Archive for June, 2010

Another not really a book review

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

I enjoy reading old (10yrs or more) futurism books, but business books can be just as much fun, in an odd sort of way.

Take, for instance, the big fat book (584 pages with relatively small margins–the text block is 28 picas wide and 47 picas high, as compared to the 26×42 pica block I typically use for a 6×9 book) I just finished reading… Infinite Loop by Michael S. Malone. Published March 1999. For those who don’t know the subject from the title, here’s the subtitle: “How Apple, the World’s Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane.”

It appears to be a near-postmortem for Apple, as Malone seems convinced that Apple would never have any significance as a company after 1999, if it survived at all. Indeed, he psychoanalyzes the company in a manner that leads him to conclude…well, here’s the quote:

Before and after everything, companies are about character… Good companies have strong characters. Great companies have heroic characters.

Of all the great companies of recent memory, there is only one that seemed to have no character, but only an attitude, a style, a collection of mannerisms…

This was Apple Computer Inc…

Malone, a long-time Silicon Valley reporter, seems convinced that Apple’s downfall was fated from the start.

Downfall? What downfall?

That’s a reasonable question, particularly from a 2010 perspective. In fiscal 1999, Apple was roughly a $6 billion company. In fiscal 2009, it was a $36 billion company–and the last decade had relatively low inflation: If Apple had just kept up with inflation (tough to do, since PC prices deflate), it would have been a $7.65 billion company in 2009. In other words, accounting for inflation, Apple had more than 4.5 times the sales in 2009 that it did in 1999.

Note: The first half of FY2010 is even better–$29 billion in sales–but since that includes the holiday season, I’m unwilling to project those figures for a year. In any case, Apple doesn’t seem to be falling apart this year either.

In other words, in some pretty fundamental ways, Malone got it wrong–perhaps because he tried to hard to get inside people’s minds.

It’s a fascinating read, all the more so when you know the ending is seriously flawed. There are no footnotes, but he cites a lot of sources. I’m inclined to suggest there were no editors, either, but that may be unfair.

On the other hand…

You could say, with some legitimacy, that Apple as a computer company isn’t all that important any more, although I can almost hear the howls of outrage from fanboys and other dedicated users. Malone makes much of the declining market share for Apple, how being at 5% or less (and being incompatible with the rest of the market) makes it hard to take them seriously.

In 2009, Apple sold about 10.4 million computers (including 3.2 million desktops). That’s about 4% of the worldwide market for 2009. If the increased sales for the first half of FY2010 continue, Apple would sell about 12.6 million computers–of about 300 million projected to be sold worldwide. Again, somewhere between 4% and 5%.

Apple is mostly not a computer company any more. It’s a telephone and home entertainment/consumer electronics company that also makes computers. Unfair? For FY2009, computer sales represented a little over a third of Apple’s total sales. For the first half of FY2010, computer sales are a little over a quarter of Apple’s total sales. iPhone revenues exceed total Mac revenues. By quite a bit.

If you wanted to defend Malone, you could say that he just missed this future transformation, that Pixar’s Jobs could turn Apple into an enormously successful entertainment and phone company, with a decent sideline of computers.

But I don’t know that I much want to defend Malone… I think he just got it wrong.

An equal generosity of spirit toward all

I’ve seen a few reviews that say Malone is biased against Apple, or more particularly, against Jobs.

I don’t see that.

Oh, sure, Malone speaks badly of Jobs (and Amelio, and Sculley, and Spindler, and for that matter Wozniak–albeit in very different ways). But he also speaks very badly of Ellison, Gates, and most everybody else (except for Hewlett, Packard and Moore). He clearly loved Apple products for many years–if anything, his attitude seems that of a disappointed fan more than anything else. He pretty much despises IBM, Microsoft and the rest…

I can’t find the quote again, but there’s an interesting point at which Malone says Jobs wanted to save the world if he could rule it–where Gates just wanted to own the world. It’s interesting to see who is actually setting about to save the world…

In the end, I count this as an interesting (if seriously flawed) book that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. At least it lacks the idolatry of some Apple-related books–but I’m not sure replacing idolatry with mean-spirited corporate psychoanalysis is a big improvement.

