Saturday 31 July 2021

Day 502 of self-isolation - Home again

Home again

Exhausted from our three-day break, we're home again.

At no time did I wear a mask, because either I was with family, or else we were eating. But the restaurant staff all wore masks, which was good.

I got so tired after I got home that I lay down for a nap, only to be woken by the Waitrose delivery.



Friday 30 July 2021

Day 501 of self-isolation - How do I do that?

How do I do that?

You might be wondering how I'm posting blog updates while I'm far from home. Wonder no more, I'll tell you.

I brought with me my  Thinkpad, with 4gb memory and a 1920 by 1200 screen. For me, the screen size is the most important thing about a laptop because I'm used to working with several open windows. After that, the keyboard - I use a separate keyboard with the laptop, because it has the right layout, and laptops never do. And a Microsoft Intellimouse (the best product Microsoft ever made), which works on any surface. I could use the in-built touchpad or the little orange button, but I'd rather not. The mouse and keyboard live in the same bag that the computer lives in (thank you, Sophos).

The place we're staying provides free wifi, and although it's not fast, it's fast enough, and after some initial reluctance, it let me in without big problems. Unlike Disney, where they are VERY fussy about where you access, and I had to get round their blockers by making my own hosts file. and pretending that I was accessing a site called "", which my hosts file translated to the IP adress that I needed. It isn't illegal to make changes you your own computer!

They have a clever way to give access to the cottage. The welcoming email gives you a four digit code, and that opens a little keysafe near the front door, that contains the key to the front door. One slight security problem - I wonder if they change the combination for each occupier? I suspect not. 

Meanwhile, ladysolly is also using the wifi to set up our next Waitrose order. How did we manage before wifi?

Actually, I know how. Back in the 20th century, I used a Nokia 6310i with bluetooth and a socket for an antenna. I had a three foot long Yagi antenna, which gave me very long range for the phone, and I connected a computer to the bluetooth. I used that while we were on cruises, even when we were far from land. The bandwidth was very low, but if all you're doing is ssh or telnet and accessing a web site that doesn't have graphics, it was fine.

Today, if I need access and there isn't wifi, I can set my iPhone up to be a hotspot, so as long as I have telephony signal, I have internet access. One potential problem - there's nowhere to attach an antenna. Those Nokia 6310i phones were really great and greatly under-rated now. For example, a charged 6310i lasts ten times as long as an iPhone.

Thursday 29 July 2021

Day 500 of self-isolation - Free at last!

Free at last!

In celebration of day 500, and because we needed food while at the Wild Rabbit , ladysolly bravely went to a local farm shop and mingled with the locals. She is, of course, double vaxxed, and wearing a mask, but it was hard to shake off the feeling that this was a bit brave.

Almost everything was unwrapped. There's no way of knowing how many people have fondled the bread etc,

I bravely waited in the car outside.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Day 499 of self-isolation - To the Chilterns

To the Chilterns

Today, we go for a short break to the Chilterns. With two daughters, one son-in-law and three grandsons. This will be fun - but probably exhausting. I'll be missing a few blog entries, in particular the 500th.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Day 498 of self-isolation - Ups and downs

Ups and downs

In the UK, the new case numbers seem to be falling; from 50000 to 25000 in the last ten days. Hurrah!

But in the USA new case numbers are rising; from 15000 to 70000 in the last ten days. Sad.

So what's the difference? I don't know. I've heard it said that it's vaccination rates, but I don't think that the rates in the US and UK are that different; a bit more in the UK.

Of course, these figures don't reflect the situation since the opening up of July 19th, so maybe things might get worse. But let's hope that the downturn continues.

Monday 26 July 2021

Day 497 of self-isolation - Fourteen stone, nine pounds

Fourteen stone, nine pounds

The diet continues; the next target is 14-4, which is 200 pounds. As an incentive, I get to drink a bottle of beer each time I lose a pound.

The origin of this was 16 months ago, when I was 17-9, and I had a tooth extraction, just before the first lockdown. Because of the extraction (which wasn't as bad as I'd feared), I was very disinclined to eat for the next couple of days (meaning, I didn't eat), followed by some days on soup. As a result, I lost quite a few pounds.

