A website. With stuff on it.
November 20th, 2007 at 6:54 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Pearls of Wisdom

In a new series, I’ll be giving you tips on how to take advantage of ridiculous company policies to screw with people!

Know someone who runs a Cafepress store? Want to f**k them over? Maybe you’re a Cafepress store owner jealous of another store’s content? Maybe you don’t know them at all, are in a shitty mood and just feel like screwing badly with someone? No problem!

All you have to do is tell Cafepress they’re infringing on your trademark. It doesn’t have to be true. All you have to say is that, I dunno, you own the word ‘banana’ or something. Quote some random number as the trademark reference for authenticity. Don’t worry, they won’t check, but they WILL take down the store owners content, thus hurting their business, ruining a product line and labelling them an IP thief! Simple!

Tune in next time for more fun ways to ruin someone’s business!

Also, this tip can be used another way, to screw with Cafepress themselves, albeit at the expense of a lot of innocents. But don’t worry, Cafepress have only contempt for their customers too! The only downside is that you have to do a quick bit of research, because they’ll want the offending products listed. Sticking with our previous example, find, say, a thousand products on their stores that infringe on your fictional ‘banana’ trademark, and send them a take down list of all of them.

Tip: if you use Firefox there are plugins that can harvest the link addresses for you – run your search on all of Cafepress, compile an instant list of links to offenders, and hey presto!

That should keep them amused for hours! Maybe days!

Bitter? Moi?

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November 20th, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

So I’ve had a Cafepress account for, ooh, a week now for a site I’m working on. My second ever design included the word ‘Caution’ on a square yellow background, just like every caution sign you ever saw anywhere in the world. (It was actually incredibly specific, too. There’s like one in 10,000 people that could even qualify to buy the darn thing as a tshirt! It said ‘Caution – Long haired head banger. Whipping and spraying likely to occur’).

Cafepress pulled it and pointed me to a ‘guess what you done wrong’ FAQ of the myriad of reasons they might possibly pull a design. So I asked them what the hell?

They responded by saying that the word ‘Caution’ is the trademarked property of some company I’m not gonna bother to name because I don’t want to give them any publicity. Well, as you and I both know, but apparently Cafepress don’t, that is impossible because you can’t just trademark common words.

A five minute Google reveals that the trademark is specifically for the “use of the word ‘Caution!’ inside a diamond shaped box resembling a traffic sign”, and there even seems to be some stipulation as to what products they can claim infringement on. (Added to which, it seems the trademark only covers use when the word and design is used together and on its own as described – any other wording in the diamond would invalidate the trademark).

Which is not really surprising when their design is actually a rip off of one of the variations of a popular internationally recognised warning sign.

So, here’s a warning from me! (I might put this on a Cafepress shirt…)

Caution!

Cafepress will remove your
legitimate design from your
store without even
investigating the
validity or legality
of any infringement claim.

There is a serious point to this, though. It’s surely very risky to put your original designs on Cafepress at all? Because potentially, someone could steal your design and claim that YOU infringed them, and since Cafepress policy is (and I quote) “In order to best protect ourselves from risk, we must take all allegations of infringement seriously and take action in removing the content from our site.”. Really. That’s their customer policy! The mind, boggles, doesn’t it?

They will just comply with the first person who complains, however dodgy, unlikely and downright false their claim is, you will be completely screwed. In other words, any competitor with a grudge, or any shady character who decides they’d quite like to use your idea will be able to scupper your business, invalidate your product and rip your IP off with the full tacit agreement and complicity of Cafepress. Or, like in this case, some sad litigious moron with too much time on their hands who obviously just scours the internet looking for people he can piss off with false claims because he feels like he has some god given right to any and all use of a common everyday word. *waves to Jim*

Don’t get me wrong – I’m totally in favour of protecting your IP. But this is not what their policy is doing. This is complying with and accepting as fact a malicious false claim that labels their innocent store keepers as content thieves. You would think that if I could find out the exact nature and numbers of these Trademarks in well under 5 minutes and establish that there is absolutely no validity to the claim, they might have enough respect for their customers to do the same before accusing them of a crime.

