Holidays…

I’m off to Italy for the next couple of weeks, and I’ve no idea what ‘net access will be available where we are staying, so posting may be a little thin on the ground. I do want to try and do a bit of travel blogging, though – get the practice in for New Zealand!

(I tell you, after yesterday’s farcical fuckup, I’m not sorry to be seeing the back of London for a while. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen this evening. Touch wood. (Hang on, I’m not supposed to be superstitious…))

First NYC, now London…

Right now I’ve no idea what caused today’s power failures (a fault with the National Grid?), but I do know that if we hadn’t stopped off for a cuppa, we’d have been among those on a tube when the power cut out. Instead, we got to walk half way across London in the rain, unable to get on the overcrowded buses, before eventually forcing our way onto one in Islington. Got home at about 21.15, soaked and cold. Funny to think that only a week or two back everyone was wilting in the heat.

Knackered.

Update (22:36)
Listening to Radio 4, and it sounds like things are still a bit of a nightmare in town so perhaps we were lucky – at least we got home!

txt spam

If the email spam plague and the sobig virus weren’t enough, the quantity of unsolicited txt msgs I receive on my mobile phone seems to be creeping up recently. For example, I got this last night:

From: 6655442

As a valued customer, I am pleased to advise you that following recent review of your Mob No. you are awarded with a £1500 Bonus Prize, call 09066364589

Sent: 27-Aug-2003 22:41:04

09* Numbers are Premium Rate, and cost £££ to call, and I’m sure I remember a factoid that this information had to accompany any solicitation to call one. No such information in this message. Also, the ‘From:’ number looks forged to me, but I didn’t dare call it. If this were an email, we’d call it spam, because that’s what it is. I think that this kind of promotion of premium rate services is underhand – I can’t believe the claims that I’ve won lots of cash from someone who doesn’t even have the courtesy to identify themselves. It’s clearly an attempt to get me to call their expensive phoneline. Now I wouldn’t usually bother, but it annoyed me enough to make me want to complain to someone.

I should probably start by informing my service provider, mmO2. A bit of digging through their website brings up some advice on how to deal with nuisance calls, which seems to cover text messages as well. Searching for ‘spam’ brings up nothing. Before calling customer care, I’m going to do a bit more checking around.

I recall seeing something on this topic at the BBC recently, and a search over there pulls up an item discussing measures being taken by vodafone to combat txt spam. Not much use for me, but they also mention the ICSTIS (the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (phew!)) – which is “the industry-funded regulatory body for all premium rate charged telecommunications services”. Looks good, so let’s surf on over.

The ICSTIS FAQ on unsolicited promotions (PDF) states clearly that:

Call charge details and any other information, which is likely to affect a decision to
participate, should be clearly stated. In the case of text messages, information required
under the Code of Practice should be stated before the premium rate number.

So I filled in their online complaint form. Wonder if that’ll do any good? They say it might take up to 12 weeks to reply! I’ll probably never find out, because I gave ’em my work email, and I’m gone in five weeks… Still, it’s the thought that counts.

(Hmm. Interesting way to spend one’s lunch break.)

New Life

At the end of September, I’m leaving my job and moving out of my flat, and I haven’t a replacement lined up for either. But that’s OK – it’s sort of the point, really.

After much discussion and more than a bit of prevarication, we are going to book some flights after work tonight. We’re off to New Zealand for a while, hopefully until the northern spring anyway. We got work visas, and a bit of cash stashed, so we reckon on being able to sustain a reasonable life over there for a while, plus take a look round what’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

And them when we get back, headspace refound and rut long abandoned, it’s time to start again. And the aim is to build a better life, one where the inevitable earning of money doesn’t end up totally dominating every other aspect of life. I’m already in a reasonable starting position, with no real debt and no responsibilities, which provides an opportunity to take a few risks without putting anyone else out.

Adam Greenfield wrote an interesting post at marginwalker titled ‘Real value and the nature of work’, where he talks about the difference between modes of “work” and asks us how we “construct creativity and work” – how do we build a balance between them into our lives? He has made a decision to chase a life where he survives and (hopefully!) prospers doing the things that he does best, the things he finds constructive and enjoys, because one the one hand he’ll be happier that way, and on the other he feels that he’ll contribute more that way.

And I think he’s right, and that’s where I’ve been going in my own thoughts lately. I’m afraid that I’ve yet to evolve any methods to do this, but we’ve got to start somewhere, and this is an opportunity to do just that.

