When I was searching for Belle de
Jour’s blog last
month, I innocently entered the phrase “London
call girl” into Google. Imagine my surprise when
an advert for EBay appeared in the margin stating: “Call
Girl For Sale. Low Priced Call Girl. Big Selection!
ebay.co.uk”. I mean, I know you can buy almost
anything on EBay, but, really, I had no idea…!
Yes, these are real EBay Google
Don't click them, however. The links have been disabled
to protect the innocent.
Mind you, this is not the only unexpected offer that
EBay’s Google ads have turned up over the past few
weeks. “ Warts” one
ad promised, Huge selection, great deals on Warts.” This
is one temptation I didn’t find too much difficulty
At times it seems that EBay ads are the modern equivalent
of snake oil salesmen, ready to sell you anything, no matter
how improbable, at a moment’s notice. And before
you ask, yes, there is indeed an EBay ad for “Discount
Snake Oil. Check out the deals now!”
If you click an EBay ad you will find it usually takes
you to a page of items with at least a tenuous connection
to the text of the ad itself. Instead of snake oil, you
may find oil jars with snake’s head handles. Instead
of ready-to-use warts you may find creams to remove them.
I get the impression that EBay is trying to subdue the
over-zealousness of its Google ads at the moment. When
I searched for call girls today (quite innocently, I assure
you), I was merely offered an EBay link to movies. When
I searched for warts, the EBay link offered me discount
drugs. However, when I searched for dog poo….
Ahem, but let us move on to matters of more gravity….
Speaking of blogs (pay attention - I was wittering on
about the Belle de Jour blog but a few paragraphs ago!)
I must admit that I am starting to have second thoughts
about Blogger - the free blog provider which is currently
the chosen home of the Rants
and Raves blog. As I said
last month, Blogger has the advantage of being hugely popular
and owned by Google. It also has some distinct deficiencies.
Top of the list is its lack of data export. If you’ve
written your life story in Blogger and you want to download
it to mail off to a publisher, you will have problems.
There is no simple way to get at all the text in one fell
swoop. Blogger’s own recommended solution is to delete
the existing template for your Blog (a template is a sort
of Blog-standard page of HTML) and replace it with another
template which formats your entire Blog onto a single page.
You are then supposed to publish this blog to the web,
load it into your web browser and save the potentially
massive page to disk. If you think this sounds like a joke,
all I can say is that, as far as I can work out, it is
not so intended.
If, on the other hand, your Blog is hosted at MyBlogSite you can, in theory, export it just by clicking a button
and waiting for a few moments for an export file to appear.
In practice, I’ve been trying to do this for the
past few days and thus far, the blasted file has not made
its appearance. Only ModBlog does a really good job of
file export. It gives you the choice of exporting your
blog as plain text, which is probably best if you plan
to edit it in a word processor, or as XML, which is better
if you plan to import it back into ModBlog at a later stage.
Another thing I don’t like about Blogger is its
lack of statistics. Unless you place a 3rd party counter
on your home page, you have no idea how many visitors your
blog has had. You can rectify this deficiency by signing
up for a free counter such as SiteMeter (http://www.sitemeter.com).
In addition to a simple hit count this shows you the number
of visits per day, this week or the last hour and the average
length of each visit. Both MyBlogSite and ModBlog have
excellent built-in site statistics.
In the meantime, if you are a Blogger user, you may be
wondering if there is a more civilised way of getting at
your Blog than by messing about with template definitions.
One way is to use a web site download tool such as the
free Open source HTTrack Website copier (http://www.httrack.com/).
This can download all the archived pages and pictures from
your Blog in one go. With a bit of tweaking, it can also
download any comments that have been left. But I guess
the real answer is to save local copies of all your Blog
entries as you write them.
Blogger isn’t the only thing that’s been
making hard work of getting at my data this month. Outlook
Express has been equally uncooperative. It happened that
I wanted to transfer my Outlook Express email and newsgroup
settings and data from one PC to another. A common enough
thing to want to do, I should have thought. I mean, everyone
changes from one PC to another at some time. You’d
think that Outlook Express would just have a couple of
Save All and Load All menu options. Alas, life isn’t
that simple. Its data and settings are spread out across
a mishmash of files and registry entries and moving them
from one place to another is not a task to be untaken lightly.
Fortunately, Windows XP has a tool to help you. It’s
called The File And Settings Transfer Wizard and you’ll
find it hidden away in the Start Menu’s Accessories,
System Tools subfolder. Don’t get too excited though.
Not all wizards are as friendly as Gandalf or Harry Potter.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is quite in
the Sauron or Voldemort class but it’s certainly
heading in that direction.
Time to create a wizard disk on a floppy! Hmmm.... tricky
when you haven't got a floppy disk drive....
It turns out that the PC from which I am transferring
the data is running Windows 2000. This doesn’t have
a transfer wizard. So when I run the wizard on XP it gives
me the option of creating a Wizard Disk to run on the Windows
2000 computer. Unfortunately, my PC doesn’t have
a floppy disk drive so the Wizard Disk option is greyed
out. I do have a network but there is no option for creating
the Wizard Disk on a network drive. The only other alternative
is to run a utility from my XP installation disk on the
Windows 2000 PC. After half an hour of hard searching I
eventually found my XP installation disk and ran the blasted
utility. This gives me the option of saving a bewildering
number of files and settings relating to just about every
piece of software on the PC. I’m only interested
in Outlook Express but there is no option to select a single
application. It does give me the option to deselect individual
applications and settings one at a time but not all at
I spent a few happy minutes deselecting a few dozen items
from the list before I eventually grew weary of the task.
So I just let the wizard save the settings I hadn’t
got around to deleting in the expectation that it would
be over in a minute or two. No such luck! I’d eaten
my dinner, walked the dog, had a bath and would have had
plenty of time left over (had it been my inclination) to
read a hefty chunk of War and Peace - and still the thing
was chugging away. It seemed it was trying to find and
compress all manner of irrelevant files ranging from programming
projects to video clips.
With no end to the process in sight, I decided to start
again. This time I spent a small but important segment
of my life - which, frankly, would have been better occupied
with other things - deselecting all the unwanted file types
one by one from the Wizard until, eventually, only the
Outlook Express settings were left in the list (it would
have been so much easier if it had given me the option
of selecting this setting alone instead of deselecting
all the others, but, for reasons best known to itself and
Microsoft, it didn’t). At the end of this process
my mouse finger was exhausted but at least the wizard completed
its task in a matter of minutes. Then I ran the wizard
again on the target PC to import the saved data. Et
voila! My Outlook Express settings had finally been transferred!
Thunderbird is go! (well, maybe…)
Thunderbird is a perfectly decent mail reader. Possibly
somewhat friendlier than Outlook Express?
While all this was happening, I’d had plenty of
time to download and install the open source mail reader,
This automatically imports email and account settings from
Outlook Express. Unfortunately it doesn’t
do this across a network so I also downloaded a copy of
which backs up and restores data to and from the Firefox
web browser and Thunderbird. Suffice to say I’d got
my Outlook Express messages installed across the network
into Thunderbird long before I managed to get them into
Outlook Express. Thunderbird looks pretty good. I must
say that I am sorely tempted to ditch Outlook Express in
However, I don’t feel like making that decision
just at the moment. Frankly, I’m too exhausted….