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Christopher Bull
Senior Research Associate, PhD, Software Engineer, Computer Scientist, Geek.
Senior Research Associate, PhD, Software Engineer, Computer Scientist, Geek.

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Teletext is back! Ceefax lives again! And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re either too young or too un-British… but keep reading this regardless.

Back in the day, before the birth of digital radio, YouTube, and the TV Guide button, our knowledge-gaining lives revolved around pages upon pages of text upon our television screens.

Pressing the ‘text’ button on your remote would bring you to the world of pixeley texts goodness (on one of the three channels you were watching. Yes, you hear me… three channels. At some point, we gained Channel 4… and then Five… but the Beeb and ITV were the standard for far too long.)

These magical, text-based services were a hub of breaking news, games, lottery results, and holiday package deals… plus much, much more. Becoming part of daily life, a seasoned Ceefax-pro would know to type 570 into their remote for Newsround or 555 to see if their £1 ticket had won them the Saturday jackpot.

And now, with the help of a Raspberry Pi plugged into an old analogue TV, the service lives on.

Follow the link for more information… or type 314 into your remote now…

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Stuff that doesn't bother me: Fancy font names
Stuff that does bother me: people who type only in fancy fonts

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In my spare time I've made the Chrome Extension "Clear Links". It aims to reduce URL obfuscation on link mouseover by showing a link's intended destination as a HTML tooltip; by default appearing only for links to external websites, and showing just the domain (customisable in the extension's Options menu). I built it for personal use, but made it publicly available for anyone else who sees value in it.

My favourite (and personally most beneficial) use case is for quickly and easily exposing if an email I receive links to a legitimate site or not (whether it is spam, or a phishing attack).

There are some people that already practice this everyday (without any extension support), but this attempts to make that additional step more user-friendly, and quicker.

It is highly customisable, if you wish, but I think the default settings should work for most people: e.g. only showing the URLs domain in the tooltip.

It also expands short URLs on mouse over (currently only '' links, with more to come) - see the Options menu for more information.

Nothing can protect us 100%, but I genuinely see this as a valuable addition to my online safety toolbelt.

Give it a try:

P.s. I know the iconography in the Chrome Webstore is not great. I am not a graphic designer :)

#ClearLinks #CyberSec #Security #Chrome #ChromeExtension

With Theresa May set as the significant favourite for the next PM, I have a few prominent concerns; even though she is described as the best of a bad bunch. She has also been described as a liberal conservative (yeah, OK, whatever that is supposed to mean), but:
- Abused the Terrorism Act to detain a journalist's partner.
- Blocked same sex adoption (despite, apparently, being for gender equality and gay marriage)
- Pushing the highly questionable "Snoopers' Charter"

And she has said she won't be pushing for a General Election if nominated, so as to focus on Brexit - a fair enough position, I suppose, but that means we will be stuck with her for a while.


I'm accepting today's decision as the democratic decision it is. Whilst I feel deep, deep, anxiety over the outcome for numerous reasons, it's time we move on and work it to our benefit. For society's benefit.

I'm tired of reading Social Media politics. On reflection there are many vile posts attacking others, and for some of them I feel ashamed to know those people.

In the coming months and years there is going to be a legal tectonic shift; there will be countless opportunities and necessity for policy making and post-EU strategies. Rather than looking at this as a deep chasm of despair, I'm choosing to take the bull by the horns, dealing with the hand we're dealt, and do my part.

I implore my peers, academics, experts, to rally behind this, and given any situation, make the best of it.

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Making Two-Factor Authentication for your Google account a little bit less cumbersome:

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The first exploding start to be captured in the "optical wavelength".
For the first time, the brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave has been captured in the optical wavelength. The steady gaze of our Kepler space telescope allowed astronomers to see a supernova shockwave as it reached the surface of a star. Details:
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I'm giving a short (15min + 5min Q&A) informal presentation about the SAMS project tomorrow at 11:45 in Infolab C74 (KBC side). If you're in the vicinity and want to have a nosey at the project and my work (and don't mind listening to me enjoy listening to myself), then feel free to poke your head in.

I'll be giving an overview of the project, as well as my role within it; it won't be a tech-heavy talk. The talk is part of a larger session to the SE group in Infolab, hence the short timeframe, but no reason why anyone can't tag along for just one talk. Personally, I think this is a great example of multi-disciplinary cross-institution research.

For those that don't know, SAMS is attempting to provide novel techniques to passively detect early signs of dementia (particularly Alzheimer's disease). I have been developing the monitoring software that is deployed on participants computers, it runs with no-user interaction, and is deployed for about nine months. The software collects lots and various data/text from participant's everyday activities. This data is then mined and analysed, looking for patterns/metrics/heuristics changing over time. It is a £1m project across three universities, with myself and Ann Gledson (Mancs Uni) being the only two technical RAs. I have been working on this project for two years now, and we're entering the final 6 months (the analysis phase). The project shows promise (of course I'd say that), but it's had its fair share of significant ethical and technical challenges; which makes the research all the more interesting.

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Why yes, random email person, I will download and open your generic word document: 
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