So far my battle to file my tax return online has taken six weeks. The official method of submission has failed repeatedly, and my attempts at resolution have led me into a web of usability nightmares. After having found the tech support telephone number using a search engine (ten minutes of searching the tax website hmrc.gov.uk… Read the rest
FSFE at ODF Plugfest and Pirate Party Conference
On Wednesday night I travelled from Manchester to London to attend the ODF Plugfest event, located in nearby Maidenhead the following day. Just before catching the train from Manchester Picadilly, I collected a new 2m tall self-supporting FSFE banner, for use at the booth that I would be running a few days later at the Pirate Party Conference.… Read the rest
Pure Data workshop with MFS at Madlab
On Tuesday I attended a workshop on Pure Data (PD) hosted by Manchester Free Software (MFS) at Madlab hackerspace.
By the end of the evening, most attendees had used purely graphical drag-and-drop tools to create mouse controlled synthesised instruments. The room was filled with cacophony of 50’s style beeps and twangs.… Read the rest
Filling in the bank’s blanks with regular expressions
I’ve recently had to do a lot of work on a set of data relating to my bank account transactions, which required a great deal of text manipulation, and working with several regular expressions. My bank doesn’t believe that giving their customers access to digital copies of their account and transaction history is important, and they only make available images (stored in PDFs) of past statements which have been posted.… Read the rest
GSM: global social menace?
Last night I heard Ali Gündüz speak about Free Software GSM. During the talk, and in the following discussion, many interesting points were made:
- The GSM standard is controlled by only four or five international corporations
- The standard is very complicated for even experts and seasoned developers to grasp
- Mobile phone manufacturers have no access to the source code of the GSM modems that they use in their devices – they don’t know how they work
- Many phones have two processors – one dedicated solely to the GSM modem, meaning that even Free Software and open hardware phones do not have access to the way that GSM is used (even Openmoko phones)
- GSM is incapable of meaningfully encrypting your calls, and its common practice for carriers to allow no encryption at all (in some countries encrypting calls is actually illegal)
- With only a few thousand euros, and the motive to do so, it is possible to eavesdrop on any GSM based conversation
- Several countries’ law enforcement agencies use GSM eavesdropping without warrants
- Network licenses issued by governments are required to set up your own GSM network, are prohibitively expensive, and often already all sold to large carriers.