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WebLog (Blog)
(Comments and reviews about anything that interests or annoys me sufficient to get me to the computer to write it down.)


21st December 2011.
Tesco Value parody xmas cardIt is that mid-winder festival time again and in keeping with the spirit of the ocassion, I thought that I would share something that I cooked up last year so that you can give some to your friends who celebrate the festival that happens this coming weekend.

Download the PDF tesco_value_card_parody.pdf and then print it out - it is sized for DIN A4 paper but I'm sure that it will fit onto other sizes - just crop it so that the paper has an aspect ratio of 2:sqroot 2.

Fold it into four and write your message in the usual place.

The card is a parody of those low-cost supermarket brands that go out of their way to 'provide the service' for those who cannot afford the expensive versions of things, but at the price of humiliation - it could equally apply to ASDA's Smart-Price brand or any other.

Those who know what irony is, will be able to spot the irony in this card instantly. However, I find that only around one person in 20 can see it.


7th December 2011.
Somebody is running a campaign at the moment, on my Gurmukhi website which has a lot of free fonts on it /billie/. I don't know what they are putting on there but normally, the Click-Through Rate (CTR) for the site is roughly 1.15% (November) but this is running at around 5.88% (today and yesterday).

You can see when people run campaigns because you get a spike in the cost-per-click and the CTR stays about the same. Here, however, the CPC is quite low but the CTR has sky-rocketed. I think we need a bit more competition.


19th November 2011.
This is what science is about. Publish some results that appear to conflict with the best theories, someone makes a suggestion of what might be wrong and that is tested. Remember that results outweigh theory every time (as long as the experiments are conducted properly, of course).

One of the issues with the observations of FLT neutrinos was that it was suggested that it was not known where abouts in the bunch of neutrinos the detected neutrinos were coming from - if, for some reason, it was not random. The duration of the bunch was quite long in comparison to the times involved in order to produce the apparent effect of flt travel.

So, now they have repeated the experiment with shorter duration bunches of neutrinos - now only 3ns duration - and there are 20 pulses in each group - separated by 524ns which is many times longer than the 60ns effect observed in the original experiment so there is no problem identifying which bunch they are from.

And yes, the FLT neutrino results are confirmed.

All we have to do is find an explanation. Personally, I think that distance as experienced by neutrinos travelling through rock (see 25th October entry below) is different to that experienced by them travelling through the same length of vacuum. (The previous sentence sounds confusing so, for the purposes of the previous sentence:'distance' is the length experienced; and, length is what you measure when you get your tape measure out and measure it.)

Anybody know of a particle accelerator with both a clear, line-of-sight view and a through-the-rock view of a neutrino detector? A tunnelling contractor maybe? That would clinch it.


15th November 2011.
wholemeal bread plaitI was making some bread plaits a few days ago, - these are the usual 3-plaits - when my son suggested that I try a 5-plait.

That went all right and jokingly, he suggested making one that filed the whole baking tray.

So, here it is. One large slab of plait that covers the whole tray.

On this scale, it is not practical to do what you would do to make a 3- or 5-plait - start in the middle, plat towards yourself then flip it over - this had to be done from one edge.

Any way, this is my first attempt at it and things to learn are being consistent with the amount of dough for each plait - knowing how many it would take would have been a big advantage - and getting the roll out consistent.

Still, not bad for a first try - you can see that I started in the top left. I laid out the left-right pairs, weaving them in as I went so once I put in the last one, all I had to do was finish off weaving the bottom right. You can see how the inconistencies manifest themselves as shorter tails on some parts of the bottom of it.

Tasted nice and went well with some leak and potato soup that I made.


15th November 2011.
Squeezy hoi sin sauceLook what I've found In the local Chinese supermarket (Chung Hua in Derby).

I remember taking Hoi Sin sauce from the tin and putting it in a squeezy tomato sauce bottle and taking it to work when I worked in 183 Lab at Courtaulds in spondon back in the late 1980s.

Taken them a while to catch up (or for it to get on to the market in Derby) but it is every bit as nice as the other stuff.


25th October 2011.
On catch-up TV last night, I watched the program about the FTL neutrinos, presented by Dr Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford Faster Than Light Neutrinos - Paul Grosse's ideaand two things stood out - both of them obvious in my opinion.

  • Superluminal neutrinos
  • Backwards time travel

There are a number of things that could be wrong - the length of the proton pulse is quite long but the result is a six sigma result so it is quite certain - experimentation could prove it to be an error but it is interesting to speculate about - what if it is right?

Superluminal neutrinos: We know, from the programme, and elsewhere, that neutrinos travel very close to the speed of light. In the experiment, neutrinos are sent from CERN to Opera, some 732km, travelling through rock, and they arrive 60ns earlier than light would have done if there was a clear, line-of-sight path, this representing around 20 metres shorter distance - all of the errors adding up to only 5 metres so it is well outside experimental error.

Interestingly the MINOS experiment operating out of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, had observed apparent superluminal velocity neutrinos as well. However, they had larger systematic errors and so dismissed it as wrong. They were also passing neutrinos through rock, to a distant detector.

The programme also mentioned a supernova (1987A) that happened in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy in 1987. In that case, the neutrinos arrived at the Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment detector in Japan (in the diagram, I have just shown the detector as the Opera detector, so as to make it simpler) three hours before light from supernova reached Earth. However, that was because the neutrinos managed to escape the event before the light, which was trapped for longer, so, effectively, travelling through the vacuum of intergalactic space, the neutrinos travelled at almost the speed of light. If neutrinos had been travelling faster in the proportion apparently observed in CERN/Opera experiment, they would have arrived instead, around four years earlier than the light.

So, what have we got here? Do these resuts contradict each other? Do the neutrinos from the supernova prove the results from Opera and MINOS to be erroneous?

When travelling throught the vacuum of intergallactic space, neutrinos travel almost at the speed of light whereas when they travel through rock, they apparently travel at around 1.000,027 times the speed of light.

Supposing that they weren't travelling faster than light, but instead, were travelling at the speed that they manage in the vacuum. That would mean that they had travelled around 20m shorter a distance though rock than if they travelled the same path but through something less dense, say, for the purpose of practicality, an air tunnel.

