Liberty, equality and Big Brotherhood

Anyone for Wang seasoning?

Letters Right, it is Friday which means it is time for some letters. So let us waste none of your valuable "winding down for the weekend" time, and crack on, shall we?

First up, the National Audit Office would like to speak to you, our beloved readers:


We are at a loss to understand the Kablenet article "MPs criticise NAO's efficiency scrutiny" posted on your website.

At the recent Public Accounts Committee hearing, there was not a hint of criticism of our report which concluded that the National Audit Office could have full confidence in only one quarter of the Government's reported efficiency gains.

You quote the robust comments of two members of the PAC but it is obvious that they are referring to the Efficiency Programme itself, not to our report.

Your Kablenet correspondent should read Mark Ballard's article ("NAO attacks UK gov £13.3 bn savings claim", 8 February) which interpreted our report very differently."

Julian Wood

Director of Marketing and Communications

National Audit Office

Clear? Good.

Next, Carphone Warehouse does the sensible thing and backs slowly away from the stinky pile of mess that is the Celebrity Big Brother fiasco, taking its sponsorship of the main, non-celebrity version with it. Ideas were sought for a replacement sponsor. perhaps we should have known better than to ask...

One of the long-lost joys of movie-going was the decades-old cheap 'n cheerful advert for the local Indian restaurant.

An enterprising curry house should be given the opportunity to sponsor Big Brother (on a bit of tatty cardboard) in front of the camera; either before every advert break, or, when the whole car crash Davina experience goes all Bugatti Veyron.


Let's see. We're looking for a company who feels at home being associated with what is essentially a vacuous popularity contest dressed up as a legitimate sociological experiment.

Big Brother in association with Second Life can't be far off...


The Home Office, make it the whole Government of this fine isle should sponsor Big Brother. Since with ID cards, passports with interviews and GPS tracking for road pricing in cars they have proposed or introduced more Orwellian ideas than any before, it can only be appropriate.


I think the obvious choice would be to have the Labour government sponsor Big Brother with tax-payers' money - it fits right in with its quest to ensure that the British are the most surveilled society in the world.

It adds a spin of coolness to oppression and normalises any sort of detention of the masses. Let's face it, most watchers of BB are unable to distinguish fiction from reality when it's issued from a glowing box in the corner of the room - what's the difference between a featureless, controlled cell in Elstree and the same at Belmarsh?

Watching people being watched can only reduce resistance to being watched yourself - this should grease the pole upon which people will have to sit and swivel when it comes to having the GPS-RfID-ID card-driving license-Passport anal implant inserted.

PS They could throw in some peerages for Endemol/Channel 4 execs while they're at it.


I think that 'Heat' magazine should sponsor big brother, with the resulting feedback loop between the two hopefully somehow causing the pair to evaporate from this current reality.


The masses are revolting, and Vodafone won't recognise 'em:

They are not alone - twenty4help (recently taken over by Teleperformance - 2 days ago completed) recognises unions and also has works councils at all other European sites but not in the 2 UK sites in Newcastle and Linlithgow. Should be the CWU to represent us but they even chase their representitives off site when they turn up to try and raise the profile of the union!


Microsoft has admitted that the latest update to its Windows Genuine Advantage program will phone back to Redmond even if the user clicks cancel. Nice...

I'm sure someone else has already brought this up, but I'll bring it up just in case.

From the article: "In order to establish an accurate count, we also generate several globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) that do not contain any personal information. We use the GUIDs to tally the number of individual machines without identifying the user."

Now, haven't the RIAA, MPAA and maybe Microsoft itself said, or at least implied, in various piracy cases that, in effect, knowing the machine is knowing the user?

See the article, The Results of Your Labor and a Thank You, by Ray Beckerman, Esq. - Updated

Page 22, Lines 5 thru 12

Can they have it both ways?

Just curious.


"By way of justifying Microsoft's approach, alexkoc writes that the EULA, likewise presented by the WGA installer, also covered the relaying of such information." (from the Heise article) Quite a spin! So the EULA which I just read says we will do what we want anyway regardless whether you accept the EULA or not :P

Yeah as if an installer needs soooo much more improvement. All of those WinUpdate installers usually only have Next / Cancel anyway. There is never any option (except which update you want to install).

