Monday, April 26, 2010

Pulp fiction - hard facts.


I picked up a bunch of old dime magazines some years ago when I was living in Bristol, a few of them pictured above. They stem from the 1930s, and it's interesting to find some big names attached to the stories within - Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler amongst them. I guess this was where they cut their writing teeth before going on to become popular novelists.

Better than the stories, though, are the small ads. Here's a real slice of social history, a clue as to the lives of Americans during the post-Depression era. It's apparent that jobs were scarce, money and health a worry, social contact limited. Take a look...


Learning to play a musical intrument was promoted as a way of gaining both cash and popularity. How many Hawaiian guitars were bought, I wonder, on the assurance that 'only four motions were required' in order to master the instrument? And how many such instruments would be laid aside upon discovering that a musician's life is about as glittering as that of a dirt farmer?


  Money money money - ways to find it, make it, keep it. How desperate the eyes that scanned these pages, how vain the hope that a dime mag would somehow provide the answer, the quick fix needed to pay those bills. What punters probably didn't realise was that the hawkers of these schemes and 'opportunities' would have been equally desperate.


                           

And look at this. America was apparently populated by bow-legged, crooked-nosed, kidney-strained men who were too old at 35 to be capable of reproduction. It's a wonder that the next generation ever came into being.


Finally, a little sample from the personal trading columns. I notice that there are a few musical instruments up for swaps - perhaps bought from these very pages - the idea that a banjo can be a ticket to riches and social acceptance being peddled to the next mug. And here's a guy in Arizona, looking around his empty apartment, wondering what his pickled tarantula might fetch on the open market, a Colorado farmer willing to trade his 320 acres for a two-bit filling station in town.

Hemingway must have been thinking of such hidden lives when he wrote his famous six-word short story: 'For sale, baby's shoes. Never worn.'

Friday, April 16, 2010

'Server rejected'

I’m currently unable to upload photos to Blogger. They’ve updated the system, you see, and so of course it no longer works.

When changes like this are introduced, I’d like to be given a choice. I'd like to see a couple of option buttons on my screen.

Option 1.‘Switch to our new improved photo uploading system! It’ll mean using Picasa, a program you never asked for and won’t understand, but which you’ll need to sign up for and get your head around before you can post a pic. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Yes, we’re having problems with it at the moment, and you’ll get a ‘server rejected’ message on anything you try to upload. And yes we realise it might have been a good idea to test it first. But it’s new, you see, and that’s why it’s better. Unfortunately we don’t offer any official assistance, but you can always go to our ‘help’ forums and rummage around in there for a few hours, along with all the other dazed and confused bloggers suffering with the same issue. Other than that we can’t advise.’


And on the second button would be
Option 2.
‘Don’t’.

UPDATE: So it seems they fixed it, and now you can upload pics from your files without having to muck about in Picasa. Well, OK then. But in future...just behave.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

String theory

I was casting about for a bit of string this morning - in an attempt to make a pencil stay in one place for more than two minutes - and realised I had not a scrap in the house. No string! What kind of a man has no string?

My father would have been ashamed of me. He was a man who always had serious string. I’m not talking about the cheapo kind that you’d tie up a parcel with, the rough white hairy stuff that you could buy in any Post Office. No, I’m talking about brown string. Proper bees-waxed twine. The kind that sailors used to mend their sails with, the kind that would cut through your fingers like cheese-wire before it would ever break.

Waxed twine came on a tightly spooled drum, a solid object, full of purpose and possibilities. Here lay the cocooned beginnings of a hundred kites, a thousand bows and arrows, a million conker fights. Here was a thread from which you could suspend your life.

Yes, for a man currently in possession of no string, I’m a big fan of the stuff.

I like rope, too, particularly proper brown rope, made of hemp. Playground rope. Girls used it for skipping games – those endlessly inventive songs and rhymes and routines that have now vanished from break-time culture. But although I can recall the warm touch of natural hemp rope, winding it round my fingers to get a good satisfying grip, I can’t remember what we boys used it for. I think maybe we just tied a knot in the end and hit each other with it. That’d be about right.

Maybe that was it: boys were creative and inventive with string, girls ditto with rope.

Anyway, I wish I had some right now. A length of rope or a decent bit of string would improve my life no end, and probably everyone else's too. That’s my theory.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Security Tool: what it is, and how to remove it.


If you haven't heard of 'Security Tool', then chances are you soon will. This fake program is as aggressive as any virus, and if your computer becomes infected you're in for a fun time in trying to get rid of it.

Security Tool presents itself as as a bona fide anti-spyware program, popping up on your computer and informing you that you have dangerous viruses. It offers to cleanse your computer of said viruses, and very convincing it looks too (see above). But beware. If you allow the software to perform a 'free scan', then you very quickly realise that Security Tool is the virus. It shuts down all programs other than those necessary to keep itself running, and the 'threats' that it suggests you remove are in fact legitimate Windows applications. Your desktop will be jammed with pop-ups that are simply impossible to circumnavigate. No amount of deleting will get rid of them, and trying to access program removal is useless. Many of the big name anti-virus programmes currently have no defence against this vicious little beast.  A member of my family inadvertently allowed Security Tool to run, and I've spent many hours of frustration in trying to deal with the resultant havoc.

Security Tool is a piece of work, sophisticated and cleverly designed. You have to wonder at the kind of person who would put their creativity to such damaging use, and why they would want to be so despised. It's beyond me. But, as always, there are superheroes on hand to vanquish the forces of evil!

So step forward Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. This is one of the few programs capable of defeating Security Tool, and I'm very pleased and grateful to be able to recommend it. Get it now. The free version works fine, but for ongoing real-time protection you might consider stumping up for the Pro.

You'll also want to visit bleepingcomputer.com's helpful site for more comprehensive information, and a step-by-step method for Security Tool Removal. This runs to several pages, so you'd best print them out.

Even with Malwarebytes excellent product successfully installed, you're still looking at several hours work. I had to download the software onto a separate laptop, put it onto a flash drive, and then upload it into the infected computer running in Safe Mode before I could begin. And this is part of the problem - the infected computer will be virtually seized, and so you'll need a second machine to operate from.

The best solution would be to install Malwarebytes in the first place, so if you're lucky enough to be able to read this then I suggest you act now while you still can.