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: https://alternativeto.net/software/keepass/

2. If you can't use a password manager, then make pass phrases instead of passwords. This XKCD article has a good example https://xkcd.com/936/

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. https://haveibeenpwned.com/

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:

  • Any connected devices (USB, HDMI, etc.). Don't have them connected during boot.
  • Press Enter / click left on mouse multiple times in succession until the lock screen comes back
  • Windows Event Logs
  • Antivirus logs
  • 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
  • Disable Windows telemetry e.g. O&O ShutUp10 or reclaimWindows10.ps1

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

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.

19 November 2018

Facts & stats about HIV & World AIDS Day


TL;DR

Today, 36 million people live with HIV and nearly 1 million die every year die because of AIDS, so it’s important to raise awareness of it, support people with it, and remember the 35 million who’ve died from it. The PARTNER study announced this year tested 100,000 people taking ART to achieve an undetectable viral load, and there were zero cases of transmission – this means HIV may no longer mean a death sentence, and it can be stopped from spreading to others, so could be stopped once and for all. In spite of that, there is still heavy stigma surrounding it.

You can get 100 free ribbons from World AIDS Day if you agree to paying £15 from donations. 

Introduction

I don't have HIV, but there is still stigma around it. I've made this to try and explain the key points about it and AIDS.

As I wasn't taught this in school, and this isn't something provided through the news, I've had to research and understand this all myself, as I was stigmatised of HIV as well.


  • HIV is a virus that infects your immune system, bonding itself to your DNA. At some point after this, either months or years, the virus replicates and it triggers AIDS which leaves your immune system vulnerable, which, if left untreated, may result in death
  • HIV is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, and typically during sex e.g. oral, anal, or vaginal sex, but also includes breast milk
  • Mothers can pass it on to their children if no treatment is taken
  • Straight people can get it just as well as gay people
  • There are 36 million people living with HIV in 2017 globally
  • About 1 million die from HIV-related causes yearly globally

Treatments and cures


  • There is no cure for HIV yet, though some people are naturally immune
  • A drug was developed in 1987 known as an antiretroviral therapy (ART), which stops the virus from creating copies of itself by inhibiting the enzymes that allow HIV to replicate
  • This has been improved upon every year. Someone who is HIV-positive but is strictly adhering to taking the drug will have an undetectable viral load, meaning the tests can't detect any HIV, so they are essentially HIV-negative when it comes to sex
  • It takes up to 6 months for someone taking ART to have an undetectable viral load
  • HIV-positive people will still visit a doctor on a regular basis to check they are still undetectable
  • Half of the global HIV-positive population are receiving treatment
  • There are multiple strains of HIV and so different variations of the drug, it can vary from 1-4 pills per day
  • In rare cases the standard drug may not prevent transmission (4/1763 cases, 0.22%, in the HPTN 052 study), however the virus was still detectable using tests in all these cases
  • When the treatment does work so that people have remained undetectable, there are zero cases where HIV has been transmitted (the PARTNER study of over 100,000 people, or Opposites Attract study of 12,000 people)
  • Even in the presence of other STIs or using condoms, an undetectable viral load still has been proven to prevent HIV transmission
  • The tests in Canada may be less accurate

Also


  • PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV if taken before sex by blocking it from taking hold. This trial started September 2017. It can either be taken on demand or daily.
  • PEP is similar, but is typically taken immediately after a potential risk of transmission, and is available for free on the NHS. It needs to be taken for a month after sex and strictly adhered to.
  • You can get a free HIV test from Terence Higgins Trust, or your local sexual health clinic.
  • As will all drugs, viruses can become resistant due to mutation. It's important to regularly be tested.

Summary and thoughts


HIV is still a problem, as it kills nearly a million people every year. The best treatment is for everyone sexually active and negative to take PrEP, and positive people to take ART and strictly adhere to the daily treatment. The sooner the treatment is taken after transmission, the more likely the treatment will work.

To prevent further transmission, it is important to check with all sexual partners on their HIV status and if they are positive, whether they are adhering to taking ART and regularly being tested to ensure an undetectable viral load. Using condoms also prevents other STIs so are recommended.

The ultimate goal is still to eradicate HIV. Abstaining from sex would resolve this, however this is very hard to prevent. The next best option is to educate people, provide protection, and reduce the chance of transmission as much as possible. Even with all this, the treatment does not work in rare cases, and like any virus, it may become resistant. It's possible bacteriophages may able to cure it one day.. It's important to remain vigilant, continue research and to keep it under control.

The wider public need to be informed of the stigma and also how to be safe.

Sources


21 October 2018

Advice for buying a laptop or computer

Processor


Intel i3, i5, i7 (or i9)
Do not get Celeron or Pentium
Check the performance on www.passmark.com. Highest rating is 20,000 which is a Xeon. In 2018 you'll want a minimum of 3,000.

RAM

4GB RAM minimum

Other specs

  • SSD is 10x faster than HDD. Also consider NVMe rather than SCSI
  • WiFi: ac compatible, 4x MIMO is better
  • Bluetooth 5.1 is the latest
  • Storage: Windows needs at least 50GB to upgrade on its own. Some games can be 200GB. Office takes 10GB.

Manufacturer

Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Asus, Acer, in that order
For gaming laptops: Razer, Alienware, Zoostorm

Resellers

Amazon, eBuyer, Overclockers, John Lewis, Currys/PC World

18 October 2018

Developer truths



  • This proved to be non-trivial
  • I wouldn't trust what I just said
  • Does this need to be insanely complicated?
  • X people are like Y people. They have no interest in getting a system working
  • I think the mistake was looking at it
  • We just assume magic happens
  • It looks quite good if you don't read it
  • We're laying the groundwork for winning the most improved project award
  • It's not the complete answer
  • They want to hear about problems early, but if you tell them, they panic
  • I seem to be spending every day more and more confused
  • This has a long, varied and ugly history