The feminine influence

Up until a few years ago, I was unaware of the point of paying too much for shoes.

Sorry, scratch that. Up until a few years ago, I was unaware of the extent to which other people would happily pay stupid amounts of money for shoes. I, personally, don’t give a shit about shoes, and will wear what is comfortable and appropriate, not caring about where I got them from or what I paid for them.

Others disagree, and TLW is firmly in their camp. She has been known to shock her family into incoherence by spending more on shoes in a single expedition than I spent in the years 1990 – 2000. The downside of this is that I’ve become aware of names (Jimmy Choo, for example) that I really shouldn’t know. Her personal preference is for some fool called Louboutin, who produces things that cost more than Liberia and have a distinctive red sole.

And it would appear that t’internet has caught on to my knowledge of thing, for recently I’ve been getting inundated by comment spam that follows this format:

“There will be a lot of what I’m calling sex shoes,” she reveals. “I’ve made a lot of pieces that can seduce, seduct and that will secure the deal. The shoes will be iconic, architectural and anatomical. We want to be the go to destination for when women want to feel hot to trot. I want the same dialogue that Christian Louboutin has with his women.”
The shoes for every outfit – and if the event calls for costume, fancy shoes are a must, especially when we talk about our excellent Christian Louboutin sale, Michelle Obama, for which they recommended. It is no wonder that women everywhere a secret passion for Christian Louboutin, and it was champagne satin heels no exception. Winged before, and the sky-high returns, a pairof Christian Louboutin shoes you wear in this eternal classic.

It makes a change from penis extensions and pills, but just for consistency I think I’m going to have to add the word Louboutin to the old spam filter. And I don’t think that I’ll miss it too much, either.

Temptation in motion

A simple thing popped up on my facebook feed last evening:

TLW has decided she wants a kindle…

Now, those who know me would not be surprised to find out that I have tech-lust for the Kindle. It fills a little gap in my geek wardrobe – I’ve yet to find an easy way to carry enough books to keep me properly happy on a long flight. So that’s what I need.

So a fairly reasonable number of hours were spent, idly browsing Amazon and finding out that I could quite easily have spent several hundred pounds: his’n’hers Kindles, matching accessories and a number of books were sitting happily in my Amazon basket before I got a grip and realised that perhaps hundreds of pounds on geekware wouldn’t be sensible 13 days after a wedding…

So, I shall be without a Kindle. For now.

But only for now…

Because the alternatives are worse?

The BBC is currently asking (in their usual rhetorical way) Why do we all use Qwerty keyboards?

There are many reasons. The development of it in the first place is there for a lot of reasons, but ever since it’s largely been inertia that’s been keeping it in place. The barriers to entry for any new keyboard design are massive, purely because of the amount of time people have spent learning to live with the layout and because of the number of keyboards out there.

But the biggest reason is because the only real widespread alternative that I’ve seen is the AZERTY. And it’s French. Do I need to say anything more?

Can I arrange a bulk licence?

Rarely is it that I find a piece of technology that I think should be worked in to most aspects of work, but damn it, I have today.

My advice to ANGRY EMAILERS is this: don’t write drunk, arsehole. But if you must, and you lack all self control, check out this anger-o-meter. It may save you from shame, lost friends, lost jobs and found lawsuits, down the line.

Called ToneCheck, this Outlook plug-in ‘identifies and flags “emotionally charged sentences in your email message”. Just like a spellchecker for ARSEHOLES.

The developer, a Canuck firm called Lymbix – tagline: E-mail lives forever. Prevent flame wars and litigation with ToneCheck – cites research that email messages are interpreted incorrectly half the time. In other words, even if you don’t mean to be PISSY, your CRAP WRITING SKILLS REALLY GET UP PEOPLE’S NOSES.

Obviously, being as how I work in an office and with lots and lots of people who work in offices, Outlook is used a lot and many many messages arrive in my inbox from Outlook. So anything that lowers the amount of twattishness in said emails would be a winner.

