DIY MUSIC

DIY MUSIC

6/9/09

We have no musical education. We paid for our studio equipment by saving money while working jobs and financed the release of the album ourselves. We used a budget microphone, and sequenced the tracks on nearly ten year old software, using a workstation pc which is prehistoric in comparison to the processing power of today’s units.

We did not use other studios, and most of the vocals were recorded with background noise, completely un isolated, in acoustically poor bedrooms through entry level monitor speakers.

If you are an aspiring artist, do not let the music industry convince you that you need to invest thousands of pounds before you make a track. The business perpetuates itself by feeding off creative insecurities and providing material answers. A Neumann microphone will not make a bad vocalist sound good, in fact it will amplify their faults profoundly.

£2,000 monitor speakers will make badly mixed music sound worse, and a beautifully made guitar will not bring soul to your playing. The magic comes from the formula that you use to convert the feeling in your heart into sound, and that requires very little, the rest is literally decoration.

The Internet has brought and exciting new dynamic to the way that music is distributed. If you can initially forget about your work supporting you financially, then a huge amount of distribution can be done from your home computer.

Every artist feels a natural angst as to how his or her work will be received. It is important to not let this develop and begin to hold you back, as it can begin to change you creatively and ultimately detract from your potential as an artist. Just be confident and let people hear your work.

All you need is a fairly good PC (Pentium 4 with 2gb RAM will do) a simple soundcard (around £100) a small mixer, microphone (condenser if you can get it) and some sequencing and fx software. A HIFI amp and speakers will do fine initially. There is no reason why, with the right expertise and a good ear, you can’t release music from a home studio bought for less than £1000.

There is a thriving second hand market for audio equipment and software. You can pick up the basic essentials for even less than above if you keep looking out for good deals.

Once you have learned your software and equipment gather up some sounds and start experimenting. You will naturally begin to develop a workflow and a sound will eventually begin to form. Study the genre, if any that you want to produce or write vocals for. What gives it the energy that you love? What defines it as a genre? What could you add to help it progress? Develop a niche that feels right and pursue your development.

One perfect example of not relying on equipment is Dubstep, where many of the most well renowned producers have opted to stay with the simple apparatus that they started with, actively avoiding using more expensive equipment provided by their labels.

Once you feel confident and you want others to hear your work, get onto major music sites like MySpace, submit tracks on forums, and put some money together for copies on CD. Keep focused and see what happens. Success is a process, not an event!

O.N. 6-9-09

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CAUGHT IN THE WEB: THE INTERNET PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

CAUGHT IN THE WEB: THE INTERNET PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

18/7/2009

1,581,571,589. This is the number of internet users when the World Wide Web was last analysed. 23.6% of the population of planet Earth.

Since its birth to the general public in the mid nineties, the Internet has become an intrinsic part of our daily lives. What were letters are now emails, what were shops are now retail websites. An extended group of friends who might have stayed in touch via the occasional telephone call now can observe each others activities amongst hundreds of others on social networking sites. The list continues. The question is how has something that has emerged so recently already grown to the proportions that we see today? Where did the internet come from, what is it at the present time and what could it become in the future?

– BIRTH –

Firstly it is important to remember the physicality of the Internet; a network of interlinked computers connected by copper, fibre optic and wireless technology. These computers communicate with each other via Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP or transmission control protocol and internet protocol), and various programs operating through the use of E-mail, online gaming, file transfer, file sharing, and person to person voice and video communication, to name a few.

To discover how the Internet emerged we must first go back to October 4th 1957, and the launch into orbit of the unmanned Russian satellite, Sputnik.

The Cold War between the Soviet Union and The USA had been in effect for around a decade, with the tensions between the two powers increasingly mounting. Sputnik 1 was the first artificial and unmanned satellite in space and so gained the Soviet Union the victory in the well renowned ‘Space Race’. As a reaction to this endeavour, the United States began to create a project that would earn them a vitally important technological lead over their adversary. It was named ‘ARPA’ or
The Advanced Research Projects Agency, and came to life in February 1958.

‘DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signalled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies.’

It is important to take into account that prior to this time, the computers that were in use used a method of calculation known as ‘Batch Processing’. This required one processing job to be completely finished before another could be started, so using huge banks of individual computers kept in cooled chambers. Operators who once could perform maintenance directly on their computers now could not access their chambers to perform their task. To iron out glitches, technicians had to be employed to work on the computers and manually re enter information resulting in a massively frustrating and arduous process.

The birth of ARPA created a huge forward step for computing. The first remote connections were developed so technicians no longer needed to perform manual work, and the instance of ‘Time Sharing’ came in effect. This enabled the processing power of one computer to be shared by multiple users, so vastly increasing processing speeds and distributing power to the needs of active users, rather than using a division of the full potential between a set number of terminals, whether actively or inactively using the system.

In 1966 ARPA developed this technology and created the first packet switching computer network, aimed at efficient knowledge transfer between the various Governmental departments of the USA. So followed the decentralisation of information systems, vital in the instance of a nuclear attack, and the distribution of this data via cables as opposed to radio waves. This would become ‘ARPANET’ – the predecessor of the Internet we use today.

– THE PRESENT –

Since 1990, the Internet has expanded exponentially. With over a billion users worldwide, it is without a doubt the most important technological development of our time. Over the course of just under twenty years, we have integrated the various aspects of our personal lives deep within the humming server banks of websites worldwide. The Internet courses with financial details, personal messages, photos, videos, documents, video games, and of course the vast virtual span of E-commerce.

The United Kingdom, as of 2009, has the seventh highest Internet usage worldwide with nearly 44 million users. Since 2000, growth in users has risen by over 180%.
China tops the scales with nearly 300 million users, but less than a third of the proportion by population compared to the UK (currently over 70% – one of the highest in the world). Nearly 80% of people aged 16-24 in the UK use the Internet on a daily basis.

So how has an information sharing network technology originally developed by the US Government become a fundamental part of our lives in modern society?

Firstly it is important to know that the Internet refers to the technology that enables computers to communicate with each other on a worldwide scale. The World Wide Web is the system of interlinked hypertext documents within the Internet. A small point now, but it may be very useful over the next few years.

In 1990, British computer scientist and MIT professor Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web browser –‘WorldWideWeb’. The Web steadily grew until 1994, when the first stages of online commerce began to appear. 15 years later, the United States is generating over 200 billion dollars in online sales, with yearly increases rising steadily.

Connection speeds in the UK have soared from the original 56k dial up modem connections to over 20mb per second, with one Swedish individual’s boasting a 5GB service; that is a full high definition DVD in just under two seconds. Although the increase is profound, the UK remains 41st in the world for download speeds.

Isolated terminals in Schools and Universities have become sprawling Wireless Hotspots. The Internet has developed into the foremost means of communication, and even spawned entirely new language groups from the use of abbreviation in online conversations.

Internet forums covering a vast array of subjects have become enormous centres of knowledge and information, the most populated of which, Gaia online, is frequented by over 18 million members. To put that into perspective, that is approximately the same number as the population of Angola, brought together to discuss role-playing video games.

The World Wide Web, in less than ten years, has expanded its reach and strengthened its grasp with over 55 Trillion links interwoven between its nearly 200 million sites. It is estimated that hyperlinks are clicked over 100 billion times every day. In the time that it took you to read this line, 2 million emails and 1 million instant messages would have been sent, with around 8 terabytes of web traffic in the same period of time. Rough calculations put the total amount of data online at around 500 Exabytes. (One Exabyte is 1 with 18 zeros following bytes) To put this in perspective, the sum of all human-produced information (including all audio, video recordings and text/books) was about 12 Exabytes of data, as of ten years ago.

As much as the Internet has helped to expose the current and forthcoming energy crisis, the Internet and it’s associated hardware uses 5% of the world’s available electricity.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter have changed the face of communication. Facebook now boasts more than 200 million active users, 50% of whom log into the website at least once every 24 hours. Myspace holds around the same amount of users.

Online gaming has also taken the Web by storm, the most popular of which, with an almost 65% majority in the market, is World of Warcraft: With over 12 million dedicated monthly subscribers it has become far more than a game. Other titles share the same obsession; one 28-year-old South Korean man played ‘Starcraft’, an online military strategy game, for over 50 hours straight before collapsing. The post mortem concluded that heart failure due to malnourishment, dehydration and lack of sleep was the cause of death. Online gaming has also emerged into the physical realm with an ever-growing market for virtual attributes such as weaponry or abilities. In one case, ‘Shanda’ a Chinese role-playing gamer, became involved with the genuine Chinese Police after virtually selling stolen virtual items to a fellow gamer. The items were removed from the purchaser’s account, and ‘Shanda’ was subsequently sued in a real Court.  An incident in Japan in 2008 saw a 43-year-old Japanese piano teacher find herself in real jail after viciously murdering her ex-husband…in ‘Maple Story’. According to reports, the woman’s virtual husband suddenly divorced her in mid-May, which lead to her to log on with the 33-year-old man’s username and password in order to delete his game profile. When the man discovered the death of his character, he called the real police. The alleged virtual murderer has now been jailed for suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, which in Japan can carry a five-year prison sentence or a fine of up to $5,000. The game ‘Second Life’ comprises an entire virtual world known as ‘The Grid’ where users can make real (?) money from the virtual trading of virtually designed items in virtual shops. The Video Game industry has grown exponentially and will surpass the film industry soon if it has not already.

