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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 29th Jan 2014

 Lily Hay Newman - Future Tense- 27th January 2014

On this past Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, "Specs and the City," Mr. Burns gives every employee of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant a pair of "Oogle Goggles." It seems like an unusually generous and savvy gift, but really Mr. Burns just wants to use the devices to watch his employees. You see where this is going.
When Mr. Burns asks Smithers how much his company lost on office supply theft last year, Smithers calculates that it was $7,043. "Yes well," Mr. Burns replies, "no more of that, thanks to this $26 million surveillance system."


Homer and all of the feeble-minded power plant employees unsurprisingly become addicted to wearing Oogle Goggles, because the devices give them effortless command of a huge amount of information. But the underlying commentary is about how wearable computers like Google Glass can erode human interactions, especially in person. The characters get so absorbed in information from their devices that they miss things about what's happening in real life, right in front of them. And people's vices aren't cured by wearing Oogle Goggles. Homer, a longtime food addict, is initially grossed out when his Goggles tell him that Krusty Burgers are made of hamster bedding, newspaper inserts, and sand emptied out of bathing suits. But after a moment he shrugs off the factoid and eats his burger.

Throughout The Simpsons, Homer is often depicted as being clueless about using technology. But this innocence regularly allows him to transcend the uses creators have forseen for their technology and get at some new or extreme use. Homer is the everyman so maximally that he uses technology at its logical extreme.

In the December 2000 episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes," for example, Homer gets a website (Homer's Web Page), loads it with stolen GIFs, has to take it down because of copyright infringement, makes a new Mr. X website where he reveals peoples' secrets, wins a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting, reveals his identity so he can claim the prize, ruins his ability to collect secrets, makes secrets up including one huge one that turns out to be true, and ends up being abducted and taken to an island for people who "know too much" (a parody of The Prisoner).

Homer is so perpetually innocent about the world that he approaches new technology with virtually no preconceptions. But he isn't afraid of new devices or intimidated by them, so he ends up using them in reckless and uninhibited ways that allow viewers to explore the extremes of what is best and worst about their societal implications. When it comes to Oogle Goggles, Homer makes Marge angry because he is so obsessed with his new device. He forgets what life is like without them, and goes through withdrawal after she takes them away. Desperate, he goes to Mr. Burns's office to ask for a new pair and discovers Mr. Burns's surveillance scheme. But instead of being outraged, he is intrigued by the powerful, all-seeing system and begins spying on Marge as she herself is seduced by the Oogle Goggles.


The point seems to be that as the Internet of things grows, it will be harder and harder for privacy advocates to remain incorruptible. And furthermore, people are already so inured to sharing personal information that they might not even be horrified if they discovered that a person or entity had access to livestreams of everything they were seeing and doing all the time.

But Homer is never a completely tragic figure, and is redeemed in this episode when he realizes that he loves and respects Marge too much to permanently invade her privacy without her knowledge. It seems like a signal that the writers on The Simpsons are hopeful about society's abilty to productively integrate devices like Google Glass. If someone as stupid as Homer can ultimately come down on the side of privacy, maybe anyone would.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Jan 2014

Daven Hiskey - Today I Found Out about -

Violet Jessop, “Miss Unsinkable,” the woman who survived the sinking of the sister ships the Titanic and the Britannic, and was also aboard the third of the trio of Olympic class vessels, the Olympic, when it had a major accident.

Violet Jessop enjoyed incredible “luck” from a young age. Born in 1887 in Argentina to Irish immigrants, she contracted tuberculosis as a young child and was given just a few months to live. Somehow, she managed to fight the disease and went on to live a long, healthy life.

When her father passed away, her mother moved the family to Britain, where she took a job as a stewardess on a ship. While her mother was working, Violet attended a convent school. Unfortunately, her mother became ill, and to provide for her siblings Violet decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a ship stewardess herself.

The first in a long line of struggles for Violet was finding a ship that would take her. She was just 21 years old at the time and most women working as stewardesses in the early 1900s were middle-aged. Employers believed that her youth and good looks would be a disadvantage to her, “causing problems” with the crew and passengers. (Over the course of her career, she did get at least three marriage proposals while working on various ships, one from an incredibly wealthy first-class passenger.)

