Hooverphilia: An unnatural obsession with vacuum cleaners

When I reviewed Dyson's battery-powered DC59 earlier this month I was only joking about being obsessed. In fact, now the Dyson seems to do...

Smaller cameras, bigger lenses in bokeh quest

Writing for THEME, Japan-based photographer and author Karel van Wolferen wonders why lenses get bigger as cameras get smaller:  ...

Virgin’s Fair Usage Policy: A whiff of something rotten

I used to think that Virgin Media's cable broadband service was the bee's knees. Until, that is, I came across the company's brand new...

Are you still alive, that is the question

Last week I took a sabbatical. I was up north visiting friends and family. I spent so much time chatting and walking that I...

Who needs €500 bills except criminals and tax dodgers?

Interesting that Australia is questioning the future of the...

Google’s search bar is the new command line

Shawn Blanc refers back to an eight-year-old assertion by John Gruber that Google’s search bar had become the new command line. He is right...

Patent Wars: Sick to the back teeth of this nonsense

Am I the only one who is sick to the back teeth of all this patent fueding that seems to be dominating the world...

Daily postal deliveries: An expensive and unsustainable service

The US Postal Service is going through hard times and Ben Brooks is sorry that such a wonderful nationwide facility is not profitable. As...

Airport security: the need for rationalisation

Yesterday's comments on airport security checks by British Airways CEO Martin Broughton were spot on. While everyone agrees that checks are necessary, it is the arbitrariness and the differing standards that annoy passengers. Some experts would say this is a good thing and keeps the bad guys on their toes, but I sometimes think passengers are delayed and inconvenienced for the wrong reasons. Belts of here, belts on there; shoes off here, shoes on there.....

When the iPad was introduced earlier this year it sailed through security checks inside bags and no one said a thing. Then someone noticed and decided that iPads were computers. The same with my Amazon Kindle. Initially, no one noticed, then security staff started asking if I had a book reader in the case and asking for it to be put in a separate tray (on one occasion I had three trays - laptop, iPad and Kindle).

Now, according to reports from the USA, the TSA has decreed that the 11in MacBook Air can remain in the bag while the 13in model must be extracted. It's all to do with size and thickness, I suppose, but the rules do sound very arbitrary.

It's good news that the British authorities have agreed to look at the system and decide how it can be rationalised and made less onerous on passengers. But don't hold your breath.

iHoover: When trademarks become generic

Such has been the success of Apple in the past five years that I can well understand the company's desire to protect trademarks. Unfortunately, great success brings the danger of your cherished trademark turning into a generic term. Apple are dangerously close to this phenomenon with the iPod. These days everyone talks about an iPod and everyone knows instantly that this is an MP3 player. It's definitely a more effective description than any other.

This is nothing new, of course. Perhaps the one case we all recognise is the trademark Hoover. Once upon a time, back in the middle of the last century, Hoover was the iPod of the vacuum world, with Goblin and Electrolux snapping at their bags. Even 50 years ago people were happily "hoovering" with their Goblins and not sparing a thought for the trademark. Now it is universal to prefer the verb hoover to the more generic vacuum.

There are lots of other similar instances. Sellotape and Scotchtape are both trademarks and have been fiercely protected by their owners for more than fifty years. Fiberglass (Fibreglass in the UK) is a trademark and for years journalists have been exhorted to use the generic "glass fibre". But it's a losing battle and the trademark has become a generic term.

Most of Apple's "i" products have been so successful that they have defined a genre. Both iPod and iPhone are in danger of becoming generic. iPhone, for instance, makes a much better generic for smartphone than Android in its many guises or, even, BlackBerry which for a time was becoming synonymous with smartphone. Until the Apple came along, of course.

Apple have a lot to do to make sure their trademarks do not descend into the generic.