Tuesday 30 November 2021

Day 623 of self-isolation - Alexa


I was pottering around on Amazon when I noticed a great deal.  Two Echo Dots and a smart plug for £37, so I bought one.

Setting it up was very simple, and then I put my bedside lamp on the smart plug. So now when I wake up at night, I don't have to grope for the light switch - I say "Alexa light on" and I can see.

So I went back to the web site and ordered an Echo Flex plus smart plug for £17. The Flex is just like the Dot, but with a tinny speaker.


Sunday 28 November 2021

Day 621 of self-isolation - Nosebleed!


It started at midnight, and it was a gusher. By 1:30, it was still going, so ladysolly took me to Stoke Mandeville hospital. They saw me very quickly, and I thought we'd staunched the flow, but it restarted.

Then the doctor got involved, and put some wadding soaked in something up the nostril, but that didn't help. So he decided that I'd have to go to the "Ear, nose and throat" unit at John Radcliffe. They arranged an ambulance to transfer me, but first he put a "balloon" up my nose, which was very painful - and then he inflated it, which felt even worse - but at least it served as a stop-gap to stop the bleeding.

There followed a painful (because of the balloon) and rather jolting ride of 35 minutes to Oxford. They put me in a bed in a corridor, and I waited ... and waited. They had two resuscitations going, and everyone was going at full speed on those. But then someone noticed me, decided that I didn't need to go through triage (because I was a referral from Stoke) and I went straight up to the GP referral ward.

That ward was almost empty, so I saw the doctor immediately. He removed the balloon and asked me about what had happened. He used suction to clear out the mess inside, then used a light to examine the nostril. He found the problem immediately, and said that the answer was to cauterise.

I didn't like the sound of that, I was thinking of red hot iron. But no, it's a dab of silver nitrate on a stick! Then he applied antiseptic, and then he shoved a sponge up the nostril that was soaked in various good stuff (the sponge will dissolve itself).

So, problem fixed, but I did lose a full night's sleep, and now I need to catch up.

Saturday 27 November 2021

Day 620 of self-isolation - 12 stone 8

12 stone 8

And my temperature is 37.8, so I have a slight fever, I think from the booster shot. At a BMI of 25.3 I'm still overweight, but only by 0.3. I need to stop losing weight now. I'm under 80 kilos!


Thursday 25 November 2021

Day 618 of self-isolation - I'm normal!

I'm normal!

My weight this morning was 12 stone 10. Taking a slightly optimistic measure of my height, that give me a BMI of 24.8, which is in the Normal range. 


Wednesday 24 November 2021

Day 617 of self-isolation - I'm boosted

I'm boosted

I had my booster jab for Covid. I suspect we'll be getting these every six months now.


Tuesday 23 November 2021

Day 616 of self-isolation - Twelve-eleven


Twelve stone, eleven pounds.  So my BMI is 25.7, which is "overweight" but only just.

I've achieved the goal I set myself in March 2020, when I was 17 stone 11, which was to "lose a lot of weight". I've lost five stone, which is 70 pounds. I would struggle to lift 70 pounds, but I was carrying it around with me every day, and now I'm not.

My next objective is to get fit, so I'm getting back into geocaching, which consists of talking long walks, and I've contacted my geocaching pals to help.

Thursday 11 November 2021

Day 605 of self-isolation - Where's Solly?

Where's Solly?

 People have been asking, "Where's Solly".

 I went to a hospital to have a minor procedure - I was expecting to walk out again the same day. 

That didn't happen and I still here. The minor procedure gave me peritonitis, an inflammation of the peritoneum, which has a function that is complete mystery to me, but which is obviously needed.

The main symptom is a bad tummy ache. Really bad, all across my lower tummy. so bad that even the thought of food nauseated me, and I'm well known for liking my food. I'll be here for a while longer, but as you can see, I have a computer and I can use it. The hospital's wifi is really good. So is the food. I love our NHS.



Friday 5 November 2021

Day 598 of self-isolation - Echocardiogram


 On Wednesday, I went to our local hospital for an echocardiogram. They stuck sound transducers to my back, put jelly on my front, and took a whole bunch of readings. The process was entirely painless, except when they took the transducers off - ouch! That's the drawback of being a bit hairy.

Also - my ankle, which was a little bit umpty after using the treadmill, now feels better. What I'm going to do, is use walking boots on the treadmill next time, because they give some ankle support.  And that worked!

Also what worked, it watching Netflix while I walk or bike. I don't have to be aware of road traffic :-).

So I added another wifi access point near where the treadmill and bike are, so I get good connectivity.

Thursday 4 November 2021

Day 597 of self-isolation - Labour party data loss

Labour party data loss

I just got an email from the Labour party (of which I am a member) telling me that the third party that handles data on our behalf has been subject to a  "cyber incident" and a significant quantity of Party data has been "rendered inaccessible".

It sounds like they've been hit by ransomware.

There are 400,000 members. If each one has 1kb of data, then that's 400 megabytes. I'd use linux, an SQL database, and I'd have a 2gb hard drive (or bigger). It really isn't a big deal for a modern computer.

So, there's two things here. Why is a third party (unnamed in the email) handling our data? It's not that difficult to run a computer, and if there's no-one in our Labour Party who knows how, surely we could hire someone?

Secondly, to be hit by ransomware in this way, means two things.

1) The company handling our data, didn't have adequate security and so got hit by the ransomware.

2) The company handling our data, hasn't considered ransomware in their backup strategy.

I'm not sure who to blame more, the Labour Party for farming out the data to a bunch of people of insufficient competence (the word "cowboys" comes to mind), or the unnamed third party who is supposed to look after the data for their incompetence.

This was discovered on October 29, and since the email was sent on November 3rd, clearly this isn't going to be just a case of restoring a recent backup.

So - how do you make a backup system that works even against ransomware?

An ordinary backup system won't work. If you take a full backup each day to the same media, then when the ransomware encrypts your data, you are copying the encrypted files onto your good data.

So what you have to do, is take a backup each day onto write-once media. A CD Rom will take 700 mb, enough for most databases. A DVD will take 4.7 gb and a Blu-ray will handle 50gb. You don't actually have to back up the whole computer in this way, just your data. You can always reinstall linux and your database software.

Then, when the ransomware announces itself, you can go back to a backup taken before the ransomware started encrypting your data.

But what if the ransomware waits a few months before announcing itself? You'd have to go back to a disk made months ago!

The way to avoid this, is to test the backup. It's really easy to tell the difference between good data and encrypted data, the test would only take a few seconds per file. So, you take the disk to a computer that has never been connected to the network, run the test program, and then you know. Let me know if you want me to explain how you can tell the difference between encrypted data and unencrypted data.

And as soon as you know "this disk has encrypted files on it" and those are files that you didn't encrypt, then you go back to the previous day's backup, and you've only lost, at most, one day of data.

Does this sound like a lot of work? Certainly, it is some work, probably as much as ten minutes per day, plus the cost of another computer - but set against the anguish of losing all your data, it isn't much. One disk per day, and a few minutes of checking.


No-one asked me.

I am available for consulting, for a modest fee.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Day 596 of self-isolation - Fedora 35 is out

Fedora 35 is out

The latest version of Fedora (formerly called Red Hat) is now available, so I downloaded it. Only 64 bit versions are available, and it's been that way since version 31, so all my 32 bit computers are version 30.

I remember when 8 bit was the thing for computers like the Sinclair Spectrum, and even the IBM PC was a mixture of 8 bit and 16 bit. But now even 32 bit computers are obsolete.

So I downloaded the server version, the workstation version and the netinstall version. The first two are on DVDs and the netinstall on a CD, because it works by downloading all the extras from the internet.

I can upgrade existing computers with:

dnf -y --releasever=35 --setopt=deltarpm=false distro-sync --allowerasing

But I'm in no hurry to do it, and if there is some serious problem, other people will find and report it.

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Day 595 of self-isolation - Breathing and cycling

Breathing and cycling

I'm doing breathing exercises twice each day now, to improve my lung muscle, and I'm on the exercise bike that we inherited from daughter.1; I'm doing two sessions of ten minutes each.

The good thing about an exercise bike is that I'm not going to fall off (which I have done several times while riding along rough bridleways) and I'm not going to be in an accident with a car (which happened three years ago and gave me three cracked ribs and a lot of pain).

The bad thing about an exercise bike is that I'm not actually going anywhere, and it can get a bit boring. However! It occurs to me that I can watch Netflix while I cycle, since I really don't need to look where I'm going.


Monday 1 November 2021

Day 594 of self-isolation - Six feet

Six feet

This changes everything. I used to tell people that I'm six foot tall, because that sounds good - actually, I was more like five feet eleven and a half. And now, when I measure myself in the morning, I'm five feet eleven inches.

But as we all know, during the day the vertebrae settle a bit, so when I just got officially measured, I came in at five feet ten. So my BMI comes in at 27.7 and I have to get down to twelve stone six to stop being "overweight". That's 18 pounds to lose, but I think I'll be losing it more slowly than I have been, because we're increasing my protein intake a bit, and I've started taking exercise.

Ten minutes on the treadmill, and my heart rate went up to 110, I worked up a sweat, and my right ankle hurts. So the next ten minutes on the stationary bike, still working up a sweat, but not hurting my ankle.

But I'm still going to tell people that I'm six feet tall, nearly.