Friday, November 14, 2014

The Dark Skys of Ceredigion

In the 2 and a bit years we have lived in the middle of nowhere, a very non-scientic assessment is that the amount of light pollution has reduced (think 3 miles south of Aberystwyth 300m back from the sea, so not many houses). I suspect in the main due to the repalcement of street lamps with more efficient units which don't through light upwards as much.

From Newport Railway Station
Maybe this is something that could be promoted a little further north and west in Wales.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Real Poetry - The Druid Thursday 23rd Of October : Tedious whining poets - up your bum!

A bit of proper poetry for a Thursday night at The Druid in Goginan. Attila the Stockbroker returns for a 3rd time (even years only) on the 23rd of October. The last 2 nights were fantastic nights, so don't miss out.

No tedious whining or your money back !!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A slightly different view on Shellsocked BASH bug

Before I joined Sun, I was a BASH user (think mid 90's). Moving to the commercial enviornment I found myself on systems without BASH so it was just easier to train my mind to use ksh.

Now in my book if a bug can lie undescovered for 25 years (we could look at the mercurial log I guess to see the change history to this bug, but its been there a long time) then that is a good advert for the quality of the code in question. Its a super edge case, though clearly if it gets 10 out of 10 on the scale of vulnerabilities its an important one, but thats more down to the ubiquity of the use of BASH as a medium to spawn processes in CGI and DHCP server for example, rather than the seriousness of the bug itself.

What is reported of what Mr Dyhouse said is disappointing

That such key parts of everyday technology are maintained in this way is a cause for concern, said Tony Dyhouse from the UK's Trustworthy Software Initiative.
"To achieve a more stable and secure technology environment in which businesses and individuals can feel truly safe, we have to peel back the layers, start at the bottom and work up," he said.
"This is utterly symptomatic of the historic neglect we have seen for the development of a dependable and trustworthy baseline upon which to develop a software infrastructure for the UK.
"Ultimately, this is a lifecycle problem. It's here because people are making mistakes whilst writing code and making further mistakes when patching the original problems."

If we all did what Mr Dyhouse suggests the process of rewriting seriously complex systems(and BASH is) from scratch would introduce orders of magnitude more security, functionality and reliability issues for code that would never ship.  Time for a look at the bigger picture.

Maybe this was mis-reported or maybe Mr Dyhouse has not worked on large complex software systems, either could be true. When did you write some code that someone else relies on Tony?

There are 2 important aspects to this

  1. Finding bugs and then fixing them is part of the engineering lifecycle of software systems, it is symtomatic of it being hard and complex
  2. If a bug in shell pattern matching has such widespread consequences, then there is an architectural problem.
There is also no doubt a promotion aspect to this, lots of people stepping up to present themselves as todays informed pundit.

The real questions and the only ones that matters, unless we are going to stop using computers until a major rearchitecture effort is completeted, is  ....

where is the next security bug, and the next, and the next ........

Friday, August 29, 2014

Why no bikes on Ceredigion buses.

With no intentioned or otherwise critisisum, I fear Alun Williams has a few more questions to ask in his very good blog on the lack of Bike rack facilities on Ceredigion busses.

He may well of asked them inside his head, but any conclusions are probably not blog material for Cabinate level local politicians, so I can't fault him at all.

So why are the places Alun has visited like Toronto and L.A. more Bike transport on bus friendly. I have seen the same in S.F., Boston and New York which it is

  • Easy to hire bikes
  • Easy to move them around on public transport (not sure about NYC).
  • Safer to cycle
As my good friend and keen cyclist Mr Gerhard points out that some members of the population of London think it sport to dismount cyclists, but the major US cities I have visited in the last few years are really getting with the plot in this respect, abit from a very low starting point and far from Universal. Cycling in somewhere like Stockton would be a nightmare and probably very short lived.

So lets get back to the why? I suspect the following are at play to greater or lesser extents

  • Competition. I don't mean competion between rival bus providers.  In rural Wales you are greatful that there is a bus at all. But compeition at the level of management. Firms is either family owned and run or like Arriva in decline from the business so what bright spark is going to choose running a bus company as a careeer, unless it is one of those very well run local firms (me thinks of Mid Wales Travel for example which is expanded exponetially in the last few years) and its in the family already ?
  • Competition. People live in mid-Wales because they either want to or because they don't know anything else and this results in inertia, you have what you have got and there is little culture of pressing for better services. Cities like Boston can mandate the form of the service and companies or there own departments have to comply.
  • Inovation happens elsewhere (which I think was a Bill Joy-ism). It is probably a bit much to expect quite small rural bus companies, in an area which is greatful to have any bus service, to be UK leaders in their cycle transport provision.
  • Ceredigion is rural. Bus speeds are probably higher and distance between stops is greater than in the cities cited.
  • The insurance and H & S situation may contain a non-zero  amount of FUD which is hard to hack and costly through.
  • There maybe a serious cost implication for the company. The racks my require bus modiciation which may be a factory job (it not like strapping a bike onto your car) and so may need to be ordered with such facilities. I would suspect the US example has the racks factory fitted, but that is conjecture.
some of the above may be wrong and there may be addtaional factors at play, but we need to starting thinking deeply about the positive and negative consequences short and long term for the companies to "do the right thing" if we want the behaviours(such has having bike racks on buses) to change.

Maybe the bus companies are acting very rationally to the environment in which they operate. We want change, we need to think about the above and more.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nun's in Combat Boots are common place

Year 12 for me and the festival, very good. No rain apart from a little drizzle on Sunday. A cracking good time, some great bands. Only complaint is that a few very good bands played on the Bandstand, loads of people turned up and few could hear or see them (Mad Dog Macrea and Seize the Day for example, both should have been main stage).  Missed Sea Sick Steve as M. went to see Belowhead and I stayed behind to look after sleeping kids (no complaint). Steve Earle was OK, Jimmy Cliff was excellent and Levellers as good as always. Next year again then maybe ....

The world would be a better place with more nun's like this
Public Service Broadcasting : excellent

Bless you sister's

Drumming with scrap - very good

His and her's

Rev. and the Makers

The Ruts DC

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Depopulation of rural Ceredigion - unconconcious social engineering

Imagine you were a local council member for a rural area, like say Powys or Ceredigion. Your budget has seen a substantial cut, you are having to make unpopular cuts to important services like health, refuse collection, social services, schools, etc. If someone came up with a novel solution that impacted few people, would you not consider it ?

Well I have it. A plan with no downsides. Here is an approach to a bit of social engineering inspired by the Highland Clearances but without boats or brutality. Reduce the number of people in the most rural parts of the county, I said it was simple.

All the council has to do for its part is put more and more services online and not pay any attention to getting the last few % decent internet connectivity and the rest will work itself out.

Younger people will move out of these areas as their friends are online and they are not, they are unconnected in a connected world. Anyone with kids will need to move as school work is increasingly online. Those wanting to work from home will have to move. Only older people are left and they will either die or won't be able to cope in the unbalanced communities composed only of the elderly and also have to move leaving the properties empty - result.

The blame can be placed at the door of a 3rd party, the incumbent telco provider who says it is uneconomic and they are not being funded to provide universal service. They can be vague about future plans, promising that technology will reach more and more remote areas which just need to wait, and wait until there are such a small subset they don't matter and their voice is dispersed that they carry no weight that when nothing is provided it does not matter.

Now the downside of all this is it would take years for the social movement to happen and houses to be devalued to the extent there would be abandoned, but social engineering always has been the long game, the highland clearance took over 100 years.

This satire shows how easy it is to sleep walk into this type of social engineering by accident by inaction and a lack of forward vision in just depending on the market to deliver.

I don't think it could happen, could it?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pension shake-up will leave some high and dry without proper guidance

The Coversation was a good find. An mostly pragmatic and more worldly version of Wales@home.
Any talk of pensions(like here) also seems to include the assertion that without proper professional advice punters will make the wrong decisions.

7 years as a trustee of a large D.C. pension fund made me very cynical of the finanical advice industry, it is not fit for purpose, depsite recent changes. While I very much welcome the pension changes, if the financial ecosystem is too complex for a person of average inteligence and average general knowledge to make their own good decisions, then it is just too complex and in need of urgent reform. I can't see such reforms to empower Joe and Jane public happening, the various vested interests have too much stake in the current complex ecosystem and the resultant fee income continuing.

This is why Defined Benefit schemes were a good idea, they put risk and decision making generally in the hands of those who have enough knowledge to make informed decisions.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Aberystwyth bandstand : a good decision at least

A new band stand should never have been a priority and sanity has at last prevailed.

Lets hope it continues

Saturday, March 15, 2014

From Sheffield to Durham - 2001-ish

Probably the most intesting 90 minutes of sitting oppositie someone on a train it was possible to have.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Leane Wood needs a new/no image consultant

Before Leadership

I admire Leane as a radical politician. However, it seems she kept the image consultant of her predecessor as party leader. I guess driven by significnat pressure to conform to what is expected of a party leader in terms of looks and that is a real shame she has bowed to it.

Will voters will be less warm to the new Leane image which  in turn makes the party less credible and less electable which is bad for Wales as the current Cardiff Government need some serious competition.

Image should be irrelevant, but voters are animals governed by their  subconscious.
Will the real Leane Wood please come on down.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Do people really get taken in by these?

Could this just posibly be a scam?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Standing on the edge of the Hoover Dam

Standing on the edge
Of the Hoover Dam
I'm on the centerline
Right between two states of mind
And if the wind from the traffic
Should blow me away
The masses who have taken a break from their seat in front of slot machines on the Strip for a few hours. 45 minutes of iPod nano  turned them into ghosts who were present but floated past and were easily ignored.

From this altitude
It will come back to you
And do you know the time
All that's left of me is slight insanity
What's on the right I don't know

I first heard mention of this album in maybe 2000 while driving home from Camberly with a interview on the radio with Idlewild who cited it as one of their favorites and that Bob Mold had set out to write an album taking the style of the 10 most popular indie bands of the time, a song each. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere else.

If the Mississippi should wash me away
Down to New Orleans
Maybe someday in my dreams
I'd wake feeling the sweat
From the gulf in my mouth
The helicopter trip was too good to pass up on.

On a carousel I can never tell
My direction home
Spinning down a hole
I'm losing all control
I'm down to the center of the earth

I had been to the Grand Canyon which is up river on the Colorado river last year, so had some 
idea of the scale. I did expect it to feel more remote, but there were a plethora of roads and you could even drive over it which I did not expect.

Covered up with lava and I feel fine
It washes over me
Keeps me feeling warm at night
And if you've made a deal with
The guy with the horns and the cape
I'll see you later later
An ambition for the last 10 years or so has been to stand on the Hoover Dam and listen from start to finish the whole of Copper Blue by Suger. The experience was everything I wanted it to be right from the 1st unmistakeable guitar riffs, but I am still no wiser as to what the lyrics are meant to be about.

Standing on the edge
Of the Hoover Dam
Standing on the edge
Of the Hoover Dam I am

Sunday, January 26, 2014

BCS Newtown event : Richard Brown : Nobody needs more than 19Mbps broadband, do they?

Since it was my idea for the speaker on Wednesday, I suggest that he is likely to  be good value and interesting. details here 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Arreseted for swiming in the sea

I read this BBC article about someone getting arrested after swimming in the sea and thought it odd.

I may well have been daft to swim in the sea yesterday. From 100m above sea level we could clearly sea waves, so it would have been quite rough. But arrested? They made there own way out.

Clearly the reporting might be missing something like he lumped a copper when he got out, but there is no way they should have been arrested just for being stupid.

I wonder what the missing part of the story was?

I know 2 people who swim in the sea year round and I can imagine one of them giving anyone who challenged them a ear full.