In fact, Cafepress policy amounts to ‘everyone except our customer is always right’, and suggests that they will actively aid people in committing a crime – after all, that’s what it is… there are laws about falsely and knowingly claiming infringement (and this moron knows exactly what his own trademark covers… how can he be in any doubt?) – against their customer to cover their own asses. So it seems that if you’re a Cafepress customer, the odds are very much stacked against you.

It doesn’t seem that common sense even comes into it – this is a word in the dictionary, people. You’re telling me that if I use it in ANY context it’s a trademark violation? You don’t have to be a lawyer to realise that Cafepress look ridiculous even regurgitating this crap like they believe it.

If I actually were doing something wrong, I’d be the first person to apologise and amend it, because as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been on the receiving end of real IP theft and it’s not fun.

Anyone have experience of any of the other companies that lets you do much the same as Cafepress but doesn’t roll over the first time someone falsely claims infringement? Of course, I expect T&C’s etc… I don’t mind a bit of red tape, but not a kangaroo court that takes at face value without investigation any ridiculous complaint.

Preferably one that requires a DMCA takedown notice being formally issued (which would obviously fail because there IS no infringement!) instead of a complaint from some fat guy in his moms basement on the back of a cigarette packet.

I’m actually really glad I found out the dangers of using Cafepress before I put any proper original designs up that I’ve spent ages working on instead of just a humorous slogan, because this site I’m working on will be heavily merchandise based. As such, I need a good alternative to Cafepress to take my business, please!

But you know what? If I could be bothered about this sad moron and his abuse of the law to attack my integrity with false claims, I’d bloody well register the word ‘Caution!’ in a triangle traffic sign and go into direct competition with him. Give him a little education on how far his ‘ownership’ of the word actually extends. But frankly, it’s a lame brand and lame products from a petty little man. So I won’t be bothering.

Instead I’ll change the word to ‘Warning’ because frankly I only used ‘Caution’ cuz it fit better. Like I’ll be impacting his business with a frickin tshirt that only a long haired heavy metal fan going to a concert could wear anyway…

[EDIT] I’ve just had an email from Cafepress saying that they made a mistake and will reinstate my designs. Whether that was my scathing blog or my scathing email, I dunno. :p

Letting the rant stand for now because (a) I’m still pissed off, (b) I’ll still be looking for another company to take my business to and (c) it takes a while to do that much ranting!

[EDIT 2] LOL! I just received another email from Cafepress saying that they wont be reinstating my designs and they sent that last email to the wrong person. Add ‘incompetent’ to the list of things you can say about Cafepress. Unless there’s a trademark on that word too, of course. So the rant will definitely be staying!

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November 19th, 2007 at 5:17 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Site News

*points to new link in sidebar*

I’m trying to embark on a career as a freelance web designer and graphic designer, putting to good use what I’ve learned over the years in my professional career but seem to be having no end of trouble getting a full time job at.

I know why this is the case, and unfortunately it really doesn’t do me any favours at all. You see, for the last 6 or 7 years, all the work I’ve done professionally has been safely locked away from the public behind the secure servers of the London Insurance Market. I literally have nothing to show for it. Heck, I wouldn’t even be allowed to show you most of it if I could!

So trying to convince a potential employer that I can do the job without evidence to back me up is falling somewhat flat… and it’s the same with freelancing; despite there being a number of freelance sites out there that I could potentially get work from, they all seem to be geared up towards established freelancers with a nice, full portfolio behind them.

All I can do is point people to my art work here on this website. Or even my personal photo galleries, which hopefully at least show that I’m a creative person with a good eye for detail and composition.

I have a few other (sadly personal and unpaid) websites in the works, but it’s early days yet and they’re only just taking shape. Besides which, for now, anything that isn’t going to make me money so I can buy food is low on my list of priorities (do I sound desperate? and if so, does it help?! :p).

