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Letters The AA was caught out this week in a most unfortunate piece of worker-wrangling. Call centre staff, it seems, are watched very closely to make sure they are not spending valuable company time on the lav.

There's a lot of sympathy for AA call centre staff out there, because so many of you have similar experiences. Company names have been removed to protect the incontinent.

A good few years ago I worked for the [Name removed] Group. I have to admit, the toilet was about my favourite place in the building. There were no phones, and not so many "IT Professionals". I felt safe in there.

I couldn't believe it when my team leader told me that I was going to have to get a signature everytime I wished to leave my desk, including to use the toilet! It seems I was a special case, but I'm not rushing my business for anyone!

A good day to you,

Haydn (Now employed by the NHS where toilet use is widely accepted)


I'd think that this was terrible if it wasn't that I've recently had to take a just-above-minimum-wage job with [Company name removed] - an outsourcing company providing [company name removed] technical support.

Two paid 15 mins breaks and 1 unpaid 30 min lunch break. The phone system monitors all toilet breaks and yes people get barked at for taking longer than they deem is necessary, whilst the floor managers walk around a stick (i kid you not) and yell at people to come out of "not ready". It wouldn't be so bad if only one of them did it but when you have upwards of 4 -6 people all yelling the same thing - it gets a tad irksome.

ps - if you're going to quote from this or use it in anyways please remove the email address - it may be a crappy job but it will have to do until that Linux job from IBM comes along :)

Anon


Not unusual. I worked for [company name removed] over fifteen years ago and they had a similar system in place. Only two people could go to the toilet at a time, and at certain times of the day it was one person. You were timed, and if you took too long you would be warned.

The easiest way round it was to arrive early and use the toilets before your shift started. That way you could get away with fewer trips..

John

But surely, when you start planning your day around your toilet breaks, you must realise something is amiss...


Next, the government launched a campaign to make the net a safer place to be for consumers and small businesses:

A nice idea, but it's never going to work.

I lose count of the number of personal firewalls I've seen on people's pcs that have viruses and trojans added to the allow list...

"I didn't know what it was, and things kept popping up, so I said 'allow' and now it doesn't annoy me"

Cue slapping forehead with palm of hand and quoting from the book of Homer.

With the current trend for spam-spewing botnets surely the simple solution is for the ISP's to block outbound port 25 (SMTP) to anything except the email server provided with the account. A default outbound block on port 194 (IRC) would knock out many trojan's remote control.

Obviously a nice web front end to enable the more technically savvy to open these up for other external servers would be essential (especially to avoid 45 min tech support calls to Bombay), but those that want to open routes to external servers should at least be slightly less likely to be running a spambot than Mr/Mrs Whatsamouse.

It would even benefit the ISP, I'm sure their bandwidth useage would drop noticeably.

Steve


Will it also include information about how to avoid being imprisoned if you type a malformed/modified URL into your browser?

Regards, Mike


re the website: at the bottom of this page there is a cryptic message http://www.getsafeonline.org/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=1129 "Be wary of geeks bearing gifts." O tempora o mores! What does the government mean by THAT?

Rodolfo


You had a few suggestions as to what might have been behind the mysterious collapse of Amazon's .uk, .fr and .ca websites on Monday:

Alas, I know too much to allow myself to be identified. But this gem from Ghostbusters is apropro: "Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here."

Cheers.


It's still broken - if you try to buy anything, it just barfs (16:40pm on Monday)...

"There was an internal error in our system. We logged the problem and will investigate it later. Our apologies for the inconvenience."

Alex


Obviously a black-helicopter-esque attempt by George Dubbya to prevent anyone from buying books about how rubbish he is...

Rob


And a few of you had some thoughts on Professor Fuller's explanation of his testimony in the Dover (Pennsylvania) Intelligent Design trial. Since we gave him some space, we'll give you some space too:

Professor Stephen Fuller writes "certain scientific claims would probably have never been proposed at all, were scientists not bold (or arrogant) enough to think they could get into ‘The Mind of God’. This lends credence to the pedagogical value of introducing design-based arguments into the science curriculum."

A famous example of scientists trying to get into ‘The Mind of God’ is "If God had intended that man should fly, he would have given him wings.". This demonstrates the negative pedagogical value of introducing design-based arguments into the science curriculum.

