Posts Tagged ‘News’

Facebook to beef up Messenger

March 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Facebook 300x300 Facebook to beef up MessengerFacebook are giving their Messenger app some muscles as they look to woo businesses and brands (brands is a cuddle way of saying ‘businesses who want you to feel like they’re a lifestyle choice’) out of loads of money.

There’s going to be a rake of new features, enabling people to integrate their own apps with Messenger (thanks to a new thing called Messenger Platform) and companies will be able to enhance online shopping and bug everyone on Facebook (thanks to a thing called Businesses on Messenger).

Mark Zuckerberg reckons these new tools will end up in social media tools replacing the old types of talking to companies.

“Currently, if you want to get in touch with a business, most of us probably still call,” Zuckerberg said. “But I actually don’t know anyone who likes calling businesses. It’s just not fast or convenient and it definitely doesn’t feel like the future.”

David Marcus, also of Facebook, added that this would restore the “personal and delightful experience” that customers have when shopping at little local shops for local people. David Marcus clearly hasn’t been to Royston Vasey.

Anyway, the whole deal here is that Messenger Platform will help people plug apps into Messenger which will allow users to share photos, audio or whatever, more easily. Alongside that, businesses will be able to play with the format too. Expect to get some animated gifs from Oreos or something, in the near future. Or, you can live chat with IAMS about your cat that just choked to death.

TomTom launch free sat-nav app

March 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

TomTom 281x300 TomTom launch free sat nav appTomTom have gone a launched a free sat-nav on Android called TomTom Go Mobile. If you’ve just bought a sat-nav, gutted for you.

So what do you get with it? Well, it looks like it has more features than the competition, with live traffic updates and speed camera notifications and all that. Oh, and of course, you can navigate yourself with it. That’s pretty obvious though.

You can also take trips to millions of ‘points of interest’ and if you’re worried about hammering your data, you can download offline maps for the 111 countries covered by TomTom.

What’s the catch? Well, it is free to download, but that’s limited to 50 miles per month. If you’re driving in advance of that, then you’ll need to look at the £14.99 per year subscription (or £34.99 for three years).

Of course, you could just use Google Maps for free, or indeed, the Google-owned Waze which also won’t cost you a penny.

However, Google Maps can be a bit of a faff, while TomTom Go Mobile has big, clutter-free buttons, which is advantageous if you’re behind the wheel. Either way, sat-navs as we know them are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, so TomTom need to do something, and with this freemium model, they might be onto something.

Unless Google are scheming something…

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz12345671 300x300 Sports Direct is like a backstreet operationMPs aren’t impressed with Sports Direct, saying that they’re being run like a “backstreet outfit”, complete with deals being made behind the board’s back, withholding payments from suppliers, nonsense with the USC fashion chain, and a whole load more.

Keith Hellawell, chairman of Sports Direct, is looking at a barrage of accusations from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, who say that the way his company dealt with the collapse of USC was so poor, that his past is in danger of being tarnished. Retroactive tarnishing! Nice.

You might know that USC went under in January and was bought back by Sports Direct, debt-free. This left staff redundant and £15.3m in money owed to landlords and suppliers, unpaid and wiped off the record. Also erased from history was the £700,000 owed to HMRC, who are now picking up the tab for the redundancy payments too.

Not only that, the company is being hammered over their reliance on zero-hours contracts – they currently have 75% of their staff on these controversial deals.

Hellawell is pleading innocence, saying that he had no idea that USC was about to go under and that, in fact, chief executive Dave Forsey, and deputy executive chairman, Mike Ashley, had met administrators without his knowledge a whole two months before USC went kaput. The committee also found that USC went under after bosses held back payment to Diesel, because they thought the fashion brand might stop supplying USC, which would have made other suppliers stop.

Thanks to being completely backed into a corner, Hellawell admitted that this withheld money was tantamount to holding Diesel “to ransom”. He added, dimly, that he had no idea how widespread the practice was in the company, adding: “We are in negotiations with a large number of landlords to reduce the cost of property at the moment… clearly I am going to ask some searching questions of the board.”

Simon Reevell MP wasn’t having any of it, saying: “You actively breached a contract with Diesel in order to try to bring them to the negotiating table. You are the chairman of a FTSE 100 company and you are in that role to bring credibility as a [former] senior police officer. At least on one occasion the company tried to renegotiate a deal by withholding …payments it is contractually obliged to pay. That sounds like some sort of backstreet outfit … can you understand that we struggle to understand why reputational matters such as this are completely unknown to you as a chairman?”

Chairman of the committee, Ian Davidson, chipped in: “Some members of the board knew that these discussions were going on, like Mike Ashley and the chief executive. Other members of the board, including you, did not know that. There are two categories of board members – those that are in the know and those that are not. Essentially you were there for decoration, to make a final decision that had already been made to be rubber-stamped.”

Is the culture at Sports Direct going to change? Don’t hold your breath.

Lloyds+Bank 266x300 UK gradually claws money back from Lloyds and RBSThe UK has made £500 million pounds thanks to another bit of the Lloyds Banking Group being sold off, according to the Chancellor, George Osborne.

This means that the British taxpayer now owns less than 22% of the company after we all took a 40% stake in it, after the 2009 bailout.

“We have raised a further 500 million pounds through Lloyds share sales,” Osborne said on Twitter. “Nine billion pounds now recovered and being used to pay down our national debt.”

On top of that, RBS have sold off it’s shares in the US company Citizens, raising £2.1bn. This means that the Royal Bank of Scotland can look at selling additional shares, after the 90-day lock-up period has passed. The idea is for the bank to sell out of Citizens shares by the close of 2016.

Of course, RBS have to sell all these shares under the group’s state bail-out conditions.

“The sale of Citizens is an integral part of the RBS capital plan. It will help us to create a stronger, safer, UK focused bank that can better serve the needs of its customers,” said Ross McEwan, the chief executive of RBS.

pothole 13 years and £12bn   thats what is needed to fix potholesDrivers and cyclists all know that there’s a big problem with potholes in the UK. The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) claims the money spend on repairing roads in the last year has been “wasted”.

We assume Scotland and Northern Ireland are doing their own thing, but as far as England and Wales are concerned, to fix the problem, it would cost £12 billion and need 13 years of work, which is a damning viewpoint indeed.

The AIA annual found, unsurprisingly, that there’s been an increase in the amount paid in compensation to motorists in England, hovering somewhere around the £20m mark. Add to that, the increased costs of local authorities staffing the situation and to process claims, that’s another £18m.

Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the AIA, said: “Essentially, the money spent on filling the 2.7 million potholes reported is wasted – it is inefficient and short term in its effectiveness. So, while we understand that the Department for Transport is promoting permanent repairs, the point remains that money would be better spent preventing potholes forming in the first place.”

“The £6bn of funding pledged between 2015 and 2021 is welcome, and hopefully will be confirmed by an incoming government. But the truth is that although it sounds like a big investment, it will only be enough for local authorities to tread water and it will do nothing to tackle the backlog or prevent continuing deterioration.”

Mackenzie’s not the only one who is alarmed by all this. Peter Box, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: “Councils need billions, not millions, to bring our roads up to scratch. Every mile of motorways and trunk roads will receive £1.4m funding over the next six years compared with £31,000 per mile for local roads.”

“This makes little sense given the Government’s own traffic projections predict an increase in local traffic of more than 40% by 2040.”

Lidl offer One Direction discount

March 26th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Lidl’s marketing team have been on fire lately. You may recall them mocking Morrisons not too long ago, as well as poking fun at Sainsbury’s ’50p challenge’.

Well, they’re not razzing any of their rivals at the moment (give them time), but rather, offering money off One Direction Easter eggs, after Zayn Malik left the group.

