Archive for May, 2007

May 31 2007

Cleaning A Mighty Mouse

Published by under Technology

Shortly after getting my MacBook Pro I invested in a bluetooth Apple keyboard and Mighty Mouse for use at work.

The keyboard I wanted simply because it looks good but I was a bit uncertain about the Mighty Mouse when I bought it as it looks so unlike any other moue I’ve used before, it doesn’t have any discernible buttons, it’s got a funny grey pad thing on either side and a tiny wheel on top instead of a scroll wheel.

It took a while to get used to the different shape, by that I mean a day or two, but now I find the old traditional mice really clumsy. I’ve also got used to the squeezing the side buttons and use them so much that I find myself trying to squeeze normal mice. I’ve also got used to the little roller ball on top for scrolling side to side and all around, I can’t understand how people cope with a wheel that just scrolls up and down.

However, I do have a few annoyances with the Mighty Mouse. Every so often – about once a day – it decides that it’s not going like right clicks, or will only accept right clicks from a tiny spot on the mouse. The best way I have found to deal with this is to switch the mouse off and on again. I’ve found that the days I remember to switch the mouse off over night it seems to work fine for the rest of the following day. I guess I need to get myself into the habit of switching it off.

I’ve also had an issue with the mouse recently whereby it didn’t like scrolling up, then it started working again but a few days later it didn’t like scrolling down. I quick search on the web suggested that the ball mechanism may have dirt in it. Apple recommends turning your mouse upside down and rubbing the ball vigorously with a clean cloth – they even provide a video demonstration. I tried this using my Screensavrz from Radtech, this worked a treat. I now give my Mighty Mouse a vigorous rub at least once a week to keep it clean and free from dirt.

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May 24 2007

MacFUSE and Mounted FTP File Systems

Published by under Technology

For those of you that have never heard about it before, FUSE is a system that allows Linux users to mount file systems at run-time that are not natively supported by the operating system.

For example, Linux systems to don’t provide functionality to mount an ftp file server and use it as if it is a local drive. However, with FUSE you can get this functionality through the use of the ftpfs plugin. Other examples of FUSE plugins include sshfs, bindfs, beaglefs. There is even a WordPressfs for those masochists out there.

But what has this got to do with MacFUSE? Well, the original FUSE system was created for Linux and therefore didn’t run on Macs. That is until someone decided to port FUSE to Macs and stuck it up on Google Code.

I read about MacFUSE a while ago but there didn’t seem to be much information about it other than it existed. What information I found about FUSE for Linux seemed rather complicated and involved a load of command line activity to get it working, so I gave MacFUSE a miss.

Today, however, I found out about MacFusion (also hosted on Google Code) that claimed to be a GUI interface to MacFUSE. So, I decided to give MacFUSE a go… i mean, how hard can it be to get it running?

As it turns out it was incredibly simple. Download the DMG for MacFUSE and install it using the installer package (requires a reboot). Download the MacFusion DMG and drag the app to the applications folder. When MacFusion is running it sticks an icon in the menu bar. Its got a really simple interface for adding new mounts and can be set to run at start-up. The standard installation of MacFUSE comes with ftpfs and sshfs, which are probably the two most commonly used ones.

Thats the way all software should be. Clean, simple and with a clearly defined function, its there when you need it but doesn’t scream for your attention when its not needed.

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May 15 2007

The IT Crowd Series 2

Published by under General

Apparently filming has now finished on series 2 of The IT Crowd. If this series is anything like the first one it is going to be funny as hell and I wont be missing a single episode. The is no news yet as to when it is going to be broadcast but I’m guess it’s likely to start in the autumn season, so Septemberish.

I had a look at the gallery on the Channel 4 site and it appears that the set has changed from the first series. The first series was a dingy basement with a definite 80s feel about it. The new one looks light and airy and there appears to be a lot less clutter. Mind you, what the set looks like in photos and how it appears on TV may be completely different.

I just hope its not going to be on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night otherwise I’m going to have to invest in a DVD or HDD recorder… well, thats not such a bad thing, it’s about time I got one anyway.

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May 11 2007

Beware Buying Locally

Published by under General

Just over a year ago I bought a second hand 50″ Sony rear projection TV from my boss, for the surprisingly low price of £200. I was fairly certain he would have looked after it as he is a bit of a TV buff, so I knew I was bagging a bargain.

Fast forward a year, and two home moves later. I came home one day, switched on the TV and….. nothing! It clicked a couple of times, there was a metallic hissing noise but no picture and no audio. My first thoughts: “Fsck, fsck, fsck”. Having got used to the 50″ TV I know that there was no way I could go back to a small screen but I also knew that if it was terminal I’d be looking at paying over £1000 for a new TV.

My first port of call was Audiovision, a local TV shop that I thought had a fairly good reputation. They were able to come out the next day to take a look at it and only charged a £35 call out fee. This seemed excellent, so I handed over my keys and told them where to find the TV – I couldn’t get out of work to be there, but I trusted them. The guy finally found my house, checked the TV, I got my keys back….. and thats where the good service ended.

It took about a week and a half to finally get a quote out of them for fixing the TV – £350 (approx.). I then had another battle trying to find out from them what was wrong with the TV. I eventually figured out it was something to do with the bulb. £350 seemed a bit steep to me, so a bit of Google-Fu later and I found the best online prices were about £200, so I figure – including labour for fitting it, and local price allowance – £350 wasn’t so awful.

Just as a double check I decided to call the local Sony agents, Sound & Vision. I described the problem and they said it was probably just the bulb and told me how to remove it (1 thumb screw and 2 allen key bolts) – a quick check confirmed this. I got a call back from them the same day with a price for a new bulb: £180 if I fit it myself. How could I refuse? A week and £180 later and my TV is now functioning perfectly again.

What I can’t get over is how a local retailer can justify charging double the price of another local retailer. I really can’t see how they think undoing three bolts, sliding out a box, sliding a new box in and doing up three bolts is worth £150. It took me less than 10 minutes, so by my estimates their labour charges work out at about £900 an hour!

I’ve learnt from this that it pays to look around locally. Not only can you get a better price than online, but you can also find out which retailer really know their stuff. I wont be going back to Audiovision in a hurry.

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May 10 2007

Everybody Needs A Number

Published by under General

As I previously blogged, the AACS-LA has a 128bit hex number that they call their own, and nobody else can use it without their expressed permission. If anyone does use it then the AACS-LA can use the power of the DMCA to stop its use and sue the people that used it, if they so wish. What gives the AACS-LA the rights to do this is that the number is used for the encryption of data (on HD-DVD and Blueray discs).

Well, the AACS-LA is are not the only people that can do this. The kind souls over at Freedom-To-Tinker have provided a free and quick service that allows anyone to get their own 128bit hex number which they can then issue DMCA take-down notices for. The reason you can use the DMCA to protect your number is:

First, we generate a fresh pseudo-random integer, just for you. Then we use your integer to encrypt a copyrighted haiku, thereby transforming your integer into a circumvention device capable of decrypting the haiku without your permission. We then give you all of our rights to decrypt the haiku using your integer. The DMCA does the rest.

My number is:

F2 97 9B 8F C5 C7 1B 66 F7 8E C9 3A 8C D4 C4 73

Phrixus has also claimed his number. Are you going to get yours?

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May 10 2007

Personal Development

Published by under General

Anyone that knows me personally (… not that personally!) will surely know that I am an introvert. I’m not very good and talking to new people, in group situations I’m more than happy to take a back seat and I’m not very good at seeing things from other people perspectives. Once I get to know people, however, I start to open up more and, once you get me onto a subject I know about, am quite happy to chat away.

Over the years I have been trying to change myself to become less of an introvert and more of an extrovert. Recent events and situations have shown me that I can cope with new people and environments quite happily, if only I put my mind to it. In my quest to further my personal development I did what any geek would do and used some of my Google-Fu to see if I could find new methods and techniques to better myself.

One of the first results I found was an excellent article by Steve Pavlina (How to go from introvert to extrovert). Whilst the information in the article wasn’t anything I hadn’t already worked for myself, it did make me feel like I was heading in the right direction and that it is possible for an introvert to become an extrovert.
Only a few days after reading that article, and adding Steve’s blog to my Google Reader, I saw a post appear on and on BoingBoing. I guess I happened across I good personal development blog!

Todays entry on Steve’s blog is about the experience of failure and mental testing. He lists several reasons why it is bad to test everything you do in your mind and I must say that I tick all the boxes. More often that not I will over-analyse my actions in my head until I become so wound up that I never do anything about it. Really I should have learnt this lesson a long time ago from my mountain biking days – “If you’re going to do something just do it! Worry about it later.”

Again, his article only contains information I already knew but I hadn’t put it all the pieces together. Hopefully from now on I’ll be able to spend more of my effort “Doing” and not “Thinking”.

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May 08 2007

I Got Fishies ^_^

Published by under General

The water in our new fish tank finally passed the nitrates test for it to be suitable for fish. So Saturday we went out and got some fish. It was recommended that we start with a few fish (about 6) so I got a male and a female platy (both silver/blue) and a male and a female Siamese fighter (both blue) – if you didn’t already know I like blue ^_^

Well, after getting them home and put in the tank they looked kinda small and lonely, so next day we headed back to the fish shop (Bishes Fishes) and got a couple more fish – two more silver/blue platies and a Pictus catfish.

Everything seemed to be going fine and the fish seemed to be going fine and we even came up with names for the fish. The catfish was the first to be named. He seems to have hyper active tendencies so we thought about calling him ADD or ADHD but finally settled on Ritalin, although he seems a little shy and hides when you walk past the tank.

The male Siamese has been named Stupid…. because he is! The female is known as SUB (Stuck-Up Bitch), again because she is. At least the male is fairly active, the female mainly hides in the plants or under stones.

Finally, the platies were called Mob, Bob, Flob, Slob. I have no idea why, thats just what we called them. I guess the male was Bob but alas he is no more. Bob was our first casualty. He was always the least active of the platies so at first I didn’t realise he’d died this morning until he didn’t come up for food.

The other fish seem to be doing fine though so hopefully we shouldn’t loose any more in the near future.

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May 03 2007

Joining The AACS Fiasco

Published by under Current Affairs,Technology

Surely most people must by now know that the processing key for the DRM system used by HD-DVDs and Bluray DVDs has been broken and has been circulating wildly on the internet (thanks to the actions of Digg).

I read today on the following statement released by the AACS-LA:

“it has taken action, in cooperation with relevant manufacturers, to expire the encryption keys associated with the specific implementations of AACS-enabled software. Consumers can continue to enjoy content that is protected by the AACS technology by refreshing the encryption keys associated with their HD DVD and Blu-ray software players. This refresh process is accomplished via a straightforward online update.”

Well thats great, they built into AACS the ability to send out new decryption keys should a key be compromised. All users need to do is complete a simple online update of their players and everything continues as normal.

Well, hang on a minute. Old DVD produced with the compromised processing key will sure need that old key in order to be decrypted and played. However new DVDs will require the new processing key in order to be played. What happens when a player is updated to get the new processing key? Is the old processing key removed from the player? If this is the case is then is it still possible to play the old discs?

I assume that the designers of AACS would make it impossible to play of DVDs should the processing key need to be revoked, unless they think they can keep reselling the same DVDs to consumers. But then again they were foolish enough to think that they could implement a content protection system that wouldn’t one day be broken.

Surely now that hackers know how to extract the processing key it will only be a matter of time until the new processing key is compromised. Does this mean that new processing keys are going to be released daily until one side of the war gets bored and gives up? I suspect that the first side to give in may well be the consumers, at which point the losers by default will be the movie studios that thought they could pull one over on the consumers.

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