September 2009 Archives

Downtime's black market value

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Downtime is indebted to Trust's blog which alerted him to the new Norton calculator. This works out what one's personal information is worth to cybercriminals. Having answered the questions, mostly kindly pre-filled in by Norton, Downtime was delighted to discover that his net asset worth was so low as to encourage cybercriminals to send him money, rather that do business as usual.
However, pushing up his cash and near cash (pension fund, ISA, etc) value to a mere $150,000, Downtime's details were suddenly worth $1165 to the bad guys. On a good day. Soberingly, Norton noted that at auction, such details were likely to start at the princely sum of $20.55.

Rodent or primate?

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Scientists have made a breakthrough and cured colour blindness in Squirrel Monkeys.

Two squirrel monkeys were trained to perform standard colour-blindness tests and communicate what colours they were seeing to the researchers via a computer touch screen.

Downtime applauds this, but can't help thinking think the scientists should have cured the Monkeys' split personalities first. Who cares if you can't recognise colours if you can't identify your own species?

MoD undecided on value of IT

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Three of the biggest departments of state - the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Health, have CIOs at the top table - but not the MoD which, at the top, is still coming to grips with the importance of technology in the 21st Century.  

Clearly the absence of a CIO has nothing to do with the fact that Chinook helicopters are grounded because of software issues, the joint payroll system for paying salaries and allowances is said to be unfit for purpose, the MoD has to guess how many Bowman radio systems it has, and electronic records at the data held by the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency cannot be relied on although its systems control two-thirds of the Mod's inventory of supplies.

Not forgetting the £3bn-7bn Defence Information Infrastructure, the costs of which nobody is sure of.

Tory MP Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said of the MoD: "In the current economic climate, it is simply not acceptable that its finances and inventory are in such a poor state,"

Never mind. There are lots of big personalities at the MoD's defence board. That their benefits in kind alone exceeded the salaries of many soldiers is to be expected. No sign of any pay cuts there.

Time the MoD woke up to the fact that IT is important enough on the modern battlefield that it merits a CIO on the Defence Board. Sometime before the 22nd Century, perhaps.

One cannot help but imagine the machines are laughing

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It can only be a matter of time before a coroner records a verdict of death by satellite navigation.

Downtime has previously documented examples of drivers happy to trust the directions of their satnav devices over the evidence of their senses. Most notable was the case of the Polish man who drove his car into a lake and had to be towed out, earning himself the nickname "Moses" - found, as he was, among the reeds.

This week, however, the long arm of the law has intervened. A Doncaster man, who tried to drive his £30,000 BMW Series 5 off a cliff because the satnav told him to, has been found guilty of driving without due care and attention.

Downtime considers the charge something of an understatement: the court heard how Robert Jones swerved his car off the road and up a narrow footpath at his satnav's insistence, only stopping when he went through a fence, leaving the Beemer teetering over the edge of a precipice.

As one local witness commented: "It was like The Italian Job."

Rip-off Rolexes and Gucci? Not for Second Lifers

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In news from virtual worlds, The Register brings us the story of an unusual case of intellectual property rights infringement.

A pair of Second Life entrepreneurs are suing the game's creator, Linden Lab, for allowing other players to sell rip-offs of their trademark-protected virtual goods.

So far, so normal (at least by the standards of virtual reality), except that it turns out the products in question are virtual sex toys and erotic clothing and equipment, from which their inventors have generated $1m from sales to Second Life players.

Downtime admits to feeling slightly bewildered by it all. What happened to these people's first lives?

Hedonistic freshers get iPhone help

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The University of Central Lancashire has developed and made available an iPhone application that gives first-year students information.

It gives students and staff the latest information from the Student Union, entertainment listings and also has maps of the university campus and Preston city centre.

Sounds useful.

Hedonistic fresh-faced students can use their iPhones to accelerate their premature ageing with detailed information on where and how to enjoy their first year of freedom.

Pigeon fancier

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It appears that UK broadband users should be thankful what they get, even though it's a long way short of the advertised headline speeds.
A South Africa financial services company pitted its local broadband service against a pigeon to send a four gigabyte file 80 km. The pigeon, Winston, arrived with his encrypted USB stick in 2:06:57 hours, by which time 4% of the file had arrived over the wires.
His owner reckons that with training Winston could cut his time to 45 minutes.
That's what Downtime would call superfast broadband.

Mandy gets China boost

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Business secretary Peter Mandelson has returned from China claiming credit for £500m in new business contracts. While in Shanghai he also attended the groundbreaking ceremony for AstraZeneca's new $100m Innovation Centre China, one of three flagship R&D projects by major UK companies in Shanghai, along with GSK and Unilever. Downtime wonders why those centres aren't in the UK.

Puffins get GPS devices

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News that Puffins will be fitted with tiny GPS systems to help conservationists monitor their populations is worrying downtime. Recent reports that drivers have had accidents because they are over reliant of GPS systems could be repeated in the seabird community. Especially with tides rising. "Where the tweeting hell is that bloody rock I am knackered?"

Japanese are barking

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A Japanese company has invented a gadget that can translate a dog's bark into human words. Apparently the Bowlingual Voice device will go on sale for £129 in Japan from next month. We can't wait for the UK version. You don't really need to translate what attack dogs talking to their puppies would say. "Alright princess that collar looks gorgeous on ya." But it could be useful for the police because it would increase the number of potential witnesses to crimes."

Eastenders to use Google style maps

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The popular TV series which outlines the joyful lives of the inhabitants of a fictional part of East London is to start using Google-like maps on its title sequence.


The opening sequence of Eastenders is a view of London from above. This will now use Google style graphics to cheer depressed watchers up.


Downtime thinks Eastenders felt it had to embrace web 2.0 after being side stepped by Google when it decided that soap opera rival Coronation Street, which outlines the joyful lives of inhabitants of the North West, was chosen as the first fictional place to be featured on Google Street View.


Microsoft campaigns to "screw Google"

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According to a report on website Daily Finance Microsoft has been holding meetings with consultants known as "screw Google" meetings.


These meetings apparently aim to discredit Google. So that's what it means?


We are deeply shocked about this at Downtime. We can't believe any company would want to do anything as underhand as this to a competitor.


Here at Downtime we only hear IT suppliers praising the merits of competitors.


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