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Injury-Remedy Marketing

Cowboy hat
Beware of the ‘marketing cowboys’

MARKETING can be a rather sick ‘science’. The story that I present here should hopefully illustrate this. The other day, after I had played my 3rd game of squash in this year’s competition, I got a free running technique (or stride) examination. This was conduced with a laptop (runs Winders, quite sadly) and a video camera.

Needless to mention, the intent was to sell me corrective footware by suggesting there will be horrible consequences without it. It’s the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) method to marketing some medicine or other remedies. Say to someone “there is problem with you”, then offer the cure. Moreover, part of the techniue is put the elixir close to one’s reach using, e.g. some leaflet. Some would argue this explains the separation between a doctor (who can’t/won’t directly sell) and the pharmacy where nothing is being prescribed. It’s like a self-supervising/moderating system; a peer-review framework if you like, and one which involves more than one person or practice.

Insurance companies like to take advantage of this sleazy marketing approach. I can recall a funny robots clip which aired on Saturday Night Live. In the video, robots are said to steal seniors’ pills and terrorise them. In turn, naive citizens are advised to buy insurance that covers no concrete threat. Greedy companies essentially cash in on ignorance.

Returning to my story which demonstates this case, I was advised to change sneakers every x miles (3-4 months). I was offered ‘special’ shoes that would suit me and was even pointed towards a shop that is run by the examiners. Being a computer-oriented person, I could not help thinking of ‘waste culture’ in this context, much like Vista’s steep hardware requirements. There’s also that old advice which says businesses should throw away malware-infected workstation. Go figure… or come to think of Live OneCare, which is a security product which Microsoft sells in order to protect its already-broken product.

I thank the folks who did the test for teaching me a lesson about myself (as useless as it was), as well as the (sort of) self-branded gift and leaflet. However, I am unlikely to fall for that marketing trap. As a child I saw my parent almost falling victim the the highly prevalent vacuum cleaner salesman tactic — reveal a lot of filth, spend many hours working without pay, then offer a pricey electronic appliance. I can’t recall if it was a Hoover or a Dyson.

Novell is SCO 2.0?

Technocrat, which is the Web site where Bruce Perens initially (and correctly) predicted Microsoft’s yet-to-come ‘FUD campaign’, is reporting, through Bruce himself, that the “strong feeling on this issue seems to be very widespread”. Over 2000 people have signed his Open Letter. Meanwhile, ComputerWorld has just published an article titled “Microsoft and Novell pull a SCO”. Below lies a snippet.

The shape of this agreement suggests that Microsoft and Novell have learned from the best, the corporate strategic masterminds at The SCO Group. The scheme there, which you may recall Microsoft championed early and loudly, was to declare that Linux incorporated source code protected by SCO Group copyrights. This declaration gave SCO the power to send out threatening letters to software vendors and customers. The letters said, in essence, that the lucky recipient could pay SCO a license fee now, or risk having its name added to the big list of defendants in its case and pay far more.

As mentioned previously, this type of comparison is intended to stir up strong feelings and reactions. This may be an overstatement that instills fear, if not a case of ‘trolling’ for traffic, so you are advised take it with a grain of salt.

Google Earth Gains Fourth Dimension

Google Earth
Click to enlarge the image

Google Earth/Maps finally go back further into history. That’s right. There’s a notion of time now, according to various press releases.

Google added historic map overlays to its free interactive online globe of the world to provide views of how places have changed with time.

How long will it be before their rivals imitate (or ‘innovate’, as they call it)? To be fair, it’s all about data gathering, so there is no genuine thinking involved.

Memory Aid for the Obsessed

Palm userThe CNN ran an article on some mind-boggling research. It addresses the obsession with capturing memories digitally. These things are, in my opinion, close to being pointless because too much information can/must be captured, e.g. sound, video, 3-D models, etc. The list is endless and the information cannot be conveyed and processed by one’s mind unless one lives in the past and reminisces in ‘slow motion’. I suppose it would be a nice way of remembering vacations, but for an indexable mind and knowledgebase, it’s just too big a task.

This particular research project is backed and run by Microsoft. If it ever becomes a reality, let us hope they will be careful with names. Zune is pronounced the same way as “a shag” in Hebrew (yes, the bad meaning; very vulgar) while Vista, at least in Malta, appears to mean “a whore” (or something along these lines, if I recall correctly).

Worth reading: an unrelated article with a Mac-slant, which discusses expansion through bundling of software.

Updating One’s Resume

LAST month I discussed the need to generalise and open one’s own resume, as means of being fit for more jobs, as well as never be bound to one commercial product or vendor. This led me to have a quick look at my personal pages which I wrote several years ago. As the footers indicate, the introduction and CV page are well out-of-date. I have not bothered to get them updated for years, but I still maintain my real (full length) CV, which is not public anymore. It’s usually out-of-date as well, for the reasons I describe below.

