Sucky EU Regulations Ban Powerful Vacuum Cleaners

Reported in various mainstream places, not least this one, we find that "the EU" has been busying itself with making sure we don't buy powerful vacuum cleaners. Apparently, this is the best way we can reduce Europe's carbon footprint.

I am slightly bemused by this whole thing. Which? reckon that one of their best vacuum cleaners costs £27/year to run (on average). That doesn't seem like a massive amount, so presumably there's not all that much carbon involved in vacuuming up Europe. This change in regulation isn't likely to cut the cost by anywhere near half even, so again, not likely to reduce our carbon by all that much either.

For example, I'd imagine that putting loft insulation into every house in Europe would do far more to cut carbon emissions than any of this piffle. We've had a rise in "Eurosceptic" political parties of late - whilst I disagree with most of what they stand for, on the other hand, maybe they've got a point...?

3D Print an Elephant in 1:1 Scale!?

A chap called Joris has modified a bunch of 3D printers to be able to print really big objects. He's now printing an elephant in actual size! There's a live camera feed of the printers working (camera 2 is probably best to see it working).

It's all happening at Schiphol airport - I wonder if you can go and see it "in the flesh"...?

No Parking! (Unless...)

No parking unless you happen to be the City of London parking patrol, in which case, double yellows, with little stripes on the kerb, right by a corner is perfectly fine.

Open Source Fame

Featured on YoumagineFeatured on YoumagineI just posted a pretty simple object to Youmagine and they've featured it!

If you're wondering, it's a little cover for the power button on our LG washing machine to stop the kids pressing it when we'd rather they didn't (for whatever reason it's not included in the child lock feature).

In other open source showing off news, after years of writing Perl (I could probably count the lines of Perl I've written in the millions by now), I've written my first CPAN module - it's a Gcode interpreter that aims to simulate an Ultimaker 3D printer:

Gcode::Interpreter::Ultimaker (with the code on github).

Cat by day, Internet sensation by night ;-)

A few flashes of my family throughout, but most of it starts at about 2:48. The unpaid shill at the end ruins it all though ;-)

BBC Micro Emulator - in your browser

The BBC Micro was (almost) my first home computer (when I was about 8 years old). I can remember spending many a happy afternoon typing in computer programs from magazines only to find they didn't work right. I can also remember playing Elite (which I also played on the Commodore Amiga years later).

Some enterprising chappy has managed to emulate an entire BBC Micro in Javascript, so it runs entirely in your web browser. Aside from highlighting just how far we've come in our computing journey, it's kinda fun writing programs like this again:

10 PRINT CHR$(141) "Dixons is rubbish"
20 PRINT CHR$(141) "Dixons is rubbish"
30 GOTO 10

For something more nostalgic, you can load up the original Elite and try to dock your ship back in the space station. It's a lot harder then I remember ;-)

Plusnet Blocking Incoming Ports on Home Networks

Plusnet have been in touch to say:

"We'll be making a change to block incoming traffic on ports 53, 111, 135, 137, 138, 139, 445, 515, 1080, 1433, 3128, 3306, 6000."

It's all about stopping 'bad' traffic to hacked routers/networks. I'm generally not a fan of ISPs doing this sort of thing because it's only one step away from censorship. However, I suppose the reality is that people aren't especially good at securing their home networks, so quite a few of them are vulnerable to basic attacks.

Leave npower and go somewhere else

We inherited npower when we moved house. Here's what's wrong with them:

- It takes 10 minutes to actually get through to anyone on the phone (and they claim to record conversations to ensure "we give a good service" - shame they don't record the on-hold time, eh!)
- They spelled my name (obviously) wrongly, and then, even after I told them I was leaving them told me that the only way to change it was by writing to them (so making it easier for me to leave them than to fix it!)
- They cost more than you can get elsewhere

After a bit of confusion about balances and statements, I've just paid our final balance to them today. I'm glad to be shot of 'em :-)

Volunteers to Staff Tube During Strikes

About two years ago, around the time of a bout of tube strikes, I wrote the the Mayor and TFL to ask them if they'd consider letting me and other people volunteer our time to keep the tube running during the strikes. I figured my employer might like to donate a few hours of my time to help my colleagues get to work, and I figured TFL could train me up appropriately in return for some sort of commitment to helping them out in the future.

At the time, they Mayor's office wrote back to say "we don't get involved in the running of the tube" (yeah right!). TFL got back to me to tell me that their website has a jobs section if I wanted to become a train driver.

Well, now they've thought of it themselves: TfL Ambassadors set to help Londoners beat totally unnecessary industrial action on the Tube.

UK Censors the Internet - The Internet Says "no"

We techie types know that trying to censor the Internet is like trying to collect rainwater in a sieve. However, politicians don't understand the Internet, and are almost pathologically unable to say "no" if the subject at hand has ever been linked to any sort of problem for children. Thus, our politicians believe they, and they alone are the only people who can save the UK's children from the perils of the Internet.

The Internet seems less convinced. First there was the Tor Project. This is probably the biggest thorn in the side of any government trying to censor the Internet. First of all, if you use it right, it makes your Internet communication untraceable, but Tor is an important 'freedom of speech' tool that even the most despotic governments around the world struggle to ban. As such, it's going to be a while before the UK government tries tackling it. Incidentally, my local MP hadn't ever heard of it, which I suspect is pretty common around the Commons. By now though, I expect just about every 14 year old boy in the UK knows all about it.

One I just heard of today is the aptly named Go Away Cameron. It's a Google Chrome extension that figures out if a site's been blocked and works around it. It's a lot easier to use than Tor, but it's probably not quite so safe - that said, it's probably enough for most people.

I just did some searching for sites that have been blocked. I couldn't find a list, and in fact all the results I could find list sites that have been mistakenly blocked. Here's a nice round-up:

Sex education websites, Top 10 Sites Blocked by Filters (including great ones like and, The Scunthorpe Problem, Childline and others, and The BNP Website.

All these of course get plenty of media attention and get unblocked pretty quickly. What about the smaller sites, or the ones that are controversial and so not so obviously over-filtered? The problem is, the government just made itself liable for all of this (even though they claim it's the ISPs that are responsible).

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