Wednesday 28 October 2009

Computer and data recovery

In a way this is a bit of a follow on from a previous post. There I was looking at how Police BlackBerry smartphone, if lost, can be wiped and disabled by a central administrator instantly.

I read an article about four laptops stolen from ITN staff: One of the thefts occurred at an employee’s house in Bracknell. Returning home, they found their house had been burgled and the company laptop had been stolen. But as soon as the unauthorised user connected to the Internet, Computrace sent an alert to the Absolute Monitoring Centre, allowing the device to be tracked and located. The laptop was found in Bracknell and returned to the organisation.

This reminded me of the system put in place by our local council. It also uses Computrace software that is embedded in the BIOS firmware of a range of computers. Bracknell Forest Borough Council have made use of the software’s remote delete functionality and Absolute’s recovery process. It has been able to deactivate and remove data from three decommissioned laptops as well as recover a stolen laptop.

Not so much a case of big brother watching you, but watching out for you. It is good that people can rest assured that any data that the council holds is held securely.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Feathered Plucker

There I was happily tapping away at the computer with Barney the dog beside me. Barney leapt up, and set his body into a pointing position. Even his eyes seemed to be bulging forward.

Pigeon, I thought, but there was no whining or yapping from Barney. I peered around the curtain, to be greeted by, yes, a pigeon; but with its heart ripped out. Was this some omen I wondered.

I stepped out into the garden, followed by Barney. He was not the least bit interested in the Pigeon now, as dead things are not fun to chase. Pigeons are about the only thing that Barney will chase. Small birds are of no interest, and big birds like Magpies, Crows, and Jays, might just bite back. Ducks Geese, and sometimes big Tom Cats also scare him. His favorite is a rubber chicken, which we have to throw for him to chase, and worry at.

I sat down and continued with whatever it was. I thought I would monitor the situation, and see if the heart specialist returned.
A little later Barney started to taking a lazy interest in something again. I took a stealthy peak around the curtain., to be greeted by a female Sparrowhawk pulling its prey to a safe eating place.
Barney and I watched fascinated, as the Sparrowhawk plucked off the feathers and dug into the meat below. The bird had very quick movements, as it tried to keep its head up to watch for danger, but also carry on plucking and eating.

It was an interesting diversion to the work of the day.
The body disappeared overnight, presumably claimed by a hungry fox.

The pictures were taken through the window, and are unfortunately a bit blurry.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

The other peace prize

Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl of the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.


Beer bottles are often used in physical disputes. If the bottles break, they may give rise to sharp trauma. However, if the bottles remain intact, they may cause blunt injuries. In order to investigate whether full or empty standard half-litre beer bottles are sturdier and if the necessary breaking energy surpasses the minimum fracture-threshold of the human skull, we tested the fracture properties of such beer bottles in a drop-tower.

Full bottles broke at 30 J impact energy, empty bottles at 40 J. These breaking energies surpass the minimum fracture-threshold of the human neurocranium. Beer bottles may therefore fracture the human skull and therefore serve as dangerous instruments in a physical dispute.

Keywords: Breaking energy threshold; Beer bottles; Blunt head trauma

Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine

Also answers to:
  • Why don't pregnant women topple over?
  • Do cows notice kindness?
  • Does cracking your knuckles bring on arthritis?
  • Is there more than one use for a bra?

The Ig Nobels by the Annals of Improbable Research.
Best of the Ig Nobel prizes 2009 - See New Scientist

I think, that better the full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy.

But the further research into the dropping properties of toast is very instructive.

Complete Ruckers and Freedom of speech


Carter-Ruck boasts that it is among the most aggressive firms of lawyers that can be hired.
Carter-Ruck promises that it can often "nip in the bud" the prospect of adverse media coverage by going over the heads of reporters to newspaper lawyers and making threats. It boasts of being able to obtain injunctions prohibiting publication of information "often in a matter of hours".

The Bill of Rights, passed 320 years ago, is clear: "Freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament".

Media organisations have recently been unable to report a parliamentary question due to a "super-injunction" obtained by the notorious law firm mentioned above.
It is quite amazing that British judges have been handing down secret injunctions.

