October 7th, 2013


The order had come from the Dean of Dresden campus herself. In an effort to maximize classroom time (and justify expenditure budgets), lecture times would now be accurate to the second. IT would be responsible for the deployment of new, centrally synchronized clocks. […]

Sometimes a high tech solution requires some distinctly low tech support.

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Time to go

June 4th, 2013

My favourite part of the story on the BBC News web site about how the BBC Trust has upheld a complaint about the fact that the BBC home page's clock simply repeats the time shown on the user's computer and thus "is not consistent with BBC guidelines on accuracy"1 is the section at the foot of the page of the BBC News report on the decision, linking to the story as it's presented elsewhere:

BBC clock story as reported elsewhere

Trust the Daily Mail to turn it up to 11. "Slammed"? Really?

[Via Martin Belam]

  1. As opposed to, say, connecting to a centralised NTP server and getting the time from that. Which would slow down page loading significantly and probably require them to support methods of grabbing the data and displaying said clock, depending upon what type of plugin support was available on the device. Basically, far more hassle than it's worth.

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What would have happened if they'd forgotten their passports?

October 9th, 2011

After their splashdown in the Pacific, the Apollo 11 astronauts had to fill in their customs paperwork upon their arrival at Honolulu airport, just like every other inbound traveller.

I can't help but notice that the one section of this paperwork that might have been considered of some practical importance – i.e. the part asking about the possibility of spreading disease – had to be answered TO BE DETERMINED, what with the astronauts still being in quarantine at that point.

[Via The Brooks Review]

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Words as weapons

October 3rd, 2010

Jonathan Meades on The March of the Acronym:

It is a truism that the development of everything from medicines to meteorology has depended on the prosecution of wars. This version of events flatters our paranoia, our fearful fondness of sombre forces. And the paraphernalia of armed conflict – secrecy, adrenalin, ruthlessness, dirty tricks, machismo, gadgets – can exert an attraction on those who have never known war. Its allure overlooks the actuality of boredom and body bags.

The further we are from military life, the more seductive its supposed traits. A corporation's ends will most probably be different from the armed forces' – less killing, for instance. But the means are there to be aped, the tics to be imitated: the speed, the modernity, the purposefulness, the can-do. Above all, the language.

[Via Arts & Letters Daily]

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Beware of the leopard

March 9th, 2010

You need a paper licence to link to the Royal Mail website. You might think the post title says it all. Believe me, you need to follow the link: it's even worse than it sounds.

I'm only surprised they don't keep the paperwork in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard,'.

[Via currybet dot net]

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April 12th, 2009

Statebook: what do you want to know about $CITIZEN now?

[Via Open Rights Group]

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Music Police

May 27th, 2008

Further to the previous post, it looks as if having your PDA confiscated could become a commonplace occurrence if the RIAA get their way:

A TOP-SECRET DEAL being ironed out by G8 nations will give the Music and film industry a state-paid force of copyright cops with the same powers of customs officials.

The copyright police can seize your mp3 player or laptop to see if it contains pirated content and can order ISPs to turn over personal data without the need for proof.

G8 members, at the request of those wonderful examples of humanity at the RIAA, are agreeing to turn tax-payer paid customs officers into boot boys for the record and music business.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), will be discussed at the next G8 meeting in Tokyo, in July. […]

Just one small, practical question: if I hand my iPod over to a customs officer, how exactly will he or she be able to tell which tracks I downloaded from iTunes and which ones I ripped from my CD collection? On my (fairly old) iPod, there's no way to tell at a glance, since the software doesn't visibly distinguish between AACs and MP3s.1 There is a 'Purchased' playlist, but that only shows files purchased on my current Mac; it doesn't pick up purchases made on my previous Mac and transferred over to this one. Will I be OK as long as I refrain from setting up a playlist called 'Illegal copies', or do I have to start carrying copies of my invoice emails from iTunes around with me if I want to leave the country?

[Via Memex 1.1]

  1. Not to mention that some iTunes purchases will be MP3 files, and some MP3 files will come from other stores like Amie Street or eMusic.

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Terrorising researchers

May 25th, 2008

Do you feel safer?

A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the "psychological torture" he endured in custody.

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

My favourite part of the story comes later, when a university spokesperson, explaining that it was perfectly reasonable to report the downloading of the document to the police, observed that "there is an expectation that you will act sensibly within current UK law." It's a shame we can't expect the same of the authorities.

[Via Progressive Gold]

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A definitive clarification

April 13th, 2008

Civil services are the same the world over:

Are officers in the Indian government's ministry of steel permitted to use ink colours other than blue or black?
Arun Shourie documents the process whereby this question was considered, tackled, bumped, spun and, to some extent, resolved. Shourie manages to compress the telling to a spare seven pages in his book Governance and the Sclerosis That Has Set In.

The matter arose in 1999, when two ministry of steel officials noticed some handwritten notations on official papers that crossed their desk. The notes were in red and green ink.

The two officials drafted a letter to the department of administrative reforms and public grievances, asking whether this was permissible. Six days later, the letter arrived at the department of administrative reforms and public grievances, having traversed a physical distance of less than a kilometre.

Two weeks later, the department of administrative reforms and public grievancessent an office memorandum to the directorate of printing, which took three weeks to decide that it was not in a position to issue a definitive clarification. […]

As you might imagine, the decision-making process didn't end there…

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