Sunday, November 13, 2005

Get some exercise! 

I feel so much better for getting a bit of real exercise today. I'd been stuck inside working, or travelling all week and was feeling mentally and physically mucky. I feel like I've learned a valuable lesson, unfortunately it's one I've learned a thousand times before.

I've set myself goals before, but don't always achieve them. I'm much more likely to spontaneously do something with little or no planning than pick something big in the future and work towards it. I guess I worry about the passage of time. I feel that by setting dates in the future then watching as they hurtle towards me, I am only compounding the problem. A pizza can look enormous until you slice it up and eat one of the slices - it's then that you have some comprehension of how much is left.

On the other hand it is probably only through having new experiences that one can hope to slow the passage of time. So maybe goals, including the work put in to achieve them and what they may lead to after achieving them, may not be so bad after all.

I'll give it another go then. Maybe listing the goals here will make me more likely to stick to them.

1) The Great North Run (Sept / Oct). Rhian has committed to this. (and Paul too.

2) A cycle ride abroad. I need to better this year's effort. Events and some of my obsessions seem to have pointed me towards the Karakoram Highway, although I don't know if it's possible to fit this into a three week holiday, or what time of year would be suitable. I also wonder where I would find a travelling companion who would be happy spending their summer holiday cycling up a big mountain in a third world country.

I also cleaned the fridge today.

One more thing, it now seems the term 'Social Entrepreneurship' is cropping up all over the place. Just in case this becomes the next big thing, I want to make it clear that I first made reference to this term before it became popular. (just covering myself in case I get accused of following a fashion).

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Encryption and furlongs of evidence 

How can rubbish like this go unchallenged?

Firstly we have Charles Clarke arguing that suspects be held for up to 90 days because 28 days is not long enough for the security services to decrypt the information stored on an encrypted hard-drive.

"Their advice has been unequivocal. A 14 or even 28-day period will not allow them the time they need adequately to investigate the most heavily encrypted data. They have made it clear to me that the use of advanced encryption technology by those who pose a threat to law and order or the security of the country is becoming more widespread and is growing rapidly. Encryption is more pervasive, more complex and easier to use than ever before.

That poses a significant challenge to police and investigators on two fronts. First, it means that even sifting the evidence to identify which computers require specialist investigation and decryption usually?the experts' word?takes a number of weeks. Each computer must be examined to assess what data can be easily gleaned and where heavyweight code-breaking is required."

Unless they know something I don't, a couple of years and the most powerful computers on the planet would be required to break 192-bit encryption (which is what I would understand as being a rather basic encryption standard). This is not an argument for 90 days. It could be an argument for 2 years.

Next we have the Prime Minister really losing it by measuring evidence in feet!

"I really have to say to the right horn. and learned Gentleman that I find it quite extraordinary that he seeks to suggest that there is somehow no evidence that the police are putting forward for the case that they are making. They have put forward detailed reasons as to why they believe these powers to be necessary. For example, just this last weekend, we arrested people on a terrorist operation. There were 750 gigabytes of data; that is 66,000 ft-worth of data; that would be printed out and have to be investigated."

This is just utter rubbish? You don't print digital information onto paper to read! How do you print CCTV video or phone tap audio? What font do you use? Even if all the information is text based you use the power of the computer to do the searching for you, you don't print it out and read it. You can't measure evidence in feet, it means nothing! You may as well measure it in Ohms or measure it using the Scoville scale (used to measure the hotness of chillies).
This is obviously part of the 'utterly convincing argument' the police presented to him. He clearly has a problem distinguishing between convincing argument and arbitrary meaningless numbers (as we've seen before - only that time with with grave consequences).

Then later on, a poor Labour PM gets even more tied up in bullshit.

Janet Anderson:
"In their recent evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the police referred to one case in which, if they had printed out the computer data that they had recovered, it would have made a pile 66,000 ft high. That is the sort of challenge that the police face and they need our help to meet it."

So now, we are not only confused about what 'printing' computer data means, or what purpose it would serve, we are also confused about how we measure the length of this paper.
When Mr Blair used the 66,000ft figure I assumed he was talking about the length of the paper, and I was assuming (for no particular reason) that we were talking about standard A4 paper. I can sort of imagine how much that is, a very long roll of A4 width paper. For the sake of argument let's call one A4 sheet as being 1ft long. That's 66,000 sheets of paper. This is a lot, but not a huge amount.

Janet Anderson seems to have the impression that this 66,000 figure referees to the height of a pile of paper. Assuming this time that we are talking about A4 sheets piled on top of each other, we can try and make a calculation. I would assume the width of 1000 sheets would be about 1ft (not taking account of the compression exerted on the sheets below by the paper above). That makes 66 million sheets of paper. That's one sheet of paper for every British citizen! So when she talks about the police needing 'our' help to meet this challenge, at least there's a simple way to divide up the work.

Whatever the length of the evidence, this locking people up without charge is madness. I agree with the suggestion sent in by a Today programme listener. Allow the police the 90 days, but if at the end of it they can't being a substantial charge, they have to pay the detainee 10 million pounds (or 10,000 ft of money).

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Happy Christmas 

Just been shopping (total purchases: 1 * "tall triple-shot semi-skinny latte to go" from Starbucks), felt a bit Christmasy. After a while and started thinking, "isn't it nice this Christmasy atmosphere these shops have created, after all it is nearly Christmas isn't it?". Then I remembered that it's only the start of November and I felt a little sick.

This is one thing I'd ban if I was in charge of this country. No mention of Chrismas until December. I'd also ban shopping on Sunday.
I'd also ban yobs or kids or whoever it was stole the rear light from my bike on Friday while it was parked outside the train station. This is the second time in a few months where the light has been 'stuck' on the bike (so I'm unable to take it off when I leave it somewhere) and someone has come along and torn it off.
I don't know if this is wrong and I should be closely monitored, but on Friday night I felt I'd quite happily spend five years in jail for beating some 14 year old scum to within an inch of their life - if only I'd caught them in the act. I did seriously entertain the idea of lying in wait next to my parked bike and running at them with a flying fist the moment they turned up and started to vandalise it.
But I've calmed down now.

I started cataloging my books here. I've been looking for an application like this for a few months as I wanted to put some books in boxes and make a list of what books are in what boxes. I would suggest you give it a go, it has the best 'sign-up' process I've ever used. Other good features are 'tags' and finding other people with similar libraries to your own.
I did toy with the idea of writing something of my own as an excuse to play with some web-development technologies. Now there is no need, so I'll have to develop something else instead. Maybe I'll start on the 'Predict which famous people will die next year' website. This is an idea borrowed from Steve who plays this game every new year (and every year he predicts the demise of Fidel Castro). The idea would be that you would register and pick 10 people who you think will not see the next new year, prizes can be given for the person with the most correct guesses. I would have been impressed if anyone had managed to get even three out of: The Pope, Hunter S Thompson, Richard Whiteley, Luther Vandross, Mo Mowlam, Robin Cook, Sir Edward Heath and Ronnie Barker for 2005.

I can get from famous deaths to newspapers via obituaries. So let's talk about newspapers.
I'm pleased to say that after evaluating the new sized Guardian (over a period of nearly two months), I've gone back to the Indie. I quite miss the style and design of the old Guardian, but didn't often buy it (except on Saturday) because of the practicality of the tabloid Indie. I gave the new one a fair go, but just found it - apart from the comment and letter pages - rather dull. A few times I've worked my way though it and haven't found one story I felt like reading. I quite like the idea of having something random (an essay or diary) on the front page, but didn't like the idea of giving just the first few lines of three or four articles on the front page along with the number of the page where the article is concluded. If any of these articles is interesting, then I'm jumping back and forward in the paper and can't get settled. I much prefer the Indie's one big story on the front page.

I'll keep buying the Guardian on Saturday for the time being, as I haven't made up my mind but suspect it's superior to the Indie for weekend-type stuff.

I've given up with a Sunday paper, as I just find the main paper too trashy and woman's magazineie.

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