Older blog entries for slef (starting at number 301)

One little drugs story and ARD/ZDF drops coverage of the Tour

As if being hospitalised after crashing into a spectator wasn't enough, Patrick Sinkewitz has been told he's tested non-negative for testosterone. I think that is the same test that Floyd Landis failed, which I'm still unsure about.

In an outrageous move, ARD/ZDF (visible at 19 and 13 east) have stopped live tour coverage "until clarification of the Patrik Sinkewitz case" whatever that means. Will they resume if it the second test is positive too? I doubt it.

If I remember correctly, ARD/ZDF have been threatening to drop the Tour de France for at least a year and maybe more. Finally, they get an excuse to replace proper tour coverage with more cheap, bland daytime TV like Z-list interviews, soaps and cookery shows - or continuous criticism of the Tour de France, like they had today.

In the Expatica report, ZDF chief producer Nikolaus Brender said:

"We can't screen an event involving some teams and riders under suspicion of doping."

(That's strange. Of course they can. They have before and I bet they'll still show motorsport, football, horse-racing, golf, wrestling, and so on if they get them. They just don't want to show cycling.)

"We want to show by this gesture that we're ready to support cycling only if it's clean, that's to say without banned doping sustances."

(That's actually quite a high standard: over 180 participants, none of them cheating. That's a lot harder than 20 drivers or 30 footballers all being clean - even then, they don't always manage it and I don't see ARD/ZDF dropping those sports every time one player is accused of doping. Never mind all the smaller cheating attempts which are easier in many other sports than cycling.)

"It's a warning to cycling and to every other sport,"

It's a warning that ARD/ZDF's TV producers are short-sighted and don't care about the viewers.

At least Eurosport Germany continues with live coverage every day! Let's keep watching and see how the chips fall for Sinkewitz. Are ARD/ZDF fee-payers raising hell about this absurd decision? I hope so.

Syndicated 2007-07-18 22:08:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

The Cooperative Tour de France

Did you know that the cooperative movement has a strong presence in le Tour? Road cycling is a good sport to show off teamwork and cooperation, because no-one can win a three-week tour on their own.

The following Tour de France teams seem to have cooperatives as their main sponsors:

Top-placed cooperative rider is Rabobank's Michael Rasmussen, the General Classification leader! He's also currently King of the Mountains (polka dot jersey) and Most Aggressive Rider (red numbers).

We've already seen C.A's Thor Hushovd win a stage, while Milram's Erik Zabel has led the points classification and now lurks in second in that contest for the green jersey. Both Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde and Rabobank's Denis Menchov should have a chance of the overall win - or can Michael Rasmussen keep it despite the time trials to come?

Syndicated 2007-07-17 00:58:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

A few small pieces of recycling news for me to recycle:

The Weston Mercury repeats that a Recycling review will be carried out as a result of "staff will just take it for granted that green waste is in the green lorries" allegations, but no new news.

Guardian: Fortnightly collections not always the answer, say MPs so hopefully that will discourage any more one-measurement-fits-all moves.

Centred on Cambridge, cam.misc posters are describing what really happens when your recycling gets missed

Meanwhile, the WWN reports about The £300K Mistake so I think some signs may need recycling. Come back Tea's - your town needs you!

Syndicated 2007-07-17 00:31:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

What idiots are describing "email notices that ask you to download from the web" as email billing?

Daniel Jacobowitz asked:

"Do these banks actually send billing information via email? The US banks I've dealt with (and other things, like most utility companies) only send you notifications to go to their encrypted web site to get your bill."

Good question. Actually, I don't know. I already have web access to my bank statements, so it would be strange to describe that as email billing.

My emailed phonecoop bill is the actual bill as a PDF file attached to an email, along with a zipped CSV file containing fuller call data. I don't mind that being unencrypted too much because I download it from their mailserver with TLS, which doesn't seem too risky. Another phone company sends me an emailed bill as plain text, also unencrypted - I should go stop that one.

Looking at the other utilities, it seems like two of them send email notices telling you to use their (horribly broken) web sites to get the bill, while the water company try to screw you if you sign up to their web services, and don't seem say how their system works.

So, I'll not be signing up for any more of these just yet. What idiots are describing "email notices that ask you to download from the web" as email billing, which UK companies actually offer proper email billing and do any encrypt email yet?

Syndicated 2007-07-17 00:08:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

A bugfix for putting the Tour de France commentary on your root window

Kevin Mark commented:

"pamflip does not seem to be in the fiesty netpbm package nor does it seem to show up in packages.ubuntu.com."

Huh? Ah. Ow!

Once again, I fall freely into a freedom freefall.

It seems that netpbm is not the same as debian's netpbm (also used by ubuntu) and the machine providing my root window is currently using netpbm rather than debian's one. (Why? Not sure yet. It annoys the hell out of me, because every man page refers to a web page.)

Apparently debian has its own netpbm because

"Upstreams and debian goals differ in some aspects too much to build the package on upstream versions"

How? In what way? No further explanation is linked. Anyone got a good intro to the history of this?

Any road up, it seems that debian's netpbm doesn't (yet?) have pamflip, but it does have pnmflip. I've changed the script to match.

Syndicated 2007-07-16 23:46:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Putting the Tour de France commentary on your root window

# keeps updating le tour on the top left of the root window
# Depends: bash, netpbm

while true ; do
  xsetroot -bitmap <(
    curl -s 'http://live.cyclingnews.com/?id=latest' \
    | sed -e 's/<br[^>]*>/\n/g;s/<[^>]*>//g;s/&nbsp;/ /g;s/ *$//;1,/Tour de France/d;/\(rovisional\|start.*prev\)/,$d' \
    | cat -s | fmt \
    | pbmtext -builtin fixed | pnminvert \
    | pamflip -tb | pamcut -h 620 -pad | pamflip -tb \
    | pnmpad -black -w 1024 -h 768 -b 620 -l 0 \
    | pbmtoxbm )
  sleep 300

Syndicated 2007-07-13 13:06:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes


Diary of a geek: The trials and tribulations of trying to be compliant mentions the question of embedding HTML in RSS feeds. My simple answer is to use RDF Site Summary (aka RSS-1) and the content module, then put the HTML version into a content:encoded CDATA section. RSS 0.91 doesn't really work for this and the whole Winer-inspired Really Simple Syndication is fatally flawed on XML namespaces.

Anyway, if you're really a geek, please add a feedback route (pingback is my current favourite) to your blog.

Syndicated 2007-07-11 10:32:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

North Somerset Rubbish Targets

One of my examples to explain "the tragedy of targets" used to be councils meeting recycling collection targets by collecting the recyclable waste, then putting it in landfill because that was cheaper than actually recycling it. That's bad because it makes a lot of extra work for everyone, but only meets the collection target in fact, not in spirit.

I stopped using that example because I thought it was too incredible and I didn't have a good reference to support it.

So imagine my surprise to see a report in the Weston Mercury saying:

"If Veolia does not have enough manpower it will send out a green waste lorry, or a domestic refuse lorry which usually picks up black bag rubbish, to pick up both at the same time. [...] The staff will just take it for granted that green waste is in the green lorries and domestic waste is in the blue lorries."

This is bad on many levels, even worse than my old example where recycling-ready waste was knowingly tipped into landfill. There's green waste contamination and false collection statistics, for starters.

The article continues to report that Cllr Carl Francis-Pester, North Somerset Council's executive member for environment, said:

"We are carrying out an immediate investigation into these allegations which we take very seriously indeed. This investigation will include urgent discussions with the contractor to ensure they are fulfilling the contract we have with them in the correct manner."

There doesn't seem to be any information about this investigation on North Somerset Council's web site. And if Veolia have spotted a loop-hole in the contract, then what?

Even if they haven't, the council has to watch solely-profit-led contractors like hawks because if you give them a chance to cut costs (and therefore increase profits), they will try it. That is the hidden cost of outsourcing, not covered by the Best Value Indicators and other privatised council jargon.

Incredibly, the councillor continues with:

"Thanks to the residents of North Somerset we have increased our recycling rate from 20.5 per cent to 30.8 per cent in the last 12 months."

If the allegations are true, then no, we haven't, because the statistics are as full of toxic rubbish as the green waste lorries.

Have private rubbish collectors been doing this elsewhere?

Syndicated 2007-07-11 10:13:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Co-operative Bank slapped for bad security

I'm disappointed to see that the Co-operative Bank was one of those chastised by the Information Commissioner for "dumping customers' personal information in bins outside their premises."

At least it wasn't the Co-operative Bank I was calling stupid recently and its online banking works with GNU.

I keep getting asked by banks (including the Co-op) and utilities to switch to e-mail billing, but they seem clueless about e-mail security and none of them have offered me encrypted e-mail yet (OpenPGP or S/MIME). E-mail without encryption is like post without envelopes - anyone along the route can read it without asking. This leaves customers at risk of identity theft and worse, even more so than dumping details into bins.

When will the information commissioner tell companies to stop exposing customer details by e-mail billing and start using encryption? Would these companies be allowed to post bills without envelopes?

Syndicated 2007-07-11 09:46:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Cooperatives SW July steering

Yesterday was the July meeting of the Cooperatives SW steering group. As usual, we started with introductions over a snack, including welcoming our new support worker, then reviewed developments on open topics from the last meeting, including production of the new promotional leaflet. We need some good quotes from relevant politicians or prominant local cooperators to finish it up, as well as a bit of data from Cooperatives UK.

Other topics included planning for the October 2007 annual meeting, communications (if you want a Cooperatives SW newsletter and meeting details and you don't currently get them, please leave me a comment and I'll put you in touch with them), surveying and maybe an outward-facing event in 2007. We also happily accepted applications from Upstart and Radstock (no website? small pic) to join the steering group. I'm particularly happy to have another workers' cooperative there.

Amongst other topics and announcements, there was some troubling feedback about RISE-SW not being talkative about this summer's social enterprise support bids. Does anyone know more about this bid?

Syndicated 2007-07-10 20:22:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

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