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Mon 30th Apr 2007 @ 23:37 2007: London Olympics Security

Who gets to control the security for the London Olympics? Oyster, who do the Tube stuff, were considered (not that they're much good at it), as were Nokia (who probably understand the concepts a bit better).

VISA were chosen!

Why? Because they had a better solution?

Oh no, that can't be it. It's just that they gave more money to the London Olympics.

Doesn't that make you feel better? The security is handed out to the highest bidder, regardless of experience or expertise.

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Sun 29th Apr 2007 @ 23:22 2007: Great tricks of Windows XP... #69371

The concept of "turn on the PC, do something, then turn it off again" - a difficult one for Windows XP, apparently.


Power switch
PC boots, as commanded
Connect to VPN
PC connects to VPN
Start Outlook
PC starts Outlook. I check a few emails.
Close Outlook
Outlook closes
Start -> Shutdown
PC shuts down, as commanded.


Power switch
PC boots, as commanded
Connect to VPN
PC connects to VPN
Start Outlook
PC starts Outlook. I see I've got a meeting at 11am.
Close Outlook
Outlook closes
Start -> Shutdown
Start -> Shutdown
Start -> Shutdown
Start -> Restart
Start -> Restart
Start -> Standby
Start -> Standby
Start -> Shutdown
Start -> Restart
Start -> Restart
hold down power switch
PC finally dies, as commanded.

Power switch
PC boots, as commanded.

Start -> Shutdown
PC shuts down, as commanded.

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Sun 29th Apr 2007 @ 00:28 2007: Microsoft Publisher

It seems that there is no tool to read (let alone write) Microsoft Publisher documents, other than Microsoft Publisher itself.

The Scribus project refuse to attempt a reverse-engineering, for legal reasons.

I just need to get some text from a Publisher document, and this quick-and-easy C file does most of the work. Ubuntu Linux binary here.

It's very fallible, and tested on a grand total of ONE (1) Publisher file.

Still, since there appears to be nothing out there (other than MS Publisher itself) which claims to have any compatibility with NS Publisher, then this is probably the best tool available!!


Thu 26th Apr 2007 @ 01:25 2007: Performance

I keep coming across posts like this: Ubuntu Performance Guides, with comments like "out of the box, a Windows XP system for example does perform faster than a default install of Ubuntu"

Granted, the everyday systems I use are both outdated; a 1.6GHz, 1Gb Win XP Laptop, and a 2.4GHz, 512Mb Ubuntu Desktop.

However, I know from experience that WinXP would struggle with 512Mb, and - to be honest - I'm rather surprised that the Desktop can cope with all the bloat that Ubuntu offers - I'm not just using it as a desktop, it's also a full LAMP server.

The WinXP laptop (provided and maintained by my employer, who happen to be one of MSFT's largest partners, so I'm going for the "best" Windows option here) has been getting slower and slower over time. Granted, I have installed applications - a couple of games (literally, two, one of which won't play), and Apple QuickTime (which I've now disabled from automatic startup; I use it once in a blue moon). But as each month goes by, the laptop takes longer and longer to boot.

As the same time passes by, the Linux desktop takes no longer to start (granted, it has fewer reboots), and I can now start tweaking things to save power when it's not in use.

It may be that I'm missing something - I only came "back" to the Wintel world 18 months ago, but as I see it, WinXP is, by design, going to get slower over its lifespan. "GNU/Linux" is a beast which is more difficult to pin down, but even taking its "worst" target, the consumer-oriented, GNOME-based Ubuntu, performance changes are only improvements (or, at worst, reflections of adding new services - databases, web servers, etc)

There's a paradigm shift, which was once - say a decade ago - the province of the few, and is now - thanks to Ubuntu, RedHat, SuSE et al, becoming more widespread. It's interesting to watch the Wintel crowd finding out how *nix has always worked, and - where relevant - how Linux has excelled at this. How the overall GNU/Linux system has also thrived is another subject itself.

Still, it's interesting to see how these Windows users repeat the same "install, make it usable, make it secure, make it fast" processes, as if it was necessary for every OS.

