07 Apr 2015
Sneak is not a man with much to celebrate. He treads a sad and lonely path and is rarely exposed to any kind of news that might be considered uplifting.
Yes, there are Google's balloon plans and, yes, he can see that there is some pun to make on the ‘uplifting' part of that, but even Project Loon and, indeed, Bill Gates drinking poo water have failed to raise even an eyebrow, never mind a smile, on his bitter, beaten visage.
His blog, and live-in lock-up premises, are filled with sad reminders of his errors. And each day as he wakes and navigates his way to a noodle-based breakfast through stacks of books and piles of T-shirts that bear the legend 'I Zune Celine Dion'* (the result of a particularly bad business decision) he waits for a positive break.
So Sneak is delighted, nay overjoyed, as he emerges from his cave today to read the news that monkeys, yes monkeys, are to blame for problems with the internet in India.
Sneak is beside himself at the news. Actually he is beside a tribute that he has made to the great Jeremy Clarkson underneath a rather poorly thought out air conditioning system - a hole in the roof.
The news, which he found on the Reuters pages, says that the northern Indian city of Varanasi is being plagued by temple-dwelling monkeys who have developed a taste for fibre-optic cables.
Sneak, who has been told many times that he needs to increase (or was it decrease?) his fibre intake, is rather amused by this, but understands that prime minister Narendra Modi is less amused.
Modi, with whom Sneak has decided not to share his Mbps (monkey bites per second) gag, is presumably upset at our tiny relatives and can't understand why they want to keep chomping on his cables.
"We cannot move the temples from here," said communications engineer A.P. Srivastava to Reuters. "We cannot modify anything here. Everything is built up. The monkeys destroy all the wires and eat all the wires."
Reuters says the monkeys keep eating and there is not much that can be done about it. Chasing away the problem might annoy the locals, never mind the monkeys, and no one seems keen on herding the simians. Sneak would volunteer, but frankly he loves the sound of the situation.
If anyone would like his advice, Sneak has suggested that cables be dipped in strong mustard or something else that monkeys do not like, or that the monkeys are patrolled and protected by larger monkeys. He is of the opinion that both these options have their merits, and offers them for gratis.
*Withdrawn from sale**
** At boot fairs
Sneak often hears murmurs of technology becoming so advanced that it will reach sentient levels and wipe out humanity in a manner foreshadowed by the Terminator films.
But perhaps the most human characteristics ever displayed by technology were seen after a glitch suffered by the Google-owned internet connected Nest thermostat.
As the UK hopped into the future by an hour last Sunday, some Nest thermostats, clearly not willing to sacrifice 60 minutes of shuteye, went rogue.
But rather than rise up and destroy their human masters, or enslave people in biofuel cells, the Nests simply decided to rollover in their virtual slumber and ignore the clocks going forward. How human is that?
As a result, early adopters of Internet of Things homes awoke to sweltering heat or crippling cold as their heating fired up or powered down at the wrong time.
Some people may have had to make a chilly morning dash from duvet to shower, or haul themselves out of bed gasping for water, but the tech glitch was pretty minor all things considered.
Of course, this slip-up was just too much for some Nest users, who promptly flipped out and dashed to everyone's favourite yelling platform, the web.
Clearly not neutered by losing an hour's sleep, customers posted their annoyance on the Nest community forum.
"My Nest has been ignoring the schedule since the move to British Summer Time. It doesn't even come on one hour later. I am going to call them to register my dissatisfaction," said 'tonycluedo' somewhat formally. He must have had his morning coffee.
Sarcasm fan 'alexmldd' said: "This is not what I expected from such a 'clever' device."
Much like a parent discovering that their child has failed maths, 'mkpv' was "so disappointed" with Nest.
By appearing to ignore customer queries and complaints, Nest did not exactly shower itself in customer service glory either. Perhaps it too overslept?
"Also having the same problem. Would be nice to have a response from nest," typed a seemingly forlorn 'Kenny_G'.
Sneak can sympathise with Nest users getting irritated about temperamental temperature-tweaking tech disrupting their morning routines. He often wakes up all hot and bothered as well, but that's because Amelia from next door does her morning ablutions with the curtains open.
Sneak has a lot of admiration for Taylor Swift, from a technological point of view you understand.
She took her albums off Spotify, thus boosting sales (clever), and has now bought the taylorswift.porn and taylorswift.adult web domains to stop nefarious internet trolls using the domains for unsavoury purposes (even cleverer).
Swift made the move to protect her image as part of a rush by brands to acquire their name and the new domains realised by ICANN, which had decided that domains such as .com and .co.uk weren’t cutting it anymore and released new ones such as .porn.
Swifty (to her friends) is not the only one to realise that she needs to stop her good reputation being dragged through the mud with such domains. Everyone's second favourite pop starlet, Microsoft, bought the same domains for its 'so hot right now' Office brand.
This should stop those who find gratuitous entertainment in filthy Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations filled with smut being able to create a safe haven online to store and access such content.
Brands have plenty of domain buying to do, as the .sucks domain is also up for grabs. This is another domain that has caused controversy after many questioned why anyone would want this for positive purposes, but the website selling the domain claims there are benefits.
"By building an easy-to-locate 'central town square' available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism," it says.
"Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organisation’s customer relationship management programme."
Sneak agrees. If you have any complaints about his columns please head over to sneak.sucks and leave your comments, where they will be pointedly ignored.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee and The Lord of the Rings. Two of Sneak’s greatest loves. So, when Sir Tim Berners-Lee did an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, Sneak was there, popcorn at the ready, hoping to hear the great man hold forth on major topics such as net neutrality and how to protect the open internet.
What really brought him joy, though, was when Sir Tim was asked what he thought about memes. Showing a strong command of memes and the power they wield, Sir Tim responded: "One does not simply ask the inventor of the WWW what he thinks about memes."
For those of you who live under a rock, this is a wonderfully witty use of the line ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’, as said by Boromir, son of Denethor, brother of Faramir, played by Sean Bean.
The Reddit community was quick to turn his response into the very meme he was using to undermine the question put to him about memes.
Elsewhere in his AMA, Sir Tim answered questions on topics such as artificial intelligence and the potential threat it poses to humanity.
"Well, the fact is that machines are becoming smarter. It seems unreasonable not to imagine that they will become smarter than us. What happens at that point is not obvious. That we have to think about it now is clear," he said.
Sir Tim also urged everyone on the net to do all they can to make sure governments and other powers don't try to change its open nature by maintaining a close eye on their work. The full question and answer is listed below:
Q: What is the single most valuable thing I can do on an individual level to help defend the open internet?
Berners-Lee: Great question. Keep asking that question. Don’t take it for granted. Keep an eye on the situation in your town, your country, your company. In each year of using it, spend some time with others working or writing or lobbying or protesting as needed to keep it open.
Sneak agrees, but would argue that a witty meme that goes far and wide would promote this even more succinctly.
You shall not pass ... laws that amend the fundamental idea that the web must remain an inherently open platform that treats all traffic equally to ensure that all ideas have the chance to succeed.
Sneak is a big fan of diversity, which is why he has 50 pairs of sock each a different shade of grey.
A report in The Guardian suggests that Apple also believes variety to be the spice of life, and has added a range of skin tones to emojis.
For those who don't know, an emoji is commonly a cartoon face evoking a basic emotion, designed for people who forget that words actually still exist in the digital age.
Emojis were previously limited to a white or a putrid yellow round face, the kind that used to be found on ecstasy wrappers in the 90s. That's what Sneak's friend told him, anyway.
Those who wanted a little more diversity could choose an Indian or Chinese emoji, which sported a turban and skullcap respectively. Well, they do say stereotypes exist for a reason.
People who wanted a black face had no choice but to use an emoji of a dark moon as an alternative.
This lack of diversity, and the grumbling that accompanied it, caused Apple to spring into action like an 80s action hero.
The company now allows word-blind users to choose an emoji from a range of five skin colours, running from Simpsons-like pus yellow to dark brown.
Other more diverse emoji options include families with same-sex parents and even a smiling lump of faeces for people from a very unique lineage or with limited boundaries in taste.
That, ladies and gentleman, is Apple's affirmative action, in action. While Sneak welcomes diversity in the world of text communications, he can't help but think that there are more pressing equality needs in the technology market.
Perhaps Apple could follow Intel's example and invest some of its Scrooge McDuck-like mounds of cash (video below) into encouraging diversity in the physical as well as virtual world.
Despite Apple's efforts, Sneak notes that there is no option for those with ginger hair. Have they not suffered enough, Apple?
Sneak finds this shocking and disturbing and will be writing a very strong letter to Tim Cook, demanding an iPhone 6 and 5K iMac as compensation for this grave omission.
In the meantime, Sneak is off to find an emoji that best communicates crushing despair at the state of the world and his utter insignificance in the grand scale of the universe. Perhaps there's an app for that.
There are many embarrassing things on the internet; YouTube is a veritable shrine of schadenfreude and awkwardness, all captured for viewers' fleeting amusement and compulsive desire to like/share/tweet.
But Sneak believes that HTC has created something so cringe worthy it's likely to have people tuning inside out, and receive a ban under the Geneva Convention.
