Wulf's Webden

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Tuesday 24 November 2015
by Wulf

Wibbly Sounds

I’m having a little spell of playing my Sei bass – 6 string headless electric – with The String Project while we’re coming to the end of 2015 and getting ready for a couple of gigs early next year. It is interesting to try the songs with a different instrument in the mix and it also gives more scope for messing around with FX from my Zoom B3 box.

I think my favourite one tonight was a combination of wah and distortion; I found myself smiling broadly as I wibbled and burbled away supporting the song. Whether these combinations will see the light of day remains to be seen but it is fun, and musically stimulating, to take time to play.

Monday 23 November 2015
by Wulf

First Loaf

I made my first loaf today in the new oven; I’ve made plenty of loaves before but it is good to start to get a handle on how the new machine works for bread (answer – very well although it took ages to cook because I’d had the dough in the fridge overnight so it started quite cold).

The other challenge was that our weighing scales stopped working a couple of days ago so I had to rely on all those loaves I’ve baked in the past to judge the proportions. It turned out pretty well although, as a set of unknowns, it makes it a little harder still to scientifically evaluate the loaf.

It is recognisably bread though so that’s all good.

Sunday 22 November 2015
by Wulf

Bottled it

I’ve finally got my Three Gold Wings brew into bottles so that, at least, should be ready for Christmas. I had about 5.5l of beer to which I added 30g sugar before bottling up. The gravity stayed at 1.007 so the estimated ABV is about 4.7% or pretty much the same as last time I brewed it. The pre-aged sample (you’ve got to give it a taste) was okay so I’m fairly confident that the result will be a decent drink although probably not the best I’ve ever done.

Friday 20 November 2015
by Wulf

Making LastPass a bit more secure

I attended an information security meeting today and was surprised to find that many of the colleagues there didn’t rate LastPass as a password manager tool. There wasn’t time to find out the fuller details but I did some reading and I think I have identified both a weakness and a way to mitigate it.

The weakness is that LastPass is happy to automatically fill in login details for you. That is highly convenient unless you happen to visit a site (say one of those pages asking to check a few details before giving you free WiFi access) that can’t be trusted and silently opens further pages in the background… which LastPass obediently fills in login details for and a bit of javascript harvests the results and feeds to a malicious server.

The mitigation is to turn that feature off – check under the preferences. It means a little more work logging into each site you want to visit (but not as much as having to remember a secure password for each one and type the whole lot in without clumsy fingers making mistakes) and I think it avoids the problem of LastPass being so ‘clever’ in its attempts to be helpful that it ends up being very dumb.

Thursday 19 November 2015
by Wulf

Downie Cider in the Bottle

The hydrometer in Downie Cider batch hadn’t shifted since I last checked so I got it into bottles last night – six full quart bottles and a further one that is almost full. I wonder if the brown sugar I used is not as fermentable as standard granulated sugar (which I’ve used before); the drink has some sparkle but is still also quite sweet. It isn’t unpleasant though so I’ll look forward to seeing how it matures over the next few months.

Meanwhile, my Three Gold Wings beer has got down to 1.007 so, if that is in the same place tomorrow I’ll probably go ahead and bottle that too.

Wednesday 18 November 2015
by Wulf

Gun Control

From the BBC News website:

“If you create a product that allows evil monsters … to strike innocents – whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airline – that is a big problem,” Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC.

Sorry – I cheated and removed a small portion, which said “…. to communicate in this way, to behead children, …”, but you can see how it could be about guns – or bombs or other weapons. Indeed, since you could say that terrorists speak their intentions through such tools, they are indeed communicating, albeit in the stains of innocent blood.

What Feinstein was actually referrring to was encryption and there is a lot in the media this week about how, after Paris, we should be restricting the legal use of encryption in order that our trusted governments can listen in on the ‘them’ of international terrorists. What is less clear is how you qualify to be on the list of ‘them’? And, even if you are confident that you remain one of ‘us’, what about the next time you check your email or do some online shopping or banking or look up a password? All of those are processes that involve strong encryption techniques and, if they aren’t (including the one about passwords) your digital safety is at risk.

As long as there is a way to communicate, there is a way to pass hidden messages. You might be playing a parlour game where the crossing and uncrossing of your legs is what other players have to cotton on to or tying a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree; these are just a couple of examples of the numerous ways humans have devised to signal intent and pass on information coded in such a way that it hides in plain sight. If we allow legislation that compromises information security – that is, the security of our information – then we shouldn’t fool ourselves that it makes us safer. If anything, it makes it harder for the security services – at least now they can pick up traces of the communications that a suspect has sent or received even if they can’t read them while, if forced to work offline, that is another set of potential clues removed.

There was another quote from towards the end of the article from Pavel Durov, who fled Russia after the authorities there wanted backdoors into his social network:

“I propose banning words. There’s evidence that they’re being used by terrorists to communicate.”


Tuesday 17 November 2015
by Wulf

Windy as a Hill of Beans

No, not me! Outside the wind is whistling around – this must be Storm BARNEY making its way across the UK. It made cycling home rather more exhilarating than might be ideal in traffic after dark but at least it wasn’t raining.

And at least I wasn’t trying to cycle home on planet HD 189733b. Reports suggest observations of winds up to 5,400 mph, which is a mind-boggling seven times the speed of sound. Compared to that Barney is quite tame but it is definitely a batten down the hatches kind of evening.