MJR's slef-reflections

  • I Can't Dance
  • Talk with People who want to Discuss
  • Explaining web site improvements: what's important to you?
  • Updated GnuPG Key Expiry
  • Back from Cuba
  • Strategy on Strategies
  • Posting Ahead
  • No Battles - Just Stand Firm On Best Practice
  • BBC TV: Click: Free=beer and facebook-flaming
  • Mystified by Remote Controls
  • Met Calyx about Koha
  • Another Toll Road Crash
  • Updates: Fishmonger re-opens, Bombing Exeter, Eurovision
  • Sky Data Protection
  • Update: Experts Say Ofcom Wrong About Rural Broadband
  • Bristol and Bath Perl Mongers
  • Fuel Price Bleating and Biking
  • Kewstoke Annual Village Meeting
  • Quick Question: opticaljungle.com = publicdomainregistry.com?
  • Getting Linux InfraRed Beaming to a Palm III with a Belkin USB Device
  • Told You So: Exhibitions and Spammer Registrars
  • Please Tell Me How To Do It
  • BBC website, TV and Technology
  • World Environment Day
  • Bridgwater College Computing Advisory Panel
  • Fixing things the wrong way
  • More driving and cycling
  • Warning for Webmasters: Friday 13th ahoy!
  • Forthcoming (and past) Events News: LUGoG, BikeWeek, HacktionLab, SPI
  • Firefox 3, day 10: security flaw 2, more banks, looking for a new browser
  • End of this blog!


life Entries

I Can't Dance

Mon, 14 Apr 2008 11:00:42 +0100

My legs hurt.

It hurts to sit. It hurts to stand. It hurts to walk. $DEITY knows what it will feel like to ride my bike.

How did I do this? It wasn't some bizarre biking accident. I was laying cables under the floor between the two offices at the opposite corners of my building yesterday. I lifted three floorboards and four carpets and drilled one hole. Afterwards, I rebuilt some shelves. How did that hurt my legs???

Today is Blogger Appreciation Day [UNOFFICIAL] so I'd like to thank Steve for Chronicle which is now powering this blog instead of the old homebrew.

Meanwhile, messages that came in while I was AFK included a strange one from Paul, Steve being elected as Debian Project Leader (well done!), 'Free Software in Ethics and Practice' - Richard Stallman, Thursday 1st May, Interview: How a hacker became a freedom fighter From New Scientist Print Edition, Understanding Design & Computers: Notes from an Introduction to OpenMoko, by Ole Tange for UKUUG

Finally, in a cycling and cooperatives cross-over, this article on Hammond's crash also mentions the other two Brits, who ride for cooperative teams. I watched the race, but didn't see much of them.

1 comment.

Tags: cooperatives, cycling, debian, life, phones, software.

[Talk with People who want to


Tue, 15 Apr 2008 14:58:37 +0100

I spend too much of my time trying to talk with people who don't want to discuss, yet somehow I won't stop.

I keep hoping that things like suggesting good advice on meeting scheduling will avoid them repeating old mistakes. The most extreme life-and-death example is probably trying to help with Kewstoke Toll Road, where people still speed and someone crashed off again last night (although I don't know what caused last night's crash - could have been a simple accident).

Of course, it's better to talk with people who have asked questions and want to hear the answer. I'm currently involved in several groups like that and it makes me much happier [4HWW]. I've even made a confidentiality agreement [Network Blogging article] about one group because I really like the organiser and want to help them, but I've yet to see changes happen because of it and that's probably about all I can write here, which does rather suck.

But talking of changes that make me happy, I spotted that Bristol Wireless has now gone further than TTLLP by deciding to change people away from Microsoft Windows when they find it:-

"all Windows stuff must be gone from the premises [...] no longer help do callers favours with broken Windows machines, apart from fixing them properly and permanently by installing Debian"

at their March meeting. Well done, BW!

After a request, I finally put four photos from Social Source South West (which was hosted by BW) online, which reminded me to subscribe to watfordgap's travels. Disappointingly, on my first read, it promotes the Suppliers Directory developed by Lasa. That directory is a big problem because it creates a silly barrier to entry which hinders new social enterprises and cooperatives. At a time where most non-profit software is unsustainable and needs to change, requiring three referees is a way to obstruct change. Also, persuading three people to support their work is no substitute for supplier evaluation.

Any non-profits who want to lead their sector should approach ICT suppliers directly. The article also mentions Experts Online which is even more short-sighted about computing: "both PC and Mac" indeed! What about GNU/Linux, thin clients, and other changes which are already making a big difference to some non-profits...?

But here I go again, talking to a brick wall.

I expressed these concerns when that Directory started and it didn't do any good then, so I doubt they'll change it now, near the end of its life.

So I'm going to move on. There are lots of people emailing who want to hear from me, so it's time to concentrate on talking with people who do want to listen. If you want to discuss this with me, visit my website for the comments form (click the title or look for a "view original post" link, depending what site you're reading).


Tags: cooperatives, debian, life, photos, software, toll road, wsm.

[Explaining web site improvements: what's important to


Fri, 18 Apr 2008 12:32:33 +0100

[Photo of Some
Is this traffic or congestion?

This is one of those Friday Afternoon Projects - it's been put off all through a busy week because it's unpaid, I'm not completely sure how to approach it and now my arms hurt like hell from travel jabs which are making it hard to concentrate! So I'm going to float it on here...

I've been asked to brief a meeting next week about that group's current web site and its problems. I'm not linking it yet to avoid insulting/embarrassing them.

The site looks OK, but doesn't rank well on search engines and doesn't allow much member participation. I need to explain why that's a bad thing and how the site's technical choices have led to that. I'm not directly pitching for TTLLP to get any work (because I'm a member of that group, it might be a conflict of interest and we're pretty busy anyway - even our own site needs work on some of the points I'm going to mention), but I don't want to be unhappy if we're asked to implement my recommendations.

I've got a usual outline that I follow, but my presentation's time is limited, so I'd like to ask you: what about this is important and what isn't? If you give me useful feedback, I'll put you in the Acknowledgements with a backlink and I hope the briefing will be shared pretty widely over the next few months.

The current plan is to start with a basic explanation of how search engines rank pages, as far as we can tell, referring to PageRank Explained Correctly with Examples, by Ian Rogers as well as the shorter official summaries from the dominant search sites at Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

Then I go through a quick evaluation of the site against the basics of validation, accessibility and robot-friendliness, followed by a couple of SEO- style checks of its current rankings and inbound links.

Next is a bit different because I have access to some of their web access stats: I summarise what we know and suggest some other stats they've probably not considered and why they're useful, along the lines of Dave Briggs's measures of blog success.

Finally, I suggest ways to improve the site. The top tip will be to take control of the site hosting and stop using the cheap and cheerful donated server that makes all links except the front page point to another domain. I'll probably suggest a mix of free and open source software tools to power it. If they don't want to move it all yet, I'll suggest running a second site for member participation, using tools like Wordpress, NoseRub and so on.

What do you think? Plan for success, am I missing some tricks, or am I setting myself up for a lynching? Let me know with a comment or email, please.


Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

Updated GnuPG Key Expiry

Mon, 28 Apr 2008 12:42:37 +0100

I'm still alive, so it's past time to update the signature on my gpg key into next year. The key phrase in the handbook is:

"The expiration time is updated by deleting the old self-signature and adding a new self-signature."

but somehow I always have to look it up, so I thought I'd make a note of it here.

It looks like debian-keyring should update now I did --send-key to it, but I guess I'll find out in a few weeks.

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Tags: debian, life, software, web.

Back from Cuba

Mon, 12 May 2008 15:58:47 +0100

I'm just back from a trip to Cuba. Sorry for the abrupt disconnect. I expected to have limited connectivity there, whereas I actually had none at all except for 23 minutes! I hope the other members of the cooperative and the editorial team stepped in suitably well. I'll check in with them now and then start on the emails, but I wanted to put this broadcast out first for those who are watching closely and wondering...

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Tags: cooperatives, cycling, life, travel.

Strategy on Strategies

Wed, 14 May 2008 20:39:48 +0100

[SNR Event Welcome
Anyone seen this before?

Today, I went to an event about the Sub-National Review Consultation (as a substitute for someone else AIUI).

I'd not heard about this before, but if you're in England and you've any interest in our regional planning system (which I think you should, if you have your main home here or run a business here), you have six weeks left to comment on the UK Government's suggested changes.

As I understand it, it will move the second-highest tier of planning control from democratically-accountable regional bodies to the business-led Regional Development Agencies, with some oversight by MPs and the very- indirectly- accountable council leaders. I've posted more detail on Co-opNet.

When I asked about local involvement and cooperatives, I was directed towards Local Strategic Partnerships, but I'm pessimistic about how easy it will be to influence regional planning through those: a few weeks ago, I was at the launch of the North Somerset Partnership Sustainable Community Strategy for 2008-2026.

It's a 72-page A4 glossy book which I've still not found time to read properly. I think the size says something about its sustainability. I've posted a little more detail on WsMForum.

I'll try to answer questions about either of them on this blog or those forums...

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Tags: cooperatives, life, wsm.

