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July, 2013

Ubuntu Edge: the begging bowl’s not big enough

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Ubuntu Phone lock screen

There’s a worrying whiff of desperation surrounding Ubuntu’s attempts to expand beyond the PC. Ubuntu TV was unveiled 18 months ago and has yet to see a single taker, and now it appears Canonical has been forced to put out the begging bowl to get the Ubuntu Edge smartphone off the drawing board. Even that looks as though it could fall a long way short of its lofty $32 million target.

Canonical’s decision to crowdfund the Ubuntu Edge is plainly a last throw of the dice. At the launch of Ubuntu Phone in January, the company said it was in negotiations with potential hardware partners, but made no mention of attempting to drum up the funds itself. One can only conclude that Canonical failed to convince a sizeable phone manufacturer to take a risk on the OS, and decided to go it alone.

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Nokia Lumia 625 review: first look

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Nokia 625 -002Nokia today launched its biggest screened smartphone yet, the Nokia Lumia 625, but this is oddly no flagship device. Instead, the Lumia 625 sits between the budget, compact Lumia 620 and the mid-range Lumia 720.

That means the price is set to be very reasonable indeed – around £200 exc VAT on prepay according to Nokia, and probably around £20 per month on contract — yet both in look and feel this phone punches well above its weight.

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The hypocrisy of Cameron’s war on porn

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Family computer

The great war against internet filth has begun. The Prime Minister has issued two straight ultimatums to the internet industry: eradicate all child abuse images from the internet and prevent children from accessing “legal pornography”, or else he’ll introduce laws forcing them to do so.

The Prime Minister laid out his case in an interview with Andrew Marr. “It is possible today to get absolutely vile images of child abuse that are illegal on the internet, and we need to do much, much more to stop it… Some people are putting simply appalling terms into the internet in order to find illegal images of child abuse, and remember every one of these pictures is a crime scene, and they’re getting results. I think it’s wrong that they should get results and we need to have very, very strong conversations with those companies… and if we don’t get what we need, we’ll have to look at legislation.”

Strong stuff…. and utterly misguided. Firstly, it’s a bit rich for a government that last year cut the budget of the police body (CEOP) that investigates online child abuse to point the finger of blame at Google et al for failing to tackle the problem. Especially when it’s that industry that’s funded the Internet Watch Foundation since its formation in 1996, a body that has – according to its About Us page – “virtually eradicated [illegal child abuse images] from UK networks”.
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Windows 8 on an Android tablet. Wait, what?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Pipo tablet

Novatech is currently working with Chinese manufacturers to find a white-label Windows 8 tablet it can sell under its own brand. It hasn’t been an easy task, and as yet the British PC maker hasn’t found one it’s happy to put it’s name to.

Novatech has tested dozens of white-label tablets so far, few meeting the grade for build quality or features, but the one on tester Steve Kerrin’s table when I visited the company’s factory was certainly intriguing: an Android tablet running Windows 8.

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What exactly is the point of Surface RT?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Surface RT

The ongoing story of Windows 8, and in particular the Microsoft Surface hardware, keeps rumbling onwards. Hot on the heels of news that Microsoft was holding a Surface RT firesale for developers, and setting a “get one in a packet of breakfast cereal” price for academic institutions, comes the news that Microsoft has a warehouses full of unsold stock that has an unpleasant tendency to depreciate. And your auditors have an unhelpful requirement that things are valued correctly.

So the news that there is a near billion dollar writedown on the value of the Surface RT stockpile held by Microsoft comes as no great surprise, although the scale and size of the loss is substantial. Some are claiming it points to Microsoft having ordered some six million units of the thing, which, although somewhat higher than I would have expected, might turn out to be about right.

One has to ask what would motivate an organisation such as Microsoft to display such strong belief in a product that has real hard costs associated with it? After all, getting the production rate for something like Windows is not an issue — its licenses, bits of paper, and a few DVDs. Building laptops is a different kettle of fish.

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How BDUK bungled Britain’s next-gen broadband rollout

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Cables infrastructure 3d background

I’ve just witnessed one of the most brilliant performances I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t a footballer scoring the perfect hat-trick or an actor delivering a memorable theatrical showpiece – it was a man talking about broadband.

The maestro in question is Nicholas James, chief executive of UK Broadband, a company that wanted to spend £150 million on improving Britain’s fibre network, but couldn’t. Yesterday, he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, and in only ten minutes destroyed the credibility of the government body – Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – that’s spending almost half a billion pounds of public money on next-generation access.

He appears right at the start of this video, but below is an edited explanation of the reasons why the BDUK bidding process has failed to deliver a competitive nationwide fibre network, and has instead left the country at the mercy of BT.

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New hardware: the hidden cost of cloud computing

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Coin stacksOne reason why PCs sales continue to slide year-on-year is that software no longer blackmails us into upgrading our hardware. The system requirements for Windows haven’t been upgraded since the launch of Vista; my five-year-old home laptop is just about capable of running anything I ask of it. Why bother upgrading when there are plenty of other ways to squander what’s left of my disposable income?

That’s not always been the case, of course. When I first rocked up at PC Pro in 1998, barely a week passed without some piece of software pushing the boundaries of what was possible on then-current hardware. Whether it was a new version of Windows, the latest Office suite, or – as was most often the case – the latest games, there was always some justification for an expensive upgrade. Intel and Microsoft even used to publish an annual recommended spec for the next year’s PCs, to give upgraders a target to aim for. (more…)

Want to force ISPs to censor porn? Pass a law

Monday, July 15th, 2013

webblocking

As I write this, representatives from ISPs are meeting with the government for further talks on parental controls.

Thanks to a leaked letter, we’re aware of the demands government officials are making:

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Business Reimagined: a book about business and technology that’s worth reading

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Business ReimaginedThere’s a telling scene at the end of Business Reimagined, when its author Dave Coplin describes playing with the Xbox Kinect for the first time. After an hour of shouting commands such as “Xbox play the DVD”, his seven-year-old son loses interest and wanders into the kitchen. “Microwave – make my tea,” comes the command, soon to be followed by the cry: “Dad, the microwave’s bust.”

The innocence of youth, yes, but it’s also a sign of how inoculated we become as adults to different ways of working. Children expect things to work in a natural way, we expect things to work as they always have. Except Coplin is trying to break us free from our traditional office manacles, ranging from the buildings we stream to each day to the whole way management is structured. (more…)

Forget the Saturday boy, here comes the robot shelf-stacker

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Shoe shopping

You know those automated checkout machines in Tesco and Sainsbury’s — the ones that nag you in a robotic voice to “please place item in the bagging area”? If you hate those machines, you’re going to hate shopping in the future even more than you do now, because stores are getting automated.

That doesn’t mean retail staff across the nation need worry for their jobs — we’ll always need someone to scowl at us when we come in the door — but technology is increasingly being used to help us spend more, from intelligent vending machines and robotic shelf stackers, to massive touchscreen promotional tools and smell-based marketing.

Retailers hope such technologies will help draw shopping back from the web to the high street, as does Intel — all of these systems run of a Core chip of some sort and make use of the company’s remote management and analytics software. It showed off the latest innovations in retail tech and what’s to come next at The Future of Retail show at Central Saint Martin’s College in London.

(more…)

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