News Roundup: Hauling tech, Snooper's Charter, and Kaspersky Socks

A roundup of the week’s tech news, including “loose women, fast cars, and nice clothes”.

Tech haulage

Drones have seen lots of interesting use cases in recent years. But how about as boat tugs? Alphabet’s X Lab’s latest patent, ‘Airborne Rigid Kite With On-Board Power Plant for Ship Propulsion’, shows large drones being used to both pull and power ships. The designs seem to be based on drones previously used as flying wind turbines, and PatentYogi suggests it could be a precursor to some sort of ocean-going datacentre design.


On a related haulage note, Amazon debuted an interesting concept this week. Amongst the many, many AWS announcements at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas was something it’s calling the Snowmobile; a travelling datacentre on the back of a lorry. Essentially a 45-foot long truck drags a shipping container full of servers to wherever you want it, your switch all your data across, and then it’s hauled off to your AWS datacentre of choice. Good luck trying explaining how a lorry can literally deliver data into the Cloud to someone who doesn’t understand technology. 


CA has acquired Automic, Twitter has bought Yes Inc, Accenture has snapped up Karmarama, SUSE now owns HPE’s OpenStack and Cloud Foundry assets [is there much left to sell that isn’t nailed down?], Booz Allen Hamilton has got its hands on Aquilent, FLIR has got its hands on drone-maker Prox Dynamics, and AngelList now owns Product hunt.

Fitbit is rumoured to be acquiring smartwatch maker Pebble, but no one has had firm confirmation yet.

BT has been told by the regulators it needs to split OpenReach into a separate business.

Siemens says it has no plans to acquire any companies any time soon.


This week saw the UK IP Bill – aka the Snooper’s Charter – pass into law. Tim Berners-Lee labelled its passing “a security nightmare”, while Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock said it was “one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.”

“Theresa May has finally got her snoopers’ charter and democracy in the UK is the worse for it.”

A petition to have it repealed has reached over 150,000 signatures, but Prime Minister Theresa May is unlikely to suddenly change her mind about a bill that’s been in the works for a couple of years now.


-          Ecuador admits it cut off Assange’s internet connection. The embassy also acknowledges there is no “quick way out” for Assange.

-          Russia has given the thumbs up to Alt-Android Sailfish OS.

-          Microsoft censors its chatbots in China.

-          Internet Archive is mirroring its archives in Canada due to Trump-related concerns.

HP Machine sees light of day

HPE has finally revealed a somewhat-working prototype of “The Machine”; a new computer architecture based on experimental technologies such as memristors as silicon photonics the company said could revolutionise the technology industry. The company this week revealed a proof-of-concept for the memory-driven computing bit, and announced how it planned to roll the technology into other products in 2018 or 2019, possibly killing off the idea of a single super-product coming out in the future.

Voice voice voice, screen

I’ve lost count about the number of times I’ve read or been told voice is the UI of the future. And almost always, the chief example rolled out is that of Amazon Echo. So I imagine lots of speeches, slideshows, blogs, and thought-leading Tweets are being hastily retweaked after news broke that the next version of the Alexa-powered device could come with a touch screen display. According to Bloomberg, Amazon could announce a premium Echo, equipped with a seven-inch tilted touchscreen, as soon as Q1 next year.

Spectacles getting off to a better start than Glass

It’s been a few weeks since the release of Snap Inc.’s Spectacles. But where Google Glass by this point had received plenty of flak from the tech press - along with some quite unsavoury abuse from the wider public – there seems to be none of that so far.

One thing the two do have in common, however, is other companies doing a bit of coattail-riding. There’s no shortage of Glass-like products on the market, and now PogoCam offers a little camera that can stick itself to your regular, non-technology-imbued glasses. You’ll look so cool.

And, thanks to Rochester Optical now doing prescription lenses tailored specifically for them, people can now wear their Spectacles all the time, indoors and out. That won’t look ridiculous at all.

Comma cars

Many were disappointed when NHTSA basically pulled the plug on George Hotz and his Comma One device, which would have given autonomous capabilities to traditional cars already on the road.

Hotz and have found a workaround, however: release everything for free as an Open Source Project. Both the code – dubbed OpenPilot- and a CAD model to design the box are available on GitHub. The company claims the system is “about on par with Tesla Autopilot at launch, and better than all other manufacturers.”

Hotz told the Verge that the new plan is to “own the network of self-driving cars out there” and then work with after-market suppliers to make some cash.

They took my job

Another week, another study or report about AI and robots taking our jobs. This week, Capita Resourcing says 85% of employers believe workplace automation will create more jobs than it will replace over the next decade.

“The extent of fear may be misplaced,” the report reads, “as business leaders believe that 80% of staff will either be retrained to work alongside automation, deployed in other areas or experience no change whatsoever.”

Loose women, fast cars, and nice clothes

Hackers earn between $1,000 and $3,000 a month, according to a new study. Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future detailed the profile of an average cybercriminal, and found that many were professionals with no criminals records or ties to traditional organized crime, and usually have steady jobs. Organized cybercrime gangs operated with a strict hierarchy, featuring highly skilled members often set with a very narrow set of responsibilities.

The company found around 20% of criminals earn more than $20,000, with author Andrei Barysevich finding that some were earning up to $200,000 a month of “pure profit.”

“This is what they can spend on loose women, fast cars, and nice clothes.”

The new, new, new graphene

It must be a fun time to be working in the semiconductor industry. Although Moore’s Law is all but over, there’s all kinds of new research and innovative new materials being developed. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that. 2D materials such as Graphene, Stanene, Silicene, and a host of other single-atom thick materials have all kinds of interesting conductive properties that could be beneficial to the technology world. None have yet been produced on a wide-enough scale to actually be used inside a commercial product, but why let market realities ruin some good science?

The newest addition to the 2D family is Indium Selenide (InSe). Developed out of the University of Manchester and The University of Nottingham, InSe is actually relatively fat at a few atoms thick but offers superb conductive powers and a better energy gap than graphene.

Apocalyptic predictions

It’s that time of year again. The run up to Christmas and New Year every publication pump out lists, highlights, predictions, and similar such pieces. According to McAfee’s 2017 threat predictions, we can expect less ransomware next year (yay), but we can expect drones to be used for hacking (boo). Dronejacking includes taking over drones (whether to sell for parts, steal data, or maybe steal whatever package it was delivering, or just crash it), or using drones as a remote hacking tool to get into a particular local network.

Cases of online sextortion – filming people doing sexual acts over the likes of Skype and then blackmailing money out of the victim to keep the footage offline – are on the up. The number of reported cases more doubled in the UK between 2015 and 2016, from 385 to 864, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA). I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot more of this in 2017.

Kaspersky socks

The tech industry isn’t known for its fashion sense. That doesn’t stop an endless horde of techies wearing branded t-shirts, red hats, and hoodies. Kaspersky have taken it one step further, however, by handing out Christmas-themed socks bearing the face of the company’s eponymous founder, Eugene Kaspersky. [Image courtesy of IT Pro's Adam Sheperd]



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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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