Archive for 'Latest News'

Memorial Gig For Trevor Carter

With the Christmas holiday just about over, thoughts are turning to the forthcoming Trevor Carter Memorial Gig which is rumored to be scheduled for a Bristol location early in the 2012.

As a fellow programmer, supporter and colleague of Bristol Programming, Trevor Carter‘s untimely death in January this year was a sad loss to the Bristol developers community. What better way to remember a great web developer and musician than holding a memorial gig for him in a venue where he played with one of his many bands. We are encouraging all web developers and programmers in Bristol to offer support via the Friends Of Trevor Carter website

If you would be interested in contributing to the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig as a performer or crew, or just go along to rock with the rest of the crowd, please Contact them via the form on the website, as soon as possible. This event will be for charity, with all proceeds donated as per the wishes of Trevor’s widow, Conny, his family.

Government IT Browsers Open to Chineese Crackers

Despite the fact that Microsoft Internet Explorer version 8 has been available for the best part of a year now, it may surprise you to learn that it has not yet caught on in that bastion of forward thinking and rapid responsiveness, the British government. In fact, in spite of the fact that Microsoft has cited IE6 as vulnerable to the zero-day vulnerability that those Chinese crackers exploited to infiltrate Google’s network, IE6 is still alive and well and living in glorious ivory tower isolation.

IE6 is extensively used by the British government, including UK armed forces: in response to parliamentary questions asked last year by Labour MP and former Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson, the Ministry of Defence, which has 300,000 desktops worldwide (including ships), said it was sticking with IE6, “and at the current time does not have a requirement to move to an updated version”.

As Jonathan Ness of the Microsoft Security Research Center Engineering group stated in a blog post:
“I want to make one thing perfectly clear. The attacks we have seen to date, including the exploit released publicly, only affect customers using Internet Explorer 6. As discussed in the security advisory, while newer versions of Internet Explorer are affected by this vulnerability, mitigations exist that make exploitation much more difficult.”

So the so-called Chinese attack only affects Internet Explorer 6, and there may be a number of IE6 instances in use in government, so there is no security threat there then!

Is it just me being simple, or does it seem odd that so many Government departments are actively prevented from upgrading to a safer, more usable browser, with functionality that users could benefit from? Let’s look at the numbers. Apart from an undisclosed number of desktops in the Ministry of Justice using the vulnerable and out of date browser, the figures available are breathtaking:

  • More than 750,000 workstations in the NHS
  • 500,000 in the Department of Work and Pensions
  • 300,000 in the Ministry of Defence

There must be some major national security threat if users ever get the ability to use tabbed browsing; what else could explain the reluctance to upgrade? Perhaps some bold MP would like to ask the question in Parliament.

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How to Print Screen in Mac OS X

Windows users who have switched to Macs often want to Screen Capture or Print Screen in Mac OS X, and miss the Print Screen button on a PC keyboard. Here are a few ways to achieve the same effect on a Mac:

  1. Switch to the screen that you want to capture
  2. Hold down Apple key + Shift + 3, then release all keys
  3. Use your mouse to click on the screen

You will see a picture file appear on your desktop, which is the captured image file.

You can Print Screen (screen capture) just a portion of your screen, which is really useful if you are wanting to focus on a particular part, say an icon, or part of a menu bar.

  1. Switch to the application or screen where you want to screen capture
  2. Hold down Apple key + Shift + 4, then release all keys
  3. You will see the mouse cursor has changed to +
  4. Use your mouse to select the portion you wish to capture.

You will see a picture file appear on your desktop, which is the screen capture image.

The full list of built-in Mac Screenshot Commands are as follows:

Command+Shift+3 Capture entire screen and save to file
Command+Control+Shift+3 Capture entire screen and copy to clipboard
Command+Shift+4 Capture dragged area and save as to file
Command+Control+Shift+4 Capture dragged area and copy to clipboard
Command+Shift+4 then Space bar Capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and save to file
Command+Control+Shift+4 then Space bar Capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and copy to clipboard

This information first appeared on the TechCo Support website

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How to turn on Sticky Keys

In Windows it is sometimes necessary to press more than one key at a time in order to use a keyboard shortcut. Examples are

  • Ctrl + C for Copy
  • Ctrl + V for Paste
  • Ctrl + X for Cut
  • Ctrl + Z for Undo

However this can be difficult for users with dexterity problems. When a shortcut requires a key combination, the StickyKeys feature lets you press a modifier key, such as Shift, Ctrl, Alt, or the Windows Logo key, and have it remain active until another key is pressed.

To activate StickyKeys

  1. Press the Shift key five times. A dialog box opens with instructions on how to set up the StickyKeys feature.
  2. If you click OK, an icon (a group of squares) appears in the notification area.

To turn off StickyKeys, press the Shift key five times. Simple hey?

NOMS organisation ill-conceived, incoherent and incompetent

I note with interest that the House of Commons Hansard Debates for 17 Mar 2009, pt 0003, lists a question from David Taylor, Lab/Co-op for North-West Leicestershire, to the The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Mr David Hanson.

The question was “Last week’s National Audit Office report on C-NOMIS excoriated senior NOMS management for an information and communications technology project whose lifetime costs have tripled to £700 million in just three years. I exculpate the Minister, who is a very able man of great integrity, but what should be done about the lamentable failures of that ill-conceived, incoherent and incompetent organisation? Perhaps the guilty parties in EDS, Syscon and NOMS could be locked up for egregious negligence as a pilot group in one of the Minister’s fabled Titan prisons—if there is one big enough.”

I refer to my previous comments elsewhere about the quote from Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over, and expecting a different outcome”

For the minister’s response see National Offender Management Service in Hansard

Sharp-eyed visitors to Bristol Programming may have noticed a link to the new Bristol Programming Bulletin Board, which appeared and immediately disappeared. This is due to a Server Compromise at, which has suffered a zero-day-exploit causing the operators to take the site down.

According to the notice on their site, the attacker gained entry through the PHPList application and was able to dump a complete backup of the emails on file. He then used the same exploit to access the database. Both the email list from PHPlist and a copy of the users table were then posted publicly.

As the Bristol Programming Bulletin Board uses the open source application PHPBB, we felt it prudent to delay the launch until it is confirmed that the vulnerability does not affect phpBB3. For more information about the vulnerability and exploitation visit Area51 @

We are confident that you will understand the reason for this delay, and can wait a little while longer for the new facility. Meanwhile, more information about this security vulnerability will be posted on the TechCo Support Site

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Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Although published back in the last century, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide a valuable resource for developers and web designers, and should be mandatory reading for all development teams, designers, business analysts, and anyone drawing up specifications.

The guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities, but more importantly how make that content more available to all users, whatever user agent or browser they are using.

Recently I had cause to grateful for Guideline 6, which states “Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully”. This encourages you to build sites that are accessible even when newer technologies are not supported or are turned off. Although developers are encouraged to use the new technologies that solve problems, they should know how to make sure their pages still work with older browsers and people who choose to turn off features.

My gratitude was prompted because I had cause to access the Web from behind a corporate firewall, where security policy blocked all client side scripting. This wiped out JavaScript validation, on-click button handlers, clever Ajax page loader and anything except plain vanilla HTML. Fortunately the application I was using at the time still worked because it provided alternative ways to load, edit and save the data.

Sure it didn’t have the flashy stuff to automatically wrap my text in valid tags, but hey, hand coding HTML can be therapeutic!

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