Ini adalah pisang

Because my wife is completely crazy, she does things like this…

And I absolutely love it :D

Posted in Home | Tagged | Leave a comment

Photo Friday – Best of 2010

It’s been such a long time since I’ve done a Photo Friday but now that I’ve finally got my site back under control and the permalinks are where I intend them to remain, I felt it was a good time to put one up.

So what do I place as a “best” photo for 2010 – Difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I really haven’t put much up on this site in the last couple of years so to pick one photo out of many that I’d like to use is tough, and secondly – It’s also tough trying to prise my camera from the hands of my wife to actually take some photographs :P

So I’ll go with two, which is probably not quite in the spirit of the meme but what the heck.

Official Entry


Click image for full size

My “I couldn’t resist this” entry


Click image for full size

Posted in Photo Memes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

2011 site update – a status report

We went out on New Years Eve but not until late and that gave me some time to build the WordPress template. I’ve built quite a few since Version 3 came out in the middle of 2010 and I’m getting quicker at translating my layouts into a working template.

With the template done I installed the latest version of WP into the root directory and adjusted the settings to reflect the new home and everything is now working.

I have spent a fair chunk of new years day going through my posts and updating the photographs as I intend to delete the current Plogger system. I have now completed all posts up to the beginning of 2007 but seeing as the vast bulk of my blogging was prior to 2006 I still have a long way to go.

I’m essentially going backwards through my posts and correcting links and images as I find errors but as my permalink structure is now how I’m intending it to remain I can continue to update and add new posts.

I don’t expect to be blogging with the frequency that I was doing 6 or 7 years ago, those days have passed, given way to social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter, but I would like to continue my earlier goal of compiling my photography.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Archiving almost complete

It has taken me quite some time but I have just about archived all my posts from my old site into WordPress. I still have a lot of cleaning up to do as most of the images are not working but I will rectify that as I quickly as I can

With the archiving done I can do a couple of things – Firstly I can write new content without stressing about the URI link being broken and secondly I can clean up the whole site and remove the dead files and older WordPress/self built CMS/image gallery applications and start from scratch. It seems like a great way to start a new decade.

Also, I can work on the new template (which I’d already designed but haven’t built). It would be nice to have this completed by tomorrow because I’ve used New Year’s Day to launch new designs in the past so it feels appropriate.

I’m certainly not planning on spending NYE working on the computer so that last part may be a stretch but you never know your luck.

Selamat tahun baru / Happy new year
2011

Posted in Web Design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Social Networking – Some elementary security

Thanks to my shiny white teeth I’d like to promote this latest service…

No, not really!
As some of you may have noticed last week my Facebook status was updated some time before I woke up on 28th December with what was clearly an ad for teeth whitening.

I am still baffled as to how this information was placed on my profile page as I consider myself to be careful with my passwords. It’s interesting to note that the page was updated from the Facebook mobile portal which I don’t use due to the high cost of Internet access with my current GSM carrier. Shortly after I discovered and deleted the status I also changed my password to something even more secure.

But passwords are not the only weak link in your profile, the third party applications that you authorise to access your page can also cause problems and some app writers do not provide adequate security for your data. Commercial provider of some applications for Facebook and MySpace, Rock You, looks like it’s going to be hit with a class action after a breach of their security

The suit accuses the maker of apps like “Slideshow” for MySpace and “Superwall” for Facebook of making its unencrypted customer data “available to even the least capable hacker.”
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/12/facebook-app-data-breach/

I don’t add many applications to my profile because I don’t like the authorisation you need to give them but this is not the only area that people are lax in their security. A really common practice on many sites is allowing users to easily find their friends online by providing their Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or MSN email address and password.
There are two problems with this. Firstly you are trusting the site you’re on to do the right thing with your password and secondly (and possibly more importantly) you’re building up complacency with your password so that, when logging into a site you don’t know or haven’t even heard of before, you have no issues with providing your email address and password as if it means nothing at all.

If you think your email address doesn’t mean anything to you and this is not an issue you’re wrong. Access to your email means access to many other things that you use online. Think about all your contacts, subscriptions, website memberships, banking and anything else you’ve handed your email address to and think what would happen if someone maliciously went through everything you did so you were no longer in control of your identity.

I never use these “find friends” systems and while I strongly recommend that you don’t either I accept that they can serve their purpose. If you are going to use them then make sure that it’s on a site that you know or consider to have integrity.

