Bill Thompson says: Find Me

I’ve long been fascinated by the tales of ‘numbers stations’, radio stations that broadcast lists of numbers. According to Wikipedia

Numbers stations are shortwave radio stations of uncertain origin. They generally broadcast artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters (sometimes using a spelling alphabet), tunes or Morse code. They are in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually women’s, though sometimes men’s or children’s voices are used.

Evidence supports popular assumptions that the broadcasts are used to send messages to spies.  Numbers stations appear and disappear over time (although some follow regular schedules), and their overall activity has increased slightly since the early 1990s. This increase suggests that, as spy-related phenomena, they were not unique to the Cold War.

There are lots of them around, and this recording shows what I think is a new one. It is well worth listening to.

[audio:poacher.mp3]

It may even lead you to something interesting.

Fools rush in…

The House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee recently issued a call for more regulation of online content, and I wrote about it for Index on Censorship

It would be nice to think that the latest call to ‘do something’ about online content from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was grounded in some new development that made it trivial for websites to identify adult-oriented content, an online identity system which reliably linked social network profiles with age verification for all users, or the release of a user-friendly but unbreakable watermarking scheme that could identify copyrighted material whenever it appeared on an Internet-accessible computer.

Because the alternative would be that a bunch of MPs has decided the best way to get some publicity at the start of the summer recess, when newspaper editors are starved of ‘serious’ stories, is to announce that the Internet is like the Wild West, and children are constantly exposed to unsuitable material on YouTube, reveal intimate personal details on Bebo and surf the web looking for pro-anorexia or suicide support sites.

read the whole thing here.

Time for digital turnoff

Jeff Jarvis has a great post over at Buzzmachine in which he argues that its time to ‘tear down the broadcast towers’:

My most striking realization since getting my iPhone (love it, thanks for asking) is that radio is doomed. Pandora is a wonder, creating my own radio station, live and on the fly without need for a broadcast tower.

I agree.  Here’s something I wrote over two years ago about television…

Rethinking Digital Television

Spending £700 million on digital switchover is perhaps the most foolish waste of public money since the Maginot Line, and will be as effective in stopping the tide of Internet-based programming that is about to sweep over Europe and the rest of the networked world.

Building a dedicated transmission network designed solely to distribute digitally-encoded television over a fixed set of frequencies, so that audio and video can be received by specialised aerials, decoded on single-purpose computers and displayed on screens is an absurd idea when cable companies are already making the switch to IPTV and a general-purpose data network – the Internet – can provide a suitable infrastructure for programme distribution.

Continue reading “Time for digital turnoff”

Openness and Innovation

My latest post over at the TCS Innovations blog was drawn from the introduction to the Openness and Innovation panel at the recent Media Futures Conference

Just as open societies have, since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, been the pre-condition for the social, cultural, scientific and technological innovations that have created the modern world – with all its flaws a better place to be a human than any time in the last 50,000 years – so open standards and open systems have provided the underpinning for the network world.

Read the whole thing here.

15 years of the public domain web

It’s fifteen years since CERN announced that web code was in the public domain

CERN letter

Tim Berners-Lee has talked on the BBC news site about the way things could go in future, and I managed 4 mins on BBC Radio 5 Live talking about why the Web matters…

[audio:http://www.thebillblog.com/ext/bill/bill5live.mp3]

The unenlightened

Pakistan is blocking YouTube because the site, a bastion of free expression, mashups, flexible attitudes to copyright and many other fine things – including me with Gu Pots on my head – contains material that is  “blasphemous” and  considered offensive to Islam.

It is yet another example of the way in which the world is dividing between those cultures and countries that are able to accept the existence of values that diverge from those they espouse and those which would like to remove all, those which are open and those which are closed.

It’s becoming clear that countries are the unit of network censorship, that the tales we told back in the 90’s about the end of the nation state were foolish dreams.

It’s also becoming clear that there is a price to pay for allowing nation states to assert their borders in cyberspace, a price that may in fact be too great.

Because soon almost all the places on the Internet where I spend my time and meet my friends will be off-limits in those countries, and I can’t help thinking that is a very bad state of affairs.