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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BBC, Macintosh, Cymru

I saw that there is now a new version of the BBC iPlayer for Macintosh, so I decided to give it a try even though I can't see myself downloading DRM-crippled versions of shows that I've already paid for through my licence fee. Anyway, I had to sign up to be a BBC labs tester and it didn't work anyway, but after giving up on trying to download a TV show, I clicked on the "Radio" tab instead and...

Well done BBC

Everything was in Welsh.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fun and games

Well, here's a little light relief in a life made miserable by Brown's crackpot economic policies (yes, I've been filling in my online tax return). One of my all-time favourite games, SimCity, now works on the iPhone. And it's brilliant!


I'm really impressed by the way it's been organised for the device. Obviously, it's been simplified in one or two areas, but the controls are nicely arranged and easy to work through, and it's an incredibly satisfying waste of time on the train. It turns out that almost any random arrangement of streets, railways and public buildings results in a better-planned town than Woking. I imagine that this represents some amazing underlying mathematical principle, like Godel's Incompleteness Theorm or something, so I shall keep on working on it.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last minute Xmas shopping

I got an e-mail from Amazon, telling me that they had some fantastic savings in the "Toys and Games" section so I clicked on the link to see if there were any last minute bargains to be had.

Amazon Bargain

Wow! A massive 1p off. I wonder if this is something to do with the Prime Mentalist's recovery plan. Another 0.03% off VAT to transform the British economy?

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Friday, December 19, 2008

It was fun while it lasted, that blogging thing

Un oh.

I’ve just received some information that could have major consequences for bloggers. My understanding is that a green paper will be published in the New Year setting out plans to make it easier for people to sue for defamation. The idea is to cut down the disproportionate costs of bringing a libel action and there’s even a suggestion that there could be a small claims court for libel.

[From » Blog Archive » Is Labour about to clamp-down on the blogsphere?]

It's only a matter of time before South West Trains or Woking Borough Council take umbrage and shit me down. If you think this might be an exaggeration, remember that Labour have form here. They've wanted to get hold of the interweb for a while.

Answering questions from the floor at the Royal Television Society conference in London last month, Minister for Truth Andy Burnham said: "The time has come for perhaps a different approach to the internet. I want to even up that see-saw, even up the regulation [imbalance] between the old and the new."

[From says: Regulate the internet • The Register]

Oh dear. I suspect that the green paper (or the "Proposed Full Employment Act for Lawyers" as it should more properly be called) will have no effect other than to destroy the UK web hosting industry as everyone moves their servers to the US and stops using their real name to publish. I actually have a friend who is already involved in a bizarre law suit that originates in the US. A guy in the US (let's call him "The Nutter", for short) is trying to sue a guy here in the UK for using the same name as him in a social network context (don't ask me for details, I won't give them).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas tits

I absolutely love Slade. When I was a kid, they were the first band I adored. I can remember going to a school disco with a Slade scarf that I'd bought and thinking it was the business. I loved it when they were on Top of the Pops and I still think that some of their foot-stomping chart-toppers are classics of the genre. Years ago, I saw them at the Reading Festival and they were still fabulous.

This is why it upsets me so much to say it, but "Merry Xmas Everybody" gets on my tits.

But it set me thinking about a suitable replacement. Obviously, there must be a ubiquitous Christmas tune, played in every shop, hotel and restaurant in Britain from 25th November to 25th December, otherwise it just wouldn't be a traditional Yule.

With renewed tension between NATO and Russia, I think it's time to recognise "Christmas at Ground Zero" by Weird Al Yankovich as the new Chrismas standard. Oddly, they weren't playing it in Tesco today, but it's always been one of my favourite Weird Al tunes and since we're wallowing in 1970s nostaliga at the moment -- Slade, last days of Labour government presiding over economic collapse, Sterling crisis, that sort of thing -- then all we need is a good Cold War singalone and we've got the set. All together now, "It's Christmas at Ground Zero, the button has been pressed..."

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No question

Well that was fun. We went to BBC Radio 4 "Any Questions" which happened to be at the kid's school. It was jolly enjoyable. I've listened to the show for years, but had never really thought about how it worked. What happened was that you fill out a form with your question on the way in and then they pick a few questions from all of those submitted. Before the show begins, they announced whose questions have "won" and those people are invited down to the front row where there is a person with a microphone. The questions are typed out so that the people don't forget them or get mixed up. It all went very smoothly, except at the end when it turned out that the recording of the show had a glitch at the beginning, so they had to do the introduction again.

I couldn't help notice the big difference between the experienced Labour politician Bob Marshall-Andrews and the (somewhat content-free, I thought) Liberal Democrat and the Conservative new boy. I thought the old hand easily wiped the floor with them by being good at being a politician rather than by being right, and he did it very well. It's educational to see a politician, a real politician, work a room like that. Good for him.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saturday night's alright for...

Was it Alan Bennett who said that you know you're middle-aged when the phone rings on a Saturday night and you hope it's not for you. Well, that happened to me last week, and now I can't stop ruminating on this wisdom of the great man. The accuracy and resonance are truly wonderful and I now feel that I have come to terms with the transition to Middle Age. This means that a strange peace has descended, so that even when I had to sit next to two Canadians discussing the merits of various rucksack designs all the way home from Waterloo, I was at one with the universe (and, of course, I had my iPhone so I was able to enlist the support of Brian Johnson to drown them out).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lunatics in charge of regulating the asylum

If I were a rational person then I would simply despair for our future and/or leave the country.

"The internet as a whole is an excellent source of casual opinion," he said. "TV is where people often look for expert or authoritative opinion."

[From Government plans to tighten up online regulation, says culture secretary Andy Burnham | Media |]

God help us. What the Kultur Kommissar actually means by this comment is that TV can still be regulated after a fashion whereas the Internet cannot. I remember reading a book about the history of TV in America -- I can't remember what it was called, this was a few years ago -- which made a penetrating observation about this phenomenon, saying essentially that the guiding principle of government regulation of TV was that the government was regulating because... it could. It couldn't regulate print media any more so it transferred both its cultural nightmares of the mob and its content to the new medium of television. Now that television is beginning to matter less and the fractured multi-channel, trans-national business is harder to regulate, it has become the establishment friend of power and the great unwashed have got their hands on blogs to the dismay of the aristocrats.

Incidentally, so far as the relationship between TV and the Internet goes, I see that Channel 4 has thrown in the towel on behalf of the broadcasters and started broadcasting a programme made up from -- as far as the briefest of glances could tell -- nothing more than YouTube clips. While this is certainly an improvement on the usual Celebrity Chefs on Ice rubbish (particularly because no celebrities or chefs are getting paid because of it) it's not at all clear why you wouldn't just watch YouTube.

Anyway, back to that well-known source of authoritative and expert opinion, TV. As far as I know, the majority of the population never watch documentaries, news, current affairs or anything else aspiring to the Reithian vision. I doubt that 1 in 20 people know who Andy Burnham is. I only know who he is because he made a very, very dumb statement when he was the minister in charge of ID cards, saying that

"I take the view that it is part of being a good citizen, proving who you are, day in day out," said Mr Burnham.

[From Fifth defeat for ID card scheme | Politics |]

There's a pattern here: he's wrong about everything. But why is he so wrong about the Net? The Net gives me access to authoritative opinion: it's TV that is the source of casual opinion. If I want to know about the impact of some health care reform, I'll go and reader a doctor's blog. If I want to know what's going on in the police force, I'll read a policeman's blog. And so on. Why on Earth would I care what Fiona Phillips or Jeremy Paxman thinks about things?

Sure it's early days, and the structure and etiquette have yet to settle down, but it's already clear that having direct access to first hand experience, well-informed opinion and up-to-date expertise make the Net far more valuable that almost all opinion from television.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]