Posts Tagged ‘News’

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.

EE, Vodafone and Virgin sign-up for Net Neutrality

January 20th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers
Bitterwallet the internet 205x300 EE, Vodafone and Virgin sign up for Net Neutrality

A portrait of the free internet

EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone are supporting net neutrality by signing up to the Open Internet Code.

This UK code, launched in 2012 by the Broadband Stakeholder Group, commits the ISPs to offer full internet access with no data blocked ”on the basis of commercial rivalry.”

So, if you provide content or whatever, you can now complain to the BSG if it is thought that an ISP is discriminating against them. This means that all major ISPs in the UK who provide fixed and mobile networks are signed up to the code, which is great. Of course, there are issues with it, but at least there’s some willing.

BSG CEO Matthew Evans said: “Unlike some countries, where net neutrality has become a controversial topic for discussion, the UK benefits from a fiercely competitive market and high levels of transparency – which together offer the best assurance of an open internet.”

“The code now provides an even stronger and more effective foundation, whilst also allowing for an environment where new business models for internet-based services which benefit consumer choice can thrive.”

So there you have it. You can carry on watching beheading videos while you’re sat on the toilet, or whatever it is you weirdos get up to in an evening.

flooded cars 300x128 Oh no! Your cars insurance tracker could kill you! Honest!In tinfoil hat news, an expert has been shrieking about the devices that are given to drivers by insurance companies which track your driving habits and price your premiums. They could mean you car could get ‘hacked’, including your brakes and steering, which means bad people will make you drive into the sea or something.

Corey Thuen – a security expert – has investigated the SnapShot device which Progressive Insurance has issued to American drivers, and in the UK, similar devices have been handed out.

Thuen reverse engineered some software and found that he was able to access some functions of the car’s CAN bus (the CAN bus is a thing that allows some components and computers to communicate inside the car) and, when he got in there, he deduced that hackers could do the same and affect steering or braking… theoretically.

“The firmware running on the dongle is minimal and insecure,” Thuen said. ”It does no validation or signing of firmware updates, no secure boot, no cellular authentication, no secure communications or encryption, no data execution prevention or attack mitigation technologies… basically it uses no security technologies whatsoever.”

“I suspected that these dongles were built insecurely, and I was correct. The technology being used in them is outdated and vulnerable to attack which is highly troubling considering it is being used to remotely access insecure by design vehicle computers. A skilled attacker could almost certainly compromise such dongles to gain remote control of a vehicle, or even an entire fleet of vehicles. Once compromised, the consequences range from privacy data loss to life and limb.”

Imagine! Hackers taking over an entire fleet of vehicles, making them crash into things like banks and children! Of course, if you were sat in your car, you’d just turn the engine off and whack the handbrake on and you’d be fine… but still… DANGER! DANGER!

The reality of the situation is that hackers could get into the system and inconvenience you by messing around with your self-parking features, or maybe pre-collision systems. We don’t have cars that drive themselves yet, so you suspect that, when we do, the security on those will be beefed up to buggery.

Of course, things like Snapshot really only track how fast you’re going, how far you drive and what times of day you use your car, so don’t worry Bitterwallet motorists, you’re safe for now.

bank sign FCA think Brits are getting a bad deal from the banksIf you’re the kind of person that doesn’t know the answer when questioned where a bear drops its guts, then this will be news to you – in Britain, the banks aren’t very good and giving everyone lousy deals. For the rest of you, the Financial Conduct Authority’s latest findings will have you wanting to hand out PHDs in stating the obvious.

So what’s the news?

Well, people in Britain are getting poor value from a lot of cash savings accounts, finding it difficult to switch to a better deal. Are the FCA going to ban some practices? Of course not.

They say that it should be easier to compare and switch between accounts in a market that’s worth £700 billion, where six providers have around two-thirds of all balances. The FCA would like to see switching made easier and quicker, with more timely information about pending changes in interest rates that will happen if people look elsewhere.

This report came about after the regulator came under further pressure to sort out a market that is effectively run by HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, RBS and Santander UK. The FCA found that ‘the big five’ pay on average “materially” lower rates on easy access savings accounts than smaller rivals.

