565 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009
Re: Utopian drivel
I didn't have any acceptable choices for MP at the last general election, so I didn't cast a vote for any of the candidates.
This is the unfortunate side effect of our voting system, and a position in which more and more people find themselves. It's also, perhaps partly to do with the way the media now reports on politics (largely very poorly, and in soundbites), and the increasing use of opinion polls.
All these factors have combined, so that we have now reached a situation where, unless you live in a marginal that a party things it may be able to win, you probably won't be treated to any significant campaigning visits, because as far as the incumbent party in that area is concerned, a pig with a rosette would still be elected.
Instead, Worcester Woman, Mondeo Man, and the lucky lucky residents of certain swing constituencies are treated to a parade of vacuous politicos, leaving a trail of soundbites behind them like incontinent labradors chasing a stick labelled "power"
And so, people become disengaged because the politicians believe that they don't matter, and their vote can be taken as read. Those whose opinions change, but find themselves living the in same place, eventually realise that there's either no one standing in their constituency who agrees with them (too red/blue for the greens to waste their small funds, for instance), or that even if there is, it's unlikely to make any difference, because of the voting system. People become even more disengaged, and the whole cycle gets worse and worse.
It's not helped by the view that "they're all the same" as the main parties strive to offer only tiny differences in their post Thatcher consensus, all the while talking up those tiny differences. One ray of hope is the turnout in Scotland, which showed that if people do believe it will make a difference, they will get out and do something.
Meanwhile, when I was in Sicily last summer, a huge crowd turned out in the town square in Modica, for a live debate between two Mayoral candidates. A couple of days later, a smaller but still impressive number stopped work and turned out to hear a speech by Matteo Renzi (then just Mayor of Florence, rather than PM) supporting one of the candidates, in the middle of the working day.
They may ultimately make some odd choices at the ballot box, but based on the experience I saw, the Italians are certainly rather more engaged than many people here; likely the centralised nature of the British state also has an impact on that.
Unless they're going to issue everyone of voting age with a basic internet connection and a device with which to vote, then there will still be a need to have polling stations, or public internet access if it's online only, for those who don't have a suitable method of voting with them.
And, I can't help feeling, some people would be perfectly happy with that - a situation where many people can vote at their convenience, but the most disadvantaged have to queue up at a polling station or a library to cast their vote.
"but what on earth do you do when you're at home?"
"We look at photographs of door to door salesmen while we pleasure ourselves"
Re: Scum of the earth
Despite my grumble in the first comment, I think that's unduly harsh. There are some excellent PR people, who take time to build relationships, without a hard sell, will dig around to point you in the right direction when you need to speak to a technical person, and understand the concept of deadlines.
When I first started in this business, there were probably quite a lot of those, and it would often be a joy to hear from them, as they would call when they had something genuinely useful to offer.
However, with the explosion of blogs and online media, there has been a resultant explosion in the number of 'PR' people and some seem to have very little training, beyond a home counties name, a posh accent and an Alice band in their hair (I generalise, but I'm sure many will know the type). PR is sometimes measured in terms of bums on seats, because the big boss doesn't want see any empty ones when he's talking about his latest gizmo, and since much is published online, a lot of people don't seem to grasp the concept of a hard deadline in the way that they used to.
Worse, some seem unable to grasp that "journalist" is a broad term, and we all have our specialities. I mentioned the oddly targeted products in my first post, but at least it was a gadget. Some of the Jessicas and Amandas seem to have bought a list of "journalist emails" and think that's all they need to to do get coverage. So, I'm not along amongst my colleagues in receiving utterly mystifying releases on topics ranging from double glazing to mexican food stores.
In the old days, when much was sent by post, of course there was a real cost, and perhaps that helped PR people ensure they send information to the best people. Sadly now, all too often, information is sent out indiscrimately and the money saved wasted on stupid follow-up calls and emails that wouldn't be so necessary if information was properly targeted.
The annoying habit some people have of quoting London codes as 0208 and so forth results in a huge number of wrong calls to my number, which begins with 8880; there's a branch of Pizza Hut that has a number which, if you put an extra 8 at the start, because you're a dimwit who thinks the code is 0208 instead of 020, will give you my number. People leave orders for pizzas on my voicemail.
