Friday, 4 November 2011

Live! Cam Socialize

During my October blogging hiatus, I upgraded the webcam on my Ubuntu desktop. I'm now running a Live! Cam Socialize from Creative Labs.

One of the really nice things about this hardware is the native support in the Linux Kernel (2.6) - so, no need for Jeff Moine's gspca patch! It's literally plug - reboot - play.

Picture quality is ok, but the audio performance is excellent: all-in-all this is a great addition to the Ubuntu box and, so far at least, far less troublesome than the LifeCam VX-1000.

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Thursday, 3 November 2011

"We always intended to make Unity Configurable"

OMG! Ubuntu is running a story spinning the idea that Canonical's developers always intended to enhance later releases of Ubuntu making it more configurable.

I'm thrilled by the prospect of a configurable Unity, but I can't help wondering why no-one mentioned this before.

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Book Review - Ghost in the Wires

Ghost in the Wires
Kevin Mitnick & William L. Simon
Little, Brown - ISBN: 978-0-316-03770-9


In Ghost in the Wires Kevin Mitnick's pleads his case that he is (or at least, was) a "hacker" (one of the good-guys) rather than a "cracker" (a mere criminal) and, if you're interested in how easily gifted conmen manipulate their "marks", his account of being the world's most wanted hacker is a gripping read from start to finish. However, Mitnick is a gifted conman and that's the point - it is easy to be persuaded that he was a benign explorer in a virtual world who was victimised by an ignorant and fearful state, but the truth is not quite so simple.

The fact is, that Mitnick freely acknowledges committing criminal acts and he seems to have had little regard for other people's privacy or rights. Sadly, he demonstrates even less remorse for his actions. Indeed, both during and after his incarceration, Mitnick and his supporters have crafted a persona of an anti-hero - a cybercrusader who was somehow immune from the norms of decent behaviour that constrain most of society. Herein lies the shortcoming with Ghost in the Wires: whilst it is undoubtedly a wonderful account of Mitnick's exploits, it reveals little or nothing of the man or his motives. Although we are given tantalizing glimpses into Mitnick's relationships with friends and family and furnished with banal excuses that he was compelled by some "addiction" (p.40), one is left with the feeling that this is a highly sanitised history, designed to put the best "spin" on his version of events.

Nonetheless, Mitnick's treatment at the hands of the US judicial system is shocking. The unaccountable fear and paranoia demonstrated by the authorities when prosecuting him almost beggars belief and it is difficult to comprehend the impact that months of solitary confinement and incarceration without trial must have had on such a free spirit. Undoubtedly, it is this inhumane treatment that generates sympathy for Mitnick and eclipses his criminal escapades in the eyes of his supporters.

It is difficult not to admire the skill and persistence that Mitnick demonstrated in the pursuit of his goals but it is worth remembering that society needs protection from people who employ such talents to take things that don't belong to them: this is a message that seems to have got lost in Ghost in the Wires. However, it is a fascinating account and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


I started a new job this week - so far I'm thoroughly enjoying it and I've joined a company that really does seem to look after its people. My company car was delivered before I started and today I picked up my new(ish) laptop and phone.

The laptop is a nice Advent 5511 (no longer available), which has a crystal-clear display - the only downside is that it's running Windows 7! I know that I've only had it for a few hours, but so far I'm struggling to see how Win7 is any better than Vista.

The phone is even more of a shock - it's an iPhone!

Oh well, time to chip away at the IT Department and see if we can run some trials using Ubuntu - wish me luck :)


The news that Ubuntu is being prepared for mobile devices is not particularly surprising, but I confess that I can't get terribly excited by the prospect. I've never really got the smart-phone thing and tablets seem to be little more than lidless netbooks to me.

Perhaps I'll take more interest in 2014!

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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Wallpaper of the Month - 8400

Well, October was a pretty crappy month for me - what better way to get November off to a better start than a new wallpaper?

Sometimes it's nice to take the helicopter view!

This wallpaper is yet another from National Geographic's Picture of the Day and is Iliamna Volcano, Alaska, taken by Michael Melford.