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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

Gates, Zuckerberg and Ellison are still very rich

05 Nov 2013

Bag of money

Sneak has spent much of the past year or so worrying about the impact the botched Facebook IPO might have had on Mark Zuckerberg’s personal wealth and welfare. So he was thrilled to get confirmation in the latest rich list that the social network chief's wealth has doubled to $24.5bn since last year.

Bloomberg has been showing off its latest billionaires index, which features 12 other technology chiefs in the top 100 alongside Zuckerberg.

Top of the pops is Bill Gates, in at number one with a net worth of $72.9bn. Sneak wonders why with that money, he hasn't already cured most of the world’s diseases, not just malaria?

Next up is Iron Man wannabe and Americas Cup victor Larry Ellison, who’s managed to rack up $41bn from his Oracle business.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin are in at 17, 23 and 24 with $28.9bn, $25.5bn and $25.1bn respectively. Sneak thinks Brin must have a similar weakness for Candy Crush and all its tempting in-app purchases.

After Zuckerberg at number 25 in the list, who also takes the prize as youngest billionaire, two Microsofters make an appearance. Steve Ballmer can definitely look forward to a happy retirement on his $16.4bn nest egg, while Paul Allen is sitting pretty on $15.3bn.

Michael Dell makes it in at 59, with $15bn in his pocket – though that could go down significantly if he doesn’t do a good enough job managing Dell as a private company. Sneak would like to heartily congratulate all of the above, and indeed everyone who has made it onto the list this year. He's off to join the revolution now.
 

Urine trouble: Cat wee smell hell for Dell

30 Oct 2013

Sneak was unhappy to discover that, after buying a Dell Latitude 6430u laptop, that something's rather amiss.

Simply, it smells like cat wee. Sneak understands that the laptop is designed to be fairly whizzy at over a grand in price, but this is ridiculous. Sneak is not alone, many 6430u customers are now complaining of a pungent stench emanating from the bowels of their ultrabooks. Perhaps that should be 6430 pee-ew.

more-cats-laps

Are these felines the guilty party?

Upon further investigative reading, it turns out consumers were peed off long ago, with forum posts dating back to June warning Dell of its Catitude problem. "New 6430u smells awful," says one. "So a few weeks ago I got a new Latitude 6430u for work. The machine is great, but it smells as if it was assembled near a tomcats litter box. It is truly awful! It seems to be coming from the keyboard. Anybody got any advice on removing the smell?"

A stream of comments have followed since, with Dell finally admitting the problem was due to a manufacturing process which has since been flushed away. Sneak is happy to add that Dell confirmed that the smell was not a health risk - unless breathing in the smell of urine upsets you.

Sneak's wireless mouse won't go near the device. Dell needs to find a fix for this problem a number one priority before it risks more leaks.

 

UK storm causes Tech City balls up

28 Oct 2013

Sneak has lost his beach ball. It's pretty big, pretty colourful. It was last seen sitting atop a building in the heart of Tech City, just above the Old Street/Silicon Roundabout. If you've seen it it would be great if you could let him know of its whereabouts.

Sneak had left it there just for the weekend and thought it had been tied down pretty securely. Apparently not - the wind would seem to have taken it for a ride, and Sneak is concerned not only about the potential of causing traffic chaos, but also the fact that it's pretty expensive.

It's ball-shaped, about 10 metres tall/wide and brightly-coloured. It represents the vibrancy of the tech community in East London. Sneak presumes it is spreading its colourful joy to all of the bright, young and fresh startups throughout Shoreditch. This makes Sneak happy, but nonetheless the ball is really expensive. So if you have it, please return it. 

Sneak would be very let down if he couldn't find it.

Update: Sneak had nothing to do with this.

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

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