Bridget Jones Diary: Edge of Reason

Despite having, against my will, actually quite enjoyed the first Bridget Jones film, based on the trailer, and given the usual problems of sequels, I approached this film with some trepidation.

Things did not start well, with possibly the longest and most interminably dull set of adverts I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to sit through in the cinema — most of them seemed to be for perfume and they were a triumph of the school of self-congratulatory style over substance. The trailers were rather excellent though: House of Flying Daggers looks very cool and it was the first time I’ve seen the Episode III teaser-trailer on the big screen.

So, onto the main event itself. Overall it reminded me more of Love Actually than the first Bridget Jones film, a sort of collection of playful jibes at, and parodies of, relationship-stereotypes and experiences with which we are all familiar, rendering the rather unoriginal plot thankfully irrelevant. The expected cringe-inducing scenes were short and, due to the zippy-pace, rapidly forgotten, and the only really irritating character you found yourself wishing would hurry up and get off screen was Bridget herself. The supporting cast and characters of this film were the real gems, whilst poor Bridget was just far too over-the-top and clichéd to be plausible, and after a while, even funny.

So overall certainly not a disagreeable experience, but I shall not be disappointed if I never see Miss Jones on the big screen again — the rest of them are very welcome to come back any time though.

Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS) 2005

I’ve felt for sometime that the biggest obstacle to securing computer systems that have to be used by ordinary users is the human-computer interface, and this was one of the key aspects of our paper Trust for transparent, ubiquitous collaboration. Security is often in direct conflict with usability as by definition “security” means denying a class of people the ability to perform some action. Microsoft Windows is the most common source of examples of this — Microsoft’s aim to make their OS as usable as possible has lead to it being highly vulnerable in its default configuration.

Anyway, the good news is that a new Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security has just been announced, taking place in Pittsburgh, USA in July 2005 to address these problems. It’s sure to be an interesting interdisciplinary event.

WordPress 1.2 and the SRCF

Using the letter “é” in my previous post caused considerable problems for my blogging setup. Firstly I noticed that while I’ve configured WordPress to use UTF-8, pages were still being sent as iso-8859-1. This is a known problem with the majority of apache configurations.

Unfortunately the two suggested solutions in the bug report will not work for me. AddDefaultCharset utf-8 only works for text/html pages, not php and php_value default_charset "utf-8" doesn’t get passed through the srcf-cgi-handler, a known bug with this otherwise rather useful setup.

Solutions

Although I can’t see where this is documented, copying /etc/php4/cgi/php.ini to your wordpress directory allows you to locally change the php4 settings for php files in that directory. Sadly this mechanism is not as flexible as .htaccess so you also need to copy (or symlink) the file into the wordpress/wp-admin directory to make the changes apply to the admin interface too. Once you have done this it is then possible to set: default_charset = "utf-8" and all your php pages will now use utf-8 encoding.

RSS Feeds

At this point my feed reader no longer gave errors for my RSS feed but Feed Validator still complained that my feeds weren’t 100% proper. This was fixed with some very minor editing of the wp-rss2.php and wp-rss.php files, changing the line:
header('Content-type: text/xml', true);
to
header('Content-type: text/xml; charset=utf-8', true);

While hacking this file I noticed another problem with RSS feeds which is specific to the srcf-cgi-handler. Often when the feed hadn’t changed I was getting a “500: Internal Server Error” instead of the expected “304: Not Changed”. This turned out to be because PHP is running in “CGI mode” and sending raw HTTP headers is not permitted. Further hacking of wp-rss2.php as described in the SRCF FAQ seems to have solved the problem. Fortunately this is only a problem with the version of PHP4 in Debian woody so will go away once sarge is released.

“Exposé” for Gnome/X11

Trying to locate a particular window that has got buried under all the other windows that invariably fill my desktop is always a pain in the neck, but the latest version of Mac OS X has a very cool feature called “exposé” which shows snapshots of all your current windows at one time, and allows you to switch between them.

Unfortunately I’m yet to be completely converted to the Mac world, but now there is skippy, an implementation of the feature for any Gnome or NetWM compliant X11 window manager. The author hasn’t released a .deb, but I found one at: http://www.debian.org.hk/~glee/deb/skippy/ — unfortunately currently down so I’ve mirrored it. It’s rather slow, especially when taking the initial snapshot of all your windows, but most definitely cool. Performance is rumoured to be much improved if you are using FreeDesktop.org‘s Xserver.