Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 24, 2014

Ignorance is not bliss with cybersecurity;  Seven tips for securing your Facebook account;  12 ways to improve Android battery life;  U.S. NSA granted extension to collect bulk phone data;  Six tried and tested remote access software tools;  How to blanket your home or small office with Wi-Fi;  Study: 7 in 10 concerned about security of Internet-of-Things;  Encrypted Web traffic can reveal highly sensitive information;  How to watch YouTube videos in slow motion;  How to make the most of the Steam Summer Sale;  The 15 Absolute Best Tips for Twitter;  100 Best Places to Work in IT: Ranking and Sorting Tool;  Sat-Fi aims to connect your smartphone anywhere;  Fake Amazon Local Emails Deliver Malware;  Dropbox becomes a vehicle for ransomware; website redirects to Caphaw malware;  Yahoo’s powerful Android launcher is now available for free.

Ignorance is not bliss with cybersecurity – “There’s probably no issue that has become more crucial, more rapidly, but is less understood, than cybersecurity.” That statement was gleaned from an interview Oxford University Press had with P.W. Singer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, cybersecurity expert, and coauthor of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. Singer’s point above will not be refuted by too many. It’s later in the interview where Singer mentioned something that may rub a few the wrong way. Singer said, “There is an alarming cyber-awareness gap.”

12 ways to improve Android battery life – Whether you’re running stock Android on a Nexus or a customized version on a Galaxy S5, here are simple tips and tweaks that will help you to understand your device and how to get more battery life.

Seven tips for securing your Facebook account – Whenever you post something online, be it to Facebook or elsewhere, you should always be sure you know who can see it. Sometimes, it’s not clear who exactly can see what you’ve posted on Facebook. Lance Whitney explains the settings and how to manage who sees what on your Facebook account.

Six tried and tested remote access software tools – Want access to your desktop PC when away from your desk? Fear not, here are a handful of apps to help keep you work like you’re in the office when you’re actually away somewhere else.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to blanket your home or small office with Wi-Fi – When your computer was locked down in one spot, it wasn’t a big deal if your Wi-Fi router couldn’t reach every corner of your home. But you can’t move your TV into the den just to get reception. And you shouldn’t have to limit where you can wander inside—or even outside—your house with your laptop, smartphone, or tablet and still be able to reach the Internet. Those Wi-Fi deadspots have got to go. Lucky for you, we have 10 great tips for blanketing your entire home with Wi-Fi.


Microsoft More Than Doubles OneDrive’s Free Cloud Storage To 15 Gigabytes – Continuing the trend towards free, unlimited cloud storage, Microsoft this morning increased the amount of capacity that it offers free to regular users of its OneDrive service to 15 gigabytes, more than double its previous offering of 7 gigabytes.

Skimo TV will allow you to watch an hour-long TV show in six minutes – Skimo is a unique engine that combs film and video content and extracts the most important parts. It does this by creating highlights, roughly two to three minutes, of long form videos. According to the Skimo TV page, it can take about 20 minutes of video and break it down into a sample video of two to three minutes in length. That means that you can theoretically watch some of your favorite hour-long TV shows in about six minutes.

The 15 Absolute Best Tips for Twitter – You want to be the best at Twitter and avoid being one of those 550 million people with an account who’ve never even sent a tweet? Then slide on through your showcase of tips and tricks that will turn you into a tweet-master.

Sat-Fi aims to connect your smartphone anywhere – Globalstar has created a voice and data device called Sat-Fi, a machine that allows you to connect with cellular and web data no matter where you are on the planet. This device works with any device that’s enabled with Wi-fi and is able to connect 8 devices at once. The team at Globalstar uses an unnamed satellite network to hook you up with data and cellular connectivity wherever you happen to be. Below you’ll see this device connecting users on a construction worksite, on a boat, and out in the wilderness.


Yahoo’s powerful Android launcher is now available for free – This week the folks at ThumbsUp Labs – acquired by Yahoo earlier this year – have delivered their “Aviate Launcher” for Android for free. This app changes the way you work with Android from top to bottom, allowing you to make your Android smartphone into a productivity machine. Aviate shows you “only the apps and information you need, as you need them” throughout your high-functioning day.


