National preservation network for endangered sounds

A new “national preservation network through ten regional centres of archival excellence” to preserve endangered sounds in the UK. Presumably they’ll all be made ‘public domain’, too.

Above: recording a cock crow.

The Economist on universal income

The costs of a ‘basic universal income’ are concisely outlined of in the latest edition of The Economist. Too expensive, they fear, at least using the Swiss approach. But at the end of the article they point out that Alaska already gives all its citizens $1,900 a year dividend from its oil fund. So might it be possible for the UK to make similar use of some future Shale Gas Wealth Fund, assuming that fracking is successful in the UK? The Economist also suggests that a small basic income (say £1,500) could be made more economically and socially viable if it was given only to those who participate in helping society, by regular volunteering etc. David Cameron may get his Big Society yet.

Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail

Crossing the Pennines Heritage Trail. With a mere £50k Lottery grant, an ancient packhorse trail across the Pennines has been documented and reclaimed/refurbished as a public footpath. Beautiful new milestones are to be added with the help of the Milestone Society, and the Grand Opening will be on Saturday 4th July 2015.


Lost Objects: Etruria Industrial Museum series











Floating Forest

“Floating Forest”, British broadleaf trees treated as if they were wild flower specimens, by London’s Michael Anastassiades.


Milestone Society

The Milestone Society, restoring the nation’s historic milestones, mile posts, and finger posts. The Staffordshire milestones and posts are all done by one man


Lost in the LEP?

North East Staffordshire no longer part of the Greater Birmingham LEP, it seems. The LEP now begins somewhere around Cannock Chase, at least according to their Chairman today…

“First, we need to define exactly what we will say about the Greater Birmingham region – a diverse area that stretches from southern Staffordshire to northern Worcestershire.”


Camila Prada

Camila Prada, a young Stoke-on-Trent ceramics designer, has a new Kickstarter.


Windows 10

Finally, a reason to get Windows 10, maybe… it’ll run Android and iOS apps.

Léon Gimpel

Léon Gimpel’s autochrome photo-sequence from Paris, 1915…

German plane spotted!


Launch the fighter!




[Hat-tip: vintage everyday]

Litter and fly-tipping in England

New Parliamentary report on Litter and fly-tipping in England. PDF version.

New service: archaeological illustration

Your favourite view, sent back in time! I’m pleased to use this view of Bradwell Wood in North Staffordshire to launch a new paid service, offering affordable archaeological illustration. I’m now able to recreate a historical bird’s eye view of any landscape in the UK, seen from any direction. Showing how it might have looked at any time in the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Dark Age or Saxon periods. With fine painted in details. From £500 per picture.





Budget round-up

A quick summary of measures announced in today’s budget statement in Parliament, affecting freelancers and the creative industries…

* the TV and film tax credits schemes will be made “more generous”.

* “expand our support for the videogames industry” (Unspecified, but the key industry group TIGA is pushing for… “a new Prototype Fund to enable start-up studios to access finance and develop playable prototypes”)

* consultation on how local newspapers might benefit in future from a new tax credits scheme tailored to their needs.

* a new tax credits for orchestras is still going ahead, and is not being stalled by the EU (as has some tax credits have been in the past).

* “increasing support to high growth companies” (Unspecified extra funding)

* “we will abolish Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed entirely.”

* “The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,800 next year — and then to £11,000 the year after.”

* “From April next year the first £1,000 of the interest you earn on all of your savings will be completely tax-free.”

* Charity donation collections of up to £8,000 will now automatically quality for gift-aid (Was set at £5,000. I think this means “shake-the-bucket” collections at festivals, business dinners, and the like?)

* “new support for PhDs and research-based masters degrees” (Unspecified, but the BBC suggests £25,000 per PhD. Likely to be limited availability and highly competitive, I’d suggest?)

* “funding for Wi-Fi in our public libraries”. (Unspecified funding)

How to fix Firefox’s new mousewheel scrolling

The lastest version of Firefox / Nightly seems to have changed what happens when you nudge your central mouse wheel, intending to move down a Web page. It seems to be set up for iPads now, when users are used to ‘jumping’ down the screen in pseudo-frames. But it’s very annoying to jump like that on a desktop, when what you’re used to using is a gentle nudge. Here’s how to fix the problem…

1. Type about:config in the browser’s top Web address bar and press Enter.

2. A big list of settings appears. Type wheel in the search box that sits above these settings. The list is filtered to show only the wheel settings.

3. Look for the setting Double-click the mousewheel.default.delta_multiplier_y. Double-click on it. Changing its setting from 100 to 30 worked for me.

The Westport Independent

The Westport Independent is a interesting forthcoming videogame about, well, not so much outright censorship so much as more subtle information warfare in the Russia Today (RT) style…

“As editor, your job is to control the flow of news, affecting readers’ opinions of the autocratic Loyalist government and the rebel forces opposing it. As articles come in — with hundreds included in the game, their appearance randomised for each play through — you’ll select the headlines most likely to pacify the population. You can’t lie, not exactly, but there’s a lot you can do by not telling the whole truth, or only presenting one side of the story.”

Could be an interesting classroom ‘serious game’, for media studies ethics classes. Due on Steam later in 2015…

Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future

The new report from the government’s Digital Skills Committee, Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future. A quick skim-read suggests it’s very much focussed on skills and jobs. A couple of items that caught my eye…

“cybersecurity not being taught in schools, resulting in a “lost generation” of youngsters who ended up teaching themselves and were left unaware of the career opportunities.” … “Government cybersecurity initiatives — such as Get Safe Online and Cyber Streetwise — the evidence suggested that these were not in the public consciousness.” … “… cybersecurity is not taught as part of the curriculum; Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations told us one reason for this was: “… fast moving areas like cyber security are unlikely to have text books, as they would be out of date before they are published” … “If text books cannot be up-to-date, there is a need for education to move to online courses [MOOCs] for cybersecurity.”

“the higher education offer around computer science provision was not [found to be] consistent between institutions [especially in terms of graduate destination data]”

And a useful quantification of UK skill levels, although with no demographic stratification other than worker/non-worker…


Google AirView

Wow, I just thought: Google AirView, alongside Google StreetView. A fleet of GoogleDrones making 360 degree airborne HD camera pictures at various levels above the ground. Meaning you won’t just be able to walk a place in StreetView, but also hover above it for elevated views from anywhere. It would fill the gap between the satellite photography, which can only go down so far and can’t go sideways to the horizon, and the Google StreetView.

Return of the Flying Circus

The Circus of Drones


New NESTA report on creative industries in the regions

NESTA has a new and waffle-free short report on the creative industries outside London, and is proposing that £100m of the Regional Growth Fund cash should target growing creative clusters in the regions. The first few pages have a useful up-to-date summary of all the UK creative industries statistics on size and employment. Even given the inherent vagaries of using SIC/SOC statistics to measure the creative industries, it’s good to read that…

“the creative economy grew more rapidly in all areas outside London, particularly … the West Midlands (8.2 per cent p.a.[per year])”

There’s even a useful regional breakdown into component parts…



Unfortunately that still means we’re not on the map when it comes to regional clusters…



“Region’s tech firms show ‘remarkable’ optimism”

“A Barclays survey reveals that West Midlands tech firms are showing “remarkable” optimism as they expect to grow six times faster than GDP in 2015, according to a new survey.”