heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

Edamame (soy) harvest

What a beautiful weekend! Finally, a decent touch of summer... in October.

It's time to bring in the beans. This year, I am growing the beans to build up stocks - there was no mention of the seeds supplied being an F1 variety, so I am assuming the seeds harvested will come up true.

Here's what I started with:

Soy seeds

And of the six plants I grew, this represents the harvest of two and a half of them. There's more to come!

My first soy harvest

The rice, on the other hand, has grown to be a sort of bushy grass about a foot tall. No suggestion of flowers, seeds, or any suggestion of anything other than what looks like an odd clump of grass. They were planted late due to the unfavourable conditions, and as of the end of next week we'll be on our steady decline into winter, so I don't hold out much hope. I plan to buy/build a sort of greenhouse-like-thing so I can begin them earlier next year. I'll also sprout them in a pot before planting, which ought to give them a head start (and hopefully increase germination rates). Finally, I need to find a rice producer (or detailed website) to find out the life cycle of rice - when to flood, when not to, how much water it wants when "dry", how deep when "wet", if it should be fertilised/fed, etc. A website saying "put dirt in a bucket, cover with water, throw in some rice seed" was a start, but there's a lot more involved in producing a worthwhile crop.

 

On rooting my phone

Sadly, the "hosts" file is a locked read-only file owned by "root" on a read-only partition.

Okay, I'll do this in English. There is a file, called "hosts" which contains a list of IP addresses and names. By default, it says:

   127.0.0.1   localhost
This means if you tried to go to http://localhost/ your computer would attempt to connect to the address 127.0.0.1 which is a special address meaning "myself". This name-to-address mapping is the basis of something called DNS, and it is how you can type in heyrick.co.uk or google.com and go somewhere. The internet does not have names, it has addresses. Therefore, the URL http://209.85.148.105/ will take you to Google (go on, try it).
This won't work with HeyRick as the one address is a server supplying numerous virtual hosts - you need to specify which host you want in the request, else you'll end up at a Plesk default page (try it if you're really bored!).

Now the trick to what I want to do comes in if you recall that 127.0.0.1 is "myself" and the name can be whatever you like.
What do you suppose is going on here?

   127.0.0.1   localhost
   127.0.0.1   doubleclick.net        adbrite.com   google-analytics.com
   127.0.0.1   googlesyndication.com  adzones.com   serving-sys.com
   127.0.0.1   googleadservices.com   adsonar.com   specificclick.com
   127.0.0.1   quantserve.com         adbureau.net  statcounter.com
Sussed it?
Yup - you're telling your system to resolve all of those ad-laden domains (and that's only a fraction of the list) as pointing to 127.0.0.1 - which as there's nothing there, will just fail. Suddenly the internet on a mobile phone gets a little nicer.

However, we then come to the next part of the problem. The fact that the file is on a read only partition, and that it is owned by "root". Now root is the superuser, the God of the machine. You, the mobile owner and user, are but a mere peon. This is good for many reasons:

  • You, the user, can't break much that a reinstall can't fix.
  • A rogue app is limited in what it can do. Most don't do a lot to the phone but work by using various forms of social engineering to get data from you - for example an app that rips off your contact's details and periodically sends hidden texts to a premium rate number probably asked you for permission prior to install and you said okay - how many people bother to read an app's permissions?
    I was looking for an app to be an on-screen keyboard for Japanese input. I thought "FlickWNN" might be useful. That is, until I noticed it wants full internet access, the ability to modify/delete files on SD card, plus the ability to read contacts. Why? Why does a pop-up keyboard need those?
  • It makes tech support a lot easier for the carrier if they know that the things that go wrong with your phone are not due to you bricking it by messing up something complicated.
When you aren't root, you can't do much...

It might seem that blocking adverts is a logical desire when mobile comms can be slow, and you are frequently limited in your data capacity. Not to mention a desire note to have god-damned Facebook track you moment by moment through the use of the sodding "Like" button. But then there's the problem that Google makes the best cash by punting advertising at you - look at the AdMob extensions to Android apps, in 2009 Google bought the company for a mere $750,000,000 (!).

The answer is to root the phone. It's pretty simple, drop in a patched su and a copy of busybox for tools, and then run an exploit binary. But I'm not so keen on running unknown binaries on my phone. Just to tweak the hosts file. It's a shame there's no provision to run adb or a terminal as the 'root' user for minor tweaks and fixes without the sledgehammer approach of exploiting. I want to mod my hosts file, dammit, not smash the thing wide open!

 

Trashing a Subaru in Japan

What can I say? I went to Japan, drove a Subaru like a nutter, and pretty much wrote it off...

Well, it's quite a bit further down the road than the likes of OutRun or, God help me, Pole Position.

 

Euro

There's not a day goes by that Europe's problems don't become more and more of a disaster. And an already jittery stock market are responding to the fact that - One: leadership sucks. Half of this problem stems from the fact that nobody has put forward a decisive plan. What we have are various leaders assuring that things will be okay (how?) and that these things will take time. I don't think what has entirely sunk in is that time ran out weeks ago. And Two: the Greek situation. Greece won't be able to meet its targets. There is growing discussion that the draconian measures are really only buying time today but will cause a bigger disaster in a few years time.
I do not object to a small portion of taxes, or maybe a one-off levy if based upon income in order to put together a rescue package for Greece. And, in the future, maybe again for Portugal, Italy, Ireland... it is the responsibility of the stronger countries to stand beside and assist the weaker ones.
However, I strongly object to giving any money to Greece when it is in the context of "another bailout" with terms such as those being promoted today. And furthermore, the Greek people need to play their part. And yes, this means succumbing to the evils of taxation. For if they carry on in their blasé "I don't need to pay no taxes!" manner, I would ask them to give pause to consider exactly where the hell they think this bailout money is coming from.

The way things are going now - Greece will default. The country has shown time and again that it cannot manage itself, and the Euro guys haven't done much better. Until something radically changes, it'll be bailout after bailout, and some time if the leaders don't have the balls to say No, then their electorate will. There's enough crap going wrong in our own countries that we can't be throwing money at a lost cause.

This, will, of course, cause chaos in the financial system. The Euro will survive - just as much as the US Dollar didn't go under in 2008. However it will be forced to redefine itself. And this might need to be seen as a wake up call to certain other Euro partners that to keep in the game, they'll need to pull their act together. How this will affect us? It'll be a few years of misery. Will we recover? Most likely not. America is in trouble, we're so deep in trouble it isn't funny. The more liberal Arab countries have shown what lies beneath the glossy façade and it isn't nice. I think we're handing the economic power to the Chinese on a plate. That's not to say this is a bad thing, but if we're not a strong economic force, what are we?

 

On privacy

Given that my Deezer now has a "share with FaceBook" option, and that new accounts with Spotify tie in with a FaceBook account, I think it's about time to reassess our attitudes to privacy.
FaceBook in Deezer? WTF?

But then, it occurs to me, in this day and age we must define "privacy". Now at this point there is always some wally who will say "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear". That couldn't be less true if it tried.

Let's consider - one of my favourite animé/manga/novels is Haruhi Suzumiya. A schoolgirl who frequently molests a girl she dragged into her group (it makes more sense in the story). I'm 37. Thus, surely a pervert. If you rummage around my files, you might find ancient copies of the once-infamous Jolly Roger Cookbook - as way back when it amused me to wonder how far people would get if they actually tried that crap, I mean what kind of nut job tries to brew up nictroglycerine in their kitchen? But hey, not only am I now a pervert, but a terrorist to boot. In a dusty box I have a printout of the text of The Hacker's Handbook. Yup, I spent an eternity running off a copy on a dot-matrix with fading ribbon. Hehe, it was seriously dated even back then. But hey, the sort of person that reads that sort of stuff is criminally inclined, heavy on those torrents and p2p, right?
So I'm a pervert criminal terrorist.

In reality, I'm none of that. I like Haruhi for the genre-savvy existential aspects (again, this makes sense in the story). I'm no longer interested in stuff that blows up (and my ethics go very much against acts of terror), and I never did get around to hacking the Pentagon. Dammit, some Scots bloke beat me to it.
The problem is, random information splattered around without much in the way of context can be used to draw all sorts of bogus conclusions. It's like a person "accused" of paedophilia will forever be suspected and stigmatised by the local people even if such accusations are unfounded. The logic? Well, he must have done something wrong to be accused in the first place...

We, in Europe, have laws that provide for us to be able to obtain a copy of information held on us, with various rights regarding update or correction. What rights do we have with a company based in another country, who collects data without asking first (never mine the EU laws regarding cookies). I just visited jesus.net (I first tried shinto.org but they at least have some standards, even if the English language section is excruciatingly lame) and then Maplin.co.uk and finally Ouest-France.fr. All three had links to FaceBook. If you have a FaceBook account, FaceBook will know you've been there. If you don't, the technology exists to profile you anyway. FaceBook denies this, but tests have shown cookies of a logged-out user being updated following a FaceBook "Like" button visit, so do we believe this?
Let's say you're logged into your Google account, and a friend decides to look up "epic hooters" on your machine. Well, now Google's profiling will be a little less accurate. Speaking of which, it is a pain when YouTube makes suggestions to you based upon things you watch with no way of deleting individual suggestions. Sure, you can "clear your viewing history", but YouTube will continue making suggestions "because you watched...". This becomes a pain when somebody invites you to look at something which, ultimately, turns out not to be that interesting, but turns up influencing recommendations for weeks, if not months. In turn, those of us who would like a little bit of privacy and the ability to definitively delete something, are branded as crackpots, nut jobs, conspiracy theorists.

Aside: While discussing this with my mother, she pointed out a rather blatant dichotomy that the English will happily share way too much information on social networking, yet they'll all come out en masse to reject any notion of a National Identity Card.
Now we are told by big important people, such as Eric Schmidt (Google CEO 2001-2011) that privacy isn't such a big deal (plus some even freakier soundbites) and Mark Zuckerberg (FaceBook CEO) said back in January that privacy was no longer a "social norm". No, a good Citizen will happily share their location (Google Latitude, FaceBook check-in), their current playlist, all their likes and dislikes, and their political views. Why stop there? Why not just drop a porn video online and be instantly famous. Your real name is demanded, not a pseudonym (Google's Profiles) and you'll be expected to share.

There is something massively important to remember when hearing this bull that privacy is no longer important.

These companies punt advertising. User profiling means apparently a better more relevant advert for you, but equally a more accurate advert (thus more likely to get a response) can be sold for a premium.
Your profile makes them money. Your desire for privacy affects their bottom line.

Now go think about that.

 

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opal, 6th October 2011, 10:54
" ...That's not to say this is a bad thing, but if we're not a strong economic force, what are we ..." 
A society of consumers, maybe ?
Rick, 6th October 2011, 15:31
To be a society of consumers, you need to be a reasonable strong economic force so you have low(ish) unemployment and decent levels of pay, so people can afford to go and buy stuff.

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