Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/11/1108_letters/
Breaking phones, banned laptops and scary slang
The neo-luddite revolution cometh
Letters There is an obvious place to start this week, and that is with the madness that has overtaken UK airports following claims frm the police, home office et al that a terror plot has been foiled . We say 'claims', because much as we'd love to believe everything the government is telling us (no, really) we can still remember the Ricin incident, and have not forgotten about Forest Gate either.
can understand them not wanting to have laptops as hand luggage, Dell have proven them to be incendiary devices, but I think they're going over the top slightly. Unboxed tissues?!? Could it be that the box can be used to administer semi-lethal paper cuts?
The airport thing is a total catastrophe - we just gave up at Heathrow. What's happened is a cascading failure - as each person tries to get their plan and just misses it, the extra delay and queues ensure that people also miss the next flight...and so on.
As for safety, the only way to guarantee "safe" flights is to permanently ground all civil aviation; otherwise, there is very little that isn't "security theatre". An x-rayed laptop is no less (or more) explosive if it's in the hold or the cabin. Furthermore, it's so easy to make an explosion anyway (consider all those Dells that have been catching fire on their own of late!) - that the primary issue isn't ability; it is intent.
I wonder how many more deaths on the road will occur today as a result of people being unable to fly...of course these will never make it into the statistics as a "cost" of this war on terror.
I'm not competent to judge the plausibility of any threat, or whether the current precautions have any special significance.
But just who is terrorising whom?
Don't know about you, Dave, but we find John Reid prety scary...
There's clearly only one long-term solution: we shold all travel in our underwear, put seats in the hold and put all the luggage on separate planes. Perhaps with optonal blindfolds, depending who you are sitting next to.
Couple of questions, in no particular order...
1) Are the government willing to pay for all the damaged equipment that will almost certainly ensue once the baggage throwers at the airports have finished with your checked luggage? Bad enough that they manage to break bottles of aftershave in cases, let alone a 1200 quid laptop.
2) This plot never got anywhere near the airport.. are the government now saying that all the "security" measures we've had to endure for the past few years were inadequate? Surely the "heightened security" ALREADY IN PLACE at the airports was designed to catch this kind of device before it got onto the plane?
3) The question of convenience strikes me somewhat, coming as it does so closely on the heels of our esteemed Home Secretary's recent speeches about the necessity og "modifying" our freedoms. Frankly I don't trust him any further than I could throw John Prescott.
4) Another source quotes that "In addition to the above, all passengers boarding flights to the USA and all the items they are carrying, including those acquired after the central screening point, must be subjected to secondary search at the boarding gate. Any liquids discovered must be removed from the passenger." Safety measure or plot for the catering companies to make more money?
How much further are people willing to let this go?
It's seriously time for airports to stop banging on the customers rights, and start training their staff how to act in an emergency, including skyjacks. One person, even a passenger, trained enough to respond to hand-weapon threats calmly and quickly is enough to spoil the plans of most terrorists that these precautions are aimed at. The very knowledge that all the staff on board can do that can deter anyone planning to do so. It makes enough economic sense also, customers pay to be happy, not naked (at least in most public places).
The next highest level of security from that described in the article is full nude body searches of every passenger in the boarding lines. After all a plastic-thread garotte can be hidden anywhere, and the fat guy ahead of me in line is really carrying a load of plastic knives below a layer of search-proof stage-makeup. ;-) Strangely, my little exaggeration above is more realistic than any possible items hidden in a tissue box of baby milk for a mother actually carrying a baby.
Vodafone is pulling  picture and video messaging from its "extras" packs from the beginning of September. We were shocked, shocked, to learn that you weren't all over the moon. Shocked:
"Vodafone is interested in feedback on the move, and has hinted that the deal is flexible"
Ha ha ha. Don't make me laugh, Vodafone! I got a text off them, stating they were changing the service plan I was on. I've contacted them, asking to cancel my contract. I'll be charged £230 for the privilege. I have been offered no option to remain on my current service plan
I have received 2 courtesy calls from them, which were very nice. But, I've been told in no uncertain terms that there's nothing they can do about it. They're making changes to my contract, against my wishes, and I have to live with it!! Very nice
They told me that there were new service plans coming in September, but at this moment in time, they couldn't say what they were
Not all that useful, or flexible!!
