Interesting Weblinks: 8 April 2010

In amongst doing college work/exam revision and various visits to family, the holidays are when I browse the Internet looking for completely useless websites and information.

I start today with a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last week – GCHQ: Cracking the Code. The BBC’s security correspondant, Gordon Corera, was given access to the organization which monitors communications globally.

The programme explores the wide area covered by signals intelligence – from looking for terrorists planning attacks against the United Kingdom to supporting military operations of the type underway in Afghanistan.

A team from the Counter terrorism section describes what it is like to listen in on terrorists’ conversations and the constant battle to predict where the next attack will come from: “I don’t think you would be human if you didn’t go home at night and couldn’t switch off and thought ‘Oh my God. What happens if . . .?'” What about the ethics of eavesdropping and how does their work compare to the way it is portrayed on television in series like ‘Spooks’?

GCHQ: Cracking the Code
BBC Radio 4

On the BBC News Magazine website, there is an article accompanying Radio 4’s documentary, talking about what recording at such an important and secretive organization involved.

As producer Mark Savage explained, it wasn’t exactly a warm welcome:

Negotiations for access to this highly secretive operation lasted several weeks. Could we, they enquired, assure them that the microphones we were going to use were as “low sensitivity as possible”? And would we, they asked, allow their sound engineers to listen back to the recordings we made in open areas to check that we hadn’t picked up any conversations that we shouldn’t have?

Inside GCHQ: “Caution: Here Comes the BBC”
BBC News Magazine

The programme is still available to listen to on the BBC iPlayer, after being broadcast last Tuesday and repeated on Sunday.

Moving on to politics, and the BBC Election website was launched this week. It includes a page linking to the websites of 28 political parties. Included in the list, is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Being a bit of an odd name, I decided to read a bit more. Their website includes 3 webpages full of the party manifesto proposals. How would you feel about some of these becoming part of UK law…? Here’s a selection of my favourite:

27: It is proposed that all pavements are heated so it is possible to walk bare foot in the winter, this would also serve another purpose by making the pavements warm no ice would form on them thereby reducing the risk of injury for everyone.

36: We should teach proper sports in PE (e.g. Fishing and how to let the head teacher’s car tyres down without getting caught).

Manifesto Proposals
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party

And from the second page:

3: Balanced View: All politicians should be made to stand continually on one leg while making speeches to check how balanced their arguments are. It should also reduce political flatulence and soothe the listeners ears.

8: Politicians are Shocked: Politicians to be fitted with electric shock collars, the type used to stop dogs barking, and shocked every time they lie.

18: The OAP Jetset: It is proposed to supply jetpacks for the elderly. This way they don’t block the pavements and roads with those slow little machines that they have. This will reduce congestion so will be good for the environment. The elderly may have more fun in their life, more fun than bingo, and as there are no cars in the sky it will be much safer.

Manifesto Proposals (Page 2)
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party

And – finally – some stuff from the 3rd page:

31: Bullseye: In keeping with the Government trend of setting up league tables and stupid impossible targets, we have decided that we will follow their example. We will reduce crime & disorder by October……….2001.

36: Road Safety: Why are the ‘airbags’ in cars described as safety devices? It is proposed that Car manufacturers replace Airbags with a Big Metal Spike pointing at the driver – That would make him drive much more safely.

Manifesto Proposals (Page 3)
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party

There’s no candidates for the party in the Cotswolds – but I see from their website that they have candidates for both Cheltenham and Gloucester. But I wonder what the country would be like if somehow they got in to power. It certainly proves that not all the parties are the same!

Moving on to a couple of radio links, and the nominations for the 2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards have been announced. There are quite a lot of categories, but here’s an idea of some of the nominations – nowhere near all of them, but the ones I would like to see win one of the award…

You can view the full list of nominations (by category) by going to

Lastly today, one of the columns in yesterday’s Telegraph was written by Christopher Howse, discussing what the switchover from FM to DAB would mean.

Modern houses, indeed, are often lined with aluminium foil, as if to make us cook evenly. The effect is to produce a Faraday cage that resists penetration by radio waves. That is why a million portable radios are perched on bedroom windowsills.

If that were not bad enough, from 2015, if the Government gets its evil way, we shall all have to rely on DAB. The only catch is that it’s no bloody good. Even if you have an aerial like the Blackpool Tower on your roof, the signal suddenly crashes. Some areas cannot catch a squeak. Some broadcasters, such as the baker’s dozen complaining on the page opposite, will be cast into silence.

Christopher Howse
Writing in the Telegraph

Thinking about it, people are used to switching their TVs now – B&W to colour, and small screen to a larger (possibly wide) screen, and analogue to digital.

But with radio its different. Some people have had the same radios for years. And the difference with radio is that you can’t plug in an external box to convert it. Its not like like Freeview where you buy a box and plug it in to your existing TV. You will eventually have to go out and buy a completely new DAB radio.

That’s not to say though, that an external box which you can plug into a radio to continue recieving digital signals won’t be available in the future – there’s still time to develop one. (And thats a hint to any manufacturors who many be reading this… ;))

That’s all for today.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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