Ryan Giggs’ Affair vs My Freedom of Speech

My name is Andrew Paul Barratt, I’m a student of Applied Computing at The University of Dundee and on the 21st of May 2011, I tweeted the identity of a man who has a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair as Ryan Giggs.

Tweet: -cough cough- Imogen Thomas -cough cough- affair -cough cough- Ryan Giggs -cough cough- Screw your injunction! -cough cough splutter-

There exists a paradox in the campaigns for internet freedom, the campaign to protect the privacy of ourselves and others online and the campaign to be able to say anything about what we want, who we want and how we want. I say this to show that we recognise that respect for privacy is of great importance however, the use of this to put limits of our freedom of speech is a place where the line must be drawn.

In the United Kingdom, an injunction can be sought after by those wishing to keep matters of their personal life private by denying the press from publishing details of said matters. A super-injunction is much the same but goes one step further in that it denies the press from making public the fact that an injunction even exists.

Recently, Ryan Giggs, a footballer who has played for Wales and been honoured as an Officer of the British Empire (OBE), claimed a super-injunction to hide the fact that he had an affair with ex Big Brother Housemate, Imogen Thomas.

After his name, previously known only as CBT, was leaked on Twitter, calls for prosecution were made, igniting a rampage of rebellion with thousands of people, including myself, tweeting and retweeting Giggs’ name again and again.

On the 23rd of May, at least 75,000 had published his name and Member of Parliament (MP) John Hemming stood in the house during discussion on privacy orders and named the footballer, thus using his parliamentary privilege to break the court order. It’s worth noting that parliament is always broadcast live on dedicated national television channel, BBC Parliament.

Mr Hemming asked whether it was right to carry on supporting injunctions that it was clear that the population of the United Kingdom had no support for, referring to them as “a law that clearly does not have public consent.”

And so the key point was addressed, in a democratic country, where the government that makes the laws is chosen by its people, how can a law that goes against our freedom of speech have ever been allowed to exist? I for one, will not support it.

Today, the 25th of May 2011, Twitter’s European boss, Tony Wang announced that they would hand over the names of all those who had revealed Ryan Giggs’ affair and that all of them would be on their own to defend themselves, “whether that is a motion to quash the order or to oppose it or do a number of other things to defend themselves.”

Well my decision is to oppose it. I will not delete what I tweeted and I will not be made silent. It is our freedom of speech and it is my right to defend it. Injunctions that deny our right to say what we like are, in my opinion, illegal and I will campaign to see an end to them.

Ubuntu 11.04 Installation on low storage netbooks (Eee PC 901)

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux Operating Systems and with the release of 11.04, I was keen to have a dedicated computer running it, so with an Eee PC netbook at hand, I had the challenge of installing it on a system with very little space.


In the past, Ubuntu has had a dedicated netbook version for small laptops like this but the interface was so popular they chose to mix the interface into the main Ubuntu Desktop version and simply rebrand it as “Ubuntu” meaning that all Ubuntu computers share the same interface that is suitable for both desktop and netbook.

So I bought this tiny computer yesterday second hand in a Cash Converters store with Windows XP preinstalled, well obviously I had to put a fix to that.

The specification of the Eee PC 901 that I bought came with two solid state drives on board: one 4GB drive for the operating system and applications and one 8GB drive for my own files. A quick installation using the presets for replacing XP left me with 0 bytes of space left on my first drive which effectively crippled the computer.

My challenge then was to set up the system in a way that best utilised the drives I had on board.

By default, when Ubuntu installs, it partitions the main drive it is installing on with a swap partition to use for virtual memory management. In my case, that was 1GB, so already I’d lost a gigabyte of space for my operating system.

Now a solid state drive like the one in my Eee PC has its lifetime limited by the number of writes it can perform, as a swap partition is accessed so often, it can severely drop this lifetime so I chose not to have one.

Next I would have to make sure my system knew to use the second, larger drive for my Home directory where I would be storing all of my personal data.

I chose to create a Ubuntu Live USB Stick as detailed on Ubuntu’s download page here and install it using that, when booting on Eee PC, hold down the escape key to be able to select the usb stick as the device to boot from.

Now after selecting to install Ubuntu on your computer, I’d recommend you connect it to the internet if you can and tell it to “Download updates while installing”, you will also spot the option to install some third party software that is not open source like Ubuntu. I would recommend this as it installs various bits that you’re likely to use, like MP3 support and the ability to view Flash media online. It’s not necessary but it makes like so much easier if you have it. To do this, select “Install this third-party software” and continue with setup.

Next up is to setup the drive partitioning. If you’ve already got an Operating System installed, such as Windows XP or another Linux distribution, you’ll have the option to “Install Ubuntu alongside them.” Now as we’ve already established that we don’t really have the space to do this, we would rather erase the disk, however, we already know that the default method of “Erase disk and install Ubuntu” won’t utilise the space on our netbook the way we require it to, so instead, choose “Something else” to be able to setup the partitions our own way.

Now this is where the important stuff is done. Delete all partitions across the devices and then, on the small (4GB) drive, click Add and choose to create an ext4 partition with the mount point set to root (/). Now, on the larger (8GB) drive, choose to create another ext4 partition with the mount point set to be your home directory (/home). Finally, make sure the boot loader installation is set to be on the smaller drive and click “Install Now.” You’ll receive a warning message about not using a swap partition, but as I’ve explained, that’s not something we’re wanting so just continue with setup.

And that’s it, now you have Ubuntu 11.04 all up and running on your netbook, congrats!

Microsoft buys Skype – Will Mac and Linux support Suffer?

Microsoft has agreed to buy Skype for $8.5 billion. That’s an awful lot of money for a company that was recently valued at a lot less and has been struggling to make a profit but what does this mean for Mac and Linux users?

I’m not concerned about the cost and I’m sure that Microsoft will help an already great business go far. What I’m concerned about is the user, specifically, the non Microsoft user.

Microsoft insist that they will keep Skype multi-platform, a feature that has helped keep Skype on top of the Internet Phone market. Skype has feature rich applications for not just Windows, but Macs, Linux and several mobile platforms. I have no doubt that Microsoft will continue development for these platforms but my concern is about the extent to which they will do this.

My primary computers are a Windows 7 desktop and an Apple MacBook running Snow Leopard. I have no bias between Mac and Windows and believe both platforms have their benefits. However, any Mac user can tell you of their frustration with Microsoft Messenger.

On Windows, Microsoft’s Messenger is feature rich. You have winks, web cams, facebook integration, Games, Photo sharing, Video Sharing, Video Messages, Slideshows, the list goes on. However, Microsoft Messenger for mac has very few of these features, in fact, up until a few months ago, it didn’t have Webcam support, something the windows version has had for as long as I’ve known it.

The reason for this is simple, Microsoft doesn’t give enough support to its mac developments team, I remember seeing a support forum on the Messenger for Mac site when people were complaining about the lack of webcam support in which a member of the development team cited lack of funding as an issue. I won’t go into details of the Linux development team… there isn’t one.

So yes, I believe Skype will continue to be available for Mac and Linux but my concern is that with closer integration with the Windows Live Network, will great new features, developed by Microsoft also appear on other platforms and if so, will they keep all platforms in sync with each other.

I don’t want a great new feature appearing on Skype for Windows and having to wait months, if not years, for it to appear on Mac and Linux because Microsoft wants to concentrate on making Skype for Windows.

Bin Laden’s Abbottabad Complex Map for Counter Strike

A developer going by the name of Fletch has created a map of Bin Laden’s Abbottabad Complex where he lived from 2005 till his death on 2nd of May 2011 for Counter Strike.

It’s not a new concept to have real life locations appear in computer games including those from real missions that have been carried out by world millitary but some would suggest that releasing a map like this so soon after the killing of Osama Bin Laden, is in poor taste.

It’s an interesting topic for debate that may have some very good points for both sides of the argument. What seems clear is that Fletch does not intend to create a mission in which players recreate the Navy Seals mission from the 2nd of May but instead have missions based on the concept.

One mission using the map he is constructing is an aftermath in which terrorists defend evidence in the base from being taken by Counter Terrorist Forces. Though some believe that just the location alone being in a computer game so soon is in poor taste and perhaps even means for provocation for more terrorist action.

What do you think? Do you play Counter Strike? Do you feel this map is in poor taste or will you be playing it yourself?

Look here for the map.

iPhone Headphone Buttons Fixed

The buttons on your Apple headphones can be very useful, but when they break, the solution may be simpler than you think.

I use the buttons on my iPhone’s headphones constantly, for skipping tracks, pausing, changing the volume, I’m a big fan of the voice control function. That is, I hold down my headphone’s centre button and I say “Play Album, Mad Season” and off it goes.

