Shhhhhh Can you keep a secret?

In the technology world and beyond the big story of the moment is government snooping of electronic communications and email in particular.

I have always been of the opinion that emails are the equivalent of picture postcards in the mail, in that they can be easily read by anybody with a mind to do so.

To circumvent this some people and especially businesses encrypt their electronic communications. Whether or not this makes them 100% secure from being read by third parties is of course a matter for debate.

This also points to the fact that the communications have been encrypted because they perhaps contain sensitive information either of a personal or business nature. The sad fact is that it’s human nature that if something is unreadable people will want to break the encryption and read the contents of the message.

In recent years governments seem to want to get this down to a fine art and read what people are sending, as it’s a fair bet that an encrypted email will for example contain something more than birthday greetings to Aunt Maude on her 80th birthday.

Personally I believe that my private communications should be exactly that, Private!!  Or as private as the postcard scenario above will allow. Not because of their contents but simply because generally what I wish to say to other people is purely the business of myself and the person I am communicating with, simple as that.

In a democratic society the people elect the government to basically run the country and keep it’s population safe from harm. I think it’s fair to say that most if not all governments abuse this privilege, and make no mistake it is a privilege.

These days Governments justify actions which are often at best dodgy and underhand and at worst illegal under the current laws by using terrorism and the fight against it as a reason for their actions. Sadly the more they do it successfully then the more they will want to do it again and again, using protection of the population as a reason when the simple truth is it an excuse. There is nothing like a good national panic to hide dodgy activities.

They often get away with this because of simple apathy by most of the population. This apathy is shown by the fact that around 50% or less of those eligible to do so bother to vote at national elections.

Unless they are terminally thick, criminals terrorists or what ever you like to call them are not going to nip into the local supermarket and buy a couple of mobile phones to communicate. There are other means, and I don’t mean email either.

If a national government said that every member of the population had to carry a tracker and report details of when and how they spoke to people there would be open revolt. The sad fact is we already do, it’s called a mobile phone. You only have to walk down any street to see people of all ages using them, and by doing so they are leaving a trail of where they are at any time, who they are communicating with and for how long.

We have phones we can ask questions verbally to and they will give an answer, what people often don’t realise is that these questions are being stored. There is now at time of writing this a phone on the horizon that will constantly listen to what you say and if it detects a question it will answer it. Now that’s scary, if people were told they must carry a device that would listen to every thing they said, there would be riots, but when this phone is available people will buy it because it’s the latest model and has new features on it. We are walking into a 100% surveillance society and the sad fact is that we are buying the equipment ourselves.

Many local supermarkets and shopping centres provide so called free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors, just remember there is as they say no such thing as a free lunch. They don’t do it from the goodness of their hearts, they do it to obtain information so they can make more money out of the customers.

Let’s take supermarkets as an example, when you first connect to their system you enter details such as your loyalty card number, this ties you personally to the phone and of course the location at any specific time. I wonder how many people realise that on most tablets and phones then next time you visit that or any of their other branches you will automatically connect to their Wi-Fi.

They will have more than one access point to cover a store, this will enable them to perhaps see which isles you visit and for how long, tie that up with your purchase record for that visit, because of course you handed your loyalty card over at the till for your points, you know that card whose number you entered to access the free Wi-Fi some months ago. They can see what isles you visited and purchased nothing so perhaps send you offer coupons for stuff in those isles. If the supermarket gave everybody a card to fill out saying what parts of the store you visited and for how long the vast majority would refuse, but give a person Wi-Fi and they will hand the information over without a thought.

Just remember next time you send an email or connect to a “FREE” Wi-Fi point that somebody somewhere is watching.

In most countries freedom is something that has been fought for over the centuries, in this electronic age we seem to be happy to give it away, and the worrying thing is that most people are just not bothered, or don’t realise.

Just remember that you may be giving away information without knowing it and not everybody can be trusted with that information.

 

ET Phone Home

One electronic device these days seems to affect our lives more than anything else and that’s the mobile phone, or more specifically the smartphone.

Everybody seems to have them.

At the moment my mother is in hospital and this means that each evening Sue and I have the pleasure of two buses each way to go and visit her.

This means that we are subject to the phone users where quite often the phone seems smarter than the user.

