Apple’s 12 Days of Christmas App

December 19th, 2014

If you are an avid iOS user, I’m sure by now you are familiar with Apple’s popular 12 days of Christmas App.

For those who are unaware, the downloadable app offers users a free promotion to download within a 24 hour window. After 24 hours, the downloadable content will disappear and a new one will appear.

Once users have downloaded the app they must check back every 24 hours to see what Apple is giving away for free.

Should Apple continue its promotional app, 12 Days of Christmas will be available to download from the app store on Friday 26th December and will stop on January 6th.

The app began in 2008, however, because Apple is yet to display it on their app store, people are questioning whether or not the tech giant will offer its promotion this Christmas.

Previous 12 Days of Christmas giveaways have included feature length movies, short films, music videos, episodes of popular TV shows, apps including games, books and more.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Chipmaker Imagination to rival Raspberry Pi

December 9th, 2014

It has recently been reported that British chipmaker Imagination has manufactured a computer chip which is set to rival the Raspberry Pi.

Imagination’s CI20 computer board features a more powerful processor than its competitor; it also has greater memory and on board storage.

The CI20 will set buyers back £50, compared to the Raspberry Pi which costs around £25.

The Raspberry Pi has sold almost four million units however Imagination is hopeful that its built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features, which allow for wireless data connections, can persuade people to purchase its computer board.

It has the functionality to run Google’s Android mobile operating system along with various versions of Linux – an open source operating system found on rival boards.

Imagination is targeting their computer board at people who are looking for ‘high-performance’ however analysts believe it wont be able to take market share away from the Raspberry Pi.

In 2013 Google donated 15,000 Raspberry Pi Models Bs for school children across the UK.

The CI20 is on sale now however users will have to wait until January 2015 for it to dispatch.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Meet Ben Rossiter

December 1st, 2014

In today’s blog, we get the lowdown on Ben, our newest Business Solutions Associate at Total; from background and experience, to passions and interests.

Q: How did it all begin?

A: Fifteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to join a leading Internet Service Provider. At the time they had launched a breakthrough solution in the security arena, giving me great grounding for the infrastructure element of IT. At the time we were also on the crest of an ever-increasing wave for application deployment.

With roles in fixed line services, telephone systems, mobile deployments and IT, I am now fascinated with the convergence of all the technology which allows a ‘think outside the box’ approach in order to answer some serious business challenges.

Q: Why did you join Total?

A: I was aware of the impressive reputation Total’s award-winning customer service had in the industry. In addition, the new growth plans from the Board were both exciting and refreshing, coupled with the level of investment already made in infrastructure and online customer tools. With that in mind, when the opportunity presented itself to join the expanding Solutions Team, I jumped at the chance.

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest change in the industry?

A: Gone are the days where a job starts at 9am, finishes at 5pm and has to be conducted in an office. With business transactions now taking place 24/7 and remote working commonplace, the ability to react at pace is vital.

People are now busier than ever, balancing both personal and business pressures. To this end and understandably, we are all becoming less patient. If an answer is not forthcoming within a couple of hours, it suddenly becomes unacceptable. To drive business, the ability to communicate correctly and in a time-conscious manner is now absolutely paramount.

Q: What do you feel is the most exciting aspect of the industry?

A: The rapidity of which the communications industry is changing. My 5-year-old daughters use my own smart devices to play games, watch films or edit information, on demand, anytime of day (or night!). If they are comfortable with this technology at such an early age, consider what their generation of workforce will develop and demand to communicate and conduct business.  There is already an insight to the future of collaboration with social media, real time messaging and video calls; I see this becoming standard.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

A: Speed of change, which is essential for driving business forward, can present challenges. Consumerisation of IT now allows everyone to believe they are “experts”.  Someone internally has to try and control evolving technology and data flow to and from devices.

Security is a huge topic, not only for the data and devices, but also to protect the environment they are trying to work within.  From physical hardware, applications, data, remote access, personal and business devices, it can be extremely difficult to guarantee everything is in place and working as it should.  With speed of change also comes future-proofing and stability.  Whatever is invested in and deployed, you want to ensure it will work in the future and integrate with the Next Big Thing. It is then a question of ‘Which horse do I back – and why’?

Q: What aspects of business are you most passionate about?

A: I am passionate about understanding individual businesses. It is a real cliché in sales environments, but if you do not really understand what businesses do, what they want to do and what the pain points are, how can you become a trusted advisor to them? I sometimes get a little ‘animated’ about technology and what is possible!

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

A: I spend most of my personal time with my wife and twin daughters (mainly wrestling my mobile devices off them!). I am trying to teach them all the finer points of rugby, however this is not going well. I enjoy most sports, although safely watching from the comfort of my surroundings rather than playing these days.

If you would like to contact Ben directly with any queries, or to arrange a free telecoms audit, simply call him on 07872 869 829 or email ben.r@total-ltd.co.uk

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts.

Bluesmart – An Update

November 12th, 2014

Over the past few months we have reported on the latest (and what we think are the coolest) crowd-funding projects that you can get involved with. We recently reported on Bluesmart, the world’s first smart-connected carry on suitcase, and in today’s blog we look at its progress over the past three weeks.

Bluesmart wants to become your personal travel assistant and it offers a range of features that no ordinary suitcase is even close to. From a built-in scale to a digitally controlled lock, travellers are already queuing to get their hands on this latest piece of tech.

Demand for the smart enabled suitcase is sky high as ‘Early Adopter’, ‘Super Early Adopter’, and even the ‘Early pair of Bluesmart’ models are already sold out. I originally blogged about Bluesmart in October where its fund-raising goal was $50,000, and it had received more than $140,000. I can now report that it has over $895,000 in pledges with 13 days still to go before it reaches its deadline.

So why has it been so popular?

Bluesmart has a built in battery to re-juice all your smart devices and it also offers location tracking. Other features include distance alerts and trip data tracking, all accessed via its Android or iOS app. Bluesmart is also making its apps accessible for smartwatches.

The suitcase isn’t just a smart piece of new technology but its design is also fantastic. Four spinner wheels, waterproof zippers, an anodized aluminium handle and three layers of polycarbonate for high resistance and low weight. Plus, at the front of the case, you will even find a separate, easily accessible, compartment designed specifically for your laptop and tablet. I’m tempted to pledge myself!

The key question people are asking is why would you need to track a carry on suitcase you have boarded the plane with? However this doesn’t seem to be putting people off.

To discover more about Bluesmart or to pledge to the project, click here.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

There’s an app for that #29: Board Games

November 10th, 2014

Cardboard is so yesterday (unless it’s of the Google Cardboard variety, of course). So, pack away your winter board games and download one of these to play instead, they take up a lot less space.

The traditionalists among you may want to head straight for ‘Checkers Elite’, aka Draughts, available for Android and iOS.

This version of the game has the highest ratings for functionality and it is certainly the prettiest version of the game in the marketplace. With 20 variants of chip and four variants of board, you can pick and choose the visuals, along with the style of game you want to play, from Poddavki to Random. And like the original version, you can play online with friends and family, however the bonus of using an app is that you can play with them wherever you may be.

Family favourite, Jenga is also available as an app. Not only is it a lot easier to put away than the real thing, but you can keep it in your pocket.

This is a faithful recreation of the classic tower-building game. Using a realistic physics engine, your tower wobbles and leans as you remove puzzle pieces and as you stack them higher. The blocks really do react like the ones in the real-world version, which is an incredible feat.

One reason for its accuracy is that it has been designed in consultation with Leslie Scott, the original creator of Jenga who appears to have embraced the move from wood to digital.  Available for both Android and iOS.

One of my childhood favourite games was Boggle. And I’m pleased to see there is a great version, with good ratings, alive and kicking via an iPad app.

For the non-Bogglers amongst us, the ‘retro’ version was a (loud) shakeable box containing letter dice-like cubes. This version is far quieter, thankfully. And with the support of Dictionary.com you can even improve your vocabulary whilst you play.

And no winter (or dare we say it, ‘festive period’) would be complete without Monopoly. Nothing says ‘love’ like evicting your friends and family members from properties they’ve saved up to buy. The official Monopoly game is available to download for both Android and iOS.

Those who remember receiving the ‘Compendium of Games’ sets for Christmas of yesteryear may recall the joy of discovering seven games in one box. From a little research online it seems that, in this instance the box version is still the best to go for as the ‘Compendium’ apps often direct users to chargeable game downloads as opposed to supplying them all within the download. It is far better to choose the individual games you want and create your own compendium.

No cheating.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

Pets and Technology

November 7th, 2014

American scientists have recently manufactured a dog harness prototype, fitted with eight sensors, which can monitor a dog’s posture and vital signs and improve communication between dogs and humans.

The harness is also equipped with heart-rate and body temperature sensors which allow it to alert owners or carer’s when the dog is stressed or excited.

Owners will be able to establish whether or not their dog is running, sitting and standing, even when they’re out of sight.

The harness examines the dog’s body language, its primary means of communication, and features vibrating motors so people can communicate with their dogs without them being visible.

Data recorded by the harness is sent to the owners hand held smart device where they can see real time information.

Sean Mealin, a PhD student at NC State, who has worked on the project, has commented: “This can help handlers identify and mitigate stress for the dogs,”

“It’s an important issue. Particularly because guide dogs are bred and trained not to display signs of stress in their behaviour.”

Reports also suggest the harness can be used for basic training as owners can send vibrations to the harness to support a spoken order.

People involved in this project are currently working on reducing the harnesses size and improving its sensors. This is so they can be rolled out into shelters and hospitals to monitor and care for animals recovering from treatment.

For more pet-tech related blogs, check out Cath’s High-tech your pet post.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

What is Google Cardboard?

November 6th, 2014

You may have spotted a few photographs on Twitter, or on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages. Yes, Google Cardboard arrived in the Total office, and some of us were very eager to enter the cardboard realm of virtual reality. Allow me to explain what the experience is like.

Once you’ve chosen the size you need for your mobile device, and components such as an optional elasticated head strap, the simple but clever design arrives as a one-piece mailer, which is ‘unzipped’. This folds out to reveal the Google Glasses shape, which is easy enough to build into glasses. In fact it is worth installing the ‘Cardboard’ app before you unzip it as the introduction video shows you (albeit briefly) how the unit fits together.

When the cardboard looks like a stereoscope (those born post 1985 can find out more here) you’re ready to go. Assuming you’ve downloaded and have opened the Cardboard app (or alternatives) place your device on the NFC sticker as shown above in black, which contains a small circuit board which automatically tethers to your device.

Some Cardboards have a ‘jelly’ like sticky pad over it ensuring your smartphone doesn’t slide off, however some are simply held together with an elastic band.

Once the smartphone is on and in, Velcro the device together and fit over your eyes. No, it isn’t particularly comfortable.

The Cardboard menu is simple and offers a taster as to what the ‘device’ can do. Tilt your head to change icon (you can also tilt right-ear-to-shoulder to return to this screen at any time).

When you find the game or video you want to view, use the slider located on the side of Cardboard to select, and in you go.

Whilst you view a semi-3D immersive world, the image is actually split on your device and looks like the Street View example shown to the right.

It works well, particularly when you venture into other apps. I found myself on a Spanish-style hilltop overlooking a village and rather deep drops, which upon ‘walking towards’ make me really rather nervous of the virtual height I was at.

As affordable (around £10) and good fun as this is, there are three potential downsides.

  1. The VR world was fast and immersive on my colleagues Note 4, however very slow on my Moto E.
  2. In short, it seems you need a good Android device with a super-speedy processor to really get the most out of it.Downloads are relatively large so you may need to do a little app-housekeeping.
  3. You may be concerned that you look a bit silly.

Fortunately none of the above has deterred me, and I will have no qualms in watching a video on an aeroplane or train using mine – as opposed to enduring the frustration of a constantly sliding smartphone or tablet – at least this stays put thanks to the elasticated strap. Although the true VR environment is somewhat lost on my MotoE, the video watching ability isn’t so, for £10, I can immerse myself in my own cinema experience as and when I please. As more apps are released, I fully intend to give each one a try and see how well it works on my device.

Have you tried Google Cardboard? Let us know.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

The Original Just Say Mo Team is back!

November 4th, 2014

For the past four years a group of gentlemen at Total Ltd, known as the ‘Original Just Say Mo’ team, have each grown, groomed and grown some more, a moustache to help raise money, increase awareness and change the face of men’s health by participating in Movember.

Team captain, Paul Lees, is no stranger to Movember as he leads his Mo-growing team of men for the fifth year! Other Mo-Bro’s include Shaun Banner, Jack Wetson, Jamie Watherston, Joseph Martin, Jamie McLennan, Peter Shing and Jamie Sansom.

Did you know?

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lives.

Last year, the team managed to raise £360 and our goal is to beat that this year.  All sponsors are welcome, no matter how small or large, and this can be done by visiting The Original Just Say Mo donation page.

Four days in and we have already raised £55 thanks to generous donations by people like you.

Weekly updates and photos of the boys ‘Mo’gress’ can be found by regularly checking Total’s Facebook page and by following us on Twitter.

Did you know?

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 25-49 years.

A huge thanks to all the boys involved. The money raised really does support a great cause.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

A Brief History of the Cryptocurrency

November 3rd, 2014

We’ve all heard of Bitcoin, but have you heard of Namecoin, Litecoin, Mastercoin, Betacoin and Globe? Reports now suggest over 200 variants of known digital and cryptocurrencies have come and gone in cyber space. How did it all begin?

Pre-millennia, there was ‘E-gold’. Boasting ‘better money since 1996’, by 1999, the Financial Times called it “the only electronic currency that has achieved critical mass on the web”.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the right kind of critical mass. E-gold traded in precious metals via an online account, which was accessible to international users.

Instead of becoming a legitimate currency rival, E-gold’s optimistic creator, Douglas Jackson, saw it abused by hackers and drug dealers looking to launder money, due to not running user identity checks. Despite his before-its-time innovation, Jackson ended up on the distinctively wrong side of the law himself in 2005 when his house was raided and he pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed money transmitter business. It is worth noting that the upside of creating and using an asset backed currency is that Mr Jackson was able to liquidate vaults of gold to pay out on $20m claims.

All that aside, the fact that E-gold users opened more than 4 million accounts, with more than $60m in deposits, proved the need and inclination to develop an online currency. And soon enough, Goldmoney was hot on E-golds heels, featuring all the corrected verification issues omitted during E-gold account set up. With the growth of e-commerce, we’ve never looked back.

Introducing a cryptocurrency isn’t for the feint-hearted, with strict regulations now in place involving identity checks, registering as a money transmitter and account monitoring; it is a costly exercise to embark on and a difficult business investment to fund. And by no means is every loophole closed, with many regulatory debates held in full view of the world media.

Fast forward to 2014 and skimming over alternative cryptocurrencies, we reach the highly-publicised Bitcoin. The fact that Bitcoin is decentralised and remains in effect ‘a concept’ makes it hard to pinpoint any potential blame in the way in which the E-gold case was handled. Some countries have banned it and, in the USA, Bitcoins are not recognised as currency but as ‘property’ for tax purposes and subject to capital gains. As reported in the Guardian, “paying for a beer in Bitcoin would be a taxable event with the buyer having to work out if they had made any capital gain on the asset they had just sold.”

But for the e-user, Bitcoin could be a good option. In today’s international marketplace, Bitcoins can be transferred to a location on the other side of the world almost instantly and with no fees or change of currency. Small fees are requested for certain processes and to pay those who run the Bitcoin network, however it remains the users choice as to whether to pay the fees or not.  Buy Bitcoins from friends or ‘mine’ them. However, ensure you don’t accidentally throw your digital wallet away like this person did, losing around $7m in the process.

Yes, the concept is completely different to anything we’ve known before and will take some getting used to. The question is, if the circulation of Bitcoin ever ceased, could the balance of an account suddenly find itself worthless, with no way of selling any assets to replenish it?

Are you a Bitcoin user? And if you are, what have you found to be the key benefits of using cryptocurrency?

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.

This week in technology: Talkase, Pip and Uber

October 30th, 2014

Whilst we often focus on apps, new products or crowdfunding projects, this week there have been some interesting projects across all of these areas.

Talkase

Ever wish you didn’t have to take your smartphone out for an evening, but don’t want to miss any emergency calls? Or perhaps you’ve discovered your device hasn’t properly charged overnight but can’t risk being out of the communication loop.

Whatever your reason for not taking your usual device with you, there is a suitable stand-in.

Talkase is a credit card sized mobile phone which can make calls and text. At 5.5mm thick it can slip easily into a pocket, wallet or purse. Utilising 2G, it also lasts for 100 hours, takes a micro-SIM so you can use your usual smartphone SIM if preferred, or you can pair it via Bluetooth to your main device to make calls (although this is likely to use up battery life very quickly).

Interested? You’ll need to pledge via Kickstarter to get this off the ground. A $35 pledge will get you a phone should the project ‘go live’. It also includes a handy iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus case which allows you to clip either the Talkase or a credit card to your iPhone.

Pip

With smart devices becoming more involved in medical diagnosis and treatments, Pip caught our attention this week when it hit the news.

Pip monitors electrical changes in the surface of skin to indicate a user’s stress levels in real-time via the small sensor, which is then converted and displayed in a corresponding app. Developed alongside ‘stress experts’, the apps are designed to respond to the sensor readings providing the user with relevant exercises and progressive learning tools for self-monitoring.

There are of course many relaxation apps available, but Pip has launched under the premise of saving the global economy billions annually by suggesting it could be a convenient medical tool to combat work-related stress. Pip is priced at €179.00.

Uber

We blogged about Uber earlier this year when traditional London cabbies protested against the app and what they felt was the likely impact of it on their livelihood, bringing traffic to a standstill. As a result of the publicity, the number of Uber downloads increased by 850%!  Since then it has barely remained out of the technology headlines in the UK, only earlier this month being referred to HMRC by Transport for London.

Uber is now available in more than 200 cities (70 cities at launch in 2009), however some are not happy about it. Nevada and Germany have taken their protest further by actually banning Uber. In fact Germany banned it twice last month by lifting an existing ban on it only to overturn that decision within the same month claiming that the firm had indeed operated without legal license. Uber is reviewing its options.

Ubers indomitable spirit continues in Nevada. Having only launched there last week, Ubers rented vehicles have even been impounded by Nevada authorities citing they were acting as an ‘illegal operator’. A similarly contentious rollout is also underway in Philadelphia.

So, what next? It appears Uber views itself more as a technology platform rather than a transportation company, and with the app’s developers based in Holland, it makes matters pertaining to the law and taxes all a little confusing.

Keep up to date with our blogs via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter for the latest news in technology and innovation.

Catherine Howe is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog.