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Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

Welcome to dot.Rory - these are my thoughts about how technology is changing the world and shaping our lives

Can a northern tech cluster take off?

Angel of the North

The North of England is about to get a new technology cluster to emulate the success of London's Tech City.

That at least is the claim this morning from the deputy prime minister. Nick Clegg has unveiled plans for something called TechNorth, described as a new technology hub for the region.

This initiative will be focused not on one city but five - Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool. The aim will be, in the words of the press release, "to do what TechCity has done for East London - put TechNorth on the international map". All of which begs two questions - can you create a tech cluster spread over a wide area rather than one place, and has Tech City really been the success claimed by government?

There is no doubt that all of the five cities making up this proposed cluster - or "virtual hub" as a spokeswoman described it to me - have some great technology businesses. Sheffield, Liverpool and Leeds have plenty of games and digital media firms, Newcastle is strong in software, with a FTSE 100 firm Sage based there, and Manchester has the wonder material graphene and other great technology emerging from its universities.

Now a new agency will be charged with attracting inward investors to the North, and existing local tech businesses will be encouraged to pool ideas and resources. But TechNorth may be a difficult brand to sell to overseas giants looking to invest in the UK. Will a Google or a Huawei be offered a menu of five cities to choose from - or steered towards one?

Read full article Can a northern tech cluster take off?

Game on - e-sports takes off in the UK

Studio audience cheers at the League of Legends North American Championship Series in February 2014
Studio audience at the League of Legends North American Championship Series in February 2014

Next weekend, the World Cup Final takes place in Seoul in front of 60,000 spectators and a huge global TV audience. No, I'm not confused and this is not football. The contest in question pits Korea's Samsung White against China's Star Horn Royal Club and what they are playing is a video game called League of Legends.

E-sports, where game play is watched by audiences in stadiums and on TV, have been big business in the Far East for more than a decade. But now, as I found out in a report for Friday's World at One on Radio 4, the phenomenon is really taking off in Britain.

Read full article Game on - e-sports takes off in the UK

Twitter and the poisoning of online debate

Twitter logo

For anyone who believed the internet and social media would foster a new era of free expression and open debate, this is a depressing time. It seems no area of discussion is free from mindless and often vicious exchanges between people who have different opinions.

That has led some to give up on one social media service. Two prominent sports broadcasters, the BBC's Jonathan Agnew and Sky Sports' Jeff Stelling, have left Twitter this week, having had enough of the abuse aimed at them and their families. Another radio and TV personality Richard Madeley has called in the police over rape threats in tweets to his daughter.

Read full article Twitter and the poisoning of online debate

EE - is the couch potato cooked?

Remote control

"Britain needs a whole new way of watching television, and EE is the firm that will drag the TV industry kicking and screaming into the mobile era."

That's the message at the launch of the mobile operator's new service EE TV, which claims to be "the UK's most advanced TV service." Now it's evident that EE needs to be in TV, but its belief that viewers are impatient for a different television experience is open to question.

Read full article EE - is the couch potato cooked?

Will Tesco keep taking the tablets?

Britain's biggest supermarket chain is in crisis, with sales sliding and a furore over its accounting methods. So today's launch of Tesco's new tablet computer the Hudl 2 does not come at a great time. Indeed it provides another opportunity to ask whether the company has been distracted by trendy tech ventures when it should be concentrating on good old-fashioned retailing skills.

The first Hudl, which came out last year, was quite a hit - a pretty basic tablet at a very competitive price which has so far been snapped up by three quarters of a million shoppers.

Read full article Will Tesco keep taking the tablets?

Tax and tech

Apple logo

Here are two indisputable truths. Governments love to cosy up to technology companies. And technology companies - much like any other business - hate paying tax. So the relationship between the two can be summed up as a Facebook status - it's complicated.

This morning we have learned the extraordinary lengths governments can go to in order to persuade a giant American company to do business in its territory. The European Commission has published a letter setting out the reasons for its investigation into a tax deal between Ireland and Apple.

Read full article Tax and tech

U2, Bendygate and iOS 8.0.1: Apple's banana skins

iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in Apple's PR department over the last week. A company that is legendary for obsessive control over its message has watched helplessly as things have spun out of its grasp.

First, there was the kerfuffle over the stunt which saw U2's new album given away free to every iTunes user whether they wanted it or not. That provoked a wave of anger and derision from people who saw the provision of a free download as a massive assault on their freedom and an insult to their taste in music. (For U2, it was a massive success, earning them a reputed $100m from Apple and sending older albums back into the charts). Unusually, Apple felt obliged to respond by offering a U2 removal tool.

Read full article U2, Bendygate and iOS 8.0.1: Apple's banana skins

Blackberry's Passport to a better future

It is the company that first brought us email on the move, and seemed to be in prime position to prosper in the smartphone era.

Then it all went wrong for Blackberry. But today sees the launch of a device which the Canadian company believes could win back the executives once addicted to their Crackberries.

Read full article Blackberry's Passport to a better future

Cracking the problem of online identification

Drawing of computer on blackboard with words "who are you?" on monitor

How do you go about proving you are who you say you are?

As more and more services move online - and fraud mounts - this is of growing importance not just to individuals but to the businesses and governments with which they interact. In many countries, the answer is an identity card, but that idea has met with lots of resistance in the UK.

Read full article Cracking the problem of online identification

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About Rory

Rory has been watching the technology scene like a hawk for the last 15 years.

From the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s to the rise of Google and Facebook, from the Psion organiser to the iPad, he's covered all the big gadget and business stories, and interviewed just about everyone who's played a part in the story of the web.

Dot.Rory, his previous blog, was named among the Top 100 blogs by the Sunday Times.

He aims to look at the impact of the internet and digital technology on our lives and businesses. Rory has been described as "the non-geek's geek", and freely admits that he came late to technology - but he aims to explain its significance to anyone with an interest in the subject.

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