The Braindump Blog

A Microsoft Powershell command for the brave / foolish-of-heart!

This - I hope:

  1. looks through all the sub-folders of your present working directory:
  2. finds all files that have the extension “.rdata”
  3. that haven’t been updated since 2024-01-01
  4. and (permanently) deletes them

Get-ChildItem -Recurse -Include *.rdata | Where-Object {$_.LastWriteTime -lt '2024-01-01'} | Remove-Item -Force

Of course you can change the file extensions and dates of relevance to your own needs.

This appears to work for me on the Microsoft Powershell that’s pre-installed with Windows 10. Powershell itself though is available for several other operating systems. Definitely no guarantees from me though that it’s correct and/or won’t destroy your computer.

A bug in Crowdstrike's software breaks large swathes of the world

Large parts of the world are on fire - metaphorically speaking at least, but I’d not rule out a literal interpretation entirely - as a bug in some software from Crowdstrike has inadvertently ruined the operations of various institutions from the worlds of banking, travel, healthcare and beyond. You might not even get paid on time as some payroll processes failed.

What is Crowdstrike? Well, per the BBC:

Crowdstrike is known for producing antivirus software, intended to prevent hackers from causing this very type of disruption.


Apparently they fixed whatever is wrong, but each and every affected device needs to be individually, manually, seen to.

One solution that is apparently worth trying is the same one that fixes almost every other computer issue.

Microsoft is advising clients to try a classic method to get things working - turning it off and on again - in some cases up to 15 times.

We just need the whole world to turn their computers of and on again 15 times.

Crowdstrike last reported having only 24,000 customers. World-disrupting incidents like this just highlight how fragile the way we’ve arranged our technology to operate in can be.

If you ever have a desire to edit MP3 tags without putting your phone down, then Evertag seems worth a look if you’re an iOS user. Supports a wide variety of tags (including album art), cloud services, batch mode, all that good stuff.

Free, with optional paid upgrade.

The compareDF R package seems to be a super convenient way to quickly compare two dataframes to see if they’re the same. Or nearly the same, if you prefer.

It’s often as simple as:

comparison <- compare_df(df_new = my_new_dataframe,
                         df_old = dataframe_to_compare_to,
                         group_col = "field_that_identifies_a_unique_row")

No-one seems to sell cheap Linux laptops

It finally happened. My trusty personal laptop died. To be fair I can’t complain; it’s had a good innings, surviving around 11 years. It was a Sony Vaio, which means it long outlasted the part of Sony’s business that manufactured it. It was brought back from the dead once already thanks to a local IT shop, but the fix was impermanent and isn’t worth repeating.

Technology sure has moved on over the decade-plus since I got it. Whilst it could still cope with the basics, it might have gotten too slow to use without frustration after one Windows 10 update or another had I not discovered the virtues of Linux, having installed Linux Mint a while ago.

The performance difference was night and day. No more waiting around for hourglasses to spin or 10 minute boot-up times. And also no more sponsored “recommendations” for apps I’d never want. No more extremely low quality unsolicited “news” in the Start menu.

You can turn much of that off to be fair. But, come on, even the once-sacred, once-pure pastime of many an office worker - sol.exe - was infused with 30 second long video advertisements. Oh, don’t worry, you can still play their solitaire and minesweeper ad-free if you want to. For $20 a year.

For anyone else who has old tech that’s too slow for the more mainstream operating systems, yet correctly detests unnecessary e-waste, I strongly advise you give Linux a go. Despite its reputation, these days if things go smoothly it’s not an immense technical challenge to install, and it’s certainly not hard to use for day-to-day work and play once it is installed. At least if you go for one of the distributions that prioritises ease of use and/or consistency with the computing experiences of other operating systems (Linux Mint being one of those, many other options exist). So you’ve not got a lot to lose if you alternative is throwing the machine away.

Plus there’s no shortage of high quality Linux software to replace your Windows apps. Much of it is free of charge and it’s often extremely easy to install thanks to various pre-installed graphical package managers. And in the case that you do need to run Windows programs, technologies like Wine might get you there.

I soon learned to enjoy Linux more than Windows. I’d set it up as a dual boot system but found that I never actually booted to Windows. Thus I figured that this time I’d go out of my way to buy a laptop designed for and preinstalled with Linux to replace it. I imagined it might even be a cheaper option give there’d be no Windows licensing costs for manufacturers to pay. As much as I’d enjoy some £5000 power-beast it’s just not going to happen right now short of a lottery win.

Turns out I was very wrong, unless I just didn’t search well enough.

Not all that many companies seem to sell new machines with Linux pre-installed on. System76 seem to be amongst the most famous dedicated providers of Linux offerings. But all are substantially above $1000, even without considering any shipping costs to the UK. Juno Computers are another option. Their “entry level” laptops appear to start from £970. Although actually if you click around enough you can find some with older processors that start from £655. StarLabs are another provider, their laptops start at £969.60.

Of the more mainstream computer providers, Dell also do some. They even offer instructions as to how to replace the OS their other laptops come with with Linux which is very cool. But their famous XPS range that has the option of coming with Ubuntu Linux are all above £1000 as far as I can see.

Why so expensive when you can go to some high street shop and get a (admittedly not great) Windows laptop for like £300? To be honest I haven’t done the research to know the answer to this question, which almost certainly has an an actual answer. But heaven forbid I do my homework. So I’m just going to make guesses, that it’s one or more of these potential reasons:

  • Linux laptops are not at all popular. It’s a niche market. It’s much more expensive per item to make things fewer people buy.
  • Maybe they tend to have better hardware? I guess it’s probably nerd types that tend to want them. Perhaps they’re more likely than average to care about performance.
  • If you’re intending to support your customer’s usage of your machine then there would presumably be ongoing costs for that. It must be harder (more expensive) to find agents who can help people solve Linux problems than Windows.
  • You’d also have to make sure that drivers etc. for all the hardware you include exist in Linux - and write and maintain them if not.
  • Most Windows PC manufacturers and distributors appear to pre-install a load of truly garbage software that you probably don’t want on the system before selling it to you. Clearly this is not for altruistic reasons. Maybe the kickback they get from doing that is so high that it more than makes up for the cost of Windows.
  • Perhaps the people that want Linux laptops really want Linux laptops so will pay more? And far be it from any company to not exploit every possible £ of revenue opportunity.
  • I’m sure OEMs don’t pay the same for Windows as us mere people do. Perhaps Windows is very cheap for them, or they even receive benefits from Microsoft for ensuring more folk get into their ecosystem.

Nonetheless it seems like a potentially missed opportunity. You can buy (low-performing) Chromebooks for not much more than £100. But I don’t think I could live with a Google operating system, and I’d assume a lack of software choice from the point of those of us who enjoy tinkering, who love options screens with 100 preferences, who occasionally might want to do our own coding.

So, despite my philosophical and in-practice preferences, I’m opting for some sub-£500 Windows machine. In any case, there’s always the option to replace Windows with Linux, which I can totally see myself doing in short order. But I guess I will experiment with Windows 11 for a bit first given I’ve never used it. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

That decision does mean I’ll probably want to dedicate some time to reading and acting on a ton of articles like ‘How to disable annoying ads on Windows 11’ and “How to remove bloatware from your new PC” to try and minimise the semi-spyware and advertising networks that apparently infuse Microsoft’s latest creation, an apparently ever more enshittifying iteration.

Ads in the Start menu, in File Explorer, maybe even in Settings for crying out loud - although perhaps fair to note that most of the latter ads are likely for Microsoft services that are supposed to improve your experience, such as OneDrive - if you’re willing to pay. In any case, I like Alaina Yee’s take in PC World:

Look, I’m not in marketing, but if an ad causes a seasoned tech journalist to briefly think his PC got infected with malware, maybe your advertising approach needs improving.

404 Media reveals the “Face Fraud” marketplace, wherein for a few dollars you can buy a set of bland photos and videos of an anonymous human other than yourself.

You can then use these to fake your identity in order to get around any identity verification checks of the sort you might find on various online services including cryptocurrency exchanges - “stock models for services specifically designed for fraud”.

To me, worryingly, this seems like a service that could probably be replaced en masse by generative AI sooner or later. After all the website “This Person Does Not Exist” happily spits out one-offs of entirely fake people on demand. An alternative even lets you specify the age, gender and ethnicity you want.

Contra the New Yorker, Christopher Snowdon gives us some reasons to believe that the case isn’t as absurd as it seemed to be at first sight.