And is it really plausible that all these Apple higher-ups (and others) were doing so much sobbing all the time? Really? I was working in Silicon Valley through most of the period covered here (1979 and on), although not really within the PC field, and I don’t remember it as an unusually teary place. But from this account, people were bursting into tears all over the place. I must have missed something.

Two small milestones at C&I

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

I see by my handy-dandy spreadsheet (a grid of page counts and word counts for each issue in the first ten years of publication) that C&I 10:8 reaches two milestones–noting that neither of these milestones includes the two non-issues that appeared briefly and then departed, or the volume indexes:

  • C&I now totals just over 2.5 million words since its inception–2,504,929 to be exact.
  • My “target” for the last couple of years has been 12 issues averaging 20 pages each. That means a complete volume should come out to about 240 pages. On that basis, I’m done for the year–Volume 10 now totals 254 pages (again, not including the massive briefly-visible non-issue, which almost nobody downloaded anyway).

OK, so the target is a little ridiculous, since the most recent issue shorter than 22 pages was November 2005 and the most recent issue shorter than 20 pages was February 2003. And no, although the future of C&I (until I get sponsorship) is indeed in doubt, I don’t plan to shut down for the year.

If you’re wondering (“we weren’t, Walt, but we can’t stop you”), there were three volumes that came in at fewer than 300 pages, a reasonable secondary goal–the first three, as you might expect.

CD lifespan: A clarification

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

In the Interesting & Peculiar Products section of the new Cites & Insights, discussing the prospects for 500GB optical discs, I question an assertion that the real-world lifespan of optical media is “well under ten years” and note that “I have 25-year-old CDs that work perfectly.”

A reader says that her eight-year-old CD-Rs are unreadable and questions what I’m saying…and says industry estimates are about ten years.

So here’s a clarification:

  • The paragraph I was questioning specifically said “mass-market physical medium”–by which I assumed pressed/pre-recorded media, not recordable media.
  • My context was 25-year-old audio CDs (pressed audio CDs)–and every one of the (prerecorded) CDs I purchased two decades ago still works perfectly.
  • While there are special archival optical media, I can’t speak to life estimates for recordable media–although I do have (audio) CD-Rs that are still readable after eight years, that’s anecdata.
  • I would also note that the paragraph I questioned said people wanting long-term archiving would stick with magtape. Permanence of magtape ain’t so hot either…

Meanwhile: I am not an expert on archival media (and other than ink or properly-fused toner on acid-free paper and *maybe* high-quality microfilm, I don’t know of any), and my casual comment should under no circumstances be assumed to be a guarantee that the DVD-R you burn today will be readable in 25 years.

Bandwidth of Large Airplanes, Take 2

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Peter Murray has a post this morning that updates an old conversation he and I had, one that Cliff Lynch also played an indirect part–all riffing off the old note,

When you think you have a really zippy network connection, someone will (should?) bring up an old internet adageL2 which says “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes.”

…which, more recently had entailed versions such as “a truck full of CDs” or, what started this all, “a 747 full of Blu-ray Discs.”

Go read the post. I’ll wait.

In the spirit of scientific investigation (which you can translate as “Because I really should be doing the indexing for the new Cites & Insights, and indexing is really boring…”), I decided to check out a couple of things–e.g.,

  • Would 2TB internal hard disks provide even greater bandwidth?
  • Would cargo weight or bulk be the limiting factor?
  • Which provides greater bandwidth, a 747 full of double-density Blu-Ray discs or a 747 full of 2TB internal hard disks–and what is that capacity (from New York to LA)?

I also changed one thing: Realistically, even double-DVD slimpacks aren’t the way you’d ship all this stuff. You’d use 100 disc spindles, which result in less packaging overhead.

Here’s what I found


Cargo capacity (cubic meters) 764
Cargo capacity (kg) 123,656
Volume of 100 BD spindle (cm) 0.00347
Weight of 100BD spindle (kg) 1.316
Max spindles (volume) 220,173
Max spindles (weight) 93,964
Data capacity at 40Tb/spindle 3,758,541
Bandwidth JFK-LAX, Gb/sec 232,009
Volume of 10 2TB HD (cm) 0.00390
Weight of 10 2TB HD (kg) 7.50
Max 10packs (volume) 195,998
Max 10packs (weight) 16,487
Data capacity at 160Tb/pack 2,637,995
Bandwidth JFK-LAX, Gb/s 162,839


I checked Boeing’s website for the maximum payload capacity of a Boeing 747 freighter (see Peter’s link, but go to other sublinks as needed). I did real-world measurements for the size and weight of a 100-disc spindle and used Western Digital’s own specs for their Caviar Black 2TB internal hard drive–and, to simplify calculations, I assumed “10packs” of the discs, wrapped 10 high in plastic wrap. (I assume plastic wrap throughout rather than boxes, again to simplify things.) The bandwidth calculations assume the 16,200 seconds in Peter’s post.

