Interesting Blog

Posted: February 28, 2012 by Josh in Rants

Just thought I would make a quick post here to let everyone know about a new blog I found the other day. It is at http://squ1r3ll.com and y’all should check that out for some extra media cynicism in your life.

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The Skills Funding Agency

Posted: February 22, 2012 by Josh in Rants

Skills_Funding_Agency_Annual_Report_Accounts_Annotated.pdf Download this file

Just a couple of points right off the top:

  1. When I refer to ‘2011,’ I actually mean year end March 31st 2011
  2. When I refer to ‘2010,’ I actually mean year end March 31st 2010
  3. I am attempting to attach a document to this here post. I hope it works but if it doesn’t, I will go and edit the post fairly soon after it’s posting
  4. In the attached document (if it works), all of the salient information and weird numbers are highlighted so if you want to see my comments, just hover your mouse over each one and my comment will pop up. This is, if you’re using ‘Adobe Reader X.’ It might work in other PDF viewers/editors but that is, as of yet, untested so if you have any luck, let me know.
  5. Unless otherwise stated, these opinions are my own and are based upon my views. Take none of these as fact (unless I supply particular URLs or citations)

All annotations and such are within the attached PDF. I recommend saving this and opening it and browsing at your own leisure.

Media Cynicism 101 – A Few Media Cynicism Links

Posted: February 22, 2012 by Josh in Rants
    Due to an interesting lesson today in which we watched the virtuous Noam Chomsky, some interesting ideas were discussed. These mainly consisted of myself and a few other in the class supplying answers and the others dosing off to sleep because they weren’t allowed to drink cheap, nasty cider or ‘go on Facebook innit.’ Anyhow, due to this lesson in which others either didn’t care or seemed new to media cynicism, I have decided to try and provide a few links to things that can assist you in propagating the fact that the media is bought and paid for.

The Slog – http://hat4uk.wordpress.com/
    This is a very interesting blog of which I was made aware only recently. It is written by a gentleman by the name of John Ward. He is a retired industry insider with many contacts still inside the many different industries that make the world tick. He writes frequently (pretty much daily, if not multiple times a day) and he always posts interesting media analysis in connection to whatever is happening in the news at that time. Find out more at http://hat4uk.wordpress.com/about/

The No Agenda Show – http://www.noagendashow.com/ or http://noagendanewsnetwork.com/
    This is a fantastic twice weekly podcast by two media assassins Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak. It doesn’t even need explaining. Just listen to it. Yes, there is some serious inside baseball (inside jokes/terms) but once you listen to a few shows you start to see the patterns and recognise what they mean. Also, Google helps a lot… I would recommend, if you’re just a beginner, either go back and listen to the back catalog – (from maybe about 290-ish because that’s many hours of media assassination) because whilst the news might be outdated, it gives you a good idea of what these two are about and it helps to develop your questioning sense – or you start at episode 318 – http://381.nashownotes.com/ – which is where Adam reveals his data collection of details around the oil fields and pipelines in the Middle East and why Syria, Homs in particular, has been in the news of late. This is one of the best investigations that I’ve seen in a long time, forget The Guardian Investigates: Them Riots What Happened in London.

    So, there’s a few for you to get your feet wet. I will be posting more links as time goes on, so watch the media cynicism 101 tag on this here website for more details.

    Basic etiquette is not particularly difficult. Unfortunately, I know way too many people who would disagree with that statement, perhaps only subconsciously, but they disagree nonetheless. They are the kind of people who tend to say ‘So, what?’ whenever somebody tells them that kicking children is wrong, for example. These people can also be amusing to be around because they tend to start a lot of trouble, which you, as the innocent bystander, can simply walk away from, pretending to not know said person. If, however, you enjoy the odd bit of unprovoked violence, they are the perfect friends.

    So, on to the specifics of this post. Ending a lesson. The thing is, on a bunch of TV shows (namely American-made ones), the characters all rush out of the room before the teacher has finished speaking when the bell signals the end of the lesson. This might seem cool in a ‘Yeah, you can’t tell me when to leave!’ kind of way but it’s really not. As much as I’m not for the whole ‘do as you’re told, slave!‘ thing, if you are already in a school/college then you are, by virtue of your presence, doing what you’re told. The only people who have the right to insubordination at that point in time aren’t even in the classroom. They’re out the back, smoking behind the bins. Now, that poses a problem concerning the way that you demonstrate your rebellion but that’s an issue for another time.

