Phew

Back to business, we’ve finished moving stuff and got the house sorted. The office is functional the server is running and online, I got my accounts sorted in time for HMRC deadline day and I’ve no excuse for not touting for more work. But first, need to post some recent samples from Diesel Car magazine.

Ofcom

Ofcom’s annual report is out, but knowing that most people, even most tech jouralists wouldn’t read it they sent out a media release featuring some simplistic quotes. The one that got all the attention was a bizarre claim that 6 year-olds are more tech savvy than 45 year olds. To make things even more contentious they backed it up with a quiz so that we could all test ourselves.

Most of the questions are subjective and only test opinions. Each has a four option multiple choice format which is very limiting. So I decided to give some real answers:

Thinking about the following gadgets and services – which statement best describes your knowledge and understanding?

4G mobile
Seems like a good idea but coverage is patchy and the service expensive. It’s not available where I live, where I work or anywhere I visit regularly so my failure to use it is not a reflection of my Tech Savvy.

Superfast broadband – internet
I’ve used ADSL since it became available in my area, and 56k dial-up before that. What the UK government (and Oftel) is pleased to describe as Superfast is much slower than that considered normal elsewhere, and even that won’t be available in my area for many years. Once again not my failure, yours.

Smartphone or tablet ‘Apps’
Yes, I have both. Smartphone for over three years, the Tab for more than two. Do I get extra points for rooting the phone within days of purchase, removing the phone companies bloatware and installing Cyanogenmod? No.

Smart glasses such as Google Glass
Yes I’ve heard of them, read about them, seen them online and on TV. Don’t know anyone with a pair.

3D printers
I haven’t used one since 2005 so my experience is a bit out of date, though I have read about new models. They are a bit useless without 3D CAD software though, and using that requires a lot of training and a lot of experience. Very few people in any age group have 3D design skills.

Please tell us how much each of these statements applies to you…

I tell my friends or family about new technology
Sometimes, if I think it’s relevant to their lives. None of my friends are interested in virtualisation though, or NoSQL databases.

I like working out how to use different gadgets
Yes, and sometimes I read the manual too.

I am one of the first to try out new technology
Very much depends on price and availability. I do try out new Linux distros, but have yet to use Windows 8. I didn’t buy a smartphone until the price dropped to under £100 on PAYG.

I like to find out about new technology
Yes, I read a lot of blogs, media reviews and so on.

My friends or family ask what I think about new gadgets
Sometimes. No good asking me what I think about sewing machines, but I do have opinions on cordless drills.

I know how to use lots of gadgets
Too vague. Lots? Do you mean only digital electronic gadgets?

I watch TV shows online (e.g. BBC iPlayer, 4OD)
Yes. And TED, YouTube, Arté

New technology confuses me
All new devices take some getting used to, but if the user interface is well designed they don’t confuse me.

I wouldn’t know what to do without technology
Again, vague. Digital technology, or all? Given a spade I reckon I’d be pretty good as a subsistence farmer but without the backing of a metallurgical industry I’d struggle.

I do lots of different things on the gadgets that I use
Yes, I make bread in the breadmaker and coffee in the cafétiere, not great the other way round though.

I upload photos and videos online (e.g. on Instagram, YouTube)
Never on Instagram, not for many years on YouTube. But I have had a personal website since 2004 and I share files via ownCloud.

I prefer to contact friends by text message than by phone call (e.g. by SMS, BBM, iMessage)
Depends on the contact and the message. SMS is useful for simple Q&A sessions, not good for complex discussions. BBM and iMessage are proprietary and only useful if you and your contact use the same system, which they often do not.

***

Once again, sloppy tech journalism supported by sloppy ‘research’ from Ipsos-Mori who really should know better. If you want a thorough piece of writing on a technical subject, contact me.

Medical Devices

Since the spring I’ve been writing for Net Resources International. They publish online briefings for a wide range of industries and services. I’m not an expert in any of them, but all these organisations use IT so I often get to write the IT related pieces. The latest is for MedicalDevice-Network and you can read it here.

Net Resources International

Yet another outlet for my work, Net Resources International. They publish (online) a series of industry newsletters for a wide range of trades. I’ve written pieces for Railway-technology.com and Foodprocessing-technology.com, not as disparate as you might think, both were on IT related matters.