“In a good market firms should be competing to offer the best possible deal and consumers should have the information they need to help them shop around,” Christopher Woolard, the FCA’s director of strategy and competition, said. The regulator have offered some changes, including greater information on interest rates and lowering the current 15-day switching time for cash accounts.

The watchdog also has concerns about teaser rates, which offer a higher interest as an introductory offer, which then tapers off.

Of course, they haven’t hinted that they’ll force the hands of the banks and indeed, gave no schedule for these changes. The FCA won’t be making providers offer the same interest rate to customers, either.

So basically, what they’ve done is release a report which says ‘Hey! We’ve noticed what you’ve noticed! Bit rubbish isn’t it?’ Time to start flexing your muscles a bit, FCA.

petrol Falling petrol prices could put inflation below zeroThe ongoing plunge of prices at Britain’s petrol pumps could pull inflation below zero before the next general election. Handy that.

According to forecasters, the Ernst & Young Item Club falling prices in shops and forecourts in the early part of this year, would be a “shot in the spending arm”.

The Item Club, whose predictions are based on the Treasury’s economic model, says the fall in oil price is acting as the catalyst.

Which arm is your spending arm? It’s a question we’ve asked for years.

Crude oil prices have halved since last summer and inflation in the UK has declined sharply as a result, hitting just 0.5% in December.

Item’s Peter Spencer reckons that it will all help in boosting economic growth, which he expects to be 2.9% in 2015. “Not every economy will be a winner from oil prices collapsing, but the UK certainly is,” he said.

Hurrah!

Nicotine patches and gum sales hit by e-cigs

January 19th, 2015 1 Comment By Ian Wade

health e cigarettes 300x209 Nicotine patches and gum sales hit by e cigsThe rise of the electronic cigarette is causing ructions to the sales of nicotine patches and gum.

That bombshell comes from the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline.

E-cigarettes have become popular with people trying to give up traditional cigarettes, rather than perhaps go down the full cold turkey-style route of gum and patches.

The that’s-actually-his-name Andrew Witty, Glaxo’s chief executive reckons vaping has “definitely taken a bit of our market, no question at all”.

Witty went on to say that GSK have thought about getting into the electronic cigarette market, although it’s all a bit dodgy at the moment, what with the lack of proper scientific data about them.

“We’ve decided we’re not going to play. We’ve consciously had a think about it but we’re not going to play,” Witty said. GSK sells various nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and smoking cessation products, mainly in the form of patches or gum, including the brands Nicorette, NicoDerm CQ and the medicine Zyban.

Makes a nice change for GSK, as they’re normally in the press for selling drugs like Paroxetine to kids, pleading guilty to criminal charges and paying out $3 billion for promoting its antidepressants for unapproved uses, getting in trouble with the IRS and a variety of fraud cases in Europe.

Three to buy O2 for £9 BILLION?

January 19th, 2015 4 Comments By Mof Gimmers

three1 300x292 Three to buy O2 for £9 BILLION?Get this! Three owner Hutchison Whampoa (yep) is all set to try and takeover O2 with a very large bid indeed! In what will be a huge merger, O2 owner Telefonica will be offered a whopping £9 billion.

Not to be sniffed at.

This seems to be the order of the day as BT were tabling a bid of £12.5 billion for EE, and they were also eyeing up O2 as well.

If this bid is successful, the unified Three and O2 network would be the largest in the UK, leaving us all will only three major mobile players, alongside EE and Vodafone. Madness. Absolute madness.

Hutchinson has previous in this area too, as it bought O2 Ireland in 2013 in a €780 million deal. If they have friends in the O2 boardroom, this is a deal that could go through reasonably quickly.

If O2 and Three merge their masts too, then Three would reach their target of 98% coverage in the UK without having to do much building work and the like. Very clever.

Of course, no-one has made an official statement yet, but the rumours are loud and strong, so there’s going to be more on this in the coming weeks.

British Gas to reduce your bills

January 19th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

british gas British Gas to reduce your billsBritish Gas have graciously announced that they’re going to cut household gas prices by 5% as of next month. Now, of course, if they hadn’t been wildly putting everyone’s bills up for years, everyone would be happy, but forgive us all if we don’t take to the street, cheering.

The Centrica owned energy dispenser said that this will benefit 6.8 million customers, and in real money, will reduce the average yearly bill by £37.

The cut will apply from 27th February has come about because of a fall in wholesale gas prices and British Gas said that they will be keeping prices under review “for further movements up or down”. Don’t hold your breath, basically.

Naturally, this announcement from British Gas comes after E.On dropped their prices. With increased pressure from all sides of the political spectrum toward Big Six pricing, there may be more, especially with the threat of new powers being proposed to allow Ofgem to kick energy companies into shape.

With two companies dropping their prices, that still means there’s four to go who need to pass on the saving to their customers. They have some leeway too, because the fall in wholesale costs is around 20%, which means that the savings made with E.On and British Gas are relatively small, so some new customers could be won over if a rival passing on greater savings.

Child invoiced for not attending a party

January 19th, 2015 9 Comments By Mof Gimmers

child money Child invoiced for not attending a partyIn ‘Cameron’s Britain’ news now, and a five-year-old boy has been invoiced for not going to a friend’s birthday party, which has resulted in legal action. Honestly.

Alex Nash, from Cornwall, got an invite to a party just before Christmas and didn’t end up going. The schoolfriend’s mum – Julie Lawrence – said that the no-show left her out of pocket, so she sent a bill for £15.95 to compensate her.

Alex’s father Derek is understandably flummoxed by the whole thing, and has been told that he’ll be taken to the small claims court if he doesn’t pay up. And this is all because the Nash family decided that their child should spend some time with his grandparents instead of doing to a dry ski slope in Plymouth.

Alex’s parents said they had no contact information for Ms Lawrence and, more importantly, why on Earth would you invoice a child to sort this out, instead of being an adult and telling someone that you’d like a tenner off them or something, because the party was more expensive than you could afford?

The news was broken to the family when they found the invoice in a brown envelope in Alex’s schoolbag last week.

invoice for childs birthday party 500x281 Child invoiced for not attending a party

Derek Nash told the Beeb: “It was a proper invoice with full official details and even her bank details on it. I can understand that she’s upset about losing money. The money isn’t the issue, it’s the way she went about trying to get the money from me.”

“She didn’t treat me like a human being, she treated me like a child and that I should do what she says.”

Ms Lawrence isn’t having any of that though and… get this… in a statement, she said: “All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me.”

Astonishing. You can only hope this is some kind of situationist prank or something. That’d still be annoying, but at least it wouldn’t be quite as bad as someone invoicing a toddler who probably drew all over the invite and ate it and forgot to tell his mum and dad about a party on a ski slope and ended up round his nanas for a plate of custard creams and a pint of Ribena.

Rent: It is going up, unsurprisingly

January 16th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

pay rent Rent: It is going up, unsurprisinglyIn ‘is the Pope catholic?’ news, a new survey has found that the cost of renting a home in England and Wales has gone up by 3% over the course of 2014. The average cost of rent, per month, is apparently £767 a month, up from 2013′s £745, according to LSL Property Services.

“Recent months have shown a divergence from usual seasonal norms. Historically, there is a tendency for rents to ease in the winter, particularly December,” said Adrian Gill, director of LSL.

Rents fell slightly over Christmas, but not by a great deal.

“With fewer tenants willing to relocate in the festive period, landlords usually compete to fill empty properties and agreed rents tend to dip as a result. Last month that happened – and rents fell compared to November – but by much less than the usual extent.”

On the rise, was the proportion of tenants in arrears in December and the stats are showing that the cost of renting rose in eight out of 10 regions in England and Wales throughout 2014, unless you live in the North East of England, or the South West of England.

If you’re looking at moving, while renting, then the BBC have a lovely calculator thing, where you can find out the places you can’t afford to live.

Arrests made after Xbox and PS4 hack

January 16th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

xbox one square Arrests made after Xbox and PS4 hackRemember when some nerds hacked the PS4 and Xbox systems on Christmas Day, spoiling everyone’s fun and forcing them to talk to their racist relatives? Well, all offhand, glib comments made by the hackers are being put to the test as a teenager has been arrested in Merseyside.

The FBI and British officials went after the teenager from Southport and he was nicked on suspicion of unauthorised access to computer material. It gets worse for the kid – they have also been detained because of threats to kill according to the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman said that this was a “significant” arrest, adding: ”This arrest demonstrates that we will pursue those who commit crime with the false perception they are protected within their own homes or hiding behind anonymous online personas.”

“As we continue to build capability and develop skills across wider policing, we still need industry, communities and individuals to protect themselves by implementing basic security measures whilst taking full advantage and enjoyment of the opportunities the world wide web provides.”

Get that. They’re going after your anonymous online personas!

Craig Jones, head of the Cyber Crime Unit at SEROCU, said: “We are still at the early stages of the investigation and there is still much work to be done. We will continue to work closely with the FBI to identify those who commit offences and hold them to account.”

“We are pursuing cyber criminals using the latest technology and working with businesses and academia to further develop specialist investigative capabilities to protect and reduce the risk to the public. Cyber crime is an issue which has no boundaries and affects people on a local, regional and global level.”

email 300x200 British workers get 1,728 pointless emails a yearSome ‘according to new research’ news now, and according to new research, the average British worker receives 1,728 pointless emails every year.

Is that all?

Such things as ‘organising a whip around’, ‘please sponsor me’ and ‘happy birthday’ topped the list of irritating messages, as well as stuff like ‘the printer has broken’ and such mundane rubbish like that apparently sends people hammering the delete button.

A third of the 2,000 office workers polled went on to say that they have someone in their team who is known for sending pointless emails, and would like them killed.

The poll by headphone giant Sennheiser Communications found emails about fire drills, Secret Santa and milk shortages were also viewed as futile by workers, and that round robin affairs where everyone is cc’ed into them drive workers up the wall too.

53% of those polled said they wish everyone picked the phone up and spoke more to one another, rather than clogging up inboxes with wasted emails. Which is cobblers really, as you ignore calls just as much as emails.

Charlotte Gaskin, Marketing Manager at Sennheiser Communications, said: “We are used to firing off emails for even the slightest thing.”

“But it seems like some of the more mundane requests can be avoided. Copying in lots of people to emails does seem to be a bugbear of British workers. Sometimes it’s more effective to have a face to face conversation or just pick up the phone. This way there’s less room for misinterpretation as well.”

Shall we look at what are deemed pointless emails? Well, you’re here now:

Please sponsor me
Happy birthday
Introducing new starters
The printer has broken down
There is going to be a fire alarm
Secret Santa
Congratulatory emails about ‘a job well done’
Can everyone chip in for a whip around please
Someone’s car has left their lights on
Debates over the temperature of the aircon
Sweepstake for the lottery
Sweepstake for the Grand National
The toilet is blocked
Food has gone missing from the fridge
The fridge needs cleaning
Whose photocopying is left on the photocopier
Ran out of milk
Has anyone seen my building pass?
Someone is blocking me in the car park
Someone has stolen my stapler / calculator / etc.
Whose turn is it to make tea?
There aren’t any tea bags / coffee left
Someone has stolen my mug
Someone has used their favourite mug
The bins need emptying
Dishwasher needs empting
There isn’t any toilet roll left
Anyone got the keys to the pool car?

Charlotte Gaskin concluded: “It’s clear many people tend to hide behind emails, rather than have a telephone call. But phone calls don’t leave room for error and making a call is usually easier than writing an email, especially with the wide range of professional headsets we offer, which mean your voice can be heard in HD sound clarity.”

(Oh, here we go, here comes the sell)

“Headsets allow you to be hands free and multitask to allow for even the most hectic of working days. You’re also far more likely to resolve an issue quickly and correctly. Perhaps it’s time we all started using our voices a little more often.”