Of course as a total outsider there’s no way for me to know who’s right, who’s telling the wholer truth. But perhaps the recent verdict is less obviously wrong than I’d have thought based only on the New Yorker article.

Britain now has MPs aged from 22 to 80

The recent UK election, with its Labour landside, brought a new record for Britain’s youngest serving MP. Sam Carling, a new MP for Labour in North West Cambridgeshire, is 22 years old. This makes him the first MP to be born in the 21st century. This comes after he scraped victory by just 39 votes against a Conservative MP who had held the seat for nearly 20 years and had a majority of 25,983 in the last general election. Impressive stuff.

As wild as that seems when I think back to my own experience of being 22 - which was definitely not compatible with running any part of anything, let alone the country - I’m excited to see how he goes. After all, I usually find that young people make voting decisions I like better.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Sir Roger Gale, from the Conservative party in the constituency of Herne Bay and Sandwich, is currently the oldest MP. He was elected in 1983 - 19 years before Carling was born - and is currently 80 years old.

The UK has a new Labour government

The election is over. The UK has a new government, following a landslide victory by Labour.

The results in terms of seats, as per the BBC:

Barchart showing seats won by political party in the UK 2024 general election

There’s a lot going on under the surface of these numbers, not all of which is reassuring. For one, the “landslide” is a lot more landslidey in terms of seats than votes. But we can surely take a couple of days to celebrate the chance, however small, that we have a new set of people governing us who maybe, just maybe, can improve the lives of our citizens along with what remains of our country.

Whilst he retained his seat our previous PM, Rishi Sunak, has apologised and is going to stand down as Conservative leader.

Other Tory VIPs were less fortunate, losing their seats entirely. That list includes ex PM Liz Truss, who lost her huge 32,988 majority, as well as Grant Shapps, Penny Mordaunt, Alex Chalk and Jacob-Rees Mogg.

Labour lost one potential seat to the excommunicated Jeremy Corbyn.

Unfortunately Reform’s Nigel Farage won his seat - 8th time lucky for him, 1st time unlucky for us - along with 4 other folk from Reform.

The day has come - it's time to go vote in the UK general election

It’s General Election Day today here in the UK. Us UK folk should all leave the house and go and vote, vote vote!

Find your local polling station here. They’re supposed to be open from 7AM through to 10PM. You have to go to the specific one you’ve been assigned to.

Don’t forget to take some photo ID, as foolish as introducing that requirement probably was. What counts as legitimate photo ID is detailed here. It’s the sort of requirement you really have to comply with today, even if you want to campaign against it afterwards.

Also you might as well take your polling card if you have it - but no worries if you lost it, they can look you up there and then in the polling station in order to let you exercise your democratic rights.

If anyone who has a postal vote they forgot to post then you can take those to the polling station in person too (but do take it!).

If you’re too ill / unexpectedly away / have lost all your photo ID then you still have up to 5pm today to apply for an emergency proxy vote if you have someone you can trust to carry out your vote on your behalf. Do that by contacting the electoral services team at your local council ASAP, definitely before 5PM, the details of which can be found via this website.

Nothing is inevitable. And if you’re skeptical that taking action can take a difference, well, not taking an action certainly won’t.

A new Channel 4 documentary asks us 'Can AI steal your vote?'

📺 Watched “Can AI Steal Your Vote?” documentary.

This is a Channel 4 documentary from their Dispatches series whereby they found 12 households who had in common the fact that they claimed to be undecided as to who to vote for in the forthcoming UK general election.

They were then enrolled into an experiment where they were told that they were going to be shown various political content - in the modern style of Facebook posts, Tiktok vids, and the like - on a new social network for an experiment that was designed to test their reactions to political content that might be shown during the election campaign.

Of course the twist, which wasn’t revealed to the participants until after the fact, is that some of this content (hopefully) isn’t actually going to be shown. Because it was AI-generated deepfakes that the show’s creators had come up with.

Typically these deepfakes consisted of video or audio based on real footage or recordings, but altered so that the person concerned - Sunak or Starmer - appeared to be saying something that they never did. Subsequent comments or misleading posts from fake social media users also appeared the timeline.

