Science & Technology

By February 24, 2015 Read More →

Three IT services which could boost business

Businesses of all kinds today rely heavily on IT. Whether technology is driving your front line or is propping up your infrastructure behind the scenes, it’s something which business leaders need to be paying close attention to. Business is often about staying ahead of the competition and this is as true in the world of technology as it is anywhere else. Here, we take a look at a number of technological services which could help boost your business, both in terms of security and productivity.

 

1.       Gigabit internet connection

Not long ago, a 100 megabit connection might have seemed like the cutting edge speed. But if there’s anything we’ve learned during this digital age, it’s that things move very quickly. Gigabit internet connections are particularly effective in an office environment due to the large number of people using the same web connection. While home connections typically see only a handful of people sharing bandwidth, office demands can be significantly higher, creating the need for a better connection.

 

2.       Cloud services

Efficient handling of data is a crucial part of business. Key company information needs to be readily available at all times, but it also needs to be held safely and securely. When done properly (see this Forbes piece) using cloud services is undoubtedly the smartest way for businesses to allow distributed staff members to access central information resulting in enhanced productivity.

Storing data remotely also removes a number of the dangers which come with local storage, such as the possibility of fire damage and the corruption of files.

 

3.       SSL VPN

When businesses set up an infrastructure for the remote storage of data, security is a number one issue – as this BBC article points out. The use of SSL VPN can streamline the process, removing the need for any costly software, instead allowing the secure connection to a corporate network to take place within a simple web browser.

Thus, the SSL VPN service is not only a boost to the system’s security, but it can also offer a boost to a company’s productivity, allowing swift and secure access to central networks from anywhere in the world.

When in business it is vital to choose the right IT service for your business to ensure maximum productivity and sales.

By February 19, 2015 Read More →

Will Driverless Cars Ruin the ‘Thrill’ Of Driving?

audi_autonomous_ttrs-2For many people, being behind the wheel of a powerful car provides them with a feeling of absolute freedom. There’s nothing quite like being in control of a roaring engine, burning rubber along a stretch of empty road. For people with a god complex, it’s a way to vent out their feelings as they let it all out on the open road. Would it be the same, however, if there would come a time when driverless cars would become the norm, taking the driver out from behind the wheel, and making him just another passenger in the car?

Autopilot engaged

Many believe that it would be convenient to have an autopilot system in the car. It would definitely cut down on the car accidents caused by human error. Travelling wouldn’t be that tiring for those who drive over long distances. Driverless cars would also transform the way the public transport system works.

With driverless systems, the safety of roads would be increased dramatically. There probably wouldn’t be any traffic at all. In addition, with the computerisation of the roads, there would be no reckless drivers to speak of because everybody would be driving the same way and everybody would be synchronized to the system.

Heart of the driver disengaged

However, with the disappearance of the driver, the human element of driving disappears. There has always been something sensual about driving. The marriage of man and machine has almost always been personified by the relationship of the driver and his car. Gone will be the romanticized days of being distinguished as a highly-skilled driver.

The thrill of learning how to drive in itself will be lost, as learning how to drive will become obsolete. The human race will have lost an invaluable skill that had been developed over decades. Even with the undeniable advantages of having driverless cars, there is something with a lot of sentimental value to be lost when a driver is taken from his car.

The disappearance of the car’s appeal

With the disappearance of the driver, the appeal of owning a car and driving would be lost. The romance of aimlessly driving with someone would be gone. The new generation will never know how much fun it would be to get lost because they would always have to input a destination before setting out in a car.

The days of romanticizing car rides would be over. No more songs will be written about riding in cars, because of its impersonality. Driving will have the same appeal as zero-fat milk. For all the bad things that drivers and their cars have brought upon society (e.g. car crashes, traffic jams, air pollution), cars have also brought immense pleasure and entertainment for generations since their invention.

Disappearance of an important skill

Autopilot-driven cars may ruin the experience of driving, but don’t worry, it’s not bound to be made unto law anytime soon. We all still have plenty of time to enjoy driving and just ride for the thrill of it. Online resource hubs such as TopTests.co.uk help individuals learn about driving and test their knowledge of driving laws. Driving is a useful and fun skill to learn, and it will surely be handy when the autopilot fails.

 

By January 21, 2015 Read More →

Security: stop your business from being hacked

It is a well known fact that hackers are becoming increasingly intelligent when it comes to hacking into businesses IT systems. In fact experts are now warning that over 50% of UK businesses could be hacked in just one hour – a pretty worrying thought!

After the vicious attack on Sony in 2014 which took the entire world by storm, it has become evident that hackers really do know what they are doing – and the results are potentially dangerous. This scam also highlighted the fact that very few of us are protected against these criminal offences and much more needs to be done in order to combat these criminals.

It is well known that attacks on both small and medium sized (SME’s) companies are extremely common due to the less sophisticated security software they have in place. Hackers are also aware of this hence why these are the businesses that are often targeted – security is a huge problem for all firms, but it is the SME’s that are truly under threat.

 

Protecting your business

Here are some of the highly recommended tips to securing your business:

 

Education

One of the most important things any business can do in their plight to remaining secure is to educate their staff on their role in security. Your employees really are the frontline of defence when it comes to the security of your business, whilst this isn’t the only way, if staff are vigilant it means hackers will have a much harder time.

 

Endpoint Security

Many companies are also introducing Endpoint Security into their business in order to remain as safe and secure as possible. Endpoint Security is an information security method for protecting a corporate network through the focus of endpoints. Software, authentication and authorisation are each monitored carefully to ensure maximum security. This software will include antivirus, anti spyware and firewall protection.

 

Encryption

It is also recommended by experts that all business data is encrypted to ensure safety if any data is stolen. This works to ensure that if the data is stolen, the thief cannot read the data – only you can. This is one of the best security techniques out there.

 

Mobile

Now, it is no surprise that mobile is becoming huge – we are constantly on our phones, emailing or talking. So, it is important to set up mobile network security due to more and more members of staff working away from the office at home. Therefore it is vital to ensure that any wireless mobile connectivity is as secure as possible.

With these tips in mind, you will be able to protect your business for years to come from the infamous hackers.

By January 15, 2015 Read More →

Buying Suitable Storage Devices – A Guide

storage(1)The use of computing devices has increased exponentially. There are a lot of things nowadays that require the use of computers. With this increasing demand in computer use, there has also been an increase in the demand for storage. There are a lot of ways to store data from a computer. There is hardware that has been designed especially for storing information. A computing device has internal storage as part of its structure. Sometimes, its internal storage is not enough. This is why people buy external storage devices. These devices are also useful for backing up data. With an external storage device, one would not have to worry even if they lost the information on the primary storage.

There are a lot of places where one can buy quality storage devices. If you are looking for one, then check out VoucherBin. This is one of the options you have for buying storage devices. There are several choices when it comes to storage devices. Here is a look at some of them.

Discs – These are the most common ways of storing information. A disc can be CD-ROMs, Blu-Ray, DVD, CD-R, DVD+R to name a few. Discs are a type of optical storage which uses lasers to write and read the data on them. People use discs for storing all kinds of information from files to music to videos. Movies can also be burnt on to a disc from a computer.

Hard drive – this is another method that people use to store information. A hard drive is a type of magnetic storage. The best thing about hard drives is that the memory capacity can be expanded to a lot more. They are very effective for someone who needs to store a lot of information. They come in different sizes so a user can get what suit them.

Flash memory – this includes flash drives, memory sticks, memory cards or SD cards. This type of storage device is also very popular. It is convenient because it is portable. A memory stick can be carried around pretty much anywhere. It is light in weight and small in size. Memory cards are used in phones. A smart phone can do a lot of things that a computer can. Smart phones also come with expendable memory. This means that external memory can be added to increase storage capacity. Information can also be transferred from a computer to a memory card.

