An explanation on why setting your iPhone to 1/1/1970 will brick it.

There’s been a rather nasty meme going around on Facebook recently that suggests there’s an easter egg in iOS that will give your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch a retro looking original Macintosh themeĀ if you set it’s clock back to January 1st, 1970:

NOTE: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS!

NOTE: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS!

What really happens if you do the above is you’ll end up with an essentially bricked iPhone that isn’t able to get past the boot screen. The reason why has to do with how dates and times are stored in most operating systems these days and a bug someplace in iOS. YouTuber Tom Scott has put together a handy little explanation on what is probably happening and why:

So, as a PSA to those folks out there who have one of these devices, don’t try to set the clock back to January 1st, 1970 unless you want a very expensive paperweight. Presumably Apple will get around to patching this bug at some point, but even when they do there’s not a good reason to do it anyway as there is no easter egg associated with that date.

An interesting twist on the Nigerian email scam.

I thought I’d see it all when it comes to the ever popular Nigerian email scam. I’ve seen the classic “I’m the widow of some Prince/Politician/Random Rich Dude In Exile” and the “I’m a fellow Christian trapped in a country with a boatload of money I need your help with” and so on, but this is the first time I’ve received one that implied it was from some ethically challenged U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Oh it’s the same scam as all the others: I have lots of money, I need your help getting it out of the country, I am willing to give you a portion of it for helping me. All that has changed is the window dressing, but it’s interesting to note that whereas in the past the emails seemed to imply that the fictional people sending them had some legitimate claim to the money, this one suggests that the people involved are being openly dishonest. Which leaves one to wonder why you would think you could trust them to begin with, but then the folks who take this bait aren’t known for their ability to think rationally when dollar signs are flashing in their eyes. Full email after the jump.

    From: “Capt. Brian W. James”
    Subject: MY SINCERE DISCOVERIES FROM MY PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT

    Dear Friend,

    I am captain Brian W. James of the US Marine Corps on Monitoring and Peace a keeping mission in Baghdad-Iraq. The reason why I am explaining my finding to you is to seek for your assistance to enable you contributes immensely to the actualization of my dreams.

    On the 18th day of May 2007, we were alerted on the presence of some terrorists hideouts in Haifa Street, a long thoroughfare of high-rise buildings built by Saddam Hussein here in Baghdad.

    After Immediate intervention by the Iraqi forces and ours, we were able to capture many foreign Arab fighters linked to al Qaeda in that operation and over 100 militants were killed on the process. Among the Arab fighters linked to al Qaeda two were interrogated by two of our intelligent investigators and I. They confessed that some of them are fighters for al Qaeda and some are for Ayman al-Zawahiri and they took us to some of their hideout which runs along the west bank of the Tigris River that cuts through the capital.

    When we invaded into the hideout, we recovered several guns, amour including some boxes among which two contains bullets, one filled with hard drugs (heroine) and the other two to my amazement contain some US Dollars which we assumed amounted to $23.2M after I and two of the intelligent investigators counted them and it took us over 4 hours to get it counted.

    I however instructed them to keep this in high secrecy so that we can have the money to our selves, they all agreed to the plan and they replied to me on how I can get this huge sum out of this country and I told them that its no problem.

    This motivated me to connive with my best friend in our force who went with me and the two other officers to keep the boxes in a safer place. I am now in keen need of a “Reliable and Trustworthy” person like you who would receive, secure and protect these boxes containing the US Dollars for me untill my assignment elapses here.

    I assure and promise to give you 20% of this fund, however feel free to negotiate what you wish to have as your percentage in this deal.

    Please assure me of your keeping this topmost secret to protect my job with the US Corps Marine Monitoring and Peace-Keeping mission. please you
    can contact me with my private

    mailbox…… [email address removed]

    My Sincere regards,
    Capt Brian.W. James (U.S MARINE Corps)

Snake Oil to get you laid: Ultra Allure Pheromones!

