Making new homes for swifts

Swifts are incredible birds, spending most of their lives on the wing and only landing when it’s time to nest. After flying its nest for the first time, a young swift may spend two or three years in the air, eating, drinking, sleeping, bathing and even mating! The swifts that nest in the UK arrive here in late April – May and may spend just 3 months with us; soaring and swooping over rooftops catching insects to eat.

But they’re in serious trouble here, with numbers down to less than half of what they were just twenty years ago. Modern buildings lack the nooks and crannies they need, and swifts are struggling to find homes.

Fortunately there are ways to help these birds. There are special swift nestboxes available, and if you’re having a building constructed or renovated, there’s also the option of the ‘swift brick’. This replaces a standard house brick and can easily be installed by a builder. Swift boxes and swift bricks can work especially well when put up in groups, as these birds like to be near other swifts.

via Making new homes for swifts

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Buy organic food to help curb global insect collapse, say scientists

Buying organic food is among the actions people can take to curb the global decline in insects, according to leading scientists. Urging political action to slash pesticide use on conventional farms is another, say environmentalists.

Intensive agriculture and heavy pesticide use are a major cause of plummeting insect populations, according to the first global review, revealed by the Guardian on Monday. The vanishing of insects threatens a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, the review concluded, because of their fundamental importance in the food chain, pollination and soil health.

via Buy organic food to help curb global insect collapse, say scientists | Environment | The Guardian

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Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

via Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’ | Environment | The Guardian

Are your cuppas costing more than you thought?

Here’s a trick question for a quiz: which uses the most electricity every year? An electric oven, hob, microwave or kettle?

The answer? The humble kettle, which eats up about 6% of all the electricity supplied to British homes.

An oven may use more power when it is on, but constantly filling a kettle – usually boiling far more water than we need – uses enough power annually that equals half the output of one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, the London Array, off the Kent coast.

via Energy bills: are your cuppas costing more than you thought? | Money | The Guardian

Unlike other energy saving methods, this requires no initial outlay – just that you pay a little attention (experiment, once even) and only use the amount of water you need.

It’s the future! ROBOTS will park your car at the airport | Top Gear

STAN Car Parking Robot

Stan isn’t some ghostly valet from a budget American horror film though, but a small forklift-style robot that will literally pick your car up and drop it into an ultra-tight space without even needing to see your keys.

Created by Stanley Robotics and set to be trialled at Gatwick Airport in August this year, the little droid will then use your flight numbers to ensure that your car is ready and waiting back at the drop-off/pick-up cabin on your return from holiday.

via It’s the future! ROBOTS will park your car at the airport | Top Gear

This is a superb idea – I cant believe it wasn’t thought of sooner! So much more practical then those cylindrical robo carpark towers previously. This is a nice example of a robot filling a small niche, with a much larger impact, that so much land won’t have to be turned over to car parking.

The Legacy of Firefox OS – Ben Francis – Medium

In the two years or so since Mozilla announced the end of Firefox OS as a Mozilla-run project, the B2G source code has found its way into a surprising number of commercial products. In fact since Mozilla moved on from Firefox OS, its derivatives have shipped on an order of magnitude more devices than during its entire time under Mozilla’s leadership and it has gone on to form the basis of the third largest and fastest growing mobile operating system in the world.

via The Legacy of Firefox OS – Ben Francis – Medium

Interesting catchup on what has evolved from Firefox OS – particularly in devices it was never conceived to power!

Lightbulb moment: ‘I pay just £14 a year – and you can too’ | The Guardian

It will shave nearly £2bn off the energy bills for Britain’s 25m homes. It requires just a small investment, that will be repaid within three to four months – and give you a payback lasting more than 20 years. It will stop as much as 8m tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere and the energy saved at peak time equates to the output of three power stations the size of Hinkley Point C.

And all you have to do is change a light bulb.

via Lightbulb moment: ‘I pay just £14 a year – and you can too’ | Money | The Guardian

I read a similar article to this and wondered if I should change a lamp in my Anglepoise as it is on the longest and to my surprise it was already an LED bulb – I forgot I changed it, it had been so long ago. Light-wise they are indistinguishable from old bulbs now.

Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as an Alexa or Google Assistant competitor – The Verge

Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant has fallen behind Google Assistant and Alexa over the past year, and now the software maker is taking a different approach to the competition. Speaking to journalists at a media event earlier this week, attended by The Verge, CEO Satya Nadella revealed that Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as a competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant.

via Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as an Alexa or Google Assistant competitor – The Verge

I have posted about Cortana before – even predicting this in, ‘Microsoft Dropped the Ball on Cortana’:

I think Microsoft can’t be all things and top this market. I think their best option is simply refocusing on something specific and carve a niche. They have Bing which should mean they can mix it with the others for trivia and search queries. They have all the services, Office etc mixed in, they could go the professional route.

It sounds like they are happy to let Cortana (change the name, please) be a skill on the other voice assistants which will give them the reach across platforms and focus on Microsoft Office voice assistance.

So ‘Clippy’ again.  Oh no.