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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

My New Setup (Primary Workspace)

We now have 3 dual-display laptops here, properly connected using the wonderful Synergy (we’re using it with the GUI which is Quicksynergy). My wife uses one such laptop, whereas now, having gotten a bargain on a new laptop (it cost just 99 pounds), I use two, which means 4 screens to work with in synergy. I finally got around to taking photos (a month later).

A makeover

A makeover

Where to Follow My Writings Online (2016 Edition)

Like most people*, over the years my online posting habits change and sites I was once active in I no longer access (some no longer exist at all). This differs from person to person. I used to be very active in newsgroups and in mailing lists (that was about a decade ago), but I no longer use these much. I try to use self-hosted blogs where possible, but sometimes, due to social dynamics, I also reluctantly send copies to larger networks with more people in them. It makes my messages more widely accessible to a broader audience.

I had a great time chatting with someone this weekend, whereupon I realised that some people don’t know where to follow me, or how to limit what they follow from me, based on preferences like Linux only, no politics, patents only, personal matters and so on. Here are the links to where I can be followed online in real time, so to speak.

For Linux news I use (along with my wife):

For a mix of everything (politics included):

News and focus on patents:

Personal site:

Blog:

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* Even those whose online activity mostly revolves around posting (uploading) selfies and pressing “like” on other people’s selfies, FWIW.

Debunking the Alleged ‘Necessity’ of Facebook

Bathroom

One of the alleged “reasons” for Facebook registration is sharing one’s personal photos with family and friends, or at least view some. It is, however, quite antisocial to require a friend, peer, parent or sibling to give away a lot of personal details to a malicious company just to be allowed into the walled gardens of this company and view photos that this company has nothing to do with (not even copyrights).

Several years ago Rianne and I set up an album in this site, obviating the need for some privacy-infringing Facebook account, which practically helps spy on both the uploader and the viewers, who are supposed to be “friends” and thus not massively spied on. Later this week the album will have had half a million views, showing (we hope) that even a decentralised platform can host one’s photos and receive views from one’s connections, without the need for a massive surveillance network masquerading as ‘social’ media.

The only sad thing is, Yahoo! recently destroyed the slideshow part of our gallery by buying a company that had provided this third-party service for years (in the form of JavaScript), silently taking out all the code and server resources only months later (we estimate this happened half a year after the acquisition). Browsing photos more rapidly has therefore become harder and we are hoping to find a replacement some time in the future (none has been found yet which is fit for purpose). By buying this company, which is sad for a lot of people except perhaps the staff, Yahoo! basically broke the slideshow functionality in tens or hundreds of thousands of Gallery 2/3 Web sites. It is another legitimate reason to hate Yahoo!

Why I Believe British Police Serves and Protects Only Itself (and Maybe the Rich/Powerful)

Manchester Police

EVERY adult person will sooner or later (quite inevitably in today’s world) have an encounter with the police, either as a reporter of a crime, a victim of some crime, or an accused party. This is another rant about the police, but it isn’t just about police violence, which unless caught on tape is typically being justified (I wrote about it before) and defended by the powerful media establishment. It’s too easy to pick on the police, including Greater Manchester Police (which this post is all about), based only on sheer aggression and misuse of force. These people are tough — even too tough — perhaps because they live in a tough world and witness/confront a lot of very tough people, so it’s no wonder they often take it all out on the weak and innocent bystanders — those who want no problems with the police, let alone violate any particular law. Outbursts of violence often come from those who were themselves victims of violence — people who experience a lot of fear and pain as children, at work, and so on. There’s a reason why so many British cops (not just British) kill their wives and it’s not because their wives ask for it.

I was never accused of anything by the police or even reported to the police (I am very law-abiding), but I did report incidents to the police (on behalf on myself and others, either family or complete strangers), I provided testimonies, and I was also a victim of crime. Not even once did the police really help. I can barely say that I’m thankful for anything, not even any encouraging words (some cops were nicer than others, but words and attitudes don’t solve crimes).

