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Cloth nappy influencers — the world has gone bonkers

I think the world went mad in 1989 but sometimes I read something that makes me wonder if it has breached the ‘crazy’ barrier and now resides in some category of lunacy that’s so extreme it doesn’t even have a word to describe it yet.

This particular section of the article I link to was what did it:

Mother-of-four Cecilia Leslie has built up a stash of about 500 nappies.

The full-time midwife is now a cloth nappy "influencer" with more than 22,000 Instagram followers.

A cloth nappy influencer? Really? I had to check to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.

Now I’ll forgive anyone who has a strange hobby and when she says:

"I paid £60 for a limited edition print that TotsBots brought out when Prince George was born. And I once paid £160 for a pair of limited edition Bumgenius nappies - there were only 100 made."

It makes me cringe but, well, each to their own.

It’s the fact that we have ‘influencers’ that astonishes me; that 22,000 people are ‘influenced’ to purchase something ludicrously expensive just for a baby to crap into.

When she says:

… she's chatted to her husband about how he feels about her nappy habit. "He agreed the money could be better spent … “

I can’t help but sympathise with the guy.

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Equalizer 2 (2018) film review

Having enjoyed watching Equalizer 1 a few years ago, I watched the sequel, Equalizer 2, during the weekend just gone. I present my review of that film here for what it's worth.

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AI tricks reCAPTCHA, but why do we have these things anyway?

Wired reports on how reCAPTCHA tests — which aim to determine whether a website visitor is human or a bot — can be fooled by AI.

But the question I ask is why do we have to see these things in the first place?

I hate having to decipher some barely legible text to prove I’m human, and I positively despise those tests that ask me to highlight any buses or crosswalks in a set of small, unclear images, often numerous times.

In all likelihood I’ll just give up with the website. Few websites are worth the bother.

I know I’m human and if a computer doesn’t believe me then that’s its problem. If it needs to do any checks, they should be invisible to me and not involve me fighting with crappy text or images.

Don’t bother me with “there’s no other way”, find one. The visitor’s experience should be untarnished. I don’t care if bots are visiting your site, that’s your problem. Please don’t make it mine.

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Mandy (2018) film review - psychotic psychedelia

'Mandy' is a 2018 psychedelic horror film that was generally praised by critics and the public. I review that film here after watching it the other day and I have to say I largely disagree with the praise it has received.

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Today is Pi Day

‘Pi day’ is when we celebrate the number pi. Streamers are hung from ceilings and we wear party hats to honour the most famous of irrational numbers. It’s on the 14th of March because of the odd way Americans write dates: 3.14.

As part of their celebrations, Google announced that one of its employees with rather too much time on her hands has set a record for calculating pi digits. She calculated it to 31,415,926,535,897 digits, which is a lot.

It would be easy to mock and ask why she bothered but I have a grudging respect for things that are done purely for the sake of interest or challenge, but are otherwise pointless. So well done to Emma Haruka Iwao.

If you’re interested — and really you should be — NASA has previously posted 18 ways in which it uses pi.

And if your geekdom knows no bounds you might want to read about how ancient geometers went about squaring the circle.

All hail pi.

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Hunter Killer review - tense but otherwise average

I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch on telly yesterday evening so I downloaded 'Hunter Killer' from Apple and watched that. This is my brief review of that film.

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Will GPS give us another Y2K situation on 6 April?

I remember some of the predictions about the Y2K situation. Life as we know it would end and society would be hurled back to the Stone Age. Only bows and arrows would remain and if you wanted lunch you’d have to hunt and kill it first.

In the event there was barely a grumble from our computer systems. Most IT departments had fixed the problem long before December 31st 1999.

The 6th April 2019 is going to be another Y2K situation, this time relating to GPS and satellites.

Legacy GPS systems calculate the date and time by storing a week number and then the number of seconds into that week. The week number is only stored in 10-bit field, making for a maximum of 1024 weeks, which is approximately 19.6 years.

GPS time started on 6 January 1980, so we’ve already passed one GPS epoch on 21st August 1999. I don’t remember reading too much about problems with GPS back then, although it’s fair to say GPS was much less prevalent in 1999 than it is now.

So the counter was reset in 1999 and the next reset is due on 6 April this year (2019).

Will this Y2K-type situation throw us back to an era of woolly mammoths?

I doubt it. I would imagine the ground station IT people have it in hand. Furthermore, newer satellite systems use a 13-bit field for the week, giving us 8192 weeks or 157.5 years.

We should be safe, although the US Naval Observatory has seen fit to issue a warning about it.

These words may come back to haunt me but I’d like to bet we barely notice. Nevertheless, I’d avoid taking a flight that day.

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Zuckerberg suddenly embraces privacy

Mark Zuckerberg says:

I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever.

If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.

Hmm, forgive my disbelief from a man whose reputation in areas of privacy is, frankly, terrible and has recently even exploited two-factor authorisation security as means to invade users’ privacy via their phone number.

It’s a bit like hearing Hannibal Lector plead he’s strictly a salad man these days.

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The scourge of flat-pack

I really hate flat-pack furniture. I'm terrible at putting it together because I'm a clumsy oaf. I would not, however, deprive anyone who likes this sort of junk but I'd certainly like a change to he way flat-pack items are advertised.

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Suunto Core All Black review

Having failed in my first attempt to replace my Omega with a new watch, I went back to the drawing board and started researching watches again. This time I ended up with the Suunto Core All-Black, which I'm quite happy with. It has one or two minor faults, though, which I describe in this review.

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Ong’s Hat - a fascinating conspiracy game from the early internet

Jed Oelbaum at Gizmodo tells the (long) story of Ong’s Hat, which involves physics, mysticism, inter-dimensional travel and government raids. It was only ever a game but the early internet got hold of it and turned it into a conspiracy.

Any article with this sort of stuff in it is going to be fun to read for me:

According to the brochure, which included detailed, technical descriptions of the scientific activities and day-to-day life at the Ashram, “the spiritual rhythms permeating the place proved ideal.” The group thrived, living in “a scattering of weather-gray shacks, Airstream trailers, recycled chicken coops, and mail-order yurts,” as its experiments grew increasingly bizarre and esoteric, in an effort to train the powers of the mind to manipulate the quantum underpinnings of reality itself. Finally, after some years, they produced “the Egg,” a pod that could actually pierce the veil between parallel universes, enabling travel to other dimensions.

It’s complete tosh of course but what’s interesting is the way these things expand and grow, driven mainly by people who just love to believe a conspiracy.

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Avoid big tech silos for your services

It’s a subject I keep coming back to. If you write content for the web, keep it all under your control. Text, images, code, domains …. the lot.

Colin Devroe writes about how even big, 100m-user sites can just suddenly disappear because they’re just “not worth the bother” to some big tech companies.

On a related note, companies can just change APIs at will too, screwing up some of the services you use. The Red Sweater blog writes about how MarsEdit can no longer support Blogger because Google is shutting down the Picasa Web Albums API.

I helped a friend of mine set up a Wordpress site a while ago and we were up and running with a blog on his own domain name, on a private server within about an hour. That’s all it takes.

I worry when people effectively journal on places like Facebook. They’re just not in control of their data. It seems incomprehensible that Facebook might one day disappear, but why take the risk? Why leave years of journals in a place where you have no real control? Use your own site and simply point to it via social media if you must.

Keep control of your data and back it up regularly.

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Technical frippery

By technical frippery I mean technology and gadgets that really aren't worth the bother. They don't really save a great deal of time or effort. There's a lot of them around these days and I thought I'd muse on the subject for a few hundred words.

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The biggest threats to humanity

Simon Beard and Lauren Holt of the BBC have written an interesting article on what might pose the biggest threat to humanity.

Obviously climate change features, as do volcanoes, diseases, asteroid strikes, AI and similar.

However, I think they’ve forgotten a big one: overpopulation. We simply cannot support the population we have on the planet already and it it is increasing rapidly. When I say we cannot support the population, I mean we do not. Wealth spread evenly may well be able to do so but anyone who thinks that might ever happen is seriously overestimating human nature.

Even if that were to happen there would come a point, with current rates of population increase, where we’d just have too many people to feed and provide for.

