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What if the net goes down?

net

Last night my internet connection went down. I waited an hour, nothing. I’d only been signed up to this service for a month so I thought, what if there wasn’t enough money in my bank account and they tried to take the second month’s payment, and couldn’t, so cut me off?

I phoned the help line and heard straight away the automated message that they were dealing with a “major service incident.” How major? How major is major? I wondered. Was it just my ISP that was affected? The whole of the UK? The whole world?

This wasn’t blind panic – I’m already stocked up with supplies to last me a couple of months and I have my pre-packed disaster evacuation bag, recommended by the department of homeland security, and Sarah Connor.* But I did ponder such a situation quite rationally.

The internet has gradually encroached on our lives in such a way that if you took it away, lots of things just simply wouldn’t work. Facebook wouldn’t, for example. How lost would people feel to be suddenly unable to tweet #bored. There would be no “lets ask Google what’s happening”, perhaps even the TV and Radio stations would struggle to bring us accurate reports, because they too are used to the internet being there. Perhaps even phone networks would struggle – directory inquiries at a loss as to how to tell us what number we want. I’m sure supermarkets would be affected too, even down to smaller shops – all relying on an interconnected stock-ordering and logistics system to keep the shelves stocked (of course there would be panic buying). Banking systems would be affected, surely, there would be no internet banking, obviously, to check your account or transfer funds – cash machines too, would be affected. How much do our local branches rely on the internet being their to track the funds tooing-and-froing from our accounts, let alone the debit and credit card systems to pay for stuff?

If we take a step back to the “before broadband” time when the internet was taking off, and we found ourselves with dial-up connections, then just back again a little further, to the time just before the internet was being relied on as a network, there was the true computer-based and peer-to-peer system that was more true a system than peer-to-peer systems today (which use the internet). What I mean is, big stores may have been able to dial-up head office with a computer and its modem and put through an order that way, modem-to-modem, no middle-man or internet backbone required beyond that of the telephone system. Most businesses have long since ditched such systems, and even the fax systems have largely gone by the wayside. Therefore, reverting to such methods, should our modern internet ever go down, wouldn’t be so easy. I have a few 56K modems knocking about so perhaps they’d suddenly become much sought-after, should such a situation arise!

I’m not meaning to cause worry with these sorts of ‘hypothetical’ scenarios, but I do feel like our way of life, our reliance on and expectations of technology, survive on a knife’s edge. It almost seems like we’ve been lucky for the past couple of decades and the use of the internet has persisted unscathed by the little blips along the way – blips like occasional virus scares, things that never really materialised like the Y2K thing or other bugs found in the underlying technologies we use (that still crop up) – the fact that these blips have had very little impact on our day-to-day use of the net, or our lives, has perhaps inadvertently reassured us that everything is fine, and always will be. And perhaps it will. In fact I’m a little surprised that the big hacker groups failed to take something big down a decade or so ago, of course some big names have been hacked but these were just trivial to many, and in some ways it seems the time has passed for such groups (if they ever existed) to make their move. Perhaps such groups never existed – perhaps they were just a myth glorified through the media and in our entertainment – perhaps the threats we hear about today are no better; orchestrated by “the powers that be” to keep us in order. But now I’m sounding like a conspiracy theorist.

 

*Big Bang Theory quote

 
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Posted by on 18 September, 2014 in Computers, Internet, Technology

 

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Avoiding the Trivial

trivial

There is something about trivial stuff that bugs me. But what is trivial? Trivial to me might not be trivial to someone else. In fact, the trivial can be entertaining.

trivial
adjective
1. of little value or importance.

I have come to conclude that it’s not so much what is trivial, but with who that trivial stuff is being shared with, or emitted by that is all important.

Take my friends for example. I can quite happily talk to a friend about trivial things: what I’m eating for lunch, or why I finished work early for example, even if those things are of no worldly importance. We can laugh at their trivialness, and we do. One person’s serious stuff might be another person’s trivial amusement though, and perhaps this is where good friends are important – they can discern between the serious and the silly. In some people’s cases it seems there is little silly and a lot what they consider to be serious, but is trivial, all the same.

Some people will share this kind of stuff (with their friends) via the means of Facebook, Twitter, or text messages, but more on the medium in a moment. Because these platforms are often pretty open, one might be having a silly conversation with friends without considering that that conversation might be read by anyone on their friend list (or beyond, depending on the platform and privacy settings in place), at any point in the future, and potentially out of context. Indeed, legal cases of someone saying something ‘wrong’ on the internet seem to be making the headlines from one month to the next, here in the UK at least – at the moment that things was said by that person, it was probably something seemingly trivial to them.

If someone else (someone outside the circle of intended chatters, or a non-friend) stumbles across, or gets within earshot of trivial content, that is when it can be grating at least, I think. For me anyway.

For those that don’t ‘get’ Facebook, or Twitter, to them it is the trivialities that people reportedly share day in day out – what they had for breakfast, the fact that they just woke up, and what colour socks they chose to wear today – which are what give such social networking tools a bad rep – are all these people doing nothing of importance with their lives? Perhaps the reason why I rarely use such platforms is that I don’t feel they allow me to have a close enough conversation for the trivialities to be shared comfortably.

The internet has a variety of platforms to enable people to share their thoughts, feelings, and trivialities. Beyond Facebook and Twitter there are the e-commerce sites where leaving feedback and reviews is encouraged. Sometimes posts are helpful, other times they venture into the trivial – shared as if a stranger cares about what colour shoes he wears when deciding which computer part to buy (I kid you not, I’ve read it).

My virtual platform of choice (as well as here) is Second Life, but saying that isn’t being too specific, because within that platform there are different way of conveying or being subjected to trivialities. My main friends within my friend list are who I generally choose to share or experience trivialities with (like Facebook, one might have a friend list of people who aren’t actually friends). Other people will gladly share their trivialities in Local Chat, or over their microphone if they are in a voice-enabled sim, for everyone within earshot to hear. These people might be among familiar faces, or within a virtual club, other times it might be a group of strangers having a fun time bouncing random trivialities around. If you stumble (or stagger, if you’re into virtual pub crawls) into a club and there is a conversation happening within local chat among people you’re not familiar with, the content can come across as overly trivial, or even offensive. Sometimes the conversation content (topic or language used) may be not to one’s liking, but had they been friends, the trivialities may have been entertaining. If one takes part (in such ‘trivial pursuits’, one should perhaps consider the poor strangers who are listening in.

I recently ventured into the realm of ‘voice’ in Second Life, since my old broadband service, which I have replaced, didn’t allow it to function. I’m not much of a speaker when it comes to verbal chit-chat, and I struggle not to convey everything I want to say via my fingers through my keyboard when I’m sat at my computer. The advantage (or some might say disadvantage) of only typing and reading a conversation is that it is is up to you to imagine the tone of voice – of course punctuation and smileys can help, but different people can interpret these in different ways (some people think the excessive use of a happy smiley is ‘fake’ – since apparently no one can be that happy!) I am quite a giggly typer but I do wonder at times how well that is conveyed through text on a screen. At the same time I like to imagine everyone is cheerful and happy unless I am lead to believe someone is otherwise. Hearing people speak into a microphone removes most of that imaginary aspect and I was perhaps a little taken-aback when I listened in on the first voice conversations in Second Life to bless my speakers. To be fair there was a mixture of what was being conveyed, from funny stuff, to what sounded like angry Russians (I was in the Moscow sim to hear that), but what shocked me was how dull and trivial some people sounded when sharing their trivialities. This is probably pretty hypocritical of me since I wasn’t brave enough to get on the mic myself, but I like to think I type my trivialities with an air of comedy, so for now I’m happy hearing my cheerful bubbly voice in my head telling me what to type until I take the plunge and share their via the means of my voice.

Back to the real world now, because I am also aware that trivialities still exist here too. For example, if I was a real-life pub-goer I might perhaps subject myself to trivial topics of conversation in this realm. As another example, when I turn on the radio there may be some random-folk’s text message being read out, about how he and his family are “currently driving down to Bournemouth, whilst listening to the radio, to let the children build some sandcastles” – did the rest of the UK really need to know that? – the “DJ” thanks them enthusiastically for sharing that with us all (with no sarcasm, but I include it here myself).

We are taught and told by some that what makes a good human being is one who cares for all others as if they were his own blood, so perhaps that implies we should listen politely to everyone’s trivial matters, and expect them to do the same in return. But the fact is, with however many billion of us there are now on this planet, that’s a very tall order, and many of us prefer to choose who’s trivialities we subject ourselves to, while at the same time I hope we can all consider who we are inflicting our own trivialities on – I thank my friends for laughing with me at mine.

 
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Posted by on 9 September, 2014 in Computers, Ebay, Internet, Psychology, Second_Life

 

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WordPress and Youtube

It doesn’t work for me straight out of the box.

I click on the Add Media button on the Add New Post page, select Insert Youtube, paste in the video’s URL, it displays some previews, I select the one I want… when I go to Publish, and then view my Post… nothing – the video isn’t there.

I have to manually fix it. Here is how:

youtube

Edit the post in Text view.

Find where the Youtube url is (CTRL+F will help sift through the code), and add in “[youtube ” before the Youtube URL, and “?rel=0″ after it.

That is until the WordPress team get around to fixing it so it just works.

