Saturday, March 24, 2007

Radio Suarvé is born

I've spent all week up to my neck at work dealing with a wide variety of stupidity. From the guys who can't do their job without being reminded every 5 minutes, the helpdesk agents who can't type their own name without a detailed work instruction, and finally to the server engineer who's sat quietly watching his server's utilisation shoot through the roof, but not actually thought to report it till the CPU actually melted through the disk array...

Any of this sound familiar? Yup I work for a large corporation which decided to 'best-shore' most of its staff, and in a stroke of genius got its remaining staff members to detail everything they did in work instructions, then slowly replaced them with cheaper, less qualified staff... Basically your bog standard off the shelf US Corporation, obsessed with short-term share 'value' and little else

End result of the above - What I like to think of as 'Monkeys with Work Instructions'. If you have one monotonous task to do which requires doing x to part y over and over then great, in fact fucking A, absolutely the cheapest way of doing it. As soon as you need to be doing more than 1 monotonous task, or use something not absolutely identical to the aforementioned part y, then the whole thing turns in the kind of nightmare you'd get if George Orwell directed the Marx Brothers - in short an absolute clusterfuck

Well that's basically been my week, and yet I've been smiling through it...

No mum - it's not finally happened, I've not lost it completely - I was venting away on Techdirt.com and spotted a post mentioning www.last.fm, so I started playing

At this point I should warn you this is going to sound like a plug and I guess it is, but it's an honest one. Basically you type in your favourite artists name and hit go - then the very clever electro-web-hingumy goes away and starts to play a whole radio station of similar artists

I've spent all week rediscovering lost bands and encountering music I love but have never heard, basically I've had a DJ on my desk whose entire reason for being has been to scour the vaults of music history for tunes I might like - ace

I strongly recommend anyone to try it, you get the Dynamic DJ for free for a tiny fee you get to create your own online station of tracks you love - at the bottom of this blog is now my personal last.fm station, enjoy

PS I make no apology at all for my eclectic (crap) taste in tunes

Monday, March 19, 2007

London Chapati 'bombers' a real threat?

It's been a weird week in the war on terror - seriously there's been the news that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad has basically ‘fessed up to everything, ever (including the turban on the grassy knoll). Coupled with this is the continuing trial of the London Chapati Posse, better known in the press as the "July 21st 'bombers'", which is an odd name since the one thing they didn't have that day is a single working device between them

So basically, if the interrogators at Gitmo are right, the main man for al Qaeda has been captured, and all we have to worry about now are the kind of incompetent bundlers, that would try to start a bombing campaign with half the ingredients of a curry, and the contents of their sister's bathroom cabinet

Easy life – finally we can go to beige alert or whatever colour signifies no longer being arsed

But wait, NO!!

‘Scientists' reveal the July 21st terrorists were just that – terrorists, not the patisserie fixated fools we had them pegged for, apparently unbeknownst to the rest of the populace, Chapati flour is the modern underground army's equivalent of fertiliser.

Bugger me – who'd of known? Quick someone warn Gordon Ramsey before his pie-top brings disaster to us all

Hang on?





Eh?

Further reading of the Telegraph article and you get to the bit “Mr Todd said he conducted the quarry tests using different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and different ratios of peroxide to flour”. Clever bloke that Mr Todd by all accounts.

I am no scientist in truth but after an afternoon on the internet I present my highly polished research….

<science>
Exactly what concentration was required to go boom? Hydrogen Peroxide does indeed go boom, lots of very successful bombs have been made using it in the past notably during the 2nd World War. However its worth noting that the percentages in those bombs was around the 80% mark

The Hydrogen Peroxide these guys bought was 18% according to the police (it was hair colouring cream) – to increase its strength these Jamie Oliver activists boiled it – quite possibly on a ‘low heat letting it simmer gently' – odd that, since everyone else seems to agree that exposing it to heat would decompose the Hydrogen Peroxide (see the line “Heat, U.V. light and contact with any organic substance and certain minerals will cause h2o2 to decompose in the following advert for 'Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide')

Presumably they were hoping the decomposition would happen quickly if they included a detonator (i.e. it would explode), but as far as I can figure it would have gone off in the pan (partly decomposed – partly evaporated) and in the mixing with an organic substance (flour) long before…

So back to the question – did the scientists get the rogue chef's device to explode? No – they created a device using similar ingredients in different proportions, which they didn't detail, and it went bang. They did the science equivalent of stating “the gun was a replica your honour, but in tests shooting someone in the face with a real gun looked like….”
</science>

In the article in the Telegraph a ‘large cloud of white smoke could be seen rising yards into the air' – call me a cynic but, could that be flour by any chance?

