Oct 312019
 

Today it is Samhaim, I spotted an off-the-cuff remark on Twitter about women being executed for ‘witchcraft’ in the past, and I also knew that many men were executed for ‘witchcraft’ in the past, so I decided to see if I could get some half-reasonably accurate data on the genders of executed witches.

I got rather rough lists of names from both Wikipedia and here. Processing the two lists was not fun :-

  1. First I removed duplicates where possible.
  2. I flagged as M(ale) all the names that were obviously (to me) male. Or where there were other clues (“husband”).
  3. I flagged as F(email) all names that were obviously women, those where there was some doubt, and those where there was a hint (“daughter”).
  4. I flagged as F(emale) all surname-only names.

This quite possibly over-estimates the number of women executed for witchcraft, and is nowhere near accurate (a list of 477 names out of tens of thousands is a hopelessly small sample).

Out of that list of names, 384 were women (approximately 75%) and 113 were men (approximately 25%). This is nowhere near equal, but neither were male executions so rare that you can honestly say “women were executed for witchcraft”; it has to be “women and men were executed for witchcraft” (or some variation of that).

Having said that, it would be nice to see some proper historical statistical work done to see if a more accurate ratio could be determined.

The Red Door
Oct 302019
 

I was recently involved in a bit of a twitter spat when I ‘came out’ as an atheist in a religious thread. I was agreeing with a sentiment that a religious moderate put out (except for the “god bit”).

In response, I had two religious fruitcakes going on about how I would find god if I suffered enough.

No, I won’t.

And how condescending is it to assume my unbelief is only skin-deep, and at the first sign of trouble I’ll start asking for help from an infectious imaginary friend?

Put the boot on the other foot: Do christians give up their god at the first sign of trouble? Do muslims? Imagine ‘coming out’ to an atheist that you’re a christian, and the response: “Never mind; maybe sometime you’ll regain your sanity and become god-free”

Impertinent isn’t it?

Giving The Sky The Finger
Oct 262019
 

All those “intelligent” voice assistants – Google, Siri, Alexa, smart cars (not not “Smart cars”), etc. all have a seriously damaging misfeature. It is most evident (and indeed amusing) when you are watching a review of a smart car.

All of these voice assistants activate when they hear a particular sound pattern (a word) which is fixed. Now there are probably technical reasons why it is fixed, but that does not mean they cannot be overcome.

I don’t want to address a smart device by a name that I cannot change. I want to shout “Slave! Get me a cup of coffee”, not “Alexa! Phone Alex”. Which is of course a nice to have feature, not a bug.

But what about about attacks? Say “Okay Google, turn off all alarms” (and your victim is late to work), say “Okay Google, set an alarm for 3am” (and your victim is grumpy at work).

That ‘trigger word’ (or phrase) is in effect a password – not a very secure one, but one never-the-less.

Lastly there is what hilariously happens when you see a review of a new car with a voice assistant made by a certain car company whose name starts with “M”. Because of course a reviewer will use the “M” word whilst describing the vehicle, and the miscommunication with the assistant is a hilarious indication of how rubbish voice assistants are (they aren’t really but that’s the impression you get).

Make the trigger word/phrase adjustable, and this all goes away.

Surf In The Wind
Oct 092019
 

You probably will not be surprised that I do not agree with the hypothesis that blocking Brexit is “undemocratic”. Twitter trolls are rampantly gaslighting anything that looks like it supports blocking Brexit by accusing anything that criticises the current Brexit process as undemocratic.

In the referendum, I voted remain but would be quite content to see Brexit under the deal that was promised by the Leave campaigners. I would still oppose it and immediately it was complete would be campaigning to re-join the EU.

But we don’t have a deal that resembles what was promised (the fact it was an unrealistic promise is irrelevant); the EU has declared a deal looks to be impossible and there are reasonable suspicions that the government is angling for a no-deal Brexit.

Which is not what was promised.

And according to the government’s own realistic (not worst-case) scenario of what would happen with a no-deal Bexit, would include significant economic disruption, shortages of food, medicine and other essentials, and possibly rioting in the streets.

The referendum was legally an advisory result which means that it can be ignored by Parliament according to our democratic constitution. And yet Parliament is not ignoring the result – it is insisting that the government makes a deal that Parliament approves of, or seeks an extension – neither blocks Brexit.

And here is so much that was dodgy about the referendum that if it were binding, it may well have been overturned by the courts :-

  1. Collectively the leavers exceeded the spending limits sufficiently to collect in the region of £300,000 in fines. That inevitably had an effect on the result – campaigners wouldn’t spend money if it wasn’t effective.
  2. Numerous reports have emerged indicating the Russian interference with the referendum.
  3. Leaver lies. The trolls would have you believe that the remainers also lied, but I have yet to see anything credible that would lead me to agree. And even if they did, lies invalidate the result.

Recent opinion polls show a clear (if narrow) majority in favour of remaining within the EU :-

If you are going to say that ignoring the referendum result is undemocratic, then I’m going to say that ignoring the will of the people today is undemocratic. 

And finally, to repeat myself, Parliament is not blocking Brexit. It is instead requiring that Boris the Bodger produces a deal with the EU that Parliament can approve of, or that he seeks an extension; the only people suggesting revoking article 50 (without another referendum) are the Liberals after an election.

Oct 082019
 

I was reminded of something recently when someone was using a gooey; they hadn’t made any changes, but clicked “Ok” after reviewing something. A bug in the gooey resulted in a whole bunch of DNS CNAMEs being removed.

The fault is of course with the gooey for having a silly bug, but it was also a reminder to reduce risk whenever you have root (or equivalent).

  1. The “Ok” in a gooey should be read as “Please make the changes I have asked for”; if you are not intentionally making changes, why click on it?
  2. One of the reasons I switched to zsh was that I’d heard of accidents involving wildcards, so I wanted the feature that expanded wildcards within the shell before activating the command.
  3. If you are looking at a configuration file, why are you using an editor? Use view rather than vi, and if you are in vi quit (“:q!”) rather than save and exit (“ZZ”).
  4. If you have an account with special rights , don’t browse the Internet with it. You should have two accounts – one for ordinary stuff and one used just when you need additional rights. That’s two long and strong passwords to remember; life is hard; get used to it.

But this is more than just a few tips for reducing risk; it’s about an attitude that goes beyond simply being careful and towards designing your work flow in ways that reduces risk.

Old Metal 3
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