Monday, July 30, 2012

A lovely Sunday lunch at The Ship Inn at Tenbury

Celebrating a birthday with a Sunday Dinner, in this instance at Tenbury and the celebrant's local - The Ship Inn.

Stepped out to lashing rain, sloshing the car carefully through the puddles that seem to instantly form at the sides of the road up to Tenbury which had had no rain at all. Managed to park in the main street, which had a few spaces free and joined half the group at the inn. with the rest turning up just after.

Olympic technological bungle

I mentioned the poor relay of information that was coming from the cycling well it turns out they have an excuse - bottleneck of the information flow. Uh-huh.

It seems that no-one on the tech side of things considered that a free unticketed event might attract a few people who, oddly enough, might be busy sucking down the bandwidth posting twitter and facebook updates alongside photos taken.

As a result data from the cyclists GPS units that would tell everyone where they were wasn't able to get through. So in the spirit of inclusion that exemplify the London Olympics rather than sort it out spectators have been asked to shut the hell up instead.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic cycling

Just watching the cycling. What the hell is going on? We seem to have two groups, but they keep switching between the two with little comment. The commentators themselves have stated they're getting no information about the race order.

Oh and the "Peloton" is coming up, what the hell is that?

How much of a bungle is this? We see an "attack" by one of the cyclists and the commentators state "we don't know which group he was in".

Total shambles from those in charge of providing the coverage.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic opening ceremony

Watching at the moment. I can see why Danny didn't want any commentary. What a load of twaddle and inanity coming from all three of them! Really spoiling it. Okay did need a little in place of a program of events, but still really bad.

Ceremony better than I expected though. Really liked the rings, Churchill statue during Bond sketch was well cheesy though. Did laugh at Rowen Atkinson.

By the way why are the announcements being made in French first? [Update - because apparently it's traditional; something the commentators who were being paid to inform us failed to inform us about despite whittering on about things we could quite clearly see]

Typing this while the countries do their walk, commentators wibbling on. "I don't want to spoil the surprise but those copper kettles will play a part later" so you've just spoiled the surprise you twonk.

Well someone in the back office has earned their keep in the "locate some facts about every country" department.

Okay more commentary from Trevor Nelson seriously I'm just holding my head in my hands every time I hear him trying to interject some fact.

[Update - Oh yeah]

Some women kisses some man; not her boyfriend

[From the news studio]

Tom: Breaking news some women in Los Angeles has been caught kissing some man; who isn't her boyfriend! Why are we even bothering to cover this Tom?
Tom: Well Tom turns out that all involved are famous so we'll turn to Tom who is live with a fan. Tom.

Tom: Thanks Tom I'm here with a fan of the celebrities in question, how do you feel?
Fan: I can't believe that Bella would do this to Edward after all the things they've been through together.
Tom: I thought their names were Kristen and Robert?
Fan: Huh?
Tom: Back to Tom in the studio.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Aurora Shootings - media aftermath

How to write about this without seeming callous or wading into melodrama? I could just not mention it at all, but I still think it important to point out the reactions the media has to such events.

Callous-time - with a world population of 7,000,000,000 at some point someone is going to freak out and start shooting. It probably happens more than we know occurring in places without easy access to media and without the media's thrill [shudder] of either the victims being young or tangentially attached to celebrity.

In 2009 I wrote a piece on Charlies Brooker's Newswipe that dealt with a school shooting and what the media shouldn't be doing. Have they learned? Of course not. Once again we can go through the list item by item and tie them exactly to the coverage.

Then it's time for the blame game. In order to play you must study the life of the perpetrator and locate some activity they've performed that you (and more importantly your target audience) dislike or disapprove of then focus intently on that as being the cause of the shooting. Don't like violent films - go for the film connection; violent games - I bet he played them. Was he religious? If he wasn't or it was some minor sect closer examination is needed; if he was a prominent member of a major sect - shush that's obviously got nothing to do with it.

Hell if you're a serious conspiracy liberal-hater you could probably pin it on him going to university (who knows what sort of rubbish they filled his head with). On the other side of the fence? Blame gun-culture.

When playing the blame game it's important that at all times you ignore the many, many other people who perform that activity and don't shoot people. Simply stating that he was disturbed that it may have been any number of factors which set him off doesn't make for a nice simple story to feed the masses.

In the meantime flash his picture up; shout his name and make him famous; because in these 'I wannabe famous times' that's going to have no effect on anyone is it?