To explicate what’s here:

  • A spindle of 100 Blu-ray discs (total data capacity 5TB or 40Tb) occupies 0.00347 cubic meters (basically, 7.5×5.5×5.5 inches or 177.8×139.7×139.7 millimeters) and weighs 1.316 kilograms (2.9lb.) You could fit 220,173 spindles (in other words, just over 22 million discs) in the 747 freighter–but the plane couldn’t take off. By weight, it could hold 93,964 spindles (just under 9.4 million discs)–so the actual data capacity would be 3,758,541 Terabits, for a bandwidth of 232,009 Gb/s–just a little higher than Peter’s numbers, because spindles add so much less bulk than individual packages.
  • A stack of 2TB hard drives 10 high (total data capacity 20TB or 160Tb) occupies 0.003898 cubic meters (261 millimeters high, 147 millimeters wide, 101.6 millimeters deep) and weighs 7.5 kilograms. That’s the killer: While you could fit almost 1.96 million drives into the plane, you could only take off with 166,487 drives (16,487 tenpacks)–so the actual data capacity would be 2,637,995 Terabits for a bandwidth of 162,839 Gb/s.

Both are, to be sure, three orders of magnitude greater than the fastest reported network transmission. I was a little surprised to find that Blu-ray discs offered more bandwidth than hard disks–because a spindle of 100 Blu-ray discs with 5TB total capacity weighs less than two 2TB hard disks.

Another little table:

Capacity (per cubic meter) 1441TB 5131TB
Weight (per cubic meter) 379kg 1924kg

Significance and omitted elements

  • None…except that the proverbial station wagon full of tapes still has some, erm, legs.
  • Many–some of them discussed in the original post and comments.

Now for that indexing…

Cites & Insights article links fixed

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The article links for Cites & Insights 10:8 (in this post and on the C&I site itself) have been fixed and should be working.

(Actually, the links were fine; I just misnamed the four files.)

Sorry about that.

Cites & Insights 10:8 – Just in time for ALA!

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Available now: Cites & Insights 10:8, July 2010.

This 40-page issue (PDF as usual, with most but not all the sections available as HTML separates) has a variety of features to keep you entertained or informed on your long flights to & from ALA–and it’s well worth reading even if you’re not attending (or live near the District of Columbia).

What’s here:

The CD-ROM Project…pp. 1-4

The start of a “digital medium archaeology project”–taking a few dozen of the best title CD-ROMs (that is, CD-ROMs that are extended books and multimedia carriers, not just software) from 1994-2000 and seeing whether they’ll work on a contemporary Windows 7 system, whether they still have much to offer, whether they’re still available (as is or updated) and, if not, what we’ve lost–and what’s readily available on the web that appears roughly equivalent. For starters, we have two astronomical CDs and two art-related CDs…

The Zeitgeist: One Facebook to Rule Them All?…pp. 4-22

A range of commentaries on the December 2009 and April 2010 Facebook privacy changes, including some pre-December items and a few notes on the current situation. Commentaries include some by librarians and a wide range by others–including a group of first-rate commentaries by danah boyd and a ReadWriteWeb piece that gets my coveted middle-finger salute for asininity in the service of (almost certainly false) gengen.

Interesting & Peculiar Products…pp. 22-29

Ten products (or product commentaries) and five group reviews–but some of the product notes are more essay than description, including a non-elegy for OQO and “Catching up with the OLPC XO.”

Offtopic Perspective: Mystery Collection Part 2…pp. 29-35

The second of ten segments of this massive 250-movie set, including three great flicks, three near-classics and another dozen worthwhile films. You get cheating wives, crooked electronics geniuses, a blind detective, a sexy ghost…and that’s just in the first two of six discs.

