Thursday, 18 December 2008

Uk flexible working request

Lady has a baby and wants to get back to work, a popular choice is a flexible working request. That's ok as an employer lets make it work; things change and priorities are adjusted.

Flexible working is not fixing hours to 10 to 16 when the role is customer facing and non-predictable.
Flexible working is not fixing Mon-Wed when 4/8 of UK bank holidays always land on a Monday and whining for paid days off in lieu when asked to work Tues-Thurs on Bank holiday weeks.

Lets not take the micky, if you want flexible working, don't count the minutes, build a fantastic contribution that makes you so valuable every one wants a piece.


- - Follow-up Turns out that things are working better than thought it. Once a suitable project had been identified and specific measurable goals had been set the arrangement has worked out reasonably well.

Alleyne how great are they ?

Just once in a while a surname pops up and you wonder how great are people with that name ?

Robert Alleyne - Dog training guru as seen in uk TV prog Dog Borstal.
Mark Alleyne - Techno guru in VERITAS tech support.
Ian Alleyne - Car mechanic - South of Reading, trustworthy and on top form.

Fantastic all of them.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Don't come a CROPA with illegal drugs.

Criminal record - Get on, be jailed and forever unemployable.
Raped - Roofies, GHB, spiked drinks or just sinking into a hookers life, Rape is part of the drug scene.
Overdose - and die.
Poor - Spend what you have and what you won't have for just a small patch of snow.
Addicted - and suffer forever.

CROPA - the 5 ways to break your life with illegal drugs.


PS: There is medicine and drugs please don't become confused.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

HPC and parallel processing - 2 fave quotes

From HPC wire
Posted by Michael Feldman - November 27 @ 9:04AM

Clever software can make even great hardware humble. D-Wave CTO Geordie Rose, the panel's quantum computing advocate, argued that new algorithms can have a much bigger payoff than more powerful silicon. He noted that using Pollard's rho algorithm from 1977, it would take 12 years to factor a 90-digit number on a modern-day 400 teraflop Blue Gene supercomputer. But using the newer quadratic seive algorithm, it would take just 3 years to perform the same operation on a 1977 Apple II computer. When you consider the multi-million dollar investment that went into the Blue Gene supercomputer compared to the probable investment that went into developing the new algorithm, you can get some sense of the industry's misplaced priorities.

From Slashdot ..
By acidrain (35064) on Thursday March 22 2007, @08:00AM (#18441773)

Look guys. There is no multi-processing silver bullet. It isn't even such a hard problem, *if you stop trying to solve it at such a low level*. Break your application into separate pieces that, *don't need to communicate very often.* Then this is the same kind of problem scalable websites like Google, MySpace, Hotmail and so on, have already, just without having to factor in the reliability issues. Finer grained multi-threading just leads to deadlocks and is really hard to debug. If you *really must* render the same sphere on 100 processors at the same time, then you need the speed of a custom coded solution. But you don't so let it go. The main loop of your program will be just fine as a single threaded implementation, 1 processor will do, and farm the 10% code / 90 % heavy lifting out in big clean chunks to other processors. If you find yourself writing some bizzare multi-threaded message passing system so that you can have 100s of threads all modifying the same live object model at the same time -- you are fucked, just forget about it 'cause you will never be able to debug that one killer bug that you know is going to get you right as you go to ship.

Pure genius from the net

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Somthing wierd going on on Halloween, imac display bug

It seems like the trusty 5 year old iMac G4 is not imune to a bit of halloween nonsence, Just after viewing a pdf this happens ...
A reboot solved the issue but how wierd is that ? The system worked ok just could not see many of the letters. I can only speculate that the system display font got messed up or corrupted.



Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sorry but your email was "brambled".

Ever had a carefully formatted email squashed down to plain text as your colleagues forward it on or replied with follow up ?

You have been "brambled".

Brambled (verb) -
The process by which email has all the formatting combed out, usually when sent via a PDA.

Another i-aarrgh moment brought to you by .. Gannett

Friday, 17 October 2008

Office communiator gone East


Ever had done of those really long days at the office when every things comes at you all at once ? Email, phone ( desk ), messenger pings, Phone (mobile ) Well that is exactally when this bug will byte ya.

As you type furiously away in messenger, you'r slightly distracted then Wham, your typeing Chinese ( simplfied ) or Koren.

It looks a bit like this ...

There are no settings in messenger to fix this.
Restarting messenger won't fix this. A reboot will reset this but like I said your having a busy day and there is no time for a reboot. As far as I can tell there is some wierd key combo or bug that switches your input languge.