NB I have deliberately not linked to news stories. I have deliberately not mentioned his name; nor the film's No photos; no detailed biography. Because he doesn't deserve it. Put him on trial find him guilty, (if the evidence supports that verdict) and lock him up. Don't hype him.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The start of the Olympics

And we're off with the first events of the Olympics, which must come as a surprise to Londoners who thought it started on Friday with the Opening Ceremony.

With yet another jab at the joke that the prelude to the Olympics have become the first events will be played later today before the official opening of the event.

But then again it is Women's Football and being held in Cardiff; so it doesn't really count does it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yet another reason to be ticked off at Apple

So Apple not only require we use their software and keep it up-to-date even if we're not using it with the forthcoming release of the iPhone 5 it seems we have to contend with yet another propriety bit of kit.

Not only is it using the new nano-SIM, only just ratified after the non-Apple contenders offered a compromise, but the connector will switch from the 30-pin used in four iterations of iPhone to a new 19-pin connector.

Bought a new cable? A dock? An in-car charger? Your own portable DJ system? Sorry you'd better hope someone brings out an adaptor.

It's all a little odd considering that the European Commission themselves have asked mobile providers to standardise with the micro-USB format using guidelines that will allow any charger to be used with any mobile phone... I guess Apple didn't get the memo?

Cash Payments "immoral"

So says an MP who can't understand why anyone would want to pay 'cash in hand'; without a receipt how can anyone claim the money back of the taxpayer as necessary expenses?

Of course a Treasury spokesperson had to jump in quickly and state that the Minister wasn't stating that people shouldn't pay cash per se; but should not do so in a way that didn't allow the government to take its fair share.

It is estimated that £2bn a year is lost in this way. Gosh you mean a whole quarter of that which HMRC allegedly wrote off for Vodafone or only double that which the 50p income tax rate would have brought in.

Target the millions who avoid a few hundred quid rather than the few hundred who avoid millions.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Just make the cheque out to...

Anyone recall the The New Statesman episode where Alan B'stard talks about his new charity "Central Amazon Spiritual Healers" with all donations being made out to CASH for short.

This morning on the BBC Breakfast the old cycle of "too much/not enough salt in out diet is killing us" featured a spokeswomen from the "Consensus Action on Salt and Health". No really, even their website happily displays the acronym for all to see.

Really folks are you sure someone at the naming meeting wasn't just having a bit of fun and had to quickly pretend they meant it when the others took them seriously. I mean it is rather horribly contrived; I mean I understand why you wouldn't want CSH and ASH is taken but why not Consensus Action on Salt Intake or Helpful Advice on Salt and Health both pot and twitter friendly.

Pedestrian crossing causes stopped traffic

We all knew it was going to happen. Well I say "all" obviously not for the engineers who fitted the pedestrian lights to the junction of Mitton Street and Vale Road; just the people whose opinion doesn't matter - the people who use that road.

Someone decided to cross the road at this junction and quite correctly used the pedestrian crossing provided for that very function - it stopped all the traffic in Mitton Street.

'But isn't that the purpose of a set of lights?' I hear you ask. Well yes but Mitton Street is a one-way street with two lanes. The right turns at a 90° to the right into Vale Road, the left does the same but to the left into York Street. Only passage to the right can be blocked.

So why did the left-hand lane traffic stop too? Because of the placement of the lights. Due to the sharp bends and narrowness of the road the right-hand lights need to be placed so that they are viewable to oncoming traffic from a distance down the road that means the one pole has been set-up to be almost directly in the middle of the splitting triangle that directs traffic left and right.

Traffic approaching in either lane sees only one traffic light in front of them and instinctively obey it when red. The joke is that the engineers have switched the green light for one of the permitted variants with an arrow pointing to the right; except that's not needed as there is no point at which traffic may move to the right when it can't to the left. However as there is no permitted alteration of the red indicator it's simply a solid red and appears to block off both lanes to those who don't spot that there is no supporting signal post on the other side of the left-hand lane.

As a vehicular user we're trained to obey the light signals and when red we stop unless there is a clear indication (such as a filter arrow) that we can proceed. No such indication exists here it's merely a lack of signals.

Oh joys and the supermarket for which all these have been created isn't even being built yet.

Friday, July 20, 2012

More from our Olympic overlords

Where are we up to so far? Military bases established in residential areas (odd that when our enemies do that we deplore their actions) without judicial oversight. Sponsor's rights of display trumping people's rights over what they can wear regardless of Article 11 of the European Charter regarding freedom of expression. Contractors on the arenas being unable to mention they worked on them; now overturned with a shortened delay. Oh and workers for said contractors being initially unable to purchase food from any other than the official sponsors, now relaxed specifically for them. Particularly bagels.

Now we have the British Transport Police rounding up ex-graffiti artists and allegedly questioning them with regard to offences that occurred 20 years ago. What's this got to do with the Olympics? Well they've been bailed under the terms that they a) can't use any form of railway within London; b) can't carry spray cans at any time and, most telling of all c) travel within a mile of any Olympic area. (Unless that latter has become part of standard bail terms and I wouldn't be surprised if they were)

Beyond placing a large chunk of London out of their reach it's worth pointing out that at least one makes a living from making graffiti art for top companies such as Adidas, um you know one of the Olympic sponsors, and as such the bail conditions appear to prevent him from working. I do hope they weren't planning to commission him for a work celebrating the Olympics.

Let's add in that the pre-emptive arrests that occurred prior to the Kate and Wills wedding have been deemed justifiable and it appears we're the subject of Operation Purge. Remove anyone or anything that could possibly (or just maybe) tarnish the Olympics and us in the eyes of the world; and banish them far away until everything's over.

No doubt that the actual hearings won't be held until after the end of the Olympics and it's a good bet all charges will be dropped

Anyway how long until the police are knocking on Boris' door; surely he's the biggest embarrassment still on offer?

Ian Tomlinson verdict - WTF

So we know the police were involved and we know that no charges were going to be made before they changed their mind after the verdict that he was "unlawfully killed" and now finally the completely expected verdict of not guilty of manslaughter.

To remind manslaughter (involuntary) is where death is caused without intention through either recklessness or criminal negligence. By returning a not guilty verdict the officer has been vindicated that it was perfectly legal to hit Mr Tomlinson with a baton using "excessive and unreasonable force" and was the correct course of action to take in the circumstances despite the officer himself confessing that it was "wrong" to have hit and pushed him.

So with that verdict and a court giving up all rights to constrain the military let's see how many people get legally beaten to death or shot during the Olympics.

Milk production

It's an obvious concern for farmers who have seen the price they receive drop in order to allow supermarkets to keep fooling customers that they're the cheapest, but I'd like to add another concern to the mix:

Is "Britton" a company I don't know about? Someone's gone to the trouble of having this poster printed which obviously wasn't done on a standard printer and no-one throughout the process stopped to point out that's not how you spell Britain.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Olympic failures

Rehearsals for the Olympic opening ceremony are underway and the news services inform us that it's overrunning and thus needs to be cut by around half-an-hour; but why?

Well it's obvious it's to ensure that visitors will be able to catch the last buses and trains. So beyond the fact we've had people looking forward to participating, practising, and proudly informing their friends about their participation suddenly removed the larger question is - really?

We can commandeer blocks of flats without consultation and reserve lanes of the nation's capital, but we can't get the buses and trains to run through the night and morning? Oh wait sorry that is with them running late.

So beyond once again highlighting the abysmal nature of the night service of public transport in this country; no-one thought to run a rehearsal before determining how long it will run and how long to keep the extra staff on for? Eight days to go before an event that will be viewed by billions and they're just doing the rehearsal's now? [Oh hell the camera crew covering it were only appointed this June- gods we suck at this]

Oh and of course this only applies to London's transport network. If you just came down to see the opening and want to get back home outside of London you're as stuffed as you always were.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All hail our new Olympic overlords

It's all been fun news for the Olympics. We've had builders stopped from buying chips from anywhere except the official sponsor; until a specific exemption was worked out. Areas around the venues will suddenly find themselves restricted as to what and how they can advertise themselves.

Lanes in London have been closed off to the public by Temporary Traffic Regulation Orders which are supposedly enforced by the police except they don't hand out fines which themselves have been bumped up from level 3 (as mandated by the Road Traffic Offenders Act Sch 2) to level 5 via it's own special London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 s15.

Missile sites have been located on rooftops and legal challenges shot down (oh sorry) on the grounds of "national security".

In the same vein security will be enforcing restrictions even more draconian than those required to board a aeroplane including prohibition of "political" clothing or wearing overt commercial identification; presumably it's okay if it's a logo of a sponsor.

Anything more oh yeah the BBC has had it's dramatisation about the London riots mysteriously pulled by a court on the orders of... oh wait we're not allowed to know. Gee no idea why that would be.

And finally we have to love the careful tip-toeing of the investigation into security staffing in which both groups (not naming names) seem to have an implicit agreement not to drop each other in it.

All hail the Olympics; a catch-all terms that's allowed our government to impose the sort of rule beyond even shouting "terrorism" at the public.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Orange Weather on Android

One of the neater little widgets that came pre-installed on my Orange phone was their own weather. At least it would be if it worked correctly.

