Month: December 2014

Wind Up Radio Inventor gets New Year Honour

Wind Up Radio Inventor gets New Year Honour

Wind Up Radio Inventor gets New Year Honour
Inventor Trevor Baylis has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours list. Best known for creating the Baygen wind-up radio, Mr Baylis was honoured for services to intellectual property.

Throughout his colourful life, which involved a stint as a stuntman, Mr Baylis has spent much of his time inventing or involved with engineering. Most recently he has campaigned to make the UK a more hospitable place for inventors, and is seeking to help them safeguard their creations.

“It was a great surprise,” said Twickenham-based Mr Baylis of learning of the award. “I got an OBE in 1997 and that was one of the best days of my life. I’ve been pushing hard to help other inventors because so many people get ripped off like a turkey or find they do not have the money to pay the lawyers to protect themselves.”

Mr Baylis is currently heading a venture called Baylis Brands, which advises inventors about the best way to develop ideas and puts them in touch with other experts that can help turn their creations into marketable products. He is also working to get laws changed to help inventors and engineers if they find someone else is profiting from their work.

“I’m trying to get patent theft recognised as a white collar crime,” he said, adding that the idea had received a sympathetic hearing from the Metropolitan Police.

Baygen wind-up radio

Mr Baylis’ best known invention is the Baygen wind-up radio, which he came up with in 1991 while watching a documentary about Aids in Africa that proposed using educational radio programmes to tackle the virus’ spread. An appearance on the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World in 1994 helped turn his invention into a commercial product.

Despite its success, Mr Baylis did not profit from his invention and the design is now under the control of the Freeplay engineering firm.  “Inventing is not about the money,” he said. “Who wants to be the richest man in the graveyard? There are no pockets in a shroud.” He said many others could go through the same experience as he did and become an inventor of a household object. “I want to make sure everyone is aware they are an inventor,” he said. “I don’t want people to think you have to be a genius to be one.”

Sony Hackers Shared Stolen Employee Login Data

Sony Hackers Shared Stolen Employee Login Data

Sony Hackers Shared Stolen Employee Login Data
The BBC news website is reporting that data that helped hackers access Sony’s internal network came from another group targeting the firm’s gaming network, reports the Washington Post. In an interview, a self-proclaimed Lizard Squad member said it had given stolen data to the Guardians of Peace. The GoP has carried out several attacks on Sony in a bid to halt the release of comedy film The Interview.

By contrast, the Lizard Squad targeted Sony’s PlayStation network knocking it offline on Christmas Day.

The man interviewed by the newspaper appears to one of the two members who spoke to the BBC last week. In the interview, the self-identified senior member of Lizard Squad said his group knew people that were part of GoP. Despite the connection, the spokesman said Lizard Squad did not play a “large part” in the attacks the GoP mounted against Sony.

GoP’s attacks involved exposing confidential information about many Sony employees and sharing thousands of emails sent between employees, film stars and movie makers.

PSN error message PlayStation Network members were confronted with error messages when trying to access the online service.

The Lizard Squad member said his group “handed over some Sony employee logins” that were used by GoP to get its initial attack underway. The admission is the first acknowledgement by the Lizard Squad of its connection to GoP.

The information throws some doubt on the theory that North Korea was behind the attacks on Sony’s internal systems. The state was accused of being behind the hack by the FBI because The Interview is about a fictional American plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Pyongyang has filed formal complaints about the film. However, the Reuters news agency has reported that US investigators are exploring whether North Korea “contracted out” some of the work involved, which could explain how Lizard Squad formed links to GoP.

The Lizard Squad spokesperson did not elaborate on how the group got hold of the login information for Sony employees. However, it is possible it found or uncovered them while searching for ways to attack the PlayStation gaming network.

The Lizard Squad has repeatedly attacked Sony’s network and many others during 2014. On Christmas Day it managed to disrupt it and the Xbox Live network for hours leaving many gamers unable to log in. The spokesperson said the attacks were carried out to expose the “massive security issues” many large companies suffer. “The customers of these companies should be rather worried,” they said.

The attacks on the PlayStation and Xbox networks have now stopped thanks to the intervention of tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. Instead, the group has switched its attention to the Tor network which has taken steps to limit the effect the Lizard Squad can have on the system.

Buying Gifts for the Home and Garden – 2015

Buying Gifts for the Home and Garden – 2015

Buying Gifts for the Home and Garden in 2015
During this time of the year, many people are moving to a new home, a new town and even some moving to a different part of the country. Many of your friends might be moving to a new home where the tradition is usually to offer gifts for the home for any house warming. Alternatively, something for your new apartment neighbour is a nice get-to-know gift.

