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Chris O.

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About Me

I last made serious contributions here in 2010 - please note the dates before commenting on anything I wrote back then.

654 Reviews by Chris


This is the place to see the latest demos of new web developments. As these are all cutting-edge uses of the latest tech, you'll get the most out of this with a fast PC, a big screen and the latest web browser. A netbook simply isn't going to cut it, though there are videos of each demo for the hardware-compromised.

Since these demos are going to vary, I can't predict exactly what you can expect other than that it's going to be some of the best in interactivity, animation and movie work along with special effects that once required third-party applications but can now be done entirely by and in your web browser.

Behind the scenes, the new kids on the block browser-wise are HTML5 and CSS3, even though the latter has been there for a couple of years, waiting for HTML and browser technology to catch up. HTML is the coding language used to create the structure and define the content of web pages, whilst CSS is a language largely focused on defining how those pages will look. Well, more or less. It's a tad more complicated than that, but you don't need to know even that much to appreciate this site.

Naturally, these demos are going to look great in Firefox 4, since Mozilla develops that browser, and I can't guarantee that everything will work in your version of Internet Explorer, which always trails behind. And because of the nature of the project, I can't predict exactly what will be there when you visit. What you can be sure of is that everything will run in the latest version of Firefox and with a modern desktop computer or well-specified laptop.

There are likely to be three main audiences for this. Web developers who know what's going on behind the scenes will get the most from it, since they'll appreciate the absence of third-party applications that used to be needed for this stuff. The average viewing audience, aside from being impressed by the overall coolness, should notice that the outstanding effects work a lot faster and smoother than they used to, if they were even possible before, and newcomers to the web might even be inspired to say "I want to do that" and take their first steps into web coding and design.


A multiple award winner, the American print magazine, Foreign Policy, has a distinguished history of bringing world news to our decision-makers, and occasionally even our politicians. Though surviving as a print edition still, the magazine made the transition to the web in 2009 with this website, opening up the magazine to a far wider and more casual audience.

While the site focuses on matters related to and resulting from American foreign policies, it's not merely a campaigner for or against the US stance in world politics, attempting to take a broadly unbiased view. It demonstrates, lest you had any doubts, that rumors of America's lack of understanding of the world affairs it so frequently interferes in may be somewhat exaggerated.

It's deep enough to inform and educate and opinionated enough to be challenging, without being so stuffy and highbrow as to engage only policy professionals and students of politics. Well worth a bookmark.


When I saw the mass of comments about this one, I had to go read them and see what it was all about. I haven't used the site myself, wrong gender, horrified at the idea of marriage, and so forth, but I thought it might be helpful to sum up what we know about this one so far if you don't feel like reading all the past comment.

Well, we know it's a Chinese business, and since Chinese sites regard such things as normal practice, it has fake badges claiming that it's verified secure and all that. These are stolen and meaningless. It also uses images and probably text copied from other sites, to disguise the fact that what you see isn't what you get.

Delivery times are erratic and entirely unpredictable, so it's unwise to plan the wedding date before you get the dress.

This all tends to suggest we're looking at a very small business in China, hiding behind a fancy website which is largely made from other people's bits and pieces and topped off with a number of, how shall we say, false statements. For all I know it could be a family working from home. It certainly isn't one of the world's biggest bridal stores.

But, and surprisingly, they do seem to deliver. You don't get what you expected, but you do get something, and if you're lucky, it's a success and you look great in it. At worst, it doesn't fit and is nothing like the photo they used. In the vast majority of cases, it arrives up to many weeks beyond the predicted delivery time.

So you really need to look at this one with your eyes opened. It doesn't appear to be a scam, as such, which makes it better than most Chinese sites straight away. Occasionally, you get what you paid for first time around, if rather overdue. You must ask yourself, is this what you came to the site for? Is the value of what you really get, still going to be good enough despite any problems it might have? Knowing what you know, do you still want to stop here or shop around? Remember you're asking for something to be custom-made without the maker being able to try it on you or see you in it, or even show you how it's going along.

There are lots of great comments here and you'll find girls who have photos of themselves in the dresses they did get, and tales of the ones that didn't work out. Just don't forget the real nature of the business. An impressive website doesn't mean anything, especially in a country where the standards of manufacture aren't known to be impressive and it's good business to tell a few little tales, here and there.


I don't like this site any more than anyone else and obviously if their customer service is as bad as people say, I can't recommend them. But there are ways you can avoid sites like this, so that you don't end up yelling "scam!"

How's your observation? See if you get the following questions about this one right:

1. Where is the site name - Koo Kua - likely to come from?
A. America
B. France
C. England
D. China
(correct answer is d., these are Chinese names).

2. How does the site describe itself?
A. America wholesale
B. Australia wholesale
C. China wholesale
(correct answer - c. The words "China wholesale" are in the copyright message at the end of each web page).

3. Where is this business?
A. New York
B. London
C. Beijing
(correct answer - c. If you go to the Payments page, an address in Beijing is given clearly.)

