Tag: scotland

Now is the winter of Amazon’s discount tents

At_the_South_Pole,_December_1911Amazon workers have been sleeping in tents close to the company’s fulfillment centre in Fife.

According to the local press, three tents have been spotted in woodland beside the online retail giant’s base just off the M90 in Dunfermline in recent days.

The news follows claims that the agency workers are working up to 60 hours per week for little more than the minimum wage and are harshly treated.

The idea is that to save money commuting the workers are living in tents to during the Christmas rush.

One worker, who did not wish to be named, told the The Courier that the firm was a “poor employer” and criticised working practices at the Fife site.

He added that he had opted to stay in a tent as it was easier and cheaper than commuting from his home in Perth.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP, who has repeatedly called for the firm to improve its working conditions and its tax record, once more slammed Amazon after learning that some workers had apparently taken to staying in the woods.

“Amazon should be ashamed that they pay their workers so little that they have to camp out in the dead of winter to make ends meet,” he told The Courier.

“They pay a small amount of tax and received millions of the pounds from the SNP Government so the least they should do is pay the proper living wage.
Amazon employs around 1,500 staff on a permanent basis at its Dunfermline fulfillment centre but has created 4,000 seasonal jobs to help cover the busy Christmas and New Year period.

Researchers turn LED displays into 'Li-Fi' wireless

Scientists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland have emerged from their smoke filled labs having come up with a Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) technology that could turn ordinary LED computer displays into a sophisticated wireless communications network like wi-fi.

The process is based on German development. German researchers came up with an 800Mbps capable wireless network by using red, blue, green and white LED light bulbs in 2011.

But the University of Strathclyde’s idea uses micron sized LEDs and will mean that an LED array beside a motorway could light the road, displaying the latest traffic updates and transmitting internet information wirelessly to passengers’ laptops, netbooks and smartphones.

Micron-sized LEDs are able to flicker on and off around 1,000 times quicker than the larger LEDs and this means faster data transfers and they also take up less space.

Each micron-sized LED can also act as a tiny pixel which can be used to light a living room. It could also be used as a screen displaying information, at exactly the same time.

It does have some limits. Since light cannot penetrate through most walls it means that the signal is easily blocked by somebody simply walking in front of the LED source. In Scotland that could mean fog and rain shutting down the network.

Scottish Wolfson gets a boost from Apple

The Scottish chipmaker Wolfson Microelectronics rallied by as much as five percent after it emerged that one of its products was being used by Apple.

Wolfson and Apple used to be chums in the early days of the iPod, but as that fad faded, so did the relationship. However, ABI Research, a technology market research firm, pulled apart Apple’s new Lightning adapter for the iPhone 5 and found a Wolfson chip.

The Wolfson chip used in Apple’s adapter is a simple digital to analogue converter and the company provides something more sophisticated to Apple rival Samsung. According to the FT, Samsung accounted for slightly more than a quarter of Wolfson’s revenues in the first half of this year.

If Apple  is buying Wolfson chips then it will be a significant revenue opportunity for audio hubs in the future.

Wolfson refused to comment on whether it had signed a new deal with Apple, but then again Apple insists that its suppliers keep quiet.

The Scottish outfit is saying that new customer relationships would normally start with relatively modest projects until confidence is built and the relationship develops. In other words, it sounds like it’s expecting Apple to provide it with more work in the future.

Wolfson needs some good news as it is losing money fairly fast and its losses accelerated to $11.1m from $7m year-on-year, as revenues fell. 

UK council censors charity raising school kid, then does u-turn

* UPDATE – the council reversed its position at lunchtime today.

A nine year old girl who ran a blog to raise cash for charity has been told by her school to take it down after local council bureaucrats demanded it be censored.

Martha Payne’s blog NeverSeconds, which is about school dinners, has had more than two million hits and raised at least £2000 for charity – and had been praised by Jamie Oliver.

The blog was based on Martha taking photographs and reviewing her school’s meals.

Despite the blog’s success, the local council Lochgilphead, Argyll, has banned her from posting pictures on her blog because it did not like the negative publicity. It is not clear what their PR department was smoking when they decided this, because censoring a nine year old for speaking her mind in an articulate and reasoned way is about as image enhancing as sticking your head under a steam roller.

Nick Nairn, another celebrity chef, has waded in saying that the council’s moves were “incredibly short-sighted” and the decision reminded him of something that would happen in China.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the council is starting to face a Twitter campaign and has drawn support from Mike Russell, the Scottish Education Minister, who said the decision was “daft” and he would be asking the council’s chief executive to overturn it.

Martha, who goes by the online name “Veg”, said that she was taken out of her maths class by her head teacher and taken to her office.

She was told that she could not take any more photos of her school dinners because of a headline in a tabloid about her blog.

Martha said she was sad that she could not snap pictures of her school dinners and could not raise enough money for a kitchen for the charity Mary’s Meals either.

While some of the pictures did not make the food look that great, Martha marked her last school meal 10 out of 10, so she was not just ripping into the food all the time.

Martha, who wants to be journalist, started posted the series of pictures as part of a school writing project. The project was done with the backing of the teachers.

Scotland wants internet independence

A push for domain name .SCOT has been backed by the Scottish parliament.

Scotland, formerly home to Picts, a former colony of Norway, and hedged in by the Romans to keep them out, has asked England to support its bid, according to the BBC.

ICANN, which regulates such affairs, will accept such submissions and there’s a body called the Dot Scot Registry (DSR) which will push for a top level domain.

Scotland, heavily depopulated by the Highland Clearances, wants better broadband access than it’s got at the moment.

King James VI of Scotland, a fervent anti-smoker, became King James I of England and then unity was pushed through against the wishes of the common man and his dog.

Now, some in Scotland are seeking independence, but the East Lothian question still remains unresolved.

Tesco computer glitch gives Scottish shoppers cheap beer

Coppers were called out to the normally calm branches of Tesco as a perfect storm of Scottish shoppers and cut-price lager created pandemonium in the forecourt.

A benevolent gremlin in the computer system caused a pricing error in tills, meaning that crates of booze were being sold with the price plummeting from £20 to just £11 for a boot-load of lager or cider.

The glitch affected stores across the country but in Greenock heavily congested car parks turned into a war zone as thrifty thirsty customers clamoured to get their hands on the cheap grog.

Word began to get round after people started posting info on social media sites, with one person stating on Twitter that “Someone put it on Facebook and apparently they can’t do anything till 10pm tonight … the beer isle is heaving!”

Hordes then descended on crates of Guinness, Stella, Magner’s and other top brands, with fears that large numbers thirsty Scots could have put a dent in the mighty Tesco’s profits.

One luck punter told The Daily Record that “They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch but it would appear Tesco were just about giving away a free pint.”

The supermarket admitted that all of its Scottish stores had indeed been hit by the glitch but attempted to downplay the debacle.  They claimed it was a “pricing error affecting only a handful of lines on promotion for a short period” despite the fact that it would likely take until today to actually fix.

The supermarket give-away is similar to a recent situation in New Zealand, where Christian values were severely tested on Good Friday when a store computer inadvertently opened its doors for the shoppers to go on a trolley dash.

Police target Celtic v Rangers internet hate campaign

That old Celtic vs Rangers rivalry in Scotland has spilled online, and police are targeting those behind hate campaigns that run against players and staff at the two Glasgow clubs.

As with most hooliganism, there have been hateful, racist jibes appearing including against Rangers striker El Hadji Diouf to go “back to the jungle”. Other images have appeared of Celtic staff riddled with bullet holes and rifle sights superimposed over the top of them, suggesting that some people really do take the “great game” to absurd, Palin-esque levels of fanatacism. 

Superintendent Kirk Kinnell was quoted in the Indie as saying the comments are just the tip of the iceberg, but the cops won’t stop persuing the makers of nasty comments. “Iwould like to delivera clear message to those who continue to make hate-filled comments,” he said, “and cause distress to decent members of the public, that we will persue you relentlessly until this behaviour is stopped.”

The Journal reports how a Northern Irish Catholic had been sent parcel bombs in the post. These days physical threats and online smear  and hate campaigns act as one entity, it would seem.

Gone are the days of the Glasgow Kiss, when it’s easier these days to create a foul-mouthed follow-up to long lasting rancour on Facebook than it is to hop in a van for an old fashioned scrap with chairlegs and chains. 

Scot boffins solve memory problems with a wee mechanical arm

Scottish boffins have worked out a way of improving computer memory using a device that uses a tiny mechanical arm to translate data into electrical signals.

According to Nature Communications, which we get for the tricky bat’s squeak translation crossword, the University of Edinburgh worked out a way of using carbon nanotubes to store memory.

Although the use of nanotubes for memory storage had already been developed, a workable system had run aground because they were slower than an asthmatic turtle on its way to a turtle soup convention carrying a heavy load of shopping.

The Scots used a mechanical arm to charge an electrode and created a memory device which operates faster than conventional memory devices. The arm acts like a mechanical switch to charge and discharge without having a voltage constantly applied to the device.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh worked with the Konkuk University and Seoul National University, in Korea, on the project.

Professor Eleanor Campbell, from the University of Edinburgh’s school of chemistry, who took part in the study, said it was a jolly clever way of designing memory storage devices.

If you mix mechanics with the benefits of nanotechnology you get a superior speed and energy efficiency compared with existing devices.

It is not clear if the chips can be manufactured on an industrial scale, and research is continuing with colleagues in Korea on further increasing the operating speed of the device. 

English parliament worried about Scottish games industry

A government committee of the Queen’s Parliament of Westminster is looking at a very real threat of invasion by unemployed developers from Scotland.

England has not had to worry about a serious threat of anything Scottish since the Highland Clearances, but there is some concern about what has been happening to the gaming industry over the border.

Last month Dundee APB and Crackdown developer Realtime Worlds went into administration, costing hundreds of area jobs, Before that there were fears that unless there were some forms of subsidies computer game developers across the border would starve. As it was they worked for pennies, a bowl of porridge and the odd herring.

The Tories should be frightened – the traditional way the Scots have of dealing with a famine or unemployment is to burn Berwick and raid York.

UK Labour party leadership candidate Ed Balls said the whole thing was madness, particularly as the new government had cut incentive programs to the Scottish-based games industry which had been promised in March.

The Tory government has indicated that it is concerned about the plight of Scotland, but feels that they should, more than anyone, understand a penny saved is a penny gained.

Besides, they could point out Realtime was a well-funded operation that went tits up because it spent too much cash on an online action game – APB – which failed to interest anyone.

Incentives would not have stopped that happening, but they might have drawn a sharper games developer to the region.

After all few companies are going to want to move to Scotland for the weather. Many Americans cannot manage the language and the Europeans can’t eat the food.

Members of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee are travelling to Dundee for talks with key figures in the Scottish gaming industry.

They are going to look at whether the sector needs more support following the UK government’s decision to scrap tax breaks.

On the agenda is a visit to the University of Abertay, where a new £5m project to generate 30 new companies, support 80 existing smaller firms and create up to 400 new jobs is being drawn up.

Labour MP for Glasgow south-west, Ian Davidson, who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee, said  he was “extremely concerned” about the impact of the decision to abolish tax relief for the industry.

He is worried that the Scottish developers facing a “light purse makes a heavy heart” syndrome could simply migrate to other parts of the world taking their brains and claymores with them.

According to the BBC, Committee members will tour Abertay University and hear from computer game lecturers on the campus and a range of industry representatives about the state of the industry.

However, even if the committee does recommend that the Government does something to help the Scottish games industry, any ideas will have to get past the Treasury. There is a Scottish saying that “He that lives upon hope has a slim diet.” Cheery lot, the Scots. 

HP generously revives struggling British economy with 700 telesales jobs

As Britain struggles with national debt, Osbornes’ Age of Austerity and vicious cuts in all sectors so it can climb out of the global recession, there are some companies which are acting with emphatic generosity to help this once great and proud nation claw its way back to the top. Yes, HP is going to open a call centre in Scotland. 

Hewlett-Packard, which was just rated top dog in the world for server revenues and rakes in a lot of dough elsewhere too, will be given a charitable £7 million from the Scottish Regional Selective Assistance  funding and will begin recruiting in November. About a year ago, HP sacked 700 positions at the Erskine, Renfrewshire site, instead outsourcing operations to the Czech Republic.

We’re sure the £7 million bung has nothing to do with the U-turn.

Alex Salmon, er, Salmond who is Scotland’s First Minister said that HP setting up shop (again) “reflects the quality of Scotland’s skilled workfoce.”

It’s nothing to do with a £7 million bung.

“These 700 jobs,” said Salmon, “highlight our strengths as a first-class destination for technology.”

The official line on jobs at the site are telephone and web sales as well as marketing and customer support – so that’s essentially telesales and client services, a far cry from the outsourced manufacturing roles.

A spokesperson for HP told Computerworld UK that the 934 UK job redundancies it decided on earlier this year are “unrelated really,” and that “someone who has been affected by redundancy is always invited to apply for other opportunities in the company.”

The maths goes something like this: 934 minus 700. We’re still down 234 jobs! The UK shouldn’t be popping the champagne corks for HP anytime soon.