I’d love to launch a nice, professional web site of my own to offer these services from instead of using a page on my blog, but no matter how good it is, the first thing anyone is going to ask is ‘where is your portfolio?’!

So what I really need to do is build up a portfolio of work that I can use to actually launch my freelance career in the first place!

So basically, what I’m offering is that if you take a chance on me for your web or graphics design needs, not only will you receive a quality product for extremely low cost while I’m trying to build my business, but I won’t charge you a penny until you’re 100% satisfied with the final product. After all, I want to build a portfolio of happy customers for whom I’ve done work I can show off!

If you’re interested, please contact me using this form with some details of your needs, and I’ll get right back to you.

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November 16th, 2007 at 11:37 am
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

I just received Crysis, the much hyped PC game. I’m installing it now, in fact. All 12 gigabytes of it. Yes, really.

Ya know, I don’t care how good a game it is. Even if it’s the best game ever made by a long stretch, 12 gigs of install is just beyond ridiculous. If they’re going to start doing this regularly, games need to start coming preinstalled on a fucking second hard drive.

Ah well. Back to the install. Though if the demo is anything to go by, it’s going to run like a dog, even on medium resolution, on my super specced PC (even though it scores in the top 1% of all PC’s on the planet on 3dMark).

Maybe the world is not really ready for Crysis yet. They still need to invent the computer it’ll run on.

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November 14th, 2007 at 2:46 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

So I got a call from Microsoft in the US. This being about my complaint that after they sent me back a refurbished console I can no longer use a lot of my downloaded games or content as I should be able to. It was going quite well, initially. She explained that she could manually update their system to reflect my current xbox serial number and all would be well. Quite why you can’t just reregister yourself from their website like you do originally, I dont know. But I digress.

So she asked, specifically, for the serial of the recently refurbished Xbox360. I explained that there was no point in me giving that, since it was already scheduled to go back to the repair center again, since they’d essentially sent me a non functional replacement. And then the trouble started…

You see, I own two xbox360’s. And I don’t even use one of them for those accounts, that download content, or even to connect to Live. But I wanted to give her the serial of the surviving xbox360 – it doesn’t make any difference to me which I use, and I don’t see why it should. But apparently, that blew her tiny widdle mind. She couldn’t comprehend anyone owning two xbox360’s, and it seems her brain just shut down it’s normal thought processes and ability to comprehend or listen at that point.

She immediately blurted out that that was precisely why I was having these difficulties! Download content is licensed to a single box! I can’t use it on both!

I explained patiently once again that I knew that. That I wasn’t trying to do that. That I did not use the second box for online, download content, and it does not know of the existence of the gamertag and account for which I’m having the issue.

But no. That was why I was having problems! I tried to explain it in simpler terms. Ya know “pretend that I have an xbox that has never been used and is in no way connected to this issue, but since you keep sending me broken consoles, I want to use this one now instead so I can actually play games and stuff. Like, it’s not your concern at all. I want to deregister one serial number for a dead xbox that you’ve now sent to some other poor sucker, and give you another. When you eventually replace my broken xbox360 with another, I’ll use THAT one as the offline, no content one and you won’t have to worry your pretty little heads about it”. Ok, I’m paraphrasing. But really, how hard is it to comprehend?

Nuhuh. By this point, her brain is in meltdown and she can no longer string together a sentence longer than “I, uh, will, uh, have to, uh, consult with my supervisors and, uh, ring you back”.

….

?!

Maybe I’m the first person in history to conceive of buying two of their products.

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November 7th, 2007 at 2:01 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

No, seriously.  I am.

I noticed I’d lost a bit of weight when I went to put my pants on the other day – since I stopped working in September I’ve mainly worn jogging pants around the house. But sometimes you have to venture outside, ya know?

Anyhoo, my pants fell straight down again. So I put my trusty belt on, and even pulling it to the tightest notch, my pants are still falling down.

Ok. So losing a bit of weight around your waist I can understand.

