25 Oct

Constitutional Politics and Brown

It cheers me up when politicians try and do big bold long term things, it also scares me.

The Labour governments in the UK under Blair and Brown made some big changes to the UK constitutionally, devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, an elected London Mayor, writing the Human Rights Act into UK law, harmonising the age of consent for all, generally trying to promote regional autonomy (before the locals showed such apathy). Even some of the outcomes of failure have led to some long needed changes such as the separation of the Home Office prison/probation services into a Ministry of Justice.

Of course they also have done some rather nasty insidious things, usually under the banner of counter terrorism. ID cards, detention, banning protest around Parliament, recording all our internet and telephone traffic. But none were constitutional, although I might argue that ID cards are an institutional shift in power between the individual and the state.

So.. what do I think of Brown’s call for a Bill of Rights in addition to the Human Rights Act, and also repealing the ban on demonstrations around Parliament?

I might suspect that part of it is another reflex response to Cameron’s demand to scrap the Human Rights Act in UK law. [[A plan that would put power back in the hands of the judges in Strasbourg that everyone used to berate..]] It’s also includes a strengthening of MP power, some review of judicial appointments, a stiffening of Parliament against the diminishment that both Thatcher and Blair started.

On the other hand, and here I speak subjectively, very few people really care about this stuff, and as such Brown doesn’t have to do it. I hope it’s a real attempt to continue the slow evolution of the British state to one with a more checks and balances approach and less of the organic confusion that is so often resolved by a firm hand and a cross word from whichever ‘tough leader’ is in Number 10.

09 Oct

Unbundle Windows

The Globalisation Institute offers strong logical arguements for the legal unbundling of PCs and operating systems within the EU single market. This simple step, which would both allow consumers the right to choose their operatin system would also make it clear to them just how much the Windows system is costing them, allowing consumers to make informed choices and introduce real competition into a market monopolised by a single supplier for 20 year at 95% dominance.

This is not just a geeky subject, this is a real issue of free competition and improved customer choice. I commend you to read both the two page report and also some additional rebuttals of the points raised against it.

If we live in a global free market world, why should Microsoft be exempt?

30 Sep

Use Afghan Heroin on NHS

Afghan heroin available on the NHS? It may sound far-fetched but that is what two leading doctors from the British Medical Association have put forward as a way of dealing with a shortage of the drug. Heroin is used by doctors under its medical name diamorphine as a pain-killer for the terminally ill and after serious operations. But there is currently a severe shortage of legal diamorphine in the UK.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article2180759.ece

10 Sep

YouGov market research

Enjoy taking part in market research and want to get paid?

YouGov

I’ve done this for years and it’s great fun, never intrusive and the money is tiny but cumulative. Yes, I get a referral fee.

08 Sep

Belgian Street Art


Belgian Street Art
Originally uploaded by tzunder.

Brussels has a sense of the comic book about, which makes sense for a country so wedded to the Bande Dessinée. I have been too dismissive of Brussels, it has a lot more charm than I gave it credit for. I walked a lot to and from meetings last week and started to discover squares and streets that have a quality and a style that is very appealing. I think I shall revisit some of them and do some night photography.

02 Sep

Orange Broadband

We I recently switched to Orange broadband. I got a free laptop from PC World, I pay less than I did on Onetel and I seem to have ben setup at a faster speed (1.5Mb rather than 1Mb). BUT there are some interesting surprises in the offer that they don’t tell you on the tin. First and foremost, you can only use their smtp server on port 25. Now most people wouldn’t mind this, but the mail server applies it’s own spam censorship and rejects mails it thinks are spam, and secondly, it is as flaky as hell and doesn’t accpet any mail at all for hours. The spam censorship is very crude, it rejects most of my work emails since they talk about business and have URLS, but I guess it might be better than Onetel where the mail servers there often featured on spam blacklists, so I couldn’t email the European Commission without having my emails rejected. So, how to solve this? Well I already had, in that I use Google Mail and use it to send my email through their secure smtp server which does not operate on port 25 and is not blocked by Orange. It works, it is a little fiddly since I have to change my default “From” email on Gmail, but all in all it’s okay. BUT I am a nerd, a techhead through and through, what do the poor sods stuck on the end of Orange’s shinky and censorious service do? I guess you get a Google Mail account and access your email online, I have to say that it increasingly looks the best solution all round. Now, I guess it’ll not surprise you that Orange also seem to have a firewall running that by default tries to stop p2p traffic. It doesn’t seem to work that well, Azureus and aMule seem to get round it well, but again it’s not something they warn you of when you sign up and since I went for the “unlimited” account it would have been reasonable to expect it.

Oh well, I’m okay, but I do feel sorry for some of the people this will bite in the ass.

29 Aug

Schmap Map

I am very chuffed that one of my CC licensed pictures has been shortlisted for the 3rd edition of the Schmap guide to Sheffield. I already have one of my Brussels pictures in the Schmap guide to Brussels, so I guess I must take not too bad pics after all! Schmap guides are multimedia travel guides to cities that, last time I looked, were free. They can be accessed online or downloaded in Windows or Mac versions. The Windows version seems to run fine using Crossover, I haven’t tested it with Wine but it may well work fine.

23 Aug

Matt got GCSEs

I am pleased as punch to say that Matt has got his GCSE results today, 7 A-s (1 an A*), 3 B-s and an ICT DIDA which is 4 GCSE equivalent at the highest level. So, better keep him after all..

11 Aug

Lord of the Rings Stage Show

Matt, Ann and I went to see the Lord of the Rings Stage Show at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane last night and it was great!
Granted to fit the LOTR into 3 hours there is some compacting, conflating and most dramatically Theoden and Denethor are rolled into one and the Battle at Helms Deep with the Battle at Minas Tirith, but it works and is great. It is more about acting than singing, although there are some great songs and Galadriel is enchanting, but this is the best fantasy stage show I have seen, I loved it, Matt liked it but was niggled by the Theoden-Denethor thing and Ann who is not a fantasy fan at all thought it was absolutely great.

You may see some mixed reviews, and I have to say I suspect they are from critics going and expecting a Miss Saigon or a Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which this is not. For those of you with multichannel TV look out for a documentary on the show’s staging on Nat Geographic and for those that saw the Hobbit in Leeds, this is better and a little lighter. It would suit kids from 8 upwards easily, the hobbits always make it fun, and the highpoints for me? Galadriel, Gollum and Sam..

http://www.lotr.com/home.php

26 Jul

Why are PCs so damned slow?

Con Kolivas is a famed Linux kernel developer who recently gave it all up. He makes some great points about how slow PCs are today even though they are so much more powerful than the PCs we all started with..

The standard argument people give me in response is ‘but they do such more these days it isn’t a fair comparison’. Well, they’re 10 times slower despite being 1000 times faster, so they must be doing 10,000 times as many things. Clearly the 10,000 times more things they’re doing are all in the wrong place

His departing interview, which is about PCs and speed in general, both Linux and others is here.

It does make some very good points, why is my uber turbo bastard PC basically no faster than the first 8080 PC I ever used in an office, or the Atari ST that I loved and adored for so many years?

Another PC blogger, Mary Jo Foley, notes with some disdain how the vaunted fast boot of Vista has failed to deliver.