Google Glass Goes On Sale Outside The US – Ahead of Google’s I/O developer conference, which kicks off this Wednesday, Mountain View has opened up sales of its augmented reality wearable goggles, Glass, to people outside the US. Specifically Brits with a hankering to stick Mountain View’s voice-controllable heads-up display on their faces can now do so — provided they’re willing to shell out a cool grand (£1,000) for the privilege of becoming a Google-powered human camcorder. Truly there are cheaper ways to weird out your friends.


Microsoft: trade in your Macbook Air, get Surface Pro 3 credit – Microsoft is pining for new converts to its Surface Pro 3, and as incentive it is offering Microsoft Store credit for its new device. The cost? Your Macbook Air, for which those who trade in will get up to $650 towards the newest Surface slate.

Can sharing your open Wi-Fi network with strangers promote privacy and security? – Do you leave your wireless network open or is it secured such as with WPA2? According to the Open Wireless Movement, running an open network is not a security risk. For folks who don’t buy into that, the Open Wireless project will release router firmware to allow you to freely share a portion of your bandwidth while also “providing a high degree of security and privacy for your own communications.”

Disconnect’s new browser plugin translates complex privacy policies into simple icons – The companies’ Privacy Icons software, released Monday for a pay-what-you-want fee, analyzes websites’ privacy policies, breaking them down into nine categories, including location tracking, do-not-track browser request compliance and data retention policies. The software then displays, as a browser add-on, nine color-coded icons, with green, yellow and red icons signifying the level of concern about the website’s privacy policy in each area.


Study: 7 in 10 concerned about security of Internet-of-Things – Fortinet conducted a survey of consumers to find out what people think about the security and privacy concerns of the Internet-of-Things. The survey, titled “Internet of Things: Connected Home,” was produced in partnership with GMI, a division of Lightspeed Research. More than 1,800 consumers between the ages of 20 and 50 who claim to be tech savvy participated in the survey, which was administered in 11 countries around the world, including the United States, Australia, China, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom. (We’re all concerned – but, as with all things impacting personal privacy and security, the average user will pass over an opportunity to advocate for change. Expect the usual snarlers and disrupters to come out of the woodwork – once it’s too bloody late to effect  significant change. What in the hell is wrong with us that we won’t stand up and protect our own vital interests?) 

How to watch YouTube videos in slow motion – Want a slower look at an epic sports play, dance move, or the like? An easy-to-miss YouTube setting makes it possible.


Dropbox becomes a vehicle for ransomware – Cloud storage services like Dropbox have made it simple to store and share files with family, friends, and coworkers. Unsurprisingly, unscrupulous individuals have also managed to pervert those features to spread malware, in particular, the kind that holds your files hostage until you pay a sweet fee, as narrated by anti-phishing company PhishMe. website redirects to Caphaw malware, WebSense says –, a popular website with millions of monthly visitors, was redirecting visitors to other domains that delivered the Caphaw malware, according to security vendor WebSense.

Encrypted Web traffic can reveal highly sensitive information – In a paper titled ”I Know Why You Went to the Clinic,” researchers show that by observing encrypted Web traffic and identifying patterns, it is possible to know what pages a person has visited on a website, giving clues to their personal life. The paper will be presented July 16 at the Privacy-Enhancing Technology Forum in Amsterdam. The data is unreadable, but the researchers developed a traffic analysis attack that makes it possible to identify what individual pages in a website a person has browsed with about 80 percent accuracy. Previous research had shown it was possible to do such analysis, but the accuracy rate was 60 percent.

IE users get new protection against potent form of malware attack – Microsoft developers have fortified Internet Explorer with new protections designed to prevent a type of attack commonly used to surreptitiously install malware on end-user computers. As the name suggests, use-after-free bugs are the result of code errors that reference computer memory objects after they have already been purged, or freed, from the operating system heap. Attackers can exploit them by refilling the improperly freed space with malicious code that logs passwords, makes computers part of a botnet, or carries out other nefarious behavior.

Fake Amazon Local Emails Deliver Malware – Beware of an email in circulation claiming to be from Amazon Local, which mentions invoices for an order you never actually made. If you buy a lot of goods from Amazon there’s always the possibility you might fall for this one in the general deluge of legitimate payment confirmation emails.

