Archive for October, 2006

Windy Leeds

For all not in Leeds right now you wouldn’t believe how windy it is. I don’t think I’ve ever heard wind buffeting the roof of a house the way its doing now since I was last up in North Wales in winter. It’s really howling.

Makes me glad I’m nice and warm in my room, although I must say I’ve thought the roof was going to blow off once or twice!

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Joy of Autumn

This morning as I walked into uni I was struck by how much into autumn we really are and how wonderful the scenary can be at this time of year. The sun bathed the pavement with multicoloured light from the turning trees above as I scuffed my way through an ankle deep covering of darker leaves that had already fallen. For a brief few moments I was back in Verulamium park as a 6 year old kicking leaves high into the air as I watched them fall down around me, then as that memory faded another took its place where I was in the back of the car as a child of 12 watching the colours on the trees whizz past above me as we made our way along the bala pass on route to Nefyn in North Wales. Happy days for sure.

Theres just something about autumn this year that makes me sit back in my seat, appreciate whats around me and smile as I realise its really been a great year so far, that and to have mild weather and sunshine in the morning when its nearly November is almost too good to be true and long may it all continue :)

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WordPress upgraded

In line with the latest WordPress release the core code running this website has been upgraded to the latest version. This update closes some known security loopholes as well as providing a few tweaks to the admin side of things which should make brining content to you even less hassle free.

I encourage all users of WordPress to upgrade to the latest version to avoid potential security issues. You can get the latest release on the WordPress site

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Jailed for blogging

The other day I was pointed by Heather to a BBC article on the plight of some bloggers around the world and the fact that freedom of speech online doesn’t exist in all parts of the world as we like to believe it does. You can read the article here.

This article focuses on the plight of many people the world over for daring to critisize thier government using their blogs and for just doing this have ended up in jail or worse. Amnesty international are doing a fine job in bringing this to peoples attention and I would like to express my support, as a blogger, to the work they are doing here.

Further to this though is a more fundamental point about the differences in law between the rights of online journalists (bloggers) and those who write for conventional media (such as newspapers, radio etc.). What annoys me on a daily basis is how its assumed that just because you can deduce the identity of an internet user much easier than you can deduce the identity of a source for a newspaper that this should be an important factor in if a blogger is blamed or not. Every day people are losing their jobs and landing up in court because of things they write on their blogs, things they have a right to say and things they would be allowed to say with no repremand if they were to do so in conventional media.

While these issues may become less of a problem as the law evolves to take account of online media, all those who blog need to make a stand and ensure these changes happen sooner rather than later. Free speech is our right, not a privillage.

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Dating a techie

I’m not entirely sure how we got onto this topic of discussion in DEC-10 today but Matt and I ended up talking about dating a like-minded, interested in computers type of person. I’m blogging about this because I’ve had thoughts on this for a while and when I found views that were almost opposite to mine I decided that I had to mention it.

Basically I would never date a girl who was into computers, code and other techie things. Why I hear you ask, well the reason is that computers are my life, my computer is where I run to when the world hates me, code is what I write when I’m depressed and need to get it out of my system. To share that part of my life with a significant other (which would be inevitable if they were into that kind of thing too) would be to invade the one part of my life that I like to keep just for me. Jazz I’ll share, love of the outdoors I’ll share, even my deepest feelings I’ll share, but the contents of my text editor is just between me and the screen on which I’m viewing it. It sounds crazy I know, but sometimes my work in the computing world is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Matt’s point was that to date a techie would mean them not getting bored when you talked to them about your joy at getting a program working or your latest project, but my view is that with a whole world out there full of discussion topics and common ground, why does talking about technical stuff matter with your significant other, in fact, surely having a break from the screen and it’s contents is just what the average techie needs. Nope, I’m sticking with my unwritten rule – I wouldn’t date a techie.

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iTunes encryption cracked

The encryption used by Apple to ensure iTunes music can only be played on an iPod and not on any other form of music player has been cracked. While this has in fact been possible for some time, this latest development means it will be possible for members of the general public with very little technical know-how. Read about it on the BBC here

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Uncontrollable Youth

For some time now I’ve been resisting blogging about this for fear that my somewhat synical attitude to this kind of thing was just getting in the way, but after reading a few posts on the BBCs have your say I realise that I’m not alone in this, far from it, so I’m going to rock the boat a little bit.

The bottom line is I think that the law and society as a whole has far too soft a touch when it comes to dealing with yob culture and kids on the street that just don’t know how to behave. I really feel for the people who have been posting in have your say; they see a problem, have the presence of mind to tackle it but receive no support from the law. It has to stop.

Kids soon realise that if they lose out due to bad behaviour they shouldn’t misbehave. The thing is what disincentives do we have today? School teachers can’t even yell at misbehaving pupils anymore – there are laws against it that cause teachers to go through enquiries and be threatened with losing their jobs, members of the public who intervene when youths are causing trouble either risk being beaten up or stabbed by the youths in question, or picked up by the police later with a charge of assult on the basis of the say-so of a youth who cannot be charged under law with the vandalism they have just committed. So paying a home visit we hope that perhaps the parents can help, well no, the law stops that too. Smacking children has been banned and parents are threatened with social services by their own children. Even the police are reluctant to tackle youth crime because convictions are rare due to the age of many youth gangs.

We need to move away from the books of law and out onto the street to tackle this problem. Police need to be given the rights to stop paper pushing and deal directly with the issue, being given a ride in a police car isn’t enough, a clip round the ear is what these kids need to bring them into line. Parents need their rights back. While I accept that child abuse does go on and its shocking and needs to be dealt with, there is a huge difference between the good discipline of out of control teenagers and abuse. We need to ensure parents have the rights and are given the confidence by the police and the law to tackle the problem of yob culture directly – in the home. Then we have members of the public. It shouldn’t be their responsibility to approach youths causing trouble, but if they choose to they should be in the right under the law. It’s insane to charge a resident with asault on a youth when that youth is a part of a gang vandalising property all night every night – it’s common sense to see whos in the wrong here.

The police and the law need to put things into perspective. The resident who tries to stop yobs vandalising their car is not the criminal, the yobs are. This needs to be a clear point of law and one on which the power is put back into the hands of the victims of this kind of crime. The time has come for the police to stop reaching for the pen and get out onto the street. Its the only way we’re going to get back the kind of local communities we want to live in rather than the lunacy we have to put up with now.

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Techie thanks

There isn’t usually a week of the year when I don’t end up fixing some form of computer related hardware or software problem for a friend or acquaintance. While I usually get a nice thankyou, perhaps even a pint once in a while, its not ever day that someone goes to the lengths of buying you a bottle of gin to show their grattitude. This is what happened today when Izzy (a friend who’s wireless internet I got running securely last week) presented me with a bottle of Gordons when I popped into the union bar. All I can say is I’m touched, its not something I ever expect. Thanks a lot Izzy :)

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Motivation issues

Reading through my blogroll this morning I noticed a number of posts from school of computing folk discussing lack of motivation and concentration problems with respect to coursework and other tasks for the course. In addition to this I’ve also noticed a number of people suddenly feeling the pinch after the long summer break of not being “tuned in” to the academic workload.

While I’d love to be able to offer some magic remedy to these people I’m afraid there is none. Time management and more importantly effecient use of the time you manage is something that is difficult to master, and no one can ever claim to have mastered it 100%. The few things I will offer in the form of help though are these;

  • Plan your time, and concentrate on minutes, not hours. Life doesn’t come in hour blocks, only our timetables do that. 15 minutes spent reading a book connected with your course is better than realising 15 minutes isn’t long enough to even make a start on your next piece of coursework and consequently doing nothing.
  • If you get stuck, don’t get bogged down. We’ve all felt like throwing our keyboards out the window, but when you get to that point, have a cup of tea and start something else. Forget what you couldn’t do and concentrate on what you can, after all the solution may come to you later after you’ve left the stress of not being able to find a solution behind.
  • Take time off, but plan it in advance. It doesn’t take being told that we can’t work all the time, but all too often we go out when asked by friends and this is usually at short notice. They don’t know what work you’ve done and what you still have left to do, only you know that. Know how much you wanted to get done in a day and reward yourself when you achieve that, not when a friend suggests going out. This also has a knock on effect of allowing you to enjoy nights out better because you are not stressed about work left undone back home
  • Choose a condusive working environment. Home where our TV, games consoles and music collections lurk is often not such an environment. Try the long room, computer lab or library. If you are going to work with others keep an eye on how much work you do as a team and if you notice it slipping below what you could do alone, question how productive working with a friend is.
  • Finally, if you don’t understand something, ask. We have lecturers and tutors for a reason. If they are not around try news or an e-mail. You could also try asking friends, although be aware they may not have such a high quality answer as they are usually in the process of learning the same material you are asking about!

These are just a few ways I try to keep on top of things, I hope people find them useful. If you have any handy points to add, please leave them as comments.

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nu York State

Last night I took a trip out to York with Heather to see nu York State live at the Basement Bar in City Screen cinema. It was supposed to be an outing for jazz and blues society members in Leeds to meet the society in York, but it turned out the thought of travelling to York put a lot of people off.

It was a great night though, I caught up with a load of old friends from York and got to meet the new society members there for this year – its really come on in leaps and bounds since when we first started it all back in 2004. I also got a chance to have a chat with Danny Gough (lead singer and trumpeter for the band) about his soon to be released new album and how things have been going for him and the band. They’ve played a fair few gigs around the country and they seem to be progressing nicely in the music world.

The actual gig was great, good fun to dance to and enjoyed by all who attended. Although not normally into jazz funk, Heather also enjoyed it a lot. The only downside to it all was leaving the venue at about midnight knowing we had a 1 hour 30 minute trip back to Leeds ahead of us. Still, anything in the name of a good bit of jazz :)

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