As I have a limited data package by default I have data transfer switched off and rely on Wi-Fi. This shouldn't be a problem, but whenever I switch signals and check the weather it states

For the first use please deactivate the Wi-Fi function and insure [sic] you are connected on the 3G/Edge Orange network
Except it's not the first use and I don't get 3G/Edge at home which is why I use a Wi-Fi connection. Seriously why the hell does it need to use the Orange signal to get data from AccuWeather every single time the service drops. I can't even refresh it because of the same message.

I could switch to the Met Office widget but it's a 4x1 or a 4x2 rather than a more stylish 2x2 and has forecast update problems.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quantum Conundrum Demo PS3 review

Possibly due to the delightful weather I found myself with some spare time and wanting to step away from the wacky world of Skyrim for a moment I downloaded the Quantum Conundrum Demo at about 1.6Gb.

The premise from the trial (as it calls itself) is brief. You're in a house for no apparent reason that belongs to the disembodied voice of a professor who instructs you how to progress through his rooms. To do so you are required to manipulate dimensions which affect the properties of objects scattered about.

The Fluffy dimension makes things lighter, the Heavy dimension makes things heavier and the Slow-Mo Dimension well slows things down.

Charging a PS3 controller with a mains wall charger

My new phone charges via USB so I gained a generic wall plug charger that accepts a standard A-type USB plug. Huzzah not only can I charge my phone, but also my wireless headset and my PS3 controller without having to leave the PS3 on.

Yeah of course that didn't work.

It charges the phone of course, and my Sony PS3 wireless headset; what it won't charge is the controller. Nothing wrong with the cable, nothing wrong with the controller. Looking around the 'net others have posed the same question and the consensus answer is surprisingly moronic (on Sony's part).

A USB cable has four internal wires - the outer two for power, the inner two for data. My wall socket charger only uses the outer two wires as it has no requirement to share data with my electrical wiring; and I'd be a little Skynet level of worried if it did. This is fine for my phone and headset, but it seems Sony's controllers won't accept a charge unless it can also accept a handshake/connection on the data lines.

Any reason why? Hmm beyond being able to sell special charging stations I can't think of any, but I guess that's enough.

So when it comes to charging it's all Animal Farm - 4 connectors good, 2 connectors bad.

PS3 games - Disparity between age certification and Parental level

Given the Battlefield Bad Company 2 kerfuffle, in that a game is being sold at an age level of 16 yet had an internal restriction of 18, I thought to check through all my games to see if there are any more out there.

I'm using Sony's own guidelines on European age certification and how they match up to Sony's own parental restriction level. Now there are gaps for example a 12-age is matched to a 5-level, but a 16-age to a 7-level. So what's a 15-age? Logically I have to add it as a 6-level; there's also no PG-age rating shown so I'll match it to around the 3 or 4-level mark 5-level at a push. So how do they match-up?
The good news is that every single 18-age game I own has the correct 9-level rating. Likewise every
3, 7, and 12 age game I own. PGs and U-certificated games don't have an exact match, but again they're close enough by my standards.

The problem comes with the 15 and 16 age certificated games.

[Update - as per the comment I'll also show the US ESRB rating along with the level that should make it]

Firstly the ones who get it right:

Assassin's Creed 2; age 15; level 7 [Mature 9]
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood; age 15; level 7 [Mature 9]
Batman Arkham Asylum; age 15; level 7 [Teen 5]
Batman Arkham City; age 15; level 7 [Teen 5]
Dungeon Siege 3; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Enslaved; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Heavenly Sword; age 15; level 7 [Teen 5]
Infamous; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Infamous 2; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Mercenaries 2; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Mirror's Edge; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Oblivion; age 15; level 7 [Mature 9]
Overlord; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Overlord 2; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
Prince of Persia Trilogy; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5 & Mature 9]
Red Faction: Guerrilla; age 16; level 7 [Mature 9]
Sacred 2; age 16; level 7 [Mature 9]
Star Wars 2: Force Unleashed; age 16; level 7 [Teen 5]
The Orange Box; age 15; level 7 [Mature 9]

Well done to all of you. Now the ones who get it wrong:

Alice: Madness Returns; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Assassin's Creed; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Assassin's Creed: Revelations; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Brutal Legend; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Call of Duty World at War; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Darksiders; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Deus Ex: Human Revolution; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Kingdoms of Amalur; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Mass Effect 2; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Rage; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Resistance: Fall of Man; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Silent Hill HD Collection; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]
Skyrim; age 15; level 9 [Mature 9]

[So although all the incorrect ones would be correct in the US some of the correct wrongs would be incorrect; so it can't be used as an absolute guide]

As can be seen both the Assassin's Creed and Elder Scrolls series change despite the fact their age rating doesn't. Also on the odd note they're all 15s which doesn't have an exact match with Sony documentation, did the publishers just guess or default to level 9? I decided to do a little test. As these were all PAL European releases what are the age-certification for their German counterparts.