Re: Your mother—and mine
Rather than asking to "speak to" someone, I much prefer to ask if I can speak with them, which simply sounds rather more like a conversation.
Of course, in the case of some pitches, the correct term would very likely be "could I talk at someone?"
Re: Number seven
I answer the business line with my name, if I can't see who's calling, or with an appropriate apellation if I know who the other party is.
It is, therefore, particularly irksome when, having picked up the phone and said my name, people then enquire if they are indeed speaking to Nigel Whitfield. I have, on occasion, testily reminded them that the clue was in the way I said my name when I answered the phone.
If it's a call on the ex-directory number, or the published home number that has somehow made it past the voicemail prompts, I'm afraid I tend to be less polite and any queries as to my identity are met with a brusque "Who are you and what do you want?"
Another annoyance ...
A mere 32 hours after sending me an offer to review a product of a type I've never written about in the last quarter century, the PR sent the same email again, with a comment at the top that "I just wanted to float this to the top of your inbox. "
My gut response - and only a thin shred of decency stopped me from saying so by return email - was "ah, like a turd that won't flush"
If you send an email, and it doesn't bounce, chances are I got it. If I didn't reply, I'm either not interested, or on holiday.
A little too late to try that trick for mine; the cat flap was here from previous generations when I acquired Cagney and Lacey.
They have brought me stolen balls, big wet leaves, and feathers, all of which are pretty much ok. But it's the frogs... even the tiny ones can be carried carefully in the mouth, to ensure maximum squeaky hoppy fun when they're lovingly deposited indoors and poked.
Some nights, I have to find something to wear in the middle of the night so that I can go outside and put a frog back in the pond three times.
I have pondered, though, not putting anything on, and arranging tea lights in the form of a pentagram outside, just to see what the neighbours say if they look out of the window at 3am and see me standing in it, holding a frog in my hands.
Almost there ...
Surely, after this, it can't be too long before they miniaturise the tech and we can have robotic self tying boot laces
@Charles 9 (so excited by looking at the clock, I didn't reply properly...)
Well, all the broadcasters and their roadmaps at IBC involve HEVC. There is equipment available for them that can handle it, and the amount of that will increase quite substantially over the coming years. TV makers are already rolling out HEVC kit (yes, of variable quality in some cases), but it's coming.
So, I don't think there's much doubt that the broadcast world will be going HEVC, and that means that lots of TVs will be having it built in, and set top boxes.
Even if VP9 is free, and in Android devices, that's still a lot of devices it's not necessarily in - and unless Google not only mandates VP9 but also forbids HEVC, I can't see that it's going to make much difference. The change in terms compared to H.264 also make HEVC a little more attractive.
For the next couple of years, at any rate, this is largely an academic issue; there isn't a huge amount of 4K content, and virtually every device out there supports H.264. By the time there is more 4K content - which is after all the main driver for this, certainly in the OTT market, as no one's going to rush to replace set top boxes for non-subscription services - there will, of course, be a smattering of devices with Android and VP9 built in. But there will also be a lot more stuff with HEVC built in, both on the production and the consumption sides.
Honestly, I don't see that Google are going to enjoy any noticeably greater success with VP9 than they did with its predecessor.
(Icon because it's Friday, it's five to five and it's Craaaackerjack! Or, at any rate, time to go to the pub, which is where I'll be if you have a burning desire to continue talking about this right now)
Re: Dear Faultline
Google will have some content encoded with VP9, but will lots of other people? Broadcasters and the like are going for HEVC, just as with HD they went for H.264. And, notwithstanding the huge amounts of stuff on YouTube and that Google will want to sell people via Play Movies, there's likely to be a massive adoption of HEVC.
I suppose it's entirely possible that a few people will decide that when they're encoding for online/mobile, they'll use VP9 rather than just run things through the HEVC encoders that they will probably already have, but I don't think it's terribly likely.
So, VP9 ignored in a story that was about HEVC? Yep; just like it'll probably be ignored in most of the devices that have HEVC too.
Re: Just how much better is HEVC
"Freeview, Freesat and Sky should all end-of-life MPEG-2 broadcasts."
It's obviously less of an urgent issue for the satellite services, and perhaps they'll be able to hold off long enough to see both HEVC and DVB-S2X introduced as a 'great leap forward' much as Freeview originally went from T/MPEG2 to T2/H264 in one go.
Certainly, as I've said before, there will be a second changeover, and that's one reason for the temporary muxes we have at the moment, to encourage takeup of HD-capable equipment, which will be much more efficient for SD.
The one aspect that just doesn't appear to have been sorted out is when to tell the public, so that they will stop buying kit that doesn't support T2/H264. To switch to broadcast HEVC in the UK would mean obsoleting a lot of kit bought pretty recently for HD, and so is unlikely in my view. HEVC in the short to medium term will be something for OTT delivery here.
On satellite, it may be something the likes of Sky will consider, but they'll want there to be more standards (and maybe even wait for UHD Phase 2 specs to be firmed up) before they think about swapping out people's set top boxes. Freesat is in an awkward position here; they might mandate new boxes include it, some way down the line, but because people pay for their own kit, they probably won't actually want too many channels to switch to HEVC, as that will lessen the attractiveness of their service to people who bought into it because of the 'no subscription' aspect and don't want to have to upgrade.
Re: Just how much better is HEVC
It can provide much better compression; for a comparison in the UK, we use a DVB-T2 mux for HD broadcasts, with a capacity somewhere around 40Mbits/sec, based on using external aerials. This currently allows for five channels (BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, C4, BBC 3) in HD using the H.264 codec.
In Germany, they are proposing using T2 with HEVC, configured for reception using indoor aerials. That lowers the carrying capacity of the mux somewhat, but the plan nevertheless is for 6-7 HD streams in a mux running at round 24Mbits/sec.
So, it is a pretty impressive achievement - and could certainly solve some of the bandwidth squeeze facing Freeview, if there were enough receivers that supported it.
Fond memories - and hangovers
One of the first computers I used, and on which I learned to do many things, was an RML 380Z, with CP/M 1.4B, and I've played with systems running CP/M86 as well as MP/M later on. Happy days.
And, though the OS itself may be mostly forgotten, it's left us with at least one enduring legacy - those 8.3 file names, and the horrible kludges still found to allow long file names to coexist with them, even in modern kit.
No, it may not have been the first OS to use such a naming convention, but in maintaining compatibility with that that aspect of CP/M in MS-DOS, it's surely endured far longer than it would have done.
After the comments here about "The Martian" I grabbed it yesterday. Took it to bed, and started reading.
Four and a half hours, 190 (out of 284) pages later, I decided I should really get some sleep; didn't surface until well after 10am this morning.
So yes, fairly engaging I'd say.
Re: Putting the Mars into Marxist
I recall one distinctly un-utopian aspect, which made me grind my liberal euro-teeth (as in a lot of US crime drame, too), and that was just the acceptance in one part of the story of the death penalty as being obviously correct.
Worse; some dim exec will probably decide that something from Green Mars would make a great season opener, and they'll proceed to show the whole thing in the wrong order
Re: Making things simple
I'm sure it's not the neighbour's kid you'll need to worry about.
Imagine the fun the government could have. Even now, some policy wonk is rubbing their hands with glee at the thought that they'll be able to ensure people who have a curfew aren't too cosy at home, by having the probation service remotely turn off their heating.
Re: I don't get Britain these days
Definitely the badgers, and their bloody goalposts.
Re: @John G Imrie
Also, very likely without all that tedious necessity to actually take a case before a proper court.
A lot of the people who have been prosecuted under things like the Extreme Porn law have been acquitted (the excellent Obscenity Lawyer blog covered one such in 2012). But the mere fact of being charged with some of these things, especially after politicians have talked up the "shocking danger" when passing the law, can be enough to ensure that simply being charged is enough for someone to lose their job, and likely a lot more.
Sloppy legislation (anyone for extreme tiger porn?) already has a chilling effect on free expression. To a degree, this latest proposal is just another step along the line.
Re: @John G Imrie
However, the laws that are intended to affect only those "nasty evil" people have unintended consequences, for example, to name two:
• teenagers, who end up on the sex offenders register, for texting photos of themselves to a consenting partner
• people taking part in perfectly legal sexual activities, who have been prosecuted under the extreme porn law, for having photos of those activities
Not to mention MPs who end up on lists of "Domestic Extremists" such as Caroline Lucas; the requirements placed on some jobless people are now so onerous that they end up sanctioned very easily, and what is a sanction if not a clear suggestion that they've not been fulfilling their side of the bargain, and so are trying to get something to which they're not entitled?
While not all those things are necessarily criminal, we have certainly seen a demonisation of many groups, and a tightening of rules, which means that many actions now attract a far harsher penalty, whether criminal or not, than in the past.
When politicians talk about benefit sanctions, they talk of fraud, and no one imagines that - to pick a simple example - someone will be sanctioned for not attending a meeting at the job centre because it clashed with job interview.
Re: Will the preaching hate law ...
I was wondering earlier if it might be applied to IDS; several disabled groups have reported that there have been more incidents of attacks and harassment, since the government started to do its best to demonise anyone who has the nerve to be ill.
So, if making public pronouncements that incite people to attack others is now to be a crime, Ms May may be able to silence IDS which will make many breathe a sigh of relief, and entirely coincidentally, ease her own climb up the slippery pole.
This, from the woman who once had the insight to realise why they were the 'Nasty Party'. I'm not sure if she has lost that self awareness, or simply doesn't care any more.
Re: You don't need rights when you've money
And that, of course, is one of the problems with the rushing to sort things out after the Scottish Referendum, which will likely be a stitch up behind closed doors.
Parliament is sovereign in the UK, not the people, and that's actually a bit of a problem when it comes to things like that. A government can remove rights, just as they can - for instance - remove a tier of local government like metropolitan county councils, when the population develops an annoying habit of voting for the wrong people.
Blather about a "bill of rights" or a new Magna Carta is meaningless, unless the rights and institutions can only be changed by a vote of the people, and not at the whim of a politician. That, of course, means a constitution, and the likelihood of more, rather than fewer, challenges to politicians.
The HRA and ECHR are loathed by politicians precisely because they act as a brake upon their populist whims and rabble rousing; not matter how much they dress up their actions with good intentions and drape them in the flag, they aren't going come up with a replacement that gives power away to anyone else, because it's simply not in their nature.
Correct, as far as it goes. However, while it is not a requirement for EU membership that someone is a signatory to the convention itself, it is a requirement that a state respects certain fundamental rights. The convention is also framework within which EU law is supposed to operate. So, to remain an EU member, a government would, even if it withdrew from the convention, still have to be mindful of the same rights.
You can download a PDF from the Parliament website, which addresses this in more detail, and contains opinions on both sides of the argument regarding whether or not withdrawal from the convention would require withdrawal from the EU (or, in other words, don't just stop reading the PDF when you get to the bit that supports whichever position you agree with).
Update on Mindings
Just a quick update on Minding, who I was in contact with again this morning; the latest version of the app is now, apparently, exclusively for iPad.
Well, yes, the point of the article is not whether or not people have been using the technology, really, but how it can be harnessed to solve some of the problems I outlined, with families tending to be far less nuclear and close-knit than in the past.
In some cases, like Mindings, they can be a way of helping someone not used to the technology to keep in touch. But monitoring systems, in themselves, don't necessarily imply anything about the technological savvy of those being monitored, I think. Though, of course, the degree of tech savvy is likely to have an impact on the sort of system you choose.
Re: The Wonderful Internet
People can do some of this better, certainly (though they might not always spot small day to day changes, such as the example where the sensor systems can spot that someone is now moving around more slowly).
Unfortunately, people have their own costs. In some situations, a move to assisted living of some sort might be required, or regular visits from a family member or home care assistant. I don't think anyone here is likely to bedgrudge family contact, notwithstanding the snotty comment earlier, but as you point out, distance, or other family commitments, or work can be an obstacle.
It's certainly true that you might only get a few years use out of some of these systems, before you have to move on to something else, (and that in itself is perhaps a good reason for the subscription via service provider model that Green Peak was talking about), but for many people I would think those few extra years of independence in their own home are likely to be quite precious.
Of course, in the longer term, if systems like this prove to be effective (and remember, they can be used for other things too, like letting you know the kids are home from school, or basic home security) then they're not just used for keeping an eye on the elderly.
I suspect that companies like GP would very much like to see a wider adoption, but as with many such things, making the case for something can be tricky. For a lot of people, I think they can quite easily see the utility in the case of senior monitoring, which makes it a good place to start.
It does look interesting... might have to see if I can get one to play with.
Re: I have a more pressing problem re. senior IT
I suspect that a lot of the manufacturers haven't even thought about addressing that yet - though, that said, when it comes to other technologies for the elderly, the Japanese are fairly keen to remind us in their press conferences that they spend lots of money on research, so perhaps once they feel smart TV has reached a more stable state, they'll tackle this.
As you say, settings that can be locked down, for example offering access to catch up players, but hiding all the other IP content, media players and so on, would be useful. Even, in some situations, being able to lock out functionality such as switching from the tuner to a different input (or vice versa, in the case of a Sky customer) could solve some of those annoying problems we've doubtless all faced.
And perhaps, it wouldn't be beyond the wit of man to allow for, say, a five second press of the 'Exit' button to reset the TV to those defaults.
Re: Nothing too extensive
I'm not sure that it is as rare as some people imagine. - there certainly are quite a few people of that age who are online. Though my mother doesn't do social networking, she does use it for email, online banking, submitting meter readings, and so forth.
She's often told me how when dealing with some companies, if they know her age, they automatically assume she won't be able to do things like send a meter reading, which is somewhat patronising.
Re: "Fake tape detectors..."
Apparently so; one of the tools is 'Electrical Network Frequency' or ENF analysis. As I understand it, this is the impact that things like the 50Hz/60Hz mains and so on will have on just about everything. So, as I understand it, if you don't manage to get your cuts just right, they can apparently detect that information is not in an unbroken stream.
There's an earlier report on this from 2010 on The Register , and clearly techniques have improved since then.
Re: "Fake tape detectors..."
The Fraunhofer audio forensics, mentioned in the last two paras.
With the combination of looking at background electromagnetic cycles, microphone profiles, and codec characteristics, it's possible to say with a fair degree of certainty that a recording has been tampered with. So, when a site gets sent a "you won't believe what politician X said in this closed meeting" recording, these tools will make it much easier for them to verify whether or not edits have been made.
It will help, hopefully, to avoid the egg on the face when the recording you're claiming to say "of course we don't care about the poor" turns out to be a tampered version of someone saying "of course our opponents would say we don't care about the poor"
Re: BBC documentaries
I suspect if you applied the same to Channel 5 documentaries, you'd make them even shorter.
Just about all TV docs these days seem to have an over-reliance on recaps. A button on the catch-up services labelled "Show each piece of stock footage only once" would be quite illuminating, I think.
Re: For instance, picking up audio from the goal keeper, or turning off the commentary.
Other potentially interesting things include being able to control the mix more easily. For example, if granny needs the audio description, but everyone else is driven mad by it, object based systems could offer the possibility of delivering the AD to a specific speaker, at a volume of your choice. Sit granny next to that speaker and everyone should be happy.
Re: Reverse Engineer
But surely, in the words of the Haynes manual, "reassembly is a reversal of disassembly" ;)
No UPnP at all; it's disabled on the main router, and the Airport Extreme that runs the internal network (to which the camera is connected) sites behind that, and itself has NAT-PMP but no UPnP.
This is why it's always quite a surprise to me when something like this works flawlessly on my LAN. With phones, for example, I gave up trying to sort out NAT or anything like that, and simply dual homed the SIP server, so that it has one ethernet port on the private network and one on the external one.
Quite; Solwise were unable to tell me if there was a URL I could access directly for the camera feed. I suspect there must be - or at least a host and port number - and if so, then it would be possible to integrate the camera view into other apps, which allows much more scope for the geekier amongst us to do interesting things.
Indeed; spot on. I didn't have time before I went away to IBC, but I will fire up WireShark and see exactly what's going on here; each camera has an ID code, and that with the password (which you can change, but the default is a fairly long, random looking string) is all you need to connect - I sent the code by email to a mate to test that.
So, clearly there's an external server involved somewhere, but scant documentation about it. It makes things very simple, even with my network setup, which confuses many things, but at what cost?
On your other point, it was precisely fear of being seen that helped kill the D-Link; it's never been quite the same since a guest decided to grab it and point it away from them, buggering up the servos.
Re: Give me wifi motion sensors
Probably unlikely to be WiFi - at the moment, I'd put my money on Zigbee for those, and suspect you'll see such things fairly soon.
Re: raspberry pi
Certainly, you can do things like that - and if you want to tinker, then it's a great way to start learning about how everything works. But cheapness isn't always everything - and with the Pi by the time you've added a camera-style case, and perhaps bought a HomePlug to connect it to, you're actually not that far off the cost of something like this (Pi is a little under £30, camera module just under £20, add a PSU, case, etc).
Of course, you can do a hell of a lot more with a Pi, and it would be interesting to use one with, say, USB webcams, or other IP cameras, to aggregate several images, which something like this can't do.
But, on the other hand, if one camera is enough, and you just want something to plug in and start using, then solutions like the ones mentioned here will solve a problem. A lot comes down to the trade-off of how you value your time, and where you're using it.
Home brew might be fine for your personal use, for example, but if I were installing something in my mother's home, 80 miles away, the benefits of having just one cable to plug in and nothing else that can come loose/crash/be tinkered with outweigh the fun of DIY
I'll claim prior art, if you don't mind. In a piece for a UK print title last year, I explained how to set up your own mail server on a Synology and thereby move "from NSA to NAS"
Someone probably thought of it before then, too
At the moment I'm in Amsterdam at the IBC Show. I suspect some of the monitoring tech I've seen here will horrify a few Reg readers when I write it up. But, if you can put aside the thoughts of Big Brother, some very clever tech coming up soon.
Re: weakness in this story
Certainly, HomePlug isn't for everyone. In my flat it makes sense as the walls are very thick and WiFi has problems covering the whole space as a result. And yes, I've had some annoying HP crashes too - though they turned out to be caused by a different bit of kit, after a lot of cursing and head scratching.
Re: But with 8k on the way...
The road map I picked up at IBC was for NHK, the Japanese broadcaster, and yes, they are planning to have an 8K service on air for the 2020 Olympics, with tests from Rio in 2016.
However, how much material there will actually be remains to be seen, of course; remember the first HD channels didn't have tons of HD content.
Also, to a degree, Japan tends to do these things its own way. The rest of the world will probably be hanging around waiting for DVB specs and so forth before launching something.
Re: But with 8k on the way...
And some of those cheap sets are going to be very limited, in terms of what you'll be able to do with them - some don't have an update to date version of HDMI, and so won't be able to cope with higher frame rates and increased colour depth.
People will, sadly, be buying those for a while in discount stores, and then wondering why they don't get quite the same leap in quality that the magazines and web sites tell them they should.
I hope we're not in for a re-run of the sort of confusion that surrounded the HD Ready logo, where many less technical shoppers will assume that a 4K logo means something rather more than it actually does. However, I fear that's precisely what will happen, as standards bodies rush out their logos, and manufacturers rush to capture market share, before everyone else works out the finer parameters of what they're going to be broadcasting or streaming.
Re: Not Just 4K, but HDR Video
There were some HDR displays at IBC this year; better dynamic range, wider colour gamut, and 120Hz frame rate.
Combined with 4K, that really is a stunning difference. It's one of those that's had to describe, because of course most people are used to the range of colours seen on TV, and the levels of contrast. But seeing a side by side comparison really does make it stand out.
Re: Consumers who care about quality?
The problem I have with those 'blended' modes is when watching a new channel, or anything with side to side scrolling text (I suppose the credits of Crossroads would do it). The typeface changes size as it moves, which is a really unpleasant thing to watch.
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