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Falcon's nest forces Vodafone to switch off mobile mast

15 Apr 2013

A falcon has knocked out mobile coverage in Southampton

Sneak has come across some bizarre excuses for the infuriating loss of mobile coverage in the past, from operators having their datacentre kit pilfered or problems with its user database. But, for Vodafone and its customers in the Southampton area, Sneak thinks this is something of a first: loss of signal being blamed on a bird's nest.

It might sound like a feather-brained excuse, but the bird in question happens to be a peregrine falcon, one of the creatures that gets protected under British law. Disturbing its nest could land you in jail.

In fact, such is the protection these birds enjoy that Vodafone is not permitted to tell anyone which mobile mast it's had to turn off – although Sneak suspects that its customers in the Southampton area probably have a pretty good idea.

A Vodafone spokesman told the BBC it would be unable to access its mast until after any chicks had flown the nest – which would probably be some time in June.

While that might seem like an interminable wait for Vodafone's customers, Sneak can't help but get a warm glow from knowing that a peregrine has made itself a home in one of these ugly metal constructions.

After all, Sneak has always been something of a secret twitcher, and the high-powered, infra-red binoculars are definitely used for watching our feathered friends, regardless of what the neighbours might say.

Margaret Thatcher death hashtag mix-up leaves Twitter users mourning music icon Cher

09 Apr 2013

Sneak isn’t a very political person, so he’ll refrain from sharing his views on the passing of ex-PM Margaret Thatcher.

But he was horrified when reports started circulating on Monday that the world had lost a true global icon, a woman who has done as much for fashion as she has for musical invention – Cher.


The trending hashtag #nowthatchersdead was read by many Twitter users (well, those who are totally uninformed on news and global events) as announcing the news that Cher's dead, rather than Thatcher's dead, leading to an outpouring of grief for the entertainer.

And then some clarification from a bemused comedian.

Sneak himself was more concerned that the hashtag related to X-Factor contestant Cher Lloyd. Having long been a fan of tuneless, over-produced noise, Ms Lloyd is one of Sneak’s favourite performers. Still, seeing as she’s only about 12, he hopes she’ll be around to grace us with her dulcet tones for many decades to come.

Sneak is also hopeful that the #nowthatchersdead debacle, and many wasted tears over Cher #1 and #2’s passing, will lead to an upsurge in correct use of grammar on all social networks and hashtags. Although this is about as likely to happen as Billy Bragg, Morrissey and Ken Livingstone offering to be Margaret Thatcher’s coffin bearers.

Google has to take down take-down requests

05 Apr 2013

share-files-legally-illustrationIt doesn't seem that long ago that the Twittersphere worked itself into a furious lather on the issue of super injunctions. Sneak can understand that: there's nothing more infuriating than not knowing that someone is not supposed to tell you something. Or something like that, it's all far too meta for Sneak's simple brain.

Because Sneak gets easily confused, it was utterly perplexing to see that that movie makers are now sending out take-down requests to get their own take-down requests removed from the web.

The problem has arisen because Google reports any Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) infringement notices it gets – these are typically sent from movie studios asking for pirated material to be removed from Google's results.

The trouble is, as P2P news site TorrentFreak reports, these take-down notices list the sites that hold allegedly infringing material. In effect, the take-down notices are proving to be one of the riches sources of pirated materials on the web. Fox Legal Group alone has been responsible for seeking to get more than 50,000 urls removed from Google's results in a mere two-month period.

Clearly, Sneak can see that the only way to put a definitive end to this is for the movie makers to now issue more take-down notices for the take-down notices for the take-down notices. The lawyers must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Google aims to rewrite the Swedish language

26 Mar 2013


Sneak has never really understood much about the world of marketing. The sharp-suited, with a penchant for powdering their noses, have always left Sneak feeling soiled by their presence. But the one thing Sneak was confident about when it came to marketing was that brand recognition is a good thing.

Sadly it seems this is not the case, at least not if you happen to be search engine maven Google.

It has petitioned the Swedish Language Council to edit its annual list of new words, to avoid damage to its oh-so-precious brand.

The Language Council had suggested including the Swedish equivalent of “ungoogleable” to its list of new words – the term apparently having become common parlance in the country, describing a term that cannot be found by searching the web.

According to Swedish news site, Sveriges Radio, the council have removed the term from their list, after Google's pleas. It seems the search giant was worried it could set a precedent for its name to become a generic term, as happening with the hoover, thereby destroying brand value.

The Swedish Language Council have never been asked to remove a word before, but lacked the resources to get into a fight with Google, Ann Cederberg, the Language Council director told Sveriges Radio.

Of course, until this case, Sneak would have never known the Swedish had a term for “ungoogleable”. So, obviously, the only way to actually discover that it was in fact “ogooglebar” was, of course, for Sneak to Google it.

There's a joke in there somewhere but it hurts Sneak's brain to think about it too much.

Budget 2013: George Osborne joins Twitter, instantly swamped with abuse

20 Mar 2013

UK chancellor George Osborne has chosen the morning of the 2013 budget to unleash himself on the Twittersphere, sending his first tweet on Wednesday morning. Under the @George_Osborne account, he tweeted:

The tweet is accompanied by a picture of the chancellor with his red box, indeed working hard and getting on, if you call sitting with a blank piece of paper and doing some scribbling as evidence of achievement.

Sneak hopes that one of the budget announcements will be providing the UK chancellor with a calculator or actual computer to add up his sums. 

Osborne had managed to amass more than 20,000 followers by mid-morning Wednesday, including  MPs and industry groups like David Cameron, Liam Fox and the British Chambers of Commerce - those that Sneak would define as dull as ditchwater, and keeps far from his Twitter feed - plus a few random ones like Bill Gates and The Beautiful World: the most beautiful, crazy, stunning pictures of this earth, the biography claims.

Obviously our chancellor needs a little light relief every now and again, though Sneak would have gone for @sockington.

However, no sooner had poor George published his one and only tweet this morning, but the floodgates opened on a torrent of abuse and mick-taking aimed at the chancellor.

It took Sneak a fair while of searching through the hundreds of welcome tweets to Osborne to find some clean enough to post on a professional site like V3, but this gives a taste of the messages.

Some might feel sorry for the chancellor being subject to this level of abuse and ridicule, on the most important day of his year. But Sneak suspects an ulterior motive.

Osborne, or his canny PR team, would have known full well the likely outcome of unveiling his Twitter account on Budget Day, and must be secretly hoping that the interest in all the tweeting will overshadow any controversial decisions the chancellor announces this afternoon, or at least encourage some level of sympathy for him.

Sneak is sorry to reveal to Osborne that Twitter is not exactly a hotbed of sympathetic and measured viewpoints. All of which puts us in mind of this delightful moment from last summer:

George Galloway launches one-man crusade against Twitter

15 Mar 2013


Sneak has always admired those lone fighters, the rebels, the individuals who stand against the odds to stick it to The Man. So it is with utter admiration that Sneak doffs his hat to rapid left-wing street fighter George Galloway, having learned of his one-man fight against the might of microblogging site Twitter.

Galloway, most famous for his sumptuous facial hair and cat impersonations, has manfully tried to get the lily-livered weaklings in the House of Parliament to wake up to the spectre of Twitter, proposing an early day motion to impose sanctions on on the site.

“This House notes that Twitter is now a very widely used mode of social networking,” his motion begins inauspiciously. Thanks George, Sneak – along with the rest of Western civilisation - was kinda aware of that.

But old firebrand Galloway soon gets going.

“Twitter is now used for a variety of criminal activities including sending malicious communications,” he rails, before accusing the site of failing to co-operate with police, calling its behaviour “reprehensible”.

Sneak had been rather impressed with the Transparency Report Twitter had published earlier this year, but now feels – in light of Galloway's clear-sighted rant – that he must have had the wool pulled over his eyes by this, “US-based enterprise whose primary motivation is to maximise its profits”, as @georgegalloway describes them.

Sadly, no other MP has dared rally to the cause, making Gorgeous George's the only signature of the motion to date. Odd that, it's almost as if this were just some crude publicity stunt rather than a serious political campaign.

Ten things the Queen won’t say during Yammer visit

11 Mar 2013


The news the Queen is to visit the Yammer headquarters in East London later this week was something of a surprise, and no doubt staff at the company are getting ready for the big day with a mixture of excitement and nerves, practicing their pronunciation and curtseys so nothing goes wrong on the day.

However, one area the staff can probably rest easy on is their tech knowledge as, while Sneak has no doubt Her Majesty knows a thing or two about technology having been around the block a few times, she's probably not looking for the inside line on the state of the market.

Sneak's put together his list of the most unlikely things to hear the Queen say. Add your suggestions in the comments.

  1. Should One upgrade to the HTC One?
  2. Have you disabled Java in light of recent security concerns?
  3. That Windows 8, it's ghastly.
  4. One will be staying up all night for the Samsung S4 launch.
  5. What's your bring your own device policy?
  6. One's more of a Huddle user.
  7. Do you think 4G will change the nature of work in the UK?
  8. Personally one thinks Marissa Mayer is spot on - working from home, pah.
  9. Bear with, just loading V3 to check the latest tech headlines.
  10. Could We have a free trial of Yammer for the Bucks Palace staff?


French connections leave Kent residents with bill shock

11 Mar 2013


No mobile signal

Sneak has long supported the European Commission's campaign to clamp down on mobile roaming charges. Given that more often than not, Sneak finds himself on using the same company's network abroad as he does back home, coughing up eye-watering prices for foreign calls seems a bit de trop, as the French might say.

But if the prices for downloading a few megs of data abroad were enough to make Sneak choke on his croissant, can you imagine the shock and red-faced rage that followed the arrival of yet another bank-busting bill  - especially as Sneak had ventured no further afield than Kent.

As it turns out, Sneak was caught by the same ill-winds that have befallen the villagers of St Margaret's at Cliffe and St Margaret's Bay, near Dover. 

A quirk of geography means that UK mobile signals can drop out in inclement weather, making it easier for users to connect to French signals. The problem being, of course, the villagers get stung on roaming costs.

A spokesman for mobile operator EE told the BBC the best solution was for residents to turn off their phone's roaming option. Which is indeed one option – although Sneak has another one: How about setting up a tower that can provide locals with a decent service? It's what they pay for after all.

About IT Sneak's undercover reporter offers odds and ends from the odd end of technology.

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