Shady Practices (Antera/DomaSchooner Phishing)

I’ve recently gone through the process of moving one of my domains from one domain registrant to another. For a couple reasons, but cost and whois privacy are part of it. I’ve switched hosting providers a number of times, and that’s not an issue, but getting different domain registrants on the same page to ensure a downtime-free transfer isn’t a clear process to me, so during this time I was particularly susceptible to notifications about the transfer.

It was then that I noticed an item in my spam account titled “Domain Expiration SEO”. Now I didn’t notice the SEO in that title at first, and was immediately concerned about the terms “Domain Expiration”. The fact that it was in my spam folder at least made me immediately cautious, but the fact that they used my full name and postal address in the “invoice” confused me.

The email had a large title saying “Final Notice, your account is pending cancellation”, th email came from “info@antera.org”, a domain with no discernable website, and links on the page directed to “domaschooner.win”. What I don’t like is that the entire premise is that you’re about to let something that you had expire. In the meantime nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems they somehow identify domains that are being transferred, grab the whois data and then generate emails, in my opinion, hoping to catch people not paying attention into paying $86 for supposed SEO software.

If you pay close attention to the email, they do note that they “…do not register or renew domain names…” and their email disclaimer states “…This is not a bill or an invoice. This is a SEO purchase offer. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated unless you accept this purchase offer…”. So while they do a good job of telling the truth, the immediate implication of the email implies something worse. So while probably not illegal, very shady.

Wikipedia article not indexed

Recently I’ve been doing some freelance writing for various people via the online service UpWork. For the most part these have been product reviews of some kind, with odd jobs in between. Recently I had the opportunity to create a Wikipedia article for a musician.

In the past I have on occasion made corrections to Wikipedia pages, but never created a new one before, so it’s been interesting to see the whole process and learn all the checks and balances that Wikipedia tries to employ.

By Wikimedia Foundation – Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Wikipedia is constantly barraged with new articles, some worthy, some not so much. An army of well-respected Wikipedia users man the front, patrolling new articles, marking them for deletion, offering improvement advice, and in some small cases, approving the articles. The problem is, everyone thinks they deserve a Wikipedia page, but that often isn’t true.

Wikipedia has a number of guidelines for what it terms, notability. Especially when it comes to living persons, notoriety helps determine whether someone is deserving of a Wikipedia page. It’s also frowned upon to create your own Wikipedia page, or to even create one for someone else, with the expectation that you place such information into comments when creating a new page (see conflict of interest).

Regardless of all this, I set about learning all this information and creating a new page for this person. Wikipedia has created a Draft space for articles. It means you can create a page, work on it for as long as you want, and then submit it for approval through the articles for creation process. During this time, the site is live, but is not part of the normal Wikipedia Article space. So other’s can see and edit the page, but it isn’t listed within Wikipedia. The goal of the Draft article is to help people build a proper Wikipedia page, before it’s made live.

So this is what I did. Over several days I successively built up a Wikipedia entry for the artist, and when I was happy with the content and references, I submitted it for review as a draft. Here a draft can either be approved (which will make it live), or rejected. In my case the page was reviewed, and a user suggested that I require further references.

So I went and found further references, updated the comments and waited. But now the article falls into a major backlog that both Drafts submitted for approval and live Articles fall into. There are too many pages for the moderators to get through them all. Usually articles which are made live, or which request approval go to the top of a list, get reviewed and life goes on. But now my article was stuck in the backlog, never to be reviewed again.

So I took the power granted to every user, and made the page Live myself. Usually when an Article is made live, it will go to the top of a new list of new pages. But because my article had been created two weeks earlier, it fell into the backlog of another round of moderation, called the new pages patrol. This isn’t a major problem. An article doesn’t have to be patrolled to go live. So the article was live, you could link to it within Wikipedia, and it came up in Wikipedia searches. However if a page is not patrolled, it cannot be archived by Google, or other search engines.

This was a problem. At first I couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong, and eventually came across an article which showed that an article had to be patrolled before indexing is allowed. Fortunately the people who made these rules recognize some of the shortcomings of Wikipedia, and if an article isn’t approved after 30 days, it can start to be indexed.

30 days later, the page still hasn’t been patrolled, but it now shows up when you search for the artist on Google. It’s been a fun project, and makes me appreciate the tens of thousands of people involved in the Wikipedia project, I Just don’t understand where they find the time.

PS: It’s still possible that the page I created will be patrolled at some stage. Hopefully by then the page would have grown a bit and the artist would have built up a bit more notability (he was in a grey area when it comes to this).

Mistake (?) on the Simplon Pass

In August my wife and I spent a couple days on the Simplon Pass in southern Switzerland (more on that here). We walked around quite a bit (long days in summer are great), and one day happened upon these stone slabs with inscriptions.There were three groups of them, scattered on the hills, each with three slabs. At each group, there was a phrase in English, a phrase in Italian, and a phrase in German, and by going to the different groups, we found there were three different phrases translated into the different languages.

The three phrases were:

feel the earth – senti la terra – fuehle die Erde
listen to the sky – ascolta il cielo – hoere auf den Himmel
observe the heart – osserva il cuore – beobachte das Herz

 

earth – heart – heart

What I found funny, was that, if I had planned it, I would have chosen one of two arrangements.

earth – sky – earth

Either you have one phrase at each grouping (in all three languages). Or you have one language at each grouping (with the three different phrases). A third possibility (although not one I’d choose) is to at least have all the phrases at each grouping, but in different languages.

sky – sky – heart

We’re not sure what the original plans called for in this project, but the result was none of these three. Instead each grouping has two phrases, one in one language, and then another in the other two languages.

We’ll ignore the comic-sans and rather humorous typo of “Fell the Earth”.

Besides my nitpicking, the project fits beautifully into the surroundings, and I hope it is a permanent feature. There’s something surreal about the Swiss countryside, in between the mountains, the snow and dark green fields.

The project was titled “A step between human being and nature” by Emanuela Baldi & Filippo Fabbrica, 2012.
The project was ties to Love Difference and Michelangelo Pistoletto

2016 Mercedes-Benz C200 4matic (W205)

Earlier this year I got the opportunity to take out a new C200 4Matic for a couple days. It was my first opportunity with the W205, and quite an enjoyable one too. Mine came out in the new Brilliant Blue colour, which suits the car really well. The car further had the AMG suspension and trim kits. It had the 7 Speed DCT gearbox fitted.

terrible quality photo of the car I had

terrible quality photo of the car I had

With a starting price of R495,000, these are not cheap cars. The model I had had a plethora of extras, pushing the retail price all the way up to R631,500. So I packed in some friends and did a mini-road trip covering 1500km and various terrain over a few days. It is a really nice car. A noticeable upgrade to the W204, interior is impeccable, and the shape has started to grow on me.

The car seated 4 of us comfortably. Leg room in the rear is sufficient, if not great, and the coupe sloping rear window does not impede head room. The boot was large enough, but feels smaller than that of the CLA. There is a surprisingly large storage area underneath the boot, where a spare-wheel would have gone in a previous car, although not large enough to support even a modern-day space-saver (I did at least get run-flats). The back row does have space and a seat-belt for a 3rd person, but this would be quite tight, and the space is put to better use by the armrest (with storage compartment and cupholders).

The C200 is a 1.9 litre turbocharged engine, putting out 135kw. The engine has 4 driving modes, Economy, Comfort, Sports and Sports+. It’s nice and easy to flip through these settings (better than the 204), and each one adjusts the engine/transmission, steering and aircon performance. I’m not 100% sure, but it seemed to affect the stiffness of the suspension as well. Maybe this was just in my mind, but we did some very scientific tests driving over speedbumps and it seemed to have an affect.

I spent 80% of the time in Sports mode, 15% in Sports+, and only the remainder in Comfort. And I noticed this when I filled up with petrol. The car has claimed consumption figures of between 4.4 and 7.3 l/100km. I averaged 9.5 at normal highway cruising speeds. The car had the extended range fuel tank, which can take somewhere over 70litres, including the reserve. Which gives you a really great range, especially for South Africa.

Driving mode selector (source: Mercedes-Benz)

Driving mode selector (source: Mercedes-Benz)

The entertainment system and centre console is mostly well put together. All the functionality worked and was relatively easy to navigate. The car had the standard Merc joystick, but included the optional touchpad. The touchpad is terrible. I really didn’t like using it, and ended up disabling it. Maybe it would have gotten better with more use, but I found it much easier to navigate with the joystick. Additional USB and SD card inputs are located within the centre armrest, which is convenient.

Centre console touchpad (source: Mercedes-Benz)

Centre console touchpad (source: Mercedes-Benz)

Although this car didn’t have it, a heads-up-display (HUD) is an optional extra on the C-Class. I’ve driven short distances in a car which has this option, and it’s really great. It displays your speed, navigation information and other info on the windscreen in front of you. It worked well even in bright daylight. Definitely recommended if it’s in your price range.

Heads Up Display source: Mercedes-Benz

Heads Up Display (source: Mercedes-Benz)

As mentioned, this car came fitted with Merc’s all wheel drive system, 4matic. It was my first time driving an all-wheel drive sedan, and what a pleasure. No matter the corner you take, the car just sticks. It was a pleasure to drive, and something I’d love to test out round a track. While we did do a few short sections on gravel, the cars AMG suspension made this unenjoyable, extremely harsh, and completely put me off trying to test out its all wheel drive capabilities.

While the car was comfortable to drive, and came with electronically adjustable seats and steering wheel, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the steering wheel wasn’t centred around the driver’s seat, and that it was slightly more towards the centre of the car. It didn’t bother me too much, but after long stretches, I needed a bit of a stretch.

The car was fitted with two unusual extras for South Africa. Firstly seat warmers, and secondly a remote control to activate heating in the car. Even though it was well over 20 degrees C outside we tested out the seat warmers which blow nice hot air at the driver and front passenger’s bodies. The remote control makes use of an additional petrol powered heating unit in the engine bay to warm up the cabin. It can be activated from inside your house a few minutes before you have to go somewhere, so when you get to your car, it’s already warm.

I really enjoyed my time with the car. As mentioned, a definite upgrade on the 204, and noticeably placed in a higher class than the CLA to which I was accustomed. The C200 is an acceptable version, although with the extra wait of the 4matic, a larger engine would be preferable. That being said, it cruises easily, and is happy to drop gears when the need for overtaking is required. A well put together car, the trim is exceptional (especially the black ash in this model), and it was a pleasure to drive.