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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 26th Feb 2014

Birmingham-chamber.com - TOP STORY on Wednesday 26 February 2014

A new benchmarking survey from Mercato Solutions shows that councils are still paying an average of three times more than the industry standard, a year after research revealed local authorities were paying too much for IT products. And the highest margin paid for a single IT purchase is an astounding 327 per cent. The new study benchmarked a variety of purchases made by councils against trade guide prices using Mercato’s KnowledgeBus IT application. Results showed that the average margin on these purchases was 12 per cent percent. This is an improvement on the previous year’s figure of 29 per cent but is still much higher than the recommended industry standard of just three per cent *.

The dedicated IT edition of KnowledgeBus provides automated online benchmarking of quotes against a daily trade guide price of over 150,000 products from more than 2,500 manufacturers. It enables users to quickly spot when margins are too high and negotiate accordingly. It is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS).

The survey covered a range of sectors, from insurance and finance to retail and leisure. Local Authorities have reduced average margins paid to 12 per cent which takes the sector from 4th to 14th place in a league table of those securing poorest value on IT product purchases.

Mercato’s head of benchmarking, Al Nagar, (pictured) commented: “The latest results show that Councils have clearly taken significant steps to halve the margins they pay to secure better value on IT product purchases. However, in a sector of public scrutiny where every penny counts, margins of 12 per cent are still well adrift of 3 per cent best practice.”

Mercato’s research shows that the problem is widespread; 8 out of 10 organisations are failing to secure best value when it comes to ICT investments. This is partly due to volatility in the market which makes it difficult for buyers to obtain, manage and compare like-for-like trade level IT product data.

Nagar continues: “Without validated comparative data, buyers are struggling to achieve a three per cent margin. Data is the key and with access to up-to-date information, procurers can gather the knowledge they need to negotiate better deals with IT suppliers and get more from their IT budgets in 2014.”

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 26th Feb 2014

Today I found out

Why "Mac" and "MC" Surnames Often Contain a Second Capital Letter

The short story is that “Mc” and “Mac” are prefixes that mean “son of.” Early inconsistencies in records are what led to having both Mc and Mac prefixes. Mc is just an abbreviation of Mac, and both can actually be abbreviated further to the much less common M’.

As you might guess from this, the myth that a Mac name denotes Scottish heritage while a Mc name denotes Irish heritage is simply not true. Similarly, the assertion that Mac names are Protestant while Mc names are Catholic doesn’t have a shred of truth to it. They both just mean “son of” and can be used by anyone of either descent or religion.

Someone with the last name of MacDonald is sort of like someone with the last name of Johnson—likely, each had ancestors with the name of Donald or John. Back in the day, it was common to differentiate people with the same name by also calling them by the names of their fathers, which is how this sort of surname started to become popular.

You can probably see why Mc and Mac names typically contain a second capital letter. Since proper nouns are capitalized, you would write “son of Donald,” not “son of donald.” In the same way, you would usually write MacDonald rather than Macdonald, but there are obviously exceptions. Surnames have been around so long that sometimes they get changed, and in some families, the second capital letter was gotten rid of.

In addition, some Mc and Mac names don’t include the name of the father, but the father’s profession. Take someone named John Macmaster. In this case, John’s father was a master of some sort, therefore John is the “son of a master.” Master is not a proper noun and thus does not need to be capitalized. This practice can be seen elsewhere—every Smith, Baker, and Cook likely had someone in that occupation somewhere in their ancestry.

Other Mc and Mac surnames come from some physical feature of the person, such as Macilbowie, which means “son of the blonde man,” while the more recognizable Mackenzie (ironically enough now a popular first name for girls) means “son of the fair one.” Again, every Brown, White, Green, Bruin, Weiss, LeBlanc, etc. can relate.

There was also a prefix for “daughter of” but these mostly fell out of favour years ago. The daughter prefix was Nc, short for the Gaelic “nighean mhic.” Surnames for women like NcDonald were fairly popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, but after that time there were only a few secluded mentions of them.

