News Roundup: Aliens & the NSA, Net Neutrality and A Day In The Life Of Your Mouse Cursor

Net Neutral Any More

Is this the death of Net Neutrality? A US court has ruled that the FCC exceeded its authority in attempting to enforce "network neutrality" rules. So now in theory, ISPs can favour certain kinds of traffic over another. Obviously this has many people worried about the direction the internet will soon be taking; paying for access to certain sites, companies paying to get better delivery speeds etc. ISPs have said not to expect anything to change, but that hasn’t stopped everyone freaking out.

In other censorship news, Somali rebel group Al Shabaab has apparently banned the internet throughout Somalia. The group posted a message last week, giving firms 15 days to meet with their demands. This obviously has not gone down well with locals, who have so far not complied.

Meanwhile in the UK, turns out the mandatory internet filters David Cameron is pushing for ‘to protect of children’ don’t work; the children just turn them off. Highlighting the problem of kids knowing more about technology than their parents, Ofcom found 18% of 12-15-year-olds know how to disable internet filters, half know how to delete browsing history, and a third can mask their browsing habits.

Jobs, Money, Apps, Children

So Gartner’s predictions about 2014 are in. The firm expects IT spending to hit $3.8 trillion, a rise of 3.1% on last year’s figure [Last year Gartner predicted 4.2% growth for 2013 but the actual figure was just 0.4%] with enterprise software making up $320 billion of that total figure. The US, unsurprisingly, spends the most per capita on IT - $3,356 per head.

CIO’s predictions about their IT budgets seems to agree with Gartner’s predictions – a Morgan Stanley survey of 150 CIOs expect to spend 4.5% more than last year and  are setting their sights on Cloud computing, ERP and analytics software. Despite all this spending though, don’t expect job security; it’s all about temporary contracts at the moment.

And spare a thought for Australia, as it seemingly has no IT budget for big projects. Qantas have reportedly cancelled a planned replacement of its 26-year-old IT system and cited a lack of cash as the cause, as have the Queensland and New South Wales Governments. Poor buggers.

Maybe Australia can ask Apple for the money. The company reportedly made a tasty $10 Billion in App Store sales last year, which makes the $32.5 million fine they received over children’s unauthorised in-app purchases look like a total let-off. While the $15 billion iOS app developers have earned since the App Store’s inception will probably be quite happy with their haul, it won’t last. Gartner predicts that by 2018, less than 0.01% of consumer mobile apps will be financially successful.

Super Social News

Not a lot of good news for Facebook. Yes it bought Branch and stole the ‘Trending’ feature from Twitter, but it’s also being sued for scanning private messages despite denials about the practice. A new study found that employers who scrutinize the FB pages of potential candidates have been wasting their time and that you can’t tell who’ll be good at their job from social spying. But don’t go wild and start posting about how you hate your boss.

The first week’s results are in for the social network scene’s newest arrival, Jelly. Biz Stone’s Social Q&A site had 100,000 questions asked, with a quarter actually answered. Initial reports have been mixed on how good it actually is, but Mark Zuckerberg is seemingly a fan, which might help its cause.

In some news that restores my faith in humanity just a little, it turns out Millenials aren’t complete zombies only interested in retweeting Justin Bieber. Redshift research found 43% of 2,000 17-31 year olds didn’t use Twitter at all, while less than half spend more than three hours a week on Facebook. AND they’re more likely to post links about work & study than celebs. Take that Celebrity Big Brother!

Google’s Bottomless Wallet

Turns out I was wrong. Instead of reporting on Yahoo!’s acquisition spending spree, I should have been looking at Google. According to Bloomberg, the search giant has outspent everyone put together. The report says “Google has spent more than $17 billion in the past two years,” meaning it has forked out more than Apple, Microsoft, Facebook Amazon and Yahoo! combined.

That figure was boosted by the eye-watering $3.2 billion the company spent on Nest, an acquisition that seemed to get lots of tech commenters very excited and very worried. Google want to move into the Internet of Things, and monitor your house etc. All the excitement was good news for Nestor, whose stock jumped 1900% after investors got it mixed up with the now Google-owned company. Also in the news, but slightly less exciting was Google’s buying of security startup Impermium to help boost its spam-fighting efforts.

And in a final bit of Goognews, the company have unveiled a nifty bit of wearable tech for diabetics; smart contact lenses that measures your blood sugar levels. The idea isn’t ready for mass consumption yet, and was once on the radar of Microsoft, but they let it slip.


Anyone remember when there weren’t new NSA revelations weekly?

-The NSA can target basically anyone engaging in modern life. Reports from the NY Times say it has put devices in nearly 100,000 computers that mean they can be tracked offline, and collects hundreds of millions of texts messages a day, which it shares with GCHQ. Is also installing backdoors in Huawei firewalls.

-The NSA denies spying on Congress, but rules out any agreements about not spying on Germany.

- Mozilla’s CTO has said you shouldn’t trust any browser than isn’t Open Source, while Silent Circle & Geeksphone have joined together to create the Blackphone; a black phone that is all about security and encryption. EU parliamentary types think Europe should suspend data-sharing arrangements with the US.

 - The U.S. is secretly run by Nazi space aliens according to an Iranian news agency, and NSA programs are actually a tool for the aliens to hide their presence on Earth.

- Ed Snowden used to work at the US embassy in India, would be murdered by any number of US intelligence people if given half a chance, and is now on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board of directors despite still living in not-so-press-friendly Russia.

- And despite all the claims from US officials, research shows all this spying has helped in only a handful of terrorism investigations – 1.8% from metadata, 4.4% from PRISM.

[And not the NSA’s doing, but car companies have been collecting loads of data from people through their smartcars.]

Teching Political

Everyone’s favourite New Zealand-based German tech bad boy is back in the news, but for a change Kim Dotcom isn’t being raided. Now the Mega/Megaupload founder is simultaneously releasing a dance album and founding his own political party, the 'Megaparty'. He announced on Twitter, “My political party will activate non-voters, the youth, the Internet electorate. We are going to make politics exciting.”

Meanwhile India has decided not to partner with Google for creating an online voter registration tool. The NSA revelations were reported to be a major factor. And in the UK, the government has decided to launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness of cyber security. The Reg reports that the campaign, called Cyber Streetwise, is urging people to take five actions in order to protect themselves and others:

-          Use strong, memorable passwords

-          Install anti-virus software on new devices

-          Check privacy settings on social media

-          Shop safely online – always ensuring to check online retail sites are secure

-          Keep software and application patches up to date

In this day and age, if you are this oblivious about being safe online, you probably shouldn’t be using the web.

Microsoft’s Message Finally Hitting Home?

So after months, if not years, of trying to convince the masses, people are finally moving on from Windows XP. The latest figures show that Microsoft’s geriatric OS saw its share of the Windows world drop to 29%, while Windows 8 soared to 12%. The company has capitulated over XP malware support though, and said it will extend service until 2015. Windows 7 has also risen to 34%, but that’s a problem for the next CEO. But at least Gartner is predicting good things for the company.

Sadly the whole cycle could start again soon, with the possible announcement of Windows 9. Rumours are circulating the new OS will be announced in April and start shipping the following year. Migration specialists are rubbing their hands together in greedy glee.

And in the latest titbit in the company’s hunt for the new CEO, Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg has entered the fray. According to Reuters, “The dynamic 48-year-old Swede fits the bill as a media-savvy technology fanatic.” Obviously the companies refuse to comment with no appointment likely until the last week of January at the earliest.


One of the more quiet weeks for Bitcoin…

-          The Guardian says Porn may be Bitcoin’s ‘Killer app’.

-          Wells Fargo is discussing ‘rules of engagement’ for the cryptocurrency.

-          One Silicon Valley type thinks a single Bitcoin will one day be worth $100,000 a pop.

-          Overstock’s first day taking BTC’s saw $126,000 in sales.

-          There’s now a Bitcoin insurance vault in London.

-          The NBA's Sacramento Kings are the first sports team to take BTC payments.

-          Someone built a NSA-proof Twitter clone using code from Bitcoin and BitTorrent

A Day in The Life Of Your Mouse Cursor

Apparently the average mouse is clicked over 7,000 times per week. I wonder what sort of mileage one racks up travelling across the screen? [Answers in the comments below please]

If the life and times of the mouse cursor stirs any sort of interest for you, perhaps in an existential metaphoric parable with your own life, you should watch Click, an 8-minute video following a day’s worth of clicking by Korean art collective Shinseungback Kimyonghun. It gave me a headache after around 15 seconds, but that’s a normal side-effect of modern art right?


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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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