Might it be that at the plank scale, there is less space inside an atom than the atom occupies? - A bit like Doctor Who's TARDIS or my wife's handbag, but in reverse. A loss of linear distance of around 27ppm for rock.

Maybe the neutrinos are just travelling less distance in the same time when travelling through rock. Now, what would the experiment to confirm that look like? Anybody go a neuton star handy to test this against - or possibly put a neutron detector into space so we can measure the velocity of neutrinos from Cern when they travel comparable distances but not through rock.

Maybe a straight line isn't necessarily the shortest distance between two points.


Faster Than Light Neutrinos travelling through time - Paul Grosse's ideaBackwards time travel: For some reason, anything that appears to cover distances faster than light does - quantum entanglement effects or these neutrinos - seems to get some physicists onto the television and talking about things travelling backwards in time. This is just nonsense.

We are all familiar with the so-called 'twins paradox' where one of two twins gets onto a close-to-the-speed-of-light spaceship and travels off, and then back, and, ends up being ten years younger than the one that didn't go on the round-trip. Of course, it is only that the one that went on the journey experienced ten year's less time than the one that remained on Earth. He is not ten years younger, he has just aged by ten years less. There has been no backwards time travel.

Here, we have particles arriving at a location before light would, had it travelled that same measured distance. It still arrived after it started.

In the diagram (effect of linear distance exaggerated to illustrate the point), you can see that light and the neutrinos both started at 'A', at time 0. After time 'x', the neutrios arrive at 'B' and a little later at time 'y', the light arrives there as well.

The arrival events both happen after time '0' therefore cause and effect - the second law of theremodynamics - has not been violated.

Nothing has travelled backwards through time.

How the neutrinos have experienced time is a different question but if the first point above - the distance experienced is not as long as the measured distance - then there is no issue about that any way.

Let us wait and see what happens.


28th September 2011.
Derby's big wheel is up at the moment Derby's big wheel 20110928So I just had to have a ride on it.

Derby's big wheel 20110928Here is a view of Derby's egregeous 'Quad' arts centre, following Sheffield's teapot and so on - we've got to have one as well.

Right.

Derby's big wheel 20110928

This is a nice view of, from left to right, the Rivershadows project, and the Westfield centre's cinema-complex bolt-on which, whilst Birmingham has dark smokey blocks of glass like the Hyatt Regency and so on, we have a battle-ship-grey block bolted onto the top of a shopping centre.

Whilst inside, it has rather nice cinemas, on the outside, it is dreadful.

Derby's big wheel 20110928Here is a view of Derby's Guildhall that you don't usually see.

With the price of metal increasing the way it is, I hope all of that lead is still there this time next year.

Derby's big wheel 20110928

Little buildings, all built together to make our street shops - the old way.

Left-centre-top, you can see the expanse of waste land that used to be Duckworth square - still awaiting redevelopment.

Derby's big wheel 20110928

This is that falling-film urinal.

How it ever got planning permission is beyond everybody I have ever asked.

Derby's big wheel 20110928

A view up Uttoxeter road with the central library tower in the mid-ground, just to the left.

Derby's big wheel 20110928

The many rooftops that make up Derby's shops

Derby's big wheel 20110928

Finally, looking north at the Cathedral in the centre with the University of Derby close to the horizon, just to the left.

To the right is the Jury's Inn which, as you can see, is almost as high as the cathedral.

Thinking about the utter fuss that the Christians kicked up when the Derby Spike proposal was made - a periscope that would have been higher (not necessarily taller) than the cathedral, thus pushing the cathedral down a place in the highest-thing-in-Derby list - it makes you wonder why it wasn't just that little bit taller.


25th September 2011.
PayPal parody PalReceived an email from PayPal. stating

We have completed our review, and as you have completed all the required steps, we have restored your account.

Well, that's good, I thought, pity whoever it is that is responsible for blocking me from PayPal has blocked me again. So, I tried, just in case, and it was not blocked any more.

So, it was blocked, then I changed my IP address and it wasn't, they I appealed and it was blocked again and now the appeal result has been overturned and it is not blocked? Is there a link here? Does PayPal tell whoever it is that is blocking IP addresses whether or not to block them? Are we looking at correlation or causation?

Any way, the email carried on with the following slander...

'Our records indicate you have shared your password with another person'

So, they are saying that an accredited Journalist who has written in the security sector, advising SMBs for years, would pass on his password to anybody else. I can honestly say that I have never, ever done that.

My password is so secure, I don't even know it. It falls into a group of long passwords that use all 52 letters of the alphabet, and numbers. It is imune to dictionary attacks and social engineering without physical access and whilst trying to break it, you would use up an amount of energy that would boil the oceans and still not get close. I haven't even diginified that statement - whether it was neglegent mis-statement or malicious falshood, I don't know - with a complaint. They should know better.

At least I can shop online now - until the whole thing gets screwed up again.


24th September 2011.
PayPal parody FailTried to access PayPal with the browser and found that it was blocked again.

Ho hum.


23rd September 2011.
One interesting side effect of having a new IP address is that if your IP address is individually blocked from somewhere, it is at least temporarily unblocked.

If you have read the posts below about PayPal, you will know that my IP has been blocked from that site for some reason although I have actually managed to get an account (this could only be done using a proxy so that became, in effect, the accepted method of using PayPal) which has then been 'limited'. They needed some extra bank details so I sent that off and it was still limited because, as they stated - and I quote from a screenshot that I took the trouble to save -

PayPal parody Lie 'Why is my account access limited?

14 Apr 2011: For reasons relating to the safe use of the PayPal service we need some more information about the use of your bank account linked to your PayPal account.'

Well, with a new IP address, I found that I could access their site directly. So, I thought I would give them another chance and I phoned them up. At the end of the call, I put in the following complaint:

I have just been on the phone for 12 minutes where you man claimed that the reason for my account being limited was due to the unfortunate requirement at the time of having to use a proxy. [I now don't need a proxy - my ISP has changed my IP address and the path between my browser and your server is not blocked].

