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News Roundup: Apple tech, youthful cybercriminals, and Cyber-Carly

A roundup of the week’s tech news including angry mice, cyber sovereignty, and Bitcoin Unicorns.

Apple’s own

The future could be bleak for Apple’s suppliers. The Cupertino Company is reportedly opening its own Taiwanese labs to develop its own new display technologies. Bloomberg – citing unnamed sources – says that there are “at least 50” engineers working to develop thinner and more energy-efficient screens for iPhones and iPads.

Back in the US, Apple has recently purchased a former Semiconductor Plant in San Jose. According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the site was previously a manufacturing facility for Maxim Integrated Products. While analysts suggest the site is too small for mass-production, it could signal a move into more serious R&D of Apple’s own chipsets.

Tech-funded gentrification

Technology workers already own homes well above the average value of their neighbours, but now Silicon Valley companies are to start actively accelerating gentrification. According to the Guardian, Facebook is now offering its workers “at least $10,000” in order to move closer to its headquarters. In order to qualify for this payment, staff must move to within at least 10 miles of its San Francisco offices. Companies introducing similar schemes include Addepar, Palantir and SalesforceIQ, but they risk pushing non-tech locals out once rent prices start being driven up by affluent arrivals.

Cyber sovereignty

Last week US Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, wanted to talk to Bill Gates about “closing the internet”. This week Chinese President Xi Jinping wants the world to respect one another's “cyber sovereignty”, and each country’s different ideas for governing the internet.

Intel – Not as Green as promised?

Although electronics are now almost completely embedded in almost every part of our day-to-day lives, many people still don’t realise how much of it comes from questionable sources. Last year, Intel promised that all of its products would be conflict-free, but a new report from Al Jazeera suggests the chip company is failing to deliver. Al Jazeera, however, suggests that “evidence of widespread fraud, smuggling and a lack of oversight” mean Intel cannot guarantee their conflict-free claims.

Cyber-Carly

Up until now, John McAfee – who has just launched a new security device - has positioned himself as the cyber-literate candidate of the US Presidential election. But former HP CEO and Republican Carly Fiorina has just outlined some her cyber-policies, including a centralized cyber command, more pro-active cyberwar efforts and greater sharing of information from technology companies.

Brazil vs. WhatsApp

Brazil’s internet took a turn for the worst this week after a judge ordered WhatsApp be shut down for 48 hours for apparently failing to comply with criminal investigations.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – whose company owns Snapchat – wasn’t impressed. “This is a sad day for Brazil. Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open internet. Brazilians have always been among the most passionate in sharing their voice online,” he wrote in a post. “I am stunned that our efforts to protect people's data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.” As is typical in such situations, users flocked to an alternative – in this case encrypted messaging app Telegram – in their millions.

The ban, however, lasted a mere 12 hours before it was overturned in an appeals court and full service was restored. 

New stuff

Microsoft has launched a new Android app that essentially works as a Windows Store. The Microsoft Apps app simply lists all the Microsoft apps available on Android. Meanwhile in China, the Redmond Company will supply the Chinese Government with a special customized version of Windows 10.

Nuance, the language detection startup rumoured to be behind Siri, wants you to control everything with your voice. To that end, the company has released Nuance Mix, a new tool that allows developers to easily introduce voice controls to their apps.

IBM’s partnership with Apple has yielded its 100th dedicated app.

M&A

The 60-day cooling off period over EMC’s merger with Dell – in which the former could shop around looking for better offers – has expired, meaning the deal has been sealed. Meanwhile, Re/Code is reporting via unnamed sources that Dell is looking to offload its outsourcing business Perot Systems for $5 billion in order to help pay for the merger.

