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).

The Jolla Phone

Some folks that left Nokia to strike out on their own have produced the Jolla (I think pronounced 'ho-ha' or some such) - and it's now shipping to Europe. It runs something called Sailfish, which is a Unix derivative (not Android) but can run Android apps.

I like the look of this because:

  • It looks like a nice phone - the videos of it in use look pretty nice, and it's got a swappable back cover so you can personalise it a bit.
  • It's not (yet) been weighed down with countless unnecessary 'bloatware' apps you don't want
  • It's not based on an OS made by a company who want to know your every move so that they can sell stuff to you

It remains to be seen how good it is at running Android apps, and how good it might be at privacy protection, and how flexible Sailfish turns out to be, but it's good to see a credible alternative to the other two and a half main phone types around at the moment.

Your Train is Late Because...

Today, some actual announcements from Southeastern Trains:

- Poor track condition
- Poor adhesion which means the driver has to take a few extra seconds to pull into stations
- We were on a restricted yellow aspect
- There's a train on our platform at London Bridge

All this because it's been raining a bit. We're also on a so-called 'leaf fall timetable' that has extra slack in it for such things.

Dunster House Hudson 300

I saw this Dunster House Hudson 300 on the Internet. It looks pretty nice, no? It'll make a great home-office for us.

Here's how it looks now it's been delivered:

(That's not including the door and window frames and the four glass unit either!).

Oh, and you have to unload the truck with help from the driver. He's literally twice as strong as me, so was able to shift far more of it than me. My life in IT didn't prepare me for that work at all ;-)

I think I've got a bit of work to do to construct it. The good news is that it's a piece of flat-pack that doesn't need an Ikea Standard Allen Key(tm) to assemble it. From what I can tell it's actually not that hard, although I'll need to get a decent, level concrete base down first. From them on, it's mostly a matter of slotting things together. Can't wait to get started!

Tesco Considering 3D Printing as an In-Store Service

On the Tesco blog (who knew there was such a thing!), they're talking about having 3D printing as an in-store service (in addition to the paper print services some larger stores have). The idea is that you could go in and say "I bought an XYZ brand microwave, but the handle's broken off" and they'd print you a new one while you get your shopping done. They're even talking about digitally repairing 3D-scanned things you take into the store too.

For us in-the-know about 3D printers, we've been expecting this for years. Even Tesco are a way away from actually doing it, but it's great to see that it's something that really might happen sometime soon.

In other news Stratsys have bought Makerbot. This puts Thingiverse in jeopardy.

(via 3Ders, Edie and The Ultimaker Group)

Facebook Scraping the Barrel

Facebook really are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel. I haven't so much as viewed my Facebook profile in weeks or months. The only time I've done anything on it in the last year or two has been to maybe check one specific thing, taking maybe a couple of minutes at most. It's pretty obvious I'm out of love with FB.

Over the weeks and months, FB have sent me the usual, completely unengaging emails saying things like "you've missed 12 of your friends status messages". I've of course ignored such things remarkably easily.

This week I received the above email from FB. It's the usual unengaging thing, but this time, they've claimed things that are years old are "recent". FB "pokes" are all about 2008, which is about the last time I got one. Apparently they somehow happened since I last logged in. This all tells you something about FB, doesn't it...?

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