Tech

Facebook

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I loathe FaceBook.

I suspended my account the other day after FB allowed people to sign other people up to groups without their consent.  FB already secure their information behind their Walled Garden, much to everyone’s chagrin; so advertisers and games get access to information but we do not.  This is breaking down, see for example this article: http://www.downloadsquad.com/2010/03/05/yahoo-can-now-import-your-facebook-contacts/ which is reproduced in other places on the web.

I actually did this, but contact management is a complex issue, and anyway, what I am I going to do, email 300 people?  No.

No, I’m not going to send out mass emails, (even BCC’d which it seems many people don’t know how to do, even companies), every time I want to say something.

Not many of my friends have me on Twitter, though a few do, and they don’t tweet often those that do…

Though I should say that most of my Twitter contacts are people I know or know through friends and I love to hear from them, they are web friends in a way that I have previously avoided.

(Let me just say why, as an aside.  I invariably have a female avatar or representation, see further back in my blog history for why; and I find that on more than one occassion in the past, when we were all a bit more anonymous on the web; after finding out that I’m a guy, some fundamentalist religious type has told me that I’m a sinner or some such.  This usually follows an ASL request which I always deny.  [ASL, Age Sex Location].  Often abused because I wouldn’t ever get into that, in particular I recognised that anyone wanting that before talking to me on the web was looking for a girlfriend; I’m not interested in that, and it used to annoy them that I recognised it and said so…  anyway).

Anyway point is that I’m not going to send a massive pile of emails every time I want to say something, I’m a bit crap at blog entries, though @iskandarv seems to think I should carry on, (respect to you my friend), and a lot of the people I know are not on Twitter.

FaceBook has become the killer app of social networking.

Now, Rory Cellan Jones seems to think that we should be owning our space because the mass of data that is collected about us even when we’re not on a given network, is so massive that any network knows something about us, and FaceBook is  the primary example of this as demonstrated in this article:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11527201 How FaceBook knows your friends.

FB already knows everything about me.  If I’m not participating I’m not controlling my space.

I have the AniaKovas identity all over the web for precisely this reason.  I’ve even started a blog for it, mostly to do with my online MMORPG, (see http://www.perfectworld.com) which I have not done much lately because I have been, well, finishing my Dissertation and doing webby stuff.  And the Star Map.

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BIG ASIDE

Dun duh Daaaahhhhhhhhhh!

Anyone on Twitter already knows this, but I can’t resist, well blowing my own trumpet.

I got a Distinction overall in my Masters, with a Prize too, for which reason I’m still not clear about, worth about £800, (I’d rather actually have the £800, but the Kudos is important too, more important actually).

My Dissertation wasn’t that great actually; feedback is that it was innovative and sound right up until the conclusion where I trailed off a bit…

This was my analysis too. There are reasons for it to do with framing the conclusion in the right terms.  I wasn’t completing a report, (which was how I actually framed it).

Ah, there were a few practical issues as well, normally I get #lovelyGF to help me proof read, because like nearly everyone I’m a bad proof reader of my own work; but she had to be away at a conference that week for two days, and then later at a tutorial, (I still can’t remember now if she was giving it or receiving it); so I had kids and house and blah blah blah…

Oh well, these things are sent to try us.

Point is, I can always do better, and expect to do so because I have been around the block a few times, and know a couple of things.  I’m an indifferent student really, but I get better the higher up I am.

(So I left school with just three “O” levels because I wasn’t interested in anything else, went to college later on to do Five “A”levels AND work, but had to give it up in the second year because it wouldn’t all fit, failed Physics, Maths and Computing at Liverpool because being amongst people after two years in the sticks was just too exciting, and I’m used to breezing what I DO bother to study.  And undergraduate physics is BORING.  I grew up with book on Quantum Physics and have watched the changed as they have happened.  I can no longer pretend to understand all of it, String Theory did my head in).

I work hard at programming, because I never learned Logic until I went Bangor University and got a Computer Science degree, and realised that the thing missing from my life, and practically everyone else’s life was a good grasp of mathematical fundamentals; not arithmetic, which you are either good at or not, MATHEMATICS.  (Trouble is, I can do arithmetic, but the fundamental properties of numbers are not my friend, so I have to work hard at mathematics; but it makes computing so much easier, once you get #lovelyGF to understand that division is a sin.  Fractions are not).

Point is, the more educated I get, the better I do at it.

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Where was I?

I am Ania and Friday.  Some people have even called me Ania to my face, but that’s really missing the point; it’s not offensive, but in life, when I am face to face, I cannot be her, because I have a face like John Prescott on dope.  It’s naturally miserable unless I am actively smiling or Laughing, which I do a fair bit unless I am programming.  I say “Girl Inside”, because she is an inner me.

Back to FaceBook.

