The Null Device
In major news stories recently:
- Couple who met at university to marry, as the Caledonian Mercury's refreshingly unhyperbolic coverage puts it:
William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago.
Mr Windsor is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF – and also a prince.
Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet.
- The latest thing from Apple is not the long-awaited multitasking iPad OS, nor any shiny new gadget, but that iTunes will finally sell the albums of a band who broke up 40 years ago. Granted, the Beatles were significant, but were they really in a whole godlike league above a lot of other artists, such as, let's say randomly, Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson? (Indeed, I've seen an argument that they were only the second most influential pop group, after Kraftwerk.)
Meanwhile, Fox News broke the news that Apple would be distributing "Manchester's favourite mopheads". I wonder whether that's a mistake or something they deliberately put in to maintain their carefully crafted image of not giving a shit about offending foreign sensibilities.
A genetic survey in Iceland has found genes characteristic of native North Americans, dating back to the 10th century (or at least before the 18th century, to the eight or so centuries during which Iceland was isolated), suggesting that Native Americans reached Europe five centuries before Columbus reached the Americas.
The Dorset Police, it seems, are feeling the downside of privatisation: the force has instructed its officers to send text messages rather than talking on their radios. A spokesman for the police force (i.e., management) has said it's a simple measure to improve the efficiency of the control room, and has nothing to do with the £2 per second levied on the police force by the private operator of its radio system; the head of the Dorset Police Federation (i.e., the employees), however, begs to differ:
"Particularly if you have a major incident or a normal Friday or Saturday night, we're going to use the radios quite a lot. If they go over the estimated level then a surcharge kicks in, that's £2 a second, which I think is extortionate - especially at a time when people in the police service are losing their jobs."It may be that sending a text is more efficient; if the police radios have buttons or menus for sending standardised updates, perhaps tagged with coordinates, it could be, though if the officer has to stop and thumb in a message, that probably won't be the case*. And it's unlikely that there is so little capacity on the emergency service airwaves that the police have to ration their communications. So this looks rather like another case of, at some time in the great Blatcherite orgy of privatisation, the government of the day having eyed the police radio network and decided that, if they sold it to a private company, it'd top up the budget nicely up to the next election, when it became the next government's problem. And now, with the new age of austerity, we have police officers being told not to use their radios because every second that they do so is £2 from their budget to a private company.
*I haven't examined a police radio, but I suspect that devices developed for a largely captive institutional market will be slow to benefit from the interface-design innovations of more competitive markets; except in cases such as the US military, which has famously spent billions on human-interface research. Judging by the photographs I've seen, I'd guess that the interface of a police radio is comparable to that of a late-1990s Nokia phone in terms of design.