Tuesday 14 December 2010

I finally got a new phone

I've been using an old HTC TytnII (Kaiser) with Android 2.2 forced into it - but it doesn't quite work right.

I've been holding out for something good with a build in keyboard but they all cost around 400 quid! Forget that!

I finally got an Orange San Francisco (which is really a branded ZTE Blade) on sale at 85.00 with another £14.00 off with my phone fund, so it cost me £70 which is very good.

It also came with a "free" £55 ghastly plastic "LTD brand" watch which must be worth all of 99p - it's like those nice metal citizen watches you used to be able to get, only made out of white plastic.

If I wore my jeans halfway down my thighs, had those weird white shoes that get your feet wet and my hair plastered to my face with grease it would look real nice - only I don't; and if I wear it people will think I'm a refugee.

My phone is now running Modaco's customized ROM - seems to be Android 2.2 although I thought I'd installed the custom 2.1

So what makes the ZTE Blade worth getting?
  1. 1. good hackability (HTC make the best phones but they lock the bootloaders - idiots)
  2. 2. the screen is the same resolution 800x480 as the Dell Streak which was my next favourite.
  3. 3. almost all the features of the £400.00 phones with less than 25% of the price. What's missing? just missing a case - no trouble - £3 on ebay

Orange is the only brand in the UK where if you get a fault with something you buy online you can't take it back to a shop - yes, Orange retail is a different company - but they are very helpful.

Took ages and 2 attempts to get my sim registered properly (a necessary pre-cursor to getting a replacement phone).

My £10 credit still hasn't come through, I as chasing that today and got a text saying it could take 5 working days! perhaps they are waiting for an inter-departmental cheque to clear?

And then I need to merge with my old number... or maybe just use up the credit and ask for a new 3G SIM on my old account.

The San Francisco from Orange in grey offers a range of great mobile features such as free Christmas gift on pay-as-you-go, 3-megapixel camera, 3G+, Android v2.1. Available on pay as you go and pay monthly contract from Orange

Friday 10 December 2010

Ding dong all year long

"The choir of children sing their song. They've practiced all year long. Ding dong, ding ding dong. Simply having a wonderful Christmastime..." (as the song goes)

It's hard to imagine a choir of children practising any Christmas song all year long, but when the only words seem to be "ding dong ding dong ding dong" it becomes even harder to imagine them singing it with any feeling by the time Christmas comes around.

Perhaps the only thing that could be worse is to be the choir leader of a group of children doomed to practise "ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong" all year long, and the relief that Christmas is finally here and the knowledge that the children can finally get the wretched performance over with will surely be tainted by the certainty that they must start practising again as soon as the new year starts.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Do climate models model climate?

Climate models have been modelling global warming rather than the climate:
"In particular, green plants can be expected to grow as they find it
easier to harvest carbon from the air around them using energy from the
sun: thus introducing a negative feedback into the warming/carbon
process. Most current climate models don't account for this at all"
it appears that at current rates we have at least 200 years before there is any dangerous warming.

A group of top NASA boffins says that current climate models predicting global warming are far too gloomy, and have failed to properly account for an important cooling factor which will come into play as CO2 levels rise.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Tricksy Facebook

With facebook trying to share all my details, I may close my account.

The redesigned profile, launched earlier this week and due to be rolled out gradually over coming weeks, is designed to encourage punters to expose even more information about their day to day lives to the dominant social networking site, net security firm Sophos cautions.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Government Techno-magicians

There is not shortage of people who want to believe Pharoah's magicians - or these days, technology salesmen.

Folk who want to believe that they have a magic computer box that will tell them something helpful - but which in fact are generally about as trustworthy as an ouija board or a anonymous internet chat.

A principle at stake, is that the more worthwhile it is to crack something, the more likely it is to be cracked.

Russian password-cracking company ElcomSoft said on Tuesday that it's able to extract the original signing key from the Canon Original Data Security Kit and use it to validate fake photos. Canon has billed the service as a way to verify the originality of an image and to confirm that global positioning coordinates, data, time, and other metadata hasn't been changed.

Friday 26 November 2010

The voice in the phone told me to...

Here's why you don't just obey strangers who call you up over the telephone. You also should beware about advice forward from strangers via email.

A man trashed his South Carolina motel room on orders from a prank caller, who told him there was a "midget" imprisoned next door.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Wait for the theory

If you find a theory you don't like, just wait - there'll be another one along in a while.

