Politics Technology

IET Communications Policy Panel at the House of Lords

I was fortunate to be invited as an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Diamond Jubilee scholar to the 10th Communications Policy Panel luncheon, hosted by Lord Broers (an electrical engineer, and Vice Chancellor at Cambridge) this Tuesday, 27th November. The topics of discussion focused on the key issues around 5G for policymakers — having worked with the mobile team at BT Labs over summer, 5G is a particular area of interest for me.

Milo Noblet (IET Diamond Jubilee scholar), Martina Cheadle (IET Diamond Jubilee alumna) and Sir Edmund Burton kbe

A dash cam setup for under £40: fitting the Anmyox Lanka to a VW Polo 9N

I’ve been looking at dash cams recently, and wanted to see just how affordable it could be to fit one to a vehicle. Honest John recommended the Lanka HD camera, which at £21.99 from Amazon was well within my budget for this project.

Politics Technology

Enforcing the new TV Licensing rules

Further to ‘Thoughts on the “iPlayer Loophole”‘, The Telegraph this morning revealed that the BBC will be deploying a new breed of ‘detector van’ to catch those who don’t cough up.

The article says “the BBC vans will fan out … capturing information from private WiFi networks to “sniff out” those who have not paid”. It’s clear that the proposal is to capture information from home wireless networks – we are told the BBC has been given “legal dispensation” to use WiFi-sniffing technology “which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies.”

Politics Technology

Thoughts on “The iPlayer Loophole”

In the UK, one requires a licence to watch television as it is broadcast live, which costs around £145/year. However, no such licence is required to watch television programmes on catch-up services such as the BBC’s iPlayer. Of course, in the eyes of the BBC, this is a Bad Thing, as sales of DVD box sets of series will fall.

So the BBC have announced that from 1 September 2016 the “iPlayer loophole” will be removed.

Crypto Technology

Finding your way around GPG

GPG is pretty fiddly to work with in the command line (you’re generally better off using something like Enigmail in Thunderbird), so here’s an overview of the various functions.


Renew your domains now – Nominet Price Hike

This evening I renewed two of my .uk domains for 8 years (bringing them up to a maximum of 10 years each), in advance of Nominet’s imminent price hike.

From 1 March 2016 the cost of domains in the UK namespace (.uk and its subsidiaries) will increase by 50%. This is the first price increase since 2000, so we cannot complain too much about the fact that prices are going up. However, Nominet have said that they will now review pricing annually, meaning that this is not necessarily a one-off price increase after a 16-year freeze, but that we could begin to see price increases year-on-year. This sort of uncertainty is plain ridiculous, especially from a not-for-profit company which already turns a profit.

One should also note the recent change to Nominet’s Terms and Conditions which removes the reference to cost-recovery from the fee-setting clause – it would appear that this not-for-profit is quite keen to make as much money as it can with what is ultimately the British public’s .UK namespace (see also: auction of two- and one-letter and domains, granting of access to special systems such as changing the registrant to larger registrars, somewhat pointless introduction of .UK at a previously proposed price of £20/yr – though thankfully dropped to match

“Nominet are supposed to be a not-for-profit, membership owned, public purpose organisation…they claim that the reason for the price increases is that their costs have risen considerably, yet they donated £3m to the Nominet trust in their 2013-2014 financial year and have reserves of more than £34m. I cannot see how they can possibly justify a price increase of any kind, let alone 50 per cent!”
– Edward Dore, director of Freethought Internet

Whilst Nominet is a member-owned company, it controls one of the UK’s most important assets, and needs to be kept in check. A subset of Nominet’s membership are calling for an EGM to vote on the proposals, but it seems very unlikely to be granted – in fact, Nominet have done all that they can to avoid calling a vote, holding a “briefing session” in London later this month (a perfect opportunity for a vote!). There is a petition running over at which I would urge you to sign.

I agree that perhaps after a 16-year freeze it is time to increase the fee charged for .UK domains, but I believe there should be a clear policy put in place – if they were to rise in line with inflation similar to rail fares, this would be a much fairer system.

Radio Technology

Watson W8681 weather station feeding data to WUnderground via a Raspberry Pi

Install Raspbian on your Pi. In the setup process go to Advanced and enable SSH. Also, set it to boot to the command line rather than the desktop – you should be able to run this headless.

Do some basic maintenance

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo rpi-update
sudo reboot

Install Python

sudo apt-get install python-configobj

Install dependencies:

sudo apt-get install python-cheetah
sudo apt-get install python-imaging
sudo apt-get install python-usb

Now install WeeWX
Visit to find the link to the latest .deb file. In this case it is weewx_3.3.1-1_all.deb.
Download it:


Install it:

sudo dpkg -i weewx_3.3.1-1_all.deb

The installer will ask you for a location, lat/long (decimal degrees) of your location, altitude, station type and hardware model.
For the W8681 it is a “FineOffsetUSB” type, and the model # is “W-8681”

sudo tail -f /var/log/syslog

will give you an idea of if it is working or not.
If dpkg complains of missing dependencies then simply perform sudo apt-get update followed by sudo apt-get -f install.

You might notice in the syslog that you get a USB error – this occurs if you have not yet plugged in the weather station receiver.

sudo /etc/init.d/weewx stop

Plug in the receiver if you haven’t already.
Then, edit /etc/weewx/weewx.conf. I used nano. You will need to be root.
Adjust settings such as piping it to wunderground, or to if you would like.
Save the file, and then start weewx again:

sudo /etc/init.d/weewx start



GPG – set smartcard public key URL

gpg --card-edit

gpg> admin
Admin commands are allowed

gpg> url

Note: you can also edit name, PIN, lang, sex etc.

Handy resource:


GPG Key to Card

How to move your PGP private key across to a smartcard using gpg for Windows:

gpg --edit-key Key_ID_here

You should see some background on your key. Key line is “Secret key available.”

GPG will enter interactive mode – you will see gpg> at the start of the command line.



key 1

followed by


When asked to select where to store the key, enter:


(It’s got an E flag, so can only be stored in the E slot on card). You will then need to enter your passphrase followed by the admin key on the card.

key 1


key 0

Really move the primary key? (y/N)


Please select where to store the key:
(1) Signature key
(3) Authentication key
Your selection?


You will be asked for your passphrase and then your admin PIN again.



And you’re done.


Switching to ODF in Office 2013

  1. Open Word, create a new document (or edit an existing one)
  2. File>Options>Save
  3. Change ‘Save files in this format’ to OpenDocument Text (*.odt). Press OK.
  4. A pop-up will come up with “You are changing your default file format to OpenDocument Format. Do you also want to change this setting for all other Microsoft Office applications that support this format?”.
  5. Press “Yes”. Then, save your document somewhere. Word then alerts again something along the lines of “Document1 may contain features that are not compatibl ewith this format. Do you want to continue to safe in this format?”. Tick the “Don’t show this message again” checkbox, and click “Yes”.

And finally, you’ve  now switched over to an open, useful standard, which anyone can work with.