kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
As discussed by [personal profile] rydra_wong, tomorrow afternoon Inclusion London and Disabled People Against The Cuts are hosting a briefing and discussion session regarding the UN finding that the UK government was engaging in grave and systematic violations of the rights of disabled people.

You can use WriteToThem to find, and write to, your MP, in order to draw this session to their attention and urge them to attend. The event details are:
Grave and systematic violations – What next after the UN disability inquiry? Briefing and Discussion
Committee Room 12, Houses of Parliament
2.30 – 3.45pm Tuesday 24th January 2017

My letter specifically pulls my MP up on his comprehensive failure to respond to my previous e-mail to him so will be of limited use, but just in case: Read more... )

(If any of you have the cope to adapt this for [community profile] spoonlessactivists, please by all means go ahead and do so.)

(no subject)

Jan. 23rd, 2017 12:18 pm
naath: (Default)
[personal profile] naath
meme, because memes are fun.

1. How do you like your coffee?
Filter, black, no sugar. I will drink Americano if there is no filter, and sometimes Espresso. And wait for the water to be not-quite boiling before making, or it burns.

2. How do you like your tea?
Black, no sugar. Earl Grey or Lapsang for preference, although I drink any kind of tea. Boiling hot water, or it's less good.

3. What's your favourite late night beverage?
Gin. Or hotchocolate, but I'm very picky about chocolate - really good chocolate (I like Hotel Chocolat best) and only milk, no water, and I prefer to use a pan, although ugh, washing up

4. If you could only drink one thing for the next week, what would it be?
Tea. Earl Grey. Hot (of course it is hot, what is this heretical cold tea???)

5. If you were on vacation, what would be the first thing you'd drink to celebrate?
Something a stupid colour with a cocktail umbrella.

(no subject)

Jan. 23rd, 2017 10:45 am
sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
[personal profile] sebastienne
I do love the liminal space of travel.

Even earlier this morning, crammed on a rush-hour Victoria Line train, headphones too-loud and eyes pressed shut as I'm squeezed into a corner; still felt good and lucky, a chance to be inside my own head with no expectation that I'll be being Productive.

I assume the lucky feeling would fade very quickly if I ever had a significant regular rush-hour commute; but for now, when most of my life is within a twenty-minute cycle of my front door, the rest of my life is made special by travel. The times that I take a seven-hour round-trip for a four-hour rehearsal; the times I wake up in London and have to be at work in Oxford; my experiences in those places are made more special, my memories of them more intense, by having the processing and encoding time of solo travel.

(I mean even the long journey home was not enough to allow me to make sense of Lazarus, but then, some things are outside of the power of the Oxford Tube.)

Android permissions and hypocrisy

Jan. 22nd, 2017 11:41 pm
[personal profile] mjg59
I wrote a piece a few days ago about how the Meitu app asked for a bunch of permissions in ways that might concern people, but which were not actually any worse than many other apps. The fact that Android makes it so easy for apps to obtain data that's personally identifiable is of concern, but in the absence of another stable device identifier this is the sort of thing that capitalism is inherently going to end up making use of. Fundamentally, this is Google's problem to fix.

Around the same time, Kaspersky, the Russian anti-virus company, wrote a blog post that warned people about this specific app. It was framed somewhat misleadingly - "reading, deleting and modifying the data in your phone's memory" would probably be interpreted by most people as something other than "the ability to modify data on your phone's external storage", although it ends with some reasonable advice that users should ask why an app requires some permissions.

