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Why every PC buyer owes Richard Durkin a debt of gratitude

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

PC World

You’ve probably never heard of Richard Durkin, and until this morning, neither had I. I first heard his name in a report on this morning’s Today show on Radio 4, which claimed he’d been fighting a legal battle over a laptop he’d returned to PC World because it didn’t contain the promised internal modem.

Typical Today, I thought to myself. Getting its technology wonky again. Laptops haven’t come with internal modems for years. As I listened on, it turned out the reporter was absolutely right. The legal battle has been going on for 16 years. And today, Durkin finally won a victory that means a great deal to anyone buying expensive equipment, such as a PC, on credit agreements.

When Durkin bought that £1,500 laptop from PC World back in 1998, he paid just £50 up front, with the remaining balance going on one of those credit agreements the big stores foist on to customers, in this case with HFC (now owned by HSBC).

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Cut out the broadband jargon? What jargon?

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Hands on head

Consumer watchdog Which? has got on its high horse, telling broadband companies to “cut out the jargon” and “give consumers information they understand” when fixing problems with their connections.

Frankly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Our fearless lion of a telecoms regulator, Ofcom, cracked this problem back in 2010, when it introduced its Broadband Speeds Code of Practice, making it as plain as day what broadband companies should tell their customers when they ring up to complain about their broadband speeds.

To make it easier for the nannying, simpletons at Which? I’ve pulled out the relevant paragraphs on how ISPs should deal with speed complaints:

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It’s time to fine networks for prolonged outages

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Coins and notes

We’re told that broadband has become the fourth utility, after water, electricity and gas. So why do big companies get away with depriving us of it so frequently?

Last night, EE’s mobile network went down for a period of anywhere up to ten hours, according to some of the comments from customers I’ve seen this morning, yet there’s no suggestion of EE being punished for failing to maintain a network that around 40% of the country relies upon.

Indeed, EE’s Twitter account treated the outage as something of a joke.

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Getty joins the race to the bottom

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Last week, PC Pro would have had to pay Getty £90 to use the photo above on our website for a period of up to two years. Now it’s free.

Getty announced yesterday that it was making 35 million of its images free to embed on websites for what it very loosely describes as “non-commercial use”. That, apparently, not only includes the hordes of bloggers out there, but also (according to this interview in the British Journal of Photography), any “editorial websites, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed”. I, for one, didn’t realise The New York Times was a non-profit organisation, or that Buzzfeed’s ceaseless Ten Ways You’re Going To Give Us More Traffic articles were for charity, but there you go.

However, my bigger concern – as someone who now earns part of his living from photography – is the way in which one of the world’s biggest agencies has completely devalued professional photography.

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Meet the next CEO of Microsoft: Bill Gates

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Gates blur

There are not many people who step down from a major role to spend more time with a company. But then Bill Gates is, or was, no ordinary company chairman.

Many commentators claim that by resigning as chairman, Gates has given the new CEO, Satya Nadella, more room to breathe. I’m not buying that. If Gates truly wanted to give Nadella the space to reorganise Microsoft free from interference, he could have taken a non-executive role on the board and gone to spend more time with his charity.

Instead, I suspect Gates is positioning himself for a Jobs-like second coming.

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Splunk and the Squeaky Dolphin: when Big Data goes rogue

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

squeakydolphin

Poor Splunk.

The oddly named firm’s products analyse “Big Data”. As it claims on its website: “by monitoring and analysing everything from customer clickstreams and transactions to network activity and call records—and more—Splunk turns machine data into valuable insights no matter what business you’re in.” Even if that business is snooping.

It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s found a place in the biggest Big Data haul: GCHQ apparently uses its data-sentiment analysis software to figure out what people are thinking online. (Indeed, Splunk advertises on its site that the US Department of Defense and Homeland Security use its products, so it really should come as no surprise.)

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Stone Classmate 3 review: first look at the Intel-designed hybrid

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

IMG_1735Intel recently updated the reference designs for its Classmate PC series — small, tough laptops designed for students.

British PC maker Stone was one of the first to show off hardware based on the updated designs with the Classmate 3 – a “semi-rugged” 10in hybrid device that runs Intel’s Bay Trail T processor and Windows 8.1 Pro. Since it’s aimed at students, Stone debuted the new laptop at educational technology show BETT, where we took a look at the device.

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Why is BT shovelling more money into inner-city fibre?

Friday, January 24th, 2014

BT engineer duct

How about this for a coincidence? Just moments after I appeared on Radio 4’s You and Yours, reiterating my long-running complaint about being left on the fringes of BT’s fibre rollout, a BT press release lands in my inbox trumpeting how the company plans to spend an extra £50 million extending its fibre network. I had no idea I was that influential.

It turns out that I’m not. Because none of that £50 million will be spent in my area, nor any town or village that has yet to see a shiny new fibre cabinet arrive at the end of the street. BT’s ploughing another £50 million into cities: areas that BT’s own press release concedes “already have access to ultra-fast speeds”.

Head, meet desk.

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Sorry, Stan Collymore, you can’t beat Twitter racists with an algorithm

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Collymore BBC report

Twitter is, once again, taking a mauling in the mainstream media for failing to tackle abuse. I’ve just watched ex-footballer Stan Collymore on the BBC Breakfast sofa, describing how he received racist abuse and death threats for daring to suggest a Liverpool player dived for a penalty. Earlier this week, Olympic medallist Beth Tweddle took some appalling, misogynistic abuse in a live Twitter Q&A about women in sport. Twitter’s ability to amplify the opinions of the dregs of our society remains undiminished.

Twitter, Collymore and others argue, is not doing enough to tackle the abusers. I wholeheartedly agree. What I don’t agree with is Collymore’s assertion that tackling racist comments is a simple matter of tapping out a few lines of code:

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Do parents understand web filters? Research says most do, actually

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Good parenting“Parents are unaware of internet filters,” according to the headline on a government press release that’s landed in my inbox.

This claim is (apparently) based on an Ofcom report, which certainly makes for interesting reading, but which doesn’t entirely back up that headline. The disconnect is clear from the first sentence from the DCMS release:

Around one in eight parents that do not have family friendly internet controls did not know they existed or did not know how to install them, says a new report.

Let’s unpick that, since the headline will clearly be parroted in news stories elsewhere.

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