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Registering a complaint about the clever cookie

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I've had a chat with the boys who set up the site featured in last weeks column (www.designforhomes.org) and one of the things I think we agreed about was that we'll have a look at it again and that putting people through the laborious process of registering is an unnecessary pain. In my experience websites ask you to register for three reasons. One is that they are banks and worry a little about security. Another is that they want to bombard you with e-mail ads, special offers and requests for your credit card number. The other is that they are run by pompous, self-regarding gits.

Chastened by encomiums from Tim Gough of Austin Winkley on the RIBA directory website, I tried it out again.

There are two Austin pages, with his practice as the last entry on the first page. Clicking on 'next', to go to page two, I got the following three lines:

Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error 80040e14' [Microsoft][ODBC SQL Server Driver] Syntax error violation or access error /ribafind/results.asp, line 366

Now I couldn't have made that up if I tried, could I?

However, the kindly Jonathan Potter of Glasgow architect Robert Potter & Partners e-mailed to say he had had the same problem: 'Our practice seemed too low down the listings alphabetically to appear. RIBA's website consultant replied, saying cookies need to be activated. . . .You may well wonder why the RIBA needs to write a cookie. . . . . the site could at least give a clear message saying 'switch on cookies'' Exactly.

My comments about registration apply here too, especially the git bit.

If you think cookies are the nice friendly things certain websites say they are, I suggest you think again. If you haven't got your cookie alarm on or the no-cookies box ticked, cookies can download and insert themselves on your hard disk without you knowing.

The bad news is that so can any old file, especially the current rash of all-but invisible web bugs and other spyware.

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