Archive for the ‘technology’ Category
If there is idiocy in the coalition this is it.
Chris Huhne, the so-called progressive LibDem Energy Minister has called off the Severn barrage, the biggest tidal energy project ever in Britain. See here.
What more sustainable, reliable, self-evidently ideal source of energy is there than the tide? Until the earth spins off its axis or the moon melts into green cheese, the tides will continue to work. The Severn estuary has the second highest tidal reach in the world. The power inherent in its cycle is unimaginable. When we find a way to harness it efficiently we will have achieved something every bit as revolutionary as cold fusion.
Yet our short sighted Energy Minister has cancelled the project and says that investment in such new energy sources should come from the private sector. Then he says that private sector investment is unrealistic. There is something seriously wrong with this man’s thinking. This is not the sort of project that you judge on the basis of some nit picking consultant’s report. This is akin to the invention of flight or the microprocessor. This requires vision. This is a project that stretches across centuries and dwarfs Chris Huhne and his shameful decision.
This is exactly, precisely and properly the sort of project that government should be investing in heavily. Only government can promote this sort of essential, long term development. As for the pathetic whinging of the RSPB et al, this reveals how many small minded fools there are in the green movement. The birds will find somewhere else soon enough.
A disastrous and terrible decision that will define and should destroy Chris Huhne’s career.
At five o’clock yesterday evening I stood on top of White Horse hill and watched the Red Arrows perform for Weymouth carnival.
From this perfect vantage point I could see them soar a mile high above me then swoop down five or six miles to my left (east), climb again and explode out of formation five or six miles to my right (west).
They say the Red Arrows are the best recruiting sergeant that the RAF could possibly have. That is if we have the RAF for very much longer. It looks likely that soon we will have just one integrated service. That makes sense though. In modern times we need an integrated approach using land, sea and air.
Nothing can extinguish or outshine the honour of the RAF or the Army or the Navy, whatever the future holds. As we remember the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Red Arrows flew yesterday through the same skies that our young heroes did then in their Spitfires and Hurricanes. Nothing can ever repay our debt to those who enabled Britain to stand alone for more than a year against the Nazis. It is no exaggeration to say that through those dark days they and Britain saved the world. See brilliant BBC story here.
We shall honour them for ever.
I don’t know whether it will work or not but I think I have to support the effort, much as it sticks in my throat to do anything in support of Rupert Murdoch or his unpleasant offspring and cronies.
As a writer, I have to believe in the idea that online content can be “monetised” or what is my own future?
In passing, can I at least blame that revolting new word on Murdoch? It would be some small consolation for paying him £2.00 per week for my online access.
I think The Times is still the finest newspaper in the land and I cannot let its ownership stand in the way of my appreciation of its content. Even though I am now a subscriber, I shall still buy the Saturday edition in print. I have avoided The Sunday Times for years since it size began to offend me and its content became almost indistinguishable from the Daily Mail.
There is one aspect of The Times though, that is gone for ever. Even my paid subscription cannot bring it back. I used regularly to link to The Times’ stories from this blog but now that is useless unless all my readers are subscribers too. So my only solution is cut and paste. In celebration of this heinous, copyright infringing intent, I reproduce below the stand out article from this Saturday’s edition, an intelligent and incisive article about Israel and Palestine from Margaret Atwood. Please enjoy it with the compliments of this subscriber.
In one respect though, I still stand absolute against the Murdoch empire. Though Sky is undoubtedly the finest digital TV system available, particularly with its PVR and HD capabilities, I will not support its outrageous charges or dreadful customer service. Freesat, Freeview and BitTorrent for the programmes I miss is a much happier solution.
From The Times, 14th August 2010 by Margaret Atwood
Seven futures are possible. Which will it be?
Wiped out by nuclear bombs? Constant war? But the crystal ball also shows the path to peace for Israel and Palestine
Picture a minor prophet. Perhaps he’d be working as an astrologer. He’s looking towards Israel and Palestine, consulting his charts and stars, getting a handle on the future. But the future is never single — there are too many variables — so what he sees is a number of futures.
