Archives for May 2011

What was the Domesday Project?

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Maggie Philbin | 12:34 UK time, Thursday, 26 May 2011

Back in 1986, when hair, shoulder pads and computers took up far too much space, we demonstrated the Domesday Project on Tomorrow's World. It was breathtakingly ambitious and in many ways, decades ahead of its time.

Tomorrow's World : 1985. Picture Shows : Presenters Peter McCann, Maggie Philbin, Judith Hann and Howard Stableford

My co-presenter, Howard Stableford, pointed to a mountain of encyclopaedias, floppy discs and maps, exclaiming how the amount of data the two videodiscs held was just "unbelievable."

It was. Timed to mark the 900th anniversary of the Domesday book, it was the work not only of a brilliant team who nursed 80s technology into delivering 21st century ambitions but over a million volunteers, mostly children, who doggedly collected 9,700 sets of data, 300,000 pictures and 147,819 pages of text to chronicle ordinary life across every part of Britain.

There were two discs, the map based Community disc, which showed Britain as seen by the people who live there and the topic based National disc, covering everything from the number of abandoned cars to the National Health Service. The country was divided into 4kmx 3km "dblocks" ; each block rationed to 3 photographs and a number of short reflections on life in that area.

It was and probably remains the biggest audience participation project ever undertaken. We were genuinely excited by it on Tomorrow's World, there was a real sense of potential and we gave the story nearly nine minutes rather than the usual three or four. The National disc even contained a primitive version of non-immersive virtual reality, with nine surrogate walks including one around a Barratt show house.

I remember the elegance of the videodisc as it slid into the player, a potent symbol of the shiny world of technology which was now beginning to gather pace, and which would soon eclipse the expensive operating system, rendering it obsolete.

But the ambition behind it was groundbreaking.

We now take the ability to access, navigate and manipulate information for granted but this was such a fresh idea we invited viewers to phone up if they wanted us to find pictures of their own town or village. It's very strange to look back on that programme and hear how thrilled Richard Street from Longborough becomes, as he recognises first the map of his village, then a field with a tractor in it and finally his local post office.

The fact that so much information was provided by children leads to some idiosyncrasies. If you look on the dblock which contains York Minster, you won't find a picture of the cathedral but a woman ironing clothes.  But children record details adults would overlook. Only a child would bother to describe how in the village of Inkpen "many people wear Wellington boots, even in summer."  Once you start reading the details, you are rewarded by the occasional sly insight . In Slawston, for example "about eight attend the weekly service, although all go to the Harvest Supper"

The children entered the data onto floppy discs using BBC Micros in their classrooms and then posted them to the BBC, where Andy Finney who worked on the project remembers the technical challenges. "We weren't even sure how to put together a master videotape with thousands of single frames on it."  He credits Roger Kelly, the technical project manager and the enthusiastic Logica team, led by Jardine Barrington-Cook, who often slept in the office, as they struggled to shoehorn advanced concepts into the tiny BBC processor. Andy's website maps the scale of the technical challenge.

At around £5000, the final system was the price of a small car, so beyond the reach of most schools and libraries. 1000 were sold but that it was never easily accessible has clearly been unfinished business for the team.

Domesday Reloaded has brought the Community Disc material to the web and the reunion for the 25th anniversary will be a special celebration.  "I'm most proud that people are finally able to access the Domesday Project information and that they are fascinated by it" says Andy. "Better late than never."

For those who want to show their children what high tech meant in 1986, the Computer Museum at Bletchley Park have set up a complete Domesday system.

For the rest of us, it highlights the issue we face if open standards are not adopted for future information. What happens if the hardware as well as the software needed to access our pictures and our written history is long gone?

In The News: The e-G8 forum

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Helen Purves Helen Purves | 13:50 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

You might have heard of the G8 (Group of Eight) forum - an arrangement between the world's eight major economies where world leaders come together to discuss global politics.

Well, yesterday The French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened a similar forum in Paris called the e-G8, which brings together major names from the technology industry - leaders from websites like Google, Facebook and Wikipedia.  News Corp's Rupert Murdoch and the BBC's Director General Mark Thompson are also due to speak.

The most controversial issue up for debate is about who 'owns' the internet - whether governments should control what people can say online and also what they can access.  This is particularly topical because of the recent news stories about superinjunctions being broken via social networking website Twitter.

Read the full story about the e-G8 forum on the BBC News Technology website.

Question: Why doesn't iPlayer work outside the UK?

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Helen Purves Helen Purves | 12:10 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

I can't say I'm fully impartial when it comes to BBC output, since I work here, but I have to admit that if I moved out of the UK one of the things I'd miss the most is BBC television.  I don't know what I'd do without great political satire like Have I Got News For You, classic period dramas like Cranford or my regular fix of Lord Sugar in The Apprentice.

I know I'm not alone.  The WebWise inbox sees an almost constant stream of frustrated ex-pats who, having moved abroad, have suddenly found themselves not only without BBC TV channels but also without the ability to catch up on EastEnders online.

I can understand their frustration and - while I can't press a magic button which will make iPlayer work abroad - I thought it would be worthwhile explaining the main reason we can't do this.  The iPlayer FAQ section has some information about it, and the main BBC FAQ pages have general information for people visiting the BBC website from outside the UK, but here's a quick summary.

Basically, it's all down to right issues: who owns what footage, and who gets paid when it's used.  While we own all of the video footage and sound recordings we make ourselves, almost every programme which goes on air contains footage from somewhere else.  This saves the BBC - and therefore licence fee payers - a lot of money, and also makes for better programmes.

In case you're wondering where all this archive footage actually is, think about what you're listening to when you watch the programme.  If you listen carefully, you might hear great background music by artists like Elbow, Daft Punk or Mr Scruff.  Why spend money making music when someone else is already making it, and possibly doing a better job?

And then there's video footage you might not even think about - footage of historic events, images of animals in foreign countries, aerial shorts of mountains - all that kind of thing.  Well, it all costs money - and it costs a lot more money to make it available for everyone in the world as opposed to just viewers from the UK.

So how does the BBC know I'm based outside the UK?

You might be wondering how on earth the BBC knows the difference between someone based in the UK and someone based abroad.  Well, this is to do with something called your "IP (Internet Protocol) address".  Wikipedia has detailed information about this, but it can be simplified quite easily. 

Basically, every internet connection is given a unique number identifying it which is also tied to your location.  That means that websites can look at your IP address and change what you see depending on where you are.  It's not foolproof technology - on rare occasions people in the UK might have problems getting iPlayer, usually due to problems with their internet provider - but it does the job most of the time.

So there you are.  If you have a question you'd like answered, get in touch through our contact form.  See you next week!

As well as working on the WebWise production team, Helen has an interest in short-form video, social media and online marketing.

UPDATE: As of July 2010, the BBC iPlayer is available outside the UK as an "app" for the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. While a limited amount of content available is free, to access it all a subscription must be paid. As of March 2012 the app is available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Australia and Canada, with the United States expected soon.

'Text me when you're on your way'

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 13:10 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

My boyfriend and I can track each other. Not because we're particularly possessive, but because it can help put our minds at ease in certain situations. When he's driving a long distance or if I'm out late all we do is turn on a 'location-aware' app on our smartphones and a little icon appears with our faces hovering over a map, showing the other where we are. If he's driving to meet me and gets lost (not that he ever does, of course), I can see where he is along the motorway and tell him which exit to take, how far away he is, and how long it will take him to get to me.

But when the rest of your phone's playing up it can cause some worry, as I found out a few months ago one afternoon after a bang to the head...

