Tuesday, June 29, 2004

BBC charter renewal

The BBC's charter is due for renewal in a year or two and I'm seeing far too many vultures starting to circle it for my liking. This morning on Today, they had Kelvin MacKenzie (he who wrecked Talk Radio by turning it into TalkSport and turned me towards BBC radio, so thanks for that, Kelvin) advocating dismantling the BBC. This really made me angry (and I was quite disappointed that there was no opposing view, although Ed Stourton made a decent stab) since as far as I'm concerned, the BBC is great value for money with its radio and digital services alone. Radios all over my flat are permanently tuned to Radio 4 and the new digital stations BBC7 and 6 Music are excellent. The Listen Again feature for the radio stations is fantastic and with plans to open up the archive this can only get better. Sure, some of the stuff on the mainstream TV chanels (BBC1 and 2) are mediocre at best, but I'm sure that this is a fad that will pass, once the 'ratings grabbing' mentality dies down as seems to be starting to happen.

Oh, and all this goes without mentioning the website as such at all. I have heard other broadcasters complaining that they can't compete with BBCi because of the public subsidy. Well, my heart bleeds. Frankly, I don't give a damn; I (and millions of other people, it seems) are making a choice to use the BBC as opposed to their services. This says something: that the BBC is better. The whingers want to take away a facility that is actively good for the public. This is what public service broadcasting is all about and if they can't compete then they should either get out of the business or improve their services. I want what's best for the people of this country, not just shareholders and if the BBC's service is better than that of a rival then it's my perogative, indeed, my duty, to use the BBC.

Phew, that was a rant worthy of Captain Caveman :-).

Sunday, June 27, 2004

The other side of the desk

I had a very weird experience on Friday. We have an MScIT student in the department at the moment doing a project for us and I found myself reading a specifications document that she had written and disussing it with my colleague (who is her technical supervisor) and then involved in a meeting with the student herself. But the weird part was that I was on the other side of the desk. It hasn't been all that long since I was the one writing specifications documents and being nervous about meetings with my clients and now I am that client (well, sort of)! It's an awfully long way to come in just three short years.

Monday, June 21, 2004

So, what's wrong with a European state anyway?

For years, the anti-European parties and press have been gnashing their teeth and beating their breasts about a 'European superstate', a situation recently exerbacated by the new constitution which will see the end of Britain as a nation yadda yadda. My question is this: why is this necessarily a bad thing? Being someone who's still idealistically looking forward to the day of the World Government, this doesn't seem like such a bad thing to me. But I'm bound to be missing something, so (without this turning into a thread like this) tell me what. Note that I'm not saying that the EU is necessarily the best model for a European state (in fact, I don't think that it is), but let's leave that behind for the moment and indulge in some sheer hypothetical thinking.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dump Internet Explorer

Daniel Miessler has written a fairly well-balanced and non-foaming-at-the-mouth article about why people should switch away from Internet Explorer. Now I know that most of my readers (what few that I have) either already run an alternative browser or just couldn't be bothered with the whole thing, saying that IE is "good enough". Well, the point is that it's not good enough in any way, shape or form. The number of times that I, as a web developer, have been forced to avoid using some really useful technique or cool trick just because IE doesn't support is driving me mad. That combined with IE's security and standards problems (explained much better in the linked article than I could do) makes a new browser a must. Do yourself a favour and get a better browser. And I'll make a commitment of helping you set it up, should you need any help.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Camden 1-0 Music industry

Camden Council can claim at least a partial victory as one of the music companies named on its anti-social behaviour orders (Sony) has capitulated and given an undertaking not to fly-post anywhere in England and Wales (although this does leave one wondering what the situation is in Scotland and Northern Ireland). The order against BMG is ongoing.

I don't really have anything more to comment on this beyond what I've already written, but I thought that I'd update anyway.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Signs that you should be be worried about ID cards #23

When the Information Commissioner says that his his views on the subject had changed from healthy scepticism to "increasing alarm."

Another nail in America's coffin

I found this through Gareth's Journal. I'm surprised that more hasn't been made of this on this side of the Atlantic. I think that it's a huge, not to mention, immensely disturbing, step. So staff at Guantanamo Bay complain that normal interrogation tactics were not eliciting enough information. Have they ever stopped to consider that there may not be any information left to elicit? And even if there is, is torture of another human being justified? Is it just me who's left feeling that the war on terror is already lost? If the US believes that it's justified in torturing people what is left to separate them from those they are fighting? Okay, that last sentence may be taking it a bit far, but it reflects how angry that I'm feeling right now. A more detailed report can be found at the Washington Post (registration required, and if you don't want to register, excerpts can be found here).

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

To smoke or not to smoke?

It seems that the Scottish Executive is doing a consultation exercise on smoking in public places. This is a good time to make your views known, whichever side of the argument that you come down on.

Why I really don't want to go to America and other stories

Elena Lappin's experiences in America really frighten me and add another reason not to go to America. If journalists are now considered a threat to American security then is that nation lost to the Free World already?

In other news, the European elections are on Thursday and I've still no idea who I'm going to vote for. I've usually been a Liberal Democrat supporter, but in this election, I haven't seen much to separate them from the other major parties, and their past voting on the European software patents issue hasn't exactly endeared them to me. So who does that leave? I'm not voting for the Tories, Labour or the SNP. So that leaves the Greens, the Socialists and an independent.

To try and get a better idea of the positions of the parties, I sent an email to all the candidates that I could find an email address for and have had a few replies back (impressive since I only sent the email yesterday evening). I've had three replies from SNP candidates with varying degrees of information, a reply from the Greens which was very interesting, a good reply from the independent and a message from UKIP saying that the bloke that I was trying to email (who's standing as a Scottish candidate) is in Scotland! Do they think we don't have email up here?

I think that these replies have helped me come closer to a decision. I think that although the Lib Dems will get a look in on my ballot paper, it certainly won't be at number 1.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Turing remembered

Alan Turing committed suicide fifty years ago today, an event that is being commemorated by Manchester University, where he did a lot of his post-war work. Turing has been called the father of computing science and his work during the war was invaluable. Back then, he was hounded because of who he was when he should have been celebrated. He deserves the recognition that he's finally getting now. I only wish that it could have come fifty years ago. Who knows what further work he would have gone on to do if he hadn't been driven to suicide because of his homosexuality. The word 'genius' is bandied about too readily today, but I really feel that Turing deserved it.

The post-oil world

The BBC has been musing on a world after oil in several of its news stories today but the one that caught my attention was their article on what to use when the oil runs out. This had a few things that I hadn't considered (such as geothermal or ocean energy), but the obvious one (in my eyes, anyway) – nuclear fusion – wasn't mentioned at all, dammit. As I posted before, this needs to be much more prevalent within the next few decades. Hmm, the European elections are coming up in a few days. Maybe I should write a list of all the issues that are worrying me and email it to all the candidates in my area (since they don't seem too interested in visiting me, but that's a whole other post).

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Bits n' pieces

Here's just a few things that have been happening lately that I thought were noteworthy:

American gas prices...
...are still far too low. This has been gone through to death, and we all know that Americans use too much gas and will continue to do so for as long as they can. The fact that there appears to be no decent public transport network in the US really doesn't help get people out of cars either, so it seems that the only way to reduce American dependence on cars and oil is a steady, integrated transport strategy over the next twenty years or more. Yeah right. Like that'll ever happen.
Energy sources
And on a related note, there was an item on the Today programme this morning about possible alternative energy sources to oil, and as usual, nuclear energy was mentioned and then dismissed again. What really infuriates me is that everyone behaves as if there's only way to extract energy from nuclear reactions – taking a large atom and splitting it by bombarding it with neutrons: fission. Nobody mentions nuclear fusion, which has half a dozen benefits over fission (see the link for some of these). The problem with fusion is that we haven't yet developed a stable fusion reactor (ie, one which sustains a fusion reaction for more than a few seconds). When the BA Festival of Science came to Glasgow a few years ago I took the opportunity to talk to to researchers in the field and attend some lectures on the topic and it seems the main reason that it will take fifty years to get a commercial fusion reactor instead of twenty is a lack of research investment. In other words: politics. (Bootnote: there's an interesting FAQ on fusion here)
Music executives
Camden council is to take out anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) against executives from two of the biggest music companies in the world (Sony and BMG). When Eddie Mayer asked someone from the council on PM this evening if he really expected to possibly send music executives to jail over this, he sounded genuinely surprised when the interviewee replied in the affirmative. I say, why the hell not? If they've broken the law, get the buggers! I don't care if they're richer than the Queen, they have to realise that just because they're rich, they're not above the law. (Note: to anyone who doesn't already know, I'm biased here anyway: I have very little to no respect for the mainstream music industry, and even less for its representatives, the RIAA in America and the BPI in Britain). If Camden win this order, I'll feel very smug.
Mandela to step down
After an awfully long time in the public eye, Nelson Mandela has said that he wants to "retire from retirement" and move out of the limelight to enjoy his remaining time with his family and friends and finish writing his memoirs. I have an enormous amount of respect for this man. He did great work in South Africa over the course of thirty years or more and he deserves a quiet retirement. Okay, so (the first part of) his autobiography made hims sound like a bureaucrat rather than a social hero, but that may be all part of his skill. Good luck to him.

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