Anonymous email like no other

28/07/2010 1 comment



Like many, I often have to give details of a valid email address, to which I will be sent the login details I need for a particular service.  I know that many times this will lead to lots of spam as my details are passed or sold on.  To that end I have a number of ‘throw away’ email accounts, which I have setup to be used just for this purpose.  It works well, but I have often wondered if there is a better alternative – and there is.

I have found Mailinator.  This is far from a standard email.  To begin with you do not need to register to use the account.  You can use any name you wish, they say every possible name has already been registered (of course not).  Your choice of name is important, more later.  There is no security, none of the email accounts on the system has a password, and you can look at other people’s email.  Perhaps I am not selling it to you correctly, lets go through a scenario and see how it works.

I would like to register at a site in order to download a piece of software, let’s call the site Pancea Software.  As part of the registration I must provide a valid email address to which they will send my password and link to use the site.  No problem, I just give my email address as  Having, registered to download the software with Panacea Software I visit  In the top left of the page I type in the name I used, and click ‘Go’.  The system shows me any emails for that account, and I can collect my new password and link to the download area of Panacea Software.

The email address at Mailinator, which you just created and instantly used, will only hold a maximum of ten emails and will automatically delete them after ‘a few hours’.  What about your choice of name (I said I would come back to this).  This could be a problem if you use the name ‘’.  There will be several thousand other ‘bob’s out there using the same account.  Try to choose something unique, and chances are your emails will be long deleted before anyone else finds them.

So, back to our scenario.  When registering your email address with Panacea Software you chose to use  It is extremely unlikely that anyone else will be using that name, or will come across it accidentally. But, I hear you cry, your login ID and password for Panacea Software is potentially available for others to see.  First, you would not use this system for your bank account or anything which was vital.  Second, you now log in to your account at Panacea Software and change the password they sent you.

Three other things to note.  All attachments are stripped from incoming emails, other domains can be used (if mailinator becomes better known) and you are unable to send from this account (just receive).

Why use Mailinator ? As they say on their web site, “Give it out. Use it in web forms.  Post it on forums.  Use it any time you need an email address, but don’t want to be slowed down by the sign-up process or spammed for eternity.”  You were able to instantly create an email account, as there was no lengthy registration process, it created an email address which you don’t care what happens to it (you don’t own it after all) and it was a case of create, use and throw away.

Categories: Internet, Security

Racing cars without batteries – a post especially for Wilf

05/07/2010 Leave a comment

Generator Racing

Generator Racing

I have been neglecting my Blog.  No excuses offered.  My nephew, Wilf, just phoned me and said I had not updated my Blog for some while, and why were there no posts for the under ten year olds ?

So, here is a post for him, and any other young people.  Often children are given toys, which need batteries.  If the person giving the toy has sense they will not only make sure it comes complete with batteries, but also supply a replacement set.  Children get through batteries very quickly.  It would be wonderful to have an electric toy which did not need batteries, and did not need ‘plugging in’.  Here is such a toy.

The toy is called “Generator Racing”.  The name comes from the fact that the child (or adult) playing with it has to generate their own electricity.  Electricity is generated by winding a small generator.  It is not clear how long the charge lasts, but it is sure to please children who are concerned about their environment.  The racing track comes with 30 pieces of track allowing the construction of lots of different track designs.  Time will see if this leads to a whole new set of toys based upon the same principle.

Categories: General Comment

Die floppy disk, die, die!

01/05/2010 1 comment

Floppy Disk

Floppy Disk

I have been teaching IT since the early 1980s.  To start with I used cassette-based storage.  By the mid-1980’s I was using a network, whose server employed eight inch floppy disks for storage, with the stations having no local storage.  We then moved to Research Machine’s PCs which employed the then exciting 3.5 inch floppy disk.  It was not really floppy, as the magnetic media was encased in a hard plastic case, with a metal shutter protecting the recording surface.

The capacity of this disk is 1.4Mb, laughable by today’s standards.  However, in 1986 we issued students with a single floppy disk which was a boot disk (using MS-DOS), with a word processing program complete with spell-checker (MS Word), a spreadsheet (MS Multiplan) and a database package (dBase II) and there was still room for the student’s data files!

The advent of the CD-ROM, and the later USB flash-drive pens was supposed to announce the demise of the floppy drive. However, nobody actually told the floppy disk users.  One would assume that sales would be very low, and for niche markets only.  The former is false, although the latter tends to be true.  In the UK alone in excess of one million of them are sold very month.  Some of the niche markets include dataloggers and oscilloscopes used in science, CNC [computer numerical control] machines for metalworking and manufacture use floppies because their instruction sets are small enough to fit on the disks, for boot disks, in the aviation industry they are still used to update firmware on ticket printers, most if not all ATM (cashpoint) programming is installed direct to the machine from a floppy disk and they are used is sewing machines – there are top-end models that accept embroidery designs stored either on a special cartridge on floppy disk.

The floppy disk is dead.  Long live the floppy disk!

