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* Posts by Slx

54 posts • joined 5 Jun 2010

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Facebook's Zuckerberg buttonholes Obama, rages against NSA dragnet spying

Slx

You can understand why all these social networks and big data / cloud companies are panicking. They're losing customers because of this kind of stuff.

How many people have shut Facebook accounts?

How many companies have opted not to use cloud services just yet that would have otherwise perhaps signed up with Google Apps, or some other hosted service?

There are plenty of companies very concerned about their IP and where an "interest" could include a financial interest as opposed to a security one that data could potentially get slurped with some degree of 'legitimacy'.

For example, a company developing an innovative technology, new drug, new device that could upset your economy by potentially knocking your national champion company out of the market through innovation. Is that a legitimate target?

Then you've got to worry about what less transparent countries like China are slurping.

This whole thing has put cloud computing into a very seriously questionable position. Can we actually trust these systems or is it safer to just have a server in your office basement?

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That NSA denial in full: As of right now, we're not pretending to be Facebook or Twitter

Slx

Re: "Everyone knows the NSA can legally eavesdrop on foreigners outside US soil"

Why would it include 'The Commonwealth' when it has absolutely no control over what goes on in Commonwealth Countries given that they're effectively some kind of golfing society of former British territories and colonies?

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HTML is a sexually transmitted disease, say many Americans

Slx

Even ISPs get it wrong in their marketing material!

I constantly see and hear ISPs getting their units wrong too!

"Get our new 70 megabyte broadband"

Speeds: 21MB, 50MB, 70MB and now 200MB.

I can't imagine a car manufacturer saying their car has a top speed of "140 acres". It's about as fundamental a mistake.

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Barclays Bank probes 'client data sold to rogue City traders' breach

Slx

Hmmm..

Banks really don't seem to be getting this whole 'banking' think anymore!

They've basically got two jobs:

1) Lend money prudently and assess risk thus making a healthy profit and not risking driving the bank (and possibly the global economy) over a cliff. (Many of them failed miserably at that, resulting in massive bailouts at our expense.)

2) Run a reliable, safe, secure and trusted information processing platform that supports transactions. So far, we've already had RBS' computer networks going down (for a full month in the case of their Irish subsidiary Ulster Bank) and now this kind of thing isn't really going to exactly painting a wonderful picture of their systems.

I'm beginning to wonder what exactly the purpose of banks is these days other than to speculate on the share price of and to pay directors gargantuan sums of money 'because they're worth it' ... apparently.

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FCC says US telcos can start moving to IP-based calling, but in baby steps

Slx

Re: 21CN

US carriers are already using VoIP extensively and many are already running all-IP networks.

This is largely an issue with the FCC regulations catching up with reality.

In a lot of cases TDMoIP using systems that emulate TDM circuits across a MPLS or IP network.

That's common in Europe too, it's certainly being done here in Ireland to cope with the mix of new and legacy technologies.

Ultimately, the legacy TDM switches just get replaced with IP gear that does the same job.

Many of them even have upgrade paths that allow that to happen while still retaining much of the old switch.

It's not all as drastic as some people are making out here and a lot of it is to do with behind the scenes stuff that won't necessarily result in your landline being provided by an ATA in your living room.

From an end users' prospective, VoIP is just as capable of providing you with a dial tone + analog voice service as TDM technology is.

There's also a massive difference between carrier-grade VoIP services over managed, closed, carrier-owned networks and internet-based VoIP services that use your ISP's connection to the outside world.

If you're using VoIP technology on a carrier's network, your traffic is managed right from your terminal their VoIP soft switches and then onwards. So, it shouldn't really make any difference to quality of service.

It's VERY different from plugging an ATA into an internet connection and relying on the public internet to carry your VoIP traffic back to the soft switch.

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Slx

Re: Already There

Similar setup emerging here in Ireland since FTTC rollouts have happened in a big way.

The telcos all provide a router that contains an ATA with 2 phone jacks. The brand varies (one of them actually uses Fritzbox) but, the spec is very similar.

Depending on which telco/ISP you're with, they can either use the exchange-based PSTN/POTS voice system line-shared with VSDL2 from the local cabinet, or if they prefer just provide you with VDSL2 and use the VoIP service in the modem/router.

The strange thing though is that *ALL* the routers contain the VoIP gear, regardless of whether it's used or not.

You can opt for a 'broadband only' service or one with a dial tone, it's up to you / your choice of package and ISP/phone provider.

But it looks like this kind of stuff will really reduce demand on for 'classic' PSTN lines.

In this market anyway, the uptake of PSTN lines is falling off quite steeply in recent years and that drop off seems to be accelerating all the time. It's a combination of people moving to cable and VoIP solutions and probably more significantly, a lot of people going for broadband-only connections at home and just using mobiles as their voice connection.

I know a lot of people who have a landline for VDSL2 or ADSL2+ and actually never even plugged the phone into the jack on the wall! Many of them wouldn't even be able to tell you their landline number (and they definitely do have one!)

It's a useful, trustworthy but rapidly dying technology.

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Slx

There were quite a few other systems that launched before System X.

The French have been using Alcatel E10 systems since 1972 in their public network as local and transit switches. Full TDM digital stuff since way back then! They've been in use here in Ireland since about 1979.

Ericsson AXE arrived in the late 1970s too. I think BT adopted it in the mid 80s as a competitor to System X to keep costs down by having two suppliers.

In the states Bell Labs/Western Electric 4ESS dates back to 1976 and 5ESS in the very early 1980s.

All this TDM stuff is based on pretty old 1960s/70s era concepts though.

