Google accused of building digital superstate

April 18th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

google caterpillar logo 300x146 Google accused of building digital superstate Mathias Dopfner, the head honcho at Europe’s largest newspaper publisher Axel Springer, has gone after Google saying that they’ve abused their monopoly in the digital world, discriminating against rival search engines and building up a digital ‘superstate’.

Big talk.

Dopfner sent a letter to Google’s Eric Shmidt, saying that Google’s motto should be ‘pay us or be finished’.

Not only that, Dopfner said that he was scared of Google, because his company relies too much on Google. Of course, calling them names probably won’t help.

He stated that Google knows everything about their customers, thanks to private messages in Gmail being scanned, read and analysed by the company.

Of course, there’s Android handsets as well.

Most people realised a while back that Google weren’t exactly a nice company – at odds with their ‘don’t be evil’ ethos – but it is interesting to see a media mogul go on the attack in this way, even if the outcome is absolutely nothing changing.

Rupert Murdoch, another man with a media empire, called Google ‘parasitic’, but backed down from slagging them off because he suspected his papers weren’t as prominent in the search listings (although that might be something to do with paywalls and having rubbish publications).

Kraftwerk: for beauty we will ebay

April 18th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

zzzz53 300x218 Kraftwerk: for beauty we will ebayKraftwerk are having a bit of a clear out.

Robot-fetishists and all round geniuses Kraftwerk have been clearing out their old German studio, and bunged a load of kit on eBay.

So now – AT LAST! – you can get your hands on a Vermona Digital Rhythm Machine Drum Midi, a Analogue Solutions Europa 17 Track Midi Sequencer or even a Vikinx Network Analog Audio Matrix 64×64 Stereo Symmetric, all for the price of your next few months rent.

The more bargain conscious fan can get a Yamaha WX-7 Wind Controller Electronic Saxophone. But really, saxophones are vile at the best of times. An electronic one can only be worse than famine.

The page can be found here on German eBay.

Kraftwerk themselves can probably be found performing in an art gallery somewhere being all 3D and amazing.

gas meter 213x300 SSE overcharges 16,000 customers for energySSE is the energy company we all love to hate. Or one of them. In the same week that another independent provider breaches the £1,000 floor (First Utility), SSE admits that its faulty equipment has overcharged around 16,000 customers for their energy use.

Faulty electricity meters have caused the problem, with incorrectly calibrated meter clocks failing to correctly identify ‘Economy 10’ energy usage. This means that cost-conscious consumers who had tried to schedule their energy usage for the off-peak times were still being charged at the peak rate, which is currently 74% higher. The off-peak rate is 9.45p/KWh and the peak rate is 16.4p/KWh.

SSE said a “manufacturing fault” with one batch of electricity meters meant they were incorrectly switching back an hour after a power cut in winter. It also admitted a separate issue where meters had been “installed with the off-peak times set incorrectly for the customer’s supply distribution area”. Which suggests human, rather than mechanical error. The problems are estimated to have affected around 8,000 customers each.

SSE will now write to all customers who may have been affected to inspect their meters, but said it said it was impossible to tell exactly how much money customers had been overcharged. By way of redress, SSE has said it will attempt to approximate the loss and compensate customers by recalculating bills as though 70% of usage had been at off-peak times, rather than the average 50%.

“This recalculation method should work out favourably for the vast majority of customers who are affected by the fault,” said SSE, sticking two fingers up at the minority of customers who are still losing money owing to errors by the multi-million pound company.

EDF, British Gas and npower said they were “not aware” of any issues with their own meters

.London is a thing and it is here

April 17th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

london 300x225 .London is a thing and it is hereMany a London-based company have signed up for a .london domain name.

The likes of the football team West Ham, the London Eye, Selfridges and the London School of Economics have signed up for the localised address.

From April 29th, companies in London are able to apply for the address as a change from the square old .co.uk or .com addresses.

With more than 1,000 new web addresses lined up already, it is being seen as one of the biggest changes in the history of the internet.

Odious blonde irritant Mayor Johnson spouted: ”There is enormous interest in .london from businesses right across the capital, not just from high street brands but from the small businesses that are the lifeblood of London’s economy.”

“London leads the world in technology and our businesses are among the most dynamic and innovative anywhere, so it is no surprise so many see .london for the great opportunity it presents them.”

Apparently the address is going to improve London’s economy. Fancy that!

grave 300x300 Hargreaves Lansdown will take care of your ISA  so long as you never dieOver the past few months, investment houses and fund shops have come under scrutiny over new and ‘improved’ fees and charges information. While these charges might seem small at the time (if you even see them), the power of compound growth means they can have a huge impact on the size of your investment at the time you come to draw on it.

The UK’s largest fund supermarket, Hargreaves Lansdown, was criticised for high charges earlier in the year, which resulted in some of those charges being reduced owing to market pressures. Now, it seems, there is another sneaky charge, which will get all of us in the end.

When someone dies, their executor has to collect together information on all of their assets to ascertain whether inheritance tax is due, and to whom the asset will pass. If someone dies holding an ISA, then the executor needs to request the relevant information from the ISA provider.

Now Hargreaves Lansdown is under fire again for levying noticeably higher charges for these probate valuations that anyone else. Under their pricing structure, when an investor dies, Hargreaves also charges £36 per fund including VAT for a probate valuation with a minimum £120 and a maximum £600. So if someone held ten funds in their portfolio, the charge would be £360, paying the full whack on 17 funds plus.

But it doesn’t have to cost that much. Charles Stanley Direct makes no charge for a probate valuation, though it will charge £5 if you want it posted. Bestinvest and TD Direct Investing each charge £12 per fund, putting them in the mid-range, and three times cheaper than Hargreaves Lansdown.

The Share Centre charges £50 to administer the affairs of a deceased customer, no matter how many funds or accounts they hold and large fund supermarkets Fidelity Personal Investing and Barclays Stockbrokers do not charge for  probate valuations.

Danny Cox, of Hargreaves Lansdown, told This is Money: “The charge for the probate valuation includes the administration of the account. Until recently we did not charge for probate valuations and the administration of an estate.

“Our new pricing aims to be proportionate and charge those clients fairly for the services they use. The process of administering a deceased client’s holdings is labour-intensive and our charges reflect this.”

Hargreaves Lansdown also highlights its customer service and the efficiency of its systems. Given its size and efficiency, therefore, some groups are questioning why on earth Hargreaves Lansdown need to charge so much more than competitors-

“It is one thing to make a small administration charge, another to make a profit. Why would it cost Hargreaves three times more to administer probate than it costs other companies?” said James Daley of Fairer Finance, a website that aims to get a better deal for consumers.

He went on to describe Hargreaves Lansdown as “heartless and crass” for “making money out of bereaved people”, finishing that “as the market leader and a FTSE 100 company, you would expect them to set  an example.”

Yes, an example of how to make 66p profit per £1 of income. Even out of dead people.

Mystics – now available on the NHS?

April 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

In Manchester, the backs of bus tickets usually have adverts for fast food joints and companies offering to help you put a claim in if you’ve had an accident.

Now, according to the back of a Stagecoach ticket found by ShowBody, you can now get mystics on the NHS. As you can see in the picture below, ‘Mystic Eli’s Nation Reiki Distance Healing & Drug Rehabilitation’ is available to people at the NHS Corkland Road Medical Practice in leafy Chorlton.

BlaLiP3CEAEmcSm 375x500 Mystics   now available on the NHS?

The advert also says “always the real thing” as well as “your trusted psychic”, which is funny, because we didn’t know the NHS was dealing in things like witchcraft, talking to ghosts and other completely made-up things.

virgin media logo2 300x281 Virgin Media   still getting the hang of emailVirgin Media have had to apologise to customers after an email distribution list error.

Anyone pressing ‘reply all’ on a recent customer service email was sent out, was able to message everyone on the mailing list.

The email was sent to inform the company’s customers of new changes to Google services.

Soon many customers inboxes were filled with up to 700 emails, many of them spam or just customers having a bit of banter.

Virgin Media said the problem related to a “sub set” of its virgin.net email customers, but it did not know the precise number affected.

According to the BBC, Bob Alexander, 69, from Taunton, said he had suffered “a great deal of inconvenience and stress” after receiving more than 700 emails.

“I am a quadriplegic and to delete 700 emails from my Blackberry handset has taken me all evening.”

Naturally a Virgin Media bot was on hand to trot out the traditional “We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

The tools.

Imperial Tobacco no longer British

April 16th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Imperial Tobacco no longer BritishDistressing fag news just in as it transpires that Imperial Tobacco is to close its last UK plant in Nottingham, with the loss of 540 jobs.

The company will also be closing another plant in Nantes, France where it employs 320, and so that will bring it’s tally towards 900

The company said the closures reflected falling industry output in Europe blamed on tough economic conditions, increasing regulation, higher taxes and the growth in smuggling. As well as a general downturn in the popularity of smoking.

The plant in Nottingham, which makes brands including JPS, Regal, Embassy No1, Lambert & Butler and Golden Virginia, was capable of making 36 billion cigarettes a year but would produce only 17 billion this year.

The company, which has 46 manufacturing sites worldwide and a workforce of 35,000, makes other, poncier brands including Davidoff and Gauloises.

The firm hopes that this restructuring will help secure a sustainable future for it, although these effects will be unlikely to be noticed until 2018.

Poor fags.

Behold: The fish and chip pie

April 16th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

zzzz51 300x187 Behold: The fish and chip pieThe Fish & Chip pie – It’s now a thing. Marks & Spencer are launching a new pie which is basically fish and chips and mushy peas in a pastry casing.

Amazing.

The store will be launching its new £3.49 treat, which is made up of cod chunks, béchamel tartar sauce, mushy pea jus and topped off with a chip-based crust next week.

Each pie contains 581 calories – just over a quarter of a woman’s recommended daily intake, and a little more than a fifth of a man’s – and includes 31g of fat, 44 per cent of the daily allowance.

The inventor of the dish, Matt Dawson, said he “wanted to create a classic traditional British dish and turn it into a pie,” adding, “what’s more British than fish & chips? I thought of the idea of eating it on the beach with one of our Cornish IPA ales”.

The idea is so wonderful, you wonder why it’s never been thought of before.

We’d tell you what it tastes like, but no one sends us pies here, so we’ll just have to take M&S’ word for it. FOR NOW.

If you’re going to make a Twitter fail, you may as well make it spectacular, as US Airways recently found out. When faced with a complaint on Twitter, the airline’s social media team responded by directing the poor customer to view a pornographic image.

Yesterday it responded to a tweet from a young female user called “Alex” who said: “You ruined my spring break, I want some free stuff @USAirways H8 YOU”.

US Airways tweet Massive Twitter fail makes the world chuckle

The airline replied: “We don’t like to hear this, Alex. Please provide feedback to our Customer Relations team here,” followed by a link to a pornographic image of a woman performing a sex act with a model Boeing 777 (below). Reportedly, the aircraft’s insignia was obscured but at least there was some attempt at brand placement.

Many of US Airways’ 420,000 followers responded to the exchange to express a mixture of disgust, anger, surprise and amusement and it later emerged that the same link had been used in responses to other users as well. The airline has since apologised and said it was “investigating” the source of the tweets, which have since been removed. Many people have speculated that the image was posted as a cruel joke by departing member of US Airways’ dedicated social media team.

Still, they do say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the tweets (and the accompanying image) became so popular in the Twitterverse  that it became the top trending topic in the US. The enthusiastic lady also ended up receiving more comments and retweets than the breaking news of the Pulitzer Prize award winners. Just shows how little effort is needed to get anywhere these days…

If you’d like to see the INCREDIBLY NSFW IMAGE, click here.

Glass war on the streets of San Francisco

April 15th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

google glass Glass war on the streets of San FranciscoGoogle Glass wearers are being attacked on the streets, according to CNN. And why not, you may ask, if someone is willing to waltz about with a grands worth of computer on their head?

It seems that where once before, you’d have your phone and you’d slip it in your bag or pocket and no one would be the wiser, going around with the device on your face is a bit more obvious.

Also, you’d be a bit narked if someone pointed a camera at you, so that narkiness would only exacerbate when someone wearing the Glass is staring at you, seeing as it has built-in video and web capabilities.

As only a few people have them at the moment, it is seen as a symbol of an affluent elite. They may as well be wearing fur or something, the ponces.

It’s starting to drive San Francisco a bit mad. Where once it was all bumming and car chases, Silicon Valley has encroached itself onto the city to drive the rents up and alter its character. Some people are obviously a bit ‘Glass War’ about this, and so spotting a poltroon wandering around with hi-tech gadgetery on their head has become something of a new sport. Even going as far as calling them Glassholes.

WE SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.

Most of the anti-tech attacks have focused on big-name companies such as Google and Twitter and the private bus systems that ferry their employees from the city to various corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley.

But individual employees are increasingly being targeted, with protesters picketing in front of the home of Kevin Rose, co-founder of Digg and now a partner with Google Ventures. The protesters claimed his group, which helps Google decide which start-ups to invest money in, has helped to inflate prices in the city.

America eh? Still, hold tight UK. We’ve got it all to come.

mobile phone 300x225 Huge shock as report finds that phone shops are selling stolen mobiles!You’ll never believe this. The BBC has done a report, where they’ve filmed a number of phone shops, and found that some of them are dealing with mobiles that are stolen!!!

This will be incredibly shocking for anyone who has been walking around the world with their eyes closed and their ears covered for the last decade.

The BBC ‘received information’ that eight stores in London were trading in the black market. Instead of getting the info and saying “well, obviously”, they went to the trouble of customising eight handsets so it looked like they’d be snatched by ne’er-do-wells.

Then, instead of someone saying “well, durrr”, the BBC sent a researcher posing as a thief to sell the phones, capturing the deed on camera. In what continued to be a total surprise for some blithering dunce from the BBC, they found that the vendor was willing to give tips on how to avoid the police finding out about it all, by throwing away the SIM card, turning off the phone, and all that.

The BBC have also been given a demonstration of how a phone’s unique IMEI number can be changed and the phone restored, so it can’t be found.

Speaking to the BBC, Grant Roughley of Essential Forensics said: “A phone stolen this morning could be back on the streets by this afternoon, packaged up as a second hand legitimate phone.”

Next week: BBC uncover shocking truth about some convenience shops selling singular cigarettes to underage teens before they go to school.

PS: Thanks for pointing out our error, readers.

Amazon 3D smartphone, due to drop in September

April 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Amazon Smartphone 300x180 Amazon 3D smartphone, due to drop in SeptemberAmazon are going to show off their smartphone in June, rumour has it, hitting the shelves sometime in September.

Some secretive source told The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is gearing up to launch a smartphone in Autumn. Makes sense, given that they’ve already got the set-top Fire TV and a variety of Kindles on the go. Amazon, it seems, have worked out that there’s money to be had in flogging hardware.

According to the sources, the retailer have shown off a number of prototypes to developers, hoping to have a decision in time for the summer reveal. Apparently, the Amazon phone will have a display that renders 3D images without the need for 3D glasses, which is a fun gimmick.

It has also been suggested that the phone will have retina-tracking technology, which will help the four cameras the phone will host. Sounds like a huge battery drain from here.

Worth noting though, is that this new handset is likely to have Amazon’s Android spinoff operating system. While that is fine, if the newest Kindles are anything to go by, you could be irritated by the lack of Google Play store and, sadly for Amazon, their appstore isn’t nearly as comprehensive as the competition. Developers, it seems, aren’t too fussed about making apps for Amazon devices just yet.

However, with the TV box and more hardware on the go, Amazon might pull their finger out so users can have access to all the apps you’d find on an Android device.

In other hardware news, seems like the phone will have a 4.7-inch screen, a 13MP camera on the back, a 12MP camera on the front, and a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. An Amazon phone has been rumoured for a long time, so don’t hold your breath if you’re holding out for one.

google plus logo Google: Contact lens cameras and still looking at your emailsGoogle, as we all know, aren’t too fussed about your privacy. When they’re not teaming up with governments, they’re scanning your correspondence so they can target adverts at you.

Personal privacy groups have long been unhappy with the internet giant and even Microsoft got in on the action, shouting “Don’t Get Scroogled by Gmail” when they were trying to convince everyone to use Outlook.

One court case against Google’s sniffing around our emails, District Judge Lucy H. Koh said that Google’s terms of service and privacy polices did not explicitly notify the plaintiffs “that Google would intercept users’ emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising.”

After that was said, Google spontaneously decided to update their terms of service, which came into play as of Monday, adding the provision that “Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

Not only that, but it looks like they’ve got some more wearable tech in the pipeline which could well creep out the kind of people who think the sky is falling on their heads.

Basically, those worried about Google Glass taking photos without consent will love the news that Google now has a pending patent for a contact lens embedded with a camera. That’s Google Glass which you wouldn’t be able to see if someone was wearing it. That’s human beings, essentially walking around with a camera stuck on their eyeball. It’ll be ace of paparazzi photographers.

Google say that the development would be used or diabetics and blind people, which is a nice idea; but if Glass takes off, you can’t see a scenario where Google wouldn’t want to try and make a shedload of money from it with a general sale.

Deathwatch: Travel agents

April 15th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

zzzz5 300x168 Deathwatch: Travel agentsCan you recall the last time you went into a travel agents and booked a holiday? No? Well then that would explain why they’re all closing.

In yet further ‘bad news for the high street’ news, travel agent closures have soared by 45% in the last year.

A whopping 77 travel agencies and tour operators went out of business in the 12 months prior to March 2013.

That’s not to say no one is going on holiday anymore, as Gatwick recorded an increase of passengers passing through it. No. It’s down to the pesky internet innit?

The rise of online booking services and price comparison sites, along with everyone having broadband, has made booking a holiday less stressful than thumbing through a heap of fancy brochures.

DIY holidays, supermarket points systems and the ability to book direct from accommodation websites has proved to be the death knell for the travel agent.

It’s looking likely that this trend will soon wipe out the existing travel agent shops faster than downloading killed everything else.

Oh well.