I’ve talked quite a bit over the years about geek related topics, but have never considered myself a proper geek. However in June this year, on my way to the SLA annual conference in San Diego, I chanced across a copy of Geek Magazine in an airport newsagent. Maybe it was the catchy headline ‘Star Wars – yes it’s cool again’, or perhaps the iconic cover image of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which took me back to my teenage years. However, once beyond the cover I was soon hooked on the combination of interview and reviews of a wide range of topics ranging from technology, music, video-games, movies and of course comics (not forgetting comic book heroes). The writing combined nerdy enthusiasm for the wide range of topics covered, along with a surprisingly intelligent style and dry sense of humour. Even more impressive was their knowledge of and appreciation of the British contribution to Geekness. In the current issue, six whole pages are devoted to the record breaking, classic science fiction television series Dr Who. As you can probably tell by now, I was so impressed I decided to subscribe, and after filling in the appropriate form back in July I awaited eagerly awaited its arrival. After three months I was beginning to think the subscriptions department might have mislaid my request. But then one morning, just when I had given up hope, a rectangular package popped through my door. I recognise there is something of an irony, in this day of electronic publishing that I had to wait over three months for the issue to arrive. But since having read it from cover to cover I’ve decided it was definitely worth the wait.
The idea of waking up to a freshly made cup of tea in bed is of course not a new desire. And for Victorians who could not afford servants to get up early and light a fire, there was the (expensive) option of the clockwork teasmade and alarm clock.
Some of you might remember this invention had pride of place in our Weird and Wonderful exhibition way back in 2008. Maurice Collins, the collector of these amazing inventions is still going strong and has been featured on several television and radio shows.
In the clip below he demonstrates the somewhat dangerous aspects of the teasmade involving clockwork driven matches and paraffin.
I am sure he would want me to point out that all proceeds from his collection are directly donated to the learning disability charity Kith and Kids.
Tuesday 5 February 2013, 10.00 – 14.00
Learn how to improve your website so that search engines, like Google, list or rank it better and higher.
Tuesday 5 February 2013, 14.00 – 16.00
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Wednesday 13 February 2013, 10.00-12.30
Learn how to improve your products and services by using social networks including: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Wednesday 13 February 2013, 14.00-18.00
This workshop will introduce you to new ways to think about how your online marketing and will give you the opportunity to apply these marketing strategies directly for your business.
Monday 18 February 2013, 18.00 – 20.00
Get the latest trends to get a head start on the social media revolution.
Tuesday 19 February 2013, 18.00 – 20.00
Save precious time and money by learning about the different web applications out there which can help you run your business, many of which are free.
Thursday 20 February 2013, 14.00-16.00
Find out how copyright protection is different from other forms of intellectual property and why it is essential for your business to protect the works created online.
Thursday 21 February 2013, 13.00 – 17.30
Join this practical workshop to learn all the key issues that need to be covered when you plan, prototype and then protect your online or digital devices.
Tuesday 26 February 2013, 18.00 – 20.00
Explore the latest Crowdfunding trends to raise capital and discover an approach to Crowdfunding that works best for you.
Wednesday 27 February 2013, 18.00 – 20.00
Find out about the online mobility of the cloud-based accounts and payroll software.
Thursday 28 February 2013, 14.00 – 16.00
Get an introduction to the next frontier of marketing – apps and mobile websites.
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I guess in this ‘time poor’ era we could all do with an extra couple of hours a day, but in the meantime for me, a new watch will have to do.
For some years I have aspired to own a Mondaine watch. Based on the iconic official Swiss Railways clock-face, they are simple and elegant. The design with its distinctive red second-hand have indicated the famously punctual Swiss trains at their stations for more than 60 years.
So I was more than a little surprised, and extremely happy to be given one as a Christmas present from my partner. Especially as I hadn’t mentioned my interest in owning one.
My intellectual property expert colleague Phil mentioned that the design was the cause of court case between Mondaine and the giant Apple computer company. The story was covered by the Daily Mail website in October and November of last year.
There is some irony here, as this was the same time that Apple was suing Samsung in the United States for copying elements of the iPhone screen design.
Before you get too excited, this is not a post about our collection of ‘naughty’ books. I have been at the library for seven years now and have yet to discover where they are located (not that I have been looking you understand).
This is about a secret contained within – not behind the doors of the British Library. At the entrance to each of the seven reading rooms in the St Pancras building stand pairs of impressively large wooden doors.
Colin St John Wilson who made the architecturally controversial building his life’s work, demanded only the best materials for the fixtures and fittings. Consequently the sheer weight of the Canadian oak that these impressive doors were constructed from, meant they could not be opened by ordinary mortals. This created something of a dilemma as the opening of the building approached. I’m afraid I can’t prevent images entering my mind of stereotypically puny academics and weedy librarians breaking into a sweat, as they struggled with these mighty doors in vain.
To address this actually rather serious accessibility issue, building engineers came up with an ingenious and virtually invisible mechanical solution to the problem.
A small copper wire is curled in a spiral around each door handle. When grasped by a visitor the natural electrical charge within their body triggers a switch which is located in the door hinges. This powers an electric motor to push the door open. However this action is silent and so subtle that almost no one notices the assistance they are being given by the mechanism.
As a fan of ergonomic design and Cyborg Anthropology, I am impressed by this clever solution.
So the next time you encounter one of these magical doors, I suggest you touch the handle and stand back to give yourself time to admire this technological marvel of the British Library.
Once again the Business & IP Centre had a stand at the Business Startup Show (this year bigger than ever and moved to Olympia). Although not quite the same draw as Caprice Bourret or Brad Burton, the session I ran with Julie Hall from Women Unlimited was full to bursting.
I always try and find some time to get around the exhibition and see what catches my eye. This year it was Telnames, a new service that claims to ‘create a mobile site that you own and control within minutes’. With the rapid take-up of mobile internet use, I can see the potential for a service like this. According to their website, by 2013 more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online, and research indicates that 6 in 10 visitors will leave a mobile-unfriendly site.
The man I spoke to was an ex Yell employee, and explained that Telnames has ambitions to become a big player across Europe. I wondered how they would convince small business to pay for an additional service. His answer was simple – £14.95 a year all inclusive. My response was at that price it is a ‘no-brainer’, which by coincidence is the term they use on their home page.
It will be fascinating to see if this service really takes off in the way the salesman predicted.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think the Yamasaki YM125 may well be the ultimate expression of that in the biking world. Yes, I’m back on my favourite topic of motorbikes again, but this story is all about trademarks and branding.
This rather unexpected brand name takes me back to my early youth, when the British Bike industry still ruled the world, but Japanese imports to the UK were just beginning. Needless to say the old British Bikers would have nothing to do with these young upstarts from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda. Their short-sighted criticisms would often be expressed in dismissive pithy phrases such as ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead on one of those Jap-crap Yamasakis’.
So it is something of an irony that China is beginning its inroad to the established Japanese market hegemony with this portmanteau word based on two of the biggest Nipponese brands. Even more so, the bike spearheading the attack is a copy of the best-selling Honda CG 125. You can make your up own mind how much of a facsimile the YM125 is, by looking at the photos below.
Although not yet available in the UK, Bike Magazine recently imported one in ready-to-build crated form. After two hours putting it together they weren’t entirely impressed by the build quality, but they were by the on the road price of £896, and the 95 miles a gallon fuel consumption.
Certainly Richy1986, who posted this critical review on Review Centre listing 25 faults, was not impressed with his bike. Yamasaki YM125-3 – Cheap Rubbish!!!
Many thanks to business and technology writer Carlo Pandian for contributing this post:
Everyone uses cloud computing services and many of us have been doing for some time – even if we weren’t entirely aware of it! From Hotmail to Facebook, cloud computing has been a helpful tool for millions of people the world over to manage their personal lives and communicate with friends across the globe. Cloud computing solutions for small businesses have however, been taken up more slowly, despite offering huge benefits. Small firms in particular have most to gain from “the cloud” So what is cloud computing and how can you benefit?
What is Cloud Computing?
Hotmail is a good example; it offers online access to your email account and allows you to access emails from any computer with an internet connection. Unlike a desktop email software package all the data and any updates are dealt with remotely. This is cloud computing in a very small nutshell. New services, deliverable via the cloud, have been developing rapidly in the last couple of years or so. Now, most software that you can install on your own computer can be found in cloud form. From online accounting software, to media applications, the range is growing every day. This has, in large part, been thanks to the rapid improvements in broadband capability in the last ten years and also to the explosion in popularity for mobile computing. These days, if it can’t be done on the go, then it’s probably not worth doing!
File Share and Back Up
Data back up and online document storage is essential tools for most businesses and is now available in cloud form. In the old days, data back-up meant a memory stick, or even (the horror, the horror) a floppy disk. This type of storage was extremely vulnerable to loss, theft or damage. Remote back up via an online platform removes these risks at one simple stroke. There are an increasing number of providers who can offer online document storage and sharing options; Google Docs is one well known and well trusted brand, but there are other choices. Check out Carbonite for a low cost and flexible option or Dropbox, which has been established for a number of years and is a firm favourite with many users.
Online accounting software offers incredible flexibility to small firms and the services on offer from Intuit are worth looking into. Intuit is a world leader in providing small business solutions and the company’s range of accounting software is available in the old fashioned desktop variety and in the cloud version. The latter allows small firms to keep records up to date and produce invoices on the go. Most small business owners will immediately see the advantage of secure, online storage for their accounts along with the huge benefit in terms of time saving that cloud computing offers for those whose business keeps them out and about.
Small Screen Solutions
Online video conferencing facilities have been with us for some time now and there are a number of different providers. SKYPE is well known and established in the field, although it has been designed specifically with the personal market in mind. GoToMeeting is a good example of a more business focussed product in the cloud conferencing world. There’s a free trial on the system and a range of different options to fit the needs of small, medium or larger businesses. The basics package allows you to work effectively with colleagues or clients across the globe, while additional packages include one specifically designed to deliver training online, live and interactive.
The majority of cloud software available online comes with a free trial period which will allow you the chance to assess the usability of each system. For many small businesses using cloud computing solutions will free up not only space on your hard drive but the most essential asset you have – time. From online accounting software to video conferencing the world of cloud computing frees up time for small businesses to grow.
Carlo Pandian is a business and technology writer and blogs on entrepreneurialism and latest technologies covering everything from user manuals on QuickBooks Online accounting software to tech driven organisational change. In his free time he likes cooking Asian and Italian food and inviting his friends for dinner.
I normally leave the coverage of all things patent related in the capable hands of my colleague Steve van Dulken and his Patent Search Blog.
However, Steve is not the keen biker I am (nor the owner of the best motorbike ever created). So he is unlikely to have come across this story in the latest issue of Bike Magazine.
It is about a patent for an electric motorbike from Honda in Japan. And I have to admit I struggled to read all 19 pages of the patent application. But my understanding of the innovation, is the use of smaller electric motors located near the rear axle. This avoids the need for a traditional chain to provide motive power from the engine to the rear wheel.
The point of this story is that you can use patents as a form of market research. It is unlikely Honda would go to the trouble of protecting this idea if they weren’t planning to launch an electric motorbike in the near future.
I have often seen him working in the Centre, and for the past couple of years he has been giving me regular progress reports on his patented invention. These updates have been an alternating mix of positive and negative news, as hurdles appear and then are overcome. Or amazing opportunities arrive, but then disappear again.
Throughout this roller-coaster of events, Alistair has remained positive, and bounced back from setbacks (an essential ingredient for an entrepreneur). He has also taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to commercialising his invention (another necessary requirement – but sadly rather too rare for inventors).
For the last few months I have been waiting for permission from Alistair to talk about his invention on my blog, and now he has given me the green light. I am excited because Playback Rewards has the potential to be our biggest success story so far, by far.
Alistair started working on his ideas for revolutionising television advertising at the Centre at the beginning of 2009. He filed his first patent later that year, which was granted in February 2011. He then worked for months, almost on a daily basis at the Centre, developing, researching and refining the commercialisation of his invention.
In late 2010 Alistair ran out of money for his patent. But managed to persuade Stephen Fry to put in a little to keep the project on the road. As you can see from the video Stephen recorded ???, he liked Alistairs’ ideas and wanted to help. Then on Christmas Day 2011 his company was mentioned in an article in the Sunday Times.
Five months later Playback Holdings Ltd won a place in the semi-finals of the CISCO BIG awards, where it stands the chance of winning $100,000 for the business. Alistair feels that which everyone should know about this amazing programme.
As part of his entry for the CISCO i-prize competition Alistair has made a video Magic in your pocket which explains how the service would work.
On 6 July Playback Holdings Limited starts its Series A fund-raising via an Financial Services Authority (FSA) approved crowdsourcing platform called Seedrs. This innovative investment method allows ordinary people to invest between £10 to £100,000 in any of the start-ups on its platform.
The full story behind Playback Rewards, and where they are going is on their website www.playbackrewards.com.