Another response – and a (kind of) result

Doc manages an appointment… of sorts

I got a letter from the doc’s today. First off, here’s the details:

We are in receipt of your complaint you have made regarding our appointment system. The doctors feel it would be beneficial if we could arrange a meeting to discuss your comments. A meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday 5th April at 5pm. Can you please confirm (etc…)

Well, I suppose it’s a start but I have three concerns:

  • How can they make an appointment for a meeting – with all the doctors – yet they can’t make one single appointment with one single doctor to see me for a medical reason?
  • My complaint was partially about not being able to get an appointment during working hours – yet the make the meeting for 5pm when most people are finishing work for the day. And therefore difficult to get somewhere for. Although very convenient for people who work at the place where the meeting is who finish at 5:00. Mind, I’ve got one over on them – I finish at 4:30
  • I am worried that they’re going to gang up on me and beat me up when I get there for daring to criticise them

Report from the meeting as and when. Assuming I remember to go.

Annoying screechy woman KFC advert pulled

Thanks to both Chris and Andy for pointing me towards this story on Sky and MediaGuardian (no link as they make you subscribe so they can piss off).

Well, one of the those fucking adverts down, a handful more plus the sponsorship stabs around certain advert breaks to go. Oh for the good old days when they just had some fat bloke in a white suit telling you how goos his unhealthy chicken was. Probably while his slaves picked cotton out back and made him lemonade with spit in.

Something serious, something… scary

Evil spyware bastards

Part rant, part help. I spent almost four hours last night clearing one virus and countless bits of spyware off two PCs at Caz’s house. I’m not going to have a go at her or her folks, but the setup was sadly typical of so many PCs I encounter – no spyware protection and one PC without a virus scanner or firewall. I can name one Chunky and one father where I’ve spent similar lengths of time on the same problems.

Points to note, people. Although a firewall on your “gateway” PC (the one physically connected to the internet) can protect the network from certain nefarious deeds, the same cannot be said of a virus scanner on that machine. Short of server-based products and the like, a virus scanner on a PC protects that PC and no other. Same for spyware scanners.

However weak your technical skills are, I urge you to read the following. Copy it and send it to all your friends – and include the links if you can. I’ve put them in longhand to ensure they get copied. Ask me if you have any questions.

You can protect your home and personal PC, very well, for free. The only paid-for product I’m using is Norton 2002, and when the license expires on that I’m switching to AVG. The products I would suggest you run are as follows:

One point to note with ZoneAlarm is that it’s no use on a gateway PC unless you buy the “Pro” version. It will block isolate the PC it is on and prevent it sharing its internet connection. Kerio Personal Firewall is slightly more complex, but doesn’t have this limitation. For ease of use, I’d go for ZoneAlarm, though once it’s settled in Kerio is no more difficult to maintain. Indeed, for those with more technical knowledge, it more easily configurable.

I would recommend either of these over the default Windows XP firewall – disable this and install one of them. The Windows XP firewall only prevents traffic coming in. In the event you do get infected, a lot of these programs will try to send information out from your PC and it will neither spot nor prevent this.

If possible, download these applications on another machine that’s already safe. Copy them to the target machine and then install them – this way you’re not exposing an unprotected machine to the internet while you download them. When I first built my current PC, I had XP Home (unpatched) on it and within 30 seconds of going online I’d been hit by a virus. No exaggeration. Half a minute! This could have been prevented with one tiny patch that’s included in XP Service Pack 1. It was actually the firewall I’d installed that alerted me to the fact I had this virus as it attempted to send data out from my PC.

I would recommend installing in the order listed above. Also, when installing, if a product offers you the chance to check for updates – do it. Ensure the product is fully installed (i.e. reboot if necessary, re-check for downloads) before moving on to the next.

SpywareBlaster and Spybot S&D work in tandem. When installing S&D, ensure you click the option to run the “TeaTimer” application. This is a little app that sits in the system tray and monitors changes to your registry. Imagine it like a firewall – it asks you to confirm certain changes and can be an indicator that spyware has sneaked onto your PC.

Once you have SpyBot installed, go to the “Innoculate” page and ensure it’s all enabled. Any time you update SpywareBlaster, it’s worth popping to this page to ensure S&D is updated as well.

Run a full system scan with the antivirus, S&D and AdAware once a week, checking you have the most recent updates before each. I’d recommend against running them all at the exact same time though! If you leave your computer on overnight, you can schedule most virus scanners and S&D to fire off at set times. AdAware will have to be done manually.

While mentioning automation, SpywareBlaster can be made to update automatically but only for the paid version. Up to you whether you think this is worth it.

The final step is to keep Windows updated. I’m assuming you use Windows if you’re concerned about security as apparently Linux machines and Macs are all completely virus free and never suffer adware or malware, ever. Frankly, I think this is crap though I believe they’ll be much less of a target if not utterly safe.

Windows can be set to auto-update (at least, XP can), though it’s still worth checking http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com on a regular basis. Ensure you have everything from the “high priority” section installed ASAP. Optional software is – as it says – optional. Avoid the hardware updates – stick with the drivers from your hardware manufacturer if you’re that concerned about getting your graphics card working speedily etc.

One of the main vulnerabilities in Windows is Internet Explorer. Using these programs, the browser should be pretty much safe. If you’re massively concerned, however, try one of the alternatives such as Firefox. The reason this is safer isn’t because it’s code is less buggy, it’s simply that it’s less popular (though an excellent browser) and therefore less useful as a target. If spyware authors wanted to take advantage of Firefox, Mozilla or any other browser then they could. Personally, I still use IE. It works, I’m used to it, it does what I want. I tried Firefox, Opera and Mozilla and I’ve stuck with what I know.

Again, if you have any suggestions, comments or questions – drop me an email. Spammers, spyware authors, virus writers and so on are about as low a piece of scum you can get as far as computers are related. It’s not too difficult to make their “job” pointless, one PC at a time.

I’ll end on a reminder – don’t install these applications and then think you’re safe. Keep them updated. Manually check for updates at least once a week. The one thing worse than no security is a false sense of security.

Update from SFG:

Trojan Remover (http://www.simplysup.com) Not anti virus but very good at finding and disabling malware. I personally know the guy who wrote it. He does pretty much nothing apart from work on Trojans and how to find & disable them. The database is updated every couple of days. 30 day trial then one time registration required. I have never been without it on any PC it in 4 years.

Hijack This (http://www.merijn.org/index.html) Used this a couple of times in the past to get rid of cool web search and the like. Not a deterrent but a good fix if you’re infected.

World’s scariest text message

“Omg! Tescos are selling ‘stimulators’ in the fem hygiene aisle!”

Anni – I needed to know this why? Now, had you been telling me that they were doing Kate Winslets on 3 for 2, next to the Brut then fine.

Consider changing your mobile provider to someone who only gives you 10 free texts a month. Please. Spare me. I beg you.

Besides, Boots have advertised that they’re doing a full range of adult products now. You’re better off shopping in there. Likely cheaper than Ann Summers as well, I warrant.

En-ger-land

Going to watch the match at home tonight. I was vaguely considering the pub, but I ended up at work an hour later than I was meant to. It’s the usual. All afternoon with not a lot to do and all of a sudden at 16:20… “Can you do this? It has to be done today.”

So, I dutifully spent almost 90 minutes performing this task. I rang the guy up to let him know it was done and he’s gone home. Grr.

This meant by the time I got back, the heavens had opened and KK was all soaked through and cold. Which wouldn’t have happened if I’d left at half four!

Well, dinner’s in the oven and should be ready for the match. I’m having out-of-date Tetleys and a warmed-up Greggs chicken pastie. It’ll be like being on the terraces… almost as cold if my heating doesn’t buck its ideas up.

Ooh, it’s Monday. No it isn’t…

Not a bad long weekend

I got a fair bit done over Easter. Mainly tidying the house out, clearing things away and some chucking out of old kit. Including a massive full tower case housing a Pentium-100 based system with a whopping 2Gb hard drive. Woo.

