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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 6th Feb 2017

Donald Trump (R) meets technology leaders. File photoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionDonald Trump (R) met technology leaders when he was president-elect

California is a bubble. A rich, liberal, free-loving bubble.

It also just so happens to be the sixth largest economy in the world and home to the most influential, profitable and powerful companies on earth.

If the bubble bursts, or even just contracts a little, the whole country suffers - including President Donald Trump and his supporters. California is a so-called “donor” state, meaning it simply pays more into the US Treasury than it gets out.

So when President Trump talks about making deals, he’ll know full well that in California he faces formidable bargaining chips he can’t ignore. He may even be on the back foot.

And that may be one of the reasons why we saw a peculiar thing happen on Friday.

Uber boss Travis Kalanick decided not to turn up to President Trump’s economic advisory panel, and the president said... nothing.

He didn’t call the company “failing” or “once great” or “weak” or any of those words he’s typically thrown around when he feels personally slighted.

In fact, aside from a few pre-election skirmishes with Apple, President Trump has been relatively ambivalent towards tech firms, and there’s a very good theory as to why - he really needs them.

Uber chief executive Travis KalanickImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionTravis Kalanick put Uber's reputation ahead of the value the company might get from a meeting with the president

And they need him too, of course.

Under President Trump, Silicon Valley is holding out for a lower corporate tax rate -  which could bring billions back into the US, a win-win for both sides.

But there’s a snag in this arrangement. For the most part, the workers at these companies are outraged, seething at the prospect of their bosses even sitting at the same table as the new president.

That’s why we saw 2,000 Google employees across the world leave their desks on Monday to demonstrate against the immigration ban.

It’s why Amazon’s own employees are calling on the company to stop advertising on right-wing news website Breitbart.

It’s why Uber’s staff wrote a lengthy “Letter to Travis”, informing their boss about how unpopular his involvement with President Trump was among the ranks. It worked.

“Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that,” Mr Kalanick told staff in a memo announcing he was stepping down.

The tone was understanding, but a little frustrated. Would it not be better to at least have a seat at the table? Uber’s staff didn’t see it that way.

Mr Kalanick bemoaned what he called a “perception-reality gap”.

Although he said he didn’t support President Trump’s immigration policy, people thought he did. And that’s what mattered most.

He put Uber’s reputation ahead of the value Uber might get from a meeting with the president.

He may have been extra-sensitive after a long week.

Last Saturday, a misjudged tweet caused a reported 200,000 Uber users to delete their accounts - so many, in fact, the company had to create a special tool to automate the process.

Uber’s explanation that it was all a big misunderstanding has merit, but the furore, justified or not, underlined the fine line tech companies tread with their users.

The firms have until now acted in ways that were “good for business”, but now they are being forced to consider what is simply “good”.

One minute you can be helping the people of San Francisco get around, the next those same people are protesting outside your headquarters.

Twitter pressure

Another company tip-toeing along is Twitter, buoyed by its role as the mouthpiece for the most important man in the world, but cowed by what that man chooses to share.

It has faced calls to ban President Trump from the site on account of some feeling he has breached the network’s rules on hate speech and harassment.

It of course hasn’t done that - and to be fair, the demand didn’t gain significant traction, even amongst Trump’s opponents.

But Twitter’s employees, nervous about their role as President Trump’s megaphone, contributed a combined $1m (£800,775) to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU has been the benefactor of choice for companies that have one eye on public perception.

Many are dealing with what can be plainly described as the “Peter Thiel problem”. Mr Thiel, an investor with an arguably unrivalled track record, has his fingers in almost every significant pie around here.

And, uncomfortably for many, he also has the ear of the president, of whom he is an outspoken supporter.

When Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg chose not to make a public statement on the Women’s March two weeks ago, people jumped to various conclusions, most of which inevitably led to the hand of Mr Thiel - who sits on Facebook’s board.

This comes despite any evidence Mr Thiel is calling any kind of shots on Facebook’s political position.

