UK Home Office's terrorist detection checklist


Snapped yesterday at the Mykonos, Greece airport: the UK Home Office's terrorist detection checklist for spotting existential threats to the human race before they can board. It's grimly fun to imagine the brutal false-positives this inane document must generate. My favourite (for sufficiently perverse definitions of "favourite") is a refugee who's just attained citizenship, but now has to rush away to attend the funeral of a brutalized relative.

Did GCHQ reveal secrets about computer insecurity when it exorcised the Snowden leaks from the Guardian's laptops?


When Prime Minister David Cameron ordered two GCHQ spooks to go the the Guardian's offices and ritually exorcise two laptops that had held copies of the Snowden leaks, we assumed it was just spook-lunacy; but Privacy International thinks that if you look at which components the spies targeted for destruction, there are hints about ways that spies can control computer hardware.

Read the rest

Brandalists replace 365 outdoor ads in 10 UK cities with hand-printed works of art

Last week, in a coordinated attack by guerrilla artists across the UK, 365 outdoor ads were replaced by hand-printed works of art. It was a project of Brandalism, and they hit 10 cities, using hi-viz vests and steely nerves as camouflage while they did their work.

Read the rest

Mat Ricardo playing Dorchester this Sat

Mat Ricardo writes, "After a sold-out London West End run of my one man show 'Showman,' earlier this year, I'm spending most of the rest of 2014 touring around the world; I've managed to squeeze in only one UK date, and its this coming Saturday, at the lovely Dorchester Arts Centre. It's a great intimate venue, exactly the kind of space where my stuff works best, and I'm really looking forward to it.

"I'll be heading to Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Canada and Finland - ridiculous, and obviously I'm very excited that people seem to be really getting into what I do! And if that's not enough, I've also got the hilarious Sarah Benetto as a special guest. It's going to be a hell of a night - Stories! Danger! Stupid tricks! Come!"

Jo Walton's "My Real Children": infinitely wise, sad and uplifting novel

An ambitious and nuanced story that left Cory Doctorow in tears, the new novel from award-winner Jo Walton is about an elderly woman who remembers two lives.

Read the rest

Hack Circus, Brighton: fantasy technology and everyday magic

F writes, "The third Hack Circus event will take place in Brighton on June 14th and the theme this time is Access All Areas. The event will feature former social engineer Nick Drage sharing true stories of breaking into computers, banks, offices and even airports. Artist Sinead McDonald will 3D print the audience's brainwaves live, and transport historian Dr Ralph Harrington will talk about the cultural and military impact of the humble bulldozer. Sci-fi author Chris Farnell will question scientist Alexandra Pohl about a laser-deflecting forcefield that she has helped develop, in theory at least, at the University of Leicester. Hack Circus is a magazine and event series founded by Leila Johnston, creator of parody gamebook Enemy of Chaos and popular geek podcast Shift Run Stop. It's being developed during her residency at Lighthouse Arts in Brighton. Arts organisations are embracing the creative in creative technology! The third issue of the magazine will be launched at the event."

London property bubble examined


Tim Harford, my favourite skeptical and eminently readable economist, asks the question: Is London experiencing a housing bubble? He is hesitant to be definitive on this, but makes a very good case for the idea that London housing prices are inflated and heading for a crash.

Read the rest

Nokia 100 phones: £5

The workhorse Nokia 100 phone is now a mere £5 without contract from Carphone Warehouse. Now, that's a cheap burner -- either manufacturing robots have come way down in price or there's some very unhappy people chained to machines in a factory somewhere. Either way, it's a pretty sad end for a giant whack of conflict minerals like coltan mud. (via Red Ferret)

Ukip councillor sends cops to activist's house, ask him to delete critical tweet


Michael Abberton, a Green Party activist in Cambridgeshire, was visited by two police officers on Saturday who had been sent by a local councilor from Ukip (a party that lets you express your xenophobia, racism, sexism and homophobia by cloaking it in a respectable "concern about immigration") who objected to a tweet that enumerated some of Ukip's most extreme positions. The police told him that they he wasn't legally obliged to follow their command, and also told him he wasn't allowed to tweet about their visit, but that he wasn't legally obliged to obey that command either. After the police left, a Ukip supporter sent Abberton a threatening tweet that implied that he knew that he'd been visited by the police.

Ukip, standing up for traditional British values, like censorship.

Read the rest

Bletchley Park Trust erects "Berlin Wall" to cut off on-site computer history museum


The Bletchley Park trust have erected a fence, nicknamed "The Berlin Wall," between their well-funded museum and its poorer on-site neighbour, the UK National Museum of Computing, which houses the hand-built replica of the codebreaking Colossus computer. The trust received an £8m lottery-funded grant and set about shitcanning long-serving volunteers (see below), cutting off the computer history museum, and generally behaving like greedy jerks, systematically alienating long-term supporters. Oh, and there was that Snowden business.

I've left the Friends of Bletchley Park, and have stopped recommending that friends visit the site.

Update: Bletchley Trust has clarified to me that while this volunteer was dismissed from guiding tours because he refused to conduct the tour to the new spec, he still volunteers with the Trust in its educational department.

Read the rest

Turning spam-calls from a hassle into a profit-centre


Lee Beaumont of Leeds, England got sick of unsolicited calls to his home number, so he spent £10 registering a "premium rate" number that costs 7p/m to call, and started listing that as his home number in all of his commercial dealings. Once he'd set things up so that spammers made him money, he started to spread his number around, tweeting it in the clear and telling customer service reps to call him on it. The number paid for itself in two months, and, when the story drew press-attention last summer, the lengthy press-calls he received made him hundreds of pounds. If you want to give Mr Beaumont 7p (or more), you can call him at

Read the rest

The Oversight: conspiracies, magic, and the end of the world

The clever blendings of history and imagination in Charlie Fletcher’s new novel are satisfying enough to make resolution of its loose ends worth waiting for, writes Cory Doctorow

Read the rest

Crowdfunding an illustrated A-Z defending libraries

Gary sends us, "a library crowdfunding project I am involved with. It is aiming to creatively highlight the value of public libraries to those who believe they are outdated or irrelevant. This is particularly important at the moment as many local authorities are closing libraries and reducing their hours, as a result of cuts in central government funding."

I put in £20!

Read the rest

UKIP candidate tells Lenny Henry to move to a "black country"; party says reporting this is a "smear campaign"

The UK Independence Party is a ultra-right-wing anti-immigration party with strong streaks of racism, homophobia, sexism and other unsavoury beliefs in both its rank-and-file and its leadership. Having made the transition to a mainstream party -- one that's sucking up disaffected Tory voters in bulk -- they've adopted and sometimes even enforced principles against outright racism and sexism, but the membership haven't quite got the message.

Case in point: William Henwood, a UKIP candidate in local elections for Enfield council, tweeted that comedian, actor and beloved British institution Lenny Henry should move to a "black country" if he was concerned about a lack of representation for people of colour in the media. (He had previously tweeted a comparison between Islam and the Third Reich).

So, what of UKIP and its much-vaunted anti-racist, anti-sectarian official programme? Don't hold your breath. A UKIP spokesman told the BBC that there are people who say things like this in all the parties in their social media streams, but only UKIP is singled out for scrutiny by the biased media, and called reporting on candidates who publicly tell Lenny Henry to move to a "black country" a "smear campaign."

UKIP are in the lead for EU elections next month.

Read the rest

Petition against UK sell-off of private tax data

Pam writes, "The Open Rights Group has set up a petition in response to last week's news that the British government is planning to sell access to private tax records."

Read the rest