Sunday, December 29, 2013

Author Neil Gaiman Defends Children’s Literature From Adult ‘Snobbery’

52-year-old British author Neil Gaiman has spoken out against ‘snobbish’ adult judgements being placed upon children’s literature.

The author, who delivered the second annual Reading Agency lecture in central London this week, chose to use this time, at least in part, to speak out against what he feels is a damaging trend in modern literary criticism.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book for children,” began the author, addressing a crowd that included many leading figures from the arts and entertainment world, as well as several representatives from educational institutions.

“Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children’s books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading,”

“I’ve seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was (‘Goosebumps’ author) RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy”.

“It’s tosh, it’s snobbery and it’s foolishness”, he continued.

Mr Gaiman, who’s works include children’s books (Odd & The Frost Giants), comic books (Sandman, 1602) and prize winning novels (The Graveyard Book, Coraline, American Gods), has seen his works adapted into popular films (Stardust, Coraline), and has written for several TV shows (Babylon 5, Dr. Who, Neverwhere). He is generally considered to be one of the most prolific and celebrated authors of his generation, so it is likely that his criticisms will carry some weight.

Gaiman continued, saying that, “There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories”.

“A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn’t hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

He continued with a warning to parents, teachers and even older siblings, when he said that,

“Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st Century equivalents of Victorian ‘improving’ literature. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.”

Gaiman’s own book, ‘Neverwhere’ was recently removed from a High School reading list in New Mexico after a parent complained that it was inappropriate.

Gaiman’s response to this was wry and well-considered, as he told a BBC reporter, “I tend to take books of mine being challenged and occasionally being banned – and very occasionally being burned – as a kind of badge of honour. You know you are doing something right.”

Mr. Gaiman’s concerns were echoed by a number of the lecture’s attendees.



Author Neil Gaiman Defends Children’s Literature From Adult ‘Snobbery’

Friday, December 27, 2013

Will we need the computer mouse in the future

In the era of touch-screens, styluses and those weird little Nokia plectrum dealies (what is up with those exactly?) we have to ask questions about the future of the humble mouse. Is he now considered vermin? Do we cast him aside, banishing him to the world of grammar phones, 8-track tapes and pet rocks?


The other night, I watched Star Trek IV (yeah, the one with the whales) and apart from the fact that it had aged considerably better than the vast majority of mid 80’s movies, I noticed one thing in particular. Mr. Scott, when faced with a 20th Century computer, had no idea what a mouse was. At first, he considers it to be some sort of audio device and talks into it.  Have we always considered the mouse a means to an end? A necessary device that will be outmoded by progress? Considering this, I thought about more science fiction (increasingly where we draw our designs for contemporary technology from) and realized that appearances by any sort of hand-held computer interfaces were limited almost exclusively to communications devices and those wrist-things (even then they talked into them more than they pushed buttons) So, are the little mouse’s days numbered?


Laptops tend to use those funny little black pads (though many people attach mice to them for convenience) and whilst I doubt this idea will spread to PC, the current crop of hi-tech gadgets and gizmos are effectively cutting out our ‘mousefied middle men’ and moving steadily into the realm of touch screens and direct Human contact. How long before voice recognition? I can’t say, but I am excited about the idea of a holodeck.


The thing is; the keyboard and mouse pretty much have to be separate from the computer unit itself. Even if I had a touch screen computer, I can’t imagine sitting here and writing this article by tapping on the glass. If the computer were upright and touch-operated (not unlike those in the movie Avatar) it would still not allow me to type words for any length of time (and voice recording would be no substitute for typing anyway). So we’ve surmised that the keyboard has got to stay. What would happen if we had a touch screen and a keyboard but no mouse? Would civilisation decline? Actually, I doubt it, but I do think it would be inconvenient and take a lot of getting used to.


So is the computer mouse a dead technology? Not as far as I can see. But are the tides of progress threatening to wash over its shores? Quite possibly, however, this would involve a fairly drastic re-design of the home computer set up and such a venture always carries risks, so I think its safe the say the mouse is safe for a few years yet. Now when are they going to get around to that holodeck? 

Will we need the computer mouse in the future

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bit Torrent Site Gets Axed, Owner Forced to Pay £68m to MPAA

Bit Torrent website, a popular website that specializes in downloadable content, is being shut down following a court settlement.


The site, which was founded in 2003, was extremely popular with users. Some 7.4 million viewers had visited the site within three years of it going live. At its peak, Isohunt received an average of 40 million searches a month.


In response to the California court’s ruling, IsoHunt’s founder Gary Fung wrote on his blog that “its sad to see my baby go”.


The problems began when a group of major corporations, including Disney, Paramount and 20th Century Fox, accused the site of copyright infringement. A large portion of IsoHunt’s Torrent files contained copyrighted material, such as movies, TV shows and music albums.


The court case has taken more than 7 years to reach its conclusion, but a decision has finally been made.


Mr Fung has been ordered to pay $110m (£68m) to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but since neither he, nor his company has access to funds of this kind, it is estimated that the MPAA will only receive $2-$4m from Fung.


It should be noted, however, that IsoHunt did not actually upload any pirated material. According to Mr. Fung, the IsoHunt users were ultimately responsible for what they made available for download, as opposed to the site itself, which merely served as a directory for available content.


Nevertheless, MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd was pleased with the Court’s decision, saying, “The successful outcome of this landmark lawsuit will also will help preserve jobs and protect the tens of thousands of businesses in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by sites like IsoHunt.”


Fung has argued elsewhere that, if the entertainment industry was to fully embrace digital media (for example by lowering prices and offering simultaneous digital releases), it could easily render sites like his obsolete. 


The website, which is run by a team of researchers from Virginia, US, has suggested that, of the top 10 most pirated movies of the week, half were unavailable for legal download and none were available for streaming, making piracy the only option for viewers wishing to watch these films over the Internet.


But how damaging is online piracy to Hollywood’s profit margins? The 2008 James Cameron movie ‘Avatar’, for example, has been listed as ‘the most pirated film of all time’, after being downloaded something like 21million times worldwide. However, the movie still garnered $600m in DVD sales in the US alone, which is not taking rentals into account (which garnered a further $57m, again, just in the US). This indicates that a considerable number of people are downloading the movie as well as buying the DVD/Blu Ray release.


Not everyone in the film and television industries is opposed to piracy either. Musician, actor and spoken word performer Henry Rollins has repeatedly stated that he’d “rather be heard than paid” and Vince Gilligan, creator of the popular US TV show ‘Breaking Bad’ has said that piracy helped his show to be successful, by increasing “brand awareness” of his product.


In a Q&A session on Reddit, Gary Fung said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have remained faithful. 10.5 years of IsoHunt has been a long journey by any business definition and forever in Internet start-up time”.

Regardless of the debates, the Isohunt site will likely be completely shut down by the time you read this.



Bit Torrent Site Gets Axed, Owner Forced to Pay £68m to MPAA

Monday, December 23, 2013

Iceman’s Living Relatives Discovered

A team of Austrian scientists has identified living relatives of Oetzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old body discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991.

The research highlights 19 Tyrolean men, all of whom bear distinct genetic similarities to samples taken from the body of Oetzi (so named because he was discovered in the valley of Oetz).

It is thought that the same genetic mutation that was found in Oetzi’s ancient DNA will also be discovered in the nearby Swiss region of Engadine.

The men have not been informed about their famous heritage and their connection to the Iceman is known only from analysis of their blood after donation. Women were not included in this particular study, as a different procedure would be required to match their samples to Oetzi’s.

The Austrian team has announced that it will be working with Swiss and Italian partners in order to further their research.

Since hikers discovered the body in 1991, Oetzi has been a source of constant fascination to historians, geneticists, archaeologists and interested media outlets. A high level of research has uncovered how Oetzi died, what his last meal consisted of and even what his face might very well have looked like (he had brown eyes). In addition, the Iceman’s entire genome was mapped and published last February.

In life, Oetzi stood at about 5ft 2in, lived to be approximately 46 years old and suffered from (amongst other things) arthritis and a whipworm infestation.

However, the discovery of living relatives to the 5,300-year-old corpse definitely represents a milestone in a case that has been called ‘the world’s oldest murder mystery’ by some.

Since Oetzi’s discovery in 1991, debates have raged about the Iceman’s final moments, there has even been some speculation that he was buried, but why and by whom remains a mystery.

In addition, a court case raged for years between the body’s discoverers and the local authorities, regarding a 25% finders fee that the authorities declined to pay in full. The court case was eventually settled in 2008.

The Iceman has made news in other areas as well; seven people involved in the discovery of Oetzi have died under allegedly ‘mysterious’ circumstances, leading some to speculate as to the existence of a curse.

Last year, Oetzi made the news yet again, as Italian scientists determined that there were red blood cells around Oetzi’s wounds. This was remarkable news as previously no blood was found within the body. These findings made Oetzi’s blood the oldest in the world, but, amazingly, his bloodline continues to this day.



Iceman’s Living Relatives Discovered

Friday, December 20, 2013

BREAKING NEWS ‘New’ Species of Mammal Discovered in South America

American Scientists from the Smithsonian Institute of Washington DC have discovered a new type of carnivorous mammal previously unknown to Western science.

The creature, known as the olinguito, is the first such animal to be discovered on the American continent in 35 years.

Zoologist Dr. Kristofer Helgen, who works as the curator of mammals in Washington DC’s National Museum of Natural History, discovered some stored remains in a Chicago museum and was reportedly ‘stopped in his tracks’ upon seeing them.

Following further examination, Helgen says that, “The skins were a rich red colour and when I looked at the skulls I didn’t recognize the anatomy. It was different to any similar animal I’d seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science.”

DNA testing eventually proved that, whilst the 35-cm long olinguito is a type of olingo (a relative of raccoons), it is definitely a distinct species in its own right. However, not content with simply describing the species from the remains, the real challenge for Helgen was to attempt to observe this new mammal in the wild.

Using educated guesswork and clues obtained from the specimen drawer, Dr. Helgen and his team were able to theorize a possible habitat for the olinguito. Their ideas proved to be correct and the animal has since been established as inhabiting a number of protected areas from Central Columbia to Western Ecuador.

This is not the first time that Dr. Helgen has identified new species by examining museum remains. In fact, throughout his distinguished career, he has discovered around 100 new species of animals. As an example, Helgen’s work has demonstrated that the hog badger, presumed simply to be a single, widespread species, was in fact three different species, albeit with similar attributes.

Historical records show that Washington National Zoo actually had an olinguito specimen in the 1960’s, but it was never identified as such. The animal was exhibited as an olinga, but its keepers were puzzled when it failed to breed. Sadly, the captive olinguito died without ever being correctly identified.

It should also be noted that just because an animal is considered ‘new’ to Western science, the term rarely denotes a species completely unknown to Humankind. People native to the areas inhabited by these animals are usually well aware of its presence and indispensable in locating individuals for observation and study by Western researchers. 

A host of other new species have already been discovered this year, including the Cambodian tailorbird, a new type of hero shrew, a reef fish from the Caribbean, a beautifully patterned bat from the Sudan and two new spider species (including a grey and black tarantula the size of an open palm).

To Dr. Helgen, this is hardly surprising, “Conventional wisdom would have it that we know all the mammals of the world. In fact, we know so little. Unique species, profoundly different from anything ever discovered, are out there waiting to be found.” He says.




BREAKING NEWS ‘New’ Species of Mammal Discovered in South America

Monday, December 16, 2013

When NASCAR needed a faster, more efficient communications system, they turned to Motorola.

The Talladega Superspeedway covers 3,000 acres, and is a Super Bowl®-sized NASCAR event that attracts 150,000 on-site spectators and millions more watching at home.

NASCAR manages over 1,200 races every year on 200 race tracks in Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and each location poses its own challenges in terms of radio traffic and interference. These challenges are magnified when systems must be deployed quickly, every week, over a wide geographic area. Pit crews, drivers, officials, and all other members of the internal and external organization must have a communications system that supports flawless connections, every time. When seconds count, there is no room for missed or delayed communications; speed and voice clarity are everything. NASCAR recently realized that their older system was just not keeping up, and there’s no doubt that providing secure and reliable communications for an event like this can seem overwhelming. Each NASCAR event involves up to 40,000 people, with approximately 80 officials presiding over two races, each with 43 cars, and each with teams of up to 30 people. In addition to NASCAR drivers, maintenance personnel, and pit crews, each race requires spotters, timing and scoring groups, as well as fire and rescue units. Also working on-site are emergency personnel, food vendors, ticketing and parking attendants, television and radio crews, and public relations representatives. Because NASCAR stages many regional events, several outside organizations need to be integrated into the communications loop. The sheer number of radios and talk groups that have to be moved and set up very quickly is enough to tax any radio system, and NASCAR’s old system was clearly over-taxed. NASCAR examined all options during a six-month intensive study. Digital radio seemed to be the best route to achieving the key requirements surfaced in this study, which included NASCAR’s need to:

• Coordinate large numbers of radios

• Ensure absolute audio clarity

• Maintain consistent, reliable communications

• Have a radio that was durable enough to withstand a rough environment

After assessing all the options, NASCAR determined that Motorola’s MOTOTRBO professional digital two-way radio was the right system for their needs.MOTOTRBO digital radio precisely met each of

NASCAR’s four requirements.

To coordinate large numbers of radios, the MOTOTRBO system is engineered to maximize use of the radio spectrum. The power of MOTOTRBO is leveraged by NASCAR to bring together multiple talk groups who work all over the property and need to be in full communication at all times. MOTOTRBO is also used to connect spotters, emergency medical technicians, crews in the garage and pit areas, as well as security and all other service and support personnel required to help each race run smoothly.

MOTOTRBO’s ability to work in either digital or analog mode makes it possible to seamlessly integrate older radio systems that may not yet have migrated to digital. To ensure absolute audio clarity, MOTOTRBO’s noise-canceling technology enables headsets for racing officials to perform at higher levels. Added to inherently clearer digital communications, the noise-canceling capabilities of MOTOTRBO technology supports sharp and clean communications in even the harshest environments. If MOTOTRBO users can communicate clearly at a noisy racetrack, it’s easy to see how well these digital two-way radios would perform in most workplace environments. “ We have to make sure we’re communicating quickly and concisely. Through MOTOTRBO, we’re able to do our jobs a whole lot better

than we have in the past.”

To maintain consistent, reliable communications, MOTOTRBO’s digital technology makes possible  extended battery life so that all users can easily connect throughout an 8-to-12-hour workday and then keep communicating, even when races run longer than scheduled. The MOTOTRBO system is

also less susceptible to static and interference, and when second-by-second communication is demanded, digital provides the proven reliability NASCAR needs. Durability is ensured with MOTOTRBO radios that deliver the highest quality of communications, even in harsh environments where they’re frequently dropped and exposed to dust, rain, grease, oil, and solvents. MOTOTRBO is designed to meet U.S. Military Standards C, D, E, and F, as well as IP57 for submersibility in water. When properly equipped with a Motorola FM-approved battery, MOTOTRBO radios have been certified by FM Approvals in accordance with Canada and U.S. codes to be intrinsically safe.

Source –

When NASCAR needed a faster, more efficient communications system, they turned to Motorola.

Why so many of us buy xbox games

The aim of this site is to keep you updated on the latest releases, innovations and general news from the black-and-green neon world of the Xbox.


Here at best xbox game, we love the damn things. Can’t get enough of them, in fact. But the console itself is nothing without the rocket fuel that takes your imagination into the stratosphere with each new adventure. By which, of course, we mean the games.


Without great games, a console is nothing at all. Less than nothing. At best xbox game, we really feel that the Xbox has the best game library ever assembled, a roster of undeniably brilliant stories, characters and experiences. best xbox game aims to grow up to be the definitive Xbox site. With your support, we just might.


We like Playstation, we like Wii but that’s as far as it goes here at best xbox game. If you want the advice of our ‘X-perts’ regarding the best and brightest this console has to offer, all you have to do is stay on best xbox game and have a look around. We just might have what you’re looking for, the missing piece of the existential puzzle on your life. Then again, we may have overshot ourselves on that last part. Whatever.


best xbox game is committed to providing the ultimate guide to the ultimate games for the ultimate console. So there. 

Why so many of us buy xbox games

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Will I be Able to Hear Bone Conduction Headphones Even if I Wear Earplugs?

Because bone conduction bypasses the ear entirely and directly stimulates the ossicles (which is the scientific name for the tiny bones that reside in your inner ear, as well as the rationale behind comic book hero Daredevil’s athletic prowess), it is entirely possible to stick your ear plugs in and still listen to your ‘Bonephones’.


In some respects, it’s actually preferable. Y’see Nick, using headphones is fine and dandy, until you have to turn the volume all the way up in order to drown out noisy children, busy traffic and/or people shouting into their phones all around you. After that, if you increase the volume to too great a degree, you can expose your ears to sounds that can actually permanently damage your hearing.


Bone conduction, however, carries much less of a risk, because it does not effect the parts of the ear most at risk from loud noises.


Hearing is a process that actually has several stages. At first, your ear picks up sound waves, the sound waves pass into your middle ear (specifically, your auditory canal) before hitting the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates, passing the sound down to the aforementioned ossicles (‘aforementioned ossicles’ is a lovely phrase, don’t you think?) From there, the ossicles transmit the sound to the cochlea, which is a fluid-filled structure that encodes the sound information in order for our brain to decode it (this is not unlike the way a wireless mouse works, actually).


Yup, the inner ear is a wacky world.


Essentially, bone conduction technology rattles the ossicles in the same way that they’d rattle in your inner ear, it just, to turn a phrase my father is particularly fond of ‘cuts out the middle man’. It really is an interesting invention.


So, as you see, there is no way a pair of earplugs pose any problem at all to your enjoying music or audio content on your Bonephones. I hope this helps. You’ll likely find this method especially useful if you happen to find yourself on a long plane journey and seated next to a disgruntled infant.


I’m actually fairly certain that bone conduction technology was invented during a similar scenario. 

Will I be Able to Hear Bone Conduction Headphones Even if I Wear Earplugs?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pioneering Rock Musician Lou Reed Dies at 71

Rock n Roll poet Lou Reed, a founding member and principal songwriter of the massively influential band ‘The Velvet Underground’ – as well as a globally recognized recording artist in his own right, has died of liver failure, he was 71 years old.

Reed’s songs were groundbreaking in that they openly discussed issues like outsider sexuality and hard drug use and then married these lyrics to alternative, sometimes avant-garde music.

Reed was a recording artist in every sense of the word. Throughout his life and career, his work was challenging, powerful and often divisive. However, he was also no stranger to a catchy, crowd-pleasing pop chorus, as famous hits like ‘Perfect Day’, Satellite of Love’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ will attest. Lou Reed’s work was the ultimate meeting point between the urban culture of the New York City streets and the highbrow insouciance of the uptown art galleries.

Supremely influential to the development of Pop, Glam, Indie, Punk and lots more besides, Reed was considered to be a godfather of alternative sounds.

Lou Reed was born in Brooklyn in 1942, when World War 2 was still raging around the world. He studied at Syracuse University and, around this time, became a disciple of the poet Delmore Schwartz. Upon graduation, he worked for Pickwick records as a songwriter, generating at least one minor hit. Eventually, he met Welsh violinist John Cale and, together with drummer Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison, formed The Velvet Underground.

The Velvet Underground were an instant hit on the New York music scene, so much so that pop artist Andy Warhol became a fan and incorporated them into his various projects. Warhol would eventually be credited as the producer of the band’s 1967 debut album, for which he also provided the artwork. The band were white hot creatively for three years, until their last album ‘Loaded’ was released in 1970.

Commercially, however, the Velvet Underground were completely ignored at the time. It was only later that they would be considered by a new generation of musicians as a seminal, trailblazing band.

Reed’s first solo album (where he was backed by the progressive rock band ‘Yes’) wasn’t a hit, but his glam-inflexed, David Bowie produced follow up, ‘Transformer’ became a worldwide smash and yielded several enduring pop classics.

For the rest of the decade, Reed refused to be pigeon holed as simply a ‘Rock’ or ‘Pop’ performer, instead producing albums like the tragic, story-based ‘Berlin’ or the savagely experimental ‘Metal Machine Music’. ‘Coney Island Baby’ was perhaps his most accessible record after ‘Transformer’, it was a hard-edged song-set that featured a collection of radio friendly alternative rock tunes and it was well received by the majority of fans.

Over the decades, Reed’s rebellious music continued to divide and delight in equal measure. Albums that had some fans and critics cheering had others scratching their heads. He was wholly capable of being supremely heartfelt and candid one minute and yet totally aloof and incomprehensible the next. He was, however, never less than 100% true to his incomparable artistic spirit.

In the 2000’s, Reed became a devoted practitioner of Tai Chi; he based an album on the works of Edgar Allen Poe and he worked as a photographer (which had been a side passion of his for many years). He also became even more heavily involved in social and environmental activism. His most recent record was released in 2011; it was produced in collaboration with Thrash Metal giants ‘Metallica’.

To say that Lou Reed made a huge impact on popular music would be an absolute understatement; to say that Lou Reed is one of the founding fathers of alternative music/culture would be doing the man something of a disservice. In truth, Lou Reed wrote the book on Rock n Roll, before summarily burning it and doing whatever he felt like doing, whenever he felt like doing it. He will be missed.

Pioneering Rock Musician Lou Reed Dies at 71