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Thu 26th Apr 2007 @ 00:47 2007: Irony

irony: Reduce FireFox Memory: Bandwidth Exceeded

Well, hmkay, I guess that would do it.

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Thu 26th Apr 2007 @ 00:37 2007: McLaren Mercedes : East, or West?

I've just been trawling through some photos on, and came across , which rather tickled me.

What's that? Oh, okay then. Here's what it should have looked like:

(in both cases, click to zoom).

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Tue 24th Apr 2007 @ 22:45 2007: Useful Advice

Some useful advice on buying a new PC.

Personally, I'd go for one of the latter two.

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Mon 23rd Apr 2007 @ 22:14 2007: Learning the Microsoft Lingo

There's a new phrase to add to the Microsoft/English dictionary:

  • "heuristically detects" : "Guesses"
Example usage, as shown in this article: "Windows Vista heuristically detects installation programs and requests administrator credentials or approval from the administrator user in order to run with access privileges. Windows Vista also heuristically detects updater and uninstallation programs"

What it means, is that install.exe requires Admin Rights to run, but the same program, called innocent.exe, can do what it likes.

Nice. It was 2002 that Bill Gates announced Trusthworthy Computing. It sounds good, Bill. When can we have it?

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Mon 23rd Apr 2007 @ 21:59 2007: Itinerant Deadbeat

Some guy called Matt Harding went on holiday and started filming himself doing a silly dance. He kept travelling, and kept getting people to take a few seconds worth of video of him dancing. You can read more about him at Wikipedia.


Apparently this became something of an internet phenomenon. My favourite moment is the Kenyan guy just laughing at him!


So in 2006, some chewing-gum brand asked him to do another one. My favourite here is the Rwandan kids dancing with him, though Kjeragbolten (Norway) comes a close second.



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Sun 22nd Apr 2007 @ 01:25 2007: I've found heaven

I loved my old Sinclair Spectrum. There is a *nix emulator for the Z80, and as an FTP site, seems to have a game or two. Now, I can't condone copyright infringement, though I also don't know of a way to pay the software authors for the use of these games.

Don't expect me back in the real world any time soon... JetPac alone is worth weeks of fun!

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Fri 20th Apr 2007 @ 23:45 2007: Ubuntu Dapper to Feisty Upgrade problems

root@elvis:/etc/apt# apt-get dist-upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
You might want to run `apt-get -f install' to correct these.
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
apache2: Depends: apache2-mpm-worker (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but it is not installed or
apache2-mpm-prefork (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but 2.0.55-4ubuntu2.1 is installed or
apache2-mpm-event (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but it is not installed
xserver-xorg: Depends: xserver-xorg-video-all but it is not installed or
xserver-xorg-video-1.0 or
xserver-xorg-core: Depends: x11-common (>= 1:7.0.0) but 7.0.0-0ubuntu45 is installed
E: Unmet dependencies. Try using -f.
root@elvis:/etc/apt# apt-get -f dist-upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree... Done
Correcting dependencies... failed.
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
apache2: Depends: apache2-mpm-worker (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but it is not installed or
apache2-mpm-prefork (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but 2.0.55-4ubuntu2.1 is installed or
apache2-mpm-event (>= 2.2.3-3.2build1) but it is not installed
xserver-xorg: Depends: xserver-xorg-video-all but it is not installed or
xserver-xorg-video-1.0 or
xserver-xorg-core: Depends: x11-common (>= 1:7.0.0) but 7.0.0-0ubuntu45 is installed
E: Error, pkgProblemResolver::Resolve generated breaks, this may be caused by held packages.
E: Unable to correct dependencies

Not that I especially want to upgrade Apache


Fri 20th Apr 2007 @ 23:24 2007: Vista DRM - doesn't work, apparently

According to, there is a new "protection" layer in Windows Vista, which means that certain (signed) processes can't be accessed by debuggers, etc, so that their "special secrets" (that is to say, MPAA secrets), cannot be divulged.

However, he's been able to bypass this, to get full data from the actual code, not just the unprotected part of it.