Support for President Trump in California is harder to come by than in other parts of the USImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionSupport for President Trump in California is harder to come by than in other parts of the US

Meanwhile, well-regarded start-up accelerator Y Combinator is also feeling pressure thanks to its links with Mr Thiel.

The company’s president Sam Altman said he wouldn’t sever ties with the investor. The programme has said it will take on the ACLU as one of its cohorts, offering mentorship on digital projects.

It seems for now the rank-and-file of Silicon Valley see advising President Trump as indistinguishable from supporting him.

Technology companies are perhaps paying for years of hyperbolic statements about changing the world, in a place where a minor software update gets people “super excited”.

One thing that has struck me about staff at these huge companies is the infectious, passionate loyalty. It exists because those employees believe the company stands for the same issues they do. Any wavering creates shockwaves.

The atmosphere may get less toxic as the presidency continues, but it leaves bosses extremely hesitant to get around President Trump’s table.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 6th Feb 2017

But UK may not benefit for long

Roaming charges will be gone by the summer

Roaming charges will be gone by the summer

Roaming charges across the European Union (EU) are on course to be abolished by 15 June, after EU negotiators agreed wholesale pricing for operators, the last piece of the puzzleaccording to EU chiefs

However, the benefits may not apply to UK citizens for long as once the nation leaves the European Union there is no guarantee the same rates will apply.

The deal struck sets out the costs operators can charge one another when customers use their networks when abroad, with voice calls set at 3.2 cents a minute. SMS messages will cost one cent, while mobile data is being tiered over the next six years as follows:

 

  • €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017)
  • €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018)
  • €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019)
  • €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020)
  • €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021)
  • €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022)

Andrus Ansip, vice president for the Digital Single Market, said the agreement should mean the final piece of the puzzle was solved and that all Europeans would be able to enjoy free mobile phone services across the continent from the summer.

"We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets."

The proposals must now be approved by the European Parliament and the Council before they become law.

While the UK remains part of the EU consumers will benefit from the reduced rates. However, once Britain formally leaves the EU as per the Brexit vote, consumers can no longer expect to be covered by the deal.

As such, they face the return of hefty bills when using their phones abroad, unless separate deals can be agreed between the UK government and the European Union.

Given how long it took for the EU to reach this stage among its member states, it seems unlikely this will be quick, particularly as any deal strike between the UK and EU would also have to be extended to other World Trade Organisations nations, something mobile operators in EU nations would lobby hard against given the huge costs it could incur.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 6th Feb 2017

Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering recognises 40 years of innovation

Four men responsible for the development of imaging technology that has enabled cameras to be fitted to smartphones, tablets, drones and all manner of other devices have won the £1m 2017 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

The award winners, announced today at an event in London attended by V3, are Professor Eric Fossum (above, right), Professor Nobukazu Teranishi (above, centre), Dr Michael Tompsett (above, left) and Dr George Smith (not pictured).

Each has played a critical role in the development of imaging sensor technology over the last 40 years, with each building on the work of their predecessors.

This work started in the 1970s when Dr Tompsett and Dr George Smith developed charge coupled device (CCD) technology that converts light particles into electrical signals. This charge is then converted into a binary digital form by an analogue to digital converter and the image stored as digital data.

This then led to innovations by Professor Teranishi in the 1980s on pinned photodiodes (PPD).  This reduced the size of pixels that can be stored, helping drastically improve image quality.

Finally, Professor Fossum created complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology, that enabled cameras to be made smaller, cheaper and more efficient, heralding the start of the imaging revolution we know today.

This technology is not just used in smartphones either, but found in dental x-ray systems, scientific imaging, automotive safety systems and digital cameras.

Professor Fossum, Professor Teranishi and Dr Tompsett attended the event in London to receive the awards, and each said they were deeply honoured to receive the award and have their work held in such high regard.

"I'm really gobsmacked, it's astonishing and I'm very thankful to the Queen Elizabeth prize to win this award," said Professor Fossum.

Each man said they would look to use some of the prize money, split four ways, to help support youngsters entering the engineering profession, particularly girls, in order to try and ensure the next generation has the skills to continue to develop new cutting-edge ideas.

