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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

Nest, a smart-home company owned by Google's holding company Alphabet, is dropping support for a line of products — and will make customers' existing devices completely useless.

It's a move that has infuriated some customers, and raises worrying questions about the rights of consumers in the ever-more connected future.

In October 2014, Nest acquired Revolv, a smart-home device maker, nine months after it was itself bought by Google. The terms of the Revolv deal were not disclosed, and as Re/code reported at the time, the deal was an acqui-hire — buying a company for its talent rather than its products or users.

Nest cofounder Matt Rogers praised Revolv as "the best team out there," and Revolv immediately stopped selling its $300 (£210) home hub, which could be used to control lights, doors, alarms, and so on.

Revolv's team was to work on "Work with Nest," Nest's API program, but customers' existing Revolv products continued to be supported — until recently.

Just over a month ago, Revolv updated its website to announce that it is closing down completely, pulling the plug on its existing products in May. "We’re pouring all our energy into Works with Nest and are incredibly excited about what we’re making," wrote Revolv founders Tim Enwall and Mike Soucie. "Unfortunately, that means we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service."

Shutting down Revolv does not mean that Nest is ceasing to support its products, leaving them vulnerable to bugs and other unpatched issues. It means that the $300 devices and accompanying apps will stop working completely.

As one customer puts it, Google parent company Alphabet is "intentionally bricking" the devices on May 15, 2016.

Arlo Gilbert, CEO of medical app company Televero, is infuriated by Nest's decision. He has written a Medium post about the impending closure, labelling it a "pretty blatant 'f--k you' to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware."

Gilbert questions the grounds on which Nest can disable devices altogether. "When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence?" he writes. "[Nest CEO] Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products."

Business Insider reached out to Nest for comment, and a spokesperson said that "Revolv was a great first step toward the connected home, but we believe that Works with Nest is a better solution and are allocating resources toward that program."

The spokesperson declined to say how many customers would be affected, although it may not be huge. Re/code reported in 2014 that relatively "small numbers" of people downloaded the Revolv app. And it's possible that the reason for the shutdown is because the Revolv device is reliant on Nest's server support, which it is no longer willing to provide. (The spokesperson also declined to provide a technical explanation.)

But the case raises broader questions about the extent of ownership in the digital age and whether this could set a precedent for other devices going forwards.

"Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next?" asks Arlo Gilbert. "If they stop supporting Android will they decide that the day after warranty expires that your phone will go dark? Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device?"

Tech companies are sometimes accused of "planned obsolescence" — creating a product that has an artificially limited lifespan, and will eventually become obsolete or break down. But Revolv's devices aren't stopping working naturally: Nest is deliberately pulling the plug.

Nest has been criticised by activists for this decision. Jim Killock, executive director of UK-based digital rights organisation Open Rights Group, said the shut down was "a pretty appalling way to treat customers."

He told Business Insider: "It raises significant questions about the transparency of products that bundle services with hardware, which is an increasingly common arrangement. If hardware may cease to be functional beyond a certain date, this needs to be clear at the time of purchase. Relying on a warranty provision to disable a product would seem to be an unclear and rather dishonest approach."

The closure of Revolv comes as parent company Nest faces its own problems. CEO Tony Fadell's leadership has come under criticism in recent months, with the company "plagued by a string of product problems, employee departures, and disorganization," former employees told Business Insider's Jillian D'Onfro.

Just days ago, news broke that two "key Nest veterans" are leaving, Re/code reported, the latest in a line of departures.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

John Lewis has opened applications for the firm's JLAB 2016 startup accelerator programme that aims to give newly formed technology companies the chance to gain commercial insight from one of the UK's biggest retail brands.

It will be the third year that John Lewis has accepted applications for the programme, which it runs in association with L Marks, with the aim of producing a product or service that will change for the better the way consumers shop.

"We've learnt from [previous JLAB programmes] and developed it and hope it is the best yet," John Lewis IT director Paul Coby told V3.

Coby said that the retailer received 180 applicants for last year's programme and is expecting a similar number this year.
Based in John Lewis' London headquarters, participants will work with senior mentors from John Lewis for 12 weeks, assigned according to specific industry expertise.

"Each year we highlight areas we want them to look at; there are some absolutely brilliant technologies out there whether it be focused on location services, big data or the Internet of Things. The startups really know the technology, but we can show them how the retail side works in the real world," Coby explained.