Here's how to fix it ..
In Win XP
Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Regional and language options [ Languages ]
In the [ Settings ] tab

Use remove button to remove unneeded language options such as the Korean one ...

Another i-aarrgh moment brought to you by .. Gannett

Monday, 22 September 2008

Biker phrases.

"Fast bikers quickly reach the end of the road".

"Oops I didn't seem him govn'r" whilst thinking ( I didn't really look ).

"He made a grave mistake on that corner."

"Wheelies are easy ... just watch me."

"Helmet, jacket, boots, gloves, Why bother it's not far."

Take care out there .....


According to your recent phone calls and private letters you may be interested in these products ...

"Hi, I am calling from you local phone company. We know that you have been talking with your friends about getting a new car. Have you considered a Ford from Fred Blogs your local dealer ?"

If you had call like this you certainly would be outraged. How can a phone company justify wire tapping you so that they can make money pushing adverts ?

If you postman said "I have read your banks statements, may be you should consider a loan from Sharky loan company." You would be concerned. We take for granted the separation between communication providers and processors.

We expect our phone calls, mail and web activity to be secure end-to-end. An agreed exception is hunting for criminals but even in that example "Probable cause" has to be established before the interception occurs. However such interception is essentiality what BT/Phorm have been doing and plan to do across the data network. By reading your web browsing habits BT and other ISPs plan to deliver content targeted adverts.

Interception of phone and data communications is a key privacy area, in which the few public safeguards have been hard to secure and protect. To see a blatant example of illegal interception just brushed under the carpet for commercial reasons is hard to stomach.


Sunday, 21 September 2008

Domain poisoning by spam


I hold and administer few private domain names for friends and family and each in turn has fallen prey to domain steeling scum. This is not a new problem and is well documented on the net.

An innocent domain name is used as the return address for outbound spam resulting in that domain owner getting all the out of office and non-delivery bound backs. Often the email addresses being used are just "random characters" eg: resuling with an email box full of junk such as

From: "yy Maskiew"
From: "Landon Button"
From: "Faramarz Leake"
.. snip
From: "Duy meisenheimer"
From: "aguskos Greenlott"
From: "prasenjit Bluett"
From: "DiQiu Giaimo"
From: "Galen Grabek"
From: "elsie masson"

and there can be 100s of these. So here are my tips on handling a long term non-commercial domain name to try and prevent/reduce the impact of this illegal activity by spamming scum.

1) Set up multiple email addresses and keep some for private / trusted contacts and some for public correspondence and websites. Be prepared to change email address about every 2/3 years as even the private ones will leak out.

2) Set up a Sender policy framework on your domain. This should restrict how useful the domain is to spammers. An SPF record says which mail servers can legitimately send email with that domain name. I have to say that this is not as widely implemented as it should be amongst mail servers.

3) Black hole or set email rule and bucket all email that has not be specifically sent to your live email addresses. Some domain hosing companies will have a forwarding address such as that you set as a forwarding address for junk.

4) If you have email addresses that have fallen into the hands of spammers don't let them have a free ride with it. Hunt down any even vaguely legitimate company that has sent you email without your prior consent. Phone up and complain, demand to know how they got your email. But don't bother chasing the pill pushers.

5) Remember "Commercial speech is not free speech." The fact that audiences cost money to reach is one of the few limiting factors that keeps rampant mail/email marketing in check.



Saturday, 12 July 2008

Fly your kite

No day is wasted if you get your kite out to the end of the string especially when the kite is small and the string is long.



Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gigabyte Mobo Bois update

I was updating a GA-73PVM-S2H motherboard BIOS. It should not be too hard you just download the file from the website put it on a USB sick, reboot to BIOS level and install using the Q-Flash Bios update process.

Only a couple of issues :

Firstly the BIOS does not recognize some USB keyboards even when you plug them into a USB/PS2 adapter. No keyboard, no chance to jump into the BIOS menu. There is a setting in the BIOS to enable USB keyboard but that does not help at this stage even when the operating system later recognizes the keyboard.

Secondly, Buried in the motherboard manual is the instruction "Extract the file and save the new BIOS file (e.g. 73PVS2H.f1) to your floppy disk, USB flash drive, or hard drive" The files you download have to be run, un-Rar extracted first on a PC. Not much use when the only other machines you have are are a MAC and Linux box. The symptom you see is the BIOS file browser will just not see any files on the USB stick which just so happen to look very like the file browser is not working at all.

