Thursday, 9 October 2014

iCloud 2-Factor Authorisation Coming

I received an email today from iCloud reminding me (i.e. telling me for the first time) that two-factor authentication was coming, er, tomorrow. On Thursday. As you do.

What this actually means is that instead of using my precious Apple password to authenticate things (like Outlook or Thunderbird email clients, etc), I will log into the iCloud website and get a one-time-password.

This is the same system that Google has been using for at least 3 or 4 years, and I'm amazed it has taken so long for Apple to catch up. I, for one, am a real advocate of multi-factor authentication, and so its about time. It does make me realise what a huge job Apple are tackling to bring an entire, secure and operational systems ecosystem into being, whilst simultaneously building out a hardware, multi-OS and mobile platform, as well as innovating new sectors. More than any other organisation, like Google, Microsoft, Samsung etc.

Good luck....

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Roasting Cliches on an Open Fire

For the first time in a decade, I went camping this weekend. I took my 8 and 6 year-old boys and we left the "girls" at home. The boys have been excited about it for weeks, and so have I.

We never really camped much with Mum and Dad when I was a kid, as we had a caravan. It was the tourer-type, and so although we spent lots of time in camp sites across the country, it was never under canvas. My grandparents, however, were avid campers, and most summers I spent at least a week under a blue, slightly musty-smelling, ridge tent that could sleep about 42, somewhere in the wilds of Scotland.

I ended up buying my own tent in my mid twenties, and used it for a few camping trips with friends, and some debauched and terrible festival trips. Since then though, it's just been an unnoticed and dusty blue bag in the garage.

Saturday night was the best though:

We sat roasting marshmallows and cliches over a fire, outside our tent (not too near though, for good H&S reasons); the boys, wrapped in blankets, and me with a metaphorical blanket provided by some bottles of beer. We were playing I-Spy, and I was 7-1 down to the combined forces of the small children (and the beer perhaps). I had a small wind-up radio quietly playing some music in the background. It was a bit windy and chilly. No-one seemed to noticed. I couldn't believe there were that many things that began with "G". There were no iPads or iPhones. It got to 11pm, and the boys were sleepy and asked if they could go to bed. After they'd got themselves settled down, I sat for a few magical moments in almost complete and preternatural silence. Some spits from the fire, and splashes from the nearby river. Trees surging in the wind.


Camping Rocks.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Hand Dryers vs Hand Washing

It goes without saying that it is generally considered to be a Good Thing that people wash their hands after visiting the bathroom. I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and as a boy, hand-washing was always a chore. In school, there were those blue/green, thick, rough paper towels that were used seemingly across the whole country in schools, pubs, public toilets, restaurants. They were cheap and horrible looking, but they did the job.

It seems though that over the past 30 years or so that paper towels have become an Endangered Species, and have been largely replaced by something called a "Hand Dryer". For those unaccustomed to such technology, this is a bolted to the wall which blows warm air onto your hands, evaporating away the water from your clean hands.

In reality these are cheap, horrible little devices, that take between 3 and 20 minutes to actually dry your hands, even when accompanied by frenetic and vigorous hand rubbing. Pretty crap, and probably actually put people off from washing their hands, as who wants to hang out any longer than is needed to in a generally urine-heavy environment.

Then, about 8 or 10 years ago, a revolution occurred, courtesy of Mr Dyson and his team of boffins in the Home Counties. The "Dyson Airblade". It essentially dried your hands in about 10 seconds flat, and made hand washing fun again. Mostly in that you could exit the bog about 3 minutes faster that you could previously. Soon they were popping up in pubs, cafes, railway stations and even the workplace.

I think people have started to wash their hands again. I think countless productivity hours have been saved across the world. Countless germs quashed. Countless D&V outbreaks reined in.
Well done Dyson, and all of the clones popping up, thankfully, all over the place.

Then I go to a motorway services (specifically the Gledrid Services on the A5) this weekend to find this:


COME ON GUYS. Stop buying those crap little things from the 80s. It's embarrassing.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Yosemite Bluetooth Stack Fix?

I blogged last year about my frustration with how my Macbook didn't play nicely with my cool, bluetooth headphones. Modern laptop (mid-2012 Macbook Pro Retina) + modern headphones (Jabra Halo2) = annoyed Peter.

Anyway, I'm running a copy of the OS X 10.10 Beta, aka Yosemite (there's a whole 'nother story there), and today I happened to pick up the Halo2 and just gave it a try.

What do you think happened?

Well, they worked. Straight off the bat, no fiddling around. There were some drop outs for the first minute or so, but after that I was quite happily jamming to a bit of AC/DC.

So well done Apple for sorting out the Bluetooth stack....finally.

