Broadband is often touted as the fourth utility and a vital piece of the UK's infrastructure. At present the market is a hive of activity as firms, government and local organisations work to get services live across the UK. Hopefully, in generations to come, people will look back at our work on broadband in the same way we look back with wonder at the rollout of railways and marvel at some of ingenious ways we set about getting broadband rolled out.
Last week we saw how BT was using dormant sea cables to get broadband to the remote islands of the Isles of Scilly (pictured above) - which involves avoiding shipwrecks - and then it announced an increase of its Cornish rollout coverage commitments to 95 percent of the county.
It said it was able to do this, in part, because of the money it has saved using innovative new rollout technologies like fibre from poles into people homes, rather than expensive road digging, as V3 saw during a visit to the region last year.
Clearly, with 21,000 connections now live in the county, the desire is there for these superfast services. Meanwhile BT is also involved in numerous rural rollouts, such as Lincolnshire which was announced on Wednesday, and no doubt those in these regions are keen to get online with faster speeds.
Elsewhere, the likes of Virgin Media has brought internet access to the London Underground and is using small cell technology in areas in Leeds and Bradford as it plays its part in this push to a superfast utopia.
There are also unique projects such as the B4RN carrying out their own rollouts to fill in the areas where the big boys have refused to play ball, proving that people aren't ready to sit around if they want services sooner rather than later.
This work was all neatly capped on Thursday when Ofcom announced average speeds had hit 12Mbit/s for the country.
Now, of course this is hardly the superfast utopia the government wants (of at least 24Mbit/s) but it is a notable improvement in the last few years and proves demand for faster speeds is there and the improvements being made are having a positive impact. What's more, you'd like to think that overtime this figure will rise rapidly, perhaps 24Mbit/s in two years, then maybe 50Mbit/s by 2020 and so forth.
It depends on the real demand people have for these speeds, but the chicken-and-egg race between speeds and applications that need faster connections (HD quality movie streaming services for example) could well force the demand higher.
Hopefully all of this will leave our future relatives with superfast access anywhere and everywhere and they can salute us for our, well, the internet provider's, hard work.
Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller has said that Android's biggest issue is the platforms fragmentation.
During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schiller said that iOS holds the upper hand in the mobile market because of its streamlined operations. He says even the top-of-line Android handsets get released on outdated versions of the Android OS.
"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," Schiller said.
"They don't work seamlessly together."
Schiller's words come on the eve of the next big smartphone release from Samsung. The Android handset maker is expected to unveil the Galaxy S4 tomorrow in New York.
During his interview Schiller also slammed the impending S4 smartphone for not launching with the most recent Android OS. According to Schiller, the Samsung branded handset will likely drop with an older version of the mobile OS.
"We are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumoured to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," Schiller later told Reuters.
"Customers will have to wait to get an update."
While Schiller certainly is obviously biased, he may have a point here. A recent study from Trend Micro and F-secure said the prevalence of Android handsets running the outdated Gingerbread OS poses a security risk.
The study found that over 44 percent of Android users are running the older Gingerbread version of Google's OS. F-secure and Trend Micro say the longevity of the outdated platform means hackers have more time to find exploits in older versions of Android.
For Android handset makers, the biggest issue in bringing out OS updates quickly is the use of company specific skins on the operating system. Most OEMs put their own special twist on the Android OS which forces them to do extensive Q&A before releasing updates.
One of the few Android handsets to use a "vanilla" OS is the Nexus line of smartphones. Google co-authors the development of the Nexus branded handsets as a way to create a baseline offering for Android.
It's also important to note that Schiller has never been one not to speak his mind. Earlier this year, the marketing exec quickly dismissed rumours of a more-affordable iPhone for use in the developing world.
At the time, Schiller said cutting corners to reduce prices is not part of the Apple's business model.
13 Mar 2013
A pair of reports released this week indicate that we are in the midst of a radical shift in the way vendors design and target their platforms, indicating a move away from conventional design strategies.
According to figures from IDC, tablets are getting smaller as users have expressed a preference for sub-8in form factors. Citing a usage model that focuses on portability and does not require a large screen, researchers see the small-screen tablet space selling strong with consumers.
It's no secret that the growth in tablets has come at the expense of the larger PC market. With customers more interested in buying tablets than notebooks or desktop, vendors have recorded a drop in traditional PC sales.
But in addition to cutting sales, analysts also see tablets helping to change the way PC vendors design and build their systems. Research firm IHS noted that on average, PC makers are putting less DRAM in their systems than they have in years past.
This could indicate a drop in the hardware demands and cloud computing and web-based applications shift the having lifting from the client to the server side.
The primary driver of that model, again, is the tablet. Users with access to mobile networks and preference for portability have shifted the balance between lightweight designs and performance, making the later less of a concern in large part.
While the reports offer just a small fraction of the overall picture, they seem to point towards a larger trend in which portability and efficiency are paramount and the raw horsepower gains which have driven system design in recent years are taking the back seat.
People's intimate personal details which they may not wish to share publicly – such as their gender, sexual orientation and drug use – can be reliably guessed at, by analysing their Facebook likes, according to new research.
A team from the University of Cambridge's Pschometrics Centre, working with colleagues from Microsoft Research, analysed 'like' patterns of 58,000 US Facebook users, who volunteered to share their data.
Their models were able to predict male sexuality with 88 percent accuracy, identify political affiliations with 85 percent accuracy and even spot whether a subject was likely to use recreational drugs with between 65 percent and 73 percent accuracy.
Tellingly, the researchers were able to make these predictions even though the vast majority of likes users made were not for explicitly revealing links: less than five percent of gay users reviewed liked topics such as 'gay marriage'.
The vast majority of likes were for music, TV shows and films.
The implications are not just linked to Facebook, said Michal Kosinski, operations director at the Psychometric Centre, with people potentially leaving a vast digital crumb trail across numerous sites, that could be used to discern revealing information.
"Similar predictions could be made from all manner of digital data, with this kind of secondary 'inference' made with remarkable accuracy - statistically predicting sensitive information people might not want revealed,” he said.
“Given the variety of digital traces people leave behind, it's becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to control.”
The results threw up some odd links. For example, those that liked curly fries were more likely to have a high IQ; those that clicked 'like' on a link entitled 'That spider is more scared than u' were more likely to be non-smokers.
At this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, former astronaut and founder of the 100 Year Starship programme, Mae Jemison, explained how research into space travel can extended to advancements back home on Earth.
The 100 Year Starship programme is a Darpa-funded project that looks to make interstellar travel a reality within the next 100 years. Jemison says that the programme's goals will have real-world payoffs.
According to her, pushing for interstellar travel will require the people to rethink how we do things today and challenge society to advance its current ways of thinking.
The project aims to create a "Grand Challenge" that will attempt to achieve a very difficult task that will lead to smaller advancements along the way.
Jemison uses the example of teaching the world to read as an example of a Grand Challenge. According to her, teaching the world to read was a very difficult task that has transformed the way the world works.
From things like memory foam mattresses and smoke detectors, technology built for space has already changed our lives here on earth. Jemison's project looks to add similar technologies to the landscape of earth.
In theory, someone could think about the best way to grow food in space and then we can use the technology that they create to have more sustainable farming on earth.
Jemison's project could also lead to a renewed interest in space exploration. Over the past 30 years, the push towards advancing interstellar space travel has fallen off the map. As the world begins to focus on solving the issues here on Earth, the idea of travailing space has seemed less vital.
However, if the world can be convinced that space travel will lead to advancements for Earth's woes than space travel could make a comeback.
The 100 Year Starship programme is currently just a year old. Those interested in getting involved in the project should go to the group's website to share thoughts on the group's mission.
Facebook chief operating office Sheryl Sandberg has written a book to empower women in the workplace, hoping her role at the top of one of the biggest tech firms will inspire others to follow her example.
The self-help book Lean In: Women Work, and the Will to Lead, went on sale in the UK on Monday, accompanied by the launch of her LeanIn.org, a non-profit web community, aiming to offer women more encouragement in the workplace.
As a champion of women in IT and given the need to encourage more female participation in the technology sector, V3 was eager to see what tips Sandberg would have to offer, however the early reviews are disappointing.
In her book, Sandberg warns women of how they put themselves down through being too self-effacing, and tells women they need to ensure men do equal levels of housework at home if they are to make it in their career.
Sandberg also argues that before taking maternity leave, women must ‘lean in' to their work and increase the pace of what they're doing, rather than stepping back, as they frequently do, she claims.
However, Sandberg's book has been criticised for being out-of-touch with many working women and being patronising. For example, Sandberg makes reference to a time her daughter had head lice while at a business conference she took her to.
Obviously, many women would not be able to take their daughters to business conferences, or afford private nannies - let alone private jets,
The book's release comes after a policy by Yahoo's boss Marissa Mayer, which banned employees from working from home, was also criticised.
It was seen as an affront to working women, many of whom cannot take their babies to work like Mayer, or build private nurseries next to their offices.
Clearly, although high-powered women such as Mayer and Sandberg are the sort of executives the IT industry should be using as examples of what can be achieved, perhaps once they reach the top it's easy to forget the daily realities facing the majority of workers out there.
A recently uncovered pair of patent filings from two to the industry's largest music and video retailers could trigger a seismic shift in the way we buy and sell music online.
Both Apple and Amazon have filed for patents on second hand digital media services. In essence, the stores would allow users to buy and sell the DRM rights for content, transferring those rights to another device and removing them from their own.
The benefit for users is obvious, customers could save costs by buying used and recoup some of their purchases by reselling. The stores, meanwhile, are able to collect a higher margin on transactions of used items - though that could change with the revenue models Apple and Amazon use for their stores.
The publishers and studios, however, are not as fond of used sales, for obvious reasons. As they have already sold the media once, they are unable to get a second cut of sales and lose money when customers forgo new content for used copies.
As such, studios, labels and publishers come up with a variety of ways to keep users buying new content. Be it with new formats, special edition releases of popular titles and other methods, they've sought to minimise the value of used content.
Any university student who has had to purchase textbooks knows of these tricks. Publishers will come out with new editions of textbooks every year in order to thwart the market for used books. Often these new editions don't add much content, only enough to change page numbers and layouts enough to alter a course syllabus and lesson plan to the point where professors and bookstores have no choice but to abandon the old editions which are available used.
Will there be a similar reaction should Amazon and Apple succeed in opening their "used" digital content services? Will the publishers seek to strike a royalty model which gives them another cut of the resale profits, or will they simply take to the courts to block these services from ever seeing the light of day?
Anyone that's had the misfortune to trundle around today's gargantuan shopping centres will no doubt recognise that getting lost indoors can be pretty easy – an endless stream of near-identical shop fronts and lack of reference points can leave the unwary shopper unable to find their way.
Deep in these concrete hellholes, your smartphone mapping tools are of little use: GPS cannot penetrate this far into a circle of the damned. But now, thanks to Cambridge Consultants, help is at hand.
The UK-based firm has created an algorithm that can analyse data from a smartphone's onboard instruments, such as the accelerometers and gyroscopes, to work out which direction a user has travelled once GPS signals are lost.
It's far from the first system to provide indoor locations, but if Cambridge Consultants' claims are to be believed, it promises to be the most accurate. It says the system can track location accurately to within one percent of the distance travelled.
Typically, other indoor systems use Wi-Fi data to track a user's location indoors. These rely on knowing the locations of various Wi-Fi networks, and then using this to estimate the user's position by seeing which Wi-Fi clouds they brush past.
Local directory service Yelp decided to do some field tests last year, trying to compare the accuracy of Wi-Fi positioning compared to GPS. It analysed information from users of its mobile app, which lets them check in to businesses premises they've visited. It then used those check-ins to compare Wi-Fi and GPS location data. It reckoned GPS was about twice as accurate as Wi-Fi positioning.
That typically wouldn't matter greatly if a user was outdoors, and the impact of being ever so slightly not where you thought you were isn't that troubling. But it could have a real benefit for firefighters looking for the nearest exit in a smoke-filled room.
There is a down side to this technology, however. We're increasingly warned that malware writers are following the herds and going mobile. If a user had their location-aware handset compromised, it potentially gives an attacker an unparalleled opportunity to spy on the user.