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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 3rd Feb 2016

BT has apologised after "several hundred thousand" UK customers had their broadband services cut off.

Down detector, a website that monitors internet failures, reported thousands of cases, including in Glasgow, London, Birmingham and Sheffield.

At about 23:00 GMT BT said it was confident services had been "fully restored" but that some customers might need to reboot equipment.

The company said a faulty router was to blame for the problem.

BT phone services were unaffected by the outage, which began about 14:30 GMT.

A spokeswoman added: "Most customers will be able to access their broadband without taking any action but some may need to reboot their equipment."

Hundreds of people took to social media to express their frustration using the hashtag #BTdown, which began trending on Twitter.

BT acknowledged that "large numbers of customers" were "experiencing temporary issues with their broadband services".
It did not initially give details of what may have caused the issue but said: "There is no evidence at this stage to suggest that we were subject to a malicious attack."

Its website had also crashed for a time and some users reported that its customer service line was down.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 1st Feb 2016

The Economist estimates that by 2020 approximately 80% of adults around the world will carry at least one super-mobile computer device that enables them to connect to the Internet, using services such as electronic payment, real-time social networking, and information sharing. Gartner estimates that around 90% of businesses will support "Bring Your Own Device" practices at the work place by 2017. By 2018, devices carried by employees themselves will double the amount owned by the company. This marks the beginning of the global Internet age.

Here are the eight most frequent issues faced by small to medium corporations when establishing and using a wireless connection.

1. Wi-Fi Dead Spots

Dead Spots often cause trouble for users, and sometimes even affect customer satisfaction with the provider. The design of traditional access points could not reach distant areas and the walls degrade Wi-Fi signal quality. Smart Antenna technology is one of the solutions to beat this challenge. Smart Antenna solution eliminates the dead spots, relying on the antennas’ full 360 degree coverage, dynamic patterns, and situational awareness to optimize Wi-Fi experiences.

2. Slow and Unstable Connection

Even when connected to the Internet, many users commonly experience unstable or slow connection speeds with their wireless connections. This is especially severe in areas where multiple access points are installed. Signal interference is one of the reasons for unstable connection. The interference is resulted from the various equipment of Wi-Fi environments coupled with different electromagnetic waves. Wi-Fi signals are the most easily affected, which poses another challenge for providing a high quality wireless connection.

3. Efficient Bandwidth Usage

One of the greatest challenges in managing a wireless connection is ensuring that every user within the same environment is satisfied with their connection speed and usage stability. With the more usages on bandwidth-hungry applications, bandwidth optimization and efficiency have become key factors that determine the quality of the user’s experience. This is especially true in business environments.

4. Connection Safety and Cyber Security

Apart from efficiency, connection safety and cyber security has also become one of the key concerns for many in the virtual world, especially regarding cyber security of personal privacy and rights. Related issues tend to make headline news due to their severity, which also makes it one of the frequent issues that keep CTO/CEO's awake at night. As a result, connection safety and cyber security is one of the key points of consideration when designing a wireless network.

5. IT Investment Assessment

Increasing management efficiency and seeking continued growth are primary targets for all profit-seeking enterprises. The underlying cost for Internet system renewal adds to the burden of operation costs, which has also become a key concern for managers. Not only do managers have to consider the cost to upgrade the system, they also have to think about how to prevent usage expenses from rising when increasing efficiency.

6. Internet Management and Deployment Efficiency

Internet management is the daily work of all IT personnel. Traditionally speaking, managing the connection system topologically has been the norm. However, this method is extremely time-consuming and prone to mistakes that cause management issues or even incomplete job handovers.

Moreover, when establishing or upgrading new systems, IT personnel must be on their toes, hoping that the assembly will be completed on time or otherwise risk affecting the normal operation of the Internet system. Hence, an optimizing management tool which could provide management and deployment efficiency is a very important key factor that determines work performance.

7. Easily Blend-In Product Design

Wireless access points should be installed in high locations (for example, close to the ceiling) for better coverage. Enterprises that place an emphasis on the office environment, or ones that emphasize interior design, such as hotels, restaurants, and conference centers, must also consider whether the product matches the interior design of their environment in addition to the product’s efficiency.

8. Eco-Friendly Quality

As environmental, public construction, and regional safety regulations become increasingly stringent, quality demands such as function optimization, usage safety, eco-friendly and energy saving design, interior flame-retardant, and poison-retardant materials have become important considerations in product procurement.

Source: zyxel.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 1st Feb 2016

E-books are increasingly being used in classrooms by children as young as three - and they are making a big difference to the reading habits of boys. But there are concerns the expansion of electronic devices in schools may undermine the position of traditional paper books.

E-books, where stories are loaded onto a tablet or laptop, are used in about two-thirds of schools across America, says the School Library Journal.

But their use in English schools is sporadic.

The National Literacy Trust has been conducting research over the past year to understand their impact.

At 40 schools across the country, 800 children were encouraged to use e-books and share their feelings.

Physical thing'

The average project ran for four months. But over that period on average boys made 8.4 months of reading progress using them, compared to just 7.2 months of progress among girls.

Reluctant readers also made good progress, with a 25% increase in boys reading daily.

Perivale Primary School, in west London, took part in the research.

Summit, who is 11, said: ''If you really want a book, you can just get it online. It's so easy and it's made me read more. I probably read every day now.''

10-year-old Hebah disagreed. ''I've always been a real bookworm,'' she said. ''Personally I still prefer paperbacks, because I get more of the feel of the real book.''

''We're just trying to create a bigger library,'' explained Jordan McNamara, who teaches using E-books in his classes. ''The children get to choose the books themselves. We're just after more reading, so anything we can do to get the kids to read more is great.''

Award winning children's poet and author Michael Rosen has reservations.

''It's really important to hang on to picture books,'' he said. ''We can pass them about, we can flip them, we can share them in ways that's quite difficult with tablets. That physical thing of sitting with a picture book in a classroom is important.''


He added: ''Something special goes on when our thoughts engage with print and picture. Words and pictures go together but they're not the same thing. It's like there's another story being told in a different way.

Boys in particular benefit from using e-books, research suggests

''With books for older children, text only books, it's less important. But picture books are very important for inspiring younger children and we cannot lose that.''

Researchers are now embarking on further studies to try and understand why boys in particular respond so well to E-books.
Irene Picton, from the National Literacy Trust, said the findings so far suggest electronic books have a part to play in lessons.
''In focus groups children said the adaptability of E-books gave them more confidence to read. The text can be enlarged and the screen colour can be changed.''

Young readers also liked having books on their mobile devices so they could play games and socialise, but also read.
She added: ''I'd describe E-books as a tool in the toolbox for anybody who knows a child who doesn't seem to like reading very much."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 1st Feb 2016

The Computer Science for All initiative will help kids get tech-savvy.

The White House isn't just relying on legislation to make computer science education a priority in the US. President Obama has launched a Computer Science for All initiative that gives states $4 billion in funding to expand computer science in K-12 schools through a mix of better course materials, partnerships and teacher training. The move also sends another $100 million directly to school districts, unlocks $135 million in funding from government organizations and gets further cooperation from both local governments as well as tech leaders.

Some of those leaders include companies that have already promised support for the President's educational initiatives. Apple, Cartoon Network, Code.org, Facebook, Microsoft, Salesforce and Qualcomm are all widening their education efforts, investing in programs or both to help improve computer science in the country.

Throwing cash at a problem won't make it go away, of course, and there aren't any guarantees that the money will make a difference. However, the effort at least tackles one of the core issues head-on: getting computer science into schools in the first place. Roughly three quarters of schools go without any CS programs, and 22 states don't accept these classes as credit toward a high school diploma. If the extra funding works as planned, it'll get CS courses into more schools and help create a generation of kids that know how to code before they reach college.

Source: engadget.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 1st Feb 2016

Mobile network Three has defended its decision to end a popular "all you can eat" phone contract.

Thousands of customers currently paying £17 a month for unlimited data and calls have been told they will be moved onto a new £30 tariff if they do not opt out within 30 days.

The company has notified customers by post and said it would also text them.

Three said the more expensive plan was the closest remaining deal offering unlimited calls and data.
It stopped offering the £17 monthly deal to new customers in 2014 and said it was phasing out "legacy" tariffs, but the BBC understands hundreds of thousands of customers still use the tariff and will be affected by the switch.

'Inevitable' change

One mobile industry analyst told the BBC the demise of unlimited data plans was "inevitable".

"Consumer data usage is growing exponentially," said Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

"The networks are seeing huge growth in data consumption as people watch more video content at ever-higher resolutions on their smartphones. At some point certain all-you-can-eat tariffs become uneconomical."
While the network does still offer plans with unlimited data and calls, Three says its average account holder consumes just 4.9 gigabytes of data per month.
The firm had 8.8 million customers in 2015, according to its website.
Some have posted their anger at the tariff change online, ironically tagging their posts #MakeItRight - the hashtag Three uses in its advertising campaign.

"That's how you lose brand loyalty," tweeted software engineer Joseph Longden.

"Stop forcing loyal customers like myself into new plans which are almost double the price," wrote Nathan McLean.

Three's advertising campaign says "the mobile industry sucks" but pledges to "make it right"
In a statement, Three said: "In March 2014, we introduced new price plans giving customers more options in the size of their data and voice bundles, as well as limits and alerts to prevent bill shock.

"We have a lot of tariffs that we no longer sell and moving customers to one of the new plans will ensure they can enjoy the benefits of these plans."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 1st Feb 2016

Analysing data collected on our mobile phones could give insights into our health.

Up to 10 million people around the world are living with Parkinson's disease, which causes symptoms such as a shuffling walk and tremor in the hands.

But researchers in the UK hope that a phone app, which records a patient's movement and voice patterns, could help their doctor to monitor their progress more accurately.

The app includes seven different tests - for tremor, walking gait, reaction times and voice.

Dr Fahd Baig, clinical researcher at the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre, says that there are tell-tale signs in the voice of a Parkinson's patient.

Results from one of his pilot studies indicate that simply getting a patient to say "ahhh" into a phone means the app can spot this with 99% sensitivity.

Lorna Stewart reports.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 25th Jan 2016

Searching with regular sentences will only get you so far – if you need to find something a bit tricky turn to these advanced yet simple methods

Search engines are pretty good at finding what you’re looking for these days, but sometimes they still come up short. For those occasions there are a few little known tricks which come in handy.

So here are some tips for better googling (as it’s the most popular search engine) but many will work on other search engines too.

1. Exact phrase
Exact search
The simplest and most effective way to search for something specific is to use quote marks around a phrase or name to search for those exact words in that exact order.

For instance, searching for Joe Bloggs will show results with both Joe and Bloggs but not necessarily placed sequentially. Searching for “Joe Bloggs” will surface only those that specifically have the name Joe Bloggs somewhere on the page.

The exact or explicit phrase search is very useful for excluding more common but less relevant results.

2. Exclude terms

If exact phrase doesn’t get you what you need, you can specifically exclude certain words using the minus symbol.

A search for “Joe Bloggs” -jeans will find results for Joe Bloggs, but it will exclude those results for the Joe Bloggs brand of jeans.

3. Either OR

Default text searches find results with all the words of the query. By using the OR term you can search for one or another term, not just all the terms. OR searches can be useful for finding things that you’re not sure which term will be used from a known list.

4. Synonym search
Sometimes it’s useful to search for a less specific term. If you’re not sure which term will be used you can use synonym search.

Searching for plumbing ~university will bring up results for plumbing from colleges as well as universities, for example.

5. Search within a site
The search engines of most websites are poor. You can search using Google instead by using the site or domain limiter.

Searching with site:theguardian.com followed by a search term, will find results from only theguardian.com. Combining with explicit search terms makes it even more powerful.

6. The power of the asterisk
Like the blank tile in Scrabble, the asterisk works as a wild card within searches. It can be used in place of a missing word or part of a word, which is useful for completing phrases, but also when you’re trying to search for a less definite article.

A search for architect* will search for architect, but also architectural, architecture, architected, architecting and any other word which starts with architect.

7. Searching between two values
Searching for something with a qualifier between two ranges is a good way of answering questions. For instance, if you’re looking for the who were the British prime ministers between 1920 and 1950 a search using british prime minister 1920.. 1950 will bring up results with dates ranging between 1920 and 1950.

That’s your search term followed by two full stops and a space.

8. Search for word in the body, title or URL of a page
Sometimes you only want to find text either within the URL, body or title of a page. Using the qualifier inurl: will search just within the url. The qualifier intext: will search within the body, while intitle: will search only within a page title.

For example, intitle:review will bring up all the articles with “review” in the page title.

9. Search for related sites
The related qualifier is useful for finding similar sites. Searching for related:theguardian.com for instance, will bring up the websites of other news organisations that Google deems the most similar to the Guardian.

10. Combine them
All these search tools can be combined to narrow down or expand searches. While some of them may be used only rarely, some such as explicit phrase searches are useful in almost all cases.

As Google and other search engines improve their understanding of the way people naturally type or say search queries, these power tools will likely become less and less useful – at least that’s the goal that search engines are working towards – but that’s certainly not the case at the moment.

Source: theguardian.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 25th Jan 2016

Rollout of the BBC’s micro:bit computer designed to teach school children to code has been delayed until late February at the earliest.

After suffering delays to its original October rollout due to power problems, the micro:bit was due to be given to teachers before Christmas 2015 and to school students in 2016.

A BBC spokesperson told V3 that while the rollout is still on teck for pupils, teachers can expect to recieve thier micro:bits by the end of Febuary at the earliest.

“We’re still on track to begin delivery of up to one million free BBC micro:bits to all year seven pupils across the UK as part of the current term. Teachers are already getting hands-on via the website and a range of events, and they’ll receive their devices just after half-term," the spokesperson said.

"We’re also sending some additional devices to teachers in the rollout to allow even more children to get creative with the micro:bit.”

The BBC also relayed the news at the London BETT education trade show at which BBC Learning executive Cerys Griffiths explained that the micro:bit still needs some fine tuning.

"We have created the hardware, and it's very complex, very sophisticated and very new. What we were really hoping for was that teachers would get their devices before Christmas,” she said.

"But our commitment to teachers has always been that we would give them the devices first to give them time to play and get familiar with them."

Despite the delays, some schools have been given access to prototype versions of the micro:bit.
Education, education, technology

The delay may be a disappointment for many teachers and pupils, but education secretary Nicky Morgan warned at BETT that technology should not be a substitute for core education.

Morgan emphasised that good teachers and their ability to relay knowledge to students should be aided, rather than dictated, by technology.

“We see education technology as an aid to excellent schools and excellent teachers, not a replacement for them. Probably the worst attitude we can take is that access to search engines is somehow a substitute for knowledge,” she said.

“And we’ve made it clear that teachers are our greatest resource because you can’t have an excellent education system without the highest quality teachers at its front line.

“But there are plenty of ways in which we see technology as an aid. As a starting point there are things that ease the smooth running of school days like capturing data for class registers, attainment and pupil progress.”

Morgan added that technology can aid teaching and that removing the reliance on paper records that sap teachers’ time is a priority. Data combined with open and common standards will facilitate productivity by allowing different education systems to communicate rather than requiring the same data to be replicated and processed several times.
In a bid to drive such an objective, Morgan said that her department is working on new systems for data collection and exchange based on open standards.

Another focus is the provision of broadband in schools, which Morgan said is needed to fuel innovation by young people.
Rolling out broadband to schools is part of the government’s "long-term economic plan" involving funding to the tune of £1.3bn to deliver superfast broadband to the majority of the UK.

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 25th Jan 2016

Working behind the counter of a Thai takeaway in south London, Mark Furness had hit rock bottom.

The Liverpudlian had previously successfully managed a technology business in the north of England, but he says that after its parent group had reneged on giving him a share of the company he quit on the spot.
Moving to London, aged 30 in 2004, to try to restart his career, he instead soon realised that he was "burnt out" by the vagaries of the business world.

Quickly running out of money, he found himself down on his luck. Out of financial desperation he had to swap selling computer equipment for Thai curries.

"By that point I didn't have a penny of savings left, and was staying with friends," says Mr Furness, now 41.
"I earned £150 a week, my rent was £120 and my bills were £25. So I was left with £5 a week to live on.

"So I bought big boxes of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and litres of milk for my breakfasts and lunches. And then I'd have dinner every day at the Thai takeaway. I did that for seven months."

But as far as Mr Furness had fallen, he says that he was still convinced that he could - and would - set up his own successful IT company.

So in between serving customers their pad Thai or tom yum soup, he'd write down all his business ideas.
Two years later Mr Furness did indeed launch his company - Essensys - which allows small and medium-sized firms, and shared office spaces, to easily outsource all their IT requirements.

Like many self-respecting tech firms, Essensys' headquarters has a pool table
Today Essensys is the second-fastest growing IT firm in the UK, according to business magazine Inc. Meanwhile, business research group Gartner has declared that Essensys is a company to watch.

And with London-based Essensys now expanding into the US, Mr Furness, who has the chief executive role, has gone from a spare room in south London to an apartment in Manhattan.

Not bad for a man who left school at 16, and who freely admits he knows "not one jot" about how to write a software programme, or build a computer network.

'Natural salesman'
Brought up in the working class Liverpool area of Huyton, Mr Furness says his dad had two jobs to make ends meet, while his mother worked in a hairdressers.

He says: "We didn't have much money, but you didn't notice that you didn't have stuff. So growing up was alright, as most kids have it, it was a laugh."

Mr Furness spent a teenager year as professional drummer

Unsure of what to do with his life, unusual fate intervened one Saturday when the keen drummer was playing drums in a Liverpool music shop.

By pure chance, the manager of a professional band was walking past, and liked what he heard.
So aged 16, Mr Furness was invited to become the drummer of a young cabaret band called Juvenile Jazz that played at corporate events across the UK and Europe.

He accepted, and his first concert with the group - the rest of whom were in their early 20s - was in London, which came with a night's stay at one of London's most famous five-star hotels.

Mr Furness says: "I had never stayed in a hotel before, and suddenly I'm staying at Claridge's.
"I remember going to my room and thinking 'this is alright'. It was one of those moments in life when I realised there were opportunities out there."

After spending a year with the band, Mr Furness says he was ultimately sacked because he "wasn't talented enough".

He then went travelling for a year, including spending time in Australia where he worked going door-to-door selling cable TV. Mr Furness says he found it "really quite easy". He adds: "I was a natural salesman, I loved talking to people."

It also marked the start of his career in the IT sector.

Overseas expansion
Returning to the UK, Mr Furness worked for a number of technology companies before washing up at the Thai restaurant in south London.

Without the money to start an IT firm, Mr Furness realised that he needed a better paying job so he could save up some funds.

Essensys' operating system is called Jeff

So with the help of his brother, who bought him a new suit for the interview, Mr Furness got a job in sales at a computer network business.

Two years later he had finessed his idea for an outsourcing IT firm, and persuaded two of his workmates to leave with him and establish Essensys in 2006.

Each putting in £6,000, Mr Furness' two co-founders Bryn Sadler and Barry Clark had the computer skills to balance his sales and leadership talents.

Their first customer was the owner of Centre Point, the office tower block at the eastern end of London's Oxford Street, and others soon followed suit.

Essensys now handles the IT for 6,000 businesses in the UK, and 250 in the US, where it has been operating for almost six months.

Its annual turnover is more than £12m after seeing annual growth of more than five-fold per year, and it employs more than 90 people.

Adrian Mars, technology journalist and IT consultant, says it is impressive that Essensys' growth has come despite it not having any external investors.

"The firm's growth has all been organic, which is pretty good," says Mr Mars. "I think its success is down to how easy its systems are to use, it has really focused on that."

Mr Furness says his aim is for Essensys to become a multi-million dollar business, and that he has in recent years overcome his insecurities.

"I always had a fear of being found out... that I had made it up as I have gone along," he says.
"Two years ago I was still scared of that, but now I'm happy with it, as it helps us to innovate."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 25th Jan 2016

Bob Geldof cuts an unlikely figure at the annual educational technology trade fair in London's Excel centre.

The cavernous Bett Show - British Educational Training and Technology - is a deafening marketplace of over-sized technology displays.

And in the middle of it is the Irish singer, with visitors surprised to see his craggy rock-and-roll features among the giant screens and gadget adverts.

But he's no techno kid. He brandishes what must be the world's oldest functioning mobile phone and says it does everything he needs, describing it as the "AK47 of mobile telephony".

"I'm in odd places in the world, where there's no power. This lasts five days. All I want it to do is get a signal."
Geldof is here as co-founder of an educational technology firm called Groupcall. This provides a service for schools to send text messages to parents if pupils are late or missing or any other reason that schools might need to contact families.

No exams
Running a tech firm he says is "like being in a band", it starts off with something small and then grows. "Intellectually, it's good fun."

He describes himself as an "autodidact", self-taught rather than the product of formal learning.

"I was never interested in academia, I never got any exams, I never went to college. But that isn't what interests me."
He is a scattergun of eclectic ideas, punctuated by some really energetic swearing.

He talks about his passion for the poetry of WB Yeats and how much he would have liked to have met the radical women of early-20th Century revolutionary Ireland.

And he tells a story about how in 1978 the Boomtown Rats turned down $100,000 to play a company event in California, proposed by a young tech entrepreneur called Steve Jobs.

"It was a lot of money and they were being hip and cool."

But he said the punk band told Apple: "We don't do corporates." With some more lively language added to the sentiment.

'Clash of ideas'

The practical side of technology might elude him, but he is fascinated by its far-reaching implications.

Steve Jobs in the late 1970s wanted to be "hip and cool" by hiring a punk band, says Geldof

Whether it is a "clash of ideas" with "medieval fundamentalists" or creative industries trying to "re-invent the economy", he says the internet is going to be the battleground.

"It seems to me that technology will mediate a lot of that."

The accelerating development of artificial intelligence could change the future of humanity, he says, or else "wipe ourselves out, which is not off the cards".

He likens the internet to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, saying he might have "just been trying to make a buck", but the technology set off a chain reaction, democratising knowledge and changing politics and society.

"It's where it's going that really excites me. I won't be around to see what happens, that's the only irritating thing about dying. I won't be around to see what happens next."

'Silicon chip'

He says his interest in computers goes back to the 1970s.

"I remember Bill Gates saying everyone would have their own computer - that's why I wrote the 'silicon chip inside her head'," in the lyric of the Rats' big hit, I Don't Like Mondays.

Development campaigner: Geldof speaking at the BBC's Africa 2015 conference

"I thought it was really interesting that memory - the thing that constructs self - was being put on a piece of sand.

"So William Blake had suddenly become real, when he wrote 'To see the universe in a grain of sand', and that was very romantic to me."

His firm's technology helps schools and parents to keep track of children. And he says he is keenly aware of the balancing act between keeping people safe and an overbearing sense of constant monitoring.

Geldof says he can't stand the "nonsense" of behaving as though all strangers are predators and says he hates it that adults are afraid of helping a child lost in the supermarket.

But he says technology can help make sure that parents know when there is danger, like a pupil not arriving at school. And it can block inappropriate websites.

"If we can guarantee parents that their children are not going to be able to access sites of brutality and murder, of medieval death cultism, then I'm there."

Geldof, peering through his shaggy hair like an esoteric springer spaniel, doesn't much resemble the other corporate tech sellers at the show.

He might be a businessman now, but he still has the sulphur of the heroic age of rock and roll, before pop stars became hedge fund kids with banjos.

The digital economy will bring "bewildering" changes, he says, creating its own "backwash" of disruption.
"Like all interesting times, it's dangerous too."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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