If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the whole of science, I’d like to think that us geeks fit in there as a subset. Many of us come from a scientific background and appreciate science, scientific method and the benefits it brings to humanity. This isn’t to say that we don’t value art, but rather we have critical approach to life that uses evidence and method rather than doubt and misinformation. Theories aren’t always right but we value the outcome when they are disproved.
Regrettably science and scientists have often failed to engage with public, either retreating into academia or else becoming the boffins in the backrooms of organisations that capitalise on their work. The Internet has given plenty of space for pseudo-science to become widespread and thought of as fact. Validated research and evidence rarely gets the weight it deserves.
The New Statesman has published an excellent article on how the scientific community needs to take a look and learn from other social groups such as gays and blacks which have managed to get the respect that they deserve. Scientists need to stand up and speak out against pseudo-science and misinformation.
The UK’s Government Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington said, “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not – and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this – grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.“
G Data have kindly supplied a copy of their AntiVirus 2012 to give away to Geek News Central’s loyal UK members. I reviewed the next product up in the range, InternetSecurity 2012, a couple of weeks ago and was quietly impressed. AntiVirus 2012 comes with antivirus (obviously) plus phishing, spyware and rootkit protection for a year on the PC and on Android smartphones or tablets.
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The music festival season is underway in the UK, with Glastonbury Festival starting tomorrow. To celebrate, Orange have invented a t-shirt that recharges mobile phones using a piezoelectric material to convert sound waves into electricity. Over a weekend of music, the t-shirt will produce enough juice to charge a smartphone.
The t-shirts were developed by Orange in conjunction with GotWind, renewable energy specialists. The piezoelectric film charges a battery pack from which the wearer can then charge his or her phone. At the Festival, user testing will determine which musical performances give the best charge. Personally, I’d guess the loudest.
Andrew Pearcey, Head of Sponsorship at Orange UK said: “In a vibrant festival environment such as Glastonbury, sound is such an obvious medium that it seemed like a natural fit to use it in the development of this year’s prototype….It could even influence trends in fashion, with designers looking to integrate this passive charging solution into clothing.”
Orange has a history of innovative phone charging solutions for festivals. Last year, the Power Welly generated power from walking and in previous years there have been the Power Pump and the Dance Charger.
You can read the full press release here – it’s hilarious and there’s a video too. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Continuing the battle with the bad guys, G Data has released its MobileSecurity product for Android smartphones and tablets. MobileSecurity is designed to protect the data on phone from viruses, malware and spyware. Apps have to gain authorisation from the user before the app can make calls, send text messages or transfer data. Other features include app blacklisting and app checking during installation. Of course, there are regular updates to the software to keep the protection up-to-date.
Eddy Willems, Security Evangelist at G Data commented: “Malware writers are entrepreneurs: always looking for the best return on investment. According to analysts, Gartner and IDC, Android seems to be the market leader in mobile operating systems, so it is logical that cyber criminals will target the platform. Android malware can be easily spread through apps, which is another reason the platform is targeted. Not only did the beginning of 2011 see the emergence of this trend, but it also saw Android take the lead as the most targeted mobile operating systems in terms of malware. So it is the perfect time to introduce a solution for the protection of Android devices, as we expect a large increase in this area.”
Marketing puff aside, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks with the Mac malware and the Gmail spearphishing, there are criminals out there working out how to attack every major platform. And f they can’t beat the platform directly, they’ll go after the user, which is often the weakest link.
G Data’s MobileSecurity is available for £9.99 from a range of Android app stores or is free with G Data’s 2012 range of security products.
In the off chance that you’ve got a an iPad and you can’t find the best apps among the also-rans in the App Store, the UK’s Daily Telegraph is doing a “250 Best iPad Apps” series of articles. Starting from the 23rd May, each day a different topic area is being covered and so far, fashion, motoring, social media, food & drink, health, travel, education and games. Presumably more will be posted in the coming days.
Some of the apps are for the British market only, such as the UK Driving Theory Test, but most will be of interest to anyone with an iPad. Some will be already familiar, but many were new to me.
For overseas readers, The Telegraph is one of the UK’s broadsheet newspapers and covers real news rather than salacious gossip, the implication being that the apps selected might actually be quite good.
Launched yesterday at the Hay Festival in Wales, Unbound is the latest website to link prospective funders to creators. In this instance, it’s authors and books, rather than entrepreneurs and tech but it’s the same concept. They have an idea for a book, the story gets pitched to you, if you like it you buy the future book and if enough people buy in, the book gets written. It might also be a very cost effective way of meeting a favourite author, but more on this later.
On the website there are currently five authors pitching books, one of which is an iPad reference app. Obviously the Unbound founders are hoping that more authors will come forwards as the awareness of the site grows. You may or may not recognise all of the authors but many of us of a certain age will know Terry Jones of Monty Python fame.
Each of the authors has a short video, pitching the story. The author’s page will show how many funders are required and how long the book has to get funded. Some of the books need as few as 1,500, others need as many as 5,000, most seem somewhere in between. Once you have decided that you want to support the author, you can then choose your level of funding. £10 gets you an ebook, £20 gets you a hardback and so on. There’s a bit more to the funding levels including your name in the back of the book and access to the author’s “shed”. But the best bit is that for a £250, you get to have a lunch with the author (plus the books, etc) which I think is a bargain. Admittedly, it’s not clear who pays for the lunch!
I’ll definitely be funding a couple of these – just trying to decide what level to go for. This is all UK-based, so if you are from elsewhere just check the situation. Everything’s a bit new so the FAQ isn’t as full as it could be.
Following on from the previous post, Boxee have announced that they’re opening a European office in London. In an email to Boxee users, they said that Wil Stephens will be setting up shop to bring more content to the UK audience and will be working with D-Link to get more boxes into more stores. They’ll also be hiring staff so watch their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages if you are interested.
And to celebrate, Boxee is having a meet-up on 7th June in East London at an undisclosed bar. It’s an RSVP affair (and £5 in) but they’ll be showing off some new content partners and giving away some Boxees. And if you can’t make it in person, it’ll be streamed live on the Boxee as well.
At a press conference in Cannes, HP touted the forthcoming TouchPad as being “better than number one” and announced a few of the European TouchPad flagship partners.
HP’s senior VP for the Personal Systems Group in EMEA, Eric Cador said, “In the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP’s products from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world we’re going to become better than number one. We call it number one plus.” That’s pretty big talk, but HP aren’t no. 11 in the Fortune 500 for nothing (Apple is no. 35).
Key to getting the TouchPad to “1+” will be getting developers on-board and a wide range of apps and Mr Cador announced that UK partners will be Sky TV, The Guardian newspaper and music streaming service Last.fm. According to HP, there will be “thousands” more at launch.
When asked about the competition in the tablet market, Eric Cador said, “Only one company plays in both the consumer and business and world. We tend to talk about technologies. But the way the user is going to look at tablets means it’s about experience. The way the corporate is going to look at it is to say that its employees, who are also consumers, have got to like it and it’s got to be secure. We’re going to deliver that. Beyond that, it’s about marketing and branding.”
He’s certainly not wrong there but there’s a huge hill to climb to get anywhere near no. 1. There’s no doubt that the iPad is the current king of the hill, but there’s no clear no. 2, though Samsung, Motorola, htc and RIM are all going to take a shot. If HP can get developers on board, their business links are going to make them a strong contender.
Pricing and release date was not disclosed for the TouchPad. The Veer smartphone was released in the US earlier in May and the Pre 3 is expected June. No UK launch date has been announced for either phone.
Further reporting at The Telegraph.
Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, hosts a database, called Sitefinder, giving the location and type of mobile network base stations. Why would you be interested in base stations? Because they’re another names for mobile phone masts or cell phone towers.
The database has been linked with the ubiquitous Google Maps so that by entering a post code or a street address, the area of interest can be shown, with markers indicating the exact locations of the towers. By clicking on the marker, you can see the operator of the tower, what kind it is, the height and the frequencies used.
91% of UK adults have a mobile phone, so it’s not surprising that there are lots of cell towers. You could use this database in two ways. First, if you have concerns about health issues relating to the radio waves you can be more informed about the towers in your area, but secondly, if you are trying to decide which mobile phone operator to use, this map will show you the closest towers to home and work and likely to give the best reception.
As the UK slowly moves towards turning off the analogue terrestrial TV signal and switching to digital transmissions, it’s been overtaken by consumer demand for high definition (HD) broadcasting. The satellite and cable providers, namely Sky and Virgin Media, have been quick to offer HD on their subscription services, but the terrestrial digital broadcast system, Freeview, has been somewhat slower to offer HD. Some regions of the UK, e.g. Northern Ireland, will not have HD terrestrial broadcasts until 2012. Consequently, there’s been a great deal of uncertainty and misinformation.
So it’s fortunate that ConsumerChoices has added Freeview HD coverage to its HD Coverage Checker. By putting in your postcode and your house number, you’ll be presented with all the HD options available to you, including satellite, cable and terrestrial. In addition, for Freeview (terrestrial), the website will tell you which transmitter to use, how far away it is and the likely signal strength. If Freeview HD is not yet available in the area, it will give the expected date for it to be turned on.
With Freeview decoders now available in a range of products including set-top boxes and HD TVs, there’s often a small price premium to pay for the HD decoder over the standard definition. By using the HD Coverage Checker, you can make informed decision whether to go HD and pay more, or stick with the standard definition decoder.