The giant structures rose like enormous fingers from the moorland, silhouetted against the setting sun, dwarfing me and my nine-month-old son, secure in the rucksack-carrier on my back.
Home to 200 known neolithic sites, and with on average three sites of archaeological interest per square mile, Orkney has become something of a byword for Ancient Britain, with at least three-quarters of the 193,000 annual visitors (pre-pandemic) coming to see the collection of relics of our ancestors.
Yet we weren’t actually gazing up at the Standing Stones of Stenness (circa 3100BC) or the stone circle of the Ring of Brodgar. We were at the foot of a more modern structure – the wind turbine on the isle of South Ronaldsay – watching its giant blades whirr and whoosh in the half-light.
That’s because, despite the earthworks that have been (and continue to be) discovered on this remote archipelago, 10 miles across the Pentland Firth from Scotland’s north-east coast, people on these 70 islands are passionate not only about preserving and showcasing an old way of life, but about pioneering a new one.
Harnessing the power of the wind and the waves, Orcadians now produce all the green energy they need and then some, supplying the population with renewable electricity via community-owned turbines, developing technology that can use the tides to power people’s homes, and – thanks to 40 charging points dotted across the islands – making the practicalities of owning and using electric vehicles easy.
This had led me to undertake my first trip with the baby, on a mission to set an example to him that holidays can be exciting and green. We would be touring the islands – exploring historic sites and rugged coast and spotting wildlife – in a fully electric campervan, charged from 100% renewable energy. But first we had to get there.
We embraced the minimal-carbon theme and travelled via Caledonian Sleeper from Euston, making the longest leg of the journey overnight. Travel cot wedged beside my bunk, my son slept well (to my relief), rocked gently by the motion of the train.
Twelve hours later, we arrived in Inverness to change to another train for the four-hour ride north to Thurso, and finally – after a taxi ride (the bus connection was impossible) to John o’Groats – took the passenger-only ferry to Burwick on the southern tip of Mainland. There we were greeted by hosts Jane and Paul and their converted Nissan Dalbury E campervan called Spoot (the world’s first all-electric model, and one of just two in theUK), our home and transport for the next few nights.
“We wanted as green an option as possible,” said Paul, who also runs island tours island in electric vehicles, as he showed me the quirks of the campervan – the swivelling front passenger seat, the plank behind the driver that forms a table, nifty coat hooks that double as device holders for watching TV, and hidden cupboards that contained a wealth of locally made jams, pickles, tablet (very sugary fudge) and beer.
“The limited range of electric vehicles can put people off,” said Paul. “But Orkney, with its proliferation of rapid-charge points that take a battery from empty to full in 40 minutes, coupled with the vehicle’s 120-mile range on an island that is only 26 miles across, is the perfect place to try them.”
He left me with a booklet of info, including where rapid-charge points were across the islands – though they are also all shown on the inbuilt GPS. I set off with a simple press on the accelerator and felt it smoothly pull away, virtually silent. It handled with the ease of a go-kart – electric cars are all automatic – and the lack of engine noise meant when the baby fell asleep, he stayed asleep.
My first stop was Wheems Farm Campsite on South Ronaldsay, one of four islands connected by road to Mainland via bridges and causeways. It’s a six-hectare smallholding owned by former landscape architect Mike Roberts who, with his late wife, oboist and artist Christina Sargent, brought organic farming to the island in the mid-1980s.
“The site is powered by those two wind turbines you’ve been looking at,” said Mike as he showed me the seasonal crops we were about to sample in the curry being cooked and sold to guests on site. “We make enough to power the business and give back to the grid.”
That evening I sat at the back of the van with the doors flung open, overlooking the North Sea, feeding my boy fresh vegetables from the soil we’d trod on earlier, feeling like I’d simultaneously stepped into the past and into the future.