My Back Pages…pp. 35-40

As always, this chunk’o’snark is a bonus for “print readers”–those who download the whole PDF. Ten items, only half of them audio-related.

This is the final issue sponsored by the Library Society of the World. Now the uncertainty begins…

What’s Not Happening

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

In some ways, this is another promotional post for the forthcoming July 2010 Cites & Insights (which, as of right now, seems likely to emerge on June 9 or June 10 and to be 40 pages long). The first such post appeared yesterday, and raised some troubling issues regarding the future of C&I (and of my involvement in the field).

To the extent that the second section of that post was a touch downbeat, I apologize–sort of. And I do apologize to the colleague with whom I had an email conversation (not sparked by the post), a conversation that revealed to me that I’ve been more demoralized by some events of this year than I’d realized. (Don’t worry: I won’t be wandering around DC being gloomy–I don’t do that at conferences. In fact, overall, I’m not gloomy…)

What Is Happening

The forthcoming issue has, I believe, some interesting stuff. The first piece starts a new project that might or might not continue; I think it’s interesting and maybe relevant to some libraries. The second piece–the big essay–is relevant to almost every librarian (in my opinion) and continues what I regard as strong Zeitgeist pieces (most of which could equally well be Making it Work pieces, this one less so).

The third piece is a traditional collection with a difference–it’s about products, but in most cases with brief (or not so brief) essays rather than pure descriptions. Then there’s a set of brief takes on old movies, always fun…or not. (This group includes three classics and three more that I thought were near-classics…indeed, this time I thought three-quarters of the flicks were worthwhile.)

And I close with an overdue PDF-only section of snark, only about half of it related to the wonderful world of high-end audio

But I thought I’d also talk about…

What’s Not Happening

There’s no Making it Work essay in this issue. I’m pretty sure there will be one in the August issue–there’s certainly plenty of source material, and I’ve started splitting into semi-manageable chunks. (How semi-manageable? 44 items in one big chunk, 25 in another, 26 in a third, and a bunch of smaller groups.)

There’s no Perspective as such–and in that case, I have a working “On” title that will almost certainly get written very soon (I would have written it for the July issue, but this issue was already overlength, and the particular topic can only benefit from a little more thinktime). For that matter, I could treat an MiW chunk as a Perspective…and quite easily come up with an all-Perspective issue.

By far the largest group of Delicious items relates to Google Book Search and the proposed settlement…but there’s no indication of when or whether a settlement will actually be approved, and I have no idea whether it will even make sense to dive back into that particular pool.

Blogging, copyright, writing, reading, social networks, ereaders, ebooks…lots of future topics with lots of worthwhile source material.

It’s clear to me that, if it makes sense to keep C&I going, having enough varied material and ideas won’t be a problem for years to come. Does it make sense to keep C&I going? That’s a tougher question…

What’s Also Not Happening

Beyond C&I–and at least one promising individual project that I won’t discuss until it’s final–there’s some potential research that isn’t happening. At least not yet.

  • I’m now fairly well convinced that it’s futile for me to spend time on library blogs, even though it would be fascinating to do a qualitative/quantitative study focusing on those library blogs that appear to be succeeding (based on comments or Google Page Rank). The field seems to have told me in no uncertain terms that my work in this area is simply not valued, so there’s little point in even considering additional bruises on my forehead.
  • Liblogs–blogs by library people–are another question. Not that But Still They Blog is setting any sales records (I do appreciate the purchase of PDF versions of both liblog books last Friday–thanks, whoever you are!)–it’s now up to 16 copies–but, well, this one still interests me. Maybe. I can think of two approaches for a future study, but in my saner moments I think that neither one may be worth pursuing. (One approach: An attempt to capture the entire field, but only at a gross level–that is, without individual commentaries or difficult metrics. The other, which may be complementary: A detailed analysis of a smaller group of blogs, focusing on those that can be said to be currently active.)
  • Anything else where my skills and tenacity might be worthwhile. It just doesn’t make sense to do this kind of stuff on speculation, based on results to date.

That’s it for now. Once again, I’d love to discuss possibilities with people or groups, before I admit that “semi-” in “semi-retired” has become a lie.

The Future of Cites & Insights

Monday, June 7th, 2010

That title can be read two ways. This post is about both of them.

