Evil geniuses and world domination are 2 of our goals... we also like Dr Who

I hate to say I told you so… but….

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cooper says soWell – like the title says : I hate to say I told you so, but I did so tell you so.  Way back in the Volkswagen problems post, I suggested that the ground work was probably  under way to attempt to divert the responsibility for the software issue away from the board, and towards software engineers.

Artur’s first point about software group size could – if I were more cynical – be an attempt to create a narrative around this.  Something along the lines of “It was a few rogue programmers that released this code”


Michael HornVolkswagen’s US boss said to US Congress :

My understanding is that it was a couple of software engineers who put these in

I’m really concerned with Volkswagen – with the quality of their processes. According to Michael Horn, 3 people were able to get software onto millions of cars world wide with no quality or compliance checks? 3 people?

The assertion that the board had no knowledge of this seems to suggest that the board had no idea of what was going on in their own company – so are they actually admitting that the board was incompetent?  This seems like deflection – particularly if the reports from CNBC that the board were informed in 2007 and 2011 by Bosch, and their own technicians are to be believed.

A worst-case scenario for Volkswagen would be a steady drips of new revelation. And, indeed, new reports published by several German newspapers, including the weekend Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, indicate the Volkswagen AG supervisory board was warned of the diesel cheating scam by both a key supplier and some of the company’s own engineers.

A letter dated 2007 shows that the automotive mega-supplier Bosch pointed to illegal modifications to its control software, the reports said.

And VW’s own technicians flagged the issue for the automaker’s board in 2011, they said.

I also think that it’s troubling that the potential fix for this is the installation of a urea treatment tank (on certain models).  So I think the decision was made based on a manufacturing hardware decision – it’s certainly cheaper to manufacture the same car for European and US markets – and to get it through the tests a software patch was needed.  The decision will therefore be blamed on the last person involved – which will be the software department, rather then the originator of this scheme.

I think the point I’m trying to make here is that there is more than software at fault – so with that in mind I’m going to suggest that Volkswagen start moving away from cars, and instead work on public transport infrastructure.  Here’s a Bus design idea that I really think that Volkswagen should attempt to implement

Suggestion for the new Volkswagen Bus

Suggestion for the new Volkswagen Bus

At least there wouldn’t be the amount of carnage that I suspect there will be when Volkswagen start throwing people under the bus.

Electoral Reform Services feedback form

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I received a letter from my local council regarding the electoral register, and that I needed to refresh my information.  So I visited their website and entered the super secret codes from the letter to obtain access to my records.  I must say the process seemed straightforward enough – until I reached the feedback section.

Now I hadn’t noticed until the feedback form, but the querystring contained quite a lot of information. I had a quick play with the feedback form, and sent the following communication to the technical department at (I assume) Electoral reform services Ltd.  Here’s what I sent them – I’ve censored some of the data within this communication. For more information, the code1/code2 are the security codes from my letter.

I was just looking around the feedback form (I just completed my form on-line) – Have you guys seen how much data is sloshing around in the query string? Here’s the address of this page :



What’s interesting is that this query string data is just slapped into the fields, meaning that if you change the URL, you can effectively send a feedback about a different authority, or person, or address or indeed anything. Why not store this stuff in session, where I can’t access it?

Potential implication : Spam messages sent to every council about every property from a fake name. Once feedback is sent feedback cannot be re sent – this would be a denial of service for all legitimate users.

Potential implication : XSS – These values are posted into the page into fields. It should be possible to strip out anything that looks like JS, and hopefully you’ve done that. I’m too scared to try it.


Mike Hingley

It’s possible that this information was floating around all the time on my query string but I never saw it.

Poster design awards

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Last weekend, miss Vicki and I ventured firth to Leeds for the NODA AGM. It turns out that a poster I designed was in the running for the Thomson Leng trophy for the NODA national poster design competition.  I ended up winning first place  so I thought it might be a good idea to write about the poster and how I made it.

I was asked by the director to design a poster for his production of communicating doors. He asked that it be cartoony and a little comic book like

I had long admired the artwork by Adrian Salmon on the Big Finish Bernice Summerfield audio CDs. Here’s an example of one

empire state

I love the use of the black line and the  fill colour in this case blue. I thought it was cool approach to colour I would try to apply to this poster. I spent a couple of hours noodling in Krita and came up with a rough colour studycomunicating doors

The character proportions wasn’t that great so I set about drawing a better layout on 12 field animation paper.  I photographed it and imported into my computer

communicating doors2

I inked up and coloured the artwork in Krita. Blocking off the bottom of the poster where  the show information was going. The director wanted to add that information there himself,
 Next up, Typography. I saved a flattened version of the post from Krita and used it as a template to create the curved text for the title of the play. I got a number of fonts I thought would work well for the title and ran them past the Director, We both decided that #3 was the font
 communicating doors tesxt


 I removed the template and saved off a png of the page before loading it into the layered krita Document and adjusting it position a little.

communicating doors layout

 Finally I sent the Artwork off to the Director for final approval before he added the show information to the bottom of the poster.
Here’s the Final poster:
 communicating doors FINAL
Finally here’s a picture of the Thomson Leng trophy.
I really enjoyed working on the poster. Thinking back it was one of the last things I drew on my laptop, It used to hang and crash krita a lot, but now I upgraded the RAM it might be time to revisit drawing on my laptop. The last couple of productions for Waterbeach Community players, I have used photo montages for poster designs, hopefully the next one I can draw again!

