Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty

TechBlog

Welcome to my blog, featuring industry musings and opinions on the latest products

By kateoflaherty, Nov 26 2012 11:21AM

Facebook users continue to complain about privacy, despite posting intimate details for hundreds of so-called 'friends' to see on a daily basis.


Over the past few months, a deluge of hoax Facebook status updates have warned users of 'changes' to privacy rules, prompting a premature outcry. However, life imitated art when the social network announced last week that it is to combine user data with its recently acquired photo app, Instagram. Facebook advised users that it might also share data with its other businesses or affiliates in order to "help provide, understand, and improve [its] services and their own services". The website is also about to remove the ability for users to vote on changes to its data privacy policy.


This, of course, has riled many users as internet privacy is a very tenacious issue. Google has already been rapped by the EU for its approach to privacy, which was branded "incomplete and approximate", raising "deep concerns about data protection and the respect of the European law".


And admittedly, on a personal level, it is little creepy when our web history is tracked and collected. Perhaps though, Facebook users, who expose their public posts to 200+ 'friends', should stop being so precious over their data.


As one user aptly states, Facebook is "a noticeboard, not a secret diary", so published material can be seen, copied and forwarded by anyone in the world who has access to a computer.


So perhaps it is time that Facebook users accept that nothing they post on the internet is completely private. As cyber bullies and those posting their involvement in the London Riots last year have discovered, your comments can be viewed, and action can be taken as a result of them.


Twitter users have also found out how dangerous a thoughtless post can be and yes, it seems ridiculous that libel laws can be applied here. However, Facebook users should start viewing the site in the way they view Twitter. The information that you post is certainly not private and often can and will be seen.


Sure, make it as controlled as possible, but still be aware that your data is in no way secret. It's the internet and we are lucky enough to live in a society where the web is open and our opinions can be heard. So continue to post, but just be aware, nothing on the internet is private; that is against its very nature.



By kateoflaherty, Nov 21 2012 05:01PM

The UK's last typewriter is a stark reminder of how quickly technology becomes obsolete, and how rapidly the market is moving.


The typewriter has had a good innings. After 130 years in the global mainstream, the machine is still going strong in the US, but its manufacture is no longer needed in the UK. In a world where the shelf life of a mobile phone is about a year, the typewriter's survival rate is pretty impressive - the first was manufactured in the US in 1830.


Unsurprisingly, the advent of the typewriter has led to further advancement in the technology sector. As well as providing women with solid (albeit dull) work at the start of last century, it inspired the design of the keyboard we use for our computers, mobiles and tablets. It contributed to our creative industries - journalists used them, writers, administrators. In my early 30s now, even I used one as a teenager. Computers were barely around when I started my first job.


The form factor and general usefulness of the typewriter aside, it's nice to be part of an industry that's always moving. From the humble typewriter through to powerful computers and smartphones we have today, to possibly the most significant - the advent of the internet - the tech world is advancing at an incredible pace.


Some observers even say the human race's technology advances outdo its biological findings and, despite the obvious credit due to scientists, I'd be inclined to agree. As someone I recently interviewed quite rightly pointed out, "we didn't fly to the moon by training birds".


And as the last typewriter sits in its new home at the Science Museum, you can't help but wonder which other technology will join it in the coming years. As the pace of the industry continues to accelerate, it can't be long before the iPhone is obsolete, too.




By kateoflaherty, Nov 6 2012 10:45AM

Microsoft's newly-launched Windows Phone 8 might have a chance of gaining more share, but it is acres away from competing with Android just yet.


IDC figures show that in the third quarter of 2012, 3.6 million handsets were shipped running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system (OS). This is a 140% increase on the same period last year but still way behind Android, which shipped a massive 136 million handsets during the same period.


Even so, IDC predicts Windows Phone could jump to third place in 2013, partly due to Blackberry OS' decline. The prediction only puts the Microsoft OS at 6.6%, compared with Android's current global share of 75%, but it seems Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has much bigger ideas.


According to IT Pro, Ballmer said at an event that he expects his newly-launched OS to become a big challenger in the market. This is partly due to the huge amounts of advertising that have been thrown at it and integration with the software giant's Windows 8 operating system.


The launch of Windows 8 last month saw Apple-like queues and to Microsoft's credit, it seems to be selling well. However, if Ballmer expects Windows Phone 8 to be just as successful, he is going to be disappointed.


Last week, Microsoft partner Nokia launched its Windows Phone 8 Lumia smartphones, after reporting an underlying loss for its third quarter in October. To date, phones running Windows Phone have been poor, with no 'killer' device to really raise the OS' profile. Its partnership with Nokia was largely a mistake for most parties, and HTC's Android smartphones hold far more appeal than their Windows Phone counterparts.


The figures speak for themselves. If Windows Phone is to mimic the success of Android it needs to be original, it needs to engage and encourage developers, it needs to be open.


Ballmer can throw marketing spend at the OS but what he really needs to do is inspire people. As Windows is often thought to be the standard for PCs, Android is closer to becoming that for smartphones. If Microsoft doesn't overhaul its attitude soon, its $1bn advertising spend could be a wasted investment.



By kateoflaherty, Oct 4 2012 12:52PM

Tuesday night's decision to bring the 4G spectrum auction forward has been a long time coming and comes after multiple legal threats and years of operator squabbles.


The move means the auction will be held six months earlier than planned - allowing all networks to have 4G services by next summer. Although this gives EE - which was given the green light to roll out its 4G network last month - a significant head start, it has dulled Vodafone, O2 and Three's legal battle campaigns for the time being.


Ofcom's decisions over the last few years have never really encouraged the UK operators to work together. In fact, its actions during the period have led to fights between naturally competitive networks that should have worked together for the greater good.


Legal threats have been commonplace along the way, with operators worried that the others would have a competitive advantage if allowed to acquire or keep more useful spectrum.


This should not have been their concern. Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G as the media likes to call it, should have been rolled out by all operators before now. Many UK operator trials have taken place already, and the US has had the technology since 2010. Meanwhile, some areas in the UK are still struggling to get a 3G signal.


The regulator's decision to allow EE to roll out 4G early might have brought the technology to consumers sooner, but it didn't give them a choice of network if they want to use the service.


Everything Everywhere had previously campaigned to roll out its LTE services early, but was forbidden to do so by the regulator as it would then be given a competitive advantage. Now, of course, things have changed.


Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, who said the regulator's latest actions "avoids the risk of significant delay", now says the latest move "is tremendous news for consumers who might otherwise have waited a considerable period for the next generation of mobile broadband services".


He added in yesterday's statement that “Ofcom's objective has always been to release the spectrum as early as possible and we remain focused on starting the auction by the end of the year".


Yes, Ofcom's decision has finally (nearly) aligned the operator landscape. However, if its decisions during the spectrum auction continue to mirror those of the last few years, the roll out of LTE could turn into a rather embarrassing disaster.


By kateoflaherty, Sep 19 2012 10:15AM

Sons of Anarchy, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire are branded among the finest TV of the decade, but for those without a Sky contract it could be a frustrating wait of a year or more before they can watch the shows legitimately.


For this reason among others, 'piracy' is widespread throughout the internet generation. On one side, musicians' careers can be ruined in a digital age when fans download music for free. Film and TV studios also suffer, according to the rights holders affected by losses from downloaded content.


But according to a recent report, downloaders of copyrighted material will not get away without punishment. In fact, the IP addresses of torrent users are collected and could be handed over to copyright holders at any point, scaremongerers said.


It's true that when the Digital Economy Act (DEA) comes into place in 2014 and warning letters are sent out by broadband providers, the landscape will start to look very different. But despite incoming legislation and website take downs, it appears lawmakers are failing to address the issue - availability of content.


Most downloaders say they would pay for material if it was readily available and at a decent price, and many of them already have contracts with LoveFilm and Netflix. In the age of the internet, £40 per month TV contracts are outdated and expensive for those who just want to watch several shows a year.


Netflix and LoveFilm have gone some way to addressing this, but content is fairly sparse and out of date. Sky's Now TV, which allows users to pay-as-you-go for films and TV, is an exciting prospect but at the moment content is limited to films and it is already looking pretty expensive.


To add to this, DVD box sets are not available until a year after they've aired, forcing fans to face an excruciating wait. Until an affordable, accessible and content-heavy streaming service is available, it is likely that many will continue to download illegally.


Only Sky's Now TV holds any hope of offering users the content they want, when they want but with a severe lack of competition in the area, Sky could get away with charging ludicrous prices. Only time will tell whether those who don't want to face prosecution will get to catch up with their favourite shows before the end of the year.


By kateoflaherty, Sep 12 2012 07:58PM

Thinner, faster, lighter, the iPhone 5, as analyst CCS Insight puts it, broke all records with the "biggest ever launch despite a lack of surprises".


But perhaps the surprises will fall elsewhere. Much more interesting than the launch of a smartphone that is hardly game-changing is the 4G device's impact on the UK operator landscape.


Only yesterday, the imaginatively named EE brand launched its 4G network, much to the opposition of rival operators O2, Vodafone and Three.


According to The Telegraph, O2's customers have already received emails encouraging them to trade in their old handsets for an iPhone 5. Of course, unlike US consumers, or those on EE, they will be waiting a very long time for 4G.


For those in the UK who are looking to upgrade, choosing EE's shiny new LTE brand is a no-brainer. This depends on price of course but Everything Everywhere got itself a very good deal when it was given the green light by regulator Ofcom to roll out its super fast 4G network ahead of its rivals.


Once it was O2 that had iPhone exclusivity, which as a result gave it clear market leadership. EE is likely to take that crown because no matter how much we would like to deny it, Apple still controls the consumer landscape.


iPhone 5 features (and some great pictures at Pocket-lint.com)


• Taller screen - remote control style

• It's 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter at 112 grams total

• A 4-inch screen at 1136 x 640 resolution

• The A6 processor is twice as fast, Apple claims

• 4G is confirmed

• Battery not much improved. Apple says it "not only matches but exceeds 4S's battery life"

• New connector called "Lightning", which is 80 per cent smaller

• Camera is 25 per cent smaller, better features including a new low light mode

• New headphones, called "EarPods" (vomit)

• September 21 launch date


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