So for instance we see Sunak apparently claiming that he’s going to save the NHS by introducing a £35 fee to see your doctor (not true) and Starmer saying that he’s going to ensure immigrants get top priority with regard to welfare and housing (also not true). There were also supposed leaks where the Prime Ministerial candidates seemed to be caught saying things like that they only tell voters what they want to hear or that they’re cross some nefarious plan or other got leaked.

6 households were exposed to fake content designed to push them towards voting for the Conservatives, and 6 to content designed to encourage them to vote Labour. At the end of the “experiment” they then have the participants (fake) vote in the way that they would now feel inclined to in the real election - Labour or Conservative - in order to see whether there’s evidence that being exposed to the fake content made a difference to their voting.

It’s probably not much of a spoiler to say that - contrary to Betteridge’s Law - this exposure did have a sizeable affect. OK, I don’t think it was the necessarily the most rigorous of experiments, but it was nonetheless pretty compelling to watch, and a fair warning to us all.

It’s not a overly surprising result. So many of us get our information from social media post style output in this form, whose primary intent is usually to influence us. There’s no reason that fake-but-seems real content would affect us any less than actually real content if done well. Particularly when this content has been actively designed by experts to be as influential and manipulative as possible, which is the scenario faced both by the participants here, and potentially us all in the real world. After all it’s good, perhaps even our duty, to seek out information about who we’re voting for, to learn what they stand for, what they’re likely to do to our country. It just doesn’t work out so well when the information that’s available is lies, indistinguishable at first glance from the truth.

So the participants were in no way behaving oddly, stupidly or in a way deserving mockery. At least a few of them did actually question whether the content was real and true at times. Some looked into a couple of the issues concerned - there was no restriction on what other sources participants could consult - and found no other evidence that some of what they’d seen was true, particularly some of the more outlandish supposed footage. At least one of them works in tech and AI as a job. They were all pretty humble about the experience after the fact. But even with all that taken into account, the claim is that the continued and varied exposure to it had some effect.

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments after it was revealed to the participants that much of the content they’d seen was generative AI fakery was as follows:

Participant: ‘I’m still fuming about charging us £35 for an [doctor’s] appointment and it’s not even true.’

Presenter: ‘In a way scarily there’s a bit of you that might sort of remember that and think maybe it is true.’

Participant: ‘Exactly that. It wasn’t so much now we know it’s fake but the anger is real.’

Presenter: ‘You can’t unthink that in a way.’

Participant: ‘That’s right.’

So, despite the fact they now knew what they’d seen wasn’t real, it doesn’t change the fact that they at the time they first saw it they felt powerful emotions - anger, disgust, fury - the memory of which perhaps unconsciously sticks with them. Emotions affect behaviour, and you can’t rewrite the past. I suppose there is some risk of course that even showing the deepfake content on this show - which they frequently do, albeit it’s systematically watermarked as not being real - could have some effect on the rest of us for a similar reason - let alone if out-of-context clips get circulated or manipulated in exactly the way the show warned about.

There wasn’t a great deal about how to avoid falling prey to this stuff. Perhaps because we don’t really know very much about how to defend this potential onslaught. As one of the experts notes, there’s rarely even time to debunk any given falsehood, even if it was felt that that would do all that much good. Recall Brandolini’s law:

The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it.

Which will be ever more the case now uncountable reams of bullshit can be automatically generated by anyone via AI.

So really the main advice was the fairly obvious (but sometimes hard to remember to do) idea that if you see something that makes you feel a certain way or believe something new - and especially if you feel compelled to share it with other people - at least try to double check the source. It’s awkward to say and none are perfect, but some sources do remain inherently more reputable than others. And if only one or two sources are reporting some clearly world-shattering news then you might be extra sceptical that it ever happened. For example, no British newspaper of record is going to forget to mention a complete revolution in, some would say destruction of, the basic principles of how the NHS works

The whole show seems to be freely available on YouTube - legitimately! - so here we go:

Last month Ticketmaster got hacked by a group known as ShinyHunters, the same group that previously stole data containing details of 70 million AT&T customers.

They got their hands on the personal details of 560 million Ticketmaster customers, with the intention of selling the purloined data onwards for half a million dollars. Apparently the information included at least partial credit card numbers and ticket sales.

