News Roundup: Where's Snowden, Paypal Galactic, and Beer for Bitcoins

Where’s Snowden?

Almost a month into the NSA/PRISM leak and this week has seen the invention of a new game; ‘Where’s Snowden?’ It’s kind of like ‘Where’s Wally?’ but involves herds of journalists scurrying around airports and taking random flights from Russia to Latin America, while Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello laughs at you. Look out for plenty of articles on Ecuador in the future.

GCHQ’s attempt to ‘Master The Internet’ have also been both slightly terrifying and gaining harsh criticism from a variety of sources, most notably the Germans and inventor of the internet, Tim Berners Lee. While it’s hard not to admire the scope, ambition and execution of the whole project, lines have definitely been crossed.

Good news for Amazon; Apple & Microsoft not so much

It’s all going with the big companies this week, except for Yahoo! who are on a break from their acquisition spree. Amazon will be doubly pleased by the news that Microsoft have shelved its planned eCommerce marketplace, codenamed ‘Project Brazil’ , for unknown reasons, while Barnes & Noble have announced plans to abandon their Nook tablet operations [the eReader looks set to continue].

Meanwhile Apple can’t be very happy this week. The analysts over at Gartner predict predicted that Apple OSes would overtake those of rival Windows, before recanting the statement and saying Windows will stay in the lead. Then UK watchdog Which? announced that the iPhone 5 is actually one of the slowest smartphones on offer, being beaten by Samsung, BlackBerry, Google, HTC and Sony smartphones.

And a good week for Google

Laughing all the way to the bank however, is Google. That same Gartner report put Android in the lead by a healthy mile or two, while Rolfe Winkler of the Wall Street Journal has done some calculations on the back of a napkin and proclaimed Google more valuable than Apple. His method involved subtracting the cash hoards of each company from their market cap, leaving Apple with $233 billion and Google $241 billion. In retort to anyone naysaying his methods he said, "If you bought a house for $378,000, but there was $145,000 of cash lying on the living room floor, all you really paid was a net $233,000." Sound logical.

Google’s internet-providing balloon, also known as ‘Project Loon’, has obviously gained a lot of press this week for its sheer novelty value, not all of it good. Several techy types from Kenya are dubious about the value since it only delivers 3G, while others question the practicality and potential legal implications of the idea. However, India is amongst those cited by officials as big fans of the project and its possible implementation. There’s no timeframe on its future, so stay with us for updates as the weeks go on.

And in the final piece of Google news, the release of the Android-based Ouya could be a precursor to a dedicated games console of its own. The 100,000+ games in the company’s Play store would undoubtedly be a draw, and Microsoft proved IT companies can make the required shift, but with a rumoured Apple rival and the Steam console on the horizon, I’m not sure this one will pan out unless it’s cheap as chips.

Wearable tech market growing

The wearable tech wars just moved a step closer to all-out chaos. Sony launched a new Android-powered smartwatch, featuring NFC and plenty of apps, and Google Glass rival Recon Instruments started taking pre-order for its own brand of smart glasses,  while hardware manufacturer Foxconn unveiled a wristband that can monitor a user's health and sync with a smartphone. Expect plenty more in the upcoming months.

Beer for Bitcoins? Not if the FBI get them first

This week the FBI became the first enforcement agency to seize Bitcoins. The DEA confiscated 11.02BTC, with a value of $814.22 USD, on April 12th according to a notice on the official site, in relation to the owner buying a substance he shouldn’t be. Something you can now buy using the cryptocurrency, however, is beer. Happy days! The Pembury Tavern in Hackney, East London has reportedly sold over £800 worth of alcohol with Bitcoins since it started.

Piracy pros & cons

A busy week for anyone interested in Piracy. Adobe’s new Piracy-proof Cloud Creative Suite lasted all of a few days before pirated versions appeared online. While Russia passed its own version of the SOPA law, expected to come into effect on 1st August.

Microsoft is being sued by an insurance company in Guatemala, after reportedly raiding the company’s office and demanding either $70,000 on the spot or they’d confiscate all the company’s computers. Apparently this isn’t an isolated incident, but does raise a few questions; why are local law enforcement working with companies like this, and why did the business have any pirated software in the first place?

In a bit of good news for any pirates, Warner Bros.’ Chief of Anti-Piracy Operations, David Kaplan, admitted they aren’t all bad. “We view piracy as a proxy of consumer demand,” he said. “Freedom of expression is key to our businesses, and any actions pursued on the enforcement side are taken with that in mind.”

Commerce in Spaaaace, Wi-Fi Tractors and Cloud problems

There’s been lots of funny little bits of tech news this week. Glastonbury’s Wi-Fi tractor was something special to behold, while Kim Dotcom is threatening to sue LeaseWeb over the “at least 40 petabytes” worth of data it deleted. While a company that provides Cloud services have been afflicted with a chronic case of irony and decided to move its infrastructure off the Cloud after it encountered performance problems.

Paypal have spent some time stargazing, looking at the increasing number of astro-tourists and ticket holders for Virgin Galactic and pondered, “What currency do you use in space?” So they’ve teamed up with the SETI Institute and created a new initiative called PayPal Galactic to provide you with space money! “You’re not going to using cash in space,” one director told Mashable. “There’s not going to be security shuttles picking up notes and change.”

Nintendo have warned against the use of a smartphone app that allows players to cheat and create all-powerful Pokemon, citing the chance it may make their software unusable. And so they should; I don’t want to think all those hours of my adolescence were wasted training up my Dragtini needlessly.

And finally, a bit old news from February I missed, but rivals ‘51% of people believing stormy weather interferes with Cloud computing’ on the funny-but-also-sad scale. Turns out all those ‘as-a-Service’ providers aren’t doing a very good job at marketing; 16% of business decision makers think that Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was a new road project, while 22% think that Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new philosophy in railway management


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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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