News Roundup: The End Of Blackberry, McAfee's New Dawn and Waterproofing Problems

A round up of the week's tech news including a war of words, water proofing problems, and Sudan censorship.

The Death Of Blackberry

So Blackberry has had its final curtain call. Fairfax Financial has offered a $4.7bn takeover deal. That anybody would pay that much for a company that lost $934m in one quarter is impressive in itself. Especially with CEO Thorsten Heins saying stuff like “we remain a financially strong company,” and BBM Android & iOS app rollouts falling flat on their arse.

iPhones – Not hack-proof, nor water resistant

So Apple topped Boston Consulting Group's annual list of the most innovative companies for the ninth consecutive year. It’s a shame that many of the company’s customers didn’t show the same kind of thinking when confronted with a fake ad proclaiming iOS 7 made phones waterproof. Thanks to 4Chan for highlighting how dim some people can really be when faced with some amusing photoshopping.

Last week came the reassurances that severed digits couldn’t unlock the new iPhone’s finger scanner, but toes and cat’s paws could. You can now add to that list nipples, knuckles (to an extent), dog paws, and penises. But not elbows.

Hackers this week claimed that with a lifted fingerprint you could legitimately break into the phone, but not without more than a little effort. As Techcrunch explained;

  First you need some kind of colored powder or superglue to lift the fingerprint. Then you have to scan the fingerprint, invert it and print it with a resolution of 1200dpi or more onto a transparent sheet. After that, you build your fake finger by smearing pink latex milk or white wood glue into the pattern that the toner created onto the transparent sheet and wait for it to set. Finally, the CCC writes, “the thin latex sheet is lifted from the sheet, breathed on to make it a tiny bit moist and then placed onto the sensor to unlock the phone.” This method should work for virtually every fingerprint scanner on the market today.

But, as many people pointed out, if people are going to all that effort to get at the selfies that didn’t make it Instagram, you have bigger problems than your phone security.


The NSA has been gaining unwanted headlines for months and months now, and seems unlikely to stop any time soon. Here’s the latest.

-          The Guardian’s Editor called the NSA revelations ‘Beyond anything Orwell could have ever imagined.’

-          Steven Fry & co. are unhappy about being spied on.

-          Someone invented a font to circumvent character recognition software.

-          There are lots of bills wanting to be passed that want to try and spoil the NSA’s fun.

-          The NSA is unlikely to be stopped by the potential US Government shutdown.

-          QCHQ isn’t up for changing anytime soon.

-          The NSA has told families of employees the media have sensationalized leaks.

-          Indian diplomatic missions have turned to typewriters to avoid snoopers.

-          Media outlets love this whole story.

McAfee’s New Dawn

It’s easy to forget that John McAfee actually, once upon a time, had something to do with the technology industry. So it may come as a nice reprieve from stories about drugs, guns and women (this is a tech website, after all) that the man plans to make a return to the security software industry. "My new technology is going to provide a new type of Internet, a decentralized, floating and moving Internet that is impossible to hack, impossible to penetrate and vastly superior in terms of its facility and neutrality. It solves all of our security concerns," he told the Mercury News. More details are due tomorrow, but it’ll be interesting to see how he plans to put his name to it.

Bye Bye Ballmer, and the Curse of Ctrl Alt Del

So Steve Ballmer has bid his final goodbye to the Microsoft masses. Who will fill his boots is inevitably the next Microsoft-shaped question on people’s minds. is taking votes on who will pick up the mantle, with Valve’s Gabe Newell currently in the lead and Richard Stallman second. So maybe not the most reliable source.

In other Microsoft news, Bill Gates has described the decision to use Ctrl Alt Del as the command needed to log on to a PC as a mistake. "We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button,” he said while speaking at a fundraising campaign at Harvard Uni. I guess that’s the tech equivalent of finding out you were an accident, of that your parents wanted a girl instead, right?

IBM vs Amazon

In the desperate $600 million race between IBM & Amazon to become the CIA’s Cloud provider, things are getting nasty. The amount of contesting in court is already pretty ugly, but now it’s getting personal.  An IBM executive told Nextgov, “Amazon's definition of reliability doesn't measure up to what the federal government needs for mission critical workloads.” This was followed up with “Amazon is scrambling to find talent to fill major gaps in [its] ability to deliver.” And on top of that? A statement from IBM saying, “The federal government can’t rely on the same cloud computing model that hosts some of your favorite consumer applications delivered via the cloud like Netflix or Instagram.” Ouch.

US Waste

Last week I wrote about the UK’s NHS having a honourable title of owning the 'the biggest IT failure ever seen'. In an effort to not be outdone, however, the US government has released a report on IT waste within the system. It found that as much as $321 million spent on information technology investments was wasted by just three federal agencies in the last five years - the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), and Health and Human Services (HHS). Though it’s a big number, in reality it’s just a drop in the ocean; the federal government's annual IT budget is $82 billion.

Is Texting Relevant? Oldies Say No

According to Pew 15% Of Americans Don’t Have Internet. 5% of Americans have no interest in joining the other 85%, saying it’s just not relevant to them. While to many of us it’s almost inconceivable, people actually survived without the internet for hundreds of years. The same goes for mobile phones. Some stats from Statista show that old people are almost a third less likely to use their mobile for texting, and even less likely to do anything else on their phones.

Will the story be the same in 10, 20 years? Almost certainly not. And we can blame the parents; according to some more stats from Statista, just 20% of parents of children under 18 have never handed their children a gadget of some sort to keep them occupied. I guess a cheap smartphone is more economical than a baby sitter.

Curvy Baby

Not content with being the overall smartphone leader, developing its own mobile OS to reduce reliance on Android AND being one of the first of the big boys to get a smartwatch out, Samsung are still trying to outdo themselves. The South Korean company have announced they plan to release a curved screen phone in October. No real details have been released as yet, but it might be the first step towards fully flexible devices.

In other hardware news, Tesco have decided to get in on the action and release their own tablet. The Hudl runs Android, comes preloaded with lots of shortcuts to Tesco products and services, and costs £119. Early reviews have called it a ‘legitimate Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 rival’, which isn’t too shabby. Think of all the clubcard points.

A Smart-Wozniak-tch

The smartwatch wars have yet to really heat up. Pebble and a few others may be out, but Samsung’s Galaxy Gear isn’t out yet and none of Apple, Microsoft of Google have shown their hand yet. That hasn’t stopped Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak raving about them. "I want the entire smartphone, the entire internet, on my wrist," he says. Aside from saying the ones of offer are too small and should be independent of the phones, he’s also not keep on the iPhone 5C.


While I’m not sold on the idea of the internet as a human right, it’s still not cool when governments crack down on it to further their own means. Egypt & Syria have guilty of it in the past, and now Sudan have done the same after riots erupted over the removal of fuel subsidies.  The internet seems to be back up now, but don’t expect this to be last we hear of Sudan.