Now I have commissions for medicaldevice-network.com, power-technology.com and another railway-technology.com piece. Once again there’s a computer angle to each.

Cloudy

“I seriously believe that the people who brought us sub-prime loans all moved to promoting cloud computing.”

No, not me some bod on TechRepublic.

The thing no-one seems bothered to address is, bandwidth. I’ve tried Googledocs and Aviary (graphics apps online) and neither work sensibly here especially in the evenings or weekends. The web is great for file transfer and backup, Dropbox, UbuntuOne etc, but do I want to be writing a 2000 word piece on it when the screen display lags about 5 words behind my feeble typing speed? And then stop altogether when Llan’s teen population get home and fire up MySpace, Bebo, Facebook. and bring the network down to a crawl?

Digital Britain? Bah Humbug!

One in an occasional series of pieces rejected by various publishers…

Digital Britain
(…or get your finger out minister)

If there is one thing politicians like even more than talking about doing something, it’s having their civil servants put out a press release about them planning on talking about doing something1. So much easier than actually doing something.

One of these meandered slowly into my inbox recently, released at 10.41 on October the 17th, the email ‘heads-up’ to journalists arrived at 16.18. Why am I making an issue of a five and a half hour delay? Because the announcement is entitled ‘Digital Britain – The Future of Communications’.

It’s a joint release from DCMS and BERR, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Department for Business and Regulatory Reform. It’s a model of it’s type starting:

An action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries will be developed by Stephen Carter, the first Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.

Stephen who? Well a “Note for editors” explains:

The new position of Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting was created by the Prime Minister in recognition of the important role these sectors play in our economy and our society. There is no change to the respective responsibilities of BERR and DCMS in this area. The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting is a joint appointment to both BERR and DCMS and will report to both Secretaries of State.

Clear now? A bloke you’ve never heard of is going to develop a plan. And that’s news?

Most press releases come with ready made quotes for journalists in a hurry, you didn’t think when you read “Mr X said” or “Ms Y commented” in a paper that some journalist actually heard them and carefully wrote it down do you? In most cases the words were never said at all, they were written by civil servant and may have been approved by the minister. Possibly.

This one has:

Stephen Carter said:
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said:

and if that’s not enough
Secretary of State for Business Peter Mandelson said:

I won’t bore you with what they are alleged to have said, if you want the full text it’s here: there are platitudes about Convergence, the Digital Economy, Universal Access, Digital Radio, Innovation and Investment. What they didn’t say was:

UK Internet access is almost as bad the US and well behind many so-called developing nations. The digital divide between rich and poor, and between cities and the rest is widening. DAB Radio is dead on it’s feet and broadcast digital TV is irrelevant.

But the real issue is ignored, probably because it’s Environment or Transport or Planning or Employment not DCMS/BERR. The day before this release Environment David Miliband pledged to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, far enough in the future for even a youngish minister to be safely retired or dozing in the Lords before anyone can hold him to account. If he, or anyone else was serious about reducing energy consumption they would do something about the millions of people who commute huge distances every day in order to work on a computer or telephone. In a real Digital Britain we would only travel when it was absolutely necessary for our body to be present. For a haircut maybe, or a medical, to try on clothes or select fresh meat and veg. But to answer the phone and send emails? Surely even a politician can see that’s a nonsense.

Give us the fastest, fattest cabled Internet technology and whack up fuel prices and tax on transport companies to pay for it. Give grants to companies that close call centres and offices and set up virtual private networks for their staff to work at home, or in small local offices. Price sales people off the road and tell them to email a catalogue instead. Make retail chains centralised distribution depots a thing of the past and insist they use IT to organise the shortest possible route between suppliers and local shops, we don’t need Cheshire potatoes in Lincolnshire and vice versa. Decrease school attendance, but increase on-line learning, evening out the discrepancies between “good” and “bad” schools.

In a nutshell, everything will be done on-line if it can be, and nothing moves unless it has to.

It would apply to politicians too, once the infrastructure is right they could cancel the summits and conferences and fact finding trips. Think of the energy that would save.