Goodbye Clip Art, goodbye memories of my youth

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First it was MSN Messenger, now it's Clip Art.

Clearly the powers-that-be at Microsoft have no soul. And no memory of what it was like to be a teenager in the noughties. If they did, they wouldn't keep destroying all the memories that we desperately try to cling onto while hurtling through this fast-technology world of social media, blue ticks on WhatsApp and what seems like a billion songs on a tiny little iPod.

Sometimes you just want to say 'stop the world I want to get off'.

Microsoft announced this week that it will be discontinuing its image library - Clip Art. That fine tool which was used to create cool party invitations and your mum's birthday card, as well as "creatively" sprucing up a piece of homework. Perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic, because Clip Art actually does still exist, but instead of one dimensional brightly coloured cartoons, it is now powered by Bing which offers images from the internet which have a Creative Commons license.

But it is what this change represents. We've only just got over the loss of MSN Messenger which was killed off almost exactly a year ago.

Wasn't it a simpler time when instead of asking Siri, you just asked the Microsoft Clippy?

Mum's (not) the word

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Organisers of Parklife festival have been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office after sending festival goers promotional text messages claiming to be from their mothers.

The short-sited marketing attempt left a number of recipients distressed, especially those whose mothers are no longer with us.

In further bad taste, the festival made jokes about the campaign on Twitter until eventually apologising.

The offending text message read:

"Some of the Parklife after parties have already sold. If your going, make sure your home for breakfast!."

We'd cry too if our mums' grammar was this bad. 

Go away, Black Friday, nobody likes you!

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It's fair to say Downtime is a fan of the fine American tradition of Thanksgiving. It's not so much the sentiment behind it (why hello mass genocide of native cultures), more the excuse to binge on massive amounts of food. It's sort of like a pre-Christmas warm-up.

I myself will be spending Saturday evening with some expat friends in London, stuffing myself stupid with cornbread and having the Georgia Tech - Bulldogs game explained to me in detail (give me the Six Nations any day).

I'd be happy for more Brits to take it up. Seriously, guys. Cornbread. Ain't nothing wrong with that, as Chris Rock said.

But it's not that tradition they're importing, is it? No. It's what comes after it. Black Friday.

In the US, because Thanksgiving always falls on the last Thursday of November, anybody who has a few days holiday left takes Friday off as well, and with Christmas just a month away the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year in the US.

Have you ever been to a mall there and wondered why there was so much more parking than needed? On Black Friday, those parking lots get full. And things have a tendency to get out of hand.

Indeed, Black Friday is named Black Friday because it is the day when most shops' accounts finally tip over into the black.

But recently I've noticed that Black Friday seems to have hopped a flight to Heathrow. Yes, this is one mission that's creeping, and I don't like it one bit. Argos, John Lewis, they're all at it now (shame on you, John Lewis!). The Guardian has even run an item on the best deals.

With a good amount of spending on Black Friday now online as well, there's lots to shout about when it comes to security, network use, load balancing and the like.

Indeed this whole week has seen a stream of PR emails dropping into my inbox trying to interest me in Client A's deep and important thoughts on Black Friday, or Client B's, or, well, basically all the clients. No tech client, apparently, has a story that is too completely unrelated to Black Friday in any way to try to spin some coverage out of it.

Look, I'm sorry, everyone, but it's just that I literally do not care at all about people fighting over flatscreen TVs in a Wal-Mart parking lot!

And I really literally do not care about lame press releases trying to pin a story on something that is not, and really should not, be a thing in Britain. It's intensely annoying, and I would really like the tech industry to stop pushing it on us.

I suppose it's a small crumb of comfort that our esteemed colleagues across the sea in Boston no doubt get a lot of press releases trying to interest them in firework sales figures round about the fifth of November. Yes, I am absolutely certain that this is a thing that really winds up the Americans.

Please, please, please, make it stop.

Aha! Partridge was right. Norwich is cool.

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A bus company has chosen is putting Norwich on the IT map through a trial to send bus users adverts from local retailers.

FirstGroup has put low energy Bluetooth beacons on buses in Norwich which sends hot news of discounts and offers as they travel through the city.

The app will learn and tailor what future notifications to send, as the user interacts with them. So expect plenty of Rover showroom offers for  Bang & Olufsen stereo systems.


How else could you get people off a bus that is passing through Norwich.

Metro bank goes to extremes in customer satisfaction battle

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Downtime believes Metro Bank has crossed a line in the battle to improve customer satisfaction.

Banks are throwing online apps customers as well as introducing iPad wielding staff into branches to make life easier for customers. But Metro Bank has taken this to a new level by offering a customer accommodation in a branch.

