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‘Consumer champions’ coming after you? Show them who’s really champ by standing up to them! 

Law firms. Traditionally such a necessary and benevolent force for good throughout the world. Regulating business, following rules, enforcing rules, getting justice… That’s how many and maybe even I once viewed much of the law profession last century. But this century…

It reminds me of Animalism. Or, to be more precise, originally the seventh commandment of Animalism: ‘All animals are equal’.

We all know how it was amended, becoming ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’. And that phrase in particular brings to mind many law firms today. Some are fair, benign and indispensable and play by the rule-book. Others are more equal than others: unfair, malignant, superfluous and scornful of the rule-book: operating seemingly outside the law – above the law – when they’re the ones that should be upholding it! Yep ladies and gents, I’m talking about the unscrupulous law firms that manipulate laws and moral norms to extract a pretty penny from large (and sometimes not so large) companies – which have done nothing wrong!

I’ve already written plenty about patent trolls (and how we have a policy of never giving in to them). Today I’ll be telling you about a similar phenomenon we recently came up against…

So what’s all this about?

Picture the mise-en-scène:

Take a manufacturer of a consumer good. A law firm decides to uncover an alleged small flaw in that consumer good (and one can be found in any consumer good; these guys are like wizards in making them appear anywhere), and once they find the best ‘defect’ they seek out a supposedly affected and aggrieved consumer, who then files a claim against the manufacturer, but not just on his or her own behalf, also on that of a large group in a class action lawsuit claiming violation of consumer rights. A website is created and an advertising campaign is launched (no joke) calling on consumers to join their concerted effort against the ‘excesses, unfairness and incompetence’ of the alleged guilty party.

At first blush the intentions of one of these campaigns and the corresponding slogans look convincing and honorable. It can indeed seem that it’s just the small people being gallantly looked after. And from a legal standpoint it does look like all is well-intentioned, good and proper. But all you have to do is probe a little deeper, and a different– vastly different –picture then comes into view: one resembling deceit and underhandedness (to put it politely), or sham/scam (to be less polite but no less accurate)!

This particular business model first took root in the good ole U.S. of A. a long time ago, somewhere in the last century. Today, consumer class actions in America have become serious business. There are dedicated websites that keep track of all such litigation and that send emails out listing new such class actions and agreements and how to easily sign up to them with a few keystrokes on the keyboard. Ten bucks here, another ten there… a tidy sum of extra income can be earned.

Now, to large multinational companies with multimillion dollar turnovers these class actions hardly even register, like a flea-bite to an elephant. However, for not-so-big companies, like for example small software vendors, class actions add up to huge sums having to be taken out of the pot for development of new technologies; often it’s simpler to just declare bankruptcy and start the business over.

Now, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of lawyers earn their living feeding at this trough (Animal Farm-related pun not intended) or what the annual turnover is ($6-8 billion has been estimated), but what I do know is that it’s very widespread. And I also know for sure – they openly admit it themselves – that the main reason these lawyers go for class actions is just because the like them (fast forward to 2:11).

And it’s small wonder why they like them. Costs are minimal (they don’t even need to buy up patents!), and the courts’ default stance is to be on the side of the consumer ‘victims’ – protecting them from the ‘excesses of capitalism’. It’s also small wonder that the other victims in this sorry state of affairs – the companies that are targeted by this extortion – prefer to negotiate than fight through the courts: many don’t have the wherewithal to go to court (it’s never cheap), and for some it’s a lot simpler and economically more viable to just pay the ransom instead of having their legal department get bogged down for eons. As a result this industry flourishes as more and more lawyers pour into it after getting a whiff of the easy bucks.

Still not convinced these wholesome attorneys aren’t just wanting to line their pockets and in fact only just want to protect the rights of consumers?

Then let me give you an example…

One of our competitors (the information is public domain already, but all the same I think it’s only right not to mention any names) recently settled a class action lawsuit and paid $700,000 to the lawyers of the suer, $1.25 million to third organizations, and $9 plus three months’ free use of its product to each participating consumer! So there you have it folks: straight-up, honest looking after the poor consumer, plain and simple for all to see :).

Precisely a year ago we found out we were to be targeted by a set of these white-collar ‘consumer champions’. But they needn’t have wasted their time…

For we have a firm policy for how to deal with such unscrupulous behavior: no negotiations. Instead, we fight – to the end. It’s not the easy way out that’s for sure, or the cheapest one, but it’s worth it – especially if they go off with their tales between their legs and never come back.

So, like I say, exactly one year ago we were hit with one of these sham(eful) lawsuits, from a certain Barbara Machowicz (and her representative, the law firm Edelson). It was brought against our free Kaspersky Security Scan (KSS). They alleged “[that they were] fraudulently induced to buy [KL’s] security software through … KSS, which is purportedly designed to ‘detect unwanted malware, software vulnerabilities, and other non-malware security problems’ “ and “that KSS is essentially ‘scareware’ engineered to detect fake security threats”.

And btw, this Edelson (surely just by a coincidence) was the law firm that brought the case against our competitor mentioned above. Fancy that?! Taking another closer look (the devil’s always in the details in these matters), we found out that they’d decided to simply do a repeat of their lawsuit against our competitor: basically, the claims against KSS were mostly copied word-for-word from it. I can just see the MS Word template used for the statement of claim, with blanks left for just the name of the defendant :).

Just how we were defamed in the statement of claim with their groundless accusations… I won’t go into here; that wouldn’t be quite proper. All I’ll say is that we didn’t ignore the statement or regard it lightly. After having received it we took it seriously (despite the wholly unserious allegations) and started to analyze what’s afoot. And sure enough, soon enough, all became clear.

KSS scans a computer for malicious and suspicious programs, system and application vulnerabilities, the correctness of settings, and other particulars that could affect the security of the computer. Ms. Machowicz had KSS scan her comp, and though it didn’t find any viruses, it did find a slew of vulnerabilities, including dangerous Windows and Internet Explorer settings, USB and CD auto-runs, cookies being saved, and caching of data received via https. As a result, KSS rightly issued Ms. Machowicz its verdict: ‘Your computer could be at risk. Problems found!’

Kaspersky Security Scanner Free Antivirus

Read on: This is how the story ended up…

Weightlessness: awesomeness.

I recently discovered a most unpleasant feature of my favorite Sony RX-100: it doesn’t take pics in zero gravity! Instead, it curtly announces ‘Drop detected’ on the screen and switches itself off. But I didn’t drop it! The only thing that was dropped was the level of gravity – to zero! Sony, I know you’ve enough troubles as it is right now, but please – this issue needs addressing!!

Zero gravity experience

I later found out that it’s possible to turn off this ‘feature’, but in the heat of the moment, when about to enter a state of weightlessness, delving into complex multi-branch menus on your chosen piece of photographic kit is the last thing you want to be doing. But thankfully nothing was missed this time – just about everyone on this zero-gravity mission (I’ll get to the details shortly) had a camera and was happily snapping away throughout the duration…

This is my one pic of the day’s events – before my camera conked:

Zero gravity experience

Sneak preview: we went all floating-in-the-air-like-spacemen-in-a-spaceship in this beast

So, weightlessness – complete weightlessness, zero gravitation… What is it?

Actually, it’s not quite as exotic and out-of-reach as you might at first think. Let me show you by way of a mini experiment…

Get up from your chair right now and jump up and down.

No, really, I’m serious!

Zero gravity experience

Zero gravity experience

Read on: Weeeeeeeeeh!…

Abu-Dhabi-Finali-Mondiali.

How time flies… It’s now nearly two weeks since I was in Abu Dhabi for a high-speed adrenalin injection, and only just now have I gotten round to putting fingers to keyboard. So apologies for the delay folks; sometimes I need a full reboot – a few days of catching up on sleep and spending quality time with my family. Everything else – for later. Now, here’s that later…

So, like I say, I was in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the Finali Mondiali.

Abu Dhabi Ferrari Challenge

But why? Well, why, that is, apart from ‘it’s nice and sunny down in the Middle East’, like always?

Easy. Sometimes you need to meet face-to-face the folks you normally communicate with only by telephone or email. Mod-coms are all very good, but they’ll never by any match for personal interaction for catching up properly…

To take an analogy, let’s say you’re barbequing on the shore of a lake. Your pal’s also barbequing nearby – but on the shore of a neighboring lake. And you’re Skyping each other.

Question: Are you eating together or separately?

Answer, IMHO: You’re eating separately, and only imitating human interaction.

Homo sapiens – we were all designed to interact with one another. And the closer and more personal, the better. And that’s why I was in Abu Dhabi. Ok, that’s enough theory/work… Now: FUN!

