Archive for August, 2008

A bad month for air travel

August 29, 2008

Is it just me, or has this month been a terrible one for the aviation industry?

First off, BAA was forced to sell Gatwick and Stansted thanks to the competition commission (possibly not such a bad thing for passengers and airlines).

Transatlantic budget carrier Zoom Airlines was also forced to suspend all flights and go into administration. Thousands of passengers due to fly with Zoom have been told to rebook with other carriers and to contact credit or debit card issuers about refunds. The rising price of aviation fuel has been named as a major factor in the airline’s demise.

A series of other minor aviation incidents followed, including a plane catching fire on a runway, a Thomsonfly plane having to turn back after a fire broke out in an on-board oven and an Air France 747 skidding off the runway after landing at Montreal.

All of these events were overshadowed when a SpanAir passenger jet tragically crashed at Madrid’s Barajas airport. Just four days later, an Itek Air Boeing 737 -bound for Iran, crashed – killing two thirds of the passengers and crew.

Given this atmosphere, one might have expected Ryanair to handle their recent crisis differently. Flight FR9336 from Bristol to Barcelona Girona airport was forced to divert to Limoges, in central France after the cabin depressurised. In total, 16 passengers were taken to hospital with earache and were not allowed to fly again for at least 24 hours.

Stories quickly surfaced about the terrifying ordeal, the lack of communication from the flight crew and the suggestion that the plane’s oxygen masks were not functioning.

RyanAir CEO, Michael O’Leary, reacted unapologetically – saying that his airline had done nothing wrong and had followed all the correct procedures. But at the end of a bad month for air travel and immediately after a harrowing firsthand account of the RyanAir incident from a passenger this was a poorly judged public relations response.

O’Leary could easily have been less defensive and promised a complete overhaul of the flight safety procedures whilst still maintaining the key points that flight safety procedures were followed and that no one was seriously hurt.

All this wasn’t helped when a second RyanAir flight was forced to divert to another airport a day later. This time due to an allergic reaction in a passenger – caused by mushroom soup leaking onto him from an overhead compartment.

I suppose that makes them a laughing stock… souper….

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The politics of technology

August 18, 2008

 

I have read a couple of articles in the last few days which got me thinking about the rising trend of collaboration, which not only seems to be having an increased effect in the enterprise but even in the esteemed Houses of Parliament.    

 

The first article, published in last week’s Computing, looks at the benefits of collaboration via web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise, such as instant messaging, social networking sites, wikis, blogs, podcasts etc.  The article applauds the advent of a collaborative era led by a new generation of up-and-coming, web 2.0-trained, young things, but simultaneously laments the lack of skilled workers having already infiltrated the world of enterprise IT.  This is an idea maintained by one of our clients, Psytechnics, who recently carried out a survey on the very topic which proved Martin Courtney’s suspicion that there is a lack of “collaborative knowledge 2.0” amongst the IT industry. 

 

The second article appeared this morning in the Editorial and Reply section of The Guardian, opening with Sir Thomas More’s description of Utopia, a place where “nobody owns anything, but everyone is rich”, as an analogy for collaboration via the open source movement (genius!).  The author goes on to suggest that Gordon Brown could claw his way back to at least moderate popularity by adopting internet collaboration as his next “big idea”, not only by bring broadband to the masses but also by following in the footsteps of the big technology companies such as IBM and Google in adopting open source software in governmental departments.  Coincidentally Brown’s Treasury does less than 1% of its operations with open source which The Guardian highlights as contrary to the cooperative spirit held up by the Labour party in past times.  I hate to agree outright with David Cameron but it seems like he might have hit the nail on the head this time when he described Gordon as “an analogue politician in a digital age”.  I wonder if he has his own Facebook page…

 

New gaming technology provides ‘sensory reality’

August 15, 2008

Over the past ten years, games designers have struggled to create greater realism in their virtual worlds. Now that the visual aspect of games is approaching  photo-realism, designers are looking to push back other boundaries through entirely new technologies.

 

I have already talked about computer mind-control systems, but another emerging area of innovation is sensory reality.

 

One system, designed by Hirouki Kajimoto and Kanako Matsuo, involves gamers wearing specially designed arm, leg or chest pads. The pads can create a wide variety of sensations through tiny brushes embedded within them – from insects crawling over your arms to stab wounds. And this technology is not years away – it works now and will be commercial very soon.

 

With this technology, opponents in virtual worlds may soon be able to “hurt” you, and it is bound to drastically change how we play games.

 

It certainly brings the illusive ideal of immersive virtual reality one step closer.

 

How long can it be before the big games publishers, like EA and Activision, lock on to these technologies as their next selling-point?

 

LOL Bush

August 13, 2008

My love of LOL Cats is already well-known, so I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw that the Guardian has created LOL Bush in honour of the funniest snaps of George Bush at the Beijing Olympics.  Oh so cruel, but oh so funny!  Check it out here

Stick to The Script

August 13, 2008

Check out the latest event we organised…the launch of MyPlay – O2 and Sony BMG’s mobile music store – at The O2. Up-and-coming band The Script treated guests in the VIP Lounge to an exclusive acoustic set. What really made this event was the band itself, and not just their dulcet tones. Maybe it’s because they are new to the fame game but you couldn’t have met a nicer bunch of lads. Happy to spend time on press interviews, interested in the music store they were helping to launch and then thanking everyone who helped make the day so successful, they left the event with more than a few new fans…sadly, looking at the sorry state of most celebrities nowadays, it does beg the question that after constant touring, endless interviews and photo shoots and a few kiss & tell stories, will they be anywhere near as amenable a year later?

Paris Hilton – the next POTUS?

August 11, 2008

Paris Hilton.  Political genius.

Before last week, I wasn’t even sure if Paris Hilton would even know how to vote, but she’s shown herself to be an media expert by creating a piece of video satire which hits back at John McCain’s diss of her in his latest advert.  Her video plays off her airhead image and manages to totally lampoons John McCain’s campaign as well as describing him as ‘The Oldest Celebrity in the World’.  Ouch!

Congratulations Paris.

The Mist

August 8, 2008

 

When road-kill fights back...

When road-kill fights back...

 

This is the best film I have seen in a long time.

Based on a Stephen King novella of the same name, The Mist sees a small group of terrified citizens becoming trapped together in a supermarket as a mysterious white mist envelopes the entire town.

This is a creature-feature, but it’s more about paranoia, religious fanaticism and the price of hopelessness than it is about monsters. And if any of you ever wondered how fast society would break down when the pressure’s on – this film answers that question pretty accurately!

The Mist is tight and suspenseful, showing you only just enough blood to keep you on your toes, unlike the recent exercises torture porn that have dominated cinemas. The relatively static location and constantly changing threats just ratchet up the suspense.

This is a film with tension, character development, plot and action. It’s a film that will make you think long after the credits roll. It’s a film filled with metaphor and deeper meaning, but it still works as a popcorn cruncher.

And the ending is just perfect. Darabont seems to be one of few directors really capable of bringing off great endings to the stories he tells.

The Mist also shows how prevalent certain technologies have become since the original novella was written in 1980. Like many horror films now – The Mist has to make a point of showing that there is no mobile signal early on, so no one can call for help! At one point the protagonist also uses his Motorola as a flashlight in a dark room – a great touch, because using a phone-as-flashlight is something we’ve all done. In the same way, watch sales are dropping because people now use their phones as pocket-watches. Ever used a CD as a mirror? Just some examples of technologies designed for one thing finding another improvised use in real life!

But no matter how clever you are with your cell-phone, the giant tentacle creature is still going to eat you.

$1000 iPhone App that does absolutely nothing

August 6, 2008

Is this true? Is this a gimmick, or a nugget of hope that all this talk of an economic downturn is just talk? The latest iPhone application, “I am rich” comes in quite pricey at $999.99 to download, yet it does…

…absolutely
nothing.

Now, clearly some Apps are better than others (for an excellent App that doesn’t cost a penny, check out our client Shazam on the iPhone). But if I was after “a work of art with no hidden function at all” as “I am rich” purports itself to be, then I’d rather spend the £500 on a signed photo of Orlando Bloom.

eBooks – the death of the ‘traditional’ book, or the creation of a new art form?

August 4, 2008

According to novelist and avid reader Naomi Alderman, it’s the latter.  She predicts that the convenience delivered by the electronic form of the book will lead to a steep rise in its popularity amongst the UK market. 

 

eBooks are enjoying an epiphany in the US, and have already seen tremendous market growth in Japan, which currently has an e-book market worth ¥10 billion.  How will this translate in Britain? 

 

New eReaders (dedicated hardware devices for the digestion of eBooks) are now popping up all over the place with Sony due to launch its Reader in the UK in conjunction with Waterstones shortly.  This may well mark the beginning of a consumer market for eBooks.    

 

Guardian tech columnist Vic Keegan is also a fan of the digital book revolution.  He hails lovereading.co.uk as the up-and-coming  “iTunes market for books”.  I hope that it becomes as easy to download fiction as it is to download music…

 

Personally I am still not 100% convinced that I will be completely au fait with on-screen reading in time for this year’s summer holiday reads, but I agree with Naomi and Vic – I do think the eBook could really take off if the price of eReaders begins to come down…

The New Religion

August 1, 2008
Al Gore thinks the end is coming...

Al Gore thinks the end is coming...

 

It’s widely accepted as the incontrovertible truth. It’s seen as a suitable punishment for all the excesses of our decadent lifestyles. Disagree with it and you will be vilified. Fail to believe in it and you’ll be the first to burn in the unrelenting heat. Doomsayers wander the Earth preaching our imminent destruction. The only solution is to live a frugal life, constantly feeling guilty for any wasteful activity.

 

What am I talking about?

 

Global warming, of course.

 

The hysteria around Global Warming does bare some striking similarities to religion, doesn’t it? Not the least of which is the general feeling that when most people believe something, it must be true.

 

Well, no. During the Black Death both the religious elite and most of the common people thought that cats were responsible (cats were regarded as agents of witchcraft and the Devil). They promptly killed all the cats, which were actually the only thing killing the rats that were carrying all the plague infected fleas. With no cats the disease spread even faster. Fail.

 

The cat-culling policy - failure?

The cat-culling policy - failure?

 

In the 1970s there was a mass-hysteria around the idea that the world was entering another ice-age, since global temperatures were dropping. It turned out to be nothing more than a blip.

 

The Earth is old. Thirty years, fifty years, one hundred years – these lengths of time are meaningless on a geological timescale. All of human “pollution” has been going for around 300 years. That’s nothing.

 

The Earth is also very big. Two-thirds of it is water. A lot of the rest is desert, mountains, thick jungle and other uninhabitable areas. Cities, on the other hand, are very small.

 

We just don’t affect the planet that much. We’re not that important. Even if we are having an impact, the world isn’t going to become uninhabitable for an extremely long time.

 

The government likes pollution scare-mongering for the same reason it likes terrorism. Suddenly it’s acceptable to smack a massive tax on air travel or petrol and say that the “polluter must pay”!

 

At least we’re not being burnt at the stake, I guess.

 

It’s time to stop preaching doom and gloom and develop cleaner energy sources and improve technology like Hydrogen Fuel Cells (currently being developed by various companies including Ilika Technologies Ltd and Ceres Power) because we’re obviously not going to go back into the trees and live in a perfect carbon neutral world.

 

And don’t believe things just because everyone else does.

 

Whos to blame?

Who's to blame?

 

 


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