Archive for the 'Current Affairs' Category

Jun 18 2007

Medical Care In America

I just finished watching Michael Moores new film Sicko which hasn’t yet been released to cinemas. Its a real eye opener about the state of health and medical care in the USA today. It seems that in the USA, even those that think they are fully covered by medical insurance are still getting a rough deal, with insurance companies finding any loop-hole to get out of paying for their clients care.

This is what happens when services are provided on a “for-profit” basis. Those that stand to make the most money will damn well make sure that they make as much money as possible and wont hesitate for a second to think about what affect that may have on other peoples lives, and I do mean lives. The Health and Medical Organisations (HMOs) of the USA are treating peoples insurance policies as if they are warranties for a computer or a car, rather than the difference between life and death, which they really are.

When I took my one and only holiday to the USA in 1996 (I think) I had an accident whilst ride the mountain bike I had just bought (Americans decided to switch the front & rear brake levers >_<). I sustained a cut to my leg that required stitches and so the person we were staying with took me to the local hospital. I’d heard stories about going to hospital in the USA but it still came as a shock when the first question asked was “How are you going to be paying?”. The fact that I had blood pouring out of my leg seemed irrelevant at the time, the hospital just wanted to make sure that they were going to get their money. Luckily we had good travel insurance that covered the treatment.

As with all Michael Moore files you need to watch the film with a rather large bag of salt, as he tends to take a rather extreme view of things. For example he paints a rosy picture of the British NHS, which anyone the reads the British papers will know isn’t doing too well at the moment. However, it is a very thought provoking film and well worth watching.

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May 03 2007

Joining The AACS Fiasco

Published by under Current Affairs,Technology

Surely most people must by now know that the processing key for the DRM system used by HD-DVDs and Bluray DVDs has been broken and has been circulating wildly on the internet (thanks to the actions of Digg).

I read today on the following statement released by the AACS-LA:

“it has taken action, in cooperation with relevant manufacturers, to expire the encryption keys associated with the specific implementations of AACS-enabled software. Consumers can continue to enjoy content that is protected by the AACS technology by refreshing the encryption keys associated with their HD DVD and Blu-ray software players. This refresh process is accomplished via a straightforward online update.”

Well thats great, they built into AACS the ability to send out new decryption keys should a key be compromised. All users need to do is complete a simple online update of their players and everything continues as normal.

Well, hang on a minute. Old DVD produced with the compromised processing key will sure need that old key in order to be decrypted and played. However new DVDs will require the new processing key in order to be played. What happens when a player is updated to get the new processing key? Is the old processing key removed from the player? If this is the case is then is it still possible to play the old discs?

I assume that the designers of AACS would make it impossible to play of DVDs should the processing key need to be revoked, unless they think they can keep reselling the same DVDs to consumers. But then again they were foolish enough to think that they could implement a content protection system that wouldn’t one day be broken.

Surely now that hackers know how to extract the processing key it will only be a matter of time until the new processing key is compromised. Does this mean that new processing keys are going to be released daily until one side of the war gets bored and gives up? I suspect that the first side to give in may well be the consumers, at which point the losers by default will be the movie studios that thought they could pull one over on the consumers.

More of this story on:

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2 responses so far

Jan 31 2007

Recycling In Guernsey

Published by under Guernsey News

Since the recent update to Google Earths images of Guernsey I have started creating extra layers. The first of these to be released is recycling points in Guernsey. I’m not certain the recycling points are up to date but it is the best that I have been able to find so far. It currently only covers paper, steel cans, aluminium, glass and textiles but as I get better information I should be able to extend the layer with other materials.

Other layers that I have got in the works include Monoliths/ancient monuments, fortress Guernsey (German, martello towers and other fortifications) and churches (it started as churches with ringable bells).

Just to make sure there is no confusion I thought I’d clarify the license for the recycling kmz file. I have released it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license. This means that you can download, modify and re-distribute the file for free. So long as you indicate where you got the original from (here!) and that you’re not doing it on a commercial basis. If you do want to use it in a commercial product please contact me and I’ll arrange a dual license.

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Jan 23 2007

Guernsey Gets Face Lift In Google Earth

Published by under General,Guernsey News

I loaded up Google Earth this morning to take a look at where Christchurch Priory is and, as usual, first took a look at Guernsey to confirm that Google still hadn’t updated the imagery for this area. To my complete astonishment Google has updated the images of Guernsey.

Although the images aren’t at a terribly good resolution, at least it is possible to see just about the whole island, rather that it being covered in cloud or cloud shadow. Unfortunately none of the roads are marked, and some of the parish/area names are in the wrong places.

After months of waiting for either Google or Digimap to supply clean images (Google won this race) I can finally start creating all the layers I have been planning.

Open mapping, it seems, is coming to Guernsey

4 responses so far

Jan 10 2007

Guernsey Press Online Reader

I found out today that the Guernsey Press is testing an online edition of the newspaper.  I don’t mean a new version of, but an online reader for the actual print paper.  Whilst this, at first glance, seems to be a move in the right direction they really need to look at the way they’re doing it.

Firstly, it seems that it will only be available to Internet Explorer users.  I presume they’re going to be using some proprietory ActiveX control for viewing the paper. This is a really bad move if you ask me, whilst IE 7 is an improvement in past version it still falls short of the mark and many people prefer alternative browsers (Firefox, Opera, Safari, Konquerer).

Secondly, it seems that they’re planning on charging £10/month for the service.  Which, if you exclude Sundays, works out at about 36p per day.  This is only 4p less than the physical paper costs.  Quite how they can justify this price when they don’t have to cover the costs of the physical paper (raw materials, distribution, machinery, etc.) is beyond me. 

Thirdly, it isn’t very well written.  On the login page, every time a key is press, when the password box has focus, a javascript funtion is called to see if the enter button is pressed.  This is totally redundant as any half decent browser will provide this functionality for free.  If that is how the login page is written I dread to think what the rest of the site is like.  I have another reason for concern about the programming of the site but I need to contact the developers before I make it public.

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Aug 03 2006

Digimap Google Earth

Published by under Guernsey News

Digimap LogoThe Google Earth layer for Guernsey that I created has finally been updated a bit. This update just adds a couple of extra images and straightens up a couple of the existing ones. I’ve also added a new layer that contains a network link to the layer, if you use this new network link you will always get the latest version of the Guernsey layer as I update it.

I’ve been meaning to blog about Google Earth, Guernsey and Digimap for a couple of weeks now – yes I have seen you Digimap guys visiting my site! What I wanted to blog about was a mysterious meeting I had at the Digimap offices. A while back I was contacted (via a third party) by Digimap and was asked if you want to go for a meeting with them. No information was given as to what the meeting was about so, like the curious person I am, I went along.

Not knowing whether I was going to get a rollicking for using thier images, a job offer (for my great work on the Google Earth layer ;)) or some other reason I was, understandably, rather aprehensive. In the end it turn out to be them wanting to get to know the person behind the Google Earth layer and also a bit of a PR excercise… if I’m writing about Digimap they want to make sure that I know that they’re the good guys.

A couple of interesting points did come up in the meeting however:

  • Digimap is (I think) a subsidiary of the States of Guernsey but has to be completely self funding, therefore they need to sell the data in order to cover the cost of collection the data – no open source mapping in Guernsey using Digimap data then!
  • Digimap has contacted Google and Navteq offering Guernsey data but both turned down the offer saying they had sufficient coverage of Guernsey to not need new data.
  • Google Earth is soon going to have 60cm (IIRC) images of Guernsey – lets hope half the island isn’t going to be covered by cloud again!
  • Digimap try to do as much imagineering as possible – again this si contrained by the need to be self-funding.
  • Digimap will continue to monitor this blog for new ideas for them to try.
  • I can continue with the Google Earth layer using their images.
  • If I was I can host their images stitched together on my site for better alignment in Google Earth (I have written conscent).
  • If I wish they will try to provide better images for me to host for my Google Earth layer.

3 responses so far

May 04 2006

A Guesture of Good Will

Published by under Current Affairs,Site Work

Once again I have had to remove a page from my website. This time it seems that a certain person thinks I have a grudge against them and the fact that my page came up as the third hit on Google was detrimental to their professional status. The page itself was simply reporting an event as I witnessed it and I have no personal control over the way in which Google sorts search results.

To show that I have no personal vendetta against this person I have remove the page, although the Google result will still show up and there will still be a cached version on Google and probably a copy in the web archive… that is beyond my control.

Should the person in question like to offer a thank you for my efforts to remove the post and should they wish to sit down and discuss their technical abilities I would be more than willing to (for a beer). But from this point on I consider the matter of my former post over and the hatchet buried.

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Jan 31 2006

Going Postal

Published by under Current Affairs

This isn’t really one to joke about but it reminded me about a game a Phrixus used to have on his PC.

A female ex-postal worker has shot dead six people at a sorting office in California, before committing suicide. Its official, going postal is back in fashion. “Going postal” is the term originally coined in the USA for disgruntled ex-employees that return to their previous work place and proceed to kill their ex-colleges.

It’s not a very nice thing to do but whats more scary is that it must have happened with such frequency (with-in the US postal service) for there to be a term to describe it.

The original Postal game is still available as well as “Postal 2: Share The Pain” and “Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend” from the website.

One response so far

Jan 04 2006

No New Years Resolutions

Published by under Current Affairs

Several people have ask me (as is the custom for western people at this time of year) what New Years resolutions I have made. It seems that, to most people, not making resolutions is absolutely unthinkable but this is exactly what I have done. However, I have managed to get myself into a rather paradoxical situation.

A year or two ago I got fed up with making New Years resolutions only to forget about them or break them within the same week. I also decided that New Years day is a complete abitrary point in time to be setting a resolutions to better yourself, surely a better time would be your birthday or, if you’re a christian, christmas day (the day Christ was born to change the earth for the better) or Easter day (the day Christ die to save us from our sins).

So I set myself a experiment to test a hypothesis. My hypothesis is that it is not possible to keep a New Years resolution and therefore it is pointless to make them in the first place. The way a I would test my hypothesis was to make a New Years resolution to never again make a New Years resolution. As a result my paradoxical situation is this:

If I make another New Years resolution I will have proved my hypothesis right and it is therefore pointless making New Years resolutions as you can never keep them. However, if I never make another New Years resolution I will have proved my hypothesis wrong and it is possible to keep New Years resolutions and therefore you should make them.

Disclaimer: This is only meant to be a bit of fun. I haven’t been spending the last few years in torment over this situation and it really doesn’t both me whether I break New Years resolutions or not… I just think this is a neat explanation as to why I don’t make New Years resolutions.

3 responses so far

Dec 13 2005

Dean Grey Tuesday

Published by under Current Affairs

Those that work with me know that I’m a sucker for a mash-up (good or bad). Many people also know that I’m a fan of BoingBoing and Cory Doctorow. So when Cory posted a story on BoingBoing about Dean Grey Tuesday it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I decided to join in an change the background colour of my website from white to grey.

Happy Dean Grey Tuesday everyone!

3 responses so far

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