Tax? Let me Google that for you

In recent months much has been said about multi-billion pound companies not paying “enough” tax in the UK. It’s important to note that these are for the most part not originally British companies – Google, Amazon, Starbucks…

google_logo

google_logo (Photo credit: keso)

Whilst the politicians have succeeded in generating lots of press about this, in my own anecdotal experience the general consensus amongst the educated sections of the British middle class is they’ve done nothing wrong. The belief being that as no law has been broken, the onus lies on the law makers to refine the rules to make them pay.

We haven’t boycotted Google, although that may be because no-one wants to ‘Bing’ anything. Really. No-one.

But of course we’d like these big foreign multi- billion pound companies to pay more tax without closing off t

he same/similar loop-holes being used by mere multi-million pound British companies. It’s that contradiction that I’m struggling with. Should we give British companies a legislated ‘leg up’ on British soil? It seems so anti-competitive. Unfair.

No, we should compete head to head. We may want Google to pay more tax but if we won’t do it in law we should stop talking about it in the press.

Do Kids still lend games?

Starting this post in typical Yorkshire fashion: When I was a lad I remember taking my copy of EA’s NHLPA 93 (which incidentally I bought for £5 un-boxed 2nd hand off the market) to a fellow hockey-loving friend’s house, plugging it into his Mega-drive and it JustWorkedTM.

Image

(on a side note, Go Sharks! Whoop!)

I’d even lend it to him for a few weeks at a time so he could practice and we could have competitive two player matches. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who did this, we all must have got sick of the “you always win ‘cause you own the game” arguments.

I’m wondering if this is still the case. Single/split-screen multi-player games have been becoming a rarity with the trend now being I buy my copy, you buy your copy, and we all sit at home on our own playing over interweb. I’m showing my age here but multi-player gaming always used to be a social thing where you’d get together with your friends, chat, and have a few drinks (beer now, budget supermarket cola then).

I’m a big fan of Xbox Live’s Games on Demand. You can’t sell them. You can’t lend them. But importantly you don’t have to get up off your arse to change the game. If I’m too lazy to walk across my living room I’m far far too lazy to walk down to a shop and sell them.

The move towards post-physical non-transferable game licences’ suits people like me with disposable incomes fine but it’s the younger-me who had more time and liked to share with friends that loose out.

Graphics are there. But load times Must improve

Bethesda developed the Creation Engine for Sky...

Bethesda developed the Creation Engine for Skyrim. It allows for dynamic snowfall, and the integration of dragons in gameplay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Skyrim. Fantastic game, graphics are immense, seems like hundreds of NPCs wondering around, many with their own face and loads with voiced conversations. The game is so immersive that I forget the seemingly epic load times.  Until I realise I forgot to put my collected ‘ingots’ in my storage chest and have to go back into my house [load screen] drop them off and come back out [load screen]. And of course fast-travel halfway across the map [load screen] to my next [load screen riddled] quest.

Skyrim is worth the wait but few games are. With the next generation of consoles and higher specs around the corner we should see load times drop again but with this comes another push towards photo-realism with higher resolution textures and more detailed models. [load screen].

As a veteran of the Sinclair Spectrum ZX, I’ll confess load times have been worse. We don’t have time to have our dinner during these waits and don’t have to listen to those awful screeches anymore and yes insta load cartridges of the 8 and 16-bit era are perhaps prohibitively expensive at modern scale but we must have a middle ground.

There is hope. The number of person-hours to make these higher resolution higher poly and higher quantity of models is ever increasing but the £40 ($60) we’re willing to pay for them is not. Can we not stop there with graphic and use the specs for faster load times?

Devs will find that depressing but I just don’t want to see another [load screen].

 

If I could predict the future I’d sell it to the highest bidder

Super Heroes

Super Heroes (Photo credit: Olaf)

Technology should give us super powers. Still waiting for flight and not holding my breath for invisibility but predicting the future is getting better all the time.

Big Data isn’t about “big” data. Its orders of magnitude lower than what the Large Hadron Collider spits out in a day. But the combination of the right nuggets of information can yield some big predictions.

What I find most interesting is the huge breath of variables tracked and used to make predictions. More obvious ones include the weather impacting public mood and buying decisions but things like results of football matches can have an impact.

If Liverpool have a big win against Manchester United there’ll be lots of gamblers in Liverpool with some extra money. Target your advertising that way? Likewise if United win there’ll be windfalls in London. What if Everton win, Microsoft’s stock drops, it rains in Kent and there’s a wedding on East Enders?

Monitoring and weighing up all these small impacts and working out which ones are relevant to making an accurate prediction about the future is currently beyond me, but you may have heard of the US clothing company Target being able to predict a teenager is pregnant before she has time to tell her parents.

This is an exciting but terrifying area and one I’ll be following closely.

16GB ought to be enough for anybody

Nexus 10

Nexus 10 (Photo credit: MailCone)

The original un-verified quote attributed to Bill Gates in the 80s was regarding 640KB of RAM in PCs so it’s with some hesitation I say 16GB of storage ought to be enough for any tablet computer.

A lot of us use multiple devices and keeping copies of our files on each one is just nuts. A single personal ‘library’ we can access from anywhere on any device is surely the way forward. Local storage should only really be needed for keeping off-line copies for what we actually need off-line and even then these should be automatically sync’d to a single central on-line copy to make sure we have the most up-to-date versions on all devices where possible.

Cloud storage is with us already with many vendors offering 5GB for free and as much as you want for a price. Network Attached Storage (NAS) has been in business for decades and many techies have had it in their homes just as long.

I predict that in 5 years time most wireless routers will have a built in hard drive which we’ll use as our own ‘private cloud’. We’d have fast cloud storage from within our own homes and with such tight integration with the router we can ‘dial in’ to our private cloud from anywhere we have internet. And our router could back-up everything to conventional cloud for us.

If you want to spend some money NAS-routers are available today but I can see this being huge if we can get the price point to commodity equipment level.

Putting my money where my mouth is I recently bought a Google Nexus 10. 16GB storage? No SD card slot? No worries.

Footnote: for those of you too young to remember floppy disks, 640KB is approximately nothing. To two decimal places it’s 0.00GB

Will the next xbox be free on a 24 month contract?

Spoiler warning,       no.

some cell phones in my house

some cell phones in my house (Photo credit: seanaes)

The more I think about it the more gaming seems to suit a cell-phone style subscription model. Suppose you could pay £50 a month and for that you could get unlimited game downloads and playtime. Don’t game much? What if you could pay by the hour. Options including £20 for 20 hours or unlimited (or infinite even?) for £50. That could justify for me the ‘always online’ rumour of the next xbox, after all we need to ensure users are paid up.

Publishers could get paid from your subs by the amount of hours you play their game for. That would encourage them to put out good quality games rather than market the crap out of rushed unfinished rubbish ones.

Would you care about not being able to sell second hand games if you only paid by the hour rather than investing £50 upfront for a game?

Pure speculation and I don’t think the gaming market is ready for such a radically different model, but I can’t honestly think of any other reason for an ‘always online’ home console. Unless there’s something more to it, it just seems so utterly utterly stupid.