K9 privacy campaigner fakes death on Google, or was it killed?

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Not to be outdone by its two legged friends one dog in Chile decided to fake its own death on Google.

Back in June just for a laugh, a garage owner in Edinburgh faked an assault while a Google StreetView camera was driving by. A bit of clever police work soon revealed that it was a prank and the victim was not dead or even injured.

But proving that dogs are not just smelly stupid creatures, one dog in Chile has got Google stumped. A Google StreetView car has an image of the dog running in the road followed by another picture of it lying in the road. Such is the uncertainty surrounding the episode, despite a smoking gun, officials at Google are currently investigating whether the dog is dead or alive.

There are suspicions it is all a set up damage Google's name as the dog is thought to be linked to a dog privacy group against Google Streetview. The  group are attempting to get the same blurring rights that humans get on StreetView,

The dogs are said to send messages via the barking medium to alert each other when a StreetView car is approaching.

Greggs uses Twitter to turn bad press into brand engagement

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On Googling Greggs today (as many are being encouraged to do so on social media), you might notice that its logo is not quite right.

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The logo which Google associates with the brand now reads: "Greggs - Providing sh*t to scum for over 70 years"

Quick to respond to the torrent of Twitter comments, Greggs' social media team have handled the whole situation pretty well, tempting Google with a tray of donuts if they fix the problem

Look who's talking

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Statues across London and Manchester are finding their voices, thanks to Sing London.

Sing London have commissioned writers and actors to animate 35 public statues across London and Manchester.

Russell Tovey brings Alan Turing to life in Manchester, while Ed Stoppard reads words written by Antony Horowitz to voice Sherlock Holmes in London.

Passersby just have to enter a short URL into their browsers, tap an NFC enabled handset, or scan a QR code to hear the statue's monologue.  

That's torn it. Where are Man U supporters meant to code now?

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A kick in the face for Wi-Fi suppliers who talk of little else but their latest stadium installation?

That's how Downtime first reacted to the news that Manchester United was banning people from taking tablets and laptops into Old Trafford.

But then we received an email from a fine practitioner of the arcane and mystifying art of public relations, who shall remain blessedly nameless to spare him the indignity.

"With Manchester United announcing that football fans can no longer bring laptops and tablets into their ground many techy football fans have been left wondering how they can write code whilst at Old Trafford," said the plucky PR, whose only crime was to be asked to email a load of daft nonsense to every technology journalist in the country.

Well where indeed? It's becoming a real problem for a lot of us.

Indeed, just a couple of weeks ago your intrepid reporter was at London's O2, watching the shameless old farts known as Monty Python try to wring a few more pounds out of their 40-year old material, when suddenly I was seized with the urge to bash out a bit of Python myself.

I reached for my trusty desktop and then remembered I was sitting in a 20,000 capacity arena paying over a hundred pounds to watch two elderly men falling about over a dead parrot. And worst of all, my computer was several miles away in the office! Foiled again!

"Curses! Damn and blast it all!" I cried.

"Now nobody will ever know of my programming genius. My app, which would have brought water to the deserts, reversed global warming, solved hunger, ended war in the Middle East, cured Ebola, and won me hearts around the world, shall remain forever uncoded!" I lamented, to the puzzlement of my fellow comedy enthusiasts.

"Shut up, you silly prat," one of them (my Dad) was heard to remark. "He's going to do the line about pining for the fjords."

Well it turns out I should have known better, for as my newfound friend went onto explain, what I should have done was download his client's smartphone app, which would have allowed me to control my computer remotely from my smartphone, and tinker away to my heart's content whilst missing all the fun and simultaneously irritating the pants off of everyone around me.

I suppose what we have learned from this is, in a very real and meaningful sense, nothing.

Brits prove they are obsessed with the weather

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Britons download the BBC's weather app 19,000 times a day, with eight million downloads since its June launch date. This makes it the fastest growing app for the broadcaster.

As temperatures have soared this summer, mixed with sudden onslaught of thunderstorms, the UK has been turning to the trusty BBC to consistently check if the weather would last until the evening retreat to the beer garden or the weekend BBQ.

13.8million people visited once a week in July has temperatures hit 30 degrees.

The most popular time for checking the weather during the week is at 7am - brolly or no brolly? - while Brits give themselves a lie-in on the weekends and check the weather at 8am on Saturdays and 9am on Sundays.

But clearly we're living for the weekend in the summer months, because the Beeb says that Friday sees the highest number of visits to the app. 







Photography is a monkey business

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Thumbnail image for monkey.jpg

Last month saw the UK premiere of the latest Planet of the Apes prequel, in which Gary Oldman goes completely kiss-a-hobo-slap-a-donkey bonkers and imagines the world to be overrun with a simian patriarchy hellbent on destroying the human race. He subsequently attempts to eliminate every damn dirty ape on earth, curb-stomping a small, defenceless spider monkey in the process, following a lengthy, brutal bar brawl that rivals the most gruesome of Tarantino scenes. Then he sucks up the flattened bloody remains with a Dyson DC50 Multi-floor Bagless vacuum cleaner in what is likely to be the most misjudged example of product placement in the history of cinema.


At least, that's probably what happens, anyway - we've not seen it yet as we've been too busy writing stories for you ungrateful lot. The film does, however, contain monkeys, which allows us to reference it effectively for the purpose of a lazy, substandard segue.


You may think that - like in the movie - monkeys could only overtake the planet using violence, but a story this week revealed an alternative method of world domination available to our hirsute relatives.


Most of the images used on our site were paid for via a subscription to an online image library. But we didn't pay a thing for the one above. Why? Because the copyright is ostensibly owned by the photo's subject. When British photographer David Slater visited Indonesia in 2011, this cheeky crested black macaque stole his camera and took a few snaps of itself. That's right. It turns out monkeys are narcissistic and pathetic enough to take selfies too.


Understandably, Slater says the copyright belongs to him, but Wikipedia is contesting this, saying that, because the photo was taken by an animal - and animals cannot own the rights to an image - the copyright is held by no one. It's hard to say who's right. All we know is we can't wait to see the next Planet of the Apes prequel directed by the late Michael Jackson's chimpanzee Bubbles. In fact, Sky News has already announced that its war cameramen have been let go, and will be replaced entirely by the cast of the 1971 PG Tips commercial.

Willy Coyote

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willy.jpgClaire Wyckoff has been quite the road runner on Nike+ - pounding the streets of her home town, San Francisco. Her running has been drawing quite a crowd on the web, with routes that outline a five mile long willy. Now that takes stamina.

Night at the Museum: exhibits come to life in London

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Night at the Museum

Night at the Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A London tech company has been able to recreate 20th Century Fox's film Night at the Museum in our very own British Museum.

Gamar has launched a mobile and tablet app which brings the museum's famous galleries to life.

In the Ben Stiller film, Night at the Museum (and its sequel), the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History learns that everything at the museum comes to life after the sun sets.

Gamar's augmented reality app superimposes graphics when visitors point their devices at different exhibits and artefacts in the museum. It also offers games for younger visitors to play themed around the exhibits.

 

Homophobe? Know, Knot me

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Tim Torkildson, a social media specialist, was taken by surprise when he was fired last week. Why? Because he blogged about homophones on his employer's website and his boss thought the school is "going to be associated with homosexuality".

Homophones are word that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, and sometimes in spelling - a bit like "hear" and "here" or "bare" and "bear" or "write" and "right". Oh the English language!

But his workplace confused his piece on homophones with homophobia. Tim's boss said: "This blog about homophones was the last straw.  Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality."

"We don't teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it's extremely inappropriate.  Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning?  I'll have your check ready."

The American Heritage Dictionary of the Englis...

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh by the way, Tim's ex-employer is an American English language school called Nomen Global Language Center. Downtime is worried about its TOEFL students now.

The school went on to delete Tim's homophones blog post from its website.

Tim, who was too stunned to justify himself to his boss, just published the whole conversation between him and the boss on his personal blog and on Facebook.

"I'm not trying to judge or destroy my former boss -- I just want enough publicity so someone out there will give me work!" he says on Facebook.

Bull photobomb extreme

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A man was photobombed trampled while trying to take a selfie of a raging bull at the Fetes de Bayonne festival. 

The bull was menacingly running around a few feet behind the man who was desperately trying to get a selfie shot of himself and the angry horned animal.

The best thing about this story is that it was caught on camera for all to see. Don't worry, there's no blood but the bloke in question is clearly caught off guard (how that is possible, I'm not sure) and trampled by the animal. 

All in the name of Instagram.







How to screw up your network

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Friday was probably one of the hottest days of the year in the Downtime office, so it was no surprise when the network went down (probably due to the heat). "Hello mate we've got a weird one here," said the network engineer who was called out to fix it.

English: Screwdriver Italiano: Cacciavite 
"It's like someone's stuck a screwdriver in the network socket." Own up. Who went to the pub early?

The importance of punctuation on Twitter, a lesson learnt by the Associated Press

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The Associated Press learnt an important lesson about using correct punctuation within a 140 character Tweet.

Yesterday the news wire sent out a Tweet to inform the world that a Dutch military plane, carrying the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash, had landed in Eindhoven.

Sadly, AP's Twitter handle sent out the following:

Downtime_MH17_Associatedpress_tweet.png

This awfully phrased Tweet sparked a fear that the plane carrying the bodies from MH17 had crash landed in Eindhoven.

Sigh.

Twitter was sent into a temporary frenzy thanks to the missing comma between 'crash' and 'lands'.

It was quickly followed by a clarification tweet nine minutes later.

Come on AP, didn't you guys ever read Eats, Shoots & Leaves?

Security firm supports ovine CCTV

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Downtime always like to see technology put to good use, and in this case CCTV security firm AlertSystems agrees.

After a report in The Daily Record, AlertSystems has come out in support of a farmer in Scotland who has installed a high-quality CCTV system to protect his 11 Valais Blacknoses worth an estimated £55,000.

For the uninitiated, the Valais Blacknose is a rare breed of sheep native only to Switzerland that the farmer had shipped to Moray, Scotland to set up the first of its kind breeding programme in the UK. 

The CCTV is aimed at ensuring nothing untoward happens to the prize flock, especially the award-winning ram, named King Kong. 

A spokesperson for AlertSystems said that with such "heavy investment" in livestock, the time was right to install a CCTV security system. 

NOT available on the app store

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A new hashtag has been created as a campaign to point out things in life that are NOT available on the app store, because "there isn't an app for everything".

#Notavailableontheappstore encourages people to place modified App Store stickers on things in the real world that aren't available digitally, as a reminder that "the most important things in life are not on the app store."

Caroline and Kayleigh at Computer Weekly took part by sharing tweets of their morning treat as well as shoebox care parcels about to be posted out to the British Forces.

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Here are some more Tweets from the hashtag:

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The campaign has been created students from Hyper Island - an educational body which is shaking things up in the digital and tech world.

Hyper Island which was set up in Sweden and has offices in Manchester, immerses students in digital and data strategy, as well as art direction, e-commerce, self-leadership and problem solving.

Both post-grad and mature students are given real briefs from major brands so they can experience learning on the job, and 9 out of the 10 students get job within six months of graduating.

Microsoft targets crap programmers

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By tracking eye movement, researchers at Microsoft reckon they can identify if someone has accidentally introduced a bug in software they are developing.

Analysis-approach.jpg

Microsoft researcher Andrew Begel said: "My idea is that if the software developers are writing the code and causing the bugs, we should measure attributes of the developers themselves. If we can figure out what cognitive or emotional issues lead to buggy code or lowered productivity, we can try to intervene and stop them from causing developers to make mistakes in the first place."

Amichai Shulman, CTO Imperva reckons that the industry could take pieces of this research to understand better why mistakes are happening and when, and how to avoid them. "However, I don't think that this is by itself an effective approach to improving software in general and software security in particular," he said.

So for a complete solution, Downtime recommends inventing a way to zap the offending developer.







No sex please, we're commissioning a survey

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silly season bananastock.jpgSummer's here, and it's time for Downtime to bring out its favourite picture of a skateboarding tortoise. Yes, the silly season is closing in.

Mobile phone comparison site TigerMobiles.com recently commissioned polling agency Carter Digby - to conduct a 'survey' that has allegedly found that the smartphone is killing off everybody's sex life... yours, mine, even Mrs Henderson at number 37's.

The rigorous 'survey', with a sample stretching to hundreds of thousands, conducted over many years, employing double blind techniques that was then extensively peer reviewed in leading academic journals ...

Wait, it was 1,500 people? Fair enough. Carry on.

The 'survey' found that 75% of couples sit in silence browsing social networks "on a night" ... whatever that means, whilst a "shocking" 40% turned down the "advancements" of their partner in favour of playing on their phone.

Even more horrifying, 74% said they got angry when someone interrupted them while using a smartphone, and the vast majority of dining room tables have achieved sentience and set up social media accounts.

No, you're not misreading, for I quote...

"85% admitted to texting or social networking the dinner table."

Coming soon, Terminator IKEA: the Rise of the Wobble.

Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, shagging. The 'survey' also found that 18% had checked their phone during sex, cause for panic, according to TigerMobiles marketing director Rob Myers.

"More couples are sacrificing their sex lives for addictive apps and the materialistic world of Facebook and Twitter. Fun between the sheets is disappearing down the drain for something that didn't even exist 10 years ago and the figures are shocking."

Cthulhu_and_R'lyeh.jpgDowntime would argue that when the human race is down to its last few hundred people, either through disease, war, climate change, our imminent subjugation by Cthulhu (pictured left) or whatever, you can worry about fun between the sheets disappearing down the drain.

Look, there are seven billion of us and rising. I'm not worried about a few bored people whose relationships were doomed anyway texting.

Maybe they were on Tinder, setting up their next casual fling. Did you think of that?

Help is at hand, thankfully, for the survey provided some tips for taking back control of your sex life from those terrible smartphones.

The tips basically amounted to:

1.       Use your phone as a sex toy (no not in that way) by sending cheeky texts or Snapchat messages. Super fun, and excellent blackmail leverage for later.

2.       Exercise some self-control and put the blooming phone away.

 Simple when you think about it.

Who cares about bytes when bites are all the news?

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Downtime received press releases last week about the volume of data that had been created online by the World Cup. They'll try anything to get a story those pesky PR peeps.

false teeth.JPGApparently first ten days of World Cup saw 32 terabytes of data generated. Press releases with the details followed by commentary from networking suppliers clogged up inboxes everywhere.

Downtime thinks PRs are barking up the wrong tree with that one. It is clear the real news was about 1 mega bite.


A grand for Google Glass? Gosh, movie piracy is getting expensive

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Google Glass was finally made available in the UK last week. Early adopters, or "explorers" to Google, will have to fork out £1,000 for the privilege of looking like a bit of a prat.

Predictably, the accompanying panic over privacy - that has already seen Google Glass banned in a number of bars in downtown San Francisco - has also swept across the Atlantic, with the news that the Cinema Exhibitors' Association has taken the decision to ban Google Glass from all cinemas because it is worried that the devices could be used to pirate films. Most pirated films sold come from recordings made in cinemas, by the way.

CEA chief exec Phil Clapp told the Independent that customers would be requested "not to wear" Glass into cinemas, "whether the film is playing or not".

The Vue cinema chain added that it would instruct patrons to remove Glass "as soon as the lights dim". Others are expected to follow suit.

But are the cinema owners making a lot of fuss over something that probably isn't that big of a deal?

A Google spokesperson spoke up in support of the glassy gizmo, saying the fact that its screen lights up like a Christmas tree when it is activated makes it a "fairly lousy" device for secretly recording movies.

That's a Google spokesperson. Calling their device functionality "lousy". On record. Teehee.

Anyway, it looks like it'd be fair to say that in this case, if the person sat next to you was set on piracy you'd probably know about it pretty quickly.

The other thing about Google Glass is that it can't record for longer than 45 minutes.

Now, with current blockbusters such as Captain America: the Winter Soldier clocking in at a bottom-numbing 136 minutes, we estimate that the Google Glass-wearing pirate would need to fork out £3,000 on equipment before he or she even got into the auditorium, and that's before the obscene mark up on popcorn, nachos, a bucket of cola and an actual ticket.

Look, it's not like movie piracy isn't a problem, and it's true that pirates are coming up with ever more creative ways to illegally record from cinema screens without detection, which we won't go into here because you might get ideas.

Moreover, just as we can all definitely agree that people who use smartphones in crowded cinemas should be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, so there can surely be no argument that Google Glass is just another anti-social device that should be banned in cinemas.

But in light of Google Glass' technical limitations, concerns over piracy seem a tad misplaced, don't they?

Well, I guess it's not as if the movie industry has ever bothered to let logic stand in the way of a good old moral panic.

Inject some Britishness into your life

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English: A Union jack jacket.

English: A Union jack jacket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Cameron recently said he wants us to be less "bashful" about our Britishness. 

So, despite Britishness being a largely subjective notion that embodies different characteristics for different people - which are constantly changing and evolving, alongside our societal norms and values (get to the point, Ed.) - Downtime decided to compile a few thoughts on how technology enthusiasts might display a bit of Britishness in their own lives.

To get the ball rolling, we suggest you kidnap Stephen Fry, Duct-tape him to a chair and force him to record a quintessentially British answer phone greeting on your mobile in his mellifluous, trademark received pronunciation. 

If he co-operates, give him a cup of Earl Grey and a rich tea biscuit. If he refuses, why not utilise a British-themed method of torture? Threaten to smear Marmite over his eyeballs and shoot Lea & Perrins up his nostrils, while playing the GoCompare jingle full-blast on a stereo.

If he's still reluctant, tweet "Millwall fans are POO POO HEADS!" from his Twitter account, throw him on the front lawn and run - fast. Then, film the ensuing assault on your iPhone before uploading the footage to Facebook as a nod to the charmingly British phenomenon of happy slapping.

Since you're now complicit in several high-profile crimes, you've no choice but to follow in the footsteps of eminent Brits Ronnie Biggs and Lord Lucan by scarpering abroad ASAP. The good news is that, once you've reached Puerto Rico and written your best-selling Penguin Guide to Kidnapping Stephen Fry, it'll be easy for you to dodge tax in true British style, like fellow Englishmen Gary Barlow and Jimmy Carr.

Now sit back in the sun, take a swig of Pimms and know that you've done Cameron and dear old Blighty proud - ideally to the sound of Elgar's Nimrod.


Hundreds of reasons for unique Twitter handle

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There are literally hundreds of reasons for ensuring a unique, slightly anonymous Twitter handle, a 60 year old radiator salesman has discovered.

He was reportedly bombarded with hundreds of abusive tweets after the Italy vs England football match in the opening round of the World Cup in Brazil.

Footie fans angered by former football player Phil Neville's commentary for the BBC, launched a barrage of complaints at the Twitter account @philneville.

Unfortunately, the recipient was Phil Neville the radiator salesman, and not Phil Neville the commentator, who was partly protected by his less obvious Twitter handle of @fizzer18. 

But the other Phil Neville, who has also been on the receiving end of messages from fans of the former footballer, felt sorry for his commentating namesake and tweeted a good luck message. 

Despite the complaints, the BBC has confirmed that Neville will remain in the commentator's chair, but Downtime suggests that he stays away from Twitter for a while. 

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