Archive for November, 2006

Banish your MSN Viruses

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

There appears to be an epidemic of MSN-bourne viruses plaguing LFC students.  Perhaps more tragic than that people are gullible enough to download these viruses is that once infected, no-one who I have talked to has known how to remove them.

The virus itself (technically a ‘worm‘ in virus terminology) works by hijacking your MSN client and sending a message to your contacts to the tune of:

“OMG, is this you?! :p [download link]”

The link points to what appears to be an image file on some funny pictures website; however, the link redirects to a .pif file which self-replicates and attempts to further spread itself to your contacts, who download it and… repeat ad infinitum.

If you have fallen victim to this, you could always try this free online virus scan, Housecall, from Trend Micro. The online application is very straightforward and, being written in Java, works on the more secure Firefox web browser. It works on Mac and Linux OS, too… not that Mac or Linux users would realistically need it.

Housecall, although excellent for a web-based app (I first used it about four years ago) is not ideal – you should really have some form of dedicated antivirus software installed on your system.  Popular commercial software comes from companies such as Norton or McAfee, but personally, having used both commercial software and the free alternatives, I recommend AVG Anti-Virus (free edition) for your virus-busting needs as it is automated, unobtrusive and very effective.  It can also be set up to scan every file imperceptibly before it is opened to check for nasties.

For those of you looking for Firewall protection, I recommend ZoneAlarm Personal – another free program that I have personally used and sworn by for years.

Future prospects

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

It has come to a stage in my life where I am compelled to look at my future and where my life is heading.

The most pressing issue is what to pursue for future education. I can either achieve 5 A*-B grades and return to landau to study ICT, Mathematics and English Language and Literature at A2 (full A-level) and Business at AS (half A-level); go to Derby College (Joseph Wright + Mackworth) to study the same A2 subjects + Photography AS; or take a completely different route.

Subject wise it is a no-brainer – I have a passion for photography and my business teacher is unbelievably unstimulating and inexperienced, and sod’s law suggests that I will have her again if I return for A-Level. However, Landau’s average pass-rate for A-Levels is something like 95%, around 20% higher than Derby College if my sources are correct.

Then there is the desicion of what to do post-college. Further education (uni), gap year, employment? I want to go to university, but don’t know if I can justify the cost and if a degree would be relevant to any career path I might take.


The Giraffe Analogy

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Every once in a while I get really down about relationships, sparked by nothing in particular – perhaps a relic of a past relationship with an untactful and indelicate bitch. Whilst these days these moods only last for a couple of hours (opposed to the couple of days that used to linger for less than a year ago), they are still very annoying and a pain to get out of.

The problem is the ‘downer’ effect, or ‘all that goes up must eventually come down’. After a high point in a relationship, when things return to normal I feel as if the relationship has taken a turn for the worst and fall over myself trying to ‘rectify’ things. Of course, nothing has really gone wrong at all, and I am consciously aware that I must avoid being overly clingy or sounding pathetic.

I attempted to explain this over the phone to my girlfriend earlier whilst trying to avoid sounding too brash. The conversation went something like this:

“No, it’s not you… it’s just… like… well, imagine a line graph…”

“A line of giraffes?”

“No, a line… oh, OK then, a line of giraffes. In this herd of giraffes I’ve acquired, there are normal giraffes that are naturally tall; small giraffes that are still quite big; and tall giraffes that are really, really tall. I’ve got them all standing in a line and you can see how their height changes. The small giraffes represent silly arguments and misunderstandings, and the normal giraffes show what we are normally like. The tall giraffes represent really high points.”

“Would this be easier to explain as a line graph?”

“No, let me finish. Just imagine you can’t see any giraffes further than the one you’re already looking at. Imagine for a while you see nothing but really tall giraffes, and they’re all big and impressive. Now imagine that you suddenly get a normal sized giraffe. It’s a giraffe, so it’s still absolutely huge, but it doesn’t seem quite as impressive as the giraffes you’ve already seen so in your mind it’s a bit of a letdown. Do you get me?”

“Yeah, sort of, but it doesn’t make that much sense – I mean, if I had a herd of giraffes I wouldn’t care what size they were because they’re still giraffes and cool and amazing and I’d be so happy and excited to have the herd of giraffes that even the small ones would impress me.”

I honestly can’t remember the last time I smiled as much as when I heard that.

Henceforth, the process of attacks of illogical paranoia being warded off by a witty girlfriend shall be known as ‘The Giraffe Effect’.

WAMP – your own personal Apache, PHP5, MySQL

Monday, November 20th, 2006

Want to turbocharge your exploration of dynamic webdesign?  Would your own free, private webserver help?

I discovered WAMP through a blog that I’m subscribed to, and have found it immensely useful – and suggest that it would be useful also to others interested in PHP, dynamic website design (i.e. database-orientated forums, blogs, CMS), or designing themes for dynamic websites such as your WordPress blog.

WAMP installs the following to your Windows system:

  • Apache 1.3.31 – an open source webserver;
  • PHP 5 – a server-side scripting language;
  • MySQL – a popular open source database service for web apps;
  • Database management applications.

You could use WAMP to host a website – dynamic or otherwise – from your home PC, but I am using it to aid in my understanding of PHP, and also to assist in the design of the next incarnation of

Cleaning out my inbox: Humerous Complaints

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

I have a Hotmail (now Windows Live Mail) account for a little over half a decade, and have amassed nearly 700 emails – this is coming from someone whose digital assets are usually impeccably organized.

Whilst searching for a satirical forward, I discovered an email listing alleged extracts from genuine letters of complaint to UK county councils during the year of 2002.


Pointing the finger

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

As I was walking home earlier this evening, two cars collided almost head on about 20 meters in front of me.

From the angle of the cars, it appeared that an elderly lady had tried to pull out of her drive without taking the time to check for incoming vehicles. Another car had collided with it, taking out the right side of the bonnet and also dealing some impressive damage to the woman’s car.

Before I had managed to get close enough to see what was really going on, another elderly, though impressively energetic woman had emerged from a nearby house and was threatening the male driver through the window. A huge scene was made as the woman loudly commanded the man to stay in his car, stay right there, not to dare get out, not to move, and what was probably translatable as a threat of violence should the man refuse to turn off his engine. Before long, the street was alive with activity – perhaps half due to the commotion caused by Mackworth’s new self-appointed absolutist.

I later learned that the male driver had apparently tried to ‘make a break for it’, and this woman was trying to keep him in his car in case he was uninsured and trying to avoid a fine, or perhaps even acquittal for dangerous driving. Equally, as far as I saw, he could have being trying to escape a potential explosion hazard.