Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A History of the Passport

220px-UK_passport_1924.jpgIt’s been a long old month, what with student marking, teaching at a new college, and several new projects, going away for a few days to Oslo to watch the Bisslett games was a nice time out, but as always I could not leave the net alone, fortunately Oslo has a lot of free wifi access points in cafes and hotels, ours was particularly good. The trip was via two flights through Amsterdam, it’s been awhile since I used this airport, it’s grown and not just in size, the people volumes were huge, travelling on a Saturday was the main point not to make, it was bad enough mid week, but a weekend.

It was our passage through the passport control that prompted me to make this blog, for the first time, I realised just what the Brexit means, the very long lines of non EU people. Even though we still use the EU line and that was long enough, the guards asked for our destination and reason for travel, not had that in a long time.

So sitting on the plane I thought I might pull together a short history of the passport, and it’s clear the original intention was not to control movement, but request safe passage through foreign lands.

So the hunt is on for information, I still have my old passports, the old blue, together with a temporary passport. My parents have much the same as we all started travelling much the same time.

The passport is one of the most widespread documents in worldwide use and yet, paradoxically, it has no basis in law: one state cannot demand another to do something - give access - simply by issuing a document. Yet, by insisting on the requirement of holding a passport the state has provided itself with a neat self-financing, data collection and surveillance system.

From earliest times to the present day. When the Roman Empire was spread across Europe, those wishing to travel could only do so with the authority of the king or emperor. The passport's power to facilitate passage was, then, embodied in it from the beginning. But the passport is also connected with territorial and population control by the State. Today, the machine readable passport enables swift checks against lists of names, enabling customs control to sift out undesirables, and the question of identity cards (used throughout continental Europe), is again an issue in British politics, and probably the main issue in Brexit.

But not all has been rosy, with the passport system, the use of false passports has been rife throughout history,  WW2 has a lot of individual and community use of false documents, from the Jews escaping Nazi Germany, to the prisoners of war escaping, the great escape being a famous episode, although it did not end well for the men involved, and as for the Jews, there are several forgers who for all the right reasons made documents and passports, the short film link below is based on an old man living in Paris during the war, who I think is still alive, he tells a complicated tail, a New York Times post, its a real story of this subject, the title tells all :

‘If I Sleep for an Hour, 30 People Will Die’

The mechanism of the passport system, including the secrets of the machine-readable passport, are of particular interest, it fits well with my pursuit of data and its use within Architecture, it’s not that different.

And there are the special diplomatic passports, what does diplomatic immunity really mean and what status do the embassies really have, I plan to look into this in the coming weeks.

Then finally the Royals, do they have passports

Before you ask, today’s photo is not of any passport I have owned, I just found the picture on the net.

So the link I have posted below, is my slide set, when it's finished, I'll post it on slideshare, a service I think I might populate with some of my slides, It's obviously a work in progress, and will get updates as I find new material, but until then, enjoy.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Internet trends report | Mary Meeker, KPCB | Code Conference 2016 & 2017

Mary Meeker has just given her annual Internet report, so I thought I might review last years presentation, before hand, available on YouTube. Before I start on this years show.

Its fast paced, and busy, she breaks all rules on slide presentation but who cares, you have little time to read them anyway. The slides can be downloaded from LinkedIn, and perused for information, which is vast, and shows all sorts of graphs on computer use, by who, and such things as general population growth, which is why i started to watch these presentations. I have down loaded both 2016 & 2017 slides and added them to both Evernote, but more importantly now, Google Keep, with multiple tags.

You might want to review this excellent article on Backchannel, a news site I particularly like, giving a great overview of her work and a very light back ground.

You might ask why I listen to her, its simple, the growth of computer use and the type of computer used have a direct link and influence to Architecture, plus the way we perceive the use of computing to draw, share our designs, and how the data generated is used, a subject we have yet to explore fully.

This years presentation was given on May 31st 2017, again her slides are available on LinkedIn, as yet I can't see any video on YouTube, but Recode have a video up together with slides.

Its highly entertaining and packed as before, and with 355 slides forget trying to read it, sit back as listen and go back later to the slides.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Google not Apple

I have made the first of many moves I expect to make as I set up my computer system for the next few years. I have been Apple mostly from about 1985, with the odd lapse into Windows at some one else behest, namely an employer.

But now I am setting up for a life with Google, I have transferred all of my emails over to gmail and I now use this as my main email services, I have moved my calendar over. Both these were remarkably easy to do, next was all my main files, again this was no more than a drag and drop, plus a short wait for it to complete a large move. Adding Google to my mac as an account on Mail, and pulling folders across made this job so easy, as for my calendar, I just had to add google tags to my Apple cal appointments and all was good, I could see them is Google calendar.

Next were my photos, again Google made this easy and for some time I have had them copied across, I use Chrome for almost all of my surfing, and google drive for my slides and now writing, Blogger is my preferred domain, and sheets my spreadsheet of choise. I now prefer Keep to Evernote, simple because it just as easy to use, and easier to find stuff.

It's not that I don't like Apple, I have a Macbook Pro 15" and an ageing iPhone 5s its that they are a closed wall system, and don't like me sharing as much as I want, Google on the other hand do. Attending a google show in Excel London a few weeks ago, did little to sway me away from this, in fact its was the final nail. As for the phone thats going soon, I fancy a Google Nexus, but could so easily take the Samsung 8, its just down to the best deal.

For the time being, I will stick with my Mac, its a good machine, and I need it for my CAD software, plus a couple of items I like, such as Skype, although I am fast liking google Talk and hangout. but there is little else to keep me on such an expensive machine, even CAD is migrating over to a web based environment, both Sketchup who are still in Beta, and more so Autocad who are in a different league, Which brings me back to my Mac, I don't need it if I go on a trip, I can so easily go online via a Chrome book and do most if not all of what I want to do, take into account the way airlines seem not to want us to travel with laptop, then hiring, or even buying a chrome book at the destination seems feasible.

As for my office phone, well thats linked to Skype, but outgoing land line calls via Google are easy and good quality. Google just have to get the UK sorted.

I look after several web sites and use a Mac based program to do this rather than hard coding, but I will eventually move even this to Google Drive. As you might imagine I have rather a lot of files, and what not, in Drive, so had to upgrade to 1Tb, in doing this I seem to have all the benefits of a G Suite account. My existing Dropbox account will go as I migrate all my files across to Google Drive, but here lies a small problem is the way I share this drive with my business partners, I will have to trial it with Google drive and make sure they are happy with the syncing before I go ahead.