Start panicing?

It si a True Fact that lots of people use Firefox. And it is also a True Fact that lost of those people use NoScript.

However, it is also clear that the vast majority of people who use the internet do not fall into the category of using both.

For all those people, please to check out this little site, and click on LETS START.

It could be enlightening.

A pleasant evening

Last evening I did the following:

  • Spoke a little bit to TLG, which is always nice;
  • Spoke to a flight instructor, which is always expensive and sometimes nice;
  • Had coffee with some random blog folk, namely D@\/e, Nelly, Hannah, Grannymar and (last but not least) Hails. And we talked at length about a few things, and I didn’t get to go off on a full rant even once. But it was very enjoyable.

This was, to my mind, a nice way to spend an evening. Even if there were insinuations from the direction of Ms Moser…

I’m confused

When the system of post horses was developed, did the various governments of the world attempt to make a list of who was sending notes to whom?

No, they did not.

When the ground-breaking system of semaphores was developed, did the government of France try to keep a log of every message sent?

No, they did not.

When the telegraph was invented, did the government try to keep a log of every communication?

No, they did not.

When wireless communication was invented, did any government even consider keeping a record of everything being sent?

No, they did not.

And do you know why? It wasn’t because there weren’t threats; the post horse system was misused by enemies of all types. The semaphore could have been used by enemy agents to send any number of unhelpful messages. The telegraph and wireless communications were very helpful to the Germans before and during both World Wars. Do you think that those threats were any less severe than the threats we face now?

It wasn’t because they couldn’t do it either; yes the resources of the state and of data processing were considerably less then than now, but so was the job at hand. A telegram was a massive thing to get, whereas phone calls and emails are ten-a-penny.

It was, simply, because there was no need for it then. And there is no need for it now, despite what GCHQ, the Home Office and the Labour party would have you believe.

But the fact that there is no need won’t stop it; no, ‘commmunications data’ on everything will still be collected. Every communication that you have will still be logged and everyone you associate with will be noted. Every time you answer the phone will be listed somewhere, and this will be accessible on the flimsiest of evidence, or no evidence at all if the requisitioner is of sufficient rank1.

All, of course, for your own protection. Doesn’t that make you feel secure?


1 – Going by the way that the RIPA went, that rank will probably be anything above tea-boy. But that’s not the point at all…

Get involved

I trust that everyone has heard about the official petition calling on that Fuckwit from Fife to resign.

And I also trust that all of my readers who agree with the sentiment (to whit, that the Fuckwit from Fife should resign) have signed it.

I don’t expect it to cause said Fuckwit to actually resign, but I do expect that it’ll cause him more anger and discomfort. Which will distract him from his primary job, the fucking up of the entire country. So it has become a moral imperative for us, the poor and ignored public of the UK, to piss him off as much as we possibly can. It’s the only way we can save ourselves…

I’d like a few legal issues cleared up

Chez (who used to blog but then got very lazy about it) alerted me to this little gizmo.

anti-cctv

A German art project could help the British avoid the oppressive proliferation of surveillance cameras in their country. The I-R.A.S.C is simple, consisting of a circle of infra-red LEDs mounted on a headband. The infra red is invisible to The Man, but will cause CCTV cameras to flare out over the face of the wearer, obscuring his identity and making this the digital equivalent of a hooded sweatshirt.

This is not a production unit, but given that you’d only need a hat, a battery and a few LEDs, you could easily knock one up in the garage.

Now, I’m not sure that it’d work on all cameras, but anything that could reduce the efficiency of the ever present eyes of Big Brother is to be welcomed. But that’s not my main idea for it.

My thinking is this: the most annoying speed camera these days are not the old fashioned GATSOs; they’re the farking average speed ones, and the ANPR cameras that could be turned into average speed ones with ease. And both those are digital based. Which I suspect would be more susceptible to this gadget than a film based camera would be. So: could this system be adopted to work on car number plates? And if so, would it be at all legal to do so?

Pros for it being legal: it’s not in any way obscuring your vehicles identity to any reasonable person (the emphasis being on person, instead of an automated system); it’s not in any way dangerous to other road users; it’s not established enough to be legislated for. Yet.

Cons: it would cost the exchequer money, and we know who much they like that…

Is there anyone out there with half a legal brain? What do you think about it?

Back to work

Balls.

