Internet

News Roundup: Manifestos, car goggles and divorce

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Nokia, Apple Watch and Segway.

UK tech politics

It’s manifesto week in the UK. All the major parties released nice PDFs filled with promises they’ll almost certainly be unable to keep, and some of them even tried to include some technology policies. Everyone wants to make UK tech a big deal, but it’s all a bit thin on the detail. Here’s an overview who’s promising what.

Ed Miliand’s Labour party promised more high-speed broadband, efforts to get more people online, support for tech clusters, tighter GCHQ controls, more tech in public services, and a vocational "Technical Baccalaureate" award.

David Cameron’s Conservative party also wants super-fast broadband, more investment in tech hubs and 5G technology, more tech adoption within the police force and NHS, and get more smaller businesses winning government contracts, but didn’t seem to want to curb GCHQ spying.

Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats propose a “Digital Bill of Rights”, more high-speed broadband, more innovation investment – including tech clusters and tech-education, as well as furthering digital government services and make it easier for tech-workers to get visas.

Nigel Farage’s UKIP party wants to reduce tuition fees for tech students, greater access for SMBs to get government contracts, more technology on border controls and policing, and review the UK’s data intelligence efforts.

Natalie Bennett’s Green Party promises a lot more investment in green tech, high-speed broadband for small businesses, an overhaul of GCHQ activity, oppose software patents, support open standards in technology, and increase efforts on tackling social media abuse.

Apple Watch

Apple’s much-hyped smartwatch became available for pre-orders this week, causing the usual media meltdown. The Cupertino company hasn’t released figures, but estimates put pre-orders at over two million units. Considering there’s only been 700,000-odd Android Wear devices and a million Pebble watches shipped, Apple managed not only to outshine Google in a day, it’s pretty much doubled the  size of the smartwatch market before the thing has actually shipped.

Meanwhile, IBM and Apple have partnered up again to let the Watson supercomputer loose on its medical data.

Letv, whose CEO Jia Yueting recently compared Apple to Hitler, has just released a new smartphone. How convenient. Despite the saying, not all press is good press.

Internet.org: Expanding and Retracting

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his social network for an hour-long Q&A session this week, where we learned insights into how many hours a week he works, how to learn Mandarin and more. The big takeaway, however, was the world domination he has planned for Internet.org. Having recently announced the service in Guatemala and Brazil, he confirmed that the service would come to Europe eventually.

His plans might have hit a bit of a snag in India though. Despite saying in his Q&A that he supports Net Neutrality and “programs like Internet.org  can co-exist with net neutrality regulations,” several Indian companies have backed out of the program in protest. Cleartrip, NDTV (plus other Times Group apps), Newshunt and Flipkart have pulled their apps from the service because they feel free basic services are a road that inevitably leads to different internets for the rich and poor.

Zuckerberg today published a response to the recent events. “Some people have criticized the concept of zero-rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this. We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes -- and it never will.”

“Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity. Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two thirds of the world who are not connected.”

India's Save The Internet coalition quickly wrote a rebuttal in the Hindustan Times, claiming Internet.org is “Zuckerberg’s ambitious project to confuse hundreds of millions of emerging market users into thinking that Facebook and the internet are one and the same.”

HP – Clouds and Logos

Last week you might have read that HP were planning to leave the public Cloud space after Cloud boss Bill Hilf said the company couldn’t compete with the likes of Amazon or Google. To try and calm the waters and put the record straight, he published a nicely worded blog on the HP site. “In the past week, a quote of mine in the media was interpreted as HP is exiting the public cloud, which is not the case,” he said. “Our portfolio strategy to deliver on the vision of Hybrid IT continues strong… The bottom line is HP Helion offers customers choice across hybrid delivery models: public, managed (hosted), or private... We are not doing pure public cloud only. We are not changing our strategy.”

HP CEO Meg Whitman also published a blog to her company’s site this week, but to talk about the new logo for spin-off company Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “To bring our ideals to life, we needed a logo and a design system that would be singular and defining,” she wrote. “We needed a design that would express our renewed commitment to focus and simplicity. And we needed a logo that would be as transformative, flexible and agile as we are becoming, while standing out from the pack.” What they managed to come up with was a text logo with a green box above it. “This is the first time in our history that the two t’s in Hewlett connect. That connection is symbolic of the partnership we will forge with our customers, partners, and our employees.”

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

 

-          The NSA doesn’t want backdoor entry to your systems, they want front door access.

-          GCHQ will fight any attempt at legal action against them.

-          VPN use in Australia is up due to data retention laws being brought in.

-          New Zealand shared spy data with Bangladesh.

-          The DEA is probably spying on you, while police are putting malware on lawyers’ laptops.

-          According to Google Maps, ‘Edwards Snow Den’ lives in the White House, while in reality may soon become a citizen of Iceland.

-          Ed Snowden’s joke password about “Sexy Margaret Thatcher” isn’t very secure.

-          Hillary Clinton’s email setup was brought up by Congress years ago.

-          Tech groups want NSA spying to end.

GitHub released its first transparency report this week. The Code-repository site had very few requests for data, and a few copyright/takedown requests.

China’s ban on foreign tech firms may currently be suspended, but they’re still worried about the future. A trade group of American firms has written a letter to members of the Chinese government asking “the Chinese leadership to officially suspend implementation of the guidelines through a written public notice, publicize them as a proposal, and initiate a formal public consultation consistent with China’s international obligations.”

Meanwhile in Russia, fun on the internet has been banned. The country’s media overlord agency, Roskomnadzor, banned any meme “that uses the photo as a public person impersonation popular, unrelated to the identity of "celebrity.” According the Washington Post, this was a clarification of an existing law after a singer sued a site for hosting unflattering memes of him.

M&A

The big M&A news this week was Nokia [the bit that wasn’t sold to Microsoft and makes networking stuff] acquiring fellow phone & networking firm Alcatel-Lucent. The Finnish company announced they were in talks on Tuesday [as well as possibly looking to sell its HERE maps business], and after a meeting with the French government the deal was confirmed a couple of days later. It’s unlikely to mean Nokia will re-enter the smartphone business and instead just creates a bigger rival for Ericsson.

Apple has acquired camera technology firm LinX, Microsoft has bought BI startup Datazen, IBM has snapped up health tech startups Explorys and Phytel, Amazon has purchased shoe app Shoefitr, Box now owns 3D imaging firm Verold, ARM has taken over IoT startups Wicentric and Sunrise Micro Devices and Hortonworks has snaffled SequenceIQ.

Elsewhere, Segway has been bought out by Chinese Segway alternative Ninebot, Bitcoin exchange Coinsetter has acquired Bitcoin exchange Cavirtex, analytics firm Localytics has purchased predictive analytics firm Splitforce, GoDaddy has bought Elto, and Telstra has snapped up Pacnet.

In the rumours department, Yahoo! may or may not be interested in splashing out for Foursquare, Rakuten might be trying to acquire PopSugar, and Symantec could be about to sell Veritas.

Bitcoins

BitcoinsInIreland recently conducted a study into Bitcoin use; the site found that most BTC users are guys between the ages of 20-40, aren’t afraid to advocate it to friends and family, and have probably lost a few coins to hackers.

In other news, cryptocurrency trading is up even if the price isn’t generally moving much, and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon says banks like his can learn from payment systems like Bitcoin.

Some other stuff

Random and entertaining tech headlines…

Moore’s Law turned 50 years old this week!

You remember when people had to wear goggles when driving cars? Well BMW & Mini are bringing it back, 21st century style. The company revealed MINI Augmented Vision, a kind of Google Glass for cars at this week’s Auto Shanghai show, promising “an interlinked system and augmented reality eyewear with a characteristic MINI design that revolutionise the experience both in and outside the vehicle.” Apparently these dapper looking gegs will show relevant information – including navigation, speed & distance, messaging and parking assistance - in the driver’s direct field of vision but without concealing other road users.

Amazon are pushing hard for drone delivery, and a new study from Ark-Invest suggests it could charge just $1 for the service. At just a buck, the eCommerce giant could undercut current delivery options massively and would make a tidy profit, even after a large initial outlay setting everything up.

Algorithms are art. And we’re not just talking about ASCII art. Apparently algorithms are now on sale at auction, and some of the pieces were attracting thousands of dollars in bids.

How seriously do you take Facebook’s relationship status? Maybe it’s time for a rethink. A judge in New York ruled a women could serve her husband divorce papers through Facebook. The judge ruled that the wife could serve the papers through a private Facebook message once a week for three weeks or until her soon-to-be ex-husband acknowledged the message, after he disappeared but kept in touch through the social network.

Using smartphones messes with your mind. Literally. According to research from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Fribourg, smartphones could be changing the way your thumbs and brain interacts. Scary, no?

Do you find your apps to too sacrilegious? Pray no more! Father Philip Marshall, the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, has blessed a walking tour app guiding you through the life of Australia’s only saint. Does this mean you’ll soon be able to exorcize bugs from code? 


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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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