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More macintosh frolics

7/31/2005

I get lots of stick from my school friends about my sudden move towards Macs. Yes its down to a certain Icy, who has an office full of them, and my curiosity to find an Operating System that didn't have gaping holes in it, or needed my 'work hat' on to adminster like Linux.

Anyway, I bought a iBook G4 12" - which was pretty useful. Small, tidy, does everything i really needed it to do. Then I got married, and now I've moved to a new house. Which leaves my Sister without a PC that she can easily use. So I'm thinking of giving her my iBook, and getting a new machine.

So here's the question - do I get another iBook, or do I upgrade to a PowerBook? My iBook 12" isn't that bad. But I'm moving towards a PowerBook 15". Still not entirely convinced I need to spend that much money on a machine, but I'm one of those that buys something and sticks with it for a fair while - my PC has been with me since 1998!

I will get more 'it doesn't play games' and 'its for artistic folk' comments, but at the end of the day, its a fairly secure system (not hardened like i could harden linux, but I really can't be bothered), and it will have a bigger screen on it.

So what should I do? iBook or PowerBook?

--
dp


Gadget Friday

7/29/2005

Just sponsored a girl at work doing a Triathlon:
"Thank you very much for your donation - it really means a lot to us and to The Anthony Nolan Trust."

Inspired me again.

Last year Icy and I did the One Mile run for children in London - unfortunately for Icy, she couldn't make half way without stopping and gasping for air.

So this time, I'm thinking I'll get us a couple of bikes, and try for a charity Bike Ride in our new Greeny region. I'm sure she'll sign up for that.

Today I'm also wearing my NSPCC Full Stop Wrist band. I think its odd, don't really like the colour, it clashes with my other wrist bands (two my sisters put on me every year for good luck, and one that is a symbolic gesture to the god Shiva).

Here's to Charity - may others do the good I cannot (coz I'm cooped up in a crappy office)...

And on to this weeks Gadget Friday:
Todays subject is Mozilla.

Mozilla is now referred to as the group of OpenSource Coder Warriors who are churning out updates to the Internet Suite of tools from the Mozilla Organisation.

In the old days, Mozilla was the name given to the Netscape browser product. We're talking ages ago now. Netscape is now a bit of a dinosaur, lost out to the Micro$oft Internet Exploiter browser.

Mozilla started by turning out a Netscape OpenSource version, combining a HTML editor, Browser, Address Book, Email Client and Newsreader in one executable.

This was then followed by a streamlined superfast browser called Firebird, which had to change its name to Firefox due to a Copyright wrangle.

The email client split off into a Thunderbird email client (which is rathe good too).

And Mozilla, itself continues as a full suite of tools.

I could write loads about these, but I am pretty sure an internet savvy group of blog readers already use these. If they do not, then here's all you need - the URLs to go get these awesome tools.

PS as you can see, todays installment is crap. Boohoo.

Mozilla

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dp


Rant about Office Supplies

7/26/2005

OK, small rant that is totally off tangent from TERROR, OIL, ID, CIVIL LIBERTIES, or GETTING MARRIED.

Office Supplies. What does that mean to you? To me it means simple things like Paper, Post Its, Pens, Pencil, Staplers, Paper Clips and Notebooks.

Nothing too difficult, nothing to taxing. Just useful tools to help people get on with being useful in an office.

What if the pens don't work? I'm not kidding. The last building I worked in bought silly pens by Banner and some other dodgy company, and they never worked. It was appalling. And their notebooks, god talk about loose leaf mess!

Right now I'm seriously annoyed with the simple fact that the Stationary cupboard here is empty. My fault that my Rotring MultiPen has run out of Pencil Lead and Black Ink. I cant use Red (seriously) and the PDA stylus is redundant. BTW mine has funky rubber grips unlike the one in the pic.

So I've had to resort to a shitty Staedler immidation that just doesn't cut it.

All serious offices should have serious stationary. Good Notebooks, and good pens - like Bic, Staedler, Papermate.

Simple.