No-one, nothing, is safe out there. I guess we all have to operate on the basis of if we enter our data anywhere online then there’s a non-zero chance it’ll be expropriated by bad actors at some point.

From The BBC:

France’s far right is in pole position after the first round of parliamentary elections that confirmed their dominance in French politics and brought them to the gates of power.

Sadly Macron’s absolutely bizarre decision to unnecessarily call an election - seemingly on the basis that his opponents seemed to be doing better than he hoped - appears to be panning out exactly as awfully as most sane people I know predicted. It’s a pretty unprecedented situation for France.

Led by Donkeys doing some of their usual amazing work via slowly dropping a banner featuring an overexcited Vladimir Putin from the ceiling as Reform leader Nigel Farage was in the middle of extolling his usual brand of tripe.

This of course is in large part a reference to Farage’s recent comments that somehow it’s the EU and NATO’s fault that Russia unilaterally attacked Ukraine.

Microsoft accidentally leaks some of the source code behind their PlayReady DRM software.

The technicalities are beyond me, but let’s hope this helps some tech wizard figure out how to remove this particular example of the software scourge known as Digital Rights Management, so that we can permanently store and play any digital content we purchased where and when we want to without so much risk it’ll all vanish some day.

New scandal dropped: The Conservative officials who bet on the election date based on inside knowledge

Several Conservative party candidates and officials are in trouble for, perhaps in a desperate measure to get rich before they lose their jobs on July 4th, by betting on the date of the general election using their insider knowledge before the public announcement was made. This is of course illegal, potentially something you could even go to prison for.

Right now there are at least 6 named Conservative candidates and officials being investigated:

  • Craig Williams, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary aide.
  • Laura Saunders, Conservative candidate (who is married to the Conservative’s directory of campaigning).
  • Tony Lee, Conservative Party director of campaigning
  • Nick Mason, the Conservative Party’s chief data officer.
  • Russell George, the Welsh Conservative member of the Senedd

Up to 6 police officers are apparently also being looked on for the same matter.

Showing their ability to never totally come out of someone else’s scandal unscathed, there’s also a Labour candidate, Kevin Craig, who is being investigated for better on the Conservatives to win his constituency. I suppose he might have gotten reasonable odds on that given the landslide in the other direction that’s currently expected (at least at a nationwide level, I haven’t checked out his area in particular).

So another day, another (mostly) Tory scandal. It’s not like it was even for serious money. We’re generally talking about bets in the order of £100. Apparently bookies will typically only take fairly small bets on this sort of thing as it’s a fairly small market that they’re less confident that they have an edge over punters than in the case of sports.

It’s very possible more names might come out soon. Newsnight reported that up to 15 Conservative candidates and officials are being looked into by the Gambling Commission. George Osborne has said that around 40 people in total would have been aware of the election date in advance

Rory Stewart's book reveals the total dysfunction behind Britain's political system

📚 Finished reading Politics on the Edge by Rory Stewart.

This is Rory Stewart’s memoir of his time before, but mostly during, his time serving as a British member of parliament. That episode that commenced in 2010 when he was elected to serve as as part of the Conservative party.

He’s had a privileged upbringing which has turned him into something of a stereotypical British posh boy in presentation. Despite that though, he has somehow apparently remained a lot more sane, a lot more human-seeming, that most of his often-equally-as-privileged contemporaries have managed to do.

He identifies as a centrist, moderate, a one-nation Tory - who holds some more traditional small-c conservative views, including much respect for British traditions and institutions (political, royal or otherwise) and the notion of public service, in comparison to his culture-war-addled modern very unconservative Conservative contemporaries.

Since then, he’s stood for the leadership of the Conservative party - yes, he could have in theory been our prime minister - as well as, as an independent, the mayor of London. Neither of those two attempts worked out for him, but I do remember his famous strategy of asking his potential voters to let him come and stay the night at their homes.

Why stand as an independent? Well, in 2019 he was excommunicated from the Conservative party via the withdrawal of the whip for the crime of voting against what he saw as the first step towards a devastating no-deal Brexit.

Some of his fellow travelers had the whip restored in due time, but Rory in any case felt compelled to quit the party entirely given that the only alternative would mean he’d have to serve under Boris Johnson, a politician who ranks amongst the highest on his list of asinine dangerous fools that shouldn’t be allowed to be anywhere near the levers of power.