4. The site states that it will ship some goods by HK Registered Post. What does the HK stand for?
A. Hong Kong
B. Hare Krishna
C. Happy kangaroo
(correct answer - a.)

5. Does this site claim to sell iPods, iPads, Dr. Dre Beats or Blackberry phones?
A. yes
B. No
(correct answer - b. No claims that goods are authentic are made here, that I found.)

6. Look at the button labeled "beats by dre". Does this tell you the site sells the "beats by Dre" range of headphones?
A. yes
B. No
C. No, but it's implied because the button is there.
(correct answer- b. Look to the left of that button bar. Where it says "Popular search:". There's nothing to state or imply that the buttons are anything more than links to the most popular search categories on the site.)

7. A two-part question now.
7A. Would most people pay special attention to the logo on all the Beats headphones, since it's there to show that these are real Dre stuff and not some cheap fakes?
A. yes
(I'm guessing but I think the answer here is a, yes. I know I would, at these prices.)

7B. What's obviously missing from all the Beats By Dre lookalikes here?
A. the wires
B. The volume controls
C. The logo.
(correct answer - c.)

8. Looking at the Lady Gaga headphones, which retail for $150, do you think getting them for as little as under $11 here is...
A. an amazing bargain?
B. a good reason to buy a dozen sets for all your friends?
C. very suspicious?
D. proof that they're not authentic?
(correct answer - d. Products at this low a percentage of retail are beyond suspicious, they can be nothing other than fakes or look-alikes.)

9. Looking at the descriptions of the tablet computers here, how many of them use the Apple operating system?
A. some
B. All
C. None
(answer - c., none. Hence not made by Apple, then.)

10. Those tablets, again, how many are described as "iPad" or have the Apple logo on them?
A. some
B. All
C. None
(answer - c. These are Chinese tablets made by EXEN and widely available from Chinese outlets. They run the Google Android system, as the site states, and have nothing in common with the iPad except looks. They're about 75% cheaper than an iPad, too. And they aren't fakes, they're lookalikes.)

11. The iPhones / iPods /Nanos then, does the site show any of these as made by Apple, or do any carry the Apple logo?
I'll answer that one for you: no. BUT they have pushed their luck by using genuine Apple images on the end of the Nano page, which is clearly illegal and misleading, and the name Nano itself is trademarked by Apple. They shouldn't use this material, but they still don't claim to be selling this product.)

It's misleading unless you've looked at the products actually on sale, as shown in the images at the top of the page. These are clearly NOT Apple products as they don't have the very prominent Apple logo that the genuine item has. And the description not only calls them "nano style", the most obvious giveaway is that they DON'T SUPPORT iTUNES.

Wait... an iPod that doesn't support iTunes? And they even make a point of telling you that up front. So regardless of the decorative images down the end, the items on offer here are clearly not Apple products nor are they claimed to be. Very, very close to the edge, but still legal. And here's another product that might set an alarm bell ringing by price - the retail is about $135 but you can have one from here for only $21 with free shipping from China (probably worth about $20). Does that
Sound too good to be true? Uhuh.

12. Look at the page of Blackberry accessories and phones. Are they selling Blackberry phones here?
A. yes
B. No
C. Some
(correct answer - b. They sell accessories for Blackberry, and they have some very Blackberry-like phones, which are lookalikes).

13. What word is most obviously missing from the front of the phones on this page?
A. Cherry
B. Banana
C. Blackberry
(correct answer - c. A bit of a giveaway, surely? But who noticed?)

How would you have done, without being shown the answers?

Here are some more things to think about. Have you ever dealt with Chinese wholesalers? Do you know what to expect, or how to deal with them? Have you dealt with any sort of wholesaler anywhere? Most people haven't. And it's not like going into a mall store. The rules are different, and you have much less to trust and feel secure about if the wholesaler is thousands of miles away, too.

Second, when you get cross because you spent $20 on what you mistook for a $150 item and it turned up broken, just remember that you bought a $20 item. For that price you could probably buy four of them in China, and that tells you how much it costs to manufacture them there. No wonder the wholesaler couldn't care less if one turns up broken. They're throw-aways, almost worthless as single units. The sort of thing you'd tuck in the bottom of a Christmas stocking and likely to last until New Year if you're lucky.

See, one of the things that you pay for when you fork out the $150 for the real thing - even if it's made in a similar factory environment to the copies - is quality control. An assurance that the chances of your $150 product breaking under normal use are much, much less, because more of them are tested, and materials are better, and the people doing the manufacture and testing are more responsible. And you're also paying for a network of dealers you can take a broken one back to, and a network of authorized online retailers who will also honor guarantees. Although some part of those high prices does help fund the engineers' Ferraris and Porsches, for sure, it also pays for better quality and support.

What you did was buy a 50 cent bit of junk, for which you paid $21, instead of $150 that you might have spent on something better. What broke, was a 50 cent bit of junk that cost you $21 of which most was shipping costs anyway.

Although you have a right to expect good customer service from the seller regardless, just put this in perspective, and bear in mind he's a wholesaler in China and really wants customers who are buying hundreds of these at a time and reselling them, probably at online auctions and flea markets, and with little or no guarantees. Sure, he will sell you a one-off, but it's insignificant to him and he probably expects it to be insignificant to you, too. What's it worth? A buck, maybe? You start demanding customer service because it arrives broken and he's not likely to take you seriously.

So, once again, I don't support this guy or anyone else who misleads people and/or treats them poorly. But even so, this is the sort of site and the sort of person you go to for cheap junk in bulk, and that really is your choice. If you're not looking or thinking, you shouldn't be spending.

Unless it specifically tells you that you are buying the authentic products, a site is not a scam. It might be a trap, but not a scam, and if you learn to spot the traps then you can walk around them. Just think about what you're buying. Look at it, look at the price, look at who is offering it to you. Yes, many things look amazingly cheap. Please, remember to ask why.
Oh, and if you're going all out to buy something with a designer logo, please, at least look to see that the logo is actually there and where it ought to be, and that it's a genuine logo!

Some manufacturers, like Monster and Deckers, makers of Beats headphones and Ugg boots, respectively, offer lots of useful information to help you. They both have lists of genuine dealers on their sites, with information to help you spot and avoid fakes. Hardly anyone bothers to look until after they've gone and bought the fakes. Don't be one of those that didn't bother.

I know I go on at great length but this time I don't apologize for it. If I have to nag at people indefinitely to wake them up to the risks of online trading, then I will, because over the course of a year at this site alone, members report losses of tens of thousands of dollars. Most of it is lost either as a result of frauds or because someone wasn't paying enough attention. Most of it is lost to people who can't afford to lose it. Far too much of it is people's hard-earned savings, set
Aside for gifts for themselves or others. Enough. Don't just complain, learn to avoid these situations and go out there and show your friends how to look out for themselves. If we can stop giving these traders our money, that's the best way to help end the trade.


This is a site review, not a service review, since I've never sent this business a luxury watch and if I had a luxury watch I probably wouldn't send it.

Why not? Aside from the legion of complaints about the service here? Well this is how I approach it. First off, you've got a watch which may have a market value of $5000, on average, but could be as low as $1000 or as high as $50,000.

Firstly, ask yourself whether you already know how much it's worth - in other words you have a contemporary written valuation from a recognized source. If so, you'll be looking at this site and considering whether it looks like the sort of place you want to send an extremely valuable item. I'll come back to that.

If you don't know, then you're going to want to know, and you're going to want to know a realistic, achievable market price that's been established by a trusted valuer. And that's probably your first consideration and the reason you arrived at the site. And I'll come back to that, too.

But let's go back a step. What are you doing with a watch worth thousands of dollars in the first place, and why do you want to sell it? If it's yours, then presumably you purchased it from a proper dealer, you know where to get it valued and you either know some of the places to advertize it or place it for sale, internationally, or you can afford to find out. Possibly, you belong to one of the many owners' groups or collectors groups that are occupied with high value luxury watches, and discuss them and trade them. If you don't, they aren't hard to find. Again, as an owner, you may know about them anyway.

Alternatively, it's an unwanted gift, or an heirloom, or you're selling it on behalf of the family or some elderly relative who now needs the money. In other words, you probably know nothing or next to nothing about luxury watches, where to value them and where to place them for sale.

OK. So let's look at this site from the view of an owner of a valuable luxury watch. Does it look like a professional, established business with hundreds of thousands of dollars of stock and thousands of customers? In which case, does it really need the dopey blonde on the front page (I think the idea is meant to be "sultry" but I prefer dopey myself)? And how about that jumble of bad images of watches, that have obviously been cut and pasted from other pages and then badly photoshopped together? With all that quality stock, could they not manage a professional photo of a few genuine watches all together in the one place, or at least in the same dimension? Now I hope I'm not slipping into establishing authenticity based on design quality - I've seen way, way too many cleverly designed sites that have nothing but cheap fraudsters hiding behind them. But in this case, as we're talking not just a mega-thousands of dollars business but "the world's largest watch broker", they couldn't try to look the part? Bad business practice, at the least, since looking cheap suggests no business.

And how about that "world's largest broker" bit? What does that mean? They have a big office? A big company? No, come to think of it the correct word there would be "brokerage" I believe. Anyway, how does one judge what "large" means, unless you use a much clearer term, such as "largest marketplace" or "most trade" or something that has some substance to it?

Just for comparison, and not because I have any experience of either site but just as a design matter, compare this site with another:


Now this one, Chrono 24, states that it's "the largest online luxury watch market". Now come on guys, there can be only one, you know. Who do we believe, here, if anyone?