Looking to the future Professor Fossett said he thinks one area ripe for innovation is around high-sensitivity sensors that can work under very dark conditions, something he is working on right now within his role at Dartmouth University.

Dr Tompsett added that he believes the infrastructure around imaging technology, such as virtual reality headsets, will also be another major area of innovation that will help push the boundaries of what the technology is capable of.

Asked how surprised he was by how widespread his technology had become in the modern Professor Fossett said it was impossible to have imagined just how central to modern life it would become.

"Selfies were not something I thought about when developing the CMoS technology, or silly cat videos, but there are many things where this is now on the forefront of privacy and security. Cameras on drones, for example, who would have thought that would become an issue?"

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 6th Feb 2017

LG televisionImage copyrightLG

Electronics giant LG has admitted its new premium-priced computer displays experience "performance issues" when placed near a wi-fi router.

The LG Ultrafine 5K monitor costs almost £900 and is promoted as an external display for Mac devices.

But customers noticed the display flickered or switched off when near a wi-fi router and some posted negative reviews on Apple's website.

LG told the BBC that customers should change the location of their display.

"Monitor arrived today and the picture flickered on or off when using with a brand new Macbook Pro," wrote one reviewer.

Another added: "The device is not properly shielded from wi-fi radiation, so you can't have a wi-fi router within two metres of this display or it will go black.

"Simply not ready for public release."

In a statement, LG apologised for any "inconvenience" customers had experienced.

"Changing the location or positioning of either the router or the display should resolve the issue," it said.

It added that any Ultrafine 5K monitor manufactured from February 2017 would have "enhanced shielding" to protect the devices from electromagnetic interference, while customers experiencing persistent problems should contact LG.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 6th Feb 2017

Poor old Janet Jackson. She was at the end of a triumphant, hit-laden medley when Justin Timberlake ripped the front off her bodice, revealing a heavily-bejewelled superboob.

Few ever believed that the "wardrobe malfunction" was indeed a malfunction - but if you look at the photographs taken immediately after the event, Jackson appears mortified (notably, these were not the pictures printed by the press).

Nonetheless, America went apoplectic. The Federal Complaints Commission reportedly got more than 200,000 complaints, while Janet was blacklisted by MTV and radio. Her career never fully recovered.

But there is a bright side to this story. A PayPal employee called Jawed Karim missed the half-time show and grew frustrated that he couldn't watch the incident online. 

In response, he and his friends Steve Chen and Chad Hurley began coding a website where people could upload their own content. That site would end up being YouTube. 

Regards
Damien

 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 31st Jan 2017

Why are these gloves causing a stir?

Jon Sopel's gloves: How they appeared as if by magic

BBC North America editor Jon Sopel has revealed the mystery behind a "glove trick" that left viewers confused.

Reporting from Washington on President Trump for Friday's News at Ten, Sopel showed an ungloved hand as he spoke. But a moment later, he was wearing a pair of brown gloves.

The Sun newspaper described the move as "magical" and one viewer tweeted: "does @BBCJonSopel moonlight as a sleight of hand magician in his spare time!?"

But Sopel said he had briefly slipped his glove off so he could unlock his mobile phone using fingerprint recognition.

"I would love people to think I'm a magician," he said.

"What happened is that I needed to pull out a quote from Trump - I realised my phone had gone off and took my glove off to quickly activate it."

There was a small lectern out of shot where he could place his glove and put it back on later, explained Sopel.

"The fact is it was bloody cold in Washington," he said.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 31st Jan 2017

Lego figure

Lego's launched a "safe" social network for under-13s on a new app, called Lego Life.

Basically it's a child-friendly Lego-themed Instagram.

It'll let children post photos of their creations and comment on other people's but with strict restrictions on what they can say.

Text comments aren't allowed but users can either use prewritten responses or custom Lego emoji and stickers.

Although it's aimed at children, who have to use a parent's details to sign up, there is no restriction on adults also joining the network.

Lego life

To keep kids safe, they won't be asked for any personal information or photographs and the app doesn't have tracking enabled.

Instead, avatars are Lego mini-figures and account names are random words.

The company says the app is heavily moderated through automated filters and employees filtering content.

The app also offers building challenges to try to encourage creativity.

All the adverts on the network are for Lego products.

Lego hopes in future the app will expand to become a central hub for all its services, including games and instructions.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 31st Jan 2017

Hotel to go back to conventional keys after attack

Ransomware hits hotel again

Ransomware hits hotel again

Hotel guests at a luxury resort in Austria were locked out of their rooms after it was targeted with ransomware by hackers, who broke into the organisation's electronic key system and disabled the electronic locking.

And the hotel is one of just dozens in the area that have been targeted in this way, according to its managing director.

The latest attack coincided with the opening weekend of the winter season when the hotel was fully booked, and forced the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt resort in Austria to pay up the ransom of €1,500 in bitcoin in order to allow guests to return to their rooms, as well as restoring access to parts of the hotel that were also locked as a result.

Fortunately, a standard safety feature of the automated system meant that guests could leave their rooms, although they would've been unable to get back in while the systems were down.

Managing Director Christoph Brandstaetter told The Local: "The house was totally booked with 180 guests, we had no other choice. Neither police nor insurance help you in this case."

However, it was the third time that the hotel has been targeted in this way, prompting Brandstaetter to finally conduct a clean sweep of the organisation's IT - finding a backdoor that the attackers had used in order to return and demand more money.

"The restoration of our system after the first attack in summer has cost us several thousand Euros. We did not get any money from the insurance so far because none of those to blame could be found," he continued.

A fourth attempt, according to Brandstaetter, was foiled because of the IT security upgrades the organisation took following the third successful attack.

And to make sure it never happens again, when the hotel undergoes its next refurbishment Brandstaetter is planning to change the locks - to "old-fashioned door locks with real keys".

That's not as backward as it sounds with, for example, NHS trusts in the UK becoming magnets for ransomware, including Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust just last year, while most businesses would simply pay up, according to surveys. 

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 31st Jan 2017

When it comes to voice biometrics, The latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, got me thinking about how long Hollywood has depicted humans having conversations with machines.

Voice biometrics

We're getting closer to the Hollywood vision of voice biometrics that we’ve be enjoying for the last 50 years

Indeed, back in 1977, when the first instalment was released, we saw the futuristic vision of voice commands working. Fast forward to 2017 and we are now closer to that reality than ever with voice biometrics.

Voice user interface (UI) technology such as Siri, Cortana and Amazon’s Echo has advanced to a point where voice recognition can be used as an authentication alternative to passwords. While voice UI has been around for decades, the technology has made massive strides over the years and its improving accuracy continues to raise its profile.

In the 1970s, machines could recognise words with just ten per cent accuracy, by 2010 that had reached around 70 per cent, and today it stands at approximately 90 per cent.

Voice biometrics may have been around for decades but the improved accuracy of the technology has raised its profile and increased consumer usage.

 

Access with voice biometrics

 As voice biometrics continue to improve, it will naturally become a form of authentication as all voices have subtle differences, similar to fingerprints.

Consumer-facing organisations are already starting to trial voice recognition as a method of authentication. A number of UK banks are seeing the need for this and have introduced new voice related security measures.

Voice biometrics is also finding its way into the workplace, with employees being able to access work profiles and systems by simply speaking.

But for it to become the norm for everybody, three things need to happen:

(1) Find a way to make voice biometrics unobtrusive

It’s unfortunate that a large proportion of security systems tend to be obtrusive; take airport screening lines that must be navigated in order to board a flight. It’s an added frustration because the vast majority of passengers are harmless, but have to pay the security toll so the few malicious ones can be detected.

Perhaps the biggest promise of biometrics is seamless security. This is especially true of voice biometrics since voice command is increasingly becoming an embedded part of consumer life.

