My country will soon make a monumentus decision. I’m normally for referendums, in theory What purer instrument of democracy can citizens wield? But I don’t like this one. Not one bit. Not because because we shouldn’t ask the question - but because it wasn’t asked for the right reasons. It was offered as a concession to the right of the Conservative Party during an election that they never expected to win. It was a risky play that was lost. It is a sign of how dysfunctional our democracy is.

The ‘debate’ has been a farce. The Remain campaign is fragmented and lacks a strong voice. The leaders of Labour and the Conservatives share the same objective but will not share a stage and they bicker and snipe instead of standing united, still focused on political point scoring. Meanwhile the Leave campaign is headed my a man whose interests lie solely in the job he hopes to gain should he win. It’s a joke. One that would be funny if it wasn’t so fucking serious.

My city is one of the most euro-skeptic in the country. We have massive unemployment, failing schools, poor infrastructure and a high immigrant population. Every year we are beaten into submission by central government which reduces the funding available to us. The population is pissed off and they blame the council, the government, mass-immigration, and Europe. There is no no evidence to support the latter two stances. The actual reasons for our dismal local economy are complex, but Europe has brought our city numerous benefits. The European Regional Development Fund has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into projects in the Humber; regenerating deprived areas of the city, improving our creaking flood defenses and creating new employment opportunities. For years the population was in decline but the trend has now reversed and our population grows again; buoyed by immigrants who have made Hull their home. They have turned shops which stood derelict into thriving independent stores to serve the community. They pay business rates and tax. They employ local people. They’ve stopped us going under.

I struggle to understand the pleas of the nationalist and their claims that we need to ‘take our country back’ and regain our ‘sovereignty’. I’m tired of hearing about immigration. People should be free to move and work wherever they damn well please. This place that I live is just a big chunk of land, surrounded by more land, surrounded by sea, on a ball of rock floating in space. I’m not ignorant of the arguments, and I understand why people are dissatisfied. We live in an unfair world. People suffer. Leaving the EU won’t change that. It won’t stop immigration and it won’t stop terrorism. It won’t magically revive our economy and create millions of jobs. It just won’t. Together we are stronger.

It is almost unimaginable now to consider that there might be major war across Europe, but The EU was born out of the ashes of a series of conflicts which devastated the continent and lead to the loss of millions of lives. Europe’s strength is in the incredible changes that can be made when people work together towards a common goal. Britain leaving would be a selfish mistake of catastrophic proportions that would weaken the fabric of the EU irreversibly and leave the United Kingdom materially and socially poorer. We’re stronger IN.

I have a love hate relationship with Mr Stevenson and I’ve started more than one of his books and given up. At nearly a thousand pages, this is an ambitious and daunting volume.

The novel explores the fate of the human race after a mysterious ‘Agent’ shatters the moon into several pieces and renders the earth uninhabitable. The book can be fairly neatly broken into three sections: we meet the main characters watch as the world plans for survival in space, then we follow their experiences post-destruction as they adapt to life without their home planet, and finally jump forward five thousand years into the future as the descendants of our protagonists are planning a return to the earth. It is clear that Mr Stevenson has done his homework. There are reams of technical monologues in the book and whilst you might enjoy them if you have a keen interest in the deeper concepts of orbital mechanics, DNA splicing or robot swarm theory, I had to skim the denser description whilst hoping that I wouldn’t miss something crucial to the plot (I didn’t).

On the whole this was an interesting take on a very feasible future for the human race and anyone that enjoys post-apocalyptic fiction and hardcore sci-fi should at least give it a look. Just don’t get too hung up on all the technical stuff.

I’ve been having some fun with a cheap USB FM/Dab radio. With some clever software this little gadget can do a lot more than it was designed to do, including decoding pager messages. People really do still use pagers.. The pager as we know it was invented in 1956 by Multitone Electronics for use in London hospitals, but it was Motorola who gave the device a name and introduced it to the masses. The popularity of the pager surged in the 1980s as it became the must have gadget of professionals. Teenagers and pop stars jumped on board in the nineties and it looked like the pager was here to stay, but as pager use grew so did the mobile phone network which eventually supplanted it. Mobile phones became more reliable, affordable and feature rich and usage of pagers dived.

Pagers still have some advantages over mobile phones. Coverage tends to be better, especially indoors and their battery life can be measured in weeks rather than hours. They can be used in places where mobile phones are banned for security reasons, or where they might interfere with sensitive equipment. Pager messages are broadcast in clear text by powerful transmitters over FM radio bands. You’ll need a cheap USB DAB/FM radio receiver to decode them. I bought mine for less than a tenner.

A search for ‘sdrsharp pager messages’ should give you give you all of the info needed to get up and running. For the technically inclined, the system works by modulating a tone between two frequencies to create a binary stream. The transmitter alternates these frequencies very quickly – up to 6400 times a second. Here’s a sample of some of the messages that I decoded:

0101158 23:39:12 29-07-15 FLEX-A  ALPHA  3200  FROM GLOUCESTER POLICE CONTROL ROOM, 
HAVE ASKED EVERYONE AND NO POLICE OFFICER HAS THE KEYS THAT HAS BEEN MISLAID. TEL NO 
IS 101 IF YOU NEED TO CALL.

0121305 23:01:17 29-07-15 FLEX-A  ALPHA  3200  PLS CALL ANNE AT OBSTETRIC THEATRE 
ON 458 47`` 

0118459 23:58:43 29-07-15 FLEX-A  ALPHA  3200  20150729 23:57 boc1web03.servstream.
com:conn CRITICAL ALERT 

0119043 23:58:45 29-07-15 FLEX-A  ALPHA  3200  Room S17 Isolator Z21 Hatch Pressure 
BMT  42.5 (Alm:D Lmt:<50.0000 Grp:BMT)

I’m surprised that no effort is made to encrypt the messages because many of the messages contained personal details such as names, addresses and phone numbers.

Warning:Whilst it is extremely unlikely to get you in trouble, decoding pager messages is illegal. See Section 48 of the UK Wireless Telegraphy Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/36/section/48

I’ve just come back from a lovely short camping trip in the eastern fells of the Lake District. One of the few places in the Britain where you can enjoy scenery like this:

(.Get 1)

Our hike started with a hard walk up Dovedale. It looks like a nice steady walk from the map, but in reality is quite difficult with a weekends worth of camping gear and supplies in your back. The valley is beautiful. It climbs steeply from Brothers Water up between the rugged outcrops of Dove Crag and Hart Crag. Water flows from three small natural springs near the peak which gather momentum as they tumble down the hill until they combine in to a number of small waterfalls. Water is plentiful in this valley. The flat, soft ground near the peak would be a great spot for a wild camp. If you prefer something a little more wild, the assertive head of Dove Crag hides a cave called Priests Hole, which is largely protected from the elements and offers spectacular views over Lakeland. Our goal was Grisdale Tarn, the legendary resting place of crown of the Kingdom of Cumbria.

The last King of Cumbria, Dunmail, was slain by English and Scottish forces in 945AD. A band of his loyal soldiers escorted his crown back to Grisdale and laid the crown to rest in the deep waters of the tarn where it could be recovered by Dunmail when he rose from the dead to lead them again. The ghosts of his loyal army are said to return to the tarn each year to recover the crown and carry it to a cairn dedicated to the King. They strike the cairn with their weapons but are told by a voice that the time is not yet right. Legend has it that you may hear the cries of the distraught soldiers if you are at the Tarn at the right time.

Our tired legs slowly hobbled over the peaks of Fairfield, including Hart Crag and Rydal Head, before reaching the slippery shale path down to Grisdale Tarn. It appears out of nowhere, a shimmering semi-circular expanse of black water closely surrounded on three sides by steep mountains, the east and west exposed to the long valleys leading down to the settlements below. I prefer to camp wild rather than on a site, especially in somewhere like the Lake District which can offer isolation as well as spectacular scenery up on the peaks. We camped on a grassy outcrop with views of the tarn on one side and the valley leading to Grasmere on the other. I dozed with one eye open, watching and listening for the soldiers of Dunmail before falling into a exhausted sleep.

On the second day we stayed local, deciding to rest our tired bodies instead of climbing up out of the valley and over Hellvelyn as planned. We were just not as fit enough for the demands of the landscape, especially carrying heavy packs. We took a leisurely walk down Grisdale Valley, stopping for lunch on the way (porridge for me, pot noodle for my companion) until we hit, almost literally, the climbing shack, then headed up the hills towards Hard Tarn. Hard Tarn had been the ultimate goal of our shortened route; a small circular tarn directly below Nethermost Pike. It is very secluded; just a small rocky outcrop holding a tiny body of water that only just deserves the grand’ish title of tarn. My research suggested that it would have enough room for a couple of tents and not much else, but it would offer plentiful water from nearby springs and a spectacular view of the nearby fells. In truth, we were exhausted. Our legs and lungs screamed for us to stop, so we did. The land leading up to Hard Tarn provided too much temptation and the cold streams, waterfalls, shallow crystal clear pools and soft, peaty ground made for a perfect spot to camp up for night two.

After some breakfast, a long but undemanding walk down Grisdale Valley was all that was left for the final day. Now that we were well rested it was easy to forget the strains from the previous days. The scenery was idyllic and the weather calm. We ambled back to the car happily, pleased with our efforts

I’m loving my new Android phone. It’s a real smart piece of technology and I keep finding great applications for it. One neat application that I have found is the Android Scripting Environment , which basically does what it says on the tin, allowing you to create quick and dirty scripts, on the device, which make use of the extensive Android API.

One of the example programs that came with the application made use of the barcode scanner to add a book to Google Books. I’ve adapted this program to allow you to quickly add a book to your Bookmooch inventory, just by scanning the barcode on the back of a book.

It’s a bit rough and ready but a fun little hack.

Here’s the code:

import android
droid = android.Android()
code = droid.scanBarcode()
isbn = int(code['result']['SCAN_RESULT'])
url = ("http://bookmooch.com/m/add_do?text=%d" %isbn+"&store=amazon.co.uk")
droid.startActivity('android.intent.action.VIEW',url)

The original code, along with a load of other examples can be found here . I’d love it if someone were able to develop this a bit more, if only to provide a nice exit routine. Sadly that’s way beyond my ability.