Posting Ahead

Thu, 15 May 2008 09:52:52 +0100

I'm convinced by The Argument for Posting Ahead [Network Blogging] so why didn't I set it up for my recent trip?

Well, a while ago, I had a bit of an email discussion with Steve about delayed posting features for Chronicle which I think ended with the addition of chronicle-spooler to the released files. I initially suggested ignoring a post when its Date is in the future, like Wordpress does, but I think that wouldn't be backwards-compatible and isn't as flexibile as it could be.

chronicle-spooler works by moving files from a spool dir into a live dir. I'd forgotten how much it confuses me when files on a "static" site start moving themselves around. It means I have to merge before upload, which isn't a big change, but still annoying.

So, I've added the following lines to chronicle to skip entries with a Publish header in the future:-

--- chronicle-2.7/bin/chronicle.orig    2008-05-15 10:13:55.000000000 +0100
+++ chronicle-2.7/bin/chronicle 2008-05-15 10:13:43.000000000 +0100
@@ -607,7 +607,8 @@
         #  Read the entry and store all the data away as a
         # hash element keyed upon the (unique) filename.
-        $results{ $file } = readBlogEntry($file);
+        my $result =  readBlogEntry($file);
+        if ($result) { $results{ $file } = $result; }

@@ -1479,7 +1480,7 @@
     my $tags    = "";    # entry tags.
     my $body    = "";    # entry body.
     my $date    = "";    # entry date
-    my $publish = "";    # entry publish date - *ignored*

+    my $publish = "";    # entry publish date

     open( ENTRY, "<", $filename ) or die "Failed to read $filename $!";
     while ( my $line = <ENTRY> )
@@ -1527,6 +1528,14 @@

+    # MJR - embargo stuff until its publish date.
+    # Steve recommends using chronicle-spooler,
+    # but I want uploaded files to stay where I put them,
+    # else I get my local copy confused.
+    if (($publish ne "") && (str2time($publish) > time())) {
+       return 0;
+    }
     #  Determine the input format to use.

I think that's compatible with chronicle-spooler, too...

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Tags: life, software, web.

[No Battles - Just Stand Firm On Best


Fri, 16 May 2008 08:52:52 +0100

"Here are three examples of rules that I think it's time to abandon. These particular examples are all about email.

1/ Top Posting [...]

2/ HTML Email [...]

3/ Reply-To On Mailing Lists [...]

So, yes, the barbarians are at the gate. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Good ideas have been crushed by the number of people who don't understand them. But there's no point in complaining about it. You just have to accept it and move on."

-- Pointless Battles For Geeks, By Dave Cross

Unsurprisingly, given the above links to my site, I disagree with Dave Cross's conclusion, but I do agree with two aspects: battling is generally pointless and using hard rules about these things is unnecessary.

I have those pages on my website so that I can point to them when their broken emails aren't handled as expected. I use some aspects of them as scoring inputs in my mail filters. I don't use them as rules and I try not to complain about them too often.

Nevertheless, I still believe sending properly-trimmed plain text emails from a list-friendly email client is clearly best practice, to be recommended when someone asks why their email bad habits are causing them problems.


Tags: life, software, web.

[BBC TV: Click: Free=beer and facebook-


Fri, 16 May 2008 17:15:36 +0100

Free software finally gets significant coverage on BBC TV's Click show this week, but I think it's very much Linux rather than GNU/Linux and free cost rather than freedom. They mentioned free security software and even raised the possibility of trojans, but didn't mention how free (as in freedom) software allows any random end-user to check or have it checked.

Quite a missed opportunity! However, Click has a regular letters section, so watch it (times below), email click@bbc.co.uk and see if we can get the free software view across.

The letters section this week seemed to be flaming proprietary SaaS social network site facebook for their pathetic default-permit approach to security of user details. I really think there's a role for something like noserub in free software social networking.

Click-UK is shown on BBC News Channel Saturday 1130, Sunday 0430 and 1130, Monday 0030 and Sunday 0430 on BBC-1 (times BST)

Click-World is shown Thursday 19:30 GMT, Repeated Friday 09:30 and 12:30 (Asia Pacific only), Saturdays 06:30, Mondays 15:30, Tuesdays 01:30 (not Asia Pacific, Middle East or South Asia) and 07:30 GMT

Anyone else see this?

1 comment.

Tags: life, satellite, software, web.

Mystified by Remote Controls

Sun, 18 May 2008 13:44:36 +0100

Can a Panasonic EUR7615KTO remote control for a NV-VP30 video player use its TV mode to control a Goodmans 257NS TV?

I've tried every setting listed in the instruction book and I still can't get it to work. Neither the book nor the stuff on Panasonic's web site has a compatibility list. Search engine results are full of people selling replacement controls and no compatibility lists.

I guess it doesn't work, but it's a bit irritating not to know for sure. Why doesn't anyone produce proper hardware compatibility lists for these devices? Video players are worse than Linux...

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Tags: hardware, life.

Met Calyx about Koha

Tue, 20 May 2008 12:22:23 +0100

I met Irma and Bob from Calyx yesterday. They're fellow Koha service providers from Sydney, Australia who are over in Europe visiting various people.

It was nice to see them (first time I've met Bob) and have a bit of a chat about where we're each going with Koha. One interesting difference is that they have several private-sector clients, while I don't think my cooperative has yet done a private-sector Koha, but there seemed to be more similarities than differences, including adding more robust project management and ticketing as we deliver Koha 3 to people.

We went for lunch at The Cliffs Tea Rooms at the other end of Kewstoke Toll Road, which has great views towards Wales, but I forgot to take any pictures. Ooops.

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Tags: cooperatives, koha, life, software, wsm.

Another Toll Road Crash

Tue, 20 May 2008 14:07:44 +0100

I'd not long written about lunching at the other end of Kewstoke Toll Road yesterday when I read this news of another Toll Road crash. I hope the three people carried from the wreckage recover.

I fear the press will have another field day about how dangerous the road is, instead of primarily blaming whatever caused the accident. (The fishmonger crashed while avoiding a loose dog, by the way.) That road is not up to modern standards and I don't believe it was designed for the volume of traffic that's been using it since they stopped collecting the toll, but there is a very low speed limit (25mph) and warning signs all over it. Neither car left the road this time, as far as I can tell from the reports.

I hope the press proves me wrong.

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Tags: life, toll road, travel, wsm.

[Updates: Fishmonger re-opens, Bombing Exeter,


Fri, 23 May 2008 10:58:07 +0100

Three quick updates to items I've posted in the past:-

Justin Rolfe has re-opened his fishmonger's shop on Alexandra Parade Weston- super-Mare less than six weeks after what Avon Fire called a "lucky escape" when his van crashed off Kewstoke toll road.

I'm glad I didn't try to go to an event in Exeter yesterday that I was invited to. I don't remember seeing that restaurant, but the BBC writes it only opened last September. A religious bombing in Devon. Whatever next?

Eurovision is tomorrow night. I'm not going to write in detail here this year (because I don't want the pain of dealing with the planet-purgers again) but I might try to guest blog somewhere else and mention it at the end of tomorrow's post.

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Tags: life, toll road, wsm.

Sky Data Protection

Sat, 24 May 2008 08:52:34 +0100

For the first time in a while, I've filed a data protection complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office about a company's bad behaviour.

Take a bow, Sky TV! Claiming that you can't remove my details from your mailing lists because I'm not one of your customers is stupid beyond belief. If I'm not one of your customers, never have been and have never permitted you to have my personal details, then you shouldn't have them anyway and you definitely shouldn't keep them after I've asked you to stop.

1 comment.

Tags: life, satellite.

[Update: Experts Say Ofcom Wrong About Rural


Mon, 26 May 2008 17:24:34 +0100

Last Friday, I mentioned Ofcom announcing that Rural broadband households overtake urban for the first time and wondered whether the Ofcom definition of broadband is as broken as the Ofcom definition of digital television.

Of course it is.

Apprently, it ignores download speed, alternative access points and lots of other aspects. See Rural broadband - lies, damn lies and statistics (hey, don't blame the numbers - blame those doing the interpretation!), Lifetorque: Ofcom still out of touch on broadband and It's Broadband Jim - but not as we know it! for some of the points and links to more.

Can we ever trust any of Ofcom's statistics?

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Tags: life, phones, statistics, web.

Bristol and Bath Perl Mongers

Tue, 27 May 2008 08:55:01 +0100

The first meeting of the new Bristol and Bath Perl M[ou]ngers is tonight (Tue 27th) at 7pm, according to this mailing list post.

Despite their rules, I've already been well-flamed by one member, so it will be interesting to see what sort of group it becomes. Hopefully the flamers are nicer in real life.

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Tags: koha, life, software.

[Fuel Price Bleating and


Tue, 27 May 2008 10:17:26 +0100

[Photo of
England swings like a pendulum do!

There's another fuel price protest and the coverage in the London press is pretty biased, with occasional balanced reports and very rare dissenting opinion.

One of the favourite whines on news-and-nutters phone- ins is "waah, I live in a village, I need my car". While that's true for some people, most villagers could switch to bicycles for many journeys without problems.

At the moment, the biggest problem with cycling to town is the number of cars on the small lanes, followed by the number of potholes. Switching to cycling or walking will have a triple benefit: fewer cars on the road will free up space for cycling, wear the roads out less and reduce fuel demand (so petrol should become cheaper for those who really need it).

Over the last few days, I've been happy to read Bike The Drive 2008 [Dirk Eddelbuettel], Mountainbike, By Joerg Jaspert and How to Start Bicycling to Work, by John Goerzen.

A couple of tweaks to that last one: in England, I don't think that a cycling helmet is necessary. I've not worn one for the last few months (it went mouldy after a rain storm) - I find I can hear traffic better and many drivers seem to give me more room on the road. I wonder if helmet-wearing "dehumanises" cyclists to drivers? The safety data seems rather confused, but it's a personal choice. If you feel safer with a helmet, wear one. I also wear ordinary business or casual clothes, relying on a good quality commuter saddle rather than cycling shorts. I suspect that drivers here are developing a sort of blindness to the "screaming yellow" hi-vis jackets, so I don't wear those - but sometimes I wear hi-vis reflective armbands if I'm wearing black in the dark. I agree completely with the comments on that page about being predictable, Cateye lights and pannier bags.

Finally, Bike Week 2008 starts on 14 June, which would be an ideal time to try a group ride - or just get a free breakfast for cycling into town.

Update: Wheelism: How To Commute By Bicycle and Drake.org.uk: The Pushbike Song - it's a veritable wave!


Tags: cycling, life, travel, wsm.

[Kewstoke Annual Village


Wed, 28 May 2008 08:51:23 +0100

Tomorrow (Thu 29th) at 7.30pm is the Kewstoke annual village meeting. That should be my first meeting as a councillor, if I get back from London in time. (I hope I do - councillors who miss meetings get this sort of criticism but at least village councillors aren't paid that much: I think expenses for all 12 or so councillors totalled under £60 last year.)

Apart from the two reports, the agenda is a good summary of the challenges affecting the village this year: Cygnet Liaison, Sand Bay Management and the Toll Road.

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Tags: life, toll road, wsm.

[Quick Question: opticaljungle.com =


Wed, 28 May 2008 12:21:26 +0100

Are opticaljungle.com and publicdomainregistry.com the same people?

Their addresses look identical but their phone numbers are different. Both appear to have some connections to directi.com. Is there any way to check if they are the same people?

I don't know how to verify US companies when they appear not to want to be verified... Domain Detectives thinks they're both directi

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

[Getting Linux InfraRed Beaming to a Palm III with a Belkin USB


Thu, 29 May 2008 08:55:01 +0100

I lent someone my old Palm IIIe as a data entry device for an exhibition this week. I don't use it much since I got a Samsung K608i last year. They weren't comfortable with using their smart phone as a data entry device. I can understand that: I'm still pretty slow at phone-typing and it corrupted data when its memory filled recently.

The batteries had been removed from the Palm to avoid them leaking, so it needed reloading with useful Palm free software for data entry. The first problem was that I decommissioned bouncing a while ago and that was the last machine to sync with the Palm. I wasn't keen to pull it out of the store cupboard and connect all the wires, but my current desktop machine nail doesn't have a 9-pin serial port for the cradle and that's the only connector on the Palm.

Actually, it's not the only connector: the Palm has an InfraRed emitter and I have a Belkin F5U230 USB-IrDA dongle thing. I don't use it that often, but it worked enough to connect nail to the internet through my old mobile phone. That was a while ago and I forgot the specifics, but eventually I noticed the key phrase in the irattach man page:-

"Note that there is another USB driver for those devices called ir-usb which is NOT compatible with the IrDA stack and conflicts with irda-usb. Because it always loads first, you have to remove ir-usb completely."

Sure enough, I checked the lsmod output and found ir-usb there, screwing stuff up. A few modprobe -r commands, then I simply ran

"irattach irda-usb"

and saw the irda0 network device appear.

Still one thing to do: beam the actual applications. This was pretty easy because I remembered reading that obexftp defaulted to IRDA sending when I was getting bluetooth working. All I had to do was enter a command like

"obexftp --irda --put db.prc"

and the Palm asked if I wanted to accept it! Yes!

First test with obexftpd for receiving files wasn't encouraging, though and I can't see how to use sobexsrv for this: I'll probably write next week whether we get any data off the Palm! The Palm IIIe is too old to hotsync over infra-red, as far as I can tell. I've got a roundabout route through the K608i but it doesn't seem to be very reliable. Anyone got any expert tips?


Tags: gobolinux, hardware, life, phones, software.

[Told You So: Exhibitions and Spammer


Fri, 30 May 2008 08:54:13 +0100

I used to help staff more exhibition stands than I do now. Part of the reason I stopped was that few free software people seem to appreciate the basics of running a good exhibition stand and I got bored of arguing that we should give people space, avoid putting a counter across the stand, keep notes of contacts made and basic stuff like that.

So, it was good to read Connecting People: Making an exhibition of yourself - the exhibitor and the linked Business Startup Coach shares Exhibition & Trade show secrets which repeat many points I've made before. Don't want to listen to me? Listen to the marketing experts.

Some time after noticing WDPRS, I tried reporting as much spam as possible for a while, to hosters and registrars based on WHOIS details.

Some hosts and registrars were good at dealing with spam (Yahoo and walla.net.il were exceptionally good) many were bad (bresnan.net, registrationtek.com, publicdomainregistry.com (PDR), ait.com, omantel.co.om, ttnet.net.tr) and some were ugly (Tucows/OpenSRS wrote back to say they don't do anything about domains they register, while ENom and Moniker never sent human answers).

So it's no surprise to see ENom, Moniker, PDR and AIT on the list of


"Top Ten Worst Spam Registrars Notified By ICANN"](http://www.schwimmerlegal.com/2008/05/top_ten_worst_s.html) ultimately taken from this report.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

Please Tell Me How To Do It

Mon, 02 Jun 2008 10:47:09 +0100

(Guess I arrived early.)

Dear Reader,

I'd like to read any opinions on these three:-

1. when I get new information about a story I've already written about, should I make it a new blog post and/or add it to the old post or something else?

For example, I've got new links about the Yahoo's good anti-spam actions which is sort-of linked to last week's spammer registrar post.

2. what should I do with links to sites where I've commented? Should I make a new feed like my bookmarks feed, silently ignore them, or something else? Last time I did a link post, mildly irritated comments followed on one of the planets.

3. Tonight is my first full Kewstoke village council meeting. Main (non-routine) topics include Sand Road Lay-by, Crookes Lane Memorial Seat, the newsletter, replacing the gazebo on the village green, coopting more councillors, completing the Crookes Lane Footpath, the 2007-08 accounts and reviewing the Sand Bay Management Plan. Any comments on any of those?


Tags: life, web, wsm.

[BBC website, TV and


Tue, 03 Jun 2008 10:43:29 +0100

(How I get TV)

The British Broadcasting Corporation, the largest UK public service broadcaster, is seen as a slow lumbering beast and a bit clueless about technology, as you can see from the comment when I wrote about Click: Free=beer and facebook- flaming recently. I think that's a pretty typical view.

For example, the BBC has recently helped to launch Freesat which is good in some ways (free-to-air and maybe more standards-based than Sky) but still publishes half-truths like

"Installing a satellite dish is a job for professionals"

(On balance, it's no harder than installing most TV aerials, in my opinion, but remember you get no warranty on DIY.)

It's pretty much the same situation online, which is why stories like The BBC and innovation [DavePress] and Good news for websites - BBC told to link out more! continue to be news, nearly 12 years after the BBC's website launched. (Source)

One of the few areas where BBC triumphs is probably news-gathering, picking up stories that are unpopular with both business and government, like BBC NEWS: Towns triumph in broadband tests which follows the Experts Say Ofcom Wrong About Rural Broadband storm online. I recently helped The Doon of May team look into internet connectivity and I was surprised how bad it was in their location: a bit of attention from BBC News is most welcome.

If you'd like to try receiving the BBC - or some other national broadcasters in Europe - by satellite, I'm currently taking Questions About Cycling on Satellite over on my Cycling Fans blog.

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Tags: cycling, hardware, life, satellite, web.

World Environment Day

Thu, 05 Jun 2008 15:04:16 +0100

Today is World Environment Day 2008 and also Recycle Week in the UK.

Locally, our poor recycling record has attracted attention. The main Somerset CC area averages 50% recycling and composting, while North Somerset only does 36%. This will cost us money, as explained under the subtly-titled local newspaper article 'REDUCE WASTE NOW OR FACE A £12M FINE' It's very annoying to read a Conservative councillor say

"The message we really have to get out to people is that this is their problem too."

We know it's a bloody problem. Have you tried to use your stupid recycling system?

Criticism of the stupid collections is strangely absent from the local Lib-Dem's Mid table place shouldn't be good enough when it comes to recycling (Mike Bell) and I can't even find recycling mentioned on local Labour sites - I think those two groups may have been in coalition when the stupid system was introduced. It's left to local residents to explain the problem.

