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Google adds top UK tourist spots to Street View

27 May 2014

Byland Abbey on Google Street View

Given that skies full of dark, forbidding rain clouds make up the majority of British summers, finding the weather to go out and visit some of the country’s cultural and historical sites can be pretty rare.

But with the announcement that popular tourist destinations will be added to Street View in Google Maps, sightseers will not need to wait for the sun to make an appearance before they can glimpse the majestic ruins of Byland Abbey (pictured above), for example. 

Google has added famous destinations ranging from grand historical structures such as Alnwick Castle and Gardens, through to renowned racecourses including Epson Downs and Newmarket (below).

Newmarket race course

In order to fill Google Maps with 3D views of these tourist hotspots, the search giant needed to look beyond using its traditional Street Views cars as it had to get up close to some of the UK’s most popular attractions without damaging treasured parts of British heritage or alarming bemused onlookers.

So, working with partners, Google used a combination of trekker backpacks and trollies to capture many of the various sights and vistas of Britain, making them viewable on the screens of PCs, tablets and smartphones through its same Street View interface.

Now Google maps users can effectively tour the sights of Britain without even leaving the comfort of their own homes.

Plus, with virtual reality technology becoming more of a reality, thanks to the Oculus Rift and Sony Project Morpheus headset hardware, perhaps this could this be the end of real-world tourism?

Bletchley Park Trust to set up Turing fund

21 May 2014

bletchley-park-learning-programme

The Bletchley Park Trust is to fund an educational 'Turing Education Officer' role at its site in Milton Keynes and will support teaching experiences for young and disadvantaged children.

This is the third such position created at the Trust in the past two years, and the organisation said that it could afford to fund the role for three years. This latest hire, once installed, will work on educational efforts for primary school children and disadvantaged and special needs students.

According to the park people, Bletchley's code breaking pedigree is just one facet of the experience.

"Bletchley Park is about so much more than a museum. Of course, what was done at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing and others is of huge importance," said Sir John Dermot Turing, Bletchley Park Trustee.

"One part of Bletchley Park's mission is to use the achievements of the codebreakers to stimulate school students and complement the formal STEM curriculum in an interesting and relevant way.

"The education team at Bletchley has been hugely successful in this. In fact, so successful that the schools programme has been sold out many months in advance for the last few years.

"All this is why the Turing family has been very pleased to support the creation of a new post in the Education Department at Bletchley Park, called the Turing Education Officer.

"We think this is a very fitting tribute to Alan Turing's contribution here at Bletchley and something which we hope he would himself have been keen to support."

Bletchley says that it pulls in some 8,000 schoolchildren a year, and welcomes its place in science and technology learning. It added that it is looking to double the amount of young visitors.

 

Twitter silences the witterers with Mute button

13 May 2014

Man with fingers in ears

Social network Twitter is offering its users a mute button that they can employ to filter out annoying people for a limited time, without having to unfollow them.

First to get the feature will be iPhone, Android and Twitter for Web users, who will now be able to silence tiresome users who perhaps post updates just a little too often.

"Today we're beginning to introduce a new account feature called mute to people who use our iPhone and Android apps and twitter.com. Mute gives you even more control over the content you see on Twitter by letting you remove a user's content from key parts of your Twitter experience," it said in a blogpost.

"In the same way you can turn on device notifications so you never miss a Tweet from your favorite users, you can now mute users you'd like to hear from less. Muting a user on Twitter means their Tweets and Retweets will no longer be visible in your home timeline, and you will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from that user."

The system sounds a lot like a block on another user, but one that will not apparently insult or offend the blocked person.

"The muted user will still be able to fave, reply to, and retweet your Tweets; you just won't see any of that activity in your timeline," added the firm. "The muted user will not know that you've muted them, and of course you can unmute at any time."

The feature will be rolled out to all users in the coming weeks, according to Twitter.

With the World Cup just around the corner those who follows avid football fans could find it a major blessing to help avoid endless tweets about how games are unfolding, or those tweeting manically about the final of Britain's Got Talent, without offending friends or colleagues.

NSA gets cryptic with coded job ad in Twitter post

06 May 2014

magnifying-glass

The US National Security Agency (NSA) posted an intriguing message on its Twitter account over the weekend, in a novel way to appeal to those who have an aptitude for cracking codes and ciphers.

Usually the NSA's careers Twitter account posts up short, bland opportunities for applications, but this one is very different.

It is very obviously a cipher, and looks a lot like one that uses substituted letters. The question mark is something of a clue and suggests that the NSA is happy to leave such hints.

There are various ways and means of cracking substitution ciphers and one of them is to start with the letter E - the most commonly used of English letter characters, and work back from that.

You can do this manually, automatically or in your browser using Javascript. The end result should be the same, the time spent working on the solution may differ radically though.

We can confirm that the advert is not actually a job ad, but is more of a knowing wink in the direction of people that like codes and ciphers, want a job with the NSA, and are not Edward Snowden. You can see the solution to the NSA code puzzle in this YouTube video.

Last year the UK agency GCHQ carried out a similar experiment to help it in its search for the next Alan Turing. At the time GCHQ's head of resourcing, Jane Jones, said that modern threats require new ways of finding talented people to help crack complex codes.

"We want employees who have evolved with the ever-changing digital world and therefore have the right skills to combat these challenges," she said at the time. "It's a puzzle but it's also a serious test - the jobs on offer here are vital to protecting national security."

Long-lost Atari ET game cartridges dug up from the desert

28 Apr 2014

digger4

A much-maligned console flop of 1982 ET the Extra-Terrestrial video game, has been exhumed from its sandy grave and presented back to the world.

While ET the movie was a solid hit, the same could not be said of the Atari 2600 game that followed it. Slow, weak, confusing and frustrating, it was bought by punters but then quickly returned to stores. It was a massive unplayable flop and someone decided that the only way to deal with it would be to, literally, bury it and forget all about it.

Some people did not forget it, though, and since those dark days of digging and dumping game fans have been searching for the missing movie tie-in.

Fuel Entertainment, an entertainment company, was first to act, and this weekend it finally broke ground in New Mexico at the appointed site in Alamogordo having announced its plans to do so last year.

Mike Burns, CEO of Fuel Entertainment, said at the time: "ET was one of the first video games based on a licensed property, and one of the earliest and most poignant examples of mass over-hyping in digital entertainment."

Now the dig is dug and the earth has thrown up copy after copy of the 22-year-old title. We do not know if the games are playable – if they ever truly were – but there are apparently reams of them.

The dig has been filmed for a documentary that is directed by Zak Penn, who co-wrote the script for X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand and he produced photos from the excavation on Twitter.

The documentary will be released later this year.

This is not the first earthy reveal of the year, and back in February a Steve Jobs time capsule, which included an old mouse of his, was uncovered.

V3 seeks talented reporter to join London team

25 Apr 2014

V3 is seeking a reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis, video and reviews for IT professionals, so a passion for IT and the tech scene are crucial for this role.

The role is full-time and based in our central London office, where you will get plenty of opportunity to gain experience and hone your skills across all areas of digital journalism.

The role will see you writing news, features and blogs, attending events in London, the UK and across the world, and interviewing senior executives at world-leading companies ranging from the likes of Google and Microsoft to hot startups. You’ll also be encouraged to break stories, take unique angles on industry topics and source off-diary stories.

An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy under pressure is a must, as well as a can-do attitude, a willingness to adapt and alter working practices at a moment’s notice, and understanding the job may require working, and socialising, after office hours.

There will be the opportunity to film and edit video, so video production skills, while not a pre-requisite for the role, will be a bonus. You will also help manage the V3 brand on numerous social media sites, so we’re looking for someone with an affinity for Twitter, Google+ and the next big thing in social.

This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism or making their next step on the career ladder onto an online, well-established tech brand, with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too. Ideally you will already have some practical experience of working as a technology journalist, either through your current role, work experience or freelance.

Salary: DOE.

Deadline: 23 May 2014

To apply, please email a covering letter and CV to news editor Dan Worth.

Lost Andy Warhol art found on Amiga floppy disks

24 Apr 2014

Lost Andy Warhol art has been found on a collection of old floppy disks that were used by the artist. Andy Warhol may seem like an ideal Apple user, but back in the 1980s he aligned himself with Commodore and its Amiga 1000.

The artist took to the stage at the launch of the machine and painted, on it, an image of Debbie Harry. That image and footage of it being created was preserved, but other Amiga daubs by Warhol were believed to have been lost. Until now.

The disks were not actually lost, they were in the hands of the Andy Warhol Museum, but they were gathering dust. It is the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Computer Club's Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry that blew the dust of the disks and freed them from the archives.

The results have been posted to the Studio's website and show a number of common Warhol themes, including a certain brand of soup.

"What's amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium: the digital," said New York-based artist Cory Arcangel, who kicked off the hunt.

Twenty-eight image files were found on the disks, and each had promising names, such as marilyn1.pic, however they were in a format that could not be opened. The CMU reverse-engineered the format and revealed the disks' content. Of the 28 images, 11 bear the artists signature.

Apple taunts Samsung with green boasts in newspaper ads

22 Apr 2014

Apple ad mocking Samsung as its touts its green credentialsAs Apple and Samsung continue to fight it out in courtrooms around the world, the iPhone maker has shown it is willing to use whatever tactics it can to score a cheap point over its rival.

In printed newspaper adverts, such as the one on the back of The Times on Tuesday (pictured left), the iPhone maker has touted its green credentials through its efforts to use renewable energy sources and reduce the use of harmful materials under the pointed statement of: “There are some ideas we want every company to copy”.

The ad continues: “There’s one area where we actually encourage others to imitate us. Because when everyone makes the environment a priority, we all benefit.”

No doubt Samsung executives and their legal counsels spluttered into their coffee when they saw the ad, which will only add another level of frisson to the proceedings currently taking place in a California courtroom.

The ad forms part of Apple’s marketing push for its green efforts to coincide with Earth Day, celebrated on Tuesday, with the company promoting a new ‘Better’ mantra, as vice president of environmental initiatives Lisa Jackson explained.

“We aim to create not just the best products in the world, but the best products for the world. We have a long way to go, but we are proud of our progress. For example, every one of our data centres is powered entirely by clean sources such as solar, wind and geothermal energy,” she said.

“So whenever you download a song, update an app or ask Siri a question, the energy Apple uses is provided by nature.”

Even head honcho Tim Cook lent his time to the push, with his dulcet tones providing the vocals for a new video that promotes all these efforts in Apple's typically stylistic manner. Hopefully the chaps at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) don't see it, or else one more screen could be headed for the landfill.

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