07/04/2012 Click


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industrial action as the annual conference this week.


Hello? Hello? Just how far are you prepared to go


to get a signal? This week, we find out why your mobile cannot always


connect, no matter what position you adopt. And should phone


companies be let off the hook? And Bordeaux purifies in geekiness.


The report from its second digital week.


All of that plus the latest Tech News, the data store which is so


secure, it self-destructs if you lose it. And more moon then you can


Welcome to Click. This week, our mobile-phone expert has been a bit


secretive regarding the contents of his report. I know it is about


phones but he said he would call me with more detail. In fact, that is


him. Hello. Hello? Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Can you hear me?


Hello? This is useless! Don't you just hate it when that


happens? This handset has more advanced processes than rockets


that sent the first men to the moon. It can hold my personal diary, my


video player, it can even monitor my blood pressure. But I cannot


make a decent call. Not that he ever makes sense anyway.


The user experience of phone calls, while it has become more ubiquitous,


you can make a call anywhere, has not fundamentally changed in 100


years. It sounds the same as it did when telephones were first invented.


Phone technology has radically changed since 1876 but the basic


desire in making a call is still the same. To hear and be heard


clearly. So why do we still suffer from bad connections and dropped


calls? The smartphones of today have nothing to do with the phones


of yesterday. They are purely focused on noise, managing voice


signals and grabbing onto that antenna to get the perfect signal.


We have to deal with data, mobile broadband and applications. What


happens is the operators are having to start applying this new


technology in their networks. a real-estate issue. There are two


aspects. One is room for electronics that can help voice.


The other is space for microphones and speakers. What little space


there is for electronics seems to be earmarked for glassy extras. The


kind of stuff in advertising campaigns. People's priorities have


changed. Most people are interested in cameras, what apps they can get,


things like that. And then there are efficiency measures as we


demand better performance. They are designed with a view to saving


battery life. So they connect and disconnect multiple times. This


puts a lot of strain on the signalling network which is not


designed to cope with all of that signalling traffic. As a result,


Mobile sales can only carry a certain number of calls. So if your


call disconnects from the network and there are no free spots when


you want to call, you may have to wait, even if your handset is


showing several bars of signal. But arguably one of the biggest hurdles


facing the mobile industry today is the distribution of the spectrum


available for their traffic. Imagine I am a mobile operator and


this tomato is my available bandwidth. When we want to provide


a few different services, we can slice it nice and thick. We make


sure everybody gets a sizable, reliable chunk. But in today's


world, where operators need to slice their available bandwidth


ever more thinly to feed the hunger for things like video, apps and


research projects, it does not take a master chef to realise there will


be a trade off. In data terms, voice does not need


much bandwidth. Typically, one- third of streaming music or one-


tenth of video. But it needs to be a consistent connection. Where as


data for a webpage can be sent in fits and starts, slowly building up


the image, we tend to notice if our caller's voice breaks up or drops.


But dropped calls may not be solely down to the network.


Have you ever had a phone that was particularly good at making for


taking calls? Not all handsets are made the same. Where you put your


antenna, for example, is important. Apple's revolutionary idea to wrap


it around the outside of the handset seemed like a step forward.


Until users quickly found the signal dropped nothing if you held


the iPhone 4 a certain away. Red- faced Apple offered free covers.


And there are different frequencies so the number of chips can also


interfere with call quality. It is a real challenge for the equipment


manufacturers to get it all packed into the same device and have it


work in different countries and across various spectrum's that a


given operator may have within any single country. Sometimes, your


handset struggles to lock onto a signal, even though you know there


is one there because you made calls from that location before. But zero


bars does not necessarily mean you cannot make a call. If your display


shows no signal, do not fear. It may actually have stopped hunting


around for one. It does that to save battery but you can force your


phone to check for a signal by simply turning the airplane mode on


and then back off again. And then it should go hunting. And as 4G


networks move out, more calls can be made over internet protocol.


That solved some of the issues. Other recent advances could help


with the call experience as well. Noise reduction technologies in


phones have been around for a few years. But they are evolving as


well by isolating your voice and eliminating background noise, even


if you are in an incredibly busy environment. With the technology


available, you can transmit a full audible bandwidth which only humans


can hear. You can transmit a few audible bandwidth. So some


operators have already added the new Kodak to their networks


delivering what is being marketed as her HTC voice. But does it work?


I can hear the voice coming through clearly, even over the microphones


and craziness in the background. is very clear. There was no static.


There did not seem to be any blanks. good. Our chips are very small and


we have taken full advantage of the miniaturisation that is possible.


That is actually the size of our chip. I am sure Alexander Graham


Bell would not even recognise the device we call a telephone today.


But he may find it a little easier to recognise the voice of the


person calling. OK, next is a look at this week's


Tech News. A government plan to monitor emails


and web surfing in the UK has sparked a row with civil liberties


groups and some MPs who say the proposed laws would be an invasion


of privacy. Downing Street has not finalised the proposals but say any


new legislation would focus on who was communicating with who, when


and where, rather than the content of any exchanges which would still


require a warrant. It says the changes are needed as more people


use online communications. Users of the TomTom sat nav have


been driven around the bend by what they say is interference. Some of


the devices have stopped working. Drivers in Switzerland, the UK and


Denmark say the screen went grey and the machine said it had no


signal. The firm said it was working on a fix and promised


further updates. Imagine seeing all of the


information you need by looking at the world around you. This is


Google's vision of how augmented reality may work in a few years. It


revealed what it calls Project Glass - a display that offers


information triggered by voice or location. Keep your eye on Click


for a closer look at this. These villagers in Lancashire have


gotten bored with waiting for a super-fast broadband connection. So


they have started laying their own network. Many volunteers with


spades took part in digging an 83 kilometre long trench. When


finished, it will connect to several villagers and provide fibre


optic cables. They hope to be switched on by July.


Finally, we may be one step closer to the flying cars we were promised


as two companies say they have successfully concluded the first


test flight. The transition vehicle from a US company has two seats,


four wheels and wings that fold so it can be driven like an old


fashion car. Meanwhile in Europe, the Dutch made personal air and


land vehicle folds down to a three- wheel car. Lovely!


Now, how many of these have you lost in your life? It is too easy


to leave one plugged into somebody else's machine or let it slip out


of your pocket. But we are increasingly storing more valuable


things on these. This could help. It is like a simple USB flash drive.


But it is not a simple USB flash drive. This is armed to the teeth.


Used by the secret service, inside it has a GPS receiver, a battery


and a mobile SIM card. That means you can track its location if it


goes walkabout. The battery recharges every time it is plugged


into the PC, which means you can track it to the nearest mobile cell


or, if it can see the GPS satellite, right down to a volcanic lair. If


your documents are for your eyes only, you can block access to them


remotely through the online console or by sending a coded text message.


And if locking it is not enough, it has one final trick. With one fatal


click, you can shoot a high-voltage charge into its core, melting the


chip, destroying the evidence and saving the world. But it comes with


The French city of Bordeaux, famous for wonderful wines and fabulous


food. It is on a drive to promote its geeky side. It is hosting its


second Digital Week, getting those who have turned cold by technology


a little more involved. Skateboarders are not normally


found in Bordeaux city centre, but this is Digital Week. Town Hall is


giving skaters some licence. Skateboarders are getting radio


frequency ID bracelets so that photographers can fire off snaps of


them to their Facebook pages and post them on the website. Radio


frequency ID is like the key. We check the bracelet, that is the key.


The smartphone sends the picture on the service. We can send it on


Facebook. When we think of Bordeaux we think of wine and food. This


local technical company has knocked together a recipe finder called the


Saveur Digital. You can find cooking tips on the website. The


idea is to build a bridge between the traditional products of this


region and new technology. Particularly useful when it comes


to ingredients that could be difficult to swallow. Like tripe.


If it is not cooked properly it can be dangerous. If you have the right


instructions it can be easy to understand and nice. Bordeaux's


town hall wants to promote local IT companies. They are running a


ground-breaking design course. It includes data visualisation, data


collected by governments or companies is illustrated so that


people can physically manipulate and understand it. It is where data


design and democracy meet. We live in a society where information is


omnipresent. It is a way to understand them better. It is a way


of summing up data in a clear presentation. When Bordeaux's


design students graduate they will need a place to work.


Town hall is giving over one of its unused buildings as a nursery for


IT start-ups. The idea is to get people with ideas and drive


together under the one roof. It is not just exploring what is possible


with technology, but what is not. They do not buy into the widely


held belief that it is easy to work on Skype with someone in India as


it is to work with someone in the same room. They believe if you want


to get something started from the ground up, you need to have all


your expertise in one place. Giving people a hand up early on is what


allez less e-filles is about. Girls like technology, not just as


consumers, but they are put off by the stereotype of the anti-social


geek. TRANSLATION: Boys are often stronger in technology. As soon as


a girl sits down at the computer they say, leave it to me because I


am better. Companies are looking for women in website positions.


Mostly because they are more perfectionist in their tasks. This


is an added value for a company to meet a woman. When you look at the


make-up of classes and technical schools there are an enormous


number of boys but very few girls. That is what we are trying to


succeed with his operation, attracting girls to this profession,


which is the profession of the future. Bordeaux's Digital Week has


outlined some audacious plans for the future. Plans that could turn a


beautiful French city renowned for its culinary expertise into a


Now, as we reported a few weeks ago, next year you'll be able to take a


trip into space for $200,000. If you do not have that kind of spare


cash lying around, do not worry because NASA is offering a


different trip with a down-to-earth price tag where you can put space


40 years after we put the first man on the Moon, now you can hold of


the Moon in your hands with NASA's free smartphone app for Android and


iPhone. There is enough video to satisfy any armchair astronaut. If


you want to find something random to read, the features section is


where you should head. All of the articles are accompanied with high


quality imagery that we have come to expect from NASA. You can have


the app set your wallpaper with NASA's image of the day. Who needs


a $200,000 ticket to the Earth's outer atmosphere anyway? When you


are starting out in business getting the right advice can be


vital. When it comes to technology that advice can be expensive.


Hackerbuddy.com is a great social concept that works to put together


start up coders and designers so they can help each other out with


free advice through e-mail. You think hacker, you think bad guy,


right? He wants to break into your bank account or bring down a blue-


chip website. In computer programming circles the word hacker


can describe anyone who knows how to code useful and interesting


websites. Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team are examples of non


malicious hackers. The website is young but it is already home to


5,000 members. If they accept your plea for help you are given e-mail


addresses. You can progress the project without the website's


involvement. When it comes to school sports day


you need to be there in person. For top-flight sport supporters


catching it live on TV is the next best thing. Livesport.co.uk bills


itself as the definitive UK Sport TV Guide. You'll never miss a match.


The navigation bar on the left let's you search for a sport from


American football to wrestling. There are listings for 3D TV


broadcasts. It is a free app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. You


can save it in Google Calendar. As the saying goes, in the back of the


net my son. If you are stuck for something


creative to do with your cover image, this post on design and


photography, MachoArts, showcases some brilliant ideas. After racking


up 30 million iPhone users, Instagram finally released their


free app on Android this week. Only if you have 2.0 and up.


Finally, the story of the disposable camera. Camera Obscura


Project is the home of the snap happy project where a throwaway


camera was left with instructions for whoever found it to take a


photo and leave it somewhere else to be found again. The experiment


was such a success they are sending out a batch of cameras around the


UK, in London, Brighton and Manchester. What will they catch on


their travels this time? Will any of them make it home to be


published on this blog? Watch this space to find out.


That was Kate Russell with Webscape. If you missed any of the links, you


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