October 2006 Archives

Football and Gambling

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Five Live had a report today about how gambling, and to a lesser extent porn, are becoming quite serious addictions amongst some young footballers. You can listen to the report here. It's ironic, then, that so many shirt sponsors in the British leagues are now tacky internet gambling companies. Step forward Aston Villa, Blackburn, Middlesborough and Spurs. And of course, pretty much every club has their own "gambling partner".

It's not unusual for sponsors to supply products to the players in their teams, so do the players at Villa et al get free lines of credit at their internet casinos?

And of course then there's the alcohol adverts that appear on shirts. Do they take the advertising logos off the kidswear? No. No. No. Although I do read that because of religious sensibilities, you can buy an "alcohol free" Celtic shirt.

I was thinking about this when for the first time today, I realised that Barcelona were now sporting a shirt sponsor. Except that they've selected Unicef who of course aren't paying for the privilege. I may still see if I can buy an unsponsored Barcelona shirt.

Inside Look At Google/YouTube Deal

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Fascinating insight into the recent Google/YouTube machinations from an anonymous insider posted at Mark Cuban's blog (via Waxy).

About C4 Pulling Out of Quiz TV

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A measured piece about Channel 4's withdrawal from the quiz TV market. Of course they can't continue to claim public service status with a channel like this. Mind you, can ITV1?

Warning about Hostess Bars

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Following the photo the other day, this time around Westminster council "City Guardians" were leafleting last night at the intersection of Brewer Street and Great Windmill Street in Soho yesterday evening. Nonetheless, just metres away three tourists were being tempted into such a bar by a tall brunette. Evidently there's a concerted effort to close down these places, and while leafleting and putting signs outside the premises are no doubt effective, they're not as good as shutting down these places permanently.

W1 Clip Joint

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Since I actually took this photo I thought I'd comment. I still find it amazing that the police acknowledge the existence of what it obviously some kind of clip-joint. They even put a man and a sign outside it, yet they can't close it down.

DTT - Loads of Space

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One of the other things it mentioned in that Broadcast article about C4 getting out of Quiz Call is that although it's giving up the channel, it's hanging onto the Freeview slot. The worrying thing about that is that Quiz Call on Freeview has to be the most overcompressed channels on the platform. I certainly wouldn't want to watch a proper channel with so little bandwidth allocated to it. It'd be like watching a YouTube video on the net. Fine in a small 320 x 240 box, but rubbish blown up to full size.

In other news, BBC Parliament is going fullscreen on Freeview. Currently it shares a channel with the News 24 on demand service with BBC Parliament, and two news streams using a quarter of the screen each. So my question is this: where is the extra bandwidth coming from? Are they stopping using one of the two permanent interactive channels? Unlikely. Or are all the other BBC channels on the same multiplex (B) getting compressed a bit more to make space? We'll find out at the State Opening of Parliament.

More Illegal Clips on YouTube

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Following on from the FA the other day, Media Guardian today reports that a rights protection company called NetResult has got YouTube to remove over 1,000 clips for copyright violation. The article goes onto report that NetResult believes that there are "as many as 10,000 more illegal clips on the website."

Right. I think they'll find that there are many more than that. And there are lot of rights agencies that Google/YouTube will have to deals with beyond four major record giants to clear themselves. Indeed, given that if I video the Hollywood sign or the Eiffel Tower at night I'm infringing copyright if I don't pay, the infringements are likely to be endless.

Quiz TV Investigations

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It was interesting to see this evening, that now MPs are looking into the phenomenon of quiz TV. Of course the name itself is misleading because the programmes work on the basis of "questions" that don't have certain answers - they're largely guessing games.

Last week, Broadcast magazine reported that Channel 4 is planning on selling its channel, Quiz Call which is good to hear. What I hadn't realised until I saw the Broadcast piece is that Quiz Call has been the subject of a Sunday Times investigation into alleged misbehaviour on the part of the broadcaster. The paper reports that the channel has used its own staff to pose as winners with large cheques, and sometimes ensures that nobody could win prizes for up to 40 minutes.

Earlier in the year, a channel called Big Game TV was raided by police following complaints by viewers to You and Yours - you can hear the piece here.

So now there are investigations into these channels by Ofcom, ICSTIS, the Gambling Commission, and now MPs. As Evan Davies pointed out in his Ten O'Clock News report, TV companies are seeing advertising revenues dropping off, and this has been a nice little earner. But they're lotteries pure and simple - so give 20% to charity and publish the odds of getting through.

Footie on YouTube

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The latest company looking at copyright violations on YouTube seems to be the FA. Unsurprisingly, along with any music video of any note, most of the key goals from around the world and other football incidents (Defoe's arm chewing for example), quickly find their way onto YouTube.

All this is copyright of course, with Sky and the BBC paying lots of money for the rights in the UK. But a 1 minute goals roundup of a match is perfectly suited to the internet, and those videos are going to end up somewhere.

What's strange about the story is that the FA is going after a blog rather than YouTube for hosting the goals.

Anyway, it's really working, because the site links to many of the goals of significance from this weekend including Arsenal's demolition of Reading, and Real Madrid's defeat of Barcelona. None of the Saturday games are up, and no doubt by the time you read this, the Premier League goals with have been taken down.

So what happens next? Does the FA sue YouTube? Or do they strike some deal with Google to allow goals to be played and get a stake in Google as a consequence like the record companies? I suspect that neither will be the case.

Of course, if they were really smart, they'd look at the example of Major League Baseball. The World Series is underway at the moment, and they let you watch a "fastcast" which is a short, neatly produced free video package. The highlights of last night's game - in which the Detroit Tigers tied the series up at 1-1 against the St Louis Cardinals - are already online. But if you want, there's a competitively priced package of full game streams available to buy. Sadly, while there is video on thefa.com, there's no Premier League action, relatively little England footage, and even the U21 stuff is out of date (no Germany v England from the other week - just the first leg).

Surely the best way of combatting pirates and video sites is to make something even more compelling available for consumers? That's certainly what happened with music and the like of the iTunes music store.

List Shows

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I hate list shows.

I mean, I really hate list shows.

Weekends are forever full of four hour shows counting down whatever in a pointless way. And a selection of non-entity Z-list celebs spout off about the clip they just watched on a screen seconds before the cameras rolled for their contribution.

Armando Iannucci parodied it all quite well in his recent series.

But having said that, I still watched a good chunk of Greatest Ever Comedy Movies on Five tonight. Sadly the full list isn't up on the web, and I only saw it from 12 or so down. But it just really disappointed me.

The thing is that this programme did seem to have some budget. A lot of the writers and directors involved had been interviewed, and the majority of the other talking heads were film critics like Barry Norman and Derek Malcolm. OK, so we did have Michael Winner too.

No. The real problem is slightly alluded to in the previous paragraph. They were able to interview most of the salient personnel. That means that they're alive. What that really means is that no old films got a look in.

Sure, the overall winner, Life of Brian, was made in 1979, but I'm talking about really old films. Movies from the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. I didn't see the whole show, and maybe some did make it. Perhaps a few of the Ealing comedies, the odd thirties screwball comedy. Buster Keaton? Laurel & Hardy? I don't know.

What I do know is that the only film of any age that I saw was at number 11, and was the incomparable Some Like It Hot. A true classic.

What a shame then, that the number 10 film was Mrs Doubtfire.

I'm not sure who ever decided that Giles Coren would make a decent TV presenter because I find him just about the most irritating person on television - and include every "cast member" of reality TV programmes in that list. But at least he had the decency to blame us. Well not me obviously, but you. The British public. Well those member of the public who ticked a few pre-selected films on the Five website at some point earlier this year.

So what we end up with is effectively the comedy section in the local Blockbuster Express (By the way, why are they called "Express"? It's not like they're any faster. What they really mean is that the branch is tiny). The range is pitifully small and just represents all the really obvious films you can think of, have seen a million times before, and quite probably own the DVDs of a few of them.

I think what annoys me is that there isn't a proper film programme on TV at the moment. Film 2006 is fine for reviews, and Paul Merton made an excellent series on silent stars earlier this year. I miss Moving Pictures, or those intros that Alex Cox or Mark Cousins used to do for Moviedrome (complete aside - I've just noticed that Alex Cox has put a PDF of his book on spaghetti Westerns released under a Creative Commons licence). Still The Cinema Show starts again on BBC Four next week.

Fun With Mobile Phone Contacts

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If you're familiar with the alphabet, you'll appreciate that any list of names sorted in alphabetical order that includes mine, will place me somewhere near the top. Indeed, unless you have friends named Aaron, Abraham, Abel or Abi, I'm quite possibly heading your list. Now think about your mobile phone contact list, and you'll appreciate that when you want to, say, send me a text, it's not hard to find my name. It's right there at the top!

On the other hand, if you don't want to send me a text message, it's also quite easy to inadvertantly send it to me anyway since a slip of the finger means that you've selected me.

Now consider a couple of possibilities. Your phone's unlocked, and one of its softbuttons says the following in sequence if you keep pressing it: "New Message" "Add Recipient" "Select Contact" "Send Message" [Return to start].

You might begin to appreciate that a phone in your pocket alongside, perhaps, a particularly angled key or coin, and you could be repeatedly pressing that softbutton a lot of times.

Guess what? That means that the person at the top of the list can get multiple blanks texts. And let me tell you, it happens more often than you think.

Other things that can happen to those lucky enough to appear at the top of phone lists include misdirected texts when the sender's inebriated. Certainly I've had very curious texts arrive on my phone in the early hours of the morning which are occassionally followed by "Please ignore my last text" messages.

Then there's straightforward calls from your pocket. One colleague repeatedly phoned me from a trip to Russia, running up an expensive bill. Even turning my phone off just meant that my voicemail got filled with rubbish. I've heard plenty of ambient train and car travel noises, as well as the background sounds from pubs and bars.

My top tip to you, if you're phone is inclined to make calls or texts without your assistance, is to enter a dummy "AAA" name at the top with a number that can't be dialled like "1". Think of all the money you'll save?

Lost Moves to Sky

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So the big TV news is that the rights for Lost have switched from Channel 4 to Lost. According to Mediaguardian, Sky's paying £20m which, if I read the story right, is for seasons 3 and 4. So that works out at around £500k an episode. That's pricey.

Channel 4, it seems, had the opportunity to match the Sky bid but declined to do so. Sky come out the winners.

It also seems that Sky might start broadcasting the new series as soon as next month. That's just about doable since ABC is playing the series as a block of three from earlier this month, and then an uninterrupted run of seventeen from mid-January. Sky could probably start their run to tag onto that with episodes airing perhaps only hours or days after they have in the US.

Of course, Sky-less viewers are the people who are going to miss out, with DVD boxsets likely to do well for Buena Vista. But at the back of your mind, you have to worry that Lost was running the risk of losing viewers anyway. More questions keep getting asked, but few answers have been forthcoming, and with ABC keen to keep new episodes coming, there might never be answers as producers dig themselves deeper and deeper into holes that no plotting will let them out of. It's the old Twin Peaks problem.

Another new US series that looks quite good, Jericho, shares that problem. A small town seems to have survived a nuclear attack. What's happening? At some point we're going to need to know. Yet the economics of US TV mean that mini-series are quite limited and running something for thirteen weeks and then just ending it is not an answer. Although if I think back to a big mini-series like War and Remembrance - the Robert Mitchum WWII epic - that ran for 12 episodes. How it was programmed in the US, I've no idea, but in the UK it largely aired weekly sometime at the weekend as I recall. If it's been done in the past, it can be done again. In that instance it was a war story that was always going to end when the war finished.

With all the ongoing series that have been launching in the States this season (Vanished, Kidnapped, Jericho, Heroes, etc), that might be something to consider in the future. A finite ending for the viewers that remains in sight. If someone told me that Lost was going to wrap up in May after a roller-coaster of a storyline, I'd make sure not to miss another episode. But with no end in sight, and the programme moving to Sky, I suspect many will bid it farewell.

Copyright in Music

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Technology Guardian has a front page piece on proposals to extend the lifespan of copyright on music, from 50 years to 95 years. Why 95 years? Well because that's what it is in America.

Actually, the real rush is because music recorded in the 1950s is now coming out of copyright and in 2012, in time for the Olympics, the first Beatles tracks will be out of copyright. As the article points out, that doesn't mean that you don't have to pay anything since publishing royalties are payable to the artist for 70 years beyond the artist's death. But it does mean that I'd be free to repackage those early Beatles songs and as long as I paid the royalties holder (in this instance Sony after Michael Jackson sold them on - I believe he may have been short of a bob or two), I can release my collections.

I've been through this before, and regular readers will know that I'm fundamentally opposed to an extension.

The tenet of the Guardian piece was actually more to do with the various British libraries being unable to legally make copies of pieces of music that are falling to bits before their eyes. While legislation to allow them to make copies as they need to is welcome, extension to 95 years seems to just be for the benefits of record companies who somehow haven't been able to fully monetise their opportunity over a period of FIFTY YEARS.

There's also the small matter of all the non famous material that's locked up in those archives. Whilst anything of any significant commercial interest will either be released by the company itself, or licenced to another label, there is more locked in there. And releasing DRM-locked electronic versions is not a long-term viable answer.

In the meantime, I still don't own a Beatles album, since they're possibly the most over-priced classic albums on sale in the UK today and I refuse to be gouged.

Mobile Data Costs

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The failure of the BBC's Dr Who mobisodes, with an average of just 3000 people downloading each episode, only further highlights the problem with mobile data in this country. As the Mediaguardian piece points out, despite the fact that episodes were offered free, they cost users between £1.50 and £2.00 each to download. The versions served online saw 2.6m plays, mainly because it was free (or as good as) for most users.

The cost of data is further analysed in a good comment piece in last week's New Media Age which also highlights the differential pricing we get in the UK compared to other parts of the world. It's surely in the mobile industry's interest that we all start using these data services, yet if the cost to a user is so great, then where's the incentive. I certainly couldn't even conceive of downloading music via a mobile. Nevermind the cost of the tracks themselves, the data charges would be crippling.

Nope, data usage for me remains limited to football results on a Saturday afternoon if I'm out, and a few railway timetable lookups.

As for Dr Who? Well my three month old smartphone was completely incompatible, so it's all pointless for me.

Newspaper Confusion

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With the advent of two new free evening papers, the Evening Standard is finding it hard to compete. This week it's offering a free DAB radio every night. A fine prize certainly, but not really in the realms of free cars every night that it's managed in the past.

But I digress. One of the things that Associated did to let it compete better in a free newspaper world, was to put its price up to 50p. The idea is that the extra revenue gives them a warchest of cash to spend.

However, walking past one newsagent just off Leicester Square last night revealed a special offer for that night only with the Standard priced at 40p. Yet the next street seller I saw near Charing Cross Station, was firmly selling the paper for 50p. And by the time I reached Embankment Tube, vendors were passing out the Standard for free for "one hour only" in a deal done with Nokia (who'd taken every display ad in the paper).

So 40p, 50p or free - all within about 150m of each other. It's that kind of joined up thinking that's going to let the Standard stay afloat in the newspaper wars.

Booker Prize on the Beeb

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Last night, the Man Booker Prize was awarded Kiran Desai for her novel The Inheritance of Loss. And congratulations to her. But what was curious was the manner of its announcement. Yesterday I spent a short while scouring TV listings to find what channel it would be shown on.

BBC2? Nope.

Channel 4? Nope.

BBC Four? Nope.

More 4? Nope.

Artsworld? No again.

Normally you'd have expected one of those channels to carry it. ITV certainly hadn't waded into a highbrow literary war. So I went to the Man Booker website which said that the award would be announced live during the BBC Ten O'Clock News. Really?

And so it duly was, with the presenter on the stage clearly waiting for the BBC correspondent to turn around and give her the nod to make the award.

The award was swiftly announced - with none of the judges words conveyed - and it was back to the studio. More coverage was promised on News 24, including an interview.

I must admit that I question the involvement of BBC News in this. I can understand that they wanted to cover it, but it's a commercially sponsored award, but although the actual award is newsworthy, the live nature doesn't seem to sit too squarely with me. I'm happier for a programme on BBC Four or BBC2 carrying it, rather than it being a live event for the news. I realise politicians give press statements at strategic timed moments for coverage on news programmes, but this is a little different. Not the best editorial judgement.

On the other hand, if I were from Man Booker, I'd be thrilled. A guaranteed larger audience on the Ten O'Clock News than on a specialist arts programme.

Blacklisted Writers on Robin Hood

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A good piece on the Hollywood blacklisted writers who wrote for The Adventures of Robin Hood in Britain as the only way to continue working once Hollywood prevented them. The story is also well told in the TV film Fellow Traveller.

Radio Radio

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This week's Mediaguardian has two articles that are worth commenting on regarding radio.

The first is a piece on the future of DAB. It focuses on the recent decision, since reversed, to lower the Radio 3 DAB bandwidth from 192kbps to 160kbps. A further drop in bit-rate occurs when either Radio 4 or Radio Five Live has an opt-out that requires additional bandwidth. The BBC had tried some new encoding technology to see if they could squeeze more out of the limited resources they have on their DAB multiplex.

And that's the main problem. DAB has used additional services to drive take-up - and it's a tactic that's worked enormously well. But a disappointingly high proportion of these services are at some very low bit-rates, with music services being offered in mono. We've had stereo FM services since the 60s, so forty years later, it would seem to be something of a step backwards.

Sadly most people don't seem to care about audio quality. This is bizarre, since at the same time they're spending more and more money on home cinema systems that can play back their Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS DVDs.

It is true that much of the world has not adopted DAB as the default radio format, but frankly there's nothing that really looks like it's going to takeover worldwide like FM and AM did.

Sadly DAB is not really future proofed - there's no possibility to update codecs and squeeze more out of the available bandwidth.

Meanwhile Steve Ackerman of Somethin' Else, the radio indie, writes about the ridiculous state of affairs that's seen UKRD hand back their Stroud licence. Is local radio over-regulated? Well, if UKRD didn't want the Stroud licence, they were no obligation to take it on. Most stations are pretty free to play want they want in regards to music - but it's local programming that these groups are trying to wriggle out of. They want to regionalise as much as possible, and then run "syndicated" national programming. But they bought licences that are enshrined in law to offer local radio services. Like ITV, when it moans about having to offer children's programming, despite it always being in the licence requirements, I have little to no sympathy. And they only need to look to the likes of Radio Pembrokeshire to watch an efficient and effective way to make small stations pay the way and achieve large audiences.

Horizon

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OK - perhaps it's still early days in the new series, but am I alone in being very slightly worried about Horizon? Last week it was The Survivors Guide to Plane Crashes, and this week it was Danny Wallace asking if Chimps are People Too. Now I like Danny Wallace, but this programme felt like a BBC1 prime time documentary and not something that belonged under the Horizon banner. An interesting programme, but not really "proper" science.

I have no problem with popular science, indeed it's a shame that its been so long since Tomorrow's World, and before that, QED both came off air. Perhaps it'd take a brave producer, but I reckon it's about time that a Tomorrow's World type show came back. Five has the OK-ish Gadget Show, which suffers from apparently being shot on lower quality camcorders than some of the ones they test, but combine that with a digest of scientific stories based on current affairs - from Bird Flu, through space, to Stem Cells - there's always something to be looking at - and you might have something.

And why has the Horizon logo changed? It's not that long since its last overhall, and at least that stuck with the classic "horizon".

Transatlantic News Values

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Listening to this week's On the Media on the way home today, it was suddenly very jarring to realise the real difference between US media and its British equivalent.

In a piece about in-fighting between the English language Miami Herald and its sister newspaper El Nuevo Herald, one of the main differences between the papers was the complete objectivity that the Miami Herald, like most major newspaper across America, adopt at all times. El Nuevo Herald, on the other hand, takes positions on things all the time. Much like Latin American newspapers as well as European ones. Indeed, all British newspapers have fairly obvious positions on a wide range of beliefs.

Meanwhile, the next item "celebrated" the tenth anniversary of Fox News, a cable news station that is absolutely not objective. Yet compare and contrast with our own news stations, and there's nothing remotely close. Of course broadcasting laws in this country prevent such a station from happening - and in any case, Sky News has tried on more than one occassion to make Richard Littlejohn some kind of British Bill O'Reilly without success.

But it's curious to me that there isn't an American version of, say, the Daily Mail. I wouldn't wish the paper on my worst enemies, but in a land of free speech, one might expect a USA Today type operation selling such a title quite successfully. Of course the New York Times and LA Times are seen as "liberal" papers anyway, so perhaps a Guardian wouldn't flourish at the other extreme, but the differences are still curious.

Death of a President

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Death of a President

The assassination of George W Bush as part of a new drama airing on More4 tonight.

Some bright spark decided to buy a four-page wraparound ad for this programme - an ad-type that only a free newspaper would sell.

Of course, someone might be mislead into believing that Bush really had been assassinated on first reading. So is this:

a) a really clever ad
b) not a smart thing for a so called newspaper to do
c) all in bad taste anyway?

I'd go with b). The drama is a legitimate one, but any newspaper that carries this wraparound (on a day when truly frightening events have been occurring anyway with North Korea testing nuclear weapons) really needs to go back and look at its news judgements.

Out Stealing Horses

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This novel won The Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize earlier this year. Per Petterson is Norweigian (well - it's a while since my last Scanidnavian title), and is very well regarded in his homeland. Out Stealing Horses is a wonderful novel telling the story of Trond, both as a child in 1948, just after the war was over and the occupation finished, and as an older man living in a cabin in rural Norway with the Millennium approaching.

The novel is nicely placed and the characters and events feel very real and not at all contrived. Something happens in Trond's childhood which is change things forever and how he sees the world around him.

I loved the descriptions of life in the country realistically portrayed through a young teenager's eyes as things are slowly revealed to him. Well worth a read.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

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If you're really quick, you can get this book from Penguin in 10 weekly paperback chunks for £25. They're serlialising it in a Dickens manner, before publishing it in hardback in January (for less than £25).

Obviously, if I've read the book, I've done none of these things - it was published in the States in August and I read the American edition.

But on to the novel itself. It's a Victorian world, set in, well a kind of England, although that's never specified, even if there are many English names littered around the place. None of the places exist, and the geography doesn't quite make sense. Other parts of Europe are mentioned however, since many of the characters come from these places.

We follow three characters - Miss Temple, the Cardinal, and Dr Svenson as they take on the forces of mysterious cabal who seem to have developed some kind of technology with dastardly powers.

If that last sentence makes the plot sound like hokum, well then, that's because it is. There is much chasing around the "city" and the countryside, with strange parties at mansions, sinisters doctors and femme fatales.

At 700 pages, there's quite a lot of things going on, but at times it felt like the book's universe needed opening up a little. And there was far too much of people getting knocked out and coming around unguarded in a locked room or whatever. I suspect that much of this is to give a certain pastiche feel to the book, but at times it can be a little tiring.

However, you do care about the characters and each of the ten very long chapters leaves you on a cliffhanger that almost certainly won't resolved for many pages to come as we jump to another of the three protaganists.

So overall, I'd probably wait for the paperback, unless you fancy a quite collectible series of paperbacks now.

Digital TV Secrets

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Torin Douglas writes an article in this week's Marketing Week which pretty clearly explains the whole situation at the moment regarding digital TV.

First of all he points out that one of the things most people don't tell you is that many flat screen TVs aren't as good as old cathode ray tubes. I still have a Sony that's over ten years old now, but still looks better than many sets displayed in shops. Of course how the average Currys.digital store displays their TVs may not always be to the products' best advantage.

But Douglas writes that Mike Briggs from Which? recently told The Independent that "Chances are, normal TV programmes won't look as good on a flat-panel set as on a conventional box."

Douglas goes on to explain the difference between HD compatible and HD Ready. Then there's the question of what exactly is HD, with different resolutions available.

One way or another modern day consumer electronics is becoming unnecessarily complicated with DVD+R/DVD-R/DVD-RAM to be followed now by HD-DVD/Blu-Ray. Never mind Wi-Fi network standards...

Catching Up

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Media Guardian catches up with something that I wrote about two months ago.

Google Gadgets

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Just testing the embedding of Google gadgets into webpages.

New York Times Reporter in Mid-air Collision

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Times Online TV

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There's been a bit of media coverage of a deal that The Times has done with its sister company Sky News, leading to Sky's news being available on "Times Online TV" a streaming video service available on The Times' website.

Aside from the fact that this is surely not really news - two sister companies working together - I was more surprised when I had a bit of a look at the Times Online TV service to see what else it had. A lot of the video is supplied by Reuters, and perfectly good it is too. But aside from a Sky News tab, there's also a Fox News tab. Surely that really doesn't help The Times does it? Rabidly right wing, with it's famous "fair and balanced" nonsense strapline. Just about the first story on the site in the US News section gives a fair indication. It's a follow-up piece from a few days ago following an interview on Fox News with Bill Clinton, in which Clinton vehemently defended himself against accusations that his administration hadn't done enough to look for Osama Bin Ladin. The piece even featured the reported words of Fox News Chief Roger Ailes in a self-reverential manner.

Maybe the service will next start using The Sun for its entertainment service?

Cinema Shuts For Two Weeks

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Love this story.

"The movies are so bad, and I don't need the money. ... I just didn't think I should use my high-quality facilities to show people vomiting on-screen."

Sheringham Timelapse

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A timelapse of Sheringham, 30 September.

The clouds are coming nicely towards the camera, and the sun crosses the frame towards the end of a day that saw everything from clear skies to rain.

A couple of glitches are the strange encoding at the start - something really doesn't like matt blacks - and a brief moment when the camera loses focus. I guess I forgot to leave it on manual focus.

You can also see, very briefly, flocks of birds fly close by at a couple of points.

The music is from The Draughtsman's Contract by Michael Nyman. But we shan't dwell on that...

See the Stars in Reykjavik

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What a fantastic idea! Reykjavik is turning all its street lights out on Thursday evening at 10pm for half an hour, and encouraging homes to as well. Then on national radio, astronomers will talk people through the night sky.

Last week, when I was trying to take photos of the night sky, I was enormously aware that I had to take advantage whilst I was outside the city. Even on the very edge of London suburbia is completely hopeless.

Sadly I suspect that a similar initiative in London would lead to concerns about car accidents and massed looting or something. Maybe in a smaller town it could work?

BBC Banned Update

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Following on from my moan the other day about the ridiculousness of football managers "banning" the BBC from their press conferences or making any comments to them, it was pleasing to hear Chief Sports Writer of The Mirror, Oliver Holt, saying the same thing on Sportsweek this morning. He said it was a bit of a hobby horse of his, as it is of mine. As he pointed out, last night's Match of the Day featured neither Sam Allardyce nor Alex Ferguson (yes I know Man Utd only played today). If the BBC investigate, say, where Abramovich's millions come from and Chelsea take issue, might they be banned as well?

It is indeed for the Premier League to insist on its managers talking to all their partners as part of the deal.

And here's something really scary. After Bolton's Monday game, Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling asked Sam Allardyce if he'd ever taken a bung. Allardyce said that he was "out of order" and an hour later, reports say that Bolton officials were harranguing Sky's producer.

The scary part is that the interview was not replayed or shown on either Sky News or Sky Sports News. The impression given suggests that Sky appreciates that to make their multi-million investment in football work, they have to have access to players and officials. If they fall out with them, then the value of their investment is reduced.

So if you've made a large investment in a product, you don't want to rock any boats and ask tough questions, even if it begins to make people question your editorial integrity. Sky News has just appointed a Viewers' Editor (link broken at time of entry), so maybe that's a question for them?

M&S Curiously Strong Mints Really Altoids In Disguise?

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Marks & Spencer's Curiously Strong Mints are just Altoids aren't they? Altoids, although made in the UK (by Wrigleys), are notoriously hard to find here, whereas M&S mints are, well, pretty easy to get. They also tend to be about 6p more expensive.

They both have nice and awfully useful tins though, which makes them much better to get than, say, Trebor's Extra Strong Mints.

Now I just need to peel back the UK label to see what's underneath.

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