UK Company Gives Employees Time Off To Watch Game Of Thrones

So that new TV series has come out, be it the latest season of a show or an entirely new show and you end up at work or school just counting down the minutes hoping that no one spoils the episode for you. Well if you work for +rehabstudios, a UK-based company, you might get to avoid this trouble by giving employees time off to watch the Game of Thrones when it comes out.

Posting to Facebook to share the news, the document which appears to be screenshotted in the post seems to be a contract, with a little extra added in. The exact paragraph reads:

“All +rehabstudio UK staff (London and Belfast offices) will also receive an additional half day (morning) holiday following the first episode for each new season of Game Of Thrones when simulaunched with the US. US staff are reminded not to share spoilers on the intranet until after the show has aired in the UK 24 hours later.”

According to founding partner, Tim Rodgers, the perk’s been very well received, with hundreds of people supporting it while others have gone so far as to ask if it can be transferred to other shows like The Walking Dead, something he replied to with “that’s fine with us too”. Explaining that the company wanted to add an “extra perk” to the handbook, they decided that given the companies link to the show, having started in Belfast where the show is filmed, the company are always welcome to new suggestions for the little extra perk next year.

Apple Could Be Fined Millions for Strict iPhone Marketing Contract

Did you ever look at a phone provider catalogue and think, where have I seen that advert before? If the phone in question is an iPhone then you may have noticed its prominent placement in the catalogue along with the near identical adverts in every single catalogue. There is a reason for this other than just marketing, and could get Apple fined up to €48.5 million for their strict iPhone marketing terms.

France’s country competition regulators have launched a complaint regarding Apple’s agreements, stating that they are actually illegal. Part of the terms and conditions is that carriers have to order a minimum number of iPhones, cover the cost of repairs for some of the phones and even pay for the ad’s used (including those used for in-store displays).

If this wasn’t enough Apple gains several legal benefits, such as being able to access and use some of the carriers patents and even use their branding as they see fit. The contract also allows Apple to void the contract without any prior notice, something that would scare anyone selling thousands of euros worth of equipment.

With Apple looking at renewable energy for their facilities, they may want to rethink their strategy when it comes to selling their devices as even if this court case is just in France, other countries may follow suit and start looking at stocking alternative products because of the contract they are being forced to sign.

AT&T Will No Longer Let You Pay A Fraction Of Your Phones Cost Upfront

First it was pay as you go, with people topping up an amount and fearing that text telling them that they would soon be unable to text. Then came the contracts, offering you the ability to pay a monthly fee in order to get a set amount of minutes and texts before being charged additional amounts. The third stage to this evolution was phone subsidies, similar to contracts but at a greater cost, these contracts came with a mobile phone offering you the chance to get the latest phone at a slightly higher cost but with monthly payments. An alternative to this third method was to pay a small fraction upfront for your device while you had a contract. Seems like AT&T is just one of many looking to stop this process.

By paying a fraction of the price upfront, you could walk away with a brand new model on a contract, however if you wished to leave the contract or upgrade to a new model and keep the original handset you were expected to pay for the remainder of the phone.

With companies like T-mobile and Verizon Wireless already stopping the up-front payment method AT&T customers will either have to bring their own phone, pay full price upfront or pay monthly for the device in a separate device payment plan.

Hideo Kojima is “Contractually Forbidden” From Discussing Konami Split

There’s a great deal of intrigue surrounding Hideo Kojima’s public fallout with Konami and the events which led to them parting ways. One unverified theory is, Konami wanted to integrate microtransactions into Metal Gear Solid V, but Kojima refused. Despite this, it’s unclear what really transpired and it doesn’t look likely that any information will be disclosed for a considerable amount of time. According to The New Yorker, Metal Gear’s creator is “contractually forbidden​” from discussing his work at Konami and the cause of their bitter feud. This isn’t a surprising revelation as Konami wants full control of their public image. Frankly, this is far too late as Konami is perceived by most people in the gaming community as a terrible company which ostracised Kojima. 

Konami’s behaviour has caused outrage and directed a huge amount of anger towards them. Apparently, they want to continue making more Metal Gear games without Kojima’s help but I think their dismal reputation will make any future release a complete failure. Honestly, I wish Kojima all the success in the future and expect the kind of innovation he’s known for. As for Konami, they don’t seem too focussed on pleasing the core gaming audience and I’m not convinced they have a long-term future in this industry.

Virgin Media Increases Broadband Prices by 5.4%

Virgin Media recently implemented a significant speed increase for customers on 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 152Mbps connections to 70Mbps, 150Mbps and 200Mbps. Initially, the speed boost appeared to be a free promotion to encourage more customers to join Virgin Media. However, Virgin Media has admitted there will be a price hike by up to £3.99 per month. Additionally, the line rental fee will also increase by £1 which signifies a 5.4 percent change. The company explained on social media why the higher prices are necessary and said:

“The price changes are put in place to sustain and build on our network to give you even better quality”.

Virgin Media’s managing director, Gregor McNeil, told The Register:

 “We are doing everything we can to keep prices as competitive as possible. Through the continuing investment in our network we are again upgrading our customers’ broadband speeds and providing unlimited downloads – meeting the growth in data consumption we see.” 

Unhappy customers can cancel their Virgin Media subscription as the increased prices are technically a breach of contract. I think the company has to be extremely careful as consistently increasing the package prices will result in mass cancellations. Faster broadband speeds are vital when you consider the huge data demands with modern gaming, and 4K video streams. However, the packages need to remain affordable or people will simply go for a cheaper, slower option.

Here’s How a Hack Took Down Other ‘Legitimate’ Hackers

Before we continue, you might be wondering how could there be ‘legitimate’ hackers. Well, companies such as the one that got hacked, by the name of Hacking Team, exist out there. They usually sell their hacks and services to governments or secret agencies, which make them a key ally and are allowed to continue their work. However, the latest hack proved that even they can be taken down.

Hacking Team is known for selling its services to agencies such as the FBI, DEA, Australian police, or even countries such as Bahrain, Ethiopia, and Sudan. However, the latter could not be proven since they could easily pin everything on their contractors and we all know how good governments and agencies are at denying allegations. Also, they had the ability to keep their code as well as other exploits they used in software products secure, so targeted individuals, companies or even other governments could not do anything about it.

But their operation came to and end, having their systems compromised by a hack that took over 400 GB of data, including their own source codes used for creating the spyware. This means that other developers can now use the data and patch or protect their systems in the future. Hacking Team is said to have been forced to close their company down until further notice, but it’s highly likely they will be operational again in the near future.

There is no official confirmation about who hacked the spyware company, but it is said that Wikileaks focused on latter companies in the past, so nobody can rule out their implications in this. However, sources say that the hack was performed by an independent freelance hacker, so this makes it even harder to pinpoint the attacker.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information

SpaceX Falcon 9 Certified for National Security and Military Launches

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch system has been scrutinized by the US Air Force and is now fully certified for future missions, breaking the monopoly currently held by the United Launch Alliance. SpaceX will now be allowed to compete for launch contracts for military and reconnaissance satellites.

“This is a very important milestone for the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” Deborah Lee James told Ars Technica. “SpaceX’s emergence as a viable commercial launch provider provides the opportunity to compete launch services for the first time in almost a decade. Ultimately, leveraging of the commercial space market drives down cost to the American taxpayer and improves our military’s resiliency.”

It was not overly healthy to have the US Air Force completely beholden to a single entity for its rocketry requirements: It’s not good for resiliency, and it’s not good for the purse strings either. SpaceX previously claimed that ULA launches were costing the US government $460 million per launch and that it could instead offer launches for around $100 million. ULA contested that figure, saying the current launch price is actually $225 million, with a plan to bring that price down to around $100 million as well. No matter what the real figures are, it is very clear to us that Falcon 9’s fresh certification will increase competition and drive down prices.

Elon Mush and SpaceX spent two years and more that 60 million dollars to get the certification, the company will now compete to be able to send roughly one-third of the military rockets and satellites into space. Apparently they won’t be able to launch the largest satellites until the bigger Falcon Heavy is built and certified.

Thank you to Ars Technica for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of WideWallpapers

Complaints Rise Concerning Emoticons Racking Up Mobile Bills

The BBC reports today that an increasing number of UK mobile phone users have been complaining about emoticons racking up their bills. They say that money-focused website, MoneySavingExpert has received a significant number of complaints about sky-high bills thanks to emoticons and “other symbols”.

Apparently, a number of people have been caught out unaware that their network may treat the sending of emoticons, symbols and even e-mail addresses, as an MMS rather than a SMS. These messages typically cost significantly more than standard text messages and do not count as part of unlimited texts deals included on some contracts.

While many say that the issue is the fault of networks, O2 told the BBC that customers should be cautious when sending such messages.

“If a customer is using a smartphone to send text messages to more than one person at the same time, they could be charged the cost of sending an MMS. It can also happen when the message contains icons, emoticons and symbols or an email address. 

And some apps (such as Facebook) that integrate with a customer’s contact list in their smartphone may result in an MMS charge too,”

Source: BBC News

NASA Awards Suborbital Contracts to Virgin Galactic and Three More

NASA has announce the four companies it awarded their suborbital payload contracts to in an announcement on Monday. The companies all got the same contract that gives “indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity for integration and flight services” over a three-year period. Each contract is worth a minimum of $100.000 and can be extended with a 2-year option.

They will fly technology payloads on the commercial suborbital reusable platforms and carry payloads up till ‘near the boundary of space’. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

The four companies are Virgin Galactic, which is best known for developing its space tourism program with the SpaceShipTwo craft. The company is also actively working to offer the use of their vehicle for scientific research. The company is also developing LauncherOne, which will aim to deliver small satellites into orbit. The next on the list is Masten Space Systems  which is working to develop vertical take-off, vertical landing unmanned spacecraft’s. The company is mostly known for winning the $1 million Lunar Lander X-Prize in 2009.

UP Aerospace is the third company with a focus on developing suborbital rockets to deliver research payloads, and already launched a rocket for NASA last year. The fourth and last company is Paragon Space Development Corporation and their approach is a little bit different as they mainly make equipment for others. They have teamed up with with World View Experience to use balloons to take commercial passengers to the “edge of space”, about 120,000 feet above the earth’s surface.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in working toward the goal of regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These proven flight service providers will allow for payloads from organizations including NASA, industry, academia, and other government agencies to be tested on flights to the edge of space before being committed to demonstration in the harsh environment of space itself.”

Thank you NASA for providing us with these information

Image courtesy of VirginGalactic.

Walking Bio-Bots Powered By Muscles Becoming a Reality

First of all, a ‘bio-bot’ is a machine which uses synthetic 3D-printed material with biological muscle tissue. Having stated the latter, researchers from the University of Illinois have apparently developed the so-called bio-bots in question, taking us one step further into the future of technological advancements.

Some might wonder how the bio-bots work and what is so special about them. The answer lies in the muscle fibers, having them spiked with electricity in order to contract. The muscles are attached to flexible 3D-printed skeleton frameworks, resulting in bending the skeleton when the muscles contract and reverting back to its original state when they relax. This in the end produces movement, combining biological and synthetic material to achieve such an action, thus the name ‘bio-bot’.

It is said that researchers have been working on similar projects since 2012. At that time, a walking bio-bot prototype used rat heart cells in order to provide motion. However, the researchers found out that the rat cells were not responding well to the induced electricity and couldn’t control when they fired. However, it appears that the ‘new version’ has solved this problem.

“Skeletal muscles cells are very attractive because you can pace them using external signals,” head researcher Rashid Bashir said. “We want to have different options that could be used by engineers to design these things.”

The group of researchers from Illinois sees bio-bots potentially useful for surgical aids and drug delivery vehicles. The group also emphasized that, having their own neurons, they could even recognize and respond to light and chemical stimuli. The group has apparently published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which is a good place to get more details about the bio-bots in question.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of The University of Illinois and Nature World News

Trade In Your iPhone 4S for A Lumia 1020 or Lumia 1520 At AT&T… For Free!

Windows Phone is steadily gaining ground in the smartphone market, and while it is also subtly trolling its competitors when it has the chance, it does it yet again, but this time it’s not Samsung, but Apple.

AT&T have apparently made a deal with Nokia, and implicitly Microsoft, for curious users who have never tried Microsoft’s WP8 operating system before to try it for free. The catch is that you will have to bring your old iPhone 4S and exchange it for a Lumia 1020 or a Lumia 1520 with a two-year contract with AT&T.

When looking back and seeing that the Lumia 1020 for example was valued at a $300 price tag on-contract, Microsoft, as well as AT&T, is really hitting it big with this new deal. However, users should also take into account a major gap that Windows Phone currently has, and that is the applications inside the Store.

If you are not that interested in having loads and loads of applications on your smartphone and enjoy what Windows Phone 8 as well as the Windows Phone Store has to offer, then you are set! However, Microsoft is working on closing the application gap on the platform, but like all things, it takes time. In the end, who knows? Maybe WP8 Store will be packed with application next year. It all depends on Microsoft to make life easier for developers to build and publish their applications on the Windows Phone Store.

Thank you BGR for providing us with this information

Best Phones for Under £35 Per Month

With the vast array of smartphones on the market, the price of monthly contracts really has been brought down to reflect competition, which can mean only one thing for the consumer: for less than £35 per month, you can acquire one of the hottest phones out there with a deal that could see you texting, calling and Tweeting until the sun goes down!

iPhone 5

Arguably the most famous phone that is released each year is the iPhone, and it is important to many users that they own the most up-to-date version. So it’s great that you can get a free iPhone 5 handset for under £35 per month.

The iPhone 5 was released last September and features all of the best apps, functions and style that Apple fans demand from their iPhones. The handset is remarkably slim when compared with previous models, and Apple’s commitment to a smaller screen than most other smartphones gives the device a smart and stylish feel.

And the iPhone 5 doesn’t fail to disappoint in terms of specifications either. With a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor and the latest operating system, iOS 6. The phone is known for its excellent visual display which boasts 336 pixels per inch, which towers over the majority of handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Nexus 4, and gives the iPhone 5 a crisp display.

Although on first release the iPhone 5 struggled to satisfy on features such as Apple Maps, though now these problems have been ironed out, there is no running away from the fact that the Apple app store houses more apps than even the Google Play Store.

Whether you’re new to the iPhone or want to upgrade from a previous model, you can join the Apple craze for as little as £33 a month on a Vodafone contract including 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data. If your budget stretches that bit further than a £35 budget, you could opt for a T-Mobile contract which offers 600 minutes, unlimited texts and a whopping 1.5 GB of data for just £36 a month.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Now you’re bound to have heard about the Apple vs. Samsung battle in recent months, and this is largely based around the iPhone’s competition in the Korean manufacturer’s most popular smartphone, the S3.

When the S3 entered the mobile phones arena back in May last year, critics claimed that its 4.8 inch screen was ludicrously big for a smartphone that was designed to fit into one’s pocket. However, eight months on it looks like every mobile phone manufacturer has followed suit and the large screened S3 has paved the way for smartphones in the future.

The S3 isn’t just popular amongst its users because of its large screen size, though. With a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor and the latest Jelly Bean version of the Android operating system, the S3 is one of the quickest phones on the market, and is often one that other models aim to compete with. The S3 sports an 8 MP camera which produces high quality photographs with an in-built photo editing suite. Although the S3’s display doesn’t pack in as high a pixel density as the iPhone 5, the large screen makes the S3 perfect for every function that you may ever require, whether it be to watch films or videos via the in-built YouTube app, or simply to browse your friends’ updates on social media sites.

Samsung has crept ahead of Apple in terms of smartphone sales last year, but not necessarily because its features are superior. Many people oft for a Samsung Galaxy S3 over the iPhone because it considerably cheaper: you can acquire a brand new S3 handset for as little as £26 per month on a T-Mobile contract with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 1 MB of data. That comes in an almost £10 less each month than the iPhone 5, so if you want to save the pennies, but still want a top quality handset, the Galaxy S3 could be for you.

Nokia Lumia 920

The Nokia Lumia 920 is one of the best phones for under £35 because it represents the new series of smartphones operated by Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone 8 operating system. This fun phone stands out from the rest not only because of its colourful and smart looking polycarbonate casing but also its vibrant dynamic home screen display.

You can’t avoid the numerous TV adverts for the new Windows Phone OS which can be customizable in order to suit each and every user. The colourful home screen consists of live tiles which update in real time, making the phone look really dynamic and new compared to other more static home screens on models run by iOS or Android systems.

Nokia has also contributed a lot to the Lumia 920; with built-in apps such as Drive, Nearby and Nokia Music. What makes the Lumia 920 really great is the fact that it offers something new and different, and while there’s no hiding the fact that Microsoft’s app store is limited when compared with the Apple and Google Play stores, all of the most popular applications are available, including Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, the Nokia Lumia 920 can be yours for just £26 a month on an Orange contract offering 200 minutes, unlimited texts, and a massive 750 MB of data to make the most of the Lumia’s great interactive features. Or if you have a bit more cash to splash on your new handset, for £31 a month you can double your minutes to 400, have unlimited texts and 750 MB of data, also on an Orange contract.

iPhone 4S

If you’re an aspiring iPhone owner but don’t want to stretch your budget to the dizzying heights of the iPhone 5, why not opt for the slightly older iPhone 4S? In fact, sales figures show that most users are doing just that, and iPhone 4S sales are still outshining that of the iPhone 5. No, you may not be at the cutting edge of the smartphone world, but there are no features that you will be without by purchasing the predecessor to Apple’s latest release.

With a 1 GHz processor and the ability to update the device to the recently released iOS 6, the iPhone 4S offers everything you could ever need in a manageable, well-built handset. With a slightly smaller 3.5 inch screen and 330 ppi density, the device’s display certainly won’t disappoint.

For the budding photographers of you out there, the iPhone 4S has been proven to sport an impressive 8 MP camera which, after road testing on our behalf, performs to a higher standard than many other 8 MP cameras on the market. To find out more about the iPhone 4S, read our review on the iPhone 4S, or to see how well its camera matches up against other handsets, in our article, The Megapixel Myth.

To get a top of the range phone for less than Apple’s newest release, the iPhone 4S is available from just £26 per month with 100 minutes, unlimited texts and a whopping 750 MB of data on a T-Mobile contract. Or, if you want to push the boat out in order to acquire more call time, a great deal offering 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 100 MB of data on an o2 contract for just £29 per month.

Conclusion

As you can see, some of the best mobile phones on the market can be found for under £35 a month including a free handset. So whether it’s the latest iPhone, or the latest Windows OS that you’re after, many mobile phone deals can be found for as little as £26 for some models. Leading the way within the mobile phone arena doesn’t mean blowing the budget.