by Jonathan Rothwell

[LINK] Some consumer-hostile selling tactics now illegal in UK/EU

The EU is not perfect. There are many mis-steps in its history: the cookie law; the fisheries and common agricultural policy; the wretched TTIP, etc. etc.

But on the other side of the coin, there’s free movement between countries with no need to apply for a visa; the clampdown on roaming charges; the sensible software patent system, and so forth. And then there’s things like this:

The EU’s new consumer rights law bans certain dark patterns related to e-commerce across Europe. The “sneak into basket” pattern is now illegal. Full stop, end of story. You cannot create a situation where additional items and services are added by default. No more having to manually remove insurance from your basket when purchasing plane tickets.

[LINK] A letter to Sarah Teather MP

The Open Rights Group has created a tool for you to email your MP about the Government’s latest wheeze, DRIP, a grasping attempt to retain the powers struck down by the European Court of Justice. My email is reproduced here: feel free use it as a base for your own.

Dear Ms Teather,

I am writing to urge you to do everything in your power towards stopping the invasive and unwarranted Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill.

DRIP is being forced through Parliament without proper consultation or scrutiny, an act of flagrant insolence towards the European Court of Justice’s rulings on data retention, and shows an abject lack of respect of the public’s right to privacy. The Government should have no right whatsoever to know who I have been speaking to and when, unless I am suspected of a crime—if I am, a warrant should be granted through an accountable judicial avenue and not on the caprice of whichever Minister happens to be in power at the time.

One is far more likely to be killed in a car crash than in a terrorist attack, and yet we are constantly being told that lives will be at risk if we do not entertain these hurriedly-enacted laws, which are wide open to abuse. I hope you and other Members of Parliament will see sense here, and demand a better solution from legislators.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Rothwell

Changes to the Doctor Who guide

I recently made some changes to the Doctor Who viewing guide in preparation for Series 8, which begins on 23rd August with Deep Breath. (Of course, with the BBC being the BBC, the first five scripts have now leaked.)

For a start, the list of Who episodes with individual ratings has now been broken out into its own page, and as a bonus now names the writer and director of each story. Having everything on one page was becoming unmaintainable; in the future, once I finally get round to producing a list of suggested Classic Who episodes, I might break them out again. Hell, maybe in time a mini-site will be better, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

[LINK] Adventures in Swift: a first (trivial) app

My logical first step when learning Cocoa, and the new Swift programming language, was to begin with Apple’s ‘tutorial’ for Cocoa, a very simple Mac app that consists of a slider and nothing else.

That tutorial doesn’t have a Swift equivalent yet (and even if it did, it would almost certainly be under NDA.) The good news is that, at least in an app like this, Swift literally is a drop-in replacement for Objective-C. I didn’t have to write a line of Objective-C1 nor use bridgeToObjectiveC().

I’ve published my implementation on GitHub. Although I had a few stumbling blocks (mainly because I hadn’t read the documentation on optionals properly) the process of writing the baby slider app was mostly pain-free.

  1. This is just as well, since Objective-C has been the thing putting me off Cocoa development for a very long time.

It's been quiet round here

Hello. I haven’t been posting here much lately, partly because of things happening in real life, but mainly through my own laziness. Two months seems like a good time to break the silence with an update on this blog and my boring life.

My industrial placement has finished, and I’m no longer at ServiceNow. It’s been a great learning experience, if nothing else to prove to myself that I can do software development for a living: I’ve managed to survive fifty weeks as a professional programmer and haven’t been driven to drink, so that counts for something! If you’re a student offered the chance to do an internship as an industrial placement or sandwich year, then do it. I’ve found it an exceptionally valuable experience.

I’ve been meaning to give this place more attention lately, and given that I am now a man of leisure (besides possible piecemeal work) until September, that might actually happen. For instance, I’ve been meaning to tweak this blog’s styling for a little while, but given that Octopress 3.0 is perpetually just around the corner, I haven’t got round to it. That might change soon.

I said I’d look into providing some resiliency against situations like the Great File Server Failure of 2014. At present it’s looking unlikely that it’ll be anything more sophisticated than a mirror of this site on a different web host at a different URL, but it should work, at least. Watch this space.

The Doctor Who guide needs some attention, because (for the first time since its inception) we have a new Doctor, and possibly new companions coming in at the start of the new series in August. The ‘quickest way in’ in particular needs trimming down, so expect changes here.

Those more eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that despite promising myself last year that I would write one short story every week and publish it on this site, that petered out after around four stories in three months. There is a very simple reason for this: the next story, an idea springing from an overheard conversation on a train to Birmingham, grew out of hand pretty quickly. Having written ten thousand words and not gotten anywhere near the climax, I realised that the idea had legs, abandoned my existing draft and began planning a novel around it.

I managed just over 55,000 words of a ‘not-really-first’ draft as part of NaNoWriMo last year. I’m currently planning another one. It may never be properly finished, and I’m not anywhere near deciding how I’m going to release it to the public, but it is going. Hopefully I should be able to write a few more shorts whilst this is ongoing, but I did promise myself that it would be ‘scheduled fun’—and speaking personally, if writing becomes a chore to the point where it’s no longer fun, it takes me less than ten seconds to hit Save and start playing a video game instead.

This brings me onto the sort of stuff I expect I’ll be posting here in the next few weeks. I recently bought a PlayStation 4, and so you can possibly expect reviews and overthought analysis of video games. I’ve also resolved that I’ll take the opportunity presented by the launch of Swift to (finally) learn Cocoa over the summer. Who knows… I might even get around to writing up some technical articles!