Bunkers of the DDR

British urban-exploration geeks report on their tour of a wealth of cold-war and Nazi bunkers in the former East Germany back in 2003. Thrilling and uncomfortable stuff—they were the first to revisit the ultimate DDR fortress, the bunker that was built as an alternate seat of government for Erich Honecker and the rest of the Zentralkomitee. That is merely tankerpunk, of course, but I thought this was very cool indeed..

After many hours beneath the surface, we emerged from the gloom and after thanking our guide, headed off to the next site, nearly 150 miles away, the former East German PTT (Post Office Telecom, basically) satellite uplink station ‘Intersputnik’ at Neu Golm to the south east of Berlin.

The site came into service 1976 as the first (and only) ground satellite station in the GDR. Then part of the integrated international telecommunications network, ‘Intersputnik’, (which has nothing to do with the Sputnik remote transmitter sites mentioned elsewhere in this report) was one of 15 INTERSPUTNIK sites which were in service in 13 countries. These sites used to transmit telephone, fax, TV and data signals. In the Former Times, this site‘s services were also used by the then West German PTT services for satellite links to the Soviet Union, i.e. it was a non-military complex. Later, it used the Soviet satellites Stationar 4 and 5 in geostationary orbit 36,000 km over the equator, but initially used the four Soviet Molniya satellites, which were in a non-stationary orbit, i.e. the dish had to be oriented towards each of the four in turn as they came into view for a 6-hour “period of duty”. The dish could rotate through 360° and was so finely balanced that a 250 W drive is sufficient to rotate it. However, the entire site is now a conference centre, even if the redundant original dish (12 m in diameter and weighing, with its base, 60 tonnes) is still on the roof.

Note especially that Deutsche Telekom shared the installation with the East Germans and the Russians, a fine example of what used to be called the DDR’s secret membership in the EEC, and the difficult moral position the West Germans were regularly pressed into – between doing things that would improve life in the East (but perhaps reinforce the regime) and the desire to put pressure on the DDR leadership.

Indigo – pan-European proto-print magazine

The first issue of a new pan European magazine – Indigo – is available online in English, Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Polish, and Italian. According to the German VISDP magazine, Indigo’s publishers want to put the magazine’s content on paper eventually. Collaborating with CafeBabel, the magazine is apparently primarily targeting the twenty/thirty-somethings of “Generation RyanAir”. The first edition features a lot of interesting content, not least, in May, a guide to flirting from the Baltic to the Bosporus written by Irene Sacchi (p. 42). Have a look.

Spam filtration

Regular commenters may have noticed that a disturbingly large percentage of their comments have been held as spam. This issue should now be resolved. For the information of other Akismet/MT users, the problem was that our spam filter assigned a score of +1 if one’s URL had been previously published, and likewise if one’s required e-mail address had been. With the introduction of Akismet, which we can heartily recommend, a problem developed.

Specifically, the spam filter averages the score across all tests, so a genuine comment might have the +6 from Akismet and +1 from each of the other tests. Hence, an average of +2.67 – unfortunately, the threshold value is +3. This would not have been so much of a problem, had it not been that the filter disregards negative tests before averaging. Therefore, commenters with no track record who passed Akismet would get the full +6 points as their final score, but regulars, although getting a total of +8, would be averaged to +2.67

I have now increased the score for previous publishing, and we haven’t yet had a false positive.

Google news without Belgian news

The Belgian court of Justice has ordered Google News to remove all feeds of Belgian newspapers and journalists. This news was broken by Chilling Effects:

…to withdraw the articles, photographs and graphic representations of Belgian publishers of the French – and German-speaking daily press, represented by the plaintiff, from all their sites (Google News and “cache” Google or any other name within 10 days of the notification of the intervening order, under penalty of a daily fine of 1,000,000.- € per day of delay;

The original court order, in French and dating from September 5th, can be found here (pdf). Google News seems to be charged with violating laws concerning copyright (publishing of headlines and first paragraphs) and databases (publishing cached articles after they have been retired by editors). If I understand the Belgian and Dutch press correctly, the court order concerns only publications in French and German as Dutch-language publishers have already had their headlines removed from Google News. It is possible that publishers will use this court order to negotiate, in which case Google News could eventually be forced to share its advertising revenues with the respective publishers.

Birthday child

Today marks the first anniversary of A Few Euros More*. While I don’t think it’s reached its full potential, it turned into a pretty good blog, and I think it was well worth the effort.

*You might have noticed that the archives go back much longer. Quicklinks, a sidebar semi-blog, was hardly the same blog as afem however.

Ceuta’s place in history

Brian Ulrich writes a brief history of Ceuta.

What’s more, Ceuta has historically been a gateway to Europe rather than one to Africa. As noted above, the city was difficult to take, but even after it was taken, the mountains surrounding it meant that you couldn’t easily advance into the Moroccan interior. However, many invasions of the Iberian Peninsula and reinforcements of Muslim positions there were launched from its harbor. In fact, one could take this “gateway” pattern even up to the present, where desperate African economic migrants try to use it as a stepping-stone to continental Europe.

Via Coming Anarchy