Posts tagged tech

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.

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.

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.

Free software explained in under 3 minutes

Your ‘umble scribe has long been an avid user of free and open source software. For a long time, read for over 2 decades.

Indeed, GNU/Linux (often simply termed Linux. Ed.) has been my operating system of choice for over 17 years.

But what exactly do the terms free software and open source actually mean? How does software bearing these labels differ in comparison to the proprietary software used by most people and organisations? And finally, why does any of this actually matter?

To answer these questions, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has recently produced the video embedded below. It takes under 3 minutes to watch and provides succinct answers to the questions posed above.

New Turkish LibreOffice guide

Yesterday the blog of The Document Foundation – the German non-profit organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice suitereported on the release of a Turkish language guide for the productivity software.

Cover of LibreOffice Turkish user guide

Image courtesy of The Document Foundation

The guide has been translated from the English Getting Started Guide by Ayhan Yalçinsoy, a member of The Document Foundation and Board of Directors deputy.

Ayhan comments:

I’ve been using LibreOffice since 2010. It makes me happy to support and contribute to this application that I use with pleasure. For this reason, I have been trying to contribute by translating the interface and help text since the day I started using it. I know that every contribution counts in the open source world.” says Ayhan. “I would like to thank Muhammet Kara for what he has done for LibreOffice here. I learned from him how I can contribute to LibreOffice apart from interface translation. I solved some easyhack issue with his support.
After all these contributions, we established a certification team. We started the translation work for the LibreOffice Getting Started Guide 6.2 about a year ago, but for some reasons we could not continue. This issue remained in my mind. Finally, with the encouragement of Muhammet Kara and the sponsorship of TUBITAK/ULAKBIM, I completed the translation of Getting Started Guide 7.2.

Ayhan is currently working on a Turkish guide for Calc, LibreOffice’s spreadsheet program and is also appealing for volunteers to help him with this task, as his ultimate aim is to make Turkish language guides for all of LibreOffice’s constituent applications.

NASA – Open MCT 2.0.0 has landed

US space agency NASA is an extensive user of free and open source software (posts passim). Today German tech news site heise reports on the release of Open MCT 2.0.0.

With version 2.0.0 has released an update of the Open Mission Control Technologies open source framework. Open MCT was developed at California’s Ames Research Center and is used by NASA as a mission control framework for data virtualisation on desktop and mobile devices.

Screenshot of the WARP software showing a layout that includes plots, images, and other display elements

Image courtesy of NASA

NASA utilises Open MCT for analysing space missions and for planning and implementing experimental rover systems. Included in the latest release is a plug-in which enables adaptation of the framework to be used as an API from Angular to node.js, which is now supported. Critical bugs have also been fixed. Firstly, newly created items which shared a name with an existing object were not displayed in the tree structure. Furthermore, a faulty CSS selector prevented the correct mapping of plans in the timestrip display.

Additional changes include two bug fixes and seven Open MCT maintenance and testing problems, including a display error in which a grid remained visible when the inspector was closed and an error message that popped up during client-side URL redirection. The project is working on four aspects on the maintenance side: the event generator has been adapted from the Angular-based legacy API for node.js and re-implemented.

Besides its use for space missions with NASA Open MCT is an open source framework that could be adapted, according to the developers, for applications as varied as:

  • Monitoring of IoT devices;
  • Drones;
  • CubeSats;
  • Robotics;
  • High altitude balloons;
  • Electronic health monitoring;
  • Computer and network performance monitoring;
  • Enterprise data visualisation; and
  • Process control monitoring.

More information on this latest release may be found on GitHub.

No Microsoft account, no Windows 11

French tech news site Frandroid reports that there has been a very unobtrusive but significant change to the installation procedure for Windows 11, but one with major implications for users’ privacy and security.

Since the launch of Windows 11, users of the home edition have been obliged to have a Microsoft account and an internet connection for the initial configuration of a machine if a fresh installation is involved. The company could soon extend this obligation to the operating system’s Professional edition.

Windows 11 desktop

Do I look like a Mac in this?
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This week Microsoft has released build 22557 to members of the Windows Insider programme. This is a rather ambitious new version of Windows 11 packed with new “features“, including a change in policy regarding Windows 11 Pro.

As Microsoft wrote on its blog announcing the release:

Similar to Windows 11 Home edition, Windows 11 Pro edition now requires internet connectivity during the initial device setup (OOBE) only. If you choose to setup device for personal use, MSA will be required for setup as well. You can expect Microsoft Account to be required in subsequent WIP flights.

As you have read, Microsoft has stated in black and white that people will need to have an internet connection and a Microsoft account, even from Windows 11 Pro to enable a machine’s personal use (as distinct from business or educational use).

As a matter of fact, Microsoft is stating what the obligation will be included in all future versions of Windows 11 in the Insider programme. It can therefore be assumed that this new constraint only affects the initial configuration of machines with versions of Windows 11 from the Insider programme.

We will have to await the next major update of Windows 11 which incorporates the new features of build 22557 to check if having a Microsoft account has really become mandatory for the operating system’s Pro edition.

The use of an online account has long been required by Apple and Google on iOS and Android respectively, but less so for Windows, since historically there has not been any Microsoft account to connect, much to the chagrin of the software publisher. Users are therefore not accustomed to such a requirement, which Microsoft has been trying to promote since the launch of Windows 8

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