In the first one, there’s no Israel: it’s been destroyed in war and all the Israelis have been killed. (Unlikely, but not impossible.) In the second, there’s no Palestine: it’s been merged with Israel, and the Palestinians either slaughtered or driven beyond its borders. Israel has become completely isolated; international opinion has been outraged, boycotts have been successful, financial aid from the US — both public and private — has evaporated, and the US Government has cooled towards Israel, and swung towards entente with the Muslim world. Israel has become like North Korea — an embattled military state — and civilian rights have suffered. Moderate Israelis have emigrated and live as exiles in a state of bitterness over wasted opportunities and blighted dreams.
In the third future there’s one state, but a civil war has resulted, since the enlarged population couldn’t agree on a common flag, common laws or a common set of commemoration days — “victory” for some being “catastrophe” for others.
In the fourth, the one-state solution has had better results: it’s a true one-person, one-vote democracy with equal rights for all. (Again, unlikely in the immediate future, but not impossible in the long run.) In the fifth future, neither Israel nor Palestine exists: nuclear bombs have cleared the land of human beings. In the sixth, climate change has turned the area into a waterless desert.
But there’s another future: the seventh future. In this there are two states, “Israel” and “Palestine”. Both are flourishing, and both are members of a regional council that deals with matters affecting the whole area. Trade flows harmoniously between the two, joint development enterprises have been established, know-how is shared, and, as in Northern Ireland, peace is paying dividends.
That, surely, is a desirable outcome, thinks the stargazer, but how was it achieved? Since he has the gift of virtual time-travel, he leaps into the seventh future and looks back at the steps taken to get there.
The impetus came from within Israel. Its leaders saw that the wind had shifted; it was now blowing against the policy of crushing force and the appropriation of occupied lands. What had caused this change? Was it the international reaction to the destructive Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza? The killing of flotilla activists? The gathering boycott activities in the US and Europe? The lobbying of organisations such as J Street? The 2010 World Zionist Congress vote to support a settlement freeze and endorse a two-state solution?
For whatever reasons, Israel had lost control of its own story. It was no longer Jack confronting a big bad giant; the narrative of the small country struggling bravely against overwhelming odds had moved to the Palestinians. The mantra “plant a tree in Israel” was no longer respectable because it evoked images of bulldozers knocking down Palestinian olive groves. Israel could not continue along its current path without altering its own self-image beyond recognition. The leadership decided to act before a peaceful resolution slipped forever beyond reach. Leaders are supposed to guide their people towards a better future, they thought, not over the edge of a cliff.
First, the Golan Heights was returned to Syria under a pact that created a demilitarised zone with international supervision. The few Israeli inhabitants were allowed to remain if they wished, though they then paid taxes to Syria.
Then, with the help of a now-friendly Syria, Hamas was invited to the peace negotiations. The enlightened leaders realised that they couldn’t set as a precondition something that remained to be negotiated, so they didn’t demand the pre-recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Hamas, to the surprise of many, accepted the invitation, as it had nothing to lose by doing so. Peace was made between Fatah and Hamas, and the Palestinians were thus able to present a single negotiating team.
The negotiations were complex, but people worked hard not to lose their tempers. Remembering South Africa, they knew that yelling and denouncing would not accomplish anything. The agreement took less time than expected, as happens when people are serious. Then the occupation — disastrous for those in both countries, physically and morally — was over, and Palestinian independence was declared. A mutual defence pact was signed, along with a trade and development pact. As Israel had realised that it could not rest its foundation on international law while violating that law, the borders reverted to those of 1967, with a few land swaps along the edges. Jerusalem was declared an international city, with both an Israeli parliament building and a Palestinian one, and access to the various holy sites for believers.
Gaza was joined to the West Bank by corridors, as in the East/West Germany of old; ports were opened and fishing boats could sail once more. Development money poured in, creating full employment. Fair-access- to-water agreements were signed, pollution cleaned up, and more fresh water created through a new cheap solar-driven desalination process.
What about the difficult matter of the settlements? Settlers could stay in Palestine if they wished, under lease agreements. The leases and taxes paid by the settlers were a source of income to the Palestinian state, and as their products were no longer boycotted, the settlements did better. On the whole, peace reigned. There was even a shared Memorial Day, in which all those fallen in past wars were honoured.
The seventh future is within reach — the stars favour it — but the stargazer knows that many prefer the status quo; there can be advantage as well as profit in conflict. However, change often comes abruptly, as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the storming of the Bastille, or the end of apartheid. The amount of blood shed in such transitions — from none to a great deal — depends on the wisdom of the leadership.
How to promote such wisdom? It’s a prophet’s traditional duty to lay out the alternatives: the good futures and also the bad ones. Prophets — unlike yes men — tell the powerful not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear. “How can I put this?” thinks the stargazer. “Something beginning with the handwriting on the wall . . ?”
© O.W. Toad Ltd. 2010
The coalition government’s Your Freedom website has, according to Nick Clegg, been “helpful and really exciting”. It’s been going nearly a fortnight now and anyone who has tried to visit it will have their own experience of how popular and therefore slow and busy it is.
The single most remarkable thing about it though is the massive outcry for the legalisation of cannabis and an end to the war on drugs. I don’t believe that people’s opinions have suddenly changed. It’s just that they’ve been given a forum in which to express their views. If the government doesn’t do something about this issue now they’re going to look pretty stupid.
Mind you, during Obama’s transition, after the election but before the inauguration, he introduced the idea on his change.gov website. Legalisation of cannabis was the winning idea but it wasn’t adopted.
However, it is true that Obama has made big changes in favour of medical marijuana and that the war on drugs is clearly over.
The site itself is an object lesson in how not to set up an internet presence. The chosen technology is absolutely useless. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so bad. HMG could have achieved a much better result with an off-the-shelf WordPress blog just like this one. This is just another example of the now proven theory that anything the government does with IT will go wrong and cost a fortune. Who are the idiots who were employed to set up this site?
It is completely overloaded and incapabable of handling the traffic it generates.
The software used for adding comments is the worst I have ever seen anywhere on the web. When a commenter presses the “add comment” button there is no positive response. Given how totally overloaded the site is it can take several minutes for the post to appear. In the meantime, the commenter has pressed the button another four or five times before giving up. Multiple copies of comments appear and the system slows down even more.
The moderation policy is bizarre to say the least. It’s glaringly obvious that no thought at all was put into how to organise suggestions. Consequently, there are literally hundreds of ideas that are almost identical. Some of these are closed by the moderators and referred to another similar idea – but some aren’t. They’ve learned nothing from the petitions section of the No 10 website. It is just crazy!
There’s a strong suspicion of gerrymandering or tinkering with the posts, the votes and the comments. It may just be the chaos of the site itself but it feels wrong. There are dodgy things going on behind the scenes and protest is snuffed out.
Overall, I’d rather we had the site as it is than not have it at all. It’s just embarrassing though to see how bad it is.
It remains to be seen whether the government will take any notice. If not though they’ve made a rod for their own back.
Recently I started to receive a series of silent telephone calls. Sometimes the caller would ring off as soon as I answered. On other occasions it would be some time before my line cleared. It’s happened to me before as it has to most of us. What makes me angry though is when you dial 1471 and find out that the caller was from a withheld number.
At one time I’d have assumed – no, correction – I’d have known that it was a deranged ex-girlfriend but not any more. I’ve cleared all that sort of dross out of my life. Now it could be one of those dreadful automated telemarketing computers which all sorts of otherwise reputable companies seem to think are an acceptable business tool. I don’t. I think they’re pretty much akin to an offensive weapon.
But why, oh why are withheld numbers allowed at all?
What possible reason or excuse can there be for allowing anyone to make anonymous telephone calls? We have the technology. Caller ID is now virtually universal. What possible justification can there be for anyone to hide the number they’re calling from? If they’re initiating the communication, whoever they are, why should they be able to hide their identity?
So I thought I’d take advantage of BT’s “Anonymous Caller Rejection” service. Now, I’m probably going to have to cancel it because so many people are having difficulty getting through to me.
First it was my electricity supplier. Then it was a government department that I was doing some writing for. Then it was my MP’s secretary who comes from the doctors’ receptionists charm school and was quite affronted, told me off even, that my phone won’t accept anonymous calls.
Just what is it that makes these (mostly) rational people and organisations think it is acceptable to contact me anonymously? Would they send me anonymous letters or emails or arrive at my door and refuse to identify themselves?
No, of course they wouldn’t. It would be entirely wrong and it is entirely wrong to use anonymous or withheld telephone numbers too.
Generally I’m opposed to laws. We have far too many already but in this instance we should legislate. It’s ridiculous, deceptive, dishonest and unnecessary yet many of our biggest organisations and institutions do it as matter of course.
It’s unacceptable and it should be stopped. Ban withheld numbers now!
I don’t know the name of the geek from Facebook who said that he wanted everyone on the planet to become a member of his website but he follows Adolf, Joseph, Benito, Francisco and other tyrants in having ambitions that must be thwarted at all costs.
Let me be clear, yes, you can find me on Facebook. It’s true, with nearly half a billion members it is difficult to ignore it. I use it to publicise this blog to as wide an audience as possible. You can call me a hypocrite if you want but I don’t and won’t participate in the snide, puerile and thoroughly unhealthy relationships and lifestyle that it promotes.
If there are nearly a half a billion members on the site there must be at least a billion virtually identical photographs that consist of two or three faces (usually inane blondes at a party) pressed together cheek to cheek with vile grimaces or smiles. If it’s supposed to be about individuals why does everyone look exactly the same, talk exactly the same and behave exactly the same?
There are now an extraordinary number of sad, dysfunctional people who live their life, vicariously and actually, on Facebook. This, I believe, should be of great concern to all of us. More than that, the site encourages behaviour that is dishonest, underhand and snide. It’s not a force for good. It’s a force for evil. It’s a perversion and abuse of the internet, probably mankind’s greatest ever invention.
You know the sort of person who’d rather text than make a phone call? It’s often very dishonest communication, the ideal way for a coward to make excuses, lie or deceive. It’s said that 80% of communication is non-verbal and you certainly get a lot of that extra meaning over the phone. You get none at all by text. It’s just the bare, badly, carelessly or deceptively chosen words. Facebook goes even further, it encourages members to post messages and pictures so that they’re seen by third parties as well. In fact, often the message or picture is posted mainly for their benefit, to embarass or annoy. This is the real wickedness. It’s already led to murders and countless, countless, arguments and disputes which have ended in violence. Of course, it depends on you. You or your friends can behave badly through any medium or face to face. The point is Facebook encourages you to be snide. It’s not nice.
I don’t know what the answer is. I certainly wouldn’t be encouraging children to use it. For many it’s already become a substitute for real life. Its most well known deficiency is the way it makes you collect an ever greater quantity of friends with no regard whatsoever for quality. My sons and all their real world friends have in excess of 1,000 Facebook friends. I have 24 so that must make me – what?
There’s no doubt that there are business opportunities presented by Facebook. With that many members there’s bound to be. In that context it’s not surprising that Cheryl Cole has 1,698,477 friends. Mind you, Paul Macartney only has 11!
So I’ll be staying on Facebook but I won’t be participating in it. I think it should have a big warning flash up on the screen every time you log in: “GET A LIFE”
We all know how indiscreet certain people at the University Of East Anglia’s Climate Change Unit were recently. Not only was the content of their emails outrageous, dishonest and reprehensible but their email system was so insecure that it resembled a sort of digital colander.
Now, in a classic, public sector, knee jerk overreaction, it is virtually impossible to get an email through to UEA. My son, Richard, is there doing a law conversion course after graduating in PPE last year. Every email I send him is bounced back to me as “unacceptable content”.
It’s only the sort of correspondence that might pass between any father and son. There’s no cocaine deals, terrorist plots, child porn, not even any attempt to falsify information on which the future of the world might depend. I did send him the latest draft of my novel which I think did have the odd swear word in it. Dear me, I think that must be it! Trouble is I don’t think Amazon or WH Smith accept novels these days without swear words in them.
Fortunately, Richard and I are super-duper, super-sophisticated hackers right at the leading edge of technology. We had a bright idea and used a different email address. Now why didn’t the Climate Change Unit think of that?
I have always sworn that I would never buy any DRM music. It’s a fundamentally flawed and immoral idea that if I pay for music I shouldn’t have the right to play it where, when and on what I want. It’s an idea that is doomed to failure. Even Steve Jobs, the gamekeeper turned poacher turned lord of the manor turned poacher has recognised that it has exactly the opposite effect to that intended and alienates customers too.
So what has caused me to break my resolution? The X Factor. It has to be bad that every Christmas the charts are hijacked by manufactured pop. I don’t count “Rage Against The Machine” as my favourite band but I spent 67p at Tesco’s online music store and got my DRM track.
You should join in too! See the Facebook campaign page and rage against The X Factor!