by Jonathan Rothwell

Serial and the whodunit format

I was finding it hard to articulate what I found so disquieting about Serial. Thankfully, its host, Sarah Koenig, with the help of a letter from its main subject, did that for me in this week’s episode.

Serial is a radio programme released as a podcast, telling a true story week-by-week. Its first season focuses on the death of a teenage girl in Baltimore in 1999.

Hae Min Lee disappeared after high school on January 13th, and was found dead in Leakin Park a month later by a passer-by. Her ex, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Adnan maintains his innocence. The case was brought to the attention of This American Life’s Sarah Koenig by Adnan’s relatives, who believe he’s telling the truth when he says he had nothing do with Hae’s death.

[LINK] Some consumer-hostile selling tactics now illegal in UK/EU

The EU is not perfect. There are many mis-steps in its history: the cookie law; the fisheries and common agricultural policy; the wretched TTIP, etc. etc.

But on the other side of the coin, there’s free movement between countries with no need to apply for a visa; the clampdown on roaming charges; the sensible software patent system, and so forth. And then there’s things like this:

The EU’s new consumer rights law bans certain dark patterns related to e-commerce across Europe. The “sneak into basket” pattern is now illegal. Full stop, end of story. You cannot create a situation where additional items and services are added by default. No more having to manually remove insurance from your basket when purchasing plane tickets.

[LINK] A letter to Sarah Teather MP

The Open Rights Group has created a tool for you to email your MP about the Government’s latest wheeze, DRIP, a grasping attempt to retain the powers struck down by the European Court of Justice. My email is reproduced here: feel free use it as a base for your own.

Dear Ms Teather,

I am writing to urge you to do everything in your power towards stopping the invasive and unwarranted Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill.

DRIP is being forced through Parliament without proper consultation or scrutiny, an act of flagrant insolence towards the European Court of Justice’s rulings on data retention, and shows an abject lack of respect of the public’s right to privacy. The Government should have no right whatsoever to know who I have been speaking to and when, unless I am suspected of a crime—if I am, a warrant should be granted through an accountable judicial avenue and not on the caprice of whichever Minister happens to be in power at the time.

One is far more likely to be killed in a car crash than in a terrorist attack, and yet we are constantly being told that lives will be at risk if we do not entertain these hurriedly-enacted laws, which are wide open to abuse. I hope you and other Members of Parliament will see sense here, and demand a better solution from legislators.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Rothwell

Changes to the Doctor Who guide

I recently made some changes to the Doctor Who viewing guide in preparation for Series 8, which begins on 23rd August with Deep Breath. (Of course, with the BBC being the BBC, the first five scripts have now leaked.)

For a start, the list of Who episodes with individual ratings has now been broken out into its own page, and as a bonus now names the writer and director of each story. Having everything on one page was becoming unmaintainable; in the future, once I finally get round to producing a list of suggested Classic Who episodes, I might break them out again. Hell, maybe in time a mini-site will be better, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

[LINK] Adventures in Swift: a first (trivial) app

My logical first step when learning Cocoa, and the new Swift programming language, was to begin with Apple’s ‘tutorial’ for Cocoa, a very simple Mac app that consists of a slider and nothing else.

That tutorial doesn’t have a Swift equivalent yet (and even if it did, it would almost certainly be under NDA.) The good news is that, at least in an app like this, Swift literally is a drop-in replacement for Objective-C. I didn’t have to write a line of Objective-C1 nor use bridgeToObjectiveC().

I’ve published my implementation on GitHub. Although I had a few stumbling blocks (mainly because I hadn’t read the documentation on optionals properly) the process of writing the baby slider app was mostly pain-free.

  1. This is just as well, since Objective-C has been the thing putting me off Cocoa development for a very long time.