Added to that, I had the incentive of Covid, which hits old obese males harder than the average. Well, I'm as old as I feel, and I'm not going to change gender, but I can do something abut the excess weight. And I have.


Sunday 25 July 2021

Day 496 of self-isolation - E-scooters


A man died after falling from his e-scooter recently. This is strange for the following reasons.

1. It's illegal to ride an e-scooter on the road or the pavement.

2. No other vehicle was involved, Why did he die?

 I've never ridden an e-scooter, but I've had several years on an e-bike. I've fallen off several times, mostly on bridleways and suchlike, once on a tarmac road. Once, my legs were paralysed for several hours, once I went head-over-handlebars. A couple of times, I couldn't fully rotate my shoulder for many weeks.

Falling off hurts. Even if you land on grass. But it's never been life-threatening. You fall just as far off a bike as when you fall off a scooter. So, I don't understand it.

E-scooters don't even go really fast (unless you've made some sort of turbo scooter). They shouldn't really be more dangerous than an e-bike.

I think we need legislation, just as we have legislation for e-bikes. There needs to be a limit on the top speed (I'd suggest the same as for an e-bike), and there needs to be a requirement for lights at night, and for good brakes, front and rear. And helmets. Last time I came off my bike (and broke three ribs), the first thing the ambulance men checked, was my head and helmet. Then my spine. So yes, I always wear a helmet and gloves.

Some e-scooters are like a bike, but without pedals. Some also lack a saddle, so you stand to ride. If I removed the pedals from my e-bike, would that make it into an illegal e-scooter? Because I don't see how it would make it less safe to ride.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Day 495 of self-isolation - Waitrose pingdemic

Waitrose pingdemic

Waitrose called to tell us that they can't make their weekly delivery, because they've lost too many drivers to pings. They aren't actually ill, but they've been told by the NHS app to self-isolate.

So it's all true.

Instead, we're going to do a "click and collect", so we aren't going to starve. But if this is repeated country-wide, and if it keeps getting bigger, then our half-baked government is going to have to do another U-turn.


Friday 23 July 2021

Day 494 of self-isolation - PCI DSS


Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. I have to do this each year. It certifies that my systems are secure enough for working with credit card data.

So, I did it last week, or at least I thought I did. And the bank web site confirmed that I had. But yesterday I got a phone call from them - apparently, I did last year's again.

So, I did it again. I answered all the questions, but I must have done something wrong, because it assessed me as "high risk". So I phoned the bank again, and they had a look through it, and they must have changed something because then I was low risk. I don't know what they changed, and since it led to the answer we all wanted, I didn't like to do a deep probe.

So I'm all set for another year.


Thursday 22 July 2021

Day 493 of self-isolation - Pingdemic


Ping is a program, available in Windows and Linux, that reaches out to another computer and says "Are you there?". It's very useful.

But civilians are using the word in a different sense. When the NHS app tells you thst you've been close enough to an infected person, it tells you so, and they're calling that a "ping".

We've got 50,000 new cases per day, so the number of infected people is around half a million. And so more than 600,000 people have been pinged.

If they all self-isolate for ten days, that's a big chunk of the active work force. And they all lose pay as a result. So people are removing the app from their phones - no app, no ping.

The problem is, the "test, trace, isolate" works when there's a small number of cases, but when the pandemic gets out of control, it's less useful.

What's the answer? There is no answer.

Here's me pinging the Google DNS server.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Day 492 of self-isolation - Vaxxing the kids

Vaxxing the kids

Our half-baked government has come up with a cunning plan to get the kids vaccinated. From September, you won't be able to go clubbing unless you're double-vaccinated. I cannot imagine a stronger incentive. This should get all the 18-30 under the needle. The vaccination needle, I mean.

Will it work? Let's hope so.


Tuesday 20 July 2021

Day 491 of self-isolation - Vaccinating children?

Vaccinating children?

Should we vaccinate the 12-18 year olds?

