Saturday, 24 August 2013

(Cloud) Storage Wars - The Battle for Unlimited Cloud Storage (aka how to back up everything!)

We are in the era of storage style. Prices are dropping and free offers are growing. I managed to get two 25gb skydrive accounts before they were cut back to 7gb. Now 50gb is available if you look hard enough. Some people are moving away from hard drives altogether. Its hard to remember that cloud storage is only a few years old. Cloud storage refers to the ability to upload your own files and share friends files over a secure internet connection.

 50gb is likely to be much more than your smartphone. Indeed syncing with your smartphone is a really nice feature that most cloud services offer via their ios and android apps. Want to transfer your itunes to your smart phone without using googlemusic? You can. Want movies on your phone from your cloud, you can. Just want your work files? No problem.

In March 2006 Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) was launched, a an online file storage web service offered by Amazon Web Services that could be leased out. Dropbox, Bitcasa and Ubuntu One all use the amazon infrastructure. Dropbox is probably best known.

In 2007 the Dropbox, founder conceived the idea after repeatedly forgetting his USB drive while he was a student at MIT in the US. was launched late 2009, when they acquired their current domain, "". It attracted millions in investment including from The U2 stars Bono and the Edge. Users user frew from 5m in 2010 to 25m in 2011 and 175m in June 2013.

Then the big players entered the market Microsoft with skydrive (200 mi), Google with Gdrive and Apple with icloud (300mi). These have helped keep prices down but there is a catch with all of these services: either limited capacity or limited files size or both. For example dropbox offers a rather pathetic 2gb on free services with a maximum 300mb per file (when uploaded via the web). The cost per GB is about $1 per year (ie $99 for 100gb). Skydrive and Gdrive are significantly cheaper however but only give away 7gb and 15gb respectively. Google's recently upped capacity to15gb is not bad but it is shared with gmail's email footage. Another plus for google drive is that maximum file size is a very generous 10gb...enough for almost anything inc video (10gb = 2hr 1080p movie). 

Maximum file size is really quite important. Typical files sizes are

JPG photo = 10mb
RAW photo = 50mb
5min mp3 = 50mb
5min lossless audio = 200mb
10min video clip = 200mb
1hr 720p HD video = 1gb
2hr 1080p HD video = 10gb
1hr uncompressed video = 50gb 

Ideally you want a cloud service with good storage capacity and high filesize allowance and no bandwidth throttle and nice features. A really nice service with great features and 50gb free and fair 250mb mx filesize is 50gb is available from Dell advantage or by emailing box staff btw. 

A nice review of cloud services is here:

 If you want to maintain access to files across multiple PCs then sugarsync is a great option. Free allocation is nothing special but it often runs 50% off offers making $50 for 100gb. Its feature set is excellent and interface second to none.

250mb filesize not enough? 

One of my current favourites is is totally unlimited and the free allocation has recently been boosted to 15gb to match google. Use this link and you'll get 20gb free

50gb not enough? Then perhaps the answer is the new raft of unlimited services...although none are free. 

Bitcasa offers unlimited filesize and the first 10GB are free for around $99 or £70 you get no limits at all. This sounds great but I have had some problems uploading to bitcasa so I am holding off for now.

Carbonite was designed to backup whole hard drives.  Unlimited space costs about $60 a year, and Carbonite to just back up all your stuff automatically, so all your crap will be stored in the unlimited cloud without a thought. However there is a  4GB max for uploaded files ( I think you can upload these manually).

Backblaze is $50 a year for unlimited storage, but it doesn't have any Android support.

Others to consider are mediafire which seems really cheap and works well in my limited testing but it does have a 300mb filesize cap on free accounts.

Cloud services offer stability for your data provided the company itself doesn't go bust (lookup megaupload!). Someone may well launch a totally unlimited service, perhaps tied to purchase of their hardwear. Next time I'll look at how to tie multiple cloud service together.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Its not about the (4k) camera - Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

As lance said, its not about the in TV and movies its not all about camera either, but a good camera certainly helps.

