Monday, January 31, 2011

The 'Guardian' Article On Upcoming EDL Demo In Luton ...

The Guardian reports today on Saturday's upcoming Demo in Luton.
"The far-right English Defence League is due to stage the biggest demonstration in its 18-month history this weekend amid growing fears of widespread disorder. Thousands of EDL activists from across England will descend on Luton, the Bedfordshire town where the organisation started, for the protest on Saturday."
There may well be thousands of EDL there, so they claim. But there'll be just as many - probably more UAF, LMHR, and ordinary citizens of all colours, races, religeons (or none at all) to fight them off.

Microsoft Warning Over Browser Security Flaw ... Again.

BBC Reports that Microsoft has issued a "critical" warning over a newly-discovered flaw in Windows. Again.

"In a security advisory, the company warned of a loophole that could be used by malicious hackers to steal private information or hijack computers. The bug potentially affects every user of the Internet Explorer web browser - around 900 million people worldwide."

Microsoft has issued a software 'patch' (a short-term solution) but is still working on a long-term fix.

Like this is news. It may as well be an everyday headline. If you use Windows, and persist in using MSIE (instead of Firefox), your system will be constantly downloading patches and updates from MicroSoft - almost every day, if you let it. All this is in the background, as MicroSoft wouldn't want you to worry about the security flaws.

Geeks, tech-heads and anyone in the IT industry know all about this - which is why we use Firefox (mind, you we also tend not to use Windows anyway). Most geeks I know use Linux.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SECS In Kingston. No, You Did Read That Right ...

Did something totally strange tonight. Fun. but strange.

Along with members of Facebook Group 'Surbiton Escalator Choral Society', we did a flash-mob performance at Bentalls of Kingston of Ira & George Gershwin's 'Stairway To Paradise' from 'An American In Paris', originally performed by Georges Guétary in the 1953 musical.

Great fun, and sounded pretty good. This video was the original that we practiced to. We did it without the French accent.

Lots of very surprised looks on faces of various shoppers, but also quite a crowd of onlookers who'd probably heard that something was going on and picked a good spot to watch the performance.

Here's a few quick snaps of the car-park practice and a group of us suspiciously 'milling around' before the event.

The grand finale at the top of the escalator: (thanks to TangleFeet)
 

Rough cut of video:


PostScript 2/2/2011 - Found another video!

Today Is International Holocaust Memorial Day ...

Not that you'd notice from the lack of coverage in the media. International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated as January 27th, because on that day in 1945 the largest Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops.

So where is the media coverage? Or even any mention? None at all as far as I can tell from network news on British TV. Are we already forgetting? Resigning the Holocaust to past history instead of current event?

And is there any further reason we could possible need to fight against the nazi racist EDL in Luton on 5th February.... ? I've seen too many nazi salutes from EDL thugs to claim that Nazism in all forms is yet dead.


Royal Marines TV Ad - 'It's A State Of Mind' ...

Just because...


Allen Stanford 'Unfit To Stand Trial' For Fraud ...

BBC reports that a US federal judge has ruled Texan billionaire Allen Stanford is ' unfit to stand trial' over his $7bn (£4.5bn) fraud scheme. District Judge David Hittner ruled that Mr Stanford 'did not have the present mental capacity' to assist his lawyers.

Well, surprise bloody surprise. Another incredibly rich man seeks to avoid jail by virtue of a mental illness. Feigned or otherwise?

Remember Ernest Saunders, anyone? The very rich convicted Guinness fraudster who was sentenced to five years imprisonment for his crimes, but released after 10 months as he was apparently suffering with Alzheimer's Disease. He later recovered, making him the only person in the world - ever - to recover from the illness. Hmmm.

Since then, Saunders has resumed a full career and worked as a business consultant, including advising mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse, Harpur-Gelco, and a tax-dodging company called Seed International Ltd, based in the Cayman Islands (of course). Seems he really has made a full recovery.

Sandford has already had his knighthood revoked, and is still under investigation by the FBI for money-laundering on behalf of the Mexican drug cartel.

Standford's illness may be real, of course, but the timing is suspicious to say the least. The super-rich just don't play by the same rules as us.

Cartoon By Hansson On Chinese Visit To US ....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Astrology Is Bollocks. Well, Dara O'Briain Says So...

Dara O'Briain (Mock The Week, etc) who also recently hosted the Astronomy - not Astrology -  specials on BBC has upset Astrologists by saying, "Let's get this straight once and for all, astrology is rubbish."

Too bloody right. No far-flung 'star' rules or influences my life, and by extension, nobody else's lives either. We are our own decisions. Fair play to DO'B for stating what we all know anyway.

Except that now, astrologers are demanding the BBC apologise. The Astrological Association is getting together a petition against the comments and demanding the corporation distance itself from them.

In what many scientists will see as strangely ironic, the group says that dismissing astrology as nonsense is ‘unsubstantiated’.

It says: ‘The Association will be requesting that the BBC make a public apology and a statement that they do not support the personal views of Professor Brian Cox or Dara O’Briains [sic] on the subject of astrology. We also request that the BBC will commit to making a fair and balanced representation of astrology when aired in the future.

The Astrological Association defence of astrology makes humorous reading.

(This is meaningless drivel believed in only by rather sad people.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Support Of Copyright Violation ...

Excellent article on the rights/wrongs of what the computer, gaming, music and film industries call 'Piracy', and what should be correctly called Copyright Infringement or Violation.

Blogger 'Latentexistence' always writes good stuff.

Read full article here.

Brilliant Video by RSAnimation ...

Utterly brilliant, brilliant animation based on Steven Johnson's presentation at the RSA London about 'Where Good Ideas Come From' last November.

Where do good ideas come from? And what do we need to know and do to have more of them? 

Steven Johnson, one of our most innovative popular thinkers, explores the secrets of inspiration.


You can watch this bigger version here at YouTube, and you can also download for free the audio of the presentation here.

About The RSA

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been, for over 250 years, a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Their approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.

About Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson is the author of Mind Wide Open, Emergence, Everything Bad Is Good For You and The Ghost Map. Johnson’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Guardian, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He also writes for Discover Magazine and Wired.com, and was co-founder of the award-winning websites FEED and Plastic.com.

He teaches at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and also hosts a blog at www.stevenberlinjohnson.com.

Added To The Boycott List - Boots Chemist ...

In June 2008, after more than a century and a half in the UK, Boots moved out of the country to Zug, Switzerland. Not their stores or their business, you understand, just their head office.

The British household name had been acquired in Europe’s largest private equity deal in 2007, thanks to £9.3bn of borrowing - interest payments on the Alliance Boots debt in 2008 were so large they wiped out profit in the UK, and the tax that used to go with it.

Ten years ago the Boots group generally paid about one-third of its profits in UK tax, around £120-£150m each year.

Now they pay just 3% to the UK exchequer, despite all that money coming from British customers.

This is a company that on it's website claims to "do business with fairness and integrity."

If 'Alliance Boots' choose to move their business elsewhere, so will we.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

European Cities Crack Down On Free Parking to Reduce Car Use, Make Room for Biking, Walking ...

What needs to be done to get more people out of their cars? Offer incentives for taking public transportation? Make driving more expensive?

It's a question that's being asked in congested metropolises around the world. But many European cities have found the answer to be fairly simple: make it harder (and/or costlier) to park.

According to a new study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, innovative parking policies in Europe are allowing cities to enjoy "revitalized town centers, big reductions in car use, drops in air pollution, and rising quality of urban life."

Full article here.

For Your MP3 Player ...

A couple of links to Audios that your MP3 player will like, if you're like me.

Firstly, a couple of MashUps first from MashUp Industries :

DJ Schmolli - Not Gonna Hold It Against Me : Britney Spears mashed with t.A.T.u. - But it's pretty good, I promise.



Marc Johnce - Rolling Sassy Against Me : Britney Spears, Kat Graham and Adele mashed together.

Finally, From The Guardian, a link to this week's Tech Weekly Podcast.

Download here.

Charles Arthur reports from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with reaction to the news that Windows is to run on ARM chips, plus Sony's plunge deep into 3D, and mind-controlled TV. Plus Aleks and Jemima discuss this week's news.

I'm a regular listener to the GTWP, always interesting stuff.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For Linux Fans ... Gnome 3 Desktop Is Looking Beautiful ...

For all you Linux fans, the new Gnome3 Desktop (available soon) is just looking so smooth. Really shows what Linux can do. All jealous Windows users can apply here.



Unite Against Fascism vs EDL ...

Was asked yesterday, after volunteering as steward and security at various UAF (Unite Against Fascism events, to volunteer one day a week at their London office. Didn't need to think about it. Said yes in 0.7 seconds. What a trip to be a part of this movement.

Unite Against Fascism is the anti-fascist pressure group in Great Britain, with support from politicians of all mainstream UK political parties. It describes itself as a national campaign with the aim of alerting British society to a perceived threat of the far right — in particular the British National Party (BNP) gaining a foothold at local, national and European elections, arguing that "there is a real danger that the BNP could get a significant platform in elected institutions."

The real fight now is against the EDL (English Defence League). A significant number of English Defence League members are known to have been convicted of football hooliganism offences. Well, you can tell just by looking at them:



Nick Lowles, the editor of anti-racist magazine Searchlight says the EDL poses two risks. One is the formation of a street army prepared to travel around the country to fight and provide organisational support. The other is the group's tactics of carrying placards and chanting in places that are potential flashpoints. Searchlight added that not every leader of the EDL is a fascist or hardcore racist. Meanwhile, on the BBC's Sunday morning Andrew Marr show on December 13, 2010, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti described the EDL as "modern day blackshirts".

See also:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Formula 1 - Britains Greatest Export ... ?

News that Lotus are taking over the Renault F1 team has broken the hearts of French F1 fans - yup, if Renault win a GP this year (I said 'if') they'll be raising the Union Flag and playing 'God Save The Queen'. Lotus may be owned by Malaysian company Proton, but “Lotus is an English manufacturer,” Team Principal Éric Boullier said after the launch of the team’s new livery at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham.



We will be running under a British licence now,” added the Frenchman, whose team factory is based at Enstone in central England.

Which makes me think about F1 in general: one sport, at least, where GB dominates the world. Look at the teams:
  • RBR-Renault
    Austrian owned company using Renault engines, but as they appreciate British engineering skills, they're based in Milton Keynes, Bucks. 
  • McLaren-Mercedes
    New Zealand originated but now British company, using a German Mercedes engine (it's a good unit) with two British World Champion drivers (Hamilton and Button) and based in Woking, Surrey.  
  • Ferrari
    Pure Italian. always has been, always will be otherwise there'll be riots in Milan.
  • Mercedes GP
    German team with two German drivers (as of 2010), Schumacher and Rosberg. Which makes you wonder why they're based in Brackley, Northants.
  • Renault
    Now Lotus-Renault, see above. Based Enstone, Oxfordshire.
  • Williams-Cosworth
    All-British team based in Grove, Oxfordshire.
  • Force India-Mercedes
    Indian-owned, German-engined, but based in Silverstone, Northants.
  • BMW Sauber-Ferrari
    German/Swiss/Italian team that don't matter as they'vre never won anything and probably never will. Races: 295. Wins: just 1.
  • STR-Ferrari
    Italian team that have won just 1 win from 89 Grand Prix.
  • Lotus-Cosworth
    Will now become 'Team Lotus', based at Hingham, Norfolk.
  • HRT-Cosworth
    Spanish-owned and -based team that uses British engines. Only 19 races under their belts so fairly new.
  • Virgin-Cosworth
    British engine, chassis and base, at Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Although part-owned now by Marussia, a Russian sports car company (yeah, I know.)
That's 12 teams - and 8 of them - two-thirds - based here in the UK.