I literally just received this email a moment or two ago:

To: les@stupidevilbastard.com
From: Tomas Bain

Subject: Beware of imitators, this is the original men’s phermone

Remember how you felt when your dream girl shot you down? Well now you never have to feel that way again! Pheromones have been proven to work, and are guaranted to increase your attractiveness to women of all ages. Just look at some of the testimonials we have received back from 100% satisfied repeat customers! :

“I’ve always had a problem approaching girls. They would just walk past me like I didn’t exist. I sometimes felt like they purposely would not give me any attention just because they were snobby and stuck up. Now, when I use Ultra Allure Pheromones, it’s alot easier to approach girls because THEY are usually the ones that will smile at me first or make eye contact.”
Robert K, Boise Idaho

“I saw you guys offered a moneyback guarantee, so I though I would give it a go(I had nothing to lose). Well how glad am I that I did! My first night out with a little Ultra Allure on me I had 4 different girls ask me what I was wearing and what I was doing later(I met up with the hottest of the 4 wink ) Now I don’t even leave the house without throwing on a few dabs of Ultra Allure– its my (not so) secret weapon! I can honestly say this product truly works, women are really drawn to you once they catch a little bit of the scent.”
Brad M. Kentucky

We receive dozens of emails daily just like these ones!

Don’t be left out! Pheromones have been studied extensively and profiled on such media outlets as CNN, Oprah Winfrey show, ABC, MSNBC, FOXNEWS, and magazines such as MAXIM, FHM and PLAYBOY!

Visit our website now to check out the huge discount sale going on right now! Hurry though as discount specials will be discontinued within the next few days!

Remove you e-mail

I love how carefully crafted the email is and then at the end it provides a link that says “remove you e-mail” when I never gave them my email in the first place.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t up on the scientific research, the best that’s been found in the study of human pheromones so far is that women do respond to the scent of male sweat by altering the length of their menstrual cycles and perhaps their mood, but that’s about it. The idea that the mere whiff of human pheromones is going to make woman jump into the sack with you is wishful thinking at it’s worst.

So how much are these snake oil salesman going to hit up for when you order their products? Why a mere $69.95 (normally $109.95 the site proudly boasts) for a single bottle of unspecified quantity, but you can save up to $100 by ordering six bottles for the low low price of $249.95! Of course there are other sites out there selling similar bullshit products for as little as $20, but the folks behind Ultra Allure Pheromones have an answer to that right in their FAQ:

I found a site selling Pheromones for $20! Why should I pay more for yours?

We would suggest you take a logical look at the site and the product. Chances are that the brand they are selling is a cheap imitation knockoff of a quality product like ours. Buying a cheap Pheromone may help you think you’re attracting others, but in reality it will have absolutely no effectiveness and value to you, as you will attract no members of the opposite sex. ?

Our Ultra Allure formula is not only 100% original, but it is made only with the very best ingredients. By “best”, we mean effective . We want our customers to return to us repeatedly for business.

Our formula is sold at a price identical to most of the industries leading Pheromone manufacturers. The difference is that our product has an added essence inspired by TommyBoy™ cologne, giving it the advantage over others. And that’s what you will have with Ultra Allure , an advantage over others in attracting women.

Oh that’s some funny shit right there.

The website URL indicates it’s out of Hong Kong, home to a lot of bullshit products, and it’s a subdomain for another site that sells, wait for it… a Penis Enlargement Patch! Who would’ve guessed that? You know it’s going to be good when they start off with a claim like:

“In a poll conducted by Durex™ Condoms, 67% of women said they were unhappy with their lover’s penis size.”

With no link to the poll in question given. Visiting the Durex Condom website we can see that there are a number of polls they’ve done over the years, but none of them seem to contain this startling revelation that most women are unhappy with the size of their partner’s willy. The truth is that penis size is pretty much an exclusively male worry as most studies published seem to indicate that woman are more than happy with the size of their partners:

For their part, women appear to be very accepting of male endowment, the survey found. But even though 85 percent of women said they had no problem with their boyfriend’s or husband’s size, nearly half (45 percent) of all males surveyed said they wished for something larger. That number rose to 54 percent among males who rated their penis length as just “average.”