In this pic, you see the Arri Alura 18-80 zoom lens F2.6, which if I told you was about £500....that would be the price to hire for 1 day! The full price is closer to £20,000 added to which is all manner of lens accessories. Now on the back you have the new blackmagic cinema pocket camera at a humble price of £750 ($1000).

It has  13 stops of dynamic range and lossless recording (compressed) to SD card in Apple ProRes, lossless compressed or CinemaDNG RAW capture and active Micro Four Thirds lens mount.

Its not 4k (theres another blackmagic camera for that) but it appears to offer great quality in an amazingly small package. A bit like the Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition for grown-ups!

It supports the common Micro Four Thirds system for lenseseg Panasonic 14mm lens at f/2.5. It has a headphone jack, microphone jack, HDMI port and a LANC remote control port. The sensor is 12.48mm by 7.02mm which isn’t actually that big, smaller than even the standard Micro Four Thirds sensor. It records in full 1080p at up to 30fps. It has a 3.5-inch screen on the back with a 800×480 resolution which is pretty low. But then you can connect an external monitor via the HDMI port if you really wanted to.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A Quick Tutorial on Making a Video Podcast of a Lecture in High Definition

Ok lets say you want to video a talk or lecture, how do you go about this? Here is my 10 step guide

1. Permission
Get permission of the lecturer (and possibly the organizer / venue) so they know what to expect

2. Equipment
To record a lecture you need to a video camera, ideally one with audio inputs. You also should have a sound recorder or wireless lapel (lavier) microphone

3. Video 
The easy bit is actually the video footage. Careful with the lighting. I recommend an LED light from the camera to the speaker. To record in high definition you need a HD camera. Medium HD (1280x720) is usually more than sufficient and would be 1gb per hour. If you want to show off, 1920x1080 is full HD and thats going to be 5gb in one hour. 5GB is going to take quite a few hours just to upload, so I wouldn't master in 1080p unless you know what you are doing. I recommend a frame rate of 25p (or 50i) rather than 50p which is overkill for a lecture.

Which camera? Any camcorder on the market will do 720p, most will do 1080i or 1080p. Panasonic and Sony are very good even at the £200-400 mark.

4. Sound
The sound is critical. Big rooms sound terrible from the on-board camera mics...too boomy and full of background noise. Therefore you have to record as close to the speaker as possible. Ideally with a good quality wireless lapel mic. These can be very expensive but there is a good value Audio technica one here Amazon. Without a wireless system you can capture the audio onto a good quality soon recorder (tascam, marantz etc) or even a good dictaphone (use one with an external mic)

5 On location
Run a test piece if possible, check the sound, lighting and coverage. Generally there is no need to capture the slides and the speaker at the same time, but this does help when editing. 

> Now record the lecture always keeping the speaker in shot, leave some space either side if they move, but be prepared to pan. Oh yes, don't even think of recording without a tripod. 

> iPhone recording? It can be done but use a mini-tripod and record the sound seperately


Ask the speaker for a copy of their slides if possible. If not, you may have to take a seperate footage of the slides, or still photos. If possible grab a couple of shots of the audience.

6. Editing
I recommend editing together the speaker footage with fades into jpgs of the slides. Keep to audio seemless. Which video editor? Thats personal choice. I hear it can be done with several free online programs now, even Adobe Premier CS2 is free if you search google. However I personally use Sony Vegas.

7. Converting Powerpoint slides => JPG
This is pretty easy, just select save as jpg and PPT will output to photo type jpgs. Sadly these are pretty horrible 960 × 720; usually the wrong format and resolution! At first it appears there is no way to change PPT to output to 16x9 (eg 1920x1080) but there is a trick explained here. If you want 1080p from PPT you have to change the PPT registry defaults as follows. The usual cautions apply.