/rant
--
dp


Hmmm, am I still not a number?

The Government last week confirmed that the UK's planned ID card is intended to operate as a 'passport lite' (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/08/id_card_as_passport/) that could be used for travel within the European Union, and signalled that Home Office thinking may be moving towards the use of a PIN as a common mechanism for verification. The card's operation as a passport, said Under Secretary of State Andy Burnham, dictates that it will need to use ICAO standard RFID contactless reader technology, while use of chip and PIN would allow it to be compatible with banking and retail systems.

That means, he said, that it could function both as a contact and contactless card. PIN would also provide some measure of protection for internet transactions, but on its own, no more than that of a credit card. Nor is it immediately obvious what kind of transaction an ID card holder might want or need to conduct via the national chip and PIN infrastructure. There are however possible advantages for the Government in using the commercial chip and PIN network, not least of these being that audit trails would be far more extensive, providing a far more detailed picture of the user's movements.

The Government's view that the passport lite aspect of the card requires that it have a contactless capability however has interesting ramifications.

ID cards are already used for identification at border crossings in Europe, and the UK Presidency called for common standards (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/13/uk_eu_id_proposal/) on ID cards within Europe just days after taking office. The UK's call for common standards to "ensure that data stored on Identity Cards is appropriately protected but can be read by other Member States" is however some distance from receiving proposals for, and deciding on, those standards.

Nor is it clear that contactless ID card readers to ICAO standards will be accepted across the whole EU, that Member States have the intention of using such readers, or whether it is even feasible to use them on a Europe-wide basis. Statewatch reports (http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/jul/09eu-passports-id-cards.htm) (while also challenging the legality of the EU's ID card moves) that governments have been sent a questionnaire asking what checks and equipment they intend to install at borders, and whether they intend to carry out one-to-one or one-to-many checks.

The primary purpose of these readers, if they're installed at all, will be to check passports, and if appropriate common standards for ID cards are agreed then it may make sense for member states which use contactless readers to check passports to also use them for checking ID cards. This isn't quite what one might understand from Burnham's claim that current plans to use ID cards for European travel mean that "the card will need to meet standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which require the card to be contactless in order to be considered a valid travel document."

As the European Union can (and does) decide what can be used as a "valid travel document" within its own borders, and is the body responsible for doing the considering here, one wonders what ICAO has to do with the matter. Designating national ID cards as travel documents could of course be part of a cunning plan to get around the legal difficulties Statewatch puts forward.

At the moment, however, the UK has decided on an interface standard for its own ID card scheme based on the assumption that there will be a standard EU ID card, that this will be a standard passport lite, and that it will conform to an international contactless passport standard that is readable globally. Having decided on this standard, it will then make obvious sense for the UK to use ICAO-standard contactless technology for readers within the UK as well.

The security implications of this have been well trampled in respect of passport use, but if - as the Government hopes - ID cards are used widely within the UK, the potential for security breaches will obviously be greatly increased. As indeed will other opportunities. Wouldn't it be handy if, say, the local housing office knew exactly who you were the moment you walked through the door, and had your file on screen ready by the time you reached the counter? No? Perhaps not...

Because of the nature of the technology, there will be a risk whenever the card is being used for identification, rather than solely when it is being 'officially' read via its contactless capability. For most purposes this capability is unlikely to be needed.

Burnham says that the forms of verification currently being considered are "card, PIN and biometric identification", i.e. whether the picture matches the face, whether the bearer can enter the PIN and whether the biometrics of the person match either those on the card (local check) or the National Identity Register (online check). These forms of verification are being discussed with "various organisations who would be potential users", and the discussions cover "what performance is acceptable".

The discussions have not yet reached a conclusion, but it seems perfectly possible that the Home Office's vaunted scheme, protected by magic biometric technology, will in most cases operate as picture ID or a pin-protected card, which are the options least likely to add to cost and inconvenience to interested organisations.

