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* Posts by Matt Kimber

25 posts • joined 3 May 2007

BBC protects 'unique' 1Xtra listeners from radio cull

Matt Kimber

Publicity stunt?

I'm really beginning to wonder whether it's a genuine desire to close down two radio stations, or whether the BBC are playing brinksmanship with the Tory/Murdoch alliance against public broadcasters. It's the only explanation that doesn't require staggering incompetence at every level of senior management. (Which I'm not totally prepared to discount, but...)

In angling to cancel a station that is not duplicated commercially, one that has vociferous and dedicated listeners, the Beeb has basically given itself an extraordinary publicity campaign about how much a significant section of the public values its services. In other words, they've chucked 6Music (and to a lesser extent the Asian network) on the chopping block to show:

- The Conservatives, whose election victory is far from assured, just how damaging an anti-BBC stance could be for their popularity.

- Murdoch that his much vaunted "commercial interests" are not even touching some of the same content the BBC produces.

(The latter one is a bit of a straw man. There are indeed tanks on the lawn outside Murdoch's house of paywalled content with the BBC logo on them, it's just these are the tanks from the BBC1, BBC3 and BBC News regiments. Similarly, the main threat to commercial radio broadcasters are R1 and R2. This is why I don't see the whole, "stepping back from commercial territory" argument as it relates to axing R6 and Asian network.)

It's also been fantastic publicity for 6Music itself. You couldn't buy advertising like that. I wonder what the listening figures for the last week are like?

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Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah set for top two spots in Christmas Day charts

Matt Kimber
Black Helicopters

Again?

The "push this song to the top of the charts over this other one for x arbitrary reason or other" seems to be such a fixture of the Christmas charts that I half wonder whether the record companies poke the "grassroots campaign" into action in the first place.

Note that the pop song du jour usually wins, after a "nailbiting", "close" and "tense" battle, of course.

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Jacqui Smith prints seized by No2ID in daring dabs grab

Matt Kimber

None so blind as those who will not see.

"But I believe there is a demand, now, for cards - and as I go round the country I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long."

Suggestions for the "people" in question...

1) Other People's Totalitarian Government^W^W^W New Labour MPs?

2) Companies with (or likely to get) ID card contracts who fear if we change administration the whole lucrative lot has a danger of being flushed down the toilet?

3) Talking to herself while looking at the mirror?

One assumes the rather empty pre-registration list will be "accidentally" populated from some other data source - after all, they've proved to be extremely proficient at copying the stuff to USB keys and CD-ROMs, so why not into another database?

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Yes! It's the Darth Vader breakfast toaster

Matt Kimber

Vader on toast?

Looks more like Cthulhu in a novelty hat...

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Nasty Toryboy bloggers ate my politics, claims Blears

Matt Kimber

Really?

No, Hazel, I'm sorry.

The public disagree with you. The blogs are representative of the opinion of the public, or at least those who care enough about politics to write about it.

You can bleat about nasty Tory conspiracies all you want, but sooner or later you're going to have to realise the truth. We don't want top-down control, we don't want social engineering, and we most certainly don't want ministers who dismiss our convictions as antiproductive irrelevances.

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Ford to drive green motoring with 'leaves and vines' dashboard

Matt Kimber

New?

My everyday commuting, shoving in station/supermarket car parks, and ramming the cars of drivers who displease me war shed has this feature, and it's ten years old.

Okay, you don't get fancy vine and leaf metaphors, but you do get a big orange display that whenever you so much as think about the accelerator, starts displaying unwelcome news along the lines of "Instantaneous consumption: 7.0 m/gal" and "Average consumption: 12.6 m/gal".

It's a good thing they've only calibrated it in miles per gallon and not pence per minute, else I fear I'd get no more than half a mile into a drive before having to pull to the side of the road, turn off the engine, and sit there sobbing quietly.

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Mobile blocking tech for trains

Matt Kimber

Quiet carriage?

I've always found the quiet carriage the worst of the lot for having any chance of getting some peace. There's something about the little sign on the window saying "no mobiles, personal stereos" that seems to trigger off some people to want to close that important paperclip sales deal, join a conference call, remind all their friends that they're getting lashed tonight, and if it's a particularly long journey start enumerating shopping lists to their hapless wives* over the air.

All we need to do is enact a pointless NuLab law (c'mon, another won't hurt, we've got like 3,000 of the things) legalising the wanton and furious tasering of anyone who makes an inconsiderate, avoidable noise in a public place. It would make public transport at least more entertaining, if not more pleasant into the bargain.

* - one assumes the hapless wife spends most of this call dreaming of the milkman.