So, back to watchbrokers.com, which has a vague slogan, a dumb blonde, and some cheap watch images that may or may not even have been photos, once. The big exciting thing, though, is on the top right of the page, where you can enter your watch details and get a "free appraisal". Well look. They can't appraise your watch because they can't see it. And even they have to admit, unless they can get their hands on the piece, they can't tell you much at all. A minor difference could be worth hundreds, maybe thousands. So let's ignore that bit, but we can still play with the form and enter the details of our watch as best we can. Not that it matters, because I can tell you now, to save you the trouble, that they have 993 buyers for a Rolex, regardless of whether it's the rarest vintage Rolex ever or the most commonplace modern one. Or even a rare and exclusive modern one. Same buyers for every model. Likely? Nope. As a second test, you can try entering "not sure" for every detail except the make. How many buyers? Yes, you guessed.

Still, let's pass on to the post-click page and see what happens next. A new page brings a new bit of terrible photoshopping, with an obviously faked up background, over which there's a stock image of eight happy call center people in front of their bank of monitors, and then the extra smiley call center girl with the partially unbuttoned blouse and bedroom eyes who's been flown in from an entirely different stock photo and pasted on top. It's a bit of a train wreck for a business claiming to be the biggest of its type in the world.

Next stage is to enter your name, phone number and email address, and then you're taken to a page which shows you a representative's name, phone number and email address. And what happens next? No idea. We've reached the "stage 3, what happens next?" page, and nothing happened.

In my case I got Kelvin McQuilkin, in Atlanta, who appears to be this guy:


Presumably you're going to get a phone call and/or email from someone, maybe the energetic Kelvin, who wants to talk to you about your "unsure what it is" Rolex, but they could have just given you that information at the start and had done with it. You're not being offered anything else here. No chance to get that tempting "free appraisal", no examples of similar watches selling elsewhere, no market details for the brand, not a thing. It's pretty much the equivalent of putting some old gold into an envelope and sending off in the mail, with no idea what you just gave away and the hope that you'll get more than a couple of dollars for it.

Going a bit deeper - which obviously, you ought to do if you're messing about with tens of thousands of dollars' worth of luxury watches - the terms of use do make it very clear that you will get, at best, a telephone quote from the company. Nothing in writing, ever, and no certified valuations. Their valuation, which is only what some unseen person thinks it's worth, you can take or leave. If you leave it, though, it'll cost you to get the watch back because they're going to charge you for the return shipping and insurance. This is pretty paltry stuff for a business that's allegedly trading in hundreds of thousands of dollars of goods and could easily play nice just to maintain a solid reputation. The sense of the terms, to me at least, is that everything is down to you, and they're doing you a big favor.

Oh, and if it turns out that the watch you send them is counterfeit, they'll charge you at least an additional $200, to cover their legal defense for having fake goods on the premises. Or some such. But anyone who knows, will tell you that the best fakes are only identifiable by an expert in counterfeiting that particular brand and model, who has to have the piece right there, and be able to take the back off, too. Some fine Rolex fakes are so good that even then, it can be a challenge to verify the mechanism is genuine. It's always possible, but certainly you aren't going to be able to do it. And possibly, your local watch store or jeweler could make a mistake.

Also in the terms of use, just by using the site you're accepting that some unknown person, who has no known credentials as a valuer, is going to tell you how much he thinks your watch is worth. On the phone. And on the strength of this, you're going to let him sell it to one of the 993 customers who is panting to get hold of it right now.

I'm just saying, that's how all this reads to me, and if it is what it seems, then perhaps that's all that it is. Cheap corner cutting doesn't befit a business claiming to be as big and important as this, and if it were me I wouldn't start off by laying down a few pages of weasel terms and cop-out conditions to a potential customer with a $30,000 timepiece and an interest in doing business with me.

The design and implications of this one suggest, to me anyway, that it's aimed at people who probably don't know what they've got and aren't the original owners, and probably have little or no idea what it's worth or how or where to sell it. The sort of people who send off their gold engagement rings in brown envelopes to companies they've seen advertising on TV, in fact. My money is on the smart money going elsewhere.


One for web designers and programmers, of all levels, and probably best if you have access to Adobe design products. It's a learning/teaching community that covers a very wide range of web-related topics, at varying skill levels, and rates its team of experts sufficiently highly to even charge for its services. And that's daring, given that there are millions of 'experts' out there giving free advice already.

You do get a 9-day free trial (why nine days?) and if you don't want to subscribe thereafter or at all, you do get to read some articles for free and there are some free goodies to download. But it's clear from the start that the $17-$25 a month they're asking is the only way to get true value from the site, because that gives you access to everything, including the experts themselves. Also included are complete "jumpstart" web sites for Dreamweaver if you don't want or need to learn too much design work for yourself, and again these are free to members whilst non-members pay. The couple I looked very quickly at were around $30, which is not at all expensive for a professional layout that's ready to run in a browser. If you still don't want to subscribe, note that many articles are tantalizingly just out of reach except for descriptions and excerpts. If you're hooked, you may have to find $5 to read the rest of a particularly interesting one.

So, the downside. There's too much here, and I didn't see any clear way of finding anything specific without having to root for it. I came into the site from a Google query about DNS servers, and yes, there was a good article there, but is the subject indexed anywhere? Not that I could immediately find, leaving me no obvious way of finding it again. The layout is anachronistic and at least in my opinion, inappropriate for a site which prides itself on teaching great web design.

Having said that, from what I did read there really is good material here, and I like the way each article is graded for appropriate reading levels. There's no way I'm even going to attempt a five-star article, because I know in advance even the title is going to be incomprehensible to me. A one-star, well, I could manage the title, anyway. So readers are saved time-wasting attempts to understand things which they don't realize are going to be beyond their understanding, and likely their needs, too.

I'd like to give this a but am going to a Cool because there was just too much to wander around, and it took too long to wander around it, to judge the content fairly. And clearly, the best of the goodies are reserved for subscribers.

It's interesting, though, that even in these days when everyone is a blogger and most bloggers are web tech and design people, and most web tech and design people are at least allegedly skilled in something or other and more than happy to share it for free, just for the small town fame, there's still room for an unashamedly professional teaching community which offers information and tutorials that people are willing to pay for. It almost has to be worth risking a one-month $25 membership, just to find out why, especially if you're sitting there with a couple of thousand bucks' worth of Adobe Creative Suite, no idea where to begin and a client demanding a site by next Thursday.


People are always complaining that prices are going up, but on the radio the other day I heard an ad offering me a complete solar system for nothing down. Wow. Not just one or two planets, mind you, but the complete thing.

I was less impressed when I found out they were talking about some sort of home heating device, but on reflection I don't think I could have found the space for more than a couple of asteroids anyway.

Aside from home heating, solar power can also be deployed to cool down overheated attics, protecting air conditioning systems from undue wear and tear and owners from undue expenses. This is not a problem in my native England, where sightings of the Sun during the summer can be as rare as the arrival of an African songbird adrift of its migration route. Here in California, though, we have perhaps six months of constant sunshine and the cost of home air conditioning becomes a significant burden on homeowners. Other parts of the States are even hotter, for longer.

So here's a company fighting back, with solar-powered fans, at unexpectedly reasonable cost. They also offer "solar tubes", a way of conducting sunlight down from the roof to almost anywhere in the house. The Federal government gives tax incentives to homeowners for such things, so this is an idea well worth considering for more than one reason and definitely worth a look if you want another way to keep household bills down.


So what do you do when you're an ex-Google senior employee, a CEO, an industry-recognized programming expert, have a doctorate and two degrees in computer engineering and a couple of minutes to spare? This guy used the time well, and came up with Mailinator, the simplest email service you're ever likely to see. And the idea seems to have caught on, with 12 million mails arriving every day. Not a huge amount by internet standards, but still a big step in keeping people's real personal mailboxes free of unwanted spam and clutter.

One thing you can't do with it: send email. Sorry, spammers, but I reckon he figured that one out straight away.

Another thing you can't do: receive anything other than text - images and fancy html are stripped out on arrival.

Apart from that, it's just about perfect. In completing online forms and registrations, simply invent any address you like, off the top of your head, and use mailinator.com or one of a range of alternate domains. Mail for that address goes to that address. And after a few hours, or a day, it all gets deleted.

The address is permanent, since anyone can have any address. And yes, that means anyone can read any email at anyone's address too - there's zero security. But what a great way to deal with spam and irritating site registrations.

No registration is needed (pointless really, since you'd just give a false email address anyway), and you don't ever even have to visit the site to see if you've got mail as it's all deleted by the next day, anyway. In fact as you might have already figured, you don't have to visit the site at all, ever. There are no prearranged names to choose, you just make up anything you *******@mailinator.com, whenever you need it.

If you want to use a different domain, the site uses several alternates and you can find them there. There's always one on the front page, and refreshing the page will give you another.

Lastly, each name you invent will generate a coded alternate which you can also use, and email to either address will go to the same place. So if you want to get really complex with it, you can. Just remember, anyone who chances on the same address as you just invented can also read your mail, and vice versa.

It's ingeniously simple. What happens if three people pick the same address? Who cares? There's no security, anyway. All possible addresses are already there. In fact, there must be close to an infinite number of possible email addresses, making this both the most and least secure concept ever, depending on how you look at it. It's an idea probably only conceivable by a top computing industry guy with a doctorate, two degrees, and a day job as a silicon valley CEO, who had a few minutes to spare. I would never have thought of it, would you?


The man who discovered and defined Asperger's Syndrome also described children with the condition as "little professors", a primary diagnostic behavior being their overwhelming enthusiasm to talk at great length about things that interested them. Not that this in itself is unusual in children, but an "Aspie" child will often not be able to tell when to stop, or when her audience has lost interest, and she will have learned the subject in far greater depth than anyone would normally need or be capable of.

Hence the title of this site, "your little professor", is a sympathetic way of welcoming parents to this excellent resource on the subject of Aspergers in children, and it's one that is very much suited to anyone new to the subject. Plain talking, easy navigation through a wide choice of topics and a good set of references marks this one out as an unusually welcoming and accessible resource.

The web isn't short of references to Asperger's Syndrome and it's hard to know which to visit first or trust most. I'd recommend this one as being genuinely helpful and readable, and a good stepping-off point for further research.


