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News Roundup: Open Source Tea Parties, Space Malware and Suicidal Robots

Microsoft’s Future Doesn’t Add Up

The hunt for Microsoft’s new CEO is still ongoing, but this week we were painted a picture of what the Richmond company would look like under current shortlist candidate Stephen Elop. According to Bloomberg, Elop would make Office available to a variety of devices and companies, sell the Xbox division and kill off Bing. How likely any of that is to actually happen is known only to the bigshots at the company, but with the effort put into both divisions, I wouldn’t bet on it.

In a nice bit of news that may well cost one marketing guy his job, one advert for the company’s latest Surface tablet had a bit of an addition problem. The advert, featuring an Excel snapshot, shows the total figure in the table as $9000, $500 off the actual figure for anyone with a calculator, or Apple's Numbers app, as AppleInsider gleefully pointed out.

Skills, What Skills?

Some Business & IT stats coming at you now. According to a new study, convergence of things like Mobility, Social, Big Data, Cloud, and the Internet of Things is failing. This is due to a number of things; security (57%), vendor lock-in (51%), integration (45%), and regulatory compliance (42%).

In the UK, Big Data is seen as a good thing, which is fine. The problem? Everyone’s struggling to find skilled workers, and we’re going to need a 243% increase in the number of big data technicians over the next five years to meet demand. So not good news. Ireland is also facing a big skills shortage.

Blackberry Backfires

So the dust has settled on Blackberry’s non-buyout. And what have we learned? The board didn’t want to break up the company, which pretty much sank most of the interest. Very few buyers wanted the company as a whole, and if Blackberry wasn’t selling the best bits as a standalone, the whole exercise seems a bit pointless, no?

Meanwhile, Blackberry’s market share has dropped to just 2% now, continuing the downward trend we’ve been seeing for who knows how long. On the bright side, it seems the company is still the corporate device of choice, but only just and probably not for much longer. How much further can the company sink before something gives?

NSA Going For Broke

Snowden’s leaks are still causing a stir. Latest headlines include…

-          Poor Eddie Snowden is almost broke, but did get 200,000 documents from the NSA.

-          GCHQ used LinkedIn malware, LinkedIn not very happy.

-          Bastion of freedom Theresa May dislikes papers publishing all these stories.

-          John McCain wants NSA people fired, and says ‘you believe that pigs can fly’ if you think Snowden hasn’t given any info to the Russians.

-          Google gets passive aggressive with transparency reports.

-          People at large somehow still ok with all this, cite terrorism.

Lie-Detecting Tattoos

In hardware news, the big thing this week is Google’s latest idea for Tattoos as smartphone microphones. The search giant’s Motorola unit plans to use NFC tattoos on the throat that connect to devices via short-range tech such as Bluetooth, meaning clear comms at all times, or as a nifty lie detector.

Meanwhile some clever people have made wireless charging a step closer to reality. Students from the Duke Pratt School of Engineering designed a device capable of picking up Wi-Fi signals and converting them to usable electrical current. When you think that you’re almost always surrounded by Wi-Fi, this really could mean the end of traditional chargers if they can make it cheap on scale.

Summly You Can’t Be Serious?

So the Wall Street Journal has named its ‘Technology Innovator of 2013’. Who could it be? A daring Smartwatc/Glass creator? A radical disrupting app designer? Me? No, they gave the award to Nick D'Aloisio, teenage creator of text summarization app Summly and overnight millionaire. The gushing piece says he created something that ‘may revolutionize how we read on the go’. Valleywag was a little less kind in its analysis of his win, and while I may just be jealous, surely there are more deserving winners?

Quotes: Tea Parties, Flops, and Unsustainability

Plenty of excellent quotes in the media this week:

-Do we need Oracle in the age of Twitter? Apparently not, according to Oracle’s co-founder. Speaking at Oracle OpenWorld, CEO Larry Ellison explained:

“What we think the data center of the future looks like is really a core of these commodity machines [i.e., commodity Linux servers not powered by Oracle] and a collection of these purpose-built machines [like Oracle's Exadata that serve higher-end requirements].”

As Read/Write explained, “Did you catch that? The CEO of the world's largest software company thinks the core of the data center is someone else's business. That's huge.”

-In other Open Source-based verbatim, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has apologised after he called opponents to X Windows-replacement Mir 'the Open Source Tea Party'. It’s not particularly interesting that he apologised, but what an insult, eh?

-The ever quotable Steve Wozniak has turned his attention this week to Google Glass. The former Apple man said, “I don’t know if [Google Glass] is going to make it and the only reason I say that is because it’s like Bluetooth earphones: everyone wears them for a couple of weeks and then they take them out.”

-In these roundups you’ve seen that Silicon Valley is a conservative haven populated by Startups with silly names and too much money.  And at least one person agrees. “It does seem like there are an unsustainable amount of companies,” said programmer and investor Alex Payne while talking to VentureBeat, and basically said there’s no long term thinking anymore, just cashgrabs and acquisitions. Lewisham Tech City? Sustainable all the way.

Depressed Robots Need Their Own Helpline

There’s plenty of paranoid people, including a couple here at IDG Connect, that are genuinely worried about robots taking over the world. It seems we’re safe however; as robots are more in tune with Marvin the Paranoid Android than the T-1000 after the world’s first robot suicide was recorded in Austria. A little household bot grew tired of its existence and, after cleaning up some spilt cereal, ‘climbed on to a kitchen hotplate where it was destroyed.’ “Somehow it seems to have reactivated itself and made its way along the work surface where it pushed a cooking pot out of the way and basically that was the end of it,” explained fireman Helmut Kniewasser. Poor guy.

Naughty CEOs a Security Risk

All the millions companies spend on security software, all the white papers, best practices and firewalls, and it turns out your boss is your biggest security threat. A new study from ThreatTrack found that 40% of security analysts have removed malware from their bosses devices after visiting infected porno sites. For shame. Phishing, attaching malicious devices and letting others use their company hardware were also big causes, but blue viewing at work stands out for all the wrong reasons. It also seems companies are keeping quiet about all this behaviour, with 57% of breaches not disclosed to anyone.

Space malware sounds cool doesn’t it? Futuristic and dangerous, like something that could cause a HAL-9000-esque malfunction. Sadly the reality isn’t nearly as fun; turns out the International Space Station had been actually infected with a gaming Trojan that steals passwords. It happened back in 2008, but became news after antivirus man Eugene Kaspersky revealed Windows machines used by scientists on the ISS had been infected. “Scientists, from time to time, they are coming to space with USBs which are infected. I'm not kidding,” he said. “I was talking to a Russian space guys and they said from time to time there are virus epidemics in the space station."

Don’t Stop Beliebing

So that Justin Bieber-backed social network we told you about last week has launched. And it’s all about selfies. You take one, and send it to others. TechCrunch wrote an unfathomably long piece about it here, if you care. Let the stampede begin as soon as Mr. B tweets about it to his millions and millions of followers.

404 – Win or Fail?

Internet lingo is taking over the world. A yearly survey of the English language by The Global Language Monitor found ‘404’ is 2013’s top word, followed closely by internet putdown ‘Fail’. ‘Hashtag’, the Pope’s Twitter handle, along with plenty of NSA-based words & phrases (‘Surveillence’, ‘NSA’, ‘Ed Snowden’) all featured, as did ‘Big Data’ and ‘The Cloud’, which should make all the tech marketers happy, so at least that’s not a fail. You know, apart from a quarter of people thinking Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new philosophy in railway management.

Bitcoin Blues & Licenses

Not such a good week for Bitcoin. There have been a spate of thefts, hacks and scams which have cost users millions of dollars’ worth of the currency. Despite this though, things still seem to be going up; currently worth $400 dollars apiece, and new accepting outlets include food delivery networks in Holland, a Subway in the USA, and a (earth material) mining company based in Canada.

Meanwhile the Winklevoss twins believe Bitcoin could have a market cap of $400bn, an amount around 100 times higher than it is currently. Maybe they’re just saying that because they’re such big investors. Over in New York, The New York State Department of Financial Services may be planning to issue ‘BitLicenses’ to bitcoin businesses in order to regulate what goes on better.

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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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