Monthly Archive for July, 2007

Fat lads from Burnley

Too many burgers. Too many kebabs. Too little money. The stereotypes of northerners are well known. Particularly for those of us who regard any trip north of the Watford gap as a foreign adventure and venturing past Spaghetti Junction as akin to an intercontinental flight – as Mrs Thatcher once put it so aptly, you just cannot get home in time for dinner.

So it’s a real pleasure to have spent some time this past week with, amongst others, an up-and-coming local councilor / prospective parliamentarian from Burnley. Apparently “fat lad” is not an insult up there and is often used in a way to express endearment. It’s been somewhat refreshing to meet someone who comes from a community where civic pride is valued and where people do not sacrifice their humanity in a constant rat race for material luxuries.

I’m getting a little fed up with vacuous southern ponces. I think I need to spend more time in the north.

In memorium: Sam Akiwumi

Sam Akiwumi was in the year above me at Imperial College. He was also a former work colleague at Netdecisions. I was shocked to hear the sad news that he had passed away. Sam was a really nice guy. In the DoC labs he seemed to constantly radiate a broad smile – even when everyone was stressed out with end of term coursework/project deadlines.

Sam was studying for an MBA at INSEAD this year and some of his friends there have posted tribute videos on YouTube, which is nice.

Norton Anti Virus is rubbish

My brother’s PC succumbed to a fate not uncommon to Windows systems: being utterly unusable as a result of getting bogged down by various spyware, viruses and other malware. Just logging in was like watching paint dry – literally. The killer was opening a Windows Explorer or Internet Explorer window – which would initiate in a mad pop-up frenzy that could only be ended by power-cycling.

My brother had Norton Anti Virus installed. It’s a very popular product, one of the big two, along with McAfee. There is a national Higher Education licensing deal with the publisher, Symantec, which allows university students to take a copy home and install on their own computer. So it’s very common for students (and recent students who have not “got around” to uninstalling it) to use it.

Running the Norton Anti Virus scan showed up a couple of viruses. I didn’t think much of it and assumed the job was done. Sadly not. The computer was still barely usable, despite the latest virus database updates being installed. Undeterred I set about manually sniffing my way through the Windows registry identifying spyware components and then deleting them. And then I wondered why I was having to do this.

So, I downloaded Avast! Anti Virus which is free for home users. I’ve installed this a couple of times for friends who don’t own an anti-virus product. It’s nothing short of fantastic. Where Norton had reported a “clean” system, Avast! found viruses and trojans left, right and centre. After a good clear out the PC was finally back to performing as one would expect from the hardware. The computer under Avast! also seemed much faster than Norton (less bloat clogging up the system memory and CPU cycles). Despite being faster the resident virus scanner iss much more extensive than Norton’s, and much more configurable, with the ability to set-up transparent proxies for filtered web/email traffic as well as hooks into IM and P2P file transfer applications. It can even send you IM and/or email alerts whilst working in a fully automatic mode: perfect for when you are setting it up for a non-technically inclined user.

At a price of £0, Avast! is absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend it highly enough for protecting a Windows PC. As for Norton Anti Virus, I can’t believe it’s so bad, considering many large, respectable organisations pay good money for it. It explains why the computers in the Imperial College library (“protected” by Norton) were often riddled with the same sort of pop-up spyware that crippled my brother’s PC. To quote a bulletin board comment I read somewhere “I think Peter Norton [Wikipedia] ought to sue Symantec for ruining his name”.