There were tons of fun to be had in Abu Dhabi, so much so I’m struggling to work out which particular tons were the funniest. I think… yes – for me the best was the mega roller-coaster here (interestingly sometimes referred to as a Russian mountain – turns out roller-coasters first appeared in St. Petersburg – in the 18th century!!). What can I say? It’s mega!

Abu Dhabi Ferrari World

1 second

Read on: May the luck be with us next time!…

How much per minute? The Spanish parking pricing conundrum.

Still in Spain, after Barca, we headed over to the city of Seville. We needed to park up the motor for a few hours, so drove to the parking lot in the airport. And that’s when we saw it: Absurdity with a capital A. Or so it seemed at first…

On the wall of the parking lot hangs this here price list:

No folks, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. And no, that hasn’t been Photoshopped. Those figures, though very unreal, are actually for real.

What? How? Why? Anyone have a clue?

Read on: The reality of the matter turned out to be much more prosaic…

Nano-racing.

What does an ideal weekend… smell like? I mean, an ideal weekend for boys… of all ages? :)

The answer, I firmly believe, is as follows:

An ideal weekend for boys of all ages smells of burning brake pads, of engine fumes, of gasoline, and of adrenalin. Motorsport. It’s like rock’n’roll, only better.

Just recently some comrades and I had some spare time between business engagements and headed down to Italy to take part in the Adria-24 car race. It was a national-level race, but still very much a full-on adrenaline-pumping one. Unfortunately though, the sweet smell of car racing success didn’t pass through our nostrils, for about half-way – after 12 hours – our car… died, and no amount of reanimation measures could save her. A great pity. Here’s her corpse, poor thing:

24 Ore di Adria race

Read on: Nano-racing…

The KL Paint-A-Wall Challenge!

“Why don’t we do a Banksy, kinda?…” someone in our creative collective suggested one day. Why don’t we, indeed, I thought, and issued the proverbial green light. “Only, our artwork needs to be bigger, brighter, better… than Banksy (cough),” I added. “So our logo’ll be easier to see.” :-)

Kaspersky Lab Mural Art

Months later, several towns across Russia had had a particularly dismal apartment building side-wall brightened up with a dazzling, cheerful, multicolored mural!

Here are some pics… Not half bad. Like. Much like :).

Read on: we win the towns over…

Sochi’s winning Formula.

The first Formula One Russian Grand Prix was really great!

The track is very fast, whatever the nay-sayers claim about it being boring and needing more challenging turns. The grandstand is huge, the paddock is well designed and the logistics really work. The teams said the organization was superb and everything went off without a hitch. The people behind this deserve a lot of respect – if properly motivated, people can achieve great things :)

Formula One Russian GP Sochi 2014

Read on: A monochrome podium…

Whisky in the jar.

Not all trademarks make much sense. Especially where whisky is concerned

For example, the other day, I was wandering through the night in Jerusalem like a proper tourist. I sat down on a bench some bar, I can’t even remember its name. But I can remember their menu promising me ‘Monkey Shoulder’ whisky. I was astonished, but not for long. The name didn’t quite do it for me. But there you go. No Talisker, no Jura, no Macallan. Not even Glenfiddich or the notorious Chivas. Ladies and Gentlemen! We give you …. ‘Monkey Shoulder’.

DSC03262

Read on: a few more “whiskys” I recall …

Unexpectedly I am 49!

It might have come exactly on schedule, but my 49th birthday was still something of a surprise.

After all, it’s quite a date … and it inspired some feelings of awe and bewilderment. Does it really mean I’m going to be 50 next? Wow! I guess I should start preparing for that. It’s a good round number, but given my profession it’s more appropriate to count in hexadecimal numbers. Suddenly I’m about 31 again – which looks much nicer. Maybe from now on I should count my age in hexadecimal numbers; I’ll worry less, and people won’t feel they have to organize a big 50th birthday for me any time soon :)

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

This year’s birthday turned out quite unusual – for all my travels, it was the first time I celebrated my birthday while on the road. There was only time for a small dinner before boarding, then I was back on the road again.

I think that’s all for now. Thank you everyone for all your birthday wishes!

Suitcase astray – not ok.

There’s an unusual feeling you get… when you sit by the window on a plane waiting for the end of boarding and your flight to begin, observing the workers shoving the luggage into the hold of the plane… when suddenly you see that they’re all done and walk off… but a single suitcase remains of the ground – all on its lonesome. Big and black. And it’s YOUR suitcase!

Washington-Zurich-Budapest

Hold on… that looks familiar…

This is, indeed, not ok…