5 Common Security Fails

Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2664

Image by Stuart Miles – via FreeDigitalPhotos

How often do you think about security?

I’d hazard a guess that if you are a non-techy then you will happily go out, buy a computer and surf away without a thought or care as to the dangers you are opening yourself too. So what are, in my opinion, the top 5 most common ways we as users don’t care about enough?

1. Password Strength.
I and others have said many, many times that security starts with a good password. However it doesn’t end there. Again I’ll hazard a guess (and one based on personal observation let alone stats) that you will use the same password or minor variations on it to secure your access to all sorts of things. Using strong** passwords is just too much effort – but when your online life gets taken over you’ll regret those easy passwords.

** What do I mean by strong? A password that involves any non-language specific word AND upper & lower case characters AND numerals AND punctuation AND is at least 10 characters long. And don’t tell me they are too hard to remember as there are many tools out there to help you store and generate them. Then all you need to recall is one strong password.

2. Virus / Spam / Adware / Spyware.

I’m lumping these three together as they can all lead to the same ultimate end – loss of data, loss of access, loss of money. How do these get on to your system – well that’s a topic for another time but a good Anti-Virus / Anti-Spam product or products that are kept up to date and used is a must.

3. Social Engineering.

Again this is more common than folks think. How free are we with information that our banks, etc use to “verify” who we are? Last time I phoned my bank, aside from needing my account number and my personal password (see no.1) they probably asked me two questions like my postcode and my mother’s maiden name. Both these are so easily available as to be laughable.

4. eMail.

No, not your sending of an email but the phishing, pharming, spoofing, etc emails that you probably receive on a regular basis. How many times have you heard a security expert say not to click an unknown link and then you’ve gone and done just that? What about that random eMail from a friend with a link? The proper approach here is to trust nothing and nobody unless you specifically requested it.

5. Unpatched Software.

I can hear *nix (and that includes Mac) users sniggering. However security holes are found all the time. Not just operating systems but the stuff we use probably daily like our browsers, java, flash, etc.

Now these 5 are not an exhaustive list and I’ve very much glossed over each of them and that was deliberate. The point of this brief post is to get you thinking. Get you considering. If it makes you change your habits then great but if equally you want to know more then please just ask or Google it.

5 Common Security Fails is a post from: churchTechy

Recommended Utilities.

Image courtesy of: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2023This post was originally published on, Panoptic, my soon to be defunct generic blog

CAVEAT: This list is not mine. I was going to create one when I got a recent issue of ‘Windows Secrets’ newsletter where this list was. No point re-inventing the wheel but all credit and kudos goes to WS and its readers.

(Note: Each product is linked to it’s information/download page online. Products have been recommended by Windows Secrets contributors except where noted.)

Diagnostics and repair

Total system

Operating system

Hard drive

Mobility

Entertainment

Imaging applications

General Utilities

Security

Networking

On demand antivirus scanners

Password vaults

System/application updating

Recommended Utilities. is a post from: churchTechy

Assassins Creed III – a different view

ac3

This post was originally published on, Panoptic, my soon to be defunct generic blog

I like games.

And I love the Assassins Creed type of game. Or at least I did.

AC3 so far has been a right royal tour of ‘not agains‘ or ‘just what is the purpose of this‘ or ‘why‘ coming from my mouth. Mainstream media outlets typically appear to love it giving it on average 6/10 – myself, I’d have to apply a different scale.

Beauty – 9/10
Blood & Guts – 9/10
Size of Game 10/10
Action Sequences 5/10
Control System – 5/10
Overall Gameplay  – 3/10

It is undoubtedly a game that will take many hours, or weeks in my case, to complete but unlike it’s predecessor I sadly see me running out of patience with it and either selling on eBay or giving to another family member.

For a start there is no real information provided with the game and if this is your first intro to the AC series then you’re going to be lost the first time you are asked to do an air assassination. The first, so the mag and online reviews say, 5 to 10 hours of gameplay are seriously tedious. You hop from a short ‘do this’ action sequence to watching a cut-scene and not all of the cut scenes can be skipped. For me, a veteran of the AC series (which to date I have loved) this process is seriously frustrating. I just want to play a game and not listen to Ubisoft’s re-working of history.