My problem, it stopped working, pressing buttons on my iPhone headphones did nothing, it started a few months ago when it would just stop working and then get better and steadily got worse. My Headphones were starting to deteriorate as headphones do over time so I took them back to the shop I bought them at and got them replaced (always keep the receipt boys and girls, this is my third set of official apple headphones on this one receipt). New headphones made no difference to the buttons problem though.

So I tried the headphones in a friend’s iPhone, no problem, it was definetely the iPhone, not the headphones!

So today I took my iPhone to the O2 shop. I didn’t expect much hope as my iPhone is currently out of warranty. I showed the guy in the shop my problem and he took my phone and produced a paper clip from his pocket which he straightens. I’m worried at this point that he’s going to remove the sim card and send it off for a costly repair, then, he plunges the piece of wire into my headphones socket, I’m in great shock now, this surely, is not a method supported by Apple but then, he pulled it out slowly. On the end, a piece of fluff.

He does this a few times and explains that people who keep their iPhone in their jeans like myself, fill the socket up with fluff which makes the buttons stop working. Simple and frankly, something I probably should have checked.

So, if your headphone buttons have stopped working, get a straightened paper clip and remove the fluff from the headphones socket, problem solved.

Xbox 720, Someone get Sony a Wheelchair!

Oh dear, Sony is generally looking like they’re getting old.

And with the revelations that Nintendo and Microsoft are to launch new consoles, Sony is looking a little bit redundant, especially after they announced that they won’t be developing a new console anytime soon as they want to develop their Move controllers further, but there’s something that Sony hasn’t really figured out.

These Move things are just rubbish! I mean, they’re awfully clever, don’t get me wrong but they knew what Microsoft were developing, they knew that Kinect was well on its way and here at the Dundee School of Computing, we knew it was a major contender, our Visual Interaction research department had been looking into 3D cameras and tracking human motion without the use of lights or other tracking tags for quite some time now.

So to see Sony boasting a system that effectively used a low quality webcam that doesn’t work in living room light, to track a glowing ping pong ball on a stick, just seemed a little old fashioned… in computing terms.

I own a Playstation 3, not an Xbox 360. When I bought my PS3, I didn’t do my research, I just wanted a bluray player and at the time, the PS3 worked out being not much more than buying a normal one. Over time, I’ve discovered various things about the PS3 that really hold it back.

It seems PS3 always see what others are doing and do something similar, just a little less. When Wii was announced to have it’s amazing motion detection controls, PS3 was suddenly announcing, a short time later, to be getting motion detection controllers, something they’d failed to mention before. They had obviously rushed to add them too, with the vibration function of the controllers suddenly stripped out to make it all work. Vibrations you see, don’t work well with accelerometers, but a little research would have fixed this, something they didn’t have time to do, because they’d only just thought of it (when i say, thought of it, i mean, Nintendo thought of it). Vibrating controllers of course came back later and but the motion detection that we gained on the PS3 controllers, well it’s fun, i like it, but it’s just not Wii.

The only thing Sony did well was to support BluRay over HD-DVD. But then, Sony own BluRay, they license the format, it makes it rather awkward for any other console to use it… we’ll see though, I doubt they can keep it to themselves forever.

Now let’s look at Sony from a developers point of view. My flatmate, does develop for Playstation consoles. To do so, he is attending what was the first University in the world to have a Games Development course, Dundee’s Abertay University. But to do so, Abertay is subject to very strict licensing. If I wanted to develop for PS3, I would have to be approved under strict regulations by Sony, it would cost me a lot, same goes for Wii. Home Brew games and apps are the new generation of software packages being made. There’s likely to be a program on your computer a program, on your smart phone or your tablet PC that was developed by someone at home.

The only console that supports home brew, is Xbox. In fact, Microsoft provides the stuff in the form of, XNA studio, to develop these games for Xbox and Windows for free. There is talk of Nintendo developing a similar platform too. Sony however is continuously striving to make sure people can not make home brew apps on their consoles and with a major hack (which I honestly believe could have been prevented) of Playstation Network User details, the Playstation network still remains down weeks later and Sony continues to not tell us stuff. Why is the Network still down? Has it been destroyed? Do you not know how to fix it?

Now we’ve got Wii2 and XBox 720 on the way and all I can think is, I wish I didn’t have a PS3. Because until Sony realise how software development is changing, I don’t think we’ll be hearing much from Sony in the coming years.

Remember Nokia? That brand of phone that everybody had? We all had a Nokia phone because they were the best. Then with the new generation of smartphones and the new generation of software made for them, we forgot about Nokia. Well if Sony don’t get ready for the next generation, we’ll forget them and their Playstation very soon too.