A CAPTCHA’d Audience

My thesis for today is that Google’s CAPTCHA facility ranks up there as one the worst thought-out pieces of garbage on the Internet.

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How am I supposed to know whether this banner says “No parking” or “Long live the victory of Mao Tse-Tung Thought?”

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This sign identifies a local park. It’s a government sign, to be sure, but is is a “street” sign?  It doesn’t control traffic. It doesn’t identify the name of a roadway. It doesn’t provide directions to somewhere. I can’t even tell if it’s on a street—it looks pretty far off the asphalt to me.

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Oh oh. This one’s not even a government sign. It’s made to be seen from the street, to be sure, but it’s not actually on a street. Do I count it, or do I pass entirely?

 

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And how much of a “street sign” is a “street sign?” Do I count the pole? This is an interesting question, because I’ve both selected and not selected the pole, and in both cases Google has proceeded to give me additional tests, as if I had somehow failed this one. (“Inconsistent feedback” is one of the stress techniques used in psychological coercion. Is that any way not to be evil, Google?)

 

 

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This one is just classic. Google purposely blurs images of people, residences, license plates, text, and other items algorithmically for legal reasons, and also on specific request. While Google’s left hand is doing that, its right hand is apparently feeding these blurred images into their awful CAPTCHA product. So we’re left to wonder if that blob in the upper left corner is a store front, a movie marquee (which I guess is still a store front, right?), a semitrailer, or a street sign that somehow wandered into the wrong CAPTCHA.

 

Seriously—how does a “product” with such a poor human interface survive in the market? Maybe because it has a builtin captive audience.

As it turns out, all the poor buggers who created their blogs on Google’s Blogger service have exactly one choice of CAPTCHA product to keep from being buried in comment spam. That choice is either to use this Google abortion, or to expend extreme effort to re-host their blogs on a more free-market service. Google doesn’t offer these people any better choices (because what could possibly be better than a Google product, right?)

I should point out that this very blog, hosted by WordPress, uses a “non-CAPTCHA CAPTCHA feature” that over many years has successfully rejected 100% of comment spam flung at it. Commenters don’t have to take quizzes or solve problems—it just works.

So Google, if you can’t manage not to be evil, at least try to manage not being absurd.

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Who’s the brains of this gang?

I’ve received something like 30 copies of this pump-and-dump scam spam over the past two days, all identical except for the forged sender names:

Alright, let’s get right to it…

We’ve been out of touch for a while. I’ve been very busy looking for the next big stock that has the potential to explode and it took me months to find one.

If I can be honest, this one came to me as a god send. I got lucky. I have this friend who works at a law firm in NYC and we’ve known each other for a very long time.

Long story short, he told me that his firm is about to finalize a big takeover by a multibillion corporation. They’re buying this tiny company that is now trading at just around 10 cents a share.

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard him say that they’re paying somewhere between $1.30 and $1.39 for the company. The deal is closing and being announced mid next week.

I could get into what the company does, but who really cares right? All we need to know is that they are in the high tech industry and that this is going to be a huge buyout.

I recommend you buy shares as soon as possible today and wait it out until you get paid over $1.30 next week. The way takeovers work is that they will just credit this price per share, in cash, to your brokerage account and in exchange will take the shares that you bought at just pennies.

I may never have another tip like this, so cash in on it while you still can.

Did you notice anything peculiar about this message?

The guy needs you to buy this do-nothing stock so you’ll artificially drive up the price for him, he can dump his holdings before the inevitable price correction, and he will walk away with a nice little profit while you get screwed.

Only one little problem: he forgot to mention what stock it is he needs you to buy.

I didn’t edit it out of the quoted mail so as not to give free publicity to the scammer — it was simply never there!

I have to chuckle at the idea of the scam-master paying good money to hire a spambot-herder to get his message out, and paying for millions of e-mail messages that are absolutely useless to him.

Spammers.  You can’t live with ’em, and you can’t kill ’em.  Yet.

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A slur in time

An aphorism of which I have always been particularly fond states that “isolationist” is a term created by imperialists to denigrate noninterventionists.

With the advent of President Donald Trump, a new version suggests itself: “populism” is a term created by authoritarians to denigrate democracy that thwarts their agenda.

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And now for something completely different…

1994: Citing the factoid that there are “more gun dealers in America than gas stations,” Bill Clinton announces new regulations that result in four out of five existing Federal Firearms Licensees nationwide losing their licenses, on the basis that they are hobbyists and not bona fide commercial entities. The act is lauded as the harbinger of a new and hopeful age in which violent crime will be reduced.

2016:  Barack Obama pledges to require any private gun owner who sells an arbitrary and explicitly unspecified number of guns per year (sometimes as few as “one or two”) to obtain a Federal Firearms License. The act is lauded as the harbinger of a new and hopeful age in which violent crime will be reduced.

Big-government socialists: whipsawing your life on a whim and a pretext, with vain promises to get it right yet one more time.  (They’ll never get it right.)

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ChannelMaster DVR+ Announced

Earlier, I blogged about the abysmal quality and user interface of the ChannelMaster CM7400 Over-The-Air DVR.

Last week, I received an announcement from ChannelMaster for their new DVR+ product, an upgraded unit for the same application. There are a few differences:
Continue reading

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Error: Fatal Error in Error Reporting; Please Report This Error!

If stupidity came in styles, like prose and poetry do, this would be a Stupidity Haiku:

coxresponse

Better yet, if stupidity were music, this would be a “round,” like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”.

(In case it’s not obvious to the non-technical reader, this “bounce” message, adjuring the recipient to contact Postmaster@cox.net,  is being returned for all mail sent to Postmaster@cox.net.)

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IRFE! IRFE!

Here are two current model First Alert™ smoke detectors, placed as someone might mount them on their bedroom wall. What’s wrong with this picture?

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Answer: The smoke detector on the left is mounted in an improper orientation.

That’s right—according to the instructions, which are very specific about this, this smoke detector is to be mounted only in the orientation shown to the right: logo inexplicably sideways, with all visual features presented asymmetrically.

What has happened to a manufacturer’s pride in his product? Is it even rational to believe that it was technically impossible to design the guts of this detector in the proper orientation to work, while simultaneously constructing a cover for it that doesn’t immediately do violence to everyone’s most primal aesthetic sensibilities? Is the company not even ashamed to have its own corporate logo running in an awkward direction on its own product for absolutely no logical reason?

Of course, as a consumer, the final insult in this product is the curse of being forever judged by every future houseguest to be a doofus-class handyman who doesn’t even care enough to mount a smoke detector “correctly.”

Next time I’m in the market for life safety equipment, I believe I’m going to pass on buying any product made by a company whose whole design ethic fairly screams, “We just don’t care.”

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