This is really not it.

The world as I see it. Links to the best on the web. If I had a blog this would be it. But I don't.

Friday, September 30, 2005

No More Blogger!

I'm finished with Blogger. from now on, this page moves to and the GPL software WordPress. See you on the other side.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

MSN Virtual Earth v.s. Google Maps: Showdown.

Took a butchers at MSN Virtual Earth today. It's good. Really good in fact - if you live in the only country in the world, the good old US of A. For anywhere else, well, sorry, maybe in a future version.

The interface is very loveable. A nice big map fills most of the screen. tools pop up in little ajax-y type boxes. mouse scroll wheel zooms by default (I had to use greasemonkey to enable this for google maps.)

There are some serious problems for them to iron out in the beta. tile loading is poor - sometimes 50% of the tiles would fail to load. could be server overload maybe. Scrolling around is buggy, sometimes you 'pop' back to where you started scrolling from. The place names are often duplicated, and different sizes, with no apparent logic. For example, on the world map, the most prominant, largest name is the Marshall Islands. Very nice place I'm sure, but hardly a primary focus in most applications. And the coverage is dire. England in aerial photos is blurry green blob where coastlines are indistinct, and the 'road map' view does not zoom in far enough to display any roads.


MSN Virtual Earth coverage of south east England

Google Maps coverage of Lichtenstein

Google Maps manages to show recognisable buildings in a county many people would be pressed to find on a map. That's pretty good, and a big target for MSN Virtual Earth to chase.

I look forward to what future versions of both sites (applications?) have to offer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Chip and PIN and banking double standards

I've thought for a long time that 'Chip and PIN' was a daft idea, so it's good to have my ideas vindicated by University of Cambridge security researcher Mike Bond. He's set up a detailed website showing you the read story on the new system, here:

Chip and SPIN

The national newspapers have begun to mark some issues too:

Drawing a picture of the online fraudster
Favourite quote from the above:
"Online card fraud has risen 70% since shops started using the new chip and pin technology."
-- The Telegraph, 15th August '05
Chip and pin helps push bank and credit card fraud to 505m -- The Guardian, 8th March '05
UK Criminals Know The Chip Card's In The Mail -- Card Technology Magazine, 8th March '05
Shadow hanging over card users -- The Observer, 17th July '05

And finally some news from opinionated British tech news site 'The Register':
Chip and PIN fuels crime wave
Chip and PIN transfer liability away from banks and onto consumers and retailers

The last, while appearing to be a straight conspiracy theory, does rather smack of the classic banking double standards we expect in this country. As an example, my own bank (Halifax) has this rather odd reaction to a current account going overdrawn: Direct debits and Standing Orders will fail, and they will charge you a one off fee for that. Standing Orders destined to repay Halifax loans will NOT fail. They will be paid, and you will be charged twice, once for making a payment over your overdraft limit, and again for going over your overdraft limit. And you pay huge interest on the amount you have gone over. This is coupled with the fact the you cannot change the date on which the payment is made, despite that fact that mine comes out on the 23rd of each month (I get paid on the 27th). When I tried to change it, they claimed there was little point anyway, becauase a failure would just cause it to be taken a week later. This was true at the time but disappeared later. In the last couple of years I've not tried to change it again, just tried to keep myself away from that red line.

Another example is this:
A friend of mine applied for the maximum student interest free overdraft on his Lloyds TSB student account, and was refused by a LTSB manager because 'they don't want to encourage students to get into debt'. In the same breath, the bank manager then offered him a LTSB credit card. In other words, the don't want students in debt UNLESS they are paying big interest for it!

So there you go. The institutions we are trusting with our money are skating a fine line along the bounds of morality. The real reasons behind chip and PIN remain obscure. Just be very very careful what you do with your money. Use only ATMs in well lit, busy, but not crowded places. Cover your hand when typing your PIN. keep the minimum amount of cash in your current account, transfer money into savings accounts whenever possible. Watch your transactions like a hawk. And pay cash anywhere remotely dodgy (like any petrol station, corner shop, or indepentant store, or even chain stores with odd layouts).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Plaxo introduces Thunderbird integration

Free online sync provider and privacy gurus Plaxo have launched a Thunderbird toolbar to allow you to access your synchronised contacts. This is great news for fans of the open source mail client (like me), and one of the most requested features. Well done Plaxo for listening to your community and supporting open source.

For anyone who hasn't heard of Plaxo, they run a free service which allows you to synchronise contacts and calander entries between multiple mail clients across the web, provide a online backup, and access to your data via a secure website. It's an easy setup, fire and forget soloution. I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I am a big fan. Anyone who's been reading this blog will remember a critical review I wrote a while back, to which Plaxo marketeer Adam Lasnik wrote a detailed reply and persuaded me to try them out. That was in Febuary, and since then Plaxo has proved itself a true 'killer application' and I wouldn't be without it.

Update: Plaxo employee Stacy Martin has commented that the new release is both cross platform and open source. Great news for community developers.

