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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Media review, just making notes on things I watched or read

Security Lessons from Dictators - Jerry Gamblin - 44CON2013

As I'm currently all aboard the analogy train I found this particularly interesting, Jerry looks at errors that dictators have made and compares that to errors that cyber security practioners make. It can be watched on YouTube and is worth 30 minutes of your time.

Jerry Gamblin is worth following on Twitter, his account can be found here: ; and I quote this tweet of his every so often:

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

This can be read at - basically emphasise the processes in your life and you will reach your goals, rather than choosing long-term goals and then striving to reach them.

I really like this idea, and think it's a good way to approach, well, basically everything. This ties in with the Japanese idea of Kaizen, and the general ideas of Stoicism, as far as I can tell. Concentrate on small, gradual, continual improvements - so it fits in with Agile and DevOps too, but at a really high level. I'm intrigued by where this comparison works or falls apart.

Interestingly I think this would contrast with something like Angela Duckworth's Grit, a book I was rather impressed by earlier this year. Now there's a book I should have written up on here, I might have to read it again.

Why your brain never runs out of problems to find

This makes interesting reading at ; "It turns out that a quirk in the way human brains process information means that when something becomes rare, we sometimes see it in more places than ever." A few experiments were run where participants were told to define something as a threat, or as blue. Over the course of the experiment the number of items matching the original criteria was reduced, but the participants' analysis didn't reflect that. I've read the article, but not the paper, it should give you the gist.

Massive ramifications from this - regardless of changes in absolute terms does this mean humans will always find a percentage of things offensive, or expensive, or disturbing, or threatening, or....

How to become a Super-Forecaster

This article by Daniel Miessler was an interesting read, about the kind of people who are most proficient at predicting the future, and the qualities they have. I was particularly interested in this because I've always been intrigued by futurism, and in this case I like to think I possess all of the qualities listed. Those qualities are these by the way:

  • They are in the top 20% of intelligence, but don’t have to be at the very top
  • Comfortable thinking in guestimates
  • They have the personality trait of Openness (which is associated with IQ, btw)
  • They take pleasure in intellectual activity
  • They appreciate uncertainty and like seeing things from multiple angles
  • They distrust their gut feelings
  • Neither left or right wing
  • They’re not necessarily humble, but they’re humble about their specific beliefs
  • They treat their opinions as “hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be guarded”
  • They constantly attack their own reasoning
  • They are aware of biases and actively work to oppose them
  • They are Bayesian, meaning they update their current opinions with new information
  • Believe in the wisdom of crowds to improve upon or discover ideas
  • They strongly believe in the role of chance as opposed to fate

I disagree on a couple of points, but only a couple, it'd be interesting to try this out.

Evolving The Creativity Scan

Taken from the TRIZ Journal, this article is here: ; I found it a cracking read and really intriguing, especially its descriptions of two types of intelligence, and that a lot of the criteria for creativity seemed to resonate with me. Further investigation required, as always, very interested in rating myself against the criteria listed.

Challenging local realism with human choices

At - it's been in my list of tabs for ages, it looks incredibly important but complex and would take several visits to "get my head around"

Project outcomes include closing of the freedom-of-choice loophole, gamification of statistical and quantum non-locality concepts, new methods for quantum-secured communications, a very large dataset of human-generated randomness, and networking techniques for global participation in experimental science.

I'm still trying to figure out a job where someone will pay me to read things like this. Advice welcome.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Bluetooth keyboard reviews

I've had a bunch of Bluetooth keyboards kicking around for ages ( I suspect at least two years ). I've only used a couple of them a couple of times, so I've finally decided to give them a quick try-out - so I thought I'd put those reviews up here in case they turn up in an online search and someone finds them useful. But they have been sat in the To Do pile for quite some time, so make and model are best guesses.

Note that I just typed on each one for three lines or, while sat properly at a desk, within two feet of the Android phone I was using for testing.

If anyone's intrigued by any of these but wants to confirm whether:

  • they remain connected for more than a few minutes
  • can they hold a charge for a day
  • they have any specific functionality you're after for Unix / terminal usage
  • the specific placement of specific keys

do say so in the comments and I'll figure that out.

Some crappy Bluetooth thing off eBay

Bah, I can't find this in my order histories online, it looks like this:

I don't know this specific make and model so all I can say is to avoid the really cheap stuff. While this did appear to replicate what I typed on the screen it has a weird double space bar, the keys feel genuinely awful, and the USB power connector is Micro A.

Anker TC320

So that'll be this one: - do note that searcher for this model will actually bring up a newer version.

Works nicely on my Android phone, pretty big size, and I had this one relatively loose in a large bag, so the middle is something like 2mm higher than the edges, but it still works. OK if you want a decent size keyboard, but you'll want it in a firm bag.

EC Technology Foldable Keyboard

I think it's this, or close enough:

This is reasonable enough to type on - it's essentially a "meh" keyboard, which is the best you can expect from something portable. Also it folds up nicely and appears to be suitably rugged, so something that will slip into a pocket or smaller bag.