Microsoft hopes to improve cybersecurity response time with Interflow – Microsoft has launched a private preview of ‘Interflow’, a security and threat information exchange designed to improve the speed with which security professionals react to threats.

Company News:

Google Gets Into Domain Sales – So, you want to buy a domain name. Who do you go to first? GoDaddy? NameCheap? Whoever happens to have a sale going on right now? How about Google? For the past few years, anyone looking to Google to buy a domain has been met with this support page, which proclaims that “Google itself doesn’t register or host domain names,” before recommending up a few partners who do. That changes today.

CloudPhysics Grabs $15M In Series C Funding And Announces New Virtual Storage Predictive Analytics – CloudPhysics has a vision for the data center: It wants to give sysadmins clarity and insight into possible issues that create bottlenecks in a virtualized environment, offer solutions when they happen, and help prevent issues before they even happen — all as a cloud service.

Foxconn said to be hiring 100,000 workers to begin iPhone 6 production – A recent report claims that Foxconn, known to have relations with Apple, is seeking 100,000 new workers for the production of the iPhone 6. Foxconn is reportedly taking 70% of the entire production. According to a report published by DigiTimes, longtime partner Foxconn is said to be manufacturing both the 5.5-inch and 4.7-inch versions of the rumored addition to the iPhone lineup.


This Is the New Stat Facebook Should Be Worrying About – All those ads that are increasingly crowding into users’ Facebook and Twitter feeds apparently aren’t doing much to affect what people actually buy. According to a newly released Gallup poll, 62% of Americans say social media has no influence on their purchasing decisions. Just 5% of people polled said social media has a great deal of influence on their buying habits. Even tech-savvy Millennials say they are not swayed by social ads—48% of respondents in that cohort said that social media doesn’t influence their purchasing decisions. Facebook dismissed the value of the findings outright. “The only thing this poll shows is that self-reported behavioral data is unreliable,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. (That’s the attitude – shoot from the lip! Don’t believe what users tell you. After all, they’re lying, right? What’s the point of focus groups, then?)

Games and Entertainment:

South Korea debates video game addiction – South Korea is facing what it calls a video game addiction problem, something that has caused incidents, some more tragic than others. Aiming to address it is the Game Addiction Law, the subject of which was at the center of a recent debate called “Video Games: Addiction or Art?”

Star Wars Assault Team free mobile game taps sci-fi obsession – One of the first Star Wars games to be developed with the Disney Video Games team is Star Wars Assault Team – and it’s surprisingly decent. This game is entirely free and made to be a mix between turn-based card collecting and adventure. Here you’ll be able to play on your iPhone or iPad on iOS, Android devices, and devices running either Windows Phone 8 or Windows on your desktop.


Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare PC port is not a port – Are you a PC gamer and not feeling the combative vegetative love or the brain-devouring adrenaline rush? Be gloomy no more and open those petals! Not only will Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare be arriving on this venerable gaming platform tomorrow, barring any last minute delays, EA promises that this game is not simply a PC port, whatever the heck that will entail.


The Best iPad Digital Comic Book Readers – Digital comic book apps let you dive into your favorite books from the comfort of your home—you no longer need to travel to a comic book store to pick up Ms. Marvel, Superman, or other titles (or, worse, get there only to see that your favorite comic is sold out). All you need is a tablet and a solid comics app. The five iPad digital comic book apps in this roundup include the industry powerhouse, as well as lesser-known, but quality offerings.

How to make the most of the Steam Summer Sale – Steam’s massive annual summer sale is upon us (in the UK and Australia as well as the US) with hundreds of bargains on great games both triple-A and indie, new and old. So how do you make sense of all the chaos? It’s no easy task, but I’ve got a few tips on how to make the most of your hard-earned cash.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Net Neutrality Shouldn’t Be Up To The FCC, Republicans Say – House Republicans on Friday challenged the existing framework for how net neutrality rules are set and enforced. At a hearing held by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust law, the Republican members said the Federal Trade Commission, not the Federal Communications Commission, should have authority when it comes to net neutrality.

Airport security gets handheld with Z Backscatter gun – There’s a new gun out there this week going by the name MINI Z, ready to bring Z Backscatter technology to a street near you. Using the same technology as you’ll find in the full-scanning Z Backscatter machines at the airport, the MINI Z brings full penetration viewing to cops on the go.


