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Saturday, December 11, 2021

Crazy Frog: One of The Biggest Scams in History




Crazy Frog, loved and hated throughout its initial introduction in 2005 and into the future, the Frog has proved nothing but controversial. Although having recently garnered popularity with the younger Gen Z through Fortnite, only generations before will remember the real mess the frog caused to the public. 

Not only proving a nuisance for TV watchers, inundating every channel with the same monotonous sounds, but its involvement in predatory ringtone subscription models. Charging users $37 per month (adjusted for inflation) just to have access to basic ringtones, whilst charging them extra to actually buy anything. With reverse charging text messages, Jamster (the company behind Crazy Frog) would inflate users' mobile bills to hundreds of dollars per month. These actions would garner widespread media attention, and negative reactions towards the scam would render the frog one of the most hated fictional characters in history. 

The video provides an entertaining outline on the popularity of ringtones in 2005, and how Crazy Frog captivated the world, whilst tearing down the ringtone industry with it. Whilst in 2013, Jamster would go back to their old tricks, attempting to sell the $27 dollar subscription under the guise of a fake anti-virus application. This would eventually lead the company in hot water, as they would be ordered to pay $1 million by the Fair Trade Commission in restitution, leading to its eventual collapse. Although its managers stated their intentions to shake off Jamster's bad reputation and venture into more legitimate mobile-based content, the sentiment was too little too late. 

A story of annoyance, deception, and preying on vulnerable consumers, the startling Crazy Frog saga was lost in history and now finally resurrected. Whilst ringtones may be dead, it provides an interesting insight in how new technologies often play in a lawless paradise, with lawmakers often struggling to keep up with technology development. This can result in scams getting out of hand, and perpetrators walking away liability free. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Worst Cars in History (Ford Pinto, Tata Nano, Maserati)


With expectations sky high, car manufacturers are expected to bring the latest innovative features to their cars at rock bottom prices. This has led to disasterous consequences, lives lost and billions of dollars wiped away from the world's economy, as manufacturers in a bid to compete with international imports, cut corners and made monumental sacrifices that backfired on the consumer.


1.  The Explosive Ford Pinto 


Of course what I'm alluding to is the infamous Ford Pinto, advertised as a car that was "quality built and import priced" that would "put a little kick in your life". Sounds great? Indeed, that's what Ford Vice President, Lee Iacocca thought, who pushed Ford's design department to create a subcompact car in just a couple of months to compete against cheaper Japanese imports. 

Ford Pinto 1971
Ford Pinto - "Put a Little Kick in your Life"
Due to a rushed and cheaply made design, the fuel tank was placed at the back of the car, so when collided into, the car's back would crumple. Fuel would gush from the engine and the hot exhaust would light the petrol, causing a fire to ravage the car and its occupants. 180 people died, and Ford was forced to pay hundreds of millions in compensatory damages. 

Did Ford know about this issue before the car was released? Yes. Did they know it would cause deaths? Yes. Indeed, in memos that were released to the court, Ford's accounting department had factored that into a cost benefit equation. It went something like this, if Ford recalled the Pinto's it would cost them $1.07 billion, BUT if they simply released the car as is, then the deaths and injuries caused would only amount to $384 million in compensatory payouts. Alas, Ford released it anyway! What they probably didn't consider was the PR nightmare that would precede, as negative headlines would associate the Ford name with unreliability, danger and corporate greed.


2.  The Firey Tata Nano



Yes! Add the whole family!
Manufacured by India's famous Tata Motors, the car was advertised as the "cheapest car in the world," armed with just one side mirror, windscreen wiper, manual windup window, and a two cylinder engine.  No radio or CD player, air conditioning or airbags. Touted as the "people's car" it was aimed to move India and motivate the public to put down their motorcycles and invest in a $2,000 car. The problem? The banjo bolt or coupler that delivers petrol to the engine was cheaply made and poorly attached and due its positioning, if petrol were to leak, it would do so on the engine block. Due to the heat of the engine, the petrol would ignite and fire would begin to consume the dashboard. 

Tata Motors whilst intially denied the problem and labelled it as an "isolated incident" would eventually retire the car for good. What happened? Well, this can be blamed by excessive demand. When announced in 2009 (following the recession), the car garnered 203,000 orders, not enough for Tata's current facilities to manage, so they hastily hired and trained new employees to build the car in a separate facility. With overhead cut to a minimum to satisfy the car's rock bottom price, quality control standards disappeared and faulty models slipped through the cracks.  