Take tonight for instance, on the way back from Peterborough city centre we had a young lad sitting behind us who was constantly on his phone to one person, and judging from his conversation he did not need a call to his girlfriend he needed one to the Samaritans help line. Even I almost felt sorry for him and I don’t normally do sympathy.

Then we had a chap who must have been retiring age whose phone went off just as he sat on the bus, it blared out a pop tune loudly for about 30 seconds until he could find it in his pocket. His subsequent call was louder than his ring tone, and to top it off he had the kind of voice that makes you want to strangle him. You know the type of voice where he says something and laughs at the end of the sentence even though what he said was not remotely funny.

But prize for most irritating of the night goes to a young girl who had a baby in a buggy with her, you could see her on her phone as we approached the bus stop, when the bus came to a halt she slid it between her boobs and then got on the bus. After showing her bus ticket she sorted the buggy out, took the phone from between her boobs, looked at it then wiped the screen on her top, once this was done she just carried on chatting to the person who had been on the other end of the phone all the time. Now the question is did the person hear her heart beat whilst the phone was between her boobs or did the phone go deaf and possibly overheat. We will never know. But please feel free to post your thoughts on what happened to the poor phone.

People like those above make me embarrassed to have an iPhone, much less use it in public. I always feel like sliding down behind the seat if my phone goes off on public transport, so much so that I normally put it on vibrate.

So don’t be shy what annoys or irritates you about phones on public transport or in public places, come on don’t be shy……

Birds are not the only things that fly.

I have been sitting here this morning staring at the computer screen in one of my mediating moods. I am as I have said before not a morning person, I don’t function until after lunch, and some have said I don’t function well even then.

I sat there lost in thought, perhaps I was lost because it was unfamiliar territory, who knows?

Anyway this morning I was thinking about how time flies by and how nobody seems to have time these days during their working day to just stand still and take a breath.

Certainly this year is going quickly, I mean it’s August already, looking back over the past seven months I see how little I have actually achieved, it’s like I have zoomed through the months on autopilot. Either that or I am getting forgetful in my old age, I forgotten which of the two it is.

One of the penalties of working from home is that people knock my door on a regular basis, normally trying to sell me something. One thing that irritates me more than anything is when I get to the door, open it and the person who knocked is already 3 doors down, knocking and spending a couple of seconds at a neighbours door before going onto the next. What the hell are they on? Do they really think that people can answer the door in 3 seconds. At my age as I keep telling myself I am built for comfort not speed. You catch their eye and they look away not wanting to admit that they distirbed me by knocking, it’s rare they come back to speak. The ones that do normally regret it after I have finished saying my piece. Most of them don’t look old enough to be out on their own, certainly not after dark. I have been known to ask them when really irritated if they have escaped from their day centre. I presume from the speed they rush round the cul-de-sac at that they are on commission with a poor basic, what a way to make a living!

Now I am not sure if this time flying by faster lark is down to old age or the fact I have time to sit and think about the subject after doing more important things like contemplating the dust on the monitor. Mind you my mother who is in her mid-eighties bless her is already talking about Christmas and has been doing so since June, this being the case can I assume that this time flying by will get quicker?

The other day I posted a comment on a blog, and the owner reposted it on Facebook saying it was profound. This has puzzled me as generally I don’t do profound, long winded and simple is more my line.
What I posted is this:- It’s amazing what belief can do. It can stop wars, it can start wars. It can divide communities, it can unite communities. It can incite hate, it can conquer hate. It can cloud judgement, it can clear judgement. Tricky stuff this belief.

I don’t know if I find this profound or not, it’s just what came into my head whilst reading the original blog post. As I said I don’t normally do profound, I am not a deep thinker, it’s just not me. I don’t take something and disect it into thousands of little bits to find meaning. To be honest I can’t see the point.

Oh well I think I will go back to my meditating and staring at the monitor, I will only start to worry if I do some mystic chanting in time to the flashing cursor. Oh the strain of the last day of the working week….

