The Weekly Round-Up: BlackBerry Jam, plus the car of the future

Our satirical take on the week...
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

Our satirical take on the week...

It's been a trying week for BlackBerry users.

That little red light - the one that provides so much self-worth to bosses by alerting them to that business-critical email they've just received - hasn't been flashing all that much this week.

BlackBerry users first reported problems receiving emails and getting web access on Monday.

The problems persisted until Thursday by which time the outage, the biggest in RIM's history, had been brought back under control and normal service levels were being restored. Users weren't impressed.

Indeed, with no option other than to actually pay attention during meetings, instead of self-importantly fiddling with their messages, managers up and down the country have actually had to take some notice of what has been going on inside their organisation. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that, so expect productivity to decline as a result.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazardis even took to YouTube to express his regret for the disruption to services. He said: "Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it's been my goal to provide reliable, real-time communications around the world."

"We did not deliver on that goal this week - not even close," he said.

Still, at least RIM doesn't have a major competitor bringing out major new products any time soon. What? Oh.

Sorry, Mike...

Apple fans line up

For yes indeed, last night, legions of Apple fans around the world slept outside shops in order to get their hands on the new iPhone 4S, apparently ignorant of the fact they could have just pre-ordered the phone online and had it delivered, and stayed in bed instead.

Despite being a die-hard iPhone fan, the Round-Up has never felt the compulsion to stagger in the direction of an Apple Store on a cold, windy pre-dawn morning in order to get the new phone first.

Occasionally though, on a day like this, it has felt a mild compulsion to stagger in the direction of an Apple Store and queue for hours with the fans waiting for the new phone - and then ask for a pair of replacement headphones.

Just to see the expression on the face of the Apple Store employee.

Imagine being filmed walking out of an Apple Store, being applauded and high-fived by blue-shirted employees, while holding aloft...

...a pair of headphones or a replacement MacBook Pro battery instead of a 4S. An image that would live long in the memory.

For some strange reason, lots of people failed to get excited about the iPhone 4S. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that they got very excited about not getting excited about the iPhone 4S and this gave them licence to talk and write about it a lot.

People are missing the point. It may not have a new design or a full iterative version number but it's a new phone. The company also launched its huge cloud service iCloud as well as the latest version of iOS for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Brand-new phone, brand-new OS and brand-new cloud platform. It makes those who criticised the lack of a new handset design or full number increment look a bit silly.

Come on in BlackBerry users, the water's lovely...

Back to the future

If you were anything like the Round-Up when you were a kid, you'd create vivid visions of what life in the future would look like. Fuelled by Star Wars and 2001, your formative years were spent with a head crammed with dreams of a shinier, better future.

If this does paint a picture of your younger, more idealistic and hopeful self, the Round-Up is guessing a car that can drive itself would've been high up the wish list of future tech, along with a teleportation device and a pair of self-removing trousers.

Guess what? The future has arrived. Some petrol-head boffins from Oxford University have only gone and designed a robot car that is able to drive itself and knows how to route its way around traffic jams. Although sadly not in the shape of a DeLorean.

The researchers have modified a Wildcat vehicle built by BAE systems to be able to 'see' the world around it using cameras, radars and lasers mounted on the car.

The computer inside the car processes the data collected by these sensors and is able to steer the car around hazards in the road.

The system 'sees' by building a 3D map of its environment using the sensor data and picking out potential obstacles or other significant objects. The team is training the system to be able to distinguish between different types of objects in its 3D map of its surroundings.

The aim of the project is to develop an autonomous vehicle that can avoid obstacles and deliver its trusting passengers to their destination in one piece.

The academic leading the research, professor Paul Newman, said: "We need cars that do the thinking and concentrating for you, cars that do not insist you do the driving all the time.

"If the going is slow, why can't I watch the show I missed last night, Skype with the kids, read a book or send that last email and elect the car to handle the drudgery of the trip for me?"

Cars that do the thinking and concentrating for us? The Round-Up wonders whether it would be allowed to bring its car of the future into the office, too...

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