Archive for the ‘I.T.’ Category
So, just what have I been up to?
Well, TWO new computers, both in the same case!
It has taken a while, but the hardware on the old Windows XP machine was deteriorating and could only have bits and pieces replaced so often, the operating system was outdated and not capable of keeping pace with the latest developments. So now I have a dual boot machine, i.e. when I switch it on it gives me a choice, do I wish to fire up Windows 7 Ultimate, or Linux Ubuntu 12? I’ve used the Windows machine to set up my home wireless networking solutions streaming content out and sharing files and folders between this desktop, a laptop, a Blackberry, a PS3, and a Nintedo, everyone is happy on that score! I also use it to edit my photographs, because Photoshop is simply the best. However, what has kept me away from here for so long is my determination to learn how to do things in Linux, how to code, work in the command line and “Terminal”, it is challenging and fun, and seriously I cannot get enough of it.
I wanted to rise to the challenge of running my home computing on a machine using only software that is commonly shared and legitimately free, and as you can see from the picture of my two different desktops above, I have even managed to get the thing to look and behave just like a megabucks Mac!
I am determined to learn how to use the Gimp image editing software, it may never be as good as Photoshop, but I’m pretty sure I can make it produce good pictures, the example above shows that I have a long way to go.
So I’m ready to be back in the saddle to ride this vehicle wherever we want to go, political interests have had to take a back seat for a few weeks, the hunger for knowledge has been winning the battle.
I’ll start tomorrow with a little piece on the local elections here in South Tyneside to get the ball rolling again – remember to go and use your vote, you really have no right at all to complain if you fail to mark a cross.
Image hosting company changes policy
For seven years I have used ImageShack.us to host the vast majority of images on this site. Back when I started WordPress had a 50Mb limit on media uploads which was going to be nowhere large enough to cope with what I had planned for here and South Shields Daily Photos, the natural step to take back then was to use a free image hosting service to embed the images in my various sites. ImageShack offered free hosting for EVER, and they supported their operation by getting advertising revenue for the ads placed next to my images when linked to their site, and I guess they must have done fairly nicely as they had millions of free users. Over the years quite a number of my images disappeared after problems with their various servers, but not so many as to spoil these sites, however now they have introduced a new policy of restricting uploads to just 500 images, any thing beyond this will be automatically deleted unless a paid for hosting is accepted by 1st. March.
I currently have almost 2000 images hosted by them, they amount to less than 160 Mb of storage, yet they continue to allow users to upload images of up to 5 Mb each, in other words someone with 500 images of this file size will occupy 2.4 Gb of storage space, and they expect me to pay for storing compressed for web low resolution poor quality images? I think not!
I have downloaded all of my images from their servers and hope that they might relent for registered users, this is from their FAQs page:
How long will my uploaded files be available?
Your files will only be deleted if they do not adhere to our Terms of Service. If you are registered, your files will be available forever. If you are not registered, any file that you upload will continue to be available if it is accessed by anyone at least once per year.
How much bandwidth can I use?
ImageShack allows unlimited bandwidth for images, videos, and slideshows when viewed from our landing page, as well as unlimited bandwidth for registered users ImageShack may at any time enforce its policies on bandwidth if an image is in violation of our Terms of Service, for instance, if it is abusive or used to spam.
As a registered user I wait with baited breath to see if they will adhere to this promise, but I don’t feel confident.
There are plenty of other free image hosting services out there, and WordPress now offer a decent amount of storage these days, so the loss of ImageShack will be no skin off my nose, but what will it mean for this blog, and my others?
If they carry out their pledge to delete all images beyond the most recent 500 then a huge amount of posts in here will end up looking messy, and in some cases irrelevant particularly if the image was of major importance in illustrating a point. South Shields Daily Photos would have to be closed down and deleted – what good is a photoblog without photos? It also means that many images embedded in forums and message boards over the years will disappear too. I now have the pictures back on my hard drive but it would take me about twelve months to re-write all of the image links if I had the time to do it, and to be honest I don’t.
So, if the worst comes to the worst on 2nd. March, expect to see many of my posts which I made more than two years ago lose their images, and one photoblog disappear from the internet, and that will be a shame for those who still continue to interact with it and leave comments.
My apologies, it is something beyond my control considering I won’t be bullied into paying for hosting low res. web images.
If things end up really really bad and looking really really awful, I may take the decision to close this place and start afresh.
Let me know what you think.
I’m already getting pretty tired of the lacklustre economic performance of the Conservative led coalition government still labouring under the debt burdens left by its predecessor and weighed down by the yolk of the Eurozone debt crisis, the mantras are now ineffective and sharp clear results are what we are all screaming out to see. In the absence of any real growth policy the UK economy continues to slumber and the message that Labour “maxed out” the nation’s credit card continues to be broadcast ad nauseam. Yet, even after acknowledging the massive difficulties faced in attempting to reduce the structural budget deficit, and the mounting contributions to the IMF and the Central European Bank to shore up Italy, Greece, Ireland, and possibly Spain and Portugal too, it will be hard to argue that they are succeeding in meeting many targets when the next round of public spending figures are produced by the National Statistics Office. I confidently predict that despite the reductions in spending that we will see overall public expenditure continuing to rise seemingly unabated and the PSBN (Public Sector Borrowing Requirement) will once again be a huge area of concern, after almost eighteen months in office the coalition will not have been able to show any real impact on the important numbers that determine how the international financial institutions regard our economy. Additionally the recently announced plan to
print more money inject a further £75 Bn worth of quantitative easing into the banking system will have no guarantee of reaching the parts of the economy that need it (SMEs and consumers) and almost every guarantee to further fuel inflation which is already above the Bank of England’s targets, savings and pensions are about to be eroded further.
So, it comes as little surprise that we learn today that fiscal responsibility is still not something appreciated by some officials in local government, the Daily Telegraph carries an account of how councils in England, Scotland, and Wales continue to allow Chief Executives and other higher managers to spend on corporate credit cards to fund a “work style” that many could only dream of. I know it’s only small beer in the larger scheme of things but it is indicative of an attitude that ignores a responsibility and accountability that they have to local tax payers and the way that they spend other people’s money. Local councils. they say, have racked up credit card debts of around £100 m over the last three years spending on such things as overnight hotel bills, first class travel, and gifts. However when delving deeper into the reported figure for spending which exceeded £500, we see things which perhaps might put some Chief Executives on a par with MPs during the horrendous disclosure of their expenses.
- Take a look at Essex County Council and ponder on its spending of almost £1m on “legal matters”, it turns out that most of these were the payment of fines! They also ran up huge bills at Tesco and Marks and Spencer.
- Then ponder over how Pembrokeshire Council can spend over £5m on a credit card and include what looks like the whole of its social housing maintenance bills, £500 for a gingham dress, and over £1000 for an iMac (surely a Windows PC would have done the job?). On closer inspection it feels like the whole of their operations are paid for by credit card rather than the direct paying of invoices from departmental budgets, one has to ask why?
- Aberdeenshire spent over £2500 on 60″ and 42″ flat screen TVs, almost £1000 on Nintendo DS game consoles, almost £6000 on Apple Macs and software, over £6000 on camcorders and digital cameras, over £1000 on tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, they are another council who spent over £1000 on a top spec iMac Pro where a cheaper laptop would probably have done the same job. They also spent almost £5000 on theatre tickets and sent staff to just about the four corners of the earth!
Council tax payers in South Tyneside might like to know that our neighbours at Gateshead Council spent almost £44000 on their credit card, North Tyneside a whopping £1.28m over three years, Newcastle City Council under £7000, Sunderland along with South Tyneside managed to total an absolute NIL! (There may, of course be smaller amounts that fell below the £500 reporting threshold).
I am pretty much shocked at how councils have managed to use credit cards so widely, I’d like to think their use may be a way to pay for goods and services quickly and effectively especially if they are engaging in internet shopping, I’d also like to think that they are buying at the cheapest available prices on behalf of their tax payers. However, items like Macs are more a “desirable” than a “must have”.
Any thoughts from those involved in buying on behalf of local councils would be much appreciated.
Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
As South Shields councillor Ahmed Khan continues to stoke the fires of a self generated publicity campaign built around the dubious premise of privacy and confidentiality, we have to begin to wonder just how genuine his concerns are after making public so much information which ought to have remained within the confines of private organisations (but more of that later). His press campaign is now reaching fire storm proportions, and you have to grudgingly respect his ability to make best use of the press and media, especially as he has spent so much time attacking certain newspapers and individuals amongst them.
It is, of course, a classic reflex reaction of a politician caught in the glaring headlamps of publicity, bring out the mirror and deflect it all in the direction of your detractors, then use the age old ruse of answering a question with further questions. One can only hope two things (a) that all of this bravado is cheering him up, and (b) that the sunlight shines on him again and the public gain a deeper understanding of his real concerns about privacy and confidentiality.
The saddest part of this whole episode is tacitly acknowledged by Cllr, Khan in this Tweet, the negative publicity that he has generated could potentially put an end to many embryonic schemes to invest in South Tyneside and generate new jobs, just as those who may now have been driven to read the offending blog decide that there may be too much risk in dealing with South Tyneside Council or its members. This is the great tragedy, and not one that I would be willing to shoulder responsibility for.
The relatively small sum involved in tracking down and revealing the the name of the mystery blogger pales into insignificance compared to the value of potential jobs and investment lost, and that is something which we ought not to lose sight of. It is of far greater importance than clowning around creating a personal media makeover.
Further, as he revealed in yesterday’s Shields Gazette, South Tyneside Council has asked for a wide range of information from Twitter including personal computer records, e-mail addresses, subscriber and user names – telephone numbers, postal addresses, and even bank and credit card details – this suggests that they have someone working with or for them with a level of IT and technical expertise not hitherto available. We should remember that Twitter is doing nothing more than complying with its own Terms of Service within an area of jurisdiction covered by the 9th District Court of San Mateo California, terms which are available for all Twitter users to read, perhaps this is why Cllr. Khan decided not to contest the application (notwithstanding the costs involved.)
