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Twitter turns eight: First tweets from the great and good of the tech world

21 Mar 2014

 Twitter

It is now eight years since the world was given the ability to share what was on its mind in 140-character snippets. Since then world leaders, pop stars, sporting heroes and top tech talents have all joined the bandwagon.

To celebrate eight years of success Twitter has created a nifty tool to help you easily find your first ever post on the site. V3 thought it would be fun to use the site to find out what some of the tech luminaries had to say for themselves. Some are more inspiring than others.

Bill Gates was snappy and to the point.

Oracle's Larry Ellison was his usual bullish self.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was late to the party and in typical business mode.

Security hero Eugene Kaspersky set about offering pearls of wisdom on staying safe online.

We're not sure what was going on when Sir Tim Berners-Lee first posted, but as he invented the web, we'll forgive him.

We here at V3 can't criticise too much, though, as our first effort was hardly the stuff of legend. Still, we like to think we've got a little better since then.

Our favourite, though, is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who kicked-off with a message about dancing and has never looked back.

Happy birthday Twitter. Here's to the next eight years.

Web@25: Sir Tim Berners-Lee's computer where it all began on show at Science Museum

12 Mar 2014

 Tim Berner's Lee computer at which the web was born

The computer used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to write his proposal for the World Wide Web has been brought to the UK and is on display at the Science Museum. The NeXT cube has been brought over from Cern in Switzerland as part of celebrations to marks 25 years of the web.

Berners-Lee wrote his proposal at the machine in 1989, finally submitting it to the world on 12 March, with the terminal also acting as the world's first web server.

V3 went to the unveiling at the Science Museum to take a closer look at the machine and took some pictures of the historic piece of computing.

Sticker warning people not to turn off NeXT cube server

As you can see, Sir Tim's note to other Cern members warned them not to touch his machine as it was acting as a web server. The sticker is somewhat worn and torn, but it's still going strong. Credit must go to the pen makers too, as the writing has barely faded at all.

Keyboard used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee to write web proposal

The impact of Cern on the world can't be overstated. While it may spend much of its time hunting for hidden particles, it's also the birthplace of the web, as noted by the rather stylish ownership marks stuck on the various items Sir Tim used when he was working there.

The mouse at Sir Tim Berners-Lee computer

The NeXT computer may be a thing of the past now, but we can't help thinking its colourful logo and square design would actually look right at home in the world of Android and iOS 7 interfaces.

Tim Berner's Lee computer at which the web was born

Ultimately the machine is not much to look at, but it is incredible to think that from just this one machine an almost unfathomable amount of change, disruption and revolution has occurred. And it was all given to use free of charge by a man named Tim.

The Science Museum will now display the historic machine to the public. In the autumn it will become one of the key exhibits in the new £15.6m Information Age gallery where it will sit alongside other major exhibits such as the first transatlantic telegraph equipment used in 1858, the BBC’s first radio transmitter 2LO and a giant tuning coil from the Rugby Radio Station.

Worse than Orwell could ever imagine: UK spy drama takes dark twist

28 Feb 2014

An eye in close-up superimposted by a screen of random numbers

Ever since revelations of mass spying, data gathering and web surveillance broke last summer there has been shock and outrage at the government's intrusion into the lives of innocent web users around the world.

However, amid the entirely justified furore caused by the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, there has also been an underlying tone of ‘quelle surprise’.

We all used to joke that governments were spying on us and – hey presto – they were. And as they insisted on telling us, the data they gathered was only metadata, nothing that made citizens identifiable. Yes it was wrong, a bit over the top, but it wasn’t that bad, and after all, it was in our own security interests.

However, things have taken a darker, more insidious twist this week with the news that Yahoo webcam users were spied on by GCHQ and millions of images were taken and stored, many of which caught people in a state of undress.

This isn’t metadata. This is taking photos of people inside their own homes. MP David Davis said the revelations "exceeded even the worst Orwellian nightmares".

"Even in 1984 the citizen was aware that they were being watched,” he added.

It’s worth repeating to really drive this home: the UK government has taken photographs of millions of people inside their own homes, without their knowledge, in order to create a giant mugshot database of innocent citizens.

How on earth did such a system come to be in place? Who devised it, designed it, created and approved it? Who oversaw its operation? Did anyone ever raise a concern that this could be ever so slightly immoral, illegal, outrageous?

To date, the security services have managed to avoid any true scrutiny of their work, hiding behind bland stock statements or the classic ‘that’s a national security issue’ line.

