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News Roundup: IoT vs. nuclear missiles, leap seconds and clippy hating

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Homeland, logos and digital amnesia.

IoT or nuclear missiles?

Interesting fact via the Reg: The UK Government will have spent as much on its troubled smart meter project by the time it’s completed as it intends to splash out for new Trident nuclear missiles.  Which would you rather have your taxes spent on?

Facebook: Logos and lasers

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking a lot this week, and not just his company’s incredibly unexciting new logo.

The social network’s founder conducted his latest Townhall Q&A [featuring a painfully staged photo] on Tuesday, where he took questions from Stephen Hawking about science [Zuck wants to know if there’s “a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships”] and Arnold Schwarzenegger on exercise [Zuck works out three times a week].

He also talked about happiness, the role of Facebook in journalism, his salary, being a founder & CEO, the Facebook Poke [“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”] and more. The big headline, however, came from his terrifying thoughts on AI: “One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you’d like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.” This does not sound like a good way to go.

Zuckerberg also posted this week about the latest plans for his much-maligned Internet.org project. “We’re working on ways to use drones and satellites to connect the billion people who don’t live in range of existing wireless networks,” he wrote. “Our Connectivity Lab is developing a laser communications system that can beam data from the sky into communities. This will dramatically increase the speed of sending data over long distances.” No word on whether the lasers will also be used to fry the projects naysayers. Or sharks.

Not quite Y2K

You might have noticed the world was allowed to enjoy one extra second this week. While the threat level wasn’t quite the next Y2K [that’s due in 2038] there were worries that it might mess up a few systems. So what happened? Not a lot; a few networks – estimated to be about 0.5% - had hiccups, a few sites & apps had slight timing issues, a few sites were down for a bit, and that’s about it. How underwhelming.

M&A

UK security firm Sophos this week floated on the UK stock market, and set a new record in the process. Its £1 billion valuation makes it the largest software IPO in UK history, so well done them. 

In other news, Microsoft has sold off its Bing Maps business to Uber and its ad business to AOL, Cisco is acquiring OpenDNS, Tieto has bought Software Innovation [the company, not the concept], and Level3 now owns Black Lotus.

Central Standard, a Kickstarter project promising an e-ink bracelet smartwatch, is almost certainly going to fold soon after issues with suppliers, design, hardware and more.

In the same week that HP officially filed to spin out into two separate companies, Qualcomm has said that the company has no plans to spin off its chip business.

Smartwatch calculator

Not so long ago we here at IDG Connect published a nifty report on smartwatches. One thing most of the interviewees said was that cheap quartz and digital watch makers should be worried and act quickly. It seems Casio, pioneers of the digital and calculator watch, have taken heed and are said to be working on a smartwatch of their own. The WSJ claims the company’s new President, Kazuhiro Kashio, has spent four years working on the device and it will launch in March with a price point of around $400. “We are trying to bring our smartwatch to a level of watch perfection: a device that won’t break easily, is simple to put on and feels good to wear,” says Kashio. “I don’t think the smartwatch will be an instant success but we want it to grow in the long term.”

Accidents will happen

Google has published its self-driving car report for June, and it doesn’t half look like this little project is a magnet for calamity. The autonomous automobiles were involved in two accidents last month – quite a jump from 12 accidents over a million miles and several years – both involved the cars being rear-ended at slow speeds while stationary. As the Guardian suggests, while the cars themselves a safe as houses they’re very distracting for fallible humans gawping at them.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

-          UK Prime Minister David Cameron really wants to revive the Snooper’s Charter and remove encryption, and isn’t afraid to reference Homeland to get it.

-          The NSA has been spying on over 100 French companies and German journalists, while GCHQ has been snooping on Amnesty International.

Digital amnesia, or forgetfulness?

Is technology making people stupider? Kaspersky Lab surveyed 1,000 people to test the theory, and depressingly it seems most people are absolutely dependent on their smartphones. Apparently half of people would “turn to the Internet before trying to remember” and a third “would forget an online fact as soon as they had used it.” As worrying as it is that people’s brains are turning to sieves, is there a need to label it “Digital Amnesia” as opposed to plain old forgetfulness? It’s the tech-neck argument all over again.

Crowdfunding, Sony style

Remember when crowdfunding used to be about little startups trying to get some cash for their idea, and it had a very “crackpot in the shed” feel to it? Nowadays you see massive companies trying their luck just to see if they can generate some buzz. But now Sony has taken it one step further and removed the middle man and simply set up a crowdfunding site exclusively for Sony products. Named First Flight and currently Japan-only, the site is currently showing off the MESH Smart DIY kit, the FES e-ink watch and the HUIS Remote Controller.

Clippy haters

There are a lot of people who don’t like Clippy, Microsoft’s infamous little helper. Granted, there are a few people who really, really like that little paperclip, but they’re definitely in the minority. While he might be consigned to the history books, Microsoft don’t even have the excuse that “it was a good idea at the time.” An article looking at the assistant’s development recalls that in focus groups women in particular were put off by Clippy and his cohorts because they felt the characters were leering at them. 

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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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