nosubjectAmong the most peevish of my pet peeves are email messages that have no subject line. Why do people send them?

I know, I know, it’s generally accidental. Unfortunately, not all email applications warn users when they’re sending a message without a subject line. While most do warn, often you can set a configuration preference to disable such warnings.

The graphic is of the pop-up message that Mac Mail provides. As far as I know, there’s no way to disable it the alert. Good!

Memo to world: Sending email without a subject line is pretty rude. Subject lines help us find messages in our inbox, and also let us link threads together. Test your email software to make sure that it warns you. If it doesn’t, check your settings to turn that feature on (or back on).

Memo to my friend Nancy, who always uses the subject line “from Nancy”: That’s just as bad! I already know that the message is from you, since I see your name in the “From” field. I have a hundred messages from you, on multiple threads, and they all have the subject lines “from Nancy” or “re: From Nancy” — stop it!

Several weeks ago, out of the blue, Facebook began using captcha codes when I would send messages to other Facebook users. They’d also appear if I put a link into my Facebook status message.

In order to confirm my entry, I’d have to correctly describe the partially obscured text. In theory, this is a task that humans are good at, but computers are bad at, so that it should confirm to Facebook that a human was making that entry, not a spambot.

There were two problems with this. The first is that it was a nuisance. The second was that there were some bugs in the Facebook’s captcha code, where it would insist that the code I entered was incorrect — sometimes for a dozen entries — before it would finally accept one.

(If there’s one thing worse than an overly obtrusive security mechanism, it’s a flawed, overly obtrusive security mechanism. There was a lot of screaming on various Facebook forums about this.)

It got worse. The Facebook system, whenever it asked for the captcha, taunted me with a message that said, “Sick of these? Verify for your account,” with a link. The link just brought me back to my Facebook home page. There are no menu items for verifying your account, at least not that I could find.

Two weeks ago, I used Facebook’s hard-to-find “Contact Us” system to ask for assistance. This morning, I received a polite response:

Hi Alan,

Facebook has several features in place to limit the potential for spam and abuse on the site. One such feature is the “words in the box” (i.e. captchas) that you see when poking, messaging, or sending friend requests.

There are two ways to stop seeing these tests. First, you can verify your cell phone, which allows us to verify that a real person is in control of the account. This process should be explained to you if you click on the “Verify” link below the captcha.

The second way to stop seeing captchas is to affiliate with a college network. If your school provides you with an email address, you can add a college network from the “Networks” tab on the Account Settings page, which can be accessed from the “Settings” dropdown menu at the top of any Facebook page.

Unfortunately, if you cannot verify with a cell phone or add a college network, you will continue to see captchas. We apologize for the inconvenience, but this is one of the most effective tools we have in place to protect our users. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

User Operations

Since I don’t have a college network, I’ve tied my Facebook account to my mobile phone. Do that by selecting the “Setting” menu, and then using the Mobile tab. So far, so good: I sent two messages, and no captchas. Hurray!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I worked with Mert in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the Univ. of Maine at Orono, shortly before he moved to the Univ. of Southern Maine.

I just learned that he passed away nearly three years ago, in January 2006. That’s what happens when you lose touch with people….

Mert was the smartest, most thorough, most patient, data center manager (and canoe racer) I ever met. Much that I learned about “real world” computing I learned from Mert.

Here’s a note from the USM campus president’s newsletter:

We all deeply regret the loss of our beloved colleague and friend Mert Nickerson, director of USM IT networking and sales, who passed away on January 12. For nearly 40 years — 20 years at USM, and earlier with UNET’s predecessor CAPS —Mert’s hard work, leadership and talent has helped us transform our technology to better serve our students, faculty and staff. His passing is a great loss to our community, personally and professionally, and he will be missed greatly.

Goodbye, Mert, and thank you.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Purely by coincidence: A day after I posted about the Lego handguns, Bruce Schneier blogged about a Lego safe.

I suppose you should store your Brickgun inside the Lego safe, to keep it out of the hands of children.

Hmm. What?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

No, it’s not a Zen thing. Brickgun claims that its models are “the coolest Lego weapons in the world,” and going by the pictures on their site, I believe.

The company makes very detailed models of five weapons: Beretta 92FS (pictured), Glock 17, Glock 19, Desert Eagle and H&K MP5.

According to Brickgun, these aren’t just static models. “Each model is life-sized, with accurate dimensions and details. They feature functioning mechanics such as triggers, hammers, slides, safeties and magazines so they not only look like the real thing, they work like the real thing as well.”

The only part that’s not so cool is the price, which ranges from $50 to $65 per model. That’s why we haven’t ordered one. Still, this is really neat.

PS: To quote from the company, and to allay any fears: BrickGun models DO NOT FIRE PROJECTILES and are not actual working weapons, they are Lego models meant only to display the form and mechanical functions of real guns.

PPS: The answer to the question raised by the header: The hammer can be cocked and when the trigger is pulled the hammer falls with a “click.”

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Get with it, AT&T!

In the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of “anonymous” telemarketing calls on my wireline phone. As a general rule, if someone calls me, and their phone number doesn’t show up in Caller ID, it’s not someone I want to talk to.

Can I have the calls blocked? Yes. AT&T offers a service called “Anonymous Call Rejection,” for $5 per month. Okay, I’ll sign up for it.

The order confirmation page says that the service will be installed on Monday, Nov. 24. I signed up today, Thursday, Nov. 20. What the heck? Why would it take four days for AT&T’s software to flip a provisioning bit?

It’s another reason why people are yanking the wireline and just using their mobiles, or using VoIP over cable. Sheesh.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Before you light up your San Francisco Bay Area fireplace, check the Internet, to see if it’s a Spare the Air Day. If it is, and if you light up anyway, be prepared for a $2,000 fine.