    Therefore, when you’re in a lesson, wait until the teacher has finished speaking. They might not want to be their either but they have to be if they want to eat every day. So, show them some courtesy and just wait.

Easy Drive Detection With AutoIt

Posted: February 6, 2012 by Josh in Rants
DISCLAIMER: I do not discern using this tool or any others for malicious reasons. Always have the targets permission before using this script on a target machine.

So, I thought it prudent to share a little bit of magic that I just came across. Whilst working on an automatic file copier (which I’ll post when I’m finished with it), I had to do some drive detection so that I could change the source destination’s drive letter (because not every machine has the same amount of removable drives on it…). After some funky playing around with long if statements and whatnot, I came up with this:

Now, as long as you replace “COPY” with the label of your flash drive (keeping the quotes, of course) then you’re golden. Then you can copy scripts to the C: drive or copy files from the target machine to your flash drive. Have fun!

AutoIt And It’s Destructive Potential

Posted: February 3, 2012 by Josh in Rants

AutoIt is amazing. They have a website. Read about it there because it would be a waste of my time to try and explain it to you. The help file is massive so anything you need, you can find there. Also, if you want to use the user created functions and such, everything’s in the help file. It really is rather extensive.

So, onto an example. This is basically an example of a script that you can run from an autoexec.bat on someone else’s computer to give them a fake and very obvious virus. Let’s begin:

#include <GUIConstantsEx.au3>

You will need this line to allow you to use the GUI controls. We will be creating the GUI as an overlay on top of everything on the screen. This will make the user think that something weird is going on with their computer because they can’t see any of their windows.

  $loop = 0 $x = 1 WinMinimizeAll() GUICreate("LOL PWN TIME", 4000, 4000)  

These two variables are needed for a little bit later on. Explanation to follow. Line 3 minimizes all of the other windows which isn’t really necessary but it’s a pretty cool action to use in some other scripts. Line 4 is obviously the GUI creation. It’s 4000 by 4000 because I’m not aware of many people that run their resolution this high so it’s likely to work with everyone but by all means, change it to your liking.

  while $loop < 20 <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>ProcessClose("taskmgr.exe") <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>GUISetState(@SW_SHOW) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>GUISetBkColor(0xFF0000) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>MouseMove($loop, $loop + 1) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>GUISetBkColor(0x000000) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>GUISetBkColor(0xFFFFFF) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>for $x = 300 to 3000 step 300 <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>BlockInput(1) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Beep($x,1) <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Next <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>$loop = $loop + 1 wend  

Here is the meat of the script, as well as those variables that I promised earlier. The while loop is there to control the amount of times the screen will flash. If you want an infinite loop, you can either set this to = 0 and comment out the second to last line or just comment out the second to last line; it’s really up to you. Line 2 closes any attempts that the user makes at pressing ctrl + alt + del so that they think that their pc is truly locked up. Line 3 shows the GUI. Line 4 sets the colour of the GUI to red. Line 5 moves the mouse creepily. You can set this to a randomly generated number but it will only work really well on fast machines, not on the ones with crappy processors. Lines 6 & 7 sets the GUI colours to black and white respectively. You can change any one of the colour lines for any colour that you like, as well as add a sleep if you want one to stay on for longer. 

Line 8 is where the beep is generated. 300 to 3000 is a pretty good range for the beep frequency but feel free to play around with this as some interesting things can happen when you do. The ‘step’ is basically how many tones you want in between 300 and 3000. if you do step 1 then it will play every sound which is interesting but takes a very long time. Line 9 just blocks user input every time the sound is played because if it was outside this loop and in the while loop, they would have a small window of time in which to press ctrl + alt + del which would be bad… For the parameters of beep, we give it the x variable which is being constantly changed and the time for each beep which I have at 1 for the sake of speed. Playing around with this is very interesting and should definitely be explored. Then, we have the line that you can comment out if you want an infinite loop. So after you’re done playing around with the script, comment this out and make it autoexec when a pendrive is inserted into a pc and viola! Magic virus funtimes.