You can get a bit of a clue is given using file
$ file motherboard_bios_ga-73pvm-s2h_f4.exe gives
MS-DOS executable PE for MS Windows (GUI) Intel 80386 32-bit, RAR self-extracting archive

This is just plain awkward and certainly not a space saving exercise as the uncompressed file is 512k and the archive only 504k. There should be a link to an uncompressed version of the file.

Thirdly : Also the BIOS when it is being installed it gives a checksum but the website does not say anywhere what the checksum is so you don't know if the checksum is right or wrong.

A simple service operation made awkward by neglect of the small details that matter.

Another i-aarrgh moment brought to you by Gannett

Saturday, 29 March 2008 about phishing

The rules on phising prevention are quiet clear

" The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, also offers these guidelines:
Be suspicious of any unsolicited email requesting personal information.
Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information.
Always compare the link in the email to the link that you are actually directed to.
Log on to the official Web site, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited email.
Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine. "

So you would think that the insurance companies sending out email renewals requests would have that in mind. Obviously not with And yes it is a genuine renewal request.


What a disk worth ?

A friend has a newish Power Mac and loves the box. Unfortunately it crapped out during an upgrade to Leopard with a hard disk error and had to be reinstalled losing all the data. That was a warning, as just this week the disk died completely to the point of not being seen at boot time or by disk utility. An Apple-care call to Apple was made and a disk exchange was agreed. The standard exchange a faulty part was dispatched under the "DIY repair" process that removes the need for a "return to base" repair but the faulty drive has to be sent back in exchange.

There has been recent concern about returned hardware being "re manufactured" back into the field and service folks rummaging contents so there is reason to worry about data security.

All very good so far but what is that returned disk worth ? The dead mechanicals not very much but the data on the drive can be priceless. It has all his email, password vault and documents. Chances are that the data is not recoverable but that could not be said for some drives returned under warranty. There is now no chance to wipe the disk and mechanical destruction would invalidate the return. He could of course buy his own replacement drive but then that is a waste of the extended warranty payment.

I guess it comes down to a matter for trust or using a drive/account encryption program such as Filevault to prevent data recovery from a lost hard drive.


Prevent huge bills from stolen mobile phone

There has been some fuss of late from folks who get a huge mobile phone bill by not noticing and reporting when a phone gets stolen and missused. This can be prevented ..

When I bought a phone for use by a family member the best deal was pay by monthly bill with a generous call&txt allowance. To stop huge bills through misuse and in case phone was stolen and not noticed, I insisted that there is a max credit limit on the bill of £60. If this credit limit is ever reached outgoing calls are blocked.

This is the answer to prevent a huge unexpected bills from a loosely controlled or lost phone. The phone provider was 3 in the UK. If your provider will not impose an agreed credit limit to cap your liabaility, move to a provider that will. You can take you number with you so the hastle factor of moving is quite low.


Saturday, 8 March 2008

Insurance Trap for post-Learner drivers, Tell your insurance company you passed

My friend the student driver, with whom I made the agreement below, took her test last week and I am happy to report passed at the first attempt. What's more she scored only 3 "minors" during the test. A great achievement and congratulations are fully in order to both her and her principal driving instructor.

A friend had said that we should phone the drivers insurance company and tell them of the pass as the driver would now be driving around on her own and may be doing more mileage. I did call but the stinger is that they wanted a further £30 Premium. I though this unfair for a couple of reasons
* When the insurance plan was taken out the company knew that the person was a learner driver and the premium set accordingly high. Nowhere in the documents does it say that there would be a further premium to pay when the person passes the test.
* Nowhere in the documents does it say that you have to tell them when the test is passed but the consequences of not doing so are very serious.

Now I understand that the risk profile changes unfavourably between a supervised and unsupervised driver but it also changes between a brand new driver, a person who repeatedly fails to reach test passing standard and someone who has passed a test. The insurance company did not require to be told when a test was failed.

The more I dug into the situation the more outrageous it became; by failing to inform test-passing drivers to notify the insurance company and adjust the policy the insurance company allows the just passed driver to be at risk of driving without valid insurance. I worked this through with the insurance agent it was confirmed that the insurance policy only covered the driver while they were a learner and accompanied.

This could have led to the following situation :
Police stop the just-passed driver and ask for documents, Driver hands over pass certificate, and details of insurance. Police call insurance company who say driver has policy as provisional driver only. Police charge driver with "Driving without insurance cover." This results in .. "The penalties for driving without insurance against third party risk are a maximum fine of £5,000, the automatic endorsement of an offender's licence with 6-8 penalty points and possible disqualification. " The car involved can also be seized. UK driving law says that 6 penalty points on a licence in the first two years can result in the licence being revoked and the driver having to retake the test. As a cherry on the top having lost both licence and car, the insurance company involved said that "We do not insure people who have been caught driving without insurance."

