In the future I might add some more features to the site, like time conversion, but for now you can enjoy the glory that is Swatch time. The source code can be found on GitHub.
I wrote another one of them blog posts over yonder. This one is about the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL.
At my day job we now have a software development blog. On said blog I wrote a post about our discovery of the power options in Windows Server 2012 and their effect on SQL Server query speeds. There is also a delightful thread on reddit about the article.
After failing to maintain a video game blog for the hundredth time and letting it sit dead for a year, I am yet again working on a video games website. Except its not a blog anymore, but a project I’ve had in the back of my mind for years; a first class video game collection, wish list and backlog tracker. I’ve been working on iterations of the idea for ages, but I’ve decided to take it more serious now and actually produce a product.
I’m not going to say much more on it, as you can follow along with my progress on it’s own blog over at gamingwithlemons.com.
I don’t talk about politics very often. I have opinions on the subject, but as a general rule I don’t vocalise them. I vote in elections, but outside of that I just generally let the system work. Then David Cameron hit a little too close to home. To be clear if you haven’t been following, the government wants to put in place a secret blacklist that will change the face of the free Internet forever. The government is going to choose for you what material it thinks is acceptable to be viewed online unless you “opt out” of the filters.
It’s being publisised as protecting children from pornogaphy, but this is absolutely just the start. They already plan to filter such wide ranging topics such as “violent material” and “web forums”. How long before the page you are reading is in the filter list because it doesn’t agree with the government. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but when did Britain become China?
I did what you are supposed to do. I contacted my member of parliament, Amber Rudd, to let her know I was concerned about this issue. Because thats how the system is supposed to work right? I’m not going to vote for her if this happens, so it’s in her interest to please her constituents. Below is the email I sent.
Dear Amber Rudd,
I'm writing to you as my MP in reference to the governments proposed plans to introduce "opt out" safeguards to protect Internet users from accessing certain material on the Internet. Under the scheme Internet Services Providers would have to block sites on an unpublished blacklist unless customers opt to have the filter removed by contacting their provider.
This is being pushed by the government with "think of the children" excuses, as pornography is the well publicised thing being blocked, but it has been recently revealed that the government plan to block other things, such as "violent material", "extremist related content", "anorexia and eating disorder websites", "suicide related websites", "alcohol", "smoking", "web forums, "Web blocking circumvention tools" and "esoteric material" (whatever that is).
Of course, all of this is just an extension of an existing scheme that already blocks UK Internet users from The Pirate Bay, an illegal source of movies, TV shows and software.
I'm not writing to you because I want to watch child porn or steal movies. I'm writing to you because this is censorship. The government is taking a dangerous step in the wrong direction where today we're blocking porn, tomorrow we're blocking websites that don't favour the government. It might be opt out, but the government knows the majority of people won't opt out. And whose to say it remains opt out forever?
This is not the governments place, or their job. It is the place of parents, who should be monitoring what their children do online, not leaving them to their own devices and using computers as a baby sitter.
You should be spending the fortune this scheme is going to cost to implement to educate parents. Oh, and I don't know, more important things like funding the NHS.
I graduated from Brighton University with a first class degree so I could build websites. I currently work for a company called "Master of Malt" in Tunbridge Wells. They sell alcohol online. One of the categories listed above to be filtered out is "alcohol".
Should I be looking for a new job?
Thank you for your time.
Nearly three weeks later I got a reply in the form of a physical letter. A nice touch replying to my email with a piece of dead tree by the way. You can read her reply here.
It’s incredibly generic and makes absolutely no reference to any of the concerns I raised. In fact, it’s almost like they read the first line of my letter and filled me in “respond with Internet filtering reply”. But Amber Rudd wouldn’t do that right?
Well yes, she would because one of my friends got exactly the same reply from Amber. Identical. So fine, I get it. MP’s apparently don’t have the time to reply to letters individually. Except another one of my friends got a nearly identical letter from a different MP. To save you the bother, I’ve highlighted in yellow the parts that are different.
So it’s clear not only are they not replying to individual letters, but they are just spouting party line as their own opinion. This leads me to doubt Amber Rudd even read my letter, which means she doesn’t know and/or care that it is a concern of her constituents and thus isn’t going to do anything about it. This isn’t how the system is supposed to work.
So now we know our local MPs didn’t reply to our letters, what was the conservative parties response?
“Save the children.”
The entire letter talks about how we must protect kids from the dangers of an unfiltered Internet. They pitch this as a “voluntary approach” despite the fact it’s not voluntary at all. They even say it will be on by default if you just keep clicking next when signing up to an ISP, which they know 95% of people will do. The majority of people will not even read this choice and the government know this.Despite my email being entirely against the idea of filtering, the letter even has the audacity to say the industry needs to go further and the government will consider regulatory powers, presumably to force an ISPs that dare to not implement the filter.