The biggest problem the telcos face now is that the equipment makers are withdrawing support for a lot of TDM switching systems. In Europe they've definitely already begun rolling out alternative technologies at the central office / exchange level anyway.

Moving away from TDM switching doesn't necessarily mean moving away from POTS though. I know for a fact my own POTS line is actually connected to an analogue port on a system controlled by a VoIP softswitch and has been since about 2005.

Just because the network moves to VoIP doesn't mean that dial-tone POTS services will need to disappear.

What's happening here in Ireland though is that all of the FTTC rollout has included VDSL2 gateway modems that include a 2-port VoIP ATA.

Some providers are using them, others are using the exchange-based POTS service. Depends on which packages you opt for and who your ISP/phone provider is, but it works pretty reliably.

Likewise, I haven't had any major issue with UPC's cable phone service which is similarly provided by an ATA in the set top "Horizon" box which combines the TV service, WiFi hub, multi-screen TV server (to iPad app), ATA and voice phone stuff all in a single unit that sits under your TV.

The analogue POTS interface hasn't changed a lot since the 1920s and it's gone through several generations of equipment behind it from simple electromechanical systems, to crossbar, to computerised crossbars and relay systems to digital TDM to digital VoIP.

What I would like to see is a system that could use the exchange batteries to power the ATA/modem/router much like the way power-over-ethernet works. There's plenty of juice in the exchange and the wiring could handle it easily.

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Slx

Isn't a large % of the PSTN moved over to VoIP at a trunk level anyway?

I was under the impression (in Europe anyway) that a lot of telcos have been quietly migrating PSTN/ISDN switches to at least sit on an all IP network.

These TDM circuit switches would typically be 1980s - 1990s and even more recent technology.

They're most certainly not analog!

The last examples analog (crossbar and reed relay)switches were gone in the 1990s and even by then they would have only been local switches. The networks have been digital for decades in North America, Western Europe, Japan etc etc etc

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Woz backs Chinese 'Apple of Far East' in play for US hardware market

Slx

Re: How about some originality for a change?

It's a common misconception that people have. Only Apple employees can buy black turtle necks. If you look at normal people's black turtle necks really closely you'll notice that they are in fact VERY very very very very very dark blue.

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Justice minister tries to further delay snoop silo laws in Germany

Slx

I have to say well done to Digital Rights Ireland too! They've been tirelessly arguing against this stuff for years and are really keeping the legal and political pressure on.

Great to see some citizen power in action and I think more of us need to be helping campaigns like that!

The Germans had a particularly awful experience of Big Brother style surveillance society both under the horrendous Nazi regime and later under the East German state which used a wide range of tools to keep tabs on its citizens.

Many German politicians, including Angela Merkel, grew up under East German oppression. So, there acutely aware of what can happen when this stuff gets out of hand.

I hope this combination of traditional Irish civic activism and German sensitivities about being spied upon by their own government cause a major rethink.

Too many kneejerk reactions by people who really don't know anything about the internet (aging legislators) is what has gotten us to this mess!

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HTC: Shipping Android updates is harder than you think – here's why

Slx

I'd say it's more a case of getting their bloody start-up logo animation in!

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Slx

The biggest hold up for my HTC One seems to have been carrier requirements.

Every time there's been an update, other Irish networks have had their software months before Three!

I would love to know what carrier-specific updating actually needs to be done. Aren't all carriers just using GSM/UMTS/LTE networks that conform to GSM Association / ETSI / ITU standards?

It strikes me as a bit like testing appliances for each power company's electricity. It's all the same stuff.

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Asteroid-hunting beauty AWAKENS, takes cheeky snaps of neighbours

Slx

It's two edges of a Borg cube glinting in the cosmic rays - obviously!

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Used all your mobile data? Why not buy your mate's excess bits?

Slx

I just checked my allowance on 3 Ireland. Over 2TB remaining this month (unlimited plan) ! I could make a fortune :)

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Fees shakeup: Freephone numbers will actually BE free – Ofcom

Slx

Re: Optional

You can usually find one. There a Say No to 1850 here.. Same thing.

Some of those numbers don't actually have geographic equivalents. They can be directly mapped to call centre positions these days. VoIP trunks and all that modern post ISDN/PSTN technology has done away with any need to have blocks of landline numbers behind special rate numbers.

It's increasingly difficult to find alternatives even on those sites.

I've found one VoIP provider that includes them in a flat rate bundle as if they're landlines though.

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Slx

Here in Ireland 1800 (freephone) has always been free from mobiles.

However, if you have a 1800 number, you'll be charged at mobile rates to receive calls from mobiles. So, you've always had the option of not accepting calls from mobiles or specific area codes.

So, sometimes when you call a 1800 number you'll get "the number you are calling does not accept calls from your specific area codes. Calls cannot be accepted from your area code!" or a message asking you to call a different number.

What I find totally unacceptable here (and I don't know if this is the same in the UK or elsewhere) is that when you call non-geographic numbers they're often excluded from your call plan entirely and charged per minute. Even though your call plan might give you unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles.

So, if you call 0818 xxx xxx (national rate, whatever that means?!) or 1850 xxx xxx or 1890 xxx xxx (local rate, whatever that means these days?) or worst of all 076 xxx xxxx which is reserved for non-geographic VoIP numbers (you get these usually free of charge from your VoIP provider)... you get charged per minute and can end up with a rather saucy bill.

I get a bit sick and tired of companies and government agencies having these 1850 and 0818 numbers as if they're doing you a favour when they end up costing an absolute fortune to call as you're charged 'out of bundle'.

I don't know how telcos get away with this kind of thing. It can't cost any more money to call a non-geographic, non-premium rate number than a landline or mobile call and I do not believe they couldn't just reprogram their billing systems.

It makes no sense when they say something like "call us on 1850 XXX YYY (local rate)" when "Local Rate" is probably significantly more than I would be charged for calling someone 11,200 miles away New Zealand on a normal number which *is* included in my bundle. However, ringing some helpline for my bank at 'local rates' isn't.

We're being gouged as usual.

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I KNOW how to SAVE Microsoft. Give Windows 8 away for FREE – analyst

Slx

I don't know why they're comparing to Apple on this one.

MS doesn't make hardware!

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Ballmer: 'We made more money than almost anybody on the PLANET'

Slx

Re: It's a classic paradigm shift. Microsoft are ......

Well, of Microsoft's existing brands, Xbox is by far the most consumer-focused one and it has huge traction in the gaming world. Gamers are genuinely hugely influential too in terms of technology purchases. They tend to make a lot of tech purchases themselves and are often the person in a household / group who will influence others' technology choices.

So, from a pure marketing perspective, I think Microsoft is wasting its time trying to pitch Windows as a major brand. Most people see Windows as something to do with desktop / laptop PCs and work/office environments and it's really not a very 'exciting' brand.

Part of Apple's 'cool' is that it's associated itself deeply with the creative media industry and I think the company really understands how much that association is worth in terms of influential trend setters being seen with Apple gear. It's also not something that most of us associate with boring work environments. It's all about entertainment devices iPods, iPads, iPhones and its desktop platform isn't the one most of us use in the office.

To me, when I see a START button, I immediately think of Outlook and emails from my boss.

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Slx

It's a classic paradigm shift. Microsoft are now what IBM became. They need to reinvent themselves!

The IT industry goes through massive and very fundamental shifts of technology and we're in the middle of one right now.

It's almost exactly the same as the last major paradigm shift that created Microsoft in the first place - the rise of the desktop PC. IBM really didn't understand how fundamental that shift was and concentrated on the wrong areas of business and ended up being sidelined by a smaller upstart : Microsoft.

Just because a company's big doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to be the industry leader forever. I don't think Microsoft's going to disappear anytime soon. However, I think it's going to vanish into the background similar to the way IBM has.

Windows 8 really hasn't done what it was supposed to do. On the desktop it's just weird looking and has pushed a lot of people away from upgrading. So, a lot of businesses are still using Windows 7 and a lot of consumers seem to be actively looking at Apple's OS X based machines as the interface is appealing and the form factors of the machines is very attractive.

On the mobile Windows 8 again seems to have missed the goal entirely. The iPhone seems to have cornered the less adventurous market where people are looking for a proven, solid, slick interface and device and don't necessarily want to do a lot of tweaking and Android's now absolutely dominant in the rest of the market.

I don't really see Windows 8 mobile generating a big enough ecosystem of apps to pull people away from iPhone and Android to be perfectly honest. Although, they may yet manage to convince IT managers to force business users to use Win8 phones, especially as Blackberry fades away.

I think really we're seeing a battle for consumers between Apple and Google and to be honest, I'm not even sure how big a battle that is. Apple's got a nice, profitable chunk of the highest spending part of the market and seems to be able to retain that while Google's got a much bigger, broader market which suits it as it ultimately it makes money from ads and services.

I think the saviour of Microsoft on the consumer market's going to be some kind of building on the Xbox brand. I'm baffled as to why they haven't launched "the X Phone".

It's pretty clear that their powerful consumer brand is X Box not Windows!

But, in general this whole shift is nothing new. Technologies shift and huge businesses can find themselves obsolete in a matter of months.

Even Apple sort of missed the boat when Spotify and other streaming services came along and are only playing catch up now. Same with the Kindle - neither Apple nor Google seem to have really seen that coming.

At least it keeps our lives interesting!

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Mexican Cobalt-60 robbers are DEAD MEN, say authorities

Slx

A similar incident happened in 1987 in Brazil and it did not end well for those who came into contact with the stolen materials!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goiânia_accident

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Three offers free US roaming, confirms stealth 4G rollout

Slx

Anything that makes this market more competitive is excellent news for all of us beleaguered international data roamers!

Steelie Neelie has been instrumental in making sure that disruptive companies can start disrupting the market and smash open some of these price cartels in Europe.

Three have always been one of those companies willing to get in there and undercut their competitors on roaming. They've had their "Three Like Home" services for quite a long time that allowed customers to roam on their own networks as if they were on their home networks. Clearly they must have struck a deal with a US carrier to do something similar.

I don't really know why El Reg is using it as an opportunity to bash Neelie Kroes who, to be fair to her, has been a really positive influence in smashing open the European telecoms market in the last few years and seems a lot more capable of putting it up to big telcos in a way that a lot of national governments and national regulators in the EU aren't.

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Apple bests Dell for first time as preferred US consumer PC choice

Slx

Like them or loath them, Apple make very nice kit.

My personal experience with a few laptops over the years has been that the Apple gear has lasted longer, doesn't seem to be as prone to having bits fall of it or scratching up relative to other brands and is generally just that little bit better from a physical design point of view.

Apple's kit's prices are definitely a bit saucy though!

The other thing I would say is that I have had very positive experiences of Apple support both in terms of software updates for iPhones, iPads etc vs very slow and chaotic updates for Android devices from both Samsung and HTC. They've also started releasing completely free updates for OS X which is a nice touch on the desktop and laptop.

I'm not a diehard Apple fan or anything like that and I do shop around for my electronics and definitely consider other brands anytime I'm upgrading. However, I think at the moment Apple just have a lot of things right.

The other big factor I think has been Windows 8. Microsoft shot the PC industry in both feet with that bloody awful tile interface. A lot of people look at it and think it's some kind of weird alien interface and just do not like it.

OS X on the other hand has had very gentle upgrades since 2002 and in many cases it's far less of a jump from Windows 7 to OS X than Windows 7 to Windows 8!

I'm sorry to say this but Window 8 was a *HUGE* *HUGE* mistake! It's up there with "New Coke".

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FTC torches Android flashlight app for spying on users

Slx

I'm getting a bit sick and tired of this kind of stuff.

A very large number of people are not all that tech-savvy and won't notice that some app is looking for ridiculous permissions.

Also, most currently installed versions of Android do not let you block those permissions. It's an all or nothing approach.

It's one of the issues that's starting to really put me off Android.

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Furious Frenchies tell Apple to bubble off: Bling iPhone isn't 'champagne'

Slx

The Champagne producers have always defended their trademark very heavily and I think they're right to do so. It's an traditional agricultural product that supports the livelihoods of a whole region of the French countryside and it predates iPhone by centuries but I think it deserves to be protected.

I think when it comes to trademark protection, Apple may have met its match in terms of legal firepower on this one.

You'll find that they're exceptionally well resourced (legally and financially) and will probably have the full backing of the French Government as they are extremely protective of the intellectual property of the wine industry. The agri-food industry (including wine) is huge and very valuable with something like €159 billion ($210bn) of revenues. It's a very big deal.

Given Apple's history of being very litigious about protecting its own IP, I think it's very much a case of what's good for the goose is good for the gander!

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INVASION of the UNDEAD ANDROIDS: Hackers can pwn 'nearly all' devices

Slx

There's a major problem with getting Android updates out to end users because both manufacturers and carriers are in the middle of it and they can be ridiculously slow at pushing out updates.

I have a HTC One and I'm still awaiting a 4.2.2 update that Three Ireland are "testing".

OS updates need to get out quickly and plug security holes, that sadly isn't often the case with the way things are done in the Android ecosystem and it will inevitably cause some major problems, much like the lazy IT departments that continue to force users to run ancient versions of Internet Explorer because some clapped out piece of software uses it as a front end and then wonder why they got hacked.

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Samsung plans LTE Advanced version of Galaxy S4

Slx

I'd also just add that the reason I opted for a HTC One over a Galaxy S4 wasn't anything to do with the technical specs. I just don't think the Galaxy S4 is a very attractive looking device. The physical form's pretty bland, but what absolutely kills the deal for me is Touch Wiz.

It had this ugly graphic scrawled across the screen with "Life companion" across it as if it had been put together in MS Word or something.

HTC One's just a stunning looking piece of kit and as annoying as some aspects of HTC Sense UI can be, they're at least attempting to produce very elegant graphic design and innovative UI features.

The iPhone's also a slick piece of kit, and a really nice design. I just happen to prefer Android as my OS of choice as I'm bought-in to the eco system at this stage and I dont' like the lack of widgets and app drawer on the iPhone. All that said, it's a stunning piece of kit.

Samsung's top end phones hit all the marks on geeky technical specs. They've always got the latest and greatest chipsets and other niceties, but they fall down badly on user interface and physical form design sophistication.

Ultimately, I think that's going to be Samsung's major challenge. HTC's re-emerging, Apple's never gone away and Sony's now producing some really decent looking phones. Nokia produces nice kit, but I'm not sure if Windows Phone will cut it in the long term.

The typical life cycle for a smartphone is 18 to 24 months at best, so the market leader 24 months ago can go out of fashion very quickly. I would think Samsung's main focus now should be industrial design and UI design, not just cramming in more and more unnecessary tech that 99.9999% of the market can't use.

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Slx
WTF?

I'm not aware of *any* network that supports that level of data throughput

Considering that first generation LTE is only being rolled out in most countries and mobile infrastructure is creaking under the data load from HSPA+ never mind LTE, I can't really see this as being much use to anyone outside of a laboratory environment.

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AT&T adds 61¢ 'Mobility Administrative Fee' for users

Slx

Sounds exactly like what banks do. A few cent for this and that adds up fast when you've millions of customers!

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Orange customer clobbered with SIX-FIGURE phone bill

Slx

They should just stop your data connection if you exceed your bundle limits (15GB per month on my plan).

If they're going up offer ludicrously small caps, they should only be able to enforce them by suspending the data service. These huge bills are just gouging customers who often have no clue how much data they're using.

If you want to continue you should have to purchase another bundle of data or wait until next month.

The system is as transparent as mud!

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World's richest hobo (Apple) has worked 'tax-free' in Ireland since '80s

Slx

Re: But....but.......

Actually, all they need is an office within the EU. It's a single market!

They've no requirement to have a branch office in the UK, France or anywhere else as long as they've a foothold in the EU.

You can also be very sure they wouldn't be keen on paying Irish 23% VAT on all sales either do they're channelled through some other route!

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Slx

Re: One part of this article doesn't make sense

My comment wasn't addressed to you so if you think I'm lecturing you, you've a very active imagination.

My comment about the UK was in reference to financial services. The City of London is regarded by some as a quasi-tax haven on a vast scale. Im just simply saying that very few large multinationals pay much tax anywhere by thr looks of it. There are quite a few countries in the EU arguing that it is undermining their financial services sectors through a combination of light taxation and light regulation.

I never mentioned UK exports.

My main point was that a lot of facts in the article and also facts being quoted in the media about Ireland are truisms that haven't any basis in actual reality.

All of these companies exploit international loopholes by stacking favourable aspects of various taxation systems to achieve minimal tax rates.

