Tuesday Toss

Nov 20, 2012 No Comments by

Tech Fogey has been absent. Not in body but certainly in spirit. There’s been a lull as manufacturers gird their loins for the Christmas onslaught. Such news as there is is dominated by smartphones and tablets all clamouring for your attention and everyone proclaiming their device to be just the best thing ever!!! There was a CES (Consumer Electronic Show, Las Vegas, Jan 2013) preview in London last week where the assembled throng were assured that the only tech areas showing any sort of growth in the grab-all western world were the aforementioned phones and tabs, plus DSLR cameras (which as a category now seems to embrace all cameras with interchangeable lenses whether they’re single lens reflex or not) and headphones. Everything else is on the slide, especially devices that now have their capabilities built in to smartphones; sat-nav, MP3 players, compact digital cameras. And there’s some sort of speculative jostling whereby manufacturers are testing the tolerance of consumers for smaller tablets and larger smartphones. They’re hoping to hit a ‘phablet’ sweet-spot whereby one size of device satisfies the slavering punters who would previously have bought both iPad and iPhone. Fat chance.



Fry – loves twiddling knobs

If it transpired that Stephen Fry had been cloned and there are four or five of him out there, would anyone be surprised? Or maybe he has a cosmic dispensation whereby Fry-days are 48 hours long, so he gets twice as much time as the rest of us to do stuff. It’s well known that he’s a gadget-fiend and finally this predilection has borne TV fruit with Stephen Fry: Gadget Man (Channel 4, 8.30pm, Monday). The first show also featured Fry-mate Jonathan Ross who, in the TF household initiates a scrabble for the remote and frantic jabbing at the off button. If only there was an app that could delete particular ‘personalities’ from our TV screens. Almost worth getting a smartphone for. Anyway Stevie and Jonny showcased various whatsits that might make the daily commute better or even bearable while ignoring the likely fact that neither has ever had to endure a five-day-a-week, two-way veal-crate experience. TF hasn’t either but judging from the odd occasions when we’ve joined the morning shuffle and its attendant oafish behaviour we think it would take more than being able to watch a movie on a palm-sized screen to keep us from chewing our arm off. TF would like to tell you more and to have actually seen the programme ourselves but in an ironic twist, having recorded it on Sky + all we got when playing it back was a blank, black screen of undiluted nothingness. Sky + is usually completely reliable, especially since we forked out for a new box, but not this time. Luckily it’s repeated on Saturdays at 8.30pm. Next week Steve-F goes gizmo in the kitchen and cooks up a future-storm for Jo Brand and Derren Brown. We would dearly love to see a Fry v Brown brain blitz but realise that the biggest egos can be the most fragile.


Yet More 4G Piffle

The bleating about 4G continues with some speculation as to whether it works that well if you’re inside a building. Vodafone were suggesting that EE’s 4G didn’t like walls. It’s not masonry that will deter punters; it’s the prices – pay a handset price of £19.99 for a 16GB iPhone 5, for example and the cheapest EE tariff is £56 a month for 24 months. The Evening Standard ran a page of supposed editorial about how 4G would save the economy and how it would be the kiddies who’d drive the demand and be the salvation of penny-pinching Fogies across the land. Pubescent oiks, however, having no significant economic heft, so TF hopes their pester-power skills are well-honed otherwise we’re all up shit creek and every associated tributary. TF appreciates that, while the Standard is a London institution, it is of no interest or relevance to anyone outside the capital. And now, because it is distributed free, it relies solely on advertising for its existence. EE, the only current, default 4G supplier, has been hurling great wads of ad cash at newspapers for the past few weeks so TF suspects impartial detachment might not be at the forefront of the Standard’s agenda when it comes to trumpeting the supposed joys of 4G. They can say what they like when reviewing films, theatre or exhibitions because there’s no associated ad spend but snouting around in the trough of telco munificence seems to have addled some brains.


And finally…

Intel – ex

Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, is retiring.  So what?  Well, his departure has given commentators yet another excuse to point up the fact that Intel (which makes the processing chips found in most PCs) has missed the mobile boat by sticking with Microsoft and computers and not developing chips for mobile devices soon enough.  Intel chips are in the Nokia Lumia Windows-based smartphones but that’s pretty much it.  All other smartphones – Apple and Android alike – run ARM chips.  Whereas the characteristics of Intel chips – power-hungry, get hot – are manageable in a PC, in a smartphone they are significant drawbacks.  Cambridge-based ARM Holdings (Advanced RISC Machines in case you’re wondering – and RISC is short for reduced instruction set computing, so no wonder they abbreviated) grew out of a cross-fertilisation between Apple and Acorn Computers, took the long view on mobile communications in terms of their chip development and now has over 90 percent of the smartphone market.  Yaay!  Go UK!  Jingoism aside it’s good to know that our ‘soft power’ has a cutting edge.