Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mail2Blogger issue "has been fixed" says Google

After several frustrating days for users, Google has finally fixed Mail2Blogger also known as Email Posting. Last Thursday many users of Google's blogging service found themselves unable to post to their blogs by email and posted complaints in a Google forum. The facility is, for many people, far more convenient than using the Blogger interface as articles can be simply written in an email, a picture attached and sent.  

While there can be problems such as formatting, by using Gmail such errors can be avoided. The whole can be selected and unformatted, prior to sending. Links may be added and will automatically open in separate page is saved to drafts and sent later. By using Boomerang, a plug-in for Gmail in Firefox and Chrome, posts can also be scheduled.

However this convenience of posting was made difficult since the service crashed and those using it were forced to go to the mail Blogger interface. While posts could still be sent this way, there can be problems in the way articles are formatted, such as text sizing, picture placement and the wrapping of text. While these issues can be corrected through modifying the html, this is not familiar to most bloggers.

While no explanation has been given for the problems, Google said that the issue has now been fixed, good news for its millions of bloggers who use the service daily.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic storm as empty seats leave fans fuming

Olympic organisers say they are investigating as to why so many seats were left empty during events at some Games venues on the opening day of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

A BBC described the number of seats left empty at Saturday’s swimming event at the Aquatic Centre as disgraceful. Meanwhile there was anger expressed by spectators at Wimbledon where large blocks of seats remained empty throughout the day. 


Many tennis fans at Wimbledon were shocked to see blocks of seats vacant at some of the best viewing spots, and implied they must have been accredited seats. “Since they were in prime position, near where the players came out and the royal box, I can only assume that they were corporate seats,” one supporter told the BBC. “They were in a good spot for a fantastic game but they remained empty.” 

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC's Jon Sopel it was likely that the unused seats belonged to sponsors, but said the matter would be looked into “very urgently”. Meanwhile a Locog spokesman said, “Many of our venues were packed to the rafters today. Where there are empty seats, we will look at who should have been sitting in the seats, and why they did not attend.” 

“Early indications are that the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, but this is day one, and our end of day review will provide a fuller picture of attendance levels across all our venues.” There have been hints that those that failed to take their seats should be “named and shamed” while their tickets should be given out to the public. 

"Full investigation"

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said the empty seats were "very disappointing" and suggested they could be offered to members of the public. "I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008, and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it's best for the athletes, it's more fun for the spectators, it's been an absolute priority.” 

"Locog are doing a full investigation into what happened, I think it was accredited seats that belonged to sponsors, but if they're not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere.” Despite all tickets having been ‘sold out’ for most events months ago, there were rows of empty seats visible at the swimming heats, the gymnastics, the volleyball and the dressage in Greenwich park. 

Ticket allocation

While many sponsors and corporations are believed to have bought up large numbers of tickets, a substantial number have been taken up by government departments who have themselves handed them out to various groups or individuals. UK Trade & Investment for example has offered more than 1,400 tickets to guests from around the world. 

According to a document issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS], 8,815 tickets have been allocated for the Olympic Games. The allocation covers DCMS, FCO, UKTI, Visit Britain and those host venue towns and cities, outside of London, that have opted to purchase tickets under their host county or borough agreements with LOCOG. 

The tickets are intended to be used to support a range of Government games time objectives including inviting and accompanying a number of international and domestic political and business leaders, as well as guests and others with a close connection to the Games and its legacy. Around 3,000 tickets were allocated to a ballot for staff who have worked on the Games for a substantial period of time to purchase, at face value. 

A number of tickets have also been made available to Schools who get involved in the new School Games programme which is a key part of 2012’s sporting legacy. While the document states that no DCMS staff will receive free tickets, it does not provide a clear indication of how many free tickets would be handed out, either to officials or foreign dignitaries [Ticket allocation to DCMS by LOCOG - PDF]. 

Public anger

While the empty seats didn’t ruin the atmosphere at events which were supposedly sell outs, it will annoy thousands of fans who tried but failed to get tickets for the Games. It is the latest controversy to cast a shadow over the Games and one that has prompted Lord Sebastian Coe, the chairman of LOCOG, to threaten to “name and shame” companies that failed to use their accredited seats. 

Some members of the public have suggested that those who fail to arrive on time should forfeit their tickets. “Here is the solution. Twenty minutes after the start the officials count the number of empty seats. They then let in the public, issuing them with a free entry card, on a first come first served basis,” wrote one angry corson on the Daily Mail website. 

It was a sentiment echoed by chairman of the British Olympic Association Lord Moynihan who suggested one impose "30 minute rule" on attendees. The London 2012 organisers "owe it to the fans" to fill the empty seats, Lord Moynihan said.

The empty seat fiasco continued into Sunday with many blocks of seats remaining empty at a number of events.

other reports: BBC / BBC - video / Sky News / Metro / Telegraph / Guardian / Guardian / Independent / Daily Mail

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, July 28, 2012

London 2012 opens with epic performance

The opening ceremony of the London Games began with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins walking onto the stage and ringing a large bell, and releasing a yellow balloon into the skies above the capital. 

There then followed a spectacular and wonderfully theatrical display. It was a showcase of some of the best of British, from its past industrial achievements to its renowned place in rock’n’roll history.

Industrial prowess

Following a reprise of Jerusalem, actor Kenneth Branagh appeared as Isambard Kingdom Brunel to usher in the "dark satanic mills" flipside to the opening "green and pleasant" land. 

Actors portrayed workers forging huge steel rings that were hoisted above the stadium forming the Olympic rings which blazed above those below. There then followed a celebration of Britain’s National Health Service with a special tribute to Great Ormond Street children’s hospital. 

Story telling

This was a theatrical performance on an epic scale. Dozens of girls and boys took part in the display, sat in bed that were attended to by dancing nurses. The storytelling continued to children’s literature with a varied selection of characters taking to the arena. 

After an introduction from J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan read by J.K.Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, there followed a stream of characters from her book as well as many others from famous tales. The child catcher from Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang pirouetted about the stage before dozens of Mary Poppins descended from the sky. 

Parachuting Queen 

A film shown to the audience brought some surprises as James Bond actor Daniel Craig and the Queen were seen clambering aboard a helicopter, leaving behind her corgis Monty, Willow and Holly.

As the film showed the helicopter arrive over the stadium the Queen and James Bond were seen to jump by parachute. Soon after the Queen emerged and sat amongst other dignitaries as though she had just disposed of her parachute. Of course it was all an illusion but one that wowed the audience.  

After an introduction for President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge and Her Majesty, the ceremony continued with a celebration of British popular music as dancers gyrated across the vast space inside the Olympic stadium, referred to by Chinese state media somewhat disparagingly as the soup bowl. 

Musical medley

The musical soup was a varied mix of ingredients. Sounds of the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties were all represented. Clips of The Beatles, the Kinks and Rolling Stones flowed through to seventies punk represented by the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant complete with bizarre pogoing acrobats. 

The electronic sounds of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark rang out with Enola Gay as the musical medley entered the eighties and with the advent of dance and rave, New Order’s Blue Monday changed the mood along with Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Back to Life by Soul II Soul. British rapper Dizzee Rascal sang his hit song 'Bonkers' bringing the musical interlude to a close as a house rouse into the air revealing Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, who typed a message projected around the stadium - “This is for everyone”. 

Olympic procession

Then followed the long procession of athletes from all 205 nations taking part in the Olympic Games. Keeping with tradition Greece led followed by the other participating countries in alphabetical order and end ending with the host country. As Team GB headed out David Bowie’s Heroes rang out across the stadium amidst cheers from a wildly enthusiastic crowd of spectators [BBC]. 

As well as their respective national flags each team also carried a copper petal. The reason was not immediately obvious and was not revealed until the very end of the ceremony as the flame was delivered to the stadium. 

Flame arrives

The Olympic flame which had earlier been taken to City Hall on the royal barge Gloriana, made its final journey to the stadium on a speedboat. Leaving at around 20:45 GMT the boat was piloted by David Beckham as Team GB footballer Jade Bailey stood at the front holding the torch [BBC - video].

Taking the flame from the boat was rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave who handed the responsibility of lighting the cauldron to seven young athletes, Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds and Adelle Tracey [PA]. 


It was only now that the audience learned the importance of the copper petals, each of which had been placed at the end of a pole, and each becoming a torch in itself. After lighting the array ascended and became one united flame. 

There then followed the briefest of fireworks displays and a performance by Paul McCartney of Hey Jude. There had been some dramatic moments throughout, and most critics praised Danny Boyle's interpretation of British history and culture. 

Positive response

The Telegraph described it as “ironic, complex & beautiful” while the Guardian portrayed it as “madcap, surreal & moving”. Indeed it had all these aspects. There was irony given that Britain’s industrial base was once great but has been somewhat overtaken by foreign competitors. 

There were most definitely surreal, madcap and perhaps even frighten visions depicted with the characters coming from children’s novels took to the stage. The bouncing punks were particularly surreal, and there was a sense of irony given the rage that the Sex Pistols caused back in the mid-seventies. Now they had become an acceptable face of popular music. 


There were elements of mirth and humour as Mr Bean played the keyboards during a rendition of Chariots of Fire, a film which itself celebrated sporting achievement. There were also amusing moments during the grand parade of athletes as they walked around the stadium. As the Czech Republic stepped out they were wearing Wellington boots, perhaps concerned that they might have been knee deep in water given the deluge of rain Britain has been experiencing of late [Examiner].


Commentators could not avoid the odd joke or politics either. When Libya’s term emerged there was mention of the continuing turmoil in the country. There was also the mention of Taiwan’s alternative name Formosa which the BBC commentator informed viewers was the Portuguese for "beautiful".

Taiwan’s participation in the games has already created a rift with China, who see the island as being a part of its territory. Taiwan expressed anger this week after Olympics organisers admitted the island's national flag had been taken down from a London display at the request of the Chinese embassy. The flag was removed from a row hanging over Regent Street, one of London's busiest shopping areas, and replaced on Wednesday with that of Taiwan's Olympic committee [Channel News Asia]. 

Anger & controversy

Angry at the decision one woman posed almost naked but for a small Taiwan flag draped around her waist [Taipei Times]. "I am really angry that our flag was removed so I took this photo," Huang Shih-ting said. Under the rules, Taiwan competes in the Olympics under the name “Chinese Taipei” and is represented by the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag in Olympic venues. 

However many Taiwan citizens are angry that they cannot express their own identity. Lo Shu-lei, a lawmaker of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, said: "China should not suppress Taiwan if it wants to peacefully co-exist with Taiwan. This will only make Taiwanese people angry." [Evening Standard / Taipei Times]

Politics and faux pas are never far away and there were questions raised before the games even began. A mistake saw the South Korean flag displayed instead of that belonging to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK], also known as North Korea. It has led to an inquiry by the International Olympic Committee as well as displays of anger and protests by the North Korean team [Evening Standard / Guardian]. 

Joy & disappointment

Despite the issues of controversy, the Opening ceremony brought joy and excitement for the crowd of some 80,000 who packed the Olympic stadium and the millions around the world who watched online or on domestic television channels. 

Some were left a little disappointed however. Brazilians who gathered in Rio de Janeiro where the next Olympics will be held were left watching blank screens. Many fans were said to be both disappointed and angry, as well as questioning Brazil’s ability to successfully deliver the 2016 Games [Sky News]. 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, July 27, 2012

Tour de France winner kicks off Olympic opening ceremony

Bradley Higgins, the first British rider to win the Tour de France, started off proceedings at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

After a countdown Higgins stepped onto the stage and rung a large bell sending a balloon into the sky. A choir then began to sing a medley including the well known hymn Oh Jerusalem as an audience of 80,000 began to watch a performance that was to last nearly three hours. 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Twitter, GTalk & Mail to Blogger suffer outages

Users of Twitter and some Google services were unable to communicate throughout Thursday after outages and other technical issues affected the popular platforms. A data centre glitch brought down Twitter for approximately 2 hours on Thursday. It was the second widespread outage in 5 weeks for the micro-blogging service and another blow to its reputation and reliability. 

"I wish I could say that today's outage could be explained by the Olympics or even a cascading bug," said vice president of engineering Mazen Rawashdeh in a blog post after service resumed. "Instead, it was due to this infrastructural double-whammy. We are investing aggressively in our systems to avoid this situation in the future."

Google also suffered problems with some of its services Thursday with nearly all its users unable to access its instant messenger service Google Talk.

Google confirmed that Google Talk crashed for “a majority of users“ across the globe, though did not give an exact number of those affected. Some users complained they were unable to access their contacts, while others saw their online contacts but were unable to send messages.

The disruption began at around 11:40 GMT and by noon had become a full scale outage. “We're aware of a problem with Google Talk affecting a majority of users, “ Google said in a statement. “The affected users are able to access Google Talk, but are seeing error messages and/or other unexpected behavior.”

Service was restored by 16:25 GMT but there was widespread anger from users who had to resort to Skype, Google’s rival IM clients such as AIM and Microsoft Messenger or even Twitter.

After service was resumed Google offered apologies to its users. "We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better."

However, users of its popular blogging service were still experiencing problems on Friday, some 24 hours after the ‘mail to blogger’ service stopped working. While the ability to post articles via the Blogger interface still worked, many find it more convenient to post articles by simply emailing to their blog account using a special address.

But early Thursday forums began to fill with complaints that articles were not being posted. “I post to several blogs a day through this feature....i'm SCREWED,” Amy Harvey wrote. It is unclear how many people were affected, though a company representative said the problem would be looked at. “Thanks everyone for reporting the problem; we're investigating now and hope to have a fix very soon,” Brett, a Google employee, said.

With the Olympic Games only hours away social networks and other communications networks will be under great pressure as people tweet, blog and chat to friends around the world. The outages experienced over the last day is an indication not only the reliance people put on such services, but also their lack of reliability.

Other reports: GuardianReuters / Register / PCAdvisoritproportalMobilenapps

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, July 26, 2012

UK: Summer sun brings relief from economic gloom

News this week that Britain had fallen once again into recession was, perhaps, unsurprising. However the gloomy economic assessment which topped headlines on Wednesday and filled Thursday’s front pages seemed to have been brushed aside by Britons who were determined to make the most of the belated summer sunshine.

Olympic build up

Months of almost perpetual rain came to a sudden halt last weekend and on Sunday the clouds parted over London and temperatures soared. The sun brought out thousands to see world renowned Chinese pianist Lang Lang take the Olympic torch through Hornchurch, a small town to the east of London.

Up to three thousand people packed the green in front of the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, to listen to music before Lang Lang took the Olympic torch for a short 300 metre dash through a jubilant crowd [Xinhua / Shanghai Daily  / China Daily / CRI ].

Relaxing in the sunshine, drinking free bottles of Coca Cola handed out in special collectors edition bottles, Lang Lang gave a shout of encouragement to Britain. "Thank you everyone, Olympic London," he shouted.

While a popular and highly reputed pianist, some in the crowd might have questioned why a Chinese citizen was even carrying the torch. Earlier this year Lang Lang had played at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert in front of Buckingham Palace.

China comes to town

Lang Lang came to London as an ambassador for cultural exchange. As well as taking part in the Jubilee concert and the torch relay he will also be playing in the Barbican center, Europe's largest multi-arts and conference venue, on 1st August 1 on the "China night" stage, and on a dragon boat the next day in the Thames.

"The Beijing Olympics greatly boosted the influence of China in the world," Lang Lang said after his short run with the torch. "Now that people in the world are knowing more about China, I am proud to be representing the Chinese for the torch relay."

Lang Lang is only one of dozens of so-called ambassadors who have arrived in London ahead of the Olympic Games. On board a replica of a 15th century Chinese sailing ship dozens of volunteers took part in the launch of the Chinatown Ambassador Programme in the shadow of Tower Bridge.

According to the organisers, the Chinatown Goodwill Ambassador program is designed for Chinatown residents to provide a friendly face to London visitors, provide information and assistance, and "show the world that London and Chinatown are the best to make visitors feel at home.” [Citizenside ]

Olympic predictions

China, has certainly pulled out more stops than other nations to make its mark at the London Games. But such efforts may not necessarily win success at the Olympics themselves. While earlier predicting great Olympic success, one Chinese spokesman has suggested China will not repeat the success of the Beijing 2008 Games which raked in 100 medal, 51 of which were gold.

“I don’t think we’ll have the same amount of medals as in Beijing,” Xiao Tan, a deputy chef de mission for the Chinese, said this week [WSJ]. However, a team of experts from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany predict that China, US and Russia will top the medal table with 102, 100, and 71 medals, respectively [Daily Mail / Economic Times]

Olympic pride

The sunshine and the Olympic games has brought a feel good factor across parts of Britain. While there are no doubt many cynics around the country complaining about the waste of money poured into the games, there is a sense of national pride amongst a large number of people.

The Union Jack, once hijacked by right wing nationalists, has been reclaimed and is worn with pride, emblazoned on T-shirts, bags, and umbrellas which were much needed during the damp Jubilee celebrations. And as the Olympic torch made its way around Britain throngs of people adorned in red, white and blue, turned out waving the Union Jack.

Strike threats

There has also been public anger directed at those who would seek to disrupt the Games. The threat by The Public and Commercial Services Union [PCS] to strike on the eve of the Olympic Games was widely criticised, not only by the government, but also members of the public. There were even calls by some to sack the strikers, seen as holding the country to ransom [Daily Mail].

“Do these people have no pride for the country they live in!” wrote one irate reader, incensed by a series of threats of industrial action timed to coincide with the Games.

Strikes averted

The PCS strike was called off at the eleventh hour [BBC / Daily Mail], a bus strike was averted after a bonus was accepted [BBC], as was another by London Underground and rail workers.

But the cost to taxpayers and commuters could be enormous. The London mayor is said to have offered hand outs to transport workers totalling £35 million to stop them striking during Olympics.

London Underground drivers will get around £1,000 for working throughout the Olympics while London Underground station staff will get a bonus of around £850. Meanwhile at Network Rail, around 800 maintenance and control staff have negotiated a pay rise of £3.50 an hour for the whole of the summer [Daily Mail].

Meanwhile Essex fire fighters who had threatened to walk out over a dispute concerning working conditions, reversed their decision. The Fire Brigades Union [FBU] had planned action on 11th and 12th August, which coincided with the mountain biking event at Hadleigh Farm in Essex. However in a turn around the FBU called off the action amid concerns it could cause "some confusion to 999 services" [BBC].

Steaming temperatures

Even without the threat of industrial action the hot weather has brought its own problems and disrupted the transport system [Sun / Daily Mail]. And while some buses are comfortably air-conditioned, most commuters travelling on London’s transport system will feel more than a little steamed with temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celsius.

Those on holiday, or of course out of work, were taking advantage of the sun and avoiding the hustle and bustle of London’s streets. Hyde Park was packed with people throughout the week, some even taking a dip in the Serpentine lake. Others cooled off by the fountains in Trafalgar Square as the Olympic clock ticked down to the Games.

Outside of London people swarmed to the coast. Cool sea temperatures did not put everyone off from taking the plunge and seaside resorts saw record numbers of visitors.

Brief relief for businesses

The sudden spell of hot weather was good news for business. Ice Cream vendors were suddenly very popular, and supermarkets finally saw their stocks of barbeque supplies flying off the shelves. The brief heatwave is unlikely to bring any long lasting recovery to the economy however. Months of rain, and even the extra bank holiday set aside for the Jubilee, have been blamed for poor economic performance [Sky News].

The dreadful summer and torrential downpours throughout April and June dampened demand for clothing, food and leisure activities and the last week's respite is unlikely to turn things around.

Sadly the warm weather will fade away by the end of the week. Cooler weather with yet more rain is forecast for the weekend and next week, bringing yet more gloom for Britain, though we do have the Olympics to enjoy!

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, July 23, 2012

Devastating floods hit Beijing

In Britain the rain clouds have finally disappeared and the sun has come out, with less than a week until the Olympic opening ceremony. Half way round the world Beijing  is suffering the effects of the worst rain storms in 60 years. At least 37 have died and thousands have been displaced while thousands of others have been stranded at Beijing International Airport [BBC / BBC round-up / BBC - pictures / FT / China DailyChina Daily / Global Times / Xinhua].

The high death toll and widespread damage has sparked anger amongst Beijingers. Many have questioned how such a modern city could be hit so badly by floods [WSJ]. Despite the heavy rain, Beijing along with many other parts of China are also suffering from a stifling heatwave with day time temperatures of up to 34°C. Beijing also saw heavy flooding in June 2011, though there were no reported casualties in the city itself [tvnewswatch: Heavy rain brings flash floods to Beijing]. 

Flooding is usually confined to the south and east of the country, with often devastating floods annually affecting Guangdong province. The floods seen this week in Beijing might be a wake up call for authorities who may need to look at improving the city's drainage system. There was one positive aspect of the storms perhaps highlighted by a series of photos Xinhua posted on its website. The heavily polluted air [Twitter: BeijingAir] that only days ago had reduced visibility to only a few metres [yfrog] had been washed away and the air quality was once again breathable [Twitter: BeijingAir].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gunman brings reality attack to cinema goers in Denver

They came for the excitement of the cinematic experience, to immerse themselves in nearly three hours of escapism. But instead the audience who sat down to watch the premier of the new Batman film found themselves living the violence depicted in the movie for real.

While many might dismiss the connections between violence in the cinema and that seen in society, it is hard to ignore the irony behind the events that shattered the peace of Aurora, a district in the Denver metropolis in the United States.

Excitement turns to horror

As the audience waited for the movie to begin there was great anticipation. Some tweeted their excitement from the cinema, boasting to friends. "Movie doesn't start for 20 minutes!" one 22-year-old Jessica Ghawi tweeted at around 23:40 local time. Less than an hour later, she, along with 11 others were lying dead in the Century cinema complex.

Jessica Ghawi, who also goes by the name of Jessica Redfield, had moved to Denver a year earlier to pursue her dream of becoming a sportscaster. Her dreams were however killed off by a mad gunman, who stormed into the showing of The Dark Knight Rises shortly after midnight. A friend announced her death via Twitter and posted a picture saying she would be sadly missed.

Brush with death

The 22-year-old had narrowly missed death or injury only weeks earlier. On the 2nd June an "odd feeling" persuaded her to leave Eaton Mall in Toronto where she had been eating sushi. Moments later a gunman opened fire exactly where she had been sitting. One man was left dead and seven others injured.

"I can't get this odd feeling out of my chest," Jessica wrote later on her blog. "This empty, almost sickening feeling won't go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm's way. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting."

It was a feeling perhaps reflected in the film series Final Destination. But the tragedy that befell Jessica was all too real. The gut feeling that might have forced her to leave the cinema did not return.

Blur between fantasy & reality

The blur between reality and fantasy is perhaps the tipping point for individuals like suspect James Holmes who burst into the cinema and brought the fantasy of Hollywood into an all too real attack on the helpless audience.

Minutes into the move the gunman entered through an emergency exit. Dressed in black, with body armour and a gas mask he began his assault by throwing gas or smoke canisters into the auditorium. The man then proceeded to shoot into the audience using a Remington 12 gauge shotgun, an AR15 assault rifle and two .40 calibre Glock handguns.

At first the audience did not react, perhaps seeing the incident as a publicity stunt. But reality set in and the panic ensued. The suspect marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theatre, picking off those who tried to flee, witnesses said. He hit 71 people, including one who was struck in an adjacent auditorium after a bullet went through the wall. As the gunman exited the theatre, he left behind 12 dead and more than 50 injured. Many victims died in their seats, their bodies not removed until 12 hours after the shooting occurred. Others fled the cinema and were conveyed to hospital in all available vehicles [Telegraph].

12 dead, dozens injured

As he approached his Hyundai vehicle parked nearby, the gunman was challenged by police and he surrendered. He is said to have told police he was "The Joker", Batman's arch enemy in the fictitious storyline [Telegraph].

But this was no joke, and far from fiction. The horror inflicted upon Aurora was unimaginable. Victims ranged from babies to teenagers and those in their mid-twenties. The youngest person shot was only 3 months old while the oldest was 45 years old.  "A baby was shot at point blank range, the family were gathered around screaming," one eyewitness to a local television station. Dozens of people remained in hospital suffering from gunshot wounds.


The film's director Christopher Nolan gave his reaction to the theatre shooting shortly afterwards saying he was devastated by the events that unfolded. "I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie."

"I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

Warner Brothers also conveyed their condolences and announced that they were cancelling the premier showing of the movie in Paris. President Barack Obama also joined the voices of condemnation of the attack and urged the US to come together "as one American family" [Telegraph / YouTube].

Recriminations likely

The body count in The Dark Knight Rises is significant, and prior to Friday's events in Colorado the film had already raised concerns for the ultra-violent scenes of torture and death that some considered too intense for younger kids [commonsensemedia].

As Aurora comes to terms with the death and mayhem left behind in the wake of James Holmes shooting spree, there will be questions and recriminations. Some will ask how a former medical student became a mass murderer, and whether violence depicted in such Hollywood blockbusters played a part. The shootings will also reopen the debate concerning America's gun laws.

While the ultimate blame falls upon the perpetrator themselves, one should perhaps not shy away from influencing factors and whether deadly weapons should be more tightly controlled.

Reflection on lives lost

In her moving and evocative blog post Jessica Ghawi talked about how her previous brush with death had changed her whole perspective and outlook on life.

"I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing," she wrote. "So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift."

"After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."

Her friend Peter Burns said, "Lost a very close friend in the shooting last night. [Jessica] came to Denver to pursue career. I'm shaking." Another friend, Natalie Tejeda, wrote, "My friend Jessie Ghawi was killed in the Aurora Shooting - she was an aspiring sportscaster - she will be missed."

Other reports: 2012 Aurora shooting / BBC / Sky News / Daily Mail / Telegraph / NYT OpEd

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Google faces criticism after Nexus 7 debacle

One would have thought the search giant Google would have learnt some valuable lessons from its last venture into direct sales when it launched the Nexus One mobile phone. The company came in for much flack over poor customer support and slow deliveries in early 2010 for its flagship mobile phone. The issues were less about the Nexus One itself and more about Google's online-only approach to support.

US customers could only buy and get support for the Nexus One online, mostly through help forums, which Google supposedly monitored. However many complained they were not receiving an adequate service from the company. As a result of the shambles seen in the US, Google launched the Nexus One via retailers in other countries. But now Google has made another balls-up with its launch of its much lauded Nexus 7 tablet.

Stockists report delays

While Google has allowed retailers to stock the device, there are as yet few signs of the Nexus 7 in shops. Retailers report conflicting dates on when the tablet will be available and a visit to several stores on Wednesday saw no sign of the tablet.

On Wednesday, the Dixons Retail group, which runs Currys and PC World stores, said the Android slate had gone on sale. But, later in the day Dixons representatives said they had got the date wrong, and the Nexus 7 would only be coming out on Thursday!

With the cheaper 8Gb version only available online via the Google Play store, many consumers have opted to get the device delivered. But many of these customers are sorely disappointed despite paying out an extra £10 for delivery on top of the £159 for the Nexus 7 itself.

There are reports that Google has failed their customers in the UK by passing on incomplete addresses to courier TNT, and as a result the deliveries cannot be made. In one case a Nexus 7 was addressed to "Basement flat, basement flat, London". It is of no surprise that TNT were unable to deliver the package.

Passing the buck

Since it was not the fault of TNT, the courier company has referred customers to Google and told those not receiving their package to call the Google Play contact number [0800 328 6081], which diverts to a US call centre.

But that has not proved useful and with customers said to be experiencing long delays in getting through to a representative from the company. Users who have managed to get through have received less than helpful advice according to some reports [The Inquirer / ZDNet / Register].

Future sales in jeopardy

While the Nexus 7 has received broadly positive reviews, the issues surrounding its delivery may dampen the enthusiasm and could hit future sales. With Tesco suggesting they may sell the 16Gb version for only £189, instead of the online price of £199, a price war is all too possible. But the bad press, should the delivery situation not be rectified and resolved, could further ruin the reputation of a company which prides itself with delivering the best search results and organising data. It is unfortunate that the company seems unable to have the same success in the physical world of delivering goods and customer satisfaction.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mobile phone ownership growing exponentially

The number of mobile phones being used will soon outnumber the population of planet Earth, a report by the  World Bank says. The statistics released today indicate a sharp rise in the use of mobile phones in the last decade, and in recent years that of smartphones.

The figures are a strong indicator by which to measure human and economic development, and the data published today is seen by the World Bank as somewhat positive.

75% of planet have mobile phone

According to the July 17th report, around three-quarters of the world's inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone. The way that a phone is used is also striking, the report, compiled by the World Bank and infoDev, says. The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries. Ownership of multiple subscriptions is also becoming increasingly common, suggesting that their number will soon exceed that of the human population.

Of particular interest was the increased use of smartphone applications, or apps. According to Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, more than 30 billion mobile applications were downloaded in 2011. As well as the obvious games, such as the popular Angry Birds, such software extends the capabilities of phones, for instance to become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools. In developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.

Major opportunities

"Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development - from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes," said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte. "The challenge now is to enable people, businesses, and governments in developing countries to develop their own locally-relevant mobile applications so they can take full advantage of these opportunities."

Use of apps and mobile phone technology was found to put to great use across the Indian subcontinent and Africa. In India, the state of Kerala's Government program has deployed over 20 applications and facilitated more than 3 million interactions between the government and citizens since its launch in December 2010.

Huge shift in Africa

In Africa where mobile uptake has increased dramatically in the last few years, there is also a huge shift of the way people use their phones. At the close of 2011, Kenya was the leading region in terms of mobile usage with a 67.2% mobile penetration rate. This was followed by Tanzania with 56% mobile penetration and finally Uganda with 38.4%. These rates translated to 26 million mobile subscribers in Kenya, compared to Tanzania's 23 million subscribers and Uganda's 12 million mobile users. As expected, with increased mobility of the population the region continued to register very few subscribers still using fixed lines. Available data shows there were 374,942 fixed lines in Kenya, 327,114 in Uganda and 174,678 fixed line subscribers in Tanzania in 2011. This also translates into low broadband and other Internet penetration, though there has been a slight uplift in recent years and growth in this sector is expected. In terms of Internet usage and penetration Kenya led in the region with 14.3 million users (36.3% penetration) compared to a meagre 4.9 million users (2.5% penetration) in Tanzania and 4 million users (12%) in Uganda.

Kenya a leading player

But Kenya has emerged as a leading player in mobile for development, largely due to the success of the M-PESA mobile payment ecosystem. Since 2007, Kenya has been leading the way with an innovative mobile phone technology that has transformed the lives of millions of people and businesses. The M-Pesa system allows those without a bank account to transfer funds as quickly and easily as sending a text message. A joint venture between mobile phone giant Vodafone and Kenya's Safaricom the microfinancing system has grown to a staggering 17 million subscribers in little under 5 years. Now over 50% of the adult population in Kenya use the service to send money to far-flung relatives, to pay for shopping, utility bills, or even a night on the tiles and taxi ride home [BBC].

Other organisations in Kenya are also making use of modern smartphones. Nairobi-based AkiraChix, for example, provides networking and training for women technologists. "Technology is one of the key factors driving Africa's projected economic rise," a statement from AkiraChix says. "As such, there is enormous potential for maximizing the growth of technology through increasing the number and quality of women in technology."

Apps boosting business

And Kenya is not the only African country taking advantage of mobile technology. Across parts of the massive continent, a new app is gaining popularity amongst smartphone users and businesses alike.

Dubbed as Foursquare for Africa the NikoHapa service has drawn in an estimated 4,000 users and 70 businesses within a span of just eight months. The geo-location social network began in Kenya but has crossed the border into Uganda and has set its sights on Nigeria and other African countries.

While there are similarities to Foursquare, unlike the smartphone-based location service NikoHapa works ultimately as a loyalty programme, a subscription service that gives the app's creators a solid means of making money. The other difference is that users need to send a text or scan a QR code found on a sticker on their receipt.

There are advantages for both the customer and business. The customer has an incentive to get freebies, while the business can benefit from increased advertising and a loyal clientele.

At one pizzeria users get a free 9-inch pizza after seven check-ins, but while the customer is happy so too is the restaurant. "Every time you win a pizza it will show up in your timeline. It's free advertising. All of those things are so much better than a smartcard," Mambo Pizza's Nish Shah explains.

NikoHapa has also described the the business model positively. "Rolling out was a fantastic experience. The feedback we received has strongly enriched the product and will reflect in our just out card product," said Bernard Adongo, NikoHapa CEO and founder [BBC / HumanIPO].

Cheaper technology

With the price of equipment coming down in price, the advantages for developing economies is clear. But even developed economies can take advantage of the increase saturation of mobile devices. "The mobile revolution is right at the start of its growth curve," says Tim Kelly, Lead ICT Policy Specialist at the World Bank and one of the authors of the report. "Mobile devices are becoming cheaper and more powerful while networks are doubling in bandwidth roughly every 18 months and expanding into rural areas."

While fixed line connections are more reliable and faster at present, mobile telecommunications is the future.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

AmEx/Foursquare tie-up is good deal for customers

Consumers are constantly looking for deals and bargains, especially in these times of recession or low economic growth. And both companies and consumers are looking at technology and mobile phone apps to make a profit. And the AmEx/Foursquare tie-up is certainly a good deal for customers, though perhaps not the best deal for the outlets.

AmEx/Foursquare tie-up

Earlier this year credit card firm American Express linked up with the geo-location social network Foursquare, offering significant savings for users who check-in to a selection of outlets. Users of Foursquare link their account to their American Express card and after checking in at one of the participating shops or restaurants on Foursquare they click a button which loads the deal to their card [tvnewswatch: Cash back for Foursquare users with AmEx deal].

The offer is certainly better than many seen before on Foursquare. Frequent visitors to a venue who checked in on the social network might become the 'Mayor' of that location and obtain benefits such as 20% off a meal or a fee coffee. Confusion can often result since staff may be unaware of the deal on offer.

The AmEx/Foursquare deal is easier in that no interaction or explanation has to be made with the store. But the deal might be too good, and it is unclear how either AmEx, Foursquare, nor the participating outlets will make money.


The deal currently on offer is that those that check-in to House of Fraser, Primark, Cafe Rouge, Bella Pasta, Nando's, PizzaExpress and Strada can get £10 back after spending £10. At Eat and Tesco there is a £5 cash back on a £5 spend. Since there is no requirement to spend a specific amount over the initial £10 many consumers are likely to exploit the deal to the full.

On a recent visit to an out of town shopping centre tvnewswatch checked out how well the AmEx/Foursquare deal worked. After arriving at the Lakeside Shopping Centre to the east of London, tvnewswatch checked in to Primark and loaded the deal to the card. A total of £23 was spent meaning that AmEx would re-credit £10. House of Fraser offered a great advantage since they were having a sale with many items sold with reductions of 70%. Unlike other offers the AmEx/Fousquare deal applies to all purchases. The original price of the items bought would have been over £30, but in the sale came to only £13, thus only £3 having checked-in to the store via Foursquare. Even lunch was cheap with a Four Seasons pizza and Coke at PizzaExpress coming to only £3.40 after the cashback offer. While the Tesco deal is a little less profitable, the purchase of a few supplies resulted in only a £1.18 bill instead of £6.18 !! After an afternoon's shopping £35 had been saved, not including sale offers and other reductions, and only £20 pounds was spent.


After paying for the transaction a notification is received on the mobile device, however the credit takes up to a week to appear on one's online statement. Of course all this is excellent for the consumer, but even with a limited number of people taking advantage of such deals, it is hard to see how profitable this will be for AmEx or the participating businesses. Such drawbacks are perhaps anticipated since the offer on the aforementioned outlets ends in mid August.

Neither AmEx nor Foursquare have made public any further details since its tie-up, and whether customers are over exploiting the offer. Indeed, the lack of publicity since its launch is probably better for all concerned, except of course the savvy shopper. One word of warning however, each account holder may only check in and save on a special at each outlet only once. For example, having made a saving at any one PizzaExpress, a user may not unlock a special at any other PizzaExpress. So given that there are in all 7 outlets offering a £10 saving and a further two giving away £5, only a total of £80 can be saved.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, July 13, 2012

“Draconian” Olympic flight restrictions imposed

New flight restrictions have been imposed in the run up to London Olympics which some pilots say are too draconian.

As well as a virtual no-fly-zone covering an area stretching from east London to beyond Heathrow [map], another much larger zone [map], covering an area of some 17,000 square km, has been established within which private pilots with have to adhere to stringent rules.

The main prohibited zone will be about 50 km wide but does not affect commercial aircraft, which fly in established air traffic corridors. As part of Friday's build-up to the wider airspace restrictions, Sea King helicopters are being deployed to RAF Northolt.

All pilots of non commercial planes will be required to log their flight plans before taking off and stay out of the main city zone, unless granted special permission. Failure to adhere to the regulations which came into force at 00:01 BST on Saturday [23:01 GMT on Friday] could be very severe.

Group Captain Rich Jacob told Sky News, "We need to understand what is flying in the airspace above London. Therefore the pilots are going to be required to pass details of their flights in advance, have that flight approved, and then once they're airborne they need to remain in contact with air traffic control throughout their flight in the restricted airspace."

Britain's armed forces will be monitoring the air traffic over London and the home counties and if necessary scramble RAF Typhoon jets or military helicopters to intercept deviating aircraft. Unidentified aircraft which do not respond could be shot down as a last resort.

It is a worrying thought for novice pilots, unused to the strict controls being put in place. Rob Lugt, who flies at the Fair Oaks airfield in Surrey, described the rules as "daunting". Speaking to Sky News he said,"The difficulties will come if there is some kind of electrical failure on the aeroplane. Many social pilots like myself aren't that experienced so, if we had some sort of failure, it would take a lot of our attention to try to rectify that."

"And, while we're rectifying it, it's possible we could do something the military thought was dangerous. That's when the problem would happen."

Such concerns could ground many pilots, fearful that a simple mistake could lose them their licence... or worse. With the prospect of pilots staying at home, quite a number of private aerodromes are understandably worried about the financial impact the restrictions will have on their business.

Private pilots too could lose money, if no-one is prepared to hire their services. Losses could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Andy Raymond, chairman of the London Transport Flying Club, said many pilots will not risk flying during the restrictions, which run until 15th August.

"I do understand it partly because we are so close to London. We could be in Heathrow in minutes and central London in a few more minutes, so I do understand some of the restrictions, but nevertheless it doesn't do us much good," he told Sky News.

Most pilots have to fly every 28 days to keep their licences up to date but anyone who breaches the Olympic regulations could have their licence suspended [BBCSky News]. There will be some commercial companies ferrying passengers to and from the Games, but they too face restrictions and cannot land close to the Olympic Park [BBC].

It is not only private planes that face being blasted from the skies should they disobey orders. Even model aeroplanes weighing more than 7 kg have been banned from London's airspace [map - Olympic Airspace Safety  / Charts] [Pictured: A commercial jet is escorted by three RAF Tornados over London in 2001]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Cracks, hacks & glitches raise Olympic concerns

A series of technology failures this week has left hundreds of thousands without cellular service on their mobile phones, millions unable to watch TV programmes online and some worried about their email security.

The reasons behind the catalogue of technical problems varied, but the incidents highlighted people's reliance on technology and how simple glitches or a few devious hackers can create inconvenience for millions. The problems have also raised concerns over the Olympics, which is just a fortnight away.

Mobile network crash

On Wednesday afternoon hundreds of thousands of O2 customers found they were unable to make calls, send texts or access the Internet from their mobile founds.

Problems started at around 13:00 but continued for more than 24 hours, with O2 being unable to offer any clear explanation as to the reason for the system failures nor how many of its 23 million users were affected [BBC].

BBC iPlayer down

While many thousands took to Twitter to air their grievances, others might have decided to relieve the stress of being out of touch by settling down in front of the laptop of Internet connected TV and catch up on the past week's programmes.

However another ghost in the machine had rendered the BBC's iPlayer service inaccessible [BBC]. The broadcaster admitted the site was hit by a "major technical issue" but declined to provide further details [Telegraph].

Fallout from cellular outage

The outage was not too serious and the service was resumed within an hour or two for most users. But the cellular disruption continued for a second day though the company said they were working on a solution as quickly as possible [BBC].

By late Thursday O2 said their network was back in operation [BBCChannel 4 News] but the fallout from the crash was significant. Not only were many customers, reliant on their service for business, unable to make calls, it also left some people physically stranded. Anyone attempting to hire a Boris bike to cycle across London found themselves locked out because of the glitch since the system uses O2 servers [Guardian].

Some Tesco Mobile customers, who also use the O2 system, also lost services. O2, which is owned by Spain's Telefonica, said that "the problem was due to a fault with one of our network systems, which meant some mobile phone numbers were not registering correctly on our network." [D Mail]

Customer anger

But the excuses and apologies were not good enough for many of its 23 million customers. Some complained on Twitter and expressed their frustrations at being disconnected. One mother-to-be Leanna May wrote, "I can't bear this any longer! THREE @o2 contracts, NONE WORK. And I'm at home pregnant in agony! Great, who should I call? No one!"

The network failure also affected the monitoring of offenders wearing security tags. The Ministry of Justice said that around 250 offenders monitored by security firm G4S were affected, though both the ministry and G4S insisted that disruption was "minimal" and that public safety was not compromised.

Olympic concerns

The system crash came only hours after Derek McManus, from O2, told BBC News that the company was confident of providing a robust and efficient service during the Olympic Games. "As an industry, we have been planning for over two years, and O2 alone has invested £50 million in London 2012 - increasing capacity on the current network and building new temporary sites across the country," McManus said.

This week's failure is particularly disquieting. BT, formerly British Telecom, no longer has a mobile network and has teamed up with other network providers to provide cellular connectivity inside the Olympic Park. BT has partnered with Telefonica, operating in the UK under the name O2, and other mobile network providers, to create the Joint Operators Olympic Group (Joog).

JOOG, consisting Vodafone, O2, EE, 3, MBNL, BT, Ericsson and Airwave, have joined forces to provide cellular connectivity across the 2.5 km square site. However, BT with Cisco and O2, are primarily responsible for providing the extensive WiFi network [Techworld]. Any failure, such as that seen over the past few days will be both embarrassing and costly for the companies involved and for Britain as a brand.

Other cracks

There were other technical issues concerning Internet users this week after hackers posted passwords belonging to Yahoo users online. The security breach is not only embarrassing for the company, but a major concern for holders of other accounts according to Reuters. The breach is said to have exposed more than 450,000 passwords, however Yahoo claim many were out of date and that only a small minority of individuals might be compromised [BBC]. Such assurances are unlikely to allay fears amongst users. After the recent debarque concerning the glitch which affected millions of customers of Natwest, RBS and Ulster bank, there will be many wondering how safe technology really is.

Physical cracks

The cracks appearing in Britain's infrastructure have even been found in its roads. A bridge on the M4 had to be closed for a week after engineers spotted weaknesses in the construction [BBC]. While that has reopened, there are still big concerns about how the country will cope when the Olympics begin in two week's time.

With delays expected at Heathrow airport, a failing road network, a rocky mobile system and concerns over security have thrown a blanket of doubt and concern over the 2012 Games.

Of course, one could dismiss all these glitches and concerns as media hype and paranoia. Britain is a country that likes to winge, whine and poke holes. If one was particularly pessimistic, today being Friday 13th could bring more woe.

Whatever the outcome of the coming week's events, there will be much written about it, both good and bad.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Saturday, July 07, 2012

7/7 attacks almost forgotten 7 years on

Saturday marked exactly 7 years since four Islamist suicide bombers targeted London killing 52 civilians and injuring at least 700 others. But the anniversary was not marked with the fanfare seen every year in the US following 9/11. There were no special reports on television, no high profile memorial for the victims, just a few scant references in a few papers and one documentary which was shown several days before on BBC 2 [Guardian].

Despite several terror suspects being arrested in recent days in London [BBC] and the West Midlands [BBC / D Mail / Telegraph] as well as a terror alert triggered by an electronic cigarette which closed off a section of the M6 for several hours, few if any media reports mentioned the anniversary of the 7/7 attacks.

ITV News had a report on its website. Sky News also had a small report focusing on former London mayor Ken Livingstone who told the news channel the attacks failed to divide the city. But such reports were lost in the almost saturation coverage of the floods that have been creating chaos and misery across Britain.

The London Evening Standard was one of the few papers which looked back at the attacks, talking to witnesses and passengers of the No. 30 bus which exploded in Tavistock Square.

The downplaying of reports could be much to do with not wishing to frighten off visitors to the London Olympics, now only days away. While police have stressed that recent terror arrests were not connected to any imminent threat to the Games, there is still some concern in the back of many people's minds that terrorists could target the event.

One Australian based website, describing itself as an independent source of analysis, commentary and news, speculated on the possibility of such an attack. Written by what it cites as "acknowledged experts", The Conversation suggested that any Olympic terror attack would look more like 7/7 than 9/11.

The article focuses on London's security preparations leading up to the Games. And it is no small deployment. There are Rapier surface-to-air missiles in Blackheath common, the Royal Navy's largest battleship moored in the Thames, complete with eight Lynx helicopters, at least 23,500 security personnel including 13,500 British troops [4,000 more than Britain sent to fight in Afghanistan], 500 FBI agents and a city-wide image recognition surveillance system.

But no amount of advanced anti-aircraft systems would have prevented the 7/7 bombers from attacking London's transport network, the article points out. Indeed even after the 7/7 attacks, an increased security presence and an ever more vigilant public failed to prevent four would be suicide bombers attempting another attack exactly two weeks later.

However, three weeks before the opening of the games, is not the time for counting the cost of either the London Olympics or its security. Nor should one brush the potential threat under the carpet. To forget the outrage of 7/7 and not mark the occasion is not only disrespectful but also risks one not learning the lessons of the past.

Some of Sunday's early morning editions highlighted the potential threat is all too real with several reports concerning at least one of the recently arrested terror suspects who is said to have paid a great deal of interest in the Olympic sites [Telegraph].

While the Olympic Games are a prime target, a terror attack could strike anywhere in London. And as an article in the Evening Standard on Friday says, vigilance remains the watchword.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Friday, July 06, 2012

M6 security response "proportionate" police say

Passengers travelling on a coach were no doubt fuming after one amongst them mistook an electronic cigarette as a terror threat. The e-cigarette, which police later described as "a health aid for smokers", was being used by a passenger on a London bound coach belonging to Megabus. There are various versions of the device but essentially they contain a battery with either a cartridge or small tank that has liquid in it.

But the presence of vapours prompted one passenger to fear the worst and call the police. The police told the passenger to hand the phone to the driver who was then ordered to pull over on the hard shoulder of the M6.

Security response

A huge security operation was then thrown into action. Dozens of police units, ambulances, fire appliances and bomb disposal officers descended on the scene and the motorway was closed off in both directions.

Passengers were taken off the coach, searched and made to sit in a cordoned off area, guarded by armed police officers. "We were told to sit in rows and not talk to each other," one passenger Jenny Lister said.

Media response

BBC and Sky News both swung into action providing saturation coverage of the events on the ground. M6 also became a top trending topic on Twitter with speculation by some that the smoke seen was likely someone making a pot noodle or cup of tea.

It was several hours later before the all clear was given and the road was reopened. And while there was some criticism, especially on Internet forums and Twitter discussions that the police had overreacted, the police insisted that they had "responded swiftly and proportionately" to a credible and "genuine report" [BBC / Sky / Daily Mail / Sun front page].

Terror threat

While the whole exercise proved to have been unnecessary, should the threat have been real any lesser response would have also been criticised. Indeed the incident acted as an important test run for emergency services.

The threat of a real attack was reinforced earlier in the day after the Metropolitan Police raided several addresses in the London area and arrested 6 people suspected with terror offences [Guardian].

London terror arrests

Five men and a woman were arrested in London as part of what police described as an intelligence-led investigation involving MI5. One of the six, who are aged between 18 and 30, was Tasered by police. Eight homes in west, east and north London and one business were searched. The arrests related to a possible plot involving Islamist extremists, with potential UK targets, although police did not suggest that the Olympic Games, less than a month away, was the target.

Three of those held are brothers, aged 18, 24 and 26, and were detained in Abbey Road, in Stratford, east London, during an operation involving armed officers. One is said to have been an ex-police community support officer based in Ealing. He served with the Metropolitan Police for more than two years before resigning in September 2009. However police say the man had not been "deployed in any specialist or sensitive roles".

The brothers were named as Jahangir, Mohammed and Moybur Alom. Also arrested was Richard Dart, a Muslim convert who uses the name Salahuddin al Britani. He features in a YouTube video which criticises the Royal Family and British military action in Muslim countries [BBC / Sky]. 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Google to kill off iGoogle & other services

Only days after the Google I/O conference the search giant has gone into a major spring clean and dusting the shelves with products it deems are redundant. Set for the chop are iGoogle, Google Video, Chatback, Google Mini, and the Symbian Search App.

Google Video is unlikely to be missed. Uploads to the site were stopped some time ago and users were given the facility to migrate material to YouTube.

Google Talk Chatback, a text chat widget for Web publishers, is also being consigned to the bin. Google is now pushing publishers who want that function to the Meebo bar, from the instant message company Google acquired a month ago.

Google Mini and the Symbian Search App will be the least missed of all. Google Mini, a hardware search appliance for enterprises that launched in 2005, is also being retired though details as to whether it will be replaced by another product are sketchy.

With Android phones now overtaking all other smartphone platforms it was only a matter of time before Google dropped support to the older operating systems like Symbian. So while there will be some that will be miffed at the demise of another Google app disappearing from their Symbian device, the retirement of the Symbian Search App is likely to go by unnoticed by most people. The simple workaround is simply to to make Google the home page.

The closure of iGoogle may be missed by a great deal more people however. iGoogle surfaced in 2005 and was quickly adopted by many with a Google account as a simple and useful RSS feed aggregator.

With gadgets and feeds, the iGoogle homepage can be customised to show information relevant to each user. But now Google believes that "with modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time".

It is true that through the Chrome Web Store there are weather apps which can display conditions in different parts of the world, calendar apps which link to Google Calendar and so on. But iGoogle provides a simple interface where all this information is displayed on one screen.

As a home page it can give a quick summary of news feeds, the weather, time, date, and other data without the need to navigate to several places.

By a simple scroll on an iGoogle page one can browse the main headlines from several news organisations, weather in a number of added locations, see new email messages and even tweet via TwitterGadget.

To see the weather in one's pre-saved locations one would have to do a separate Google search. Similarly with favourite news feeds, one would have to navigate to each site separately to see the latest updates.

There are aggregators and RSS feed readers which could replace some of the above, but few if any could show the diversity of information or display it as cleanly as iGoogle [CNET / ZDNet / AFP / LATimesChannel News Asia].

The decision to retire iGoogle seems to be another example where the search giant is more interested in homing down its products to ones that make money, rather than facilitate usefulness to the user.

Last year Google Health was consigned to the bin, according to the company because of poor take-up [tvnewswatch: Google no longer cares about your health]. Power meter, a method through which Google account holders could monitor electricity consumption remotely, was also killed off. Neither were big money makers for Google, yet were useful to a great many people who had invested time and money in these projects [tvnewswatch: Google Wave to join list of retired products].

Property search within Google maps, another infrequently used, but extremely useful function was also ditched despite protests [tvnewswatch: Google closes yet more products].

As often discussed this, and previous, decisions to kill off services raises concerns for those relying on their services and those with data stored in the cloud. While Google have facilitated methods to download data from redundant services, it can be a fraught task and there are often compatibility issues in terms of adding the information to another provider.

While Google Docs/Drive, GMail, Google Calendar, Google Music, YouTube, Picasa Web and Google+ seem safe for now, there is no absolute guarantee these services will be safe in a decade's time.

tvnewswatch, London, UK