My phone has run out, any plans for the weekend?

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Talking to yourself out loud could soon become the chosen method of keeping laptops and smartphones running during long periods on the road.

With batteries often the weak link in computer hardware businesses could turn to engineers in Canada.  Engineers at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal have built a chin strap that harnesses energy from chewing and turns it into electricity.

Many offices are thinking of selling power back to the national grid.

So when your phone is running low on fuel the banal office question: "What have you got planned for the weekend" might actually have a purpose.

Jail term for palace guardsman for dancing? Where's your sense of humour MoD?

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A video of a Buckingham Palace guardsman who was marching comically and showing his dance moves has become a YouTube sensation. The video has gone viral with nearly two million views. But what's more bizarre than the guardsman's moves is the MoD's reaction to it.

The three and a half minute video shows the guardsman - in his full uniform and a rifle in hand - swaying, marching in slow motion, pirouetting, bending over, kneeling down, and even dusting his rifle numerous times. 

English: Buckingham Palace Guard

Buckingham Palace Guard 

The MoD is seeking to take appropriate action against the guardsman nicknamed 'Private Dancer' which may include a fine of £1,000 or up to three weeks in prison. He may also have to undergo hours of physical tests and practice at a military prison in Essex's Colchester.

Newspaper reports suggest that the Army has gone to the extent of seeking legal advice before taking action against the guardsman because currently there is no directive on how to deal with a guardsman who pirouettes.

The unidentified guardsman was perhaps just adding a little bit of fun to his otherwise boring job and playing up to the crowd. Little did he expect it to become an internet sensation and face fine. Discipline, maybe yes, but jail? Get some sense of humour MoD!

Here's the video for your amusement:

Blackpool donkeys saddle up for contactless payments

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A few years back, donkeys in Israel were made to don Wi-Fi enabled collars to allow riders to check emails while enjoying the views. Well now the famous donkey rides of Blackpool are accepting contactless payments from tech-savvy tourists.

Mark Ineson, owner of Real Donkeys, claimed that a lot of beach-goers don't carry cash, and often had to disappoint their children as they were unable to pay.

So Ineson approached Barclaycard for a solution, and provided Dillon the donkey with a contactless-payment enabled saddle.

When asked what he thought about the innovation, the donkey claimed it was much more efficient as PINs and cash can be a pain in the ass.

Image: Barclaycard

Free childcare with programming lessons thrown in

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Tired parents, who spend their lives obeying the orders of small people, are being lambasted by researchers for not realising that kids at school will now learn to code.

In fact research of 1,000 five to 11-year-olds and their parents, carried out by Ocado Technology has revealed that 65% of parents are unaware that their primary school children will be learning to code at school.

Why is this surprising? By the time a child starts school parents can't look beyond free babysitting from a school. Clearly the 35% that do know of this are the lucky ones with kind grandparents providing free childcare.

In similar research when asked what they did at school today 98% said "nuffin.'"

Fancy a car-crash picture for all your image queries on Google?

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Another day, another internet cock-up.

On Tuesday, users searching for any pictures on Google Images - kittens, puppies, flowers, food or even Google's own logo - were flooded with the same picture of a Russian car accident in the results page.

The worrying image was not an isolated incident, with users from Germany, Brazil, Canada all taking to Twitter and Google's own user forums to question whether its servers were hacked. While it did not affect all users, some users were repeatedly treated to the car crash image literally for all their queries on different browsers even when they had cleared their cache.

google test.jpg

"Looks like Google Images got hacked by someone in Russia(?) First few rows appears as normal after that it shows this [Image of the car crash]," said a user on Twitter.

The search giant has not yet commented on whether Google Images has been hacked or if it's a search bug or an error from one of its new interns.

Downtime senses nothing new here as Facebook clearly is hacked by the ALS Ice Bucket challenge and Twitter by #Emmys or even #GoogleImageshacked by now. Ho-hum.







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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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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Downtime_notavailableontheappstore_KB.png

Here are some more Tweets from the hashtag:

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Downtime_notavailableontheappstore1.png

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.

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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.

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