So... the protection is useless - hopefully the antivirus guys will also bypass this "protection", as it intends to make a signed binary otherwise inpenetrable (thankfully, it fails at its task!)

The other side of the coin, is how easy it is to make unchecked code appear to be "signed"?

Yet a third side of this increasingly misformed coin, brings the question of how MSFT can sign third-party code, without being privileged to the source code itself? Presumably, if one wants to write a permissible application, one must submit ones entire source (plus proof that the resulting binary does, indeed, come from that same source) to MSFT for their <irony>expert security analysis</irony>?

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Fri 20th Apr 2007 @ 22:02 2007: Bruce Schneier victim of Social Engineering attack!

A Bruce Schneier blog entry reported what he believed was a social engineering prank, but turns out to be a meta-prank - that is to say, they never did the hack itself (getting their domain name displayed in lights at the Super Bowl). The hack they did do, was to convince many people, including Schneier, world-renowned security guru, that they had done, simply by saying so (with some good-enough video footage, but no external confirmation as back-up)

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Thu 19th Apr 2007 @ 23:06 2007: MS want to muscle in on the OLPC project

The BBC reports that, apparently in response to the One Laptop Per Child project, which aims to produce a $100 laptop (running a modified Fedora Core Linux) for children in developing countries, Microsoft are trying to get in on the action, by selling WinXP + StudentOffice for $3.00. In return, the governments will be required to provide free computers to schools.

Just to clarify the obvious:

"This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business," Orlando Ayala of Microsoft told the Reuter's news agency.
- No kidding, Einstein.

Whereas the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) seems to be developing an entire hardware + software architecture for a cost of $100 (they're currently managing to do it for about $150, I believe), Microsoft's offer is that the Government can buy a traditional PC, and get the MS lock-in for $3.

Apart from anything else, it seems to be completely missing the point; the OLPC project have some revolutionary ideas about how to make a unique machine developed with hiterhto unconsidered requirements in mind - like a lack of electrical power source, and even of providing security and usability in the face of low (or nonexistant, for a 4-yr-old) literacy and numeracy.

An offer of WinXP+Office for $3 is not only missing the point, it is downright insulting.

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Wed 18th Apr 2007 @ 19:54 2007: 6yr-old arrested for tantrum

You couldn't make this up: A six-year-old girl was arrested, handcuffed, put in jail and fingerprinted, because she was "upset and crying and wailing and would not leave the classroom to let them study, causing a disruption of the normal class activities."

Which backwards country would this be?

The United States of America; home of the Brave, land of the Free.

If it were April 1st, I would have to have assumed that this was nothing more than a bad joke.


Wed 18th Apr 2007 @ 14:00 2007: Sony DRM

It seems that Sony have started using an outdated DRM (which makes use of deliberately-unreadable tracks on the disk) on some of their new DVD releases. This ARccOS DRM does not offer decent copy protection.

Whilst its website claims that it is "Fully compatible with available DVD players and drives", it seems that a number of existing DVD players, including Sony DVP-CX995V, as well as Toshiba, Philips and others.

So... if you want to make a copy of the DVD, then go ahead.

If you want to sit back and watch it, well, Sony plan to have a fix for their DVD player (not saying when!), and of course, if you have another manufacturer's DVD player, you're out of luck.

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Tue 17th Apr 2007 @ 00:13 2007: Google Maps

This was mentioned on The Now Show (BBC Radio 4) on Friday; I couldn't construct a decent link to Google Maps, but somebody now has done so:


Pay special attention to Step 23:

Swim across the Atlantic Ocean (3,462m)
It seems clear that Google Maps have no airline / oceanic liner / etc details, so some hack was introduced to get the thing to work, via the only noncommercial method available: human power.

However, they seem to have taken a certain Americentric view, in that there is just one solution to get to the whole of Europe, and that is via France... Even if you want to go to Dublin or Warsaw, you'll be sent via the beaches of France.