But then I put my watch on for the first time in a while, and the tightest notch on my watch strap is too loose!

WTF?!

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November 7th, 2007 at 12:59 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

Warning: This is a rant. But it’s one that any Xbox360 owner who ever had a problem will likely identify with!

Ok, so piss poor support is, like, the norm these days for every company. Certainly any I end up having to deal with, anyway.

So my console is broke again. I think it’s been well established now that the build quality of the Xbox360 is nothing short of appalling, so probably no surprise there. This, though, is the replacement they sent me only a month or so ago because my original died with the oh-so-common ‘red ring of death’. But actually, that’s not why I was ringing them today in the first place.

When they repair your console, they send you a complimentary 1 month subscription to Xbox Live presumably to make up for the month it takes them to get the console repaired/replaced and back to you. I only just got round to redeeming it yesterday after the last console repair. And then I got an email to confirm it had been added… along with a second one to say that they’d successfully renewed my Xbox360 Live subscription starting October 2008!

Since I’d just paid for my years subscription in September, which I can ill afford anyway since I’m currently unemployed and having no luck in the job hunting department, I called to make sure that they hadn’t in fact just charged me two years in advance for Live and charged me 80 quid in two months.

So anyway, I call, I explain. She doesn’t understand. I explain again. She repeats back a completely different version of events to clarify what I’m telling her, I correct her and explain again. She goes away confused, I get put on hold for 15 minutes. She comes back, still not really understanding what the problem is. Eventually I get her to tell me that nothing has been debited from my account in the last few days and that no, they aren’t expecting to bill me again for xbox live. So it seems they just send completely incorrect emails to confuse people.

Then she asks ‘is there anything else I can do for you?’. To which I reply that yes, I need to send my xbox360 in. Again. So we go through all of that, and she’s reading from a script that insists I tell her exactly what is happening with the faulty console right now. It’s not plugged in. It’s boxed up ready to send back because it’s feckin’ DEAD. But still she wants me to unpack it, plug it all back in and set it up on the tv and stuff to verify this because it’s in her script. I manage to talk her out of this, and we eventually arrange for the pickup of my deceased hardware.

Then she asks ‘is there anything else I can do for you?’. Well, if she’s going to keep asking…

So I complain about the also well established problems that befall Xbox Live users, and particularly those that spend Microsoft Points to buy downloadable content, when they have their consoles replaced after they send them back to Microsoft (MS rarely send you back your own console… despite knowing all about the problems I’m about to describe).

I have bought lots of download content – I’ve bought over a dozen Live Arcade games, and content packs to enhance some of my existing games. Now, though I still have the original hard drive they were downloaded to, and I’m still using the same Xbox Live account duly recovered to the new console, I (and tens of thousands of other people in my situation) am now faced with a completely different set of rules when it comes to my using that content I paid for, and they’re downright annoying.

When you buy an Arcade game, for example, you are able to use the full version of that game on your or any other account on that console. And you don’t have to be connected to Live to play. Once you’ve been fobbed off with a refurbished console, suddenly that all changes… you can ONLY play the full version on your account. Ever. Any other player who has an account on that Xbox360 is now locked out of that game. You can also ONLY play on your own account that downloaded the content while logged into Xbox Live.

That’s not the annoying part, though.

Content that you downloaded for games, such as Test Drive Unlimited, for which I’ve bought all the additional car packs, fairs even worse. Now, every single solitary time I start TDU and click ‘continue’ to carry on my career, it tells me that there is downloadable content in my save game that I don’t have. Which is actually the wrong message, really. What it’s really saying is that I have the content, it’s registered to my account, it’s right there on the hard drive, but it knows this isn’t the console I originally downloaded it to. I’ve Googled this and read extensively about people with similar issues, and they’ve ended up giving up and starting again. TDU is a progressive career game. I don’t WANT to start again because MS don’t know what they’re doing.

