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I’m not a robot

April 11th, 2016 admin

Have you ever been on a website and hit one of these:


What is it and why do I have to tick the box?   Well, it’s called a “Captcha” and it’s a way for a website to protect itself from getting spammed.

As an example, a lot of people I know have been voting recently for the Kraft Hockeyville competition (Go Tata!) via a website voting page.   Now if there wasnt a Captcha on the page, it’d be possible to write a program to just repeatedly click the page and submit thousands of votes.   By placing a puzzle on the page that only humans can understand, you can stop this from happening.

But did you know you’re actually teaching a computer in the process?

Captchas initially looked like this (you might have seen these before):


This all stems from an attempt to scan 1000s of old books that are out of copyright and make them searchable online.

To do this, the books are scanned and then “read” by computers using a technique called “OCR” (Optical Character Recognition).   But computers aren’t as good as humans at this job.   In the example above, a computer would be able to make out the “$9000” but would probably struggle on the “starker”.

So to help out, each time you complete one of these captchas the service is using you to help read the text.   It puts two words up, one of which it knows, the other it doesn’t.    It uses the word it knows as a test to verify that you’re not cheating and writing random words.

Recently the system has been extended to include images – including those taken for street view maps.   You have to wonder what benefit this is to Google – is it to help their self driving cars read roadsigns?

So next time you hit one of these tests, remember that you’re helping a computer learn to read text or maybe a car learn how to read road signs!


Kraft Hockeyville – Please Support Tatamagouche

March 9th, 2016 admin

Wow – Tatamagouche has made it into the top 10 for the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville competition.    If we win, our local rink will receive $100,000 in funding to help with renovations.

The rink is a central piece of our community and is used throughout the year.

If you’re based in Canada, please help by voting for Tatamagouche on the 13th and 14th of March 2016:

Thanks for your support!

Watch out for fake Virus Warnings

March 5th, 2016 admin

I really hate scammers!  They prey on people through fear and I’ve seen this a lot recently.

Their latest tactic is to design a web page that looks like a virus warning.  Here are some examples:




So what’s happening – are you infected?!


All that is happening is you’re looking at a web page.   Think of it as looking at a Newspaper article that says you have a virus.   Just because it says it on the page, doesn’t mean you actually have one.

The real giveaway here is the telephone number.  Anti Virus companies don’t want you calling them!   Instead what will happen if you call the number is you’ll probably go through to a foreign call center who’ll ask to take control of your PC.  They’ll then show you the logs on your computer which will have lots of critical errors.

Now they’ll really start pushing you and telling you that you’re in trouble.  This it the fear tactic they’ll use to extort money.  In reality, these warnings are for simple things like “your iPod isn’t plugged in” (even if you don’t have one), but without knowing this they can look scary.



Just close the window.   If you’re still worried (or cant close the window – sometimes they make this difficult), then contact me.   I’ll usually be able to tell you straight away if it’s a scam or not.

If they get access to your computer, you don’t know what they’ll be installing or reading when you’re not watching.   And then they’ll charge you even more to fix what “they” put on there to cause problems.