Monday, 17 February 2014

The Wyvern Website

Finally, the Wyvern's online presence has migrated from that boring blog of basic content which was a waste of pixels to the sparkly, sexy and brand new Wyvern Website which you can check out for yourself at (because and were already taken).

The Wyvern has always been keen to have an website because the internet is everywhere, can provide live updates and it is un-restricting. Yes, we all love 'The Wyvern' newspaper from the bottom of our hearts however we are limited to 8 A4 sheets of paper which can not display videos, sounds or let users have an interactive experience. Also, by the time the newspaper is printed, most of the stories are old news. This isn't just a problem with 'The Wyvern' though, every news publication faces this problem and that is why circulation is decreasing and more people are getting the news via websites.

Anyway, we wanted The Wyvern Website to look fresh, professional yet still be easy to use, and we are all confident that we have achieved that.

The home page (aka the 'Starting Page') is a cycle of beautiful pictures accompanied headlines and captions which display for 6 seconds each before sliding up to reveal another page of content. We like this because it is original, clean and allows viewers of the website to see what is in the news that week and what we think they should have a look at.

The website unfortunately doesn't have a CMS (Content Management System) for journalists to upload articles which means that everything needs to be added manually. On the plus side though, this lets us be more creative with design - like what you can see on this report for the BBC School Report Practise Day.

When setting up the website, the editorial team thought carefully about the categories of news we would cover. We recognise that when people want national news they will go straight to the BBC News website or the Huffington Post website and, to be fair, we knew we couldn't compete with them so we needed a USP (unique selling point). We are a school newspaper - so we decided to embrace that and decide that we would cover school news, local news and sometime national news - as long as it is something which will fascinate our target audience (fellow teenage pupils).

The Wyvern's new website also has a page where readers can read 'The Wyvern' newspaper online and another page where readers can watch all of the videos that we have made over the past couple of years.

The Wyvern takes pride in this website, it hasn't been easy to make but it has been fun and we just hope you enjoy the truly original articles, intriguing interviews and fascinating features that we upload.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

'House of Cards' season 2 review

For those of you who have Netflix, and even some of you who don't, you might have heard of the Emmy and Golden Globe award winning drama named 'House of Cards'. The first series, based loosely on the 1990s British version with the same name, premièred on the streaming service 'Netflix' on the February 1st 2013. Season 1 was loved critics and regular watchers alike which meant any following seasons would struggle to continue the high standard; I'm pleased to report that season 2 did!

Season 2 of the American political thriller was released on February 14th 2014 and, like with season 1, all episodes were released at once meaning that people could spend Valentines day binge watching them.

The first episode of season 2 wraps up loose ends from season 1 in unexpected and astonishing ways which give a further glimpse into how the complex mind of Frank Underwood, portrayed excellently by Kevin Spacey, works. That episode sets the bar for the rest of the series and leaves the viewers craving more of the elegant cinematography and perfect dialogue.

I'll admit that House of Cards is very heavy on politics so chances are there will be certain twists in the plot which are over your head unless you know the subject very well however this doesn't detract from the enjoyment.

As an indication to you of how much you will love the second season of House of Cards, I managed to watch all 13 episodes in under 48 hours - so, I for one, can't wait until season 3 of House of Cards gets released on Netflix this time next year however until then there are more Netflix Originals  launching second seasons this year including 'Orange is the new Black'.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Please protect me from smoking in cars

I've always been passionate about trying to protect young people from tobacco and the dangerous effect that second-hand smoke has on us.

In 2011 I was lucky enough to go with the British Lung Foundation to Downing Street and hand in a petition on smoking in cars with children. I think that was the moment that I really felt like my voice mattered and so I continue to fight for my rights and those of other children.

Over the last few years people have been rigorously informed, through advertising campaigns and petitions, about the harm of smoke. But smoking is an addiction – that is a fact.

My father smoked since he was a teenager and stopped only last year. Thankfully, he never smoked when I was in the car with him but not everyone is as considerate.

Young people dislike the taste and smell of cigarette fumes. Friends who've been in cars full of smoke complain it makes them feel sick, often giving them a headache and they can taste and smell smoke on themselves for the rest of the day.

Cigarette smoke is also full of poisons like arsenic and there around 300,000 GP visits from children every year because of passive smoke. It can give children asthma attacks, ear infections and even cot death. You often see smokers opening their window to try to protect passengers, but much of the toxic smoke gets blown back into the car.

Despite many attempts to educate smokers of the dangers around 430,000 children are still exposed every week. That’s a shocking amount and many children are too scared to say anything, let alone complain. It is clear that education alone isn't enough.

A Mumsnet survey revealed that 83% of smokers supported the ban. So parents who smoke do care about their children's health, but maybe some lack the willpower to resist a quick fag in the car. Making it fineable to smoke in a car with a child would make sure fewer adults will light up, in the same way that more people wear their seatbelts now it's law.

Some might argue that it's not for the government to dictate what people do in private places but what about the hundreds of thousands of children's lives that are affected? Others might argue that a ban would be too hard to enforce or is illiberal. While it's true some people might ignore it, I believe most would abide with the new law and is it not more illiberal to deprive children of clean, poison-free air when they are in a car?

Something must be done and today MPs will have a chance to help put an end to children being subjected to harmful second-hand smoke in a car. I'm delighted that David Cameron has allowed a free vote in the House of Commons and I hope they will come out in force to protect us.

Liam Pape is a 15-year-old student at Darlington School of Mathematics and Science and was on the editorial team of their 'Branksome Bugle', who in March 2011 handed in a petition on smoking in cars at 10 Downing Street with the British Lung Foundation.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Android KitKat 4.4 is a smaller update than first thought

Android's latest operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat, was announced in the second half of 2013 and has slowly been rolling out to compatible devices. The flagship (and first) smartphone running the updated version of Android was Google's own Nexus 5.

'Immersive Mode' on Android 4.3 -
not on just Android 4.4.
The Nexus 5 is a standard Android smartphone with a crisp display, unpredictable battery life and a poor camera. Despite the flaws, the phone is ideal for android developers who want to update their apps to KitKat and test how well they will run. Some of the features in KitKat currently only work on the Nexus 5 which makes the Nexus 5 a more appealing smartphone however this is bad news for other Android handset manufactures. Android 4.4 KitKat is a small software update of minor tweaks anyway so making some of the features exclusive for some phones just makes the update almost pointless.

Other updates which Google claim are major in KitKat is activating a Google search in Google Now by just saying 'Okay Google', 'Hangouts' and text messages being combined in the 'Hangouts' app and a redesigned 'Quickoffice'. (Which reminds me, why does Google install both 'Google Drive' and 'Quickoffice' on all Android devices when they do the same thing?)

Anyway, all of the above are app updates which you can get if you run Android 4.1* or above! This means that when the KitKat update finally does come your way it means that most of the changes are unnoticeable.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Is Sochi a success so far?

The Winter Olympics have taken place every 4 years since 1924 (excluding 1940 and 1944 because of World War 2) and they host a variety of winter sports from freestyle skiing to short track speed skating.

This year the Winter Olympics are being held at Sochi which is a coastal town in southern Russia. An estimated £31.1 billion has been spent ensuring the games happen which makes it the most expensive Olympic games yet!

Journalists from around the world, eager to witness and report on the events, arrived in the city last week and since then, things have not been looking good for the games. Journalist have tweeting the truth about hotels and questioning if the building work has even finished. Reports show a variety of issues from a broken curtain rail, double booked rooms and no hot water to hotel receptions lacking a floor, yellow tap water and manholes not having covers.

It is fair to say that things aren't going smoothly in Sochi.

That is nothing though, compared to what the Russian deputy prime minister revealed accidentally in a press conference. He said: "We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day," The Wall Street journal reports that an official aide then diverted the conversation and prevented follow-up questions concerning that matter.

Later that day, an official spokesperson said that the deputy prime minister was confused and the cameras were only in place for the construction of the hotels; they have been taken away since then. However, even if you believe that story, it seems peculiar that they were there in the first place.

Tragically, a few weeks before the Olympic opening ceremony a pest control company in Sochi informed journalists about a special contract they had recently received from the Russian government telling them to exterminate more stray dogs throughout the Olympics. A spokesperson for the pest control company said that thousands of stray dogs are roaming the streets and "biting children".

British government officials recently speculated on the security at the Sochi Winter Olympic games claiming that a terror attack is "very lightly to occur". This is probably the reason why Barack Obama, plus many more world leaders, have declined their invitations to the games despite Russia saying there is a "ring of steel" around the Olympic venues. 37,000 security officers have been deployed to ensure a terror attack will be very hard to pull off. Whether it is possible is the only question now.

From Russia with love

During January, Vladimir Putin (president of Russia) said that gay people were to stay away from Children. Interpret that as you wish however to me is says clearly that Russia is not planning to change its LGBT laws any time soon. Despite what Putin may claim, Russia is illiberal.

During Summer 2013 the Russian government passed an act banning 'Gay Propaganda' from children. Basically, this meant that children are not allowed to know that gay people exist which, conveniently for homophobes, stops any LGBT events happening anywhere in Russia.

Google has taken a stand though, making their 'Google Doodle' of Friday 7th February a rainbow of colours with silhouettes of Winter Olympians overlaying. Various publications have reached out to Google to comment on the doodle however they want the illustration to speak for itself.

Below the doodle was a quote from the Olympic charter:
  The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The Google Doodle from the day of the Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

The four Olympic rings
On February 7th 2014 it was the Winter Olympics opening ceremony which took place at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. 40,000 people turned out to see the launch of the games which was debatably rather dull. The embarrassment of only 4 our of the 5 Olympic rings appearing did make the show slightly more interesting though.

Not everything about this Winter Olympics has been negative though. On the positive side, the Sochi Olympics has broken the world record for the furthest distance an Olympic torch has travelled.

The torch travelled a staggering 40,389 miles and even went into space!

The Sochi Winter Olympics have only just started and already they have been subject to mass amount of controversy and hysteria. This will definitely be a Winter Olympics not forgotten any time in the foreseeable future.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

What is the point in smartwatches?

The Pebble smart-watch
Smartwatches are a new piece of technology which started emerging at the end of 2013 and they have been all the trend at CES 2014. They are middlemen for your notifications - a device that sits between your phone and you.

The best smartwatches out at the moment are the crowd funded Pebble watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear which are both reasonably trendy but have limited functionality and therefore not very practical. They don't look very good, they are frustrating to use because of the small screens and they are ridiculously overpriced.

Also, I thought the whole point of mobile smartphones was to reduce the amount of devices you need so you can do everything in one place. For example, the smartphone replaced watches, alarm clocks, calculators, catalogues, calendars, letters, board games, newspapers and many more things which you use every day. So isn't having a smart-watch a step backwards? If we are getting these devices back after they were replaced by smartphones can we expect to see a boom of smart alarm clocks next?

E-cigarettes to be unplugged for under 18-year-olds

E-cigarettes, if you didn't know, are plastic tubes which resemble real cigarettes. They dispense vapour and nicotine every time you take a drag. E-cigs are becoming increasingly popular because of interesting flavours, unique styles and even different coloured lights on the end which glow every time you take a drag.

It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes and, from what I can tell, there are currently two types of people who use e-cigarettes: people who have been smoking for most of their life, who have now realised that it is damaging their health and that smoking is a huge waste of money, so they have converted to e-cigarettes in an effort to quit altogether. And then there are young people from early teens up to late twenties who want to look cool without slowly killing themselves… so they have bought e-cigarettes.

The tobacco industry have spotted this market of young people so over the past couple of years more and more wealthy cigarette corporations have been adding e-cigarettes to their line of products. It is debatable whether they are just filling a gap in the market for e-cigarettes or if they are producing the fake fags as a stepping stone for young people in hope they will get hooked on real cigarettes.

However, in the past week, the UK government has threatened to reduce the teenage market significantly by proposing to ban under-18s from buying e-cigarettes. I think this is great news because it means that less young people are more likely to start smoking anything - whether it be harmful or not.

Facts about e-cigarettes:
The industry is worth around £24 million a year.
E-cigarettes get more popular every year (especially around 'Stoptober').
11% of smokers also use e-cigarettes.
567 young people start smoking every day (regular cigarettes).

Above: E-cigarettes at the Consumer Electronics Show last month.