Archive for the 'internet' Category


Death of google reader to usher in the new dark ages, experts say

Google reader cropSecurity and terrorism specialists in governments around the world have been bracing themselves for an unprecedented backlash of rage and fury in the wake of Internet search giant Google’s decision to phase out its popular – if unprofitable – feed reader service.  Used by tens of millions around the world as an archaic way of surfing the Internet without really trying, Google Reader will be pushed aside so the mega-firm can concentrate on more useful stuff like geeky heads-up display glasses.

“As of right now our security level is being raised to double-purple sparkly,” said Helmut Askew, US Undersecretary to the Overseer of Interior Externalities at the Pentagram.  A secret, never-before-used level of threat awareness to be invoked only in times of wartime and other unpleasant things, double-purple sparkly will first be felt by airline travellers.

“If you thought we were picky to the point of stupid about toothpaste, get ready,” lathered one official.

Security pros say this week’s Internet consumer outrage closely resembles the now-infamous 1985 Coca-Cola Co. Inc. decision to revise the formula for its popular soft drink soda refreshment beverage.  Coke’s replacement of its crappy, decades-old, overly sweet yet mystifyingly popular concoction with one slightly less crappy and less sweet outraged the addicted masses, who, urged on by the sugar cane lobby, managed to get Coca-cola to reverse its decision.

“Back then people didn’t go around shoving bombs in their shoe bottoms or strapping explosive devices around their midsections to wreak havoc on buses and planes,” explained L. Fin Gnome, security expert with Troll International.  “All we had to worry about was the prospect of global mutual incineration based on a computer malfunction or other misunderstanding. Those were the golden years, for sure.”

In addition to additional encore performances of airport security theatre, Pentagram officials say citizens wherever they are in the world must be aware that individual governments will be poised to clamp down on any demonstration, sit-down protest, hunger strike, random public gathering or topless protests taking place against Google’s decision.

“OK, we’ll allow boobage demos to happen only as long as  it takes to ensure we’ve got enough pics to show on the private news channels,” he said.

Philosophy professor Schmöckjr Pââp, Ph.D. of the University of Wallamoongdong, Australia, says the particular nature of the unprecedented international security clampdown reflects today’s new social media landscape.

“Today, it’s the individual terrorist venting wherever and whenever he can,” he said.  “Starbucks service too slow?  Tweet it.  Don’t like the weather?  Facebook status update.  Google Reader disappearing?  Blow up government and commercial buildings whilst your friends post the wreckage on Instagram. Even if you disapprove of their actions, once it’s on Facebook you have to hit Like to acknowledge your acknowledgement of the action.”

Statesmen and -women worldwide have reacted with shockage and appallation at the Pentagram’s elbow-jerk reaction to the Google Reader flappage.

“Bunga-Bunga, si, Doubla-purpla no!” said Silvia Berluscona, former helmsman of the Italian ship of state, now lying on its side after hitting rocks on the northwest coast and due to be towed sometime soon to a scrap metal yard.  “We who control all of Italy’s media will denounce this action if we can make money off it, or support it if we can’t.  And vice-versa.”

Russian President Voldemort Putin, fresh from another image-promotion tour where he showed off his somewhat perfectly buffed gluteus maximii to a fawning Russian media, said the Sotchi Winter Olympics of 2014 had already been planned as the most heavily securified Games on record, so the new threat level brought on by Google’s decision won’t have that much of a direct effect.

“We are already prepared for floods, washouts and mudslides,” said Putin to snickers and elbow-nudges from the Quebec wing of those journalists let out of jail long enough to be on hand at the press conference.  “Just look at Vancouver 2010!  We’ve got bigger trucks for bringing in more artificial snow if we have to.”

German reaction was straightforward and to the point.

“The Government of the Federal Government of Germany condemns in the strongest of terms the over-reaction of the American military, who should be taking world opinion into better consideration at this most critical of times,” said German Chancellor Angela Murkel.  “Nichtsdestotrotz and nevertheless we are prepared to send a small contingent of our troops to any regions affected, supplying them with pop-guns and Ravensburg puzzles – some in 3D –  because they’ll need to fill in their time somehow.”

Former US President Bill Clitnon said if he were still in the Oval Office, he’d be getting a… good grip on the situation and, uh…. ensuring there would be no stain on his legacy.

“Ah call on President Obama to do the raght thang and just put a stop to all this,” said Clitnon.

-the editors of Letters Home wish to inform readers that due to the above line involving the esteemed former US President the author of this piece has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect for breach of satire production rule 1: If using derivative material thou shalt at least refrain from recycling tired, old jokes about tired, old presidents.  Letters Home rejects having to resort to this course of action, and welcomes your visit in future.   Thank you.


the day the lolcats died

If you’re like me and woke up feeling rather clueless because you couldn’t tell the difference between a SOPA and a PIPA so you went to Wikipedia to get some info and found a black page with the ominous message that the Intrawebs as you know them will be forever damaged but why should you care because you’re not living in the USA and have never had a congressthingy to write to…

…the following video lays the issues out very clearly.