100 Best Places to Work in IT: Ranking and Sorting Tool – View the rankings of best places to work and use our sorting tool to find the employers that best suit your needs. Sort the Best Places to Work by key criteria, such as training days, and add filters by region and/or organization size. Note that the more filters you add, the fewer organizations will be listed.

China wins a slowing supercomputer race – Tianhe-2, run by China’s National University of Defense Technology, clocked 33.86 Pflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) for the 43rd edition of the TOP500, released Monday at the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany. The runner-up in this twice-yearly ranking came in at only half the speed: The U.S. Energy Department’s Titan, a Cray XK7 machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, tested out at 17.59 Pflop/s.

How to clean up a broken CFL bulb – If a fluorescent light comes crashing down onto your kitchen floor, releasing the mercury trapped within, you don’t need to panic. Just follow these steps to safely get things cleaned up.

Something to think about:

“The old ways are dead. And you need people around you who concur. That means hanging out more with the creative people, the freaks, the real visionaries, than you’re already doing. Thinking more about what their needs are, and responding accordingly. Avoid the dullards; avoid the folk who play it safe. They can’t help you any more. Their stability model no longer offers that much stability. They are extinct, they are extinction.”

–     Hugh Macleod

Today’s Free Downloads:

IrfanView – IrfanView is a very fast, small, compact and innovative FREEWARE (for non-commercial use) graphic viewer for Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003 , 2008, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.

It is designed to be simple for beginners and powerful for professionals.

IrfanView seeks to create unique, new and interesting features, unlike some other graphic viewers, whose whole “creativity” is based on feature cloning, stealing of ideas and whole dialogs from ACDSee and/or IrfanView! (for example: XnView has been stealing/cloning features and whole dialogs from IrfanView, for 10+ years).

Some IrfanView features:

Many supported file formats (click here the list of formats)

Multi language support

Thumbnail/preview option

Paint option – to draw lines, circles, arrows, straighten image etc.

Toolbar skins option

Slideshow (save slideshow as EXE/SCR or burn it to CD)

Show EXIF/IPTC/Comment text in Slideshow/Fullscreen etc.

Support for Adobe Photoshop Filters

Fast directory view (moving through directory)

Batch conversion (with advanced image processing)

Multipage TIF editing

File search

Email option

Multimedia player

Print option

Support for embedded color profiles in JPG/TIF

Change color depth

Scan (batch scan) support


Add overlay text/image (watermark)

IPTC editing

Effects (Sharpen, Blur, Adobe 8BF, Filter Factory, Filters Unlimited, etc.)

Screen Capturing

Extract icons from EXE/DLL/ICLs

Lossless JPG rotation

Shell Extension PlugIn

Unicode support

Many hotkeys

Many command line options

Many PlugIns

Only one EXE-File, no DLLs, no Shareware messages like “I Agree” or “Evaluation expired”

No registry changes without user action/permission!


Second Life – Second Life is a 3D world where everyone you see is a real person and every place you visit is built by people just like you.

Travel with friends to thousands of beautiful and exciting places — all created by the Second Life community.

Millions of people have already joined Second Life. Chat for free using voice or text with folks from around the world who share your passions and interests.

Dress up and design a new 3D you. There are thousands of designer items to explore in our Marketplace where the selection is as endless as your imagination.

Every day there are thousands of new experiences and events created by the Second Life community. Visit the Destination Guide to get a peek at some of the action.

Discover your artistic talents and share them instantly with friends. Take beautiful snapshots, create machinima videos or build something from scratch inside Second Life.


Listen N Write – Listen N Write can be used to play and transcribe ordinary audio and video recordings (WAV, MP3, OGG, WMA, AVI, MPG, WMV, OGV, FLV, VOB, TS, etc).

Listen N Write has special features simplifying the transcription work as you can control via keys (while using its integrated word processor) and insert time markers (bookmarks).

Moreover, the audio stream is automatically rewound a few seconds when pressing the Pause key.

Listen N Write can be considered the standard program for any transcription because of its simplicity of use and small size.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Missouri May Amend Its Constitution To Require Warrant For Digital Searches – A proposed state constitutional amendment could grant residents of Missouri stronger digital privacy protections. The amendment passed the state’s legislature, and will be voted on by the general electorate in August.

