Victim of identity theft

Today I received an invoice from a well-known large retailer (H&M) for articles I hadn't bought (I didn't even have an account on their site... or so I thought).

It seems having someones name, address and date-of-birth is enough to register online, have articles delivered via a drop-off point in a different city and have the invoice sent afterwards to the first address (mine). All without requiring identification upon delivery.

Thankfully the employee I got on the phone was very understanding (although surprised). The invoice and account were canceled right away, but I might have to hop over to the police and notify them fraud was committed using my name.

I do hope they fix their new-customer policy though. There are plenty of ways to solve this problem (pay before delivery, pay via internet, pay on delivery, require ID upon delivery) but this is a clear case of making your e-commerce process too open for fraud.

How to not waste your time as a freelancer

Every now and then you have one of those days that just takes a nosedive. Today was such a day (and it's barely noon!)

Through Aperte I generally work for two types of companies: those that don't have the developer-capacity (think small/medium-sized businesses) and those that require specific knowledge on a topic (be it OSS, AI or distributed systems).

Recently I've also been looking at temporary on-site gigs (Dutch: detachering), if only to fill in the gaps between projects. The downside is that you commit yourself for a stretch of time, but if the projects are interesting who knows. There have been a few promising leads, however today was a different story.

An "intermediary" contacted me a month ago, said (in very wordily terms) that he might be able to get me in contact with a couple of companies. I'm always wary of these types, but gave him the benefit of the doubt and we meeted up. He convinced me to have a meeting with him and one of said companies.

This company, being quite high-tech (they develop driving simulators), was a bit out of my profile. These types of companies tend to have enough nerds around, because we tend to converge towards companies that do interesting stuff. They might require specific knowledge, but I'd be the last to think my knowledge is unique and said nerds wouldn't be able to figure it out on their own. Heck, I noticed a few published papers from this particular company, so that should have said enough.

Anyway, this morning was the meeting, and we were done in about 5 minutes. After I introduced myself, and the types of projects I've been doing via my company, the owner asked if I was applying for a job or looking for projects to do via my company. Alarmbells went off, as I mentioned the latter. We were outside a minute later, after the owner kindly pointed out they didn't hire external staff. This "intermediary" clearly hadn't even communicated to the owner what we were meeting for.

It was a waste of everyones time and including driving-time a waste of a fine morning for me. Thus, a few pointers for those freelancers and consultants in order to steer clear of <censored> recruiters:

* Listen to your instinct. If someone can't communicate clearly, think: shipwreck!
* Don't try to ignore the BS. If someone is spouting a lot of it: shipwreck!
* Ask straight off if someone is a recruiter. I did, and got half an answer. It's a yes-or-no question. Anything but no: shipwreck!
* If they ask for an editable version of your CV: shipwreck! (you and I know how to edit a PDF, they don't)
* If you agree to meet a company but have any doubts, contact said company beforehand. Make your intentions clear. It will save everyones time.
* You have more to waste than just your time. You make a bad impression in an age where image is everything (despite what Sprite might say). Sure you might want to give someone a chance, just remember that every hour you waste on said recruiters is an hour you can't work for your clients.

Rant off! I'm just glad I didn't have high hopes for today, but I couldn't have believed it went the way it did.


Tomorrow I'm off for our yearly snowboarding week! \o/

Will be back on the 25th!

Happy 2009!

I haven't been posting a lot lately (I promised myself to only blog about stuff I'd want to read... which isn't a lot), but regardless: happy thanksgiving/sinterklaas/christmas/newyears/easter!

I've been busy a bit recently, but all in all Q4 has been much too quiet. 2009 is looking more promising however. I've also decided to finally learn to play the guitar (a graduation-gift from mom, who has been playing for many a year).

Let's make some noise

Been playing around with TrackMeNot, a Firefox extension that generates random search queries. Although I've been using Clusty for a few years now, this is a type of action that lets you fight back against privacy erosion. Now if only the general public would become concerned about the privacy, we might get somewhere. Thankfully, our government is actively working on raising privacy awareness, using think-of-the-children arguments.

Yesterday I went to a networking event for Amsterdam-based entrepreneurs. Besides meeting interesting people, there was a presentation on collaboration between companies. The Senseo and Jure's Nike+Apple running thingies were a few of the examples. One of the issues was how to balance the advantages within such a collaboration, but in the Nike+Apple case it seems like a win-win situation. Nike gets to target the Apple fanbois^Wmarket which gives them a high-tech image, while Apple gets a more sporty image and has an extra widget to sell to those millions of iPod-users.
In the long run Nike will pull on the shorter string though, as anyone can attach the apple-pedometer to their shoes (Nike or not). It might have been smarter for Nike to develop their own pedometer, which would have given them more leverage with Apple (connect your Nike-meter with your nokia-phone, for example). Then again, nearly all the effort was put in by Apple, so cost-wise Nike has nothing to lose with this collaboration.

In other news, I've been hacking on various bits of Ogre3D (python-ogre and the et module) for my hush-hush project. Added save/load support to the editable terrain library sample, and I'm working on a few other improvements in order to turn this into a viable terrain editor [screenshot]. I've also been fooling around with bullet, which is a great library but unfortunately seems like overkill for me atm.

I've also modified my morphix autobuild scripts, daily iso builds are available once again for those interested.

New Drupal!

Finally got around to upgrading Drupal. As you can see, I'm still sticking with a boring theme, but at least it's a version I don't have to be ashamed about for the time being (I was running 4.7, brrrr).

In other news, I went to LinuxWorld today (only for the seminars), half of which were interesting, the other half reminded me why I'm glad I'm not a student anymore.

It is good to see that the Netherlands is pushing OSS/OS again with NOiV (yes, Aperte is in their service provider list), and the OpenDoc Society is a group I plan to follow.

This quarter is turning out to be rather quiet, so I'm planning to put more effort into networking and (brrr) marketing. Anyone for an Aperte pen? :)

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