Facebook and its Messages on your Smartphone

There has been much speculation about changes to the Messenger program on smartphones. As if it’s some great conspiracy to steal your data, report your activities to the government or its secret services, or worse, advertisers! I can report that such worry is nonsense. I’m sure that there is enough stuff around the internet explaining both sides of this argument. I will say this about it: The Android system, used on a large number of smartphones, expects that permissions (to access parts of your phones hardware/features) are given to programs when you first install them, and that, in explaining what this means, generates a message to you that the hardware can be accessed “at any time”. This is because, as with any computer (essentially what a smart phone is), it’s dependent on its programs to do anything. So, for example, your camera app has to be able to access the camera hardware “at any time” because the message that you have pressed the “button” to take the photo comes from the program – the smartphone doesn’t check that you are actually pressing the “take” button – and how could it? There isn’t one! Just an area on the screen where the camera program has drawn a nice graphic of a button. So, you are completely at the mercy of the camera program, that it only takes photos when you ask it to. And that’s how all apps work.

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Linux – A Free Operating System and gateway to Free Software

… and it’s all perfectly legal!

Yes, that’s right – there’s no catch. So, what is Linux and what can it do for us?

1. It can save you money

Linux is a replacement for Windows. Though you can set up your computer so that, when you start it, you can choose between Linux and Windows. Computers are generally sold with Windows installed. This is an OEM version of Windows which is cut price compared to buying it separately. They make their money through the adverts that get thrown at you, and by having time limited versions of Anti-Virus and Firewall software included – so people pay for Norton or MacAfee, both of which are rather better at slowing your computer down than stopping viruses. If you must have Windows delete this rubbish and download free versions of Avast anti-virus and Zone Alarm firewall. Here, I’m saving you money already! But where it can save you real cash is simple – you might have a computer where Windows is totally messed up, but there’s nothing at all wrong with the hardware. Why buy another when you can install Linux?

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You Cannot Run a Public Service Like a Business, and Here’s Why…

This article is unashamedly stolen from “Scriptonite Daily” and all credit must go to the author at that site.

PS1

One of the greatest myths of our time is that public services can be made more efficient if we run them as businesses.  The commercialisation of our public services has been a manifest failure, and the response offered by the mainstream parties is that we simply haven’t commercialised them enough. What they fail to understand is that a public service and a business are inherently different beasts and asking one to behave as the other is like asking a fish to ride a bicycle.

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So farewell, Sweet Warwick …

It’s not every day of the week that you blow a bass amp. So it was a bit of a shock when, towards the end of what had been a great gig at the Britannia in Southend-on-Sea with Collibosher, that there was suddenly no sound from my bass amp half way through the second encore! A later examination from Jeff’s dad, somewhat of an expert in the field, revealed that the speakers had blown and short-circuited everything else, leading to a totally dead amp with a very uneconomic repair.

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Modding my Bass Guitar part 2

Updated 23rd-24th June….

I wrote the other day about the modifications I made on my Fender Jazz Bass. Yesterday, I took my friend Robben to see it, for a more extended look. The first time I took it to the basement where Collibosher rehearses, I thought it was good but to be frank I was just relieved that it all worked after the money I’d spent. Let me digress on that one for a moment. The guitar has now cost:

  • £150 to actually buy it.
  • £26 for a set of Rotosound Tru-Bass Black Nylon Flatwound Strings
  • £205 for the stuff from Audere after import duties and postage.
  • £78 for the replacement pickups.

That’s £459. So I guess the real test is: did the cost justify the result? Well, co-incidentally, £459 is a typical price of an Ibanez SR500 bass, and Robben has one. So her opinion is very valuable. And she fell in love with the strings so is thinking about adding them on hers! Though maybe at the next change….

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Arise Sir Brendan!

Or: How even a Trade Union leader can get a knighthood under the Tories.

Just to prove that they’re fair, our ConDem government has knighted a Trade Union leader. For looking after the needs of Trade Union members? Well, you judge:

Brendan Barber, former General Secretary of the TUC, is now Sir Brendan Barber. His lifetime of “services to employment relations” has been rewarded. As an ordinary Trade Union member, I was hard-pushed to know exactly what services these were.

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Modding my Bass Guitar

I was getting increasingly frustrated with my bass guitar. Lovely Fender Jazz Bass though it is, beautifully resprayed in electric blue, there was a problem – despite the lovely bodywork, every so often it would sound out of tune even though it wasn’t. You could hear how nice and clean the strings sounded when plucked, with no amp, in a quiet room, but not necessarily through the amp. It never went out of tune, though, unless I knocked a machine head, and the action is very nice.

One thing about my bass, is that it had once had an active unit in it. There was an unused battery box and an extra output socket (which was wired wrongly so couldn’t be used). Hums, pops and clicks were the norm, and occasionally a very loud hum cured by fiddling around with the lead in the socket. Clearly, at some point, the owner had taken out the active stuff for another bass, and put in a passive unit and cheap, non-matching pickups. And didn’t make a very good job of it.

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A lot’s been happening!

How do you sum up the last month or so? It’s been crazy to say the least! Where to start?

After over 39 years in my job, I decided to take retirement, 8 months short of my retirement date. This was not an overnight decision, but one that I had been thinking about for a while. I’ll be a free man come October. Obviously going early means that, instead of 8 months’ wages, I get 8 months’ pension, which is at a reduced rate (for life) because I took it early, but I can honestly say that I value my sanity above financial matters. And I think I’ll be OK.

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Vote Left Unity in PCS Elections!

PCS Members will be receiving a ballot paper for their union elections around now. Many members organised into groups (departments) will receive two ballot papers, the second for their group executive committee. My group is the DWP so I receive the following two:

  1. The National Committee
  2. The DWP Group Committee

I support the Left Unity group. There are, of course, other people standing. There is a group that says that the current Left Unity leadership is not hardline enough. There are others that say that it is too hardline! The “Independent Left” group bases itself on members who are impatient and aren’t prepared for the less militant layers to catch up. I suspect that an IL leadership would be very militant on paper, but in practice, would lead very few struggles because the bulk of members would not follow them. They tend, as a group, to come in third in these elections. In my view they should throw in their lot with Left Unity, both groups want to fight back against what this Government are doing, and the differences are mainly over tactics, something that could be resolved.

The group who have been coming in second are the so-called “4TheMembers” group. In my view they should be called 4TheManagement. One of their leading lights has tried to undermine every action our union has taken over the last few years, circulating stuff criticising the union, with the tacit support of management. Their view is that members don’t really want to fight back, and that the union should do its best to negotiate what little it can. The problem with that is, management won’t give us anything. We have to take action to get any gains or concessions at all!

When 4TM are saying that, as a union, we are too militant, and IL are saying that we are not militant enough, I tend to conclude that Left Unity has got it about right. It’s not about taking action as a knee jerk reaction, nor is it about rolling over and playing dead. It’s about a leadership that picks and chooses our battles wisely, and in a way that takes members as far as they are willing to go, in order to get the best agreements possible.

It’s a hard struggle. Vote for these candidates for a union that continues to fight for your interests!

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Back Home, More Illness, and a more welcome Death

Back home from Malta, had a great weekend. Got a few songs in at the Karaoke and a huge applause for my first ever attempt at “Here Comes The Night”. And after the long Easter Weekend returned refreshed to work on 2nd April. Had a quite easy, stress-free day at work which is unusual after such an absence, but still managed to wake up sick the following morning. I had all this around June last year, one thing after another, and here it was again. I felt better on Sunday but by Monday it was back to square one. Monday the 8th April 2013. A day that started badly until ….

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

I was chatting on line to a friend when she told me that Thatcher had died. I had to start checking every news source, and they were all confirming it. The woman that had led a huge change in British Society, where our communities had been replaced with individual greed, the whole culture of “I’m all right Jack, sod everyone else” had started. It had shamefully continued under the government of Tony Blair PM. An anagram of Tony Blair PM is “I’m Tory Plan B”. And so it proved. Monetarism, privatisation, attacking the conditions of workers, putting people out of work, whilst all the time transferring huge amounts of money from the poor to the rich, it had all started with Thatcher.

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