Categories: Computing

Heart surgery by robot – a world’s first

30/04/2010 2 comments

Robotic Surgery

Robotic Surgery

World-leading heart surgery has been carried out at a Leicester hospital in the UK, by surgeons using a remote-controlled robot arm.  Because X-rays are used to allow the doctor to monitor what is going on inside the patient, it means that doctors standing close to the patient wear radiation shields such as lead aprons which are burdensome. Long procedures can lead to fatigue in the staff and high cumulative radiation exposure.  Through the use of a robotic arm, surgeons can remain in an adjacent room.

The procedure involved inserting catheters into the heart chambers through blood vessels at the top of the groin.  The catheters have electrodes attached to them which are used to identify abnormalities in the heart’s natural electrical transmission system, usually the cause of heart rhythm problems. The catheters were then used to burn, the abnormal area, curing the problem.

The department at Glenfield Hospital performs more than 600 of the catheter procedures each year, although this is the first to use a robotic arm.  The Remote Catheter Manipulation System, from Catheter Robotics Inc of New Jersey, US, has been in development for four years.  The Leicester team is the first in the world to use it in human patients.

Categories: Medicine, Robotics

It’s all on the cards

26/04/2010 Leave a comment

Credit Card Theft

Credit Card Theft

Ahead of the Infosecurity Conference in London later this month, they have released a report which makes sobering reading.  It states that 44% of Londoners have suffered bank card fraud.  24% of Londoners have had their identity stolen.

  1. The most common reported method (27%) said their details had been stolen through websites or e-mail.
  2. The second most common method (20%) said they lost their details during face-to-face transactions.
  3. Being conned over the phone was the third most likely place to have details stolen with 15% of details being stolen in this way.
Some of the other ways that details were taken included cashpoint machines, online banking and letters being intercepted in the post.  Most of the affected (58%) were targeted in the UK, but 42% said the fraud happened to them while they were overseas.
The average amount stolen was £1 148 with 37% of the victims reporting they did not get the money refunded by their bank.  People who lost more than £5 000 stood a better chance of getting a refund, 91% were successful.  However, if the amount was less than £100 then only 41% received a refund.
Interestingly, only 28% of the victims thought they were to blame for the fraud.  Twice I have had my credit card skimmed, whilst abroad, and I would say I was at fault.  Now, My card is never taken from me in restaurants – I have given up the foolish practice of just handing it to a waiter to pay the bill, sitting contentedly whilst my card is taken behind a cash desk.
Categories: Crime, Internet

Happy birthday YouTube

24/04/2010 Leave a comment

YouTube Logo

YouTube Logo

Most five year olds would be described as a child.  However, YouTube has rapidly grown and developed in to a mature tool for change.  Change?

It has changed ordinary individuals in to stars, granting them their Warhol fifteen minutes of fame.  It has changed advertising, introducing us to viral marketing.  It has changed broadcasting, allowing any of us to set up our own YouTube ‘channel’.  For a visual medium, it has also changed music.

Famously it has changed the way we communicate, in one well-publicised case – how we complain.  David Carroll, a Canadian musician travelled with United Airlines and during the journey his guitar was broken.  Receiving little in the way of an apology, let alone compensation, he decided to compose a song about his trials and tribulations, and post it on YouTube.  The result?  The share price took a dive and £117m ($180m) was wiped off their value.  Click on the link in the bottom right of this page to watch Dave Carroll.

The first video was uploaded on to the internet at 8.27pm on Saturday 23 April 2005 and lasted just 19 seconds.  Now, in the two months more video is uploaded to YouTube than if all the major US broadcasters had been broadcasting 24hrs a day, 365 days a week, since 1948.  It is the third most visited website in the world, (after Google and Facebook).  We were slow to discover it in the UK.  The first mention of You Tube in the British press was in November 2005.  That month, shortly before YouTube was boosted for the first time by investment from a venture-capitalist, the site showed 2m videos a day. Two months later, it broadcast 25m. Today it is well over 1bn.

The three founders, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim saw a handsome return on their investment when Google bought YouTube in a deal worth US$1.65bn in October 2006 – just sixteen months after the first video was uploaded.  The most popular videos have been watched in excess of 180 million times, achieving a penetration not achieved by other media.  YouTube already provides HD video and 3D.  I wonder if the founders thought that the original 19sec film about elephants at San Diego Zoo was the start of a revolution?

Categories: Internet, Media

Is it a new tablet, hand-held or an iPad rival?

23/04/2010 Leave a comment

Looking Glass

Looking Glass

Details are emerging of the new Dell “Looking Glass”.  It is early days, but already it is being touted as an iPad rival.  So what makes it so special?

The specification is as follows:

  • 7inch display – resolution of just 800×480
  • NVidia T20 (or Tegra 2) processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • an SD card slot for additional storage
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video calling
  • optional digital TV tuner module so you can watch live TV
  • compatible with Mp3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, Midi and WAV audio formats
  • supports H.263/H.264, 3GP, MPEG4, WMV and FLV (Flash) video formats
  • USB 2.0
  • a G-sensor
  • A-GPS
  • e-compass
  • a 2100 mAh battery
  • supports multitasking

An initial scan of the features shows it has some of the functions that the iPad lacks, but does it have the style and ‘desirability’ that Apple manage to breath in to their products?

As it is St. George’s Day (patron saint of England), perhaps I will be forgiven a bit of jingoism and say that the head designer for all Apple products Jonathan Ive, is a Brit.

Categories: Computing, Gadgets