Monday, June 20, 2005

Paypal does NOT suck

Someone at Paypal posted their edits to the live part of the site rather than the test version:

"Should any suspicious activity occur, PayPal will either alert youeither by email or by a representative calling you. But PayPal doesn't stop there. We offer you [excellent] *[too strong I thinkgiven the limited ability to comply with SPP]*"

What this person means is that they want to have seller as well as buyer protection but because the chargeback procedures of the banks over ride anything they can offer they need to be careful about how they phrase it.

They COULD insure against losses but this is very risky in itself. I know that my merchant provider won't.We have under £2000 of chargebacks last year and our bank is holding £43,000 of our cash as security against this increasing.They wanted to increase that to £180,000 on deposit indefinitley with no interest.I tried to change bank but the new one wanted £250,000.

People using Paypal do not know how lucky they are in many ways:

1. Low fees if you have high volume.
2. Better ability to stop chargebacks (many transactions are from positive balances and they favour the seller if its non tangible goods not covered by the buyer protection policy).
3. Instant settlement if necessary (many merchant accounts are on 30 days deferred for online trading).
4. No security required.

I know that people bleat on about etc but at the end of the day even the worst cases I have heard of are NOTHING like as bad as the way real banks treat their credit card merchants.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Smitecam - Testing God

A guy called Martin Willett as an occasional project called "Smitecam" where he runs a webcam trained on himelf and invites God to strike him dead.

The purpose is twofold. Firstly, it publicises his athiest web site and beliefs. Secondly, it does challeneg the way people thing about God. For example, if Christians prayed to God to smite him, would that be sinful? It would prove that God exists. However, killing is against the ten commandments. Can God break his own commandments? Apparentlyhe can as he ordered Abraham to kill Isaac.

Although Smitecam is a publicity stunt, it is quite thought provoking.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Unnecessary Stress

Why do customers come across all heavy handed when they have a problem?

Today a customer send me an email with the title COURT stating he would be starting legal action because he had registered a domain on the 6th and not received the log in details. So I asked him for the receipt number as I couldn't see an order and he said he was on the phone to his lawyers. When I did a whois on the domain it was actually registered by him through a different company entirely and not us at all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Churches in Livingston, West Lothian

I decided to contact some churches in Livingston to see if they could give me a reason why I should go to church. I find going to church not only boring but quite depressing, with the constant exhortations to try harder, when most people are already at full stretch.

An interesting aspect to this is not just the answer to the question, but how comfortable they feel using the Internet as part of their ministry. For example, do they actually check for email?

I will update this post with the results of my enquiries.

1. Ladywell Baptist Church

Emailed: 6th June 2005
Using: Email address published on the Baptist Union web site.
Results: Email address was not valid, so I got nowhere with this one.

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors ----->

Update: I found a different email address on another web site so I sent the message there instead. Lets see what happens.

Oh dear: Unrouteable address

Looks like this one is a dead duck.

2. Almondvale Community Church
Emailed: 6th June 2005
Using: Form on their web site.
Results: Received a reply on the 12th from someone (I think the minister) .

His reply was that if I was a proper christian I would not be asking these questions, but he did say that fellowship and enjoyment had to come secondary to being there. This left me feeling that perhaps going to Church is like going to the dentist (not enjoyable, but necessary for your health).

I sent him this reply:

I see what you are saying, but my objection is not to worshipping God (I hope I do that in all areas of my life, although i would use the word honouring rather than worshipping) but to being involved in regular attendance at a church or a member of a church.
In many ways I do miss church, which is why I am asking these questions, but there are just too many barriers for me.

1. Why should I do something that I personally do not enjoy?
Yes, the same could be said about a trip to the dentist, but I personally find church services boring, and I have had experience of a fair range of them.
Unless there is some over riding reason why it is a requirement of being a Christian.

2. Why does God require worship, and in particular public worship by a group of people?
I can't see any biblical reason for public worship or meeting together in the way that churches do.
You seem to be saying that I owe it to Jesus to attend church because he died for me. That is an odd transaction (if its what you mean) because the whole relationship of a believer with God is supposed to be based on love rather than duty.
I don't grasp or fully understand what God derives from worship or why he should require it.
Sorry, I just don't understand.

3. Church politics. Life is just too short for all of that.

What I do know is that Christians should associate with each other and that this is clearly scriptural, but its a big jump from that to attending church for an hour on a Sunday, which in my experience does not involve a lot of associating anyway.

I think probably I am just too free thinking and not enough of a group person to fit into a church.
Its probably just me, except I have actually met a few people over the past few years who are Christians but don't attend church regularly, so maybe I am not alone.

Update 17th June: I have had no reply so it looks like the communication is now closed.

