Meow Chat is here and a bit suspect

July 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

meow Meow Chat is here and a bit suspect“What is Meow Chat and why is it plaguing me?” yelped Twitter today, inbetween discussions about Gaza, as users were bombarded with invites to join it.

Meow Chat (nee Meow) has raced to the top of the apps chart, and reckons it is one of the fastest growing social networks in the world.

It ‘s similar to apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, BBC as well as having elements of dating apps like Tinder or Grindr, allowing the user to message random fellow users.

The random chat feature suggests people you may be compatible with, and you can scan nearby users in your area (possibly for some bumming).

It was set up by New York company Minus, which was set up the precocious sounding John Xie, who invented his first website when he was nine, and Carl Hu, ex of Microsoft and Amazon.

It has almost overnight become the most popular app on the itunes chart, and in the Top Ten for Androids too.

Basically it’s quite pushy, connecting up with your facebook friends list and flooding them with requests. It makes Linkedin sound quite laid back.

If you don’t want any part of it, you can block requests via the Games bit on your Facebook, but by then it will be too late and you’ll be trapped. Possibly.

But halt! It also sounds a tad fishy, as it comes laden with adverts and some iffy material that you may not want the nippers to see.

And the reviews are, let’s say “mixed” to say the least.

So be cautious of it. It could be an elaborate spam, or even a BOMB.

(It’s not a bomb).

chromecast 300x199 Chromecasts birthday   YOU get the giftsTo celebrate the year anniversary of Chromecast, Google are doling out freebies.

If you bought a streaming dongle which plugs into the HDMI port on yer telly, you will now get 90 days of unlimited music listening from the Google Play store for nothing.

NOTHING.

Obviously Google hope you’ll stick around and start paying once the offer runs out, but hey let’s make no promises here.

The offer runs until the end of September. If you already have a Chromecast, then you can get with the offer, but existing subscribers to All Access can’t get the free three months. And yeah, none of your nefarious signing out then in again – newcomers only.

The offer is set to run until the end of September, so all the way through the summer. Note that those who already have a Chromecast can avail themselves of this offer, too, but existing subscribers to All Access can’t get the three free months, and neither can previous subscribers so you can’t just cancel and then grab the offer. It’s for newcomers only.

Gadzooks!

the pirate bay logo 300x300 Pirate Bay: Now you can be naughty by mobileBitTorrent site Pirate Bay has launched a mobile version of its website, with separate TV, music and movie sites.

This new design is the first in over a decade, and features better navigation, and they’ve got their fingers crossed that by using various domains, it will make the website harder to close down.

The site has already brought in an array of things to prevent The Man getting to them, including removing the tracker, trading torrents for magnet links and moving its server to the cloud.

Anyone using a mobile domain to access the Pirate Bay website will be forwarded to the Mobile Bay domain and although like any mobile website, this can be overridden if you want to access the full site instead.

There’s more to come, including RSSbay, which will use – you guessed it – RSS feeds to access torrents.

A Pirate Bay, um, “pirate” said these words: “We will add more features later on, such as personal RSS feeds so users can browse torrents at work or school, and start the downloads at home.”

The Pirate Bay’s traffic has actually increased since internet service providers started to block the site, as users can download PirateBrowser to access torrents on Pirate Bay even if their ISP has banned it.

But hey, that’s okay. As we said last week, if you download loads of moody content, you’ll get a few letters and, um, that’s it. Right kids?

Lloyds TSB 300x180 Lloyds Bank fined for being despicable arseholesLloyds Bank have been thrown a £218 million fine after ripping off taxpayers who helped it out.

The taxpayers had thrown the bank a lifeline to the tune of £25 billion when it was close to collapse.

Most of the fine was for short-changing the Bank of England which, at the height of the financial crisis, was helping to keep the firm afloat, the ungrateful arseholes.

Both British and US regulators demanded the massive cash penalty for what even the bank admitted was “extremely serious” rate rigging.

Lloyds had been taking advantage of taxpayer-backed funding schemes, but traders rigged rates on which a fee for using the lifeline was based.

Unsurprisingly, several of Lloyds’ staff have been suspended, and there’s talk of bonuses being rescinded.

And is if that wasn’t enough, the Serious Fraud Office is going to widen its investigation into 12 individual bankers to include Lloyds.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was all seriousface, saying: “Such manipulation is highly reprehensible, clearly unlawful and may amount to criminal conduct.”

Andrew Tyrie MP, chairman of the Treasury Committee, said: “The banks were manipulating Libor (the rate banks charge each other for lending money ) and the Repo rate, deceiving the Bank of England in its taxpayer-backed support scheme. This settlement is part of the much needed clean-up. Implementing the Commission’s proposals will be another.”

There’s been more than £2 billion paid by banks to regulators over their deceit and manipulation, including £290 million by Barclays and £390 million by RBS.

What a bunch of shitheels.

Phones to be seized in all road accidents

July 28th, 2014 8 Comments By Ian Wade

mobile car 300x224 Phones to be seized in all road accidentsEvery driver involved in a car crash will now have their phones seized.

This is said to be a help in cracking down on road deaths by those ne’er do wells who text at the wheel.

Police will now check if the motorist has broken the law and possibly been in any way responsible for the accident, and mobiles will now be taken away by officers as evidence.

The Police have said that they must do this due to the growing numbers of fatalities on the road, and this follows stiffer punishments for people who use their mobile at the steering wheel.

The move was welcomed last night by charities and pressure groups who have accused police and politicians of failing to make road safety a priority.

Of course, there are some people who aren’t into the idea, claiming that a mild car-park-shunt could result in phones being confiscated. Also that confiscating phones could delay help.

Although one can imagine that in a motorway pile up, the first thing the police would be concentrating on is confiscating phones.

There is perhaps a logical way to look at how to do this. If a driver has had an accident and the time of the accident matches up with when they sent a text or were gassing on the phone, then yes, this is a very good idea.

If someone is using the phone while manouvering about in a car park, then they are just thick, and shouldn’t be let out of the house.

The phone checks will apply to any accident. Previously they were made only in accidents where people were killed or seriously injured.

More than 500 people a year are killed or injured by people being thoughtless shits at the wheel, and half the time no charges are pressed against the driver, even if they were found to be in the wrong.

About time too.

And now ladies and gentlemen, the ‘under £30′ smartphone.

The £26 affair is set to take on the iPhone and that Samsung Galaxy at a total snip of the price. The Karbonn A50S has a touchscreen display, front and rear cameras, and a dual phone number function.

Right?

karbonn 500x281 The under £30 Smartphone is here! (sort of)

At the moment, it’s only been released in India, but it can be order over the internet and will work in the UK. AND as it’s so cheap, there’s no duty to pay.

Oh yeah, it can be used on most UK networks with a pay-as-you-go sim, runs on Android and also features Google Maps and Gmail.

You want MORE enticements? Well there’s a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 256MB RAM, plus 512MB internal storage and oh no, we’ve lost you.

And you could buy 21 of them for the same price as the Galaxy and iPhone, which is a bit of a mindblower.

Although if anything goes wrong with the Karbonn, there are no shops you can take it into and get it fixed at as yet, but for £26, you could bin it and buy a new one.

despicable me 2 300x240 Cartoons more popular than ever at UK box officeCinema news now, and animation has replaced action as the UK’s favourite film genre for the first time.

According to figures from the British Film Institute, the UK were hot for cartoons, with Despicable Me 2 (pictured), Disney’s Frozen, Monsters University and The Croods, all in the UK Top Ten last year.

The popularity of animated films was attributed to the fact that young people between the ages of seven and 24 were the UK’s biggest filmgoers in 2013, making up 47% of total cinema admissions.

Only 33 animated films were released in 2013, as opposed to 153 comedies, and yet they represented more than 20% of the total UK box office and generated £247m in 2013 – a £100m increase on the previous year.

The chairman of Animation UK, Oliver Hyatt, reckons: “Part of the recent success of animated films is that they are becoming more sophisticated and appealing to a broader audience. There is no longer the feeling that they are just for a young audience and adults don’t feel strange going to see them anymore. I would say that within the film industry, animation has been playing catch-up for years but the medium is maturing quite fast and there’s more of these films, creating more competition, which has been good for driving up the quality of the genre.”

“The really pleasing thing is that there is now a focus on making these family-oriented animated films in this country as well, and in the next couple of years there is some high-profile talent voicing UK animations. Hopefully, we won’t just be watching animation, we’ll be making these high-quality animated films ourselves.”

Action films still did okay mind, with Iron Man 3 leading that field and the top performing comedy was The Hangover 3, which was a bit terrible. Sci-fi did well too, due to the £31m grossing Gravity.

Total UK box office revenues exceeded £1bn for the third year in succession. Although the success of British films such as Fast and Furious 6, Les Misérables and Philomena meant UK films generated $4.1bn (£2.4bn) worldwide – 11% of the global box office – this was a decrease from 2012, when Bond film Skyfall generated $5.3bn.

Oh and people have seemingly had it with 3D too, as Gravity was the only film that seemed to woo cinema goers to wear uncomfy glasses for three hours.

Well done the UK box office!

Nuisance calls: still a nuisance

July 25th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

rotary cell phone 300x197 Nuisance calls: still a nuisanceThe Telephone Preference Service is bloody useless, say Ofcom.

The TPS runs a register designed to reduce any unsolicited sales calls. Firms can be fined for ignoring the list.

According to the findings of the research, while the TPS is “highly effective” at stopping calls to consumers registered on TPS by legitimate telemarketing companies,  TPS-registered consumers still receive on average 2.5 nuisance calls per month.

It transpires that only a third of “nuisance” calls are blocked by the service, which allows individuals to opt-out of marketing calls, research has found.

However some rogue companies are flouting the rules, according to regulators. And us lot unwittingly give consent for calls by ticking a box on devious online sales forms.

The research, commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, found that registering with the TPS blocked 35% of all nuisance calls.

If you’re an individual, registration on the TPS is free and takes 28 days to become effective.

It is a legal requirement that all organisations – including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties – do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have the individual’s consent to do so.

There are plans to increase the level of fines levied on firms that make nuisance calls, and these are due in October.

Fines of up to 20% of annual turnover could be handed down to firms using information gathered by unlawful unsolicited calls and texts. That’ll learn ‘em.

Let’s see what the swarthly named Claudio Pollack from Ofcom has to say: “We understand how frustrating it is to still receive some unsolicited sales calls despite being TPS-registered,”

“That is why we welcome tough enforcement action from the ICO against rogue companies who breach the rules.”

Currently, the ICO must demonstrate “significant damage or distress” caused to individuals by nuisance calls or spam texts in order to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000.

Christ, let’s hope no mobile company has pissed off its users by spamming them willy nilly then. Oh.

fiesta 300x225 Ford Fiesta is biggest selling UK car everThe Ford Fiesta has become the best-selling car of ALL TIME.

The cheery little runabout that has been knocking around for nearly 40 years, has sold 4.1 million, to become the best selling car in the UK.

It has overtaken (OVERTAKEN HAHAHA) the Ford Escort, the previous record holder, to become the most popular model among British drivers.

The Fiesta was a mere £1,865 when it came out in 1976, and soon become a hit with the young set and lead the small car end of the car market ever since.

Mark Ovenden, head of Ford Britain, said: ”The Ford Fiesta has gone from strength to strength and today’s car combines style, value, driving dynamics and remarkable technologies such as the multi-award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine.”

“It continues to outsell its nearest retail competitor by more than two to one – and that really tells the story of this extraordinary car.”

Also, the advancements in technology differ somewhat from the car’s launch. For example, it would now take more than 80 modern-day Fiestas to generate the same nitrous oxide emissions of a single 1976 Mk1 model.

This first-generation Fiesta, with the 46bhp four-cylinder 950cc petrol engine, weighed around 800kg and achieved 37.7mpg. Today a 1.0 litre Fiesta is more than a third heavier, but achieves nearly 66mpg.

Fiesta models are developed in Dunton, Essex, while engines are assembled in Dagenham, Essex, and Bridgend, south Wales. Cars destined for the UK market are built in Germany and Spain.

Well done Fiesta!

Europe’s banks been robbed

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Bank 300x193 Europes banks been robbedThe security of the European Central Bank has been compromised!

A security breach has lead to a host of email addresses and other contact info being stolen from a European Central Bank database.

The ECB have told everyone to calm it, as the information leaked is related to those who had registered to attend its events, such as conferences or visits, and was not encrypted.

Although, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily be on their database for the lols, but the ECB reaffirm their fans that no sensitive stuff was compromised.

The ECB said the matter first came to its attention after it received an anonymous email seeking money in return for the stolen data.

They also said it was in the process of contacting those who may have had their contact information stolen, while all passwords on its website have been changed as a precautionary measure.

Now, let’s try and do this whole anonymous threat thing again. Demanding money in exchange for a thing you’ve done, but failing to say who you are seems a bit daft.

Modern times, ladies and gentlemen.

Deathwatch: Crocs (Hurrah!)

July 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

crocs 300x137 Deathwatch: Crocs (Hurrah!)Crocs, the ghastly footwear, are in crisis.

Once upon a time, back in the last decade, Crocs became a thing, as the comfy waterproof clog-styled footwear-eyesores were bloody everywhere.

Today, they are looking at laying off 180 staff and closing 100 stores worldwide.

And no wonder. Look at them. Completely vile.

The company’s profits slumped more than 40% last year, with outlets in America and Asia noticing a big slump, whereas over in Europe there’s been a mild growth.

The company plans to simplify its range to save $10 million, although one would motion that they could simplify it easily enough by destroying every trace of Crocs in the universe.

Six months ago, Blackstone, the private equity firm, invested £117m in a 13.5% stake in the company, which has about 600 stores around the world, including three in the UK. They won’t be happy.

Andrew Rees, the Croc president, said: ”We have a clear, well-defined strategy for addressing these issues and improving performance. Work is under way already to drive significant change throughout our company.”

Originally conceived as a sort-of boat shoe, Crocs came to attention when the likes of Jack Nicholson and George Bush started hoofing about in a pair.

By 2009, profits took a dive, as everyone saw sense and went “URGH GET THEM AWAY FROM ME”.

Stop being bad! says the internet

July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

illegal downloading 269x300 Stop being bad! says the internetThem people who constantly download and share pirated content will start receiving warning letters from their internet service providers from next year.

Anyone whose connections are believed to have been used to hawk copyrighted material, could receive up to four letters a year, although there are no sanctions as yet for those who continue to ignore the warnings.

The aim of the letters is to boost consumer awareness of the wide array of legitimate online content services and help reduce online copyright infringement, or in other words, stop people nicking stuff.

The warning system, known as the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of negotiations between ISPs and industry bodies representing the UK’s creative industries, including the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry).

There had been the original enforcement regime, which was outlined in the Digital Economy Act, which was rushed through parliament under the previous Labour government in 2010.

That Act called for an escalating series of sanctions on persistent file-sharers, starting with sending letters to illegal downloaders and culminating in slowing down the connection speed of offenders or temporarily suspending their connections.

Yet no one really gave much of monkeys, as it was heavily opposed by ISPs, who argued that the anti-piracy measures were inconsistent with European law and would breach the privacy of their customers, as well as driving up costs for providers and consumers.

The consortium of companies that make up Creative Content UK, said it will play an important role in educating consumers about the huge range of entertainment content that is available from legal and licensed sources.

It will also operate within the wider context of programmes aimed at combating copyright infringement, such as the blocking of illegal sites and working with advertisers and payment processors to cut off revenues to such sites.

Let’s tolerate some words from Business Secretary Vince Cable: “The creative industries in the UK are one of our brilliant global success stories. Yet too often that content is open to abuse by some who don’t play by the rules.”

“That is why we are working with industry to ensure that intellectual property rights are understood and respected. Education is at the heart of this drive so people understand that piracy isn’t a victimless crime – but actually causes business to fail, harms the industry and costs jobs.”

Everyone involved seems quite into it, as Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI described it as “a real step forward for digital entertainment in the UK”, and Dido Harding, chief executive of TalkTalk, said it would help consumers “make the right choices about how they access content”.

Figures published by communications watchdog Ofcom last year revealed that more than 1.5 billion files were downloaded illegally in the UK in 2012, accounting for almost a quarter (22 per cent) of all content consumed online.

Only a quarter of the people who consumed the most illegal content said they would stop if they thought they might be sued, according to Ofcom, and one in five said they would stop if they received a letter from their ISP telling them that their account had been used for copyright infringement.

Although one would imagine you’d have to shifting some serious amounts of unpaid-for and effectively stolen goods for the ISPs to take notice.

Four strikes and you’re… well… nothing will happen.

EE apologise for being annoying

July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

zzzw EE apologise for being annoyingEE has apologised after it hassled customers with texts over the weekend.

How much hassle? One user complained of receiving more than 90 marketing messages from Orange, one of EE’s brands, in a four-day period.

Well EE have certainly done themselves no favours in the past, and this latest wheeze looks like seeing off what customers they had left.

These text messages were reminders that the customers were eligible to add to their plans numbers that they can call for free, and the usual old toss that corporate text messaging throws out.

Naturally, customers took to social media and had a good moan about it.

The messages read: “Hi from Orange. Congratulations: you can now add another Magic Number.” It included a link customers could follow to do so.

Trying gamely to underestimate the levity of this shitstorm, a member of EE’s community team named as Miles wrote on Sunday that the firm was “having an issue” with the text message service.

“This reminder should only be sent once, but some customers are getting multiple reminders. If you’ve received any of these duplicate messages, please accept our apologies for any inconvenience. Remember: you’re not charged to receive magic number reminders.”

Is this the final straw for you, remaining EE customers? You better answer quickly or you’ll get asked the same question 90 times.

pensions 300x187 Osborne reveals new pension plans (not his, sadly)New rules for private pensions have been announced, allowing the retired greater freedom to fritter away their cash.

The rules were launched by Trouble-haired chancellor George Osborne, following his announcement earlier this year when he scrapped a rule forcing people to buy an annuity, and thus freaked out insurers the land over.

Osborne is keen to allow people to tap into the cash they set aside during their working life by reducing tax penalties imposed on those who withdraw their savings in a lump sum.

On Monday, the government confirmed its intention to go ahead with such plans, seen as the biggest reform of pensions in a generation, and added details to its proposals following a consultation with industry, employers and consumer groups.

Osborne said: ”It’s right to support hard working people that have taken the long-term decision to save for their future and I’m pleased that the responses we had to our proposals on making pensions more flexible have been overwhelmingly positive,”

“The government believes that the overall impact … is likely to be limited,” it said. “It is expected that there will still be a strong continuing demand for high-quality fixed-income assets, including government and corporate bonds.”

It all sounds quite good, but there are worries that the changes will allow pensioners to piss away all their savings while giddy in the first flush of freedom. Osborne, with his legendary charm, has rejected this idea.

It was all panic when Osborne first announced the shake-up earlier this year, it hit the share value of firms like Legal and General, Aviva and Standard Life who run annuities businesses. The shares have since recovered slightly, but remain below their pre-announcement levels.

The finance ministry said that after consultation, the industry estimated that only 10-20 percent of people in defined-benefit pension schemes would transfer out of them. Some pension schemes might need to hold more liquid assets as a result, however.

A summary of the consultation said the financial guidance provided to retirees would be provided independently and funded by a levy on regulated financial services firms.

All good news for anyone with a pension then. Oh.

Amazon to offer unlimited books

July 21st, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

kindle 300x289 Amazon to offer unlimited booksAmazon have pulled the covers of their next wheeze, a Netflix-style subscription.

The plan is to allow unlimited access for e-books, which is going to put the cat among the book pigeons for sure.

The $9.99 per month Kindle Unlimited offers access to 600,000 titles in the Kindle format.

Subscribers will be able to access the books on Amazon’s Kindle tablets, as well as other devices with a Kindle app, including iPads and iPhones, Windows devices and Android-powered mobile gadgets.

Amazon is using a model made popular by Netflix for films and television programs, but also by services such as Spotify for music.

This all sounds a bit like rum news ahead for the world of publishing, but Colin Gillis at BGC Partners reckons the move to subscriptions is part of a trend toward ”a ‘rent, not own’ society. We see it with music, with movies. It makes sense that they would do that with books.”

Understandably not everything will be available immediately on the service, but future releases could come as part of a deal to lure people into the service.

Publishers meanwhile are resisting the subscription model because it effectively cuts the price of books and royalties paid.

Despite this, Amazon knows that some of its readers will be up for it, said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research: ”Amazon knows its customers,” the analyst said. “They know if you read a mystery every week, they know whether they are in a position to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

“If you’re a one book a month reader and a best seller person, this isn’t going to work for you,” McQuivey said.

The Kindle Unlimited service will also include audio books available through the Audible service. The service is initially being launched for US customers, with other countries likely to follow.