I was going to join the bandwagon and black out this humble blog for a day of protest, but unlike them and other heavyweights like Wikipedia, I’d rather have a laugh instead.

This guy’s kind of out of tune, but he’s funny:


Almost trampled by fake ugg boots

The red-haired girl needs warm boots for the winter, so we go online for some UGG boots.

“And they’re really a great price,” she says.  “Only 64 euros.”

Completely unaware of the hundreds of sites out there selling fake UGG boots, of which the list at left is merely one page of dozens to scroll through, and also unaware that these boots go for about four times the website’s price in German stores, I go to, register, and order the boots.

I key in my Mastercard details and hit Payment, but get an error message.  Something about the bank fraud scan failing, and that I should try again with another card.

Hah, but what’s this?  The message is written in sing-song English, has a number to call in case of error with a Chinese country code, and hey, why is there Chinese writing up there in the top corner?

Then I go back for a closer look at this dog’s mess of a website over which I’d just spewed my credit card information right down to the three-digit code on the back.

Now, I’m not saying they’re selling fake UGG boots.  Maybe they actually are the real thing and they just fell off the back of a truck, but take a look at that site.  Gawd, what a mess.  The formatting is all over the place.  The home page is in German, but when you register, you hit a button labeled login in English.

Then when you click on an item to buy, up comes another page with the text in English and the buttons in Italian.  So I now know that Aggiungi al carello means put in shopping cart, sucker.

Already having ignored so many red flags I thought I was standing blindfolded on Tiananmen Square, I write an email anyway asking why, when I key in my credit card details, I get an error message from China.

Back comes the answer overnight:

     We have accept  pay with a Mastercard. You can try it again or you can use another card to pay it. Thank you !
Right.  Fully aware my credit card could be in danger of being hit for something I now want nothing to do with, I phone Lufthansa’s Card Control hotline.
Whenever I buy something online, I get a text message right after it goes through saying what was ordered, where, how much it cost, and the time of transaction.  At the bottom of the message is a number to call.
So I called it and got them to temporarily block the card.  I also wrote an email to them detailing the site I’d ordered from, asking them not to process any transaction that might be coming from them.
So the red-haired girl gets a lesson, and I get a reminder: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Like this woman who bought an iPad for 180 quid in a McDonald’s parking lot only to find she’d picked up a great bargain on a block of wood. 

Facebook planking craze hits Hamburg!

Planking, the Facebook craze destined to last at least a few more hours one more week, has gone global.  Even the sleepy backwater of Hamburg, Germany has caught on.  We in Hamburg are more sensible than the rest, though.  Understated refinement is how we go about things here.

And because already at least one person has plunged seven storeys to his death in pursuit of the perfect planking position, in the interest of safety the editor and staff at Letters Home recommend you at least be sober before attempting your plank.

OK, so I bent a few of the official rules here.  But the penguin IS lying rigid on a 31-year-old German turntable.  Top that, plankers!


Apples from Deutsche Telekom: the great bait-and-switch

The other day I saw an advertisement for apples.

The ad said for 35 euro I could get 16 apples every month, plus all the cheddar cheese I want to go with it as long as I eat the cheese in Germany.

Because they looked like good apples, and I was currently only getting around 6, I phoned up a friendly lady who asked for my phone number, clicked away at a computer, then said yes, you can indeed get 16 apples a month, and we’ll set it all up for you.

But three weeks later when the first delivery of apples arrived at my door, all I found were 3 apples.

So I phoned up the lady again and asked her why I didn’t get my 16 apples.

“I don’t know,” she says, “you’ll have to talk to our driver.  Maybe some of the apples fell off the truck”

So she puts me onto the driver who tells me that yes indeed, 3 apples is all I’ll get.  “It’s because the road to your place is too long and bumpy.  The apples fall off all the time.”

“Is it also because there’s sometimes a lot of traffic on the road?”

“No,” he said. “It’s because of the road.”

“But why didn’t the lady who sold me the 16 apples tell me that in the first place?” I asked.   “I can’t be the first person at the end of this road ever to have ordered the 16 apples a month.”

“Yes, but…”

“And the price is exactly the same!” I wailed.  “Had I known, I’d never have ordered the apples!”

“I can’t change the way it’s set up,” said the mechanic., ” but you can go to a shop near your place, and maybe they’ll be able to help you out.”

Still hungry for apple pie I went with my sorry tale to the shop, where another friendly lady behind the counter said, “Well, if you’d have come here first for your apples, we’d have told you right away that you could only have 3 apples where you live.”

“So now I’m stuck with a two-year contract for fewer than 20% of the apples I ordered every month?”

She shook her head sadly.  “Yes, it’s too bad.”

“But if you like, I can offer you 50 apples a month.” she says, perking up.   “They’re delivered over a glass-fibre superhighway direct to your door.  It’ll only cost you 10 euro more a month.”

