Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Why we love Pinterest…

March 21, 2012

We’ve recently discovered Pinterest. I use the collective ‘we’ here, as the whole office seems to have started pinning with excitable interest all the time. We know Pinterest has been about for a while, but it would seem we have all hopped on this bandwagon at the same time.

Just in case you haven’t heard of the latest social network to ride the mainstream wave, let me tell you a little bit about it. To put it simply, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. Pinterest lets you share the things you find on the web in one place and share it for others to see. As the site itself suggests “People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favourite recipes”. Ben and his team go on to say, “Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people…browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests”.

So there you have it. Pinterest seems simple enough. It seems to make sense. But why do we love it? After all, this isn’t the first website we found useful and simple. But this is definitely one of the first to capture users in the way that it has.

Let’s see if I can explain it for you. At the moment the site is gaining users on an invite only basis. If you don’t know someone using the site you can request an account from the team.  Hoop number two comes in the form of a Facebook of Twitter account: you need one. You don’t have to link them to your Pinterest account…but you now seem to need one to get started (A sign the site is getting far more mainstream perhaps?). 

However, from then on, the site acts very differently to other social networks. It doesn’t suggest friends you might know. It doesn’t suggest people you might like. What it wants to know is what you like! What things do you like doing? What stuff you want or use? What bits and bobs do you like looking out for, or simply which books do you read? It’s all about the content you find interesting.

From there Pinterest builds you a profile. It starts following peoples’ pinboards for you and all of a sudden your home screen bursts into life with content you like. The first time I logged on I was greeted by a dramatic landscape of the sun setting over mountains, an image of Mark Cavendish in full flow and a pair of Kurt Geiger boots. As I had expressed an interest in photography, sport and mens apparel (amongst other things) it wasn’t a bad start.

So it’s “different” I hear you say. It’s “intuitive”. But that can’t be it surely? Well no. To put it bluntly, it’s easy, quick, and simple and that appealed to a different part of us. This is a visual platform. We like to think of ourselves as creative and for that reason we love Pinterest. We love hearing what people have got to say, so we all spend time reading blogs, magazines and papers. But that can sometimes be a little time consuming. Not having enough time is definitely why most of us here love Twitter. We can dip in and out of our streams and see what the wider world is saying in just a couple of minutes. But what we really like is a story. Having a picture painted. Setting the scene and provoking thoughts in more than 140 characters but in less time than a blog post.

Pinterest therefore offers to plug the void in our random and creative minds. I can pin work thoughts to a shared “PR Stunts” board I have access to. But at the same time, I can pin pictures of my next pair of ski boots or a barrel wave image I see that made me crave sand between my toes. After all, a picture paints a thousand words doesn’t it? All three of these images take no more time to glance at, but all of them could send me off thinking about them for the next 10 minutes with nothing more than an image for a starting point.

Finally, just to prove one of my first points about this platform being simple: I taught my mum how to use Pinterest at the weekend. It took me about 10 minutes and she loved it. It is the first social networking platform that she has shown any interest in, or even a vague understanding of.

So if you haven’t discovered Pinterest yet, why not give it a go? If you can’t be bothered to wait for your invitation request to be answered, then ping one us an email and we will happily share an invitation with you.

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Legal gridlock ahead for driverless cars?

February 9, 2012

We’re used to seeing the latest technological revolutions sweeping through stores and into our homes and offices. From the rise of mobile phones, to smartphones and tablets, it seems that society is prepared to embrace the rapidly increasing pace of change.

However, the same cannot be said when technologies require buy-in not just from consumers, but also from governments and law-makers. Unfortunately, this is true even when the reasons to adopt such technologies are hugely compelling.

A good example of this is driverless cars. The technology needed to remove error-prone humans from the driving equation has been coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Thanks to the ingenious combination of laser range finders, cameras, radar, inertial sensors and high-detail maps, cars already exist that can  autonomously drive while humans sit behind the wheel and monitor software.

Google has been making big strides in this area and was awarded a US patent  self-driving cars at the end of last year. But despite the amazing success of the technology, which has now logged more than 150,000 miles of driving experience without any mishaps, governments and standards bodies have been reluctant to accept its implementation on the open road. This is despite the fact that, according to the World Health Organisation, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.2 million deaths worldwide each year.

Certainly, the technology still needs to be refined. It may take years before robotic cars can cope with the huge variety of scenarios human drivers face around the world every day. Governments and motoring bodies will also insist that the technology is tested and retested – ensuring absolute reliability before it is allowed to see the light of day.

One can only hope that the time taken to test the technology is what is needed, rather than a jungle of unnecessary red-tape. The bottom line is, the consequences of not deploying this technology as soon as it is proven to be ready can be directly linked to road deaths. A delay of even two years (very little in government terms) could cost thousands of lives.

We’re hiring!

November 3, 2011

Alright everyone, it’s time to dust off those CVs.

Skywrite is looking for both account managers and senior account executives to assist across our portfolio of corporate and consumer accounts.

Work would include everything from technology and telecoms accounts to pure play consumer. This is a great opportunity to work across a broad spectrum of different clients – including some of the biggest brands out there!

Email emma.hazan@skywritepr.com for more information!

18-24 year olds send on average 110 texts a day

September 21, 2011

What? Doth mine eyes deceive me? Surely this story can’t be right?

Firstly – how do they have that many friends that they need to contact every day, and secondly, what do they have to chat about at such length?

I fall into this category, being 24, and I can safely say, hand on heart, I send nowhere NEAR that amount of texts. Nor have I ever. I appreciate that this is on average, but worryingly, that means there are some in this age group who send way more than the average.

These findings lend themselves nicely to the amount of chatter we hear about people being addicted to their mobile phones – with research from Ofcom finding that ‘60% [of teens] admitting to being ‘highly’ addicted to their phones.’ This survey takes it one step further, by revealing that ‘the study also shows that smartphones have begun to intrude on our most private moments, with 47% of teenagers admitting to using their device in the toilet. Only 22% of adults confessed to the same habit.’ Eww.

It’s true that smartphones are totally ubiquitous these days – they do everything for you: let you stay in touch with friends/family, read news on the move, watch TV, listen to the radio, and basically stay on top of your social life by acting as a calendar. They even have games to keep you entertained on a long journey – who needs Travel Connect4 now?

Going back to the texting element though, I do wonder if we’ll soon be seeing more and more injuries caused as a result of too much texting. Research that dates back as far as 2006 shows that millions suffer from RSI’ – so surely it’s not too much of a leap to expect that figure to now be in the billions? The NHS has a page set up dedicated to causes/symptoms of RSI that’s due for update in February 2012. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to imagine that one of the causes to be added on to that list will be ‘texting’.

Top-tips: Netbooks

September 14, 2011

The hype surrounding the iPad would lead you to believe it had single-handedly killed off the humble netbook, but it seems the plucky little underdog has fought back. There’s still plenty of demand for netbooks and for good reason: they don’t lock you into a walled-garden operating system, are far easier to type on and have bucket-loads more apps available (you know, software).

Granted, they’re not as sexy as the iPad but that’s beginning to change thanks to some slick models from Samsung, Asus and other manufacturers. The introduction of Intel’s dual core Atom processor also gives them greater processing power than their reputation suggests. But above all else they’re far more customisable, allowing you tweak performance, preferences and programmes any way you like. With that in mind, here are Skywrite’s top tips for those sitting on the netbook side of the divide:

1) Increase your RAM

This is without question the most important tip to improve your netbook’s performance. Microsoft insists that manufacturers cannot qualify for the cut-price Windows 7 Starter operating system when shipping products with more than 1GB of RAM. This helps to keep the price down but isn’t ideal for performance.

Fortunately, 2GB of RAM is cheap as chips these days and very easy to install yourself. However, a word of warning before you pick up the screwdriver: You risk voiding your warranty unless you get a certified technician to do it for you. Several PC retailers offer this service for about £30 but may also require you purchase the RAM from them, which is typically more expensive. The swines.

2) Cut-out the iTunes fat

iTunes is a massive hog on computing resources. Whether you’re using a netbook, laptop or desktop, it can have a noticeable impact on how smoothly it runs. Fortunately, Ed Bott over at ZD Net has written a comprehensive unofficial guide to cutting out the bloated and unnecessary software Apple bundles into iTunes.

3) Get cloud-based antivirus software

Uninstall whichever trial antivirus programme your netbook comes pre-installed with and move to a cloud-based alternative. By shifting much of the antivirus programme’s grunt work into the cloud, scanning files on a remote server instead of using your machine’s processing power, it will free-up resources substantially whilst automatically updating its database of threats. There are several options out there from the usual antivirus powerhouses but perhaps the best freeware version comes from Panda Cloud.

4) Sort out your start-ups

One of the impressive features of the iPad is that it takes mere seconds to switch on and get going, a process that can become frustrating to the most placid of PC users. You might not be able to achieve iPad-like boot times, but editing which programmes start-up automatically when your netbook powers-up can keep it reasonably sharp. To do this, just click ‘Start’ on your Windows menu, then ‘Run’, now enter ‘Msconfig’ into the dialog box and hit the Enter key. Select the ‘Startup’ tab and uncheck the programmes you don’t want to run automatically. Some have ambiguous names and descriptions, so if you want to ensure you don’t accidentally turn off your antivirus software then check out this database for clarification.

5) Get your game on

Being unable to play games on your netbook is a myth. You can comfortably play a range of less graphic-intensive games and practically any classic or retro game. Fear not, as the latest incarnation of the Football Manager series will run just fine, though you may want to switch off the 3D match generator. “But there’s no optical drive on a netbook” I hear you cry? Not a problem with digital distribution services such as Steam for modern games or GOG.com for the classics.

Being unable to play 3D games on a netbook is also a myth. The integrated graphics card won’t stand a chance with Modern Warfare 2 but that doesn’t matter with cloud-based gaming service OnLive, which can run the most advanced games on its own servers and relay your commands back to you in real-time. Browser games have also come on leaps and bounds in recent years and offer 3D games for free – check out Battlestar Galactica Online from our client Bigpoint for example.

6) Personalise Windows 7 Starter

Windows 7 Starter Edition keeps your netbook cheap (yay) but it also has some limited features (boo). One of which is the bizarre decision to not allow netbook users to change their wallpaper or other standard settings. However, because Windows isn’t a completely closed platform you can quickly fix this by installing Starter Background Changer.

UKTJPR uncovered

August 11, 2011

Thursday 4th August saw the mighty UKTJPR roll into town and throw another amazing bash. But what is the UKTJPR I hear you cry? Well – we hear from our very own Amy Ronge, UK events director for the group, to find out…

Skywriters: What is the UKTJPR?

Amy: UKTJPR stands for UK Tech Journalists and PRs – it’s a basically a networking group that throws really good parties – for free. It’s a volunteer run group, with a team of about 8 people. We have a Facebook group where people can request to join, and we share most of our info on there, and through our Twitter feed. I’m the UK events director along with my friend and colleague, Laura Strong. We hold parties about 6 times a year, some big, some small – but always a lot of fun.

Skywriters: What does your role entail?

Amy: I am responsible for running all the events we have in the UK – from finding a sponsor, to picking the perfect venue and then hosting the night. There’s a lot of work involved, a lot of back and forth with sponsors and the venue, but it’s all worth it in the end when we can put on a fantastic event.

Skywriters: So what was last Thursday’s event all about then?

AR: In the spirit of summer, we decided to have a BBQ. We started planning a good couple of months ago, and found a great sponsor in NVIDIA. Finding a venue that was central and had a big enough roof terrace was tricky, but we found the perfect spot with the Big Chill House near Kings Cross. Last Thursday was mega – we had 250 people turn up, and the atmosphere was amazing. Drinks flowed all night, the BBQ was gobbled up, and as far as I can remember, dancing was involved at some point too…! All the buzz created around it was great – with queues out the door and lots of chatter on Twitter.

Skywriters: What’s next then?

Amy: Next up is an event in October….you’ll have to watch this space!

Google + Twitter = Facebook?

July 28, 2011

As Google + launched almost a month ago, now seemed like a good time to blog on how our first few weeks playing around with its latest attempt to crack social networking has gone.

Although this isn’t Google’s first time when it comes to launching a new social platform, the first impressions suggest it is taking this one very seriously. For such a massive company that never makes a habit of coming second at anything, it has been a very slow and cautious start. So far Google + has only been accessible to those with an invitation and Google itself has said that it is still very much a work in progress.

Having said that, early reports suggest there are around 20 million users on the network already…which isn’t really very slow, especially considering it took Facebook 10 months to get its first 1 million users (in very different circumstances, I know). After the issues Google encountered launching Buzz to its Gmail user base, it seems that it is really trying to get things perfect before it sets about attracting the rest of the web!

Anyway, at first glance Google + seems instantly familiar. You can work out where everything is and how you can edit, change and get things the way you like them pretty quickly. Credit has to go to Google for creating a very clean and simple layout, but I think the real reason comes down to a familiar interface. Its looks and feels very much like Google + is trying to sit perfectly between two other very popular social networks that I already use. It’s almost like Google did it on purpose!

Once you get going you will find you can put people in circles (friend/follow them) although they don’t have to put you in one of their circles if they don’t want to. This feels a lot like Twitter. Your home page is laid out in a very familiar way too, with a stream (news feed) down the middle, info off the left and right and photos/profile information along the top.

Like millions of others, I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I also happen to be a Gmail user, so I guess it’s little wonder that Google + felt so familiar so quickly. At the moment it’s just geeks and cool kids that are the early adopters using Google +. The real questions will come over the next few months when the whole platform opens up. That’s when we will get to see if Google can persuade the rest of the world that they need another social network, or better yet a completely new one.

Five of the best: Game intros

July 11, 2011

They say that a good beginning is half the battle, so some of us at Skywrite towers have put our heads together to come up with our top 5 PC game intros of all time.

Quake 2:

The Quake series was never really big on plot or character development, but id Software certainly put together a perfectly balanced first person shooter. Nevertheless, at a time when intro cinematics were the status quo, the opening to Quake 2 managed to stand out from the crowd. From the creepy voiceover which fills in some back-story, to an exhilarating drop-ship sequence that’s vaguely reminiscent of Aliens, the intro movie sets the tone for the entire game very effectively – and it blends perfectly into the gun-toting action.

BioShock:

Any game that throws a plane crash at you and THEN a bathysphere ride has to score high marks. The reveal of the game’s underwater setting, Rapture, is among the most glorious of any gaming sequence. For a second it’s actually hard to believe that all this is being rendered in-engine. Nevertheless, the intro also manages to feed you some useful information on the political back-story of the city, which will, of course, come back to the foreground later on.

Freespace 2:

A year after Freespace had given the space combat sim a much needed shake-up, Freespace 2 arrived on the scene. Set 30 years after the original, the intro cinematic bridges this time gap perfectly. A ferocious space battle before the main title cuts to the aging and gutted debris of the capital ships years afterwards. Plus the voiceover perfectly sets the brooding tone of the entire game.

Half-Life:

Valve Software took a different approach to its seminal first person shooter by ensuring that all of the game’s action takes place from the main character’s point of view. Only a few games had tried this before (notably Unreal) and the intro is no different. For a game that has some of the most memorable action sequences ever created, the opening is very understated: you sit on a tram on your way to work, heading deep into the Black Mesa Facility. This sequence does three things: it grounds you inside a “real” world, it ensures you realise just how isolated you are inside this enormous facility and it hints at all not being well in the complex…

Total Annihilation:

This was a one-hit wonder of the RTS world, which never received the sequel it very much deserved. The cinematic intro sets up the conflict between the ARM and the CORE, as you move from one Commander to the other across a hectic battlefield. It’s a great way to introduce the sheer variety of tactical options that this game opened up to players and the orchestral score perfectly backs up the high-octane action.

That’s it from us, do comment below with your own suggestions!

Thought control?

April 12, 2011

No we’re not talking about Big Brother and CCTV cameras monitoring your every move, but rather controlling devices through the power of the mind.

We’ve discussed using electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes to decode electrical activity in the brain before, but researchers at the University of California, San Diego have come up with a way to allow you to dial numbers in your mobile phone, simply by thinking them.

The technology just needs a normal handset with a Bluetooth connection to the EEG headband and away you go. Apparently, thought control is relatively straight-forward to pick up and very accurate.

So next time you think about how you should really call your parents or siblings – watch out! – the phone may just start ringing.

Playing into the hands of pirates?

February 23, 2011

Priracy is a growing threat for all digital content

We just noticed an interesting blog from Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist who found that he needed to become a pirate in order to get hold of the latest Streets album. Despite struggling with iTunes, eMusic and Amazon US, Fred could not find the record:

“It was not even listed in iTunes or emusic. It was listed on Amazon US as an import that would be available on Feb 15th, but only in CD form. I’m not buying plastic just to rip the files and throw it out. Seeing as it was an import, I searched Amazon UK. And there I found the record in mp3 form for 4 pounds. It was going to be released on Feb 4th. I made a mental note to come back and get it when it was released. I got around to doing that today. I clicked on “buy with one click” and was greeted with this nonsense” (i.e. not being able to purchase music from outside the UK) “…so reluctantly, I went to a bit torrent search. I found plenty of torrents for the record and quickly had the record in mp3 form. That took less than a minute compared to the 20+ minutes I wasted trying pretty hard to buy the record legally.”

Given the global nature of the internet, and its rapidly increasing access speeds, does it any longer make sense for the same digital content to be released to different regions of the world at varying times?

Surely this plays into the hands of pirates, and – as in Fred’s case – makes it more likely for legitimate paying customers to turn to piracy to download the music they want to listen to?


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