"The great thing is with JLAB is the startups don't just meet the technology people like me, they meet the buyers - those in the electrical and home technology departments, the director of retail development and director of John Lewis online - who all help to choose the finalists," he added.

The startups will also receive public feedback using customer panels.

Only five startups are selected to complete the 12 week JLAB programme which commences in July 2016, and one of the companies will get six months' free office space, as voted for by John Lewis Partners.

All of the five startups participating in JLAB will have access to capital from the dedicated microfund attached to the programme.

Each team will be eligible to apply for funding of up to £100,000 from the total pot of £200,000, in exchange for equity in their company.

Coby told V3 that there had been several success stories with JLAB, including the winner from last year, smart home technology company Peeple.

Chris Chuter, CEO of Peeple, said that JLAB had turned the startup into a global company.

"Working with John Lewis and L Marks took us to the next level, and helped us better understand and create a product for the international market," he said.

Coby said that John Lewis had invested in four out of the five startups that participated in last year's programme, one of which has an RFI out with another IT company to provide support in John Lewis stores.

"One of the great things is you can see how these companies are moving from startups to companies that are developing products and competing in the market," he said.

The categories for this year's programme include products or services for health and well-being, simplifying customers' lives, enhancing in-store customer experience, technology for kids, and a wildcard of "innovations that are so out of this world they can't be classified".

The winner will be announced at an event in September 2016.
Startups can enter for free at JLAB.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 5th Apr 2016

Hackers could steal users’ location data, finding out ‘where you are, how you got there and where you are going’, say campaigners

British mobile phone users are one data breach away from having the routines of their daily lives revealed to criminals, privacy campaigners have said.

Mobile phone networks and wireless hotspot operators are collecting detailed information on customers’ movements that reveal intimate details of their lives, two separate investigations into mobile data retention have found.

Many people unwittingly sign up to be location-tracked 24/7, unaware that the highly sensitive data this generates is being used and sold on for profit. Campaigners say that if this information were stolen by hackers, criminals could use it to target children as they leave school or homes after occupants have gone out.

It is so detailed that it can reveal customers’ gender, sexual orientation, religion and other many personal details that could present serious risks of blackmail.

“Effectively consumers are opting in to being location tracked by default,” said Geoff Revill, the founder of Krowdthink, the privacy campaign group behind one of the investigations published on Monday.

“The fact of the matter is your mobile service provider knows – without you knowing – where you are, how you got there and can figure out where you are going.”

Such precise location data would be like “gold dust” for criminals if it found its way on to the black market, said Pete Woodward, the founder of information security experts Securious.

“The information that mobile and Wi-Fi service providers hold on location tracking is an evolving and high-risk area of cybercrime that needs urgent attention by the industry,” Woodward said. “Otherwise we will face the frightening prospect that such highly sensitive data could get into the hands of the likes of kidnappers and paedophiles.”

Krowdthink’s research found that 93% of UK citizens had opted in to location tracking, giving mobile phone and wireless operators unlimited access to their whereabouts 24 hours a day.

This data, the report says, “brings the cloud into the crowd” by connecting web users’ digital lives with their physical lives, making it one of the most intrusive forms of tracking.

Yet Krowdthink’s research, and research conducted simultaneously but independently by the Open Rights Group (ORG), found that customers were not being given clear enough information about how the data is used, or opportunities to opt out of collection.

Wireless hotspots have been singled out as potential location trackers. Photograph: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis
Mystery shopping trips carried out by both groups found that mobile and wireless service providers are not telling customers upfront that all their movements will be tracked and used for marketing, and often sold on to third parties.

All the mobile phone companies contacted by the ORG said they anonymise data, which means they are not legally obliged to ask for consent to use it. But the group, which campaigns for digital rights, raised questions about the efficacy of anonymising such personal information.

Often all it takes is the cross-referencing of one set of anonymised data with another set of data, such as the electoral roll, to reveal the identities of the people tracked. Jim Killock, the ORG’s executive director, said: “Mobile service providers need to collect and keep data so that they can bill us for our services.

“But just because they collect this data does not mean that they have an automatic right to process that data for other purposes without our consent. If they don’t, they are removing our right to control this data and the risks associated with their using it.”

Britain’s mobile phone industry is worth £14bn, with 93% of adults owning a mobile phone and 61% owning a smartphone. Data collected from these phones, including usage, web browsing and location histories, is used to build profiles that are used by advertisers and other undefined businesses.

