Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Tunnel

The Shining with Jack Nicolson was full of shocks. A masterpiece, it shocked but was as full of laughs much more than scare.

Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now was the first truly scary horror movie I ever saw. Full of suspense which didn't really come to a terrifying conclusion until the end.

Now I come across The Tunnel.

As an ex-caver and sometimes "urban explorer" this appealed.

"In 2007 the New South Wales government suddenly scrapped a plan to utilise the water in the disused underground train tunnels beneath Sydney. In 2008, chasing rumours of a government cover-up and urban legends surrounding the sudden backflip, investigative journalist Natasha Warner led a crew of four into the underground labyrinth. They went down into the tunnels looking for a story – until the story found them.

This is the film of their harrowing ordeal. With unprecedented access to the recently declassified tapes they shot in the claustrophobic subway tunnels, as well as a series of candid interviews with the survivors, we come face to face with the terrifying truth.

This never before seen footage takes us deep inside the tunnels bringing the darkness to life and capturing the raw fear that threatens to tear the crew apart, leaving each one of them fighting for their lives."

It is a free download although the makers would appreciate donations.

At the same time I discover that urban explorers have finally got into the London post office's underground railway system ... a kind of Golden Egg of UK urban exploration.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Aphorisms XII

“Thinking is the hardest work there is. That’s why so few people engage in it.”

Henry Ford

Monday, May 23, 2011

Digital Opportunity - A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth

I mentioned this report last week. I spent some time on it this weekend but at 140 pages could not get through it all and the NAO NHS IT report.

However, here are its principle recommendations which seem reasonably ok to me ...


1. Evidence. Government should ensure that development of the IP [Intellectual Proprerty] System is driven as far as possible by objective evidence. Policy should balance measurable economic objectives against social goals and potential benefits for rights holders against impacts on consumers and other interests. These concerns will be of particular importance in assessing future claims to extend rights or in determining desirable limits to rights.te

2. International priorities. The UK should resolutely pursue its international interests in IP, particularly with respect to emerging economies such as China and India, based upon positions grounded in economic evidence. It should attach the highest immediate priority to achieving a unified EU patent court and EU patent system, which promises significant economic benefits to UK business. The UK should work to make the Patent Cooperation Treaty a more effective vehicle for international processing of patent applications.

3. Copyright licensing.

• In order to boost UK firms’ access to transparent, contestable and global digital markets, the UK should establish a cross sectoral Digital Copyright Exchange. Government should appoint a senior figure to oversee its design and implementation by the end of 2012. A range of incentives and disincentives will be needed to encourage rights holders and others to take part. Governance should reflect the interests of participants, working to an agreed code of practice.

• The UK should support moves by the European Commission to establish a framework for cross border copyright licensing, with clear benefits to the UK as a major exporter of copyright works. Collecting societies should be required by law to adopt codes of practice, approved by the IPO and the UK competition authorities, to ensure that they operate in a way that is consistent with the further development of efficient, open markets.

4. Orphan works. The Government should legislate to enable licensing of orphan works. This should establish extended collective licensing for mass licensing of orphan works, and a clearance procedure for use of individual works. In both cases, a work should only be treated as an orphan if it cannot be found by search of the databases involved in the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange.

5. Limits to copyright. Government should firmly resist over regulation of activities which do not prejudice the central objective of copyright, namely the provision of incentives to creators. Government should deliver copyright exceptions at national level to realise all the opportunities within the EU framework, including format shifting, parody, non-commercial research, and library archiving. The UK should also promote at EU level an exception to support text and data analytics. The UK should give a lead at EU level to develop a further copyright exception designed to build into the EU framework adaptability to new technologies. This would be designed to allow uses enabled by technology of works in ways which do not directly trade on the underlying creative and expressive purpose of the work. The Government should also legislate to ensure that these and other copyright exceptions are protected from override by contract.

6. Patent thickets and other obstructions to innovation. In order to limit the effects of these barriers to innovation, the Government should:

• take a leading role in promoting international efforts to cut backlogs and manage the boom in
patent applications by further extending “work sharing” with patent offices in other countries;
• work to ensure patents are not extended into sectors, such as non-technical computer
programs and business methods, which they do not currently cover, without clear evidence of
• investigate ways of limiting adverse consequences of patent thickets, including by working with international partners to establish a patent fee structure set by reference to innovation and growth goals rather than solely by reference to patent office running costs. The structure of patent renewal fees might be adjusted to encourage patentees to assess more carefully the value of maintaining lower value patents, so reducing the density of patent thickets.

7. The design industry. The role of IP in supporting this important branch of the creative economy has been neglected. In the next 12 months, the IPO should conduct an evidence based assessment of the relationship between design rights and innovation, with a view to establishing a firmer basis for evaluating policy at the UK and European level. The assessment should include exploration with design interests of whether access to the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange would help creators protect and market their designs and help users better achieve legally compliant access to designs.

8. Enforcement of IP rights. The Government should pursue an integrated approach based upon
enforcement, education and, crucially, measures to strengthen and grow legitimate markets in
copyright and other IP protected fields. When the enforcement regime set out in the DEA becomes operational next year its impact should be carefully monitored and compared with experience in other countries, in order to provide the insight needed to adjust enforcement mechanisms as market conditions evolve. This is urgent and Ofcom should not wait until then to establish its benchmarks and begin building data on trends. In order to support rights holders in enforcing their rights the Government should introduce a small claims track for low monetary value IP claims in the Patents County Court.

9. Small firm access to IP advice. The IPO should draw up plans to improve accessibility of the IP system to smaller companies who will benefit from it. This should involve access to lower cost providers of integrated IP legal and commercial advice.

10. An IP system responsive to change. The IPO should be given the necessary powers and mandate in law to ensure that it focuses on its central task of ensuring that the UK’s IP system promotes innovation and growth through efficient, contestable markets. It should be empowered to issue statutory opinions where these will help clarify copyright law. As an element of improved transparency and adaptability, Government should ensure that by the end of 2013, the IPO publishes an assessment of the impact of those measures advocated in this review which have been accepted by Government.


Every morning as I wait for Morais to give me a lift to work and watch a chain of ants walking up and down a pillar from his upstairs to their nest under the ground. As they march backwards and forwards they meet each other and seemingly give each other a peck on the cheek ... I can only assume this is some kind of mechanism to give each other a navigation signal that they are on the right path.

Yesterday I found this quote from boingboing when it was a paper "zine" rather than a website:

"I look at a little ant as a machine, and I look at a computer as a kind of plant and to do that will help us to harness this new complexity in the machines we're making. And it may also help us understand the biology we already have."

Kevin Kelly editor of Wired in 1995

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Open Source Science

See this succinct article on open source science.


This was a horrrible food at school dinners when I was a kid but I have suddenly found an incredible delight for it (along with kidneys, heart, brains, sweetmeats).

Liver marinated in red wine done with onions and garlic in olive oil and butter is a delight!

So I say to Morais today I'm going to buy some liver for the weekend and he (also a fan of such morsels) asks "Pig . cow ... or human?"

I replied "Any! Come on even human has to taste similar!"

Then boingboing shows me this.

"Police in Russia have arrested a man who admitted eating an acquaintance's liver, after following a trail of severed body parts—limbs, a head—across Moscow. When they found him, he was eating the liver with potatoes. (Reuters)"

Friday, May 20, 2011

NHS reform is a Stunt

See this about the current government's plans for the NHS and its "consultation".


boingboing reports more rumour-mongering about Dichloroacetate - the supposed wonder drug for curing all types of cancer. We reported on this as far back as 2007.

Totally quack stupid!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another Damning Report

The UK National Audit Office publishes another report criticising the massive NHS information technology initiative. Press release here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Egg-Bot

I would love to have one of these! Links here and here.

