Showing posts from February, 2008

Keep your privates, private, says Italian court

From the Guardian 27.02.08:In a landmark judgement with far-reaching social implications, Italy's highest appeals court has ruled it is a criminal offence for Italian men to touch their genitals in public...[t]he ban did not just apply to brazen crotch-scratching, but also to what might be termed superstitious pre-emption. Anyone who has seen a hearse go past in Italy, or been part of a discussion in which some terrible illness or disaster is mentioned, will know it is traditional for men to ward off bad luck with a quick grab at what are delicately called their "attributi".The court was ruling on the appeal of an unnamed 42-year-old workman from Como near Milan. In May 2006, he was convicted of indecent behaviour for "ostentatiously touching his genitals through his clothing". His lawyer said it was merely a "compulsive, involuntarily movement, probably to adjust his overalls".The workman was ordered to pay a €200 fine and €1000 costs.Oh Boy.  I can…

Facebook privacy update

From 21.02.08Social networking website Facebook claims to have fixed the privacy problems that have dogged it in recent weeks.Users reported that it was impossible to delete all their information from the site, but Facebook says that total deletion is now possible.There was an outcry when users discovered that they could leave Facebook, but that their details would remain on Facebook servers. The company said that this is in case users changed their minds and wanted to reactivate accounts.Facebook, though, now says that it has introduced a method by which a user can permanently delete all of their information.Let’s hope this represents a small step in the right direction but being unable to fully delete an account is a situation that should never have happened in the first place. The way people are using Facebook as a portal to throw up a plethora of personal information is nonetheless worrying. And there are so many doing so without stopping to think of the trail or ‘elec…

Security Toilet-Cameras

From Mark Frauenfelder on Boing Boing, 26.02.08Students at Lipson School in Plymouth UK returned from a one-week break to discover closed-circuit security cameras in the lavatories (They were "the round ones that can move," said one 15-year-old who saw them). After hundreds of students protested, the school agreed to remove the cameras. I'm not sure I believe principal Steve Baker when he says he didn't know about the cameras, but if he's telling the truth, he should either fire the creep who ordered them to be installed, or he should resign in shame for not knowing what's going on in the school he is paid to oversee. However, Baker says he's not going to even discipline the unnamed miscreant who had the cameras installed. "It's a learning situation, not a disciplinary one," Baker said. Principal Steve Baker said contractors fitted them on the orders of another staff member, who did not have the measure approved by him or school governors.

'Plane' silliness: a double-bill

From The Times 25.02.08: A British pilot has been dismissed for "buzzing" a control tower in a Top Gun-style stunt during the maiden flight of a Boeing jumbo jet. Captain Ian Wilkinson astonished passengers by taking the 230-tonne Cathay Pacific jet to within 28ft (8.5m) of the ground shortly after take-off from Boeing's US manufacturing plant. The 322mph fly-by was cheered by onlookers, and the pilot, who is said to be one of the most senior aviators with the airline, later toasted the flight with champagne.Despite Captain Wilkinson being described as 'chummy' with the airline's top execs, he was foiled by captured video footage of his antics which was then posted on the internet.  It's suggested that in the circumstances, the airline would have turned a blind eye and attributed his showboating to being caught up in the excitement of the event.  Once the Hong Kong authorities got hold of that footage, of course, his career was as good as over.  Up until …

Facebook - You’ll Never Leave

I just don’t ‘get’ Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and the other long list of candidates for the award of  ‘biggest online waste of space’. I never have understood the appeal and I never will. In fact, they drive me crazy as do the people who flock to those sites at every spare minute of their day. I have remained deliberately detached from such social networking sites and firm in my conviction to resist countless invitations and suggestions that I join up. Even if I wanted to – which I don’t – I couldn’t join now, anyway, through mere principle.Anyway, given my palpable disgust of Facebook I was delighted to see that its popularity has dropped for the first time in 17 months on the Telegraph’s website:But it still has 8.5 million users, making it the most visited social networking site in the UK, according to Neilsen Online, the internet research company. MySpace also attracted 5 per cent fewer users in the period [December 2007-January 2008], from 5.3 million to 5.1 million, while Bebo cam…

