Posts Tagged ‘News’

Royal Mail struggling despite strong Christmas

January 23rd, 2015 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Royal Mail Royal Mail struggling despite strong ChristmasPoor old privatised Royal Mail are still having a bit of a struggle, despite the company seeing a 4% increase, and partially benefiting from the collapse of City Link, over the Christmas period.

Royal Mail’s CEO Moya Greene said she has no option but to push through further cost-cutting, amid predictions that 3,000 more jobs will go across the company.

“The sad demise of City Link demonstrates what we have been saying – the UK parcels market remains highly competitive, with significant over-capacity,”

“These conditions – of too many players chasing traffic – will continue to put pressure on prices for the next couple of years. We firmly believe the long-term prospects for the delivery sector remain positive, underpinned as it is by the continued growth in e-retailing,”

Royal Mail managed to deliver over 120 million parcels during Christmas – some even in time for the big day! – a rise of 4% over last year. Its shares rose by 4% on Thursday after it predicted full-year profits would be in line with expectations.

However, despite the rise in the share price, they’ve still lost more than a quarter of its value since the £3.3bn stock market flotation 18 months ago.

Greene reckoned her postmen and women provided an excellent service over the festive period: “This is because we started to plan for Christmas in April, putting investment behind extra sorting capacity with 10 temporary hubs and training around 19,000 extra people.”

The Royal Mail has shed nearly 50,000 positions in the last decade, and another 3,000 are teetering on the brink in 2015.

Npower cut prices, but everyone still hates them

January 23rd, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

article 1725351 07264249000005DC 817 468x286 300x183 Npower cut prices, but everyone still hates themA number of energy companies are reducing their prices, and now Npower, after everyone told them that their customer service was beyond woeful, is going to cut their standard gas tariff in the UK by an average of 5.1% from 16th February.

In plain language, you’re going to save around £35 a year if you’re one of their customers.

Thus far, this is the biggest cut announced by a supplier after wholesale prices fell by 20%, which also saw E.On and Scottish Power dropping your bills.

After steady price hikes for years, all of these companies could’ve dropped their prices by greater amounts, but we’ll all have to take what we can get from this absolute shower.

“If there are further falls in wholesale prices, we will keep these under review to see if we can cut further,” prattled Npower chief executive Paul Massara.

Of course you will Npower. We’ve got every faith in you to do the right thing for customers. Either way,

Facebook cited in a third of divorce cases

January 23rd, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Bitterwallet Facebook censorship Facebook cited in a third of divorce casesFacebook has been cited in a third of divorce cases, according to a law firm’s survey.

Thankfully no one is actually cheating on their partner WITH Facebook, because that would be psychologically troubling.

Leeds law firm Lake Legal said that 66 out of 200 divorce cases they examined, had Facebook mentioned in not too wondrous tones. The main cause of grievances was when partners use the site to track down and befriend ex-shags, or been a bit odd with the truth, with various mutual friends pointing out any posts that they’ve seen from one party that excluded the other.

That’s basic social media etiquette, really. Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone. Least not your online presence. Honestly, there’s no helping some people.

Lake Legal’s managing partner, Lyn Ayrton said: “Social media provides an ongoing log of our lives. The sharing of written posts and pictures, often with geo-tagging, provides a record of activities that can be used in a court case.”

“Social media provides an ongoing log of our lives. The sharing of written posts and pictures, often with geo-tagging, provides a record of activities that can be used in a court case.”

“Often, if a partner refers to an impending bonus, a new job offer, or plans for a holiday, it may provide evidence that they are not telling the truth about their financial position. At the very least, it could call their credibility into question. It’s like having a massive public noticeboard.”

“Somebody said she was not in a relationship with anybody new but then posted a message inviting everybody to a housewarming party for her and her boyfriend.”

Well, they deserved everything they got, there…

Twitter Logo1 Twitter to start telling you what youve missed, like a needy show offOne of the things that made Twitter so likeable when it first came out, was how unfussy and simple it was. While other social networks were fiddly and filled with over-complicated algorithms and such, Twitter kept things tidy and basic.

Then, they started tinkering and messing about, annoying everyone in the process. And they aren’t stopping, now they’ve announced a new feature which is designed to recap tweets you might have missed while you were away from the app.

This means that, instead of just showing a chronological list of most recent tweets, the iOS app will display the top tweets since you last opened the app. Initially, this is only being rolled out on Apple devices, but it’ll be on Android in no time, that’s for sure.

Some third party apps, when you re-open Twitter, kick off where you left it, but now the official app will curate the top tweets that would have missed among the flurry of people slagging off TV shows and the like. If the feature is anything like Facebook’s algorithm-driven news feed, then there’s going to be huge amounts of people complaining about it, as Twitter has always been good for being a real-time feed, unlike Facebook’s complete mess of a timeline.

“If you check in on Twitter now and then for a quick snapshot of what’s happening, you’ll see this recap more often; if you spend a lot of time on Twitter already, you’ll see it less,” the company’s blog post said.

Jarringly, there’ll be no way to turn the feature off either.

eBay cutting a load of staff

January 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

ebay eBay cutting a load of staffebay are cutting a load of jobs. The forum for old toot and hooky goods is shedding 2,400 staff in the first three months of 2015.

This comes after news that they are about to split away from their long running association with PayPal.

ebay dropped the news when they were unveiling the fourth quarter earnings report and they bugled in a statement that it wanted to refocus the businesses and ensure it was “set-up to compete and win”.

The online jumble sale also said it has made an agreement with activist investor, Carl Icahn, to give investors a greater say in its PayPal business once it is spun off in the second half of this year, as eBay also announced that it was considering a sale or public offering of its enterprise unit.

Fancy that.

They must be doing something right though as the company’s share price went up this morning. How to get ahead in business – sack a load of people and sell off your financial arm.

Metro Bank expand but yet to make a profit

January 22nd, 2015 3 Comments By Ian Wade

Picture 5 Metro Bank expand but yet to make a profitMetro Bank are planning new openings.

The fuss-free so-called ‘challenger’ bank has also had nearly half a million people open accounts in the last year. On top of that, it also saw its deposits soar from £1.3bn to £2.9bn, with lending growing to £1.6bn from £754m.

Since the bank’s launch in 2010, it has opened 31 branches across the south east of the UK and now plans another 10 during 2015, including branches in Brighton, Southend and Harrow.

Metro Bank’s appeal is that it would rather focus on service rather than compete with the bigger banks in best buy charts for savings and the like. They also offer existing customers the same deals as new customers, by now kowtowing to cheap deal gimmicks. The bank’s best offering at the moment is a two-year fixed-rate cash Isa paying 1.8%, which creeps into Moneyfacts best buy deals behind the Post Office’s 1.95% rate.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive of Metro Bank, said: “2014 was another great year for Metro Bank. Throughout the year we saw substantial growth in deposits and lending, and the number of personal and business customers joining the banking revolution has continued to increase. As we start a new year, we’re excited to continue innovating and providing a real banking choice to the British people, as well as maintaining our commitment to deliver the best in service and convenience.”

Windows 10 is (nearly) here!

January 22nd, 2015 2 Comments By Ian Wade

windows 10 300x199 Windows 10 is (nearly) here!Microsoft have announced details of Windows 10! And it looks like they may have got their act back together.

First up: THE START MENU IS BACK. Finally!

They’ve made it a proper cross platform affair, so that whether you’re using a desktop, laptop, phone or tablet, the apps will run across all of them. Even holograms!

That’s right – with Microsoft Holographic, it’ll allow you to overlay digital images into the real world via a special headset, and should also be compatible with Google Glass (Good news, you 12 people!) and Occulus Rift

The key news with No.10 is that Windows Phone assistant Cortana will now be loaded into the desktop system. So now you can literally talk to your computer now as she’s built into your search. Nice to have a friend at last.

The other main attraction is Project Spartan, it’s a web browser that has a minimalist user interface but with various features, the key feature is killing off Explorer. You can now “freeze” web pages and annotate with either text or just doodling obscene images with your finger or a stylus and you’ll be able to save them to read offline and even set up a reading mode which help make various sites easier to read, a bit like Amazon’s Silk browser.

And finally, Xbox is going to be more integrated into Windows 10, with Xbox apps contained in each device. Appswise, they’ve made it where Office and Outlook and all that will work the same way on all your devices.

A new feature called Continuum will automatically switch an app into fullscreen tablet mode if it detects there’s no keyboard attached. Then, it’ll offer to return if you hook one up.

CEO Satya Nadella said of No.10 at the launch event: “Windows 10 is built for a world where everything is digitally mediated. It’s not just a checklist of features, it’s a design sensibility. We want people to love Windows on a daily basis.”

‘Love’.

But don’t start queuing up just yet, Windows 10 is still a few months off, but frankly when you have a holographic doodah, you’re gonna want to let people know about it.

Which are the worst energy companies?

January 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

npower logo Which are the worst energy companies?Which!!! have been trying to find out which is the worst of the energy providers and, in a move that will surprise precisely no-one, Npower have been awarded the dubious honour.

The energy company have been annoying everyone with major, major problems with their billing and came bottom the Which!!! customer satisfaction survey for the fourth year running. They’ve got an overall satisfaction score of a meagre 35%.

They’re past caring these days aren’t they? It is almost like complaining about them is just white noise to them and they’ve started to enjoy it and are now trolling everyone.

ScottishPower wasn’t too far behind, again, haunted by billing cock-ups, and was second worst with a score of 41%. Both companies are under investigation by Ofgem for their abject performance, being threatened with sales bans unless they get through their complaints backlogs. Not that they seem to care one jot as The Big Six are completely oblivious to… well… everything.

Roger Hattam, Npower’s director for its domestic retail business, said: “We’re disappointed with the results. We value all feedback and have already made significant improvements to how we look after our customers.” Meanwhile, a ScottishPower spokesperson said: “Last year all our customer accounts were migrated on to a new £200 million customer service IT system, and although this will deliver real benefits in the long-term, the installation process has been challenging. The vast majority of accounts have been transferred successfully, but unfortunately the installation of the new systems has meant we have not been able to provide the level of service our customers expect.”

Both of those statements came from a press release generator by the sounds of it.

So who came top of the pile? Green energy supplier Ecotricity had an approval rating of 85%, which is great for them.

Year on year, the Big Six are performing poorly and getting their arses handed to them by smaller companies – is it time we all started moving away to the underdogs? At least the smaller companies don’t wait for the results of competition inquiries and surveys to start aiming for good service.

UK set to spend more on fancy wines

January 21st, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

FineWineCellar 300x300 UK set to spend more on fancy winesThe UK is set to spend more on wine than the French in the next few years, according to vital research.

British boozers are increasingly flashing their cash on higher priced wines, rather than the traditional ’8 for a tenner’ deals that we’re used to

The UK actually spends an average of £7 a bottle now, and overall look set to splash out £11 billion by 2018, turning the UK in the second biggest vino market after the states, barring any wine-based scandals

By then, wine consumption will reach 1.54billion bottles – the equivalent of 22.5 litres per head – according to a forecast by International Wine & Spirit Research for wine exhibition Vinexpo.

In some ‘no shit sherlock’ findings, they also noticed that wine sales were down during the recession.

Prosecco is the main driver in the wine explosion, with a 43% rise in its sales in recent years. Speaking about these spurious and wild claims, Vinexpo’s Guillaume Deglise said: “We can say confidently that 2015 will show that the UK wine recession is over.”

“While the UK market shed 9.6million cases between 2008 and 2013, it is now past its low point. The UK wine trade is building value and many leading marketers report progress at the premium end”.

White wine is the UK’s favourite, with 676.7 million bottles bottles expected to be drunk this year, rising to 698.7 million bottles by 2018. Spanish reds like the Rioja are becoming more popular, as drinkers turn their backs on French wines such as Bordeaux, and sales from regions such as Chile, Australia and South Africa have also slumped somewhat too.

So, that’s why you’ve been seeing all those ‘wine o’clock’ comments from functioning alcoholics on Facebook and Twitter.

Wheelie bin given ticket by traffic warden

January 21st, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

We wouldn’t like to say that traffic wardens are pointless, dimwitted individuals, but you might after you hear about this.

In Carmarthen, a traffic warden is under investigation after they gave a parking ticket to a bin. That’s right. One of those big bins that are on wheels.

bin ticket 500x281 Wheelie bin given ticket by traffic warden

The bin was on some double-yellow lines and passers-by noticed the strange behaviour as the warden stuck a penalty charge notice to the rubbish receptacle.

Mercifully, Carmarthenshire council said that there was no ticket was inside the wrapper, so you have to assume that it was a joke by the warden. However, this being a council, they will still be looking into the traffic warden’s conduct.

Salesman Mike Jones told the BBC: ”It was bizarre – I realised I had just watched a warden give a ticket to a wheelie bin for bad parking. It appeared the warden slapped the plastic ticket envelope on the bin in a moment of high jinks after a member of public pointed out it was parked on double yellow lines.”

Carmarthenshire council traffic and safety manager John McEvoy said: “There was no ticket issued, it is not possible to book a wheelie bin or anything that is not motorised.”

“Although this was meant as a humorous incident, we take this kind of thing very seriously and have launched a formal investigation into the conduct of this officer.”

chips 300x225 Frankies voted best fish and chip shop in the UKOh my cod, Britain’s best chippy has been declared!

Frankie’s Fish & Chips in Brae, Shetland Islands is quite literally the plaice to be, as it battered all other comers to the title of the UK’s best chip shop at the 2015 National Fish & Chip awards (which frankly, if we’re not invited next year, there’ll be hell to pay).

It beat nine other finalists, and also grabbed the award for their sustainable sourcing.

Now in their 27th year, the awards are set up by the trade body Seafish, who push the entrants through lots of extreme-sounding tasks and random unannounced testing across the year.

Frankie’s is open seven days a week, and the only one in a 25 mile radius. There’s no word back on whether they offer a saveloy-alty card, but they should definitely look into that.

Owner Valerie Johnson, said: “We now get to go home to Shetland and say that our fish and chips are the best in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – without exception. How amazing is that? This is the highlight of my working life.”

Paul Williams, chief executive of Seafish, said: “Every year we see new and established talent vie for the top title, and the competition gets fiercer each year. This year was no exception and the judges were faced with a particularly tricky job in determining a winner. Frankie’s Fish & Chips stood out throughout the judging process. Their passion and determination has to be admired.”

The runner ups were Simpsons Fish & Chips in Cheltenham in second place and third was Papa’s Barn in Ditton, Kent.

Wireless charging at Starbucks

January 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

starbucks logo 300x300 Wireless charging at StarbucksJust like McDonald’s, Starbucks are going to start offering wireless charging for customers, or people who are just sneaking in pretending to be customers, but really having a sly poo.

To start with, only 10 Starbucks in the UK will be offering wireless charging by the end of January, but you suspect they’ll roll it out further.

Now, there’s a few different types of wireless charging portals and Starbucks have decided to go with Powermat, which means you have to plug in an adapter to their phone. If there’s a plug socket available, you could just plug it into the mains and be done with it.

If not, you can buy one of the ring-shaped devices for £10. It only makes sense to do that if you spend a lot of time in a Starbucks, which a good number of folk do. The rest meanwhile, can be found muttering about taxes and inflating the cost of a Starbucks brew for comedic value while slagging them off.

If you have an adapter, you place your phone on one of the specially equipped tables and like magic, you’ll get some juice for your phone. We can already sense the in-store leaflets, tittering about how these things are like an espresso for your mobile.

Ian Cranna, vice president of marketing and category at Starbucks, said: “We have always tried to anticipate our customers’ needs and innovate with technology to provide even more convenience. Our partnership with Powermat demonstrates Starbucks response to an increasing need to stay connected whilst on the go.”

The first ten cafes will be at Princes Street, Kingsway, Wardour Street, Pentonville Road, Harewood Place, Berkeley Street, Great Portland Street, Moorgate, Fleet Street, and Euston Tower.

All in London then.

sse SSE under investigation and Ofgem announce price comparison rulesSSE, the energy company, are looking down the barrel of an investigation by Ofgem over suspicions that they restricted competition in the electricity market.

The watchdog are going to be looking at the way housing developments and other sites who have not yet been connected to the grid choose where they get their power from. It looks like, although far from confirmed, that someone’s been up to no good.

Ofgem wants to increase competition in this particular market but had found evidence that SSE breached competition law, so they want to look into the whether or not the energy firm put their rivals at a disadvantage.

This follows a separate announcement from the regulator, who published new rules for price comparison websites who must now meet tighter standards on how they relay their tariffs. These new rules come under the woolly name of ‘the confidence code’ and has been put together to ensure customers can trust that deals aren’t being hidden by price comparison sites.

Ofgem said that, from now on, sites are going to have to show the companies with who they have commission arrangements with, in a  prominent fashion. They’ll also have to make it clear that they earn commission on certain tariffs.

Comparison sites have to meet these rules by the end of March or they’ll be in all manner of trouble.

As well as that, as we mentioned yesterday, Ofgem will continue to keep an eye on the Big Six energy suppliers to make sure they’re not ripping everyone off. The regulator wants to improve competitiveness, so we could be seeing more prominence from smaller suppliers with potentially better deals in 2015.

Maxine Frerk, Ofgem’s senior partner for distribution, said: “We are requiring electricity network companies to work quickly to resolve the issues identified in the connections market, to reduce the hassle of getting connected to the grid and help lower costs for customers. We are determined to ensure this part of the energy market works in customers’ interest and will use the full range of our powers to do so.”

SSE said: “SSE acknowledges Ofgem’s announcement of an investigation into its distribution business’s provision of electricity connections services in central southern England. SSE will co-operate fully with the investigating authorities and will not make any further comment until the investigation is completed.”

Passwords: still terrible

January 21st, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

password 300x225 Passwords: still terribleRejoice, for the most popular (and worst) passwords of 2014 have been unveiled! And it’s a list that makes security experts weep, as the most popular are the most obvious.

As with 2013, variations on passwords like 123456 continue to be the most popular passwords. Other obvious choices such as “password” and “qwerty” are also in the top five.

There’s new entries for the likes of “baseball” (8), “dragon” (9), “football” (10) and, ahem, “Master” (19).

Superheroes such as Superman (21) and “batman” (24) proved popular, as did the winning “Michael” coming fresh in at No.20. We especially like that “trustno1″ is hanging on in there gamely, proving that irony is lost on the Cyberdog/conspiracy theorist set.

The list was compiled by password company SplashData, and combed from leaks from North America and Western Europe.

The ideal password that SplashData recommends, is one of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. They also “helpfully” suggest not using the same password on all of your sites.

The full list of the worst passwords (with last year’s ranking in brackets) is:

1 (1) 123456
2 (2) password
3 (20) 12345
4 (3) 12345678
5 (4) qwerty
6 (6) 1234567890
7 (16) 1234
8 (-) baseball
9 (-) dragon
10 (-) football
11 (7) 1234567
12 (17) monkey
13 (14) letmein
14 (5) abc123
15 (7) 111111
16 (-) mustang
17 (-) access
18 (18) shadow
19 (-) master
20 (-) michael
21 (-) superman
22 (-) 696969
23 (11) 123123
24 (-) batman
25 (24) trustno1

Facebook to turn your voice into text!

January 20th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Facebook 300x300 Facebook to turn your voice into text!Facebook are testing out a new function for their Messenger app, which will convert your voice into text. You can already send voice clips and videos through the service, but if you have a horrible face and a voice that sounds like all the fingernails in the world scraping down a terracotta pot, then this’ll be just the thing for you!

David Marcus, VP of Messaging products at Facebook, announced this in a Facebook page, saying: ”We’re always working on ways to make Messenger more useful. As many of you know, we already offer a feature that enables people to send voice clips to their friends without having to type out the text.”

“Today we are starting to roll out a small test that helps people read the voice clips they receive instead of having to play them out loud.”

“So, for example, if you’re at a concert or in a meeting, and would prefer to read a voice clip from a friend, you now can if you’re part of the small test we’re rolling out. Our plan is to test this feature at a tiny scale for now and we’re looking forward to seeing what you think of it before making the experience more widely available.”

They’ll have their work cut out for them though, as speech recognition programs rely on being able to translate from a host of accents. If you come from California, your version of English will be hugely different to someone who grew up in Glasgow. And that’s just looking at the English language.

Either way, Facebook are really working on Messenger and want it to be one of the main apps people use, so expect more developments (and people getting angry about personal privacy) in the coming months.