Unsurprisingly, some of the first websites were pornography orientated. Today, nearly 30,000 people per second are viewing web pornography, with a new video being produced every 39 minutes, 24 hours a day. Roughly 12% of all websites (that’s 24 million) are pornographic, with over 250 new addresses appearing daily. 25% of all search engine requests are for porn. 35% of all Internet downloads are pornographic in nature. Around 55 GBP per second is being spent on the industry worldwide. In 2006, the calculated revenue from the US porn industry was $2.84 billion, with 89% of the world market is contained in the US.

– THE FUTURE –

The World Wide Web has now reached a similar complexity as the human brain, the most distinct difference being that our human processing power is not doubling every two years. Thirty years from now, the Web will reach the equivalent of six billion human brains (roughly the population of the world). If allowed to continue, the Internet and World Wide Web will exceed the combined processing power of the entire human family by 2040.

Quoted from ‘Global Brain’ by Dick Pelletier:

‘Experts compare the Internet to a planet growing a global brain. As users, we represent the neurons. Texting, emails, and IM act as nerve endings, and electromagnetic waves through the sky become neural pathways. Like germinating seeds, this global brain continues to evolve and as some forward-thinkers believe, will not stop until it develops feelings and achieves consciousnesses.’

The future of the Internet and World Wide Web points towards a need for complete transparency from its respective users in order to integrate seamlessly with the host of services and sources of information that it will provide. The premise of the Web’s future seems to be expectant of a comprehensive submission of personal details and lifestyle information in order to function as promised, until something of a status quo is reached. With this in account, the potential for a Speight of Civil Liberty infringements is worryingly close, not to mention the enormous disadvantage that citizens who feel uncomfortable with submitting the components of their personal lives online may suddenly find themselves encountering. Could we see a social divide between people living on and offline in the next few decades?

One of the most apparent advances in the dynamic of the Internet and World Wide Web currently is cloud computing. At the present time, most programs and applications are installed and run from individual computers. Programs that could have been purchased for significant amounts of money may lie unused on many systems, resulting in wasted storage and a drain on processing power. This new advance in Internet technology draws directly from a ‘cloud’ of virtualized programs, running from larger severs around the world. Computers will no longer be limited to the processing power of their components, the only required hardware being an Internet connection, a screen, mouse, and keyboard. Gamers who currently are expected to purchase new hardware due to the ever-increasing demands of video games will need only a monthly subscription and an Internet connection, eventually rendering the entire video gaming hardware market obsolete.
The future will see us drawing our information and applications usually run from the confines of your home directly from ‘The Cloud’, in the case of businesses, huge costs will be able to be shed in return for a simple subscription fee. Concerns have been raised over potential issues with confidentiality and data integrity, however.

A host of other advances lay in wait, some positive, some not so positive, others definitively negative. One of these is ‘Phorm’, an online advertising company responsible for some of the first adware seen online. In brief, Phorm seeks to collect online browsing habits in order to focus user specific advertising on your screen. One BBC report mentioned Phorm’s potential to use our computers inbuilt webcams and mics to collect data, using the example of hearing a dog barking through the microphone while online, and bringing up Pet food or Vetinary advertising on relevant Phorm enabled pages.

Current trends are moving towards the integration and synchronisation of more and more personal devices into the World Wide Web. Web enabled mobiles are now a common occurrence, many of which are GPS or Global Positioning System enabled (another military invention). This allows tripartite tracking of a person’s whereabouts, primarily from phone signals, satellites, and wireless Internet connections. Quite simply, if anyone mentions personal tracking devices in the future, it is already here.

Radio Frequency Identity Tags (RFID) are fast becoming commonplace in various applications. They operate in three separate states, passive, semi passive, and active, and transmit small amounts of data to RFID readers nearby. Further articles will cover this issue in full, but the RFID tag will be a crucial part of the expansion of the Web into our personal lives. The expectation is that most products will be tagged and traceable, bringing an entirely new dynamic to business and marketing. For more information on abuse of Civil Liberties please see the Database State article.

The Future of the Web needs to be imagined in a certain sense to understand where we will be in a decade or so from now. A comparatively tiny group of intelligent humans have created an entirely new paradigm of communication in a comparatively minute amount of time, even in regard to the invention of the telephone in 1876 and its evolution since. It is crucial to understand that the Internet has crept from the confines of ARPA and its related projects in Europe, where it was under the watch of small pockets of competent, qualified individuals, and out into the public domain, where it is most certainly not. Even in the stages of its infancy, to reverse the growth and incorporation of our lives there within would render a huge proportion of people living in the developed world inept to function as what we have taken to be normality. Even now, the consequences of a total crash of the network and its machinations would be unthinkable, from the checking of ones emails to the communications at the stratospheric levels of world leadership. The Web becomes more adept with every photo uploaded, every birthday registered, and every email sent. We are slowly but surely downloading our lives within its memory, and with every piece of information we are helping it to learn about the criteria with which we function. Could it be possible that the Internet begins to predict your thoughts and actions, based on calculations from billions of others? Could it be that the future of this creation is integration with us so deep that it becomes difficult to see a way out? We are the life supply to the World Wide Web. In the same way that oxygen feeds the brain, we are the agents of its existence. The importance of keeping our lives at a safe distance from complete integration with the web cannot be underestimated.

In a haunting quote from ‘The Next 5000 Days of the Web’, Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine, commenting on an emerging form of the Web reads:

‘There is only ONE machine
The Web is its O.S.
All screens look into the ONE
No bits will live outside the Web
To share is to gain
Let the ONE read it
The ONE is us’.

O.N. 18-7-2009

This article contains extracts from the article ‘Global Brain’ by Dick Pelletier on Future blogger

Also extracts from the lecture ‘The next 5000 days of the Internet’ by Kevin Kelly

And Information from the website Kotaku.com

 

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OPANARISE INTERVIEW IN RELEVANT BCN

17/6/2009

The interview can be found here

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DATABASE STATE: THE EROSION OF BRITISH CIVIL LIBERTIES

DATABASE STATE: THE EROSION OF BRITISH CIVIL LIBERTIES

6/6/2009

“We can not defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

EDWARD R. MURROW

The United Kingdom is a nation of over sixty million people. It rests on the third most populated island on earth, with an average of over six hundred citizens living per each of its square miles. 90% of the UK’s population live in urbanised areas. Its nearest neighbour, France, hosts a population of only a few million more, but with an area of nearly three times its size.
In recent years, the UK’s economy (currently around the sixth largest GDP), and liberal benefits system have provided a much needed reprieve from the crumbling governments of Africa and failing economies of Eastern Europe. Even in times of recession, the UK remains a developed nation of enviable stability.

So what has caused the UK, once a beacon of liberty, to be ranked in the top five nations, only just below Russia and China, for abuse of state power and public surveillance?

Privacy International, an NGO based in the UK with offices in the US, conducted a study in 2007 to outline worldwide levels of privacy abuse. Out of the 47 analysed, Greece was the sole country to be judged as having adequate safeguards.
The UK ranked amongst the worst for the following:

  • Constitutional protection
  • Identity measures / Biometrics
  • Data-sharing
  • Visual surveillance
  • Communications interceptions
  • Communications data retention
  • Surveillance of medical, financial, and physical movement
  • Border and trans border issues
  • Leadership

What is a Civil Right, and what are Civil Liberties?

‘Civil and political rights are a class of rights and freedoms that protect individuals from the government and state power and assure the ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state.’
Civil liberties are freedoms that protect an individual from the government of the nation in which they reside. Civil liberties set limits for government so that it cannot abuse its power and interfere unduly with the lives of its citizens.’

The problem that the UK faces lies not with sudden implementation, but the steady ‘creep’ of measures already legislated, the furthest potential of which could see the country plunged into a 1984’esque Draconian nightmare, but as for the present, Oceania is still far away.

The word ‘democracy’ derives from the Greek ‘Demos’ (people) and Kratos (strength). Its direct meaning is ‘the power of the people.’ This upheld, every Citizen of a country under democratic rule rests on the premise that they are valued as having the ability to contribute to the acceptance or rejection of their leaders. It takes only a brisk look at history to realise that a system as simple as democracy should not be taken for granted.

The UK provides for its people a first class medical system, financial support to the unemployed (and uninspired), a comprehensive, largely uncorrupted Police force, a well trained and equipped military, and a host of civil services which in comparison project other nations back into the Stone Age.

“Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have” THOMAS JEFFERSON

There are nearly twenty million more people in The UK than one hundred years ago, and the figure will rise into the mid sixties within ten years. Use a nightclub as a metaphor. The security is our Government, the clubbers are UK citizens, and the Club is the country. The UK is the equivalent of a wall to wall filled nightclub of revellers, all of which pose a certain risk to each other and ultimately to the security staff themselves. Every weekend, there seems to be trouble of some form, and the club seems to be getting more and more popular. After weeks of fights, arguments and drunken high jinks, the security staff are getting tired and disillusioned. It’s not in the interest of the club to do it, but the management have asked to start taking the details of the trouble makers and refusing their entry. The result, although losing the club a significant amount of money, frees up the attention of the security staff to be able to recognise new trouble makers and other potential threats like drug dealing and vandalism.