To a lesser extent, “Vc” was used to denote “grandson of,” so that a person would have two surnames. Now you might have John MacDonald Vcmaster, but this tradition was never incredibly popular and is not as prevalent today.

These surnames have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Aside from Mac being shortened to Mc, in some cases the prefix was dropped altogether. This happened as Macs and Mcs immigrated to other countries and other parts of their names were changed to be more easily pronounced by the people there. For instance, in several cases MacDonald became Donaldson. However, it also occurred within Scotland itself. For instance, the name MacGregor was once banned, and the members of the MacGregor clan had to use different names. Eventually, the name was reinstated, but not everyone went back to using it

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 26th Feb 2014

 February 24, 2014 posted by Nigel - Redferret.net

It’s a pretty common scenario. You’re driving to a new destination and get lost and you’re late. Cue confusion, arguments, discord and general disharmony in the vehicle. Also, strangely, there’s also a typical situation where someone reaches over and turns the stereo system down or off. Ever wondered why?

image: shutterstock

Well apparently it’s for the same reason that many countries now ban the use of mobile phones while driving. You see when our brain listens, it reduces the visual function, in effect our attention is split, and there’s only so much of it to go round. A 2005 study by Professor Steven Yantis of Johns Hopkins University, found that when subjects had their attention to listening to audio, the visual part of their brain recorded decreased activity, and vice versa.

Apparently the problem is that we can’t multitask very well, and when we try we tend to make more mistakes or perform tasks slower.

Most of the recent research has of course been directed at learning about situations involving driving and other activities such as talking on a cell phone, but there may be some correlation to strange situations such as those where airline pilots ignore warnings from instruments and co-pilots before crashing. Could it be that the brain is simply too overloaded to cope with all the incoming signals?

Whatever the causes, it looks as though we should take a bit more care not to overload our poor old grey cells beyond their capacity. Just because we can get a computer to do two things at once, doesn’t imply that we should expect the same of our mental engine.

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Posted by Delete Delete on Tue 18th Feb 2014

Vodafone launched their 4G services 6 months ago and have announced that they have now reached half a million customers. Vodafone 4G launched just covering London but now covers over 208 towns, districts and cities, which means they’re now covering 36% of the UK population. Their coverage includes Coventry, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham and lots of the South East – but sadly nowhere in Wales.

Vodafone also announced that during the month of December their 4G customers used over 300 Terabytes of data. This may sound a lot but it averages out at only about 600MB per person. This is twice as much as their 3G customers. Either way, it doesn’t seem as if many people are making the most of their free Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Feb 2014

 techspot.com - Industry News - 6th Feb 2014

Google may utilize some of the largest and most sophisticated data centers in the world today, but that wasn’t always the case. When the company was just getting started 15 years ago, Google operated out of a tiny server room at the Exodus data center in Santa Clara, California.
The data center was one of the first collocation facilities in Silicon Valley. Coincidentally enough, they were just down the hall from AltaVista, once the world’s most popular search engine. Their direct neighbor in the facility was eBay.
Operating in such a facility wasn’t cheap but Google was able to manage. They talked their way into some favorable pricing since most of their traffic was “incoming” instead of outbound. The early team also improvised their own external cases for the main storage drives which included an improvised ribbon cable to connect seven drives at once.
And if something went down, co-founder Larry Page would roll up his sleeves and fix it himself. One such instance took place when they were moving computers into their cage and a ribbon cable was damaged. Desperate to get up and running, Page managed to repair the cable that night using a twist tie.
It’s all irrelevant now but it shows you just how far the company has come and adds a bit of a human touch to the whole story. Google started out just as millions of others do: with a vision and very little money.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Feb 2014

Techeye.net -  07 Feb 2014

Apple ahead of the pack again

Small Blue and its chums at PARC are working on computers which can self-destruct.

The big idea is that it would be handy for sensitive electronic components to able to self-destruct on command to keep them out of the hands of potential adversaries.

