Link dumps 2021-04-18

Things are getting busier for me due to work, and lockdown is ending. Only one thing about whisky in this month's links - it's all gone a bit quiet, and with the various festivals cancelled I suspect it will remain so for a while. It's mostly transport, politics and computing. Which is fine for some, and terrible for most...

Scotland’s railways to be nationalised next year; transport, politics; I still struggle to understand privatised railways. The best service improvement I ever had was after Connex Southeastern died - the not-for-profit temporary company did a much better job. The same thign happened on the East Coast Mainline. It's long past time to admit that the privatised railway experiment has failed, and move ownership into public trusts. Scotland is choosing nationalisation by the same means - moving services into a not-for-profit "operator of last resort". It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

COVID-19 killed the last man of an indigenous Brazilian tribe; news, history; I suspect that when histories of our period are written, this will surface as a more important item. It's more an indicator of the state of the world and COVID-19's impact than anything else - it could be argued that globalisation and international trade killed his tribe. COVID-19, spreading like wildfire because of the cheap transport that enabled globalisation and international trade, was merely the final blow.

Paddick on Clapham Common vigil report whitewash; politics, policing; Brian Paddick was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Met Police, and paints a pretty poor picture of how the vigil for Sarah Everard was handled. A failure to plan, and when they saw known agitators travelling to the vigil they just noted it in their log - no actions taken. Wow. This seems to have been one oversight after another - almost as if the leadership just didn't want to do their job.

How the Supreme Court saved the software industry from API copyrightstechnology, law; This is a huge win for the whole technology industry. Oracle was trying to claim a level of ownership that would make it VERY hard for companies to make software that's compatible and interoperable with other software. Here's Ars' excellent write up of that.

Font size is useless; let’s fix it; typography, technology; Some typefaces are just ludicrously large or small compared to others. I applaud the idea of fixing it, but suspect that this is doomed.

Writing tools I learned from The Economist; writing; This website would be better if I remembered any of this...

France bans air travel that could be done by train in under 2.5 hours; travel, environment; A great move. I've never understood flying for short hops, but then I also hate airports. I can fly from London to Manchester in 45 minutes, but it takes me an hour and a quarter to get to the airport, then I have to check in and wait, then at Manchester I'm actually half an hour's travel from Manchester. It's not much slower than train - if at all - and the train is a lot less hassle. We should consider something similar in the UK.

Clerkenwell toilets hoardings turned into “art”; fun, environment; Somebody hung art cards on hoarding and turned them into "art" to protest how long the hoardings have been up. Granted, there have been delays due to COVID-19, but I still find this funny.

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99; politics, law; Trust El Reg to find a computing angle - but it turns out that he had his BT Prestel account hacked in the 1980's and pushed for laws covering the misuse of computers. Vengeance or prescience? Who can tell...

The history of UTF-8 as told by Rob Pike; computing, history; Pretty much what it says on the tin. UTF-8 is one of those things that we use every day and take for granted, so it's interesting to see how it came about.

Present tense; whisky; In which my friend Matt muses on what the whisky market has become, then reviews some new releases.

Prehistoric notation systems in Peru, with Chinese parallels; history; culture; In which a linguist muses on whether there is a link between the notation systems of Peru and ancient China. Personally I tend to think our ancestors were at least as smart as us, just lacking in some of the opportunities and technoligies - so I'm not surprised if things are invented many times independently in many different places. But it's fun to watch academics speculate wildly...

That's it for April. See you in May!