News Roundup: 2.5 Trick Ponies, HTML STDs and the Man Behind Bitcoin (Maybe)

Tech Interns

I remember my internships and work placements. I had fun on all of them, but it was rare that I even got lunch or travel paid for. If you’re a tech intern though, you’ll be having no such problems since they earn more than the median household income in the United States. A study by Glassdoor found that some interns earn a mighty $75,000+ a year. So all you interns looking for some cash, head to Palantir.


So at some point, the people over at Facebook saw Google’s Project Loon, and thought, “We want a piece of that.” So the social network has bought drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, with a plan to build 11,000 drones that can stay in the air for five years at a time and use them to provide web access to remote places. Or kill us all. Either/or.

In other acquisition news, Intel has splashed out $100-150 million for Wearable tech company Basis, Yahoo! [who have now killed services from 31 of 38 startups acquired under Mayer] have bought visualization startup Vizify and IBM have snapped up Cloud database startup Cloudant. And in another case of Non-Tech companies Becoming Tech-Centric, UK retailer John Lewis is to launch its first technology startup incubator.

Microsoft - The 2.5 Trick Pony Still Trying Hard

It’s the apocalypse that some have been predicting since before the Myan’s, but the death of Windows XP is soon upon us. Rather than panic like it’s Y2K 2.0, Microsoft are letting you know you need to change OS with a handy little one-time pop-up window. And a free file transfer tool. Panic over. Except in China, where promises about extended XP support for the country turned out to be false.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently spoke at Oxford's Saïd Business School. He was as animated as ever, calling Microsoft a ‘2.5 Trick Pony’; first Windows & Office, then bringing microprocessor technology into the data centre, and the Xbox gets a half point. Apple, according to Ballmer, has done only two tricks. If you’ve got an hour to kill, here’s the video in full:

Meanwhile current Microsoft CEO Staya Nadella has been speaking to Bloomberg, revealing tensions between Ballmer and the board in his final months, and the fact that Bill Gates was against the move to buy Nokia. 

And finally, in a rare spurt of innovation, Microsoft researchers have actually made something cool. The SurroundWeb is a 3D browser that beams content to every wall of your room. And it’s a working prototype, not just a concept idea. Might have a hard time trying to hide your browsing habits though.

Familiar Web Aesthetics

Not long ago we reported that North Korea’s native OS, Redstar, had been given a Mac-aesthetic reboot. Now you can see the wonderful desktop background images that come pre-loaded on Redstar 3.0. They’re actually quite pretty

Also looking to US companies for inspiration is the Chinese government, who’s new state-run search portal ChinaSo so reminds us of a certain colourful search engine giant. I doubt anyone at Google is going to try and claim copyright infringement though.

And for any Jurassic Park fans out there [I’m assuming 99% of you], you can now relive the classic moment Samuel L. Jackson gets shut out of the system online thanks to JurassicSystems.com. Sadly my coding skills aren’t up to scratch, but hours of fun could be had for those who do.

The Unmasking of Bitcoin’s Creator?

Lots of Bitcoin-related news this week, none of it very good though.

Obviously the biggest was Newsweek’s proclamation that they found the creator of Bitcoin. His alias; Satoshi Nakamoto. His real name? Er, Satoshi Nakamoto. A 64-year-old man from Japan living in California “with a penchant for collecting model trains” and an apparently secretive past, Satoshi’s creation may have “have stemmed from his frustration with bank fees and high exchange rates when he was sending international wires to England to buy model trains.” Problem is, as nice a story as it makes, Mr. Nakamoto has denied the story, and was even involved in a media-frenzy car chase.

Elsewhere, financial Merlin Warren Buffet isn’t sold on the concept of Bitcions, calling it “very speculative, a Buck Rogers kind of thing,” and says he wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t around in a decade. Another Bitcoin organization closes down after theft, and some smartarse senator replied to calls to ban the cryptocurrency by calling for a ban on cash.

There is some good news though; those BTC-loving Winklevoss twins have bought themselves seats on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flight using Bitcoins, and Native American tribes have adopted their own digital currency. And someone made some amazing videos describing every Bitcoiner ever.

The Next ‘NSA-Proof’ Phone

The usual dose of NSA headlines…

-          US Gov. are suing Sprint because they overcharged them for wire-tapping.

-          Political types say NSA should have been prepared for these kinds of leaks.

-          Europe was the NSA’s Tapping Bazaar.

-          Ed Snowden is appearing at SXSW, albeit via video.

-          IT Pros are not bothered about spying.

-          FreedomPop are looking to cash in with a super-secure ‘Snowden Phone’.

Vile Viral Cats

Cats rule the internet. It’s possible that the web wouldn’t be the centre of our universe today if it wasn’t for those early feline pioneers. So it’s a surprise that only now are cyber criminals deciding to get in on that. They are hiding ZBOT malware inside pictures of sunsets or cats to get access to people’s bank accounts.

Knowing Your Arse From Your ARM

The public at large will always be lagging a bit on the latest tech terminology. God knows I’ve milked the stats about people mistaking Platform as a Service (PaaS) as a new philosophy in railway management and Cloud Computing being impacted by the weather enough times. But you’d think the masses at large would have a good grasp of the standards such as USB and MP3. But apparently not.

According to a new survey of over 2,000 people by from VoucherCloud and published by the L.A. Times, 11% of Americans think HTML is actually a sexually transmitted disease. These venereal fearing people “were given both tech and non-tech terms and were asked to choose from three possible definitions,” and also came up with some other gems;

-          27% identified "gigabyte" as an insect commonly found in South America.

-          42% said they believed a "motherboard" was "the deck of a cruise ship."

-          23% thought an "MP3" was a "Star Wars" robot.

-          18% identified "Blu-ray" as a marine animal.

-          5% said they believed "software" is comfortable clothing.

-          12% said "USB" is the acronym for a European country

You’ve got to wonder what kind of people they were asking. Yes the majority seem to know their arse from their ARM, but do 200-odd people in this survey really think all those boxes in places like Walmart containing disks of their favourite films just randomly have the name of a porpoise or shark at the top for no reason? And just for added irony, “61% of the respondents said it is important to have a good knowledge of technology in this day and age.”


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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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