it-sneak

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The Apprentice does wearable technology in unbearable fashion

16 Oct 2014

Although he applies every year, Sneak does not get close to a seat at Alan Sugar's firing table on the BBC show The Apprentice, and as each series rolls by he falls to the floor at the idiocy of the contestants. This week he was excited to see them enter the wearables industry, but quickly assumed his horizontal position.

While wearables were on the agenda, somewhere along the line the apprentices invented something that Sneak is calling the Unbearables industry.

Despite some of the people there having web, sales, technology and fashion experience, it was a man who sells medicines, or something close to that, who took up the wearable banner and it was he who effectively put the greenlight to a grey jumper with an inbuilt, tilted to the side, boob level camera that no one really knew how to operate.

Sneak, who by 9pm is usually looking for ways to wake up his neighbours, was rather pulled in by the idea. He does like jumpers, after all. However, the desire and excitement soon wore off.

The jumper itself was quite dandy, but the wearable elements were not. A camera nodule looked like a third nipple, while above that was a red LED to show when the jumper is recording, presumably so you could rethink hurling water at the wearer, and lurking around that was a light up sign that said 'on air'.

The thinking was that people would wear it to capture their fun and stuff like that. However, during one pitch to potential buyers, a member of the team admitted that he wouldn't wear it in public. Here Sneak, if he were an apprentice, might have suggested that he would wear it in public, though only to immolate himself.

At the next pitch at a high street store, a different apprentice stuck his head up with some idiocy and suggested that people and technology users are bored with privacy. Sneak keeps not much more than a casual eye on the technology industry, but is confident enough to call that suggestion totally wide of the mark.

The grey jumper with lights and camera did not make any sales, except perhaps under the counter to dreadful private eyes, but the light-up, heat-up and charge-up 80s power jacket that the female team came up with did make some sales. Around 250 of them.

That item, which is wearable because it is a jacket, was a perfect example of what happens when too many cooks try to make soup. It was a Heath Robinson piece of tailoring that no one would find easy to love, never mind take seriously.

Meanwhile, and not on the UK telly, Will.I.am, who Sneak understands was once a Black Eyed Pea, launched Puls, which is his take on the smartwatch.

Mr I.am reckons that the Puls is the future. Sneak, or Mr No.thank.u, thinks that Dick Tracy did this whole thing much better many, many years ago and with much less punctuation.

Face-recognition software monetises mirth in Barcelona

10 Oct 2014

Despite his often misinterpreted demeanour, Sneak enjoys a good comedy show. But if you were to tell him he'd have to pay for it by the laugh, that might stifle his enthusiasm for the ramblings of Dylan Moran or Stuart Lee.

But that's exactly what a comedy club in Barcelona is doing. The BBC reported that face-recognition software is being used at the Teatreneu club to track the enjoyment of a show and charge fans the equivalent of 23p per laugh. It would seem the club is literally looking to get the last laugh.

The club imposes a cap of £18, which prevents the easily amused from guffawing themselves into financial ruin, but Sneak still finds the entire approach a bit daft. Sneak wonders why there is a need for such mirth-monitoring, as he would assume that those with no sense of humour would evade comedy gigs like cats avoid water.

Still, such technology is moot for Sneak, as an accident with a stray blade server when he was a young IT technician means his face can't display human emotions, let alone laughter.

While the monitoring of laughter is a relatively innocent use of face-recognition software, it has led Sneak to ponder where the technology will go next.

Perhaps the NSA will use it to spot unhappy US citizens, snapping them up before they spread dissension about this new thing the Europeans call "responsible gun control". Or maybe advertisers will tap into CCTV networks and spot ecstatic or melancholic citizens to sell them Temazepam or Prozac respectively, and effectively commoditise human emotions.

But Sneak is being a little harsh on the technology; after all, perhaps it could be used to find his long-lost brother Snitch, who disappeared after carrying out Booz Allen contract work for the CIA.

Contract clause clinches children in WiFi want woes

30 Sep 2014

Sneak owes his livelihood to the internet, so much so that every day he walks through the sliding doors of FaceLess Corp, he tips his hat to a picture of Sir Tim Berners-Lee that sits on the reception desk.

But would he give away his first-born child for access to WiFi? Well the question is moot, as Sneak doesn't have children due to their propensity to pull out Ethernet cables and crash carefully constructed chipsets.

However, a highly scientific study found six wireless-hungry families were happy to do exactly that to get access to free WiFi in London. By signing up to the terms and conditions of a WiFi hotspot, the families had agreed to sacrifice their eldest child.

The report explained that the families were so keen to sign up to free WiFi that they simply agreed to "render up their eldest child for the duration of eternity" in a section of the T&Cs, which had been put there by researchers carrying out the snappily titled Tainted Love: How Wi-Fi Betrays Us report by security company F-Secure.

Most reports on this story assume the families failed to read the clandestine clause, but Sneak wonders if they simply decided that giving up their first-born was an acceptable cost. Maybe three of the families simply had a problem child they wanted to get rid of.

While Sneak comes out in a rash when his smartphone loses wireless connectivity, he has yet to resort to desperate measure in order to post snaps of his lunch on Instagram.

Luckily, or unluckily, for the families, the researchers declared they would not be enforcing the clause in the T&Cs.

Sneak idly wonders what F-Secure would actually do with six children, as he hears that eBay is quite strict on what can be sold through its marketplace.

Apple fan fumbling sends iPhone 6 tumbling

19 Sep 2014

Sneak wants you to imagine the situation: you've waited 12 long months, poured over the rumours, sweated through Tim Cook's glitchy keynote, and queued for hours before you finally get your hands on the new iPhone 6.

You leave the Apple shop in a daze, blue T-shirted ‘geniuses' applaud as you walk among them – the first person in the nation to get your hands on the latest iPhone.

Then comes the moment you waited so long for.

You steady your quivering hands, and grasp the top of the Apple branded box. Your fingers clasp and lift its top.

Maybe you blinked for a second, but when you look down there is no shiny new smartphone. Perhaps it's a clever engineering ploy by the Cupertino brand to create a phone that is almost invisible, you think.

Then you hear the cries of shock and anguish, mixed with barks of amusement. You look down at your boutique custom trainers, and there lies your iPhone 6 – nearly £600 worth of fresh technology – face down on tarmac.

Now Sneak wants you to imagine that situation was caught on live TV.

That's exactly what happened to Jack Cooksey as he was presenting his new smartphone to Australia's Channel 9 news.

Sneak thinks you might enjoy the video below, which is currently percolating through the internet.

Sneak wishes to point out that, traditionally, it is meant to be Jack who hits the road and not anything else.

While the crowds may have found the Aussie's accident amusing, Sneak doubts other Apple fanatics at the end of the queue would share their sentiments. After all to Apple cultists dropping a new iPhone is akin to chipping the Holy Grail, blunting Excalibur, and handing the One Ring back to Sauron.

Luckily for Cooksey the iPhone 6 weathered its tarmac baptism, and emerged unscathed.

Sneak was startled to hear that elsewhere in Perth, Australia, eccentric Antipodeans are deliberately dropping their iPhones to test the toughness of Apple tech.

Unsurprisingly, such scientific testing revealed that the new iPhones will crack if dropped onto pavements. Sneak wonders what the University of Stating the Bleeding Obvious will reveal next.

As a charitable chap, Sneak would offer his iPhone 6 to any Apple enthusiasts who might have dropped their precious phones; however the Plus model simply works too well as a cheese board for Sneak to part with it.

With Or Without U2: How to remove Songs of Innocence from Apple iTunes

16 Sep 2014

Sneak enjoys the musical stylings of most popular beat combos made up of earnest men gurning at microphones over the sounds of meaningful music, but only on his own terms.

So if he feels like a bit of Journey to get him in the mood for some coding, he’ll happily load it up on his phone and listen away. Or if he’s in the car and the soothing, soulful lyrics of Mike and the Mechanics are called for, he’ll Bluetooth those beats through his stereo and rock away.

However, one thing Sneak has never enjoyed is when other people force their music upon you, whether that’s a sodcaster on the train blaring out their music, or when Graham – the health and safety man – insists on putting Dexys Midnight Runners' Greatest Hits on the office stereo.

So, when Tim Cook forced Sneak to have the warblings of an Irish band by the name of U2 on his iPhone, Sneak was outraged. Who was this Cook fellow to tell Sneak what to listen to, and who – or what – were U2 when they were at home anyway?

Sneak assumed it was some favour by Apple’s chief to help promote a mate’s band or some such nepotisim but it turns out they're multi-million selling megastars. Sneak has never heard of them. He gave it a listen, but it wasn’t his cup of tea.

It turns out many more Apple users have been a bit perturbed to find their iPhones infiltrated by this motley crew (ah, now there’s a great band) of Irish crooners, so the company has provided instructions on how to remove the offending album from their collections.

It’s a four stage process, detailed below:

  •     Go to http://itunes.com/soi-remove.
  •     Click Remove Album to confirm you'd like to remove the album from your account.
  •     Sign in with the Apple ID and password you use to buy from the iTunes Store.
  •     You'll see a confirmation message that the album has been removed from your account.

If you have already downloaded the album you'll have to manually delete the tracks from your iTunes account.

Rock on dudes!

iPhone 6 superfans set up camp outside Apple stores

09 Sep 2014

Sneak loves a good old-fashioned smartphone launch but he'll never understand the crowds of fevered fans who camp outside Apple stores days in advance of the next iPhone. Do these people not have families, jobs, lives to lead?

The Telegraph reported that as of 6pm on Monday, two tents were erected outside Apple's Regent Street store. The iPhone Air/6/min/XL/selfie+, or whatever Apple will call it, is not expected to launch until 19 September.

Sneak can't help but wonder what these people do for food or hygiene, or what Apple thinks about having grotty-looking tents pitched outside its trendy flagship store. Perhaps Apple soaked the storefront with a scent that its fans/cultists find irresistible.

Personally Sneak avoids camping like he avoids Windows Vista. Ever since "the incident" with Mrs Sneak in the Lake District, he feels a little uneasy around fibreglass poles and polyester.

So it baffles Sneak how people could endure the crowds, pollution, noise and social stigma of camping outside a shop, no matter how shiny the devices are.

However, The Telegraph went on to describe how some people will sell their coveted spot in the queue to the highest bidder – also known as the people who've been out in the sun too long. Though Sneak can appreciate the bare-faced tenacity of such guerrilla entrepreneurialism.

Some spots net up to £1,500 for the cheeky campers. Sneak thinks that if you pay that much for a phone that costs around £500, then you have been staring at a picture of Steve Jobs for too long, and need shock therapy.

Other money-spinning moves that exploit Apple's cult-like following are the people who get paid to queue on the behalf of yet more people who lack the sense to accompany their money.

Sneak has to admit, though, he finds the idea of subcontracting the boring aspects of life very appealing – especially since his server-room assistant disappeared a few weeks ago. Sneak rarely thinks about Quentin these days, but he can't help notice an odd smell coming from that mass of Cat5 cables behind Server101.

Google urges browser upgrade with terrifying glimpse into the past

02 Sep 2014

Sneak loves updating his browser. In fact it happens so often these days, with Chrome 37 this, Firefox 32 that and Internet Explorer...no, let’s be serious, even Sneak doesn’t use IE.

New browsers are great, though. They offer new features and functions and protect you from old security woes that came to light on older platforms. Some folks, though, bless em, like to stick with old, nay, ancient browsers, covered in dust, sat on the desktop.

Google clearly wants these people to join the modern world, and so instigated an ingenious – some might say devilish – plan to scare these people into upgrading. By showing them old versions of Google pages. You can just imagine the manic laughter of the coding team that came up with that idea.

A Google forum saw panicked users wonder if they had been hacked or if Google was having problems when they saw old versions of the home page.

“A few minutes ago, Google's homepage reverted to the old version for me. I'm using Opera 12.17,” wrote a concerned user. A flurry of activity saw people test out the issue on other browsers, with Safari 5.1 also found to be affected.

Eventually, though, like something from an episode of Scooby Doo, a Google rep popped up, revealing it was Google all along, writing: "I want to assure you this isn't a bug, it's working as intended.

“We’re continually making improvements to Search, so we can only provide limited support for some outdated browsers. We encourage everyone to make the free upgrade to modern browsers – they’re more secure and provide a better web experience overall.”

Users were not too impressed with this, though, with the post receiving 109 little downward red vote thingies, compared with only 31 green uppie ones.

Sneak can’t help but wonder if Microsoft may have more success getting people to upgrade from Windows XP if it had tried a similar trick on users, perhaps forcing them to see all websites as they were in 2001 to force them to update. It probably wouldn’t have worked, though.

Rupert Murdoch redefines irony with Google privacy attack on Twitter

19 Aug 2014

Sneak loves to spend his lunch hour lurking on Twitter, scrolling through the tawdry thoughts of bored IT execs and publicity-hungry tech corporations.

But sometimes, when the hum of the server room is getting too much, Sneak stumbles upon a wonderful gem of bile, hypocrisy, anger and opinion.

Today's nugget of controversy comes courtesy of Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted: "NSA privacy invasion bad, but nothing compared to Google."

Sneak's hypocrisy alert sounded so loudly that he nearly choked on his cheese and pickle sandwich.

Sure, Google may have courted criticism over privacy issues, and the NSA has basically been sniffing through emails like a spaniel with a nose for binary, but Murdoch wading into the argument is such a dose of irony that Sneak can taste ferrous metal.

Given that Murdoch was all but forced to put the century-old News of the World out to pasture over phone hacking, to call out Google's approach to privacy is so hypocritical that a new catalogue of pot and kettle-esque idioms needs to be written.

Then again perhaps one could consider Murdoch to be an expert on such issues, given how far the News of the World went to destroy the concept of privacy for so many.

Sneak also finds it ironic that a quick Google search of Murdoch reveals a litany of information on the mogul, much of which digs down into his position in the hacking scandal. Perhaps Mr Murdoch is pushing an agenda, but Sneak doesn't speculate on rumours unless he can tap into a source.

Of course, Sneak doesn't necessarily trust Google either and has taken advantage of the Right to be Forgotten ruling to a new level. Sneak can't even remember his own name; he's sure it was something that sounded like Dave.

Nor is Sneak a big fan of the NSA, but that's probably because the No Strings Attached agency refuses to return his calls. Sneak is forever alone.

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About IT Sneak

V3.co.uk's undercover reporter offers odds and ends from the odd end of technology.

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