Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Food, Weather and the BBC

Another month away. This last week characterized by heavy weather. I was pretty dismissive of the warnings earlier and, to be fair, the initial storm was not up to mush. The rainfall was about right for this time of year: its when Waihekians fill their tanks for Summer after all. However, the wind was a bit of a killer, even down in the bush. I now have a power line with a tree resting on one span and the other span has dropped almost to the ground ... still attached at both ends so it looks like it stretched. Still have power though.

I'll try for the end-of-month Hangi tomorrow, but I usually have to get in earlier than this. Also have another go trying to get Auckland Libraries to notice that people who don't have IE cannot seem to use their web portals. I presume it works with Safari - not having an Apple I cannot tell. But it don't go with Firefox (time out at login) or Chrome (login page not available) so I have no idea. Even W3M, text only, has the same issue as firefox.

Saw Click on the BBC (bbc.com/click) - bit disappointing really: more of a series of uncritical advertisments than journalism. Observe:

Viewers were encouraged to check out gist.com to manage their contacts in one place. Trouble is you (a) have to register to use the service, and (b) you store your contacts online. What will they do with them? Well, it is likely your contacts will be mined for demographics - don't be surprised if you start receiving more ads later. Gist will even mine your emails for contact data. The privacy policy is hard to find from their site, but it is there. The jurisdiction is USA, unspecified state, and data is collected for unspecifies "services" to unspecified people. They certainly have a service for you, but they also warn that non-identifying aggregate data may be disclosed to third parties and that other gist members can view your personal information. The trouble is that this is not very binding. The USA does not have statute protections for privacy which binds corporations like NZ does. The service rings alarm bells because it asks you to provide access to the sorts of files that malware typically targets. What is wrong with managing contacts on your own machine?

Sight impaired Windows users were encouraged to try ZoomText, an ex-DOS magnifier. "Magnify up to 32 times" which is better than Windows built-in magnifier, but it is outstripped by Compiz built-in ... I zoom by hitting the logo key and scrolling. Whats more, doesn't cost a cent. Want more features, Orca has them all under the accessability options in Ubuntu, also gratis as well as free. So this bit was just a product plug, I hope they got paid. Some sort of comparison of different software would have been more in-line with what we expect from the BBC.

An Android meta-app called "eyes-free" got a plug too. This is not so objectionable and it makes android phones a little easier to use, particularly if you want to read text on the wee screen thing smart-phones have. Android is the #2 smart-phone OS, second to Blackberry, and climbing. It is, therefore, the single most popular gnu/linux distro. However, it tends to be a bit locked down ... something the FSF would like to see stopped. It is more likely we will see developer versions of smart phones that the geeks can hack. Even with this, it would be useful to compare with other phone OSs ... is this really an innovation?

yetisports.com collects viral games in one place - the games are small and addictive, and available elsewhere. The interface is worth checking out if you are a web designer though. The company puts ads around the games but is otherwise not a bad find. Even so, the games are available elsewhere.

BBC Click show could provide a quickee snapshot of ITC but instead just hypes whatever looks shiny at the time. I still don't think that's journalism.

Outside the weather is now sunny. I have a fault lodged with Vector about the powerline ... but they did not come so I have to get back to them. Last time I called them about that line they claimed it was not their problem ... even though it is an unmetered length. Oh well, better luck this time.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Stove and scams

I have a new stove - did not get the german one after all but something called a Parmco PPFS 6S CER with a ceramic hob. It's made in Italy, says the docket, and I have had bad luck with Italian appliances before. This one is pretending to be a proffessional machine like you'd find in a commercial kitchen but it is much lighter and a bit flimsy feeling for a pro. Domestically its doing fine so far - and it looks good - I'll have to do a big roast and a cake to celebrate.

I have come across three email scams in the last month or so. Dealing with emails is a matter of applying a plausibility test (is this how things are normally done by people who are not scammers?) and, if passed, doing some sort of due dilligence ... like taking action independent of the information supply (how would you address the matter raised in the email if you did not have the email to use?)

The first one pretended to be from Facebook and advised me that my account password had been changed ... if I wanted to regain access I had to click a link. The red flag here is that I have to do something to make nothing happen. Normally, if I change a password I would get an email asking me to confirm the change - doing nothing means the change does not go through. This scam has potential because Facebook do have a reputation for putting changes through without asking, then requiring users to hunt through the changes to put things back the way they want them. Thus it shows some prima-facae plausibility. Adding to this, the mail actually warns against phishing scams as part of the inducement to click on its link. Due diligence here is to log in to Facebook normally, making sure the password has actually changed. If it has, you click Facebook's "forgotten your password" link like normal.

The second one said it was from PayPal, thanking me for making a purchase - in this case a computer from Dell. Cute because that is a purchase that may well get accidently attributed to me - the red-flag was quite obvious: I don't use paypal. Thus it fails the plausibility test. Due diligence here would have been the same as before - log in to your paypal account and check your purchase history. It is possible that someone is making fraudulent purchases on your credit card, but they are hardly likely to use your email account for the receipts, that's dumb. JIC: check your credit card history. For VISA you are indemnified for fraudulent transactions after the first $50 so don't worry too much.

The last was a bit sad - it was a "Postcard from AOL". I class it as a scam due to the implausible name (a bunch of random-seeming syllables) of who it came from. It is possible that it is a legitimate email misdirected though. Now, I do not view HTML emails, so Evolution Mail puts the entire email in an attachment which I open with gedit (a text editor) so no executable components will run. This is the same as looking at the source code in your browser. What I looked for was links, which look like . The links were all to a domain that is no longer active, which is why it was sad.

TV night tonight - The Mentalist, then Dollhouse, then Eastwick. I was pleasantly surprised by Eastwick ... it handles familiar subject matter and characters engagingly, and it looks like they can sustain the initial momentum. So I'll keep watching for now.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Bang goes the stove

My stove just died the real death - no attempt will be made to ressurect.

It was a Candy Trio - which is a brand to avoid. Don't get me wrong, it was a good idea to put a range, oven and dishwasher in the same box and it worked well when it worked. Trouble was it had canary components with no replacement available anywhere, which sort of removes their benefit. First a washer in the dishwasher blows, which meant replacing the entire appeller (motor + pump) assembly ... just for a bit of rubber, and now the insulation in the range has crumbled -- sending the entire chassis live. This should not happen, none of it.

I've been looking at new ones. There's a very nice German one that looks cool that I'm talking myself into. It seems to be a good time to buy appliances too so maybe it's for the best.

We are also coming up to Software Freedom Day. The new SFD site is up: www.softwarefreedomday.org ... go look. HBCLUG is not in there this year :( unless someone else organises something!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Just a note

The only bad thing about being on Waiheke is the internet coverage. I have not been able to get online long enough to post to the blog for eg - most days. So I guess there is a very long post coming up.

I get my internet at $3/hr through the internet cafe in Oneroa, which is OK. The library has a captive node which seems to only works with IE, so they are going to Hear From Me quite soon ;) I'd have thought that Waiheke at least would be more open to, well, Openness - but there is a lot of ignorance here. Still, SFD coming up!

In the news that is not about sport or natural disasters I see that Gartner, usually such a good MS mouthpeice, is predicting an Android takeover of smartphones. All ceterus paribus of course. I see they have omitted to mention that Android is a distribution of Linux, but you will see that the strengths listed in the link are the typical Open Source strengths: developer-friendliness. The author makes a mistake counting the "Apps" though, in a free software environment you will get fewer add-ons because everyone is free to modify an existing work while a small change to a proprietary app needs a whole new program to be written (or royalties payed). Still, the dominoes are falling. The linux comunity has been jumping up and down about linux on mobile devices for ages now.

On a personal note - I have been experimenting with spacecraft again - look, shiney:
fdl initial shading

In sport and natural disaster news:

You think NZers are sports mad? Consider, those miners trapped down a hole in Chile ... what is their special request? Right behind "get us outta here" they wanted a set of shirts signed by their soccer team. Personally I'd have other things on my mind like the smokers (second hand anyone) and the diet (beans).

At home, while Cantabrians lament their destroyed property, there are scientists also examining the effects and saying things like "this is so cool". But quietly, because even scientists have some tact. This is just too good-an oppportunity to see close-up how chunks of the Earth actually work. It also tells you a lot about the scientific frame of mind, if you are the sort to witness Natures destructive power and think "wow I can really learn a lot here" then you are a scientist.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Hangi Heaven

"Ao Place" is a lunch-bar - sort of - in Surfdale (Waiheke). The owner does a Hangi each month and this month I got a share. I haven't had hangi food in ages, so I was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. She provided enough for a big plate piled high - pork, lamb, beef, and chicken - with a big hunk of pumpkin and cabbage, and a potato looking all alone in the pile. There is enough for four large meals so I know what I'm eating all week. All good solid kai.

Definately go for it again next month, and I'll see if I can help out too. A real hangi is a community effort.

In other news: Mercury Energy keep sending me final notices and disconnection threats, though they won't send me a bill. It's confusingly difficult to sort out - perhaps I need to change supplier. Car is in for service so I'm walking everywhere, but the weather has been good for it and so have the beaches.

It's probably about time I emerged from my shell and started exploring the local social life.