Sunday 18 December 2011

Tidal Power

My New Scientist Magazine did not arrive on Friday. What to do for bedtime reading I thought? Perhaps an old copy? Well I did find an old copy under the bed, and it had some interesting stuff in it about tidal energy.

Recently there has been talk of the Severn Estuary project being looked at again. Part of the problem with this could be environmental.
The bit in the New Scientist talked about the strong tides around the Orkney Islands, which has led the European Union-funded European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to use Orkneys' waters as the world's largest test bed for a renewable energy source. The new turbine designs being tested here appear to be surviving the Scottish swells, and should be capable of taming one of the world's most promising sources of renewable energy. If we can use this technology to harness the powerhouses of Ocean currents, tidal power could help smash all previous predictions of how much energy the oceans can provide.The power can be environmentally friendly as well.

Neil Kermode, who manages EMEC says tidal turbines have taken the lead in the race to develop marine energy sources, surging past both barrages and wave power.
Back in May, an article in the IET E&T magazine recons that the growing marine sector in the UK could boost the economy by up to £76bn by 2050 and also generate over 68,000 jobs, if the country builds on its existing lead and successfully develops and deploys its technology.

As well as tidal power looking good, wave power is also on the agenda. Anaconda says that wave energy is a particularly rich yet untapped energy resource which government studies state could produce 3%-5% of our electricity initially and up to 20% eventually. more in the August edition of NS.

The Crown Estate owns the majority of the seabed within a 12 nautical mile limit of UK territorial waters.
The estate has already made available areas for the development of offshore tidal power projects.
The Crown Estate, which manages the monarch's property holdings, already has properties that generate 1.55 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in Wales, Scotland and England.
It has recently launched offshore wind and tidal stream leasing rounds to select developers to take forward up to 800MW of projects in Northern Ireland waters.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Predicting Magnetic Storms

I was musing a while back about the GPS system, and what would happen if it suddenly went missing.
This weeks New Scientist says:

Over the past two decades, several solar flares and magnetic storms of varying intensity have hit Earth. Solar flares are surges of X-rays, gamma rays and extreme ultraviolet radiation, and they can damage electric grids, fry satellite electronics and endanger astronauts in space. Even passengers and pilots on aircraft flying over the poles are at risk.A team at Montana State University in Bozeman are automating the process of studying the sun, and have developed computer programs using image-processing techniques to identify changing features on the sun's surface.

Accurate forecasts of the sun's activity could prove very useful, and not just for the GPS system. Any electrical or electronic equipment could be compromised.

At 2:45 AM on March 13 1989, electrical ground currents created by the magnetic storm found their way into the power grid of the Hydro-Quebec Power Authority. Giant capacitors tried to regulate these currents but failed within a few seconds as automatic protective systems took them off-line one by one. Suddenly, the entire 9,500 megawatt output from Hydro-Quebec's La Grande Hydroelectric Complex found itself without proper regulation. Power swings tripped the supply lines from the 2000 megawatt Churchill Falls generation complex, and 18 seconds later, the entire Quebec power grid collapsed.

The cosmonauts on the Mir station were subjected to daily doses of about twice the yearly dose on the ground, and during the solar storm at the end of 1989 they absorbed their full-year radiation dose limit in just a few hours.

Money without Banks?

The New Scientist editorial poses the question "Can citizen banking neuter the fat cats?"
The editorial refers to an article about Peer to Peer banking, Essentially cutting out the middle man (and his cut) from money transactions.
P2P lending could cause more money to circulate in the real economy, if interest payments could go directly to the masses, rather than to banker bonuses etc.
This remind me of several systems that use mobile phones to transfer money amongst users. Would you trust your phone company more than your bank?

Monday 14 November 2011

Malta Holiday

It took a while plugging away at the Internet, but we finally booked ourselves a holiday in Malta. The hotel we stayed at turned out to be quite good. It was rather spoilt at our arrival though. The desk staff told us that the hotel was working on winter times and the pool and bar were closed - we would have to wait for the room to be free elsewhere. This later turned out to be false. The housekeeping staff were excellent, but rather let down by the front desk.

We spent a fair bit of time relaxing by the pool or in a bar near the sea.
On the 11th of November we visited the air museum. Diane's farther is chairman of 249 Squadron Association, and I am an associate member.
We also spent some tome in Valletta. Returning to the Anglo Maltese League that we visited on a previous trip.

Monday 7 November 2011

Wedding Bells

Much nervousness at having to compose a Best Man's speech for my great friend Mike King.
In the end the day went off very well.
I managed to not tell any of those important stories that the blokes know about anyway, and somehow got away with the rest.
Hard work following two other good speakers, one of whom had already given a guitar recital during the signing of the registers.

We hired our gear from Anthony Blay in Wokingham, and looked good but were still outshone by a beautiful Bride.

The wedding was at Warfield church, and the reception at Stirrups.

Friday 4 November 2011

Tag Rugby

Bracknell Rugby Club hosted a fine day of Tag Rugby.
Schools from around Bracknell competed in a game where  each player wears either a belt or shorts with Velcro tags and the aim of the game is to remove the tag from the player in possession of the ball.

The Borough Mayor had the task of decorating everyone afterwards.

Bracknell Rugby Club says:
Tag rugby is a non-contact sport with the emphasis on running and passing whilst staying on the feet. Training takes place at BRFC in Lily Hill Park between 10.00 and 12.00 on a Sunday.
We welcome any new players whether; new to the game, graduating from Rugby Tots or just starting to play at school. The RFU doesn't allow children to play competitive rugby before the age of 6 but they can start training with us from reception year at school. They will then stay with the U7s until the end of year 2.

It was very pleasing to see Meadow way Primary school do so well!

Sunday 23 October 2011

Book Party

It is always interesting to meet a colleague from the past and catch up.
This was a special catching up as he has written a book about nothing.

I missed taking more videos or pictures, because the home made demonstrations of the power of nothing were very good.

Thinking About Nothing: Otto Von Guericke And The Magdeburg Experiments On The Vacuum. 

So far the book has proved very interesting!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Conservative Party Conference

The various staged debates and other stuff in the main area were a little bit interesting. The fringe events and the bar gossip ware more exciting..
Whilst I found the conference interesting, Diane wore herself out with retail therapy.
Amongst others, I attended an interesting thing about google and the UK, and a CPRE event about keeping food local.
The Comedy Store at Deansgate Locks provided an interesting venue for FOREST.and campaigns to keep pubs open.

Both myself and Diane went to the church service and enjoyed the local children singing.

It was a bit of a dash getting back for the NAG meeting on the Wednesday, and in the event we did arrive a bit late.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Bracknell / Thames Valley Policing

The whole Thames Valley Police area was reported very quiet last night. This was perhaps due in some part to the intermittent showers of rain. The Police are prepared for any potential events.

BFC Cllr Iain McCracken has been in touch with DCC Hapgood who reported that there were no arrests for disorder and the minor incidents that did occur were very quickly resolved. The incidents earlier in the week in Reading have been swiftly followed up with the Crown Prosecution Service and strong sentences are expected. 

The Police  have reported very little adverse activity in Bracknell Forest. Currently the local Police have three times the usual number of officers in the town centre and are engaging with people in the community to check the concerns of local residents. From this they picked up concerns from local children who are frightened by what they have seen on TV. There has been evidence of malicious rumours which have mainly been circulating through social media. Monitoring of social media channels is being regularly performed for further information.

The Police are working to a clear patrol plan across the Borough covering specific difficult areas and have stepped up the number of available officers. They would welcome any information or concerns people have so they then can issue a reassurance to residents.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Can You Keep Control of Your Mobile Phone?

The New Scientist reports that Researchers are working on a system that hitchhikes on the mobile phone network to provide an extra layer of vigilance/surveillance.
Cheap sensors mounted in your Smart Phone could monitor the environment for chemicals such a nerve gas, and automatically alert the authorities to anything suspicious.

Mobile phones are getting ever more things built into them. Manufacturers are looking to not only build in biometric data, but readers as well. I mused on this use in a short story a while back, and in a bit of blogging about RFID capabilities.

We could one day end up with the Star Trek Tricorder capability in our phones as I speculated some time back.
The trouble is that that without safeguards, the data gathered might one day be used to undermine rather than to protect your freedom.

Smart phones already have sensors such as GPS receivers, accelerometers and gyroscopes.
An example that New Scientist quotes is that drivers in Boston will soon be able to download an app called Street Bump that uses their phone's accelerometer and GPS to record the location of a pothole whenever their car bounces over one.

With a few extra tweaks your cell phone, car satnav, along with other everyday devices could work together to find stolen electronics, gather images for the police in real time, and sniff out banned drugs or gas leaks.
Not forgetting of course that your mobile phone has already got audio and video built into it.

I already blogged about some rebellious drivers use a small device which beams out a jamming signal to prevent their movements being monitored – Phones could work out the deviation to normal in the GPS system by triangulating on the network  base stations.

A growing number of new cars have satnav and wireless connectivity, as well as video cameras incorporated into parking systems. Add a licence plate recognition system, like those already used by police and you have a spy in your car. All connected together with the Blue Tooth system in the car. How easy would that be to control or hack?

While data collected by your mobile phone or Satnav unit could help to trap a criminal, it could also reveal where you live and work, how you get to work, what places you visit and where your friends live.
 A lot of which I speculated about in Cold Suspenders.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Biometrics and parts from the dead

Reading through my New Scientist this week I see that there has been concern about dead parts being used to spoof fingerprint scanners. Severed fingers and fingers removed corpses can be used to enter secure facilities, steal cars or log on to computers.

I did mention this in the book Cold Suspenders, and alluded to the first reported case in March 2005, when thieves stole a biometrics-activated Mercedes in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Attackers forced Mr Kumaran to put his finger on the security panel to start the vehicle, bundled him into the back seat and drove off.  But having stripped the car, the thieves became frustrated when they wanted to restart it. They found they could not bypass the immobiliser, which needed the owner's fingerprint to disarm it. They cut off the end of his index finger with a machete, stripped Mr Kumaran naked and left him by the side of the road.

The New Scientist reports that researchers at Dermalog Identification Systems in Hamburg, Germany, have developed a way for a fingerprint scanner to differentiate between live and dead tissue. It is based on the way living tissue "blanches" - or changes colour - when blood is squeezed out of capillaries, for example as a fingertip is pressed against a reading machine.
Fake fingerprints can be also created by imprinting copies in rubbery gels or silicone plastic. There is a suggestion that a valid user can leave an greasy print on a reader, thereby allowing a subsequent user to gain access by putting his finger near enough to the reader to activate it. That may have been one of the problems at Glenochil Prison.


Can any system ever be totally secure?
Does more technology actually create more problems?

Sunday 17 July 2011

New and old Media control

The New Scientist this week talks about how the internet is different in North Korea. The nation puts heavy restrictions on net access. It wants to control what its people learn about rest of the country and world.
Have you ever thought about out how you see the internet? Allow Google to personalise your search results, they will be skewed towards what it thinks you would like to find.

This “personalisation” can be found in other sites such as Facebook and Yahoo.
The New Scientist warns that we could “create digital dictators in our own image”.

Our MP Dr Phillip Lee picked up on this in the recent discussion about News International.
Part of what he said:
 “…discuss media plurality in reality, as it is now in this world. The way in which individuals search for news, and indeed share news, is changing and has changed. As for the idea that the ownership of one news channel watched by a relatively small number of people should concern us greatly, I suggest that the ownership of search engines and social media should concern us more.”

This was picked up in a Lib Dem Blog.
“The algorithms the search engines use to generate their results are commercially secret and how would we know that they haven’t been tweaked so that news sites favourable to the engine’s owner don’t get weighted higher than those unfavourable? How often when searching does on go past the first page of results?”
This blogger goes on to quote an example from Belgium, where some newspapers disliked Google indexing their pages and pictures. The same papers are now annoyed that people cannot find the newspapers’ stories because Goggle no longer creates an index to them.

Have you checked your settings recently?

Friday 15 July 2011

Computer scams

I have recently had some of my Ask Alvin customers phoned up by a company purporting to be working in association with Microsoft. They normally get you to look at an internal computer log, and then claim that there are a lot of errors (there are often warnings in these files, but usually nothing to worry about).

Sometimes they tell you that your computer is sending out error reports. They encourage people to download a small application that enables them to take control of a computer. Having spent several minutes doing things on your computer they may at best ask you for money to fix a problem, or maybe worse that will install a “fake” anti-virus program that will not let you use your computer until you pay over money. The perpetrator may ask you for money to fix the computer, or ask you to buy a licence.

I have also had them call myself. I did play along with them for a while just to see where the scam would lead.

The scams are further explained in the following links.

Please be careful! 

Friday 1 July 2011

What if GPS went out?

A recent edition of the IET Magazine picked up some interesting issues with the GPS system.
In January 2007 the Commander of the US NAVCEN, reported the loss of GPS signals. Navigation equipment for general aviation stopped, cellular phone operations were disrupted, and the hospital's mobile paging system went down.
It took three days to pinpoint the source – a two-hour US Navy training exercise in communications jamming between two ships in the area. They stopped the exercise but didn't report the incident beyond their usual channels because the jamming was not meant to be in the GPS L-band.
A GPS jamming attack on the ship THV Galatea two years later off Newcastle-upon-Tyne showed some of the more subtle effects of jamming. Under low-power jamming, at about the same level as the real GPS signal, the ship's GPS-driven bridge instruments showed plausible but wrong positions and velocities.

Earlier this year in the New Scientist reported on a device that is illegal to use in the US, UK and many other countries. The low-tech devices can be bought on the internet for $30. Sellers claim they're for protecting privacy. Since they can block devices that record a vehicle's movements, they're popular with truck drivers who don't want an electronic spy in their cabs. They can also block GPS-based road tolls that are levied via an on-board receiver. Some criminals use them to beat trackers inside stolen cargo.

Power distribution networks, banking and financial trading systems, broadcasting and industrial-control networks all use GPS timing making them  vulnerable to unintentional or deliberate (the civilian equivalent of navigational warfare) interference.

There is available a backup.
The 100kHz terrestrial radio navigation system eLoran  is a strong contender in the UK and Europe as a systemic timing back-up, according to Dr Sally Basker, president of the International Loran Association. 'GPS is low-power, high-frequency, whereas eLoran is the reverse, which means you get very different failure mechanisms.

I was interested to read about the Loran system, as I wrote interfaces to use these systems many years ago. The Loran system was used alongside, Decca, and Omega systems. One small bit of coding I performed during the late 1970’s was to provide an “autofix” feature for the navigation system for a cable repair ship. The “autofix” would automatically reset the ships position to that given by the satellite system, as long as it was within a set distance of the currently calculated location.

America has just closed down its Loran-C network, which had been used for marine navigation, with no published plans to upgrade it to eLoran

In the closing of its article the IET E&T says - Of course, until there is a major GPS outage, we may not know the extent of our dependency on GPS. Space weather events such as sunspots and solar flares may do the job for us, says Bob Cockshott, location and timing programme director of the UK Technology Strategy Board's Digital Systems Knowledge Transfer Network. 'In 1859 a solar flare known as the Carrington Event electrified transmission cables and set fire to telegraph offices,' he explains. 'That was the limit of the technology then. We don't know enough to be able to predict such events or their effects now.'

There is nothing much to find out about “Hydroplot” on the web. There is an article that I have found:
Later this month Cable Ship Mercury arrives at Immingham dock to be fitted with a new navigation system, Hydroplot, that was developed for the Royal Navy's hydrographers. Widely recognised as one of the most accurate commercial systems available, Hydroplot uses an Elliot 905 computer and signals from US Navy space satellites to pinpoint the ship's position to within 300ft. The £100 000 system, supplied by Marconi Space Systems and International Marine Radio, integrates all the ship's other navigational aids and is able to produce an accurate plot of the route the cable is laid over. This will be a vital aid to any repair operations the cable may require.”

There is also a small mention of the Royal Navy Hydrographic ships here:

An awful lot of natter going on here, but it is interesting how the past may come and help with the present.

Monday 27 June 2011

Bracknell Business Club

The Bracknell Business Club is again meeting at The Bull in Bracknell.
If you are a Bracknell Business put Thursday 7 July in your diary.

It is an opportunity to meet other small businesses, exchange ideas and network.
The people who attend make the meeting useful, but there is also much support from the Bracknell Forest Standard and Business in Berkshire.

The idea was first brought to life by Richard Knight, vice-chairman of the East Berkshire Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

The event is held every 6 weeks and alternates between a Tuesday and a Thursday to allow more businesses to attend.

Local businesses are also local people - Consumers, and potential users of each others services. Previous meetings have been attended by local small business champion Bob Wade, and Bracknell MP Dr Phillip Lee.
The club wants to encourage all parts of our community to work closer together – the council, BRP, businesses and the local people.

The club are always looking for a food sponsor for the event. Neil at the Bull has been very kind to lay on sandwiches for the last two events, but it would be really helpful if there could be one or two food sponsors for each event. The total cost of a decent buffet is £150 plus VAT.
The benefits to a food sponsor is as follows:

1.       Promotion of your business through the local press
2.       Name of business on every guest list
3.       You will be the only business allowed to promote your business to the audience.

Monday 23 May 2011

What future for the High Street?

I had a previous couple of musings about the future of town centres and shopping.  There have been a couple of articles in the press recently about what will happen to high streets.
Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail poses the question “Will the internet monster eat the High Street” He reports that TV presenter Mary Portas, self-styled ‘Queen of Shops’, might have the answers. This week David Cameron appointed her to advise on how to rejuvenate Britain’s ailing High Streets.
The Sunday Times reports that what makes a perfect high street is now on the political agenda.
Hugh Ellis, chief planner of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) says that “We’ve engineered their decline; it’s as simple as that, if you approve a tremendous amount of edge and out-of-town retail space, you don’t have to be very smart to work out that has an impact on town centres.” 
Out-of-town shopping has increased by 36% in a decade and the internet, is now the marketplace or 9.3% of all retail sales.
The opinion in the Daily Mail is that the truth is that ministers seem reluctant to acknowledge that all-powerful, unregulated, monopolistic online enterprises such as Amazon and Google are among the causes of Britain’s lagging economic growth and the creation of a retail wilderness. It goes on to say however enjoyable an experience traditional shopping may be, it is no longer necessary to visit the High Street. Why browse in a book shop if we can download the book onto our computer or Kindle? No wonder Amazon announced yesterday that it is selling more ebooks in America than print books for the first time.

On the subject of books, what will struggling independent booksellers make of J Sainsbury winning the prize for “bookseller of the year?”

 For Portas, high-street shopping is more about pleasure than bargains. “Experiential shopping is about loving being in the shop — the smell, the light, the people — rather than saying, ‘I could have got that on Amazon £4 cheaper’.”  She imagines a high street that is “more social, with meeting spaces and diversity”. Portas would like supermarkets to sponsor retail entrepreneurs
George Pye, of thinkingplace, a company that helps towns to redefine themselves, says: “Consumers today have become more sophisticated; rather than simply finding the goods they are looking for, they have become conditioned to expect more — an experience.  “For town centres to thrive, they need to rediscover their points of difference, distinctiveness and character. Answer the questions, ‘What is this place for?’ and ‘Who is this place for?’, agree your story, develop the experience around that story and you have an opportunity to compete.” 
John Thompson, honorary president of The Academy of Urbanism would like high street developers to include affordable space for entrepreneurs; just as residential developers are required to make a proportion of the homes they build affordable housing.
Portas says she does not have the answer yet, but hopes she will in the next six months. She says it has to start with the government and local councils
Alex Brummer says that the pressure from cyberspace is increasing, and unless consumers and communities take matters into their own hands by supporting local, specialist businesses, the game will be up.

One interesting bit, after reading the potential doom and gloom in the articles, is that some High Streets are thriving. It seems that Bracknell High Street is at number five in the top ten.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Renewable Energy or a Perpetual Motion Machine?

Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute has concluded that it is a mistake to assume that energy sources like wind and waves are truly renewable.
His analysis says that if you build enough wind farms to replace fossil fuels, we could seriously deplete the energy available in the atmosphere, with consequences as dire as severe climate change.
It appears that the idea that we can harvest unlimited amounts of renewable energy from our environment is as much of a fantasy as a perpetual motion machine.

Humans currently use energy at the rate of 47 terawatts. Axel calculates that this is roughly 5 to 10 per cent of the “free” energy available. About 17 TW comes from burning fossil fuels. So to replace this, we would need to build enough sustainable energy installations to generate at least 17 TW, but because no technology can ever be perfectly efficient, some of the free energy harnessed by wind and wave generators will be lost as heat.

Axel says "Large-scale exploitation of wind energy will inevitably leave an imprint in the atmosphere." "Because we use so much free energy, and more every year, we'll deplete the reservoir of energy." He says this would probably show up first in wind farms themselves, where the gains expected from massive facilities just won't pan out as the energy of the Earth system is depleted.

Axel says that we are going to need to think about fundamental principles much more clearly than we have in the past. He says "We have a hard time convincing engineers working on wind power that the ultimate limitation isn't how efficient an engine or wind farm is, but how much useful energy nature can generate."

The answer may lie in direct solar energy, but
 to be sustainable, it will probably have to be based on cheaper and more readily available materials such as zinc and copper. Unfortunately many of the most efficient of today's thin-film solar cells require rare elements such as indium and tellurium, whose global supplies could be depleted within decades. The trouble is that current systems convert only a small fraction of the light that hits them to power, and absorb most of the rest, passing heat into the environment.

New Scientist - Wind and wave farms could affect Earth's energy balance

As with everything there must be a balance somewhere. But this type of article does make one stop and think.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Making Voting Easy

I have come across an interesting article and blog in Computer Weekly about voting.
Programmers have decided to take FPTP AV and PR a stage further.

First Past the Post is simple and understandable; as one works though the other systems it gets ever more complex. So the Programmers have decided to eliminate any complication by inventing a system that will vote for you the way that you would want.

Wireless devices placed on streets throughout the UK would sense when someone walk near them. The software could analyse them and decide which party they would be better off with and record their vote. Using a DNA reader the system could ensure voters are only recoded once.

The clever part is that the people don't actually get to vote, but the computer would make the decision for them using complicated algorithms. The success of such software in the share trading sector, where computers buy shares automatically, has convinced politicians that it could be a way forward.

The software expert in charge of the project says the scanner will quickly be able to tell which party the voter will be most suited to by analysing characteristics such as clothing, gait and even the type of dogs being walked.

There was a short story by Isaac Asimov written in August 1955.
It goes even further than the above.

Thank You for Your Vote.

To everyone that voted for me on the 5th of May.

Thank you for your confidence in me.
I will do my best for the Wards of Priestwood and Garth.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Bracknell Forest Fires

Members of the public are being urged to stay away from the area to allow for emergency services personnel to continue working together to tackle the fires. People must not impede firefighters in their work and should be aware that the travel of both fire and smoke can change unexpectedly.

The fires are not at a stage where the fire authority are confident that matters are under control.
There are 16 fire tenders still on site out of 22 available to them. Fire crews have come in from Surrey, London and Hampshire.
They also provide the backfill cover for the appliances in use so the fire risk to the general public is not being compromised.
Even so, the situation continues to be serious.
The wind direction puts Crowthorne downwind and at greatest risk.
The houses in Brookers Row were evacuated last night due to fire risk and seem likely to remain so tonight.
There is limited access for residents to return to get possessions etc.

The fire authority asked for the schools in Crowthorne to be closed today.
They were closed because of the high level of smoke around this morning as well as concerns about road traffic and the problems that would have been caused if an evacuation was needed during the day.

The Look Out was closed because it provides the point of access to the woods and was at risk if the wind had turned.
Coral Reef was closed for much the same reason.
With Coral Reef the thinking is that access might be possible there is way to control access to the car park for users only.
The council is looking at this as a possibility.

The situation is now being managed by the Fire Authority from their Silver Command by the Golden Retriever pub on Nine Mile Ride.
There are problems with the public going on site generally and messages are being put out via comms asking people to stay away.
Despite this, there are still joggers going into the woods for example.

Decisions as to whether or not the schools should open tomorrow can't be taken yet.
The schools will be informed that they may have to be closed again and the message will need to go out as we do closures due to the snow.
The low temperatures forecast tonight could mean that there will be a temperature inversion and the smoke will hang around unless the wind keeps blowing.

The Councils Adult Social Care have made checks on the vulnerable residents in the community who might be affected and we are in liaison with the HPA.

The main roads (Foresters Way and Nine Mile Ride) need to stay closed to facilitate access for the emergency services and to enable them to pump water around using hoses along the roads.
There have been some problems with the public ignoring the closures.
There are additional barriers in place and the main points have Police in attendance.
At the moment it seems that the roads will need to stay closed for at least another 24 hours, perhaps longer.

This afternoon the forestry commission are bringing in plant to construct more fire breaks across the woods to reduce the risk of fire spread.

Council Website News

See also:
BBC News

There is a map at:
Courtesy of

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Foot Slog, no Blog

Keep meaning to get on and Blog.
The trouble is what with working, and then slogging around the streets meeting people and delivering election literature, I have felt too tired to do so.
Perhaps later, after walking the dog and having a quick pint.
(Thinks OH NO  more walking...)

Thursday 24 March 2011

Myself or my Id? A Short Story from the Future

Darcy mooched in the shop doorway, glumly scanning the street and nearby store for money wallets. The only interesting thing his RFID scanner had picked up was a young lady wearing expensive designer clothes, with what appeared to cheap jewellery. He watched the scanner as people moved about the street hoping for unguarded ID that he could filch.
He moved, peering into the store. Someone had started a monetary transaction. His modified Travinetter caught the identifying keys of the transaction, and flashed up that they were stored along with the target’s ID signatures.  He activated the Travinetter, inserting his biometric data in place of the targets, but keeping the bank account references. It would be a simple matter to enter the store, and buy an item with the replicated ID.
The interesting young lady passed him again. He checked, and rechecked his Travinetter. The jewellery she was wearing looked similar, but was transmitting the ID of a much more expensive make. Intrigued, he decided to follow the lady. Perhaps she would perform the trick again?
As they approached the outskirts of the town, the lady turned around and smiled at him. He stopped, and then realised that someone was holding on to him from behind. The smile got bigger. A Cheshire cat he thought. “Scan him” she commanded, pointing over his shoulder. Darcy scanned the man who was gripping him. The results made him look twice. “Well” the lady demanded.
“Not well at all.” Darcy replied. “IDINFO is there, but the person is dead?”
Darcy felt something penetrate his skin, and a sharp pain. The body behind him spoke. “You like nicking ID mate?” Darcy could see the world turning dark. The body spoke again. “Well, I do too. I nicked the wrong one last time, but I think this is the last time you nick an ID.”
Darcy’s grip on the world receded. He felt he was leaving his body, or was it his Id leaving his body? The new Darcy kissed his companion, feeling a boost to his ego as he did so.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Church, Graves and Tombs

There seems to be a lot about the church in my life just recently. There was the SACRE thing, last Sunday the Civic service, and the Sunday before the blessing of my father's headstone.

There was a Civic Service to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the panels in the memorial chapel. This displays the names of the fallen from two World Wars. It is also the 90th Anniversary of the Royal British Legion.
They were there parading their standard. The service included items from the original service sheet from 1921. My mother managed to find the original service sheet at home amongst some other items. She thinks it probably came from the time that she was editor of the Parish Magazine.

The Royal British Legion and Holy Trinity Church want to hear from families who have lost a loved one to enable them to update the roll of honour with servicemen and women from Bracknell who have died in conflict in wars since.

It was good that we finally we got the headstone in after about a year. It was blessed the the Team rector - Rev Canon Nick Parish.

The Meteorological Office symbol was one that my father was asked to design when he was based at Strike/Bomber Command - He was indeed a man of Many Talents.
The symbol below the main inscription is taken from the tomb in Brixham where other family members are buried.
We do miss him.

Religious History Trails

The Bracknell Standard recently picked up on some work that is being done by the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE).

At the November meeting of SACRE we talked abot the "Celebrating RE Month" March 2011.

The SACRE Associate Advisor reported that a website had been launched: and was growing rapidly with ideas of activity that could take place across the Country. There were already lots of competitions being set up, it was suggested that the SACRE could develop some ideas at the Joint SACRE Conference.

The Chairman stated that one possible idea that the SACRE had already considered was an R.E trail that could move around various points of religious interest around a local area, perhaps one of the villages or towns of Bracknell Forest.

It was suggested that local school children could be tasked with suggesting where the trail should be and what should be included in the trail, as a research topic.
It was agreed that Councillor Mrs Maureen Beadsley, Paula Ridgeway and Councillor Alvin Finch would set up a working group to progress these ideas.

We have all been looking at different sites, and trying to come up with a coherent plan. Since the article was published in the paper, I have had a suggestion that we should include cycle routes.

I have looked at what can be done with google maps. This may not be a good example for children  as it includes several pubs. Perhaps I will just walk it myself.

Housing and Council Tax Benefits

I came across this article in the Bracknell Standard.
Some time back I was lead member of a review of this service, and also met with the audit commission.
On the face of it the rating in the report does not look that high, but compared with other council we came out very well.
I remember in the report (and here) that one of our concerns was the external interfaces to the DWP, and the potential for a change in circumstances for a client to go unreported for a length of time.
It looks like the changes to be brought into the system my join up these services better, making it less likely that mistakes will creep in.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Local services - What is needed?

A while back I Blogged about a chance to redefine what local services should look like and where they should be targeted, as the government is promising local councils much greater powers to decide what is needed locally.

I also mused about what it is that a council must do. What a good council should do, and what could be left out, if residents don’t want it. Councils are legally obliged to fulfil their statutory duties. But what are the statutory duties they are required to fulfil? New ones are added each year and we hardly ever see any taken out.

I read today at that “Councils are being offered the chance to ditch what they regard as their most onerous bureaucratic burdens.”

There are it seems that there at least 1294 statutory duties that councils have to abide by.
16 Whitehall departments and agencies are publishing their initial list of statutory duties for which they are responsible. Councils are now being asked which duties are vital to keep.
They are also being asked whether there are other duties that could also be removed.

The questions I asked before are:
What sort of things should your council be obliged to do?
How much do you want to pay for those things?

What other questions should we be asking?

Monday 7 March 2011

What if the Internet was switched off?

“Email, telephone and television services would go dark, media organisations become unable to gather and disseminate news, governments struggle to communicate emergency information, commerce grinds to a halt, shops run out of food, the transport system collapses and electricity supplies are be severely disrupted” Says an article in the Independent.

Linx - the London Internet Exchange - handles 80 per cent of our internet traffic. What if it was taken out? What if other key connections to the rest of the world were taken out? Undersea cables and satellite stations could be physically sabotaged, of flooded with data from foreign “botnets”.

The UK has the ability in times of emergency to shut the Internet. But what if it was done for us? What crime could be performed even during a temporary outage of the Internet?
The Independent has an article (mentioned above) about some of the scenarios. But who really knows what would happen? Is it a Postman with an IT background?

Recently  thefts, estimated to have cost financial institutions $86 million, were perpertrated by one man. See Kingpin: How one hacker took over the billion-dollar cybercrime underground by Kevin Poulsen. (New Scentist review). What could be done with this money?

Maybe you would like to read my book "Cold Suspenders" with some more muses about this and other things?
Read an extract Here

St. Piran's Day - 5th of March

Having posted about Britain, and England, I have been reminded that I should not leave out Cornwall, where I was Born.
The 5th of March was St. Piran's Day

Thousands of people took part in events all across Cornwall to mark St Piran's Day. (See BBC)

I did make sure that for at least part of the day I was wearing my Cornish Jumper, and would have worn my rather magnificent Cornish scarf, if only I could have found it.

To celebrate the important place counties play in the nation's cultural heritage Secretary of State Eric Pickles asked that English county standards be flown alongside the Union Flag outside the Department's Eland House headquarters in Victoria.

The Leader of Cornwall Council, Alec Robertson said:
"Cornwall is proud of its history. The natural landscape and our distinct Celtic language and culture have shaped the Cornwall of today. Our industrial mining past, when Cornwall was at the cutting edge of technological innovation, has left a world-wide legacy and Cornish Diasporas in many countries for whom Cornwall is still home. Occupying a central position in the Atlantic Arc, our maritime inheritance is still strong and our ports and harbours still house a fishing industry. In more recent times, Cornwall has become known for its visual and creative arts, of which we are justly proud.
"The ancient flag of St Piran, Cornwall's patron saint, is an enduring symbol of this unique region. I am delighted that our proud flag is flying outside DCLG on St Piran's Day. It is a day that more and more people within the Cornish Diaspora are celebrating, and it is appropriate that DCLG, as the Government Department sponsoring the development of the Cornish language, is celebrating the day too."

On the website  it says that tradition has it that the saint came from Ireland is extremely strong. Piran’s father and mother are both given Irish ancestries. Read more at

Interesting that on the O'Hagan side of the family that my uncle has traced back the Cornish O'Hagans to Castlemoore in Ireland.