Archive for March 2011

Cortina, outdoors


I was peering through Ford’s archive as it celebrates 100 years in Great Britain. This brought back a few memories: the Araldite glue campaign. Right next to it is an outdoor ad for the 1982 Cortina—Taunus 80 to those outside the Empah.

Ford Cortina Araldite ad

   The Araldite ad showed how commonplace the Cortina had become. And back in the early 1980s, Ford seemed untouchable: British Leyland—Austin Rover by this point—didn’t have much decent product apart from the Metro, SD1 and a few others; Vauxhall had just launched its new front-wheel-drive Cavalier (Opel Ascona C) but it hadn’t achieved sales’ supremacy yet.
   From memory, the other ads included a second Cortina (‘The tension builds’, I believe) and the cars torn off (‘How did we pull it off?’).
   There have been some creative outdoor campaigns over the years, but, in my mind, this still ranks as one of the best of the 20th century.
   And I can’t think of any of late that’s had quite the same effect, though a combined Volkswagen–insurance one here in New Zealand comes close creatively. You think it’s a New Beetle ad till the car on the creative gets progressively wrecked each week. The last one advertises the insurance company. Down side: I have no recollection as to which insurance company it was, which says something about the failure of its branding, but have an inkling it was AA Insurance.

PS.: And that was the 250th post done on this blog with WordPress, after I replaced the old Blogger system in January 2010.—JY

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Posted in branding, business, cars, culture, marketing, New Zealand, UK | 2 Comments »

Internet Explorer 9 can’t even display Microsoft’s own page


After this issue with Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, I went to the McAfee forums to record it so others knew.
   The McAfee volunteers and tech support guys have, in the last while, been fantastic. There’s one volunteer there, Peter, who’s always been right. So I would be foolish to ignore their advice.
   You can read the thread for yourself but after following these registry-cleaning suggestions, I downloaded IE9 again.
   Result: the same. IE9 doesn’t display anything. Pages are either all black or all white.
   It’s even more worrying when you realize Internet Explorer cannot display its own page at Microsoft:

   That’s two out of two fails. It’s official: IE9 is the worst browser on the market and an absolute waste of time.
   Not that I would have ever used it—it was more intellectual curiosity to see how it compared to Firefox 4, Chromium and Opera. Conclusion: it doesn’t.

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Posted in internet, technology, Wellington | 8 Comments »

LOL, Wag, flat white added to Oxford English Dictionary


A few new words and meanings—45,437 to be exact—have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, report the mainstream media.
   LOL is one, which I have always taken to mean little old lady, and have almost always used it in that context.
   Turns out that that was what the acronym originally stood for, according to the OED. And to think, so many of you thought I was merely being humorous.
   The changes do mean that Wag is now written in upper- and lowercase. I had written WAG, in capitals.
   Since our publications follow Hart’s Rules, which in turn use the OED as its arbiter on spelling, we’ll have to change accordingly.
   The last time I had to make any major change was when website was added. Prior to that, we had written web site in this company.
   And for us antipodeans, I am glad to note that flat white has now been added. No longer shall there be confusion from others in the Anglosphere.

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Posted in culture, interests, media, publishing, technology, UK | 1 Comment »

The epic fail called IE9 has consequences for other programs


I was prepared to put up with the epic fail of IE9, since I hardly use the program. In the years I’ve had IE8, I’ve only opened it accidentally (e.g. when certain programs are removed, they load IE for the ‘Why did you remove it?’ customer screen).
   But I forgot one thing: some programs rely on IE to display their information, like the Windows sidebar gadgets and McAfee.
   Bit of a problem when IE9 doesn’t actually display anything.

Thanks to IE9, I can't see a thing

   So Microsoft’s ineptitude has consequences that reach far further than its crappy browser.
   I wish I could tell Microsoft. Many, many years ago, after registering some Microsoft product, I was asked to sign up to the Microsoft Network. So I did.
   Then, one day, Microsoft insisted that I sign up for a Microsoft Passport, because this was the one sign-on that I needed to get in to every one of its services. Well, I didn’t use any other than registering software. But I did anyway.
   Problem: that no longer works, because Microsoft now insists that I sign up for a Windows Live ID.
   MS, this is just stupid.
   In 1999, we had a Yahoo! Group list. We no longer run it after we moved our users on to an in-house mailing list. And, you know what? My little company, a fraction of the size of Microsoft, will still honour the requests from the old Yahoo! members.
   If we can keep old user data, how come Microsoft can’t keep hold of registered customers’ data and move it over to each successive service? How can I be assured that this doesn’t actually hook me up to a third Microsoft service when in fact I only expect one?
   Or was MSN for the 1990s, Passport for the 2000s, and Windows Live for the 2010s? That we have to change each decade because Microsoft doesn’t work on a long-term basis?
   Even though quite a few people suffer from the blank screen problem of IE9, Microsoft won’t be hearing it from me.
   I understand that this bug had plagued IE9 even at beta stage, if the McAfee forums are to be believed.
   You’d think it would be pretty serious if an internet browser couldn’t display, but it looks like Microsoft never fixed it for its final release.
   The one thing it did right was providing instructions on how to remove IE9, which I followed tonight. I am glad my gadgets have returned, along with text in my McAfee security program.
   Frankly, I don’t think McAfee or any other software developer should rely on IE to deliver screens, though I can understand why, with the standardized installation of the program in Windows.
   What a pity, then, that Microsoft cannot deliver a browser that works with its own products.

