Google Earth Preserving a Small Piece of Film History

August 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm (books, interesting, places) (, , , , )

We’ve recently visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour, which for now is geared up to show the Making of Harry Potter.  If you are a Potter fan and haven’t been, then I recommend it.  Being a film set, don’t expect to walk into shops in Diagon Alley or roam the corridors of Hogwarts, but do expect to see what lies behind the magic and be prepared for some amazing film scenery, models and props.

But what I thought was quite interesting was the fact that they had two houses from Privet Drive in the outside part, and we read about how they had build a small close of 10 houses for filming.  But what is even more interesting is if you look up Leavesden Studios on Google maps and turn on the satellite view, right now the picture is as it was before the Harry Potter Tour was built – you can still see the older studios, the remnents of the runway (it used to be an airfield) and three rather curious structures in the grounds.

If you look really closely, you can spot the Privet Drive set (near the top and the main buildings) – complete with houses with only half their roofs built – Hagrid’s Hut (centre left) and what looks very much like the one life-sized part of the Hogwart’s bridge introduced in the Prisoner of Azkaban (towards the bottom, centre).

I don’t know what the refresh cycle of Google maps is, so don’t know how much longer it will show this historical arial view, but it is still quite interesting to see the sets they used for the films visible.





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Harry Potter and the Inadvisable Reliance on Passwords

August 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm (books, security) (, , )

From time to time, especially since my last HP post, I’ve wondered about the various approaches to access control that have appeared in the books, especially the instances where passwords are used.

The most, ahem, common one being entry to the various house common rooms.  One thing I’ve never understood is how the system of students knowing the right passwords for entry gets bootstapped?  She won’t let anyone in who doesn’t know the password – we see a number of instances where the Fat Lady doesn’t let someone through if they don’t know the password, the most graphic being Sirius Black’s attack in the Prisoner of Askaban.  But when she changes the password, who does she tell first?  And then how is the password propagated around the house students?

Assuming there is a hierachy of trust in place, maybe she tells Professor McGonagall as head of Gryfindor house, who tells the house prefects who tell the students.  But this passing on can only happen by somehow recognising the members of the house and telling them.  In which case, I’m sure the Fat Lady would be quite capable of remembering students too – so when Harry doesn’t know the password once (as he was late arriving at school), why doesn’t she let him in?  She must know who he is – at least to the same level of trust as any of the students.

In fact, we know that this recognition method can break down anyway – we have an example from The Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron drink polyjuice potion and get into the Slytheryn common room by following Malfoy.

And then of course, it would be entirely possible that someone could slip someone some veritaserum and get the password from them that way.  The only defense in this case being its probably too complicated for students to make.  But has a student never managed it?  In the entire history of Hogwarts?

And there is a very good example, again back in the Prisoner of Askaban, where supposedly increased security practises actually lead to insecurity.  It would have been a much better trade off to just tell Sir Cadogan to just remember Neville’s face rather than have passwords changing every week (or was it every day?) and let Neville write them all down.  In fact, how did Neville pursuade Sir Cadogan to tell him all the passwords anyway, and if he was trusted enough to receive them all, then he could have just been let in on visual inspection only!

Another interesting example of the folly of passwords for entry is Dumbledore’s office.  One can only presume that there is a password to prevent him being bothered by students – it would appear that the staff all know the password.  However, seeing as they don’t seem to worry about saying the password out loud in the presence of students, one would expect that over time the password would become well known anyway.

But he does seem to change it, possibly every year, but again some basic social engineering research gives the clues – Harry realised that Dumbledore’s weakness is using passwords based on his love of sweets.  So knowing that Sherbert Lemon was one password allows Harry, in the Goblet of Fire I think it was, to brute force entrance by working through other sweets until he stumbles upon Cockroach Cluster as being the correct password.

Good job too really, otherwise this highlights the other general problem of hiding access to the headmaster behind a password – if something really serious happens, only the staff would be able to tell him.

And dispite all these precutions we know eventually Hogwards security is compromised by an insider opening an unknown and unexpected channel to an outside place by way of a vanishing cabinet.

No, with all the possibilities available to those in the wizarding world, it seems very, well, muggle-ish to fall back on the use of passwords so much.

But then maybe its possible to over-analyse things too much 🙂


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Harry Potter and the Lesson in Online Safety

November 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm (internet, kids, security) (, , , )

In these days of children being online earlier and earlier, there is an increasing worry about online stranger danger and sites like Get Safe Online and organisations such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and excellent resources like the ICO Youth website and Own Your Space spend quite a lot of time and effort attempting to educate the general public, and young people in particular about the issues associated with increased use of the Internet.

Well, it struck me today that there is already a very illustrative lesson of the dangers of using a mediated text-based communications environment where you easily build up trust but don’t really know who is on the other end – chapter seventeen of ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’.

When Harry is asking Tom Riddle how come he is standing ghost-like over the barely alive body of Ginny Weasley, he asks ‘How did Ginny get like this?’

‘ … I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley’s like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger.’

‘My Diary.  Little Ginny’s been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes …’

‘It’s very boring, having to listen to the silly little troubles of an eleven-year-old girl … but I was patient.  I wrote back, I was sympathetic, I was kind.  Ginny simply loved me.  No one’s ever understood me like you Tom … I’m so glad I’ve got this diary to confide in … it’s like having a friend I can carry round in my pocket …’

So what is the muggle equivalent of a ‘friend you can carry round in your pocket’?  Well, a collection of connected friends in your phone’s contact list of course.

So be careful who your friends are – who recieves your words as you write them on the page and they disappear like magic.  The illusion of trust is easy to come by on the Internet.  Just never confuse it with the real thing.  It could lead to the take over of your mind by the world’s most feared wizard …

So remember the wise words of Arthur Weasley … “Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps it’s brain?”


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Potter Puppet Pals

September 10, 2008 at 8:44 pm (odds) (, , , , )

The kids have spent a lot of time watching the potter puppet pals … and they are quite amusing (the first few times).

What I find really interesting though is how something so ‘home grown’ can become so big – youtube stats for the ‘mysterious ticking noise’ have the number of plays up in the 50 million views! Some major TV shows don’t get that much viewing … it really shows that media is moving from large corporations over to individuals. It also highlights the viral nature of ‘this is good, I must show my friends’ – especially if it captures the interest of the school-age audience.

If you do go and have a lot, be sure to see the ‘playground’ on the site – the ‘stretch’ application is just a scream … (you can do really funny things with Snape’s nose!)


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