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Rant

How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour

Monday, July 21st, 2014

TimGlass

Lunch with Tim Danton is normally a jolly affair, but today he has decided to wear his Google Glass headset. Things get off to a bad start before we’ve even left the building, as I explain that I need to go via a cashpoint. “OK Glass!” barks Tim abruptly. “Directions to a cashpoint.” There is an awkward pause: I don’t know whether he’s waiting for me to speak, or has been distracted by some terribly important message that I can’t see. His face falls slightly. “It’s giving me directions to an attachment,” he explains, apologetically.

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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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eBay hack: Are tech giants above the law?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Fine

Earlier today, the information commissioner admitted that doling out a fine to eBay for losing 145 million customer records will make little difference to the company.

While in theory a breach like this means that “your brand is trashed”, many tech companies are too big and too successful for any monetary penalty to make a real dent in them. That’s especially so for a company like eBay that has no real competitor. Any damage to the brand will be minimal and transient.

It doesn’t help that data breaches are hardly exceptional events. As consumers we’re all too accustomed to hearing that one of our tech providers has suffered a data breach. We read the news reports, sigh, change our passwords and move on.

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How to lose a business customer on the web

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

OverworkedPeople talk about Net Neutrality a lot. The fear is that a two-tier (or four-tier or six tier…) internet will develop once the floodgates are open, so that internet businesses can develop cosy preferential relationships with their most profitable partners, relegating all others to less well serviced, lesser performing backwaters that don’t get the offers or find themselves cut out of all sensible forms of communication.

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Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Windows UI

Years ago, various regulators tore strips and billions of pounds from Microsoft for bundling applications with its operating system. Today, Windows software is plagued with a far more serious bundling problem that nobody seems to want to do anything about: bundling crapware.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to download any kind of free software without the installer trying to sneak some other piece of junk on to your system. Installers have become almost a puzzle game within themselves, in which the user tries to figure out the consequences of pressing a button.

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Quickest way to upload 1GB? Hop on a train

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Train blur

I was in London last week when I saw the 4G symbol pop up on my HTC One handset for the very first time. I’m on the 3 network, which has upgraded its customers to 4G without fuss or extra charge — just one of the many reasons why I put up with its iffy reception down here in Sussex.

Naturally, I did the first thing any nerd would do: I ran a speed test. The results? 35.73Mbits/sec down, 12.45Mbits/sec up. Socks: blown off.

Then a rather sobering thought occurred to me, which was later confirmed by my back-of-an-envelope calculations. Just a day earlier, I had uploaded around 1GB of photos for a client from my ADSL connection at home in Sussex, which has an upload speed of only 0.71Mbits/sec. Would it have been quicker for me to make the one-hour train journey to London, upload the files using my (unlimited) mobile data account and head back, than to upload 1GB of photos from home?

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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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HP cuts off upgrades to spite its loyal customers

Monday, February 10th, 2014

No updates for HP servers

If you have an HP ProLiant server, or a ProCurve switch, then you’d better set some time aside before February 19th to download the drivers, BIOS updates, patches and fixes for your model from the HP support website. Because after that date, unless you have a current warranty or a Care Pack Service Agreement, you will be unable to get your download.

In a startlingly brief five-paragraph blog post entitled, with no obvious sense of irony, “Customers for life”, senior HP staffer Mary McCoy lays out the company’s rationale for this move and slips in various interestingly chosen phrases, such as that this “aligns with industry best practices” and that HP is “in no way trying to force customers to purchase extended coverage”.

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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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Google in my Nest? Not a chance

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Nest

I very much like Nest. I like its approach, which it’s neatly boiled down to “reinvent unloved but important home products”.

I like Nest’s products: a smoke alarm that issues verbal warnings — children are more likely to wake up to a human voice than a beeping alarm, apparently — and glows softly as you pad underneath it at night. I also like its learning thermostat, which reacts to how and when you use your heating and allows you to start warming your home as you, say, make your way back from the airport.

It applies clever design and technology to forgotten appliances you use every day which is, if you think about, everything innovation in tech should be.

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Posted in: Newsdesk, Rant

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