Next up is the the control system – which has allegedly had an overhaul to make it better. Only trouble is I have yet to find any clear description on how to use the control system. As an example, you get introduced to the new way of hiring and controlling assassins reasonably early on and you quite often get an on-screen prompt that urges you to call for help – only trouble being that when you try to, then unless all you ever do is play games then the system is a nightmare to work out.

I’m not alone in my opinion either:

IGN: “…but it’s not consistently brilliant. Not everything about the game gels together convincingly and the missions’ unnecessary prescriptiveness sometimes undermines the sense of freedom that the rest of the game works so hard to create.

EuroGamer: “It’s true that the game mechanics and engine are showing their age in places. Riding a horse through the Frontier is a constant frustration as it seems to snag on every rock, branch and tuft of flora. Racing through cities on foot can be fraught as well,

gamesTM: “and it soon becomes abundantly clear that Ubisoft’s self-indulgent fascination with its own storytelling impedes the gameplay on a fundamental level.

And so on they go.

All of these sites rightly praise the quality of the coding for creating such a large open world to explore, but it’s tedious, extremely frustrating and ultimately I don’t see me completing it.

I say save your money and treat someone to a meal instead.

EDIT: Having nearly completed AC: Black Flag I strongly urge anyone that is new to this franchise to skip AC3 and jump straight to Black Flag. Your pocket will thank you if nothing else.

Assassins Creed III – a different view is a post from: churchTechy

Six Pillars of Character

This post was originally published on, Panoptic, my soon to be defunct generic blog.

Image courtesy of: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=3062I often wonder, if I was starting again, how I would discover what my character is. Fortunately I have an inquisitive mind and have hunted down the ‘who and what’ I am. But before I dive into the detail let me just say this – Character Matters.

You might ask why, but first let me put across my definition of character:

“Character is the how or why ‘you’ react to any given situation in private and/or how you believe you would react.”

Why does character matter?

Character is who you are. It creates a consistent person who will react the same way in the same situation. It creates the you that doesn’t cave in to peer pressure however unpopular they become or how much ridicule they receive. Character, in a nutshell, is your behavioural traits. It also matters because  it is how others judge (rightly or wrongly) you. Do you want to be judged as a good or bad time keeper? As someone that will keep their word or not? As honest or a liar? And so on. What you decide – and understand this, it is your decision – to do or think in any given situation.

If you don’t know your character then it is highly likely you will believe one thing in private but act in a contrary way when in public. In my book this just leads to anxiety or even stress. Neither of these are healthy.

How do you determine what your character is?

You can ask others and you’ll probably get a list of stuff like; honest, good time keeper, dependable, etc… but when you ask you rarely find someone that is 100% honest with you. Would you tell someone their character is boring or dis-honest? You may gossip about that to others but won’t say it to their face?

Another option is to do one of the many character tests (more commonly called personality tests) and end up with a bunch of letters that define your character. So for example, a test I’ve just done defines me as a “Guardian Provider ESFJ”. The trouble with these tests is that they try and fit you into a narrow box. So you are either one thing or another with no options for being somewhere in between. To me, only two of the letters accurately reflect who I think am. That’s the E & S as defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The other two are only partially correct. For example F (or Feeling) is partially defined as “When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic” now whilst I would consider myself a logical person I disagree that I give more weight to social in making a decision. Equally J (or Judgement) states “They derive a sense of control through predictability” which is so far removed from my actual trait as to be wrong. But these ‘tests’ can point you in the right direction.

I prefer to spend time thinking about six areas and answering questions based around those areas:

  1. Trustworthiness.
  2. Respect.
  3. Responsibility.
  4. Fairness.
  5. Caring.
  6. Citizenship

These areas are known as the “Six Pillars”.

If you haven’t ever done this then I urge you to do so. Sit down and consider each of the six sections above and start determining your character.

Why does it matter?

When you understand the who, what and why of your character it becomes easier to always make consistent choices. It becomes easier to make hard choices. You’ll find others will understand you better or respect you more or trust more or … and so on and so on.

So, let me ask this: Who and What makes you you?

Six Pillars of Character is a post from: churchTechy

Letter from NZ and Merry Christmas!

I thought it high time that we updated the blog especially as Christmas is just around the corner which means I have been in New Zealand for 11 weeks and Jo for 7, how the time flies!

