Friday, October 27, 2023

Wise (Transferwise) Cancels US Business Debit Cards with Two Days' Notice

I dunno, this seems like it will get picked up by people with more influence and be the flaming pile of story it deserves to be, but still, in my small way, I wish to add to the Permanent Internet Record.

I use Wise (formerly Transferwise) a lot, it's a low-friction way to deal with money in transit when your life involved multiple currencies. (Mine involves at least five.)  The fees are... well the fees are a lot better than what your bank will charge you for the same service, and that's the Wise business model.

A while ago I got a business account from them, for an actual business I started in California.  A bootstrapped tech thing.  I was hoping for more of that well-programmed low-friction goodness -- and except for a colossal double-charge fuckup that ended up costing me about $100 in fees despite it being 100% Wise's mistake, a mistake I even documented for them in a nice "steps to reproduce" fashion: except for that, it was really good.  And the fact that I ate those fees tells you how much I liked it overall.  I figured I'd saved a lot more than that by using their service, so I wasn't going to bother fighting them on what was clearly a software bug, I would just be "wise" about how I used my debit card in the future.

(Detail: they approve charges based on prior approvals for the same merchant, even if you don't approve the new charge; and if you pay from a basket of currencies and then get the chargeback in a different basket, all conversion fees are on you.  Fun bug to fix, I hope someone actually did.)

Alright, so fast-forward to today -- and suddenly, with two working day's notice they are cancelling all US business debit cards.  Lovely.

Not that big a deal for me: an inconvenience, surely, but having my November payments bounce is not going to tank the company, I'm still bootstrapping and there's not that much going through.  But imagine you're further along with your startup, and have a big AWS bill to pay Or Else.  Well in that case, you've just been screwed by Kristo Käärmann.

This looks to be a massive screw-up, but of course I have no idea how massive.  Maybe there just aren't that many of us using Wise for US businesses with legit expenses?  (The accounts still work, so if you're using Wise for, say, sanctions-busting payments to your Russian dev team, that's probably still on.)

My best guess, after their software bug bit me in the double-charged ass, is that they were caught off guard by some intricacy of the US system and are as disappointed as their customers, but without the actual pain.

But they didn't have to add insult to injury, did they?  As of this writing, the "more info" link in the email takes you to a page with... wait for it... the exact text of the email itself, verbatim.  Also, "temporary" doesn't mean what they think it means, but I will cut them non-native-speaker slack on that one.

So there you have it.  Hello effing World.  I need to find a new provider for my small-business account, and so does every other US business that's used Wise.  (I wouldn't trust them with a business account in any country now, but to be fair, I'm not going to stop using them for moving currencies around.)

I have to admit I'm now very curious how big a deal this ends up being.  My heart goes out to those who trusted Wise with their business banking, as I was certainly planning to do.

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Background Items Added

Many of us, suffering under Apple's declining software quality, have encountered the Background Items Added plague.

After much annoyance -- Spotlight, which itself has gotten worse in recent releases, does not find the culprit files despite their containing the search string in the filenames -- I believe I have solved this problem.  YMMV, works for me, etc.

First, go to Settings and set the Background Items the way you want.  This may require some digging since the new Settings app is a UX faceplant, but hey, you'll get there.

Next manually delete, from your Applications area, the offending apps if you can.

Then do a reboot just to be sure.

Now, when you see alerts like the one shown below, go check in two directories:


Here you may find gems like com.spotify.webhelper.plist and you can simply remove them.


Here you may find things like  and -- these require admin removal, meaning "sudo rm" if you're in the Terminal or "use password" if in Finder.

I personally recommend zapping these in the terminal, because I don't fully trust Apple to not give them some weird zombie powers to exercise from the trash.

That's all for today.  Just wanted to put this out there in the Internets.  Fucking Apple, man, really.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

ChatGPT on Democracy

Thailand votes today; and in the West many things are afoot. Here's hoping the AGI is not an authoritarian populist!

Advantages of Democracy:

1. Protection of Individual Rights: Democracy emphasizes the protection of individual rights and freedoms. It provides a framework where citizens have the right to express their opinions, participate in decision-making, and hold their government accountable. Democracy promotes equality before the law and protects civil liberties such as freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. This ensures that citizens have the opportunity to live a life of dignity and have a say in shaping the policies that affect them.

2. Rule of Law and Stability: Democracy is typically built on the principle of the rule of law, where laws and regulations are established and enforced fairly and impartially. This ensures stability and predictability within a society, fostering an environment conducive to economic growth, social progress, and peaceful coexistence. In a democratic system, institutions are responsible for upholding the rule of law, and leaders are subject to legal checks and balances, reducing the risk of arbitrary exercise of power.

3. Peaceful Conflict Resolution: Democracy provides a mechanism for peaceful conflict resolution and political change. Through free and fair elections, citizens can choose their representatives and hold them accountable for their actions. This peaceful transfer of power helps to prevent violent upheavals and civil unrest that can arise in authoritarian regimes. Democracy encourages dialogue, compromise, and negotiation as methods for resolving differences and addressing societal challenges, promoting stability and harmony within a diverse society.

Threats to Democracy:

1. Erosion of Democratic Institutions: One of the significant threats to democracy is the erosion of democratic institutions and processes. This can occur through the concentration of power in the hands of a few, weakening checks and balances, undermining the independence of the judiciary, or manipulating electoral systems. When democratic institutions are weakened or co-opted, it can lead to authoritarian tendencies and a decline in democratic governance.

2. Populism and Polarization: Populist movements and growing polarization pose threats to democratic nations. Populist leaders often exploit public discontent and divisions, fueling resentment and promoting an "us vs. them" mentality. This can undermine democratic values, weaken social cohesion, and hinder constructive dialogue and compromise. Polarization can lead to a breakdown of democratic norms and the erosion of trust in democratic processes.

3. Disinformation and Manipulation: The rise of digital technology and social media has facilitated the spread of disinformation and manipulation, posing challenges to democratic societies. False information, propaganda, and targeted campaigns can influence public opinion, undermine trust in democratic institutions, and manipulate electoral outcomes. The rapid dissemination of information through social media platforms without proper verification mechanisms can contribute to the creation of echo chambers and the erosion of shared facts, making it difficult to have informed public discourse.

It's important to note that these advantages and threats can manifest differently in different democratic nations, as each country has its unique political, social, and cultural context.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

ChatGPT Does Nihilism

A Poem About The Sun

The radiant sun so brightly shines
But its warmth brings only pain
A beacon of light in the sky malign
A source of death and sorrow again

The sun is a fiery sphere of death
A brilliant, burning orb in the sky
It scorches the earth with its fiery breath
And brings destruction to all that passes by

In endless cycles it does rise and fall
A never-ending dance in the sky
A symbol of power and terror to all
A guiding light, a reason to die

Its rays stretch out across the land
Illuminating all that they touch
A symbol of death, destruction, and command
A source of agony and despair to all that it cushions

We rise each day and face the dawn
With fear and dread to guide our way
And in the evening, when the day is gone
We curse the sun for another day.

We cower in its warmth and glow
And are terrified of its presence
A shining star that we all know
The sun, a harbinger of our demise.

-- ChatGPT, 14 December 2022.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

StableDiffusion Does Politics

 Just for a laugh, I had StableDiffusion render two of the American right-wing's enduring obsessions.  


Hunter Biden's Laptop and Hillary Clinton's Emails!

I do love how the AI thinks of human hands.  And just so nobody thinks I'm neglecting my whataboutisms, here is Donald Trump in Florida.  Have a nice day!

Friday, December 28, 2018

RyanAir's Non-Flexi Flexi Gotcha

Having taken a few RyanAir flights in the past week, I found myself tired of the utter chaos that is RyanAir check-in anywhere in Spain, and decided to book an Iberia flight out of Madrid instead of using my RyanAir ticket. Since I'd booked a Flexi Plus ticket and paid quite a bit for it, I thought I'd try rebooking.  It occurred to me that might not be possible as I'd already checked in, and of course I'd checked in because RyanAir strongly encourages you to do so far in advance of your flight.

Despite this being exactly the kind of rat-bastard thing a cheapo carrier might do, I thought I'd give it a try. And I wasted an unrecoverable hour of my life following the instructions on the website, which clearly stated that I could rebook even after checking in, and that I'd merely have to check in to the new flight immediately.But for some reason it wouldn't let me go to the final booking stage.  I could find a flight, select a fare, and.... nothing.

As a Computer Guy, I thought maybe they just didn't work with Safari, so I tried Firefox.  This sometimes works with large brands, which is in itself scary.  No luck.  I checked for Javascript errors in Safari and found a lot, plus a great number of 404 Not Found responses for their own Javascript resouces. At this point I knew I was dealing with seriously buggy software, so I tried the Customer Support Chat.

That, it turns out, in another typical rat-bastard move, is not a chat at all but rather a sub-Eliza-level dichotomous tree of automated FAQ responses peppered with "please use fewer words" responses.  And finally I got theanswer.

If you checked in early, as the Ryanites urge you to do, then you must contact customer support (through what means I cannot fathom -- probably by phone) and get yourself checked back out -- subject to office hours -- at least one day prior to departure, otherwise you can not do what the website says you can do and lets you spend your time halfway doing: you can not change your flight.

So my original instinct was correct: Rat Bastard RyanAir One, Customer Experience Zero.  Plus I shudder to think how awful it must be to write their broken software, presumably in some low-wage sweatshop with a sweaty-faced remote manager screaming at you in Irish from an unheated basement in, I kid you not, the town of Swords.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

George Herbert Walker Bush

I am sometimes reminded that for many of us, George Herbert Walker Bush was, during his Presidency, a symbol of the cynicism and brutality of a dawning corporatist world order. And I cringe: how good we had it, to have that guy as our bad guy. His “kinder, gentler nation” was not to be. His rationalist statesmanship was the last of its kind in the White House. His world order was patrician, but compassionate. And he walked the walk, even if he wasn’t so good at talking the talk thing. I did not support him politically, and I do not do so retroactively — but I know he would have respected that choice and, had the occasion arisen, been capable of a serious conversion about that. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and who knows how long it’ll last, but it was built by people like 41.