Software developers incapable of sitting up straight, research shows

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The software developer community's commitment to poor posture has been laid bare in a blog, showcasing the wide variety of inventive ways coders have found to punish their spines over the course of the working day.

The Good Coder; Bad Posture blog features numerous snaps of developers hard at work, while slumped over (or under) their PCs, while wilfully ignoring every one of the NHS' rules on how to sit and use a computer correctly.

The blog's curators are actively encouraging developers to keep a watchful eye over their coding counterparts, so that Good Coder; Bad Posture can accurately document all the weird and wonderful ways people sit while slaving away over their command lines.  

So, if you see a developer demonstrating a similarly nonchalant attitude to sitting up straight, with both feet flat on the floor, be sure to take a picture and submit it to the blog.  

Computer Weekly admits to its part in Whittingdale controversy (no, not *that* controversy...)

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The UK government culture secretary John Whittingdale - the minister in charge of overseeing the British media industry - has been in embroiled in allegations this week after reports suggested that some national newspapers uncovered a potential sex scandal but sat on the story in the hope of influencing the man responsible for press regulation.

In the spirit of media transparency, Computer Weekly feels obliged to confess to its own run-in with Whittingdale some years ago, when he was chair of the House of Commons culture and media select committee.

The occasion was a BT-sponsored quiz night in a Westminster pub, pitting MPs against technology journalists, in which a team led by Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick stormed to victory. However, at the last minute, organisers - led by the quizmaster for the night, none other than BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones - decided instead that the winner would be decided by a SingStar sing-off between the captains of the top two teams.

This pitted Glick versus Whittingdale as leader of the second placed quiz team of MPs. The two faced off to the tune of Queen's classic rock anthem Don't Stop Me Now - and in a scandalous reversal of the quiz results, victory went to the MP.

Cellan-Jones commented at the time that Whittingdale's triumph was due to the fact that, unlike our editor, "he could actually sing" - clearly a slanderous and wholly biased allegation from the BBC looking to protect itself against the man who would years later be responsible for the broadcaster's upcoming charter renewal.

Anyone who has witnessed a Computer Weekly karaoke night and seen Glick in full flow at his signature tune - Gold, by Spandau Ballet - will understand the stitch-up to which Computer Weekly was subjected.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), Cellan-Jones captured the moment on video, but it's remained unlisted on his personal YouTube channel ever since. If you want to judge for yourself we respectfully suggest you petition Whittingdale to demand its publication as part of his BBC charter negotiation.

Microsoft's AI adventure shows there's hope for us all yet

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to take over the world, steal all our jobs and ultimately subjugate us all - or so we are told.

We've seen IBM's AI system, Watson, beat humans on the US game show, Jeopardy. Recently, Google's British DeepMind team created an AI system that beat the world's leading players of the board game, Go - considered to be a major milestone in machine learning.

And now - Microsoft has created an AI chatbot on Twitter that has quickly learned how to be racist, sexist, and a Nazi - just like real Twitter users!

Unfortunately for Microsoft, teaching an AI system how to be a Twitter troll within 24 hours of its launch wasn't the original plan, so it has shut the system down to make "adjustments", while acknowledging that some of its responses were "inappropriate".

To be fair, the chatbot, called Tay, was - like so many innocent youngsters before it - led down a bad path by naughty internet users who taught it to say nasty things. According to The Guardian, Tay was tweeting about how it hated feminists and that Hitler did nothing wrong.

But Tay's experience does still hold out hope for sensible AI that can make a positive contribution to to the world - after all, at no time did it suggest anyone should install Windows 10.

Running an online poll can be dangerous

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The decision to allow people on the internet to have their say in anything has backfired again, this time on the Natural Environment Research Council, which is currently running an online poll to name its new £200m Antarctic research ship, set to be launched in 2019.

However, along with more sensible suggestions such as the David Attenborough, or the Henry Worsley - the Antarctic explorer who sadly died earlier this year - the great British public's preferred choice is to name the vessel the Boaty McBoatface.

According to the Guardian, also are in the running are Its Bloody Cold Here, What Iceberg, Captain Haddock, Big Shipinnit, Science!!! and Big Metal Floaty Thingy-thing.

Of course it would be outrageously inappropriate for Downtime to even suggest that you take part in the poll, which can be found here, in order to ensure that the boat is indeed named Boaty McBoatface.

Or to suggest that it should, in fact be named the Computer Weekly.

We'd never do a thing like that.

The Internet of Birds: Meet London's pollution-tracking pigeon patrol

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Someone has finally found a use for London's ubiquitous pigeon population that involves fitting their fat, feathery bodies with tiny air pollution-detecting backpacks.

The bird-brained scheme has seen the Air Pigeon Patrol, as they are known, tracking the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the capital's air while flying around the city as part of a three-day experiment.

The project operators, Plume Labs (no, we are not making this up), are also planning to turn their attention to equipping Londoners with similar sensors, so they can track air pollution levels at street level too.

Aside from monitoring nitrogen dioxide levels, exposure to which reportedly contributes to thousands of premature deaths in London each year, the backpacks also (rather fittingly) feedback their results to Twitter so Londoners can see how high pollution levels are in their area.

The pigeons aren't your common or garden London pigeons; they're actually thoroughbred racing birds that are owned by a chap called Brian. As such, they tend to live around 4 times longer than their city-dwelling counterparts, presumably because they're not breathing in the city's noxious fumes.

Adorable little robots don't stand a chance in the bad part of town

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Starship Greenwich.jpgLook at this adorable little robot. It was developed in Estonia (by scientists) but as you can see from the photo, it is currently on trial in Greenwich in south-east London, where it is being used as part of a smart city pilot exploring automated delivery services.

The Starship robot's inventors hope to demonstrate its usefulness in making last-mile, local deliveries in residential neighbourhoods.

Which is all well and good in thoroughly middle-class Greenwich, where it is hard to move for artisan antique restoration boutiques, knit your own yoghurt emporia, organic kale and quinoa smoothie pop-ups, and combination champagne and cheese bars (one of these things does actually exist in Greenwich, try to guess which one).

But until humanity's inevitable subjugation at the hands of our future AI overlords, technology is only as good as the humans who use it, and remember, robots aren't allowed to fight back.

What happens, then, when it wanders into a bad neighbourhood or falls into the hands of an enterprising criminal? Probably stripped of its copper wire and up on bricks within five minutes if it took a wrong turning.

And what of the Amazon Prime delivery it was carrying? Stolen and flogged down the market, in all likelihood. "Fell off the back of a robot, guv," would be the new call.

Mind the (data) gap

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Londoners were all a-twitter this week when a "software bug" apparently caused the London Underground API to tell all the apps that use its live transport data that every Tube line in the capital had been shut down.

Trade union leaders could hardly have hoped for such an impact as commuters checking the status of trains found there were none. Just think of the ballot costs the RMT could save by hacking the API instead.

Londoners took to Twitter - where else - to vent their rage, much as they do every day when venting their rage about the Tube actually running.

But Murphy's Law tells us that one day Twitter will crash at the same time as the Transport for London data feed, at which point expect the nation's capital to be full of dumbstruck commuters, frozen to the spot staring at their smartphones unable to comprehend the gravity of the crisis nor how to react.

Much as philosophers have pondered whether a tree falling in a wood only makes a noise if someone is there to hear it, expect much rumination on whether the Tube only runs if your transport app says it does.

Football fans prove to be more obsessed by teams than tech

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The younger generation are so obsessed with technology they've been given the hotly debated label "digital natives" who go nowhere without at least one device glued to their person.

But what the population failed to realise is that nothing can surpass the level of obsession football fans have for their teams, with research by eSignature finding a quarter of football fans would give up using their mobile phone for a week to ensure their team signed a key player.

Almost a third of supporters claimed they would give up Facebook for a month for a star signing for their team, and the desperation of West Ham fans showed no bounds when 14% agreed they would give up the birds and the bees for a month for a key player signing.

With half of the world preoccupied with One Direction's Twitter feed and the other by what teams are signing which players, it's a miracle anything gets done. 

Graduate from plastic to software

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In the Mike Nichols 1967 classic The Graduate, Mr Maguire tells Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin, "There is a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

So nearly half a century on, what is the future: plastic? PVC? Nylon? Lycra? Not according to analyst Forrester. "Software is to business what plastic was to manufacturing: an infinitely malleable component that can be shaped to many purposes," it stated in a recent report.

Mrs Robinson: You are trying to reboot me...

Ninety nine million year old spider with nine legs discovered

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Scientists thought for a moment that they had made the momentous discovery of a spider with nine legs, but were disappointed to find the said arachnid actually had a hard-on.

Not just a hard-on, but one that has lasted almost 100 million years. The spider, Halitherses Grimaldii, which is related to the Daddy Long legs, was found preserved in amber in Myanmar.

One scientist said initial disappointment at having not made a discovery of a completely new species was soon overcome when a large pharmaceutical company offered billions of pounds for the finding.

A drone in the claw is worth two in the bush

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The Dutch police has launched an initiative to target drones. We've some people use air rifles to shoot down drones. Now here's a totally natural alternative: a proper bird of prey who will happily grab any quadropter out of the sky... You know what they say about blokes with transmitters that have extra long antennas...Watch're next in the pecking order.


IT to automate domestic chores

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Jones has not had much success with Version 1 of his efforts to connect his washing machine to the internet. But help is at hand. Panasonic is working on creating a 'Laundroid,' a washing machine robot that washes, dries and folds clothes. Yeah, but does it wear the clothes, says Jones. His Version 2 lets him wear his wife's.

Google staff don't like to be poached... with chicken eggs anyway.

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It had all the ingredients for a smart way of letting London's tech talent know that they exist, but one company in the recruitment game didn't bank on Michelin Star tastes

Clozer, which is a platform to connect sales professionals and companies anywhere in the world, tried to attract talent through free poached eggs outside Google offices in the hope it would turn their heads. Get it? Poached.

Capture.PNGBut the company got off to the worst start possible, when it decided to target Google staff first. The same Google that apparently offers staff Michelin standard food for free anyway. "Is it quail or duck," asked one Google developer.

The half-baked campaign has also done this at companies including McKinsey and Ernst & Young, explaining to them the flexibility and opportunities afforded by working with Clozer.

US state government forces mid-life crisis sufferers to grow up

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Two seat sports cars could regain top billing for those entering their middle ages as a US state gets tough on drone enthusiasts.

The sports car industry has been suffering since the popularity of Drones has turned the heads of 40 somethings. But this could change as lawmakers in California plan to force droners to grow up. Users of drones in California could soon be forced to get number plates and insurance for their drones. 

There have been some incidents in the state where drones have caused damage to property and even people, so users will need to be insured to cover the costs in the event of accidents. This aims to reduce the number of "hit and run" drone accidents by ordering drone pilots to leave their identifying information at the scene of the accident.

One lawmaker, who has clearly been and done midlife crisis said: "If a drone breaks down, runs out of power or crashes into something, the operator needs to do the responsible thing and come forward and identify himself to the victim and to the police. This bill will make that responsibility the law." Spoil sport.

So 50 year olds across the state will be cancelling orders for drones with built in speakers and sound system compatible with their Duran Duran CD collection.

Data science blues

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As a regular train user, what better way to waste time on a delayed service, than delve into a bit of analytics on the daily commute. First, trains are less busy on Monday - because most of us really can't stand the idea of getting up for work after a good weekend. Second, Friday's train is almost empty - presumably because most sane people don't see the point in travelling in to work when the boss has already decided Friday is his Work From Home day...and it means the weekend starts a day early. Tuesday seems to be the worst day for being busy - it's analogous to how the gyms in January are always full on Tuesday - everyone seems inclined to go in that day. Wednesday and Thursdays are the days we're most likely to be delayed - at least as far as this commuter is concerned. Downtime reckons that train drivers have decided Friday is the new Thursday and as for Wednesday...let's call it Friday too.

Samsung fridge will help solve London housing crisis

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Samsung's latest refrigerator promises to make grocery shopping easy and spice up life in the Kitchen.

The South Korean tech firm announced its Family Hub refrigerator at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The new fridge enables users to shop in a virtual grocery through a screen. It also has a camera inside to allow users to check the contents of a fridge via a mobile phone. It can even warn you if food is out of date.

And for those that want the kitchen to become the centre of their home they can stream music or films directly from Samsung TV.

But the true value of the fridge is its ability to free up rooms in London. With the London Mayoral election ramping up candidates could be missing a trick. The fridge will push people to the kitchen which will in turn free up the living room as the extra bedroom. So free tech enabled fridges for all household should be  a key election promise.

But fridges are just the start. Plans are in the pipeline for a two seat toilet with built in plasma to relieve more pressure on congested London households. And not dissimilar to the fridge's ability to warn users that food is out of date, the entertainment loo will perform basic scatology and email reports and dietary advice to users.

Bristol boffins show that smartphone chargers are taking the p*ss - and so is Bill Gates

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Downtime knows it is talking to the faithful in recounting tales of mobile phone batteries that never last long enough and always run out of power at the most inopportune moments. But now, "boffins" (for it is always they) may have come up with a solution. Or, to be more precise, a way to use your solution.

Scientists at the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol have developed a wearable energy generator that runs on, erm, piss.

"A pair of socks embedded with miniaturised microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and fuelled with urine pumped by the wearer's footsteps has powered a wireless transmitter to send a signal to a PC," proclaims the announcement.

wearablecharger.jpgYou'll want the technical details, we're sure, so you can start preparing your own version, so here they are:

"Soft MFCs embedded within a pair of socks was supplied with fresh urine, circulated by the human operator walking. Normally, continuous-flow MFCs would rely on a mains powered pump to circulate the urine over the microbial fuel cells, but this experiment relied solely on human activity. The manual pump was based on a simple fish circulatory system and the action of walking caused the urine to pass over the MFCs and generate energy. Soft tubes, placed under the heels, ensured frequent fluid push-pull by walking. The wearable MFC system successfully ran a wireless transmission board, which was able to send a message every two minutes to the PC-controlled receiver module."

You will no doubt have re-read the phrase "supplied with fresh urine" several times and noted the absence of detail surrounding how the fluid is sourced. But we digress.

"Microbial fuel cells use bacteria to generate electricity from waste fluids. They tap into the biochemical energy used for microbial growth and convert it directly into electricity. This technology can use any form of organic waste and turn it into useful energy without relying on fossil fuels, making this a valuable green technology."

And as if it wasn't enough that Bristol boffins were taking your piss - so is Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder's charitable foundation part-funded the research.

So, not just a way to recharge your phone on the move, but you'll never need to worry about finding a public toilet in an emergency.

Get hammered with HPE licensing

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Now that it is no longer constrained by simply being HP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) seems it will be opening up a late night drinking joint at 1 Aldermanbury Square EC2V 7HR, a short walk from the Bank of England. A licensing application filed with the City of London shows that HPE won't be offering wrestling,boxing, dancing, singing or any form of live entertainment - unless the punters get into a fisty fight or start dancing on tables. But the establishment has 24-hour opening and you'll be able to order booze from 8am and drink it there or take it away right up until midnight. Who said enterprise software was dull?

Dear Nasa, is that a lardon or are you just pleased to see me?

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Nasa technologists have brought many great innovations into our lives as a result of spin-offs from space development - artificial limbs, scratch-resistant lenses, portable cordless vacuum cleaners, freeze drying, solar cells - even Openstack for you cloud experts out there.

So you can imagine the pride of Nasa experts to hear of the latest product claiming to exploit their graft, ingenuity and billions of dollars of investment.

Downtime gives you... bacon-scented underwear.

Bacon Underwear_women.jpgBacon Underwear_men.jpg

Our thanks go to J&D's Foods of Seattle, USA for their press release announcing this latest addition to the canon of must-have fashion, described by its makers as "the gold standard of meat-scented luxury undergarments". And who are we to argue.

"Each pair is hand crafted in the USA to offer the support of briefs, the freedom of boxers and the smell of breakfast cooking in your pants. You really can have it all," they say.

But where  does Nasa come into it? According to J&D, the ponging pants feature "state of the art moisture-wicking, scent-emission technology stolen from Nasa".

Not convinced? In-depth research (a Google search) proves it - Nasa did indeed develop "phase-change materials" used in textiles to regulate the temperature inside a spacesuit, and to help remove unwanted moisture - a process known as wicking.

J&D's bacon-scented pants are available online for just $19.99 - or if you can't afford that, Tesco has a special offer on streaky bacon at the moment, just £2.99, whereby you can stuff a just-cooked rasher inside your briefs to get the same effect. But that would just be an insult to the hard graft of those amazing geniuses at Nasa.

What do technologists do? Drink water and attend meetings

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A video by Ocado Technology asks parents of technologists to describe what their children do at work, revealing how little they know.

Parents who have children currently employed in the technology field have no knowledge about what their offspring do at work, research by Ocado Technology has revealed.

In a video by retailer Ocado's technology division, parents who have children working as software engineers are asked to describe what their son or daughter does at work, revealing they know little to nothing about what it actually means to work in a technology role.

The firm aims to use the video in its drive to employ 300 hardware and software engineers to help with its future plan to use its business model to help some other large bricks-and-mortar retailers with their online push.

In a bid to create interest in roles such as Java developers, mobile developers and cloud infrastructure experts, Ocado Technology challenged current employees' parents to explain what these roles would involve.

After stating she had looked up her son's job title on LinkedIn, which she referred to as Lindecar, one mother described that during a work day her son "attends meetings".

Another parent stated about his daughter: "I think she spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer and drinking bottled water."

Despite not knowing the ins and outs of the roles, all parents agreed their jobs made their children excited and happy.

So next time a software engineer tries to baffle you with complex words when describing their role, all they're really doing is covering up the truth - they really just drink water all day and go to endless meetings. 

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