Wednesday, 29 April 2009


BBC-2's programme tonight gave the corporation an opportunity to replay a lot of its archive footage of flood disasters. (There was also a welcome hearing of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant's "Raining in my Heart" sung by Buddy Holly, the B side of his last single release.)

Andrew Hignell, Glamorgan's archivist, was pictured in front of a soaked Sophia Gardens Swalec Stadium arena last September reporting that this was the first time that all four days of a championship match had been washed out in Cardiff.

Since then, of course, the county has invested in a hover-cover, the most sophisticated on a UK sports ground apparently. It had to be deployed yesterday, as rain interrupted the first day's play against Derbyshire. With all the testing which had no doubt been carried out after its installation, it was inevitable that the first "live" run of the system would produce a glitch. However, although the cover took about fifteen minutes longer than it should have to get off, it performed up to specification in getting on and therefore protecting the playing surface. As the chairman said, although there had been some delay, without the cover there would have been no further play that evening once the rain had started to fall. It is better to find out the problems now, early in the season, and correct them, rather than be embarrassed in July and the test match against the Australians.

Another reason to be cheerful today was the second total of over 400 this season. Glamorgan's batting was very much like the girl with the curl last year, and if we have now achieved some consistency, it will give the bowlers encouragement to attack. I see James Harris closed the day with two Derbyshire wickets.

Devolution the answer to NHS IT records problem? reports that Christine Connelly, the Department of Health (DoH) director general for informatics, has told current suppliers BT and CSC that they must speed up the roll out of key systems for the national medical records database by November this year.

Last year, a third supplier, Fujitsu gave up its contract. BT has taken over the work it had started for some trusts, but Ms Connelly gave hope to others that have been waiting for new patient administration systems (PAS) due to be provided by Fujitsu.

She said that these trusts would now be able to be able to get central funding to choose new suppliers to provide PAS, from an approved DoH list.

The records system is about four years behind schedule. To this observer, it seems that too much of the detailed design was centralised and this has caused many of the difficulties.

Gurkha vote success

Alix Mortimer has the story here. The success of Nick Clegg's motion does not in itself guarantee a U-turn by the government, but there are signs of a relaxation of their hard line, albeit on a case-by-case basis. It seems that Gurkhas and their supporters will succeed if they keep the pressure up, but only if they do so.

There was one sickening note: David Cameron posing with Joanna Lumley for the evening television news as if it had been the Conservatives who had driven the campaign for Gurkha justice in the House of Commons. Nor (so far) has there been an acknowledgment by the Tories that they did nothing while they were in office.

Let us also remember that, before Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown did much to raise awareness in this area.

Craig Murray's evidence to Human Rights Committee

Jonathan Calder has a link to the session which came about largely as a result of public pressure.

It surely is a coincidence, but you will see from the official clip that proceedings took place in The Thatcher Room.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Opening up family courts

There is a podcast of today's Woman's Hour (available for seven days) which includes a lively discussion of the benefits or otherwise of allowing reporters (under restrictions) into England & Wales family courts from this week on, as well as of the wisdom of removing some of those restrictions. Camilla Cavendish, who has been mentioned here before, is on the side of more reporting. Caroline Little (no relation) of the Association of Lawyers for Children takes the opposite view.

The world's most popular Flickr images

A quartet from Cornell University has analysed
the Flickr database. Among their findings:

  • New York City is the world's most photographed city with more than 12 million of the photos taken there.
  • The top seven most photographed landmarks are the Eiffel Tower, Trafalgar Square, the Tate Modern Gallery, Big Ben, Notre Dame, the London Eye, and the Empire State Building.
  • The top 10 most photographed cities are New York, London, San Francisco, Paris, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Seattle, Rome and Amsterdam.
Thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald for the reference. The SMH also draws attention to the prominent place (28th) occupied by the Apple Store in New York City, higher than St Paul's.

For all their iconic status, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House do not figure in the top twenty-five images.

The Bible: an appeal to internet geeks

It has been pointed out in the Linux conference on Cix that the Bible has been rewritten in many different languages (including Klingon and the language of the London streets).

But has anyone rewritten it as a set of RFCs?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Asthma in the limelight

I try to avoid duplicating posts in the various blogs I contribute to, but I make no apologies for repeating here what I have already published on my Cadoxton councillor site:

Asthma UK starts nine days of green-themed fundraising on Friday. I’m delighted to see that the brilliant Cerys Matthews is adding her support to the campaign with the words: “It’s not hard to imagine how very frightening it is to be unable to breathe. For younger children the feeling must be even more scary as it’s hard to understand why you can’t breathe and panic can exacerbate the situation so it’s a vicious circle. I am supporting Asthma UK’s Putting Asthma in the Limelight campaign to encourage children who suffer from asthma to get to know how best to deal with their illness and hopefully to help them avoid having attacks in the future.”

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Stop me if you've heard this cricket story

Tidying up old CIX messages, I came across this quote from the 1990s:

During a Nat West final at Lord's, a large Home Counties matron bore down on the Compton Bar in search of her errant husband long after the lunch interval was over.

"Is this the Boycott Bar?" she demanded

"There is no Boycott Bar", replied the waitress. "There's the Compton Bar, the Cricketers..."

"I tell you he's in here somewhere. And, believe me young lady, you may call it what you choose, but it's the Boycott Bar. Because once the bugger's in, no-one can get him out."

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Vince Cable fan club extends to the Telegraph

Mary Riddell of the Daily Telegraph is the latest journalist to be bowled over by Vince Cable. No doubt this will further infuriate Guido Fawkes who is (a) dismissive of Vince; (b) frequently rails against the Telegraph for departing from its historic Toryism.

Gordon Brown is not a member of the fan club, either. In his speech to the Labour faithful in Swansea today, he again denied that there was any warning that there was an economic crisis to come. Yet if he cares to look in Hansard for 13th November 2003, Column 398, he will find one of many warnings by Vince Cable:

"On the housing market, is not the brutal truth that with investment, exports and manufacturing output stagnating or falling, the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level? If the Bank of England is correct in its expectations of a market correction and rising interest rates, what action will the Chancellor take on the problem of consumer debt, which is rapidly rising, with 8 million annual visits from the bailiff?"

Three years later, economist and campaigner Ann Pettifor issued a warning about the crash to come in "The Coming First World Debt Crisis".

And if he did not listen to opposition politicians or lobbyists, he and his staff at HM Treasury should have been reading the Financial Times, where both Gillian Tett, its capital markets editor, and the paper's influential Lex column, "warned long in advance about the serious imbalances in the financial system" (James Robinson, The Guardian) and their implications for world economics.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The RSPB on wind-farms

In view of the restatement of the government's support for wind energy in Wednesday's budget, a statement by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is timely. They say: "We’ve always supported taking power from the wind, waves, the tides, the ground, and anything else that can justifiably be labelled as a renewable energy source that doesn’t damage the environment.

"But we know there are some proposals out there – like the recently defeated Lewis windfarm application, and the current proposal for a barrage from Cardiff to Weston across the river Severn – that don’t meet sensible environmental standards. Based on the available science, we believe they'd harm the environment."

I would add that schemes should also be locally acceptable. The full RSPB statement is here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Sun goes to Oracle

It was announced earlier this week that Oracle Corporation has agreed to buy Sun Microsystems for $7.4bn. This was a little more than what IBM was reported to have offered, and does not raise the same competition concerns as the IBM deal would have done.

It seems that Sun's sponsorship of MySQL has not troubled the regulatory authorities in the US.

Is New Labour trying to woo Paul Potts?

Surely once a Liberal Democrat, always a Liberal Democrat at heart, even though PP is no longer a councillor and (as far as I know) has let his membership lapse. But local Labour communications supremo Anthony Taylor has given prominence in a recent blog to the Potts's house refurbishment. Is he making overtures?


No responses posted on the biggest LibDem blogs so far (13:40) but here is my take on a few points which may not be covered by the heavyweights. (There is a pre-budget round up by Ali G at Freedom Central.)

Savings disregard for pension credit: a £4000 increase is not nearly enough when safe long-term investments are paying 1% a year or worse.

Subsidies for off-shore wind are mis-directed. Money should be put into the potentially more productive and certainly more reliable technology of tide and wave power. I can see why the chancellor is putting money towards wind-farms: the technology is mature, so installations can be up and running relatively quickly; and they are extremely visible. They demonstrate that something is being done: not necessarily the right thing, but something.

Combined Heat and Power: why wait until 2013 before giving the tax relief?

£100 million for energy-efficient new-build: will a pro-rata amount come to Wales (as explained by Peter Black) and how much will stick to the fingers of the Plaid/Labour government? Why is it being announced as for local authorities when this government, following the Thatcherite lead, is forcing coucils to divest themselves of housing stock, both in England and Wales? Will social landlords get a share of the (rather small) pot?

Update 14:00 BBC-2 has just got around to showing part of Nick Clegg's budget reply. It is all very well to say that the whole speech was shown live on BBC-Parliament, but how many viewers who will be very interested in what Liberal Democrats have to say routinely view BBC-Parliament, even if they have the facilities? Actually, I find the considered responses of the Treasury spokesmen on day 2 of the budget debate more instructive, and I hope Vince Cable will be given due coverage.

Further thought 14:25: no mention of Trident. Loads of savings there.

15:00: Going shopping and possible research into responses to the increase in beer tax in The Green Dragon.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Dead tree journalism, blogging and council glossies

Salford is a city next door to Manchester, and often confused with its more famous neighbour. It is the birthplace of Alistair (then Alfred) Cooke, a great journalist, at home on TV and radio, but also in print, right up to the last decade of his life.

It is also the home of a lively magazine, the Salford Star, which, until recently for reasons explained in issue no 9, published both a print and online edition. It won "Best Regional Newspaper" at last year's Plain English Campaign awards. However, it cannot survive in a print edition without sufficient advertising and, as editor Stephen Kingston said in an Independent interview earlier this week: "the problem is that if you are going to produce a proper community magazine you might have to bite the hand that feeds you. Because we are scrutinising and taking figures apart, advertisers don't want to go near you."

Needless to say, Salford City was not about to grant the "Star" any money while the council was spending £175,000 on its own glossy magazine. Councils' own free magazines are very good at propagating good news stories - and I take Cllr Derek Vaughan's oft-expressed point that these are not always attractive to the commercial press - but citizens are deprived if they don't have access to good investigative journalism as well.

Famous newspapers in the United States are being forced to take the online-only route. Even a nationwide (most US newspapers are regional) - nay, international - publication like the "Christian Science Monitor" went completely online at the end of March. Two American titles are folding per week, according to Donald Trelford. He is despondent. "The industry in which I have spent half a century may have to learn very quickly that society doesn't need newspapers any more," he writes, "but it will still need journalism to find things out and explain the world's complexities. The challenge – not just for newspaper companies, but for society as a whole – is how to pay for that when traditional sources of revenue have disappeared or moved elsewhere."

On the other hand, one of the most remarkable results of the democratisation of Iraq was an explosion in the number of print titles. This, in a land where blogging, though liable to land you with a visit from Saddam's heavies, flourished.

Blogging in its turn is doomed, according to my third excerpt from last Monday's Independent Media, by Andrew Keen. He reckons that self-publishing lumps of ones own static text is going to be replaced by real-time social media personal portals. He cites WordPress as enabling users to do everything from incorporating their Twitter feeds, videos and photos, to managing their own independent labels.

Well, Keen may not have noticed, but WordPress also enables you to self-publish text: witness Alix Mortimer. There is no sign of the Mortimerian Republic's losing popularity (though unaccountably it lost out in the Orwell awards to Nightjack; commiserations, Alix).

Good and lively writing is clearly going to thrive in cyberspace even if no newspaper survives. What is worrying is the future of authoritative journalism. The papers at the top of the American tree are famous for their scrupulous fact-checking and separation of fact from opinion, in the CP Scott tradition. This is not true of US television news, nor, mostly, of the press over here. What happens if the former die? Who can you trust on the Web?

There will be local print sheets as long as people have cars to sell or wish to notify births, marriages and deaths. The question is: can they also incorporate unbiased news, let alone carry out investigative journalism?

Alistair Cooke showed that one could combine traditional journalism with emerging technologies. (Television did not take off in the States until he was well into his stride as a Guardian correspondent.) I believe that old and new media will eventually find a means of cohabitation, but I cannot predict what form it will take.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Polymathy not for Anglo-Saxons

The recent death of Clement Freud occasioned a discussion in the "Broadcasting House" studio last Sunday as to whether polymaths were dying out, and whether polymathy should be encouraged. It struck me that both the expert witnesses, Susan Greenfield and Lisa Jardine, came from Jewish families, as did Clement Freud, of course. Now I know there is a Jewish cultural tradition which values breadth of knowledge, but surely you don't have to be Jewish to be a polymath? I tried to think of other scientists who had a wide knowledge of the arts, or even of other sciences. Jacob Bronowski came to mind, but he, too, fits the stereotype. Peter Medawar? - father Lebanese; Steve Jones? - Welsh. Simon Singh? - there must be a Sikh background. It seems that the common factor is not ethnicity as such, but not being English. Not appearing to be clever, or knowledgeable, is an Anglo-Saxon trait.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Ray Collins

Once a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre Company, Collins was for many years the peppery police lieutenant in the first, black-and-white, Perry Mason TV series. In fact, it looks as if the reason that the series ended in 1965 was that Collins died in that year.

It was a surprise, therefore to see him resurfacing as the general secretary of the Labour Party and implicated, by association, with the Draper/McBride black emails. Lt Tragg may occasionally have been economical with evidence to the defence, but he would never have been guilty of defaming his opposition. Kevin Maguire, on "Broadcasting House" this morning, was equally clear that the Red Rag dirty tricks started long after Collins' initial involvement. Mind you, Maguire, being inside the Brown tent, must be regarded as a friendly witness.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Sons of violinists

Readers in my age bracket will remember "The Man From Uncle" and "77 Sunset Strip". These TV series featured respectively David McCallum and Efrem Zimbalist jr. Both men are still acting today, but I think it's fair to say that they made their first big impact on TV. (Just as Stephanie Zimbalist, daughter of the second, and Pierce Brosnan did in "Remington Steele", but that's another story.)

David McCallum's father was a violinist not only good enough to lead two or three world-class orchestras, but also to dub the playing of legendary virtuoso Paganini in "The Magic Bow". (Stewart Granger was the on-screen maestro.)

I believe Efrem Zimbalist sr was also a leader (concert-master) at one stage of his career, but was better known as a soloist. What triggered this posting was coming across the blog of Jessica Duchen (led to it by that of John Amis) , and her inclusion of a vintage clip of Zimbalist with Harold Bauer (piano).

jessicamusic is not only a feast of writing on music (I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't noticed Ms Duchen's by-line in the Indy before, but I shall look out for it in future) but is also a treasure-chest of links to other music sites.

Finally, some good news for Afghanistan

Afghanistan won their final match in the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa, but results elsewhere went against them.

However, they have assured themselves of One-Day International status, according to Cricinfo.

It gives me an opportunity to trot out my favourite Don Bradman quotation. Anecdotes published since his death suggest that he was a tougher old buzzard than he appeared in his lifetime, but I'd like to think he meant this, from the final chapter of "The Art of Cricket":

"there is no game - indeed is there any substitute at all - which is
better able to bring together on a common level and unite tens of
thousands of people ... different in colours, differing in religious
beliefs and in other respects but still human beings, flesh and
blood, who have a common heritage in their desire to work and play
without devastating the earth for selfish, greedy ends.

"I once spent an evening talking nothing but cricket to a team of
West Indian players. The goodwill which they so obviously exuded
because we all played and loved the same game was a thrill and lives
in my memory. I did not know their families, their homes, their
country, their mode of living, or really very much about them at all,
but we were friends in the truest sense.

"It was a great Indian, Prince Ranjitsinhji, who wrote, 'No
institution is perfect - it will always tend to excess or defect. But
how nearly perfect is cricket. It is a game which keeps boys out of
mischief. It is a training of youth for a manly life. It lays up a
store of strength and health against old age. It makes individual men
life-long friends.'"

Let it be so with Afghanistan.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Sir Clement Freud

There is a more political note on the local party web-site, but here is a trivial footnote to Sir Clement's remarkable career as bon viveur and gambler (which I hope I can beat Jonathan Calder to). In 1957, he made his film debut, uncredited, as a croupier in "True as a Turtle". This was followed by three further appearances as either croupier or chemin-de-fer dealer. There must be a tale to be told here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

McBride must be closeted with his lawyers

Nadine Dorries MP is reported to be considering seriously taking out a libel action against Damian McBride. Judging by the comments, especially those of Bernard Salmon, to this opinion from Antony Hook (barrister), she would stand a reasonable chance of success. The government would surely not wish to give the slightest impression of interfering.

The important point to bear in mind, in a medium which tends to be dominated by American views of the law, is that it is much easier to prove libel in an English court than a US one. For one thing, "absence of malice" is not a defence over here (though McBride would hardly be able to rely on this, given his motivation for floating the false stories). That, and the record of awards of high damages in London courts, produce a seemingly endless flow of Americans to sue in English courts on the slightest of pretexts.

(The usual disclaimers apply.)

Updated 2009-04-16 in the light of the first comment.

Monday, 13 April 2009

More on Conficker computer worm

Stateside ABC News reports that 800 machines at the University of Utah have become infected. While the primary purpose of the worm has still not been established, it seems to have been augmented with a piece of malware intended to obtain credit card details.

Update 2009-04-14: has more, with lots from Trend Micro.

Track the minister

Lord Adonis is taking a chance. He has decided to invest in a Rover ticket and travel the length of England & Scotland by rail. He was scheduled to start in London today and finish in York on Saturday.

The full schedule is:
  • Monday night: London to Truro
  • Tuesday: Truro to Newquay via Par. On to Exeter, Yeovil, Wareham, Bournemouth and Brighton
  • Wednesday: Brighton, Ashford International, Margate, Gillingham, Gravesend, Tilbury, Upminster, Romford, Ipswich and Norwich
  • Thursday: Norwich to Peterborough, Birmingham, Chester, Crewe, Manchester, Preston and Carlisle
  • Friday: Carlisle to Newcastle via Middlesbrough and Darlington. Then on to Inverness via Edinburgh and Falkirk
  • Saturday: Inverness to Edinburgh via Aberdeen before ending the tour with a visit to the National Railway Museum in York

I note that his lordship is not risking taking in Wales.

Even without that hostage to fortune, it will be interesting to see how many days' programmes are completed without a hitch. Is anybody keeping a log of Adonis's progress?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

A little ramble

Inspired by the immortal words of Ken Dodd (or was it Eddie Braben?) "I love a ramble - as you've no doubt gathered" I have sent on holiday my blog censor. He is trained in the hard school of George Orwell and Christopher Isherwood (by the way, how can they possibly film "A Single Man"? I hope the product is released direct to land-fill), and does his best to trim off discursions, intricate subordinate clauses and even semi-colons from my postings. Like the thought that has just been triggered by my own headline, that one of my favourite presenters from the day before yesterday (well, she still looks that young), Floella Benjamin is not only president of the Ramblers Association but has also publicly committed herself to the Liberal Democrats.

What really inspired my desire to blog today was hearing the views of ex-special adviser Liam Byrne on Broadcasting House this morning after reading Alix Mortimer the night before. Byrne, Derek Draper and Damian McBride are keen to spread the fiction that the blogosphere is dominated by right-wingers. What they mean is, that most of the readable blogs are those critical of the government. Most are liberal or libertarian, not rightist as I understand the way that term is usually deployed - authoritarian, even monarchical, and socially oppressive. It is possible to write from within the Labour camp in an interesting way - witness Paul Flynn. (I suppose I should also add the blog of the Cooperative Party, since this body has not yet seen the light and divorced itself from New Labour, which stands for most of the things that Cooperation does not.) The fact that so few Labour blogs reach this level is a reflection on the state of the Labour Party, rather than of the blogosphere.

I must say I hadn't noticed any shortage of coverage of Ian Tomlinson. Peter Black has certainly posted one of the two videos which show a policeman attacking an unaggressive civilian from behind, and commented on it. If metropolitan liberal bloggers have not featured the incident, it can only be because it has received so much coverage in the mainstream media.

As for myself, I try not to duplicate stuff which is going to be covered elsewhere on Liberal Democrat blogs (for a list, have a look at the aforementioned Peter Black blog) . Much of my attitude to current events can be taken as read in the fact of my party membership. There is an apocryphal story told about Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the US. When asked by Mrs Coolidge what a sermon had been about, he replied: "Sins", "Well, what did he say about sin?" "He was against it."

Are metropolitan commentators really so shocked by the McBride revelations? The only surprise to me is that a Labour dirty tricks campaign has been committed to writing (albeit to the transient medium of email) so high up the hierarchy. From the occasional comment I glean from fellow LibDems in parts of England, Conservatives are also capable of such nastiness.

The most offensive element of the affair is that these "special advisors" like McBride have remained so long. They are no more than party hacks, yet they are paid for out of our taxes. No doubt they receive civil service pensions, as well. Brown was supposed to have swept away so much of the flim-flam which surrounded the Blair court, yet very little seems to have changed.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Rutland prison riot

No, not an excerpt from Lord Bonkers' diary, but an actual event in a category C prison near Oakham. Reports of category B prisoners being moved into Ashwell gaol because of overspill elsewhere are denied by the Ministry of Justice, but Colin Moses, national chairman of the POA, claimed the association had warned that this type of disturbance might occur.

According to the BBC report, hesaid: "The current prison population and lack of appropriate prison places has resulted in prisoners being transferred away from their homes and put in lower category prisons resulting in more drugs, violence and gang cultures in our prisons.

"The drive for savings has led to fewer staff, a reduction in regime and offending behaviour programmes being cancelled. End result unhappy and bored prisoners."

One recalls similar claims and denials over an open prison in Gwent.

Friday, 10 April 2009

A Liberal Democrat has breached election law

The appeal court has to be commended for confirming the conviction of a Liverpool councillor for publishing a leaflet which broke electoral law. Even though Steve Hurst is a Liberal Democrat, I cannot defend his actions. The content, judging from the Daily Post report, is no worse than some campaign material I have seen locally. The offence is not owning up to its real origin.

One wonders, though, whether the legal action would have been pursued with such vigour if the target of the dirty tricks had been, say, a Conservative councillor. The origin of the anonymous leaflet sent to voters in South Wales West before the last Assembly elections has still not been established.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The iron-eating tree

From the land of Irn-Bru - where else? - comes the story of an ancient sycamore which has absorbed over the years such objects as an anchor and a bicycle, whose handlebars can still be seen protruding from the trunk.

I am grateful to the latest issue of "Broadleaf", the magazine of the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw in Wales) for the reference. There is more on Forestry Commission Scotland's web pages.

Conficker virus

Conficker (also known as Downandup or Kido) is technically speaking, a worm. Around the world, it is lurking on millions of personal computers whose owners are unaware of it (it was recently detected on the House of Commons network). Its purpose is unknown, but it's likely that Conficker is designed to create a botnet that could be used to send spam, launch denial-of-service attacks to shut down Web sites or steal data from infected computers.

Be careful about searching for Conficker removal software on Google. Scammers have managed to get fake security sites among the top searches. Bogus sites are designed to steal your credit card information and could install malware on your computer instead of a legitimate security program.

There is a test, which is not 100%, but gives a good indication as to whether your computer is infected with Conficker.

There is more here, including how to prevent being infected in the first place. For an even more technical appraisal, see the Conficker working group's pages.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Telenovelas, birth-rates and divorce

The conclusion has been drawn from research in Brazil that tuning in to the output from the country's soap-opera factory, Globo, is an effective form of birth control.

The sceptic might suggest that other factors might be at work here. A rise in living standards, of which being able to receive TV for the first time is an outcome, not a cause, seems prime candidate.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

The big blue beast is not dead

The New York Times reports that IBM is on the point of buying Sun Microsystems for almost double the younger company's market value (the NYT reckons the price will be $7bn, the Financial Times just over $6bn). The deal has not made the headlines over here, but it could affect us more than you might think.

Sun not only invented the Java programming language, which, among other applications, enhances World Wide Web pages, but also sponsors OpenOffice, a free alternative to Microsoft's offerings for word-processing, calculation and presentation. Sun's open-source MySql is possibly the most popular database management software for Web developers.

For all its support of Linux, Java and open-source software generally in recent years, IBM has proved as ruthless as ever in protecting its mainframe interests. The danger is that some of Sun's activities will be cut back if they compete with IBM's existing offerings, or do not contribute to IBM's fight against other software providers.

The EU has proved tougher on on one would-be monopolist, Microsoft, than the authorities in the US, where anti-trust legislation was born. Already, interested parties in the States are turning first to the European Competition Commission to maintain competitiveness in the wake of this new consolidation in the information technology market.

Update 2009-4-6: the takeover talks hit a snag over the weekend. An announcement had been expected today. There is no indication as to whether this is a blip or a complete breakdown.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Appropriate venue for First Lady's message

I am sure that the name of the school which Michelle Obama visited yesterday was significant. I'd like to think that one of the most well-read president's wives had some input into the choice of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school as the venue for an inspiring speech to a rising generation of women, of all skin colours and many religions. It was an emotional occasion; did I detect a slight tremor in the voice of the First Lady, usually so composed, as she delivered her speech?

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was famously the first woman to qualify in England as a medical practitioner. What is probably less well-known is that her sister Millicent Garrett gave her name (or rather the name of her husband, Liberal MP Henry Fawcett) to a society which still exists to promote the cause of women's rights. An older sister, Louisa, who died young, was also a suffragist and another sister, Agnes Garrett, was a pioneering businesswoman.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

All Sheepshape and Samsung fashion

  • There are more things you can do with sheep in Wales, and here's a bit of marketing to prove it.

End of the Courier

The Neath & Port Talbot Courier (a weekly insert with the Evening Post) ended as a separate title last Tuesday. The cost of production has proved too great for the Daily Mail group, which ultimately owns the title. With it also dies the Neath & Port Talbot Tribune. This had dwindled to a monthly four-page insert, published only, as I understand it, to fulfil an obligation in the contract when the publication was bought by the Evening Post people.

We are promised more pages of local news in the Evening Post on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. It remains to be seen whether the community news pages from the Courier (the main reason for reading it, in my opinion) are published together or spread over the three days.


Daily Mail provides a diagram of Donald Trump's. Will it go further, and supply details of David Cameron's?