Still, while it is unrealistic to expect spy chiefs to tell all about their efforts to protect us grateful citizens – What would they say anyway? Yes, we take naked photos of you, sorry – there are some with the power to keep the spies in line.

One of these people is the intelligence services commissioner, Sir Mark Waller. His role is to provide “independent judicial oversight” of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and is appointed by parliament.

So his role should involve monitoring these agencies, and reporting on their work and how it is being conducted whenever he is asked to do so by those in the parliament that appointed him.

But in order to get Waller to do this, a committee of MPs – the Home Affairs Committee – have had to force him to do so, so they can find out more about what it is he’s actually overseeing. It’s positively Kafkaesque, to add to the Orwellian reference earlier.

Not only that, but Waller had tried to palm off the Committee by pointing its members in the direction of a report that covered the work of the services between January and December 2012, published in July 2013.

This was at the same time as the Snowden revelations were just appearing, and the report is no help seven months later, when the world’s understanding of the spying being carried out by governments is still only just being understood.

Waller will now give evidence on the 18 March, in a session that is likely to prove testy, and will no doubt feature the phrase ‘I can’t discuss that’ once or twice.

For the rest of us, we are now living in a world that is ever-reliant on digital communications, but where our own government is monitoring it all, from phone calls and emails, to taking photos of us in a state of undress, while those in charge are seemingly immune to any scrutiny.

Orwell may have been 30 years early in his predictions, but he was right. Terrifyingly right.

By V3's Dan Worth, who hears a clock striking thirteen

Nelson Mandela tops Google searches for 2013, iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 not far behind

17 Dec 2013

As we approach the end of the year Google has once against listed its annual zeitgeist list of the most searched terms over the past 12 months to show what most people around the world wanted to know during the year.

Despite only passing on a few weeks ago, the topic that has dominated the list is the death of Nelson Mandela, as those around the world searched for more information on the great leader. This was just ahead of the death of Paul Walker, the star of the Fast and Furious franchise of movies.

Elsewhere, though, technology was well represented on the list, with searches for the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4 both appearing, with Apple scoring more hits than Samsung, as it chalks up another, admittedly minor, victory over its nemesis.

The PlayStation 4 (PS4) also featured, unlike the Xbox One, as Microsoft’s console fails to quite match Sony for hype and interest in the games market.

The top 10 list is below:

1.    Nelson Mandela
2.    Paul Walker
3.    iPhone 5S
4.    Cory Monteith
5.    Harlem Shake
6.    Boston Marathon
7.    Royal Baby
8.    Samsung Galaxy S4
9.    PS4
10.  North Korea

Google has also made an interactive globe that shows the most popular search terms from different locations around the word, with London showing a weird demand for sport with both BBC Sport and BBC Football both scoring highly. Other UK cities such as Manchester and Bristol also show an enjoyment for sports information.

By V3's Dan Worth, who searches high and low

Web could change forever with 2014 domain overhaul plans

20 Nov 2013

A domain name

For years the web has bumbled along with a motley crew of domain suffixes such as .com, .net and co.uk playing the ‘bottom half of the cow’ to the top half of www.

However, 2014 will see this change as the humble web domain suffix grows up and starts to change the face of the internet forever. As V3 noted last week, the .london domain is now up for grabs and interest is already said to be high.

This new domain is just one of over a 1,000 that are being made available by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) alongside others such as .technology, .cloud and even company-specific ones such as .Apple and .Google.

Furthermore, Nominet, the organisation responsible for domain addressing in the UK, has now announced that a new, shorter .uk suffix will be made available from 2014, which could mean many firms are forced into some tough branding decisions.

A website such as V3 could change from V3.co.uk to V3.uk, for example. But Nominet has said no old suffixes will go, so many firms may choose to stick with their existing setup. However, that could lead to an imposter stealing the similar .uk domain and causing confusion for customers.

To stop this happening, Nominet is giving firms with existing .co.uk domains the chance to have the .uk version of their domain first, and they have a five-year holding period to decide if they want to use it. After that, though, anything goes.

For firms, this poses some questions. Do you take the new domain and just run it in the background, and if people head to it they’ll end up on your site anyway? Or should you make the short domain the new brand for your firm? Or try and use both at the same time?

And what about the new top-level domains on offer from Icann? Is it worth splashing out for an entirely different type of domain – one that internet users may not realise exists – or should you just stick with the same domain you've been using for years and trust that no-one will come up with a domain brand that proves better for marketing?

It may take some years for this all to happen, but the web as we've known it looks set to change forever.

By V3's Dan Worth, who's the master of his own domain

Conservative party erases the past with website speech wipe

13 Nov 2013

Politicians love to bang on about being “open”, “transparent” and “accountable” for their actions. These words, in essence, mean nothing, but somehow give that warm and fuzzy feeling that they’re honourable chaps and chapesses.

Of course, though, often these words are later ignored as the politican in question backtracks, flip-flops or U-turns on what they previously said, leaving themselves in a horribly contorted mess of contradictions.

Having speeches available online is one surefire way of running into this mess, as it makes it easy for some meddlesome man or woman from the press to check what you previously said on a subject and ask why you’ve changed your tune.

One way around this would be to simply erase all of your speeches from the web so no-one could ever check what you'd promised, claimed or opined. It sounds like the sort of thing the mad despotic ruler of a totalitarian state would do. Or the Conservative party.

Yes, the Tory party has removed every speech given by its members from over the last decade, with only speeches from 2013 now archived on its site, according to Computer Weekly.

The folks in the party really don't want those old speeches found, as they've even made it impossible for archive services to find the old speeches thanks to some nifty blocking code. Odd. We asked the Conservative party why it had done this, but hadn't heard a peep by the time of publication.

While accessing past speeches given by the Tories is a rare desire, it is a worrying state of affairs as it will make it a lot harder to check what has been said, and undermines previous claims by David Cameron and his cohorts that the government wants to be open and transparent.

Speaking at a Google conference in 2006, Cameron said: "You've begun the process of democratising the world's information. Democratising is the right word to use because by making more information available to more people, you're giving them more power. The power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power – whether it's government, big business or the traditional media."

How, pray, Mr Cameron, does one hold government to account when everything you and your chums have ever said over the past decade has been removed from the web?

Google takes Street View to Cern to allow science fans inside physics wonderland

26 Sep 2013

Street View screen shot showing inside at Cern from Google

Google’s Street View service has been a wonderful addition to the web, as it allows the world to check out landmarks and future holiday destinations in real-life glory, although the images are usually a few years out of date.

The firm has always shown it is keen to expand the services wherever it can, with shots of remote wilderness, canals, rivers and even mountains. Now, the latest location to face the all-seeing eye of Street View is Cern, near Geneva.

V3 has seen the site in the flesh and from the outside it isn’t much to look at, appearing very much like your standard set of offices in the European hinterland. But inside it’s a treasure trove of scientific wonder, with scientists tackling some of the most pressing questions about our universe.

So, the chance to peer around thanks to Street View is a great opportunity, and one that Google was keen to embrace, as Google Street View program manager Pascale Milite explained in a blog post.

"We’re delighted that CERN opened its doors to Google Maps Street View allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to take a peek into its laboratories, control centres and its myriad underground tunnels housing cutting-edge experiments,” she said.

“Street View also lets scientists working on the experiments, who may be on the other side of the world, explore the equipment they're using."

As ever, the images are slightly out of date, with the photography taking place back in 2011, Google said, but the firm did get access to some of the most important parts of the site, which are usually only seen by its top scientists, so we'll forgive them for the lateness.

"You can check out experiments, like ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, LHCb and the Large Hadron Collider tunnel in Google Maps,” she added.

And if you're really lucky, perhaps you'll spot a Higgs boson lurking in the background.

BT hangs up on dial-up internet services

02 Sep 2013

BT has closed its dial-up internet service for consumer customers, marking the end of a notable chapter in the UK’s web history.

For years that weird and wonderful 'bzzt, prrr garrrrrrrrrrr e-donk, tahhhhhhhh, zzzzzzzzzzz' noise was the stuff of wonder and awe, as the worldwide information superhighway awaited. However, it is no more.

BT was keen to stress that none of the 1,000 or so customers that still enjoy this sound would not be left high and dry without a connection, with dial-up still clinging to life as part of its Plusnet subsidiary.

“BT can confirm it has closed its dial up service for consumer customers. This is a legacy product that is only used by a tiny number of customers, most of whom can easily transfer onto broadband for a cheaper price,” it said in a statement. “No-one is being left without the option of an alternative service.”

It is a notable milestone for the nation, though, as it underlines the fact that always-on connections are now the norm in homes across the land, as broadband becomes the fourth utility for households alongside gas, electricity and water.

What's more, with the rollout of superfast broadband services in counties across the UK beginning as contracts are signed with regularity, the idea of 'phoning the internet' and blocking up the telephone line for others in the household will lead to incredulous looks from future generations.

For those of you that miss that melodious sound of dial-up internet listen below (complete with some madcap humour) and recall those halcyon days when AOL CDs littered your desk and Windows 95 was a fresh and funky operating system.

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