So, to that end, here are the permissions that Kaspersky request on Android:
  • android.permission.READ_CONTACTS
  • android.permission.WRITE_CONTACTS
  • android.permission.READ_SMS
  • android.permission.WRITE_SMS
  • android.permission.READ_PHONE_STATE
  • android.permission.CALL_PHONE
  • android.permission.SEND_SMS
  • android.permission.RECEIVE_SMS
  • android.permission.RECEIVE_BOOT_COMPLETED
  • android.permission.WAKE_LOCK
  • android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE
  • android.permission.SUBSCRIBED_FEEDS_READ
  • android.permission.READ_SYNC_SETTINGS
  • android.permission.WRITE_SYNC_SETTINGS
  • android.permission.WRITE_SETTINGS
  • android.permission.INTERNET
  • android.permission.ACCESS_COARSE_LOCATION
  • android.permission.ACCESS_FINE_LOCATION
  • android.permission.READ_CALL_LOG
  • android.permission.WRITE_CALL_LOG
  • android.permission.RECORD_AUDIO
  • android.permission.SET_PREFERRED_APPLICATIONS
  • android.permission.WRITE_APN_SETTINGS
  • android.permission.READ_CALENDAR
  • android.permission.WRITE_CALENDAR
  • android.permission.KILL_BACKGROUND_PROCESSES
  • android.permission.RESTART_PACKAGES
  • android.permission.MANAGE_ACCOUNTS
  • android.permission.GET_ACCOUNTS
  • android.permission.MODIFY_PHONE_STATE
  • android.permission.CHANGE_NETWORK_STATE
  • android.permission.ACCESS_NETWORK_STATE
  • android.permission.ACCESS_WIFI_STATE
  • android.permission.CHANGE_WIFI_STATE
  • android.permission.VIBRATE
  • android.permission.READ_LOGS
  • android.permission.GET_TASKS
  • android.permission.EXPAND_STATUS_BAR
  • com.android.browser.permission.READ_HISTORY_BOOKMARKS
  • com.android.browser.permission.WRITE_HISTORY_BOOKMARKS
  • android.permission.CAMERA
  • com.android.vending.BILLING
  • android.permission.SYSTEM_ALERT_WINDOW
  • android.permission.BATTERY_STATS
  • android.permission.MODIFY_AUDIO_SETTINGS
  • com.kms.free.permission.C2D_MESSAGE
  • com.google.android.c2dm.permission.RECEIVE

Every single permission that Kaspersky mention Meitu having? They require it as well. And a lot more. Why does Kaspersky want the ability to record audio? Why does it want to be able to send SMSes? Why does it want to read my contacts? Why does it need my fine-grained location? Why is it able to modify my settings?

There's no reason to assume that they're being malicious here. The reasons that these permissions exist at all is that there are legitimate reasons to use them, and Kaspersky may well have good reason to request them. But they don't explain that, and they do literally everything that their blog post criticises (including explicitly requesting the phone's IMEI). Why should we trust a Russian company more than a Chinese one?

The moral here isn't that Kaspersky are evil or that Meitu are virtuous. It's that talking about application permissions is difficult and we don't have the language to explain to users what our apps are doing and why they're doing it, and Google are still falling far short of where they should be in terms of making this transparent to users. But the other moral is that you shouldn't complain about the permissions an app requires when you're asking for even more of them because it just makes you look stupid and bad at your job.

That escalated quickly.

Jan. 21st, 2017 12:59 am
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
It turns out that my dinner crew can get from "I'm not going to make this rude gesture because there are children present" to "Donald Trump could fist ducks" and it took less than 5 minutes.

Trump of the Will

Jan. 20th, 2017 04:30 pm
hairyears: (Default)
[personal profile] hairyears
I am watching history being made, live on cable TV on the trading floor.
Sometimes history is dramatic; sometimes it's ugly; sometimes it's rather boring, and often we don't realise that we're missing one of the big changes in our lifetime.
Sometimes, history is ridiculous. Occasionally it's downright embarrassing.
Today, Donald J. Trump will swear an oath, speak "So help me God", and lift his hand from the Bible. Upon that moment he is, or will be, the President of the United States of America.
He will give a speech: listen carefully, because it will be his best speech to date - not the incoherent rabbble-rousing demagoguery he used to win this office, but a speech, crafted for him by the White House staff and his political advisors; measured words, an historic document spoken aloud, weighed, considered, and rehearsed.
Or not. It's Donald Trump. But it will be the very best that he can do: and if it is terrible - stumbling and incoherent, or empty bragging, of a cold and frightening statement of malice and misuse of power - or just embarrassing - it is his speech. It is the beginning of his presidency.
It is history, being made in front of us.
Remember it, because every president, and every speech, will be different after this one. America is now a very different country - or rather, it has told itself something very different about itself, that breaks with all of the familiar and reassuring it used to believe about itself - and every Inauguration from this day forward will be overshadowed by the question: "Have we elected someone who could be another Donald Trump?"
such_heights: a girl reads a book in the grass (stock: fairy tales)
[personal profile] such_heights
Life in Technicolour
by [personal profile] such_heights
fandom: Disney (various)
music: Coldplay
content notes: none
summary: Babies. Animals. Baby animals.
download: 72MB zipped .mov
notes: For More Joy Day, and my dad. <3 Also, there are some great movies not featured here because I focused on the ones that my dad and I have watched and loved together over the years. Thank you [personal profile] purplefringe for ever-heroic beta services.