In what must have been a severe case of ‘throw all our ideas at the wall and see what sticks', HTC has created - and Sneak uses that term loosely - a rap video boasting the firm's handset prowess and smack-talking rivals Samsung and Apple.
Having probably spent its entire adverting budget on hiring actor and Iron Man Robert Downey Jr, HTC has now roped in rapper Doc G from early 1990s group PM Dawn. Sneak spent the 90s tussling with a Spectrum ZX, so he'll just have to take HTC's word on that.
Dubbed Hold the Crown (see what HTC did there?), the 2 minute 33 second video also features HTC employee David Bruce, who joins Doc G to release a torrent of horrific phone-based rhymes and put downs on unsuspecting viewers.
Disclaimer: Sneak takes no responsibility for the video below and the consequences it may have on your mental, social or physical wellbeing.
Still alive and sane? Sneak congratulates you, but the ordeal is not over yet. Clearly proud of Hold the Crown, HTC follows it with an interview featuring Doc G - real name Greg Carr - and Bruce.
Sneak doesn't want to spoil the video for you, but suffice to say there is a blossoming pseudo man-crush between Bruce and Carr; the kind of relationship that many could describe as Stockholm syndrome.
Now, there have been other PR and advertising failures by phone brands, including BlackBerry's bizarre mock-protest against Apple.
But HTC's attempt is either ironic genius or the tragic failure of a misguided marketing exec who's had too much sugar. Sneak would like to believe the former, but the latter is more compelling.
Telecoms security has been in and out of the headlines for almost two years now, ever since patriot/traitor/hero/villain (delete as your opinion dictates) Edward Snowden revealed the PRISM campaign and the rest in 2013.
We've since learned that GCHQ has a pretty tight grip on the communications flowing around the UK and the rest of the world. So you'd think the folks at the top at GCHQ and the government would be adept at keeping their own comms secure.
Not so, it seems. Sneak was amused to read that David Cameron received a prank phone call from someone who managed to bypass the switchboard security (the mind boggles as to how) and was given the mobile phone number of the head of GCHQ, Sir Robert Hannigan.
Cameron explained that the hoax call took place while he was out for a walk, and was told, presumably by a government switchboard operator with a heavy case of 'Sunday afternoon lull', that he was being put into a conference call from Hannigan.
Cameron, however, was not taken in and said he was immediately suspicious when the caller said sorry for 'waking him up' at the start of the call.
Sneak knows politicians are often characterised as lazy, feckless types, but even he wouldn't have thought Cameron was in bed at 11am on a Sunday.
"I thought that was strange as it was eleven o'clock in the morning," Cameron said, with James Bond-like calm.
He then confirmed that he ended the call without revealing any national security information, such as Trident's tactical nuke launch codes, his inner thigh measurements or the location of the Holy Grail. Phew.
16 Jan 2015
Sneak is a big fan of Elon Musk. The PayPal founder is an excellent example of an entrepreneur exploring the bat-dung crazy side of technology, rather than offering yet another social collaboration tool.
Sneak is still puzzled by social collaboration tools. Some sort of device that makes it easy to work with any invading force?
Clearly deciding that electric cars and space flight are too middle-of-the-road, the Mad Musk touted his Hyperloop transport system as a "cross between Concord and a rail gun".
Not wanting to downplay Musk's creative description, but Sneak pictures the Hyperloop as a tube filled with passenger pods boosted along by linear electric motors in a partial vacuum at up to near supersonic speeds.
Now go back and read that line again. Yes, near supersonic speeds for the average Joe. In short the Hyperloop is like a tooled-up monorail on a really good day. Here's a video of the Hyperloop concept:
Now, those of us with backward minds - some would call sane - perhaps think that Musk has been out in the California sun for too long. Yet the SpaceX billionaire took to the Twitter-verse and declared that he will be building a Hyperloop test track in the US.
Will be building a Hyperloop test track for companies and student teams to test out their pods. Most likely in Texas.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2015
This is all fine and dandy. If Musk wants to stuff his billions into creating something from a Roger Moore-era Bond film more power to him.
But Sneak is not sure that trying to encourage narrow-minded, wide-wasted Texans to stuff themselves into a supersonic vacuum tube is going to go down well. He can already hear the 'Hell no' of 10-gallon-hatted hicks shouted in between mouthfuls of beef jerky.
If such plans go ahead, Sneak will be waiting for the first news story about a 30-stone Southerner stuck in the Hyperloop.
Sweeping cultural generalisations aside, Sneak would like to see Musk test the Hyperloop on the other side of the world.
Perhaps he could consider north west Wales, where transport gave up moving beyond the steam age long ago. And Sneak does so wish to be able to visit Aunty Miriam in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.