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Archived design, Internet & computing news

July 2013: Talking train window adverts tested by Sky Deutschland

A German firm is proposing to transmit adverts via train windows so that the sound appears to "come from inside the user's head" when passengers lean against them. The idea would use bone conduction technology, a technique that transmits sound to the inner ear by passing vibrations through the skull. The concept has been developed by ad agency BBDO Germany on behalf of broadcaster Sky Deutschland.

It is already proving controversial. Comments posted under a video showing off the concept include "This is a violation to a person's right to rest - I think I'd take a sledgehammer to the window."

The Talking Window campaign idea was shown off at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes last month. Sky Go audio transmitter BBDO said it had received "highly encouraging first reactions" from commuters who tested the kit The video shows passengers on a German train being surprised to hear ads urging them to download the Sky Go app on to their smartphones to watch streamed video. The audio is created by a special Sky-branded transmitter made by Audiva attached to the windows. "Tired commuters often rest their heads against windows," says the ad. "Suddenly a voice inside their head is talking to them. No-one else can hear this message."

Details posted online note that bone conduction technology has previously been used in hearing aids, headphones for swimmers and runners, and devices used by magicians to make someone think they have had a message planted in their head.

Google also plans to use the tech in its forthcoming Glass headset.

[source BBC Technology]


May 2013: Google Glass gets closer: the electronic specs that the first users will get within days

Back in early 2012, before the world had heard of Google Glass, the tech world was ablaze with rumours that the search giant was beavering away on augmented reality goggles. As the days went by, it was clear that not only was this true, but that Google's dream of wearable technology was far, far closer to release than anyone would have guessed. Roll forward just over a year and the first versions are in the hands of developers who went into a lottery to fork out $1,500 for their own pair of spectacles.

Google Glass is an attempt to free data from desktop computers and portable devices like phones and tablets, and place it right in front of your eyes. Essentially, Google Glass is a camera, display, touchpad, battery and microphone built into spectacle frames so that you can perch a display in your field of vision, film, take pictures, search and translate on the go.

Google Glass uses display technology instead to put data in front (or at least, to the upper right) of your vision courtesy of a prism screen. This is designed to be easily seen without obstructing your view. According to Google the display is "the equivalent of a 25-inch high definition screen from eight feet away". Overlaying data into your vision has obvious benefits; many of which are already functional in Google Glass. Directions become more intuitive (although it sounds like there is no GPS on board so you will have to pair it with your phone), you can view real-time translations or transcriptions of what is being said, and you can scroll through and reply to messages - all on the fly. The embedded camera does not need a viewfinder because it is simply recording your first-person perspective, allowing you to take snaps or footage of what you are actually seeing. Any function that requires you to look at a screen could be put in front of you. With a microphone and touchpad on one arm of the frame, you can select what you want to do with a brief gesture or by talking to the device, and Google Glass will interpret your commands.

Google Glass can also provide sound, with bone-induction technology confirmed. This vibrates your skull to create sound. As well as photos and film you can use the Google hangout software to video conference with your friends and show them what you're looking at. You'll also be able to use Google Maps to get directions, although with GPS absent from the spec list, you'll need to tether Glass to your phone.

[source Tech Radar]


March 2013: Whole internet probed for insecure devices

A surreptitious scan of the entire internet has revealed millions of printers, webcams and set-top boxes protected only by default passwords. An anonymous researcher used more than 420,000 of these insecure devices to test the security and responsiveness of other gadgets, in a nine-month survey.

Using custom-written code, they sent out more than four trillion messages. The net's current addressing scheme accommodates about 4.2 billion devices. Only 1.3 billion addresses responded. The number of addresses responding was a surprise as the pool of addresses for that scheme has run dry. As a result, the net is currently going through a transition to a new scheme that has a vastly larger pool of addresses available.

The scan found half a million printers, more than one million webcams and lots of other devices, including set-top boxes and modems, that still used the password installed in the factory, letting almost anyone take over that piece of hardware. Often the password was an easy to guess word such as "root" or "admin".

"Whenever you think, 'That shouldn't be on the internet, but will probably be found a few times,' it's there a few hundred thousand times," wrote the un-named researcher in a paper documenting their work. HD Moore, who carried out a similar survey in 2012, told the Ars Technica news website the results looked "pretty accurate". He added he had seen malicious hackers exploiting the security failings of these devices to run criminal networks known as botnets that are used to send out spam, mount phishing attacks and bombard websites with deluges of data.

[source BBC Technology]


December 2012: UN Internet Regulation Treaty Talks begin in Dubai

A UN agency is trying to calm fears that the internet could be damaged by a conference it is hosting. Government regulators from 193 countries are in Dubai to revise a wide-ranging communications treaty.

Google has warned the event threatened the "open internet", while the EU said the current system worked, adding: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But the agency said action was needed to ensure investment in infrastructure to help more people access the net. "The brutal truth is that the internet remains largely [the] rich world's privilege, " said Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the UN's International Telecommunications Union, ahead of the meeting. "ITU wants to change that."

Regulators and other delegates have until 14 December to agree which proposals to adopt. More than 900 changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations have been put forward. The ITU highlights proposals to block spam messages, cut mobile roaming fees and prioritise emergency calls as some of the event's key topics. There have been accusations of "secrecy" because the ITU had left it to individual countries to publish proposals rather than release them itself. Two sites - Wcitleaks and .nxt - have gathered together related documents from a variety of sources but many are still unpublished. The resulting treaty will become part of international law, however the ITU itself recognises that there is no legal mechanism to force countries to comply. The ITU says there is a need to reflect the "dramatically different" technologies that have become commonplace over the past 24 years. But the US has said some of the proposals being put forward by other countries are "alarming".

There are specific concerns over a proposal by Russia which said member states should have "equal rights to manage the internet". - which could open the door to more censorship. However - as a recent editorial in the Moscow Times pointed out - Russia has already been able to introduce a "black list" of banned sites without needing an international treaty. Dubai skyline Regulators have been given a fortnight in Dubai to reach consensus over the regulations

One of the other concerns raised is that the conference could result in popular websites having to pay a fee to send data along telecom operators' networks.

[source BBC Technology]


September 2012: Rural communities 'at risk' without broadband access

Economic development in rural areas is being put at risk because of failures to provide adequate access to the internet, a business group has warned.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says up to a fifth of people in rural areas still do not have adequate broadband services. It also says the government is unlikely to meet its goal of providing universal coverage by 2015. But ministers say their broadband programme is firmly on track. The government's target by 2015 is to ensure universal broadband coverage, offering speeds of at least 2 megabits per second. It also plans to create a superfast network for the majority of the population by the same date.

But according to the CLA, progress so far has been very slow and those goals are unlikely to be met, potentially leaving rural communities without adequate broadband access. The CLA has campaigned over the past decade for all rural areas to gain effective and affordable broadband. It has previously called on local authorities to ensure that contracts awarded to infrastructure providers include fair compensation provisions for any failure to meet time and coverage requirements. It now says operators should be legally obliged to provide coverage, even in very remote areas, and it also wants isolated communities to be allowed to use public sector networks. Otherwise, it warns, social and economic development in rural areas will suffer.

Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Ed Vaizey has said that the broadband programme is on track and he is confident the government's targets can be achieved.

[source BBC Technology]


June 2012: Google launches TV in Britain

The first hardware, made by Sony, will offer direct access to the internet, and Google hopes it will also encourage software developers to write apps for televisions as well as for mobile phones and tablets.

Google TV has struggled in America, and the interface has been redesigned since it was first unveiled. Special versions of YouTube, Twitter and some websites have now been created for the TV interface, and Google hopes more users will rent films through the new service. A company spokesman said that internet on television needed to be more of a "lean back experience" than it is on a computer.

Apple is rumoured to be working on a television, too, while major hardware manufacturers such as Samsung are already building "connected" televisions that connect to the web.

The Sony-branded GS7 set-top box will launch from 16 July first in Britain and then in Canada, Australia and a number of European and South American countries. It was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and a Blu-ray player with Google TV built in, called the GP9, is also planned from October. Sony’s Giladas Pelliet claimed the new devices would expand “the reach and interoperability of the powerful Android platform with Sony’s smartphones, tablets and audio and video products”.

Google’s Chrome web browser is built in to the new box, which also features a remote control that has a touchpad on one side and a full keyboard on the other. A smartphone or tablet can also be used as a remote via the free Media Remote app.

[source Telegraph Technology]


May 2012: Google gets Nevada driving licence for self-drive car

Driverless cars will soon be a reality on the roads of Nevada after the state approved America's first self-driven vehicle licence. The first to hit the highway will be a Toyota Prius modified by search firm Google, which is leading the way in driverless car technology. Its first drive included a spin down Las Vegas's famous strip. Other car companies are also seeking self-driven car licences in Nevada.

The car uses video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to "see" other traffic. Engineers at Google have previously tested the car on the streets of California, including crossing San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge. For those tests, the car remained manned at all times by a trained driver ready to take control if the software failed. According to software engineer Sebastian Thrun, the car has covered 140,000 miles with no accidents, other than a bump at traffic lights from a car behind.

Bruce Breslow, director of Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles, says he believes driverless vehicles are the "cars of the future". Nevada changed its laws to allow self-driven cars in March. The long-term plan is to license members of the public to drive such cars. Google's car has been issued with a red licence plate to make it recognisable. The plate features an infinity sign next to the number 001.

Other states, including California, are planning similar changes. "The vast majority of vehicle accidents are due to human error," said California state Senator Alex Padilla, when he introduced the legislation. "Through the use of computers, sensors and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analysing the driving environment more quickly and operating the vehicle more safely."

[source BBC Tech]


March 2012: Deutsche Telekom claims record data transfer record

Deutsche Telekom says it has set a new data transfer speed record over a long distance and outside a laboratory. The German firm says it achieved a usable bit rate of 400Gbps (gigabits per second) over a single channel of its fibre optic network. That is more than double the 186Gbps record set by researchers in the US and Canada last year. The company says it now plans to roll out the technology to ensure users can enjoy an "unclogged" service. The experiment was carried out by sending data along the company's network between Berlin and Hanover and back again - a total distance of 734km (456 miles). The experiment delivered a maximum 512Gbps down each channel, of which 400Gbps was usable data - the spare capacity is used to provide error correction. That is the equivalent of being able to transmit 77 music CDs simultaneously within a second. Each optical fibre is thinner than a human hair but can carry a total of 48 channels - making the total potential throughput up to 24.6Tbps (terabits per second) - or the equivalent of 3,696 CDs per second.

[source BBC Tech]


December 2011: Net access: EU survey shows geographic divisions

Almost a quarter of the European Union's citizens have never used the internet, according to official research. The survey of 16 to 74 year olds by statistics agency Eurostat suggests 24% have never gone online. It said that was an improvement on the 42% figure reported in 2006. Romania topped the list, with 54% of its inhabitants classed as net-holdouts. At the other end of the scale, Sweden's proportion was 5%. The UK ranked sixth out of 27 states with an 11% figure. The data suggests an internet gulf is growing between the web-friendly north and the poorer south and east. The EU's Digital Agenda for Europe strategy aims to reduce the total share of internet refuseniks to 15% by 2015.

The survey covered 214,580 people living in 149,331 households. It suggests that more than half of EU citizens use the internet every day or almost every day, while just over two-thirds use it at least once a week. Men were slightly more likely to use the internet regularly - 75% versus 65% logging on once every seven days. Home accounts

The survey also studied the number of households with internet access. The Netherlands came out on top with 94% of its homes connected, followed by Sweden and Luxembourg (91%), and Denmark (90%). By contrast, only 45% of Bulgarian households were linked to the internet, while the figure was 47% in Romania. Eighty-five per cent of the UK's homes have access, putting it ahead of Germany, Ireland, France and Spain. The statisticians also noted a shift towards broadband use. Sixty-eight per cent of households across the EU used fast-speed connections rather than slower dial-up access. That was more than double 2006's 30% figure.

The UK led the way in e-commerce. Eighty-two per cent of its internet users had ordered goods or services over the net for private purposes over the past 12 months. That compared with an EU-wide average of 58%.

[source BBC Tech]


October 2011: How Google can tell the Bank of England what to do next

Researchers at the Bank of England have discovered that internet searches for specific related terms are a powerful predictive tool for seeing where unemployment and house prices will go in the future. Taking search terms such as "estate agent", "mortgage", "unemployed" and "jobseekers allowance" and comparing their frequency over a period of years with actual subsequent movements in house values and the claimant count produced results that "have the potential to be useful for economic policy making" and in some cases beat existing guides such as surveys of public opinion.

The Bank's chief economist, Spencer Dale, said that they "can contain valuable signals about the state of both labour and housing markets in the United Kingdom". The authors of the research, Nick McLaren and Rachana Shanbhogue, said: "Internet search data can help to predict changes in unemployment in the UK. These appear to be as useful as existing indicators. For house prices, the results are somewhat stronger: search term variables can outperform some existing indicators over the period since 2004. There is also evidence that these data could provide additional insight on a wider range of issues."

Both the sharp rise in unemployment since 2008 and the decline in real estate values could have been predicted using the Google database; and the researchers suggest that searches such as "flat screen television" and "fridges" could give a much more immediate impression of what's going on in the economy than waiting for the official data – so called "nowcasting". They add: "Internet search data have a number of appealing properties as economic indicators. They are extremely timely and cover a potentially vast sample of respondents. "In contrast to most traditional survey methods, they are collected as a by-product of normal activity, rather than requiring individuals or firms to respond to survey questions after the event. This can avoid problems associated with non-response or inaccurate responses. And it also means that information is collected on a wider range of issues. As a result, search data can help analyse issues that arise unexpectedly."

The Bank's tentative embrace of such unconventional and easily decipherable techniques might help it to avoid what seems to be a damaging decline in the public's confidence in its ability to do its job. At a time when the bank is accruing unpredicted powers over the economy and the financial system, taking over the Financial Services Authority and regulating mortgage supply, the Bank's quarterly bulletin admits that "the extent of public satisfaction with the way in which the Bank has set interest rates to control inflation has declined since the middle of 2010".

[source The Independent]


August 2011: Google chief says TV industry is ‘wrong’

Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, has said that the TV industry are wrong to fear the effect Google TV will have on their revenues. The search giant’s new TV service, which recently launched in the US and is expected to launch in the UK next year, integrates applications and the internet directly into televisions. It brings basic elements such as search or web browsing and goes as far as combining both web and TV simultaneously.

However, at the end of last month, several major US broadcasters, including ABC, CBS and NBC, blocked some of their most popular television programmes from being accessible through Google’s new television service. Speaking at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco, Schmidt said: “The concern [from the TV executives] is that this enormous revenue stream will be affected negatively by this browser… I disagree. I think people will watch more TV.”

The recent blocking of content by US networks, means that hit television shows, such as The Office and CSI cannot be viewed through Google TV. The reasons for the action were not officially been stated, but it is thought that some broadcasters are concerned Google TV will cannibalise existing revenue streams, and could tip the balance of power away from broadcasters and the networks in favour of Google.

“Everybody knows the lock that Google has on internet traffic in terms of advertising,” said Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner, at the time. “If you take that model and extend it to television, suddenly Google’s power becomes enormous in the advertising space and the broadcasters don’t like that idea.”

Schmidt quipped on stage that one TV executive had expressed his concern about the new service, which aims to make it easier for people to access on-demand content, scheduled television and the best of the internet through special set-top boxes or enabled TVs, saying: “ Do you realise that you are taking a dumb TV and making it smart? I replied ‘of course I do’.” He admitted that TV was a “big business” for Google but said that an open browser on the TV would lead to greater gain for all, through the opportunities that an app store on the big screen in the home would bring. “The way to get more revenue is to create more revenue streams,” he explained.

Current Google TV hardware partners include Logitech for set-top boxes and Sony, who offer TV with Google's service built-in directly.

[source Telegraph Tech]


June 2011: ICT classes should be scrapped

Students would leave school with better tech skills if the current ICT lessons were scrapped altogether, according to the industry group Intellect.

Responding to a Department of Education call for evidence on education reform, Intellect said ICT classes were uninspiring and left students completely unprepared for the work place. “We believe that ICT, in its current form, should not be a statutory programme of study,” said John Hoggard, programme manager at Intellect. “Take up of ICT courses is falling and the basic ICT skills being generated by the education system are not meeting learners’ or employers’ needs. “Technology companies often have to spend considerable time up-skilling new employees as a result.” In place of ICT classes for all students, Intellect believes potentially gifted tech students should be encouraged into the core science, engineering and maths subjects.

Computing in particular should be a discrete subject discipline available to students from Key Stage 3 onwards,” Hoggard said. “Options should be available for students to follow a progression path in computing, where they can learn increasingly more advanced skills." Other students should be trained in technology by using it during everyday classes in other subjects, Intellect believes.

“All employers need employees that are ‘digitally literate’ but we believe that students can better develop these skills through engagement with ICT and interactive multimedia technologies across the curriculum,” Hoggard said. “This is much preferable to having ICT as a statutory subject in its current form, which effectively discourages students from progressing to the more advanced computing courses.”

[source PC Pro]


April 2011: Ofcom acts to cut home phone and broadband prices

The cost of home telephone and broadband services could come down after telecoms regulator Ofcom moved to reduce the wholesale price.

It has revised the list of rates that Openreach, which manages BT's network, can charge other providers for using its services. In some cases, the wholesale price could fall by more than 10% per year. The move could benefit companies such as TalkTalk and Sky, but not Virgin Media which uses its own cable network. Under Ofcom's proposals the prices of two of the ways that BT's rivals get access to its network will come down.

The first, called Local Loop Unbundling, allows telecoms firms to site their equipment in BT exchanges and take over lines to customers. Ofcom wants the price Openreach charges when an operator takes over these lines completely to drop by between 1.2 and 4.2% every year. Where lines are shared it wants prices to drop by between 11.6 and 14.6% every year. To illustrate the potential numbers affected, Ofcom said there were about 7.6 million unbundled lines in the UK. The second, called Wholesale Line Rental, involves telecoms firms simply renting lines from Openreach. Ofcom wants the prices of these to drop by between 3.1 and 6.1% every year. There are about 6.14 million WLR lines in the UK.

The price changes are to be applied after taking inflation into account. This might mean that some prices creep upwards if inflation rises. "Ofcom expects its proposed prices to lead to real term price reductions for consumers, as communications providers pass on savings to their landline and broadband customers," it said in a statement.

In response, BT released a statement which said: "BT invests more than any other company in the UK's communications infrastructure, so it is critical that it is able to achieve a fair rate of return in order to continue its investment in copper and fibre-based services." It added: "Upon initial review, we are encouraged by Ofcom's recognition of this fact, but would question some of the underlying assumptions being used." The communications watchdog said its proposals were the start of a consultation process that would end on 9 June. BT said it would raise its concerns with Ofcom during the consultation process.

The conclusions of the consultation will be published in the autumn. Any price changes that result would come into effect towards the end of 2011 and be in place until March 2014.

[source BBC Technology]



February 2011: New powers to vet online adverts

People who use the internet are about to get a new opportunity to complain about company websites. From 1 March, consumers are being invited to make official objections about indecent or misleading information on the internet. They will be able to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is taking on new powers to regulate commercial websites. Up to now the ASA has only been able to monitor traditional advertising. These were generally on billboards, in newspapers or on television.

From the start of March, the ASA will be able to police any statement on a company's website which could be interpreted as marketing, even if it is not a paid-for advert. "The principle that ads have to be legal, decent, honest and truthful is now going to extend to companies' claims on their own websites," said Matt Wilson, of the ASA. Earlier this month, for example, the ASA ruled that an Yves St Laurent perfume advert was unfit for broadcast on television. It showed a woman stroking her own arm, and writhing around on the floor. The ASA said the advert "simulated drug use", and its use on television was banned. Under the current rules, however, the company would be entitled to use the same advert on its website, without fear of redress. In fact the advert still appears on the Yves St Laurent UK website, but with a couple of "offending" shots removed.

In another ruling this year, the ASA decided that a regional television advert for the Metrocentre on Tyneside breached the advertising code. The Gateshead shopping centre had claimed that it was "the best shopping centre in Britain". The ASA said that claim was based on a three-year-old survey, which was misleading. However a quick look at the Metrocentre's website shows that they are still claiming to be the best in the country. That is acceptable within the current rules, but should anyone complain after 1 March, the ASA would have to look at it again. "I think anyone with a website needs to have a fresh look at it, and say 'am I totally happy about that?' " said Ian Twinn of ISBA, the industry body which represents British advertisers. "Certainly if you have had a claim ruled against you by the ASA, now is a very good time to put that right before 1 March."

The ASA has spent a year preparing for the change, and is expecting a large number of extra complaints. Last year 2,500 people complained about website content, but under the old rules their objections were not admissible. "With 2,500 complaints, this does not mean they will all be upheld," said Mr Wilson. Nevertheless the ASA is expanding staff numbers by 10%, to cope with the extra workload.

[source BBC Technology]



December 2010: Britons well ahead of the pack in adopting new technology, says Ofcom
Latest Ofcom survey finds UK at or near the front in take-up of broadband, smartphones, mobile internet and digital TV


Britons are early technology adopters who have embraced smartphones more rapidly than other nations and spend more online than any other European country, according to research from Ofcom.

