myDigitalLife Blogs

Scurrying between the intertubes and real life.
Oct 05

Would you like fries with your software, sir?

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


Ubuntu is getting easier and easier to use - and that's not just because I'm getting used to it.

Oct 01

Blatant hypocrisy: The situation in Burma, and our apparent lack of interest in it

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


We sit here and bemoan the crime rate, and petrol price and traffic, and slow internet speeds, and lack of any decent movies on, or the dismal cricket score, while people across the world are dying for freedom and democracy.

Sep 23

Look out, bloggers! It's back!

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


I woke up this morning expecting it to be just another Sunday-before-a-public holiday, which really just makes it a second Saturday. It's a beautiful day, it's pretty quiet here and generally nice and I was going to spend the day relaxing and maybe reading a nice big book that I borrowed from a friend. All in all, a nice day.

Sep 19

Did Bill Gates Remember To Wipe?

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


Micro$oft have lost their Antitrust appeal in Europe! While it does threaten Google, Intel, and Apple, this is a huge victory for OpenSource.

Sep 15

Toy Soldiers

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


I haven't blogged in a while - blame it on exams and the lack of anything really interesting. Until now. I have one exam left to study for and a few days ago, found something very, very interesting.

Aug 28

Do it yourself!

Posted by salambander in Untagged 

I'm quite proud of myself. My computer crashed and I fixed it all on my own, without even googling for help. In the process of fixing it I discovered lots of shiny new things that can be done, such as listing files in columns, in reverse, through the terminal (I had to find them to delete them).

But even more, having worked out how to fix the problem myself, I could then go and help other people who were probably having the same problem. So I posted in the Ubuntu support forums, and... I wasn't flamed. It's a good sign.

So yay! If a problem shows its face, try to fix it yourself, and learn while you do it, so you can then help others and get this lovely warm and fuzzy feeling. If everyone did this, maybe there'd be no problems in the world that were not solved somewhere, and blah blah something world peace.

Well, there's a hole in my logic (dear Liza, dear Liza) in that if no one asked for help, instead trying to fix their problems themselves, then who would the people who have solved the problems be able to help? Um...

Aha: if you've got a problem, try to fix it yourself first. Then, when all looks hopeless, ask for help. And besides, if asking for help in a forum, people are much more responsive when they know that you've tried, and besides, they like a challenge.

Aug 25

Work vs Play

Posted by salambander in Untagged 

Thank God it's Saturday. Today I didn't have to wake up at seven. Today I didn't have to zigzag between Port Louis and Grand Bay (two of the most congested areas in Mauritius) and today I didn't have to deal with excruciating hours of boredom with brief moments of frenzied panic, at the whim of one man - the Boss.

Since Tuesday, I have been working full-time hours. And it has been hard, but for some reason preferable to studying. Unfortunately, between working from 8am to 8pm every day and studying as much as I can before I fall asleep at my desk has not left much room for blogging. I'm sorry. With 9 days to prelims, I'm under so much pressure that I feel like pressing fast forward on life. I turned 18 yesterday, which is supposed to be that milestone between childhood and adulthood, but it was anticlimatic and these days I'm just really, really tired.

I missed click-a-lot day because it happened to coincide with our busiest day this week, so hopefully all of you who have been waiting patiently for something from me (watch my ego grow!) will get all your friends and family to read this too.

Ok. Enough about me. Let's talk about work, and make this more of a blog than a journal.

To me, life has always seemed relatively pointless - we're born, we educate ourselves, we eat, we work, we sleep, we love, we die. It has always seemed as though we all just spend our lives keeping ourselves busy in order to pass time, and for what? Some do it to make a difference in the world, like doctors (although, as The Source puts it, they're just obsessed with slicing people open) and some are trying to make as much money as possible, so that they can live their lives in luxury and perhaps give their children better lives than they had.

So we get jobs, either to make that difference, make money or make time pass while we wait for something better that may or may not come along. We could be like Hiro, in that first episode of Heroes, staring at a clock in the hopes that something extraordinary might happen. And luckily for him, it did. My attempts have not been so successful. Eyestrain and a very short attention span are my downfall.

We try to make our lives more interesting by being melodramatic - how can blinking when staring at a clock be "my downfall?" It's just a minor disappointment, not a life-changing tragedy. We set goals, and when we reach them, we set more. If we fail to reach those goals, we set smaller ones or easier ones, just to have that short lived feeling of having accomplished something more than breathing in, and breathing out.

We look for love, sometimes find it and get married, and have children. Those children grow up and leave home, and then what? Well, if you're anything like my parents, you fill your life with golf, pets and parties.

You play. Even playing is just a pasttime; while fun, it just makes time fly.

So, play becomes a form of work - working to keep ourselves entertained for as long as it takes to die.

So what's it all about, then?

I don't know. But I'm sure the number 42 has something to do with it.
Aug 14

Pre-Meditated Murder

Posted by salambander in Untagged 

It's coming. I can hear it. Softly, stealthily, making it's way toward me. And I wait.

I try not to breathe. It likes it when I breathe. It can find me, when I breathe. So I hold my breath, let it out through my nose, and wait for agonizing airless moments until I breathe again. The darkness of the night hides it, but I can hear it. Dogs barking in the distance distract me and it strikes.

I was waiting. That tell-tale prickling of the skin, the little sting. My hand is a black-belt at Mos Kwee Djo, the art of mosquito killing. Within moments, all that is left of the little black creature is an unsightly black mark on my arm. It never saw me coming. And it didn't have ears to hear.

But a thought hits me as I lie awake at night, waiting for the sly little buggers to come, to settle unsuspectingly on what must to them be like a chocolate fountain the size of a small country: is this murder? 

We don't die from mosquito bites. Well, unless they are disease carriers, and even then, it's not the bite but the laying of eggs that is the problem. But your everyday, just-out-for-some-fast-food mosquito is no killer. All that we suffer is maybe a day or so of itchiness, and an annoying red mark.

No, they are not killers. I, however, lie awake at night thinking up strategies for multiple killings, and waiting for that perfect moment to get that unsuspecting creature in my clutches. There are many ways to do it:

A simple slap usually does the trick, but can start to hurt if you do it too many times.
Slamming them against a wall is my next step. But that leaves ugly marks that are a mission to clean.
Waiting for it to land on your skin and then pulling the skin so that they are trapped, and can't pull out, eventually exploding from over-indulgence doesn't stop them biting you.
And snatching them out of the air is an art that takes some time to master (but is surprisingly gratifying when you get it right).

Planning. That's all it takes. And patience. Choosing your prey too - the bigger ones, fat with blood, are much more fun to kill than the half-starved skinny little grey ones.

And the satisfaction gleaned from massacring innocent creatures that are simply trying to survive is horrifyingly nice. If you're the non-violent type, mosquito coils and mozzie machines either kill them with poisonous fumes or attract them to violently dangerous bug zappers. But you're still killing them.

They're still defenceless. It's still murder. So what then? Do we let these creepy little things suck our blood forever, instead of slapping them when they try to?

It's a lot harder to stop killing them than it would seem. Reflexes have taught me to slap any little tingle or itch I feel before scratching it. But I'm trying. Really, really hard. It's not their fault they are freaky little bloodsucking monsters.
Aug 11

Vista in Schools

Posted by salambander in Untagged 

Right. I've gone on and on about the awfulness of Vi$ta. But only today something far more sinister about it crept into the very small conscious bit of my mind: Vi$ta in schools.

For decades now, schools and universities have tried to keep up to date by installing the latest version of Window$ software, and teaching their students how to use it.

So, this means that they will probably install it on the computers at my varsity-to-be. Which means I'll be forced to use it. But the fact is, this is unnecessarily expensive, pointless and risky to the University.

Firstly, the computers that they already have in the open computer centres where all the students go onto Facebook and pretend to work are barely coping with Window$ 2000. So, to be able to "upgrade" to Vi$ta, they'd have to buy about 100 new computers for that room alone. Not to mention the library, classrooms, and all the other computers in the university. Which will cost a lot of money.

Then, they have to actually buy Vi$ta, and the licenses needed to run it on each and every machine. Which is also a lot of money.

Then, they need to train their staff (lecturers, secretaries, the works) on how to use Vi$ta. Which will cost them money in terms of hours it will take to get used to the change, and be able to do things properly. In this transition period, the risks of losing supposedly secure information are doubled, and the staff will lose some of their motivation because face it: no one likes to feel stupid looking for menus in the logical places and not finding them because Window$ has moved them onto stupid little ribbons that make no sense.

These all add up to lots and lots and lots of money and time that could be put to better use.

The solution is the same as ever: switch to opensource software and operating systems. Using Ubuntu, for example - even Edubuntu, which is specially designed for schools - would be free to install. The computers themselves don't have to be replaced with more expensive models, the functions in OpenOffice software are much the same as in Window$ XP and the menus are all exactly where you would look for them. Which means that the staff don't need to be retrained.

Security-wise, any holes found by the Tech support team can be easily patched, and there are guaranteed to be fewer than those in Window$ Vi$ta, which, sadly, cannot be patched by us, but instead offers patches for download that don't solve the problems we might have found in the first place.

Also, in terms of networking: A Window$ network is very, very unfriendly. Ubuntu machines are frequently kicked off, and you can forget about getting your MacBook to work on it. However, with an Ubuntu network (or any other Linux networks) anything different, including Window$ machines, is welcomed. I don't mean that any bru with his laptop can hook up and steal everything. I just mean that it's easier to create a secure and functional network with Window$ and Linux machines. Hell, I've done it and I'm a High School student with no experience and no training in doing so.

So really, is it too hard to switch to something free?

And if they really, really can't bear to abandon Window$ but, like me, have found that Micro$oft Office 2007 is sorely lacking in common sense, OpenOffice is available in a Window$ compatible version! Seriously, you can download it for free and use it on your machines. The download is available from this site.

But that just makes me feel dirty. I mean, if you're going to do it, do it properly. Make an educated decision - there are other, better options out there. You just need to look for them.

Aug 07

The ECT Act of 2003 (how to PWN spammers)

Posted by salambander in Untagged 


Sick of spam? Well, something you might not be aware of:

The ECT Act of 2002 says the following:

45. Unsolicited goods, services or communications

1)Any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to consumers, must provide the consumer

a)with the option to cancel his or her subscription to the mailing list of that person; and

b)with the identifying particulars of the source from which that person obtained the consumer's personal information, on request of the consumer.

2)No agreement is concluded where a consumer has failed to respond to an unsolicited communication.

3)Any person who fails to comply with or contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to the penalties prescribed in section 89(1).

4)Any person who sends unsolicited commercial communications to a person who has advised the sender that such communications are unwelcome, is guilty of an offence and liable, on conviction, to the penalties prescribed in section 89(1).


51. Principles for electronically collecting personal information

1)A data controller must have the express written permission of the data subject for the     collection, collation, processing or disclosure of any personal information on that data subject unless he or she is permitted or required to do so by law.

2)A data controller may not electronically request, collect, collate, process or store personal information on a data subject which is not necessary for the lawful purpose for which the personal information is required.

3)The data controller must disclose in writing to the data subject the specific purpose for which any personal information is being requested, collected, collated, processed or stored.

4)The data controller may not use the personal information for any other purpose than the disclosed purpose without the express written permission of the data subject, unless he or she is permitted or required to do so by law.

5)The data controller must, for as long as the personal information is used and for a period of at (cast one year thereafter, keep a record of the personal information and the specific purpose for which the personal information was collected.

6)A data controller may not disclose any of the personal information held by it to a third party, unless required or permitted by law or specifically authorised to do so in writing by the data subject.

7)The data controller must, for as long as the personal information is used and for a period of at least one year thereafter, keep a record of any third party to whom the personal information was disclosed and of the date on which and the purpose for which it was disclosed.

8)The data controller must delete or destroy all personal information which has become obsolete.

9)A party controlling personal information may use that personal information to compile profiles for statistical purposes and may freely trade with such profiles and statistical data, as long as the profiles or statistical data cannot be linked to any specific data subject by a third party."


What does it all mean?

Well, what you do is reply to the spam, ask them where they got your information, ask them to take you off their list and threaten to prosecute them if they do not comply within 2 weeks.

Awesome or what?!

Some less orthodox methods include telling them that you are recording the conversation (in the case of phonespam) and asking for their names and surnames and the names of their companies and so on.

You raise your eyebrows a little sceptically and say, "Well, replying to spam will just verify my email address and then they'll sell it" but I tried it. It really works! SQUEE!

So, don't be a victim of irritating viagra ads or Universities asking you to register or any of that crap any more!

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