3.  The Tyresome Ford Explorer



Fords foray into the modern SUV craze in the early nineties would lead the company to repeat history, a history that had already been christened by its Ford Pinto. The Ford Explorer was a vehicle riddled with cost cutting. The second-generation model was merely a rehash of the last where Ford modified the old car through bodging and various other means. 

Hits a little different now.
These decisions led to Ford having to decrease tyre pressures from 30psi to 26psi to reduce the cars likelihood of rolling over. As the car was still likely to roll in a hard turn, Ford then decided to make the roof out of thinner metal, like bloody tissue paper it was. The roof had absolutely no strength at all and made the car as safe as a convertable in a rollover. That decision to reduce tyre pressures led to the Firestone tyres to overheat and disintegrate at high speeds. Coupled with Firestone's own issues, worker strikes, corner cutting and new management (now owned by Bridgestone), the firm was providing Ford below quality products. One for every 2,700 Explorers (1990 - 2001) rolled and killed at least one person in the car. In the next 10 years of release, Ford would settle more than $1 billion of personal injury claims. 

There is evidence to suggest that both companies were privy but its extraordinary Ford would allow themselves to repeat what they had fifteen years earlier.


4. The Smoky Lada Samara



I feel sorry for Lada, sorry because their last Russian made and designed car released in the west was met with ridicule and disdain. 

Yeah but at what cost?
When it came to Australia, it first had to be gutted and modified so it legally met Australian vehicle codes and could be sold in showrooms. Even so, the car remained woefully unreliable and fell apart. Over in Europe, the vehicle was laughed at by the English motoring press who asserted the only positive of the vehicle is that you could “stand out from the crowd,” the car had appalling build quality and driving dynamic and was “crude in every aspect”. Reviewers at the time struggled to find anything positive to mention about the vehicle as even the paintwork differed in finishes on adjacent panels, panel gaps were huge, and the side decals were peeling and had air bubbles beneath. The engines were grossly underpowered and harped back to a time when Stalin was dictator and people starved through famine. Despite the Stone Age engineering, poor build quality, ponderous handling the car still wasn’t all that cheap. The Skoda Favorit at the time was the same price and yet it was better in every way from ride, handling, build quality, reliability and so on. The Samara was left in the dust by the Skoda and it's perhaps why today Skoda continues to be sold whereas Lada is really only available in the second world.


5. The Messy Maserati Quattroporte




With Maserati as the nameplate, you would assume the vehicle would be quite reasonable but this was not so. The car was riddled with reliability and quality issues, it really was a mess. The car was also very expensive, it was similarly sized to a BMW 5 Series and had similarly powered engines but cost twice as much, with the company asserting that you’re paying for heritage and a name that means something. I have no idea what that something was, perhaps they were referring to the car being a recycle of the last, having engines with all the refinement and smoothness of a prison warden, all wrapped up in a vehicle that looked as if it was put together by heroin addict in the midst of a detox. The car was slower, more expensive, and smaller than the BMW M5 or Audi S6 of the period whilst offering nothing more than its competitors thus the vehicle sold very poorly. 

Throughout its life the car only sold 2,400 units, to put that into perspective the Ferrari F360 sold over 16,000 vehicles over its life despite costing substantially more than the Maserati.


Friday, July 1, 2016

How to Download Music from Pandora Radio for Offline Use



In this simple tutorial, I'll tell you how to download music from Pandora for free and for offline use. Pandora, the popular digital radio app for your phone, whilst free to download, doesn't allow users to listen to songs offline without having to pay a hefty subscription fee. That's all about to change with a browser add-on.



How to Download Free Pandora Music


First off, you'll need to install the 'TamperMonkey' add-on. This will allow you to view the internet your way, in fact this same plugin enables you to remove the annoying Pinterest 'Login/Sign up' window. Pretty useful, ain't it? To install, just click on the browser you're using below and you'll be sent to an official download page. 




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Pandora music download


Now that you have the add-on installed, all you need to do is copy and paste the URL below into your web browser. A page will appear (like the one pictured above), now just simply click install. I know, that was extremely hard. Just one step to go now. 



https://greasyfork.org/scripts/1816-pandora-freemium/code/Pandora%20Freemium.user.js



Download Pandora music online free, unlimited skips, and without advertising.


Ok, nearly done. Now just go to Pandora.com. There, you'll discover a new "Freemium" option on the right of your screen to the left of your email address. Click the button and you'll be presented with a window, just make sure the 'show download button' option is ticked. It's also worth noting that with the add-on installed, you will be given unlimited song skips and no advertising breaks. Now a download button should appear below the song you're playing, alongside the "buy" and "share" buttons. 



