* Posts by Tom Sparrow

54 publicly visible posts • joined 26 Sep 2007


The sad state of Linux desktop diversity: 21 environments, just 2 designs

Tom Sparrow

Re: The curse of overchoice

Dozen of different answers is the main problem, not the choice itself. Linux users should be careful not to disparage other linux users, but are often far too keen to do just that.

My current advice is - If you want something a bit like a Mac, go for Ubuntu*, if you want something a bit like Windows, go for Kubuntu.

I thought the key point made was "A good choice would be the same as the person who is most likely to help you". The best advice is normally from someone who won't vanish the moment you act on it, which is exactly what I'm about to do.

( * I'm not a Mac user, so Ubuntu may not be as similar as I think, but it's less windows-like in use than Kubuntu)

QR-code based contact-tracing app brings 'defining moment' for UK’s 'world beating' test and trace system

Tom Sparrow

Re: Pity

The QR code reader is part of the NHS app (though I'm guessing you're more on the 'won't be getting that' side of the fence). The QR code itself is a location specific code the app will (presumably) register as somewhere you've visited, not a URL or other link.

WhatsApp security snafu allows sneaky 'message manipulation'

Tom Sparrow

Re: No privacy for the public

I think the original way round is correct - for example it would allow you to provoke someone in what they think is a group message but is actually private. When they reply with abuse to you, it looks like to the rest of the group as if it's come out of the blue.

Or possibly, ask them to share information with the group that they shouldn't so they get the blame instead of you.

All of these require you to be a member of the group in the first place though, as far as I can see. If you invite the FBI into your group chat, you've really only got yourself to blame.

Notes/Domino is alive! Second beta of version 10 is imminent

Tom Sparrow

Re: It's actually used a lot

@Sitaram In business, how many users actually choose their mail client though? Not many I'd bet, whether they like it or not.

I don't really care for the Notes client any more, it's got it's advantages but they're nowhere near enough to outweigh the problems. On the server/admin side though, I'd take it over exchange any day, even with it's flaws.

Not sure where you get that headers thing - I get a full sized window with everything in quite happily.

As for the sort by subject line, I couldn't say when it arrived, but if it really was that late then any half decent dev/admin team could have added it in - it's about 30 seconds work to make the change, and maybe a couple of minutes to apply it to the entire organisation, for a small/medium site anyway.

I tend to use iNotes webmail these days, but used the Domino back end with Thunderbird quite happily for a while, and have users that do so now without any problems. It's got a full IMAP server buried in there as well.

WhatsApp app in flap over chap's snap of URL mishap

Tom Sparrow

Valid user agent?

There's no such thing as a valid user agent, they're not regulated by anyone and neither should they be. Don't get me started on the stupidity of all major browsers still being labelled as Mozilla/5.0.

Why we can't just cut all this out and just use Firefox/56 or Chrome/127 or whatever we're up to now is beyond me.

In fact, I'm getting a user agent plugin now and updating mine to something sensible. I'm starting a revolution, even if it's just a single grumpy middle aged man revolution.

Google GPS grab felt like a feature, was actually a bug

Tom Sparrow

I wonder if Ubuntu touch will *ever* be ready for practical use.

The post is required, and must contain letters.

The ‘Vaping Crackdown’ starts today. This is what you need to know

Tom Sparrow

That's quite a pro-vaping article.

There's a lot of information thrown around in there as fact. It's not that I disbelieve it exactly, but it would certainly help the credibility somewhat if there were citations for some of them.

URL shorteners reveal your trip to strip club, dash to disease clinic – research

Tom Sparrow

Re: "The actual, long URLs are thus effectively public"

@Lusty - but I think the point is with a predictable sequence of short urls on a known domain, the brute force enumeration is a realistic option. Enumerating all possible URLs on even one domain is not practical, let alone the whole internet.

Labour will create FUD and then abstain on UK Snoopers' Charter vote

Tom Sparrow

I read the guidelines

I couldn't see anything in the long boring document and tedious examples (Terrorists! Child Abusers! Organised Crime! More Terrorists!) that wouldn't be fixed simply by speeding up the adoption of IPv6. If we're forcing the ISPs to spend money implementing something, why not make it something worthwhile.

Virgin bins Webspace, tells customers they can cry to GoDaddy

Tom Sparrow

ISP Email

@massivelySerial - Virgin outsourced their webmail to google a long time ago. It's branded, but it's still gmail. I think I remember BT went to Yahoo for theirs, though that could just be my imagination.

IP freely? Your VoIP phone can become a covert spy tool...

Tom Sparrow

Doesn't give any details

I tried to understand what the problem was, and there's no detail at all on the article. The video shows nothing really.

I assume it's a matter of *if* your phone has a weak or no password and *if* you go to the right webpage and *if* they know the IP address of your phone and *if* they know the make of phone you use then (and only then) the 'attacker' can could the web interface URL and give commands to the phone.

*If* I'm right, then it doesn't sound like a major issue to me, or a major surprise. It certainly smells of security consultant scaremongering.

Doctor Who: Oh, look! There's a restaurant at the end of the universe in Hell Bent

Tom Sparrow

Re: dont overdo it

Didn't the sisterhood say they had been called to Galifrey or did I imagine that? I guess it found them (presumably some point in the 4.5.billion years the Dr had been away)

Round Two in Sky vs Skype trademark scrap goes to Murdoch's men

Tom Sparrow

Re: Ask the person on the Clapham omnibus?

Re Anon Coward: I don't think you're pronouncing Skype the way the rest of us are, or is that me (& everyone I know)?

Low price, big power: Virtual Private Server picks for power nerds

Tom Sparrow

Re: Excuse my ignorance please

My issue with AWS (which we do use for certain tasks) is it's so hard to see what you're actually going to be paying. CPU cycles, IO cycles, bandwidth in & out & between AWS instances, storage etc etc etc. It's never ending.

I don't want to care how many IO requests my web server makes a day, I just want a server with enough disk space. I don't mind paying for bandwidth separately, but make it simple.

Mature mainframe madness prints Mandlebrot fractal in TWELVE MINUTES

Tom Sparrow

Re: Zzzzzzzzzt!

Would that not have been EBCDIC Art, or was that earlier still?

Netadmin wanted for 'terrible, terrible, awful job nobody wants'

Tom Sparrow

That's my job!

""almost impossible combination of knowing a little about almost all levels of information technology support"

Everything from network, security, server admin & development right through to coffee machines (even light bulbs and radiators can be IT support here). No childhood diseases though (other than the innumerable minor bugs my kids pick up and pass on).

It's great. I can't be the only one, surely?

Burglars' delight no more: Immobilise UK secures property list

Tom Sparrow

Re: change the web address??

The way I read the info (on the original report directly), it's not that it was possible to read another users list of items, you have to know the user ID and item (certificate) ID. The items were sequentially numbered, but you had to know which user has which ID to find it.

It's still wrong, but not quite as simple as looking up another users entire item list - there's at least 2x10^13 possible combinations judging by the numbers on his report, and only 1/4,000,000 will produce a result.

I assume he tested by setting up a second account (or just logging out), so didn't access any records he shouldn't have access to. He'd also knew the account ID & record ID he was looking for, so wouldn't trip any alarms scanning through a million incorrect combinations first.

THREE MILLION Moonpig accounts exposed by flaw

Tom Sparrow

Re: Photobox too

I haven't looking into photobox app, or whether there is a similar API problem there, so I can't really comment. You can close your photobox account without having to contact customer services though, so the platform is obviously not completely identical.

I simply closed that account because the company is clearly insufficiently motivated to protect my privacy,

Tom Sparrow

Re: There's a message on their contact us page:

Priority would have been 17 months ago. Sorry, too late, I'm gone.

