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Top technology presents for Christmas 2013

November 17, 2013 1 comment

Christmas is just round the corner, I’m sure everyone is busy writing their Christmas list. With that in mind here are some of the presents that will be topping the Christmas list of every geek and gadget fan:

  • iPad Air: The brand new iPad is going to be at the top of every Apple fan’s Christmas list. It is of no surprise, the latest version is sleek to say the least weighing less than one pound. It does pack a punch though including a 9.7” retina display screen as well as the brand new A7 chip which is two times faster than its predecessor.
  • Microsoft Surface 2: The new tablet from Microsoft has a whole host of new features that are sure to win over consumers looking for a high-end tablet. The biggest change is the upgrade to Windows 8.1, a much improved version of the mobile OS. Also the screen is a mammoth 10.6” (huge for a tablet) and is full HD, making it perfect for watching videos or for work.
  • Nokia Lumia 1020: For you budding smartphone photographers out there, the Nokia Lumia 1020 is arguably the best camera phone on the market. No other phone can match the 41 megapixel camera sensor or the super high-resolution zoom. The Lumia 1020 also comes with Nokia Pro Cam which allows you to alter shutter speed, focus and white balance to take breath-taking photos.
  • PS4: One of the most talked about battles this year has been between Sony and Microsoft over their next generation consoles. The PS4 is due out on Friday 29th November 2013 and promises to deliver a more immersive gaming experience. Sony has developed enhanced graphics, more responsive controllers as well as a new social gaming experience.
  • XBox One: The other console fighting for your attention this Christmas is Microsoft’s XBox One. The new console utilises the cloud to provide a more personal gaming experience. Users will be able to use Apps and play games at the same time as well as having a personalised homepage when logging on regardless of which console you’re using and just for good measure a Kinect has been built into the console.
  • Fitbit Force: The Fitbit Force is the latest activity tracker and sleep monitor from Fitbit following up on the One and the Flex. The Force now includes a small but powerful OLED screen which displays steps, distance, calories burned, active minutes, floors climbed and the time to help monitor your daily activity. This is the perfect present for any gym freak or for anyone planning a new year diet.
  • Nexus 7: The new 7” Nexus tablet from Google is a first choice for anyone looking for a smaller tablet. Weighing in at only 290g it is light but powerful with 2GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Processor. Available from £199 it is one of the best value tablets on the market.
  • Kindle Fire HDX: The second generation of the Amazon tablet has been big hit, the low price coupled with a fantastic new screen makes this a contender to any tablet. The HDX screen makes images come alive with 100% sRGB. The Fire HDX is available in both 7” and 8.9” versions, prices start at £199 making it very appealing to new tablet users.
  • Roku 3: The Roku 3 goes beyond Apple TV to off you the ultimate entertainment experience. It delivers the best selection of streaming services straight to your TV including movies from HBO, Amazon and Netflix as well as music services like Spotify. The coolest thing about the Roku 3 has to be the remote, it includes a headphone jack when you want some quiet time and a motion sensor for playing games like Angry Birds.
  • Seagate Back Up Plus: The Seagate Back Up Plus is the simple one-click way to protect and share your digital life. This portable hard drive syncs with your social media accounts allowing you to easily back up content as well share pictures and video’s straight from your computer. This is perfect for any budding photographer or filmmaker.

Another website well worth a visit and who helped put this together is Insight UK, a leading provider of IT hardware!

What is on your Christmas list?

SEO vs. SEM

Acronyms can often just get too much, whether they are being used constantly in the office workplace or on your mobile phone (the dreaded ‘lol’). Communication is about sending messages clearly and concisely so this article will define the difference between two different techniques. In the red corner SEO (search engine optimisation) stands defiant and is not disappearing anytime soon, in the blue corner lurks SEM (search engine marketing) hoping to win the fight, with money on the mind.

