Access for All

[As ever, this can be read on the BBC News website]

President Sarkozy of France recently managed to get his ‘Création et Internet’ law passed by the National Assembly, and if all goes well in the Senate then French internet users will soon find their activities being supervised by HADOPI, the grandly named ‘Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des Droits sur Internet.’

The rights it is concerned with are not those of ordinary net users but of copyright owners, and especially the large entertainment companies that have lobbied so hard and so successfully for the power to force internet service providers to terminate the accounts of those accused of downloading unlicensed copies of  music, films and software.

Once HADOPI is up and running rights holders will be able to go to it with evidence of illegal downloading, and it will issue banning orders to ISPs without any need for tiresome court proceedings.

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Touching the past

I’ve just returned home after an evening at St John’s College where we had a small supper following my talk at the Computer Lab this afternoon – it will be online soon, by the way.  It was a delightful event, especially because Maurice Wilkes joined us.

Maurice Wilkes
Maurice Wilkes

And I recorded an AudioBoo on the way home..


The 10 Cultures Problem

It’s fifty years since CP Snow gave his famous lecture on The Two Cultures at the Senate House in Cambridge. Tomorrow I make my contribution to the University’s 800th anniversary celebration with a lecture on ‘The 10 Cultures Problem’ at the Computer Laboratory.

And it’s featured on the University home page. No pressure then…

University of Cambridge home page
University of Cambridge home page

When the new becomes old

[As ever, you can read this on the BBC News website]

Sometimes on a  Monday afternoon I find myself sitting a desk in a small room in a fairly nondescript office block near Cambridge railway station waiting for the network engineers at Bush House to call me up on an ISDN line so that I can take part in Digital Planet, the World Service technology programme I appear on most weeks.

It’s the same studio used by contributors to many other radio programmes. Every time I hear that the ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4’s Today is coming from Cambridge I think of  the yellow panels, the squeaky chair and the 1930’s style microphone I know so well.

While I prefer to be in studio C21 so that I can sit opposite presenter Gareth Mitchell and watch producer Michelle Martin through the glass, it isn’t always possible – this week my son has his first GCSE exams and I want to be around to comfort him after his RE and Maths papers, so I’ll do the show down the line instead.

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Can’t Connect… Won’t Connect

[As ever, this is on the BBC News website too]

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones must be hoping that his near neighbours don’t decide they want a larger family.  He recently spent ages setting up a high-speed wireless network at home, documenting the whole tortuous process on the BBC Technology blog, but all his hard work could apparently be ruined by a single baby listener in the neighbourhood.

The intercoms sold to let parents listen in to every snuffle, sob and cry operate in the same frequency band as the wireless networks more and more of us are installing and can generate so much interference that they make them unusable.

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Is Facebook Really Bad for You?

[As ever, this is on the BBC News website]

The examination period is always stressful, both for those sitting GCSEs, A levels and the International Baccalaureate and for their parents and siblings who get ‘second-hand stress’ without even a certificate to show for their efforts.

My friends and I used to revise together, hoping that it would create enough social pressure to keep us working through the evening, but being in the same room is clearly no longer required. My daughter, in the midst of IB exams, and my son, facing GCSEs next week, have email, instant messaging and of course Facebook and other social network sites to keep in touch with their school mates and share revision tips and exam guidance.

Some revising schoolchildren probably found their access to Facebook severely curtailed last month, however, after The Sun revealed that those who checked the site every day dropped a grade in their studies while heavy users were doing as little as an hour of school work a week.

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