Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Digital Economy Act

Is a cracking piece of legislation. Essentially, for private individuals, the ISP will be required to send you a letter telling you you're breaking copyright. they may even have to cut you off.

So, what if you share your connection? I work for a school, and have a 50MBps connection shared out amongst 700+ users. Well, that's easy. Under the act, we register as "Communication Providers".

The problem is that there's a Judicial Review. No-one knows what the rules are for Communication Providers. Our (new) ISP is sitting on the fence.

One thing is certain: if we aren't a "Communication Provider", we've got a problem. If we are, we have a huge cost - CPs have obligations under the act which are not particularly cheap to manage.

What a stunningly appalling piece of legislation.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I think the almost silent death of swivel, the flickr for data, if you see what I mean, has upset me almost more than any other cataclysm in the history of the web.


Here was a site which was full of fundamentally useful stuff, really well presented.

But, apparently, no business model. No-one was prepared to pay for the data. Course, I was also a no-one. I pay for flickr. Why not data? I guess I felt a lot of it was in the public domain already: why pay twice. But of course, you’re not paying for the data, you’re paying for the really really slick way swivel processed it for you.

Only got myself to blame.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


For a variety of reasons (professional, largely) I run a Microsoft OS. I have been running Ubuntu at home for a few years as my main system, with XP sitting on a creaky old box. That box has all but died, so I replaced it, and set about exploring Windows 7

I’ve been using DropBox on all my PCs for ages. It’s delightful. It has a very small surface area, and it just works. I login, and it copies files from the cloud back into my dropbox folder. Anything I put into the dropbox folder gets copied up into the cloud. Because the files are local, I can work on them directly. The DropBox folder, on Linux, Mac or windows, works in exactly the same way.


I was quite excited when I saw skydrive. 25GB of space is a tasty amount (Blush- I am on the free dropbox, still). And there’s a 5GB “sync” folder, which sounds like DropBox, sitting in the wings. Or is that 5GB part of the 25. Anyway. I played.

The only way into this seems to be up and download. Once uploaded, I can’t find a way of moving the files around. Nor can I map it, reliably. I can map it using DAV, but the URL is horrible, and who’s to say it won’t change? And can I legally do it?

So I slowly shifted interest to the 5GB of “synced” storage. Only MS have discontinued Live Mesh, or whatever it’s called, for XP and, of course, there was never a product for Linux or anything else.

So, I have 25GB of “free” space which has such limited connectivity it’s useless, and 5GB of synced storage which will only sync with Windows 7 (and, presumably Vista). And, at the moment, I have a file in my synced folder which hasn’t appeared in the cloud. Who knows why?

Sorry Guys. DropBox wins hands down. It’s a simple idea, well executed which works on all platforms.

It’s been interesting coming back to look an Microsoft’s desktop products after a year or two in Linux land. The stuff that works for me is simple, orthogonal (works the same way on different platforms) and rock solid reliable. Products which are driven by sales and marketing just evolve in a different way. They have to be feature driven, and the features have to change. Most users I come across are in what I call the “One Micron club”. If their desktops change icons by more than one micron, they ring support.


Oh, and Windows 7 reports itself as Windows 6.1 internally. I guess the dreaded vista was 6.0

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Clever SD cards

I'd been eyeing up those clever orange SD cards which advertise not only storage, but geotagging images in camera (very tasty) and wireless upload to the home network and to public sites like Flickr. It would have been nice.

So, I ordered a 2GB card and unwrapped it eagerly.

First, erm, moment was setting the card up. the management software appears to be online, somewhere in the cloud. So the home router has to be unwound to allow the package to act as a server. There is, no doubt, a perfectly reasonable reason for this - it allows the camera to upload when the computer with the management on it is turned off. The upload then occurs to the cloud. Turn your PC on and back come the images. But security issues aren't made clear, or even addressed in any transparent way. Of course, it has to connect to your WPA secured network, and it needs the WPA key. That isn't stored locally - it's stored "in the manager" - i.e., in the cloud, on the internet. So hang on a minute - I've just given my WPA key to someone I don't know on the internet?

