Archive for February, 2011

Vodafone take millions offline, again

Vodafone has taken huge numbers of people offline, but this time, it wasn’t deliberate. According to a post on their forums, (Intermittently available, I guess due to load) they experienced a break in at a data centre which caused some damage and has knocked out large numbers of users – twitter and blogs are suggesting it’s mostly west of London.

I had always assumed with the Egypt troubles that you’d need to shut down a few locations to cause real damage as everything would be run at least in pairs hosted in diverse locations. No matter how careful you are with technical measures, there’s a limit to how much you can protect in a single location against fire, flood or someone doing something nasty with a truck full of fertiliser.

It’s perhaps ironic that at the LINX meeting last week, there was a discussion on how well an “internet kill switch” would work in the UK. It was noted the Egyptian one wasn’t 100% effective as people still managed to get out and even if you take whole exchange points in the UK offline, we’ve shown we can route round the problems quite effectively. We may be reasonably confident that it’s hard to take the Internet down, but perhaps it’s rather easier to shut down the mobile and fixed-line communication networks than I’d realised.

Situations like this can be nasty – one hopes that Vodafone has enough space capacity in their network to simply reroute traffic elsewhere, depending on what was stolen/damaged. Some of it may be quite specialist/expensive kit and replacements could take days or weeks to source from abroad. At the very least, if the data centres have redundancy within them, they can “borrow” half the equipment from another location and relocate it to the affected data centre! (Prior to 2001, we used to talk about how to ensure redundancy in the event of hypothetical aircraft hitting data centres as a “worst case” scenario. We don’t use that example any more)

Of course, as well as embarrassing technical questions there are a few embarrassing questions for security staff too. How did intruders get that far into such a critical data centre and manage to do damage before they were stopped? Were they even stopped or did they get away with their booty?

2 Comments

Prisons, a transwoman… and The Sun

A quiet week for blogging, but I have been sent one item of interest by a reader that I think people may find interesting as it concerns prisons and trans people. In this case, the prison service get it right, but facing are a bit of a backlash via the Scottish Sun in this story, titled “Sex-swap fella in women’s nick”.

In short, The Sun claims there is a pre-op transwoman in prison up in HMP Cornton Vale, Stirling and it’s causing a “storm”.

Exactly what sort of storm isn’t clear, because there are just a couple of comments from “sources” at the jail which don’t quite ring true, stating “We have not been trained to handle this. How are we supposed to search her?” Umm, well, you could try one of the draft Prison Service Orders that we’re told governors have access to. There’s no indication that staff are particularly stormy about this, nor that other inmates even know she’s a transwoman.

In fact, the only attributed source for the story is her brother. If they have a “source” in the jail, I suspect it’s not a prison warder but ancillary staff.

Oddly, they only have a pixellated photo of someone who is presumably the woman, Nichola. I don’t quite understand why they could publish her name but obscure her face. Instead, the largest photo for the story is her brother – I don’t quite see the relevance of that. It’s also not been picked up by any other news outlet, so I have no idea how true any of this is.

Kudos to Stonewall Scotland for some positive comments on the issue. (Unlike Stonewall in England, they do cover Trans issues)

1 Comment

The Hunters

The hunters lay in wait for their prey.

The more experienced pick their spot carefully. They know where the beasts will appear – and at the same time, most days. Mercifully, today will be no exception, for the hunters disappointment can quickly turn to anger.

Crowded together they are silent, necks craning to catch a glimse of any signs that will reveal the location of their target. The occasional head turns to look around to check for any other indication that might give them that slight edge over their competition.

Suddenly, a sign. Even before there is any noise, they know where their prey is.

A hundred bodies turn and move as one, but quickly the slower members are left behind.

It takes just seconds for them to reach the first of the dozen members of their target herd. But the rewards are the same for all: Their preferred choice of seating on the 1714 departure from Kings Cross to Cambridge.

(I don’t know why, but the train arrives very shortly before it’s due to depart. It’s not announced on the boards until after it’s ready and even though it’s almost always platform 8, the above appears to be a daily occurance)

No Comments

On DNA profiling, equality isn’t good

Am I getting a reputation for being someone who blogs about MPs doing silly things? I suspect I may be, as I had a couple of people point me at this piece from “This is Gloucestershire”.

That a Tory MP thinks storing everyone’s DNA is a good thing probably comes as no surprise, but it’s baffling that Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood also apparently came out in support of this idea. Being a Liberal Democrat, it’s no surprise that TheyWorkForYou.com lists him as voting very strongly against introducing ID cards.

But if you collect the DNA of everyone in the country, are you not just creating an ID database? Wasn’t the database the major problem with the ID card system in the first place? And if you don’t have an ID database, how do you know you have everyone’s DNA anyway?

Even without the usual ID card arguments, collecting everyone’s DNA is problematic, as Arizona found out with a database of less than 70,000. Getting a duplicate obviously flags up that there is a problem, but a bit of research shows we’re not really sure of the statistics behind DNA. What happens if we collect everyone’s DNA and throw up a single match, because the offender wasn’t on the database or there was a false negative?

Someone completely innocent gets thrown in jail and has their life picked over by the police. They may even be convicted by the courts that don’t fully understand how this works, because they don’t do statistics.

Lets say that the DNA testing system is more than 99.999999% accurate. (That’s a made up number by the way) To be precise, let’s say the chances of a false positive are maybe somewhere in the region of one in two hundred and fifty million. But if for every sample you test 61 million people, (The population of the UK) you’ll get a false positive one time in 4, assuming I’m remembering my A-Level statistics correctly!

At the moment, neither the police nor the courts (And certainly not juries) are trained to understand statistics in this way. Science says that the DNA testing is accurate to one in two hundred and fifty millinon, that’s beyond any reasonable doubt, yes?

2 Comments

Full marriage equality, at last?

Details are still a bit scarce as it’s not been “officially” announced yet but there’s a consultation on Marriage Equality in the works – most likely being announced by Lynne Featherstone MP this morning. (Possibly even right now) I don’t know exact timetables, but the Guardian hints at the consultation starting in May which would point towards something hitting parliament in 2012, in line with what I’ve heard elsewhere. Amusingly and hypocritically, it seems this is “painfully slow” for Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill, whose organisation was largely against marriage equality until just a few months ago.

Timetables aside, I do have a good idea of what is in the consultation and it’s includes everything I believe has been campaigned for, which is a good signal for eventually getting some very positive changes to the law. Much of the detail of this has been ignored by the mainstream media of course, because they’re just reporting “Gay Marriage!”

Covering the T angle first, there will be a fix for the current situation where Trans folk need to annul their marriages to get a Gender Recognition Certificate. As well as the emotional drain, (Yes, you can re-marry, but it’s still significant) this is currently particularly problematic for a number of people because they are unable to access their state pension without a GRC and can lose some private pension rights if they do “divorce”!

It’s also likely that there will be a way for existing Civil Partnerships to be converted into marriages and vice-versa, so anyone that’s already gone down the route of a Civil Partnership can get it “fixed”.

And for the rest of the non-Trans community – LGBT and heterosexual alike – it’s much as predicted. Access to Civil Partnerships for opposite-sex couples, access to Marriage for same-sex couples and allowing civil partnerships in church. This last point pleases me, not because I’m particularly religious but because elements of the religious right were effectively stifling other religious groups – such as the Quakers, who we heard much from at the Liberal Democrat conference debate no the topic last year – who did want to be able to offer civil partnerships full marriage to couples, regardless of gender. This was despite the fact that no religion is being forced to conduct ceremonies if they don’t want to.

It’s not unknown for governments to change their minds after consultation – that’s why it’s a consultation – but I’m encouraged by the announcement. The Conservatives already know they are going to get attacked by the more homophobic elements of the right wing press for this and would not have let it get this far if they did not expect to see it on the statute books.

3 Comments

The Independent – So nearly right, so very wrong

This story in the Independent Life/Style Fashion section, titled “Gender-blending: Sexual ambiguity in fashion” could so nearly have been a nice “Hey, look, transgender gender-f**kery is cool” story. But, instead, they’ve managed to completely confuse transgender and transsexual in a way that ends up being downright offensive.

It’s not just the usual confusion of nouns and adjectives that one expects, with references to “a pre-operative transsexual in little beyond a smattering of magenta body-glitter“. I could live with that, largely because if one gets annoyed with every grammatical error in the papers, one would spend life in a constant rage.

No, it’s far worse than that:

Of course, the Blitz Kid cult of the early Eighties had its roots in the peacock glamour of Seventies rock, and performers such as Roxy Music and, of course, David Bowie. Knight cites those as his own personal reference points but states: “Now, it’s much more upfront. It’s now 2011 – it’s not 1970. And, with the advances in cosmetic surgery, there’s the ability, medically, to go further.”

Uh, what? Cosmetic surgery isn’t some sort of glamour thing for Transsexual folk. It can quite literally be the difference between being beaten in the streets and not, between life and death. Or by “go further” do they mean genital surgery? That’s certainly been around since the 70s. OK, so perhaps we can skip this one, after all it’s a quote rather than the journalist themselves.

