Ah, farewell then, Woolworths. Well … maybe. Certainly my local shop is still soldiering on, as I assume the rest are.*
It’s maybe a sign of how the chain’s going, though. I last shopped there a few weeks ago – picking up a gift voucher for K’s niece – and it was a strange experience. Because my local Woolworths doesn’t seem to have changed for a long, long time. Everyone else on the high street has shiny displays; Woolworth’s here is a step back in time. Slightly worn shelving that wouldn’t have looked out of place in my grandfather’s newsagents twenty-five years ago; everything piled up on it without much thought. Worn linoleum. No fancy ceiling or light fittings: bare plaster and unshaded fluorescent tubes are fine for Woolworths. If the shelves had been emptier, I’d have thought maybe a wormhole had decanted me into Moscow, circa the Andropov years. I almost expected to find carrier bags bearing the 70s coil-of-wool logo that I remember from childhood.
Personally, I still have a little bit of affection for the place. I’d never shop there, not any more, but once upon a time I did. Back when I was a teenager, it was the first place I ever bought music from; my first port of call at first; and then, as I knew more, the place I would come to flick through the 7″ singles and buy ones that had just dropped out of the charts. When they stopped selling vinyl, in about ’95 or so, I stopped going.
I almost typed there: “if you told a teenager today that Woolworths…” – and then I stopped and deleted it, because it made me feel old. Strange to think, though, that people today have completely forgotten Woolworths was once the best place to buy singles, back when Apple were a failing computer company** and portable music meant songs taped off the radio. Nowadays, it isn’t the best place to buy anything. Still stocking vinyl would hardly help, in this decade, but looking a bit smarter might. If they didn’t look like they’d furnished the place with other people’s cast-off shelves, it would be a start.
* A bit different to when the Fopp/Music Zone chain fell over: one day they stopped taking card payments, the next the shops didn’t open, and that, then, was that. Or, indeed, the Dutch ISP Aramiska, which gave its customers a few hour’s warning before they ceased operating with no explanation.
** People forget today that the first Apple Mac was a commercial disaster, so much so that its champion, Steve Jobs, got fired from the company partly as a result. I recommend reading any of the many books about the development of the Mac and the Apple company in the early 80s.
Quite a few people, recently, have come to this site looking for information on Aramiska, the European satellite ISP which apparently collapsed last week. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any information, anywhere. The company promised to release a statement on January 30th; it never appeared. Their disappearance is still a mystery.
Moving on, this email came in to one of our work addresses yesterday:
I noticed whilst browsing your site that there were problems with some of your links, when I tried again
with Internet Explorer the problems were not there so I assume that they were caused by me using the
Very nice and helpful, you might think.* However, if you read on, you might get a little more suspicious…
I have enclosed a screen capture of the problem so your team can get it fixed if you deem it an issue.
Hah. If you’re not suspicious yet, you probably shouldn’t be allowed near the internet. If you look a little closer, the attachment is a
.scr file – which could, I suppose, look like “screenshot” to the non-technical. If you try to open it,** then: congratulations, you have a virus, one known as W32/Brepibot. It’s a “backdoor”, a tool that then enables hackers to connect into your computer and harness it for their own nefarious purposes. Well done.
* As our work website was designed by an apparently-clueless PR chap with no previous knowledge of website design at all, it is also entirely believable.
** and you’re using a Windows computer, and don’t have up-to-date virus protection
At the office, our main internet connection for many years has been a satellite broadband link, from Dutch company Aramiska. When the directors first wanted broadband, it was the cheapest solution. It’s slower than ADSL, and a lot more expensive,* but it’s still more reliable. Well, it was, until this rather surprising email arrived this morning:
We regret to inform you that Aramiska and its services are shutting down and the company will be unable
to provide you with internet access after today, 27th of January 2006
Yes, that is the entire email.** It’s repeated on their website as a Customer Care Announcement, but otherwise their website is up as normal. They’re not answering the phone. Noone seems to be able to find out what has happened. Their executives have promised a statement next week, but for now they’re not admitting anything.
Luckily, we have – I mean had – two broadband links at head office now. So, after a bit of reconfiguration,*** I think we’re safe now. I feel sorry for the people in my position who didn’t have a fallback, though.
* Several thousand pounds a year – but it’s still the cheapest option in some rural areas.
** And it turns out that not everyone received the email, even.
*** Geek footnote: our main problem was that all our MX records pointed to Aramiska’s SMTP relay. In fact, they still are, even though we got on to our registrars about it this morning. They’d better sort the bloody thing out.