Hacker's Diary

A rough account of what I did with Emacs recently.

November 29
MBNA have added a new feature to their site: you now need to set up a "Site Key" to log in. It's all very well making it harder and harder for legitimate customers to log in, but it's not going to prevent a man-in-the-middle attack such as was discovered in SSL recently. Anyway, this obviously breaks the Perl modules somewhat until you've set up your Site Key.

The fact that their servers appear to be flooded (hey, perhaps because you're serving up database-backed images to every single visitor, customer or otherwise?) isn't helping me get my own key set up. Maybe it's time I ditched my cards in favour of a more customer-oriented provider.

November 28
It's been years since I saw Dune, long enough that about the only thing I could remember was that it starred Sting. What you need to know about it is that it makes little sense without some familiarity with the original material in some form, and even then there are parts of it that are pretty opaque. On the whole a fairly mediocre affair, and probably worse if I hadn't read the book all those years ago.

November 23
Always, always test your application with a clean database (as well as everything else). When I logged into my shiny new online banking this morning, I was told: "Your last successful logon was on 01 January 0001 at 00:00". That aside, I think BoI could learn a few things from these people. But of course, that might amount to, you know, customer service.

November 22
Caught some movies on a plane... Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was actually doing ok until the out-of-body near-death sequence, although the "let's add wackiness" was pretty overdone as well. Dorian Gray was surprisingly (to me) good, since I'd picked up somewhere that it was crap; you know the story so it's all down to implementation, and the only thing I could really fault about this particular implementation was the whole "painting-makes-scary-noises" bit. Colin Firth as Oscar Wilde / Bad Role Model Guy was pretty excellent. And finally, The Taking Of Pelham 123 would have been so much better if they'd chosen pretty much anyone else to be the bad guy aside from Travolta - I just can't take him seriously in such roles outside of Pulp Fiction, really. That's about my only quibble, really; the movie itself is pretty tight, even if (again) you know how it's going to pan out in advance.

November 18
Soccer: DENIED. I didn't think we had a hope, and then when we had one we lost it to a foul and blind officials.

November 17
Started watching The Insider. I'm about an hour in, and boy is this a long, slow movie.

November 14
Police Academy 3 was on the box this morning. It's been a long time since I've seen this, but I'm pretty sure it was rather heavily cut for TV broadcast.

Fiddling about the the RSS toy again. One of the Salon feeds I used read serves its RSS 2.0 feed as text/html. This once again illustrates why it's a bad idea to write your own RSS reader (not that I'm one to heed my own advice).

November 12
Well, I guess if you're going to invent a new programming language, having Ken Thompson involved is a pretty good marketing move. Go Go Gadget Google.

Speaking of new lanugages, I've started learning Ruby. So far I've just been zooming through the basics, but I'm interested to see what it is about this language that's so new and different. So far I'm mainly tripping over the ways in which it's not Perl.

November 11
I am currently engaged in a conversation with an unnamed company regarding a data protection issue, and I have to say, it's interesting. The bones of the issue: my email address was collected for a login, and under the T's & C's which I didn't read closely, I consented to that being used for marketing. Having correctly identified myself as an idiot to the customer service people who responded to me by failing to notice I'd agreed to the marketing, I still had a valid point: the company - an Irish one - were using a non-Irish and, in fact, non-EU third party to deal with the email advertising.

Which is where it gets complicated.

The emailing company is in Australia. And as best I can recall, when I did a whois on the IP address of their unsubscribe link and, possibly, their mail server, they resolved to somewhere in Australia. I raised this issue with the Irish company, pointing out that it's not an automatic foul, but the transfer of customer data has to be done under one of a set of rules which attempt to keep said customer data somewhat safe. These include the US Safe Harbor[sic] thingy, which I recently read on another website is not actually considered particuarly safe by the EU, but apparently it's safe enough for Ireland. So I politely enquired which of the provisions the transfer of data was done under, and equally politely pointed out that while it's not illegal, it's considered poor form to not provide an up-front opt-out checkbox on your website.

A week later, I got a response, which included a paragraph from the emailing company themselves; the abbreviated version of which was, "don't worry, our servers are in America". The Irish company rep had added that the data was not stored on the emailing company's servers, but simply used for the duration of the marketing shot and then removed. The latter is a little confusing as, aside from the fact that I'm not convinced that it works like that, the paragraph from the emailing company had a few things to say about how safely the data was stored on their US servers, including customer lists.

But I did say it got complicated, and here's why: taking the Irish company rep at face value, my email address and name (for personalisation) are sent to an Australian company storing said data in the US, which they use to send an email via an Australian gateway, after which they delete my data. While my gut feeling is that the Australian link is irrelevant to this, there is an argument to the effect that the data transits through Oz and should therefore be covered by appropriate agreements. Of course, if you followed this to its logical conclusion, the same constraint would apply to an email in the general sense, since it gets passed from server to server willy-nilly with no regard for what countries it goes through.

Anyway, I'm pursuing this. On one hand, I imagine I'm something of a nuisance customer at this point; on the other hand, data protection is a serious issue, and while I'm pursuing this for reasons of personal interest, someone else might well decide to pursue it via the legislature. I think I deserve to get to the bottom of this: either that the whole arrangement is in line with DP requirements, or that the company in question makes whatever changes are necessary to meet those requirements.

Aside from all that, I'm sure there's some struggling Irish marketing company who'd love to get this contract. Buy Irish!

November 8
Installed MacOS security updates, and Nambu decided that its preference database was unreadable, so I've given up on it and installed Syrinx instead.

Mail is also telling me GrowlMail is once more out of date. Gah.

November 7
For something I was expecting to be dire, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra turned out to be rather entertaining in the leave-your-brain-at-home way. I wouldn't rush out to see it again, but I'd probably sit through it if I stumbled across it on TV. The much talked-about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, on the other hand, was a blast, and will probably be my next addition to my movie collection. Heath Ledger was indeed on top form, and the tweaking of the story to accomdate his demise midway through filming actually works really well. Go see this.

November 5
Wow, that was silly. The 0.19 release of the banking modules had a silly bug which broke the account details retrieval, a stupid bug which would have been caught if I'd actually bothered testing the code after changing it... 0.20 is uploaded with a fix.

November 2
Garmin's online shop lists Ireland as Eire. Just in case you need to find that.

Oh, and their UK website contact-us page is... 404.

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