Monday, January 30, 2012

Etymology of hamster and how misinformation propagates

Without getting into too many details I ended up reading a speech that was going to be given by a kid regarding hamsters. One little titbit of information that came out was that the word "hamster" derived from the German "hamstern" which means "to hoard".

Not something I knew and I was ready to add it to my mental database; first though the proof-checking. A quick visit to the Online Oxford Dictionary and their definition includes:

early 17th century: from German, from Old High German hamustro 'corn weevil'
Huh how odd if it was derived from "hamstern" I would expect to see that. Perhaps the German dictionary might offer something else? Nope just the same "hamustro".

Time for a Google search for "hamster hamstern" (no I didn't mean "hamster hamster") and a large number of pages all repeating that hamster derived from hamstern; except one. Much as I hate to have to link to such non-canonical sources this really was the best one. So from the Straight Dope forums and the user Holger:
Although my trusty Kluge etymological dictionary isn't quite explicit in the details, it indicates that the noun came first (describing the animal), and the verb "hamstern" (to hoard) was coined later, alluding to the hamster's behavior
Another quick check back to Duden and "hamstern" is noted as being "umgangssprachlich" or colloquia/everyday language.

In other words it came about the same way people can "squirrel something away" the naming word (noun) was used as an action word (verb) to describe someone/thing acting the same way. In the case of a hamster; its hoarding behaviour probably resulted in people being described as hamsters and thus their actions as the new word hamstern.

So use a dictionary and it'll give you hamustro; check various hamster sites (most likely a lot more popular with kids) and it'll give you hamstern. Which is more likely to continue to be spread about and quoted?

Building works

Little birds tweeting in my ear.

Firstly that planning should soon be submitted for the Basin Link on the old Lloyds Garage site - this would explain the surveyors who've been around last week. Said birdy also intimates that the old Hairdresser/current Stourport museum doesn't feature in said plans. As I believe this to be a listed structure that could be interesting. Likewise this seems to be a mixed-use development which suggests residential property sitting above the commercial property that was supposedly planned for this area; this hints that Engine Lane may stay as a vehicular access (unsurprisingly as it leads to various properties) with the pedestrian access we've been led to expect running alongside it.

Secondly little birdies bringing me rumours that with the closure of Tan Lane School behind the current Tesco - the superstore may choose to expand their current location rather than move into the Mitton Street site. After all the fuss and cost to get permission, plus work sunk into the site regarding the road alterations, and with a nagging memory that Cllr Oborski has already stated the site is earmarked for residential property I don't see it happening; but I thought it worth reporting.

On a final note I took a walk around the basin area and the new Tesco site for a closer look (photos to follow). What most caught my eye was the current barricades around the entrance to Severn Road on the bend in Mitton Street. The pavement has been closed off as there's a hole in it, but beyond that both it and the road surface has been laid and is perfectly safe to use (in my non-expert opinion). So why is it still shuttered away? No-one's working on that end of the road and beyond the one hole it all seems finished; removal of the barricades will re-widen that lane and ease the flow around this tight narrow corner. Methinks a chat with the Hub is in order.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Post SOPA and PIPA here comes ACTA

With the obvious threats to the internet SOPA and PIPA being shelved, the sneaky one that's being pushed by the WTO and has been already been agreed (but not ratified) by the EU is ACTA. That's the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

If we use the OED's definition of counterfeit we see

made in exact imitation of something valuable with the intention to deceive or defraud
a fraudulent imitation of something else

ACTA seems fair enough until as with SOPA and PIPA you start reading the actual text and you discover this isn't just about counterfeit goods it's about pirated goods too.

The WTO even acknowledges this on the lead page
ACTA aims to address this by establishing shared international standards on how countries should act against large-scale infringements of intellectual property rights
Except here's the thing - Counterfeiting is fraud; pirating isn't. In order to make a convincing counterfeit then intellectual property would need to be breached as I'd need to label the product with a brand name or logo etc.. However breaching intellectual property itself is not fraud.

