In 2014 large amount of Tech news was reported, from new devices to hacking and security fails. Lets take a look at what got you reading.
Microsoft has been placed between a rock and a hard place as a US Judge calls for Redmond to hand over its customer’s emails, even though they’re stored on a server in Ireland.
In a world of consistent scrutiny and global media, when you fail; you fail big. Modern technology companies, governments and communities are definitely not immune to a harsh failure here and there. Gaffes, mistakes, slip-ups; you name it – someone’s made an error along the way.
Microsoft has been in the news a lot this week, and now for all the wrong reasons. Did they help the NSA breach your privacy? Would you mind the NSA spying if you were told? Nokia announced their newest Lumia 1020 with 41 megapixels, is this too much and can a smartphone truly replace cameras? As well as Nokia and Microsoft we also discuss the adverse affects of Apple’s latest legal case. Will you buy from iBooks again? Find out all in our Gadget Nibble N.O.W.
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Do you find Google’s little interesting doodle’s an interesting piece of internet culture? Do you think their invaluable to your morning Google ritual? Well if you haven’t dropped by the ‘Big G’s’ homepage today and noted this mornings doodle… Your missing out. Google revealed a doodle to celebrate the Roswell Crash on July 7th 1947. And its one of their best yet.
Google unveiled the interactive addon to their website in line with their celebration of major world events, as custom with Google Doodle’s. The animated game celebrates the 66th anniversary of the Roswell incident in the New Mexican desert. Conspiracy theorists have claimed that for the last 66 years the US military have held alien remains in top security storage following the retrieval of the crashed UFO in 1947. But authorities urged that the activity was merely the recovery of a top secret surveillance air balloon.
During the days after Roswell the theories surrounding the crashed heightened as local press reported a ‘flying disc’ was involved in the incident. In 1995 Ray Santilli, revealed he had footage showing the autopsy of the aliens, who crash landed 30 years earlier. Sparking new interest in the the case; in 1997, in attempts to stop theories, did the military publish a final report and said that the alien bodies witnesses had reported seeing were anthropomorphic test dummies.
Santillli later told the press in 2006 that the footage was in fact a fake mock up of likely events – but this didn’t really hold any water.
Google, not to upset the government or any alien races who maybe browsing the web, have decided to play it funny for the mean while. Their doodle allows the user to control a little alien as he tries to recover parts of its spaceship through, what looks like, the Roswell desert.
It looks like we will never know the truth about Roswell, but at least for the mean time Google can keep the theorists entertained and bring a little joy to those millions of workers morning break.
The US House of Representatives has today passed a controversial bill, the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act – in light of concerns over online security. CISPA is intended to allow US law enforcers to be able to access data off the web quicker and easier – the act comes into place to help authorities prevent and investigate cyber threats.
This is the second time the act had been passed, after it was thrown out by Senators for not ding enough to protect privacy.
The law was passed as federal agencies claim hackers motivated by money and controlled by foreign governments become a greater threat to US security. CISPA is not just a government dreamt idea, it has backing of major tech figures such as CTIA wireless industry group and the TechNet computer industry lobby group, which has Google, Apple and Yahoo as members.
The act would allow the government to access private user web data on suspicion of a threat. But activists have suggested that it is more like an attack on file sharing users than cyber terrorist. Obama administration has again threatened to veto the act if more changes are not made to ensure as little data as possible is handed over to authorities.
The US has tempted fate before with cyber legislation. The likelihood that everyone online will be being watched is nonsense, the US are not going to be enforcing communist like firewalls and permanent blocks. Nevertheless it is a concerning move towards the ‘nanny’ state that feels it must watch our every move. We wait to see the outcome further down the line.
After a week of criticism and media onslaught Apple’s CEO Tim Cook finally made a public apology in the midst of the ongoing scandal between the Chinese consumer and Apples warranty and repair policies. Having finally reached a boiling point – the media has now jumped upon his statement made on the 1st April in attempts to regain trust – yet this might not be enough to calm the storm brewing between the super country and one of the most popular brands on the planet.
Cook apologized for any “misunderstandings” that Apple may have miscommunicated as well as led perception that “Apple’s attitude was arrogant”. State led media began a vicious attack on the company as they claimed they offered the Chinese consumer considerably less warranty coverage than the rest of the world. For the last two weeks Apple has been at gun point with the Chinese press and so far has not had a good run in with their Asian counter parts.
Apple and China – The Wests’ friendship born in heaven?
Apple and China would seem to be the perfect business partners, both secretive and dubious – the pair together produce the majority of the worlds everyday technology. But this relationship has taken time to form and mutual understandings between either party do now exist – for the game to work either member has to play by the rules, and currently those rules could be in a spot of bother. Apple is one of China’s most successful brands and China is one of, if not the, most important consumer markets. Yet in recent months both have been toe to toe in disputing over warranty polices and treatment of Chinese consumers.
Since the late 50’s China has become the industrial work house of the world. Manufacturing moved from the local firms next door and became outsourced to China, this can be attributed to many reasons – the cheaper labour costs in China and material manufacturing processes far outweigh that of the UK or other Western countries. Things can be made cheaper in China and thats a sad fact. Nevertheless it comes down to politics and governments – China’s communist government has pushed manufacturing to become their largest industrial sector. The Chinese government has not pushed manufacturing away, since industrialisation the UK has seen the industrial and agricultural sectors plummet – now only 20% of Britain’s GDP is provided by manufacturing and industry. Compared to the near 50% of China’s economy; the West has taken a turn for Services sectors and now a total 70% of Europe’s total output is related to Service sector jobs. Europe and the West have fallen into a cataclysmic cycle of outsourcing their manufacturing industry. China and Asia offer something that companies can not refuse, cheaper labour costs are just the tip of the iceberg.
As a company today you must always look out for competitive opportunities, manufacturing costs can be a big burden on a organisation. China has the infrastructure required to allow companies to produce their products at a cheap and effective price. Since the “great push” of the late 80’s the Chinese government has been on a one way ride to industrial monopoly. Their government has realised the potential behind the gapping hole that Western companies had tried to fill, and since has taken measures to make the controlling communist society more welcoming to start ups. Many of the factories in the country that produce such products are state owned and therefore state controlled and tasked. China has in the last several years implemented economic reform to ensure they can remain competitive on the world market. Since the late 1980’s China has implemented agricultural decollectivization, the opening of the country to foreign investment and the removal of several barriers and legislation to encourage entrepreneurs. As well as this the country has seen the partial privatisation of factories as well as the lifting of price controls and the regulations regarding work. Coupled with China’s work ethos – this has allowed the company to continue holding its position at the top of the industrial ladder. Following this process the Chinese GDP grew by 70% and the number of foreign investors shot up.
From a business perspective there is no better place than China and the East. In terms of Apple, it can offer a manufacturing process several times cheaper than that of the US and the high level skills that sit amongst the factories are unrivalled. When asked at a dinner with Barack Obama, what it would take to return iPhone production to the US – Mr Jobs replied:
“Those jobs aren’t coming back,”
And that is the sad reality that Western Capitalism has brought us to. The strive for cheaper manufacturing and labour costs has led us down the bumpy road to outsourcing everything we take for granted. Chinese manufacturing now produces equivalent quality as any other market at a fraction of the price. Another major advantage for Apple was that China could provide engineers at a scale the United States could not dream of . Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers would be needed to oversee production. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find the engineers in the United States. For China, it took just 15 days. Apple is known for its sharp product turn arounds and the strain placed upon the workers at factories such as Foxconn has been recorded many times. An work foreman at Apples plants is reported to have woken up over 8,000 employees and graced them with a cup of tea and a biscuit in order to start a 12 hour shift to ensure that Apple, who had at the last moment changed iPhone screen dimensions, received their glass screens on time. A current Apple executive commented:
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Chinas has a work mentality incomparable to most western countries. Their workers are, in some cases, drilled to undertake gruelling shifts. This is obviously a very controversial and ethical issue that needs to be resolved. And Apple have promised the media that conditions at its factories are improving. But this can be said for any electrical company. Famously Jobs demanded a glass screen for the iPhone in the design phases and argued against the scratchy, plastic display.
“I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,”he said furiously.
The only possible solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.” Later Apple would sign a contract with a Chinese firm to begin work on a durable glass display.
Apple has been seen to be abusing its position in China. Apple is said to have offered considerably less warranty and repairs policies to their Chinese consumers, which could be a bad move on Apples part. China is now Apples second biggest consumer market and has come to underestimate on some parts the value of the Chinese public. Apple will be weary about their next move – but even so it may take more than a newspaper article to knock them off their pedestal. The launch of attacks by Chinese propagandists come as Apple moves into a more open and self conscious phase of its history. Apple for a long time, even before it had opened its first store, had been a iconic symbol in China. They had produced a fascination amongst the public. The Chinese government could be seen a slightly jealous at their popularity. Apple may merely be being made an example of, as a peasant in the stocks – China may want to establish an ultimatum as US politicians enforce strict controls upon foreign companies such as Huawei and their imports.
While Tim Cook made an rather unnecessary apology this week, it would have played into the hands of the Chinese government. The apology from the CEO went on to state that: “We are aware that a lack of communications… led to the perception Apple’s attitude was arrogant and that we do not care and attach importance to consumer feedback,”. The apology would now have left Apple open to further attacks and now has gave the view that actually – Apple was in the wrong and portraying prejudice against the Chinese. Yes Apple was required to make a statement, but not an apology.