Lots of countries are doing this, but we are not. Why not?

I think there's only one reason - 12-18 year olds are already ledd susceptible to severe Covid than adults. But 1) they are not invulnerable, and 2) they can be carriers.

12-18 year olds are great mixers. At school, and via their social life. You aren't gong to be able to stop the older end of that group from going out and dancing in crowds; and maybe not some of the younger end, either.

As always, it comes down to a balance of risk. You have to balance the risk of vaccinating (tmes the number to be vaccinated) against the risk of leaving those people unvaccinated.

We get good safety data from the USA; the Pfizer vaccine was approved for 16-18 year olds last December, and for 12-15 in May. And the data says that it's a lot riskier to leave them unvaccinated, than to vaccinate.

And that's without the extra benefits of removing 12-18 year olds from the population of carriers, and getting closer to herd immunity.

Sunday 18 July 2021

Day 489 of self-isolation - A Grand Day Out

A Grand Day Out

Today, we're running the gauntlet of those 54674 per day cases, to visit London. This isn't as brave as it sounds; we'll be in a car until we get to Victoria, and then we'll only be mingling with a few family. But it's an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the good weather.

In a couple of weeks, we're planning a few days holiday in the Cotswolds, but after that, I think that we'll get back into isolation until the case numbers get back down again. I had hoped to end this series on day 500, but I guess not.

Also, in a month or two, I won't be entirely surprised if our partly-baked government enacts another lockdown, even if only partial. It depends on how far the pandemic spreads.


Saturday 17 July 2021

Day 488 of self-isolation - 50K


Several days ago we were told by Bojo that the number of new cases per day could reach 50,000. Yesterday, we hit 51870.

So, we're on track for 100,000 per day,  and that's before we remove all mandatory requirements such as masking and social distancing.

We can regard this as the Great British Experiment. What happens when you have the delta variant rampaging through the population, 53% of the population fully vaccinated, and the floodgates are opened?

In a month or two, we'll know the answer, and it will be either a brave gamble that paid off and that other countries can follow, or a horrible example of what happens when a half-baked government loses its mind.


Friday 16 July 2021

Day 487 of self-isolation - Blog spam

Blog spam

You might like to see some of the spam that this blog gets.

About 99% of the spam is comments to just a few blog posts. Nearly all of them are flattery. You don't usually see them, because I have a spam filter enabled. In this case, I've done a screen capture, so the spammers intentions are foiled.



Thursday 15 July 2021

Day 486 of self-isolation - Electricity finalised

Electricity finalised

All sorted now. EDF have acknowledged that I'll be paying 17.7 p/kwh (plus vat plus etc). 

But my meter still isn't working, and EDF have just told me that they're escalating the issue.


Wednesday 14 July 2021

Day 485 of self-isolation - Shifting the blame

Shifting the blame

On July 19th, the government is abandoning the fight against Covid. Masking and social distancing, will be left to "individual responsibility". We're pinning all our hopes on the vaccine

Scotland, sensibly, is retaining the masking laws and social distancing (reduced to one meter).

So when it all goes pear shaped, our half-baked government will blame the people.

Sage, the government advisory group, says that hospital admissions could go to 4800 at the peak of the next wave. New cases per day will go to 50k, 100k or 200k, depending on which science you read.

Every day, we are fed statistical boasts about the success of the vaccine program - and indeed, it has been very good. But let's look at the figures.

The main threat in the UK is the delta variant; it's about 99% of infections now. And we know that with only one jab, the vaccine is only 30% effective. So how many people have had both jabs? 33 million, out of a population of 68 million. So, less than half.

The R number of the original Covid was about 3. Delta is more than twice as infectious, so that's an R number of about 7. So herd immunity happens at about 90%. We're at 50%. And there's no plans to vaccinate children. You can bring down the R number by masking and social distancing - but that is what we're about to abandon. 

Also - the protection of the vaccine declines with time. Pfizer are suggesting a booster after six months. And, of course, there are still lots of antivaxxers, who would rather hope and pray for the best.