In a shopping centre on my lunch break I managed to walk into a wall while staring at a 90s pop star. It really wasn't worth it and not only did I feel stupid, but an hour later I started to feel rather queasy and emailed my other half to let him know I was leaving work early.

'Oh dear, just text me when you're near and I'll pick you up from the station,' he replied.

A while later I texted him from the train to let him know it was delayed, but the message went unanswered. When I didn't receive a reply to a second text my mind started to wander.

How, I wondered, is he suddenly in a mood with me? Is this because I left my washing up in the sink this morning? Is he really that petty? I could feel myself getting annoyed. I called his phone just in case he hadn't received my texts, but after a few rings it went to voicemail.

In a change to routine I switched trains at Brighton and when I finally arrived home my boyfriend was wearing a look of both panic and relief.

'Where have you been? Why didn't you reply to my text?'

'Your text?!' I'm puzzled, but figure an argument is the best remedy to the state of confusion. 'Why didn't you reply to my text?'

Unable to believe that our phones simply failed to deliver, we got them out, scrolled to our Sent folders and held the proof of our communications up to the other's face like five year olds. 'Seeeee?' we chimed, before gradually returning to a state of calm.

Even though we knew the phones were at fault and not us, we had still spent the last hour switching between feelings of confusion, worry and annoyance.

The boyfriend then mentioned how our location app had added to his textual anxiety.

'I could see you were in Brighton and thought that after banging your head you'd become confused and forgotten where you lived.'

The sentiment was sweet, but it does show just how far we'll go to explain away the failings of technology. As reliant as we've become on computers, phones and gadgets, it seems we may have forgotten that they're not always reliable.

The 'broken phone' excuse can act as a convenient brush off for fleeting romantic interests, but in the case of your nearest and dearest, a bit of a 'meet me by the riverside between 6 and 9' attitude can do wonders for anxiety levels. Not getting a text after 20 minutes doesn't mean you're being ignored or that your best friend suddenly hates you. It doesn't mean your partner's train has crashed or that they've left you on a whim. It usually means their battery's died, their phone's playing up or they've got no signal.

Technology can be tremendously helpful in worst-case scenarios, but it can lead us to overlook the simple fact that most days aren't worst-case scenario days. As good as caution can be, a little old-fashioned trust and patience goes a long way to filling the gap between text messages.

Hajar is part of the WebWise production team and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

WebWise news report - The right to spoof

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Spoofs of songs and tv clips spread like wildfire across the web, and you may receive links in your inbox directing you to a funny short video that pokes fun at celebrities or the latest number one single.

But these seemingly harmless bits of fun can see the creators facing legal action from the big businesses behind the originals. As hits mount and the clip goes viral, those being spoofed could cite infringement of copyright to deter sites from hosting such content.

Take the song 'Newport state of mind' for example. This was a Welsh spoof of the Jay Z and Alicia Keys hit 'New York', and racked up millions of views worldwide before EMI Music Publishing Ltd got involved and asked it be removed. Despite different lyrics, singers and scenery, the song was essentially a rewrite for which prior permission hadn't been obtained from the publishing company.

But this could all change if the UK takes on recommendations made in an independent report by Professor Ian Hargreaves, which proposes an overhaul of copyright laws for the digital age, including allowing the use of copyright material for parody.

This seems like good news for online entertainers, but could it see us entering a whole new sticky area of copyright, where lawyers argue over the definition of parody and whether the original artists are being exploited?

For more on the recommendations in the Hargreaves report, read the full story on BBC News.

There's also a great piece on 'Newport state of mind' on the BBC Wales Music blog: BBC Wales Music.

Hajar is part of the WebWise production team and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

Question: What is instant messaging?

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Helen Purves Helen Purves | 11:21 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

There are so many different ways of communicating with your friends over the internet that it can get very confusing very quickly.  Once you've mastered the ins and outs of email, you might think you've pretty much got to grips with everything you need - and many would agree that you're correct.

However, there is a much faster way of communicating with people than email which can be quite surprising at first.  You might have seen it before - you're on Facebook, or using a friend's computer, when all of a sudden a little message pops up at the bottom of your screen that looks like it's from a real person - perhaps one of your friends.  So is it spam, or a pop-up, or what?  Well, it's probably someone sending you an instant message.

It all seems horribly complicated, but what instant messaging really involves is typing messages into a box.  The very moment you hit send (usually by using the Enter key on your computer) your friend can see that message - sometimes they can even see what you're saying as you type.  It's just like using a telephone, except you're typing instead of speaking.  In fact, it's a lot like using text messages - except unlike text messages, it's free!

You can either use instant messaging supplied by websites (like Facebook, eBuddy and Meebo), webmail providers (Yahoo, Gmail and Ymail all do this, as do many others) or download special software (like Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Skype or ICQ) - so there are a lot of options! 

Some software will even let you make voice and video calls, often through your webcam - check our our article on setting up your webcam for more details.  For more information on instant messaging, have a look at the WebWise guide.

If you have a question you'd like to ask us, send us an email through our contact form (or leave a comment!)

In the back of the net - football websites

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Charlie Swinbourne Charlie Swinbourne | 02:41 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

I've been a massive fan of the beautiful game ever since my Dad took me along to a Nottingham Forest match soon after the 1990 World Cup. Seeing my England heroes such as Des Walker, Stuart Pearce and Steve Hodge in action made me decide to be a lifelong red (even though we only drew 1-1 with QPR!).

Forest's fortunes have varied since then, but I've never stopped loving football; I'll watch games in the Premiership, Football League, even the Spanish and Italian leagues. If a ball's being kicked around, I'm happy to watch it. I also enjoy reading about football on the internet, following all the latest headlines, match reports, and gossip. Here are my top five football websites.

1. The Guardian


For me, this is the best football site going. The Guardian's football section consistently breaks the latest stories, marrying them with in-depth analysis of the game's latest twists and turns. There's live minute-by-minute reports on games as they are happening, along with The Fiver, a daily email that takes an irreverent look at the stories of the day.

Then there's a football blog, a fixtures and statistics section, a weekly round up of the best sporting YouTube videos, and best of all, the (free!) Football Weekly podcast, presented by James Richardson (who you may remember from Channel 4's cult classic show, Football Italia). The most recent addition is a weekly column from 'The Secret Footballer', a real player giving us a refreshingly honest view on the state of the sport. Outstanding.

2. BBC Football


The BBC's site is filled with video and audio clips, not only of interviews with managers and players; but also actual goals and highlights of games. You can also click through to programmes like Match of the Day and The Football League Show on iPlayer. Then there's the latest news, results and fixtures, and a great gossip section. If you're interested in playing the game as well as following it, you can also check out the comprehensive Skills section showing you all the techniques top pros use, including how to bend a ball like Beckham!

3. Football Filter


Football Filter is an amazing site that strangely offers very little of its own content. It shows you, at a glance, all the latest stories from a multitude of sites at once, broken down into one line descriptions in sections such as: 'broadsheets', 'tabloids', 'top journos' 'blogs', 'broadcasters' and 'podcasts.' It's simple and easy to use, almost as if the the site is a middle-man helping you on your way to the stories that most interest you.

4. Football 365


For a more opinionated take on the latest comings and goings in the footy world, check out Football 365. The site is full of fresh takes on the latest results and trends in football, and the Mediawatch section is just hilarious. The one downside of the site is that it's full of adverts and feels 'busier' than the other sites. But it's more down to earth than the BBC's or the Guardian's sites - it feels more like you're reading the thoughts (and occasionally, rants) of the football expert in the pub rather than the considered analysis of paid journalists. Which is always fun.

