In fair Euston we set our scene, where news has emerged that author Mark Forsyth discovered that newly installed WiFi filters at the British Library have banned possibly the greatest work in the history of the English language: Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The filters were acting overzealously to some of the more bloody elements of Hamlet, which is about murder and revenge, after all. The British Library acknowledged the error, blaming the newly installed WiFi service, which it offers free, for being set too strictly.
"We have recently introduced a new WiFi service. It’s early days in the implementation of this service and we are aware that the new filter has been blocking certain sites erroneously. We are actively working to resolve this issue," it said in a statement.
There’s a nice element of irony in this, as it shows just how ridiculous filtering can become, especially as the government attempts to impose this upon internet service providers, claiming it will protect people from horrible content. The filters may protect them from a few dodgy sites, but they will also stop them reading the nation’s greatest writer.
In honour of this story, and with our deepest apologies to The Bard, we humbly offer this sonnet, telling the tale in rhyme.
In the halls of the British Library
An institute of learning and knowledge
Filled with scholars and students from college
A man uses the WiFi, offered free
He searches ‘Hamlet’, the Bard’s finest tale
Told with wit, charm and artistic license
But also filled with death and violence
So much so it is deemed beyond the pale
By the WiFi filters that have been set –
So nasty and evil sites can be blocked
And rightly too, so users are not shocked –
But they have ended up banning Hamlet!
Shakespeare would laugh at our filter terrors
Calling it a comedy of errors
By V3's Dan Worth, who hopes his creative writing teacher would be proud
The organisation that represents the concerns of mobile network providers has lashed out at EC commissioner Neelie Kroes' comparisons between the dairy industry and mobile network operators.
Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer for the GSMA, said Ms Kroes' comments were "beyond the pail". He was referring to a press release published by the European Commission earlier this week, which inferred that the prices consumers pay for mobile services differ far too much throughout the EU.
"There are much smaller price differentials in other categories of basic goods and services in the European single market. For example a litre of milk can be bought for between €0.69 and €0.99 wherever they are in the EU, a price difference of 43 percent," it said.
Philips was intolerant to this comparison, striking back with some dairy comparisons: "Dairy producers are not rolling out 'next-generation' milk infrastructure that is central to European economic competitiveness," he stated.
He then continued to milk the issue: "Nor are they meeting consumer demands by offering people 'all you can drink' contracts."
Kroes wants EU consumers to have free choice over where they make calls, and suggests that the pastures in the US are much greener, with a single market policy for mobile network providers. After poring over the press release, Philips decided it curd not be a fair comparison, adding that that instead of moo-ving forward with even stricter regulation, the EC should consider "co-ordinating the release of spectrum made available through the digital dividend".
Also, after (semi-)skimming over the data the EC presented to make the point about price differences, we found that the information was also a couple of years past its sell-by date; only statistics from 2011 were available to make the point. We contacted the EC to see if any fresher data was ready for market, but there was none.
All we can say is that this issue has turned rather sour.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who thinks the EU is in a glass of its own
The UK’s average broadband speed is now almost 15Mbps. Yes you read that right. No doubt many readers will splutter on their coffee, tea or something stronger as they read that and run a quick speed test to see if they can hit double figures, let alone the 14.7Mbps download speed they should enjoy.
However, Ofcom’s data, from 736 million tests carried out in May seems fairly hefty, and enough to form a good impression of the UK market.
While such numbers garner the headlines, and demonstrate an impressive fourfold improvement since November 2011 when it was a paltry 3.6Mbps, another figure in the release also caught the eye for the wrong reasons: the average upload speed is 1.8Mbps. Yes, you also read that right.
The average upload speed is almost ten times lower than the average download speed, and while downloads are increasing notably each time Ofcom carries out its research, the average upload speed had increased by just 0.4Mbps since the last data was collected in November 2012.
This is highly disappointing, and a tad worrying, as many people are having to suffer upload speeds that render the use of many web services almost impossible. This matters, because putting content online is central to many people’s use of the web.
Think of batch uploading images to Facebook, videos to YouTube, documents to cloud services like Dropbox, and corporate services likes Yammer or Box, which are integral to many people’s working lives.
It’s all very well and good working from home if you can download key files and presentations in the blink of an eye, but once you’ve made amendments or want to upload your own contribution, sitting there watching it slowly crawl online is frustrating.
Focusing on download speeds is the right course of action, as that's where the greater need is for the wider benefits of the web. But in future, once coverage is available for all at high speed, urgent attention must be given to uploads if we're to be a nation that can engage with the web in both directions.
By V3’s Dan Worth, who loves a speedy upload
It has emerged this week that the UK's Department for Transport (DfT) would be looking into having Google Glass banned from UK roads. The justification for this decision isn't in question (although we'll look at that later), the problem is the manner in which the statement has been made.
Currently, Glass is not on general sale; it's only available through Google's Explorer programme. We have to assume that the DfT didn't gain access to the Explorer campaign for two simple reasons. One: it was only for US citizens. And two: $1,500 is a lot to pay for a concept device, which may have little bearing on a final product. Plus, the public sector is hardly flush with cash.
We did contact the DfT, asking whether any of its staff had indeed tried Glass, but we had received no reply by the time of publishing.
It does seem a little bizarre, therefore, that the DfT says it is "in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving" before it has even tried the product.
But putting that aside, what's the case for and against Glass? Let's look at it in the eyes of the law first of all. The DfT's website states the following about hands-free devices: "You can use hands-free phones, sat navs and two-way radios when you're driving or riding." But the crux of the matter is what follows: "But if the police think you're distracted and not in control of your vehicle you could still get stopped and penalised."
So really, unless the DfT is really going to push through legislation banning wearable tech, it may just be down to interpretation.
The government's Think! road safety site states that crashes are four times more likely for drivers using their mobiles, with reaction times 50 percent slower. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says that drivers holding or using hands-free phones make numerous mistakes and makes it clear that it would prefer all devices, hands-free or otherwise, to be banned.
V3 readers seem to agree, too. Stupot commented: "Looking at a GPS display takes the driver's eyes off the road. This in itself is dangerous enough. How can computer displays do anything but add to the number of accidents on the roads?"
Meanwhile, Kemlyn_IT tweeted us, saying: "It's not about the technology, about the effect on driving. Some have been penalised for eating a sandwich for example."
So while there would seem to be absolute justification for the government to say that there is a potential problem, coming out and saying outright that they would look to ban the devices, despite hands-free phones and satnavs being legal, seems a little short-sighted and premature. We suggest Google sends the DfT a sample of the gadget before it proceeds any further.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who's an excellent backseat driver
While flicking through today's government document concerning Britain's digital platform for growth, we spotted something that amused us.
In order to demonstrate the usage of the wireless spectrum, the report referred to an image produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica in 2001 (below). We forgot that Britannica existed, which wasn't helped by the fact that the company stopped publishing its physical editions last year.
It's nice to see such colourful imagery in what is otherwise a standard government report, but eagle-eyed V3 staffers spotted a few things that were missing from this formerly cutting-edge diagram.
For starters, as this diagram is intended to show the common uses of the wireless spectrum in the UK, the mention of VHF television was quite a surprise given that the UK stopped broadcasting VHF TV signals in 1985. DAB – which has been broadcasting for the best part of two decades on the VHF frequency alongside FM (this, thankfully, receives a mention) – is also notably absent. Perhaps it is a statement about the format's sluggish uptake.
Elsewhere, we see no sign of WiFi, which we would hesitantly say play a reasonably important role in the UK's wireless offering. It would be found somewhere in the SHF range, in case you were wondering. And while we do see reference to mobile phones through the use of the long-forgotten phrase "cellular phone", there is no talk of 4G in this particular visual demonstration.
Finally, it's good to see an old-fashioned cathode ray tube (CRT) TV getting its time in the spotlight; there's nothing quite like the glow of a CRT to bring out wistful thoughts of screen burn and square eyes.
By V3's Michael Passingham, who loves his cellular phone
They may not like the government putting up CCTV cameras in public or butting in over gun use, but it seems at least half of Americans are okay with letting big brother peer over their shoulder while they browse the web.
A study carried out in July by Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of those surveyed were okay with the NSA's internet surveillance programme. An additional 44 percent disapproved of the spying campaign, while the rest of the country had no opinion.
The numbers are a bit less disconcerting when broken down into more specific categories. Fifty-six percent of Americans do not believe that courts provide adequate limits on what data government agencies can collect, and 70 percent believe that the government is harvesting information for uses beyond fighting terrorism.
Even with this information, half of citizens don't seem to have much of a problem with letting the NSA continue its current activities.
That the nation would be split down the middle is not so surprising when you take the overall political picture of the country into account. Much like citizens, politicians have been largely split with many conservative groups approving of the plan and left-leaning groups opposing the surveillance.
Public opinion could play an interesting role in determining policy going forward. Certainly in the wake of the Snowden scandal the intelligence community will have to rethink its programmes, but if the public isn't so up in arms, they could keep much of the system, which is also shared with European agencies, intact.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a WiFi connection. So starts Pride and Prejudice (Are you sure? – Ed), the most famous work by Jane Austen, who will appear on the new £10 notes from 2017, replacing Charles Darwin.
This is to ensure that there will be a woman represented on UK banknotes, after the decision to replace Elizabeth Fry on £5 notes with Winston Churchill was agreed by the Bank of England.
But while Austen is a worthy choice, it does mean Alan Turing’s chance of financial fame has gone.
V3 has reported in the past how the famed codebreaker and genius of World War Two, who helped the Allies win the war, was a candidate for the new £10, with a petition issued by programmer Thomas Thurman racking up huge numbers of signatures – over 27,087 to be precise.
“Alan Turing is a national hero. His contribution to computer science, and hence to the life of the nation and the world, is incalculable. The ripple effect of his theories on modern life continues to grow, and may never stop,” Thurman wrote in the introduction to the petition.
Sadly, it appears these efforts were in vain, but it was still refreshing to see at the time that so many people wanted to celebrate Turing in this way.
“Most importantly, it got the country talking: people are debating the work of Turing and discussing his legacy, and as long as that continues, he cannot be forgotten,” Thurman told V3 in March.
However, some good news for the Turing brigade has come from the Bank of England's announcement: it will be reviewing the decision-making process for selecting future historical figures, as outlined by governor Mark Carney.
"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity," he said.
Still, if Turing has been denied his chance of wider fame and recognition, the government could at least do the decent thing and quash his historical conviction for homosexuality. Earlier this week Lords called on the government – once again – to overturn the ruling he received after the war he helped them win.
By V3's Dan Worth, who loves a fistful of £10 notes
While the government is usually lambasted for its shoddy approach to IT there are a few who remain voices of sanity in a world of confusion, and Labour MP Tom Watson is one of those.
He was one of the few MPs to seemingly grasp the horrors of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) before it was passed, and one of those brave enough to stand against the party whip and vote against the DEA in the wash-up, to little avail though.
So it is with interest to note that he has now stepped down from his role in the shadow cabinet due to his desire to have the ability to speak more openly on matters around technology, notably surveillance issues and the digital economy, free from the demands of a front bench role, as he outlined in a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband.
“I wish to use the backbenches to speak out in areas of personal interest: open government and the surveillance state, the digital economy, drones and the future of conflict, the child abuse inquiries, the aftermath of the Murdoch scandal and grass roots responses to austerity,” he wrote.
How this will manifest itself in the coming months remains to be seen but it will certainly be welcome to hear more thoughts from Watson on such issues, especially if he remains as level-headed as in the past to the impact technology is having on society, while his fellow MPs apparently lose their heads with all kinds of mad ideas.
Watson also had some words of wisdom for Miliband when it comes to matters of music:
“John Humphrys asked me why you were not at Glastonbury this weekend. I said Labour leaders can’t be seen standing in muddy fields listening to bands. And then I thought how terribly sad that this is true. So: be that great Labour leader that you can be, but try to have a real life too. And if you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge.”
There’s no real technology angle to that, but it’s just nice to see that a politician not only has a taste in a music, but a personality too.