PARC and IBM are joining the Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) programme of the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

DARPA awarded a $2.1 million contract to PARC, and a $3.5 million contract to IBM for the VAPR program, which seeks to develop transient electronics that can physically disappear in a controlled way.

PARC and IBM, experts in microelectronics technologies, will develop electronic component materials that shatter into a million pieces when triggered. Another outfit, SRI International, meanwhile, is working on a disappearing silicon/air battery.

The method will use stress-engineered materials, silicon processing, and microchip handling and deposition to create a transience technology. This is called Disintegration Upon Stress-release Trigger, or DUST which is oddly how Techeye operates on a Monday morning.

PARC will use stress-engineered substrates with integrated triggers and silicon proxy, or "dummy" circuits that crumble into small, sand-like particles in a fraction of a second when an electrical trigger is applied.

Individual pieces of dust will be invisible at a reasonable distance and will blend into the surrounding environment.

IBM researchers will use the property of strained glass substrates to shatter into silicon and silicon dioxide. An RF signal trigger such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will start the shattering.

Apple'iPad was named as the gizmo most likely to break in a stress test, maybe Big Blue should give Jobs' Mob a call and get a few pointers.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Feb 2014

by Dan Worth, 11 Feb 2014, V3.co.uk

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) revealed plans for a major £200m IT shake-up on Friday, as it prepares to embrace new technologies such as cloud computing, big data and to roll out 15,000 mobile devices to frontline staff.

So far an order for 500 iPad Minis has been placed, to be used by frontline officers in Hammersmith and Fulham for a trial starting in the spring.

However, speaking to V3, Met Police CIO Richard Thwaite said he expects the use of Android and Windows devices to be approved by the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) department within GCHQ this year, to enable more devices to be used by frontline officers.

“Because of security we are restricted to iOS devices for the pilot but we are anticipating Android and Windows 8 will be approved later in the year, so we will look to roll that out,” he said.

V3 contacted CESG for confirmation of the plans to approve Android or Windows platforms, but had received no reply at the time of publication.

Thwaite said having a choice of platforms would provide several benefits to officers, including avoiding spiralling costs for hardware purchases.

“We will look to provide a broad set of devices because depending on officer’s duties some may want an iPad Mini, some may want

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Feb 2014

by Daniel Terdiman - February 14, 2014  - cnet.com

People rarely read before tweeting stories

A traffic measurement company suggests that few people actually read the articles they share. If you spend much time online, you probably aren't surprised.

.Earlier today, one of my CNET colleagues pointed out how many of the comments on a recent story of his clearly reflected that the people leaving them had done so without ever getting beyond the article's headline.

As someone who spends a great deal of time online, that didn't surprise me at all.

Recently, a company that measures online traffic for sites like Upworthy said it has data supporting the idea that many people are so quick to share their thoughts on what they encounter online that they don't even bother to read the story first.

According to a Friday report in the Verge, the company Chartbeat said it has done research that demonstrated that there is no correlation between people actually reading articles and tweeting about them. While Chartbeat's data was specific to Twitter, the same phenomenon likely extends to Facebook, the Verge wrote.

"There is obviously a correlation between number of tweets and total volume of traffic that goes to an article," Chartbeat lead data scientist Josh Schwartz told the Verge. "But just not a relationship between stories that are most heavily consumed and stories that are most heavily tweeted."

Schwartz was hesitant to speculate as to why this might be, saying the data was merely a starting point. But there are a number of possible explanations. Clicks from social media are more likely to come from mobile devices, where readers typically spend less time on the page.

This is hardly the first time this concept has made the rounds. Last year, Slate published an illuminating piece about the idea of people skimming stories. And given how much information is constantly flooding into all our feeds, it's no wonder. Who's got the time to read everything that comes in. I personally feel lucky if I'm able to understand the gist of the countless daily headlines that catch my attention as they zip by. Then again, as someone who asks readers to make their way through my own articles, it's only fair that I try to read to the bottom of at least some of what I encounter -- and share.

Ultimately, we do our best.

So, please share this story, even if you don't read it. Then again, if you made it this far, this story's not about you.

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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 17th Feb 2014

Martyn Williams - PC World - 14th Feb 2014

High-tech device theft has claimed its latest victim in San Francisco—and he’s just 2 years old.

On Thursday evening, thieves stole a tablet PC from the hands of a toddler while he was sitting in the back of a car in the city’s Mission district.

The incident is the latest in a growing number of thefts that have targeted people using smartphones and tablet computers in San Francisco and across the U.S. The robberies are sometimes violent, involving a gun or knife, and cellphone carriers are coming under increasing pressure to come up with a technological solution that would render stolen handsets useless.

Lawmakers in California last week proposed a state law that would mandate a “kill switch” that would disable stolen phones, reducing their value and the incentive for theft, and Wednesday similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would take effect nationally from 2015.

Thursday night’s robbery began when a driver was parking his car in the 900 block of Capp Street. One suspect confronted the driver and told him he couldn’t park where he had stopped. Simultaneously, a second suspect opened a passenger door of the car and took the tablet from the hands of the toddler, who was playing on it while sitting in the back seat, according to the police.

A fight followed when the driver jumped out of the car and tried to stop the theft but failed. He suffered a cut arm and both robbers fled the area. The child was unhurt.

"It’s not very common for children to be victims of robbery,” said San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Albie Esparza. “But saying that, criminals are opportunistic and will seize an opportunity to commit a crime.”

The theft is reminiscent of one in the U.K. in 2012 that was caught on a clothing store’s security camera.

In that incident, a man, later identified as a 72-year-old, approached a 20-month-old child who was sitting in a stroller watching cartoons while her mother shopped nearby. The man looked around for a few seconds, then reached down and took the iPhone out of the child’s hands.

Police eventually caught up with the suspect, who pled guilty to a string of thefts and was jailed for 42 weeks, according to a local media report.

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Posted by Delete Delete on Mon 17th Feb 2014

Google has sweetened the pot for good guys willing to spend time digging into its products for security vulnerabilities. The problem is that those richer rewards still pale in comparison to what the bad guys are willing to fork over for flaws they can exploit. Security rewards are "an opportunity to keep honest people honest, and that's all," said Identity Finder's Aaron Titus.

Google is taking the fight to hackers by increasing the rewards it hands out to researchers who flag vulnerabilities in the company's products.

Its security reward program now covers additional services including Chrome browser apps and extensions that the company has developed and branded as "by Google."

Researchers who report vulnerabilities can grab between US$500 and $10,000, depending on the permissions and data involved in an extension where bugs are discovered, said Google security team members Eduardo Vela Nava and Michal Zalewski in a blog post.

Chrome Extensions

Although Google believes developing secure extensions for Chrome is relatively easy, assuming developers follow security guidelines, it is incentivizing researchers to help keep widely used extensions like Hangouts and Gmail protected.

The company also boosted reward amounts offered through the Patch Reward Program, which recognizes proactive security improvements to several open source projects that are vital to the Internet's health.

Google wants to honor the laborious work involved in protecting these projects from attacks, Vela Nava and Zalewski said.

'Leet' Payments

Google is offering $10,000 for major, complex improvements that are almost guaranteed to patch key vulnerabilities in the affected code. Researchers can earn $5,000 for providing "moderately complex" patches that add "convincing" security advantages.

Meanwhile, Google will reward those who offer "very simple" solutions or submissions that offer only reasonably theoretical upgrades with between $500 and $1,337. The latter figure refers to the term "leet" (or "elite"), a commonly used expression in the IT security field.

Google is not the only major technology firm to offer bug bounties to researchers. Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and AT&T also are among those who offer monetary rewards. The firms are battling hackers who are willing to pay far higher sums to wreak havoc on their services through weaknesses in their security.

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