Comedian Katt Williams was once one of the funniest people on the planet. Now, he's in a very bad place. Yesterday, a judge in Seattle issued two warrants after Williams failed to show up to court there. This was just the latest event in a protracted timeline of highly ridiculous incidents, many of which have ended in Williams' arrest. Let's look at all that Williams has done to terrorize the West Coast this holiday season.
In a new promo for her May 7th concert movie on HBO, Lady Gaga is seen talking backstage before her gig at Madison Square Garden. She's crying and talking about how she still feels like a loser thanks to the high school bullies who tormented her. Aww.
As a stunt, Google has wrapped subway trains in New York City with ads for Google Maps. Inside, ads give specific directions to tourist landmarks like Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, they misplace Grand Central Terminal by several blocks, directing people to subway lines which do not run through the station. A mistake we can see someone sitting in a cube in Mountain View making — but doesn't Google have a large New York office full of employees who might have been called on to vet the ads in their 20 percent time?
You would think an online print-on-demand bookstore would be able to print books on demand. But you'd be wrong! A reader reports that he wasn't able to finish checking out a book on Lulu, a print-on-demand startup. (Red Hat founder Bob Young, shown here, was inspired to start the company after he ended up with boxes of unsold copies of his Linux nonthriller, Under the Radar.) A customer-support rep said that the company had known about the ordering bug for a week, and might not fix it for another week. An online store which doesn't want its customers' money? Odd. The only possible conclusion: Lulu doesn't have enough actual customers to worry about letting them conduct business with the company. Here's the exchange with the support rep:
Drugs! Alcohol! Baseball bats! Hey, it's a good story. IT contractor Steven Barnes will serve a year in prison and pay a $54,000 restitution after being convicted of logging into a client's network and deleting the Exchange database, among other things. Barnes claimed he acted after coworkers from Blue Falcon Networks, now known as Akimbo Systems, came to his home and took away his personal computers by force. Barnes reconfigured Blue Falcon's server as an open relay for spammers, causing the company to be automatically blacklisted from delivering real mail. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with Barnes's temper that a little prison time won't — haha! I almost finished that sentence without laughing.
Google and Yahoo target search ads based on mere keywords. How passé! Facebook's targeted ads, which draw on the personal information users enter into their profiles, are clearly the future, right? If only the company's engineers could competently write the code that targets those ads. A Facebook advertiser who has spent thousands of dollars on campaigns targeted by age and country says that the site's new reporting tools for advertisers have exposed a serious problem: Either the targeting routines are broken, or the reporting is completely off. An ad meant for U.K. teens went mostly to the U.S. and other European countries instead. A campaign meant to be placed in front of Irish users saw 1 in 14 ads go elsewhere. It's a poor reflection on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, whose expertise in running Google's automated ad systems was touted as her main qualification for the job. Here are screenshots of some of the advertisers' reports:
Brad Greenspan, the former CEO of Intermix Media, the company which launched MySpace, loves to make trouble for News Corp., the media giant he claims bought Intermix and MySpace for a song. Too bad he pays more attention to his ongoing, one-sided feud than his revenge vehicle, LiveUniverse. Greenspan's startup is having trouble with his uptime; a tipster says his LiveUniverse and LiveVideo sites have been down for two days running. That's not the real problem; the real problem is that it took two days for anyone to notice they've been down.
Hooray — another zero-day patch! The financial sky is falling! The only good news is I'm used to hedge fund managers throwing themselves out the windows. If you're as familiar with zero-day patches as collateralized debt obligations, let me explain the difference to an IT guy. A CDO means I'm fired. A zero-day patch means I'm working. All weekend.A zero-day patch is a security alert that's been issued for some major, Internet-threatening bug, one that's so serious that they give people zero days of warning. It means the bad guys know about it. It's so bad that it needs to be fixed right away, I get that. But do you think IT departments are staffed for one zero-day patch over another? Of course not. Your infrastructure doesn't scale, but who cares? And why pay for all that automation? We have people here. Or in Bangalore, or somewhere. But when an operation takes 10 minutes per machine, multiplied by hundreds of servers and thousands of workstations for millions of customers ... well, I'll get complaints about the overtime charges, but my managers already told me they didn't want to pay to configure the automated solution. See? I can't win, even if Arista replaces every Cisco box on the network. The bright side: This morning, I worried I'd be out of a job by noon. Thanks to Microsoft, I now have another life-or-death upgrade to install. I'll do it this weekend. I may not have a family life, but I have a job.
An anonymous eBayer spoke out on the auction website's user forums recently, irate over seeing penis-enlargement ads on the eBay homepage. Within seconds, a horde of other outspoken eBayers chimed in with over 600 replies to share their shock and dismay of seeing the same penis-envy ads. One grandmother was extremely offended at having her little grandson wonder whether his manhood is up to par. But it turned out eBay wasn't actually at fault — malware on the computers of people seeing the ads had replaced eBay's G-rated come-ons with racier fare. Maybe those offended should just pick up some discounted antivirus software on eBay? That seems easier. Here's another malware-placed ad:
Be careful what you Twitter — especially if you think the website will keep it secret for you. In 1999, Scott McNealy, then Sun's CEO, said, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." Webheads have been diligently trying to prove him wrong since, with online tools that zealously guard our privacy. And yet they keep proving him right, with senseless coding errors which destroy the very privacy they try to protect. The latest example: Twitter. A Hungarian website, Webisztán, has found a simple exploit for Twitter.A feed of your friends' Twitter messages publicly lists all all messages, whether or not they're "protected." (Twitter users can choose to protect their messages so only designated "friends" can see them.) I decided to test the bug on some folks for whom privacy might be a fresh concern — two ringleaders of the infamous "Camp Cyprus" video, Facebook product manager Dave Morin, and Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Vascellaro. Both participated in a seaside frolic in Cyprus with several other Internet-employed individuals, which has become a symbol of Web 2.0 excess. Vascellaro made her Twitter messages private after she got back from her Cyprus vacation, after rather indiscreetly Twittering several updates about the progress of the video. Sure enough, Morin's feed of messages from Twitter friends contains a private message broadcasted by Vascellaro only to her designated friends. Fortunately, it's just a notice that she's "in need of Halloween costume ideas," rather than an update about a story she's filing for the paper. To see anyone else's private, friends-only messages, pick one of the user's friends, and then substitute their user name in this URL: