Archive for November, 2006

Not every child will have a Christmas like this….

As the winter months roll in and we get closer and closer to Christmas the shop displays change to reflect the season.

I noticed this one as I walked into town, lets look at in it parts…

Already we know the display is meant to tug at our heart strings, this is a charity shop window after all…

Ok, small child bent over a chair? Perhaps they’re hiding their eyes from something in anticipation?

Is that Santa holding a cane with evil glint in his eye??

It appears that this Christmas, this young one is going to get a major caning from Santa himself!

That’s right folks, not every child will have a Christmas like this at all!

White Van Man, back in style

“White Van Man” is a UK cultural disaster. He is usually aggressive, chavvy, of below average intelligence and a menace to those around him in general.

Bear that in mind…

In Ripon there is a ford, it is normally fine to cross in a car or van although in the colder months after a good rain only an idiot would cross it (see where this is heading?).
Today it looked like this:

Pretty nasty you’ll agree.

On way to to the bridge to cross the ford I notice several fire trucks on both sides and of course my interest perks. One fireman is attached to the front of a truck by a rope and is about to head backwards into the raging river that the ford has become because of this:

That’s right, White Van Man and his buddy with no thought to, well anything that doesn’t involve fags, cheap booze and ugly girls, has plowed straight into the ford only to find that his ride of choice is no match for the torrent of water now holding his van in place.

Muppet boy had to call the fire brigade to rescue him.

An hour later I walked past again to find the two lads rescued, dry but unable to leave, by the looks of it the engine had been flooded….

What’s more worrying is that these lads and their like are breeding faster than any other in the UK population, I worry about the future of this country sometimes.

Adsense in Blogger Beta templates

The Inside AdSense team have just released an Activation Demo showing you how to add AdSense code to your Blogger/Blogspot template however they insist you revert to a classic template to do this.

This isn’t practical or desirable for some, including myself, so I’ll show you how to do it in the new and funky Beta templates, as seen on this very blog.

Although the beta tools allow you to add a block of AdSense Ads to the template in a nice web 2.0 style, you cannot add them to certain sections, for example between the post header and body text, as seen on this blog. For that level of control you need to manually edit the template itself and that’s what I’m going to demonstrate today.

First you need to generate your AdSense code, for this example I’m going to add a banner to the top of my blog, just underneath the page header/title.

First go to the settings screen of your blog and hit the template tab. We want to be editing the html, so hit the link. For ease of use you might want to download the template to your PC but in this example we’ll use the online editor.
Expand the widget templates (this allows you to put the AdSense anywhere on your blog) code and locate the header section like so:

Now scroll down to the last </div> and paste your AdSense code:

Now here comes the magic! (So to speak.) If you try to use the template like this most of the AdSense code will be stripped away and your ads will not show at all!
This is because AdSense makes use of the html comment marker and html comments are stripped out in the beta templates, taking the majority of our AdSense code with it!
To get round this (and so we don’t have to revert our template) we change the < and > of the AdSense code that uses the html comment marker into their respective HTML entities: &lt; and &gt; as seen highlighted in red in the picture:

Now hit the preview button to check on the brand new ads you’ve just installed:

Ok, so the positioning could do with a tweak, as could the colour scheme, but now you know the hardest part, getting the ads to show, you can tweak it til your hearts content! Don’t forget to save your template once you have positioned the ads to your liking.

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PCSX2 memory card format revisited

PCSX2 is a PS2 emulator, it features memory card support and produces .ps2 files which are a raw image of the memory card, here’s what I had to say about them last time:

  • The file is a raw image of a PS2 memory card.
  • I believe it’s a similar system to FAT12/16, it’s got a similar FAT usage from my quick scan.
  • Every 512 bytes is a 16 byte footer, I assume it’s some sort of checksum

Spurred on by an email I recieved earlier I decided to do some more digging, here’s some prelimerary findings:

(all addresses include the 16 byte footers)

  • .PS2 file always has Sony PS2 Memory Card Format as it’s header.
  • The FAT table starts at 0x2520 , uses word(tbc?) for each entry
  • Clusters start at: 0xA920
  • Clusters are 0x200 in size.
  • First cluster is file entry for . (2E in hex), an entry for .. also exists
  • A file/directory entry occupies an entire 0x200 byte cluster and is broken down as such:
    The first int is the file/folder attribute
    second int is the file size.
    I belive the datetime is next.
    I belive the fat entry (word or int?) to be located 0x10 bytes in.
    The filename is 0x40 bytes in and 0 terminated.
  • The first cluster I found containing the file data was always located at 0xB9A0 in the files I looked at.
  • As with other FAT implementations 0xFFFF appears to be used to indicate end of chain (EOC) in the FAT table

Using the above information it should be possible to construct a basic tool to extract files from the .ps2 file.

I’ve been thinking about the 16 byte footer and believe it may be the attributes of the preceeding sector rather than a checksum. a sector contain all 00’s and a sector containing all FF’s both have the same footer…

Please note all information above is based on a 10 minute poke around the file in a hex editor, corrections and updates are welcome!

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Leader in specialist recruitment or leader in incompetence?

When dealing with people’s money it pays to be careful with it and how you act towards someone when it means they aren’t going to get it. This is known world wide and is doubly imperative if you lay claim to be a “leader of specialist recruitment” in the financial sector.

I am currently filling my time working for a particular agency who lays down a claim to be such a leader in recruitment and a specialist in finance and accounting. You would think that of all people, this agency would understand the need to look after people’s money.
It would appear not.

They currently have only one method of returning a completed timesheet to them, by post. That’s right, this “world leader” is solely dependent on a system that loses around 14.4 million letters a year!
I feared from day one of using this agency that each Friday, for I am paid weekly, I was entering a pay-day lottery where I had to hope and pray that they received my timesheet and I got paid.

Last Friday I didn’t get paid, I was a winner of the pay-day lottery, or a loser in a very real sense.

Upon noticing that I hadn’t been paid I immediately contacted the agency to ask why I hadn’t been paid only to be told that I had to contact their accounts department. All well and good, until I called them and discovered that their “accounts department” is actually a call centre!
I explained that I had posted my timesheet as usual and had not been paid. The solution they offered, the only solution they offered, was for me to fax a copy of my timesheet directly to them and they would pay me via BAS transfer. I was told this would reach my account on Tuesday, grumbling but accepting I had no other choice I duly followed their instructions.
I enquired about A CHAPS payment and was told that my situation didn’t justify that and it wasn’t their fault that Royal mail had lost my timesheet. I suggested that it was easy to point fingers, the timesheet could easily have been lost at their end but accepted that I wasn’t going to get the faster payment.

Fast forward to today, Wednesday, one day after I was told I would receive my money.

I still haven’t been paid.

I called the agency and was put through to the office manager who told me that she had told the person I spoke to on Friday and Monday regarding this issue that I should not have been told to contact the accounts department but instead they should have handled it for me. I asked why this person hadn’t called me back and told me this when it could have been sorted out sooner only to be told it wasn’t her fault and the staff were new, 1 month and 4 months respectively.
That is no excuse as far as I am concerned.
Train your staff, if you tell them they’ve informed a client incorrectly of a procedure then make sure they follow it up and correct the mistake. Especially when it stops people being paid.

She asked for a copy of the timesheet which I duly faxed across to her and she took it up with accounts for me.

After lunch I speak to the manager again who asks me if I sent the timesheet to accounts yesterday. It transpires that they are claiming it only reached them yesterday yet I have a competed fax transmission report in my hand that states quite clearly they received the timesheet on Friday.
Someone is clearly lying or not doing their job properly.

Frustrated that it’s now going to be a week after I was due to be paid that I receive my money I ask some basic but pertinent questions such as:

1) Why are they reliant on the postal system when other, equally as large agencies, provide a dedicated fax number for timesheet returns?
2) Why wasn’t my problem dealt with on that day by my representative instead of left to fend for myself with incorrect instructions?
3) Why isn’t there a system in place to alert them when a timesheet hasn’t been processed so they can correct this oversight before pay-day deadline?

Well, this didn’t go down well.

Question 1 was never answered; murmurings about them being a large company filtered my way.

Question 2 garnered the same excuse about staff being new and not understanding the role. Surely it is down to the manager to ensure that staff are trained properly and understand the role fully.

Question 3 hit a nerve, the manager was clearly unable to grasp the concept and insisted that the agency was far too large to incorporate a system like that, it didn’t exist and they would be inundated with thousands of alerts a day because of temps not on placement or on holiday or hording their timesheets for double pays (which isn’t allowed anyway)
I explained that other, equally as large agencies already use such a system, it very much exists, that I could easily design one for them and that they wouldn’t get 1000’s of alerts a day because alerts would only be issued on ACTIVE temps and alerts would be issued on 1 day.
This system is in place and working very well at Adecco, a worldwide agency with a lot of government contracts…
As for the issue of people holding onto timesheets for double pay outs, this is not allowed and should blacklist them from being alerted that a timesheet has not been processed.

The manager then, in a very condescending manner, said “well maybe that’s something for the 22nd century but not now” making the excuse that the agency was far too large to implement such a system. This manager, as you may have guessed, has no undertsnding of how such systems work and is unwilling to even consider that their current system is in anyway flawed. I worry about companies that promote people with little business sense or vision to managerial roles…

This “leader in specialist recruitment” relies on a flawed method of timesheet return, has an incompetent call centre as its accounts department and is unwilling to invest in methods to improve the speed and cost of timesheet processing when its competitors are embracing new technologies to the full. Let’s face it, faxes are hardly new technology yet this agency is unable to move out of the age when post was the only method of information delivery let alone take the lead in its field.

The icing on the cake was when I asked them to consider what would have happened if I was unable to borrow the money I needed to pay my bills/debts. “Imagine if I had a mortgage, or if I had incurred overdraft charges” I proposed. “Would you pay the charges from my bank for your mistakes?” The resounding answer was “No.”

I am considering preparing a letter to the agency head office, covering what happened to me, how I was left to fend for myself and my case handle inefficiently. I will outline areas they can increase performance and save money as well as building a better relationship with the people they make the money from, the temporary workers like me.

A word from the wise: Avoid this agency unless you cannot help it, its rivals are friendlier, better equipped and embracing new technology, this old dinosaur should be left to die. I am not alone in this experience and will be looking to move to a previous agency I used, not without its faults, but one that understands progress and building a relationship with its clients, including when things go wrong.

Until then, I will continue to play the pay-day lottery until such time as my contract ends or I find something a little more suitable to my talents and strengths.