To pick a couple Infamous is listed as an 18; so does the German Infamous share our level 7 or has it been corrected for them to level 9? On the other hand Assassin's Creed is close to our 15 with 16; so again is theirs incorrectly posted to level 9? 16 is an age match for Sony so if it's some automated software matching age to restriction I'd guess the German version of Assassin's Creed should be a 7, if there is anyone who knows someone with the German version I'd be very interested to find out.

It may seem pointless, but in essence these games are being mis-sold in the UK. They are clearly stating they are for those of age 15, or 16 and above yet internally restricted to age 18. Sure they can still be played, but only after the input of a parental code.

For comparison imagine buying a universal remote control that states it will work with your TV, but you discover that you need to use the original remote in conjunction with it for the first time every time you turn the TV on. How irritated would you be?

It's the same with these games. The companies have got it wrong, need to be told, and need to do something about it. So why aren't they? Why when I do a search do I not find a horde of 15,16, or 17 year-olds complaining about having to have their parents tap in a code to play a game that they are legally able to play?

Because no-one uses the parental control systems?

Battlefield Bad Company 2: Sony PS3 Parental Restrictions.

Bratus Major bought "Battlefield Bad Company 2" recently to go with his new Playstation 3. No problem with buying it as it is quite clearly a 16 certificated game. Problem when he sticks the disc in as it prompts him for the parental control PIN code.

How odd as this is, to state again, a 16 game and his restriction level is 7 which according to Sony's own documentation is the correct level for that age; why would it be having problems?

Because the disc is set to a restriction level of 9 (i.e. 18-age). Why is this the case - contact EA and boy do you get the runaround.

Firstly they knew nothing about it. Then it was because he was trying to play it online and you have to be 18 or over to play online due to EU directives except a) that's crap* b) there's a single player game aspect to it and c) it asks when you stick the disc in regardless of whether you're even connected to the internet.

Next they said that level 7 was for 13 year-olds and that the restriction level should be bumped up to 9 I pointed them to Sony's own documentation and asked them what would the purpose of parental restrictions be if we just set the level to the equivalent of 18 for a 16 year-old?

Finally they insinuated that it couldn't be a UK bought game and thus required proof in the form of photos of the box and disc.

Well proof has been emailed to them and they say they'll respond within 2 weeks; let's see what excuses they try to pull this time.

*So all those Little Big Planet players and PS Home users are doing so illegally?

Update here.

List of other titles that also get this wrong here.

Pointless letters from the Royal Mail

"Important Information about your Royal Mail services" the letter starts, except they're not really my services anymore are they, they're your services. Apparently they're modernising the way they operate and this may result in a few changes to the service.

They'll continue to deliver in the morning and for a longer period during the day and many customers will still continue to get their mail by lunchtime, which is a little vague. timing will depend on where you are in the route and will vary depending on mail volume.

Uh-huh in other words you've paid to have a letter printed to everyone to tell us that our post  may be later or earlier than a time we already don't have scheduled.

Okay I'm sure there are some who'd be looking at the time and thinking "The post is a little late" and noting that it seems to be always late now, but given we've slowly become habituated into the post arriving when it arrives wouldn't it have been cheaper just to let those phone in to complain and explain? Sure it's pre-emptive and darned polite of you to tell me, but I have to wonder at the cost to do this compared to the minor inconvenience of dealing with the few people who are likely to notice?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The strange case of the miltary installation in the residential area

As some may know as part of the security precautions for the Olympic games the MOD has decided to site missile batteries on tower blocks; for some strange reason the residents of said blocks weren't entirely happy and took them to caught court.

The resulting judgement is slightly surreal and can be read in full here.

The highlights are as follows:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

House of Lords reform

For me this is one of those "Ow my brain hurts" type of dichotomies. Having an unelected group being able to alter or block legislation passed in this country is highly undemocratic (i.e. non people-rule) and therefore it should be removed, but should it be replaced?

As it stands the current House of Lords is supposed to act as a buffer against a totalitarian government; a Party in power with enough of a majority could in theory pass any legislation it wants to including (in theory) a Bill disbanding all other Parties and rescinding voting privileges. So as a check and balance a second House is required , the Founding Fathers of the newly independent America realised that so why not emulate that?

Gmail primary addresses and alternates

What a pain in the arse Gmail can be. With my new Android phone I thought it logical to set it up to use my Google account; and hey it would make sense to use the googlemail address I've got too. However I'm still using my old orange account, but at least I can set up Gmail to fetch that email so I just use the one. Hah!

Gmail doesn't pick up all the email from the other account so I still have to log in to it; which makes using Gmail pointless; however I still need it to sync my contacts.

So far so what? Well having started using Gmail it now makes that's my "primary email address" so now when I make a comment on a blog that I'm signed into using Google that's the one I'm using to subscribe to it. Except I'm not monitoring that account for emails now.

Can you change the primary address - not without deleting Gmail. Can I change it so it sends to the original alternate address - no.

So now I've reversed the Gmail fetch to push and have to forward emails sent to it to my original account just so I can see them without having to monitor two accounts.

What's so pathetic about this is that a) it used to be possible to change the primary email address and b) the number of people on the Google forums asking how it can be changed.

This is obviously something that people want and Google have taken it away and refused to return it - talk about do no evil.

A4025 resurfacing

This has kind of been a balls-up from the start. The newspaper declaration said there was an "anticipation" that it would be closed for "5 days within a 5 week period commencing 1 July 2012", but the signs stated it would be closed overnight between the 9th and the 15th; which then changed to between the 10th and the 13th.

Lo and behold work was done last night. Well I say work. Given that they were supposedly shutting down the whole road I would be expecting them to work on the whole road; or perhaps just one lane of it. So far they've resurfaced half of one lane... in segments.

Now sure they need to have it reopened by the morning and in a fit state to drive on, but it's obviously not as if they were running out of time - they've resurfaced around six sections of half a lane with non-resurfaced gaps between so there's no obvious time constraint for, say, resurfacing the entire width of the road in one segment before moving to the next.

Given the period they're working in, the length they're supposedly dealing with and the amount they've done already this looks like another square patch job albeit on a slightly larger scale. Certainly explains the yellow painted boundary corners painted on the road - that's all they're doing.

Can you say false economy?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another reason to be ticked off at Apple

A short while ago a relative of DaBoss came around because he wasn't able to use iCloud. Turns out he was still running iOS 4.1. One 700+Mb download and an hour later and lots or restarts he is now running the latest version.

Then a friend of DaBoss came around with exactly the same problem caused by the same older version. One 700+Mb and another hour later it then throws a wobbly telling me the file is incompatible.

Digging around the reason may be because I'm not running the latest version of iTunes. So the same update worked with the previous phone and previous iTunes, but now suddenly won't?

So not only does it seem not to keep the update files meaning I have to download them every single time, but prior to doing so I have to wait for yet another download to update the software used to get it. Oh and then find I may have to restart the computer due to Apple's crappy QuickTime which I'm also required to download as it integrates to Apple's crappy iTunes.

This is why I went for an Android - no ties to constantly updating software.

I'd also like to point out neither persons own a computer and thus (as I've mentioned elsewhere) couldn't even use their phones when they first obtained them.

Monday, July 09, 2012

It's a Steampunk revolution

As touched upon briefly I picked up a Steampunk novel from Waterstones while out with the Bratii namely The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. While the reveal was a little obvious, I think,  to any follower of speculative history and SF it was written well enough for me to pick up the sequel and to contemplate the third in the series. Then I caught Steampunk Revolution by Abney Park via Pharyngula which I think is just one of those things where you only spot it because you're thinking about it. Hey I'm a sucker for violins when they're both a) tuned and b) played well which is c) rare ;-)

I can imagine some of my readers reading this though and thinking "What the hell is Steampunk?" and hopefully "That's kind of cool" while watching the video.

Time to watch the game, but first

I briefly tuned in to watch the Wimbledon final, or to be precise the male Wimbledon final as it seems to share that same quirk as most sports in that the female version is of less interest to the mainstream media and I had no idea when that was (or is). BBC coverage started at 12:55 so I was quickly watching the two men bat a ball across a net... no of course not the match proper doesn't start until around 2pm.

In all seriousness is there any one out there thinking - "Gosh they jumped straight into this match a bit quick what I really need is an hour's preparation with interviews, historical footage, large amounts of speculation and (what appeared to be) an elegy on a tennis ball"?

We've been getting it for football for ages and I've seen it for athletics, but what's the point? If you're a fan of the game you probably already know all the stuff they're going on about; if you're not you probably don't care; so who's it all for?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Rain and drain

I've said it in 2008, twice, and again in 2009, but with all this rain coming down I think it needs to be asked again - Does anyone else think that our drains not being able to cope with all the water corresponded with the privatisation of the water companies?

