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* Posts by Slx

82 posts • joined 5 Jun 2010

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Google kicks PowerPoint in the fondleslab

Slx

Keynote's genuinely very good.

Keynote on OS X is actually one of the best presentation apps out there but it is Apple-only so it doesn't really get much exposure in the business world where Microsoft Office still sets a dull and dated standard. It's in a whole other league in terms of graphics and ease of use compared to PowerPoint or Google Slides.

You can produce minimalist, visually interesting slides that (with a bit of effort) look more like the kind of thing you'd expect on a TV 'news wall' behind the presenter rather than PowerPoint quality. I always think if you're going to make a presentation using a slideshow, at least don't torture people with slide after slide of text and dodgy looking clip art.

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Apple BANS 2 chemicals from iPhone, iPad final assembly line

Slx

I'm not aware of them making anything in Cork, Ireland anymore either.

They employ several thousand people there but it's all basically multi-lingual EU technical support and their European operations HQ.

They've manufacturing and automation engineers in Cork who support the plants in the Far East though.

Also I'm 100% sure that exposing workers to benzene in Ireland, California and Texas is illegal.

That's why all electronics are made in China and elsewhere these days, big corporations (not necessarily Apple but absolutely everything) just rolled back decades of environmental and safety at work legislation by simply moving somewhere that doesn't really have any.

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US 911 service needs emergency upgrade and some basic security against scumbags

Slx

Things have changed a lot in terms of technology but it's always been possible to make calls from payphones and that's how teenage brats pranked emergency services back in the 1980s.

Tracing calls also wasn't always possible. Until computerised switches arrived (not necessarily digital switching but just computer control) there was really no easy way for 999 or 911 or anything else to trace a call through an electromechanical exchange network. So that's most of the 20th century! Their phone network worked largely on relay logic well into the 1980s and even later at a local level even in the most advanced countries. Full digitalisation didn't happen until the 1990s.

I just worry that in order to protect 112…911 and 999 services the authorities may end up going completely overboard.

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Americans to be guinea pigs in vast chip-and-PIN security experiment

Slx

Only 22 years after France, but better late than never!

This is starting to look like they're testing the rubber tyre concept to check that it would work with American roads!

The single biggest point of weakness with chip and pin is the retention of magnetic stripes on the cards.

If the US banks and other technology laggards had just implemented chip and pin years ago, we could have issued cards without any magstripes and removed a whole technology that allows cards to be skimmed in ATMs and other devices.

I think at this stage, European banks should issue chip-only cards and you could have your magstripe enabled card for travelling to technologically backwards places that still cling onto 1960s swipe and sign!

The whole concept behind payment cards it utterly ridiculous though.

How such a fundamentally insecure system has remained in service for so long defies all logic.

When you think about it, Gmail is probably many, many times more secure than the computer system that keeps your life savings and wages protected with a swipe card and a 4 or 5 digit numeric pin!

Also, when cards are used online or on the phone, you're entirely relying on the retailer to be trustworthy. The idea that you can just give someone a 16 digit account number, an expiration date (and sometimes a CCV code) and authorise a large transaction based entirely on trust is absolutely nuts.

There's much better technology available at this stage and we should be able to push transactions to the retailer with absolute security using mobile apps or something like that.

From what I can see the banking sector is just totally incompetent. They've managed to nearly drive the global economy off a cliff and they're incapable of coming up with a modern universal secure payment platform despite all the requisite technology being widely available.

They're obviously writing off vast amounts of fraud and all of that is simply being levied against consumers in charges and insurance premiums.

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Australia's metadata debate is an utter shambles

Slx

I'm a little confused.

How do they think the ISPs can retain metadata from services that that they don't provide that are hosted by third parties, almost none of which are Australian companies.

Most of these services are also accessed via encrypted connections.

I'd suspect most Australians no longer use local ISP email. Gmail, Outlook/Hotmail, Yahoo etc dominate it and they could chose GMX or other European systems too.

Not to mention Skype etc etc etc

ISPs do not log anything like the level of information these people are talking about. They sound like they're confusing the internet with a 1980s digital telephone network!

