Google StreetView: Mongolia

Google StreetView, Mongolia. Off-road trails, too.

“Last fall we strapped a Street View camera onto a four-wheel drive pickup truck to begin capturing 360-imagery from rugged Mongolian roads. Since then we’ve also gone off-road to capture images of the country’s most beautiful places with Ariuntuul, our Mongolian Trekker operator, who carried the 18-kg Street View Trekker [camera] into the wild expanses of Mongolia’s diverse countryside.”

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MagFest 2015

Magfest : international magazine festival, 18th September 2015. Sadly it’s way up in Edinburgh, but nice to know that such a thing exists in the UK and is ongoing. We’re unlikely to lure it to the Midlands, though, as it seems to be a very Scottish thing. It started in 2012 to help boost Scottish magazine publishing out of the recession, skipped a year in 2013 when it reverted to being just an evening awards ceremony, then happened again in 2014 focussing on innovations in delivery and business models. Here’s the “redefining magazines” panel from 2014.

Google Digital Garage

Birmingham’s new central Library has announced that a temporary Google Digital Garage will be opening there on 27th June. Running through to the end of 2015, it will offer help to local small business to get online. Google’s pledge is to help 200,000 British businesses with their digital skills by 2016.

Arcadia Britannica

Henry Bourne’s fine new photo-book Arcadia Britannica: A Modern British Folklore Portrait. He’s certainly jiggled a whit and plucked the lucky feather, in his pursuit of modern English folklore celebrants and their costumes.

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Mortar-Boards in Massive Mortifying Mangling Death Rain!

“Throwing of caps is not to be permitted, due to health and safety” pronounced the organizers at this year’s Birmingham University degree graduation ceremony. Gosh, how have students managed to avoid being hit by falling mortar-boards during the last five centuries or so? A topic there for a research PhD, perhaps? Though not at Birmingham University.

Budget speech

Highlights of this afternoon’s Budget speech in Parliament, the measures likely to affect smaller creative businesses and the self-employed:

* “across England, [we are] launching a new round of Enterprise Zones for smaller towns”

* “The new National Living Wage will be compulsory. Working people aged 25 and over will receive it. It will start next April, at the rate of £7.20″.

* “From 2016 our new Employment Allowance [for small firms], will now be increased by 50% to £3,000. That means a firm will be able to employ four people full time on the new National Living Wage and pay no national insurance at all.”

* “Many small and medium sized businesses have benefitted from our enhanced Annual Investment Allowance. This [capital] Allowance [will now increase to] £200,000 [per year]; this year and every year.”

* “I am raising the tax-free personal allowance to £11,000 next year. That’s £11,000 you can earn before paying any income tax at all”

* “to ensure university is affordable to all students from all backgrounds, we’ll increase the [annual] maintenance loan available to £8,200″ […] “we’ll consult on freezing the loan repayment threshold for five years – and we’ll link the student fee cap to [the rate of] inflation for those institutions that can show they offer high-quality teaching.”

* “We are going to introduce an apprenticeship levy on all large firms. [But] Firms that offer [youth] apprenticeships can get more back than they put in. Britain’s great businesses training up the next generation. 3 million more apprenticeships…”

That last one is especially good news for the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industry, I’d say.

The Register on Win 10

The Register‘s tester minions pronounce on using Windows 10 for everyday work use…

Every time I’ve looked at Windows 10, it hasn’t been long before I’ve run away screaming. As recently as May the ISO was nowhere near ready for prime time. Testing Windows 10 seemed to me like volunteering to be an unpaid drug trial guinea pig – it would be painful and could potentially give you horrible side effects, and you wouldn’t even have an envelope of cash at the end to show for it. … While working with Windows 10, I found it hard to believe that this is a product three weeks from release.”

So very glad that I’ve uninstalled the Windows Update for KB3035583 Windows update, which was the 600kb of unwanted nag-ware that would have tried to auto-install Windows 10.