Unfortunately, the reasons given for my account being limited do not include any mention of a proxy. I fact, it mentions other reasons, failing completely to mention a proxy.

I have complied with your requests completely and yet, your deliberate failure to state in your reasons that the real reason for my account being limited is the use of a proxy.

By failing to provide me with access to the real reason for limiting my account, you have denied my natural justice. In fact, your man stated (rather than just admitted) that it is guilty until proven innocent. which is also in contravention of the UDHR as well as European banking regulations (PayPal is a bank under EU law).

He insisted on talking about proxy use when your reasons deliberately did not mention it.

Also, he demonstrated that he did not understand how secure links between browsers and servers are set up and used.

Overall, the conversation was dominated by his insistence that the real reason that PayPal had limited my account was the unfortunately necessary use of a proxy server - although everything else was verified (one has to ask how can verification of a user session be not verified because of proxy use when everything else is already verified through a proxy connection - inconsistency noted) - even though the word 'proxy' is not mentioned in your reasons for your decision at all - instead, stating: ' 14 Apr 2011: For reasons relating to the safe use of the PayPal service we need some more information about the use of your bank account linked to your PayPal account.'

The conversation was going nowhere and I have the right not to spend my telephone bill in a way that will not increase my already high blood pressure.

So, where are we now? For the first time since I stated the process of opening this account, my use of PayPal is not blocked between my browser and your server, thus, I am not required to use a proxy server.

You have all of the information you requested and that is all verified.

You have no reason to limit my account.

As lord Denning said, 'a delay of justice is a denial of justice'.

PayPal parody DeadAdditionally, he stated that PayPal did not block IP addresses.

Then, I checked my email and found a mail stating 'After reviewing your account, we have decided to close it because of security issues.' So, I complained again:

I have just received an email stating that my account is closed because of security issues.

Clearly, the man that I talked to on the phone, who stated that, now that I could get internet access to your server without requiring a proxy, he would mention it to his supervisor so that the limitation on my account would be removed, had a different plan in the end, letting out his frustration at having been caught out admitting openly in a call to a customer that PayPal's policy is: 'guilty until proven innocent.'

Now that my IP address is not blocked from your webserver, there are no security issues regarding my account.

Clearly, the man with whom I spoke is not playing by company rules otherwise you would have a rule that states that it is all right to tell lies in emails.

His actions have brought PayPal into disrepute in the eyes of the public - talking to an accredited journalist in this way was not a good idea on his part.

Resolution for this situation?

My account clearly should have its limitation lifted and should be reinstated to full use because the actions of your employee are obviously capricious and vindictive.

Your employee needs to be taken to one side and reminded that he should not make false statements about customer accounts in emails to customers because in this case, all security issues have been resolved.

Lying to customers is bad - in written form is doubly so - to a journalist, well, now you are talking.



21st September 2011.
Interesting times Safe wireless firewall configurationas the Chinese curse says - these last few days have cetainly been eventful - I am writing this after it has happened but the dates at the top of each section show when it happened.

First of all, I installed a router which included wireless functionality, as well as wired and I was impressed with it. So, as my daughter has been moaning about wireless connectivity for some years now, I thought that I would install my own - the firewall is tri-homed so I can keep the wireless network separate from the wired network and thus not compromise the security. Okay so far.

So, I went and bought a nice little router of a reputable make with a wired and wireless connection so that I could plug it into the firewall's DMZ as in the configuration on the right. That went all right as well. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the firewall didn't want to know for some reason so I ended up with the wireless router which is dual-homed but has the ability to make itself tri-homed with the wireless in the DMZ. So, out went the old firewall and in went the new router which has a SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection) firewall built into it - this is like a cut-down version of Checkpoint's Firewall 1 SMLI (Stateful, Multi-Layered Inspection) firewall. Neither are as good as second generation firewalls - Application Gateway firewalls but it is good enough for here with the configuration I have.

The next problem started when there is absolutely no reason why the new firewall should know what the old firewall's IP address was, so when it asked my ISP for a new one, instead of my ISP looking at the MAC address of the modem (whey they can see) to see what I had, DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol - how you get an IP address when you go onto the Internet) returned a new IP address.

As a result of that, I had to go to DynDNS to change my IP address on the DNS (Domain Name Service) and they took the opportunity to remove my wildcard, even though I hadn't changed anything else - they have been wanting to do this for months but I had kept my IP address.

So, without a wildcard:

  • http://www.grosse.is-a-geek.com/;
  • http://www.billie.grosse.is-a-geek.com/; and,
  • http://www.paul.grosse.is-a-geek.com/
all become http://grosse.is-a-geek.com/ and as a result, I loose all of my Internet presence in just a few milliseconds.

The figures for the next day revealed that the only traffic was direct traffic (where someone hacks the address in the browser's address bar to try to get somewhere).

So, what could I do, with only one domain name and several sites?

I have relacated the *paul* and *billie* sites as subdirectories of the main site and have had to contact everybody that has a link to my site to try to get them to update their sites.

Now:

  • http://www.grosse.is-a-geek.com/*
  • http://www.billie.grosse.is-a-geek.com/*
  • http://www.paul.grosse.is-a-geek.com/*
become
  • http://grosse.is-a-geek.com/*
  • http://grosse.is-a-geek.com/billie/*
  • http://grosse.is-a-geek.com/paul/*

So, if you have a link to my site, could you make sure it is the new address, please?


14th September 2011.
Quite often, we see or hear about Yin Yang Breadhow an image of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ has appeared in a piece of toast, or how the word 'Allah' has been found, written in Arabic, in some vegetable or other.

Well, for the moment, the Abrahamic God of grafitti has been pushed to one side when it comes to writing his name on your food.

Here, we find a humble slice of Sainsbury's wholemeal bread displaying quite blatantly the Taoist 'Taijitu' (literally the "diagram of the supreme ultimate"), Yin and Yang in balance with each other.

So, here is to the Sainsbury's bakery, actualizing the natural order and maintaining balance (I did say it was wholemeal, didn't I?), making life peaceful and filling it with joy.