2015 03 25 21.57.09 421x500 Lidl offer One Direction discount

 

As you can see, they knocked one-fifth off on the news of Zayn’s departure, which is a neat bit of marketing indeed. If only all products were discounted every time someone left a band – Bee Gees albums would be well cheap!

banks 300x218 Banks say dont worry as they sign deal to close last bank in townThe banks of Britain have asked everyone not worry, regarding the fact that they’ve just signed an agreement where they can close branches, even if it is the last one in a community. They’re collectively saying that they will be investing in branches for ”for decades to come”.

And of course, we all unreservedly trust the people who run banks, don’t we?

Anyway, Sky News, have got their hands on a report called the ‘Access To Banking Protocol’ which will be released tomorrow. Banks are going to have to provide 12 weeks worth of notice if they are to close a branch, as well as publishing an assessment of what they expect the impact to be on their customers.

“Banks will publish the results of their engagement and impact assessment, and the considerations taken into account in assessing the impact of the branch closure, subject to the removal of commercially sensitive information,” the document says. ”The results will be made public before the closure of the branch.”

Will this stop banks from closing down branches where they’re not making much money? Not likely. In fact, the document alludes to that, saying: ”While ensuring that customers are treated fairly, decisions on branch closures are ultimately commercial decisions for banks to take.”

With lenders closing branches all over the country, this will concern many. However, it is hoped that there’ll be provisions where smaller communities can be served by the Post Office and credit unions: ”Banks will… engage at an early stage with the Post Office to coordinate communications, operational planning and use of brand.”

While some will just focus on internet banking, “banks will take into account the local availability of broadband and access to alternative ways to bank for vulnerable customers.”

The thing we’re wondering about, is what will happen to banks if they don’t play fair or stick to the new protocol? There’s no talk of any repercussions or penalties for those that don’t comply.

beans 300x225 Kraft and Heinz merge: dont mess with our food or elseWhen Kraft took over Cadbury, we all knew that it would spell trouble for some of our favourite chocolate. And indeed, we saw a large amount of kerfuffle with Creme Eggs.

Well, start worrying about your baked beans, tomato soup and ketchup, because Kraft have merged with Heinz. Together, they’ll become what they reckon is the third largest food and beverage company in America. The deal was brokered by Heinz’s owners 3G Capital and billionaire gadabout Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway chief executive, said: “I am delighted to play a part in bringing these two winning companies and their iconic brands together. This is my kind of transaction, uniting two world-class organisations and delivering shareholder value. I’m excited by the opportunities for what this new combined organisation will achieve.”

But what about our beans, Buffett?

This new, merged like Voltron company, will be called the Kraft Heinz Company and they better not start messing about with our HP brown sauce and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, or Bitterwallet will find out where all the company’s directors live, and boot them up the arse for eternity. We’re not even slightly joking.

yodel UK parcel 300x224 Yodel not happy with retailers unrealistic delivery expectationsYodel’s boss – Dick Stead – is not happy with retailers who have been using them for deliveries. He wants to see them setting more realistic expectations for deliveries and that, if parcels are delivered late, then the retailer should take the blame, not the courier.

Of course, Royal Mail will be howling at this, as they’ve been complaining about companies muscling in on their turf, cherry picking the best delivery areas, when they don’t have a universal obligation.

Yodel themselves have been getting it in the neck, especially on Mother’s Day and Black Friday. Over Christmas, the company rejected the idea that late deliveries were their fault and had a big backlog after the crazy scenes on Black Friday.

Speaking to Retail Week, Dick Stead said: “You can’t ask parcel carriers to build up the capacity that’s only going to be used three times a year. Retailers haven’t quite grasped you can’t provide next day delivery at this rate, not this [Black Friday], next year or the year after.”

“We’re working really hard with retailers at the moment to say ‘come on guys, there’s a certain limit of capacity next day delivery’. Reserve it for people who really need it the next day, and for everyone else for goodness sake you’ve had the bargain of a lifetime, but it might take 3-5 days to deliver.”

“The difficulty is the people working in their supply chains understand it, but their marketeers don’t,” he added.