Local waste collections have been simplified recently but it still seems bloody awkward, taking different types of waste to different places. The most recent edition of the council's North Somerset Life magazine explained that they don't collect plastic bottles from the doorstep because it would add £10 per year to our local tax. I'm damn sure it already costs me more than that to store them and ferry them into town over a year. The only people rewarded by saving that £10 seem to be those who live near the town centre collection point, drive to that Tesco anyway, or don't recycle plastics. Why reward them?

Speaking of Tesco... those national and local favourites have applied to build Two more Tesco stores for Weston [The Weston Mercury] including one directly opposite another supermarket. The application number is 08/P/1230/F if you want to respond.

The planning system seems my main chance to protect my local environment at the moment. Next Monday evening at 7.30pm, 08/P/1070/F - Erection of 5 storey building to provide 14 flats, restaurant and office with basement parking following demolition of restaurant will be considered by a Kewstoke village council planning meeting in the village hall. As I understand it, the public may make statements at the start of the meeting and 2 Kewstoke Road is currently the Castle.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, statistics, travel, wsm.

[Bridgwater College Computing Advisory


Sat, 7 June 2008 08:52:34 +0100

Probably due to some mistake or just an excess of randomness in the world, our webmaster cooperative has been invited to Bridgwater College's Computing Advisory Panel meeting next week and it looks like I'm going.

The interesting agenda items are:-

5. Current Curriculum offer

6. Computing and ICT Sector Developments - Education and Training - ICT Diplomas - Distance Learning - Specialist training / apprenticeships

7. Meeting Employer Needs

I've asked some nearby cooperatives and social enterprises for comments and I'll probably highlight things like Linux opens London's Oyster and Specsavers sees clear benefits in open source when arguing for more free software use and emphasising "worker needs" rather than "employer needs", but please send me any other suggestions in a comment on this blog post or an email.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web, wsm.

Fixing things the wrong way

Mon, 09 Jun 2008 13:14:56 +0100

For some reason (maybe related to upgrading openssl recently), my Jabber client became unstable. Instead of fixing it the right way, I simply upgraded to Emacs 22.2 (which also got me the emacsclient --eval option mentioned on this blog previously). It still wouldn't make SSL connections at first, but a quick application of [jabber.el] Anybody using emacs-jabber with Emacs 22.2? fixed it.

That's the wrong way to fix that bug, but it's not quite as wrong as misusing computers to try to fix copyright infringement. MediaDefender denial- of-service attacked a TV production company, as described in Inside the Attack that Crippled Revision3 on May 29th, 2008 at 07:49 am by Jim Louderback in Polemics MediaDefender or MediaDestroyer?

That's the wrong way to fix that bug, but it's not quite as wrong as making treaties mostly in secret, under NDAs to try to evade local copyright law- makers. The US government, the European Commission, Japan, Switzerland, Australia and a handful of other countries are meeting in a secret negotiation on a new treaty

"that undermines civil rights and privacy, and which many say will change the substantive rights the public has to use copyrighted works or inventions."

Read more at Act On ACTA and then contact your law- making representatives.

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Tags: life, software, web.

More driving and cycling

Wed, 11 Jun 2008 18:17:56 +0100

Jeff Bailey asked:

"Heya Brits! Any of you still driving cars at ~ 1.15 according to the Daily Mail"

Yes, I am. I drove on Monday (at 1.18/l) because it was the least bad option for the journey. I try to avoid it and I felt bad afterwards (literally - it was too damn hot and each part of the journey was too short for the cab to cool down), but the car was available and the other choices involved not attending some events.

On Sunday, I used my bike instead, but I was I wondering if the world is full of Sunday drivers today or whether I was really riding that badly. You name a junction on my route and I seemed to get into a conflict with a car at it.

Today's bike trip went much better, even getting thanks from a coach for pulling aside halfway up an incline, but I had to take avoiding action as I re-entered the village because of a police car. I'm pretty damn sure that wasn't my fault, but I do wonder when it's the police.

I'm still riding without a helmet, without ill effects. Gunnar Wolf was getting a breeze through a different kind of helmet but I think it's telling that cyclists "feel naked" rather than actually being naked (usually, at least). Have we got too used to being cocooned in metal boxes while out on the roads? I've always ridden and walked a lot - is this why I don't miss the hat much? I must remember to drink more in summer without it, though.

I share Criag Sanders's scepticism about the protests and Chrisitan Perrier's enthusiasm for bike- pools. I don't agree with many of Russel Coker's views on oil prices but they are interesting reading, even so.

I'm taking part in JamBustingJune for the West of England region and BikeWeek 14-21 June 2008


Tags: cycling, life, toll road, travel.

[Warning for Webmasters: Friday 13th


Thu, 12 Jun 2008 16:18:11 +0100

Personally, I like Friday 13th. It's usually been pretty good for me. But for this one, I won't be surprised if computer abusers are planning some big attack tomorrow.

I've just spent a big chunk of my day upgrading and securing some of the websites that our free software cooperative supports for a customer. The number of attacks in the access logs is surprising - and I've been fixing other people's cracked servers for over a decade. It makes me wonder if someone is finding and recruiting exploitable systems for tomorrow.

If you have a website, please check that any web applications on it are installed correctly and the latest secure versions. I've been seeing a lot of attack attempts for Joomla and WordPress in particular, even on sites which don't run them. That says something bad about either the success rate of attacks for them, or the stupidity of their attackers.

In our case today, the damage seems to have been minimal (touch wood!), with the customer merely being banned from some networks for a while. It could be so much worse, like this BBC News report about Cotton Traders Card details stolen in web hack (which is part of why I suggest small online shops avoid storing credit card details on their site - leave it to the payment gateway).

Finally, there are some new scams like Conmen abuse web address checks on the horizon for online shops, so make sure you've got your 3D-Secure rules set correctly by now and be cautious about sending goods before you're sure you've got the money. I think all web card payment systems are a risk, so please try to limit your risk.

Update: If you do get attacked, try to help track the attackers down so we can get other results like the Jail sentence for botnet creator. I wish our governments would concentrate on toughening up blatent computer misuse law and stop tightening copyright law in secret.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, software, web.

[Forthcoming (and past) Events News: LUGoG, BikeWeek, HacktionLab,


Mon, 16 Jun 2008 15:05:41 +0100

LUG of Glastonbury meets at Tor Leisure in Glastonbury at 7pm tonight (Monday). It will be a general planning meeting, maybe with some GPG-key-signing and other tasks. If you want the LUG to show you something in particular, this will be a good event to attend.

This week is BikeWeek 2008 and there's a free cyclists breakfast at the Victorian Cafe on the Weston-super-Mare seafront about 8am Wednesday morning. For events in other areas, stick a partial postcode into the BikeWeek event search.

Someone from The Doon Of May was at Hacktionlab 2008 @ Highbury Farm this last weekend, as were Bristol Wireless, who were running the wifi.

I've not seen an official announcement, but SPI's board meeting will be on Wednesday at 8pm UK time (1900 UTC), according to my last meeting report.

I've heard through BBLUG that the notorious Shevek is co-organising an event called "An Adventure in Technology" at Trinity Community Arts in Bristol on 28 June 2008. It's a follow-up event to the 2003 Bristol Linux and will be an all-inclusive event where everybody is encouraged to bring something along, talk about it, swap ideas, and build things on site. It doesn't have to be Linux-based, but a lot of things will be. The event web site is http://www.techadventure.org/ and you should post there if you have an idea or want to run a session. There will also be a list for people who decide on the day that they want to give a talk.

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Tags: cooperatives, life, spi, travel, web, wsm.

[Firefox 3, day 10: security flaw 2, more banks, looking for a new


Fri, 27 Jun 2008 20:45:44 +0100

Well, I was hoping to get Yet Another Blog Reorg done before posting this, but it just hasn't happened, so here are a few more thoughts on Firefox 3 on this ol' blog. In fact, I'll probably finish the FF3 series here before I switch over.

I was in central London on Tuesday and suffered both the rudeness and the black snot (which no-one else I know seems to suffer) so maybe that's why I've been underachieving this week. I've had London lethargy.

I had a report about online banking that doesn't work with FF3. NPBS will move into the hall of shame, sadly. I'm almost certain I warned them months ago that their online banking was doing Javascript stunts that aren't going to work forever. I emailed them and haven't heard back since.

Back to the browser: I share the contempt for the Firefox 3 and SSL problems and I like the new URL bar too. However, I am finding the FF3 seems to use more CPU (and so power) than FF1.5 and there seems to be some frustrating delays in FF-clipboard communications, so I'm looking at other browsers. Conkeror looks interesting. Still Gecko (useful for work) but stripped down.

I spotted another post about microformats, which I mentioned in my last post, about the BBC dropping support for microformats [John Resig] and I also noticed just how good SVG and Minimalist Markup looks in FF3 [Sam Ruby] - I'd love to try it, but my IE-using clients probably wouldn't understand and I hate making single-browser special editions.


Tags: banking, life, software, web.

End of this blog!

Mon, 14 Jul 2008 11:02:09 +0100

This blog has moved on to software cooperative news - please click through to continue reading.

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Tags: life, software, web.

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