News Roundup: Google diversity, banning "your mum" and Musk for President?


A roundup of the week’s tech news including self-driving 1 million miles, NSA headlines and Open Source HP.

Google: I/O leftovers, diversity and mileage

Lots of Google news this week:

The second day of the search giant’s I/O conference saw the first ever public picture taken by the Project Ara Modular phone, a partnership with Levi’s to debut “smart fabrics”, as well as Projects Soli, Vault and an update of Tango.

Google also updated its diversity figures this week. Last year, the company said around 30% of its workforce were female. This year, still 30%, although there’s been a 1% increase of women in tech roles and the company said some 21% of its tech hires last year were female. Minority representation within the company remained unchanged. The company did outline its strategy going forward, however, which basically said hire more diverse people.

The company’s self-driving car project passed a big milestone this week after announcing its cars had driven themselves over 1 million miles unaided. 12 accidents in a million miles isn’t too bad [apparently that’s the average distance a person drives over a lifetime], especially when they were all caused by human error.

What does Google CEO Larry Page think about Ad Block? Make ads that people don’t want to block. “We've been dealing with ad blocking for a long time,” he said at a shareholder’s meeting this week. “Part of it is the industry needs to do better at producing ads that are less annoying and that are quicker to load, and all those things. And I think we need to do a better job of that as an industry.” At the same meeting chairman Eric Schmidt said the company would never give up on its “moonshot” projects. “Most companies ultimately fail because they do one thing very well but they don’t think of the next thing, they don’t broaden their mission, they don’t challenge themselves, they don’t continually build on that platform in one way or another,” he said. “They become incrementalists. And Google is very committed to not doing that. We understand the technological change is essentially revolutionary, not evolutionary.”

And finally, a repair man from Egypt briefly found fame this week after outranking Google on Google. According to the Beeb, “anyone typing Google into Google from an Egyptian computer got a page belonging to Mr Saber El-Toony as the first result despite the fact that his business doesn't include the keyword and is in no way related.” Aside from how he cheated the system, it makes you wonder why people are Googling Google?

Musk for President?

Last year a co-founder of Occupy Wall Street [and software engineer at Google] called for Eric Schmidt to be made CEO of America. But which tech CEO would people really want to be President of the USA? According to Survata.com, a poll of 1503 voting age Americans came out with Elon Musk as leader of the free world. Larry Page, Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos where 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.  However if you check the full results, over 52% of the voters actually said they didn’t know who to vote for. Not quite a vote of confidence for the Tesla/SpaceX leader.

Verbatim – fatty, security, and treatises

As well as being allowed to keep all his assets, Kim Dotcom won an apology from New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service chief Rebecca Kitteridge after her agents branded him a “fatty po po.”

John McAfee was at London’s Infosec conference this week. The maverick security expert warned that we “cannot allow a fearful government or fearful institution to create weaknesses in the very software that we are trying to protect.”

“By putting backdoors into software we have given hackers the access that we are trying to prevent. People are human, if there is a backdoor, the access to that backdoor will become available to hackers eventually. We know this for a fact,” he said.

While nowhere near the likes of MySpace, Twitter is seen by many to be an in unhealthy state right now. Chris Sacca, one of the social network’s early investors, was so concerned he wrote an 8,500-word treatise of “What Twitter Can Be”. He outlines what is going well [revenue, management, product development] and what isn’t [user growth, user retention, investor confidence] as well as how the company should change things up.


So the rumours were true; Intel has indeed coughed up a shade under $17 billion for fellow chip-maker Altera. Lattice Semiconductor, one of the few companies not to be consolidating in one way or another, would be open to being bought out, but only for “a high premium.”

Microsoft has acquired 6Wunderkinder, Google has splashed out for performance monitoring startup Pulse.io and sensor company Lumedyne, Salesforce has bought calander app Tempo, Big Blue IBM has purchased Openstack Cloud company Blue Box, while Cisco splashed out for Openstack  Cloud company Piston. Adobe has snaffled up Mixamo, LogMein has got its hands on mobile whiteboarding app Zamurai, CA now owns Grid-Tools, Palo Alto has acquired security firm CirroSecure and Redgate has purchased ReadyRoll.

BlackBerry’s ongoing lawsuit with Ryan Seacrest's keyboard startup Typo is over. Typo – which made BB-esque keyboard attachments for the iPhone, will no longer sell its only flagship product, but will be allowed to continue to sell keyboards for iPads and other tablets.

The breakup of HP into HPs plural is “80%” complete, and apparently will see the “enterprise” unit embrace open source in a big way, according to the company’s CTO.


The usual dose of NSA-related headlines…

-          Congress finally passed an NSA-reform bill, something Ed Snowden labelled “historic.” Unfortunately President Obama is looking for a quick way to reinstall mass data collection and spying

-          The EU’s inquiry into electronic mass surveillance says there needs to be more oversight on mass spying efforts, while at the same time Belgium and the Netherlands are investigating whether or not Germany actually helped the NSA spy on Europe

-          Russia has reportedly hacked the German Parliament, while China has said to have hacked the US Government’s records

-          The NSA hacked everyone trying to find evidence of hackers. It also tried to use Stuxnet against North Korea

-          Ed Snowden – stealer of 900,000 documents - is still a wanted criminal in the US, but Presidential nominee Lincoln Chafee says he should be allowed home. Also his name is potentially a good way of influencing trials. He also doesn’t like new privacy laws

-          Tim Berners-Lee wants the UK to make a stand against the proposed “Snooper’s Charter”

-          Glenn Greenwald says Australia is pretty bad for all this mass spying stuff too

-          Tim Cook says other companies undermine your privacy, not his though

Recycling Apple

Recycling is great. Got old crap you don’t want anymore? Recycle it! When it comes to old computers, definitely recycle it; lots of rare & toxic stuff in there. But always, always, check that you’re not actually chucking out something incredibly valuable first. One lucky women has a $100,000 cheque waiting for her after she donated an Apple 1 computer to a Silicon Valley recycling firm. The unknown woman reportedly dropped off a box of electronics last month after cleaning out her garage, unaware what was lying at the bottom. The 1976 device, originally on sale for $666.66, was spotted by recyclers and sold for $200,000 in a private auction, with the mystery woman’s half still waiting to be collected.

Banning your mum

In a blow to political accountability, Twitter announced this week that it is no longer allowing the Sunlight Foundation’s Politwoops site access to its API. A statement from Twitter said that while it supports the mission of the site, which tracked and published tweets politicians had deleted, it violated the developer agreement around expectation of user privacy “expectation of user privacy.”

However there is a new app that circumvents China’s Great Firewall and allowed unrestricted access to Twitter from within the People’s Republic, something which is more important than ever after the Government banned the use of “Your Mum” online.


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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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