Archive for April, 2009

This Week’s Tweets

Apr 15th, 2009
  • @AmnestyUK Uhh, I don’t thing your Panic on the streets of London… Bangkok, Chisanu… went where you intended. av5epk links to porn. #
  • Amused by the fact wordpress decides to process wordpress tags within my tweets. I now have a lifestream in the middle of my twitter summary #
  • Yay, newswipe in 10 minutes. Seems to be preceded by a program about Willows, in particular the one which inspired the ‘Wind in the Willows’ #
  • Wow, Newswipe is a trending topic, good going @charltonbrooker #
  • @VickieWire Dear cod, it doesn’t seem a year since the last one. Happy Birthday! #
  • Seems that I may be off tomorrow after all, and shall be in on Saturday instead. ’tis annoying when you can’t plan ahead easily. #
  • RT @bengoldacre Matthias Rath – steal this chapter http://tinyurl.com/dncnuk #
  • Oh dear. I feel especially stupid after wondering why Jesus was a trending topic. #
  • Wait? Can you edit tweets now? I could swear @stephenfry just corrected a spelling mistake! #
  • Ahh, just a delete and repost. How disappointing. #
  • @thewellis I now have an image of you walking around with a pair of carrots strapped to your feet #
  • RIP Dave Arneson. Never played P’n’P D&D myself, but have immensely enjoyed the influence it has had over PC gaming, direct and indirect. #
  • @botherer Can I be excused for the fight please? I have a note. #
  • @ladylikepunk Not for one moment, if they were at all concerned for a woman’s health they wouldn’t have their stance against contraception. #
  • @ladylikepunk Or anyone’s health for that matter. in reply to ladylikepunk #
  • @erykah Have you rooted through clothes in laundry? #
  • Blocked IPs 194.8.74.0-75.255 from my website as they were spamming at insane frequencies. #
  • @LadyMcScamp BBC news 24 had a guy demanging that all foreign students from certain countries should be interviewed to find terrorists in reply to LadyMcScamp #
  • Oh god! They had photographs! Clear guilty. #
  • @MsKitton Please present your photo album to the nearest police station so that they may check if you have photos of potential targets. in reply to MsKitton #
  • @MsKitton You clearly can’t be trusted. I bet you are using those condoms to suppress the native population, or perhaps to fashion bombs. in reply to MsKitton #
  • The ending of KotOR II is nowhere near as bad as everyone lead me to believe, especially after Fallout 3. #
  • @slummymummy1 Looking at his history, he’s tweeted you a few times, as well as @smallmatryoshka which is a touch stange. in reply to slummymummy1 #
  • @slummymummy1 and @Jennymac22 in reply to slummymummy1 #
  • It’s the Easter weekend, it’s sunny… and I’m in the lab. Bah! #
  • Looking forward to Doctor Who this evening. Hope I’m out of work in time. #
  • My whistling is getting better. It almost sounds like whistling now, and not just like blowing. #
  • Gah! Wasted ages trying to sort out problems with centrifuges. #
  • Work done now to get home in time for doctor who #
  • Home in time! #
  • @wplifestream I can’t help thinking the &emdash; before the meta data is too ‘heavy’ any chance of making this configurable? Thanks. #
  • Trying out Tweetdeck #
  • oooeer, spotify usage (amongst over activity) tripped last month’s bandwidth allowance. #
  • Following #amazonfail I really hope it is a glitch, because boycotting Amazon would be a pain in the arse. #
  • Wow, apparently even some editions of @stephenfry books were targeted. #amazonfail #
  • Switched my Being Human pre-order to play.com. #
  • Troll is claiming responsibility for #Amazonfail based on grabbing a list of all books tagged gay or lesbian. Doesn’t match ban list though. #
  • Hmm, looking at http://bit.ly/Bllwe seems that troll wasn’t that far off after all, it is all down to a few categories. #amazonfail #
  • @nelson His claims don’t quite tie in with all the banned meta-data, although is close. He also lacks key information. in reply to nelson #
  • @ RagnarTornquist if you search RagnarTornquist you can see your missing posts. No idea if they’ll be back though. #
  • Loving the caverns coming in the next version of #DwarfFortress I really need to go back to that game again soon. #
  • Bloody hell, the conservatives are really trying to milk McBride’s idiocy aren’t they #
  • @RagnarTornquist What are you using to only post #fb tagged tweets to facebook? That sounds useful? in reply to RagnarTornquist #
  • Cruzer Micro USB drive dying, so brought one of these http://bit.ly/32UvVf as replacement. #

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Fighting terror with terror

Apr 10th, 2009

In attempting to ‘combat terrorism’ the British government has been promoting fears of its own, namely fears of terrorism. All too often this has been in the form of encouraging the British public to be suspicious of everything around them, even going as far as promoting fear of photographers. Most disturbingly, this has been accompanied by police harassing photographers, as well as more troublesome discussion of legal restrictions against the photography of police officers. It is not difficult to see why this is a problem.1
It doesn’t help that pre-existing assumptions and stereotypes mean that a lot of these campaigns contain embedded racism and xenophobia. while the campaigns don’t mention it specifically, the characteristic that will make a person using a mobile phone, or camera look dodgy is, for a lot of people, a middle eastern appearance. If you think I am over-reacting in this case, I can indicate several situations in which air passengers panicked about fellow travellers because they were of Arab appearance.2

The latest campaigns from the British Transport police continues this tradition. Below are two desgins that were rejected.3

Whats he doing sat alone? I bet hes planning to bomb something. Better report it, just in caseThis duck wont be able to make a bomb because it is a duck. But you should be scared anyway.

Click for full size

  1. Also, as I write this, BBC News 24 keeps mentioning that the police raids in several Northern English cities have revealed photographs of possible terrorist targets. No mention how these differer from tourist photos. []
  2. Of course, in some of these situations other ‘reasons’ were given. However I can’t help feel that none of these ‘reasons’ would have raised suspicion is the passengers were not of Middle Eastern appearance []
  3. Of course they are actually parodies. Although I realise that it can be difficult to tell when faced with some of the real posters. []

Favourite WordPress Plugins

Apr 10th, 2009

One of the benefits of using an extremely popular blogging platform, such as WordPress is the diverse range of plugins available. This allows for the easy addition of new features to a blog, and the latest versions of WordPress provide excellent tools to make it easy to install plugins and keep them updated. In this post I will mention some of my favourite WordPress plugins, and describe what they do and why I like them.

Akismet

Akismet is one of the most popular anti-spam plugins, and has replaced spam karma 2 as my plugin of choice after the latter was discontinued. Akismet is incredibly simple to use and configure, requiring just a WordPress API code. It then sits quietly by, monitoring all comments and trackbacks and filtering out the spam. At the moment it is working overdrive, thanks to an overzealous spambot operating form a small set of IP addresses.

Unlike some anti-spam solutions, akismet uses a centralised server which serves as a filter for thousands of different blogs. This allows the service to take advantage of the repetitive nature of a lot of comments spam, and to rapidly isolate dodgy IP addresses. Of course, it also adds a central point of failure, but I haven’t noticed any issues in this respect.

Obviously the most important stats with respect to a spam filter is accuracy, and while Akismet has a low rate of misses, I haven’t been able to assess false positives as this blog doesn’t get enough traffic.

Spam: 257
Not Spam: 13
Missed Spam: 2
False Positives: 0

BackType Connect

A recent addition to my blog, Backtype Connect is the offspring of the excellent Backtype website. Backtype initially began as a comments aggregator, bringing together a users comments across the entire blogosphere, all under one page. This move helped to solve one of my major problems with the blogosphere, a dispersed identity which can lack cohesion. A user visiting my blog would be completely isolated from comments I’ve made elsewhere, despite these comments being as important as those made on home turf.
From this beginning Backtype went on to consider another issue of the social web, namely that a lot of conversation remained divorced from the article being discussed. If someone were to tweet a comment about this blog post, I’d have little idea, and systems such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com obfuscate the connection even further. Backtype worked to index these references, extending pingback to places such as twitter and comments threads.
It is this latter service that the Backtype Connect plugin integrates directly into the blog. For example, a look at the comments of this entry will show the tweet I made to advertise this post, as well as any other conversations about it that may arise on other places, such as Digg or Reddit. (God forbid this blog should ever get dugg, it would be dead before it hit the front page.)

iBegin Share

Given my fear of getting dugg, it was possibly a mistake to add this plugin. There are many plugins which add share-this links to the bottom of blog entries, making it easier for users to share the content over different websites. I was already familiar with the author of iBegin Share after having used the fantastic lifestream plugin, discussed below.
iBegin share is particularly appealing, as it adds a compact link which opens up an in-stream list of possible options. The plugin is free and open-source, and thus is easily extensible with further options. It also offers the option of sharing the article via E-mail, and provides statistics regarding exactly which articles are being shared, and via what services.
You can see it in operation at the bottom of this post.

Lifestream

Lifestream is absolutely amazing. Just as backtype unifies comments made across different blogs, lifestream unifies activities across the social web. It does this my making use of RSS feeds and API’s for a diverse range of services, and combines this into a timeline for your activity across the web. Developer David Cramer is still adding to an already impressive list of services which can be monitored by the plugin. As it currently stands my lifestream tracks my activity on:

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Steam
  • GfW Live
  • Backtype (obviously)
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Last.fm
  • Delicio.us

It also supports many more websites which I don’t use, as well as any generic RSS feed. As well as generating a dynamic stream, the plugin is also able to generate regular digests, much like my summaries of weekly tweets.

Twitter Tools

Twitter tools is probably THE tool for intergration between your blog and twitter. Not only does it allow one to make tweets from within WordPress (admittedly a fairly useless feature), but also allows one to generate automatic tweets when new blog posts are made. This blog also makes use of its API for retrieving recent tweets, both for the status bar at the bottom, and for the widget in the sidebar. The option for weekly tweet summaries is also useful, although the ability to make a blogpost for every tweet is somewhat more questionable.

Others

I have plenty of other plugins running on this blog, many of which have been active from the beginning. WordPress.com stats allows a self hosted blog to make use of wordpress.com’s stat tracking tools, WP-Footnotes1, Collapsing Categories is a simple javascript widget which collapses down subcategories in the sidebar, Better Blogroll helps you configure the number and order of the links in your blogroll, while Configurable Tag Cloud provides additional layers of customisation for the tag cloud.

  1. Makes it very easy to add footnotes to blog posts, and is surprisingly customizable []

This Week’s Tweets

Apr 8th, 2009
  • Bah, silly antibodies, binding tot the wrong things. If you were in a person your host would be dead by now. #
  • Bah! Booking train tickets is the biggest lottery ever. Managed to get save £50 by splitting my ticket half-way. #
  • @charltonbrooker Very good. Have you heard the term ‘Reverse Ferret’ by any chance? http://everything2.com/node/1942475 #
  • Wow, more friends getting engaged. I guess I have reached ‘that age.’ #
  • Testing out the new twitter #search #
  • @LadyMsScamp You can get paid for it? Now I feel sheepish, as I’ve been doing it for free. #
  • @bengoldacre Really? So I take it that this is more advertising do than serious conference? Sleazy at that, doesn’t exactly give confidence. #
  • Friday, and sunny. Lets just hope my westerns work. #
  • http://bit.ly/GXJyA No, he attacked her because he was a violent jerk; sandwich wasn’t the cause. Why does the media always seem to do this? #
  • Meanwhile I have convinced myself to head into the lab tomorrow. Damn work ethic! #
  • Oh, and that last tweet was my 500th. I’ve been watching the counter and forgot last minute. Bah! #
  • Seems that the residents of Broughton were so bothered about their privacy that they got the BBC cameras in for interviews and pictures. #
  • Gah! I suck at #Spelunky I can’t even get to level 5! #
  • Gah. Its the weekend and I’m in the lab. Not helped by feelings of ennui, only tempered by the fact it means I can use ennui. Great word! #
  • Trying Omegle, its odd. Like a throwback to chatting on the web circa ’98. Have basically just done a verbose a/s/l, feel dirty. #
  • Gah, what to blog about. #
  • @wplifestream Have upgraded to 0.95 and like the new streams, however [lifestream] is returning “There are no events to show at this time.” #
  • @wplifestream I’ve checked at there are events recorded, by default limit is 50, and it is picking up new events. #
  • @wplifestream Excellent, problem solved. Thank you. in reply to wplifestream #
  • @wplifestream I think Bookmarked on Delicious for consistency. New style is better at separating content from metadata. in reply to wplifestream #
  • I just had spotify crash on me for the first time. #
  • @thewellis For a moment there I thought you were denouncing our @VickieWire and was breifly shocked. #
  • Oh dear god. Just checked the interest rate on my savings account. 0.15% Gros Pa. Terrible! Will be spending it soonish though. #
  • Hmm, considering Co-Operative bank as I like their ethical investment policy. Google; Christian Voice against them. Point in favour I think! #
  • Watching ‘Come Dine with Me’ Trash television at its finest! #
  • Does anyone else think renaming Norwich Union, Aviva, just makes it sound incredible corporate and impersonal? #
  • Aww, I’m disappointed that I’ve never been added by any right wing politicians, I want to subtlety warp their thinking in 140 characters. #
  • @slummymummy1 I was always more partial to the word Tosser. #
  • RT @guardiannews Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died: http://tinyurl.com/c7wv9e #
  • @Palestinebat I say give yourself an honoury doctorate #
  • This http://bit.ly/14zkkX indicates why this http://bit.ly/3MXLZ is a bad idea. #

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Home Straight

Apr 4th, 2009

The end of my PhD is rapidly approaching, and suddenly it no longer seems some distant event. By the time Christmas comes around I very much hope to be out of the lab, and to have a good chunk of my thesis written up. However all of this means getting the lab work finished, or at least in a state in which it is possible to write up.

As things stand at the moment that goal has yet to be achieved, and there as still a few key experiments that need to be completed. The past week I gave the first run through of one such experiment, and am currently in the ‘debugging’ phase, in which I try to work out exactly where everything has been going wrong. Its one of those tasks which is okay in the short term, and can even be quite satisfying, but which gets demoralising if it runs on too long.

Fridays result was initially a bit confusing, until I realised that what it was actually telling me is that an earlier result was the misleading one. Fortunately everything is still in order, and it hopefully means that I’ll be able to address some of my problems on Monday. The rest of the problems however still need further scrutiny.

All this meant that I was in the lab this morning preparing materials for use on Monday. I have already decided that I’ll try and make the most of weekends between now and September, although that doesn’t quite mean pulling a 10/7. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been no stranger to the lab at weekends, but previously I have tended to use them to facilitate the weeks work, rather than as working days in and of themselves.