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News Roundup: Cardboard VR, Guys in Tech and Picco Procrastination

White Tech Guys Rejoice

Good news guys, the hiring of IT staff at non-tech companies is on the rise. Even better news for your job prospects?  Female tech staff are 'in decline' in the UK, a trend that looks set to continue when word association tests show a lot of girls think tech is ‘boring’, ‘hard’ and ‘nerdy.’

Last month we saw how ‘diverse’ Google was, and it wasn’t good. LinkedIn, Yahoo!, and Facebook have all followed suite and revealed the makeup of their own workforces. Can you guess the trends? A lot of white guys. All the companies had a general 60/40 male to female ratio with half the employees labelled as white.

I/O Googlezzzzz…

So Google’s long, long, long I/O conference was this week. It managed to achieve the unenviable accolade of being even more underwhelming than Apple’s WWDC conference. The highlight may have actually been protesters crashing the party shouting about robots that kill people. Quick recap: New features include a new interface, more focus on wearables, and some stuff on cars. Things that weren’t mentioned include Google Glass, Project Tango or Project Ara, Google+ or anything to do with Nest.

There was a nice reward for the brave souls who bared it out though. Not only did they get an Android Wear Smartwatch, they were given some cardboard. It wasn’t just any piece of cardboard though; folded in the right way it turned into a pair of VR specs. Developed just because they felt like it and not as a dig at Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, it’s simple – instructions on how to build your own are online as are pre-built copies - but ingenious.

Despite Google Glass not being mentioned at I/O, the much-maligned device is still hitting the headlines. The device – which may fall foul of data privacy laws - is now on sale in the UK for an eye-watering £1,000 and you get can a quick review from IDG Connect here. Also researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell found they could snoop on your passwords using the Glass’ video option. So the moral there is never trust anybody actually wearing wearable tech.

SuperPAC

I’ve written about tech lobbying before and whether groups like Fwd.us are a good idea. Clearly the tech community do as they’re forming a new one called Mayday. Featuring the likes of Steve Wozniak, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffmann, this Super Political Action Committee (PAC) hopes to raise $12 million by the midterm elections in November in hopes of supporting candidates who are committed to changing how elections are financed. Apparently the group "embrace the irony" over raising loads of money to change how politicians raise money.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA/privacy related headlines…

-          Local Police across the US use their own phone-snooping tech, but now need a warrant to search your phone. 

-          Spying on people through fitness tracking devices might soon be a thing.

-          GCHQ spies on everyone’s social activity on a technicality, and even Tories aren’t happy about it.

-          The NSA collects 'Three Terabits Of Data Per Second' from overseas cables.

-          The NSA likes Gamification and Final Fantasy, but still denies anything about Snowden emailing his concerns to them.

-          Former NSA chief refers to ‘he who will not be named’, press assumes he means Snowden and not Voldemort.

-          UK Home Secretary Theresa May says, "There is no programme of mass surveillance and there is no surveillance state."

-          Both Microsoft and HP say all this NSA stuff is still bad for business, more companies are joining the campaign to end use of warrants to demand overseas data. Although VMWare think it’s actually helping things.

-          Snowden himself calls snooping a waste of time and says 'Public affairs have to be known by the public.'

-          Some scientists have recreated some of the NSA spy-tech using off the shelf parts.

-          The German government ditches its contract with Verizon over all the snooping.

-          While one court grants the NSA some extra time to collect phone data, the US government might be reigning in some of the agency’s capabilities.

-          The US is to extend privacy protection rights to EU citizens, but whether that means they can spy on us like Americans is yet to be seen.

Internet Sovereignty

Recently China banned Windows 8 and are avoiding US tech at all costs, while Russia have called the internet a ‘CIA Project’ and is trying to make local versions of western services. This week the Russian government looks likely to ditch Intel and AMD processors in favour locally-developed ARM ones and China has said it should have ‘Internet Sovereignty’, and each country should have the right to govern the internet as it sees fit. Are we seeing the start of the nationalization of the internet?

The CIA recently picked Amazon Web Service as its Cloud provider, can you imagine the Russian secret service doing the same? It seems like European companies are getting the jump on their US counterparts on providing cyber-security, it might only be a matter of time until global companies come second to local ones all the time.

McDonalds Tech and Government Cash

Looks like McDonalds is looking to become a tech company after opening a digital incubator in San Fran. IoT Happy Meals are expected shortly. In other not-tech tech news, Walmart’s tech center @WalmartLabs has grabbed fashion app and vowel hater Stylr.

In the UK, think tank the Institute for Government has revealed where all the Government’s contract cash goes, and looks like tech does well. HP is the largest single supplier and squeezes more than £1.7 billion out of the government. Other IT companies doing alright include Capgemini, IBM, Fujitsu, Atos IT and CSC.

Plenty of M&A action going in in the last couple of weeks. Oracle leads the way with the purchase of Micro Systems for $5.3 billion and browser software provider LiveLOOK, probably not for quite so much money. SanDisk has bought Fusion-IO for a mighty $1.1 billion, while Cisco has snapped up IoT company, Tail-f. Dropbox has continued its shopping spree with its acquisition of Parastructure, rival Box now own Streem and Twitter has acquired SnappyTV. Recently acquired companies are also getting in on the action, with Oculus acquiring Xbox 360 Controller maker Carbon Design and Nest has taken on Dropcam. Meanwhile Nest’s owner Google has been busy with the purchase of mDialog, Appurify and Alpental.

The rest: Redhat has bought eNovance, Vodafone acquired Cobra [Not the bad guys from G.I. Joe], Opera has taken over AdColony, Monitise acquired Markco Media, Optimizely now own  Synference and in Africa, Internet Solutions has got their hands on ContinuitySA.

Shock: BlackBerry Sees Profit and Has a Good Idea

In a rare case of good news for BlackBerry – they’re making a profit again! Not much mind – a profit of $23 million saw revenue drop nearly 70% on this time last year, and the company only sold $2.6 million, down more than half on the same period in 2013.But still, profit!

As well as teasing a slightly odd-looking new device called the Passport, the company looks to be making some actual clever decisions these days as well. Looking to address the chronic lack of apps, BlackBerry phones will now include Amazon’s app store.

The 21st Century Office – Now with More Procrastination

There’s a reason offices ban social networks at work – they’re a great procrastination tool. But for some reason, procrastination on social networks is ok when they’re business networks because it increases collaboration and stuff. To get in on this, Facebook are reportedly working on FB@Work, according to a ghost who told someone at TechCrunch. If true, it makes a lot of sense; who better to build an Enterprise Social Network than the biggest social network in the world right?

But if gassing on social networks just isn’t sucking up enough of your time, Microsoft may have the answer: Picco. A 0.5-inch screen that sits on your desktop, Picco allows you to send a sketch or short animation – a “Picclet” - and then send it to a Picco device owned by someone on their buddy list. “Picco was designed to support playful messaging in the workplace through a glanceable desktop device that would place minimal demands on users,” says the Microsoft paper. No guesses for how this can be abused in the workplace.

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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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