Here are half a dozen memorable examples, spanning a period of time no longer than a decade (the first one being 2006 when I was foolish enough to provide a report into violence I had witnessed in the streets).

DDOS attacks

In 2008 or thereabouts my site came under a massive DDOS attack which rendered the site complete inaccessible for several days. The webhost couldn’t take it, there was nothing I can do (I were effectively censored), my sysadmin skills did not help, and the only thing I could do after days of downtime was contact the police (as a non-emergency report through a non-emergencies contact number). The conversions, which I mentioned several times online, were long and unproductive. It didn’t go anywhere. The police didn’t know what DDOS even meant, let alone offered any remedial action, a contact I could use to pursue this further, etc.

I never even bothered phoning again, not even when my sites came under more DDOS attacks in the following few years (the last time being last year).

Attempted break-in

At around 2AM in the morning someone tried to open my flat’s door. That someone first tested to see if someone was inside. I never found out how the person got inside the well-guarded (by two levels of doors with electronic keys to each), but eventually he opened by flat’s door and showed up at the doorstep. It was a guy who spoke nonsense, looked seemingly drunk or stoned and repeatedly groaned “help me!”

I shouted at him to leave, which after about a minute he finally did (he just stood there for a while, staring as though he was not sober, until I stepped towards him with assertive requests that he exits). I locked the door, at which point he started banging on it, whereupon I phoned the police (because of the banging).

What did the police do? It phoned me back quite a while later (maybe an hour later) to check everything was OK. It didn’t even try to catch the guy who could meanwhile move to another target (a different flat). I guess it would be different if I was “Sir” or “Duke”; the police reacts differently to different reporters.

It was 2 years ago that I phoned the police because of this dodgy guy who was trying to enter my house, I assume or presume in order to rob me or something (my friends said he could also try to rape someone, perhaps an unwitting female). This was the last time that I really bothered phoning the police about such incidents. The next incidents near the flat I only reported to the neighbour’s landlord (by SMS) and later to the management of the building (RMG). Those too were fruitless, despite access to CCTV etc. More on those incidents below…

Man beaten up in the street by a gang

The first real encounter that I had with Greater Manchester Police was in 2006. I gave testimony to the police because I was the closest person to the incident (at the time). I saw nobody else providing a testimony and I as a not-so-faraway bystander could accurately describe the perpetrators and what they had been up to in the street minutes before hand. I wrote about it in USENET at the time (also in this blog). I’ll never forget what happened. I saw three guys smashing a poor skinny lad, probably because he was Irish (based on what was later discussed), to the point where he lost consciousness and was just laying there motionless. He thanked me later when we spoke to the police and to give some credit to the police, they handled me politely and took a lot of notes for quite some time.

The problem was this; the police dropped me off (I gave testimony from within the police van for my own protection) near the scene of the crime, where I believe I then saw once again one of the perpetrators (there were several of them who soon dispersed and the police never caught all of them), who could easily follow me to my nearby house (I looked behind myself like a paranoid). I didn’t feel safe for several days to come, thinking I may have been an attractive revenge target for my testimony (the guy could probably just assault me right there at the street, if not just follow me). I phoned angrily to make a complaint to the police, but a nearby guard (non-police, just security at my home) strongly discouraged me, persuading me away from taking this any further, saying they would try to frame me for libel or some other abuse in order to cover their own behinds. I did eventually give up on this, following this guard’s advice (he knew the police here better than I did).

A few years later I witnessed a similar incidents at almost exactly the same place. I saw many guys attacking one guy at the telephone booth where he was trying to hide from them or maybe even phone the cops. I was there almost alone and the guy asked for help. Having already encountered that bittering experience in 2006 I did not report it to the police or get involved. Hopefully that latter guy was OK; I watched for a whole to check that they didn’t slaughter him or something. Later on I started seeing dedicated and well-shielded (at the chest) cops attending that area even in daytime (the first incident I saw was later at night, the other around noon), so presumably the police had by that stage recognised there was a violence issue there. One can perhaps save another person from one thug, but not a whole gang of them (even if they have no weapons), so the least one can do in these circumstances is provide the police with concise information.

Online scam

A relative on mine in the UK got scammed by a man in Africa, or a group of men working together within some kind of network/syndicate. It’s like she lost an entire house to them over the course of nearly one year and finally I got her to report it in December 2013. It has already begun a cyclic scam, almost like a racket. I spoke to the police on her behalf several times because she was shellshocked and terrified; it affected her health, her speech, her marriage, her entire life basically…

The police didn’t do anything (only promises and redirection) and at first even refused to visit the terrified victim, which was rightly (and rationally) afraid for her safety after she had reported the perpetrators to the police with my help (they knew were she lived, and some were seemingly based in the UK or other parts of Europe as well, based on evidence she had).

At the very end there was a cop kind enough to visit my relative and give her advice that would help protect her. He did not, however, try to resolve the crime. When I asked him why the police could not use GCHQ data to track down the perpetrators (I was partly joking, as Snowden’s leaks were having the biggest impact at that time, back in early 2014) he said that it cannot be used for such cases.

All in all, my relative saw none of the money had she lost. She now has to work for many years to pay back debt. The syndicate gets to keep all the money and move on to more victims. Well done, police! It’s worth noting that this is the only case where Yorkshire Police, not Greater Manchester Police, was involved. It actually did better than Greater Manchester Police in some sense. It was kinder and it at least tried to do some things right. It just wasn’t effective at all. Police is supposed to solve crimes, not merely provide mental support.

Domestic violence

My neighbour across the hall (not a friend at all, we never socialised) abused his girlfriend. One day he allegedly punched her. She screamed, but I wasn’t sure what had happened until she left the house and made a noise, saying he had punched her. A neighbour seemingly called the police about it, whereas I just sent an SMS to the neighbour’s landlord (I had spoke to that landlord before, but never to the neighbour, whom I find a little menacing). Why did I not phone the police like I presume my neighbours did (because the police later showed up)? See the above experiences. This later incident was in 2013. By this stage I lost faith in the police.

The police later knocked on my door, I suppose for me to provide with some testimony (like things I heard from across the fall). I didn’t even answer the door as I don’t wish to be used as a witness against a violent neighbour. There’s a lot of risk in being a police tool against a person next door. Weeks later I got mail delivered to my box (by accident). It was intended to go to the neighbour, but the postman made an error. In the envelope I saw a letter from Greater Manchester Police, whereupon I understood what happened, the impact/severity, etc. It wasn’t long thereafter that this neighbour left (or was evicted). The landlord’s daughter and her boyfriend moved in. They were a lovely couple which my wife and I got along with. But it wasn’t the end of abuse in that same building, which we have since then left. See below.

Intrusion and (nearly) assault

In that same building, one of the Three Towers, there were other negative experiences, including one that affected my wife and left her somewhat terrified. The details are all in this older post. The neighbour above us was thankfully at the scene at the time and he protected my wife. She still remembers this. It was last brought up 2 days ago even though the incident is about a year old.

I did not even bother reporting this to the police, having gone through all the above experiences to no avail. The police wouldn’t have helped; neither did RMG. It’s all useless. Maybe they’ll care only when someone dies. They must be busy protecting precious copyrights of rich people or finding people who smoke joints in the streets. If the goal of CCTV (there was footage in this case) is to prevent, deter or solve cases of violence, then this was a great example of this ideology’s profound flaws and severe failings.

Stolen bicycle

Two years ago, in a post titled “CCTV Not Effective”, I already wrote about this incident. Not much has happened since. Greater Manchester Police doesn’t have time to deal with theft. They phoned me weeks later just to say it’s unlikely they’ll find anything. Hours of phonecalls, reports etc. were basically a waste of time. There was hardly any use to reporting the incident in the first place.

Concluding

There are no other experiences that I can recall involving the police, probably because these were very minor and I have since then dodged any interaction with the police. People say that once you are known to the police (for good or bad) they can frame you for just about anything and cause you trouble if they don’t like you (unlike the intelligence community, cope can easily resort to violence and find/manufacture ways to justify this later), so it’s generally a good idea to always stay below these thugs’ radar, outside their scope of interest. To me, based on my experiences, this advice rings true.

Can we generalise all this to Manchester’s police force or to British police? Well, given the increasing size of the statistical sample above (so far nearly 10 incidents), it does seem like there’s a pattern and that pattern indicates that the police either won’t help or will just use the sources (witnesses) like tissue paper.

Update (6/11/2015): I have just recalled another incident where the police failed to help and in some way made things even worse. About 15 years ago someone at Manchester Town Hall attempted launch fireworks from within a dense crowd. Suffice to say, it wasn’t declared in advance and it didn’t go well. The fireworks exploded near the ground, sending sparks flying at people. Thankfully, none hit my eyes (this can easily cause permanent blindness), but one spark hit my hair and made visible burns (not just to the hair but the skin too). After this happened I approached the nearby police for attention, but they pretty much ignored me. Instead, all I got was the slobber of the horse one of them was riding, as the horse swung its head, hitting me in the face. That’s as far as ‘help’ from the police went in this incident. The police was apparently not interested in this kind of incident, even if one person did something illegal and another (who shortly afterwards approached the police) was physically harmed.

December 2013 Photos

IT IS hard to regularly upload and share photos, so we’ve begun doing so periodically. New upload of about 50 photos has been completed. Among the photos this time around:

  • House After Redesign
  • Lincoln, Sheffield, and Yorkshire
  • Pool, Gym (Midland Hotel)
  • Midland Hotel Lounge, Health Club
  • Marble Arch Pub
  • Christmas German Market (Triangle, Town Hall, Victorian), Christmas Arrangements

Towards the end of the month there will be lots more.

Tux Machines

THERE is some good news for me to share. Yesterday I did something which I had never done before. I bought an existing Web site.

The decision to buy this Web site was motivated by the fact that it was one of my favourite sites (if not my most favourite site) and it was at risk of becoming inactive. That site is Tux Machines and it has received similar levels of traffic demand to those of Techrights. We are talking about over a million hits per week.

Compared to personal sites that I run, primarily Tobkes and Schestowitz, Techrights and Tux Machines are much bigger. They don’t even have AWStats installed, so it is hard to give meaningful statistics about them (other than cruder numbers derived from logs that include bots).

In order to show what Tobkes and Schestowitz are getting in terms of traffic, here are bar charts that omit all the bots (which account for about the same amount of traffic as real people):

Tobkes

tobkes

Schestowitz

schestowitz

There are a dozen more sites that I manage, but their traffic is less than the above.

I am still not sure how I will run Tux Machines (this is being debated by core Techrights people), but the plan is to keep the spirit of that site and serve its valuable community as if nothing change since the site was born about a decade ago.

Over time I tend to find ways of making myself more efficient and productive, so maintaining many sites is not a daunting task anymore (it was a bit too much to handle a decade ago, almost leading to burnout). Suffice to say, if it weren’t for the Techrights community helping out with finding links, making suggestions, etc. it would have been much tougher to get this far.

I hate terms like “information economy” (suggesting that knowledge is only valuable if monetised). I never built sites because of greed; it’s about expressing oneself and helping others. All the above sites are run in the interest of sharing — not hoarding — and hearing from people who find these sites helpful if what motivates me to carry on.

Six Months This Month

LATER this month Rianne and I will celebrate half a year of marriage. So far we’ve never had a fight; we look forward to a life-long marriage. She supports everything that I do and it is mutual.

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