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Ada Lovelace Day 2010: Dame Wendy Hall March 24, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Uncategorized.
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Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science. The first Ada Lovelace Day was held on 24th March 2009 and was a huge success. It attracted nearly 2000 signatories to the pledge and 2000 more people who signed up on Facebook. In case you are not aware of who Ada Lovelace was, in short she is regarded as the world’s first ever computer programmer.

And what are the pledges for? It’s a pledge to write on your blog about an admirable woman in technology or science and to then submit the blog to the Finding Ada website, so there is a large collection of stories about women in technology.

I’d like to name Dame Wendy Hall as one of my female technology heroes. Wendy was working at the University of Southampton on hypermedia and multimedia in the mid-1980s – long before the World Wide Web came along. She became the first ever professor of engineering at Southampton in 1994, and went on to head the computer science department from 2002 to 2007. Until July 2008, she was Senior Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, is currently a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, and is a founder member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council.  She was President of the British Computer Society (2003-4) and an EPSRC Senior Research Fellow from 1996 to 2002.

Since 2008 she has been president of the Association for Computing Machinery. But this would read more like a CV if I just listed Wendy’s achievements and posts held. The really admirable thing about Wendy is that she is a true technology visionary. She was using a version of what we know as the web, about 15 years before the rest of us caught up, and now she is leading international research efforts into the semantic web, the next generation Internet.

So, invoking the spirit of the first ever computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, Dame Wendy Hall please take your place in the Finding Ada roll call!

Bill shock to end? March 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services.
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This month, new EU laws to protect users with roaming mobile devices came into effect. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent what the media has termed “bill shock” as many users of telephones or Internet dongles have found that roaming data charges can be extremely high – especially when compared to the charge (often in contract anyway) when used in the home market.

Look at the case of William Harrison, a student at Nottingham University who visited Paris last year to begin an internship. Mobile phone company Orange advised him to use a 3G dongle, but Harrison never counted on his first month of internet use costing £8,000.

Other examples recently documented in the Sunday papers include a £4,900 bill for downloading a copy of The Apprentice on the BBC iPlayer and a £31,500 Vodafone bill for similar TV downloads. Vodafone did slash that bill to a more manageable £229, but how can such huge bills be racked up in the first place?
It’s all about data use. A laptop or phone that is using broadband on a roaming package – rather than the locally agreed fixed monthly price – will rack up additional charges based on how many megabytes (mb) of data are downloaded. The March 2nd edition of Eastenders on the BBC can be downloaded in 319mb. At the Virgin mobile roaming rate of £5 per mb, that’s going to be a cool £1,595 on your phone bill, just for catching up on the latest happenings in Albert Square.

So will the new legislation work? It’s aimed at ensuring mobile operators cap roaming usage to no more than €50 per month, and they now have until July to implement the procedures. If every provider implements the new rules then it should prevent further “bill shock”, but what if one company doesn’t, or their systems fail to give warnings in time? Who’s liable for the bill then?