My personal opinions and rants about tech related matters

Thoughts on the future of fintech

By on Feb 2, 2016 in Editorial |

Royal Society, London, January 13th 2016. I was recently invited to attend the West Minster Business Forum, for its Future of Fintech conference. Having had a background in covering the cryptocurrency scene as a journalist, and more recently as a member of the Hullcoin team, I was interested to see what business minds were thinking when it came to FinTech (which is the latest buzz term for Financial Technology), my perspective on things is much more from a tech angle, so I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the business aspect of this space. As full disclosure,This day was made possible by Dell UK, but all thoughts are my own. It was clear from this event that there is, at least, a lot of effort and good intention surrounding the development of FinTech in the UK. Katherine Braddick (Director of financial services, HM Treasury), actually said that there is a target for the UK to be the go to country for FinTech startups. This would be interesting as there is already a thriving UK startup scene, in both the north and south of the country. The north of the UK, which I’m most familiar with, has organisations like KeyFund, the dotForge accelerator, and the Northern Stars startup network. The most curious thing about the event, to me, was the strange way that blockchain technology was addressed – it was a white elephant in the room. Only one panelist in the event was an expert in the field – Eddy Travia of Coinsillium. In his talk, he highlighted the bad press that bitcoin has received, which has resulted in a movement away from Bitcoin itself, and to more general applications of blockchain technology. He’s right on both counts, and this is the way I saw Bitcoin going over three years ago. I found it frustrating listening to Travia because there was so much more he could have said, but because Blockchains are still so poorly understood, he had to tailor his message to the audience and avoid going into technical detail. For me, as someone who does understand blockchains, it was frustrating to hear the only blockchain expert have to speak in terms that, while technically correct,...

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Looking forward to the 2013 Nexus 7

By on Aug 5, 2013 in Editorial |

Google announced the predicted update to its Asus-produced Nexus 7 tablet. The Nexus 7 was a runaway success, and its second incarnation has stayed true to its predecessor’s formula. That is a well specified, well designed, and highly affordable tablet. The new tablet is available already in the US and will be available soon in Europe and the rest of the world. Comparing old and new If we look at the minimum specified models of the old and new Nexus 7 (i.e. wifi-only with 16GB storage), then there’s a price difference of £30 to £40. For that difference, there are quite a few differences. Screen The 2012 Nexus 7 had a screen resolution of 1280×800, which was perfect for the time, but technology has moved on. Google needed to steal a march on Apple who has yet to produce a “Retina” iPad Mini. The old Nexus 7 gave a pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (ppi). The Nexus 7, though, has a stunning resolution of 1920 x 1200 which gives a density of 323 ppi, which smashes Apple’s “Retina” standard for this size of device.   RAM The working memory (i.e. not storage) is the key to giving a device longevity through multiple operating system updates. The original Nexus 7 only had 1GB of RAM and has infamously not aged well. The 2013 edition of the Nexus 7 has doubled the amount to 2GB of RAM. While it’s a certainty that system requirements will increase over time, 2GB of RAM should give the new tablet a longer lease of life than the original Nexus 7. CPU The CPU has a moderate speed boost from 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz. However, the real difference is in the type of processor used. The original Nexus 7 used the Tegra 3 processor by Nvidia. The new Nexus 7 uses a Snapdragon S4 Pro. I’ve read the results of several comparisons, and the S4 Pro consistently comes out on top of the Tegra 3. See here and here. GPU Google claimed that the graphics process of the new Nexus would be 4 times more powerful than that of its predecessor.  This is going to the new Nexus 7 a serious portable gaming device. Of...

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Thinking about where to blog

By on Aug 4, 2013 in Editorial | 1 comment

As you may have noticed, I’m doing some blogging here on my blog – who’d have guessed! Yes,  I apologise for not blogging here more often, but as you’ll see I’m busy writing elsewhere. Having said that, my professional writing is currently concentrated on CoinDesk.com, where I’m investigating cryptocurrencies. So, I need somewhere to talk about general tech! So what is my current complement of technology? My daily smartphone is currently the Nokia Lumia 925, kindly loaned from Nokia Connects. On my own pocket,  I also have a 16GB Nexus 7, 16GB Nexus 4, and 16GB iPhone 5. I do not plan to stop covering mobile tech even though my current writing position isn’t focused there, so it’s essential that I have one of everything! As for upcoming purchases, I will get the 2013 Nexus 7 as soon as I can, and if I can get them for very little money on eBay and I’ll get the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. I’ve been ignoring the customised Android phones, sticking to the Nexus reference designs. So time that changed if I can procure them cheaply enough (or if any PR agencies would like to help me out?). I’m giving serious thought to how to continue my blog. Many people have switched to Tumblr or Google Plus, but I don’t like the idea of having my long form content as part of a cloud based silo. No, I do prefer to be self-hosted where I’m in control of my content and my formatting.  I’m currently with Evohosting, which have a great team of support staff. Most of the time though, I manage my WordPress install on my own, which sometimes means dealing with problems that arise when plugins and the core codebase are updated, and incompatibilities creep in. If you listen to the TWiT network you’ll always hear ads for Squarespace, which gives you (effectively) infinite bandwidth and all sorts of WYSIWYG bells and whistles. That’s tempting, but I have my publications portfolio to think about. At the moment,  that page is a WordPress template that’s generated by bespoke software I wrote for myself. Squarespace doesn’t for custom things like that, nor does it allow for SSH access, which...

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Google Nexus 7 unboxing photos

By on Jul 13, 2012 in Editorial |

Google’s latest Android flagship, the Nexus 7 arrived on doorstep today – several days ahead of schedule thanks to some eager marketing on the part of Ebuyer.com. I have to say, that I have always been sceptical over the need for tablets. I’ve always felt that if I had a laptop and a smartphone (and I do), then I had all I needed. However, Google have achieved something here that nobody else has by bringing to market a reasonably priced device that looks good too. So, I’ve spent my hard earned cash to see what life with a tablet is like! The Nexus 7, running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), has been designed by Google and produced by Asus – there’s much talk in the press about whether Google is even managing to break even on this device, but there’s something more important than profit at stake for Google. Rather, Google has thrown its own engineering weight behind this device in an attempt to stimulate the Android tablet market. Thus far, Android tablets have failed to effectively compete against Apple’s iPad. With the wildcard of Microsoft’s Surface tablet on the horizon, Google had to act now. The device comes in very compact packaging and with no other accessories than a USB cable and mains adapter. However, you do get a digital gift in the form of £15 credit on the Google Play Store. I have yet to test the device, but many people are eager to see what’s on offer, so I’ve photographed everything that comes in the box and prepared this blog post before I even turned the device on. Enjoy! If, however, you prefer the iPad or Apple products to android devices, then take a look at uSwitch to see what they have to offer on iphone deals. Nexus 7 external packaging Nexus 7 external packaging Removing the external sleeve reveals a matt black box Removing the external sleeve reveals a matt black box Sliding the box from the sleeve isn't easy! Sliding the box from the sleeve isn’t easy! Marketing talk for the Google Play Store on the back of the box Marketing talk for the Google Play Store on the back of the box The only...

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Microsoft is depending on a Surface hit

By on Jun 19, 2012 in Editorial |

Yesterday, or today depending on your time zone, Microsoft held a press conference in Hollywood. The whole thing had been very mysterious. The press were given extremely short notice to book their flights and get to the location in time, and nobody knew what all the fuss was about. Now that we know what the announcement was, it’s not worth going through all the theories that journalists and bloggers were forming in an attempt to work out what the heck was going on. One thing was for sure, Microsoft managed showed it could keep a secrete as well as Apple does. The device turned out to be a tablet – the Microsoft Surface – which is clearly capitalising on the brand name that Microsoft developed for its table-sized touch devices that it produces in conjunction with Samsung. I monitored the initial reactions of both the live blogs, and the bloggers I speak to on Twitter – and those reactions were unprecedented for a Microsoft device. Everybody wanted one. Mind you, the reactions were qualified, there are still some unanswered questions about this device, and they mostly come down to cost. Microsoft didn’t really give us any useful information about that – all they said was that the price would be comparable with Ultra book devices – which makes it sound way too expensive. And it’s money were Microsoft could still screw all of this up. Apple can get away with charging a premium, it’s loyal user base is conditioned into paying those prices – I don’t think there’s another company, including Microsoft, who can get away with that. I think, with the Surface, Microsoft could have a run-away hit on its hands, but only if they can sell them by the shed load. Which really, Microsoft NEEDS to do because it is already taking a risk by putting Metro UI on its next major release of Windows, and it’s struggling to get Windows Phone 7 (which Metro UI also runs atop of) to some degree of decent market share. There is understandable inertia in getting Metro UI adopted by consumers – especially as there are still productivity question marks over it, and the dual Metro/desktop nature of Windows 8. The argument over...

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Skype’s Linux super nodes to help WP7?

By on May 24, 2012 in Editorial |

I’ve been musing on what Microsoft is doing with Skype and Windows Phone 7 lately. If you hadn’t heard, since its acquisition of Skype, Microsoft has replaced the use of public super nodes with a farm of hosted Linux servers fulfilling the same purpose. The way Skype used to work was that users could opt to be “super nodes”, which created a network layer that contained the IP addresses of users currently logged in and connected to that local super node. Whenever you, as a user, want to connect to another user, your Skype client will consult the network of super nodes, which in turn will locate the user and return the IP address back to your client. From then on, you and the person you wished to call could connect directly – in some cases super nodes would also route call traffic. Skype still works like this, however, Microsoft has taken over entire super node network – ordinary users can no longer become super nodes. Of course, the first thought of the paranoid people will be that this will give Microsoft a back door into Skype’s encryption, allowing easier access for government agents to intercept Skype calls. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!   Image courtesy of www.texample.net   The potential of intercepts is not what I’m focussing on here though. Let’s flip over into the world of Windows Phone 7 – a version of Skype was needed to be rushed out as soon as possible, which it was. However, Windows Phone 7 has a limited form of multitasking. Applications can be held in a suspended state for a limited time, allowing you to switch back to them via the fast application switching function brought in with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. For a Windows Phone 7 device to receive that incoming peer to peer call request, Skype would have to be constantly running in the forground, it could not work while tombstoned. If Microsoft were to tweak the way the Skype network works, then that incoming call request could trigger a push notification to a Windows Phone device via Microsoft’s Push Notification Service (MPNS). In turn, it might be possible for the incoming push notification to trigger something...

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