It won’t let me attach the whole script so I’ll paste it all in here if you want to copy it verbatim:

In code:
#cs ############################################################################ AutoIt Version: 3.3.8.1 Author:         squ1r3ll Script Function:    To make weird things happen if you need to haze someone or make them think that they have a virus #ce ############################################################################ #include <GUIConstantsEx.au3>   $loop = 0 $x = 1 WinMinimizeAll() GUICreate("LOL PWN TIME", 4000, 4000) ;create the GUI overlay for the screen   while $loop < 20 ;controls how many times the screen flashes along with line 26    ProcessClose("taskmgr.exe")    GUISetState(@SW_SHOW) ;show the GUI    GUISetBkColor(0xFF0000) ;set the colour to black    MouseMove($loop, $loop + 1)    GUISetBkColor(0x000000) ;set the colour to red    ;MouseMove($loop, $loop + 1)    GUISetBkColor(0xFFFFFF) ;set the colour to white    for $x = 300 to 3000 step 300 <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>  BlockInput(1) ;block all user input every loop so that ctrl + alt + del won't work very well <span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>  Beep($x,1) ;make the weird beeping noise    Next    $loop = $loop + 1 ;comment this line out for an infinite loop wend  

In plaintext:

#cs ############################################################################

AutoIt Version: 3.3.8.1

Author:         squ1r3ll

Script Function:

   To make weird things happen if you need to haze someone or make them think that they have a virus

#ce ############################################################################

#include <GUIConstantsEx.au3>

 

$loop = 0

$x = 1

WinMinimizeAll()

GUICreate(“LOL PWN TIME”, 4000, 4000) ;create the GUI overlay for the screen

 

while $loop < 20 ;controls how many times the screen flashes along with line 26

   ProcessClose(“taskmgr.exe”)

   GUISetState(@SW_SHOW) ;show the GUI

   GUISetBkColor(0xFF0000) ;set the colour to black

   MouseMove($loop, $loop + 1)

   GUISetBkColor(0x000000) ;set the colour to red

   ;MouseMove($loop, $loop + 1)

   GUISetBkColor(0xFFFFFF) ;set the colour to white

   for $x = 300 to 3000 step 300

 BlockInput(1) ;block all user input every loop so that ctrl + alt + del won’t work very well

 Beep($x,1) ;make the weird beeping noise

   Next

   $loop = $loop + 1 ;comment this line out for an infinite loop

wend

 

Have fun!

‘The Usual, Sir?’ or Making an Impression

Posted: February 3, 2012 by Josh in Rants
There are many different things in life that are important. At this point in time, for me, that would mainly be completing coursework and not failing exams. Which is a pain in various different body parts but there are those things that take the pressure off. Like conducting pointless social experiments. Now, one could say that such social experiments would not be entirely pointless but if one were to say such a thing, one would be at the very least sympathising with the sociologists, famous practitioners of pseudo-science the world over.

Anyway, my disputably pointless social experiment of late has been creating rapport with people. Not the instant kind of rapport that one would require for some real hardcore social engineering but the slow kind. The slightly more natural kind. It would be wholly natural except for the fact  that I am fabricating it. I’m not fabricating being a nice bloke or having an interest in people, those things generally tend to be true but usually I would just go to the coffee shop, order a coffee and be on my way. Nothing else is really necessary. But then, I heard people getting asked if they wanted ‘the usual.’ From the New Year, I decided that I wanted to get asked the same question.

Now the concept of ‘the usual’ is an interesting one to me. If it were not for the fact that I enjoy many different aspects of culinary delights and all of the textures and flavours that come with these, I might have a ‘usual’ way that I drink my coffee. That would be probably just be a hazelnut latte. But because I like to surprise myself, sometimes I get it with a shot of mint or amaretto, just because I can. And, what can I say, it certainly keeps things interesting. If, however, one wishes to have ‘their usual,’ one must become predictable. Predictable is not something that I do well. I don’t like to be predictable because it keeps other people, as well as myself, constantly on their toes. This is particularly useful because then if people ever think of screwing you over, they won’t know how you’ll react so they will generally not screw you over for fear of the unknown.

So, yeah, the usual. As aforementioned, I decided that I would stick to a regular drink. A hazelnut latte, to be specific. From the New Year, I went to the same coffee shop at 9 AM on Tuesdays and Fridays. The only reason that I went only on those mornings is because they are the only mornings I had (and still have) free of anything. I also occasionally went on afternoons if I had nothing on then but they tended to be much rarer. The specific time was so that it might make me a little more memorable if I tried to anchor myself to a specific time in the day.