I don’t particularly like this whole “returning to work” malarkey. It doesn’t do the soul any good at all.

However, I have had a very nice few days; TLG was over for four whole days; the family were about and on good form; lots of very nice food was eaten; some beverages were consumed. We had a wander up Divis and the Black Mountain (sans Dalek, it seems to have gone…), we had a trip to the coast. We discovered that TLG can make a hell of a banoffee pie, which has resulted in me having to break in a new setting on my belt.

In other news: Guido seems to be having a rather fine time pointing out to the world that at the heart of government there is a core of lying, amoral and scheming twats. And this time he has evidence to prove it. So that’s been entertaining me somewhat.

In short: I had a nice Easter. But TLG is away home now (with a case of the lurgy, poor thing), the news cycle seems to be calming down and I’m up and heading out to work. The good stuff has ended for now. Le shit.

Oh dear

Clearly a job, a degree and a long distance relationship aren’t enough to keep TLG busy. Because she keeps sending me things like this…

ed

Oh very dear. I suspect that this can’t end well…

Phew

I know it’s rather sad, when you look at the absolute nonsense that populates these pages, but I’ve become rather attached to this here blog. I’ve vomited out my thought onto it for six years now, and there’s something over half a million words there.

Which is why I was less than hugely impressed to check the site last evening and find that it was all replaced by the generic WordPress So you want to start a blog page. I thought I’d lost it all.

Fortunately, I have a recent backup, so I thought I’d leave it a day and then rebuild it. But even more fortunately, it came back itself overnight. Hurrah.

Less good: despite the way that the entire blog seemed to cease existing between the hours of 7pm yesterday and 7 this am, I still managed to get several hundred spam comments. Mutha’ feckin’ spammers, hanging’s too good for them….

On the plus side, I could become a US citizen apparently. Hooray.

Shit, he might not be all bad

Only the most unobservant of you will be unaware that I’m really not a fan of Obama. The reasons for this are legion, and include the fact that his entire appeal is based upon a cult of personality, the way that he talks the talk of an unrepentant nannying meddler, the fact that he looks like Lurch off of the Addams Family, and the way that he’s turning out to be almost as inept as Bush was made out to be.

However, some crack journalism seems to have brought out some information that might redeem slightly. It would appear that, after eighteen years of hearing Obama spout absolute shite, there is something which he and I see eye to eye on.

Obama watched the finale [of Battlestar Galactica]just as he had every previous episode, alone in the White House screening room with the volume turned all the way up. Sources said he emerged exhilarated and told several aides that the show’s writers “wrapped things up the best they could, though the very end was a little much.”

The commander in chief also bragged that he “totally called” the fact that “All Along The Watch Tower” would be used as the jump coordinates for the FTL drive.

Blimey. Who’d have thought that Obama would have that sort of taste in television shows, eh?

‘course, it’s obviously an Onion story – it’s too unbelievable that Obama would be a fan of a show which pushed the idea that there are severe limitations to the power of the state…

Not the real reason

Many small businesses are disappointed by what their money can buy in IT. They aim big, and then are often underwhelmed by how much can be done for them. However, they generally cut their losses, and settle for a slightly inferior product.

Many larger businesses are also disappointed by what IT can do for them. However, they tend to lower their expectations ahead of spending money, because experience has taught them this. They’ll then expand the budget to reach this lowered expectation.

However, really large organisations (like, say) governments do it a middle way. They have small business mindsets in that they believe the glossy brochures and think that a new system is the answer to [problem de jour]. But they have a big business mindset in that they won’t often give up until they have something approaching their initial targets.

The two are generally mutually exclusive. So it’s not even newsworthy these days for a government IT project to be massively over budget and/or late and/or inadequate. Things only reach the news when the budget is obscenely over the estimate: multiples of four or more would be needed.

Or it’ll make the news if the semi sensible thing is done, and losses are cut.

Plans for the £234m National Offender Management Information System system, known as C-NOMIS, began in 2004 with the aim of allowing the prison and probation services in England and Wales to follow offenders “end to end” through the criminal justice system.

However, by July 2007 the project was two years behind schedule and its estimated costs had soared to £690 million, the National Audit Office (NAO) report found.

See, that shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s essentially an asset-tracking system. But do you think that HMG treated it like that? Did they hell. They’ll have wanted bells and whistles on the bells and whistles; there’ll have been thousands of ‘stakeholders’ each wanting to have a bit of say in how it was to be run. And the consultants will habe looked at it, said YES and then climbed aboard the gravy train in the knowledge that the government won’t bitch too much when the price doubles or trebles.