Mind you, I hoiked the memory out of it and flogged it for a tenner on eBay, so not a complete loss. I somehow doubted anyone would really be after a quad speed CD-ROM even if it was a genuine Creative Labs effort. Having said that, I just found three for sale but (surprise) no bids.

I didn’t however, get the loft ladder installed. Part of the job is to replace the loft door, for which I need a wooden panel. Easter Sunday is the only Sunday in the year that B&Q is shut. The whole holiday is all about a magical carpenter who gets pinned to some 2×4. I mean, if that doesn’t put you in the mood for a bit of woodwork, what will?

Vic Reeves dropped from telly ads

This is about the only funny thing Vic Reeves has ever done. At least, it’s the first thing involving him I’ve ever laughed at.

The unfunny, catch-phrase desperate, lanky streak of piss. Who I’m sure is a nice guy if you meet him, but fuck is he a waste of TV airtime.

Return of the Tagnuts

Or The Tagnuts Strike Back. Take your pick. More annoying than Jar-Jar Binks, KK’s arse nuggets returned with a vengeance over the weekend. Worse still, with the damn weather they weren’t all dried up and brushable. Nooooo. Wet, sticky and vile-smelling.

Fortunately this time I spotted them before she’d sat in my lap. It’s easier to mop up off the windowsill. As a result, she spent ages outside, sneaking in every time I went to pop something in the bin. Of all the days for her to be overly-friendly and rubbing herself all over me. Ew.

Now, she doesn’t like the electric fan heater, so trying to dry them out for brushing just wasn’t an option. Everyone knows the fun I’ve had trying to trim or shave the hair there. I’m sure the neighbours think I’m mad. I mean, what conclusion would you jump to if you heard someone through the wall screaming “come back! I just want to shave your arse!”?

Actually, at one point I swear they thought I was trying to kill her or something. I was tidying up and dropping some stuff in the outside bin when she ambled up, all friendly like. Hmmm… Back to the bin, retrieve the old trousers, wrap them round my hand, here Kitty Kitty.

I had her on her back, yowling, hissing and scratching the living fuck out of my hands as I tried in vain to wipe the clarts off. When I could stand the pain no more, I let her go and checked the material. I think it had 2 cat hairs stuck to it – no shit at all. All that blood-letting (mine, incidentally) for nothing. And several people looking like they were 5 seconds away from calling the RSPCA SWAT team.

Does anyone know if you can get electrolysis done on a cat’s arse? I wonder if the vet would speak to me again if I asked.

Pre-emptive day off

Anyone else here who’d chance a frozen rhubarb crumble with a best before days of "End Jan 2003"? No worries. It’s a bank holiday tomorrow anyway so if I get the shits it won’t mean time off work.

I’ve done OK this bank holiday. I did mow the lawn. Just. My lawnmower is a hand-me-down (thanks C&A!) but it struggles if the grass is damper than a cheap whore’s crotch or longer than a 12 year-old’s pubes. Which pretty much means that it’s a bugger cutting it for the first time in the year.

Also, my strimmer died last year so I’ve had to rip up the grass round the edges and then tramp the rest down. It kinda works. The reason for not having Qualcast’s best is that my shed’s less secure than a pre-teen at Neverland. I don’t have anywhere else to keep my kit hence I’m looking at getting a better shed or – preferably – a garage built out back.

This also means I can get a bike, and exercise. I shouldn’t really think about that. It’ll put me off sorting a garage out.

Funtwits at the cinema. And something about hair

I’ve probably had a go at wankers like this before, but hey. It’s certainly not a patch on the scummy travellers (and the useless council) who made Colin‘s life a misery at the end of last week, but it’s still bloody annoying.

I popped out to see Constantine at the Showcase in Leeds tonight. I have two cinemas closer to home, but they’re either city centre or right near housing so they drag in all the scum. Showcase is on an out-of-town estate so you have to drive to get there. It vastly reduces the idiot quotient and I’ve had virtually no trouble there in the past. Tonight made up for it in numbers.

The cinema wasn’t that busy. There was a couple further along my row, three people the row in front, three behind me, four up and to the right and to in the far top corner. The four tossers in one group were so obviously going to be a pain. After 20 minutes the couple along my row gave up and stormed out, the guy mentioning "bloody animals in here" or such as they left.