Monday, July 25, 2005

turn bbc radio shows into mp3s

this is a very useful project on sourceforge - pull bbc radio shows off the web and dump them to mp3. I'm just trying this out now, allowing me to timeshift radio 4 comedy to my mp3 player for my walk to the station.

simple backup software

I was looking for some simpler backup software to kick-start my efforts to get a reliable backup at home. This came to my eye via google and No-Nags Backup Software list:

Snazzy Backup.

Open Source, multi-platform, simple setup, command line, incremental backups.

I shall give it a try.

Monday, June 13, 2005

I get lots of questions about Spyware, Viruses, 'Hackers' and Windows Security. The quick answer is: Windows (any version) is NOT SAFE as you get it. You should take half an hour out of your day to download and install these free programs. Keep them updated (they will all remind you) and you need never worry about your PC again.

This is what you need, in the order you should install it. This applies to Windows 98, ME, 2000 and XP.

1. Firewall: Free version of ZoneAlarm, free download from (5.5Mb)
Click Home/Office on the left, then 'Free ZoneAlarm' at the bottom right.

2. Windows Updates: Free download from (around 300Mb) or order a free CD from

3. Antivirus: AVG Antivirus, free download from (12Mb)

4. Secure Browser: Mozilla Firefox, free download from (4.7Mb)

5. Secure Email Client: Mozilla Thunderbird, free download from (5.9Mb)

6. Anti-Spyware: Ad-Aware SE (free version), free download from (2.7Mb) AND SpyBot, free download from (4.9Mb).
To prevent future infections, always use a better browser and email client such as Firefox and Thunderbird instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

For the best security, you should keep all of the above programs regularly updated.

Please pass this on to anyone else!!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This tweak amused me briefly: it shows you how to play with the Amazon image generating engine. I can see someone turning this into a FireFox extension or more likely a GreaseMonkey script.

Abusing Amazon

And one from the other day: for some reason, Google Maps 'Local Search' feature returns a large number of results for 'brothels'... I wonder how they know this information?

Search Google Maps for 'brothels' in Crawley

Saturday, April 16, 2005

When I rebuilt my main desktop recently, I mounted the drive from my old desktop too, so I could read the data from that, but to my surprise I found that from my new Windows XP installation, I could not read the files in the 'Documents and Settings' folders on the old drive.

After a lot of trawling round the net, I discovered the answer:

How to take
ownership of a file or folder in Windows XP

I'm going to take a good backup now, I promise!

Friday, April 08, 2005

A really good, informative article on LCD screens. Although it's a roundup of current cheap screens, the info is relevant to any LCD purchase:
Print Article: Budget LCD Roundup April 2005 -

Monday, April 04, 2005

I think this deserves some premotion:
How to remove spyware

For all the savvy people out there who don't have time to fix tha lastest spyware infected machine, pass this URL to the victim, and tell to do EVERYTHING it says.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Another online magazine weighs in on the legality of This time it's Microsoft's 'Slate'. Their verdict: They dunno either. But they did go as far as name their article 'Barely Legal'. It seems that for now, allofmp3 remains in that grey area of untested law, maybe legal, maybe illegal, but nobody knows. I wonder how long it has to remain in that state before it becomes 'de facto' legal?

Barely Legal - The hottest trend in file sharing. By Dana Mulhauser

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I love the icons this guy makes. A genius.

deviantART: weboso

Friday, March 18, 2005

Read another fascinating article today. I loved way the author introduces it, so I won't try to improve on it:

Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore:

Sam's Archive - How to Destroy the Earth (Google Cache)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Just thought I'd add another reminder to Sony Ericsson users that might be reading this (hi, isimons!). If you have a Sony Ericsson and a computer, you really really need FMA and a bluetooth aerial (or a cable). Seriously, you will thank me for this. bluetooth aerials only cost a few quid from dabs, amazon or novatech.

I've seen FMA working like a dream on K700s, and heard first hand how good it is on T610 and Z1010, and according the site it works on several more.

It's Free Software, under the Gnu GPL, and amongst other things it will allow you to:

Transfer and kind of file between your PC and your phone, including games, music, videos and more.
Send and receive SMS from your computer, back up and archive your messages, contacts, calander and more.
Control almost any operation of your phone from your computer, and even control your computer from your phone - very useful as a remote control for enjoying music or video on your computer.
And loads of other things...

floAt's Mobile Agent

BTW... I'm nothing to do with FMA, I just love innovative useful software like this.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Google Desktop Search on steroids. GDS has been updated and can now search virtually any part of your file system, thanks to specific plugins. Get the updated version from Great stuff. But to make it really useful, here are the power toys:

Index any text file - allows GDS to index any text file on your system, including log files, source code, or anything else.

Google Kongulo plugin - allows GDS to index web sites, such as your corperate intranet.

Geekzone - how to use GDS to index network drives

and the ultimate...

DNKA - remote desktop search tool - Access GDS remotely! Install at home, and search your home PC from work, and vice versa!

Hook that lot up and you will have extreme search at your fingertips.

UPDATE: Another add-on for firefox users: a Mycroft plugin (The search box in Firefox)