The amendment to Missouri’s constitution would delete a current section of the document, and replace it with a new section that has amended wording. Here’s the new text:

Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes, effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be, nor without probably cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.

Here’s what the ballot will say in August:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”

I have a sneaking suspicion that that will prove popular. If I am reading Missouri law correctly, only a simple majority needs to vote in favor of the amendment for it to pass.

ProtonMail Is A Swiss Secure Mail Provider That Won’t Give You Up To The NSA – I asked one of the creators, co-founder Andy Yen, why we should trust them. He said we didn’t have to.

“One of our goals is actually to build a system that does not require trusting us,” he said. “We’ve taken the first step with our zero access architecture which means we cannot actually read any of our users’ encrypted messages. When the code base becomes more mature, we also plan to open source the ProtonMail software.”

The service works by encrypting all the messages in the user’s web browser before it even reaches the ProtonMail servers. This means ProtonMail doesn’t hold the password and can never decrypt user messages. It’s this unique proposition — that there is no way to get everyone’s email if the server is compromised — that seems to have struck a chord with backers.

The team has covered all its bases. For example, they chose Switzerland, because, according to the Swiss Federal Act on the Surveillance of Postal and Telecommunications Traffic (SPTT), the company cannot be compelled to expose their system to any government authority. “This means that under Swiss law, ProtonMail CANNOT be compelled to backdoor our secure email system. Furthermore, any attempt to extend the SPTT will inevitably fail because the Swiss public is strongly opposed to any extension and an extension could be subject to a public referendum.”

Seizing data for 2.5 years amounts to “general warrant,” court says – A federal appeals court has reversed an accountant’s tax-evasion conviction because the government seized his computer data and held it for more than 2.5 years—a breach of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the government’s tactics against the Connecticut accountant amounted to an “unreasonable seizure.” The authorities seized the accountant’s records while investigating alleged illegal activity of his clients. But they continued holding the data for years and later brought charges against the accountant, who was not the target of the original investigation.

“If the government could seize and retain non-responsive electronic records indefinitely, so it could search them whenever it later developed probable cause, every warrant to search for particular electronic data would become, in essence, a general warrant,” Judge Denny Chin wrote for the appeals court.

At least one digital rights group said the decision may affect the National Security Agency’s vast electronic snooping programs disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“I would certainly argue that it calls into question the whole collect-it-all-and-sniff-through-it-later practice,” Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Courthouse News Service.

Looks like someone’s profiting from Snowden – European defense firms – Representatives of Thales, the European defense technology giant, announced last week at the Eurosatory defense exposition that the company won a contract from the French government to supply 900,000 users of an inter-ministry network with secure Internet and intranet connections, plus related IT support and cybersecurity services. Cybersecurity is now a $670 million business for the company, and while Thales may have had an inside track for the French contract, American firms are increasingly getting the cold shoulder in Europe. Defense News reports that many European firms are seeing increased business largely because of one man—Edward Snowden.

Snowden “has had an impact on the business,” Thales Space and Information Systems Security Manager Cyril Autant told Defense News. “Customers saw a danger in US systems, although in general they also say that data security had a high value.”

The impact has already been felt in the cloud industry, where, as European Defence Agency Cyber Project Officer Wolfgang Rohrig told Defense News, “people walked away from US products. Now European governments are re-assessing their dependence on US firms’ networking and cyber security products and are starting to cut back as they grow their overall spending.”

“Civilian casualties” authorized under secret US drone-strike memo – A secret Obama administration memo disclosed Monday outlines the legal justification for the government’s drone-targeted killing program, a lethal strategy that authorizes the killing of innocents as collateral damage.

The memo (PDF), released by a US federal appeals court under a Freedom of Information Act request, describes the government’s legal underpinnings for its so-called overseas targeted-killing program where drones from afar shoot missiles at buildings, cars, and people. It began under the George W. Bush administration but was broadened under Obama and now includes the killing of Americans.

The Obama administration fought for years to keep the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo from becoming public. The document says that lethal force is authorized under international war rules and the US war on terror. Rights groups, however, decried the 41-page document, saying that it amounted to a legal blueprint for other nations to follow.