Abracadabra! You're done.
You can now download Pandora Radio Music for offline use, 
unlimited skips and no advertising. 
Also, unlimited Selena. Yeah, I know, don't judge.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Blocking "Adblock" is Proving Disastrous (e.g. Forbes)

With traditional media on the decline, news publishers are struggling to make up lost revenue from print advertising. Most have tried to soften the blow of decreased demand by translating their magazines and newspapers to digital form. However, due to harsh competition and expectations of free content from internet users, many are failing to fill the void left by traditional media sales.



Online publishers are forced to choose from two evils: 

advertising or subscription, or face liquidation. 



However, due to the sheer annoyance and bad reputation of internet advertising, including the nuisance of pop-ups, unsolicited malware downloads, fake close buttons, and auto-playing promotional videos, over 30% of active internet users utilise an AdBlock browser extension. Consequently, online publishers who utilise digital advertising (like Google's AdSense) are witnessing a drop in revenue and are struggling to produce quality content that can turn a profit. In an effort to recover lost revenue from 'invisible adverts', on Boxing day last year, Forbes decided to block all users of the AdBlock extension from accessing their website. The move was met with controversy by internet users, largely negative, who either vented their frustrations and vowed never to use the site again or attempted to find workarounds that would allow them to access it without altering the add-on. Whilst a slurry of Forbes articles (likely pumped out by the company's PR team) may state otherwise, the website has experienced harsh drops in monthly visitors since the Ad-wall's construction.







From the graphic presented above, following the implementation of the wall in late December, Forbes has experienced a steady decline in users, falling from the 170th most viewed website on the internet to the 240th. Whilst some could contend that the downward trend started in September of the same year, it's indeed common for websites (particularly news publications) to lose viewership in the months leading up to Christmas or particular family-orientated public holidays like Easter or Patriotic occasions. Why? I would guess that during such gatherings, people are generally too engrossed in their own affairs to pay attention to whats happening around them. Though, once the holiday is over, affected websites should experience upward growth. Unfortunately, Forbes didn't and instead viewership continued to decline even in the new year. Why? Internet users, once seeing the 'Ad-wall' simply pressed the back button and didn't bother to enter the site. and instead visit a competitor site that welcomes their presence. 



After blocking visitors using AdBlock, 

Forbes tumbled from the 170th most viewed website to the 240th. 



Just four months after implementing the Ad-wall, Forbes lightened their policy, giving Adblock users the opportunity to login to the website (for free) rather than turning off their extension. A move which aims to increase Forbes' presence on social platforms (via social logins) and collect more detailed reader data; whilst simultaneously plugging the visitor hole. However, after being implemented in May, the alteration proved useless against a dwindling user-base which has continued to worsen in numbers to present day. Instead, the company's next move is likely to construct 'paywalls' and create subscriber-only content. However, whether this will be too little too late remains to be seen. 





Forbes back-pedals but the website's future remains grim.





Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How to Skip Pinterest's Annoying "Login / Sign Up" Popup

Skip and ByPass the "Pinterest Login" Popup without an account




This goes along with the long and infamous list of "Pinterest Fails" and the hundreds of other websites that force its users to create an account to progress from the homepage. It is this kind of slimy manipulation that makes the internet a more laborious way to spend your time, forcing you to fill out your real name, formulating a 6 character-one number password, detailing your age and gender or just linking to your Facebook account so they can post automated advertisements on your behalf. All in a bid to send your internet information to the highest bidder and cater banner advertisements to your new found interest in 1940's typography. 


Thankfully, there is a work around. 


Firstly, install 'TamperMonkey', this add-on will allow you to view websites your own way, adding or removing components of a webpage to improve its usability. In fact, this same plugin allows you to bypass websites that block 'Adblock' (e.g. Forbes, Hulu or Comedy Central). Click on the browser you're using below and you'll be sent to the official link to download the plugin.  



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Tutorial: How to Skip the "Pinterest login" process without an account


Next, with the addon installed, simply click on the black icon with the two circles to the right of your URL bar to reveal a menu (as shown above), where you'll click "Dashboard" and then "Utilities". Copy and paste the following "GreasyFork" URL and click "Import". Finally, simply click install. 

https://greasyfork.org/scripts/6325-pinterest-without-registration/code/Pinterest%20without%20registration.user.js




Related Story: How to Download Music from Pandora Radio for Offline Use


VoilĂ ! You're finished.
You can now access Pinterest without an Account.
Thank god.