 

 

 

We was brung up proper

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL MY FRIENDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930′s 1940′s, 50′s, 60′s and early 70′s !
First, we survived being born to mothers who drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer..
Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle…
Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, or Subway.
Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn’t open on the weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death!
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy  Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because……
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY , no video/DVD  films,  no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
Lawsuits from these accidents.
Only girls had pierced ears!
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time…
We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays,
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Mum didn’t have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!
RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on MERIT
Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bullies always ruled the playground at school.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
Our parents didn’t invent stupid names for their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla’
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL !
And if YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.
And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.
PS -The big type is because your eyes are not too good at your age anymore

What web sites do you look at?

Strangely when people find what I do they ask me what web sites I like looking at. Heaven knows why but there we are.

I will admit that I do have a selection of favourites I look at on a regular basis and here are some of them in no particular order.

http://www.cnet.com                      Good for computer tech news though a few of the presenters can be a little over the top.

http://www.theregister.co.uk        Great for IT related stories, there is a US version at theregister.com

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/         First place I go when anything big happens news wise.

http://www.customerssuck.com    I can relate to the stories on here having worked in retail for 17 years, I no longer would have the patience

http://clientsfromhell.net                In the same league as the one above, a must for anybody who has clients.

http://notalwaysright.com              Some gems to be found in here mainly based in the US but stuff from other countries as well.

http://producten.hema.nl                I have included this page simply because of the way it’s written and how it gets the message across.

So there you have it, a small selection of the sites I visit on a regular basis. I also follow about a dozen blogs and love looking at web cams, I suppose I am nosey at heart!

What are your favourite sites that you look at on a regular basis? If there are one or two that you really like then please let me know in the comments section and I will take a look.

 

The runaway train

I have been reading the reports of the terrible disaster in Canada with the runaway train carrying pressurised containers of fuel.

The pictures reaching this side of the Atlantic are truly horrific.

The BBC news site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23218614 is carrying some of these pictures and also video footage.

Part of the BBC report quotes the following: –

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train had five locomotive engines and was parked in the village of Nantes – about 7km (four miles) from Lac-Megantic – during an overnight driver shift-change, said a company spokesman.

A driver had parked the train and put the brakes of its engines on “properly” before going to a local hotel for the night, said the spokesman, Joe McGonigle.

But the fuel cars somehow became uncoupled, causing them to roll downhill into the town and derail, he added.

Units just don’t somehow become uncoupled, especially when stationary, there has to be something happen to the coupling. Also unless the rolling stocks units were not individually braked, which I very much doubt then normally if there is a break in the coupling or the brake linkage between the units then brakes will fail ON not OFF. Thus preventing normally a runaway such as appears to have occurred here. Who knows perhaps the coupling was tampered with and the brakes were not adequate for the weight of the units. We of course at this stage don’t know and we may never know. I have no experience of the braking system used in Canada and more specifically on this particular train.

I am sure that such questions will be asked on an investigation, and let’s hope they find the answers as railway safety is taken very seriously.

I am lucky in that I have never been caught up in a disaster on this scale and I honestly hope I never will. Just to look at the devastation caused and the mounting loss of life does, I will freely admit make me feel very sad indeed.

My thoughts are with the families of those affected, it is a terrible situation to be put in and my thoughts are also with the victims and I hope the death toll does not rise to the level that some expect.

 

Will the last person out of the country please switch the lights off.

Well here in the UK experts have suggested that companies be paid for using less power in the late afternoons & early evenings.

The following is quoted from the BBC News Web Site:-

The government has dismissed a proposal that big shops and factories could be paid to cut their energy use to prevent shortages leading to blackouts.

Electricity network owner National Grid has suggested large consumers could be asked to lower use between 16:00 and 20:00 on weekdays in the winter.

It was responding to a warning from energy regulator Ofgem that the risk of power cuts has increased in the UK.

We appear to be steadly nearing the point as consumption goes up each year of getting close to where we can’t generate enough electricty to meet and exceed demands especially at peak times.

As somebody who remembers the power cuts of the 1970’s and the three day week, I have no desire to be working by gas light. We live in the 21st Century not Victorian times.

Now this has made me think about how much electricty people waste these days, with modern electronic gadgets left on standby rather than being switched off totally when not in use. Just looking round my home office here I have the following on or on standby at the moment. Two computers, one printer, one two-way radio, Two routers & one modem, Four external hard drives, Two angle lamps, Two cordless phones and last but not least one USB powered hub. Now each of those is not consuming that much power but it all adds up. So what can we do to save power and of course in the process save a bit of money. The answer of course is to switch things off totally not just to standby. I now switch off the desktop at night, I used to just leave it running 24/7 simply because it was easier than waiting for it to boot.

However, this does not totally answer the question as to why we are not generating enough to keep pace with increasing consumption needs. One of the reasons no doubt is the Nimby principle (Nimby = Not in my back yard.) People want things but not where it will adversly affect them. Nobody wants a view of a power station from their living room window, but they do want more power. The same can be said for example with mobile phones, people want 100% coverage but then moan when another phone mast goes up locally.

Many people lay the blame for the possible power problems at the feet of successive UK Governments for the privatisation of the power industry and the subsequent underfunding, private power companies exisit to make money for their shareholders, no longer are they there as a public utility.  Reading the reports on such as the BBC web site there are promises that the lights won’t go out, but promises from most politicans are, in my opinion not worth the effort made to say them.

So in a couple of years if the power does go off at peak times, we will be close to a general election, take time to remember what your local MP said on the subject and vote accordingly!!

Little things please little minds.

This amused me, which most likely shows how easily I am pleased these days.

I read the following on a computer forum in the software questions area.

QUESTION:-
My word processing software auto corrects as I type, how can I stop this?

ANSWER:-
Learn to spell or type better then the problem will go away.

I have a feeling it may not be the answer the person asking was looking for, then again you never know. Some strange people use computers these days, there is me for a start!!

But what if…….?

As you get older and there is more behind you than in front, and I don’t mean your backside (Ass) is getting bigger, you can’t help but think what if……?

Now I must admit here and now I am not one for generally looking back but like most people I do think of things and sometimes what if I had done something differently.

Now one thing I think you must accept with this thought is that if you had done something differently in the past then you may not be where you are now. You could be somewhere different, and that somewhere could be better than where you are now but equally it could be worse.

Take computers for example, if I had not bought one when the company I worked for started stocking them then perhaps my career would have been totally different, for a start I would not have trained others to use computers and software and perhaps I would not have developed an interest in computer communications as part of my lifelong interest in Amateur (Ham) Radio. I may not have been writing this blog (No cheering at the back, go and look at the Disney channel!!). In other words is where I am now is down to the fact that the shop I worked in received it’s first delivery of Commodore computers on the day the staff got paid? Perhaps if they had arrived a week later by which time I would have spent my spare money then I would not have bought one. Then how different would things have perhaps been for me?

Now I appreciate this may be a little deep for me to be typing on a summers day like today with the wind howling and the rain lashing down but it just shows how one little minor event at the time can have a profound effect on the future. But just think of all the little decisions you have made in the past and then think of where you would perhaps be now if you had made a different decision.

I communicate via this electronic medium with what I think are some pretty incredible people, they inspire me, they amuse me and in one specific case constantly amaze me with their ability to make the best of their situation, in the case of this one person her posts always without fail inspire  me and make me feel lucky to be able to communicate with her. Just think if those computers had come in at a different time this may not be happening, and I for one would be a poorer person for it.

 

 

It’s my music and you can have it even if you don’t want it.

In the summer months we have a strange phenomenon here.

People seem to have this desire to throw their windows open and share their love of music with their neighbours. Depending on which way you face you can sometimes select the type of music you’re forced to hear.

Now if that was not bad enough we also have those who like to play the same song over and over again, it makes sitting in the back garden (Yard for my American followers) on a sunny day an experience. Just when you want to sit out and perhaps enjoy a quiet book or perhaps work on the laptop you have a musical background, the snag being that the background can often be quite loud and normally the music is terrible and distorted.

Judging by the volume of what reaches my garden I can only assume that the volume is set on whatever is playing it to just about pain threshold. Either that or I live near a commune for the selectively deaf.

The only two options are often to go and sit inside again or take out some headphones and listen to your own music to drown out the neighbours racket. This tends to defeat the object of a quiet sit in the sunshine.

This is not limited exclusively to my younger neighbours either, we have a few older people who seem desperate to hang onto their youth via music.

So there you have it one of the many snags of working from home. Oh well where are my headphones?