3. Livingston Elim Church
Emailed: 7th June 2005
Using : Form on their site (which submitted via email and forced me to use my work email address...)
Results: Still no reply at 14th June, I don't expect to get one now, but anything is possible.

Update October 2007
I actually ended up attending this church for over a year starting in July 2006 click here for further information.

4. Livingston Ecumenical Parish
Emailed: No email address on their web site so couldn't contact them.

Conclusion: I had genuine questions that were only partially answered by one of the churches. The others either did not reply or had no means of contact by email. The church that did respond was not willing to engage in what was (for me) an important discussion. I remain still not attending church.

Update 31/07/05

I decided to go out to Ladywell Baptist Church tonight. I got there at 6:30 for the evening service and although that time was listed on the board the building was locked and gave every impression of being abandoned. As it was only 6:25 I headed over to Dedridge Baptist Church.
The church was open but in silence. Everyone sitting in rows possibly praying. I went in and sat down. This went on for a long time. I got the impression they were all very upset about something so maybe there had been a death in the congregation. I never found out. It felt like walking into a room and everyone suddenly going silent as a few of them did look at me. I nearly walked straight back out. It turned out to be the middle of the service so it must start at 6pm. It was communion. I found the person leading the service did not really make much sense. He seemed to lack knowledge or experience. He must have been standing in for the normal minister.
Overall it felt like there had been a death or something very bad had happened that everyone knew about. Noone spoke to me. By this time I was so scared by the funny looks I had been getting I bolted for the door and got home as soon as I could.

I am now truly immunised against going to church for the next few years. I don't think Dedridge Baptist is used to having visitors. It felt more like a private club than a church. The thing is that if they can't appeal to people like me they have no chance of reaching the average local person.

Update October 2007

I actually ended up attending Livingston Elim Church for over a year starting in July 2006 click here for further information.

Monday, June 6, 2005

How to find cheap web hosting

Well, in the early days of the Internet there was no such thing as cheap web hosting. People either paid serious money ($25 per month was commonplace) for 10Mb or so of web space or they used free hosting from places like Geocities (now part of Yahoo).

Then along came Albanza Inc with dedicated servers with a graphical user interface. Now anyone could set up a web hosting company and sell hosting very cheaply. Servers cost about $600 per month still but you coul dput on 300 accounts, charge $10 per month and make serious profits. The market was also expanding rapidly around 1998/99 so many people became very wealthy (if they had the cash to invest in these servers in the first place).

Of course this was all back in the last century and things have moved on. Now there are many different control panel systems and dedicated servers can be rented for as little as $50 per month. If you rent one of these and put 500 customers on there at $1 per month you could be making $400 a month profit. You will spend all day supporting the customers though. This may not sound much to us but if you live somewhere like India it is as a very high salary. If you are a teenager in middle America its also a lot of extra pocket money.

The problems start when an operation like this grows beyond one server. Usually they have provided too much support to customers to attract them in in the first place. More support than any mainstream hosting company could provide. So when they need to expand they have to reduce the service level (and cause lots of customers to leave) or hire staff and stop making any profit because the low prices never had enough margin to run a proper business.

The result of all this for customers is that cheap web hosting companies appear and disappear like flowers in the desert. People wake up to find they have no web site and email, and John Doe (14) of Boise, Idaho has gone back to playing baseball with his friends or got a job in MacDonalds because it pays better.

So how can you avoid this sort of thing happening to you?

1. Don't go for ultra cheap hosts. To get any level of service you are goiung to need to pay 5 to 10 dollars per month. It just can't be done any cheaper than that.

2. Choose a reputable company. Some mainstream web hosts run discount brands to sell off their spare capacity and these are usually a safe bet. Check out This is the discount brand of so you know it has the backing of a larger company with technical staff and thousands of customers. They are not likely to disappear.

3. Look for hosts with lots of satisified customers. Look for testimonial pages like this.

There are good cheap web hosting companies out there but you need to look through a lot of them before you will find one that will be reliable in the long term. I hope you have found this useful, and good luck in your search for cheap web hosting.

Sunday, June 5, 2005


I found this in a fortune cookie a while ago and have kept it in my wallet. I thought i would share it with you:

[The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world is to be in reality what we appear to be.]

I was thinking about this usenet discussion about Rev Adrian Kennard of AAISP.

Regardles sof the rights and wrongs of the points of law its about what other people perceive by the words we use. Its much better to be straightforward and honest if we are in business.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Yamaha Xeno Trumpet

I tried the new Yamaha Xeno 8335HS trumpet recently and it is much brighter than the old Yamaha 6335HS I am using. I did a side by side test and the salesman was quite shocked at how lazer like the new one is.

It does not blow any freer than the old one either, in spite of their claims.
Actually they both look identical side by side. I can't see any changes to the bell flare, or any changes to the position of the braces. I suspect the bell is made of thinner or different material.