Now sure it may be that we're just having more rain; it may be rose-tinted glasses, it may be all the additional tarmac being spread around; but I just don't recall there being these swathes of water washing back and forth around our streets until the methods of removing it were all placed into private hands.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

ACTA rejected by EU

If you've been watching the morning news on the BBC or ITV you'd have seen that the EU have rejected proposed ACTA legislation. Oh wait no you wouldn't - if you'd been watching RT this morning you would have, but it seems ITV, at least, thinks breast-feeding moms are more important that allowing large companies to effectively censor the entire internet using the government as their tool.

Now I've already mentioned why I think ACTA was a bad idea, but I want to look at if from the other side for a moment after all if this treaty does have "real and significant merits" what are they?

I don't know, in fact it's difficult to find anyone stating what they are beyond the vagaries of promotion of jobs due to better intellectual property enforcement. The latter of course being a joke, if IP isn't being enforced then the only people to blame are the companies themselves as they're the ones who have to do the enforcing.

The real question is - should this be the case. Consider someone stealing a CD from a store; it would be considered odd if it were up to the company itself to take the accused to court; such prosecutions are handled by the state. Why should this not apply to copyright theft?

To me the answer lies in the misuse of language - we say that it's copyright theft or that a design has been stolen; except it hasn't. Nothing has been taken. If I steal a CD from a store that store no longer has that CD to sell; if I copy that CD without buying it that store still has that CD to sell - nothing has been stolen; no theft has occurred.

Hasn't money been lost though? If take a copy of a CD hasn't the company lost the money I would have spent with them had the copy not been available? No because that's theoretical money; there's an assumption that I would have bought the CD and thus the company would have made money. We already have situations for loss of theoretical money and that progresses through the civil courts which is where copyright cases already reside.

Let me exaggerate should the loss of theoretical money become a criminal offence - I have a job interview the means of which I'll attend by train. The train is late, I miss my interview, I don't get the job. I can now have the government prosecute the rail company for the loss of my theoretical earnings. Essentially any action that prevents me making money could be considered a criminal matter.

Okay straw-man, as they're explicitly making this for copyright and intellectual property, but the same underlying principle applies - the loss of theoretical money being considered a criminal offence.

The impetus behind ACTA is that companies should no longer have to be responsible for protecting their own assets; oddly enough companies are all in favour of that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Unintuitive probability: PIN selection

I was thinking about PIN digits the other day, because I'm weird like that and started working out probabilities for a standard 4-digit length code (nnnn) from a selection of 10 digits (0-9).

Calculating how many combinations is simple: the first digit can be any from 0-9 as can the second, the third and the fourth resulting in 10x10x10x10 or 10,000 combinations; but are there really this many? I decided to delve a little deeper. The obvious point to me was that there would only be this number if duplications were allowed; if in the interests of making your PIN 'harder' you ensured there were no duplications i.e. 1234 rather than 1123 you would in fact have the opposite affect and make it easier.

Again the first digit can be any from 0-9, but the second can't be a duplicate and thus only 9 choices remain; the same for the third leaving only 8 and the fourth leaves 7. 10x9x8x7 = 5040; if someone trying to guess your PIN knows you won't use duplicates you've halved the options they have to try.

Let's try another tack. Consider a door lock with a numbered keypad and a 4-length PIN. You want to gain illicit entry, but don't know the code - how to get it. Simply spray some UV liquid onto the keypad; wait until a legitimate users types in the code and then shine a UV light on to it and see which numbers are smudged. In this case let's say 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Knowing it's a four length code what's the maximum number of attempts you would need to make?

As before the first code can be any of the digits 1-4, but the second can't be a repeat nor the third and fourth because we're using all the digits shown. This means we have 4x3x2x1 or 24 possibilities. An easy way to show this is by drawing a probability tree. For all possibilities of the PIN code starting with a 1 it would look like the following:

Count the end points and there are six of them. substitute the number 2 for 1 and 1 for 2, then repeat for all four starting numbers and there are 4x6 or 24 possibilities.
Okay you've broken in and stolen their top-secret files. They now change the code and you try again; this time the numbers that appear are only 1, 2 and 3 what would be the maximum number of attempts needed now?

This is a little more tricky to work out. Again the first digit can be any of the three, but then so can the second, but the third can also be one of three unless it's already been duplicated. We have to use all three digits, but can only repeat one a single time. A tree is more helpful here:

Counting the end results gives us 12; substituting for the other two starting numbers gives us a total number of 3x12 or 36. That's twelve more than using four digits.

It gets better if all we knew was that only three digits were in use for a four-length PIN the number of combinations possible is 10x10x9x8 or 7200 rather than the 5400 for using four digits.

So by using one less digit than is called for the number of possibilities an attacker has to try actually increases.

One even sneakier trick involves mobile phones particularly the Android. By default if you lock the phone  you tap in a number and then hit the OK button. The important bit is that the phone won't unlock automatically as soon as the correct number is entered. This is important as despite common conviction a PIN on a mobile does not have to be four digits long; it can be five (or even more or less).

Use  three digits in a 3-length PIN and anyone who knows those numbers and tries to use them in the 36 different ways of a 4-length PIN will never unlock your phone, use four digits on a 5-length PIN and they can try all 24 combinations without success;.

So even if they know this trick and that you're 'limiting' yourself to 3 or 4 digits of a 4 or 5-length PIN it's still safer than using four different digits for a 4-length PIN.

What an odd world probabilities can be.

Oh and on one final note for the truly paranoid out there one of the most potent defences is in using the delete key. Have three digits in a 4-length PIN and type in 4 numbers but delete the false one and even though an attacker may be able to see you used the delete key they won't know when or even how many times it was used.. In other words with a PIN of 1233 type 1234 DEL 3. The 36 possible combination has now jumped to 120.

For the truly, truly paranoid type in a four digits that don't match to your PIN then delete them all and type in the real one. An attacker now has a full eight numbers to try, without any indication if duplications are allowed that's 4096 combinations.

The Tom and Katie divorce

Is religious upbringing a legitimate reason to press for a divorce? With the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes situation it has been suggested that we have one parent worried about the the other pressing their child into a religion that they themselves may have no faith in. A religion that is almost constantly in the news regarding their methods of indoctrination; the activities of its leaders and its apparent blind worship of one man whose word is apparently law.

Given that neither parent wishes to compromise by keeping things secular; perhaps divorce is the only option. I mean I can certainly see why Tom would be worried about Katie having enrolled their daughter in a Catholic school.

Seriously though check the media and it's all about how Katie doesn't want Tom getting their daughter involved in the 'crazy' religion that is Scientology, but nothing about how Katie is getting their daughter involved in the 'crazy' religion of Catholicism.

As has been said many a time "The difference between cult and religion is just a matter of time."

[Update - Daily Mash]

Monday, July 02, 2012

Freeview 4G Fiasco

Oo alliteration, bonus points for newspaper headlines ;-)

So we're all familiar with Freeview then? The digital service the government forced us into switching to in order to drop the analogue service all in the name of providing us the consumer with more and better quality channels and nothing to do with being able to sell off a big chunk of the spectrum to the highest bidder; nope not that at all.

Oh sure the campaign to make it palatable to the masses lied exaggerated the claims; and sure this would mean some people who were perfectly able to receive normal television would no longer be able to get the new service. Yes it meant forking out for new equipment then more new equipment (if you wanted) when they added a new standard, but at least that was subsidised for pensioners and low-income groups. So what if we had to suffer multiple retunings during the switchover we got more channels.

At least it's all over now and we can sit back in comfort knowing that there's going to be no more great upheaval.

Oh you have got to be kidding me! Not only another shuffle, but an addition that may cause interference problems.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - when it comes to technology our elected members are still living in the 1950's

Movie and Book Cataloguing for the Android

For a long time I've wanted to try and inventory both my book and movie collections; writing them out or typing them all in by hand would prove far to taxing. With the arrival of my new Android (why do I keep wanting to type Andriod?) San Diego from Orange This should now prove a piece of cake as I can use the camera to scan bar codes.

It should be simple.

A productive week

It wasn't all relaxation last week I've been cleaning carpets with a new carpet cleaner, the cheapish Vax VRS5W for £50 from Asda. Not the best on the market, but it does a reasonable job. I've also been using my new phone to attempt to catalogue my books and DVD/Blu-rays - phew that was hard work.

I've managed all the DVDs - 668 of them. For books I'm about two-thirds of the way through with 885; only another 10 shelves to go.

Oh and much amusement with Skyrim; so many jokes to be made about 'normal' life in this fictional land.

A week's holiday

Just relaxing for the week hence the lack of activity; still been checking my emails though on my wonderful new phone. So wonderful that despite having two email programmes on it, one hooked up to my gmail account that pulls from my main account and one hooked to my main account, it still doesn't collect all my emails.

In particular it's been failing to pick up any of the comments. So my apologies to all who've posted here. I haven't been ignoring you I didn't know you'd been in touch.