APC is one of the oldest of the internet do-gooders, still campaigning to bring the benefits of the internet to the millions currently unconnected due to, amongst other things, poverty, politics, commercial greed, and the availability of cheap and reliable technology. In order to do so, they must tackle the many problems which accompany the growth of any new medium, and yes, it is a new medium for many even though white, English-speaking Americans may regard it as old hat.

I recall reading, many years ago now, some western sources referring to the online world as if there were no other, an observation that may have coincided with the last homeowners on their particular blocks of suburbia getting their modems. The lack of concern over bringing the internet to what was once called "the third world" and then "the developing world" and now "emerging markets" goes back a long, long time. And it's this issue which is the primary concern of the APC, which has also become involved in minority rights and gender politics and others of the broader issues involved in making sure that connectivity brings equality to all.

So, this is not merely some internet regulatory body focused on the spread of technology; it is unavoidably enmeshed in the politics of freedom, monitoring and exposing the misuses of emerging technology as well as seeking to bring that technology to all. Yep, another bunch of left-wing liberal loonies. But wait, isn't that what we need, more than ever now that conservative commercial and political interests continually seek to restrict our rights? Fortunately I'm writing this so I don't have to answer that one, myself. You decide.

There's a great deal of information here, and it covers worldwide issues, many of which are likely to be new to you. If you have any serious interest in learning about the way that internet communications is developing, or taking part in helping to steer it, this is well worth a bookmark.

Bringing the web to the unconnected and making sure they don't suffer as a result sounds simple enough, but let's be honest, it's likely to result in thousands of African tribesmen wearing Chinese knock-off Ugg boots and Rolex watches, not to mention the emerging market in the Australian outback for tooth-whitening colon-cleansing acai drinks. As with the development of the railways, the medium itself is neither good nor bad, but it's capable of bringing both.


This one has the hallmarks of a Chinese dropshipper and counterfeit goods retailer, even without checking to see where it's really coming from.

The main front page slide show at the time of writing (April 2011) is stolen from the Best Buy website's Christmas 2010 promotion. Not a good start. And they included images of goods which they don't even pretend to sell, presumably because they can't spot the differences between an iPad and an e-reader.

The normal complement of fake web safety and verification badges are there, plus a ludicrous claim that they are or were a member of the BBB, which would be a first for a Chinese company, for sure.

The "about us" page includes a selection of badly photoshopped images intended to convince us that there is a real office and real retail store involved here, which I doubt very much, especially since the same set of photos, photoshopped with different trading names, can be found elsewhere on the web too. Such as at
http://www.newfasions.com/about_us.html for example.

If there's anyone behind this lot it may be Cobo Trade Co. Ltd., which may or may not exist itself, but it does claim to manufacture unlocked iPhones, Macbooks of many flavors and iPods too, which will no doubt be a big surprise to Apple.

Text is plagiarized from any of the many Chinese sites which all copy it to and from each other. It may have originated at Alibaba.com but whatever, it's sure not original.

There are obviously so many pitfalls to thinking about doing business here that I can't imagine anyone choosing to do so unless they want to buy counterfeit goods from some anonymous Chinese factory somewhere that has absolutely nothing to do with this site.

And I am afraid that I'd have to regard any glowing praises for this company with the same suspicions as I'd treat a less-than-half priced iPhone hot off the production line.

Having decided to buy a product here, I went through the checkout to find that the only payment option I was offered was Western Union or bank transfer, the payees being:

Western Union Receiver details:
First Name: Pin
Last Name: Wang
Address: No. 189 JieFang Road
Zip Code: 47300
City: NanYang
Country: China

The Bank Transfer details:
Account Name: Ya Wei(First name) Zhao (Last name)
Account Number: *******45844
Bank Name: Bank of China NanYang Branch
Bank Address: No. 129 QiYi Road, NanYang, HeNan, China
Swift Code: BKCHCNBJ530

Note, the payees on each are different, or at least different names. Would I trust this? Would you?

To answer anyone asking why the prices here are so low, you aren't paying a low price for an authentic iPad, you're paying a high price for a Chinese fake. Or an even higher price, if they don't bother to send you anything at all.

Lastly I was amused by the "free shipping" option, which costs $20. And wasn't optional. That takes some nerve but they'll go on getting away with all this stuff until you stop giving them your hard-won cash and go somewhere a great deal safer than this.


An utterly pointless time-waster, for those moments (possibly hours) when the relative solidity of your cubicle isn't enough to relieve your existential angst. When you need to orient yourself to the real world beyond the coffee maker, to determine once and for all just how much of a nerd you really are, and whether or not your cat is really trying to kill you. These and more than 10,000 other tests of your personality and mental stability can be found at nerdtests.com, which will also leave you in no doubt of how well you could withstand a zombie apocalypse, how awesome you really are, and how much you know or care about Justin Bieber. Armed with this knowledge, you can go out into the world a more confident, well-rounded person. Or boldly go, depending on how well you scored on the Trekkies quiz.