Note it doesn't have a right CTRL key, which just might be important to you. Also the layout is, er, American, I think.

Zoom Bluetooth Keyboard - Series 1087 - Model 9010

Pretty sure this is this one: ... hmmm, this was left on a low power charger ( 500mA or so ) overnight, then left switched off for a few days, and had no charge left. It has a row of media keys along the top, with what I think are a "home button" key and a "lock screen" key.

Seems rugged enough too, not sure about that charge going away. Also bear in mind the power socket is USB Mini-B, not Micro-B.


A bluetooth foldable keyboard - which will look like this:


The key positioning is too weird on this one - the EC Technology foldable keyboard is OK because it folds a quarter of the way in from either end, this keyboard folds in the middle - which means the centre of the space bar I tend to hit is the join, the right shift is in a weird place, and the placement of the keys in the middle detracts from ease of use. Only the foldable keyboards will fit in the smallest of my bags, along with a phablet and a spare battery... so I like the idea of them, but they don't seem to work in practice, at least without spending more money.

Palm Universal Wireless Keyboard

This . Not a Bluetooth keyboard, just an illustration of what I had lying around in the "must figure out what this is" pile ;)

Monday 2 May 2016

Books I have read recently that you should read too.

Of course I was planning to go into slightly more depth for each one, but then they sat in a "to do" pile for several months:

Can't Be Arsed: 101 Things Not To Do Before You Die - Richard Wilson; the description from the inside flap tells you all you need to know: "who cares about swimming with dolphins, walking the Great Wall of China or bungee jumping in New Zealand, when there's an armchair to sit in and windows to stare out of?"

Horrorstor - Grady Hendrix: I never really read horror before, and it's not a genre I usually like... but this was a particularly well written book. You will never look at IKEA in the same way again.

In the Land of Invented Languages: Adventures in Linguistic Creativity, Madness, and Genius - Arika Okrent - this tackles some intriguing issues around language, i.e. the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, while also taking a tour with the kind of people who try to establish their own language. If you're intrigued rather than bemused by Esperanto and Emojis, this is the book for you. ( Warning, contains no emojis, but do see the chapters on Blisssymbols )

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything - Joshua Foer; a well written and entertaining summary of the author's journey to competing in the US Memory Championships. Some interesting points about memory are made, especially so now we're offloading so much of our own memory to smart devices; and I realise it's a cliché, but he meets some genuinely interesting characters along the way.

The Great Casino Heist - Richard Marcus; if you're interested in some of the technical detail behind committing fraud against casinos, but also want an entertaining read, this is recommended. Particularly interesting in that the techniques are relatively simple, and obvious in retrospect, it all comes down to execution, practice and confidence... and the kind of people capable of all three.

V for Vendetta, and The Watchmen, both by Alan Moore - I haven't read comics since reading 2000 AD many years ago, but I really enjoyed these. Maybe my reading skills have been blunted by all the interactive entertainment I now have access to, but sometimes I struggle to get into a book late at night - graphic novels might be an intermediate step where some of the imagination required is done for me right there on the page.

Monday 21 March 2016

Prototype 2

You've somehow stumbled across this blog post because you want to know if Prototype 2 is worth playing. I played it on the Xbox360 and really enjoyed it.

This summary of the game pretty much tells you what you'll be doing:

"Tear your way through the quarantined streets of Manhattan, crushing tanks and ripping apart horrific mutants, with awesome super-mutant powers of your own. You are Sgt James Heller, a soldier and grieving husband, taking down everyone responsible for the murder of your family, and have your revenge!"

If you're wondering whether to spend the £16 or so on Xbox Live to download it, or pick up a second hand copy from somewhere like CEX for £4 the game will suit you if you want:

  • An offline game, no connectivity is required, there's no multi-player options. I think some of the "RADNet" functionality will have gone away if you're offline or buying this game so late that it's been removed from Xbox Live servers, but all you'll be missing are some side quests that mainly involve running across rooftops or throwing barrels into incinerators.
  • A game where you don't have to think that hard... as you can see from the summary above, contrary to my last game, Remember Me, in this case you're definitely in the "I'm a gruff male, and I need to avenge the loss of someone or something by killing everything in range" zone.
  • Hilariously over the top and indiscriminate combat - it would have been interesting to have a penalty for injuring or killing the citizens you're apparently there to protect, but due to the auto-aiming combat system and area effect of the weapons you'll obtain you'll find yourself shredding anything that gets in-between you and your target... whether you want to or not. At the start of the game those civilians will be bystanders you try to avoid, by one hour in they're just wandering health packs.
  • A game that isn't that difficult. I think I'm of about average ability for a video game player, and this game was only slightly challenging on Normal level.

In order to play it you will need:

  • At least 20 hours of time according to, I'm sure I took longer, maybe 30 or 40.
  • No squick about blood or tendrils, there is a lot of cutting people apart in this game, or literally pulling them to pieces; and you obtain information from adversaries by literally consuming and absorbing them.
  • An acceptance of "game logic", you can evade helicopters chasing you by running around a corner and switching to a different identity, you gain powers by collecting things because that's what happens in video games, there are boss fights because there are always boss fights.
  • No extra cash, the DLC is all essentially optional as far as I could tell.

Thursday 31 December 2015

Not A Good Day To Die Hard

"A Good Day To Die Hard" is the fifth instalment in the Die Hard series of films, an engaging set of action packed movies, so should you watch this one?

TL;DR - no, don't watch this film.

If you're after a good film - it just isn't. There's no real suspense, the characters aren't engaging, the actors are capable of much better performances, and the interesting twist isn't enough to save it... and for an action film, the action is disappointing.Check out IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes for similar but more comprehensive reviews.

If you're after a mindless action film - don't watch this, the actions sequences are somehow boring... there's armoured personnel carriers barrelling through the streets of Moscow, there's helicopters on fire, and I didn't care. Maybe it needs a large screen and surround sound, but the dramatic events just didn't engage me, and there's a lot of "but that wouldn't happen", "why is that character doing that?", "why has there been no police response at all", and "maybe we should just fast forward through this bit".

If you're after a "good bad" film - I will blog more about these in future, as myself and a few friends are fans of "so bad they're good" films... but this film isn't in that class, it isn't that kind of bad; it's just perplexing and confusing.

The only reason to watch this film for me - so I could watch the "Everything Wrong With" episode afterwards -

Monday 21 December 2015

Remember Me

You've somehow stumbled across this blog post because you want to know if Remember Me is worth playing. I played it on the Xbox360 and really enjoyed it.

If you want a spoilerific summary there's this, or keep this in mind as something to watch after you've completed the game:

Otherwise there's a nice summary of reviews at Wikipedia: ; or the description on the XboX website is: "Break into people’s minds and steal memories" ...

Neo-Paris. 2084. Personal memories can now be digitised, bought, sold and traded. The last remnants of privacy and intimacy have been swept away in what appears to be a logical progression of the explosive growth of social networks at the beginning of the 21st century. The citizens themselves have accepted this surveillance society in exchange for the comfort only smart technology can provide. This memory economy gives immense power over society to just a handful of people.

Remember Me™ is a 3rd person action adventure where players take on the role of Nilin, a former elite memory hunter with the ability to break into people’s minds and steal or even alter their memories.

If you're wondering whether to spend the £19.99 on Xbox to download it... bear in mind that the game will suit you if you want:

  • An offline game, no connectivity is required, there's no multi-player options.
  • A different kind of protagonist and therefore a different drive for the story. It's enjoyable to have the reason behind your actions in the game be something different from "I'm a gruff male, and I need to avenge the loss of someone or something by killing everything in range".
  • Scenery that looks good. Even on my Xbox360 I sometimes just stopped to look around.
  • A relaxing time - apart from some difficult fights, a lot of time you are progressing through what is essentially an interactive movie. While there is a lot of leaping around to do, it just involves directing the main character, Nilin, to the correct location and pressing the jump button, rather than having any specific aiming or timing requirements for the leap; so it's engaging rather than taxing.

In order to play it you will need:

  • About 8 to 16 hours of time according to reviews on line, most notably this site . I'm an averagely skilled player, and while the game doesn't tell me how long I played it for, I'm pretty sure it was over 16 hours.
  • Some suspension of disbelief, the AI can be ropey and predictable, the "hit people to regain health" idea doesn't survive scrutiny... but it's just a game, to me the world was so well built I found it easy to go with the flow rather than be thrown out of the game by a "fridge moment".
  • Patience for some of the boss fights. I mostly found them challenging rather than insurmountable, although a couple were in the "I'll try again tomorrow" class; and there's plenty of advice online on how to defeat particular opponents.
  • No extra cash, the DLC is all essentially optional as far as I could tell.

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Message podcast

The best description of this podcast is from its website on

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in starting with Episode 1.

The Message is a co-production between Panoply and GE Podcast Theater, unlocking the secrets of healing with sound technology.

I'd be surprised if it's not quite different to what you usually listen to, whoever you are, so it's recommended if you want a break - my subscriptions are mostly around information security, with the occasional Radio 4 comedy and sports podcast thrown in, and quite a lot of Nerdist interviews... this was definitely a change of pace.

To listen to them all you'll need just under two hours and probably a mild suspension of disbelief as I'm not sure about some of the science on radio and audio and biology; but I'd be interested to hear thoughts from anyone knowledgeable in that area.

I loved it, I found it really gripping and interesting, especially in a "what would I do in that situation?" kind of way, which to me is always the sign of an involving drama. It's very much whatever the podcast equivalent is to a "page turner", so maybe save it for a long flight or similar where you need to lose two hours all in one go ...