In those cases where a biometric check is used, the Home Office has been considering measures that could be employed to combat spoofed biometrics. Burnham didn't give an answer on the use of contact lenses to fool iris recognition, but said that methods to deal with faked fingerprints could include "selecting a random finger for verification, from those available, rather than using only one fingerprint on all occasions. This also gives flexibility around issues arising from short term damage to fingers, such as a cut." This interesting idea, one notes, would inevitably add greatly to delays, confusion and failure rates at border checkpoints, and prove discouraging to commercial organisations considering using the more secure (allegedly...) biometric check.

One of the bodies the Home Office is consulting on biometric security issues is GCHQ's Communications and Electronic Security Group. We note that this organisation's FAQ (http://www.cesg.gov.uk/site/about/index.cfm?menuSelected=7&displayPage=7#applications) currently includes this categorical statement: "There are currently no approved biometrics applications, and we do not expect any to be available in the near future as none of the technologies have yet, in our view, reached the stage where we would be happy with them as the sole access control mechanism." Have they told the Home Office?

While they're about it, they might care to discuss the use of single identification numbers, where the Home Office's views seem somewhat underdeveloped. Asked what assessment of the risks posed by the use of a single national identity number had been made, Burnham replied that an "extensive risk assessment of the use of a single identifying number has been conducted by experienced fraud and security experts. This has resulted in the selection of a new single identifying number that is unrelated to any number issued by the Government at the present time." So, the Government has assessed that existing identity number systems are too broken to use, and decided to invent a new, universal one instead.

It's worth noting that the Home Office's answers on issues of verification and security almost all lead to "the integrity of the National Identity Register" as a backstop. Thus, the "performance of one particular identifier or technology [which might be used in verification] is not the key determinant" because during enrolment a false match on one particular biometric "would be resolved by other biometric matches or by inconsistencies with the information held about the applicant and the record against which it had been matched." Which appears to indicate that the primary concern is for the data held by the Government to be solid, with the security offered to the user (which is surely the user's primary concern) coming a distant second or third. Similarly, supervision of enrolment would "reduce" (sic) the likelihood of fake biometrics being successful, and details of how the Government proposes to stop this becoming a simple key to ID fraud cannot be provided "in order to protect the integrity of the National Identity Register."

Effectively, it's a system which by design puts all of its eggs in one basket, and is dependent on that basket being made impregnable via measures which the Government will never reveal or discuss. Trust us...

Costings update

On which subject, the Home Office has published its promised rebuttal of the London School of Economics' report on ID cards. The Home Office document (available here) (http://uk.sitestat.com/homeoffice/homeoffice/s?docs4.Response_LSE_Alternative_Blueprint&ns_type=pdf&ns_url=http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs4/Response_LSE_Alternative_Blueprint.pdf) has a very brief section on costings, which largely boils down to claims that the LSE used the wrong figures, and that the Home Office has access to other figures (which it still won't share with us) that justify its own costings entirely.

As William Heath points out (http://www.idealgovernment.com/index.php/weblog/comments/506/) at Ideal Government, "How the assumptions work comes down to whether you trust the Home Office, its intentions, and its manner of doing business. Of course the Home Office has a self-image of itself as the good guys being hampered by a tedious liberties lobby in its fight against evil. It trusts itself. But it hasn't won many friends during all this process. The cause did seem to win Tony Blair as a convert. And there's a cluster of businesses hoping for patronage. But I've yet to hear of anyone won over by the arguments as put by the Home Office."

It's doubtful whether the Home Office rebuttal merits a rebuttal rebuttal, but now the wretched thing exists we face the tedious prospect of Ministers confidently claiming that the LSE study has now been thoroughly discredited. The LSE is preparing its response, but has told Kable (http://www.kablenet.com/kd.nsf/Frontpage/C58B389902899D6C80257046004D1037?OpenDocument) that the Home Office document contains substantial material errors and appears ot contain false assumptions about the LSE's alternative blueprint.
--
dp


Labour's New Immigration Policy Rushes Through Parliament

7/25/2005

We're just shooting* them dead now, sod deportation.

