Friday 21 November 2008

ID cards consultation document

The Identity and Passport Service launches today its consultation on the ID card scheme, which, strangely, is going to cost us more than they told us to start with...

Best reaction soundbite so far: Chris Huhne's "laminated poll tax".

People trafficking and sex

I've only just noticed this courtesy of the excellent Steve Cooke. Jacquie Smith has dreamed up a unique approach to law enforcement. Penalise people who may be doing wrong but don't know it and stop pursuing people who are doing wrong and know they're doing wrong.

The daftness of her ideas on preventing people trafficking by criminalising paying for sex with controlled women - whether or not the payer is aware of the situation - has been exposed in many places. But is it not egregiously daft to do that while effectively closing down the only police unit in the country dedicated to combatting human trafficking? The Independent has the story and I quote:

"The Metropolitan Police's Human Trafficking Team will cease work next year because its budget has been withdrawn following the decision by the Home Office to cut its yearly funding for human trafficking investigations from £4m to £1.7m.

"Politicians and trafficking experts expressed anger at the Home Office's decision, saying it will leave a "gaping hole" in the policing of the crime. Privately, the police themselves are said to be furious about the decision.

"The Met's Human Trafficking Team was set up in March 2007 and was designed to actively target gangs who bring women to the UK as sex slaves and children as forced labourers. It is estimated that more than 4,000 people are currently in the UK as a result of having been trafficked.

"Britain is considered to be the destination of choice for gangs bringing women into the country from eastern Europe, China, Malaysia, Africa and South America to work in brothels.

"It is notoriously difficult to convict criminals for human trafficking, but as the only specialist operational team in the country, the Met's dedicated human trafficking centre had claimed a series of successes.

"News of the closure came as the unit claimed another major success last week which saw six sex traffickers jailed for a combined total of 52 years for deceiving a Slovakian teenager into a life of prostitution."

Should not the left hand have some vague idea what the right hand is doing?

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Gmail for smtp

The technique outlined here comes from Lifehacker: How to use Gmail as your SMTP server. But the instructions are a little outdated as gmail has changed the layout of its settings pages, so I've updated them here.

The issue is that, when you're away from base, you can't always send emails from your email client because you're on the wrong ISP. Some ISPs allow it, some don't. But, if you have a gmail account you can set it up as your SMTP server to use from anywhere. It works in three stages.

First, set your client to use gmail SMTP.
Second, the From field in the emails seen by the recipient will point to gmail, but by changing the settings in gmail you can make it point to your original address.
Third, set gmail to forward the mails it receives to your original.

For the first stage:
1.1 for Thunderbird, go to Tools, Account Settings.
1.2 In the left hand pane scroll down to "Outgoing Server (SMTP)", and click on that.
1.3 In the right hand pane click on Add...
1.4 In the Server Settings window, put a name in the Description - "gmail", for instance. For Server Name put "". Check the "Use name and password" box, and then in the "User Name" box, put your gmail username. It needs to be the whole thing - Finally, in the "Use secure connection" line of radio buttons at the bottom, click in the "TLS" button. Click OK.
1.5 Thunderbird should use whichever SMTP it finds working, but to make sure, click on the gmail address, and then click "Set default". Thunderbird will then use the gmail SMTP until you set the default back to your original. But note that replies to emails you send this way will go to gmail.

But you can make it look better, and work better. You can make it say it comes from your original address, and you can set gmail to forward the mails it receives back to your original address.

So, for stage two:
2.1 open your gmail account in your browser
2.2 go to Settings at the top right
2.3 in Settings, go to Accounts on the top tabs
2.4 click "Add Another Email Address"
2.5 enter the address you want in the From field in the Address box; click "Next Step".
2.6 click "Send Verification", and follow the instructions to verify the account (an email will be sent to your account; click the verification link in that email, or enter the code in the confirmation code window.
2.7 back at the Settings page you will now have your Gmail account and your other account listed. The Gmail account will have the word "default" to its right, and the other account will have a link called "make default". Click the "make default" link. This account name will now appear in the "From" field.

To complete the process, have gmail forward your mail to your other account. This is stage three:
3.1 Back in the Settings page in gmail, go to the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab.
3.2 Click the radio button beside "Forward a copy of incoming mail to", and enter your email address in the box that says "email address".
3.3 scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Save Changes".

You are now good to go.

You don't even need to change it all back again when you get home, but it's neater if you do.

Monday 10 November 2008

Windows 7: I wish they hadn't said that

According to El Reg, Microsoft has said that Windows 7 will be ready in time for Christmas 2009. Which of course means it will need to be ready a good deal before that. Now, just lately it has appeared that Microsoft had learned some lessons. They have been keeping Windows 7 simple and they have been throwing out any buggy features that might delay the launch. So we might actually get a new Microsoft OS that works the way it's supposed to. Until today: now they've hitched themselves to Christmas 2009, the process will be driven by sales and marketing rather than by technical readiness. So it might still be a turkey, though less of a turkey than Vista.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Spurs fans would like to apologise...

... to all the clubs they are now beating. Man City are the latest victims (though it sounds like they were the architects of their own undoing).

Friday 7 November 2008

Companies and databases

This is not a rant about companies keeping information on me. Though the amount Tesco think they know about me is quite frightening. This is more about why companies don't use their databases properly.

I've twice had the experience lately of phoning different companies and going through the automated voice thing. Part of the routine is that you have to key in your customer number. So far so good (though very annoying when, after you've done all that, they cut you off picking up the phone and you have to go through the whole routine again). But then I had to give the whole damn' number to the person I was talking to. "Is it not there on your screen?" "No." "Why did I just have to key it all in then?" "Don't know where it goes. But we don't get it." So one bit of the database is not talking to another bit of the database.

And then I recently got one of these coupon things at Tesco for a certain brand of goods. I checked for this item regularly till the coupon ran out of date and then, being in a picky frame of mind, I went to the customer services desk and complained. And they said, "We don't stock that, we never have." The coupons are apparently taken off Tesco's national database of goods without referring to whether or not they're stocked in any particular store. Given that most people most of the time shop in the same store, could the coupon machine not interrogate the store's inventory to see if it was worth giving me that coupon? Of course it could. But it doesn't Missed a trick there, Tesco.