it-sneak

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Mashtag potato shapes a recipe for success to teach kids IT

17 Feb 2014

BirdsEye Mashtags

Frozen food flogger BirdsEye has launched what may well be the first tech-related food item since the chip.

Mashtags, or as the logo says "MAS#TAGS", are "#new", "#tasty" and "Pot@to Shaped". Disregarding the fact that the pronunciation of Pot@to would actually be po-tatt-o, this is a fantastic contribution to the UK's incoming computing curriculum.

Teaching kids the lingo of online interactions is surely a crucial aspect of the syllabus, which focuses heavily on staying safe online. And there's no better way of staying safe than writing in potato-based characters. And since the government's Year of Code is already in trouble, anything to whet kids' appetite for code will be welcome.

A pack of Mashtags goes for £1.75 at your local supermarket, but presuming you want your kids to write something that doesn't look like a swear word (#@*# off), you'll probably have to double up and get some alphabet-shaped food products, too.

Plus, with the addition of emoticons ( :) and <3), kids can express their emotions by holding up scolding-hot lumps of potato. Result. And cheaper than a Raspberry Pi.

Bill Gates chair-jumping skills in slow, steady decline

11 Feb 2014

Witnessing a giant of the tech industry in a slow, steady decline is painful viewing.

There’s no doubt Gates is still a man of many talents. He’s founded a world-changing, billion-dollar company, saved countless lives with his philanthropic work and he can leap clean over a standard office chair in a single bound.

Well, actually, no he can’t. Gates admitted that – while years ago he used to be able to wow interviewers (and the rest of the world) by leaping over a sizeable chair in his office – age appears to be catching up with him.

Taking part in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) Q&A session on Monday night, a user asked whether he can still leap clean over a chair.

The answer was rather plaintive: “No I cannot. I can still jump but not over a full-sized garbage can like I used to be able to. Be careful – it can hurt if you don't succeed.”

The health and safety-style warning at the end is also a worrying sign that Gates is not the daredevil chair-leaper he once was, and fears time's winged chariot hurrying near. Perhaps it's also why he's stepped down as Microsoft's chairman.

However, there was a hint there is still life in Gates' leaping legs yet, when Reddit user suds5000 tried to find some solace in the fact that “it probably still depends on the size of the chair...”

An eager Gates replied: “Yes. A small enough chair I can still jump over.”

Like a faithful labrador trying to please its master, it's almost heart breaking. But there is no doubt that Gates is a shadow of his former himself. Gates was also asked in a Reddit AMA back in March 2013: “Can you still jump over chairs?“ The Reddit crowd have some odd interests.

Back then, Gates was showing signs of slowing down, but was obviously still up to his old tricks: “Less than I used to. It was part of exercise for snow skiing. I still ski but I am not as hard core...”

Ask not for whom the chair tolls, it tolls for thee.

Man has @N Twitter name stolen in modern digital heist

31 Jan 2014

Twitter @

These days, getting a good username on a popular service is like trying to run to the moon: impossible. Realistically, to get anything close to your name, or an identifiable moniker, you have to leave plenty of leeway and have a bit of creativity.

Sneak, for example, had to settle for Sneak10000000 for his email address (don’t think I’m telling you which service, though, oh no). And the Twitter account – now long since abandoned – had to be @SneakIT3Vblog just to get anywhere near to the terms you all know and love Sneak by.

For some early bird sign-ups, though, the joy of pithy, eye-catching usernames has given them plenty to boast about. But while Sneak’s jealously is limited to small fits of seething rage in his basement, others are more determined to get their own way.

One chap, Naoki Hiroshima, managed to secure the name @N on Twitter, having joined the site in its very early days. However, despite being offered huge amounts of money for this account, he’s always politely said no.

Others, though, were less polite, and went through the rigmarole of hacking his various social media accounts and web-hosting services, to be able to blackmail N into giving up the account, which he promptly did.

The case has proved some of the perils of the new digital age where seemingly harmless activities such as registering for a username on a website can lead to stress, hassle and, ultimately, blackmail.

Perhaps the old MySpace naming style of xxxSneAk!xx100 was for the best after all.

Amazon predicts the future of online shopping is...predicting the future

20 Jan 2014

shutterstock-145689659

Amazon has filed a patent that will allow it to ship a package to you before you even know you've bought it.

It's not as if you're going to have DVD box sets of Miranda you didn't pay for turning up in the clutches of an expectant Amazon delivery drone – one can only dream of such an event – it's rather more a logistical development than a customer service one. Although, Sneak notes, it will lead to some deliveries that are rather faster than we've previously come to expect from Mr Bezos and his crew.

The patent, as The Wall Street Journal explains, means certain items will begin their journey from Amazon's shipping hubs to more localised distribution centres.

This sort of tech is certainly not new, Sneak reminds you. Any online retailer worth its salt should be able to predict the sales patterns of people in certain areas and move goods around to suit. But this is big data gone wild: the difference here is that items on-the-move could have their destination changed on the fly if someone in the area has made a purchase, meaning a truck could be diverted to make a speedy delivery.

Sounds rather implausible. But get this: some items might even get delivered to, say, a block of flats with multiple tenants who are likely to buy it. So, to your surprise, you may end up with a delivery just seconds after you've finished fumbling with your credit card.

This could lead to some interesting situations where one tenant orders something they have never ordered before and ends up with it instantly, revealing that either Amazon can accurately predict the future, or that someone living in the same building has very particular shopping habits. Or both.

Sneak can't wait to have his new remote control drone delivered by Amazon drone, three days before he ordered it.

Alicia Keys to leave BlackBerry after leadership song and dance

03 Jan 2014

Alicia keys is the crative director for blackberry

Musician Alicia Keys will leave her role as BlackBerry's creative director after just a year. The 32-year old, who Sneak imagines was given her role mostly due to her surname matching up with BlackBerry's famous QWERTY devices, had plenty of reasons to leave the firm.

Following Thorsten Heins' dramatic exit from the firm after failing to find a buyer, Keys was first in line to become chief exec as she happened to be standing outside his office at the time. In the end, though, John Chen got the role and Keys was probably promised a live performance at BlackBerry's Live event.

Which was then cancelled. This meant Keys would no longer be able to perform her stirring rendition of Empire State of Mind, which was the final straw.

Sneak wonders where she'll go next as many companies need a celebrity backer. Floppy-haired word-sayer and action-doer Aston Kutcher took up a second job as a product engineer at Lenovo last year, while Iron Man himself Robert Downey Jr signed a two-year deal to be the face of smartphone maker HTC.

Considering Keys' love for New York - AKA The Big Apple - Sneak thinks it's fairly clear where she'll end up.

Google Glass users can wink to take photos

18 Dec 2013

Sneak remains unconvinced about the merits of Google Glass. Sure, the technology is impressive and there could be some cool uses of the ability to display information about your surroundings directly in front of you, but it’s a bit weird, isn’t it?

No-one has managed to look good in a pair yet – despite Google hiring some disdainfully cool models to pose in them – and if anyone realises you’re wearing a pair they’re likely to ask if you could stop looking at them.

Now Google has managed to up the weird factor by announcing it is introducing a feature to allow the Glass wearer to take a photo simply by winking. Yeah that’s right. Wink at something – or worse, someone – and Glass will take a photo.

Google tried to dress up the benefits of this feature. “Whether it's capturing an amazing sunset on an evening walk, or photographing your receipt for the lunch you'll need to expense, you can now stay in the moment and wink to take a picture instantly,” the firm said.

This ignores the real way this will get used: taking photos of people you fancy while flirting with them (with or without their knowledge). Even Sneak has some concerns about this.

Google sees other uses for this winking feature though. “We’re starting with pictures, but just think about what else is possible. Imagine a day where you’re riding in the back of a cab and you just wink at the meter to pay. You wink at a pair of shoes in a shop window and your size is shipped to your door. You wink at a cookbook recipe and the instructions appear right in front of you – hands-free, no mess, no fuss. Pretty cool, right?”

Cool, yes. And creepy. It's not clear how Glass is able to distinguish between a wink and, say, a blink. Perhaps have you hold the wink for a few seconds. That'll look good.

Another way Google is updating Glass to make you even more of a social pariah is by letting you lock and unlock the Glass with a "handshake".

“No one can use your locked Glass until you enter your secret Glass handshake using taps and swipes.”

Well that'll look good. So now, if you see someone you fancy, you can knock yourself around the head a few times, and then wink at them to take a photo without their knowledge. Lovely.

Facebook mulls 'sympathise' button as global social media trends are revealed

10 Dec 2013

Facebook has revealed that it has been working on a 'sympathise' button to replace the 'like' function we've all become so familiar with.

During a Q&A session at a Facebook Compassion Research Day, the firm attempted to find out how to better engage users emotionally and increase harmony on the social network between friends who may not be getting along.

For example, one presentation showed how reminding a user how long they've known a friend for and the interests they share reduces the likelihood of them following through with a complaint about a post.

Another, the BBC reports, involves taking into account the mood of a post and to then display a sympathise or like button accordingly. There are, however, no plans to launch this feature at the moment.

It is an interesting idea, although Sneak thinks it would be much better to give users the choice to 'sympathise' with any post. For example, the most common life events for Facebook users this year were new relationships, engagements and marriages. Want to subtly show your disapproval? 'Sympathise' with someone who's got married. Checked in at a bad venue? Sympathise.

Speaking of check-ins, the UK's most popular destination for users tagging themselves is The O2 in London, while the most discussed topic of the year globally was Pope Francis. The royal baby only ranked third, with Facebook users seemingly following the papal story more religiously. Bizarrely, in the UK the royal baby ranked even lower, fourth behind Andy Murray, Margaret Thatcher and the UEFA Champions League final.

Sneak offers his sympathy to Borussia Dortmund.

Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign is missing the holiday spirit

21 Nov 2013

Google and Microsoft need to talk. They can't seem to decide whether they get along or if one of them should be sleeping on the sofa.

One day they're united in slamming the US government's refusal to let anyone know anything about various data requests; immediately after, Microsoft is running the world's least subtle and most simplistic smear campaign, warning its users not to get "Scroogled".

It's gone a step further. Microsoft is offering slanderous Scroogled merchandise at low, low prices – $7.99 (£4.95) for a "Keep calm while we steal your data" mug is, well, a steal.

Keep calm while we steal your data mug

And a very cool-looking "cloud word" t-shirt – containing terms such as "gulled", "humbugged", "buffaloed", "wire-tapped", "extorted", "sold out", "chicaned", and "fleeced" as synonyms for being "Scroogled" – can be yours for just $11.99 (£7.45).

Christmas is just around the corner, although if you're so passionately against search engines that you'd buy a t-shirt about it, you probably won't have any friends to give it to. Sneak must be alone in thinking this, though, because the aforementioned mug is out of stock.

Sneak instead suggests his own line of t-shirts, uniting the tech firms against the real enemy, the NSA: 

An ironic t-shirt funnier than Microsoft's Scroogled

About IT Sneak

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

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