Over the next couple of days we explored the island’s landmarks, continuing our oscillation between time periods. We strolled along the beach at the Churchill Barriers – causeways created in the second world war to stop U-boats from entering Scapa Flow. Snorkellers were exploring the rusting wrecks that poked out from the waves.
While the campervan was plugged into a handy rapid-charge station in the island’s capital, Kirkwall, (I only charged it once in three days, and that was just to play it safe rather than necessity), we wandered around town, taking in its old Viking cathedral – built in 1137 – and Orkney Distillery, where the hydrogen is harnessed to produce gin with no emissions other than water.
Heading to the island’s north-west, we explored neolithic sites, including the best-preserved prehistoric village in western Europe, Skara Brae, on the edge of Skaill Bay. A few miles up the coast near the ruined church of Saint Magnus in Birsay, we bought homemade treats made with locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. I even managed to schedule the baby’s nap time with the tides so that when he woke we could wander over to the Brough of Birsay via a causeway that is regularly hidden below the Atlantic. There we wandered amid Pictish, Norse and medieval remains, before I introduced him to his first puffins, whose colourful beaks caused him to squeal in delight.
That night he slept soundly as we wild-camped above the ocean, our little van swaying in the wind. The close quarters of a camper meant my nights were mainly, like his, early and subdued. I had to move all our luggage and repack it under the bed before I could turn in, and his lightweight travel cot just fitted on the shelf above the driver’s compartment when the flip-top roof was pushed up. Yet despite the minor faff, the simplicity of filling days with exploration and spending evenings doing nothing but gaze at the scenery meant I had time to contemplate the day we’d had and plan activities for the next, watching night falling and birds foraging.
The final day saw us drive a last leg to Stromness, in the south-west of Mainland, to catch the NorthLink ferry back to Thurso for our long train journey home.
But before that we made one last stop at the Ness of Brodgar, an extensive temple complex still being unearthed, said to predate and rival the Egyptian pyramids in size and sophistication – a fact not fully understood until less than 10 years ago. Back then, the man who discovered it, Nick Card, said: “London may be the cultural hub of Britain today, but 5,000 years ago, Orkney was the centre for innovation for the entire British Isles. Ideas spread from this place. This was the font for new thinking at the time.”
With renewable energy already powering the island, car and passenger ferries due to be run by emission-free hydrogen, and electric flights proposed to connect it with the rest of Scotland, it seems that here on Orkney history is starting to repeat itself.
And though I may not live to see these ideas fully trickled down to the rest of the country, my hope is that my son will, and can say, years from now, that he was there right at the beginning.
Travel Euston to Inverness was provided by Caledonian Sleeper, private rooms from £125 (under-4s free); the passenger-only twice-daily ferry from John o’Groats to Burwick costs from £16 one-way (under-5s free); the car-carrying NorthLink ferry between Stromness and Scrabster (Thurso) runs three times a day from £17.50 (under-4s free). The electric campervan (sleeps two adults) was provided through online sharing platform PaulCamper: the all-electric Spoot costs from £110 a night (3-night minimum)
Pic As Apple and Qualcomm push for more Arm adoption in the notebook space, we have come across a photo of what could become one of the world’s first laptops to use the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.
In an interview with The Register, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, signaled we will see a RISC-V laptop revealed sometime this year as the ISA’s governing body works to garner more financial and development support from large companies.
It turns out Philipp Tomsich, chair of RISC-V International’s software committee, dangled a photo of what could likely be the laptop in question earlier this month in front of RISC-V Week attendees in Paris.
A slide from the RISC-V Week event in Paris teasing a potential RISC-V laptop coming in 2022 … Click to enlarge.
Tomsich teased the device at the end of a talk with Mark Himelstein, CTO of RISC-V International, about the software optimization work needed to mature the RISC-V ecosystem.
“The big question that everybody is asking themselves, and the one where I’m wondering, Mark, if we’ll be able to pull this off: will we see the first RISC-V laptop announced this year?” Tomsich said as he showed a picture of a black, brandless laptop that had a large question mark over it.
Tomsich then hinted at the potential specs of the laptop:
Tomsich shared the photo of the mystery PC while promoting a few milestones for RISC-V, including the March launch of the first portable RISC-V computer, modeled after Kyocera’s classic TRS-80 Model 100 “slab” computer from 1983. Tomsich also hailed Alibaba Cloud for getting Android 12 to work on its own RISC-V silicon, and RISC-V compiler support for Java through OpenJDK.
What could the RISC-V laptop be for?
We were able to extract the image of the mystery laptop from the slide to get a slightly closer look:
A photo of what could be a RISC-V laptop, as shown at the RISC-V Week event in Paris. Click to enlarge.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can discern from this photo. The device itself looks fairly rough, pretty much a prototype, which means the laptop is likely being used for development and testing purposes.
However, there was one interesting detail that caught our attention: the bottle in the top-left corner of the photo. We learned from a quick Google search that this is a water bottle brand in China called Ganten.
Now, normally we wouldn’t care much about seeing a bottle of water, but we do know that, as of last summer, the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) was planning to build 2,000 RISC-V laptops by the end of 2022 as China looks to reduce its reliance on foreign tech giants like Arm and Intel amid ongoing tensions with Western countries.
Does this mean the mystery laptop is being developed by ISCAS? It’s too soon to say. There could be other RISC-V laptop developments in China, though the ISCAS project is the only one in the country El Reg knows of so far.
The only other public RISC-V laptop development we’re aware of is one in Russia, which is expected to have homegrown RISC-V laptop chips ready for devices by 2025, according to a report from last year. The country is now cut off from Arm and Intel due to its invasion of Ukraine, so RISC-V is probably its best option now due to the ISA’s borderless nature.
As for RISC-V laptops popping up elsewhere in the world, we shouldn’t expect commercial products for a while – though if you know of any, or can identify the machine above, please do let us know. We’re also more than aware of the RISC-V boards out there for developers.
Patrick Little, the CEO of RISC-V chip designer SiFive, told us earlier this year he doesn’t think system-on-chips using the company’s CPU blueprints will find their way into PCs until roughly late 2025.
There’s also the fact that much work is needed for the RISC-V ISA to provide the same level of software support and cross-platform stability that x86 and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Arm, provide for PCs now. ®
The new facility will create jobs for engineers, mechanics and support staff as Ryanair seeks to expand its fleet to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Ryanair is opening its first heavy maintenance facility in Ireland at Shannon Airport, which the airline said will lead to 200 “high-skill” jobs in the region.
The airline said it will invest €10m into the “state-of-the-art” facility, leased from Shannon Group. This will support the maintenance of Ryanair’s fleet, which it is looking to expand to more than 600 aircraft over the next four years.
Jobs to be created at the maintenance facility include licensed engineers, mechanics and support staff.
“Ryanair creates opportunities for highly skilled engineering jobs, with our industry-leading rosters and the youngest fleet in Europe,” Ryanair director of operations Neal McMahon said. “Shannon is an ideal location with opportunities to attract, train and employ local talent to support this new facility.”
Ryanair has operated from Shannon Airport since 1986, opening a base at the airport in 2005. It has carried more than 17m customers to and from the airport to date.
The airline said the investment is a mark of its commitment to both Ireland and the mid-west region.
Shannon Group CEO Mary Considine added that it represents a “vote of confidence” by Ryanair in the future of the airport.
“Having Ryanair at hangar 5, one of 10 fully occupied hangars on our Shannon campus, is another significant boost for the region, creating high-quality jobs for local aviation specialists,” Considine said. “The resulting jobs and investment are also consistent with our strategic plan to increase economic growth and retain skills and talent in the region.”
Ryanair carries around 154m passengers every year on more more than 2,400 daily flights from 82 bases, with its fleet of roughly 470 aircraft. The airline said it has a headcount of more than 19,000 skilled aviation professionals globally.
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Older TikTok users are using the online platform, regarded as the virtual playground of teenagers, to defy ageist stereotypes of elderly people as technophobic and frail.
Research has found increasing numbers of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers. Using the platform to showcase their energy and vibrancy, these TikTok elders are rewriting expectations around how older people should behave both on and off social media.
“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful counter-cultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” said Dr Reuben Ng, the author of the paper Not Too Old for TikTok: How Older Adults are Reframing Ageing, and an assistant professor at Yale University.
Interestingly, said Ng, most TikTok elders are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” he said.
The immense reach that these older TikTok users have means they have the potential to transform negative age stereotypes that proliferate on social media.
“There is considerable evidence that ageist stereotypes preponderate among the young on social media,” said Ng. These prejudices reached an all-time high during the Covid pandemic, during which the deadly virus was labelled a “Boomer remover”.
“The strength of anti-age prejudices means the participation of older adults in social media is vital in ensuring that such ageist ideas are not left unchallenged,” said Ng, whose paper is to be published in the Gerontologist journal.
The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times.
Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the “glamma”, a portmanteau combining “glamorous” and “grandma”, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top.
Almost one in five of the videos analysed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. “I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights” says one clip. “I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,” says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.
Analysis by the Pew Research Centre has found a remarkable uptake of technology by older Americans during recent years: in 2000, 14% of people aged 65-plus were internet users; in 2019, it was 73%. Only half of adults owned smartphones in 2014, 81% of those aged 60 to 69 have them today.
Emma Twyning, the director of communications at the Centre for Ageing Better said: “We need to see much more diverse portrayals if we are to truly shift attitudes and cast off negative perceptions of growing older. Social media is the perfect platform to do this and to call out ageism more generally.”
Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less, said TikTok was the ideal platform for midlife influencers to take to the stage and defy ageist stereotypes. “Creators are encouraged to be original, raw and unedited – making it the ideal soapbox on which to stand if you want a space to debunk stereotypes and be your uncensored self,” he said.
Prof Fiona Gillison, from the Healthy Later Living Network at the University of Bath, who is leading work on challenging stereotypes about ageing, said the study was important. But she added: “There is a balance to be struck in challenging stereotypes about ageing while also accepting that it is OK to want different things from younger people as we grow older, and accepting that our interests and abilities may change.”
Ultimately, she said, people need to “take the stigma out of needing adjustments as we age while also challenging assumptions that can accompany these. For example that having a hearing aid somehow implies that we are ‘fragile’ or ‘infirm’ in other ways.”
The older users showcasing their energy and vibrancy
The 88-year-old Staffordshire man is TikTok’s wealthiest “granfluencer”, his videos apparently earning him about £134,000 a year. Grandad Joe has won 5.4 million followers and 156.7 million likes for videos including one of him giggling after his youngest granddaughter gives his grown-up daughter “attitude just like she gave me [when she was younger]”.
92-year-old Grandmother Droniak went viral, reaching 4.2 million followers, after laying down rules for her funeral including “Cry, but not too much,” “Bertha isn’t invited” and “Get drunk afterwards”.
Grandmaann2 lures viewers to her account with the strapline “I’m old so follow before I die”. Two million people couldn’t resist, and to date they have given her lip-syncs and comedy skits 63.5m likes.
Jenny Krupa, 87, has won 2 million followers and 93m likes since a 2019 video accidentally posted by her grandson, Skylar Krupa, titled “Perks of being old” reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes.
The latest video for her 1 million followers shows 89-year-old Dolores Paolino dressing up in a Marilyn Monroe-type dress and telling Kim Kardashian she looks better in it than her.
Other videos show the grandmother from south Philadelphia wearing sequined jumpsuits and swigging from a bottle on her birthday, and pushing ice-cream cones into her grandchildren’s face.