News Roundup: Sharks, Natural Selection and Anti-NSA Post Office Apps

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Word crimes, Swamp Siri and Ice Cold Tech.

Google vs Sharks & Cars

So Sharks have decided they don’t like Google. Well, actually they just like munching on underwater fibre cables, but Google is having to wrap them in a Kevlar-like material. Not quite Sharknado, but what is?

Meanwhile back on dry land it looks like Google’s driverless cars should offer its Street View cars some driving lessons after one of them caused an accident. Google driver Alexander Spurr was buzzing around Little Rock, Arkansas when he realised he was going the wrong way down the street and upon trying to do a U-turn crashed into another driver. “Something better come out of Google’s pocket for this,” said an angry Dylan Case.


The usual dose of NSA headlines

-          Companies that specialise in spyware are being used on computers in the UK, US and others.

-          Conspiracy theorists think Bitcoin was created by the NSA.

-          The guys behind the Dark Mail project are looking to protect your email privacy.

-          The Germans are asking for governments to let them know about any spies they have in the country, and the German postal service now does encrypted messaging apps.

-          Ed Snowden talked to Wired, said the NSA automatically attacks foreign computers deemed to be a threat using a program called MonsterMind, and left a digital trail for the NSA so they could see what he took.

Apple – Environmentally Conscious, Only A little Bit Sexist

So Apple have become the latest company to reveal its Diversity figures, and the news isn’t surprising; the company is mostly white guys. CEO Tim Cook, however, did admit that: “As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers.” The company also made some changes to its supply chain and banned the hazardous benzene and n-hexane from the final stages of its assembly process.

Apparently the company was also looking at partnering with HP before it announced the IBM alliance. According to The Information, the two companies met over a project nicknamed "Enterprise Siri". The report also claims HP had similar meetings with Google for an Android-powered Enterprise Google Now.

California Breakup

Tim Draper is a man with a plan. To break up California and make Silicon Valley its own state. Rather unsurprisingly, this would create a lot of haves and have-nots financially. "At least initially - and perhaps for many decades after their creation - the six proposed new states would have widely varying income levels," said California Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor in a report on the subject. Silicon Valley would have a per capita income of $63,288, compared to Central Valley, which would only have a per capita income of $35,510. While being in one state probably doesn’t make the people of “Central Valley” richer, a state half as wealthy as its neighbour isn’t going to be an ideal situation is it?

Acquisition Aggression

The HP/Autonomy battle is getting nasty. The latters former CFO Sushovan Hussain was labelled a fraud by HP, while he accuses the company of trying to shift the blame after the multi-billion dollar write down. 

Elsewhere, there are plenty of less aggressive acquisitions going on. IBM continues its recent spree with the acquisition of security firm Lighthouse while Yahoo! has added Zofari to its roster and Samsung are getting into smart-homes with after buying SmartThings. Infor has got its hands on SalesLogix, Gemalto splashed out $890 million for SafeNet, Telstra has snapped up Ooyala, FleetCor now own payments processor Comdata and Planview has acquires Projectplace.

Other acquisitions include buying, Intuit acquiring itDuzzit, Intel snapping up LSI Networking and CoreOS taking over

Love, Natural Selection, And Word Crimes

Aside from love, what motivates a hacker? According to a new survey by Thycotic, most just do it for the thrill. But can thrills really be found when “Password1” opens an alarmingly large amount of businesses up? Surely something like Dwarf Fortress is more challenging?

Selfies, social media and smartphones have been blamed for a spike in road traffic deaths, according to Ford. The car manufacturer conducted a survey of 7,000 European smartphones users and found at least a quarter had taken a selfie behind the wheel. That’s not the internet’s fault. That’s natural selection.

Meanwhile the Tech-hipster-fication of the English language continues unabated. This week the Oxford Dictionary has added a bunch of new words. Some were just about acceptable tech speak (acquihire, tech-savvy), many were unacceptable twat speak (YOLO, amazeballs). So now you can finally understand what the likes FML, ICYMI, Clickbait, subtweet, live-tweet, listicle, Deepweb, mansplain and catfish really mean.

John McAfee, Tom Hanks, and The Guy Who Created the Pop-Up Ad

John McAfee is back again, and has actually made a product! Speaking at Def Con, he announced the Brown List, a site that he said would tap into anger in a positive way by letting people vent complaints in a public forum. It’s an entertaining read (Switzerland are on the list for not legalizing marijuana, as is someone’s girlfriend for not putting out) but I think the original aim of making companies accountable has already gone out the window.

Also releasing his own product this week is renowned actor Tom Hanks with his a typewriter app. A known typewriter aficionado, the Hanx Writer apparently recreates the typewriter experience on a tablet. It’s not quite the best option out there though.

The man who invented the pop up ad popped up again. Ethan Zuckerman wrote a long essay about the web for the Atlantic which includes the story of how he developed the annoying adverts that inhabit it. "Not only did I deploy what was probably the first popup, I wrote the javascript and the server-side Perl to launch it," he says. But he also admits the error of his ways. “I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.”

Bitcoin News

Looks liked Dell are pretty pleased with their newfound Bitcoin accepting ways. Mr. Dell himself tweeted this week that his company had received an order of PowerEdge servers for 85 Bitcions (about $50,000).

Also joining the cryptocurrency brigade is internet loudmouth Alex Jones. He waxed lyrical about it in a way only he could: “Bitcoin is challenging the private International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both of which not only control the Federal Reserve, but have also impoverished millions of people in the third-world for decades. For this very reason, Infowars will now accept Bitcoin.”

Siri And The Swamp

There was a story in the news this week about a man who asked Siri where to hide a body after he killed his friend. The story goes that Siri offered Swamps, Reservoirs and mines as potential hiding spots. Sadly however, turns out this wasn’t actually the case. Aside from not being roommates as many outlets alleged, the defendant’s iPhone 4 didn’t actually have Siri capabilities, and the Siri screenshot use was taken from the phone’s Facebook cache. But it does leave the question about who actually wanted to hide their roommate in a swamp…

Ice Cold Tech

Normally internet dares and challenges are stupid and often result in teenagers dying. Does it make it ok if they’re for charity? The ALS Association thinks so, and has created the Ice Bucket Challenge. The rules involve daring someone to poor cold water over their head and/or donating $100. It’s raised a lot of money and so far hasn’t killed anyone, so that’s good. Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Phil Schiller, Twitter’s Dick Costolo and Satya Nadella of Microsoft have all taken the challenge. You can join them, or be like President Obama and just donate instead.  


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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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