Delta is going to rip through those 50% of UK people. Actually, it already is, that's why we've gone from 2000 new cases per day, to 36660. Deaths per day has ramped up to 50. Our brave government has surrendered to the virus.

Individual responsibility? We had a recent lesson in that, after England lost the football. If they lose their minds over a football final, you expect them to act responsibly over something that they can't even see?

Our pear-shaped government is caught between a rock and a hard place. After promising an end to lockdown for many weeks, they find it difficult to say "The situation has changed, we're seeing more than 30k infections every day, we need to hold off a bit longer in unlocking". The rock is the economy, and the clear distress of the hospitality sector, and the airlines. The hard place is the pandemic.

How can our world-beating government escape this dilemma? By shifting responsibility. Tell people "we're not making a law, but please behave responsibly".

They didn't do that with seatbelts and crash helmets, even though the main penalty for not wearing, falls on the person not wearing. Why? Because, left to themselves, many people will not act responsibly (see pictures below).

And then the government will say "Not our fault, it was those irresponsible citizens".


Tuesday 13 July 2021

Day 484 of self-isolation - Electricity again

Electricity again

I got a letter from EDF, telling me that I'd be paying 21.04p per kwh. What? I've signed a contract for 17..53p

But I signed up indirectly, via Bionic.

And I had a sudden thought - Bionic cold-called me, and I took their offer. Could it be a scam?

No, not really. Because I wasn't going to pay Bionic any money, I'd be paying EDF, and EDF would give Bionic their share. So if Bionic does nothing about my signup, they dn't get any money.

So I phoned Bionic, and they thought that the letter from EDF was a routine invitation to re-sign (it wasn't) and that I didn't have to worry. Hmm - that doesn't really help.

I told them that what I need, is a letter from EDF confirming the agreed price. They assured me I'd get that by Friday this week.

We'll see.


Monday 12 July 2021

Day 483 of self-isolation - The battle of the Boyne

The battle of the Boyne

In 1690,  there was a battle in which Protestant King William of Orange beat Catholic King James II. That was the start of Protestant domination of Ireland.

321 years later, Protestants pat themselves on the back by holding large parades to celebate this victory. And, of course, put two fingers up to the Catholics.


On Armistice Day (November 11) we remember the dead, we don't hold triumphalist parades. 

On VE Day, May 8th, we don't even do that.

Germany is now a great, democratic state, an ally and trading partner. Why would we want to wind them up?

On 18 June, we don't make a big deal about the Battle of Trafalgar, our great victory over the French.

So why can't the Protestants of Ireland, stop rubbing the noses of the Catholics over the victory at the Boyne in 1690?

It is bad manners, it is provocative, and it is not British. We don't do that sort of thing.

Religion poisons everything.

And then we throw Brexit in like a cat amongst the pigeons.

Sunday 11 July 2021

Day 482 of self-isolation - Football


There's a football match today.

There will be big crowds, lots of hugging, and no-one will care about transmission of disease.


Saturday 10 July 2021

Day 481 of self-isolation - 14 stone -10

14 stone -10

Another pound gone. Hurrah! I shall celebrate with a bottle of beer and a bag of crisps.

And our half-baked but oven-ready government has found the answer to the problem that the NHS app is telling a LOT of people that they need to self-isolate.

The answer is to degrade the app. Tell less people.

The answer is to weaken the effectiveness of the app.

This would make sense if the virus had become less infectious than it had been. But the opposite is true - it's more infectious.

Some people are deleting the app, so as not to get alerted. I suppose that's another way to get round it.

If your smoke alarm is giving an alert, what's the right response? If you think it's to remove the smoke alarm, then you got it wrong.

Currently, the app triggers if you are less than 2m from an infected person for 15 minutes. In the last week of June, 360,000 alerts were sent to people in England and Wales. If taken seriously, that means 360,000 people self-isolating for ten days.

This will probably treble by the end of July - a million people per week, self-isolating. The R number is between 1.2 and 1.5. If we take the optimistic number of 1.2, then the growth rate is 3% per day, and it doubles in 24 days. If it's 1.5, it doubles in 10 days. If we use the midpoint, it's 14 days.

