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The Hump Day Five (16-July-2014)

The Hump Day Five is on Red Alert this week, getting all Google-y powerful on music in the cloud, Leftovers, and Ping Pong Mania.


Started watching a new TV show a couple of weeks back called “The Leftovers”. If you haven’t haven’t seen or heard of it, the premise is quite simple. On 14-October at a precise moment in time approximately 2% of the world’s population randomly disappears without a trace. Drivers from moving vehicles, criminals from prison cells, babies from car seats, one moment there the next moment gone. It doesn’t take much imagination to see compelling story elements in such a framework, and in fact it is easy to see how the utter chaos of such a situation could become too much of a good thing (entertainment-wise, that is). The creators, though, very smartly opt to confine the drama to a single small town somewhere in America and how “The Departure”, as it is called, has affected and continues to affect the populace three years down the line. Succulent details are offered via ancillary media — overheard radio, television news programs being watched by this-or-that character, etc., not a small amount of Internet-y stuff — and go so far as to include a list of celebrities who number among the 2%. Dark stuff riddled rich with despair, sure, and as television goes it isn’t for everyone, but if you like your diversion disturbing and in-your-face I highly recommend checking it out.


Since late June a new application for both iPhone and Android has been making its way through the zeitgeist in direct response to the once-again-heightening tensions between Israel and Palestine: Kobi Snir’s Red Alert Israel. The idea behind this new app is to alert users of incoming rockets so they can stop whatever it is they are doing and take shelter*. The alerts received (tied directly to Israel Defense Forces and Homefront Command) can be configured quite tightly — there are a great many individual areas, considering the country’s small land mass — and each alert offers allows for comments, which can include prayers and encouragement, as well as — not surprising, but enraging nonetheless — inflammatory notes full of disparagement and outright hatred. Red Alert Israel also includes streaming Israeli radio (in Hebrew) to supplement its alerts with more detailed information (I assume). All in all, it is a noble idea that falls definitively on the side of the angels (and I say this even knowing that there is no Red Alert Palestine equivalent).

So I am sensitive to the dead-serious nature of Red Alert Israel and applaud and support its above-reproach mission, but I would be fibbing BIG-time if I said the image of people running for cover from flying ordinance with their hands flailing high above their heads clutching their phones didn’t loosen a small smile. Got too many episodes of The Simpsons under my belt, I suppose. Please excuse (or feel free to flame me up but good in the Comments).

The Red Alert Israel app is free, as you would expect, though it does run shifting banner advertising, because in these times absolutely nothing should go unsponsored. I mean, think about it…is there an advertiser out there who wouldn’t want their product or service to be associated with the saving of lives? And thus a new business model is born!

*The users in Israel, that is, as it is quite evident that Red Alert Israel is being downloaded and put into use by people living elsewhere..for purposes of showing solidarity, inspiring prayer and greater empathy, to stoke flames of outrage, to feed whatever vicarious needs, perhaps to serve as the basis for gambling or drinking games, etc.


For someone who spends as much time driving keyboards and mice as I do, I really can be late to the party at times. Take cloud-hosted music (aka online music lockers, aka online music storage services). Available in various flavors for a few years now (the majors all bowed in 2011 — Apple, Amazon, Google — whereas an early achiever called AudioBox left the starting block in 2009), it was only this past weekend that I started to consider the idea of throwing some of my music up into the ether for ready access across my computers and smartphone. Naturally, I was aware of the cloud-hosted music concept, but that awareness was mostly relegated to Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud/iTunes Match service, and as I trust Apple’s software and service offerings about as much as…well, not at all, actually, I put up a willful “blind spot” to the whole idea. Of course, it also helped that my music collection far exceeded the 25,000 song limit put on the $25-per-year service by Apple, and that at the start – as is unfortunately so often the case — the service was available to U.S.-based users only.

A couple of years passed, and then along came KoryChrome. And with KoryChrome came promotions for Google services. And with the promotion in particular of Google Play Music — which I learned is now available in France and which includes the ability to load/match 20,000 songs absolutely free — came my revisiting the subject of cloud-hosted music this past weekend. 20,000 songs for uploaded/matched for free? Songs I can access from any Internet-connected computer capable of running a browser (Google Chrome need not be that browser, either), or from any Internet-connected smartphone? All without commercials or listening limitations?

Yeah, I know this party started ages ago, but as far as I am concerned there is still beer in the fridge and it’s still ice-cold.


On the subject of KoryChrome, La Famille Kessel returned to our Pays d’Auge family hovel in Blangy-le-Château this past weekend, and my keen and cool new Chromebook was thus reunited with its power source. And this time that power source made it into my computer bag for the trip back to Paris at weekend’s end. No doubt, a great many of you will now breathe easier and will stop wanting for sleep.


Got struck hard by a serious wave of irony a few hours ago when My Missus and I put The Boy on a train to summer camp. The camp he is attending is called “Ping Pong Mania” (translate from French), and it promises to be exactly that, with 90+ minutes of table tennis play and training each morning and another such session each afternoon. I blush with a certain amount of pride in saying that my kid is really quite masterful at the game, in no small measure because other than ping pong his free time these days is overwhelmingly consumed by Minecraft, Clash of Clans, SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition, youtube videos galore rooted in gameplay and game parody and what-have-you, and a bevy of other sofa-bound veg-and-play games and experiences.

My hope is the next 10 days will find The Boy matched up with other kids his age who are at or near his level. Otherwise, his hesitance to get off the couch and get out in the world (read: separate from his MacBook and iPad and Nintendo DS3) will have been justified…or so he will say and think, anyway. And this is where the irony lies as 32 years ago I remember feeling similar hesitation at heading off to summer camp, too…summer computer camp!

Apps End User gaming

Are we losing touch with reality?

When I was a kid I used to read 3 books a week. The deal was when I finished one my dad would buy me another.

I read a lot. Now I read that Facebook have gone shopping again and are buying a virtual reality company called Oculus VR.

In one sense this dismays me. A signal that we are going to be sucked even more into a cyber life that bears little relation to the real world. Some might say that this is a good thing. We only ever hear bad things in the news for example. At least it feels that way. Whats wrong with a bit of escapism?

Escapism is after all what I was am up to when deep into my books. I don’t hear or see anything going on around me (much to the annoyance of my wife). So just a different form of virtual reality really.

Sometimes I think we are losing touch with real life.  We need to hold on to reality. Reality might have lots of bad things associated with it: lost planes, mudslides, war and the threat of war. Reality however has lots of great things. Great things the sum of which easily compensate for the bad.

It’s spring in the northern hemisphere.  Best time of year. Feel the sun on your face, hear the birds, smell the grass. Get that barbecue out. Get reality.

Apps End User gaming internet

Electronic Arts infrastructure fails under weight of demand for FIFA2013

I had to pop into town yesterday to buy FIFA 2013 for my 12 year old. It was the price I had to pay for his cooperation with the BT case study filming when he got back from school. It cost an arm and a leg – somewhere in the region of £85 including 5,000 Microsoft points.

There would have been a lot of people getting around town without arms and legs because there must have been hundreds of the games  piled up behind the counter at Game Station, all on pre-order. In fact if you hadn’t pre-ordered it  you would have been out of luck as they were all spoken for.

My lad got home from school and immediately got down to business with the XBox. That’s when things started to go wrong. He traded 3,200 Microsoft points for 5,200 FIFA points. However the FIFA points did not appear. These are expensive virtual tokens (massive gross margin I’d imagine) and whilst I was sure that we would resolve the issue – @EA support has been great in the past – on this occasion the support was totally unobtainable.

I began to tweet my dissatisfaction – that’s usually a good way of getting a response (unless you are @eastcoastuk). Every minute I spent on hold I tweeted the fact with increasing levels of annoyance. Looking at the @EA twitter account I could see they had over 1 million followers. I gave up after 20 minutes.

Later the lad found out online that EA had had to switch off their points system because it had been overwhelmed. This was another Olympic ticketing/Ticketmaster moment. The next morning the system is still down for maintenance.

It surprises me that in this day and age of scalable online computing resources that businesses let themselves down like this. I often hear complaints in our house that the FIFA servers are down or too busy.

As I write the @EA twitter follower count is down to 999,901 – clearly a few disgruntled folks out there.

Business gaming internet Net ofcom social networking UC voip

The Demographics of Communications

TV watching in decline amongst younger demographicIt’s a bit of a dank dismal day here in the shires and I have the office aircon on “heat”. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind this weather – it reminds me of my childhood and in particular of wet Sunday afternoons spent watching the black and white cowboy film on BBC2, maybe playing a game of Monopoly and then the excitement of Songs of Praise with Harry Secombe after tea. The highlight of the day was the comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 or 7pm.

I’m not sure why I’ve “gone nostalgic” all of a sudden especially when those Sunday afternoons were really boring and often used to lead to rows amongst us kids.

These days our kids still argue despite having an incredible range of things to do on a Sunday. After the F1 there’s the XBox and, well more Xbox. Then there’s the Xbox!

Reality is that other than the Simpsons the kids only watch TV when one of their parents decides

End User gaming

The language of the XBox Live hack Call of Duty World at War Nazi Zombies

I have spent all my life learning new languages. It began with simultaneous Welsh and English, moved on to French and then on to Fortran, assembler and Basic.

After that came the language of business interspersed with Ethernet, Internet Protocol  and a thick compendium of acronyms long and short pertaining to the world of communications. It continues with social media – tweets, likes, hangouts, circles.

Now I find myself even having to understand the world of online gaming as my youngest son’s Xbox live account has been hacked. He was playing Nazi Zombies on Call of Duty: World at War and received a message on his screen saying “haha you’re dead” or words to that effect. His rank has also been reset and he can no longer play online because he needs to be level1.

Following me so far? I’m sure you are (dudes). Apparently he was in a “modded” lobby and the only thing you can do is send a complaint about the user seemingly doing the hacking and not use this type of lobby. If you find yourself in one by accident get the heck out of there quick via the centre guide button on the controller or turn of the system before the changes can be stored on THEIR servers or you will find yourself neg xp a second time.

You also need to watch out for “infection lobbies” and, for WaW the “God mode mod” where you will see players flying all over the map, who you can not kill no matter how much you shoot them. When you score a kill the score will be incorrect and things may display incorrectly on the HuD, too.

I hope that helps – always happy to provide advice. The only thing I’m not totally clear about is the fact that I think he has now lost the cash he (I) forked out in points to buy the game in the first place.

If I were you I wouldn’t let them play this sort of stuff but I‘m clearly not the best role model. You try dragging a kid away from the screen, innit.




Business Cloud gaming online safety Regs

Today is Safer Internet Day #MMORPG #UKCCIS

Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day. This year’s topic is ”It’s more than a game, it’s your life” and the aim of the initiative is to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst children. The website reports some interesting statistics:

  • Gamers spend on average 8 hours weekly playing online.
  • Young people sleep 2 to 3 hours less per night than 10 years ago.
  • In January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered on Second Life.
  • Facebook reports more than 500 million active users.
  • Users spend 700 billion minutes on Facebook each month.
  • 13 million players of World of Warcraft (WoW), the world’s largest MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game).
  • MMORPGs generated $1.5 billion in subscription revenues worldwide in 2008, forecast to reach $2.5 billion by 2012.
  • Up to 250,000 players are simultaneously online on WoW.
  • Transactions and sales of virtual goods in virtual worlds were estimated at $18 billion in 2009.

Its is amazing but I can identify with many of these bullet points. My kids spend far more than 8 hours online playing MMORPGs (it is a truly great acronym). All my kids are on Facebook even though two of them are below the recommended age limit. I vet their friends lists and have the logon details of the youngest who is not allowed to post photos. All his spare cash goes on online games – and we are talking £40 a pop here which is truly irritating as a parent (thats about fifteen pints of beer in real money! 🙂 ).

Parents need to jointly develop a survival strategy here. It only takes one to let the side down and let their kids have free rein to spoil it for the lot of us.

Note in connection with Safer Internet Day, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, published the results of two complementary surveys that indicate that only 21% of UK individuals who live in a household with dependent children use parental control filtering software. This is higher than the EU average of 14% but considerable lower than the results of the EU Kids Online survey that was published a couple of weeks ago and reported that 54% of UK parents (28% across the EU) use parental controls or other means of blocking or filtering some types of websites.

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has published a “Good practice guidance for the moderation of interactive services for children” which you might want to take a look at.

Publicising Safer Internet Use is very important and I suggest more needs to be done to educate parents on what they might be able to do to help themselves. This is particularly important in the light of the fact that politicians are constantly trying to take control of the internet “for our own good“.

PS one fact that coaught my attention in the EU report was that in the EU2 in 2010, almost one third of individuals (31%) who used the internet in the 12 months prior to the survey reported that they caught a virus or other computer infection resulting in loss of information or time during this period.

PPS thanks to ISPA for drawing my attention to these data.

And finally – I have to say were are entering a truly great era for acronyms – MMORPG!!!!!

End User gaming

Football Manager 2011 now available to purchase online – yay

Exciting isn’t it? Football Manager 2011 has just been released online. 2 out of 4 of my kids have had it on pre-order and I note from Facebook that one of them got it last night and started the process of downloading the game.

Uhuh I hear you say?! 🙂

The significance of this major event in the lives of my offspring is the size of the download. Football Manager 2011 requires 2GB of hard drive. The student only has 1.3GB a week download allowance at his hall of residence. It will be interesting to see how he gets on. At the time he reported this exciting milestone in his student career he was 1% through the download process.