Ramblings of this guy you know!

Tech Stuff and random observations on life as I see it….

End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Virus-Free | Mashable

This is a bit of a sensationalist title from Mashable: End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Virus-Free. Their description of what a virus is, is a tad loose… Perhaps if they had said End of an Era: Apple Computers No Longer Malware free, it may not have gathered the semantic hounds that flooded the comments for this post. However, one point remains true, Apple Mac users are now, and have been for a wee while now, been the target of attacks.

I partially blame technical individuals like myself who, fed up with relations constantly getting viruses, suggested they get a Mac as it was safer.. Nowadays, I’d recommend a tablet (though give it time an tablet and mobile malware will be rife too). Sadly, these relations are still careless with their downloads and still fall for the same scareware scams they fell for on the Windows platform.

But first, the good: In reaction to all these attacks, Apple have responded (albeit slowly) by putting in several protections that culminated with the latest Java updates including a facility where javascript is disabled if you don’t use it for a while and then you need to manually enable it if it needed. This however, doesnt help those that serially click on the required responses whether they know what it does or not.

And so onto the bad: So, its with a heavy heart that I have to agree, you need extra, third party protection on the Mac and here’s two suggestions on how to do it:

  • If you are not that technical (or your relative is) then you want a “set it and forget it” option. Install Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition which seems to run fairly smoothly even on some older or lesser powered Macs. I’ve seen Sophos running on a Hackintosh Notebook computer with only occasional stutter. Be aware however that it will use some of your system resources, mostly while its doing a full scan or an update. Note that the licence here is a personal one and so shouldn’t be installed on Macs in the workplace, companies need to obtain a valid licence.
  • Install ClamXav if you are more technical and still dont believe that you will fall victim to a scam or virus but want to protect that downloads folder, just..in..case. The important thing to do here is make sure you download the software from this link and not from the Mac App Store; downloading the App Store verision doesn’t come with ClamXav Sentry to monitor your hard drive and scan new files as they arrive. The Quarantine tab in preferences will let you define a folder that ClamXav will watch continuously for viruses. This area can be the whole user area, just one user or simply the Downloads folder. There are also options to exclude files from being scanned too. Schedule ClamXav to run at set times, and read the log files if you suspect anything fishy going on.

In the end, the choice is yours to install anti-virus or not. However, if it’s free apps your looking for, one of the above should fit the bill.

Stay Safe out there.

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Beware the low Klout score! | TechRepublic

Beware the low Klout score! | TechRepublic.

OK before I go off on one… Read the article above and then come back to here… Done that? Good.. Then we shall begin. If you don’t know what Klout is, here’s a quick synopsis (and my own opinion of it) from a social media guide I recently put together:

Klout, (http://www.klout.com) if you don’t know anything about it, is the current gold standard for measuring online influence. Bearing in mind that it’s just a number and doesn’t necessarily mean anything in it’s own right, it is still a valuable measuring stick for comparing performance both against your own goals as well as other people or competitors.  Keep an eye not so much on the overall Klout score, but on the “Network Influence” score. This is the influence of one’s engaged audience, in other words, how influential the audience is and how much they actually listen to whats said. That’s a “metric that matters!”

The upshot of the article (and the other sites that published similar stories) means that if you are looking for a position in marketing or in Social Media, you need to have a Klout score, whether you want it or not.. To make matters worse Sam goes on to increase his Klout score to 72 and gets himself a position shortly afterwards… I think there’s a lot of clueless employers out there. Considering that it is unclear what you are being measured against, its a pretty unfair metric to deal with.  There is also a backlash from some Social Media cirlces that contest that the Klout score is totally meaningless… See Aleks Krotoski’s Wired Article : Your Klout score is meaningless from February this year

Another thing I am not totally happy with the companies practices is that, chances are, you already have a Klout score even if you have never signed up for it or given consent for them to use your data. In these days of data privacy backlashes, I am quite uncomfortable with this way of getting people onboard.

My own score recently jumped from 45 to 49 and then to 50 despite me doing anything different that I was aware of. Though probably it will have dropped again by the time you have read this.

Click here to see my Klout score: http://widgets.klout.com/badge/cbeagrie and feel free to add me as an influencer on Klout itself on my account there: http://klout.com/#/cbeagrie

Customer Feedback – A Rant

I got yet another customer feedback email in my Inbox today… Is anyone else getting as fed up of them as I am?  I have officially started seeing red about constantly being bombarded to give feedback all the time… Its getting to the obstructive level…

You go onto a website and before you can look at anything… “HI there! How are you! Hope your having a super time on our super site! Please tell us how good we are… Please, please, Puleeeaaasssee”.