The communications regulator said that the UK was near or at the front of almost all the basic categories it studied, including percentage of broadband users, adoption of new TV technologies, use of social networking, smartphone and mobile internet take-up, and use of laptops rather than desktop computers to access the net.

Italy has the highest take-up of smartphones among European countries with 26 subscribers for every 100 people, followed by Spain (21) and the UK (18). However, Britain is seeing the fastest rise in consumers likely to subscribe to high-end handsets such as the iPhone, with 61% growth in the market for high-value subscribers, compared with Spain with just 4% growth.

The report also shows the extent to which online shopping has taken hold in the UK. On average, Britons made more than double the number of online purchases in the past six months (14 per person) than people in all other major European countries except Poland (19 per person). The value of online purchases was highest in the UK at £1,031 – nearly twice the amount spent by internet users in the next-placed country, France, with £595.

The study, published today, is the fifth annual report by Ofcom on the international communications market, comparing the take-up, availability and use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV and radio in 17 countries.

"Among the surprises were the extent to which UK users are embracing the mobile internet in such a big way," said James Thickett, Ofcom's director of market research. "The UK saw a huge take-up of smartphones between January 2009 and January 2010. We also tend to use laptops rather than desktops. It's being driven by younger people in the 18 to 24 age range."

The UK is ahead of the curve because it has frequently been the first international location for innovative US companies, Thickett suggests – and now it is reaping the benefits. He forecasts that in a couple of years the UK will aldso be world-leading in the adoption of the high-speed mobile internet technology "LTE" – the next step up from 3G networks.

[source Guardian Technology]



November 2010: Hylas-1 net-dedicated satellite launches

The first satellite dedicated to delivering broadband services to Europe has launched on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The Hylas spacecraft is designed to fill so-called "notspots" - remote locations such as rural villages where it is currently not possible to get a fast internet connection. Lift-off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana occurred at 1539 local time (1839 GMT). The satellite was successfully placed in orbit 34 minutes later. A signal from Hylas was picked up almost immediately at an antenna sited in India.

Controllers will now take a number of weeks to position the spacecraft properly in the sky some 36,000km above the equator, and to check out onboard systems. Hylas (Highly Adaptable Satellite) is a commercial venture operated by start-up Avanti Communications of London, but the spacecraft itself incorporates technology developed with public funding through the European Space Agency (Esa).

"It is a fairly small spacecraft but rather capable," Esa's Hylas project manager Andrea Cotellessa told BBC News. "The payload has flexibility to reallocate bandwidth and power in each of the eight spot beams that cover key market areas selected by Avanti. "Normally, satellites have this frequency plan fixed at the design stage and it can't be changed in orbit. "On Hylas, this can be done at any moment in time from the control centre. This agility is important because it will allow Avanti to keep up with market evolution."

Hylas was prepared at the Portsmouth, UK, factory of EADS Astrium, Europe's largest space company, and in Bangalore by Antrix, a commercial arm of the Indian space agency (Isro). The 2.6-tonne spacecraft will operate in the Ka radio band and deliver broadband services to some 350,000 subscribers. Future plans

The UK government put £40m into the Hylas development programme. Hylas payload (EADS Astrium) The payload for Hylas was developed through Esa's Artes telecoms research programme It has a commitment that everyone in Britain should have access to a decent net connection by 2015. That means a minimum of two megabits per second (Mbps). Some three million UK homes currently fall below this standard; and across Europe, there are many millions more who cannot currently get an adequate connection through terrestrial technology. Hylas will be offering up to 10Mbps to its users.

"Now that we've got this satellite access, we'll be able to get fast broadband for the first time [in notspots]," the British Science Minister David Willetts said. "There'll be farmers, hotels, houses in the Lake District, in Scotland and parts of Cornwall that haven't been able to get broadband before; but now this satellite will deliver it. That brings them all online and that's something the coalition government is really committed to," he told BBC News.

Avanti CEO David Williams said the company had big plans for the future. "Hylas-1 is the first of what will be many satellites," he explained. "We've already got our second satellite under construction at the moment and that launches in about 15 months' time. "That will put more capacity into the UK but also it puts new capacity into new areas in Africa and the Middle East. And then we are planning more satellites for Latin America, India and other parts of Asia."

[source BBC Technology]



September 2010: Internet must remain neutral, says Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Mobile operators and internet service providers must not be allowed to break the principle of "net neutrality" – that there should be no favouritism for connecting to certain sites online – Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, warned today. He also said that low-cost mobile phones with a data connection were essential to ensure that the 80% of people who are not yet connected to the web could benefit from its ability to bring new information. Berners-Lee suggested that concerns over privacy and the sharing of personal data will mean that businesses will have to improve their ability to segment the use of user-specific data such as addresses and where people are using their phones.

On net neutrality – which has become a major talking point in the US, especially as Google appears to have ceded the principle to some of the major mobile carriers there – Berners-Lee was adamant that it must remain a founding principle of the internet. "Most of us work at a higher level," Berners-Lee told the Nokia World conference in London's ExCel centre. "We assume that when we look up a web address and the domain name to get that page that you can get any page because that's how it's always been." But, he warned, "a lot of companies would love to limit that. If they're trying to sell you movies streamed online, they'd like to slow down your access to other people's movies, so you'd come back to them. If they sell you telephone services, they'd love to block voice-over-internet connections, or just slow it down so you decide it's not a very good technology and go and use theirs instead. They'd like to tell you where to buy your shoes by slowing down the service to one site but not another." In the US, the issue of net neutrality has been keenly argued over, with Google previously insisting it was a key principle for sites such as its video-sharing service YouTube: there had been fears that some US ISPs would seek to charge Google to make sure that service to YouTube for the ISPs' customers was fast enough.

But Google has been criticised in recent weeks because it has appeared to accede to demands by mobile phone operators to give priority to traffic from particular sites. The company denied the claims that it had made a deal with the US mobile carrier Verizon to favour some Google content – though the wording seemed to leave open the possibility that the mobile area might lack the neutrality of wired services. In the UK, the communications regulator Ofcom published a discussion paper on net neutrality in June – for which the discussion period ended on 9 September.

Berners-Lee insisted that a level playing field for all sites over all forms of transmission is essential: "If you let that go, you lose something essential – that any innovator can think of a new idea, a new data format, a new protocol, something completely novel, and set up a site at some random place and let it take off through word of mouth, and make a business, make a profit, and help humanity in a particular way and it takes off. "Sure, you have to buy a domain name, but they're pretty cheap. And once you have that you don't have to register your server with anyone central. You don't have to pay money to every mobile phone operator to make sure people can get your site. That's really important."

He added that the threat even comes from governments in some countries: "They would like to slow down information going to and from particular political sites."

Berners-Lee, who is working with the British government to open up access to data from central and local government, said the mobile phone network would be key to bringing more people on to the internet. "At the moment the world wide web reaches about 20% of the world's population. But 80% have mobile phones. Why is there that gap? That's why we've started the Web Foundation – there are plenty of organisations dedicated to getting people fresh water, and getting them vaccines. But it turns out that the web can be really instrumental in getting healthcare to people. "Not western-style healthcare, but the sort of thing that people need in developing countries. Sharing information about health, about issues like banana blight, or Aids – getting the message across about how you avoid getting Aids. Getting that information shared is something that isn't happening now. These are all people who have a mobile signal but aren't part of the information society, to tell the world about the crops they have for sale, or to go to Wikipedia and translate their favourite article into their own language, to blog. Not being part of the information society becomes really important."

[source Guardian Technology]



August 2010: Television viewing increases despite rise of internet and social media

Predictions that the internet would kill the television star appear to be premature. Just as the cinema survived the advent of home video, TV is booming despite the growth of digital media and popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Viewers watched an average of three hours and 45 minutes of television a day in 2009, 3% more than in 2004, according to research published today by the media regulator Ofcom. TV continues to take centre stage in people's evenings, boosted by the popularity of shows such as The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and Doctor Who.

Television's popularity has also been boosted by digital video recorders (DVRs), now in 37% of households – and the introduction of high definition television, now in more than 5 million UK homes.

"Television still has a central role in our lives. We are watching more TV than at any time in the last five years," said James Thickett, director of market research and market intelligence at Ofcom.

New technology offered viewers an enhanced, easy-to-use viewing experience, with 15% of all viewing time spent watching programmes recorded on to a DVR, he said.

[source Guardian Technology]



August 2010: The Many Dangers of Cloud Computing

As an emerging technology that promises great cost savings, cloud computing is gaining fans among a broad array of businesses. But do these firms really know what’s inside the opaque, puffy concept of clouding computing?

Cloud computing allows companies to outsource part (and sometimes almost all) of their computer processing. Instead of spending on in-house servers and (in the view of CIOs) the surly IT pros needed to service them, businesses simply pay an external provider. They then access their computing infrastructure over the Internet – “though the cloud,” in IT-speak.

Better still, cloud vendors tell us, cloud computing is massively scalable. The big box retailer handles a holiday rush with a quick online request for more computing capacity. The growing small business without a big data center can leverage the heavy-processing muscle of a cloud provider.

Seeing gold in them hills, big players have launched divisions to provide cloud computing. The leaders include Amazon’s EC2 and Google App Engine. In the excitement, the acronyms are multiplying. Cloud computing’s near cousin is Software as a Service (SaaS) – software delivered over the Net – and Salesforce.com touts a version of cloud computing called Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).

IT pundit Nick Carr hails cloud computing, in his book The Big Switch, as the inevitable next step in business computing. Just as we now access electricity from huge external plants, he explains, we will access computing power from sprawling external processing facilities. Messy in-house data centers are passé. The future is bright, well ordered and reasonably priced.

But Carr’s analogy falters when you look at the difference between electricity and data. There’s nothing confidential or sensitive about the wattage that flows into your business. But there’s something profoundly sensitive about the data that flows in and out of your business.

Merely whispering the phrase “Sarbanes Oxley,” with its labyrinthine compliance requirements, is enough to make some CIOs shudder at giving a cloud-based provider even partial responsibility for their document management.

Making those CIOs even more anxious is this uneasy truth: as it evolves, cloud-based service is increasingly provided by a chain of providers. So you’ve contracted with an outsourcer, who in turn contracts with a series of outsourcers, and on and on – and this global crowd of unknowns is handling your most precious corporate secrets.

It’s like the pretty girl in high school who doesn’t want to give out her phone number, except she shares it with her steady sweetheart, the football captain – who keeps his address book posted on his Facebook page.

[source Earth Web]


July 2010: Google "new approach" in its ongoing battle with China over censorship

Until recently, the firm automatically redirected Chinese users to its unfiltered search site in Hong Kong to get round censorship issues. Google has said it will now stop this after Beijing warned it could lose its licence to operate in the country.

Instead, Chinese users will be sent to a "landing page". Clicking anywhere on it sends them to the Hong Kong site. In practice, this will make little difference to Chinese internet users as searches for sensitive topics are still blocked by China's great firewall. However, Google said that the subtle change - where users have to actively click on a link to access unfiltered search results rather than being automatically redirected - was "consistent" with its approach not to self-censor search results and was hopeful it would allow it to continue operating in China. Chinese law demands that companies use web servers based in China and that they agree to censor certain sensitive information. BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said there was no guarantee the Chinese authorities would accept the new arrangement.

Google announced the changes one day before the deadline to renew its Internet Content Provider (ICP) licence, necessary to operate in the country. "Without an ICP licence, we can't operate a commercial website like Google.cn—so Google would effectively go dark in China," said David Drummond of the firm in a blog post. "That's a prospect dreaded by many of our Chinese users, who have been vocal about their desire to keep Google.cn alive." A spokesperson for the firm said Google was about to submit its new ICP application to the government and had made the changes in an effort to continue operating in the country. It has already begun to channel some Chinese web users to the new page. "Over the next few days we'll end the redirect entirely, taking all our Chinese users to our new landing page—and today we re-submitted our ICP licence renewal application based on this approach," said Mr Drummond.

Google has had a long history of run-ins with the Chinese authorities. However, these escalated in January when the search firm announced that it was considering withdrawing from China altogether following a "sophisticated" cyber attack originating from the country. The attacks targeted the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, along with the computers and infrastructure of Google and several other US firms. The firm eventually decided to stay in the country, but offer Chinese users unfiltered search results through its Hong Kong servers. The latest move was part of the firm's ambition to "make information available to users everywhere," said Mr Drummond. "This new approach is consistent with our commitment not to self censor and, we believe, with local law. We are therefore hopeful that our licence will be renewed."

China hopes that nearly half the population will have access to the internet within five years. That figure is nearly 30% at the moment. Losing business in the country could harm Google's future growth prospects. However, unlike in other markets, Google is not focused on search in China, which is currently dominated by Baidu. Instead, experts say, Google aims to develop its music and maps services in the country.

[source BBC Technology]


April 2010: Google releases tool to show government censorship requests

Google has hit out at state attempts to clamp down on the internet by revealing governments' requests to remove data from the web and get information about users.

Tonight it released a web page with a map showing country by country where it has had government requests or court orders to remove content from the YouTube video service or its search results, or to provide details about users of its services.

The release of the tool, announced on its official blog, comes as it has had to counter complaints from data protection authorities in 10 countries, including the UK, that its Street View product, which provides pictures of public streets, and its ad-hoc social networking service Buzz "were launched without due consideration of privacy and data protection laws" and that Buzz in particular "betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms".

Details provided by Google cover requests between 1 July and 31 December 2009, and show that in the UK there were 1,166 requests for data about users and 59 requests to remove web pages in Google's services such as YouTube, or from its search results for the web. It complied with 45, or 76%, of the 59 requests, of which 43 were about YouTube videos. It does not specify which government agency – such as the police or others – made the request.

Launching the new tool, Google says that "We believe that greater transparency will lead to less censorship" and links to a list which already shows that Brazil, where Google's social network Orkut is hugely popular, leads the world with 291 removal requests – with Germany, India, the US, South Korea and the UK behind it. The "censorship" numbers also include non-governmental court-ordered removal of sites or results for defamation or criminal proceedings – though the company will try to clarify that in future updates to the data, probably every six months.

However China has no listed requests – because, as the online tool explains, "Chinese officials consider censorship demands as state secrets, so we cannot disclose that information at this time." If China were included it would almost certainly be in the top spot, because its government only allowed Google to operate inside the country if it hid thousands of web pages from search results.

[source Times Technology]


March 2010: Google's pictures of UK go live

Google has launched the UK version of its Street View service, which allows users to browse a selection of pictures taken along city streets.

Street scenes in 25 UK cities from Aberdeen to Southampton can be viewed using the service.

The Netherlands version of the service also launched on Thursday, bringing the number of countries covered to nine.

The imagery available comprises video taken along 22,369 miles of UK streets by customised camera cars.

Google Maps users can zoom in to a given location and then drag the "Pegman" icon above the zoom bar on to a given street.

A picture view of that street appears, which users can control to get a 360-degree view of the area or to progress on street level, throughout the city.

Google says it has gone to great lengths to ensure privacy, suggesting that the service only shows imagery already visible from public thoroughfares. It also uses face recognition technology to blur out faces and licence plates that appear in the images.

[source BBC Technology]


March 2010: Clinic opens for children addicted to video games and the internet

Doctors claim to have opened the first dedicated clinic in Britain to treat children addicted to video games and other technology.

Capio Nightingale Hospital, a private facility in Central London, introduced the service after calls from parents concerned about their children’s use of games, the internet, or mobile phones. A spokeswoman for the hospital said the service would be offered for children as young as 12 but those aged 15 to 17 are expected to be the main target group.

Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist who is leading the new clinic, added that although other clinics provided treatment for young people as part of general addiction treatments, services needed to “adapt quickly” to specifically address problems linked to technology.

Dr Graham, who also sees NHS patients, said some parents reported that their children flew “into a rage” when they were told to turn off their computer, and police had even been called to sort out the rows. “Mental health services need to adapt quickly to the changing worlds that young people inhabit, and understand just how seriously their lives can be impaired by unregulated time online, on-screen or in-game,” he said. He called for official guidelines “on what counts as healthy or unhealthy use of technology.”

The Capio spokeswoman declined to comment on the costs of a private consultation at the Young Person Technology Addiction Service, which aims to increase off-screen social activities and improve children’s general confidence. It also encourages them to think about their relationship with their phone, computer games or social networking websites like Facebook and teaches them skills to help them to switch off.

Other experts have previously questioned whether technology addiction is a real illness, or just an over-reaction on the part of parents and gamers. Richard Wood, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University, argued in 2008 that video game addiction was a “myth”. “Some people are being mislabelled addicts by concerned parents, partners or others when they have no problems with their game-playing behaviour. Some people who are concerned about their own behaviour ... end up labelling themselves as video game addicts,” he said.

[source Times Technology]


February 2010: Google threatens China pullout after attacks on Gmail accounts of human rights activists

Google is to stop censoring search results in China and could pull out of the country altogether after hackers coordinated a sophisticated attack on the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.

The hackers only managed to access two unidentified accounts and only a limited amount of data on those accounts, Google said. But the US company has now announced that the December attack, which it said also affected 20 other corporations, 'may well mean' the closure of Google.cn and its offices in China.

The hacking into the human rights activists' accounts follows 12 months of increased online censorship by the Chinese. Among the numerous websites blocked by authorities are social networking sites hosted overseas including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Google was criticised for hosting 'vulgar' content. The search engine conglomerate did not say whether it believed the Chinese government was behind the hacker attacks.

In a post on the official Google Blog, the company said: 'These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered - combined with attempts over the past year to limit free speech on the web - have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. 'We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. 'We recognise that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.'

[source Daily Mail Science]


February 2010: Scientists hail a thoughtful future with ‘brain-to-brain communication’

Ever wanted to read minds? Ever wanted to communicate your thoughts without speaking a word?

It may become possible after claims by British scientists that they have created a system that allows “brain-to-brain communication”, sending messages formed by one person’s brain signals though an internet connection to another person’s brain many miles away.

Christopher James, who worked with colleagues at the University of Southampton, said that his experiments were “the first baby steps” towards technologies that would allow people instantly to send thoughts, words, and images directly into the minds of others.

“This could be useful for those people who are locked into their bodies, who can’t speak, can’t even blink,” Dr James said. Others have hailed it as the future of the internet, a new way to communicate without the need for keyboards, telephones or even mouths. A decent broadband connection, however, would be essential.

Dr James admitted that we were a long way away from this thoughtful but speechless future. Currently, only a series of binary digits — a sequence of zeros and ones — can be sent between brains.

The scientists used “brain-computer interfacing”, a well-established technique that allows computers to analyse brain signals. Dr James said that his innovation was the transmission of these signals to another person through the internet.

[source Times Technology]


December 2009: Microsoft software pledge opens window for smaller rivals

Buy a computer with Windows, the software that runs the overwhelming majority of the world’s personal computers, and by default you become a user of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

But, after years of wrangling about competition and consumer choice, the US group has agreed a deal with the European Commission to supply Windows users with a choice of browsers to surf the web.

In return, Brussels yesterday dropped antitrust charges against Microsoft.

From March, European users who have Internet Explorer as their default browser will receive a software update with a pop-up menu of browsers.

Neelie Kroes, the EU Competition Commissioner, said: “Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use.”

Microsoft said that it was “pleased” with the decision but added that the move would not be extended outside the EU.

European users will be able to choose from Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser.

Analysts said the change meant that smaller browsers would be exposed to a huge new market and could chip away at Internet Explorer’s dominance. Others suggested the deal could ignite a “browser war”, as rivals worked to create alternatives to Internet Explorer.

[source Times Technology]


December 2009: Data deluge will reboot our brains

The speed of modern life is 2.3 words per second, or about 100,000 words a day. That is the verbiage bombarding the average person in the 12 hours they are typically awake and "consuming" information, according to a new study.

Through emails, texting, internet surfing, reading and other media, our brains are being deluged with increasing quantities of information. Although we may not actively read 100,000 words a day, that is the approximate number reaching our eyes and ears. Add images, such as videos and computer games, and we are faced with the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information each day — enough to overload the typical laptop inside a week.

The study, How Much Information?, by the University of California, San Diego, estimates the total amount of words "consumed" in the United States has more than doubled from 4,500 trillion in 1980 to 10,845 trillion in 2008. Those estimates do not include people simply talking to one another.

Total information consumption from televisions, computers and other media was estimated at 3.6 zettabytes (3.6m million gigabytes) in 2008.

The scale of data and explosion of sources is changing the way we behave and think, say experts. It may even be changing the structure of our brains.

Roger Bohn, co-author of the study, said: "I think one thing is clear: our attention is being chopped into shorter intervals and that is probably not good for thinking deeper thoughts."

Edward Hallowell, a New York psychiatrist and author specialising in attention deficit disorder, said: "Never before in human history have our brains had to process as much information as they do today. We have a generation of people who I call computer suckers because they are spending so much time in front of a computer screen or on their mobile phone or BlackBerry.

"They are so busy processing information from all directions they are losing the tendency to think and to feel. [And] much of what they are exposed to is superficial. People are sacrificing depth and feeling and becoming cut off and disconnected from other people."

If the information load continues to increase, some scientists believe it will spur evolution of the brain.

