Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Lloydaboutlife has moved!

October 15, 2008

Lloydaboutlife has now moved. I used to host the blog with the web host web-mania. These were quite cheap and worked well – the actual software I used to write and format the blog was wordpress. Wordpress actually provide the option of hosting your blog for free at wordpress.com – and they now have the option of using your own domain name (ie lloydaboutlife.com) on that blog as well.

Given the limited amount of time I have to devote to the blog, I’ve decided to move the blog to this free hosted service, while keeping the same lloydaboutlife.com name. The new free service has two big advantages.

  • It’s much cheaper! I still have to pay for the domain registration and a small fee to use my own domain name at wordpress, but it’s still only about a third of what I paid before! 
  • The wordpress hosted blog will automatically be kept up to date with the latest version of the wordpress software, including security updates.

To be honest, the second of these is the key advantage. One of the reasons I have done so little on the blog in recent months is that I was aware that I was using a quite out of date version of wordpress, and felt that I really should update this. This would have taken quite a bit of time and effort however, so I never got round to it – and also never got round to writing new posts! On the new hosting service, a lot of the worries and hassles are taken care of for me so I should be able to do more on it.

The move does have some downsides – I can’t customise the blog quite as much as I could before, so for example I can’t put my old polls onto the blog (although they’ve just provided a new polling feature which I’ll have to look at soon!), but overall it should be a big plus. You shouldn’t notice much difference – just a few minor formatting differences, and a few things missing that were there before. Do let me know if anything doesn’t work however. And if you want to do your own blog, why don’t you sign up at wordpress.com too!

Who’s to blame?

March 5, 2008

So much for thinking that I’d have another post up within a week. Fortunately, news stories of mislaid data from UK government departments arrive about every week, so this is still a topical issue… As I mentioned in the last post, the UK tax revenue department lost two CDs containing confidential information relating to about 25 million UK residents. This is a lot of people, and many many families – including mine – were affected by it. As far as I’m aware, the CDs are still ‘lost’. There have been lots of other stories of people or companies losing confidential data since, but this is still the one that sticks most in my memory.

One of the reasons for this is that I’m an IT manager, responsible to some extent for my organisation’s data. What if some of our organization’s data were to be mislaid too! The thought sends shivers down my back, and is enough to make sure that this whole area is looked at long, hard and regularly. I can’t but ask, however, how such a colossal mistake could possibly be allowed to happen?

But wasn’t it just a mistake? We all make them. It’s just that this one had such huge consequences, and hence made the news. Was it the fault of the poor guy who put these CDs into an envelope and then into the internal post? No doubt a large part of the blame has to be directed towards those higher in authority – those who gave the orders and who were responsible for making sure that things were carried out properly. Whatever, it’s unlikely that it was done maliciously, or with any real awareness of how serious the consequences of such a stupid action might be. Can we really get so indignant about what happened?

Yet we (rightly I think) feel that we can’t just pass this by as another everyday mistake. The stakes were too important for such mistakes to be allowed. Yes, a junior official my not understand the potential ramifications of sending such data in such an insecure, and easily lost, way. And more senior ones may not undersand all the technical options for securing, reducing, or transmitting the data. But there were surely others around who did and do understand such things – they could and should have been asked, and the ‘mistake’ should have been avoided.

And this is a ‘mistake’ which all of us too easily fall into – thinking we know enough about what we should do, and being too proud / not bothered enough to ask. We are human and can’t be expected to know everything, or have the wisdom to always make the right decisions. But there are others around who know more about the things that we don’t understand, and we are all at fault when we don’t make the effort to find a better answer elsewhere. 

“If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure” (The Message) 

Not dead yet ….

January 12, 2008

I read that it’s generally agree that if a blog hasn’t had a new post within the last 3 months, then it’s probably dead. Oh dear, I think my last posting was back in September, but I don’t intend to leave this blog dead quite yet (nor indeed for a long while). Particularly as I’m now getting more visitors than I did when I wrote regularly! It’s not even true to say that I’ve had nothing to say. There have been quite a few events in the news which I wanted to comment on, but I just haven’t had the time.

One of these was the loss before Christmas by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (UK tax raising organisation) of some CDs containing personal and confidential details of a large proportion of the UK population. This not only affected my family personally, but is interesting to me as an IT manager where one aspect of my role is to ensure that our organisation’s systems and personal data remain secure. My thoughts went slightly in a different direction, however, to the general (somewhat deserved) condemnation of the government’s incompetence. However it’s now late and I don’t want to write this all at this moment. So come back soon for (hopefully) some further reflections…

Broken tooth

March 27, 2007

Last week when eating breakfast I felt a twinge of protest from a tooth as I crunched on a hard bit of cereal. Shortly afterwards I crunched on something even harder – it was about a quarter of one of my teeth which had broken off, leaving a rather exposed bit of ‘inner tooth’ (I think dentine is the technical name)!

Fortunately the fracture hadn’t gone through to the root so I wasn’t in pain, but I was bit unnerved by a large section of missing tooth in my mouth, and thought I’d better go to a dentist soon. Only one problem, however. We haven’t registered with a dentist here in Gloucester. We were looking to find a health service dentist who wouldn’t charge too much, as money is not an overabundant commodity when you’re studying at a mission college. However these are few and far between and we haven’t yet found one taking on new patients.

Never mind, I thought, there’s a phoneline for emergency treatment for patients who don’t have a dentist. After an hour of trying, I got through – and was told that unless I was in severe pain I’d have to go on the waiting list – 10 months! Not so sure that was going to be much use. After lots of frantic effort I did finally manage to find a dentisit in a nearby village who had an available appointment and was willing to see me, even though I wasn’t registered with them. He was able to fix the broken tooth for a not-too-exhorbitant fee. I now have a pin in my tooth, surrounded by filling. However I’m still a bit anxious about really ‘testing’ it too hard – at least until we’re properly registered with a dentist …

This is not the only example I have of not quite getting round to something until it was almost too late. A few years ago I had got a bit lax at making backups of our documents, Emails etc on our computer. After all it was a very good PC and never went wrong. At least until it did, and the computer was unable to read the hard drive. After multiple attempts it did at last start up, and I managed to get the disk spinning again. I didn’t switch off the PC until everything was burned onto CD. That hard drive never worked again, and I only just rescued the data in time.

Often we (or at least I) don’t get round to important things as there’s always something more urgent to do. Only when the emergency happens do we realise that the important is more important than the urgent. And perhaps one day we won’t be able to do it just in time.


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