News Roundup: New logos, Python vs French and self-driving golf carts

A roundup of the week’s tech news including checking emails on the loo, eWaste and diversity.

A roundup of the week’s tech news including checking emails on the loo, eWaste and diversity.

Alphabet Spaghetti

A few weeks on from one of the biggest company reshuffles in tech history, and some of Alphabet’s – née Google – babies are starting to stir.

Google the search engine has changed its logo! The new sans seriff font – named Product Sans – is very curly and clean. It also features an “e” on a jaunty angle. Apparently it reflects “not just the Google of today, but the Google of the future.” Check out what three graphic designers thought about the change when we asked them.

Elsewhere, Google Life Sciences has partnered with French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi to take on diabetes. GLS – which will presumably be renamed in the near future as part of the Alpha-Google reshuffle – recently announced a similar partnership with Dexcom.

Meanwhile Alphabet’s smarthome and robotics units Nest and Boston Dynamics both showed off some new hardware recently. Nest announced its third generation thermostat, while Boston Dynamics revealed some new footage of its walking robots.

Billions of users

Things are looking good for Facebook. Putting some of the recent controversy behind them, Mark Zuckerberg’s social network saw a billion people log into FB in a single day for the first time this week.  “On Monday, 1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it's just the beginning of connecting the whole world” The Facebook CEO wrote on his profile page.

This week also saw the social network formally begin testing its rumoured “Moneypenny” virtual assistant. Officially called “M”, the service will sit inside Facebook Messenger and, using a combination of AI with human supervision, buy gifts, arrange travel and book restaurant or appointments. 

Elsewhere, Apple has made another enterprise partnership. The Cupertino company has joined forces with Cisco to help improve the performance of iOS devices on Cisco networks. It doesn’t seem quite as ambitious or product-driven as the Apple/IBM announcement, but only time will tell what this results in.


In recent months we’ve looked at just how much eWaste there is in the world (a lot) and how much of it ends up on the black market in one way or another (most of it), and a new report from the Countering WEEE Illegal Trade (CWIT) project shows how bad the problem is within Europe. Although the report’s figures are for 2012, it shows that of the 9.5 million tonnes of eWaste generated, 65% of it wasn’t recycled properly. Over a million tons was exported, nearly four million tons was recycled improperly or merely thrown away, while the rest was scavenged for valuable materials.


Blackberry has managed to find $400 million and has splashed out for Good Technology, Amazon Web Services has acquired video startup Elemental, Microsoft has bought analytics firm Volometrix, Salesforce has snapped up Akta, Hortonworks now owns Onyara, Autodesk has purchased IoT startup SeeControl, Diodes has taken over Pericom Semiconductor, and AOL has snaffled messaging startup Kavas Labs.

Elsewhere, Acer founder Stan Shih has said he would be welcome to a takeover bid, but any suitor would have to pay a good price. South Korea’s MagnaChip Semiconductor Corp has been subject to a bid from investment firm Pleasant Lake. And in the rumours department, Motorola is in talked to buy AirWave Solutions.


The usual dose of NSA & privacy-related headlines

-          Ed Snowden now has a species of crayfish named after him. Lucky sod.

-          He also thinks Hilary Clinton would have been fired, or worse, prosecuted for her email server SNAFU is she was an average worker.

-          The UN’s Privacy Chief wants universal laws on data privacy.

New Stuff

Acer this week announced it was getting in the modular computing game with its new Revo Build mini PC. The small black cube can be built up using magnetic modules, allowing user to upgrade storage, power, sound etc. More module units are set to be announced in the future.

Elsewhere, former Apple CEO John Sculley has teamed up with one of the design firms behind Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones to create the Obi Worldphone SF – a low cost Android phone designed for emerging markets. Sculley and his new company want to bring Silicon Valley design and quality but at low prices.


Despite the fact the diversity of CEOs at the top tech companies is quite high, that hasn’t led to a trick down effect. Both Apple and Twitter have both released their diversity figures in recent weeks, and both are still mostly white dudes. Tim Cook’s company was around 60% white and male, while Twitter has similar figures – both roughly in line with other large tech companies. Both have pledged to hire more women and minorities and in the future.

Cars & Drones

Just a couple of months ago, Amazon was showing off its grand plans for a band of drone airspace, but a new bill in California threatens to ground the concept before it’s taken off. The proposed bill would prevent UAVs flying below 350ft over properties without permission from the owners.

Meanwhile Alphabet/Google’s driverless car program has expanded out of Cali and into Austin, Texas. Scoop-hungry journalists at the launch event discovered that yes, the self-driving cars are equipped to deal with deer, but no, they don’t have windscreen wipers on the passenger windows. The latest monthly report shows the company’s fleet of 48 cars are driving an average of 10,000 miles a week in “Autonomous mode”.

Elsewhere, self-driving construction trucks are due to hit the road in Florida, while a startup based at Santa Clara University has debuted self-driving golf carts.

Python, poo and liberal arts majors

Most IT professionals don’t do much mobile app building. That’s the shock headline from a survey conducted by Telerik. Of the 3000 It professionals questioned, nearly half only build one app a year.

But at least those few apps that do get made are probably going to look nice. According to new data from LinkedIn, 10% of all liberal arts majors move into the technology industry upon graduation. Many go into sales & marketing, but software development is surpassingly high on the list, according to the social network.

It’s early days for the UK Government’s “Coding Curriculum”, but it seems to be paying off. Python has overtaken French as the most popular language to learn in Primary Schools, according to a new study from Ocado.

And finally, nearly half of Americans check their emails while on the toilet. Stop it. It’s gross. It’s ok to disconnect from technology sometimes.