Do I look like a Hick?

One of the benefits of having the first name of Richard is that there are so many nicknames and pet-names.

Here’s just a few that I’ve used or been called over the years:

  • Rich
  • Richie
  • Rick
  • Ricko
  • Rickie
  • Ricardo
  • Dick
  • Dickie

However there’s one variant of the name that I’ve not heard before, and that’s the name ‘Hick’. Apparently it’s a valid nickname for Richard, albeit one that doesn’t necessarily have particularly positive connotations surrounding it.

So I wonder if I should start using the name – with the sole purpose of being unique – rather than to promote my unsophisticated provincial ways. There are loads of Richard Bloomfields online, but a quick google search shows that there’s nobody called “Hick Bloomfield”.

What do you think? 

My company reads my secure web traffic

We’ve all been told that we should use websites that encrypt their traffic. We should look for the https:// at the start of the address to make sure the site is secure and give us peace of mind. But what if your company was still monitoring your web use, even though it was secure?

If you work in a medium to large sized organisation, then there’s a fair chance that you access the internet through a proxy service. This is a server that routes (and often restricts) web traffic in such a way to protect the corporate network – and maybe minimise staff wasting half their day on Facebook!

But with encrypted sites (where the URL begins with https://) a lot of people might assume that their employer might know they are visiting a particular site, but not what they are reading, writing or downloading. However that’s not the case.

Increasingly companies are implementing a feature called SSL Interception.

When you visit a site – for example https://securesite.com/ – you would normally assume that the owner of securesite.com is the one hosting the SSL certificate that is used to encrypt the traffic between your browser and the web server.

However with SSL Interception the company’s proxy server generates SSL certificates for the sites that it’s employees visit. So when someone accesses https://securesite.com/ at work, their traffic is being encrypted by an SSL certificate generated by the proxy – and as such, the proxy server can unencrypt the traffic and examine (and log) what’s going back or forth. The proxy then re-encrypts the traffic before passing it out onto the internet to the website.

Most of the time employees don’t even notice the difference because the site still looks secure in their browser. They only find out that it’s happening if a problem occurs with the proxy server’s certificate – either that the company lets it go out of date or it’s wrongly configured – and people start seeing errors in their browser.

The only sure way to tell if SSL Interception is happening is to examine the certificate and see who issued it. You can do this in Chrome by clicking on the padlock symbol to the left of the address bar, and then click on ‘certificate’ on the popup screen.

If the certificate says it is ‘Issued to’ the site you are trying to access then your traffic isn’t being intercepted. But if the certificate says it is ‘Issued to’ someone else – such as your employer – then they are intercepting and reading your web traffic.

And as long as your employer mentions in a computer usage policy or similar that they reserve the right to monitor all web traffic, this is perfectly legal in most parts of the world.

Still waiting for my citizenship

There’s a bunch of Irish Citizenship ceremonies going on in Killarney today, 26th November 2018. If it’s anything like recent times there’ll be thousands of new Irish citizens sworn in.

As for me, it’s now just over 8 months since I submitted my application for naturalisation, and I’m still waiting to hear back from INIS if I’ve been accepted or not.

Obviously I’ve missed this opportunity to attend a ceremony, and based on the usual scheduled the chances are there won’t be another one until April or May next year. And so, even if I do hear I’ve been accepted during that time, I won’t become a citizen until I can attend a ceremony – and by that time I’ll be over a year since application.

SiteGround web hosting Black Friday sale

I got a notification today that SiteGround, the web hosting company that I use to host all my sites, are having a Black Friday sale with discounts of up to 75% off their hosting plans.

The discounts apply to their shared hosting plans, and are available from Friday 23rd to Monday 26th November 2018 inclusive, and might be worth looking at if you’re in the market for new web hosting.

I’ve been with them since February this year and have been very happy with their service – in particular the way they optimise performance of WordPress websites. My sites load so much more quickly than they did with my old host, and the integration with free SSL cert provider Let’s Encrypt is also welcome.

As a caveat, I would say that SiteGround already heavily discount their hosting plans all year round. Their standard discounts tend to be around the 65% mark, and so this Black Friday sale has to be seen in that context.

To make the most of this discount you need to consider if you can afford to prepay for your hosting for a number of years. If you are willing to pay for 2 or 3 years in advance, you will pay the discounted price for the whole of that period. But at the end of the discount period you go back to paying full price, which can be a big price jump.

For example, the GrowBig plan at present is charged at £14.95 per month. It’s currently discounted by 66% to £4.95 per month. Presumably during the Black Friday sale, that price after the 75% discount will be even lower such as around £3.75 per month. If you signed up for 1 year, you’d be paying 12 x 3.75 plus VAT (at 23% in Ireland) which is a total of £55.35 (approx €64).

However after the discount period, to stay on the same plan would cost you £220.66 (approx €253) at full price for the next year. That’s quite a hike, so it’s worth bearing this in mind before you sign up – particularly if you don’t relish the prospect of moving hosting providers again next year.

This isn’t the greatest sales pitch, but I prefer to be honest and up-front with people so that they are going into something with their eyes open. And along those lines I’d also like to declare that by clicking on any link to SiteGround in this post has the potential to earn me referral income. 

Hanging around in waiting rooms

I had a hospital appointment this morning for a regular check-up that was scheduled for 8.30am.

I had received a letter about the appointment a few weeks ago. It said that I was to refrain from eating or drinking from midnight. So I skipped breakfast this morning, and headed off to the hospital. I figured, with such an early appointment, that I’d be seen pretty quickly and be on my way and in the office by 9.30am.

Unfortunately, when I arrived they told me that I had a second appointment for another procedure at 11.30am. I hadn’t been told of this second procedure ahead of time, so I hadn’t made any arrangements to have time off work. Thankfully my boss is very understanding, and she said not to worry and take all the time I needed.

However it did mean that I got to spend a lot of time this morning hanging around in the hospital waiting room, which is without doubt one of the dullest places on the planet.

I did consider at one point trying to entertain myself with some music, but I thought that if I had put my headphones on then I would have probably missed the staff calling my name. So I had to content myself with reading every news website from beginning to end on my phone.

How did we ever pass the time before smartphones? I suppose it was with those well-thumbed and out-of-date magazines that you still see in waiting rooms.

Anyway, so instead off finishing up shortly after 9.00am as I had originally thought, I finally got away just after 12.00 noon!

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