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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Lorry crash in LambethImage copyrightNETWORK RAIL

Image captionLorry drivers sometimes ignore large warning signs

A multi-million pound sat-nav project aims to stop lorries and other vehicles getting stuck in narrow lanes and under low-lying bridges on UK routes.

Ordnance Survey is creating a database that will contain information about 200,000 miles (321,869km) of roadways to prevent such accidents.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said the digital facility would launch before the end of the year.

But sat-nav makers will need to pay to get access to the full data.

"The new database will provide the sat-nav manufacturers with the ability to make journeys for HGV [heavy goods vehicle] drivers safer and more cost-efficient and that's a big issue for us," Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, told the BBC.

Stuck lorry

Image captionThis lorry caused three-mile tailbacks when it became wedged against a house in Marlborough in June

"However, the new technology can only be considered a real success if each of the sat-nav providers sign up to the new system."

Details of the effort were first reported by The Times.

Commercial product

The National Digital Road Map database will include information about:

  • Road widths
  • Weight restrictions
  • Bridge heights
  • Restrictions on left or right turns at junctions

Stuck fuel tankerImage copyrightWILTSHIRE POLICE

Image captionA fuel tanker was stuck for three days in Wiltshire in 2014 after getting stuck in a narrow country lane

It will be offered as a commercial product by Ordnance Survey to cover its running costs. There will also be a free-to-use version, but it will strip out the information that might prevent lorry accidents.

Ordnance Survey says about 80% of sat-nav makers, including Garmin, already subscribe to some of its other data, for which it charges less than 1p per device.

The Department for Transport has also contributed £3m of taxpayers' money to the effort.

Police tweetImage copyrightHERTFORD AND WARE POLICE

Image captionPolice have voiced their frustration at drivers' overreliance on sat-navs

"The definitive data, which also includes information on speed limits and planned road maintenance, delivers a product which will enable more efficient routing for all road users, including HGVs [heavy goods vehicles]," Robert Andrews, a spokesman for Ordnance Survey, told the BBC.

"[It] will result in high-quality data being supplied to satellite navigation companies.

"We are confident that the product will deliver customer data needs in one central location, allowing more informed and confident decision-making."

He added that the plan was to start offering access to the database from 16 November, to coincide with a Highways UK event in Birmingham.

"We welcome this move [and] hopefully this will lay the foundations for potential future advancements in vehicle technology," commented Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Lorry crashImage copyrightNORTHHANTS POLICE

Image captionThis railway bridge crash disrupted both train passengers' and motorists' journeys

Ignored warnings

Road signs already warn motorists about potential problems.

But the widespread use of sat-nav screens and smartphone map apps has meant they are often ignored.

Many lorries on UK roads are also driven by overseas-based drivers who may misinterpret the signs.

The scheme will rely on local authorities to help keep the database up-to-date.

The Local Government Association welcomed the development but called for additional action.

"Councils are keen to play their part but need the powers to fine lorry drivers who ignore weight restrictions and blight rural communities," said a spokesman.

Argos lorry stuckImage copyrightALAMY

Image captionThis Argos lorry became stuck in Colchester, Essex after following sat-nav directions

Recent examples of the problem include:

  • Train delays and a back-up of traffic when a lorry became trapped under a railway bridge over the A428 highway in Northamptonshire in May
  • A lorry causing long tailbacks in Marlborough, Wiltshire when it got wedged against a house on a road leading into the market town in June
  • The closure of the M20 motorway in Kent after a footbridge collapsed after being hit by a lorry carrying a digger in August
Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

 

Micro Bit

Image captionThe Micro Bit was given to schoolchildren across the UK in March

The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions.

The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC.

About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.

The BBC says they encourage children, especially girls, to code

However, the delayed rollout of the machines to last year's Year 7s (11-to-12-year-olds) caused problems for teachers who had less time than expected to prepare related classes.

Micro bit attached to plant

Image captionOne Micro Bit project involves using the device to check that plant soil is damp enough

Global ambition

Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intends to co-ordinate a wider rollout.

"Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology," said the foundation's new chief executive Zach Shelby.

Zach Shelby

Image captionThe Micro Bit Educational Foundation is being led by Zach Shelby, who previously worked at the chip-designer ARM

"That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years."

His organisation plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand.

Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware.

"We will be putting more computing power in," Mr Shelby said.

"We will be looking at new types of sensors.

Micro Bit electronic car

Image captionMicro Bits have been used to create a remote control car and its motion-tracking steering wheel controller

"And also how to display Chinese and Japanese characters - it turns out you need a lot more LEDs than we have today.

"We also have work to do to reduce the price for developing countries, that's something we're very aware of."

Micro Bits currently sell for about £13, excluding the batteries needed to power them.

That makes them several times more expensive than another barebones computer - the Raspberry Pi Zero.

But the foundation says they serve different audiences since the Micro Bit is designed for users with little or no coding knowledge when they begin.


What is a Micro Bit?

Micro Bit

The Micro Bit is a palm-sized circuit board with an array of 25 LED lights - that can be programmed to show letters, numbers and other shapes - and a Bluetooth chip for wireless connectivity.

It also includes two built-in buttons, an accelerometer and compass, and rings to which further sensors can be attached.

Rather than enter code directly into the computer, owners instead write their scripts in a choice of four programming languages via web-based tools on a PC, or via an app on a tablet or smartphone.

Once written, the compiled scripts must be transferred to the Micro Bit, which then functions as a standalone device that can be used to flash messages and record movements among other tasks.

It can also be attached to other electronics to form the "brain" of a robot, a musical instrument or other kit.

In addition, a new feature makes peer-to-peer communications possible, meaning one Micro Bit can now transmit data to another, opening up further possibilities.


UK expansion

Media captionRishworth School sent a Micro Bit into the stratosphere

The foundation has also pledged to use some of its funds to sponsor Micro Bits for UK classrooms, so that more children get the chance to use them.

However, for the most part, schools wanting to use them will need to pay for the units themselves.

That is likely to require two or more pupils having to share a device in class rather than being given one of their own to take home, as had been the case.

Older children are also being courted with the release of the Micro Bit's hardware design, so that they can build DIY models.

Micro Bit reference design

Image captionEnthusiasts will be able to build their own Micro Bits

"It will look different because building it yourself is not easy," said Mr Shelby.

"We think that will get older kids and young adults interested in experimenting with electronics.

"They can not just make a Micro Bit but modify one and make their own sensors."

Female appeal

Although the BBC is relinquishing control of the project, it will retain a seat on the foundation's board and the hardware will still be branded with its name.

To mark the handover, the broadcaster released details of a survey that questioned 147 girls before they received a Micro Bit, and then a different group of 208 girls afterwards.

Girls coding

Image captionUsers code the Micro Bit using a different computer before transferring their programs

It recorded that 23% of those without experience said they would "definitely" study computing in the future, but the figure grew to 39% for those who used a Micro Bit.

"A lot of projects in Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are oftentimes aimed at boys - rocket cars for example," commented Mr Shelby.

"With Micro Bits there have been lots of projects that are really interesting to girls - they love music-based projects and making their own drawing games with it, for example - so it seems non-intimidating."

Early days

The Micro Bit's original release was delayed from October 2015 to March 2016, meaning teachers got them late in the school year.

Some of those involved in the project believe it is too early to judge their impact fully as some recipients have only just started using them.

"If we could have allowed the teachers to have them a couple of weeks before the students, that would have had a bigger impact," acknowledged Richard Needham, a consultant at Stem Learning - a firm that develops teaching resources.

"Some schools found it quite difficult to manage because they were asked to distribute these but it wasn't clear who had ownership of them.

"The BBC said they belonged to children and not teachers, but I do know in some schools the teachers hung on to them for a little bit longer to decide how they were going to distribute them.

"I've heard of some rare examples where teachers only gave them out at the start of this school year, which was a disappointment, but understandable."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

toddler being breathalysedImage copyrightCHESHIRE POLICE

Image captionPlaying along, the officers pretended to take a breath test

An underage motorist who was stopped by police for her erratic driving was let off - even though she had consumed "a couple of bottles" and had no licence, insurance or MOT.

Fortunately the "young offender" was a nosy toddler who had trundled up to officers in her pink plastic car to see what was going on.

The officers had been trying to seize a genuinely uninsured vehicle at the time in Runcorn, Cheshire.

Playing along, the officers pretended to take a breath test from the girl after asking her parents if she had been drinking that morning.

"She's had a couple of bottles," they quipped.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: "Thankfully, the tot's reading was clear and she was free to go."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

 

Surface StudioImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe Surface Studio has a 28in (71cm) screen that is 12.5mm thick

New 3D creation and editing tools are being added to the next edition of the Windows 10 operating system, including a revamped version of Paint.

The firm also revealed a range of new virtual reality headsets to encourage users to interact with their creations.

One expert said the moves would help prepare consumers for more radical augmented reality features, which are still under development.

Microsoft also unveiled its first all-in-one desktop, the Surface Studio.

Windows 10 eventImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionMicrosoft's Windows chief Terry Myerson hosted the Windows 10 event in New York

It features what is said to be the thinnest ever LCD touchscreen and has an accompanying dial controller, which can be placed directly on the display or used at its side.

Extra dimension

An on-stage demonstration of the 3D Paint application showed how a stylus could be used to draw 2D-graphics that were automatically given depth by the software. Photographic elements could also be added to the design, and parts could be animated.

3D PaintImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe new version of Paint allows users to make graphics that can be twisted, pushed and pulled in three dimensions

To create 3D models of real-world objects, Microsoft said it was developing a smartphone app that works by waving the handset around the desired item.

The finished creation can be added to Powerpoint presentations, shared on Facebook and other online sites or placed within a virtual reality environment.

Windows 10 appImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionMicrosoft is developing a smartphone app to turn real-world objects into 3D models

"VR is hot with consumers at the moment, and Microsoft is making sure it is not missing the boat from an ecosystem perspective and leaving it all to Google," said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst at Creative Strategies.

"3D also resonates with consumers. Focusing on creating content and sharing that content is a good way to have them start to think about mixed-reality, preparing them for the HoloLens headset."

3D PaintImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe Paint-created 3D images can be shared in Facebook

Microsoft revealed Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo will manufacture new Windows 10-compatible virtual reality headsets, which fill the wearer's view with computer-powered images.

It said the lowest-cost model would be $299 (£245). That is several times cheaper than the video games-focused Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets already on sale.

They offer a staging post until the firm launches a consumer edition of its HoloLens headset. The kit superimposes graphics over real-world views, moving them in turn with the wearer's head movements so that they appear to be part of the environment.

Versions of the HoloLens are already on sale, but cost between £2,719 and £4,529, and are currently targeted at developers.

HoloLensImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe HoloLens headset allows 3D graphics to be mixed together with real-world views

Pop-up emojis

The Creators Edition of Windows 10 is due for release early next year and will be provided as a free upgrade for computers already running the software.

Its other new features include:

  • a bar of icons showing the user's closest friends, family and other acquaintances, which brings together chats, emails and other communications in a single place
  • a way to make emojis and user-generated 3D objects pop up on friends' desktops
  • the ability to receive SMS text messages on the PC if the user owns an Android phone
  • the chance to set up and host customised video games tournaments featuring other players on Windows 10 and Xbox

New hardware

Microsoft began the final stretch of its New York event by unveiling a new laptop, the Surface Book i7, which it said offered twice the graphics power of the last model and up to 16 hours of battery life.

But it dedicated most of the section to the new Surface Studio desktop computer.

Surface StudioImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionMicrosoft says the Surface Studio's screen is the thinnest ever made

The machine features a touchscreen held to a box below by two adjustable chrome arms.

Microsoft claims the display is "best in class".

Its 192 pixel-per-inch resolution is slightly lower than that of the top-end iMac. But it compensates for this by being an inch larger than Apple's model, as well as appearing to be substantially thinner thanks to most of the machine's guts being placed at its base.

Surface DialImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe Surface Dial can be placed directly on the screen or used on a desk

The PC is sold with a wireless mouse, keyboard and stylus, but is distinguished by a fourth peripheral: the Surface Dial.

This can be spun to carry out functions such as skimming through colours, adjusting the volume or flipping through pages.

It provides vibration-based feedback as it is used. And when placed on the screen, it brings up a graphical interface within compatible software, providing the user with a new way to select from commands.

Surface DialImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionThe Surface Dial triggers on-screen menus when placed on the computer's screen

"Surface Studio won't be the highest-performance all-in-one system," commented Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

"Microsoft played it safe with sixth-generation Intel processors, mobile graphics and USB 3 ports.

"But it should meet the needs of most creative experts - the intended target market - and is priced for [users] who want something very cool and unique."

Panos PanayImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionMicrosoft's Panos Panay said the Surface Studio had the thinnest screen of its kind

Surface Studio will cost between $2,999 and $4,199 (£2,452 and £3,433) when it goes on sale in the US on 15 December.

Although Microsoft has had some success with its earlier Surface line-up, wider sales of PCs and tablet computers are experiencing their second consecutive year of decline.

The consultancy Gartner has forecast that after an 8.7% fall this year, sales will see a smaller dip in 2017, and then return to growth again in 2018.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Microsoft has already announced enterprise cloud licensing price rises, and others are following - largely the result of the falling pound. What are their customers' options?

Distribution clouds

Many UK-based firms are feeling the squeeze as their cloud providers raise prices in response to the falling value of the pound.

Microsoft has been one of the first US-based providers to announce price rises, with some services to go up by 22 per cent in January, and others are likely to follow soon.

Responding to a recent poll on V3's sister site Computing, over 60 per cent of readers stated that they had already seen their cloud costs go up, with 31 per cent stating that prices had become 'a lot more expensive'.

But what are the options for firms who see their suppliers suddenly increase prices?

According to Bryan Oak, director at Searchlight Consulting, it depends on the nature of the contract, but firms shouldn't be shy about requesting discounts.

"Obviously this depends on the termination clauses in such contracts and/or the effort required to move to a different platform," said Oak. "One consideration is whether the cloud service is for software or for infrastructure as a service (SaaS or IaaS). In the case of SaaS business applications, then the effort required to move away from anything but the most basic software applications will require evaluation; migrations from one application platform to another can take weeks or even months to achieve, and the costs may negate the short-term benefit of any currency impact.

"If the cloud-service is an IaaS one, then clients can look around for other platforms to migrate their applications to and even revert back to on-premise or traditional co-located infrastructure in a domestic data centre. Again, the feasibility or attractiveness of this option will depend on termination clauses, as well as the cost and technical complexity of migrating an application and data to a different infrastructure platform. This evaluation may be simplified if the infrastructure in question is hosting development or test environments, rather than production environments.

"In terms of ability to negotiate discounts to offset current exchange rates, then 'don't ask, don't get' is probably the best mantra to adopt. If you're in a contract that was heavily negotiated at the outset and difficult to exit, then it's unlikely that the vendor will view the request sympathetically.

"However, if cancellation is not onerous and the monthly subscriptions paid in US dollars, then no cloud vendor wants to lose volume from their business, it's what makes their business model work! So, a discussion about rates over a longer commitment period, perhaps conceding some termination advantages, may enable clients to negotiate a more preferable cost in the short to medium-term," he explained.

Mark O'Conor, IPT partner at law firm DLA Piper, said that the ability to exit will depend on the terms and the type of cloud.

"There is a vast difference from commodity SaaS to complex IaaS and the market norms for the terms reflect that difference," said O'Conor.

"But the contracts are not handcuffs. Most if not all will allow termination for convenience, although there may be a financial penalty for cutting a longer contract short," said O'Conor.

He advised firms to start looking at the payment terms more closely and "see whether you can include provisions in the contract allowing an express right to terminate if costs increase over a threshold. The ability to negotiate at all will, again, depend on the type of cloud solution and is largely a function of contract value," stated O'Conor.

 However, the exchange rate is proving to be good news for UK firms selling services in the US. Benjamin Dyer, founder of cloud provider Powered Now, said that his US sales have recently seen a big increase.

"Whatever your view on Brexit, one thing is abundantly clear, it's had a pretty significant impact on the dollar / pound exchange rate," began Dyer.

"While the national press has been printing pictures of sad looking holiday makers complaining about the lack of cheap sunshine, as the CEO of a UK-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company I've seen an interesting side effect - our sales in the USA are booming!

"My company, Powered Now, provides software for the construction and trade industry, and as we bill in pounds we suddenly have a great price advantage over our North American rivals. There is also a secondary benefit, as buyers look to take advantage of the uncertainty in currency by buying larger upfront service packages while the price is in their favour. This has a really positive impact on cash flow, very helpful for a growing startup!

"Talking to my peers in similar companies Powered Now is not alone, UK exports especially to the hard to reach promised land of North America are now firmly in our sights.

"However there must be balance in the force and for every upside there is usually a less attractive side effect, for us it's our costs. As a software company we have multiple subscriptions for services in the other direction. For example, our hosting costs have significantly gone up and that's before we even think about expensive things like hardware.

"App producers that also rely on in-app purchases for revenue will also have to be wary. Apple and Google are not shy at adjusting their pricing bands in relation to currency fluctuations. This happened recently with changes for New Zealand, Israel, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Mexico. Developers normally only have 72 hours notice of impending changes so you have to be quick to react."

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Rote learning 'has no joy in it and no creativity and presents no opportunity to see the world in a different way'

Raspberry Pi 3

hannah-fryIt is unfortunate that many bright, numerate children are put off by dull and unimaginative maths lessons at school.

Dr Hannah Fry (pictured), the mathematics lecturer at UCL who is best known to the public for presenting numbers-related BBC TV and Radio programmes such as Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing and Music by Numbers and for her popular TED talk The Mathematics of Love is keen to help kids bridge the gap.

"I liked maths at school," she says. "I saw it as a series of puzzles where you learn the rules. That's not why I like maths now, though. First of all I became enamoured about how elegant it is, and I stayed in it because I think it's an unbelievable powerful language that allows you to see the real world from different perspective."

Maths will never be an 'easy' subject to teach, particularly in its more abstract forms, but its cause is certainly not helped by the meddling of politicians and those who write the curriculum, she believes.

"For me one of things that has changed is a real emphasis on exam performance. I think that has dampened down some of the more enjoyable aspects of mathematics. Teachers have a really tough job teaching to the exam while keeping the subject alive," she told V3.

"There is this perception that the answers are in the back of the textbook. That has no joy in it and no creativity and presents no opportunity to see the world in a different way. I think that's a real shame."

One way that creativity is being reintroduced is is through technology, she added.

"I think the Raspberry Pi and the BBC micro:bit can be very helpful. They were originally computer science initiatives, but they're doing an awful lot to bring out mathematical ideas too, because there's so much overlap between the two, mathematical thinking and algorithmic thinking. It's simple programming like the ZX Spectrum I had when I was a kid."

The media has a role to play too. Popularisers of maths and science have included the likes of Patrick Moore, Carl Sagan, Johnny Ball and Marcus du Sautoy. Fry reels off a list of others such as YouTube personality and maths communicator Matt Parker, author of Why Do Buses Come in Threes? Rob Eastaway, football correspondent and maths author Alex Bellos, YouTube pioneer the Khan Institute, and, she adds modestly, "perhaps some of the stuff I do."

Fry's recent presentation at the dataIQ Future event included a demonstration as to how the geographical spread of the residences of serial killer Dr Harold Shipman's victims could have led police to his door much earlier, how Twitter can map the locations of different langauge speakers in London, predicting the oestrus cycle in cows in order to breed more female calves, and the different ways that men and women rate each other on online dating sites (not good news for men, by the way).

She also noted that clicking on the first proper link in any Wikipedia page will eventually lead you, after doing the same thing on all subsequent pages, to the page on Philosophy.

"On the one hand you've got the tangible world, the one you're living in and clicking links and not really knowing what's going on, and simultaneously you have this parallel mathematical world that can only be described by equations," she said, adding that such discoveries are as far from the hated maths textbook as you can get.

"For me data provides a bridge between those two universes, from the real world to the mathematical one where all this insight and intuition lies. Once you see things in this way, all of human behaviour is open to your discovery." she said.

 

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Mobile phone companies should allow customers to roam between networks in areas of the UK where they struggle to get reception, a group of MPs has said.

The British Infrastructure Group said foreign visitors get better coverage, as they are not tied to any provider, so can use the strongest signal.

The report said 17 million customers had poor reception at home and it named 525 areas with non-existent coverage.

Phone companies insist they are working hard to make their coverage better.

Little improvement

Roaming allows customers' phones to connect to another operator's network if their own service provider is not available in a particular area.

The cross-party group of about 90 backbench MPs called on ministers to make sweeping changes, including changing the law to allow domestic roaming in the UK, making it cheaper for customers to switch provider and identifying the worst phone networks.

The report said mobile phone coverage in the UK had not improved significantly since 2014 when the government agreed a £5bn investment deal with the network operators.

The agreement is expected to fall short of its target of providing coverage to 90% of the UK's geographical area by the end of 2017.

'Better call'

Group chairman Grant Shapps said: "It is unacceptable that areas in Britain continue to have such poor mobile connectivity, and that overseas visitors can expect better mobile coverage than Britons stuck with a single provider.

"The time for excuses from the mobile sector is over. The government must make a better call for Britain and bring national mobile coverage policy into the 21st Century."


Gary MacRae, who runs the Hazel Bank Country House Hotel in Borrowdale, Cumbria, said he had to rely on a landline because there was no mobile reception at the premises.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "The only way our guests are able to get signal is either go to the top of one of the small mountains just along from us that you can see from our window or drive down the road five or six miles."

Mr MacRae said in previous years the lack of mobile signal would have been a selling point but now people want it to stay connected to their loved ones.

He also said a mobile phone signal was needed in the area "just in case of emergencies" for those who may get into trouble while out walking in the countryside.


A workaround for customers?

Grant Shapps MP

Image captionGrant Shapps MP used a foreign SIM during election campaigning

MP Grant Shapps told the BBC he used a foreign SIM during election campaigning, which allowed him to connect to whichever network had the strongest signal.

Money Saving Expert's Martin Lewis said in most cases using a foreign SIM, or a global roaming SIM, in an unlocked handset would allow customers to receive better overall network coverage.

He suggested the most effective way would be to have a dual SIM phone which would mainly use a UK SIM but could switch to a foreign SIM when there was no signal.

But he said the cost would be likely to be higher as customers would be paying increased roaming charges for making and receiving calls.

Mr Lewis, who previously wrote a blog on the issue, said: "It would be a very expensive way to make calls in the UK.

"But you could do it if it was absolutely integral to you. If you are the type of person who would use a satellite phone then doing this would not be a bad solution.

"It's going to cost a fortune compared to using a normal phone. On that basis it's not a practical solution for most people."


Mobile UK, the trade association for mobile phone companies, said allowing customers to roam between networks would not provide the "right incentives" for operators to make future investments.

Spokesman Hamish MacLeod said: "This was looked at by the government a couple of years ago and it was decided that the cost of doing it would not be justified, it's technically difficult to do in a localised way, and that it wouldn't always offer the best customer experience.

"But the most important thing was that it would not have the right incentives in place for network investments to be made."

Large exit fees

Mr MacLeod told the BBC the industry was working hard to hit its target of providing 90% coverage and investment was being put in place to limit reception blackspots.

However, he said domestic roaming would not provide an incentive for companies to build "the right infrastructure", such as expensive towers in remote areas, if the service then had to be shared with other operators.

The report also stated that customers were at risk of being hit with large exit fees if they decide to terminate their contract, even if it was due to poor quality service.

The government said a bill going through Parliament would give regulator Ofcom the power to fine firms that do not deliver improvements.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

Hooded hacker on laptop i nfront of bank of desktop monitorsImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Do you use a webcam to check on Tiddles the cat or Bonzo the dog while you're at work?

If so, you could be unwittingly turning your internet-connected "smart" home into a weapon of web destruction.

That's the unsettling conclusion to be drawn from the recent web attacks that made use of a botnet army of compromised connected devices, from webcams to printers, to knock out a number of popular websites.

The smart home, it seems, is pretty dumb when it comes to security.

Wi-fi routers, digital video recorders, controllable lighting, security cameras - all these devices offer a potentially easy way in to your network and then the wider internet.

As the Internet Society warned last year: "The interconnected nature of IoT [internet of things] devices means that every poorly secured device that is connected online potentially affects the security and resilience of the internet globally."

Cat on domestic floorImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionIs the webcam monitoring Tiddles also being hijacked by hackers?

Yes, checking on Frou-Frou, your Miniature Schnauzer, via a poorly secured webcam could help break the internet. Forget Kim Kardashian.

In the good old days, hackers could launch a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack - overloading computer servers with millions of pointless requests for information, thereby knocking them out - using personal computers infected with malware.

Nowadays, they also have the IoT to play with - the increasingly diverse array of web-connected devices, from industrial sensors to clever fridges, thermostats to baby monitors.

Internet of things graphicImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionGartner forecasts there will be 21 billion connected devices globally by 2020

Research consultancy Gartner forecasts that there will be nearly 21 billion connected things in use worldwide by 2020, up from about seven billion now.

So the hackers are moving away from better-policed corporations and governments to easier targets - and they don't come easier than the IoT-connected smart home.

So what should we be doing to protect ourselves?

Building defences

One quick and easy thing we can all do is change default passwords as soon as we buy an IoT gadget.

"The first rule of security is 'do not use default accounts or passwords'. They are posted on the internet, so the bad guys don't have to scan for credentials of assets to compromise," says Gary Hayslip, IoT specialist and chief information security officer for the City of San Diego.

Simple tools such as Bullguard's IoT Scanner software can also help spot weaknesses.

Remote home control system on digital tabletImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionWho might really be controlling your connected home devices?

The scanner detects any devices on a smart home network that are publicly exposed using the vulnerability service Shodan, the Google for finding unprotected computers and webcams.

If the scan identifies any exposed devices specified by the vendor, then you should immediately change log-ins and passwords. BullGuard has also published an IoT manual that gives a checklist on what to check and how.

Interestingly, the company recently acquired Israeli start-up Dojo-labs and will soon announce a smart network security device that plugs in to a wi-fi router to protect all connected devices on a home network.

Dojo product sitting on routerImage copyrightDOJO-LABS

Image captionThe Dojo device plugs into the back of your wi-fi router to protect all your smart home devices

All internet traffic on the home network is routed via Dojo, allowing it to secure the network against cyber-attacks and protect the user from privacy breaches.

When malicious activity or a privacy breach is detected, Dojo automatically blocks it and notifies the owner through a mobile app, the company says.

"The recent internet outage caused by the Mirai botnet enhances the fact that IoT security needs to be taken more seriously," says Bullguard chief executive Paul Lipman.

"The Mirai botnet consists of easily hackable low-end security cameras with no changeable passwords. A home security device such as Dojo has the ability to instantly detect and block an attack such as Mirai."

Security camera on side of houseImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

Image captionSecurity cameras have been particularly vulnerable to hacking in recent years

And Martin Talks, founder of digital consultancy Matomico, offers this advice for smart home owners.

"Only point connected cameras where they are really needed. It was Edward Snowden who alerted us to the fact that cameras can be taken over and our presence in our houses monitored. If you don't need a camera active, tape over it.

"Think about what devices you really need to connect to the internet," he adds. "And if you decide you do need to connect a device, use the connectivity only when you need it... turn it off at night."

Other ways to increase IoT security including keeping product software and firmware up-to-date and buying from trusted brands and trusted platforms.

Media captionEXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

One of the reasons why some electronics are cheaper than others is that manufacturers cut corners on security - like putting cheap tyres on an expensive car.

Divided we fall?

So what is the IoT industry doing to improve security? After all, it's their products that are turning our connected homes into new recruits for botnet armies.

While most agree that common security standards are a good idea, the unhelpful response has been to set up a number of competing associations each developing their own standards: the Online Trust Alliance, the IoT Security Foundation, the Open Connectivity Foundation, and the Industrial Internet Consortium, for example.

Meanwhile the big tech companies - Apple, Amazon, LG and Samsung primarily - still believe they can create their own closed ecosystems and dominate the smart home market using their own standards.

Add to this product makers who do things on the cheap and lazy consumers sticking with default passwords, and you have all the conditions for the perfect IoT security storm.

So until the industry gets its act together, it's up to us to prevent our homes becoming weapons of web destruction.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

US actress Jennifer Lawrence poses before the Christian Dior 2017 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show, on September 30, 2016 in Paris.Image copyrightAFP

Image captionNaked photographs of Jennifer Lawrence were leaked online after an iCloud hack in 2014

A Pennsylvania court has sentenced a man to 18 months in jail for hacking into the accounts of celebrities and stealing nude photos and videos.

Ryan Collins, 36, pleaded guilty to the charges in May.

He had stolen the usernames and passwords of more than 600 people.

Collins tricked his victims - including actresses Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Scarlett Johansson, and Kirsten Dunst - by sending emails appearing be from Google or Apple.

Collins was charged with accessing the photos between 2012 and 2014, in a case known as "celebgate". But was not charged with releasing them.

A statement by prosecutors said: "Investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained."

Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts.

Court filings said he had used fraudulent email addresses designed to look like security accounts from service providers, including email.protection318@icloud.com, noreply_helpdesk0118@outlook.com and secure.helpdesk0119@gmail.com.

Collins was originally charged in Los Angeles, but sentenced in Pennsylvania, his home state.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 1st Nov 2016

WhatsAppImage copyrightAP

Image captionThe data-sharing involved passing phone numbers of WhatsApp users to Facebook

WhatsApp has been warned by European privacy watchdogs about sharing user data with parent company Facebook.

The regulators said they had "serious concerns" about the changes made to WhatsApp's privacy policy, which made the sharing possible.

In a letter to the messaging firm, they asked it to stop sharing data until it was clear that European privacy rules were not being broken.

WhatsApp said it was working with data watchdogs to address their concerns.

Data oversight

In August this year, WhatsApp revealed that it would be sharing more information with Facebook, which bought the messaging app in early 2014 for $19bn (£16bn).

WhatsApp justified the change by saying this would mean suggestions about who people should connect with would be "more relevant".

But many criticised its decision because of earlier pledges that WhatsApp had made to remain independent of Facebook.

The decision to share information prompted investigations by data protection bodies across Europe. Now, the Article 29 Working Party, the collective association of data watchdogs, said more work needed to be done to ensure regional rules governing privacy were not broken when information passed from one firm to another.

The Working Party said this work had to be done because the sharing involved processing data in ways that were not in the privacy policy operating when people signed up.

The group called for data sharing to be halted while the terms of the deal were scrutinised.

A WhatsApp spokeswoman said: "We've had constructive conversations, including before our update, and we remain committed to respecting applicable law."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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