FIVE GOLD GIFTS… #2 GameON earphones

Our second recommended Christmas gift comes from the co-creator of Beats and Atari and some excellent, though expensive, earphones.

earphonesAs the world continues to draw into itself and we close off into ourselves by blanking it out with music, podcasts and radio via earphones and headphones, it’s imperative that the products we use in our ears are of the best quality.

For many, it’s a question of choosing between headphones or earphones. Whether it’s long-haul travelling, running or walking quickly through cities, it all comes down to the individual. This writer prefers headphones, but earphones have become a huge market.

The technology for the information that streams into our brains has accelerated faster than Nico Verstappen on a rainy afternoon… with a similar proliferation of devices to choose from.

So, please be introduced to GameON earphones, produced by ROAM and Atari and successfully launched after successfully negotiating a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Designed for gamers and music lovers alike, GameON says the earphones deliver ‘elite sound’ (audiophile) quality at around $200.

The earphones have brushed titanium exterior parts, integrated dual audio frequency functionality with the versatility of balanced armature earphone drivers to create clarity of sound and solution for mobile audio.

As previously mentioned, I prefer pretending to be an experienced DJ and wearing headphones, so while I thought the sound quality was excellent and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, but I’d suggest that I might not be the demographic.

With that in mind, I gave them to my teenage son for a thorough test over two weeks and his response was overwhelmingly positive saying that it felt as ‘if the music was running all around him’. They’re certainly not a cheap product, but the human ear is a delicate construction, so needs to be treated with respect.

What’s good enough for my 13-year-old is good enough for me. So, if you’re cool and not pretentious (like me) and agree that quality is more important than short-term technology, GameON is for you. An excellent audio product.

BOOK REVIEW: A Boy Made Of Blocks – Keith Stuart

Guardian Games Editor Keith Stuart has written a wonderful book about autism, parenthood, marriages… and Minecraft

keithIt’s sometimes difficult to read a book by somebody you know. Usually, you read to read these books early because the author wants early feedback on their work and has sent you a copy.

Moreover, it’s difficult to be objective. It takes courage, time and big blocks of bollocks to write a book, especially for a journalist who writes for a living every day. They say that there is a book inside every journalist… and that’s where it should say.

Thankfully, A Boy Made Of Blocks by sometime lunch-colleague, Facebook friend and story-colluding Keith Stuart gives me no such dilemmas. This is a book by a journalist that bears no relation to his written work, except the game Minecraft, a subject often covered by Keith as the Guardian‘s games editor.

I didn’t get given this book, Keith didn’t ask me to review it, I paid a hardback price at a bookshop and I thought it was wonderful. What’s even more authentic is that I still don’t know whether Keith ever worked as an estate agent, his marriage was in trouble or if he was a bad parent.

In the book, however, the main character is all of these things and, like Keith in REAL life, he does have an nine-year-old son on the autistic spectrum. But this is not just a mea culpa, it is a well-timed, dramatic and smooth piece of work.

It flows by just like those guilty pleasures such as One Day by David Nicholls. Easy to read, very familiar scenes to any UK parent and centred on a game Minecraft that is even more recognised.

I really loved this book. It’s tender, sweet, honest and will be uncomfortably close to any who have suffered marriage breakdowns, reversals or break-ups because of unexpected events. You can read it in two or three sittings, but when you finish it, you’ll feel good.

It will be interesting if Keith writes another book as good as this, perhaps every journalist has at least one decent book in him, but I’d really like Americans to read this book, especially after the woes of 2016. If Keith breaks America, that would be a very fine thing.

Recommended read: 9/10

Entrepreneurs in the UK really hate their banks

New figures report that UK entrepreneurs have to spend at least one day a month on financial admin and 67% of small business owners wouldn’t recommend their bank to others.

entreprenuersSmall business owners are wasting considerable amounts of their time on routine financial administraion in the early stages of their companies’ lives, according to a new survey.

The figures released by Tide, ‘a new banking service designed specifically for small business’ – show that 63% of entrepreneurs running startups spend at least one day every month on administrative financial tasks, such as setting up bank accounts, tax calculations, invoices and expenses.

Based on a survey of 149 UK small business owners and sole traders about their experiences of small business banking and of managing their finances, 36% of respondents rated the help and support received from their bank as poor or very poor, while 67% said they weren’t likely to recommend their current business bank to others.

“In the early days of starting a new business, entrepreneurs and sole traders all too easily find themselves tied up in financial red tape. And while the tasks they have to complete aren’t necessarily complicated, they are time-consuming and unfamiliar. There is no reason why banks can’t help their customers to navigate these waters more efficiently and save them time, but they simply aren’t doing so,” said George Bevis, CEO of Tide.

Respondents also revealed their most significant frustrations and challenges in managing their company’s finances. Topping the list was tax calculations (a challenge for 54% of those surveyed), followed by accounting (51%), keeping track of expenses (49%), having to use multiple applications to manage different services (38%), invoicing (30%), and payroll (18%).

Those surveyed were also asked what features were most important in choosing a banking provider. The top Five were easy internet banking (listed by 80%), a good mobile app (66%), free transactions (54%), speed of set up (39%), and the length of the free banking period (36%).

Conversely, some traditional strengths offered by the banking sector such as having a local branch (5%), offering an overdraft (10%) or telephone support (16%) were seen as unimportant, while not a single respondent said that the provision of a chequebook would be a factor in their choice.

BOOK REVIEW: CISO – Desk Reference Guide

If you are a new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), then this easy-to-use guide is for you.

cisoEvery week seems to bring another huge cybersecurity crime or leak of personal data by hackers. The challenge for CISOs is a huge one, but one this book helps to assuage.

This guide is essential for those who have been recently promoted or hired to be CISOs and has been co-written by three of the most experienced experts in the business; three men who work out of US city San Diego.

Bill Bonney, Matt Stamper and Gary Hayslip are the authors and I went Gary in the city this year when looking for stories in San Diego. Not only does he adore his subject, but he is passionate about keeping the hackers out of his city and out of his cybersecurity face.

These three amigos met three years ago after appearing on several panels together at industry trade shows and events and with a century’s worth of experience between them, it seemed increasingly clear they should collaborate on a book for CISOs, particularly those at medium-sized companies.

This book is certainly not for the layperson and I found it hard to understand, but I’m not a CISO, just somebody who is attempting to write about this crucial subject and to encourage people to take cybersecurity seriously. For individuals, sometimes all it takes is to change passwords and add two-tier authentication to protect emails and data.

The CISO – Desk Reference Guide is one for those at the aforesaid mid-size companies and also in academic- and City Hall-based CISO jobs, the latter of which are sometimes the most vulnerable gateways to those who would steal our souls, be they governments, IP-rustlers or blackmailers.

Recommended reading for those who would protect us, especially as attacks are expected to accelerate in 2017.

Dementica Brittanica… Written on Brexit last July.

I originally wrote this in July for The Memo, which published a watered-down version. After recent events, I thought I’d publish it in its original form here. It’s quite angry and contains swearwords, although I use wanker when I really mean cunt.


In World War II, the Nazi propaganda machine wanted the world to know that the British were starving and running out of food. They used the term Dementica Brittanica to describe this so-called state of being.

Some would say that leaving the EU was a similarly demented act and as we live through this important summer, it’s easy to think of The Reprieve, Jean-Paul Sartre’s second book in his Parisian trilogy leading up to and during World War II. Continue reading