embed )

Android apps, IMEIs and privacy

Jan. 19th, 2017 02:47 pm
[personal profile] mjg59
There's been a sudden wave of people concerned about the Meitu selfie app's use of unique phone IDs. Here's what we know: the app will transmit your phone's IMEI (a unique per-phone identifier that can't be altered under normal circumstances) to servers in China. It's able to obtain this value because it asks for a permission called READ_PHONE_STATE, which (if granted) means that the app can obtain various bits of information about your phone including those unique IDs and whether you're currently on a call.

Why would anybody want these IDs? The simple answer is that app authors mostly make money by selling advertising, and advertisers like to know who's seeing their advertisements. The more app views they can tie to a single individual, the more they can track that user's response to different kinds of adverts and the more targeted (and, they hope, more profitable) the advertising towards that user. Using the same ID between multiple apps makes this easier, and so using a device-level ID rather than an app-level one is preferred. The IMEI is the most stable ID on Android devices, persisting even across factory resets.

The downside of using a device-level ID is, well, whoever has that data knows a lot about what you're running. That lets them tailor adverts to your tastes, but there are certainly circumstances where that could be embarrassing or even compromising. Using the IMEI for this is even worse, since it's also used for fundamental telephony functions - for instance, when a phone is reported stolen, its IMEI is added to a blacklist and networks will refuse to allow it to join. A sufficiently malicious person could potentially report your phone stolen and get it blocked by providing your IMEI. And phone networks are obviously able to track devices using them, so someone with enough access could figure out who you are from your app usage and then track you via your IMEI. But realistically, anyone with that level of access to the phone network could just identify you via other means. There's no reason to believe that this is part of a nefarious Chinese plot.

Is there anything you can do about this? On Android 6 and later, yes. Go to settings, hit apps, hit the gear menu in the top right, choose "App permissions" and scroll down to phone. Under there you'll see all apps that have permission to obtain this information, and you can turn them off. Doing so may cause some apps to crash or otherwise misbehave, whereas newer apps may simply ask for you to grant the permission again and refuse to do so if you don't.

Meitu isn't especially rare in this respect. Over 50% of the Android apps I have handy request your IMEI, although I haven't tracked what they all do with it. It's certainly something to be concerned about, but Meitu isn't especially rare here - there are big-name apps that do exactly the same thing. There's a legitimate question over whether Android should be making it so easy for apps to obtain this level of identifying information without more explicit informed consent from the user, but until Google do anything to make it more difficult, apps will continue making use of this information. Let's turn this into a conversation about user privacy online rather than blaming one specific example.
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
It may be small by global standards, but the Gilbert and Sullivan weekend at Musatelier is the biggest G&S event in this area. As G&S is bewildering to most French locals, we rely on people coming from elsewhere - mainly from England.

This year we are having a bash at Yeomen of the Guard.

The plan is:
Friday evening sort-out music and parts, eat together.
Saturday practices and a little sight-seeing; evening meal is either out at La Daugaterie or pizza delivery.
Sunday run-through twice, the second time with a small audience of friends and neighbours.