Location data is collected from the cell towers of a mobile service provider when it tracks a customer to route a call to them. There are now 52,000 cell towers in Britain. In some areas they are as close as 50 metres apart.

Wireless hotspots are also potential location trackers, with many public providers opting customers into tracking by default in their terms and conditions. In many cases these hotspots will log registered customers’ location as they pass through, even if they do not sign in.

Krowdthink’s investigation found that some providers, including O2 and Vodafone, use the same privacy policy for wireless as for their mobile phone customers. The combination of the two networks enables them to track location with even greater fidelity of location tracking.

However, customers do have a legal right to opt out of location tracking for marketing purposes and, with the forthcoming European General Data Protection Regulation, will soon be able to demand that their location data is deleted.

Krowdthink and the ORG warn mobile users to turn off wireless internet when they are out to avoid disclosing their identities as they pass through hotspots. They also warn people to be aware that they could be providing information on their location when sharing digital photos and video images and downloading mobile apps.

Killock added: “Mobile phone companies should improve the transparency of their operations by making their privacy polices clearer, giving customers’ information about what exact data they are collecting, how long they will keep it for, how each particular type of data will be used, who it will be shared with and the risks associated with this.

“They should also make contracts available before the point of sale and marketing and location tracking opt-outs simpler.”

• The headline on this article was changed on 4 April 2016 to better reflect the story.

Source: theguardian.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Apr 2016

Towel thieves, consider yourselves warned. Those handy travel-sized hotel towels may be useful to take with you (and not bring back) when you head out for a day at the beach, but soon that will no longer be an option.

Hotels nationwide have tired of a trend that leaves them missing 5 to 20% of their towels in any given month.

Enter Linen Technology Tracking, a Miami-based company that patented a washable Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip for hotels to sew into towels, robes and bed sheets. The chip can trigger an alarm if a guest tries to take a tagged item from the premises. The New York Times reports that three hotels in Honolulu, Manhattan and Miami have introduced the system but wish to remain unnamed.

William Serbin, the executive Vice President of Linen Technology Tracking tells the New York Times that high cotton prices led to costlier towels which served as motivation for developing an anti-theft system. He adds that the technology has a double purpose — in addition to catching thieves, it helps hotels monitor linen demand and adjust their supply accordingly.

It’s a successful system. The Honolulu hotel has saved nearly $15,000 since implementing the tags last summer and their monthly towel theft is now less than a quarter of what it was before. Can travelers hope for rapid rate reductions as a result? Probably not, but NewsFeed can dream.

Source: newsfeed.time.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Apr 2016

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled a prototype of the company's new Model 3 in a ceremony on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Leading up to the event, droves of future customers waited in line at the company's showrooms and online to place $1,000 deposits on the company's most affordable model to date.

On Friday, Musk announced on Twitter that his company generated roughly 180,000 orders in 24 hours. Hours later, the total surpassed 230,000.

And by Saturday morning, orders were over 250,000. (He promised more updates as he gets them.)

By Musk's math, at just 180,000 orders, the automaker booked about $7.5 billion in future sales. That's based on a price of $42,000 a car.

The car's base price is about $35,000, but it is expected to launch with versions that cost well above that.

Musk is, of course, making some assumptions there, namely about how many of those who placed deposits will actually buy the car when it's ready in 2017 or 2018.

Venture capitalist David Pakman, however, tweeted a different take that still leads to some impressive numbers. If the company books 200,000 preorders and actually sells cars to 70% of those buyers at the lowest-possible price, then it means the company has just locked in $4.9 billion in future sales, with little money spent on marketing.

And regardless of the eventual sell-through, what is already clear is that — with the 200,000 preorders that Musk announced — Tesla has raked in $200 million in interest-free cash.

The company wasn't immediately available for comment on what it planned to do with those funds.

Tesla shares rose 5.2% to about $242 in early trading on Friday, but gave up some of those gains later in the day. The stock is up over 60% from a February low — in part in anticipation of the new car.

Meeting the hype
But if Tesla will live up to the hype — one analyst on Friday raised the price target on Tesla to $500 a share, according to Bloomberg — then the company still has to execute on timing and delivery of the new cars.

Tesla is promising to deliver the cars starting in late 2017, but as Business Insider's Bryan Logan notes, all of Tesla's previous vehicles — the Roadster, the Model S, and the Model X SUV — arrived late, for various reasons.

