News Roundup: Drone registration, Russian internet and Helion no more

A roundup of the week’s tech news including AI car trouble, Mxit shuts up shop, and power gloves


Cyber-security maverick and presidential candidate, John McAfee, recently took part in a Twitter Q&A session. McAfee claimed that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump – the two leading candidates of their respective parties – pose the biggest threat to national cyber security.

He also reaffirmed that he’d pardon drug offenders and Ed Snowden, claimed four people have tried to kill him, said smartwatches are dumb and the Internet of Things is dangerously insecure, acknowledged climate change, and said he would like to go back and relive his days as McAfee CEO or would head up Google today if he could.

Jack Dorsey, now back at the helm of Twitter, is sorry. “I come to you today to apologise for our confusion,” he said at Twitter’s annual developer conference. “Somewhere along the line our relationship with developers got complicated, confusing and unpredictable.” He promised that the company was listening and rebooting with regards to the developer community.

Last week HP CEO Meg Whitman was pretty dismissive of the Dell/EMC merger. Michael Dell, however, is (mostly) taking the high ground. “I think HP is a great VMware partner. I don’t have any other comment,” he said this week at Dell World, before adding: “I think she got some of the facts wrong. We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.”

Droning about drones

So the FAA has missed its congress-imposed deadline for integrating drones into the National Airspace, but has announced it intends to create a registry of drone owners. The proposed register would enable pilots of drones to be tracked down more easily after any airspace infringements or safety incidents. Individual identification markings on the vehicles may also be required.

Meanwhile, Alphabet/Google has shown off its latest iteration of its delivery drones. Project Wing drones look like a cross between fixed-wing and rotary model, and apparently will be able to travel five miles in five minutes. The national postal services of Finland (Posti) and Singapore (SingPost) have both conducted their own tests of the concept.


The usual dose of NSA & privacy-related headlines 

-          Australian spies in the ASD accessed the NSA’s data treasure trove more than their British counterparts in GCHQ

-          Lots of tech companies are against the proposed Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa) bill

-          WikiLeaks has released emails from the CIA Director’s personal email account, the CIA isn’t very happy about it

Russian-only web

Through its Great Firewall, China has managed to essentially create its own vision of the web. Cuba, North Korea and Iran have also built up walled gardens of sovereign internet. And, according to the Daily Telegraph, Russia has been working to cut itself off from the rest of the web. The newspaper reports that tests were undertaken to see whether the Runet – the informal name for the Russian internet – could continue to function in isolation from the global internet. The results were apparently a failure due to numerous small service providers continuing to pass data out of the country, although government officials deny any such tests took place.


Red Hat has acquired Automation and DevOps company Ansible, Google has purchased 360 video startup Digisfera, Trend Micro has bought security firm Tipping Point from HP, Western Digital has snapped up SanDisk, Docker has snaffled up Tutum, Thales has splashed out for security firm Vormetric, and ARM now owns Carbon Design Systems. Over in Asia, Alibaba has bought video service Youku Tudou and investment company REX Global Entertainment Holdings has taken a controlling stake in Russian e-ink phonemaker Yota Devices.

It’s turbulent times over at HP. Ahead of the company’s split next month, Meg Whitman’s company has announced that it’s killing off the Helion Public Cloud platform as of January 31st 2016. Meanwhile Amazon and Microsoft were this week announcing healthy profits from their public cloud platforms.

Also shutting shop this week is South African social network Mxit. The mobile messaging service will be donating all of its IP to public benefit organization The Reach Trust.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey might be giving away shares in his company, but Steve Ballmer has been hovering them up at a rapid pace. The former Microsoft CEO revealed that he now owns 4% of the company – equating to around $800 million worth. 

New stuff

Ever wanted a phone that’s also a little robot? Well now you can. Japan’s Sharp has unveiled the RoBoHoN; a robot with a smartphone for a spine. Standing just under 20cm high, the robot-phone walks, talks, recognises your face and takes commands. Practicality not included. 

Watchmaker Fossil has finally revealed its new line of smatwatches. The Android Wear-based Q range look pretty nice – although most second generation smartwatchess look decent – and are at the lower, sub-$300 end of the spectrum.

Remember the Nintendo Power Glove for the NES? It was terrible, but also well ahead of its time. Dutch startup Manus has created a new interactive generation of gloves for the virtual reality era. While lacking some of that retro-futuristic cyber-80s charm, they look pretty nifty. 

Cars – AutoPilot scares and time-travelling DeLoreans

It seems Cadillac aren’t massive fans of autonomous cars. "Autonomous driving and driving passion must co-exist," Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen said at a roundtable event this week. "Many of the autonomous solutions being explored today seem to emphasize the pure utility of individual mobility, essentially reducing the experience — in my opinion — to a mind-numbing journey from A to B ... goodness, you might as well take the bus."

The recent remote hack of a Jeep may have caught the headlines, but under new rules being proposed, such a demonstration would be illegal. The draft bill would means fines of $100,000 for hacking a car “without authorization”, which would make security research potentially difficult.

It’s been just about a week since Tesla released its AutoPilot update and gave the public at large their first taste of self-driving cars. And of course it’s gone wrong and been abused. Videos of it swerving into oncoming traffic and speeding have surface online, while some boy racers managed to self-drive coast-to-coast in a record 57 hours and 48 minutes.

Honda, however, seems unperturbed and announced that it is aiming to sell cars with similer automation by 2020.

Could Sony also be joining the fray? Probably not, but Chief Executive Kaz Hirai said he hopes to “be part of the ecosystem” through its imaging technology. “I love cars — and I’m never going to say never,” Hirai said when asked about the possibility of a Sony-branded automobile. “But it’s something that we’re not looking at right now.”

And finally, in honour of Back to the Future Day, some scientists modified a DeLorean to drive itself, while Google thought it would be funny to “leak” that it’s working on time-travelling cars.


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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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