News Roundup: Al Gore On Silicon Valley, Google Sloths and North Korean Gold

North Korean Gold

Apparently one ton of circuit boards has anywhere from 40 to 800 times the amount of gold in it than one ton of mined gold ore. So why are companies still bothering with conflict metals when there’s 50 million-odd tons of e-waste generated a year?

That’s just one question raised following filings on conflict minerals by US companies this week as they comply with the Dodd-Frank Act. Another is, “Why is there North Korean Gold in tech companies’ supply chains?” A lot of companies admitted they didn’t have a clue where their precious metals came from, and quite a few NGOs weren’t happy.

54-Year Lag

They say good things come to those who wait. Does that include waiting 54 years for software? Xanadu, the world's most delayed software has finally been released after work started back in 1960. Started by Ted Nelson, the man who coined the term "hypertext", admitted that the project ‘screwed up in the 1980s.’ “[We] missed our chance to be worldwide hypertext (the web got that niche). However, we can still compete with PDF, which simulates paper, by showing text connections."[KH1]  It was already the world’s most delayed software when Wired wrote a feature on it back in 1995, think how different the opening ceremony of the Olympics could have been if they finished it before Tim Berners-Lee beat them to the punch.[KH2] 


The usual dose of NSA/privacy related headlines…

-          Eric Cantor’s surprise election loss to relative unknown David Brat may be bad news for the NSA, as Brat is anti-mass surveillance.

-          The NSA say their systems are so complex they can’t stop them deleting data required in a court case.

-          Ed Snowden decided he wanted to be in Vanity Fair, says the NSA is lying about him raising his concerns, governments know he’s not a spy and a political moderate.

-          Russia apparently have had their eye on Snowden for a while.

-          Mathematicians don’t like the NSA.

-          IBM’s Lance Crosby says you shouldn’t worry about the NSA, and be paranoid about everybody snooping on your data.

-          Former Vice-President Al Gore says what Snowden did was “an important service."


Verbatim: Stalker Economies, Coding For Everyone and Dead OSs

It wasn’t just Ed Snowden who Mr. Gore shared his thoughts on this[KH3]  week. Talking at the Pando’s Southland conference, he touched upon Silicon Valley’s “stalker economy” and why tech philanthropy may do more harm than good. If you’ve got a spare hour watch it below:

Elsewhere Linux creator Linus Torvalds, a man willing to insult your dead hamster, thinks Coding isn’t for everyone. In a Q&A with Business Insider, he said, I do not believe in the "everybody should learn to code" thing. Nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It's not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math." He did say however that it should be more accessible. “I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility.”

Meanwhile Tizen, Samsung’s long awaited alternative to Android, hasn’t gone down well with some analysts.  "As far as a viable alternative to Android, Tizen is dead in the water," said Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst for Generator Research. The Tizen association replied saying it’s just like Android when it started, so it’ll be fine.

Also Stephen Fry doesn’t get how IP addresses work.


Another week, another warning of a Tech Bubble, this time coming from ‘the face of the Australian dotcom boom’ Ted Pretty.

The biggest acquisition news this week however comes from China, where Alibaba bought out UCWeb in what’s being called China's biggest ever internet merger. Back in the US, Google keep flashing the cash after their $500 million takeover of Skybox, while Apple have got their hands on Spotsetter and are no doubt annoyed that Synaptics now own the only maker of iPhone display chips, Renesas SP Drivers. Elsewhere, Dropbox continued their mini-spree by acquiring MobileSpan, Pegasystems bought Firefly, Accenture have snapped up PureApps, Nokia’s map service Here has taken over Medio Systems, and Blippar have bought  augmented reality startup Layar.

A rumoured acquisition in the future is again Google, this time eying up Streaming Service Songza.

Skills & Hackers Passwords

Skills shortages and iffy tech education are well documented. But according to O2, the ‘analogue ambition’ of parents is to blame. A poll of 2,000 parents showed that over a third would rather their “kids pursue ‘traditional’ career routes rather than so called modern ‘digital’ careers”, while 10% would ‘actively discourage’ their nerdy children. Which, when you think about it, is really bad. 

Also it turns out hackers don’t do things much differently from the people who use 123456 as a password. A researcher at antivirus provider Avast looked into how strong the average hacker password was, and found that most are fairly short [six characters] and rarely bother with that capital letters and numbers business. Nice to know even hackers are chilled about their internet security.

Of Sloths and Jamie Oliver

Another big leap forward for Google Glass this week. The first picture of a Sloth taken with Glass is now on the internet. And everyone knows, once Sloths endorse something, it catches on like wildfire.

A less popular, but slightly more active endorser of Google Glass is celebrity chef Jamie Olvier. He recently uploaded himself cooking using Glass and mirror instead of his usual film crew. Aside from the slightly sub-par video quality, it doesn’t half look like Mr. O will end up doing his back in from stooping to get close-ups of his asparagus.


Last week 50 Cent gave the world the option to buy his new album in Bitcoin. This week, Atlanta-based Metal band Mastodon have done the same for pre-orders of their new album, Once More Round The Sun. Widely regarded as one of the best metal bands of the last decade or so, you should really check out their magnum opus, the Moby Dick-inspired Leviathan. Here’s the LARP-loving video for their newest single. Rock on.


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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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