Parents' powers to check on paedos

From: The Times 18.02.08A watered-down form of "Megan's law" is to be trialled in four police areas, giving parents the power to check with police whether people given regular unsupervised access to their children have convictions for paedophile offences.Single mothers will be able to ask police whether potential boyfriends have child sex convictions before they start a relationship. Family members or neighbours who regularly look after children could also be checked. Police and probation services will have discretion on what information is revealed in each case and disclosure will be carefully controlled. But it is understood that if children are thought to be at risk, parents and carers will be told.Despite feeling that the whole ‘Megan’s Law’ idea relied on an over-simplification of the complex situations involved, I suppose that a trial like the one proposed is the best way to sample such an idea. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares and whether widespread adopt…

Quantum of Solace - the review

Once I’d heard that the recently announced 22nd Bond film was to adopt this title, I knew Ian Fleming’s short story would shoot to the top of my ‘to read list’. And so it did. I knew nothing of the plot or nature of the story, save for the fact it was a short novelette and inhabited the less popular end of the Bond-works collection.Quantum of Solace is one of five short stories contained within ‘For your eyes only’. Taken as a whole, the anthology might be seen as a disjointed affair; each story stands almost entirely distinct from every other and the quality at times can feel a little patchy. Still, there’s no doubt that this compilation remains a fertile hotbed for Bond plot ideas.While these short, unrounded and imbalanced Bond tales are far from being fully developed novels, they are by no means entirely abortive either. Each story stands as a microcosmic Bond tale but the trademark 007 ingredients are all there: death, good living, beautiful girls, exotic locations and intense em…

Fighting piracy - the wrong way

From The Times 12.02.08:People who illegally download films and music will be cut off from the internet under new legislative proposals to be unveiled next week. Internet service providers (ISPs) will be legally required to take action against users who access pirated material, The Times has learnt. Users suspected of wrongly downloading films or music will receive a warning e-mail for the first offence, a suspension for the second infringement and the termination of their internet contract if caught a third time, under the most likely option to emerge from discussions about the new law. Broadband companies who fail to enforce the “three-strikes” regime would be prosecuted and suspected customers’ details could be made available to the courts. The Government has yet to decide if information on offenders should be shared between ISPs. My initial reaction to this news was far from positive. I just didn’t ‘get’ the logic in operation here – if indeed there is any - and to me, it merely …

Breath-test phone

From Times Online, Mousetrap Technologies 14.02.08:From the school of products that remind you of your inadequacies (and hopefully prompt you to buy stuff) comes this phone that measures the smelliness of your breath. All you do is hold the handset up to your mouth, blow briefly on a sensor at one end, and in ten seconds it rates your halitosis on a scale of one to ten – based on the sulphur content in your breath. The phone, which is still a prototype and is not expected to come out until 2009 at the earliest, also measures heart rate, body fat, and can be used as a pedometre. (You put it in your pocket and it senses your leg movement, so the theory goes.)Perhaps it should have an inbuilt garlic sensor too, for checking whether you're up to talking to people after a strongly seasoned meal.  And maybe the second-generation models can have a breath-freshening spray built in?  No?  Just a thought.

Safer Internet Day

From BBC News 13/02/2008: Safer Internet Day is being marked around Europe with events to educate
children and parents about net dangers.

Themed events will reveal the risks of sharing too much personal data
and warn children that their virtual friends may not be who they say they are.

Public events will encourage parents to oversee their children's online
life so they know who they are talking to.
Raising public awareness and promoting good, safe online practices is half the battle in combating internet dangers. Children, of course, are particularly vulnerable and focussing on educating that section of the internet-using public in ways of increasing net safety is a no-brainer. I've always argued that computer security software can only do so much; educating people in safer, more responsible online practices is largely much more effective. After all, prevention is much better than cure. If an international awareness day helps to achieve these objects, then I…

BBC iplayer goes from strength to strength

From Personal Computer World 07/02/08:The BBC's iPlayer service continues to prove extremely popular with UK viewers, according to media analyst Screen Digest.A surge in iPlayer use has prompted Screen Digest to improve its forecasts for free-to-view (FTV) consumption in the UK to better reflect the emerging importance of the model in driving web TV services.The first is the BBC's decision to migrate the iPlayer's focus away from a proprietary application download environment to an open access web streaming model which coincided with a significant rise in online viewers.Screen Digest believes that the application-based strategies pursued by some UK broadcasters puts up an unnecessary barrier to initial consumer adoption, thereby hampering growth.Secondly, moving to a Flash-based streaming platform offering full seven-day catch-up has been a critical move by the BBC, as it allows non-Windows users to access programming as well.In many ways, I haven’t been surprised to see …

The Law Actually Blog (blawg) review

Everyone seems to be jumping on this bandwagon recently, so I thought it was high time that the Law Actually blog joined in the fun. I’ve tried to adopt a different approach to the review process; instead of providing a heads-up of the content that each blawg has featured in the last week like so many blogs are doing, I provide a more holistic and longer-term review of a sample of blawgs I visit based on my experiences of the blawgs over time. I've selected a bunch of the good, the bad and those that fade into mediocrity to give my unique take on who’s hot and who’s not in the blawging world right now.So, in no particular order the Law Actually blawg review as of 10th Feb 2008:

Geeklawyer: Colourful and opinionated posts, Geeky’s a stalwart blawger who’s ‘been the course’. Undoubtedly on the essential blawg shortlist, his content is interesting, sometimes contentious, but Geeky’s never one to shy away from a controversy. You can count on Geeklawyer to tell it like it is without pu…

Rowan Williams’ debacle escalates further

From The Telegraph 08/02/08:“The Archbishop of Canterbury faced calls for his resignation today as bishops joined politicians in criticising his remarks supporting the adoption of sharia law in Britain.To add to his woes, Lord Carey, his predecessor at Canterbury, and the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, challenged his view that aspects of Islamic law could be incorporated into the English legal system. The row erupted on Thursday when Dr Williams suggested the introduction of Muslim laws into the UK was "unavoidable".I’ve been following this story carefully since it first emerged. Thus far, it’s gone down like a lead balloon and got the UK public up in arms in a way I’d almost forgotten they were capable of doing. What I still don’t get, of course, is why he broached such a nightmare subject anyway – at least using the sharia example that he did. As has been frequently pointed out, the subject of interaction between religions etc. is topical and worthy; l…

Leo Laporte: “Grandpa did not infect the computer with porn, Come on!?! Come on!?!”

My consumption rate for podcasts has always been high. I’ve been on the Twit (this week in tech) podcast bandwagon for 2-3 years now but just recently, I’ve found myself listening to an unprecedented amount of content.As well as my beloved Windows Weekly – I haven’t missed an episode since it launched in September 2006 –I’ve been tuning into Macbreak Weekly, The Tech Guy, Security Now and This Week in Tech. I’ve even listened to Jumping Monkeys (go, figure) but, somewhat worryingly, not This Week in Law. Well, you know how it is, blawgwatchers – there’s only so much law you can take in a working week.  Tonight as I was finishing off listening to Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy, there was a great call taken involving a woman and her husband who liked to email out jokes to friends and family they find on the internet. Just the text, mind you. On one occasion recently, when they emailed some jokes out to their son-in-law, he responded by alleging that they sent him a virus/spyware which not …

You mean it’s Pancake Day TODAY?

The whole Shove Tuesday/Pancake day thing almost passed me by this year. Having heard a few mumblings about pancakes throughout the day, it was only when I came in through the door this evening to be greeted by a room full of smoke and the smell of pancakes that I finally twigged.My girlfriend is a self-professed pancake connoisseur and by extension, I’ve been exposed to a fair few p-cakes myself. So for us, Pancake Day is almost a non-event. Her reckoning is simple: as pancakes are such a sumptuous delicacy filled with magic and wondrous glory, why limit your intake to just one day. So we don’t.

Hit 'n' run with ... mobility scooter

From Yahoo News 03/02/08:A 53-year-old man is being questioned by police in connection with a hit-and-run incident involving a mobility scooter which left an elderly woman woman needing hospital treatment.Pensioner Audrey Lane, from Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, was knocked down by an electric vehicle which drove off at less than 8mph.The former Land Girl, 84, is still being treated in hospital for a broken leg and wrist.The man could face charges of assault or dangerous driving under changes to the Road Traffic Act made two years ago.Mrs Lane's son, Daniel, 59, said: "My mother was standing with her shopping in the High Street, waiting to cross the road. The next thing she knew, she had been hit from behind by this man on a mobility scooter. She was in the middle of the road lying on the floor and her shopping bag was thrown half-way across the street."She remembers the incident clearly. He told her, 'I can't stop. I'm busy', then went off.I've alway…

Microsoft & Yahoo Merger?

I have to admit that when I first heard about this a few days ago, I was initially sceptical and very dubious of Microsoft’s proposed merger with Yahoo. My thinking here was that Microsoft was a big and ungainly monolith already, without adding additional baggage. Their MSN brand (since subsumed under the Windows Live umbrella) has solidly ticked-over, but never once truly snapped at Google’s heels.Microsoft seemed to have lost its wow-factor in recent years and, with exception of Office 2007, its overwhelming successes have been few and far between. Of course, the cold-to-lukewarm reception that Vista enjoyed in its first year of availability is a case in point: of 250 million windows PCs sold, only 100 million were running Vista – leading the observer to the conclusion that 150 million or so machines must have shipped with the previous OS, Windows XP. And what a rocky and tumultuous road, that proved – getting Longhorn out of the door as I documented over a year ago: a meandering j…

The Michael visits Oxford

In keeping with my hectic 2008 travel schedule, Friday saw me visit this quaint city for a postgrad interview. I’ve done more ‘business' travelling in the last month than in all of my adult life.Having never been to Oxford before, I wasn’t entire surely what to expect. My girlfriend seemed to picture a quaint and leisurely city, awash with culture and fine architecture. That’s at least partly true. What the filming of Inspector Morse didn’t reveal, however, was the sheer volume of traffic, people and exhaust fumes that plague Oxford. As we ‘Parked-n-rode’ across the city centre around noontime, we were both aghast at what a madhouse it seemed. Oxford must surely possess a greater quantity of buses and bus stops per square kilometre than anywhere else on earth. Even London seemed positively tranquil by comparison. Coupled with crazy pedestrians who seemed unable to grasp where roads begin and pavements end, kamikaze cyclists who seemed hell-bent on getting ploughed down by a bus, …

Kill Suicide Grooming Sites

From Computer Active 21/01/08:Papyrus, a charity dedicated to stopping young people committing suicide, said eight in 10 people in a Yougov survey it commissioned want the Government to act.It said there has never been a successful UK prosecution for promoting suicide online. Currently, for a successful prosecution it is most likely that the victim has to meet face to face with the person who wishes to assist in his or her death.Papyrus said the Government must respond to what it called a "clear public demand" for change in the law to make it illegal to groom young people through online websites and chat rooms to take their own lives.I’m a fierce believer that the Internet should remain, as far as is possible, an unrestricted forum for free speech, opinion and information. That said, though, sites which dedicate themselves to the grooming of young people, promoting and provoking them into taking their own lives, stands for an assault on morality and the many benefits that t…