11th February 2016

Hornby is a legendary name, but the company has run into trouble. The company is lean and is only making a loss of £5.5 to £6 million, but for an organisation that is arguably living in the past, it could fall soon. James May is doing his best to save it-"Hornby has suffered a torrid period in the last few years due to falling sales, problems with suppliers in China, and disruption from upgrading its computer and stock management systems. The Kent-based company warned on Wednesday that its problems had worsened significantly since the start of the year. Sales of Hornby products fell in January in the UK and the company has also discovered that it needs to write £1m from the value of its stock."

How should you deal with your best employees? There are 10 recommendations over at Business Insider which attempt to deal with the problem, but some facts will always remain true. Every team has those that make an effort, those who are clever, those who are stupid and those who get away without doing much. Balancing all of those traits is extremely difficult.

"You acknowledge and agree that any information you send or receive during your use of the site may not be secure and may be intercepted or later acquired by unauthorised parties," That is what VTech included in the latest terms and conditions for its products, but now the UK Watchdog has stepped in and concluded that  VTech itself is responsible. This is good news because no company should have the right to say that your data is not secure if it chooses to be in such a business.

This book is a camera. Sounds odd, but watch the video below to see what I mean. You can buy it here.

McDonald's decided to auction off the first-ever bottle of special sauce made in the United Kingdom and it just sold for £65,900. Now, I get that this is a charity auction, but that seems like a huge amount of money for something so commonplace, even if it is the first bottle.

If you are old enough to remember the classic Simon game, Simon Air will feel like a modern twist that takes nothing away from the original. "The Simon Air has a new stand-up ring design, too. Red, green and yellow sensors are positioned on the top, right and left sides, while the blue sensor sits on bottom of the inside of the device. While the new design brings in a fun new layer to the experience, the downside is its limited portability. It'll be difficult to set the game up in the car; it pretty much requires a stable surface to play."

If you are going to throw a snowball at your child, make it a big one. A really big one. See the video above.

 

9th February 2016

If there was an event for people to criticise the Apple Watch for being too expensive and largely useless, I would likely be near the front of the queue. Jack Forster, however, loves his despite being a mechanical watch enthusiast for three decades. Go figure. "The Apple Watch setup, once you have it out, is equally well orchestrated. I’ve noticed that in general, Apple’s products come at least partly pre-charged, which means you don’t have to break the experience you were having un-boxing one of them. You turn the watch on (there's an oblong side button, which among other things is the on/off button, as well as the Digital Crown) and you’re asked to choose a language, and then you start pairing the Watch with your iPhone."

Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting? That's the title of an article over at The New Yorker and it's a subject close to the hearts of some people I know. I so hope it doesn't. "LaPolt told them that unless streaming rates were changed and the music-licensing system were overhauled for the digital age, the profession of songwriting was on its way to extinction. And they were on their own, she added, because, while everyone loves a songwriter, members of the profession have no actual bargaining power, whether via a union or another powerful institution, and so, when the money in the industry dries up, they’re in serious trouble."

And the title for the headline of the year so far goes to... Wife crashes her own funeral, horrifying her husband, who had paid to have her killed. How could you not want to read the whole article

Tim Cook is taking some stick for the quality of the photo (above) he tweeted from The Super Bowl, and with good reason. We all know that phones rarely capture the type of photo you see in marketing material, but this one is particularly poor from an iPhone. Strangely, he has now posted a much better quality photo instead...

The idea of printing a Polaroid style photo seems archaic in these times, but the Prynt case fascinates me. If I bought one, I would likely use it twice and then have buyer's remorse, but I do like the idea and the implementation a lot.

The NYPD Is Kicking People Out of Their Homes and with seemingly little reason. You can read the full story here"As she did most mornings, El-Shabazz said she went to her bedroom to feed her newborn son and to worship before a shrine of candles and carvings arranged atop her wardrobe. Her most treasured object was a wooden tray her father had brought her from Nigeria. A deity of the Ifa religion, which she practices as a high priestess, was carved on its surface and covered in a residue of finely crushed eggshells. El-Shabazz used the substance, known in her faith as efun powder, to cleanse the shrine. She took fresh clumps of the powder from a cup and began to break it up in her hands."

Ever wondered how they made embossed wallpaper in 1960's Britain? No, me neither, but when I watched the video above I found myself completely engrossed in the process.

7th February 2016

Error 53 has the potential to blow up in Apple's face. As per usual, those who hate Apple have jumped upon the issue like dogs on a fox, but there are two sides to the story. I detailed my thoughts here, but I remain conflicted. On the one hand, I know that I have to get my car serviced in specific places to keep the warranty going, but I was unaware that such terms applied to iPhones. My sympathies are just edging towards the users here.

"There’s white, and then there’s the immaculate ultrawhite behind the French doors of a new GE Café Series refrigerator. There’s white, and then there’s the luminous-from-every-angle white hood of a 50th anniversary Ford Mustang GT. There’s white, and then there’s the how-white-my-shirts-can-be white that’s used to brighten myriad products, from the pages of new Bibles to the hulls of superyachts to the snowy filling inside Oreo cookies." Stealing White is a fascinating story and well worth a read.

We are all used to playing games on consoles and phones, but this playable table could offer a glimpse of what the future holds. I must say that it does look like great fun.

Virgin Holidays has created a stunning treehouse on London's Southbank. Have a look at the pictures to see what I mean- this is some seriously clever marketing. 

Walt Mossberg is considered by many to be in Apple's pocket, and I admit to also wondering this in the past, but Apple’s apps need work over at The Vergesuggests that he is breaking free. Some of his points are bang on- "But the exceptions are increasing. And I hold Apple to its own, higher, often-proclaimed standard, based on all those “It just works” claims and the oft-repeated contention by Mr. Jobs and his successor, Tim Cook, that Apple is in business to make “great products.” Apple’s advantage is that it designs and builds software together, so if the software isn't excellent, it does the superlative hardware a disservice."

When you get married, a decent photographer is high on the list of priorities, but this set of pictures taken purely on an iPhone suggests that we may (in the future) be able to do these things ourselves. Some of these images are truly breathtaking and seem to capture the atmosphere and surroundings perfectly.

When You Think of Beautiful Things, Don't Forget Earth. That is the caption Scott Kelly used when presenting a quite beautiful picture of Earth. 

Error 53

I spent some time this morning reading about Error 53 and the various reactions from those who own and do not own iPhones. There is rarely an opportunity missed for those who do not like Apple and this feels like perfect fodder for their anger, but as usual the full story has not been reported by the media or grasped by the haters.

I feel that Apple screwed up here, without a doubt, and did not consider the ramifications of an update that would disable third party fixed iPhones. It is likely that many thousands of phones have been affected and users should not be left with a dead product just because they used a non-authorised repairer.

However, if you own a Touch ID-enabled iPhone, you want it to be as secure as possible. With the inclusion of payment card information and all of your other personal data, the potential for anyone to steal a phone and then quickly add a third party home button is present and possibly very dangerous. Maybe Apple's approach is heavy handed, but I suspect it is more a case of not seeing the ramifications of carrying such important information on an iPhone and then failing to foresee what happens with third party parts, hence the complete lack of information for those who did get their phones fixed.

Apple has to make this right, it really does, and it likely will through support channels, but I continue to be amazed at the amount of anti-Apple sentiment out there from those who do not even use Apple devices.

5th February 2016

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to grow a giant dragon in your garden. OK, you have probably not considered such an act, but John Booker did and the end resultis wonderful.

The tale of 'a cancer patient who died of smoke inhalation after the iPhone he used as a lifeline burst into flames as he slept' is likely to cause much panic among iPhone users, but it could happen to anyone of us, and it can easily be avoided. It is incredibly sad, but charging any electronic device under a pillow is likely to present danger. Then again, should there not be a cut-off of some kind to stop this from happening?

I am fairly sure that all of you reading this have seen a Pixar movie, and the video above offers some background on the process. It's an excellent few minutes of entertainment.

Ever wondered if electric cars really do offer big financial savings over traditional fuel equivalents? Terence Eden may have the answer for you because he has calculated his BMW i3 running costs in great detail and the results are truly enlightening.

Photography is not easy at the best of times and reflective surfaces in particular can be a challenge, but Ivo Guimaraes has posted an educational guide on doing just this. "A reflective surface acts like a mirror reflecting light, so if the light source of your image comes from the same direction as the camera, it causes specular highlights resulting in blown out spots without texture, and an overall poor looking image like the following one photographed with the flash mounted on camera."

Tips on sleeping are generally regarded are pie in the sky by people like me, but 12 simple steps to a good night’s sleep over at The Guardian contains some useful advice. "When your eyes are exposed to light, your brain produces less of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Light towards the blue end of the spectrum is especially stimulating and, unfortunately, computer screens, tablets, smartphones and LED lighting all emit a lot of blue light. Try not to use these devices in the two hours before you go to bed. If you must use them, turn down the brightness or wear amber-tinted glasses designed to block blue light."

'In a bowling alley one night, Bill Fong came so close to perfection that it nearly killed him.' That should be enough to make you read the whole story.

31st January 2016

"Shen Xiang lives in a shipping crate on a construction site in Shanghai which he shares with at least seven other young workers. He sleeps in a bunk and uses a bucket to wash in. “It’s uncomfortable,” he says. Still, he pays no rent and the walk to work is only a few paces. Mr Shen, who was born in 1989, hails from a village of “mountains, rivers and trees”. He is a migrant worker and the son of two migrants, so he has always been a second-class citizen in his own country." You can read Generation Uphill at The Economist and it should be well worth your time.

I am admittedly a fan of AFC Bournemouth so this article is obvious for me to publish, but you do not need like football to understand why Every single game now I go out to play for her is such a compelling read. It is incredibly emotional and highlights how some (heroic) people deal with the loss of an unborn child. I remember watching the match and was amazed at the performance he gave, it was almost as if she was with him willing him on. “I did manage to do the speech and I actually kept it together,” Arter says. “I used what happened to say to the lads: ‘Listen, I’ve experienced how short a life can be, what’s happened to my little baby could happen to someone in this team, so make sure you give everything today because these football moments are not going to last forever, and what I’ve learned from this experience is that life can end at any second.’”

Virtual personal assistants have found their way on to most modern mobile devices, despite the fact that usage figures are very low, and you can now read Siri, Alexa and Other Virtual Assistants Put to the Test to see which ones work best. More at the New York Times.

There are currently twelve master penmen in the entire world. Jake Weidmann is the youngest by three decades and when you watch the video below, it is hard not to marvel at the skill he displays, and the ease at which he does do.

View the stunning talent of Jake Weidmann.

Maximum Wage is such a good idea, but imagine trying to implement it. "Let’s say we decided as a society that no private company should have a pay ratio above 40:1. That would lead to a radical decrease in income inequality, and it wouldn’t involve a cent of additional taxes. Every private company would be allowed to keep the exact same portion of its income. The government wouldn’t be extracting money out of the private sector; it would just put some boundaries on the way the private sector distributes its money internally. Critics would scream that such a dramatic intervention would be terrible for business, but of course the one sector of the economy that has already voluntarily embraced this ratio turns out to have nurtured the most profitable corporations in the history of capitalism."

I can think of many uses for The NoPhone, despite the novel nature of the product. From keeping your hands busy when trying to break your phone habit to simply having a laugh with it, I see some potential here. Thanks to Neil for the link.

Here is yet another article about the seemingly innocuous act of going offline for a while, but The Useless Agony of Going Offline is actually quite interesting. "I found out about this tragedy two days after it happened, on a Sunday afternoon, in a way that sort of typifies the manner in which I learn about most things these days. My wife and I were sitting together on the couch, watching a football game on my laptop..."

27th January 2016

"Our dependence arises as a growing pattern of behavior that ultimately takes on a life of its own, he believes. We begin down a slippery slope as we start using our phones to “feed that anticipation and desire for information, particularly unpredictable information,” stoking our brain’s dopamine centre." That is what Raefer Gabriel, the CEO of an app developer called Delvv, had to say about smartphone addiction. So glad I am not addicted to my phone (cough).

The Onion has outdone itself when discussing the opening of Ordeal Kingdom."Situated between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, the 350-acre property reportedly incorporates many of the most aggravating elements of Disney’s other parks and expands them into a creative and fully immersive world of irritation, which is said to include the longest lines in the entire resort, a convoluted layout that is only depicted in indecipherable cartoon maps that are not to scale, and 150 percent higher prices. According to park director Jacob Bartlett, Ordeal Kingdom’s specialized combination of features will ensure a slowly building resentment among visiting families, eventually resulting in a dramatic public outburst followed by a silent walk back to the car." Personally, I love the Disney parks, but do appreciate the humour here.

Is the mighty iPhone in decline? That is the question many tech sites are asking, including the normally reliable BBC. Apple does not have anywhere to go but down and even standing still is a disaster for the company, but the main reason to include the BBC link is for you to read the reader comments. "Smartphones all allow calls, texts and access to the internet. You can listen to music or take a photo. They're all the same." OK then, I didn't realise that.

The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is 100 years old and will be published in September. And it was written by Beatrix Potter. That is one hell of a find. More at Mashable

Richard Mille is a very high-end watchmaker and you can expect to pay a lot for one of its watches, but would you expect to pay $105,000 for a pen? It's very clever and kind of cool, but likely somewhat garish for most people's tastes. More at Cool Hunting.

Independence Day was released 20 years ago and so was the first Mission Impossible. If like me, you want to feel old, check out 22 Words which lists a few films celebrating 20 years in 2016.

The battle between Facebook and Twitter has raged for a long time, but it appears that Facebook may finally be winning the war. Ben Thompson takes up the story in How Facebook Squashed Twitter"Unfortunately for Twitter the attention market of 2016 is far different than it was back in 2009. When Dorsey states that he wants Twitter to “become the first thing everyone in the world checks to start their day and the first thing people turn to when they want to share ideas, commentary, or simply what’s happening”, he is no longer trying to capture an entirely new market, but rather to steal that market from well-established competitors, particularly Facebook, but also services like Snapchat, Instagram, and the messaging services, all of which have feeds of their own. And Facebook in particular has undergone its own evolution."

It's rare that you can visit a website and not have to do anything, but with Daily Overview you can literally just sit and watch some amazing satellite photography.

26th January 2016

Mindfulness has become very popular in recent times and a great many people are making a living from it. However, it turns out that there could be some unwanted side-effects which have been noted by The Guardian"For days afterwards, I feel on edge. I have a permanent tension headache and I jump at the slightest unexpected noise. The fact that something seemingly benign, positive and hugely popular had such a profound effect has taken me by surprise."

How is your little finger looking these days? Does it look funny? To check to see if you have 'Smartphone Pinky' head on over to this article and look at the photos. I am now convinced I have it, and so is my wife.

I mentioned unlimited vacation time recently and you would think that such schemes would be beneficial for everyone, but it appears that it may not be“I’ve started to ask regularly in one-on-one conversations, ‘When was your last vacation?’” Leo says. “I want to start to encourage it, if it was a while ago I might ask if you want to take a vacation. It’s about helping people to regularly make that time. You get to a point where you really need time off, and it’s easy to push it out and push it out.”

You can now view 40,000 Years of London’s History made entirely from paper. The end result is educational, interesting and the idea works much better than it should do. Enjoy.

Age should be no barrier to style, as proved by Jesse from China who is 85 years old. Look at the photos here to see what I mean.

To many people the idea of a smartphone was completely alien before 2007, but 6 great smartphones from 10 years ago from TechKotak proves that there were some great devices before the devices we use today. The sad thing is that I owned every single one of them...

Getting a new job is a good thing and it's all too easy to accept any minor concerns you may have, but a look at this infographic may open your eyes to reasons why you should not take it. Some of the reasons are quite funny as well.

A Look at How Cars Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years is self-explanatory, but is also very interesting. Quite amazing really how little cars have changed.

25th January 2016

A 14 minute short film called The Boy with a Camera for a Face is now available to view on Vimeo and it should prove to be worthy of your time. It is quite simply a brilliant idea which has been very well executed. Enjoy.

The Washington Post has published an article called The strange life of Q-tips, the most bizarre thing people buy which looks at how we use this particular product. Called cotton buds elsewhere, many of us use them to clean our ears which is a very bad idea, but when you read the article you will see that the uses are numerous and some of them are very strange.

Here are two facts that you may find surprising. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. There is already 150 million metric tons of it in the sea and it is set to double in the next 20 years. More at Quartz. If you removed the empty space between our atoms, the entire human race could fit into the volume of one sugar cube. You what?!? Apparently that is perfectly true and you can see why in this video from How It Works Magazine.

Would you buy a photo of a potato for more than $1,000,000? Well, someone did. More at PetaPixel.

Snow is a hot topic at the moment and Getting Plowed describes the seedier side of the business of removing the cold white stuff. Who knew such things happened? "One winter morning a few years ago, a driver steered his snowblower down the streets of a Montreal neighbourhood. It was the day after one of the season’s first snowfalls, and the roads were lined with fresh, white drifts. As usual, the driver’s co-worker walked ahead of the huge vehicle, warning pedestrians to move out of the way, then waving the all-clear. Suddenly, the man on foot signalled frantically for the driver to stop. He’d spotted something half-hidden in a nearby snowbank: a massive steel rod that would have destroyed the machine."

Will the Cars of the Future Be Made by Detroit or by Apple? is the big question in the latest edition of the too embarrassed to ask podcast and it is a question that I have pondered a lot recently. When you think about the car you are driving today, it all of a sudden seems glaringly obvious that the interior could change a lot to bring it up to everything else we experience in 2016. Electric engines are obviously a far harder challenge, but it does not take long to realise that everything else from the brakes to the battery technology to the dashboards would benefit from a radical change. The traditional car makers have sat on their hands for far too long in my opinion and a shake up would be a good thing.

Every country has strange laws that have existed for some time, but this list of 50 of the Weirdest Laws That Still Exist in the United States is quite amazing. Good to know that it is illegal for donkeys to sleep in bathtubs.

Rumours of a new iPhone persist with the '5SE' being the most popular name for a new smaller phone. I can see the logic in such a move by Apple, but we must remember that the reason the product has been so incredibly popular over the past couple of years is because of the larger 6 models. I believe that cracks are starting to show in the iPhone brand and that sales are slowing which is evidenced by the more elastic pricing that networks and retailers can offer. One example being that when my wife upgraded to the iPhone 6s on Saturday, she ended up paying no more on her contract than what she does already, the early upgrade fee was written off and so was the upfront cost of the phone. A chat with the salesman was summed up when he said that Apple now allows them to make much higher concessions than ever before. Interesting...

23rd January 2016

"The human brain may be able to store one petabyte of data, which is 1 quadrillion bytes or 1 million megabytes. That's enough memory to store 13.3 years of high-definition video." That is a huge number and it makes me wonder if at some point scientists will find a way to increase the already substantial abilities of our brains, and what the ramifications will be. More at Huffington Post.

"Apple received $1 billion from Google in 2014, according to a transcript of court proceedings from Oracle Corp.’s copyright lawsuit against Google. The search engine giant has an agreement with Apple that gives the iPhone maker a percentage of the revenue Google generates through the Apple device, an attorney for Oracle said at a Jan. 14 hearing in federal court." That's a huge number and it proves the overwhelming popularity of mobile devices which is discussed in this article at Bloomberg. In September 2015, Tim Cook wrote the following- “A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.” So, Tim and Apple believe that you should not be the product of an online service, but are perfectly happy to financially benefit from the targets of their criticism?

In a recent interview with Jeremy Leslie, creative director of Mag Culture, he said the following- "What has always attracted me about magazines is the way they combine text, image and design to tell stories in a manner that is thoroughly immersive. A good magazine has a clear agenda, takes full advantage of the print medium, and is thoroughly engaging. It should reflect its era – magazines are great records of their times. Not just in terms of stories, writing and photography, but also design and visual trends." I completely agree with what he is saying here. eBooks may be growing very quickly and denting sales of paper books, but for me digital magazines still do not come close to combining so many different forms on one page. There is something special about a paper magazine that works on no other medium.

Is it ever OK to queue-jump? is a thought provoking article over at The Guardian which looks at the types of people who queue jump and those (most of us Brits) who do not. Worth a quick read.

"Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have deduced that we do in fact have a ninth planet in our solar system, and it's about ten times the mass of Earth. (Or, as schoolchildren will delight in repeating, roughly the size of Uranus.)" More at Core 77. You can never have too many planets in my opinion, unless The Borg populate them.

The fact that How government poisoned the people of Flint is not an easy read is what makes it so compelling. Shocking. "The issue blew open in the fall of 2015 when a university researcher and a local doctor issued separate reports warning about lead in the Flint water system. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's study showed lead levels spiked in Flint children after the source of drinking water was switched to the Flint River."

Apple is not telling anyone how many Apple Watches it has sold, but Fortunehas taken a stab at working out the numbers. 5.8 million is the guess which is extremely low for any flagship Apple product, but extremely high in the smart watch world and thus it is currently impossible to know if it is a success or a failure.

I love the classic VW Camper and cannot imagine a vehicle with more personality, but The Coolest Modern Rvs, Trailers And Campers over at design milk opened my eyes to what is out there. Some of these are seriously cool.

22nd January 2016

This week I commented on the death of Leslie Nielsen with a tweet, and so did thousands of other people. The fact that he died 5 years ago did not stop so many of us airing our feelings because it was in the 'most read' section of the BBC site and we all read it as though it had just happened. It highlights how we often take things as real without thinking because we are so used to grabbing snippets of information from the web or social networks and moving on to the next thing, but no matter what happened it's nice that Mr Nielsen managed to give us one last laugh so long after his death. More at the BBC.

Keith Moon was capable of drawing all of the attention to him when he performed with The Who, but he has nothing on the drummer in this video. You need to watch the whole thing to get the context, but it really did make me smile and appreciate how much he is enjoying what he is doing, no matter how out of place he looks.

"So I signed up to be one of Media Insider (a.k.a. Symphony)’s “insiders”. Turns out they’ll accept anyone. They just make you fill out a form that asks you things like your name, age, income, address, phone number, how many people live in your household, their ages and names, and what kind of TV services you use..." And so the story goes on at Daring Fireball. It highlights just how far some apps and online services go to grab your information, which is more valuable than money for many organisations.

Got a spare 53 minutes? If so, a new article at The Medium entitled How Zano Raised Millions on Kickstarter and Left Most Backers with Nothing will be a worthy read. Personally, I have stopped backing anything on Kickstarter because of tales like this which is a shame because the idea of developing products this way is fantastic.

Why Are Corporations Hoarding Trillions? A very good question posed at the New York Times and one which is answered well. "This strange vogue for corporate hoarding seems to have begun around the turn of the millennium. General Motors is perhaps the most extreme: It now holds nearly half its value in cash. Apple holds more than a third. These numbers are maddening on their face. If the companies spent their savings, rather than hoarding them, the economy would instantly grow, and we would most likely see more jobs with better pay..."

Patreon has become a fashionable way for websites and online services to try to make the funds required to keep things running, but it seems that Touch Arcade has run into problems with the service. You can read the full story at Kotaku, but it does make me wonder that if popular sites like this struggle, what chance do the rest of the smaller sites have?

Do you use the Facebook app? Don't. I removed it months ago and have enjoyed much better battery life as a result and the site works just as well in a standard browser window on my iPhone. The same seems to be true on Android, as detailed by Android Central.

Would you like to see your body from top to bottom, in 14 seconds? Yes of course you would and you can do so here. It's kind of freaky to watch, but also fascinating at the same time.

21st January 2016

It's a well-known fact that most of us have become accustomed to lesser quality audio for music than we used to enjoy. The advent of digital music and the closeness of headphones has meant that pure audio quality no longer seems to matter, but there are some, also known as audiophiles, who swear blind that a speaker cable is worth £1,000 or that digital music can never be worth listening to. Esquire has tackled the subject with a new article entitled Audiophiles: Are They Hearing Something We're Not? "The HiFi Wigwam Show — one of the premier annual gatherings for Britain’s audiophiles — has taken over the whole building. Every guest room contains a man — it’s always a man — with a hi-fi system he’s brought from home. People go from room to room, listening. Pinned to the walls of the corridors, you occasionally see a small ad written in the same impenetrable language as the guidebook. “Wanted: Nordost Valhalla speaker cables spades both ends,” reads one. “Please call.”" Thanks to Russ for the link.

"North Korean scientists have invented a hangover-free alcohol, according to the Pyongyang Times. The state newspaper says the "suave" liquor will spare you wincing when you wake, despite boasting 30%-40% alcohol. The brew is reportedly made from a type of indigenous ginseng called insam and glutinous rice, and cultivated by an organic farming method." The above comes from the BBC and would be a remarkable achievement if a) we would believe any statement that comes out of the country and b) if the government focussed on giving the population food and lighting as a priority instead.

On the subject of politicians, Donald Trump made the following remark recently-“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries.” For a man who is running to become leader of the most capitalistic country in the world, this is a crazy statement. He is ignoring so many obvious realities with this statement that it verges on insulting the people who follow him, but I guess he has said worse recently. He is now just saying whatever comes into his head, and it is working! Fortune takes up the reasons why Apple would not be able to manufacture everything in the US.

How big would your feet need to be in order for you to climb walls like Spiderman? Yes, someone has actually researched this and concluded that they would need to be a European size 145 or a U.S. size 114. You would also require quite a few adhesive pads, but I for one would like to give it a try. Vocative has more information on this very important study...

"Somewhere in Flatow’s consciousness lingered scenes from movies in which a father holds his child’s hand, whispering in her ear. At Alisa’s bedside, he took her hand and whispered, “Daddy’s here.” She didn’t say anything. “If you can hear me, squeeze my hand,” he said. When he let go, her arm fell limp." A new story called Hidden Damages has been published at The Atavist magazine. Sad and stunning.

€5000 is a lot for one piece of furniture, but when you take a look at the Wave City Coffee Table you may just believe it to be a reasonable price. I can't imagine how people think up such ideas let alone actually make such creative objects.

The 80/20 Rule looks at online personas and the fact that "When you put your life online, people think they know 80% of who you are. But internet personas are really only 20% true." I suspect all of us can see some reality in these numbers. No matter how open we believe we are online, we still have dominating digital personas. More at Matter.

If you are on the look out for some good quality non-fiction material, I must recommend The Big Roundtable. The site is simply designed, but when you click on the icons you will gain free access to a great selection of well-written stories.

20th January 2016

The issue of digital property after a person dies has grown in the collective conscious as we collect more and more data through our lives, and a recent example highlights the problem very well. Peggy Bush tried to get a password from Apple, but had to get a court order to do so despite the fact that she could receive pensions and benefits with just a death certificate. CBC details the full story, but despite understanding Apple's desire to protect information, maybe it is time for the company to look harder at the way it deals with such matters to bring them into line with everything else.

If you happen to be feeling tough today, take a look at the Mighty Mongrel Mobover at So Bad So Good. Fair to say that if one of them spilt my pint of beer, I would probably just keep quiet...

Another problem that seems to run and run is how our products in the West are made, and in particular the issue of child labour. Amnesty has produced a report that effectively accuses "Apple, Samsung and Sony, among others, of failing to do basic checks to ensure minerals used in their products are not mined by children."You can read more about it at the BBC

I find the petition that has been set up to stop Kanye West covering David Bowie's tracks quite amusing. Ultimately, having someone cover music who is infinitely less talented than the original artist only makes the music stronger in its genuine form. It is rare for a cover version to be better than the original, and even rarer for Kanye to make anything worth listening to.

Fancy making a paper model of an Olympus camera? OK, it is likely not hist on your bucket list, but for kids this webpage will let them print out all that they need to make near perfect recreations of two legendary cameras, without the bits that actually make them cameras.

Playboy has re-published a candid conversation with Martin Luther King Jr. It is timely of course and not one to miss "Two years ago, I remember, I returned home after serving one of my terms in the Albany, Georgia, jail, and she asked me, "Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?" I told her that I was involved in a struggle to make conditions better for the colored people, and thus for all people."

Geometrica is just a vase. It holds one flower and is just a vase. But, take a look at it and tell me you don't want one. It is seriously beautiful and perfectly in tune with the flower it is protecting. 

19th January 2016

The world's richest 67 people now have as much wealth as the bottom 50%.That is a remarkably sad statistic and one which makes no sense no matter how it is spun. There will always be rich and poor, and some will accumulate wealth at a far greater rate than the majority, but this is crazy. More at Forbes.

The number of super-tall skyscrapers around the world has doubled in just the last 5 years. And there are already 100 more in the pipeline so it looks like the trend is not slowing any time soon. There could, however be a sting in the tail as noted at Citylab"Surely this is the beginning of the end? As Architect’s Caroline Massie points out, some people certainly think so: Andrew Lawrence, an economist and director for Asia at Barclays, has posited a “skyscraper index” linking up global economic catastrophe with pushes to build the world’s new tallest building. It might just be a broader manifestation of Asia’s industrialization, but if these linkages are indeed robust and predictive, then let’s call this phenomenon Babel’s Law and start panicking."

Nintendo will soon release a true mobile game, thus ending years of speculation as to where the company will go next. The Wii U has been somewhat of a disaster and many have feared for the company, but we must remember that Nintendo has a huge amount of cash on hand and brands that money just cannot buy. If Nintendo can recreate the magic of its best games on phones and tablets, the entire mobile gaming industry will change for the better overnight. More at Android Authority.

A father had rejected his 6 year old son's request for an allowance increasewith a official looking loan-rejection letter. Here you go- "We regret to inform you at this time that we are unable to provide a loan in the amount requested of $20.00. After reviewing your account, we have find you have insufficient funds, and a history of not doing your chores. Furthermore, over $80.00 has been spent on discretionary entertainment expenses since Christmas. This is an unsustainable amount of expenditure, and we cannot further compound the problem by financially assisting with occurring further debt at this point. If you would like to refute this decision, you can contact our complaint department at (Mom's number.) Our dispute manager at this number may be able to persuade us to reverse our decision. Thank you for choosing DAD Savings and Loan, we appreciate the chance to serve your financial needs." I like that the title on the letter is 'DAD Savings and Loans, Because apparently I look like I'm made of money.'

Can a video of starlings flying really be worth a click? Well, yes it is. You can view it at The Washington Post.

Shawn De Cesari at Android Police has detailed six major things iOS devices do better than Androids. It's an unusual article to see on an Android-centric publication, but only die hards would argue with the majority of the topics he chooses.

Clive James has written six books since being diagnosed with terminal leukaemia in 2010, and has now released Sentenced to Life which is a new collection of poems. He has a unique style and will be sorely missed when the end finally comes.

18th January 2016

Space is for sale, and I must admit that the concept of spending $19.95 for a lunar acre does tempt me. I had thoughts of a company looking to build a huge development in space and needing my acre to complete the project, at which point it would be worth at least $25! Yes, it's silly, but I can see why some people may be tempted.

Apple will soon move iTunes Radio behind the Apple Music paywall, thus rendering it inaccessible unless you subscribe to the service. I can see the logic of wanting to maximise the financials for the service, but also see the radio setup as a useful gateway to gain new subscribers. I do, however, wonder if radio services actually gain enough listeners these days to create the same kind of buzz they used to.

It is very easy to look at American politics with a doubtful eye from another country, but stories like this one over at CNN only add to the negative perception. It can't be true can it? "The state of Florida is putting thousands of children with heart defects at risk, a group of cardiac doctors say, because of a change in policy that came after Tenet Healthcare contributed $200,000 to Florida Republicans."

Nobody Wants To Use Your Product is an ironic article, but one that is well worth reading. The fact that it discusses design and offers some eye-opening facts is good, but just look at Smashing Magazine which is publishing the article. That is not a well designed website.

An in depth review of the TAG Heuer Connected has been posted at Calibre 11and it really does go into great detail including this nugget about numbers- "But while the price of the watch may be attainable, the issue is with availability. In December it was announced that TAG Heuer had dramatically increased production to meet demand- from 1,200 per week to 2,000 per week. To put that into context, it’s estimated that TAG Heuer manufactures approx. 750,000 watches annually, so the Connected is well on its way to being one of the top-selling models. Give the high demand, online sales have been suspended to give more stock for retailers." I ask myself how a watch brand that makes 750,000 watches per year can still be considered to be in the 'luxury' market?

Would you like to know how much energy your devices use each year? Of course you would, and Forbes has produced a handy article detailing the costs. Some are much lower that I expected them to be.

Do you collect things? It seems to me that collecting appears to be a 'man' thing and that us males are far more likely to collect watches, stamps or anything else than women are. I'm not being sexist- that is merely my experience. Narcissiana: On Collecting relates to this subject well.

15th January 2016

"I have just returned from the dubbing studio where I spoke into a microphone as Severus Snape for absolutely the last time. On the screen were some flashback shots of Daniel, Emma, and Rupert from ten years ago. They were 12. I have also recently returned from New York, and while I was there, I saw Daniel singing and dancing (brilliantly) on Broadway. A lifetime seems to have passed in minutes..."Those were the words of Alan Rickman when he wrote a goodbye letter to Professor Snape in 2011, but they feel very apt today. You can read the full letter at The Independent, but no matter how popular he was as Snape, he will always be Hans Gruber in Die Hard who somehow resurrected to become the sorrowful Harry in Love Actually.

You can now buy and sell people on Twitter using an app called Stolen. The app breaks so many rules including being able to write on your timeline and see your friends with almost no safeguards at all. Surely it will be blocked in the next few days?

There have been some serious storms in New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh and these photos really do highlight the severity. They made me reconsider my annoyance at having to de-ice my car this morning.

Microsoft has posted a page detailing how to manage Windows 10 upgrade notifications. I use a Mac every day and when I do have to use my son's Windows 10 laptop, I am constantly amazed at how many updates it requires almost every single day. There has to be something wrong with an operating system that needs so many updates, besides the slowness and security issues.

The Dragnet is an excellent new longform story over at The Verge which starts with the following- "On May 6th, 2008, a package containing $68,000 in cash arrived at a FedEx store in Palo Alto, California. The bills had been washed in lantern fuel, as per instruction, then double-vacuum-sealed and placed inside the cavity of a stuffed animal, which was then gift wrapped. The store had been chosen carefully: it was open all night, and located just 500 feet from a Caltrain station. The package was general delivery, to be picked up at the store by a man named Patrick Stout." That should be enough for you to take a longer look.

No one seems to know for sure how popular the Apple Watch has been, but a new study by MBLM is suggesting that enthusiasm is cooling off already. In my experience, every single person I know who bought one, bar one, stopped wearing it after a few weeks and they have not gone back to it since. To be fair, I don't believe that Apple is the problem here. It is more a case of the form of any watch having limited potential for real-world usefulness when performing computing tasks.

The Twitter murder that never happened is a crazy story that shows just how quick we are to believe what is written on social networks and the internet in general. "It was a horrific crime that came to light in a series of impassioned tweets that gripped and appalled a nation. But it was all made up. The story of a brutal rape and murder has provoked an outpouring of emotion from South African social media users, and was picked up by the press. It turned out to be completely fabricated, but has sparked a very real debate about rape in the country."

"Most everything in the American Museum of Natural History is from another place or time: fossils from extinct creatures, rocks from space or deep within the earth, the yearly hot-house of butterflies sipping nectar and dodging toddlers in the midst of wintry New York. This seems to be what the museum is for. But in one hall of the museum, the artifact from the past is a bit of the museum itself: Like a time capsule of sorts, though it almost seems like they’ve forgotten that it’s there." You can read The Fullness of a Moment here. It's worth it.

Now and again an app comes along which is so beautifully designed, I just have to try it. Pendo is one such app and I have to say that my first impressions are extremely positive. It is completely free with an in-app purchase to reward the developer, and just may help you get organised in a stress-free way.

The next TiQ newsletter will be delivered in the early hours of Monday morning so you have a weekend off. Enjoy... 

14th January 2016

The Post-Mobile Era is not quite how it sounds in this article from Re/code, but it does raise some interesting questions. It seems impossible at this moment when billions of people are staring down at their small screens each day, but at some point there will be a new product(s) that could make the mobile phone feel positively archaic. Sadly none of us know what that is at the moment and if I do discover it, I will keep quiet until I am a zillionaire...

Ever wondered what happens to all of the products that are returned to retailers? Well, Wired has taken a look and produced a detailed article looking at the entire process, which is obviously much busier just after Christmas.

Notifications on your phone can be tiresome and often get in the way of what you are trying to do at the time, but spare a thought for Demy de Zeeuw. He has 8 million Instagram subscribers and decided to post a video showing what his notifications look like. Seriously, take a look at the sheer craziness that happens and never again complain about the occasional annoying message.

Google has created tiny cameras to capture Hamburg's Miniature Wunderlandwhich is the world's largest miniature railway in Street View style. The end result is exactly like using Street View on your computer, except that it is more fun and exponentially more charming. You can explore the end results here.

52 Blue is a story posted at Atavist Magazine and it is one of the most compelling I have read over the past 12 months. If you get a chance to subscribe to the magazine, it is well worth the small investment just for the quality of the writing. Here's a snippet from 52 Blue- "Joe thought, Holy cow. It hardly seemed possible. For a blue whale, which is what this one seemed to be, a frequency of 52 hertz was basically off the charts. Blue whales usually came in somewhere between 15 and 20—on the periphery of what the human ear can hear, an almost imperceptible rumble. But here it was, right in front of them, the audio signature of a creature moving through Pacific waters with a singularly high-pitched song."

I tend to ignore most concept cars, but the Citroen DS Revival is different because it is not only unnervingly beautiful, but seems perfect possible to create in 2016. You can see more pictures of it here. Go on, you know you want to drive it!

The PC market is huge and it has grown over the past few decades, but in recent times things have turned downwards. There has been an estimated 8.3% decline in worldwide sales in the last quarter, but once again Apple is bucking the trend with 2.8% growth which is equivalent to 7.5% of the total market. Obviously Apple's numbers are still small in such a large market and there are concerns over the future of Apple's PC sector, but we do look on course for a major shift from laptops and desktops to tablets and even more sophisticated phones. For me, the majority of my computing is now done on my phone with the rest on an iMac, and I own nothing in between.

ARTCADE is a simple idea, but is one that you will appreciate if you grew up with what we call retro games today. It is a book containing a unique collection of coin-op cabinet marquees, some dating back 40 years to the dawn of video gaming and the visuals really are memory-jogging. Is it just me or were games harder years ago compared to now? Limited lives, dreadful controllers and blocky pixels made for a frustrating yet absorbing experience.

The Joy of Tech has published a new cartoon which mocks how smart watches work. Have a look for yourself- it is short, to the point and very accurate.

It would appear that more humour has been added to Siri. I won't give away what happens, but if you have access to Siri, try asking the following- "Can you beatbox?" and "What's zero divided by zero?" The answers are highly amusing.

13th January 2016

I covered the petition about Apple potentially doing away with the traditional headphone jack recently, but a new BBC article entitled The 19th Century plug that's still being used sheds some light on just how old the technology is. Now, I am not saying that just because something is old it should be left behind, but the article does offer an interesting history on a technology that has outlasted most others.

Few things in life are more British than the poor quality of our railways and the excuses train companies come up with to explain failures. Southeastern Trains, however, has excelled itself by blaming 'strong sunshine' for problems! "Services were disrupted because of the angle of the sun in Lewisham, south-east London, train operator Southeastern said. It apologised and tweeted: "We had severe congestion through Lewisham due to dispatching issues as a result of strong sunlight.""

I held back on the story earlier in the week that suggested Apple was making a tool to make it easier for people to move to Android. As it happens, this was a good move because Apple has now denied doing something so useful for customers. From re/code“There is no truth to this rumor,” an Apple representative told Re/code. “We are entirely focused on switching users from Android to iPhone, and that is going great.”

No doubt you love your wedding photos and with very good reason, but this selection is truly astonishing. They really are beautiful, but there is a little bit of me that find them a touch over the top. Is it just me?

I seem to mention Lego more than I mean to, but I could not resist this life-sized caravan which is 100% made from the little plastic bricks, all 215,158 of them. Remarkable.

The Christoph Laimer Tourbillon is the world's first 3D-printed watch. Every single part has been printed and it really does work on its own which is an incredible achievement. Admittedly, it is huge, but I do wonder if this is one of the first examples of the potential that 3D-printing will offer in the future. It could change everything.

"Today, the cries of mankind are answered. The online connectivity of the world will begin a long-awaited transformative path towards an internet free of unnecessary convolution, free of evil, tyrannical cross-browser incompatibility—free of Internet Explorer®. As we celebrate the deprecation of the worst web browser in history, let us remember the software that managed to burn holes in even the best web code without fail. Internet Explorer® has proven to be the bane of web developers everywhere and has taught us all a valuable lesson: even a landscape as magnificent as the world wide web can be marred and tarnished with seemingly no hope of repair. Today, hope has finally arrived. Let us embrace it, cherish it, and never take it for granted. For a world without Internet Explorer® is a world of infinite possibility."
The above text comes from a Kickstarter offering which is merely a screen print rejoicing the loss of Internet Explorer. It sounds silly and at the time of writing it is far from reaching it's goal, but I for one am glad Internet Explorer is going. It's easily the worst web browser ever made.

Most of us may think that North Korea is a little odd, but any article that offers more detail is always one to read, and How ‘Crazy’ Are the North Koreans? over at the NYT is no exception. "I probably shouldn’t say this, but I take my hat off to the North Koreans. They have played their cards extremely well. Despite this episodic outrage, they have managed to become a full-fledged small nuclear power with a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. Moreover, even as they have moved down the nuclear path, they have maintained fairly normal political, economic and other relations with many countries from China to Ethiopia. In effect, a large number of countries have tacitly accepted North Korea as a nuclear weapons state."