Aung San Suu Kyi on the BBC

Some of you may already know that the BBC managed to record this brave lady for this year’s Reith Lectures, despite the BBC being banned in Myanmar (Burma). Here is a link to the relevant BBC Radio 4 page. I’ll be following the lectures and will report back for those of you unfortunate enough to miss them.…

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Has your Account/Password been leaked by LulzSec?

Following hot on the heals of their recent attacks on various websites, including the CIA site, LulzSec have just released the details of 62,000 random people from the internet.
The giant dump of data includes login information for a number of different (and sensitive) sites – Gmail, Facebook, PayPal and even World of Warcraft accounts – probably places you don’t want others snooping.
Thankfully Gizmodo have released a quick tool to check if you’re affected, just enter your email to their checker and you’ll know if you’re in the clear!

Citigroup Hacked

Hot on the heels of all the recent hacking attacks against Sony comes the news that banking company Citigroup has had the names, email addresses, and account numbers of 200,000 customers stolen. Whilst Citigroup have stated that other sensitive customer information has not been lost (such as pin numbers, date of birth etc.) this is still a worrying situation.
Citigroup released the following statement:
“During routine monitoring, we recently discovered unauthorized access to Citi’s Account Online. A limited number – roughly one percent – of Citi bankcard customers’ account information (such as name, account number and contact information including email address) was viewed. The customer’s social security number, date of birth, card expiration date and card security code (CVV) were not compromised. We are contacting customers whose information was impacted. Citi has implemented enhanced procedures to prevent a recurrence of this type of event. For the security of these customers, we are not disclosing further details.”

Set your computing free – Installing Linux

01-welcomeWe covered some of the reasons for switching to Linux from Windows or OSX in our last article in the ‘Set your computing free’ series, in this article we will cover the basics of getting Linux up and running on your computer. Firstly, a word of causion; following this article will alter the filesystems on your harddrive, and could potentially damage any operating systems which you currently have installed on your computer. Personally, I run only Linux on my computer, but it is possible to install it alongside Windows or OSX. Just back stuff up – just in case. Okay, disclaimer over – on with the show.


This article covers the basics of getting Linux installed on your computer, either as the primary operating system or ‘dual boot’ with either Windows or Mac OSX. Linux comes in a variety of ‘flavours’ known as distributions (or ‘distros’) – most of these are available for free, but some are available for purchace with a variety of additions or support. For this particular installation guide we will be working with the Ubuntu distribution of Linux – I have selected this version for the guide as it is freely available, community driven, and has good, free, online support available. Before we get started, you will need to have the following available:

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Set your computing free – Operating Systems

updateMuch is written on this website in relation to freeing yourself from corporate restraints – yet many of us remain shackled in our daily computing lives to two of the largest, and most aggressive destroyers of computing privacy; Microsoft and Apple.In the first part of a series we will be running called ‘set your computing free’ we will be looking at operating systems. These are the primary pieces of software running on computing devices, the most famous of which is probably Windows, but there are others – and they don’t just run on computers, but on phones, tablet devices, game consoles, PVR’s – almost every piece of electronic equipment.

In this post we will primarily be focusing on computers and consumer electronics.
Before we discuss the alternatives, let us have a brief look at what makes these two companies so detrimental to our privacy.

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Sony, Nintendo, Is data ever safe?

Playstation Network – 77 million users
Sony Online Entertainment – 25 million Users
Sony Ericsson website in Canada – 2,000 users
Sony Music Entertainment website in Greece – 8,500 users 
Most people will have heard by this point about the hacking of many Sony website, and the subsequent loss of millions of user’s data – including credit card information. It has also just come to light that Nintendo have recently suffered from server hacking, though at this time they claim that no user information was stored on the compromised infrastructure.

‘Spear Phishing’ – new, targeted phishing attacks?

Interesting BBC article.

The targeted attack used by hackers to compromise e-mail accounts of top US officials is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions, say security experts.


The scam, known as spear phishing, was used in a bid to get passwords of Gmail accounts so they could be monitored.


Via a small number of customised messages it tries to trick people into visiting a web page that looks genuine so users type in login names.


Such attacks are often aimed at top officials or chief executives.

The invidious, insidious Controllers

Yes to AVRecently I went to a public meeting in support of the “YES to AV” campaign. For those of you who have no idea what this is, a brief summary: there is shortly to be a referendum in the UK to decide whether to end the “First past the post” voting system and replace it with “Alternative Vote” see here:

The vote isn’t mainstream WSFF stuff, but it is hoped that a change to AV might make our parliamentary representatives more accountable, harder working and more willing to work together with people who have different views to the party line.

