Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Funny warnings

* Your warranty is now void.
* I am not responsible for bricked devices, dead SD cards,
* thermonuclear war, or you getting fired because the alarm app failed. Please
* do some research if you have any concerns about features included in this ROM
* before flashing it! YOU are choosing to make these modifications, and if
* you point the finger at me for messing up your device, I will laugh at you.

From a community firmware upgrade for a Sony Xperia.

It would be something run-of-the-mill like the alarm app that would fail. While showing off my shiny new Mac at work years ago, the calculator app failed and took the rest of Mac OS X with it. It seems having it speaking the values was a step too far. Was a repeatable failure too :-(

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fun error messages

Android error message from today:

Could not find method setEpicenterBounds(Rect) on PopupWindow. Oh well.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

Credit Cards with built-in fingerprint sensors

Mastercard have unveiled credit cards with built-in fingerprint sensors. Including the sensors on the cards avoids the need to upgrade the card readers. They are being trialed in South Africa by Absa Bank (Barclays Africa) and the Pick n Pay retail chain.

While fingerprint readers can be fooled and the use of fingerprints is sure to come with it's own set of problems, they should be compared to the current use of PINs and their use in differing security scenarios and retail environments around the world. For example some of the articles pick up on the inconvenience of having to visit a bank branch to have your fingerprint biometrics stored on the credit card, versus receiving the card in the post. However at least one South African Mastercard issuing bank hasn't distributed credit cards via the post for quite some time due to security concerns, so it differs from place to place.

If you are in a country that has had chip & PIN for a long time e.g. UK, Australia, South Africa, etc... it can be surprising that it isn't universal already and therefore rather staggering the scale Mastercard has to cover for example Chip & PIN is still being rolled out in the USA (70% consumer, 39% retailer coverage in 2016).

Engadget card demo
Mastercard press release
The Register
Tech Crunch

Monday, 12 September 2016

Don't scream at your hard disks - 2016 version

Brendan Gregg while an engineer at Sun Microsystems in 2008 posted a YouTube video showing that shouting at hard disks could cause faults.

This past weekend ING Romania tested their datacentre's fire suppression system and according to the Motherboard the gas released with a 130dB+ noise that fatally damaged enough of their hard disks to knock out the datacentre. It seems their monitoring hardware's range topped out at 130dB. Ouch! They had swap over to their DR site and have still to determine the extent of the damage.

For comparison 130dB would be felt standing 15.24m (50ft) away from a military jet aircraft take-off with afterburner on an aircraft carrier.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Black Cat Electronics -- Smith

Cat attention input error with resulting keyboard buffer overflow and sharp-claw priority hardware interrupt.

Apply cuddles to continue or any other action to encounter the glacial stare of disdain. Any attempt at rebooting will not offer a safe-mode option.



Cat, King of the large ape servants, Destroyer of worlds, Annihilator of scratch-blocks, Ribbon affectionardo, Aquaphobic and Laptop heatsink.


Monday, 27 June 2016

Hamerkop Lunchtime

I photographed this hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) eating what I think is a guttural toad (Amietophrynus gutturalis) at the Durban Botanical Gardens' lake. Hamerkop is Afrikaans for hammer (hamer) head (kop) which is quite appropriate.

It had already stabbed the toad with its beak to kill it a couple minutes before and was throwing it in the air to align it with its beak so as to swallow it. It had tried quite a few times already so this wasn't as lucky a photo as you might think, although this was the occasion it got it right. It lowered the toad into the water each time again before trying again which accounts for the water spray off the toad.

When I was a teenager and at school my mother found a hammerkop eating my goldfish as she was walking through the garden on her way to work in the school's tuck-shop. She chased it away but it just landed on the roof and waited. So my mother got an umbrella hoping to use it as a scarecrow, but the hammerkop didn't think much of it and landed right next to the umbrella and she had to leave. I think I lost 72 goldfish. 

I learned much later to stop keeping goldfish and rather to stock fast breeding small fish I didn't care much about. Then you can rather enjoy the wildlife that come to eat the fish than trying to work against them.

My neighbour who gave me the advice also gave me the fish by scooping a bucket-load out of his pond. The fish were black and slim so they stood a decent chance of hiding in my pond which was very deep with lots of plants. The most interesting outcome was that fishing spiders started living in the foliage in the pond.

It is quite a big bird at around 50cm tall and obviously isn't shy about stabbing things, but this didn't stop my daft 9 month old cat from trying to stalk one on an open lawn while the bird was next to my fishpond. The bird wasn't even bothered with me standing fairly close by. The hamerkop turned its head to focus on the leopard crawling cat and stood there for a while as if it couldn't believe it, then walked away while looking at the cat, flying off after a bit when the cat didn't give up.

We often had hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) in our garden which are a bit bigger than a hamerkop and have equally stabby beaks. They use them to punch into the ground and grab earthworms and insects. Our cat totally ignored them so I wonder if he had become older and wiser, that they were too big or that they were rarely alone put him off.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Bar-throated Apalis

I can highly recommend it as a place to visit & stay, although you should have a car with high ground clearance.

I used to drive there in a VW Golf -- the original box-shaped one, very, very slowly with one wheel in the middle of the road and the other on the side of the road to avoid for the deep ruts. On one occasion going home from the lodge on the mountain top, after perhaps a 40 minute crawl, I reached the tarred main road which has a 100kph speed limit and accelerated. My wife shouted at me to not drive so fast ... I was only doing 60!

There is another lodge in the forest which has 4 (5?) rivers to cross. My golf happily splashed across all of them except the last one on the return journey. It always hit a rock with the underside, I could never find the rock and it never hurt the car. :-)

My next car had high ground clearance and I drove the route normally at a reasonable speed, but the first salesman lost the deal because he insisted I needed a 4x4 :-) I guess he never saw the Top Gear episode where the backup car, an old VW Beetle made it right across Botswana.