Windows XP… Be afraid

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Volkswagen problems

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mwha ha ha

I’m sure that it hasn’t escaped your attention, but Volkswagen has been caught doing something underhand and sneaky.  Volkswagen is accused of implementing software code within a diesel car’s engine management computer to detect the presence of emissions sensing equipment, and modify the flow of fuel through the engine to attain lower emission ratings and therefore pass the emissions test. The effect of this is that Volkswagen had an unfair advantage over other diesel manufacturers, and at the same time the emissions of these cars are actually up to 40% more than under test conditions.

The fall out of this scandal has forced the Chief Executive -Martin Winterkorn- to resign, the share price to plummet and leaves Volkswagen with its reputation in tatters and facing a potential $18 Billion fine.

Artur Fischer  (Joint CEO of the Berlin Stock Exchange) – was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and had the following to say about the scandal, and interestingly about software:

“But I really like your listeners to remember that software changes can be done by small groups of people and can be deployed in millions and the real question I have, from a distance is,  How about software quality assurance? How about compliance? How big was that problem inside the company? and for that to analyse you need to have a fresh start”

Overall I’d agree with Artur’s first point – that software changes can be made by small groups of people – however the rest of this statement left me feeling uncomfortable.  Artur’s first point about software group size could – if I were more cynical – be an attempt to create a narrative around this.  Something along the lines of “It was a few rogue programmers that released this code”, and the “Fresh Start” that he talks about could be an attempt to prevent too much scrutiny of the processes around software development.  Fresh Start was also a phrase used by the outgoing Markin Winterkorn.  I’m not sure what analysis you can do if you implement a fresh start – and it again cynically may look like an attempt to bury other systemic failures within the VW group.

It’s a fact of life that software is more and more prevalent in the things we buy and consume today, and with the future Internet of Things materialising around us, I think we need to be concious of the issues that can arise from software lurking in things that we may not traditionally associate with running software..

At OggCamp a few years ago I heard Karen Sandler talk about the pacemaker she has fitted, and the  issues that she struggled with around the problem of bugs in medical devices that are implanted into your body – like pacemakers and insulin pumps – how these can be hacked or manipulated, and how the code for these devices is unavailable.

We place a huge amount of trust in out cars – and underpinning this trust is code. How can we be sure that the code in my car won’t detect a test condition, and lower the fuel consumption? That could leave me without power while driving, and therefore potentially in danger.

So how do we mitigate the issue that software is going to be ever present in more and more things ?

Well for some devices like My Friend Cayla, or garage door openers security researchers have done the research to identify issues with those devices.  Some manufacturers may be able to issue patches to affected devices.  I’m less sure how a patch could be distributed to my car, or a pacemaker.  The EFF believe that the Volkswagen emission test issue could have been uncovered if there was access to the source code – I’m betting that Martin Winterkorn is probably wishing that their software was accessible through some mechanism.


Credit :

Title : Villain – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villain#/media/File:Villainc.svg

license : Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Upgrading Memory- It’s not Rocket Science. It’s Brain Surgery

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My laptop has had problems rendering videos or general graphics work, and while the Snail Tales Project could be made using portable apps, long term it’s just not a viable solution.

So out of interest I went to Mr Memory and got some stats up on my laptop. Apparently it can have up to 2 gig of RAM in 2 ram cards. Well some more RAM should help speed things up a little,  so I checked to see how much ram I had in and it turns out I had 512mb

OK, so how much would it cost me to upgrade my ram to 2 gig with 2 1 gig cards? £16

Having got the memory type from Mr Memory, I did a quick search on Amazon and found 2 matched cards for £16 . I ordered them and they arrived the other week.

The other night was a quiet night, Miss Vicki was out, so having the house to myself, I decided to do the upgrade

First thing I did was to  just make sure how much memory I had.

sudo lshw -C memory


It told me that 512M Ram was installed. so then I powered down the laptop, whipped the battery out and prepped the patient for Surgery


I located the panel with the RAM in and opened it.pulling the pins back the board leapt up at a 45 degree angle, I was able to remove the board and place in 2 new RAM boards before re securing the panel and powering it up again.


it powered up OK and once it reached the desktop I checked the RAM yet again:







Snail Tales, Project update

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OK heres where we bust out some more shots from the smail tales project. At the moment there are less that 10 scenes of animation left to do, mainly groups shots.

the arems a broken in this one, but i am happy with the rest of the animation

in this shot, The Dragon makes his appearance, the narration said the knights went off to get help, I decided it would be funny to have them run off terrified

in the next shot we see the Cat Detective face off against the HUGE dragon!

Here’s the shot inside the safe of the Queen reacting all shocked. I will add some eyes to her













Jenkins Upload class

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I have been working on the Java code for uploading a video to YouTube, and I have the following video demonstrating it in action



Mad Max…Gokarts

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Looking forward to a great day out

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