And, of course, they won't self-isolate. We've reached the point, again, when test-and-trace doesn't work. The virus is, once again, out of control, restrained only by the vaccinations. And on July 19th, we're going to open up completely. Which will give a boost to the spread of the virus.

35707 new cases yesterday; that puts us fourth in the league table of new cases per day, with the three above us being Brazil, India and Indonesia, with somewhat larger populations than ours. We're third on the number of active cases, beaten by Brazil and USA.

I think that we might become the "horrible example" to the rest of the world, on how not to deal with the pandemic.

The justification is that hospitalisations aren't rising (they are, but not by as much as they might have) and that deaths aren't rising (they are, but not by as much as they might have.).

This feels to me as if our oven-ready but half-baked government is throwing the dice. So let's hope we don't come up snake-eyes.


Friday 9 July 2021

Day 480 of self-isolation - Evolution


I can't remember when I first read about evolution; I would have been about 10 or 11. But I do remember thinking, "Well, this is obviously true, why all the fuss? "

There are three elements to evolution. 1) descendants resemble ancestors, but aren't identical. 2) there are random mutations in the offspring organisms; some of them improve their chances, some make them worse. 3) The mutations that make them better, do so in the sense of making it more likely that they flourish and reproduce. This is summarised as "survival of the fittest", which, as I just mentioned, comes under the heading of "bleeding obvious".

There's a lot more in the details, of course, and there's tons of evidence that this happens now, has happened in the past, and will happen in the future.

Viruses are very simple organisms, but they're also subject to evolution. Some small error in the copying of the original Covid virus led to the alpha variant, first seen in England, and it was an improvement over the original by being 50% more infections. And so the alpha variant became the predominant variant in the UK.  Another improved variant occurred in India, the delta variant, and that was about twice as infectious as the original Covid. Because it was more infectious, it also spread faster than the original or the alpha, and is now some 99% of infections in the UK.

If only it had occurred to someone that at the time when (because of the delta variant) we restricted travel from Pakistan and Bangladesh, that it might also be a good idea to restrict travel from India. But we were trying to negotiate a trade deal. and didn't want to be impolite towards India. Brexit, the gift that keeps on giving.

Evolution doesn't stop. Humans are still evolving - the ability to digest cows milk is one recent mutation. But we evolve slowly; each generation takes 20-30 years. Viruses evolve faster; covid has a generation every 3-4 days. and the more people that are infected, the more chance there is for an improved variant to appear, and come to dominate the virus population.

And now in the UK, the environment has changed. 68% of adults are double-jabbed, 51% single. So a successful mutation will be one that survives and reproduces in a population of vaccinated people. 

Can that happen? Yes, of course it can, and the origin of the mutation could be anywhere. As long as there are a lot of susceptible people, the virus will continue to spead, and each person infected could be the source of a variant that resists the vaccines.

Is that a problem? Well, yes. We can develop a new vaccine against this potential new variant, but only after it has appeared. It will take some months to develop, some months to test, and a lot of months to roll out, and the vaccine hesitancy will be even worse than now.

Each year, we get a flu jab, because influenza evolves rapidly. I think that each year we will need another Covid jab. And the people who are nervous about the speed with which the Covid vaccines were developed (but didn't seem to say much about the annual flu jab) will make noise about this.

And just in case you think that such people don't exist - maybe they don't exist in your circle of friends, but there are large numbers of them in the USA and in other countries where the influence of religion is still substantial. I even saw one person who thought they could prevent any virus by laying on of hands.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Day 479 of self-isolation - Cases rising

Cases rising

Bojo says there could be 50,000 new cases per day by July 19. Sajid Javid says it could rise to 100,000. Professor Neil Ferguson an epidemiologist from Imperial College London, says it could go up to 200,000.

The vaccines have weakened the link between cases and deaths, but Ferguson says that deaths could reach 200 per day.

