April 2012 Archives

Mac owners can now stink differently

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Apple Mac owners tend to take this status very seriously. One only has to watch the reverence of a Mac "unboxing" on YouTube to understand that.

Such "unboxings" are usually accompanied by "oohs" and "aahs" about the smell of a brand new Apple product even before it released from its packaging.

Now, thanks to the entrepreneurial efforts of three artists in Australia, Apple fan boys may soon be able to make themselves smell just like a brand new Mac, according to reports.

Apparently, the trio in collaboration with a "scent solutions" firm Air Aroma, dispatched a brand new MacBook Pro to a French fragrance lab, where it was analysed until the perfect formula was found.

The result was "Stink Different", but Apple fan boys may have to wait a while before they can get their hands on some.

Personally, Downtime is in no hurry to go about evoking the smell of the plastic wrap,  printed ink on the cardboard, and a factory-fresh aluminum laptop.

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MoD rules out Bring Your Own Device Scheme after AK47 becomes mobile of choice

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Bring your own device schemes (BYOD) have been ruled out as a policy option at the Ministry of Defence, according to the MoD's security head.

The practice of allowing staff to use their own computing devices for work, through BYOD programmes, is becoming a popular way for organisations to cut costs, keep staff happy and increase productivity.

The MoD decided not to go forward with its own programme when  the AK 47 was viewed by most staff as the mobile device of choice was also a warning sign.

John Lewis virtually undresses customers

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John Lewis has invested in technology that will negate the need for being dragged around shops by people that insist on trying clothes on before they buy them.

The retail giant has introduced augmented reality to allow people to try clothes on digitally. The virtual mirrors allow people to stand in front of a mirror press a few buttons and hey presto "my bum, looks big in this."

Downtime might think this is a bit of a multi-channel gimmick but hey we are impressed with John Lewis offering clothes off the Jpeg.

Not so helpful customer service teams

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Some may say that the customer service offered by banks, nowadays, is not as good as it could be, but the recent email Downtime received from Barclaycard just topped it.  Whilst scheduling time slots for exhibiters to contribute to a video interview at an upcoming technology security show, Barclaycard were contacted to ask if a spokesperson could participate. Barclaycard's Customer Service Advisor emailed back saying: "Please visit the nearest Barclays branch for the information."

I highly doubt the cashier at my local branch would have even heard of InfoSec, let alone be able to help me with a spokesperson that will be present on the day.

This makes Titanic 3D seem almost watchable

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You people have the good folks at Bytes Document Solutions to thank for bringing this self labelled "viral" film, I Hate Printers, to our attention. 

Ignoring the fact that they've labelled this film a "viral" themselves, without even giving it the chance to "circulate rapidly on the internet" (the words of Dictionary.com, not just Downtime), this film is basically just people smashing up printers and then having a paint fight. It's like an outdoor, even tackier, version of Fun House. But even Pat Sharp couldn't help this lot. 

Downtime can't imagine how they came up with such an original idea this!? Maybe it was one of the 1,510 videos of other people smashing printers on Youtube?

Time for Word and Excel to bow out?

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Evolution of workplace technology infographic.jpgIt does not surprise Downtime one bit that a recent neurological experiment has revealed that office workers are wasting 20% of their mental resources. 

Wasting!? Downtime would kill for someone to USE 20% of their mental resources when writing one of these posts. 

Anyway, Mindlab International, who carried out the study on behalf of Mindjet, came to the conclusion that the use of traditional office software is to blame. 

The findings highlighted numerous patterns, including: 
 • During everyday office tasks, participants needed 20 per cent less mental resources when using visually displayed information compared to traditional office software 
 • Individuals becoming 17% more productive when using information displayed visually compared to using traditional office software 

The proverbial finger is being firmly pointed at desktop software which was initially developed in the 1990's and hasn't really undergone an extensive shift in the way it works. 

So, in summary, the human brain loves visual images and is able to process information presented in this way much more easily than in standard "linear" formats, such as word or excel files. 

Downtime whole-heartedly agrees. Now, we're off to conduct our own series of experiments using pictures of pretty ladies versus the same picture described in binary code. Wonder which one Downtime will like best?

First thing, what do you do?

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When you wake up in the mornings, what is the first thing you do? Think carefully. Odds are you check your mobile for email, messages and status updates, as do more than four in ten Londoners. 

Only 25% of those polled said they kissed their partner, in a survey by Infosecurity Europe in the run up to the 2012 Infosecurity show 24th - 26th April 2012, in Earls Court, London. 

The survey showed that men and women check their phones the same amount in the morning - but while more men check for messages, women are actually more likely to be on the lookout for work emails.

Paul Kennedy, 25, said, "My mobile phone is my alarm, so when I turn it off I always check for messages and emails at the same time - my girlfriend doesn't notice so I don't get into trouble!"

But Claire Sellick, event director for Infosecurity Europe said, of those who check their phone for work emails first thing in the morning, only 49% said they use strong security on their mobile device.

The combination of dedicated employees who are always working, with less-than-ideal security on mobile devices, can be catastrophic for their companies if their security is breached.

If that is not a wake-up call, Downtime does not know what is. Anyone in the group that checks their email first thing should also probably see a head doctor, just to be on the safe side.

It is essential that companies who let employees work on mobile devices ensure they have strong security in place, said Sellick, so the benefits of 'anytime, anywhere' working are not outweighed by the security risks.

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Royal Mail is putting a nail in its own coffin via Twitter

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Recent months have seen the poor old Post Office and its Royal Mail mothership suffer a couple of technical problems.

But what downtime found most interesting was how the organisation has harnessed Twitter to keep people up to date with the problems it is experiencing.

So not only is the company telling them  that its systems are not working but also that there is a far better mechanism to communicate than letters for example.

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Job: Google Doodler - Mountain View (seriously)

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Google Doodle for Valentine's day 2011
Google has advertised a job that sums up just how ridiculous the world has become. You know those little drawings that say 'Google' in funny ways on the search page? Yeah that's someone's job. A Google Doodler.

How did this job come about? Was the last guy promoted? What an incredibly strange topsy-turvey take on 'The secret to my success' starring Michael J Fox.

I find it hard to believe that the guy that 'doodles' found himself in line for a big promotion for drawing really amusing drawings.

I imagine him (let's call him Bob) coming home with the news:

Bob: Hey honey, I'm home! I have some news.

Wife: Oh, what is it?

Bob: I'm in line for a big promotion. I told you I won't be a Doodler forever.

Wife: Wow honey! That's great news, what's the job?

Bob: Finance Operations Project and Process Manager.

Wife: ??

Bob: What you don't think I can do it?!?! You think I should stay a Doodler huh? That I'm not good enough!!

*At this point Wife realises there is a distinct smell of alcohol on Bob's breath.

Wife: No, that's great news. I'll get dinner ready.

Anyway, I assume the job came up because they needed more Doodlers and not due to a promotion.
The initial configuration of the Google Pac-Ma...
Here are some snippets I've extracted from the advert.

First impressions matter. Every day, hundreds of millions of online users visit the Google homepage. Yes, to search. But also, to be delighted, informed, and surprised (And maybe even to laugh a little).

Yeah I go to Google to search, the other stuff isn't a big deal for me. In fact I use the search in my browser therefore bypassing the whole doodle.

As a Product Graphic Designer/Illustrator, more commonly known as a "Doodler,"

Seriously f*** off Google, give the guy a proper job title. How can he look his parents in the eye and say he's a doodler. That's as bad as Subway calling the counter staff 'Sandwich artists' or me calling 'Social Media Consultants' useless tw*ts. Ok I probably shouldn't call them that but you get the point.

From Jules Verne to Pac-Man, you have the reins to our brand and iconic logo and can run free with your innovative ideas. Go forth and doodle!

