Scotland: Will it get Nasty after Independence?

With Scotland edging towards independence and the far right parties gaining in popularity in England, what would any independence settlement look like? The answer is we hope it will be peaceful but in reality we don’t know. Britain’s Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage for one (a man with a disproportionate level of influence in UK politics) has already indicated he wants a very tough settlement. The sad thing is post 2015 when David Cameron will most likely be forced into some for of coalition (if he is not kicked out by his own party) Scotland will face a tough settlement and if UKIP holds the balance of power (along with some more insane Conservatives) it will get very nasty. Short of switching off the gas and oil supplies Scotland has almost almost no bargaining power. I only hope that if the vote does become a “Yes”  that Mr Salmond and his friends have a few tricks up their sleeves.

 

 

The Lack of English Identity and The End of the United Kingdom

 “England does not have an identity”

Berty Wooster aka Boris Johnson probably the next UK PM (Image: Wikipedia)

While the referendum is taking place in Scotland it is worth remembering that this vote is as much about leaving the London-centric UK as it is about leaving the UK itself. Perhaps more importantly though it is about identity fused with a right to determine the future and a sense of responsibility. Indeed if you look across the UK there is little that unites say Newcastle with London, or indeed with much of the South East except perhaps a common language and the same TV channels.  If Scotland receives more autonomy or even Independence then the North of England and perhaps some other regions will start demanding some more powers for themselves.

 

 

 

Many regions across the UK have their own identity, which are as much at odds with the rather bland concept of “Britishness” (or even “Englishness”) as they are with Scotland’s increasingly divergent values relative to the rest of the UK.  Wales for example already has its own (rather weak) assembly and Northern Ireland has a long and bloody history of unionism vs nationalism; something none of us want to see again. Moreover, unlike Scotland, Wales as managed to retain it’s own language much more successfully. However, regardless of whether you like Wales or despise what happened in Northern Ireland each of these “regions” (for now) has a certain feeling and identity. In essence for better or worse something that makes each of them not just British but unique.

Nigel Farage Leader of UKIP. (Image: Wikipedia)

I had a chat with an English friend recently and of course the subject of Scottish Independence came up; as did the often thorny subject of national identity. While Scotland has a somewhat stereotyped identity in the eyes of others; it does have a certain unique feeling (something which many visitors have subsequently told me – and this is when they were visiting without me). In essence politically, socially and not just Tartan-wise there is a feeling of difference. However, as my friend from England said, “England does not have an identity”, I felt this was somewhat negative and perhaps too honest. If you travel around England you do feel strong regional identities but what is the overall English identity?

English vs British Identity?

Morris Dancing (Image: Wikipedia)

Her statement got me thinking what exactly differentiates English from British Identity? As she said the two are so linked it is really difficult to think of what the differences are. I have heard the term “fair play” used many times but that seems to me to be more of a British trait rather than perhaps a purely English one. Also the days of conquering or unifying parts of the same island (or distant lands) are over and I am sure if that was the identity being advocated as “being English” it would rightfully be shot down as irrelevant now and unfair. Ok, there is always Morris Dancing, but that is like saying Scotland is just a place full of bagpipes. So in essence the three rather stereo-typed views are either British or unfair.

The Problem of Lack of Identity

In my view it is this lack of identity which I think is further causing problems for the concept of Britishness and indeed Englishness which has left a rather large black hole at the heart of the Union. Worse still though, it is this  black hole that is increasingly resulting in the rise of right-wing Conservatives or worse still the detestable and “formerly” BNP friendly UKIP. I suspect this rise in popularity has driven many people to support independence in Scotland. Indeed the identity put forward by the flag waving right-wing Conservative and UKIP supporters seems to be one defined by an increasing fear of foreigners, the EU and change – which is somewhat at odds with my own experience of people from England and the time I spent living there. Therefore, as the likes of Farage, Berty Wooster (Boris Johnson) and their other chums get increased air time it only serves to remind Scotland of exactly what it does not want to be! 

The Past or the Future?

So as Scotland seeks an identity of progress and moving forward (even if it is based on a historical border), sadly the English identity being defined by our politicians seems to be one of the remnants of Britain fused with Eton/The Bullingdon Club, the Famous Five novels (with plenty of nice biscuits, lemonade and suitably fashionable braces) and worryingly a fear of the future. Something I am sure many people in England do not want, agree with or even see as their world view. It is also the difference in the two visions of our shared island which is increasingly driving people (perhaps heart rules over head) to now narrowly support Scottish Independence. This may sound silly but as far as I can see incoming Wooster-Farage administration is increasingly defining an identity for Britain which is largely carved out of some perverted view of English identity. Something I am sure most people across the British Isles would rather avoid and people in Scotland live in fear of.

Come on England you deserve better than letting the likes of Farage and Wooster define your identity!

The author is a major fan of England, in particular beers from the Midlands and the Stunning Scenery and Excellent Pubs in the South West!

I-GEAR Game Study To Take Place Soon

After months of development and some considerable challenges we now have the first  I-GEAR game ready for use after Apple finally approved it. For those not familiar with I-GEAR it is an FNR funded project which consists of two main parts, firstly an exploration of how to use gamification to reduce traffic congestion and related to this user interfaces for use in cars.

For this first game use will initially be restricted to certain groups of staff at the University of Luxembourg but we hope to make a public version of a more advanced game available later.

As ever credit where credit is due and I thank the other IGEAR project members in particular those who slaved away on the development of this game: Sasan, Hossein, Tigran and Tomas.

Tiree Tech Wave

Being from Scotland although not from quite as far North (which makes it probably a whole lot less windy) the following event appears to my sense of IT adventures in the wild… Alan Dix is to say the least well known the human-computer interaction community so I am sure his blend of fun and knowledge (along with the able assistance of his fellow conspirators) will make the event well worth going to.

Eighth Tiree Tech Wave (TTW-8)
23-27 October 2014, Isle of Tiree, Scotland, UK

A hands-on making and meeting event exploring the edges of technology on the wild edge of Scotland

http://tireetechwave.org

Organisers:

Following seven previous Tech Waves, we will be meeting again in October 2014.

The Atlantic fringe was the haven of scholarship through the Dark Ages and is the haunt of wind-surfers today. The Tech Wave tries to capture a little of the spirit of each; from mashups to breadboards, Arduino to RDF, we will consider the social and philosophical challenges of technology by engaging directly with it. Come to take time to explore ideas that keep being put on the backburner, to be stimulated by others, or simply to be intellectually refreshed.

New faces and old are all welcome.

As always there is no fixed agenda, the issues and activities depend on you! This time there will be some new toys to play with as well as the normal mix of making and talking …

Tiree Tech Wave offers a time to step out, albeit momentarily, from a target-driven world, to experiment and play with hardware and software, to discuss the issues of our new digital maker culture, what we know and what we seek to understand, and above all to make things together.

This is all about technology and people: the physical device that sits in our hands, the data.gov.uk mashup that tells us about local crime, the new challenges to personal privacy and society and the nation state.

Anything can happen at a Tech Wave.

Registration open at http://tireetechwave.org/participate/.

Early bird rate till 22 September 2014.

Tech Wave starts 23 October 2014.

For more information contact

or visit tireetechwave.org

Twitter: @tireetechwave
Facebook:  TTW8 event  —  general TTW page

Driving Performance Studies Complete

Pictures of the team at the Colmar-Berg Test Track in Luxembourg
Pictures of the team at the Colmar-Berg Test Track in Luxembourg

We recently completed our driving performance studies which form part of the IGEAR project and an MSc thesis being undertaken by Korok Sengupta. The studies focussed on comparing device interaction under simulated and real world conditions. With the real world conditions being the Colmar-Berg test track here in Luxembourg. We measured a number of aspects including car telemetry, BCI and device interactions. We hope to publish the results from the study over the coming months.

We are very grateful to Garage M Losch of Berledange for supplying the Skoda Yeti lead car for the duration of the studies and also the staff at the Colmar-Berg driver training track for letting us use their facilities. Also to our colleagues in VehicularLab for letting us use the Renault Twizzy.

The IGEAR project is funded by FNR, Luxembourg. 

Teufel Raumfeld Connector 2 and Qobuz

Stream any audio to your Connector 2. This advice should also work with Spotify, Simfy and other services.

While the Connector 2 offers decent sound quality for the money many features are geo-locked, for example in Luxembourg nothing except TuneIn radio works, which is kind of annoying when you thought that you could get Spotify or even Simfy. Fortunately though you can get even better quality sound than either of these two services if you use  Jamcast and Qobuz. Jamcast lets you stream music files and any audio from your PC directly to DLNA devices, the one draw back is you must have your PC on and it’s not the easiest thing to set up. Also when you first see it you may think you can stream services such as Spotify from your Android tablet but sadly this is not the case.

What is Jamcast?

It is basically a server which runs your PC and handles streaming media to DLNA devices. It supports your music files as well as any audio that is currently playing on your PC via a “virtual sound card”. You can try out the free version for a while but it is limited while the paid version costs less than €12.

What is Qobuz?

Unlike many other services such as Spotify, Qobuz offers unlimited CD quality streaming for about €20 per month, which is about twice what rivals such as Spotify charge but they only offer lower quality MP3 streams. You can get an MP3 option but there is little point in that as it is the CD quality streaming which is the big plus, indeed on a reasonably decent hifi you really can tell the difference there are simply more aspects of the music present and I don’t have an expensive audio system! Qobuz also offers (for more cash, discounts for subscribers) the option to download music at CD and higher quality.

Is Jamcast easy to use with the connector 2?