*7 times in the head, just to be sure.
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dp


A Fine Line...

7/23/2005

Like many more around the world, I will chip in on the whole Civil Liberties malarky in light of the recent shooting of a Brasilian man in London.

The man was 'chased' by 5 armed plain clothes men, into a tube station, he jumped a barrier, and tripped and when he fell, these armed plain clothes men shot him 5 times in the manner of an execution.

Those 5 men were police men in plain clothes. The Brasilian was just a man (thus far no connection to terrorism or organised crime has been discovered).

The shooting has been justified by many on the grounds that we cannot be sure that he wasn't a suicide bomber, and so in the interest of the many we had to let the police run a pre-emptive strike and execute him.

What do I think? Well I think there is a heck of a fine line here, and though many are justified in suggesting we cross it and shoot people dead, I prefer the 'hold the line' command and suggest we wait. Lets extrapolate the Stockwell Tube Shooting to 'other' situations in this climate of 'TERROR' (I love that word huh).

A man is bending down to tie his shoelace, he just happens to be bending down next to a bus stop. He has a rucksack on his back. A man comes up to him with a gun, tells him to put his hands up and give him his wallet and ID. The man gives his wallet and ID, the brand new one, and the guy with the gun runs away with it. He wasn't a plain clothes policeman, just an identity thief.

Now how's that for FLIPSIDE?

So you see, there's a fine line, and unlike the US Policeman (sorry folks, I don't admire the fact that people have to carry weapons of mass destruction on them like a fully automatic gun) our policemen should prefer the usual policies they have employed against the IRA etc. The British have always been reserved - lets reserve our civil liberties. They are not for sale - no matter who is bombing us or why. We can defeat them, like we have defeated other foes in our history.
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dp


Bloomin Heck

7/22/2005

In light of this:

Man shot by armed police on Tube
A man has been shot at Stockwell Tube station by armed police officers, police confirm.

Passengers were evacuated from a Tube train on the Northern Line station in south London after the incident.

Passenger Mark Whitby told BBC News he had seen an Asian man shot five times by "plain-clothes police officers".

Services on the Victoria and Northern lines have been suspended following a request by the police, London Underground said.

Police are hunting four would-be bombers after Thursday's London blasts.

The bombers fled after detonators went off, causing small blasts, but failed to detonate the bombs themselves.

Mr Whitby, told BBC News: "I saw an Asian guy run onto the train hotly pursued by three plain-clothes police officers.

"One of them was carrying a black handgun - it looked like an automatic - they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him."

Passenger Briony Coetsee said: "We were on the Tube and then we suddenly heard someone say, 'Get out, get out' and then we heard gunshots."



And my post here on Commuting:

http://thenumnum.blogspot.com/2005/07/commuting.html#comments



I am now officially worried that they'll shoot me by mistake.

I need to buy a white, briefcase. Be different you know..

--
dp


Gadget Friday

A Gadget Friday with a twist today. I have read something which makes me wonder what the Corporate World is coming to when it infringes on the Haven that is a Gadget Inventor's paradise.

I'm talking about the 'SACKING' of a very intelligent and influential chap from HP. Alan Kay may not be very well known like say James Gosling or Bill Joy, but he's not lightweight either.

HP's decision to remove him and his research department, is in my personal opinion, akin to Ferrari removing their entire Formula One division and saying to their Chief Engineer - sod off.

So what does this have to do with Gadgets? Well I find the ramifications tremendous. If this is how one of the darlings of Silicon Valley (yes HP is the foremost Garage company that done good) is changing focus toward profit and not innovation, we're about to lose a bit of class.

HP tumbled down the pit of doom when they appointed a glamourous sales lady to lead them - Carly F. She was the darling of the tech world suddenly, in charge of the premier Valley company, and able to grace front covers in more than just kakhis and a polo shirt. But she made huge mistakes, and she paid for them. Well not personally, she's now absolutely LOADED, but HP is a mess and now it looks like its going to have to revert to being a printer company all over again in order to survive!

