There’s a wonderful synergistic relationship between:

  1. Sennheiser EW112P G2 radio microphone sets, and the
  2. Apple Bluetooth (wireless) Mighty Mouse.

See, you never want to put old batteries in a radio mic set. There’s nothing worse than them packing up part-way through an interview, and you can guarantee they’ll give up right in the middle of the best delivery you get all day. This is particularly key when you’re a one-person crew, in that you usually can’t monitor audio as much as you should.

The only way to avoid the scenario is to install fresh batteries for each shoot. Fine. But then you end up with squillions of half-dead batteries lying around. What do you do with them?

Feed them to the mouse.

It’s even a good way of checking your shooting ratios. If you’re racking up batteries faster than your mouse can chomp through the dregs, you’re either editing very quickly, or you’re shooting too much stuff for the amount of edit time you’ve got.

Maker Faire Newcastle, 2009

From the mailing list of the fabulous British Interactive Group:

I know lots of BIG chatters are big fans of Make magazine and will know about the Maker Faires it puts on in the US. Now Maker Faire is coming to the UK as part of the Newcastle Science Festival on 14th/15th March 2009 in Times Square outside the Centre for Life and various other nearby spaces, so we’re looking for Makers to take part. (to get an idea of what they get up to in the US ones, see this site, although this first UK one won’t be anywhere near as big)

If you want to come and show off your projects, run a workshop etc etc we’d like to hear from you. There’s going to be a banner announcement going up on the Make Blog in the next couple of days that will connect you to a sign-up form, so please sign up there rather than mailing me direct. Sign-up deadline is 30th Jan, so you have the hol to think about what you might want to do.

Please pass this on to any makers of your acquaintance – we’d love to see as many people participating as possible, whether they weld big bits of metal, programme arduinos, hack toys or make weird bikes, all are welcome.


I’m told they’re also recruiting a project manager for the event.

Ford and soy beans

Interesting video from some friends of Vinay’s, looking at soy bean use in seat cushion foams for Ford vehicles. No, really, it is interesting. It’s also short, which is arguably the most important property of any web video.

Bandwidth bandwidth everywhere…

…and not a drop to slurp.

I’m in Cambridge, staying in a very pleasant room in Trinity College which sports four (count ’em, four) gigabit ethernet sockets. So why, one might wonder, am I sitting in Café Nero round the corner, having just bought a 24 hour voucher for BT OpenZone?

Because the University Computing Service have cancelled my account. Gits. It’s only been 14 years since I last logged in as ‘jjs13,’ what were they thinking?


Lego car factory

Have I mentioned before how much I hate bad video compression? Ugh ugh ugh. Genius model, though. Utterly charming, in a ‘who has the time?!’ sort of way.

via Tony Hirst of the OU, on Twitter. He also points to this later (and better-shot) aircraft factory:

This rather puts me in mind of Chris Burden’s 1999 Tate installation “When Robots Rule: The Two-Minute Airplane Factory“, which was a terrific thing even if it never actually, you know, worked. When I saw it, at least, it was generating heated discussions about the place of industrial machinery in an art gallery. I thought it was beautiful; some other visitors, er, disagreed. Strongly.

More on UK internet censorship

Further to my previous post, some more links for your delectation:

The Wikimedia Foundation – the charity behind Wikipedia – have issued a statement on the situation, a press release. and some FAQs. Interestingly, they say the Internet Watch Foundation have confirmed the ban to them, which I didn’t think was IWF policy… but I can’t get into their website right now. No, really, their server’s non-responsive as of 0935 GMT. Go, as they say, figure.

Meanwhile, BBC News Online has the story on their front page, but rather misses the point (to my mind, it’s not about the banned image – which may indeed be considered child pornography under UK law, I wouldn’t know – it’s (a.) the lack of transparency and accountability in the process, and (b.) the cack-handed methodology that’s led to editing Wikipedia being off-limits to most of the UK).

I missed the 0854 segment on the Today programme this morning; the earlier bulletin update was simply the first half of the News Online story.

I see nothing at the Guardian or Telegraph yet, but the Independent does have it. My ISP, Be, have issued an interim response. Which doesn’t quite get things right either, but at least they’re talking about it.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, either: here’s an excellent, if lengthy, run-down of the story so far.

Finally, there’s a pledge at Pledgebank, to move to an ISP that does not censor internet access. Trouble is, implementing the IWF blacklist is something ISPs covering about 95% of the UK population already do on a voluntary basis. That’s ‘voluntary’ in the sense of ‘would be imposed by government if they didn’t do it voluntarily.’ You can move ISPs all you want, the government’s intention is that you won’t escape the blacklist.

It’s policy and/or process we need to move, not ISPs.

[ Update 1055: The Guardian has the story on their front page, allegedly posted eight hours ago (but it didn’t show up in a search at half-past nine?) Better reporting than most, though they don’t mention the blanket editing ban aspect, which to my mind is much more insidious than blocking one suspect image. Guardian Blogs has a comment thread too, with more insightful comments than the article itself. ]

Review of Quantum of Solace

Vinay, when he’s writing about things I understand, turns out to be a surprisingly good writer. I think I’d failed to notice previously only because everything I’ve seen from him in the last decade was either a work-in-progress, or gibberish to me. Often both.

Now, however, he’s written a terrific review of the new Bond film, and I found myself reading it as much for the style as the content.

Perhaps he’s outsourced his blog. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Internet Watch Foundation filtering

Lots of talk on Twitter today about this: six major UK ISPs (including mine, the previously-rather lovely Be/O2, also Orange, Virgin, Demon, EasyNet, PlusNet and Opal) appear to be routing all their traffic through just two ‘transparent’ proxy servers, which in turn are loaded with blacklists from the Internet Watch Foundation. The IWF are the quango tasked with policing the web for illegal content; along with the police, they have the power to determine what constitutes child pornography.

All well and good – less child pornography is a good thing, right? – except that the IWF isn’t exactly transparent in their process and procedures. I can’t find a dispute procedure on their site, for example. Which I was looking for, because as of today I can’t create an account at Wikipedia. Huh?

Apparently, all traffic from these six ISPs to Wikipedia is being routed through the two IWF blacklist-loaded servers, and hence many UK users appear to be the same person. So we’re all tarred with the ‘bad apple’ brush. We can still log into Wikipedia and edit pages, but we can’t edit anonymously, nor can we create new accounts.

The starting point appears to be this specific page; if you follow that link and see a page about the Scorpions’ album Virgin Killer, with an image of its original, and controversial, cover, then all is well. If you see ‘404 not found’ then you’re being filtered – remember that Wikipedia invites you to create the page you were looking for, rather than displaying a 404. That error is coming from the proxy server, not Wikipedia.

Incidentally, if you do get the 404 you can still see the page by visiting a slightly different URL. Durr.

What alarms me about this is the lack of openness to the process. It’s hard to see Wikipedia articles silently disappearing on a national basis as anything other than state-sponsored censorship. Cock-up or conspiracy? Doubtless the first. But this is a cock-up that makes conspiracy trivially simple.

Put it this way: if you were the security services, you’d be derelict in your duty if you didn’t have procedures in place whereby you could arbitrarily add sites to the IWF blacklist, and hence now – trivially – have them blocked for basically the whole UK.

And we wouldn’t even know. Unless we were, instead, tunneling all our web traffic via encrypting proxies.

…and if circumventing these restrictions is so straightforward, then what’s the point? You’re not going to block specific individuals or small groups from discussing child porn, or racial hatred, or sedition. All you’re doing is making mass communication less convenient.

Now why would a government want to do a thing like that?

( ZDNet Coverage; Register coverage (they fire a bizarre closing barb at the Wikimedia Foundation); discussion at the Wikipedia admin’s board; Bill Thomson on the BBC more than four years ago, raising concerns about the process. )

[update: Slashdot has it, with the usual quality of discussion. This comment is useful, though.]

[update 2: a calmer and more rational take than mine from Ian Betteridge. Notably, he found the IWF’s appeals procedure.]