(2) Security needs to be improved

Unlike passwords, your voice cannot be changed. But, this does not mean that voice biometrics cannot be compromised. There are a number of ways that an attacker can steal a user’s voice. A fraudster could use speech synthesis or an app to impersonate a user.

Given enough audio, modern systems can build a voice that sounds very similar to the person being modelled. This cloned voice could not only be used during authentication, but to also carry on a conversation with the agent or system, potentially accessing or compromising more sensitive data.

(3) Future-proof the technology

Voice biometrics must be robust to noise, channel and voice changes over time. The human voice develops as we people age and so voice authentication must continually learn and adapt to the user’s ever changing voice. However, they must be careful not to adapt too easily and learn from the voice of an imposter.

Is there an alternative?

Voice biometrics will only be trusted and widely adopted if they become unobtrusive, secure and future-proofed. Even when this happens, the unfortunate truth is that this layer of defence alone is not enough to stop criminals.

Voice recognition does help to identify true customers, but fraudsters have many techniques which help them bypass this layer of security. If a fraudster knows a company is using voice biometrics, they will do things specifically to make them fail.

To help secure your business, it is essential that all angles are covered. Without multiple layers of security covering all channels, from face-to-face verification, to online and over the telephone, fraudsters will be able to manipulate particular points of exposure.

More advanced technology that builds upon some of the security validation foundations of voice biometrics, but introduces multi-factor authentication is Phoneprinting.

The technology identifies specific components about each call such as the location a call is coming from, the device, whether it’s a mobile or landline and whether the phone has been used to call the company before.

Combined, this can aid in detecting fraudulent activity before it becomes an issue and get us closer to the Hollywood vision we’ve be enjoying for the last 50 years.

Source: realbusiness.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 30th Jan 2017

Everybody's working for the weekend, but how you spend your two days off may say something about how successful you are.

What you get up to doesn't really matter, per se. If you prefer lounging around the house to spontaneous adventures, that's great! You probably need that time to wind down.

When it comes to weekends, the main thing that separates successful people from unsuccessful people is mindfulness.

Are you planning ahead and truly thinking about how to spend your free time?

Here are 11 things that unsuccessful people tend to do over the weekend — and why to avoid them:

View As: One Page Slides

 

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Not every minute of every hour of your weekend needs to be planned out, but it's good to have a general idea of what you'd like to do or get done — even if you're just scheduling downtime.

That will allow you protect your time, and maybe even schedule in some fun events.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

It can be hard to make time for the ones you care about during the hectic week. Make up for that over the weekend.

 

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Put away your phone. Shut off your work email — and make it clear to your coworkers that you won't be responding. Don't get addicted to technology.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Whether you're unwinding alone or going out with friends, make sure to do something that makes you happy during your time off.

 

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Maybe you drank too much on Friday and are recovering. Maybe you're just super tired. Either way, this could really mess up your sleep cycle, and you probably need to fix that.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

You pinch pennies all week, and then blow it all over the weekend.

Heck, you should treat yourself every once in a while. That being said, if you're overspending on the weekends on frivolities that you don't need, then it's time to consider some cheap but fun options, like staycations or free local events.

 

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

During your busy week, it can be difficult to snag some time to just think about your life and goals. It's important to check in with yourself every once in a while.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

On Fridays, it's a great idea to set out an agenda for the next Monday. Being prepared is great; being a workaholic is not. Kick back and relax a bit on Saturday and Sunday!

 

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Chilling out over the weekend can definitely be a great way to unwind. But if your slothfulness is making you bored or bummed out — or causing you to neglect important errands and chores — then you may want to rethink how you spend your Saturdays and Sundays.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

At the other end of the spectrum are people who pack too much into their weekend schedule.

In order to be productive, and therefore successful at work, it's important to use the weekend to recharge your batteries. If your weekends include zero downtime, then you'll never feel rested or refreshed, which can be detrimental to your success.

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Sunday nights are the perfect time to plan for the week ahead. You can make a to-do list, update or review your calendar, or just think about what it is you'd like to accomplish in the coming days. Unsuccessful people fail to do any of the above.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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