We need a turnover of population of course. Put bluntly the old pay for the young until they leave home and then the young pay for the old when the young are working: pensions, medical care and such.

It’s not just the rising population but the rate at which it is rising has gone off the scale in the last few hundred years and, I believe, it’s unsustainable.

But I guess woe betide any government who tries to restrict breeding. The Chinese did it for a while but then again they’ve got a grip on their people that Western governments simply don’t have.

It is noticeable even between the 1970s and now. There are just far more people around and it just can’t go on unchecked.

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Smarter iKettle 3 review

I do like my tea. I probably drink too much of it. But with my old kettle playing up I had the perfect opportunity to upgrade to something interesting and I ended up with Smarter's iKettle 3, which I review here.

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Casio G-Shock Mudmaster GWG-1000 review

My trusty Omega Seamaster went bang after 20 years and I wanted something completely different, so I went for a Casio Mudmaster which is about as different as you can get to an Omega. Anyway here's my review of the watch.

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Supremely Washable 4.5 Tog Printed Duvet review

I'm so unfailingly lazy that a duvet one doesn't need to extract covers from to wash is always going to appeal. In this case I'm talking about one of Marks' Washable Duvets, which I review here.

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People are nuts about Fortnite

The BBC takes a look at Fortnite hackers and the money they make from it.

I find it all a bit bizarre. Not that Fortnite gets hacked, but that people actually pay money to the hackers. I appreciate the ‘victims’ the BBC interviewed were very young and such things seem disproportionately important to the young, but — and here’s the important bit — it’s a just a game.

When you get young hackers appearing in a documentary about a game with their faces covered like they'd just beheaded someone on the internet, you have to wonder if the world has gone completely mad.

Hacking is a scourge in today’s technological society and the nature of the world’s IT is such that I can’t see it being prevented any time soon, but I believe the authorities will catch more hackers and the punishments will become more severe.

In this particular instance, though, a clearer sense of perspective would help. I find it hard to be particularly sympathetic to the victims of the hacking of a misspelt game.

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Helm Personal Email Server overview

Fancy hosting your own email but don’t want the sysadmin overhead? Maybe Helm is for you and Lee Hutchinson at ArsTechnica has written a fantastic overview of the service.

This definitely interests me as I’m always looking at ways to get away from corporate silos. I currently use Microsoft’s Office365 Exchange service for my email and it’s perfectly fine, but I like to extract myself from the global tech companies as much as possible.

Alas I can’t use Helm at the moment. It doesn’t yet support multiple domains (and I need two) and, crucially, it’s not yet available in the UK.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.

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Tenda Nova Mesh WiFi review

I've always suffered from poor wi-fi here, just one room away from the router. That's due to the thick walls in the old building I live in. I've previously used Powerline plugs but I wanted to see if a mesh wi-fi system could handle things. The one I went with was a Tenda Nova MW6, which I review here.

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What do people do at cashpoints?

I must be missing something that goes on at cashpoints. At Sainsbury’s yesterday I was standing in the rain with two people ahead of me in the queue for the cashpoint. Both took an inordinate amount of time to simply withdraw cash and they seemed to press an unaccountable number of buttons.

As far as I can tell it’s card in, then the PIN, which is four key presses (the PIN doesn’t even require enter). Then it’s one key press to select cash only and one key press to select the money you want from the list. So it should really be six key presses and then you’re done. Let’s be generous and say you’re an awkward bastard who doesn’t care about the people getting soaked behind you and you don’t want one of the preset denominations of money. That would be maybe another three or four key presses.

Either way, you’re going to be done in under ten keypresses and less than a minute.

So what in the name of the rain god are people doing spending many minutes and dozens of key presses at a cashpoint? Can you send emails from cashpoints these days? I mean they can’t need their balance or anything like that because we have online banking these days. People can do that from home beforehand, where it’s dry.

Fortunately I have a solution. Cashpoints need a one minute timer that starts when you insert your card. If you exceed that time limit the bank should send a huge bolt of electricity through the cashpoint to fry you to ashes. One of the Sainsbury’s people could then just sweep you up and make the cashpoint available to the people standing in the rain behind you.

I think I’ve found a nice balanced solution to the problem there.

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