Monday Mar 31, 2008

The socio/economic impact

The rest of the morning was taken over with a panel presentation, which focused on the socio/economic impact of the changing internet. The first speaker was Andy Wyckoff from the OECD who spoke of a number of economic issues reinforcing the link between creativity and wealth creation. In fact the OECD are running a ministerial conference, see, which has had massive and unexpected support from the OECD's member and candidate members. He also emphasised the need for openness & interoperability. He also argued that smarter interfaces will be needed to truly create an internet of people, and that is required before further evolutions will occur.

Led by Geert Lovink of Institute of Network Cultures, the panel explored the question of paying for creativity given the marginal cost to copy is zero. Will it be possible to implement a form of micro payments?

Another issue raised was the duopoly of the search engines. It was argued that it is necessary to have a diversity of search engines, and that fortunately, the smaller players are staying in the market and continuing to innovate. Search will remain the "killer app" of the internet, but where is the "only people are experts" dimension. Will the next evolution be people finders?. They may become more important than resource finders, and is a dimension of the NESSI problem. How will you find services, in a world of billions, with hundreds of thousands joing each day. (Obviously thats the vision, not today's reality).

Dag Johansen asked if can we build a 'push' search engine, and that its very important to protect one's privacy. He (and others argued) that many internet users are prepared to trade some of their privacy for free services and resources. In terms of his privacy, he deliberately uses multiple search engines to hide from those that wnat to know about everything he does, he also stated that he doesn't think Google is good enough to justify exclusive use. I am moving towards this behaviour and often use exalead which tries to use semantic technology to improve the search quality. Another thought this raised in my mind is that {english} schools are once again pretty poor, they're teaching how to use apps, not the internet, and so while todays children are being taught in class how to use Word to write a letter, they are missing how to protect your privacy and use firewalls and spam filters. Actually it would seem they are teaching how to circumvent poorly configured content filters. (Don't ban Google images for the UK & USA, if you leave Ireland, India and Australia available.)

Diogo Vasconcelos from Cisco came up with the following insight, "People like politics, with politicians it depends", he also raised the issue of sustainability. Some of his visions had a real 'Minority Report' touch. A question was raised suggesting that, sometimes selling you stuff you thought you didn't want is good. But how much more than Amazon recommendations do we need? This did remind me of the minority report scene where the shop recognises Anderton (Tom Cruise) via an eyeball scan. Diaogo repeated the idea that the EU is the most connected place in the world? I wonder if its true. I find connecting in the States when traveling easier, the network and wi-fi seems much more pervasive, although I often have to pay. You can see elsewhere in this blog for my views on Italy and Brussels. My recent travels have confused me and I can't make up my mind whether to buy a wi-fi or 3G connected hand held appliance. I hope that I will be allowed to trial a new vodafone commercial solution, or maybe I'll check out BT Fon, which reminds me, I really need to sort my household content subscriptions. It just never stops.

The morning was finished up with a presentation on internet governance, and the need to address bureaucratic degeneracy and market failure. See also, which is a United Nations body.

tags: ""

A word from our sponsor

Ms Viviane Reding, the sponsoring commissioner spoke to the conference via a video cast. This isn't yet available, but I'll post a link when I can, hopefully to streaming video.


What's the EU doing?

The conference is sub-titled, or has the tag line of "Perspectives emerging from R&D in Europe". A new web site has been created which promotes and reports on the conference, together with other initiatives. A document "The Future of the Internet, A Compendium of European Projects on ICT Research......" was distributed to delegates documenting the EU funded projects which were invited to attend.

I can't find it on cordis, and I used the catalog number, KK-30-08-142-EN-C

tags: "

Future of the Internet, the 2nd information revolution

The conference, "The Future of the Internet" was opened by Dr. Ziga Turk. He is the Minister for Growth of Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency at the moment. He opened by talking about Slovenia's adoption of the internet, which was prior to independence and stated that the internet was an important tool for the campaigners in pre-independence Slovenia. After my experiences in trying to get connected in Italy, I have been pleasantly surprised. Easy connection for both phone and laptop.