“The really good news for men, though, was that only 6 percent of women considered their partner ‘smaller than average,’” Frederick pointed out. (For the record, Frederick said the most reliable U.S. studies peg “average” penis size at an erect length of approximately 5.5 inches.)

Taking a closer look at the website domain via a WhoIs search we learn that it’s registered to a Shirley Floyd who set it up 02-24-2007 for a single year registered to a Yahoo! Mail account. If that doesn’t send up red flags all over the place then you’re a moron. You’d be lucky to find that this domain is even still active in a month’s time.

It’s a proven money maker for lots of people selling snake oil. Play on their fears of inadequacy with promises of easy solutions providing overwhelming results. The penis patch website promises you will “drastically enlarge the penis length and width to sizes previously thought impossible” and the pheromone site promises nonsense like the following:

Imagine this scenario. You’re out clubbing with your friends. You notice a beautiful woman across the room. Under normal circumstances she wouldn’t give you the time of day, but you know one thing she doesn’t. You’re wearing Ultra Allure pheromones . You walk up to her beaming with confidence. She senses someone approaching, turns around and doesn’t take her eyes off you until she leaves your place the next morning. Poor girl, she never had a chance.

If it worked that well it would probably be considered a form of date rape drug, but don’t let pesky moral issues stand between you and some hot action tonight! All it takes is your willingness to send large sums of cash to a foreign nation for a bottle of smelly liquid with dubious claims!

He’s not just the president of Gambia, he’s also a quack doctor!

It seems everyone wants to get in on the quack herbal cure market these days. Enter Gambian president Yahya Jammeh who is claiming to have developed an AIDS cure from herbs and bananas:

From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia’s president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste on to the ribcage of his patient. He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

“Whatever you do there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,” Yahya Jammeh says, surrounded by his bodyguards inside his presidential compound as he prepares to treat more patients.

“Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It’s a declaration. I can cure AIDS, and I will.”

Yeah, I’m definitely skeptical of his claim. The problem here isn’t just that Jammeh is giving false hope to the desperately ill in his country, but he’s also insisting that people who receive his treatment have to stop taking their anti-retroviral drugs which will leave the immune system weakened and more susceptible to infection. He claims that blood samples from his first 9 patients are proof that his cure works though the lab did the testing says it doesn’t really prove anything:

He has gone to great lengths to prove his claim, arranging for blood samples of the first nine patients to be sent to a lab in Senegal for testing. A letter on the lab’s stationery indicates that of the nine, four had undetectable viral loads, one had a moderate viral load and three had high loads, a result posted on the government’s website as proof of the cure. However, the lab technician who performed the tests warned they are not conclusive, since the blood samples were taken only after the treatment.

“There is no baseline … you can’t prove that someone has been cured of AIDS from just one data point. It’s dishonest of the Gambian government to use our results this way,” said Dr Coumba Toure Kane, head of the molecular biology unit at Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop University.

Meanwhile some of his patients are saying the same things you hear from other folks who buy into the whole herbal cure racket:

The patients say they do not need lab results to tell them they feel better.“It feels as if the president took the pain out of my body,” says Ousman Sowe, 54, who says he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996.

I suppose it’s possible that he has found a cure for AIDS, but it’s irresponsible to make such a claim without proof that it actually works beyond a few questionable blood tests. The one upside to this story is that president Jammeh isn’t charging anything for his treatment. That’ll be little comfort to his patients when the disease their suffering from proves his claims wrong.

You can bank on us!

One of the reasons I blog is to give me a chance to rant about stuff like the following:

Paul Reviczky is an 89 year old man who lived in his small house on Sheppard Ave. W. in Toronto. Paul was content to live out his last few days in peace and quiet in the house he had called home for the past 50 years but then someone got a hold of some info on Paul, went to a bank, and put a mortgage on his house without his knowledge. [Reference Link]

One thing led to another and now the bank has foreclosed on his house and he is out in the street! It is totally beyond me how something like this could have happened.

First of all the bank should have done a better check on the person applying for the mortgage and if not, I would think that THEY were on the hook for giving money to someone through fraud.