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Mon 16th Apr 2007 @ 23:04 2007: I love
(Contains one word NSFW)

PwNzAgE33: ok so in assembly language we learned that processes in the cpu get set priority levelsPwNzAgE33: 0-7, 7 being the highest priority
PwNzAgE33: this is the example the book gives
PwNzAgE33: "For example, a computer's payroll program may run overnight, and at PL0. It has all night to finish - not terribly urgent. A program that corrects for a nuclear power plant current surge may run at PL6. We are perfectly happy to let the payroll wait while the nuclear power correction keeps us from being blown to bits."
PwNzAgE33: this begs two questions
PwNzAgE33: first
PwNzAgE33: who in the hell is running payroll and a nuclear power surge correction on the same machine
PwNzAgE33: and second, if nuclear power surge correction gets PL6, what on God's green earth gets a fucking PL7?

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Mon 16th Apr 2007 @ 22:44 2007: Web2.0 in 5 minutes

A positive view of Web 2.0

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Sun 15th Apr 2007 @ 23:48 2007: Dropping like a stone

After the first race, I was in P1.

After the second race I dropped to P2.

Now, having the opportunity to swap Massa (who qualified on Pole Position, and finished first) for Speed (who qualified 19/21, and didn't finish the race), things must be looking up, right?

Well, no. I'm now down to third place.

At this rate, after 17 races, I'll be down in 17th place.

I was only the sixth most losingist loser at Bahrain, a full 21 points behind the biggest loser :-(

And I thought that I knew my way around the back of the grid. Apparently not.

Red Bull did their (un)supporters proud, both cars taking themselves off the track (though to give credit to DC, he seemed to remember today - if only for a moment - that he is a racing car driver, not a hotelier)

Lewis Hamilton made his 2nd place look unremarkable, but if he'd had the harder tyres in the second stint, it looked like he could have threatened Massa for the victory. Three races in, that's probably too much to ask for, though.

As for BMW Sauber, I can't tell whether the car is good, Kubica is getting the hang of things, and Heidfeld is finally getting the chance to show what a good, solid, consistent driver he is (I think this is the best interpretation), or if - as the ITV crew seem to think, that BMW have somehow brought the Sauber team along, in their 2nd season together, ahead of the rest of the midfield pack, to have a car that really is better than the Williams and the rest, maybe even bringing BMW up to the 3rd-manufacturer status behind Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes (and thereby ditching reigning champions Renault to the midfield). Time will tell.

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Fri 13th Apr 2007 @ 00:37 2007: Solaris under VMWare

I thought that I'd posted this when I first put it together a good many months ago, but it seems not... silly me. is a step-by-step guide to using the (free-of-charge) VMWare Player to install a Solaris 10 Virtual Machine under a Windows XP OS.

I only came back to it, because I wanted to install a virtual Solaris under Linux; virtually all of the details are the same, and - of course - you can run a Linux box with VMPlayer with Solaris, all free of charge; the only bit not under a GPL license is the VMPlayer, which is free (as-in-beer).

It would be nice to do the same, in the opposite direction, but I don't think that there is a VMPlayer for Solaris (yet?)...

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Wed 11th Apr 2007 @ 00:24 2007: Nintendo and Disney

What if Nintendo and Disney got together to make a game?

Wii and Pooh - could even Disney sell that one?!!

Granted, not my best thought of the year, or even of the past minute, but there must be something now stopping Nintendo and Disney from working too closely together ...

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Mon 9th Apr 2007 @ 22:23 2007: Happy Easter

Some FLOSS Easter Eggs for you... Links lead to more of the same. Spreadsheet:

Put the =GAME(A2:C4;"TicTacToe") formula into A1 and press ENTER. A version of the Tic-Tac-Toe game is playable.