“While today the US, the UK, and Israel are the only countries known to have used killer drones, experts say that within 10 years virtually every country on earth will be able to build or acquire drones capable of firing missiles. The United States loosening and redefining international rules governing the use of force and war is ultimately not going to make anyone any safer,” Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.

U.S. NSA granted extension to collect bulk phone data – The U.S. National Security Agency has been allowed to continue to collect phone records in bulk of people in the country, while lawmakers consider new legislation that would block the agency from collecting the data.

The government’s application for reauthorization of the program for a period of 90 days was approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), according to a joint statement Friday by the Department of Justice and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The government argued that it was seeking the extension as the relevant legislation has not been enacted yet.

The bulk collection of phone metadata in the U.S. by the NSA was first disclosed in June last year by former agency contractor, Edward Snowden, through news outlets.



Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 24, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    Study: 7 in 10 concerned about security of Internet-of-Things
    “What in the hell is wrong with us that we won’t stand up and protect our own vital interests?”
    I wonder if Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD wasn’t prophetic. I read earlier this year that upwards of 80% of all Americans are on mind-altering prescription drugs. The elite have a population of sheep in a pasture.

    How to clean up a broken CFL bulb
    George W Bush got rid of the incandescent light bulb as they were BAD, BAD, BAD, allegedly, for the environment or cost too much or whatever they were saying at the time and the elite didn’t want us to have them any longer. Now you have this sort of thing. I would like to have the freedom to decide FOR MYSELF if I wanted to pay the 3cents a month in higher energy costs for using the old fashioned light bulb. I will say this I DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT. Not a bit.
    Thanks as always for this wonderful information resource.

    • Hi Fred,

      It may well be that – “upwards of 80% of all Americans are on mind-altering prescription drugs” – or not. In any case, the downward learning curve continues. We should be ashamed of the poorly educated masses we continue to push out of the doors of underfunded and overcrowded educational facilities.

      As a consequence, we are now surrounded by those who have a tenuous grasp on logic. And, since logic is an out of reach concept – the manipulation of these same people seems to be an effortless undertaking by the hidden string pullers who lurk beneath the horizon in government. So yes, I agree – “The elite have a population of sheep in a pasture.”

      Special interest groups have, and will continue to push their agendas, despite the impact it may have on those who are not persuaded by well crafted propaganda. The “light bulb issue” is a perfect case in point. Personally, I have difficulty trying to read with these new fangled “bulbs” – which led me to buy a 10 year supply of incandescents at the end of last year (as of 1/1/2014 100 Watt incandescents are no longer available here.)

      As for the freedom to choose – unless we, as a society, are prepared to engage every level of government who are bound and determined to reduce us all to mindless grovelers and bootlickers, straying from the party line may have consequences which will prove to be irreversible.



      • John Bent

        Hi Bill,

        Like you I have a drawerfull of 100w incandescent bulbs, as I like to make my own decision about how much I can see in my own house. Although low-energy bulbs have improved since they first came out, they are no good for anything other than background lighting in my opinion. LEDs are better but they give a very harsh light and are relatively expensive to buy.

        As for government, think yourselves lucky that you have only one layer to contend with. Here in Scotland we have The Scottish Government, the UK Government and large areas of policy imposed by Europe. What was originally a common market agreement has deteriorated into a political union of 28 countries with vastly different agendas. David Cameron makes noises about reforming the EU and has promised a referendum if the conservatives win the next election.

        Despite its problems I think it would be against our interests to leave the EU, as I believe it would be against Scotland’s interests to leave the UK. If there is a No vote on September 18, more powers will be devolved to the Scottish Government. Reform of the EU, however, will be much more problematic.

        Kind regards,

        • Hi John,

          I’m in total agreement with your take on LEDs – harsh – harsh – harsh!

          Here in Canada, we do in fact have our own issues with separatism. Historically, a separatist contingent of Quebecois has always existed – driven by some insane need to go it alone as a distinct country. This nonsense is never far from active discussion. So, I’ve been following the Scottish situation with some interest. I’m not impressed.

          As for the EU, unraveling the common ties that bind seems to me to be somewhat unrealistic at this point. But, nationalism has a habit of raising it’s ugly head and common sense is the usual victim.