I also received some letter through the post from a Customer Service director stating that as Vodafone had given me 30 days notice, they were all peachy. I have been given no option to stick to the plan I signed up for, or to cancel my contract
The real reason they say it's 'flexible' and will look at it on a 'case-by-case' basis, is because it is usually a change to the basic T+C's, and as such justifies a customer breaking a 12 or 18 month contract. So if you try it and say you want to leave, then they say, well, we'll give it back. Just for the duration of THAT contract period... Orange did it recently a couple of times, once with the chargeable billing, also with 0800 calls.
Swines. An excellent, and under-used, insult.
This is pretty typical of Vodafone. They keep giving less and charging more for it. I remember when they pulled international SMS from the text message bundle - I got a bill for about 200 quid that month!
I don't know how other vodafone users found out about this change but I was told in a text message from them.
I have just rung Vodafone customer services about this issue and they were not having any of it.
Apparently they are reducing the prices of the extra packs and then introducing a multimedia extra pack which you would then have to buy on top of the standard SMS/WAP extras pack.
When I asked them if any picture messages I send could just come out of my WAP allocation from the SMS/WAP extras pack they claim that was not allowed, when I asked them how they can say I can send and receive WAP/GPRS data but not use WAP/GPRS to send pictures, they claimed they know exactly what is sent across the network. I then asked what about sending an email with a picture attached using WAP/GPRS, they said that would be fine and would come out of the standard SMS/WAP extras pack allocation.
As for the customer-by-customer thing, not a chance, I just got the standard reponse, "your contract states that the extras pack can be changed at anytime"
Orange's mobile network (along with Vodafone's, incidentally) went for a little lie down  this week, leaving much of the north and west of England in a pre-1990 esque world of landline communications. Shudder. Horrifying as that thought is to contemplate, not everyone hated being cut off:
As frustrating as the Orange outage was to a lot of people, once I resigned myself to the fact, I found it quite refreshing to be completely uncontactable. Not to mention calming.
I think I will start leaving my phone switched off.
"If nothing else, the network's temporary demise serves to remind us how dependent we have become on this relatively new technology."
Strangely, my life carried on as normal last night, despite The End of Civilisation As We Know It.
Maybe that's because I'm one of the half dozen people in Britain who doesn't have a mobile phone. And lest you write me off as a Luddite, I should point out that I'm typing this on my laptop via my home wireless network. If someone switched off the Internet, then I'd definitely feel that the world had ended :-)
But some of you did find it vexing, to say the least:
I was one of the Orange phone users who lost service last night between 6pm and 9pm. Like probably a lot of customers I thought it was my handset that was at fault and it was frustrating not being able to get through to the call centre on the landline. It would have helped if Orange had posted a message on their website so at least people with internet access could see there was a network problem.
And about that Harrier on eBay. You might recall a reader picking us up  on an unwarranted plural in letters earlier this week:
I see a nit picked in error, so I shall re-instate said nit and El Reg's journalistic integrity. The Harrier also had an auxillary power unit, a small jet engine for driving the electrics. Technically, that's another engine. That'll be two engines then, engines plural. And it is almost certainly not in that airframe either as it was attached to the main engine.
Good grief. I can't believe I actually went to the effort to write all that and do the necessary googling to find out. Please, shoot me know before it's too late.
And finally - that extra-super-duper large telescope that got shrunk  this week.
"a 100m telescope could have captured snapshots of alien continents," I would have thought a 100m telescope could have captured snapshots of alien incontinence :)
"However, the planned telescope is still bigger than the one planned by the US (30m), something scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) admit has been a motivating factor."
That's just bloody sad. Why don't the boffins just get themselves a Hummer, if they have such a problem with penis envy? After all, it's huge, has enormous maintenance and usage costs, and will generate far more opportunities to dsiplay the owners' lack of natural testosterone than a telescope, which is perforce tied to a fixed location.
Or the two groups could collaborate and build a 72m telescope somewhere in the Sahara (sort of neutral territory), and still have the biggest eyes on the planet for the next half-century. And by putting it outside of both the US and the EU, they effectively remove it from serious political control.
"Stonking"? More British slang? Even if it's a typo for "stinking" (not inconceivable given where I and O sit on the QWERTY keyboard), I'm still not sure if you meant to be complimentary, biting, or just comedic.
To resolve this puzzler in the final letter today, we'll close with a link to the online dictionary of British slang . Fellow humans across the pond: enjoy. ®