Regulation 6, Rule 3, passed on July 9, 2008, restricts people’s ability to burn wood when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District says that air quality is unhealthy. The ruling went into effect today.

You can read about the ruling here, on the BAAQMD site, and also read about reaction to it in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“After the initial warning, repeat violators will be permitted to attend “smoke school” – similar to traffic school – in lieu of paying fines. But four-figure fines will be assessed against those who fail to get the message,” says the newspaper story.

We had the wood-burning fireplace in our home converted to natural gas a few years ago, as part of a living room renovation, so this ruling doesn’t affect us directly. Still, it’s irksome that the government regulates home fireplaces.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

It’s the end of an era — PC Magazine will cease publication in January, as Ziff Davis Media focuses on its Web site and a new “digital network.”

According to the company’s press release,

Ziff Davis Media, one of the leading integrated technology media companies in the country, announced today that PCMag, its flagship brand, will go all-digital. The final print version will be the January 2009 issue. Further emphasizing its all digital direction, it was also announced the PCMag Network will be renamed PCMag Digital Network with as its lead property.

For the past seven years, PCMag has leveraged its long-standing position with technology readers and advertisers to build one of the leading digital media properties in the technology category. During this period, its digital assets registered annual audience and revenue growth of 33% and 42% respectively. Today, the PCMag Digital Network, with over seven million unique monthly visitors, reaches in excess of 10 times the circulation of the print publication.

“Moving our flagship property to an all-digital format is the final step in an evolutionary process that has been playing out over the last seven years,” stated Jason Young, CEO of Ziff Davis Media. “Since 2000, online has been the focal point where technology buyers get their information and technology marketers are directing their dollars to drive demand and build their brands. We have been carefully preparing for this step and are fortunate to have a digital business that has the scale, profit, and opportunity to carry the brand powerfully into the future.”

What’s funny is that the company has suddenly rebranded the print publication as PCMag. Historically, it has been PC Magazine. As the press release says,

“Over the last 27 years, PCMag has garnered an extraordinary level of trust and credibility among consumers and technology companies alike, who consider our news and reviews to be the gold standard in the industry. This is an exciting time for our company and we look forward to this next stage in the growth and development of the PCMag brand,” states Lance Ulanoff, Editor-in-Chief of the PCMag Digital Network.”

It’s sad to watch an industry flagship sink. Goodbye, PC Magazine. You’ll be missed. My business partner, Ted Bahr, who sold advertising for PC Magazine beginning with the December 1982 issue, offers his condolences as well.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

A press release we issued today. Note that the eXtreme Early Bird registration discount for FutureTest 2009 ends this Friday, Nov. 21.

Star-Studded Speaker Lineup Announced for FutureTest 2009

Conference attendees will lessons on Web software quality from, Adobe, Time Inc., HBO, Bank of America

BZ Media LLC today announced the industry-leading speakers for FutureTest™ 2009, the practical, two-day technology conference for senior leaders in Web software development, testing and quality assurance. The conference will be held February 24-25, 2008, at the Roosevelt Hotel, in Midtown Manhattan.

Speakers and technical sessions at FutureTest 2009 includes:

Jinesh Varia, Technology Evangelist at “Virtual Stress-Free Testing in the Cloud”

Kris Schultz, Technical Lead, Rich Internet Application Practice Group at Resource Interactive: “Feast Your Eyes on Victoria’s Secrets of Testing”

Jeff Johnson, Author, GUI Bloopers 2.0: Common User Interface Design Don’ts and Dos: “Web Bloopers — Avoiding Common Design Mistakes”

Robert Sabourin, President of AmiBug.Com: “Testing in Turbulent Times”

Paco Hope, Technical Manager, Cigital: “The Cyber Tester: Blending Human and Machine”

Additional sessions will be led by Ryan Townsend, Time Inc.; Jaswinder Hayre, Home Box Office; and James Apple, Bank of America; among others.

Registration is now open for FutureTest 2009, with “eXtreme Early Bird” discounts available through Nov. 21, 2009. Registration includes a two-day conference pass, admission to presentations and panels, breaks and lunch, a networking reception, and all conference materials. Attendees can register online at

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Wal-Mart sent me this email today, for my order of the new AC/DC Black Ice disc last month. Thanks for the refund, wish I knew why they’re issuing it.

Subj: A Refund for Your Order

Dear Alan Zeichick,

Thank you for your recent purchase. We recently made an adjustment to this order. A credit in the amount of $1.97 has been issued to the payment method you used for this purchase. The credit should appear in your next available billing cycle.

Credit or Debit Card: The credit should appear on your statement within two
billing cycles.

Gift Card: Funds will be credited back to the original Gift Card. If you no
longer have this card, please contact us at 1-800-966-6546.

Bill Me Later: The credit should appear on your next statement.

PayPal: A refund has been issued to your PayPal account. The funds should
be available within 10 business days.

You can track the status of all your orders by visiting the “My Account” main page:

If you have any questions, please reply to this email and let us know how we can help.


Your Customer Service Team

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Not the subatomic particle. Not the big-lobed bartender in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Quark can only mean one thing: Captain Adam Quark, commander of a United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser in the year 2222.

Quark was a short-lived (eight episodes) comedy television show, starring Richard Benjamin, that ran briefly in 1977-1978. Since then, the only way to see those shows was on really bad bootleg VHS tapes, or on really bad Web videos made from those bootleg VHS tapes.

But now… Quark is available on DVD from Amazon! Hurray!

If, like me, you like campy science fiction TV shows that seemed really funny in the late 1970s, but which seem hopelessly dated and somewhat bizarre today, you’ll want to follow the adventures of Adam Quark, Betty I and Betty II, Gene/Jean, Ficus, Andy, Otto Palindrome, and of course, The Head (pictured).

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The night of November 9-10, 1938, must have been terrifying beyond comprehension. That’s when the Germans citizens launched Kristallnacht, the night of breaking glass, destroying buildings, property and religious treasures belonging to the frightened Jews of the country.

My mother-in-law, Rosa Sacharin, was a young girl in Berlin at that time. She escaped the country shortly thereafter on the first Kindertransport on December 1, 1938. In this picture, she’s the girl on the left, wearing a nametag as she comes off the refugee boat in the U.K.

One of the bravest people I know, Rosa has spoken about her experiences in Germany all over the world. You can read stories about her online, such as the Sunday Herald’s “Hitler’s Forgotten Victims,” and The Scotsman’s “Escape from Hell.”

Rosa was asked to speak at an event on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. She has graciously permitted me to publish her remarks here. Even though this is not normally the sort of post that goes onto my blog, my dear Rosa’s remarkable story must be told.


Ladies and Gentlemen.

The main purpose of my talk is to discuss the events of Kristallnacht. I was a child then, and did not experience the horrors that many did. My experiences are therefore centred on the day after the event and I will confine myself to that.

However, it is important to know something of the circumstances which led to this event and the willingness of a nation to accept without question the philosophies of the ruling party.

Historians claim that the Kristallnacht served as the prelude to the Final Solution, which was carefully planned. I would question this interpretation and show that the Kristallnacht was opportunistic, rather than planned.

Any change in political orientation involves a process of manipulation and indoctrination of the general population, to make it compliant. This process involves all sections of society and includes the education system from primary right through to higher education, public services, the judiciary, police, industry and religious institutions. Nor did this happen only in Germany during the Nazi period, but was and continues to be a well-established method in all countries.

At school, the day started with the salute to Hitler and immediately followed by the Lord’s Prayer. In German, it was “Heil Hitler, Vater Unser”. Young children thus began to associate Hitler with God. It was, in fact a very subtle way of indoctrinating children.

Jewish children were subjected to comments made by teachers and readily echoed by classmates. One teacher, a member of the blackshirts, made it clear that Jews were not wanted in Germany and should go to Palestine. Another teacher used me to show the class how dishonest Jews are. According to Nazi philosophy, it was impossible for a Jew to do well in any subject, and since I was quite good at some, this did not fit into the National Socialist portrayal of the Jews. I was branded a cheat.

One lesson included a study of the stars, held after school in the evening, when the teacher pointed to one of the shining stars and said, “ Children, see that star, it is the Jew Star, which is responsible for all our misfortunes” There was a gasp from the children and they all turned to look at us.

There were other examples, but it shows how the education system was used to manipulate and indoctrinate. Later on these children would become members of Hitler Youth and BDM (the group for girls) where further indoctrination made them compliant citizens.

It is often said that the Jews in Germany did not want to know or were blind to what was happening. This is not the case. Many Jews recognised the dangers and left Germany. As early as 1932 Recha Freier, a Rabbi’s wife, saw the dangers and decided that there was no future in Germany for young Jewish people. She founded Youth Aliyah, which enabled 14 – 17 year olds to prepare for life in Palestine. There was opposition to her work, but she persisted and many young Jews were saved. Soon after coming to power, Jews were removed from academic and professional posts and left Germany.

1935 saw the enactment of the Nuremberg laws, which led to further discrimination, and disenfranchisement. Over 200 Jewish men were tried as “enemies of the State.” All their Funds were taken. Since their families were left destitute, escape was impossible. This added to the burden of the Jewish Social Services.

The Law created other problems. All Jewish children attending State Schools had to leave, i.e. there was not to be close contact between non-Jewish and Jewish children, who had to find placements in Jewish Schools. Older pupils were able to continue some form of education with ORT (Organisation for Rehabilitation and Training.

Religious life was well established. With a Jewish population in Berlin of about 160,000 it had 14 Community Synagogues, 19 Private Synagogues of which one belonged to the Sephardic community. There were Jewish Schools, Kindergartens, Home and School for the Jewish deaf, a workshop for Jewish blind, a Jewish Hospital, Psychiatric hospital, several Jewish old age homes, Jewish orphanages, and Homes as well as Youth groups. Art and theatres were well supported and during the difficult years, there was support for those in need and preparation for emigration. It can be seen that the Jewish community applied the basic concept of Judaism.

In 1938 when Hitler invaded Austria, Poland worried that Polish Jews would seek safety in Poland. To prevent this, the Polish government issued a warning that those Jews who held Polish nationality, but had not been to Poland in the past 5 years would not be allowed to enter Poland. A date was set for them to comply. The Germans pre-empted this, collected Polish Jews and sent them across the border. Poland did not want them either and the helpless Jews found themselves between two armed camps. Gradually the Polish Jewish community and HIAS-Jewish international help group attempted to ease their plight.

From the beginning of the dispersal, Jews understood the need to respect the norms of the society they joined. While often not welcome, they did not resist persecutions. However, in 1938 a 17year old Jewish youth, whose parents were among those expelled from Germany, unfortunately did act, with dire consequences.

His name was Herschel Grynspan who had gone to Paris to stay with relatives. Whatever his anger led him to do, he did not think things through and certainly did not consider the possible consequences. He bought a revolver, went to the German Embassy where he shot and mortally wounded the 3rd secretary Ernst vom Rath.