Visitors are welcome to arrive before and stay after. There is a limited amount of sleeping-space in the house and rooms with helpful neighbours; people who prefer/can afford plusher accommodation have a choice of nearby chambres d'hôtes and gîtes.

Some of the solos are taken, but we're short of baritones. Chorus are very welcome. You'll have to find a score, but it is possible to download one.

It won't be staged, and we don't expect people to learn the parts off by heart (though that would be especially good!) but some attempt at costumes would be appreciated.

I lik the bred

Jan. 18th, 2017 11:37 pm
ewx: (Default)
[personal profile] ewx

Lately I’ve been enjoyed some very daft poems about cows (and ancillary characters) by Ann Leckie and her fans. I mentioned this to Matthew although I think a few other people might like them too, so here we are.

Big list of URLs )

Prospero the satellite

Jan. 16th, 2017 01:50 pm
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
It's not widely known, but Britain had a space programme. In 1971 a British satellite was launched on a British rocket from the rocket testing station on the Isle of Wight. The communications and research satellite, Prospero, is still in orbit.

The project was a huge success except for one thing. The government minister in charge of funding is reported as having said that he saw no commercial use for satellites, and as the team celebrated Prospero's first transmissions they were told that the project funding had been cancelled. This story comes from the project leader, in an interview on tv[0]. For its anniversary, a team from UCL tried to contact Prospero. Last I heard, re-establishing communication hasn't worked.

[0] Coast, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00793kz.

A ramble around Prospero's Island

Jan. 16th, 2017 12:44 pm
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
Back in the mists of time there was a debate at my school[0] on "UDI for the Isle of Wight"[1]. It was meant to make us think about independent states, and was successful in that. I remember several points such as the cost of a separate judiciary, the problems of trade, and where to get electricity. The land-retentive propensities of the UK were mentioned, too, although we forgot to consider flag-waving for Queen Victoria.

Later, in an oral Spanish exam, I was asked my views on the drive for independence in Alsace and the Basque area. I hesitated at first, because the lecturer asking the question was Welsh, but argued that small states would have trouble surviving and amalgamation was better for them, although it did horrible things to their cultures,

I have changed my mind since then. I lived in Wales, in a fairly Welsh-speaking area, which raised several new points about mangled history and control by conquerors. Then various changes arrived, such as:
* The EU developed from a set of trade agreements between a few countries determined not to repeat the horrors of WWII into an international body with a rather more sensible structure than the evolved complexities of most of its member states; small states can foresee a time when they could function under its umbrella without the need for costly political, trade, and legal structures.
* The Interwebs made international communication the norm, and the dying g(r)asps of national laws begin to look silly.
* We're rapidly heading into devolved, localised electricity-generation.

I'm not sure the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight would want independence, but it seems more feasible now. And perhaps there really could be a People's Republic of Yorkshire. Meanwhile, have a look at this roadmap for independence for Scotland.

Oh, the Prospero reference? See next post.

[0] Properly-organised debates at lunchtimes, with speakers from the debating society. Not sure this is still a thing in state schools.
[1] Unilateral Declaration of Independence

Modern Mamluks

Jan. 15th, 2017 10:22 pm
ewx: (Default)
[personal profile] ewx

From Deep State To Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution And Its Jihadi Legacy, Jean-Pierre Filiu, ISBN 978-1-84904-546-9

This book analyses the background to, and aftermath, of the Arab Spring: the military despotisms in Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Yemen, with a lesser amount of material on Tunisia and Libya.

The question the book asks, essentially, is how the contests between military oligarchies, street protesters, political Islam and violent ‘jihadi’ movements ended with the first of the above remaining in charge, the middle two components crushed, and the latter successful and destructive. Filiu’s answer is essentially that the jihadists were indirectly, and in some cases directly, supported by the governments they supposedly oppose, both as a warning of chaos and as “my enemy’s enemy”.

The most blatant example is Bashar al-Assad, initially providing support for Iraqi enemies of the USA (including the local precursors of IS) and subsequently emptying its jails of jihadists in order to support its own propaganda once popular protests erupted in Syria.

