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February 25th, 2012

Techy articles easily missed this week

Techy articles easily missed this week

Stretched to breaking point

Good ol’ BT did its darnedest this week to stop me catching up on the most interesting tech stories out there. Broken cables “somewhere out in the street” were eventually magically mended by a whizz-kid in India, but not until I’d spent a few days with no interweb and no phone, reduced to sitting in car parks and blagging broadband off of unsuspecting neighbours and friendly pub landlords.

Once hooked up, I discovered that many of my fellow compatriots with unbroken connections were also having a bad time. Based on 1.68 million speed tests, a new study from uSwitch claimed that a third of homes in the UK have broadband speeds well below the national average. After briefly thinking, well, isn’t that how averages work? I commiserated while watching another page download at a poorly hijacked 56Kbps. And I don’t technically even live in a broadband black spot!

So. Things to do while unexpectedly off the grid?
Turn your smartphone into a DIY Pocket Geiger counter using a bunch of diodes, some tin foil, a sweet packet and 46 bucks
– Guess the winners of the 2011 Engadget Awards (oh and the Oscars too I suppose)
– Draft tweets about Apple buying Chomp with using gobbled, snapped or swallowed up
– Dabble in Open Source eye-tracking (when nobody else is looking)
– Write a 10-year roadmap for a fast moving technology, like Adobe does
– Console yourself with the ‘fact’ that we’re all actually much friendlier away from addictive social media
– Take a short break from the older, crankier ranks of ‘Generation C’
– And hope your boss will be too busy to notice Wales beating England at rugby this weekend…

Here’s to a great rest of the weekend, online and off.


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February 24th, 2012

Coming soon to a British news stand near you: The Sun on Sunday

Coming soon to a British news stand near you: The Sun on Sunday

Unless you’ve been visiting another planet for several months (one of those far-flung ones that doesn’t have internet, TV, Twitter, Facebook or newspapers) you surely can’t have failed to have read about the demise of News International’s The News of the World.

But if for any reason you did miss out, and now find yourself pining for both the drama of the British newspaper industry and your weekend dose of celebrity-fuelled tabloid updates (without any allegedly-sourced-by-phone-hacking stories, naturally), then don’t worry, you can run out and buy the first issue of The Sun on Sunday, launching this weekend (26 February).

As soon as the launch was announced on Sunday night (and plastered over the front page of Monday’s The Sun), there was profuse speculation as to what the new publication would look like. Will it be a standalone paper, or just another day’s edition of The Sun, making it a seven-day newspaper?  And more importantly, will it still have a Page Three model?

James Alan Anslow, a lecturer at London’s City University who was a long-time journalist for both The Sun and The News of the World, explained in an interview with the Huffington Post that: “They’re not launching a newspaper, they’re launching an edition of a newspaper”. This would imply that there’s no new commitment and, by extension, guarantee of Murdoch’s backing of UK newspapers, which alongside The Sun includes, The Times and The Sunday Times. Anslow concluded that the launch was:  “a desperate last throw of the dice”.

And should we read anything into the timing? On Thursday singer (and fellow Welsh countrywoman) Charlotte Church finally settled her phone hacking allegation case with News International, after threatening to pursue it to the High Court. She was the final celebrity to settle, and would have been the only individual to go to
such lengths. So far all other celebrities, including Jude Law, Steve Coogan and Danii Minogue have settled out of court.

As the father of the newspaper/edition-to-be, Rupert Murdoch is reported to be staying in London for the week to check that the new arrival is happy and healthy. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on the new ‘baby’ and report back to you.

 

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Posted in London, Media, Prompt locations, UK press | 1 Comment »

 

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February 22nd, 2012

Pirate Bay heads for (further) rough seas following UK High Court ruling

Pirate Bay heads for (further) rough seas following UK High Court ruling

Pirate BayFile-sharing site The Pirate Bay, aka as TPB, or ‘the galaxy’s largest BitTorrent network’, is likely to be walking the plank very soon, following a ruling by the UK High Court that the site breaches copyright laws. As a result it’s very likely that TPB will be blocked in the UK.

The court case resulted from a collective of record labels – including EMI, Polydor, and Warner – demanding that UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as BT and Sky stop consumers from accessing the BitTorrent network to download and share copyrighted music.

In a written statement, the High Court’s Mr. Justice Arnold said: “The operators (of TPB) do authorise its users’ infringing acts of copying and communication to the public. They go far beyond merely enabling or assisting. I conclude that both users and the operators (of TPB) infringe the copyrights of the claimants.”

At this point TPB is not blocked and there is no injunction ordered. But the ruling is a clear indicator that it’s very likely to be blocked.

The blocking of file-sharing sites via ISPs is not a new path and nor is it a new path to Mr. Justice Arnold. Just last year he gave BT 14 days to block file-sharing site Newzbin2 after ruling infringement of ‘copyright on a grand scale’ in a case brought by a number of studios including Columbia, Disney, Fox, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros.

This is a hot topic – whether you’re familiar with the players or not, everyone online witnessed the recent (and ongoing) war of words and website blackouts over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

TPB’s owners were not in London or the court for the hearing. Earlier this month Sweden’s Supreme Court ruled that it would not grant leave to appeal in a criminal trial against TPB. This left Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundström, who ran the site, facing prison sentences and fines, despite the fact the site itself was not the focus of the trial and remains operational (for the time being). In early February the site changed its domain from ‘.org’ to the Swedish suffix ‘.se. According to TorrentFreak this was to prevent possible seizure of the domain by US authorities.

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February 19th, 2012

Cambridge MA startup rides Kickstarter for safer city cycling

Cambridge MA startup rides Kickstarter for safer city cycling

The Defender - by Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries

This creative project from a business starting up close to our Massachusetts office caught our imaginations for many reasons – we love start-ups and entrepreneurial spirit, we’re fascinated by slick design and smart engineering, and like a growing number of people these days, we enjoy nothing more than getting out onto the streets with our bikes when we have the chance.

Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries had a huge incentive to get its innovative theft-proof cycle light to market as quickly as possible, but needed more publicity and financial backing to make it happen. Now thanks to crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, the company’s founders hope to fight back against a serious city cycling issue that saw a friend hit by a car after his lights were stolen.

Designed and engineered by Gotham, The Defender is an extremely rugged but lightweight aluminium LED theft-resistant bike light, delivering 100 hours of ‘be seen’ lighting from three AA batteries. A patent-pending security screw mechanism and robust waterproof construction will prevent owners of The Defender joining a third of city bikers who have had their lights stolen, or the 80 percent of cyclists who forget their lights because they are concerned about leaving them attached to handlebars.

Kickstarter is an online crowd-funding site for creative projects that lack traditional funding but are sufficiently innovative and exciting to inspire investment by like-minded souls from around the world. Incentives encourage backing, so for example, if you pledge between $10 and $600, you’ll not only help Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries’ bike light vision become a reality, you’ll also be rewarded with great gifts ranging from a branded water bottle or t-shirt, to the light itself – or perhaps even a big box of Defenders for your bike shop?

If you’d like to read more stories like this from the worlds of technology and media , why not sign up to our regular newsletter?


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February 10th, 2012

Top tech tales from the sleigh this week

Top tech tales from the sleigh this week

Too cool for technology?

Singer-songwriter Laura Marling recently proclaimed “I never love England more than when covered in snow.” Now, while it certainly still looks very pretty outside my window, and children and um, folk singers, are still having a ball on their sleds, it is darn cold and not entirely conducive to work.

Not that a half-foot of the white stuff was ever going to stop *us* in our tracks. Promptees have been dashing across countries and oceans all week dodging the worst of the weather to make a flurry of face-to-face briefings, presentations, pitches and reviews with many of our clients. It’s been a whirl, but we did manage to stop and smell the technology from time to time…

Gadget news first up, then. Did you hear about Amazon’s new 9-inch Kindle Fire set to be launched later this year? How about the Samsung Galaxy S2 Ice Cream Sandwich with chocolate sprinkles on top? There’s definitely one Canadian who hasn’t noticed anything at all, however shiny, since Amazon kindly delivered his brand-spanking-new PlayStation Vita well ahead of even the early-bird launch. Gah! We hope his thumbs fall off from too much fun.

It’s not all rosy in the world of gaming though. Ahead of the huge Vita launch, games sales in the US have been slumping badly, down 34% year-on-year in January according to NPD group. Analysts are split over blaming the economy (why not?) or, yup, you’ve guessed it, Sony. Never mind – at least all the research into more efficient GPU chips during the downturn has brightened up The Muppets!

In international news, things have been a tad more serious. Germany has refused to sign the controversial ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) accord, asking for more “time to carry out further discussions”. Meanwhile Iran appears to have cut off internet access entirely leaving a population bereft of networking, social or otherwise. Iceland has tired of volcanoes and thinks it has the answer to low-cost data storage. And US authorities are charging a Romanian for hacking and damaging NASA JPL computers last year.

So all-in-all, maybe it is better if you do heed the wild weather warnings this weekend. Just plug in a laptop, tablet, games console, smartphone and fan heater, and just marvel at the technological world progressing without you from the relative safety of your cosy lounge. What could possibly go wrong?


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February 3rd, 2012

Facebook: What the mark of one billion users means

Facebook: What the mark of one billion users means

It’s hard to go anywhere today without an advertisement asking you to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ a product online. So when I heard that Facebook expected to pass one billion users this August, it got me thinking – is social media even more powerful than we realize?

In its infancy, social media set out to connect people, and turned into a fun activity that many picked up in their spare time. Today, social media is still connecting people, but often within the business-to-consumer relationship. Social media is now a major part of the marketing and public relations plans of countless companies and individuals.

Founded only eight years ago, Facebook is one of the biggest players in the social media world. After many (and continuing) changes, the site currently has over 800 million users, equating to about one million new users per year. Although it is certainly not the only platform of its of its kind today, it certainly has the most participants.

This week, reports are swirling around that the social media giant expects to have one billion users by the end of this summer. That means an astonishing one sixth of the entire world’s population will be able to update their individual status and check in with friends whenever they like. of course that’s also one billion people that will see and act on placed advertisements. While Facebook doesn’t disclose its advertising costs, it’s amazing to think that companies can reach consumers on every continent in the world so immediately.

While Facebook has teased the trading world about going public for quite a while, it’s predicted that when it does, Facebook will become a $100 billion IPO. Where the giant corporation’s influence will go to next, it’s hard to tell, but we will be along for the ride to find out.


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