News Roundup: America's New CEO, Silicon Valley Psychos And Wearable Tech That Makes You Cooler Than The Fonz

Eric Schmidt, CEO Of America

Techies can be a funny lot. All the money that’s floating around is going to their heads. First there was the call to make Silicon Valley the 51st State of the US. Now, there’s a petition to make Eric Schmidt CEO of America. “I'm familiar with Eric Schmidt being very good at running a successful organisation,” the petition’s creator Justine Tunney told the Telegraph. Tunney, a co-founder of Occupy Wall Street, currently works as a software engineer at Google and so is either bonkers or imaginative in ways to charm to the higher ups. “He was responsible for building Google, which is a benevolent corporation that's making the world a better place. If he can do it for Google, maybe he can do it for government.” Luckily it’s only had 39 signatures, so it’s unlikely to be a distraction from Mr. Schmidt’s daily duties.

There are, however, actual techies trying to get into politics. Last week it was an open source programmer with eyes on congress, this week we have the founder of Pirate Bay Peter Sunde  looking to get into the European Parliament and Megaupload founder/all-round maverick Kim Dotcom launching his own political party in New Zealand. Are we looking at the start of a technocratic revolution people? 

No BO for BlackBerry

BlackBerry continue to struggle on. But they may be about to lose their highest profile user after reports surfaced that President Obama may ditch his BB for a Samsung or LG phone. The company are also selling off a big chunk of its real estate which could bring in an estimated $491 million. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, but it is awfully reminiscent of Nokia selling off its HQ not too long before Microsoft came along. Just an observation.

There are silver linings however. The company has won security clearance from the White House for its Enterprise services, while the company is said to be focusing hard on its ‘connected car’ QNX operating system, an area where it’s not actually tanking badly. Is this the future of BlackBerry being moulded before our very eyes?

NSA Finally Changing?

The usual dose of NSA headlines…

-          Obama first called for an end to all this data collection, and has now put forward an actual proposal to see it through. After a year, some genuine change may actually be afoot. Ed Snowden welcomed the reforms; others said it didn’t go far enough.

-          Jimmy Carter says he still uses snail mail in order to try and avoid NSA snooping.

-          The NSA hacked Huawei servers, and the Chinese government wasn’t very impressed

-          The NSA has sent out a snazzy media pack to try and win over the media. I’m offended I didn’t get one after all the months I’ve been covering them.

-          Microsoft charge the FBI between $100 and $200 per data request.

Some other snooping related news…

-          The US still requests loads of data from Google.

-          Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo! and Google all reserve the right to access your data.

-          A transparency report into how often they do might be an interesting read.

Web Freedoms Under Fire

Late last week Turkey decided to ban access to Twitter. The response? A massive upshot of Turkish Tor users and an increase of 130% in Turkish Twitter users. The ban has come to an end after a court ruling, so the government has now banned YouTube instead.

In other news, Ethiopia is reportedly spying on phone calls and internet activity to monitor any dissenters, while the GSMA has called the EU’s push for net neutrality a bad idea that would hurt profits consumers. Over in Latin America, Brazil’s own internet bill of rights has been approved by the country’s Chamber of Deputies, and is on its way to becoming law once it goes through the Senate.

In a speech that likely won’t be very widely reported in the country she gave it, Michelle Obama told a group of students in Bejing that freedom of the internet and the media is a good idea. “It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media,” she said. Weirdly enough, countries that have oppressive governments are more likely to agree with her, according to new data from Statista.

Acquisition Rifts

After the relative quiet of the last few weeks, companies have been splashing the cash again. Dell bought analytics firm StatSoft, SAP have gobbled up Cloud firm Fieldglass, Yahoo! Japan have acquired eAccess for an impressive $3.17 billion and Lithium technologies have taken over Social scoring site Klout.

The big headline grabber though was Facebook announcing the $2 billion acquisition of Virtual Reality startup and crowdfunding darling Oculus VR, creator of the Oculus Rif headset. It was a real news-stealer for a number of reasons; it was Kickstarter’s first billion-dollar exit, it basically only happened in the space of a week, and something about VR being the future. The news pissed off no end of people, including the creators of Minecraft, who pulled a planned version of the game after the announcement. "We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out," said the game’s creator, Markus Persson in a tweet. Can no end of billions help Facebook improve its image problem?

Silicon Valley’s Old, Arthritic Psychos

Next time you have lunch with your boss, beware. You’re eating with a psycho. At least that’s what Time is suggesting, as CEO is the profession labelled as having the most psychos. Don’t worry though, they mean the cold-hearted, emotionless kind of psycho, not the Patrick Bateman kind. Less psychotic but equally sad is Silicon Valley’s serious ageism problem. It’s got so bad that everyone is getting plastic surgery to stay young and innovative. The ravages of time; is there an app for that?

There’s not an app for curing RSI, but it seems there are plenty of apps that cause it. A doctor has named RSI caused by repeated smartphone use "WhatsAppitis" after a women spent six hours on the messaging apps replying to messages. The cure? “Complete abstinence from using the phone to send messages, along with anti-inflammatory drugs.” Apparently this level of obsessional typing "could well be an emerging disease."

Taxing Bitcoins

Another week, another Bitcoin scare. China’s central bank has decided that, from April, all banks and payment service providers in the country must cease dealing in Bitcoins, according to the Reg. It’s value is currently around the $500 mark, down about $100 on last week. Meanwhile in the US, the IRS has decided that Bitcoins can be taxed. While this might help legitimise the digital currency, it doesn’t half ruin the idea that it’s ‘outside the system’ or anything like that.

In other news, payment service startup Stripe is the latest newcomer accepting BTC payments and only one in 20 have bought drugs with the cryptocurrency, ruining the stereotypes some papers had worked so hard to create.

Glass Fashion

Google this week announced that they’re teaming up with Ray-Ban maker Luxottica for the next incarnation of Google Glass. "We believe the challenge of convincing consumers to wear computers on their face is a fashion problem as much as it is a technology problem," UBS analyst Fred Speirs told Reuters. Will this make Glass cool among the masses? You can bet your Glasshole that it probably won’t. However, it may make them look slightly prettier. But if you think the current Glass looks sweet and makes you look cooler than the Fonz, don’t panic.  You can buy a fake plastic replica Glass [sans any computing technology] for only $59.44! Don’t rush all at once now.




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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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