News Roundup: Samsung batteries, internet trolls, and digital ambassadors

A roundup of the week’s tech news including ASCII hackers, telepresence drones, and Portal.

A roundup of the week’s tech news including ASCII hackers, telepresence drones, and Portal.

Samsung still haunted by batteries

Poor Samsung just can’t catch a break. Headlines around the company’s exploding batteries had just started to subside after the company’s recent press conference, only for its manufacturing facility in Tianjin, China to catch on fire due to faulty batteries.  The company says the fire started in the recycling part of the factory, while local emergency services say it originated in the production part. No casualties or major damage was reported.

Free internet, courtesy of Alibaba

Given that Facebook Lite – the service designed to bring FB to areas with poor internet coverage – brought the company an extra 100 million users in the last 12 months it’s no surprise more companies are trying to do similar things. Alibaba’s UCWeb subsidiary is reportedly in talks with telecoms companies in India to bring free-internet connections to the country.

“We will definitely look at the opportunity to work together with service providers or even some Wi-Fi providers,” Jack Huang, President of Overseas Business, Alibaba Mobile Business told Business Insider India. “We are trying to offer lower cost data to users and better connectivity, even free of cost connectivity.”

Alibaba and UCWeb will be wise to learn from Facebook’s attempt, however, after its Free Basics service was shut down after Net Neutrality backlash.

There’s a troll inside all of us

Internet trolls are the scum of the Earth, a blight on the web, a plague on the net etc. Except a new study suggests any one of us can become abusive online given the right circumstances. Researchers from Stanford and Cornell University found that if the posters were in a bad mood and already in a discussion involving trolling, then they themselves were more likely to join in. As the researchers put it; “ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like trolls.”

Conference selfie drones

You’ve probably seen those remote-presence bots about (the kind that Ed Snowden uses to go to conferences), and you’ve probably read something about selfie-drones at some point. So why not combine the two? Google recently filed an updated patent for a telepresence drone that can hover just in front of you. As long as we can still Skype in our pants, it’s fine, right?

Treating companies like countries

It’s long been foreign policy to have ambassadors to foreign countries. But what happens when companies have more impact than some of your national neighbours? To address this, Denmark is to appoint a digital ambassador to better broker relationships between the Danish government and major American tech companies.

Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen admitted in a recent interview that companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft “affect Denmark just as much as entire countries”.

“These companies have become a type of new nations and we need to confront that,” he said.

On the one hand, these companies have so much power it makes sense to try and work with them peacefully. On the other, it sets a precedent that legitimises the massive and ever-growing influence these companies exert.


Sohpos has acquired Invincea, Microsoft now owns Agile Extensions‘ Wiki extension, Nokia has snapped up Comptel, Accenture has made a double swoop for iDefense and Endgame, Twilio has got its hands on Beepsend, Hootsuite has purchased AdEspresso, Electrolux has taken over culinary Kickstarter darling Anova, and Stratoscale has purchased Tesora.

LeEco has said its plan to acquire Vizio is still on track despite the latter’s $2.2 million fine for collecting data through its TVs without consent. 

No email please, we’re Spooks

I have never sent a fax. It might well have been a decade or more since I sent or received a letter. But the FBI doesn’t care. The Bureau has announced that it no longer accepts Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email. Instead requests have to be made through a submissions portal, fax, or through the post.


Nearly three-quarters of CIOs and IT directors think candidates don’t have the skillsets they require from workers. Best get studying.

Voice might be invading the home whether we want it or not, but what about government services? According to a new Accenture study, 85% of people think digital assistants would make things easier.

According to PwC, GDPR is the top data privacy company for more than half of US companies, and 77% plan to spend $1 million or more on ensuring compliance.

Otto vs DMV

Uber managed to get over its spat with the DMV in California, but there could be more trouble ahead. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has called for any vehicles being tested by Uber subsidiary Otto to be taken off the roads in the state. Aside from the fact Otto doesn’t have a permit to test autonomous vehicles, its self-driving trucks are over the 10,000-pound weight limit for such machines.

Mozilla gives up on IoT

Mozilla has announced it is killing off its devices division, effectively ending the company’s efforts around IoT. Firefox’s IoT efforts were themselves a pivot from a failed attempt at entering the mobile OS market.

“We have shifted our internal approach to the internet-of-things opportunity,” Mozilla said in a statement to CNET, “to step back from a focus on launching and scaling commercial products to one focused on research and advanced development, dissolving our connected devices initiative and incorporating our internet-of-things explorations into an increased focus on emerging technologies.”

ASCII printers

A teen hacker known as stackoverflowin took over more than 150,000 printers. But instead of anything malicious, he made them print ASCII art robots with warnings that they had been hacked. In an interview with Vice, stack seems to be more concerned about raising awareness of security issues than causing real trouble.

Making Hololens great again

I was sorely disappointed after trying out Microsoft’s HoloLens for the first time. It’s a great device but suffers from an abysmal field of view. That’s not been fixed, but somebody has brought a port of Portal to the device, which instantly makes it cool again. Killer app right there.