‎(PhysOrg.com) -- In general, asking what happened before the Big Bang is not really considered a science question. According to Big Bang theory, time did not even exist before this point roughly 13.7 billion years ago. But now, Oxford University physicist Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan from the Ye

Body scanners for the trains?

Physic mind probes next, to try and catch the sort of strong principled reactionary who might turn terrorist while on the train as a consequence of something they read in the paper. (Or possibly by the bad service).

Hugh Pickens writes "The Hill reports that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says terrorists will continue to look for US vulnerabilities, making tighter security standards necessary. '[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,' Napolitano said

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Could you spot a skimming cash machine?

Do you think you could spot a dodgy cash machine? I don't think I could - look at these pictures and see for yourself.

Criminals increasingly are cannibalizing parts from handheld audio players and cheap spy cams to make extremely stealthy and effective ATM skimmers, devices designed to be attached to cash machines and siphon card + PIN data, a new report warns.

Dangers of using general purpose computers for specific purposes

The benefits of being able to use a general purpose computer for online banking is also the curse of being able to use a general purpose computer for online banking - namely all the other purposes for which the computer is used and by which it can be exploited.

An escrow firm in Missouri is suing its bank to recover $440,000 that organized cyber thieves stole in an online robbery earlier this year, claiming the bank’s reliance on passwords to secure high-dollar transactions failed to measure up to federal e-banking security guidelines.

Friday 19 November 2010

MP's afraid to investigate News of the World?

"something is dangerously out of kilter" when MPs such as Adam Price on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee confess they have been "held back" from probing into News Corporation's affairs because of "fear of what that company might do to them" – or when former employees are "too frightened to speak publicly about what they know" .

Support your possibly independant lobbyists-for-hire; they will harass OFCOM and your MP's for you.

It's worth a fiver from me, and they take paypal. Standing up to be counted (if that's what it is) was never so easy.

Guardian editor-in-chief argues that no individual or organisation should be allowed 'that much power'. By Dan Sabbagh

Friday 12 November 2010

Global Warming Good for Rain Forests

OK, so let's take it that global warming is coming: that temperatures are set to rise by easily 3°C by the end of the century. Disaster, right? The tropical rainforests - lungs of the planet - will die, CO2 levels will thus rise even faster, a runaway process will set in and planet Earth will be transformed into a baking lifeless hell.

Not so much, according to top boffin Carlos Jaramillo of the US Smithsonian Institution. Jaramillo, who works at the Smithsonian's Tropical Research centre, says that 60 million years ago temperatures were up to 5°C higher than now and atmospheric CO2 was running close to 1000 parts per million - way beyond the planet-busting thresholds set by the UN - and yet the rainforests flourished.

"It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests," says Jaramillo's Smithsonian colleague Klaus Winter.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Consider the Lilies

Good singing AND good sound engineering (and the picture choice isn't bad)

Tuesday 9 November 2010

The Prayer - from Quest for Camelot

This is good too - but not as a headache cure - I did buy the Heavensong mp3's because of it.

Hmmm... version removed from Youtube - now I'll have to buy Heavensong;. See track 13 here at the Deseret Book website. try Celine Dion instead:

Music for a headache

This music is good for a headache - competes with Barber's "More tears from heaven"
And what is it we shall hope for?

Saturday 30 October 2010

Citizens can use lobbyists too


It is re-assuring to know, when reading the details of these campaigns that folk with more time and experience than me are on the case.

I'm a founding member of the open rights group.

The Open Rights Group is a fast-growing NGO focused on raising awareness of issues such as privacy, identity, data protection, access to knowledge and copyright reform.

Privatisation of Politicis

Is the privatisation of politics a good thing?
Is voting still enough?

You can now pick your own pressure groups and lobbyists to "educate" your elected leaders who are too busy to understand all the implications of the subtle plans of the other pressure groups and lobbyists.

You should vote, and you should also consider financially supporting groups who will watch out for your interests and fight for them on your behalf.

It can be easier to pay £5 per month than read all the new legislation and track the debates. And also more effective.

I'm a founding member of the open rights group, and I recommend all my friends to join.

We really need your support in our fight against threats like Mandelson’s disconnection proposals, Intercept Modernisation and Phorm. We depend on people like you: click here to join us as a supporter today.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

This is a stupid campaign. I polluted it by signing the petition with a comment to the effect that I disagreed with it. Only a fool pays taxes that don't need to pay. Osborne even has to pay an accountant to find out what he needs to pay and what he doesn't. The solution is to SIMPLIFY TAX LAW not pay extra tax voluntarily!

We KNOW Osborne pays his tax cos his accountant makes sure. You DON'T know if you pay yours! Simplify taxes! A witch hunt will get you too!

BTW I didn't mean to pollute the campaign with a negative signature, I just couldn't find any other outlet. (I since found their blog page and I posted on that)

‎38 Degrees brings you together with other people to take action on the issues that matter to you and bring about real change.

Monday 25 October 2010

Stop government snooping on email and Facebook

I'm also a founding member of the Open Rights Group

The government has announced that it will be spending up to £2 billion pounds into new ways to snoop on email and web traffic.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Oprhaned Works

An "orphaned work" is a creative work where the copyright holder doesn't care or doesn't exist. However if an orphaned work is then preserved it may gain value at a future date which would be a great incentive for the copyright owner to re-appear to exploit the value while simultaneously taking legal action against the the preservationist.

In the past when culture was stored on paper and transferred by the human voice, and copyright terms were very small this was less of a problem.

On the other hand we are still preserving more than we ever did in the past

SEWilco writes "A study by the Library of Congress has found that many audio recordings are being lost due to copyright restrictions and temporary media. Old audio recordings are protected by a various US state copyrights, so it's hard for preservationists to get and copy material...

Thursday 30 September 2010

Car wrecks rise after texting bans imposed

I know I look at my speedo quite a few times when I'm approaching or passing a speed camera - time that may be better spent looking at the road ahead.
‎"In fact," concludes the US Highway Loss Data Institute, "[texting] bans are associated with a slight increase in the frequency of insurance claims filed under collision coverage for damage to vehicles in crashes."

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Diesels greener than battery cars

Swiss boffins have mounted an investigation into the largely unknown environmental burdens of electric cars using lithium-ion batteries, and say that the manufacturing and disposal of batteries presents no insurmountable barriers to electric motoring.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

I dont want directions

I can only remember the last two driving directions in a list anyway... and that's until I get into the car.

Until I've been to where I'm being directed it just sounds like: blah blah blah drive some more blah blah turn some special corners blah blah

Once I've been there I don't need directions unless there's a short-cut.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Really saving energy

Green people generally have no idea about saving energy

People who make an effort to be eco-friendly - for instance by recycling glass bottles, turning off lights and unplugging cellphone chargers - have no idea what they're on about, according to a new survey. Those who don't bother are more likely to know what actually saves energy and what doesn't.


Friday 9 July 2010

Building src.rpm from git/svn

Here are some scripts which I use to produce a src.rpm from a git tree.

In accordance with rpm philosphy, a pristine source tar.gz is produced, with a series of patches up to the current released. The svn backend is less developed, as I am not so familiar with svn as I am with git, but it works enough for my use with the openchange project.

The general usage is:
make-srpm [options] project.spec [...]
and this should be invoked from within or below the git/svn checkout directory.

Note: make-srpm will cd to the top-level git/svn directory before working. Multiple .spec files can be specified, and these can be absolute paths or relative to the current directory (not the top level directory).

make-srpm will generate a new .spec file based on the on you provide, and then use this spec file along with the specified environment it will build the binary RPMS.

make-srpm creates a folder called dist-export in the top level git directory.

Into this folder it will export the pristine source as specified by the RELEASE variable, along with any other files in the $EXTRA_SOURCE directory (relative to the spec file).

Numbered patches are then produced, starting after the highest patch already in the spec file.

dist-export then contains everything required, and the src.rpm is build using rpmbuild --nodeps

Options and Macros

The operation of make-srpm is generally controlled by shell variables which may be set explicitly in the environment before calling make-srpm, or specified as command arguments in makefile fashion; e.g
make-srpm ORIGIN_PATTERN="*alpha*" project.spec
or from within the specfile from specially formed comments.

The Name: and Version: fields are always extracted and stored in the environment variables Name and Version.

The following comments are also searched:


to set environment variables named without the lower case prefix. The meaning of these is explained below:

SOURCE_PATHS - this is a space-separated list of directories relative to the top level git folder, and specifies the folders to be exported. Some git trees contain source for more than one project and so it can be convenient to reduce the size of the source tar.gz by putting a line like this in the sub-project spec file:
#make-srpm-SOURCE_PATHS: sub_project_dir includes
ORIGIN - this is a git reference to the commit that represents the pristine source and should probably be the most recent tag before the git rebase point. This can be a tag or a commit hash.

ORIGIN_PATTERN - more useful than origin, can be a git tag glob so that make-srpm can select the current ORIGIN automatically. It can be convenient to have a line in a spec file like:
RELEASE - is a git reference to the release that you want to build; thus patches will be emitted from ORIGIN to RELEASE. This can be a tag or a commit hash, or the value HEAD (meaning whatever is currently checked out), or the special value LOCAL which means that uncommitted changes are also included.

PATCH_LEVEL - indicates the value of the -p argument that will need passing to patch and depends on what level of subdirectory your source sits at from the top level git directory. As the value is not likely to change for a project, it can be convenient to add a line like this to a spec file:
The new spec file will also contain some convenient macro definitions at the top of the file, like:
%define makesrpm_tarname

%define makesrpm_tarprefix samba-release-4-0-0alpha7
which you can use as a basis for your own macro definitions or package fields.

make-srpm will also allow you to pass your own spec file macro definitions. Macros may be literal macros, or interpolated macros which are be defined in terms of values calculated during execution. This is similar to defining evironment variables, except that define_ or _define_ is prefixed to the name.

make-srpm define_project_builder=sam@liddicott.com
          _define_project_version='$VERSION' \
          CFLAGS="-O2" \
will replace the macro definitions project_version and project_builder if they exist, or define them at the top of the spec file, like this:
%define project_version 4
%define project_builder sam@liddicott.com
Note that project_version was specified as an interpolated macro by being prefixed with _define_, literal macros are prefixed with define_, without the leading underscore.

Variables suitable for interpolated definitions are:

LOCAL - set to 1 if un-committed changes are included

NAME - specified name, defaults to that found in spec file

VERSION - specified version, defaults to that found in spec file

RELEASE - user supplied reference to git commit to build


RELEASE_TAG - latest tag leading up to RELEASE commit

SPEC_RELEASE - part of the output of git describe or
VERSION_INFO, useful for the Release: field in the spec file
ORIGIN_COMMIT - git hash of commit being exported to tar.gz

VERSION_INFO - output of: git show --pretty=format:"%h %ct %H %cd" $RELEASE_COMMIT

TAR_NAME - name of tar file

TAR_PREFIX - path prefix to files in tar.gz; probably cd %TAR_PREFIX is needed in .spec file

So we see that the action of make-srpm may be configured however is convenient either by special comments in the spec file, or perhaps with makefile arguments name=value from a makefile or other build script.

Implementation Notes

git rev-parse is used to sanitize external git references in this manner:
RELEASE_COMMIT="$(git rev-parse "$RELEASE^{commit}")"


awk is used for enormous speed in some cases.

git_linearize is implemented in awk and solves the problem that the output of git format-patch A..B will often fail when applied to A if there have been merges. git_linearize will instead take the longest path from A..B and then perform git diff between successive points in the path.

git_fix_empty_files is implemented in awk. It processes all the outputs of git diff in order to cope with patches generated by git diff that patch cannot handle; including addition or removal of empty files and meta-data changes. Some of the metadata changes probably ought to generate shell commands to be executed once the patches have been applied.

git_check_empty_patch used to be grep '^' which returns
non-zero on empty files while passing through the entire file. Because
some commits only have meta-data changes, we need to detect files
without any hunks while still passing the entire output, so awk is

Monday 28 June 2010

eldavojohn writes:
Working from the comfort of his home, Salman Khan has made available more than 1,500 mini-lectures to educate the world. Subjects range from math and physics to finance, biology, and current economics. Kahn Academy amounts to little more than a YouTube channel and one very devoted man. He is trying to provide education in the way he wished he had been taught. With more than 100,000 video views a day, the man is making a difference for many students. In his FAQ he explains how he knows he is being effective. What will probably ensure his popularity (and provide a legacy surpassing that of most highly paid educators) is that everything is licensed under Creative Commons 3.0. He only needs his time, a $200 Camtasia Recorder, an $80 Wacom Bamboo Tablet, and a free copy of SmoothDraw3. While the lecturing may not be quite up to the Feynman level, it's a great augmenter for advanced learners, and a lifeline for those without much access to learning resources.

Sunday 6 June 2010

More not-global-warming

We'll never know if the climate models are right until we can see if what they predict actually happens or not; so we see the particular unhelpfulness of modelling complicated and chaotic things that we don't understand (lots of tautology there).

Top international boffins, having crunched vast amounts of climate data, say that the effect of "carbon feedback" - thought likely in some quarters to cause imminent runaway global warming followed by the end of human civilisation - has been exaggerated.