Archive for News

Queen is Having a Good Olympics

// August 5th, 2012 // 2 Comments » // News

The Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has plenty of other titles, and is Head of State for 16 countries in all – Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & Grenadines, Soloman Islands and Tuvalu alongside the UK.

I threw together a little spreadsheet to show how her countries when bundled together compare to the two outright medal leaders, China and the US:

At the time of writing, she was ahead by 14 medals overall, but remained back at #3 in the Gold rankings (same as the UK on its own, though New Zealand is also putting in a credible performance and sporting minnows like Canada, Jamaica and Australia are doing their bit for the Crown).

For anyone curious, this is dynamically updated from raw data published by the Guardian using the Google Docs ImportRange command, which can include live updating chunks of any Google spreadsheet into another.

Using a Dell Wireless 1525 Mini-PCI Card on a Non-Dell PC

// March 17th, 2012 // 2 Comments » // News

The builders and electrician who set up my new flat made some very creative wiring choices which have left me with half as many plugs as I need, all in awkward places, and a hugely inconvenient landline socket into which my ADSL broadband router is plugged – nowhere near my desk and my desktop PC.

Luckily I had access to a free Wi-Fi networking card from an old Dell Vostro desktop that didn’t need wireless, so I popped it into the non-Dell desktop, established that it was an Atholos 1525 Mini-PCI card, downloaded the drivers from Dell and tried to install them. No joy, the installer just pops up a dialogue stating “The installer can not run on this platform. Please select package for your operating system.” – Dell appear to have customised the installer exe to only run on their own hardware, even though the card itself can run on any Windows PC.

There doesn’t seem to be a non-Dell driver for this card, at least not one I could find that worked, but a little lateral thought solved the problem. Rarher than run the installer exe, jump into the Windows Control Panel, go to Device Manager, find the “broken” hardware entry under “Network adapters”, double click on it and then opt to install a driver from the local hard drive. Point the installer at the folder your Dell drivers were unpacked to (eg. C:\dell\drivers\P12345678 – the download will have asked you to specify a folder), and it’ll do the rest.

Bleak – For The Good of the Nation review

// June 22nd, 2011 // No Comments » // News

I have to confess, it has taken me half a year to write this review. Not because I don’t like the album – I do, in places a lot. But because I know the band, and like them, and felt that that would largely compromise the integrity of the review. It was only when I found myself absent mindedly really getting into Shake whilst walking through Gatwick – completely unaware that it was Bleak playing, just enjoying the music – that I felt I should do it.

Bleak present a pretty unique blend of the blues, in large part due to singer Anton’s Russian accented vocals – not everyone will like them, but there’s a lot to like from the rage of Wash My Hands to the laid back mellow bliss of Melt.

photo

One of the most interesting aspects of the recorded album was how it changed my perception of which songs were my favourites. Live – especially accoustic – I find Absinthe to be an emotional masterpiece, with far more soul than its drinking lyrics carry written down on paper; on the album it’s good, but falls behind Get Thee Behind Me – a song I never fully warmed to live.

Not The First can justifiably whip up a stonking mosh pit live, but is surpassed by Wash My Hands as the record’s superlative song to rock out to. Wash My Hands rocketed into my top 3 songs to shred piste to in Val d’Isere this January – objectively, from any band. It retained that crown at Snowbombing in April despite the plethora of quality drum’n'bass going on around me, which is no mean feat.

At this point I’m painfully aware that I lack the skill of writing a good music review, so I’ll stop. Suffice to say – check them out live (they’re at The Goldsmiths in Southwark tomorrow night, and the Purple Turtle in Camden in a few weeks time), pick up the album, or both. At the very least you’ll be entertained, and the bassist is hot ;)

You can pick the album up on iTunes or Amazon.

Movember Update – Day 21

// November 21st, 2010 // No Comments » // News

This month I’ve been taking part in Movember, the world’s premier facial hair charity event held to raise funds for prostate cancer.

Starting from a clean shave on November 1st, the trick is to come up with the most impressive moustache possible without any beard or joining up of sideburns – which still leaves plenty of creative potential :) Right now, I’m sporting a pair of lightning stripes down under my chin:

Movember day 9

I’m thinking it’s now time to start changing the style – sponsor me some money and you can have a say in where it goes next :)

For the curious, this is what it looked like on day 9, before I added the last step of the lightning:

Fun though the moustachery is, it’s all for a good cause – one man dies every hour in the UK from prostate cancer, and by sponsoring me here you can help raise awareness and find a cure.

War in the Park festival 2010

// September 4th, 2010 // No Comments » // News, Photography

I had the great pleasure of attending London’s underground War in the Park festival last weekend – and the even greater pleasure of missing the torrential downpour that left most people huddled under a tarpaulin serenaded by raindrops and the inimitable Country Al‘s Lonesome Guitar. I caught his set at the warmup gig in Brixton Market a week before, so don’t feel as upset about missing it as I otherwise would.

Country Al at War in the Park - pictured here with a harmonica, on account of me missing his Lonesome Guitar set

I’ve been to a lot of music festivals since taking part in Pitchshifter’s stage invasion that opened Phoenix ’95, and they’ve all got something different going for them but they all share some common commercial ground – even the boutiques like Winterwell, rising up to fill the gaps as the older boutiques like Bestival grow.

Bleak - acoustic set at War in the Park

War in the Park is a little different, entirely dropping the commercial angle and concentrating on an eclectic mix of acoustic music, poetry and spoken word curated by Anton and Yvonne of Bleak.  You are unlikely to watch Guns’n'Roses close off the day with a headlining set, but then again that’s rare even when you pay £150 for a festival they’re billed as headlining… instead you get to relax with a hundred or so chilled out people (and some bemused locals) in a park of Anton’s choice (it’s only announced a few days before) listening to some slightly more ethical musicians than Axel, more likely to hold forth on justice or sustainability than how annoying it is to be paid a lot of money to do something and then have to do it.

Joe Law crowd surfing to the poetry of SP Howarth at War in the Park 2010

Particular highlights were the first ever recorded crowd surf at a poetry gig, bravely performed by Mr Joe Law to the lyrics of SP Howarth, and an acoustic performance of Absinthe by Bleak – which they rarely play live but really should.  I’m reliably informed that it will be on the new album, but this is the same album that has been coming for several years so don’t hold your breath.

Closing set of War in the Park - not G'n'R, you can tell because they're there and they're playing music rather than bitching about stuff

I do feel semi-obliged to mention and review all of the other acts, but then again I’d just say nice things, if alcohol allowed me to remember all of their names. I urge you all to track them down here and listen to their stuff, in a legally responsible fashion. Herbal viagra optional.

Roll on next year’s War… in the meantime, photos of this year’s destruction are here.

Name and Shame: Halifax helps enable Identity Fraud

// August 14th, 2009 // No Comments » // News

I just got a cold call to my personal mobile from one of the UK Government’s new acquisitions, Halifax bank. I was expecting an unrelated business call, so when I saw an unknown number I answered a bit more formally than is my usual wont; the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hello, Tom Godber speaking”
Them: “Er… (pause)… is that Tom Godber?”
Me: “Speaking, yes”
Them: “Right. It’s about your (financial product), but I have to ask you some security questions first. Can you tell me…”
Me: “Hold on, who are you?”
Them: “Oh, it’s Halifax. I need to ask you security questions to prevent fraud. So, …”
Me: “Prove it”
Them: “Sorry?”
Me: “Give me something to prove you actually are Halifax. You could be anyone. Tell me the exact type of (financial product) I have with you, and then I’ll answer your questions.”
Them: “I can’t do that, for security reasons.”
Me: “OK, give me a number I can externally verify as belonging to the Halifax, which I will then call you back on.”
Them: “I don’t understand. If you just answer the questions I can tell you what this is about…”
Me: “No. I don’t know who you are and you refuse to prove your identity so I won’t tell you any of my secret information. What I need you to do is tell me which department you are in, and your name, and I’ll call you back via the number listed on the Halifax website for that department. Then I know I am speaking to the Halifax.”
Them: “Don’t worry sir, we sent you this information in the post as well and it requires no action. Have a nice day.”

I would like to ask Halifax how exactly this is different from the script an identity fraudster would use – a sufficiently compelling caller talking to a sufficiently incautious or distracted victim could easily compel the handover of enough information to compromise an account, and Halifax are training their customers to fall for it!

The eagle eyed will also note:

  • The only personal information the caller gave me was my name, which I had already given them when I answered;
  • I was forced to confirm that I had this financial product with a bank somewhere, unless I just hung up – but it could have been an urgent call, so it’s unlikely anyone would hang up without finding out more;
  • Had I not asked which company the caller was from, they could almost certainly have tricked me into revealing which provider I had this product with; the guy didn’t even say he was from Halifax at first!
  • Caller ID can be spoofed, so the number displayed on my mobile is no guarantee of anything (even if I knew what number Halifax’s call centres used).

One can only conclude that Halifax bank would like customers to give out all of their secret identity information to any person who calls up and asks about any financial product.  This is absolutely appalling, and you can bet they’ll try and squirm out of any responsibility when victims of identity fraud have to spend months of their own time picking up the pieces.

Bootnote: there was indeed a letter sitting on my doorstep when I got home, from the Halifax.  It detailed how much money Halifax had lost for me with this financial product over the last 6 months, and encouraged me to start putting more money in to gain further benefits.  So this whole thing was really just a sales call, with all the benefits on their side and all the downsides on mine.  Shocking.