Archives for January 2010

January 2010 (19)
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Freeze Frame Fail - Spooks series 5, episode 9

Another in an occasional series where I freeze frame a DVD to see that the producers skimped on something they really shouldn't have skimped on. This one was really blindingly obvious. A pretty good episode all told, full of the old style Len Deighton or John Le Carré who is bluffing who, who is real, who is not. The obvious bad guy doesn't seem to be that bad, maybe he's being framed, but Adam Carter knows him and is falling to pieces himself, so maybe Adam is compromised, etc, etc. There's even...

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How identifiable are you on the net?

I'm sure we're all aware that the browser we use (the User Agent in internet-speak) reports back information to each web server we visit. But could a web server gain any information about who we are just from the browser? Could we be identified when we visit later on? You might think: easy, just turn off cookies and we'd be pretty much unidentifiable, but is that the case? I tried out a web site called Panopticlick put up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to see how identifiable...

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Unbiased tosses from a biased coin

This is a very handy algorithm that I came across today, which is, according to this paper , due to John von Neumann . Suppose you have a coin which you suspect to be biased. You're not sure whether it's biased to heads or to tails, you just know it's biased. Actually, according to the wikipedia article on coin flipping, coins tend to be slightly biased naturally and it's possible to train yourself to flip a coin slightly more predictably than pure chance. So there you are with a biased coin. Nevertheless...

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Windows 7 Home Premium: turn off password expiration

I use Windows 7 Home Premium as the OS in the various virtual machines I run. This is a space saving thing more than anything: I've limited the boot drive space to 20GB on my base VM so that I can have as many cloned VMs as I want on my external drive, and I'm assuming that Ultimate takes up a lot more room. Anyway... The base install of Win7 Home Premium sets passwords to expire after 42 days. For a VM this is somewhat overkill (after all, I have to log in to my real machine in order to...

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"Nothing To Be Frightened Of" by Julian Barnes

I picked this up the last time we went to England in September, and I was half way through it when I got the phone call from my sister in mid-December that my Dad had been admitted to hospital with a heart attack. The book is not a novel, but a non-fiction book that explores, amongst other things, Barnes' attitudes to death, God, art, the fallibility of memory, and Jules Renard. It's partly autobiographical, especially about his relationships with his parents while they were growing up and...

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Firefox 3.6 and S3Fox

A quick warning for those who use the S3 Firefox Organizer in Firefox on Windows and are contemplating upgrading to the new Firefox 3.6 : S3Fox does not yet work in Firefox 3.6 and is automatically disabled when you upgrade. UPDATE : S3Fox has now been updated (v 0.4.9) to support Firefix 3.6 (8-Feb-2010). I got bitten by this issue with my last blog post since I'd updated my main machine with Firefox 3.6 on the day of release. Luckily I hadn't upgraded my laptop and so was able to use that one's...

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Posting mini blog posts from Posterous

Back in December , I commented that I could, with a judicious bit of additional code in the open source GraffitiCMS codebase, accept posts from Posterous and publish them on this blog. Well, it turned out that it wasn't that brilliant a code change: it broke the validation for XHTML. So, this evening, I fixed up the current HTML and took another look at my code. First of all, let me describe how I envisioned how all this was going to be used. If I'm sitting at my laptop or my main machine, I would...

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Megapixel Madness

Found this site this morning: Petavoxel , a brand new blog that so far seems to talk mostly about the hardware aspects of photography, especially about why the rush for more megapixels in a point-and-shoot camera is an exercise in stupidity. The most interesting from a visual aspect is this article : it shows a crop (not magnified or otherwise distorted) from a photo taken by an ordinary point-and-shoot (I so want to abbreviate that to POS -- Must. Stop.). The artifacts from the ultra-tiny pixels...

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Best case, Worse case, Amortized case

A couple of weeks ago, Hacker News pointed to an article about how bad hash tables could be in a worse case scenario. In essence, the thrust of the argument was that, in a worse case scenario, hash tables degenerate from a very nice O(1) for insertion and deletion of items to O(N). The reason is that hash tables’ quoted run-time efficiency is an amortized value and not an absolute result. If you like, on average over very many insertions and deletions, hash tables behave in a O(1) manner, but there...

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MacBook hardware update

I have a second-hand black MacBook that I bought some 12 months ago (it's just over 2 years old by now, well outside any warranty) so that I could experiment writing iPhone apps. It's served me well. The only update I've made to it so far is to upgrade to Snow Leopard (OS 10.6), but it's about time I did some further upgrades, hardware related this time. So last week I ordered 4GB (2 * 2GB) of DDR2 laptop memory to replace the 2GB already present. I ferreted around in my little pile of orphaned laptop...

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