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News Roundup: Satoshi go again, Trump in space, and Baidu cars

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Microdosing LSD, lie-detection software and Mozilla blues.

Satoshi: Here we go again

The last time a publication claimed to have found Satoshi Nakamoto – the elusive founder of Bitcoin - a 64-year-old man from Japan living in California “with a penchant for collecting model trains” was chased down the street by the media, despite knowing nothing about cryptocurrencies.

This week both Wired and Gizmodo independently claimed they had found the “true” Satoshi; a 44-year-old Australian cryptologist named Craig Steven Wright. No car chases ensued this time, but his house was raided by police shortly after due to unrelated tax reasons. Is it for definite? Of course not. As Wired puts it: “Either Wright invented bitcoin, or he’s a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did.”

Why do they think this Wright character is Satoshi? He has some expertise in cryptocurrency, and there are some legal documents, correspondence and blogs that hint he has access to Satoshi’s known email address. He’s also come out and said it’s him.

Why are people throwing doubt on the idea? The formerly secretive Satoshi is suddenly admitting who he is, the tax raid is very odd timing (as is two unrelated investigations coming to fruit at the same time), people who know Wright doubt it’s true, people who have previously had contact with Satoshi are doubtful, various journalists were contacted about this story back in October, and some of the evidence may have been faked. Also someone claiming to be Satoshi on a Bitcoin mailing list says it’s not him (again a potential fake). Since the story broke Wright has seemingly gone to ground.

Why does it matter? With Bitcoin moving ever-closer to the mainstream, it could do with a figurehead to lead the community and drive through any changes to the technology, and Satoshi’s messiah-like status could allow these changes to happen unopposed. Also, the cryptocurrency’s creator has a stash of some 1 million Bitcoins, valued at approximately $400 million today. That’s a lot of Bitcoin, and given how volatile the price has been this year, that stash has the power to create no end of uncertainty and fluctuation on the market.

So what do we know for sure? Nothing. Except it’s been a fun week and the price of Bitcoin has shot up.

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Mozilla in turbulent times

Fresh from recently announcing it wants to offload its Thunderbird email and chat client, Mozilla is ceasing development and sales for Firefox mobile OS. But it’s no surprise really: Jolla, makers of SailfishOS – another open source offering birthed from Nokia’s MeeGO is undergoing serious problems, while Tizen, BlackBerry and Windows are all struggling to break the Android/iOS duopoly.

The Mozilla foundation did however launch a new product this week; Focus by Firefox, a content blocker for iOS devices.

Trump

You’ve probably read some of the crazy stuff US Presidential candidate Donald Trump has said this week. Aside from prosing a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US, he also said, “We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what's happening….We have to talk to them [about], maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some way.” He then followed that up with some Tweets directed at Amazon's Jeff Bezos, suggesting his ownership of the Washington Post is a tax dodge. Bezos’ reply involved a ride in a Blue Origin rocket.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also voice his support. “If you're a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you,” he wrote in a FB post.

M&A

Are we in a tech bubble? The State of Startups report from First Round Capital asked 500 startup founders, and over 70% said yes.

NXP now owns Freescale, IBM has acquired Clearleap, Wipro has purchased Cellent, Sony has taken over Toshiba’s image sensor business, Logicalis has splashed out for Thomas Duryea Consulting, and Motorola has coughed up for walkie-talkie company Airwave.

Toshiba, Fujitsu and Vaio are possibly in talks about merging their PC divisions. After Atlassian’s success, Blue Coat may be the next tech firm to float.

The board at Yahoo! has decided not to sell off its $30 billion stake in Alibaba and is now considering selling off the core business. Potential buyers could be Verizon, AT&T, or any number of publishers. Analysts put the potential price tag at between $4-8 billion.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA & privacy-related headlines

-          Kazakhstan is introducing government-mandated backdoors.

-          France will not ban or block Tor or public Wi-Fi.

-          The head of the FBI doesn’t appreciate companies that offer end-to-end encryption in their business model.

-          Former GCHQ director Sir David Omand thinks “digital mass surveillance is a thoroughly bad idea” and it’s not going on at all.

-          The US government spends over $50 billion on “black budget” projects.

-          Wi-Fi connected toys could be spied on by GCHQ under the Snooper’s Charter.

-          Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt would like to introduce a kind of spell-check for hateful language.

Dropbox has released its latest transparency report. The company received 423 requests for user information from governments around the globe, and less than 250 from the US government during the first half of 2015, nearly double the amount from the previous six months.

Alpha-Google continues rebrand

The reshuffle of Google into Alphabet continues. Google Life Sciences – the bit that works on curing diabetes and making everyone live forever – is now known as Verily, and also spun out a new surgical solutions company named Verb Surgical. Google Ventures has simply been rebranded to GV

Mind-controlled cars

Baidu – aka “China’s Google” – has shown off its entry into the self-driving car market. The company has built two sleek red and white prototype BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo autonomous cars that, like their Google-branded counterparts, use Lidar to “see” their surroundings. The cars have been driven around Beijing and reportedly reached 100 km/h during testing – a bit nippier than the 20pmh Google’s pods are restricted to. Any hopes of Google entering the Chinese car market are now surely looking dashed. 

Elsewhere in China, some researchers are working on a car that be controlled using nothing but mind control. Researchers at Nankai University in Tianjin say the car can be driven forward, backward, stopped — as well as locked and unlocked — using 16 sensors wired up to the driver measuring electric signals from the driver’s brain.

Bad edits and lie detectors

Wikipedia has long had to contend with bad editors; liars, trolls, and people with self-interests. Couple that with an ever-declining numbers of volunteers and you’ve got a problem. To combat the issue Wikimedia Foundation has created the Objective Revision Evaluation Service (ORES); an AI algorithm that is able to review and rate people’s edits and spot mistakes.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Michigan are building machine learning software that can tell if you’re lying just from watching and listening to you. Based on video from real court cases, tests showed this software was “up to 75% accurate in identifying who was being deceptive (as defined by trial outcomes), compared with humans’ scores of just above 5%.” Common traits of liars? Moving hands, scowling, and more vocal fills such as “umm”.

Good friends, bad punctuation

Want your digital friends to like you? Ignore the rules of punctuation! According to a new study, text messages that end with a period are perceived to be less sincere. ”Texting is lacking many of the social cues used in actual face-to-face conversations. When speaking, people easily convey social and emotional information with eye gaze, facial expressions, tone of voice, pauses, and so on,” said Celia Klin, Associate Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean at Binghamton University’s Harpur College in a statement. ”People obviously can’t use these mechanisms when they are texting. Thus, it makes sense that texters rely on what they have available to them -- emoticons, deliberate misspellings that mimic speech sounds and, according to our data, punctuation.” A small follow-up study suggest exclamation marks make you sound more sincere. So less “.” and more “!” please.

#Instagrambabies

Lux, Juno, Reyes, Ludwig, Amaro, Valencia, Willow. Apparently people are naming their kids after Instagram filters. It just makes you sad, doesn’t it?

Microdosing LSD

Silicon Valley professionals are micro-dosing LSD at work to gain “superhuman” creativity. Is it a great headline? Yes. Is it true? Probably for a few. If you’re an IT bod dosed up to the eyeballs on mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment yet still a productive member of society, let us know!

#GearBoggles

We all like a good hashtag trend. Props to Ars Technica for inventing #GearBoggles – putting on your phone-powered VR headset without the phone in, thus resulting in some Minion-like eyes. Oh the hijinks.

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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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