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News Roundup: Apple, Apple, Apple [and Other News]

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Nudists, Smart Wheelchairs and Squatting Techies

The Obligatory Apple News

So Apple’s big conference took place this week. And it’s official, the iPod is no more. The days of a pure music player holding your entire music catalogue on one device are gone. That’s the biggest new of the week as far as I’m concerned.

In lieu of the iPod, however, came two new iPhones (big and bigger, with NFC tech but no Sapphire glass), an unsightly smartwatch, a mobile wallet and a free U2 album that automatically appeared in your iTunes. Left unannounced or unsaid were any mentions of Apple TV or a new iPad, or anything about the recent iCloud leak.

Despite all the fuss, the event itself was actually pretty dull. The live-stream went wrong and the most memorable moment seemed to be some dude with a scarf. Few were surprised or particularly impressed by all the phone announcements, but the watch itself of course caused quite a stir. The look, lack of an “i”, the font on the UI, the time on the promo pics, the lame jokes, the unfounded bias against left-handed people, the fact nudists like smartwatches. You can see the IDG Connect commentary here.

In other gadgety news unrelated to Apple, the world’s thinnest tablet was revealed this week along with a second e-ink screen and a Smart wheelchair endorsed by Stephen Hawking. UK supermarket Tesco has also announced that it’s pulling the planned Hudl smartphone to work on the second generation of the Hudl tablet instead. And you can now buy an SD card with a mighty 512GB of space if you’ve got $800 to spare.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA headlines:

-          The NSA wasn’t involved with the arrest of the Silk Road’s Dread Pirate Roberts.

-          Yahoo! faced a $250,000-a-day fine if it didn’t play by the NSA’s rules.

-          Ed Snowden would be safe from deportation in Switzerland if he testifies about surveillance, says the country’s attorney general.

-          Congress is unlikely to pass any NSA bills this year.

-          Third-party internet service providers are doing the NSA’s bidding for a tidy profit.

-          Peter Thiel thinks Snowden is “both a hero and a traitor.”

 

In related news, British MP William Hague says MP’s Office 365 data is safe despite the ongoing battle between Microsoft and the US over data held in Ireland.

Thailand is said to be implementing mass web surveillance, but only to make sure you’re not insulting the King. Techdirt reported that authorities are looking to sniff out Thai internet users, specifically targeting those producing and reading lèse majesté content.

Dropbox has just released its latest transparency report for the first six months of 2014. The company received 268 user information requests from law enforcement and fewer than 250 National Security requests. Most included some sort of request not to tell the user of these info requests, but the company says its policy is to ignore that unless there’s a court order.

M&A

The big headline acquisition news was Google buying ‘smart spoon’ maker Lift Labs, while its takeover of online Pollsters Polar slipped under the radar. HP has forgotten about its Autonomy troubles for a while and instead bought Open Source Cloud provider Eucalyptus, while Japanese giant Rakuten splashed out $1 billion for Ebates.com.

Elsewhere Yahoo! added image platform Luminate to its paddock, Dropbox acquired KBVT’s team, BlackBerry announced it was acquiring Movirtu and Flipboard was taking the Ultravisual team on board.

The rumour mill is pretty sure that Microsoft are about to splurge a hefty $2 billion for Minecraft creator Mojang, much to the horror of the internet. Apple are also looking to buy social network Path if those elusive unnamed sources are to be believed.

Squatting Techies and Lobbying Ties

Aside from the astronomical wages, working at the big tech firms has some nice perks. So much so that Googlers have admitted to living at the company’s campus for weeks and months at a time. Expect to see cash-strapped startups trying to sneak into various tech hubs soon.  

Slightly less amusing though is Google coming under fire from activist groups for still being associated with a climate change-denying lobbyist group. Microsoft recently cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the search giant is coming under fire from various labor and environmental groups to follow suit.

Bitcoin Ups and Downs

Plenty of Bitcoin news this week. The good news is that Paypal has finally begun accepting Bitcoin through its subsidiary Braintree Payments, albeit with a few caveats. In terms of adding mainstream legitimacy, you don’t get much bigger than Paypal.  Elsewhere, the Apache Software Foundation is accepting BTC payments and Billionaire Richard Branson has said that he “thinks Bitcoin is working” as a currency.

The Ecuadorian government has banned Bitcoin, but instead launched plans for its own National Digital Currency, while the Bank of England has warned that BTC could pose a threat to financial stability in the UK if it takes off in a big way – unlikely if the UK feels the same way as a recent US study where more than half weren’t interested.

It looks like bad news for Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto this week after a hacker allegedly gained access to the Bitcoin inventor’s email. The hacker, who told Wired his name is “Jeffry,” wants Bitcoins in exchange for Satoshi’s secrets. After the media circus of last time, I imagine the paparazzi are following this one closely.

Nophone for You

Keep it secret, keep it safe. It’s a simple motto, and one Apple fanboys should take to heart. A new study from mobile security firm Lookout found that iPhones are the most popular target for UK criminals, a good 15% more appealing to felons than Android devices. A similar study from the Home Office had almost the exact same findings, so beware.

But people are addicted to tech. FOMO is a real thing. So what do you do when your precious mobile is stolen and you don’t have your phone and you’ve become a sweating gibbering wreck? Apparently you buy the NoPhone, a plastic slab of a security blanket shaped like a phone. “The NoPhone acts as a surrogate to any smart mobile device,” reads the Kickstarter campaign. “Enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment. Never again experience the unsettling feeling of flesh on flesh when closing your hand.”

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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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