Tim Cook went on to finish his statement by suggesting that China will soon become a major market and player for Apple, and in some ways has now tempted fate:
“I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will.”
At the end of the day, nobody can speculate about the inner workings of the secretive Chinese Communist party or Apple – only members of the ‘circle of trust’ can say otherwise. But as China’s economy begins to show signs of slowing and Apples stock and shares take a battering – both should be looking for opportunities to grow. Not fight.
Hacking has proven a unpleasant and sometimes expensive experience for both consumers and organisations in the past. Hackers can rack up enormous bills on victims credit cards, penetrate firms firewalls and tamper with online services. But has hacking become more widely spread in recent years or has our perception and media attention of the matter intensified?
Hacking has existed to blight the digital era since the very beginning. Computers as we know them today, interconnected through servers and networks – able to access documents and send and receive files (the internet), have only been present for just over 30 years. But in that time methods have been developed to ruin and corrupt data that companies and consumers keep in the open world of the internet. In the early 60’s however hacking was starting to evolve out of protest counter culture groups. ‘Phreaking’ began to catch on between rebellious groups, the act of tampering with telecommunications systems and telephone networks, established itself abundantly in the protest community. Later hacking became prevalent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hacking was seen as an inspired and creative method of overcoming a problem. Most famously a hack saw a replica of a campus police car put on top of the Institutes Great Dome. Over time these acts would be seen as a prowess of creative and computing genius.
Yet today they have a slightly different image. The word “hacker” has become a synonym of young men sitting in darkly lit rooms terrorizing the internet and all it’s users. They have become infamous in society today and yet even more pronounced in their most recent attacks; as we rely more heavily on the internet and its resources hacking becomes more and more a ‘front page’ news story. With the development of consumer computers and the mass adoption of the internet hacking has now become a taboo of society. Not talked about – but not underestimated. Yet we still have not made any efforts as a society to address the issues hacking may impose, nor does anyone really now know the motives behind most attacks.
Terrorism and the far East were the hot topics of the 90’s and early 21st century. But now as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close and military operations and capabilities of the previous super powers dwindle, threats are being encountered on new fronts. In 2008 alone an estimated $1 trillion of intellectual property were stolen from organisations and firms as well as scientists unveiling that it only takes 10 minutes to crack a 6 lettered lower case password. Hacking is no more a ‘creative’ student joke. Data is stolen, money is laundered, bank accounts emptied and governments hold to ransom. Hacking has become prolific – and if it was a business ‘born and bred’ in the States, it has truly ‘gone global’. The most famous attack in recent years may possibly be the infection of the Sony Playstation Network, where 77 million account details were compromised along with the inevitable suspension of the service. Hacking is now a torment of business and consumer life and the internet is now becoming more and more militarised.
No longer are these attacks carried out by school boys – but multi million dollar organisations and conmen. Anonymous have been in the news recently for the apparent hacks and hijacks of the Federal Reserve and Obama’s Gun Policy campaign. Along with WikiLeaks the internet is now becoming a medium for activists to plan and carry out their latest raids. Governments now fear what documents will next be leaked and the implications that will follow. Security services have taken steps to now monitor and prevent cyber terrorism and Britain’s state of the art centre for cyber security, GCHQ, has now come under attack for ‘Big Brother’ like censorship and wide spread monitoring. However, only recently did an American Oil firm Telvnet track a recent breach of systems back to China. Increasingly the communist state is becoming more involved in cyber attacks and has been accused of also being behind recent hacks on Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. China’s communist and dictatorship state have relinquished all wrong doing and have insisted their ‘Great Wall’ of Chinese internet usage would prevent hacks like so. Nevertheless governments and businesses are now worrying that hacking is becoming more militarised. China and the East have been suspected of Government authorised infiltration and snooping. Officials have denied such acts, yet the West remains teetering on the edge of the seats. I’m not suggesting that war is about to break out between the two countries – more the fact as accusations remain to be made relationships will begin to wear. Innovation and freedom will be the consequences and price to pay for these degrading relationships as well as world wide development.
As a global community we must tackle hacking and the underground society that harbour the criminals behind them. Whilst retaining the freedom of the internet. The web has been a place for community and free speech to thrive and this is the way it should remain. State controlled access would be only counter-productive and lead to a rebirth of hacking and cyber attacks. Without the support from government, recognition from industry and security firms hacking will remain to blight the internet revolution. Terrorism has taken on new forms and no longer will people die on the battlefield, but rather money, stocks and data lost on the trading floor a symbol of the steps warfare has evolved with technology. The internet is a tool of collaboration and human connectivity. It should not be hijacked by those wishing to cause harm and seek damage – yet sadly, without collaboration, I see the problem of hacking persisting much longer.