Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Russian mystery satellite? What mystery, it’s obvious

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the following story, and the portrayal of the Russian satellite’s behaviour as ‘mysterious’.

A mysterious Russian satellite displaying “very abnormal behaviour” has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official.

“We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,” said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August.

She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon.

Russia has dismissed the comments as “unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions”.

The satellite in question was launched in October last year.

“[The satellite’s] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,” Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland.

Mystery Russian satellite’s behaviour raises alarm in US

Surely the solution to this supposed ‘mystery’ is obvious, and our American friend need only look to the north of Scotland to learn why the Russian satellite is moving to an odd position.

It’s angling to keep an eye on the upcoming…

Scottish spaceport

The fantasy view (as a vertical launch facility for microsatellites, it won’t look anything remotely like this fanciful artist’s impression).

Think more along the lines of a portacabin and a lump of concrete.

UK Space Agency Spaceport

UK Space Agency Spaceport


August 17, 2018 Posted by | Cold War, military, Surveillance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Today is Surveillance Day

16 August is Surveillance Day.

We know who you are.

We know where you are.

We know what you’re doing.

It seems the first surveillance cameras were created by a German engineer, Walter Bruch, and installed by Siemens AG in Germany in 1942, to observe the launch of V-2 rockets. In the US, the first commercial closed-circuit television system, Vericon, became available in 1949. The earliest video surveillance systems had to be monitored constantly by humans, as there was then no way to record and store information. VCR technology became available in the 1970s, making it became possible to record images as well as sound, and the use of video surveillance became much more practical and consequently much more common. By 1998, some 3,000 CCTV systems were in use in New York City.

In 2010, there were more than 10,000 CCTV systems in Chicago. Greater London was estimated to have around 500,000, with the UK total then estimated to be around 4.2 million.

The quandary is that with so many cameras, and with so many people possibly abusing them, it’s harder than it should be to justify them on the basis of the good they can do.

This day was originally called Wave At The Surveillance Cameras Day, but the founder of this day changed it to the shorter Surveillance Day on 02 July 2018.

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras


Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras

August 16, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | | Leave a comment

Everyone knows what ‘cadastral’ means, don’t they?

It’s taken me long enough to get comfortable with ‘sasine’, after becoming interested in house sales, and discovering nice people would send be regular updated from the Sasine Register, complete with addresses of house sales, and their value.

Now I have to get used to ‘cadastral’ as well.

For the record:

sasine:  In Scots law, either the act of giving legal possession of feudal property (in which case it is synonymous with infeftment), or the instrument by which the fact is proved. There is a general office for the registering of sasines in Edinburgh.

cadastral: from ‘cadastre’: An official statement of the quantity and value of real estate for the purpose of apportioning the taxes payable on such property; a public register showing the details of ownership and value of land.

(Please DON’T bother telling me I’m wrong, or any of the above is wrong – just use a different dictionary, and give me peace.)

So, why would anyone be wondering what some new/obscure words mean?


Land registration remains a hot topic, and time ticks away as we approach the deadline for 100 per cent of Scotland’s land mass to be registered on the ‘cadastral map’.

Latest figures from Registers of Scotland, who maintain the land register, indicate 66 per cent of all potential property titles are registered, leaving around 800,000 titles still to enter the new register before it is complete. Scottish Ministers have set a target of 2024; an irrefutable substantial task ahead for all.

The cadastral map itself is relatively new; launched as part of the changes to land registration enacted in 2012. Designed to provide clarity on who owns Scotland, it will (when complete) be possible to stick a pin into any part of it and see who owns the land and the actual extent of their ownership.

Cadastral map will, in time, show who owns Scotland

Anyone who has queried land ownership in Scotland in a remotely serious way will know that there are already projects claiming to be logging this data (and looking for subscriptions to support them), but I’ve never liked them as they seemed to have hidden agendas and political motives behind them, and some even had legal battles with various authorities. A pity, since data is neutral, and useful, but not if dripped out to interested parties by a biased owner.

The existing sasines, and presumably this cadastral creation should be free of such problems since they are official registers – but I suspect that very ‘officialness’ means someone will accuse them of being part of some ‘Land Owner Conspiracy’. Such claims seemingly being mandatory these days.

Map Of The Kingdom Of Scotland

Map Of The Kingdom Of Scotland

August 7, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Maps, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

Curiosity Rover sings Happy Birthday – all alone on Mars

Just time to squeeze this little extra ‘chance’ discovery I made today.

The Curiosity Rover on Mars was programmed to play ‘Happy Birthday’ to itself on 05 August, the day it landed on Mars.

I’m not sure if it still carries out this little ceremony these days, having seen conflicting reports about its continuation, and not able to find a definitive or verifiable one to confirm this.

Aww… Somebody DOES care

Spotted to late for inclusion on the day, but still nice.


August 5, 2018 Posted by | Surveillance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Camera test spotted in Rutherglen

Hard to miss this one.

Bright yellow poles holding cameras for test purposes on Rutherglen’s Glasgow Road.

Sadly, although we can see it’s a test – there’s nothing to tell us what is actually being tested.

I suppose being only a single camera looking in each direction limits the options, but it would still be nice to know. After all, others have been noted which do have notices or labels to indicate their purpose.

Video/image processing is becoming so complex these days, while it was once possible to make a guess based on the number of cameras, software is becoming so fast and clever now, making a guess just isn’t an option.

I tried having a very brief look online, but with nothing identifying the owner of these cameras, the search was really too general to come up with anything worthwhile.

I was intrigued by the artistic symbol formed by the reinforcement at the elbow formed at the top of the pole, where the camera is mounted. I don’t know if it is just a chance form, or if it is a logo of some sort. I don’t recognise it, but it seems to be a deliberate shape.

Rutherglen Test Camera

Rutherglen Test Camera

I almost missed the one across the road, only spotting it when I turned around to look back along the road after crossing.

Rutherglen Test Cameras

Rutherglen Test Cameras

July 17, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Creepy elves spy on kids for Santa – or training for the surveillance era

Rummaging through some pre-Christmas sale items on Christmas Eve, I was amazed to see this offering:

Elf Surveillance Camera

Elf Surveillance Camera

Given the sort of hysteria some people manage to raise over perfectly innocent activities, I’m somewhat amazed to see this item actually made it onto the shelves without protest.

Who can forget the outcry and bans that were publicised when camcorders became common, and places such as schools banned parents from bringing them to school plays, to record their own children’s performance.

And let’s not forget the dire warnings from various ‘experts’ who love to pop up every now and then, alerting parents to the danger of hackers turning on cameras and microphones in laptops, home computers, tablets, mobile phones etc, without triggering the lights or indicators that show they are active.

And just a few days ago there were yet more expert warnings, for parents to check toys that can receive messages from mobile phones, and relay them to children. Apparently these are easy for naughty people to hack, and send unsavoury messages to the children, and even change the voices from nice friendly ‘toy’ voices, into scary monster voices.

At least this creepy little elf’s camera has a flashing LED.

Wouldn’t it be shocking to find out the ‘Dummy Child Surveillance Camera’ was a massive con set up by a worldwide ‘ring’, and far from being a dummy, was in fact packed with high-def camera, complete with its own wireless connection and RPi or similar which is programmed to silently hack into the nearest mobile phone or wireless access point, and relay pics of kids’ bedrooms around the world.

Maybe there’s a reason those batteries, supposedly only powering a flashing LED, have to be replaced on an almost daily basis.

That would never happen, would it?


You can get the same standard black dummy surveillance cam in Pound Shops for… er… £1.

A splash of white paint, and a bit of tinsel or some glitter would make it a bargain Christmas cam.

Better value than this £5 rip-off (slashed to clear at £3.99!).

And I much prefer my own surveillance special – nobody will EVER notice this…

Black Cat Christmas Tree

Black Cat Christmas Tree


December 25, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , , , | Leave a comment

No wonder they ‘hide’ the price of these pics

When the outdoor market opened in St Enoch Square last week, I spotted some ‘Photo Booths’ had been installed, offering visitors the chance to have their pic taken at the market.

Photo Machine

Photo Machine

Although I looked hard, all I could find was a slot to put money IN, but nothing that told me how much a pic from this gizmo was going to cost me.

I gave up, and just watched folk walk up to it, play with the camera UP/DOWN buttons at the top, comment on how they could take a better pic with their phone, and walk away.

I just realised – that’s probably ME, caught somewhere on-screen in the ‘Live view’ centre of the thing (oops, need to be more careful in future!)

I got closer in a later visit.

Photo Machine Closer

Photo Machine Closer

Let’s get closer still, since there are some pricing options on display…


Photo Machine Price

Photo Machine Price

All of a sudden, my expensive (to me at least) cameras look like a bargain.

Actually, even an inkjet printer and it’s ink (which cost more than blood per unit volume) begins to look economic.

Printer Ink And Blood

Printer Ink And Blood

Yes, I know… I read too much.

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | | Leave a comment

I still beat old tired hacks to good stories

Although I’ve drifted away from most media related material, I used to like spotting viral or mainstream media material days before some tired old hack, probably desperately looking for stuff to go running to their editor in the hope of winning a cheque in return, spotted the same items.

Last week I spotted a drone ‘scare video’ produced around the idea that AI would be out to ‘Kill Us’ if we didn’t ban such things as so-called Killer Robots.

Notable since it used sunny EDINBURGH as the setting for its dystopian assassination scenes.

It’s taken almost a week, but someone at the BBC eventually raised the appearance of this video – and its setting.

Try harder… we’ll wait for you 🙂

Edinburgh used for ‘killer drone’ film

Little Red Drone

Little Red Drone

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, military, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Well, that’s Edinburgh off my list!

Just kidding of course, but it was interesting to see Edinburgh chosen as the setting for the assassination sequence in this campaigning video fantasy.

It’s also a shame that those who think a simple ban is the solution to emergent AI technology and the dangerous uses it can be turned to.

It’s rather like the near total ban we now have on firearms in Scotland – yet for some strange reason reports of firearms being used in crimes continue to appear in the media, and our police are now carrying more guns as a matter of course.

Calls for a ban on AI are about as sensible (and effective) as the firearms ban, and represent the ill-informed knee-jerk reaction to a real problem, which needs a properly thought out system applied.

This chap has a better approach, but I doubt anyone who has an agenda to win votes, or be ‘liked’ will pay any attention to his words:

I’m a pacifist, so why don’t I support the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots?

This video has high production values, but still reeks of fantasy and exaggeration intended to evoke an emotional rather than considered response.

Still wonder why they framed their shots to make Edinburgh clearly and easily identifiable as the setting.


November 15, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, military, Surveillance | , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Must Have’ accessory for every iPhone (maybe other online toys with cameras too)

Surprisingly, Apple doesn’t seem to have stopped the manufacture and sale of a little accessory that can stop iPhone addicts from being spied on by their phones.

I don’t have the world’s greatest memory, but I seem to recall the company was logging all sorts of stuff back in the early days… until they were found out and told so stop, or make clear what they were grabbing without having asked permission first.

Even Steve Jobs is reported to be on record as ‘Taping over his camera’.

OK, that’s Apple kicked, now we can get serious.

I really was surprised to find this little gem online, and able to be fitted to any intrusive device with a camera fitted behind a flat face, so phones, tablets, and laptops look as they can be beaten into submission with this sliding camera lens cover.

The back is self-adhesive, hence the need for a flat mounting surface.

No more need for a bit of gummy tape, just slide the lens cover over for privacy.

(Keep it for the microphone hole!)

You DO know hackers can turn on cameras remotely, after disabling the activity lights so you don’t know it’s on, don’t you?

Sneaky Sneak Preventer

Sneaky Sneak Preventer

November 2, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

I’d rather have ‘Art Store’ back in Queen Street

While I don’t wish ‘Castle Fine Art’ any ill will (and probably the opposite if the imagery used on the murals they prepared to block their windows during refurb are anything to go by), but I think I’d rather have seen the return of ‘Art Store’ to the premises.

As a frustrated artist of some sort, I used to enjoy just being in Art Store after a visit to the (I’m afraid) increasingly depressing GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) across the road.

I’m really sorry to say this, but after a few good years, with interesting and entertaining static and visiting exhibits, GoMA seems to have lost all the intriguing static items it once displayed, and the visiting exhibits are pretty poor and sparse, often consisting of a handful of items almost lost in huge display spaces. I’ve looked in sometimes and thought the displays were just being prepared, only to realise that the half-dozen or so almost postage-stamp sized images on the walls WERE the exhibits.

I’ve also seen enough ‘shocking’ or ‘edgy’ exhibitions to last me a lifetime, and now consider they’re down to artists with little or no real talent, but the ability to gain sponsors who know it might attract some publicity.

I really did like the material appearing in the early days of GoMA, but in recent years, find that I enter in hope, but leave in despair after seeing what they have on show.

Oops… sidetracked again, sorry.

Art Store was a great shop, jammed with interesting material, customers, and staff.

When it closed due to other works in the building I was a little surprised it didn’t relocate, or that I could find any info online about its fate.

In fact, all I found was other people who had liked the place, and cared enough to mention it online.

We seem to be missing decent art stores now, while we have Millers, it’s a bit large and anonymous now, and has been so empty when I’ve visited recently that I’ve stopped going in for a wander, as I feel like I’m the only one in there, and being watched closely.

Castle Fine Art Preview

Castle Fine Art Preview

There’s also a big shed of shop in The Fort shopping centre, but it’s really more aimed at crafting, and the prices reflect the general rip-off this relatively new hobby represents as those who supply the material charge an absolute premium for both the stock material and tools.
As another little aside, I took quite a few pics, not out of interest, but because of all the damned poles!

It’s almost impossible to take a street level pic of most places in Glasgow these days, with poles for signs, traffic lights, surveillance cameras, and street lights getting in the way of a clean shot, not to mention the many bins, pedestrian barriers, parking ticket machines, and now bicycle parking supports doing the same for the lower part of any street shot. These obstacles are now so numerous it’s hard to go any further than a few metres without bumping into one, or tripping over another.

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | , , | Leave a comment

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