Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aspergillus Niger In Corn And Peanuts

Aspergillus fumigatus is common in compost heaps, hay, and all kinds of decaying vegetation.
Some aspergilli fungi cause Aspergillosis - an infection that gets in via the lungs and compromises various organs, particularly in people with suppressed immune systems, such as those who have had transplants.
Some aspergilli fungi are useful - aspergillus terreus is a source of statins that are used to reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart attack.
If you find that mushrooms and grapes affect you and leave you feeling a bit breathless and a bit 'odd' - blame the fungi.

Black aspergilli species responsible for infecting corn identified

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Athens, Georgia, have reported for the first time that several species of Aspergillus niger, or black aspergilli, are capable of infecting corn and peanuts as endophytes. The researchers also showed that, under laboratory conditions, these species produced mycotoxins.

Wordpress.Com was never moving to Microsoft's Azure Cloud.

"...WordPress is also a tremendous ISV who's been working extensively with Windows Azure during the CTP...."
"A: No., which is Automattic's hosted blogging service, is going to stay on its existing infrastructure."
"One company I'd like to highlight is Automattic, developer of WordPress. WordPress is one of the most successful and pervasive blogging systems in existence today, used by tens of millions of bloggers worldwide. WordPress is also a tremendous ISV who's been working extensively with Windows Azure during the CTP...."

Internal Microsoft emails show that most 'Live Spaces' blogs were dead isn't getting 30m Live Spaces users - think of a much smaller number. No, smaller than that. And Microsoft isn't getting Wordpress to shift to Azure either. (Updated)
Is getting all those Windows Live Space users really that much of a coup? There was plenty of excitement on the Windows Live Space blog and the blog about how "30 million" (say it in a Dr Evil voice) blog would get moved over from Windows Live Spaces to Wordpress because, um, well, nice weather we're having... Nobody seemed able to explain quite why. Or, in other words, Microsoft had signally failed to monetise those blogs. (Couldn't it have done what Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook and just let it grow? Anyway.)
Now Joe Wilcox at Betanews says he has obtained copies of internal Microsoft emails which suggest that 99% of those 30m blogs are "dead".
The email exchange dates from 28 September, Wilcox says, the day after the announcement. Wilcox says he's not naming the participants because that might mean trouble for those involved. (Er, yes.)
"It's not unusual for companies like Microsoft to overstate statistics that aren't otherwise easily confirmed. There's often huge PR advantage in larger numbers, and reporters tend to assume the figures are correct, particularly when they can't otherwise easily be confirmed. Often lowly public relations employees make these kinds of decisions. In this case, the number means much to, which could conceivably double in size over six months if just half of Windows Live Spaces bloggers migrated to the Automattic service. As of September, hosted 13.9 million blogs."
"However, according to a senior Microsoft manger e-mailing colleagues: "The net is: 300k sites are expected to migrate of the 30M 'blogs' -- most are dead. Wordpress is adding somewhere in the order of zero servers to handle this capacity. This was a 'who has the best online service for blogging for our customers' and had nothing to do with technology."
But it turns out there's a little more to this than meets the eye. Microsoft would dearly love Automattic - the company behind - to shift to using its Azure cloud system (it's like Amazon's Elastic Cloud Compute system, better known as EC2). Last November at its Professional Developer Conference Microsoft suggested (or let it be thought) that Wordpress/Automattic is hosted on Azure, or would soon be moving over. From the transcript: "One company I'd like to highlight is Automattic, developer of WordPress. WordPress is one of the most successful and pervasive blogging systems in existence today, used by tens of millions of bloggers worldwide. WordPress is also a tremendous ISV who's been working extensively with Windows Azure during the CTP...."
But that isn't the case at all.
As the Automattic blog pointed out soon afterwards in an FAQ: "Q: Are you moving to Azure?
A: No., which is Automattic's hosted blogging service, is going to stay on its existing infrastructure. Martin Cron from the Cheezburger Network launched a new blog Oddly Specific on Azure, which some people confused with Automattic."

Monday, September 27, 2010

About Tax Freedom Day In The UK

Definition: 'Tax Freedom Day' is the day in the year when the average income earner has earned enough to pay his taxes. assuming he doesn't spend a penny - the rest of the year is all gravy (sure...)
This article about Tax Freedom Day in the UK mentions Gordon Smith's stealth taxes (e.g. increasing National Insurance contributions, air passenger duty,...)
A recent program on Radio 4 that I heard, describes three periods since the end of the Second World War.
1945-1965 - income tax to pay for health service and other Welfare State benefits.
1965-1985 - no tax increase and letting services coast along.
1985-2010 - services grinding to a halt because equipment, building, etc breaking down but no-one can win an election by proposing an increase in income tax, (that is how Labour failed in 1990) - so when Labour won in 1997, they used stealth taxes to pay for social programmes.
A history of tax freedom day
Europe's favourite think tank website
Tax Freedom Day came later and later in the 1960s, though there was some respite in the early years of the 1970s: while the tax burden in most industrialised states was tending to increase, the then British government actually decreased it.  There was another short and less pronounced reduction in the burden in the three years following the 1975 peak.  The general trend, however, was for Tax Freedom Day to fall later and later during the years from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.
More recently we saw a 10-year period during which Tax Freedom Day broadly moved earlier and earlier in the calendar, from a high of 15 June in 1982, to 22 May in 1993 and 1994.  Since 1994, Tax Freedom Day has again generally – if erratically – moved later in the calendar. In 2008 and 2009, it suddenly jumped back in the calendar. As explained above, this was a direct result of the financial crisis. Once the economy recovers, Tax freedom Day is likely to move later in the calendar again.
See more at

Saturday, September 25, 2010

French court orders Google Inc to pay 5,000 euros ($6,750) in libel damages

I cannot see how Google would fail to win on appeal. As it said "It is important to point out that Google Suggest is an aggregate of the most popular searches based on past requests from users. Google does not suggest these terms,"
A French court has ordered Google Inc to pay 5,000 euros (4,263 pounds) in libel damages to a man who claimed that searches for his name automatically yielded a list of harmful suggestions. Skip related content
The man, whose name was not given, said the suggested terms that came up when typing his name on -- including the words "rape," "rapist" and "prison" -- were damaging for his reputation, court documents showed.
The man had previously been condemned to a prison sentence on charges of corrupting a minor, the documents showed.
The decision, reported on Saturday in the online edition of Le Monde newspaper, was published in court documents dated September 8 on the French legal web site Legalis. Google confirmed the decision in an email on Saturday.
The court decision came as Google faces demands from Germany's government to come up with privacy guidelines amid controversy about its Street View service, a virtual tour of cities based on photographs taken in the street.
In its decision, the Superior Court of Paris ordered Google Inc to remove the "harmful" suggestions from the search and pay the man 5,000 euros in damages, while saying the search term suggestion function was not illegal in itself.
A Google spokesperson said the firm would appeal the decision.
"It is important to point out that Google Suggest is an aggregate of the most popular searches based on past requests from users. Google does not suggest these terms," the company said in an email.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Protest the proposed badger cull in Britain

Here is the link to the DEFRA page that describes the Coalition Government's proposal for consultation on a limited badger cull. This is despite the fact that the scientific advisor to the Government (and to the previous Government) said the weight of evidence is that a limited cull would not work and would worsen the situation.
A wholesale, nationwide cull is not going to happen. Who would stand for the idea of killing all Britain's badgers?
According to some, it is still not established what the route of infection, if any, is between badgers and cattle.
So why does Government want to have yet another consultation on the proposal to conduct a limited cull against the weight of scientific evidence that says that if TB is spread from badgers to cows, then killing some badgers will make the situation worse?
Is it because the people in Government at the moment (remind me who they are) would rather use the cull as a scientific experiment to test what the outcome of killing some badgers is, rather than act in accordance with the weight of the scientific evidence?

We urgently need your help to convince the government that badger culling is wrong.

Despite strong opposition from the RSPCA, the Coalition Government has announced a consultation on the proposed badger cull in England as part of a package of measures to control Bovine TB. This consultation will take place in mid-September.
In 2006 when a cull was last under discussion, more than 47,000 members of the public objected.  The badger cull was subsequently halted and alternative control measures were considered instead. A TB vaccine for badgers was licensed for use in March and the RSPCA believes that the Coalition Government should proceed with the project that had been planned using this vaccine. We also want to see a continuation of improved cattle measures, including pre- and post-movement testing, husbandry and biosecurity, rather than the widespread killing of badgers across England.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Serious Man – Being A Fool When Everyone Is Smart

A Serious Man – Being A Fool When Everyone Is Smart

I was thinking about the film A Serious Man, made by the Coen brothers. The film is unusual because it ‘begins’ with a short film shot in sepia about a poor Jewish couple in nineteenth century Russia who are visited by a dybbuk (a malicious spirit) that has inhabited the body of a recently deceased rabbi.
The wife is fearful and practical. The husband is ambivalent and hesitant. There is not much of a story but the thread that runs through it is that the wife is certain that she and her husband will be visited by more bad luck.
Then we segue into the main film – A Serious Man – about a man who watches his life fall apart around him. Set in the present day, the main protagonist is a lecturer at a college somewhere on the East Coast of the U.S. – an intelligent man with a responsible job.
His wife is leaving with another man and doing it right under his nose. His daughter ignores and derides him. His son, who is soon to be bar-mitzvah’d, seems to be in a world of his own. His boss at work is enigmatic and disconcerting. His wife’s new boyfriend patronises him.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Honey At Google

There's a video on the official Google site.
We’re also relieved that none of the hives have succumbed to Colony Collapse Disorder, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on them over the winter months to ensure that they stay happy, healthy and ready to start work again in the spring. We're already looking forward to next year!Read more at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fuji X100 - I am posting the picture because I lust after this camera and can stare at the picture

This is certainly the most enjoyable camera news I've gotten in a long while. Fujifilm has made a "development announcement" at Photokina for a camera to be called the X100: a high-quality, fixed-lens, 12-MP, viewfinder-window compact digital camera with an APS-C sensor. The lens is a 23mm ƒ/2 Fujinon...exactly equivalent, in 35mm terms, to a 35mm ƒ/2.

Colony collapse disorder in Scotland - Q&A in Scottish Parliament #bees #honeybees

No CCD (colony collapse disorder) in bees in Scotland - I wonder why not?
I've send the info to the U.S. Agricultural Research Service which works with the Apiary Inspectors of America to survey CCD
Follow this link to the homepage
Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether there have been any cases of colony collapse disorder reported with regard to Scotland’s bee population since 1999
Richard Lochhead: No cases of colony collapse disorder have been reported in Scotland’s bee population since 1999.
Peter Peacock (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers that colony collapse disorder is a threat to Scotland’s bee population.
Richard Lochhead: Colony collapse disorder describes a number of symptoms rather than a disease with a single defined cause such as virus or bacterium. With our current limited understanding of colony collapse disorder in other countries we cannot say that it is a threat to Scotland’s bee population. However, we cannot be complacent, bee keepers should maintain vigilance for disease symptoms and report any suspicion of disease to Scottish Government bee inspectors.

Justified Text - Coming to a web near you

Soft hyphens - sounds so nice.

The Look That Says Book

by Richard Fink

The vast majority of books and magazines are typeset using hyphenation and justification (written as H&J from here on in). In print, it’s everywhere: All lines of text except the last lines of paragraphs are stretched out to the same length. Flush left and flush right. Hyphens are used to break words at the end of lines to help prevent gaps in word spacing. Like this:
We hold these truths to be self-ev­i­dent, that all men are cre­at­ed e­qual, that they are en­dowed by their Cre­a­tor with cer­tain un­al­ien­a­ble Rights, that a­mong these are Life, Lib­er­ty and the pur­suit of Hap­pi­ness. That to se­cure these rights, Gov­ern­ments are in­sti­tut­ed a­mong Men, de­riv­ing their just pow­ers…

Using hyphenation and justification today

When it comes to new browser features, Flash-y effects get the glory and so it’s no surprise that support for a special unicode font character called the soft hyphen would go largely unnoticed. But the soft hyphen is the key to good-looking hyphenation and justification. And over the years it’s gained support in every A-grade browser: IE6+, Opera 7.1+, Safari 2+, Firefox 3+, and Chrome. This, combined with a little JavaScript jiggery, makes H&J a viable design technique today.

The soft hyphen

What’s a soft hyphen? The HTML spec says:

"If key infrastructures are not hardened, the next such flare could have world-wide, catastrophic impact."

I wonder what 'hardened' means?
Does it mean encasing the electronic switchgear in some pulse-resistant material to prevent the solar flares reaching them?
Does it mean Jim and Arthur from the repair department on double-overtime and twenty-four standby to switch the grid manually?
Any ideas?
In recent years vital national infrastructures have evolved toward increasing automation, dependant on complex computer control networks, and fully integrated with the electric grid.  This process occurred remarkably quickly, and little has yet been done to address vulnerability to potentially catastrophic risks.  Based on new information about the scope of severe natural threats and new concerns about vulnerability to potential malicious threats, it has become increasingly clear that addressing these issues will be essential to the continued health and viability of our nations.
Two issues have become a focus of concern.  Based on a recent U.S. National Academy of Sciences study, severe, century-class solar flares have occurred regularly in the past, and will continue in the future.  If key infrastructures are not hardened, the next such flare could have world-wide, catastrophic impact.  The potential for malicious EMP attack could result in similar, nationwide or even continent-scale destruction.  Both effects can be substantially mitigated by electric grid changes.
With this background, Rt. Hon. James Arbuthnot MP, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, House of Commons, U.K., is chairing the inaugural meeting of the new Electric Infrastructure Security Summit (EISS).  U.K. Secretary of State for Defence Dr. Liam Fox will be a keynote speaker at the invitation-only meeting, which will include energy ministers, senior members of parliament and administration officials from more than twenty nations, along with scientists and policy makers.  The summit is expected to define an international framework for discussion and cooperation.  It will be followed by a 2nd, follow-on summit now in planning for Washington D.C., in 2011.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A long explanation of the first few milliseconds of an HTTPS connection

You'll enjoy this
In the 220 milliseconds that flew by, a lot of interesting stuff happened to make Firefox change the address bar color and put a lock in the lower right corner. With the help of Wireshark, my favorite network tool, and a slightly modified debug build of Firefox, we can see exactly what's going on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"But the really cool thing that I just got going is doing SSH tunneling with an app called ConnectBot."

Secure port forwarding with ConnectBot on Android

Android is a pretty hot hacker platform. You can pretty much do whatever you want with an Android device, even to the point of bricking it (be careful with those 3rd-party kernels!). I recently gave in to my irresponsible streak and shelled out for a used Nexus One. The first thing I did was gleefully root it and flash the CyanogenMod-flavored kernel that everybody’s been raving about. Supposedly, CM runs slicker and faster, and is rumored to even provide better reception, on the N1. The custom-kernel thing really excites me; it sounds like the Cyanogen team are going to add in a driver to turn on Wireless-N on the Broadcom chip in the N1 in an upcoming release. That same Broadcom chip also includes an FM receiver/transmitter just waiting to be turned on.
I’m not a kernel hacker (I may be some day, but I’m certainly not starting with a mobile device). But I am a hacker, and so the whole portable-console idea of Android gets me all flustered. Yeah, Google Apps integration is great. Yeah, there are lots of cool 3rd-party apps to look at the SD card, sync with Dropbox, remote-control your torrent downloads, add as a drop-in replacement browser, etc. But the really cool thing that I just got going is doing SSH tunneling with an app called ConnectBot.
SSH tunneling is an amazing feature. With it, you can add transport-layer security (TLS) to any program where you have a server-side SSH account. This comes in quite handy for anything where passwords are sent in clear-text (i.e., via HTTP-Auth). When using a device over the air (e.g., any and all smartphones) you should always employ some form of encryption, be it password-level or session-level.
For running on a mobile device, ConnectBot is a very impressive SSH client. It facilitates SSH shell sessions, local/remote SSH port forwarding, shell-less SSH sessions (for port-forwarding only), and public key management. It also makes good progress in overcoming the ridiculous barrier of using a touchscreen keyboard to command a UNIX shell.
I’m going to walk through the steps required to setup port forwarding with ConnectBot. I’m going to assume here that I’ve got SSH access on a box running a webserver on port 80. By the end, we will have our own home-rolled http+TLS.
  • Download ConnectBot from the Android market (it’s free).
  • Launch ConnectBot. It’ll give you a nice little overview of the features, i.e., how to use the Ctrl key.
  • Enter an username@server in the bottom text box.
  • ConnectBot will initiate the connection. As this is very likely a key new to your phone, ConnectBot will ask you if you want to continue connecting (anybody who’s SSH’d into a box for the first time has seen this). Select “Yes”.
(On the N1, the onscreen keyboard stays up and hides the dialog box at the bottom of the screen. Hold down the menu softkey at the bottom until the keyboard disappears, then select “Yes”.)
  • Enter your password. You’ve now got a live connection to the server!
  • Tap the Menu key. Select the “Port Forwards” option. Tap the Menu key again and select “Add port forward”.
  • Ok, you’re now at the point where you can set up the forward. ConnectBot gives the option of local forwards (equivalent to the “-L” ssh command-line flag) and remote forwards (equivalent to “-R”). I always use local forwarding for this sort of thing, but YMMV (your method may vary). Enter the “Source port”, i.e., which point you want to connect to on your local device, and the “Destination”, where you want to connect to on the destination network. For a webserver running on the same box we’re connecting to, we’ll use these values:
Source port: 8080 Destination: localhost:80
What this means is that we’re going to connect to “localhost:8080” in our browser, and that will tunnel a connection to the “localhost” on the remote end (the server we’re connected to) on port 80 (the standard port reserved for HTTP).
  • Tap “Create port forward”.
And that’s it! You can now load your browser of choice, type “localhost:8080” into the location, and voila, you have a TLS-enabled connection to the remote server! Now, of course you’re not going to be using this much for remote web browsing, as you likely don’t have SSH accounts on all of your favorite web servers. But you can definitely use this for any sort of web interface that you might have on a box at home or at work.

Just got back from Edinburgh where I observed that

Just got back from Edinburgh where I observed that:
There are noticeably more men with beards than there are in England.
There is a glut of very old, very thin, bent-over women who walk around very slowly. They wear eccentric clothing, such as pink rain hats in good weather, and they are very, very tiny.
Traffic lights stay on red much longer than in England. They must of course also stay on green much longer, but I am too busy speeding along to observe that.
There are large grey-backed seagulls that stand on the heads of statues of famous people. {Word to the wise - do not become famous and have your statue erected in Edinburgh unless you like the idea of your statue having a guano-white face.}

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

expanding comment box invites nonsense stream of consciousness

Pretty Comments brought about this:

...and the end of the addition to the sum of the events was unlikely ever to be seen as the thing that it was and rather that as long as they can raise a rifle or a musket they can fall like the next man and expand to fit the known universe of things that no-one has wanted for a good long while. And all this made out of chromed steel.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How To Get Your Custom Domain Name To Direct To Blogger

I have just changed from to the new custom domain that you can see in the URL address above.

Once I had bought the domain name, I directed the www. to the address to which Google required.

That worked OK but I saw that the non-www version of the site was simply directing to a parked domain at the address of the domain registrar (

I read Google's information on the subject and I read various Question and Answers on lots of forums and they all seemed to think it was impossible to get around this problem or that curing it involved adding a piece of html redirect code in the 'head' section of the blog.

As I say, I registered this domain with and the way I solved the problem was to go into the domain settings at GoDaddy and order the non-www site to forward to www.

It has taken a few hours to propagate and it all seems to be working OK.

Talya Imas was nine months' pregnant when she was killed

The victims are a husband and wife, parents of six, and two passengers. Their names were cleared for publication Tuesday night by local police:
  • Yitzchak and Talya Imas
  • Kochava Even-Chaim
  • Avishai Shindler
The four were all citizens of Beit Haggai, located between Hevron and Be'er Sheva.
Yitzchak and Talya Imas were the parents of six children, the eldest one being 24 years old and the youngest one being a year and a half old. Talya Imas was nine months' pregnant when she was killed by the terrorists.
Kochava Even-Chaim was a teacher in Efrat. She left behind her husband and an 8-year-old daughter. Her husband, one of�the first Zaka first aid volunteers�to arrive at the scene, discovered that his wife was among the victims when he approached the attacked car.Read more at