Let's look at reality. On Tuesday, we saw 32k new cases and 33 deaths (on Monday, 28k cases and 37 deaths), and both figures are rising exponentially, so 50k in 12 days time, looks optimistic.

If we do get to 100k cases per day, then 100 deaths per day looks plausible; you only have to treble both of the most recent figures.

And now we have the Lambda variant to come - this is currently predominant in Peru, and has been found in the UK. What happened to Epsilon to Kappa? 

If Lambda is more infectious than Delta, then it will outbreed it - evolution in action again. Just as Delta (first seen in India) outbred Alpha (first seen in Kent), and Alpha outbred the original Covid.

And there are 19 more letters in the Greek alphabet - and when we reach Omega, someone will think of more names. We're seeing a significant new variant every few months.


The important number is still hospitalisation. If a thousand people have "a bit of a sniffle", that's not a problem. And although that's rising now, it's still very low compared with how bad it was last winter. 

And that's what justifies the reopening on July 19.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Day 478 of self-isolation - My right index finger

My right index finger

Several weeks ago, my right index finger was so painful, I could barely use if for anything. That included mousing and typing. My typing style became very strange. Also, the tip joint was bend down about twenty degrees. I have no idea how this happened.

As treat ment, I used a finger splint, which mostly served to remind me not to use that finger. I also tried moving the mouse from the right of the keyboard to the left, but that was too difficult to use, so I changed it back. I also used a soft bandage - this consists of a length of camouflage tape that is kind of sticky to itself.

Since then, it has gradually improved. Not I can type and mouse again, but it still gives me the occasional reminder of pain, and the tip joint is still bent down.

Is it arthritis? Probably not. Ladysolly has arthritic hands, and the joints look very knobbly.

Treatment - I'll continue to rest it, with the occasional use of the splint.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Day 477 of self-isolation - Freedom


On July 19th, we're exiting out of the exit.

Social distancing will be abolished (hugging will not actually be compulsory). Masking will be optional, and gatherings will not be number-limited.

And Boris Johnson is expecting some 50,000 new infections per day.

But we're expecting a low death rate, and that the NHS will be able to cope with the hospitalisations. So that sounds OK.

This might be right for the country as a whole; we need the economy to get going. Pubs and clubs, airlines and restaurants need to get back to business.

But it isn't right for me. I've been vaccinated twice, so that's good, but I don't need to revive my economy. Right through this pandemic, I've been more cautious than the government advice. I locked down weeks before the official lockdown, and I ignored the "Eat out to help out" idiocy.

So if, after July 19th, I get really really ill, there will be room at the hospital for me, which is nice, but it would be nicer if I didn't need it. And I really don't want Long Covid.

So, on July 19, I am not going to squeeze into crowded rooms with zillions of people. I will continue to social distance, and wear a mask when I go out.

Meanwhile, our oven-ready but half-baked government has found a way to reward the wonderful people of our NHS by giving them a medal.

That's right. Not cash - tea and medals.

OK, it's nice to (collectively) get a medal, but I'm guessing that the NHS staff would rather  have a good pay rise.


Monday 5 July 2021

Day 476 of self-isolation - Two tier society

Two tier society

I've been hearing people concerned about the possibility that vaccine passports will lead to a "two tier society".


We're already a two tier society.

Some people have passports, some don't. Some have a car some don't. Some have dark skin, some have light. Some have good health, some don't. Some have a job, some don't.

We're already a two tier society.

If I want to go to the cinema, I have to part with a bunch of money. If I don't have the money, no movie. Two tier society.

 It's just another way to categorise people; add that to the zillion ways that already exist.


Sunday 4 July 2021

Day 475 of self-isolation - Ransomware


We're seeing  lot of attacks by ransomware recently. Ransomware is when the files on your computer systems get encrypted, and you're asked to pay for the decryption key.

The media seems to think that these are targetted, and that they are done by state actors.

I think that's making unnecessary assumptions. I think they're done by ordinary criminals, with a profit motive. And they aren't targetted, they're just sprayed around at random.

Ransomware goes back a long way. I received one of the first efforts - the "Aids Information Disk". If you ran it, then it encrypted the filenames on your hard disk (the filenames, not the files) and then demanded money to decrypt them. It arrived by post, in an envelope - I think I might still have mine.

But it's all more sophisticated today. The AIDS Disk encryption was easily reversed, but modern ransomware uses a cryptosystem that isn't so easy to break. And such dual key cryptosystems are widely available, and easy to implement. Payment also used to be a problem - if you mail dollars to an address, that address can be watched and the culprit arrested. But these days, you're asked to pay by Bitcoin, so the payment is untraceable.

Distribution is easier now. You don't have to mail out a few hundred diskettes; you can spam millions of email addresses with something tempting, and some people will fall for it.

The situation is made worse by the fact that many people have given up control over their computing needs, by running the software on Someone Else's Computer, and storing the data likewise. It's called "the cloud", but what it means is that you no longer have control.

Coop Sweden says it closed more than half of its 800 stores on Friday when their checkouts stopped working. The failure was actually at a US software supplier Kaseya. Someone Else's Computer. The security that the Coop was using was not the issue; the failure was on Someone Else's Computer.

How does the ransomware spread? There's probably more than one way, but the most obvious way is via an email that persuades you to click on a link; doing so, installs the ransomware on that computer, and then the ransomware has read/write access to anything that the computer can access.

What's the answer?

If I was trying to defend a company from ransomware, I would arrange email so that you cannot click on a link. How is that possible?

For 30 years, I've been using a mail client that is NOT web-based. The one I use is called "pine" or "alpine", but there are probably others. I cannot click on any link that is emailed to me, and that, of course, can be a nuisance because it's very clear to me that everyone assumes that I can click on a link. And these days, it's actually difficult to explain even to someone in technical support, that I can't click on the link they just emailed me.

What I can do, is to go through a rather clumsy process - I need to display the actual link (not just what it pretends to be), and then copy that URL to a browser, and by the time I've done that, I've had plenty of time to reflect on whether this is a good idea.

A text-based email system isn't a full answer - there are other measures that can be taken. But I think that if a company switches to that, they are less likely to be caught by an attempt to exploit the trust of users.

What else can you do? Think about a ransomware attack that gradually encrypts your data, but only announces itself after some weeks. And design a backup system that can cope with that.

What can't you do? I am firmly of the opinion that user education doesn't do much. Users don't care about computer security, they think that the IT department takes care of that. And, in general, people don't care about security. You can see the proof of that for yourself by driving on a motorway, and seeing how far apart people think is safe.


Saturday 3 July 2021

Day 474 of self-isolation - Mixing it up

Mixing it up

Some research in Germany has shown that if your first vaccine is AstraZeneca and your second is Pfizer, then you have more antibodies than if you have a double shot of AstraZeneca.

This is going to be particularly significant whe we start y be offered a third "booster" jab.

At this time, the UK is very high up in the list of countries vaccine rollout; the percentage "fully vaccinated" (which mens, two doses) is nearly 50%

So, even though we're seeing 27000 new infections per day, the hospitals are not swamped and the daily death toll is under 30. And that lend support to the idea of reopening the country on July 19.

On the other hand, hospital admissions are rising, because daily infections have been rising.

July 19th is going to be a difficult decision.


Yes, people are still dying.  But in 2017/2018 (the worst flu yeat in the last five years) there were 22,000 flu deaths, that's 60 per day. Back when we were seeing over 1000 Covid deaths per day, it was right to treat Covid as a soecial case. But not so much when it's down below the seasonal flu death toll.


Friday 2 July 2021

Day 473 of self-isolation - Batley and Spen

Batley and Spen

Labour's Kim Leadbeater won, but only just - by 323 votes. It would have been a lot more, but there were local issues - Palestine and Kashmir.

George Galloway (Worker's Party of Britain) got 8264 votes by targeting voters on the issues of Palestine and Kashmir. 20% of the constituency is from the subcontinent background; 19% are Muslims. And these are issues very close to their hearts. And I think that most of Galloway's voters come from Labour, rather than Tory. So Galloway split the Labour vote.

In addition, Kim Leadbeater is openly gay, a factor which was emphasised during the election. , This is a major negative factor in Islam.

But it's unlikely that this could be replicated in a general election; the issues of Palestine and Kashmir are not ones that would resonate with most voters, and there's only one George Galloway.

This probably means that Keir Starmer isn't going to be challenged as Labour leader - he can continue to cling to the greasy pole.


Thursday 1 July 2021

Day 472 of self-isolation - Workstation down

Workstation down

My main workstation went down. It's a big, fast, heavy HP xw6600 with 32gb of memory, a huge 3840 by 2160 monitor, a Microsoft optical mouse and an IBM model M keyboard, vintage 1983. I get most of my work done on  this. And the hard drive crashed. Suddenly and totally.

I tried leaving the power off for a while and then powering it up, but that didn't work. So I opened it up, took out the dead drive, and put in a new one, 80gb (that's more than I need, because the workstation doesn't store data, that's all on other servers). Then I installed Linux Fedora 34, the latest.

That went well, then I ran the script that adds all the other stuff I use. I changed the colours of the terminal from white on black, to yellow on blue, because it's easier on the eye. And, of course, the new install doesn't remember any of my passwords - fortunately (no luck involved) I have them all stored in a password manager.

Three things gave me problems.

The first was the HMRC "Basic tools" for PAYE, which I need to run each month. There is only a 32 bit version, and I'm running 64 bit. But I found a cure for that a while ago, so I reinstalled that.

yum -y install --skip-broken glibc.i686 arts.i686 audiofile.i686 bzip2-libs.i686 cairo.i686 cyrus-sasl-lib.i686 dbus-libs.i686 directfb.i686 esound-libs.i686 fltk.i686 freeglut.i686 gtk2.i686 hal-libs.i686 imlib.i686 lcms-libs.i686 lesstif.i686 libacl.i686 libao.i686 libattr.i686 libcap.i686 libdrm.i686 libexif.i686 libgnomecanvas.i686 libICE.i686 libieee1284.i686 libsigc++20.i686 libSM.i686 libtool-ltdl.i686 libusb.i686 libwmf.i686 libwmf-lite.i686 libX11.i686 libXau.i686 libXaw.i686 libXcomposite.i686 libXdamage.i686 libXdmcp.i686 libXext.i686 libXfixes.i686 libxkbfile.i686 libxml2.i686 libXmu.i686 libXp.i686 libXpm.i686 libXScrnSaver.i686 libxslt.i686 libXt.i686 libXtst.i686 libXv.i686 libXxf86vm.i686 lzo.i686 mesa-libGL.i686 mesa-libGLU.i686 nas-libs.i686 nss_ldap.i686 cdk.i686 openldap.i686 pam.i686 popt.i686 pulseaudio-libs.i686 sane-backends-libs-gphoto2.i686 sane-backends-libs.i686 SDL.i686 svgalib.i686 unixODBC.i686 zlib.i686 compat-expat1.i686 compat-libstdc++-33.i686 openal-soft.i686 alsa-oss-libs.i686 redhat-lsb.i686 alsa-plugins-pulseaudio.i686 alsa-plugins-oss.i686 alsa-lib.i686 nspluginwrapper.i686 libXv.i686 libXScrnSaver.i686 qt.i686 qt-x11.i686 pulseaudio-libs.i686 pulseaudio-libs-glib2.i686 alsa-plugins-pulseaudio.i686

The second was Netflix, which kept giving me an obscure numeric error message and recommended that I update Firefox ... with was already the latest. After much fuffing about, I noticed that the home screen was asking me to click on an "enable DRM" button, and after I did that, it worked. A more informative error message would have been nice.

The third thing is the web-based interface to the Cisco Pix. The problem there is that it uses an elderly encryption protocol that Firefox won't use. A temporary fix will be to use Windows 7 and firefox, but I very rarely change the firewall setup, so this isn't going to be a problem.

I recovered from this quickly, because I don't keep data on the workstation, it's just a gateway for accessing the servers where the data is actually stored.