Who will win? In the words of Harry Hill ‘There’s one one way to find out’…http://www.techiegeek.co.uk/google-doodle-takes-russia/
The row over the HS2 rail project is speeding on, with both sides shifting their arguments into top gear.
The high-speed train project is on track to link London with Birmingham and eventually Manchester and Leeds, and will, according to a new report presented by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, boost the UK economy by £15bn a year. But critics say that the environment will suffer and that the economic benefits have been overestimated, with director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs calling the project a “colossal waste of money”.
HS2 will cut through the countryside at speeds of up to 250mph, potentially reducing the journey between London and Edinburgh to a mere three and a half hours. But as the row rumbles on like the Runaway Train, proposals on the other side of the Atlantic are making HS2 technology look rather like that of a slow-moving tractor on a narrow country lane.
Elon Musk, the US-based billionaire entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal and is said to be the inspiration behind Robert Downey Jnr’s performance in the Iron Man films, has unveiled the concept for his near-supersonic Hyperloop. Intended to link Los Angeles and San Francisco in just 30 minutes, the transport would shoot passenger-carrying capsules through a long tube at speeds of up to 760mph – almost the speed of sound. The Californian route would be elevated via supporting columns designed to withstand earthquakes and one trip would cost about $20, or £13.
Sadly, Mr Musk doesn’t have time to develop the Hyperloop at the moment, as he is too busy with other technological matters such as his commercial space project SpaceX. So until someone else finds the necessary estimated £6bn and makes a start, we will just have to imagine what it might be like to zoom between two cities 380 miles apart in half an hour (the journey currently takes twice this time by plane and six hours by car). According to Mr Musk, it will be a bit like ‘getting a ride on Space Mountain at Disneyland’, with a G-force no greater than that of a sports car. Sounds better to us than catching the local bus, at any rate!
The plug has been pulled on dial-up internet access by telecoms provider BT.
The company switched off the service on September 1 as only a ‘tiny number’ of its customers were still going online via dial-up – compared to almost seven million BT customers who use broadband.
Many of those affected will now migrate to broadband, although this isn’t available in remote and rural parts of the UK due to the difficulty of extending the network to these areas. But BT has promised that no one will be left offline, as all former dial-up customers will be offered alternative services through its subsidiary Plusnet.
In the early days of the internet, most homes and businesses relied on dial-up - or narrowband - which establishes a connection via a telephone line and a modem. But, unless a second phone line is available, users cannot work online and receive calls at the same time. In addition, the speed of the connection, which is measured in kilobytes, can be slow. In the last decade or so, millions of customers have switched to broadband, which works independently of the phone line, allowing calls to come through. It is also faster, with bandwidth increasingly measured in megabytes, rather than kilobytes, per second. The greater the bandwidth, the faster the traffic passing from the internet to your computer and back.
According to Ofcom, less than a million people in Britain were still using dial-up in 2010. And although more recent figures are not available, that figure is estimated to have dropped even further since then, to just a few hundred thousand. It’s easy to see why, when technology is moving so rapidly. The internet has changed dramatically in just a couple of decades, with cloud computing transforming the way we work and store information online and with mobile devices allowing us to access information almost anywhere, from cafes to the countryside.
So as we wave goodbye to dial-up, few will really miss it – although we’ll remember those solid, flashing modems through the rose-tinted haze of nostalgia!
Imagine your fridge downloading recipes and ordering the ingredients with which to make them, or your car alerting emergency services if it’s involved in a collision. If you think these sound like far-fetched inventions better suited to Back to the Future, then you might be in for a surprise!
Intelligent fridges and cars wirelessly connected to the Internet are just two examples of the everyday objects that could enhance your life. At the recent Future of Wireless International Conference in Cambridge, the theme was the ‘Internet of Things’, with the focus on how our lives could be transformed if physical objects were connected to the Cloud. We now have the ability to capture huge levels of information; this information previously existed but couldn’t be documented to the extent it now is. And applying that data to countless products could have an astonishing impact on the way we live, work and socialise.
Some areas of our lives have already been completely transformed by technology. In the 1990s most of us managed perfectly fine without mobile phones, yet just two decades later more than six billion people – 85% of the world’s population - own one. Similarly, the Internet was in its infancy at the end of the 20th century, yet it now makes our home, work and personal lives smoother and faster on a daily basis. But just as we get to grips with advances such as social media and big data, we’re already on the verge of the next revolution.
In the future, experts predict that 50 billion objects, from coffee machines to farming equipment, will be wirelessly interconnected. It could mean the ability to turn on the heating before we get back from work, or to monitor the security of our homes from the other side of the world. With the computerisation of cars and domestic appliances already commonplace, these possibilities seem plausibly near.
With the benefits brought by the Internet of Things, of course, come the pitfalls. If machines are connected to other machines, how will hacking be prevented? How will the collection of big data be properly monitored? And there are still big leaps to be made in technology, including better bandwidth capacity and low-power transmission. The potential problems are certainly daunting, yet the possibilities are tremendously exciting and already starting to happen.
So next time you get home from the supermarket and realise you’ve forgotten the milk, don’t worry – your fridge could soon have it all under control!
Web designers and developers at Fairhill Online are celebrating after being awarded a prestigious IT trustmark.
The Cardiff-based web firm has been presented with the CompTIA Trustmark Plus for their excellent standards in e-media and e-commerce.
The IT Business Trustmark is awarded to firms able to demonstrate sound business practices and quality service. The aim is to increase service levels and reduce costs for customers in the UK, improve efficiency and profitability and raise the profile of the IT industry.
Following the presentation of the award at a CompTIA conference at Cardiff’s Village Hotel, Fairhill can now use the Trustmark logo and access other benefits for recipients.
Managing Director Phil Stephens said: “To earn the CompTIA IT Business Trustmark we had to complete a self-assessment about how we work, our business processes and how we engage with third parties and customers. We also had to provide three customer references. The self-assessment was then evaluated by an independent assessor, who visited our office in Taffs Well to ask us further questions. Some were quite challenging but it was an excellent way of seeing what we are getting right and what we can do even better.
“We are delighted to have been awarded with the Trustmark, as we feel it reflects the attention we pay to customer needs and the high levels of service we continually aim to provide.”
Fairhill Online is based in Taffs Well and specialises in web design, e-commerce, bespoke development and SEO. Fairhill also delivers social media training for businesses across south east Wales.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+… it seems every week we’re told about a new social media platform that we simply can’t afford to ignore.
There is no doubt that your business needs social media. Social media sites allow you to build a strong brand identity and engage effectively and immediately with customers and potential clients. Facebook has more than one billion users around the globe, including more than 30m in the UK, whilst 10m people in the UK alone use Twitter. With such a ready-made audience and the ability to advertise for free, any business would be unwise to ignore the benefits social media brings.
With the pros, however, come the potential pitfalls. Tweeting, blogging and posting are great ways of raising your profile and making contacts your business would not otherwise reach, but social media could also damage your brand irreparably if you don’t do it properly. The very fact that social sites are so informal is one of the problems. Chatty and intimate by definition, they make it easy to forget professionalism and become too personal. And millions of users are unsure of the legalities around what can and can’t be published, resulting in a number of high profile cases where people have been prosecuted and even jailed for defamatory comments.
Whether your company has one social media exec or a whole team, it’s important that everyone is aware of what is and isn’t acceptable. It’s probable that most members of staff are using Facebook and Twitter in a personal capacity already, so they might need a gentle reminder that there are different boundaries with business accounts. The tone might be a little more reserved and users should ask themselves if all updates fit in with brand identity.
Employees also need to know how to respond if a disgruntled customer complains or leaves negative feedback on a public site. Many businesses have a standard line saying they are sorry to read the comment and inviting the customer to get in touch using a specified email address or phone number. It is usually not a good idea to get into long, detailed discussions about complaints on public forums; although this has worked to the advantage of one or two large companies, it doesn’t work for everyone!
A social media policy is therefore a good idea, not only to protect the business but to give members of staff greater confidence to do their job well. The policy does not have to be long or full of complicated jargon; but rather a list of what is and isn’t acceptable. It might include points such as not sharing confidential details about the business or its customers, or not substituting personal views for the business message. Asking a lawyer to check the policy could be a good investment – especially if it avoids your company being taken to court over careless updates!
Very few of us would want to go into a war zone but, in addition to the armed forces doing just that, a dedicated and determined group put themselves in danger each day.
The journalists who bring us stories from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan do so at some risk. And in addition to the very real dangers of bullets and explosions, there are plenty of difficulties in doing their job, not least in the logistics of sending images and stories around the world.
Telecommunications infrastructures can be fragile when caught in the crossfire, and journalists need a reliable means of filing stories quickly. As a result many use global satellite Internet network Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), which uses portable terminals capable of connecting a laptop to the internet in remote places. BGAN’s advantage is that its terminals are portable and about the same size as a laptop, unlike other satellite services which can only connect via heavy and large dishes.
With BGAN, journalists can file copy and photos from the scene instead of having to get to the nearest town with a broadband connection. There is no need to rely on local telecoms, meaning that the news can still get through if the local infrastructure has been damaged by war.
Journalists are not the only people to rely on non-local satellite systems. Hospitals and clinics in war zones depend on the Internet to order supplies and consult medical experts in other locations, and some are turning to BGAN to create emergency networks in order to save lives.