The company also has to sustain sales past the initial hype. Those deposits are fully refundable, which means that many buyers could, by late 2017 or 2018, lose interest in the car or be unable to follow up with the additional $34,000 — and up — that it will take to actually buy one.

Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas recently predicted that Tesla would fall well short of the company's target of 500,000 annual unit sales by 2020. Jonas, a noted Tesla bull, suggested that the company would be selling closer to just under 249,000 cars annually by 2020. But that was before Thursday's bookings.

With Tesla having delivered more than 50,000 cars in 2015, reaching roughly a quarter-million would see production increase five times as much by 2020. That means that even with Jonas' conservative projection, the Model 3 will play a very substantial role in the company's future.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Apr 2016

Is the EU like the Qwerty keyboard?

I ask because back in 1985 Paul David wrote a paper (pdf) in which he claimed that the Qwerty keyboard was inferior to alternatives such as the Dvorak one. However, the Qwerty keyboard was adopted for reasons which aren’t relevant today – for example, in slowing typists down it reduced the frequency with which typewriter keys collided with each other. And it persists because the short-run costs of becoming accustomed to a new keyboard deter us from shifting despite the long-term advantages of doing so.

Although some people quibble with David’s example – it’s unclear whether Dvorak keyboards are actually better – the general story here is plausible. We can become locked into inferior (pdf) technologies which were first adopted by historical accident because the costs of switching to better alternatives are high. Robin Cowan claims (pdf) that this is the case with nuclear power plants in the US*.

Now, here’s the thing. If Brexit’s intelligent advocates are right, the same thing is true for the EU. They argue that our relationship with the EU is sub-optimal and might become more so and that we’d be better off (pdf) with globally free trade. However, there are short-term costs to shifting: the uncertainty caused by Brexit could dampen investment both directly and, perhaps, by raising borrowing costs.

In this sense, the EU is like the Qwerty keyboard; it’s inefficient, but we’re locked in by historical accident and the short-term costs of changing.

Which poses the question: are those short-term costs worth incurring? My hunch is no (pdf). Even if we achieved good free trade agreements, it would take many years to reap the benefits of them simply because companies would have to invest in export sales efforts in unfamiliar parts of the world, thus overcoming the force of gravity. Dietz Vollrath’s general point – that it takes many years for improvements in potential GDP to feed into actual GDP – applies especially here.

I fear, therefore, that Brexit’s advocates are under-estimating the costs of adjustment.

They’ve got form for doing so. Back in 1984 Patrick Minford argued in favour of pit closures on the grounds that unemployed miners would find work elsewhere – that the adjustment process would be swift enough to more than offset the short-term hardship. He was wrong: ex-mining communities are still depressed.

And here’s my suspicion. Perhaps in supporting Brexit free marketeers are making a mistake they often make: they under-estimate how slow and costly the transitions can be from one equilibrium to another.

* My favourite example is Brian Arthur’s story of how steam-powered cars were hard hit by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 1914 which closed the water troughs from which they refuelled, thus locking us into petrol engines.

March 30, 2016 | Permalink

Source: stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 4th Apr 2016

Google has abruptly killed off one of its April Fools' Day "jokes" after it caused outrage online, with multiple people claiming that it lost them their jobs.

The premise of the joke was simple. In Gmail, next to the standard "Reply" button, Google added a "Mic drop" button. Using it would reply to the email, archive it — and also add a GIF of a "Despicable Me" minion dropping a mic.

"Email's great, but sometimes you just wanna hit the eject button," Google wrote in a tongue-and-cheek blog post explaining its purpose. "Like those heated threads at work, when everyone's wrong except you (obviously). Or those times when someone's seeking group approval, but your opinion is the only one that matters (amirite?). Or maybe you just nailed it, and there's nothing more to say (bam)."

But the joke backfired — fast.

Its placement directly next to the default Reply button — replacing the "Send and archive" button — meant it was easy to click by accident, especially if a user didn't understand what it was. Google's product forums are full of furious users claiming they pressed the button by accident, often on important professional emails.

Here's how the mic-drop GIF can look in a wildly inappropriate email:

One user, Abdus Salam, wrote that he had lost out on a potential job because of the GIF. "This mic drop is perhaps the most stupid thing you could possibly come up with. I have been interviewing with this company for 3 months now and mistakenly sent the email directly to guess who? The HR! Why would you do that? I so want this job; was due to start on Monday!"

Meanwhile, Allan Pashby wrote: "Thanks to Mic Drop I just lost my job. I am a writer and had a deadline to meet. I sent my articles to my boss and never heard back from her. I inadvertently sent the email using the "Mic Drop" send button. There were corrections that needed to be made on my articles and I never received her replies. My boss took offense to the Mic Drop animation and assumed that I didn't reply to her because I thought her input was petty (hence the Mic Drop). I just woke up to a very angry voicemail from her which is how I found out about this 'hilarious' prank."

And The Telegraph found a third angry user who claimed: "I just sent off an email with my resume to the first person who wanted to interview me in months ... I clicked the wrong button and sent it with the mic drop. Well, I guess I'm not getting that job. Words cannot describe how pissed off I am right now. I'm actually shaking. One click, ONE CLICK and I lost the job. Goddamnit. Not funny, google. I'm going to go cry now."

Of course, considering it is April Fools' Day, it's difficult to verify whether all these stories are true. But even if some are made up, it's pretty clear there's anger over the joke. And when you consider the sheer scale of Gmail, it's not hard to believe that the feature has caused serious problems for some people.


Google has pulled the plug, removing the feature from Gmail. In a statement, a company representative said: "Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the MicDrop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 23rd Mar 2016

The Government’s Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey, risks shunning smaller ISPs by proposing a significant shift in the broadband and phone market, which on the upside could mean an end to separate line rental charges and clearer pricing. But you’ll still pay for the line.

According to reports (here and here), Mr Vaizey has summoned BT, TalkTalk, Sky Broadband and Virgin Media to attend a roundtable discussion before Parliament goes on its summer recess (21st July 2016). The discussion will focus on how to kill off the “outdated” system of line rental charges, which Vaizey describes as an “analogue billing system in a digital world.”

The discussion filters into the recent proposals for new advertising rules (here and here), which would force ISPs to provide customers with a single package cost for both broadband and line rental combined (instead of showing them separately). But this rather ignores how the market actually works, with line rental prices generally being reflected via one of three methods or a combination.

Line Rental and Broadband Combinations

1. Broadband and line rental / phone are both sold as separate products, albeit often operating over the same network (i.e. BTOpenreach) and they usually still need each other in order to work. You can often mix each between different ISPs, thus single pricing would NOT work here (hundreds of ISPs offer this).

2. Broadband and line rental (phone) are sold as a bundle from the same ISP (single pricing would work for bundles).

3. Broadband is sold standalone without a phone / line rental service, with the physical line already being part of the main price rather than a separate tacked-on product (most common on pure fibre optic (FTTP/H) services where a traditional separate copper phone line is not required).

The other mistaken assumption appears to be that what the Government proposes might magically result in consumers saving almost the entire cost of the line rental component off their broadband bundle, which is incorrect.

Mr Vaizey said:

“You get these headline prices which are misleading. People should pay for what they use. If the companies come up with a different pricing structure, that is fine, as long as they can see what they are paying for. Some people want to get rid of their landline entirely and pay for their broadband.”

An Ofcom spokesman said:

“Ofcom shares the Government’s concern in this area. We believe prices need to be clearer. Broadband advertising should show the full cost up front, including any set-up fees. So we are working closely with our sister regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, which expects to make changes in the summer.”

Like it or not, every ISP that uses a fixed line service (broadband, phone etc.) must cover the cost of the underlying physical line (the cable that enters your property) and maintenance in some way. In other words, if line rental is taken out of the equation then the bulk of that cost will simply shift to broadband and you’ll still be paying more or less that same “rip off” price (broadband and line rental are actually quite affordable in the UK, when compared to most other countries).

What the Government proposes might also make life more difficult for the hundreds of smaller ISPs that sell phone and broadband as optional / separate services above (see this feedback from ISPs). An enforced single-price model may actually risk losing choice from the market because not everybody wants to take their broadband and or phone / line rental from the same provider.

Bundles remain a relatively new invention and one that tends to have been most embraced by the bigger ISPs, while the mass of smaller providers (hundreds of them) still sell broadband and phone separately (you can’t force a one price model on these, especially if they don’t even sell line rental).

Ofcom also suggests that the set-up fee should be included into the price, which might require some big changes since the cost of setup often varies depending upon the end-user’s circumstance (migrations are usually much cheaper than costly new line installs etc.). ISPs could of course adopt a shared pricing model (same price for everyone), but that would also mean higher prices (i.e. if everybody pays the same price then migrating customers would effectively be subsidising those who want an expensive new line etc.).

Equally there’s a huge question mark over whether or not the big ISPs would use this type of single pricing as an excuse to quietly get rid of the cheaper Line Rental Saver discount, which is where you can save the equivalent of up to around £2 per month off the line rental cost by pre-paying for a year in advance.

Conclusion
The 2014 Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy proposal did moot a future in which traditional copper “phone” lines may become a thing of the past (here), with BT further hinting that phone services may eventually take a more VoIP form and be optionally sold over the top of your broadband connection. But that wasn’t expected to happen for another 9-10 years or so.

Lest we not forget the forthcoming Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) product that Openreach are developing (here and here), which is essentially a standalone / naked FTTC (VDSL) “fibre broadband” package that would be sold for a single price.

SOGEA represents a shift in Openreach’s thinking, where you buy the broadband first and the phone service as an add-on (opposite to today’s model). But the “Alpha” trial for this won’t start until October 2016, with a “Beta” trial set to follow in April 2017 and the final Pilot due in August 2017 (commercial launch in 2018?). So it’s a long way off and is currently just one product.

In other words the Government has a huge challenge in trying to fundamentally change how broadband services are sold and it remains to be seen whether or not they can achieve this without inadvertently removing choice and flexibility from the market. In keeping with that they must also make sure to engage smaller ISPs and to understand the technical reality of how such services are sold by suppliers in the first place.

At the end of the day there’s really no reason why ISPs cannot promote their pricing in a clearer way by being more transparent with what they’re doing / discounting. Similarly there is also nothing inherently complicated about line rental, so long as it’s presented and costed clearly alongside the broadband cost when applicable.

We’d love to see an end to confusing offers, but forcing the removal of line rental may have too many unintended consequences and cause frustration when consumers, many of whom hold the mistaken belief that they will save money with its removal, suddenly realise that its cost has simply been transferred to sit under the heading of “broadband“.

In the future we do expect to be buying broadband as the primary product and phone services as an add-on (VoIP), which will reverse the current trend. But as SOGEA shows, Openreach and its ISPs aren’t yet ready to completely make that transition and any new advertising rules must recognise the wider market flexibility and consumer choice.

Source: ispreview.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 23rd Mar 2016

Having a drawer filled with dark chocolate will boost your brain – we really mean it! But it's not the only food to do so. From folklore medicine to Aztec warrior usage, we unveil five snacks that have a long history of increasing concentration.


Sunflower seeds will help boost concentration
In 2009 the University of California estimated that we are bombarded with 34GB of information a day, twice as much as 30 years ago – a figure that has undoubtedly skyrocketed since the study took place. Office workers, meanwhile, are interrupted on average every three minutes.

Small surprise, therefore, that our concentration spans are shrivelling. In fact, while the average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds. This further highlights the affects of an increasingly digitalised lifestyle on the brain.

There have been numerous suggestions for increasing concentration, spanning keeping your email inbox tidy to mastering the art of time management. However, what if you could boost brain activity simply by nibbling food? Can it actually sharpen our minds? Well, the answer is yes, more or less.

That's what online health retailer MuscleFood.com suggested as it compiled a list of snacks that you should be eating while at work.

We've selected five of the best brain power inducing suggestions which we could back up through research, or had a long history of being used to clear "brain fog":

(1) Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are high in dopamine – a brain chemical involved in increasing motivation and concentration. Its offered Vitamin E can actively protect brain membranes from damage and is known to boost memory as well.

A healthy nervous system means both clearer and happier thinking, according to research. In fact, Readers Digest's "Fight Back with Food," suggested under-consumption of omega-3-rich foods may actually lead to depression.

And according to John Heinennan in the "Encyclopedia of Fruits Vegetables Herbs", this is the way they work: "Tobacco releases stored sugar (glycogen) from the liver and this perks up one's brain. Sunflower seeds provide calories that give the same mental lift."

(2) Eggs
Waking up slightly earlier to cook eggs for breakfast will help you in the long run. The protein inside eggs is the highest-quality protein of any food. That protein can make you feel fuller for longer periods of time, causing you to maintain more stable blood-glucose levels. The high-quality protein in eggs also forms a necessary component of important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.

These are chemicals that brain cells use to communicate among themselves. The net effect of all these processes on the brain is an enhanced feeling of energy and alertness.

Researchers at Boston University also found people who got plenty of choline (present in eggs) in their diets performed better on memory tests and were less likely to show brain changes associated with dementia.

(3) Chia seeds
Chia seeds benefit the body by delivering maximum nutrients with minimum calories and promotes digestion, energy and detoxification. Its history, however, is quite intriguing. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them high energy and endurance, suggesting that just one spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours.

Similarly, the isolated tribe of Tarahumara Indians is known for a remarkable feat. They often run for hundreds of miles and scale mountains without injury or rest. Their legendary endurance puts gold medal Olympic marathon runners to shame.

Many believe the chai they constantly keep with them is so packed with nutrition, that one or two mouthfuls will fuel a Tarahumara runner for an entire day.

(4) Rosemary
In folk medicine, rosemary has been associated for centuries with helping people develop a good memory. In fact, Ophelia in Hamlet told her brother Laertes: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." Its link to extending brain power also includes boosting concentration.

The Tudors also believed that rosemary had the power to enhance memory. It's no speculation though, as researchers found that by sprinkling rosemary over snacks, or, strangely enough, by sniffing it, will enable people to remember to do things. It's a pretty nifty tool for the workplace!

In fact, sniffing it could increase your cognitive memory by 75 per cent.

(5) Dark chocolate
Rejoice! There's now a reason to stock up on dark chocolate. And it's exactly because of the happy feeling you're experiencing upon hearing that fact that chocolate has made it onto the list: It boosts your mood. Furthermore, it's known to significantly increase your focus.

Researchers at Northern Arizona University tested the mental responses of participants who ate chocolate of various levels of cacao content. Participants who ate chocolate with 60 per cent cacao – the minimum level of cacao to count as dark chocolate – were more alert and attentive. The downside was increased blood pressure.

There may be a way around that though. Those who consumed dark chocolate with the amino acid L-theanine, which is a relaxant found in green tea, experienced an immediate drop in blood pressure. There you go, a heady mix of dark chocolate and green tea will do the trick!

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 22nd Mar 2016

Apple just announced a new, 9.7-inch iPad Pro — smaller than the original, gigantic 12.9" iPad Pro model, but with the same support for the Apple Pencil stylus and with a better camera.

The new iPad Pro starts at $599 for a model with 32GB of storage, and $749 for 128GB. It starts shipping on March 31st, with preorders opening this week.

Apple is doubling down in the iPad Pro's ability to replace a traditional laptop, in both the bigger and smaller sizes. And the company isn't shy about using it to steal away Microsoft users.

"You might not know this, but the majority of iPad Pro users are coming from a Windows PC," says Apple's Phil Schiller.

At 9.7 inches, the new iPad Pro has the same screen size as Apple's very first iPad, released in 2010. But just like its bigger cousin, the new iPad Pro is designed around productivity and high-end graphics and audio. And it supports a smaller version of the Apple Smart Keyboard cover for the iPad Pro.

Schiller hypes up the new iPad Pro's specs, including an A9X chip, which he bills as the company's fastest processor ever. It also has "pro audio" speakers, and tons of graphical juice under the hood for gaming.

"That's more than an [Microsoft] Xbox 360, in a device you hold in your hand," Schiller says.

apple ipad pro pricingSteve Kovach/Tech Insider

The new iPad Pro also boasts a retina screen, including a new technology that adjusts the screen's reflectivity based on the level of light, to make it more like working with a sheet of real, actual paper.

It also sports a 12 megapixel camera that also lets you take 4K super-high resolution video, which is better than the original iPad Pro.

The iPad Air 2, which used to be Apple's flagship 9.7-inch iPad, is sticking around — but it's getting a price drop to $399. The iPad Air 2 hasn't gotten a refresh since late 2014, so the new iPad Pro is going to be the prime choice for the performance-conscious.

That means the iPad line starts at $269 with the smaller iPad mini, goes up to $399 with the iPad Air 2, $599 for the new, smaller iPad Pro, and $799 for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The original, gigantic iPad Pro is also getting a 256 gigabyte model that starts at $1099.

Launching a new iPad Pro is a bold move, given that the original model failed to set the tablet market on fire since its late-fall release.

Still, given that one of the biggest criticisms of the iPad Pro was its huge size — and given that Apple's Phil Schiller says that the 9.7" screen size is the best-selling iPad screen to date— Apple is clearly hoping a new form factor will kickstart a boom.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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