So, is it:

  • showing evidence that the creator of the universe has done a really good job of forward planning this by 13.7 billion years since He last had anything at all to do with the way that the universe works? or
  • just that they flush out the brown dough with wholemeal dough when changing over to the next batch?

It tasted all right.


17th August 2011.
I was run over todayHit and run mobility scooter at 17:47, on the pavement on the left, just as I approached the Railway bridge on Sinfin Lane, going from Derby (UK) towards Sinfin. The time is from the file save time on the camera and the camera checks out at being less than 20 seconds fast.

I was walking briskly along on the pavement, minding my own business, listening to my personal stereo - some of the up-beat music I have on there gets me walking at around 7-8kmph - when, just as I approached the bridge, I felt what turned out to be the side of a mobility scooter, hit my side, from behind, pushing me hard to the left.

Immediately, the front wheel ran over my right foot and I started to get the idea that something serious was going on.

I looked down as he ran over my right foot with his left rear wheel and then carried on driving, without stopping, just ignoring me.

I didn't know what to think. This was a motorised, four-wheeled vehicle, on the pavement and he had just deliberately ran me over and failed to stop.

Hit and run mobility scooterBeing a journalist, I always carry my camera with me so I managed to get it out the case and switch it on. I didn't know what to expect so I followed him at a reasonable distance and just after we cleared the bridge, I took the first shot above.

I walked behind him and an oncoming pedestrian walked into the road to let him stay on the pavement.

Let's just pause for a second there.

We have a man driving a motorised, four-wheeled vehicle on a pavement and people are having to walk into the road, into oncoming traffic in order to allow him to continue to do so.

Another thought to ponder is that he might have felt justified in knocking me out of 'his' way because I was listening to my personal stereo. If that it the case, he might have to consider: what would he do with a deaf pedestrian in 'his' way; and, why does he need to go so fast on the pavement any way?

I would have thought it reasonable for him to go at the speed that pedestrians walk at - ie, no overtaking unless it is safe to do so.

Hit and run mobility scooterFinally, he stopped and I walked past him.

I thought that if any injury that I might have sustained manifested itself later, I should at least get a photograph of the driver - this was a hit and run, after all - this was the first time he had stopped since he ran me over.

He saw me taking this shot of him and started to yell; 'F**k off!' repeatedly.

I wasn't going to rise to that so I just carried on walking away from him - I didn't want him running me over again.

Hit and run mobility scooterThis is what he looks like at pixel for pixel in the previous shot.

So far, no injury has manifested itself so hopefully, no damage has been done.

As I recall it, the wheels are fairly soft - either that or, my walking shoes are particularly strong.

They are just the bare facts so I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions about it.


15th August 2011.
I've just had an interesting email from 'Solid Documents' for their 'Solid Converter PDF' which creates PDF files.

Ok, it is nice to be able to produce a document that you know is going to look the same on the recipient's computer, regarless of what operating system they use.

And, if you use a program suite like OpenOffice.org, you will know that you have unlimited abilities to produce such documents, from as many machines as you like, all for free.

This got me looking at the rest of the email which was letting me know how much it would cost to have their license so that they could produce PDFs at a cost (instead of completely free) although these prices are heavily discounted.

Solid Converter PDF (3 licenses)   OpenOffice.org unlimited
$191.25completely free

Says it all, really.


14th August 2011.
It seems to be back to normal again. This year, we had The Arab Spring - an uprising of people, genuinely fed up with their lack of human rights under their respective regimes, fighting for democracy in North Africa and West Asia.

Over the last couple of weeks in the UK, we have had an uprising of people, finding a tenuous excuse to smash the place up, fighting for that LED colour TV by breaking into shops and stealing them - The Chav Summer.

So, how many bookshops were looted, then?


14th July 2011.
Boots the Chemist - Bankrupt. How could doing the following be the act of a company that was not bankrupt?

There once was a time when Boots the Chemist had a good name in the world of pharmacy. They used to make a lot of their own drugs at their factory close to Nottingham in the UK.

Their drugs had to go through exactly the same development and testing as all of the other reputable brands on the market.

In short, it was a good little company, with a nice reputation, providing drugs in addition to its own-brand, manufactured by itself, in a number of shops in the UK.

However, things appear to have gone a little wrong for the company. It appears that their reputation for providing good quality products that work from their medicines section has been undervalued by the people who decide what goes where in the shop - usually someone at head office who has never been in a shop with the intention of buying anything, ever.

So, what's gone wrong?

In their medicines section in Derby's Westfield Centre, you can now find homeopathic remedies.

Surely, by putting these in with the medicines, people might think that they have some effect. Homeopathic remedies should be labelled more clearly and state on them explicitly, that they contain no active ingredients.

Homeopathic remedies are the product of an out of date, broken way of thinking. It was a hypothesis (yes, not even good enough to be a theory) based upon assumptions that evidence has only ever contradicted. It doesn't work.

Clearly, placing them next to things that do work - even alternative medicines that do work - invites a process of assuming functionality by association.

Boots has really gone down hill. They are visibly morally bankrupt. I just hope that they keep afloat financially, long enough so that they can take off the shelves, those profitable silly pseudo-medicines.


13th July 2011.
PayPal - see pay fail below baked potatoes 1just emailed me (were they missing me?;-), stating that my account was still limited (I'd forgotten about it actually) and that they needed more information from me about my account (They think they are going to get that? Shouldn't have been so rude then should they).

This is what they said a few months ago and I supplied all of the information that they requested then. They failed to supply me with any of the information that I needed and had a right to legally. Then, they said that they had 'decided to close it'.

So, why are they writing again? Do they want me to try to get them to open it? Getting me to appeal again so that they can seem to follow the law and then reject it, pushing it under the carpet so that anybody inspecting their performance and giving a casual look won't notice anything? Are they going at least seem to do it legally this time?

PayPal is a bank under European law and it is a legal requirement for them to supply information to me so that I know what the issue is - so that I can supply the appropriate information. They failed to do that. They broke the law.

So, why would they do any different this time? Do they want to be legal this time? There is nothing to suggest that it is even worth me trying to log in - other than out of morbid curiosity.