Instead, since the banks have a lot more power than some small guy on the street, they went after Paul and decided he was responsible even though he had absolutely nothing to do with anything!

It’s almost like a comedy of errors except that I can assure you that Paul is not laughing. How this twisted bit of logic came about that Mr. Reviczky was responsible in any way is mind boggling.

This seems to be a perfect example of “might makes right,” since the Banks have enough pull to go after anyone, for almost any reason, no matter how flimsy or twisted their logic seems to be.

A further example of this is when I had a cheque bounce a few months ago because I was about two dollars short.

NOW, the reason I was short was becaus the bank took out five dollars in service charges for something or other on the same day and decided that it was the cheque that had to be returned, not their charges.

Oh yea, and then they charged me thirty five dollars for the bounced cheque so I was about forty bucks in the hole anyway.

I have since changed banks but I don’t think they really give a shit. P.T. Barnum once said: “There’s a sucker born every minute!”

Your pissed scribe;
Allan W Janssen

Phony “Democratic” Mailer in California

On Saturday, I received 3 political mailers.  Around what I’ve received every other day this last week.  I typically just throw them all away, but one of them caught my attention.  It said “California Democrat Voter Guide”.  Ah ok, I’ll check it out.  I used one like this a while back as a rough guide as to who in the hell is a potentially viable option, or the lesser of 2 evils.  So, the usual suspects are listed, and I thought the state measures guide might be of some use, so I set it aside.

Next mailer: “Your Democratic Voting Guide”  wtf?  I read through, and every political seat choice is the same, except the state measures have different YES/NO options.  Hmm …

3rd mailer:  “Voter Information Guide for Democrats”  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Same people, and yet again different state measure options.

The 4th mailer was from EQ CA.  Excellent.

So, today I find out some oil and tobacco companies got together and created phony ‘Democrat’ mailers and sent them out to the voters of California to try and sway the votes for some of the state measures on the ballot.  It doesn’t surprise me, just pisses me off that they can get away with this.  You would htink this has to be illegal or fraud or something?

Thankfully MoveOn.org put out a notice, pictures and a warning to the people on their list.  Here’s the pictures for the California Voters on this list:

Phony Guide:

REAL Guide:

Oh, and for those who were keeping track, the 5th mailer was in Vietnamese.  Sorry, Tiep Nguyen doesn’t live here anymore.  I think she moved to Monterey …

(If you didn’t get that last part, go see the movie.)

Judge rules Q-Ray bracelets are bullshit. Orders company to refund money.

It always does my heart good to see purveyors of craptastic products get what’s coming to them. In this case it was the makers of that idiotic health bracelet known as the Q-Ray which I first wrote about in 2003. Seems U.S. District Judge Morton Denlow has ruled against QT Inc. of Mount Prospect, Illinois for selling a product with bogus medical claims:

The ruling supported a 3-year-old complaint by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and rejected the defense’s theory that if people believed they were helped by the product, why not advertise?

Before the ruling, the company’s attorney said half the buyers of the C-shaped bracelet with screwed-on caps on each end claimed to get relief from pain and more than half bought it for someone else, while one in four sought a refund. Among the wearers were professional athletes, the lawyer said.

“With the Q-Ray bracelet, if defendants had represented that the bracelet possessed no pain-relieving properties but was simply an interesting piece of wrist jewelry, there would be no placebo effect,” Denlow wrote in his ruling.

Widely advertised in televised infomercials and on the Web since 2000, the pain-relieving qualities of Q-Ray bracelets were more fiction than scientific fact, Denlow ruled. He cited a Mayo Clinic study that showed the placebo effect was at work. The placebo effect is where a treatment with no medical benefits makes patients feel better because they believe it will help.

According to the news items the judge has order the company to refund more than “100,000 buyers of the bracelets—priced up to $249.95—and forfeit profits of $22.6 million earned between 2000 and 2003.” Ouch, that’s gotta hurt! But maybe they can just put on a couple dozen of their own bracelets to help ease the pain.

Score one for rationality.

Fleecing the flock: Religion related fraud on the rise.