I can strap 5 pounds of TNT to my cat and detonate it – this doesn't make cats an explosive ingredient (in this case the cloud would just be a slightly different hue)

I think what is annoying me most about these stories is that in failing to challenge such blatant absurdity, our press is clearly either sleeping, in the governments pocket or engaged in activities involving a different white powder… Everything they have heard, they have written down and ‘reported' on with little or absolutely no corroboration – this isn't so much journalism as propaganda by apathy

In doing so they are failing us again and creating more scare stories – as far as I can tell the following are all true

  1. The London Chapati Posse ARE terrorists – they clearly intended to cause terror, they just aren't bombers or vaguely competent
  2. Chapati flour does not equal TNT, it equals chapati
  3. The continued over-reaction of our officials and press to almost every minor event undermines their credibility
  4. If you boil Hydrogen Peroxide, chances are it will flare up in the pan and start a small fire (the ‘bombers' neighbours were lucky)
  5. It is still safe to piss off hairdressers without them blowing you up
  6. It is probably still not a good idea to annoy chefs as they have easy access to meat cleavers


All in all I am back to beige alert…. Apparently the home office disagrees and is still on ‘severe'

Other Reading: Spyblog.org.uk, Dick Destiny

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Inside a Comic Relief Call Centre

On Friday night the BBC's annual Comic Relief fundraising event came to its climax, in it's now familiar night of comedy television.

As ever the event made for an excellent night of telly whilst raising money for charities throughout the UK and 3rd World - for those of you who don't know where the money goes or would like to know more you can find out more here

At the time of writing this post Comic Relief 2007, AKA "The Big One" has raised £40,236,142.00 for charity, and the number continues to climb as more people live up to pledges made, late donations come in and money from countrywide events held during the night is added up

If you haven't yet donated and want the warm cuddly feeling you only get from helping your fellow man - warm cuddly feelings are available by donating here

Alternatively if you want something for your charity money you could always buy the official DVD from Amazon (including Tony Blair's comedy sketch) - all Amazon's proceeds go to comic relief (if you buy from the ad on the right as far as I am aware I get no referral money, but if I do you have my word it will be donated to Comic Relief too)

On Friday night ES had the pleasure of working inside a call centre collecting donations from people ringing in. The company I work for and several others around the country had staffed up their 9-5 call centres, and sat ready to take calls coming from all over the UK

After a quick induction on what to say, how to say it, working the very simple web based form, and where to divert callers ringing the donations line for other reasons, we sat down and waited for the calls. If this sounds very informal - remember most of the people were seasoned call centre staff and are used to this type of thing, I spent 5 years working on a technical support line, and apart from the fact that the people ringing weren't hurling abuse, its all very similar (we also had loads of support people behind us ready to help with problems)

Lines opened at 1800

1830 - Still waiting

1845 - First call!

From then on calls came in fairly regularly but it wasn't until 2100 that they started to come in immediately one after the other - the amusing bit for us was the fact that you could tell which bits of the program were most popular by the gaps between calls. There were massive gaps when Tony Blair was on telly (it definitely looked funny but we had the volume down unfortunately)

In the periods where Lenny Henry or the others were doing documentaries the phones went mental - hopefully that just shows you care, or perhaps its because you found these bits boring - who cares? you called!

What always amazes me is the frequency that people ring in donating £100 or more - amounts that I found staggering sometimes. Don't get me wrong - I took loads of calls for £1, £5, £10 etc and every single penny really does help, but you really got the feeling that everyone was donating as much as they could afford rather than the bare minimum

Anyway - thanks to everyone who called in especially those who had a laugh - we didn't get to watch the telly but you provided the entertainment just fine

To the drunk guy who rang in complaining at Tara whosherface winning the Comic Relief celebrity Pop Idol, I couldn't agree more - she was crap and Barry From EastEnders deserved to win way more!

PS - If you spent ages in a call queue waiting to donate, my advice for next year is ring before 2100 - before 1900 if you can, you'll get through straight away and that's it - you can relax for the rest of the evening (oh and have your card ready in your hand - you'd be amazed how many people rang in to donate but then had to go hunting!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Killer robots are coming

Serious - no shit, killer robots, run, take cover - Samsung is producing a robotic killer for the South Korean army who plan to deploy it all along their border with North Korea. Actually don't bother running - they can't move, just don't go *anywhere* near the border!