This provided the perfect opportunity for Hitler to unleash the hatred for Jews to avenge the death of vom Rath. Throughout Germany, and other areas under Nazi control the main attacks started in the early hours of the morning. Jewish shops were broken into and, contents either destroyed or looted. Many homes were attacked and Jews were killed. Synagogues were set on fire throughout the countries under Nazi control. At the same time the police dragged off 30,000 Jews, mainly men, to concentration camps.

In Berlin, like elsewhere, every Synagogue was set on fire, Torah scrolls desecrated and Synagogues severely damaged, or totally destroyed. The fire brigades were ordered not to extinguish the flames, except when there was danger to adjacent buildings. There was one exception.

The great Synagogue the one I used to attend, was set on fire, but was not destroyed. This was due to the action of one policeman. He ordered the firemen to extinguish the flames. They refused to do so, because their orders, from the government, were not to intervene. The policeman took out his revolver and threatened to shoot them unless they extinguished the flames. Obviously, their lives were more important to them, and they complied. The Synagogue was damaged but remained standing.

While all this was happening I was asleep and totally unaware of the mayhem. The home I was in was near the local police station and I was later told that the police protected us. Others were not so lucky.

In the morning we were told that there had been trouble during the night, but were not given any details. We were told to go to school. I became aware of an eerie silence on the streets. Few people were about, which was most unusual. Nor did we see non-Jewish children going to their schools.

Arriving in the school, we were met by scenes of utter confusion, with very distressed children crying inconsolably, some running about in panic, others sitting sobbing and calling for their parents.

For the teachers present, this was an impossible situation and they had the greatest difficulty calming and comforting them. It was then that I learned what had happened. The fathers of many of them had been arrested, their homes and members of their families had been attacked. I could feel their pain. While I did not experience the horror of that night, I had similar experiences three years previously, when my father was arrested.

There was a stairwell in the school and I saw some of the children, in their distress, trying to throw themselves down that well. It became impossible for the teachers to deal with such distress and their helplessness was obvious. The decision was finally made to send us home and to close the school for the time being.

This created another problem. how to ensure that we got home safely. It was decided 2 children at a time should exit the building at 1-2 minutes intervals. We were told that, on no account, were we to linger, but run home as quickly as possible. Older girls were to look after the younger ones.

I did linger to read the headlines and felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying, gently, “This cannot go on”. While I was frightened, it seemed to me then and still does, that he felt ashamed of what had happened

You may wonder what on earth possessed the adults to send us to school? My own impression of that day was and still is, that the adults were in a state of shock, confused and really did not know what to do and how to handle the situation. They may have thought that the school would be a safe place for us to be. I just do not know.

The aftermath of this tragedy affected many families not only as a result of destruction to businesses, but also the imprisonment and subsequent deaths of so many men. There was also an increase in suicides and many children were left without adults to care for them. I also learned that day that my brother had been arrested.

In addition, a collective fine of 1 billion Reichsmark was imposed on the Jews. This made it more difficult to support those in need. Space had to be found for children who were now left on their own. Most of the children’s homes were already full.

There was already an effective organisation established to oversee emigration of children, called, the Kinderauswanderung Amt. It was therefore able and ready to organise any evacuation, which might be set in motion. Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck, who was the head of the Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland, had been in contact with Otto Schiff in London since 1933. He now sought his help in relieving the pressure of the homes by finding organisations willing to help. This led to the concept and establishment of the Kindertransporte. The fact that a Fund had already been set up in 1933 to help the Jews in Germany meant that organisations already existed which could be approached.

You may have seen the Programme of the Kristallnacht in the Jacob’s Room or perhaps elsewhere. What you saw and heard was broken glass from shops, goods lying in the streets and pictures of the burning Synagogues and desecrated Scrolls.

What you did not see is the effect on people, adults and children. Their loss of loved ones and suffering cannot be measured.

Buildings can be replaced, very few have been, but not the loss of human life. Loss of trust and the ever-present fear of repetition, will be with us for ever.

What then is the lesson of the Kristallnacht? For Jews it is now part of our collective memory, at least, it should be. Is there a lesson for others? I believe so.

Efforts were made in the post –war period to make people aware of the dangers of succumbing to hatred, but today, despite all that has happened, Jew-hatred continues unabated. This poison has no antidote and is gathering momentum, its toxin reaching every world community. Political correctness stifles the rule of law and justice fails to be administered. Racism, the concept of separate human races, further inflames communal strife. Is it not time to recognise and teach that there is only one Human race to which all humans belong, including the Jews?

Are Commemorations not meant to give us the opportunity to reflect on the consequences that hate and contempt for those with differing religions and cultures can and does have? Yet, despite the efforts made by governments and the introduction of National Memorial day as well as teaching programmes in schools, I see no evidence of change in people’s attitude. While we hear some voices saying “Never again” there are others saying, “ It is time to forget”. But if we do not learn from history or distort it then the events we are commemorating today will be repeated again and again.

For Jews, remembering their past is essential for their survival. This is well stated by Simon Wiesenthal, in his book “Chronicle of Jewish suffering” “Every Day a Memorial Day”, where he writes; “There will be Jews as long as they remember”, “There is no greater sin than to forget”.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I am of the Structured Programming Era. The first languages I coded in were COBOL, FORTRAN (not Fortran, it was still an all-capital-letters language back then), PL/1, RPG, APL, Smalltalk and VM/SP Assembler. That was long, long before Bjarne Stroustrup created C++.

Ahh. Those were the days. Kids today, they don’t do much programming in those languages, preferring new-fangled innovations like C#, Java, Ruby, Perl, PHP, Python. Oh, and something called “Visual Basic.”

Frankly, the choice of languages is like the choice of tools in my big Sears toolchest: Have lots of them, know how to use them, and use the right one for the job. If you’re developing rich Internet applications, maybe you want some JavaScript or Ruby. If you’re programming an application server, maybe you want Java or C#. If you’re developing reports, why not use RPG or COBOL? Applications written in those older languages haven’t magically stopped working just because newer languages have appeared.

That’s why I’m delighted to read stories like “Company ports COBOL to Windows Azure cloud,” written by SD Times’ David Worthington. It’s great that Micro Focus continues to bring the venerable language into new run-time environments.

Venerable language. Not legacy language, a label I so often see applied to COBOL and its peers. Legacy is a pejorative term. It implies something that has lived out its usefulness, but which we’re still required to support until we can finally rip it out with a backhoe. Legacy platforms. Legacy applications, Legacy languages. Bah!

There’s nothing legacy about COBOL, just like there’s nothing legacy about mainframes (the other context where the word is casually bandied about). COBOL is a great language which has not outlived its usefulness.

Now that we’ve got that straight, who wants to talk about Smalltalk?

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

According to last week’s story in the New York Times, people want their canned meat.

“Through war and recession, Americans have turned to the glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table. Now, in a sign of the times, it is happening again, and Hormel is cranking out as much Spam as its workers can produce,” the story says.

I enjoyed the description of the product, which I’ve never tasted: “Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).”


Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Design Buy Build is a British magazine whose editorial content is for sale to prospective advertisers. In January, in a post called “A different editorial standard,” I wrote that the magazine’s editors charge companies a £85 fee to print color photographs in new product announcements.

Today’s pitch from Design Buy Build’s editors is even more direct: £350 for a full page article about you. All you need to do is send some color images with text. Such a deal! Here’s the full offer, typos included.

Subject: Ref: A4 Editorial Featue Page

Design Buy Build: The only publication of it’s kind supported by over fifty of the most respected building & design associations throughout the UK

We are now putting together our Yearly 2008 Product Review, and have a A4 Editorial Feature Page Available.

If you have some of the following information that you can supply by Wednesday 12th November, I would be able to offer this for just £350

Latest Product Innovation or Case Study (All we would require is a couple of colour images along with up to six hundred words of text. approx)

This special edition always generates more enquiries than any other edition throughout the year and will be distributed in the middle of November to over 50,000 of the most up to date key specifiers & purchasers within the design & building industry. Including: Architects – House Builders – Developers – Contractors – Interior Designers – Self Builders – Housing Associations – Landscaping Specifiers – Town Planners – Purchasers within the Hotel & Leisure Industry, Health care, Local Authorities, Public Sector & Private Practices. Please view the latest edition at

If you would like to take up this offer, please email me your confirmation as soon as possible as I am only able to offer this opportunity to the first company to respond.

Best Regards
Fiona Meadows
Feature Editor

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Like you, I get so many advance-fee scam messages that they barely register on my consciousness. However, sometimes I read them (generally, to get a laugh). This one is so brazen that it stood out: “Honestly, it really baffles me that you took such decision without my consent.”

Most of these scams start out with an offer by a bank officer, a spouse of a dictator or other such person, who wants you to help them launder money in exchange for a big fee. By contrast, this message implies that you initiated the action. It’s a clever twist on the tale.

This particular message originated at, a Hungarian service provider which is a popular e-mail domain for 419 and lottery scams. Of course, as with all of these messages, don’t respond, and don’t be fooled.




Definitely, I know that this letter will be a surprising one to you.

Firstly, I will like to introduce myself formally as Prof. Charles So ludo, The Executive Governor of The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). You are been officially contacted by me today because your Inheritance Funds were Re-deposited into the “Federal Suspense Account” of CBN last month, because you did not Claim your funds as the rightful beneficiary in our corresponding bank.

Well known to all, The Central Bank of Nigeria is the mother Bank of all commercial Banks here in Nigeria

This morning at about (9:00am Standard Pacific Time) I was alerted by my Secretary that Three men and a Lady were at my Office reception waiting to see me and so I told my Secretary to let them in.To my surprise they were two Canadians and one Nigerian Attorney, and they introduced themselves as (Mr. Tim Parker, Mr. Roland Gulf, both from Canada), and accompanied with them was a Nigerian Attorney with the name (BARRISTER LAMBERT EZEKA). And Miss Hellen Rose .

Really these men were unexpected by me because their visit was imprompt. I had to ask them why they came to see me in person and they said that they were here to Collect the Inheritance Bill Sum which rightfully belongs to you, on your behalf. These foreigners actually claimed this beyond reasonable doubts. At this development I asked them who authorized them to come down to Nigeria for the Collection of this Payment and they told me that you asked them to come and collect this funds on your Behalf. Infact this was the biggest shock that this Bank have ever received so far because your Inheritance funds is still in the “Federal Suspense Account” of CBN, yet you sent these men to come and collect this Funds on your behalf without notifying us.

We in this Bank do not understand why you sent these men to come and Collect your Funds on your behalf. If actually you want them to help you Collect your Inheritance Bill Sum, atleast you should have informed me as the Executive Governor of this Bank. They actually tendered some Vital documents which Proved that you actually sent them for the collection of this Funds. Honestly, it really baffles me that you took such decision without my consent.

Here are the document which they tendered to this Bank today:


Actually, these documents which they tendered to this Noble Bank is a clear Proof that you sent them to Collect this Funds for you. Finally, I told them to come back by Monday morning and they promised to come back.

As the Governor of this Noble Bank, I was supposed to Release this Funds to them but I refused to do so because I wanted to hear from you first. Due to the Nature of my job, I will not want to make any mistake in releasing this funds to anyone except you whom is the recognized bonafide beneficiary to this Funds.

Kindly clarify us on this issue before we make this Payment to these foreigners whom came on your behalf.

