News Roundup: Asian eWaste, Samsung revelations, and Squirrels Credit: Image - baselactionnetwork via Flickr
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News Roundup: Asian eWaste, Samsung revelations, and Squirrels

A roundup of the week's tech news including Kristen Stewart the published AI researcher, Google+, and Trump.

Asian eWaste soars

The amount of eWaste in Asia is increasing at an alarming rate, according to a new UN report. The United Nations University found the volume of discarded electronics in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan,  Thailand and Vietnam, rose by an average 63% between 2010 and 2015. China’s volume of eWaste more than doubled in that time to 6.7 million tonnes. 

The report says that the average volume of discarded tech was approximately 10 kg in 2015, but varied massively between countries. Hong Kong created 21.7kg of waste per person – the highest of the 12 countries analysed -  while the Philippines created just 1.35kg per capita.

“For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” says co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University. “Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal.”

Samsung conspiracy REVEALED (next week)

Samsung has promised to reveal the cause of the Galaxy Note 7 explosions next week. The South Korean giant will hold a press conference on January 23rd to share its findings and “discuss the new measures the company has implemented in response to the incidents.”

In the meantime, Verizon has taken some extreme measures to get people to actually stop using the phone-come-timebomb. The network provider will now block any attempt to make a phone call using the Note that isn’t to 911. While you can understand Verizon’s concern for their customers’ safety, surely it’s up to them if they decide to use the device at this point, even if it is dangerous?

New patents

Alpha-Google might have decided to ditch its internet-providing drones but it’s got more than balloons on the go. PatentYogi noticed a patent from the tech conglomerate for a global communication system made up of hundreds of satellites.

Amazon may not be explicitly working on driverless technology, but has grand ideas about their wider infrastructure. The company recently filed a patent for a “roadway management system” designed to help direct autonomous vehicles and better manage driverless traffic.

Google+. Still alive apparently

Hey, remember when Google+ was really popular? No, us neither. But that hasn’t stopped Google keeping its attempt at social media on life support for years. Apparently sensing weakness in Facebook and Twitter, Google is even announcing updates(!). The new-look G+ hides crap spam comments by default, lets you zoom in on photos, and brings back event pages.

M&A

Buying shares in tech IPOs is risky business. According to research from Geckoboard, 1/3 of the biggest tech floats of the last 10 years have seen their value drop since they went public. Gitbit, GoPro, Twitter, Bazaarvoice, PureStorage, and Hortonworks are just a few that haven’t worked out. LogMeIn, Workday, Tesla, and Fortinet are some of the best performing companies since going public.

Microsoft has made a double swoop for Maluuba and Simplygon, Google has acquired Twitter’s mobile development tools including Fabric and Crashlytics, HPE has snapped up SimpliVity, Salesforce’s Quip now owns Unity&Variety, Oracle has bought Apiary, Daimler has purchased digital payments startup PayCash, and TomTom has snaffled Autonomos.

Toshiba may spin off its memory business.

Unions unite against cars

Unions exist to protect their workers. That’s fine. But trying to get New York to ban driverless cars for 50 years is bordering on the ridiculous. Surely the money the workers give to unions would be better spent on working out how they can continue working and doing what they want to do in an increasingly automated world?

Tata Elxsi, a subsidiary of the wider Tata group, is in the running to be the first company to test driverless cars on public roads in India. Elxsi has reportedly sought permission from authorities in Bengaluru, mostly likely adaptations of existing Tata car models rather than any bespoke vehicle.

Chinese super computers

China has dominated the global supercomputer list in recent years. The country’s National Supercomputer Center is now planning to create the world’s first prototype exascale computer by the end of the year. Such a computer would be capable of at least 1 quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second.

Password is still not a password

For as long as people have been keeping track, the most commonly found passwords on data-breach dumps have been variants of ‘password’ and ‘123456’. And guess what the most common leaked passwords of 2016 were? ‘123456’, ‘123456789’, ‘qwerty’, ‘12345678’, ‘111111’, ‘1234567890’, ‘1234567’, and of course ‘password’. These are not strong passwords. That systems even still allow these is crazy.

No drone strike

It was reported at the start of the month that a drone had struck a passenger jet while it was coming in to land at Mozambique airport, causing damage to the front nose cone (known as a radome). However, an investigation by Mozambique's Civil Aviation Authority found that the damage incurred on the plan was more likely as a “result of a structural failure caused by air flow pressure” and no drone was actually involved.

Be like the Squirrel

There’s no shortage of warnings about the dangers hackers pose to the world’s critical infrastructure. But, according to a website that tracks power cuts caused by animals, squirrels are currently a bigger threat than any hacker. Those furry tailed rodents have caused 879 power cuts globally since 2013, with fellow animals in crime (birds, snakes, rats, and others) more than 600 more. So far the site lists three confirmed nation state-backed hacks of critical infrastructure.

Kristen Stewart: Published AI researcher

Kristen Stewart is probably best known for acting in Twilight. But what if I told you she is a named author on a Machine Learning research paper? Bringing Impressionism to Life with Neural Style Transfer in Come Swim explores Style Transfer – for example changing a photo to look more like a certain artistic style - techniques using neural networks and how it was used in Stewart’s upcoming film Come Swim.

Trump

As it’s inauguration day, it would be remiss of us to not to mention (now) President Trump. Apparently TrumpSingles.com – a website dedicated to help Trump supporters find love, complete with the tagline “Making Dating Great Again” – has reportedly seen a massive spike in registrations this week ahead of the big day.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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