16/02/2015

Girls, tech sex and dating

Well almost. On Weds 11th of Feb in the very nice Lyst studios in Hoxton Square, Girls in Tech London held an event about Dating, Sex and Technology.

Oddly it was a packed out event (not just Girls in Tech, but sex and dating too) and there was a good smattering of men in the audience (as well as one of the panelists).

Girls in Tech was started in San Francisco in 2007 and now there are over 60 chapters around the world with thousands of members. It's aim is the promotion, growth and success of female entrepreneurs, innovators and technologists. Tech start-ups tend to be male dominated and though there are a growing number of females they are quite often hidden in the swathe of their male counterparts. It's also encouraging that although it's female focussed men are encouraged to attend and also take part in the panels (though it is a requirement that females are on them too). As well as the larger evening events, there are also more intimate (if that's the right word) smaller breakfast roundtables too which tend to focus on specific topics.

The panel was moderated by Radhika Sanghani who writes for the Telegraph and is the author of Virgin, a book about the effect apps are having on our behaviours and experiences, and what the future might hold for dating tools.

The panelists were: -

  • Barbara Galiza from Dattch (a lesbian and bisexual/bicurious dating app)
  • Hatty Kingsley-Miller from Antidate (men are visible in the app, while women aren't and have to make the first move)
  • Marie Cosnard from Happn (Hyperlocal app which allows member sto find each other if they've crossed paths but not met)
  • Dimo Trifonov from 3nder (every sexuality is the norm and anyone can find people with the same interests)
It was an interesting panel it definitely shows that 'sex sells', however (IMHO) it also showed that some sites hadn't a clue about monetisation which can be a huge problem when growing and suddenly infrastructure costs overwhelm the company.

All in all a very enjoyable evening and definitely worth another visit to the next event.

21/01/2015

The new Mu's are out and they're bigger and better

TheMu came to the worlds attention with their UK plug folding USB charger (they wanted to do a folding plug, but that never came into commercial fruition). The Live and Neutral lugs swing 90 degrees so it's flat and the side walls then fold to cover. Unfortunately due to the vastly over-engineered UK plug specifications, the side wings have to be of a certain size while the Earth, Live and Neutral pins have to be of another, so the side wings can never completely cover them. The earth pin protrudes quite a bit, but it's plastic so shouldn't damage anything. The other pins only protrude a very small amount and it's only really noticeable on the curve of the side wing.

The original only had enough power capacity to charge your phone and tablets were left out in the cold.

Now The Mu comes in two more varieties the Mu Duo and

The Mu Tablet
They also now come in black and white variations.

Both support USB 5V at 2.4A which is enough to charge your iPad. The Mu Tablet is designed to do just that (and it should also charge your iPhone faster), the Duo can charge two phones, though it can also charge a tablet if only one USB port is used.

That should the Mu Tablet closed and the protrusion of the pins.

Then with the side flaps open and the live/neutral pins rotated.

It's a shame the UK plug standards are so strict (BS 1363 if interested), however the Mu does it's best to be as flat and small as possible and it would be relatively simple to build a cover that covers those protruding pins (maybe someone could start a business selling Mu covers or construct something with Sugru).

Aside from the small protrusions the Mu's will just slip into laptop bag without much danger of scratching anything which is MUCH better that a normal USB charger like the Apple standard one which is a normal UK plug with the electronics in the top and all pins protruding ready to scratch all your nice shiny Apple (or other) gear. Being thin and flat they'll also slip into a backpack pocket too.

The original Mu costs £15, with the Mu Tablet £20 and Mu Duo costing £22 from their on-line shop.

Definitely recommended if you want a higher power charger that will slide into a bag/backpack etc without scratching everything to pieces (or being bulky width ways).

Project Ara, a nice idea

Google's next big thing, Project Ara - a modular phone with an exoskeleton that will last 5 years. That's their story and they're sticking to it.

Most people don't realise that there's a huge complex certification process that mobile phones have to undergo including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US, CE in Europe, and the Mobile Networks Operators (MNOs)/carriers etc.

Building a modular phone is all very well, but the phone as a WHOLE has to be certified. Mobile networks don't like users being able to change bits, they certify that a phone's compatible with their network and that's it, change something and the phone needs to be re-certified.

There's an opinion out there that operating systems are open source, and a lot of it is. The guts of it that talks GSM or GPRS or 3G isn't, in fact it's highly encumbered. Networks REALLY don't want you to mess with those bits as you can do nasty things to the network (in the good old days of TACS/ETACS you could REPROGRAM the network and set transmitter power levels etc.). That's why networks liked nice phones where you could only do certain things through the APIs and SDKs, there was no concept of 'root' and root couldn't play with those bits of code that operators didn't want you to mess with.

Google can afford the whole process, add a new module, certify the whole thing, it works. It all falls down when they allow 3rd parties to change things. The certification isn't for the module it's for the whole phone. Maybe Google have the clout to change the certification process, but as it stands it's not going to be easy to get carrier approval let alone regulator approval.

It's all well and good producing a modular phone, but is it going to work on real networks? Take your Ara with your custom modules, yes it may work (on a public network, but it's probably illegal), you might get away with it at Burning Man.

Yes Google 'could' certify every variation of the Ara that comes out, but it's unlikely.

Maybe the regulations need to change, but that's going to be a lengthy process and very expensive (well Google can sort out the second bit).

So though Ara may be the future of mobile phones, it's not going to be mainstream for a while and 3rd party modules even longer.

19/01/2015

Google Glass isn't quite pushing up the daisies

There's been a lot of noise about Google Glass being killed off which is slightly odd considering: -

Intel announced at CES that the next version of Glass would be powered by an Intel CPU.

  • The Glass team are moving from the secret projects labs thing to the Nest division i.e. mainstream.
  • The CPU used in the current version of Glass is a TI OMAP processor, TI don't make OMAP processors any more.
  • The Explorer version was a technology trial.
  • The Explorer version is ugly as hell and not the easiest thing to use.
  • Google have made some nice relationship with eyewear vendors.

There's a fair number of Glass applications now (Glassware) and the technology works, it wasn't consumer ready, it wasn't even techie ready, it was early adopter and developer ready.

There's sure to be a new version in the works, it might not even be consumer ready, but it will be more functional, it will look nicer, run faster and do things better. It might not even be sold by Google but their eyewear partners with Google just supplying the tech.

Whatever happens, Glassholes will be around for a long time and it's not quite a Norwegian Blue ...

Why the UK needs more ways to wiretap .... NOT

David Cameron has recently come out with the UK needs new laws to curb evil terrorists and as part of this process banning end-to-end security in messaging applications and putting back holes into encryption protocols so GCHQ and the Security Services can do more snooping than they already do.

Edward Snowdon has already shown how much the NSA and GCHQ already have been complicit in installing back doors in routers and other devices and they have talked with security companies to put back doors in existing systems.

They even built a (mini) GSM network so they could tap what various people were doing when they came to the UK (that pretended to be the normal networks, but intercepted all voice, text and data traffic, put it through their network first and then sent it on to the normal networks). That caused a bit of a row and the Germans didn't much like it (so much so they promptly made everyone in Government use Blackberry's which do support encryption and secure traffic).

The Government already has powers of intercept. It can force anybody that has infrastructure in the UK or operates in the UK to hand over data records (RIPA has been around for a while).

Cable and Wireless (now Vodafone) used to be a big player in International data pipes and a lot of their undersea cables land in a small bay in Bude, Cornwall. There's a little C&W building above the beach where the cables terminate and then shoot out to the rest of the UK. Oddly there's a GCHQ listening station right next door (allegedly GCHQ don't even have to tap the fibres, C&W just give them a direct split) and the listening station is just a big data centre that can hold 30 days worth of data and it's a big FIFO (first in first out). The bods at GCHQ can look at the connections (which is generally who was talking to who, whether that's a person talking to another person or a person to a particular website) and then drill into the actual connection data when it's interesting to them.

The US have a big 'listening' station at Menwith Hill (in the UK).

Unfortunately giving the Government more power to do interception and weaken encryption isn't going to help anyone. Encryption technologies tend to be the same whatever the application. So the same encryption that may protect a messenger protocol is also the same protocol used to protect the web protocol (i.e. https rather than http). By reducing the encryption (or worse putting back doors in) it's not just the messenger protocols that suffer, it's also the services that should be secure that are affected too.

The other main problem is that it doesn't really affect the terrorists that the Government want to stop. They are going to CONTINUE using encryption whether the Government wants them too or not. The UK can't mandate non-encrypted (or reduced encryption) outside the UK, so everyone who wants security moves their services to a place that does allow it.

Disallowing or reducing the effectiveness of encryption is not the answer to terrorism.

22/12/2014

Ofcom consults on Public Sector Spectrum release

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement on the release of Public Sector Spectrum release, specifically in the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands concerning co-existance issues.

The two blocks of spectrum are currently held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and it is reelasing the spectrum back to Ofcom for civilian use. The two blocks are: -

  • 40 MHz of spectrum within the 2.3 GHz band (2350-2390 MHz)
  • 150 MHz of spectrum within the 3.4 GHz band (3410-3480 MHz and 3500-3580 MHz)

Though likely to be offered on a technology neutral basis, it is expected that there will be high interest from mobile operators wishing to use the spectrum for high power 4G (LTE) services.

Ofcom has viewed the interference issues assuming the bands will be used for LTE.

The 2.3GHz band has potential to interfere with the adjacent 2.4GHz band (2400 to 2483.5 MHz) which is used by Bluetooth, WiFi and Zigbee. Though Ofcom has ascertained there is a slight risk (mainly to WiFi, just due to the number of WiFi access points in use), often interference issues can be minimised by moving equipment away from windows or near the outside of buildings. Moving WiFi to use the 5GHz band mean there is no interference at all.

The 2.3GHz band release will cause issues for Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) and will reduce the number of channels available. However PMSE is expected to move to the 7GHz band which will become the 'home' for PMSE services.

Current PMSE services can continue to operate in the 3.4GHz band, until such time that the 3.4GHz is actually deployed in specific areas.

Ofcom hopes to release the spectrum in 2015.

01/12/2014

Ofcom rates VoD services with BBFC

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published two statements relating to regulating/censoring VoD content in-line with it duties as a broadcast regulator.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) guidelines will be used for VoD content classification and any content that is R (or over) must now be behind a system that restricts access to the content. It also makes certain content illegal in any form.

Ofcom has published a Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) that sets out how Ofcom will work with the Authority for TV On Demand (ATVOD) and the BBFC will work together to achieve the purpose and effect of the new legislation.

Also Ofcom has published an update (PDF) to the ATVOD Designation to incorporate the new requirements.

Ofcom moves into the 21st Century and will offer number allocation through a WEB FORM

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement that from 8th December 2014 communications providers will have to apply for new number allocations through a web form on the Ofcom site.

The form will ask for details of the allocation use and communications providers that intend to use those numbers for Public Electronic Communications Network (PECN) and/or a Public Electronic Communications Service (PECS) will have to allocate those numbers within the 6 month period or Ofcom can withdraw them and take them back for re-allocation.

This should simplify the application process for most providers (the old system was paper based) and relates to number allocation within Section 58 of the Communication Act 2003 under General Condition 17.

Ofcom held a consultation about this a while back and the result of the respondents are included in the statement, several respondents have been redacted (probably as they didn't want their names known to incumbents).

24/11/2014

Ofcom clears the way for 700MHz broadband

Ofcom, the Super Regulator, has published a statement that will clear the 700MHz band (694 MHz - 790 MHz) for use by mobile broadband services (likely to be additional bands for LTE services).

It is expected that the auctioning of this band will raise significant revenue for the treasury as well as having a positive economic benefit by allowing mobile network operators (MNOs) access to increased spectrum allowing them to provide better data services. The 700MHz band has very good propagation properties (i.e. signals pass through walls etc well) which should improve mobile coverage in rural areas.

Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services will continue to operate in the 600MHz band, though multiplexes will use MPEG-4 and DVB-T2 technologies (any tuner that can decode Freeview HD will work with these technologies).

The main users affected by this will be Programming and Special Events (PMSE) radio microphones, who will have to move to other bands.

Whitespace technologies may also be affected, however these haven't really taken off in a big way and even Neul that has built equipment to utilise whitespace have recently concentrated on licensed spectrum (and have been purchased by Huawei).

This may seem daunting, but Ofcom is not proposing that these changes come into effect until 2020 (and maybe 2 years earlier in 2018), this is in-line with European harmonised spectrum strategy.

07/11/2014

Jawbone introduces Move and UP3

Jawbone the company that specialises in Bluetooth devices has launched two new activity trackers, the Move and the UP3.

The Move is a disk like (made out of anodised aluminium) and comes with a clip so you can attach it to your trousers, tie, bra or wherever you feel comfortable. It has a tri-axis accelerometer, 12 White LEDs, 1 Orange LED, and 1 Blue LED to indicate movement time, charge states, progress and current status. To be honest it seems very similar to the Misfit Shine. It uses a replaceable CR2032 battery which lasts up to 6 months. It only costs £39.99 which definitely puts it in the affordable bracket.

The UP3 on the other hand seems to be a vast improvement on the UP24 (and Jawbone known for being a Bluetooth company really shouldn't have released the original UP without Bluetooth support). It has a tri-axis accelerometer and uses bio-impedance to measure heart rate, respiration, Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). It also measures skin and ambient temperature. There are three single color LEDs: Blue for sleep, orange for activity, and white for notifications. It's also water resistant down to 10m (which means that it's suitable for swimming) and the rechargeable battery lasts about a week. It's £149.99 which isn't cheap, but the electronic sensors that measure your conditions are definitely better than the usual LED/pulse-rate detectors that most other devices use and can potentially allow the UP3 to do more accurate and advanced monitoring.

Though Fitbit dominate the tracker market (and though they are also launching new devices), the Move is a cheap and cheerful device for the low end market, while the UP3 has some nice advanced features and should give them a run for their money.