The author also touches on Tunisia and Libya. In both cases the dictator fell, but the outcomes were very different. The reasons can be found both in the pre-revolutionary structure of the two countries and in the subsequent political processes.

The military oligarchies are characterised as ‘modern Mamluks’, alluding to historical military rulers. In their modern form, the author finds them excellent manipulators of both world powers and their regional neighbours, successfully extracting support in the form of money, weapons and oil; and vigorous defenders of their own privileges; but poor rulers of their countries.

This is a pretty depressing book. The only remotely successful entities in places like Syria are those that are prepared to burn the country to the ground to keep or take control, and when compared with the similar situation in Algeria in the 1990s, neither the ferocity of the conflict nor the negligible Western response seem particularly surprising.

LJ farewell

Jan. 12th, 2017 01:48 pm
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
I'm leaving Livejournal. As far as I know, there are only two of my friends who are only on LJ, and neither of those has posted for a long time.

Maybe I should use the phone more, eh?

I have an account on Diaspora (diasp.org), which would be my preference if only more of my friends would use it.
I had an account on insanejournal, but I lost it. At one time, because someone borrowed my username and photo, I was in the habit of pouncing on the username in every bloggy/comms thing that appeared - partly to see if it went well, and partly to ensure that nobody else took the username and confused people. You'd think sunflowerinrain would be rare enough not to worry, but there we are.

LJ was a good thing in my life. I met a lot of friends IRL with whom I first talked on there. Once I went to a gathering with a friend: it was sociable but reserved until we discovered that all but one of us was on irc and LJ, and that we all knew each other online. At one time LJ was my main source of communication. It faded away for various reasons: some people gave up blogging, some moved to easier (though less thoughtful) media, and some left When it became russian. I can't cope with the homepage, and find it offensive at times, but I continued to cross-post from Dreamwidth in case any friends logged in there and not on DW or the dreaded FB.

And now I'm going to try to post more on Dreamwidth. I'm tired of being limited to what an algorithm allows me to see, and of threads where the comments don't relate to each other because people can't see all the other comments.
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
[personal profile] happydork
I have basically a million thoughts about Chirrut and Baze AND THEIR EPIC LOVE. Here are a very few of them:

Between the shores of your souls (13942 words) by imperfectcircle
Fandom: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Relationships: Chirrut Îmwe/Baze Malbus
Summary: Scenes from the last fifty years of Baze and Chirrut’s lives.

I loved writing this so much. <3<3<3 They are the best, I want very roughly three billion more words of their adventures.


Jan. 10th, 2017 10:17 pm
azurelunatic: blue and silver pompoms, with a textual representation of a person holding up pompoms to cheer. (cheer)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
My partner and their delicate things have been safely extracted. The ex was not present for the extraction process.

Next is the fun part, I guess. For ... certain likely values of fun.

Paint your Ph'thagn

Jan. 10th, 2017 11:11 pm
hairyears: (Default)
[personal profile] hairyears
Very few good Cthulhu mythos stories have been published. Here is a superb one:
The author, Ruthanna Emrys, has a longer work coming out in April, and Tor.com are publishing exerpts for the next five days:
I am rather looking forward to buying this book.
kaberett: Reflections of a bare tree in river ice in Stockholm somehow end up clad in light. (tree-of-light)
[personal profile] kaberett
About a fortnight ago now, I went to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit at the Natural History Museum with [personal profile] swaldman (we are making a habit of this!). I was certainly of the opinion (and I think Simon agreed?) that this year's finalists appeared to have been selected more on technical difficulty than on anything that we could emotionally connect to in the pictures; this was cemented rather for me by the fact that I have more favourites from the 25 People's Choice Award finalists than from the rest of the exhibition (certainly proportionally and possible absolutely). Voting is open until the 16th of January -- maybe go play if you feel that way inclined?

The particular ones I'm having difficulty choosing between are Caterpillar curl, Jelly starburst and Tasty delicacy (which last hits all my buttons around Victorian botanical and zoological illustration).

My highlights from the main exhibition. )