02 Sep 2015
Fresh from announcing the creation of a new company called Alphabet to oversee the various weird and wonderful units that form Google, the company has now unveiled a new playful logo.
Tamar Yehoshua, vice president of product management at Google, said in a blog post that the redesign was an effort to create a logo that was more suited to the numerous ways in which people reach Google’s services.
“Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens,” he said.
“As you’ll see, we’ve taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”
"You’ll see the new design roll out across our products soon. Hope you enjoy it!"
In a back-slapping video Google showed how it has evolved its services over time and that the four colours used across its services are indicative of its brand.
Google is using its search engine to uncover potential tech talent, it has been revealed, after a coder secured a job at the firm by entering a particularly technical query.
Max Rosett explained on The Hustle website that he was embarking on a career change and, as part of his research, turned to Google to solve a problem. This was when the magic started.
“One morning, while working on a project, I Googled 'python lambda function list comprehension'. The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one. But then something unusual happened,” he said.
"The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said: 'You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?' I stared at the screen. What? After a moment I decided, yes, I was most definitely up for a challenge.”
From there Rosett explained that he was engaged in a series of coding challenges via Google's foo.bar webpage.
“I won’t post the problem here, but solving it required a bit of knowledge about algorithms. I had the option to code in Python or Java. I set to work and solved the first problem in a couple hours. Each time I submitted a solution, foo.bar tested my code against five hidden test cases,” he said.
"Once my solution passed all of those tests, I could submit it and request a new challenge. Over the next two weeks, I solved five more problems. After I solved the sixth problem, foo.bar gave me the option to submit my contact information."
A recruiter then called Rosett and, after he went through a more traditional one-to-one interview process, he ended up being hired by Google.
"Three months ago, I thought I wasn’t ready to apply for a job at Google. Google disagreed," he said.
Slow internet speeds remain a bugbear for many in the UK, even as the government touts its ongoing funding of rollouts of services across the nation.
But life in the slow lane proved so intolerable for one Wiltshire farmer that he took it on himself to solve the problem with a homemade 4G adapter and his own fibre-optic lines.
As the BBC reports, Richard Guy, from Salisbury, built his own 4G adapter using an assortment of components, including solar panels to power the unit, and then ran fibre-optic cable from the unit to his home.
Guy explained that it works because a 4G signal can be attained in one area of his farm. He put a mast in the ground and attached a 4G adapter to the top, housed in a toolbox to keep it safe. From here he ran fibre-optic cables back to his home 1,100 meters away. A solar panel at the top of the mast ensures that the 4G adapter is always powered up.
This has completely transformed his internet experience, according to Guy, making it possible to do everything from online shopping to finding key government information.
“The 0.8Mbps I had before was very slow for following the pages of Amazon or the Defra website, but with this it’s like lightning. It's like selling a Morris Minor and buying a Lamborghini.”
Suggesting that there may be a little bit of PR-wizardry behind the scenes, Guy also revealed that he intends to take his setup to market with a new business called Agri-Broadband.
“It’s something farmers can take part in. They dig the trenches and build the tower and we apply the technology to it and it all works just fine,” he said.
The idea could well catch on, given that 4G avaiability in remote areas continues to increase and that, for most farmers, digging up their own land is something they do on a fairly regular basis.
However, for the average homeowner or business in a remote area, it may not be the best idea to start churning up public highways and running your own fibre lines.
Apple Music has 11 million users just over a month since it became available with the iOS 8.4 update that rolled out to devices at the end of June.
Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president for internet software and services, revealed the number to USA Today. "We're thrilled with the numbers so far," he added.
Cue also said that two million of the 11 million have opted for the $14.99 a month family plan that can be used by up to six people.
The figure of 11 million is just over half that of Spotify, which revealed in June that it has 20 million subscribers.
On the face of it Apple gaining an equivalent of half of Spotify’s user base in a month is impressive going. But, breaking it down, Apple’s sign-up rate actually seems less spectacular than it first appears.
Apple’s users are not paying a penny at the moment to use the service, so a huge explosion of people getting music for free is perhaps not surprising. It could well be the case that many thousands choose not to pay once the free service ends.
Furthermore, given that almost every iPhone and iPad owner in the world could start using Apple Music if on iOS 8.4, the figure of 11 million choosing to take a three-month free trial of a heavily advertised and promoted service from Apple seems surprisingly low.
For instance, Apple sold 61 million iPhones in Q2 2015 alone, so 11 million is only a dent in that number.
Also, Spotify may ‘only’ have 20 million users despite having been in the market for many years, but it has done a lot more work educating users and growing the brand to reach this figure.
In fact Spotify lists its 'active user' base as over 75 million, suggesting that it still has a huge potential base of over 55 million people it could convert to fee-paying users. This is five times that of Apple.
A final point is that many Spotify users feel loyal to the brand, or just don’t want to go through the hassle of having to recreate their lovingly cultivated playlists on Apple Music, and have not bothered to sign-up for Apple Music, even with the free-trial offer.
Apple too will no doubt see its numbers growing, especially with the arrival of iOS 9. Many people may not have bothered updating to iOS 8.4 and will be awaiting iOS 9 before bothering to upgrade. This will then bring them Apple Music and could see user numbers soar.
Even so, the figure of 11 million should give heart to Spotify and suggests that Apple may not have everything its own way in the music market in the years ahead.
Diversity, or the lack of it, is a hot topic in the technology industry today. It's a talking point at conferences and roundtables, and often features in V3 articles.
But stereotypes of what an IT worker is and should look like remain hard to shake off, despite the best efforts of technology firms like Intel with its $300m diversity fund.
To break down the cliché that IT workers are male and unwashed nerds, women at technology companies have taken to Twitter to share images of themselves under the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer.
The tweeting trend was sparked off when female platform engineer Isis Wenger was featured in an advert for a job at San Francisco-based security company OneLogin.
Wenger explained in a statement on LinkedIn that the advert, which was featured alongside another with male OneLogin workers, received a torrent of negative comments on social media, ranging from people thinking she was not the "right face" for the advert, to sheer disbelief that an IT worker could look like her.
"The reality is that most people are well intentioned but genuinely blind to a lot of the crap that those who do not identify as male have to deal with," she wrote.
"This industry's culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mould. I'm sure that every other women and non-male identifying person in this field has a long list of mild to extreme personal offences that they've just had to tolerate."
Wegner noted how she had been the subject of misogynistic comments and behaviour in various IT positions.
This prompted her to post a picture of herself on Twitter holding a card saying: "I help build enterprise software" with the #iLookLikeAnEngineer hashtag.
The tweet generated strong support from other women in technology, who also started uploading pictures of themselves under the hashtag, although Wegner said that she has also received negative attention among the comments, which she will continue to bring to light.
The opportunity for women to address the male-heavy gender balance of the IT industry is thought to be better than it ever has been, but the need to post under such a hashtag and weather misogynistic abuse indicates that the technology world still has some way to go.
Libraries are often an overlooked part of society, but when you think about it they're pretty amazing places: shelves groaning with books ranging from weighty novels to chick-lit that you can just pick up and take away for free. Just make sure you return them on time.
Now, in an effort to increase the free brilliance of libraries, the government is supporting a £7.1m fund so that libraries across England can offer free WiFi.
Libraries without free WiFi will be given priority, while those with WiFi below the recommended specification can apply for funding to upgrade the service.
The fund will be managed by Arts Council England and the goal is to provide a free WiFi service to all English libraries by March 2016.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the plan as a vital step in digitising libraries and meeting the demands of modern citizens.
“Ensuring that communities across England have access to free WiFi boosts the digital economy and enables more people to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer,” he said.
“By channelling the support through libraries, we can ensure that this opportunity to become digitally aware is available to the whole community.”
Brian Ashley, director of libraries at Arts Council England, added that it is important to maintain the social inclusion that libraries provide in the digital era.
“Libraries are excellent community hubs that bring people together, and we hope that free WiFi will encourage more people to use and enjoy their local libraries,” he said.
The move comes as part of efforts by the public and private sectors to spread WiFi services as far as possible into all aspects of society, ranging from the London Underground to sports arenas and museums.
Libraries that are given funding will have to avoid getting overzealous with any filters they deploy, though, as the British Library ran into trouble when its filters ended up banning Shakespeare's Hamlet after it ruled the language too "colourful".
Technology played a significant part in the promises made in the Conservative Party manifesto, including the next steps for the superfast broadband rollout, expanded mobile coverage and startup support.
So it is surprising that chancellor George Osborne's Summer Budget lacked any explicit mention of the government's plans for the technology industry and related sectors.
Osbourne focused instead on touting his vision of a working Britain for working people. However, dig a little deeper into the HM Treasury Summer Budget documentation and you'll find that the Budget affects the technology industry more than at first appears.
Osborne did not mention the superfast broadband programme in his speech, but the government will be allocating up to £10m to support its rollout in the South West, slated to start in April 2016.
The fund will require local projects to bid for financial support, and priority will be given to those that aim to deliver ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbps.
The government did not say how it will deliver tax reforms for small businesses or bolster the development of startups, but the chancellor mentioned the need to release London's economic grip on the UK and build up business in the north of Britain.
Osbourne championed the concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse' and other areas outside the capital that are seeing a growth in new businesses. These include Tech North and the growing technology clusters in Bournemouth and Liverpool.
Larger companies, including UK technology firms, can look forward to corporation tax relief as rates will drop from 20 percent to 19 percent in 2017 and to 18 percent in 2020.
Osborne said that "Britain needs to raise its game" when it comes to skills, and that the government will introduce an unspecified apprenticeship levy on large enterprises to create three million apprenticeships for young people.
The UK is home to many large technology enterprises, and it would not be surprising if such corporations were among the first to be required to provide apprenticeships that address the UK's digital skills gap.
The government also appears to be taking a hard line on filling the skills gap, outlining ambitions to push unemployed people under the age of 21 into education or apprenticeships from the first day of their benefits claim.
Downing Street will doubtless expect the technology industry to be a core provider of such apprenticeships and the work opportunities into which it wants to channel young people.
The Budget said that the government will invest £23m in a further six Next Generation Digital Economy Centres in London, Bath, Newcastle, Nottingham, Swansea and York.
The centres will be created with support from regional councils and local small and medium sized businesses.
"These centres will exploit opportunities across sectors of the digital economy, including the creative industries, finance, healthcare and education," the Treasury said.
Overall, the Budget is still relatively slim on technology investments and initiatives. However, more are expected to surface in the government's Productivity Plan led by Treasury minister Lord O'Neill.
In the meantime, the technology industry is left sitting on tenterhooks, waiting for the government to confirm or renege on its manifesto promises.
If someone asked you to recite your own mobile phone number you’d probably reel it off without having to flex your memory muscles too much.
However, try recalling anyone else’s number - those of your partner, parents or children, for example - and it’s likely you’ll come to an abrupt halt once you’ve said 07.
This is because, according to Kaspersky, we are now in an era of ‘digital amnesia’ in which we have become so reliant on technology to retain phone numbers that our brains are rapidly forgetting the skill.
Kaspersky surveyed 6,000 people aged 16 and older in six European countries and found that most can’t remember the phone numbers of their children (71 percent), children’s schools (87 percent), place of work (57 percent) or partner (49 percent).
However, 47 percent could still recall their home phone numbers when aged 10 and 15, showing that in the past we were better at remembering the key numbers in our lives.
There’s nothing wrong with letting a phone retain all your key data, of course, but if you lose the device, or it’s stolen, things suddenly get a lot worse.
Around 25 percent of women and 38 percent of younger respondents said they would 'panic' if they lost their device as it is the only place they store contact information.
It’s not just phone numbers that we’re struggling to recall, however. Those surveyed by Kaspersky worried that losing their phone, and all its stored videos and images of their lives, would cause them to forget what they’ve been up to.
Some 44 percent of women and 40 percent of 16 to 24 year-olds would be 'overwhelmed by sadness' since they have memories stored on their devices that they believe they might never get back.
Kaspersky drafted in an academic to back up the digital amnesia findings. Dr Kathryn Mills, from University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said that, while forgetting things isn’t bad in itself, it’s the knock-on effects that cause problems.
“The act of forgetting is not inherently a bad thing. We are beautifully adaptive creatures and we don’t remember everything because it is not to our advantage to do so,” she said.
“Forgetting becomes unhelpful when it involves losing information that we need to remember.”
Well, it's always in the last place you look.