Fisher & Paykel – Lost My Sock Promotion

Fisher & Paykel are a large long-standing New Zealand whiteware company that recently launched a new marketing campaign to (I presume) increase awareness of their brand (amoung other things). Their promotion was called “Lost My Sock” and the basic idea is that you visit their special “Lost My Sock” webpage and they try to “Find” your missing sock.

The TV advertisements are reasonably well put together, a middle aged F&P scientist explains that they’ve put their best minds to finding your “Lost Sock” and they still can’t find it – but they’ll keep trying.

Naturally I visited their promotional website to see what all the fuss was about.

The result? A loading page. I’ve got a stopwatch running since I opened the site. The current time reads 9 minutes 43 seconds. I’ve been waiting almost 10 minutes for their marketing webpage to load and I’m on a 22Mb aDSL connection (seriously fast).

Whomever developed and managed the web-based portion of F&P’s “Lost My Sock” website seems to have fallen flat on their face. Surely disapointing for F&P executives given the hundreds of thousands they no doubt invested into the marketing campaign. No one wants to put the time and effort into producing a TV advertisement that directs the public to a webpage that doesn’t work. That’s akin to flushing money “down the toilet”.

So, I checked Twitter and mentioned the promotional page was still loading. Within a couple of minutes I had a reply from another Kiwi – it wasn’t just failing to load for me.

What can we learn?

Well for one – paying a lot of money doesn’t make you immune to poor quality work, or poor quality hosting. In this instance the server hosting the loading Flash file is simply too slow for the task at hand. I’m sure the Flash file is “very cool” – however being cool isn’t good enough if 99% of web traffic won’t ever wait for your page to load. The Flash file is 3.2MB in size which is large, but not huge. The problem is the speed of the transfer. Not enough thought has been given to the quality of the web host used.

This sits squarely in the category of “Webpage creation 101”. If your site takes more than a few moments to load, it’s worthless.

The F&P site has just loaded for me. It took 15 minutes and 8 seconds. Would you wait 15 minutes for a webpage to load?

I didn’t think so!

Update: they don’t seem to have uploaded their marketing material to YouTube either (this is a TV advertisement after all). Someone has, but it’s not F&P – Who’s running this campaign?

Computer Maintenance For Beginners

Computers slow down over time. They get bloated, infected and mistreated for years without any love.

PC shops/technicians make a bundle off of these sorts of problems. You take your laptop into ‘the shop’ and you get it back in a few days and $150 later it seems to be running faster. That’s great, and there will always be a place for that kind of service, but if you’re a little more conscious about your cash flow there are some basic steps you can take to keep your computer happy without costing you a cent.

There are 4 basic keys to keeping your PC (Using Windows) healthy and happy. Anyone can do this, even your mum – and it’s completely free.

1. Make sure you have at least 20% free space on your hard drive.

– You can go to ‘My Computer’ and click on your hard drive to see the amount of free space (or right click on the hard drive and go to ‘Properties’). If you have less than 10GB of free space you’re most likely in trouble. Clear some stuff off of your hard drive. If you have more than 1 hard drive then we’re talking about the system drive, normally called something like “Local Disk (C:)’.

2. Install an anti-virus program and have it run regularly (I recommend AVG)

–  You can download AVG here (you want the FREE version)

AVG is a fantastic anti-viral program and doesn’t cost you a cent. It’s also competitive with all the top end (and very pricy) alternatives like Nortons and McAfee Anti-Virus. AVG will update its virus definition files automatically (just say yes if it wants to update something, it can’t be bad – the same goes for Ad-Aware.)

Note: you only ever want 1 anti-virus program on your computer. If you have more than 1 you’re going to get yourself into trouble. They don’t play well with each other!

3. Install an anti-malware/spyware program and have it run regularly (I recommend Ad-Aware)

– You can download Ad-Aware here (again you want the FREE version)

4. ‘Defrag’ your hard drive regularly.

– This is a big one. No one does this and it’s your PC technicians secret weapon for speeding up computers.

Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Disk Defragmenter

When it starts up click on the defragment button. A defrag will take a long time (hours normally) and it works best if you’re not using your computer while it works. Setting up a defrag first thing in the morning or at night is a good option.

If you’re using Windows Vista the provided defragmenter sort of sucks. It works fine but it’s slow and gives you no visual feedback. If you’re keen you can grab a program called Defraggler here which is much better. (Most people just use the standard Vista defragger, and thats fine.)

That’s it! That’s the majority of what your PC guy is doing when he takes your computer off your hands to speed it up. You can also sleep easy knowing you now have full virus and spyware protection.

Here is a schedule for a good PC owner (this is what I do):

– Defrag your hard drive once a month.

– Make sure your hard drive doesnt get too full. (remember, try and stick to 20% free space)

– Run a full virus scan using AVG once a week. (you can schedule this using AVG so that it starts automatically)

– Run a full scan using Ad-Aware once a week. (again, you can schedule this)

Darkside makes webpages, but I personally offer free technical support to individuals and businesses. Feel free to flick me an email if you run into trouble. ([email protected])

Bad passwords

Everyone has passwords these days, they’ve become a simple fact of life.

The exceptionally popular social media service Twitter has recently banned almost 400 passwords, which users will no longer be able to use to register a Twitter account. These passwords are all common, and make up the majority of the ‘password lists’ automated password crackers use when they attempt to log into Internet accounts.

Here is the full list of banned passwords (I pulled this from the JavaScript embeded in the Twitter HTML source)

Please be aware of 2 things.
1. This list contains common passwords, some are vulgar so please don’t be offended.
2. If your password is on this list, please change it – change it today.

The bad password list:

111111, 11111111, 112233, 121212, 123123, 123456, 1234567, 12345678, 131313, 232323, 654321, 666666, 696969, 777777, 7777777, 8675309, 987654, aaaaaa, abc123, abc123, abcdef, abgrtyu, access, access14, action, albert, alexis, amanda, amateur, andrea, andrew, angela, angels, animal, anthony, apollo, apples, arsenal, arthur, asdfgh, asdfgh, ashley, asshole, august, austin, badboy, bailey, banana, barney, baseball, batman, beaver, beavis, bigcock, bigdaddy, bigdick, bigdog, bigtits, birdie, bitches, biteme, blazer, blonde, blondes, blowjob, blowme, bond007, bonnie, booboo, booger, boomer, boston, brandon, brandy, braves, brazil, bronco, broncos, bulldog, buster, butter, butthead, calvin, camaro, cameron, canada, captain, carlos, carter, casper, charles, charlie, cheese, chelsea, chester, chicago, chicken, cocacola, coffee, college, compaq, computer, cookie, cooper, corvette, cowboy, cowboys, crystal, cumming, cumshot, dakota, dallas, daniel, danielle, debbie, dennis, diablo, diamond, doctor, doggie, dolphin, dolphins, donald, dragon, dreams, driver, eagle1, eagles, edward, einstein, erotic, extreme, falcon, fender, ferrari, firebird, fishing, florida, flower, flyers, football, forever, freddy, freedom, fucked, fucker, fucking, fuckme, fuckyou, gandalf, gateway, gators, gemini, george, giants, ginger, golden, golfer, gordon, gregory, guitar, gunner, hammer, hannah, hardcore, harley, heather, helpme, hentai, hockey, hooters, horney, hotdog, hunter, hunting, iceman, iloveyou, internet, iwantu, jackie, jackson, jaguar, jasmine, jasper, jennifer, jeremy, jessica, johnny, johnson, jordan, joseph, joshua, junior, justin, killer, knight, ladies, lakers, lauren, leather, legend, letmein, letmein, little, london, lovers, maddog, madison, maggie, magnum, marine, marlboro, martin, marvin, master, matrix, matthew, maverick, maxwell, melissa, member, mercedes, merlin, michael, michelle, mickey, midnight, miller, mistress, monica, monkey, monkey, monster, morgan, mother, mountain, muffin, murphy, mustang, naked, nascar, nathan, naughty, ncc1701, newyork, nicholas, nicole, nipple, nipples, oliver, orange, packers, panther, panties, parker, password, password, password1, password12, password123, patrick, peaches, peanut, pepper, phantom, phoenix, player, please, pookie, porsche, prince, princess, private, purple, pussies, qazwsx, qwerty, qwertyui, rabbit, rachel, racing, raiders, rainbow, ranger, rangers, rebecca, redskins, redsox, redwings, richard, robert, rocket, rosebud, runner, rush2112, russia, samantha, sammy, samson, sandra, saturn, scooby, scooter, scorpio, scorpion, secret, sexsex, shadow, shannon, shaved, sierra, silver, skippy, slayer, smokey, snoopy, soccer, sophie, spanky, sparky, spider, squirt, srinivas, startrek, starwars, steelers, steven, sticky, stupid, success, suckit, summer, sunshine, superman, surfer, swimming, sydney, taylor, tennis, teresa, tester, testing, theman, thomas, thunder, thx1138, tiffany, tigers, tigger, tomcat, topgun, toyota, travis, trouble, trustno1, tucker, turtle, twitter, united, vagina, victor, victoria, viking, voodoo, voyager, walter, warrior, welcome, whatever, william, willie, wilson, winner, winston, winter, wizard, xavier, xxxxxx, xxxxxxxx, yamaha, yankee, yankees, yellow, zxcvbn, zxcvbnm, zzzzzz

A good password (in my opinion) is at least 8 characters, doesn’t use common words (walker, allblacks, racecar are common words) uses numbers and letters and has at least 1 upper case character (although if we’re being honest, 90% of my passwords are are lower case).

Examples!

Bad password: chrisrae
Bad password: banana
Decent password: nurture87
Decent password: 91exquisite
Great password: 889eqrzzC
Great password: Se133mnpz

Obviously a password you can’t remember is bad too, so we need to compromise somewhere!

Your password is essentially the keys to the car in todays world, please take care of them.

Hotlinking – Why Popularity Can Be Bad

One of the sites Darkside runs is called eSport – It’s a New Zealand orientated, light hearted news service and gaming community. In the past 3 months the page has generated on average 200 unique visitors a day, with a maximum of 1197 users in a single day. Those really aren’t very big numbers in the overall scheme of things, not tiny – but far from impressive.

I had a look at the bandwidth monitoring (purely on a whim) on the machine eSport lives on, and to my surprise the page had gone from pushing 150MB a day, to suddenly pushing 1.5GB a day. That’s a ten fold increase in bandwidth being burnt.

eSport has a gallery used by its members that allows image uploads, and a lot of those images rank very highly in Google Image Search. One of those images in the gallery was of a video game character from a game called Team Fortress 2.

Here he is:

tf2spy

A shady looking fellow indeed. This image comes in at about 60k, which is by no means large. This is a local copy of the image, not the copy on eSport.

Yet this little guy burnt 1.2GB on his very ownsome in a single day. He was downloaded approximately 20,480 times.

A Google Image Search for ‘tf2 spy’ (the character is called a spy) returns a page full of images, the 3rd and best image of the spy as it turns out is hosted in the eSport Gallery.

It’s the 22nd of October, we’re about a week from halloween, and that means dress-ups. I checked out the eSport Gallery access logs and discovered this little image was linked to from dozens of high traffic geek orientated forums and webpages in relation to Halloween, and what folks would be dressing up as.

I felt bad about having to do something about it, but as this box is meant to be high performance and really only for DSM’s NZ and AUS clients it’s located on the Auckland CBD, on fiber, APE and WIX peered and very, very fast. Unfortunately that speed comes at a cost, and international bandwidth from New Zealand is extremely expensive.

A little bit of begrudging .htaccess magic and the problem was solved.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(.+\.)?esport.co.nz/ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteRule .*\.(jpe?g|gif|bmp|png|jpg)$ /nohotlink.jpe [L]

What does that do? well, this:

TF2 Spy

I’ve linked to an image in the eSport gallery, and the .htaccess rule has switched it out for this placeholder image. (which is thankfully only 1k)

Be on the lookout for Spies this festive season, and have a great time!