For the rest of us, it's just a place to mess around for a bit over a coffee, or to find something new to post to our Facebook pages, or even make up a quiz of our own for other visitors to try out. I wouldn't take it seriously if I were you. But then, according to the personality test, I'm a crackpot. Who knew?


If you ever have a need for secure email, which can only ever be read by the intended recipient, this is for you. It encrypts your mail using PGP, which converts your text to a mass of unintelligible characters for anyone who doesn't have the correct key and can't answer a question you choose.

As the mail is web-based, too, you never download it in an unencrypted form except through your web browser, using a secure server. Unless you're a government department, that should be secure enough. Come to think of it, if you're a government department you're probably not bothering to encrypt your mail in the first place, but that's another story.

Unencrypted email is notoriously insecure, and though the chances that the FBI are reading yours may be slim, you might still want to pass personal information that really is personal. A credit card or social security number, perhaps, or some juicy office gossip. Hushmail does this quickly and simply, and if you're just sending text, the free 2mb account should be sufficient. For under $1 a week you can get 10Gb of space, and there are business options too.

Hushmail has been around for many years and has no complaints as far as I know; it just does what it does, well.


On the one hand, if you can't spot all the accidental grammatical errors here then you definitely do need some help with your writing. On the other hand...


The idea is simple enough - make fun of people whose lives are so dependent on Facebook, and vice versa, that they share that which they should not. Not now and not ever, and certainly not in public.

Poking a bit of harmless fun at people who aren't likely to respond or able to do so, is not a new idea, even though the authors of this site give the impression that they're on to the most amusing concept since, well, Twitter. It's been done, guys. Probably since the earliest man made fun of his mate's cave paintings behind his back, and probably with better cause. So let's move on from that and ask what else is new about this one?

Cynicism is the excuse for exposing many Facebook users as selfish and self-interested, as if they were attempting to be anything else, which by and large, they aren't. By and large, they're posting personal thoughts about themselves and their friends to FB and other social networks because it makes them feel better, and not because they're desperate to make social statements of any significance or express their angst over the state of the world in general.

Should we be surprised at this? Are the cynics being useful by attempting to prove that most of the output of social networks is driven by self-interest? Didn't we know this, already? Does it matter?

A teenage girl who posts that she can't imagine life getting any worse gets to be called a "b itch" because she hasn't commented on the disaster in Japan instead. Wait, do I hear anyone laughing?

Even if the original postings were consistently hilarious, which wouldn't be entirely unlikely given the vast numbers of FB users and their demographics, the comment isn't. It's more reminiscent of schoolyard bullying and name-calling than anything else and that's also been done before. Many times. Perhaps it's intended to be witty, in which case the authors fail to note that wit implies intelligence and imagination, little of either being present here. Perhaps, though, it's intended to be edgy and controversial, in exactly the way that Facebook isn't, but who cares?

The irony is that the site itself is an example of the self-interest that it vilifies, serving no purpose other than to keep the contributors and authors amused by their own cleverness.

And that's been done, too.


This is not a scam. It is what it is, which is exactly what it explains in its Terms of Use, which might as well be labeled "Hello Suckers" for the good it would do. As with many other similar ventures, it relies on people not bothering to read the terms of use or not understanding what it is they are reading. For good measure this site even puts one of the warning tell-tales on the bottoms of the pages, to ensure nobody can claim that they couldn't find it.

So let's have a quick closer look at this one:

Firstly, do we know what we're being sold here? Not directly, though with a little care we can see immediately what we are NOT being sold. At the end of the pages you will find the following statement:

"TheReadingSite.com does not provide a direct database for downloading. TheReadingSite. Comm provides members with the necessary links, tutorials & unlimited technical support for their downloading needs."

So what does this mean? There is no "direct database for downloading" - the site has no downloads, nor a database of titles. It does however provide members with "the necessary links" for "their downloading needs".

But hang on, elsewhere in the site are references to "our database", so what's that?

Put it all together, and you should see what they've just told you: We have a database (a list, in other words) of links to other sites. And that is ALL we have.

This isn't a scam, as long as they're telling you the truth, which in a roundabout way they are.

Let's move on to the terms of service, where again, they have the same statement: "TheReadingSite. Com does not provide a direct database for downloading... " but here, they add another little treat: "We make no guarantees as to the content available in the member's area." So, there doesn't have to be anything in there either.

The software on offer?

"All software recommendations refer to either "Freeware" or software that is otherwise available without charge to individuals at large for specific purposes."

So, something you can download for free, somewhere else.

Well what are you paying for, then? The terms tell you that the fees"

"represent one-time club membership fees which entitle You as a Purchaser to access to the location, evaluation, and or recommendation of [the] software"

You pay for a link to a page on the site which suggests you use some piece of Freeware from some public website. And that's ALL you pay for.

But wait, what about the database of links to books? Ah. You're not paying for that:

"This Site may produce automated search results or otherwise link You to other sites on the Internet. If any link is offered connecting You to a third party web site, it is as an accommodation to You and to the respective third party site owner and is provided without charge."

In other words, if they offer you a link, it's an "accommodation" - a favor, in other words. They don't have to do a thing, because all, ALL you paid for, was for them to tell you where to go to get a freeware downloader that you could get anywhere.

But it's not a scam. You just didn't read it. And what else you didn't read is further down the page, where the agreement indemnifies the site against anything and everything, entitles them to terminate your "membership" whenever they feel like it without explanation, change the terms when they feel like it, and offer no guarantees whatsoever that anything will work or be what you paid for, at all.

But this IS an agreement. You agree to it by using the site. You trigger it by clicking the "Yes please I want to give you money for no good reason" button.

In the USA, it is still legal to obfuscate some term of service in a paper document by making it physically hard to read, or difficult to understand. If your signature appears under it, you're bound by it. The same applies online. Even where the Real World laws are tougher on tricksters like this, there are no tougher laws that I've ever heard of that can be enforced against an online dealer.

Please, beware. It is normal procedure for a site to state that you are agreeing to its terms of service in full simply by using it. And even if that statement is there, you're bound by it even if you haven't read it. Always assume you will be legally bound by every single statement on a site and read everything.

Even a giant company like PayPal has conditions that bind you, whether you saw them or not, and they may well not be prominent. So, many people have some idea that they're protected by PayPal in circumstances where they aren't. Some big corporations have small but legally binding print which is effective the moment you even read the page or click through to another. Something like "your use of this web page constitutes an agreement... " will be tucked away somewhere.

Normally, with a respectable site this is not an issue and you can feel reasonably safe that you haven't committed to anything more than not hacking that web site or stealing the content. But in some cases, and especially when you're spending money on something about which you have no first-hand knowledge, you need to be especially careful. Remember, it's only a scam if you're being lied to, or the truth is being entirely concealed. Otherwise, you carry the legal responsibility of your own actions.


I didn't review this one for the concept: events which occurred on this day in years past. Even though the information is really very comprehensive, and there are ways to filter the data and combine filters to drill down to the type of event you're seeking. It's an old, old idea in itself, and these days, there's Google.

I didn't review this one for the design, which is pedestrian, though it fits the concept, and it's fast. It also doesn't fit on a 1024 x 768 screen, which I have, so boo.

No, I reviewed it because it has absolutely the greatest domain name I've seen for ages.

But I liked it, anyway, and I can see it being a very useful resource for general school and educational research, drawing as it does from Freebase and Wikipedia and collating data in one place at high speed. The filtering options are a bonus for the casual surfer, just for the fun of playing with the results, and a must for anyone drilling down through all this information.

It's all licensed under Creative Commons, too, so you can share and adapt the information as long as you give a credit for it. Hopefully at least a few users will remember that last part.

Good for serious research, and as time-killers go, a better way to waste your coffee break than most.


Oh, now this is really *. No * about it.

Remember those good old days when we made up sentences and left words out, opening up endless opportunities for double-entendres? My, the long winter nights just flew by.


OK, this is what I mean. Complete this sentence:

Mary had a little *, its * was * as *, and everywhere that Mary *, her * was sure to go.

Yep. Well. It was a lot more fun at the time, really.

So, here's a site that will fill the gaps automatically, if you're in the middle or writing, say, a review on SiteJabber and suddenly hit a writer's block. Not something that Chris seems to have a problem with, I hear you say. Sorry about that, I really am trying to make them shorter, honestly.

And it works. For example, the first sentence I tried was

"This startup has absolutely no * of succeeding"

And the engine responded with "chance" on the second attempt, along with a very sensible range of alternative choices. I could definitely see this one going into my bookmarks list, allowing me to write even longer and more erudite reviews. And that, I hear you say, will be *.


Up until now, people who have lost or never had the ability to speak have needed to utilize a hefty portable electronic device with keyboard to do their speaking for them. And because of the clumsiness of some of these units, they've sometimes needed a second person to use the unit for them. Whilst technology has developed to provide something better for fixed use in wheelchairs, it's still slow and clumsy and all of these are very expensive. Until now, apparently.

The Verbally app is a FREE iPad application that fully simulates a dedicated device, including not only three different virtual keyboard layouts and a preselected set of more than fifty words to save keystrokes, but predictive text and a learning facility too. Male or female voices are provided, no network connection is required, and did I mention it's free?

You'll know if you have a need for this, and I imagine anyone with that need and who can lay hands on an iPad for the purpose is going to be grabbing one just as fast as they can.


This site offers you a bookmarklet - a piece of javascript code - that you can add to your web browser and use to send the currently viewing page directly to your Amazon Kindle e-reader.

I'm not too sure what the advantages of this are in daily use, though. And I have a Nook, not a Kindle, so I'm doubly in the dark.

Nevertheless it looks cool, and it has a photo of a Macbook Air on the front, so I'm giving it an extra point for courage in a Windows world.

And now I'll wait for *ahem* someone here who has a Kindle to tell us how useful this is, and why...

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