Monday, 30 April 2007
Before you buy a house

If Hollywood has taught us anything about house buying in creepy films you should check:

  • The house was not built on ancient Indian burial ground
  • No one died in the bath
  • If its a mansion and its been sold at a fraction of its real value, its probably haunted
  • The house was not built on the ground of an ancient orphanage. According to Hollywood bad things usually happen here and there will be ghosts
  • The house was not built on the grounds of an old hospital, ghosts of dead patients.
  • Find out if the previous occupants are still alive
  • Find out if the previous occupants had a tendency to go crazy with chain saws
  • Check the basement for a doomsday door or well with a crazy creature inside it.
  • Check if anyone of the previous occupants were burnt alive for witchcraft. She/He will probably haunt you.
  • If your dog, cat, mouse or what ever creature you have acts strange in the house or barks/squeaks at thin air don't buy it, its probably haunted.
  • If your kids suddenly start having imaginary friends they never had before that ask them to climb on the roof of the house, its probably haunted.
  • If your kid finds a strange scary looking doll at the new house and starts acting strange take it away leave it in the house and run. Its probably haunted.
posted on Monday, 30 April 2007 22:48:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Saturday, 28 April 2007
The Call Center Cheek

We all despise being cold called by someone from a country on the other side of the world, we in most cases cannot properly understand, who can only follow a cold call script and do nothing else.

I admit from time time to time when I have been bored I used to get great enjoyment out of asking them questions that were not on the script.

"You are offering me a great phone deal?"
"Yes sir I just need to take your"
"Do I get free home insurance with that?"
"No sir.."
"How about air miles"
"No sir it is a new Nokia phone its a good deal there is nothing to pay for 3 months its all free"
"And how many of these phones can I get?"
"Just one sir I can take your..."
"And I get free home insurance with the phone?"
"....No sir its the best deal a Nokia.."
"But what good is a phone to me without home insurance?"
[click]

Now they have discovered just how annoyed we have become with call center staff we are unable to understand and who can do nothing more than follow scripts put in front of them they have started using automated cold call center systems. Yes you guessed it.

"Hi this is XYZ company offering you a great deal on home insurance if you'd like to learn more please press 5!"

Now who on Earth is going to buy home insurance from an automated call system? What a flaming cheek! The thing is it must work or they wouldn't try it, right?

posted on Saturday, 28 April 2007 16:47:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 27 April 2007
Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul

Now I have always been a big fan of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse although I can't help but find some of the sketches in their new comedy show together Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul a bit lame and in many times un funny. Some of the sketches seem a bit extreme in my opinion and I found myself not laughing at all and struggling to find the funny side of it especially the sketches to do with Nelson Mandela. Now a show I did find funny was The Fast Show, don't get me wrong I did find some of the sketches funny in Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul but not on the same level as the The Fast Show. Maybe its early days yet with this comedy show they usually take a while for people to get to know and love the character right?

posted on Friday, 27 April 2007 21:40:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 22 April 2007
My New Gym Membership

Friends and family members have been dropping little hints about my technology inflicted gaining of weight recently using subtle remarks such as "you're getting fat". Anyway I suppose since I am losing my athletic macho physic (try not to laugh too hard here please). I decided to join my local gym, now trying to be rather froogle (no this is not just the name of a Google shopping experience) in the past I had cancelled my last gym membership, which had been costing me something in the region of £80 a month, a sum I thought was much better spent on home entertainment systems and the "I'm bored and need a new gadget fund".

Anyway the principle of healthy body, healthy mind and far less feeling under the weather I decided to give going to the gym another stab. I was assigned my own  person trainer who asked me all the the things I wanted to achieve (Cue an episode of Nip-Tuck "Tell me what you don't like about yourself").  I informed her I wanted to get rid of my doughnut belly, yes I don't drink that much beer but the past few IT projects I have been on has really hit it (the stomach) hard with the software developers quickest pick me up "doughnuts and coffee"..... "Mmmmm doughnuts" (slap get out of that!). My trainer set about setting me the work out from hell which involved.

