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Pointless Poll
Which spider-themed movie is the funniest?
- Arachnophobia
- Eight-Legged Freaks
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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Sun 31st Aug 2014

Don't criticise - it's exactly the same tactic that worked perfectly for the 'no' campaign during the AV referendum.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Sun 31st Aug 2014

Had a great afternoon in Splashdown, but pretty sure we were the only people there that weren't on day release.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Sat 30th Aug 2014

It suddenly hit me that I've not drawn Capaldi yet. http://twitpic.com/eb0rua

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

We need to change our culture. Good grades in state school = hard work. Good grades in private school = mummy and daddy are rich.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

The problem with elitism is the myth that private education is somehow better. Its actually worse; their target is profit, not smart kids.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

Scott Gilmore's views on the Ice Bucket thing are pretty much identical to my own http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/why-the-ice-bucket-challenge-is-bad-for-you/ HT @hvcco

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

Lots of adverts claiming that tablets with keyboards "will soon replace your laptop". Er, I've been using an Asus TF201 since January 2012.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

Ah, the old parcel blackmail scam, it's been a while. Silly me for ordering from a site that sends via UPS.

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From Twitter: @MisterFlarpy
Wed 27th Aug 2014

The ice bucket thing is basically yet another great reason not to use Facebook, ever.

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Achievement and Appreciation
Sun 27th Jul 2014

It has come to my attention that we, as a society, place far too much emphasis on sport. We worship footballers like gods and have many national and international competitions in which athletes and those of peak physical fitness can shine, and be doted on by an adoring public.

This first came to my attention during Danny Boyle's opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Boyle did, in my opinion, a wonderful job producing a spectacle that incorporated pretty much everything that's good about Britain - while leaving it to the closing ceremony to showcase everything that's bad about it! But there was one thing that stuck in my mind more than anything else, and that's the fact that a grinning David Beckham riding a speedboat down the Thames got instant recognition and applause from the crowd, yet Tim Berners-Lee got a polite and slightly subdued clap only after an announcer told everyone who he is. For those who still don't know, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, and Beckham gets paid to kick a ball around a field.

I believe this is a problem that stems from childhood. I was one of the kids at school who was useless at PE, but I excelled in subjects that actually matter, such as maths and science. I'm not for a minute suggesting that it's not essential to get some exercise, but it always annoyed me that one day every year we had to be pulled out of lessons to go and watch the physically able kids show off - we called it "sports day". I certainly don't recall a "maths day" in which academically bright children were cheered and applauded for doing what they're good at. I may even go as far as to suggest that it's possibly a root cause of bullying. We're encouraged from a very young age to worship the physically fit, but not the brainy kids. Who are the kids who most regularly get picked on at school? The geeks and nerds.

I'm not telling anyone off. If you feel that someone who can score a goal from the other end of the pitch or run 100m in under 8 seconds deserves praise and adoration, feel free to give it to them. Heck, if I was feeling particularly cold and ruthless, I might even suggest that we genuinely need to show sporty people all this love, because it may be the only thing preventing them from realising that their achievements don't actually matter in the grand scheme of things, and I personally can't imagine anything worse than having no purpose. But as we show love to these physical powerhouses, let's not forget those who actually get things done. Scientists, doctors, nurses, teachers, builders, inventors - heck, toilet cleaners and street sweepers do more for the good of humanity than most footballers, and get a fraction of the appreciation, not to mention paycheck. So let's make our culture better by celebrating and appreciating everyone, not just people who are good at sport.

UPDATE 2014-07-29: This week's episode of University Challenge was moved from its primetime slot to teatime, because the commonwealth games pushed everything on BBC1 to BBC2. If that doesn't prove my point I don't know what does.

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Posted by Ash | Permalink

Fighting Fire with Water
Mon 14th Jul 2014

There's a lot of controversy in the press at the minute (rightly so) about the fact that a bill is about to be passed through parliament. All the main party leaders (plus Nick Clegg too) have come out in support of it despite it not even being read in parliament yet. It's being called "emergency" legislation, meaning it'll be passed through much quicker than any other law. In fact, had Tom Watson (the only MP for whom I have any respect whatsoever) not brought it to the attention of the press, we probably wouldn't have even heard about it until after it became law. The big-shot politicians are all saying this is necessary to prevent terrorism (textbook excuse #1) and paedophiles (textbook excuse #2) but a lot of people are beginning to think that, in the wake of the actions of Edward Snowdon and Chelsea Manning, maybe a government isn't really fit to wield this kind of power. Whether you agree with that or not (I'm torn, I must admit) it's not exactly a healthy sign of government when bills get rushed through parliament lickety split before anyone can read them, even when you consider this bill will probably have no effect whatsoever on the powers available to, say, GCHQ.

So you'd think that I'd be outraged at this bill. Well, I'm not. And the reason is simple: technology is a much more effective weapon against law than law is.

Law is slow. I mean, really slow. It's also dumb. I kinda lost my last shred of respect for the law during the infamous Twitter Joke trial when they started arguing over grammatical technicalities, when anyone with more than two brain cells could see the guy had no intention of blowing up an airport. The fact is that law doesn't understand technology, so usually when laws are made to restrict technology there is an awful lot of collateral damage. This is partially because law makers like to cover all bases, but mostly because politicians, judges and lawyers don't know enough about the technology they're trying to legislate. Basically, law is really bad at solving problems, particularly modern ones.

Compare this to technology, which is very good at solving problems. The problem of your ISP being required by law to store logs on your browsing habits, solved by Tor and VPNs. The problem of not being able to smoke legally indoors, solved by e-cigarettes. Heck, when vehicle clamping became illegal suddenly every private car park in Southampton had ANPR cameras installed. Look at any kind of obstacle, good or bad, legal, technical or otherwise, and there's more than likely a form of technology that can circumvent it.

I don't fear a surveillance state because I know that for every wall there is a higher ladder. And as I'm not a lawyer, or anyone with any kind of political influence whatsoever, my ladder is technology. When (not if) the new bill is passed, I will simply continue using Tor to encrypt my traffic. I will continue to use VPNs to mask my IP address, and to fool my ISP's traffic shaping procedures. And the next time a law is passed that I'm not happy about, I'll come up with a technical solution to that too, rather than waste my time lobbying politicians who don't listen.

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Posted by Ash | Permalink

Questionably Named Transformers
Thu 5th Jun 2014

There's another Transformers movie coming out soon. It apparently picks up a few years after the last one, the Autobots are in hiding and the humans have built their own robot defence force. It also apparently features dinobots, which can only be a good thing. I thought I'd do something a bit different and use this as a poor excuse for some puerile humour. Let's look at some of the questionable names given to Transformers characters by their creators. All of these are genuine, although I've no idea if they were entirely innocent or not.

5. SLAG

Hopefully even the most casual of Transformers fans should know of Slag. He was introduced in 1984 as one of the original Dinobots. Oddly enough, his name has been quietly changed to 'Slug' over time. He changed into a mechanical triceratops. Since the 80s he has been in and out of rehab due to the severe depression caused by having ones name used as a common insult on Eastenders. He's due to make an appearance in the new movie (under his new name, obviously).

4. SPASMA

Spasma was the head of Apeface in the Headmasters series. Consequently, he transformed into nothing more than a monkey head, which only really became funny when Monkey Island was released in 1990. His only cartoon appearance was in the US series 4, in which he appeared as a member of Nebulon's "Hive". When the Japanese decided to ignore series 4 and do their own version, Spasma was ret-conned, along with all the other Nebulons.

3. DISCHARGE

Discharge was a Micromaster, and consequently not in the TV show and therefore I personally don't know much about her (I'm reliably informed it's a rare female Transformer). Her alt form is a fire engine (presumably the discharge comes from the hose) and she's part of a combiner team that forms Sixturbo. Apparently. Anyway... Discharge.

2. GUSHER

I feel really, really sorry for Gusher. Not only is he named after a type of porn formerly banned in the UK, but he's basically the arse-end of a pantomime horse. He and his buddy, Pipeline, between them combine to form a construction vehicle, but Pipeline is the cab and Gusher is just the trailer. I'm not even sure Gusher's alt-mode can move on its own.

1. ERECTOR

Yes, there is actually a Transformer called Erector. And he turns into a crane. I don't really think there's anything more to say about this.

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Posted by Ash | Permalink

Beware of Link Previews
Tue 29th Apr 2014

Hilarity ensued on Twitter this week - an image went round showing a story on the Guardian website with a rather unexpected headline. Thing is, the article didn't actually say that, and although it could have been a clever photoshop, most people seem to think that some clever techie at the Guardian's website modified the page's meta-tags in order to make social media links to the article say something sweary while the actual article is clean as a whistle.

pic.twitter.com/3BgucCVqTl

Whatever the reason, there is a very good point here that lots of people have missed, and that's that it's a piece of cake to fake links on Facebook or Twitter. Even if we ignore the incredibly dangerous practice of link-shortening that Twitter kinda forces you to use in order to keep within the character limit, it appears that modern link-sharing sites try to be clever by showing the user a preview of what they're going to see if they click the link.

But this is really, really easy to abuse. When a web server responds to a web request (eg you, clicking on a link) it will normally respond with the page requested, but it doesn't have to. It can send what it likes. In this case it's really easy to program a web server to respond to Facebook with one thing and everyone else with something else. A while back I did a proof-of-concept of this in action on this very site...

http://www.madhousebeyond.com/cuteandfluffy

It works by sending Facebook the cute and fluffy picture promised, but everyone else gets the scary picture of the bear and the skeleton from Look Around You. The upshot is that if you share any of the links on that page on Facebook, the auto-generated preview will show that the page contains something completely different to what you'd actually see if you clicked the link. Feel free to fool your friends!

Obviously this is just harmless fun and I'm not an actual scammer, but this is actually the method a lot of scams use in order to work. A recent scam on Facebook shows up in your news feed as a link to a 'shocking' video of an horrific rollercoaster accident (which didn't actually happen). The preview makes it look like a link to an actual news site, but clicking on the link takes you to the permissions page for a malicious Facebook app with the same name as a popular news site, attempting to con you into granting access to your account to the scammers. This scam almost certainly works the same way, as there's clearly no photo of a rollercoaster or news story on the page linked to, yet we're so used to seeing 'previews' of links that we don't really notice.

To summarise: beware of Facebook and Twitter links. If you click a link and get something you didn't expect, there's a very real risk that someone's trying to screw with you, you should restart your web browser and return to the page you were originally looking at.

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Posted by Ash | Permalink

New Doodle
Sun 9th Mar 2014
Game Show
New Doodles
Sat 22nd Feb 2014
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Cuddly Toys Cute Aliens Missing Parts Cute Jurassic Park Cute Nightmare on Elm Street
 
 
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