Tom Sparrow

Just asked them to close my account - the URL for the customer service form is https://photobox-mp.custhelp.com/app/ask

When I noticed Photobox in the URL, I checked, and found it's the same company (also paperShaker and Sticky9, who I've not heard of). Just to be on the safe side, I closed my account there as well. At least you can do that online in real time.

I've been a customer of moonpig (apparently) for 15 years, and photobox for at least 8. Their print quality was far superior to tesco as well, but I guess that will have to do now.

BSkyB, CityFibre, TalkTalk pull clear of bigwig BT's bundles – plan to set fibre to York

Tom Sparrow

Re: They're FibreCity

CityFibre own the infrastructure in Bournemouth, but don't offer end user packages directly - that's what Gigler do. (Gigler could be a subsidiary/brand name, not looked into that)

And it's far too small an amount of coverage if you ask me, or at least in the wrong area. And yes, by wrong area, I mean not my house, and yes it's just sour grapes. It's painful to be so close and yet so far from a Gb connection.

BT-owned ISP Plusnet fails to plug security hole on its customer signup page

Tom Sparrow

No, but...

It did eliminate the open WiFi hotspot, which is the most worrying problem. The rest of the route is across ISP networks, so at least it's only the ISP staff who realistically have access. Not entirely trustworthy, but better than anyone within spitting distance of the local coffee shop.

Send dosh (insecurely) via email, Jack Dorsey's Square tells punters

Tom Sparrow

not quite

SMTP is how you send outgoing emails, but it's also how the mail servers transfer emails between themselves. You may need log into your mail server to send mails, but only when sending to domains not hosted on that server (i.e. when relaying).

If it's the host server for the domain, there's no need to log in before it will accept your email.

Ten pi-fect projects for your new Raspberry Pi

Tom Sparrow

Re: My project...

See here http://www.saveonheatingbills.co.uk/ for details.

Tom Sparrow

Re: My project...

Motorised TRV's definately exist - we got them put in at work initially from Honeywell (not my project) - £80 per valve and £150 for the control panel to set the target temperature (on a schedule).

When I did my heating at home recently I looked for something a little more sensible in price - Pegler make a TRV that is motorised/scheduled target temperature changes all in one for around £25. Each room is now turned up and down to a schedule as necessary (i.e. kids rooms off while they're at school, dining room turns right down in the evening & our bedroom doesn't start warming up until 9 or 10). They can be adjusted manually at any point, and revert to programmed temp at the next scheduled change.

There's a USB programming stick and remote available (600MHz). The programming only has s/w for windows at the moment, but it's just a USB/Serial interface from what I can tell so that's a project for later on.

Tom Sparrow

Doing similar

Have a spare wireless thermostat/receiver that I'm cannibalising for actual switching. The transmitter is simple 3v pulse signal to an on or off pin (the actualy upload codez are all on the little daughter board thankfully).

USB thermometer currently in the post (£8 / ebay) and than it's all software - I'm hoping to persuade it to look up the outside temp & wind chill from the met office then reference a schedule of when the church hall is in use and calculate when to turn the heating on so it's suitably warm when needed. In winter, that can be 3am some weeks, despite having a boiler the size and power of the flying scotsman (probably about as efficient, too).

Thermonuclear boiler might be a suitable replacement, hence icon.

Red supergiant Betelgeuse heads for SMACKDOWN with 'dust bar'

Tom Sparrow

Re: Red Shift

Redshift only applies as a means of judging distance on large cosmological scales, that is extra-galactic at least, where the overall expansion of the universe applies. Not that you can't measure the shift, but it doesn't tell you how far away the object is (because the galaxy isn't expanding, at least not in the way the universe is)

Within the galaxy, you need to rely on other factors - parallax measurement as the earth goes round the sun is good, if you can measure accurately enough.

Latest exoplanet discovery is a virtual CLONE of Earth

Tom Sparrow

Re: How far?

Time was I could have made that calculation without an envelope, but no more, alas.

