Northern Ireland Water: Sewage Spill Shenanigens

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He’s referring to this.

Northern Ireland Water discharged untreated sewage into a body of water right beside a bathing and dinghy sailing area at Ballyholme in Bangor.

And they were fined £2000 plus £25 court costs.

If you think about it, they might as well just start pumping it in there wholesale – might be cheaper than actually treating it. What utter bastards. This occurred in August 2007 so it’s taken two years for the offence to be punished?

I’m surprised at the Environment Agency. They should have gone for blood especially because it was a government body which committed the offence. They may say that no-one is above the law but does £2000 really reflect the seriousness of the offence?

Ulster History X

Sammy Wilson is the Environment Minister for Northern Ireland as well as a Member of Parliament for the DUP. He reckons that it’s better to have foreigners in Northern Ireland unemployed rather than locals.

The DUP minister, speaking on The Politics Show, continued: “I think you’ve got to be very careful when you talk in those terms because people always accuse you of being racist and xenophobic.
“However, when it comes to a downturn, I think if jobs are becoming vacant and you’ve got people with equal skills, and can do the job, etc., then I think preference should be given to people from Northern Ireland.”

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the statement is espousing a xenophobic attitude.

End of the day, any taxpayer is a good employee and as long as they’re paying tax I’d rather have them working. If this means they have to employ immigrants to Northern Ireland then so be it. We’ve no shortage of people who’d rather sit at home and play computer games or watch television rather than actually get a job or, god forbid, start their own business. And that has nothing to do with immigrants.

Suggesting employers select for jobs based on nationality rather than capability means starting to slide down a slipperly slope. How much pain and anguish did we go through because previously employers were not restricted to equal opportunities and instead employed on the basis of religious background? Does Mr Wilson think that just because we’ve gotten over the ‘religion thing’ that we have to find another scapegoat?

Here’s a quote from a relevant movie: American History X

Don’t laugh! They’re nothing funny going on here this is about your life and mine. It’s about decent hard-working Americans falling into the cracks and getting the shaft because their government cares more about the constitutional rights of a bunch of people who aren’t even citizens in this country.

On the Statue of Liberty it says: “Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor.” Well, it’s Americans who are tired and hungry and poor. And I say, until you take care of that, close the fucking book. ‘Cause we’re losing. We’re losing our rights to pursue our destiny. We’re losing our freedom. So that a bunch of fucking foreigners can come in here and exploit our country. And this isn’t something that’s going on far away. This isn’t something that’s happening places we can’t do anything about it. It’s happening right here, right in our neighborhood, right in that building behind you..

Here, Sammy, you should watch this. (Hint: Prejudice is bad)

Being paid to be wrong must be easier…

…than being paid to be right.

Al Sacco writes for

Apple made some progress on the iPhone security/management front, but it has a looooooong way to go before truly satisfying enterprise concerns – or becoming a suitable alternative to BlackBerry or Windows Mobile, for that matter.

This is the thing about being a pundit.

  • If you throw your support behind something and it succeeds, no-one really cares.
  • If you throw your support behind something and it fails, you never live it down.
  • If you ridicule something in the face of conflicting evidence, you don’t win or lose.

Therefore, for a pundit, it’s safer to just be blindly sceptical. You don’t need to watch Keynotes, read specifications, talk to the company, do any research or actually admit you’re wrong. It’s a perfect job for the journalist who can’t talk with authority on anything.

The company really didn’t mention anything about how administrators will remotely troubleshoot and resolve individual iPhone users’ hardware or software issues. And who will iPhone administrators call for support when they encounter an Exchange issue they can’t solve on their own?

This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how technology works – Al is obviously an end user and not actually involved in IT support. You escalate to vendors where required. If I have an iPhone or a BlackBerry and it runs into an Exchange sync problem, I can pretty quickly decide who to call. If the problem is connectivity, call the carrier after testing on WiFi. If the problem is software based, call the vendor. Try a different handset with the same account details. This is IT Support 101 and it’s no secret.

How the iPhone integrates with your internal services is going to depend on a few things. The main one is if you actually hired decent web application developers. If your web app only works with Internet Explorer or your stupid entrenched IT department only supports IE6 and FF2 (yeah, you know who you are) then no, the iPhone is not a good fit. To be honest, you should fire your IT department. And if you are the IT department, shame on you.

Having spent the bulk of a year working on Windows and having to deal with IT services which only work on IE6 (not even on Firefox), I’m thoroughly tired of poorly built web applications. I was recently shown a web site which worked with IE6, worked poorly with Firefox and didn’t work at all with Safari. Considering the standards-compliance of those web browsers it’s like the web application developers created a site designed to frustrate – it was all ordered so that it would work worse the more standards-compliant your web browser was? And they got paid for this work?

It’s not about whether the iPhone will be great or not. It’s about the attitude of journalists who see it as a safe bet to junk something before it appears because there’s no recourse. Welcome to junk journalism.

Rocky Mountain Diarrhea Factory

As a parent, I’m sometimes disgusted at modern society. Not on is it unwise to let your children outside of the confines of your own home without supervision (whereas when I was growing up, it was fine) but for ‘insurance’ reasons it’s better to have a customer defecate over themselves in a diarrhetic emergency in your store than it is to let a 5 year old use the toilet.

This link to the Consumerist explains it all – asking why Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory of Bella Terra/Huntington Beach felt they had to do this to a small child. For sanitary reasons more than anything, it would make sense to me to let the child, under supervision from an adult, use the bathroom facilities. How many dollars would it add to the monthly insurance payment? How much bad PR has been generated for Rocky Mountain as a result of this.

This deserves to be a meme.

BarCamp WiFi Disaster

Okay, this one left me scratching my head.

When I arrived at BarCamp, we were allocated two IP addresses on the QUB network and I set about using one of them to provide a public network and the other to provide a Private network for the Webcasts or whatever and to act as a failover. Things were fine at first until people started to arrive. We might have had ten to fifteen laptops on the network when the WiFi just started playing up.

Using iStumbler, we determined that there was some sort of issue with the network. WiFi channels 1, 6 and 13 were stuffed with ambient traffic so we repositioned to avoid those and still we were getting this problem. In our WiFi network scans we were seeing multiple instances of our networks, though the second one was encrypted. Attempts to join our unencrypted networks would fail silently and the only stable network we could manage was the Ad-hoc one provided by my Macbook Pro – which not everyone could join (the Nokia N800s and Vista laptops mainly).

The theory went:

There was some sort of Trojan effect going on, either automatically or malevolently (and presumably from an attendee). When you put up a network, it would spawn a copy of the network which had a WiFi password. This would cause your attempts to join our network to fail – it was like it was jammed. If you put up an encrypted network, then you had a 50% chance of latching onto the wrong network and entering your WiFi password. This would make WiFi password harvesting to be very quick. They theory continued that the malevolent presence would then join your encrypted network using the harvested password details and start to sniff for passwords on the WiFi.

Bastard, eh?

I would really hate to think this was an attendee acting malevolently but then I’ve seen worse from humans. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a trojan on someone’s machine because someone definitely had an unpatched Windows machine on the network, the “Free Public Wifi” ad-hoc network that appears nearly everywhere there’s a collection of Windows machines.


The puzzling phenomenon of seeing “Free Public Wi-Fi” that you can’t connect to when you’re searching for free public wi-fi has been solved. It’s “Microsoft Windows Silent Adhoc Network Advertisement.”
From a Nomad Research Centre Advisory:
This advisory documents an anomaly involving Microsoft’s Wireless Network Connection. If a laptop connects to an ad-hoc network it can later start beaconing the ad-hoc network’s SSID as its own ad-hoc network without the laptop owner’s knowledge. This can allow an attacker to attach to the laptop as a prelude to further attack.

Not recent and not unpatched. But there it was.

This post explains something else:

At Emerging Tech 4-5 years ago, someone had set up an ad hoc network with the same name as the real one. It was interfering with the real one, so the organizers repeatedly asked whoever had set up the ad hoc network to shut it down. The culprit turned out to be …. me. But I knew that I had not set up an ad hoc network, much less set one up and name it the same as the conference network. All I did was open my laptop and click on one of the ones that had the official conference name … which must have been an ad hoc network someone else set up. I then became the “carrier.” Ack.