 
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Posted by on 2 September, 2014 in Blogging

 

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My Fourth Second Life Rezz Day

In the virtual world that is Second Life your rezz day is your in-world birthday, based on the day you signed up. I recently celebrated my fourth.

For over a year I’ve had limited internet access so I’ve not been fully able to immerse myself in the virtual world like I used to, although I think I’ve done surprisingly well to keep in touch with friends. However, it just so happened that just before my rezz day I got a new broadband service, so all that has changed and I was able to spend a number of hours in-world.

Last year (and the year before that) I also blogged about my rezz day and I stated then that for me, rezz days are all about friends. I still think that is true, in fact most days in Second Life are about friends I think, but a rezz day can perhaps be more about reminiscing – remembering friends who aren’t around so much, the ones you used to have (which can be depressing if you don’t focus on the fun times), and indeed thinking about the places you’ve explored over the past year (assuming you’re like me and like exploring places.) Having regained my freedom to be in Second Life much more I’ve made a few new friends too, so I’m enjoying that aspect also.

It just so happened (I suppose because I was looking around for somewhere to spend my rezz day) that I found Kyo Kyo.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Mama%20Allpa/148/81/2004

rezzday4a

As the greeter will inform you when you arrive:

This is an experimental build… It hardly fits any pattern.                 
Things you can do:
- find the hidden prizes all over the island
- get the free fantasy avatars
- enjoy the beach – which you can color to your likes!
- dance at the tower
- spend quality time with your partner at the farm or beneath the tower or in the apartments
- ride the ravepads
etc !

I got myself the necessary wristband (it grants you access beyond the room you arrive in) and had a quick look around. I then TPd (teleported) in my friend (one of my last year’s rezz day victims) and we ventured off together.

In addition to the wrist band cleverness, there are other features of this sim that can affect your avatar (without having to jump on “pose ball” or grant permission to animate you). A slippery slide of pink stuff is one thing.

rezzday4b

Oh this is my friend, doesn’t she look adorable in her party hat?! (mandatory for rezz day shenanigans) – I commented that it felt like we were a comedy double-act, especially when we failed to both make it up on this elevator at the same time:

rezzday4c

As we ventured around more and I cammed around the place I felt more and more like we were in Teletubby land… so I found the suitable music to accompany us on our travels:

Then we found (after floating through a tunnel – again without being asked if we wanted to be animated… clever stuff) the “ravepads” mentioned by the greeter.

rezzday4d

However, once we hopped on one each, it became less “rave” and more “90’s pop” (we were doing the Macerena), again I chose the suitable music:

After some more silly stuff (including a incident with a scary dog) we ventured off to a beach for ice cream:

Agento Lago “Silver Lake”, Rainbow Hills:
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Rainbow%20Hills/113/79/24

 
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Posted by on 2 September, 2014 in Second_Life

 

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Forgot your password? – what gets revealed…

I don’t know where to go with this, but the crux of this issue is this:

Go to a website where you have an account, be it an e-mail account, social networking website, or online auction site etc. Go to sign in but click the link to say you forgot your password. Lots of websites will require your e-mail address at this stage.

What can happen next, depending on the website and what settings/details are in place, might be a little concerning, or a lot, but with some, by giving ‘your’ e-mail address, some concerning details can be presented. Some websites show ‘your’ phone number (to text a reset code to for example), others will present ‘your’ full name (so you can be sure you’re trying to sign into the correct account).

This is all concerning stuff, because what if someone else puts in your e-mail address and clicks the ‘forgot password’ link? The point is, if someone knows your e-mail address (which might be all you want to reveal to a stranger), they can possibly find out such details as your phone number or full name, which you might not be happy about having shared.

Some websites are more considerate about presenting such details of yours as they might only show the last few digits of your phone number, for example, which is enough for you to be sure it’s the right one.

I have seen a popular e-mail service show a full phone number (which I have tried contacting them about with no reply), and I have seen Google show someone’s full name.

Delving into the (privacy) settings of that account may help you to opt out of certain things, although it has been common for a while for some websites to ask to use your phone number as a security step. In one case I looked at, there were options, but they proved useless and the leak remained (there can also be discrepancies between old and new accounts).

What does the “Forgot your password?” question tell the world about you?

 
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Posted by on 25 August, 2014 in Internet

 

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The Language of the Net

languages

English is my first language, anything beyond that I struggle with.

The requirement in school to learn a second language came late for me – I think I was 11 (these days they start younger in the UK). So at that age I began French lessons, and I struggled more than most I think. I remember a school trip to France, but it didn’t help with my skills in the language.

When I moved on to high school I experienced four years of being taught by a few different teachers, with a range of experiences, from being taught by those that insisted on trying to only speak French throughout the lesson, (which left many of us very lost), to more friendly teaching techniques and even lunch time help. I still only scraped through with a grade at the end of the four years. I can’t blame teachers entirely, sure the best ones are flexible in their approach (not every student learns the same way), but I think I have a lazy brain when it comes to some things.

