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News Roundups: Microsoft's New Man, Spy Porn, and Code as a Foreign Language

Microsoft’s New Man

So the wait is over and Satya Nadella has officially been named as Steve Ballmer’s replacement as Microsoft CEO. Bill Gates is also stepping down but will still be working closely with the company in an advisory role. Unsurprisingly there’s been lots written about this, but very little interesting (Nadella’s Tweeting habits, anyone?), and mostly just speculating over what he will or won’t do. Will he get rid of Bing/Xbox? Will he save the company? Will he Tweet more? Who knows.

Spy Porn

More Spy Headlines….

-          Companies reveal how much the government asks for data from them. It’s lots. Obviously.

-          GCHQ attacked Anonymous, because that’s a clever idea.

-          One company boasts it could have stopped Snowden, while a former NSA man has a company trying to make email secure.

-          ‘Porn Spy’ is now an insult politicians can throw at people.

-          Germany is being sued by hackers over helping with all the spying.

-          Someone’s developed malware that can track swipes on touchscreen, the NSA will no doubt be wanting to get on that ASAP.

-          The only people to have actually learned something are government contractors, who are trying to prevent another leak.

-          4,000 groups have signed up for an online protest on Tuesday.

-          Oracle have pulled product placement from a spy film because it’s a bit too close to the bone at the minute.

-          All this for ‘maybe one’ criminal stopped. One, in the singular, maybe.

Government Password? “Password”

We’ve all read about how poor your average password is, but it seems even when it comes to protecting sensitive stuff, government workers still don’t try. Not only that, but systems are completely outdated and extremely vulnerable. Mashable reported that things are so bad employees at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), have so little trust in the IT department that they are buying and deploying their own computers. In the UK it doesn’t seem much better; GCHQ is reportedly telling agencies it should block any gov staff running XP at home from accessing their systems remotely.

On a slightly less scary note, Estonia, a tech utopia for some, is releasing the source code for its e-Voting system. Why more countries haven’t jumped on this I have no idea – voter turnout would soar if we could all do it from a desktop, or even on the go. Also opening up its data is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, aka DARPA, the crazy agency that work on the kind of stuff James Bond wants. This week its Mission Impossible-inspired self-destructing microchips.

Acquisition News

A rather quiet week in terms of acquisitions, especially in comparison to January’s manic spree. Amazon bought a game maker, which probably means they’re going to start making games, LinkedIn bought job search Startup Bright, which means they’re probably doubling down on job hunting on the site, and Aeroflex have bought Shenick Network Systems.

War Apps & Other Stuff

What apps do the military use? It’s a question I’ve never asked myself, but is still interesting none the less. The US DoD has just started rolling out its in-house app store for unclassified mobile devices that connect with military networks. Apps you can get there include Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, Adobe Reader, and Slate. Word processing apps coming soon. How dull. Where’s the Kabee for Tanks or Merlin Helicopters?

In other software news, the Linux Foundation has just released its latest report on the state of the Linux kernel. Although anyone can work on it, over 80% of contributors come from a big company, mostly Red Hat or Intel. It’s also swelled to a chunky 17 million+ lines of code, the fat git.

We all know people who take their phones into the toilet. They are dirty people to be avoided at all costs. But for some reason Intel thought they’d encourage the opposite, and have instead installed NFC chips and QR codes into bathrooms so staff can report maintenance problems. They’re a big company; why not just hire a couple more janitors?

And in some hardware news, a Romanian Startup has decided Photoshop shortcuts were too difficult to remember. So to fix this they’ve created the Shortcut-S, a 319-key Photoshop-centric peripheral for all your photo-editing needs.300 keys, that’s manic!

It’s All Greek To Me

For those not trained in the art, reading programming Code can be a real ordeal. So one senator in the US is trying to get it classified as a foreign language. It’s not actually that barmy, it would just mean High School Students can take, for example, HTML instead of French or any other language.

The ever quote-worthy Steve Wozniak this week told Wired that Apple should get into the Android phone market. “There’s nothing that would keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market,” he said of a possible iAndroid product. “People like the precious looks of stylings and manufacturing that we do in our product compared to the other Android offerings. We could play in two arenas at the same time.”

President Obama has thrown his weight behind the FCC and keeping Net Neutrality in place, mostly because he wouldn’t be president without it. "It's something that I've cared deeply about ever since I ran for office, in part because my own campaign was empowered by a free and open Internet and the ability for citizens all across the country to engage and create and find new ways and new tools to mobilize themselves," Obama said. "A lot of that couldn't have been done if there were a lot of commercial barriers and roadblocks and so I've been a strong supporter of net neutrality."

North Korea Prefers Mac

I wrote about North Korea’s RedStar OS last year. But alas, all things must change, and the DRPK has decided to ditch the Windows look for V3 and switch to Mac. An American computer scientist lecturing at Pyongyang University has leaked pictures of the latest edition, and it’s all very OS X-esque. Perhaps they didn’t like the Metro look?

Meanwhile in other countries lacking a love of Democracy, the Turkish parliament has passed a bill full of internet unfriendly rules, including freedom to block sites and keep data on web users' activities. Meanwhile much of Somalia is offline after a decree from Al Shabaab.

Bitcoin Payroll

It’s been another up and down week for Digital Currencies. Apple has removed all Bitcoin wallets from its App store, but on the whole there’s more good news than bad. You can now buy Medical marijuana with BitCoins (who needs Silk Road?) and Iceland is getting its own National altcoin. If you fancy being paid digitally, there’s now a Bitcoin Payroll API, while another company has created realtime BTC pricetags. Currently being used by trendy tech fashionistas, in East London, obviously.

80’s Instagram

In the 80s people had the technology to make instant photographs. Today we have the technology to make instant Gifs of cats. Progress? Either way, someone’s come up with a classy video of what Instagram would have looked like in the 80s. Well worth a watch if you’re into retro chic.  

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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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