Posted in Technology, Web Design | Tagged | Leave a comment

We’ll Control Your Internet, Thanks

I’ve been following for quite a while now, the debate regarding the government decision to introduce a filter that will block certain websites from being accessed by users in Australia. If you are unaware of this then you’re not alone as mainstream media, while not disregarding the issue, is not paying a lot of attention to it either.

The idea behind the filter sounds good in theory. Lets protect our children from some of the nasties that are on the Internet as well as making sure that content that would be Refused Classification by the Australian Communications and Media Authority is not available. The main focus of the “Refused Classification” push in selling this idea to the Australian public is child pornography but RC does not just cover illegal or immoral material.

There is already a wide range of content that is refused classification with computer games over a MA15+ rating being the one of the most obvious one. As there are many reasons for something to be “Refused Classification” and not just issues of legality, there is still a lot of material that could be considered RC but still legal to view  so the argument starts to break down here. If that’s the case, why does Senator Stephen Conroy, the minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy think it’s such a great idea.
The answer in this case appears to be vote buying from conservative Christian political parties. It’s also a long way from the opt in filter that was proposed before the election in 2007. No opt out filtered internet [computerworld.com.au]

So while the ideology behind the filter is a great in principle the whole plan is flawed. I have yet to read an article, letter to the editor or blog post from one technical expert that agrees with the report that states that the filter will not impact on Internet speed and cost.

The filter underwent testing on a small scale through nine of Australia’s larger ISP’s and the filter providers are confident that it is scalable.  All responses from network technicians state that this is unlikely and the more the filtering occurs the more there will be degradation to the network. Another technician states that routeing filters are only effective up to a specific number of URL rules and that as the list grows, these filters will become unstable and break.
Web filter will compromise national broadband network, say providers
[news.com.au]
Why the Internet filter won’t work [smh.com.au]
Overview / Summary AU Gov’t Mandatory ISP Blocking/Censorship Plan [libertus.net]
Comment on Crikey article “Dear Crikey, here’s why you’re wrong [crikey.com]
Fatal flaws in website censorship plan, says report [smh.com.au]
Internet Filtering gets some scrutiny [nocleanfeed.com]
De-hyping the blacklist [nocleanfeed.com]

By far though, the biggest criticism is that the filter does not address the areas that are actually a problem, such as Peer to Peer networks,  Instant Messenger services and a whole range of other Internet protocols such as VPN or proxy servers. Furthermore any websites that contain material that is questionable is most likely to have already been shut down by the time it makes it to the filter list or will change URL’s to bypass the block.

To fully prevent access to the kind of content that Sen. Conroy is wanting, a much harsher filtering regime would be required –

“Implementing a simple ‘black-list’ filter can never work – just ask the Chinese and the highly porous “Great Firewall of China.”  What we need to do is become much more aggressive.  Here’s how.”
David Heath – IT Wire
http://www.itwire.com/content/view/30175/1239/

As mentioned already, as the filter only affects http traffic (or the World Wide Web), the physical location of the server and the traffic on it is fairly easy to trace, so reporting websites that may contain questionable material is most likely to have already been reported to law enforcement agencies and  shut down. All this  before it even makes it to the filter list.
Websites on the list would be easy to view (by the governments own admission) by using a proxy server to access the content. If you think this sounds difficult, it isn’t – Just ask any teenager
http://news.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/hi/technology/newsid_10000000/newsid_10003500/10003579.stm

Censorship
You should be afraid that the government is going to censor the Internet. This is a secret list and you will not know what content is on it and any claim by the government that they absolutely will not use the list for anything except RC material should be taken as a politicians promise.
Do you trust your government, or any government for that matter, to act 100% in the best interest of the people regardless of their own interests. At what point does this secret list expand to include material that is damaging to the government. It concerns me is that the truth of a  politician  is often different to actual truth,  twisted, using clever and subtly crafted language. Furthermore, a truth now may not be the same “truth” in the future.
Open letter to Australia’s Prime Minister [rsf.org]

Obviously the need to keep the list a secret is to protect people however the original testing blacklist was leaked and many media outlets were able to obtain copies. The list has not been made public as it “constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material” and would be “the concerned parent’s worst nightmare as curious children would inevitably seek it out.”

“But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.”
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/03/19/1237054961100.html [smh.com.au]

Trying to find a copy of the blacklist may prove fruitless as the content  is illegal to publish or link to in Australia  with fines of up to $11,000 a day for contraventions
http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2009/03/20/australias-internet-blacklist-revealed (webpronews.com).