That or they're proposing Chinese or Iranian levels of internet censorship in which case Australia can forget about ever having much of an IT sector.

These policies are fantastic for New Zealand though which will probably end up hosting lots of inward IT investment that might outerwise have gone to Oz.

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Scottish independence debate: STV player flops under weight of viewers

Slx

Re: ITV Doesn't Own STV!

As far as I'm aware the only two companies left in the "Independent" Television Network are STV and UTV Media (Ulster Television) in Northern Ireland.

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Google's 'right to be forgotten': One rule for celebs, another for plebs

Slx

I think the problem here is a fundamental incompatibility between the law and where Internet technology is in 2014.

I can appreciate what the court's attempting to do and I think their motives are very noble, however in practical terms it's effectively impossible to achieve and it's opened a whole can of worms over who decides what gets deleted.

It's almost like they think Google's operating some kind of simple directory service rather than an incredibly complex search engine that contains billions of listings and that is maintained and developed largely by software, not people making decisions on every entry.

It's a well-intentioned but completely ridiculous ruling that is going to end up causing more problems than it's trying to fix.

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China rips Apple out of govt IT mail-order catalogue – report

Slx

This could end badly if it turns into a tit-for-tat accusations of spying war hitting US and Chinese companies.

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Cor blimey: Virgin Media pipes 152Mb fibre to 100,000 East Londoners

Slx

I'm just curious, why is Virgin Media offering 152 Mbit/s when other cable operators in the Liberty stable like UPC in Ireland are offering 200Mbit/s (uncapped) for residential and 250Mbit/s for small business at the moment using EuroDOCSIS 3

I have their 200Mbit/s package at home and it's hitting the advertised speed (and a bit beyond) very reliably.

200Mbit/s seems to be the current top tier package on most of the continental UPC companies and on the likes of Numericable in France.

Do Virgin have some unusual implementation of DOCSIS or some kind of cable bandwidth restriction ?

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HUMAN RACE PERIL: Not nukes, it'll be AI that kills us off, warns Musk

Slx

Highly unlikely. We survived billions of years without antibiotics.

All it would do is reduce our numbers and increase the risk of dying of something nasty.

We have pretty comprehensive immune systems that have been fighting bacteria since the dawn of bacteria!

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Slx

Hmmm

If I were an AI, I'm not sure that I'd want to take on a self-evolved bio-intelligence that's billions of loosely networked autonomous units, perfectly adapted to the environment and that is so ruthless and keen on self-peservation that it's already considered you a threat before you even existed and has considered all the possibilities for deleting you should you pose even a slight problem...

Not to mention that without very detailed maintenance and lack of an immune system the microbiology will ultimately figure out how to dissolve your circuits and turn you into plant food :)

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Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?

Slx

I'm just curious as Viviane Reding's comments about discussions with Britain and *Ireland* being a waste of time never made the press over here in Ireland.

That being said, we mostly seem to run EU updates on the TV at about 1am on a Sunday night! So it's very easy to miss or to fall asleep as it's usually very boring and technical.

Ireland's definitely moved more towards an attitude of 'critical engagement' than British style Euroscepticism in recent years. There's been a serious change in attitude towards the European Commission and I don't think the Irish public is blindly pro-EU as they're often painted. We've thrown spanners in the works a few times with that highly inconvenient process known as democracy that our constitution insists on. At one stage the European Commission were actually forced to turn up and pretty much directly negotiate protocols with the Irish public as apparently we'd regected an EU treaty.

Can you imagine the horror for the poor commissioners!? Having to actually debate with voters in TV studios and town hall meetings.

I definitely wouldn't describe Irish attitudes as being in line with the UK on the EU though. I don't see any growing demand to pull out and there was a very long (multi-year) in depth debate about the Euro and how membership has played out during the economic crisis. I don't really think there's a sense that exiting and devaluing would be a good strategy.

I can only assume Ireland's been trying to negotiate to ensure it doesn't have to be too harsh on Facebook, Twitter etc all of which have European HQs in the Emerald Isle so technically the Irish Data Protection Commission is responsible for being their watchdog.

I mean if there's one thing Britain and Ireland agree on it's light touch regulation and corporate brown nosing! We wouldn't want to upset our respective business friendly reputations.

The UK's probably more concerned about being prevented from data slurping. Ireland's just trying to avoid having to annoy big data outfits.

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Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

Slx

Re: Realism

Quite possibly Belgium too for similar reasons. They're facing a split down the middle.

The EU institutions sit in one of the most fractious countries in Europe and I think many EU Commission staff are aware of how chaotic a split might be there.

My question is what happens to the national debt and also a very large number of UK banks are HQ'd in Scotland and they're heavily bailed out.

If Scotland were left with all the banking crisis debts from those banks it would make the Irish banking crisis seem like a fuss about nothing. Those banks are many times bigger than Scotland's economy. You'd have Icelandic type risks on a far bigger scale.

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Slx

Re: Realism

Here in the Republic of Ireland my TV Licence is soon to change to an even move annoying concept : The Public Service Broadcasting Charge. That means it's just going to be a household charge with no opt out possibly collected by the Tax Office.

Those funds go primarily to RTE which is Ireland's semi-commercial public service broadcaster - funds itself 50:50 from the licence fee and adverts. At present that's €160 a year per household.

A % also goes to other commercial broadcasters and community radio stations that apply for funding for tje production of public service programmes.

BBC is widely available here on cable and it's carried on Sky Digital in Ireland. However, we pay for it. BBC Worldwide charges cable providers and BSkyB Ireland a royalty fee for BBC 1, 2, 3, 4 and Cbeebees etc

Channel 4 has an ad sales office in a Dublin and operates commercially here running Irish adverts on Channel 4 and E4 etc ccarried on Sky and cable.

Sky and various other channels do similar.

ITV isn't officially available here but most ITV programming is available on TV3 (main commercial TV channel) and UTV northern Ireland is on cable and sells Irish ads.

I don't see how an independent Scotland could just assume it's going to keep BBC.

It'll probably have to turn BBC Scotland into something like RTE in Ireland. Probably SBC or something like that and pay for BBC content and channels commercially like we do.

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Listen: WORST EVER customer service call – Comcast is 'very embarrassed'

Slx

These companies seem to fail to understand that by frustrating a customer like that, you can lose their business and get bad publicity.

While customers may leave, if you attempt to punish them or make them stay like some kind of clingy psycho ex girlfriend/boyfriend, they'll run a mile, badmouth you to friends or all over social media and never go near you again.

The human mind is also evolved for self protection. So, if you hear one negative thing about someone or something it takes a lot of positive things to change your opinion again. We tend to give negative stories, especially ones we can relate to huge weight.

Someone might leave an ISP, telco or other provider of services because they get a better deal or higher speed elsewhere.

They might come back later if they get fed up with the new provider.

Annoying them like that when leaving just means they depart with a bad taste in their mouth and fully reassured that they've made the right choice.

I actually left a mobile provider here in Ireland because they kept calling me with special offers I didn't want and doing a hard sell. They also had a customer 'care' department that was outsourced to an Indian script reading service who has no access to their systems and seemed to know nothing other than to try to placate with nonsense.

I left when I called them to complain that when I called some UK land line numbers I wasn't getting a ringing tone. I'm an academic who knows telecoms networks inside out and I knew it was some kind of issue on their network. I could call the numbers perfectly from other phones.

All I wanted them to do was note the fault and raise a ticket with their technical team.

Instead they told me that what I was describing was impossible and patronised the hell out of me. Then told me that 'sir, mobile signals are very sensitive and fragile. The bad weather that they often have in London maybe causing this problem'.

Now, I had called them to let them know that there was a problem. Not to be angry, not to complain but just so that they would be able to trouble shoot an issue that was happening intermittently for two weeks.

I gave up and moved our entire business' account to another company after a few incidents like that. Basically we took about 18 high spend customers to another company simply because their corporate attitude was that we were an annoyance or an inconvenience.

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Slx

Re: @Six

@foo_bar_baz:

I guess you mean Scandinavia? Ireland and the UK and Iceland are Northern European countries.

It really should work like that all over the EU though and anywhere claiming to have an open telecoms market. Too many regulators seem to work for the industry rather than the consumer.

The porting systems in the UK, France, Belgium and Spain (not familiar with others) all seemed to be very slow, somewhat bureaucratic, cumbersome and gave too much power to the telco you're trying to move away from.

If it works here, it should work anywhere else. We're all using rather similar technologies and systems. I don't really see how there can be technology barriers.

Also it doesn't matter whether Ireland or a Nordic country is small vs the UK, France or the US being big. It's about having a regulator that's empowered to work for the citizens and consumers rather than the industry.

If anything, a bigger market might make it easier as you'd have the volume of customers and economies of scale to sustain a lot more players than we do.

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Slx

I'm based in Ireland and while our equivalent of the FCC or Ofcom doesn't tend to get much love, this is one area they've got *very* right.

If you're switching provider, your old ISP or telco doesn't need to be contacted.

For mobiles you simply provide your new service provider with your mobile number and the account number if you're on bill pay (contract) or if you're on prepay they just verify you own the phone by calling or texting you with a verification code.

Your port is completed automatically within 1 minute usually. Sometimes it can take a little longer, but I've never had to wait more than an hour.

Old service ceases and number ports.

To move a DSL, FTTC, Cable service or VoIP/PSTN service, every billing account has a UAN number printed on your bill (required by law). You simply contact your new provider of choice and the service ports. This can take anything from a few minutes to a couple of days depending on the technologies involved, but you never have to speak to your old operator.

If you're using satellite TV or something outside the porting system, you have to negotiate.

Also the companies are banned from calling you for a number of months after you leave to allow a cooling off period.

All in all, it's created a very decent market where switching provider (especially mobile) is totally painless.

If you're in a minimum term contract, switching can result in the entire remainder of the minimum term billed or, the port request being refused.

The nice thing is that it's a completely automated process using the regulator as the broker.

They also have third party verification if its done by phone. You're transferred to a call centre where you must state that you're agreeing to move to the new operator and confirm that you've understood what services are being moved. That's independently recorded.

All in all, I think we've actually got a pretty decent setup. Shockingly, the government and bureaucrats actually seem to have gotten it mostly right!

The incumbent telco tried to impose a 30 notification period on this and got in serious trouble with the regulator

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Remember when Google+ outed everyone by their real names? Now Google's sorry

Slx

I got stalked by a guy who didn't like a really innocuous YouTube comment I made on a technical issue, all because of this idiotic policy change.

He figured out my gmail address then started emailing me, then kept adding me on linked in and calling my office.

I was also actually disturbed to find my Android phone had backed up photos to the Google+ profile somehow by default. They were in an unshared album. I use the phone camera to capture expense receipts and stuff!

On top of that they've pushed Google+ into the play store, so no longer review apps.

To be perfectly honest it's *nearly* driving me to iOS or some alternative to Android.

The result so far: I deleted all my Google accounts and closed Google Apps for business.

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Déjà spew: US would accept higher bills for less CO2 by two-to-one

Slx

it's an odd thing... but

I'm always amazed at how the very loud tea bagger, right wing voices that we tend to hear from the US are actually often not very representative of American public opinion. They just carry louder across the Atlantic!

When I see opinion polling I always notice that most Americans tend to have fairly pragmatic, centrist, sensible phone of view on most things. Yet certain media outlets would have you thinking otherwise.

Same went for healthcare reforms most Americans weren't up in arms about them and a large % actually strongly supported them.

I've also found US people's attitudes to foreign policy are far less gung ho than some media outlet and politicians would have you think!

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Swiftkey: We just want to be free - Apple didn't bump us

Slx

My only concern about 3rd party keyboards is that you've a lot of potential for keyloggers.

While Swiftkey and others are highly reputable and trustworthy, it wouldn't be to hard to imagine rogue keyboards being an issue.

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'Think of the children', Putin tells startup-land

Slx

Re: Meh

I'm not sure which organisation you're looking at there but the EU hardly even has a budget to handle it's own legitimate communications issues never mind any thought control technology.

They've difficulty communicating what the EU does.

Also the European Courts struck down data retention laws as contrary to the fundamental European citizens rights.

It's been national governments who have been pushing internet control measures (notably the UK). The EU has largely been pushing net freedoms.

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Apple's Irish tax lair to be probed by European Commission

Slx

I agree with you on that but the problem won't be solved by hitting individual counties.

Some of these companies aren't tax resident anywhere.

I mean Apple might as well be tax resident in the iCloud only paying the iTax.

It can only be resolved at international treaty level and even then you'll have actual tax havens that are way beyond the reach of EU or US law who will just refuse to cooporate.

With globalised companies there's very little preventing them from just playing every country off every other country.

Realistically, you need to come up with a totally different way of calculating tax on corporate income.

Also, you can't really decide what a fair level of tax is. It varies depending on economic philosophy of different countries.

There's huge focus on taxing easy targets though. I'm paying a marginal rate of income tax of 52% in Ireland and VAT (sales tax) of 23%.

Employers also pay various social insurance charges and on top of that I've property tax, tax on interest earned, hefty motor tax on car, carbon tax on all fuels etc etc etc

I agree corporates aren't paying enough but I just disagree on selective plugging of someone else's loopholes while ignoring your own!

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Slx

Re: And here I thought

Like *all* EU countries, they don't mind as long as it's shining the light on someone else's tax loopholes and not their own.

The UK doesn't mind the EU interfering in taxation as long as it's not pointing the spotlight on the City of London's financial services sector. France doesn't mind beating up Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands but dare anyone question their policies on subsidising various 'national champions' over the years and they'll get very upset.

Even Germany, which is currently going around posing as Europe's bastion of righteous economics and fiscal policy looks like it's full of tax loopholes designed for domestic companies.

Take a look at this Deutsche Welle report:

http://www.dw.de/german-companies-avoid-billions-in-taxes/a-16841542 from 28 May 2013 which was looking at figures from the German Institute for Economic Research / Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) which was showing German companies legally avoiding between €90 and €120 billion a year.

There are several reputable studies showing that France has lower effective corporate tax rates than Ireland, for example. This is quoting a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the World Bank.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/business/france-has-lower-effective-tax-rate-than-ireland-study-227320.html

That showed that " France the statutory corporate tax rate is 33.3% while the actual effective tax rate is lower than Ireland’s 12.5% at 8.2%.

Luxembourg has a statutory rate of 22.5% but an effective rate of just 4.1%. Ireland has a famously low statutory corporate tax rate of 12.5% but its effective rate according to the study is 11.9%"

So it's all rather more complex than the press and political hyperbole would have you believe.

All I know is that from an Irish perspective, any move that results in major job losses here will probably result in Irish voters taking a very harsh line on Europe and we have a VERY big weapon - We have to have referenda on any many EU integration issues, so we could quite literally just hold up the whole show.

Basically, my point is : get all your own houses in order before bullying the small country that's trying to get its economy back on track!

It would seem to me that everyone's been cutting tax deals to encourage employment. I can assure you that Ireland doesn't have low corporate tax for the love of Apple. It's because we desperately needed companies to invest here to encourage job growth. The policy is/was to bring in multinationals, stimulate the economy and grow the indigenous economy on the spin off from that. To a large degree, that's actually worked. The recent economic collapse was down to a property / assets bubble, not to a collapse in the Irish underlying economy.

The reason that Ireland's now pulling out of recession and growing again is because it actually had a serious underlying economy. It was just overwhelmed and dwarfed by the scale of a property bubble and a construction sector that grew on top of it and then burst causing huge scale unemployment as 1/3 of the economy vanished

(Note to Australia -- you're doing exactly the same thing! Take a look at Ireland from 2004-2007 for where you're headed! Soaring property prices and costs ≠ a good thing)

Pull Ireland's foreign direct investment base out, and you'll have a cascading collapse that will result in incredibly serious problems.

Pull out the UK's financial services sector loopholes and Britain would be in a total mess.

Tell France it can no longer incentivise investment and you'll find loads of manufacturing would leave and France would be a total mess.

This stuff has to be dealt with very carefully and very slowly and I think just lobbing blame onto peripheral EU countries like this will ultimately spell disaster for Europe.

Also, can we start looking a picture that's broader than two US multinational IT companies? There's more to the global economy than Google and Apple (I hope!)

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Slx

You can thumb down that comment all you like but this is going to be perceived in Ireland as the EU kicking us when we're down.

If you want Ireland and others to make a major structural tax change that could see multinationals leave the country, you would probably be better to avoid doing it during a deep recession.

Also, I think that this needs to be done in a fair way. Google and Apple are 'sexy' targets for media attention. There are lots of far less trendy companies - banks, car makers, major aerospace companies, big pharma, oil companies, energy companies etc etc all availing of similar tax minimisation strategies in various countries.

Yet all I see is outrage aimed at Apple, Google and Starbucks.

If this is done in an unbalanced way targeting small EU countries or just focused on IT companies, going to cause major imbalances and regional economic turmoil.

There are lots of EU 'national champions' and pet industries that receive huge levels of incentives through tax breaks and through direct and indirect subsidises.

The same applies in many places outside the EU too.

I just think we need to be a little careful before everyone starts pillorying Ireland or any other country.

There are lots of potential issues in the UK on banking, France on state subsidies, Etc etc etc that could equally deserve being put under the microscope...

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Slx

I agree, Cork is a city of about the size of York or La Rochelle with a couple of hundred thousand people.

If Apple and others pulled out basically the city would be facing the 1980s depression all over again when it lost Ford's car manufacturing plant and just sank into a total slump with mass unemployment and mass emigration.

Ireland's economy is recovering at the moment but it's still very fragile. Anything that knocks it back right now could lead to it stumbling and being unable to pay debts which could easily spark major problems for the Eurozone.

There are also all sorts of deals done in other EU regions (mostly remote regions or areas that needed to stimulate economic development). Effective corporation tax in France for example can be very low when you calculate it with incentives. The same applies in the UK and many places.

Does this mean we just start attacking and unpicking all of this and killing the outlying regions of Europe entirely?

Does it mean the EU unpicking the City of London or maybe ripping into the Dutch economy? It would mean the end of Luxembourg entirely!

Maybe we should just all pay French theoretical maximum tax rates?

The reality of jobs being run out of Ireland will just mean they'll probably go entirely outside the EU. Ireland tends to compete with Singapore, etc for inward investment in many areas.

The other reality is that it could destabilise the Irish government entirely if unemployment were to start trending upwards and austerity measures increase again.

The most likely result of that if polling trends follow is that instead of the EU talking to a very pro-European Irish centrist government, they'll be looking at a very left wing nationalist government featuring Sinn Fein and a range of independents and very left wing parties whose main focus would be to default on EU debts.

Unlike most of Europe, Ireland's actually moving left the more pressure that's being put on. There's no risk of a rise of ultra-right politics here like in France but there's a definitely more Eurocritical stance emerging that could easily grow into full blown left-leaning Euroscepticism.

When push comes to shove we have to put dinner on the table, petrol in the car, pay the bills etc and if someone's going to put thousands of jobs at risk, they're going to be facing a major problem.

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Kaspersky warns of IMPOSTER mobile security apps

Slx

The various App store owners need to crack down on abuse of other companies' names and trademarks. I've seen loads of apps that 'borrow' other people's logos and use names that are far too similar / familiar.

I know software patenting can go way too far, but I think just misleading customers like that by using a name and logo that's designed to mimic someone else is really unfair.

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So you reckon Nokia-wielding Microsoft can't beat off Apple?

Slx

It's got similarities to the desktop market, but huge differences too.

I agree with quite a few of the posters here, the world has changed enormously since the days when Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson/Sony-Ericsson ruled the mobile phone market. Those companies essentially sold 'feature phones' which were just consumer electronics much like digital cameras or MP3 players. They competed with each other on specs and user experience, but they didn't create complicated ecosystems like Apple and Google have done.

I realise that Nokia understood the concept of an app ecosystem and it tried with Ovi, but it never really got the software just right. Symbian was too clunky as a platform and the UI was pretty bad and then they seemed to lose their direction with Maemo and Meego which showed a lot of promise but sadly never went anywhere.

I think what you're seeing now really is Google taking the position that was occupied by Microsoft in the desktop market and Microsoft possibly going to become a bit more like IBM (i.e. infrastructure, servers, background technologies rather than consumer-focused).

I also think that it's a little naive to compare Apple with other handset manufacturers on a like-for-like basis. All of the other companies are essentially OEMs for Google at this stage and Microsoft-Nokia is struggling to gain market share due to eco-system lock in and an unfamiliar UI.

I think for the likes of Samsung, but more so for HTC, Sony and others they face some very serious challenges as they will not be able to differentiate themselves from other emerging OEMs, particularly the likes of Huawei and others from China.

While I'd single out HTC Sense as quite slick, most of the other OEMs' attempts at customising Android have produced user experiences that fall far short of stock Android and I think what you're going to see over the next few years is people seeking out non-modified Android because Google provides a better UI and also because of a history of poor update support from OEMs and carriers. That's going further weaken the position of the likes of Samsung, HTC, Sony etc and ultimately they will simply be reduced to the role of today's PC and laptop makers i.e. pushing hardware that essentially runs someone else's software and app ecosystem.

Apple is in a very strong position and comparing like-for-like hardware sales really doesn't make any sense. It owns pretty much every aspect of the iPhone, iPad, iPod ecosystem and it gets cut of every App Store sale and has enormous customer loyalty. I think provided Apple maintains a big enough user base, it will just continue to make a hell of a lot of money.

With regard to Microsoft-Nokia, the problem is that they need to actually convince people to move to a different ecosystem. That's not just consumers, but also developers. The majority of app developers still concentrate almost exclusively on iOS and Android. Microsoft's mobile platform is interesting, but it doesn't have the user base to generate enough sales to make it worthwhile for an App developer to spend a lot of time and resources coding for it.

Lack of a very wide variety of apps means that people won't jump ship from Android and iOS.

It's a catch 22 for Microsoft as you need to get the customers on board to get the developers on board and you need to get the developers on board to get the customers on board.

I think basically Microsoft's joined the party far too late. If they'd been in this position in 2007, they'd have taken a big chunk of the market, in 2014, they're nearly a decade too late. The app ecosystems are fully established and people are too heavily invested to jump ship.

I'd also add that I think Microsoft's well known name, but it's a weak consumer brand. It never really pushed its own name as a consumer brand and instead fragmented itself into Xbox, Windows, Office, Hotmail, Windows Mail etc and also that attempt at a media player : Zune.

Microsoft's only potential hope is to get into the mobile device sector thorough a migration from laptops to tablets. Although, that doesn't even seem to be going all that well with a huge dominance by Apple and Google despite Windows 8's best efforts.

So, I'm not really sure what's going to happen. Microsoft could end up very much like IBM, big but in the background.

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Virgin Media sales are a bit flat under the Cable Cowboy's reign

Slx

I wonder would they be better off just relaunching as UPC UK?

Over here in Ireland Liberty bought the remnants of NTL Ireland and Chorus neither of which had wonderful brand images. Chorus in particular, the cable provider in Cork, Limerick etc had a history of very poor customer service and technical issues.

When they took over the networks they retained a merged ChorusNTL Brand for about 1 1/2 years until they'd rebuilt the networks. The range of channels was vastly improved and harmonised across the whole network. On demand was improved and the physical coaxial and fibre infrastructure basically rebuilt in many areas. They're delivering rock solid 200mbit/s and 500mbit/s to business customers at this stage and their customer service was given a total revamp.

Only when the network and customer service issues were sorted did they actually roll out their UPC branding as clearly they wanted to break any association with the ancien regime.

Horizon is also launched as a kind of separate, but linked brand as "Horizon from UPC". It's quite an innovative product, but it has a few glitches to be ironed out in the software yet. However, it's pretty decent and quite comparable to TiVo.

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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?

10
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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?

1
1

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.

4
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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.

5
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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

1
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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.

1
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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!

7
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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!

14
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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.

11
2

Asteroid-hunting beauty AWAKENS, takes cheeky snaps of neighbours

Slx

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

0
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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 :)

1
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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.

0
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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!

0
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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!

3
1

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

2
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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.

4
0

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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