Put =GAME("StarWars") into any cell and press ENTER. A version of Space Invaders is playable. Although if you try to play it again, the message "oh no, not again" appears. To play again, you must fully close


debian$ zgrep Release /usr/share/doc/linux-image-`uname -r`/changelog.Debian.gz
The "Ben got a PowerBook for Christmas" Release.
The "Quickest re-release ever" Release
The "Oh crap, what did I get myself into?" Release.
The "Welcome Ben!" Release.
The "Morose Mungbean" Release.
The "Laughing Lentil" Release.
The "Bashful Brazil" Release.
The "Perky Pecan" Release
The "Wacky Walnut" Release.
The "Merry Macadamia" Release.
The "Cheerful Chestnut" Release.
The "Happy Hazel" Release.
The "Succulent Strawberries" Release.
The "Big Banana" Release.
The "Radioactive Radish" Release.
The "Atomic Artichoke" Release.
The "Crunchy Corn" Release.
The "Crispy Chicken" Release.
debian$ zgrep "The.*Release" /usr/share/doc/dpkg/changelog.Debian.gz
The "Good, clean fun" Release.
The "Bully's Special Prize" Release.
The "On like Donkey Kong" Release.
The "In like Flynn" Release.
The "Maidenhead Creeping Water Plant" Release.
The "Just kidding about the God part" Release.
The "Flatulent Elm of West Ruislip" Release.
The "Or the Wabbit gets it" Release.
The "Paying off Karma at a vastly accelerated rate" Release.
The "Mysteriously Unnamed" Release.
The "Livin' like a good boy oughta" Release.
The "Three banana strategy" Release.
The "Awh, yeah? Ripper!" Release.
The "Grab your gun and bring in the cat" Release.
The "Captain Tight-Pants" Release.
The "你他媽的天下所有的人都該死" Release.
The "Donald, where's your troosers?" Release.
The "Let the Wookie win" Release.
The DebConf4 Release.


$ apt-get moo
/ | ||
* /\---/\
~~ ~~
...."Have you mooed today?"...
$ aptitude moo
There are no Easter Eggs in this program.
$ aptitude -v moo
There really are no Easter Eggs in this program.
$ aptitude -vv moo
Didn't I already tell you that there are no Easter Eggs in this program?
$ aptitude -vvv moo
Stop it!
$ aptitude -vvvv moo
Okay, okay, if I give you an Easter Egg, will you go away?
$ aptitude -vvvvv moo
All right, you win.

-------/ \
/ \
/ |
-----------------/ --------\
$ aptitude -vvvvvv moo
What is it? It's an elephant being eaten by a snake, of course.

Apparently the last one is a reference to "The Little Prince" by Antoine de St. Exupery

Gnome Desktop:
Press Alt+F2 then type: "free the fish". A fish will appear on the screen and keep moving around. If you click on it, it will swim offscreen and come back a short time later.

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Sun 8th Apr 2007 @ 00:55 2007: MSNBC Rewriting History? claims that MSNBC is rewriting Iranian history.

I have to admit a great level of ignorance, whilst not being surprised that our dealings with Iran - as with our dealings with Iraq - are far from wholesome.

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Sun 8th Apr 2007 @ 00:43 2007: F1 Losers League

I've got a bad thing with Massa as one of my drivers... He is a consistently strong, if underrated driver, and he's still got a Ferrari underneath him.

The swine went and qualified on Pole Position. Even Button went through to the second qualifying session, too, and he's got a badly-broken Honda.

Is there no justice in the world?!

hainokainolainowainowhatishecalledoloaven came up with the goods, in 11th place.

I guess that I need to get Coulthard to do to Massa what he did to Wurz


Fri 6th Apr 2007 @ 21:36 2007: ID Cards

Inspired by a recent conversation, I have written a brief article on ID Cards, summarising some key points regarding the futility of ID cards:

  • Entitlement cards are open to abuse, as not having an entitlement card must mean that the (non)bearer should be issued with one!
  • Lack-of-Entitlement cards can also be "accidentally lost" when demanded, thereby promoting the (non)bearer to legitimacy, simply by not having something saying otherwise.
  • Compulsory ID cards for all are simply not workable, even on a population of 60 million; in practice, we would need to ID the entire world for the system to work as advertised.
  • Even then, we would not know anything about the people we were tracking, merely that they appear to have done certain things (flown here, had surgery there, educated somewhere else, etc..,).
  • Since the Passport Agency wrongly issued 10,000 passports in the past year, to fraudulent applicants, we need not worry about the possibility of forgery - the Government will provide legitimate documentation to 60% of applicants!

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