Writing’s on the wall

11 Oct 2013

Isn’t technology ace? Just 100 years ago, an evening of entertainment would typically either involve a trip to the pub (not bad) or reading Dickens by candlelight.

Now, you can troll Prime Ministers, shoot pixellated zombies, you name it, all from your excellent Hannspad tablet computer.

But we’re also hearing talk on the grapevine that many educationalists are starting to think that all this technology means that children don’t need to be taught handwriting.

Given the latest global league tables suggesting that British children leaving school today can barely count their own fingers, it’s little surprise that some in the education establishment – who are responsible for such low standards – want to give up writing as well.

Squatters 0 Computacenter 1

10 Jun 2013

No one messes with big Mike Norris, the long-time chief executive of reseller and computer services company Computacenter. So when squatters occupied the firm’s old headquarters in central London – located right next door to its swanky new HQ – they probably didn’t expect what happened next.

Norris employed a specialist to deal with the pests, who did so by first blocking all the drains and turning off the water supply, before sticking some smoke pellets into the drainage system.

This set off the fire alarms, causing the squatters to high-tail out of the building so fast, they even left all their gear behind.

Of course, part of the reason for Norris’s urgency was that the company was just about to complete on the sale of the old building to developers and the presence of squatters risked undermining completion of the sale.
Still, Southwark’s Norris’s manor so be careful how you go round there.

Unseemly erections

10 Jun 2013

The Palace of Versailles is probably one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world, which is just as well because as a place of residence and governance it helped bankrupt the French state, back in the day.

However, such hubristic, ridiculous palaces serve as a reminder that nemesis invariably follows hubris, and that a “fall” will inevitably come. Which is why some trouble-making analysts have been taking a closer look at the modern-day palaces that companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon are building as their new HQs.

It’s not just all the funky colours, architecture and “whacky” (ie: bonkers) interior design that tends to go into such places, but what such plans reveal about the corporate psyche – ie: that the companies’ top management are quite possible turning all Louis XIV and the whole thing is about to go all “French revolution” in a century or two.
Google even gives its new HQ a name – the Googleplex, which sounds more like an unpleasant instrument of torture from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Facebook, meanwhile, hired fancy (ie: expensive) architect Frank Gehry, who tends to draw squiggles on pieces of paper and get his underlings to turn them into something more, well, building-like. Pity the poor engineers who have to make the actual physics of the resulting proposal work in real life.

Analysts, though, ever-more polite than Backbytes, have dubbed it the “campus curse”. Borland Software, once the second-largest software vendor in the world (no, really) spent $100m on its Silicon Valley HQ in the early 1990s. Replete with ponds, tennis courts and swimming pool, a decade or so later it was worth more than than company.

AOL-Time Warner built its swanky 2.8 million square foot HQ slap-bang in the middle of Manhatten, right on the edge of Central Park. In 2000, just before three-quarters of the company’s value was immolated in the dot-com crash. Whatever happened to AOL?

Questions for Yahoo

15 Mar 2013

Quick question for Marrissa Mayer, the no-nonsense boss of Yahoo.

Why is it that when someone asks, “How long will the CIA continue to monitor individuals who are no longer deemed to be an asset to the US government?” on Yahoo Answers, UK & Ireland, the question is quickly deleted “according to our Community Guidelines”.

Yet when that same question is asked on Yahoo Malaysia, it's just a-okay. Have all the moderators been fired in Malaysia or does the CIA's writ not run quite so freely in that part of the world? That's a Yahoo Answer we'd like.

The best answer, incidentally, was “For as long as that individual lives, and then whoever comes to his funeral will be checked out”.

A triumph of modern technology

15 Mar 2013

The ingenuity of the Chinese consumer electronics industry really does know no bounds. Its latest triumph is “Bluetooth gloves”.

Entrepreneurially hawked while the snow was falling across Europe in March, the company that makes them, Sefe Engineering, claims that they enable people to make and receive mobile phone calls without having to take them off or even pick up the phone.

While the tip of the little finger of the glove has a microphone, the tip of the thumb contains a mini-earphone, enabling people to literally talk through their fingers.

Not only that, they come in a variety of natty colours. It's just a shame that the weather cleared up so quickly, though, no doubt leaving “Michael” at Sefe Engineering with a warehouse full of the gloves to bang out.

They will, however, set you back the best part of forty quid to purchase.