Likewise, you get these overlays on sites that say “Our online staff are ready to answer any queries you may have, do you want to open a chat window?”… NO I DON’T… IF I WANTED TO DO IT, I WILL DO IT MYSELF, I am capable you know… I can get up, get myself dressed and clean my teeth by myself too and have been for years… SOD OFF!

And then there are these sodding emails asking my to let them know what a flipping good job they did with their last customer services call they took from you… You an bet that I am only ever going to fill that  in when you left me waiting hanging on the line for twenty minutes.. You do know that, right?

Now I know that gaining feedback from your customers is one of the easiest ways that a business can ensure that they are meeting their needs. It can help strengthen and deepen the customer relationships – If it’s done right. Right now I don’t think it is being done correctly, it’s overkill and I’m done with it!

Much like with cold calling, If I want something or if I have something to say,  I will let you know, have no fear of that!

To BYOD or not to BYOD

The idea of allowing employees to Bring their own device into the workplace is gaining a large momentum especially with those that are struggling to keep their own desktop infrastructures up to date. This weekend there are a few stories on the Guardian Computing Network about a few council BYOD schemes starting up. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how they work out in the long term.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network

This one caught my eye in particular that gave warning about councils who would use BYOD as a cost saving exercise: http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network/2012/apr/26/byod-wont-save-money-blackpool

 

Personally speaking I tend to agree that BYOD should not be used as a money saving exercise to save replacement costs but as an extension to their own desktop to allow an employee to work with greater flexibility. On saying that, with greater flexibility comes greater responsibility in this case over the data stored on those devices… Lose the device and you risk exposing potentially sensitive corporate data.


I did quite like the Cambridgeshire article where they are providing an sandboxed app which gives secure access to corporate data while remaining separate form the personal information also on that device. The downside to this is the requirement for an always on connection to get to the data… Nobody ever said that security came without a price.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/government-computing-network/2012/mar/29/byod-cambrideshire-pilot-android-ios-apple

 

 

Our cat contracted FLUTD – A scary week for Mac and Us

What is FLUTD?

Feline lower urinary tract disease “(commonly referred to as FLUTD, LUTD,FLUDT or FUS–feline urologic syndrome) come in at least three distinct varieties. All of them put together affect a small percentage of cats, but for those who are affected, it can be a major problem. Bladder diseases occur in both male and female cats, although males have a higher risk of life-threatening blockage of the urethra. Male cats’ urethras taper toward the opening at the prepuce making them especially susceptible to forming a “plug” which obstructs normal urination. All of the constituents of a urinary plug can be the result of a true bacterial infection or a complicated disorder called Feline (Idiopathic) Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD. It is usually first seen in cats between 2 and 7 years of age (though some very young and very old cats may develop signs). Episodes of FLUTDs are usually triggered by stress, such as home remodelling, severe weather, or loss or addition of a family member/pet.”

Meet Mac…

Mac on Pirate Ship
…our Maine Coon cross cat. He’s as soft as butter and the friendliest cat you could hope to meet… Unless that is, you are our dog Magic who Mac seems to hate with a passion and seems to blame for his current predicament… But I am getting ahead of myself…

I had a week off work recently and I was looking forward to some R&R, catching up on some cinema films and perhaps fit in some running along the way. All that went out the window when Mac stopped going to the toilet just before bed time. It wasn’t much, he just sat in the litter tray and did nothing… It might be something, it might be nothing. However, if you know the signs and when you see them you take note and that put Mac on the watch list. He’s not the first cat we have had problems with, Silver (my first cat that I had) also had problems though his was from Struvite crystals.

Next morning however there was no doubting that there was a problem… Mac always greets you in the morning with a miaow and a rub but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. We found him in a scratching post box looking miserable and with a very wet bottom. To give you an insight into Mac, if you were to personify him as a human, he would be a dandy, dressed in finery and perfumed. His bottom is normally quite perfumed anyway, I don’t know where he has a bottle of the stuff hidden away. So, to see him wet, was very disturbing…

Day 1 – Calling in the Vets

We are so very lucky in our neck of the woods to have the Ellon Mobile Vet service and so after a quick phone call and a short while later the vet was with us.He was diagnosed very quickly as having Flutds by the vet feeling that his bladder was full. The vet managed to squeeze the bladder hard enough to release the blockage and empty the bladder. A swift multifunction test swab showed us that there was a bacterial infection in the urine that was the most likely cause of the problem. Mac got a couple of injections, a long lasting antibiotic and and anti-inflammatory to hopefully release the blockage. Sure enough, through the afternoon we saw signs that he was going to the toilet though in small amounts and not the size of what he usually does. By the time we went to bed, he had stopped going.

