Month: March 2010

The curious case of the two Brut 66es

From 2005-2009 I played guitar in a cool band called Brut 66. We were a bunch of thirty- and forty-somethings who’d all ended up in the same country town and discovered we shared similar – some would say impeccable – musical tastes and had played in similar bands in our younger days.

What’s in a name?

When we first started playing and went through the usual brainstorming process bands do when they need to come up with a name we ended up settling on the quite unique – or so we thought – Brut 66. I can’t remember who came up with it but I do remember that at first it wasn’t taken as a serious contender (unlike some others: Dead Leg, The Nits and Red Motor, um hello?). It didn’t take long though. For me personally it was a great choice because it was stupid and kind of clever at the same time and had three big selling points:

  1. It referenced the famous blues standard Route 66, famous to me via Chuck Berry and the Stones. Aside from being a great song I’ve always loved the song because of the several layers of meaning between the lines of it’s favourite lyrics. I knew that it symbolised the dream of a better life in utopian California for many poor black Americans who travelled it (check out Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath) and that it “celebrate[d] the romance and freedom of automobile travel” (Wikipedia).
  2. It also referenced the ubiquitous and totally cheesy Brut 33 aftershave that was a part of life (and found under many a Christmas tree, chosen by hapless Aunties) for any male growing up in the 1970s and 80s.
  3. It was a great bit of wordplay that mashed these two great pop culture references together. Puns, especially ones like this, have long been a favourite of my bandmates.

So anyway, off we went. We wrote some songs, practised them in Greg’s shed, played to our friends and families and occasionally ventured further afield. We recorded a couple of CDs. We didn’t change musical history but we had lots of fun.

Our style? We had dollops of 60s garage and Detroit rock, a bit of Australian underground in there. We were loud and messy, usually in a good way. As well as our originals we did some covers by the likes of The Sonics, Ramones, Patti Smith, God.

What 66?

Our name was often misspelled and that was part of the fun. On posters done by other bands we played, occasional newpaper ads, the memorable cover of a street press magazine and blackboards outside dodgy pubs we were sometimes ‘Brutt 66′ with two ts, at least once ‘Brute 66′, sometimes ‘Route 66′. It was fitting that for our very last gig at Sydney’s Lansdowne Hotel the blackboard announced ‘Brut GG’.

At the end of 2009 our singer moved away and the band ended.

The plot thickens

A couple of months later an email landed in my inbox

hi there,
played in a band called Brut 66 from Düsseldorf-Germany in the late 80´s.
sounded maybe like 70´s english styled punk rock or something else.
released only one 7 inch on a small local label called Teenage Rebel Records.
have a few copies left. if you are interessted i can send you 1 or 2.just for fun.
see you on tour in düsseldorf!
Michael

I nearly fell off my chair. Another band with exactly the same name had existed well before we thought of it. Their musical style even sounded not a million miles away from ours. I know that it’s hard to find a unique band name these days but hey, Brut 66?

Yesterday a package arrived from Michael with four singles from the ‘other’ Brut 66, recorded in 1988 in Düsseldorf. They look very young and – as I did in those days – eager to look as tough and hard as possible. In keeping with releases from the pre-digital age the single includes a photocopied A4 sheet with some cut and pasted pictures and typewritten lyrics. After the band members names it says “No thanks to anyone”.

Looks we’ve been well and truly outpunked!

(I’m ashamed to say that my record player is out of action right now so I haven’t been able to listen yet).

Pics of old and new Brut 66 singles and CDs below.

Stay tuned for the dual Brut 66es Germany and Australia reunion tour in another 10 years…

Footnote for fellow grammar and spelling pedants: I struggled with the correct way to write the plural of Brut 66: should it be Brut 66s or Brut 66es? None of the online sources I checked could tell me definitively. I know if it was written as Brut Sixty-Six the ‘es’ plural would be correct so I’ve gone with that. Further dicussion welcome, if anyone cares.

Google Chrome is great but for developers it’s not quite up to Firefox’s standards. Yet.

Since Google’s Chrome browser was released for Mac in late 2009 it’s become my default day to day browser, mainly because it’s so fast. It’s fast to start up and it’s fast to load pages and that’s what we all want for browsing the net.

For developing though it’s not quite up to Firefox‘s standard in a few key areas and I almost always find I have to switch back when working on sites.

Like many people I’ve long been a Firefox user and like many people, I’ve noticed Firefox getting slower and slower and choke on loading things that Chrome seems to breeze through. However there are still so many things it can do that no other browser can match right now – partly by its design and partly to the myriad of extensions available. Remember life before Firebug?

