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UK National Museum of Computing trustees publish damning letter about treatment by Bletchley Park trust


Here's some further detail on yesterday's disturbing news about the Bletchley Park trust's management of the museum -- firing volunteers with decades of service with no notice, evicting collections, and doing everything it can to separate the Bletchley Park exhibits from the National Museum of Computing, which is on the Bletchley site and pays a substantial rent to the trust.

Now the trustees of the National Museum of Computing -- which contains a replica of the Colossus II and the Tunny, early computers that played a key role in Bletchley's wartime history -- have written an open letter detailing their grievances against the Bletchley Trust, which appears to be doing everything it can to marginalise and exclude the National Museum and its exhibits.

I'm a donor to Bletchley and the NMOC, and was a member of the Bletchley Friends until recently. The National Museum of Computing is an important facility that complements Bletchley's own exhibits, and without which, Bletchley is much poorer. The Bletchley Trust's repudiation of the people and institutions that kept the site open and operational, saving it from ruin, is a disgrace. Even worse, of course, was the business of surrendering editorial control of its exhibits to corporate sponsors, but there's something especially contemptible about gratuitous cruelty that goes beyond a mere breach of intellectual integrity.

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890 word Daily Mail immigrant panic story contains 13 vile lies


The Daily Mail is an awful, racist, hard-right UK newspaper, notorious for scare stories (see, for example, this exhaustive index of things that the Fail claims will give you cancer) and generally terrible reporting.

But even in amidst all that notorious history of deceit and hate, the Mail attained something of a new low recently, with its "reporting" on the supposed wave of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants. According to the Mail, these people were poised to invade the UK on January 1, 2014, when those countries' EU membership would entitle their citizens travel throughout the EU and seek work without visas.

Jon Danzig, an investigative BBC journalist, plucked one of the many such stories out of the paper's pages, a mere 890 words' worth, and, with the help of a colleague in Romania, found 13 lies. He pressed the Mail to substantiate its story, and, failing to receive a satisfactory reply, he filed a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission.

The Mail's xenophobic campaign against Bulgarians and Romanians has been instrumental in shifting both Labour and the Tories to adopting inhumane policies, in order to pander to people who've been terrorised into a false belief that somehow migrants are coming to both take away British jobs and collect benefits (that is, to work and not work simultaneously).

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Sky Broadband parental filter blocks jquery

The parental filter on Sky Broadband, one of the largest ISPs in the UK, blocked jquery, the widely used Javascript library, without which many websites cease to operate. While the block was in place, Sky advised customers that they could get the Web back by disabling the filter, or switching off the "phishing/malware" category.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has unilaterally decreed that these parental filters will soon be switched on by default for all broadband customers in the UK. But don't worry, the Great Firewall of Cameron won't make any mistakes, because the PM has decreed that Web companies must:

a) Censor all the bad things, but;

b) Don't censor the good things.

Whew, that's a relief.

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Bletchley Park's new management chucks out long-term volunteers

Here's more bad news from historic computing site Bletchley Park, where a new, slick museum is being put together with enormous corporate and state funding. Last month, it was the fact that McAfee had apparently banned any mention of Edward Snowden in a cybersecurity exhibit.

Now there's this heartrending BBC report on how volunteers who've given decades of service to Bletchley have been summarily dismissed because they don't fit in with the new plan. The museum of Churchill memoribilia that shared the Bletchley site has been evicted.

For people like me who've donated over the years, fundraised for it, and joined the Friends of Bletchley, this is really distressing news. I've always dreamt of Bletchley getting enough funding to do the site and its collection justice, but if it comes at the expense of decency and integrity, they may as well have left it as Churchill did -- abandoned and forgotten.

BBC News Bletchley Park s bitter dispute over its future (via /.)

European Court of Human Rights will hear case about GCHQ spying


This is huge news: the European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear a challenge to bulk Internet surveillance by the UK spy agency GCHQ. The case was brought by Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN, and German Internet activist Constanze Kurz. This is a rare instance of "impact litigation" in the UK, where a bad law or practice can be ended swiftly and decisively by having a court hear a test-case about the law and rule on its constitutionality. This tactic has been incredibly effective in the US -- EFF's famous Bernstein victory, which legalized strong cryptography, is a good example -- but has been less available to UK activists.

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Great Firewall of Cameron blocks game update because "XerathMageChainsExtended" contains "sex"

Redditor LolBoopje discovered that the UK's Great Firewall of Cameron -- the national censorwall put in place by the prime minister -- was blocking updates to the game League of Legends. The update archive contained two files, "VarusExpirationTimer.luaobj" and "XerathMageChainsExtended.luaobj" that had the word "sex" in them, triggering the censorship algorithm. The censorship is totally silent -- users got a "file not found" error -- and it was only some very clever sleuthing that revealed the error.

I've written at length about the worse-than-useless nature of censorware as a means of keeping kids from seeing bad stuff. One of the key points to note here is that silent failure: there is no way of telling how many of the timeouts, file-not-found errors, and other miscellaneous bugs in your daily Web experience are caused by the Great Firewall, and that is by design. It is a system that is intended to make it impossible to tell if it's working. That's not going to be pretty.

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UK Prime Minister's special advisor wants prison for people who watch TV programmes the wrong way


The UK Conservative MP Mike Weatherley spoke at a second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill in Parliament and called for prison sentences for "persistent" downloaders. Mr Weatherley is a former entertainment industry executive and is Prime Minister Cameron's Intellectual Property advisor. He also defended the idea of disconnecting families from the Internet if their router is implicated in accused acts of copyright infringement.

In Weatherley's view, "piracy" is the same as "theft." He's saying that if you listen to a song the wrong way -- by torrenting it, rather than listening to it on Spotify -- you should go to jail. He's saying that if you watch a TV programme using Bittorrent instead of Iplayer, that the state should pay to imprison you and you should be deprived of your liberty; but if you watch that same program in the same window on the same screen in the same place, but you get it from Iplayer, you're in the clear.

Prison for watching TV the wrong way -- no wonder they're called the Nasty Party.

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Help ORG fund a legal director!

Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work. We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG."

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Pirate Cinema and Homeland covers shortlisted for the Kitschie for best cover


The Kitschies are a British award for science fiction and fantasy; every year they choose some marvellous books to honour. This year, I'm proud and pleased announce that they've shortlisted the UK editions of my novels Pirate Cinema and Homeland for the "Inky Tentacle" award for best cover. Both covers were designed by the studio Amazing15 for my British publishers, Titan Books. I'm indebted to the judging panel and the Kitchie volunteers -- thank you!

Food studio that makes edible fireworks, four-ton punchbowls, and floats a steamship in 55K litres of green jelly

Bompas and Parr are a London-based "food-nerd" studio that makes weird and amazing foodstuffs, including an edible fireworks display for New Years Eve that showered revelers with strawberry smoke, peach-flavored snow, orange bubbles and banana confetti. In a fascinating profile in Wired, they reveal something of their methodology and their portfolio, which sounds delicious and ambitious.

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Elaborate, detailed Star Wars dioramas


Carl "Boutros77" BouMansour is a fine artist and modeller in the UK who makes elaborate diaoramas based on science fiction movies, especially Star Wars. These are lavishly documented in his Flickr sets. There's a lot to love here, but I recommend starting with the pictures of the Cantina on Tatooine. It's such an ambitious miniature set, and the attention to detail left me amazed and delighted.

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Bartender places Tony Blair under citizen's arrest for unprovoked war against Iraq


Twiggy Garcia, a bartender at the east London restaurant Tramshed -- which is right around the corner from me! -- interrupted former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's dinner to place him under citizen's arrest and ask him to come to a police station to hear charges for his decision "to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq." The war criminal smiled winningly and tried to change the subject to Syria, while his offspring hurried away to get their private muscle. The bartender, sensing an impending beat-down, left, quitting.

I'm sorry he quit. I'd have booked a table at Tramshed for the express purpose of buying him a drink. If you're interested in placing Tony Blair under arrest, you can learn more at Arrestblair.org.

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Bugle alarm clock

Dominic Wilcox made this Bugle Alarm Clock for a window at Selfridges department store in London: "This prototype alarm clock is fitted with mini air compressor and thin vibrating rubber membrane to mimic lip vibrations."

4: Bugle Alarm Clock (via WTBW)

(Photo: Piotr Gaska)

Mr Chicken: the genius who paints London's fried-chicken signs


London's fried chicken restaurants are a bizarre and wonderful institution -- generally, they have American-ish names (Dixy Fried Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Carolina Fried Chicken) and KFC-ish logos, all carefully titrated to be just far enough from the KFC version to keep the Colonel's savage attack-lawyers at bay. I photograph these places semi-compulsively, but I never knew (until today) that all their signs were designed by a single virtuoso fried-chicken sign-painter named Morris "Mr Chicken" Cassanova, who warrants his own chapter in Siâron Hughes's 2009 book Chicken: Low Art, High Calorie. A post on Creative Review excerpts Hughes's interview with Mr Chicken:

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Events for London hackers and designers who want a better world

Carla sez, "There are two upcoming ways for designers and coders to put a little good out into the world. First, you can land a job that lets you spend your time making positive social change. On February 6 join WebVisions at Essence in London for short presentations from Essence Digital, Buddy App, PaveGen, Streetbank, and Sidekick Studios. Learn different ways that you can turn your vocation into a force for good. Second, be a part of WebVisions' Hackathon for Social Good on February 8. Held at Fjord London, programmers and designers will spend the day working collaboratively to build programs and applications that benefit local nonprofits." Cory 1