Day 2 – Off to the vets

Next morning and Mac was back to leaking again and his sides were more solid than the should be so it was straight on to the vets again and they promptly came out and expressed his bladder again to relieve the pressure. Then he got whisked away in a carrier with a promise that he would be looked after.

All the catsThe other cats, you an see them all on the left there, were shocked when they came in after Mac had gone. They all looked so concerned that he wasn’t there and spent the entire day slinking about with their tails down.. I think they thought he wasn’t coming back. Mind you, If I had a tail, it would have been down too…

We called later that day and he had been put on a drip in his foreleg and a catheter at the other end to flush his system. He had been sedated but he was OK. “Hopefully”, they said, “We’ll get him back tomorrow morning”.

It was a long night.

Day 3  – Another overnight Stay

As soon as the vets were open the next morning, I was back on the phone to find out how he was. He was doing Ok they said but he was going to have to stay in another night as he had pulled his catheter out overnight and they wanted to ensure he was fully hydrated before they let him home… He was also starting a course of antispasmodics, Hypovaze from Pfizer. The hope here is that if we are dealign with a bacterial infection then the antispasmodics should help while that passes through his system and then hopefully his bladder will have recovered to normal function.

Another long day followed by a long night.

Day 4 – Back home again

Friday, we got him home. He got transported back to us from the vets and was very happy to be back home. We were happy to have him back and cuddled him half to death I think. The cats were overjoyed at him being back too.

So what happens now?

As well as continuing his course of antispasmodics, we have been instructed that he is to receive no dry food at all for at least three months and to give consideration to keeping him off cat biscuits always… This comes right after I purchased a 10Kg bag of biscuits from Amazon, typical! Beyond that we are adding extra water to his cat food so he gets as much fluid as possible – Have you ever tried to get a Cat to drink voluntarily? They never drink near enough.

Our other secret weapon is cat milk…. yes, horribly overpriced and with added sweeteners, Goats milk – Did you know that cat milk was Goats milk in disguise? I didn’t. However, Goats milk didn’t float his boat at all so back to the expensive stuff it is… If it keeps him healthy, he can bath in it if he wants.

Beyond that, it’s crossing our fingers and hoping beyond hope that it doesn’t happen again….

You mentioned the dog?

You’re so right, I did mention him right at the beginning of tho didn’t I? Poor Magic is getting the sharp edge to Mac’s claws at the moment. If Magic’s tail strikes anything too loud, if he barks just a little too loud, then Mac is on him. The cat for some reason blames the dog entirely for his current situation and gives him “the hairy eyeball” each time one or the other walks into the room with each other… There’s an uneasy truce until Magic makes a noise, then it’s all fur ‘n claws.

Off to get seem Felliway diffuser and a DAP diffuser to se if that helps…

My Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

Base:

3oz (75g) butter
1 tblspn (15ml) golden syrup (or honey)
6oz (150g) digestive biscuits
 

Filling:

150g Cadburys bournville chocolate (or 75g each of bournville and dairy milk)
8oz (200g) cream cheese
3oz (75g) caster sugar
Half pint (284ml) double cream
 

Optional:

1tsp (5ml) instant coffee powder
3 tblspns (60ml) Tia Maria or other coffee liqueur
1tsp (5ml) gelatine 
 

Method

Melt the butter with the syrup and stir in the crushed biscuits. Carefully press on to the base of a 9 inch flan dish and chill. For An alternative taste to syrup or a more natural sugar use honey.

Melt the chocolate in a double boll. Once melted leave to cool slightly off to the side. Beat the cream cheese with the sugar and add the chocolate to the mix gradually. If you are going to add the coffee and liqueur addition to make it more of a mocha cheesecake then dissolve the gelatine in a teaspoon of hot water and stir in the instant coffee and liqueur and fold Into the cream cheese mix. Finally fold in half the cream.