So how does this apply to the internet? Well consider a counterfeit to be "an imitation". If I buy a song track from iTunes and then burn it to a CD for a friend is that CD counterfeit? It's not an imitation; I'm not pretending it's a product sold under licence; no fraud has been committed just a breach in copyright.

Again so what? Well ACTA states that the Parties (i.e. the states that sign up to this) shall
provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale

A law that is currently a civil matter will through EU legislation become a criminal matter and although there's the current limit imposed by "on a commercial scale" making a copy of a song (even for your own personal use) may become illegal if permission hasn't been granted by the Right Holder.

This takes copyright out of the civil courts. i.e. where the Right Holder accuses someone of copyright violations, and into the criminal courts where is is the state accusing someone of violating the Right Holder's copyright.

The state becomes the enforcers of the Right Holder's intellectual property

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CSA reforms

The latest wheeze from the government is to charge parents when they turn to the Child Support Agency and ask for it to do its job. In its current government (i.e. taxpayer) funded form it's is there to ensure

"that parents who live apart meet their financial responsibilities to their children by calculating and collecting child maintenance payments."
It seems the Conservatives wish to alter that to just calculating payments with collection becoming a paid-for service. If this went ahead how long would it be before the government pointed out that this 'service' already exists within the private sector in the form of debt collection agencies and therefore is unnecessary and should be removed? Have the calculation handed over to magistrates and they'd be no need for the CSA at all.

Sure collection agencies charge for doing the job, but getting a reduced percentage of a payment is better than not getting any payment at all isn't it? I mean what would the parent do with that money they should have had - spend it on the child it's supposed to be benefiting?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bias, timing, or simply better PR

On the 13th of January Tav over at the WFA published a list of what our County representatives had spent their £10k fund on to help benefit their division. Of the members listed only one, Councillor Clee, had yet to spend anything.

Imagine my surprise therefore when on the 17th the Shuttle decided to dedicate an entire article to all the charities that will "beneft" from his funding; just his funding and no-one else's. Checking the up-to-date register it seems Cllr Clee gave (in the order as presented by the Shuttle) to:

The Chaddesley Corbett Cricket Club on the 10th;

The 9th Kidderminster Scout Group on the 13th;
Night Stop Wyre Forest on the 5th; The Wyre Forest Sports Partnership on the 13th; and
The Wyre Forest Young Voices on the 13th.

Which is interesting as the article also list the Odell Centre; Rushock Village Hall and the Emily Jordan Foundation which aren't listed, but misses out the Wyre Forest Glades Leisure Centre on the 13th and Mentor Link on the 5th which are.

Now perhaps I just missed them, but I don't recall the articles published when Fran or John etc. handed out money from the fund; I also find it interesting that it is not mentioned even in passing that other councillors have these funds and have been using them.

Kingdoms of Amalur PS3 demo review

It amused me that on Monday I received an email from EA advertising their new game "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" given that I'd downloaded and played the demo over the weekend.

Initial thoughts - it's a tweaked version of Dragon Age. It's the same fantasy setting; the same style of graphics; the same third person viewpoint; there's the same inventory with the same radial wheel and the same stilted conversations. However there were some differences to be found.

The end to the office saga?

Huzzah the software has been installed shame it doesn't work correctly.

The good news is that numbers can now be dialled from the computer either from direct typing, Outlook contacts or from a webpage and the internal messaging system works.

The bad news is that it dialling from Outlook means the dialler won't hang up.

The bad news is that the webpage/Internet dialling only seems to be compatible with IE7 and only occasionally highlights numbers.

The bad news is that to inform the dialler which extension you're currently on means digging through the phone settings in Control Panel; fine for a fixed computer, not so good for a laptop that can be moved between offices.

The bad news is that the database isn't compatible with iCloud so all the entries have to be imported using a CSV.

The bad news is that the database only has two fields; so if you have a person's work number; home number and mobile number that means three separate entries.

As a bonus it seems that setting an extension to Do Not Disturb for external calls only (so it will only ring for internal calls) means it's impossible to transfer a call to that extension from another extension. The only way around that is to take them out of the incoming group altogether which is a system change.

So yeah working well.