Eventually, Violet solved the problem by making herself look frumpy with old clothes and no make-up, and experienced more successful interviews after this. After a brief stint aboard the Orinoco, a Royal Mail Line steamer, in 1908, she was hired by the White Star Line.

Violet started out on the line’s Magestic, switching to the Olympic in 1910. Despite the long hours and minimal pay (£2.10 every month or about £200 today), she enjoyed working aboard the massive ship. She had initially had some concerns about the rough weather conditions while traveling across the Atlantic, but she reportedly liked that the Americans treated her more like a person while she served them.

It was just one year later when the trouble started. In 1911, the Olympic collided with the HMS Hawke (a ship designed to sink ships by ramming them). Both ships sustained considerable damage, including the Olympic having its hull breached below the water line, but miraculously didn’t sink. They were able to make it back to port, and Violet disembarked without being harmed.

A couple of years later, the White Star Line was looking for crew to cater to the VIPs aboard the unsinkable ship, the Titanic. It took a while for her friends and family to convince her that it would be a wonderful experience, but Violet eventually decided to take a job on board the ship. As you already know, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk, killing more than 1500 people.

Violet was able to escape the disaster on lifeboat 16. In her memoir, she recalls,
I was ordered up on deck. Calmly, passengers strolled about. I stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses, watching the women cling to their husbands before being put into the boats with their children. Sometime after, a ship’s officer ordered us into the boat first to show some women it was safe.
As she was jumping into the lifeboat, she was handed a baby to care for. When they were rescued by the Carpathia, the baby’s mother (or at least Jessop thought it must be) found her and whisked the baby away (literally grabbing the baby out of Jessop’s arms and running off).

Once again, Violet lived to sail another day. Although, she did later state the first thing she missed after the Titanic sank was her toothbrush that she’d left on board.

You’d think she’d stop getting on ships at this point, or at least ships of the Olympic class, but not Violet. In the lead-up to World War I, she decided to serve as a nurse on board the Titanic’s other sister ship, Britannic, which was operating in the Aegean Sea. Given her track record, you can probably guess what happened next. The Britannic ran into a mine that had been planted by a German U-boat. The ship sustained substantial damage and quickly started sinking.

This time, Violet wasn’t lucky enough to jump into a lifeboat as the ship was sinking too fast. Instead, she jumped overboard. In her own words,
I leapt into the water but was sucked under the ship’s keel which struck my head. I escaped, but years later when I went to my doctor because of a lot of headaches, he discovered I had once sustained a fracture of the skull!
She joked that she only survived because of her thick hair, which cushioned the blow. She also stated this time she remembered to grab her toothbrush before evacuating, unlike with the Titanic.

Even this latest disaster was not enough to deter Violet. After the war, ships were becoming a more and more popular form of transport. Even cruise ships were starting to emerge. Violet left the White Star Line for the Red Star Line and worked on a ship doing world cruises for several years.

Luckily for Violet and everyone traveling on the ships she was aboard later, no such vessel she worked on ever sustained significant damage again. She did take a clerical job for a while after World War II, but went back to working on Royal Mail ships for a few years before she retired at the age of 61. The rest of her life was spent gardening and raising chickens. She died in 1971 of congestive heart failure at the ripe old age of 84.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 27th Jan 2014

Michael Passingham 24 Jan 2014 - V3.Co .UK

Microsoft sees profits boom thanks to Surface and cloud computing


Cloud computing, Office 365 and the seasonal demand for the Surface tablet contributed to a strong financial quarter for Microsoft, with the firm posting profits of $6.56bn. The company posted a 14 percent revenue increase, taking $24.5bn between October and December.

The firm's second-generation tablet device performed strongly, netting Microsoft $893m in revenue, more than double the $400m it had generated for the firm in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, revenue for the Pro versions of Microsoft's Windows sold direct to PC makers (OEM) increased by 12 percent while non-Pro software saw a three percent decline. Microsoft said the figures were offset by continued "softness" in the global PC market.