  1. Exit all Microsoft Windows-based programs.
  2. Click Start, and then click Run.
  3. In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK.
  4. Expand the registry to the subkey for the version of PowerPoint that you are using:

    PowerPoint 2003
    PowerPoint 2007

    Note The registry subkey for PowerPoint 2007 will not work with Office 2007 Service Pack 1.
    PowerPoint 2010
    PowerPoint 2013
  5. Click to select the Options subkey, point to New on the Edit menu, and then click DWORD Value.
  6. Type ExportBitmapResolution, and then press Enter.
  7. Make sure that ExportBitmapResolution is selected, and then click Modify on the Edit menu.
  8. In the Value data box, type the resolution value that you want, based on the following table.

    Note The maximum resolution setting that PowerPoint 2003 exports is 307 dpi.
    Decimal value Fullscreen Pixels (horizontal × vertical)Dots-per-inch (horizontal and vertical)
    50500 × 37550 dpi
    96 (default)960 × 72096 dpi
    1001000 × 750100 dpi
    1501500 × 1125150 dpi
    2002000 × 1500200 dpi
    2502500 × 1875250 dpi
    3003000 × 2250300 dpi
    Decimal valueWidescreen Pixels (horizontal × vertical)Dots-per-inch (horizontal and vertical)
    50667 × 37550 dpi
    96 (default)1280 × 72096 dpi
    1001333 × 750100 dpi
    1502000 × 1125150 dpi
    2002667 × 1500200 dpi
    2503333 × 1875250 dpi
    3004000 × 2250300 dpi
  9. Click Decimal, and then click OK.
  10. On the File menu, click Exit to exit Registry Editor.
 8. Mastering
So now you output your file as a video file, usually that would be in mp4 (or maybe *.mov) on a mac. It usually takes a PC 1-3hours to render a 1 hour video. You need the space on your HD as well. Say 5gb for the raw footage and 1-2gb for the master....and thats for one lecture

9. Uploading
Check the rendered file for errors and comedy moments. Now, once happy, you need to upload the file to a friendly popular video server. OK, youtube. Youtube will accept any size file, any resolution, any length.....but you might need an account in "good standing" with some small uploads first. Vimeo is a nice alternative and videos can be password protected on vimeo but not youtube.

10. Advertise
Once youtube has your file, it will compress it internally and give you the link. Choose a good title, and description. You can add comments and links on top of the youtube file in post-post processing. Test the link, then finally send the link to your intended audience.

ALTERNATIVELY, all too much trouble? Ask you friend audio-visual team to do all this for you!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

How to Run More then One External Monitor over USB

Running multiple monitors from one laptop (or desktop) has been attractive for more than a decade. Of course most people run only one (actually microsoft estimate that 15% of PC users and 4% of laptop users run more than one). Indeed many people have old monitors (even low res ones) lying unused that could be quite handy as add-on external monitors. The old way to do it was to buy a fancy graphics card with multiple VGA outputs than came onto the market in the late 1990s (see Matrox m9188 x 16 which allows 8 monitors at a time).

For laptops this was not an option, but some expensive solutions came along like the CinePort Express. CinePort Express FX2  allows you to add two additional analog or digital displays to your laptop with resolutions up to 2048 x 1536 for analog and 1920x1200 for digital; combined with your laptop’s external monitor port, the laptop can support three external displays and your laptop’s onboard display with the CinePort FX2.The only problem is the cost which is about $1700 (link)

However there are now a number of new solutions that work over USB. Yes since 2000, USB2 and USB3 allow video signals (and sound and data). The only limitation is that processing is done via the main CPU so that refresh rates may be laggy for big displays. However the browsing, office etc there is probably no problem. The cost of USB to VGA or DVI adapters is remakably cheap, around $50-$100. 

Resolutions are limited to 1920 x 1200 (that full HD) over USB2 but if you have a new computer with USB3.0 you can go to 2560x1600 if you have a suitable monitor. A suitable monitor would be a 30" monster from Dell or Apple (but check it takes HDMI/DVI/Displayport). Then you are going to need to Startech USB32DPPRO USB 3.0 to DisplayPort® External Video Card Multi Monitor Adapter – 2560x1600 . Lindy also do one pretty much the same. The adapter accepts displayport to HDMI converters. The total price less than $£100

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The History of Personal Storage Mbs > Gbs > TBs

As a teenager I messed about with cassette tapes on Sinclair ZX Spectrum and BBC micro storing roughly 617kb on one side of a C90 cassette. In those days you often types the raw code out by hand from magazines. Not very realistic when games have 3million lines of code to type (ref). Tapes and paper cards were used in mainframes until IBM's Alan Shugart and David Noble invented the floppy. The floppy disk came to the home market in the 80s. In 1989  I was introduced to a few 5.25" floppys on pre-windows machines at work (this was a Sony design, introduced in 1982) but the world quickly moved to the 720kb "double density" 3.5" disk which could store what seemed like a respectable 1.44mb (2.88mb at the end of its life). I built up several hundred of these fragile disks as some installations came 20-30 disks! Just swapping between them was a pain and why did not one invent the multidisk reader? Seems everyone was happy loading one at a time.

The 1.44mb floppy sold millions (make that hundred of millions) and never quite died (see but imagine having instead of that 16gb USB stick you had on 11,700 floppys instead. In fact, what would a hard drive of floppys look like? A modest 1.5 terabyte desktop hard drive (cost now about £100) would be about a million floppies or a solid cube of 3.5metres in size and weighing about 15,700kg (15.7 metric tonnes)!

Then in about 1995 iomega's Zip arrived  with capacities of 100mb (later versions increased what seemed like an amazing 250 MB then 750 MB). These were great when they worked but a "little unreliable" and a few times I lost a whole disk of data with the "click of death" which seemed like a lifetime's worth (see I became scared to use the 750mb in case of provoking a failure. Something was clearly wrong with the design. It offered such potential when 750mb was otherwise a pipedream! Zip had a transfer rate of about  1mb per sec maybe 20x that of the floppy but 20x less than a hard disk. The Zip disk was killed by two factors. Suicide (by unreliability) and also by recordable optical drives, namely CDR which cost a fortune when they came out (over £1000 for the recorder). I save up and bought one about 1996 for £600; a year after launch. Making your own CDs seemed like the big time; almost like you were a manufacturer yourself. I remember when I backup the whole of my infant version of itunes to CDR and later DVD-R (taking about 10 DVD-R' about 50gb...and that was about 5000 mp3s).

 External hard drives weren't common at all and USB sticks tiny. In fact in the 90s it seems there was no easy way to back up your data. Using another hard drive seemed crazy because they were really expensive. In 1996 a 2gb drive cost about £400...rapidly falling to £300 for £20gb in about 2000.

Then in 1999 Amir Ban, Dov Moran and Oron Ogdan, of M-systems (with the help of IBM) invented the USB stick launched on December 15, 2000 at a humble 8mb. 8mb not 8gb. USB sockets were universal on computers by then, so USB sticks quickly became capable of carrying all you needed from office to office. I remember that before 2000 I had 4x four drawer cabinets for my work papers (largely 4000 scientific papers photocopied and meticulously filed from medical journals). Of course, you could never find the exact paper you wanted, no matter how good the filing system.

In 2004 someone at a conference showed me a 1gb USB stick. I was stunned by its large capacity, not to mention the cost, about £200. That was a lot to carry around. But by 2005 I had one and all these papers had effectively fitted onto one 1gb usb stick. In 2008 I could fit most everything I needed in the office onto a 4gb then 8gb and by 2010 I was carrying two 16gb sticks (one main, one backup) at all times with more than 30,000 files. Up to 2005 I had always felt the need to carry my laptop with me, sometimes with disasterous consequences. An interesing aside, large organizations
loose 265 laptops  per year:
43% of laptops were lost off-site (working from a home office or hotel room)
33 percent lost in transit or travel
Rates are highest in education and research; health and pharmaceuticals
7 percent of all assigned laptops in benchmarked companies will be lost or stolen.

As of 2012 USB drive of 256gb are available and its not just capacity that is up. Its speed too. Lets say you have recorded a HD video in 1080p resolution, a typical file will be 1gb for 120 mins compressed (all consumer camcorders compress the video). Professionals like to boast about raw recording which could be 24-48 frames per second (on frame is close to 8MB, the image 24 per seconds for 120minutes) would be about 1 to 1.5TB....remember those 1million floppies? Well lets assume you got them all onto 100mb Zip disks (yes all 10,500 of them) then at 1mb/s it would take 12 days to transfer the data (day and night assuming you didn't have to swap them!).....this is about the  time it would take with the first generation of slow sticks (USB1.0). Currently most people have USB2.0 and 1TB was on USB2.0 would take about 8 hours to transfer to you HDD.

 Most HDD are going to struggle to transfer this file indeed to good old mechanical HDD days are truely numbered. They are going to be replaced completed by solid state drives. SSDs are like mega RAM / super USB on your HDD. Only two years ago, this was ridiculous because SSD were 100x the price of regular HDD. The first 128gb SSD cost.....wait for it....$4600 in 2007 (review). However prices are dropped already, I just bought the Sandisk 480gb for £250 (amazon) and the increase in speed and responsiveness in windows7 is quite amazing.

SSDs are ideal are HDDs because they are robust, compact and not subject to mechanical failure. I must have lost more than 5 internal HDD due to failue, sometimes loosing everythingt, sometimes with warning signs (clicks, intermitant offs etc). I have learned the hard way to keep back ups. I know have 3x 500gb external drives, 3xTB drives 1x2TB drive, 10+ 16Gb USB sticks, 10+32gb SD cards, and over 100gb of cloud storage. Great, but a little slow at times, which doesn't matter for docs, but can matter for streaming video or large backups. The solution? SSD are also coming to external devices (like camcorders) and as USB SSDs (see OCZ Enyo or Iomega SSD or Transcend SSD). I have a 128gb iomega on order, but no reason you cannot replace the internal SSD with a 512gb very soon as prices fall. These make no sense unless USB3.0 / eSata / Firewire connections can be made with the device in question because SSD can potentially transfer (read write) at up to 5gb/sec (although 500mb/s in more realistic). That means a 1TB in as little as 3 minutes (more realistic figures would be 30-60minutes).....which is whole lot less than the 12 days cites above!

What a journey. In 1990 it was possible to carry 1mb in your pocket, now by 2013 it is quite possible to carry half a million in the form of a 512Gb external SSD. Unbelievable.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Average per person monthly Traffic is >50GB through a landline >500mb when mobile!

2012 must mark some kind of amazing landmark re internet traffic. Average traffic PER MONTH PER USER is an incredible 50gb at home and 0.5gb when mobile! Most downloads (by data) is through Netflix, followed by Youtube. In 2009 the ave user consumed only 8gb per month (and typically 3gb). Youtube shows strong growth. In a parallel of global resources 20% of users consume 90% of bandwidth.

Heres the report:

Sandvine: Netflix up to 29 percent of North American internet traffic, YouTube is fast on the rise

Sandvine Netflix up to 29 percent of North American internet traffic, YouTube is fast on the rise
When we last checked in on one of Sandvine's traffic studies, Netflix had just edged past BitTorrent as the largest source of internet traffic in North America while YouTube was still a small-timer. A year has made quite the difference. Netflix is up to 28.8 percent in a new study, while YouTube has moved up to second place with 13.1 percent and demands even more than ordinary web requests. Rivals like Hulu don't register in the top 10, and YouTube is by far the ruler of mobile with nearly 31 percent of smartphone traffic headed its way. Overall usage is moving up rapidly, no matter what kind of network the continent uses -- the typical North American chews up 659MB per month when mobile and a hefty 51GB through a landline. There's little reason to dispute worries of the impact on bandwidth-strained internet providers, although we suspect most would disagree with Sandvine on what's to be done. The company naturally sees the study as a chance for business with carriers wanting to curb usage or charge extra through its tools; a generation that grew up with internet access, however, would likely see it as a better excuse to roll out more capacity for all those streaming videos.

GMC Complaints and Concerns - Catch 22

Here is the almost unbelievable account of UK psychiatrist Rita Pal as reported in in Sunday Mercury newspaper on February the 6th 2005. The case illustrates the impossible situation of NHS whistleblowers. Basically there is a catch22 clinicians cannot raise concerns about another doctor for fear of being accused of disparaging their reputation (even if it is already fairly muddy) and clinicians cannot raise concerns about an organization or managers for fear of being sacked or receive unwarranted internal complaints. In my view we need to decide which issue is paramount, patient safety or our own reputation?

The GMC now appears to recognize this (at least on paper)

[They state]:

a. You have a duty to put patients’ interests first and act to protect them, which overrides personal and professional loyalties.
b. The law provides legal protection against victimisation or dismissal for individuals who reveal information to raise genuine concerns and expose malpractice in the workplace.

 *For further information see the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, the NHS Constitution or Public Concern at Work.

c. You do not need to wait for proof – you will be able to justify raising a concern if you do so honestly, on the basis of reasonable belief and through appropriate channels, even if you are mistaken.

[They also state] You must not enter into contracts or agreements with your employing or contracting body that seek to prevent you from or restrict you in raising concerns about patient safety. Contracts or agreements are void if they intend to stop an employee from making a protected disclosure.*

You can follow more from Rita Pal herself here:



Published by the Sunday Mercury newspaper on February the 6th 2005


A BRAVE NHS whistleblower could land a record damages pay-out from the
General Medical Council - after it branded her 'mentally ill' in a
secret smear campaign.

Dr Rita Pal went to the watchdog five years ago, claiming seriously
ill elderly patients were being helped to die in Midland hospitals,
but, instead of taking her shocking complaints seriously, the GMC
turned on her.

Top-ranking staff openly questioned her sanity and even talked of
launching a probe into whether she was fit to practise. Now Dr Pal
could sue for huge damages after a judge blasted the controversial
doctors' watchdog for acting like a 'totalitarian regime' similar to
Stalin's Russia.

Today we reveal the extraordinary story of how Britain's leading
medical regulator led a witch-hunt against a courageous whistleblower
coordinated by a mystery GMC figure called 'The Screener'. Dr Pal,
from Sutton Coldfield, recently won a landmark court case which now
paves the way for her to sue the GMC.

The preliminary hearing - held last summer - had been brought by the
watchdog who wanted to 'strike out' any lawsuit from the psychiatrist
before it reached full trial. Instead their case - which cost them
pounds 84,000 in legal fees - was thrown out and, despite lengthy
talks between the two parties, a settlement appears unlikely.

Now Dr Pal is understood to be considering lodging a potentially huge
claim for damages over data protection breaches, human rights abuses
and defamation.

Last night, the watchdog refused to comment on our story, saying only:
'Due to the ongoing legal action in this case we are not able to
comment.' But Dr Pal's case will send shockwaves through the medical
profession which is still reeling from recent disasters such as serial
killer Dr Harold Shipman and the child organs retention scandal.

She told the Sunday Mercury: 'The treatment I have received at the
hands of the GMC has been far worse than that meted out to a mass
murderer. 'Yet I have never killed a patient, nor have there been any
complaints against me.' Although Dr Pal's court battle has just come
to light, the case actually dates back to April 2000. Then a junior
doctor, she broke ranks to go public and highlight a string of alleged
patient abuses in Midland hospitals. She claimed dying patients had
medication withdrawn by medical staff to hasten death and free up beds
while others, who were also seriously ill, were given drugs to kill

Dr Pal, now 32, later submitted a dossier of evidence to the GMC and
promised to co-operate with their investigation into her allegations,
but, after the watchdog refused to meet her on her own terms in
Birmingham, the busy doctor pulled out after becoming frustrated with
the lack of support she was getting. She had also been advised by a
GMC insider to be wary of being interviewed by a watchdog whose
reputation was already under scrutiny because of its handling of
complaints against its own doctors.

As the months drew on, her complaints were seemingly forgotten by the
GMC. But then in 2003 Dr Pal - now working as a psychiatrist -
received a tip-off that high-powered figures at the watchdog were
probing her own conduct. She issued a request under the Data
Protection Act, demanding the GMC hand over all files they held on
her. Astonishingly, when she received them Dr Pal found a series of
internal memos questioning her sanity and fitness to practise as a
doctor. They had been exchanged between three GMC officials: Catherine
Green, a case worker; Peter Lynn, deputy to GMC chief executive and
registrar Finlay Scott; and Sarah Bedwell, head of screening. Also
heavily involved was a mysterious figure - known within the GMC as
'The Screener'.

Despite repeated requests for the identity of 'The Screener' to be
publicly revealed, the GMC have refused to disclose it. But their job
was to act on behalf of the president, Sir Graeme Catto, by
'screening' investigations into doctors BEFORE they began to determine
whether they should go ahead at all.

A stunned Dr Pal read how her refusal to co-operate with the probe
into her original allegations was now being turned against her. One
memo from Mr Lynn, dated November 30 2000, read: '...She may be
suffering from mental illness...Her correspondence, particularly the
documents I have flagged, certainly demonstrate that Dr Pal is
extremely irrational...'There must be some concern about this doctor
having direct access to patients.' The memos, which went right to the
top of the GMC, showed how 'The Screener' tried to use his or her
power to smear Dr Pal. Another memo, from 'The Screener', read: '...I
may be able to make discreet confidential enquiries [about Dr Pal]
which I will do and then discuss...' A year later, in October 2001,
discussions over Dr Pal were STILL going on inside GMC headquarters. A
memo 'The Screener' wrote said: 'I do think that she could have a
health problem. She is certainly intemperate and possibly paranoid...'
And despite having no proof whatsoever that Dr Pal was suffering from
any mental health problems, the GMC kept the memos on file.
Following her Data Protection Act request, a furious Dr Pal demanded
the GMC delete the records but they refused. She then hired a top
barrister and took the watchdog to court - where she notched up
victory in the first legal skirmish.

Judge Charles Harris, QC, ruled the GMC had no grounds for dismissing
Dr Pal's claims before they reached court and told her she had every
right to take the matter to a full jury trial. He also awarded her
pounds 18,000 in costs and launched a withering attack on the conduct
of the GMC. Judge Harris said: 'It [the GMC] is like a totalitarian
regime: anybody who criticises it is said to be prima facie mentally
ill - what used to happen in Russia... 'Costs - at least the
defendants' costs - were clearly out of hand...some pounds 84,000. a sum which must, in my judgement, be difficult to justify.'

Dr Pal told the Mercury: 'There has been no complaint against me by
any patients and my GP verifies that I have not been mentally ill and
the judge agreed.'The entire point centres on whistleblowing.' If
whistleblowers are to be treated with such contempt, then there will
be no-one who will prevent the next Dr Harold Shipman. 'It is due to
the catastrophic failure of systems like the GMC and Department of
Health that Dr Shipman managed to kill so many people - it of course
starts with discrediting a whistleblower from the outset.'