The only thing I can imagine is: - you get a good statistic that the majority of people cancelling the WGA installation happens at step n - you add a lenghty stupid dialog box that pops up when you hit cancel at step n telling Joe Average that "some components may not work properly or not at all bla bla bla (insert usual MS Spin) so that he is trickled into having some FUD and then just go ahead and install the Genuine Disadvantage

Anything not like it uses to be from Redmond?


The average Brit in the street isn't convinced that the government's data sharing plans are for the good. It kind of depends on how you ask the question, really.

The ICO is more purblind than the government in this case. The Data Protection Act is the least of government worries; it is feebly susceptible to regulatory curtailment, since the ICO will just follow the rules whatever and declare that abiding by the rules is good. It is common-law confidentiality and ultra vires they really want to tear up, and the ECHR Article 8 rights they are hoping they can define their way around.

Not a lot of hope for privacy and rule of law if no one is to stand up for those much more fundamental protections.

All best

Guy Herbert General Secretary, NO2ID

Meanwhile, the DWP has been told to tell us all what its up to, to escape a fate worse than the Child Support Agency IT cock-up. You think the advice could be taken more widely by those in Whitehall:

"problems had stemmed from its attempt to shoehorn complex lives into a series of formulaic rules controlled by computer"

Now that is the very essence of the ID card scheme to come.. New Labour and all their Gosplan-like agencies never learn from distant or recent history.


Walmart went all green on us this week. But, as ever, the central point of the story went right over the head of some readers, who just wanted to take pot shots at us for being bourgeois. Well, tough, we're all playing croquet this afternoon. Come back later.

You start your article with a sentence containing, "... Wal-Mart, America's least popular popular retailer ..."

That is a very affluent, upper-middle class, viewpoint. Among the lower middle and working poor, and especially the poor, Wal-Mart is very very popular. Wal-Mart has prices that they can afford better than prices at many retailers.

That is the secret of Wal-Mart's success. As the underclass in the USA grows, Wal-Marts get increasingly crowded. Wal-Mart has got to love the Republicans' crushing of the middle class, pushing more people into the lower income brackets. It increases their customer base! Folks who never would have considered shopping at Wal-Mart suddenly find that Wal-Mart is where they do most of their shopping.

Although I am rather affluent, I come from very humble beginnings and have many relatives who are poor. I frequent Wal-Mart out of appreciation for the service that their low prices do for my family and others like them.

I wish the upper crust of society would consider what is helpful for those who are less well off, rather than simply what fits their faddish ideas of political correctness. As the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" grows, the risk for social strife grows.

But then, conservatives seem to thrive on divisiveness and social strife.

Best regards, Tom

Are you still here? Begone, lout.

When Wang Seasoning makes it on to the dissident list, you cry foul. Surely shome mishtake?

I'm sorry, but....


Human Rights Watch has criticised Yahoo! for assisting in the prosecution of four critics of the Chinese government: "Shi Tao, Li Hi, Chiang Tijuana, and Wang Seasoning."


WANG SEASONING? This HAS to be bullshit. I mean really, who's next? Myra Buttreeks? Amanda Hugginkiss? Hugh Jass? Sumyun Gai? :)


'Wang Seasoning'? Where did you get that from? That's a company that makes soya and chilli condiments, not a dissident. I had a bit of a search through and I can't find any references to it there either.

So, I have to ask: Do you have a sauce for this information?


cheers, DaveK

We also brought you the sad news that a model airplane crashed a bit this week. Whaddya mean, understatement? OK, so it was a 16 foot jet-powered replica of a Vickers Valiant which cost model-maker Simon Steggall £15k, two years' graft, and one wife to build. Fine. It still crashed.

Ah, there you go. That's what happens when you don't build a model of an Avro Vulcan.


Did I miss something, or did this guy crash and explode a jet-powered model airplane, showering fire and hot kerosene all over, during an attempt to show an examiner that it was safe for public displays?

Well gee, I guess that really showed how safe it was then. I also particularly liked that he lost two wives to his hobby, but when the plane explodes he feels like he's lost a member of the family. Kinda makes you wonder if he felt the same about either wife. In any event, I sure hope his new girlfriend has insurance and knows how to stop, drop, and roll. Ambulance on speed-dial? Really makes you think about "til death do you part". With him It might not be all that long of a wait after all.

Sincerely, Arah Leonard

The French language, is notoriously reluctant to let any of our horrible English words pollute its Gallic-ness, but it seems that more than a few are slipping through the net. Only fair, really, they gave us half our language a thousand years ago. You can think of it as a really long-term loan, if it helps, boys?

The sooner the French learn that language is dynamic, and just let change occur naturally, instead of having to sit down and have a meeting when a new word is sited, the better. (Pity they're not so good at spotting illegal immigrants wandering towards Calais).

English is full of French words, anything that ends in "tion" for a start. Say it in your best Inspector Clouseau voice and tada, you're speaking French!

Sorry, but I can't help you with the gender of your newly discovered French word. The whole idea of inanimate objects having a gender is just too weird.

As for trying to make it the language of choice for certain EU documents, I can shoot that down with a hint of green. Take any manual with English and French sections, compare the paragraphs, you'll see that the English is shorter. So by using English the manual will be shorter, use less paper and ink to produce, weigh less and so is easier and cheaper to transport.

Given the amount of paper the EU waffles it's way through each year, I think this would easily outweigh the savings made by Tony Blair and his energy saving light bulbs.


The whole article just smacks of Schadenfreude...

Pete (with coat, already in taxi)

As a French national having grown up in the US, I must admit that the stance of my government concerning the so-called "purity" of the French language makes me wince. But the Académie Française really galls me.

Trying to introduce "bogue" is annoying, but get a load of "cédérom" ! Next to that abomination, Anti-Blocage de Sécurité seems positively of Mensa-level inspiration ! But all this froth about "fin de semaine" (which absolutely nobody uses) or "courriel" (is actually used by some - but rarely) is doomed to failure.

Everything computer-related is technical, and English is by far the best language to describe technical stuff.

It is useless to try to stem the tide of English, and that is something the French government WILL come to terms with - in a century or two. Meanwhile, I understand that this particular subject will be the source of merriment for a good number of satirical articles - with full justification.

That said, try as they may, apparently nobody has found a proper translation of "secrétaire de direction", one that has the exact same significance. So, from time to time in some multinational meetings, I hear people happily chatting in English, then "secrétaire de direction" is suddenly bombed in. Makes me laugh inside every time.


Dude, I feel for the French in that there story. We Welsh have had to endure the humiliation of a motor-repair's idea of bilingual displaying the options of 'batris, egsosts a teiars' and although there is a Welsh word for 'music' (cerddoriaeth), I once saw a Woollies in Maesteg directing me to 'miwsig'.

But why is it that using English in another language is seen as cheap, but using a foreign language in English is seen as posh (it adds a little panache to one's vocabulary)? And anyway, how many Americanisms are hitting these hallowed shores?

The only language that's really proliferating like a vial of middle-eastern uranium is American English. English or American; which would the French hate the most?


In Quebec, we have much laughed about the "Franglais" of the French.

As our French was declining, we tried to save it. And some of those words have French equivalents in our parts. Yet, France has a fascination with English whereas Quebec wants to keep its culture intact, so the difference is noticeable.

Even institutions suggesting French equivalents to English words has differences. Quebec had "courrier électronique" and "courriel" for email, yet France had "emél", "mel" et "mél". You'll notice that mel pronounces similarly to mail, yet French doesn't have the same word.

I'm not saying Quebec knows best. I'm saying that our different pasts makes for different visions of the French language.


The spaniards utterly succumbed long ago, even changing their alphabet sorting rules to make it easier for computer programmers (sorting "ll" and "ch" as two letters rather than one). As for "standing"...the spaniards actually got that via the French!

And as for French...maybe they dumped lots of Italian words, but luckily at the same time they got Italian cooking, and kept it (merely renaming it "French cooking" in the process).


The Lithuanians are also protective of their language, there is a government department that tries to think up of lithuanian medieval words for bits of a computer, so "monitorius" (monitor) is supposed to be "vaizduoklis" (viewgiver) but everybody thinks that's stupid. English is cool, and good for business. Game over.

And English is very easy to learn the basics of, ironically, because it was simplified by peasants during the French occupation of Britain :) Ha!!


>Being a world-class speaker of Spanglish myself, I have no objection to these

The problem is that the locals think they are using real English words, for example they use "footing", which my colleagues assure me is 100% Queen's English, for jogging.

Then there's "spinning", this is what you do when you use an exercise bike, they use this as if I should know what it means.

Personally I wish they'd stick to pure Spanish.


Frites a emporter - get this German out of my restaurant

C'est ca que j'ai demande - I caught that from Mandy

Une piece de grand standing - High class hooker

Hors de combat - topless mud-wrestling


And we'll draw the line there. Enjoy the fin de semaine. ®

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