Amazon are hoping that they won’t have to deal with pesky humans who complain about their working conditions by doing deliveries by drones.
During a TV appearance, Amazon bigwig Jeff Bezos played a video showing the little flying robot (an octocopter if you prefer) picking up goods in little buckets and scooting them through the air for delivery.
Of course, people are already mocking the idea, as seen below.
“I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not,” said Bezos. ”We can do half-hour delivery … and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3kg), which covers 86% of the items that we deliver. It’s very green… better than driving trucks around.”
These flying machines can cover areas within a 10-mile radius of a distribution centres and Amazon think they can implement this within the next 5 years. Naturally, there’s a lot of safety issues to resolve, but these octocopters would be “ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place.”
The retailer already have a name for the service too: Amazon Prime Air. What do you make of it all?
A number of the Big Six have suddenly and spontaneously decided that they’re going to change the way their charge us for energy. Remarkably, and in no way related, this happens on the same day the Government said it would be looking at ways to make energy cheaper for all.
This has nothing to do with certain companies announcing that price rises were the fault of the government’s green levies and that, if they weren’t such a bunch of dreadful hippies, they’d probably heat our homes for free. Nothing at all.
Of course, npower recently upped their bills by 10% and then swiftly announced that they would put a freeze on that until 2015. British Gas, meanwhile, said they would actually drop prices in 2014 after SSE said they’d be doing the same. A price drop isn’t much use after you’ve been putting your prices up hugely for months at a time.
Either way, the government has designed a fund that gives a rebate to electricity customers and the chief executive of npower, Paul Massara, said: “We welcome today’s announcement as an important step in cutting energy costs for our domestic customers. As a result of this announcement we will reduce our bills. We are currently calculating how large this reduction will be, and can assure our customers that it will fully reflect the reduction in the costs to our business.”
However, there’s a catch. He continued: ”We don’t plan to increase energy prices before Spring 2015, unless there are increases in wholesale energy costs or network charges.”
In a statement, SSE chipped in, saying: “On the basis of today’s announcement and the planned consultation, SSE plans to reduce its household energy prices before the end of its financial year. The overall impact of the proposed changes, including the rebate which is expected to apply in Autumn 2014, should lead to a typical dual fuel customer benefiting by around 4%. This should equate to a saving of around £50 for a typical dual fuel customer”
The government are having rings run round them and we’ll have to pay for our energy regardless. How marvellous.
Over at South Florid Container Terminal, they’ve got all the things you’d expect from a hangar filled with people wishing they weren’t there. However, they also have something called an ‘ethnic corner’, which is something of a fail.
Do they have separate water faucets and lynchings in there?
The Great British high street is in such terminal decline that it needs to be bulldozed and rebuilt on a post war scale. That’s according to the rather dramatically named Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce.
The taskforce was set up after Mary Portas was paid tons to go around tutting at shop windows and be photographed outside BHS in a directional catsuit – and it thinks that the entire infrastructure of the high street needs to be changed. The group, which is made up of retailers, investors, bankers and landlords has been researching possibilities for improvement for months. And their verdict is to KNOCK THE BUGGER DOWN.
The problem seems to be that there are too many shops. Endless branches of Claire’s Accessories, massive amounts of retail space, and giant malls. ‘There’s still a need for vibrant retail, just less of it.’ Said the group’s chairman, Mark Williams. ‘People do not shop in the same way.’
So what do they suggest? Well, a massive restructuring of city centres, a strategy to determine land ownership, a High Street property fund, flexibility to change use of empty properties, and more power for councils to purchase land.
Who’s going to pay for it? Well, they want funding to be restructured, too. Mark Williams added:
‘There is a huge amount of private sector funds available to regenerate town centres. But it requires scale and planning. What it’s not there is for piecemeal change, an ad hoc approach to fix the odd shop. So we’re looking about scale and critical mass. And in that sense the private sector will respond to local authorities and government initiatives.’
Oh, it all sounds very complicated. Can’t we just bung a couple of branches of Subway and a Millie’s Cookies in there and just hope for the best?
The TV Anywhere app is new to Android and already available on Apple devices, and Virgin have added another nine channels to their line-up, prompting Virgin Media to claim that they’ve got “more channels in total than Sky Go”.
“Virgin TV Anywhere offers more live channels than Sky Go, with 90 available online and 67 to watch on mobile and tablets. 39 of these channels are not available on Sky Go, including BT Sport, ITV, Channel 5, CBS Reality Premier Sport and many more,” said Virgin Media in a statement.
So what are these new channels? You get Alibi, Dave, Drama, Good Food, Home, Really, Watch, Yesterday and CBS Reality. Presumably, they all come under the ‘Meh’ package elsewhere.
The app is free for Virgin Media Tivo customers, which means you’ll be able to remotely control your Tivo set-top boxes, setting timers for shows and all that jazz. You can also rate programmes too, should that be of any interest at all. The app isn’t available to anyone who isn’t a Virgin customer.
So the Government don’t want the energy companies to freeze prices but the opposition do? While the politicians wrangle over the best political leverage, ordinary householders are more concerned about paying their bills and keeping warm. Good job the weatherman was right about those massive November snowdrifts then. But as we move into the coldest season, is fixing energy prices the right way to go and what are the best deals? If you don’t fix, what might happen to your bills?
Part of the problem with this winter’s impending bills is the fact that most of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies have recently increased their tariffs just in time to reap the maximum profit out of their cold customers- to date Eon is the only one of the six to have not yet announced a rise. However, there are some fixed deals available that can guarantee that prices won’t rise (again) for 12-18 months- or even into 2016. But is fixing the way to go?
If you are currently on a named tariff you may be getting a ‘discount’ from the suppliers standard prices, but this doesn’t mean that prices can’t rise and they generally will rise in line with headline prices. Much like a fixed rate mortgage deal, fixed rate energy prices will not go up for the duration of the fix, although bills may change depending on your usage. However, assuming you use a similar amount of energy as last year, or less if you switch to energy saving lightbulbs (!), you can estimate how much your bill is going to be in advance, with no nasty price rises.
However, fixed prices may be higher than variable prices- according to Which some fixes could be up to 20% higher, as a premium to be sure you won’t face unexpected rises. There will normally be a penalty fee should you wish to switch out of a fix before the end of the fix period, although many suppliers also charge a penalty for switching out within a defined period, often a year, even without fixed prices. Finally, if prices go down, as everyone earnestly hopes*, if you have fixed, you won’t benefit from the drop.
But note that, if you are with one of the raised price Big Six, even 20% higher prices from a competitor might end up being cheaper. Which! investigated the market and came up with a list of the top five fixed rate switches, all from Eon and OVO who have, so far, not raised prices.
Based on an ‘average’ bill, the top five come in as:
Eon Energy Fixed 1 Year (online version) v5 – £1,167.63
Eon Age UK Energy Fixed 1 Year (online version) v5 – £1,167.63
Ovo Energy New Energy Fixed + Ovo Just Reward – £1,175.38
Eon Energy Fixed 1 Year (offline version) v5 – £1,178.13
Eon Age UK Energy Fixed 1 Year (offline version) v5 – £1,178.13
Unfortunately, two of this top five are only available to those over 65, so to add to the list, First Utility are offering longer fixes for those who like long term peace of mind, with offerings fixed until June 2015 or even into January 2016, although the rate increases for the longer fix. Still based on the Government’s negotiations with EDF, it could still be a great deal given anticipated price rises in the next 2 and a bit years.
If you don’t want to fix, and are happy to surf the variable rates, top of most comparison tables is relative unknown Spark Energy’s Spark Advance 2, cheapest at £1,116.41 a year.
*but no one believes will actually happen
It turns out that the Government hasn’t actually asked the Big Six energy companies to freeze prices, despite rumours that ministers had been pressuring them to fix prices until the 2015 election.
‘This story is utterly misleading.’ snapped a snippy Tory source, ‘The Government has not asked for a price freeze. People should wait for us to announce our plans.’
(Yes, we will wait. Wrapped in blankets, coughing. Whatever you say, guv.)
Meanwhile Energy minister Ed Davey has promised make changes to the green levies for businesses, which the government have vaguely said they wanted to ‘roll back.’ This refers to the ECO scheme (which one Tory referred to as ‘green crap’). But nobody knows what the rollback entails, and no energy companies have agreed anything just yet.
But some of the Big Six have said they would cut prices if the government actually got its act together. Npower issued a statement saying: “If the green levies are rolled back then Npower will cut prices to its customers as soon as possible. We need to understand the detail of the roll back before we can comment further.’
There will be an announcement of their plans in the Autumn Statement on December 5th. But there doesn’t look like there’ll be a price freeze. After all, that would be too CARING. Looks like the only things that will be frozen are the icicles on our dead noses.
Once upon a time in the UK, we didn’t know what a Black Friday was. Maybe it was something to do with the weather? The crumbling economy? Satanism? But as is the way with so many American things – Big Macs, drive thrus, the tendency to say ‘OMG’ and ‘REALLY?’ at every tiny little thing – Britain has succumbed, and now we do it too, like it’s never been any other way.
In the US, Black Friday refers to the day after Thanksgiving, when everything is heavily discounted. It marks the beginning of the festive season, a kind of doors open day to encourage people to throw cheap widescreen TVs into their shopping basket for Christmas. It’s a hideous free for all, and can lead to punch ups over Breville toastie makers and three mile long queues to get a cheap blender. It is consumer madness writ large.
Now the UK is following suit, and stores like John Lewis, Apple, Amazon and Asda are offering up to 70% off. Asda, which is obviously owned by Walmart, will go Black Friday cray cray, offering ‘unbeatable’ deals on LG 42 inch plasma screen TVs, which are expected to sell out almost straight away.
So are we going to queue up for hours to get things on the cheap? Brawl over discounted electrical goods and poke each other in the eye in the struggle to get a bargain?
Well, it looks like we’re all for it. Mark Lewis from John Lewis (no relation, we presume) said: ‘Black Friday has really caught the imagination of our customers. Last year we felt they really engaged with it and so we would go a step further.’
Christopher North from Amazon added: ‘Since we started Black Friday deals in the UK, the concept has really caught on and is now a much anticipated event in the UK shopping calendar. This year we’ll be releasing twice as many deals to make it easy for customers to save money on this year’s must have gifts.’
At John Lewis, there’s already been online early bird deals, and with Apple having to contend with their ‘never knowingly undersold’ policy, you should be able to get a great deal.
So what are you waiting for? Get in there, elbows blazing, and grab yourself a bargain. Fight to the death in the street. Kill your gran for plasma telly! After all, that’s what the festive season is all about, isn’t it?
Energy bills are still big news. And getting bigger. With energy companies now being blamed for contributing to a rise in the number of ‘extra’ deaths in the winter of 2012/13, where people are actually dying of the cold, is it any wonder that responsible energy companies are doing all they can to cut costs?
Following on from earlier announcements, Npower have now confirmed that 1,460 jobs (out of a current total of 9,600) in the UK are to be axed as part of cost saving measures, that also included the sale of 770,000 customers to Utility Warehouse. The jobs will be lost in Stoke on Trent, Oldbury, Leeds and Sunderland.
In a statement, Npower said: “As we announced a couple of months ago, Npower has been undertaking a major review of sites, operations and people across the UK. We’ve been doing this to improve our customer service and keep our costs down, at a time of external pressures on customers’ bills.” So what it looks like is that we said we wanted lower energy bills, Npower has listened to our concerns, and is taking action to help deliver this, right?
Perhaps. The statement actually talks about reducing costs, not reducing bills, and comes off the back of Npower owner, German energy company RWE tutting over a 3% fall in Npower’s operating profits to a piddling £176m (206m euros) in the first half of 2013. While certainly undertaken “at a time of…pressures on bills”, this cost-cutting move is more likely to benefit shareholders than householders.
Lets just say we’re not holding our breath in the hope of lower Npower bills despite the massive money-saving job cull. Merry Christmas folks.
Remember that loan you got out years ago that allowed you to buy Blastaways, fags and occasionally pay the rent on that condemned basement you lived in with the Bob Marley poster and the rats? Did you pay it off yet? Or did you change your name, move house and pretend it never happened?
Well plenty of people have done just that, it would seem, and the amount of outstanding student loans is set to reach £200 billion by 2042. At the moment, according to the National Audit Office, the total amount borrowed is £46bn, and the Student Loan Company is sitting on a mountain of unaccounted for loans totalling £5bn. A further 368000 had no employment record in the UK, and if they then started work, they had failed to tell Student Loans tax or information about earnings.
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills assumed 35% of loans that would go unpaid but now that figure is closer to 40%. They also miscalculated how many students could pay back the new higher rate student loans. And as you can imagine that’s left a little hole in the budget, to the tune of £600m.
Labour MP Liam Byrne said: ‘In May, the Universities Minister was boasting of the governments ‘text book reforms.’ Now, we learn that blundering, out-of-touch ministers got their sums so badly wrong that there’s a £600m hole in the budget. We need to know how ministers got it so wrong, and how they’re going to fix it without putting Britain’s scientists, schools and colleges under threat.’
God, chill out, man. Be more like an ageing student. Make a bong out of a bottle of White Lightning and watch Betty Blue on DVD or something. It’ll get paid back. (Maybe.)
You know how it is. You’re upgrading your computer, so you chuck out your old one, giving it up to linger in a landfill forever more. BUT WAIT! Your hard drive was full of Bitcoins from 2009, which were nothing but worthless pixels back then. You had 7500 stored on there, which you’d generated yourself. And now they’re worth £613 each. Which means…YOU THREW £4,597,000 IN THE BIN YOU ****** IDIOT.
Well, that’s what happened to IT worker James Howells from Newport, South Wales, who was tidying up his drawers one day and decided to throw out his knackered machine. He’d forgotten about his crazy Bitcoin generating phase, and got rid of it last year.
Bitcoin launched in 2009, and you used to be able to make them yourself on an ordinary computer. Now it’s become increasingly harder to generate them, and they have grown in value – today they fetch $1000 each.
James explained: ‘I hadn’t kept up on Bitcoin, I’d been distracted. I’d had a couple of kids since then, I’d been doing the house up, and forgot about it until it was in the news again. There’s a pot of gold there for someone… it’s my mistake throwing the hard drive out, at the end of the day.’
Poor, foolish James. Now, digging it up would be like looking for bitcoins in a crapheap. According to landfill officials in Newport, the computer could be anywhere amongst the acres of festering rubbish, and buried approximately four feet deep.
*Puts on wellies*
With Steam working so well, some optimists figured that with the next-gen consoles, there would be a load of cheap downloadable games we could get our hands on. However, Sony are behind the PS4 and they don’t like value-for-money.
Prices have been announced for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and the cheapest games are £50. If you’re a teenager, get a part-time job now or you’ll be playing nothing ’til the New Year.
FIFA 14, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts are all going for £55 on PSN (Sony’s online marketplace), which are exactly the same price as the games on Xbox Live. Even PS4 exclusives – Knack and Killzone – are only £2 cheaper at £53.
Oddly, physical copies of games are going cheaper (around the £46 mark), which is strange seeing as there’s a manual, cover, box and Blu Ray disc. One thing that might be bringing the price down is that you can’t play games directly off the disc, instead, you have to install them, thereby making the packaging a big waste of everyone’s time.
“As PS4 and PSN have not yet officially launched in this region, nothing on the PSN is final, including pricing on the store,” Sony said. ”You will continue to see some prices adjusted over the next few days in preparation for launch on Friday.”
For bargains, it will definitely be worth waiting for 2014 to roll in because, as it stands, you’ll either be forking out loads of money or getting bored of the scant games available.
Apparently, this peculiar contraption is to be worn as a mobile computer and, with a straight face, the patent describes a “plurality of natural and/or artificial hair pieces” which will hide sensors and communication devices.
Not only that, but the whole weave will vibrate on your skull, so you can get tactile feedback when, for example, you’re getting directions from a map. All the while, the wig will use its ultrasound sensor to detect things like a submarine on your head.
Sony says in the application: “The SmartWig integrates different types of computational functions within a wig, leading to a smart and intelligent type of wig that has so far not been known. The wearable computing device… has several advantages over state of the art wearable computing devices. First…a natural appearance is realized, thereby increasing the user comfort in a practical and also psychological aspect.”
“The wearable computing device… therefore allows to produce surprising effects without being seen. Secondly, the proposed wearable computing device… allows for very sensitive sensing and sensitive user feedback, since it is integrated into a wig… that is adapted to be worn on the user’s head, which is a much more sensitive area than e.g. the foot, the hand or waist of the user.”
“Thirdly, the proposed wearable computing device… has the advantage that the user… can instantly change his/her appearance just by changing the type, shape and/or colour of the wig.”
Analysis from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that Mexican workers get 28.5% salary replacement in retirement, while UK residents get a 32.6% of salary replaced directly by state benefits. Meanwhile, over in Italy and France, they’re laughing their way into old age as they have the best pensions from the state.
Places like Slovakia and Hungary, still firmly Eastern Bloc, have more generous governments it seems, regarding old people. Over here, the maximum payout of £110.15 is the best you can do, which has seen The National Pensioners Convention all set to lobby MPs, hoping for a living State pension or £178 a week.
Of course, with people getting healthier, babies born now won’t see their pension until they are in their 70s, meaning they will get a pension for 30 years as there are likely to be a lot of humans reaching 100.
Mr Scarpetta, behind the study said: “I am very concerned that we are moving towards a more contribution-based system but in many countries especially young people have been unemployed. They are outside the labour market so they are not contributing (into a pension). We hope the economy will kick on and then many of them will indeed get into a job and so on and so forth.”
“But they will have fewer years of contribution so potentially there is also a long-term effect of the current crisis which in some countries has been particularly severe, especially for the young generation.”
Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, said: “We are building a UK pension system that is more sustainable for the future. As the OECD recognises, by combining the state pension and income from workplace pensions people many people in Britain can expect an adequate retirement income.”
When you pay online you always have to have your card details to hand – unless you pay through Paypal – but from today, Visa are launching V.me, a payment service that lets you buy online using just a password and a username. Also, you can attach your V.me account to several credit cards, so you’ll never have to input those boring long numbers again.
Ok, so ‘V.me’ sounds like a filthy proposition, and it’s not available everywhere just yet, but it’s hoped that thousands of retailers will take it on. And it does sound like a more convenient way to blow all your wages on meaningless crap off the internet.
Visa have called it a ‘digital wallet’ and it’s now live in Europe, with 1400 online retailers on board – while Nationwide are the first financial organization to support it in Britain. Steve Perry from Visa Europe said:
‘V.me by Visa gives merchants and issuers an acceptance mark that will work across Europe. Mobile phones, tablets and the use of digital payments have changed the nature of commerce: consumers want to be able to buy from the merchant of their choice via any device without sharing their card details.’
By January, 4000 new retailers are expected to start using it, and there’ll be a full, bells and whistles commercial launch of the service next year, when everyone will be saying ‘Hey, just V.me’ and ‘Yeah, I V.me’d it.’
Nah, they won’t. It’s a terrible name.