Assuming that "it must be so" because it would be the "intelligent" way for god to design it has led to countless mistakes through the ages. That it has also in a few cases lead to scientific breakthroughs does not prove that it is a rational way to think.

Placing a bet every week for your home team to win the next match by 5-0 - regardless of who they are playing - is not a good strategy for winning money, but once in a while it happens. Mr. Fullers argument seems to be that these this is the kind of thinking we should teach our children.

Claus P. Nielsen


More on Intelligent Design - it struck me that I was taught about the ID theory (in context, as an argument for the existence of God), in sixth form (alright, for you communist state school students, that'd be Year 12, I think) Philosophy class.

Maybe if more schools (particularly American ones) taught philosophy - with its highly useful focus on the nature of evidence, arguments and proofs - this whole argy bargy wouldn't have to happen at all?

Adam


I read with interest the letter sent by Prof. Fuller. As a fellow sociologist I find that his comments are typical of someone from the field.

Sociologists are terribly concerned with context, especially social context, as it is that context which underlies their/our theorizing. For example, criminal activity is based upon the context within which it is defined - taking an orange from your friends fridge without asking is impolite, taking it from a store without paying is stealing and, therefore, criminal.

Prof. Fullers comments about the philosophical distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification is non sequitur. The context is the modern day acceptance of the validity of science and the scientific method.

As a sociologist, Prof. Fuller should be aware the context not only occurs in space; but also time. The context for today's discussion about Intelligent Design is very different than the example of past scientific thinkers and their methods or the Reformation.

The scientific method is now the accepted paradigm within which information is collected and verified. As such, Intelligent Design needs to be exposed to the rigors of the scientific method before it is taught in any science class.

Robert


I wonder what Prof Stephen Fuller thinks motivates atheist scientists like myself? Since my motivation cannot be to know the 'Mind' of an imaginary entity I wonder what it can be?

Prof Fuller is also mistaken in thinking ID seeks only to provide motivation for science. The ID explanation of some celestial Wallace without a Gromit serves as a dead hand on investigation. It says 'here be dragons, go ye no further', indeed that is the whole point since every adaptive feature delineated by science diminishes the possible roles of a designer god. Evolution's opponents perceive this most clearly which is their motivation.

No, ID seeks to be the ultimate explanation, and once you have that what motivation is there to keep looking?

Peter


More on the call from MP Margaret Moran for ISPs to be forced to disclose their child porn blocking strategies:

Margaret Moran appears to be yet another of the technology-ignorant politicians who come crawling out of the woodwork insisting that the Internet should work the way they would like it to. There are two huge problems with her proposals:

1. Unworkable. As we have seen, even the superb law-enforcement officers of the USA are not always able to distinguish between legal and illegal pronography and their consumers. Merchants have dozens of tricks up their sleeves, as witness the fact that the great majority of the really bad stuff comes from the USA - where you would think the authorities would be keen to stamp it out. If they can't suppress the trade in the USA, where can they hope to? Moreover, merchants can duck and weave, setting up sites in unregulated regions worldwide.

2. Undesirable. Hateful as the trade in child porn is, Moran's proposals would be the thin end of a gigantic and hideous wedge. What next? Let me guess: sites that (might) provide recipes for making ricin, atomic bombs, or the terrorist weapons of your choice. Sites "linked" with suspected terrorists. Sites carrying unwelcome political opinions... it goes on, and on, and on. Wait till they insist ISPs block all sites that might carry material that might offend against the new Religious Hatred laws... (i.e. all sites with open discussion).

Tom


So this MP has developed a guaranteed method that allows an ISP to block any particular kind of web page or image automatically?

This is a breakthrough and we should be told more about it...

Geoff


Or to put it another way...

"MP to publicly advertise which ISPs it's easiest to get kiddie porn on"

Funny thing is that the BBC article says that some ISPs deliberately do not disclose their site blocking procedures in order to make it more difficult for people to get hold of the stuff... Maybe someone needs to take Ms. Moran aside and have a long talk with her using very short words...

