A guide for the rest of us

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The For Dummies set of reference books/instruction manuals has for years been sold as a non-intimidating guide for ordinary mortals and in its early days used to feature the wording in the title as a reassuring means of gaining sales from Joe and Jane Soap (or John and Jane Doe for readers on the west cost of the Atlantic. Ed.).

The series’ follow the bouncing ball style of guidance has over the years been ridiculed and that ridicule in turn used to good advantage to mock those clearly out of their depths in their chosen profession or – heaven forbid – public office to which they have been elevated.

Which brings us to the alleged government’s current Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, one Elizabeth Mary Truss.

Liz, as she prefers to be called, has the reputation of not being very bright, but that is no obstacle to high public office in the kakistocracy presided over by party-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

She is however, a fully paid-up member of the two clubs to which all government ministers and Tory Party loyalists are now supposed to belong, the Cult of Brexit and the Cult of the Adoration of the Boris.

And it is in relation to the first cult that this post is being penned.

In the mid-18th century a song was composed exhorting Britannia to rule the waves. Since Brexit one is more likely to see Britannia waiving the rules – as is currently being threatened by the British government in respect of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a treaty between the English Empire (which some still call the United Kingdom . Ed.) and the European Union, which has the status of international law.

Reading between the lines, it is obvious that Johnson and his government have no intention of honouring by the Protocol and are currently seeking to tear it up, with Truss making a statement to this effect yesterday in the House of Commons.

Which brings us once again the Dummies and the inspired piece of parody.

Parody book cover entitled International Law With Dummies

As regards the references in the image to pork markets and a limited and specific way, a search engine is your friend. 😀

Needless to say, the antics of Johnson and Truss have not been warmly received by the EU Commission.

Truss’ plans will also send a clear message to states with whom the government may seek to conclude a trade deal that the British government’s word is not to be trusted.

To hark back once again to another phrase coined in the 18th century, perfidious Albion is alive and well.

More Bristol borkage

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Yesterday’s trip into Bristol’s Quarter of Mammon (aka the city’s central shopping district consisting of the dire post-war Broadmead centre, Galleries and Carboot Cabot Circus. Ed.) yielded another example of borked technology to add to the collection begun last week on my visit to the City Museum & Art Gallery (posts passim).

Corporate graffiti, better known as advertising is all-pervasive and intrusive, but there’s no way I’d stand on my heads in the rain to read this bullshit. 😀

advertisement displayed upside-down in Carboot Circdus

Research reveals websites collecting information without consent

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online spying imageToday’s Journal du Geek reports that some unscrupulous websites do not clutter up their webpages with a Submit button when visitors are filling in a form.

If you have already filled in a web form before changing your mind, your data has doubtless been sucked up by an unscrupulous website. In a recent study carried out by researchers from 3 European universities, which will be presented at the Usenix Security conference in August, we learn that some platforms are capable of spying on every character typed on a keyboard.

By analysing 2.8 mn. webpages on the world’s 100,000 most visited websites, the research’s assessment is definitive: in the case of a web form filled completed in Europe, nearly 2,000 of them are capable of collecting the user’s email address before that user has clicked the Send button. One of the joint authors Güne Acar of Radboud University in Nijmegen states: “We were very surprised by the results. We thought we might find a few hundred sites where your email address is collected before you send it, but the result far exceeded our expectations”.

However, the situation in Europe remains better than that in the United States. Whereas the old continent recorded “only” 1844 cases of abusive data sucking, the same request, when sent from the United States triggered 60% more instances, for a total of 2,950 cases, a difference which can be explained in particular by the presence in Europe of the GDPR , which since 2018 has obliged platforms to obtain users’ consent before collecting data..

How do websites record one’s data without consent?

For all practical purposes the majority of sites collecting data before submission forwards email addresses (encrypted or unencrypted) to third party sites are generally specialist advertising campanies, which collected the data to serve up personalised advertising (aka corporate graffiti. Ed.). In some less frequent instances a key logger is used to enable the keystrokes made to be directly recorded.

In Europe, the matter is even more sensitive since a good number of major sites, including Facebook owners Meta and TikTok were amongst the sites tested.

Campaigner’s monoglot parking charge quashed

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The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 modernised the existing legal framework regarding the use of the Welsh language in the provision of public services in Wales.

It made provision for the official status of the Welsh language and established the office of the Welsh Language Commissioner which replaced the Welsh Language Board. It made Welsh an official language in Wales. This means it must be treated no less favourably than English and that when dealing with the state (i.e. central and local government, the health service, etc.), Welsh speakers are entitled to use the vernacular.

However, its provisions do not apply to the private sector, such as monoglot car park management companies based in England but operating in Wales, has been brought to light by the small matter of a parking charge in a small village in Ceredigion.

Today’s Nation Cymru reports on the case of Welsh language campaigner who was due to appear in court for non-payment of a parking charge for the sea front car park in Llangrannog in September 2020.

Llangrannog viewed from the south cliffs. The car park in question is just to the left of the picture’s centre.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today Toni Schiavone, a former teacher and education officer for the Welsh Government, was due to appear at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court to answer a charge of not paying a penalty charge notice issued to him solely in English by One Parking Solutions Ltd. of Worthing in West Sussex.

Mr. Schiavone repeatedly contacted the company requesting the penalty notice and further correspondence in Welsh and is on record as stating he would only pay the charge if the notice was served in Welsh, but his words fell upon deaf ears, with One Parking Solutions replied with typical colonial arrogance that the company was based in England and under no obligation to issue penalty notices in Welsh.

Mr Schiavone’s response to One Parking Solutions’ less than helpful reply was quoted by Nation Cymru as follows:

It would be nothing for them to issue a penalty notice in Welsh but they have ignored the request and decided to take me to court. They are the ones causing trouble for themselves.”

As this post was being drafted, Wales Online announced that Mr Schiavone’s case had been thrown out of court as there was no representative from One Parking Solutions present.

In a delicious piece of irony the court received all the papers from the plaintiff – including a copy of the penalty charge notice – in Welsh as Mr Schiavone was exercising his right to use his vernacular in court; this all had to be translated by One Parking Solutions.

Speaking after the case, Mr Schiavone put the case for extending the provision of Welsh language services to the private sector in Wales, stating:

This clearly shows the need to extend the language measure to include the private sector. Private companies like this have said many times over the years that they will not provide Welsh language services voluntarily.

Common touch? Out of touch

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It has long been a source of amusement when high-ranking politicians try to show they have the common touch and end up making fools of themselves.

Such an instance happened yesterday when the death of actor Dennis Waterman was announced.

Step forward Nadhim ‘Stable Genius’ Zahawi, the Downright Dishonourable Member of Parliament for Stratford Upon Avon and current Secretary of State for Education, who clearly showed why education is not safe in his hands, taking to Twitter and expressing his condolences as follows with no style at all.

Tweet reads RIP Pete. A great actor, grew up watching minder

RIP Pete. A great actor, grew up watching minder.

Zahawi had clearly confused 2 Watermans in the public eye, namely Pete Waterman, purveyor of pop tunes for the likes of Kylie Minogue and the late Dennis.

Pete Waterman

Pete Waterman
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dennis Waterman

Dennis Waterman
Image courtesy of Garry Knight

Zahawi’s foul-up did not go unnoticed and is being widely mocked on social media, of which the following is an example.

Tweet reads Pete Waterman and Harry Cole really made Minder the hit it was. Shame they're both dead now

Pete Waterman and Harry Cole really made Minder the hit it was. Shame they’re both dead now.

Some while later Zahawi noticed his mistake and tweeted the following.

Tweet reads Made a mistake, RIP Denis Waterman

Made a mistake, RIP Denis Waterman
Note finally Zahawi did not have to the good grace to include an apology for his earlier error as any normal mortal would have done.

Borked in Bristol

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The last time your ‘umble scribe visited Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery was before the first pandemic lockdown over two years ago. There’s always lots to see and the first thing I observed was the major changes to the art exhibits. Local talent features prominently in these, including the 19th century Bristol School of Artists and prominent portrait painter and local lad Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA. Furthermore, the ceramics section has a fine selection of ware from the late 17th and early 18th century Brislington Pottery.

However, the excellence of local art and crafts was not matched by local artefacts from the period of Roman occupation, being limited to the Thornbury Hoard (although 3,000 Roman coins on display is quite impressive. Ed.), one Samian ware bowl and a solitary drinking vessel, which is pretty poor considering the major influence and changes wrought by the Romans during the three and a half centuries that Britannia was a province of the Roman empire and ample evidence of Roman settlement and economic activity in the area. These include. for example, Abona Roman port at the confluence of the River Trym and Bristol Avon, visible remains of of Roman roads, villa sites, plus the 2 Roman pigs of lead found in 1865 in Wade Street in St Judes whilst excavations were underway on the old bank of the River Frome).

On the other hand, the museum does have a fine natural history section, especially in respect of extinct fauna – the giant Irish elk skeleton with its antlers spanning a width of 3 metres is most impressive – and fossils and dinosaurs in particular.

As is well known, generations of children have displayed a passion for dinosaurs. Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery has catered for this passion by installing interactive displays. Nevertheless, any child currently wishing to learn more of the life and times of Doris the Pliosaurus would have been disappointed at the time of my visit as Doris’ display was – to use a technical term borked.

Windows 7 not behaving for an interactive museum display Close-up of Windows 7 screen and options

The bottom picture clearly clearly shows Microsoft’s Windows 7 misbehaving, a not uncommon undocumented feature of the Beast of Redmond’s alleged operating systems.

If anyone desires to see more borkage in public, your ‘umble scribe would refer such readers to The Register IT news site, which has a dedicated bork section/archive.

Brexit – the gift that keeps on giving

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The departure of the English Empire (which some still call the United Kingdom. Ed.) from the European Union is the gift that keeps on giving, especially for anywhere located outside that backward country and in another member EU member state.

The latest news from the unlit uplands mired in unicorn manure comes from Computer Weekly which reports on research from analysts Forrester that London has dropped down the tech rankings post-Brexit due, inter alia, to immigration woes, no doubt exacerbated by the Home Office’s hostile environment.

Helsinki South Harbour

Helsinki – Europe’s leading IT skills cluster, according to Forrester

As regards digital skills, Forrester’s research reveals hat post-Brexit regulatory obstacles are preventing UK cities from being ranked as a leading skill cluster in Europe: the top 10 metropolitan areas with the best skills and talent clusters across Europe are Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Hamburg, Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, and Amsterdam, whilst London, which was often formerly recognised as Europe’s tech hub, was ranked 19th (the heyday of Silicon Roundabout seems so long ago. Ed.), whilst other British cities also slid down the rankings.

The Forrester report’s authors state that European businesses increasingly understand the need to attract individuals with specific sector expertise as well as soft skills, commenting: “Leading businesses place diversity, partner ecosystems and innovation centres at the heart of their talent management strategies.” Furthermore, IT and business need to understand where Europe’s top skill clusters are located before they can attract and retain the best talent and to source the right skills.

EU eyes Apple

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If you have an iPhone, you can use Apple Pay for contactless payments; and only Apple Pay. The European Union (EU) wants to change that, according to French technology news site Frandroid.

The European Commission has officially announced that it has notified Apple in respect of the latter’s restrictions which prevent the use of third party services to access the iPhone’s NFC (Near-Field Communication or ‘tap and go’. Ed.) capabilities, thus restricting competition in the field of contactless payments.

Paying for a coffee with an iPhone and Apple Pay

Paying for a brew with an iPhone and Apple Pay. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The European Commission has informed Apple of its preliminary view that it is abusing its dominant position in markets for mobile wallets on iOS devices. By limiting access to a standard technology used for contactless payments with mobile devices in stores (‘Near-Field Communication (NFC)’ or ‘tap and go’), Apple restricts competition in the mobile wallets market on iOS.

The Commission takes issue with the decision by Apple to prevent mobile wallets app developers, from accessing the necessary hardware and software (‘NFC input’) on its devices, to the benefit of its own solution, Apple Pay.

The EU has the power to impose fines of up to 10% of Apple’s worldwide turnover ($36 bn. or €34.10 bn.) and impose changes in commercial practices, although any fine could turn out to be lower.

Finally, it’s worth noting that on Android it is possible to change the default contactless payment service. This is not possible on iPhones where Apple Pay is mandatory.

A short history of tractors in Tiverton & Honiton

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A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is a humorous novel by Marina Lewycka, first published in 2005, which went on to win the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize at the Hay literary festival, the Waverton Good Read Award 2005/6 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction, Over one million copies of the novel have been sold in the UK.

Official portrait of Neil ParishOn the other hand, A short history of tractors in Tiverton and Honiton is a sordid, grubby little tale of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, plus the lies proffered as explanations of such conduct, which first came to light in late April 2020.

The main protagonist of the more recent tale is the now disgraced former so-called Honourable Member of Parliament for the constituency of Tiverton and Honiton (up to now a safe Conservative seat. Ed.), one Neil Quentin Gordon Parish.

Our tale starts in the final week of April 2020 when the media reported that an unnamed Tory MP was accused of watching pornography in the chamber of the House of Commons.

The allegation was made at a meeting of Conservative MPs at which attendees shared stories of sexism and sexual harassment at Westminster, including the claim that one MP had watched sexually explicit material in the chamber and was spotted doing so by two female colleagues, one of whom is a government minister.

This prompted an investigation being launched by the Tory Chief Whip with the outcome of Parish being suspended from the party.

Before he was revealed as the guilty party, Parish even had the nerve to appear on right-wing “news” channel GB News (aka GBeebies, Ed.) to remark that when discovered, the accused MP should be “dealt with and dealt with seriously

As pressure mounted, Parish referred himself to parliament’s Standards Commissioner, who likewise initiated an investigation.

By this point any reasonable and rational human being would have realised that their position was untenable and written a resignation letter. Not Parish. He dug his heels in.

As reported by The Guardian, Parish gave the BBC’s Politics South West programme the following totally lame excuse:

The situation was that – funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at. I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit which I shouldn’t have done.
But my crime – biggest crime – is that on another occasion I went in a second time.

It’s the kind of mistake any can make isn’t it: looking for tractors online when one encounters pr0n, especially with all those closely related domain names?

Well; actually, Mr Parish it is not.

Parish was rightly ridiculed for this pathetic excuse, including by Deputy Labour Party leader, Angela Rayner, a frequent target for Conservative sexism and misogyny.

Tweet reads He was looking for tractors but ended up with porn actors? Neil Parish must think you were all born yesterday. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are a national embarrassment.

Yesterday, Parish resigned as an MP and the Liberal Democrats are once again looking to overturn a 20,000-plus parliamentary majority, as they did in December 2020 in North Shropshire (which had been a de facto Conservative one party state since 1832. Ed.) when the disgraced grifter Owen Paterson resigned after being caught breaching advocacy rules.

Time to get comfy with a big bowl of popcorn, politics fans… 😀

Humour and social media

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I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years now and there’s never a dull moment on the platform.

One of my old college friends told me earlier this week he’d left the platform, describing it as a bear pit.

Twitter can indeed by a rough and unforgiving place if one discusses politics and especially when one tries to debate with those with views diametrically opposed to one’s own. However, your ‘umble scribe has noticed over the decades that public discourse has become less respectful and courteous.

Nevertheless, the Twitter is not all ursine-baiting gloom and doom. There are those who post photos of nature, their gardens, pets and the like which leavens the gloom and doom.

Furthermore, there is a lot of humour on the platform too. Some of the best political quips I relate in other places have usually originated from Twitter.

However, the humour extends to other fields than politics and its practitioners and can be gentler in such areas, as per the example below, which will appeal to lovers of language and English in particular.

Tweet reads A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget's Thesaurus spilled its load leaving New York. Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, surprised, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded, astonished, and numbed.

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