It has been quite a while since Captain Tweed had a case to work on; that changed yesterday. The somewhat innocuous looking character in the photo above was caught red handed by me illegally selling shoddy pirate DVD's in Morrison's car park. He is one of a gang who have also been daily harassing shoppers in the Thamesmead retail park, where in addition to the illegal disk sales, they have apparently been involved in thefts from parked vehicles. They purvey very poor quality pirated movies, often shot with hand held video cameras inside cinemas. Many people think this is a victimless crime - not so. The money collected by these low level foot soldiers, who are usually illegal immigrants, is used to finance drug smuggling and people trafficking. It is also used to launder the proceeds of prostitution and Triad gang related crimes. SOCA - the Serious Organised Crime Agency also have evidence that money from pirate DVD sales has been used to finance terrorist activity. I notified Morrison's security staff and the duty manager of the situation, and then shot around thirty photos of the individual above as he was in the process of making a sale. Once he and the customer saw what I was doing, they made off towards the Erith Riverside Shopping Centre. You can read more about the incident on the Erith Watch website here. The Police have also been informed.
Chuggers - charity muggers. These scum of the Earth have gone from bad to worse. They used to try and waylay you in your local high street, with their dayglo tabards and menacing clip boards. Most people now realise that these parasites are not volunteers - they are being paid a wage, and get a commission for every person that they sign up to the charity of the week; it is a business, nothing more. On top of this, if a passer by is persuaded to sign up to give a monthly donation, usually around 70% of the first years' money actually goes to the chugging agency in the form of fees. If that was not bad enough in itself, how do you know if they are who they say they are? I for one would never give out personal details like addresses and bank details to anyone in the street - you would have to be mad to be that gullible. Anyway, Chuggers have now gone nuclear. On Thursday night I was in my office at home, typing away on my new Lenovo X201 small form factor laptop, which I had been given by work that morning. I was getting to grips with the new to me version of Excel when I heard a frantic hammering on my front door. Forgetting to check my security systems, I rushed downstairs, thinking that some dire calamity had happened. When I opened the door, a woman wearing a tabard and clutching a clipboard was standing on my porch. She got about three words into her well rehearsed speech when I abruptly told her that she was trespassing, and her actions amounted to demanding money with menaces - I then slammed the door in her face. Chuggers making house calls! Serves me right for not checking who was there first I suppose. The BBC News website recently carried an interesting and informative article on chugging, which you can read here.
I can't help noticing the amount of column inches the singer Justin Bieber seems to have had written about him recently. I gather he has a modicum of musical talent, and can play guitar, trumpet and drums (though I somehow doubt he will ever challenge fellow Canadian Neil Peart on the skins). He seems a nice enough kid, but I suspect he's already on his way to becoming a David Cassidy for the YouTube generation. I reckon it is a question of not if, but when he will go off the rails. I watch and wait with interest.
I took the photo below a couple of weeks ago from Erith Riverside Gardens, looking slightly westwards along the Thames towards Lower Belvedere. You can see a privately owned yacht and a tug moored at slack tide. Click on the photo for a larger view, and you can also click here to see more of my photographs.
The terrible earthquake that has recently hit Christchurch, New Zealand has once again showed that Amateur Radio has an important place to fill in any disaster. When telephone lines and cell phone masts are destroyed, and broadband communications are not working, radio will always be available. In the UK the amateur radio emergency service RAYNET is in place, just like the fire brigade, ambulance service and RNLI to aid in emergency communications. The following announcement was made by the RSGB - the Radio Society of Great Britain (of which I am a member):
Following the earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand last week, a small team of amateur radio operators are helping to keep the lines of communication open. A report on the frequencies in use is yet to be received but Amateur Radio Emergency Communications team member Richard Smart, ZL4FZ said 10 radio amateurs are using their two emergency broadcast vans to keep rescue teams and Civil Defence staff in touch. He said one is at a major welfare centre providing portable communication so they can talk to Civil Defence and the other vehicle is en-route to assist search and rescue teams in an area where communications are poor. Richard, ZL4FZ said amateur radio operators from around the country are volunteering to help out and others are sending updates on the disaster to families of people in Christchurch who are overseas. The RSGB has sent a message of support to the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters, the country’s national body for radio amateurs.
I was sorry to hear of the death this week of actor Nicholas Courtney, better known to many of my generation as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Commander of UNIT, and compatriot of the Doctor. You can read about him in this BBC News Article.
My old employers Radio Caroline have started a campaign to get a legal, land based Medium Wave broadcasting licence to add to their current broadcasting capacity on the internet and via Sky (channel 199). They have engaged many MP's in a bid to get an Early Day Motion through Parliament to this end; our very own local MP Teresa Pearce is one of those who is backing the bid. You can visit the Radio Caroline on air website here.
I am pleased to see that the original paperwork created by Professor Alan Turing (a photo of his slate statue at Bletchley Park is above - click for a larger view) has been saved for the nation by a £200,000 donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. His hand written mathematical treatise on code breaking, and his fledgeling work on computer design will now be kept in the U.K. Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers brought the world the first digital computer, the Colossus. His work on code breaking is thought to have shortened WWII by up to two years, and ensured that the D-Day invasion was a success. He is a hero of mine - a man of massive intellect and drive who was cruelly treated by the very people he strove to save. BBC News Online covered the story.
Do you own a mini netbook PC, digital camera, or a mobile phone that can take an SSD Flash storage card? If so, you may find the following information interesting, and a tad worrying. Did you know that even if you securely delete and scramble data stored on a SSD card, that up to 75% of the information will remain in its' original form, untouched? This is due to the way that Solid State Drives write data, which happens in a very different way to conventional hard disk drives. You can read an account of this issue on The register website here. As someone who deals with information security as part of my day job, I never rely on anything being deleted, hashed or scrambled by software or firmware. The only way to be absolutely certain the information is permanently gone, is to physically destroy the storage medium. I find a medium sledge hammer meets most of my secure destruction requirements.
The movie trailer below is a bit of a mystery; it is a Hollywood financed historical drama called Ironclad; it is about the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 and stars James Purefoy, Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi. From seeing the trailer and some clips uploaded onto YouTube, it looks like a big budget slash and burn Friday night pizza movie, though of course I would well be wrong. It is interesting that such a relatively local historical event could make it onto the big screen. I wonder if we will ever see The Peasants' Revolt: the movie? I would like to see how the Dartford of 1318 would appear on film. I imagine not entirely different to the Dartford of 2011 on an average Saturday night.