Science aside, there's also something strangely satisfying about seeing it on the sky, even if it's a virtual sky (easier to zoom in on the right place as well then, plus you can draw pretty pictures over the constellations)

Tom Sparrow

How far?

So people (including me) keep asking how far this star is. Here's what I've found so far:

According to the NASA database at http://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/cgi-bin/ExoTables/nph-exotbls?dataset=cumulative - rowID 1509, this star is at ra 293.260925 dec 44.868889

I found this using Stellarium (a lovely little tool for the amateur, though I had to download the smaller magnitude maps to find it) at RA 19h 33m 2.62s / Dec 44 52m 7.8s but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have a name or a distance. Magnitude matches at 13.8 though, so I think it's the right one

I leave this information here for anyone with more time to dig than me.

END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH: TalkTalk no longer worst ISP in UK

Tom Sparrow

Re: Note that "industry average" bar and also that there are about 450 ISP's in the UK.

From the Ofcom report:

"The ‘industry average’ refers to the average of providers included in the Ofcom research. Complaints about other smaller providers are not included in this average."

Statistically speaking of course, if only the worst three had more than average complaints out of 450 then they would have to be truly appalling.

Copper-obsessed BT means UK misses out on ultrafast fibre gold

Tom Sparrow

Re: Dark fibre?

Ah yes, Sewernet. A great idea and I was one of the first to sign up for 'when it became available'. 3 years later and it's still not here ( Bournemouth, first FibreCity in Europe!). Got fed up of waiting for inifnity as well (April 2012, still no sign of anything happening at my exchange).

Came to the conclusion that all ISPs will promise anything as long as you don't expect them to deliver. Might as well ignore the promises and go with whoever gives you the closest to what you want when you want it. I went back to Virgin who do actually provide the 30Mb/s I asked for, and don't force me to take a phone line to go with it. Fortunately, I haven't had to deal with their tech support yet....

Apple iGlasses

Tom Sparrow

Pretty much what I thought - it's Philips ambilight on a pair of glasses.

Brits get to fondle Google Nexus 7 slab in just a fortnight

Tom Sparrow

Re: USB Question

Just been looking this up - the (rather pathetic) user guide says you can connect USB keyboard/mouse/joystick etc 'with an adapter' (and recommends powered hub for multiple peripherals) so I guess host mode is available.

I'm unsure whether host mode and OTG adapter = USB storage support, but I'm one step closer to an impulse buy.

For 3g, I'd stick to wireless tether via my phone, 'cos it's simple and I already pay for bandwidth.

Euro banks slam dot-bank plan

Tom Sparrow

Very little point

not sure why they're trying to foist more domain names on us. Based on what I see from recent advertising trends, all urls in the future will be in the format facebook.com/brandname.

Except mine and your's, of course. We know better.

Sick of Ubuntu's bad breath? Suck on a Linux Mint instead

Tom Sparrow

Tried mint for a month or so

and I quite liked it, but found strangely that the repositories were lacking in quite a bit of software I wanted. I thought this was very odd, given from a quick glance they seemed to be using the ubuntu repositories, at least in part.

Went back to ubuntu (and wavered between gnome3 and unity for a while, before sticking with gnome3). Never got on with kde for reasons I have never quite understood. I've got used to the new gnome now, so I'm quite happy.

Doctor Who girl Amy Pond axed in 'heartbreaking' exit

Tom Sparrow


Could you PLEASE not put huge spoilers like that in the headlines. I avoid all the Dr Who news I can for a reason, but having it in large print at the top of one of my regular websites makes that very difficult.

Are IP addresses personal data?

Tom Sparrow

I'd have to agree with Ken

My IP address is definitely personal data - it's a static address, and if you run a reverse DNS lookup it resolves to my name. Perhaps in hindsight not the smartest choice for a username, but I've had it for years and a static address is hard to come by in the consumer space these days so I'm not about to give it up.