Sorry PayPal, if you can't operate your business within European law, I'm not that bothered about supporting it.

So, out of morbid curiosity, I tried to point my browser at their website but PayPal is still blocking my browser.

PayPal, if you want to get people to use your bank, get your internet sorted out.


9th June 2011.
We do this once a year at the mostbaked potatoes 1 so, having burned a few bags of paper with personal details on them (don't you just love the way that banks and insurance companies send you unsolicited application forms with all of your details filled out for you so that all you have to do is sign it - or so that someone else can get all of those details from your rubbish) - and let it burn down to just black paper - all of the hyrogen has gone out of it, leaving just carbon which has a higher burn temperature.

Having left it overnight, I put some baking potatoes in it - they were just hanging around, not being used for anything - and left them.

baked potatoes 2Six hours later and it still smelled like a charcol heater so I knew it was still keeping things warm.

I dug down through the fly-ash and took them out using a pair of tongues.

baked potatoes 3A quick wash later and they were ready to eat.

They have a nice, smokey taste to them that you just don't acheive in a conventional oven.

Beautiful.


7th June 2011.
I was recently asked to contribute to a Devanagari designSanskrit tattoo fail for someone's tattoo.

I made sure that it was spelled correctly and also that it was rendered properly before I submitted oversized drawings of the various design options.

You would sort of expect that for something like a tattoo - thes will last forever unless the increasingly popular laser tattoo removal takes them out first.

Any way, I was scanning through the various images on the Internet when i came across one interesting site. www.intattoo.com. On that page, there were various PDF files that you can download, including this Buddhist tattoos pdf which shows various photographs of tattoo jobs that people have had done on them.

On page 52, there are two images and the one on the left is of somebody's arm - a lot of it is in the shade and there is no in-fill light. The writing system is Devanagari and the language is Sanskrit.

I found the actual quotes, ready coded in Devanagari on this page for free online translations for tattoos although that is not necessarily where it came from for the actual tattoo.

On the image (with the shadow cleaned up), I have put the Devanagari from the quotes, rendered properly (using the free Sanskrit 2003 font) so that you can see how it should be rendered. The figure that looks like a letter 'f' should go before the character and not after it as in the photograph (it not only looks messy but it means that it cannot be read correctly) and the thing that looks like an 'S' should also appear (there is just a space where it should be on the top line).

This is an example of a rendering bug on old word processors and web browsers - the 'f' character appears in the wrong place (to the right instead of to the left of a character or conjunct) and conjuncts are not rendered properly like the double 'd' (द as in द्द - 2nd line, right-hand side). The little dashes that you can see at the bottom of the lines of text make that character lose the end of its sound so where you have two 'd's together, it in effect makes the sound twice as long.

The default sound at the end of any consonnant is a letter 'a' pronounced as the letter 'a' at the end of the word 'panorama' - thus, 'd' is actually pronounced 'da'.

This extension of the duration of a letter is called a geminate and in English - although there are few examples - you experience them in words like the 'nn' in 'unnecessary' which lasts twice as long as a normal 'n'. When writing Devanagari the little dashes are often absorbed into a new letter shape so the द (da) becomes द्द (dda) and like the word 'middle', you only pronouce it as one 'd' (the Welsh will extend the duration of the letter).

Additionally, a conjunct is formed using the little dash when any two consonants are joined so द् (da) and य (ya) becomes द्य ('dya', not 'daya'). Here, they have not formed the conjunct form (the non-conjunct form looks messy although it would be pronounced correctly - bottom line, right hand side.

It pays to check that it is rendered properly before committing it to somebody's arm in a permenant way.


2nd June 2011.
I remember when this was a pretty, art deco pub.Tesco Safety Exit fail Tesco gets their hands on it and it turns into this monstrocity.

Any way, I was walking into Derby and wanted a Fry's Chocolate Cream and had already been in the shop I normally go into, only to find that they were off-sale.

Over the hill and down to the bottom and into this one. No luck - it was off-sale again - has there been a run on these?

Any way, with the shop having failed to convince me that I required anything from it, I went up to the large, glass, sliding door that I came in through - seemingly the only door in and out of the building when excluding emergency exits.

When it eventually started moving, it moved no faster than around 2cm per second, taking a good half minute to open sufficiently to exit in a reasonable manner.

This is a serious safety issue. A door that is used as an emergency exit (regardless of whether it is used under any other circumstances) should need to open quickly. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY EXIT DOOR SAFETY FAILURE.

If it was just an intermittant fault then, when someone comes to have a look at it, they might not be able to repeat it and eliminate the fault.


22nd May 2011.
Well, it didn't happen. Now, when those Christians come knocking at the door (it is usually the JWs) I can tell them that they were wrong and ask them why would they be any more right about anything else?

If they try to claim that it wasn't them, then they will have to explain why they feel that they can pick and choose which bits of their book they want to follow and not be bound by it all - what happened if they suddenly decided that they needed to kiil someone? would they just for get that bit for a while?


14th May 2011.
Yes, it's getting close.End of world nutterWith only a week left to go, it's time to use up the last of your annual holiday entitlement and spend the rest of the week contemplating what it will be like when there is no longer a future.

I'm looking forward to the 22nd May when we can just say to those who knock on our doors that they got it wrong.

When they try to say that it wasn't them and you should still listen to them, remind them that their religion is Christian and this end of the world rubbish was a Christian thing.

If they want to pick and choose their holy book or allow many different interpretations then how could anybody think that what they were saying had any more credibility than the nutter in the street - exercising his right to meddle with other people's shopping experience - and the 21st-May-2011-end-of-the-world nut brigade?

I wonder if he has ever realised that people walk away from him faster than they walk towards him.


5th May 2011.
I was just coming out of my local supermarkettwin squirrel G-OHMS Aerospatiale AS355 F1 Ecureuil 2 at about 10:50BST when I noticed this helecopter hovering above the car park.

It seemed a bit low - the police are limited to 700 feet as far as I know but this seemed a lot lower than that. It was hovering very well and then moving on a bit and hovering again, repeating this as it followed the power lines that go along the north side of the car park, viewing them from the south side of them.

This machine is G-OHMS which, if you look it up, is an Aerospatiale AS355 (twin squirrel) F1 Ecureuil 2.

A picture taken a few minutes later, counting the pixels from the ground to the skids and then the pixels of the height of the machine (460 and 51 repspectively), knowing that these machines have a height of 3.14 m (10'3.5") gives it an altitude of 28.3m (95') so we can say that it was flying at around 100 feet.

I just wonder how low they have to be before you can smell them.


4th May 2011.
I've had this for a long timeUS currency grammatical error but never knew it. For anybody who is not familiar with US currency (I'm not particularly familiar with it), this is a quarter or 25 cents. It did sit on my desk in a large blue plastic piggy bank, along with all of the rest of the loose change 20p or below

Today, I went shopping in Sainsbury's with my son (we were going to the park so needed some things like bread for the swans and so on) and he insisted that we went through the self-service checkout - I don't normally like going through these because I feel that I am betraying the people who work behind the tills.

I had the usual accumulation of change in my wallet so I decided to pay with that instead. The coin slot would only take one coin at a time, being hand-fed so it took ages.

Later on, we needed our normal shopping so we went to the local ASDA. I emptied the piggy bank into a bag and off we went.

In ASDA the small self-service checkouts (three-in-a-line as opposed to the larger two-in-a-line checkouts) will take loose change if you just dump a handful of it in the hopper - there is a little green light shaped like an arrow that is lit when you can do this - US currency grammatical error correctedwe discovered - which, when it is not lit, just dumps any more change into the hopper below. It takes a while for it to count it but you get to use all of it - it took around 10 minutes to count and for us to use all of just over GPB13.00. (It gave change as well.)

Unlike the machine at the end of the shop that changes your hard-collected charity money for vouchers but skims about 10 per cent off it for itself, you get all of it with the checkout and, not being a colleague on the other side of it, you are not slowing anyone down.

One thing that English speakers will notice about this coin is that there is a grammatical error on it - how did that ever get through? It is coinage, not a blog or even a book - these last for thousands of years and unlike the people who write blogs and books, they are paid to get it right. For some reason, they have decided to say 'LIVE FREE OR DIE' instead of 'LIVE FREELY OR DIE'. Even though it is apparently the state's motto, they should have corrected it.

Any way, time to correct it using the GIMP.

There we go. That's better. Now, everyone is happy - except the people from the USA who now think that everyone on the planet knows that the people who design the coins in their very pockets, don't know the language that they speak.


2nd May 2011.
People talk about plate tectonics in terms oftoenail weekly growth rings how fast your toenails grow. I've always wondered about this and I noticed that my big toe nail has ridges across it, a bit like tree rings.

The biggest things that are going to affect the way that your nails grow are diet and stress - that latter being probably more about lifestyle than sitting worrying about things. I have a weekly work cycle of nights with two days off so, as these are significantly different to each other, any 'tree rings' found would probably be due to this.

On the right, you can see a closeup of one of my big toe nails (I've made it monochrome in an attempt to make it as abstract as I can, just in case you are eating whilst reading this), showing 1cm of growth.

The 'tree rings' on it show 22 weeks growth so, in a year, it grows 2.36cm or 0.93" - some people will be faster than that so about an inch a year, which is what most people seem to think it is, is a fair estimate.

BTW, the North Atlantic Ridge grows at around 25mm/year so it is a fairly good estimate any way.


26th April 2011.
My trusty HP network PostScript Laser PrinterHP PostScript Printer webpage sheet counter has its own web server that I can access from my internal network - it has an internal address that is not accessible from external networks - try port 80 on my network address and you get this web server.

One of the nice features on the printers web server is that for each cartridge (YMCK), it tells you how many pages you have printed, what proportion of the toner you have left and gives you an approximation of how many you can expect to print out if you continue using them in the way you have so far.

The black cartridges are nominally 2,200 pages, based upon 5 per cent coverage. I usually get on average 2,206, so it is pretty accurate. Sort of.

I have noticed in the past that some pages that I have printed don't seem to have incremented the pages-printed count - and being odd ones, I didn't expect them to affect the pages remaining count.

So, today, I printed off a 431 page manuscript - as one does from time to time (double-spaced on A4 paper using 'Courier New' as the font so that it doesn't use much toner) - in 100 page chunks, and curious to see how this affected the page counts, I screen-captured the web page at the end of each block.

So, at 0 sheets printed, we have 479 pages printed and 1295 approximate pages remaining with 73 percent of the toner left. 431 pages later, we have 479 page printed with 851 approximate pages remaining with 64 percent of the toner left.

So, printing 431 actual pages, I've used only 9 per cent of the toner (which would normally be 198 pages (396 single-spaced pages) so we can say that Courier New seems to use only 90 per cent of the toner that average type faces use), the pages printed counter seems to ignore pages with only 45 per cent of the toner coverage of average pages (could we fix that please HP?) and I need to add 431 to the number it says when I add up the total. The Approximate pages remaining counter is now far from reality as far as its value is concerned because the pages printed counter is so far wrong.

So, these counters are only an approximation any way and it isn't that fair to print an enormous block of paper with such as small requirement and expect it to be right but if manuscripts were the only thing that I printed, it would be a problem.


17th April 2011.
Vaisakhi 2011 (ਵੇਸਾਖੀ ੨੦੧੧) in Derby
Vaisakhi 2011 DerbyOnce again, it is time for the Vaisakhi* march through Derby's Normanton area.

* One thing you will notice is that Vaisakhi is spelled in many ways: ਵੇਸਾਖੀ, ਵੈਸਾਖੀ, ਬੈਸਾਖੀ, ਵਿਸਾਖੀ and ਬਿਸਾਖੀ for example

For anybody who is not familiar with this, Vaisakhi is basically the Sikh celebration of the new year and this is done by taking the Sikh's holy book - the Sri Guru Granth Sahib - out of the Gurduara and march it around a route, in this case, taking it past a number of other Gurduaras in the area.

Sweets are handed out from the vehicle that carries the book and on the way, people are offered food and drink for free.

There are also some demonstrations of Sikh Martial Arts at several points in the march.