That’s just brilliant. So it’s entirely possible that it wasn’t malevolent and wasn’t a clever Trojan/Worm but rather was just the way Windows works.

If this is the case, an extra special thanks to everyone who uses an unpatched version of Windows. I loved missing talks because I was troubleshooting why the WiFi was screwy.

MySpace Internet Predator indicted with the news:

“A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Lori Drew, from Missouri, for her alleged role in the hoax on the social network against her 13 year-old neighbour Megan Meier who committed suicide. Drew allegedly helped create a MySpace account with a false identity to contact Meier, who thought she was chatting with a 16 year-old boy named Josh Evans. In reality Evans did not exist. Meier hanged herself at her home in October 2006 after receiving hostile messages from the Josh Evans account, including one stating the world would be better off without her. Drew faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

“Any adult who uses the internet or a social gathering website to bully or harass another person, particularly a young teenage girl, needs to realise that their actions can have serious consequences,” said O’Brien.”

I was horrified when I read the account around the time it happened. This woman should be treated like any other Internet Predator – as if keeping 13 year old girls away from male internet predators who would molest them wasn’t enough of a challenge, we have the mothers of other children convincing your child to kill him/herself?

If she’d gotten away with this, can you imagine what sort of horrors she could wreak in the future? What sort of person lords power over teenagers like this (other than teachers, parents and celebrities).

It’s a matter of intent. She intended to cause Megan Meier distress and she should pay for it.

Keeping ‘Pro’ tools off the Mac

Microsoft has always treated the Mac as a second class citizen and the bugs in Office 2008 are just added icing on the cake.

Back when I started using the Mac, there was Word. It wasn’t known as Microsoft Word to me, it was just Word, it was the word processor on the Mac. It was a slim and elegant piece of software and I wrote my degree thesis on it. We had Excel 4 as well but I had no real use for it and a copy of Project was kicking about as well.

Not long afterwards they release Microsoft Office for Macintosh which included Word 6, Excel 5 and Powerpoint 4 as well as a little tool which put a Microsoft app menu in your top menu bar. And it had to be the worst piece of software that I have ever had the misfortune to use. It caused crashes, it permitted the spreading of Word macro viruses (though the Mac itself was unaffected). And they didn’t update Project which, in their words, was okay because they didn’t see a market for it.

Fast forward a few years and we’ve enjoyed a relative peace regarding Microsoft. They’ve cleaned up for act with Office 98, Office 2001, Office X, Office 2004 and though they never updated Project, we’ve not really cared due to there being decent alternatives. But this omission prevented the use of a Mac in many businesses that needed compatibility with Project. For a good while a lot of people could see that Office for Mac was actually better than Office for Windows in terms of features.

So, earlier this year they release Office 2008 which is the first Intel version and we start to see the feature parity between Office for Windows and Office for the Mac increase again. They got rid of VBA on the Mac version which has killed macros programmed in VBA which again, is perhaps not a big deal but hurt the Mac in institutions which used VBA heavily – again these were large businesses for the most part. The list of Excel 2007 for Windows features that are missing on Excel 2008 for Mac is extensive. This cements Windows into big business.

But Microsoft, after being beaten relentlessly by Google, Nintendo and Apple on the internet, in digital music and players, in smartphones, in desktop operating software and in gaming consoles. Apple is seeing a huge surge in sales quarter over quarter which means Microsoft is losing market share (using the logic that in a monopoly situation like the desktop OS market, the monopolist can only lose market share – and people buying Macs are less likely to be buying their first computer these days). So, like a good monopolist, Microsoft decides to NOT release a brand new web application development toolkit for the Mac, hoping that it will force web designers to stay with Windows. Their solution for web developers? Stay with Windows or if you MUST use a Mac, run their web development tools in a Virtual Machine.

Anniversary of the Titanic

At 2.20 am, ninety-six years ago, the Titanic sank.

Since then, it’s been pretty much public knowledge that Northern Ireland make a big deal out of crap.

I mean, look at George Best. His feet had more action off the field than on it, even when he was sober enough to stand, he wasted a liver transplant by returning to drink and still we hold him dear as a national hero.

So, we have Titanic and George Best. What other monumental fuckups do we hold up as our best and brightest in Northern Ireland?