Here are some ideas for house warming gifts for the home and garden.

There are some cute items on the market currently for the kitchen. A new cutting board is a gift that only gets better with time as well as seasoning. A nice one has a deep moat for juices, and fine ones have heft and durability that only a fine cutting board can provide. This and other items such as kitchen towels can be personalized with the family’s name. Other kitchen items include ceramic mixing bowls, nice set of measuring cups and spoon, ceramic Mason jar mugs, or other kitchen type items are always great gifts for the home and garden.

Traditional house warming gifts need to have significance for the new home. Candles are usually given to bless a new home with warmth and light. A lovely bottle of personalised wine is often a great gift and this idea can be incorporated in house warming gifts like an elegant wine decanter or wine glasses, wine accessories, or gifts for the kitchen or bathroom. These will always work well as house warming gifts.

A home is a place to indulge and relax; these are the items, which encourage new residents to put their feet up and to enjoy their surroundings. Food is always an important part of any home, and kitchen gifts are always a great gift to welcome friends or relatives into their new home.

Flowers or potted plants make lovely gifts for home and garden. Select a bouquet or lucky bamboo plant to use on their new dining room table. Great garden gift such as a garden kneeler and bird feeders all are great house warming gifts. Seed kits and aromatherapy garden kit can be used for indoor or outdoor, so they will work well for new apartment neighbours.

Garden items are numerous and many are unique such as a light for the back step, which gets its energy from the sun during the day. For the yard and gardens there are hundreds of unique and different items that make wonderful all available at the home and gift shop.

However, it really does not matter what you give as a gift as those who are in the middle of a move are usually just happy to see a smiling face or the chance to meet the neighbours they will be living close. Therefore, if you see someone moving in, just stop and introduce yourself, and make him or her feel welcomed in his or her new neighborhood.

So were to find these great gift ideas? Online shopping websites such as the Home and Gift shop offer convenience and range, offering everything for the home and garden, including a diverse range of home & garden furniture, including a range of gift ideas for the kitchen and bedroom, many of which you probably never knew existed.

Shopping online for home furnishings and gifts is also great way to get decorating ideas and the perfect way to find a huge selection of products. And, by shopping online, you will often also be able to find high quality items at bargain prices, something that every homemaker will appreciate!

So, be creative and have fun when choosing the home furnishings and giftware for your new home. And remember, you can browse an ever growing range of gifts for the home and garden twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at the Home and Gift Shop website.

Business:         Home and Gift Shop


Network Rail Boss may Take Bonus after Rail Disruption

Network Rail Boss may Take Bonus after Rail Disruption

Network Rail Boss may Take Bonus after Rail Disruption
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has told the BBC an internal committee will decide what bonus he should take, following recent major rail disruption. Mr Carne said he could get a maximum of £34,000, or around 5% of his £675,000 annual salary.

London King’s Cross station was closed on Saturday after engineering work over-ran, leaving thousands of people unable to return home from Christmas. London Paddington was also temporarily shut after work did not finish on time.

Many hundreds of people were left queuing in freezing temperatures after being diverted to Finsbury Park station in north London, which was being used as a temporary terminal, before it was closed on police advice.

The problems continued into Sunday morning, with some trains arriving into King’s Cross up to 90 minutes late. By Monday, normal service had resumed.

Mr Carne told the BBC one of the changes he had made when he started in the post earlier this year was to reduce the biggest possible bonus he could get from 160% to 20%, of his salary, or around £135,000. He apologised about the disruption caused by the over-running works. Network Rail owns Britain’s rail infrastructure, including track, stations and signals, and is in charge of maintaining and updating the network.

Mr Carne did not say for sure whether or not he would be taking his bonus. “I have reduced the bonus from 160% to 20%. We have made significant steps to defuse the issue of bonuses. We have had a very difficult time over the festive period,” he said.

Mr Carne said he had launched a review into what went wrong and who was responsible for the situation on the 27 December, adding the results would be published by 9 January. He said it was likely to be an “issue” of the projects section of his business, rather than operations. But he defended the company’s choice to run the work over the Christmas period, as half the number of people used the railways compared with non-holiday times. But the Network Rail boss added: “This was an enormously disruptive period of time.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin welcomed Mr Carne’s assurances that he and Network Rail would be learning lessons from the delays. But he added: “This must not just be warm words, however. Passengers deserve real action and I will be holding Network Rail to this commitment.”  He said it was “right” for Mr Carne to have his bonus slashed as the authority’s performance had been found “wanting”.

Sunday’s problems were caused by a signalling issue near Finsbury Park and congestion caused by the over-running work, National Rail Enquiries said.

A revised service is operating on Monday on Great Northern routes to and from King’s Cross station.

The Office of Rail Regulation is to investigate the disruption, which was part of a £200m investment programme.

Anthony Smith, chief executive at independent watchdog Passenger Focus, said: “When things go wrong, as happened this weekend, it is more difficult for Network Rail to justify performance-related bonuses.  “Perhaps it is time for these payments to be linked with passengers’ views of how the network has performed.”

CBI Urges Government to Focus on Cutting Deficit in 2015

CBI Urges Government to Focus on Cutting Deficit in 2015

CBI Urges Government to Focus on Cutting Deficit in 2015
Cutting the deficit should be the government’s priority in 2015, the CBI has said, as it also calls for major changes to preserve public services.

In its new year message, the business lobby group says reducing the deficit is a “must” for whichever government takes power next year. It hails the UK’s economic performance which has left it the strongest among the G7 leading nations. It also suggests a radical education reform to scrap GCSEs at the age of 16.

John Cridland, the CBI’s director general, said: “We must sustain the best launch pad for the UK economy and our young people. Cementing Britain’s reputation in the world as one of the best places to do business has to be a top priority for 2015. “Our economy is among those enjoying the fastest growth among the G7 nations, with 1.2 million jobs created this year and employment set to grow in every region of the UK in 2015.”

Mr Cridland continued: “For business leaders, deficit reduction is a must for the next government.” He said the easiest cuts to public services had already been made and the only way to bring down the gap between government spending and income was to take drastic steps to prevent public services suffering “decline through a thousand cuts”.

The CBI suggests integrating health and social care, and a significant increase in services available online.

On education, Mr Cridland said the current system was leaving too many young people behind and he called for GCSEs to be replaced by a four-year learning plan between the ages of 14 and 18.

The BBC’s economics correspondent Andy Verity says the CBI has long protested that its members have hundreds of thousands of unfilled vacancies for skilled jobs which it says young people could easily do if they were prepared at school.

Since 2012, the group has regarded the two years spent working towards GCSEs as an unwelcome distraction for 14 to 16-year-olds, especially those wanting to learn skills other than academic ones, our correspondent adds.

The CBI now says GCSEs should be abolished and replaced by tailored learning plans, with each pupil keeping up maths and English as well as a mix of either vocational or academic A levels, to be tested just once at 18.

On the future of Britain’s place in the world, Mr Cridland said the majority of CBI members wanted the UK to remain within a reformed EU.

Boxing Day Sales: UK Shoppers Flock to Stores

Boxing Day Sales: UK Shoppers Flock to Stores

Boxing Day Sales: UK Shoppers Flock to Stores
Shoppers across the UK have been descending on their High Streets for the annual Boxing Day sales. Some had queued from the early hours in the hope of securing bargains.

Among those offering reductions were familiar names like Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty, House of Fraser, Next and Marks & Spencer.

Despite Black Friday’s emergence as a major UK shopping day, Myf Ryan of Westfield shopping centres said Boxing Day remained a “huge attraction”. Westfield operates two large shopping centres in west and east London. “This year we expect an exceptionally busy day yet again, fuelled by excellent retail offers and special deals with over 50% off by many of our 600 retailers,” she said.

The Next fashion chain opened at 06:00 GMT, and at one of its stores on Oxford Street in London’s West End, 600 people were queuing to get in.

In Birmingham, some shoppers had been queuing since 02:30 outside the Bullring branch of Selfridges, with store deputy manager Sam Watts estimating some 2,000 were in the queue by opening time.

According to data firm Experian and online retailing trade association IMRG, internet shoppers are expected to spend £748m on Boxing Day, or £519,000 a minute. They also predict some 167 million visits to online retail sites, up 29% on 2013, during the day.

“This year has seen record breaking online shopping rates, particularly on Black Friday, which saw an astronomical £810m in estimated spend due to the massive resources put behind promotions by a wide range of retailers,” said Experian’s Giles Longhurst. “Traditionally, the Boxing Day sales have been the busiest day for retailers in the UK, but this year we expect them to come second to Black Friday.”

Tesco Direct said it expected sales of more than 5,000 televisions and more than 2,000 games consoles during the day.

Supermarket chain Asda said it was predicting more than two million shoppers through its doors.

The shopping frenzy could mean a heavy workload for the new retail ombudsman, Dean Dunham, when he turns up for his new role on 2 January. Mr Durham said he expected his first task to be dealing with disputes caused by Christmas shopping and new year sales bargain hunters.

Poorest Energy Customers Need Debt Holiday, says Citizens Advice

Poorest Energy Customers Need Debt Holiday, says Citizens Advice

Poorest Energy Customers Need Debt Holiday, says Citizens Advice
Ten million householders who use pre-payment energy meters should be given a debt “holiday”, says the charity Citizens Advice.

Unlike other customers, those with pre-payment meters cannot spread their payments throughout the year. As a result they spend twice as much on winter gas bills as in the summer – and are therefore prone to debt. One supplier – Scottish Power, said it had already introduced such a scheme last year.

However Citizens Advice said all suppliers should follow suit, and allow pre-pay customers to pay off debts in the summer period – when their bills are lower.

“A debt holiday would be a Christmas bonus for pre-pay customers,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice. It might also prevent pre-payment customers being forced to turn off their central heating. “Delaying payments for debts will mean those people struggling to afford heat and light don’t have to make severe cut-backs,” she said.

Citizens Advice said that during 2014 there had been a 66% increase in the number of people seeking online help for paying their bills.

An analysis of figures from the regulator, Ofgem, shows that 80% of households having payment meters installed are already in debt.

Economic Growth Revised Down to 2.6%

Economic Growth Revised Down to 2.6%

Economic Growth Revised Down to 2.6%
The UK economy has grown more slowly in the past year than previously thought, official figures indicate. A revision to previous figures means that growth over the year to the third quarter is now put at 2.6%, not 3%.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed that the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.7% from the second quarter of the year to the third quarter. The economy is now only 2.9% higher than the previous pre-recession peak.

Earlier figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had suggested that the economy was in fact 3.4% up on that peak.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “The stark revision in annual growth confirms that the pace of recovery is slowing. “Although the economy continues to grow, the recovery is not yet secure and further efforts are needed to boost business investment and to help businesses export to foreign markets.”

Howard Archer, at IHS Global Insight, said: “The latest economic data and surveys are somewhat mixed amid signs that increased global economic uncertainty and weakness in the eurozone is having some dampening impact on business confidence and investment. “This may well be reinforced over the coming months by heightened political uncertainty ahead of the May 2015 general election. “However, retail sales have been very strong, which bodes well for consumer spending in the fourth quarter,” he added.

Other statistics published by the ONS also show that the UK’s current account deficit – which measures the difference between the country’s exports and imports of goods and services – rose in the third quarter of the year to £27bn. That was a record 6% of GDP –  and, in the third quarter of the year, household spending (after the effect of inflation was stripped out) grew by 0.9% or £2.5bn. The main factor was a 2.9% rise in sending on transport compared with the second quarter.

Small Businesses Urged to make Severe Weather Plan

Small Businesses Urged to make Severe Weather Plan

Small Businesses Urged to make Severe Weather Plan
Almost 60% of small firms do not have plans in place for extreme weather – despite two thirds having been affected by snow, drought or floods in the last three years a survey suggests. The Federation of Small Businesses, which commissioned the research, said firms “need to get better prepared”.

The survey also found 29% of small firms did not have insurance for loss of income or damage caused by flooding.

A total of 1,199 federation members took part in the survey. It found 59% of small businesses had “no resilience plans to combat extreme weather”. The federation said damage caused by widespread flooding last year cost firms in affected areas an average of £1,531.

Mike Cherry, the federation’s national policy chairman, said: “Last year was the wettest winter on record and 3,200 commercial properties were flooded in the UK. “With such extreme weather events on the increase, small businesses need all the help they can get to make sure they can stay open whatever the weather.”

He said he was “concerned” that small businesses would not be included in the government’s Flood Re-agreement – a fund being set up to ensure people living in areas with a high risk of flooding can get affordable home insurance. “Firms need to be reassured that affordable flood insurance will be available in the future,” Mr Cherry added.

Of the businesses in the survey which said they had been affected by extreme weather, 46% said they experienced disruption to staff and customers, while 32% said suppliers, utilities or transport arrangements were disrupted.

The federation advised firms to check Environment Agency guidance on preparing for flooding.