The Weekly Round-Up: 18.12.09

Be careful with that tinsel...
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor on

Be careful with that tinsel...

Christmas Day. The one day of the year when everybody gets a rest, a mince pie and a chance to catch up with the family. Or the chance to spend the day hiding from the in-laws in the shed, depending on whether you get on with them or not.

But we should spare a thought for the tireless few that work on, while the rest of us take it easy.

No, not Santa and his elves: iPhone and BlackBerry owners.

Three-quarters of smartphone owners won't get a proper break from work this Christmas, because they will be checking for work email daily over the holidays.

In a survey by mobile phone comparison site rightmobilephone.co.uk, 45 per cent of the smartphone fans it surveyed said they will keep their smartphone on them at all times in case something important crops up (such as being summoned to the Dog and Duck for an emergency meeting with some beer, the Round-Up would suggest).

A quarter admitted that checking their emails is a habit they are unable to break - even though half of respondents admitted their obsessive smartphone checking will cause a row with family members this Christmas. Still, there's nothing more traditional than a festive family row, and it sure beats arguing over the rules of charades or wrestling with Auntie Madge for the remote control.

Actually, some of these smartphone obsessives may be on call - obliged to check their phone every half an hour in case something has broken down in the office. With just enough time to spare to sort things out, silicon.com has put together a helpful list of some of the biggest problems that can befall an IT department over Christmas. Just be careful where you hang that tinsel.

Of course, you may be yet to start your Christmas shopping (which is either incredibly brave or extremely foolish). In which case silicon.com can help - as long as you're buying gifts for a tech enthusiast. Check out the IT pro gift guide, or if you're buying something for someone a little further up the management tree, the top Christmas gifts for CIOs. And no, it's not the same stuff as in the first list but in more expensive wrapping paper, although that's not a terrible idea.

2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Blade Runner - some of the Round-Up's favourite movies. All those clever computers outsmarting the stupid humans. But it's already 2009 and our robot overlords seem to be taking a long time to arrive. So what went wrong?

Artificial intelligence (AI) in the real world hasn't provided the evil robotic geniuses we've been expecting but that doesn't mean that work on AI has stopped - in fact as silicon.com's AI cheat sheet explains, AI is everywhere - but not running the world. Yet.

Still, if you are hankering after a robotic overlord, you might like the concept of 'The Singularity', a theoretical (and maybe just-around-the-corner) tipping point where machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence.

The Round-Up says "theoretical" because it's quite possible that in some offices machine intelligence already exceeds that of humans. Especially with all the Christmas parties and festive boozing going on - currently you are more likely to get sense out of the coffee machine than most hung over office workers.

But check out the video of artificial intelligence expert professor Kevin Warwick discussing The Singularity, which features the immortal line "I don't want to be subservient to some damn machine."

One present you are almost guaranteed to get - a desk diary. And the Round-Up has found the first date for your 2010 diary, especially if you live in the North West. From 4 January next year the lucky people of Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Merseyside will be able to apply for ID cards from 4 January next year, the Home Office has announced.

The extension of the scheme across the North West of England will mean the cards are available to a further 4.3 million people.

Unfortunately the cards have already received a hostile reception in Liverpool, where the city council last week voted to ban from public buildings any activities that would promote the cards in the city.

Cards have been available to people living in the Greater Manchester area since last month. However to date just 2,400 people - including Home Office staff - have applied for the card out of the area's total population of about 2.6 million.

Still, if you don't fancy the New Year's sales, you could always start queuing for your ID card instead. The Round-Up reckons you'll be pretty close to the front of the line…

Still want more? Check out virtualisation's biggest fans or the top Green iPhone apps.

The Round-Up is now off to fight through the snow and crowds to do its Christmas shopping, which means there's no Weekly Round-Up next week. Have a great Christmas and New Year - the Round-Up will return in January.

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