29 June 2023

Reading for today: Why pain?

The human spirit will not even begin to try and surrender self-will as long as all seem to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. 

Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt… And pain is not only immediately recognizable evil, but evil impossible to ignore. We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shovelling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. 

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

28 June 2023

He who lives by the sword will die by it: spyware app gets hacked!

A hacker has stolen the messages, call logs and locations intercepted by a widely used phone monitoring app called LetMeSpy, according to the company that makes the spyware.

The phone monitoring app, which is used to spy on thousands of people using Android phones around the world, said in a notice on its login page that on June 21, “a security incident occurred involving obtaining unauthorized access to the data of website users​​.”

“As a result of the attack, the criminals gained access to e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and the content of messages collected on accounts,” the notice read.

LetMeSpy is a type of phone monitoring app that is marketed for parental control or employee monitoring. The app is also specifically designed to stay hidden on a phone’s home screen, making it difficult to detect and remove. Also known as stalkerware or spouseware, these kinds of phone monitoring apps are often planted by someone — such as spouses or domestic partners — with physical access to a person’s phone, without their consent or knowledge.

Once planted, LetMeSpy silently uploads the phone’s text messages, call logs and precise location data to its servers, allowing the person who planted the app to track the person in real time.

For their deep level of access to a person’s phone, these surveillance apps are notoriously buggy and known for rudimentary security mistakes, with countless spyware apps over the years getting hacked, or leaking and exposing the private phone data stolen from unwitting victims. LetMeSpy is not much different...


27 June 2023

Compliments of BikeSafe & police motorcyclists - free online training. Be skilful, be safe, be seen

BikeSafe is a national police run motorcycle initiative, aimed at working with motorcycle riders in a relaxed environment to raise awareness of the importance and value of progressing on to accredited post-test training. BikeSafe workshops involve an observed ride with a police graded motorcyclist or approved BikeSafe observer. With some local variation, BikeSafe workshops aim to cover: attitude, observation, cornering, overtaking, filtering, junctions, group riding, hazard awareness and the system of motorcycle control.

1. BikeSafe eLearning. Motorcycle skills/safety development videos - x9 modules - takes two hours and is time well spent - especially if you like the idea of being skilful, safe and seen. bikesafe.co.uk

 2. BikeSafe Extra. Live online theory class - hosted by one of our police motorcyclists, this is a lively and interactive, two-hour review of the key aspects of motorcycle roadcraft. Dates: 22/06, 06/07, 27/07, 17/08, 20/08, 07/09, 21/09, 05/10 and 12/10. bikesafe.co.uk

And of course, we highly recommend that all motorcyclists join us for one of our 'gold-standard' BikeSafe police-led workshops. BikeSafe has been running for twenty years, costs just £65 and is the perfect opportunity for a 'skills check-up'. Find your local venue here: bikesafe.co.uk

Be skilful. Be safe. Be seen - and we look forward to seeing you online or at one of our full BikeSafe workshops or at a future motorcycle event.

I did the Bikesafe course on Sunday 29th April 2018: it was the best £50 I've ever spent! NB: now £65 (bah, inflation!) but is still a bargain. High quality training by police motorcyclists: which will make you a better, more thoughtful rider, and might just save your life...


Randomly received a smartwatch (or other tech gadget)? Don’t turn it on, investigators warn.

Smartwatches capable of automatically connecting to cellphones and Wi-Fi, then gaining access to user data, are being shipped to members of the U.S. military seemingly at random, raising cybersecurity concerns.

The Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, in an announcement last week warned the watches may contain malware, potentially granting whoever sent the peripherals “access to saved data to include banking information, contacts, and account information such as usernames and passwords.”

A more innocuous tactic may also be to blame: so-called brushing, used in e-commerce to boost a seller’s ratings through fake orders and reviews.

The CID, an independent federal law enforcement agency consisting of thousands of personnel, did not say exactly how many smartwatches were so far distributed.

Wearable technology and downloadable applications have long clashed with the national security ecosystem, where secrecy is paramount. Smartwatches and their software log personal info and location data, can record audio, and often lack a sufficient means to validate users.


26 June 2023

Do you have a Hikvision or Dahua security camera? Time to check/update firmware, or replace!

Chinese-made surveillance cameras are in British offices, high streets and even government buildings - and Panorama has investigated security flaws involving the two top brands. How easy is it to hack them and what does it mean for our security?

In a darkened studio inside the BBC's Broadcasting House in London, a man sits at his laptop and enters his password. Thousands of miles away, a hacker is watching everything he types. Next, the BBC employee picks up his mobile phone and enters the passcode. The hacker now has that, too.

A security flaw in the surveillance camera on the ceiling - manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision - means it's now vulnerable to attack.

"I own that device now - I can do whatever I want with that," says the hacker. "I can disable it… or I can use it to watch what's going on at the BBC." Thankfully for the man being watched, the hacker is working with the BBC. This is part of a series of experiments by Panorama to test the security of some Chinese-made surveillance cameras.

Hikvision and Dahua are two of the world's leading manufacturers of surveillance cameras. Nobody knows how many of their units line the UK's streets...


23 June 2023

The people paid to train AI are outsourcing their work… to AI

A significant proportion of people paid to train AI models may be themselves outsourcing that work to AI, a new study has found.  It’s a practice that could introduce further errors into already error-prone models.

It takes an incredible amount of data to train AI systems to perform specific tasks accurately and reliably. Many companies pay gig workers on platforms like Mechanical Turk to complete tasks that are typically hard to automate, such as solving CAPTCHAs, labeling data and annotating text. This data is then fed into AI models to train them. The workers are poorly paid and are often expected to complete lots of tasks very quickly. 

Large language models are full of security vulnerabilities, yet they’re being embedded into tech products on a vast scale.

No wonder some of them may be turning to tools like ChatGPT to maximize their earning potential. But how many? To find out, a team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) hired 44 people on the gig work platform Amazon Mechanical Turk to summarize 16 extracts from medical research papers. Then they analyzed their responses using an AI model they’d trained themselves that looks for telltale signals of ChatGPT output, such as lack of variety in choice of words. They also extracted the workers’ keystrokes in a bid to work out whether they’d copied and pasted their answers, an indicator that they’d generated their responses elsewhere.

They estimated that somewhere between 33% and 46% of the workers had used AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It’s a percentage that’s likely to grow even higher as ChatGPT and other AI systems become more powerful and easily accessible, according to the authors of the study, which has been shared on arXiv and is yet to be peer-reviewed. 


21 June 2023

The incredible work of Child of Hope in Uganda

Child of Hope, Uganda is a Christian-based charity making huge improvements for slum children and their families from its schools in Eastern Uganda – by providing free education, healthcare and welfare to kids from the poorest and most vulnerable families. And helping their mums start a small business helps lift the whole family out of the worst excesses of poverty.

Here are a couple of short videos, showing the work & the difference Child of Hope makes in the Namatala slum near Mbale, and Karamoja, Northern Uganda:
Child of Hope - what we do
Prayer and worship video

Call to action: please consider supporting this fantastic charity, by Prayer, donating or sponsoring one of the children. Thank you!


Windows 11 still struggling for market share - even with sneaky upgrades!


Windows 11 may be the newest operating system from Microsoft, but it's far from the most used. Windows 10 has hovered around a 70% market share for well over a year, according to Statcounter. Interestingly, the latest stats showed a large increase in Windows 10 users in February 2023.

Windows 10 market share increased from 68.86% to 73.31% between January and February of this year. That spike brings the operating system to its highest share since June 2022.

Windows 7 market share in February plummeted from 9.55% to 5.33%. Notably, Windows 7 extended support ended in January 2023.

While other factors may be at play. Users are likely moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10 because their systems do not meet the strict hardware requirements of Windows 11. PCs that originally shipped with Windows 7 are unlikely to have the components necessary to upgrade to Windows 11, such as a TPM 2.0 chip.

Windows 10 will still be supported until October 2025, so anyone running the operating system has a while before worrying about finding a system that can run Windows 11.

Geeky fact of the day time! While talking about Operating Systems, let's briefly look back from the current duff one (Win11) to through the Microsoft "Wall Of Shame" to Windows Vista... Did you know that the Windows Start up Sound in Vista was composed by Robert Fripp? The start-up sound in Vista was the best thing about that version of Windows!


20 June 2023

Apple, the company, wants rights to the image of apples

The fruit union Suisse is 111 years old. For most of its history, it has had as its symbol a red apple with a white cross - the Swiss national flag superimposed on one of its most common fruits. But the group, the oldest and largest fruit farmer’s organization in Switzerland, worries it might have to change its logo, because Apple, the tech giant, is trying to gain intellectual property rights over depictions of apples, the fruit.

“We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they’re trying to protect their bitten apple,” Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mari├ęthoz says, referring to the company’s iconic logo. “Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal … that should be free for everyone to use.”

While the case has left Swiss fruit growers puzzled, it’s part of a global trend. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s records, Apple has made similar requests to dozens of IP authorities around the world, with varying degrees of success. Authorities in Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia have acquiesced. Apple’s quest to own the IP rights of something as generic as a fruit speaks to the dynamics of a flourishing global IP rights industry, which encourages companies to compete obsessively over trademarks they don’t really need.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.


Reading for today: why pray?


Prayer is either a sheer illusion - or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. 

Prayer, in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; 
confession and penitence are its threshold, 
adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. 
In it God shows Himself to us.

By: C.S. Lewis

From: The World's Last Night

16 June 2023

Something uplifting for the weekend: Kenneth Branagh doing what he does best


Henry V - Saint Crispin's Day speech 

WESTMORELAND  O, that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do no work today.

KING HENRY  What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin.

If we are marked to die, we are enough

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will, I pray thee wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, ’faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.

God’s peace, I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me,

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart. His passport shall be made,

And crowns for convoy put into his purse.

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian.

He that outlives this day and comes safe home

Will stand o’ tiptoe when this day is named

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours

And say “Tomorrow is Saint Crispian.”

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words,

Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.

This story shall the good man teach his son,

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember├Ęd—

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now abed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

www.folger.edu - Henry V

If you liked that, you'll love this: 

Henry V - live at Guildford Cathedral performed by Guildford Shakespeare Company

15 June 2023

Hackers can steal cryptographic keys by video-recording power LEDs 60 feet away

Researchers have devised a novel attack that recovers the secret encryption keys stored in smart cards and smartphones by using cameras in iPhones or commercial surveillance systems to video record power LEDs that show when the card reader or smartphone is turned on.

The attacks enable a new way to exploit two previously disclosed side channels, a class of attack that measures physical effects that leak from a device as it performs a cryptographic operation. By carefully monitoring characteristics such as power consumption, sound, electromagnetic emissions, or the amount of time it takes for an operation to occur, attackers can assemble enough information to recover secret keys that underpin the security and confidentiality of a cryptographic algorithm.


14 June 2023

Western Digital sparks panic, anger for age-shaming HDDs

When should you be concerned about a NAS hard drive failing? Multiple factors are at play, so many might turn to various SMART (self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology) data. When it comes to how long the drive has been active, there are backup companies like Backblaze using hard drives that are nearly 8 years old. That may be why some customers have been panicked, confused, and/or angered to see their Western Digital NAS hard drive automatically given a warning label in Synology's DiskStation Manager (DSM) after they were powered on for three years. With no other factors considered for these automatic flags, Western Digital is accused of age-shaming drives to push people to buy new HDDs prematurely.

The practice's revelation is the last straw for some users. Western Digital already had a steep climb to win back NAS customers' trust after shipping NAS drives with SMR (shingled magnetic recording) instead of CMR (conventional magnetic recording). Now, some are saying they won't use or recommend the company's hard drives anymore.


13 June 2023

Reading for today: building up our spiritual muscles - the practice of faith


Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

By C.S. Lewis

From Mere Christianity

12 June 2023

Google to staff: you know that WFH thing? Well it's over!

Google plans to crack down on employees who haven’t been coming into its offices consistently, CNBC has found.

The company updated its hybrid work policy Wednesday and it includes tracking office badge attendance, confronting workers who aren’t coming in when they’re supposed to and including the attendance in employees’ performance reviews, according to internal memos viewed by CNBC. Most employees are expected in physical offices at least three days a week.

Google’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi, wrote an email to employees at the end of the day on Wednesday, which included doubling down on office attendance, reasoning that “there’s just no substitute for coming together in person.”


09 June 2023

Reading for today: Jesus is the gateway to salvation

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Read all of Matthew 7 at Bible Gateway