A member of staff came in shortly after. The usual, though. As soon as tossers like that see someone in a staff t-shirt they act like mummy’s good little children and suck their thumbs. Ten minutes later, the lass leaves and the arseholes start chattering. And one of them lit up a ciggie.

Big fucking mistake.

I could smell it and took a while until I spotted them. And I noticed that the couple in the back row were also at it. I have dragged people out of cinemas for less. Thing is, it’s bloody daft. The smell spreads really quickly – smokers might not notice it so much but trust me, non-smokers certainly do. And here’s another thing… dark room… little orange glow. Rather difficult to hide. And there’s the big plume of smoke clearly visible in the projector light.

As soon as I was stood behind the group of four, the one smoking tried to hid his cig on the floor. And dropped it onto the row in front where he couldn’t reach it. Surprisingly, given the 4:1 ration, he was rather submissive and promised not to do it again. Fine. On to number two.

Young-ish lad – maybe 18 – and his stick-thin girlfriend. A-ha. He sees me coming, the fag no longer there. He’s sat up, looking confrontational. Uh-oh. I didn’t really want that. I wanted to catch the end of the film.

"You do know you’re not supposed to smoke in here?"
"Uh… yeah" (at this point I was stood right over him and he actually started to squirm back into his seat)
"So that makes you, what? Stupid, ignorant or selfish?"
"Stupid."

I wasn’t expecting that at all. He sounded like a 5 year old who’d been caught throwing stones at a window. And if he went any further into the seat he’d need a surgeon to get him out.

"Well, it’s your choice. Stupid in here? Or stupid out that door?"
"Stupid in here."
"You’ve had your one warning."

And I walked off. Nothing else from him. Him and his tart legged it as soon as the titles came up, as did the other four. I had a word with the manager on the way out (I got free tickets for whinging, which I really wasn’t either expecting or after), but in fairness he’d had a bad night. Some tosser had spat on him earlier when he was throwing him out.

Why don’t cinemas run a similar policy to pubs? If you’re chucked out, you’re photographed and your details circulated to other cinemas in the area? And if anyone wants to hire someone to do the chucking out…

Ooh, scary (no ducks involved)

It was when I was stood talking to the manager that I caught my reflection in the doors. And I realised why the little boy had freaked. I’d forgotten I’d shaved my hair right down again this afternoon. Frankly, I look well ‘ard. Probably worse if I’m coming at you in a darkened room and you’re pinned in a corner.

Some of the newcomers to the blog may not know that I used to have long hair. Thick, curly, dark hair. Thing is, as a bloke I can get away with having long hair. People assume you’re into rock music (or country, if you’re unlucky. Or David Hasselhoff if you’re really unlucky). I had women saying they were jealous ovf it (I get that about my eyelashes, too). I guess I’m lucky they’re not jealous of my tits.

Then I shaved it all off. Shock. And indeed, horror. But why? Well, you see, I started to lose follicles towards the front. A widows’s peak was forming. I was going bald. Worse, I wasn’t losing it like my dad did, from the middle out. Oh, no. Front to back. With long hair, this would result in…

…a mullet. Eek.

Now, had I been able to grow the hair way down my back, I could have gotten away with it, but I couldn’t get it longer than shoulder length. So unless I wanted to be mistaken for a German footballer or a redneck, it had to go. From one extreme to the other. Shaving it right down to a number 1 or 2 kinda hides the fact that I’m losing it in the places it’s not shaved.

It also makes me look like a right fucking thug. Which is cool. I’m soft as clarts, but if I look tough as a coffin nail, nobody pisses me off. That’s one advantage of being a bloke. If a women shaves all her hair off, people assume she’s a lesbian or on chemotherapy. Men get it good both ways.

Actually, I did do something rather scary at school. One twat slapped a full, chewed wad of gum into my hair. No way was that going to comb out. So, right in front of him, I wrapped the hair round my finger and pulled. A whole chunk ripped out. I actually had a bald spot in the middle of my head about 3/4" in diameter.

Then I made him eat it.