I read elsewhere tonight that one of the stand out features of Yosemite will be the "hand off" feature (no, don't be disgusting, nothing to do with that), where you can take and make calls from your mac, if your phone is nearby, so I'm guessing that there has been a wholesale update to the BT stack in the kernel. Hand-off (or whatever they call it) isn't part of the Beta I've got just yet, as it needs an iOS8 device to work with it, but it won't be long before the RC and then final 10.10 versions are ready, with dates probably to be announced at the 9th September Apple event next month.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Book Review: "Rivers of London" by Ben Aaronovitch

I've been aware of Ben Aaronovitch's books for a few years, based on some good noises coming out of the blogosphere, but also due to their very distinctive covers. I hadn't been purposely avoiding them, but I also hadn't made any effort to pick one up. It might be the London-focus that perhaps inadvertently didn't draw me to them (I live in the North-West UK so geographically and culturally quite far from London in UK standards).

I follow Ben on Twitter (@Ben_Aaronovitch), and I saw a tweet a few weeks ago saying that the first of his "Rivers of London" series was available for Kindle for 99p. I'd just finished my previous read, so trotted over to Amazon and picked it up.

[some mild spoilers of plot to follow, but I'll be as careful as I can]

Rivers of London (RoL) is essentially a police procedural novel set in modern day London. It focusses on our hero Peter Grant, a young copper in the Met, and how following the end of his probationary period he ends up working not within the cool and trendy Murder Squad, but instead for DCI Thomas Nightingale who heads up a one-man secret division. The crunch comes when it becomes clear that Nightingale is not some ordinary plod, but actually a 120 year old magician who is responsible for policing the fantastical, magical and occult aspects of city life. Ghosts are real, as are spirits, magic spells and all manner of imps, vampires and karmic connections. The story takes us through the origin story of Peter and DCI Nightingale, their base of operations "The Folly", Toby the dog, and Molly the vampire maid, and sets up what seems to be a great set of stories to follow in later books.

I saw someone call these books "Harry Potter for grown-ups", but I disagree; there is magic and fantasy elements, but this is more Ashes to Ashes territory; Aaronovitch has a great knack for sharp and witty banter between his characters, and putting the magical elements to one side, it reads just like any other solid Procedural. There's an amusing take on modern-day policing methods, as well as Peter Grant's own inadequacies and worries, which are all very well observed and delivered.

I found the pacing to be a bit varied throughout the book and found myself flicking (virtually, of course) back to previous sections to remind myself of what had happened, but the story itself was interesting and well thought out. I certainly started to like both the main and secondary characters, and there seems tons and tons of material that the author can draw on for subsequent outings. The fact that this was very much a book focussed on London didn't detract from my enjoyment; I didn't feel left out not knowing the intricate detail and history of all of the places and events described, and even learned something along the way.

I really enjoyed this book, and I think I'll give the second instalment, Moon Over Soho, a go soon. I Wikipedia'd this before writing and was pleased to see that Aaronovitch had received a nomination for Best New Writer of the Year for this book in 2011.

It is published by Gollancz, with Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground and Broken Homes also now available. The fifth instalment, Foxglove Summer, is due to be released in September 2014.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Chapelford BT Infinity: Installed!

So after approximately 3 minutes, the BT engineer had my connection up and running and I went from this, this morning:

 to this just now:


Friday, 4 April 2014

Superfast Broadband Arrives in Chapelford!

Truly a historic day!! Finally, fibre broadband is available in Chapelford! After years of uncertainty around funding and whether OpenReach thought it was even economically viable to upgrade the backhaul and exchange equipment, we were given a lifeline last year when the "Connecting Cheshire" partnership received £27m of funding from European Regional Development Fund, BT, BDUK, and 4 local authorities.
Following initial planning, it was determined that the Westwood Exchange, which serves much of Chapelford, would be available to provide fibre broadband from March 2014.

I've been checking the Openreach website throughout March, and the icon for the exchange has stubbornly remained at "Coming Soon". Today, it is showing "Accepting Orders":

In a fit of optimism, and plain stupidity, towards the end of March, and even in spite of the lack of "accepting orders" icon, I just went onto the BT website and clicked on the "Place an Order" link. To my surprise and suspicion the site was willing to let me place an order for Infinity! I picked the next available date, the 7th April, and completed the order. I received the confirmation emails, and all looked well.

So it looks very much that I just managed to get in early before OpenReach had chance to upgrade the icon on the website.

One other strange thing I've noted is that the Westwood Exchange seems to have magically moved position. Take a look at how the site was displaying a week ago:

Apparently as well as upgrading the exchange it's been moved half a mile!

I'll investigate whether they are using new premises, and hopefully by Monday night I should have upgraded my 4Mbps ADSL line to a 28-50Mbps fibre line!