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News Roundup: IoT bricking, 3D printers, and Transformer tablets

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Pirate Party ruling, Bitcoin’s carbon footprint, and cockroaches.

Is Facebook getting less personal?

Is Facebook facing a personalisation crisis? According to the Information, not only has the amount of sharing fallen more than 5% year-on-year, but sharing of personal updates – how people are feeling, what they are up to etc. – has fallen more than 20%. Is this the beginning of the end for Mark Zuckerberg’s company? Probably not, but some alarm bells are ringing.

Swift adoption

Could Google be ditching Java for Swift? According to The Next Web, the search giant’s ongoing legal battle with Oracle, Google is reportedly considering making the Open Source Swift a “first class” language for Android.

A 3D printer on every desktop!

Very few of the people we’ve talked to think that a 3D printer in every home is a realistic vision. However, that hasn’t stopped sales of (relatively) low cost devices skyrocketing. According to the 21st edition of the Wohlers Report, sales of desktop printers under $5,000 grew almost 70% between 2014-2015, from just over 160,000 to over 278,000 units. The market as a whole grew more than 25% to more than $5 billion.

Bitcoin: Bigger than Denmark

As time goes on it becomes harder and harder to mine for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin; each hash involves a complex mathematical puzzle that only increases in difficulty (and energy required to solve it) each time the process resets and a new batch of coins is created. Due to the power involved – each BTC transaction requires more electricity than an average household uses in a day – there are entire factories dedicated to mining. But how sustainable is this?

Writing in Vice, researcher Sebastiaan Deetma estimates that by 2020, Bitcoin could be drawing more than 14 Gigawatts of electricity just to run – the equivalent of Denmark. These are just predictions and a worst case scenario, but even under favourable assumptions the carbon footprint of Bitcoin is massive.

M&A

Last week one analyst said delivery startups were Donkeys. This week another is saying instead of Unicorns, investors should be looking for Cockroaches; the kind of startups that could survive the business equivalent of a nuclear war.

Intel has acquired IoT safety startup Yogitech, Salesforce has bought deep learning startup Metamind, Amazon has reportedly purchased Orbeus, Accenture has snapped up Japan’s IMJ, ServiceNow has got its hands on ITapp, Ingram Micro has snaffled Ensim, SurveyMonkey now owns Renzu, Blackstone has taken over HPE’s stake in Mphasis, Brocade has splashed out Ruckus Wireless, Smartling has coughed up for Jargon, and Ericsson has splashed out for data center automation service NodePrime.

In the rumours and maybes department, Dell reportedly wants EMC to offload its Documentum business, China's Apex Technology is said to be bidding for Lexmark, and Pinterest is apparently in talks to acqui-hire mobile startup URX.

Bricking it

Alpha-Google and its smarthome unit Nest were engulfed in a PR firestorm this week after announcing they were shutting down services – and completely bricking – to Revolv, a smarthome hub it acquired a couple of years ago. Nest has justified its move by saying all the Revolvs are now out of warranty – the company stopped selling the device shortly after being acquired – and is offering support to those affected.

As well as raising some serious questions about the future and long-term sustainability of the smart home, the move angered one Revolv user to the point he wrote a long Medium post directed at Nest CEO Tony Fadell. “To be clear, they are not simply ceasing to support the product,” wrote Arlo Gilbert, CEO of mobile app development startup Televero. “Rather they are advising customers that on May 15th a container of hummus will actually be infinitely more useful than the Revolv hub.”

Gilbert claimed Fadell “believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products” and could even put your life in danger by bricking safety devices in future.

Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken some new stances over the use of drones recently. Commercial drone users saw the maximum height, or ceiling, drones are allowed to reach double from 200ft to 400ft.

This week also saw a set of new recommendations – yet to be put into force – that would potentially open up more of the skies to unmanned aerial vehicles, especially in urban areas. The new rules would create four categories of drones, dependent on weight and capabilities, which would govern how commercial drones flying over people and public areas. The heavier the drone, the higher they need to be over people, and contingency safety plans in case of accident.

NSA

-          The FBI admits it has “purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that [the San Bernardino] phone, 5C, running iOS 9.”

-          A former NSA chief says encryption is “essential and we have to actually apply this as a public good, not something reserved for the government.”

-          The EU court doesn’t think that hyperlinks infringe copyright.

Verbatim

You’ve probably heard that machines are going to take all our jobs. They’ve already started taking over journalism, but soon they’ll be doing it better than us humans. “A machine will win a Pulitzer one day,” said Kris Hammond, Chief Scientists of Narrative Science. “We can tell the stories hidden in data.”

The IoT might be super trendy right now, but one person who isn’t very impressed is Linux creator Linus Torvalds. “I've never been very interested in very small OSs. I liked working with hardware. But, if it doesn't have a memory management unit, I don't find it that interesting,” he said at the Embedded Linux Conference & OpenIoT Summit this week. “If you’re doing something really tiny, like sensors, you don’t need Linux.”

Bernie Sanders was interviewed by the NYDailyNews this week, and the subject of Apple surprisingly came up. Although he didn’t go “full Trump”, he did suggest he’d like the company to change. “Apple is not destroying the fabric of America, but I do wish they'd be manufacturing some of their devices here in the United States rather than in China,” he said.  “And I do wish that they would not be trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

The Libertarian Party had their first televised debates this week, and John McAfee continued his rhetoric around the lack of cyber-knowhow within the US government. “We should know, well, in advance, of any terrorist attack in the world,” he said, adding that the threat posed by ISIS is purely “a problem of intelligence-gathering as much as anything else.”

He also claimed the US was already engaged in a war with China but “we are simply not paying attention to it” and the choice between voting for Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton is akin to “asking me to choose between a case of the measles and a bladder infection.”

Pirates in Iceland

As a result of the Panama Papers leak, the Prime Minister of Iceland has been forced to step down. While fisheries minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson has taken over the role, a snap election is a real possibility. And as it currently stands, the Icelandic wing of the Pirate Party would win the election by a large margin. Recent polls suggest the Pirates will dominate the elections and gain over 40% of the vote, giving them around 26 of the 63 available seats. Would Iceland become some sort of liberal technology Utopia? Quite possibly.

One car per household

Although all the incumbent car manufactures may be working on autonomous cars, maybe they should be trying to keep the technology away from the public. A new study from the University of Michigan suggests sales of cars will plummet as families will only need one vehicle.

It suggests that lack of ‘trip overlap’ between drivers, where different members of one family need to travel at the same time to different places, means one autonomous vehicle that drives home when required could account for up to 84% of all trips, reducing the need for multiple vehicles.

Transformers

Huawei might have announced a snazzy new phone this week, but Xioami have gone one better. The Chinese phone manufacture has partnered with Hasbro to create a very special transforming Mi Pad. The toy, based on the classic SoundWave Transformer, morphs from a tablet into a badass robot, complete with sword and shield. Take that, Huawei.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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