Saturday, 31 July 2010

Online Privacy

So this week a torrent was uploaded on The Pirate Bay, which apparently contained "Personal details for 100 million [Facebook] users". The BBC article is actually a fairly sensible and balanced take on it, there were a few other news reports on it which a bit more sensationalised and stupid about it.

The fact is, there's absolutely nothing notable about that torrent aside from the fact that all the vast amount of data is collated together. You can't find anything in that than you wouldn't be able to gather from just searching the name on Facebook and looking at their public profile. It wasn't some sort of breach of security, as was implied by several news sources.

Personally, I don't buy into the whole paranoia over personal information on the internet. My name, date of birth, address and phone number are all public knowledge as far as I'm concerned. I rather wouldn't plaster my address or phone number all over the internet, but the fact is that it's already in the phone directory, so it's not like it's impossible for people to find it if they are looking for it. And I'd also say that the personal data which I have put up on the internet isn't likely to be used for malicious purposes, or at least the chances of that happened far outweigh the benefit to myself and others of it being there, which is why it's there in the first place.

I had this discussion with people in IRC yesterday, and there are plenty of things which just completely don't bother me that some people apparently take huge exception to. Personally I don't give a shit if Google tracks my internet usage, because it's not ever going to get used in some way which harms me. It'll be used to give me more relevant ads, more relevant search results, something which assists both myself and Google, and not something I see any reason to be particularly concerned about.

Pretty much the only online information that I wouldn't want available for some bot to look at are passwords and my bank account details. Sure, I entrust my email, my calendar, my name and address to Google, but ultimately why would I give a shit about that? Even if they're going to use bots to read through people's mail (not something I think they would do, but it's possible), then I really don't care that much. There are things in my email I wouldn't want people to read, just because they're personal, but Google bots wouldn't collate personal information in any way that would leave the detail that I'd rather people didn't see.

If I were to draw a Venn diagram, which included the groups for things I consider personal and don't want other people to see, things which Google could make money from, and things which are uploaded up onto the internet to be accessed, then the intersection is minuscule, and most likely doesn't exist at all. There are emails and private messages on forums that I wouldn't want people to read, but they'd be of no interest to a bot, so ultimately the fact that they exist in a database on a server somewhere isn't going to be much of a problem. Google aren't going to employ people to read through everyone's email, and if they're not being read by people, then I don't care, because it's not ever going to end badly for me.

I'm placing far more trust in sites like Amazon and my bank to keep my details secure, because that's pretty much the only details I have on the internet which could genuinely cause problems for me if they were to be made publicly available. Google have emails and my calendar, not really sure if there's much malicious they can do with that. Most of my stuff is publicly viewable on Facebook because I don't really see how anyone could use it maliciously either, except for maybe "lol Rosti is ugly". The town I live in, the schools I went to, none of them have much use to anyone except for perhaps singling me out on Facebook as the "Chris Rowe" they want.
The only stuff I've got locked down to not be publicly viewable on Facebook are my email and IM addresses, and my address and phone number, which are more to prevent bots trawling that sort of thing and sending me spam than anything else. And it's up there for friends to see, because I want them to be able to see it, beecause that's sort of the point of putting it there to start with.

There's always going to be people out there who have what I personally consider to be paranoia over anonymity and personal data on the internet, to the extent where retention of pretty much any trace of them is seen as a gross breach of privacy. And I can sort of see where they're coming from, but given that it's going to make fuck-all difference to their everyday life, I don't quite get why they kick up such a fuss about it, and go to such huge lengths to stop it happening. If I was the sort of person who went around making a lot of people angry on the internet (I'm not that bad I hope), then I might be more worried about people connecting my online pseudonym to my personal information, because you only have to piss off one absolute psychopath for that to start to be come a real problem.
Ultimately I would say that if you're the sort of person who wouldn't want even a trace of personal information leaked onto the internet, if you were the sort of person who is genuinely bothered by the torrent, then why would you bother getting Facebook in the first place? For one, the privacy controls do work. Sure, some things are by default set to be publicly viewable, and you have to set them to be hidden if that's what you want, but ultimately Facebook is a social networking site. The whole point of it is to share what is basically personal information with other people.

If anything I would say that the torrent highlights the fact that sure, you might have some personal information on the internet, but so do one hundred million other people. The chances of someone actually using your information for anything more than just broad statistical analysis are extremely small. And that's assuming there's anything they can really do with it in the first place.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Liverpool FC: Pre-season

So Liverpool's season technically started yesterday, and actually got off to a decent start. As usual we were performing awfully for the pre-season friendlies, but crucially won 2-0 in the game we actually needed to win.

The fact that we did win comfortably in Macedonia highlights something of a difference under Hodgson. Sure, we've only had one game, it'd be ridiculous for me to suggest that he's a better manager for Liverpool than Rafa off of the back of a single match (and I'd say I'm fairly unlikely to even start to think that way until we've won something), but that sort of fixture was one that Benitez has typically had a lot of trouble with in the past. The standard result for a game like that under Benitez would be that we'd draw 0-0, meaning there'd be more pressure on us at Anfield and we'd have to bring the likes of Gerrard and Torres into the fray earlier than would otherwise be needed. Instead we've got a win that, while not insurmountable, has basically seen us through the tie and means that the game next week should hopefully just be a formality and we'll be qualified, with our best players having stayed rested.

I think if anything it stands to highlight that maybe Hodgson can get better results from the lesser players in the squad. I'd also say that he made sure we had the right mixture of experience and quality where it mattered, but also giving the youth players a shot and not putting out an overly strong team. He made sure we had a solid defence, and because of that it meant we were never looking likely to concede, and that the younger players had a solid back line that they could build confidence to attack from.

Plus Ngog scored two goals, and if he could keep up form like that, it'd be really helpful next season. Sure, both goals were against a pretty low-grade defence compared to Premiership teams, but they were both good finishes, which isn't something often seen by Ngog. Usually he just sort of bundles them in inelegantly and from close range, but for the two goals he scored yesterday evening he actually properly finished them. One was a smart piece of opportunism to force a mistake from their defence, and then flick it past the goalkeeper, and the other was a pretty good volley across his body into the roof of the net - not an easy finish at all. I'm not going to start claiming he could be scoring twenty or thirty goals next season, but if he plays like he did yesterday for even half the games this season then he could be a pretty good partner for Torres.

Obviously the major talking point so far this summer would be the signing of Joe Cole. Something I welcomed, but I'm also slightly sceptical about it, mostly because I feel if he was actually a seriously good player then I don't think Chelsea would have let him go for free. I find it odd that there are Liverpool fans out there saying that now we've signed Joe Cole, we can be a title-winning side again, given that last year's title-winners are the ones who didn't deem it worth their time (or wage budget) to renew his contract.

Most of the other signings are fairly solid, but nothing really to shout about too much. Just a bit of youth and some strengthening of the squad. However we have kept Gerrard, and if press conferences are to be believed we've also kept Torres. I won't believe it 100% that he wants to stay next season until he says it himself, but I also don't see why Hodgson would lie and claim he's told him he wants to stay, given a few days earlier he'd admitted that he didn't know if he'd be able to keep him, and had done all he could. Either way, Torres and Gerrard staying should be a massive boost, and their departure was my main fear for the summer transfer window, and it seems to have been settled.

It hasn't for Mascherano, but he's been saying he wants to leave for a while, as his family are unsettled. I'll be a bit sad if he leaves, given he's a quality player, and he's always at least appeared to care massively for the team on the pitch (often a little too much), so I have a lot of respect for him. If he wants to go, so long as we get a decent price for him, then good luck to him, wherever he ends up (almost certainly Inter Milan).

I'm confident so far at least that Liverpool can have a good season over the next 12 months. I don't quite buy some of the over-excited claims that we could be challenging for the title though. I mean, I think the side we have might be able to if we can have Torres, Gerrard, Cole and Aquilani fit for the entire season, but that isn't ever going to happen, so 3rd or probably 4th would be a lot more realistic. And I think that's the sort of thing we're aiming for anyway - to get back into the Champions League and then see where we can go from there.

So roll on the new season in two weeks' time, because now that there isn't any decent football on it really can't come quick enough.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Rosti 878, Malware 1

So after over two years of having my laptop (since April 19th, 2008) without anything more troublesome than a tracking cookie, I got hit by a virus last night. I'll accept that I've probably had it coming. Given that I spend more time on the internet than can possibly be healthy, and that I go to my fair share of porn sites and the like, I reckon I've done pretty well to avoid them for so long. There's also the fact that I have pretty much all the anti-virus software that's installed on my laptop turned off, and I rely on the scanning function rather than the real-time protection against stuff, because I like my computer not to be slowed down by shit I don't need for approximately 355.5 days of the year.

What pissed me off more was that I wasn't watching porn. I wasn't on any dodgy sites. I was surfing through some stuff, clicked a link to a generic image hosting page filled with ads, and got hit by it. I know two people who have apparently got the same virus from ThePirateBay as well this week, which would imply it's not a virus that's that hard to pick it up.

It also meant I knew what was coming. The splash screen for Java randomly started up, which is what had been described, so I killed Java as fast as I could. If I'd really been smart I would have just flicked the switch on the side of my laptop that turns the wifi off and that would probably have been it. But I didn't, and I didn't close Java in time, so a minute or so later I got all these fake notifications about my computer being infected (which it was, but it wasn't my standard AV software notifications) and this bullshit AntiVir crap started up and supposedly ran a scan of my computer.

I could do fuck all. I couldn't even get into the task manager because it would instantly bring up a notification about it being an infected program and kill the window. So I held down the power button until my laptop turned off, and then booted into safe mode. A quick snoop around msconfig and the stuff in Spybot S&D told me where the virus was, I deleted the files, came back into regular Windows.

Everything seemed OK, no more bullshit notifications. I open Firefox, and notice that my iGoogle homepage isn't working properly, and all the applet boxes have "Could not connect to proxy server" on them. I don't use a proxy. I go into the Firefox settings, and it's configured to use one. Same for IE. Fuck.

I then get mildly paranoid, because I didn't really know what to do. I'm perfectly fine for hunting down and destroying viruses, but not so much for removing obscure traces of it when I'm not sure what it's done. If it hadn't been for the proxy not working, I wouldn't have noticed it was set up in the first place.

Missing the most obvious option for the second time in the evening, I ran various virus scans and fretted a lot about shit that it might have done. If I'd actually done the sensible thing and gone looking for info on it, I would have found this page and seen that I'd managed to pick up on all the crap that the virus had done. Also that the virus is more of a scan than something more subtly malicious, and that it hadn't stolen all my passwords or hidden a keylogger or anything like that. So my mind now somewhat at ease, though I've currently not got Java installed on my computer as I uninstalled it last night.

One thing that I did discover while crapping myself over passwords and such was that Firefox doesn't actually encrypt any of the passwords it saves. I was actually slightly startled at how easy it is to uncover them. Options->Security->Saved Passwords->Show Passwords->OK is all you need to see all the saved passwords in the browser, unless they've set a master password (which isn't required by default, but I've sure as hell got one set now). Heck, there are even crappy plugins and programs that can extract them, it's hardly much thought to think that a virus could do it and send the information on. Not that I've got anything massively dangerous for someone to gain the password to, but there's plenty of things I wouldn't want passwords to be leaked for (Facebook, site ACPs, FTP passwords, Amazon, etc).

And as a final point, something from my Spybot Search & Destroy logs:

26/07/2010 22:03:07 Allowed (based on user decision) value "fqofxfkb" (new data: "C:\Documents and Settings\Christopher\Local Settings\Application Data\cdwblhbay\lodmjbbtssd.exe") added in System Startup user entry!
26/07/2010 22:03:13 Allowed (based on user decision) value "fqofxfkb" (new data: "C:\Documents and Settings\Christopher\Local Settings\Application Data\cdwblhbay\lodmjbbtssd.exe") added in System Startup global entry!

