Bill P. Godfrey et al

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bomb Google

Search Google for failure and the first result is George W. Bush's biography, followed by Michael Moore's web site. This is known as a Google Bomb. (Read Google's statement.)

It all started with a campaign of people leaving links in their websites, linking to GWB's biography with the words "miserable failure". His supporters were not going to put up with that, so another campaign started linking Michael Moore with the same words.

In response, Michael Moore (or a techie working for him) has come up with something rather clever.

If you go his website by typing in the address directly, you see the normal home page. But, if you go to the website from a page with the word "failure" in the address, such as Google's results page, a program on his web server will direct the reader to a different page instead.

All I have to say is best blog ever!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Putting the clocks back

Six months ago, I adjusted the time on my wall clock as the clocks went an hour forward. I decided I could do with an extra clock showing the time in the US east coast. (Or if you prefer, the time in China.)

Here's the two clocks taken today on the hour.

The clock on the left showing UK time is about three years old and in reasonable nick. The clock on the right showing eastern USA time has a wonky hour hand and the card backing has warped.

Six months ago, both were set to the exact time down to the second hand. Now...
New clock+ 140 seconds
Gained 1 second every 1.3 days.
Old clock- 48 seconds
Lost 1 second every 3.8 days.

So the old clock keeps better time. How odd. Maybe its magic.

Animated short of the week (Ailing Vomit)

"If anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourselves."
-- Bill Hicks

Friday, October 28, 2005

Following on.

What do you follow a long and involved article about network security with?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Cutting out the middle man.

When passing credit card numbers or passwords to a website, we're told to look for the padlock in the corner of your browser window.

The padlock icon tells you two things.
A - The link between your computer and the web server is private.
B - The link is with the real server.

Man in the middle

Setting up a private link is very simple, now all the mathematics have been sorted out. The problem comes with the "Man in the middle" scenario.

Mallory is the bad guy, pretending to be Amazon. Bob thinks that he has a secure link to the real Amazon, but instead he has a secure link to Mallory.

This form of attack doesn't necessarily involve cutting and patching wires. Possibly the most common form of man-in-the-middle is known as "Phishing".

Here, the attacker sets up a fake website with a similar name to a well known website, usually a bank. He then sends a mass of spam posing as the real company, asking customers to click on a link in the email, leading to the fake site. In so attempting to trick people into revealing their personal details and credit card number.

Phishing attacks are easy to launch, but easy to defeat. The real site is unaffected by the existence of the phishing site, so typing in the site address or using a known bookmark will defeat this specific form of attack.

Certificate Authority

The solution for all forms of man-in-the-middle attack is the Certificate Authority, which are often collectively abbreviated to just CA. (Not to be confused with Canada, California, Carlisle, Calcium or Computer Associates.)

To see them at work, click on the padlock icon. Here's what Firefox says. (IE does something similar.)

Verisign is the biggest of the CA companies. When someone wants to build a secure website, like Amazon, they go to a CA who will check them out. If the website meets the CA's criteria, they will issue a certificate which our browsers can read and verify. (Using lots more clever mathematics.)

That certificate stops Mallory's scheme from working. Your browser would look for a certificate issued by a trusted CA and warn you if it can't find one. Mallory would have to go to a CA and ask for a certificate for his fake Amazon. A good CA would refuse, but a bad CA would issue a certificate to anyone who pays enough.

There's nothing forcing a CA to be good, except the possibility that no-one will trust them anymore. So its essential that you only trust the trustworthy.

(Not) Fixing it

The message behind the padlock says that I trust Verisign. Do I? No-one asked me. In fact, your browser probably comes loaded with a list of CAs who you trust by default and membership of this list is the gift of the browser makers.

For sure, you can edit the list, but browsers don't tend to make easy for you. Few people know the list exists, let alone how to edit it. Is this a problem? None of the trusted-by-default CAs have (yet) gone rouge. Can it last?

If the CA market were open to more choice by the public, a new CA could promote itself on the basis that they only issue certificates to genuine businesses, rejecting even phishing sites. People might add that CA to their trusted list, making a mental note to look for this CA before typing in a credit card number.

If that new CA screwed up by giving a certificate to AMAZØ, people would not trust that CA again. Market forces in action.

Fixing it

A good step would be for the browsers to stop shipping their browsers with a list of trusted CAs. That way, all the CAs would have to justify their trustworthiness to the public rather than the fait accompli by the browser makers we have now. This would level the playing field for new CA companies.

With this, the public would be expected to manage the trust list themselves, so the user interface will need to be improved to allow it. (I have several designs in my notebook if the browser makers want to hire me.)

Nice plan, but it will never happen. Imagine if Firefox did this, and an IE user decided to try out Firefox. It would all work very well for a few days, until he tries to buy something from Amazon, logging into the secure server.

"It worked just fine with IE!" he'll say. "This Firefox is going on about certificates, and I just want to get into my Amazon account."


