12 November 2019

Anti-cold ritual

My anti-cold/flu ritual is:

  • Garlic bread (antioxidants), typically in the form of Domino's Garlic Pizza Bread (with a Hawaiian pizza and several Garlic & Herb dips, of course)
  • Lucozade (for energy)
  • Airwaves chewing gum
  • Trebor mints (stronger the better)
  • Smoothies especially blueberries (only a bit)
  • Vicks Vaporub (rub onto chest)
  • Lemsip (pill form rather than liquid)
  • Early bedtime
  • Hand wash regularly when outside
  • Tissues galore
If it gets worse:
  • Indian food to clean out system
  • Chicken soup and bread and butter
  • Strepsils for sore throat

9 September 2019

RAM disk

Source: geckoandfly

Seeing as you can't actually download more RAM, to spare the life of your SSD, you can use AMD Radeon RAMdisk to share 4GB of RAM, for free, for:

  • browser temporary files such as Chrome - instructions on setting it up here
  • extracting ISOs, zips
  • setting the default Download folder for your browser (if you don't want to keep the files)
  • Spotify cache

I don't recommend setting it for Windows temporary files as they can grow beyond 4GB. There are more types of cache recorded in CCleaner or BleachBit but as they aren't updated often/are harder to change, I don't recommend going further.

Linux

Linux has an in-built optional RAM disk called /dev/shm, or shared memory. More detail and explanation can be found at Superuser.

30 June 2019

Recent Coming Out Stories

It's so sad that LGBT+ people are still living in fear of revealing their sexuality. I'm inspired by @danielhowell, @AmazingPhil and @EugeneLeeYang for coming out recently. It's 2019 and I'm ashamed, confused and outraged that homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are still present.

Me

I'm an introverted guy, was bullied at school, mildly attacked physically and mentally a few times, namecalled just for being shy and quiet, sexually harassed, been told I was a disappointment, and lost friends for good. I definitely had depression and suicidal moments when I was younger too, and never told anyone about it.

My sexuality changed all the way from genuinely straight (until I was about 15) to bi through college, until now, where I say I'm basically gay. Not been serious with girls before, so don't feel I can classify myself truly as bi, even though I wouldn't rule it out.

Coming out

More than often I've ended up lying about being gay before, typically to people I don't know like the moving people, colleagues, or new friends. Simply because it's easier than coming out, and you don't really know what kind of reaction you'll get.

I'm starting to see more now that people say "so have you got a girlfriend... or boyfriend, I'm not one to judge", and that eases my mind a lot that people are willing to ask and consider. I generally use many subtle ways to 'come out' to people, like wearing a certain LGBT-themed lanyard, telling them I'm going to certain events, am into certain types of music, have certain idols, or leave a tab or browser open, or allow others to see me chatting to other guys, or that I have Grindr installed! I once dated a guy who felt he had to tell every single person he met, as if it were an important part of his personality, in a vain and camp kind of way, and I wholly reject that.

I never lie to anyone if asked and have always been comfortable being honest to people who do ask. But letting people know in a subtle way is an easy way to test someone's reaction, and get them guessing, until they're ready to talk about it upfront.

Homophobia

To anyone who is anti-LGBT+, please, disregard all prejudices, stereotypes, individuals, and everything you know about sexuality. Put yourself in the shoes of someone else who is. Read and watch LGBT shows, films, artists, vloggers, and celebs. Give yourself a chance.

Labels

Labels might be next to meaningless. Some make sense from a biological point of view, yes. But does it matter what gender or sexuality you are to anyone else? For finding a partner, it helps many, sure. But are we not more than reproductive machines?

When you consider the grand scale of the universe, and how near infinitely large and long it will exist for, why is a person's sexuality or gender a concern? For all the problems we face as a species, the sexuality and gender of others should be your least concern.

Queer is a term I never felt identified me before but I now understand it as an umbrella term for anyone who is not a well defined normal category, or simply different to most, or strange of themselves, it's actually an interesting idea.

Religion

I am not religious because I do not think a deity will save or protect us. We are an accident. A special, wonderful, beautiful accident. And it's worth protecting all forms of life because of how rare it appears to be in the universe (even though aliens should be common - see the Fermi paradox). We are alone, and it's up to us to protect life.

