Friday, 30 April 2010

Research - it takes time

Writing books often takes an enormous amount of research by the author. I’m no exception. I spent all of yesterday researching the details of poison darts and also mobile phone (cell) encryption. Eventually I’ve decided on a combination of two poisons on the darts used by the Guild of Sisters. One of those poisons (Batrachotoxin) is so toxic that 0.1 of a milligram is lethal to a grown man. The other (PhTx3) has some nasty side effects affecting men only. Let’s hope that the Sisters are merciful in Book 3.
The other item of research is independent encryption of mobile phone calls. The mobile phone (cell) GSM calls are already encrypted during transmission from the cell phone to the telephone company mast, but bright people are beginning to publicise ways in which those calls can be decrypted by third parties. I was shown a micro-SD card, about the size of my little finger nail, that plugs into Nokia phones to allow end to end (peer to peer) encryption of calls. The card does the processing of the encryption and helps to keep the whole thing secure. It is called SecuVoice. It costs north of £700 to equip your handset, but it does mean that it will give a hard time to anyone who might want to listen in on your call. That includes authorities who might have the ability to connect direct to the Telecom provider's systems.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Secure USB Dongle

I was at an IT Security exhibition in London yesterday. I saw an interesting device which I'm considering buying to protect my manuscripts and business documents when I'm on the move. It is a USB memory "stick" called the Security Guardian. It incorporates embedded AES-256 encryption which is pretty much standard on these devices, but it also has built in GPS and GSM so you can track the location then it is in operation. You can lock down the data on a geographic basis and also remotely delete the protected data.

You can also pair the device with a specified Laptop computer so that the laptop will not operate if the dongle is not present and is in the "approved" location. One version of the device has a built in battery that will allow three days tracking even after the laptop is switched off.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Basis for revolution?

My friend down in London was shocked to find that his neighbour's four bedroom house recently sold for nearly £600,000. He'd bought his place about 25 years ago as a home for about £33,000. That means while the value of the building as a home is unchanged the price has changed on average 12% every year during that period. It is crazy money way above the rate of inflation during  that period. 

What it means is that young people wanting to buy the place would have to raise a deposit of  £120,000 before they could get a mortgage. The deposit alone is about four times what a young graduate would be earning in his/her mid-20's.  When my friend bought his house he tells me that the total price was about three times his annual salary as a computer analyst. How on earth are young people going to be able to afford a home for their families?

The stealth tax called Student Loans makes matters worse. Young people are now expected to get themselves into debt at the start of their careers to pay the stealth taxes called University fees and accommodation costs. If they already have the burden of the Student Loan how on earth are these young people expected to raise the money for a deposit?  In my early days, if you worked hard and passed your exams you could go to university and get a government grant to pay for your living expenses. There were no university fees. In effect the country invested in its graduates.  Now, in effect, students have to pay tax to go to university. It is a deferred tax called a loan but it is still a tax. This is the result of continued dishonesty by successive governments who have shifted the support away from students.  

The whole problem is not helped by the inefficiencies and greed of the Universities who expect an ever increasing cash supply to feed their bloated salaries for very short working hours.


Monday, 19 April 2010

A different life

I continue the process of writing the three volume of the Adam Cranford Series of books. As part of that process I've been doing a lot of research into the Pitcairn Islands. This is a remote place. The nearest International Airport is is over a thousand miles away. They rely on a regular boat service that arrives four times a year, and some occasional visiting yacht's, tourist boats and passing commercial vessels. Yet I discover that every house on the main island has a broadband internet link. I'll be setting part of the action on the largest island which is called Henderson Island. This island is 170 km's from Adamstown which is the populated island. Henderson is surrounded by limestone cliffs and coral. There are only a couple of passageways through the Coral. The island is now a nature reserve and is recognised by UNESCO.

I'm receiving great support from the Island Office.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Gauleiters in Nottinghamshire

It seems that the officials in Newark and Sherwood District Council have suddenly become outraged that some dog owners are not clearing up dog mess in the public parks. The reaction of the Councillors is typical officialdom - they have banned all dogs from the public parks. Typical punishment of the innocent majority in a vain attempt to deal with a few offenders. If I was a dog owner in that district I'd sue the councillors for Malfeasance. 

Dogs have been defecating in parks for over 100 years. Now it suddenly seems to be a problem.  Laws exist to deal with people who do not clean up. Banning all dogs + owners is Collective Punishment. In one of the parks where I take my dogs (yes I do clean up) the local officialdom threatened the same in their usual anonymous way. When their next public meeting was flooded with angry dog owners there was a rapid U-Turn by the  Gauleiters.