This was actually my favourite coffee shop of all the ones that I usually went to because they make amazing coffee. Seems a little obvious, I know, but the other places had more regular staff members so I decided that I was up for a bit of a challenge. I haven’t seen a male barista yet, which is quite lucky from a charm perspective. It would, I suppose, be alright if there happened to be a male barista but he was gay. I mean, it’s not my thing but if a little charm works, it would make me more memorable still.

So far, the facts are these:

  1. I attended the same coffee shop
  2. I arrived at the same time (9 AM)
  3. I attended on the same days of every week
  4. I ordered the same drink

Now, I don’t have many distinguishing features. I am taller than roughly 94% of the people that I meet on a regular basis but I don’t exactly have a Mohawk or piercings all over my face. I could have added one of these to make myself more recognisable but the one ground rule that I set myself before beginning this was that I would not sacrifice my dignity for it. There’s not a whole bunch of it to start with so I didn’t want to lose much during the experiment. This means that I had to use small tidbits of information that they gave to me to make them think ‘Oh wow, this guy actually listens, maybe he’s worth remembering…’

At this point, it’s worth giving a short list of the baristas whom I saw on those days:

  1. ‘The Chick with Dreads’ (as she calls herself, not a name I gave her)
  2. The European Chick
  3. The Bun Chick (hair, not baked goods)

Three baristas. Two days a week. 1.5 interactions with each every week. And I had to get them to remember me. I started out by just observing. Checking out the relationship between the baristas which seemed to be fairly good. They all seemed to be colleagues and friends, neither one of them being the owner of the place. Which was useful for me because I could then observe small details that they shared when they were talking amongst themselves. Like The Chick With Dreads (herein referred to as Dreads Chick) has a cat. (Quick side-note: lots of my techniques from here in come from <a href=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-Not-All-About-ebook/dp/B0060YIBLK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328262243&sr=8-1>this book</a> which you should all go and read now!) This gave me a third party reference to use and due to the fact that it was obvious I was going to have to leave the shop at some point, I already had an artificial time constraint.

Therefore, the next time she was looking my way, I made sure that I glanced at watch, adopted an alarmed facial expression and gulped down the last few mouthfuls of my coffee. Quickly gathering my belongings, I made for the door. But before I got there, I made sure that I turned to her and said ‘I’m sorry to bother you, ahh, I’m about to be late for a meeting but I didn’t want to forget this. I overheard you talking about your cat earlier and I’m looking to get a cat for my girlfriend as a third anniversary present and was wondering, is there a type I should get if I want a specific thing from them, like you would with dogs, or are they all relatively similar?’ This worked like a charm because of a couple of things. I used the artificial time constraint (which made her think that I wasn’t after a long conversation because I was late) as well as the fact that I had a long term girlfriend (so that she wouldn’t think that I was coming on to her because I’ve been with this girl 3 years so I must be faithful) and the sympathy theme (which makes her want to help me because I know nothing about a subject and she can enlighten me). There was also an ego booster in there (because she knew more than me so she felt superior). All of this, as well a very slight expression of worry on my face indicated that I was genuinely after some advice on cats. I wasn’t. I do not have a long term girlfriend, I wasn’t late and I don’t really have an interest in cats. But all of those things made it seem like I did, so she talked to me. For about 15 minutes, we discussed the merits of different types of cats and what my ‘girlfriend’ preferred in a pet. This was useful because now she knows a little about me (in theory) and she will remember the nice chat we had until I see her next week. She was the Tuesday morning barista so I attempted the same thing on Thursday but got no useable information from either barista. This meant waiting until the next Tuesday.

Come the next Tuesday and my techniques did have an effect. As soon I walked through the door, Dreads Chick turned and looked at me. For a moment, she didn’t recognise me but I could see it on her face as soon as she did. She smiled at me and we exchanged pleasantries whilst she made my coffee. She had remembered me but not my order, just as I had expected. Oh well, one step at a time. So she inquired about the cat and I mentioned that I was looking at places to buy one from. She helpfully gave me a couple of good local places and I thanked her and left (after drinking my coffee, of course). The next week, I went back. Same thing happened, exchange of pleasantries, etc but this time, she asked ‘You having a large hazelnut latte again?’ And I smiled. She remembered. I said yes but to go because I was in a bit of a hurry at the time and I left. The next week it was, ‘You having your usual?’ Bang. Success. So now, this is my Tuesday coffee shop. I am working my way up with the others but not as persistently because I know that can do it quickly if I need to.

