The Enchantress of Numbers

Today the 24th March is Ada Lovelace day whereby blogger around the world celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science by choosing one to profile and write about. This year I’m cheating a little and am linking to an excellent animation produced by Brainpop about the life of the lady herself who was called “The Enchantress of Numbers” by Charles Babbage.

Contracts for British National Identity Card System to be opened up.

Another grand IT project, another chance of fiasco

The technology needed for a national ID system may be hard to come by, says Michael Cross

The back end for the system will be divided into two contracts the larger of which is a GBP500m contract to supply basic passport systems and a separate GBP300m contract to supply the National Biometric Information Service, which will store fingerprints and facial images. The production of the card itself will be yet another contract to be contested at a later stage.

The division of the contracts this way is reportedly to reduce the likelihood of the ID card system being scrapped by a future government as the systems will be required even if only as part of the future passport service.

In the New York Times, Author’s Guild president Roy Blount Jr. castigates the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature, claiming that it infringes copyright as it effectively is creating an audiobook without the right to do so. [via]

I think Blount’s argument contains a kernel of truth but he’s chosen the wrong target, the problem is not the technology but the agreements that authors might have with publishers.

It may be a long way off but eventually TTS is going to be good enough that a significant number of people will choose to buy ebooks to be read aloud on their device instead of buying an audiobook narrated by a human being.

This should be of no concern to authors as long as they get the same amount of compensation whichever form their work is sold in. I’m not privy to the rights agreements that authors might have with their publishers but if their is a difference then authors should take the advice of Neil Gaiman’s agent.

We’ve sold audiobook rights and print book rights as separate things. We must stop this.

I think that the only people who should be concerned by the future in which ‘audiobooks’ are all computer generated on the fly (if indeed that ever does come to pass) are the actors who work as narrators and the recording studios where audiobooks are recorded.

Alfred Cunnington’s Phone

P3210111, originally uploaded by electricinca.

I recently discovered that my home town of Devizes was the site of the first commercial telephone system, made and used by an Alfred Cunnington in 1878 to connect his business with his home.

1/3 Scale model of a Ferrari

Pierre Scerri of Avignon, France took 15 years and more than 20,000 hours to build this 1:3 scale Ferrari 312PB.

This marvel is the real thing in every sense, from its operating 12-cylinder engine to the exact scale operating Ferrari gauges which are calibrated precisely to indicate rpm, oil pressure, water temperature and oil temperature.

Find this video and thousands of others at vSocial!

It is an astonishing piece of work.