5. When Saturday Comes

 

If Football 365 feels like you're getting the views of the man in the pub, When Saturday Comes feels like you're getting the views of a football scholar who's just reclined into his armchair, lit his pipe and told you his considered, if random thoughts on the beautiful game. WSC describes itself as 'Britain's leading independent football magazine' and has just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The website replicates the magazine's alternative feel, taking a real joy in the minor yet (to supporters at least) important details of the game. For example, there's a weekly email called The Weekly Howl that details, among other things, favourite old football strips and team badges. Meanwhile, daily features find a fresh angle on the game that you won't find anywhere else. A Guardian article about the magazine's 25 years said it provides us with 'the voice of the fans', and that sounds just about right.

Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for The Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.

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Could you (or someone you know) be a First Click Friend?

You may have already heard of First Click, the BBC’s campaign to get people with little or no knowledge of computers and the internet familiar with the online world. This scheme reaches out to the estimated 9.2 million people in the UK who fall into this category, assuring them that they it's ‘easier than you think’.

Today sees the launch of First Click Friends, taking things one step further by inviting those already confident in using the web to help a relative, neighbour or friend to get online.  By giving up a small amount of time First Click Friends can make it possible for many more people to experience the real benefits of life online.

Logo for First Click Friends campaign with the tagline - 'Help someone get online'.

 

The campaign is backed by some famous faces who talk about how the internet makes a real difference to their lives. Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein, who admits to being a ‘technological dinosaur’, enthuses about how going online has expanded her knowledge of plants and gardening:

“I love the Gardeners' World message board, all sorts of ordinary gardeners, some of them very, very experienced right the way through to people who've just started growing something take part in it. Being online just enables me to do so many things that I couldn't have dreamt of before.”

If  you, or someone you know would be an ideal First Click Friend,  download the First Click Friends Handbook from the website to find out more. The site also offers assistance to ‘friends’ in finding local beginners' computer courses and advice on answering questions about internet safety and how to find the right computer for them.

You can also watch videos of actor Linda Robson, presenter Jennie Bond, nature presenter Bill Oddie and Countryfile’s Julia Bradbury  talking about how using computers and the internet makes their lives fuller.

Visit the First Click Friends website for further details or sign up for BBC WebWise's email newsletter for beginners to get weekly updates on what's new on WebWise.

WebWise question: What is Flash, and why doesn't it come with my computer?

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Helen Purves Helen Purves | 09:34 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

We frequently get asked what Adobe Flash is - mainly because if you're surfing the BBC website and don't have it, you're often directed to BBC WebWise.  This is because we have straightforward guides to installing it - which you can find here:

Guide: Download Flash plug-ins

On top of that, we also have a very informative article about what plug-ins you need and how to install them, which you can find here:

Article: What plug-ins do I need?

You might be wondering, then, why we're answering this question.  Well, it's because people often wonder why, when they buy a new computer, they're asked to install /update Flash.  It's a fair enough question, since you'd think that computers would come with everything you need.

Well, the first reason is that the Flash software - unlike Windows Media Player on a PC or iTunes on a Mac, is owned by a different company not related to your computer or operating system - so, Windows is made and owned by Microsoft, iOS is made and owned by Apple, but Flash is made and owned by Adobe.  As software supplied by a third party Flash rarely comes as standard, however; it often comes with your internet browser - since many websites rely on you having this software to function.

If it has been installed, this is why you might be asked to update it.  If you're wondering why your brand new computer might come with old, out of date software, it's because like most popular software Flash is almost constantly being worked on by developers, as the internet and computers evolve and have new requirements.  This means that in the time between your computer being put together and you switching it on for the first time, Adobe and other companies might have released a new version of their software which you need to update.

Although it's frustrating to have to spend time waiting for new software to download before you start playing with your shiny new computer, it's worth it - without plug-ins like Flash and others you'll find some web pages don't work properly.  Also, updates might have been released to improve security settings, so it's always important to make sure you have the most recent version of all your software.

Anyway, as a reward for all your hard work downloading those plug-ins we've rounded up some of WebWise's favourite BBC Flash games for you to have a go on. 

First up, other sites from BBC Learning have some amazing games - they're supposed to help children and teens with their revision, but we love playing them too.  The slightly odd puzzle game Questionaut from Bitesize is my personal favourite, because I like the cause-and-effect fun of clicking on random items, but we also love the game Greek Hero - it looks great and at one point you get to talk to Socrates.

Then CBBC have loads of fun games - again, for children, but don't let that put you off - children know their games. My favourites are the Shaun the Sheep Championsheeps - particularly Click 'N' Spoon.

Drama Merlin has a great set of games, as does (of course) Doctor Who - it seems like some TV programmes are just tailor made for great games.  Finally, don't forget the legendary Only Connect  - you really have to have your wits about you for this one.  Definitely a game for intellectual types, but very addictive when you get your head around it.

If you want to share your favourite BBC Flash game, please do link to it in the comments - and as always, if you want us to answer a question for you get in touch through our contact form.

As well as working on the WebWise production team, Helen has an interest in short-form video, social media and online marketing.

 

Dressed to kill: shopping for men's clothes online

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Guy Clapperton Guy Clapperton | 10:08 UK time, Friday, 6 May 2011

There's something about turning 40, which happened to me over half a decade ago. All these people who used to try to sell you fashions in the pages of the blokes' magazines, who used to be concerned with telling you how to shave without getting a rash, they kind of go away. The models in the fashion mags suddenly start looking like teenage stick insects, your own body continues to change as your hair gets greyer and the weight rolls off less easily than it used to.

You still want to look your best, you want to make a few adjustments so you don't look like a walking mid-life crisis, but there's no "middle-aged bloke" magazine out there for you - it's straight from Nuts to The Oldie. Doing your research and often buying online looks like a good option.

Some basics

You can, of course, save a lot of money buying clothes and accessories on the web. This isn't the place to promote specific sites as they're all private businesses and this isn't a commercial blog, but there are a few pointers you can take into account.

First, check the returns policy on absolutely everything before you buy. If they won't take it back you don't want it. Different brands have different ideas of what's large or extra large, which can mean one brand's XL size in undies looks and feels five sizes too big on you whilst another is uncomfortably tight.

It may not just be a matter of sizing. Something that looks great on the immaculately-coiffed, young-enough-to-be-your-son model on the screen can look ridiculous when you put it on. I had this with a jacket a few years ago, a chocolate-covered check thing. I put it on; my wife was polite and said I'd have to wear a plain shirt with it, but my then-much-younger daughter couldn't stop laughing. I looked like a caricatured used car salesman from a particularly naff 1950s sitcom. The seller took it back without a quibble even though it was a faultless sample of what I'd actually ordered.

Also, look at alterations. One online tailor offers you the chance to perform all your own measurements instead of paying them £25 to do so - but if you really screw up then for £40 they'll apply a retrospective guarantee and fix it as if they'd measured you themselves. Another I know won't let you do your own measuring so the suit carries his own warranty, then if you lose weight or gain it he'll alter it for £20 a seam.

Never forget though, that the days when items were automatically cheaper on the internet have gone. Hardly anybody pays the full amount for a shirt these days, so do check your online price against what they're charging on the High Street.

It's not always a good idea to buy purely on price, though. When you're looking at suits or shirts see if you can get a swatch of the material - try scrunching it up to see if it creases or not. The ones that don't will look better on you for longer. When the shirt arrives see how dense the stitching is - if it's loose or too spaced out then it won't be as solid as something better made.

Beginners in men's styling are often bewildered that you can get a suit for just over £100 at some very reputable High Street retailers but pay hundreds or even thousands for a "designer" name. Of course you're paying for the name but you should also be paying for a better grade of fabric than the High Street retailer can manage for the price.

Outlets and sales of last year's designer shirts often represent bargains both online and off. A lot of men's clothes remain reasonably classic so the changes aren't huge, but a real buff will spot last year's Polo Ralph Lauren colours immediately. If that worries you, you'll need to pay a bit more.  Personally I think they still look fine.

Websites

There don't seem to be any magazines catering for us 'not-yet-old' blokes. However there are a number of excellent blogs dedicated to male styling and grooming. I'd recommend TheChapBlog, which is currently busy discovering spa treatments, and The Grooming Guru who seems plugged into more of the male grooming industry's PR offices than most of us and therefore gets all the good freebies.

My own blog, LifeOver35, aims to do what it says on the tin, talking about suiting, casual clothes, skin products, shaving equipment, watches, and gadgets. As far as I can make out, none of us are paid for these blogs so I'm not pushing any commercial interests in naming them.

People react in different ways to the idea. One reader said he found it a bit strange, men talking about on stuff in which only women were usually interested. I've done some research and found that these female types can vote and everything now, so we're allowed to go a bit beyond stereotyping.

WebWise news report - e-book sales rise

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 14:35 UK time, Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Digital books sales are on the rise, according to figures from the Publishers Association.

The UK's digital book market is now worth £180m, which is due in no small part to the rise of digital reading devices like the Amazon Kindle and Sony e-reader. They're not cheap, but once the initial payment has been made, users can purchase e-books for a fraction of the print price.

Although books have been available online in the form of scanned PDF files since the 1990s, recent years have seen a rise in more sophisticated models without the need for a scanner.

Book lovers can take scores of books with them on holiday without the extra weight by saving them to a digital reader and reading them at the touch of a button. Commuters can flit between swotting up on a business manual and escaping to Victorian England without risking a bad back or ruining the pages by shoving them in a rucksack.

And for those worrying that the days of snuggling up with a good (paper) book are numbered, rest-assured that experts are predicting a happy future where print and digital books can live side-by-side in perfect harmony.

There's definitely room for both and, in my book, the more people read the better.

To find out more about the pros and cons of e-books and e-reading devices, read Guy Clapperton’s guide on BBC WebWise.

Read the full story on the BBC News Technology website.

Question: Attaching pictures to emails

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Helen Purves Helen Purves | 16:17 UK time, Monday, 2 May 2011

Finally, it's starting to feel like summer - the sun keeps making appearances, every street smells of barbecues and shorts and flip flops are liberated from wardrobes across the land.

If you're anything like me, you'll be starting to feel like getting your camera out and capturing those great summer moments.  Perhaps you've been to a Royal Wedding street party and have loads of pictures to share with your friends and neighbours - or maybe you've been on holiday holiday and want  your family to see just how cool you looked wearing a sombrero / riding a camel / braving parascending.

However, there's one simple thing that stops a lot of people - how do you actually attach those pesky images to your emails?  Don't worry - it's a simple trick, and when you've done it once you'll be doing it all the time.  After I taught my mum over the phone I got a sudden flurry of pictures of the family dog in various artistic poses, and neither of them ever looked back.

So how do you do it?  Well, once you've started writing your email look along the top row of options, where you can change the text colour and size, and other things.  Right along that bar there'll be either a picture of a paperclip or a button saying "Attach..." (or a combination of the two).  Click on it and a window will appear asking you to look for the file on your computer.  Find the file, select it by clicking on it once, press "Okay" and the image will be magically attached to your email. 

Once you're happy with your message, click send and your picture will be on its way to the lucky recipient(s).

The process is pretty much the same for every type of email, whether you're using webmail (like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo Mail) or software like Outlook.  What's more, you can use this method to attach any type of file - not just images. 

If you want to have a practise there are some pictures that you might only want to share with close friends), we've created a rather handy course all about sending emails.

And remember, you can send any questions you want us to answer through our contact form.

As well as working on the WebWise production team, Helen has an interest in short-form video, social media and online marketing.

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