Then I tried to use the card. I've tried it in two cameras - a G9, and a Panasonic G1. In neither case can I get the card to download. You're instructed to change the battery / power settings to prevent the camera turning off, but it still won't play. It's much quicker and less troublesome to take the card out and drop it in the SD slot on my laptop. Wirelessly, it gets about 1/4 the way through then drops out. I can't find a way of kicking it manually.

Then there's geotagging. I might have misunderstood this. I'd (fairly naturally) assumed GPS. But it isn't. It uses the Skyhook system - it locates using a combination of known MAC addresses of wireless networks, and telephone masts. Well, that might be as accurate as GPS, but I have no way of knowing. The Skyhook system, certainly in the UK is pretty patch, and since most of my images are taken in fairly remote locations - certainly well away from wireless networks and often out of cellphone coverage, I have yet to get an image geotagged. If you visit skyhook's coverage map it looks quite good to start with - but zoom in, and reach your own conclusions. I take photographs south west of Shrewsbury, largely....

And finally, flickr. Well, you can get them uploaded to flickr, but it's a subscription service. You have to pay the SD card people annually...

No thanks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ubuntu 'more secure' than Windows, says Dell • The Register

Ubuntu 'more secure' than Windows, says Dell • The Register

There's an interesting line in this article - about MS offering free AV software.

You've still got to run it, and you still have to offer it processor cycles.

Of course, that's not the complete story. You have to run AV software on Linux servers, to keep your Windows clients happy, so the argument isn't as clear cut as it might be.

But with Google Docs offering an equation editor and Google gears, it really doesn'tmatter what operating system you run. Increasingly, I can flit from Windows to Ubuntu to Mint to OSX, and my browers syncs. More inmportantly, I get the same documents on all the PCs I use without even trying, using a combination of DropBox and Google Docs. All my email is IMAP, so that moves around as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Nasty word, isn't it.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yay! Got the debugger to work (this is 2.0).

This is a very nice development environment.
One of the guys in my department sent me an xlsx file today - 36MB, of staff with heavy disk space usage.

The shares are all on a Linux box.

du * -sh | sort -an

Produced a file under 5K in size with pretty much the same information in the same order.

So what was in the 36MB file (which, incidentally, crashed my version of Excel)?
The upgrade mess-up

WinZip did the right thing. I emailed them. Within a couple of hours I had my original WinZip9 key and a URL to download it.

Now that's neat. I might have been tempted to download winzip14, but

  • There isn't much difference
  • 14 is a LOT bigger than 9
  • jZip and PeaZip and a lot of others work. And work well.
  • 9 does it for me.
So there we are. Decent firm, did the biz.

But how many other utilities and software bits on my PC can't I upgrade? And how many can I? Textpad, a very fine utility, is still allowing me to upgrade and I'm several major versions down the line.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Never upgrade when you're not sure...

I have (had) a registered version of Winzip 11. No problems with it, but thought upgrading was worth it. Not sure whether I was "allowed" to upgrade, so downloaded a copy of the latest version and dropped  it into a different folder.

Then, of course, the new version asks me to register. Not being sure what was what, I tried my old registration code (gleaned from the help screen on the other version of winzip). Didn't work of course.  Do I want to carry on with a trial? Click yes.

Only now my registered version of WinZip is no longer registered.

And, of course, I haven't got a note of the registration key. And neither has WinZip.....

Friday, March 26, 2010

That's the way to do it. Writing a small utility app in C# for work. On Windows, of course, under .NET 3.5. Get the app running nicely and, just for interest, realise it ought to run on Mono (that's the binary, not recompiling the source).

So, copy the app to a Linux box, and, whoa, it runs perfectly under mono. No recompile, no downloads. It just runs. Perfectly.

By the way, I use SharpDevelop. It's neat, small, fast and free.