Amazon launch Fire TV Stick

March 25th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Amazon have launched the Fire TV Stick. A rubbish name but the device itself looks alright. Basically, this new thing is a budget version of Amazon’s Fire TV box and at £35, there’s a lot of people who’ll be interested in it.

Provided your telly has an HDMI port and you’re paying your subscriptions, you can whack it in and watch all manner of television shows and the like. It even comes with a little remote control, or you can hook it up to your phone and use that to navigate the menus.

Of course, it isn’t quite as powerful as Amazon’s £79 Fire TV box, which launched last October, but that’s why it is cheaper.

amazon fire tv stick 500x317 Amazon launch Fire TV Stick

This stick has more features than Google’s Chromecast and Amazon say that their gadget has a dual-core processor, which is apparently six times the processing power of Roku Streaming Stick. There’s 8GB of storage too, which is 32 times more than the Roku stick and quadruple Chromecast’s.

“When we launched Fire TV in the UK last September, it quickly became our fastest-selling Amazon device,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and boss. “We’re excited to introduce Fire TV Stick in the UK. Fire TV Stick is the most powerful streaming media stick available, with a dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, dual-band and dual-antenna Wi-Fi, included remote control, voice search with our free mobile app, and an open ecosystem.”

“The team has packed a huge amount of power and selection into an incredible price point – Fire TV Stick is just £35.”

If this sounds like your thing (it might not – loads of people hate Amazon on pure principal), then you can preorder it now and it’ll ship on April 15th. Amazon Prime members can get it for £19 for a limited time. Click here to have a look at it.

Boeing get patent for sci-fi forcefields!

March 24th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Boeing have been watching far too many science fiction films, as they’ve been granted the patent for actual forcefields. We hope that they’re also looking at tractor beams and lasers too.

Anyway, they want to use this technology to protect military vehicles and other targets – they could even use it on planes to stop birds flying into their engines.

The design is named “Method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc”, which is not at all catchy. An image from the patent looks like this:

design 1 480x360 Boeing get patent for sci fi forcefields!

According to patent office website USPTO, this forcefield will consist of two key elements: a sensor to detect a shockwave-producing explosion, and an arc generator that receives a signal from the sensor and uses magical energy to deflect the explosion.

“Such embodiments … may reduce the energy density of the shockwave by creating a second medium in the path of the advancing shockwave that reflects, refracts, absorbs and deflects at least a portion of the shockwave,” says the patent.

We assume Ryanair are building a Death Star as we speak.

twitch 300x300 Twitch hacked: credit card details stolen along with other informationTwitch, bought by Amazon last year which allows people to make money from streaming themselves playing video games, has been hacked.

Everyone is looking at Lizard Squad, who hacked Xbox as well as Lenovo. They’ve got previous with Twitch as well, when they carried out a DDoS attack, which was only resolved when (get this) four Twitter users gave in to the Squad’s demands to post selfies with “Lizard Squad” daubed on their foreheads.

However, this latest hack doesn’t look like the handiwork of Lizard Squad because, mainly, they crow about their actions very readily and they’re not really about stealing personal information, which is what’s happened here.

It appears that login details, passwords and some credit card information has been stolen in this particular hack. Twitch themselves have confirmed the hack, saying that all users will be forced to reset their passwords. They said: “For your protection, we have expired passwords and stream keys and have disconnected accounts from Twitter and YouTube. As a result, you will be prompted to create a new password the next time you attempt to log into your Twitch account.”

There’s no word on just how many people have been affected by this, but seeing as Twitch has over 45 million monthly viewers and in advance of 1 million people streaming videos, it is likely that this’ll be a large number of people who have had their security breached.

Twitch say that they’ve warned users and told them that the information that may have been swiped includes usernames, email addresses, the IP addresses from where people last logged in, credit card types, truncated card numbers and expiration dates, first and last names, phone numbers, home addresses, and dates of birth.

If you’re a Twitch user, it’d be worth changing the password for any sites you use that has a similar password to the one you use with this lot.

wages Pizza Hut, Toni&Guy, Foot Locker and FCUK arent paying staff properlyAs the government continue to name and shame companies who don’t pay their staff properly, some big names are getting dragged into the mire. Added to this rogue’s gallery are big high street names Foot Locker, Pizza Hut, French Connection and Toni&Guy.

In total, 48 employers owed £162,000 with penalties totalling over £67,000, according to HM Revenue and Customs.

Now, thanks to this naming and shaming, over 200 employers have been published for not paying their staff adequately. Since October 2013, the total arrears stand at £635,000 with penalties of nearly £250,000 coming into play.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said: ‘There’s no excuse for companies that don’t pay staff the wages they’re entitled to – whether by wilfully breaking the law, or making irresponsible mistakes. The Government is protecting workers by cracking down on employers who ignore minimum wage rules. In addition to naming and shaming, we’ve increased the penalty fines and boosted the resources available to investigate non-compliance.”

Companies are being caught out thanks to tip-offs to the free and confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline. So if you think someone is underpaying their staff and want to blow the whistle on them, you know what to do.

tesco New legal action for Tesco which could cost them billionsTesco can’t catch a break these days, with their £236m profit mis-statement coming back to bit them on their buttocks all over again. The retailer is looking at more legal action, which is potentially worth billions of pounds.

So what’s happening? Well, there’s a group called Tesco Shareholder Claims Ltd (TSC) who are backed by the American legal firm, Scott & Scott, and they’re wanting compensation under a co-ordinated action after the drastic drop in Tesco’s share price at the end of last year.

A statement from the group said: “A permanent destruction of value has occurred and had the accounting irregularities not taken place the share price, and value of the company, would today be materially higher. TSC expects the claim to be in the region of 50p-70p per share.”

“Tesco Plc has in excess of eight billion shares listed.”

To add to Tesco’s woes, another firm – Stewart’s Law – are also preparing a similar case. If they all manage to claim compensation for the various shareholders, this is going to be catastrophically expensive for the supermarket giant. Chairman of the claims group, John Bradley, said: “Tesco is one of the widest held stocks in the UK and this loss has hit pension funds and investors across the UK and beyond. We look forward to bringing this claim to court.”

And while the supermarket is showing some signs of recovery, the fact is, they’re not likely to salvage their reputation any time soon. It’ll be years before traders trust the company again. In addition to this, Tesco are in the middle of a massive redundancy programme, as they lose staff in a bid to save millions of pounds per year.

With the Serious Fraud Office still sniffing around them, launching a formal criminal investigation, Tesco’s woes aren’t over by a long chalk.

Jagermeister pool party poisons punters

March 24th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Those blessed folks at Jagermeister have worked miracles with their product – they turned a rancid, old-fashioned digestif into something young, fashionable people want to neck on nights out. Basically, Jager is the thing you drink when you want to get absolutely wrecked.

With that, the company decided to have a pool party in Mexico and someone thought it’d be a fun idea to create a fine fog over the water, because it’d look cool.

However, to create the mist, they poured liquid nitrogen into the water!

Anyone with a vague grasp of science will know that the end result was not good. Not good at all.

Basically, the pool water was turned into poison with a toxic cloud being created as the liquid reacted with the chlorine, creating nitrogen trichloride.

Nitrogen trichloride is basically something that deprives a human of oxygen. It’s a knock-out gas, in short. Party-goers went from braying and whooping to dry-heaving and passing out. Eight people ended up in hospital while one of them even ended up in a coma!

A Jagermeister spokesman said: “We are aware of this incident in Leon, Mexico, which is currently being investigated by our headquarters here in Germany. We are liaising with the responsible distributor in Mexico who is working with the event organisers and the investigating authorities to understand the full circumstances surrounding the events last Saturday night. We fully support responsible drinking and adhere to the guidelines within each market in which we operate.”

Party on, Wayne!