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January, 2011

Why Kindle eBooks are outselling paper on Amazon

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Kindle

Amazon has very excitedly shared a couple of stunning stats with the world. First, sales of eBooks overtook new paperbacks for the first time, after doing the same for hardcover books last year. Second, it rang up a whopping $13 billion in sales.

I find this fascinating, as my own book buying has mirrored this very trend, with eBooks overtaking paper titles of any kind since I bought a Kindle in November.

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Posted in: Random

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Android App of the Week: Alarm Clock Xtreme

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Alarm Clock Xtreme Our latest Android App of the Week selection comes from laptops editor Sasha Muller, who recommended Alarm Clock Xtreme as a sure-fire way to wake up alert every single day.

“It wakes you up with maths!” he proclaimed, before reeling off a list of features that puts Android’s stock alarm app to shame.

As sales pitches go, the promise of early morning mathematics isn’t the finest I’ve heard, but I reckon he might be on to something: while maths isn’t the most palatable way to start the day, it does seem to make me more alert than my previous alarm, which needed just a single tap to be beaten into submission.

The mathematical teasers pop up on to your home screen at the time your alarm’s been set, and Alarm Clock Xtreme offers five levels of difficulty, from easiest (sample question: 14 x 3) to hardest (39 x 33 – 1205). (more…)

Right royal shambles of a booking system

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Royal_Opera_House_and_ballerinaWhen will organisations realise that a website is more than window dressing and needs to be treated as seriously as everything else in the operation?

Take the Royal Opera House, for example. Famed around the world as a centre of cultural excellence, it takes longer to use its website booking system to buy tickets than it took Wagner to write his Ring Cycle.

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Broadband speed con – it’s all our fault

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Speed blurDear readers of PC Pro, we owe you an apology. For many a year now we’ve been banging on about the fantasy “up to” speeds advertised by Britain’s broadband providers, and all along you didn’t really give a monkeys.

Despite buying broadband-themed issues of the magazine in record numbers, and filling our comments sections with gripes about your pitiful connection speeds, you never really cared that the “up to 24Mbits/sec” line you were sold was denying you access to publicly funded services such as the iPlayer or ruining your business, did you?

At least that’s what our spine-free advertising watchdogs are claiming. The consultation document released by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) shows remarkable disdain for the broadband public; a grudging irritation that they’ve been forced to even consider this issue after years of outright advertising abuse by Britain’s ISPs.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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BusinessLink to close: where to turn for business advice?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

The Government announced earlier this year that BusinessLink’s regional network is to close in November 2011. This means that the business advice service it provided through paid consultants will disappear, to be replaced with a much larger number of unpaid mentors provided through existing agencies and organisations.

The website (which costs a reported £35m per year to operate) is to be turned into an online “business startup hub”. Typically of our beloved Government bureaucrats, what they think it’s important for a budding entrepreneur to know is how to stay on the right side of their own regulations and how to register their company. However, without a viable business idea, the wherewithal to get it up and running and the marketing expertise to keep it alive, regulation and information filing are irrelevant.

My experience of BusinessLink has been poor. For someone setting up and running microbusinesses employing only one or two people, the vast majority of information on the current site is useless to me, or, if I were less experienced, intimidating. It’s worth bearing in mind that there are more microbusinesses than any other sort and today’s tiny firm might be tomorrow’s SME. The business advice from the paid consultants was, in my experience, traditional and academic rather than reflecting real business practice – it was as if it had been lifted from an MBA programme.

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Why you should always pay your web developer

Monday, January 24th, 2011

UtilityBidder

(Click to enlarge the photo)

It seems price-comparison site UtilityBidder is finding out the hard way what happens when you brass off the person who looks after your website.

Over the weekend, the site bore a message claiming that the disgruntled web developer hadn’t been paid and had thus decided to change the passwords. Today, his message is a little more subtle.

(Thanks to F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen and Jack Schofield for the Twitter tip-0ff).

PhotoZoom Pro: perfect image resizing?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

blog photozoom

Ultimately the fundamental difference between vector and bitmap graphics is that the resolution, and so final quality, of the bitmap image is fixed. Scale a resolution-independent vector image up to the size of a football pitch and it will stay as pin-sharp and perfect as the original; scale a photo and it won’t.

This difference might seem intrinsic and unavoidable, but there are a number of software applications that promise to bridge the gap and maintain sharpness while letting you resize your images up to a massive 1 million x 1 million pixels. So do they deliver, or are they selling snake oil? (more…)

How to physically secure your business hardware

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Laptop padlockThere seems to be something of a misconception, at the smaller end of the business scale at least, that data security is somehow a terribly complex thing that is also expensive to achieve properly. This myth is no doubt massaged just a little bit by small business consultants with one eye on the invoice.

The truth of the matter is somewhat different, of course, and basic data security is neither difficult nor expensive to achieve. All it takes is a little bit of technical know-how and an awful lot of common sense.

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Why the HTML5 logo from the W3C only adds to the confusion

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

HTML5 Logo

Yesterday the W3C decided to release a logo for HTML5. Nothing wrong with that you might say, and I would agree with you. They have created a badge builder which allows you to specify which specific parts of HTML5 your website uses and enable users to see at a glance (provided they’re familiar with the icons of course) what you have used when building your site.

Great. Splendid.

The W3C has always provided icons in the past to place on your website to indicate validation for the various versions of HTML, XHTML, CSS and others. And although this particular logo doesn’t indicate validity, it is in fact an improvement on it.

But. There’s a problem.

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Posted in: Rant

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The real cost of Martha Lane Fox’s £98 PCs

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Power linesIt seems that the current strategy for getting the country 100% online includes disabled employment charity Remploy, digital guru Martha Lane Fox, and nine million old computers, which can be pumped out at 98 quid a box to those unable to buy a machine for themselves.

I’m almost totally conflicted by this news. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of the idea that work for those with disabilities should never look or feel like make-work, and I’m an even bigger fan of the concept of recycling PCs, the closer to home the better.

You can see the “but” staggering into view, even though I’m striving for a tone of polite respect, can’t you?

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