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News Roundup: NoMcAfee16, conflict-free Congo, and social media dictators

A roundup of the week’s tech news including self-honking cars, Atari IoT, and Boston Toyota. 

NoMcAfee16

The Libertarian Party held its convention to appoint a Presidential candidate over the weekend, and cyber-security maverick John McAfee didn’t make the cut. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson won the nomination for the second election in a row. McAfee took the news rather badly, tweeting; “There is no difference between the LP and the Dems and Republicans. Only the words differ. Not the actions.” Before lambasting the LP party for being “99.7% white and 80% men.”

Tweets suggest he won’t be leaving the party and has ended his endeavour to be President, but who knows with McAfee. For now, he seems to be focused on his new company. “As Chief Executive of MGT,” he said in a statement, “I will lead a team to aggressively develop technology platforms, software, hardware and components designed to protect people and their freedoms.”

M&A

IBM has acquired EZSource, Salesforce has bought Demandware, ServiceNow now owns Brightpoint, a private equity investment firm has snapped up Qlik, and VR startup Occipital has got its hands on Replica Labs.

Toshiba is reportedly close to buying two of Alpha-Google’s robotics firms. Reports have been suggesting Alphabet has wanted to offload Boston Dynamics for months, and now Nikkei is reporting the Japanese car manufacturer’s R&D division is close to acquiring both BD and Schaft, another robotic startup part of the Alphabet empire.

Getting closer to conflict-free minerals in Congo

The number of officially certified conflict-free mines in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has increased by a third over the last year, according to new figures. The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and Congo's Mining Ministry report that 204 mines are now certifiably now free of armed groups, military, and child labour. That figure was 141 in 2015.

Asus and Atari

Asus had a few fun toys to show off at this week’s Computex trade show in Taipei. The Taiwanese giant revealed its own take on Amazon Alex, entitled Zenbo. The 2 foot tall, $600 robot has wheels to move itself about, and has a screen-based face to show video calls or movies. Asus is aiming Zenbo as an assistant for the elderly or a helper for children. 

Asus also showed off its own take on the modular PC. The Avalon concept isn’t quite as funky or tidy as Razer’s Project Christine or Acer’s Revo build, but also doesn’t rely as heavily on cooperation from external companies.

Atari is making a comeback, seemingly as some sort of Internet of Things business. The former gaming giant is partnering with Sigfox “to develop a line of new connected devices based on Atari's iconic brand.” According to the press release, these will include home, pets, lifestyle and safety-based devices.

NSA

-          GCHQ “routinely” accesses MP’s private emails, according to Computer Weekly

-          Iran wants messaging apps to store its data locally

-          The former US Attorney General who wanted to imprison Ed Snowden now says what he did was a public service

Mark Zuckerberg: Dictator?

The wealth and power of the world’s technology moguls is probably greater now than it ever has been. Yet many feel the control these few men (and even fewer women) have is completely unaccountable. “Facebook is the biggest nation in the world,” Pirate Bay founder Pete Sunde said this week. “If you look at it from a democracy standpoint, Mark Zuckerberg is a dictator. I did not elect him. He sets the rules.” Facebook has refused to comment on Sunde’s statement. But in a way he’s right; these companies have millions of members all over the world, and essentially follow their own rules.

Self-honking

What is driving without the ability to honk your horn angrily at the mildest indiscretion? Google thought so too, and has taught its self-driving cars to self-honk at other drivers.

“The human act of honking may be (performance) art, but our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone,” the company wrote in its latest monthly report. “Our self-driving software is designed to recognize when honking may help alert other drivers to our presence — for example, when a driver begins swerving into our lane or backing out of a blind driveway.”

The cars have different types of honk depending on the occasion. Two short honks to let the driver know there’s a car behind it, while a more urgent emergency triggers “one loud sustained honk.”

T&Cs

We’ve previously looked at the obscenely long terms and conditions that accompany today’s websites and apps; the legal guff for Apple’s iTunes is longer than Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The Consumer Council of Norway has also taken umbrage with the issue and had people spend more than 30 hours reading out the terms conditions live on its website.

“The current state of terms and conditions for digital services is bordering on the absurd,” said Finn Myrstad from the Norwegian Consumer Council. “Their scope, length and complexity mean it is virtually impossible to make good and informed decisions.”

The T&Cs for 33 apps (the amount the average Norwegian has) were read out, including those of Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Angry Birds.

Who needs friends when you have phones like these?

Sad stat of the week: over a third of people rate their smartphones as or more important than friends or family. A third.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect. Writes about all manner of tech from driverless cars, AI, and Green IT to Cloudy stuff, security, and IoT. Dislikes autoplay ads/videos and garbage written about 'milliennials'.  

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