But then we get this gem: (My emphasis)

The appeal of Candy’s first issue, featuring Kelly Osbourne’s then-boyfriend, Luke Worrall, in a powder-pink negligee, was such that cult Swedish clothing label Acne approached Venegas to create a selection of transsexual-friendly pieces. That’s transsexual rather than unisex. “I wanted to make the opposite of unisex. Unisex clothes are usually very neutral – in this case, I wanted people not to say, ‘Oh, these are clothes for men and women’, but to ask, ‘Oh, are these clothes for men or women?’ The same feeling you get in front of a transgender person, that’s what I wanted to create with the clothing.” Acne has previously collaborated with Fantastic Man and Lanvin. “The last thing you can call that is underground,” Venegas says.

A true head-in-hands, oh-my-gods moment. It seems we’re being told transsexual means people saying “Is that a man or a woman”? If this sort of offensive confusion is the result of the “designers’ fixation with sexual ambiguity reaching new extremes“, then I’d quite like it if those designers – and the journalists that follow them – took their fixation and got the hell off our turf before they do some real damage.

2 Comments

Marriage Equality! (So little information, so much “news”)

Sometimes, it’s amazing how little information can generate so much news. This weekend, there has been much speculation about equal marriage, apparently due to an article in the Sunday Times suggesting that Lynne Featherstone, LibDem Minister For Equalities will be announcing… well, something. Later this week, we’re told. (It’s paywalled, so I’ve not seen the article)

Other news outlets have taken a different angle, with The Independent and The Guardian concentrating on religious civil partnerships being allowed in churches. It’s worth noting that religious organisations will simply be given the choice under all proposals I’ve seen and none will be forced. Several groups have come out saying they want to allow same-sex marriages and at last years Liberal Democrat Autumn conference, when Marriage Equality became official party policy, we had three Quakers independently speak in favour of allowing this. I’m not sure why this is significant, but it may be that this is something that can be enabled by Ministers without requiring a bill in parliament, so may happen sooner than full equality.

I hate basing blog posts on no information – readers may have noticed I tend to try to copiously link to sources. My statistics suggest that few people follow up the links, but I trust that if I did slip up someone would call me out on it in the comments. However, I could hardly not post about a Marriage Equality story in the news given that I picked up much of my readership after last years Stonewall/Marriage Equality controversy

What I do know is that I’ve been told (Face-to-face) by more than one backbench LibDem MP that they expect to see a full marriage equality bill (So heterosexual civil partnerships, plus sorting out the Trans people having to divorce issue) in this Parliament. Personally, I had not expected to hear anything before the next Queen’s speech at the earliest, so perhaps this is welcome news… if it’s true.

The conclusion? Something may be announced this week. Perhaps.

1 Comment

IPv6 T-Shirts

Want to outgeek friends who have IPv4 T-Shirts from inferior, foreign geeky web sites?

Want to annoy your local Virgin Media engineer?

Look no further! “There’s no place like ::1/128″ T-Shirts are now available. For the ladies, size-wise an “L” fits me and I’m a 14. Text reads: “There’s no place like ::1/128″ and “This T-Shirt is IPv6 ready. Are you?”

(For those requiring explanation of ::1/128, see here. Yes, it’s geeky. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

No Comments

Sex-by-deception case: “Not Guilty” plea

There’s little new information on the sex-by-deception case I’ve been following, although it was in court again yesterday. Brooks has asked for more time according to various news sources (Daily Record) and the next hearing will be on the 8th March when a date for trial should be set. The print edition of the Metro suggests a plea of Not Guilty was also entered, but the story does not appear to be online.

Some reports (STV) indicate that the reason for the request for more time is for DNA/handwriting reports and an identity parade. (How a parade will work when Brooks’s photo is all over the press I don’t know) This is worrying because it would perhaps suggest that the lawyers believe that the whole “deception” over gender thing is really an issue and they’re fighting this on the grounds of mistaken identity.

There’s also an interesting comment thread on my previous post from someone who knows about Scottish Law who suggests that although the law is vague, not telling someone that might affect their consent would be illegal.

Brooks is still “remanded in custody”, i.e. in prison, so even if not found guilty has already suffered because of this. It’s starting to feel more and more like if you’re stealth and Trans, you’d better not be having sex in Scotland.

No Comments

Ministry Of Justice doesn’t know why it’s locking people up

It looks like the Ministry of Justice has a big problem on it’s hands. It doesn’t know why nearly a thousand inmates are even in prison.

Livejournal comments on my last post about sex ventured into the territory of prisoners and how reproductive rights work when there’s nobody about to reproduce with. I looked up prisoner numbers (PDF link to justice.gov.uk) to see how many of them served sentences long enough for this to be a problem and found a wonderful table detailing types of offence. The data is repeated in several places, but the best table is on page 9.

There are 935 prisoners currently in prison listed as “Offence not recorded”. This is separate from “Other offences”. 17 of those were children under 18 but over 14. This is of a total prison population of 71,103 in August 2010, of which 1,222 are children.

One individual who saw this today works for the prison service and his reaction was described as “baffled”. I’ll bet!

No Comments

%d bloggers like this: