Posts filed under: Technology

Technology

Techy Stuff we like

I think its fair to say that everybody wants to feel like they are connected in some way – My mother loves being able to send e-mails at any time in the day. I was phoned at 11 o clock in the evening the other day as she panicked as the e-mail she was trying to send would not send, of course I went to her aid and realised the problem was not of her own creation rather a very stupid computer program being well, just silly.

Liberia has a fairly interesting past seemingly mauled by poverty and a lot of civil wars. This leads to obviously a complete lack of credible internet connections, which of course helps to keep people informed as to what is going on around them in the world. Of course there are newspapers but whats the point in newspaper when the hip world wide web is around.

Vice is also a good magazine – I can never seem to find actual hard copies so I reside myself to the fact I can just type in ‘VICE MAGAZINE’ into Google and it will come up with what I want. Recently they went to Liberia (see the connection?!) on a mission to write about the local warlords : General Rambo, General Bin Laden and General Butt Naked (stupid names but I wouldn’t mess with them). They came across the interesting Alfred Sirleaf a man who despite any form of internetty connection manages to ‘blog’ using a blackboard and some chalk.

Vice also interviewed the man who met Alfred, over the an internet connection despite being sat opposite each other.

The interview is posted below.

Vice: Where’d you meet this one-man Reuters?
Andy: We met this guy on the last day of the trip to Liberia. We’d been there to meet these three warlords called General Rambo, General Bin Laden and General Butt Naked. We’d spent a lot of time with these guys in really dangerous situations and so working with Alfred was a really relaxing shoot to do, as opposed to fleeing a brothel at midnight in the worst slum in Monrovia.
Yeah, he seems very charming. Is he famous round there?
Yeah, he stands on one of the main highways and every morning he updates this Daily News chalkboard with stories. He’s an “analogue blogger”. The things he was talking about at the time were Charles Taylor’s trial at the Hague and whether or not the United Nations’ occupation of Liberia was actually the work of the devil.
He says “the UN are the devil” a lot when he’s explaining. Does he have an agenda?
Liberian people are very religious. They relate a long of things back to the Bible. He’s a Christian reporter and he’s hearing a lot of things that typically happen when the UN set up shop somewhere, i.e. an increase in the sex trade and rampant corruption, so I suppose that informs his news a little.
And everyone trusts him like a preacher or Jon Snow?
Very few people can afford to buy the papers or get on the internet so he’s one of the main news sources in Monrovia. I prefer him to Perez Hilton.
Oh, I don’t know about that.
He’s not as great at reporting celebrity stuff, but he has a better style I think.

Here is also the fairly interesting video.

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An interesting blog post came to my attention today – ‘Will the quality of broadband connections affect housing prices.‘ An interesting question I hope you will agree. Contemplating buying a house is something which some will have to really think about at some point in their adult lives, its kind of like the final step of the lifestyle we are meant to subscribe too – ‘house, wife and kids‘ notice I did make huge efforts to include the comma there for fairly obvious reasons!

Its fair to say when that forever remembered day when you pick up your first time buyer mortgage, keys and walk through the front door of your new home, a happy memory I hope.

Of course there has to be certain protocol that has to be followed, such as surveyors checking on your future home and what not, you know the garb so I’m not going to go into it.

What was so interesting about this post is that if it is the case that broadband is essential surely a house’s price should be reflective of the broadband connection available or even the mobile broadband signal that you can expect…

Consuming and uploading data are traditional ways people interact with the Internet, but now people use it in a completely different way, applications have emerged such as Google Docs that are completely online (in the cloud). For these to work a decent connection is often needed, particularly as more complex online applications emerge. When working collaboratively online applications more often than not offer the most powerful and useful solutions. Add to this the factor of working from home which may become something to be encouraged in these climate-aware times then it would be natural to start wondering if you are at a disadvantage compared to your similarly skilled peers if you have a poor Internet connection.

Distance from a telephone exchange will of course make a difference to the signal that you receive…

One of the most common factors that can affect your Internet speed is the distance you live from a telephone exchange. For ADSL type connections the speed will decrease the further away you are from the exchange. Landline is of course not the only option now, pay as you go mobile broadband is becoming more popular, but even this will vary from area to area, some places have a stronger signal, some properties might be constructed in such a way that accidentally blocks 3g signals. A house in an area close to a phone exchange and with a good mobile signal will have a better Internet service, and the owners will be able to make more of what the it has to offer.

