An omnibus of tech posts by s Futurologist on software development
Saturday, 29 December 2007
Safer online payment system
I figure a better way of paying online. Rather than having to give up my Mastercard details and check digits to every website, why can't i simply login on the Mastercard website (or other means via my mobile etc), create a transaction ref, and enter that into the online shopping website? Save's the risk of someone on that site of deciding to use my card details for anymore than the transaction ref amount ;)
Fix outlook to *not* top-post!
Came across this Microsoft
page with the following tip to get rid of those annoying quoted copies of emails which get included when replying:
"Do not automatically include the original message
- In the main Office Outlook 2007 window, on the Tools menu, click Options.
- Click the Preferences tab, and then click E-Mail Options.
- Under On replies and forwards, in the When replying to a message drop-down list, select Do not include original message."
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Check your insurance file
Insurance Database Services Limited run the Claims and Underwriting Exchange which holds a database of information passed to them from Insurance companies on any claims you have made. I checked my record recently and found errors on the record which Elephant had twice assured me they had corrected!
Fill in this form
and write to them yourself at:
The Company Secretary
Insurance Database Services Limited
1st Floor, 100 Fenchurch St
London EC3M 5JD
Oddly they ask on that form for us to tell them what claims had been made, surely they should be the ones telling us that so we can check?
It costs slightly more than the credit reference agency file, coming in at £10, but maybe you can argue for it back if there are errors?
Labels: DataProtection, UK
Check your credit file for only £2
I'm glad I checked my credit file recently, both Experian and Equifax had erroneous data from two banks.
The good news is we can pay £2 by cheque or postal order to the companies and get a full copy. Be sure to include your D.O.B. full name and previous addresses in the last six years!Write to:
PO BOX 8000
Credit File Advice Centre
PO BOX 1140
Consumer Services Team
PO Box 491
Leeds LS3 1WZ
Interestingly, although they hold a database on us, it is currently regulated by the Credit Act rather than the Data Protection Act (so the Information Commissioner does not directly regulate).
Labels: DataProtection, UK
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Missing Data Protection Contoller contact details
I've noticed in recent years that I will purchase something or donate to a charity, and then discover that despite not ticking the box to opt into their marketing (or vice versa, always ticking to opt-out!), I've been added to their marketing databases. Often my details are then sold on to other companies, I've had Oxfam passing my details to Crisis, and also SmileTrain have just passed on my details to RNLI and MINT I suspect.
The problem is, they don't include a clear address to write to get in touch with the Data Protection Controller and track down the cause of this leak. Also the organisations are often unwilling to put in place policies to verify consent was provided before they buy in data. Many Data Protection Controllers do not even keep records of where they obtained the data from (Gateshead Council Electoral Roll return slips) (Gateshead sold my details to Harveys Furniture Store).
In my experience many Controllers are unwilling to divulge who they have distributed personal data too, or the source when they must have records of it.
I think we need a few "cultural" changes relating to Data Protection of persons information by organisations which we hope we can trust:
- Include full contact details for Data Protection Controller in all communications.
- Data Protection Controller needs to keep records of where personal data arrived from and that permission has been provided and verified.
- Penalties and compensation for breaches of personal data and the time taken to sort out the problems of unauthorised data leaks.
- ICO office being given more powers to investigate/audit organisations, and do spot checks to verify data breaches and record keeping in organisations.
Some organisations are not even registering on the Data Protection Register, in my view they should be fined and audited by the ICO, charging them for the cost of the audit.
The HMRC incidents in the UK really highlight how lapse this situation is at present. So Data Controllers, have a new years resolution to do your jobs properly! ;)
Labels: DataProtection, UK
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Cookie filter and block for Firefox?
I use Firefox's Adblock
extensions to ditch the advert pollution on many pages of the interweb. What we really need is a decent CookieBlock and CookieFilterset updater, the sort that blocks cookies like urchin
Labels: DataProtection, Firefox
Friday, 21 December 2007
New train service to London!
I wondered why there weren't many services running these days. Now I know the answer:
hehe, merry Gregorian new year everyone
Labels: Transport, UK
Thursday, 20 December 2007
Min wage - possible because we can out source?
Would the UK's minimum wage be possible if it wasn't for the fact that we could outsource most of our factory work to countries which don't have such generous provision? UK currently pays a whopping (joke) £5.52 an hour, but that is probably about 10x what the replacement factory workers get in India and China.. Is this fair on the new workers? There should be some system of minimum wages managed by an international organisation like the UN to limit the divide between countries I think... but how this would work in practice I am unsure.
Thunderbird attatchment bug
Anyone else noticed that Mozilla's Thunderbird can't save attachments from forwarded emails? I often get forwarded emails, they show up as attachments called "ForwardedEmail.eml" or so, and when I open them the attachments are there, but I can't get at them, doh! So I have to go back to web-based client to pull out the OOo files attached, doh! Just another case of Mozilla bugs
never being fixed? I'm sure the old Mozilla 1.x suite suffered the same bug.
Discpace of used by sub-dirs
There are often times when I wish Konqueror or the MS-Windows equivalent could display a column for discspace used by sub-dirs. Unfortunately its necessary to check each directory manually, when really I just want to track back from my ~/ to see where all the used up space is!
Labels: Future, GNU-Linux
Friday, 14 December 2007
When even the Information Commissioner's office is tracking us, who's left to trust?
I posted last month about cookie tracking
, and now I noticed that none other than the UK Information Commissioner
's website is also assigning me a unique number which does not expire until 2009!! Spot the referal tracking too? and what does "organic" mean?
I could not believe that this would be something the ICO Richard Thomas
, would have allowed his office to set this up. I can't even think this was an oversight, as it is necessary to sign-up for the tracking system account before you can use it!
Interestingly, even googling for "information commissioner" gives me the warning that the website is trying to set a unique tracking cookie on my computer.
Before anyone posts saying it is anonymous, check the definition of anonymous
-- "lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction", oops Mr ICO!
So much for warning of the big brother state
then Mr Thomas!?
The ICO is an independent office of government, responsible for protecting access to personal information and providing access to official information. Covering the following legislation: Data Protection Act 1998
, The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
, and the Freedom of Information Act 2000
Let's see if the ICO practices what preaches regarding privacy any time soon...
Labels: DataProtection, UK
This tiff firefox bug
seems set on never being resolved by the Firefox team. Outstanding for 5 years already! Why can't the browser most popular with users display a standard graphics file format? It's just like the reply-all bug
in Thunderbird which doesn't get tackled.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Install and restart in Firefox
It is interesting to see that Firefox suffers the same problems that MS-Windows does. Every time an extension is installed it says it is necessary to restart before changes will take effect. Why can't they apply on the fly like most GNU-Linux desktop applications?
What is worse that Firefox's offer to Restart doesn't actually work, I installed Filterset.G Updater on the latest 18.104.22.168 (what's with the silly numbering?) and clicked "Restart" when it offered, and when it restarted it hadn't really restarted, as Filterset.G hadn't run its first-run functions to download the advert block list! I had to close it, and manually restart to get it to download the advert block list.
..so come on Firefox developers, catch up!
Labels: Firefox, Future, GNU-Linux
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD format war won thanks to PS3
Compare these prices from dabs.com:
- Xbox 360 £300 (with only a DVD drive!)
- PS3 £300 including one free game (and a Blueray drive).
If you want to be able to play HD-DVD discs on your Xbox you have to spend a further £111.22 for the external HD-DVD drive, yuk! They are even including 5 discs.. guess what is not selling well? They'll be burying them in the desert along with all those ET Atari cartridges at this rate.
Toshiba's standalone HD-DVD player costs £200. Again, it includes 5 of those HD-DVD discs they're desperate to get rid of!
The Xbox 360 having an HD-DVD driver would probably not have made much difference, as it is already available as an option, and many games are downloaded from the marketplace.
The only thing Xbox 360 has going for it is the games. Save your money and buy a PS3 which can already play HD films though ;)
Labels: Bluray, Future
Monday, 3 December 2007
Websites need to aim for mobile displays
I browse the net from my Nokia 770 and also my K800i. What strikes me is that web designers are still not making accessible pages. Often I find there are PDF links which are so bulky they take 30secs to view on the 770, or simply cant be viewed on my K800i. Then there are Adobe Flash files embedded into the pages. Often the pages don't fit on the screen and disabling the images to speed up browsing leaves it looking a mess.
Web designers need to make sure their page will fit the width, my weblog for instance comes in at under 800px, including the scroll bar and window declarations. Image sizes should be included in the HTML, so that when they're not downloaded the page is still layed out correctyly (also helping the layout display while the page is being downloaded).. All obvious stuff, so just need the mobile browsers to catch up, and the designers to take note!
Also would be nice if caches like google included the images as well as the text, because I use the cache links when the real pages go down, but then the cached page references the orginal images and I have to disable the image display to let the page download.
Picture messaging not so good from computer
It's so easy to take and send a picture message from my mobile, so why is it so hard from a computer? Neither my Thunderbird or GMail have a picture messaging mode. It just needs a way to add a photo, resize it and orient it, compress it so it downloads quick for the recipient, and send! Not that hard is it..? My GNU+Linux distro can't even copy an image to the clipboard like MS Windows has been able to since 1995!
OpenOffice beats MS-Office
It's great to see how successful OpenOffice.org
has become since I first started using it when it was StarOffice, the OOo betas and now at version 2.0. I even saw there is an "Essential Open Office" magazine here in the UK newsagents, showing off features and covering The GIMP as well (still got that silly product name..)
The gripes I have about OOo Calc are that it doesn't have +D as Fill down working. Also the Del/Backspace key function is inconsistent between the GNU-Linux and MS-Windows editions. Also when deleting, or cutting the contents of a cell it set's the cell to some horrid font (and it isn't easy to globally set the defaults to something reasonable like Helvetica, why doesn't it have sensible defaults?)
Still, always better that MS-Excel, which even in its latest version does not let me have to Excel windows open at the same time side by side! How annoying!
Forms and paperwork now expand to fit the net
It seems like every form which used to be 1 page has now increased to about 10 thanks to how "easy" it is to ask for someone to fill it in online. The net could be used to complete the compact forms of old and speed up the process, but it seems it's only made it simpler for organisations to ask for more information! When a new motorway is built to ease congestion, within a couple of years it's also at gridlock.
Labels: Future, UK
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