If you think that the government will not censor any website other than the RC categories that they are claiming, consider the fate of protest website stephenconway.com.au. Online for just two days this site was taken down by the auDA, the  policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for the .au domain space. The auDA state that they removed the domain after an internal check and that no request from the government was made however the biggest concern is the speed in which the domain was disabled.

To register an .au domain you need to have a legitimate reason for using the domain. Sapia Pty Ltd, who registered the domain could argue political parody as close substantial relationship but that would be highly unlikely to be acceptable. The auDA argue that the domain does not meet the criteria of an .au domain registration and took the domain down. This is not unjustifiable as their role is to protect the .au domain space from incorrect domain registrations.

What is unusual in this case is the speed in which the domain was removed. It is normal for a registrant to have a week to reply and the process of taking a domain down can be several weeks. In the case of stephenconroy.com.au it was three hours and, while the auDA suggest that different situations call for different responses, the rapid removal of the site has only created conspiracy theories and, despite claims to the contrary, reeks of government intervention.
Current Stephen Conroy protest site [stephen-conroy.com]
auDA claims no request to remove stephenconroy.com.au [zdnet.com.au]
Conroy Parody site shut down suddenly [apcmag.com]
StephenConroy.com.au vs auDA – the stoush continues [itwire.com]
Oz anti-censorship site is censored [theregister.co.uk]
The swift takedown of stephenconroy.com.au [crikey.com.au]

More attempted censorship
Filtering out the fury: how government tried to gag web censor critics [smh.com.au]

If you’re not with us…
As this filter plan is currently drawing heavy fire from bloggers, networking technicians, ISP’s and many ordinary people,  the government is choosing to deflect any criticism of its plans by suggesting that being against the filter must mean that you’re a pervert or you have some underlying reason for wanting to visit this kind of content.
poll results [smh.com.au]
This is simply not the case as most people who raise concerns base it on technical reasons or a fear that government will use it for other censorship is that, once in place, the filters will damage our ability to successfully access the Internet, that some sites that are legitimate may become unavailable if the government does not agree with the viewpoints. Euthanasia, abortion and religious views certainly could be amongst such sites.

Finally, I’d like you to consider this. Recently in the UK a 52 year old man was using Facebook to contact an 11 year old girl. The girl told her parents and they took over her online profile and, after reporting it to the police, used it to track him down.
http://www.news.com.au/technology/parents-pose-as-daughter-to-trap-facebook-pervert/story-e6frfro0-1225813094918

Clearly this was good thinking by the parents but as Facebook was used as a vessel for child exploitation it’s clear that, for the governments filter to be effective, social networking sites such as Facebook and myspace will need to be blocked.

Of course it’s unlikely this will actually happen because these sites are too prolific for them to suddenly disappear so it begs the question – If a child is more likely to make contact with a predator on a site like Facebook than accidentally stumble across child pornography on the Internet, what is the validity of having a filter. Wouldn’t it be better to use the money invested in this to pro-actively target people who are engaging in this kind of activity.
Facebook, like other large portals will protect their interests by protecting their users from dangerous content or nefarious users.
Facebook gives sex offenders the boot [msn.com]

Further Reading
Electronic Frontiers Australia
Wikipedia

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , | Comments Off on We’ll Control Your Internet, Thanks

Farmville

While a few of my contacts on Facebook are busy playing farmville I’ve been playing a real life version.

For quite a while I have been growing vegetables and herbs that we use large amounts of and am looking to extend our little backyard farm going into 2010. Self sustainability is a little out of reach at the moment but reducing our reliance on commercially grown food has both financial advantages as well as reducing our global footprint.

For this post I quickly went outside and took three photos which I combined below. Since moving into this house I have removed a lot of lawn to expand this area as well as many large bushes that bounded the grass. I have replaced some of the bushes with citrus trees (not visible in this image) as well as planting bananas and grapes vines (also not visible below).

vege-patch

So here are the plans for 2010

I intend to remove more of the lawn  – Probably another 6 square metres which will be converted into productive beds. I am not a big fan of lawns anyway and think they are a frightful waste of resources, needing copious amounts water and fertiliser to make them look decent. I also spend so much time pulling the runners out from the garden and vegetable beds.

Long term plan will be to have no lawn at all (except for the front verge) and I’ve already made big headways with this out the front of the house.  As I still want the garden to be presentable when we have visitors over I need to think more on the implementation of this.

I’ll make a start on removing the small area of lawn after Christmas and, once  removed, I will be converting that area into a raised vegetable garden, as well as having a central area for perennial herbs.

Chickens have always been something I’ve wanted to get and we will be moving forward with that, starting with the conversion of the shed (which really only collects junk) into a coop. Originally I was talking about having them being able to roam the garden but Lia had some concerns about that so I’ll be looking at building an enclosed run for them.

Long term I’d really like to have a go at aquaponics but this is not something I’ll be doing any time soon due to the initial cost of set-up. Keeping trout in the pond would be great as part of the aquaponics cycle as well as a potential food source.

I’ll include some photos in upcoming posts.

Posted in Garden, Home, Personal | 2 Comments

Debt Collectors – An open letter to Video Ezy

At the risk of writing TWO negative customer service posts in a row I’m going to share with you the overly heavy approach Video Ezy has at pursuing overdue return fees.

It turns out that in May 2006 Mandy, my housemate at the time, returned some DVD’s late. This fact went unnoticed because not long after that we started using the Video Ezy outlet in Ballajura instead as it was closer. Mandy moved out at the end of that year and it was not until I received a letter in the mail from debt collectors Legal & Commercial that I became aware of the problem.

I don’t have issues with the debt collector and,  after contacting Mandy, I made the payment immediately. What irks me is the way this was handled by Video Ezy who seem to have taken a very lazy attitude to this matter which does absolutely nothing to promote good customer service.

Quoting from the debt collectors letter :
“We are working in conjunction with our client Video Ezy Noranda, to remind you that the above $22.50 remains outstanding on your membership. As you would be aware, contacting every member by phone is a rather large task and is not always possible”

Wrong – Contacting your client by phone should be the very first point of call. There are many reasons why people miss payments and, whether legitimate or not, a phonecall will encourage most people to make payment immediately. In fact, an alternative debt collector Marshall Freeman state on their website that Proactive collection by telephone is “By far the most important step in collecting debt

Quoting from the debt collectors letter :
Please note:
1. A video store is not required to notify you of an outstanding debt.
2. A claimand is entitled to pursue outstanding debts for a period of 6 years.

Explain to me why a video store is not required to notify you of an outstanding debt?
If my clients are late with payment and I don’t chase them up then I have no one but myself to blame when my cash-flow dries up!

I’d also like to know if you think this is a satisfactory approach to customer service, especially in an industry that is feeling the pressures from pay TV. downward pricing of DVD media in major department stores and on demand video via the Internet and why it takes 3 and a half years to follow this up?

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Attempting to pay – When your web service upgrade doesn’t cut it!

This morning I attempted to pay my electricity bill online, however upon accessing the Synergy website to make the payment I discovered that the page that was cached in Firefox now diverts to a generic payments page giving you information on what type of payment options are available.

Failure 1 – The page talks about payments online but has no further link to it.
I’m proficient enough with web technologies to work out, after scanning the page, that the site has been upgraded and now they are requiring a membership login to complete an online payment. This fact should be described within the online payment blurb  for people who aren’t as savvy with current Internet design trends.

Furthermore, there is no immediate link to register anyway. You have to click on the “why register” link to actually find the link to register.

Failure 2 – I shouldn’t have to create a user account just to pay my power bill.
This is the point when the marketing department steps in and decides that they want to give people newsletters and hey, if we get people to create member accounts we can send them that way.. How about if we link it to payments…

Great idea as far as marketing people are concerned but from an end user perspective I do not want to have to remember usernames and passwords for a dozen utilities. All I want to do is pay my bill, and for that all I should need to do is have a secure form where I can enter my account number and the amount I wish to pay.

Failure 3 – The registration system is flawed and didn’t let me register anyway.
After attempting to register I was presented with an error message saying that some of my details were wrong although everything looked correct. After a few times I gave up.

This is a critical failure, impacting on both the service provider, who is failing to achieve the outcome (ie smoother cash flow and additional support staff hours)  and the end user who is generally left feeling irritated by the whole process.

Footnote – I was able to register in the end but…
Originally I tried a few times and gave up but during the process of writing this article I was able to work out that the missing element that was creating the problem in registration was my name suffix appears on the bill and they expect you to add it in on the form as well.  Mr, Mrs or Ms is generally not expected in a name field.

Despite this process the payment page is not even integrated into the member page. I was able to see my current bills but, upon clicking the button to make payment I then had to copy all the information off my bill anyway.

Posted in Technology, Web Design | Leave a comment