[source Times Technology]


November 2009: Google opens new chapter as millions of books go into its online library

Controversial plans by Google to digitise millions of out-of-print books to create the world’s biggest online library have been approved by British publishing groups and authors.

The landmark deal between Google and authors’ associations in America is a watered-down version of the original plans. The new deal will still enable tens of thousands of British writers to profit, as readers can search millions of works, read extracts online and buy full copies.

Works from the US, Britain, Canada and Australia will be used, but under the proposals about 95 per cent of non-US books from the original deal will not be covered. Although the service will be available only in the US, Google said that it would expand to other countries including Britain. The company said that it had already copied ten million books, seven million of which were out of print. It could not say which ones yet because of legal reasons.

[source Times Technology]


November 2009: Intel debuts text reading device

Chip giant Intel has shown-off a device designed to give vision-impaired and dyslexic people access to printed text.

The device, known as the Reader, captures text and then reads it aloud and displays it on its built-in screen.

The development is unusual because so-called "assistive technologies" are normally manufactured by specialist companies rather than global giants.

The Reader is the size of a paperback book and uses a high-resolution camera and Intel's Atom processor.

The 600g (1.3lb) device was developed by Intel access technology director, Ben Foss, who is dyslexic himself.

"As someone who is part of the dyslexic community, I am thrilled to be able to help level the playing field for people who, like me, do not have easy access to the printed word," he said.

'Tactile scanner'

The Reader is being launched in the UK on 17 November at an event in London, after being unveiled in the US last week.

It is expected to sell for around £1,000.

Intel estimates that this technology could benefit as many as eight million people in the UK - if the six million people with dyslexia and other learning difficulties and the two million people with impaired vision are added together.

"The Intel Reader is a tool that can help give people with dyslexia, low-vision and blindness - or other reading-based disabilities - access to the resources they need to be successful in school, work and life," according to Mr Foss.

[source BBC Technology]


October 2009: Google says economy is on the mend

Google said yesterday that the worst of the recession is now over as it reported a rise in quarterly profits and sales ahead of analysts’ expectations.

The internet search group said that net income in the third quarter was $1.64 billion, or $5.13 a share, up 27 per cent from $1.29 billion, or $4.06 a share, a year earlier. Sales for the three months to September rose 7 per cent to $5.94 billion, suggesting that the demand for online advertising is growing as the economy shows signs of recovery.

Eric Schmidt, the company’s chief, said: "While there is a lot of uncertainty about the pace of economic recovery, we believe the worst of the recession is behind us and now feel confident about investing heavily in our future."

Google, considered a barometer for internet commerce because its search engine is the hub of the web’s largest advertising network, said that the number of paid clicks, including clicks on advertisements on Google and partner sites, rose 4 per cent from the previous quarter and 14 per cent from the same period last year.

The average amount per click paid to Google also rose about 5 per cent from last quarter, although it was down about 6 per cent from the same period a year ago.

Revenues from outside the United States came to $3.14 billion, representing 53 per cent of total revenues in the third quarter, the same proportion as the second quarter.

Mr Schmidt said that the company would continue to invest in its core business and in innovation. It wanted to get to "the perfect search engine" and advertisers would like to spend more with Google if the company’s product allows them to do that, he suggested.

He added that the group was "open for business in making strategic acquisitions, both large and small".

Earlier in the day, Google said that it would next year launch a new online service for booksellers called Google Editions, which will let readers buy books and read them on gadgets ranging from cell phones to possibly e-book devices.

Shares in Google rose by $7.76, or 1.5 per cent, to $537.67 in extended trading, closing at $529.91 on the Nasdaq stock market. The shares have climbed 72 per cent this year.

[source Times Technology]


October 2009: Scientists hail a thoughtful future with ‘brain-to-brain communication’

Ever wanted to read minds? Ever wanted to communicate your thoughts without speaking a word?

It may become possible after claims by British scientists that they have created a system that allows "brain-to-brain communication", sending messages formed by one person’s brain signals though an internet connection to another person’s brain many miles away.

Christopher James, who worked with colleagues at the University of Southampton, said that his experiments were "the first baby steps" towards technologies that would allow people instantly to send thoughts, words, and images directly into the minds of others.

"This could be useful for those people who are locked into their bodies, who can’t speak, can’t even blink," Dr James said.

Others have hailed it as the future of the internet, a new way to communicate without the need for keyboards, telephones or even mouths. A decent broadband connection, however, would be essential.

Dr James admitted that we were a long way away from this thoughtful but speechless future. Currently, only a series of binary digits — a sequence of zeros and ones — can be sent between brains.

The scientists used "brain-computer interfacing", a well-established technique that allows computers to analyse brain signals. Dr James said that his innovation was the transmission of these signals to another person through the internet.

During the transmission two people are hooked up to electrodes that measure activity in specific parts of the brain. The first person generates a series of zeros and ones, imagining moving their left arm for zero and right arm for one.

The first subject’s computer recognises the binary thoughts and sends them over the internet to the second person’s computer. A lamp is then flashed at two different frequencies for one and zero. The second person’s brain signals are analysed after staring at this lamp and the number sequence is picked up by a computer.

It takes about 30 seconds to send four numbers in this way. Dr James said that the next stage was to make the system quicker and simpler.

"It’s not telepathy," Dr James said. "There’s no conscious thought forming in one person’s head and another conscious thought appearing in another person’s mind.

"The next experiments are to get that second person to be aware of the information that is being sent to them. For that, I need to get my thinking cap on, so to speak."

He said that his research proved that it would eventually be possible to create a system where people sent messages through their thoughts alone. It would probably require electrodes to be attached inside the skull or even implanted in the brain. Dr James admitted that this opened up many ethical problems.

"How far can you go into someone’s brain? What are the long-term consequences? In principle this is all possible but there are a lot of issues that need to be considered first."

Experts said that we need not worry just yet. "In 30 years, you’ll think of a message and it will appear on your wife’s mobile phone," said Dr Ian Pearson, a futurologist who follows trends in advanced computing and communications. "But for that thought to appear in someone else’s mind? That won’t be easy.

"You don’t have to worry about Big Brother recording your thoughts for decades yet."

[source Times Technology]


August 2009: Search for answers to Google's power leaves UK internet firm baffled

A British husband and wife team have been waging a three-year battle to get their price comparison website recognised by Google in a saga that sheds new light on the power of the world's largest search engine Their website directs shoppers to online deals for goods such as TVs or flights, but has struggled since one day and it suddenly disappeared from Google search results.

There is no evidence that Google is in any way being dishonest or unfair in the way that it ranks such websites, but this has highlighted the ever-growing influence of its mysterious search algorithms.

Many consumers believe Google's search engine works on a formula that was created by founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and that was that: they set it running and the rest is history. In fact, as those in the internet industry know, Google carries out regular "tweaks" of its algorithm. About 450 a year in fact. When they are made, the sheer scale of Google – it has an estimated 90% market share in Britain – means these can have huge and often unintended consequences.

For a start-up company, getting into Google's results is a question of survival. "A typical website in the UK receives around two in every five visits from search engines and obviously, the vast majority of those come via Google," according to Robin Goad, research director at Hitwise UK. It is definitely true that if you fall foul of the rules it can have a massive impact on your business."

Exactly what those rules are is far from clear because Google does not want to give too much information away in order to avoid web developers "gaming" the system and promoting sites that are not, in fact, relevant to users. Google search rankings are only ever driven by a desire to make results useful. "We can't comment on individual cases," said a spokesman. "But our systems are designed to produce the most relevant and useful results for the people who use Google search. "Where sites are adding little value or original content, they are likely to fall in our ranking. Surveys of our users show that what they most dislike when they search is to receive multiple results from sites showing the same or very similar content."

To become more well known and achieve a higher position on Google, as more people link to you, of course, takes advertising, but again the might of Google dominates the online advertising market in the UK.

[source Guardian Technology]


August 2009: Hi-tech takes to the stage.

If legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns can be inspired to write "love is like a red, red rose" from the world around him, from where do modern writers draw their inspiration?

It would seem from this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival that the internet is as attractive as Burns' flower or Shakespeare's dark lady. For many modern artists the muse lurks online, in the web of social networks, instant messages and distant friends.

This should not come as a great surprise. There is more emotional activity happening online every day, from relationships and marriage proposals, to storytelling, describing the world and capturing moments with sounds, pictures, video and text.

Far from turning us into a nation of reclusive typists, the internet is proving to be a rich catalyst of emotive experiences and settings for playwrights to explore the age old worries of life, love, tragedy and humanity. One of those playwrights is Lee Freeman. His first professional musical is "Chat! The Internet Musical" playing at George Square Theatre. "Using online technology gave me a reason to write a more modern, contemporary piece, which is much more compelling to the audience"

With over 2000 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, is the use of the internet a gimmick just to get bums on seats? "When you first start writing you can't escape that it is a bit of a gimmick," said Mr Freeman. "But once people are in the theatre, watching the show, the chatroom environment allows the characters and the story to develop in front of them. The challenge is in making something that is so unreal into something that is real on stage."

While Chat! looks at characters creating alter-egos of themselves and hiding their online activities from each other, Chatroom, from Exeter University looks at the darker and more manipulative side of the internet. A group of teenage characters gather online, ostensibly to chat, but as the story progresses one of the group brings up thoughts of committing suicide and the rest of the group are either trying to support him, or goading him into doing it. The staging of the online action, with the actors looking out at the audience during the chat scenes means they never make eye contact with others on stage.

"It made me much more self conscious" said lead actor Nic McQuillan. "More aware of your personal space, your hands and how it is seen by the audience. "And for the audience it changes how you perceive the characters," he said. "It makes you more aware when eye contact is made, when characters interact in the physical world."

[source BBC Technology]


August 2008: More people get news from web than TV or print

The web is now a more important source of news for most Americans than either newspapers or free-to-air television. Only just over a quarter of Americans - 27 per cent - picked up a newspaper on any given day, whereas well over a third - 37 per cent - regularly go online for news, according to a report.

[source Times Technology]


August 2008: Computer virus infects orbiting space station

As far as space monsters go it is less menacing than Daleks or Klingons, but an unwanted intruder has made its way aboard the international space station. Gammima.AG, a malicious password-swiping computer virus, has broken new frontiers, by infecting two laptops on the ISS orbiting 215 miles above Earth. The virus was first detected on Earth in August 2007 infecting machines to steal login names for popular online games. Nasa officials have begun an investigation into how the virus made it aboard the ISS, but it is thought it might have been inadvertently carried into space on an astronaut's USB drive. Reports suggested that once on board the station, the memory device was plugged into the computers, infecting them both. Computers on the ISS are not directly connected to the internet but they have access to a satellite data link. They are not part of the space station's "command and control" network, Nasa said. It is understood astronauts were using the laptops to compose email and store information on nutritional experiments. Once it has scooped up passwords and login names Gammima.AG tries to send them back to a central server. It targets a total of 10 online games most of which are popular in the Far East. Nasa, who described the virus as a "nuisance" is now working with its international partners on the space station, including Russians, to find out how it got on board. Nasa spokesman Kelly Humphries said: "It's not a frequent occurrence, but this isn't the first time."

[source Guardian Technology]


September 2008: Secrets of the hidden universe: first hurdle cleared in hunt for dark matter

Never before has such attention been focused on the click of a mouse. Yesterday, the click in question started up the biggest, most complicated machine in the world, the $10bn Large Hadron Collider, which was put through its paces for the first time at Cern, the European nuclear research organisation in Geneva.

The man with his finger on the button was Lyn Evans, a Welsh engineer who has devoted 14 years of his life to the machine. The moment came at 8.32am UK time and was broadcast around the world, and via videolink to more than 300 journalists who had descended on the laboratory to witness the event.

The LHC lies 100 metres beneath fields and farmland, where it occupies a 17-mile (27km) circular tunnel carved through rock and sandstone.

When it is working at full speed, it will be the most powerful particle collider on the planet. Inside, it will crash subatomic particles together with enough energy to re-create the intense conditions that existed one trillionth of a second after the big bang.



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designers for the web Hampshire We will never try to sell our services to you - we're programmers, not sales people. We'll listen to your requirements; we'll explain what we could do for you... and then we'll leave you alone. You won't receive any follow up sales calls and there will be absolutely no pressure to have a site with us. You need to be enthusiastic & let us know if you'd like us to design your business website.

At Webgloss we're eco-friendly and try to operate entirely over the Internet and the phone, saving on paper and ensuring the minimum use of petrol. We'd have to put our fees up if we sat round a boardroom table with our clients. So, if you feel that it is essential to meet your designer face-to-face to discuss your requirements, then this low cost web design firm is not for you.

We restrict all new sites to 5 main content pages as we don't charge for the design. You'll be able to add more pages at a later stage but if you're looking for a very large site straight away then you may need a different web design company.

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designers for the web Hampshire
designers for the web Hampshire We're professional, trustworthy, easy to talk to and have been designing websites for over 10 years. We offer a genuine, Google optimised 5 main content page website for £22 a month. In addition you will need a domain name which is charged at £20.

We display all our charges on our website - they are never hidden. You're not tied in to a contract - if you want to leave then your final payment is due in the month that you leave Webgloss (plus a £10 domain transfer fee if you want your domain name transferred to a new server). We do not 'portion' monthly payments - a full month's payment is due when you join and a full month's payment is due for the month that you leave. We do not charge any design fees but if you leave us you cannot take the design with you. You are in control of your monthly payments and we will never ask for your banking details. Your monthly package fee includes hosting and minor textual updates once every 2 months but not renewals of your domain name. These are normally £20 once every 2 years (for a co.uk domain).

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designers for the web Hampshire
designers for the web Hampshire Think about the content for your website, It should describe your business, give details of all your services and explain why people should contact you rather than your competitors. Decide on the topic names for the 5 web pages that are included in our packages.

Then, if you think that you may like Webgloss to design a draft for you, with absolutely no obligation, please just email us or fill in our online form.

If you do decide that you'd like us to design a draft web layout for you then we will ask that you email us sufficient information for just a single page draft design. This may then be viewed in around 10 working days with no obligation and should enable you to decide whether you would like Webgloss Web Design to create your full website for you. There is no charge for a draft design.

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