “Very nice site you have here: good work” – and then put a link to his viagra- or poker-selling home page as an IP address.

Sigh. I hope this new mechanism helps keep the comment area reasonably clean. The main problem is that it doesn’t work for the visually impaired or people using text-based browsers. Sorry – I don’t know what to do about that…

Shop at amazon.co.uk

In an effort to see what it’s all about, I have become an affiliate of amazon.co.uk 🙂 If you want to buy something from them, use this handy search box and I may get a kickback from them of – well, I don’t know yet, but probably 1% or so.

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In Association with Amazon.co.uk

If you don’t want to, and would rather give amazon the entire purchase price, that’s ok too! I’ll post another entry here in a few months and let you know if I’ve made anything 🙂

Prices in the UK

Why is it that the UK is so over-priced on virtually everything? Yes, there is 17.5% VAT (sales tax), but other places have both higher tax rates and lower prices. Then there is the issue of space: the population density in the UK is high and shop floor space is at a premium. Still, you’d think that an online shop could keep their costs down somehow.

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Choosing a wireless ADSL router

Two good online retailers have a nice selection of wireless ADSL routers:
* DSL warehouse
* Broadbandbuyer

Both ADSL Guide and Broadband stuff have reviews of many of these, which should make choosing one a relatively simple matter – certainly easier than choosing an ISP

For example, the NetGear DG834G router seems like a fine choice, particularly with the special offer that includes a USB adapter for wireless access from another machine. It costs just under £100 inc VAT for the bundle.

A cheaper option is the Linksys WAG54G, which at £78.90 inc VAT also gets a favourable review.

Choosing a broadband provider

Choosing a broadband provider for home use in the UK is not trivial, particularly if you want reasonable flexibility in bandwidth and connect a few PCs. Many providers allow just a single computer to be connected, or have low transfer limits of 1-2GB per month, which is easily used up when transferring photos, music or movies. The ISP should also include things like email addresses, email via POP and IMAP, etc.

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