Monthly Archives: October 2005

Enfranchising prisoners

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Britain should allow prisoners the vote. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with denying prisoners the vote. It’s an arbitrary, petty and outdated gloss on the withdrawal of liberty and, worse, it grants unelected judges a quite inappropriate role in the democratic process. Taking the right to vote away from those who’ve already lost their liberty is incompatible with larger and older liberties that we should be more enthusiastically defending.

Links are back

So I spent about two months fiddling with my blogroll and tried a few ways of keeping it up-to-date and now, at last, it’s back. So, if you’re one of the people who’s been writing to me complaining, then you can shut up now. Of course, the thing I’d forgotten was that most of my own blog browsing is driven by the links in my blogroll, which explains why I’ve not been browsing lately.

More Japanese corporate history

I love these Japanese corporate history sites – in fact, I’m becoming a bit of a connoisseur. Nikon‘s is a treat, and all the better for the wobbly translation:

I, the author of this article, used to work in Nippon kogaku’s designing department, felt a bitter feeling when asked by a sales representative of an electronic parts company “Isn’t Nippon Kogaku K.K. going to make a “Continuous Shooting SLR”?”

A site like this is a testament to the depth and breadth of a business like Nikon and a tribute to its people. Do businesses here, in Britain, honour the creativity and diligence of their people and the historic value of the things they make in this way? No. They don’t.

Go analogue

Detail of a Nikon FE2 with Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens
Will digital cameras ever acquire the butch glamour of the classic mechanical bullet-stoppers of the 35mm era? Common sense says ‘I suppose so’ but I can’t see it myself. Digital cameras are as feathers next to these old copper-alloy lovelies. It’s like comparing one of those crappy nylon and tin sliding door commuter trains to Mallard. Speaking of copper-alloy lovelies, you’ll probably be wanting this one for your collection.

Some things are only possible on the radio

Three beautiful and evocative examples of the art of radio from the Radio 4 treasure trove. Last week’s Open Country, a really fascinating programme about East Anglian Churches and Chapels, evoking an era of simplicity, piety and ugly class brutality.

A terrific insight into the work and thought (and language) of theatre directors: John Caird and Max Stafford Clarke talk about putting on Macbeth (I think you’ll need my MP3 because the programme’s probably been overwritten by now).

The best of the lot, if you ask me: John Killick’s spent the last ten years talking to people with Alzheimer’s and turning what he hears into poetry (likewise, you might need this MP3 if the Real stream’s gone).

Is Wolfowitz going native?

The World Bank’s 2006 World Development Report (download the report here and the overview here) provides at least some evidence that Bush crony and super-hawk Paul Wolfowitz hasn’t taken advantage of the top job to wreck the place or to overturn the bank’s commitment to the planet’s poor. It’s hardly evidence that Wolfowitz has ‘gone native’ but I’m pretty sure that his job at the World Bank can’t help but influence the man. Could the World Bank actually change Paul Wolfowitz more than he changes the bank?

Real live card fraud

Duty Manager at Tesco Radlett examines the card skimmer from his ATM, 31 September 2005
So this is how those card skimming ATM false fronts work: the device is very simple, made from moulded polystyrene (or similar), engineered to fit one ATM model and spray-painted in a colour close enough to the real thing with all of the appropriate card logos glued on.

The business end of the device (behind the thin polystyrene front) seems to include a card reader for recording stripes (and, presumably storing them in a simple, time-stamped format) but no way of recording PINs. Of course, the scary thing about that last bit of information is that it requires the skimmer to hang around and watch you type in your PIN and then record it (write it down, I suppose), with an approximate time stamp, so that it can be matched up with its stripe later on.

The thing obviously doesn’t have a radio so it looks like the only way to harvest its store of stripes is to recover the false front itself, which, given what happened at Tesco in Radlett yesterday, implies a certain redundancy – they must have a stack of these things in a lock-up somewhere.