Posts Tagged ‘internet’

The City Talking: Tech in Leeds

Saturday, August 6th, 2016 | Tech, Video

Interesting documentary about technology in Leeds. I was already familiar with the history of our tech scene, but it is always nice for a refresher. Many people may be surprised with just how involved we were with the early internet.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Friday, November 13th, 2015 | Books

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships is a book by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam looking at sexuality.

This has been a subject that has traditionally been difficult to study. Sex, especially kinky sex, is a taboo to some extent in most cultures, and so people do not discuss it openly. You cannot see what porn people are purchasing by looking at the supermarket. Even on questionnaires, people might not believe it is really as anonymous as it claims to be, and will lie.

Luckily though, the past few decade have seen the triumphant rise of the internet. Now people can search for whatever they like in the privacy of their own home. They are no longer constrained by social taboos because they can turn their browser to porn mode and happily search for Vietnamese midgets shitting in a bucket without it leaving an traceable history.

So what do billions of internet logs tell us about sexuality?

Mostly that people conform to gender stereotypes.

At this point, let me say that I am going to lay out what the books says in broad terms. The caveat is that any stereotype has some outliers, possibly many. Women can like porn. Men can like romance. We are dealing with statistics only and to tar one individual with any one giant brush would be silly. Please insert this thought into the start of every sentence. Onwards…

Men like porn. For them the goal is the organum as once they have shot their seed, their job is done. They are willing to pay for it. 98% of online porn purchasers are men. In fact women buy porn so rarely that if some payment processors automatically flag any card with a woman’s name as fraud.

Women on the other hand like romance. Their brain functions as a detective agency as the book describes it. Carefully considering men because they have to deal with the consequences of getting pregnant. They want to imagine a tough alpha male who falls for them, and only for them, so they can live happily ever after.

Men experience high corrolation between mental and physical arousal. If our junk is excite, we feel excited. But women don’t have this. You can stimulate a woman’s body, but unless you stimulate her mind as well, she isn’t into it. A deeply serious example of this is rape. Women’s bodies can become aroused during being raped and some wrongly assume this implies a level of consent. It does not.

Another example is viagra. This works for men because if you can get the blood flowing through your member, you get aroused. But for women, with the decoupled physical and emotional states, it does not have the same effect.

Gay men on the whole have a male brain. It likes the same thing straight men like – watching porn, aiming for the ejaculation. It is no more interested in romance than the straight’s man brain. The only difference is that gay men are attracted to masculinity rather than femininity. Ironically this leads many gay men to be attracted to straight men, gay for pay porn stars, because shagging women is associated with being masculine.

Whether you are gay or straight could be influenced by testosterone. Interestingly, it is gay men who seem to have more of it. The average length of a straight guy’s penis is 5.99 inches, for a gay man it is 6.32 – a third of an inch longer.

Men’s sexual cues are probably imprinted during their teenage years and cannot be changed easily. So if you get off on being tied up, you’re going to feel that way your whole life. Men get aroused by unconditioned responses such as looking at breasts, but it is difficult to condition a response into them. Pavlov might be able to make a man salivate, but he can’t trigger a full erection.

This brings up interesting points for equality. For example, it has long been believed that society conditions the idea that promiscuous men are “players” whereas promiscuous women are “sluts”. But the evidence suggests this is wrong. We are naturally wired to feel this way because the most successful males (in terms of reproduction, the only scoresheet nature uses) are the ones that sleep with the most women whereas the most successfully women are those that only sleep with, and therefore get pregnant by, the most successfully socially-dominant males.

Nowadays we do not have to worry about this, of course, thanks to the wide availability of contraception. But we are hard wired to feel this way. If anything, society reduces the objectification and shaming of women by socially conditioning us away from our baser instincts. Much like how society actually reduces rape and violence, as Steven Pinker points out.

As Noreena Hertz points out in Eyes Wide Open we’re all wired to be a bit racist, and it is up to us as intelligent people to battle our biases. Similarly, we’re all a bit sexist, so we shouldn’t feel guilty for how we are made. We should still strive for a fair and equal society though, knowing we have biases to overcome.

In summary, human sexuality is incredibly complex on an individual level. Statistically, though, a lot of us are wired to like similar things, and so long may the internet be filled with porn, and romance stories. Browse whichever makes you happy.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Speeding up Leeds Restaurant Guide

Friday, June 12th, 2015 | Limited, Programming, Tech


Leeds Restaurant Guide is incredibly detailed covering so many restaurants with high quality content and imagery. So it seemed only fitting that I should pay as much attention to the presentation as I do the content.

I’ve been using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to debug it. Ironically, PageSpeed Insights spends a lot of time complaining about the Google AdSense code that they provide to me. It does however provide some useful tips too.


Gzip compression costs almost nothing and can drastically reduce the file size you are sending to the client. The server compresses it and the client uncompresses it all of which is done transparently to the user.

It is pretty easy to configure using Apache’s mod_deflate module, and I’ve blogged about how to get it working on cPanel on Hardware Tutorials.

Expiry headers

If you have Apache’s mod_expires, and you almost certainly do, you can set default expiry headers for content using your .htaccess file.

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 60 minutes"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 day"
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 3 months"

This will tell the client it can safely cache the content for a while. Put whatever values in that you think are sensible.

Minify your CSS

Recently I wrote about how to use Gulp to set up a task to compile your SASS/LESS stylesheets. This included instructions on how to minify your CSS. Even if you are just using plain old CSS, you could still create a task to create a minified version.

Minification takes out all the spaces, comments and other unrequired characters so that you have less data that needs to be transferred to the client.


Thursday, November 6th, 2014 | Tech

After years of waiting, after every single tiny village around Leeds getting fibre, the city centre finally has fibre! What a glorious time we live in. Top marks to BT Openreach, they turned up when they said they would and got it sorted within a hour.

This was us before:


And then this was us after:


And now:


If it keeps increasing like this, I will have all the world’s bandwidth by Christmas!


Sunday, December 15th, 2013 | Tech

Being without a proper internet connection I needed to go mobile for a while. I went to O2 and bought a dongle, but it didn’t work, as they never really do. I don’t know if it is the dongle, O2 or a combination of the both, but they are a mission to get working and usually end up never working at all.

So I went to EE and got a 4G wifi hotspot.

My experiences so far have been really good. You literally just turn it on, it connects to the 4G network and you connect it to as a wifi hotspot. The speeds are really impressive too – 20mb down and 10mb up – way faster than you get on a fixed internet connection in Leeds city centre! Unfortunately the data is quite pricey but as a short term solution it has been wonderful.

I also ordered an Asus 6-in-1 router that lets me connect to the wifi hotspot and then gives me a network port to connect my router in. So my router, which has all my wired devices connected into it, was then connected to the Asus, when then connected to the hotspot. Complicated but it got all my devices online with no connection problems!

My kingdom for an internet connection

Monday, July 16th, 2012 | Life

It’s been over four months since we moved into our new apartment and we still don’t have our own internet connection.

Having originally placed our order with o2, they failed to turn up to install the phone line and then insisted that they had turned up, even though Norm was there, with his phone turned up and got neither a knock on the door nor a phone call, we cancelled with them and re-ordered with BT.

This meant waiting another four weeks for an appointment, but when the time came George managed to book a day of work to sort everything out. But BT never turned up.

I phoned them to ask what was happening. They said they would go away and investigate and phone me back. Five minutes later they did. They said that they didn’t have our address in their engineer’s database, so couldn’t turn up and had to wait 24 hours for the database to update before they could say when they could come.

That is one of the craziest things I have ever heard. But even if you find that credible, I then enquired why they hadn’t even notified us when they realised they couldn’t turn up. They said they had my number down incorrectly – this would be slightly more believable if it wasn’t for the case that they were telling me this after phoning me back! How exactly did they have my number down incorrectly if they’ve just called me on it?

They promised they would phone me back after 3pm the next day to arrange a new appointment.

At 2pm the next day, I got an email from our landlady asking if one of us could call her ASAP. I did, and she said a BT engineer was trying to get into our apartment. Obviously, having not been told he was coming, we weren’t home. I said it was OK to let him in, but by the time I had done that, he had already left.

I phoned BT to see what was going on, but having left me on hold for a few minutes to investigate they told me that the engineers’ reports don’t come in until 6pm so they didn’t know what was happening and promised they would ring me back the next day.

They didn’t phone me, so that afternoon I phoned them and had a long conversation about what was going on. By this point the issue was deemed so serious that I was transfered to someone based in the UK, who actually spoke fluent English.

He said that they simply couldn’t install a line if our address wasn’t in the Royal Mail database. So even though they had been to our property the day before to install the line, they couldn’t install the line because they didn’t believe that our property existed.

At this point, I decided on a new strategy. I told them that they had our address wrong. We actually lived in apartment 14 (actually, I tried 13 first but because of superstitious nonsense, there is no apartment 13), so they should install it to that property. I also explained that for unknown reasons apartment 14 would be labelled “303” on the door, even though it definitely was apartment 14. They updated their records and scheduled a new appointment in two weeks time.

The appointment arrived and the engineer turned up to install our line. After a frantic twenty minutes trying to find the housekeeper to let us into the comms room (we don’t have any contact details for her, so we have to phone the landlady, who phones the housekeeper), the engineer finally got access and began surveying the situation. It turned out the only way we could get it working was to use the existing network because the building had never given any consideration to people actually wanting a phone line (the alternative was to run a new line in, up the side of the building – that was my preference to avoid all this nonsense but it would inevitably incur other nonsense instead).

Ok, so we just need to work out how we’re plugged in at the moment. Easy enough? Not quite. The comms room has a series of 10 48-port switches, none of which had any labelling on. I’m sure you can do the maths but to be clear, that makes 480 ports, one of which was our apartment – but we had no idea which.

The engineer began investigating. With some further surprise restrictions now being enforced by the building management, we were now running into an extended appointment which the engineer said it would have to bill us extra for. We told him that if such a bill would be under £100 then we would pay it, otherwise he could get on his bike.

Luckily, the bill suddenly did come in at “under £100”, so by lunch time we had a phone line we were assured would soon be working. We had no phone to plug into it, so no way to verify said claim, but I’m sure BT wouldn’t let us down. Now just to order the actual internet…

o2 internet censorship

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 | Tech, Thoughts

Last night, I tried to access a website using the 3G internet on my phone.

I couldn’t. Why? Turns out O2 now censor their internet traffic. Instead of presenting me with a web page, I was re-directed to another website telling me that I had not verified I was over 18 and therefore would not be allowed access to said website.

I wasn’t even on an adult website. I was on a clothing website. But because the site contained certain keywords, I’m not sure which ones, it must have picked up on that and decided the website contained material of an adult nature and therefore decided to block it.

I don’t think they should be censoring anything (they can add a parental lock-out that you can opt into if they wish, but I don’t think you should have to opt out of censorship), but even if we accept it’s fair play to automatically censor my internet usage, they know damn well that I am over 18 because you have to give them your date of birth when you sign up for your contract.

Secondly, the site they redirect you to is one called Not This would have been a little more reassuring, but a website I’ve never heard of? I had to text my friend to check if it was legitimate. Seriously, WTF? We’re always being told to beware of phishing scams, and they companies pull shit like this. No wonder banks are constantly being defrauded when companies imply that actually we should trust these random third party domain names!

Thirdly, it turns out that is a third party company that they just use for payment processing – so O2 are effectively forcing you to give your personal details to a third party who could be doing anything with your details. The only way round this is to turn up to an O2 store with photo ID, which I would have done if it wasn’t Easter Saturday and I was no where near an O2 store.

Fourthly, you have to give a credit card to authorise it online. But this doesn’t actually prove I am over 18 because some banks will issue cards to under 18s as second card holders. So they might as well just rely on the date of birth I give them.

Finally, because of the way that they set the technical implementation up, even after I had verified with my credit card (I had to use my backup credit card as they don’t accept Amex, or indeed anything other than Visa or Mastercard, so they’re not making it easy) I still couldn’t access the website I wanted because it kept redirecting to the age verification website, which then saw I was verified and redirected to an O2 portal page. I could probably fix this by clearing my cache, but I don’t want to clear my fucking cache, my cache is there for a reason. If they had put more thought into the technical implementation they could have done it in such a way that this wouldn’t have been necessary.

Social Media: For Good or Ill

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 | Events, Humanism, Tech, Thoughts

This month at the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire, Simon Duncan presented a talk on social media – what it is and whether it is a good thing or not. Of course, the answer is yes.

Social media brings us huge benefits, at relatively little cost – and indeed almost no monetary cost, as sites like Facebook are all free. Unfortunately, it tends to take a bad wrap because of people not really thinking their arguments through. You can blame the media a little for this, but I don’t think they shoulder that much responsibility.

Take cyber bullying for example. It’s ace. Kids are going to bully other kids anyway, that is just part of society, at least at the moment. But with cyber bullying – you have a full paper trail of everything that has gone on! If social media has made the bullying situation worse for anyone, it’s the bullies! You can now just take your text messages straight to the school, or even the police. None of this complicated business of having to prove what they said with witnesses.

According to Simon, studies have also shown that using social media actually increases real world interaction. That’s certainly true of me – the main reason I use Facebook is to organise real world events with my friends. As well as plenty of other uses of course, such as keeping in touch with friends I otherwise couldn’t keep in touch with affectively because they’re in a different timezone in a different part of the world.

Other fears include issues like privacy and targetted advertising. Perhaps this has been a problem in the past, but with increased awareness of the situation, companies are now putting in place the tools to effectively manage your privacy and you can quickly and instantly lock down your profile, most of which is restricted to approved friends only anyway. This is arguably far more secure than the records the government has for example, which will probably end up on a USB stick left on a public train.

Targeting advertising is actually a massive benefit to us – because more effective advertising means less advertising. If companies can reach their target audience more effectively, they need to reach less people, so they spend less on blanket advertising. This is evident from the reduction of advertising – remember all the big flashing banners and pop-ups that plagued the internet – most of those have now given way to these small text links on Google and Facebook, and the web is much the better for it.

George Shore isn’t important

Monday, September 19th, 2011 | Tech, Thoughts

Recently, my good friend George, decided to part ways with his then girlfriend. Sad times. Unfortunately, when it became time to make it official, by severing the relationship on Facebook, the status change attracted very few comments.

Now this clearly isn’t because George is simply unpopular. Nothing could be further from the truth – George is a witty, charming and sexually attractive man. I would go on, but what happened in Munich, stays in Munich.

The reason that such a status updated attracted few comments was that Facebook has decided that George’s updates aren’t that important. It never appeared in my newsfeed, it simply slipped by without me ever reading it.

Back in June, I blogged about Eli Pariser’s talk on online filter bubbles and how Web 2.0’s attempt to personalise its content can lead to blinding us to what is going on in the rest of the world.

This is a good example of this – Facebook has decided that George’s Facebook updates aren’t that relevant to me, even though I would consider him one of my closest friends (as well as living with him!). So beware the online filter bubbles, Eli was right all along.

The magic of Twitter

Saturday, June 11th, 2011 | Thoughts

At around 4pm this afternoon, dozens of people, some wearing St George’s Crosses came running past my window, followed by a few dozen police officers and half a dozen police vans. There are still seven police vans a police car parked outside my house.

What was going on?

Well, my first guess was that there was some kind of EDL protest happening.

Unfortunately, traditional news outlets can’t keep up. There is nothing on the BBC Leeds website, nor the Yorkshire Post website. There never is.

The one place you could find out what was going on however, was Twitter. A quick search for the words “EDL” showed my a long series of posts about the group having a demo in Dewsbury today, next to the train station, they had then moved to Leeds and were now running around the city centre.

I could even confirm most of these details on West Yorkshire Police‘s official Twitter account.

That’s the great thing about Twitter. You’re right – nobody does give a fuck when Lily Allen puts the kettle on and tweets about it, but when it comes to breaking news, Twitter really is bringing something special to the game.