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News Roundup: Electro smog, hitch-hiking robots and John McAfee shootouts

A roundup of the week’s tech news including software outselling weapons, autonomous automobiles, and smartwatch bling.

Rich, male, American.

Forbes has just released its list of the 100 richest people in tech, and it paints an interesting, if stereotype confirming, picture. Most tech billionaires are male, over 40, and live in California. The list contains just seven women, 15 people under 40, and only eight Europeans. Anyone surprised?

Electro smog

Noel Edmonds is a curious character of UK TV. Once renowned for random 90s TV that featured a pink monster thing before becoming the face of crap daytime gameshows, it seems he’s now an expert in tech. "The biggest problem we have is not Ebola, it's not Aids, it's electro smog,” Edmonds told UK tabloid newspaper The Mirror. “We’re surrounded by electro mist, fog and smog. We’re covering ourselves in the wrong sorts of electro-magnetism.”

“The Wi-Fi and all of the systems that we are introducing into our lives are destroying our own natural electro-magnetic fields. All you are is energy, remember that.” What would Mr. Blobby say?

Apple Watches

Like the idea of a smartwatch, but think the Apple just isn’t “bling” enough? Then Caviar has the device for you. The Russian company – known for creating gaudy jewel-encrusted iPhones – has released a series of shiny customised Apple Watches, all named after famous Russian leaders. The Putin, Peter I or Lenin devices will set you back around $3000.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, how about a watch/smartwatch hybrid? No, I’m not talking about one of those Swiss watches with activity-tracking features built in. I mean literally two watches – one smart, one regular – stuck onto the same strap.  Nico Gerard Pinnacle offers an Apple Watch on one side, and a Swiss-made traditional automatic timepiece on the other. Prices range from $10,000 to a meaty $112,000. That might seem high, but you are getting two watches remember.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC that his company’s much-hyped HoloLens device will be available to developers from next year, but we could be waiting until 2020 for a public release.

Self-driving cars in time for Christmas?

Have you been looking at autonomous automobiles and thinking to yourself: “Damn, that car looks fly. I want one now.”? For Google’s Sergey Brin, it’s less than five years away. "You can count on one hand the number of years it will take before ordinary people can experience this," he said this week. It could be an awful lot sooner if BMW and Baidu get their way. Wang Jin, Baidu’s senior vice president, has said that the two companies would be launching their own self-driving car before the year is out.

A new study, however, says women aren’t very happy about the idea of driverless motors. A survey by NerdWallet suggests that only a third of women have any interest into autonomous automobiles, compared to half of men. The study also found most people wouldn’t let their child be driven around in a self-driving car alone, and most would wait at least five years to buy one.

Finally, both Tesla and the app for General Motors cars can be hacked. 

NSA

-          The NSA has been spying on various targets in Japan including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and companies such as Mitsubishi. US Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly apologised to Abe.

-          A whistle-blower leaked documents to 4chan, was dismissed as "fake and gay.”

-          The NSA has created a map of targets Chinese hackers have attacked in the US.

-          The UK and US governments have been eavesdropping on satellite communications for as long as there have been satellite communications.

-          Swiss firm Crypto AG wasn’t very neutral during the Cold War, may have helped the NSA.

-          You can’t download American Anti-virus software if you’ve got a foreign-sounding name.

Israel’s cyber-software industry is now bigger than its weapon’s industry. According to the Economist, global sales of Israeli weapons systems fell to $5.7 billion in 2014 while security software sales hit $6 billion.

As well as deciding to restrict exports of high-performance drones and supercomputers, the Chinese Government has announced that it plans to deploy police in the offices of the country’s major internet companies.

Facebook isn’t happy about all the negative press its Internet.org project is getting. So it’s offering its 125 million users the chance to speak up in favour, either now or later. When Facebook users in India log in to the service, they’re greeted with the message: “Do you want India to have free basic Internet services?” and an option to support Internet.org. If you don’t agree, however, tough. Your only option is to choose “Not now,” possibly giving you time to change your mind later.

M&A

The protracted sale of Nokia’s HERE maps is finally over. A consortium of German car manufacturers Audi, BMW Group, and Daimler has come up tops with a winning bid of $3.1 billion. Other parties rumoured to be interested at different times included Uber, Baidu, Facebook, and a number of private equity firms.

Microsoft has acquired gamification firm FantasySalesTeam, IBM’s Watson unit has bought medical imaging firm Merge Healthcare, Tableau now owns Canadian infographics firm Infoactive, SurveyMonkey has splashed out for TechValidate, Yahoo! has got its hands on Polyvore, Accenture has continued its recent spree and added FusionX to its paddock, CA has snaffled Xceedium, and Blue Coat has splurged for Perspecsys.

Elsewhere, Adidas has bought fitness app Runtastic, Hackaday has bought DIY maker marketplace Tindie, Affirm has acqui-hired LendlLayer, and Ciena Corporation has splashed out for Cyan Inc

GUNS

Tech maverick John McAfee is back in the news again. The eponymous security software creator was arrested this week in Tennessee for driving under the influence and possession of a handgun while intoxicated. His mugshot was a thing of beauty.

McAfee himself was pretty casual about the whole affair. “Yes, I was arrested while under the influence of Xanax. It was a brand new prescription received the same day of the arrest, and the physician neglected to warn me about driving while taking it,” he posted to Facebook. He also saw  the shootout – one which no media outlet reported and hinted was actually a joke - as “Nothing remarkable.”

“The shootout with the police was highly exaggerated and in fact no one was even hit by a bullet, let alone harmed by one. The police knew me and I don't believe their hearts were truly in the shootout, as it is not included in the official report. When I ran out of ammunition, I surrendered quietly and the officers and myself had a cigarette together and joked about my bad aim.”

In other news, smart guns can be hacked. It was never really a good idea to put microchips into things that fire bullets, was it?

Hitchhiking robots

It was meant to be the start of a heart-warming story: A hitch-hiking robot that had already travelled across Canada, Germany and Holland, would partake in the great American road trip. But no. HitchBOT, essentially a doll that people took around in their cars out of goodwill, was destroyedin Philadelphia just two weeks into its US jaunt.

Is this the start of human aggression against robots? Will sentient AI killing machines look back on this event as the catalyst of human extinction?

Selfies

People in the UK took an estimated 1.2 billion selfies last year. That’s not ok. 

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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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