Everyone is welcome - you don't have to be a Sikh to walk along with it, eat and drink what is on offer or look at what else is going on.

All you need to do out of respect is cover your head - any hat will do.

That's not too difficult, is it?

Enjoy.

Vaisakhi 2011 DerbyVaisakhi 2011 Derby
It appears (from the dust that was evident) that the council didn't sweep the street beforehand. However, the way is swept first, and then milk or water (it appeared) was sprinkled on it, along with petals

Vaisakhi 2011 DerbyVaisakhi 2011 Derby
Next, ten people representing the ten Gurus march, followed by the holy book itself.
Vaisakhi 2011 Derby
It was a long walk with tens of thousands of people.
Vaisakhi 2011 DerbyVaisakhi 2011 Derby
Vaisakhi 2011 DerbyAt two places, we were treated to martial arts displays including: (top left) two long (around 2m long) very flexible swords that would be dangerous whether they were sharpened or not.Vaisakhi 2011 Derby
Vaisakhi 2011 Derby Vaisakhi 2011 Derby Vaisakhi 2011 Derby
The steward (left) really is in bare feet; that is a mobile phone call going on right next to a very large drum; and, it would never be complete without the drummers which kept the beat all of the way around.

For more pictures, click here.



15th April 2011.
PayPal ParodyPayPal, as you will now from the entry from a few days ago is blocked or down from where I am - it seems to be down some of the time (verified by external tests) as well as blocked. You would think that they would at least try to do something about this - I mean, it can't be that good for business.

PayPal ParodySo, I set up a Paypal account, linked to my email address and started the process of jumping through the hoops that they set up so that I can send to people from whom I wish to buy stuff, the money that they want for the transactions. Being a security conscious person, I used a Direct Debit on a spare account so it didn't matter if things went horribly wrong - not a lot of money.

So, having verified my email address and so on, they put some money - two small amounts - into the account so that I could find out the value of the transactions and type that in to verify that I had at least got access to the account as far as obtaining values of transactions was concerned. This went okay and it said Congratulations! You're verified. You are now a verified PayPal user. In addition to increased security, buyers and sellers value your Verified [sic] status because it indicates you have passed PayPal security checks. Most importantly, you can now send unlimited payments with your PayPal account.

All was well and I went online to buy stuff. The only way I had of doing this was to go through a proxy though (using HTTPS of course, so it was still secure). So, whilst I was online, I got as far as completing the transaction as far as the website was concerned, successfully authenticated myself to my PayPal account but then PayPal failed at the end of the transaction. And then again. I emailed the vendor so that he knew what was going on.

PayPal ParodyNext, I find an email saying that my 'account has been limited until we hear from you'. So, curious as to what was going on and why they had elected to disrupt my online business completely, I logged on and discovered that they wanted me to jump through some additional 'security' hoops - additional to those that had already earned me the status of 'Verified PayPal User'.

Almost all of it was just a repeat of what they had already established - verify email address and so on. However, in addition to all of that, they wanted me to verify my address. So, how would you do that? They wanted to verify my address by getting me to enrol a credit card. There are actually two reasons why I went for Direct Debit

  1. For them to take money from my account using Direct Debit, I need to receive notification from them ten working days before any money is taken from my account - in this way, they cannot just suck my account dry without notice in the way that they can do 'instantly' (Their word used to describe the withdrawal of funds from my account process); and,
  2. I don't even use any credit cards. Credit Card security is crap - Chip and Pin was broken over a year ago. If I had a credit card to use and done as they suggested, it would have allowed them to access my money instantly and I don't trust online transactions that much - why should PayPal make me lower what I consider to be an acceptable level of security to what they would want me to accept?
So, one of the alternatives to supplying them with an instant method of removing money from an account of mine was to send them a photographic copy of a bank statement - this has my name, address, and all of the bank details that they have already used to confirm my identity to make me a 'Verified PayPal User'.

I can see why some people might think that PayPal's priority is to get your credit card details by putting obstacles in the way of the safer Direct Debit method of payment.

PayPal ParodyUnfortunately, PayPal never supplied me with any details or evidence of what I was supposed to be defending my account status against. Their description of things was 'reasons relating to the safe use of the PayPal service' - in view of the way that their system worked - even going through an unblocked local Library computer (HTTPS of course) and getting nowhere, I can understand why people could think that the word 'service' was doing a lot of work there.

By coming to a decision without informing me of any of the evidence (if there ever was any) for me to defend myself, PayPal is guilty of failing to conform to the minimum requirements of Natural Justice. So, what was the decision? They closed the account and any money of mine will be in there for 180 days - fortunately PayPal never took any money off me - good old Direct Debit guarantee. Interestingly, by failing to conform to the minimum requirements of Natural Justice, their decision is automatically void.

PayPal ParodyThey say in there that it was because of 'security issues' (more than one now?) but we all know that I had already satisfied them with enough documentation and confirmation beforehand to make me a 'Verified PayPal User' and nothing had changed.

With an apparent need to have instant access to my own bank account and a 180 day wait to get it back, it is easy to see why people might think that PayPal is only interested in getting hold of instant access to my money. One interesting thing that they stated was that I could not remove any bank accounts - have they never heard of cancelling a direct debit? No wonder they wanted credit card details.

We all know that drug dealers will let people experience a free sample and then, when they are showing signs of being hooked, cut off the supply to make them realise how much their commodity is needed and then, they make users pay on their terms in an increasingly hedonistic spiral of expense - if they don't play the game, cast the users out into the cold. I honestly find myself asking the question; is this a business model that has found a home in this case?

To summarise...qr code

  • Stating that I pass their security checks; (free sample)
  • Letting me demonstrate that I intend to use the account; (get users hooked)
  • Limiting the account under the reason of Security (so now, their security checks were not good enough? It cannot be that both of these PayPal statements are true so which one is a lie?); (cut off the supply)
  • Attempting to get me to enrol with them a credit card, under the pretext of confirming my address (Surely, I think this qualifies for a nomination for the Tod Bexley Award for Conspicuous Mendacity); (make users pay on their terms); and,
  • Suspending the account when they can't get me to award them instant access to my funds. (cast the users out into the cold)
So, my conclusion is that PayPal they are not as bad as people say, PayPal is worse than people say.