Editing the trusted list in our browsers hasn't been made easy for us and the CA companies are not well known. Most of us don't have the time or inclination to do the research. So, until a better way comes along, I suggest we look for the padlock and don't follow links in emails.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Animated short of the week (Be Prepared)

"Marvellous thing, democracy! Look at Manchester. Population 60 000, electoral roll 3."
-- Blackadder

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Bill by any other name

When I was born, I was given this name...
"William Wellington James John Hamilton Maurice Phillips-Godfrey"

That's five middle names and a double-barrelled surname. Quite the mouthful.

My grandfather was called "William Wellington Godfrey", and I have an uncle called "James". The "Phillips" part of my surname came in through my grandmother re-marrying. I have no idea who John, Hamilton or Maurice are. (Sorry guys.)

Through life, some of these middle names got snipped quite arbitarily. Forms with boxes for "full name" would only be filled as long as there was space, which usually meant only as far as "James".

The reduction of my surname from "Phillips-Godfrey" to just "Godfrey" happened around when I was 10. My parents changed thier surname, and since we were minors, my sister and I acquired new surnames. My elder brothers, who were adults by then, retained thier "Phillips-Godfrey" names and still go by that name today.

The silliness of all these middle names finally became too much at university. Near the end of the course, a university official and I were routinely going over some documents. We had my birth certificate and a copy of my parent's name change declaration. The offical noticed that my university record did not have my full name, due to my leaving some middle names out years earlier. He got rather upset at this. "Your certificate will have the wrong name."

That was it. Sitting in an office in Alma Street, Coventry, I made the next great decision about my name. "I don't have middle names any more. I dropped them a while ago."

"A while" was in fact about three seconds, but no matter. Those middle names have never really done anything for me and have only ever been the target of jokes. In the many years since, I've not regretted it.

Fast forward to the present day, and I have a website with the name "". The P has come back. (And stop giggling at the back.)

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to have a more distinctive name, as there are a lot of Bill Godfreys out there. Restoring my original surname seemed the ideal solution, except I didn't like it very much once I saw it on screen. By then I had already bought this domain.

In the end, the extra P worked out well. Its better than more correct "BillG" which means "Bill Gates" to most people in the technology field.

Alas, the underlying problem remains. Do a Google search for Bill Godfrey and the first result isn't me, but an artist in Pennsylvania. I'm the second link, and they are linking to my old website instead of this one.

There's a lesson for us all. Don't take the P.

But I wanna!

(As spotted at the Hall of Technical Documentation Weirdness.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ASotW Rules

  1. Featured animations should;
    1. Be well made. (Doesn't go out of sync badly, etc.)
    2. Not glorify "bad people". (Hitler, Terrorists, Serial killers, etc.)
    3. Have a reasonable pre-loader. (Applicable to flash based animations only.)

  2. Avoid;
    1. Sites with popup ads.
    2. Sites with malware/spyware/adware/etc Active-X drive-by installers.
    3. "Click here to watch the movie" buttons that lead to popup windows.
    4. Pretentious webhosts.
    5. Websites designed to appeal to three year olds or idiots.
    6. Newgrounds. (But I repeat myself.)

  3. Link to the animator's own website if possible.

  4. The creator of an ASotW feature should not be featured again for six weeks, not including later sequels or as part of a collection. (Otherwise I could do nothing but alternate between "Weebl and Bob" and "Neurotically Yours" every week.)

  5. The link should contain the name of the animator, or their alias.
Yes, I have writers block. There is no rule 6.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Animated short of the week (Go Yaffa!)

"Nyaff nyaff nyaff, call 1-800 GO YAFFLE!
-- Not Professor Yaffle

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Playing with dolls

One for anyone who has ever been stuck in airport security.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Fun with magnets

I recently borrowed a friends GEOMAG™ set. You get a set of plastic rods with magnets embedded and some ball bearings. This allows you to build interesting stuff! Woo hoo!

A truncated dodecehdron, collapsed.

A pyramid, almost complete.

A stable truncated dodecahedron, using inward pointing supports on each pentagon face.

A six sided tower.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Be a Mythbuster!

It seems Mythbusters are planning a special episode with a challenge to build your own version of the Death Ray, originally built by Archimedes. (According to legend, anyway.)

There are some strange rules for who is eligible to enter, however.

You must be a legal U.S. resident.

You must be ready to travel at a moment's notice as determined by the producers at their sole discretion, and be available to stay in San Francisco for seven days during production of the episodes.

You must not be a candidate for elected public office.

(I need a hobby.)

Spam you like?

... well... they're getting through damn it!... but...


Why hello there, how are you doing? What's up and all that stuff?

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Within 2 weeks! No Study Required! 1_0_0_% Verifiable!

Hello, I'd like to speak to now please. I was told to "see aye ell ell" them on a mathematical sum. Apparently I can get a bunch of non-study letters within 2 weeks. All which are a mystery ammount verifiable. 1 blank 0 blank 0 blank % ... hmm. Assume it's a sum 1 + 0 + 0 = % so 1% verifiable? Hmm...

The opporrtunity exists due to a legal loophole allowing some established colleges to award degrees at their dis.cretion.
This little known secret has been kept quiet for years.

where is a college's dis cretion? what's a dis? and what's a cretion? Is it like the back of the pipes in the gents' toilets? And I'm not surprised it's been keep quiet for years!

Ccx137 Start seeing how much better your life&carreer can be with few letters behind your name! zzero ris_k and no oblig_ation

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zzero ? is that like sub zero ? or is it a chilly bee? Oooh another blank. RIS blank K ... hmm... not sure - will think about it - althoug oblig blank ation is obviously oblig nation. No oblig nation. All the maps are wrong and we're teaching our children such rubbish!

For more infor.mation give us a call, You'll thank me later.
C.a.l.l now! 1-2.0.6-202-4492

Ralph Smith

who do I call? us? me? now? and it's that "see aye el el" thing again followed by a mathematical sum again. Hmm. Ralph! Help me here, I'm completely befuddled!

Don't you practice cooking nicely?.
That librarian isn't enjoying jumping at the company..
Jack is not missing singing near the station..
I'll study as soon as you have liked skiing..
Did Anthony miss running?.
I could go on and on, but I won't. We have many programs the children love. But I would give them ALL up to keep my BORING noun program. I thank THE PARENT daily for her insight..
Were those pilots practicing praying?.
Many bartenders like driving every other day..
Did Debbie love jumping in front of the restaurant?.
Did those news announcers dislike jumping?.
Were those science teachers missing walking a few days ago?.
Did Debbie love jumping in front of the restaurant?.
Don't you practice cooking nicely?.
Wasn't Dick missing talking on the street?.
Did those students miss eating last winter?.
Joe's girlfriend generally misses laughing..
They have regretted jogging since last Monday..
I didn't dislike cooking at home..
I could go on and on, but I won't. We have many programs the children love. But I would give them ALL up to keep my BORING noun program. I thank THE PARENT daily for her insight..
Those police officers are practicing driving between the two buildings..
Jack is not missing singing near the station..
Did those bus drivers regret singing?.

What a queer little story you write. Very strange.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Animated short of the week (Armageggon)

"Now There wasn't a wasp there last night. There were no windows open. There was no obvious signs of "buzzing" (maybe indicating a nest nearby)... but there was still a floating wasp in my toilet."
-- Neil

(And a couple of sequels for good measure.)
"Have yet to try "non-spicy" olives yet, but, I'm happy."
-- Neil

Well done to Paul who last week spotted that I hadn't included Melon's version of Tomorrow Never Knows. I had considered it, but I when I played it, it would get horribly out of sync very quickly.


Friday, October 07, 2005

I, Penguin

(Bristol Zoo)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I wish I had Norwich Union car insurance

For ages, holders of "fully comprehensive" car insurance have been covered for driving any car, with the owner's permission. I've used this many times, having borrowed a friend's car while mine is being serviced.

Cue the British government's Department of Transport report, which last year recommended this policy be phased out as part of a clampdown on uninsured driving. With this, the Norwich Union has announced they will stop this policy.

So, I wish I had Norwich Union car insurance. That way, I could go elsewehere.

My Favorite Spot on the Interstate

As you travel over Monteagle in Tennessee there are large rock walls on either side of the road. After a bit of rainy weather, these little waterfalls appear every so often along the road.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

"Who do you think you are?"

"Some kind of superstar?"
-- The Spice Girls

Prince Andrew, 4th in line to King of Australia, recently refused to be searched when travelling through Melbourne airport. He later relented and was found to be clear.

Frankly, good. If people are going to be searched at airports, it should apply to everyone. In a civilised society of laws, all people have to follow the law, including the high and mighty. That's one of the checks-and-balances. Anyone who feels they are "too important" to go through what the rest of us have to endure is unfit for public office.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Four candles."

"Four Candles?"
"Four Candles."
"No, four candles!"
"Well there you are, four candles!"
"No, fork handles! Handles for forks!"

And its good night from him. (Thanks for the laughs and the memories.)

One Of The Many Reasons I Carry My Camera On Sunday Afternoons

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Animated short of the week (The Beatles by Melon)

"Rain usually makes me feel mellow. Curl up in the corner time, slow down, smell the furniture. Today it just makes me feel wet."
-- Chris Stevens, Northern Exposure.

"I haven't stopped believing in God, I just think there's a different path to him, or her."
"Her? She's just kidding, Mister Lord!"
-- Lisa and Marge, The Simpsons

"Song and dance man?"

Classic gameshow stuff.
(Hat tip Paul Fisher of umtm.)