Coming Soon

Cites & Insights 10:8, July 2010, will be out soon–some time later this week, Gaia willin’ and the creek don’t rise. It’s a varied issue, but also a big one, perfect for those long flights to & from DC. I’m not sure just how big, but 40 pages doesn’t seem improbable at this point. (I’m in the third-stage editing & copyfitting process; right now, it’s just over 42 pages.)

An earlier discussion involved the possibility of a special “summertime fun” issue combining two Offtopic Perspectives on old movies and the first installment of my new digital medium archaeology project–but after thinking about responses, I decided to integrate those into regular issues. If I’d done the special issue, the June 2010 issue would have been 26 or 28 pages long, the Summertime Fun issue would be out right about now and would be 16 or 22 pages long…and the July issue would come out after ALA and probably be 32 pages or longer.  The only downside of not doing the special issue: The July issue doesn’t have any true essay-style Perspectives, although several are coming in future issues.

The biggie for this issue: A new Zeitgeist essay, “One Facebook to Rule Them All?” That’s roughly half the issue. Unless things change, there are four other sections with a fair amount of variety in each one.

This is also the final issue of C&I sponsored by the Library Society of the World, and that only because I chose to count the “getting Walt to Washington” contributions as also being direct support for C&I. Which brings us to…

Future Sponsorship and Publication

As of next week, I have no sponsorship for Cites & Insights and only one very small source of any income related to writing, editing and librarianship.

The direct sponsorship course hasn’t worked out terribly well: Other than LSW’s special effort, total donations received to date are in the low three figures, with none of that coming in since that special effort began. This does not appear to be a plausible revenue source for the long term.

I could really use sponsorship–with or without paid ad columns or even full-page ads in the issues. Or even with sponsorship (and an ad) for Walt at Random included.

Without such sponsorship (or some part-time telecommuting situation that takes advantage of my skills and offers plausible rewards), it’s hard to justify attending ALA once or twice a year (and I’d really like to go to both 2011 conferences, for starters), since it would be pure out-of-pocket, not even deductible as a business expense (you really can’t deduct from nothing). Maybe we could afford it, but it’s hard to convince my wife–a reasonable and intelligent person–that it’s a good expenditure under the circumstances.

Without attending ALA at least once a year, it becomes more difficult to stay in touch and to justify to myself the time spent on Cites & Insights. Which gets tricky, because in many ways I’d prefer to keep doing what appears to be something unique and valuable within the field. It’s that “valuable” word that starts to get difficult: Valuable to whom? How does that value translate into, say, meals, clothes, utility bills and gasoline? (None of which are endangered, to be sure; we’re really talking about extras–wine, vacations, those fancy $6.31 lunches at Canton Villa…and going to ALA Annual and/or Midwinter.)

If C&I is no longer valuable, then I should give it up. If it is valuable…well, it sure would be nice to find some sponsorship.

(Yes, I’m considering alternative models along the “Freemium” lines. Honestly? I don’t see that working out very well. The four annual volumes of C&I are partly “Freemium” items, especially the PDF versions…and the total number of PDF versions sold to date has been zero.)

ALA Annual would be a great time to discuss possibilities with people. I’ll be there from Friday morning through Sunday evening. I think I have one related conversation scheduled, although “scheduled” overstates the fixity of the situation.

The email address is, as always, waltcrawford at gmail dot com.


Monday, June 7th, 2010

The June San Francisco Chronicle Magazine (the Chron only does its own glossy-magazine section once a month, a very sensible decision–the weekly book section and review/entertainment section are separate anyway) leads off with an editor’s column with the same title as this post.

It’s not all that long (465 words–shorter than this 558-word post); you can read the whole thing yourself, and look at the amusing picture. The theme: Meredith May (the writer) has been

getting into polite arguments with friends who have been posting pictures of me on Facebook and Flickr that I would never want you to see.

They’re not nude shots or anything like that–but they were “taken in private moments with friends before the world was wide and covered in a Web.” May doesn’t think it’s up to other people–even her friends–to decide which parts of her own history should be made public.

She notes a specific incident–she’s going to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to talk about her story on girl slavery in Nepal and, checking Facebook in the airport, finds that an old friend has psoted pictures of her drinking and posing at high school house parties…

May doesn’t quite understand people’s impulse to overshare their own stuff–“but over-sharing someone other than yourself without his or her permission is baffling.” And, indeed, since we learn that any candid shot is likely to turn up on the web, spontaneity could be suffering.

I have had parties at my house with a dozen of my lovely artist friends, and nine will bring a camera and start shooting. The whole reason for having your homies over for a party is that you can let down your hair and dance on the counter if you want to. But I’m more cautious now. The joie de vivre, the carpe diem, the being alive part of living – is tempered.

In our haste to document and share everything, are we losing what it means to live in the moment?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but this editorial certainly resonates with me. I’ll take it a step further: “Agreeing” that a picture can be posted isn’t always being entirely happy about it. Coercion is a strong word for the process that takes place, but it’s a form of social pressure–the desire not to be thought a complete killjoy.

There are pictures of me on the web (oddly enough, they show up in Google but not on Bing) that I could do without. One of them has a caption about what a good sport I was. “Good sport” in this case really means “didn’t feel he could avoid this without looking like a killjoy.”

I know that my own behavior at, say, conference receptions is now much more circumspect than it might have been in the past, that I’m much less willing to don silly hats or assume silly poses or hold up silly signs. A few years ago, I would have assumed that a few folks would have gotten little laughs out of the silliness as captured in photos. Now, I assume that the silly pictures will live forever on the web and in search-engine results–and while they can’t really do me any harm, I’d just as soon not, thank you.

So does this make me a killjoy? Maybe so. Such is life. Apparently I’m not the only one…

I’d rather have spam in my email than scam…

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

OK, so that’s a lame misquote of an Elton John song. But then, I never thought of Roy Rogers as a comic book character anyway, so…

Anyway: After 23 hours off the internet (one of those unusually social days), I open up gmail today to see a pitiful email “from” an old acquaintance (who I’ve never met in person, AFAIK). Here’s the text:


I am in a hurry writing you this mail. I traveled to UK wales for an urgent function and i got mugged at a gun point. It was a terrible experience. All cash and credit cards were stolen away from me. I reported to the police they asked me to wait for 2 weeks to carry out investigations. I am totally freaked out here.

Right now, my return flight leaves in couple of hours from now. I am only telling you this because i do not want you to panic at all. just keep it the way have told you till i return back home.

I am seriously having problems in settling my hotel bills and to get a taxi down to the airport. Just wondering if you could loan me $2000 to settle my bills and to get a taxi down to the airport. I promise to pay back when i return back home today.

Please you can help me send the money to my name and my present location because i am only left with my passport to pick up the money.

[Name Omitted]
[UK address omitted]

Do let me know if you will be going to the western union outlet right now to send the money to my name and my present location and please dont forget to get back to me with the transfer details which is the senders information and the MTCN number.

I await your urgent response.

Thanks Alot

The email address was that of “Name Omitted”–but it was a gmail address, and all my correspondence with this person has been at a .edu email address, so I was suspicious right off the bat.

Beyond that, what kept me from running out to my local Western Union outlet to wire that $2K to my dear friend? Let’s count a few of the ways:

  • He doesn’t address me by name.
  • The person who supposedly sent this is a careful, elegant writer would never in a million years forget how to capitalize or how to write complete sentences…so “wales” and “i got” and “at a gun point” and “stolen away” and “I reported to the police they asked me…” are each suspicious and cumulatively convincing: “My virtual acquaintance Name Omitted did not write this.”
  • It gets worse…the second sentence of the second paragraph is essentially incoherent and the fourth paragraph is no better.
  • I figure the chances of Name Omitted signing off with “Thanks Alot” and no name as being roughly equivalent to the chances of Google actually sending me $750,000 in a Gmail lottery. (Google has to line up behind the seven Nigerian princes whose wives I’m negotiating with on terms of their money-laundering schemes…)

Oh, and the fact that Name Omitted probably knows a few hundred people–people he deals with face-to-face–who he would contact before he’d contact me.

There’s one more: If this was even close to legitimate, No Name would have included a telephone number and a hotel name, thus giving me some plausible chance to confirm the situation.

It’s a shame that scams like this are spreading–which can only mean that they work once in a while. I suppose the semiliteracy of most scam artists helps.