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.”

Tech Nation report

Tech Nation is a new report which claims to have surveyed the 21 UK digital production clusters outside London. Of such companies formed since 2008, 74 percent were found to be located outside London. Of companies formed since 2010…


Birmingham is deemed by the report to be an “early stage” cluster, but has apparently seen a 51% increase in new digital companies incorporated between 2010 and 2013. One suspects that the various city snapshots would change markedly if freelancers, partnerships and microbusiness were visible enough in the data to be included. Their presence is measured by a sort-of proxy, asking larger companies about their access to talent.

On the other hand the selection of data points by DueDil appears to have been sloppy. A quick look around the report’s map for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire county shows their Companies House companies data to be hopelessly astray in giving an accurate on-the-ground picture of a place. DueDil have included the likes of erm… housing associations and sports retail shops? Don’t base your investment decisions or house moves on this report, without further investigation.



Google Earth Pro is now free

Google Lat Long has announced that Google Earth Pro is now free. It once cost $400 a year.

More events for 2015

Added to the West Mids events 2015

14th-15th March 2015:
The Beauty of Letters : text, type and communication in the eighteenth century. A joint annual conference of the Centre for West Midlands History and the Baskerville Society. University of Birmingham.

12th June 2015:
Controlling Crypto-currencies. One day conference at Birmingham Law School.

Edge question for 2015 – in Kindle .mobi format

The world’s leading thinkers on the Edge question for 2015: “What do you think about machines that think?”. Since the single page is the length of two novels (130,000 words), and Instapaper et al will choke on it, I’ve taken the liberty of making a simple free Kindle .mobi conversion which looks nice and has proper —’s and spacing. This is for those who want to read the page on their Kindle ereader device. It’s unabridged.

EDGE_Question_2015 in Kindle .mobi format
(670kb zip)

Wired UK redesign

Wired UK redesign. Finally, a magazine that realises that a widescreen desktop PC is not an iPad. Who knew?


I’m still reading their article list in stripped-down RSS, though. And then pushing interesting articles through Instapaper to my old-school Kindle ereader. Sorry, designers. Very pretty and all that, and it even scrolls sideways. But until I get a large tablet — that can handle a double-page magazine spread while still being readable — it’s still really just the words that I want.

Details on the UK’s postgraduate loans

The fine details have emerged on the UK’s forthcoming postgraduate loans funding for Masters degrees: 120 universities are to be funded with a share of a £50m loans fund, with a small core of five (including Birmingham University and Manchester University) assured of getting more than £1m each. Both full and part-time course will be eligible for loans. No restrictions are being placed on the choice of subject or course.

The loans are meant to be focussed on those… “who have paid undergraduate fees since 2012-13, and who are from groups underrepresented at taught postgraduate level.” Universities who have had the most success in recruiting those types of undergraduates will be rewarded, with funding allocations based on the existing… “number of students at each institution from areas with the lowest participation in higher education, and the number receiving Disabled Students’ Allowances”. It was also announced elsewhere that the loans will be restricted to those aged under 30, which seems a little harsh on a disabled 32 year old who’s just finished a degree.

The new loan scheme will start for the 2016-17 academic year. I imagine (my guess) that funding may turn out to be oversubscribed at the student application level, as there’s only a limited pot, high demand and universities must match-fund half of the £10,000 loan. So the most eager prospective students will probably want to secure their loan-funded places early, applying in Jan? 2016 for an Autumn 2016 start.

Loan paypack terms will be the same as the undergraduate loan — which means that most artists, writers, actors etc will never have to pay it back, because we tend to have annual earnings below the payback threshold. Hopefully individual universities won’t discriminate against these sorts of courses at the application level, in terms of which applicant gets a loan, and the loan applications forms will be blind to course choice.

Typographic Hub

The Typographic Hub at BIAD, has a 2015 diary online for their Birmingham talks. Students and staff only, apparently, but I daresay if you know your boldface from your dingbat then they might let an interested local designer sit in at the back.

2013 UK creative industries statistics

The new government report Creative Industries Economic Estimates: January 2015 is now available for download. It’s good news, albeit conveniently released at just the right moment to try to mute reaction to David Cameron’s stonkingly stupid promise to ‘outlaw all software that uses encryption’, which is what his statement amounts to. I was pretty sure that Labour authoritarian types would be dim enough to try this if they won the election, but I didn’t expect it now and from the Conservatives. I’d heard that Cameron had banned his Party from mooting half-baked policy ideas, in the run-up to the election. But obviously he makes an exception for himself. Anyway, we’ll see what happens when the next government has to announce the outlawing of Facebook (messaging + encryption par excellence).

The new creative industries figures are actually for 2013. Apparently it’s the first time they’ve been available, what with the statisticians in Whitehall being a year behind in their tallying. They’re also important because it’s apparently the first time the figures have been tallied under the new creativity criteria, which supposedly prevents the likes of your local electronics superstore from counting as a ‘creative industries’ employer. 2013 saw the UK creative industries grow by just under ten percent, sustain 1.7 million jobs, and pump out 8.8 percent of all exports of services exports (£17.3bn). And hey, we lead Europe on e-commerce and ecommerce exports. Which relies on, erm… strong encryption, with no kludged-in backdoors or possibility of clandestine access by corrupt officials.