So why gadgets? Well think about it. Gadgets are hinged on innovation and the freedom to experiment and come up with a great product. Research is important, and so is a climate of innovation and experimentation. What HP are doing, is sounding a klaxon around the valley saying they don't have the cash for this, and that cash is more important.

If Apple had thought that way, we might still be looking at MiniDiscs or only looking at niche market mp3 players. Instead they spent money, researched and marketed a pretty crap (imho) mp3 player in terms of auditory sensation, but it looked a dream and was simple as pie to operate.

I love gadgets, and I admire companies that contribute in ways to advancement of Gadgetory Proliferation. So today, I take my hat off to those who continue to support this field, and send a big bad BOOO-HISSS to HP.

Normal service will resume next week, unless something else drastic happens!
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dp


I'm gonna get myself connected...

7/20/2005

The writings on the wall...

I've got ADSL at home :) Fantastico.

Finally, I'll get to surf. But not tonight, its nearly midnight!
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dp


Slog and Slide

Boredom. What does one do, when work doesn't offer the mental challenge at any particular moment in time?

I'm a lazy sod you see. I'll quite happily laze about doing bugger all if given the chance. But at work, I prefer to either Work, Chat with friends, or go home. What I cannot stand is idling in the office surfing. I like surfing, don't get me wrong, but there is only so much you can do wrt surfing without actually showing you aren't working iykwim. Thus I prefer working flat out 9-6pm and then going home to do my own stuff.

What annoys, therefore, are those moments/days when work isn't pressing enough, and you are left with hours on your hand. I am doing my best, to ensure my knowledge of SAN storage from IBM, the best approach to install a new Fabric architecture, and DR strategies wrt Cross-Site replication. Great really, but what happens when you can't absorb anymore?

Quiet offices are not very good for me. I do like quiet, its bliss, but when it comes to lull time and an eagerness to get work done so I can go home, its not great.

The office professional has an unusual life. Either its all go from 9-late, or its a bit of this and that. I've had it all, and tbh I prefer a middle ground of very high productivity 9-6pm and then off I go, home to live my life.

Wouldn't a job like that be a dream? Anyone offering a job like that in the Thames Valley Area to me would have my full attention.
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dp


Slowly it returns...

7/18/2005

Its been a while since I've had a Starbucks Mocha with Whipped Cream, and right now I'm realising why I liked them so much. Lovely and tasty little numbers they be.

So what's new in the world of weirdness and insanity. I've started reading The Rule Of Four, which so far has been mildly entertaining and just about readable. I do want to see where its going, but I expect its going to be a bit of an anticlimax. Still, I'll keep at it. The library at home is looking better, got a couple of huge floor to ceiling bookshelves from ikea up at the weekend. They worry me in that they do not appear to be highly stable, and my attempt at using the wall bracket failed due to lack of a proper sleeve/plug for plaster board walls. Doh.

I'll get ADSL this weekend, so I'll finally be able to surf the blogs I like in peace. Its not possible at my new project. Shame.

World-wise, I think there is something afoot in the scheme of things. Lots of police at Paddington today - guess there was another threat?
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dp


Gadget Friday

7/15/2005

Todays theme is Sound.

I'm not going to go on about the best amplifier or speakers. Instead I'm going to discuss a particular brand's offering in this space. Its a brand we all have heard of (sic) at one time or another, but not everyone has had the pleasure of using or listening to the output. Its not my favorite brand either - I have a penchant for all auditory things by Panasonic, as they make a sound that I find personally pleasing.

The brand we'll rush through today is Bose. Started in 1964 by a Dr Amar Bose (a clever chap at MIT), it is a brand that empahsises the process of Research to develop products that give great sound and presence from unlikely physical size/volumes.

Their most famous patent is the Waveguide based WaveRadio. I had the pleasure of hearing this in a Bose shop, and let me tell you, though not a particularly precise and refined sound, it is BIG. For something so small, you get a massively clear and present experience. I've not seen anyone have this in their home, though the Radisson Edwardian hotel had this in their honeymoon suite. It would therefore be a good novelty.