Micron Technology has bought the remaining stake of Inotera Memories which it didn’t own, Salesforce has acquired Big Data marketing startup MinHash [and is rumoured to be close to buying SteelBrick], Sophos has purchased SurfRight,  Carbonite has snapped up SeaGate’s EVault business

Alibaba – China’s answer to Amazon – has bought the South China Morning Post. In a move reminiscent of Jeff Bezo’s takeover of the Washington Post, Jack Ma’s company now owns the well-known Hong Kong-based English-language paper.

Cybercriminals are getting younger and younger

The UK government may be keen on getting more children into technology and coding, but it seems cybercrime is already a young man’s game. According to the UK’s National Crime Agency, the average age of cyber criminals in the UK is just 17. In 2014, that figure was 24, but this has dropped dramatically, with nearly 30 people aged 18 and under being charged for cyber-based criminal activities. The NCA has launched a campaign aimed at young teenagers and their parents to discourage the young’uns from a life of cybercrime.

Bitcoin Unicorns and rumours

The Saga of Craig Wright – the latest person cited as being Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto – continues. Wright reportedly attempted to buy $60 million worth of gold and software using Bitcoins in May 2013. The cryptocurrency’s value was hovering around a then-high of $100, nearly six months before it rocketed to over $1000. As well as tax problems, Wright may have lost a large amount of money during the collapse of Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.

Meanwhile, could we see a Bitcoin Unicorn in 2016? According to technology M&A specialists Magister Advisors, we’ll see five! They should of course be called “CryptoCorns”.

Drone registration

The FAA this week introduced some of the new rules in its bid to regulate the use and flight of drones. The new restrictions require all drones to be registered by their pilots, at a cost of $5, by February 19th or face a penalty reaching almost $30,000.

Drone advocacy groups were unhappy about the fee – introduced despite a task force of Google, Amazon and more suggesting otherwise – and led to the FAA releasing a statement in its defence.

AI Cars – Rules and garages

California – currently one of the major hotbeds for testing autonomous cars – has published draft proposals outlining the state’s requirements for self-driving vehicles.  The new rules would require a fully licensed driver being behind the wheel at all times in case of emergency. The news wasn’t well-received by companies with an interest in this new industry. “We’re gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here,” said a Google spokesperson, while Chris Urmson, head of the companies car project wrote: “This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential, while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive. While we’re disappointed by this, we will continue to work with the DMV as they seek feedback in the coming months, in the hope that we can recapture the original spirit of the bill.”

The self-driving car market has a new competitor; one man from his garage. According to Bloomberg, George Hotz – aka the first man to ever jailbreak an iPhone and the Playstation 3 – has created his own autonomous automobile. The 26-year-old has a customized “White 2 16 Acura ILX outfitted with a laser-based radar (lidar) system on the roof and a camera mounted near the rearview mirror” sitting in his garage.

Tesla, seemingly unimpressed with the report, released a statement which read: “We think it is extremely unlikely that a single person or even a small company that lacks extensive engineering validation capability will be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be deployed to production vehicles. It may work as a limited demo on a known stretch of road -- Tesla had such a system two years ago -- but then requires enormous resources to debug over millions of miles of widely differing roads.” Snap.

The reshuffle of Google’s various ventures into different units of Alphabet continues. The driverless car project – currently part of Google[X] - will reportedly be spun out into its own unit in the New Year and adopt a business model that looks an awful lot like Uber but without drivers.

Balloons don’t fly in India

Project Loon – Google/Alphabet’s balloon-based internet-providing service – has come up against resistance in India. Government officials are reportedly apprehensive over the project due to it possibly interfering with mobile operators in the area since they would be using the same spectrum bandwidth. The project has already conducted tests in Shri Lanka and announced partnerships with telcos in Indonesia.

Angry mice

There isn’t much computers don’t know or can’t learn about us these days. And now, new research suggests that anger can be detected simply through the way we move our mouse cursors. A study published in Management Information Systems Quarterly found that negative emotion increases the distance and reduces the speed of mouse cursor movements, and suggests that this can be a new way to determine how user-friendly web pages and online processes are. 

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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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