Matt


A reader, and self-professed eBay scam victim writes in response to news that the scammers are now awaiting sentencing:

Great to see your story as I was one of the fools who handed over money to this guy - I lost about $900. The missus wasn't too happy as we weren't exactly flush financially - hence trying to buy on the cheap (never again). I spent about 2 days on the computer sending information to ebay (who basically said bad luck - not our problem) and the fbi site who then told me they could do nothing and I had to send the information to the Romanian internet fraud centre - I never heard back from either one so I'm glad your out there to keep people informed. Sounds like it was Western Union that did all the hard work here so I imagine there's going to continue to be this problem while internet fraud centres don't really bother. Again, stories like yours are the best deterrent.

Thanks again John and well done.

Regards Noel, Australia


The government's chief anti-spin doctor (if there can be such a thing in a PR department) wants to use text messages to communicate with Joe Public:

"the head of PR in Whitehall"

I suppose it hasn't occurred to them yet that PR would not be necessary if they just tried a bit of honesty.

I am quite prepared to trust Blair and co. when they start saying what they are doing and doing what they say, although I imagine that we shall all be skating in Hell first...

James


One simple thing government could do is REPLY when we ask a question.

Geoff


Getting mobile numbers can be done simply, observe the dark art of the mobile spammer who simply fires their message at randomly generated series of 11 numbers. Alternatively and (probably more likely) the government will make it a condition of the mobile service provider's/network operator's license that they log all numbers on a government database for 'national security' reasons, an excuse which will be taken in hook, line and sinker by the not so bright embers of society. or perhaps you'll have to declare your mobile number when you apply for an ID card, if you dont and you're later found to have one then that'll probably be made a criminal offence for which you'll serve time or be fined.

Some food for thought here I think

Mitch


In case anyone was frightened of having an asteroid land on their head, fear not, for NASA has it in hand. The agency outlined a timeline of how it would deal with an asteroid called Apophis, it is does turn out to be threatening Earth some time in 2029:

"...if the asteroid still appears to be threatening Earth by 2013, it will start work on a mission to visit Apophis..."

Hopefully, the NASA probe will be piloted by an aging Clint Eastwood (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell) with similar effectiveness.

http://www.suncoast.com/Movies/Movie.aspx?v_id=V+++196444&prodid=WHV18722DVD

Michael


Found this at http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/apep.htm. Could this be NASA's secret asteroid-destruction plan?

Every year, a ritual called the "Banishing of Apophis" would be held by the priests of Ra. They would take an effigy of Apophis and in the center of the temple they would pray that all the wickedness in Egypt would go into the effigy. Then they would trample the effigy, crush it, beat it with sticks, pour mud on it, and eventually burn and destroy it. In this way, the power of Apophis would be curtailed for another year.

They've already proven the "beat with sticks" method. Just one step away from burning and destroying.

Connor


Here's a question for you, supposing they decide that this asteroid is indeed earthbound, and by then technology has improved to such a point that they can accurately model it's precise flight path, i.e. which part of the Earth will be impacted.

Now if the impact site is in a politically incorrect country such as North Korea, Iran, Syria or the worst of all communist countries (if you're a regular viewer of the Fox News Network), France, will President George Bush Jr 4th be willing to meet the expense of deflecting the asteroid?

I think ultimately the answer is for these countries, and any US States that voted the wrong way in previous elections or have unChristian values, ought to start thinking about developing their own Bruce Willis clone as well as a portable asteroid drilling platform, and perhaps buy one of those nuclear bombs you can get on the ebay from disaffected ex-Soviet generals.

Andy


Perhaps this says something about human society - we're willing to go all-out to clobber a single distinct threat like an asteroid, but when it comes to something equally potentially damaging like global warming, which involves politicians calling for moderation in some aspects of our lives, some governments would rather put their fingers in their ears and say "not listening".

Regards, Mike

That is just too depressing an observation to end on.

Phew! One more letter in the bag, and its good news:

Let me consult my Farmer's Almanac ... Hmmm ... Nope Nothing here about the world being destroyed in the year 2036. As usual NASA has gotten it wrong. Hmmm. There is this little bit about Satan though ...

Doug


So. No danger from the skies, just the fiery pits of hell. Cool. And that is all, folks. ®

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