Thing is, this practice I make, of owning my online space, I have abandoned it if I am not there.

The really important reason, though, the overriding reason, the one which drives me back despite my criticism and constant abuse of FB, and I do swear about it a lot, is that my friends are on it, and I miss being able to talk to them and know what they are doing, even when they are not talking directly to me.

I miss my fwiends.

So I’m going to sign in again.

So much for principles.

Cold Callers and the drawing pin.

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Years ago when I lived in Wales, my office window used to look out at the street, in the evenings I use to keep the curtains closed even before sunset because the filthy daylight streamed in an interfered with my coding by inducing bright reflections on the screen; but during the day, since my office was north facing, I could leave the curtain open, look out to the sea, and the street below.

This post is inspired by a tweet from @wombat37.

So this one day, I saw a succession of callers going from house to house, and being turned away, but I answered the door anyway, and listened to the blonde girl in the red blazer, with the word “Virgin” on the, well, breast of the jacket.  After a moment I realised that I was not actually listening too her at all, but thinking about my code, because losing the thread is a devil, lose the logic and you can’t write the code.

Anyway, so really I was was just looking at her because she was eye candy, and I really feel quite uncomfortable doing that, because I don’t like to demean people, who are complex; but also and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’ll say it again because it’s important, I was coding.  So I said as politely as I could that really wasn’t listening because, because I was coding and could she please go away.  Then I looked out the door and saw the next six working their way around the neighbours.

Well, I couldn’t be disturbed again, and they certainly weren’t the Virgin girl, so I really didn’t want to be disturbed again, so I quickly printed a note, a grumpy note in large letters that could be seen from the road,

“Go away, I’m programming”.

Thing I couldn’t find a drawing pin, and I was getting a bit impatient by this time, because I was about to lose the thread, and I was working on something for a client, so by definition, they wanted it yesterday.  So I got the first convenient thing I could lay my hands on and stuck the note on the door with that.

Everyone else sort of paused at the gate, looked nervous and moved on.

“Good note,” I thought, “well done Friday.”

It was only when I went to get the kids from school that I realised that I had stuck the note to the door using a convenient very large carving knife that I had come across in the kitchen.  You can imagine that this led me to question the efficacy of my note.  I took it out before I took the kids home, I thought probably the boys would ask why, and it might be difficult to explain what had seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.

Still, we got a lot less cold callers after that.  I bought a packet of drawing pins though.

Backup your data but…

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I got what might safely be termed “A right kicking” datawise over the summer. Yep, the Geek lost data, had it overwritten/lost my work/had to crawl up to my dissertation supervisor and say that I lost two weeks work.

Let’s be clear here; I backup my data, it’s far too valuable to lost and I’ve been bitten before, in the dim and distant past when I didn’t spend money/time on backing up, I learned the hard way that you BACKUP or lose those pictures/data/memories/work.

In fact I often carry so many memory sticks around now, that my single enduring programmer joke is that “I pity the fool! that don’t backup his data!”

Where did it all go wrong?

Well.

There were a few factors. I have teenage boys who think that they are invulnerable to a drive-by, so they will occassionally go and download things without thinking, I’m pointing at YOU the eldest, yes indeed. They got two things at once on their latop at once, one just a nasty bit of malware masquerading as a bit of antivirus kit, and the other some kind of Zero Day exploit, a root-kit. Ouch.

I rather airily assumed that these were removable with the usual stuff, wrong! We actually trashed the hard drive ont he laptop looking for this stuff.

I plugged my Ubuntu rescue kit in, fine, no problem, except that it boots Windows too, and took the root kit, which got onto MY latop.

Ok fine, I knew what was going on then, but I was in the middle of doing the other laptop and didn’t disconnect from the cloud.

Oh woe is me, because I backup right, to the clould, a lot.  Really a lot.  Curently my main services are Dropbox, Mozy, Humyo, MS Live Sync (Wonderful), Google syncing, (when I connect right), Skydrive and a few others that are less accessable.  So I synched.  The way I sunch often involved putting my encrypted drive, because only a fool syncs unencrypted password data onto the cloud, and a couple of other files that maintain things for me.  Oh goody, I had my encrypted drive open, but it syncs anyhow.

So, because I had been away from my desktop for a while, (I my boys live with my ex-partner, but we get on really very well and I was on an extended visit), it wasn’t on, Live Sync didn’t, saved the work from two weeks ago at least, but I hadn’t backed up to a stick in at least that amount of time, because I was backing up to the cloud so I’m safe right?

Wrong.  Dead wrong as it turns out.

So,

What is the problem here?

It’s taken me a while to think about it.  It’s not the software or the hardware.  It’s not the malware and virus, (well, it IS, but not in this context), it’s a human problem.  I screwed up.

I screwed up because, like nearly everyone I know who actually backs up, and I do have loads of data that I don’t backup because it’s too expensive, so just the important stuff; I was being LAZY and “SAFE” at the same time.  Except that these two things don’t go together.  Especially in the context of data.

I was being “safe” because, I assured myself, I was backing up so I’m alright Jack, you peons don’t know what it is to backup, and I’m always going to come out on top because of it.  Oh how we learn humility.

I was being LAZY because I relied on non-volitional techniques to keep me safe.  I wanted it done automatically, in triplicate, silently witout hassle.  I wanted an agent to do it for me.

Now, what’s wrong with that?

Well, I lost a hard drive and 100GB of data for the family, and two weeks worth of my Dissertation, (for my Masters), that’s what.

Backup, at some point, must be volitional as well.  In the “good old days” when you had to actually put a floppy in to backup, it was volitional.  You didn’t transmit that Zero-day  exploit unless you were careless, unless you actually inserted that floppy.  Now, if you’re not careful, all you have to do is wait for the cloud.  And if you’re paranoid like me, your encrypted files can’t bec checked on the way in by your cloud service, or even your receiving computer.  You are well and truely, like me, scr…..

Anyway.

Point is, backups, real backups are a hassle, they will always be a hassle.  Take the time.  Use a stick daily.  Use two sticks, on every other day.  Do the grandparent, parent, child backup routine, because one day you will get hit by a Zero-day exploit too, and you’ll be writing blog entry about why it’s so important to backup volitionally.

Why I don’t write content

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Problem. I don’t readily generate content.

I’m a “Website Designer”, in theory. In practice I’m a Middleware Designer, or a Web Application Designer.

I don’t generate content, generally, I don’t care about it except as the filler for the design. But I loather particularly all website design. Notable exceptions are Google, and LifeHacker. There are others. (Steve Gibson’s fanatically ranting grc.com, the man is a genius and I’m sure quite quite mad, is terrible in many ways. If he is, he is driven so by the daft things he writes solutions for in Windows, he writes in C for it, I think that counts. Most useful site I ever came across. Really).

I was saying that I don’t generate content. For the most part I have nothing to say of any importance whatsoever on the web. I have put things on the web before, (like my Garden Shed project), but nearly all content I generate has been some filler to test some design concept or to test some design of the middleware I have been testing out.

Point is, have been doing this for a long time. People want sites and I write the software that makes them be able to write their own material without bothering me. Now lots of other people are doing it too. Badly. WordPress, for what it does, (mostly Blogging), actually does it rather well. Which is why I am using it. What I do is rather more advanced, not in file uploading, (Because I don’t touch Flash), not in content generation, that’s up to the client, but increasingly in content organisation. This is the part where most CMSs (Content Management Systems), fall over, they cannot organise the structure of their website, or allow its re-organisation. Mine can. WordPress promises some more of this in the future, I do it now. but my stuff is not for blogging, it’s for site creation and maintenance.

In fact I have recently come to understand that that the effort involved in making this easy might be overblown for 90% of the time. It is that little 10% that is important, the creation time, when information might be re-organised at the page level. This is about the granularity of information and how it is organised.

Now, my dissertation, yes, I completed my undergraduate degree, (at the age of 44), last year, (see the date on the entry), talked about the organisation of information. I did some research, Goddess knows I’m not the greatest researcher, but the trail of effort to organise information in the more meaningfully semantic way leads back past Berners-Lee, who implemented the Internet that we know today, but did not, as so many write, invent it, to Ted Nelson, who coined the phrase Hypertext way back in the 60’s, and positied the internet in this shape, the shape we have today, and POINTED OUT THE FLAWS almost immediately, (for another time); past Vannevar Bush, who imagined at the end of the Second World War a universal system for looking up data involving projected and cut and paste microfiche projected on screens on a desk, right back to Paul Otlet, who with his team at the turn of the 20th century started indexing what came to be 15,000,000 books on twice that many index cards. That kind of effort shows that organising information is an important and worthwhile pursuit. Ted Nelson shows us that it is worth pursuing down to paragraph level.

That’s where I’m going. The hell with generating content. That’s for people who want to sell things, or hold an exposition. I couldn’t give a damn about that, I want to organise it.

Looking for the right look…

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Anyone who has bothered to visit more than once will notice a new look.  This is likely to happen a lot at OurCafe until I am happy with it.  What isn’t likely is that I’ll be happy with it.

I have determined that I should be updating Works First Time more often, and I’m going add a lot of the stuff I use daily there.  Starting today.  An entry a day, I swear.  Althought the title is fairly slef explanatory, you should be told that Works First Time is my technical blog, focussed on IT rather than any other kind of technical influence.

I’m currently trying to design myself a new business card.

And no, that’s not me up top.