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Posted in business, design, internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »

And now, Ben Heck makes an ‘Atari’ Xbox 360 ‘1977 edition’


A while back, I came across Benjamin J. Heckendorn (a.k.a. Ben Heck) and his Commodore 64 laptop. This is a quite a fascinating machine, considering the actual “portable” 64 Executive was a heavy beast that could kill if hurled at you. While Ben took the 64’s odd colour, keyboard and 64C’s motherboard, his is structured more like a modern laptop with a fold-down screen.
   Looks like Ben’s at it again with his Xbox 360 1977 Edition, thanks to Element14:

Ben Heck and his Xbox 360 1977 Edition

   This is on The Ben Heck Show, a bi-weekly online TV series.
   According to Element14: ‘In this episode, Ben works on a custom mod for Atari to create an Xbox 360 portable laptop with the look and feel of a 1970s Atari console to help support the debut of new games based on iconic titles, including Yar’s Revenge and Star Raiders.’
   As those of us observing trends know, the late 1970s are chic again, and have been for a few years.
   I remember this when one of our university interns remarked to me at the close of the last decade that she thought the Ford Taunus II was cool because it was so boxy. Give things long enough, and their omission from everyday æsthetics—because those of us who lived through them tried to rid society of all memory of them—actually sparks interest in a new generation.
   Ben’s 1977 Xbox has wood panelling and metal switches, though, as with the 64 laptop, it combines some modern æsthetics with the “classic” look.
   Atari’s pretty happy, too. ‘Ben clearly had a lot of fun and it’s great to see how the classic, retro Atari design is incorporated,’ says Lee Jacobson, SVP of Licensing and Digital Publishing, Atari. ‘The system completely exceeded our expectations and we’re sure that any Atari enthusiast would be thrilled to use this unique system.’

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Posted in design, humour, internet, media, technology, TV, USA | 2 Comments »

Some positive news a month on from the Christchurch ’quake


Tomorrow, it will be one month since the Christchurch ’quake.
   It’s tempting to argue scale—the Japanese earthquake and tsunami versus our own—but at the end of the day, people are people, and our nations have both been hurting. We have become united, through disasters that emphasized that we live in an emerging global community.
   I’m glad that our government saw fit to send some of our rescue personnel over to help with the Japanese recovery effort, because they have a grave need for international help. It was the least we could have done with Japan’s fast offer of aid and personnel on February 22 itself.
   There is still a lot to do in Christchurch, especially for those families here and overseas rebuilding their lives after losing loved ones. However, I had a glimmer of hope from running our first positive piece from post-’quake Christchurch on Lucire.
   Kip Brook of Word of Mouth Media wrote a lovely piece about a B&B, Hope Villa, in the Canterbury region, as Christchurch begins reaching out and people begin returning.
   I hope this will be the first of many positive articles to emerge from the region as it gets back on its feet, as we know it can.
   While I haven’t heard of any plans to commemorate the ’quake with a moment’s silence tomorrow, I intend to have a wee break at the office at 12.51 p.m. I hope many of us will take the time to remember the events of the 22nd, and remind ourselves of the solidarity we have with all Cantabrians.

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Posted in business, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing | No Comments »

Three out of three: Google’s Ads Preferences Manager does not work


I know you’re sick of reading three of these blog entries on three consecutive days but here’s what my Google Ads Preferences Manager has shown me today.
   I’m sick of writing about it, but Google’s being so damned predictable.
   First, the cookie is back, though it hasn’t picked up preferences yet this morning:

Google ad preferences

   Secondly, this is confirmed by the NAI opt-out web page, where, it must be noted, I have stayed opted out of every other ad network except Google’s, which evidently does not adhere to its privacy policies.