This was one of many rallies, and probably the smallest, comprising of around thirty activists of all ages, across all political persuasions (except for the very far-right). Typical British apathy meant that most people we could see were going shopping, rather than thinking about the future political landscape. There was some tension in the group, and I was asked if I was a “kosher Yes voter”. I bit my tongue on my first answer, which was to reply: “Not kosher, actually, but definitely Bona Fide”, and simply nodded. But I was puzzled – did they think I was an undercover spy? Later, standing arm-in arm with the purple-shirted man next to me, we looked into the camera and smiled. “Good thing my wife isn’t here.” he said “Perhaps she’ll see the photograph” I suggested. “If it’s printed.” He said bitterly. “The media are against us.” Which was when I realized that the man taking pictures was not a journalist, but a local politician. And that was odd. There may only have been a few of us but this was still a major event for a small market town. Where were the press? A few questions led to the opinion that the local paper was owned by a prominent NO2AV supporter, and therefore the rally wouldn’t get a mention at all. Far from it – the Media, they said, was gently pushing people towards a No vote. I gently suggested that, by clubbing together, the protestors could raise enough money to publish something themselves, but enthusiasm had stalled at the prospect of opening wallets.

Which, in a roundabout way, does bring us to a primary WSFF concern – invidious and insidious Control vs Free Will.

Media partisanship and spin is nothing new of course, and if you ask anyone in the UK if they believe what they read in the papers, most would answer “No”, with a knowing, wry smile. Unfortunately, they are deceived. Although they may know rationally that what they hear, see and read is subjective, unconsciously the brain accepts most of the information it receives without question. And if that is so for overt messages, how much more so must it be for the subliminal?

Free Will and Self-Determination

Are you as free as a bird? Well, that depends. Are you ruled almost entirely by instinct? Or do you have a mind of your own? What, or who, tells you what to do?

One of the ways in which we differ from most animals is in our ability to rationalize – to over-ride instinct and training, to act objectively. To be individual. But most of us do not live as individuals. It is a hard choice to live entirely on your own. So we make a pact with Society and follow its rules rather than our own desires, in order to be part of a couple, a community, a nation. Our egos are subordinated to the common will of the group. If we don’t like it, and the community is small, we can try and change it or leave. In big communities, where most of us live, both changing from within and leaving for somewhere else have become rather difficult. It is easier to do nothing; to grumble but go along the path everyone else is taking – to where we are being herded. And if we are become sheep, who are the shepherds, and how do they control their flocks?

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsYou may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see:'s_hierarchy_of_needs), which shows how a human’s needs can change and grow, from the basics (food, air etc;) to the highest (morality, lack of prejudice, creativity). One thing Maslow doesn’t cover is the state of “I’m ok, thank you very much” – the point at which a human, having got enough to be comfortable, stops looking any higher. Despite our natural acquisitiveness and desire to succeed, I believe that the vast majority of people are, like my Jack Russell, difficult to shift once comfortable. It follows, therefore, that if you can feed peoples’ comfort needs, they will be happy to accept the Status Quo. Our human sheep, once shown a nice green field with a warm shed to retreat into at night, don’t particularly care about the electric fence that stops them looking for pastures new. And if trouble strikes, in the form of a wolf or a lack of water, there’s always the fear that things could be (and probably will be) worse the other side of the fence. Our sheep might even demand the presence of more shepherds to watch over their every move, just in case, which is where the analogy breaks down a bit – a real shepherd isn’t going to get a posse together to protect his sheep unless there is a real threat; our governments have no such inhibitions.

Effecting Change

How, then, do you set about changing the Society in which you live? Particularly if the vast majority of your fellow citizens are occasionally grumbly, but mostly satisfied with their lot? Ranged against you are the Powers That Be of the Status Quo – government, business, schools, Police.

Change can sometimes be very quick following collapse of the “comfort blanket”, due to natural disaster, war, disease. Occasionally, rapid change comes as the result of an incident which fires the public conscience, such as the avoidable death of a child, or the mal-treatment of an animal, when anger overcomes apathy and fear to demand changes to Society.

More often, though, change is gradual, incremental, spread by word of mouth, by example; even by big business if they see a product need, or by the Media, if they smell a money-making or popular stance. Once the balance has tipped far enough even your electoral representative may begin to take note.

The way to effect change from within is many-fold, to quote Thoreau:

  • To do, rather than do nothing, for the bystander is as guilty as the perpetrator
  • Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine
  • Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect and that will be one step towards obtaining it
  • It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is well done is done forever
  • A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority…but it is irresistible when it clogs by its own weight

And I can’t resist adding this by Charles Wesley “Do as you would be done by”.

Don’t let people down by not telling them what’s really going on. After all, you would expect no less. Do, rather than do nothing. And maybe, just maybe, enough people will get fed up with being herded to make a difference.

Cookie Monster

Cookie MonsterIn the world of web browsing small packets of information called “cookies” are used to catalog important information used from login passwords and usernames to the items in your online shopping  carts.

However these little packets of information aren’t always used for such necessary web functions. Corperations can add, through their own on site ads, third party cookies that can be used to gather information on what webpage you have just visited.

Invasive as it may seem the purpose is simply focusing their advertisments more directly at you.

Most modern web browsers that are worth their salt have a feature that lets you to select which cookies you would like to accept. For example Mozilla’s Firefox has a check box for accepting cookies and a nother one for accepting third party cookies, unchecking the third party cookies box will deny access to your computer for applications/pop-ups that are not part of the site you are currently visiting. Likewise Apple’s Safari browser has three radio buttons for accepting cookies; “Always”, “Never”, and “Only from sites I visit” (in fine print below: “Block cookies from third parties and advertisers”.)