Four weeks. From start to finish of my experiment. She remembered my drink after three but it took four for her to know that it was my regular. If you want some helpful tips on creating rapport like this, read the book in the link above. It is an extremely useful aide.

Now, go forth and have ‘the usual!’

Super Oat Cookies

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Josh in Rants


Without further ado, here it is:

Super Oat Cookies

P1010044

Ingredients

 

1/4 cup honey

3/4 cup quick oats

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. flaxseed meal

1 tbsp. oatbran

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter/margarine

 

Method

 

Preheat oven to 150°C. Begin melting butter. Add all dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and loosely combine. Add butter, mix loosely. Add honey, mix until well combined. Using your hands, form mixture into small balls and add to greased cookie sheet (should be about 6). Bake for 28 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Allow to cool and enjoy!

P1010047

So, there you go. Just for full disclosure’s sake, I obtained the basis for this recipe from Food & Whine but, as a major point, I removed the Cheerios. Seems to kind of take the heart out of the recipe, I think but it tastes really good without them. Plus the fact that I usually like something that’s at least a handful for me, not a 6 year old. The original is tasty but that’s my take on it. That blog is, by the way, one of my go to’s for great recipes. It’s also made it to my RSS reader which not many things make it to (I don’t like having to wade through pointless news to find the gems).

2 Broke Girls – A Very General Review

Posted: January 6, 2012 by Josh in Rants

So, I've been watching some new TV lately – namely the titled show. I realise that it may not be the stellar beacon of entertainment that I would usually hold myself to watching but it's actually kind of funny… in an occasionally cringe-worthy kind of way.

Quick summary – so there's a poor chick and a rich chick who is now poor. Wicked. Sounds really terrible, right? Well, it's not really all that bad, I have laughed at least a few times each episode which is honestly much more than I was expecting. Obviously, the recently broke chick meets the poor chick when the recently broke chick goes for a job at a diner (now, recently broke chick = chick 1 and poor chick = chick 2 just for the sake of saving time). Obviously, chick 2 now has to educate chick 1 on the ways of being poor. There's a thrift store episode, a coupon episode, I think you get the idea. And in between all of that, stereotypical Ukrainian Oleg makes jokes about sleeping with both waitresses. 'Orders for table 3, table 8 and table 69' is one of his most used quotes. 
There's also a stereotypical little Chinese man who tends to be the brunt of a lot of the humour. This is, occasionally, due to his fear of certain feminine hygiene products.

Prior Warning: If anything is a little bit technical in this post, I apologise. I am studying English Language and occasionaly like to flex my skills. You can always Google any technical terms and you’ll probably find out what they mean…

Cachedimage

So, as I was walking in the wonderful town/city/place of Hanley today, I noticed a bus stop advertisement (either click on the link over Hanley or google maps search for “Hanley, adj stop N” and hit street view on location A) which is the image above with an extra strap line that said ‘The Problem With Drunk Driving is the Mourning After.’ The use of this little pun is an interesting one because I am not certain that everybody will know the meaning of the word “mourn.”

It comes from the Latin memor – mindful, or from the Greek mērimna – care, sorrow. Just so y’all know. Now, not that I’m being demeaning to anyone because that’s not really the point of this post but the vast majority of drunk drivers are, like the lad in the image above, not upperclassmen. You don’t see a whole bunch of suits getting into drunk driving accidents because at that level, you either get a taxi or already have a driver of some sort. Now, these people who are getting into the majority of drunk driving accidents (the ones causing them, anyway) are, stereotypically, not the kind of people to go and look up the etymology of a word to make a point in a blog post (guilty…).

This leads me to question why they would use this particular pun on this advertisement. If your target demographic doesn’t know Spanish, why go and write a targeted piece of media in Spanish? I can’t really comprehend why they would do this but I’d love to know why. If you have any ideas, my contact details are on the contact page, shoot me an email.