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Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

SamsungTrader

What will the office of the future look like? Samsung has tried to answer that with a recent event showcasing the future of work – and it would appear that next-gen offices will be heavy on Samsung tablets and panel displays.

The first bit of tech on display was pre-event: before I entered the main showcase, a Samsung staffer excitedly asked for the NFC-enabled name tag I’d just been handed. She swiped it on a small device, waited a minute, and swiped again. Then she fiddled with the printer next to her, and swiped the card again, and 30 seconds later a coat-check tag printed out.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Meet the robots helping teach children

Friday, June 20th, 2014

There are some invitations you don’t turn down, and for me, a room full of robots is on that list. Earlier this week, at a Humanising the Robot Society seminar, I got a sneak-peak at prototypes of robots that could shape our society in the near future. Here’s my pick of three of the most intriguing creations being used to help children learn and get around – although the last one isn’t very “human” looking, despite the name of the group putting on the seminar.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Random

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PaperLater: would you pay to print the internet?

Monday, June 16th, 2014

PaperLater cover

The internet is amazing: it’s home to nasty trolls, silly cat photos, and the MailOnline, but it’s so stuffed full of wonderful things that it’s impossible to read it all.

There are — of course — apps to help. By letting me quickly save stories to read later, Pocket has changed my life (and I’m not prone to exaggeration). Install the bookmark in your browser and connect the app to Twitter, and with a quick click you can save the stories behind interesting links to your phone to read offline later, such as when commuting or bored waiting for someone.

Now, PaperLater has taken this a step further. Your saved stories are printed on actual newsprint, which is delivered to your door like your own personal newspaper. It’s printing the internet.

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Posted in: Just in, Newsdesk

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Amazon vs Kobo: how much to make the ebook switch?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

kindlewithbooks

Amazon has been locked in an epic battle with publishers for control of ebook prices for years now, and the fight has lately taken a nasty turn. Among other things, the retail giant has recently banned pre-orders of Hachette titles, including JK Rowling’s next mystery novel, and today it appears that it’s done the same to Warner Bros movies, refusing to take pre-orders of The Lego Movie.

This is obviously irritating for publishers — and authors, as Stephen Colbert’s amusingly rage-filled reaction highlights — and it has implications for readers too. I expound my thoughts on this in next month’s PC Pro (I’m sure you can’t wait), but the fact that I’m considering switching to a different ebook seller probably gives away the punchline.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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Your right to a private life extends to your email

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Man at screen

This may cost me some friends and a place on Germaine Greer’s Christmas Card list, but I have some sympathy for Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive who’s been castigated for sending sexist emails.

A friend of mine is a largish cheese at a well-known broadcasting company. Recently, we were arranging a curry night with some pals over email, exchanging the normal “banter” that passes between a group of friends who’ve known each other for years, when said broadcasting exec suddenly felt the need to inform us that – like Scudamore – his PA had access to his inbox.

There was nothing particularly off-colour in the email exchanges, certainly nothing comparable to the comments that have had Scudamore dusting down his CV this week, but the tone of the conversation changed immediately. Dialogue that would be utterly harmless between friends who’ve known each other since university, who know each other’s sense of humour and when someone is being ironic, was suddenly unacceptable when his PA was potentially reading the exchanges, too.

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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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Posted in: Newsdesk

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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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Posted in: Newsdesk

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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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