Monday, May 5, 2014

We Have a Look at the Latest Xbox bundle

The Xbox One Kinect is an incredible thing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve wanted to fight the in-game characters one-on-one instead of relying on moves and combos.

“If I didn’t have to rely on these buttons so damn much” I frequently grumble, “I’d grab that monster and kick it in myself!”


For example: the fat bloke from Pokemon. In every single version of that game, there’s some fat chug blocking your way until you’ve done something he wants you to do. If some fat fool did that here in the real world, your average gamer would simply not stand for it. I’m not an especially violent person, but I have things to do, y’know?


Maybe that’s how Team Rocket and that lot get started? Perhaps they grew tired of the many, many road blocks in their path, rocks that turn out to be Geodudes, Bug Catchers and Snorlax after sodding Snorlax, maybe one day they just had enough. They are cat lovers after all and cat lovers can’t be bad people, can they?


Well, with the Kinect, your body is the controller. When you’re boxing or fighting, its your own fist you’re swinging, when you’re running, its your own legs you’re pumping. Now, the Xbox one with kinect bundle is putting all of these great things in one place, making it easier than ever to get playing the greatest gaming innovation since Sonic 2 allowed you to push down and ‘B’ in order to get up hills without running all the way back where you came from.


Yes, you read that right, the Xbox one with kinect bundle represents the future of gaming. You can, at last, take matters into your own hands. Finally you can play a game without having to rely on buttons, sticks, gizmos or combos, you can play an organic and natural feeling game and also get in a bit of a workout, even if it does make you look like kind of a d*ck (our advice is to close the curtains first). Yep, the future is here and its Kinect-shaped…I know what you geeks are thinking, because I’m thinking it too, we’re one step closer to the invention of the Holodeck…Yay!  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Jay & Silent Bob Return to the UK

Filmmaker, writer and occasional actor Kevin Smith, together with his comedy partner Jason Mewes, will be making their long-awaited return to the UK, in order to promote their new animated film, with a series of live shows in June and July.

The shows will begin with a screening of the new feature ‘Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie’, followed by an informal Q&A session and then a live recording of the pair’s regular podcast ‘Hollywood Babble-On’, where they will be joined by ‘Family Guy’ voice actor Ralph Garman.

Smith and Mewes have visited the UK on a number of occasions, perhaps the most memorable being their first series of live shows in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, which was captured on film for the popular ‘Teabagging in the UK’ tour DVD.

Jay & Silent Bob, the crude and colourful alter egos of Smith and Mewes, first appeared in Smith’s 1994 debut film ‘Clerks’. The duo played a pair of drug dealers who spent every day outside the Quick Stop (the store in which the story takes place) peddling their wares.

Since then, Jay & Silent Bob have appeared in almost all of Smith’s movies, albeit to varying degrees. In 1997’s ‘Chasing Amy’, they only appeared in one scene (although Silent Bob actually had an extended monologue). However, in 2001’s ‘Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back’, they were the central protagonists, whilst main characters from Smith’s previous movies were shifted to occupy background roles, effectively reversing the formula.

The characters have also appeared in comic books, an animated series, music videos and even made a baffling cameo in the movie ‘Scream 3’.

‘Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie’ was written by Smith and produced by Mewes. It features appearances by Smith regulars Walt Flanagan, Scott Mosier and Bryan Johnson, as well as Smith’s wife, actress Jennifer Schwalbach and comic book icon Stan Lee.

Ralph Garman, ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ voice artist Kevin Conroy and English novelist Neil Gaiman will also appear in the film.

The tour dates announced so far are:

June 29 – Birmingham O2 Academy

July 1 – London Eventim Apollo

July 2 – Bristol Colston Hall

July 3 – Manchester O2 Apollo

Tickets went on sale on Friday14th March at 9AM.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

BT Broadband Named (and Shamed) as officially the UK’s “Most Complained”

BT has come in at number one in a list of the most complained about broadband/TV providers in the UK, it was revealed today.

The report, published by Ofcom, covers the amount of complaints lodged over the last three months of 2013. The figures are totalled by offsetting the number of complaints Ofcom received against the total number of customers paying for the service. 

The result marks the first time that EE has not topped the list in over a year. However, it is worth noting that they did not do well.

Ofcom received 32 complaints for every 100,000 fixed-broadband customers. The issues discussed were mainly with persistent technical faults or else poor customer service.

According to the report’s executive summary, “On average, Ofcom receives just under 300 telecoms complaints a day from consumers. Such complaints are likely to be made where a consumer has been unable to resolve an issue with their provider to their satisfaction”.

John Smith, 28, who has been a BT customer since 2011, shared his own experiences with us, “It was infuriating” he said, “I told the adviser I was having problems connecting to the Internet in my home office – and he told me to set my computer up in the hallway! When I baulked at his suggestion, he simply told me that he’d offered me a solution to the problem and that I’d refused to take it, so the fault was with me!”

The man Mr. Smith spoke to was, according to his account of the nearly two-hour phone call, a supervisor. Apparently, the supervisor also refused point blank when Mr. Smith requested that an engineer be sent out to assess the problem first hand. “I came to him for help and he all but called me an idiot. Even more annoyingly, I was actually promised an extra installation for free by one person, only to later be told by another that I’d need to pay £130”.

“BT is disappointed with the results,” said Libby Barr, managing director of BT customer service. She went on to say that, “BT is the fastest-growing business by far in the UK for both pay TV and broadband, and as we process more transactions we have unfortunately suffered more disruption than companies with static or declining customer bases.”

However, Virgin Media, who actually had the lowest number of complaints in the study, responded by noting that it too had increased its customer base in 2013.



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Facebook Undergoes Gender Transformation

Representatives from social media site Facebook have announced that they are adding several new site options, which will allow users to effectively customize their gender.

This action was taken after Facebook employees consulted members of 5 leading gay and transgender advocacy groups.

There will now be around 50 new options, including ‘bi-gender’, ‘transgender’ and ‘androgynous’. It will also be possible for users to choose whether the site refers to them as ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’.

Facebook engineer Brielle Harrison told the press that, “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” However, as of 2011, there were an estimated 700,000 transgender adults in the US, so this decision is likely to positively effect a sizeable amount of people.

Gender is not the same concept as sex, or even sexuality, yet the general public erroneously considers all of them to be interchangeable. Whilst a person’s sex simply refers to their sexual organs, the term ‘gender’ actually describes their social role within a broader cultural context.

For example, a person who considers him/herself to be bi-gender can often feel trapped when forced to conform to a culturally enforced ‘male’ or ‘female’ gender role. Bi-gender people generally exhibit traits indicative of multiple sexes, or occasionally create alternate personas for both their male and female sides.

People who describe themselves as transgender feel that a sex-based description is an incomplete one. They do not appreciate the rigid definition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ being thrust upon them and prefer instead to define themselves. This is, of course, totally independent of a person’s sexual orientation. It is possible for a heterosexual male to identify as a female (and vice versa).

For another example, intersex individuals are people born with a variation in their sex characteristics, making them neither male nor female in terms of biology. Often, these people find our cultural enforcement of gender roles to be stifling and deeply emotionally unsettling. 

As of this week, Facebook’s English-speaking users will have the option to define themselves by these, or a multitude of other gender-based characteristics. The decision will allow users “to express themselves in an authentic way” according to Facebook.

This move reflects the growing exposure that LGBT groups and individuals are getting within contemporary culture. The Transgender Law Center in San Francisco stated that they were “thrilled” by the news. They are likely not alone.


Test Post from D state Blog

Test Post from D state Blog

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Which Major Discoveries led to the Invention of the Two-Way Radio?

(Asked by ‘Scottish’ Pete from Woolwich)

Hey Pete, how’s everything? Thanks for your question.

…And what a question it is. The modern two-way radio, which is a direct descendent of the WW2-era Walkie-talkie, first became recognizable in the years just before the outbreak of World War 2. Its origins are an interesting story in their own right (but I’ll condense it here).

Three names are usually mentioned with regards to the invention of the walkie-talkie…

The first is Canadian inventor Donald Hings (1907 – 2004), who invented an early version of the technology back in 1937 (although it wasn’t widely acknowledged or used). Then, there’s American inventor Al Gross (1918 – 2000), who patented the name ‘walkie-talkie’ for his own invention a year later in ’38. Because of the ubiquity of the name, Gross became the best known ‘inventor’ of the technology at the time, even though it had technically existed for 12 months beforehand. However, this isn’t to detract from Gross’ claim, because his version of the walkie-talkie was actually quite different from Hings’ (despite operating on the same essential principles).

Then, there’s Dan Noble (1901 – 1980), a Motorola employee who, although he definitely did not invent the technology, certainly did lead the team that created the widely used WW2-era walkie-talkies. Hings’ version of the technology wasn’t used by the military until 1942, which led to Dan Noble being credited with the invention.

So, make of that mess what you will…

Now, to go back further (and get to the meat of your question), here is a list of discoveries that led to the creation of the two-way radio.

James Clark Maxwell (1831-1879), a mathematical physicist (and one of a seemingly endless line of genius Scotsmen) demonstrated that electromagnetic waves could propagate in free space in his 1865 paper ‘A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field’ (of which the most famous fan was Albert Einstein). This led German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894) to build on Maxwell’s pioneering work by conclusively proving the existence of electromagnetic waves in 1887.

After that, Serbian-American inventor, physicist, vegetarian and absolute genius Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) demonstrated the transmission of radio frequency energy in 1892. After that, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (1874 – 1937) built a wireless system capable of transmitting signals over unprecedented distances in 1895 – which is pretty much the birth of radio.

This was an important area of study at the time; the first wireless telephone conversation took place in 1880 and was made by Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922), who was another Scot, incidentally. A lot of people were working on similar technology, so it would not have been unlike the ‘space race’ of the 50’s and 60’s at the time.

Marconi went about taking over pretty much all business related to the invention of the radio (which was, eventually, credited solely to him) and, by 1907, he had established the first commercial transatlantic radio service (and also pretty much screwed Tesla out of any/all royalties he would have been owed. Nice).

Thanks to the work of Julio Cervera Baviera (1854 – 1929) the Spanish army became the first to use radio for military purposes (at least, as far as I’m aware, anyway) in the early 1900’s.

Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden (1866 – 1932) (who also helped to develop sonar and TV, incidentally), invented AM radio (no, not the ‘Breakfast Show’ –it means that more than one station can broadcast signals) when, on Christmas Eve 1906, he played some violin and read from the Bible.

Eventually, all ships were equipped with radio transmission capability, with Marconi owning a total monopoly over ship-to-shore communication. Ship-to-shore contact became a subject of increased awareness and importance following the Titanic disaster of 1912 and radios began to be seen even more as a crucial safety measure in all areas of industry as a result. Look up the 1913 ‘International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea’ (it has a Wikipedia page, I just checked) for more info.

Skipping forward a bit, now. Throughout the 1930’s, there were a ton of minor (and major) improvements made to the technology, more than a few made by Marconi and his engineers. Some really clever people made their mark on the fledgling technology here, but if I mention them all, we’ll never get to the end.

Oh, by the way, FM radio was subsequently invented by American electrical engineer Edwin Armstrong (1890 – 1954) in 1933.

By the late 30’s, Hings comes into the picture, as does the rising spectre of a terrifyingly advanced Nazi Germany. The race was on to have the best equipped armies out there fighting the Axis powers and the allies wisely put a huge amount of manpower into the development of portable radio communication. It was a decision which led directly to the rapid co-opting of Hings and Gross’ work, as well as the later improvements made by Noble.

This is a long and fascinating story (about which many books have been written), but, as a ‘potted history’ of sorts, I hope that answers your question. 

Which Major Discoveries led to the Invention of the Two-Way Radio?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What police earpieces are available to civilians

There are quite a few police earpieces on the market right now, Renée, so the high likelihood is that whatever you need, someone, somewhere will be selling it. If it helps, I’ll give you a bit of an overview…

If you’re in the market for an overt earpiece, or even if you fancy something a bit more discreet (like, um, a covert earpiece), you’ll certainly be able to find it on the World Wide Web. Police organizations across the world employ a wide variety of communications equipment, from ‘listen only’ devices to PTT (Push To Talk) earpieces and, as I said, a significant portion of that equipment is available for consumer purchase.

Covert earpieces can be wireless or wired and consist on an in-ear receiver and a hidden mic. The wireless models start at about £200 (240EUR), but the better models will set you back about £500 (607EUR). The more basic ‘wired’ models (the ones with the familiar coiled tube) are FAR cheaper, usually costing around £20 (24EUR).

The tube can fit into your ear canal either via a ‘mushroom tip’ (which blocks the ear canal entirely – hence the name, as there isn’t ‘mushroom in your ear’ once you wear it! Groan), or a ‘gel insert’ (I haven’t got any jokes for this one, sorry!) that is a little less invasive. The mushroom tip tends to block out ambient sounds, not unlike noise-cancelling headphones, while the gel inserts allow more background noise to bleed in. Both types work equally well and frankly it comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Finally, we come to the shapes: the two main shapes that police use are ‘G’ shape and ‘D’ shape. The G shape looks, well, a bit like a ‘G’ and slips over the top of the ear, whilst the ‘D’ shape hooks round the back of the ear and resembles, you guessed it, the letter ‘D’. Once again, this is a matter of personal preference, but according to my reading, the G is considered more comfortable by most users.

The Motorola MTH800 and Sepura SRH series are among the most widely used police radios.

I hope that little info-bomb helps you, Renée. Police communication equipment tends to be sturdy, reliable and high performance, so it is the logical choice for security or surveillance work. It can also be available at very fair prices, which means that everybody has access to decent equipment.

Thanks for your question! 

What police earpieces are available to civilians

Monday, March 10, 2014

Legendary female wrestling pioneer Mae Young passes on, aged 90

Pioneering female professional wrestler Mae Young has passed away aged 90.

To date, Mae Young is the only professional wrestler in history (male or female) to have had documented matches in nine different decades. She began wrestling in 1939, at the onset of the Second World War and her last match took place in 2010.

Young, real name Johnnie Mae Young, was originally billed as ‘The Amazing’, ‘The Queen’ or ‘The Great’ Mae Young but was ultimately far better known simply as Mae Young. She enjoyed one of the most celebrated and unique careers in the history of professional wrestling.

Young’s wrestling debut came whilst she was still a teenager, after starring in the boy’s amateur wrestling team at school. During World War 2, she became a popular attraction, inspiring many other women to become professional wrestlers.

In 1951, Young was crowned as the first ever NWA Florida (National Wrestling Alliance) Women’s Champion and eventually became the NWA’s first United States Women’s Champion.

During the 50’s, Young wrestled for the WWWA (World Women’s Wrestling Association), bringing credibility and popularity to Women’s wrestling. She remained a draw throughout her career.

Modern day wrestling fans know Young best for her stint with the WWF (World Wrestling Federation – now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) from 1999-2000, in which she played a more comedic role. However, despite being nearly 80 years old, Young was still highly active as a wrestler. She participated in matches and storylines with her best friend, The Fabulous Moolah, another pioneer of Women’s wrestling and multi-time Women’s Champion (who had been partly trained by Young).

Mae Young would appear on WWE television, playing a number of roles from comedy character to respected veteran, throughout the next decade, with her final appearance being a celebration of her 90th birthday in 2013.

Memorable moments from her WWE tenure include being kissed by The Rock, giving the ‘Bronco Buster’ finisher to former WCW (World Championship Wrestling) boss Eric Bischoff, being beaten up by Tag Team wrestlers The Dudley Boyz and becoming ‘pregnant’ by Olympic weightlifter and former World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry. “She will be missed as much as anyone I’ve ever known!” said Henry.

In 2008, Mae Young was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Since the announcement of Young’s death, tributes have flooded in from the wrestling world. Former WWE Champion-turned actor The Rock said, “She is a wrestling pioneer. I truly had deep affection and respect for ‘Auntie Mae’ Young”

WWE boss Vince McMahon said, “Her longevity in sports entertainment may never be matched, and I will forever be grateful for all of her contributions to the industry. On behalf of WWE, I extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper wrote, “”May Young was a wonderful lady! When I started in the business May teased me a lot. Love you May!” Multiple time WWE, WCW and NWA Champion Ric Flair called Young “An incredible person and pioneer of the wrestling business” Whilst, in an emotional Tweet, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts wrote, “Nobody, male or female, loved & respected the wrestling business more than her. True legend.”

Mae Young will be remembered by her fans as a pioneer and a female icon, as well as a charismatic performer with a great sense of humor. She was genuinely among the toughest human beings, be they male or female, to ever step between the ropes. 



Legendary female wrestling pioneer Mae Young passes on, aged 90

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Out of Africa: Earliest Human Footprints Found in UK

The earliest evidence of Human footprints (outside of Africa, where most experts believe modern Humans first appeared) has been discovered in the United Kingdom.

The prints, believed to be some 800,000 years old, were identified on the shores of Happisburgh, a small village situated on the Norfolk coastline. The footprints represent a major prehistoric find, as they are direct evidence of the earliest known Humans in Northern Europe.

Dr. Nick Ashton, of The British Museum, said of the footprints that “(They are) one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain"s] shores,”

The hollow, foot-shaped markings were discovered during a low tide last year, when unusually rough seas exposed an area of sandy beach.

Sadly, the footprints were washed away fairly quickly, but they were visible long enough to be properly recorded, photographed and studied. Dr. Aston and his team worked hard to document the monumental discovery, even as heavy rainfall filled the tracks, “The rain was filling the hollows as quickly as we could empty them,” he told a BBC reporter.

Fortunately, the team was able to obtain a 3D scan of the prints. This scan revealed that the footprints likely belonged to a group consisting of an adult male and a few children. This has led some experts to speculate that the prints are those left by a prehistoric family group. The scan was so accurate, that the adult’s shoe size was determined to have been a comfortable 8.

Dr. Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moore’s University was the first to confirm that the hollows were Human footprints. She told BBC that, “They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape.”

The family, however, were not modern Humans. Experts believe that they would have likely belonged to a group called Homo Antecessor. Remains of this extinct Human species (or possibly subspecies) have been found throughout Europe, most notably in Spain. They are thought to be among the continent’s earliest Human inhabitants.

It is generally accepted that Homo Antecessor was either a relative of Homo Heidelbergensis (an early Human considered most likely to be the direct ancestor of both modern Humans and Neanderthals), or else the same species. In either instance, h. Heidelbergensis is known to have lived in Britain about 500,000 years ago, which is about 300,000 years after changing temperatures are thought to have wiped out Britain’s Homo Antecessor population.

Homo Heidelbergensis is said to have evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal Man), who lived, alongside our own Homo Sapien ancestors, until about 40,000 years ago, when the receding ice (and possibly competition for food) signaled the end for our last surviving sister species.

Interestingly, in 2010, Dr. Aston and his team discovered stone tools of a kind known to have been used by h. Antecessor in Happisburgh. It is a discovery that neatly compliments that of the footprints. This find, and other supporting material, effectively confirms the presence of early Humans in Britain about one million years ago.

According to Dr. Aston, the find will rewrite our understanding of British and European prehistory. To put that into perspective a little, the Happisburgh footprints are the only such find of this age to have ever been seen outside of Africa. Even then, there are only three specimens that are considered to be older across the African continent.

800, 000 years ago the earliest Britons left a lasting mark on the landscape. In so doing, they inadvertently sent us a message from the past about who they were and how they might have lived.


Out of Africa: Earliest Human Footprints Found in UK

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rediscovery of Knee Ligament Validates 19th Century Paper

Doctors have discovered that an important knee ligament, first described in an 1879 paper, before being subsequently ignored for well over a century, is actually a very real and important body part.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are a common problem for many athletes. They are notoriously difficult to repair and the recovery is a tough and painful process that can take up to a year. Following treatment, however, many patients still complain of aches and pains and it is not at all uncommon for the joints to fail the necessary pivot-shift tests (performed so the doctors can check the success of their surgeries). Repeat injuries are also inexplicably common.

Last month, it was announced that a team of Flemish doctors appears to have finally solved this persistently vexing riddle and, in so doing, they validated a discovery made over a century ago.

Paul Segond, a 19th century French surgeon who is known for greatly aiding the development of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (as well as describing the Segond fracture), wrote of the ligament as a “pearly, fibrous band” in 1879. Segond posited that it was an additional ligament, but anatomists did not consider the initial discovery to be accurate.

After reading Segond’s paper and deciding that there may be something to it after all, the team of knee surgeons and an anatomist began investigating the possibility that Segond’s mystery ligament was, in fact, a very real part of the Human body.

The team examined the knees of 41 cadavers, finding that 40 of them actually contained Segond’s ligament, just as he’d described it a hundred years earlier.

With this (re)discovery now published and proven, the ligament has been named as the anterolateral ligament (ALL).

The anterolateral ligament joins the other joint structures in the knee considered most important by doctors and anatomists, such as the lateral femoral epicondyle (LFE), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), Gerdy’s tubercle (GT), popliteus tendon (PT), popliteofibular ligament (PFL), and, of course, the aforementioned anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Surgeons are already considering ways in which to repair ALL tears and damage, with the hopes of improving the quality of life for anyone who suffers any ligament damage to the knees. This rediscovery is likely to become a very significant one in the field of sports and athletics, across both amateur and professional playing fields.



Rediscovery of Knee Ligament Validates 19th Century Paper

Friday, February 28, 2014

2 Way Radios in Public Safety & How They Relate to You

There are some moments when the world seems to turn inwards upon itself and nothing makes sense anymore.

In these moments, when man’s inhumanity to his own brothers and sisters would defy belief, were the chilling evidence not plain as day on your television screen, we are afraid. Anybody who says otherwise is either lying or mad.

In truth, these terrible moments seem to be increasing in number, with a multitude of terrorist attacks, a surge in civil unrest (caused, in large part, by the callousness of a government unconcerned with the lives of everyday people) and increased violence/gang activity on our city streets.

Public safety is a hugely important vocation, more so than ever in these uncertain times. Emergency services, such as the Fire Brigade, The Paramedics and The Police Service have to be able to respond to a major crisis within a moment’s notice.

In times of real disaster, such as a violent riot or terrorist attack, these services need to co-ordinate their efforts. Medical teams need to reach the injured, police need to arrest those responsible for starting the violence and the Fire Brigade must be responsible for tending to situations that don’t always involve fire (rescuing trapped civilians etc).

How can the emergency services keep in touch quickly, clearly and efficiently? They use two way radios, of course.

Two way radios are a proven technology. They are reliable, easy to use and cost-effective. Plus, they have strong outer bodywork that is well suited to dangerous operating environments.

It’s easy to train staff to use a two-way radio system and the devices rarely suffer from loss of signal like a mobile phone would. By pressing one button, users can easily interface with each other, share vital information over large distances (in real time) and, in the process, save innocent lives.

In a very real sense, two-way radios are a factor in your ability to sleep at night and feel safe and protected. As important as they are in other areas of British industry, they are even more important to public safety.

So, when you go to sleep tonight, spare a thought for the emergency services who bravely keep you safe, from fire, from violence and from serious injury/illness. Public safety is a vital part of our lives and these people are committing their professional lives to it, every single day. 

2 Way Radios in Public Safety & How They Relate to You

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Top Tablet PC"s of 2014

2013 has been a roller coaster year for tablets and for technology in general, and although a lot of that can be attributed to a giant lamp voiced by Bill Nighy (and if you missed the reference then you missed out on one of the year’s best movies), even more still can be ascribed to the good taste and ludicrously high standards (“what do you mean there’s no ‘time travel’ app!?) of YOU, the British consumer.

In order to continue this upward trend, we put our heads together and compiled a list of the year’s best tablets. You may be surprised at what comes first (actually, no, you won’t. We’ll say that right now. There are no surprises waiting for you at number one). Anyway, read on…

5. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX is, not to put too fine a point on it, awesome. The screen is breathtaking, the processor moves faster than David Cameron visiting a housing estate and the WiFi is better than ever (and, frankly, it was always pretty good).

But better even than that, is the price. Amazon continue to offer cracking tablets at amazing prices. You’re looking at £200 for one of these bad boys. It won’t break the bank like an iPad and it won’t disappoint like one of the many false economy ‘budget’ tablets out there.

That said; the earlier Kindle Fire HD is still one of the top 5 tablets out there if you’re looking to save a bit of dosh. Yeah, it has been out for a while now, but any Kindle version you care to name is going to be worth the money.

4. LG G Pad 8.3

2014 is going to be a good year for LG, and well; they’ve got to be about due, don’t they. After making a number of QGB (quite good, but…) products over the last couple of years, the G Pad is a welcome return to form. Fast, smart and groovy, everything about the G Pad screams care and attention, from the branding to the strong (yet lightweight and beautiful) aluminium casing.

Plus, 8.3 inches is an inspired size for a tablet. Not as cumbersome as a 10-Inch leviathan, but bigger than a 7-Inch ‘I may as well be a smartphone’ titch. What should, by all rights, have been a design disaster has, in fact, turned out to combine the best of both worlds. We can’t wait to see what those Korean lads and ladies come up with next.

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a strong contender for best Android tablet of 2013, which makes it a very strong contender for best Android tablet ever made. However, it just loses the top spot to the Nexus (for reasons that we’ll discuss in a minute).

With a quad-core processor that’s beefier than a field of buffalo and a truly wonderful screen, this tablet is a joy to use. Add to this the sweet design job and you’re definitely on to a winner. You can even record video in HD. Yeah, it is true that nobody actually records videos on their tablet, but still, its nice to know that if you did, the video footage would be almost worth the beating you’d (justly) receive.

In short, this is a marvellous tablet and a genuine credit to Android devices everywhere.

2. Google Nexus 7 (2013 version)

Now, if you’re not an ‘Apple-ite’ (feel free to use that term), then your list ends here and, frankly, you certainly won’t go wrong if you choose to buy anything off this list with your Christmas money. However, whilst we’re talking value for money, they still don’t come much better than the Nexus series.

How the tech bods at Google can improve on this device is beyond me, but they have. In addition, they’ve also kept the cost down. This, like the Kindle Fire before it, is a winning device because it not only offers the best Android tablet experience in the world right now (in fact, ever), but it also does it whilst staying in the £200 price range. We actually can’t say enough good things about this series; we expect Google to carry on scoring big in 2014.

iPad Air

The iPad Air or any version of the iPad, is the best gosh-darn tablet in the world right now. That’s just how it is. The iPad beats every other tablet ever made and anything else is just wishful thinking.

Fast, sleek and sexy, the iPad looks like it costs what it costs, so there can be no savings here. Frankly, the cash-strapped need not apply. Apple don’t care if you can afford their products or not, because they know that deep down you’re willing to mortgage your very soul in order to own them.

Now, we aren’t the sort of smarmy, yuppie-types who swoon over the Apple logo just because of some sort of fickle allegiance, we’re the sort of sticky, geeky types who swoon over the Apple products simply because they are so damned good.

Maybe one day we’ll do a list that doesn’t have an iPad in the number one slot. Maybe. However, dear reader; today is not that day. 

Top Tablet PC"s of 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Western Black Rhino Officially Declared Extinct

The western black rhinoceros, a subspecies of African black rhinoceros, has officially been declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) this month.

The announcement marked a sad day in history for anyone concerned with conservation or the wellbeing of our natural world.

Despite the news sending media shockwaves around the world, the first proclamation of extinction was actually given in 2011 by non-profit organization ‘Save The Rhino’, however, this was not considered official, so some conservationists still held on to hope. Sadly, as of 2006, the IUCN had stockpiled enough evidence to declare the western black rhino extinct, but the group usually waits for five years before making an official announcement, just in case a living specimen is spotted or discovered alive.

The last western black rhinos to live in the wild were confined to a small area of Cameroon and were killed between 2003 and 2006 (reports vary as to the exact dates) at the hands of opportunistic poachers.

Poaching was undeniably the main cause of the species’ extinction and is a continuing threat to all remaining rhino species (there are only three subspecies of black rhinos left in the wild, all of which are considered to be endangered by the IUCN).

Rhinos are killed for many reasons, sometimes because their horns, when powdered, are used in Chinese medicine. Sometimes the animals are killed is because sport hunters enjoy shooting them and sometimes, farmers find them to be dangerous pests, so they shoot the rhinos on sight. In the Middle East, rhino horn is used to make ceremonial dagger handles. Even with populations dwindling, there is still a high demand for rhino horns.

Between 1960 and 1995, poachers, no doubt in search of a big payday, killed an estimated 98% of black rhinos in Africa. The western black rhino was the hardest hit of the four species, with numbers steadily dwindling as the poachers refused to stop killing these rare (and increasingly valuable) creatures.

To put the above into perspective, there were an estimated 50 black rhinos left in 1991, but by 1992, there were only 35. In 1997, it was announced that there were only 10 individuals left on the continent

Just 100 years ago, however, approximately a million black rhinos, members of four distinct subspecies, lived on the Savannas of Africa, today, there are only a couple of thousand and now, only three remaining subspecies.

In addition, the Vietnamese Javan rhino subspecies was declared extinct in 2011 and the main Javan species is now considered to comprise of only 50 remaining individuals, the majority of which are at serious risk from poachers.

At the time of writing, there are only seven northern white rhinos (which is possibly a distinct species of rhinoceros, rather than a subspecies) left alive in the world. As a result, there is not a large enough population to ensure species survival. The northern white rhino will almost certainly join its western black cousin on the extinction list fairly soon.

The word ‘tragedy’ simply doesn’t seem adequate.


Western Black Rhino Officially Declared Extinct

Friday, February 21, 2014

Just what would happen if I ignored the safety advice and used a radio or a phone on an airplane?

(Asked by Rory from County Kildare, Ireland)

Before all you regular readers point out that Margot from Brighton asked me a very similar question last month, let me just say that I’m answering this one simply because of the way Rory chose to phrase his question.

In life, we are constantly bombarded by instructions, orders and indefinable ‘rules’ (some of which are written down and legally enforced, while others still are unwritten and socially enforced). I’m sure I’m not the only one who, like Rory from Kildare, wonders what would happen if some of those rules were to be broken.

Being on an airplane is one of those serious occasions when the people around you enact a greatly heightened degree of safety awareness. Frequent fliers among you will no doubt be able to recite a standard safety speech without too much difficulty. As the cabin crew stone-facedly prepare us for the fact that, in the event of a crash, there really isn’t much we can do to save ourselves, they always make a fuss about radios, phones and related equipment, don’t they?

But why is this? Surely something as innocent as a transistor radio or a cellphone can’t hurt a great big aeroplane, and if they can, why are we allowed to have them with us on the flight?

In truth, that is absolutely the case, your radio/phone can’t really damage the plane in any serious way, (death by text message is not going to be a real issue for you) but amazingly, our handheld devices can cause a few problems.

Y’see, a radio receiver houses something called a ‘local oscillator’, which can act as an internal transmitter. This is usually a small signal that helps to clear up the incoming signal for the listener. However, although these oscillators are usually shielded, it honestly doesn’t take much for the signal to escape and play havoc with aircraft navigation technology. In the vast majority of occasions, this simply will not happen, but is it really worth chancing a freak accident?

Mobiles, however, are a slightly different story. They aren’t really dangerous to aircraft technology at all. It is theoretically possible, but so is being burgled by highly trained chimps in ninja outfits…

Essentially, the problem between mobile phones and planes is a logistic/economic one. The phone will search for signal at 30,000 feet and, in doing so, can chance upon hundreds of potential signals at once. This becomes almost impossible for the phone companies to figure out, making it simply a pain in the backside for the companies concerned.

Since there is also a risk (however marginal) to the safety of the passengers and crew, the ban will likely remain in place until someone figures out a way to charge premium rates from high above the Atlantic ocean, then the ads will talk about how they always put the customer first, no matter what.

Ultimately, however, it just isn’t worth the risk, Rory. So now you know and, as I was reliably informed throughout my childhood, knowing is half the battle. 

Just what would happen if I ignored the safety advice and used a radio or a phone on an airplane?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Doctor Who Anniversary Special Breaks Record

The 50th Anniversary episode of popular British TV show ‘Doctor Who’, which aired on Saturday 23rd November, has broken the world record for largest ever simulcast of a television drama.

A simulcast is a simultaneous broadcast that is viewed via more than one medium.

In the UK alone, some 10.2 million people tuned in to the BBC show, although others still would have digitally recorded the special in order to view it at a time better suited to them.

The episode, entitled ‘Day of The Doctor’ was broadcast on TV in 94 countries, as well as being screened in 1,500 cinemas around the globe. It is also being streamed online via BBC iPlayer, for those who either missed the first showing, or would simply like to see it again.

Guinness World Records editor-in-chief Craig Glenday presented the show’s head writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, with a special certificate in commemoration of the event, on Sunday. In response, Moffat joked that after years of preventing others from conquering the world, the Doctor had done it himself.

‘Day of The Doctor’ is the 799th episode of the long running show, which first aired in 1963. The series was cancelled in 1989, but was resurrected in 2005 by executive producer Russell T. Davies.

The feature-length anniversary episode starred Matt Smith as the titular Doctor, teaming him up with previous Doctor David Tennant and veteran actor John Hurt (who played an as-yet unseen incarnation of the character, known only to fans as ‘The War Doctor’).

The show also starred Jenna Coleman as the Doctor’s companion, Clara, Joanna Page as Queen Elizabeth I, Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart and fan-favourite Billie Piper as a variation on her previous character, Rose Tyler.

Long time fans were also especially pleased to see the return of actor Tom Baker, who portrayed the character of The Doctor from 1974 – 1981.

Via contemporary special effects and cunning use of old footage, all of the actors who have played The Doctor appeared to some degree. Viewers were also treated to a brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi (the actor positioned to be the next Doctor) in the role.

The show continues a tradition of sorts, in which returning former stars have celebrated the series’ anniversaries. The 10th anniversary of the show in 1973 featured the return of past actors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton for a special entitled ‘The Three Doctors’. In 1983, the programme’s 20th anniversary saw the return of Troughton and Jon Pertwee for the special episode called ‘The Five Doctors’. In other instances, past Doctors have appeared in 1985’s ‘The Two Doctors’ and the 2007 BBC Children in Need Special ‘Time Crash’.

Fan response to the show was generally positive, with massive activity on Facebook, Twitter and others, but not all fans were impressed. Christopher Ritchie, writing for, suggested that the ending of the show devalued the impact of key events in the character’s history, going as far as to call it a “degeneration” of the relaunched series.

However, the vast majority of the show’s fans, both old and young, were hugely impressed with the episode, with multiple Tweets praising the show’s attention to its history and legacy, as well as the heaps of praise for the performances of Smith, Tennant and Hurt. Fans were sharing their favourite quotes with one another online within minutes of the closing credits.

The 74-minute special will be available on DVD and download from December 2nd.



Doctor Who Anniversary Special Breaks Record