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Its fair to say that the cost of building a house from scratch even on land owned by oneself is still going to be pretty expensive, perhaps the solution to cheap, affordable housing could be found through re-using the products that we have previously created…

Personally I cannot ever see myself owning a home, frankly with the money I presently earn and the little savings that I actually have coupled with the fact that now is apparently the time to start thinking about buying a property, whether I would actually be accepted for a first time buyer mortgage remains a mystery I don’t want to find out.

This scheme in LA in the US seems to be the answer at least to the problem that seems to stem from playing neighbouring city to one of the biggest ports in the US. Their idea was to create houses out of the fairly sturdy shipping containers which are omnipresent in the suburbs around LA, to build cheap, affordable housing which almost halves the cost of construction… A great idea indeed! Next we will be all growing vegetables or something

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With news being reported this week that Orange has secured a deal with Apple to sell the IPhone and being an Orange Customer presently came a thought to my slightly dead brain… ‘Could there actually be an app which I would use, and could save me money?’ So today I decided to go on a browsing journey to find something which would truly be fun to use and save me money.

It actually wasn’t too hard to find.

Pizza Hut Iphone App

Pizza Hut Iphone App

And here it is the Pizza Hut Iphone App which enables users to select,customise, and order their Pizza whilst subtracting 20% of the bill! Oh, the savings! Use of the Application is described by Main Street as…

The Pizza Hut application uses advanced interactive pizza building technology to help customers visualize their orders. They can scroll through various offerings like pasta, wings and pizza and manipulate the images of the food to their liking. Prefer some extra hot sauce on your wings? Just tap that option and give your iPhone a shake. Those wings will start dancing around and begin to get saucier. Want a bigger or smaller pizza pie? Just pinch or stretch the dough on the screen to toggle between small, medium or large sizes.

Because of its free nature and the huge publicity it had in the US it saw a massive boom in downloads and with no other product of a similar nature or calibre its easy to see why so many people have decided to switch and save over to Apple products, unfortunately as I found this morning on a friends IPhone, that this app is not availiable in the UK – the best app we could find was a Pizza Hut Finder which kinda sucks in comparison.

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There has been a lot of interest on the net regarding the fairly recent Report which looked into a Digital Britain, which has provided a possible as the BBC calls it ‘Blueprint for the future of everything from fast broadband to Channel 4 to online file sharing.’

Last Wednesday the 23rd of September – Digital Minister Stephen Timms confirmed one the most contreversial measures would go ahead – a 50p a month tax on your landline to fund a ‘superfast broadband connection’. There is a feeling that the government is seeing this as an essential tax to be introduced slightly before the elections which would potentially have cross party support, also by making an investment in a fibre optic network which many see is vital to Britain’s economic future.

On the BBC’s site an interesting comment came up…

“Will you pay for a Digital Britain?”

We don’t have a choice. But the 50p tax is a drop in the ocean, it will only bring in about £175million. Far more is needed to bring our network up to anywhere near the standards of the likes of the far east, South Korea for example.

And the 50p from this tax won’t be spent how it should be.

Also as a person without a home broadband connection (I use mobile broadband although I’m starting to think I should be using a fixed line) I don’t see why I should pay a tax when I don’t even have a fixed line broadband package.

Oh and you can bet that 50p will be where it starts at, with year on year increases in that figure.

I for one don’t see why, when BT have underinvested in the infrastructure for decades, any of us ordinary citizens should be paying for the improvements needed.

Force BT to cough up the money, force their fat cat directors and shareholders to put their money back into the system rather than living into luxury, stop forcing the ordinary person to fix what the wealthy have broke

I totally agree with this posters point, surely if a network provider such as BT is surely it would be worth them approaching all of the Broadband providers and posing the question – “Pay towards the network or we will refuse our services!” Of course this new tax will only cost us £6 a year, but that’s not the point the money I pay towards my internet connection is roughly £12 a month, and I personally see this as the funding for a Digital Britain. I don’t particularly want to have to pay for anything else especially when I can’t personally see it making a huge amount of difference.

Lord Carter

Lord Carter

Another great point made by a chap with Grandparents in the country read as follows…

I think this is a shocking idea. It discriminates against those who CHOOSE to have landlines, and will probably affect most of the older people in the UK. For example, my parents live in the country, are aged 80 and have a landline. They have no interest in super-fast broadband or mobile phones (which do not work effectively in their area). This is another example of doing things on the cheap, when a sensible solution would be to do some advanced planning, work out the projected costs and then fund through general taxation – instead of using our taxes to fund MP’s election campaigns and expenses. The problem is, we won’t have any say in the matter because it looks like this will be forced through before the election, then the excuse will be “Oh, it takes too long to get this undone and re-imburse everyone.

At the end of the day – I’m sure eventually we will all have to cough up or be taken to court despite being a internet user or not, lets hope there is some sense to this plan and it actually delivers the digital goods …

For more information on Digital Britain a great video featuring Lord Carter is available here

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Today I found an extremely interesting and enlightening article regarding the recent surge in ‘free’ laptop’s which are given away by companies in able to entice you into taking out a mobile broadband contract.

The Article from Broadband Expert is below for ease

There are concerns that the various free laptop offers that are coming alongside many mobile broadband deals may actually end up costing the consumer more money rather than saving them money.

Over recent months the various offers of free laptops and notebooks with a variety of mobile broadband contracts from different providers have become commonplace, and an increasing number of providers are offering these deals in order to be more competitive and to try and keep up with rival providers and firms.

In fact, recent reports have suggested that free laptops with built in Internet connections are set to be top sellers this Christmas, with many firms offering the laptops for ‘free’ with mobile internet contracts costing around £25 a month upwards. The popularity of these deals has already rocketed, spiralling from just four percent of consumers taking up such offers in July of this year to around twenty seven percent in the run up to Christmas.
However, industry officials have warned that consumers need to think carefully with regards to whether they are saving money by taking up this deal, or whether they are actually losing out in the long run. This is because the price of the mobile broadband contract over the two year contract period could add up to more than the value of the laptop, which means that it would work out cheaper to just buy the laptop outright on the open market and not sign up to the contract.

However, an official from Vodafone argued: “We launched in September and there has been a good response. If you haven’t already got a laptop it’s effectively free, because you are paying for the internet anyway and it spreads the payment and gives you a good value alternative to buying a laptop and a dongle

Source

I suppose my biggest concern with what the ‘official Vodafone source’ is saying is that an internet connection be it at a sub-standard speed costs £25 a month? I presently use a combination package for phone line, Digital TV and a very quick Broadband connection which costs me £25 + £10 a month for a dongle, so that is a complete total of £35 a month for everything – Sure you get a Netbook, with its incredible features of a small screen and even small keyboard, but is that really worth it? Surely these companies are making a ridiculous amount of profit as I can’t believe a Netbook would cost any more then say £30 for a run a 50,000. Could it be another case of the consumer’s (who I fear are the poorer, pram wielding amongst us…) being conned in the name of ‘being connected’.

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A so called ‘Digital Britain’ is something we all can be looking forward to in the next few years apparently, however it definitely seems to be the case that despite this scheme being excellent, the Government seems to be somewhat ‘at a loss’ as how to bring a decent broadband signal to every home by 2012 according to a recent article from the fellas at Broadband Genie.

The purpose of Digital Britain is to allow people especially in rural communities to access the internet, and no doubt any home in the UK. According to The Rural Broadband Initiative , cites broadband as the technology ‘enabler’ for people in rural communities.

Digital Britain - Click for more Information

Good old British Telecoms seems to have a solution of course – be that at the right price! Of course. BT has created a product related to their fairly successful Openreach trials, which spawned the ‘Broadband Enabling Technology’ – pretty sucky name if you ask me! The BET technology will bring better connections to especially rural areas so people like the ‘Fibre Warriors’ which I previously mentioned who are so sick of the government’s distinct inability to to provide areas such as Cumbria with adequate access to the outside world! The BET technology ‘amplifies broadband signals’ and has been successfully trialed in parts of Scotland where according to Broadband Genie –

A stable 1Mb was achieved at premises up to 12km from the exchange.

Broadband Genies article also states that ‘Eight more rural exchanges are to benefit from September 30, but after that it seems that BT is looking for someone to put their hand in their pocket. Openreach plans to approach local authorities to subsidise a wider roll-out – and when you consider that using BET to boost signals costs an incredible £1,000 to £3,000 per line, you can see why.’

Presently it seems that Cumbria’s residents are struggling by on Mobile Broadband Contracts or paying for Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband, lets hope the government PTFFO and sort the problem for them and indeed the huge amounts of people who do not have a ‘enabling’ broadband connection as standard.

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Months and Months ago Tata an Indian Company, released the World’s Cheapest Car to cope with the clearly high demand in India and around the world. Now Tata Industries under their Teleservices depart have produced India’s first Netbook equipped with 3G Mobile Broadband.

Tata Netbook

Tata Netbook

The Features of the Netbook include :

1.6 GHz processor
1 GB DDR memory
160 GB 2.5-inch hard drive
Qualcomm’s QSC6085 chipset
EVDO Technology
Broadband Connection using Tata Teleservices
Mobile broadband connectivity
Bundled with Tata Teleservices’ data packages
Photon Plus broadband service

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a first mover in a space that will surely heat up in the near future, and thank our technology partner Qualcomm as well as telecom partner TTSL for all their support. The Netbook, bundled with Tata Teleservices’ data packages, will bring to the consumer the convenience of connectivity ‘Anytime, Anywhere’. We look forward to surprising the Indian consumer with data-enabling devices that will make lives easier and empower greater numbers of Indians to connect to the Net conveniently. TTSL has been a partner since our inception in the telecom sector and we are proud to be associated with them in this new initiative too,

Said Mr Arun Khanna, the Chairman of Olive Telecommunication, who has partnered with Tata to produce the product

The Olive Netbook powered by Tata Photon Plus heralds a new era in versatile computing access, and is in keeping with TTSL’s endeavor to provide affordable and ubiquitously accessible high-speed Internet access,” Mr Anil Sardana, Managing Director of Tata Teleservices Limited, said. “The unique advantages of our high-speed Internet access service get compounded by the feature-rich and attractively-priced Netbook, which will be on offer with an exclusive range of tariff offerings, designed to bring the best of both worlds to the market,We congratulate Olive Telecommunication and Tata Teleservices for launching India’s first 3G-embedded Netbook. Computing and wireless are fast converging to enable a compelling mobile broadband experience for consumers worldwide.”

Ms Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice-President of the Americas and India, Qualcomm, said. “We are pleased to collaborate with our partners to bring to the Indian market an innovative solution that offers a world-class computing experience and ubiquitous broadband connectivity

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Around us everything seems to be changing perhaps for the better or even for the worst. One thing this week caught my eye whilst browsing the BBC

One of the top UK house builders Miller homes, have built a ‘zero carbon house’ to help combat climate change.
Personally I think its pretty cool and am interested to see whether housing such as this will really replace the housing we have presently. I’m all for diversity and change you see . Check out the video here for a look around this ‘special’ kind of house

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This Morning I read an interesting press-release for the site Broadband Choices. The Title of the release was “Is Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband a giant step backward” and for ease’s sake I have copied it here for you to read…

In studying and comparing pay as you go broadband plans and one of my favorite consumer choices websites Broadband Choices, an odd remembrance came to me. Vodafone, O2 and 3 all offer pay as you go mobile broadband on a per unit cost basis.

This means that you connect to the Internet at a rate of approximately 15 pounds per gigabyte of download. For light users this creates a savings of approximately 50%. For heavy personal and business mobile broadband users this represents the potential to pay triple the contract rate.

So what was this on remembrance? It was the early days of the Internet connection by means of dial up. In those days in the mid 1990s we accessed the Internet via now familiar portals such as AOL and Prodigy. In order to use the connections and graphic user interfaces of these portals one paid by the minute for time spent online. True growth of the Internet did not occur until AOL and other portals began to offer flat rate unlimited usage. In the United States all plans and options for mobile broadband include unlimited usage. For some reason UK suppliers refuse to give up these few pence of profit.

When one considers that mobile broadband coverage from many of the United Kingdom’s suppliers only approaches 80% availability in the UK, it becomes clear that England’s mobile broadband providers will need to lower prices and improve the service if they hope to compete with the convenience of ADSL.

Of course the use of a contract with say an un-capped download limit far outweighs having a Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband dongle – but lets approach this wish a different much more unbiased feel.

Sure a contract is pretty essential for any form of heavy mobile broadband usage, say for instance whilst travelling – the curse of every business person around the world having to travel which is awful and then adding to that the stress that comes with working and using a mobile broadband signal which perhaps not always works!

Being a young person myself – im fully aware at how easy it is to be stung by any form of ‘contractual agreement” between oneself and a provider, several times since I have taken out a mobile phone contract I have unfortunately had to cancel the direct debit as my ability to pay has dropped due obviously to several factors! As I said earlier the benefits to a contract – such as the ability to have essentially unlimited minutes, texts, or on the flip side unlimited data usage far outweigh a pay as you go ability, but lets look at it this way…

A Pay as you go system essentially for a single person, who perhaps moves house every so often is perfect, you simply have the ability to move jobs and can easily track how much money you spend on your device. A contract ties you in financially and inability to pay can be very costly (bad credit rating etc) Equally with a Pay as you go feature you can drop the provider you have very easily (not paying) and move over to a ‘better provider’ be that signal or… Modern contracts are generally in the 18-24 month variety so it means you cannot change provider till your term is up.

Its not a step backward its great that companies still provide a cost effective, manageable scheme for users.

There it is, my few thoughts on the press release for Broadband Choices.

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