So my proposal is this: someone contact Lymbix and see how much a bulk licence would cost for, say, everyone in the NHS. And then we put our hands in our pockets, and get that licence bought. Because the world would be a much better place afterwards.

Who’s with me?

We’ll let things stay the same and call it victory

Some months ago I commented on an ongoing dispute between Facebook and CEOP. And, back then in April, it appeared that CEOP were losing out in their rather daft demand that everyone in the UK have their online presence invaded by CEOP’s marketing.

And yet, today, CEOP are crowing about their great victory in being offered the opportunity to place ads for their entirely voluntary version of the CEOP button. You know, the one that shows people how to call for help. It is, as far as I could make out from Jim Gamble’s little publicity blitz on t’radio, as useful as a neighbourhood watch sticker. I.e., it’s just there and serves little to no purpose.

Oh, except to give the impression that we’re all suspects and that kids should always be thinking about how best to turn people in. Because, as Mr Gamble says, the paedophile is clever, and we must always assume that everyone on the entire net is actually a paedophile in disguise…

In case you didn’t notice, I’m not entirely a big fan.

Another little scare

It’s been a year since I tried scaring people with tales tales of how much information your web browser gives away for free.

So it’s probably about time that I join el Reg in trying to scaring people a bit more.

The vast majority of people surfing the web leave behind digital fingerprints that can be used to uniquely identify them, research released Monday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests.

Using a website that compares visitors’ browser configurations to a database of almost 1 million other users, EFF researchers found that 84 percent of visitors used setting combinations that were unique. When The Register visited the site using Firefox, it received a message that read: “Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 837,411 tested so far.” (Turning off javascript and Java with the NoScript plugin didn’t change the results we got on one test PC, but on a second machine, use of NoScript significantly increased the number of browsers with the same fingerprint.)

Having opened that little website, I found out the following:

Within our dataset of several hundred thousand visitors, only one in 14,810 browsers have the same fingerprint as yours.

Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys 13.85 bits of identifying information.

So using my default browser (Firefox) with my usual setup of plug-ins and settings, I’m still plenty identifiable. Use IE, however, and it gets a little bit worse:

Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 933,176 tested so far.

Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 19.83 bits of identifying information.

So, I’ll be using less IE, shall I?

How about you lot?

A sacrifice is demanded. And I’m OK with that.

If that’s what it takes to stop the madness, then I think that it’s a fair price to pay.

Incidentally, what do people think of Willie Walsh these days? Saying to the government “well, I’ve got two dozen planes coming in from all points of the compass, they’ve got to land somewhere…” and getting them to roll back from the ban in an evening? That’ll be an interesting thing to put on the CV…

Hat tip to Charles, formerly of an interesting blog that he has since given up on…

Fighting a half sensible fight

I know that I use Facebook quite a lot; I keep in contact with people, I spy on photos, I play games. That doesn’t make me an evangelist for the site; I just came to the conclusion a few years ago that Facebook was one of the better options. Mainly because people seemed to speak in sentences, unlike Bebo where people spoke in emoticons.

It appears that FB is keen on making sure that I get reassured that I made the right choice, by resisting big brother when they come a’knockin’.

Facebook has again rejected demands from child abuse investigators to publish a branded “panic button” on its users’ profile pages.

At a meeting in Washington DC yesterday, the social network told Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) it would make changes to send British complaints about inappropriate activity directly to his organisation. At present they are funnelled though CEOP’s US counterpart.

Facebook reaffirmed that it will not install the CEOP button, however.

Well done for taking that stand; someone is going to have to start standing up to the for the children brigades, and if it’s someone I decided I liked beforehand then I’m all in favour.

I like how wikipedia has described the (unfortunately Norn Irish) boss of the CEOP:

Jim Gamble is Chief Executive of CEOP. A senior police officer of 25 years, he was head of the Northern Ireland anti-terrorist intelligence unit in Belfast, then most recently tackled organised crime as the Deputy Director of the National Crime Squad. Gamble became an Internet laughingstock in March 2010 after calling for a “panic button” – for the public to report suspected paedophiles – to be installed on the main profile page of every Facebook user, a policy which would be rife for abuse.

I like the attitude. Now all we need is for the mainstream people to check the wiki to find out about Mr Gamble and how seriously his attitude should be taken.

Something that is obvious in retrospect

I’ve mentioned (many, many times) that I’m not a fan of Apple. I don’t like the styling, and more than that I don’t like the attitude of the company and of those that evangelise for it. No, you’re not a fucking “genius“, you’re tech support and with a pretty narrow range of tech to support. That sort of thing.

But it seems that there may be another reason I’m not massively a fan, and another reason why I’m perfectly happy with my not-an-iPhone.

Does this surprise anyone? New research shows that your choice of smartphone reflects your political persuasion: Left-wingers, it seems, favour the iPhone – while those on the Right prefer BlackBerrys.

I don’t have any love for either the right or left in California politics, but I do know which side I have less love for on the big issues. And that fits with this little survey.

But does the survey result hold for other Apple products? Do Apple owners have much in overlap with deranged lefties? Do they both, for example, feel all warm and gooey when they’re offered another slice of same from the paternalistic organisations they worship?

I dread the answer, really…

Hooray and hurrah for that

The Department of Health has – finally – gotten around tom pulling their head out of their ass and dumping IE6.

The Department of Health has told trusts using Windows 2000 or XP to move to version 7 of Microsoft’s browser.

In a technology bulletin published by the department’s informatics directorate on 29 January 2010, it advised NHS trusts using Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 on either Windows 2000 or Windows XP to move to version 7 of the browser.

“We’ve advised NHS trusts to upgrade to IE7 as early as possible,” said a spokesperson. The guidance said that IE7 works with the department’s Spine applications, and provides additional security.

As moves go, this is approximately three years late. IE6 has been a pain for web developers and the like for many, many, many years, and needed to be put down long before Microsoft even got around to replacing it. And even MS got round to killing it a while back.

The downside? PCT IT departments are notoriously anti- any kind of change that they don’t come up with first. And they’ve been fairly rigidly enforcing the IE6 standard in the face of common sense for a long time now. How long it takes them to get round to rolling out a decent replacement1?

So I’m not sure that I’ll be getting anything on my desktop soon to improve on the IE6 experience. But here hoping that it isn’t another three years…


1 – Note, the DoH is busy recommending IE7. Which isn’t the current offering from MS at all, let alone the best out there for people to use. Probably because they spent a fortune putting together poor efforts at websites back in the early 90s that they don’t have the money to fix…

There’s the good Apple mindset

I quite like the way that el Reg keeps digging up awkward patents that technology companies are filing.

Apple has filed a patent application for an intrusive ad-presentation system that requires users to acknowledge adverts before getting on with their work.

The recent patent filing carries the unusually straightforward title “Advertisement in Operating System.” The described system would be buried deep in a device’s OS – so deep that, in the words of the filing, “the advertisement presentation can in effect ‘take over the system’ in relevant aspects for a limited time.”

The cult of Apple is getting that little bit more worrying, isn’t it? Not just getting overly broad patents in place for touchscreens and GUI features, now they’re planning to hijack the whole damn computing experience for everybody.

My, amn’t I glad that I had a hellava lot of Apple kit in my office and life just now…

Oh wait… No I don’t. I’ve got naught. Which is nice.

Course, in the bottom of the article they mention that Microsoft is doing the same sort of thing. But you’d expect that; Microsoft doesn’t pretend to be friendly, and if they did nobody would believe them. If we can get rid of some of the horseshit cult around Apple, maybe people will see that they’re no better, or cooler, than MS. And that would make me happy.

What a wussy response

Some six months ago, a most excellent petition was launched. And it ran thusly:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to resign.”

Details of Petition:

“There are many reasons why we might want Brown to resign, but rather than having lots of narrow petitions on this topic (most of which have been rejected), I wanted one for all of us.”

And in the six months since then, 72,234 people signed it. That’s a hell of a lot of people; more than three times more than voted for Prime Minister at the last election. So more than three times as many people as have ever voted for him.

But the petition has now closed, and the Prime Minster has deigned to respond. With the lamest thing I’ve heard in a while:

The Prime Minister is completely focussed on restoring the economy, getting people back to work and improving standards in public services. As the Prime Minister has consistently said, he is determined to build a stronger, fairer, better Britain for all.

The Prime Minister may be determined to build all that, but he had presided over the creation of a weaker, less fair, and all round worse place to be.

But he’s got a nice little delusional world going on, so he’s not going to go. Instead he’s going to keep screwing us over.

The graceless bastard that he is.

And another icon of geek history passes

I can’t remember exactly when it was that I fist got online; it was shortly after BBC and the Sunday Times started showing stuff and it was before Mission:Impossible came out, because I remember reading the build-up to it.

I don’t know exactly when it was, but I remember the computer (80meg hard drive, and a 25MHz processor that could be turbo’d to a whopping 100Mhz). And I remember the service: it was CompuServe.

The same CompuServe that died today.

Times move on, and things get left behind. But I blame this particular service for the addiction to things online that I still suffer from…

I’m not sure that’s an actual axis…

Stolen from Mr Free Market, it’s time for another random political alignment quiz! Everybody say yay!

My Political Views
I am a right social libertarian
Right: 5.79, Libertarian: 4.74

Political Spectrum Quiz

And that’s all as per usual, really. About where I’d expect.

And how about something termed as the Culture War? Well it seems that the same quiz produces a graphic for it as well.

My Culture War Stance
Score: -0.39

Political Spectrum Quiz

Personally, much as I detest the middle ground, I can see how I ended up there. However, it gets more interesting. Apparently, there’s something similar done for foreign policy.

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: 2.2

Political Spectrum Quiz

And that confuses me. If neo-con is one side of an axis, the other end is not “non-interventionist”. Hell, if “non-interventionist” is an end, then clearly it’s opposite is “interventionist”.

At any rate, I am not a neo-con. I may have agreed with them in the past, but I have also disagreed with them. Largely because, under neo-cons, the United States have become much more inward looking, considerably less free and their government has gotten considerably bigger. All of which counteracts with my little red X being so far towards “Libertarian” on the first graph up there…

That’s the way, uh-hu-uh-hu, you do it

I’ve already mentioned that violence against the BNP ain’t the way to go. But the British Legion – a group that, to be fair, knows a little bit about violence – seems to be mining a slightly better vein of opposition.

Dear Mr Griffin,

You wore a Poppy lapel badge during your news conference to celebrate your election victory. This was in direct contravention of our polite request that you refrain from politicising one of the nation’s most treasured and beloved symbols.

The Poppy pin, the Poppy logo, and the paper Poppy worn during Remembrance are the property, trademark and emblem of The Royal British Legion.

For nearly 90 years, The Royal British Legion has pursued a policy of being scrupulously above the party political fray. It is vital that everyone – the media, the public and our beneficiaries – know that we will not allow our independence to be undermined or our reputation impaired by being closely associated with any one political party. This is more important now than ever.

Short and simple, and pointing out that young Mr Griffin was claiming a symbol that he shouldn’t, and make sure that his core demographic knows it.

That’s how you do it. At this stage, anyway.

One to keep an eye on

If you only keep an eye on one website this year, make it this one.

I could say that you should continue to read catchthat.net, but that would just be to stoke my own ego.

I could say that you should just read your RSS aggregatior, but that would be cheating.

No, what you need to read, what will affect you the most, is the simple one word to be found at

Is Gordon Brown Still Prime Minister . com.

Let us pray that that one word changes soon.

Answering the questions that have already been answered

Ask some half-witted TV show peeps: Who would win between the IRA and the Taliban?

Deadliest Warrior pitches hypothetical fights between historical figures, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of factors such as weaponry and tactics, like a hi-tech version of playground card game Top Trumps.

“The Taliban – deadly extremists battling in the mountains of Afghanistan, versus the IRA – elusive, hard-hitting masters of Ireland’s urban jungles.

“It’s a battle to the death, between two lethal guerrilla warriors, armed to the teeth with flamethrowers, rocket launchers, carbines, mines and a devastating home-made bombs.”

I must be missing some of the point, because there seems to be a little bit of a one sided battle. Yes, both sides fielded poorly trained irregulars. Both tended towards small arms, ambush tactics and blending in with civilians before and after their strikes. And both liked the occasional improvised explosive device.

But here’s the thing: why would there be a competition. The IRA tended towards planting their weapons and hiding while it goes off, the Taliban tend towards blowing themselves up and hoping that they take some of their opponents with them. Which one do you think would win in a fight to the death?

Oh noes! What will we do?

Science (!) has today informed us that the genes that make men men will disappear in a mere five million years.

Men may be on the road to extinction as their genes shrink and slowly fade away, medical students have been told.

A researcher in human sex chromosomes said the male Y chromosome may run out within five million years.

Clearly this particular scientist hasn’t been paying attention to the other scientists throughout the world who have told us, without a shadow of a doubt, that we’ll be extinct long before those five million years have run their course.

Examples of things that will stop us getting to a point where we have to worry:

  • Global warming/climate change – we’ll be drowned/frozen/baked before then, depending on which climate change model has yet to be proven wrong.
  • The dreaded cross breed of swine flu and bird flu that’s going to kill us all – the flying pig strain.
  • Toxins in the water.
  • Lack of toxins in the water.
  • The ozone layer packing up and going home.
  • BSE.
  • Poor dead dolphins taking us with them.
  • Mobile phone emissions.
  • … any number of other things that will never happen but get funding for whatever pet project the scientist in question likes.

So I think that I’ll hold off on worrying about the levels of specific genes on the Y-chromosomes. Other things to avoid worrying about just now…

And where’s the idiot proofing?

It is a brave man that uses the phrase foolproof and means it. For, as we all know, the ingenuity of the true fool cannot be overstated.

It may be Duplo bricks; it may be Mars Bars; it may be the legendary computer game Snake. Someone, somewhere, will have died because of each of them. That is the level of foolishness present in the world; that cannot be legislated away and that cannot be bred out of humanity.

It’s a sad fact, but no matter how fool-proof your system, Mother Nature will respond by bringing the perfect fool to it and proving you wrong.

Which is why I’m concerned by this:

Better Place has demonstrated a prototype battery swapping machine for leccy cars, able to exchange the flat battery of a modified Nissan with a fully charged one in just over 60 seconds.

I have to say, it all looks mighty sharp. All you have to do is drive in, stay still for 120 seconds and then drive off. Idiot proof, yes?

I expect that there’ll be at least one fatality, one explosion and one station damaged beyond repair in the first year though. Because we’re all human, dammit, and that’s what we do best…

That said, it’s a mighty interesting concept. Now if only batteries like that could be made light enough that the car holding them was in anyway quick…

Geek attack

I am a rational man. I like to take positions based upon logic. There are some positions, I know, that I take based upon gut feelings that I then cover over with logic, but the logic is usually there.

However, there are some positions that are not based on logic at all, but on pure basic instinct. And logic can’t keep up.

I tend to like smallish French cars, despite not liking France and despite knowing that they’ll break often. I preferred Sega to Nintendo. I prefer PS games to X-box.

And right up at the top of the list of things illogical positions that I hold is my irrational dislike of all things Apple. I just don’t like them, and I’ve been holding off on getting a new phone for a little while because I wanted something like an iPhone that wasn’t an iPhone.

So I’ve just got my mits on one of these. Yes, Google is almost as annoying as Apple, but not quite. And I’ve been using their services for quite some time with nothing like the annoyance factor that Quicktime or iTunes has given me.

So I now have a phone with integrated Google Maps, direct access to youTube and a nifty touchscreen. And no half eaten fruit on the case at all. Which pleases me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be spending the rest of today figuring out how to remove some of the more annoying aspects of Google’s Total Information Gathering scheme…

Also, considerably cheaper than the iPhone. Bonus.