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 out...you're next in the pecking order.

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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.
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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.

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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. 

The downside of paper free

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Apparently close to one in three business executives responded to recent research from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) admitting their office is still 'piled high' with paper documents.

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The survey found that 56% of organisations believe they still require contracts, orders and booking forms to be signed on paper and 40% feel the need to reference and file hard copies of their important documents.

"Cultural, technical and resource constraints, along with certain legal requirements, mean that a fully digital future looks a long way off for many businesses. The first step these organisations should take is to adopt a "paper-light" approach," says Iron Mountain's Sue Trombley.

Going paper free downside have a downside, as Bernadette recently discovered. 

Google hatches plan to cut corporate tax bill through white van beta

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A Google employee is living in a van in the car park outside his office in a bid to save money. Yes 23 year old Brandon has been blogging about it.

Apparently the cost of accommodation and travel in San Francisco is so high that by buying a van he cut his living costs by a third in 4 years.

But Downtime knows exactly what is going on here. Google is beta testing the potential of having its headquarters in a van. The ability to move jurisdictions and save money on tax is the idea being floated here. It is only a matter of time that IT companies start commission huge ship building company's to build mobile headquarters.

I mean who needs their own home when you work at Google. Such is the competition for staff the internet giant offers work benefits like Michelin star chefs preparing free meals and toys and gadgets strewn across the office. Not to mention the reportedly high wages the company pays its staff.

How HP Enterprise fell victim to the Streisand Effect

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Streisand_Estate.jpgThis is a picture of Barbra Streisand's house in Malibu, California. Lovely, isn't it? It was taken by a photographer called Kenneth Adelman, and about 12 years ago it became briefly famous when the entertainer took exception to it being published on the internet as part of the California Coastal Records Project, and took out a $50m lawsuit to try to suppress it.

Unfortunately for Barbra, the internet works in mysterious ways, and in seeking to have the picture removed from the world wide web, she merely succeeded in drawing more attention to it than ever before. The picture went around the world. Actually, according to Wikipedia, before she filed her lawsuit, it had been downloaded just six times, twice by her lawyer. In the following month, it was downloaded 420,000 times.

Nicknamed the Streisand Effect by TechDirt's Mike Masnick in 2005, the phenomenon has been widely observed at work in the online world, with victims including Beyonce, former motor racing boss Max Mosley, and Pippa Middleton. In these days of articles with titles such as '20 Photos Of The Editor Singing Spandau Ballet Songs At Karaoke That He Doesn't Want You To See' it is easier to fall victim to the Streisand Effect than ever.

Now, here at Computer Weekly we take a dim view of many of the trends in modern tech company naming. Give your firm a name that's all in capital letters, and you may find that our talented production team gives you a subtle re-brand in the finished article.

Unfortunately this sort of tomfoolery is becoming increasingly common these days, so we have to say, we weren't particularly surprised when the following 'guidance' popped into our inbox on Friday, ahead of the much talked-about split of HP into two new companies:

"In advance of the two companies trading as separate companies on the NYSE starting Monday, Nov. 2, I wanted to share accurate information about how each company should be referenced moving forward.

"Hewlett Packard Enterprise should only be referenced as "Hewlett Packard Enterprise" or abbreviated as "HPE". Please note: It should NOT be referenced as "HP Enterprise".
HP Inc. should only be referenced as "HP Inc." Please note: It should NOT be abbreviated in any way."

Sorry? What was that?

Okay. I think I get it. HP Enterprise definitely never wants us to call it HP Enterprise. Was that it? If HP Enterprise is off the table, then we shouldn't call it HP Enterprise under any circumstances.

It's funny, though, because I'm sure that up to now only about six people, probably all of them working at HP Enterprise, had really given the idea of using the term HP Enterprise a second thought. We certainly hadn't, but now all we and every other technology journalist who got that note can think about is when we can next find a way to call HP Enterprise HP Enterprise.

Well. Okay. We'll be good.

But we can't necessarily say the same for our sub-editors. Their ways are shrouded in mystery.

When '15 minutes of fame' meets Uber - here come the Uber Kittens

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Downtime regulars may already know that in future, we won't own or buy stuff anymore, we'll all share with everyone else in a big, cuddly, let's-all-have-a-spliff-around-the-campfire, tree-hugging kind of way. To make this concept credible and allow politicians and business leaders not to appear like 1960s hippy day-glo wackos when they talk about it, we have to call it the "sharing economy".

The darling of the sharing economy is Uber, the firm that allows you to get a cab from someone who used to hang around Leicester Square in London on Saturday nights whispering, "Just £10 cab to zone 2. Take anyone to zone 2 super cheap" to lost-looking passers by.

But what you may not realise, is that hailing taxis through a smartphone is just the start of Uber's plan to be the hub for sharing all of creation. To prove this, on National Cat Day (no, us neither) Uber launched its latest service - Uber Kittens. As if there weren't enough of the cutesy creatures infecting every corner of the internet, Uber offered customers in selected US cities the opportunity to share a kitten. You get 15 minutes with an Uber-delivered kitten, at the end of which you can return the flea-ridden poop-fest or decide to rather ruin the business model by adopting it.

What next? Is there nothing that Uber and its sharing economy cohorts will not attempt to time-splice into our lives? What about children - just think, if you could have your kids delivered to home between the hours of 3-7pm when there's something decent on CBeebies to keep them occupied, then stick them back into the cab for someone else to bathe them and read a bedtime story.

How about Uber Spouses? Uber Bosses? Uber Beer? The possibilities are endless. At least Downtime can be assured there is no future in Uber Journalists - far too valuable a commodity to ever be shared round the digital campfire. *

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* We hope.











Have web skills? Then you're paying too much for rent

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The increasing need for software development and web-based digital skills is a hot topic these days, and it's hard to go more than a week without hearing about how in-demand the tech savvy are. 

But what those with essential coding skills don't know is they should be using their advantage to wrangle cheap rent in The City. 

One resourceful landlord in need of some web design help has offered a room in his five bedroom house for £1 a month, provided the tenant will help him develop his web application. 

The overwhelming response he has seen led to him admitting he had opened a "Pandora's box" and suggests more landlords could offer accommodation in exchange for skills. 

But Downtime advises erring on the side of caution when it comes to such offers, after all there's no such thing as a free lunch. 


CyberWar: GCHQ under threat from North Korean hackers

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Paul Donnellon

Stadium deductive reasoning

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IT people always talk about aligning IT with the business. So if you head up IT for Arsenal, Man U or whoever, what's the priority from an IT perspective? Options are:

  1. Put Wi-FI in the stadium
  2. Figure out how to make the queue for the loos go quicker
  3. Faster ordering of beer

Logic dictates  pick Number 2 - if you make it quicker to order  more beer, sure as hell punters will buy more, drink more and get pissed more. Yup... then they realise pretty quickly they need a leak.

Michael Dell pulls off another miracle

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Paul Donnellon

Artificial intelligence just got a whole lot more artificial

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downtime amelia before.PNG2014                                                   2015





It seems the big brains creating the robots that will take over the mundane tasks that humans have to do, otherwise known as a 'fair day's work for a fair day's pay,' want robots to have the same opportunities as humans.

Look at IPsoft's Amelia. The AI platform coming to a help desk or contact near you has been given botox to inject a bit of youth.

Admittedly the version one of Amelia did not look happy doing a fair days work for no pay, with the facial expression that suggested she was uninterested. And the bags under the eyes suggested disillusionment, late nights and heavy drinking



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