  • Weight lifting (3 lots of 12)
  • Some climbing frame thing (3 lots of 12)
  • Tummy crunches (as many until you burst into tears)
  • Treadmill (3 lots of 10 minutes)
  • Rowing Machine (5 minutes doesn't sound like much but it is)
  • Some pulling machine thing for your abs
  • Some pushing machine for your forward muscles
  • Some weight pulling down machine
  • Some leg pushing thingy
  • A strange squatting exercise with weights

Now two days after my first workout my whole body is aching, its hard to walk, stand, sit, turn or lift anything without feeling muscle ache. My body is aching in places I didn't even realize I had muscles, oh well no pain no gain I suppose? And I'm paying money to for this? Surely I could achieve the same effect by going two rounds in a boxing rink, but then again at least the exercising  machines don't hit back! And one of the benefits of this gym I have joined is they actually have TV's embedded into each exercise machine. Now instead of vegetating at home on the sofa watching TV I can be on a treadmill watching TV! Now if only there was a way I could read my email at the same time (what a geek!)

posted on Sunday, 22 April 2007 13:52:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [5]

 Tuesday, 17 April 2007
ASK vs Google challenge for a week

Following up on my previous post using ASK instead of Google had me nearly tearing my hair out. It was incredibly difficult it just doesn't feel right and so many times I found myself getting frustrated and going straight back to Google as though my whole mind had been conditioned to using it anything else seemed completely alien to me. Ask had some nice features where you could narrow down your search on the right side of the screen using a faceted style navigation. Now don't get me wrong ASK was good at getting to the results it had but I found that were I was searching for a term on ASK there would be only one page of results barely 8 while on Google there would be more than 2 pages. You suddenly started to pickup on the scale of Google in comparison to ASK. It isn't just that Google is famous for returning the results you want but that it actually has a hell of a lot of information behind it. Personally though I found ASK was better at finding the results it actually had for you than Google. Maybe this is because ASK has a smaller search index and therefore less noise to get through that Google?

posted on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 18:01:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 14 April 2007
The wheelie bin thief

A few months a go we had our wheelie bin stolen. It happened on a Sunday when we were still at home the only thing I can remember happening on that day is a girl asking us if we would like to sponsor a dog, although I am rather fond of dogs I had to decline because I couldn't understand what the girl was saying and what she was saying just didn't seem right. I really didn't give it much though, I was tired and Sunday was my lying in day. It was not until later when I went to take the rubbish outside that I noticed the bin had gone, confused I looked for it walking about the whole neighborhood looking at peoples bins and getting some rather odd looks that evening.

Now I'm not sure if the girl was involved with the theft of the bin but it all seemed far to coincidental, however I never saw her again in order to ask her if she had noticed it there when she had knocked on the door. Anyway I phoned the police who took everything rather seriously they even gave me a crime number I could give to the council to get a new bin they would also phone back to take a full statement. I couldn't understand why the chap I spoke to on the phone just couldn't take down the details. Anyway I got a crime report letter and a leaflet on how to cope being a victim of crime (sounds funny for a bin theft I know). My wife phoned the council and they said we would have to spend 53 pounds for a new bin because it was not stolen on bin collection day (I should really have told the thieves to steel my bin on bin day! (heavy sarcasm)). We had no choice but to agree to the charge which I found would not be covered by my household insurance as there was an excess. We waited 2 weeks for a new bin, and eventually phoned the council when one did not arrive. The council said the bin had been delivered, we informed then that since the theft we had placed a small motion detection camera looking out of the front of the house (will blog more about this later) and did not see any one approach the house on the date and time they said they had delivered it. Eventually the council agreed to send another free bin which arrived and my wife and I promptly set about covering every inch of the bin with our house number and post code. I then installed a large chain and padlock which I used to fasten the bin to the wall. The inconvenience of not having a bin was far to much for me and prevention was the best possible option. Nothing happened for some time until Friday when my wife returned home to find someone had tried to drag the bin out from the little dip it was in by the side of the house had then tried pulling the chain around, discovered a big lock on the end and decided to leave it. The thing that frustrated me the most was I had not had the camera on that day, of all the days it was the one day I had forgotten to turn it on, however the big chain had served its purpose.

Now many thoughts had rushed through my mind:

  • Why were these thieves so fascinated by my bin? I could understand the first opportunity theft but a second from the same place?
  • Why hadn't they taken another bin maybe one from any of the other houses in the neighborhood that were far easier to get to than ours and some of them didn't have any identification on them.
  • Was this some conspiracy by the people who sold bins to the council to make more money?

Having had a look on the net I realized this could be something to do with identity fraud via wheelie bin where they steel your bin go through it to find any identity documents so they can steel your identity or find an opportune moment to rob your house which we later discovered happened to someone else in the neighborhood. They stole his bin used the rubbish to work out where they worked and when they were likely to be home then came to the house with a white lorry one day knocked the door in and proceeded to clear out the house as though they were removal men, what a cheek!

Now the only thing I can do now is wait and see what happens next.

posted on Saturday, 14 April 2007 14:09:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 13 April 2007
My Google Experiment using ASK.COM as an alternative search engine

In my previous blog entry I wrote about using alternatives to Google as an experiment I was going to try and use ASK.COM for a week instead of Google.

This morning there was a requirement to find a browser based XHTML editor and immediately brought up Google without even thinking about it and stared to search. It was only when I was half way looking through some of the results on Google that my wife reminded me over Skype by asking me how I was getting on with using Ask instead of Google. I quickly shut down the Google window and proceeded to use ASK. The results were very interesting:

  • Both had lots of adverts although they appeared more evident on ASK because they were at the top of the screen. I almost always ignore adverts on search engines.
  • ASK actually had a result for FCKEditor on the first page while Google didn't. I found this strange seeing how popular FCKEditor was.
  • Both brought up Xstandard

All in all Ask did pretty well for itself and brought in some pretty good results, however after using the Google interface for so long it took me a while to get used to Ask.

When I type my wife's maiden name into Google "Karen Nutton" her blog comes up immediately as the first result however Ask doesn't appear to have indexed it yet and it is no where to be found in the results. Also a lot of new blogs I have seen recently are no where to be seen in Ask but appear straight away in Google. It seems as though Google loves blog content more than Ask and is very intuitive at following this content.

posted on Friday, 13 April 2007 22:35:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 12 April 2007
My Google Experiment

I saw an interesting article on the BBC web site about Googles dominance eves many search engines struggling. How every day millions of people have Google set to their home page and if they can't find what they are looking for on Google they either think:

  • It doesn't exist
  • They did something wrong

However hardly any of them ever try another search engine. So as part of my experiment I have decided to try a new search engine every day for my everyday search terms I try to find. I do a lot of "Googling" or which I shall now quite simply call "Web Searching" or hey why not "Websing!" catchy? No? Okay ,we can stick with "web searching".

Firstly I will try a whole week using www.ask.com and blog about how I got on. After that I will select another search engine to use for the next week. I expect it will be very hard for me to switch to another search engine, with searching I am basically on autopilot I enter www.google.com into my browser without even thinking about it when I want to search for something. If anyone else wants to take up the challenge please let me know, I'd love to know how you got on.

posted on Thursday, 12 April 2007 21:38:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Things I have learnt from horror films
  • The dear old granny who lives in a creepy old house and likes to give candy to young children is almost always a monster.
  • What ever it is. Its always behind you
  • Even the most "un-scary" moment in a film can be made scary with the right sound.
  • Almost all girls in horror films go into the basement or run outside into the dark
  • Caller ID doesn't seem to work in tracing nuisance callers in horror films.
  • The lights will always go out when you are about to be stabbed
  • The weapon of choice for most psychos is a knife
  • Cell phones never seem to have enough battery time when you need to make an emergency call
  • If your cat, ferret, dog or hamster acts weirdly, there is a demon, ghost, killer or monster in your house.
  • If you killed one of the monsters there is always another one.
  • The monster or alien always leaves eggs behind for the sequel
  • When you look up its always too late. That's when the monster jumps down on you.
  • When staying at a remote farm house never ever offer to go for help, you will die..
  • Make sure the home you are interested in buying has not been built on ancient Indian burial ground (or get them to drop the price)
  • If you are lost in the woods and someone is after you never split up, you will die
  • If you heard a strange sound outside its probably the wild wielding axe murderer, do not investigate.

If you have anymore to add please let me know! :)

posted on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 21:50:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

Chip and Pin

I found it quite interesting how so much has changed since Chip and Pin was introduced. The most interesting fact is that the crime just changed, chip and pin in most cases appeared to be un cracked but it made getting to another form of data a lot easier.

Imagine this, you enter a shop that has just set up for a while in your town and decide to buy a few of the cheap products on sale. You put your card into the chip and pin terminal and enter your pin for the transaction of say £10 and don't think anything more of it. However what you didn't realize was that the chip and pin machine they were using had a magnetic card reader as well as a chip reader (your card has a magnetic strip and chip). When you entered your pin the details were being stored or were being recorded in some way. Because the magnetic strip on your card was scanned it can easily be cloned and now that they have your pin they are able to withdraw money from your account using your pin.

So what just happened there? Well chip and pin worked and it was secure however the method you used to pay for a chip and pin transaction helped fraudsters get hold of the good old magnetic strip still used by cash machines and terminals you might using when going abroad.

Now the above is just one of the many ways I have heard of fraudsters circumventing the system. I am sure there are several other tricks out there. Remember when you use you card:

  • Make sure no one can see you enter your pin number
  • Does the Chip and Pin terminal look suspect?
  • Are you familiar with the store you are using your card in? How long has it been there?
  • If in doubt use good old fashioned cash
posted on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 21:16:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Stonehenge

I've traveled past this famous land mark quite a number of times while on my way to Street in Somerset and have seen many tourists groups gathering around it every time.

Its quite amazing all the ideas people come up with on why these bunch of rocks are here which apparently came all the way from Wales. They have ranged from

  • A landing platform for alien space craft
  • A sacrificial alter (not sure for what)
  • A place for druids to celebrate special events
  • Some special energy creation platform that draws its energy out of the median or energy lines in the ground.

I just wondered think about the idea people came up with, if some ancient king or emperor suddenly thought "You know there are going to be people wondering what the past was like wouldn't it be nice to confuse them?"
"How you're grace?"
"Well remember those stones we saw in Wales the other day?"
"yes?"
"Lets bring them here and put them in a circle!"

You could even imagine people doing that now, imagine creating a massive mound of Earth and putting a statue pumpkin inside. Man that would confuse future generations :)

posted on Tuesday, 10 April 2007 19:10:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 09 April 2007
The Star Trek Universe

Some interesting things I have thought about in the Star Trek Universe.

  • No one ever needs to use the toilet
  • No matter how advanced their computers are in the future the holo decks safety will always fail taking the crew on some new wacky adventure.
  • They are so advanced in the future that you can actually hear sound in space when shooting a photon torpedo at a ship.
  • On all federation ships the phaser banks are connected directly to the main computer system to enable the ship you are shooting at to send a "hacking tachion pulse" back up the phaser beam to take all the data from your databanks.
  • When a ship is attacked all control panels will explode killing all ensigns no one has seen before who are dressed in red.
  • Scotty always has something to complain about
  • No one ever gets one of the crew on their communicators when their busy taking a slash. "Oh hang on a moment bridge I'm a bit busy at the moment"
  • Even the smallest shuttles have gravity
  • If you leave a holo deck on long enough the characters will become sentient.
  • Ships always need two helmsmen to navigate them One for left and one for right?
  • Every time a new person beams down with them to a planet they are likely to be killed.
  • Any medical condition can be cured with a "torch"
  • When ever there is a disaster on the ship with many wounded people the ships doctor McCoy will always go with the captain on an away mission.
  • On a dangerous away mission the captain will always go down leaving the crew at the mercy of the second in command in The Old Generation.
  • All Klingon ships are filled with steam
  • Anyone can go back in the future by flying around the sun
  • Why doesn't the federation create a holographic army?
  • What will Spock do if you stamp on his foot really hard?
posted on Monday, 09 April 2007 12:05:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 05 April 2007
Poor WEP

Just reading the following blogpost from my friend Owen's blog about how easy it is to crack WEP wireless encryption. As Owen says its better to have encryption than non at all, if you are unable to use WPA you can also lock down your wireless router by MAC Address. Now every Network card has a unique address which is called a MAC Address you can tell your router only to accept traffic from the MAC address's of the computers on your network.

Now the above is far from foolproof as it is possible to spoof a MAC address using certain Olicom cards and special software. But the hacker will need to scan a lot more traffic to pickup the MAC address of one of the computers on your network and is more likely to move to a network which does not do MAC address filtering. Another trick is to not broadcast your SSID, all networks have an identifier called an SSID if you stop your network advertising itself it will be harder for hackers to find it.

posted on Thursday, 05 April 2007 18:41:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 04 April 2007
The Apprentice on BBC1

This show is quite funny although you can't help but feel that the people they have selected on this show have been selected with certain tendencies such as he ability not to get on with each other. What ever the criteria it makes very entertaining viewing.

Some of the things I find the most entertaining is sometimes they will send out a research group to find out some market research about what they are doing and then the leader of the team will come up with an idea all by himself. Even if the market research showed that his or her idea would fail he will still go through with the idea and fail. Its unbelievably funny viewing and what is so funny is I have sometimes seen this approach in companies before. They will go through a vendor selection process for a product find a really great product that fits the task and then someone on the board will say we will choose product X instead of Y because we really like the company that makes it rather that if product X is the better product. 

posted on Wednesday, 04 April 2007 21:09:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 03 April 2007
French set new rail speed record

Yep the French have set a new land speed record on their trains at 574.8 km/h, that's fast, very fast...

Now why can't we get some nice fast trains here in the UK? Apparently the French don't just have fast trains their trains actually run on time, what a concept...

posted on Tuesday, 03 April 2007 22:16:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 02 April 2007
Technology in the workplace

We all take it for granted at work, we have email access and Internet access. Some of us however have more Internet access than others based on the corporate policies of the organizations we may work for. We use our computers for word processing, we save the documents we have created on the network for future use some of us may even have version control repositories for our documents and occasionally we print them out to read or hand over to clients or colleagues. But I was surprised and shocked to find out how computers are used at a small law firm I discovered they have some pretty cool multimedia machines with state of the art applications on them and all the machines were being used as were as glorified word processors. The secretaries would type up all the letters on the computers in MS Word, then they would print the letters out and occasionally the secretaries would exchange letters on floppy disks between each other and after they had printed two copies of the letter out and filed one copy they would delete the copy from their floppy disks to free up space! The machines they were using also had underused 60gig hard disks! What I found even funnier was that if they needed to do another copy of a letter or alter it they would end up typing it in the letter again from the paper copy! What was even more surprising was that they were not the only company doing this. If you've seen IT being under used in such a way I would love to hear from you, it would be interesting to find out why.

posted on Monday, 02 April 2007 21:56:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 01 April 2007
Defence Cuts

The situation regarding our 15 UK servicemen has raised a lot of questions primarily "Where was HMS Cornwall" and "Didn't HMS Cornwall see the Iranians approaching?". There is an interesting article found here which examines the incident.

One thing I found interesting and also disheartening was the amount of defense cuts Brown has been imposing on our Naval forces (maybe they are not "meeting their targets") :

I can understand defense cuts, but only if we reduce our commitments to operations such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan, NATO and the Balkans.

posted on Sunday, 01 April 2007 17:32:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Dinner is ruined!

Yuck foul tasting toad in the holeYep I tried making toad in the hole last night and I quite simply ruined it. It has got to be one of the worst cooking disasters I have ever had along with using raspberry petit filous instead of creme fraiche for a chicken recipe. Okay I had forgotten the creme fraiche and thought I could use it as a substitute, yeah I know it seemed okay at the time. This toad in the hole the batter was dreadful looks like it got soaked in too much of the fat from the sausages and some sunflower oil (why oh I don't know). Anyway if you have a better recipe for Toad in the hole please let me know or if you think you know what went wrong I'd love to hear from you (I think:)). Anyway don't you just love pizza home delivery?

posted on Sunday, 01 April 2007 16:45:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

April Fools

Today has been filled with April fools day jokes from friends. Even larger companies such as Google have got into the act with Google TiSP a free broadband service available from Google which you receive by lowering a fibre optic cable down your toilet - class! Think Geek also had a load of funny trick products on their site such as the WiiHelm which was suppose to enable you to play Wii games by just nodding your head. The Joke Shop Shop also had people going, by thinking they were giving away free PS3's, when clicking on the link you got the "Gotcha! April Fools!" message.

Oh well I'm glad its all over now (safe!) I still haven't discovered what the BBC's April fools day joke was though.

posted on Sunday, 01 April 2007 13:59:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]