“But I don’t want 50 apples,” I said. “I’ll probably choke on them.”

“Sorry, that’s all you can get.”

And that, dear readers, is how Deutsche Telekom sells its high-speed VDSL Internet service to those looking for a fast – but not too fast – connection.

I would have been happy with only 6 Mb per second, which is what I was getting with another provider before their service went tits up and they refused to help me because the router I use wasn’t a router that they sell.

But when Telekom offered 16 per second I went for it, because it also offers free telephone calls throughout Germany.

Sure, they said, you can have DSL, but what they didn’t tell me was that because our place is too far from the main switch, I can only get a maximum of 3MB per second.  Sure enough, buried way down in the statement they mailed me after I signed up was a line that says 3MB/second.  I failed to notice that.  They certainly didn’t draw attention to it.  The woman I ordered from over the phone was too busy trying to sell me add-ons I didn’t need to concentrate on what I really wanted: a fast ADSL connection.

So, having given in, I’ve ordered their VDSL 50MB deal.  Fast, I know – too fast for what I need, but what the hell.  I still get the cheese, and maybe I can look up great apple pie recipes a little quicker.


Open letter to Lufthansa and Air Canada

Dear National Flypeople,  

I think your code-sharing system Star Alliance is a great idea – 27 airlines all working together to ensure we get where we wanna go.  

But I think you should re-name it.   Instead of Star Alliance, how about Stunned Abeyance?  Such is the state I was in after trying to check in online for my recent flight from Frankfurt to Toronto.

The first leg from Hamburg to Frankfurt went OK, and I printed out the boarding pass at home without a hitch.  But it wouldn’t allow me to check in for the Frankfurt – Toronto flight.  The Lufthansa hotline worker said that’s because it’s an Air Canada flight, code-sharing with Lufthansa.  “You’ll have to check in online at the Air Canada site,” he tells me.

Sounds fair, so I go over to the Air Canada site and try to check in there.  But even though I’ve waited until 24 hours before the onward flight time, it doesn’t let me check in.  I phone the Air Canada help number and after much fumbling and humming and hawing, they tell me that because Lufthansa issued the TICKET, I can’t check in online on the Air Canada site.

So let me get this straight.  Air Canada plane, therefore Lufthansa says no.  Lufthansa ticket, therefore Air Canada says no. 

So I phone Lufthansa again and they mumble a few apologies, assuring me that I will be able to get the seat assignment for the Air Canada flight when checking in my luggage in Hamburg.


“Sorry, I can’t get in to look at that flight,” the lady at the Lufthansa counter tells me the next morning.  “It’s an Air Canada flight.”

In the end it didn’t matter much, because when I finally got a seat assignment from Air Canada at the gate at Frankfurt and settled in for the long flight to Toronto, I couldn’t believe my luck!  Free upgrade to Business Class!!!

Nööö…that would have been too perfect, eh?   Actually, I really enjoyed sitting in the middle of the back row of a fully  loaded plane, mashed between a twitching overweight fellow who smelled vaguely of fish  and what looked to be a long-retired Czech porn star who kept leaping out of her seat to visit the nearby biffies.  Hey, that reminds me of one of my favourite jokes!  Do you mind?  What’s the difference between an epileptic oyster-shucker and a prostitute with diarrhea? 

One shucks between fits.

Yours ever,

Ian in Hamburg


Google to buy Twitter in spin-off frenzy

A Definitely Not the Daily News Exclusive

Tech industry sources say the reason Google is in talks to buy Twitter is so that the search engine giant can spin off the immensely popular yet completely useless social media site into different channels.

twitter-i-send-pointless-little-messages“With Twitter, you have millions of people all on one platform,” said Kaushik Shridharani, technology analyst with Stiffe, Yall & Runn, an investment bank. “In simple terms, by spinning off Twitter into different branches, Google can reslabuftulate overlapping shintablatts without snaptifying their crubinta factors.”

Google is also out to stomp on millions of mommy bloggers who dare to launch Twitter-like sites.

“Don’t be evil?  Let’s get real,” said Shridharani. “Today’s Mama is going to be tomorrow’s dog meat when Google gets through with them.”

Scribblings deciphered from a scrunched-up paper napkin retrieved from the men’s restroom of a Mountain View, California McDonald’s reveal that Google already has several Twitter knock-offs in the works.

Among them:

Short bursts of laughter / short spurts o’ porn: Titter

Domestic Violence helpline: Hitter

For those that don’t swallow: Spitter

Tweets on the john: ( you figure it out)

Short bursts of rage and scorn: Bitter

Tweets from the Zoo: Critter

Low-level dispute resolution: Snitter

For those who work with wool: Knitter

While taking care of the neighbour’s kid: Sitter

Random ADHD for the caffeine-addicted: Flitter Jitter

Casually dropped garbage locations: Litter

Some search but never find it: Clitter

I’m outta here: Quitter

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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