Religious beliefs shouldn't get in the way of others being who they are. People can't choose their sexuality just as over 450 other species can't. Sexuality is therefore natural. Using religion as a weapon is hurtful to others. Consider that science has discovered humans didn't come from 2 people. We all came from oil droplets that learned to duplicate themselves, maybe 4 billion years ago. Gender or sexuality had no meaning.

It's important to reconcile the differences between the facts of science and what religion tells you is the truth. Truth is best found through evidence, and science has overwhelming evidence.

Homophobia is senseless when you understand that sexuality is a fluid, unconscious and unbound mental property. We cannot choose it. We cannot stop it. It's not something we choose or created or learned from a book. Nothing in science tells us it is invalid in any way. It is simply part of nature itself. Mother nature has no agenda to spread. It should be as undisputed as the colour of the sky, the seasons, and evolution itself. It is as present in our biology and mind as are your favourite flavour of ice cream, band, or colour. Being gay, or being any other sexuality, is natural.

Why do we need pride?

A lot of people take offence to pride. I'm not here to offend. I'm here to educate.

So much more is still to be done. Nearly one third of all countries criminalise homosexuality. Only 28 countries allow same sex marriage. Only 16 have no deferral on blood donation. LGBT people are still subjected to suffering and death. The world is changing but leaders are still homophobic. Do everything you can to help them understand.

I made a useful and simple website with some key statistics that you can share with anyone who wants quick facts or just wanted to learn more. It's https://www.lgbtrights.co.uk
Let me know your feedback and I'll do all I can to ensure the picture is as crystal clear as possible.

Thanks to everyone who came before us and supports us already. With @stonewalluk riots 50th anniversary round the corner, now is a great time to remember everyone who sacrificed themselves or was killed or tortured for their sexuality. Rest in peace.

My message to those in the closet

To all those out there who are scared of coming out, I'm so sorry for you, but I promise there are so many others like you. Allow yourself to be you. Don't hold back any more. Be yourself and accept your thoughts. Allow your mind to open to wherever it leads you.

You're never alone, I know how easy it is to convince yourself that you are, but there are so many people who love and care about you just for being you, the way you are. Don't feel you ever have to be a cog that fits into a corporate and social machine. You're a person, or a formless blob if you prefer, and that's all anyone needs to know. I'm so sorry the world has been so horrible and traumatising to you. Here's hoping we can build a better, more inclusive, open minded world.

If you still feel alone or that you have no-one else to talk to, I will personally stand up for you, listen to you, call you, chat with you, or even meet with you, and hear what you have to say.

To close

I am filled with joy seeing individuals let their inner rainbows out. I am so happy that others can be happy. I respect you so much for sharing your stories with the world and sending that hopeful message: one day, maybe in our lifetime, equality will win for good.

16 April 2019

Password advice

1. Use a password manager. You can make mini databases for both a personal and project stance. For example, KeePass, which is free, has an in-built password generator and can automatically enter your username and password into websites. There are mobile app versions as well for using your passwords on to go, without relying on cloud-based password managers, some of which have been breached before, such as LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password or Chrome Sync. You can find more alternatives here. Some antivirus programs have them built-in, but I'd personally recommend KeePass as it is entirely offline. Apps such as KeePassDroid can sync it with a file on the cloud.

2. If you can't use a password manager, then make pass phrases instead of passwords. This XKCD article has a good example.

3. Have I Been Pwned is a useful renowned website for letting you know if any data have been leaked. You can enter either your email or password, and it will do a search on the leaked data and let you know which accounts are vulnerable.

15 April 2019

Being an LGBT+ Ally

What is an ally?

Allies are those who are typically not LGBT+, but would like to show their support and help others. LGBT+ people can be allies to each other as well. Anyone could be unfamiliar with certain terminology, and may not know what topics are safe to talk about, and there are also people who would like to help out, but don’t know how. So here’s some suggestions you can incorporate into your personal approach to help you be more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of your colleagues, network, and the wider LGBT+ community.

1. Read and learn: There are many online resources available to learn about being LGBT+. Even if you’re already LGBT+, there may be more things you can learn about other orientations and gender identities. Check out Young Stonewall for an introduction, Stonewall for terms & history, the It Gets Better Project for stories (also one featuring myself), the UK Government plan, Wikipedia for a range of topics, and LGBT+ films, books, magazines etc.

2. Listen to and respect others: Everyone has their own set of experiences, backgrounds, hopes, feelings, beliefs and opinions. The most important thing you can do to help others is to make yourself available to hear other's thoughts and provide a way for them to breathe and be themselves. Coming out may sound trivial in today’s age, but nearly one third of countries in the world still treat homosexuality as illegal. For most people coming out is a huge deal, so it's important to respect each other's confidence. When it comes to terminology, we do all makes mistakes, and so might not get everything right all the time, so the best way to respect others is keep an open mind and be willing to accept things at face value - and stay objective.

3. Show your support: Stonewall ‘Get Over It’ posters, T-shirts and stickers – anything with a rainbow is great, even rainbow laces. You can also show your support on social media, by taking part in LGBT parades and events, volunteering or donating to charities, or even just defending people from discrimination and bullying and encouraging reporting it (if you don’t stand up against injustice, it means nothing changes).

8 March 2019

Windows 10 - Spinning icon with blue background (lock screen issue)

Possible solutions/causes:

  • Don't have any devices (USB, HDMI, etc.) connected during boot
  • Press Enter / click left on mouse multiple times in succession until the lock screen comes back
  • Run sfc /scannow
  • Run DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth
    • To shrink the disk, run Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup /ResetBase
    • Dism.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /SPSuperseded
  • Disable startup items - Autoruns
  • Disable Windows telemetry e.g. OO ShutUp10 or reclaimWindows10.ps1
  • Windows Event Logs
  • Antivirus logs

3 March 2019

Changing addresses (UK)

As PO boxes are not currently a cheap thing (about £300 a year through Royal Mail), it's necessary to update your details in many places so you don't lose your post. Here's a checklist of things you probably need to change your address on:

  • Government records
  • Work
  • Hygiene
    • Dentists
    • Opticians
  • Utilities
    • Internet
    • Electricity
    • Gas
    • Water
    • Insurance
  • Payments
    • Banks
    • Online banks like PayPal
    • Mobile phone or SIM contracts
    • Website and domain hosting
    • Charities
    • Boxes (Graze, Ocado etc.)
  • Online ordering
    • Amazon
    • eBay
    • Ticketmaster
    • Fundraising websites (Indiegogo, Kickstarter)
    • Takeaways (Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats)
    • iTunes, Google Play, Microsoft Store, Xbox Store, Playstation Store
  • Retail
    • Loyalty/rewards cards
    • Store credit cards
  • AI
    • Siri
    • Google Assistant

1 January 2019

The facts on Brexit



I'm writing today with a simple idea in my mind: co-operation. The joining of two or more entities to work in tandem for mutually-assured survival and harmony. Co-operation can be found in every aspect of life: the cells of our bodies, in symbiotic relationships between different species, friends, partners, lovers, companions, neighbours, allies, guests, visitors. All have the potential to provide benefits on both sides. Co-operation also brings together enemies when there is a mutual threat. It is the strongest bond in nature.

Cancelling Brexit is the best option for the following reasons:

1. Co-operation (working with Europe, and not against it) is mutually beneficial. Remaining in the EU has several multi-speed parts: 
  • the Schengen type 3 agreement (about 10,000 European Arrest Warrants per year) [BBC]. We could also lose access to details on 1.2m prisoners [Prison Studies] and all known criminals (24m) [Europa]
  • the EEA (freedom of movement, trade and free laws, easy travel, and cheaper telephone bills) - the largest economy in the world, and raised the value of GBP by 12%. EU money goes towards infrastructure and social development.
  • the CSDP (1.5 million troops) - we would be left with only 200,000 troops of our own and some of them may lose their jobs [Europa]
  • shared patent law (2.6 million filed since 2008) [EPO] - without this, any patents we make will not be protected in other countries, and R&D is vital if we want to be independent or seen as an innovator or leader in the world
  • It also gives us access to a satellite network that is worth £9bn [QZ], and means we don't have to rely on the US, Russian or Chinese data systems for accurate positioning.
2. Many of the arguments for Brexit are not well founded - may even be fake news:
  • EU is undemocratic / we are ruled over: We actually have 73 MEPs in the European Parliament, and 2 MPs in the EEP (maximum that any country has is 4 per party), among various other elected representatives
  • A second referendum would ignore the vote: A second referendum would be a different question, and it would align with other countries that have joined (e.g. Norway) once a proposal (deal) is made
  • We are not in control of our laws: We still have sovereignty, we decide how to implement laws, can make our own, and directives still require Royal Assent. There are regulations, and these serve a greater purpose like preventing disease or protecting rights
  • A second referendum would be undemocratic: Referendums are, by their nature, democratic. Switzerland have had 10 in 2018, and they have the best economy and quality of life in Europe. [Wikipedia]
  • The NHS is strained because of immigration: The impact is actually very minimal compared to austerity and slow repayments [FullFact]
  • We pay £250 million a week to the EU: This is a complete lie [FullFact]
  • We are not in control of our borders: We are not in the Schengen Area type 1 or 2, so we still have control
  • We are not in control of our economy: We are not in the Euro
3. There will be further impacts:
  • The value of GBP, which has not recovered since, has reverted to 2009 levels [Google] or 1985 levels [WeForum]
  • Stockpiling is the government-proposed "solution" to a no-deal Brexit [Guardian]
  • Businesses are moving to within the EU and government have provided advice for corporations to do so [Independent]
  • It costs some UK taxpayers about £27 a year to remain in the EU (less than 1% of tax contributions) [Twitter]. Total contribution of UK tax was 0.7% to the EU (£4.7bn in 2016/2017). [UK Gov]. For that, we get a variety of benefits, including European Arrest Warrants, freedom to work and travel, cheap telephone bills, an extensive militia, patent protection, rights, protections in the form of legislation, infrastructure, and accurate and reliable global positioning. The best deal Theresa May came up with would cost taxpayers £100bn by 2030 [BBC], which is £300 per year per taxpayer (about 10% of tax contributions) [BBC]. (£100bn / 30.3 million taxpayers / 11 years = £300.03/year)

4. Theresa May has finally admitted the country is divided - it is not the strong and stable country she promised. She acknowledges this, but has failed to take action on this [BBC]

23 November 2018

EICAR testing on VirusTotal

Here's the results of testing EICAR (inside a simple txt file) in different file formats using VirusTotal. In order of most detected to least. Most of the ones where they were not detected were inside Office files. Interestingly, Malwarebytes fails on a least 7 of the compressed file formats. A recent AV-Test.org result indicates a similar lack of protection.


  • .txt
    • 58/60: Missing popular ones: Malwarebytes
  • .zip
    • 51/57: Missing popular ones: Malwarebytes, Symantec
  • .gz
    • 44/56: Missing popular ones: Ad-Aware, Avast, Malwarebytes, Symantec
  • .tar
    • 43/56: Missing popular ones: Ad-Aware, Avast, Malwarebytes, Symantec
  • .bz2
    • 43/59: Missing popular ones: Ad-Aware, Avast, Comodo, Malwarebytes
  • .7z
    • 41/57: Missing popular ones: Ad-Aware, F-Prot, Malwarebytes, Symantec, Panda
  • .xz
    • 29/59: Missing popular ones: Ad-Aware, Avast, Comodo, F-Prot, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Microsoft, Sophos, Webroot
  • .wim
    • 16/59
  • .xlsx
    • 2/57
  • .docx
    • 1/58
  • .pptx
    • 1/58
  • .pub
    • 1/56
  • .rtf
    • Failed to scan at all

22 November 2018

How good/bad is Vodafone Secure Net?

All Vodafone contracts come with 3 months of free Vodafone Secure Net, which is advertised as blocking malicious websites and files. If you don't cancel it, you're charged £1 extra per month. Vodafone have 444 million customers worldwide, so they could be earning up to nearly 1% of revenue through it.

It can be managed through the app or via the website.



Test 1: EICAR in a text file hosted on a website
Secure Net successfully blocked this one and displayed me a message saying so. You also get a text message confirming this.

  


Test 2: EICAR in a zip file hosted on a website
Secure Net failed to block it this time. However a standard mobile antivirus was able to block it. The link it was coming from was from Kaspersky.



Test 3: A genuine trojan dated from 2010 contained in zip file hosted on a website
Secure Net failed to block this file.
I then uploaded it to VirusTotal to test it to see if most antiviruses would detect it - 47 of 59 got it. Surprisingly, a popular one - Symantec - did not detect anything wrong.



So overall, Secure Net is good at blocking EICAR, even over HTTPS. It's clearly scanning in real-time as well as the EICAR file was brand new on my site. However, it didn't detect the trojan, even though the majority of antiviruses did.

Conclusion
Secure Net isn't worth it, and is essentially a scam and complete waste of money. Having an actual mobile antivirus is more likely to protect you.