I’ve written previously about how the best people to scam are those who are already conditioned to believing in the ridiculous and, unfortunately for the True Believers™ out there, it appears more and more conmen on catching on to that truth:

Randall W. Harding sang in the choir at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, Calif., and donated part of his conspicuous wealth to its ministries. In his business dealings, he underscored his faith by naming his investment firm JTL, or “Just the Lord.” Pastors and churchgoers alike entrusted their money to him.

By the time Harding was unmasked as a fraud, he and his partners had stolen more than $50 million from their clients, and Crossroads became yet another cautionary tale in what investigators say is a worsening problem plaguing the nation’s churches.

Conning the overly credulous has become the hot thing to do among the crooks looking to make a few bucks off of someone else’s ignorance:

Between 1984 and 1989, about $450 million was stolen in religion-related scams, the association says. In its latest count — from 1998 to 2001 — the toll had risen to $2 billion. Rip-offs have only become more common since.

“The size and the scope of the fraud is getting larger,” said Patricia Struck, president of the securities association and administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Securities. “The scammers are getting smarter and the investors don’t ask enough questions because of the feeling that they can be safe in church.”

Bend over and smile as Brother Billy Ray Bob anoints you with the love of the Lord! Here’s a few illustrative examples:

Lambert Vander Tuig, a member of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Calif., ran a real estate scam that bilked investors out of $50 million, the Securities and Exchange Commission says. His salesmen presented themselves as faithful Christians and distributed copies of “The Purpose Driven Life,” by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, according to the SEC. Warren and his church had no knowledge of Vander Tuig’s activities, says the SEC.

At Daystar Assembly of God Church in Prattville, Ala., a congregant persuaded church leaders and others to invest about $3 million in real estate a few years ago, promising some profits would go toward building a megachurch. The Daystar Assembly was swindled and lost its building.

And in a dramatically broader scam, leaders of Greater Ministries International, based in Tampa, Fla., defrauded thousands of people of half a billion dollars by promising to double money on investments that ministry officials said were blessed by God. Several of the con men were sentenced in 2001 to more than a decade each in prison.

“Many of these frauds are, on their face, very credible and legitimate appearing,” said Randall Lee, director of the Pacific regional office of the SEC. “You really have to dig below the surface to understand what’s going on.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when you’re dealing with people who believe in an invisible sky-fairy who hands out wishes just for the asking and will throw your ass into a pit of eternal torment if you don’t believe in him then it doesn’t take a whole lot to buy into anything that sounds even remotely reasonable in comparison. It doesn’t help things any when the church leaders themselves get sucked in by the hucksters and start shilling on their behalf:

Typically, a con artist will target the pastor first, by making a generous donation and appealing to the minister’s desire to expand the church or its programs, according to Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission, who played a key role in breaking up the Greater Ministries scam.

If the pastor invests, churchgoers view it as a tacit endorsement. The con man, often promising double digit returns, will chip away at resistance among church members by suggesting they can donate part of their earnings to the congregation, Borg says.

“Most folks think `I’m going to invest in some overseas deal or real estate deal and part of that money is going to the church and I get part. I don’t feel like I’m guilty of greed,’” Borg says.

If a skeptical church member openly questions a deal, that person is often castigated for speaking against a fellow Christian.

It also probably doesn’t help that “prosperity gospel” is growing in popularity among a number of congregations which teaches that the truly faithful will be rewarded financially here on Earth as well as in Heaven. When you’re already expecting to get a lot of money back for a little money given then it doesn’t take much work to talk you out of your hard earned cash.

And, as before, I’m torn between my contempt for people who would take advantage of the willfully stupid and my feelings that the victims really are to blame for bringing this upon themselves.

Profile of a Nigerian scammer.

His name is Akin. He’s 14 years-old, lives in Lagos, wears Adidas sneakers, a Rolex, and lots of gold jewelry, and he earns his money by fleecing the gullible in the west:

Akin buys things online – laptops, BlackBerries, cameras, flat-screen TVs – using stolen credit cards and aliases. He has the loot shipped via FedEx or DHL to safe houses in Europe, where it is received by friends, then shipped on to Lagos to be sold on the black market. (He figures Americans are too smart to sell a camera on eBay to a buyer with an address in Nigeria.)

