The Monthly Digest - Dec 2016

Views, News & more

Your monthly round-up of all that's wonderful in the world of technology, science and, y’know, weird. Plus the occasional useful thing thrown in too.

Editors note: Some links have been updated since this was originally published.

Black Friday

Did you buy a remote-controlled helicopter, drone or Walking Dead boxset on Black Friday? Us neither. Now, while you’ve no doubt have read all about how much Black Friday generated in sales, both on and offline, we’ve got some interesting Black Friday tidbits for you that might just have slipped under your radar.

People dug a hole for no apparent reason

People donated $100,573 (about £805,000) to fund the digging of a hole somewhere in the US - for no reason. We’re assuming those behind this rather unusual project, the makers of that game Cards Against Humanity - which annoying people play - were making a clever point about commercial and corporate greed in the soon-to-be Trumpified US of A. Although they denied this, saying there was no deep meaning or purpose to the dig. Hmpf. “Hole got dug”, it says on their website. It reminded us (kind of) of that time in the ‘90s when Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of pop band The KLF burnt a million quid.

Trigger happy

Worryingly, gun sales boomed on Black Friday. In the US, that is. The FBI said it processed 185,713 background checks for gun buyers through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, around 400 more transactions than the bureau processed on Black Friday 2015, Business Insider reported. While background checks don’t necessarily correlate to sales, the news does not bode well, especially given incoming president Donald Trump is likely to leave US firearm regulations untouched.

Lights out

A portent of doom, or did someone just forget to flick a switch? People on the hunt for discounts and deals in London were left fumbling around in the darkness on Black Friday when a power cut plunged a large part of Soho into the black. Shops were shut and theatre shows were cancelled with 2,300 properties affected until power was restored at around 9pm. Some anti-capitalist power network hack? Sadly not. "An underground electricity cable has faulted on our high voltage network causing an area wide power cut," UK Power Networks said.

You might be interested in our rather useful blog all about keeping your IT infrastructure ticking when big events like Black Friday roll around.


Electrolux’s bright ideas

Electrolux wants to be a big dog. And who can blame it. The Swedish firm is exploring a number of new ideas, drawing on the sharing economy, smart homes and the Internet of Things, as it looks to expand its offering so consumers know it does much more than just white goods like hoovers and dishwashers.

One of these is an ‘Uber for laundry’-type service where people would use their own washing machines to wash other people’s clothes. Another is developing ovens that cook meats to their required ‘doneness’ (e.g. a rare steak) rather than asking customers to manually set the  temperature and time. And it’s looking at apps through which you can control your air-con (if you have it).

Speaking to the Financial Times, Jonas Samuelson, the newly-installed Electrolux chief executive, said: “We have a few fun ideas we are testing, like: how about a laundry Uber, where people share their unused laundry time? But there are enormous complexities such as what happens if the clothes come out and are ruined?” Quite.


Viva la (digital) revolución?

Fidel Castro, one of the most controversial, memorable and iconic political leaders of the 20th century, died this week aged 90. Castro, who governed Cuba as its prime minister for 47 years and then its president for 30, was a particularly divisive figure. Trump called him a “brutal dictator”; others were more reflective. But whether you say goodbye or good riddance, Cuba is no doubt on the cusp of great change following Castro’s death.

And one place that great change could happen is in the country’s digital economy. Observers think Castro’s younger brother, Raul, who has led the island since 2006, may quicken the pace of development in a post-Fidel landscape. Fortune reports that internet access, although expensive and monitored for anti-government sentiment, is growing in Cuba, with its citizens increasingly engaging with the digital world. Some, for example, have put their homes on Airbnb.

Couple this digitisation with Castro’s moves in the early noughties to set up a programme to computerise the country and set up a domestic software sector, while Cuban universities are now producing 5,500 computer scientists every single year.


Stormy seas

What usually causes an internet outage? Congestion? Yep. Equipment failure? Yep. A ship’s anchor? Er, you what?

No, this has happened. Jersey has suffered significant broadband and telecoms disruption after a ship broke three of the island’s main undersea fibre optic cables after dragging its anchor along the seabed. The BBC reported that a number of people had lost internet completely and internet speeds on the island are expected to be slow. The significant event could take up to a week to repair, telecoms firm JT, Jersey’s main operator.

Next time a ship’s anchor disrupts your internet supply, read our blog post on the importance of a business continuity strategy when disaster strikes.


These doors are closing

Next time you’re in a lift on the way to a meeting, don’t bother pressing the ‘close door’ button. Because it doesn’t actually do anything. Ikr?


That’s all for this month. See you the next.

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