The other product you may have seen recently advertised, is the Lifestyle system. A Spectaculary clever way to bring great sound into your home for tv/music without the awful mess of some of those garish 5.1 dolby surround kits with ugly speakers. Its clever because it now leverages wireless technology, to do away with even more wiring via the Expansion Kit. Just plug one of these RoomMatesinto a socket in a room and voila, you get massive sound without garish speakers.

For those of you who want a great stereo system, you could go all unique and get the Daddy WaveGuide.

Other great Bose items include the superb market leading QuietComfort noise cancelling headphones.

The Bose list is endless, and my project beckons. Until I get ADSL at home, this edition of Gadget Friday will have to remain as is.

More to come next week...
--
dp


Commuting

7/14/2005

Warning - controversial views, those of a sensitve nature may be offended...possibly.

I've been a commuter into london for a good 7 years now, and I've become hardened to the pitfalls that await my fellow commuters and myself on our daily toil. However, there is something just a little unsettling about safety on the tube right now. I'm not very frightened (for myself that is) of the fear of more suicide bombings on the tube. My view of life is different to most, in that I view risk as something that is present in abundance when you live in a metropolis. However, my worries are largely for those who cannot deal with this fear, and who may not be able to resume a normal life following such incidents. Anyway, I digress.

There is something a little unsettling right now, and it pertains to the reactions of commuters and the public towards Asian Men with Rucksacks. Do you see where I'm going with this? I like a rucksack, it distributes the weight of my laptop evenly across my back. I also use it to store my paper, phone, keys etc. especially on hot days such as today. So I need to keep accessing it whilst travelling over and underground. I also am very possessive of it, ensuring I am in touch with it and keep moving it to remain in my personal area. Right now, I'm noticing people looking at me and possibly (or its my paranoia) looking uneasy as I do this.

So here we have it. Fellow commuters: Please accept that the underground is polluted, bad for your health, and generally not a nice place to be. Please accept there are pickpockets, people with contagious diseases, and bad BO. Please accept there are going to be men and women who will fidget with their rucksacks during their journey to and from work.

I will be doing my utmost to ensure I am vigilant and will help ensure all of our safety as much as possible. In return, all I ask is that you control your prejudice a little bit - but dont become lax in your awareness of whats going on! Please dont assume we rucksack carrying men are evil, or wish you harm. And try not to focus hatred in our direction.
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dp


Return Of The Mack [Num Num]

7/12/2005

A rather self-glorifying subject, but in reality just a tune that's been going round in my head today - since I am now back at Work after 2 weeks of wedding chaos/honeymoon and housebuilding.

A wonderful experience that I wouldn't want to swap for anything (except maybe the same experience without all of the hassle and strife and EXCESSIVE heat :)

Seriously, I had fun getting married, and I'm sure Mrs Icy would agree (hopefully ;-)

So, after a lot of important Worldly events going on (G8, Live8, London 2012, Bombs, England vs Australia etc.) I am somewhat lost for what to say that is of: Merit, Quality, Value, Humour and Thought Provoking.

Therefore, without trying to be clever and stuff like that, I'll just say - I shall be resuming my blogging that illustrates the progress on the Housebuilding, my new Project in London, and my views on Life, The Universe and Everything else. Oh, and Gadget Friday will be returning too - if the Mrs lets me have a budget to buy useless stuff that is :(

I hope you are all well, safe, and most importantly happy. I shall be surfing at your doorsteps soon, looking to learn new and wonderful things as usual.

Ciao,

Mr Num Num
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dp


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about


Weekly musings from a confused mind. This blog, and all posts within it, are just ramblings. They are in no way affiliated with any past, current or future employers. Neither do they represent my deep felt views, or those of my friends or family. Really, its just a blog, which is a new thing, and has new dimensions. So please, dont take anything seriously. If you do, contact me via a comment, and I will get back to you to resolve the situation. Seriously, enjoy life, ignore this blog, and views within it.

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