Nonetheless, his years of experience have allowed him to present to his readership a fascinating, albeit extremely depressing, insider’s look at how the wheels of British government turn in practice. This undoubtedly goes some way to explaining the current abject state of the country.

Most of his Parliamentary peers are shallow, tetchy, over-ambitious, confrontational, incompetent and ignorant. To be fair, the system seems designed to keep them that way, with ministers switching roles - he himself held 5 ministerial positions between 2015 and 2019 - and job titles so rapidly at whims of their leadership there’s no chance to actually build up any expertise and skill, even if they did care enough to do so. Besides, why bother learning anything when given the power of the leadership and the whips under the current system it’s very rare that politicians are even enabled to vote with their conscience? They do what they’re told by their leadership. Or they suffer.

He name names, tells personal anecdotes and exposes huge structural flaws within the system in a manner that suggests he’ll never be invited back to the Conservative party. Not that he shows no real signs of wanting to be, at least in its current state. Things got so bad at one point during his time serving that he had a moment where he no longer wanted to be alive. At moments he saw himself starting to behave, or thinking he needed to behave, in the same ways as his despised colleagues, leading to feelings of shame and self-loathing.

He’s particularly vicious about Boris Johnson’s immense variety of failings, and not all that much more impressed by Liz Truss. There’s a couple of politicians he seems to have retained some respect for - Theresa May and David Gauke - but of course even they have to battle against a system that appears designed to thwart their better-intentioned moves.

He retains a sense of humour. The book is laugh-out-loud funny at times, especially for folk like me who often find absurdity hilarious. But it’s one of those situations where it’s only funny until you remember it’s real. The dysfunctional system it describes is the same one that holds such tremendous power over you and your fellow citizens.

In that sense it’s also a very depressing book, infused with the author’s own despair and frustration. I don’t get the sense that Stewart really tries to give hope that there’s much redemption for the system beyond burning it all down and starting from scratch.

It’s not going to stop me voting in the forthcoming general election, and I very much hope it doesn’t stop you either - but I certainly understand the people who react to these stories with a sense of “what’s the point?” helplessness. But, as is almost always the case, whilst playing an active role may or may not improve the world, doing nothing is certainly not going to change anything.

Book cover for Politics on the Edge

404 reports that:

Users of massively popular AI chatbot platform Character.AI are reporting that their bots' personalities have changed, that they aren’t responding to romantic roleplay prompts, are responding curtly, are not as “smart” as they formerly were

Uh oh, it seems like another company making AI that’s designed explicitly to behave as though it was a human may have - accidentally or otherwise - lobotomised everyone’s boy/girlfriends again.

Hopefully users are a bit less surprised, or at least traumatised, this time around compared to the original Replika incident.

I’m still very far from sure that these ‘we want to make an AI that is indistinguishable from a human’ products are a good idea. is a great list of free-tier cloud service tools for developers is a wonderful list consolidating a ton of “as a service” offerings that folk interested in developing websites or other software and infrastructure might be interested in which have a decent cost-free tier. Ideal for the inveterate hobbyist tinkerer who wants to play with shiny new nerd toys but isn’t in a position to invest a lot of money into the act.

Usually, but not always, the free tier is offered as a potential gateway to a paid tier. That’s often worth considering doing, if nothing else then to support the services you like. But the list is constrained such that the free offering must be both long term and useful.

These are all as-a-service offerings rather than self-hosted things. You can easily help out by contributing to the list.

My personal use-case for it this time was finding a way to implement a contact form on a static website. It saved me a lot of time and effort vs Googling and hoping for the best.

✉️ Reading the Political Calculus newsletter.

It’s election season madness here in the UK, so I’m rapidly ingesting anything and everything on the topic to a, hopefully, only slightly unhealthy degree.

This (free) newsletter - “on the connections between politics and the economy” - is written by Ben Ansell. He’s a political scientist who wrote the book “Why Politics Fails”, which has already made it to my near infinite length “want to read” list, given the state of the country. Well, the world.

The latest edition I read focuses on the perceived generational war that the Conservatives have seemed to be intent to pursue in recent times. Young people have seemingly declared war on the Conservatives in response, at least in terms of voting preferences for the upcoming general election. More on that topic here.

Another huge NHS data leak following a ransomware attack

Stolen test data and NHS numbers published by hospital hackers

(From The BBC)

A group called Qilin has shared 400GB of private NHS data on the Darknet, thought to include patient identifiers and blood test results. This seems to be the result of an unpaid ransomware demand, allegedly for $50 million. The action also caused potentially dangerous disruption to thousands of medical appointments.

Qilin is a ransomware group that popped up in 2022 and is thought by many to work from Russia.

The data was not stolen directly from NHS systems but rather from an organisation called Synnovis who provides pathology services for the NHS. Again this shows that it’s really only the weakest link that matters. Hackers only have to be successful once.

It’s far from the first healthcare organisation to be attacked. Just a couple of years ago the NHS once again saw one of the organisations who provides it with IT services attacked. Last year saw 70TB worth of sensitive data from Barts Health NHS Trust held to ransom as well as details of over 1 million patients threatened by an attack against the University of Manchester.

Elsewhere, earlier this year United Healthcare decided to actually pay the ransom, suggested to represent $22 million worth of Bitcoins, when their subsidiary, Change Healthcare was attacked.

It’s all rather terrifying. At least whilst it feels like there’s little indication we really know how to stop it happening.

Louisiana schools are now legally required to display the biblical Ten Commandments

The US separation of church and state ethos continues to be ever more troubled under the influence of the modern-day version of the Republican party (and perhaps their activist allies in the Supreme Court).

From The Associated Press:

Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom

This of course refers to the Ten Commandments as found within the Christian bible, and indeed a specific version of them.

Donald Trump is somehow a big fan which would be improbable in any more sensible universe. The Daring Fireball blog runs down a few examples of him personally breaking at least nine of them.

What a surprise that Nigel Farage - current face of the booming Reform party - isn’t opposed to many of Andrew Tate’s ideas (yes, the guy who is currently stuck in Romania on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women). In the interests of balance, whilst he did think Tate was an “important voice for the emasculated”, he didn’t offer unqualified support, deeming him to be at times “over the top”.

He was less qualified in his his take on Liz Truss' famously disastrous budget, that ruined to some extent both Britain’s economy and standing in the world, alongside her own (mainstream) political career.

“I welcomed much of Liz Truss’s budget….I would much have preferred her to hold her nerve, keep making those arguments and see if the party dared get rid of them.”

He’s been a big fan of Putin and Orban in his time too of course.

I would not want someone so incapable of learning a lesson, so fundamentally unpatriotic despite his flag waving, anywhere near our economy.

📺 Watched Clarkson’s Farm.

A show so fantastical that, at times, it makes Jeremy Clarkson look almost like a sympathetic character.

Yes, he’s bounced back from whatever his last offensive comment or terrible political opinion was to grace a large number of screens in the UK as he “runs” a farm called “Diddly Squat”. Remember “The Simple Life” show all those years ago where the hook was that Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie would endevour to do whatever was regarded at the time as a nasty, messy or generally subservient job - you know, the kind of jobs many of us routinely do but someone with in their stratum of fame and wealth never had to learn how to do? This is kind of like a version of the farm episode from that, except that the celebrity know-nothing concerned owns the place.

It has less structural sexism or ageism (excluding anything Jeremy might say), but the same ethos of privileged person who doesn’t really have a clue about what he’s doing bumbling around doing things badly whilst the normies who really know how it’s done - because it’s what they have had to become proficient at in order to live a hopefully decent life - try to save him from himself. It’s usually a light-hearted enough show so stuff turns out OK in the end, with the exception of some upsetting animal deaths.

The surrounding cast, his employees and contractors are, are pretty universally entertaining and seemingly nice, rational, kind of normal people who get openly exasperated having to deal with someone like Jeremy, even though he is their boss. With great accents in some cases.

So there’s a lot of charm here, and even some references to important issues that are currently causing great stress to the type of farmers who are not TV celebrities - weather, costs, income etc. - if you can overlook the host’s history and don’t mind listening to a few standard rants about political correctness gone mad, government overeach (some of the latter may even be fair, I’m no expert) and the like.

Shoutout to Patsy Gallagher, who spent the first few months of her life officially known as “Pasty” - as in the handheld pastry-sack of meat treat - thanks to an employee making a typo on the registration documents.