I did find a sort of solution, but it’s a major pain in the butt. When TDU tells me I don’t have this content, it takes me to the TDU downloads section on Xbox Live Marketplace… but doesn’t give me any indication as to what it thinks is missing. In fact, if I choose ANY of the download content and redownload it, and return to the game, which then reboots because it has to load and verify the content, I can eventually continue my game. Yes, every time. Every single time I want to play TDU, I have to load the game, go to Marketplace, redownload one of the content packs, reboot the machine, THEN I can play.

Xbox Live looks very slick, generally. Downloadable content is a great way to enhance your games and get new ones. And it all works great… until you get your faulty console replaced (and mark my words, your Xbox360 WILL die eventually!). Then you’re basically scammed out of the license rights to anything you’ve ever downloaded. But despite the fact that thousands of people have highlighted this and it’s talked about all over the web, MS steadfastly refuse to address the problem or compensate the gamer.

Speaking of compensation, back to the call I was on… so I finish telling her how all the content I bought on Live now effectively has completely new and very restrictive and annoying license terms through no fault of my own, and she says that someone will have to call me back on this one. But before I go, she says ‘because you’ve had your console repaired more than once, we’d like to offer you some small gift by way of compensation. I’ll just transfer you, ok?’. Nice sentiment… if she hadn’t then just put me on hold for over half an hour until I gave up and hung up. I think an hour and a half on one phone call with most of that spent listening to elevator music because ‘their systems are slow’ (they’re probably Windows, love) is enough, even on promise of compensation.

I am not a fan of Xbox360, Xbox Live or Microsoft right now, I can tell you. It’s almost enough to make you want to defect to PS3… (I did say ALMOST)

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October 29th, 2007 at 5:13 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Site News

Since I mentioned resurrrecting some of the stuff I had here before, I’ve had a couple of comments about the particleIllusion fan site I used to run. So I’ve put it back up! Please bear in mind this is an as yet unaltered upload of the original site from many moons ago. So not only does it look outdated, a number of the links and stuff are outdated too. The free emitter libraries etc are all intact though, so have fun!

I’ll set about updating it as I get time.

Linkie: particleIllusion Site 

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October 29th, 2007 at 5:07 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Site News

I’ve finally got round to republishing a random selection of my artworks spanning the last 10 years or so. More as I find them… which is no mean feat, since they span at least 4 PC’s, most of which are not in operational order, and a bunch of randomly scattered and usually unmarked archive CD’s. And yes, you’re right, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take better care of archiving my stuff. Problem is, when I get a spanking new computer, the last thing I want to do is fill it up with ‘old’ stuff. So I tend to pretty much start anew.

Still, there’s some more recent stuff there too – specifically the flurry of renderings I did when I got Vue 6.

Linkie: My Artwork! 

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October 23rd, 2007 at 2:11 pm
Posted By: Jay
Posted in: Rambling

Judging by the deafening silence, I’m guessing I’m like the only person in the world who thinks this plugin is a good idea. Well, I guess I’ll be writing it myself, then.

Trouble is, whilst I think I know how I want to achieve it… I just don’t actually know how to write it.

As far as I can tell, the simplest way to do this would be to use a filter to find and replace a key word that I embed in the post content itself, and whilst I’ve found loads of examples on how to write WordPress plugins, I haven’t found one that seems to explain (at least in terms that I understand!) how to pass a variable to your function from the body of your post.

See, unless I’m going at this completely the wrong way, what I’d really like to do is be able to write, say <!– astore=cheese –> in my post, so that my function get_astore_links picks up the keyword ‘cheese’ and returns the relevant link from an associative array of links in my function – thus displaying my aStore category for cheese.

Sounds pretty simple to me, if only I knew how. Anyone know of some idiot proof documentation or a good example I can follow to achieve that?

I tried to pull apart some other plugins that did a similar thing, and all I really got out of it is that it involved regex, which I kind of knew already. But the plugins were way too complex for me to get my head round and decide which bits were or weren’t relavent to what I’m trying to do.

My brain hurts, so I’m going now.

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