Friday, 12 July 2019

That's "Not OK Google"

You know all those fears we dismissed as paranoid delusions, that google WAS listening all the time despite assurances to the contrary.

Apparently they were at least partially correct after all.

I remember a time when some people using devices like this monitored packet traffic to be sure nothing was being sent back to base during normal conversations. It seems that just because you think they're out to monitor you, doesn't mean they aren't.

Wonder what GDPR will make of this?


Monday, 8 July 2019

Making asses of u and me.

A little snippet on The Register this morning about a company that assumed its data was backed up 'in the cloud'. Just remember, the backups are there for THEIR data, and not yours, if you're someone who stores all there stuff online for 'free'.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

At last, a film I want to see in the cinema

It seems someone has, in 21st century style, made a documentary of the Apollo 11 mission, editing together & restoring original footage. This might actually be worth paying to view on a big screen - I was almost 8 when it happened, and still remember the sense of excitement and the possibilities we might aspire to.

Later the capsule and some moon rock toured the UK. My grandfather took both my brother and I to the Biggin Hill airshow where, in a hangar, we were able to see them. the capsule seemed enormous, burnt black on the bottom. Much later I saw a re-entry capsule in the space centre at Houston, and was amazed at the incredibly tiny size - hard to imagine getting 3 men to live inside it for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Would you buy a book from this vendor?

Or would you 'buy' any digital content?

Copyright, DRM and ownership are a 'knotty problem' to say the least, when it comes to stuff online. In the early days I took a fairly hard-line approach personally, trying to treat stuff that was obviously 'owned' as though it were property, even though it was available online without the actual owner suffering any loss if I acquired the digital content.

Then came Youtube, Google prime, music and video streaming, torrents, vodlocker etc. Copyright and ownership of digital content became psychologically blurred, even though the legal framework hadn't really changed.

But the thing that's really blurred the line for me is the issue over digital content that's been paid for.

We have a couple of Kobos - painfully slow digital book readers, the business was acquired by Rakuten a few years back - plus a Nook (Barnes and Noble) and a Kindle. The Nook went first, with the digital rights being sold to Sainsbury, who then lapsed the business completely - I have no idea if we can still read books on that. Around the dsame time we also became aware that Amazon did sometimes actually pull content from Kindles if they decided that you didn't have a right to carry on reading the stuff you'd paid for. Now it seems that Microsoft are removing access to any books bought through their service, giving limited refunds in some cases.

There are lots of reasons why the attitude of the public is changing towards digital content and ownership compared to the way physical goods and services are viewed, but I reckon a big driver is this feeling that you never actually own what you pay for. In some ways the software companies are recognising this too, with SAAS (software as a service) becoming more common, where you rent use of applications on a subscription basis, being locked into repeated payments to the developer. One could discuss the pros and cons of that, but my feeling is that it will reduce the barrier to acquiring digital content regardless of copyright.

Friday, 28 June 2019

What's in a name?

If you've ever been a fan of the iDevice then you'll probably know of Jony Ive, whose departure from Apple has been announced today. He's setting up his own company: LoveFrom.

Or is that LoveForm?

Every article I've read thus far has been written as if the new biz is called LoveFrom, but someone speaking on the radio this morning called it love form, which makes far more sense for a design business.

I wonder if we've just seen a moderate failure of software design from an over-enthusiastic spill chucker?

;-)

Not that my own output here couldn't use a bit of decent proof-reading sometimes. :-(

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Friday, 21 June 2019

Just Libra me alone, OK?

It seems that  Facebook project (Libre) to manage finances internationally was announced this week as Calibra. While listening to the wireless during the drive to work I caught Mark Carney, (American) governor of the Bank Of England talking about it with an interviewer, though I'd managed to miss out on the strat of the interview, so only put the information together retrospectively.

Would you trust Facebook with your financial data?

Exactly.

But on the basis 50 billion flies can't be wrong, you KNOW this is going to take off, don't you? Trump is in the White House, Boris (how appropriate his initials are BJ) is likely to become PM here in Blighty. QED.

Y'know, it could be a genuinely useful service. As Mark Carney said in the interview, this is the financial sector, and there are rules that business follows - it's not the wild frontier of internetland. Paypal because a (mostly) reliable, useful entity, though it's conception and birth occurred in the financially oriented operation. Facebook's background is data mining and selling the user as the product, so how might that work out?

Some have suggested the service would be 'free' because your data would be used to pay for the cost.

The worst part about this is, like Western Union and all those other 'helpful' firms, you know some parts of the world will embrace it with open servers arms and not care, making it difficult for the rest of us to completely avoid.


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Health has been an odd thing this last couple of weeks

I've not been overtly unwell, but looking at the longer post grumbling about facts and the bible, then considering the sensations of pressure and difficulty in thinking clearly that I've experienced on and off make me wonder what's going on inside. It's not just the head though - joints are also distinctly grumpy (waking me at night) and for some weeks now my chest has been making enough noise with internal gurgles when laying on my left that - once awake - I can't get back to sleep.

Quite a number here at work have been suffering hay fever recently, and I wonder if that's part of the trouble. Imunogenic insult of that type often stimulates all the wrong immune responses, and we get some of the flu-like symptoms without going anywhere near a virus. At the same time it's weird how it comes and goes, head feeling clear one minute, fuzzy the next. Seem to be sneezing and streaming from time to time too, though again it's unpredictable.

Yesterday was also a wipe-out. We had a babyshower for someone, and after eating a couple of smallish cakes at 9am I seemed to be in a daze - that was almost certainly glucose management, but it never settled down until after dinner in the evening. Looks like the days of munch & run have gone.

And I wonder what crazy things I've just written above? Thing is, I won't even be able to spot the non-sensical stuff for a day or 2.

Heads are odd things sometimes.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Keep taking the tablets.

Recently picked up a Linx 12.5" tablet running windows 10 cheaply to use as a sheet music presentation platform instead of the photocopies. It was a refurb, so I don't feel so bad - a new iPad uses resources and energy equivalent to >30,000 sheets of paper, so it's hard to justify such a purchase with the objective of reducing consumption (an argument I've seen used to 'encourage' purchase of such devices) when I'm otherwise computer-rich.

Trouble is, there's a whole tranche of associated paraphernalia: clamps, stands, foot pedals etc etc. This is going to be kept minimal, but will at least create the illusion that I'm following the music.

It's also been interesting setting up a W10 computer from scratch too, having to clean up the start menu, install all the usual apps (at least 1 non-microsoft non-google browser, plus libreoffice and VLC) and then try to remember/guess passwords.

I also installed PowerMusic Essentials (FOC) to organise the music when it finally gets here. Music applications seem to have generally polarised into either Apple-only or Android-only groups, neither of which seem to talk and both of which want to take your money while helping lock you into a system. At least PM works cross-platform, which is definitely a good reason to consider investing a little.

Next thing to try will be some form of photo-editing software. In terms of performance this is significantly less sluggish that my old unibody Macbook, but a long way from the (5 year old) Dell XPS with i7 quad and 16GB RAM + SSD. It does only weigh about half either of those 2, and it fits nicely on my lap at home with the kickstand out and detachable keyboard out in front without producing any significant heat at all. In fact I've been working for more than an hour and it's barely above ambient temperature

The screen is nice too - 1080P at 12.5" makes for crisp detail, and the IPS panel gives a pleasant viewing experience. A few years back I long-term loaned my little Philips 12" laptop running linux and missed it ever since. This may make a pleasing replacement, although having looked into the possibility of running linux on it, I think we'll be sticking with Windows for now.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Deepfakes and the bible.

* it seems I'm going slightly mad, or at least can't write every sentence in decent, clear English.*

Surely there's no connection, is there, other than let your yes be yes and no, no?

Our ability to make people say things they never really said for our own pleasure or benefit is not new, and has probably been around for as long as human communication itself, and knowing where a line may be drawn has always been difficult. The church has had to deal with this pretty much continuously through its history, deciding what was 'true' in terms of historical writings in the 4th century by creating the bible (later revised again when the evangelicals rejected the tales of the arabian nights the apocrypha and various other bits). Stories about the derring do of various 'saints' have peppered church history too (and remember, the winner is usually the one who gets to write history).

There seems to be something in the human character that must make stuff up, sometimes for the 'best' of reasons, like wanting their God/god to appear bigger and better, sometimes for personal satisfaction or gain.

And the ignorant masses apparently lap it all up, and worse, act on it.

I guess we tend naturally to believe the stories that confirm our personal biases or preferences, reject those that do not. Donald Trump romping with porn stars in the oval room of the White House? Sure he did. Key figures in the prosperity gospel movement taking vows of poverty and humility? You must be joking??!

So I go back to look at my bible and read Genesis and Exodus, start asking questions. Well, that was a long time ago, oral tradition and all that. Then I compare Kings and Chronicles, which are both much more 'historical' though created for different reasons. Then I read the gospel of John, and start wondering about the way conversations are portrayed and how the chronology is re-woven to create a theology instead of providing a history. And I consider James (St. James to you) brother of Jesus who ends up running the church in Jerusalem instead of Peter, setting Paul up for the mob (I really do wonder if he actually saw Paul as an enemy to be removed, for uncovering James and Peters' hypocrisy over judaism and the law).

I think I may have commented a few years back about Herodotus blantantly making stuff  up in his writings, and there have been times I wondered if the first century was like the 21st century.

Someone wanted recently to 'discuss' my 'not entirely orthodox' view of the bible with me. The problem is that I'm still trying to understand what's real, what's wishful thinking, what - if anything - is blatantly faked. 'Faith' overcomes a lot of this stuff, because it simply says that the bible is the word of God and I'll believe it whatever. It's a position I once subscribed to, but cannot, in good conscience, any longer.

What stiluated this?
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/06/13/congress_ai_deepfake_probe/
And the legislative 'solution': https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/06/13/deep_fakes_legal_protection/

Plus the failure of a recent attempt to prosecute a British politician for barefaced lying in a way that would influence the gullible while holding a senior post in government. We are now, apparently, OK for our politicians to lie to us about stuff that brings them personal gain.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

If you have been trying to comment here

and it hasn't worked (thinking of you especially, Marc) then I'm sorry. No idea why comments are broken - nothing has been changed, and I have even removed the requirement for moderation before they appear in the hope that would make it possible.

Blogger seems decreasingly functional, no longer working properly on Android and being temperamental through a browser. Maybe blogging will die out further, not just because people stop wanting to blog, but because this platform is being wound up (lack of profitability?) by google.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

I just lied.

Walking out of the Cotswold Store (outdoor equipment shop) I was accosted by someone on a stand soliciting donations and asked if I were interested in wildlife. My reply "no, but thanks anyway" wasn't true, but I didn't want to get involved or donate.

:-p

Friday, 7 June 2019

Is it cheating?

To try, make mistakes, then go back again with new knowledge?

How well do we know someone?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Iffy hearing can at least be amusing sometimes.

I've worked in the past with Swedish speakers, one of whom would often end a conversation (in Swedish) with what sounded like 'milky bra'.

I can see Leonard Nimmoy raising one eyebrow and intoning a gravelly "curious".

The phrase is actually mycke bra, 'micky' becoming 'milky' through rhythm and lilt.

Very good.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Every so often I get emails from the Oxford University dept of continuing education.

Seeing the range of courses available makes me realise how one could simply sit in further education ones entire life, absorbing more and more information and learning. It also makes me wonder whether I should do one or two coursse a year, just to keep the brain alive and interested in things other than science and photography (and maybe theology).

The difficulty with these things is developing the will to keep going: when a course like this is for pleasure and not necessity there is less drive to push through the dull/difficult/confusing/apparently stupid parts.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

You know you have succumbed to marketing

When you have so much booze in the cupboard at home that you KNOW you don't need any more.

*edited. I need to stop posting from the phone, because a quick visual scan of the text is not enough to find my own mistakes and those of the spill chucker.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

I am both fascinated and deeply frustrated.

By this: https://digi.vatlib.it/

So much knowledge and information available, yet so completely un-readable for me.

Friday, 24 May 2019

The camera can now really tell some porkie pies.

I guess it was inevitable that the stuff of some scifi would become reality - you just simply can't believe what you see anymore, not at all.

Have a look here if you want to see the Mona Lisa smile.

*edit*
It seems that face changes are now being 'easily' and commonly done, with the results posted on youtube: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/05/28/youtube_deepfakes_channel/

It just re-emphasises that you really can't believe video clips any more.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Am I homophobic?

It's a question I don't ask myself too often, partly because it's dumb and partly because there's no ready set of acceptance criteria against which one can gain an accurate measure. Some would suggest that if you can intereact pleasantly with known homosexual people then the answer is no, while others will suggest that if you do not fully and completely approve the homosexual lifestyle or if you call someone else gay as an insult, even in fun, then you're inherently homophobic.

This post was promted by the folloing article on aunty beeb: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48294017

And it raises the question, if one doesn't approve of homosexual activity, does that make you homophobic (I suspect the answer is yes) even if you don't distinguish between straight & gay individuals in the way you treat them.

This has been sat as a draft for a couple of weeks - I opened blogger, saw the title and thought "God, I hope so!*".

It feels like the world has gone nuts, in so many ways.

I do genuinely wonder whether, rather like caesarian section delivery which is apparently changing the gene pool (more mothers and children survive the effects of an otherwise lethal variation of physiology, thus passing it on to future generations) if the manner in which society accepts and promotes gender fluidity and a breakdown of gender stereotype is an increasingly lethal social inheritence. It's hard to find the time and enthusiams to write about it now, but from an evolutionary perspective and ignoring religious feelings, it's hard to see how either of those could encourage survival of the race.

To me, this is a far bigger challenge to the survival of the race than global warming. Certainly if large areas of land disappear under water it will result in wide-ranging suffering, death and war, but if society breaks to the point where people aren't interested in breeding and working together then the race is far less likely to bounce back in whatever world remains. I don't think gay and trans people are going to cause the end of the world (or anything stupid like that) but I do wonder if they are the unwilling, unhappy victims of relative wealth, comfort and success.

OTOH I wonder if this undermining of identity and liberalisation is a 'natural' response to overly successful development, and in the presence of comfort and abundance it is normal for humans to become decadent, lose vigour and their society to crumble and fall. When one might think people would thrive and grow, instead they are beset with depression and self-doubt. History is certainly full of events where empires rotted and collapsed because they had decayed from within.

And adversity tends to make both the church and people stronger. History has shown that a comfy church tends to do badly, but a suffering church is vital and powerful. Maybe it will be a pattern for ordinary human beings too? On a purely human level, do we need those less than fit to fail & die in order for humanity as a whole to survive? Are questions like this even allowed to be asked any more?

Maudlin thoughts at the end of a Thursday lunchtime.

*Don't take that too seriously.

Minor spelling/typo corrections added 24.5.2019

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

It's that time again.

Another year, memories a little less sharp, but still there as a dull ache inside.Actually it's quite a sharp ache - memories are much less distant than I thought, and the feelings that hover decided to pounce instead of staying back.
I don't say too much here these days, but everything just seems so futile at times.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Friday, 3 May 2019

OK, it's finally happened.

I have lost touch. (p.s. don't read it all unless you want to).

"What's new since 0.16.0? For those who've been following along, a great many things have changed over the last 5 months since the 0.16.0 release - 99 people contributed over 5,700 commits during that time!"

"With this release, we highlight our approach to innovation, while maintaining our friendliness and focus on design and beauty. Keeping the focus on design Like our previous release, we have tried to make Lamarr a beautiful desktop with design elements being minimal and clean. It features a contrasting and sharp design theme inspired and derived from the Nitrux desktop. In Lamarr, we have simplified Plasma 5 by removing many controls which may confuse the everyday user. New welcome screen: Lamarr features a re-designed welcome screen with a heartbeat animated logo. The desktop: The desktop design has been kept traditional and minimal with modern design cues featuring a white color scheme by default. The panel: The Plasma 5 panel has been modified to keep a minimal set of configuration options, which we feel is helpful to new Linux users, who may otherwise get overwhelmed by the power of customization Plasma offers out of the box."

New upstream features and improvements include: additional container support with new tools such as Podman (a container management tool) that complements the previously released tools such as Buildah and Skopeo; policy-based decryption (PBD); GnuTLS support hardware security module (HSM); OpenSSL now works with CPACF; nftables enhancements and the nft command for greater packet filtering insight; OpenSC support for new smart cards; greater support for kdump, network and timesync; integration of Extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF)...."

"A nice way of celebrating the sixth anniversary of this distribution is releasing KaOS 2019.04 with fully updated Midna theme, a new toolchain and Qt 5.12.3. As always with this rolling distribution, you will find the very latest packages for the Plasma Desktop, this includes Frameworks 5.57.0, Plasma 5.14.4 and KDE Applications 19.04.0. All built on Qt 5.12.3. A new glibc 2.29, GCC 8.3.0 and Binutils 2.32 toolchain is among the many changes to the base of the system. Updates to systemd, LLVM, MariaDB, Protobuf, MESA, Polkit and Qt required the rebuild of a large percentage of the KaOS repositories. The removal of Python2 from the KaOS repositories is ongoing. Many more packages are now build on Python3 exclusively. Highlights of KDE Applications 19.04 include an extensive re-write of Kdenlive as more than 60% of its internals have changed, improving its overall architecture."

 
"Elive 3.0 has been updated and it will probably be the last updated build for the 3.0 release. This updated release includes multiple internal improvements that have been developed for the next version of Elive and I backported these improvements to 3.0. There are too many internal code improvements to list all the details but I can at least summarize some important points. Persistence - overall improvements for saving the desktop configurations based on different hardware profiles and improvements for the option to encrypt persistence; Elive Health tool - improvements for the critical temperature detection feature; USB recorder tool - now supports compressed images; Sound - support for PulseAudio in the Elive internal mixer tool, in case the user installs it....



There's a lot more of this stuff. 

I've realised that the descriptions of Linux distros now looks like gobbeldygook to me where it once made sense.

OTOH a quick read of Distrowatch has made me want to experiment a little again.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

D'you ever see something engineery and think "what about......?"

Like the idea of storing energy for laser weapons mounted on ships in a flywheel.

Ships move in a variety of directions when travelling - how is that going to work with several megawatts of energy (I can't convert that in my head to joules or whatever else is appropriate) in a flywheel that's basically going to strongly resist non-linear motion? They'd better bolt the darn thing down good & hard if they don't want it tearing free & flapping around, and the hull is going to need to be strong enough to cope too. OTOH this may give the boat a much smoother progress through the ocean than usual.

I'm fascinated to know if this has been considered at all.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Well that was weird.

A good friend keeps links to 'voices' that have been connected with him in the past including some that have become quiet for various reasons. Being in a momentary gap, I followed a link to jordoncooper.com and behold there was a web page as if the original owner were still alive and blogging about IT.

Very very strange.

I also popped back and had a little wander down vandermeander, and it left me sad to be reminded of what I miss now. The blogging community changed years back, and there's not been a viable replacement since it ceased.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Inclusivity

I'm an Android user, but I like to identify as an iPhone user.

;-)

Have to love the BOFH.

Monday, 8 April 2019

The arm is

somewhat less difficult today, for which I'm grateful.

Yesterday was also a nice day, where we had a morning out together in Oxford with a bit of lunch. Over the last few years, church has been increasingly something which took away rather than adding to energy and enjoyment, and Sunday felt like a day of chores after which there was no energy to do anything.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

And todays embuggerance

is a trapped nerve in my right arm/shoulder, likely cause by laying on the floor working at awkward angles yesterday. I can barely lift my right arm, and the pain makes me gasp - getting dressed was 'interesting' as was sleeping, and I can only type because I can rest my wrist on the laptop. I leave you to imagine some of the other areas that might be impacted by this.

There's a minor issue of also producing orange goo from respiratory orifices (thank you colleagues who came to work with horrible colds last week) but that's merely unpleasant.

Thanks to imgflip for the meme generator.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Today I had a strong reminder of how it felt to be in my 20s again.

When we had no money and I used to do stuff like fit bathrooms and kitchens in our house.

A while back we asked a plumber friend (professional, qualified, full time business) to replace a couple of taps and a waste in our bathroom sink unit, which we wished to keep. However the taps were old and the fittings holding everything together were a bit corroded and reluctant to come undone with everything in situ - he had a go, but couldn't shift joints & suggested we had a nice vanity unit fitted instead.

No.

The answer was 'obvious' old skool - just take the unit off the wall to get better access to joints and where they wouldn't cooperate then apply brute force or a hacksaw.

To a 57 year old who hasn't done any plumbing work to speak of in more than 10 years, it took an hour to get everything off the wall and in bits - not really any touble at all - but then 2 hours to get it all back and leakfree (it all had to come apart again because the new waste leaked - seems OK now) which was annoying and a sign that I really am out of practice.

In a way I'm pleased that I can still do this stuff, but I'd have preferred him to have done it first time & just taken an extra hour over it. And I have a headache, just like I used to get from doing this stuff. There's something about mechanics that requires just as much mental agility as designing tests to measure billionths of a gram of protein, and those cranial demands make themselves felt.