The basement

The basement

The basement, originally uploaded by rutty.

I haven’t been taking so many photos recently and I’ve started to miss it. I love photography, I have plenty of gear and I need to get back to using it.

I decided that it was about time that I got out my tripod and took some photos that weren’t baby-related. Photos for fun, and took this one of the basement for the Dotdragnet “Choose A Room” photo contest.

I added the chair and bear for random interest and editted it in iPhoto.

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Links for November 27th

Boots’ cynical stance on homeopathy

There's something of a backlash taking place online against Boots today, after their professional standards director Paul Bennett admitted before a parliamentary committee yesterday that the chain sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, even though they know there is no scientific evidence that they actually work.

National papers involved in a conspiracy of silence

[W]hy, I wonder, was The Guardian the only national paper to report on the fact that former News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll was awarded almost £792,736 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal?

The Guardian story appeared online on Monday night and in Tuesday's morning's paper. It was covered by the Press Gazette. It was reported on a lawyer's website. There were also mentions on various blogs[…].

But this record payout – believed to be the largest award of its kind in the media – was not considered to be newsworthy enough for any national to mention.

Yet it must surely be in the public interest for people to know about misbehaviour by Britain's best-selling newspaper

‘Aggressive’ policing of protests condemned in post-G20 inquiry

Senior police officers could lose the consent of the British public unless they abandon misguided approaches to public protests that are considered "unfair, aggressive and inconsistent", an inquiry has found.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, used a landmark report into public order policing to criticise heavy-handed tactics, which he said threatened to alienate the public and infringe the right to protest.

The report, published today, called for a softening of the approach and urged a return to the "British model" of policing, first defined by 19th-century Conservative prime minister Sir Robert Peel. O'Connor advocated an "approachable, impartial, accountable style of policing based on minimal force and anchored in public consent".

The initial reaction from protest groups was positive. A lawyer from environmental organisation Climate Camp […] described the findings as a "huge step forward".

Chumby One: handsome successor to the cutest computer ever

The Chumby One — the successor to the incredibly innovative Chumby device — is just about ready to ship, and is available for $99. Chumby is a cute, squeezable hand-held device that is wide open — everything from the circuit board designs to the software is open-licensed and freely downloadable. The idea is to produce an adorable, versatile device that any hacker, anywhere, can improve, so that all Chumby owners can get more out of it.

Activists repeatedly stopped and searched as police officers ‘mark’ cars

The roads were empty when Linda Catt and her father drove their white Citroën Berlingo into London on a quiet Sunday morning. They could not have known they were being followed.

But at 7.23am on 31 July 2005, the van had passed beneath an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera in east London, triggering an alert: "Of interest to Public Order Unit, Sussex police". Within seconds Catt, 50, and her 84-year-old father, John, were apprehended by police and searched under the Terrorism Act.

After filing a complaint, the pair, neither of whom have criminal records, discovered that four months earlier, a Sussex police officer had noticed their van "at three protest demonstrations" and decided, apparently on that basis, it should be tracked.

Murdoch-Microsoft deal in the works

Microsoft is ready to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to remove its news content from Google, according to the Financial Times. Microsoft has also approached other "big online publishers" with similar deals.

"One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan 'puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them",' wrote the FT's Matthew Garrahan. "… Microsoft's interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content."

This he calls a "ray of light to the newspaper industry."

Dirt can be good for children, say scientists

Children should be allowed to get dirty, according to scientists who have found being too clean can impair the skin's ability to heal.

Normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt, the US team discovered.

The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses that can cause cuts and grazes to swell, they say.

Their work is published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.

Protests grow over digital bill

The Digital Economy bill has sparked a wave of protest among consumers and rights groups.

Soon after the bill began its journey through Parliament on 19 November, many expressed worries about parts of it.

The bill suggests the use of technical measures to tackle illegal file-sharing that could involve suspending the accounts of persistent pirates.

Critics fear this and other powers the bill reserves could damage the UK's growing digital economy.

BBC iPlayer launches Wii channel

The BBC iPlayer is relaunching on the Nintendo Wii in the form of a dedicated Wii channel on 18 November.

Only consoles with a broadband connection in the UK will be able to run the channel.

To get the service, Wii owners will be able to download it from the console's online shop for free.

