01 Aug 2012
If there's one thing Sneak is sure of, it's that the launch of any hot new web-based service will accompanied by a frenetic land grab, as users pile in desperately fighting to snaffle to best user names.
Needless to say then, Sneak was somewhat surprised at the lackadaisical approach Microsoft has taken to ring-fencing user names for its newly launched Outlook.com service.
Within hours of the soft launch, one user had already laid claim to 'donotreply' – a common address used by admins.
I just got firstname.lastname@example.org --- can't wait to see all the spam I get.— Ryan Hoffman (@tekmaven) July 31, 2012
Other wags had managed to land email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sneak meanwhile prefers to stay above such tawdry name grabbing and hasn't registered for the service. The fact that the only address on offer was Sneak123xbg@outlook.com had nothing to do with the decision.
27 Jul 2012
Apple's Siri virtual assistant is in many ways a breakthrough technology.
The voice-activated system has taken the concept to a new level in commercial devices, allowing users to not only dictate simple phone commands, but also run web searches and receive locational information.
Just don't ask it to identify any poisonous plants.
Siri is catching heat in the press after a major gaffe was spotted in a recent iPhone ad by a professor of botany. The ad, which ran in The Economist, featured a user asking Siri about poison oak, to which the iPhone displays an image of the plant in question.
The ad was spotted by Lena Struwe, a botany professor from Rutgers University. Struwe noticed something strange about the poison oak image Siri had displayed. Turns out it wasn't poison oak Siri displayed, but an image of poison ivy.
According to Newsday, the origin of the image used for the ad remains in question. Struwe said that the picture returned on her own iPhone is different than the one in the advertisement, and there's some doubt as to whether the picture is an actual Siri result or an enhanced image inserted into the photo by the advertising agency.
Either way, the incident is an embarrassment for Apple and will hardly inspire confidence in anyone who takes their phone hiking and comes across a strange berry bush.
24 Jul 2012
The world of technology patents can be profoundly confusing, where people seem to channel their inventiveness in to coming up with the most ludicrous things to patent rather than, you know, useful inventions.
Sneak has often pondered the need for urgent global patent reform, but usually got distracted by more pressing matters like the latest batch of cookie dough being cooked to buttery perfection.
But we were reminded once again upon seeing the confirmation that the one person that has done their most to erode people's privacy – by turning them into compulsive online 'sharemongers' – has been awarded a patent for privacy protecting technology.
So with gritted teeth, Sneak's congratulations go to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
As it transpires, Zuck has already snaffled a handful of patents, but the significance of this one it that the patent for Dynamically Generation a Privacy Summary, was actually the first one he applied for.
Never mind that the US Patent Office had previously rejected it for being too obvious – the billionaire Zuckerberg has a fitting boondoggle for all his privacy work.
Sneak meanwhile has a similar method of generating privacy summaries for those in thrall to Facebook. It's just a piece of A4 paper enscribed with the words “You don't have any”. Being a fair-minded individual, Sneak should point out that the inspiration for the system, came of course, from Zuckerberg's own proclamations.
13 Jul 2012
Given the rampant success of Google's attempt at a social network, Google+, it's good to see that the search giant is feeling munificent.
A handful of its researchers will take to a conference stage today to let erstwhile rival, Facebook, know just where it has been going wrong all along on the issue of user privacy and engagement.
Sneak can't help but wonder whether next up Google will be dishing up advice to Roger Federer on winning tennis matches, or even to Granny Sneak on egg-sucking.
Delegates at the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security in Washington will today be treated to the presentation from Jessica Staddon and her colleagues at Google on whether privacy concerns are a turn-off for social network users.
Having a had a peek at the paper, Sneak is happy to warn those delegates: hold on to your hats. The intrepid Googlers have found, from speaking to more than 1,000 Facebook users (or about 0.0001 per cent of its user base) that those that had privacy concerns shared less on the social network than those that didn't.
With insights like that, it surely can't be long before the social network that came to redefine the phrase "lack of user engagement", Google+, catches up with Facebook?
10 Jul 2012
When Sneak needs some extra cash he usually rummages around the back of the sofa and, as amid the old pizza slices and the missing pair of his favourite Simpsons socks, usually manages to cobble together enough for more pizza from the local corner shop to survive.
For Research in Motion (RIM) this sofa-scrabbling has taken the form of attempting to sell one of its two corporate jets - with the intention of hoping to make around $7m in funds and help cut its costs by $1bn over the year.
Sources at the firm told Reuters of the plan, which is a clear indication of how far the mighty firm has fallen since its pre-iPhone heydays when it obviously felt the need to splash out on two corporate jets for its execs to swan around in across the barren wastes of Canada.
Sneak would like to think the witty folks at Apple or Google would purchase the plane, and then crash it remotely into the desert, just to really rub RIM's face in the disparity between the firms in the mobile market, although it's unlikely this will happen.
Hey, why don't we all have a rummage down our sofas and see if could buy it together, then share it on a time-share system?
Sneak was excited as the rest of the world to learn on Wednesday that scientists at Cern have discovered a new particle that is almost certainly the long-sought after Higgs boson.
However, he was also bemused, like the rest of the world, to note the choice of font used to reveal this finding - that of the hated, derided, detested, abominable, lamentable let's-all-hunt-it-down-with-pitchforks-and-burn-it font of Comic Sans... shudder.
Despite this, some of have decided that the scientist should have their work and use of the font should be formal recognised and have launched a petition calling on Microsoft to rename the font to Comic Cerns to honour those working at the facility.
"We were all moved by Dr Fabiola Gianotti's incredibly strange choice of font in announcing the recent results of Cern's ATLAS collaboration and feel that her use of Comic Sans has gone a long way to rehabilitate this awful, awful font," wrote petition-starter Alby Reid.
"We believe Microsoft should rename 'Comic Sans' to 'Comic Cerns' in Windows 8 and in future releases of the Windows operating system. Renaming Comic Sans to 'Comic Cerns' would be a unique way of recognising the ground breaking achievements of these scientists and engineers."
Sneak thinks this is a great idea, and actually shouldn't we go back and rename a few more fonts in honour of the discovery: Times New Boson perhaps?
One of the best things about Twitter is how easy it makes it to complain to all and sundry about the problems in your life - you can sound off about the uselessness of some company for failing to deliver a service or moan at sport stars for not being utterly perfect all the time.
The latest round of complaints on the online forum have been direct at major high street bank Natwest, after technical errors have meant payments through its systems have not been going through, forcing the firm to keep banks open until 6pm across the UK.
This has seen thousands vent their anger at the Twitter account of @Natwest, which as it turns out is a 22-year-old woman called Natalie Westerman whose biography even states, "I'm not a bank".
This hasn't stopped thousands from bombarding her with messages of annoyance and frustration, although what they expect a young women who doesn't even work for the firm to do about it is beyond Sneak's comprehension.
However, perhaps Nat West should take some blame for this - after all if you choose a Twitter name that is literally the same as a major organisation gracing the high street, you've got to accept people are always going to use that handle in their conversations.
Perhaps she should look to sell the account to Natwest the bank in order to make a few bob on the side - although don't expect the payment to arrive any day soon
Larry Ellison, Oracle's Mr Big, has bought a 98 per cent stake in a Hawaiian island and could be planning on creating an underground base, like in Thunderbirds.
He may not be of course, it is probably very important that Sneak acknowledes that, and Ellison might just be planning to spend some time in relative solace and away from the technology business, something that Sneak can sympathise with.
Either way, Ellison, says the Wall Street Journal, is buying 98 per cent of the not very densely populated Lanai island.
Less than 4,000 people live on the island, it has one high school, and no traffic lights. Ellison is a busy man, and this sounds like a quiet enough retreat for anyone.
But, short of constant driving, not saying hello to many people, and creating an underground base, we do not know what Larry plans to do with Lanai. But given that he likes a boat or too, sailing is a rather good bet.
The deal was revealed by the state's governor, Neil Abercrombie, who told the WSJ: "It is my understanding that Mr. Ellison has had a long standing interest in Lanai. His passion for nature, particularly the ocean is well known specifically in the realm of America's Cup sailing."
Ellison could have paid between $500m and $600m for his stake in the island. He probably found that down the back of his sofa.