Clear Call Rates for 08, 09 and 118 Numbers

Numbers beginning 08, 09 or 118 are known as ‘service numbers’ and the cost of calling these numbers can vary from a few pence to several pounds. It is not always clear just how much you are being charged for calling one of these service numbers.

This is all set to change from 1 July 2015. Ofcom has announced a new system that is being introduced to make the cost of calling 08, 09 or 118 numbers much clearer. The changes apply to both consumer mobiles and landlines.

The cost of calling a service number will be made up of two parts: an ‘access charge’ going to the caller’s phone company (e.g. BT), and a ‘service charge’ set by the organisation or service you are calling.

So what does this mean for our 118 365 number?

The cost of a one minute call to 118 365 will increase slightly. We will continue to charge 51p a minute but the access charge will now be added to the total cost of the call. For example, a one minute call to 118 365 from a BT landline will cost 51p for the service charge plus 9.8p for the access charge, making that about 61p for the whole call.

Remember, the access charge may differ slightly depending on your phone company.

Also on this day, calls to Freephone (0800 and 0808) numbers will become free from all consumer phones – including mobiles, making this the biggest overhaul of phone calls in more than a decade.

The Spacecraft Soon Arriving at Planet Nine…

New Horizons

In July of 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft will arrive in the vicinity of Pluto. It will make the first flyby of Pluto, the last of the classic nine planets of the Solar System to be visited by a spacecraft. Below is an artist’s impression of the unmanned craft.

Until 1962, all eight planets had only been viewed through earth-based telescopes. With the dawn of the space age, unmanned probes were dispatched to those distant worlds; gradually they gave up their secrets, and Pluto will be the final one.

1962 – Venus

In December of 1962, the American Mariner 2 spacecraft made a flyby of Earth’s closest neighbour, Venus. The cloud-covered planet was further visited by several U.S. and Soviet craft, including a short-lived landing craft in 1967. The harsh surface conditions (a runaway “greenhouse” effect) presents a challenge to any lander.

1965 – Mars

Mars has in recent years received several American landers and rovers, but its first successful visitor was the Mariner 4 spacecraft in July 1965. The crude images returned showed none of the famous “canals” that had been mistakenly observed from Earth (an optical illusion) but more significantly showed a cratered surface not unlike the Moon. Later craft showed apparent river channels and other features from early Martian history that suggested the former presence of water, and a possibility of past or even present Martian life.

1973 – Jupiter

In December of that year, a spacecraft from Earth, the American Pioneer 10, made a flyby of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. Pioneer 10 was aptly named, and paved the way for the heavier and more famous Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, both of which visited the planet.

The Jovian system has since been visited by more spacecraft, including the Galileo craft which went into orbit around the planet. It was thus able to witness the demise of the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 as it crashed into the planet in 1994, and was able to launch the first probe into the atmosphere of the gas giant.

The use of the gravity assist technique to increase the speed of a spacecraft as it travels to more distant worlds,has ensured that Jupiter has received several passing visitors.

1974 – Mercury

The closest planet to the Sun, Mercury, was first visited by yet another U.S. spacecraft in the Mariner series, number 10. Once again, it revealed a cratered world.

The old notion that one, similar to the Moon, Mercury kept one face pointing at its parent, is not the case (which spoiled a few science fiction stories).

1979 – Saturn

In September 1979, two years after the Voyager craft had been launched, the earlier Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew past Saturn, the ringed planet, returning the first close-up images of this beautiful world. The craft had earlier visited Jupiter along with its sister Pioneer 10.

Since 1979, the Saturnian system has been visited by several craft, the Voyager probes and the Cassini spacecraft which landed a probe on the largest moon, Titan.

1986 – Uranus

In January 1986, the Voyager 2 probe became the first, and so far only, probe to fly by the seventh planet. The triumph of this feat of unmanned engineering, after a 9 year voyage, was to be marred a couple of days later by the Challenger accident.

1989 – Neptune

The Voyager 2 probe’s final planetary encounter (though it is still working as of 2015) was with the blue gas giant, Neptune, in 1989. The eighth planet has yet to receive any further visitors.

2015 – Pluto

Pluto was “demoted” from the club of planets in 2006; it is now a minor planet, along with the larger dwarf planet Eris, and others.

If all goes to plan, in July, humans will finally be able to view this most distant rocky world and its largest moon, Charon.

The digital images, broadcast back to Earth at the speed of light, will take over four hours to make the journey; compare that with the second and a bit that it takes a light from the Moon to reach us, and the 8 minutes that is required for light from the Sun to reach us.

#Mobilegeddon

Google will start penalising websites that are not mobile-friendly from April 21st. The search engine is making significant changes to its mobile search algorithm to promote sites which are responsive to different browser screen sizes.

A Google survey found that a staggering number of people browse the internet from mobile devices, even if they can get to a desktop computer. Websites which are not mobile-friendly will appear much lower down in Google search results.

It is generally recommended that web designers make use of Responsive Design when developing websites. This type of design dynamically adapts content to suit the size of the browser window, changing menu layout, scaling pictures and reducing the number of columns displayed.

A recent article on TechCruch reported that almost half of the Fortune 500 websites are not currently mobile-friendly. Simunix has been working to make sure all of our websites adapt to varying screen sizes.

Ten Easter Eggs

The Easter weekend is over and the more restrained amongst you may still have some chocolate eggs lurking in your kitchen cupboards. However, did you know there may also be some Easter eggs hanging about in your favourite films, or even on your computer?

I’ve rounded up a few of my favourites:

1. There’s a Starbucks cup visible in every scene of Fight Club.

2. An X appears before the death of someone in The Departed.


3. R2D2 and C3PO appear in Raiders of the Lost Ark.


4. The Chrome “unable to connect” dinosaur turns into a game when you press the space bar.


5. The Spotify app updates – look at the last one in “What’s New”.

6. A strange bug in the Windows calculator – find the square root of 4, then subtract 2, the answer isn’t 0.


7. This product page – just wait.


8. On IMDb, the rating for This is Spinal Tap goes up to 11.


9. The Facebook globe icon changes depending on where you are in the world.


10. Enter the Konami code on Buzzfeed.com (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a).

Cold Calling Clampdown

The government announced last week that it intends to clamp down on cold call companies, leaving them more vulnerable than ever to potentially massive fines.

Penalties of up to £500,000 can be imposed on telemarketing companies if they are considered to be making nuisance cold calls. Currently, firms can only be punished for this if it can be proved that the call has caused “substantial damage or substantial distress”. However, the government are making changes to the law which will remove this legal requirement and make it easier to impose fines on offending companies.

People can opt out of receiving unsolicited sales calls by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Telemarketers must TPS check their call lists against this register at least once a month as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can issue fines to organisations that cold call TPS registered numbers.

Organisations making automated marketing calls are required to have the individual’s consent before making a call or sending a text to that person; a breach of this regulation can also incur a hefty fine.

Funny Directory Enquiries Calls

Anyone who works in a call centre will get their fair share of challenging calls to deal with but, as a number of directory assistance operators have experienced, some of these calls can be downright bizarre! We found a few entertaining transcripts showing some interesting queries and some very patient operators.

A caller asked for a knitwear company in a place called Woven…

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Woven? Are you sure?

CALLER: Yes. That’s what it says on the label: “Woven in Scotland”.

CALLER: I’d like the RSPCA please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Where are you calling from?

CALLER: The living room.

CALLER: The Water Board please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Which department?

CALLER: Tap water.

CALLER: I’d like the number of the Argoed Fish Bar in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: I’m sorry but there’s no listing. Is the spelling correct?

CALLER: Well, it used to be called the Bargoed Fish Bar, but the ‘B’ fell off.

CALLER: I’d the number for a reverend in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you have his name?

CALLER: No, but he has a dog named Ben.

CALLER: The Union of Shopkeepers and Alligators please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you mean the Amalgamated Union of Shopkeepers?

Rule Breakers and Record Makers: 10 Facts About the Oscars

The 87th Academy Awards will be taking place this Sunday evening (or 1:30am Monday morning for us Brits). Here’s your chance to brush up on your awards trivia:

1. There are only three films in the history of the Oscars that have walked away with the “Big Five” awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay): It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest (1975) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). 

2. Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the first and only X-rated (as per American film ratings) film to win the Best Picture Oscar (the rating has since been reduced to R). The only other X-rated film to be nominated in this category was A Clockwork Orange (1971).

3. The only actor to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar winning actor is Cate Blanchett who played Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.

4. John Williams has racked up a staggering 49 nominations to date (45 of which are for Best Score). However, he is beaten on this record by Walt Disney who was nominated 59 times with 26 wins!

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Since then, animated films Up (2010) and Toy Story 3 (2011) have been nominated in this category. Beauty and the Beast lost out to Silence of the Lambs but did take home the award for Best Original Score.

6. The sealed envelope was first introduced at the 13th Academy Awards in 1941 after the Los Angeles Times had leaked voting results in 1939.

7. Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards 18 times between 1940 and 1978. The next most frequent host is Billy Crystal who has hosted 9 times between 1990 and 2012.

8. Seat fillers are employed at the Awards Ceremony to make the place look full if people either haven’t shown up or someone has temporarily vacated their seat e.g. to accept an award. The only people who can apply for this position are relatives of people who work at the Academy or employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers (the accounting firm that counts the votes).

9. There are many rumours surrounding Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress win in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. Few had anticipated that the relative newcomer would win against the other veteran actresses in her category. There was speculation that the presenter, an elderly Jack Palance, had misread the name and the Academy were too embarrassed to correct the mistake. Another claim is that the other four nominees split the vote to such an extent that the only solution was to allow an underdog (Tomei) to take home the award.

10. The number of blondes to win the Best Actress Award is 18; the number of brunettes is 45.

Leading from Behind – Some Bands Named for a Man at the Back

In the jazz and swing era, the instance of the naming of a band by someone other than the front person was quite common, but in the rock and pop era, this is quite unusual.

Here are a few exceptions:-

Fat Larry’s Band

Known in most territories for their single big 1982 hit, if you view the video of “Zoom” below you’re probably not going to be surprised to learn that Fat Larry was not the singer but was in fact that large chap on the drums. Sadly, and perhaps (again) not surprisingly Larry passed away just five years after this record hit the top.

The Dave Clark Five

It remains fairly unusual for a pop or rock drummer to be a band’s leader (Phil Collins and Don Henley being notable exceptions) but drummer Dave Clark (also the manager and executive producer) didn’t sing on those sixties hits such as “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces”; here they are with the latter song in 1964:-

Manfred Mann

Keyboard player Manfred is not the singer of either the band’s sixties era or the later “Earth Band” who hit the charts in the 70s with a Springsteen cover. You can see the chirpy Paul Jones singing below:-

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

This one is something of an exception; Harold was the original singer of this “Philly sound” vocal group, but he stepped back to let Teddy Pendergrass sing on their biggest hits, notably “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.

Here are the band performing in matching blue suits (of course) on Soul Train. Teddy is handling the miming of lead vocals, and Harold is to his right. The “Dad dancing” part is at 1.57

Sadly in 1982 Teddy was badly injured in a car crash that left him a quadraplegic. He performed at 1985′s Live Aid concert in a wheelchair, and passed away in 2010.

The Spencer Davis Group

Spencer was  the guitarist. The band featured Steve Winwood who sang on their hits “Keep on Running”, “Gimme Some Lovin” and “I’m a Man” before leaving to form Traffic. Here they are in 1965:-

Fleetwood Mac

The decision by lead guitarist and singer Peter Green to name his blues band after his drummer and bass player has left a legacy that has endured for almost a half century.

In this clip of “Oh Well” you can see the beardless Mick Fleetwood on drums and bassist John McVie at the extreme left, slightly in the shadows.

Also mentioned:-

  • Van Halen
  • Santana (Carlos rarely sings)
  • Mike and the Mechanics

Sadly there was no Herman in the Hermits.

999, 101 and Directory Enquiries Confusion

We suspect that most people have read, seen or heard news stories about absurd calls to the 999 emergency service. It’s always an enjoyable read; one can smugly chuckle at the antics of the callers as they attempt to obtain help for their predicament from understandably unsympathetic and in some cases exasperated 999 operators.

Recently, however, it has come to our attention that:-

In the light of this disturbing information, we thought that we would help to clarify the correct usage of these numbers.

  1. If you need to report a genuine emergency, dial 999.
  2. If you need to speak to the police about a non-emergency matter, dial 101.
  3. If you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency, or you think you need to go to A & E or need another NHS urgent care service, you don’t know who to call or you don’t have a GP to call, or you need health information or reassurance about what to do next, dial 111.
    For more information on the 111 number please visit the 111 website.
  4. If you need a directory enquiries service, please call 118 365 (remember “118, every day”). It’s only 51p, Other (usually much more expensive) services are available.

My 5 Most Recently Downloaded Apps (iPhone)

1. Sleep Time - £1.49

This is an alarm clock with a difference – it monitors and analyses your sleep cycles by sensing your movements throughout the night. It then uses this information to wake you up when it knows you are no longer in the deep  stage of REM cycle. So no more waking up feeling groggy!

 

2. TwinPics - Free

A simple but nicely designed memory game. All you do is match up as many pairs as you can within a limited time, avoiding obstacles along the way. The colours and photography used are stylish and attractive and it’s easy to dip in and out of making it the perfect game for when you just have a few minutes to fill.

3. BBC News – Free

This is more of a recent update than download as I have had the app for a while, however, about a week ago, the BBC released its first major redesign since the app launched in 2010. The app now offers a much more personalised view of the news as it includes local news content and you can select the topics that interest you the most.

4. SkinDeep – Free

Do you know what chemicals are in your personal care products? EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is the world’s largest safety reference tool for personal care products and the app provides information on more than 72,000 products. Enter the product name into the app and it assesses the ingredients and how they may affect your health. It then calculates a hazard score allowing you to make informed purchasing decisions.

5. Serial  Free

This is actually a podcast, not an app, but I felt it was well worth a mention. The 12-part series (you can now download all the episodes from the website) follows journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates a murder case from 1999 in which a high-school student was found dead in a Baltimore Park having been strangled. Her ex-boyfriend was charged with her murder and sentenced to life in prison but has protested his innocence ever since. The podcast is totally addictive and a great way to pass the time on your commute.