With rents in London going through the roof and house prices leaving the earth's atmosphere the bank has decided to give free accommodation. Unfortunately this is against their will.

A customer in Uxbridge enjoyed 3 hours rent free when a door locking and opening system failed. Metro Bank branches open after hours and customers use their cards to get in and out.

So although the new seven day switching system introduced by the Banking Commission makes it easier to get out of a current account with a particular bank standards are slipping when it comes to getting out of banks.

A new breed of banking IT failure

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Online money transfers and banking apps are on the rise, leading to so many branch closures that even bank robbers have given up visiting branches these days.

It's a good job they have as well, as an unsuspecting customer was locked in the Uxbridge branch of Metro Bank this week after the door technology failed.

The bank kits out branches with a door system which allows banking customers into the building to carry out transactions outside of branch opening hours.

Unfortunately the system failed, locking the poor bloke inside the bank for almost five hours before a staff member was able to free him.

Not good news for those who avoid online banking due to fear of financial IT systems failure. 

Drones - another reason not to trust estate agents?

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The use of drones in business is looking to become a regular occurrence in the near future, and this month Amazon proposed plans to test its prototype same-day delivery drones in the UK.

But use of the unmanned aircrafts backfired on an Australian business earlier this week when using the robots to take pictures of a neighbourhood for a billboard advertisement.

Unfortunately it wasn't until the billboard was posted that the company realised the pictures contained images of a resident sunbathing topless in her garden.

Well known utilizer of overhead imagery, Google, also has plans to develop drones with the initial focus of Project Wing being medical support and disaster relief.

At least Google has the decency to blur people's faces to protect their privacy. 

Google arrives in Streatham, but for how long?

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Apparently the UK's first 'Google House' is being kitted out in a flat in Streatham. Will Davies, head of property maintenance firm said the "normal flat", on a very normal street, is being fitted with all of the future hi-tech gadgets and gizmos that make it the house of the future, today. "We wanted to do this in a normal abode to show that this is not just for the Super Rich, it's for anyone from any social demographic," said Davies.

The key thing is, how long will it last before the place gets done over. According to UK Crime Stats, there were 84 burglaries in Streatham in September.

Dutch bloke gets cash injection

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A Dutch cryto -currency fanatic has taken the start-up term "cash injection" a little more literally than expected.

Martijn Wismeijer, who runs a company called in Amsterdam, has put NFC tags under the skin in his hands to store digital cash.

Not put off by the fact that the manufacturer of the chips is called Dangerous Things Wismeijer had NFC Type 2 compliant RFID chipsets encased in 2 pre-loaded biocompatible glass casings, injected in his hands.

While organisations look for the business case for this parents could use it as a way to deliver pocket money. It might reduce the regularity of requests.

Silicon Roundabout to be renamed Silicon Traffic Calming Scheme

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New Transport for London (TfL) plans revealed by the Evening Standard have shed light on the future of London's Silicon Roundabout, heretofore actually less of a roundabout and more of a polluted, congested, six lane cycling death trap.

The new scheme, approved by Boris Johnson as part of a multi-billion pound road improvement plan in the capital, will see one whole side of the roundabout paved over to create a kind of peninsula, a lovely, calming space lined with benches where start-ups can congregate to code under the shade of beautiful London plane trees.

The mayor reckons the scheme will ease traffic flow and make life easier for pedestrians and cyclists.

But amid the architect's drawings (and why is it, by the way, that everybody in architects' drawings are always so slim and pleasant looking, it really doesn't reflect reality in London) and the boasts about nurturing technology and creative talent in East London, what Boris Johnson seems to have failed to consider is the effect on the Silicon Roundabout brand.

Silicon Traffic Calming Scheme just doesn't have the same ring to Downtime's ears.

Virtual penguins to help drain parental wallets

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A shopping centre in London is using augmented reality to put even more pressure on parents at Christmas time.

As if someone dressed as a fat bloke with a grey beard isn't enough of an attraction one Penguin 2.jpgshopping centre is going further with virtual penguins being used to guide children to Santa's Grotto and parents to Wonga.

Downtime wants to know what happens to the penguins after the annual knees up. As we know virtual pets are not just for Christmas. A Penguin suffering an existential crisis is not nice. We have endured the film.

Smart phones, stupid users

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As mobile use becomes more popular, so do mobile related injuries. Although the intelligence of phones is increasing, the intelligence of users is a different story.

We've all been there - walking down the street checking important emails and looking up just in time to avoid walking in to the person headed towards us.

Except not everyone does the looking up part, as according to survey by device warranty provider SquareTrade, 86% of Brits have fallen, stumbled or walked into a lamppost as a result of mobile phone use. Around 20% have been injured by someone else using their phone, and one participant even admitted to walking into a shop window while using a phone.

Doctors are predicting an increase in these kinds of injuries in the future as both the older and younger generations start using distracting gadgets as well.

Apparently smart phones do not necessarily have smart users. 

Met Police take first step in Minority Report implementation

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A technology pilot which has seen the use of data analytics technology to help the Met Police predict which London gang members are likely to commit another crime, is being considered by parliamentary watchdogs to predict the next expenses cheats.

Despite the obvious correlation between being in a London gang and the propensity to commit crime the technology can identify individuals and predict their future crimes.

By combining information on different databases the police will be able to arrest people before they commit a crime. Automation software could be used to send messages to the latest Rob Cop to be deployed to administer punishment as a deterrent.

Similarly parliamentary watchdogs are eyeing the technology to help reduce the amount of tax payers' money being spend in car show rooms, with estate agents, at Fortnum & Mason, or in Habitat. By crunching data from credit card companies, finance firms, and luxury goods suppliers with expenses claims the cheats will be exposed.

Good news for JLS fans!

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Good news for fans of 2008 X Factor finalists JLS. Band member Aston Merrygold [wasn't he in Lord of the Rings? Ed.] has won the domain name from a cyber-squatter.

Domain name registrar Nominet revealed Aston's victory marking the 10,000th domain name dispute it has resolved.

The domain was registered the day after JLS didn't win the X Factor by someone who never used it for anything. Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) panel decided that the registration was made in order to take unfair advantage of Aston's rights.

In order to complain to the DRS, you need to own rights, including a trademark, to a name which is the same as or similar to the one you are concerned about. The service is supposed to be quicker (and cheaper) than resorting to legal action.

How lucky is Nominet, though? The 10,000th domain dispute was about someone who was briefly famous for SEO purposes! What are the chances?!

It's just unfortunate for poor old Aston that JLS split in 2013.

NB. At the time of writing was returning a 404 not found error. We will of course keep you posted if this changes*.

* We won't

Don't worry developers - some of you are normal people after all!

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For any software developers worried about their social status - fear no longer. Apparently, some of you are quite like normal human beings after all!

In a not-at-all patronising piece of research sent to Downtime, hosting company found that in fact as many as 28% of developers actually spend their free time socialising with friends! Would you believe it, eh?

And there's more.

Some 98% of those surveyed consider themselves to be liberal in their attitudes. You see, it's just that 2% of fascist coders that give everyone a bad name. Amazingly, 30% even said they consider it unacceptable to wear a hoodie to a business meeting - no matter how much they want a hug.

Developers will be delighted that the research finally disproves all those lies that suggested they spend their spare time "buried in perceived geeky hobbies", according to the press release announcing the ground-breaking research.

But clearly they cannot be as delighted as, who described themselves as "thrilled to be helping to tackle the common misconceptions that many people have about web developers."


Last QUANGO in town

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Downtime remembers the days when any organisation with a solid coupling with the government could be simply labeled a QUANGO and they were more than happy with that. There were QUANGOs, QUANGOs for QUANGOs and QUANGOs for QUANGO QUANGOs.

But now it appears to be a dirty word. QUANGOs no longer want to be QUANGOs. According to one technology related QUANGO the acronym has negative connotations. Imagine how the QUANGO for QUANGOs feel? And then there's the QUANGOs for the QUANGO QUANGOs.

Harry Potter and the Badly-Researched Press Release

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(With apologies to JK Rowling)

The sound of a public relations owl tapping on the window of Harry Potter's office caused him to look up, suddenly.

This was odd. Since Harry had left the news desk at the Daily Prophet to take up a more hands off role as director of content on the Muggle Desk the hordes of wizarding PRs didn't bother him so much, preferring instead to harass underlings such as Rita Skeeter.

Harry opened the window and the owl fluttered in to alight on his desk. He unscrolled the little missive from its outstretched talons, and began to read the press release.

"Three crowned best network for commuters who like to talk, Vodafone for commuters on 3G, and EE for commuters on 4G," read Harry. He made a mental note to pass it on to the Muggle technology correspondent.

It turned out, Harry read, that a survey conducted by the agency's client had found that almost a third of mobile internet tasks and one in seven voice calls attempted on commuter train routes had failed during testing.

The testing found that Vodafone subscribers got the best 3G data service, with download speeds hitting 2Mbps. EE offered the best 4G service to commuters, with an average download speed of 5.6Mbps.

The survey also looked at voice quality and station connectivity, and found that St Pancras had by far and away the worst connectivity. Here engineers experienced an average of 99 voice and packet data failures during testing.

There was a quote from a spokesman, too.

Harry read the quote and considered what it said. Then, a puzzled look playing across his face, he picked up a small dish of powder from his desk, and walked over to the fireplace. He threw in a handful and spoke loud and clearly the address he wanted. Then, he stepped into the flames, emerging seconds later in a well-appointed, book-lined study at St Ermintrude's, the wizarding college at the University of Oxford.

"Hermione," said Harry, for it was her office. "How did I get here just now?"

"Are you feeling quite all right, Harry? By floo powder, obviously, which was introduced by JK Rowling in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and later, if you remember, Sirius Black used it to talk to you through a fireplace."

Harry showed her the letter. "Read that quote."

"Leaves on the track, the wrong kind of snow, having to stand up all the way to work and back - commuters have enough to contend with without the kind of mobile connectivity problems we're revealing today," read Hermione out loud. "It's hard to believe we're in 2014 and in a situation whereby a trained wizard would have a tough time getting a signal on the Hogwarts Express while it's sitting in St Pancras."

"I've never called you on the telephone, have I?" said Harry.

"Well of course not. We have owls. Why would we need a phone? So impersonal," said Hermione. "I'm not even sure I own one."

"Arthur Weasley gave me an iPhone once," said Harry, "but it's just sitting in a drawer. I don't know who he thinks I'd call on it."

"No, mobile signal is certainly one thing we wizards never have to worry about," said Hermione.

"But there's something else..." began Harry.

"Yes," said Hermione. "The Hogwarts Express leaves from King's Cross. It's never gone from St Pancras except that one year when there was Voldemort on the line at Stevenage."

"Typical Muggles," said Harry. "How could they make such a silly mistake?"

"Yes I'd suggest they check our books out of the library to catch up on a bit of light reading," said Hermione.

Nadella gets an instant taste of bad karma

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Men should be particularly careful when giving opinion on as sensitive a topic as gender disparity in the corporate world. Especially if the man in question is the chief executive of one of the largest IT companies of the world and is addressing an event celebrating women.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has learnt that the hard way.

Speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Nadella said that women need not ask for a raise and instead should trust the system to give them their dues. He said this as a response to the question - what advice he would give to women who are not comfortable asking for pay rises.

He even went on to say that not asking for raise was "good karma" that would help a boss realise the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility. (Microsoft employees take cue!).

"That might be one of the initial 'super powers,' that quite frankly, women who don't ask for a raise have

Good Karma? I don't even know what that means. Maybe he wants us to believe in divine intervention for workplace success.

Nadella got (and still getting) a taste of bad karma instantly as his comment drew negative responses on Twitter.  

In a forced u-turn, he wrote an email to Microsoft employees saying: I answered that question completely wrong. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."

He also took to Twitter to say he was "inarticulate". Inarticulate? It was downright condescending.

Microsoft's own workplace diverisity data showed that only 29% of Microsoft's general workforce are women and only 17% of its tech employees are women.

Dear Satya Nadella,

Gender disparity at work is a touchy issue and women feel very, very, very strongly about it.

Computer Weekly's own survey shows that:

  • The average number of women in technology teams is 12%, down from 15% last year
  • 71% of men have asked for a pay rise compared to 61% of women

Always remember Satya, "Hell has no wrath like a woman scorned."

And oh, while on the same subject, David Cameron, please don't ever utter the words "calm down dear" to us.

-         a peeved woman in IT

Office old boy in court after sacking worker in a dream

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Being sacked is never good but being told you are no longer required or not wanted by text, email or via any other modern form of communication is impersonal. Not only does it make it easy for the sacker but also removes the possibility of retaliation.

But one senior/old staffer at Downtime has taken it too far. The coward appeared in the dream of another member the team and sacked him there.

The individual has been spoken to by more senior staff and told that appearing in a colleague's dream and sacking them is a sacking offence.

The case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, with the individual claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds that he had no control over his actions in someone's dream.

But the judge hearing the case said evidence suggested that the individual in question has a history of ruining the dreams of many an aspiring young recruit.

Is it sh*t or just a sh*t idea

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A major communications firm has taken time and presumably paid money to carry out a survey of where SME workers get inspired.

The finding in the survey that has been sent out to the press is the fact 1% of business owners have their best ideas when they are using the toilet. Another 3% said they have their ideas when they take their dogs for walks, presumably to perform the canine equivalent.

An executive at the company said it doesn't matter where good ideas come from, but thankfully did not go into anymore detail

Well I think the idea to promote this part of the survey, rather than the fascinating fact that about half of business owners got their inspiration at their desk, was thought of by one of the 1% because it's shit.

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