12 Nov 2012
Sneak has never been one for forking out on time pieces – having stumped up £4 for a Casio digital watch in 1987, there seems to be little point in extending the largess any further. But not everyone is so frugal when it comes to time keeping.
Take Apple. The paragon of modern technology design chic paid $21m to license the clock design seen in its latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, according to Tages Anzeiger.
The clock design is indeed a magnificent example of the designer's art. But in this case it belongs to the Swiss Federal Railway, rather than Apple, and can be seen on station platforms up and down the country. Sadly for Apple, the design is jealously guarded by the Swiss train firm and their officials were quick to notice when it started popping up on their iPhones.
As lovely as the design is, however, Sneak can't help but wondering if for Apple, which admittedly has more money than most, $21m represents good value for money. Whatever its design guru, Sir Jony Ives is paid (and it's probably a lot), surely he could have spared a few minutes to come up with an original clock face design, without it costing the firm quite so much?
When it comes to Star Trek technology, Sneak was always more impressed that Captain Picard had a computer that could conjure him up any drink he could think of, rather than one he could talk to. But some people, it seems, just love to talk.
Take Google, for example. According to Amit Singhal, senior search engineer at the firm, Google will have developed a Star Trek-like computer that responds to spoken commands, within three to five years.
“We have built baby steps of this already,” Singhal told The Telegraph.
Singhal's vision is to create a device that could help the flow of conversations, giving the user bits of data to back up their arguments, without having to stop what they're doing.
So instead of barking out questions at a smartphone-based digital assistant, such as Siri, the user would merely punctuate their sentences with a quick question, and carry on talking until the answer was flashed up on their fridge – or perhaps their Google Goggles.
Sneak has long lamented the widespread use of smartphones to make pub quizzes easier, and suspects Singhal's plans will only make matters worse.
Surely these whizz kids would be better off working out how to build a computer that could magic up a pint of Saddleback Bitter?
17 Oct 2012
In honour of Steve Jobs Day, news site Motherboard asked a psychic to get in touch with the ghost of the Apple luminary. So while most everyone else forgot that California had an annual day of remembrance for the technology iconoclast, deputy editor Sean Yeaton was headed to The Twilight Zone.
Yeaton got a hold of New York psychic Betsy Cohen to perform the ghostly séance. Unfortunately for the living, Cohen was unable to gleam any Steve Jobs-style wisdom about the current state of affairs in the technology world.
Cohen did, however, get a chance to chat with ghost Jobs about what he's doing in the afterlife. The psychic said that ghost Jobs told her he was learning to be less competitive and harsh in the afterlife.
To quote Cohen, "[Jobs] is learning survival of the fittest is a made-up thing." In other words, kind of like psychics or a successful Zune product.
While a happy Steve Jobs ghost sounds wonderful, we'd probably say the same thing if we were pretending to communicate with famous dead people.
While Sneak thinks psychics don't actually exist (just ask ghosts) Yeaton's video was one of the more original Steve Jobs tributes to pop up in the man's honour. Not only has Jobs received a day, a statue, and a movie within the last year, but he also received a pseudo-psychic reading.
Maybe next year someone can get Jony Ive to attempt a séance. After all, Jobs once called Ive his "spiritual" partner at Apple.
A French woman has been billed €11,721,000,000,000,000, or £9.4qn, for cancelling a phone contract.
Sneak understands that she will not have to pay the bill that was sent out in error, but judging by reports it gave her the shock of her life.
"I almost had a cardiac arrest! There were so many zeros I could not even work out how much it was", said Solenne San Jose in an interview with French newspaper Sud Ouest.
The child minder had asked to close her account while she was out of work. Her provider Bouygues Telecom said fine, but because it was going to be before the end of the contract she would have to pay a cancellation fee.
Ms San Jose was not expecting the cancellation fee to have more zeroes that a binary swear word, and was stunned to see a note at the bottom of the bill that told her that the money would be debited from her bank account.
She called a helpline and tried to convince someone that a mistake had been made. This did not work initially, and the person suggested that there was nothing that could be done, except perhaps, paying the €12 quadrillion in instalments.
At some point common sense descended and someone at the firm understood that no individual could possibly owe or pay a sum higher that France's annual gross economic output.
Following this realisation Ms San Jose was told that she must pay the much more reasonable sum of €117.21. Some reports have it that the whole bill has been waived. Sneak is waiting for official confirmation.
Wait, here is the letter from the phone operator...yes it turns out she now owes just 0000000.1p. But it must be paid, the letter says.
Ms Jose was last seen shaving the edge off a penny coin.
08 Oct 2012
With the UK heading into the last week of its conference season, Sneak was heartened to see the prime minister David Cameron doing his 'man of the people' bit and belatedly joining Twitter. What better way for the country's leader to keep in touch with voters (and the latest foul-mouthed tirades from professional footballers) than to join the microblogging site.
While Cameron may have been hoping to learn a thing or two from this social engagement, Sneak has to confess that a quick peek at the tweets sent to the PM provided a different sort of education. In fact, Sneak had no idea that it was physiologically possible to do such things with watermelons.
The prime minister kicked off his Twitter stream with a little joke about the frequency with which he'd be tweeting.
I'm starting Conference with this new Twitter feed about my role as Conservative Leader. I promise there won't be "too many tweets..."
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) October 6, 2012 ;
His comments recall his previous proclamation that “Too many tweets might make a...” with the blank standing in for a word Sneak couldn't remember until reading through the messages sent to the prime minister.
At least now Cameron can save himself from having to listen to the endless conference speeches by checking out the latest Twitter updates.
Sneak was overjoyed to see Facebook pass the one billion user milestone this week - what a happy community of people all updating and clicking and posting and liking and poking we are.
To celebrate this event Facebook commissioned its first ever advert and the results are, well, interesting to say the least.
In a bizarre piece of pseudo-intellectualism the advertising agency charged with the task of making Facebook seem cool again, Wieden and Kennedy, hit upon the intriguing notion that Facebook is like a chair, or a doorbell, or a dancefloor.
This is, you see, because these things help us connect, as Facebook does - give 'em a kipper! How many latte-drinking, designer-beard-wearing, suits-and-Converse wearing muppets did it take to make that connection?
The advert then goes on to say that because the universe is so big we often wonder if we're alone - which is true, with regards the universe itself, but not life, where we're surrounded by other people - but Facebook, like doorbells, reminds us "we are not" alone. Brilliant logic.
Sneak's favourite bit comes about half way through, though, when the advertising copy writer clearly forgot to think of a third thing that people share, but never got around to updating it and the agency probably though it was genius by its idiocy.
"Doorbells, airplanes, bridges...these are thing that people use to get together, so they can open up and connect about ideas and music and other things that people share."
‘Other things that people share?' Couldn't they thing of one more thing beyond "music" and "ideas". And "ideas" is a fairly nebulous concept anyway.
Sneak could have done a lot better. Here, have a read of this:
"Facebook - bringing people together to share drunken photos, write grammatically incorrect statuses and portray a life far more interesting than it really is to people they don't really like."
This is no doubt why five million punters handed over shed loads of cash to get their greasy paws on the new iPhone 5 when it came out on Friday, so all five million of them are now as cool as each other.
Apple has the coolest reputation in spite of some recent issues - such as its new mapping software which is actually the latest hilarious problem to get the Tumblr treatment, while riots at its manufacturing partner Foxconn are definitely not cool.
But then maps and riots are never cool at the best of times, so this probably won't have much impact on Apple's attitude to how it conducts its business - which is most decidedly cool - not answering phones, referring to themselves as geniuses and the like.
Sneak always thought he was cool. His mum told him he was. That was until he once met some bigger boys who laughed at him and called him a "dork". Kids can be so cruel.
Still, Sneak had the last laugh - he's now a prominent member of the technology world, while the mean boys are nothing but city brokers, lawyers and rock musicians. The jokes on them.
Surely it's only a matter of time before Sneak is on the CoolBrands list, right guys?
Sneak knows all too well how seriously Apple takes design patents – and woe betide anyone (mostly Samsung) that dares to round a rectangular corner without the Cupertino-based giant's prior approval.
So it was with huge admiration that Sneak opened the Clock app newly adorning a colleague's iOS 6-updated iPad. Who could not admire the simple, bold designs?
Classic Apple, Sneak thought, always leading the way, never one to use the designs of others.
However, those at Swiss Federal Railways have taken issues with the design as they believe it too closely mirrors those classic railway station clocks you see around the country.
“We're trying to contact Apple to control the unauthorised use of [our design]", SBB spokesman Reto Kormann told Blick.
Brave bunch - everyone knows how much Apple likes a legal scrap and has plenty of cash to throw at the problem. Then again, if any nation can take Apple on when it comes to finances, it's the Swiss.
Who will win? Time will tell.