Smartwatch Prototype – 1981

11 Apr 2014


This image was designed by Robert Tinney, an artist who designed many magazine covers for Byte back in its prime. A “master of the airbrush”, his work helped give the sci/tech magazine some of its voice in the 70s and 80s.

This particular cover was designed for the April 1981 issue (April Fools) and was a tongue-in-cheek look at the future of computers.

A copy can be bought from Robert Tinney’s website

Securing phpMyAdmin

30 Apr 2013


I run phpMyAdmin for a number of websites and (thanks StackOverflow), this is my check list for phpMyAdmin Security.

What gets done depends a lot on the client’s webhost and how much control I have, but this is a short list of things which can be done.

  1. Change the folder location
    I’ve changed the application folder the obvious ones such as phpMyAdmin or pma to something a little less predictable; databaseliveshere or folder name of your choice.
  2. Passwords
    This is rather duh, but no harm in stating the obvious. Secure passwords which are proof against a brute-force attack
  3. Limit Access by IP Address
    This depends on how many people are accessing phpMyAdmin, and whether everyone has a static IP address, but I like to setup .htaccess so it restricts access to a subset of IP addresses.
    <limit GET> 
        order deny,allow 
        deny from all 
        allow from 
  4. Root shouldn’t have access to phpMyAdmin
    I edit the config file for phpMyAdmin and set AllowRoot to false
  5. HTTPS
    I set up a self-signed security certificate so I can access phpMyAdmin via https. This way the login and password can’t be leaked to an attacker.

Banned Words

5 Feb 2013

I've been working at a small software company recently, where the customer support team is three young guys who spend a lot of time of the phone.

I was really tickled to find this list of BANNED words, and had to ask for an explanation.

  • Mate
    It's a little too friendly. A lot of our customers are over sixty and they don't want to be matey with some young guy on the phone.
  • Bug
    We don't have bugs. Sometimes we have undocumented features, or unexpected outcomes. And sometimes we have to say "We'll get the developer to have a look at that" but we don't have any bugs. Bugs worry people.
  • Colleague
    Customer support are not allowed to say "I'll refer that to my colleague" because it makes us sound like some enormous heartless call centre in Swindon. We're small, and we want to make a feature out of being small and personal. So the support guys don't "refer the matter to a colleague"; instead they say "I'll ask Wes (or whoever) to take a look at this"
  • Obviously
    As soon as you say "Well, obviously..." you make people feel stupid. Obviously.

Working Day which works like clockwork

31 Dec 2012


Today I’ve been thinking about time-management, working from home, and I’ve ended up outlining my standard working day.

This is very much a platonic ideal, or a working mean – the normal deviates from the standard in almost every way. Times are moveable, I don’t go to the gym every day (if only), I don’t always start (or stop) at the same time, weekends often turn into work days, I have more or less personal time than I put down, I’m out visiting clients. But this is a rough outline of how I’d like the day to go.

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Phil Agre: How to help someone use a computer

23 Dec 2012


Years and years ago, I used to work in user support. At some point I found the following article on an email list and I personally found so useful and so to the point that I had the printout laminated and stuck it to the wall next to the main support desk. That was years ago, and since then I’ve had many jobs, learnt many things, and I no longer have the advice on “how to help someone” stuck to the wall.

Earlier this year, I bought a Mac and had to learn to use it after 20+ years of working with a PC and Windows. This meant I had to unlearn the habits of a lifetime (copy is Cmd+C, not Ctrl+C) and it was a sharp reminder of what it’s like to be a beginner again, and made me think of the article on “how to help someone use a computer” after many years. I went and dug it up out of the depths of the internet. It’s still valid, it’s still good, it’s still useful. And if you ever have to help anyone else (friends, family, members of the public, passing strangers) use a computer then this should be required reading.

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CSS is a messy mess

28 Nov 2012

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CSS is supposed to make my life easier (and it has) but it’s still a broken counter-intuitive very messy mess. It does not solve all problems, and for the past few days (on and off) I have been going round the bend trying to build a comparatively simple HTML / CSS layout.

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Leamington Spa Jelly

27 Nov 2012

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Yesterday, I took part in my first Jelly session.

Jelly is free, informal co-working for freelancers and home workers. If you love working from home, but occasionally find yourself desperate for a change of scenery, or for just a little bit of social interaction, then you can take your laptop, meet some new people and work in a new space for a day. You have some of the benefits of working in an office (brainstorming, bonding over client horrors and someone else to make the tea) without actually having to go and work in an office.

Working at the Jelly
Jelly People

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Project Management as a treeswing

22 Nov 2012

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Talking to a customer t’other day and I mentioned the (infamous) tree swing cartoon. He had no idea what I was talking about.

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Future of Web Apps – London 2012

9 Nov 2012

A few weeks ago, I went to the Future of Web Apps 2012 in London. 2 days of talks, and general geekiness

Why Go?

Why should I go to conferences, especially when I have to pay for it myself?

I work for myself, and most days I work on my own. Events are a chance to meet other people in the same field, to talk, to get excited, to get enthused, and to learn how much I don’t know. I’ve come home and there are things I’m excited about, some contacts, lots of people to follow, things to read, learning to do … and yes, it is worth it.

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Mac OS: Can’t move .svn/tmp/entries to .svn/entries: Operation not permitted

5 Aug 2012

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I’ve recently had a completely new (to me) SVN problem. I’ve been trying to update my SVN working copy from the reposisty and I get this error:

Can’t move ‘.svn/tmp/entries’ to ‘.svn/entries’: Operation not permitted

I’ve tried running the svn cleanup, but no joy. Google is my friend… the fix is to run this command in terminal

cd workingdir
chflags -Rv nouchg .

chflags – Change File Flags command
-R recursive, -v Verbose (tells you which files changed)
nouchg means the file can be changed (immutable bit cleared)

The immutable bit was a new one to me, so I had to go and look that one up as well. When you can’t take the chance of a file getting accidentally munged, you can set the immutable bit. Not even root can delete a file with the immutable bit set, unless they clears the bit first (making accidental removal highly unlikely). Very sensible, and since I’m exactly the kind of person who might accidentally delete whole swaths of files while in root mode, I can really see the point of an immutable bit.

However, I couldn’t work out how or where the immutable bit was being set. More googling … this seems to be a common problem where some developers are using windows & others are using mac os x. Still not sure of the WHY but the context makes sense.