I write down ‘patches’ on my PDA whenever an suitable addition is pending, for the CV or other documents that I maintain for some purpose (all written in LATEX). The extended CV, adjoined with a personal lift journal that I retain, is already approaching 100 pages in length. As my mind has a limited capacity for remembering past events and achievements (sometimes reusable, e.g. for other formal and much-required documents), over the years I decided to write them down whenever they cropped up in my mind. So that’s how the idea of accumulating ‘patches’ to documents (notably the CV) was born. Writing text can be assimilated to the model of writing code.

The First Linux Distribution


The old ManLUG Web site

The Linux Distro Timeline is a nice little project which visualises connections between the different Linux distributions as a function of time (there is also a Linux mindmap). In any event, it led me to exploring Wikipedia, which supports the argument that the first GNU/Linux distribution was developed right here where I work. Below is a snippet, extracted from some prophetic words from Owen LeBlanc.

There are now two free Unix operating systems available for PCs: Linux and 386BSD.

Linux is the more mature system, now available in it fifth public test version, 0.95a. The system requires a 386 or above, with or without a co-processor, with a minimum of 2 Mbytes of memory, and with at least 4 Mbytes recommended. The source for the operating system requires about 0.5 Mbytes, and binaries currently available (about 250 commands) require 8 to 10 additional Mbytes, although, of course, you may delete unwanted bits, or add further programs. With swap space, this means a minimum of about 20 Mbytes of hard disk space. …

Reliable Backup Mechanism

Data Recovery - presentation

T ODAY I would like to explain, in a relatively shallow level of depth, my most basic backup routines. I will concentrate on a somewhat simplified perspective and that which involves my current backup approach for local files, as opposed to the Web. The method is largely automated, owing to cron jobs (scheduler-driven). More details and method were described in older blog items. For example, have a cursory look at:

At present, I continue to seek and stick to a robust backup mechanism that is rather immune to human error, as well as hardware failures. I take the ‘stacked backup’ approach (keep several cumulative/progressive backups) and I always remain paranoid, as to be on the ‘safe side’ of things. I fear (and maybe even loathe) situations where I might lose data as this costs a lot of time and can even lead to considerable emotional pain, especially in the case of irreversible loss. As a result, I have scripted all my backup routines. I can just set it all up and thereafter forget about it, so frequency of backups can be increased without extra cost (time). I would like to share a few commands that I use in this blog post, for whatever it’s worth. Here are bits referenced from the crontab file, as well as some corresponding and related scripts.

First of all, here is a command which takes all the settings files (beginning with a dot) and puts them on the external storage media, datestamped. It’s possible to go further and compress (e.g. using gzip), but it makes the entire process much slower.

tar -cf /media/SEA_DISK/Home/Home-Settings/home-settings`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tar ~/.[0-z]*

Here is a simple way of preparing a datestamp-named directory.

mkdir /media/SEA_DISK/Home/`date +%Y-%m-%d`

I then take all files to be backed up, slicing them into volumes of 1 gigabyte (the filesystem will not accept files that exceed 4 gigabytes in size).

tar -cf - /home/roy/Main/BU|split -b 1000m - /media/SEA_DISK/Home/`date +%Y-%m-%d`/Baine-`date +%Y-%m-%d`.tar

Lastly, important files that change frequently are copied without any compression.

cp -r /home/roy/Desktop/ /home/roy/.kde/share/apps/kpilot /home/roy/Main/MyMemos
/home/roy/Main/kpilot-syslog.html /media/SEA_DISK/Home/Misc_local #local

I prefer to send copies of these files off-site as well, just for the sake of redundancy.

konsole -e rsync -r /home/roy/Desktop /home/roy/.kde/share/apps/kpilot
/home/roy/Main/MyMemos /home/roy/Main/kpilot-syslog.html
/home/roy/public_html #and remote

In the above, Konsole is just a convenient graphic-textual wrapper for these operations that spew out status or flag errors, shall they ever emerge (a rarity).

I use tape archives to retain nightly stacks. Every night I use rsync to replicate my main hard-drive and to avoid the existence of deprecated files, I create a fresh copy twice a week, using rm -rf followed by scp (could be rsync as well, in principle) and a storage unit whose total capacity is 0.3 terabyte keeps stacks of the files before each rm -rf operation. Here are some bits of code which are hopefully self-explanatory.

konsole -e rsync -r* /home/roy/Main/BU/ &

For a fresh copy of a remote home directory, begin by erasing the existing files.

rm -rf /home/roy/Main/BU/*

rm -rf /home/roy/Main/BU/.[0-z]*

Then, copy all files using a simple remote copy command.

konsole -e scp -r* /home/roy/Main/BU/ &

The stacked backups that are dated get deleted manually; and quite selectively so! One should permit reversal to older states of the filestore by leaving sensible time gaps between retained backups. This prevents backups from being ‘contaminated’ too quickly. Important files are often replicate on file/Webspaces, so the most I can lose if often less than one day’s worth, due to hard-drive failures that are physical. The files are kept on 3 separate archives in 2 different sites in Manchester (home and the University; used to be three sites before I left one of my jobs). All in all, I hope this inspired someone. If not, at least it would serve as a page I can reference friends to in case they seek something similar.

More tips on *nix-oriented backup can be found in a recent article.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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