Recommendation systems still have nothing to recommend them

Amazon’s recommendation system is still dismal. I put a Huawei wi-fi router in my wishlist and Amazon is instantly certain I would love a Bosch IXO Cordless Lithium-Ion Screwdriver. Erm, nope. I will probably purchase the blu-ray of Tomorrowland (gotta get those 20+ minutes of deleted scenes), therefore Amazon’s system thinks I am clamoring to purchase every Hollywood blu-ray movie out there, from zombie crap through American schlock comedies to (blurgh) Jupiter Ascending. Erm, nope. Has anyone yet developed a recommendations system / taste-matching engine that isn’t moronic? I haven’t heard of one, but if you have one then please sell it to Amazon.

Birmingham in 1964

A very fine little 8mm home movie of Birmingham city centre in 1964…

Street photography under threat from the EU

A proposed new European law would effectively remove the right to take and share photos in public places, across the UK and Europe…

“On the “freedom of panorama” principle, such as the right to create and share images and photographs of public buildings, the text cautions that the commercial use of such reproductions should require authorization from the rightholder.”

It’s a result of pressure from a French MEP, predictably (they’re bizarrely sensitive about commercial photographs of the Eiffel Tower), backed by a UK Labour MEP.

Wolverhampton’s Great Exhibitions

“Displaying the Black Country: Wolverhampton’s great exhibitions of 1869 and 1902″. Another article has pictures, such as this of the 1902 Wolverhampton exhibition grounds…

Geo_Phoenix._The_Bird_Eye_View_of_the_1902_Wolverhampton_Exhibition

Amateur Creativity

A two-day free symposium on Amateur Creativity is to be held at the School of Theatre, University of Warwick (on the outskirts of Coventry) on 17th – 18th September 2015. It…

“aims to challenge perceptions of amateur creativity and contribute to debates about the cultural significance of the amateur”.

Neil Gaiman on “How Stories Last”

Neil Gaiman takes on a very timely topic, in the week that saw the superb Tomorrowland cruelly tossed aside at the behest of cynical and uncomprehending critics. Gaiman’s “How Stories Last” is a new and lengthy Long Now Foundation talk, followed by a one-to-one discussion with Stewart Brand. Free audio .mp3 (190Mb).

Neil’s talk explores the way stories, myths and tales survive over great lengths of time, such as the 10,000-year span of the Long Now Foundation, and why creating for the future means making works that will endure within the oral tradition.

Sidewalk Labs

Google’s new Sidewalk Labs

“Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company that will develop technology at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, with a focus on improving city life for residents, businesses and governments.”

Director of the Institute for the Creative Economy

Nice job, Director of the Institute for the Creative Economy, Birmingham City University.

Maker Monday

Birmingham City University has a new monthly ‘Maker Monday’ in Birmingham, for young technology innovators…

“Maker Monday draws on the rapid growth of cheap computing such as the Raspberry Pi, prototyping tools such as 3D printing and modern projection techniques such as telepresence.”

Just add bears…

DatumExplorer v01. Digitally scan an entire British woodland, record its complex sounds and acoustics, create a mapped computer simulation, add bears and other extinct animals…

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PGP encryption for Facebook

Nice. Zuckerberg is ahead of the looming policy curve, and is now offering PGP encryption for Facebook. Just upload your public key.

The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium

Alan Moore’s Electricomics project (Digital R&D Fund for the Arts) is to conclude with an academic conference in the UK in October 2015, The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium. Ah, but can a shiny digi-slab do this

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Developing Documentary Photography courses

Developing Documentary Photography courses in Moseley, Birmingham: ‘Researching and Planning your Photographic Projects’, and ‘Editing and Exhibiting Your Photographic Project’. 21st July – 5th October 2015.

“The Researching and Planning Your Photographic Projects course provides participants with the skills to research and analyse the works of others, plan and initiate ready to edit bodies of photographic work with the aim of exhibiting them to an audience in the future. After completing this course you will ready to undertake the editing and exhibiting your photographic projects workshop.”