Some of you will no doubt have seen the odd Facebook post, twitter comment and indeed some have been in touch since I arrived so feel free to skip/ignore the relevant sections! All started well with a great flight, if you ever get the chance I can highly recommend the business class experience on Emirates pick up by limo, express check-in, priority security, lounges, food and drink all the way! That said I had a pretty tight transfer in Auckland when I had to run with a full trolly of luggage and a winter coat on a very warm spring afternoon between the international and domestic terminals making it with a minute to spare – not an experience I would want to repeat! So much so that I advised Jo to change her flight to a later one but that’s another story.

On arrival in Wellington my temporary landlady, Lorraine, had offered to pick me up which I gratefully accepted and once we had met up we made our way to the house in Berhampore which is a suburb in the south of Wellington not too far from the airport or the CBD. The house was lovely, the area slightly less so but it is slowly being ‘gentrified’ and is perfectly safe. It’s next to the suburb of Newtown which is quite up and coming in terms of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, etc. My room was essentially what I would describe as the lounge in a typical 30′s UK bay fronted house and was very comfortable if lacking in wardrobe space for someone who had arrived with 46kg of luggage! I found it through Airbnb and it was considerably cheaper than a hotel or renting furnished apartments or the like, I’ve used Airbnb a few times now and can recommend the experience for both short and longer stays. As well as the room I was invited to have full run of the kitchen, laundry, etc which was great given that I was booked in for 3 weeks. They even offered me their spare car should I need it and had cooked an evening meal so that I didn’t have to worry about sorting food on my first night, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was all ‘fooded’ out having done nothing else for 30+ hours!

I had the Friday to sort a few essential things like bank accounts, tax codes, snapper card (Wellington equivalent to the Oyster card) and route to work before I started on the Monday. The weekend I spent mainly relaxing, adjusting to the time zone and mooching around the area and attuning to the Kiwi accent once again.

Monday saw me walking to work via the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground which is in the middle of roundabout and open to the public at all times except when a major match is on. Work was a bit of a culture shock but in a good way, the attitude is very relaxed with respect to dress code ‘anything from cycling gear upwards but no ties!’ and language, swearing whilst not encouraged is certainly not discouraged and the women join in as much/more than the men! In terms of the product it is an interesting time as they are in the final development phase before going for a commercial launch early next year, so the pressure is on to move from the pilot/beta product that has some major holes to something farmers, not known for parting with their cash, are willing to pay for. Work also sees me working with Fronde again and indeed even some of the same people. The first week passed in a bit of a blur and it was like when I started in my last job at ML, lots of new terminology , systems, processes, etc to learn. The major difference was when I joined ML the average age was probably 25, here I’m not quite the youngest but certainly a whole lot closer to the average!

On my walks to work I have experienced all of the varieties of Wellington weather from the famous winds, regularly in excess of 150km per hour, thunderstorms and flash floods to what Wellingtonians consider to be extreme cold, about 6/7C but also some really sunny lovely days. As the saying goes ‘you can’t beat Wellington on a good day!’

Outside of work evenings and weekends saw me searching for somewhere more permanent to live (although I did manage to fit in a couple of rugby games at the ‘cake tin’, half a day of cricket at the basin and a trip to the zoo on my birthday) traveling to all corners of Wellington for somewhere suitable to rent. I’ve no idea how easy it is to become a real estate agent here but they are not like the UK, they work when they feel like it, you have to go out of your way to make their schedules and they may not bother turning up if they don’t feel like it! There is such a demand for rental stock that the prices are high compared to wages and the quality of some of the housing stock is pretty low. It’s fair to say I looked at a number of horrible/disgusting places before I found one in Khandallah that was pretty good although it is up the top of Mount Kaukau and the walk from the station is 1km with a 100m change in altitude, in a straight line a 1 in 10 change but the way the road goes its 1 in 3 in places, put it this way it takes about 10 minutes to walk down in the morning and more like 20 to walk up in the evening!

Having found somewhere to live I then needed to find the bare essentials in terms of furniture, cookware, bedding, etc to tide us over until the container arrived. Over here there is a website called Trademe which is the Kiwi equivalent of Ebay so I managed to buy 2 chairs, washing machine and tumble drier and a fridge freezer for about £200. I ordered a new bedroom suite, moving from a 2 bedroom house to a 4 I knew we would need more bedroom furniture anyway so it wouldn’t go to waste. Bedding, cookware, plates, cutlery, food, etc found me raiding the Warehouse and Countdown (think The Range and Tesco). So by the time Jo arrived I had the essentials in place.

