An Garda Siochana seek to implement website blocking without legislation or oversight

As caught by Digital Rights Ireland:

Last year we revealed that the Department of Justice was working on secret plans to introduce internet filtering in Ireland. Now, despite a complete lack of any legislation, public consultation or democratic discussion, these plans have moved to the implementation stage.

In a letter which was leaked to us, Gardai have asked Irish ISPs to block sites designated by them, and for information about the browsing habits of users who are alleged to have visited these blocked sites. Here’s the full text of the letter:

This blocking – part of wider attempts to stop access to child pornography – is certainly well intentioned. But good intentions aren’t enough.

Experience elsewhere has shown that blocking is largely futile – easily evaded and stopping only a very small proportion of material (it wouldn’t cover, for example, peer to peer filesharing or newsgroups). Earlier this month, for example, it was revealed that Dutch ISPs have, for exactly this reason, abandoned what they concluded was “ineffective” web blocking.

Blocking is also a distraction from what should be the main focus of policing – removing material at source and identifying those responsible. Work in Germany has shown that blocking leaves material available indefinitely, when it could easily be taken down by contacting the hosting providers.

The full article is fairly disturbing and should be read by all. The action by AGS should also be protested against. Please, email Pat Rabbitte and Alan Shatter and your local TD to protest.

To: Pat.Rabbitte@oireachtas.ie, alan.shatter@oireachtas.ie, Joe.Costello@oireachtas.ie

Ministers and Deputy,
I’m writing after reading this article regarding a very recent letter from An Garda Siocahana to a private Internet Service Provider:
http://www.digitalrights.ie/2011/03/29/garda-plans-to-introduce-web-blocking-in-ireland/

As the article explains, while the AGS’s intentions of fighting child pornography are good and laudable, the mechanism they are pursuing is neither. Blocking websites not only does not work (it has been abandoned as ineffective by the Dutch police because it does not prevent peer-to-peer filesharing or any one of a number of other mechanisms); but it has been shown to cause the police to consider their job done when the website is blocked – even when that website remains on the web.

One study found that Danish police were blocking almost 170 websites in 2008, but pornographic material was found on only three of these; those three were also blocked in Sweden, Norway and Finland and had been for several years… and yet nobody ever tried to shut down the websites, they just blocked them and left the websites up as someone else’s problem. The people running the survey, out of a sense of decency, sent three emails to the ISPs who hosted those websites. Two of the three websites were shut down within 30 minutes and the third in three hours (the delay being most likely related to the different timezone the ISP was in). Had the police written those emails, the material would have been off the web two years previously and criminal prosecutions could have followed and more children would have been safeguarded.

I urge you not to support this harmful measure and to instead direct the AGS’s focus to actually going after the criminals who are the source of this material. We, of all people, with the lessons taught by our recent national history regarding child abuse, need to see children safeguarded – not simply direct our police to develop methods in secret and without legislation, debate or oversight to close our eyes to the evidence of this crime when it happens. “See no evil” is not an acceptable approach to fighting child abusers.

Yours Sincerely,

Mark Dennehy
Software Engineer


Boards.ie discussion here.

New Gaming Rig, Part Two – Unboxing and Assembly

The Arrival!

There’s something terribly nice about a box full of stuff 🙂 Scan got the parts to me right on time so Thursday night was to be assembly night, with the goal of getting to a working POST by the end. So out came the boxcutter and I started unpacking…

There are component parts in here somewhere...
There are component parts in here somewhere...

So here are all the components, less the CPU which is hiding off to one side, just out of shot:

Components unwrapped...
Components unwrapped...

Looking at the case first of all (nice solid construction on this…):

Case from front
Case from front
Main compartment
Main compartment
Fans in main compartment
Fans in main compartment

The assembly went relatively smoothly, though it did take a few hours, mainly because I wasn’t really pushing myself. The PSU went in first, then the DVD drive and the hard drive, then the motherboard pillars went in and then the motherboard, then the graphics card, then some swearing, out came the graphics card and the hard drive was moved two bays down so the graphics card didn’t poke it, then the graphics card went in, then more swearing, the motherboard came off its pillars so I could pull it back an inch to fit the I/O facia panel, then back goes the motherboard and in goes the CPU and then I assemble  the CPU heatsink/cooler assembly and lots of swearing and poking later, it’s latched onto the mounting lugs. I’m rather paranoid about those lugs not being sufficient in a tower configuration – some tiewrapping is due there I think just in case. After all this, it was wiring time.

The less said about wiring time, the better, but put it this way:

Wiring. Why'd it have to be Wiring?
Wiring. Why'd it have to be Wiring?

Eventually, everything was where I wanted it, with everything plugged in, screwed on, clipped, latched, tiewrapped, twisted, pushed, poked, pulled, prodded, bent and scrunched as appropriate.

Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly
Final Assembly

It won’t be winning any build awards for neatness, but it’s in, it’s secure, and it’s tidy enough. So now, the moment of truth… the power button… Read more

New Gaming Rig, Part One – The Decision

The last time I built a computer just for gaming was 1998 or thereabouts. Since then, budgets and time and a general loss of interest meant that I didn’t build another one. But the brother’s PS3 hooked up to a 48″ television in the family home meant being exposed to a few of the more recent FPSs and sandbox games, and well, the urge has returned 😀 And it was managable… up until recently, when watching this…
and then this…
came too close to reading the most recent Tom’s Hardware $500 system build… and of course, I went off and priced that exact build and it was only €465 here… and well, the car loan is finally paid off, and there’s no big outlay for a few months yet…. oh what the hell.

 

Thing is, you say “I think a budget box…” and immediately you get people who know what they’re talking about mentioning i7 builds that cost twice the price, and then you get into the whole cost-performance tradeoff. And I’m not denying it, that’s a fun debate 😀 Many thanks to IrishMetalHead, Monotype and the other guys on the boards.ie PC building & upgrading forum for their help, by the way – definitely a very useful resource for anyone trying their own custom build (or who’d like to start). After a fair bit of chatter, and a lot of digging through Tom’s Hardware (seriously, PC gaming hardware’s changed quite a lot in the last few years – servers, I’m current with, but graphics cards… well, the last gaming rig I had could just about manage Counterstrike at 800×600@20fps…), I had a build manifest that looked like it’d handle everything that the games for the next year or two would throw at it and which wouldn’t fall over for a while yet; and which, when upgrade time came, wouldn’t need upgrading all at once (so that the CPU, motherboard and RAM could go form the heart of a HTPC build or a cheap NAS rig, while the other parts said hello to a proper i7 build for its new core).

 

Once the final build manifest was put together, it was time to go round the various retailers trying to find one that had the entire list (or as close to it as was possible) and took online payment and preferably would deliver this week. The initial retailer, hardwareversand.de, who were a new crowd to me, had almost everything I wanted at a decent price, but delivery wasn’t going to be fast and it was a pain in the fundament to pay them – bank transfers to germany? Seriously? Yeesh. Dabs.ie looked good for delivery for all but one item (the motherboard) – thing is, I’ve been burned by dabs in the past for restocking time estimates, so no thanks. Overclocking didn’t have everything and the price was a tad high (not to mention the dire warnings from unhappy customers on the net). Simply seems to have gone away, Komplett didn’t have all the parts and so after digging through the boards.ie forum for a recommendation I went to Scan (another new crowd since I last did this) and found all I was looking for (with minor variations) at a reasonable cost and with this-week delivery. So the order went in today, and I’m told I’ll have the parts on Thursday…

 

Here’s the build:

Description Ex VAT Inc VAT
Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3 Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3Not the original motherboard in the Tom’s build, but a similar model with the same chipset by a decent manufacturer. £47.77 £57.32
AMD Athlon II X3 450 AMD Athlon II X3 450, 3.2GHz £48.45 £58.14
Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro v2 £12.98 £15.58
Samsung 1Tb Spinpoint F3 1TB Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 £32.48 £38.98
Gigabyte GV-N560SO-1GI-950 Gigabyte GV-N560SO-1GI-950 Super OverclockQuite happy at getting this – check out the Tom’s Hardware Review and Benchmarks for it! £181.56 £217.87
2x2Gb Corsair XMS3 DDR3 PC3-10666 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair XMS3 Classic, DDR3 PC3-10666, CAS 9-9-9-24 £32.12 £38.54
Samsung SH-S223L Samsung SH-S223L/RSMS 22x DVD±R £14.08 £16.90
Corsair CMPSU-500CXUK Builder Series 500W Corsair CMPSU-500CXUK Builder Series £37.47 £44.96
Antec Three Hundred Antec 300 Three Hundred, Black Midi Tower Case £38.83 £46.60
Microsoft Sidewinder 2000 Microsoft SideWinder 2000 Gaming Mouse £14.99 £17.99
Wolf King DK-2388U Wolf King DK-2388U Circular Gaming Keyboard £5.99 £7.19
Sub Total £466.72
Carriage £20.55
VAT £97.45
Total £584.72
Now all I have to do is wait for the parts to arrive, and spend most of the weekend building it – that’ll be part two of this post 😀

WordPress Simple Graph Plugin

One of the downsides of working for IBM (and frankly, there aren’t that many), is that most of the work I do is usually under a pretty strict NDA. I’m learning a lot about the innards of database and High Availability and Disaster Recovery, but I can’t actually go blogging about it 🙁 However, IBM support a lot of open-source work and so they actually understand it (many companies I’ve worked for don’t). So long as you let your manager know what you’re working on and it isn’t something that competes with IBM products (fair enough, if I’m doing DB2 internals all day, I shouldn’t go work on MySQL internals on weekends for a dozen different reasons), then you can hack away on anything you want in your spare time.

That in mind, I’m finally getting back to some coding in my spare time (what little of it I have), and I’m starting slowly with some maintenance work on a WordPress Plugin called Simple Graph. You can see it in action over on my training blog, it’s what’s making the graph on the right of the page that tracks my weight:

Simple Graph sidebar widget
Simple Graph sidebar widget

It’s just a very simple widget for taking in hand-entered numerical data and plotting it dates.  The codebase has stagnated since 2007, so its author has given me permission to maintain it, and I have a list of things I want from it before I’ll call it done:

  • Clean commented code without any PHP warnings or notices
  • Fully WordPress 3.1 compatible
  • All options working as documented
  • Documentation updated to be more accurate and expansive
  • Better SQL query structure
  • More checking of input data
  • Multiple graphs working
  • Shorttag substitution in posts working

Once that’s done, I have a small list of features I want to add to it:

  • CSV import and export of data
  • Area graphs
  • More options to control graphics – line thickness, grids, background options, etc.
  • Use more GD features to give better looking end results
  • Use more Google Chart API features for better looking end results

Once that lot is done, we should be up to version 1.10 or thereabouts. I’ll post up a roadmap on the Simple Graph page I’m putting up later on. If you’re using the plugin and have any features you’d like to see, let me know using the comments below.

So far, I’m about a third of the way into cleaning up the code and commenting as I go. Feels good to finally be working on something for fun again..

Stochastic Geometry is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache

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