Google ad preferences

   A manual check of my cookies confirms that the Google opt-out one has disappeared, through no intervention by myself:

Doubleclick cookies

Doubleclick cookies

   Since I use Seamonkey on this system as well as Firefox, I’ve confirmed that the Doubleclick cookie on that browser is different to the ones shown above.
   I’ve discovered that my new Google opt-out cookie, obtained via NAI today and after I took the above screen shots, expires at the end of the browser session. Other NAI members’ cookies expire on dates anywhere from 2016 to 2041:

Doubleclick cookies

But look at the one I took a screen shot of yesterday: the expiry date is set to 2030. Where did it go? I never deleted it, and everyone else’s cookies are still in place.
   If you watch the Google video on the preferences, there’s no suggestion of the opt-out cookie being temporary (after 3’06”):

As we expected, Google’s Shuman Ghosemajumder leaves us with the impression that opting out is virtually permanent, unless, to quote his words:

If you delete your browser’s cookies, you need to reset your preferences, or opt out of interest-based ads again.

I have made no such choice to delete my cookies: I have done what an Average Joe does, and taken Google at its word.
   My laptop, however, has retained the opt-out cookie this morning (it hadn’t yesterday).*
   Conclusion: Google’s Ad Preferences Manager doesn’t work as promised. If you want to opt out of Google or Doubleclick ad targeting, you need to block their cookies altogether, manually. Or, based on my experiences over the last few days, pop into the Ad Preferences Manager every day.
   Google really needs to stop lying about its the Ad Preferences Manager, but then, I’ve come to expect this very behaviour from a company so arrogant about our privacy.

* PS.: One hour after writing the original blog entry, I revisited the Ads Preferences Manager on my laptop, and the same behaviour has occurred. The opt-out cookie has disappeared. All I have done on that machine in the last hour is visit YouTube. I had not ended any browser session in that last hour.
   The new cookie, again, claims to expire in 2030.
   Google’s claim that ‘Opting out of the DoubleClick cookie means that Google’s AdSense partners, DoubleClick, and certain Google services using the DoubleClick cookie will know you have opted out of the cookie and will not attempt to assign other DoubleClick cookies in the future. You will see the same number of ads as before, but they may not be as relevant when you opt out,’ is, therefore, untrue based on this test.—JY

P.PS.: On my laptop, despite increasing Firefox’s cookie limit to 65,535, the ‘2030’ opt-out cookie disappeared again—meaning that in the space of around nine hours, I had to opt out twice.—JY

P.P.PS.: Now tested over six days. The cookie keeps coming back.—JY

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 7 Comments »

A bad choice of word, but what does the gay community actually think?


While I was out, I had noticed on Twitter a news item about an octogenarian, working for American Airlines, who was sacked for his use of the word faggot.
   I despise words like that, just as much as chink or nigger, but the question arises: should he have been sacked, losing some of his benefits after 54 years’ service?
   He wasn’t a homophobe. The story, which may have surfaced in the Murdoch Press (where else?), was that Freddy Schmitt backed the right of gay soldiers to serve openly. He said, ‘Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life.’
   Bad choice of word? Absolutely.
   But the man is 82, and probably grew up at a time when such words were not deemed unacceptable. Maybe we can say he should have kept up with the times, but sometimes, new learning slips your mind and you fall back on the old.
   I have a father who grew up at a time when Negro and Negress were acceptable words, and, while he rarely uses them (the last time I heard him use Negress was 2004), the guy is 75.
   I’m not sure if this is playing the age card: it’s simply understanding that we’re not that good at retaining knowledge we gain later in life. In Dad’s case, even more so, when you’re talking about a language he only started learning at 14.
   After a while, you just don’t feel like keeping up with the vernacular, foreign or not.
   I asked my American friends of African ethnicity what they thought was acceptable, and they didn’t have a problem with people of Dad’s generation using these two words, as long as he kept away from the n word itself. (Which he does, as it was probably derogatory for a long time.)
   The gay community is more than capable of speaking out for themselves without my second-guessing their reaction to Mr Schmitt. With that in mind, I popped into the Pink News site (‘Europe’s largest gay news service’) to see readers’ reactions, and mostly, they felt Mr Schmitt should be taught proper usage and not be given an apology, but that he should not have lost his job over it.
   A minority backed American Airlines’ move.
   So, judging by the readers of one publication, it seems that Mr Schmitt should be told off, especially if he’s still working as a trainer and contacting the public, but many of those whom he supposedly offended are far more tolerant than the airline might think.
   Not unlike the 1970s’ British TV series, Mind Your Language, where it seemed the majority deemed it politically incorrect as it was supposedly offensive to minorities.
   I don’t find the show offensive, the actors (most of whom were of the ethnic groups they portrayed) didn’t, and I have yet to meet any member of a minority who does.
   The fact that the majority thought us so weak and so unable to speak for ourselves that they made that judgement for us is more offensive.
   â€˜Oh, those poor [insert minority race here]. They will be so offended by that. Let’s cancel the show.’
   I’m sorry, we have a voice, thank you. Engaging in dialogue with us is not that hard.
   Just as the gay community has a voice in this instance. They don’t need me, or American Airlines, or anyone else, to speak for them about the utterance of an 82-year-old man.
   â€˜Oh, those poor gays. They will be so offended by that. Let’s fire the man.’
   Of course we should speak out in defence of our fellow human beings, but we should also engage in dialogue, too (that’s an invitation: everyone’s comments are welcome). We shouldn’t presume that, somehow, one group is superior, and that the other’s voice should not be heard.
   I just hope the motive for the article isn’t to separate people, because, as one reader on Pink News pointed out:

Political correctness run amuck! Aside from being unfair this is EXACTLY the sort of PC BS that causes moderate Str8s to think ‘gosh, the queers ARE getting out of hand’.

   It’s not the ‘queers’ doing it, it’s a corporation which likely had heterosexuals making the judgement to fire Mr Schmitt.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, USA | 2 Comments »

Google advertising doesn’t understand that opting out means opting out


Yesterday, I wrote about Google’s Ads Preferences Manager. I mentioned that I had opted out before, but had found myself having to repeat the exercise. I did, however, stop short at levelling blame at Google for another privacy gaffe, despite its behaviour with Web History, Buzz, Reader, Notes, etc., just in case I had fiddled around with my cookies and accidentally allowed the Google cookie to return.
   The trouble with putting faith in Google, and giving someone the benefit of the doubt, is being disappointed. Because, sure enough, less than 24 hours after opting out and believing it to be permanent, the cookie is back.
   Google itself states:

Opt out if you prefer ads not to be based on interests and demographics.
   When you opt out, Google disables this cookie and no longer associates interest and demographic categories with your browser.

and that they follow these three principles when serving ads:

   Transparency – We provide detailed information about our advertising policies and practices.
   Choice – We offer innovative ways to view, manage and opt out of advertising cookies.
   No personally identifying information – We don’t collect or serve ads based on personally identifying information without your permission.

Also, Google claims to follow ‘the industry privacy standards for online advertising.’
   Bollocks. Bollocks. Bollocks.
   I didn’t touch my Doubleclick cookies in Firefox, and I had ensured that I had been opted out to the other NAI participating companies. Here’s my Google Ad Preferences Manager at the time of writing:

Google Ad Preferences Manager

These preferences are different to what I had in there before opting out for the umpteenth time yesterday, so I know it’s not an old cookie stuck on the system.
   When I visited the NAI page at, every other member has respected my opt-out preference. Except Google.
   Two entries I specifically opted out of—Dedicated Media (Doubleclick) and Google—are back in the list as customizing cookies for this browser:

They need to rename this page from choices to something else, because it seems I don’t have a choice—other than to program Firefox to block all cookies from Dedicated Media and Doubleclick manually.
   The cookie has also returned on my laptop, running a different OS and the old Firefox—again less than 24 hours after opting out.
   I realize the NAI page is in beta, but Google’s Ad Preferences Manager is not—and it’s been around since 2009.
   But it is only two years, and how dare I expect Google to get its technology sorted in such a short space of time? I mean, it does take six months to restore a blog.
   In every case I had made sure, after writing my blog entry yesterday, that I made no manual changes to my Firefox cookies. And no, Firefox is not set to delete my history or cookies each session on either computer.
   In fact, here’s proof:

Doubleclick cookie

This is my new cookie which Google has put on my browser, despite claiming I had opted out both via its own website and via the NAI one.

Doubleclick cookie

And this is the opt-out cookie, which is still there—but it means nothing.
   If you opted out yesterday, I suggest you recheck your preferences at
   With all of Google’s lengthy explanations about advertising preferences and how they oh-so-ethically provide this means of opting out, it’s just the usual BS from this California company. Privacy? Don’t be evil? Forget it.
   I’m going to opt out again, just to see what happens, and will report back when I can.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »

Check that your Google ad opt-out has been honoured


I have opted out of Google’s Doubleclick (and others’) advertising cookies many times. In theory, you only need to do it once, but I have been to Google’s opt-out page many times to find that the company has set another new cookie on my system.
   I fiddle around with my cookies a lot, so I’m not going to blame Google for another privacy gaffe this time. In the past I have deliberately opted out and opted in, just to check the accuracy of its targeting (it’s not that good), but lately I made the decision to keep the Doubleclick cookie permanently off my computers. But I urge those who think they have already opted out of Google’s ad-targeting to check. It wouldn’t be the first time it sprung unexpected privacy settings on us, Facebook-style.
   Head to Google’s home page and click on the Privacy link at the bottom. Then click on Advertising in the left-hand column. Or go directly to the ad preference page here.
   You can opt out of other Network Advertising Initiative members’ cookies—there are 61 at the time of writing.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »