It Done Broke.

Google In Buckinghamshire & Mumbai

Honestly, the thing I love about this story is that it’s a bunch of rich villagers running Google out of town.  Finally, the victimized, well-to-do of the world are standing up for themselves.

This whole kerfuffle about Google Street View being a  burglars’ aid is ridiculous.  You don’t need a map to tell who’s loaded or not, just a car.  Or a bike.  Or a pair of legs and eyes.

“We’ve already had three burglaries locally in the past six weeks. If our houses are plastered all over Google it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike.”

By this logic, Chicago, San Francisco and London and all the other (rich) cities that have Street View should have been looted and burnt to the ground by now.  What this statement actually tells us is that statistically their crime rate has had a small bump – they’re not out of their norm yet, as in the past 7 years recorded crime in that area (the borough of Milton-Keynes) has hovered around 10-13 reported burglaries per year, and 6 out of 52 weeks is a very small sample period.

Similarly, the terrorist-tool argument is nonsense: if your really a terrorist, you’ll launch at high visibility targets…or better yet, just into populated areas.  I don’t need to point out current events in Israel and Gaza to make the case.  Clearly, that’s exactly what both sides are doing.  And all the claims that the Mumbai attackers used Google Earth to coordinate their activities is speciously anecdotal, being trotted out by hysterical right-wingers.  Seriously: I haven’t found a single report that hasn’t been out of the mouth of somebody with the agenda to censor Google’s activities.  If you find one, please tell me.

Phishing Across The Pond

Intro: this is a brief account, excerpted from the original which was much longer and had more detailed forensic information.  I decided not to publish it since it might be under investigation but several traces of it are still publicly available if you know where to look.

I have to admit, I am often amused by the level of deviousness that goes into scamming, fraud, etc.  Email phishing is particularly interesting because it is a specialized form of social engineering fraud which is filtered through technology and preys on the naïve and their understanding of technology.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Region 1 DVDs to Gordon Brown

Barack Obama’s recent gift to Gordon Brown was a stack of 25 classic American movies on Region 1 encoded DVDs.   The article in question on the Telegraph website states:

A Downing Street spokesman said he was “confident” that any gift Obama gave Brown would have been “well thought through,” but referred me to the White House for assistance on the “technical aspects”.

The author, Tim Walker, then gleefully crows:

By the way, when Obama’s unlikely gift was disclosed, a reader emailed me to ask if Clueless was among the films. Funnily enough, it was not.

One wonders if indeed the gift was well thought through and was, in fact, a sly and subtle message to Brown about DRM failsauce

Contributing to WordPress: Worth The Time?

I suppose this is really a subset of a larger question: does it make sense to get involved with open source software projects in general?  Seeing Jane Wells’ recent posting about contributing to WordPress stoked an old ember deep inside me and I thought this is actually a question worth asking out in the open (not moderated by, um, moderators with a vested interest).

By their very nature, open source projects are pet projects.  They have people who are very interested in their success.  And, of course, this is a good thing (no, I’m not going to capitalize those last two words).  Also, there is a need to have some degree of management and control over what gets dumped into the repository.  This is sensible – that there should be some level of review and direction that keeps the project on track (even if that track is the Oregon Trail).

Within the WordPress development system, everyone is encouraged to contribute.  Everyone has read (a.k.a. checkout) permission to the SVN repository.  However, only a handful of people have “submit” access to the repository.  That is, only a few (key personnel) can write to the code base directly.  If you’re not one of those few, you can still grab a bug or whatever out of their Trac, work away on it and then submit a patch back to the Trac whereupon somebody needs to recognize the patch has been submitted, test it, and then approve it.

Reality kicks in, though, when you realize that the core developers who have direct write access to the repository also grab bugs from the Trac and also work away on them (feverishly, even).  However, they don’t always check to see that somebody else has claimed the bug (or if they do, they don’t care).  So it’s a bit of a slap when you discover that after going through the motions of following their procedures, claiming responsibility for the bug, the thing you’d spent hours, days working on has been been superseded and already patched by either Matt, Ryan, Mark or whoever – while it’s still marked as YOUR BUG IN THE TRAC.  Either that, or you submit the patch and nobody notices.  I mean, hell, the system flags it (assuming you submit the tags properly), so somebody should notice, no?

God bless them.  They work hard and there’s a lot of stuff to crank through and they do a great job.  Yeah – but if you want to get involved and help out with squashing bugs in the core?  Forget it.  It’s really not worth your time.  There are theoretically better things to do, like work on the documentation, offer help in the support forums, write a plugin or a theme – basically anything that doesn’t require direct approval or suffer from intervention-itis.  I guess what I’m saying is only work on stuff that’s useful and that matters.   And by that I mean, if it doesn’t matter to the developers if you are spending or have spent your time, then your time has been wasted.

And while a lot of open source projects suffer from the same deficiencies (or benefits, as some call them), not all do.  You could also just start your own pet project.

Note: this has been written intentionally rhetorical, but not untruthful.  I am a crankietech, after all (and I have voiced this concern in the appropriate places prior to this).  If you feel that I’m way off base, please feel free to comment and also give me write access to your repository.  Whatever your project is. 🙂  I would love to hear from people whose experiences contradict mine.

Twitter Is Not Poor Man’s Email

Google‘s CEO Eric Schmidt is on record here and here saying that Twitter is a “sort of poor man’s email”.  I respectfully disagree.

Twitter is email lite.  Twitter is the icing of email’s cake without the heavy filling.  Twitter is the top of the muffin.  Twitter is the sex without the wet spot (was that too much?).

Basically, Twitter is email – except without the Body of the email.  It’s all Subject line.  You don’t even have to specify the recipient.  Ever wanted to send a message to somebody (or everybody) without specifying anybody and didn’t really want to say anything other than “I made it home”?  Twitter is perfect for this.

Picture this:

From: Crankie Tech <>
To: Everyone I Know <*@internet*.*>
Subject: I Made It Home
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2009 17:08:27

Well, I made it home.  That is all.


It’s short, but it’s easily 700 bytes longer than it needs to be, not including firing up the email client or web client, blah blah blah.  With Twitter, on a single data-light web page you get:

I am home.

Or occasionally:


Twitter also relieves you of having to fish the odd spam out of your Inbox because, well, honestly, it’s all spam.  However, it’s spam from people you know – which makes it only slightly less annoying because you asked for it.

Twitter: crankietech

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