Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Woken up last night by a Nigerian scammer

I'm in India right now which is 5 and a half hours ahead of GMT. I think I'm surviving on less sleep than normal because I'm going to bed at 2am IST every morning (still 8:30pm UK time) and getting up at 7:30am IST (a horrible 2am GMT).

This morning though I was woken up at middle-of-the-night o'clock by a text message telling me that I'd received a Gite booking enquiry. I read the text, decided it could wait until morning, and turned over back to sleep again.

When I got in to the office I read the enquiry that had disturbed me in the night. Here it is in full, as it's a classic example of the scam artform:
The start date you are interested in: 2/4/2011
For how long: 4 Weeks

Your contact information
Name : jean frank
Street Address : 11 rd clement
Town/City : Canada
E-mail :

Type your message here to include any special Requirements or Comments:
Interesting in your property for the period below:
Checking date:1st of April 2011
Checking out :30th April 2011.
Let me know the cost for the period .
adult on party :2
And do you have internet?as we been using our Pc for our stay.
Looking forward to hear from you asap! Thanks.

Message requested by IP address:
Date/Time: 26/02/2011 23:04:35

Immediately suspicious by the long booking duration, the not great English, and the disposable email address with a number in it, I went to check the IP address at the bottom which this particular holiday rental site helpfully adds to the bottom of the email.
(reminder to self, investigate adding enquirer IP address details to the Gite booking enquiry form on my own website).

Anyway, Domaintools' whois site translated the IP address into details of where this network address is actually registered:

IP Location: Nigeria Lagos Dial Pool Subnet For Lagos Subscribers

And that's all I needed to know. Thanks Mr Scammer, your Email has been promptly consigned to the junk folder!

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Place In the Sun Live - Free tickets

A Place in The Sun Live logo
Coming to Earls Court, London from the 11th to the 13th March is the A Place in the Sun Live exhibition with buying advice and 70 free seminars over the weekend, and thousands of overseas properties for sale, from £20,000 upwards.

You'll probably also get to spot the television presenters Amanda Lamb, Jasmine Harman and Jonnie Irwin there, as well as gain lots of information on popular destinations such as France, Spain, Florida, etc.

If you turn up at the door you'll pay £12 to enter, or if you book on the website there is a special advance purchase price of 2 tickets for £15 with a free six-month subscription to A Place in the Sun magazine.

Alternatively, and with no free magazine subscription -sorry- you can use this special complementary free ticket link to create your own e-ticket entry for the princely sum of £0.


Labels: ,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goodbye MyBlogLog, RIP

Since 2006 I've been using a service called MyBlogLog to give me some insights into the popular articles on this Blog, and where visitors to the Blog came from.

Well I don't have to any more as today I received an email notification from Yahoo that Yahoo are sunsetting (aka terminating) the MyBlogLog service on 24th May 2011.

If your interested there's more details on MyBlogLog on the eponymous Wikipedia but in a nutshell MBL enables you to track who is visiting your blog, how they reached your blog, what they looked at, and form a community with them. The tracking is similar to the information that Google Analytics gives you except I personally thought it was better because the reports gave details of not just what site the visitor came from but also what keywords they used. So for instance yesterday's information was that I had visitors from:

Google Search: channel 4 documentary french gite
Google Search: what is nippi

So the last three are people who viewed various photos from search engines or a proxy site, but the first two show that visitors came with relevant searches to look at my review to look at the review of A Place In France - Indian Summer by Nigel Farrell and Nippi Singh.

The community side of MBL probably never reached critical mass, you can subscribe to your "favourite blogs", send messages to the Blog author and others that like your blog, and although there are now 45,000 blogs on BML but much of this is similar and of course far less popular than "like it" widgets from Twitter, Facebook and the other social media sites, the new darlings of the internet world.

Anyway, after spending $10m dollars in 2007 Yahoo has decided that it is not part of its "core strategy" and is killing it off in May.

BML had either a paid model or a free model, I used the free model so was able to view reports of my Blog visitors for just the last 7 days, so since 2006 I have been laboriously copy and pasting the reports into a massive Excel spreadsheet every week or so so I can see how the Blog is doing. At least I will be saved the task of doing that from May, but once MBL goes I'll try to produce some stats on what's been the most interesting articles - any bets as to what that might be?


Sunday, February 20, 2011

IBM Watson and Jeopardy - pushing language processing to the limits

IBM Watson logo
I'm proud to work for IBM.

Sometimes things come along that make you really proud to work for your company and the recent news of the IBM Watson computer winning the Jeopardy gameshow challenge against two world champions (one who won 72 straight games in a row and the other who has won $3.5m on the show) is pretty cool stuff.

Jeopardy is a word game where you have to guess the word clue from a cryptic clue, and based upon how confident you feel about your guess, you bet appropriately.

There's natural language recognition, question/answer word recognition, confidence levels and a time challenge to play faster than your opponents.

So getting a computer to play this and to play at world-class level is pretty clever stuff and IBM Research have been working on it for the last 3 years or so. It's really pushing the boundaries of computer search, particularly in the field of natural language processing, and I personally find it amazing the results that have been achieved.

The main IBM Watson website has more details of the challenge and the team that put together Watson, and there's a whole host of video's of Watson and Jeopardy on Youtube - the Watson Grand Final of Jeopardy! is worth watching first, and look at the emotion on the faces of the IBM team as the computer wins.

Doubtless in a few years this will become "old hat" in the same way that computers playing Chess is now common place and was said to be "impossible", but for now the way that Watson works out from our idiosyncratic language what the question really is and then 90%+ of the time gives the right answer is frankly amazing.