I found it a bit tricky but not impossible, at first the two simply would not talk. Once it was working the sound quality was also poor but the this was overcome by setting the sound devices audio quality on the PC to DVD quality and not running the PC audio through the HDMI output anymore. One issue I have noticed also is that the Connector 2 appears twice in the device list.

If you can’t get the two working (even if they see each other) try the following tips below:

  1.  Uninstall the Jamcaster application, then logout of your PC and back in again.
  2. Reset and re-install the Connector 2, do this my re-initiating the setup and giving the device a new name. Follow the normal Teufel instructions.
  3. While the setup is going on re-install the Jamcaster server software.
  4. Once the Teufel Connector App has got to the setup for music sources, select Jamcaster as one of them. Then complete the set up procedure.
  5. Next on the Jamcaster server app select The Connector 2 device Name from “Play to:” menu in the Windows dock.
  6. Open up the  Windows audio mixer and you should see your range of outputs, one being “Jamcast”.
  7. Now open up Qobuz or indeed any other audio program and play the tune of your choice. Qobuz shows up in the Windows audio mixer. If it does not show up restart it.
  8. You need to check your volume is on for Qobuz and the Jamcaster mixer.
  9. Now check the Teufel Connector App on your mobile device if all is well it should show up as some content from “Jamcaster” being played.
  10. If you experience poor audio quality one tip I have read online suggests plugging in headphones (also make sure output audio devices are set to DVD quality).
  11. If you can see everything but it is still now working trying logging back out and in again. Also always check the Jamcast server is playing to the Connector 2. This setting can disappear sometimes.

This is not an ideal solution as it require sa PC to be running but it does have one advantage in that you can use any streaming provider. Jamcaster seems to send the audio in WAV format and with Qobuz this was at 1500Kbps which is CD quality.  The only issue is that you cannot select the music to play from your tablet or phone you must do it from the PC where the Jamcast server is installed. I will try to write a better guide soon but the tips above worked for me after many hours /days of frustration.

 

Driving Performance Studies

We are currently looking for participants to take part in a driving study at the Colmar test track here in Luxembourg. The study takes place in the evening and you are required to drive  Renault Twizzy round the track while following another car. If you are interested please contact me using the form on this site. The studies are taking place until 29th July usually from around 5-8pm.

We would like to thank the SnT based VehicularLab for letting us use their Renault Twizzy and also Garage M. Losch of Bereldange in Luxembourg for supplying us with a Skoda Yeti.

 

 

LOCALE Project Starts

The FNR funded LOCALE (local legacies) project has now started. The project looks at location-aware digital storytelling from the perspective of tools and techniques to support the connection of different stories. Among the key parts of the project are data mining of the stories from the perspective of sense of place. The project itself will involve older IT users in Luxembourg who wish to share their stories of Luxembourg since the end of World War 2. As part of this we will explore how to use such technologies to bridge the digital divide between users of different ages.

The project will run until 2017 and is in partnership with CRP-Gabriel Lippmann.

Real World Review: Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro 3

If you are using a netbook the chances are that you are looking for a reasonably resource light virus scanner. On the face of it Panda Cloud offers this as it uses cloud technology to scan for viruses on your computer – which should reduce the burden on your computer. In essence it sends information about the files to Panda’s servers then either you get the all clear or an alert. That is the theory at least and until now I had been pretty happy with it. Until that was I actually downloaded a free PDF to Word conversion tool from download.com. There is no doubt that I probably clicked one too many agrees; the net result was that Panda totally failed to detect anything until it was too late. Too late in fact to even prevent the newly installed viruses/malwares from switching off Panda so as to allow themselves to install yet more rubbish on my netbook.  I would have thought that a scanner should detect when viruses actually arrive on your computer but Panda Cloud totally failed to do so, with the result that when I was briefly able to run a scan 235 warnings appeared on the computer. What’s more these viruses could not have been there before as I had regularly run scans and until then had never installed anything from a download site. Indeed as I have Linux on the same netbook I rarely used Windows. However, even before this I had some reservations about Panda Cloud since the update. Also I did another check with the EICAR test virus and when this is double compressed it also failed to detect it.  In the end I had to dump it and used a dedicated malware removal tool then installed Bitdefender instead, which I will now try for 30 days.

Advantages

  • Small footprint so in theory faster (old versions were slick and fast)
  • USB key scanning
  • Wifi hotspot monitor to see if others are doing nasty things on your connection
  • Very simple so you rarely struggle with settings
  • Firewall settings easy to use

Disadvantages

  • The new Windows 8 look and feel seems really slow on netbooks
  • Poor real-time protection especially during software downloads/installs
  • Very slow full scans
  • Firewall is apparently not that good
  • Uses community driven data to detect viruses but this means it is really “known” threats only and probably not good at predicting likely threats.
  • Not good at removing pre-existing problems
  • Failed to detect EICAR test virus under certain conditions

If you would like more information on the effectiveness of various virus scanners then check out the related articles link below.