When I started using the internet (back in the days before you grew up with it from the start), one thing I liked was being able to chat to people from all over the world. Yahoo! Chat ftw! I loved that place and others. Most people I met online were English speakers. These days my “chat platform” of choice is Second Life.

When I ventured into Second Life four years ago I suppose I rekindled my enjoyment of talking to people from all over the world. Again, most people I meet are English speakers, even if it isn’t their first language.

I always appreciate it when someone can speak in English to me when it’s not their first language – I know many have grown up speaking and learning it from an early age and it seems no big deal to them that. It’s a big deal to me and it actually reminds me what my language skills lack. For this reason I love to make an effort, even if my efforts involve using Google Translate. Sadly I do struggle to remember any regular phrases I use – I blame my lazy brain, but perhaps their is a technique I have yet to figure out.

My efforts and interests do go beyond using Google Translate though. My interests in other countries and cultures has expanded over the years and I have read, so far, a few books about Russia, a couple about Iraq, and currently one about Turkey. In the end, I still enjoy how the internet brings so many different people together – if only I could speak all of the languages!

I should add that while I was born in England I moved to Wales over ten years ago. I did attend some Welsh lessons for a couple of years, but beyond the first year nothing more sank in. Again, I blame it on my lazy brain.

Diolch yn fawr / danke / merci :D

 
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Posted by on 22 August, 2014 in Books, Internet, Second_Life

 

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Post to your Blog… in Classic Mode

The title is a tip.

I little while ago (January 2013) I blogged about how WordPress had changed and were giving us bloggers two different ways of posting – the classic way, or what seems to be a ‘tablet-friendly’ way. I wanted to stick to the screen I was familiar with, but it was a little tricky to navigate to that screen once the new option was in place. Hence my blog.

Now WordPress has changed again. They’re still pushing the “simplified” ‘tablet-friendly”-style publishing page. I came to write my waffle, carefully navigating the menu-system to get to the page I wanted, and bam, I was landed on the simpleton’s page that I refuse to use. (I say simpleton, but I mean tablet-user who, who I assume is who the basic Editor is aimed at since they typically benefit from a slightly different interface).

post_to_blog_new

Sneakily, at the top there is a link to the Classic Mode (which I have highlighted in the illustration above), but I thought I would give the new, new version a try. The tip is in title, stick to the Classic Mode, but please keep reading.

The main issue I had with the original basic version was its lack of options, in particular the lack of ability to specify which category/categories you wanted your post to end up in. But now the options appeared to be there, just like I need from the Classic Mode. “Great, now we can use the ‘basic’ version?” Not quite.

tagsIn testing out this new screen I wrote what I wanted to write and added some pictures. That was all straightforward. Then came the final stages I go through; adding tags and categories. Then the page became cumbersome to navigate.

Each of the options are laid out down the right-hand side, similar to the Classic Mode. However, they’re all hidden away in drop-downs (to keep things looking clean – but don’t let that fool you). As I proceeded to add my tags, a list was forming, not a compact list/cluster like in Classic Mode, but a large overly-spaced-out list of tags. The page got long, very quickly. My editing window was soon disappearing off the top of the screen and I was having to scroll back up the window to refer to my post to decide which word to add next as a tag, and then scroll back down the page to add the tag in the box, each time the page getting longer.

 

new_tags

It was frustrating. And to add insult to [repetitive strain] injury, after adding my last tag, and with all of the drop-downs dropped down (because I had got distracted/curious as to what options were hidden within) I had to scroll all the way back up a very long page to find the Publish button. Admittedly one has to scroll on the Classic page, but things are a lot more compact in that version, so I had hardly noticed the effort required.

Then came the disappointment. I clicked Publish, and then nothing. Ok, it had successfully submitted my post (phew – always highlight and copy before clicking Publish/Send), but the confirmation (which I’ve highlighted in the illustration below) was very subtle and very grey and was still showing me on the Edit page.

new_post_added

taggingI opened another tab in my browser and visited my blog to made doubly-sure my new post was there. The disappointment wasn’t this though, no, this was just another annoyance, the disappointment was that I wasn’t presented with a list of my tags with the option to see what others had written on those topics – something I enjoy doing.

In conclusion, WordPress have made some headway to bring options to their basic publishing page (which admittedly I still have no need for), but the screen becomes cumbersome when using those options, and with all of those options now accessible, it makes me wonder, why not just make do with the Classic Mode, even if you are trying to blog on a tablet (which by the way, I’m not)?

 
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Posted by on 15 August, 2014 in Blogging

 

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