Microsoft's Devices and Consumer division increased its revenue by 13 percent overall, with added help from its new Xbox One games console, which sold 3.9 million units, and its Bing search engine, which increased its advertising revenue by a third.

The company's Commercial division also saw growth, posting "record revenues" according to Microsoft chief financial officer Amy Hood. Cloud software packages Office 365 and Azure saw "triple digit" growth in uptake among businesses, with revenues from all of Microsoft's cloud products more than doubling. Enterprise cloud services have long been some of Microsoft's strongest-performing products and it invests heavily in new data centres and software development.

Outgoing Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer hailed the quarter as a success. "Our Commercial segment continues to outpace the overall market, and our Devices and Consumer segment had a great holiday quarter," he said.

"The investments we are making in devices and services that deliver high-value experiences to our customers, and the work we are doing with our partners, are driving strong results and positioning us well for long-term growth."

Microsoft's future is still unclear, with a replacement for Ballmer yet to be named. He announced he would leave his role "within a year" in August 2013.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 27th Jan 2014

24 Jan 2014 by Jill Duffy - itproportal.com

Before you arrive at a job interview, before you pass a phone screening, before anyone even reads your cover letter, what does your potential employer know about you? Well, if they’ve seen your email address with your initial application, that’s the first thing a hiring manager will judge you on. And depending on what that address is, they might decide to toss your application in the trash right there and then.

In this article, we’re going to look at the importance of having one primary email address, and what it should and shouldn't tell potential employers about you.

What does your email address say about you?
Ever heard anyone say that your appearance is what your prospective employer will form his or her initial impression of you from? That’s not true anymore, not since we moved into the era of email. When applying for jobs, the first thing someone knows about you is your email address. And they will make judgments, conscious and unconscious, based on it. Don't give them a reason to discard you too quickly.

To conduct an effective job search, you need one email address that fits the following criteria:

Must include your name in the address
Must be hosted by a reputable, current, and known company: Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook.com are all fine
Cannot be a university .ac.uk address
Cannot give away certain information about you (more on that below).
Your name and host
Your email address should be your name. In a perfect world, it will be NameSurname@host, but there are many variations you can try if you have a common name, as I do, and you find that the ideal name has already been taken.


Here are some examples of options, using the name Jennifer K. Gold:

JenniferGold, Jennifer.Gold, Jennifer-Gold, Jennifer_Gold, JenGold, Jen.Gold, Jen-Gold, Jen_Gold, JenniferKGold, JenKGold, JKGold, Gold.JenK, JK.Gold… and so on.

Try different combinations using only elements of your name, and preferably the name people actually use for you (e.g. Jennifer, Jen, Jenny) before you give up. I highly recommend exhausting all these variations before you even think of including any other letters or numbers in your email address.

For the host, pick a current and reputable service. A free service works fine, as long as you use a known and current company. If you think the host seems outdated, it probably is. And while you might think using your university address (if you still have it) makes a good impression (“I went to such-and-such”), in reality it allows recipients to question where you live and whether you've actually graduated. Those points are both very important when trying to get a job, so don't leave them in question.

What not to include
If you really must use an email address that is not your name, avoid these dead giveaways:

Year. If you include a two or four digit number in your email address, people will assume it's the year you were born. Don't invite them to make assumptions about your age.

Location. A simple abbreviation for the city where you live is a poor addition to an email address because people move. You don't want your email address from Aberdeen to suggest that you're not accessible to an employer in London.

Hobbies or traits. Maybe you love the beach, tae kwon do, or your schnauzer. Your email address (and Twitter handle, if you use the micro-blogging network for professional purposes) is not the place to express that information. Just because your friends call you "sexy Pete" doesn't mean the people you email should. You can discuss and share your hobbies and interests via your online social profiles if you learn how to do it right (see our piece on how to maintain professional looking social network profiles). But it doesn't belong in your email name.

Seeing from the hiring manager's eyes
When you're on the job market, you'll hear plenty of advice that boils down to "try to think from the hiring manager's perspective." But you really can't think or see from that point of view if you've never been in the position.

The most important reason your email address needs to be your name is so that the very busy – and possibly highly disorganised – person who is screening applicants can find your email in his or her inbox quickly.

Imagine the hiring person read your cover letter and CV (we also have tips on crafting them), loved them, and wants to call you in for an interview. Tomorrow, she arrives at her computer and looks down at her scribbled note that reads, "Applicants to call for interview: Jen Gold, Raul Molina." The next thing she'll do is turn to her email to look for Jen Gold's CV so she can find the phone number.

Where and how will she look?


She's going to look for J and G in the "address" and "from" field. Why? Because she has 200 unopened messages in her inbox. She doesn't remember what day the application arrived, and she didn't copy the files locally. That's how people operate. They scan their inboxes for what they need. And even if the company has a web form application system, there will still be a point when employers will connect with you via email. Make it easy for them to find you and your information by putting your name in the most important location.

One email for life
I'm a big advocate of having one email address for life, and ideally, right around the time you finish a university degree is the perfect time to settle on a mature and professional address that you can use forever.

Email addresses are far easier to keep than phone numbers or physical addresses, making them one of the best ways for former colleagues (who may have future business opportunities) to find you. If you’re still at university, be sure to create one name-based email address by the time you graduate and start your job search. Not only will you get years of use out of it, you'll make it easier for potential employers to contact you when they want to bring you in for an interview.

 
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Posted by Delete Delete on Fri 24th Jan 2014

 Install an SSD for the Maximum Performance Gain

These days SSDs (Solid-State Drives) are getting more and more attention. Advanced computer users recommend switching to SSDs and a lot of manufacturers have already stopped installing conventional spinning disks on their latest models. They now offer lighter, thinner and faster laptops with SSD storage. But should you upgrade to SSD, what’s in it for you and are there any drawbacks? Let’s find out!

What is an SSD?

Basically, a solid-state drive (SSD) is a data storage device that uses solid-state memory to store data. SSDs have the same purpose as conventional mechanical hard drives, but there is one crucial difference – they are electronic devices and don’t have any mechanical parts. Unlike HDDs, SSDs don’t store data on spinning platters, but use flash memory instead.

As of 2010, most SSDs use NAND flash memory. More expensive SSDs (such as the ones used by businesses) use single-level cell memory (SLC), which is faster, more reliable and more expensive. A 1TB SLC solid-state drive can cost as much as a good used car with low mileage. As for consumer-oriented SSDs, they use multi-level cell memory (MLC) that is cheaper, a bit slower and a bit less reliable. But in any case, even MLC disks are a lot faster than magnetic drives and a lot more reliable, too.


SSD benefits

SSDs have a lot of benefits, but the two most important ones are speed and reliability. Compared to conventional hard drives, solid-state drives are a lot faster. In fact, some people experience a whopping 1,000 MB/sec read speed. Today, the fastest SSDs are SATA 6.0 GB/sec.

HDDs are the most common performance bottlenecks on any system. Why? Simply because unlike RAM and CPU, hard drives have mechanical moving parts. This means that every time you need to open, save, modify a file or do anything else, the disk needs to spin. Worse still, things like file fragmentation can dramatically reduce HDD speed. As for SSDs, fragmentation doesn’t affect their speed because they can simultaneously grab bits of information from anywhere on the drive. To cut a long story short, comparing an HDD and an SSD from the speed perspective is like comparing a bicycle and a Ferrari. So, if you want a big performance gain – switch to SSD storage.
Another major SSD benefit is reliability. Unlike HDDs, solid-state drives don’t suffer from shock or drop damage. This is especially important for people who travel frequently (like myself). The number of times my heart skipped a beat when my laptop bag got handled quite unceremoniously by airport security staff! Now that I’ve switched to SSD storage, I don’t have to worry so much.


Here are some additional benefits of switching to SSD:

  • Increased battery life
  • Less noise, heat and vibration
  • No need to run disk defrag using traditional HDD defragmenters ever again
  • However, SSDs have some disadvantages.

SSD disadvantages

Don’t get me wrong, I am an SSD fan. Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages that can’t be overlooked.
The most noticeable disadvantages of SSDs are limited storage capacity (compared to traditional hard drives) and high price per GB. You can buy a 1TB hard drive for something like $100, whereas a 128GB SATA 6GB/sec SSD drive costs around $200. A significant difference, isn’t it? Also keep in mind that the more storage space an SSD has, the more expensive it becomes because the price per GB never changes. That’s why a lot of people still prefer having traditional hard drives, especially if they store a lot of files.
Another disadvantage of SSD drives is that each flash memory cell on an SSD can endure only so many write cycles. This means that if you subject your SSD to heavy use, its data retention will be shorter than with conventional hard drive. That’s why you should think twice when writing to an SSD. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s not a good idea to defrag solid-state drives, as defragmentation means unnecessary data writes to the disk.
Luckily, SSD manufacturers are doing all they can to maximize SSD lifetime. They implement various firmware schemes to load-level SSDs and use TRIM technology to maximize the life of a solid-state drive. In any case, SSDs are not likely to become unusable on a typical home system any time earlier than an HDD will experience a fatal crash. So the nature of flash memory and the limited (in theory) amount of write cycles shouldn’t put you off buying an SSD.

How to maximize SSD performance

SSDs are very fast right out of the box, but there are a few things that you can do to make them perform even better and increase their lifetime:

  • Use the latest firmware – make sure you update your SSD’s firmware before you start using it. Updating the firmware will ensure top performance and support for the latest OS features. Updating firmware can require a drive format, so make sure your data is backed up.
  • Enable AHCI – make sure Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is enabled in the system BIOS. Using outdated IDE or ATA modes will reduce the performance of your solid-state drive.
  • Do not use NTFS compression for frequently used folders, as it decreases SSD performance.
  • In case of a clean installation, do not disable anything, as Windows 7 will configure everything better than you would.
  • In my opinion, SSDs are worth every penny you pay for them, because the performance gain is tremendous. So, if you have the extra cash, get an SSD and enjoy the speed.

Source: http://www.auslogics.com/en/turbo-windows/ssd-vs-hard-drive/

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 22nd Jan 2014

By Tom Warren 01.20.2014 - The Verge

Microsoft’s 12-year-old Windows XP operating system powers 95 percent of the world’s automated teller machines, according to NCR, the largest ATM supplier in the US. While the idea of Windows powering ATMs may surprise consumers, XP runs in the background powering the software that bank customers interact with to withdraw money. An upcoming Windows XP support change from Microsoft means ATMs will need to be upgraded and modified throughout 2014. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the US has 420,000 ATMs, and the majority of them run XP and face a support cutoff from Microsoft soon. On April 8th, Microsoft plans to end support for Windows XP, leaving businesses still using XP, and 95 percent of ATMs, open to security and compliance risks.

While Microsoft has been warning customers about the deadline for years, the ATM industry has been slow to react. NCR tells The Verge that the majority of ATMs run the full version of XP, with support ending in April, while some use an Embedded version that's supported until 2016. Most machines will move to Windows 7, but ATM software firm KAL predicts that only 15 percent of US ATMs will be running Windows 7 by April. That leaves thousands of machines running out-of-date software, with some companies opting to purchase custom support contracts with Microsoft to extend the life of Windows XP. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that JPMorgan is one such company buying a one-year extension ahead of its Windows 7 deployment.


Windows 7 is the XP replacement of choice

If you’ve used an ageing ATM recently then you’ll likely be acutely aware of just how slow and cumbersome these machines are. While modern machines include touchscreen support and speedy navigation, older models typically use buttons and a basic user interface that’s frustratingly slow. Windows 7 appears to be the main choice to replace the ageing Windows XP machines, but some machines will require hardware upgrades, while others will need to be scrapped entirely and replaced to support the new OS.

