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The Weekly Round-Up: 14.05.10

Weather forecast: A light shower of meteors followed by strong winds and the possibility of comets
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Written by The Round-Up on

Weather forecast: A light shower of meteors followed by strong winds and the possibility of comets

The British love talking about the weather. Or in other words, moaning about the weather.

Of course, our interest in the weather is inversely proportional to the actual excitement that British weather offers, which is pretty much zero. It rains, then rains some more and then there's a bit of sun, at which point everyone complains that it's too hot.

This week, however, silicon.com was reporting on a very different sort of weather - space weather, to be exact, which is way more exciting than the light drizzle we enjoy in the UK.

In the most famous space weather incident (admittedly 150 years ago) the sky on Earth glowed red and green and made telegraph equipment burst into flames.

The cause? The Sun, belching out a plume of charged particles that streamed across space before smashing into the magnetic shield that surrounds Earth. All very Star Trek.

And experts warn the damage that a similar-sized event today could cause - to power stations and satellites in orbit - has been estimated at more than $100bn.

Don't panic just yet though: blasts on the scale of the one in 1859 are only likely to happen once every 500 years. But - the frequency with which solar flares burst from the Sun does rise and fall according to an 11-year cycle, and 2012 is expected to be the next point at which flare activity will peak.

The Round-Up reckons it's about time a space weather bulletin was broadcast, just after the 10 O'Clock News. Picture it now - a nervous looking weatherman floating around in a space suit giving a space weather forecast: "There's going to be a strong solar wind followed by a 30 per cent chance of meteors and comets. Make sure you wrap up warm."

Cult viewing, for sure.

By the way, if you're looking for a way to spend more time on social networking sites during the working week while still being able to claim it's a legitimate work-related activity, let us help you out: silicon.com has been busy extending its empire into the wonderful world of social media. We've now got a group on LinkedIn, which those of you who wear suits can find here. And for the youngsters among you, we're also on Facebook. (Check out our Facebook page here and click 'like' if you, er, like what you see.) And of course there's Twitter too for the serious hipsters - find us at twitter.com/siliconlatest.



But back to the real world for a moment: now that it's been settled that we are all part of the Con-Dem nation, what has the freshly appointed government got in store for IT? Will the new administration be forged, in Harold Wilson's phrase, in the white heat of technology?

Possibly not. But one of Dave's first prime ministerial decisions did involve tech: he decided to ban members of the new cabinet from having their mobile phones with them during meetings.

To the Round-Up this means a few things.

Firstly, it's the sort of decision that would get the Round-Up's dad nodding in approval, which at least means David Cameron is still reaching out to his core constituency.

Secondly it's a massive blow to any minister who might be a Foursquare enthusiast (see our Cheat Sheet here) and harboured dreams of being the 'mayor' of 10 Downing Street. Probably just as well, as it's a bit early for in-fighting and plotting like that.

Thirdly, it may also mean ministers will actually have to pay attention during cabinet meetings, or at least switch from messing around with their phones to old-fashioned doodling to pass the time. That, or sneak in an iPod instead.

According to the BBC, our new Prime Minister told the cabinet of the ban at their first meeting yesterday.

Where does this new technology policy go next, the Round-Up wonders? Civil servants having their laptops replaced with ink pots and quills and carrier pigeons taking over from email? It remains to be seen - although chances are there are plenty of Whitehall mandarins that wouldn't be too put out if such a situation came to pass.

Of course, if you really want to know what the new government is likely to do when it comes to technology, the best thing to do is examine their policies - which silicon.com has already done here to save you the effort.

Let's just say we can expect some good policies on the IT front, and some less good ones. The good - we'll be almost certain to wave a not-especially-teary bye-bye to the ID card project, and wave hello to superfast broadband. The bad - lots and lots of cuts to IT, largely because politicians think nobody will notice or understand. But we will, dear reader, so stay tuned.


And finally this week, a warning about fat fingers. Yes, it seems that more and more mistakes are being made because we humans manage to press the wrong buttons on keyboards. In the financial world, these erroneous orders are known as "fat finger trades", leading one silicon.com columnist to call for some clever software to spot and stop these things from happening.

The Round-Up reckons it's less a problem of fat fingers and more one of tiny keyboards. The Round-Up has perfectly shaped fingers but has noticed that most gadgets have keyboards that are so small they can only be used by poking them with a toothpick or employing a mouse (of the cheese-eating kind) to do all the typing. And keyboards are getting smaller still. Before too long the Round-Up will have to hire an ant.


And with that, there's just time for a quick look at some of the other news this week:

Great news - just when you'd got the hang of Office 2007, here comes Office 2010. But sadly the Round-Up hasn't seen any evidence of the return of Clippy. Still, we've got pictures here and an Office 2010 Cheat Sheet.

And BT is to bring superfast broadband to more of the country soon.

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