And then of course, thanks to my friend, we are able to see what modifications the individual MP’s made to the letter. Apparently Damien Green doesn’t hope this information will help while Amber Rudd doesn’t care about my civil liberties. In fact, this added line in Damian Green’s letter is entirely absurd. How doesn’t censoring the Internet damage my civil liberties?
The web is the greatest resource mankind has ever created, and while not every part of it smells of roses, we absolutely can not go down this road. The Internet is not a baby sitter. Parents should be educated on how to monitor their children and setup local filters that they opted into. It is not the governments job to decide what is and isn't appropriate for us to view.
But I did what I was supposed to do in democracy and it didn’t work. So what can we do? We can’t wait till 2015 and hope the next government will simply undo all of this.
Update: Redditor af108 points out that the letter is a slightly modified copy and paste from a government paper "Connectivity, Content and Consumers".
Last week the internet at large exploded over the unveiling of Microsoft’s Xbox One. You can hear me rant about it on this week's Downloadable Content podcast. We discuss the PS4 announcement from a couple months back in the first half, so if you want to jump straight to the anger and rage, skip to around 0:52:50.
Disclaimer: I’m by no means an expert on this subject and if you are suffering real pain you should probably go see some kind of wise woman and ask about her leech treatment. This is just my experience. But I will live longer than you because of it.
Since I started my working career I’ve had a never ending war against desks. It’s nothing personal, they just don’t like me. Okay, maybe that is personal. But the point is they started it.
My first desk was a fantastic IKEA affair. It was all you could ask for in a desk and included such excellent features as sitting in front of and supporting objects placed on it. Unfortunately one of its many qualities was not supporting the weight of a Romanian trying to change a fluorescent tube light bulb. For the remaining time I worked in that office my desk was held together with sellotape, the sturdiest of adhesives. For good measure, said Romanian also spilt coffee all over my chair. Looking back, perhaps he was trying to tell me something.
My problem with desks as it turns out, is the sitting part. I was getting terrible back and arse pain and the reason seemed pretty obvious to me. On a typical day I would get up, sit on a train, sit at my desk, go back to sitting on the train and then sit at home. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that’s a lot of sitting and it was doing a number on my gluteus maximus.
If you’re going to be sitting all day the least you can do is put effort into improving the way you sit. Some people get fancy chairs to improve their posture, but those are expensive and your boss will laugh at you when you ask for one. A really simple thing you can do is raise your monitors to eye level. Looking down on screens will result in you naturally leaning forward and was probably the original cause of my back pain. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, most offices have discarded boxes or useless books designed to make the place look more sophisticated. Both make great monitor stands it turns out.
After doing extensive reading online however, I eventually convinced myself that sitting itself was the problem. Over a period of time I pitched the idea of a standing desk to both my colleagues and boss, and about nine months ago I pulled the trigger. There are many ways to go about a standing desk, but the goal is simple. You need to raise your original working environment up by the length of your thigh. Most people do this by either raising their keyboard, mouse and monitors, or by raising the whole desk. Again, those useless books are perfect for this.
I went the crazy route and replaced my whole desk with a rack. Our office is joined to a warehouse where these are widely available. I’m going to guess yours isn't, but you might have something similar that fits the bill. A rack is great in that it provides a lot of extra storage space under the desk, but it has a fatal flaw in that you can never sit at it (unless you want to invest in a bar stool).
Using a standing desk had an immediate effect on the pain I was getting. It moved it all from my back and arse to my feet. By the end of the first week I was seriously worried that this was a terrible idea and I could tell I wasn’t concentrating on my work. Eventually I had to give in and take sitting breaks every few hours to relieve the pain. After a couple weeks however, the pain subsided. My feet are still tired at the end of the day, but I’m not reeling in agony. And my back feel great.
A standing matt is a must. I got this one, primarily because it was the first result in Amazon. Feel free to actually do research, but the one I got worked pretty well.
Some studies claim standing will make you live two years longer than the scum that sit. Others say standing all day is worse than sitting and you will die from some other horrible condition. Certainly if an axe murder with poor eyesight shows up, as the only person standing I’m definitely fucked. I’m no scientician but I’m pretty certainly we weren’t meant to sit all day and now I spend some of my day sitting and some of it standing. Or fidgeting. Or dancing. You are free to do what you like when you’re not chained to “the mans” shitty office chair.
The reactions I got from people when I first switched ranged from mild amusement to utter confusion. “You’re going to stand at that all day?” Why yes, that’s why it’s called a standing desk.
Nine months later however, more people are now standing in my office than sitting, and its infected other parts of the company too. Standing is “cool” apparently. The “in” thing. It’s getting around like chlamydia.
Last Friday my rack “old bluey” was retired, to join broken IKEA desk wherever desks go to die, as our company upgraded us to real standing desks. The previously mentioned desk destroying, coffee spilling, light bulb fixing Romanian now has a desk that goes up and down with a hand crank so you can both sit or stand at it.
Mine is the same, but it’s motorised. That will teach him.