And then when there’s an investigation into why things went belly up, they’ll fail to spot the main reason. And they’ll blame something else entirely.

And the it’ll happen again and again and again.

It’d be funny, if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

And yet more stolen memeage

This time from MFG. But I’m going to go less deep with it. I’m all about the superficial, me.

I have: Mah-hoosive ears and a freakish habit of spotting double entendres in far too many innocent phrases. But then again, I also have a most excellent and very lovely girlfriend. Which is nice.

I wish: I could fly as much as I’d like to, and that I had more of a flair for it. But I’d settle for not knowing the meaning of the word fear.

I fear: that we as a nation are trading away irreplaceable freedoms for an illusion of security. When the carrot of security is being held out to protect us from an overblown series of threats from a series of boogiemen.

I wonder: if people will ever have had enough, or if they’ll continue to fail to notice the cage growing around them.

I regret: Some things that I’ve done, but doing them got me to where I am today and made me the man I am. Which means that I can’t regret them too much. And there are things that I regret, but over which I had no control over.

I love: My family, my friends, a certain young lady, the feeling of doing a difficult job well and the feeling of flight.

I always: second guess what I’ve done for years afterwards, and I’m never sure if I regret those things or not.

I usually: think I’d be bored if I had nothing to do but sit and read. And I’d usually be wrong.

I am not: a number, but nor am I a free man. Not in this country no more.

I dance: like only a skinny white man can: very, very badly. Sometimes, however, I don’t care.

I sing: very very badly. I’ve been informed that ‘caterwauling’ is an appropriate description.

I never: get as much sleep as I’d like.

I rarely: lose my temper properly; at least, not since I’ve been losing my temper on the blog regularly…

I cry: sometimes. Drink helps with this, as does the right music.

I need: to figure out a way to survive without being on “The Grid” or breaking the law.

I should: worry about being too paranoid. But I don’t. Does that mean I’m too paranoid, or not paranoid enough?

Really?

How’s this for a slap to the face with the What the fuck are you smoking? bat?

“Most people here [in Scotland] are proud that the prime minister is a Scot and believe him to be the right person to get the UK through this global economic crisis.”

Really?!? Is anyone willing to claim responsibility for this half-witted, ideologically-blinded and amoral twat? And how could anybody think that he’s the ‘right person’ to get the UK through anything? Yes, he got us into it,but that doesn’t meant hat he knows how to retrace his steps and get us out again…

Also, why is anyone getting at all worried about this sort of thing?

The controversial presenter compared Mr Brown to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, shortly after Mr Rudd had addressed the country on the severity of the global financial crisis.

According to The Australian newspaper, Clarkson said: “He [Rudd] genuinely looked terrified. The poor man, he’s actually seen the books.

“[In the UK] we’ve got this one-eyed Scottish idiot.

“He keeps telling us everything’s fine and he’s saved the world and we know he’s lying, but he’s smooth at telling us.”

For a start, this isn’t anything that Clarkson hasn’t said every episode of Top Gear for years. And to follow up, it’s the truth. Well, except for the smooth bit; I’ve seen roads in Cavan that are smoother than him…

Simple fun

My defence for being entertained by this (found, incidentally, at Samizdata) is that I’ve been working in an office full of pregnant women and new mums for a while now, and thus it’s entertaining to actually see the wee feckers being funny, rather than just hearing about how simply adorable they are…

And it’s good to see that the young one can in effect entertain themself. Because in the brave new world that will be strictly verboten.

Couples who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned. Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population

Well, isn’t that a lovely mindset to bring to the table. Let’s just cut down the numbers, and not even think about the fact that having many more old people than young people…

Green thinking: condemning old people to painful and lonely deaths. Isn’t that nice of them?

Well, that was fun

Passports issued in the last few years from the UK or the US have had a lovely little RFID system built in. This means that there is a (supposedly) system for contactless reading of the data n the chip at border points.

When the two separate systems were developed, however, both countries went separate ways. The UK put a lot of information on the chip (most of the information on the identity page, for a start), while the US put only a code that pointed to an entry on a Homeland Security database. And the US was apparently going to but something of a mini-Faraday cage in the design, with a thin wire mesh in the cover to make it less easy to electronically snoop on the passport if it was closed. The UK, needless to say, considered no such thing. Why bother to make things wirelessly secure, eh?

So, my read of the situation is that the US passport is considerably more secure than the UK one. Not that I’d be keen on having RFID at all. But can you imagine my joy when I read this?

Using inexpensive off-the-shelf components, an information security expert has built a mobile platform that can clone large numbers of the unique electronic identifiers used in US passport cards and next generation drivers licenses.

The $250 proof-of-concept device – which researcher Chris Paget built in his spare time – operates out of his vehicle and contains everything needed to sniff and then clone RFID, or radio frequency identification, tags. During a recent 20-minute drive in downtown San Francisco, it successfully copied the RFID tags of two passport cards without the knowledge of their owners.

Paget’s device has a range of about 30 feet, making it ideal for discretely skimming the EDL and passport card tags of people who pass by his vehicle. With modifications, Paget says his device could read RFID identifiers that are more than a mile away.

Bloody hell. So the more apparently more secure RFID passport can be read by someone 30 foot away. Which means that the UK one can probably be read by someone in fuckin’ Düsseldorf….

Note to self: follow Chris’ advice: get a proper Faraday cage passport wallet and normal wallet

What the hell?

So, what do you do if you find yourself on the wing of a plane, in the middle of the Hudson?

Do you thank your lucky stars? Do you thank fuck for the training of the aircrew and the resilience of the airframe? Do you muse on the outrageous good fortune that was the happy coincidence of a very high fuel load and a water-borne landing in calm seas?

Yes. Yes you do.

Or, you could bitch and moan.

Some who were on the plane – brought down by a flock of geese after takeoff from La Guardia Airport on Jan. 15 – said the temporary tease of first-class perks is for the birds.

“I think if you survive a plane crash, being upgraded permanently is a good gesture too,” said Fred Berretta, 41, of Charlotte, NC, where the Airbus A320 was headed.

Manhattanite Tess Sosa, who escaped the sinking plane with her husband and two small children, thought the airline was too focused on self-congratulations – and “they want to exonerate themselves as much as they can.”

“They are happy they had such amazing results, and they applaud themselves, and then give us a small token?” she said. “That’s how I take it.”

Note to these folk: the airline has nothing to exonerate itself for. Some random dumb animals brought down one of its aircraft, and a combination of luck, skill and training meant that everyone fucking survived. How is that something to try and wiggle away from? “Oh yes, I’m sorry I saved your life in the face of a freak accident, please accept our grovelling apology for our terrible actions”.

People disturb me, they really do.

Funeral at 10…

Microsoft Flight Simulator, the computer game that has been going on for nigh on thirty years, is no more.

This saddens me. I’ve spent quite a few hours on FSX, trying to get an R22 to do what I want to do> It started off with me thinking that real flying was much harder than using the simulator. I’ve changed my mind on that; there’s much more scope for instinct and seat-of-the-pants flying in the real world, and since I got the hang of that I’ve stopped using it as much. But it was plenty useful back at the start.

And it would appear that there isn’t going to be any more of them. Boo.

Reasons to fear the database state, number eight thousand

In the UK, the state has historically been seen as something that had its uses, but didn’t need to be involved in everything. A persons identity was their own, with the state getting involved only to make a few notes of a few things as and when necessary.

And this would be a good thing, yes?

However, recently that’s been changing. The government is going about its business, and its business is rehashing the role of the state – it will soon be the sole guardian of your identity. Which isn’t, to my mind, a good thing.

That is the French way; l’Etat runs the entire show, and the individual is entirely at the mercy of it.

And how’s that working for them?

A report (pdf) issued last week by CNIL, the French Data Protection Agency, reveals that as many as a million people have lost jobs – or didn’t get them in the first place – because of inaccuracies in the police STIC database (Systeme de Traitement des Infractions constatés, or “criminal record check system”).

Overall, CNIL identified an error rate of 83 per cent on STIC records

83 per cent error rate!?!?!

Fucking hell. That’s even less accurate than a News of the World article…

But fear not, the UK will be much better about the quality of its data, won’t it?

Probably not, actually; consider this: an organisation takes its lead from the people at the top. And at the top of Her Majesty’s Government is a paranoid, delusional muppet. And at the top of the Home Office is a delusional half-wit.

God help us…