In receipt of this confidential Letter, you are required to call this Bank immediately you receive this confidential Letter. Call Me +234-70-81850093


Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Remember that airlines used to carry luggage for free? Now, they don’t even want to carry it at all. United sent me an email today that said, “United is the first airline to offer baggage shipping via FedEx Express, helping you send bags overnight from your home or office directly to your final destination.”

In other words, they want you to pay FedEx to carry the bag. It’s unclear what United’s actual involvement in this is (if any), since the traveler works directly with FedEx on pickup and delivery. You can’t, for example, just leave the bags with United at the airport. The only connection that I can see is that lost/damaged bags are covered by United’s check-baggage liability policy, vs. FedEx’s normal liability policy.

Presumably, of course, United gets a commission anyway.

Here’s the details of the offer:

United Door-to-Door Baggage saves you time at the airport and makes travel more convenient by providing next-day baggage delivery via FedEx. You can schedule, track and manage shipments at

You have the option of dropping off baggage at a nearby FedEx location or scheduling a pick-up at a residence or place of business. There is no additional fee for scheduling a pick-up.

The Door-to-Door Baggage option is available for customers traveling on United Airlines flights within the 48 contiguous United States. This option becomes available 10 days prior to the associated flight departure date.

Door-to-Door Baggage scheduling is based on FedEx operating hours and the FedEx holiday schedule, which are subject to change without notice. Shipments cannot be picked up, dropped off or delivered on Sundays.

Baggage can be shipped to the U.S. address of your choice, or you may opt to have it held for pick-up at a FedEx location. A signature is required upon delivery for all Door-to-Door Baggage shipments.

For most addresses, baggage will be delivered by 4:30 p.m. (local time) the day after it is received by FedEx.

Shipping labels will be attached to baggage using specialized FedEx luggage tags. These tags will be provided by the FedEx driver who picks up your bags or by an employee at the FedEx location where you drop off your bags.

Shipments are covered according to United’s checked baggage liability policy, as outlined in our contract of carriage. The limit on liability is $3,000.

Prices start at $149.00 per bag.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Andrew Binstock’s SD Times column last week, “The Return of NetRexx,” brought back some fond memories from my past associations with NetRexx and its big-predecessors.

NetRexx’s great-grandfather was an IBM scripting language called EXEC, which was an interpreted command language that ran on the IBM System/370 mainframes under the Virtual Machine/Conversational Monitoring System operating system. My early days in data-center computing were on VM/CMS, and that meant a lot of time spent with EXEC, and its vastly more powerful successor, EXEC 2.

I smile to remember the super-elaborate things that we did with EXEC 2. One of my more interesting projects – it was a tour-de-force – was an EXEC 2 script that turned a rarely used DECwriter III terminal into an unattended batch printer. The code for the EXEC 2 remote printer is on a nine-track tape that hasn’t been touched in 25 years.

My next encounter was with NetRexx’s parent language, REXX. I never knew what the name stood for, but according to the Wikipedia it means “REstructured eXtended eXecutor.” Brilliant!

REXX was an important language within the IBM ecosystem, particular on the late and sadly lamented OS/2 operating system which IBM and Microsoft co-created in the mid-1980s, and which IBM drove into the ground. The history of computing would be a lot different if IBM and Microsoft had persevered in their collaboration on OS/2, instead of having a famous divorce which led to Microsoft creating Windows NT and IBM demonstrating total ineptitude.

That brings us to NetRexx, an interpreted language that runs inside a Java virtual machine. NetRexx first appeared in 1997, and was created by the same IBM genius that invented REXX, John Cowlishaw. While NetRexx was technologically compelling, IBM remained totally inept, and never marketed it. However, NetRexx may have a new lease on life, as IBM says it will donate it to the open source community. Read Andrew’s column, tell me what you think.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

This seems like a fascinating event down at Stanford, and I plan to attend.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008
1:00 to 5:30 pm at Stanford University Memorial Auditorium

They call it the “mother of all demos.”

On December 9, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart and the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute staged a 90-minute public multimedia demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. It was the world debut of personal and interactive computing: for the first time, the public saw a computer mouse, which controlled a networked computer system to demonstrate hypertext linking, real-time text editing, multiple windows with flexible view control, cathode display tubes, and shared-screen teleconferencing.

It changed what is possible. The 1968 demo presaged many of the technologies we use today, from personal computing to social networking. The demo embodied Doug Engelbart’s vision of solving humanity’s most important problems by using computers to improve communication and collaboration.

On December 9, 2008, SRI International will present a commemorative 40th anniversary of this historic event. Join us to hear original participants recount what led up to the 1968 demo, the drama of the demonstration itself, and its impact which no one could have imagined at the time. Learn about Doug Engelbart’s vision to use computing to augment society’s collective intellect and ability to solve the complex issues of our time.

Featuring: Daniel Borel (Logitech), Christina Engelbart (The Doug Engelbart Institute), Chuck House (Media X at Stanford University), Alan Kay (Viewpoints Research Institute), Bob Sproull (Sun Microsystems), Andy van Dam (Brown University), and 1968 demo participants Don Andrews, Bill English, Bill Paxton, and Jeff Rulifson. Program subject to change.

Tickets: $25 general admission; $10 students
Purchase online, by calling 650-725-2787, or at the Stanford Ticket Office at Tresidder Union.

More information:

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

My family is into casual astronomy. My weapon of choice is a Celestron 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain scope with a reducer (I like a big field of view), while my wife prefers binoculars.

Binocs are my recommendation for all amateur astronomers, because they let you look at the sky. Big telescopes are good for looking at objects, but most objects aren’t very interesting, not until you want to look at planets, galaxies, clusters, nebulae or double/triple stars. Everything else is a point of light. Points of lights are boring.

