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The Atlantic price divide, part 247

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the camera’s Canon announced yesterday, the S90, looks like a contender for my next compact photo shooter. It’s due out sometime in September based on early information, with a UK price of £449 for pre-order from Amazon.co.uk as shown below.

Amazon_S90_UKNot cheap but the spec is good and I would expect this to quickly drop below £400. Since I’m off the Florida at the end of October I took a look at early US prices to see if it would be worth waiting and buying out there (dependant on reviews and a hands on of course). The Amazon.com price is shown below.

Amazon_S90_USI know UK citizens often get a poor deal when it comes to prices, but this is ridiculous. At the current exchange rate (as I type on 20th August 2009) of $1.65 to the pound that makes the US Amazon price the equivalent of £260. The other way round, the UK price is $740. However you look at it this is an obscene markup, and as this article questions, didn’t the British PM promise an end to this?

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Categories: money, photo Tags: , , , ,

Virgin Media launches 50Mb broadband

December 15, 2008 Leave a comment

50mb_modemDetails of the trials have been leaking out for a while, and today Virgin Media has launched their 50Mb Cable broadband service. Priced at £35 a month with a Virgin phone line or £51 a month without it’s not cheap, and I haven’t been able to find any mention of speed caps on the web site. It’s hard to believe there aren’t any speed limits during peak hours when the 20Mb service was capped so heavily (down to 5Mb after 3 Gb) but maybe that’s what you pay for. The new service comes with a rather nice wireless N router, although you have to pay a £50 service activation fee so it’s not exactly free.

The most interesting part of this service is the 1.5Mb upload speed. I’ve written about backups on Mac’s and Hackintosh’s several times and the one thing that stops me using online backup services is the pathetic 768kb upload speed of my 20Mb broadband service. Not really an issue at the moment though as I’m not interested in paying more to Virgin Media, and their web site says the 50Mb service isn’t available at my address.

Categories: internet, money Tags: , ,

Is this payback for the legal bullies?

December 10, 2008 Leave a comment

Following my recent rant about the state of UK copyright infringement persecution I was delighted to read at ArsTechnica that consumer organisation Which? has filed a complaint with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. The target of the complaint is law firm Davenport Lyons, those fine caring citizens who are making a habit of targeting alleged online copyright infringers with offers of pre court settlements for several hundred pounds. Which? accuses Davenport Lyons of ‘excessive bullying’ following repeated threatening letters to innocent internet users.

Davenport Lyons have hit the news several times this year, for a range of actions against owners of open WiFi networks, alleged game pirates and even  gay pornography downloading pensioners (alleged). It’s about time these legal bullies were called to answer for their ‘victories’ against those hardcore criminals, especially the single Polish mother of two who ended up with a bill of £16,000 after failing to appear in court for a civil case. Is common sense making a comeback?

The moral crossroads

December 2, 2008 Leave a comment

There are two kinds of government. One kind cares about it’s people, and the other treats them as cattle, little more than a resource. I know there are lots of terms for different systems of running everything from a community to a continent, but they all either care or they don’t.

Things have been changing in the UK for a while now, and I’m talking here about the mostly overlooked battle that’s being fought between content providers and anyone with a shred of care for the public. It surfaces occasionally with a sensationalist headline in the media, but the majority of UK citizens don’t realise what the Media corporations are up to. America already has the RIAA pursuing college file sharers and others for ridiculous sums of money using suspect evidence, and just like in many other ways the UK is becoming increasingly like the USA.

I remember having Disco’s and a Headmaster at my senior school, but it now has Prom’s and a Principal. Small changes I would happily live with if we didn’t have to suffer the same shift of power towards big business and the criminalisation of its customers. An article at Ars Technica got my attention and really brings together what’s happening at the moment. It’s a complicated issue that I won’t repeat here, but none of it benefits anyone but the Music corporations and shareholders. Will the artists who create the product see a big improvement in royalties and treatment? By the time the executives and lawyers take their share I doubt there will be much left for those that generate the money.

As the Ars article points out, there are opponents of the Media interests, such as the Open Rights Group. It’s reasuring that someone is fighting for the rights of the public, even if it isn’t our Government. And the question is, why not? Why are ISP’s, Media companies and civil rights groups being left to fight it out? I could almost think ministers don’t want to get involved in an argument that will eventually anger big money or the general public. Or maybe it’s because they don’t really understand this ‘internet’ thing and don’t realise that current teenagers grew up with file sharing an accepted part of social networking.

The thing is, it’s not just the British government that don’t seem to understand the internet. Media companies still try to restrict us with DRM crippled products that are limited to compatible devices and frequently in working life. Some are embracing DRM free media as the way forward, while others desperately cling to the old business models that worked so well before the world got connected. There are new ways of selling content being dreamed up all the time, and some are promising. I’ve written about the subscription model before, where we would all pay a set fee each month and download (and keep) whatever we want from authorised servers of high quality media. Ars mentions the survey where the University of Hertfordshire asked P2P users if they would pay for a legal file sharing service, and 80% said yes. That’s a huge amount of extra legal money for the artists.

The question here isn’t would it work, it’s why isn’t it being worked on now. The UK has the BBC, a corporation that takes our license fee for what now amounts to a much smaller proportion of the total available content. I’m not disputing the quality of content, but if we have an infrastructure to collect and monitor the paying of this fee to one body, why can’t we have one that monitors all content and dishes out the money as appropriate? Would it have anything to do with a loss of power for the few big Media Corporations?

This all comes back to my opening statement that Governments either care or they don’t. They should care enough to stop us becoming a resource for the Big Money’s legal departments. They should care enough to stop our children’s mistakes and habits become obscene legal bills. And they should care enough about the artists to give them a fair deal.

America has a new President Elect who promises a fairer, people centric future. Maybe we could have one of those in the UK.

And a final though. The Federation Against Software Theft is calling for ten years imprisonment if convicted of online commercial piracy. A longer prison sentence for software piracy than rape and murder? Aren’t the priorities getting mixed up here?

Tomtom tries new way to fleece customers

October 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Looks like Tomtom is the latest company to jump on the subscription bandwagon. Rather than buy an updated map once a year or so you can now subscribe and get four updates a year. The Tomtom HOME software offers updates for as little as £9.95 a quarter, but when I looked at the offer the price jumped to £59.70 as I have to buy the latest map first. There’s just a few of problems with this.

  1. I bought my Tomtom Go 720 six months ago. Shouldn’t a GPS device include a years updates to maps, then a yearly fee to keep up to date? I can understand safety cash generators camera’s and traffic announcements being paid for add-ons, but maps? That’s an expensive joke.
  2. My device came with a latest map guarantee that has never worked. When I enter the code into the Tomtom HOME software I get a message that the ‘Promotion code does not exist or promotion has ended’. I bought a new current model TomTom GPS unit from a UK retailer and I’m expected to start paying for new maps after a couple of months. That’s called a rip off.
  3. The subscription service isn’t saving you any money. Until very recently the Tomtom map of Western Europe was priced around £60, the same cost as the subscription service after I pay for the new map. Buying the new map outright has risen to £80. When quality Sat Nav’s are dropping in price all the time it can’t be that far off when it becomes cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one.
Categories: gps, money Tags: , ,

O2 announces iPhone 3G PAYG prices

September 2, 2008 Leave a comment

From 16th September you can officially own an iPhone 3G on a pay as you go tariff, but it won’t be cheap. O2 has announced that the 8Gb version will cost £349.99, with the 16Gb at £399.99. That price includes twelve months of ‘unlimited’ browsing and WiFi, with this service costing £10 a month after the first year. Topping up each month will earn you free calls but only to a landline or O2 mobile from a registered postcode’. Sounds a bit restrictive to me.

So how much does this cost compared to a contract iPhone? Here are some numbers based on an 18 month term.

  • iPhone 3G 16Gb on £35 a month tariff – total cost over 18 months is £789 with 600 minutes and 500 text messages a month.
  • iPhone 3G 16Gb on PAYG adding £10 credit a month – total cost over 18 months is £639.99 with 500 free minutes and 100 texts (£10 at 10p per text) plus £10 a month for browsing and WiFi after first year.
  • iPhone 3G 16Gb on PAYG adding £20 credit a month – total cost over 18 months is £819.99 with 1000 minutes and 200 texts (£20 at 10p per text) plus £10 a month for browsing and Wifi after first year.
  • iPhone 3G 16Gb on PAYG with no monthly credit – £459 total cost over 18 months for browsing and WiFi (£60 for months 13 to 18) plus whatever calls and texts are required.

These costs are based on the Favourite Place tariffs that an iPhone PAYG sim uses by default. Other tariffs can be selected once a month. So looking at the prices above, who will want a PAYG iPhone? Those looking for mobile web, apps and email will save money over the cheapest contract.  Anyone with light call and text requirements could save, but if you use all the tariff minutes and texts on a contract deal the PAYG prices are higher. I’m looking forward to seeing the sales figures for the PAYG iPhone.

Categories: apple, iPhone, money, phone Tags: , , ,

Moneysaving tips for UK residents

August 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Not exactly tech related, but worth mentioning anyway. I have recently started using the moneysavingexpert.com web site for lots of excellent advice on saving cash. There’s tips across a wide range of categories, including energy costs (currently the big news in the UK), insurance and mortgages. I’m currently trying out their tips for getting Orange Wednesday 2-for-1 cinema tickets using a £1 PAYG sim. They also have some advice for getting the cheapest 3G iPhone over the length of the contract, so I managed to get a gadget link in.