Australia mulls Scientology probe

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said he will consider calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church of Scientology.

But he said the evidence must be looked at carefully before proceeding.

Senator Nick Xenophon launched a scathing attack on Scientology, citing letters from former followers alleging extensive criminal activity.

Scientology spokesman Cyrus Brooks said the senator's attack had been an abuse of parliamentary proceedings.

Senator Xenophon tabled seven letters from former Scientologists who he said were willing to co-operate with New South Wales and Australian federal police.

"The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia, contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses which are truly shocking," he said

Apocalypse Then: a two-part series on the lessons of Y2K

In 1993, a tech consultant named Peter de Jager wrote an article for Computerworld with the headline "Doomsday 2000." When the clock struck midnight on 1/1/00, he wrote, many of our computers would lose track of the date, and very bad things would happen as a result.

Looking back, De Jager's article is remarkable for its pessimism. He interviewed several IT experts who said the tech industry was completely ignoring the computer-date bug. Many didn't think it was a real problem, and those who did felt no pressure to do anything about it—after all, the year 2000 was a long way away. "I have spoken at association meetings and seminars, and when I ask for a show of hands of people addressing the problem, the response is underwhelming," de Jager wrote. "If I get one in 10 respondents, I'm facing an enlightened group."

But then something strange happened: Everyone started worrying about Y2K.

2 Months already?

2 Months already?

2 Months already?, originally uploaded by rutty.

Has it been two months since our little girl was born? Crikey, it barely seems a few weeks, but here she is: our Ruby at two months old.

She’s thriving too, although a little under the weather today after her ordeal at the vaccination clinic yesterday. She wasn’t impressed with that! Still, she’s a healthy feeder and a very good sleeper.

She’s continued sleeping through the night between her 22:30 and 07:00 feeds – something she started at six weeks. What a star! She’s also giving Mummy and Daddy lots of smiles (also farts, but let’s not dwell too much on that).

Happy two month birthday Ruby!

Decorating

As is sometimes seen in shops and restaurants: please excuse our appearance while work is in progress.

I’m trying out a few themes at the moment. I go in cycles with this. I’m trying to work out a decent minimalist theme that’s typography-based. The one that’s active now – Wu Wei – appeals to me a great deal but has some formatting issues that I want to work on.

I think I’d like the content to be central, rather than offset to the right, and the post information in a smaller font and off to the left. I think I can do this but I have more important priorities than farting about on my blog. You’ll notice the lack of posts here recently!

I’ve added a lifestream page which shows my twitter, flickr posts etc, but the formatting is currently rather horrible on that too. I’ll tidy that all up once I’ve done all my other jobs.

Alternatively, I may just move on to a different theme if the mood takes me (and it might)

Links for November 17th

Labels may be losing money, but artists are making more than ever

The Times Labs blog takes a hard look at the data on music sales and live performances and concludes that while the labels’ profits might be falling, artists are taking in more money, thanks to the booming growth of live shows.

The Times says that they’d like more granular data about who’s making all the money from concerts — is there a category of act that’s a real winner here? — but the trend seems clear. The 21st century music scene is the best world ever for some musicians and music-industry businesses, and the worst for others.

Which raises the question: is it really copyright law’s job to make sure that last years winners keep on winning? Or is it enough to ensure that there will always be winners?

Huawei Pushing Aside Cisco and Ericsson

There was a time, about a decade ago, that Cisco (CSCO) executives would comment that Huawei was so good at copying (aka appropriating) Cisco’s technology that it even replicated bugs in the software. What was once a joke has morphed into a juggernaut in the communications-equipment marketplace that shows no sign of abating.

Huawei has pushed itself onto the world stage of equipment OEMs for carriers worldwide in wireless, IP-broadband, core networks, software, and services. According to market research firm Informa, Huawei is now the number three supplier of wireless infrastructure equipment, trailing only Ericsson (ERIC) and Alcatel (ALA)

How to cope with unemployment

Unemployment can be one of life’s toughest challenges, but there are many practical steps you can take to help you best cope.

An array of information is available through the BBC News website and various groups offer help for people who are unemployed.

Here is a guide to some of that advice and information.

Surreal drama of Zambia ‘porn’ trial

The trial of a news editor in Zambia, accused of distributing obscene material, is coming to an end. Chansa Kabwela says she sent photos of a woman giving birth without medical help to senior government officials to highlight the effects of a nurses’ strike. Jo Fidgen has watched the trial, and reflects on what it reveals about Zambian culture.

Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap

You won’t find a better media center than the open-source XBMC, but most people don’t have the space or desire to plug a noisy PC into their TV. Instead, I converted a cheap nettop into a standalone XBMC set-top box. Here’s how.

The David Nutt affair, Lord Drayson, and the new political confidence of science

As I’ve been covering the repercussions of the sacking of David Nutt as the Government’s chief drugs adviser over the past two weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what the affair means for British science, and its role in political life.

On one level, of course, the episode has been rather depressing. This Government talks a good game on making evidence-based policy, but as I’ve argued before, the dismissal of Professor Nutt highlights that what many ministers prefer is policy-based evidence. Scientific advice is still too often seen as something to be embraced if it supports conclusions that are politically palatable, and ignored if it does not.

Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV

If you vaguely recall hearing similarly over-the-top pronouncements before, you’re almost certainly right. For more than a decade, pundits have been saying that your internet connection would, any day now, be the primary pipeline for television shows, on-demand movies, YouTube videos, music videos, video podcast feeds, online radio, personalized audio streams, online and offline pictures and music—anything you could fit on your screen, really.

Enter Boxee
Boxee’s media center gives you that, and all from one application. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s built from the guts of the killer Xbox Media Center (which is still a quite active project itself), and it simply works. Loaded onto an Apple TV, or any TV-connected computer, Boxee also gives you free license to drop your cable or satellite dependency with hardly any regret, especially once you realize your year-to-year savings.

Free Speech Is Not For Sale

After a year-long Inquiry, English PEN and Index on Censorship have concluded that English libel law has a negative impact on freedom of expression, both in the UK and around the world. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and should only be limited in special circumstances. Yet English libel law imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK. This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called ‘libel tourism’, where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a ‘town named sue’. The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.

Ofcom knocks back BBC DRM plans

BBC plans to copy protect Freeview high definition (HD) data have been dealt a blow by regulator Ofcom.

It has written to the BBC asking for more information about what the benefits would be for consumers.
Initially it looked as if Ofcom would approve the plans but, during its two week consultation, it has received many responses opposing the plan.

Critics say a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for Freeview HD would effectively lock down free BBC content.

My son has cancer. He can’t go into day care because of unvaccinated children. – By Stephanie Tatel – Slate Magazine

Current public opinion about childhood vaccinations sometimes seems to be influenced less by science and more by Jenny McCarthy. But here’s something that rarely gets discussed: the threat posed by the nonvaccinated to children who are immunosuppressed.

Shock but no awe

I have a lot to be happy about at the moment. I have an amazing wife – I am so lucky to have her – and a healthy, beautiful daughter. I love my girls more than anything. We live in a nice part of the UK (Beeston in Nottingham) and have lots of great friends. I love my hobbies (brass banding and photography especially) and have many other reasons to be happy.

Life is great, but this was somewhat tempered yesterday by a rather shit day at work. My company, Ericsson, has come to the surprising decision to close our site in Ansty near Coventry. This is where I work and means that I will no longer have a job come the middle of next year.

I can almost understand their decision to move R&D activities overseas – much of it has already done so and most of our competitors already have strong presences in China and India – but we’d only moved into this building in June and thought that we’d be safe for a little while. How wrong we were.

You have to be philosophical about it, to a degree, and say “well, let’s take this as an opportunity to find a better job closer to home”, but I can’t adequately express how gutting this is, to lose a job that I enjoy.

It is just that – a job – and I’m confident that I can find something else, but at the moment I’m angry and upset at this decision. Understandably so. Outsourcing to low-cost countries is essential for companies wanting to be competitive in a world economy but the consequences to workers, and their families, in the so-called “developed” countries is extremely depressing. No doubt some of those sites that have escaped this time will suffer the same fate in the not-too-distant future.

I’m luckier than most. I have a talented wife who can look after me financially if I need to, but I don’t want that. I want my own meaningful career and that’s something that I’m going to make sure that I continue once this job expires sometime in Q2 2010.

I’m not letting this get me down, not too much. My anger and upset will pass and I still love my time with my wife and daughter. Life is still good – there’s just a nasty smudge appeared that will disappear sooner or later.