Saturday, 15 February 2014

I'm back, Godzilla thoughts and a plug for Insanity

Well its been quite a while since my last post.

Mostly that is because I was made redundant back then and have been loking for a new job as well as getting a rest and a good recharge.

But now I'm back, not in work yet however.

I plan to post soon about my whole history with computers, from my C64 up to my machines today. Also I have plans to make some vids about them for my youtube channel.

My current project is to create a database and associated applications to let me index all the files I have aquired over the many years (nearly 2 decades) of using computers. Yep, I know there are tools out there that already do this but the point I'm making is if you want to learn how to do something, and you have the time, start from first principles. You will then be able to better understand other peoples solutions.

That also means I will build a quadcopter, from first principles. Yes, that means coding the flight control system!

Anyway, apart from this little "hello world!" I just suddenly decided I should watch a film I had never seen before. Nor do I have much interest in seeing it.

Why watch it?

Because it's Godzilla. Several people I hang out with online are mad on these films.  They practically wet themselves when a good blu-ray transfer of one is released.  They are based in the US and Canada (the people I hang with that is, not the films lol), which may explain why they know them so well as I dont think Godzilla was big over here in the UK. I really never saw anything Godzilla related when I was a kid, perhaps I simply missed it. Nobody at school ever mentioned it, although that was at a time being a geek meant wondering why everyone else did not seem normal to you so you tried to avoid them.  Unfortunately I also managed to avoid most of the other geeks so I dont supose I would have heard much talk of Gozzilla anyway.

Oh I did see the 1998 film and bits of the cartoon series after that. I was aware of the general theme of Godzilla from that film and references in others. Basically my awareness of Godzilla on a scale of 1-10 (10 being you think you are Godzilla) was (and still is) a 2.

So I have just finished breakfast. Drank my 3 mugs of tea. Now I'm off to research which Godzilla film to watch for a first timer (it may be the first one, but maybe there is a better sequel). Hmm maybe I will ask my friends who are:



and the crew:

Who every saturday night (see above links for announcements of start time) livestream "Saturday Night Insanity", which can be found here:

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Seems fishy. Oh what an undersatement... Sorry for that.

Mastercard and Visa block payments to Swedish VPN firms

Just what are VISA and MasterCard playing at? Both at the same time they forced a payment processor to block card payments to Swedish based VPN providers.

WTBH? (What The Bloody Hell)

Sure VPN's can be used by anyone for anything from:

- Avoiding blocks on using BitTorrent sites blocked because some rich blokes (not the artist) can't understand the importance (to a fan) of finding elusive films or music that hasn't been released since the 90's (said fan would also buy the official re-release when it comes out (yes I'm talking of myself)).

- Ensuring that thier private data remains private, at least while traversing the local network on its way to the net. Think about who may be watching your packets and SSL handshakes while you are on a public WiFi hotspot.

- Allowing you to be free to appear to exist anywhere (geographically) so you can get around such restrictions.  Companies may hate this due to needing to enforce copyright and licensing restrictions. But it is a two sided issue. People don't necessarily care about companies and what they want to do to the people. Some people think they should have the last say because they are the consumer. Microsoft learned this when they tried to stop people from sharing games for the Xbox one. How criminal, to even think about lending a copy of a game, DVD, or book. Money is lost!  Well stop them doing it, loose customers instead.

- Illegal nasty things. Yep. You can do that too. If you are one of the FEW who would. Just like to say that the same FEW could do nasty things using a car, cement mixer, alcohol, even a brick taken from the workmen building their extension! But I don't expect visa or MasterCard to block payments by normal people to thier builders to prevent the FEW getting hold of a brick.

Who is behind this stupidity! This insult to freedom and common sense? What are thier motives?

How do we stop these disgusting tactics?

Don't be fooled to think this is the only example. Sir Tim Berners-lee has stated many times recently that this kind of attack against our free internet is getting more and more common. And easier.

Visa, MasterCard, you want to protect us from VPN's? Perhaps you could also please stop people buying cars with your cards. Some drivers run people over with them!

Friday, 19 April 2013


Don't you just hate it when your 8GB flash drive suddenly decides it will only work at USB 1.1 speeds?

Copying 32MB with 9 mins to go >:(

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The ultimate password safe.

Some researchers have developed a way for you to learn a password (of sorts) and prove to a computer that you know that password, thus that you are you, without actually being told the password.

You can't tell anyone else what it is, because you don't consciously know. It's hidden in a region of your brain.

Here's generally how it works:

They have created a game that teaches you the password, without you ever knowing it.

The game programs a type of memory you have called muscle memory.

What is muscle memory?  Well when you learn to ride a bike, for example, you are concentrating heavily on balancing and steering. But after a while, all that becomes automatic. Like instinct. It's the same with walking, you don't need to think about how to walk do you?

That's because your muscle memory has learned it for you. It does all the movements and balancing after a while, letting you concentrate on more impotant things like deciding which way to go and how fast.

Well this game is like guitar hero in that you have to press keys in time with patterns. Some of the patterns are random junk. But others are repeated. These form the password.

As you play your muscle memory gets better at pressing the keys for the repeated patterns. Without even knowing it your brain is being taught to press the keys better and better for the repeated patterns.

Being good at those patterns is enough to prove that you know the password.

You don't give the computer the password. It tests you to see if you were trained with those patterns. All you do is play the game again.

Someone who never was trained with your password won't do as well as you, because thier muscle memory never made them good at your patterns.

Thus you can prove you are you. For several weeks at least.

To try it yourself go here:

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Today I have learned the importance of keeping record of software versions and usernames relating to remote computers.

On Friday Holland contacted us reporting that their PC, which we configure with our software was playing up. Apparently it was so bad it was restarting as soon as it was powered on.

The machine is what we call a scanstation. Basically its a pc running our software with a scanner attached. Configuring a replacement is not that big a deal, install the correct version of the software and the scanner driver. Ship it out and sort out last bits of configuration remotely.

I had almost done this once I was informed, by chance, that this scanstation also performed its own local processing, meaning that it has its own database and server software.

The people who know how to set one up have left the company. Have they documented anything about what they did when setting this thing up?  Have they heck.

No one knows a login for the machine.  Without which I can't pop on, look at it, back up the database and restore it all on the new one.

No record of what version of the software to install. Now there are rumours an upgrade had been performed. So any documentation I have found is likely out of date.

We have a support system and a wiki to store this stuff.  But it probably just ended up in their heads.

Document everything...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

About RAM

My good mate Oliver Kelly, who is a young geek sucking up all there is that we have in our geek world is hungry for information about RAM.

Well here is a bit about it that I'm sure he will find useful:

RAM stands for Random Access Memory. Simply because a processor in a PC may access any part of it at any time. Unlike in the old days of tape used for storage (old days for non backup use that is, tape is still the best there). Tape had to be wound to the correct position to load or save the data, not random access!

The best type of ram you can get is Static RAM.  This RAM uses a type of chip that has the fastest access speed.  Yes, RAM has a speed.  The processor must wait for the RAM to deliver the goods.  Static RAM, or SRAM is so bloody expensive that you will not have much in your PC, if any.  I mean a few years ago I could buy a 8KB, Yes 8 Kilo Byte SRAM chip for £3. A gigabyte of the stuff? If I was a government, perhaps lol

So modern PC's tend to use Dynamic RAM, or DRAM. This RAM is much cheaper to make. But it has a downside, its much much slower than SRAM. 

This is because DRAM is forgetfull.  The data that is stored in it must be automoatically refreshed several times a second, this slows down the access time.

However, DRAM has gotten much faster than its original version.  We call modern DRAM memory DDR.

DDR stands for Double Data Rate.  To try and speed up DRAM, designers came up with the idea that they could speed it up by letting the processor take or store twice as many bits at the same time as before. So if you were storing 16 bits at a time before, now the memory controller would let you store 32 at a time. So they Doubled the Data Rate :-D

DDR was replaced with DDR2, which increased the speed even more by running faster than DDR and along with a few other changes allowed the processor to store 64bits at a time! Doubling the data rate a second time.

Now my PC is using DDR3 :-D which is the latest version, soon to be replaced with DDR4. DDR2 and DDR3 are common in shops, DDR not so.

Memory prices change every day due to many things including how many the manufacturer decided to make at that time.  I remember one time  DDR2 was very cheap.  Then it more than doubled in price in a week! A 1GB stick of DDR2 RAM went from £25 to £50 or higher.

If you have an old PC that uses DDR and you wish to upgrade, best do so when DDR2 or DDR3 is nice and cheap!

There used to be the idea that adding more RAM speeds up the PC.  That used to be the case for something like an Amiga, where more RAM really made a massive difference, but modern PC's have so much that most of it goes unused.

It is true that with too little RAM your PC will be running very slow. Adding more ram will speed it up, but only to a point. Having loads of ram is good for letting you handle loads of data and applications at the same time.

Hopfully Oliver Kelly got something out of that.  There is a lot more to it but I dont know all of it myself lol

As a sort of mini interview I asked Oliver what he thought about cheap android tablets, you know the ones from china. We both got one each and have been using them for a while now:

Too be honest. Very very inspressed. The way they take the materials and build them then create amazing rom's and its so cheap and there quite good but the free apps are quite on the downside whats your opinion?

and so I answered:

Well the hardware is quite good. Mine runs at 1ghz, as fast as the my android phone.

They fall down with bad and cheap batteries. Also the original rom may not be the best for tablet use

I did find a guide that shows how to open my tablet and change the battery.  I may give it a go.

Take a look at Olivers blog: