April 25, 2005

Crazy numbers

Posted in: Spotted

Saw this in an elevator in a block of flats near Waterloo. I promise I didn't make this up.

422 Lift Formation

How does this happen? It's so obvious it has to be deliberate. But, but, but...!

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 21:37 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2005

How to spraypaint a kettlebell

Posted in: Sport

So you've got a load of competition kettlebells (and if not, why not?) but they're all the same colour. Boring boring boring! Not only that, their similarity of hue is hindering rapid and effective identification. You're a busy person, you don't have time to pick 'em, look at a little insignia, or any other tedious nonsense. You need kolour-koded kettlebells!

Six Black Kettlebells
Any kettlebell can look good in black. But... *yawn*

Here's how...

Continue reading "How to spraypaint a kettlebell"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 15:57 | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bike maintenance

Posted in: Drivel

Been riding around on this seriously unsafe back tyre for several months (well, several months before my several months layoff from cycling ;-).

Shredded Back Tyre
D'ya reckon?

The worst bit was that the sidewall attachment to the rim beading was almost torn through for about 8cm which gave rise to this alarming sideways drift every wheel rotation on corners...

Continue reading "Bike maintenance"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 15:14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday Night Weighted Skate

Posted in: Sport

Thanks to a tip-off from the iron freaks at LKB, I recently picked up a Reebok "Iron Vest", a 20lb neoprene garment intended for adding a strength component to aerobic workouts. Having not been to a London Friday Night Skate in absolutely ages I resolved to go, and introduce a new friend to the joy of group skates...

Still Smiling Pre-Skate
You think it's funny now, Bucko...

(The flak jacket in the photo is in fact the "Iron Vest".)

Continue reading "Friday Night Weighted Skate"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 03:57 | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Customs & Royal Mail clearance "scam"

Posted in: Drivel

Oh boy, legal rip-off. I ordered US$38.98 (£20.36) of crap from Cafepress and managed to incur £7.55 Customs and Royal Mail clearance fee, so 37% of the original cost ended up in the laps of Customs and Royal Mail. Why? The maximum declared value of imported goods is £18 before it's subject to tax. So £3.55 was VAT (fair, accurate, no problems), and the remaining £4.00 was a charge by the Royal Mail to clear it through Customs and deliver it. Except they don't, they take it to the local holding P.O. for collection. I guess my objection is a) having to pay for a service I didn't request and b) for which I have to do extra work myself, work I see as firmly in the remit of the service provider, i.e. deliver it to the labelled address(!) c) paying £7.55 on £20.36 worth of goods(!!)


Posted by Paul Makepeace at 13:40 | Comments (114) | TrackBack

82277 SMS spam

Posted in: Drivel

Grr, just checked my phone bill and a whole series of unsolicited £1.50 reverse-billed SMSs ("text spam") have been charged to my account:

Sunshine Quiz Wkly Q! Win a top Sony DVD player if u know which country Liverpool played in mid week? Txt ansr to 82277. £1.50 SP:Tyrone
Continue reading "82277 SMS spam"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 12:42 | Comments (20) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

Learning with humor

Posted in: Tech

In my quest to learn about redundant firewalls I've had to understand how Internet routing works. Another on my "vaguely understood for at least half a decade" list that's coming into much sharper focus. In the course of learning about HSRP, Hot Standby Router Protocol I discovered RouterGod, a series of articles on low-level internet arcana presented as... celebrity interviews! E.g. Paul Hogan tells us about HSRP! They are absolutely fantastic, especially 7 of 9 on OSPF

Continue reading "Learning with humor"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 18:51 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

Firewall hijinx

Posted in: Tech

I've been neck-deep in iptables trying to set up a dual redundant firewall out of a pair of Linux 2.6 boxes. I'm currently moving from a six year long fuzzy phase of vaguely understanding how iptables works to rapidly upgrading that into a solid working knowledge: enough to actually create something non-trivial, on my own. Put another way, enter an endless loop of typing commands, reading documents, (note the order there), puzzling at why it doesn't work...

So in the course of all this something quite technically funny just happened...

Continue reading "Firewall hijinx"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 01:32 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2005

No .NET mobile development for hobbyists

Posted in: Tech

Microsoft provide their Visual Studio IDE at a variety of price-points, ranging from the cheapest being their "Express" version to "Team Studio", the all-new designator for "Enterprise". The latest soon-to-be-released Visual Studio 2005 has a feature comparison chart for prospective customers. One notable, and IMO disappointing, missing feature is mobile device development from their Express version.

Why might this be a mistake?

Continue reading "No .NET mobile development for hobbyists"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 16:45 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2005

My second .NET application

Posted in: Sport, Tech

I took the mini interval Tabata timer I wrote last night and added programmable work/rest periods, total number of intervals, separate total and interval timers, and, crucially, a fixed 10s countdown to get in position. I think this is pretty well as much functionality as a high-end stopwatch.

Download IntervalTimer_20050410.exe. Still 20KB :-)

Interval Working

Hmm, I'd only really intended this as a way of learning a bit of .NET but it's proved itself quite handy already. Now, if I would only get the b*astard to deploy onto my phone...!

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 02:44 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday Robot

Posted in: Drivel

Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 00:01:04 +0100 (BST)

Hello Paul's various usernames,

We at various forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Ah, how sweet. A computer is thinking of me. The "00:01:04" is a bit needy though. Relax dude, I'll be 31 and 0 days for a few hours yet...

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 00:34 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 9, 2005

My first .NET application

Posted in: Sport, Tech

Ever since acquiring a .NET PocketPC phone I've had delusions of writing software for it, even to the point of obtaining an MSDN development license through their cheap deal for ISVs. Months however passed with other distractions, and generally being daunted (GUI dev from years of writing unix system software is a big jump).

Lacking a stopwatch or decent clock, I wrote an application for timing training intervals.

Interval Start
"Yatta" means "Go!" in Japanese. Dr Tabata is Japanese.

Continue reading "My first .NET application"
Posted by Paul Makepeace at 04:38 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 8, 2005

Arbitrarily erotic services

Posted in: Drivel

Random IM thoughts...

paulm says:
I think there's a market for taking boring services like free webmail and just somehow making them erotic
paulm says:
even if it means being really self-indulgently silly about it.
Nik says:
Your private, secure shemail
paulm says:
exactly! "tagged for her pleasure"
paulm says:
"all email under plain cover, your discretion assured"
Nik says:
search options: cursory glance [X] good solid gawp [ ]
paulm says:
Wink at recipient: click here!

There are some services that are so thoroughly commoditized and homogenized you have to be an ultra-provider to make the wafer-thin margins make sense.

But throw in a bit of something extra appealing but unrelated to the core product (e.g. add sex to email) and immediately it's a niche product, catapulted into an almost entirely different market segment. So the consumer previously presented with a baffling array of essentially identical services is both able to identify with an idea and make a highly differentiated choice.

What's interesting is that these "niche" providers charge considerably more than their commoditized counterparts. I wonder if it's the sense of relief of consumers feeling like are making choice between obviously differing products, thus not feeling obliged to exhaustively compare reams of otherwise crushingly similar specs, and the possibility of identification with the product one might have? (I wonder if the marketers have a name for this?)

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 17:01 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 1, 2005

Card Fraud

Posted in: Drivel

This afternoon I got a call from my bank about some attempted transaction using "my" debit card. Now, I haven't lost my card so someone's got hold of the details somehow, presumably by running the card through some device that records the magnetic strip and can write that onto a dummy card.

When at a restaurant last week I paid on my debit card and entered my PIN but apparently it was wrong. I was pretty sure it wasn't but whatever, retyped it and the transaction went through.

There are computer programs that look exactly like normal "login" boxes which people type in their details to and then the program reports a "wrong password, please retry" and then hands over to the real login program. This way the intruder program, or "man-in-the-middle" as the security folks call this type of attack, records the password.

Now, doesn't this sound exactly like what happened in the restaurant? Ironically, the PIN system not requiring a signature might be more susceptible to a man-in-the-middle attack: you would need a modified card reader that records the PIN. It'd be interesting to hear from someone who knows more about how the card "chip & PIN" system works and how it could defeat that attack. I'm sure they've thought of this(?!)

I'm not of course saying this is what happened, nor am I going to name the restaurant (OK, it was on Brick Lane) despite, looking at my transaction history, it looks such a likely candidate.

What's interesting about this is that I've never had this happen before and it's just after I've started being asked for my PIN when using my card, as opposed to being asked for a signature.

Paying for restaurant bills on debit cards is generally not recommended as debit cards have less liability coverage than credit cards which are automatically covered. For some reason they wouldn't take my credit card as its PIN is (legitimately) locked. Normally I should just be able to sign for that, and have done on many occasions, but they wouldn't take it.

The good news is that none of the dodgy transactions hit my account, so well done HSBC.

As an aside, this isn't exactly the same but the technical accomplishment and neatness of the sting is quite impressive: modifying ATMs with pictures to skim cards in real time. Has pictures too.

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 17:42 | Comments (2) | TrackBack