Monday, January 23, 2012

An end to the office saga

As mentioned we were still waiting for the new routers to be installed along with the VPN. Well they didn't turn up when they said they would - they turned up early. In fact they turned up while the engineer was fitting the new switchboard.

"I didn't expect you until later" I said
"Well we thought we'd get it done now" came the reply.

That would be fine except they need to install a router at each end and there wasn't anyone available at the other because it wasn't scheduled for that day.

So one router was installed and the software to hook it to the computers was trial-run on one of our machines. It talked to the phone system without a problem, but it wasn't possible to use the Call Contact facility from within Outlook and our telephone database wasn't imported.

A reschedule and they visited the other site to install the router - no problem; but didn't install the software because it was password protected and they didn't bother to call to gain access.

More calls - we've not got the system fully working and we've had no training on what has been installed. In the meantime I dug about online and found the manual for the switchboard which included a lot of the things I needed to know.

We got the training except it was a little pointless as most of it would have been for the software that we still didn't have up and running.

Supposedly they're coming today to install and import, but I don't know at what time because no-one's said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Anyone using Wikipedia today will find themselves forwarded to a new page discussing USA legislation that "could fatally damage the free and open Internet".

What's going on? - They're worried about two pieces of legislation known as SOPA and PIPA.

SOPA? PIPA? - The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

Aren't there already anti-piracy laws in place? - Indeed there are.

So why the need for new ones? - Visit the Pirate Bay's legal threats page to see how many US companies threaten a Swedish company with US laws. They're pissed that they have no power over these sites so they've enlisted senators to draft legislation to target foreign sites rather than content.

What's the difference? - If a foreign video service hosted one video out of a million that was deemed to infringe US IP laws the entire site would be removed from US-hosted search engines and blocked by US internet service providers without the need to ever go to trial. [Update - the ISP blocking part has been dropped after it was pointed out that it wouldn't work. Neat trick can we try that tactic with the entirety of the legislation?]

Say what? - The owner of the site may be given a cease and desist order. Upon delivery of such an order rather than upon a verdict the site can then be blocked in the USA in the manner already described.

So the content can be deemed infringing and the entire site blocked without the owner having any opportunity to defend themselves? - Yes. To have the site unblocked it would be up to them to prove otherwise. Oh and of course this would have to be presented in front of a US court (which ironically leaves the owner liable to arrest for IP offences).

But if this only affects foreign sites why are Wikipedia etc. kicking up such a stink? - Because the legislation means that any US company advertising or linking to such a site may become liable themselves. Consider all the external Wikipedia links and Google AdWords that exist and then hold both Wikipedia and Google responsible or ensuring they don't link or appear to 'criminal' sites. There's also concern that this will begin to be applied to domestic sites.

But if this stops piracy isn't a good thing? - Well firstly it's a sledgehammer to crack an egg approach; it's also reminiscent of the Great Firewall of China that prevents citizens from seeing sites deemed 'undesirable' and finally it's unlikely to work as anyone who has tried to remove content from the Internet soon discovers.

If I don't like this what can I do? - If you're a US citizen contact your representatives in the House and Senate and complain. If you're a foreign citizen cross your fingers or write a blog entry in the hopes that US citizens might read it and act. [or visit Stop American Censorship and help point out the hypocrisy of the US State Department condemning internet censorship in other countries but not its own]

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Big Questions - Evidence for God

Sadly I only caught the last half-hour of Sunday's "The Big Question" which had atheists and theists discussing the evidence for God. Sad to say most of it was the same back and forth that occurs on any internet forum dealing with the subject though slightly more polite and with the ability to interrupt others, something I noted the theists doing to the atheists more than the other way around.

Important point - I'm not talking about or for all theists or atheists only the ones on this programme and ones I've encountered. Likewise as the programme was about God with the capital I'll also refer to 'it' as capital "H" He.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Waterstone's or Waterstones?

According to BBC Breakfast this morning Waterstone's is planning on dropping its apostrophe. With this in mind they sent a reporter out to discover if people really knew what this meant and illustrated it with a board stating

Breakfast at its best
Breakfast at it's best
and asking which was correct. Quite amusing really as this isn't quite the issue at hand. As the gentleman from the English Spelling Society pointed out the first sentence is the correct one, although there was a little mumbling when he mentioned the apostrophe and being possessive.

So where's the problem with using those sentences as a demonstration regarding the Waterstone's/Waterstones story? Well in the case of "Breakfast at it's best" the apostrophe is used to indicate a contraction, the omission of the letter "i", for Waterstone's the apostrophe indicates a possession "The store belonging to Waterhouse is Waterstone's store". But who cares and why bother? Allow me to demonstrate.

Consider getting breakfast for a dog that would be "The dog's breakfast" so far so simple, but what if there's more than one dog? That would be breakfast for the dogs and thus "The dogs' breakfast". The confusion lies in that speaking either sentence yields identical results.

If the apostrophe is dropped there is no indication of whether it is a singular or plural and the full meaning of the store's name is lost "Waterstone's book store".

It's not difficult -

Are you omitting a letter? - Use an apostrophe to indicate that letter.
Are you indicating that something belongs to something/one? - Use an apostrophe.
Otherwise - Don't use an apostrophe.

If in doubt consider the sentence without omissions or replace the possessive with his/her/its to see if it still makes sense.

"Breakfast at it's best" becomes "Breakfast at it is best - incorrect.
"Dog's breakfast" becomes "His/Her/Its breakfast" - correct.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Small world for tourists

Just talking to Orange Customer Support about a simple matter and post-detail giving I received the unusual response of:
"Oh Stourport. I used to go on the little boats with my father"
Turns out his family used to visit when he was young and has often thought of bringing his family down during the summer; so we spent a few minutes discussing the attractions on the riverside etc.

Feels weird to consider someone coming down from Newcastle as a tourist just to visit our town; which in itself is odd given the Brummie Invasion we all have to put up with :-P

Watching those prices

I've mentioned in the past those delightful 'buy two singles for less than the price of a double' offers that supermarkets put up and the wonders of increasing a price from say £1 to £2 for a few weeks and then advertising a 25% reduction to 'only' £1.50, but at least what the ticket says is the price you can expect to pay.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Android printing on Canon

A need arose to print some photos from an Android phone; as we have a network printer this should just be the case of providing them with access to the network (all the PCs require user credentials to access so no overt security concern), locate the printer, and then print. Should be much easier than an iPhone - hah.

It couldn't locate the printer on a scan; it couldn't locate it when I entered the IP address. A check on Canon's site informed me of the Canon Easyprint Android App. One download later and... it still can't find the printer. Further checks show others having exactly the same problem with this particular model (an MX850).

Of course I wouldn't have downloaded it in the first place if they'd provided a list of compatible printers but Canon don't seem to grasp the connect there as I've encountered the same problem when they happily explained how AirPrint worked with "AirPrint-enabled printer[s]" without bothering to link to any such printer.

Seriously here's the thought - having explained a feature maybe, just maybe, I'd be interested in purchasing one of your products that possesses it and would thus like to see my options to do so.

Addendum - before anyone asks no I couldn't locate a USB micro lead to plug it in directly and when examining the Canon products AirPrint or Easyprint compatible aren't filterable options.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Pre-owned or new games?

Saw a couple of games in Smyths going cheap that I fancied; cheaper even than online. Due to the extras that would come with them I checked they were new rather than pre-owned, or as Smyths puts it 'pre-played' and took them to the counter. One came back shrink-wrapped the other with the security seal on it.

Yeah to start, with non-shrink-wrapped games you should give the customer the opportunity to examine the disc before it gets sealed up. I opened up the box and checked the disc and the manual - both were fine.

I got home opened up the shrink-wrapped game and tapped in the code for the extras and to activate the free-multiplayer access. Confirmed and downloaded.

Tapped in the code from the security sealed game and it was rejected. I tried again; rejected. I drove back to Smyths and they found another. I drove back home; tapped it in - rejected. By this time it was getting late so I thought to deal with it in the morning.

Morning came and I thought I'd give Sony Playstation a quick call just to make sure these codes hadn't been removed given that they were supposed to remain valid until 2016. I mean one is a mistake; two is downright odd. The call connected quite quickly and the guy I spoke to stated he himself had bought this game recently and had had no problem.

"Silly question can you check to see if a code's already been used?" I asked
"Yeah sure what's the code?"

I recited it and the reply "That was activated last year" came back.

Another trip to Smyths and another code; they only had two in the pack set aside for this game and when I asked to see the one they hadn't given me would you look at that it was the one I'd returned the day before.

Fortunately third time was the charm and this code worked; however if you're looking to buy a new copy of FEAR3 (F3AR) from Smyths check the code you've been given if it starts 98FM or E244 they might be the ones that have already been used.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The ongoing planning debacle

A twofer this week.

The Wyre Forest Crematorium built adjacent to the Firs Industrial Estate on Minster Road apparently needs a roundabout. As I say there, given the level of planning needed by stores when they abut onto major highways why didn't this come to light at the initial application in 2008? Perhaps alternatives may have been available prior to building a slip road that is only really accessible from one direction.

And the second is our old friend the Gypsy/Traveller/Travelling Showpeople (GTTS) in which we learn that district officers are planning on recommended another four sites to the 7-strong shortlist that itself will have four sites removed from it at the non-declared meeting that is allegedly being held on the 16th.

Amazingly enough the three remaining Stourport sites will be joined by four more Stourport sites with the result that six of them will now be in the one locality. But hey at least we the public have had a say in the matter and the fact that not as many people complained about the Sandy Lane sites compared to the other sites obviously means that the 'public' are in favour of this.

I mean ignore the fact that the majority of the site is industrial and therefore did not receive any notices about this or get the Shuttle delivered to them; that the industrial sites although large are relatively low in numbers compared to residential areas; that the majority of actual residents are GTTS already; and that even when the majority of their own experts recommend refusal the council still hands out permission. Then yes ignoring all that the results are clear that everyone wants them to be located on this site.

Oh and of course as these additional sites were asked for by residents I guess there's no need to put them out for public consultation as the 'public' have already spoken.

[Update - according to Fran there will be another "period of consultation". Yay another waste of our money given that these sites should have been on the original Baker's Associate report given that they were recommended by residents and that's a group they should have spoken to]

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Once again checking prices

Misfits series 3 will be released on Blu-ray on January 12 and Amazon are selling it at £15.93. But wait I could buy all three series for £33.69 or all three individually. Hmmm?

Series 1 £8.99
Series 2 £8.99
Series 3 £15.93
Total £33.91

Series 1 & 2 £12.49
Series 3 £15.93
Total £28.42

Series 1-3 £33.69

So it's only slightly cheaper to buy the pack than to buy them singularly; but it's even cheaper to buy the first pack and the last series by itself. How does this make any sense?

The Fades review

First off Happy Arbitrary Point in Time, wasn't there so much good stuff to watch on TV over the holiday period. Well no not really at least from my point of view; still it meant being able to catch up some of the TV series I'd recorded earlier and free up some space on my hard drive.

And so I watched The Fades, that's the TV series and not the rock band, which was broadcast last September/October on BBC3 and was therefore probably watched by about three people. Long story short it wasn't bad, but then again wasn't really that good.

Sadly using what is becoming the standard plot line for children/teens in that an oddball discovers he's odd for a reason coupled with the Harry Potter/Marty Stu Deus ex Machina of having just the right powers to solve the problem of the episode. The main character is slightly too much of a whiner while having very little to actually whine about to make them likeable; with his friend (played by Daniel Kaluuya) being much better realised as a character.

To me a large amount of the flaws stem from trying to cram everything into just six episodes but in such a haphazard manner that while at times things were left unexplained at others the characters casually dropped terms that had never been used before without anyone else batting an eyelid. There was some attempt at characterisation, but in such a forced manner as to make it unpalatable.

Barely a story, hardly a horror and leaving both plotholes and loose threads hanging as large as some they ironically point out exist in movies; extended this could have been pretty good. As is it's as if someone doused a hors d'oeuvre with eighteen different herbs and spices - you can't tell what it's supposed to be and it's simply too much.