What does SEO and SEM mean?
SEO is optimising your website to get free traffic and overcome any technical barriers that might prevent a search engine from accessing a website’s content. The site’s content should be relevant and in turn this helps the search engine index the content effectively. An optimised website is more easily understood by search engine crawlers (more chance of ranking higher in SERPS- search engine results page). On-page tactics include, but are not limited to: meta descriptions and tags, page titles, keywords, alt image tags, headings and URL.
SEM is simply the purchasing of marketing media such as Google AdWords (paid search advertising). SEM is very controllable and you are in complete control of budget and spend. You can choose a particular word or phrase to encourage traffic to your website. Over time ad campaigns can be monitored (analytics) and changes made if necessary.
There are similarities between the two approaches but you may find, depending on your needs, you put more time and energy into one over the other. However it is important to follow SMART (specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, relevant and time). There are many definitions for this wonderful acronym but they all mean the same thing; know what your aims are to achieve your end-goal.

Online tips/advice

– Off-site SEO such as acquiring links (recommendations or guest blogs) can both benefit/harm your website’s rank. Make sure the incoming link is from a reliable, authoritative source. However link building is considered an almost outdated technique now.
– What is a sitemap? The online pages of a website accessible by search engine crawlers or users.
– Good writing conquers all!

Would you like your food printed in colour or b&w?

Carrot, chocolate, strawberry and cucumber sponge cake. That is an odd recipe I hear you say, well add a group of scientists, a printer, food and intelligence and the result is pleasing: printed food. How is that even possible?

Scientists in the United States of America have been building a 3D food printer. Cornell University’s Computational Synthesis Lab have been working on this project to change the future of food production. The printer uses food “inks” (liquid or melted versions of ingredients) that are contained within a syringe. The machine deposits food inks layer by layer and line by line according to an electronic blueprint. The blueprint uses CAD (computer aided design) software and instructs where materials should be placed.

So why do we need food printers?

The printer makes cooking possible for those who struggle with or find cooking difficult. The technology allows people to tweak and play around with flavours, textures and appearance. It brings fun to cooking. Alongside fun, the production of meals is time-saving. This allows for fast production of specific meals for those in need: hospitals, disasters or the homeless.

However the technology has not been perfected. The raw ingredients each have different materials reacting differently depending on the situation or combination. The project therefore needs more time to understand the properties of materials.

What does this project promise?

The project promises a step closer to invention seen in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the fictional character Willy Wonka creating marvellous food combinations. The printer allows your imagination to run wild, mixing exotic flavours and create colourful food with exquisite tastes. A food printer would make the unimaginable imaginable. However some people feel the printer could be influential on home cooking and alter family dynamics. Traditional home cooked meals could be a ‘thing of the past’ along with cooking skills and time spent either preparing, cooking or consuming a meal. The printer although being able to tailor an individual’s needs could mean less cohesion and unity around eating. This leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Imagine sending a “home-baked” meal to your partner living abroad via Msn. Facebook messaging a heart cookie to your crush on Valentines day. The industry would also benefit from fast production of meals in places needing or providing care such as hospitals or shelters. The food printer is an innovative idea and personally my taste buds tingle at the thought of such an idea.

Related articles

Technabob

BBC coverage

Gaming addiction: myth, medical condition or moral panic?

December 6, 2010 2 comments

How much is too much?

Reporter Raphael Rowe on Panorama, investigates the state/reality of gaming addiction in the UK.

A surprising statistic caught the attention of many in the first ten minutes of the show with half of all homes in Britain owning at least one console. How many are in your house?

People queue for hours and hours just to get their hands on the latest release. Games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft (Cataclysm launched tonight) have become so popular they have dominated the gaming world. So with over three billion pounds a year being spent on gaming (more than films/music) what is the harm?

Two very clear views were given during the programme. For and against the idea of ‘gaming addiction’.

Case studies provided a clear-cut argument against gaming and its negative effects. One boy followed the motto of “eat, sleep and play games” and had got kicked out of higher education, which subsequently meant he was damaging his relationships with his friends and family. Another study revealed the violent results of parents trying to gain control over an “addicted gamer”, the boy kicking a hole in his sister’s wall and becoming full of rage after his parents disconnected the internet. A screen shot of a game character was used to express this rage if the description wasn’t enough.
The World Health described gaming as a “serious threat” and it was discussed that national recognition was needed. This addiction, unlike others, was suggested as subtle and lacks obvious signs, however, with more funding and research the idea of gaming addiction can be explored and defined.

To remain balanced the programme did discuss the benefits of gaming. Gaming itself is active and can enhance intelligence whilst also acting as beneficial escapism for gamers.

Is it just media hysteria? Moral panic that we always hear about?

Korea was provided as an insight into a country that has dealt with the issue of gaming addiction. Korea has a strong focus on gaming and technology with PC bangs on most corners, providing a night’s entertainment of gaming. Gaming is also highly recognised as a sport in Korea and shows gaming as almost culturally integrated.

Panaroma addressed the number of fatalities due to gaming: twelve. The most horrific case was a baby starved to death due to neglect from parents as they were playing online games. However the parents of the child were recognised to be depressed and with a low IQ. The mother of the child was even described as mentally unstable before gaming so this example seemed very stretched and unreliable. The game they were playing whilst their child was suffering was raising an online virtual baby. This story is not only heartbreaking but in one sense painfully ironic.
Korea has set up camps to address and rehabilitate people who may be addicted to gaming. These camps focus on social aspects such as improving communication and building relationships with family and friends. As these seem to be the worst side effects from gaming. This innovative approach to tackling ‘addicted gamers’ seemed beneficial in the fact that youths were reminded about other alternatives to gaming such as  the outdoors and the importance of relationships. However, the camp seems like a step too late in my opinion.

Overall Panaroma discussed important points to help combat the idea of ‘gaming addiction’. Ideas suggested that more money is needed to fund research which can help establish whether games themselves are addictive  or whether addiction stems from the person. Is it a personality trait? The programme recognised that games do incorporate powerful psychological techniques to create a compulsion loop, but without these there would be no substance to a game.

Many people suggested that games themselves should take responsibility in offering advice not only to the consumer, but in the instance of (vulnerable) children playing games, parents should be provided with guidance on what traits to look for in ‘gaming addiction’.

Perhaps games should also have ratings on addiction levels (formed from research) which can help a buyer decide what game to choose. A rating can be a basis on assessing whether the user of a game is mature and capable enough to handle the game and the level of addiction it provides. In an ideal world age ratings and addictive ratings could possibly combine and work together in harmony to ensure games are used by suitable users.

More funding, more clarity and more responsibility is needed in order to tackle the issue of ‘gaming addiction’. Right I am off to go and chat to all of my friends in Tunisia. Woops, I mean I am going to put on my headset, plug-in my X-box and play Call of Duty.

Related links

BBC Iplayer Panorama: Addicted to gaming

Listen to the James Hazzell show about gaming addiction and self harm

Guardian article on Panorama

Zuckerberg reveals the new face to Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg appeared on US TV show 60 minutes revealed the new changes to Facebook. These changes should reach all members by early 2011. A coincidence that these changes come after the invasion of cartoon characters on Facebook profile pictures.

So what are the two main changes?

Improving visuals and the ability to find out more information about people you care about.

How will these changes look?

Vital information such as birthday, current city, relationship and employer will be positioned at the top of a profile page. Recently tagged photographs will be shown below with the option of choosing which photographs to ‘hide’.

The information section has converted text to images wherever possible to improve the visual aesthetics of the website. Yet again a ‘hiding’ option is provided for those with an “embarrassing taste” in music.

Images have also been used in ‘Friends’ tab with a grid of friends’ faces. An attractive display of your friends, what more could you wish for?

Feature friends lists will also be listed on your profile which will see the coming of ‘Top Friend’ lists which you may remember from the social network site, My Space. In my (personal) experience this did cause an online argument or two.

Companies will embrace the new changes to the employer section with the ability to tag people and projects. This will enhance communication in a business and link different people and teams successfully.

Smaller changes

  • Messages and pokes now prominently featured on your Facebook.
  • A link to your ‘friendship page’

So, when will this change happen?

Facebook is giving you the option to choose whether to apply the new ‘look’ to Facebook, but be aware once you have accepted the new changes there is no going back.

Facebook offers a helping hand in getting to grips with the new look with a ‘wizard’, no not the magical kind, but with pop ups and fade effects to walk you through the new changes. This offers users support and only takes around two minutes of your time.

What do we think?

A new year and a new Facebook? With more emphasis on visuals this is a bonus to those who favour visual aesthetics. The revamp offers more emphasis on profile information and the increase in images offers a more graphic aspect to Facebook that we have not seen before.

However, arguments may arise with the new ‘Feature friends’ but to Facebook’s advantage this may encourage involvement with the site. Intrigued? Activate your new Facebook.

Cartoon characters invade Facebook

December 5, 2010 4 comments

Until Monday 6th December, people are changing their display pictures on Facebook to their favourite cartoon character from the 80’s and 90’s to support the campaign, “Stop violence against children”. If you saw my previous post, I felt it was important to show my support.

 

Google trends have seen an increase in cartoon character searches, and many Facebook status’ have been changed to:

Until Monday (Dec. 6), there should be no human faces on Facebook but an invasion of memories. This is for eliminating violence against children

Although, it is not a dedicated day, week or month to child protection against violence, this viral sweep emphasises and highlights our responsibility as a society to protect young children.

So, if you haven’t changed your display picture already, have a nostalgic afternoon searching on Youtube or Amazon for your memorable (possibly, forgotten) cartoon character(s), upload then share with your online community. Show your support.

If you have changed your display picture, what was your favourite cartoon character(s)? Donatello- teenage mutant ninja turtle? Mario? Wolverine? Rugrats? Spongebob?

Please share (if you are not too embarrassed) what your favourite cartoon character is (or was, for those grown up individuals amongst us).

Related articles

Coolest cartoon characters from the silver age

Unicef Child protection website

X-box blamed for child’s death

December 4, 2010 5 comments

Cast your mind back to February 1993. The Bulger case ruled the media. The story was a tragedy that shocked the nation. The newspapers at this time caused moral panic about films. The film Child’s Play 3 was being used as a scapegoat by (the boys and media) for the murder of Jamie Bulger. However, there was no link found between the film and the murder.

Yet again in 2010, another tragedy has hit the headlines and this time the connection is with an electronic console. The X-box.

Gary Alcock has been sentenced a minimum of twenty-one years in prison after killing his 15-month year old daughter. The Telegraph, said he “flew into a rage” after his daughter started crying whilst he was playing the X-box. See the full article. Due to the sensitive nature of this article I do not wish to write endlessly about this horrific incident.

However, it is important to recognise the media’s blame on an electronic device for such a devastating murder, instead of looking at the real problem.

Yet again, perhaps more should/could have been done to prevent this from happening. Alcock had a history of violence and it was reported that Alcock had attacked the daughter three weeks prior to her death. This draws attention to  how was this crime (three weeks before) left unnoticed by anyone?

The sad underlying issue in this story also lies with the girl’s mother. She put her relationship before her daughter’s safety, and in this case, life. It is heart wrenching to read such a horrific case like this and it yet again emphasises the lack of communication in society. How did this go unnoticed by anyone? What measures need to be put in place to ensure this does not happen again?

To start, the media need to help society and stop constructing misleading/mocking headlines:

‘Bully’ Killed Girl For Interrupting Xbox Fun [Sky News]

Man killed tot who interrupted X-Box playing [Cnews]

Life for thug Gary Alcock who battered girlfriend’s baby to death after her crying kept interrupting his computer games [Mirror]

Gary Alcock gets life in prison for brutally beating baby who interrupted his video game playing [NY Daily News]

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