Everybody Draw Muhammad Day

Today is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!, so I thought I'd contribute. According to Wikipedia, and various helpful protest signs, the proper spelling is Muhammad.

Muhammad and his 11 wives
Drawing 11 wives is not trivial, and my drawing skills are rather poor so I've had to copy and paste a lot. I'm not going to attempt to draw in children too because there's not really enough space.

Images of Muhammad are controversial, but violent threats are not the answer.

Walking to Work

A year ago, Stagecoach changed all the bus routes around so that there was no longer a service that went past where I work, so I returned my bus pass and started walking instead. Over 600 miles and a large umbrella that I keep trying to lose in supermarkets later and I'm still walking both ways every day. The time passes quickly with music playing.

Cheap plastic bags

Both ASDA and Tesco prompt people to reuse carrier bags and have sold thick plastic carrier bags for a while now but their free bags have simply gotten thinner and less reusable. They start falling apart after a few uses... like this Tesco bag, which didn't like holding items from ASDA so the bottom split open and it threw them all over the car park:
Tesco carrier bag wrapped around a broken shampoo bottle
(Yes, that's one of the shampoo bottles from yesterday missing its lid, they're not just PVC, they're unable to handle being dropped too).


I put everything into the remaining ASDA bag which managed to survive the walk home (except for a handle) although it looks like the bottom was ready to give way too:
Repaired ASDA carrier bag handle ASDA carrier bag ready to break

ASDA's bags normally split down the side very quickly:
ASDA bag with split down the side



I used one of Tesco's basic non-free bags for over a year before the handle eventually gave way (but the various holes in the bottom are ready to go too) and I still need to get it replaced...
Tesco carrier bag with broken handle

So... the message is: reuse your carrier bags, as long as you paid extra for them first. I used to have a bright green Marks & Spencer carrier bag that intended to survive forever, but it got covered in sticky Irn-Bru so I had to throw it away.

Widely recycled PVC?

ASDA brand shampoo bottles are made of plastic so it should be easy to recycle them, but they're not. Someone has failed to check what type of plastic is actually being used. The label says:
Disposal: BOTTLE PLASTIC widely recycled
However, the plastic is type 3 (PVC) which is, according to Wikipedia, not typically recycled and there are no facilities to recycle this in Fife:
[Plastic Type 3 PVC symbol]

British Telecom

When I first moved in, I phoned up BT in the afternoon to activate the phone line and they promptly woke me up by SMS at 6am the following morning to tell me the line was now active. That was the only communication I had with them for 3 months. They didn't even bother to tell me what my account number was so that I could register for online billing, until I received the first bill by post.

It's difficult to communicate with BT's outsourced email support. In 2008 it took several months to get them to remove my number from the phone book (despite laws against it there are unscrupulous companies who will just call up everyone to advertise their junk). It usually takes several attempts before someone who understands English properly deals with the issue.

During my time as a BT customer I have repeatedly received direct marketing by post, despite never agreeing to this. Usually it's advertising a 12 month auto-renewing contract for some free calls at an arbitrary time of day. Just send off the small bit of paper. Then, in April 2009 they sent me this waste of paper:
You are cordially invited to become one of the better connected.

I complained threatening to raise the issue of pointless waste of paper with Watchdog and received a phone call within 30 minutes informing me that I would no longer be receiving marketing from BT (as requested). Unfortunately this statement (which I have recorded) was untrue.

In June 2009, August 2009, and October 2009 I received more direct marketing. For a company that claims to be environmentally friendly they waste a lot of paper on me. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 I have the right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing but BT appear to be unaware of this item of legislation. It has only been in existence for a decade, after all, and BT don't react that quickly (e.g. IPv6).

The marketing in October is interesting because it implies I'm using another supplier for outgoing calls. Which is partly true because analogue PSTN lines are difficult to interface with without introducing nuisance echo (BT won't provide VoIP services to non-BT-broadband customers), and I rarely make any calls. In fact I managed to not make any calls on the BT line for 2 quarters triggering an automatic (illegal) penalty charge for the FREE Caller ID service.

Trying to complain to BT by email used to work, and their forms have the option to communicate by Email or Phone. Despite selecting Email and providing an alternative contact phone number they insisted on bombarding me with missed calls from multiple numbers that I had to block.

After some attempts to get the charges removed from my bill (as an aside, BT cannot bill correctly either and once managed to miscalculate VAT causing them to deduct 2p more from my account than they claimed on the bill summary; their only way to fix this was to issue a £1.00 98p credit) I gave up and migrated my line rental to another supplier. It costs more per month (25p, now 21p after the VAT changed from 15% back to 17.5%) and I can't make chargeable outgoing calls (due to yet another part of BT being incompetent, because they're the monopoly provider and so it's effectively still provided by them) but they don't send me unwanted direct marketing.

BT refunded me for the charges and prepaid line rental (including the discounts for paper billing, which was a bit silly) but I had to email the CEO to get their attention because their standard support service just started ignoring me.

Problem sorted, right? I'm no longer a customer, they know I have requested that they do not use my personal data for direct marketing, so I should receive nothing more except a final bill. No. That would be too easy. Instead in November I received this:
Are you keeping an eye on how your new phone company is treating you?

Which not only tries to market their services on A3-sized paper but defames my new provider (who they appear to think I've been with for 3 months already). Apparently I should watch out for "nasty surprises in the first bill".

This continues in December and then February the following year (I must have missed out on January marketing). No one else except TV Licensing is this persistent. I've contacted their Executive Level Complaints department requesting that my details are deleted, which is another right under the DPA principle that data should not be kept for longer than is necessary. I'm no longer a customer so they don't need my data.

If this doesn't work I'll need to raise a complaint with the ICO because I'll have run out of other options. Apparently terminating a contract without notice doesn't get their attention and they still want me to be a customer. I know the ICO have already had to deal with BT refusing to stop direct marketing to other people in the past.

Scanners

I recently bought a scanner, although it's not new... because scanner manufacturers are completely ignoring non-Microsoft users. Newer hardware isn't supported in Linux because the scanner chips (provided by separate companies) are different and no one thought to provide drivers for other operating systems. Older hardware is supported but is no longer being sold, so instead of the original manufacturer making a profit from sales to new customers, people selling used hardware gain instead.

Even the older hardware isn't supported by the manufacturer itself, instead third-party developers contributing drivers to the SANE project provide the only way of using these devices. (Which is probably a good thing as actual manufacturer drivers are likely to be closed source).

Unfortunately newer models of scanner hardware doesn't actually provide anything new. Scanning a 300 DPI image at 4800 DPI only makes the resulting image data larger (and most likely makes it less usable as minute details of the paper/film grain will become visible). With no reason to buy such hardware and develop drivers for it, these will go unsupported until the used hardware is no longer available.

So I now have a Canon CanoScan LiDE 60. I'd link to it but there's no longer a page for it on Canon's website. As far as I can tell this is currently the only bus-powered high-speed USB scanner supported under Linux (except perhaps the LiDE 50). The (latest) drivers for it aren't available for 64-bit versions of Windows (just like my TV receiver cards... there is a pattern developing here).

Line art scans of documents can be compressed very well, which is useful for the mountain of old bits of paper that I should throw away...

Insoles

These are only a few months old...
Insoles

Motorola doesn't provide any way to install new root certificates for Java (despite there being an interface to install them for SSL) and the only root certificates installed other than their own is the lucrative "Java Verified" monopoly certificate.

Fortunately it is possible to insert your own root certificates, such as the one provided by CAcert who issue free code signing certificates.

  1. Add the certificate to /ezxlocal/download/appwritecmsec/.policy/._policy.txt:
    CA Cert Signing Authority (anything)
    2
    1
    MIIHPTCCBS... (root certificate)
    0
    0
    0
    0
    This will make it appear in the list of Java Root Certificates under Security Settings. That's all it does. The following two files are actually used by the JVM.

  2. Add the certificate to /ezxlocal/download/java/.policy/._policy.txt:
    domain: C=;L=;O=Root CA;OU=http://www.cacert.org;CN=CA Cert Signing Authority
    2
    1
    AAAcHBwcHB... (copy this from the UTI certificate)
    MIIHPTCCBS... (root certificate)
    FrUyG9TH8+DmjvO90rA67rI5GNE= (unknown)
    1049027389 (start date)
    1995712189 (end date)
  3. Add the certificate to /usr/securesetup/.policy/_devdomain.txt:
    domain: CA Cert root certificate (anything)
    type: 2
    rootcert: MIIHPTCCBS... (root certificate)
    allowchangestatus: 0
  • Where the root certificate is specified, it's in DER format and Base64 encoded all on one line.
  • I copied the unknown part in the second policy file from the UTI certificate and it was automatically updated for me (including the domain DN).
  • Somehow /ezxlocal/download/java/.policy/._hmac.txt was not world readable, which is required to run the MIDlet from the menu.


Using signed MIDlets, I can finally set some of the permissions to "Never Ask" and avoid irritating prompts.

MIDlet certificate information

Network Speakers

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I had an unused Mini-ITX computer which I can make silent (by removing the fan) as long as it isn't doing anything too intensive, and some spare speakers from a broken CD player... so I put together some remote speakers to play music on.

With some cheap bamboo cane and tie wraps I've mounted them at the head of my bed. The server boots over the HomePlug network allowing MPD to connect to it. I'll add a wireless remote control soon.

Speaker frame Speakers at top of bed Remote speaker server

Bernard Matthews fails at recycling

First Bernard Matthews increased their prices 50% by including only 4 turkey escalopes in each pack instead of 6. Now they've made their packaging more wasteful by changing from a cardboard label to a plastic one:
Disposal Information: [Label] Sorry currently non-recyclable

ASDA managed to cut down on packaging last year by printing the label onto the plastic itself and getting rid of the cardboard part altogether.

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Content authored by myself is just my honest opinion. If you find any words or pictures menacing or offensive, stop reading now.

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simon@arlott.org.uk
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