JPMorgan admits 3,000 of its 19,000 ATMs will need "enhancements" ahead of the Windows 7 upgrade. These enhancements might be a costly headache for ATM manufacturers and banks, but the improvements are a win for customers who use these machines on a daily basis. While it’s not likely you’ll be able to browse the internet or send emails from ATMs any time soon, their basic functionality could significantly improve thanks to the death of Windows XP.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 22nd Jan 2014

By Chris Smith on Jan 20 - bgr.com

New research conducted by SplashData revealed that “password” isn’t the dumbest password choice around anymore, as it has been replaced by “123456,” for the past year. However, “password” fell only one position compared with 2012, basically switching places with “123456.” The list of weak passwords includes various other obvious combinations such as “qwerty,” “iloveyou,” “1234,” “111111” and “000000.” Passwords such as “adobe123” or “photoshop” also made the top 20, revealing that many Internet users may choose passwords that are similar to the services they’re logging into.
“Seeing passwords like ‘adobe123’ and ‘photoshop’ on this list offers a good reminder not to base your password on the name of the website or application you are accessing,” SplashData CEO Morgan Slain said. “Another interesting aspect of this year’s list is that more short numerical passwords showed up even though websites are starting to enforce stronger password policies.”

The popularity top of bad log in security choices among Internet users has been compiled using data from lists of hacked accounts containing millions of stolen passwords posted online last year. The top 25 worst passwords of 2013 follows below.

 

Tags:PasswordsVia:re/codeSource:SplashData

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 22nd Jan 2014


Jett Goldsmith - 20 January 2014 - Neowin.net

California security firm Proofpoint has announced their findings that a large botnet which sent over 750,000 malicious emails originated from the unlikeliest place imaginable: Home appliances, including televisions, routers and even refrigerators.

According to a press release issued by the security firm, hackers managed to infiltrate over 100,000 "smart" appliances which have the ability to connect to the internet, in order to send out spam emails en masse. The incidents, which occurred between late December and early January, saw "waves of malicious email, typically sent in bursts of 100,000, three times per day, targeting enterprises and individuals worldwide". The attack is one of the first of its kind, and makes good use of the various security flaws typically seen in these home appliances.

Proofpoint stated that the attack has "significant security implications for device owners", and that in the future, concerns may grow, in part due to the exponential growth of smart appliances. Thus far, device manufacturers have neglected to implement any major safety features, and consumers have no way to diagnose these infections if they do occur. With this in mind, the company called on manufacturers to take steps to mitigate the threat, saying that "preparations must be made for the inevitable increase in highly distributed attacks, phish in employee inboxes, and clicks on malicious links."

Source: SMH.com | Image via Electrolux.com

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Jan 2014

The Telegraph - By Dan Hyde, and Nicole Blackmore - 19th Jan 2014

Victory for the Telegraph as TV giant Sky resolves complaints and enters talks with regulator over making it difficult to cancel

Sky, the subscription TV giant, has been placed under regulatory scrutiny after a Telegraph investigation exposed routinely poor treatment of customers who try to cancel.

The company, which today issues an apology, has also pledged to review its approach to subscribers who ask to leave in writing.

Two reports published on telegraph.co.uk this month drew hundreds of emails, letters and comments from readers who corroborated claims that Sky makes it incredibly hard to leave at the end of a contract. Our consumer champion, Jessica Gorst-Williams, has also received numerous letters on this issue.

In particular, readers said they encountered difficulty in cancelling in writing or by email, despite Sky’s terms and conditions suggesting that this is allowed.

A large number of customers felt so trapped that they simply cancelled their direct debits, only to be faced with threatening letters from Sky’s debt collectors.

Others said they were made to wait on hold to expensive telephone numbers, only for problems to continue for months afterwards.

Such was the weight and vitriolic nature of the criticism that this newspaper compiled a dossier of anonymous complaints and passed them to the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, for investigation. We also alerted senior managers at Sky and asked for several urgent cases to be put right.

Ofcom thanked us for our interventions. The regulator is now in conversation with Sky executives to establish the cause of the problems.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We expect providers to ensure that cancelling or switching a communications service is a straightforward and hassle-free process for consumers.

“We are, therefore, very concerned to hear about the problems and inconvenience reported by some Sky customers in relation to the cancellation of their subscription. We will be looking into this and following up with Sky as a priority.” The regulator did not rule out a full-blown investigation, if deemed necessary.

Sky acted quickly to reassure customers that it was tackling the problem. A spokesman said the issue was being taken “very seriously” and had been escalated to a “senior level” of the company. It has promised a review of its cancellation policy.

The spokesman said: “We place a big priority on offering good service so we are very sorry that some customers have felt frustration. Most people who decide to cancel do so by phone and, for data security reasons, we would always strongly advise customers not to include personal security information in any written communication.

“It’s important to listen to the feedback we get from customers, including recent feedback we have had from Telegraph readers, so we are reviewing our approach in this area. We want to ensure that our processes are transparent and straightforward, while at the same time maintaining the security of customers’ personal data.”

Many of the problems reported by readers occurred within the past few years, but have since been resolved. Others customers said they had given up on recovering losses from failed cancellations.

Sky said it had worked hard to improve its service levels and that its complaint levels were falling.

To its credit, its complaints team acted very swiftly to resolve the outstanding cases referred to it by this newspaper.

One of those cases involved Emma Freeman, 39, of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. Ms Freeman, signed up for Sky in 2003 and tried to cancel her TV package in November but keep the telephone and broadband services.

Despite emailing Sky and speaking to the customer services department a number of times, her instructions were ignored.

“I went to the website and lodged a formal complaint. I also wrote to head office. Both missives were utterly ignored,” Ms Freeman, a legal secretary, said.

When she received a letter notifying her of a 25pc increase to line rental of which she had not previously heard, Ms Freeman contacted The Telegraph. Within 48 hours of our involvement, Sky had resolved her case, accepting that it had received her original notice to cancel. It backdated her cancellation, issued a refund and offered discounted line rental as a goodwill gesture.

Ms Freeman said: “I can’t get over how exhausting the whole process was. If you can’t cancel in writing because Sky must speak to you in person, then why offer it as an option?”

Sky also resolved five other complaints, notably calling off debt collectors from Andrew McIntyre of west London, who had cancelled four years ago. It also resolved matters for Fiona Morrison, who had tried to cancel her elderly mother’s account, only for the 81-year-old to receive a threatening letter from debt collectors.

William Robinson, of County Durham, had an outstanding balance of £49 wiped out, while another customer who moved to America had charges refunded after a cancellation failed.
.

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Jan 2014

 Wired - Design - By Liz Stinson

The next time a pizza is delivered to your doorstep, just take a brief moment to admire the vehicle it arrived in. A pizza box is a woefully under-appreciated object; oftentimes brutally ripped open before being tossed directly into the trash. But let’s not forget these boxes have a very important job: Namely to ensure your pizza gets to you safe and delicious.

Just imagine if we lived in a world where no one cared about what their car looked like or how it functioned; a world where all that mattered is that we get from point A to point B. “That’s what’s going on with pizza boxes,” says Scott Wiener, a pizza box expert. “But it’s such an important element to the quality of the pizza; it’s really something we should be paying attention to.”

By and large, pizza box design hasn’t evolved much beyond the standard cardboard square, but a few boxes out there are elevating the field’s design. There are boxes made from ultra-green material which is a major score for the environment, and others with fun quirks like a fold that turns the box into a coffin for pizza “remains.”

Wiener has collected more than 650 boxes from 45 countries around the world.But you’d probably be surprised to know that the smartest pizza box wasn’t born in Italy, New York or even Chicago. The most innovative pizza box in the world actually comes from India, a country with a booming appetite for slices. “I used to think the best box was from Eataly,” Wiener says of Mario Batali’s NYC italian food emporium. “But I think I like this one better.” We’ll get to why in a moment.

Wiener would know—when we describe him as pizza box expert, we’re telling the truth. It’s not an exaggeration to say the man is obsessed with pizza. But even calling him obsessed doesn’t sufficiently illustrate his love affair with the food. For the past six years, the Brooklyn-based pizza aficionado/tour guide has been amassing a huge collection of pizza boxes. And we’re not talking 50 or 100. No no, Wiener has collected more than 650 boxes from 45 countries around the world.


A good chunk of that collection is documented in his new book Viva La Pizza!: The Art of the Pizza Box. Wiener’s book is—surprise!— the first dedicated entirely to the design and evolution of the pizza’s trusty transportation module. It’s a intensely researched love song to an object that Wiener himself would, if he’s being honest, rather do without. “The bottom line is, pizza is always better not eaten out of a box,” he says. “But when 2.1 billion of the 3 billion pizzas eaten every year are eaten out of boxes, it’s something we can’t escape.”

So what makes a good pizza box? Great question. But first, let’s start with what’s wrong.

Warm But Soggy, and Tasting of Paper
The whole point of a pizza box is to keep your pie warm. Issue is, hot pizza often means soggy pizza. Typical boxes, like those you get from most of your chain restaurants, come with four ventilation holes that are rarely used. This hot-box technique traps in steam, which not only makes your crust mushy, but allows the moisture to break down the cardboard, resulting in pizza that tastes like paper. “It’s not like ‘oh this pizzeria makes cardboard pizza,’” Wiener laughs. “It’s the box.”

All well-designed pizza boxes tackle a problem. In Chicago, deep dish pizza requires a totally different design on account of the pie’s thickness. “It’s like trying to serve a cake out of a cake box,” Wiener says. “It’s impossible.” Instead of using the Walker Lock, the standard box fold that locks the top flap into the third wall, Chicago-style pie boxes are designed so that when you flip the lid open, the walls collapse, making the pizza easier to serve.

Another box, the one from the aforementioned Eataly, combats the heating problem with an aluminum-coated polyester lining, which conducts reflects enough heat to keep your pizza oven hot. This box, has 17 vents that are positioned so that steam will be able to escape even if the boxes are stacked. The aluminum reduces the taste of cardboard, you don’t get the steam build-up and your pizza is hot. “It’s a very effective box,” he says.

The Domino’s corner-cut design reduces folding time from six seconds to four.On the other end of the spectrum, a pizza store like Dominos, is less concerned about accessibility as they are about efficiency. The chain has adopted a corner-cut design, which reduces the folding time from six seconds to four, on average and allows the boxes to be stacked more neatly. “They didn’t invent that,” he clarifies. “They’re using someone else’s patent.”

Wiener himself actually took up a temporary gig there a year ago to learn the trade. “The first thing you’d do every day is fold 300 pizza boxes,” he says. “But it didn’t take long.” You can imagine knocking off a couple seconds per box, multiplied by the thousands of pizza boxes folded everyday, could actually amount to measurable labor and time savings for Dominos in the long run.

So About the World’s Best Pizza Box…
India might seem like an unlikely country to lay claim to the world’s smartest pizza box, but Wiener insists that it’s really not that weird. ”It’s the fastest growing pizza market because it’s such a huge population,” he says. “It’s also a place where there’s always been a lot of manufacturing.”

Still, as it turns out, the creator of the VENTiT actually has no history with pizza at all. ”The guy who invented this box has been in corrugated board for 35 years,” says Wiener. “And one day he realized this is the way that he can reduce the steam that is trapped inside.”

Most pizza boxes are made from corrugated cardboard, a material that’s made from three layers of paper liners glued together. In traditional boxes, this material is combined, printed and then run through a die machine that cuts out vents and creates creases that will later be folded into a box. The VENTiT reverses this process, so instead of stamping the cuts after the corrugated cardboard is assembled, the middle and inner liner are cut together before combining it with a precut outer liner.

These misaligned holes give steam an escape route that takes it through the fluted middle layer and and then exit out the top without ever touching the pizza. “In other words, there’s no direct hole,” Wiener explains. “You’re taking the exact same box but reorganizing how it’s put together so it creates better movement for steam.”

Unfortunately, you can only find the VENTiT in India, Dubai, and at Wiener’s apartment in Brooklyn, where he stashes all 650 boxes into three closets. But it’s actually not as bad as it sounds since he makes sure each box is flattened and rigorously organized. “I’m in my apartment right now and don’t see a single box,” he says. “It’s not until you open the closet and look up that you think: “Ok, this guy might have a problem.”

 
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