Save Our NHS

Just received this from 38 Degrees:

Dear Angus,

Today, GPs issued a stark warning about Andrew Lansley's NHS plans. They warned we're "moving headlong" towards a more US-style health system based on "an insurance-type model" [1]. That'd be the end of the NHS as we know it - we can't let that happen.

GPs, nurses and patients' groups all know that protecting our health service is a matter of life and death. [2] But they can't save the NHS on their own. Hundreds of thousands of us need to work together to push the politicians to rethink their dangerous plans.

Over 265,000 of us have signed the Save Our NHS petition so far. In the next few weeks, we need to deliver the petition to hundreds of MPs. The bigger the petition, the bigger the impact we will have when it lands on politicians' desks. Can you help us get past 300,000 signatures this week?

Please can you forward this email to your friends and ask them to sign the Save the NHS petition? They can sign by clicking here:

On Facebook? Click here to share the petition on your profile:
On Twitter? Click to tweet a link to the petition:

Our campaign has already helped push the government to announce a pause in their plans for the NHS. But there is a risk they will try to push ahead with minimal changes. We need to keep the pressure up, and that means keeping the petition growing.

We know that when we work together behind a growing petition we can transform things. When over 500,000 of us signed the Save Our Forests petition we forced the government to back away from their plans to privatise the forests. Now we need to convince our MPs that we won't let them press ahead with these dangerous plans.

Please forward this email to your friends now and ask them to sign the Save Our NHS petition at:

Thanks for getting involved,

Johnny, David, Hannah, Becky, Cian and the 38 Degrees team

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bin Laden Hagiography

The US military may have dumped Bin Laden's corpse into the ocean so that his tomb does not become a shrine, and refuses to release photos of his corpse claiming it would be a security risk, but the conspiracy theories (particularly concerning the relationship between Pakistani and US security services) and folklore are beginning to blossom.

I particularly liked this ...

"Osama Bin Laden had some interesting items sewn into his clothes, according to CNN.

Osama bin Laden had 500 Euros (about $745) in cash and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed, a source present at a classified briefing on the operation Tuesday told CNN Wednesday.

The numbers, an official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, were for a Pizza Hut and a 24-hour taxicab service in Highbury, North London."

So was he planning an attack on a north London pizzeria with a minicab courier or did he just have culinary nostalgia from his days studying in the UK?

boingboing reported previously this explanation:

"By various reports, we are now learning that marijuana grew along the outside walls of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Was the Al Qaeda mastermind a stoner? He and his buds were said to have "bought a lot of food," and frequently placed bulk orders for Coke and Pepsi with a local grocer— so there's that. And, those glazed and distant eyes. But I doubt it: if ever there were a persona more harsh than mellow, it was this fellow.

And, oh, alright: truth is, it's not unusual to find patches of wild cannabis growing in this region."

Although I am not entirely in sympathy with Bin Laden and his philosophy, it is good to hear that he was supporting Hemp History Week.

Munchies? Can someone give me contacts for pizzerias in Attarabad?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Media Piracy in Emerging Economies II

Cory Doctorow of boingboing informs us in his Guardian column that Joe Karaganis, lead author and editor of the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies report we discussed in our last post, is now on a lobbying tour.

It is somewhat of a shame this does not seem to include the emerging economies the report discusses. However, I guess he needs to go where the power and money brokers are.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Media Piracy in Emerging Economies

See this report.

To me this is as an important an issue as the manufacture of drugs against HIV in the "3rd World".

I know my friends and colleagues throughout Africa are downloading music, films and software using every which means they can. We cannot afford the prices that Europe or the See this report.

To me this is as an important an issue as the manufacture of drugs against HIV in the "3rd World".

I know my friends and colleagues throughout Africa are downloading music, films and software using every which means they can. We cannot afford the prices that Europe or North America fork out on music, paper or software.

When I get round to reading it all, I'll probably post some more.

A shame that at 440 pages long we cannot afford the paper or ink to print it!