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News Roundup: Smart Sofas, Heartbleed II and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Blending iPhones, Alibaba’s IPO and Internet Party failure

Alibaba’s IPO

After months of waiting the Alibaba Group’s IPO finally happened. The Chinese company raised $21.8 billion on the first day, making it the largest US IPO ever and giving it a market cap of nearly $230 billion. Yahoo! gained a welcome $8 billion from the float, while Softbank also pocketed a nice $4.6 billion. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, is now China’s richest man and looked quite happy about it.

Meanwhile it’s looked like Line’s proposed IPO has been put off until next year, and there’s still no sign of a Box float yet. The file sharing company is "watching and waiting", COO Dan Levin told Computing.

Heartbleed II: The Bigger One

Heartbleed was a massive flaw in the internet that people didn’t really pay enough attention to. Now there’s Shellshock; a flaw thought to be even bigger and more serious. In theory it could allow hackers to take over systems and websites. You scared yet?

NSA

The usual dose of NSA headlines:

-          GCHQ doesn’t mind hiring dyslexic and dyspraxic people for hacking and spying

-          Despite previous promises, Apple can still hand over your data to government agencies

-          Joseph Gordon-Levitt is to play Edward Snowden in movie

-          Julian Assange thinks the NSA is so big it counts as a “state within a state”

President Putin’s publicist Dmitry Peskov has spoken up this week about the rumoured plans to disconnect Russia from the World Wide Web. “We need to defend ourselves from the US and Europe,” he told Bloomberg. “This is not about isolating ourselves, it’s about getting ready for possible cut-offs as countries that regulate the Web may act unpredictably.”

Looks like private search engine DuckDuckGo has joined Google in being banned across China. CEO Gabriel Weinberg told Tech In Asia he has “no idea” when it happened, but according to Greatfire.org it looked like the start of September.

M&A

IT insolvencies might be up in the UK. But that’s OK, according to KPMG. More IT activity inevitably means more failures, right? Either way, there’s still plenty of acquisition news and activity going on.

The big news this week was the secret merger talks Dell and HP reportedly had with EMC. The talks, which have apparently broken down with HP (no one is sure about Dell) could have created a company with a market value of about $130 billion. Would it have been a good idea or a disaster? Comment below!

Huawei has bought Internet startup Neul, ERP giant Sage has acquired Cloud Payroll provider PayChoice, Adobe now own mobile app developer Aviary, Yahoo! has splashed out for the Bangalore-based startup Bookpad, Hootsuite has purchased social app Zeetl and Apple has reportedly acquired digital-publishing startup Prss.

Elsewhere Ericsson has acquired a majority stake in Apcera, home services startup Handy has bought up competitor Mopp, Car app Lyft has bought car app Hitch, and Indian SaaS startup Wignify has bought US-based Concept Feedback.

Rumours started by TechCrunch were circulating this week that Apple was planning to shut down Dr. Dre’s Beats music service. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told Re/Code however that this was untrue. Which means it’ll probably turn out to be true in the long run.

NZ Say No Internet Party                      

Amidst all talk of extradition to the US, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has been playing at politics in New Zealand with his Internet Party. Despite predictions the party would do quite well in this week’s elections, the Internet-Mana coalition actually lost its only seat and garnered a paltry 1.26% of the vote. “We lost tonight, but we did not lose because of our leadership – we had great leadership,” Dotcom said. “We did not lose because of our campaign – we had a great campaign, and we did not lose because of our vision, because we had a great vision. I have to admit that we lost because of me.”

ALEC vs Tech

Google’s Eric Schmidt meanwhile has admitted that backing the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a climate-change denying lobbying group, may not have been the best idea. “I think the consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we’re trying to not do that in the future,” he said.

Both Facebook and Yelp have this week made similar moves, but ALEC isn’t staying quiet. Taking offense at Schmidt’s announcement, the group published a response. “Your calculated departure from ALEC is based on misinformation from climate activists who intentionally confuse free market policy perspectives for climate change denial,” it read.

Apple is Cool, Bendy, Blendable

The iPhone is available and selling like hotcakes. Once again the coolest company in the UK, Apple sold 10 million of the not-so-little buggers in the first three days. People want them so bad they’re willing to trade their girlfriend’s spare time or their own dignity for one. 

But the mass hysteria didn’t last long. Aside from an alarming number of people dropping them down the toilet, overworked thumbs and people being tricked into putting their phones in microwaves, there’s a bit of a bending issue. People are finding that if you sit on your incredibly large iPhone 6 Plus it may buckle slightly. Although it’s probably quite upsetting, who sits on a brand new phone all day?

Despite an adoption rate of 46%, there were also various iOS 8 problems. While a crash rate of 3.6% doesn’t sound high, that’s a 78% increase on the previous version. Its 8.0.1 update, designed to fix various issues including the HealthKit apps, had to be pulled after it killed the ability for some phones to do things like call people.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the new iPhone does blend.

New, Non-Apple Tech Stuff

Outside the sphere of Apple-mania, other tech stuff has been going on lately. BlackBerry has launched its oddly-shaped Passport smartphone. CEO John Chen has promised that the Passport isn’t bendy, but joking aside, if it tanks, does anyone see the company really coming back for another try?

Elsewhere the people at Google are keeping themselves busy. The balloon-based Project Loon has launched in South Africa, while its self-driving car took a driving test in Las Vegas. It passed, hooray!

There’s also a slew of new wearable tech available. If London Fashion Week is your thing you might be impressed by Acer’s Selfie-hat, a sombrero so gaudy not even 80s Elton John would want to don it. Otherwise there’s Airbus’s VR Helmets and a new version of the Oculus Rift.

Some of these tech-researchers clearly have too much time on their hands. Security researcher Michael Jordon spent months hacking a wireless Canon Pixma printer to run Doom. It’s a good game to be fair, but there are easier ways to play it out there. The researchers over at Microsoft, meanwhile, have revolutionised sitting in the age of technology. A new project named EmotoCouch is exploring how interactive furniture could use lights, patterns, and haptics to convey a range of emotions to people around it. It’s strange.

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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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