Kim Jong-il, movie fanatic that he is just has to be crapping himself - every movie-goer knows robots never miss, so this probably scuppers any plans he may have had to stroll over the border (you know aside from the fact that there's a guard post every 50 metres at the moment, with half the male population of South Korea nonchalantly polishing their rifles behind them)


ED209 not too keen on stairs SGR-A1 not too keen on North Koreans


The SGR-A1 (and you just know that's not hacker for SuGaR) has the capability to be equipped with lethal and non-lethal weapons, (no prizes for guessing what they'll be using), and has one mode which waits for a human controller to decide to fire and another where the robot makes the decision itself.

Decision making killing robots - whatever will they think of next?

Bombs for babies?

Have they never seen Terminator?

Apparently the robot is capable of differentiating between human and non-human targets by itself (cue commando raid in pantomime horse) and the South Koreans have basically made the decision that if its on two legs and coming from that direction, its probably not going to be selling cookies

On the plus side for the Koreans is the hope that this will reduce the amount of mandatory military service currently required from their citizens just to police their border. However you have to ask yourself whether you'd want to be the one approaching it with a screwdriver when it blows a fuse

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How to add digg and delicious icons to Blogger

This whole blogging thing is pretty new to me (the writing of one not the reading and adding inane comments). Being the geek I am, I have spent the past week messing about making the whole thing pretty rather than actually write anything (yeah it actually took a fair amount of my spare time to create the crapulent mess on the right)

That said I wanted to see if I could get the now ubiquitous 'Digg this' type icons all over my blog without having to resort to the huge graphics they usually come packaged with

I found the basic code for a few buttons at the Techwrap blog (thanks), but unfortunately these were written for the old style blogger and not the new template so I updated the code slightly, then added buttons and all the usual stuff

The code

The buttons at the bottom of this post were added using the following two pieces of code:

1) The style tag - basically this stops the images from having the standard 5px border or whatever your template style is for images in the post section.

<style id='SubmitButtons' type='text/css'>
/*
-----------------------------------------------
Designer: Enrico Suarve
URL: http://waronstuff.blogspot.com
Date: 07 Mar 2007
----------------------------------------------- */

.submitbuttons {
}
.submitbuttons img {
border: 0px solid #FFFFFF;
}
</style>



2) The buttons

<span class='submitbuttons'>
<a Title='Submit To Digg' expr:href='"http://digg.com/submit?phase=3&amp;url=" + data:post.url + "&amp;title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank'><img alt=' Digg ' border='1' height='16' src='http://bp3.blogger.com/_RCkH9i_f19M/Re7356Zg8WI/AAAAAAAAABw/7ENZKGpXejs/s200/SubmitDigg.gif' width='16'/></a>

<a Title='Submit To Del.icio.us' expr:href='"http://del.icio.us/post?url=" + data:post.url + "&amp;title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank'><img alt=' Del.icio.us ' height='16' src='http://bp2.blogger.com/_RCkH9i_f19M/Re735qZg8VI/AAAAAAAAABo/yb41kpmpY0I/s200/SubmitDelicious.gif' width='16'/></a>

<a Title='Submit To reddit' expr:href='"http://reddit.com/submit?url=" + data:post.url' target='_blank'><img alt=' Reddit ' height='16' src='http://bp0.blogger.com/_RCkH9i_f19M/Re736KZg8YI/AAAAAAAAACA/XSvTolVvhC4/s200/SubmitReddit.gif' width='16'/></a>

<a Title='Submit to SlashDot' expr:href='"http://slashdot.org/bookmark.pl?url=" + data:post.url + "&amp;title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank'><img alt=' SlashDot ' height='16' src='http://bp0.blogger.com/_RCkH9i_f19M/Re736KZg8ZI/AAAAAAAAACI/eRKs1Xu3sEo/s200/SubmitSlashdot.gif' width='16'/></a>
</span>


How to add this to your template


Adding the buttons to your code is done by going into blogger, clicking on the template tag at the top, and selecting the option 'Edit HTML' from the choices beneath this. This should bring up the code for your blog in an XML format in the large window beneath, make sure you tick the option 'expand widget templates' above the text box and you're ready

Copy and paste the style code just before the line "</head>", this will place it in the page header. It's important it goes just here at at the end of the header, so that when the time comes any style you write for the image overwrites the existing img styles in the rest of the header (don't worry it will only overwrite for the submit buttons)

Next look for where to insert the button code - the template I use has a few points that look logical but I found that in some of them the buttons only appeared on individual blogs or only on my homepage, its worth experimenting. I found the best place (in my opinion) was right after the quickedit pencil code...