Tories threaten BBC digital services

I missed this yesterday – but it seems that the Tory party would like to get rid of the BBC website along with various other aspects of it’s digital endeavours because, essentially, they are not ideologically correct.

The party’s culture spokesman, John Whittingdale, told Guardian Unlimited Politics he was “not persuaded” of the case for a public service website and that he was “not convinced the BBC needs to do all the things it is doing at the present”, including providing “more and more channels”.

“As a free-market Conservative, I will only support a nationalised industry if I’m persuaded that that is the only way to do it and if it were not nationalised it would not happen.”

(Source: The Guardian)

I know the BBC has it’s detractors, and I have had problems with it from time to time as well, but as a sometime license-fee payer and UK citizen, I feel quite strongly that the BBC should carry on expanding it’s services, particularly online. I can’t comment on the digital channels, but the website is generally an excellent resource – a point conceded by Whittingdale.

He goes on to say that this is because it has had “a lot of money thrown at it”. So? It’s worth it, Mr. Whittingdale. The market introduces it’s own biases into the media, and despite the odd problem the BBC might have, or be seen to have, it is at least subject to a different set of constraints and can provide us with a view from a different angle.

On a related note, anyone seen any Conservative response to Dyke’s speech on the archives yet? I had a brief look throught the Conservative Party website, but couldn’t see anything. Or any of the parties, for that matter.

ID Card, redux (ad nauseum)

According the Guardian, Blunkett is going to piggy-back trials for his proposed ID card on trials for the new Passports due to the fact that trials for the ID card cannot go ahead without legislation, while trials for the passport can and the tech is largely the same. Home Office denials don’t sound too convincing:

A Home Office spokesman last night denied that the trial was a pilot for identity cards, but acknowledged that “its results will feed into the debate” on the project. The pilot scheme was “a testing process for facial recognition for one-to-one verification using iris and fingerprint biometrics”, he said. That would involve an immigration or police officer using a scanner to check the identity of a cardholder.

(Source: The Guardian)

So despite opposition to the idea, Blunkett wants to press on regardless. It’s also worth remembering that there isn’t a lot of evidence to support claims that the ID card will help prevent terrorism, or benefit fraud, or even help us to curb the rising tide of swarthy foreigners that so threaten to overwhelm our green and pleasant land, which seem to be the three big issues that come up in association with the scheme.

Liberty has highlighted the fact that other Western European countries with ID cards do not seem to have solved any of these complex social and economic problems. Identity cards may be a handy PR gimmick for the Government to try and show it is “doing something”, but it has not been shown to be a useful policy tool on the continent. Indeed, much of the evidence seems to point to national identity card schemes worsening community and race relations, fuelling a criminal industry in the production of forgeries, and causing administrative problems for the authorities.

(Source: Liberty)

Brought to you via An Oasis, which was spotted updating in the wild with the help of the UK Blogs Aggregator.

Puma(s) loose in Ulster (2)

Following up on my earlier post, my friend Gavin (who happens to hail from the part of the world in question) provided some remarks in the comments and pointed me towards coverage in the Belfast Telegraph:

Despite air searches by the RAF spotter planes and police marksmen attempting to track the beast through forests in rural north Antrim, the wild cat has so far evaded capture.

Moulds taken from prints left by the animal in a field outside Portrush were examined by experts at Belfast Zoo, who have confirmed that there is a wild cat running wild on the north coast.

There have now been more that 20 positive sightings of the dark brown big cat, which has been described as a cougar, a puma, a panther or a mountain lion.

So it appears that there really is an ABC prowling around up there. Not only that, but it seems there’s some concern that the animal in question could turn on a human with little compunction, and there has been no luck in catching the beast thus far. So watch out if you’re planning on taking a walk through any lonely stretch of north Antrim over the next few weeks 🙂

Open Source BBC

I know that this announcement has been slashdotted, boingboinged, and discussed here and there across the blogosphere generally, but I feel I’ve just got to add my voice to the chorus shouting “What a GREAT IDEA!”

Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation’s programme archives.

Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet.

The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added.

(Source: BBC Report)

For real analysis, see Oblomovka, or possibly Hanging Day. There are obviously going to be some bugs to squash before this happens – see, for instance, the discussion at Oblomovka for some examples, but the idea’s there and it’s fantastic!