PayPal ParodyPayPal, you are fired.

As for me? Am I cast out into the cold? Well, I'm a National Press Card carrying Journalist, doing an investigative piece and if PayPal think that they can infringe on press freedom by threatening me or trying to discredit me for exposing what happens then they and anybody else they involve are in for a lot of horribly public exposure.


13th April 2011.
I've just got a bit of junk mail through the post and it is from Virgin who are claiming that they can reduce what I pay for talking to people over the phone.

Apparently, if I add a Virgin mobile phone to my home phone, they will take off GBP8 from my home phone and I will be lumbered with a smart phone that I don't want for just about GBP2 per month more.

A smart phone for GBP2 per month? I pay less than that per month at the moment on my mobile and if I wanted something that could do everything that a smartphone could do, I would buy a laptop and a camera. Ohh, hang on, I already have a laptop and a camera. I bet the camera on any of these smart phones isn't as good as mine.

Also, note that there is a minimum contract of 24 months on these phones (as there are on many) and yet, they are sold as fashion items and they are all out of date/fashion after only 12 months so, you are going to be walking around with something that is out of date for a year or be in the process of locking yourself into another 'deal'? My phone just does voice and SMS. For me, it has alarms and that is all I want from it. No Sale.

I suppose that the most annoying thng about this junk mail is that the font they use is a pseudo-handwritten font that has low legibility. I can read it but that doesn't mean that everybody can. People who find it difficult to read small text will not be able to read this and that could place Virgin in a poor position with the Disability Discrimination Act.


6th April 2011.
Well, it's official now. This is from the Punjab Times, 7th April 2011 edition...

Punjab Times end of worldSo, we have a date. Apparently, all of those people who are good enough to be taken up will go, leaving those who are not.

At least anybody knocking on our door after the 21st May this year, selling any of the Jewish sects - be they Christian or anything else Abrahamic - will clearly get the message from me that they and their message just weren't up to standard and maybe they should just go and find something else to do with what remains of their life.


5th April 2011.
This is no good. PayPalHow on earth is the planet supposed to get on with safe internet transactions when your browser cannot even get the website that, if you believe what you hear/read, empowers the users in the process?

PayPalJust to check it out, I even opened up a console and tried pinging the site - as you can see, google is a valid one so all of the connections into the PFC work all right, but when it comes to the magic PayPal, it appears that there is nothing there.

Running traceroute in a console shows that the process gets as far as the boundary between Virgin Media and the PFC and then nowhere else.

Trying out down or not demonstrated that it was down. So what is going on? It matters because people use it - people pay for things on eBay using it and then get bad ratings when payments via PayPal don't go through.


31st March 2011.
Right. This has really got me going QR code(had to be bad to do that ;-). I printed out a 2D bar code (called a QR Code - these are available to anybody to print out but if you mention them by name, you should say that QR Code is a registered trade mark of DENSO WAVE INCORPORATED). So far, so good.

I tried it out on my daughter's iPhone and it worked all right (it wasn't the one on the right, the one I was trying out had a userID and a password in the URL) and everything was fine.

Then, I wondered if it would work on a Apple desktop machine with a webcam built into the monitor. So, I went into Derby (I was going in any way) to the Mac shop in the Westfield centre (formerly known as the Eagle Centre) and found a sales assistant.

It was as though this person had some sort of fear of computers - he wouldn't go anywhere near one. I asked him about whether there were apps that would run off a desktop machine that would do it and he said that there might be at the 'app store' although he didn't really know whether they would be free or not. This sort of behaviour is atypical for that shop as they will demonstrate to you things if they know what they are talking about and can do it.

He then said that each reader would get its own interpretation of the data off one of these codes - his example was maybe a website from one reader and some other information off a different one. Let's get this straight (I know because I asked him to clarify on this point). He was under the impression that on QR Code reader might give you a website address and, using the same bar code, a different QR Code reader might give you some other information instead.

This is a clear indicator that the shop assistant just didn't understand the concept at even the most basic level. I wonder if he would never object but just pay up if instead of a few tens of pence for the tin of baked beans in his weekly shopping that had just been scanned through the till in his supermarket, he would pay several hundred pounds for a smart phone or something - because it was scanned by a different UPC/EAN barcode reader.

I suppose that the environment that they work in is that everything has to cost money (free apps? free readers? does not compute...) so free stuff that works well is an undiscovered territory to them.

So, IPDF export from OpenOffice.org tried him out with the fact that OpenOffice.org (free word processor/spreadsheet and so on) produces PDF files that meet publishers/printers standards whereas the Mac one that is free doesn't. He seemed to think that it did. He also thought that OpenOffice.org, for the reason that it was free, didn't. (He didn't seem to understand that Adobe's license for using the code made sure that if you didn't charge for your programs, you could use the full spec without paying for it ;-0. nice one Adobe - power to your elbow.)

However, I have seen publisher websites that specify that '### does not recommend creating a PDF using the PDF button found in the print menu on a Mac. Mac Quartz / Preview (Mac graphics technology that easily produces PDFs) was not intended for creating professional print quality PDFs, therefore it is not a suitable option when publishing on ###.' On the same page: Adobe Acrobat; Adobe's online service; OpenOffice.org; and, InDesign are recommended (that is three out of four belong to Adobe and the other one is OpenOffice.org).

OpenOffice.org:

  • costs nothing;
  • does everything that virtually everybody wants to do with a wordprocessor, spreadsheet and so on;
  • runs on:
    • Windows
    • Mac
    • Linux
    • Solaris
    • BSD
    • Other Unices
    • Probably virtually anything else
  • and, just in case you didn't notice the first time, costs nothing
so, in an environment where Apple controls everything (as opposed to Adobe or Microsoft or everybody else), everything costs money and product specs don't necessarily include everything that the hardware is capable of, he's not going to know about it.

However, how does someone like that, someone who is capable of making bovine excrement recommendations get into a position where he can make recommendations to the public based upon them?

IMHO, he needs some retraining.


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