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Archive for September, 2009

Braindump 20/09/09

Posted by garethwatkins on September 20, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins go all NIN on us.

Yes it’s an advert, but it’s mesmerising. If they want viewers to stop skipping ad breaks on their V+ box (ro Sky+, if you’re that way inclined), make adverts as good as this.

I really like this idea.

Just plain cool.

Part of me can’t help thinking that they should have arrested the men, but not freed the women.

Awesome, creepy, obsessive.

This was apparently released by NASA, who are now my favourite space agency for sure.

A little bit of me is sad as this may well be the most interesting thing that ever happens to this man. Stil, great pub story.

Want to watch Hulu from the UK? Here’s how. This is probably legally dubious, so use it at your own risk.

One of the single best Parkour/Freerunning videos I’ve ever seen. The movement is incredible, the video’s well made, the soundtrack’s great, I could rave about this for ages.

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Posted by garethwatkins on September 17, 2009

I had been hoping to knock out a big steaming braindump tonight, but in the last 36 hours my Hotmail account has been hacked. The password has been changed and I can no longer access it. The same is true for my Facebook account.

Now I can live without Facebook, although it does mean I may lose touch with a few people. Those that seem to have forgotten that email exists and works perfectly well. Or those that haven’t quite yet grasped Twitter’s superiority. Losing the Hotmail account is a little infuriating though.

While I rarely use Hotmail as my main email address with friends, preferring my work account due to their sensible approach to email in the workplace (essentially, don’t be a twat) and it’s ubiquity in my (week)day to (week)day life. I do use Hotmail as a place to send myself messages from work so that I can access the information anywhere. It’s like my braindump before I dump the edited brain on here. It also contains things like my itunes e-receipts, membership information and other miscellaneous but handy rags.

And that’s where the real concern comes in.

Is there enough information in there to initiate credit fraud? Can my financial information be traced enough to be stolen? And, more importantly, does this compromise friends “working for our government” in foreign countries who only know this email address?

These are all questions that will be answered one way or another in time. Just how much time now depends on Microsoft and Facebook and their customer services departments. Both have been contacted via (work) email and both have responded with automated messages. And I understand this response, I really do. Most people who use the internet are idiots. That fact simply has to be true as most people are idiots.

So I politely furnished them with the information they required to confirm that I wasn’t an idiot (confirmation of self help steps taken, IP addresses, etc.) and I now await a response. Microsoft say I should have one within 24 hours, Facebook aren’t as specific. Mind you, Microsoft’s email also purported to be from “Max” in an attempt to convince me that I was dealing with a human. They should probably have just signed it off D.A.R.Y.L. It would at least have demonstrated some real human input somewhere along the line.

With this new-found zen-like peace, separated as I am from a segment of my social network, I have time to reflect on the emotions I’m feeling about this intrusion. I’ve been burgled before and never particularly felt my privacy had been invaded. Luckily, the burglars that have been at my stuff have never been ones to leave a “signature” behind. I think what has consumed me most, mentally, in relation to this is the question of “why?” Not an existential, “why, Lord, oh why?” but a logical understanding of the motivation.

The burglars wanted my stuff because they thought some of it might be worth a few quid and there wasn’t exactly a high level of security to prevent them from getting at it.* But they had no idea of the contents of my email account and my Facebook stuff isn’t really hidden as little is on Facebook. A thought which leads you to consider more vindictive intent. Was I targeted specifically?

Chances are that I’m not the focus of an internet scam, but a small fish just big enough to get caught in a large net. But what if I’m wrong? Who would want to hack me? The best I can manage is that it’s related to a programme I’m connected with through my job and a potentially unwise relationship stemming from that. Something it’s clearly best I don’t discuss at the moment and isn’t really that interesting in the first place. Or…Derren Brown is setting me up to be the star in the grand finale of his current Channel 4 series.

What has come out of all this is the unsympathetic abuse of friends who can’t understand why I’m not yet on Gmail. Firstly, I am on Gmail, but the intention was that my Gmail account would be a business-use account (job applications, an address to give people I don’t like but are handy to know, that sort of thing). Secondly, there is nearly a decade’s worth of crap stored in my Hotmail account. If I’m shifting email accounts I’m going to have to do some tidying, cleaning and shifting – it’ll be like moving house. And thirdly, if I’m going over to Google’s email system, I’d prefer a different address to the one I currently have. But I really don’t want a googlemail address. If I’m shifting, I want Gmail. But it’s starting to look like I may have no choice but to transfer over for my own protection.

I’ll keep you updated and I’ll hopefully have a braindump of substantial proportions to offer soon. And yes, I realise that if I want the information I’m sending myself from work I can just copy the emails from the sent items on my work account and forward them to my Gmail account. I realise this because I’m not one of the idiots.

*Please note, potential thieves, security has been increased significantly – I now have guard ferrets.


As a result of the initial complaint, the reply to the automated email from “Max” and the subsequent reply to “Diane” I was emailed with details of how to access my Hotmail account. And it worked. And it doesn’t appear that any damage has been done to it. None the less I’ll be transfering my stuff to my Gmail account as fast as I can. This also allows me to request Facebook to send me an email that allowed me to change my Facebook password. I have regained access to Facebook. Now I can continue to do nothing on there.

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My defense to Fry’s Compliance Defiance

Posted by garethwatkins on September 6, 2009

Almost exactly a year ago, Stephen Fry posted one of his brilliant podcasts on his website. I was, and remain, a rabid fan of the man and always look forward to almost everything he does. I know far too much about the origins of the printing press because of him. But this podcast really struck a chord with me, because he was talking about me and my kind.

At this years Edinburgh International TV Festival Stephen Fry repeated this rant, almost word for word.

When I first heard the podcast last year I was moved enough to write a reply on his website forums and a year on, following his repetition, I felt it only right to repeat my counter argument. This time, here, for a different, and unfortunately smaller, audience. From reading the original thread, there’s little suggestion that the Frymaniacs on his site paid much mind to my comments. There’s even less evidence to suggest that he read them. And it seems very unlikely that he will stumble upon them here:

    Posted Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 12:43am Post subject: Podcast 5 – Shooting People in the Face (Compliance)

I can’t believe I’m about to do this, but I’m going to disagree with Stephen Fry.

Not with the sentiment, but with the choice of target: compliance departments. I work in a compliance department and I am one of those people who would have had to inform his director friend that they had to wear their seatbelts in the show. Not because I think that they should, but because the rules I am ensuring the show complies with dictates that they must.

Good compliance departments and those that work in them are not there to restrict those that produce television. In most cases, they are the people most likely to be trying to push the rules to their absolute limit. I assume that the decision to enforce the actors to wear their seatbelts were based on one of the following trains of thought.

If the actors are driving cars on public roads, for however long, it is illegal for them to do so without wearing a seatbelt. No matter how unrealistic it may seem for them to put them on, knowingly forcing them to break the law would put a lot of people in trouble.

If the cars were flatbed mounted, which may have allowed the actors to not wear they’re seatbelts (although I’m not sure of the legalities of this particular convolution), or they were driving on private roads, then the decision has been made for the protection of the viewer.

If the latter is the case, then this does strike me as an odd decision to have been made. They would presumably have been acting according to their interpretation of section 1.1 and 1.2 of the Ofcom code (I’ve stuck them at the bottom of this post. Don’t worry, they’re briefer than I am). Unfortunately this decision is rendered comlpetely ridiculous when you read 1.3 (again, at the bottom). Spooks is a post watershed programme, the content of which viewers are entirely aware. So it’s not that children can’t see people on television wearing seatbelts when driving cars but can see people being shot in the face, it is that children shouldn’t be watching television at 9pm at night and therefore shoudn’t be witnessing either act.

There is of course the great possibility that this is a BBC specific directive and in which case it is as ridiculous as most of the BBC’s other working practices. And I say that as an ex-BBC employee (no, I wasn’t fired and I didn’t work for their compliance department).

Now for my stance…it’s fucking stupidity to force them to have seatbelts on. It reflects no kind of situational reality and seperates the viewer from a “dramatically realistic” representation of an emergency. But then again, the last time I walked through the east end I’m sure I heard a lot more blue language than I’ve noticed on certain televisual representations of the area. I’ve also noticed than when talking with friends they tend not to emit bar-and-tone bleeps instead of saying “fuck” or “cunt.” And I’m reasonably sure that Mr Fry doesn’t do so either, despite the fact that his appearances on QI seem to imply that he does. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments in this podgram, as I do with almost everything else that Stephen Fry says (and I wish that didn’t sound so sycophantic), but the people in the compliance departments are rarely the people that make the rules. They simply ensure that those who work by them comply with them.

To finally finish with a small personal defence, the sort of person who works in a compliance department is rarely the idiot described in the podgram. I hope this post, for those that have managed to read it this far, demonstrates that I am, I think, one of the people Stephen Fry would like to think was listening to his podgrams. “Wise” and “sensible” seem strong descriptions to apply to myself, but I don’t think I’m the polar opposite either.

And it is not us compliance people that make the rules, unfortunately. The rules are ultimately created based on the opinions of the public. If enough people complain about something rules get made. And I’m sure we all know about the sort of people who complain…just mention doing something unpleasant to a cat (it’s all very funny on QI, Mr Fry, but you aren’t the one who has to deal with these idiots!). So ultimately the rules are made by you (and me) who, as members of the public, don’t write to Ofcom (or even the BBC directly) complaining that they were wearing their seatbelts in a situation where they clearly wouldn’t be. As part of the public, we’re all to blame.

And finally, while I’m writing in the hope you may read this, please keep the podgrams coming. I love them. Where this one made me a little riled, but also amused, the last one nearly brought me to tears. Unfortunately it nearly did so as I walked through the doors of my office making me look like a big girly girl in front of the other compliance types who were busy looking for untied shoe laces in late night drama series.

Ofcom Code
1.1 Material that might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of people under eighteen must not be broadcast.
1.2 In the provision of services, broadcasters must take all reasonable steps to protect people under eighteen.
1.3 Children must also be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.

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Braindump 05/09/09

Posted by garethwatkins on September 6, 2009

A few links that distracted me in my day of doing nothing.

Ladies, if you think fitting three women in a cubical is complicated, just think what we have to go through. (thanks to @SeveralBillionM)

SO. MUCH. FUN! Where can I buy the small one?

It’s like Joseph Jackson’s wet dream.

This just caught my eye.

If I ever get to use any of these in coversation, I would be so happy. (thanks to @Alyssa_Milano)

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Belated bonus bank holiday braindump 31/08/09

Posted by garethwatkins on September 1, 2009

I’ll admit it, I want that costume.

Now that’s the way to do it!

Nope, not a clue either. But I like it.

Smile for the camera.

Seriously, prisoners are inventive.

I’m assuming he passed with flying colours.

Another dancing Transformer. It still makes me happy.

It’s like a Tarantinorgasm.

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