All these are options that one has when looking for storage devices. Ryman is one of the stores you can look at when in need of storage devices. There are a lot of options for computer users. If you are not sure what kind of storage device you want, then you can ask for help. Find out what works where. Compatibility is a key factor to consider when buying memory storage devices. It is also important to consider the performance of the device. In some cases, storage devices with more capacity may present some problems. It helps to know which type of storage device would be most suitable for your use. You should also consider the amount of information that you need to store. When you have decided which storage device you want, go for VoucherBin for options.

By January 13, 2015 Read More →

Scientists Use Poker to Improve Robot’s Decision Making

A couple of scientists working in their laboratory.Whether they’re serving us drinks on a cruise ship or parking our cars for us, robots are learning new tasks at what feels like an extraordinarily rapid pace. Driving that point home is a new study out of the University of Alberta in Canada that demonstrates the incredible decision-making capabilities of one particular robot.

According to NPR, researchers at the university developed a program that can beat any human opponent at a variant of Texas Hold’em poker. It’s known as Heads-up Limit Texas Hold’em, a version of the game that only features two players and capped betting. Despite being more limited than other variants, the research team still found there are “10 trillion different decision points in the game.” And one of those can apparently be used to win no matter what the other players is doing, which is interesting considering the act of bluffing is crucial to any version of poker.

But lead researcher Michael Bowling said that no matter how good the human player is, the computer will win. It took him and his team many years and the power of some 5,000 computers to figure it all out, with one researcher claiming it took nearly “a thousand years of computation” to reach these results.

Despite this program’s obviously strong skill set when it comes to this poker variant, Bowling said that online players won’t have to worry about it dominating virtual poker rooms. For one, it’s playing a variant that isn’t terribly popular among poker players at large. That being said, Bowling noted that there are indeed bots out there that players should look out for—just not his. For Bowling, it all comes down to improving the robot’s ability to make decisions when facing uncertainty, not clearing out the bank accounts of rival players.

Of course, if they did want to make the robot’s decision-making processing even that much more incredible, the scientists could look to a slew of other poker games to test it out on. According to online platform betfair poker, there are a number of variants out there including one close to what the robot was taught to play. That’s the multi-player Texas Hold’em, perhaps the most popular version of the card game thanks to its boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That all being written, these more complicated games could prove exceedingly difficult and likely impossible in terms of programming. Can you imagine the number of variables at play here? Again, this is especially true when noting the very “human” factor of bluffing, a major component to play any form of poker.

For those interested in reading more about this poker-playing robot study, head to the Cepheus Poker Project. With this type of decision-making programming in place, it’ll certainly be interesting to see where other, similar studies can make advancements—and how they can be applied to real-life situations.

By December 23, 2014 Read More →

Inateck Bluetooth Audio Receiver Unboxing

vlcsnap-2014-12-21-14h33m26s217Inateck have provided me with a Bluetooth Audio Receiver to have a play with. This portable  Bluetooth streaming device allows you to connect a device without Bluetooth and stream your music and podcasts. Very handy for in the car, or so I thought. Whilst this device is a lot cheaper than others of it’s type at £14 you need to have a car that incorporates an auxiliary connector on the stereo. Many cars do, however both of mine do not (or at least require a £40 modification to install one.)

The unit itself is light, quick to set up and looks quite pretty, considering the price. Given that you could up to £80 for a similar unit Inateck’s variant sits at an attractive price point. Once I decide if I am changing my car for one with an AUX, or perhaps just go with the modification I will add a video showing the operation.

 

 

By December 12, 2014 Read More →

Samsung’s Gear VR in sight with 11 games

downloadSamsung’s virtual reality headset, the Gear VR, is now available for purchase. You can pick it up for roughly £160 without a gamepad or £190 with. Alone side the release of this new virtual reality device, comes a list of games that are available for its launch.

In total 11 games will be available for download when you get your new Gear VR headout set. Using the marketplace from the Oculus Rift right now and they are all free!

Here is the list of games you can expect to see:

  • Anshar Wars
  • Bombsquad
  • Darknet
  • Dreadhalls
  • Esper
  • Herobound
  • Ikarus
  • Minotaur Rescue VR
  • Proton Pulse
  • Romans from Mars
  • Viral

Of course these are just the games and doesn’t include applications that will also be available for use with the Gear VR as yet. With this device becoming available and a rather attractive price point you can expect more games and applications to hit the Oculus Rift marketplace quite quickly.

By November 29, 2014 Read More →

Unboxing Archos Activity Tracker and Connected Scales

vlcsnap-2014-11-24-14h40m28s186Gareth unboxes the Archos Activity Tracker and Connected Scales. These now budget fitness accessories cost £50 a piece and promise to enhance your fitness tracking.

The Activity tracker is a simple pedometer that connects, by bluetooth, to your smartphone, Apple or Android. An app collated the information and presents you with targets and results from your daily activities.

The Connect Scales are another simple addition. To keep you weight loss (or gain) in check the scales can differentiate between four different people can record results to the same app as the activity tracker.

By November 5, 2014 Read More →

Cruise ships take a Quantum leap forward

QuantumJust last week Royal Caribbean International took delivery of their newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, from Meyer Werft Yard.

Now you may well be wondering why we’re talking about a cruise ship, and to be honest, when Royal Caribbean invited us aboard a few weeks ago, I too wondered

But Quantum of the Seas is all about technology and is the most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean say it’s the world’s first Smart Ship, with “boatloads of bandwidth” which allow the cruise line to offer unprecedented connectivity – 500 times more than any other cruise ship; easy-to-use systems that expand guest choices and simplify schedules, plus, RFID technology that speeds up the boarding process and allows guest to track their luggage every step of the way.

Tracy and I were able to spend two nights on Quantum, to experience all of this technology for ourselves. This equated to two days of liberally using words like ‘Awesome’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Incredible’ and ‘Brilliant’.

So let’s starts with a few facts and figures…

  • Registry: Nassau, Bahamas
  • Built at Meyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany
  • 168,666 GRT
  • 1,141 feet (348 meters) long
  • 136 feet (41 meters) wide
  • 28 feet (8.5 meters) draft
  • 22 knots cruising speed
  • 16 guest decks
  • 18 total decks
  • 16 guest elevators
  • 4 bow thrusters with 4,694 horse power each  
  • 4,180 guests (double occupancy)
  • 4,905 guests total
  • 2,090 of Royal Caribbean’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever
    • 375 Virtual Balcony staterooms — interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations through virtual balconies
    • Up to 16 Family-Connected staterooms — perfect for multi-generational families or groups of friends, these staterooms provide separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all 
    • 12 new Studio staterooms with balconies and 16 Studio Interior staterooms, both for single travelers  

  

The use of technology starts before you even step aboard

About 10 days before we were due to set sail, Royal Caribbean sent me my “reservation number” and asked if we would complete the online check in. This process is very similar to online check in for an airline where they go through and take all your relevant information including passport and visa details. Although, as we were going on a cruise-to-nowhere, a visa was not required.

During the process you are also asked to take or provide a headshot which is then used as part of the boarding process. If you were going on a cruise which stopped at other ports the photo is used to identify you when you leave and board the ship as they scan you in and out with your WOWband or smart card. If you are not happy providing your own photo they can also take one at the port as part of the check in process. The last part of the online check in was to set up your onboard charging account. Once you have this set up it means that once onboard just a quick scan of your band and you can pay for anything!

The other big part of the pre-planning Royal Caribbean have introduced comes from their change from a traditional main dining room to their new ‘dynamic dining’ system. Once I was checked in I could then go and make restaurant reservations for our 2 nights along with entertainment reservations for the shows. The system will also handle the shore excursions and spa appointments in the future. What’s really nice is once you have something booked it tells you if you are going to have a clash and you can view everything in the really well laid out planner. Once onboard all these reservations will then transfer to your Royal iQ app and will also save guests from standing in lines and trudging from place to place on the first day of the cruise. As Royal Caribbean say, ‘you get the first day of your vacation back’.

Royal Caribbean guests can go from “sidewalk to ship” in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out and no lines to stand in. The average check in time on the day we boarded was just 7 minutes!

 

RFID Technology

WOWBand

WOWBand

RFID technology is becoming more commonplace and Royal Caribbean are certainly using this to its advantage in a number of key ways.

During the boarding process, RFID tags are placed upon your luggage. This allows guests to track their luggage in real time on their smartphones and monitor their bags’ progress through key points en route to the stateroom.  On departure, the process is reversed.   

Quantum of the Seas also has new RFID ‘WOWband’ wristbands, which can be used as your room key or can be used to pay for onboard purchases, make reservations, find your photos in the onboard photo shop etc.

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship.  Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

 

WiFi onboard

Connectivity on cruise ships has always been hit or miss and bandwidth is a big issue. This is set to change with Quantum of the Seas though, as Royal Caribbean International teamed up with O3b Networks, a global satellite provider, who developed a new technology. This new satellite network delivers “fiber-optic bandwidth.” Quantum of the Seas features O3b fiber-like Internet service which will provide more than 500 times the bandwidth that you’d experience from a regular on-board connection.

The O3b fiber-like Internet service was first piloted on Oasis of the Seas in December 2013 and has also been since introduced on Allure of the Seas. The new system fitted to Quantum of the Seas will provide O3b coverage as the ship approaches the east coast of the United States.

Royal Caribbean International is now testing a variety of pricing. While the prices are highly subject to change, the current pricing offers guests $29.95 per hour, $99.95 per day, and $189.95 for unlimited usage on a 7-night cruise for one device.

You may read elsewhere in the press that there was ‘no Wifi coverage’ on Quantum during the inaugural sailing but that’s just sensationalism. There was indeed WiFi on board but there isn’t O3b satellite coverage in Europe as yet. This will be ready in time for the launch of the next Quantum Class ship, Anthem of the Seas, when she commences service from Southampton in April of 2015.   A fact that was made clear to members of the press both before and during the inaugural sailing.

 

 

Ripcord

Ripcord by iFly is just awesome! This offers guest the chance to experience skydiving in a wind tunnel and is the first of such to be installed on sea-going vessel.

Following a short briefing video and time with an instructor, guests are provided with a jumpsuit, goggles, helmet and ear protection. Your group is then taken to the wind tunnel where you get to take it in turns to experience what it’s like to freefall skydive.

With a series of hand gestures and physical guidance from an instructor it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of the basic positions but it looks like a lot of training would be needed to get really good at it. Fortunately, you’ll be able to buy packages to give you a certain number of training sessions with an expert.

I’d recommend keeping each session fairly short to begin with though, it takes a lot out of you!

DSC_0233 IMG_5406 DSC_0281

 

North Star

If skydiving seems a little bit too energetic for you then there’s another way to experience some sights aboard Quantum of the Seas with North Star.

North Star is “an engineering marvel that transports guests more than 300 feet above the ocean”. Guests board a large glass capsule at the end of a large boom arm and are then hoisted high in to the air for unique views of both the ocean and the ship itself.

Here you can take some exceptional photographs and I’m sure it will be even more amazing to be able to take photos of some of the cruise destinations and North Star is able to operate both at sea and in port.

 

DSC_0229 DSC_0245

IMG_5415 IMG_5518

 

Sea Plex

So heights may not be your thing but if you’re still looking for some fun then there’s plenty to be had at Sea Plex.

Sea Plex offers the largest indoor active space at sea and is a distinctive and flexible sporting and entertainment venue offering more first at sea experiences, guests can experience a circus school with flying trapeze, or play basketball on a full-size regulation basketball court. By night, the first-ever bumper car and roller skating offerings deliver fun and excitement. Or, guests can dance to music orchestrated from a floating DJ booth which hovers above the activity below.

 IMG_5400 IMG_5401 

 

Bionic Bar

One of the coolest additions to Quantum of the Seas are the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar.  

These masterpieces of technology can create and pour your favorite mixed drink in just a few seconds right before your eyes. Tablet computers allow patrons to select their desired drink for an extensive list while electronic screens at either side tell you how long you’ll have to wait for your drink and where you are in the queue.

Unfortunately the Bionic Bar was plagued with teething problems during our time on Quantum of the Seas but we were able to see it operational on a number of occasions and it certainly is a talking point. It also ensures that you get your turn to order from the bar fairly and the robots don’t ask for tips!

Quantum of the Seas launch photos

 

Of course, it takes far more than a bionic bartender and skydiving to make a truly smart ship and items mentioned in this post are just a few of the more obvious, customer-facing innovative technologies that you’ll find aboard Quantum of the Seas. Below the surface there’s plenty more to talk about from the on-board waste reclamation to the air-lubrication system…

Tracy and I were lucky enough to see much of what goes on behind the scenes on Quantum of the Seas and spent some time with Captain Patrik Dahlgran, Capt. (Felix) Srecko Ban, Captain Gus Andersson and Richard Pruitt (Vice President of Safety and Environmental Stewardship).  But that’s all for another post!

 

By October 14, 2014 Read More →

The most hackable luxury cars of 2014

8856128220_21eef475e1_zTechnology always seems to come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Recently the media has been reporting on ‘hackable’ cars, not in terms of being physically hacked into, but technologically. The ability to hack into a car may not yet be fully possible, but is it only a matter of time?

Does the thought of buying a new luxury car seem less appealing due to the fact that there is a chance that it may be ‘hacked in to’ in the future? This may make it more appealing to buy a second-hand luxury car but, from the study, “A Survey of Remote Automotive Attack Surfaces” some older cars may still be at risk.

We’re all aware of the drawbacks and data security risks of modern technology, but one industry where we don’t tend to think in terms of cybersecurity is the motor trade. “Connected cars” are becoming standard; new vehicles come laden with GPS, Bluetooth and there’s a general trend towards software based management systems. This has led to the study above attempting to highlight the ‘most hackable cars’ on the market.

‘Hackability’ was judged in terms of three key areas: Network Architecture, Attack Surface, and Cyber Physical Features. Roughly, the network architecture is the location, build and design of each of the computers within a car.  The attack surface is any location where a hacker can try to modify, alter or enter anything into the system, such as any accessible ports, or points where malicious code can be entered.  Cyber physical features include how the computer networks, and interacts or measures its environment, such as in collision detection within cars.

The 2006 Ford Fusion illustrated how anyone interested in older model used cars have far less to worry about in terms of connectivity and ‘hackability’. The 06 Fusion scored double minuses in all categories, but more to the point, this score shows how cars have come on technologically in the last eight years.

The 2006 Prius and the 2006 Range Rover also scored very low, further serving as benchmarks for old car safety. Contrast this with the 2014 Range Rover Evoque and the 2014 Prius which both scored plenty of +’s.

In reality, we tend to err towards technology despite its pitfalls, and it’s not often we’ll get cybercriminals with a laptop invading our car for unknown gain; but the study does provide food for thought. Those who wish to stay on the safe side of technology could probably do well to buy older versions of marks like the Audi A8. A 2005 version of the Audi A8 on Carmony.co.uk can easily sell for a lot less than the 2014 version with very little risk of software malfunction.

 

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