I'd click the anonymous button, but there doesn't seem much point really.

Microsoft's Android patent ransom to 'total $444m' next year

Tom Sparrow

That's assuming patent lawyers are free. I'd think it's fairly safe to assume they're not.

Memo to open source moralists: Put a sock in it

Tom Sparrow


I think you may have missed the point a little. I don't think Matt's talking about the software, rather the large donations to worthy causes that selling bucketloads of the software has enabled him to make.

I don't think giving a copy of windows to someone (even if he'd done that) counts as 'doing more for the worlds poor'. Putting millions/billions into funds to cure nasty diseases does though (even if the funds are named after himself, a practice I rather dislike)

Piles of unshiftable HP fondle-slabs choke Best Buy

Tom Sparrow


WebOS is linux.

Unless they've changed it since my Pixi, proper linux too - terminal access via USB cable with novacom or directly with a small app install.

I don't think it would be too hard, by phone/tablet standards (though way above most people) to install your own distro on there. Be nice to to see it running meego...

Bluetooth goes 3D with Apple

Tom Sparrow
Thumb Up

Re: At last! - Absolutely

I've been wondering for years why remote controls are still IR.

Anyone who thinks otherwise has obviously never had a child sit directly in front of the DVD player and demand to know why Little Red Tractor isn't playing yet.

Apple pilfers rips off student's rejected iPhone app

Tom Sparrow
Thumb Up

@AC 08:58

That's exactly how it works, didn't you know? http://xkcd.com/827/

Linux Foundation chief dubs MeeGo 'unstoppable force'

Tom Sparrow

Have a look on ebay

There's loads of random chinese tablets running on intel processors. I think they'd be pretty good for the price (if they turn up).

Been thinking about buying one for a while to try with Unity, and/or other linuxes.

Desktop Linux: the final frontier

Tom Sparrow

rewrite/improve it?

(no, I've never done that before you ask)

Download it legally for free.

Run it on a clapped out old PC.

Give it to my kids without worrying they might break it.

Those are the obvious things, I'm sure there are others, but you only asked for 1.

Conversely, there's nothing I can't do on Linux that I care about, so why pay for windows?

Tom Sparrow

I have 2 questions...

1) What is your desktop software?

2) Does it run on Linux?

Maybe Linux users aren't attracted to your software, or maybe your website tells them it doesn't work and they don't bother to ask. Surely you should do some actual market research if you're really interested, rather than assuming customers will come to you.

It's like only making Nikon fit lenses and not Canon because 'no-one asks for them'. Why would they ask when they can get them elsewhere? doesn't mean you wouldn't sell like hot cakes if you made them.

That said, I use Ubuntu at home and at work and think it's great, but also find 20% a difficult figure to believe.

Apple to support reps: Don't confirm Mac infections

Tom Sparrow

speaking of stupidity...

'a machine for which there are no viruses'?

There's a prime example right there.

Microsoft stops ID-ing phones in jab at Google

Tom Sparrow

molehill maybe

but I don't want molehills one my lawn (though a mountain in my back garden would be cool).

They may give you the choice, but if you don't want your data sent out, you have no location functionality. Which is not much of a choice in my book.

GPS requires no data to be sent anywhere, cell tower and wifi based location tracking (and associated AGPS features) require a little data to be swapped ("I can see this base station" - "OK, that lives here...").

None of this requires anyone to know who's asking. Leave my phone ID out of it please. If I want you to know where I am, I'll log in and tell you.

TomTom sorry for giving customer driving data to cops

Tom Sparrow


Sorry, but he's talking sense. Yes reducing accidents may be a nobler aim, but the police are there to catch criminals. If you break the speed limit then you are a criminal.

Yes the speed limit is a fairly arbitrary value, but it's not an injust law (or morally suspect) so you have to stick to it. If you don't like it, campaign against it. If you break the law, live with the consequences.

If it's a choice between giving fines to people who break the law and upping the tax in any other way, I know which I'd opt for.