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BBC's speak you're branes collapses under Brand-Ross sex outrage

Matt Kimber

Cliché

I note with some despair that not only have we gone completely over-the-top on a celebrity-centred non-story while there's actual, real news going on in the world (complete with token weighing in by the politicos!), but that the BBC have even gone ahead and thrown in their favourite old tat of calling it a "perfect storm", two words vying for what has to be possibly the most over-used journalistic phrase of 2008.

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Public ID card support holds steady - says gov report

Matt Kimber

Support.

My challenge to 'em, then... if everyone supports it, why don't we have a referendum and settle the matter once and for all?

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UK.gov plans 'consensus' on PAYG phone registry

Matt Kimber

Encryption

... it's patently code for, "we're pretty set on doing it, we just don't think the public will react well to us just going ahead and saying 'yes' right at the moment."

Brown's recent pollbounce has obviously given them some hope of scraping it through the next election, so playing it straight and saying, "our ambition if we get another five years is to put each and every one of you on a hideously insecure, badly tendered and overpriced database", they're playing coy and hoping they can sneak it past us simpletons.

Of course, it's got to be about the ID card rollout - as far as the stated aims go, I fully expect it to be as impossible to get hold of a phone without giving up your details as it is for a 15 year old to buy alcohol and cigarettes.

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Govt ponders proof-of-ID law for future phone purchases

Matt Kimber

Encroachment.

"Too many people don't have a passport and nobody has ID cards."

My cynical side says this is exactly the point of the exercise - jack up the cost of a passport to "bleeding expensive" (already done), require identification for a common, frequent purchase that a large number of people make, and then say, "well matey, you can fork out for a passport, or for a mere taxpayer-subsidised £10 you can join our leaky Database Of Every One And Every Thing and have your spanking new Nokia by the start of next week."

I'm guessing that from the way Ms Smith's department are currently proceeding with their hastily-pulled opinion websitery, the "yoof" have been singled out as the point of insertion for ID cards into members of everyday society - oh look, a sector of society relatively unlikely to have a passport, to whom the cost of one of the biometric jobs is an appreciable wedge of dosh, and who really, really like to chop and change their mobile phones with a frequency on a par with Intel's latest CPU offerings.

Given that "economy" is looking a slightly shaky campaigning foundation for the next election, suggest formerly-New Labour go with, "we know what's best for you (and you most certainly do not)" as a slogan.

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1980s Apricot reborn in noughties as netbook seller

Matt Kimber

Premium?

I fear someone may need recourse to a dictionary on this one.

- It doesn't look like a premium product, quite the opposite in fact.

- It's certainly not a premium product on specification, either.

More to the point, what does it actually offer to an already-crowded SCC market apart from an ambitious price tag and a rather miserly battery specification? Certainly most of the people I know getting SCCs are buying Eee PCs - not because of any particular Eee superiority, but because that's what the early adopters got and none of the other machines are doing anything that says, "look at me, I'm doing something much better" to make it worth their while risking the unknown.

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Wacky Jacqui's yoof ID site goes silent

Matt Kimber

Listening.

If nothing else the current administration really do push the limits of the adage, "never attribute to malicious intentions that which can be ascribed to mere incompetence."

It's the setting up a site with what does actually genuinely seem to be the belief that people actually want them to do what they're doing, that the public outcry on tracking, filing, databasing and losing the backups to Nigeriam scammers, is some kind of inconvenient vocal minority. (Funnily enough, when a vocal minority says something that agrees with their aims, it's taken to be overriding public opinion.)

Where it falls down, and Ms. Smith is one of the worst culprits, is that they simply don't seem to possess the ability to look at the results, think for a bit, and say, "okay, you don't want us to do that, maybe we'll have a bit of a rethink." Sadly, the way the political system works, unless you're very very lucky your vote is probably completely ineffective compared to a relatively small number of people in swing/marginal constituencies, who are on the receiving end of a combination of election-time bribes and bogeyman stories about how "the other lot" are going to threaten your house price, job, and pension - so you've got no chance of anything ever being fixed.

Problem is, elected representatives might be elected, but most of the time they're hardly acting as representatives. Does the overriding majority of Jacqui Smith's constituency *really* want ID cards?

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Internet security suites fail to block exploits

Matt Kimber

A thought...

I've had an idea.

You know all those sites which use user-agent strings to force you into using Internet Explorer, to avert the disaster that is Firefox rendering a title 3px left of where the designer wanted it?

Well, why not have a concerted action between Google, BBC online, Yahoo!, Hotmail, all the big sites... to use this kind of thing for good, evaluate user agent strings and flash up in front of appropriate users,

"Your browser is hideously insecure. Seriously, sort it out!

> Windows Update

> Firefox download page

> Opera download page

etc."

(And in tiny print down the bottom, a 'continue to site' option.)

Internet security suites = rubbish for the most part, a definite example of the, "It must work if it's so painful" placebo effect. Nowhere near as big a problem as the number of home/casual or even business users still running on versions of IE and so on that allow malicious pages to hook their tentacles into all aspects of the underlying system (including run-on-startup which still makes me wonder who the hell *ever* thought that was a sensible thing for a web browser to have access to) though.

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EA in Spore DRM climbdown

Matt Kimber

Issues.

Of course, there are other problems EA have with their flagship launch bodge creaturefest now. One of which is (potential) customers like me; I would have bought the game but the DRM issues made me hold off long enough to the point at which reports started to filter in that the game was... well, not the revolution those early gameplay videos promised. So even if they rip off all the protection and throw it away for good, it's already been relegated to my, "if I see it lying in a bargain bin" list of purchases, 'cause it just doesn't look like it's worth full price to me.

(Certainly a little noodling around in the free Creature Creator revealed that it didn't matter what size or shape you made your creature; if you put Speed 2 feet on it, it's going to travel at Speed 2 no matter what. Defeats the object of the much-vaunted procedural gait generation, really.)

Secondly, if they'd launched with 5 re-usable activations, they'd probably have gotten away with it. Problem is EA went just that little bit too far with their three-and-only-three activation rules - to the point where it wasn't just the usual tiny minority of grumbling throwbacks from the days of 'Elite' like me keeping wallets firmly trousered... and now the cat's out of the bag, customers want to see the DRM gone, or at least return to the innocent days when copy protection was nothing more than a user-space program checking if you'd got the game media in the drive.

I'd be interested to see the sales figures vs. expectations for it, though. Something suggests to me that if one of the most arrogant games-publishing heavyweights is backing away and apologising, there's a fairly hefty reflection of public opinion on the bottom line. I can't see them acting this way for the nebulous concept of goodwill alone.

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DfT rounds up Road-Pricing 2.0 contractors

Matt Kimber

Essential use vs. recreation.

The problem with a "demand redistribution" type scheme, of which variable road pricing would be an example, is that it implicitly assumes people are there during peak hours for the sheer hell of it. What you'd find if you actually asked people who drove regularly (as opposed to attempting a top-down planning exercise carried out mostly by people who spend most of their lives within London lounging about in the back of chauffeur-piloted Jags) is that the gridlock itself acts as a suitable deterrent... which would be why you tend to find the most problematic congestion at times when people simply have to travel; for example, I'd love to breeze into work at about 10-11 o'clock when all I'll encounter is a brace of vans, a bus or two and maybe an octagenarian bumping their way to the supermarket in a Micra on the way there, but my employer and clients certainly wouldn't be having any of that.

As a practical demonstration, observe what happened when fuel pump prices briefly touched their 122ppl/135ppl peak; bugger all difference to the everyday commuting drag, but the roads were deserted in the evenings - people didn't magically relocate their non-negotiable journeys, they cut out the optional ones so they could still pay for what travel they needed. This of course has an impact on out-of-town businesses, and particularly anything that relies significantly on tourism/passing trade for its income.

Public transport is a nice ideal but for a lot of people it's not feasible; also there's the problem that in the event a route does go somewhere useful, it's already overcrowded before you start thinking about shifting more people onto it from their private transport. Four years of Monopoly money mortgages and fiscal drag on stamp duty hasn't exactly helped, often pricing people out of living within walking or cycling distance of their workplaces.

The solution is reducing the journeys themselves; start seriously pushing home working, video conferencing and other flexible practices where possible, rather than trying to punish people for travel they can't really avoid. It's not feasible in every industry, but there are enough people who travel from a house with a desk, computer and a telephone to an office with a desk, computer and a telephone to make a worthwhile difference. Try getting command-and-control politicians to square that with equally command-and-control management types, though, and you'll find yourself getting about as far and as fast as you usually get trying to make your way past the "temporary" roadworks at 8:30am of a Monday morning...

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Hadron boffins: Our meddling will not destroy universe

Matt Kimber
Coat

Now if you'd just like to climb up and start the rotors...

... after all, it's comforting to know that whole *legions* of geeks have spent their teenage and indeed adult lives training for the, "enormous rift in spacetime caused by meddling with That Which Man Should Not Know", isn't it?

Mine's the one with the synthesised female voice and the curious propensity for silence on the part of the wearer.

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The Christmas Console Wars: round one to Xbox?

Matt Kimber

360/PC/Wii.

I bought a 360, and may well have the Nintendo box as well before the year is out.

My rationale was, I want an HD console with a decent driving game, and the X360 price cuts dropped it to the point where I'm prepared to pick it up if only *one* game turns out to be a must-have for me - that being Forza 2, which can be had in a bundle with the Premium X360 - sorted.

The Wii is just - different - and compared to the other consoles which are heading very much towards the intense, single player and online multiplayer PC-style mode of play, it's more something you'd pick up with a couple of mates after beers. It's very good at parties too, especially with things like the bowling on Wii sports. Also it's the only computery thing I've ever seen wives-and-girlfriends reliably join in for more than just five minutes as a "keep the blokes happy" exercise, good for those of us who feel guilty (or get in trouble for!) taking over the television for an entire evening.

As for the driving game exclusive (I'm a petrolhead, it's the only genre that really sways my decision) decision between GT5 and Forza 2 - who knows, but Forza is here, now, with the feature set known whereas GT is still a future possibility which "may have" certain "promised" features. And by that time, if it's really a must-have to someone who already has the various X360 driving games, Sony and Microsoft could have had a price war.

So for me, X360 now, Wii soon, midspec gaming PC and... er... maybe an option on the PS3 if it gets some price drop action and some titles I really want to have. It's a good thing I don't go in for fanboyism really, otherwise I'd be *really* confused...

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Old timers boozing themslves into oblivion

Matt Kimber

A bad thing?

So... they're not causing any immediate problems for anyone else. (Unlike a disturbingly large proportion of drinkers 14-49...)

If we believe the medics they'll die earlier, thus proving less of a burden on the pension system and also freeing up their housing for use by younger generations.

Asssuming the taxation structure is set up correctly, the tax they pay on their alcohol should fund their increased requirement for medical treatment, that is unless as "affluent" citizens they don't already have private medical insurance.

(And is dying in late '60s of liver-related disorder that much more expensive than dying later of some other disease, plus all the extra checkups and medication required over that extended lifespan?)

Remind me again what the actual *problem* is, other than someone still being able to exercise some form of free, informed choice?

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Google builds own phone

Matt Kimber

Uh-oh

So the two companies with the most aggressive cult followings go head to head? What's going to happen there, then?

Every discussion forum, everywhere, swamped by incredibly vehement iPhone vs. gPhone arguments? Or will they all just buy both?

Never underestimate the ability of object-fixated geeks to have a keyboard fight, after all :)

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MEP plans EU build ban on cars faster than 100mph

Matt Kimber

They work for us...

... so how many of his constituents were writing letters saying that they wanted a 100mph limiter on all cars?

Because it wouldn't be on for an MP/MEP to come up with an idea off his own back, apropos of nothing, and take it all the way to Europe without consulting his constituency first, would it?

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Google search rivals full of sound and fury

Matt Kimber

History

I remember similar things being said about Altavista search. (Although I'm not sure they were ever *that* dominant.)

Then a certain small upstart came along providing far better search results while Altavista was messing around with trying to be some kind of web portal.

All it takes is a fast, easy to use search engine that offers something Google doesn't in the core feature of search (no trawling through pages of affiliates or blogspam, say) to woo the tech crowd and it follows from there.

Whether the giant-slaying search algorithm exists to be uncovered, that's another thing entirely.

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Manhunt 2 banned

Matt Kimber

Forbidden Fruit

... and watch as Manhunt 2 becomes the must-have title of the year for every game-playing teenager in the country. The torrent trackers will be groaning under the load. Don't they ever learn?

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Pay-as-you-drive roads coming to the UK

Matt Kimber

Cause and effect...

Lack of sensible planning laws causes shortage of desirable housing.

Easy credit allows buyers to ramp house prices up to ridiculous levels.

People are forced to live further from work and away from public transport links in order to afford their mortgage/rental costs.

More cars on road for longer - congestion!

Simple solution: invest in broadband and incentivise companies to offer telecommuting schemes to reduce the number of long and medium distance commutes to office-based jobs.

Odds of government using a simple solution? Ha ha ha.

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Researchers, spooks favour satnav-based road pricing

Matt Kimber

Simplicity.

... or, congestion could simply be solved by removing all the badly phased traffic lights, ill thought out "calming" schemes, silly junction designs, inept unlicensed drivers and broken-down buses that litter a typical drive in Britain.

Create problem, then create gigantic overengineered "solution" to problem that requires lobbing billions at your consultancy mates.

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