Akin’s main office is an Internet cafe in the Ikeja section of Lagos. He spends up to ten hours a day there, seven days a week, huddled over one of 50 computers, working his scams.

And he’s not alone: The cafe is crowded most of the time with other teenagers, like Akin, working for a “chairman” who buys the computer time and hires them to extract e-mail addresses and credit card information from the thin air of cyberspace. Akin’s chairman, who is computer illiterate, gets a 60 percent cut and reserves another 20 percent to pay off law enforcement officials who come around or teachers who complain when the boys cut school. That still puts plenty of cash in Akin’s pocket.

Given that his mother makes a

whopping

$30 a month as a cleaner and his dad makes the same by hustling at bus stations it should probably be no big surprise why Akin has no problems with the way he earns his money.

“What do you want me to do?” Akin asks in pidgin English, explaining why he turned to a life of Internet crime. “It is my God-given talent. Our politicians, they do their own; me, I’m doing my own. I feed my family – my sister, my mother, my popsie. Man must survive.”

Or as Akin puts it, “White people are too gullible. They are rich, and whatever I gyp them out of is small change to them.”

Who knew a lack of scruples and a willingness to bear false witness in the pursuit of money were God given talents? Oh, wait, just about every televangelist knows that. My bad.

It doesn’t help that the penalties for 419 crimes in Nigeria are an open joke. Arrests are rare, prosecutions infrequent, and actual convictions few and far between. Scamming is pretty easy and makes big bucks even when your “boss” is withholding 80% of the take. When you live in a country like Nigeria you’d be crazy not to get in on that kind of action.

Sylvia Browne reveals she’s a hypocrite as well as a fraud.

Sylvia “I Talk To Dead People” Browne has accidentally revealed the secret to her “psychic” abilities and showed she’s a hypocrite in the process. Seems she was on George Noory’s Coast to Coast radio show back on January 3rd when all the drama with the West Virginia miners was taking place. Sylvia was tripped up by the initial false report that the miners had been found alive and had to do some serious backpedaling after the truth came out. There’s a partial transcript in an article at, of all place, Fox News. Emphasis mine:

Browne, who had just announced that John McCain would run against John Kerry in the next presidential campaign, was relieved to hear from Noory that all but one of the miners was alive.

Noory: “Had you been on the program today, would [you] have felt if — because they heard no sound — that this was a very gloomy moment — and that they might have all died?”

Browne: “No. I knew they were going to be found. I hate people that say something after the fact. It’s just like I knew when the pope was dead. Thank God I was on Montel’s show. I said, according to the time, it was 9-something and whatever Rome time was. And I said he was gone, and he was.”

But the situation was fluid, something Browne — ahem! — obviously didn’t sense despite her claims of being able to speak to the dead, among other things. She couldn’t have imagined that within a short time, the entire story of the miners would change completely — and make her look very foolish indeed.

Noory soon announced that there were new reports that all but one of the miners was dead.

Browne — who was still in the studio taking questions from listeners — had to say something. Now she was just riffing: “I don’t think there’s anybody alive, maybe one. How crazy for them to report that they were alive when they weren’t!” Then she added: “I just don’t think they are alive.” She cleared her throat, and there was a deafening pause.

Noory went to a commercial.

Oops.

So will this mean the end of Sylvia’s career as a $700 a session psychic? Ha ha! Don’t be stupid like so many of her fans are. It’s not like being wrong has ever stopped her before. She’ll just do what she did during the radio show and just pretend she never bragged about knowing they’d be found alive and her fans will just pretend right along with her. Just like the folks who are defending James Frey’s book A Million Little Pieces that I talked about the other day. She might lose a few fans, but there’s plenty of folks out there that need to believe she’s the real thing and who feel she’s changed their entire lives. Her message, after all, is a positive (if expensive) one.  She’ll just keep right on making shit up as she goes along and her fans will keep spending way too much money swallowing it whole.

Link found via The Two Percent Company and Skeptico.