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News Roundup: Indiana fallout, April Fools and actual innovation

A roundup of the week’s tech news including smart meters, operatic tech and encryption.

Indiana

Fallout from Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act continues. First Cloudera’s Alan Saldich and EMC’s Jeremy Burton announced they were boycotting a conference due to take place in the state, Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman, Apple’s Tim Cook, CA’s Mike Gregoire have written about how they feel on the subject while Twitter, Accenture, Infor CEO Charles Phillips, and Box’s Aaron Levie all Tweeted their dismay.

As a major employer within the state, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff has been very vocal in his opposition to the bill. He said this week he is helping staff based in the state to leave if they want, but admitted his company is too big to completely pull out of the state. The Human Rights Campaign has seen a large number from the tech community – including the CEOs of Lyft, AirBNB, eBay, Evernote, Tumlber, Jawbone, Dropbox, LinkedIn and more  –  sign an open letter calling for protections for the LGBT community.

Georgia abandoned a similar bill before it could be pushed through, however is looks like Arkansas will ratify its own version before long, something Infor’s Charles Phillips is wary of.

April Fools

April Fools’ day has become a ritual for tech companies to (attempt to) poke fun of themselves and show off how kooky they are. My personal favourite was Microsoft releasing MS-DOS for mobile and Sunrise Technology releasing Clippy for mobile. But, as ever, Google put the most effort in across various fronts: There was com.Google, Google Panda [the cuddliest Siri you’ll ever own], another selfie service, a new kind of keyboard and selfbrowsing laptops, dial-up internet, a physical mail inbox and actual Cloud platforms.

They weren’t the only ones of course; every brand on the internet embraced the funnies. CERN discovered The Force, HTC plugged a smartsock, Miz Mooz showed off selfie shoes, Twitter and Motorola created new selfie sticks, Opera embraced touchy-feely web browsers, the RNLI has some new VR tech, LinkedIn added a photo filter, AirBNB encountered a time-travel glitch, iFixit and Tesla both took swipes at Apple’s Watch, TimeHop hit back at Facebook, FunnyorDie mocked Vine, Sony showed off some nautical VR tech, and Samsung created the phone axe.  Ever wanted more options on your avian airmail or hound-based courier delivery? How about a new cryptocoin based on the price of eggs, an invisible phone or a more personal taxi-hiring service?

Reddit has created Lost-like paranoia with a button [one press per user] that resets a 60 second counter. No word on what happens if the counter hits zero, and no one seems keen to find out; over 450,000 pushers and counting so far.

Various media outlets got in act too. IDG Connect was hilarious as always, Pocket-Lint claimed Microsoft had tablets that could read your thoughts through your palm, It's F.O.S.S. riffed on Microsoft’s new pro-Open Source stance, while ITProPortal took swipes at self-driving cars, wearable tech and AI.

Not April Fools

Just because it was April Fools’ this week doesn’t mean companies couldn’t release actual products, it just meant they had more people asking if these ideas are actually genuinely legit.

Amazon’s physical ‘one click buy now’ button definitely sounded fishy but the eCommerce giant has reassured the world that Dash is actually a real thing that allows people to order goods such as toilet rolls or cleaning products at the push of a button.

Google this week followed in the footsteps of Intel, Dell, Keepod et al and started offering a PC on a stick. The Asus-made Chromebit offers a full Chrome OS laptop to anyone wants one but currently only has a monitor.

Facebook continues its attempts to be everything to everyone and replace any service it doesn’t like the look of. This week Mark Zuckerberg’s company introduced two new services: Scrapbook and Riff. The former is – shockingly – a photo scrapbook service so parents can show off even more pictures of their darling children, while the latter is some sort of collaborative Vine alternative. They’re no Meerkat or Periscope though, are they?

Apple and IBM have released another set of apps as part of their iOS enterprise push. The eight new apps focus mainly on healthcare and industrial products, and bring the total up to 22.

HTC looks to be working on some sort of AR/VR device away from its partnership with Valve. HTC CMO Idris Mootee posted pictures on Facebook of a futuristic-looking headset simply captioned, “secret weapon coming soon.” How mysterious.

 

secret weapon coming soon

Posted by Idris Mootee on Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Not So Smart meters

A couple of years ago the NHS abandoned what was branded 'the biggest IT failure ever seen', leading to the government banning IT projects costing more than £100 million. Unfortunately it looked like lessons have not been learned and the government’s rollout of smart meters is heading for similarly troubled waters. A new report from the Institute of Directors (IoD) subtly entitled “Not too clever: will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?” says the multibillion pound scheme should be abandoned or changed significantly before it’s too late. Oh dear.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

-          One person was killed and two more injured after they attacked the NSA offices.

-          Some people within the NSA were contemplating ending the program shortly before the Snowden leaks began.

-          The NSA fallout will cost U.S. tech vendors $47 billion, according to Forrester.

-          The NSA is struggling to recruit people.

-          The White House is deploying smartphones priding themselves on being “NSA-proof.”

-          Huawei pose no security threat to the UK.

-          Congressman John Carter has only just heard about encryption, and is worried. “I don't know anything about this stuff. If they can do that [encryption] to a cell phone why can't they do that to every computer in the country, and nobody can get into it? If that's the case, then that's the solution to the invaders from around the world who are trying to get in here... This is a problem that's gotta be solved.”

The Indian government has made Open Source Software mandatory.

Facebook has come under fire recently for reportedly tracking people without their consent, but the social network has come out fighting and claimed the researchers behind the claims contained “factual inaccuracies".

China’s proposed restrictions on foreign tech firms have been delayed, at least for now. According to Reuters, the Chinese government is delaying the measures “after meetings between US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and senior Chinese officials, including Premier Li Keqiang”. Various tech firms and associations were cautiously pleased by the news, but there’s no telling how things will pan out.

Operatic Tech

I went to the science museum over the weekend and saw Doug Engelbart’s “Mother of All Demos,” where he demonstrates, in 1968 what we basically now know of as desktop computing. It’s pretty cool. But now that demo is being brought back to life as some sort of avant garde musical theatre piece. It’s a bit weird, but might be your thing.

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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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