Spybot S&D is a fucking fantastic program, but not so great when I've somehow turned off allow/deny alerts when something screws with the registry, and not turned it back on, and as a result it just stands and takes note when a virus embeds itself into my startup and registry, and does fucking diddly-squat about it.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Ah Crap... It's Sunday Evening Again

Before the blog, I shall grace this blog with one of the most awesome videos I've seen in a while. It's crazy and hilarious and Japanese, and I really hope it's done in satire. Either way, it's funny.

Courtesy of Matt Lord and Alexa Shazz who posted it on his wall. I know enough Japanese to derive some extra humour from it, but it's funny anyway, especially given most of the Japanese is crazy Engrish (NAISU TOREIN!!). It brightened up my day.

Today hasn't been so bad. The German Grand Prix wasn't great aside from the controversy, but it was nice to see Cavendish win the sprint on the Champs Elysées by an absolute fucking mile. He didn't get the green jersey, but it really should be his next year, because once he's there for the sprint, there doesn't seem to be anyone who can even get close, let alone beat him. If he doesn't screw up stages like he did this year, then even without going for intermediate sprint points the points classification really should be his for the taking.

I've spent the rest of the afternoon fansubbing - anyone who reads this blog to find out information on Frostii releases should be pleased to know that Rainbow episodes 11-15 should all be released pretty soon, aside from 13 which is a recap episode. Kimi ni Todoke 14 shouldn't be that far away either, though Durarara!! is still going to be a bit slow.

I'm hoping the next week of work can see me get onto some 3D CAD stuff. I was doing calculations and things this week, and it wasn't too bad, but it was fairly dull. It was nice to at least be doing some proper engineering stuff (I actually regretted not having my data books with me at a few points) but it's fairly menial, and it's not something I have much confidence doing. If someone tells me to go calculate shit I can do it, but given a structure and told to calculate failure loads and the like is a bit more out of my comfort zone. If I'm in Autodesk Inventor then I'll at least feel like I'm not spending a whole day to do a shoddy job of something that a more experience employee could do much better in an hour or so.

I've been pretty tired today, mostly because I was up until 4am last night playing Alien Swarm with Alex and Cardy. It's a pretty nice game, especially considering that it's free. It's actually surprisingly tactical because you run out of health and ammo pretty damn quickly if you don't work efficiently together. The friendly fire aspect is also pretty difficult to avoid given most of the enemies melee attack (and Cardinal was fucking shit at noticing all the stuff chasing him :P). So yeah, good fun for a game that costs nothing. My only real issue with it is that it seems to massively crash my graphics driver regardless of the settings I use, though hopefully I can fix that. It's especially odd given that it doesn't seem like the sort of game that would be graphically demanding on a game that can run CS:S and Half-Life 2 with high settings and no trouble.

The next week is probably still going to be a combination of work in the day and fansubbing in the evening, but if I can maybe ask myself into something a little more interesting it'll probably make it tolerable.
Also got a confirmation letter and a fucking huge suggested reading list for MET next year, but more on that for another blog entry. This was also my 98th blog post, and I've got something nice lined up for the 100th ;)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Some WTF For The Week

Back to writing my blog for fun and entertainment, so a small collection of things I have seen on the great interwebs that have made me "What the fuck?!" over the last few days:

The first is the news of a new film, titled Legend of Cain, starring Will Smith. It's the classic story from Genesis, passed down through the ages. Except they've added vampires. No, seriously, it has a "vampiric twist". As much as I am, quite infamously, not a Christian, I feel this is over the line a little bit. It's fucking ridiculous. Is this just going to be how cinema works for the next few years? If a piece of absolute shit like Twilight can spawn a series of awful but high-grossing movies, then any piece of crap can make money so long as it has vampires in? Is that the logic? Are we going to see a series of classic films and stories like the Italian Job, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, Oliver Twist and Casablanca going to get vampire remakes?

Because seriously, if the Bible isn't safe, I sort of wonder what is. How the fuck can they add a 'vampiric' twist to the story of Cain and Abel without totally decimating the entire thing? Will Smith's movie career maybe has been more miss than hit lately, but I don't get how the fuck Bible + vampires is going to churn out anything that isn't fairly garbage.

To my second WTF for the week. Guys, do you ever see a hot woman in public. Maybe on the train, or at the office? Do you stare at her continuously, insanely wishing that you could just shove your nose up into her lady-garden and take a huge whiff of her genitals? No? Well apparently some people do, which is why Vulva Original exists, claiming to give you the "vaginal scent of a beautiful woman" in a handy vial you can put in your pocket to sniff and stir your fantasies.

In it's defence, that site does use some fantastically attractive naked women to advertise it's product, but that aside, what the hell? Seriously, someone has gone to the trouble of synthetically recreating the smell of a vagina so they can sell it to people? Does the vagina of a beautiful woman have a different aroma to that of an ugly one? And really, fucking really, since when were vaginas renowned for their fantastic aroma, or have I just been really fucking unlucky? The general advertising thing just seems to be "Here, buy this and you can carry it around, put it on your hand, and then be as creepy and sordid as you want in public view and you'll just look a bit odd doing it". The only thing I can really merit this for is that maybe it'll be to rapists what methadone is to heroin addicts. But not really. It's just a fucking bizarre and insane product and I have no idea how anyone would come up with something like that.

The final WTF for the week (actually last week, but who cares) is the fantastic site Teens Against Porn, which I will definitely be revisiting on this blog in future, because it's a fucking comedy goldmine. Even the age warning on the front page hints at the epic lulz contained inside that site.

It's probably not a secret that I, as a typical 20 year old male, quite enjoy porn. I wouldn't say I had any sort of ridiculous addiction to it, but I'd admit that I do indeed watch porn, like 99% of guys my age. I wouldn't say I necessarily support the porn industry entirely (I'm mostly into the amateur stuff, but I guess that's a bit too much information), but I also don't really get how people, specifically teenagers, would have such an aversion to it that they'd make their own site.

What's really hilarious is that when you read some of the posts, most of them are just ridiculously fanatical religious types, where the notion of any sort of sexual contact (including holding hands) is massively taboo for them, let alone full-blown sexual intercourse. Let alone filming it and then having other people watch it.
It's also hilarious from the point of view that so many of them clearly have issues with porn (especially homosexual porn it seems, presumably because it's doubly taboo and ~*~naughty~*~) and most of the threads on there are along the lines of "I watch a lot of porn I really don't want to watch this much porn and it scares me how do I watch less porn?!!? *sad face*"

If there's one single argument that's pro-porn, it would be that apparently watching porn stops you from turning into an illiterate, God-fearing retard like the majority of the users on that website. But like I said, don't look around too much on that site, because I'll be posting and critiquing highlights on here fairly regularly I imagine.

So those are my "What The Fuck"s For The Week, courtesy of Philip DeFranco, Mark Evered and Orbital's Skype chats respectively. If I end up doing a lot of these, it could be abbreviated to WTFFTW, which would be cool as it's palindromic. But it may be confused with What The Fuck For The Win, so I probably won't use it outside of the post labels.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Another Day In Paradise

Ironic title (or maybe not, given the theme of the song?), because today has been a shit day.

It's weird, because I seemingly knew it right from when I woke up. Having my alarm wake me up early in the morning, knowing I have a whole day of work ahead of me, and I will do for the next six weeks. It's the same sort of feeling I used to get on Mondays back when I had school of just general impending boredom and senselessness for the next several weeks. That was more just a feeling of general unrest and unhappiness at the next few weeks. Because even if my job turns out to actually be pretty fun, I still almost certainly am not going to enjoy it as much as I'd enjoy not doing it. But that's a different issue.

The morning wasn't actually that bad. I was given some weight calcs to do on a design for a transport cart. Basically they need to know how much it weighs so they can take it into consideration properly for seismic analysis (this thing weighs about six tons). Most of the stuff was already done, I just had to check over the calcs, and make sure that they were properly up to date with the latest drawings. It wasn't thrilling, but it was fairly straightforward and I could do it at least.

The afternoon was fucking boring though. I finished the weight calcs and the stuff the guy wanted me to do next needed me to have MATHCAD, which was meant to be installed on my machine, but wasn't. And it won't be until tomorrow morning at the earliest, so I'm basically left with the entire afternoon trying to at least look busy and be vaguely productive. Which ordinarily wouldn't be so hard, because there's a ton of info to read on the project, and I also found some of the company guidelines for MATHCAD and what I was going to be doing. Awesome, except they were all PDF files. And the computer I'm on for some dumb fucking reason doesn't have Acrobat (or any other software for opening PDF files) installed. So I was fucked basically, and spent the whole afternoon being really bored and scraping things to do.

Now sure, I am being paid for this doing nothing shit, but at the same time, I'm not being paid very much. It's minimum wage, if that. I'd rather do my old job at Morrisons than sit around in an office trying to look busy when I don't really have much to do. There's also the fact that I'm under reasonable pressure to be useful. The company I'm actually working for don't want to pay me. They're struggling hard for money (and apparently almost cancelled the placement as late-on as two weeks ago), and are basically hoping that if I do stuff then they'll be able to charge me to Sellafield Ltd, who are funding the project I'm working on. Essentially they'll pay me, and then just send the bill to SL to pay the expenses. SL actually refused to pay for me up-front, so I need to actually add value or it'll be coming out of Nuvia's pocket and they'll be all sadface about it. It's a bit daft really, because I'm getting like £1200 for the placement over six weeks, and this project in total budgets around £2million a month, so I'm hardly a major expense for this thing.

It'd also be a lot easier if it wasn't for the fact that I'm on a corporate internet connection and therefore obviously pretty much any site I'd actually be able to waste proper time browsing is blocked. No Facebook, no forums, pretty much nothing aside from reading the BBC website dry.

Speaking of dry, the drive home was anything but. It was similar to this last year, but tonight was exceptionally insane. Everyone was doing about 40mph on the motorway because you just couldn't see a fucking thing if you drove any faster. The rain was coming down so hard that even with the wipers frantically flying back and forth across the windscreen, it wasn't clearing it nearly fast enough. Plus the amount of water on the road was crazy. There was a big queue on the M62 as I was leaving work because some guy had smashed a BMW into a lamppost, and given it was raining just as hard through the afternoon as it was in the evening, I'm not surprised. The fact that there's been flash floods in Merseyside, and similar floods and severe weather warnings in Lancashire (the areas in those articles being about 15 miles south and north, respectively, of where I live) is a pretty good demonstration of how insane the weather has been in the North West today. It's actually not so bad on my road, but I live part-way up a hill, so it's unlikely. It wouldn't surprise me if it was flooded back where my old house is though, because that street used to flood fairly often.

So yeah, the drive home was pretty hellish and somewhat scary because the conditions were just insanely bad. I'm just glad I was in a car and not one of the poor bastards cycling home from work. I actually really needed to go shopping this evening, but I've not bothered because the weather has just been so bad, so I guess I'll have to buy my lunch yet again tomorrow (it's pretty expensive) and hopefully go shopping when I get back from work.

I also managed to massively fuck up my dinner. I've got stuff I froze from Saturday, and was aiming to just reheat it. My sister is out having dinner with schoolfriends and a teacher in Chorely (and better not be crashing the car I need tomorrow in floods :\), so the plan was I'd reheat it and eat it in front of the TV watching the Tour de France highlights. Except the microwave broke during the reheating. The there was a weird spark inside it while it was cooking, the light turned off, and it's counter reset to zero. Usually I'd just do the standard procedure of turning it off and on again, but it's a microwave so I'm not so keen on using it when it's potentially broken. Which left me somewhat fucked, because I'd already put the meal out on a plate, which meant putting it in a pan would be somewhat difficult.

Figuring the oven would take too long, I stuck it under the grill. Except putting a plate under the grill would be retarded, so I put the plate in the grill pan and then under grill. Which sort of did the trick, except when I took it out I realised that the plate was now burning hot, and I couldn't really just have it on my lap in front of the TV. I didn't want to put it on a tray either in case it melted it. I have no idea how the fuck in my head the grill would manage to heat up the food, and the grill pan (I was clearly aware of this or I wouldn't have used oven gloves) and yet leave the plate nice and cool, but apparently at the time that's what I thought because I'm a fucking retard. Half the reason I didn't use the oven was because I figured it'd make the plate hot. No idea why that somehow didn't matter for using the grill. So I ended up missing most of the TdF highlights because I had to eat my dinner from off the cooker surface.

So yeah, pretty crap day in all really. I've got other, slightly more worthwhile topics to talk about here aside from my pretty mediocre and somewhat rubbish day, but I'll save them for tomorrow.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Gauntlet

Today is the last day of freedom. And I've spent it being tired as hell and just trying to keep myself awake. Hopefully it'll be worth it though, and I'll have shoved my sleep schedule into shape so that I'm not completely hammered by a pre-7am start tomorrow for work.

I'm sort of looking forward to the next few weeks, but at the same time really not, because I was quite enjoying my days of idleness. I've neglected this blog a bit, and was aiming to post a lot more, but I've had trouble finding the time and motivation to transfer my ideas from my head to this place, because I've generally been keeping myself busy with various series I'm watching, forums, Counter-Strike and fansub work. I'll probably have a fair bit to talk about with regards to having a job over the next few weeks. Probably rants, because having a job sucks aside from the being paid at the end. Or at least, it does compared to watching anime, playing video games and going out drinking in the evenings.

My parents are also away on holiday this week, so I've got a proper taster of living like an adult for a week or so (and then I can go back to being a kid again). I cooked yesterday and my sister cooked today, because I figured we can't have take-aways every night this week, so we might as well save them for days when we'll come home from work (my sis is helping out at a primary school) and can't be arsed cooking.

Work is made somewhat better this year by the fact I've managed to land using my Mum's car instead of my grandmothers. My nan is currently in the hospital after a hip replacement, meaning she won't be able to drive for a while, so my mum is using her car and I'm using my Mum's instead. Which is awesome, because I'm working 30 miles away, and my grandma's car doesn't have a functioning stereo, which makes the commute extremely boring. There's also the fact that my grandma's car is a 0.9 litre Vauxhall Agila, and is an absolute piece of shit for going down motorways. Driving around town the rustic nature is sort of nice, but it really struggles to make 60mph, let alone 70. So I should be saving some money on fuel because I won't be driving flat out, as well as being able to have music or radio while I drive.

I've had quite a nice time this week learning to typeset in After Effects. The Musashi movie wasn't getting any typesetting done because all the TSers basically backed out of doing it, so I've taken it up along with Robo, and we've gotten things moving. It probably will take a while, but at least it's not completely stalled. Plus I'm sort of enjoying making the signs, though I'm not sure if I'll have much time for it over the next few weeks.

So yeah, I won't be online much for obvious reasons except for the evenings. I'd like to make a few posts here this week though. I might start writing them when I'm on my lunch break and don't have much else better to do, and then emailing them home.

I leave you with this video. It's a pretty cool idea, and there are a few mistakes but overall pretty good, and it has some nice nostalgia. It also won't work unless you view the site outside of the Networked Blogs preview. And yeah, it's nicovideo, so disable comments if you actually want to see the video behind the scrolling text :P

Monday, 12 July 2010

Damn pranks...

IRC log from this afternoon:

<Rosti> if you're even back yet
<HarmoNicks> lol what's this about
<Audia> ahahaha
<Audia> I played the best prank on him evar
<Rosti> ;-;
<HarmoNicks> pwnt?
<Daz_afk> what did you do?
*Daz_afk is now known as Daz
<Audia> I'll let rosti explain it
<Rosti> I was shopping in Morrisons, right
<Rosti> and I had my earphones in, listening to music, as you do
<Rosti> so was in my own little world of music and deciding which flavour of Haagen-Dazs to buy
<Rosti> and she sneaks up on me, right
<Rosti> and licks me
<Rosti> just under the earlobe. really ticklish spot
<HarmoNicks> ahahaha lol
<Audia> and he freaked out
<Rosti> and it scared the absolute fucking shit out of me
<Daz> LMAO
<Rosti> I jumped out of my skin, like made a really loud "AAAHHHHHHHHHHH" sound, spazzed and flailed around trying to get away from whatever it was, ended up tripping over my basket and falling on the floor
<Rosti> and I'm sat on my arse just thinking "WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED"
<Audia> I laughed so hard I nearly peed, I swear
<Rosti> just got Audia laughing her ass off at me, and an entire aisle of people staring at me like I just stripped off my clothes and shat on the floor
<Audia> you were pretty loud
<Audia> and spazzy
<HarmoNicks> definitely pwnt
<Rosti> it was like the reflex if you have a wasp or something near your ear, only I was less expecting it and it completely didn't feel like an insect
<Rosti> I mostly freaked out because it surprised the shit out of me and I didn't have a clue what the fuck it was; I just wanted to get the fuck away from it
<Audia> a good time was had by all
<Audia> or me, at least
<Rosti> damn fucking bitch
<Rosti> I spent the rest of my walk home with just one earphone in
<Rosti> I'm now frigging paranoid about using two in case it happens again
<Rosti> ;__;

FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

The series actually finished last week, and I watched the final episode days ago, but it didn't quite hit home that it's finished until now, when it's Monday and yet I'm not waiting around for Eclipse to release the new episode.

The original FMA TV series was one of the first anime series I watched. My first five were Lucky Star, Elfen Lied, GitS: SAC, FMA and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, in roughly that order. This being about two years ago. I really liked the first FMA series at the time, and I remember absolutely racing through the series, watching episode after episode, though I really didn't like the ending. I just felt it didn't really resolve anything or answer or explain many of the questions raised earlier in the series. As is fairly standard for series based on unfinished manga (Hellsing, Death Note...), it was pretty good up until they caught up to the manga, and then things go downhill as the series wanders off on a plot of it's own, which in the cases of FMA and Hellsing turns out to be completely different to the final cohesive plot from the manga.

The pacing of the first series is also pretty terrible, looking back. Things are strong for the first third or so, when there's manga, but then it slows down massively, and very little really happens or gets revealed for about twenty episodes. Then suddenly it rushes into the ending and it's all over with just a few more episodes.

On the other hand, Brotherhood is fantastic. It's what the first series should always have been, and it's a fantastic remake that stays true to the manga (which I've not read) right up to the final episode. It just blows the first series out of the water, and really just goes to demonstrate how poor it really was. The animation is much better, the pacing is excellent, the plot is cohesive and there's a proper ending and conclusion that wraps it all up. The characters are pretty well developed, and as a whole it's just so much more well-rounded than the first series.

It's a really fantastic series, and it's a little weird that it's finally over, after more than a year of following it week after week. Like the original FMA series, I'd also say it's a pretty approachable series, and I'd recommend it to people who haven't watched much, or any, anime. It's got a really good mix of story, action and humour, and some of the characters (mostly Alex Louis Armstrong) are absolutely fantastic. I wouldn't say it was necessarily spectacular, as in I don't feel it does anything that hasn't been done before in a series, but it does it well. It may not be exceptional, but it's still very good, and importantly it's consistently very good throughout the series, which not many anime manage to achieve.

For people who watched the first series, unless you really hated the general premise, you should really watch Brotherhood. It might seem a bit crap for the first fifteen episodes when you're getting the same plot you already know, but once you get past that it's more than worth it. If you really care, just skip the first ten episodes or so, but really even watching from the start as I did, it's still not that bad because it progresses so much quicker than the first series, and it's subtly different as well.

So yeah, for people who don't like waiting for each episode to come out, and prefer to just watch series through in one go, it's finished airing now, and it's definitely worth checking out.

For people who have seen it, there's also some OVA specials that most people don't seem to be aware of.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Work Experience - The Prologue Part 2

In what's hopefully the final chapter on the shambles that has been the organisation of my work placement this summer, I got my confirmation call today that I'm indeed starting a work placement. Unfortunately, I'm starting a week Monday, instead of this Monday, which causes me a fair amount of trouble. The issue with starting this Monday was that I'd be working up until the Friday with the Strasbourg trip at the weekend, meaning I'd be going late, because I'd ideally be travelling on the Thursday or something, not the Saturday or the Friday evening. Now that it's a week later, it not only means that I'd pretty much definitely not go to Strasbourg because I'd have to be back in time for work on the Monday as well, but it also means it clashes with the Reading festival, which starts on the Thursday of the following week.

Now I really want to go to Strasbourg, but ultimately if I had the choice of missing it or not fulfilling my placement, I'd probably just miss it. Reading however is a slightly different issue, given I've paid £120 to go to it, bought my ticket back last September, and I've been vaguely looking forward to it since the line-up was announced. I only need four weeks, not six, so my basic options are to either not do the last week or two of the placement, or to maybe try and get a couple of weeks off around Strasbourg and Reading and then do the last two weeks of my placement in September. Still not really sure how it's going to pan out (which is annoying when I'd rather get the travel stuff to Strasbourg sorted sooner rather than later), but I'll be fairly bullish about it, given that I'd place most of the blame about the placement starting late with Nuvia, rather than myself. I also don't really see why it'd necessarily be too much hassle for them if I'm doing six weeks spread out over eight weeks, rather than just consecutively.

One benefit at least of starting a week later is that I'll be able to watch another week of the Tour de France live, because it's been fairly decent so far. The stages have all been fairly flat so far, so I've only been watching the last 30-40km of each stage given that everything before then is pretty boring. Things should pick up at least once they hit the mountain stages next week though.
It was nice to see Cavendish win today and yesterday, especially given his really poor start to the Tour. I can't see him picking up the green jersey by the end of it at this rate, but you never know. It was also nice to see him drop his hostile, arrogant attitude and show a bit of emotion and a slightly more tender side to himself after the race. I was browsing around some of the main French newspapers and sports magazines last night (as they tend to give the best coverage for obvious reasons), and I found it fairly funny how much focus they had on Cavendish's tears on the podium after winning the race. I especially liked the minor headline in a L'Equipe article of "Le bad boy pleure comme un gosse" (the bad boy weeps like a child).

The guy has a bad press, and it's mostly his own doing for things he's done and said, but I also think that it's slightly unfair on sportsmen in general when they're interviewed straight after the race, when they're still high on adrenaline and caught in the moment. I think Cavendish has got plenty of shitty press for things he's said which he'd probably take back if he was given a bit more time to cool down and reflect on things. I think he showed yesterday that he has a softer side, and he's not quite the asshole that he's projected to be. He's had a really tough year, he blew it in the stage on Wednesday, and clearly felt that he let his team down massively on that stage. He probably started to doubt if he actually could win a stage this year, and I think all that relief after a hard year spilled over and then some yesterday. But he won by a mile yesterday, and clearly had his confidence back to do the same thing again today, so it could be he's not completely out of the green jersey competition just yet.

It's also pretty awesome to see a British rider currently wearing the white jersey as well. Geraint Thomas did really well over the cobblestones earlier in the week to get to the top, and it'll be interesting to see if he'll keep it for much longer into the Tour. Personally I reckon Andy Schleck will take it from him fairly soon, but it'd be an awesome surprise if he can keep himself high up in the classification over the next week. It'll be also pretty interesting to see the battle for the yellow jersey pan out over the next week. I reckon Contador will probably win it overall, but Wiggins and Andy Schleck are right up there with him, and Armstrong definitely isn't too far back to be ruled out either. It's hard to really make any sort of predictions when there haven't been any stages so far with major climbs though.

I also noticed yesterday how epic Sunday is going to be for sport. The British Grand Prix, followed by the Tour de France, followed by the World Cup Final. I'll be in front of the TV pretty much the entire afternoon and most of the evening, and it's going to be awesome.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Mamono Sweeper

In a rare event of tada posting a link in IRC that wasn't disgusting, unfunny, something I'd seen before, or a combination of the three, I discovered Mamono Sweeper. My first suggestion would be that if you're someone who enjoys puzzles, doesn't give up easily and/or finds it hard to resist difficult challenges laid before them, then don't click that link if you're planning on doing anything else for the rest of the day.

It's essentially a minesweeper variant, with an RPG element sort of added in, but not really. Instead of mines, you have monsters of various levels. Click on a level equal or lower than yours and you safely kill it. Click on one stronger than you, and you lose health. You're given a small amount of health to start with for gambles, mistakes and I guess tactical losses, but it doesn't last very long, and clicking on anything more than a level or two above you will kill you instantly anyway. As you kill monsters you gain experience and level up. Usually to level three or four (out of nine) before you fuck up somewhere and die.

It actually comes out as a cross between regular minesweeper and Kakuro puzzles. Instead of the number of monsters around each square, the number on regular squares indicates the sum of the levels of all the monsters in the squares adjacent to it. It means that playing quickly requires some mean arithmetic, and you have to be fairly accurate with it unless you want to lose a lot. It's pretty fun, but also really difficult on a board that size, and it's addictive as hell.

I spent fucking ages over the weekend trying to beat it, and I still haven't managed it. I did a couple of the easier modes, but the hardest one still eludes me. I'll get pretty far (usually well into level three or four) and then fuck up and usually mis-click a square by mistake, or occasionally I'll make a mistake with adding and die as a result.
Oh, and if you click on the squares of monsters you've killed, it toggles the number for that square. Which is fucking useful, and I only discovered it after playing for two hours first.

Also, today's Dilbert comic was pretty funny:

Monday, 5 July 2010

Work Experience

So my work experience was meant to start tomorrow. Or, if you go by proper definitions of today and tomorrow, given it's now past midnight, I was meant to start to today. And am I starting then? No, I'm not.

What's really irritating is that I really don't feel like any of it is down to me. I didn't leave it to the last minute. I got in contact with the company six months ago, asked for a placement, the guy I'm in contact with said it should be fine, I just need to send stuff formally to Human Resources. So I did. And HR got back to me, saying I was way too fucking early and they weren't going to handle anything more than three months before the start date.

So I waited, and three months later I sent stuff back again. I didn't hear much, but eventually it trickled through about two months ago that I was probably going to get a placement, and I was asked what dates I wanted. I replied, and then I heard nothing. About a week or two ago, under massive prompting from my Dad, I rang them. Apparently they were going to send me stuff weeks ago to get the placement set up, and... they didn't. I think part of the problem is that I'm talking to one person, who is on the Engineering side, yet it's HR that actually have to set all the stuff up, so this indirect route has massively fucked things up. So after a fairly worried call directly to HR, things have finally gotten into motion. But seemingly not quickly enough for me to be able to start when I wanted to, which means the TC Strasbourg meet could now be a bit tricky, unless I either start mid-way through this week or can get the last day or two off.

For those people who aren't familiar with the whole Cambridge Engineering work experience stuff, you basically have to do some, or you can't graduate with honours (and therefore might as well not graduate at all). If I've not done a total of eight weeks of work experience by the time I sit my exams next year (ie. by Easter) then I'm basically fucked. So this isn't some crap I'm doing just to kill time over the summer and maybe earn some cash. It's massively crucial to my entire degree.

I would say there are three things I've learned from this:

1) Don't ever assume that it work is there to be done, that someone is assigned to do it. This shit comes up a fair bit in various things, including fansubbing and projects and most things. Assigning who is doing what is fucking important, because if it ever gets to the point where something is unassigned, and two different people could be doing it, then each will invariably assume that the other person is doing it, and it won't get done.

2) Don't assume that just because someone is assigned to do something that they're actually doing it. I mean, sure, this work experience shit is hugely important to me, but it's not to the person I'm actually relying on to get things done. Especially my engineering contact, because he's not in HR and it's completely not his job to sort things like this out. He also has better and slightly more important things to do than to chase down HR to make sure they're doing their job properly with respect to getting the placement sorted. Which leads to the third point...

3) Don't rely on other people to make sure that 1) and 2) are as they should be. Fact is, right from the very start I should have had a contact number in HR. Instead I was stupid and chose to just continue using the guy who I'm fairly familiar with. It meant that I was slightly unsure about persistently calling to check things were moving, because I knew it wasn't his job, and it meant that every time I wanted to know something I had to go via someone else, and everything just took longer than it should have done. I don't think it's surprising that when I actually got the number for HR, rang them up personally and asked what the fuck was going on, things have since started moving.

I'd also say that I've learned a fourth point, that being that Human Resource departments are slow, useless, bureaucratic wastes of space in a company, but I already knew that.

When I do start work, it's looking fairly likely from the discussions I've had that I'm going to be doing CAD stuff. Which I guess is a good thing, because it's probably the easiest way I'll actually be able to make itself useful. Plus, if I get to use ANSYS, which is a Finite Element Analysis package, it means I'll get to slack off a lot because that thing is like compiling software but about a billion times slower. I load the model in, run the test (on a fucking crazy-awesome fast workstation), and my results come back in about twenty minutes for a fairly simple and rudimentary model. Properly complex stuff takes several hours to do the really detailed tests.