Lawyers in this case clearly reckoned without the "blogosphere". In the anarchic, anything-goes world of the internet, where free speech is a frequently-heard rallying cry, injunctions banning publication of anything are unpopular. This one seems to have acted like a red rag to a bull.
The social networking site Twitter was soon awash with posts deploring a threat to media freedom and the reporting of Parliament.

The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

This would appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Bloggers and Twitterers helping to stand up for our parliamentary freedom and freedom of speech?

Thursday 8 October 2009

The demise of the Law Lords

What was the pressing need to dispense with the Law Lords?

There was no obvious failure in the system that justified what has turned into a very expensive "modernisation", with nearly £60 million spent adapting the Middlesex Guildhall to the requirements of the court. And there are deeper concerns about this reform, which go to the heart of Labour's disdain for our country's constitution

Telegraph View - Oct 2009

As usual with this Governments badly thought though laws and reforms, this move may prove to have the opposite effect of that intended. A Supreme Court is likely to be emboldened to go much further than its predecessor in making rulings beyond what Parliament intended. The Law Lords were woven into the warp and weft of our constitutional settlement. We are unpicking it at our peril.

I think that before we do any more meddling with our system that those that propose to do the meddling read Walter Bagehot’s book “The English Constitution”. In the modern versions it is also worth reading the prefaces, which set the scene, and translate what Bagehot analysed into modern terms.

Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution (1867) is the best account of the history and working of the British political system ever written. As arguments raged in mid-Victorian Britain about giving the working man the vote, and democracies overseas were pitched into despotism and civil war, Bagehot took a long, cool look at the 'dignified' and 'efficient' elements which made the English system the envy of the world.

I give you an extract from Wikipedia:
While Bagehot's references to parliament have become dated, his observations on the monarchy are seen as central to the understanding of the principles of constitutional monarchy. He defined the rights and role of a monarch vis-à-vis a government as three-fold:
  • The right to be consulted;
  • The right to advise;
  • The right to warn.
Generations of British monarchs and heirs apparent and presumptive have studied Bagehot's analysis.

He also divided the constitution into two components: the Dignified (that part which is symbolic) and the Efficient (the way things actually work and get done).
Walter Bagehot also praised what we now refer to as a "parliamentary system" (which he termed "cabinet government"). At the same time, he mocked the American system for numerous flaws and absurdities he perceived, and its comparative lack of flexibility and accountability. In his words, "a parliamentary system educates the public, while a presidential system corrupts it."

You can but it at Amazon etc.

Friday 2 October 2009

Andrew Peach has been doing his bit this week, interviewing the would be Bracknell MPs.
He kicked off midweek with Iain Dale. The following day he tracked down Julia Manning, Phillip Lee, and Rory Stewart. Friday he moved on to Margaret Doyle, Katy Lindsay, and Ryan Robson.

You can catch up on this at .
Andrew Peach concentrated on Bracknell on Thursday.

There are also some edited excerpts.


Picking Blackberrys and dim burgulars

The Bracknell News tell us that burglars in Bracknell are not as good as the ones coming in from other towns!
This was from Acting Chief Inspector Mark Harling of Bracknell police.
Apparently "Bracknell’s location and easy access from the M4 and A329 made it simple for criminals to drive in, break into '10 or 15' homes a week and then scarper."

Perhaps this is where ANPR will come in. Instead of passively catching motorists doing a bit above the speed limit, it provides information on suspect cars entering and leaving Bracknell. There are of course privacy fears over the government tracking our every movement.
West Yorkshire have set up a rapid reaction police squad to intercept criminals' vehicles, flagged-up by automatic number plate recognition cameras.

At the above meeting the police also talked of the introduction of BlackBerry solutions. Officers with mobile devices are able to reduce time in the station and increase time spent servicing their community. BlackBerry smartphones will also help to maintain already high levels of security within the force. For certain tasks officers have to carry paper records such as photographs of suspects and briefing notes which can be lost or misplaced, presenting a security risk. On BlackBerry smartphones this information can be accessed securely and, if lost, the BlackBerry smartphone can be wiped and disabled by a central administrator instantly.
A good example of the BlackBerry use is in West Yorkshire where it is helping police officers to outwit wanted suspects who try to bluff their way out of being arrested when stopped on the streets.