The Irish rates payable on stuff they can actually charge for are a pretty straight forward 12.5%. The problem is that apple and others are charging income generated all over the place against IP charges elsewhere. Ireland can't levy tax on companies that aren't registered on Ireland.

The facts of the situation are a hell of a lot more complex than Ireland's low corporation tax rates!

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Slx

One part of this article doesn't make sense

Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, so I'm not sure how dropping any tax arrangements could have been a prerequisite to Ireland joining the EEC, given that it was already a member.

There was an arrangement where by exporting manufacturing companies (Irish or multinational) were given a 10% corporation tax rate while other companies paid significantly more. However, the EU didn't like that arrangement and Ireland moved towards 12.5% flat rate corporation tax across everything.

Other Irish taxes are absolutely huge though, and the overall tax take is 30.8% of GDP which is similar to Australia and Canada and 4% higher than the USA, but lower than the UK 39.0% etc.

The reality however is that all of these big companies are playing the tax regimes of countries off each other and combining them in such a way that they pay as little as possible.

The fact that Apple didn't pay 12.5% in Ireland, means that Irish citizens picked up that bill by paying really quite high income taxes (the marginal rate is 52%) and VAT (sales tax) is an eye watering 23%

The corporates based here do contribute in terms of income tax paid by workers and employer contributions to PRSI (Social insurance) but slipping out of that 12.5% corporation tax really is pretty bad, particularly when the country's actually in an economic crisis and cutting serious amounts of money out of spending on health, education and all sorts of basic services.

I don't really think pillaring Ireland's going to achieve much, it's entitled to operate whatever combination of taxes it wishes. One could point out huge issues with the UK's tax codes around the financial services sector, or France using state subsidies etc etc etc

However, I do think we need to iron out the international tax loopholes that allow weird combinations of different countries' tax systems to be used like this.

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Internet cafés declared 'illegal businesses' in Ohio

Slx

Sounds more like something you'd expect to hear happening in China than in the USA.

Very strange stuff indeed.

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'Google IS a capitalist country... er, company'

Slx

I really don't see the point of attacking Google, Apple or even Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands etc

The system is broken! Companies aren't going to start donating tax out of the goodness of their hearts because their competitors won't and their prices will go up and they'll be out of business.

The countries' taxation systems are being combined in unintended combinations to avoid paying tax anywhere! They're not even particularly benefiting from it as they're not getting the revenue.

If one of them makes a tax grab, they lose to their competitors.

I mean if Ireland were to suddenly decide that it would go after Apple's non resident incomes outside of Ireland you can be sure Apple HQ would be suddenly in Luxemburg or Switzerland or Singapore resulting in 4,500+ job losses and all the supplier job losses in Cork. You are talking complete disaster for that city if Apple were to up and leave.

Likewise, Google exploys thousands of people in Dublin.

All countries have tax rate competition but the problem is tree companies are organising their affairs so they don't pay much tax anywhere.

There was no special deal done, they're just using international law and various tax systems to maximise the loopholes.

We need global change to prevent this kind of stuff.

I mean when you consider that these companies are genuinely operating globally, including carrying out R&D globally, it's very hard to define where they're actually based.

It's all a big mess!

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Marks & Sparks accused of silently bonking punters over the tills

Slx
FAIL

Re: A bit too convenient

I really don't think they've thought this one through very well! There's bound to be some kind of issues with anything that can be read and authorised without contact.

I would prefer an e-purse on my debit card, so I could maybe pre-load it at an ATM with a fixed amount and treat it like cash. I don't like the idea of a NFC system without pins being able to dip into my bank accounts / credit card accounts.

We have those toll tag systems here in Ireland too, but they're a bit more comprehensive than just toll payments. They setup a whole clearing system so there are multiple toll-tag operators and you can use them to pay for barrier-free tolling on some tolled roads. They're just read from transponders mounted on gantries over the motorway. You don't even have to slow down for these as there are no barriers at all.

You can also use them for the express-lanes or any other lane of toll roads which have barriers.

They've extended the functionality though and they now also work for payments for quite a few car parks. So, you just drive in the tag's recognised and the barrier lifts. Then when you drive out your payment is collected via the RFID tag on the window and it's debited from your bank account / credit card or whatever you've setup.

There's no risk of scamming it as you'd have to have access to the clearing system to get payment so it's just a few toll operators and car park operators. However, for these NFC credit/debit cards, there'll be far less control as there are millions of retailers and card processors out there.

----

BTW for US readers - here in Europe, Chip and PIN credit/debit cards are the norm. You have to insert your card into a reader and key in a PIN to process a normal transaction. Swipe / Swipe and Sign systems were phased out of use as Smart Cards and PINs were considered more secure.

This NFC system just undermines all that!

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Google sinks millions into plush new £1bn London HQ

Slx

They've a pretty huge presence in Dublin

Just to point out, Google in Dublin is not a 'brass plate' operation by any means.

There's a huge presence in Ireland. They just spend €100m in cash on a new office 15 story office complex ( 210,000 sq ft) and employs over 2,500 people at their EU HQ in Dublin's docklands area and sank a further €75 million into huge eco-friendly, air-cooled data centre in West Dublin.

So it's a bit unfair to say they don't actually do stuff in Ireland, they most certainly do.

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iPhone tops US market, but trounced by Android in world+dog

Slx

It's down to wider choice of operators in Europe in particular

The iPhone's being pushed by AT&T and Verizon in the US, where as in Europe it's just another phone that's available on a huge range of networks and virtual networks without exclusivity.

Pretty much ever network here in Ireland, including some pretty small MVNOs all have the iPhone 5 available.