Spoon the mixture into the flan case an refrigerate. As another alternative to the single chocolate layer is to make a dual layer with plain and milk chocolate. Simply divide the cream cheese mixture in half, melt and spoon into two bowls. First spoon in the dark layer on the bottom of the flan dish and spoon the milk layer on top… I’ve tried marbling it but can’t get it to look good enough for me.

Lightly whip the remaining cream and spread on top of the cheesecake and decorate on top with some chocolate curls.

Durie and Lenabo woods Circular(ish) Run

On the 14th of April I took a sort of circularish run through Durie and cut across to Lenabo woods and then back home again after a total of 11 miles. I did have to put in a little extra spur to get to the 11 before I got home.

you can see the whole run stats at Smashrun here: http://smashrun.com/cbeagrie/run/2012/4/14

It wasn’t the furthest I have run but it is the fastest I have done this length of run, so very happy with it.

Durie, according to Wikipedia, is a former weaver’s hamlet situated half a mile east of Clola Church. It is mentioned in records as far back as 1588, when it was spelt Dowrie. By 1600 the modern day spelling was adopted. The name is believed to come from the Gaelic dobhar or dobhran meaning a small stream, and the name Durie was originally applied to the Clola Burn which runs nearby.

RNAS Longside plaque
Something I didnt know about my surrounding area was that Lenabo Woods used to house a Royal Navy Airship Station in World War One and was known as RNAS Longside. There was a spur taken from the original Formartine Railway line at Longside to supply the Airship Station. Sadly, now there is nothing but ruins to mark the place. It is well worth reading Grey Granite’s post on the topic and has some photos of the area there also.

This shows the commemorative plaque that is fixed to one of the ruins thought to be the officers building:

This link from Geolocation.ws site shows some more photos of the area including RNAS Longside.

My new running Addiction – Smashrun

Last year I had some problems with my Nike+ account and after going through a few sessions with the tech supporter engineer to sort it out I posted it on this blog in case it helped anyone else’s with the same problems. It has been one of my more visited posts so I guess a lot of people have the problem. Recently I received a message about in in my comments list telling me about an analytics engine that they had helped develop called Smashrun.

  1. Jacklyn Giron February 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Hi Colin! – I can definitely empathize on the Nike front. I run with Nike+ as well and have been since it first came out back in 2006. I recently converted to Garmin, even though I often encourage beginner runners to pick up a Nike sensor :) This is a bit of a shameless plug for something we built, but you might like smashrun.com – here’s my Nike+ stats: http://smashrun.com/jacklyn.giron

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That’s it, my curiosity peaked I had to go and take a look… Unfortuately when the comment came through, I was laid up after having gone over my ankle (again) running so it took a week or two to get to use it. Now, it is a staple part of my run uploading providing the sort of analytics the I always hoped that Nike would. I love the design, I love the UI and I love that it is made for runners, by runners.. This project is a labour of love that started as something personal and it shows and once you see it, I think you will be signing up too.

If you are a Nike+ user you can sign up against your Nike+ login. You can also sign up with your Facebook ID or sign up with a new one. I signed up with my Nike login and it set up my account and it started importing my runs almost immediately. Once imported you have your entire run history to analyse.

Runs stats can be calculated by year or by an individual month in a year. Once you start logging new runs and upload the workouts then they will import automatically to Smashrun. If you don’t have Nike, don’t despair because you can manually enter run times and distances instead and I think they are working on a Garmin data import option too.

So, what stats does Smashrun show you? Well when you first log on you are presented with the Overall running report page which shows your all times stats and graphs including overall miles, longest run, miles per month, cumulative miles as well as showing % of running days per season, which days you run most often or least on and average run length and days running per week plus more. You can customise this screen with a simple calendar style menu to show stats for a year or for a selected month,

On the “By Run” screen you can get the stats for a single run. Your last run is shown by default but the calendar UI can be used to select and previously logged or Imported run in your history. This page shows you the date of your run, the distance, time and average pace. In your history it shows via a couple of graphs how this run ranks compared to others of a similar distance and speed.

As well as your own runs, you can invite friends to come and join and follow them to compare your results to theirs.

To add an element of gamification to the site, badges are awarded for achievements you make. You get badges for completing curtains distances, completing runs at different times of the day and even for inviting friends to join up. There are loads of badges up there already with more in development

So if you want a better handle on your workout stats then head on over to smashrun.com and sign up.

You can follow me on the site at smashrun.com/cbeagrie

Cooler Master Cosmos II Unboxing – Extreme PC Building

Take a read about Daniels review of his new Cooler Master Cosmos II case.

What he hasn’t mentioned us how he came about getting this case; He won it in a competition that was run by Cooler Master themselves… But I already get ahead of myself. First we need to rewind about a month….

Daniel is our local expert on video production in the School of Computing at RGU and we were having a discussion about some new HP workstations we were speccing up for Video editing. I casually asked Daniel what he had at home and was a little shocked (and deeply disappointed) to find that all he had stay home was an ageing laptop.

He was shamed by my disappointment I think because the next I hear is that he is speccing his own new über-workstation. As part of this he entered a competition for the case for his world dominating machine… And he won, with this text.

And the winner of the Cosmos 2 is: Daniel Doolan!

As reason why Daniel deserves to win a Cooler Master Cosmos 2 he gave:

“I am looking to build my first PC from scratch and am looking for a case that will allow for future expansion.
I lecture in Computer Science at University and our Computer Systems Manager was horrified to hear that I had been running a laptop at home for the past few years.

He was expecting that I would have been running a really over the top extremely overclocked machine.
So this is a chance to build a machine for myself that will hopefully live up to the expectations of what our Computer System Manager would expect from me (he always comes to me when we go shopping for new equipment for the School from renderfarms and 3d motion tracking systems to high-end video cameras).

I lecture quite a bit in the area of Multimedia, and really do need to put together a beefy machine to handle audio/video/ 3d rendering allowing me to work easier from home.

Another thing I do quite a number of times each year is to go around to schools and give workshops on topics such as computer networking, games programming and building a PC.
At present the lecture slides I have for this are fairly old, and deal with just a very bog standard system.

By building my own high end machine I can use some photographs / videos in my presentation to illustrate just what can be created.

From reading the specifications I believe this case is one of the best available and provides more than enough room for future expansion.”

Glad to have been of help Daniel

Dr. Daniel C. Doolan News & Photos

Cooler Master Cosmos II Ultra Tower Case Unboxing. If you are building an extreme gaming case then this is certainly one to consider, providing you with 13 HD bays, support for more or less every type of motherboard, graphics cards up to 15.5 inches in length. It also allows for the installation of a 360mm rad on top and a 240mm rad at the bottom (with the removal of 6 hard disk bays) to create a nice watercooling loop to cater for all your CPU & GPU needs.

The big question is what components would you put into a case like this, in particular what type of system would you install for cooling – would you go Air or Water? If you go for water cooling would you go for an integrated system like the Corsair H100 or go with a set of rads something like those from hwlabs (you…

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Microsoft Surface Unboxing

Microsoft Surface Image Courtesy of Samsung. Click to visit the Samsung Page.

Yesterday in the School of Computing/ IDEAS Research Institure at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, we took ownership of one of the new Samsung SUR40 Microsoft Surface devices. One of the lecturers in the School, Daniel Doolan recorded the unboxing and posted the video on our Vimeo Channel. Click his link above to see his post and the video.

One of the main differences between the original Surface and the second incarnation is the use of PixelSense. The new technology replaces the cameras that were built into the previous unit which allows the new one to be much neater in size. Effectively to describe it in a sentence: sensors in the pixels pick up the interactions on the screen and report them back to the software.

For anyone thats interested the specs under the hood are here:

Display
Screen Size 40″
Resolution 1,920 x 1,080
Viewing Angle (H/V) 178 / 178° (CR ≥ 10)
Network Option
CPU Athlon X2 Dual-Core 245e (2.9GHz)
GPU AMD HD6750M
Dimension
Product Dimensions (Without Stand) 1,095 x 707.4 x 103.0 mm
Weight
Product Weight 36.8 Kg
Shipment Weight 42.5 Kg

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Dr. Daniel C. Doolan News & Photos

Today the School of Computing / IDEAS Research Institute, Robert Gordon University took delivery of an MS Surface. The video below depicts the unboxing process, the first boot-up and playing around with some of the features including some surfing on bing maps and browsing of the associated imagery. We spent about  half an hour unboxing it and just seeing what it can do. You can certainly expect to see it if you visit the School during Applicants day 7th/10th March as well as series of talks and practical workshops. I hope you enjoy the video, I edited the footage together quickly once we powered down the surface for the evening, so this comes to you right off the editing suite, rendered just minutes ago. I am sure that we will spend a good amount of time playing with it tomorrow and over the course of the coming days, weeks &…

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