The basis of the government’s actions has seeded from a deep set requirement for stability. The maintenance of public contentment is a constant task, and parliamentary decisions which please the majority often infuriate the minority. This said, there has to be a line drawn between the public’s opinion of political process, and reactions that scream that something is wrong.

THE TERRORISM ACT 2000

Since the inception of the Terrorism Act, the UK has raised the longest period of pre-charge detention of any democracy on the planet, longer even than Zimbabwe. At 42 days, it stands as a constant pillar of debate. Unfortunate for the terrorist one may think, but this sweeping piece of legislation is gathering innocent citizens in its grasp. It is the use of the Terrorism Act on point of action that has proven to be the problem. Just one of many examples over the last nine years saw a disabled twelve year old boy and his parents detained under the act, the police accusing his mother of people trafficking her mixed race son. The family were surrounded by ten police officers for two hours, all under the allowance of the Terrorism Act.

Coupled with this are the powers of the Terrorism Act’s ‘control orders’ – a series of severe restrictions placed on people merely suspected of involvement in Terrorism. Measures include control of who the suspect may speak to, barring of the internet, television and telephone, and restrictions on when a person may leave their home and where they may go, effectively a house arrest of up to sixteen hours per day.

Stop and search, fuelled with new terrorism powers, has cases running at over forty thousand per year.

IDENTITY CARDS AND BIOMETRICS

In 2003, the Government announced its plans for the ID card, supported by the National Identity Register, an expansive database storing the personal information of every UK citizen and foreign national. Over fifty pieces of information, as well as iris scans and fingerprints are expected to be taken in order to be shared with complete transparency between relevant departments, agencies, and even foreign governments. The ID card system promises to tackle benefit fraud, illegal immigration, and terrorism. Three major points easily render the plan useless:
Benefit fraud is most practiced by people providing false information about their personal circumstances, not saying they are someone else altogether.
Short term visitors to this country (under three months) are not required to carry ID cards. Even if this was amended, the digital information stored in ID cards and Biometric passports can be cloned within minutes, something that those involved with illegal immigration would surely exploit.
The ID card system has promised to help prevent terrorism, although Spanish ID cards did not stop the 2004 Madrid bombings, Turkish cards did not stop the 2003 Istanbul bombings, and German ID cards did not stop the Hamburg terrorist cell that planned 9/11. Again, short term visitors will not be required to carry cards. The ID plan, if implemented, will cost around £18bn. The individual will be expected to pay for their card and biometric passport at a cost of just under £100. Although the terrorist threat is real, surely this vast sum of money could be used to reinforce our homeland security and intelligence?

CLOSED CIRCUIT TELEVISION CAMERAS (CCTV)

The UK has the largest collection of CCTV cameras in the world. At around 4.2 million, it provides one camera per 14 citizens. Londoners can expect to be filmed by separate units up to 300 times per day, all under the watch of a tiny island with almost a fifth of the world’s share of surveillance cameras.
It is wrong to portray CCTV cameras in a similar light to the ID card. They do help. Without doubt there have been huge benefits in crime prevention since their inception, but CCTV was introduced in the 1980s to tackle crime, anti social behaviour, and terrorism.
We now see CCTV monitoring speed limits, parking laws and bus lanes, not to mention the number plate recognition system installed into the cameras of the London congestion charge, DVLA and police monitoring systems. No one in the UK has any idea of exactly how may CCTV cameras are in use, only the 4.2 million estimate. There are obvious benefits, but one must ask whether their use has reached its limit. Of all CCTV footage captured by police to be used as evidence, 80% is useless. Since 1997, over half a billion pounds has been spent on CCTV equipment that has provided material that cannot be used by the police. Again, the ominous potential of function creep could create an environment not dissimilar to the images of Minority Report, the short story of Philip K. Dick first published in 1956.

Enter a world of facial recognition, of conversation analysing microphones, backed by aerial drones. Imagine a society where individual characteristics are collected and logged over the course of your lifetime, to be referred back to when signs appear of suspicious or high risk behaviour. Imagine adverts appearing before you as you walk down the street, which somehow seem to tend to exactly what you would most want at the time. Of course, because your body language and movements have just been analysed by one of the advertising systems that you are approaching. Imagine a job interview with biometric and psychometric tests. Imagine the loneliness of age when nursing is made obsolete by remote monitoring, needing fewer and fewer human staff. Imagine walking into a store, taking what you want, and walking out. Theft? The high street of the future is a network of RFID readers which link directly to your bank account. Seamless integration between personal devices now separate will be normality, each communicating with each other, the internet, and GPS satellites as you go about your business. It is a maelstrom of potential threats to Civil Liberty, and the foundations of something far deeper if allowed to be implemented.

DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID (DNA)
Our DNA contains the basic codes of our human form, storing our individual physical characteristics and family traits. The police DNA database was first introduced in 1995. Its goal was to enable police investigators to collect, store, and reference DNA samples from crime scenes and suspects, helping them to come to well evidenced and reliable prosecutions.
The UK now has the largest DNA database on the planet, over ten times the size of the US in relevant terms. 5 million individual profiles are logged within the system, a figure approaching ten percent of the population. Samples have been taken from over a million innocent people, including around 100,000 children, their data staying in the system without any apparent need.

In one week, the average person living in Britain has 3,254 pieces of personal information stored about him or her, most of which is kept in databases for years and in some cases indefinitely. The data include details about shopping habits, mobile phone use, emails, locations during the day, journeys and internet searches. Phone companies retain data about their customers and give it to around 650 public bodies on request.

Mobile Phones

Every day the average person makes three mobile phone calls and sends at least two text messages.
Each time the network provider logs information about who was called as well as the caller’s location and direction of travel, worked out by triangulation from phone masts.
Customers can also have their locations tracked even when they are not using their phones, as the devices send out unique identifying signals at regular intervals.
All of this information can be accessed by police and other public authorities investigating crimes.

THE INTERNET

Internet service providers (ISPs) compile information about their customers when they go online, including name, address, IP address, any browser used and location.
They also keep details of emails, such as to whom they were sent, together with the date and time.
Internet search engines also compile data about their users, including the IP address and what was searched for. Google receives around 68 searches from the average person each day and stores this data for 18 months.

LOYALTY CARDS

Store “loyalty” cards also retain large amounts of information about individuals who have signed up to use them. They link a person’s personal details to the outlets used, the transaction times and how much is spent.

In the case of Nectar cards, which are used by more than 10 million people in Britain at least once a week, information from dozens of shops is compiled, giving a detailed picture of a cardholder’s shopping habits.

BANKS

Banks can also be required to hand over personal account information to the authorities if requested as part of an investigation.
They also provide personal data to credit reference agencies, debt collectors and fraud prevention organisations.
Debit and credit card transactions can give information about where and on what people are spending their money.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Travel passes such as the Oyster Card used can also reveal remarkable amounts of information about an individual. When they are registered to a person’s name, they record journey history, dates, times and fares.
A spokesman for TFL, which runs the Oyster Card system, insisted that access to this information was restricted to its customer services agents.
Police, however, can also obtain this information and have used Oyster Card journey records as evidence in criminal cases.

As Citizens of Britain, we are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, with which we were one of the first countries to sign up to in 1953. The Bill consists of six separate protocols, within which are the basic laws that grant us our freedom as citizens. These include comprehensive protection of privacy, and around 15 sub categories that cover telephone tapping to search by customs and excise. It is vitally important that we remember our power as citizens. There are too many people who coin the phrase ‘what can we do?’ and this is simply wrong.
Civil Action and Judicial Review are the vehicles that provide us with the substance of our power as citizens. The reality beyond the melancholic attitudes of Britain is that with due attention and research, plus assertiveness on point of prosecution or other event, we can vastly improve our standing in relation to the threat to our rights.

As before mentioned, the concern is not sudden implementation, but the steady function creep of measures already legislated. All of the areas of threat to our Civil Liberties mentioned in this article have their benefits to our society; however the issue that must be reinforced is the line between relevant effect, and encroachment on privacy and thus Liberty. If the laws which govern these measures are allowed to bleed into each other, the potential for a database state is starkly real. It is the follow

on from this which poses the true threat, because when we have no rights left, all that is left will be right.

O.N. 6-6-2009
This article contains extracts from the excellent book ‘The Assault on Liberty’ by Dominic Raab.

ISBN 978-0-00-729339-1

Also the Daily Telegraph article ‘How Big Brother watches your every move’ by Richard Grey

And extracts from the website http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

http://www.no2id.net/ http://www.no-cctv.org.uk/

 

Audio Version

 

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WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIP HOP

WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIP HOP?

20/02/09

It starts with a love of Hip Hop. The great atmospheres of the ‘Golden Era’ producers of the early nineties, coupled with the grit and realism of artists who really meant what they were saying. Aged fourteen, there was nothing better to listen to, but just as it was about to come into its own, it disappeared.

The remnants of this era still exist in the form of ‘traditional’ producers, using the same late seventies and eighties equipment that forged the dusty and gritty sound that could capture the ear, but as in any other case, it’s just not the same.

Everything around us moves and changes. The problem is having a passion for a genre of music which has already had its day, or so we think. To keep the traditional, simple, but effective sound is almost denying this basic rule of evolution. The difficulty is picking up the flow where it left off. The difficultly, we feel, is that in general Hip Hop artists have no idea how to get back to the path of atmosphere, rhythm, flow, content, and character.

Capitalism will capitalize. Nothing is safe. It has laid its sinewy fingers on all aspects of our lives, inner and outer, and will not cease to do so unless we sacrifice comfort for clarity. To assume that a niche genre of music would be exempt from this fact is at best wishful thinking. Its card came up, and now we are witnessing the effects upon the music which once had something different. It had never been touched.

The most insidious aspect of the manipulation of Hip Hop is that it is very difficult to blame. In the painful creations that we watch on our televisions (watching music?) there is also a tale which touches the heart. As the music has failed, it has sprung a very real road to very real success for people, not all, but most, who have lived with the worst side of nothing to believe in.

My first major blow came when I discovered that Rawkus Records, a U.S. bastion of underground Hip Hop, was owned and run by James Murdoch, son of the infamous Rupert Murdoch, media tycoon and right wing political thinker. His son had set up the label while at university in the U.S., and it had blossomed into one of the finest bases for good, solid, and content rich material in the world.

Rawkus was infused with radical thinkers, poets, and ‘movers’ who provided some of the best tracks made, in my humble. Aside from this, one of the most interesting aspects of this suspicious arrangement was that many of the artists were Muslim, and motivated with strong opinions and angles for Islam in the modern west, something that for anyone who knows the doctrine of the Murdoch dynasty, is a stark contradiction.

The label began to slump after 2000, with many of the artists on its roster moving on or frankly completely stagnating (Eminem made a brief appearance on its books) but for some it was the starting block for a profound change in tack.

‘Common’, formerly ‘Common Sense’, was a well spoken, conscious, and heartfelt artist with mild Islamic views and an eye for change. In his video for ‘The Truth’ he is pictured leading a revolutionary riot through the streets of an unknown city. Recently I was flicking through a copy of GQ magazine, when my advertising battered vision came to rest on yours truly modeling jumpers for GAP. All well and good (sort of) until you realize that GAP have an especially fruity track record with outsourcing production to third world countries. He has since gone on to acting and still has a record deal, albeit with all his former revolutionary rhetoric conveniently nipped and tucked.

The list goes on. Mos Def, once a spokesman for black intelligence and advancement, has managed to play the role of a nearly retarded criminal in ‘13 Blocks’, and to be honest,  the same character in ‘Be Kind Rewind’. All well and good, but he spent ten years in music trying to enlighten his listeners to be something more than being retarded criminals.

So the dilemma is based around the fact that as many Hip hop artists are rewarded with the spoils of fame and success, the music which brought them to where they are increasingly suffers. So what can be done? Should we accept that a genre with so much potential for development has had its day and the great stories and atmospheres of the nineties were a brief stop on the way towards Hip Hop’s true destiny? The answer is no.

The basic elements of rap music are essentially free. There are no boundaries or limitations upon the content of the rhyming prose delivered over backing beats. The limitations exist within the mind of the writer. There are no limitations upon the sound of the backing beats, bar the limitations of the producer. Hip Hop is essentially free, yet exists in a state of absolute confinement.

To elaborate further inevitably leads towards the mixing of the genres and on to philosophical blabbering about the essentials which formulate music.

The point is that if you really think about it, as ‘K-OS’ puts it; ‘Hip Hop is not dead, it’s just the mind of the MC’.

It all needs to be rethought. We need to forget about the stigmas most commonly associated with Hip Hop, and let it be what it needs to be. Lay aside the black thing, the ghetto thing, the tuff thing, and the aggressive natures and reservations towards each other. Let it be beats and rhymes and freedom to say what you want to say. The music is not developing because the people involved in it are not developing in themselves.

The potential is huge. The basic premise of a story or descriptive scene fused with rhythm and flow, plus a heartfelt and solid delivery is one which opens the genre to limitless possibilities. You could cover literally anything you wished, from the movement of the cosmos to the basics of building a computer. It is waiting to be done, untapped, and may well be one of the last big movements in music.

Artists need to read and research, producers need to learn and expand. The reason, time after time, that types of music stay underground is because they lack the content to survive on the surface. Great music carries itself, it speaks and connects, and with that energy, people speak and connect when listening or referring to that music. When this energy is packaged and marketed, it invariably loses its essence.

It needs real people with real things to say, who are creatively inspired and who understand themselves and the world around them, who write and practice to develop their abilities, and who read and pay attention to their acquisition of beneficial knowledge. If the boundaries can begin to dissolve, artists will begin to feel more at liberty to express their creativity, without the pressures of a failing scene bearing down on them. There is no other form of music which can evoke imagery like Hip Hop, it is now one of the most popular genres on the planet, yet it is so far from meeting its potential.

 

O.N. 20-02-09

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BLOOD COBALT: THE CONGO AND MODERN ELECTRONICS

BLOOD COBALT: THE CONGO AND MODERN ELECTRONICS

25/5/2009

Published In Relevant BCN magazine – see here

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is the third largest country in Africa. Its population has risen to over sixty million, a number similar to the U.K., but with an area of over ten times its size.

The Congo has reeled from a history of conflict, with the most recent clashes bringing attention to a country of massive potential wealth, coupled by the suffering of the first and second Congo wars (the second of which began in 1998 and has laid rest to over five million people).

Political and social harmony may have left the Congo, but foreign business interest has not. The Congo boasts the largest deposits of Cobalt on earth, an essential component of the manufacturing of Lithium Ion Batteries, which are widely used in our mobile phones and personal electronic devices. Coupled with this is ‘Coltan’ or
Columbite-tantalite, the extracts of which are used for everything from laptops to ABS brakes.

Eighty percent of the world’s ‘Coltan’ is produced in the eastern Congo, specifically the Mushangi Hills of the South Kivu region, a mountainous area hugging the border and Rwanda beyond.

The Kivu region has been an area of extreme turbulence over the past decade. Its minerals have provided a steady source of wealth for the various claimants of its mines, the most recent being the Rebel Army of Laurent Nkunda. It is strongly suspected that the proceeds from the sale of Coltan and other minerals are directly funding the Rebel Army’s war against Hutu factions and government authorities in the Congo.

The mines of Kivu are mostly open-pit, with young male workers operating without necessary precautions, bare handed, to extract the relevant minerals. In the case of gold in the Kivu region, liquid mercury is sold to workers in order to more hastily separate the gold from other impurities. Mercury is highly toxic and many of the older miners have suffered from severe physical and neurological problems.

Coltan is chipped from the sides of the mines, usually imbedded within larger clumps of compressed rock and earth. The chippings are then inspected and cast away if no signs of the familiar dark grey specks can be seen. If present, the raw Coltan is picked out and gathered by the miner. Almost all of the young workers are ignorant to the use of what they are collecting. Once a modest amount of the mineral has been collected, the miner will then take his cache to a closely guarded office nearby. Here his Coltan is inspected, weighed, and exchanged for a small sum, approximately ten dollars* for a few hundred grams. This can often take days to accumulate.

Each week the Coltan is gathered into larger bags and made ready for transport. If available, the consignment is flown on extremely dangerous journeys to nearby towns. Opposing forces focus pressure on stopping the Coltan trade, making the flight a huge risk. The pilots can receive up to £1500* for a single journey. Once received, the bags of Coltan are checked further, and bought for around £50* per kilo before being transported for refinement. Local refiners can produce around five tonnes per month, a healthy figure, but one that only scratches the demand of the world market. Coltan is a wonder substance. Its ability to absorb heat has shed huge costs for the electronics market, allowing them to use other materials which through overheating would render their products useless.

There are many investors in the Coltan market, Rwanda being the highest reaper of profit, accumulating $250* million in a year and a half directly from the exploitation of Coltan in The Congo. Uganda, Burundi, and other African neighbours are also suspected in involvement. Foreign interest includes companies from the United States, Germany, China, and Belgium. After purchase the Coltan is then converted into capacitors and other devices to then be sold to electronics manufacturers such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony. Many of these companies are manufacturing for the commission of mobile phone service providers such as O2, Vodafone, and Orange. Retailers then buy their products to be sold to the general public.

It is haunting to consider that a small capacitor inside mine or your mobile phone could have been collected by a Congolese boy, probably orphaned, probably formerly a child soldier, who works for next to nothing to collect a substance that he probably does not even know the use for, his work helping to fund an small army guilty of numerous atrocities, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the exploitation of The Congo’s bounteous mineral resources.

O.N. 25-5-09

* Figures will have changed over the course of time due to the world market, these are rough estimates intended as a guide.

This article contains extracts from the documentary ‘Cobalt Du Sangue’ shown on French TV station Canal+.

www.friendsofthecongo.org www.congoglobalaction.org

Audio Version


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PARKOUR VIDEOS

Parkour Videos

Some of the best bits that we could find.

Damien Walters – Goes without saying.

Massive roof to roof jump in St. Petersburg – Erik Muhametshin. Don’t even bother thinking about doing this!

David Belle – Including his epic chase sequence in ‘Banlieu 13’

Two Freerunners from the UK

Posted in INSPIRATIONAL VIDEOS