Now that would have been a very difficult situation for a young driver. Such a driving conviction would have hung like a vulture over their record for many years to come, causing vastly increased insurance premiums.

The failure to provide clear notice when a policy is issued to a known learner driver that the policy was only valid until the test is passed, is a in my opinion a negligent failure by the insurance company.

You have been warned, when you pass your test, call your insurance company, pay the "fine", then and only then go enjoy the freedom of the road.


PS: Click here for more of these frightening stats:
Increasing the number of young passengers increases the likelihood of a crash. One passenger makes it twice as likely, 2 or more, 5 times as likely.
The accident rate to novice drivers drops by 30% after the first year of experience and by another 17% after the second year.

Take care out there.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

The biggest file in Leopard, Alex's Voice


I was having a dig around looking for some space on the root file system using a rather great filesystem viewing tool called "Disk inventory X" and leaping out from the picture was a single 670MB file. This single file accounts for about 18% of the size of Leopard.

Tucked away in the Alex voice Speech library folder was the data definition for the new very smooth Alex voice. Do try it out using the System preferences -> Speech -> Alex just to hear how much an improvement the voice is over the previous very robotic attempts.

The techical details are ...

Macintosh: $ ls -l /System/Library/Speech/Voices/Alex.SpeechVoice/Contents/Resources/PCMWave
-rw-r--r-- 1 root wheel 701743856 24 Sep 02:06 /System/Library/Speech/Voices/Alex.SpeechVoice/Contents/Resources/PCMWave

The amusing bit is the file data type identifier at the start of the file which is
Macintosh:Resources $ od -c PCMWave | head
meow \0 001 \0 006 \0 \0 \0 0 002 303 Q 000

[Removing voice file instructions removed - May 2010]

This file was trimmed down for Snow Leopard which as a % of the size of HDs is not so bad.


PS I later found this Blog entry of Billyoregon who previously discovered this file using the same technique.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Had a better week Mac wise

Defiantly had a better week last week and got a few long standing issues resolved.

Firstly I have a Mustek A3 USB Scanner that had been stuck on an old Mac G3 B&W. I Finally found a blog which guided the way to get the SANE drivers and files needed to get it up an running. Ok so the blog references a previous ( now defunct ) blog but thats was all I needed. See PJ Holdens blog. The scanner works OK on 150 dpi but scrubs on higher resolutions. Integrated into Photoshop CS as File -> Import -> SANE. Sorted.

Secondly Creating Disk Images on OSX for use as bundled backup files. Found the Application DropDMG at $20. Neatly packaged, command line options and quite configurable.

Also found the code hackable perl module over at this location. It needed a bit of work, mostly to swap out /Developer/Tools/CpMac and replace it with /bin/cp that preserves special Mac file attributes from OSX 10.4 onwards. Find this bit in the perl an change to the following ...

# copy the files onto the dmg
# use /bin/cp rather than /Developer/Tools/CpMac Only works on OSx > 10.4.x and beyond
print "Copying files to $dest...\n";
print "> /bin/cp -R $files \"$dest\"\n" if $debug;
$output = `/bin/cp -R $files \"$dest\"`;
$err = $?;

Put the perl in /Applications/BuildDMG/ then you can create a script+crontab to build the images on demand and drop them on your backup drive. A kind of TimeCapsule if you like :-) Have not yet managed to figure out how to drive it for directories with spaces in the name yet.

Thirdly since installing Leopard I have been suffering panic on wake-up. Let the system drift off to deep sleep then 1 time in 4 it will system panic on wake up. Looks like a USB or IO stack and It's all documented on the support boards here but not really made much progress. The solution is not green, but sometimes you have to give something away to get what you want. In this case I wanted "no panics" so installed Folding_At_home and donated a CPU. The distributed science application has a small memory footprint and is niced down so gets out the way when you need the horsepower.

And finally found a really good Mac based uk Tivo file extractor. The Java based TySuite has gui & command line & web interfaces and will pull as MP2 ready for conversion to MP4/AVI. Not quite as convienet as TivoTool but is better on Leopard and can pull Mode 0 recorded files at 720 * 576.



Lost a bet on Superbowl Sunday

Was chatting with a colleague on Saturday about the upcoming game and he outrageously went for "Giants by 2".

Never, no way not in your wildest dreams ...

So now I own him some beers, but thanks to the Internet I have located a local FL store that stocks the delightful Newcastle Brown Ale so all the remains is to get the beer vouchers sent over with directions to the store.

Cheers - Go Giants