Category Archives: Culture

To Kill A Mockingbird is a fine example of how copyright is failing us all

I read this recent piece on how Harper Lee has finally allowed an e-book edition of her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, to be produced. Of course, in the absence of an authorised e-book that readers can pay for, there are plenty of unauthorised ones — it’s trivial to find on any torrent site. My eye was caught by a comment on the article, discussing the existence of these pirate e-books:

This is sad, but doesn’t surprise me. Its the reality of the world we live in today. I suspect the biggest purchasers of this e-book will be over the age of 40 – those under don’t tend to realise the purpose or value of copyright.

That is exactly wrong.

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Who is this for?


uhu-glue-advisor-500pxWho is this for? I’m genuinely interested. Is it an if-you-build-they-will come kind of a gig, or is there a ready-made community out there, all thinking “Oh, if only I could get a UHU glue advisor app for my smartphone”?

As J. B. S. Haldane so presciently observed, the universe is not only stranger than we imagine; it is stranger than we can imagine.

My response to the Privacy and Security inquiry

I found out only today that The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is soliciting evidence for its Privacy and Security Inquiry. As this is one of the most important issues facing the UK at the moment, I made time to write a response, and if you’re British then I encourage you to do so as well. See also this excellent response from Glyn Moody.

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… Or maybe they’re doing web-site registration completely right

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that DeviantArt are getting web-site registration completely wrong by asking for the email address (which you can see as you type it) to be repeated, but not requiring confirmation of the password (which you can’t see).


A lot of people in the comments (both here and at Hacker News) pointed out that I was wrong.

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TalkTalk want £10 for a 13-month-old bill

I’m putting together my expenses for running the small home office where I do my work. One expense is my phone line. I went to the web-site of TalkTalk, my phone provider, only to find that they won’t show me the older bills unless I pay them £10:

Screenshot from 2013-10-29 12:00:52

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Turn up the volume!

Back in 2005, I won a first-generation iPod Shuffle at a conference for being the most engaged participant or something (i.e. for being a loud-mouth).


The Shuffle is a horrible piece of kit, of course. It has no display, no way to navigate between albums (only track-at-a-time), no EQ, only the crudest battery-state indicator (OK vs. not-OK), and Apple’s appallingly clunky proprietary disk format which means you have to wrestle it to the ground before you can add songs.

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My new favourite Unicode characters

For reasons that seemed good to me, I was leafing through The Unicode Standard, Version 3.0 — 1,040 pages of character-set goodness — when I stumbled across this pair of characters on page 520:

  • ≸ (U+2278) — neither less than nor greater than
  • ≹ (U+2279) — neither greater than nor less than

It moves my soul that both of these exist.

Dear America: you are insane

US schools weigh bulletproof uniforms: ‘It’s no different than a seatbelt in a car’.

That is all.


Things that Americans find incomprehensible about the UK

Lots of interesting thoughts on the previous post — thanks to all who commented. I’ll comment in that thread on the various clarifications of American culture. Here, I want to discuss some of the proposed oddities that have been suggested for Britain. (I won’t be addressing trivia like the lengths of TV series or the size of mains plugs, interesting though they are, because I want to focus on fundamentals.)


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Things that Brits find incomprehensible about the USA

There are things that we Brits find incomprehensible about the USA. And no, I am not talking about trivia like the popularity of bad beer, the funny accents in the South, or the the comical use of the word “pants” to mean trousers. I mean deep-seated cultural differences that make USA sometimes feel utterly alien to me. Here are three:

1. Heath Care

Americans live in a civilised and technologically advanced country, one of the richest in the world. Yet people die because of not having health insurance. To British eyes, that is utterly inexplicable. Barbaric. Inexcusable.

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