Since 1958, a Swiss team (Red Bull) has won 1 Constructors Championship, French three times (Matra, Renault), Italian 16 (Ferrari, of course) but British teams have notched up 33 Championships (Williams, McClaren, Lotus, Cooper, Brabham, Vanwall, BRM, Tyrell, Benetton and Brawn).

And in the same period GB has notched up 10 different World Champions - the nearest other nations are Brazil with 3 and Germany with 2. The Brits are Jackie Stewart (3), Jim Clark (2), Graham Hill (2), Mike Hawthorn (1), John Surtees (1), James Hunt (1), Nigel Mansell (1), Damon Hill (1), Lewis Hamilton (1) and Jenson Button (1).

F1 a Global Brand? Maybe.

British engineering and British drivers leading the way?

For sure.

How To Get Public Revenge ...


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sonisphere 2011 - It's Going To Be Epic ...

Regular followers may remember last year I wrote about Sonisphere 2010 with Rammstein being the highlight (and the reason I went).

So I've just put down the required £50 deposits for Sonisphere 2011 tickets for an unprecedented event in Rock - for the first time ever in the UK, the BIG FOUR of Rock will be together at one event.

Yes, it’s really true. SONISPHERE will be bringing together METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX in the UK for the first time in history to exclusively headline the Friday night at Knebworth.

Meanwhile here's a quick video from last year's event with Rammstein and Iron Maiden...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Excerpt From A Cat's Diary ...


Day 972 of my captivity:

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am.

Evil People!!

Day 973 of my captivity:

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.”

I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Day 974 of my captivity:

Two workmen came to the house today. As they rested after strengthening the interior of my confines, I sat on one, gently hooking my claws into their clothing. My plan was to cling on until they left, thus escape with them under the cover of their departure. The other workman went outside first and came back smelling strangely after something called a “cigarette”. Curses! I’d picked the wrong one! I heard they are coming back again in another week. I will repeat my escape attempt then.

Day 975 of my captivity:

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe.

For now……


MP's Four Letter Rant In Westminster ...



No, I'm not criticising him. I'm applauding Mark Pritchard for taking on the arrogant bugger who controls the house, the little egotistical Speaker John Bercow (above).

After Bercow made a gaffe and refused Pritchard the chance to ask a question because he wasn't in the House in time (he was, Bercow just didn't see him) Mark Pritchard confronts Bercow in the the coridors of power. The Speaker then stopped and pointed at Pritchard.



Bercow: “The courtesy of the House is that Honourable Members should stand aside when the Speaker passes by”.

Pritchard: “Mr Speaker, don’t point at me. I am not here to be abused by you.

Bercow: : “You will obey the courtesies of the House!

Pritchard: “You are not fucking royalty, Mr Speaker!



Apparently, T-shirts with the phrase "You're not fucking royalty, Mr Speaker!" have already been printed.

Full report here and at The Telegraph.

Like Tuna? - Which Ones To Buy - Or Not To Buy ...

What secrets are hiding in your tin of tuna?

There's a lot more to tinned tuna than just the fish inside the can. It could also have caused the deaths of turtles, sharks, dolphins and others. But there are ways to catch tuna without endangering other, already vulnerable marine species.

So which ones are 'PC' to buy and which to avoid?

This article from Greenpeace charts the major UK brands and ranks them 1 to 8.

Make your choice. It's a small thing, but reduced sales (and profits) from the villains might make them reconsider their actions on this and other products. In the same way, we should be rewarding those stores and manufacterers selling responsibly fished and sustained products.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Firefox Finally Officially Overtakes Microsoft's Internet Explorer ...

Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of Firefox, the world's best browser. Now, in Europe at least, Firefox has officially overtaken Micro$oft's Internet Explorer as the most popular browser being used (In the US, MSIE is streets ahead. I have no idea why. Are Europeans just smarter?)

Why is this important? Well, it seems every day we are bombarded with scare stories of identity theft, personal data loss, backtrack hacks and such. All of which are dealt with far better in Firefox than MSIE.

There are only two reasons why some people don't change; Either, 1: they don't have the knowledge that there are actually alternatives to MSIE or 2: they know but don't care or don't know how to change.

The other threat to MSIE is Google Chrome, which is very good indeed, but I'll stick with Firefox for now because of it's add-ons - particularly DownThemAll!, which doesn't look like appearing on Google Chrome anytime soon.

You can download Firefox here. 5 minutes that will change your internet experience for the better, and for ever.

Boxer Gary Mason Dies In Cycling Accident ...

Former boxer Gary Mason was killed Thursday in Wallington, South London when his cycle was involved in a collision with a white van.

The retired fighter was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mason won 37 of 38 fights as a pro, with his only defeat being to the great Lennox Lewis - who went on to become World Heavyweight Champion. He led a varied life after his boxing career, with a spell as a pundit for Sky Sports and a brief venture with rugby league side London Broncos.

I always thought that somehow in the event of any crash on my cycle, my physique and high tolerance to pain would see me through - that's why I rarely bother with a helmet. After seeing the story above, though, I'm reconsidering.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

England Will Win Ashes Series Tonight ...


In England we really should be a nation of cricket fans - it's our real national game. For years the Aussies have been the brash, arrogant cousins who lose occasionally in the UK but are unbeatable back in Oz. No more. And England have done it with an Aussie ball, on Aussie pitches.

This article by BBC journo Tom Fordyce nicely puts the whole Ashes into perspective, and reiterates just how incredible are Strauss's men achievements,

It's easy to take moments like this for granted. So many records have been set it's hard to take them all in. Curmudgeons might tell you it's only happening because Australia are so poor; after the thrashings in Adelaide and Melbourne, you might even be feeling a touch blasé.

Don't. These are special times for all England cricket fans. They should be savoured and celebrated, the carping and caveats left for darker days.

Scores are being made that were thought impossible. Wickets are being taken at a pace that shouldn't make logical sense. Scenes are unfolding that those of us lucky enough to witness are likely to be gushing about for years.
England crushed Australia in batting, bowling, fielding, fitness, desire and passion, bowl or field choices, review selection, strategy, psychology - and even fan support. Yes, for five tests the Barmy Army have outshouted and outsung the home-town supporters.



PostScript

England did, of course, go on to win in fine style. !!

Starbucks Changes It's Logo And Nobody Cares ...

Stop The Presses - Starbucks are changing their logo. They're dropping the name 'Starbucks' - as they feel that their logo, like Nike, is recognisable worldwide without any lettering. That's feasible, just.

What's more interesting is that along with dropping the name, they're dropping the word 'Coffee' too. Seems they want to diversify away from caffeine products into others such as branded ice-cream.

But let's be honest here. As a long-time coffee-holic I can confirm that Starbucks departed from the True Coffee Path years ago. The watery, flavourless, bland shlop they serve has never been regarded by true coffee fans (except Americans) as the real deal. Starbucks is about branding, expansion, and inventing a new way to make a frappa-cappa-mocha-choca-chino and sell it for £3.50 covered in squirty cream.

Every time I pass a Starbucks these days I sadly shake my head at the sad souls inside, no doubt warmed by their prescence in such a fashionable outlet.

Then I go to Cafe Nerro for a real coffee. Fortunately my local Nerro in Surbiton, Surrey, is run by two real Sicilian brothers who know their stuff.

Over the years they have won many accolades for the quality of their coffee and the overall experience, including being rated as "The best espresso this side of Milan" (Tatler), labelled "The traditional Italian Cafè" (Egon Ronay) and ranked the Best UK Coffee House brand for the ninth year running by UK consumers (Allegra Report, the UK’s definitive guide for the coffee industry).

That's what a coffee shop should be.