I had intended to buy a motorbike when I arrived, I even carried my helmet and leathers over but given that I walked to work most days in the first 3 weeks and the public transport is pretty good in Wellington I didn’t bother and when I found out it was cheaper to tax a car than a bike I decided to look for a car instead. I ended up buying a Mazda Veriza which is a bit like a mini and made for the Japanese market. There are a lot of second hand Japanese cars here because when they get to 5 years old they ship them over to NZ to sell.

Jo arrived at the end of October having had various hassles with Npower, BT and Sky which were still ongoing for a few weeks after we were both in NZ, I think/hope they are finally sorted now. Skype has been a godsend allowing us to call for free or for UK local prices, the only downside being that somehow my Skype account has become associated with a provider in Taiwan (PC Home) and I can’t add any more credit to it unless I pay in Taiwanese Yen! Skype have been about as helpful as BT saying there is nothing they can do and I will have to create a new account, so I’m still fighting that battle!

We spent the first few weekends after Jo’s arrival traveling around Wellington and up both the east and west coasts trying to determine where we might want to live. If we want to build we will have to get the process kicked off sooner rather than later but if we want to buy then we can afford to wait, at the moment the jury is still out! Indeed we have probably confused ourselves about location, style and buy versus build! We have also become ‘regulars’ at the local pub, no surprise there then, and have met quite a few other like minded folks, indeed we’ve been told we’re not allowed to leave! Everyone has been extremely friendly and have gone out of their way to introduce us around.

The 6th December saw a little seismic wobble, nothing like the aftershocks we had experienced in Christchurch, but a 4.7 which reminded us that we live in a quake zone.

Our furniture arrived on the 11th December without any drama from MAF or Customs (we’d been warned that it could take as long as 2 weeks to get clearance and that we might have to pay additional duty or cleaning/quarantine fees),the following day I was scheduled to be in Dunedin to visit a sheep and beef processing plant as well as other meetings so I managed to get out of the unpacking duties! The unpacking done and our stuff in place we no longer feel like we are camping in two rooms and it does seem more like home.

Last week saw Jo’s 50th so we went out for a lovely meal at Logan Browns and we fly to Australia on Boxing Day to cruise the Barrier Reef for a few days before spending New Years in Sydney.

Anyway before I bore you completely rigid I’ll stop there and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous New Years and remember if you’re ever over this way we’d love to see you and we even have the room for you to stay!

Take Care,

John & Jo

Chatwing – a guest post

Chatwing LogoHow Android Users Can Expand their Horizons with Chatwing Chat Box

In the modern age, the World Wide Web has helped thousands of people reach their goals. They can accomplish business transactions in just few clicks of the mouse, or watch their favourite videos without even spending money. After the Internet boom, the Android community began catching up, and more web users are spending time browsing in their smart phones instead of personal computers. Realizing this paradigm shift, Chatwing.com—one of the leading providers of chat software—started reaching out to people.

The Chatwing Experience

Chatwing is more than just any piece of online widget that you can find out there. It is a versatile web application that can increase connectivity by a significant percentage. Since it is a chat room, you can communicate with hundreds of visitors in one sitting. The Chatwing experience is not just about connection—it also enhances the meaning of ownership in the vast world of cyber space.

Basically, you can consider Chatwing as a plot of land that you can obtain for free. Yes—all you need to do is to register in Chatwing’s main website, and you are good to go. But the registration is just the first step of the real Chatwing experience.

Social Media Emphasis

A web application that doesn’t utilize the power of social media is operating on a very limited premise. Many things can be accomplished in social media, such as message delivery, marketing processes, and awareness campaigns. Chatwing utilizes social media through having Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Tumblr and Instagram login methods. Now, Chatwing users will have greater opportunities to communicate with each other.

Benefits for Android Users

Through mobile chatting, Android users can expand their horizons comfortably. Android users are not just ‘renting’ the Chatwing service—they are owners of chat rooms and they can use these as often as they want. They can also avail premium services to increase the viability of their chat rooms.

Chatwing is a dynamic web chat tool, so it is bound to change. Now, people can expect for more connectivity opportunities in the long run.

Chatwing can be found here: http://chatwing.com/

Chatwing – a guest post is a post from: churchTechy

Roll On 2014

So another year has come and gone and this blog has seen no action. But as a family we’ve been busy as ever and various things have happened. Here’s what I’ll say – look Kathryn or myself up on Facebook (I promise you we are the only Stuart or Kathryn Dyckhoff there) and you’ll get […]

Day 7 – last full day – Warner studio tour

We had tickets for the 10am tour at Warner Studios. They take little buses of about 12-13 people around the lot, 2 every 15 mins so there are a lot of trams shooting around. Our guide was a wannabe Gunther (who famously went from being a background artist to actor on the first day of filming Friends because he could use a coffee machine, and now gets $0.5m a year in repeat fees) – Dale, good luck!

We went through a range of areas, outdoor sets like the Tenement streets, small town, NY, the El from ER (!), and then into the sound stage area where there are about 30 giant warehouses with 12inch insulation to keep the noise out. We looked around the Hart of Dixie interior sets. What surprises me is how shabby a lot of it looks, close up. Bashed up and reused. We weren’t allowed to take cameras inside the sound stages. We also saw the studio set for Two Broke Girls, which is filmed with a studio audience in an afternoon (like Friends) and the audience laughter is recorded. And if they don’t laugh, they rewrite…
We also went into the car garage, sat on the Central Perk sofa and had a brief peek into the store house. Finally there was a museum (again no cameras) with lots of costumes and a Harry Potter exhibit.
After the toure we had lunch in one of the studio cafés which was amazingly cheap – clearly a staff canteen more than a tourist-fleecing opportunity. Good Guy Warner…
After lunch we had to return to Max’s flat to allow a couple of plumbers in to fix a leaking loo, and then in the early evening we went to the beach (Santa Monica) and I paddled in the Specific ocean. Then we shopped at Whole Foods market, went to Don Antonio’s restaurant for dinner (had people speaking Spanish so must have been good…) then back to the flat and we watched Ron Burgundy (my first time and it was very funny).
I packed. 
Still no news about my dissertation, which was due by 5pm BST today (9am PST) so I just have to hope it comes through overnight.
Tomorrow we go to see the Walt Disney concert hall in LA (Gehry) and then I set off for home, arriving some time on Wednesday to devastation in the flat (I hope).

Day 7 – last full day – Warner studio tour

We had tickets for the 10am tour at Warner Studios. They take little buses of about 12-13 people around the lot, 2 every 15 mins so there are a lot of trams shooting around. Our guide was a wannabe Gunther (who famously went from being a background artist to actor on the first day of filming Friends because he could use a coffee machine, and now gets $0.5m a year in repeat fees) – Dale, good luck!

We went through a range of areas, outdoor sets like the Tenement streets, small town, NY, the El from ER (!), and then into the sound stage area where there are about 30 giant warehouses with 12inch insulation to keep the noise out. We looked around the Hart of Dixie interior sets. What surprises me is how shabby a lot of it looks, close up. Bashed up and reused. We weren’t allowed to take cameras inside the sound stages. We also saw the studio set for Two Broke Girls, which is filmed with a studio audience in an afternoon (like Friends) and the audience laughter is recorded. And if they don’t laugh, they rewrite…
We also went into the car garage, sat on the Central Perk sofa and had a brief peek into the store house. Finally there was a museum (again no cameras) with lots of costumes and a Harry Potter exhibit.
After the toure we had lunch in one of the studio cafés which was amazingly cheap – clearly a staff canteen more than a tourist-fleecing opportunity. Good Guy Warner…
After lunch we had to return to Max’s flat to allow a couple of plumbers in to fix a leaking loo, and then in the early evening we went to the beach (Santa Monica) and I paddled in the Specific ocean. Then we shopped at Whole Foods market, went to Don Antonio’s restaurant for dinner (had people speaking Spanish so must have been good…) then back to the flat and we watched Ron Burgundy (my first time and it was very funny).
I packed. 
Still no news about my dissertation, which was due by 5pm BST today (9am PST) so I just have to hope it comes through overnight.
Tomorrow we go to see the Walt Disney concert hall in LA (Gehry) and then I set off for home, arriving some time on Wednesday to devastation in the flat (I hope).