He then, cleverly (well, I thought so), compared the development of the internet and its opportunities with the discovery of cheap paper and the renaissance. I was particularly interested in his assertion that while the invention of paper came from China, it was the european's letter based writing that enabled the first knowledge based revolution since printing was easier. He also pointed out that the first global knowledge revolution, the "p-revolution" while global, was led in Europe, but today's revolution, the "i-revolution" is not. The european response to this needs to be two fold. The simplest is to continue with EU enlargement, the other political responses are within the EU's "Lisbon Strategy". This is aimed at creating and stimulating jobs and growth in europe, and places innovation and research at the heart of this effort. It is also about dynamism and entrepreneurialism in the context of caring for people and environment. The driving economies of the US and Japan are being challenged by China and India, but by placing knowledge as a 5th freedom, the EU can hopefully harness the creativity and entrepreneurialism of its citizenry.

The first four freedoms in the EU are a bit different from Roosevelt's declared at the time of the founding of the United Nations.

We've been promised the slides, but they're [still] not available yet.

This article was written from notes taken at the time, posted the following week and back dated to the approximate time the speech was given.


Saturday Mar 15, 2008

Are the English giving up with foreign languages?

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that Cambridge University had finally dropped the requirement that undergraduate students have a language GCSE (16+). I remarked that I thought it a shame, and that the english education system should teach foreign languages, but it was pointed out to me that the national curriculum no longer mandates a language at GCSE and so Cambridge's previous policy would in future conflict with their and the government's goal of opening Oxbridge up to more state sector applicants. It seems to be a fact that english schools find it harder to get higher grades in languages than other subjects and that the pressure of the league table places has led a number of them to drop languages very rapidly.

Its yet another example of allowing the difficult to fall out of the education system.

Back in December, when I visited the EU Parliament building. I was taken aback by the number of languages spoken in the EU, since the translation booths are situated around the hall, and it is a very physical demonstration of europe's linguistic diversity. There 23 official languages. I have had it pointed out several times in my recent travels that the ubiquity of English means that I don't have to worry, to which I have two replies. The first is that, when I was at school, no-one had any idea of whether the EU was going to work or not nor how English would become so pervasive. I was offered the opportunity to learn both French and German, which I did with varying degrees of success. Secondly, its very rude to assume that others will learn your language, particularly if you are in their their country. I wish I could do better, but it seems the UK's educators disagree.

The map below is off the European Union and references the EU membership page.


Countries of the EU


On the EU membership page itself, the map has an HTML image map which displays the languages by country as you hover over each country. Interesting how such an old technology has such descriptive power. I wonder if I could have used an <IFRAME> to include this on the blog, although including other peoples material without permission in a way that is not clearly hyperlinked is not very good manners.


Thursday Jan 31, 2008

About: my december visits to Bruxelles

Most of the articles about my trips to Bruxelles in December were written much later but backdated to about the time of they occurred. The other pictures I took can be viewed at my Brussels set at

When writing about Bruxelles, I have mainly used the french language place names because I speak it better than I speak Flemish, which isn't hard. I am aware that linguistic politics is very sensitive in Belgium and that Brussel/Bruxelles is a designated bilingual city. I hope that an Englishman's efforts to recognise any foreign language will be acceptable. (Interestingly Google maps uses the flemish street names, or at nay rate, I havn't worked out how to use their French language ones.)

View Larger Map


Saturday Jan 26, 2008

A flying visit to Europe

I have just been on a flying visit to Luxembourg and Austria, and stayed over night in Krems Am Donau, where I was due to talk at a meeting of Sun's Partners. This was the view from my room in the morning.


Rooftops in Krems, Austria


I took this with the panoramic shot option from the phone. I am not sure how bad this is, or if in fact the light of the Danube makes it look poorly joined, its hard to say, but I think this is an area that Sony-Ericsson need to work on. I find using the panoramic join feature almost unusable.

Since my route had involved flying from London  to Luxembourg and on to Vienna, my journey home seemed quite simple although I was told by my travel agent that the last direct flight left too early for me to use, so I made the mistake of agreeing to change at Frankfurt. This meant my journey required four separate carriers and a paper ticket. While at Luxembourg, I noticed that they had two wings to the terminal building, with one of them reserved for Schengen Treaty destinations. (This is the EU treaty on common borders which allows people to enter Schengen countries from another without passport inspection.)  In Luxembourg, the distance between the Schengen gates and the rest of the terminal building is less than 100 metres.  The UK is not a full signatory to Schengen, but I didn't take this as a warning.

So I took off from Vienna late. I was flying with Adria (Air Slovenia). I didn't know Slovenia had a national airline and while the dinner was rather nice, when we reached Frankfurt they'd lost their landing slot and had to wait to land, delaying us further. We then had to wait for everyone to recovery their luggage before the bus could drive us to the terminal building, which was the Schengen entry building. The journey to the BA gates took over 30 minutes, with two luggage inspections, I missed the plane by  a couple of minutes and then had to travel back to the other terminal to get my flight rebooked. However, there are worse places to stay overnight than Frankfurt airport and the flight home on Saturday was very comfortable However I have renewed my determination to keep to simple rules when doing this sort of rush trip.

  • Don't rely on the last flight home, its often delayed
  • Try and leave an airport on the airport's dominant carrier, they're less likely to be pissed about
  • If you have to execute a change, leave enough time, and ensure you can check in for both legs at once
  • Use an E-Ticket

I don't see how I can avoid the Schengen problem i.e. I will always be in the wrong part of the airport, until the UK signs up. I'm just going to have to make sure that I have the time, and that my travel agents don't book something bloody stupid.


Friday Dec 21, 2007

About Tin Tin

After a high minded day yesterday, we walked across the lower town to the belgian comic museum CXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. This has one gallery on belgium's most comic famous export, Tin Tin. I know there are some that believe that Tin Tin comes from Teeside, but that's not the case. The museum shop seemed to have every single Tin Tin book ever, including the first which is in black & white and called Tin Tin in the land of the soviets. The museum had a number of other exhibits beyond Tin Tin, as it seems that Belgian comic authors have been prolific over the years and the building is worth visiting itself as an example of Victor Horta's architecture; lots of iron and glass. The picture below is actually outside the Tin Tin shop elsewhere in Brussels, but I thought you'd like to see it.


The Tin Tin shop


That's me that is.

We caught the train out to the airport and found ourselves in the tender care of Flybe. Our flight was cancelled and while we were put up in a 5\* hotel, the airline pays a 2\* rate. The room was great but they really jerk you around once your in this fix.


Thursday Dec 20, 2007

Republican Democracay

We then walked over to the European Quarter, as we wanted to visit the debating chamber of the European Parliament. We went via the Place Jourdain, where we bought some 'frittes' from Maison Antoinne. This is a stall which has an arrangement with the surrounding bars so you can eat indoors and warm up with your drink of choice, coffee or schnapps. The parliament building permits visits to the debating chamber, as they should;, we pay for it. So we went there and had a look round.


The EU parliament chamber.


Outside the the building there are plaques and flags for each of the member states, together with a statue of a women holding the Euro symbol. The buildings are contemporary and stark contrast to the Hapsburg grandeur of the Upper Town. In the park beside the parliament building is a section of the Berlin Wall, with its graffiti presumably untouched from when it was in Berlin. One of the wipeout games we play at home is 'countries of the EU', this is fun because its changing so rapidly and because of the various states that countries can occupy. States can be in negotiation to join, members, euro zone members or Schengen treaty signatories. So when we entered the chamber, hanging above the chamber are the the translation booths, and while there are 27 member states, there are 23 official languages, so one booth for each language really brought home the linguistic diversity of today's European Union.


Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

Birthday in Brussels

Back to Brussels for a flying visit, but planning to stay on for a couple of days to enjoy the sights, food and drink in Belgium's and the EU's Capital. Today, after my meeting, opposite the Berlaymont, we walked around the lower town looking for somewhere to eat. We enjoyed the "Winterfest" at La Bourse & Place St. Catherine and returned to the Grand Place and were able to enjoy the opera and lights together, having eaten some Tapas, with a rather fine Rioja. A Faustino No 7.


Hotel de Ville, Grand Place


While I had broken one of my rules by working on my birthday, it was a good way of spending it. I rather enjoyed the atmosphere.


Tuesday Sep 18, 2007

EU 10, Microsoft 0

An exciting day in many ways yesterday! The European Court have confimred the European Commissions fine on Microsoft for ant-competitive activities. The Guardian have reported it with the head line "European appeal court opens Windows to the world and shakes the superdominant". A headline only imagined in the Guardian business section.

Most interestingly they indirectly quote the competition commissioner, Ms Neelie Kroes,  as saying that this ruling strengthens the commissions determinatio to put consumer benefit above innovation. This would be worrying if it wasn't for the fact that only "Author/Publishers" need copyright/patent protection to inhibit competition. There are many other business models that drive innovation in the economy.

 This article at, called "Copyright harms the economy" is further evidence that bit by bit, people recognise that ideas cannot be exclusivly owned and that exclusive ownership is not in the public interest.


Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

Will the EU follow Norway in restraining the iPod?

The EU Consumer Protection commissioner, Meglena Kuneva has spoken out against Apple bundling their DRM software with hardware.  The norwegian courts are considering this issue at the moment and have ruled that it's a monopolistic, anti-competitive action. Norway, of course, is not a member of the EU, but its interesting the way the wind is blowing in Europe. [ Reuters | VNUnet ]


Sunday Feb 11, 2007

Inspirations for travel

I have just changed the wallpaper on my computers.


A Casteljo evening...


This is taken and linked to a flickr correspondent called "acampm1", and I have marked it as one of my favourites. It certainly makes me want to go there, and it looks great on a large screen. Other ideas for my holidays were suggested by the Guardian over the weekend and I have tagged them at delicious:holiday. They suggest as an environmentally friendly traveller, that one can go by train to Berlin, Andalusia or Venice. The journey from Paris to Madrid using the TrainHotel sounds both fun and comfortable.


Saturday Aug 19, 2006

Safely Home

Home safely, one of the best, i.e. on schedule journies home from Greece ever after a relaxing, do not very much holiday.


The Point at Kalogria


The point at Kalogria Bay, and a sunset from last year; the family wouldn't let me use the camera this year and my phone shots aren't so good.


Sunset over Stoupa Bay


More pictures on flickr from this year & last (2005). As ever, I'm grateful to our Holiday company, "Greek Options".

Another article backdated to a time nearer its occurrence.


Wednesday Aug 02, 2006

Home from Vienna

Safely back from my trip to Vienna.

Donnerbrun, Neu markt Vienna

We got a lot in, from the old imperial palaces to the new republic, offices, shops, restaurants, cafes and art. On our way to the Hofburg, (the old city imperial palace and now a museum complex), we passed the Donnerbrun fountain in the Neuer Markt.

Oberes Belvedere

The following day we visited the Belvedere, another imperial age palace given over as an Art Museum, where we saw Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" and "Judith I". The Belvedere also has a broad collection of the "Secession" movement artists, but to me one of the more interesting exhibits documents the now missing pictures of "Klimt's Legacy", which after lengthy court actions in the USA & Austria are now in the USA.

Hundert Wasser Haus>

After the Belvedere to escape all the imposing, baroque, imperial and classical architecture, we visited the Hundertwasser Houses, ended up at the Prater and rode on the Ferris Wheel where I managed not to mention Cuckoo Clocks.

Ferris Wheel at the Prater, Vienna

I also discovered that Starbucks has not taken over in Vienna,where a marvelous coffee, called "Melange" is served and I managed to have some "Sachertorte" in the Hotel Sacher. Very swish!

links: Gustav Klimt (Wikipedia), my vienna pictures (flickr)





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