Wulf's Webden

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Monday 23 January 2017
by Wulf


For a long time, I have been advising colleagues to lock their computers before they walk away from them. It protects against a lot of the risks of accidents as well as malicious attacks and is easy to do. On a Window machine, you just have to press the Windows key and L and there are ways to do it on any system. Even if normally working in trusted environments, it is a habit worth developing.

It turns out though that you now have to be even more careful. PoisonTap is a recent threat I was reading about at the end of last year. It turns out that, with a bit of technical expertise and a very low outlay in parts, an attacker can now infect your computer even if the screen is locked as long as they can plug into a USB port and a web browser is open on the computer. The computer ‘cleverly’ spots that it has a new network device available, has a conversation with it and thus gets thoroughly compromised.

That is a bit like discovering that burglars can walk through walls if you’ve left your heating on! Mind you, even without this potential new attack, it is safest not to leave lots of programs running. The less that’s live, the less there is to break.

Sunday 22 January 2017
by Wulf

Khorasan Bread

Today I tried out an unusual flour called khorasan as part of a loaf of bread (40% of the flour content, balanced with strong white bread flour). This has proved to be a very successful experiment; a yellowish crumb with a soft but firm texture. I’ll get a few more loaves out of the packet but it will probably be going on my shopping list again.

Saturday 21 January 2017
by Wulf

Face to Face

I was up relatively early this morning and out driving through the countryside. I enjoyed the beauty of warming early morning sun over thick hoarfrost and decent glances at several perching buzzards but my aim was to get to a rendezvous in the Cotswold Water Park where I was to meet some fellow student from the TU812 Managing Systemic Change course.

I would have arrived on time except for a small systemic failure in finding the right cafe. Thanks to Google Maps I ended up at the large hotel next door and being directed on to Cirencester. Fortunately I could get online with my phone to check the details of the venue and it turned out the place I wanted was not far away but recognised locally by a different name from the one I’d expected. It was an informal gathering though so it didn’t matter that much and I enjoyed a pleasant morning getting to know some fellow members of my cohort and having the chance to discuss systems thinking with others who have been learning (and equally struggling with) the same lingo.

Distance learning creates possibilities but a little gathering like this is a wonderful opportunity.

Friday 20 January 2017
by Wulf

Siri-ous Calculation

I discovered a new trick yesterday while working on my OU assignment with the iPad on the desk. You can’t yet say “Hey Siri, please write my assignment for me” (and nor would that give the learning benefit that comes from wrestling with thinking and thinking about how to express it). However, you can ask, “Hey Siri, calculate X + Y”, where X and Y are word counts for subsections of a question.

In previous assignments, I have done this check either mentally or by breaking out a calculator (application or web-based) to type in the numbers. Now, if my brain is fatigued, I can beat the speed of switching away from the document and typing the calculation in. In the grand scheme of things, it is only a minor discovery and it doesn’t save a huge amount of time. Regardless, the satisfaction of having something useful I can do by talking to a computer makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday 19 January 2017
by Wulf

Unappreciated and unattributed

“What people don’t appreciate about the ukulele is it’s easy to play but very difficult to spell.”

That quip stood out in an enjoyable book I started recently, The Uke of Wallington. It is an autobiographical account of Mark Wallington’s journey around the UK by foot and public transport, touring open mic nights with his ukulele. The book is charming and funny but rather short on details. It could all be made up, although there appears to be video evidence to the contrary on the author’s website.

The quote is attributed to an anonymous violinist on the Isle of Wight but it sounds so familiar. I did a search on Google but only found it, unattributed, at the top of a couple of pages from Pocklington and District U3A. Those pages don’t have a date so could well have been put together after Wallington’s book was released in 2012.

If I use it and anyone asks me, I’ll attribute it to Wallington but let me know if you can dig up roots from further back.

Wednesday 18 January 2017
by Wulf

Head Down

Hurrah! I’ve got a day off work tomorrow. Alas though, it isn’t to relax but to see if I can get a good chunk of my next OU assignment done. It is due in in the middle of next week so I’ve got a fair way to go. Working tomorrow, Friday and probably Saturday and beyond too.

One thing that will be a new experience is that, as far as I can tell, I’ve done a good chunk of the work with the study on the current bit of the course. I hope I’m right about that as I’m either a good way towards the end or have a very long way to go!

Tuesday 17 January 2017
by Wulf

Red Plague

Maybe it is just as well that red squirrels are relatively rare in the UK? Apparently, the population carries forms of leprosy which can infect humans although this is unlikely to occur.

The answer isn’t going to be to put bells on them and shun them but further study. If you are lucky enough to see red squirrels in your neighbourhood (not here, I’m afraid, although we’ve seen redstarts, a bird with similar shape to a starling but a different plumage, in the tree at the back of the garden recently), then watch them with binoculars and send in your reports if you notice any signs that look like the photos in the article.