We have now seen a week of faux outrage, first of all over privacy and confidentiality, and secondly over the costs borne so far by the tax payer, without a hint in the media of the full back story of Cllr. Khan’s own privacy and confidentiality leaks and transgressions, or of his colourful record during his short term in office so far. The national and international media have shown no awareness of his ill judged protest against the Israeli incursion into Gaza when he arbitrarily encouraged South Shields Muslims to remove their children from school to join him at the Town Hall, nor have we heard about the massive costs initially borne by South Tyneside council tax payers in his doomed legal quest to overturn an election defeat, and they failed to describe him as an “overbearing bully”, as a District Judge did here when clearing him of an assault allegation.
The media in the UK can be very fickle, they can build up a star and cruelly knock them down the following month, they only need a little encouragement.
There will be tears at the end, the question is, who will play the clown?
South Shields Labour candidate could perhaps have been a “Tiller Girl”
How does your email address sound and look to your friends? Must admit mine doesn’t exactly spark the imagination, and most other people just use their name(at)whoevertheispis(dot)com. However, every now and then one pops up that amuses, most of them are using Hotmail, Yahoomail, or Gmail and have some quirky link to their personality.
I recall that former Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd used to be a dancing Tiller Girl, not sure how tall she is, and I wonder if a certain Labour candidate in South Shields for next month’s elections either knew her or had dancing or modelling ambitions of her own?
Joyce.longlegs(at)blahdeblah(dot)com conjures up all sorts of entertaining and strange thoughts.
Do you know anyone with a strange email address?
Desktop feeling very unwell
I may be missing for a wee while, this desktop PC is suffering from random crashes due to a device failure, time to pull it all apart, clean all fans, check heatsinks etc. re-assemble and hope that it is not a motherboard failure!
Back as soon as possible.
Which South Tyneside councillor did we waste the money on?
Yes, I know I don’t find a great deal of time to pop in here these days to offer my thoughts, I guess it needs something of significance before I am stirred into action.
These emails which I received yesterday (see below) got me thinking – just how much cash have we spent in South Tyneside setting up e-government, equipping our elected councillors with a suite of PCs in South Shields Town Hall, another to take home, and even Blackberries so they can “stay in touch” when on the move? How much did we spend on training and advice for elected members?
Over the course of the years, I believe that I have written some things that I have been passionate about, issues which have stirred emotions and stirred others to take some action, amongst those issues some have sparked bigger reactions in the wider community and some may have had a little influence over the decisions which our council eventually took (certainly once TV cameras got involved). I refer to the threats to develop Temple Park, the cleaning up of Trow Quarry, and the cleaning and re-opening of Readhead’s Landing, with all of these topics I regularly emailed each and every one of our elected councillors, giving my views and seeking theirs in return.
Take a look at the screen grabs of these which arrived in my email in-box yesterday and try to figure out which Councillor cherished my emails so much that they held on to them for about six years, without even reading a single one! You will find the date that I sent them on the penultimate lines.
How well stuffed was their in-box, and how much money did the tax payers of South Tyneside waste on this councillor?
I won’t cause embarrassment by naming names, but just think on the next time you accuse South Tyneside Council of dragging it’s feet and taking years to make decisions – that there is probably a very good reason for it.
ID Card scheme to be scrapped within 100 days
Many in South Shields may not be bothered one way or another but this news is a huge relief to the few of us around here who have held the flag of liberty, freedom, and civil liberties over the years, even though we may have waived it around in differing directions. It is good to see the Conservative and Liberal Democrat partners in government moving ahead with projects to roll back the state and save our cash with such incredible speed and determination.
I note from the lack of howling protests coming from the left (ah yes, silence is golden) that apparently the whole idea wasn’t all that popular with them after all, just a pity that they couldn’t have called upon their principles and beliefs to prevent Blair, Brown, Straw, Clarke, Blunkett, Smith, Johnson et al from inflicting such a monumental infringement of our privacy and liberties upon us, and that’s without raising the issues of the horrendous costs and unproven effectiveness.
The BBC reports that:
Some £250m was spent on developing the national ID programme over eight years and its abolition will mean the government will avoid spending a further £800m over a decade.
If you were stupid enough to buy one of the National ID Cards then I’m afraid that this government will not be offering you a refund of the £30 you recklessly thought would save you from international terrorism. If you are desperate to get the cash back then can I suggest that you write to Unite the union who are the principle bankrollers of the Labour Party, I’m sure they’ll find the time to consider your request after they have finished their attempt to crash British Airways.
ID Cards and the National register cancelled
Click picture to go to website
You have to congratulate the Civil Service for working their socks off over the last few days for (a) freezing activity on government websites whilst the coalition was negotiating their agreement, and (b) getting amended information online as quickly as possible. This was a major task across Whitehall and the No. 10 website in particular has needed major changes to ensure that Gordon Brown is now history!
Well I know I have
Just taken possession of a snazzy new laptop with Windows 7 installed along with a huge pile of software/spyware favoured by the manufacturer. So I’ll be spending much of today trying to get it quickly into shape and looking/behaving the way I want it to, whilst I keep an ear open for the coalition’s junior appointments. Why they don’t just give you the Windoze disk and let you partition the drive is beyond me.