Monday, 26 January 2015

Explore Filmmaking from Script to Screen

I'm really looking forward to starting a free online course "Explore Filmmaking from Script to Screen", in co-ordination with the National Film and Television School.

To check it out, or to sign up go to:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/explore-filmmaking

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Our Loft Conversion

Our Loft conversion is now complete!

We went with Charles Grosvenor and the quality of the work and their approach was excellent.  As with most building work, local contractors are used for specific jobs (plumbing, decoration etc.)

My general advice:
1. Get the initial specification right;
2. Maintain good communications throughout the project; and
3. Maintain a detailed "snagging list" as the project goes on
4. Put some contingency aside (in our case, about 10%)

Snags were remedied without any fuss, even "ooh look - there's a bit of a chip here"!

Putting some contingency aside is a must for things that we did not think of when agreeing the original specification.  You WILL change your mind and ask for extra things.  If these are outside of the initial specification, you will be charged extra, whoever you go with!

The new room is called "The Nest" and is our favourite room in the house!  We have a really nifty sofabed up there, the dolls house, all the musical instruments, a desk with computer/printer and loads of storage.  There is also an extra bathroom with loo and a generous (900mmx1000mm) shower.





Tuesday, 15 July 2014

How Spam can be mass-produced, look convincing and yet bypass the filters

This blogspam arrived today.  Looks like someone used the template instead of the tools that should have processed it.

Hopefully, this will give the spam blockers some insight into how to block this stuff..


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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Switching energy supplier - robots are better than humans

Our dual-fuel supplier was Scottish Power until this morning.  A letter they sent me recently reminded me of just how much money they get from the joint account each month.  I called their call centre to say that I was comparing prices and what was the best price rate they could offer?

One long and fruitless conversation with the (very lovely) Ian later and he is still unable to quote me their best deal.  Ian himself is a lovely chap - excellent.  His training, however, seems to have him guiding the conversation continuously AWAY FROM the subject of Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR).  I asked for the best TCR several times and he seemed both unable and unwilling to discuss it.  "Oh you want to know how much you'll be paying?" No goddamn it, show me the best TCR!  It was as though he has been told to avoid the topic at all costs.

Now, I don't expect that Scottish Power's call centre are very different to any other.  They are there to confuse, schmooze and bamboozle their way into KEEPING you as a customer and thereby maximizing profits as they gradually increase prices.  Fair enough - they are there to make a profit from me.  But they seem to expect me to just sit back and take ever-increasing prices on the chin without doing anything.

So where do you go?  How about to a company who make money on CHANGING your provider based on saving you money.

Next time, I won't bother calling a human.  I'll talk to a robot.  The best ones keep it simple.  With USwitch it took me 10 minutes to switch provider and save over £230 per year.

Thank you USwitch.  You helped me move from a TCR of:

Scottish Power Standard: 16.62p/kWh for electricity and 4.97p/kWh for gas

to...

EDF Blue: 13.73p/kWh for electricity and 4.48p/kWh for gas.

Remember: TCR.  Nothing else matters.  Especially NOT the quality of customer service.  The better trained the human, the less they work in your favour.  Go for a robot instead.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Truecrypt development team compromised?

It appears that the Truecrypt development team have been compromised by the NSA using some brute-force social engineering.

The Truecrypt home page and its Warrant Canary has disappeared from the web (including from the Wayback Machine at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://truecrypt.org ), which indicates that they have been served with an order for user data under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The old Truecrypt page at http://truecrypt.org/ now redirects to a page at http://truecrypt.sourceforge.net/  which encourages migration to BitLocker. As the Bitlocker team appear to having been targeted by the NSA, the Truecrypt developers are either being *extremely* tongue in cheek in hinting to the community about a Lavabit-style social engineering attack or they are plain stupid.  I'd go for the former.

A new Swiss group has sprung up at http://truecrypt.ch/ to fork the source, but "who are these guys then?".

For now, do NOT migrate to Bitlocker.  Instead, keep using Truecrypt 7.1a until such time that the new Swiss group's credentials can be checked and a rolling code audit process has been established.

John Gilmore's quote from TIME magazine springs to mind:

"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."