Recently in National news Category

Lonely this Valentine's Day? Buy a Facebook girlfriend

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Move over Romeo and Juliet, there is a new love story in town.

Forget wasting £5, or even £15, on an oversized novelty stuffed teddy this Valentine's Day, even if it sings Unchained Melody when you push its paw. Dave Lee, of the BBC, found that for only $5 you can buy make-believe online love.

teddy-bears-11285_640.jpgWhile conducting research, Lee came across a number of sites offering varying degrees of fake girlfriend services. After discovering Namoro Fake and Cloud Girlfriend couldn't offer him the fabricated social media solicitude he was seeking, he turned to Google and happened upon Fiverr.

Fiverr is a US-based site-come-forum where people list things they are willing to do for $5 and after a quick search for "fake girlfriend", Lee laid eyes on Sophia and the rest is history. Well, a whole week's worth of history because that's all the $5 gets you.

After their whirlwind romance was made official on Facebook, Sophia posted a few strategic comments to try and convince people of the relationship and it didn't take long for Lee's friends to start sending him messages in a bid to get him to spill the beans.   

After struggling to maintain the charade and appease his friend's suspicions, Lee conceded defeat and went back to Fiverr to see what else he could get for his hard-earned money.

He found Suzi Linder, a singer from New York, who sings jingles for $5. You can watch her performance below:

The lesson that Downtime is taking from this story is that if you're going to pay a woman for anything, it should be to sing. What a wholesome Valentine's message. 
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Boris' fantastic 4G faux pas

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Boris Johnson made a surprise appearance at a press conference in London's Science Museum this morning. The press conference was for Everything Everywhere to announce the roll out of 4G across the UK as well as its rebranding to EE.

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BoJo made a hilarious speech to declare London's networks "switched on". Not before rambling on about how well the mobile networks coped with the extra demand during the Olympics.

He didn't stop there.

He specifically went on to thank EE's competitor, Vodafone, along with further thanks to BT.

Awkward Boris, awkward. I don't think you should expect an invite to EE's Chirstmas party after that.

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Boris - hang in there

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Where would today's news be without the public and their camera phones?

Citizen journalism has helped big news channels break stories when disaster strikes for many years now. 

If an earthquake tragically destroys a city, instead of getting the heck out of a collapsing building, someone is guaranteed to pause for a moment to capture the catastrophe on their camera phone. The grainy, shocking images are then available to show the world first-hand what we are all desperate to know.

And not forgetting, when a certain London Mayor gets stuck on a zip wire in Victoria Park. Opportunity knocks and the crowd can share the hilarity with the rest of the population who were unfortunately not there to witness the spontaneous entertainment.

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?

Satirical blog causes a stir in the Maldives

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After a satirical blog stating the Maldives was set to be omitted from the Times Atlas of the World was published the country's acting high commissioner, who is based in London, wrote to the Daily Telegraph's editor demanding clarification and an apology.

The blog in question claimed the island nation was to be left out of the Times Atlas of the World. The author, James Delingpole who himself is a climate change sceptic, said the next edition would omit some low-lying areas at risk of rising sea levels. 

The tounge-in-cheek post was put together following comments from scientists who said the  Atlas had exaggerated the scale of ice-cover reduction in Greenland.

According to the blog it wasn't just the Maldives that is set to be turned into a modern day Atlantis, "Tuvalu" and "major parts of Bangladesh" are also at risk. 

The post even contained fictitious quotes, saying that in map-making, "emotional truth" was more important than actual truth.

The Maldives acting high commissioner said the entry had implied that his country's climate change plight was a con-trick, and it was despicable and hurtful.

However, he added that Maldivians had as strong a sense of humour as anyone. 

Not even the Queen is immune from IT budget cuts

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According to the latest report on Royal spending from the Keeper of the Privy Purse, the Queen's IT budget was slashed by 50% last year, down from £400,000 in 2008 to £200,000 last year.

Apparently one of last year's IT priorities was the implementation of "a system to enable the real time back-up of all data to the Household's Business Continuity site".

Where does one keep one's backup site, Downtime wonders? In the east wing of the Palace? Perhaps the servant's quarters in remote Balmoral?

Other IT details contained in the Royal household's latest annual report reveal the connected nature of today's Royal family.

"Buckingham Palace is linked to other Royal palaces via private wires and fibre optic links and during the year additional links and software upgrades were implemented for resilience and a full disaster recovery test was carried out," says the report.

And not to be left out of the latest trends, QE2 has gone QE2.0:

"The Monarchy website and web presence has been continually developed since the relaunch of www.royal.gov.uk in February 2009 to keep up with new media trends and technological advances," says the report.

"The website attracts up to 300,000 visitors a week at peak times. Social Media is becoming an increasingly important medium for disseminating assets and information about the work of the Royal Family. In June 2009 a British Monarchy Twitter account was launched which now has over 40,000 followers."

And it looks like a busy year ahead for the Queen's IT team, whose priorities in 2010 will include "looking at various business processes within the Household with the aim of automating as much as possible and ensuring that these processes can cope with the increased workloads expected in association with the Diamond Jubilee in 2012."

Downtime is sure that one's IT manager is in for a busy, if budget-restricted, year ahead.

Children spend too much time on computers

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In the days of old when knights were bold and computers hadn't been invented, squires - wannabe knights - would practice swordsmanship using wooden swords, to minimise the risk of injury and also to protect the valuable ironmongery from damage.

It is entirely possible that many infant school teachers can see the point of the latter reasoning, and would gladly not submit the school's Wi-Fi laptops to the grubby little fingers and hayfever driven sneezes of a class of 20 six-year-olds.

But according to recent reports one  psychologist is now suggesting that children should not be introduced to the joys of IT until they are nine years old.

No doubt schools will in due course be issued with wooden models of the latest lap-tops, with the letters of the keyboard painted on to wooden buttons. They will sit in their little rows and all hum the Microsoft start-up tone at assembly every morning, before "logging" (emphasis on the log) on to their treemail accounts - oh you get the picture.

In which case this kit, created by French artist Dimitri Tskalov, could suddenly be in demand.



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3D Sun's fuzzy logic

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While Rupert Murdoch's News International tries to persuade us all that we should be happy to part with cash to read news online, and publishers of daily and weekly newspapers in the UK assure us that it's impossible to make money in publishing right now, far away in China the latest fashion is for 3D newspapers. Readers, apparently, can't get enough of them since they were launched in April.

In March a European paper, La Derniere Heure, issued what is probably Europe's first 3D paper, but found it to be a costly experiment, unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

The super-soaraway-Sun, not to be left behind, soon followed up with a promise of a 3D edition on 5 June. And here it is, or at least the online version of the front page (in case it should slip behind the pay wall).

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Fuzzy babes and fuzzy elephants. So much for that. Surely by the time they get the technology for this sorted out, your 3D news will already be popping up from your iPad like Princess Leia out of R2D2, and you won't need silly glasses.

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Technical hitch delays BSkyB EDS judgement

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In Court Nine at the Technology and Construction Court, which is part of the High Court, were more journalists than lawyers. Two rows of seats at the back of the court were full. All were there to hear the result of a five-year legal battle.

The judge, Sir Vivian Ramsey, had already broken records. It had taken him about 15 months to prepare his judgment in the case of BSkyB versus EDS.

BSkyB had originally ordered the CRM system in 2000. In the words of EDS, it was a "problematic" project. So, 10 years later, Court Nine was alive with ardent expectation as The amassed waited for the judge to enter and hand down his verdict. At 4pm, the pre-announced time of the judgment, the courtroom was hushed by the entrance of the judge's assistant. He looked worrying sheepish.

"There has been a technical hitch," he said apologetically, explaining that the judgment would not available until the following day.

The journalists were more than irate: there's something not even slightly amusing about the judgment in one of the world's biggest private sector IT disasters being unavailable because of a technical hitch.

Print advertising is the future - Google says so

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Imagine if you can, for a moment, that you are Google.

You have revolutionised the advertising industry. Billions of marketing dollars now flow your way. Traditional outlets for ads, such as newspapers and magazines, are facing disaster and many have already shut down. You are under fire from media titans such as Rupert Murdoch, fearful of their own dead tree empires collapsing. Meanwhile, you are also trying to revolutionise another industry - the Microsoft one - and your latest focus is the shiny new Chrome browser with which you hope to lure internet-savvy punters away from their reliance on Internet Explorer and, ultimately, Windows.

How do you choose to inform the wider web using population about your new product? Pop-up ads on Google's web site? Those carefully selected, oh-so-lucrative text ads alongside search results?

No. You choose... a newspaper advert. For today, Google, the scion of the print-free web future, bought a false front cover, wraparound advert in the free Metro newspaper to tell everyone why they should use the Chrome browser. Well, at least it chose a free paper and not one of Murdoch's.

Downtime is printing off several thousand copies of this blog post at this very moment to send to all our readers.  

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