Life and Style

It probably contravenes some unwritten rule to begin a light-hearted examination of the week in technology with a reference to Jimmy Savile, but a few days ago I remembered an episode of Jim'll Fix It in the 1980s where some lucky youngster had his room kitted out with all the latest gadgets from the Ideal Home Show, including some automated curtains. These curtains elicited gasps of wonder from my teenage self as I entertained the notion that, in the future, we'd be relieved of the endless, life-sapping drudgery of having to drag light pieces of material along a rail, sometimes as frequently as twice a day.

`I'm Mavis, how can I help you?'

FOR THOSE telephone callers irritated to distraction by computerised switchboards, their worst nightmare is coming. And her name is Mavis.

Science: The truth About... Gravitational Microlensing

THE DISCOVERY of a planet orbiting a distant star does not, these days, arouse much comment. The first was identified in 1995, but there are now 17 listed; and so the addition of another, announced by a team from Japan and New Zealand at the weekend, might not seem unusual. But what was interesting was the method they used to detect it - and what it implies about our future ability to detect Earth-sized planets that could harbour life.

Racal wins pounds 8.5m train contract

A UNIT of Racal Electronics has won a 12-year contract worth pounds 8.5m to provide a fully automated customer information system (CIS) and train management system. Racal Telecom will build electronic noticeboards for 81 stations on the Connex SouthEastern network in southern England, owned by the Connex Rail subsidiary of Generale des Eaux of France.

Siebe and BTR unveil plans for pounds 9.4bn merger

Merger Monday: Shares surge in Europe and US on wave of takeovers

Business Travel: Stay in London's old centre

DOWNTURN OR no, London's hoteliers are enjoying happy times. Occupancy figures, and hence room rates, in the capital are firm. More than one analyst regards the city's bed stock to be around 10,000 fewer than ideal. Accordingly, even those hotels that boast neither desirable location nor decent service are able to command rates of pounds 100 or more.

Architecture: ... but still a little rough around the edges

Backstage, technical problems slow things down.

Light goes out on maritime history

NINETY-FIVE steps spiral to the top of the lighthouse at North Foreland, but at 54, Dermot Cronin bounds up and down with the energy of a man half his age.

Faster payments

Faster payments

Science: 1998: A real space odyssey

As it turns 40, Nasa is shedding its bureaucratic image and heading for the stars under a brave navigator.

Cost of London share trading falls

THE COST of trading shares in London has fallen sharply since the introduction a year ago of the London Stock Exchange's much criticised automated share trading system SETS, according to research published today.

Queen caught in Malaysia chaos

Kuala Lumpur crisis: Royal visit is overshadowed by rioting in capital after detention of Mahathir's former deputy

TECHNOFILE: IT COULD BE LOVE AT FIRST BYTE

Before the election, New Labour was all for throwing computers at our children, but how many PCs do you see in nurseries or playgroups? How are tomorrow's school students going to cope with the global world of the next millennium if they are starting big school unable to pull down a menu? We are in danger of raising a lost generation.

War over the photocopier

A DISPUTE over leased photocopiers between Canon, the Japanese giant with UK sales of pounds 500m a year, and Addenbrooke's, the Cambridge- based hospital trust, is under review by the Department of Trade, the Office of Fair Trading, and the Department of Health.

And darkly flows the Don

Theatre: DON JUAN SPECTRUM CENTRE INVERNESS

SW Water to invest in change of name

SOUTH WEST Water, which gained notoriety for having the highest water charges in the country, plans to change its name to the Pennon Group.
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?