The place where Geeks Blog.

Top 5 Tips for Tech on Holiday

Here’s my Top 5 Tips for taking Tech on Holiday.

1. GET INSURANCE, and double-check it, and then check it again.

Being the sensible chap I am I knew it was a smart move to get Insurance, particularly as I was taking an array of pricey tech gadgets, including a £839 laptop, Kindle and my Lumia 800 phone it wasn’t something I was willing to risk.

However it’s worth reading over the small print, as the vast majority of Travel insurance caps the total payout for items value, so even though I took out £2K of insurance, I could only claim a maximum of £300/item… which is somewhat useless if the £839 laptop fell off the ferry!

Check. Double Check. Triple Check. Compare. Don’t get caught out by the small print.

2. Don’t take more than you really need.

When I went I took Laptop, Kindle and Smart phone and of course my trusty Pebble. With hindsight the Kindle went completely unused, coach was too dark (travelling at night) and unsurprisingly wandering around a cool new foreign city meant I didn’t spend much time reading, so it could have easily been left at home.

I also took my laptop, this was mostly for business reasons as I needed to always be able to get on a proper PC quickly to make sure all my servers were behaving, and of course, making some notes for blogging.

It is important however to really consider what you’re taking and what can be left behind, it may seem like a great idea when you’re packing but remember, you need to carry this stuff! Also it just adds to the risk of loss/theft and often simply isn’t worth the risk.

3. Do you really need that camera? 

I am sure many would disagree with me on this point, but having a digital camera, or any camera for general snaps when you have a half-decent smart phone is just silly. A good modern smart phone can easily out perform the average cheap camera, so why bother? I haven’t owned a camera in years because my phone has a good camera and can take some incredible pictures. Keep it simple.

4. Know where you stand with your data usage! 

Before I travelled I checked with my network (T-Mobile) annoyingly I was told I’d be charged £1.50/Mb and well, that’s a lot. Although it’s worth taking a deeper look, after some digging it turned out that this wasn’t the case and I was able to buy a Travel Booster, £10 for 50MB. It wasn’t enough for me to be using my phone as normal, but it gave me enough data to last the 36 hours I was in Amsterdam and allowed me to check-in, tweet and facebook as I wondered around.

5. Using cards abroad.

I usually prefer using my card than paying by cash for most things, cash is simply a pain rear, change everywhere – but a card is usually quick and easy… In the UK. Unfortunately when overseas it can end up landing you with some hefty transaction fees and conversion rates so it’s worth checking with your bank/card provider what the costs are.

I found that the costs for withdrawing month and potential card fees were just too much, so I opened for the old-fashioned method – convert a lump sum to Euros before I travelled. This was a good way to go, no fees and meant I knew exactly how much I was spending – I’d have spent a LOT more had I not done this.


Java Flaw Found for Hacker Exploits in Web Browsers

Web security firm FireEye has announced that internet users should disable Oracle’s Java software while utilising web browsers, due to the discovery of an inherent flaw in Java version 7 that allows hackers to gain access to personal computer systems and wreak havoc.

FireEye announced on its blog that the Java hack used the programme to bypass security measures with the specific purpose of spreading malware. On 26 August Atif Mushtaq noted that the exploit appeared to be in its early stages of circulation but that it wouldn’t be long before a wider circle of hackers started to use it:

“It’s just a matter of time that a POC will be released and other bad guys will get hold of this exploit as well.” He said.

Oracle claims that its incredibly versatile programming language runs on no fewer than 3 billion devices worldwide, including millions of smartphones. It is an essential tool for making sites and applications run without the need for developers to write specific code for different operating systems.

Despite its versatility and accessible nature, Java has recently come under scrutiny for its vulnerabilities against hacks such as this, especially in the mobile sector. Increasingly, developers of smartphone applications and games have been offering Java jobs to programming experts to minimise the security risks in using the code in their products.

FireEye also noted with disappointment that Oracle itself had not commented on the discovered security flaw and had made no attem

pt to discuss the possibility of an emergency patch to plug the breach. The Java creator announced recently that it would be moving to quarterly fixes for the programme, meaning that users shouldn’t expect a scheduled update until October this year.

Another cyber security firm, Rapid7, claims that it wouldn’t matter how speedy Oracle’s response is, there is still a significant amount of danger inherent in this new exploit. The company claims that even when known security issues are announced and updates are issued to combat it, only 35% of users will actively install these updates. The majority of users will simply assume that the problem will not affect them or will ignore the security threat entirely. Rapid7 reported that even among the users who do choose to update, nearly half of them take around 60 days to do so, which is plenty of time for malicious hackers to access their unprotected system.

Even though Oracle’s response to the situation has been underwhelming thus far, the company has shown signs that it is taking the issue of cyber security more seriously. Presumably hoping to avoid similar bad press for Java, more Oracle jobs dealing with the programming language have become available as the technology firm tries to shore up its vulnerabilities.

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Infographic: Don’t Hate on 8 – Why Windows 8 is the future

This wonderful infographic highlights some of the great features in the yet unreleased, Windows 8 Operating System.

Windows 8 Infographic


The Incredible World of Communication Satellites

By Promo Codes

Trade up program for Blackberry and other phones launched by TELUS

With the new Blackberry 10 just about to be launched, the demand is set to be great amongst loyal users of Blackberry phones, but despite this eagerness, many will fail to get their hands on this latest upgrade, it will not be possible for everyone to afford the retail cost of it, the minute it hits the shops. The good news for those who can’t wait for this latest addition to the range of Blackberry mobile phones on offer is that TELUS has started a scheme which may offer a solution to this problem for many mobile device enthusiasts.

Essentially TELUS say the program they are starting up is a trade-up scheme, whereby people hand over their existing smartphone, in return for which they will be given a credit which they can use towards their new one – and the scheme does not just apply to users of Blackberry phones, as you can hand over phones by TELUS, Rogers or Bell if you wish to take advantage of the opportunity. Given the present economic climate and the financial uncertainty that many are experiencing, this may offer a real practical alternative for those who are keen to upgrade their existing phone.

In order for your existing smartphone to be eligible for the program, it needs to fulfil some basic requirements, such as be in usable condition with a display that can power on. However, beyond this, even phones which are in less than pristine condition will still be acceptable for the program, as TELUS plans to refurbish those phones which people hand in, in order to resell them to people in developing countries. The company has also stated that it intends to plant a tree for every phone received that does not have a resale value. The other condition attached to the scheme is that there is a limit of three phones that any one person can trade in, but this could offer people a viable way of getting the latest in Blackberry phones that they need for their work, or any other phone of their choice.

How to make piracy appealing? More government warnings.

It seems the US government continues to miss the mark on piracy and have recently announced 2 new unskippable warnings which will be featured on DVDs & Blu-rays.

The new warnings while not only targeting the wrong people (e.g. those who have legitimately brought a copy of the DVD) but likely also pissing them off a treat as the new warnings will be back-to-back and each lasting 10 seconds, adding another 20 seconds delay between the content you have PAID for.

The first warning which threatens pirates with up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine:

The second warns consumers that “Piracy is not a victimless crime” and that digital “theft” harms the economy:

This has naturally angered many consumers who recognise the flaw in yet more piracy warnings on discs because they act only as a deterrent… to buying the disc. Not to piracy.

A comment I found on artechnica sums up the general feeling nicely:

“Here in Belgium, when I buy a DVD or bluray, I’m forced to watch the copyright notice from BAF & Brein, followed by the copyright notice from the filmdistributor, the age warning, the warning that opinions expressed in commentary are from the people themselves not the company, and the “you wouldn’t steal a car” commercial, and I start to regret buying the movie.

The pirate version is hassle free, starts immediately playing and can be played on my PC, Xbox or Smartphone. And I can have the pirated version weeks or sometimes months before the DVD goes on sale.

If they want to stop piracy, they should offer a superior product.”

It really frustrates me to see governments and law-enforcements getting the issue of piracy so wrong, especially with the recent high-court order to block the Pirate Bay.

These kinds of measures are completely ineffective and as with piracy warnings on DVD they only encourage users to turn to piracy because it’s easier. Why sit through 5 minutes of crappy trailers, unskippable PSAs and moronic piracy warnings when they can watch instantly online with no interruptions or delays…. or download the whole thing in half hour on torrent?

Piracy is easy, and convenient.  But the answer isn’t to try and make piracy less convenient, it’s to make legitimate paid for content as easy or better yet, easier!

I have both a Spotify and LOVEFiLM subscription at the moment, and they are both good but both have their problems, primarily that they don’t have all the content I want. Spotify has most songs, but not all so occasionally to get my musical kicks I need to track down the songs I want to hear on other services, YouTube or get it elsewhere. And LOVEFiLM? I’m cancelling because they simply don’t have nearly enough content to satisfy me. It’s also ridiculously hard to fine the content they *do* have. I can watch almost any TV show or movie I like within a minute thanks to hosted video services, obviously when watching House on PutLocker the company which made it gets nothing, if they licensed it to LOVEFiLM I’d watch, they’d get paid.

It seems in far too many cases copyright holders are far too greedy when it comes to their licensing agreements and it really is just shooting themselves in the foot.

I’ve said it to many people, but give me a service where I can get every song, every movie and every TV show and I’m there, and I’d happily pay handsomely for it. Until this can become a reality piracy will continue to be the easiest way to consume the content we all love.

What is the Cloud?

What’s Cloud Computing?

With all IT industry analysts predicting everyone will be using “cloud computing” by 2020, I think its amazing that so few people really understand what it is.

I was contacted today (Feb 2012) by someone trying to sell me space at an industry event, and they provided these stats of questions and answers to IT professionals (IT Managers, IT Directors, CIO’s & CTO’s):

Q. What do you understand about cloud computing

A. 37% of IT professionals could not clearly define the term

Source: Cloud computing: step by step, Computing, in association with EMC

Q. Do you understand the term “Infrastructure as a Service”?

A. The term Infrastructure as a Service is not properly understood by 40% of IT professionals

Source: Is your server room holding back your business?, Computing, in association with Star

Q. Do you know the difference between Public & Private Cloud computing

A. The difference between the private and public clouds is not understood by 38% of IT Professionals

Source: Cloud computing: step by step, Computing, in association with EMC

Now we all know that stats are often nonsense but if 10 people read this blog I bet the numbers stack up somewhere near these.

Cloud Computing is NOT a hosted services

I wonder how many readers are surprised by that statement.

All industry marketing and in my experience the general conception of most people is that cloud computing is the delivery of IT over the internet.

This is wrong, hosted services provide the delivery of IT over the internet, it’s just that some providers may choose to do this using cloud computing.

Cloud Computing is NOT virtualisation

Another misconception is that cloud computing is virtualisation. Our marketing friends at VMware are responsible for this.

Virtualisation is often used in a cloud computing environment because it adds resilience and uses compute resource and storage more efficiently.

Cloud Computing is software that supersedes virtualisation

The problem with virtualisation is its incredibly complex. Although it has added resilience and performance efficiency to older style physical only environments it is really designed to benefit the IT department and infrastructure in general.

What cloud computing software is doing is bridging the gap between the IT department and the users who use IT.

Cloud Computing is automation

The concept is that technology processes are better carried out by technology than humans. Under control of its human master a cloud computing orchestration software will carry out tasks previously requiring human intervention automatically (with controls set by technicians). For example:

Adding a new user – In the corporate environment if we get new staff we need to add them to various systems so they can do their job, cloud software will do this automatically based on a set of rules laid out in workflows.

Utilization of hardware – Possibly instigated by needing to add a new user but not limited to, cloud software will automatically allocate additional compute resources and storage to an application from an entire stack of hardware & hypervisor platforms.

Building new servers – I like the marketing department example, if marketing want to build a new website for a campaign they would normally request this from IT. IT then checks capacities and current workload and build the server. With cloud this is instigated by the department directly and the cloud software provisions the server automatically.

Maintenance tasks – Automatic scripts move virtual machines to available hardware hosts, then patch firmware then move the servers back. Or, the cloud software takes copies of an application server, update the application in test/dev environment and when successful moves test/dev in to production.

These are just some examples of the tasks that can be automated; those of you who work on systems day to day will no doubt have a task you carry out that could be automated by software.

Time, money and demand.

As a young(ish) users of IT I can’t believe it takes my IT department so long to create me a new user or server. I can get a new twitter account in around 30 seconds and a new web server in a couple of hours from 1on1 internet.

Why when I request this internally does it take so long?

Today’s users are becoming increasingly frustrated with the traditional processes in corporate IT effecting their working life in ways they just wouldn’t accept in their personal lives.

Cloud Computing is a modernisation of IT for the user inside the corporate, bringing the expectations of users in the public domain inside the corporate domain.

To run an enterprise environment to the standards that the current user demands without automation would be expensive requiring round the clock interaction by highly skilled technicians and huge farms of servers and technology. Therefore cloud computing reduces costs significantly in organisations who rely on technology to drive their businesses forward.


Cloud computing is unfortunately in a massive fog of marketing while all the big companies try to get on the bandwagon. However in the recent months adoption of both hosted services that use cloud computing and internal cloud computing software has actually increased significantly and as it is understood this will only rise.

Guest Blogger: Terry Pullin from is on the front lines selling data centres and cloud platforms to medium and enterprise customers, Terry blogs from knowledge gained over a 15 year period of selling/solutioning IT services.




















Why well targeted online advertising benefits you

Image © Daniel Afrahim

Firstly, Google doesn’t care about you. I’m sorry, but they really don’t care that you just looked at My Little Pony, watched a cat video on YouTube and then read an article on “10 ways to know if you can satisfy a woman”. Google deals with vast amounts of data about billions of people worldwide. All they care about is trying to show you an ad to something you might like to buy.

It seems most people neglect the fact that much of this “personal” information which companies use, mostly purely to help advertisers show more relevant ads. Like it or not this is vital to everyone involved, and here’s why…

In the online advertising chain there are usually 4 main parties:

Company with product/service they want to sell  ->  Advertising Agency -> Website Owner -> You

In an ideal situation, all of these people – Yes, you included – benefit from GOOD and well targeted online advertising.

Companies want to spend their advertising budget in the most effective way possible, they want to know that their ad $$ are going to showing the people who might actually want their products their ads. There really is no point showing Men an advert for Tampons for example.

Because of this companies want the advertising agencies they use to target their ads at their products target market as effectively as possible, so that their money is spent showing their ads to people who are more likely to click & buy.

It’s then the advertising agency, like Google AdWords/Adsense job to try to show that ad to people who might actually buy it.

They do this through a variety of means, in the case of Google this includes things like what you search for and perhaps even the sites you look at. This helps them build up an idea of what kind of person you are and the types of things you like.

For example if you were just searching for something like “Nokia Lumia 800” and then clicked on and read our review on the Nokia Lumia 800 it would make sense for Google to then show you an advert to buy it.

If you read our review and thought, yes this does indeed sound like a fantastic phone I’ll buy it! Click the advert and buy the phone from the retailer you have then experienced useful relevant advertising.

In this process you have also helped the website owner as they can then earn money from the advertising agency for displaying the advert to you and is able to make some money which will likely help to pay for the expensive servers, domains and content producers required to run the site.

Without this ad revenue many site owners simply couldn’t afford to provide their content/sites/services for free to the end-user.

At the end of the day this is one of the small trade-offs of using the internet, and in reality the better it works the less you see pointless adverts and the more you see things you actually want to buy and this can only be a good thing.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts, so please do share them in the comments.

What would you do with $97.7 Billion Dollars?

Apple Inc has a lot of cash, it’s now the biggest public company in the world with ridiculously huge revenues from all the massively over-priced products brought by their mindless Apple fanboys… Not that I’m bias. But they now have a dilemma, they have a huge pile of cash and need to spend it (lucky them eh?). What would you do with $97.7 billion dollars? Let us know in the comments below.