That's kind of true except for the fact that these 'free-thinking artists' are restricted. Here's a work scenario I imagine happening regularly in a Doodler's work-life.

Doodler boss: Today I want you to draw ET in an amusing way.

Doodler boy: But I was thinking of drawing rainbows in the shape of the word...

Doodler boss: You will draw f***ing ET and you will make his finger shine like the happiness in your heart, OK?!?!?!

*At this point Doodler boy realises there is a distinct smell of alcohol on Doodler Boss's breath.

Doodler boy: Ok, that's great news. I'll get dinner ready.

Google logos wallace and grommit

They don't make 'em like they used to

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While the digital age may be a forward-looking one, Downtime is glad of the connections to the past captured in the various formats of Web 2.0. For example, this backwards glance - the 50 worst album covers of all time - bears witness to trends of yesteryear which, without record, would beggar belief were they mooted today. 

Downtime is a big fan of music hall burlesque, so it was gratifying to discover, with the very first search, a YouTube recording of Faye Richmonde's eponymous track of the album, "My Pussy Belongs To Daddy". From there it was but a single click to La Richmonde's follow-up masterpiece of single entendre, "Sadie's Still Got The Rag On".

It is comforting to know the mugshots of artistes Ken, Joyce (surely Tootsie?) and Devastatin' Dave (the turntable slave), have been digitally rendered on servers across the globe for posterity. 

Indeed, Downtime intends to trawl YouTube and the like for more of this stuff, so was very grateful for the government's U-turn on plans to spy on internet users' online activity before tapping in searches for the likes of "She Sits Among The Cabbages And Peas"

Technology to fit a student's life

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As if technology, like the internet, wasn't making students' lives easy enough a university is making the kind gesture of allowing students to attend lectures in their own time.

The University of the West of England is harnessing technology that will not only allow students to attend lectures from anywhere with an internet connection, but actually watch them at a later date.

Unified communications software, networking equipment and video conferencing are just some of the technologies being used by the university will to stream lectures to multiple locations and make them available to watch later.

While downtime supports this type of development we do worry about the messages this will send students. Festering in bed after a hard day and night socialising will no longer bring on the guilt.

What about the lectures? Typically only attended by half the students this is likely to result in lecturers talking to a camera.

We hope that the university has taken into account the paranoia effect. The one that hits you at 4am when you suddenly start to worry about the lecture you missed. This is when the bandwidth will be put to the test.

Men biggest multi-taskers in bed

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Who said men are not good at multi-tasking? Nearly three quarters of people who work on computers in bed are men, according to a survey by Infosecurity Europe.

More than a third of those polled on London's streets admitted that they or their partners work in bed, probably without thinking about what that says about them and their partners.
In fact, 5% of people who work from bed, admit to averaging two hours a day.

"Mobile devices and laptops have delivered great freedom by enabling people to work when they are out of the office or on the move, but surely the fact that so many people are now working from bed is just going too far," said Claire Sellick, event director for Infosecurity Europe.

But there is a darker side, she said, referring not to the lack of doing more exciting things in bed than work, but to the fact that the survey reveals the scale of the problem for IT security departments who have to secure sensitive communications or transactions, wherever they are being made.

"Of people who work from a mobile device, more than 1 in 4 admitted they don't use strong security - so they are leaving themselves vulnerable to security breaches," said Sellick.

Downtime takes comfort in the fact that 65% of those polled said they or their partners did not work in bed. Perhaps the majority are more security conscious, but Downtime suspects they simply have better things to do.


Could we soon have flat pack robots?

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The BBC recently reported that a US-based project could see the average person designing and printing a robot within 24 hours. Surely this would be more fun than building flat park furniture from everyone's favourite Swedish store?

The £6.3 million funding for the five-year project, which involves experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, is coming from the National Science Foundation.

