Royal Society: new encryption report

A very timely new July 2016 report on cybersecurity, from the Royal Society here in the UK. As of yesterday our new UK government is magnificently arranged and intelligent, and Prime Minister May now has much bigger things to worry about as we steam ahead toward Brexit. But, given May’s record at the Home Office and a forthcoming Investigatory Powers bill in Parliament, the worry is that the new government might be tempted to follow up on the rhetoric of former-PM Cameron and try for an unworkable ‘ban’ on strong encryption — thus rather ridiculously making the iPhone and other vital items illegal. The Royal Society’s first recommendation is thus…

“1. Governments must commit to preserving the robustness of encryption, including end-to-end encryption, and promoting its widespread use.”


The fevered claims of the Remain campaign, in our recent EU referendum, have badly tarnished the reputation of experts and academia in general. But hopefully such an august body as the Royal Society will still be being listened to.

GoogleMonkeyR script fix: July 2016

Good news, for those who use GoogleMonkeyR to present their Google Search results in a widescreen + columns format. It’s been swiftly fixed.


Changes at Google broke the script a couple of days ago, when Google’s layout changed the div.col value to “0”. The script continued to work fine with DuckDuckGo and sort-of worked with Google News.

‘Topogiz’ has now kindly posted a working hotfix on GreasyForum, the Greasemonkey forum. It requires a simple manual edit of the script. I’ve edited this and expanded his instructions here, so that it’s friendlier for the average user…

1. In the top menu of Firefox, go: Tools | Add-ons | User-scripts. Then select: GoogleMonkeyR | Options.

2. An Options window will then pop up. At the foot of this window is the option to “Edit This User Script”.

3. Assuming that you have the current version of GoogleMonkeyR, go to Line 681. Or find…


4. Just below Line 681 there is a line which starts with…

style += ("#cnt.singleton


Find this, then just below it insert a new blank line, and into that new line add…

style += ("div.col {width: 100% !important;}");

It should now look like this…


5. Up at the top of the panel, click on “Save”, and exit.

The fixed script will also continue to work fine with DuckDuckGo and Google News.


MUSE Open is a planned “Open Access (OA) platform for monographs in the humanities and social sciences”, and has just been awarded, a “two-year $938,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop”.

Good news. But now I hope to hear that the other “42,000 books and 650 journals” locked away on MUSE will also be opened up, to the people who paid for their production.

Google Oooh!-lar

“Google Scholar is Filled with Junk”… and now, what-claims-to-be porn, even. The aptly-named iPensatori investigates.


I’d noticed this problem starting to creep in as long ago as 2014, by another route, even before Scholar began to be being targeted by SEO spivs. When searches for ‘Lovecraft’ (seeking new scholarship on the 20th century’s greatest horror/sci-fi writer) on Google Scholar started bringing up ebooks of explicit sex-stories listed on Google Books, as well as other more dubious sources. Here’s my screenshot of a Google Books entry in Google Scholar, from 2014…


Many more occurrences since then, too.

My quick tickle of ‘naked’ ‘celebrities’ in JURN suggests there’s no such content to be found via JURN.

Yes, we’re really leaving the EU

And… after two weeks it seems to be more or less over, bar some futile shouting. At least for now. To paraphrase Churchill, “this may be the end of the beginning” of Brexit.

Leave won the Brexit debates before the vote, against huge opposition. Then Leave won the biggest popular vote in British history. Now Osborne and Javid have belatedly come on board for Leave, nicely capping the way that Leave has also won the last two weeks of post-vote media skirmishing.

So the UK is leaving the EU, and probably sooner rather than later. My bet is for an April 2018 Leave, with all the trailing loose ends tied off by June 2019.

I can’t see that it’ll have any real impact on our open access journal publishing, which already seems well aligned with the free-booting outward-looking post-Brexit worldview. Beyond that, Brexit looks set to present a huge opportunity for our higher education, science, data and publishing sectors — once they stop their futile moaning and biting-of-carpets, and look to the future.

How to remove fancy borders from pictures in a Microsoft Publisher file

Problem: You’re sent a Microsoft Publisher .pub file, and need to extract the pictures, for re-use in another publication or academic paper. But the pictures all have Publisher’s fancy border effects applied to them. How to remove these border effects from the pictures in Microsoft Publisher 2013?

Barriers: You right-click on the pictures, but there’s no “Remove all effects” option. You look under Insert | “Borders and Accents”, but there’s no way there to “Remove all effects”. For some reason, perhaps because the file is from an older version of Publisher, the text cannot be copied, pictures cannot be moved or changed, and the file can’t even be re-saved. The file did not become read-only in the transfer. You remember that you probably need to activate the Pictures tab in MS Publisher 2013, which is normally hidden, and only shows up in certain activity states. But you can’t get to that Pictures tab. Nor can you save out a portable assets pack from the .pub file.

Solution 1: Download and install the free Libre Office suite, a fork of Open Office. The Draw module in this opens Microsoft Publisher files. Open the .pub in Libre Office, and extract the pictures. Didn’t work for me — Libre couldn’t even open the file.

Solution 2: Save a .pdf from the .pub. Then use Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not the free Reader) and its Tools sidebar option to ‘Save all images…’ from the .pdf. That’s the images on the pages, not images of the pages. This worked for me, for all but those images that had a sort of ‘ice crystals’ or ‘grunge-dotted’ border applied to them by Publisher.

Africa is coming online

While African research universities often have better commercial journal database access than their counterparts in the West, what of public access to African-focused research? Great to hear an African voice on this, as Africa starts to buckle up for growth and international access. Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr. of Nigeria says that there is an…

“overwhelming call for the accessibility of African research [about Africa, but that this] has stretched traditional archiving methods.”

With a substantial increase in population and wealth now happening on the continent, he asks if there is now an opportunity…

“for archiving and digitising African-focused research [in order to] make African research accessible on a global scale.”

Let’s hope so. Although the author also suggests a commercial option, seemingly more in terms of access to contemporary and commercial data…

“monetising the whole process through a subscription model for online hosting of knowledge resources – books, research papers, journals, dissertations, and reports to investors, product and policy developers. [With African researchers getting] “a revenue share for each download”.

That might work for useful locally-created data — one might get the article or substantial data summary for free, anywhere in the world. But if you’re outside Africa then you’d buy the data download direct from the researcher, and in affluent nations your university would require you do that as part of your ethics code as a researcher. Though I’m not sure a commercial pay-per-download model would be useful for things like folklore, the arts, oral history and natural history, which might be better funded by a big pan-African consortium of nations, philanthropists and donors. And thus kept freely available.


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