Lines from 'standard' blogger template
<!-- quickedit pencil -->
<b:include data='post' name='postQuickEdit'/>

I started pasting the button code here
</span>
<span class='submitbuttons'>..............



The syntax
If you want to add buttons of your own my advice is to manually submit pages to sites like Digg and spot what the URLs are doing, or see if the site shows you how to construct the URL. For reference the URL to submit to Digg is '"http://digg.com/submit?phase=3&amp;url=" + data:post.url + "&amp;title=" + data:post.title'

NOTES
  • The entire URL should be encapsulated in single quote marks (') and the hard coded text pieces should be encapsulated in speechmarks (")
  • data:post.url - this is the permanent link to the post (NOT your homepage)
  • data:post.title - this is the title of the post
Please feel free to use this in your own pages and link to it - I'd be really interested in anyone has any improvements ;0)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Virus checkers compared and Microsoft found lacking

Independent Anti-Virus testers www.av-comparatives.org have published their findings for their latest run of tests here

AntiVirusKit (AVK) by G DATA Security was the winner out of the 17 Products tested

Perhaps most interestingly was the fact that Microsoft's OneCare scored so poorly it did not even warrant a rating in the results. This alone should be vindication for the EU who slapped an AntiTrust suit on Microsoft to prevent them from locking off their kernel, thereby reducing the effectiveness of other AV products - thank god we aren't forced to rely on OneCare!

Also tested were

AEC - TrustPort AV WS
Alwil Software - Avast! Professional
AVIRA - AntiVir PE Premium
Doctor Web - Dr. Web
ESET - NOD32 Anti-Virus
Fortinet - FortiClient
Frisk Software - F-Prot Anti-Virus
F-Secure - F-Secure Anti-Virus
GriSoft - AVG Anti-Malware
Kaspersky Labs - Kaspersky AV
McAfee - McAfee VirusScan
Microsoft - Microsoft OneCare
MicroWorld - eScan Anti-Virus
Norman ASA - NormanVirusControl
Softwin - BitDefender Prof.+
Symantec - Norton Anti-Virus

Monday, March 05, 2007

Spammer stung for £1300 by trail-blazing scotsman

According to the register Gordan Dick from Edinburgh managed to pursue a spam company (Transcom Internet Services Ltd) through the small-claims court in the UK and sue them for £1300 (including costs)

This is only the second time in UK history this has been achieved but significantly on this occasion it was not settled out of court, showing that these cases can be brought to term in the UK and fully prosecuted, it is worth noting however that it is still only possible to bring cases against companies operating from the UK themselves

Mr Dick has set up a website scotchspam.org.uk to share his hard won knowledge with others looking to do the same. It includes sample mails to send to spam companies warning of legal action and steps to take from then on

Nice one Mr Dick

Saturday, March 03, 2007

UK petition against Vista pricing

Hi - this is my first ever real blog

I have no idea how this whole thing is going to turn out - perhaps it will turn into an embarrassing travesty of a sham or perhaps this will be a turning point - who knows and who cares

I have no direction for my blog in my head yet and kind of hope one will come to me later, but one thing I would like to try and achieve is helping more people to become actively involved in issues that effect them - yeah that would be nice, its going on my list and everything

That said an interesting article in Techdirt caught my eye - Microsoft are charging an amazing 80% more for some versions of Vista in the UK as in the US, same program, same version, hell probably even the same barcode

Compare these prices on the .com and .co.uk Amazon sites:
In the US RRP is $399.95 (£205.78)
http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Windows-Vista-Ultimate-VERSION/dp/B000HCTYTE/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3/002-8357043-9917641?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1172846584&sr=8-3
In the UK RRP is £369.99
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Microsoft-Windows-Vista-Ultimate-PC/dp/B000KCIA5A/ref=pd_ka_4/202-3306029-8626215?ie=UTF8&s=software&qid=1172846652&sr=8-4

Why?

There are several comments on the Techdirt posting regarding how that’s 'just the way it is', and how people can always buy from the US then ship over themselves, but the average consumer is probably not going to know to do this and will be royally ripped off

A petition has been set up on the Downing Street website to ask the government to intervene and I would suggest any UK citizen who is tired of being charged more for the same goods in the UK, to sign (it's easy and pretty painless). I would encourage people to do this even if they have no intention of ever purchasing Vista - it’s the entire principle which is at stake, hopefully we can highlight public opinion to our government and strengthen trade legislation in general

Anyhow that’s it for a first post (shit that was dull) - rant over

Enrico