The other issue in Europe is that a lot of carriers tend to stick you on a special 'iPhone' tariff and contract which gives you fewer minutes, and fewer texts, and often less data than an equivalent general plan with a high-end Android and often a longer lock-in contract.

Given that the raw price of the iPhone is similar to the raw price of some of the top end Androids, I can only assume that the European carriers are getting a worse deal from Apple than they are from other handset makers, otherwise they would offer similar deals on them.

I also think in Europe the hype around the iPhone kind of died off more quickly than it did in the United States. Again, I'm not sure that Apple did as good a marketing job over here as it did in the US. The in-store displays are often rather lacking in luster and the networks generally seem to give the iPhone a push when a new model launches, then it just gets a stand down the back of the store somewhere. The top-end Androids look and generally are FAR more impressive in many respects too. I think many of us were waiting for some kind of radical new iPhone 5, and instead we basically got a slightly better screen and an extra row of icons.

The interface is also, as mentioned in previous posts, almost totally unchanged since the original iOS launch. It's a grid of icons. You can't even easily organise them without spending hours doing what is a bit like sorting tiles in a tile-puzzle game. Where as with most android setups, you have only the apps / widgets you want on your home screens and the rest are nicely (usually alphabetically) sorted in an app folder/drawer, neatly out of the way and easy to access. The iPhone's setup is akin to a computer that forced you to have absolutely everything on your desktop! It was fine when there were only a handful of apps to deal with, but nowadays it's getting a bit cumbersome and ridiculous.

From a European perspective, Apple is also obviously very very much more interested in its home market, particularly when you see things like the 4G just not working on European and Australian LTE networks as the iPhone 5 supports all the wrong bands for European networks which will be seeing widespread rollout in 2013. So, I mean why would I invest a lot of money / sign a long contract for a phone that will not fully support my local LTE networks, when there are androids that will?

That kind of stuff just annoys people and gives an impression of 'we only care about US customers'.

Siri didn't work in most European markets (even Ireland and Britain which speak English) for ages (still doesn't work in some markets), visual voicemail doesn't work in most setups here, etc etc etc..

If Apple want to get more market penetration in Europe, which is the world's largest consumer market in terms of raw spending power, it needs to compete with other suppliers and get pride of place on the networks, without just trying to lock them in and it needs to look at actually launching devices that work on European networks FULLY. Not releasing a handset that is not ready to roll on European LTE frequencies and not one with key features like Siri and Visual Voicemail forgotten about.

Anyway, I think that's why Android's doing better in Europe than in the US.

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Apple Lightning adaptors reveal limitations

Slx

Re: Yikes! - they're not earthed

European CEE 7/7 "Schuko" plugs are actually fully earthed (grounded) and have a 3rd contact.

The earth's a strip of metal across the top/bottom of the plug which connects to two clips at the top and bottom of the recessed socket (in most countries).

Or, in France/Belgium there is a pin which sticks out of the recessed socket and connects to a hole in the face of the plug. This also polarises the socket/plug connection i.e. you can only insert it one way. (German and other European countries use non-polarised sockets. However, EU appliances [including those sold in the UK] are designed to operate 100% safely in either polarity, so it makes no difference)

The sockets are recessed to prevent you from being able to touch the pins when inserting the plug and the earth connection makes first and breaks last. Quite a safe design actually.

The Apple adaptors are weird however:

If you use the snap-on plug (regardless of which one, including the UK one) it is not earthed.

If you use the original cable that came with the adaptor, it is earthed. There's a metal lug on the transformer that goes into a slot on the cable connector which has an earthing contact.

You'll notice with the MacBook Pro that if you use the adaptor with the cable, you get no tingling and if you use the snap on plug or a figure-of-8 connector you do get tingling !

0
0

New broadband minister snubs 'ugly' fibre cabinet gripes

Slx

They're not THAT ugly but we need to plan for the future.

I don't really know what the fuss is about. We've always lived with street furniture and I don't think this is any worse than anything else!

We have similar looking Huawei and even larger Alcatel-Lucent cabinets in Ireland. In fact, some small telephone exchanges over here were housed entirely in on-street cabinets before VDSL ever appeared.

The main cable television operator over here, UPC, has even larger green cabinets which contain their fibre-to-kerb and distribution amplifier equipment. However, they deliver sweet 100mbit/s - 120mbit/s broadband and video on demand, and my HDTV so I am not complaining and they are usually quite well camouflaged.

We have always had street cabinets since the dawn of utility companies and modern technology going right back to the late 1800s!

Telephone companies have always had large cabinets housing junctions and distribution equipment to connect up local lines. Those big green cabinets have been around for decades.

Power companies have cabinets with fuses, metering gear, earthing points, junctions, telemetry, network control etc etc.

Gas companies have similar boxes for similar reasons.

Water companies and local councils have cabinets housing meters and telemetry for keeping the water networks leak-free.

Other boxes house traffic light control systems.

Modern life requires these services and in general, they are reasonably well integrated into the built environment.

I don't think those green VDSL boxes are particularly ugly. In many cases, they're less ugly than the buildings they're standing next to :)

I think though there's a bit of a risk that if it become a total free-for-all the whole place will be dug up to lay ducts and cables.

It would make more sense if local authorities did some joined-up thinking and actually laid neutral ducts that could be used by any utility company that needed them. Or, as is common elsewhere in Europe, provide easily removable areas of brick pavement or grass-margin that can be dug up and restored without all the need for cracking up paving and road surfaces.

ALL new build housing and all new road surfacing projects should include laying neutral ducts. Space should then be provided for street cabinets for whatever technology's needed now or in the future.

The reality is that we have no idea what technology might arrive and the most sensible approach is to provide the physical infrastructure (ducts, vaults and cabinet spaces and easily accessible 230V/400V power) to easily rollout whatever technology comes along as it evolves.

1
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Now Apple wants Samsung S III, Galaxy Notes off the shelves too

Slx

Next up - English speakers!

I wonder will Apple now go after fruit growers, marketers and supermarkets for their continuous abuse of this noble computer company's totally original name.

Then maybe go after the world's English-speaking population for using the word in reference to that common tasty fruit that grows on trees.

2
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Curiosity's new OS upgrade ready to go live

Slx

Is an OS upgrade not risky at that distance?

What I don't understand is why NASA would even risk an OS upgrade on a probe on Mars?

Surely you'd want a system like that 100% tested, tried, approved, validated, validated again and then validated a third time for good luck!

What if the OS upgrade had bricked the rover?!

0
1

Apple's UK smartphone lead shrinks

Slx

The iPhone looks old now.

I was looking at buying a new smartphone recently and I was browsing my local eMobile store here in Ireland where they'd a nice selection of Androids, Windows phones, iPhones and others all plugged in and playable-around with.

I have to say that the current iPhone form factor is showing its age at the moment. The new Galaxy SIII in particular looks stunning in comparison to it as do many of the other Android phones on the market at that end of the market.

Apple really need to innovate the form factor a bit and produce something that is market leading again. They seem to spend all their time chasing patent law suits these days rather than actually tweaking their phone design.

11
1

MasterCard joins Visa in pushing PINs into America

Slx

The Magstripe HAS to go! - (including in Europe)

This is not a US vs EU debate. Although, on this issue the EU has led the way.

Chip and PIN is an excellent system, if and only if it is used without backwards compatibility with magstripe.

The majority of credit, debit and ATM card fraud in Europe does not involve transactions with chips. Cards' magnetic stripes are skimmed by criminals and the PINs are captured at point of entry. Those cards are then cloned as magnetic stripe cards and used in ATMs elsewhere.

If the cards were issued without magstripe and with only chips they are almost impossible to clone and the only way of making a transaction would be to physically steal the card and know the PIN.

The banks are being ridiculously slow to phase out what is absolutely archaic technology. The PIN pads and card readers are not that expensive. In fact, the majority of POS terminals in the United State are probably the same basic models as those found in Europe. They simply need a software update and an EMV card reader/pin pad plugged in!

Most European customers also do not need magnetic stripe cards. I do not know why the banks continue to issue Chip and PIN cards with a stripe on the back. They should be chip-only and a second card with a magstripe could be issued if customers wish to travel to a technologically-backwards banking destination.

I suspect the problem with this is the banks have been able to simply cover the cost of fraud using insurance. That bottomless pool of funds is drying up fast and fraud levels are getting totally out of hand.

3
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Woz praises Android, blasts iPhone limitations

Slx

This is like the Mac V PC religious wars of the 1990s all over again!

I don't know why people get so invested in an OS!

Android's a fantastic smartphone OS. It does exactly what it is supposed to do 99% of the time. Apple's iOS is another fantastic smartphone OS and it also does exactly what it's supposed to do most of the time.

I haven't found anyone who has a major issue with either platform to be perfectly honest.

The only comments that I do hear quite a lot is that a lot of people are finding the iOS grid of icons on a desktop approach rather limited, particularly if they are familiar with Android.

The main thing that most people notice is that with iOS, all of your apps are dumped on your home-screens and are rather difficult to sort. Where as on Android, your apps are stored in an apps folder / drawer and you can decide which ones you want to put on your home screens. The ability to add widgets to the screen also differentiates Android.

Also, you have to compare like with like. Apple does not make low-end smartphones. Where as Android runs on everything from cheap and nasty devices with small screens and limited processing power to devices that have significantly more power than any iPhone. So, it's quite hard to generalise about Android as it is only an OS, it's not an OS + hardware combination unless you're talking about the the Google Nexus range.

Also, I don't understand why people would want Apple or Google to be the absolutely dominant player. We have a wonderful situation at the moment where several major players are competing in this space and it's driving innovation forward rapidly. Google, Apple, Microsoft/Nokia, RIM/Blackberry are all still there.

1
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Google opens Android music store in iTunes' face

Slx

Mobile data?

The only problem is that the majority of "unlimited" data plans are actually subject to acceptable usage policies and the vast majority of mobile users world-wide still do not have anything like unlimited bandwidth.

Data plans will often provide enough capacity to give you unlimited browsing of the web, email, app downloads, etc or reasonably huge limits that you are unlikely to reach. However, when you add streaming media to this, you can very quickly run up quite a large data balance!

If it's streaming everything off a server, it's not going to be very popular with the mobile networks as it will create havoc on their infrastructure and it could end up costing some end users an absolute fortune in data charges if they go beyond their 'unlimited' plans.

0
0

Big Apple fake Apple stores agree to rat out suppliers

Slx
Pirate

Globalisation going too far? Time to introduce balancing tariffs, standards etc?

There's no way that the US, the EU, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea or any developed country can compete with Chinese, Indian and other very low labour cost markets.

If I am operating a business in the EU, there are vastly more costs than in China and huge amounts of regulatory requirements for environmental protection, workers' rights protection, health and safety protection, pensions, contributions to the social welfare system and healthcare system / insurance etc

The US and EU are the two largest markets for Chinese goods, taking roughly 50:50 share of the Chinese export market.

We need to exert our position of power as the world's biggest consumers. There should be a set of balancing tariffs which calculate the difference between costs in China or elsewhere and costs in the EU or the US.

Also, to protect the planet and people, EU or US environmental laws and human rights laws should be required to be complied with by any company exporting to those markets.

As it stands, we're in a race to the bottom. There will be no manufacturing or even design jobs left in the "west" before long and we'll spiral into a complete collapse. We're already on our way there with the financial crisis i.e. there's nothing much going on in the west anymore except speculative industries like banking.

I think there's a terrible arrogance in the deeply flawed logic that Western countries can be the designers and the far east and other developing areas of the world can be the factory floors. We are no more intelligent and no more qualified than our Chinese or Indian counterparts. What exactly will stop them from just doing the whole job there?

Our large corporations are all multinational. There's no such thing really as a US, British, German, Japanese or whatever company anymore. They're bigger than the countries that they originated in, they're often owned by anonymous, very aggressive stock market funds who care nothing about where they come from or what level of loyalty to their home town / home state they show. All they want to see is quarterly profits.

I think we have entered a situation where corporations are getting more powerful than they should ever have been and countries are being left behind.

When China gets too expensive, these guys will be off to the next source of cheap labour and outsourcing Chinese jobs there.

I really think it's time that we reconsidered this whole notion of totally unfettered globalization. Whose agenda does it suit other than shareholders of major corporations?

I have no problems with countries competing for jobs, but the gulf in costs and basic standards between China (and some other places) and the West is just ridiculous. It's pure market distortion and abuse and nothing else.

1
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New UK 'leccy meters remotely run via Voda 2G

Slx

Isn't 2G only a bit shortsighted?

What would concern me about these meters is that the mobile technologies are likely to progress very quickly over the next while and 2G GSM will disappear faster than a lot of people think.

At present, the major problem with UMTS-3G is that it's stuck on the 2100MHz band which is giving it relatively poor signal propegation characteristics comapred to GSM-900Mhz.

Once the licensing and auctioning of spectrum is complete, you'll find that mobile operators will move very quickly to using their 900Mhz spectrum for 3G/4G services. The majority of mobile phones already support both GSM and UMTS, and their life expectancy is typically only a year or two at most so, there's no real difficulty in switching over to exclusivley 3G networks. It is not in any mobile operators interest to continue using GSM beyond its "best before" date as UMTS makes far more efficient use of the available, and very expensive, spectrum allocations that each operator has. So, if you ditch GSM and go with UMTS only, you can support far more customers in the same space.

Many newer handsets already preemtively support UMTS 900Mhz e.g. most new smart phones.

Also, because UMTS is part of the GSM family of standards, the switch off and cut over to exclusively 3G networks will be seamless. Most users won't even notice, unless they've very old handsets.

I sincerely hope that this power company has easily swappable out modules or has some plan to deal with the cut over to 3G/4G wireless.

The typical lifespan of an electricity or gas meter is something like 60 years, where as the typical lifespan of a mobile phone is more like 2 years. So, mobile network providers really have no particular interest in supporting legacy devices.

If you're a power utility with millions of installed devices depending on an old, soon to be killed-off data transmission system, you could be left high and dry with millions of meters and no way of reading them far sooner than you might imagine!

0
0

Why Nokia failed: 'Wasted 2,000 man years' on UIs that didn't work

Slx

Nokia simply couldn't do smartphones

Nokia, along with quite a few other companies, simply did not have the skill set to produce a decent smartphone on their own. It is *entirely* about the GUI and the user experience.

I tried an N97 Mini and on a lot of occasions I felt like throwing it against a brick wall. It was unintuitive, confusing, unreliable and extremely prone to crashing/freezing or behaving oddly.

The touch screen was totally insensitive to touch and required endless fiddling to get it to work and it was just dated and generally not pleasant to use.

Back in the days when phones were still "stupid"phones and before the iPhone, Motorola was having the floor wiped with itself by Nokia and Sony Ericsson as they were producing very intuitive basic 2G/3G phones with nice menu systems. While Motorola's menu systems often felt like you were trying to interact with a 1970s mainframe with a teletype keyboard.

However, when the iPhone and then Android came along, Nokia was simply unable to come up with anything competitive at that end of the market.

Remember, Nokia's smartphone business is only a small % of it's overall business. Apple on the other hand only has 1 current model of phone at anytime i.e. the iPhone and the android manufacturers have a major focus on smartphones i.e. HTC.

The developer community and the IT media all salavate over smartphones, but Nokia's bread and butter is still 'dumbphones' and it churns out a vast amount of these.

It also holds vast numbers of patents on networking technologies and churns out a huge amount of network equipment through Nokia-Siemens Networks, it's joint venture company.

So, I wouldn't write Nokia off completely.

Also, they may occupy a certain niche with their smart phone windows phone offering i.e. dull business people who will see Nokia and Microsoft as two sensible trusted brands.

That being said, it could equally be a marriage made in hell with two slow corporate giants who can't innovate.

1
0

World's largest pilot union shuns full-body scanners

Slx

I am not going through backscatter X-Rays - end of!

The simplest solution is that business people and tourists should simply boycott all destinations that have these backscatter x-ray devices installed.

We need an up-to-date list of all airports using them so that consumers can make a choice of destination based on health risks.

Millimeter wave scanners are fine, I have no issue with them as they are essentially completely passive.

I don't even care that much about being patted down. It's a bit annoying, but I'd rather minor embarrassment than skin cancer!!

2
0

Nominet forgets what the first .uk domain name was

Slx
Boffin

Who cares what the ISO says? :)

.uk is far more recognisable than .gb, which could be Gibraltar or Gabon

Ireland got stuck with .ie / IE which is only correct in French!

*I*rland*e*

EI would have made more sense *EI*re as per the aircraft call signs.

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