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News Roundup: Techy Thanksgivings, Yahoo's 25% and Parliament 2.0

A Techy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers. Although if you’re reading you’re probably a techy type and still working. A study by CareerBuilder found that 23% of IT pros spend the holiday with co- workers, in the office or at another location. Poor buggers. Apparently that’s ok with 2% of workers, the majority wanting to be at home, while a few would rather be somewhere else entirely.

Meanwhile in the UK, we’re concerning ourselves with snowmen and large reindeer-riding gentlemen instead of Turkeys. Apparently parents will spend over £3 billion on tech this Crimbo to keep the little’uns happy. According to the Reg, 85% will spend £243 on electronics, the rest £400, with tablets being top of the xmas list for 24% of kids. Surprisingly though only a quarter of parents think they spent too much on gadgets for kids. Don’t know they’re born, this generation.

With all this tech being given to kids, are parents concerned about online safety? Depends on your background. A study by Northwestern University and Microsoft Research found the answers depends on all sorts of factors, including politics, income and demographics. Conservative parents were more worried about porn, Liberal ones about their kid becoming a cyber-bully, while richer families are generally less concerned about safety than poorer ones. Even race seems to play a part, with white families less worried than Hispanic or Asians.

Microsoft’s Next Moves

So Microsoft’s hunt for a new CEO goes on. According to Bloomberg, however, the list has been narrowed down further. In the likely pile sits Ford’s Alan Mulally and Microsoft’s own Satya Nadella, while bookies favourite Stephen Elop has wound up on the less likely pile. Microsoft obviously has refused to comment.

While this is going on, Windows RT looks likely to be sent to the scrapheap. Speaking at a seminar, one of the company’s execs said, “Windows RT was our first go at creating that more closed, turnkey experience. We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows, we're not going to have three.” Few wept.

Cloud Trials & Big Data Bull

The Cloud has been one of those popular things this year that is still gaining traction. All sorts of reports, from Riverbed to Spiceworks, are seeing increases in Cloud uptake. Seems the UK is struggling to keep up though, after a survey by Data Barracks found that almost half of UK IT professionals think their current competence in cloud implementation and management is either poor or very poor. Doesn’t look like it’s going to improve either – just over half have had no Cloud training this year, and the same amount isn’t going to next year.

And speaking of cool trendy things; watch out for Big Data. According to Quartz, the term has shot up 43% in conference calls in 2013. ‘The Cloud’ is up 2%, while ‘Cloud computing’ is down almost 40%.

NSA

Spying-related headlines still coming thick and fast…

-          Naming and shaming people about their Porn habits is ok. As is 50,000 computers loaded with malware. And spying on hotel reservations. And the G-20 meetings.

-          Bayern Munich will not be employing the NSA to find the mole in their team.

-          The NSA doesn’t like to share with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, wants more power for itself.

-          The White House declined NSA Director’s Alexander's resignation ages ago. Instead, they’re providing $75 million extra to improve internal security and stop Ed Snowden 2.0.

-          The NSA likes its tech jargon.

-          The World Wide Web Foundation is unimpressed, while the EU wants to put all this behind us and start afresh.

-          Ed Snowden still has a Doomsday Cache of info. So this might never end.

-          Estimates put the general cost of all this spying at around $35 Billion in U.S. Technology Sales.

Yahoo!’s 25%

Your email address says a lot about you. That your employees refuse to use the email platform you provide says a lot about the state of the company.  Despite Marissa Mayer trying to get everyone on board with the new, cool Yahoo!, it’s a sad state of affairs when not even the workers are getting on the bandwagon. A leaked internal memo to AllThingsD shows that only 25% of the company’s workers actually use Yahoo! Mail, even after being pushed by the higher ups.  The memo is well worth reading. It features a dig at Outlook, a pitch on how good Y-Mail is, and includes the phrases “the still-have-that-new-acquisition-smell Xobni team.” A little snippet:

“It doesn’t feel like we are asking you to abandon some glorious place of communications Nirvana…Outlook may be familiar, which we can often confuse with productive or well designed…We can admire the application for its survival… a pre-web program written at a time when NT Server terrorized the datacenter landscape with the confidence of a T-Rex born to yuppie dinosaur parents who fully bought into the illusion of their son’s utter uniqueness because the big-mouthed, tiny-armed monster infant could mimic the gestures of The Itsy-Bitsy Pterodactyl.”

Wow.

Google is also having its own teething troubles. The company linked its Youtube comments to Google+, forcing the video site’s user to signin using + to comment in an attempt to reduce spam (and presumably try and stem the tide of abusive twerps) on the site. The actual result? More spam, lots of it. Mostly in the form of ASCII art protests. Tanks and penises are the main protest of choice, but seem to have died down in the last couple of days.

Politics 2.0

Plenty of Government/IT stuff going on this week. In the UK, Commons speaker John Bercow has decided the UK should finally play catch up and get into ‘online voting and e-dialogue between Parliament and constituents.’ Technology firms such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Microsoft will be invited to help.  In a speech, Bercow said he wanted to create a “Parliament version 2.0” and demonstrated in one phrase how behind he is. What he should have said was ‘Parliament.ly’, obviously.

In the EU, public Wi-Fi has been shut down in the European Parliament after the detection of a man-in-the-middle attack that could snoop on communications from mobile devices. According to ITPro, a few passwords were stolen and email accounts were compromised. Hopefully this isn’t what Bercow meant when he said Parliament 2.0 would be “potentially anarchic.”

Over in the US, the government has agreed to pay a $50 million fine after being found to have been pirating software in a big way. The Army had licensed logistics software from Texan firm Apptricity for 500 users, but the actual number of users was closer to 9000. Apptricity sued for over $200 million in lost license fees, after a US Army official mentioned that thousands of devices used the company’s software. Whoops.

Gold Or Bitcoins?

A mental, mental week for Bitcoin. The currency shot up to $1,000 a coin. One Thousand Dollars, each! And it’s still going. There’s still big hacks going on but it doesn’t seem to matter. Today, for a brief moment, Bitcoins were worth more than Gold. BTC’s little sister Litecoin is also enjoying the boom, and hit $48 a coin, up 400% in three days. There are an ever increasing number of mainstream accepters (if going into space with Richard Branson can be called mainstream) and even politicians are getting in on the action to fund their campaigns.

For one poor sod, however, the news will only cause more upset. James Howells, an IT worker based in the UK, has literally thrown away $75 million worth of Bitcoins. An early adopter, he stopped mining in 2009, having accumulated 7,500 coins, which at the time were worth close to nothing. After keeping it in a drawer for three years, he recently threw an old hard drive (not backed up) and forgot all about the cryptographic private key stored within that would allow him to access the coins. Fast forward to last Friday, and Mr. Howells finally realises how much those thousands of coins are worth. And now, somewhere in the Docksway landfill site near Newport, Wales, lies a hard drive with a retirement fund sitting on it. "I'm at the point where it's either laugh about it or cry about it," he said. "Why aren't I out there with a shovel now? I think I'm just resigned to never being able to find it." According to the Guardian, a spokeswoman from Newport council said treasure hunters turning up to the landfill wouldn't be allowed in but it would return the hardware if they found it.

For a brief moment some researchers thought they had cracked the mystery of who Bitcoin’s mysterious creator was. The Israeli computer scientists thought they had found a link between the shadowy Satoshi Nakamoto and Ross William Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts and the creator of the Silk Road online marketplace, dating back to 2009. It caused a stir, the actual owner of the Bitcoin wallet in question to come forward, and the two scientists to revise their paper. 

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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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