So why isn’t Chrome there yet as a developer’s browser? Here’s my list of niggles…

1. Chrome’s status bar isn’t wide enough to see full urls

This is incredibly frustrating! It looks like the status bar has a maximum width of around a third of the browser window. So with a browser open to an average width of 1000 pixels or so you just don’t see full urls of anything over 50 characters or so. To the average user this may not matter but to anyone who’s developing not being able to see where a link is pointing without having to go there is soooo frustrating.


Status bar in Chrome truncates urls


Status bar in Safari (top) and Firefox shows full urls

2. Chrome doesn’t show full page titles

This is a similar issue in many ways – perhaps Google’s aim to keep the interface clean has driven both of these? You only see each page’s title on its tab, which is not very wide (even if you only have one tab open). This means you can never  see a pages full title, and when you’ve got a number of tabs open at once (which let’s face it is is how things always are) you’re lucky to be able to read the first word. Firefox and Safari show the full page title above the tabs.


Page titles in Google Chrome are only shown on tabs and are truncated


Full length page titles shown above tabs in Safari (top) and Firefox

3. Chrome doesn’t have some of Firefox’s useful menu options

Being able to right-click and choose ‘View Image’ or ‘View Background Image’ and get an image in a tab with the filename, type and dimensions in the title bar is so simple browser makers should be forced to include this feature. Safari and Chrome doesn’t. Yet.

4. Firebug (lite) in Chrome has scrolling issues

Firebug is such a useful tool, particularly it’s ability to allow live css changes to be tested on a page. Firebug Lite was released for Chrome on mac early in 2010 and was the the one thing I was waiting for before making the switch. There is a small issue with scrolling though, in that you sometimes can’t scroll to the bottom of a page with Firebug pane turned on.

I understand this is something that is currently beyond the control of the Firebug developers but it pretty much makes it unusable right now.

5. The Chrome icon in my dock looks too similar to the Firefox icon

Maybe it’s habit but I just can’t help clicking the wrong icon because they’re quite similar. I’ve moved them away from being side by side but it’s not helping.

OK, this is stretching it…

Lots of similarities between the only two people who’ve vocally supported directory scams on this site

Curiouser and curiouser…

I noticed this morning that yesterday someone had left comments on a number of posts on this blog, all regarding directory scams (both the Who’s Who In Australia and the World Business Guide scams).

In the space of five minutes yesterday Hector Schmidt left four comments either supporting these scams or putting down other commenters.

At 12.58 on More Fax Spam

Not one person mentions the countless positive pages online. Just a bunch of individuals that are complaining about receiving an advertisment. No one who actually has a problem with the service, just problems with receiving a fax. This product has worked wonders for me. This site is a bunch of bloody rubbish.

then 1pm on the same post…

And why is it a hoax?. Because lots of people received it? Makes no sense what you folks say. You all sound like a bunch of whining teenagers. Grow up. If you don’t want the service, don’t respond.

then 1.02pm on World Business Guide – another fax spam directory scam

And why is this a scam?????

and finally at 1.03om on More on the Who’s Who fax spam

YOu souns like a rocket scientist michele.

(Michele had offered the opinion that these types of organisations were trying to trick people into paying for information that’s already freely available, that these people often use fake names and that trying to opt-out may put you on another list).

All good – I want your views

Which is great – I encourage the sharing of opinions on this site. And given the number of people who’ve been vocal in their condemnation of  these types of ‘offers’ it’s good to see some different perspectives.

In fact at the end of last year I spent quite a bit of time following up with Shane Mundy who’d signed up for one of these deals to present his side of this debate.

I can’t help wondering though

What made me curious about the recent dash of comments were the similarities between Hector and Brian Green, who was a regular commenter on this site over the course of a week in late December 2010 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), commenting on most of the same posts with similar opinions and tone.

A quick lookup of the IP addresses from which the comments were left shows them both to be from the same Internet Service Provider. Now I know that this ISP probably has thousands of customers but still, I can’t help wondering if Brian and Hector work from the same location/for the same organisation or are indeed the same person?

Again, I’d love to hear comments on this from readers, particularly Hector or Brian.

World Business Guide – another fax spam directory scam

World Business Guide fax spam

Another great directory spam came through on the fax today, this time from World Business Guide.

Always read the fine print

This one is even more blatant than similar fax spam (more), in that although they note at the top nice and clearly

To update your company profile please print, complete and return this form (UPDATING IS FREE OF CHARGE).

you need to read between the lines a little. Updating may be free of charge, but placing the listing is going to cost you €2985 – around $AUD4300! Buried at the bottom in the fine print, in all capital letters to make it hard to read, is

THE VALIDATION TIME OF THE CONTRACT IS THREE YEARS AND STARTS ON THE EIGHTH DAY AFTER SIGNING THE CONTRACT. THE INSERTION IS GRANTED AFTER SIGNING AND RECEIVING THIS DOCUMENT BY THE SERVICE PROVIDER. I HEREBY ORDER A SUBSCRIPTION WITH SERVICE PROVIDER INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORIES LTD “WORLD BUSINESS GUIDE”. I WILL HAVE AN INSERTION INTO ITS DATA BASE FOR THREE YEARS. THE PRICE PER YEAR IS EURO 995

I’ve bolded and underline what I’d have to describe as the ‘key points’.

World Business Guide fax spam fine print

(Fine print, click to zoom in)

Oh, but hang on – they’re not totally mercenary. After being hit with your first bill you do get the chance to cancel

THE SUBSCRIPTION WILL BE AUTOMATICALLY EXTENDED EVERY YEAR FOR ANOTHER YEAR, UNLESS SPECIFIC WRITTEN NOTICE IS RECEIVED BY THE SERVICE PROVIDER OR THE SUBSCRIBER TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE EXPIRATION OF THE SUBSCRIPTION.

So if you fill in the form based on what you’ve read at the top and miss the fine print it’s really only going to cost you around €995/$AUD1500. Nice.

Here’s the full World Business Guide fax (pdf, 78 kb).

Who is behind the World Business Guide?

The fax lists their address as P.O. Box 3079, 3502 GB, Utrecht, The Netherlands but their website suggests otherwise.

The World Business Guide online is product of International Directories, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of BVI.

BVI is tax haven the British Virgin Islands. Like Jack and Meg said, I think I smell a rat.

ACCC report on scams in 2009

A report released today by the ACCC says that reported scams in 2009 were up 16% on the previous year. The report is available on the ACCC website (pdf link at bottom of page)

“Realistically, this figure is likely to be the tip of the iceberg – given people can be embarrassed about reporting that they have fallen victim to scams and lost money in the process” said ACCC deputy chair Peter Kell.

‘False billing (advertising, directories, domain names)’ came in as the 5th most compained about type of scam for 2009, with the report noting

Scammers continued to target small businesses in an attempt to trick them into paying for a listing or advertisement in a magazine, journal or business register/directory. A common example is where a small business is sent a subscription form disguised as an outstanding invoice. This is an attempt to trick the recipient into signing up for unwanted advertising services.

It’s interesting to note that the ACCC have initiated legal proceedings against one such organisation, the European City Guide.

Fax Spam is not regulated in Australia

We have no laws that cover fax spam

Although Australia has a  and a Spam Act which regulates unsolicited email and sms messages and a Do Not Call Register to which (private) fixed and mobile numbers can be added there is no legislation which covers unsolicited faxes at this stage.

At the time of writing, according to The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s website

The Government has recently announced its intention to expand the Do Not Call Register, to cover both business numbers and fax numbers. When this is implemented, it may reduce these types of calls being made where people register their numbers.

Those Who’s Who in Australia spam faxes keep on coming

I’m thrilled to report that I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen to appear in the 2009/10 Edition of Who’s Who Among Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs in Australia.

Again!

And I thought that these guys were narky with me! Back in December after I received and wrote about my first Who’s Who in Australia fax (and followed up with more information) Brian Green – who claimed to be behind the mystery organisation that sends these faxes – left several messages on this website, which ranged from

We are asking you, business man to business man to please remove this site. It may be exciting to you because of all of the hits your getting from our marketing efforts but it is truly huring us and our over 50 employees that count on our great company to make a living. It also makes our happy customers question our credibility. So we ask you to please remove the negative press as We are clearly not a scam, just agggressive good marketers that provide a great service. Thank you in advance for you cooperation. We can help you get major traffic to your site with out hurting our company if you like. Please.
(Dec 11 2009)

to

These comments are from non-customers and a bunch of Rubbish. I don’t see any paid customers complaining! Just Non responders that don’t like our marketing letters. No Scam at all here, just a great service that puts peoples businesses on the map in search engines and generates business for them. But all of you have a nice day. Maybe you’ll come around someday. Good Day Mates :)
(December 16, 2009)

and

We have great products and tens of thousands of happy customers. This site is a compilation of a bunch of synical non-customers so here is what we are willing to do to change that. THE FIRST 10 PEOPLE That leave their contact details on here, we will provide them with free services for 1 year to prove the validity of our product. That is only if they come back and publish the great things that our services do for ther business.
(December 17, 2009)

I guess despite all my negative press ‘the Director’ still thinks I might make ‘an interesting biographical subject’. After all ‘achievement is what Who’s Who is all about’.

An open letter to Brian

As you’re still so keen to keep in contact with me Brian I have a few questions I’d love to ask you. As in the past I’d welcome the opportunity for you to have your say and will be happy to publish your responses in full.

  1. If you are, as you claim, a legitimate organisation, why don’t you supply your real business name, ABN, phone number, email or street address on your marketing material?
  2. Why don’t you provide an opt-out mechanism for people who don’t want to receive your faxes?
  3. Does Jennifer Crowley really exist?

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