In binoculars, you learn your away around the heavens and can enjoy the wonders and patterns and constellations. Start with the Mark I Eyeball, then go to binoculars. Most people don’t need telescopes.

Our default astronomy binoculars are a pair of inexpensive Celestron Skymaster Giant 15×70 binocs. They’re pretty good, once you get them collimated correctly, so you get a single image. Definitely worth the price; we paid a couple of hundred bucks, but these days you can get ’em for under $100. (Quality isn’t too great, and color correction is terrible, but what do you expect in the price range?) We also have a pair of Russian 10×50 binocs I picked up in Berlin, and a 7×35 pair for birding.

I don’t recommend binoculars bigger than 15×70 for casual stargazing. In fact, 10×50 binocs would be even better for most people, and 8×56 binocs are better still. Magnification (the first number is the magnification factor) is not the goal with binoculars or with telescopes. Instead you want a good combination of light gathering (the second number is the diameter of the fat part of the lens in millimeters) and light weight. So, the 8×56 binocs have brighter images and a wider field of view than a10x50 binocs. You get less magnification, but as I said, that’s not very important.

Binocs in the 30-56mm range are light enough to hold comfortably. Bigger ones, like our 70mm Celestrons, are tiring to hold. Plus, you need to put them on a tripod to keep them steady.

To make a long story short, for my wife’s birthday, I bought her Canon’s 10×30 IS image-stabilized binoculars. They are incredible.

When you’re just looking through them normally, they’re a decent set of 10×30 binocs. But when you push the image stabilizer button, all the little jittering you get when you hand-hold binoculars disappears. It’s like you just bolted them to a tripod… but can still move them around. I’ve never seen anything like it.

With the new binocs, you can really see craters on the moon sharp sharp sharp. Jupiter is a definite oblate spheroid, and its four major moons can be seen clearly. But because they’re low-magnification binocs with a wide field of view, you can make out the Pleiades and really enjoy the full panorama of the star cluster.

The binocs are equally good at terrestrial viewing. They’ve made bird-watching and airplane-watching a lot more fun. How many times have you looked through binoculars and begged the object you were looking to stop dancing around? The IS binocs solve that problem, so you can read the plane’s tail or identify the bird.

Canon offers its IS binoculars in a variety of sizes, ranging from 8×25 to 18×50. Why did I choose 10×30? Because I wanted something lightweight, which could be held for a long time; at 22 ounces, the ones we purchased are about as heavy as I wanted. The 50mm binocs are nearly twice as heavy, and 25mm lenses don’t gather enough photons for stargazing. The other good choice would have been the 12×36 binocs. Either would be perfect for this application.

Bottom line: Strongly recommended.

If you’re interested in stargazing, here’s a great book to get. It really teaches you the way around the sky: Exploring the Night Sky with Binoculars.

An even more essential book for the casual astronomer is Turn Left At Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope — and How to Find Them. It’s just as good for anyone with binoculars. If you don’t have it, buy it.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I missed the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference this year, and as part of that, missed the announcement of Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.

You can read SD Times reporter David Worthington’s report on Azure, to catch up on the story.

Azure is a big initiative from Microsoft. Steve Ballmer issued one of the company’s rare “Executive Emails” to address the cloud on Oct. 28. You can read the entire document, entitled, “A Platform for the Next Technology Revolution,” but here’s an important excerpt.

A New Platform for Cloud Computing

At PDC, we announced the availability of an early preview release of a new technology called Windows Azure. Windows Azure will enable developers to build applications that extend from the cloud to the enterprise datacenter and span the PC, the Web, and the mobile phone. For the first time, we shared pre-beta code for Windows 7 and for Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows 7, which is the next version of the Windows desktop operating system, will take advantage of software and hardware advances to help eliminate the boundaries between information, people, and devices.

We also previewed Office Web applications, which are light-weight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote that are designed to be accessed through a browser. Office Web applications will be part of the next version of Office and will enable people to view, edit, and share information and collaborate on documents on the desktop, the phone, and in a Web browser in a way that is consistent and familiar.

Windows Azure is part of the Azure Services Platform, a comprehensive set of storage, computing, and networking infrastructure services that reside in Microsoft’s network of datacenters. Using the Azure Services Platform, developers will be able to build applications that run in the cloud and extend existing applications to take advantage of cloud-based capabilities. The Azure Services Platform provides the foundation for business and consumer applications that deliver a consistent way for people to store and share information easily and securely in the cloud, and access it on any device from any location.

Windows Azure is not software that companies will run on their own servers. It’s something new: a service that runs in Microsoft’s growing network of datacenters and provides the platform that helps companies respond to the realities of today’s business environment, and tomorrow’s. Windows Azure technologies are already finding their way into products such as Windows Server 2008 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, enabling organizations and Microsoft partners to create their own cloud infrastructure.

Windows Azure will enable organizations to respond to realities such as the need to use the Web to provide customers with comprehensive information and to interact with an audience that has the potential to expand exponentially overnight; to integrate operations with partners-and sometimes even competitors-to meet customer needs; to add new capabilities quickly to respond to new opportunities; and to enable employees to work efficiently and effectively no matter where they are. These realities apply not just to businesses, but to organizations of all kinds: schools, governments, community groups, and more.

Traditional approaches to building technology infrastructure and delivering computing capabilities make it difficult and expensive to adjust to these realities. You need systems with enough capacity to meet the highest possible demand-capacity that includes servers and buildings to house them, the power to run them, and the people to manage them. You have to spread that capacity across locations so there’s a backup if one part fails. You have to solve issues like access for different types of users and compliance with tax regulations in all countries where your customers reside.

Designed specifically to meet the global scale that today’s organizations require, the Azure Services Platform will provide fundamentally new ways to deploy services and capabilities. It gives businesses the option to take advantage of the capacity available in the cloud as it is needed, reducing the need to make large upfront investments in infrastructure simply to be ready when demand spikes. It will enable developers to create applications that run in the cloud and provide the features, information, and interactivity that employees, partners, and customers expect-no matter how many of them there are, where they are in the world, or what device they have at hand.

The document continues,

Ultimately, the reason to create a cloud services platform is to continue to enhance the value that computing delivers, whether it’s by improving productivity, making it easier to communicate with colleagues, or simplifying the way we access information and respond to changing business conditions.

In the world of software plus services and cloud computing, this means extending the definition of personal computing beyond the PC to include the Web and an ever-growing array of devices. Our goal is to make the combination of PCs, mobile devices, and the Web something that is significantly than more the sum of its parts.

The starting point is to recognize the unique value of each part. The value of the PC lies in its computing power, its storage capacity, and its ability to help us be more productive and create and consume rich and complex documents and content.

For the Web, it’s the ability to bring together people, information, and services so we can connect, communicate, share, and transact with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

With the mobile phone and other devices, it’s the ability to take action spontaneously-to make a call, take a picture, or send a text message in the flow of our activities.

Microsoft wants to own, and provide, every piece of that puzzle. Let’s hope that the platforms are open. The company has made good strides in openness lately. We’ll see if they can resist the temptation to build lock-in and proprietary protocols into their new “Software + Services” vision.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

The danger of working with languages that you don’t understand is that you might do something silly. Like, for example, building a road sign that says, “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

That’s what the Welsh in this sign says. According to a story on the BBC, the top part of the sign is correct, but the bottom part was just someone’s e-mail signature.

Apparently, the sign was taken down pretty quickly.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I discovered the “Despair, Inc.” store in 2003, and have since purchased several of their demotivation products for myself and for friends.

One of their newest products is pictured. Isn’t it perfect?

Blogging” is only available at this time as a desktop sign and in calendars. Many of the company’s products are also available as posters. Let’s hope they release a poster-version soon.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

I’ve received many of these clever phishing messages, as usual coming to addresses like webmaster@, info@, privacy@, and so-on. They pretend to be from Microsoft, giving you a chance to opt out of MSN commercial messages.

However, the links go to a Web server based in China. Not only does the domain attempt to phish for information, but by merely clicking on the links confirms to the spammer that your address is legitimate.

Needless to say, they’re not from Microsoft. Don’t be trapped!

Subject: Best Sales 2008!

You are receiving this e-mail because you subscribed to MSN Featured Offers. Microsoft respects your privacy. If you do not wish to receive this MSN Featured Offers e-mail, please click the “Unsubscribe” link below. This will not unsubscribe you from e-mail communications from third-party advertisers that may appear in MSN Feature Offers. This shall not constitute an offer by MSN. MSN shall not be responsible or liable for the advertisers’ content nor any of the goods or service advertised. Prices and item availability subject to change without notice.

©2008 Microsoft | Unsubscribe | More Newsletters | Privacy

Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

Recessions and other tough economic climates often hit marketing budgets pretty hard. That was certainly the case when the bubble popped in 2000/2001. However, according to the Association of National Advertisers, more than a quarter of marketers plan to increase spending despite downturn.

According to a recent ANA survey, marketers responded:

How will you adjust your current marketing and media plans to account for the recent downturn in the financial markets?

• Spending will be reduced (33%)
• Spending will be constant / marketing mix will be reallocated (33%)
• Surprisingly, we will spend more (27%)
• No changes, we will keep everything status quo (8%)

How does your CEO view your marketing efforts with respect to growth?

• As a brand-building investment (56%)
• As an unaccountable but necessary expense (21%)
• Not sure (15%)
• As an unnecessary expense (8%)

As you look toward 2009, how much do you plan to spend on marketing vs. 2008?

• Increase spending more than 10% (26%)
• Increase spending less than 10% (13%)
• Hold stable (28%)
• Decrease spending less than 10% (14%)
• Decrease spending more than 10% (19%)

See the full results for more data.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

This one’s hard to figure out. The message originated from an ISP in India and came through to one of our info@ addresses.

There was no response to my query when I wrote back to “Sarah.” What do you think the deal is? My guess is that they’re going to solicit up-front funds to pay to ship the probably non-existant van and equipment.

Subj: Donation Inquiry.


My name is Sarah Collins and I own a veterinary clinic where I practice both exotic and companion animal medicine.

We recently acquired new medical supplies and a new mobile van and now offering to donate one ultrasound, autoclave and a pre-used mobile van.

Please give me detailed information about your work and let me know if these contributions would benenfit your organization.

Best Wishes,

Sarah Collins
B.S., Veterinary Science.
D.V.M.,Veterinary Medicine.
Ph.D.,Veterinary Physiology.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick

While I’ve been on a short vacation from blogging, it’s only because I’ve spent two weeks on the road, most recently at the EclipseWorld 2008 conference in Reston, Va.

EclipseWorld 2008 truly is a great conference. The energy of the speakers and the attendees is tremendous. The highlights were the keynote talks, first by Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director of the Eclipse Foundation, and then by Ivar Jacobson, one of the biggest thinkers in software development. I’ll be writing more about Ivar’s funny and thought-provoking talk soon.

And now — onto our next big conference project: SPTechCon, the SharePoint Technology Conference! It’ll be held Jan. 27-29, here in the Bay Area (at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, near San Francisco Airport). Check it out at

Hope to see you there!

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick