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A stuffed owl knows as much as anybody else these days

A stuffed owl knows as much as anybody else these days

A dip into the virtual postbag of MBF Blogger DP, sometimes referred to as ‘a wise old owl’, but more frequently called by other names, and the friendly advice he dispenses…..

Q1: I’m sick of dropping my smartphone and gingerly looking at it as I pick it up wondering if the screen is cracked again. Can anything be done?

A: Fear not. Help is at hand. Under-fire Apple, according to and widely reported in the media, is devising a system that detects when a dropped iPhone is falling and spins it round mid-air to land face up.

They have filed plans with the US Patent Office for ‘a Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device’, which may incorporate weighted masses within the devices, gas-propulsion thingies or even plane-like foils.

Cynics say they need to go one better than Amazon’s patented idea of phone airbags. I may be that a simple parachute will be enough in the end.

By the way, the toast manufacturers are getting quite excited at this invention, too.

Q2: I’m a parent and I’m tearing my last hair out with my kids not being motivated to go and play outside, even in fresh air, all because of technology. Can you help?

A: Well, I can’t, but The National Trust can. As part of its Outdoor Nation campaign, the charity is reported to be working with the Open University to develop iSpot.

This new app will help children find and identify animals and plants. They are not seeing technology as the enemy, as children do not perceive ‘the same divide between real and online worlds that exists for adults.’

Therefore, the new idea will encourage children to bridge the gap between the two and half hours a day they give to sitting in front of a screen of some sort and the less than 10% of waking play hours they spend ‘in wild places’ in reality.

Q3: I head up a big non-profit organisation but we need help to achieve global recognition for our economy saving ideas. Is there by chance a new competition where I could win half a million quid to help us?

A: Funny you should ask that, there is. Google have launched their Global Impact Challenge in the UK before elsewhere, to reward technology use that transforms lives.

Four organisations will win £500,000 each plus ‘computers running Google software and help from Google staff’. They want to find ‘the next wave of ideas.’

One of the judges will be www founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee who said the world is only ‘scratching the surface of the web’s contribution to economic progress and its potential to solve social and political problems’.

Other judges will include Sir Richard Branson, Google’s Matt Brittin and Jacqueline Fuller along with communications expert Jilly Forster. They will make three awards and the fourth will go to the winner of a popular public vote in the best traditions of web democracy. So, good luck.

Q4: I dream of making my fortune developing apps, but there are so many now, have I left it too late?

A: Estimates vary between half a million and 1.3 million of the clever little money spinners that people have invented and marketed. So you may be right, that it’s too late to make a fortune as everything that can be thought of, has been.

However, a teenager from Wimbledon developed a tool at home two years ago when he was just 15 and revising for his mock GCSEs to allow users to find news stories quickly on the internet. It uses an algorithm to detect main points in a news item and rewrites them into a story to fit small screens.

It is called Summly and reached number 9 (at least a million downloads) in the free iPhone app chart last November.

Now Yahoo! have bought it off him for a reported ‘tens of millions of pounds’ (one pundit reckons $30 million) and given him a new job helping to put the app features into mobile products.

Nick D’Aloisio is agreeing how he can finish his education while starting his new post in California. Yahoo! are busy realigning themselves as a mobile-first technology company.

So, depending on how old you are, let young Nick’s experience inspire you to keep going. Or weep buckets of jealous rage.

And finally,
Q5: It may be strange to confess, but I’m a fan of the VCR and the VHS tape. although I preferred Beta. The problem is that most of my tapes are worn out, and I can’t buy replacements. Even some charity shops no longer sell them. What can I do?

A: Video cassette recorders are going to be history within a year or two. Already, more than half of British households who own one have put it in storage, according to Freeview who studied this vital matter. The average Brit last used a VCR to record a programme over five years ago.

So, my advice would be switch to DVDs while you can still buy them. Oh and give your VCR to a museum along with your Sinclair  C5 electric three-wheeler, Sony’s MiniDisk, Amstrad’s email telephone and Sega’s Game Gear.

Image: Green Lane