I sort of have a weird love-hate relationship with CAD. It's a bit like programming, or really most things in life, which is to say the day-to-day stuff is at best a little dull, and at worst is excruciatingly frustrating. However, once you've got things to finally run and it all works (or in the case of the IDP, the robot still doesn't fucking do what you want it to) then it's extremely rewarding and enjoyable. At the time I hate every single minute of it, but when I'm actually finished in retrospect I always feel I've enjoyed it.

The main thing that makes CAD so damn frustrating is the software, because it's all evil and I swear you can do the exact same things inside the program and sometimes it'll work, and sometimes it won't. 3D CAD modellers are complicated and temperamental bitches to work with, and sometimes I'll know exactly what I want to do, but I won't be able to do it because I'm not doing it the exact way the damn software wants me to.

When drawing in pencil, sure, if you fuck up it can take a while to fix. I remember with doing projections especially, it's very easy to fuck up (especially when your department ruler goes from 0 to 31 centimetres, instead of 0 to 30) and when you do fuck up it'll usually carry through and you've got to erase loads of it and do it all over again. In some ways CAD makes this easier, but I'd say only as far as you only have to press delete instead of manually erasing stuff. I've rarely had a complex model where I've had to alter something and it's gone smoothly. Usually, because everything is constrained against everything else, shit moves around. Things that the computer is expecting to line up no longer line up, objects clash with each other, you get errors all over the fucking place. Sometimes really retarded random shit happens that's insanely difficult to figure out and rectify, and you might as well just completely start over. It's even harder when you've not made the model from scratch yourself, because a lot of it can depend on how the original creator of the model decided to constrain everything together.

Yeah, drawing in pencil is slow. Sure, you can't get fancy 3D renderings and stuff instantly. But at least when I erase a line and draw it differently, the paper doesn't give me a bazillion errors as to how my model is now apparently completely broken because, usually temporarily while I fix other stuff, my model doesn't fit together properly any more. CAD is pretty nice if you never make a mistake fucking ever, and therefore don't ever need to go back and make amendments to a model, but that so rarely ever happens.

CAD software is also usually pretty complicated to navigate through. I don't mean so much the menu, more just navigating the model. You've got a mouse on a 2D plane to try and move in 3D, rotate the view, rotate the model, move parts of the model, move the whole model, etc. Usually just simple shit like looking around or getting to a certain point of view or zooming in on a certain point requires some sort of mouse movement with various keyboard buttons held down. These also differ massively depending on the program you use. If I remember correctly, Autodesk Inventor needs you to hold F4 to rotate the view, while Pro/Engineer uses some combination of Shift, Ctrl and Alt. I might get a trial copy or something of Autodesk Inventor, because I know from last time it's what the company uses, just so I'm not flailing around like a retard for the first few days trying to remember to press the right buttons to do a certain thing, because it's surprisingly tricky to get the hang of.

So yeah, until I start my placement I'll maybe try and get a few more posts out, not really sure once my placement starts because I'll be working 9-5 every day pretty much.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Roy Hodgson, Liverpool Manager

As had been rumoured for a couple of days, Roy Hodgson was announced today to be the new Liverpool manager. I'm still not entirely happy about the sacking of Benitez, but I was reading a post on Phil McNulty's blog on BBC Sport, which I usually read because, despite being an Evertonian, he's usually got some sensible and intelligent views on football.

It's hard for me to really add anything that McNulty hasn't said. As much as some Liverpool fans would like a superstar manager (myself included, at the time Rafa was booted out), the fact is that the last thing the club needs right now is some sort of prima donna manager causing more issues off the pitch, and demanding money we don't have. Hodgson has at least shown with Fulham that he can do fantastic things with a tight budget, and that's what we really need at Liverpool. There was no way that a club in the state Liverpool is in right now, both for money and for uncertainty in the boardroom, would ever attract someone like Mourinho or one of the other top-class managers in the world. It wasn't ever going to happen, and Hodgson is still a perfectly reasonable guy to settle for.

The first thing he really needs to do is convince the likes of Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano to stay. Especially Torres, just because we're completely fucked if he leaves. Lucas can do at least an alright job as a holding midfield player (no, I'm serious, he's young and he's not that bad) if Mascherano goes, and I think if he can stay fit Aquilani might not do a bad job at replacing Gerrard, who is getting old anyway. However if Torres leaves we're really struggling for options in attack. We'll get a fuckload of money for him, but it's difficult to buy players of that sort of quality, regardless of financial status. Our hopes for not utterly diving next season rely on Hodgson being able to keep the key players. The extent of that sort of damage isn't something that's really going to be certain until the transfer window closes in August.

The thing is, even if Torres and co leave the club, I think Hodgson is well placed to at least do an acceptable job without him. We might fall out of Europe, but I think he can at least keep us from imploding altogether and sinking in the same sort of spectacular fashion as clubs like Leeds United, and to a lesser extent (because they were never that big to start with) Charlton. I'm still unsure with Hodgson as a manager from the point of view that he's never won anything at a major level, but stability is important right now, and I think he can give that.

The alternative option would have been Dalglish, and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel with regards to that. My Dad doesn't seem to rate him particularly highly as a manager, but from my point of view he did win things with Liverpool, and he then went on to win a league title with Blackburn, which to this day is still the only Premier League title won by a team outside of the current top three teams. To be really cynical, I think part of it is so the board keep at least some sort of control over the manager. Half the issues they had with Benitez ultimately stemmed from the fact that he had a huge amount of backing from the fans. There's not much you can do when the fans are behind the manager, and I think Benitez exploited that quite a bit. For a legend like Dalglish taking charge, it would be amplified tenfold. The board wouldn't own the club any more - Dalglish would.

(I'm not a fan of the matching neckties)

I think the current consolation is that the initial chaos is at least over. Now that England are out of the World Cup I was fearing I wouldn't have anything football related to take my mind off the turmoil at Liverpool, but the majority of the turmoil seems to be quelled for the time being. Plus I'm led to believe that Hodgson is well-versed in Arabic, so maybe we could have some wealthy Arab investors please?