Wulf's Webden

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Sunday 28 June 2015
by Wulf
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Superweekend

One of my low key ambitions was fulfilled this weekend; I got a Superman T-shirt. And, as an unexpected bonus, a BA Baracus “Crazy Fool”  T-shirt.

Yay for Oxford’s charity shops!

Saturday 27 June 2015
by Wulf
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Not all pubs are failing

Take the “slug pub” in my garden, for instance:

Dead slugs caught in a garden trap

Slug pub

I was surprised to see so many customers at this rudimentary trap – the top of a plastic bottle, cut off, turned upside down and filled with cheap beer (supermarket own brand bitter; 25p a can). That is good news for the primulas I planted the other day, which are still looking fairly undamaged rather than having been mown to the ground.

Friday 26 June 2015
by Wulf
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Into the fast(er) lane

Results from Broadband Speed Test

Speed Results

I know the Internet can run faster than this but I’m pleased with the boost that switching to a cable modem has given. Previously I was on about 4-5 Mb/s download speed so this should make a significant difference. A quick test using some of the online video services like iPlayer and YouTube ran very smoothly.

I probably should have switched ages ago. I was on quite an old package and this upgrade costs very little more. In theory I could have saved money by switching to a newer package at regular broadband speeds but, since the monthly outlay was sustainable, it’s fibre FTW! BTW, FWIW, it isn’t simply a case of getting a new modem – a bit of work has to be done by an engineer at the local exchange too but that was little hassle and was included free by the ISP (still Plusnet).

Thursday 25 June 2015
by Wulf
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Itchy and Scratchy

I watched a programme on the ITV catch up player last night called The Secret Life of Your House (available for another week in the UK). In it, entomologist George McGavin releases all manner of “pests” into a house and spends a month observing them. Rats, mice, cockroaches, spiders and myriad bugs all given free reign to explore fixtures, fittings, furnishings and foodstuffs.

It was interesting although not nearly as scientifically informative as I had hoped. We think we spotted some signs of a murine visitation by one of the kitchen cupboards so I was hoping there might be clues on how to dissuade little furry visitors but the best hint from that program was that special bait lets you see their deposits glowing green under UV light while a high end thermal imaging camera makes it easy to see them running around. I’d love to have both gadgets but mouse traps will have to do.

Oh, and there was the bit about bed bugs. Maybe watching while sitting in bed wasn’t the best idea; it certainly made for lots of itchy, scratchy sensations after lights out!

Wednesday 24 June 2015
by Wulf
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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

One of the little projects I’ve been playing with at work this week is using public key cryptography, based on OpenPG, to transfer potentially sensitive material to a colleague in another department and I think we’ve cracked it.

The challenge was to put in a signed request form to add a user to a secure system and then to receive the user credentials back. Previously, this was done with a wet ink signature, often transferred through internal mail (since the offices are some distance apart) and then credentials sent back in an envelope marked ‘confidential’ (ie. ‘could be interesting’!). It is a time honoured method but always struck me as the weakest parts of the chain.

After some testing, I’ve now provided my colleague with my public key, generated with GPG (an Open Source implementation of the protocol). I can sign the scanned request form with my private key and he can verify it with my public key. That means the request is more securely authenticated than turning up in an envelope with a scribble on the bottom. He can then encrypt the credentials document, again with the public key, and I can unlock that with the private key, preventing anyone else picking up the user’s password enroute.

That secures the round trip and really is quite simple. Well, quite simple, but it took two computer geeks some research and testing to make it happen after being provisionally on the cards for a couple of years. That’s the rub with security; it entails a measure of inconvenience to do properly and so is done infrequently which makes it seem even more inconvenient. Hopefully I will have another chance to test the system we’ve set up before the dust settles entirely.

Monday 22 June 2015
by Wulf
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This is Madness

“This is madness”, says C-3PO to R2-D2 in an early scene of the first Star Wars film (Episode IV: A New Hope). That would probably be an apt quote to go with this composite of all six Star Wars films to date, overlaid on each other:

Does that sound like a crazy concept to you? I have to confess that I haven’t (yet) watched it all the way through but, being familiar enough with the franchise for the mash of sounds and images to spark a whole stream of memories, it is really quite engrossing. Next time I fancy a Star Wars marathon, this will be the time-saving way to do it.

I gleaned the idea from a friend (hi Brad!) via his Facebook feed, which took me to the nerdist.com website which gives more background on this project by Marcus Rosentrater.