The recent surge in 3D printing is an avenue the project is keen to explore, with Prof Rob Wood of Harvard University telling the BBC, "3D printers are becoming more accessible but we want to go beyond that to create robots that encompass multiple functionalities, that have electrical and mechanical components, controllers and microprocessors. That's something that goes beyond today's state-of-the-art printers."

It is hoped, in the long term, that the research could eventually lead to the creation of a one-stop machine able to produce a robot at home for around £65.

Downtime has one question, what happens if you run out of ink halfway through?

Darth Vader controls your evil children and makes them happy

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David Prowse as Darth Vader in The Empire Stri...
You're driving, the kids are driving you crazy. The little one is crying because the older one keeps hitting him etc. etc.

So what do you do? Switch on the sat nav and let Darth Vader navigate you as well as soothe your kids' hearts of course.

TomTom found that for 97% of parents, 'crying and unhappy children' is the single biggest source of disturbance in the car and so launched a project called GAGA (not kidding) to see what they could do.

Following rigorous tests, researchers at TomTom discovered that Darth Vader's voice increases children's happiness in the car by over 68%. More than 300 baby and toddler volunteers took part in Project GAGA, a six month research project to find the perfect satnav voice for families with small children.

In scientific tests, Darth Vader gained the highest happiness score with children aged six months to two years. The Dark Lord's voice was tested alongside 25 other popular satnav voices including Homer Simpson, Bugs Bunny and Yoda. Children responded most positively to Darth Vader's breathy tones, whilst Yoda's voice reduced many babies to tears.

I am completely against this. I don't want my kids growing up thinking that they should listen to Darth Vader over BUGS BUNNY and YODA. The guy kills people. He strangles them and chops them in half.

Part of me thinks it must be a sort of Sith Lord mind control trick, but then why didn't Yoda work?!? I don't think Bugs can achieve those levels of Jedi mind power so I'm not gonna think about that.

The other possibility is that they found the most evil kids in the world.

Here's a video showing the little satan worshippers responding positively to evil.

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Twitter ideal for 5-year-olds, says teacher

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Just as business leaders are finding official uses for social networking in the work environment, teachers are beginning to find a place for it in schools.


A pre-school teacher in New York has begun experimenting with using Twitter as a teaching and learning platform, according to The New York Times.


Teacher Jennifer Aaron claims Twitter helps pre-schoolers think about their day and summarise events. "Twitter is ideal for 5-year-olds because it is so short," she told the paper.


Three times a week, Aaron's classes are given access to Twitter and encouraged to compose group tweets about what they did earlier in the day.


After the pre-schoolers have composed their group message, Aaron asks them, "Are we ready to tweet?," and they all enthusiastically answer, "Yeah!"


If social media catches on in schools as an official teaching tool as laptops have, it may not be long before parents can move beyond the "nothing" response to the question: "What did you do at school today?"


Instead they can turn to social media and then use that as a way of starting a real conversation. For some parents, that could be a real "tweet".


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Smart fabric to support UK soldiers' equipment

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A breakthrough in textile manufacture could mean the UK military uniforms could become wearable computers in the not-too-distant future, according to US reports.

Intelligent Textiles has developed a fabric made out of fibres that can transfer electricity and data, which could eliminate the need for carrying additional batteries and cables.

In a demo, the firm has integrated the fabric into a vest, shirt, helmet, backpack and pair of gloves, which can be used to transmit power from a single battery to whatever piece of equipmnt a soldier needs to use. 

Because the fabric can also transmit data, Intelligent Textiles is working on a machine with a fabric keyboard to be used alongside the clothing to add that functionality.

As well as reducing the load soldiers have to carry around, ultimately the technology could help eliminate some of the power and data issues they face out in the field.

If the fabric gets cut, damaged or torn, soldiers will still have a way of re-routing the data.

The company has plans to field test the uniform  being supported by a £234,000 grant from the MoD in May and believes it could be in widespread use by as soon as 2014 or 2015.

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