Taking back control: freedom from freedom of movement

Various sources report Theresa May will announce the end of free movement for new EU migrants in March. I find this terribly depressing. My family exists because of free movement. In 2002, I moved to an EEA country, because I could, and to see how things would turn out with someone I’d met and who subsequently became my wife. I was – as now – a freelance writer, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t need a visa. I didn’t need a job and a work permit. I just showed up, lived, worked, paid my taxes, and so on. After a while, we switched countries and moved to the UK.

Now, we’ve no idea what the future holds in the country of my and my child’s birth. The government has at varying turns suggested it would guarantee residency rights for EU and/or EEA nationals. But then there have been various caveats tossed into the ring: EU27 specifically (i.e. not necessarily EEA/Swiss); only those making “full” use of rights (i.e. in work); residency only (i.e. not necessarily including access to healthcare, making staying unviable for many and problematic for a great many more); and residency only for those who meet the UK’s arbitrary earnings threshold. Additionally, those people wishing to secure residency or citizenship have found the process opaque and in some cases blocked by broadly unknown technicalities.

It’s not a good time for those of us in this situation.

But while this kind of story is already somewhat in the public consciousness, I do wonder how many Brits – and especially those who voted to leave the EU – realise this cuts both ways. I’ve seen various surveys that show a huge disconnect in the way British people see immigration. Such surveys asked British people whether EEA nationals should have the right to settle in the UK, which met with a broadly negative response. The same people were asked whether British people should have the right to settle in the EEA, at which point the majority view switched. It probably doesn’t help that language in the media and beyond for years has referred to Brits overseas as ‘ex-pats’, as thought they are somehow different from other immigrants.

They are not, and this is something the UK is going to become very suddenly aware of. Because when we are free from freedom of movement, that adversely affects the British too. Had your eye on retiring in Spain? Tough. Fancied moving to Sweden, just because you could? Too bad. Got kids hankering after university in Germany or the Netherlands? Best hunker down with a pile of paperwork for visas and hope for the best.

I mentioned this on Twitter earlier, wondering at what point we’re going to see the Daily Mail and co. recognise this problem, and scream about “EU SPITE” regarding their readership’s rights to reside overseas suddenly evaporating. Someone noted Daily Mail readers were up in arms on day one. One political commentator I follow online also mentioned a while back that a Conservative MP in a Commons debate said many Brits want to retire to Spain, and this “important right” should be retained – all while his party was dismantling the regulations that make such movement possible.

And yet for some Brexiters, even none of this is a concern. They slam residents here for not taking citizenship (even if many cannot, for various reasons), and note that British people have for years been able to move, live, work, study, and love in countries beyond the EEA. The movement point is of course true, but freedom of movement within the EEA was broadly about security and ease. It didn’t come attached with massive costs and administrative burdens, the immediate threat of deportation if you lost employment, the limitation of a single country, and a lack of security on your status always looming in the background.

Brexiters like to think that without immigrants, the UK will suddenly revert to some kind of glorious age – but they’re wrong. (And which age? That halcyon moment never existed anyway.) They also think that the British will benefit when freedom of movement is abolished, and that this doesn’t come with any downsides. They’re wrong about those things too.

February 27, 2017. Read more in: Opinions, Politics

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The Guardian vs Brian Eno or the interviewer vs the interviewee

I was recently pointed at a Guardian interview with Brian Eno. The piece is perhaps most politely described as confrontational. At one point, Eno apologises for being ratty, but the write-up mostly showcases a writer slamming into a wall on discovering what an artist wants to talk about isn’t what he himself had in mind.

Often, it seems Simon Hattenstone, for whatever reason, has an obsession with Eno’s past. There are questions about Eno’s background, and of his many collaborations. Eno is not interested in discussing such things, at one point noting the journalist can find answers to such questions in countless interviews elsewhere (“But you can do research. That’s your job!”), and so a big chunk of what’s reported seems to paint him as controlling. Relatively little of the piece is about the things Eno’s currently interested in: art; ambient and generative audio; society.

It’s an uncomfortable read, not only as a typical reader, but also as a writer. I’ve interviewed plenty of people myself, and you’d perhaps expect me to side with the writer here, but I don’t. I always prefer interviews where I get out of the way. Once, I interviewed Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov, but the transcript is closer to a lecture. I just sat and listened as he spoke about the things he wanted to and was interested in. The end result was far better for that.

Additionally, I find the notion of repeatedly revisiting the same old thing curious. If you’re going to get a short time to chat with someone like Brian Eno, why on the day dredge up his dad being a postman? Why waste time grilling him on working with Roxy Music, Bowie and Talking Heads, when he’s talked about that so many times before? Why not instead spend the time finding out something new, talking about ideas, thinking and projects that cement the interview in the present? That’s got to beat unnecessary confrontation, and trying to get someone to reword something they’ve said many times before, on subjects they’ve long had enough of discussing.

February 15, 2017. Read more in: Music, Opinions

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Are you Siri-ous?

Google FTW! Siri is awful! That’s the typical opinion throughout the tech sphere, and one Matt Bircher aims to nix in his video.

Bircher makes plenty of good points, although largely showcases all of these AIs have a long way to go. Mostly, I’ve discovered Siri’s shortcomings while trying to use the thing in the car.

Naturally, I’m not a massive idiot when it comes to driving. I reduce technology usage as much as possible, and avoid touching my iPhone’s display. But maps are pretty important things to have available, not least when you, say, take a wrong turn on the way to the airport and end up zooming towards Gatwick when you should be picking up your wife from Heathrow, thereby very rapidly needing to know the fastest route in the right direction.

Me: Hey, Siri! Get me directions to Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2!
Siri: Which Heathrow airport terminal? Tap the one you want.

Yeah, thanks, Siri. I’m driving. I’m not going to be tapping anything. And your list omits terminal two, which is even better. Apparently, you cannot comprehend that when I asked for directions to Terminal 2, I wanted directions to Terminal 2.

After two more frustrating attempts, I hit upon a cunning plan:

Me: Hey, Siri! Launch Google.
Google launches
Me: OK, Google, get me directions to Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2.

Done. Instantly. Which of course means Google is amazing and Siri isn’t. Apart from during another car journey where it appears the two had got drunk together.

Me: Hey, Siri! Open Google Maps.
Siri: OK, here’s the App Store.

Me: Hey, Siri! Send a message to my wife.
Siri: You have no new messages.

Me: OK, Google! When’s the next train from Gatwick to North Camp?
Google: spews out a load of web searches for The Train Line and carries on drinking gin with Siri
Me: wishes driverless cars would arrive a whole lot sooner

February 15, 2017. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Netflix vs NOWTV vs Amazon Prime Video in the UK – the good, the bad and the maddening

I subscribe to three video streaming services, primarily for access to specific shows. Enough shows exist on each platform to justify continued payment, given alternate legal options (buying series on iTunes, which remains absurdly expensive, or grabbing DVDs).

But what I find interesting about these services is that only one of them appears to heavily care about the user experience – and that’s the one that relies entirely on subscriptions for its survival.

Netflix is, for the most part, great. It’s flexible regarding payment plans, subtitles the majority of its content, and, most importantly, doesn’t bug you about shows or who supplied the content at any point. The user interface is a dog’s dinner at times, but no worse than its rivals.

NOW TV remains an ongoing disappointment, especially for Apple TV users. It appears that Sky has abandoned the platform – the Apple TV app hasn’t been meaningfully updated since launch – although NOW TV’s support staff claim otherwise (despite not offering a timescale for updates).

The service lacks subtitles, and on Apple TV has all kinds of bugs and shortcomings. You get the odd pre-roll ad for other content and, annoyingly, ident stings in the middle of every show. Nothing adds to the atmosphere of the latest Game of Thrones than seeing the HBO logo abruptly appear and animate – sometimes twice in quick succession.

Amazon Prime Video is the worst offender for me right now, though, for one key reason. Before I get to that, this is a pity sad because Amazon gets most things right. Subtitling exists (although, for some reason, needs activating for each individual item watched on my Fire TV), and although Amazon and Apple seem to be having a ridiculous spat that means there’s no Apple TV app, the impact to users is minimal since Amazon’s iOS app has full AirPlay support.

But Amazon’s tendency to shove pre-roll adverts for its original series in front of everything you fancy watching is annoying. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the Grand Tour one. I didn’t want to watch that show anyway; now, I’d like to see it eradicated with fire. But, worse, it turns out Amazon’s trailers team don’t seem to care whether they ruin your enjoyment of original series that are being advertised.

Yesterday, I watched a film on Amazon Prime. Naturally, I got to watch the Grand Tour trailer for the billionth time first. The film finished and I wanted to watch a trailer for another movie.


  • Amazon: “Hey, this would be a GREAT opportunity to advertise The Man in the High Castle!”
  • Trailer: “Hello! Here is a MASSIVE SPOILER regarding one of the main characters.”
  • Me: “For CRYING OUT LOUD. I’m already watching this series, but hadn’t got to that bit yet, you bafflingly stupid buffoons.”

Yes, this is only a small niggle in the scheme of things, but I write about tech and media, and in the scheme of those specific things, it’s astonishing to see a company blind about users to the point of ruining their enjoyment of the very thing they’re being encouraged to watch. Worse, why can’t Amazon spot the fact I’m halfway through season one and therefore not show me spoilers for a show I’m already watching?

Mind you, this is the company that after I bought an electric toothbrush kept suggesting I buy more for the following six months.

January 16, 2017. Read more in: Opinions, Television

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Super Mario Run will cost ten whole dollars. Entitled idiots assemble!

As reported by the entire internet, the upcoming Mario game for iOS, Super Mario Run, now has an official price tag: $9.99/£7.99. Predictably, people have immediately split into three camps (with crossover between the first two): those happy to see Nintendo value its mobile product appropriately (thereby also hoping that means it’s good); developers hoping it’ll impact on iOS pricing as a whole; and entitled furious idiots throwing toys out of their prams at the prospect of a company having the audacity to charge money for an iPhone game.

My inkling is the first of those suggests a game that, at the very least, won’t be shit. Nintendo’s perhaps smartly not bringing existing classics to iOS, nor even a ‘full’ Mario experience, but there’s no reason it cannot create a really great touchscreen-optimised game. After all, two of the four Rayman titles work really well on iOS; of the two that don’t, one is a direct port of an ancient Rayman game, and the other had hope beaten out of it by a baseball bat with ‘freemium’ scrawled across it in pen. By contrast, Super Mario Run has precisely one IAP, to unlock the full game.

I also suspect the second of those things won’t come to pass. Developers might hope a ten-buck game would lead to people’s entitlement and expectation on mobile shifting, but that ship has long sailed. Instead, it will simply prove that Nintendo can charge ten bucks for a game. Unless your IP is similarly famous (the Codemasters F1 title also has the same price), you’ll still be scrapping it out at the low end, or hoping for the best in the $2.99–$4.99 pricing arena that’s laughably referred to as ‘premium’ on mobile.

As for the idiots? They’ll continue being idiots. There are no guarantees about the quality of Nintendo’s game, nor how well it will perform. There’s not even any guarantee that it won’t bump up the average price of iOS games, even though that is extremely unlikely. No, the one certainly is this the free-to-download game will get a slew of shitty App Store reviews from people horribly angry they can’t play yet another game for free.

November 15, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, iOS gaming, Opinions

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