10 May 2013
President Obama recently signed an executive order that will require government organisations to release their data to the public in an easily digestible form. The White House says that the move will give entrepreneurs and innovators the information they need to create engaging new products.
To see what sort of potential this government data holds for the private sector, look at the past. Prior to the 1980s GPS data was mostly relegated to military and government organisations. It wasn't until 1983 and the release of GPS data to the public that consumer mapping technology really began to take shape.
At the time, then-President Ronald Reagan ordered GPS data become freely available to the public. Reagan's decree came following the crash of Korean Air flight 007, which was shot down after getting lost and flying to near Soviet airspace.
By 1989, US company Magellan released the first commercially available portable GPS system. The Magellan NAV 1000 used GPS data from government satellites to put GPS right next to a citizen's Walkman.
The release of the device, and the government data it used, is why we have GPS navigation today. From Google Maps to Apple Maps, all of the world's most basic turn-by-turn navigation wouldn't be possible without government data.
The example goes to show that the government has types of data that would be almost impossible to get without an open initiative to release it. The US government has the resources to do things that the private sector cannot.
Government agencies have the abilities and options to collect massive amounts of data on things that private firms would never spend money on. If it wasn't for the military's work with GPS, the private sector could be years behind what today's mapping apps are capable of.
A startup would never be able to map the globe or launch a satellite for the sake of a navigation app. By giving out government data, the Obama administration has opened the door for clever entrepreneurs to use data without doing the legwork.
For any of our readers fancying a busman’s holiday, there’s some good news – The IT Crowd is returning to TV screens for a one-off special.
The show, penned by Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, was a success with critics and gained high ratings. It ran for four series until 2010, and a fifth series has been rumoured. However, while fans of Moss, Roy and Jen won’t quite get the full series, a 40-minute final episode will be filmed.
Linehan tweeted confirmation this week that the show will be reborn one more time.
The programme was a stereotypical/realistic (delete depending on whether you work in IT or not) view of the life of an IT department in a large business. Roy and Moss were the techies frustrated by the total IT illiteracy demonstrated by the rest of the company, while Jen their boss had even less knowledge about anything technical.
The catchphrase, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?", which was pretty much the answer to any request Roy ever dealt with, has no doubt been embraced by many IT workers since the shows aired.
09 May 2013
Not long ago, a few engineers from Facebook hatched a plan to rethink the way the company built its hardware.
Rather than buy pre-fabricated servers from vendors and plug them directly into a datacentre, they took a close look at close look at their own usage case and began to log what they did and didn't need in server hardware. Eventually, they were able to design a server that eliminated a number of unnecessary components and fashion a design perfectly suited for web applications.
Seeing how well this apporach worked, Facebook opted to make the idea public and the open compute project was born. The idea soon gained steam and before long OCP was being backed by some of the biggest names in the business.
Now, it seems that the idea is making the jump into the networking field. The OCP has unveiled its plans to launch a brainstorming session aimed at creating the blueprints for a no-frills networking switch that could compliment the OCP server platform.
If you're not sure as to the impact of this idea, just take a look at the early backers of the project. In addition to the likes of Intel and Facebook, networking firms such as Brocade and Netronome have signed on to support the project.
One of the big factors in spreading the OCP message is the rise of cloud computing services and the need for larger datacentres as providers scramble to accommodate demand. When under such pressure to scale, often commercial networking, storage and compute products are ill-suited for the job and contain a number of unwanted pieces.
This could be why the OCP has gained such traction, and could gain even further sway in the coming years as virtualisation and cloud computing make hardware setups less and less of a factor for the major buyers.
06 May 2013
The Syrian Electronic Army has hacked the Twitter account of satirical news website the Onion.
Early reports had the hack pegged as a bit of satirical comedy from the site. However, a picture from the Syrian Electronic Army seems to validate reports that the Onion was indeed hacked.
Among the villainy performed by the hackers was a picture of the group's logo posted on the Onions Twitter page. The Syrian Electronic Army also tweeted out a slew of tweets displaying Onion articles before their actual posting.
The Onion being the comedy site that it is took the hack in good fun. Following the hack, the site posted stories recommending the best practices to avoid getting hacked and a reminder that the firm had changed its password.
"Reduce interest in your website by cutting down on stories about very popular subjects, such as Syria," read one of the websites anti-hacking tips.
Hacks on Twitter have led to calls for two-factor authentication on the social networking site. Following the requests, Twitter has been said to be working towards bringing the feature into the fold later this year.
While two-factor authentication is a good option, we don't think the Onion will mind going without for a few months. The satirical news site seems like a terrible company to go after with a hack. The Onion, more than any other site, seems capable of turning a cyber attack to its advantage.
30 Apr 2013
Google will always be a search company first. In spite of all the other things the firm has its hands in, search is its lifeblood. It makes plenty of ad dollars from it and it's become synonymous with the company.
That is why Google has been so keen to add to its mobile search repertoire. The firm has just added two new features that look to extend its search power into the mobile sector.
First, the company introduced Google Now for iOS. The move is a bit of a mobile warning shot at Apple. If Google can show off some Android features to iPhone users than the firm may be able to find some converts.
Secondly, the firm added app activity integration into its entire search platform. The integration allows users to see aggregated user info when they search app titles online. For Google, the move takes them one step closer to complete convergence of mobile and PC platforms.
Both moves speak to the company's ambition with search. It's no longer an independent part of a user's online experience. Search is now a piece of a greater whole of a users experience both mobile and sedentary.
You can think of search as Google's foundation. It is the thing that everything else flows from. When you search for something on Google it leads you to other services that the firm offers.
It's not just search, its search and then some. It's the core that lead Google to become all the things it is today. Plus, judging from the recent announcements it is also is the thing that looks to be guiding the company into tomorrow.
The importance of exciting and inspiring the next generation of IT professionals and innovators has been high on the agenda at V3 for many months now with our Make IT Better campaign. This meant we were eager to hear from the Science Museum on Monday evening, about its plans for a brand new £15.6m Information Age exhibition to celebrate the roll of technology in the modern world.
Major backers BT, Google, Arm and Accenture were in attendance, explaining that part of their involvement is to try and ensure interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) remains strong in the future for the country.
All made it clear that it was important that those who could become the tech stars of the future had the chance to visit exhibitions like the Information Age space, set to open in 2014, so they could learn about the people and products that had changed the world, and go away excited to learn more about it all.
V3 was also privy to the construction of the new exhibition space, albeit in its very early phases (above), but with plans for a giant radio tuning coil (top of the page), a full-size real-life communications satellite (pictured below) and telegraph transmission technology dating back to the 1800s set to go on display, it will no doubt be a fascinating gallery.
Roll on 2014.
Feature phones died in the developed world years ago. With telecoms offering smartphones for free on contract, nobody was really buying a smartphone in places like the US and UK.
However, smartphones were not as common in developing nations until recently. In places like China and Brazil feature phones still served a slice of the handset market. In fact, until 2013 feature phones still outsold smartphones globally.
That changed in Q1 of this year. According to the IDC, smartphones outsold feature phones for the first time ever last quarter. The report is another reminder that the world has moved passed just phone calls and the developing world is now a lucrative market.
In some developing countries, smartphones are many people's primary internet access point. The ease of a 3G network connection in your pocket makes it possible for millions of new users to have access to the web.
While in developed countries phone calls are not even the primary use of smartphones. With text and data, the need for mobile voice communication has decreased.
Now with the growth of smartphone use those numbers should continue to rise. Smartphones have continued to become cheaper and cheaper. Gone are the days of only expensive smartphones.
Today, a person can get a clever handset for free on contract or close to it off. The market has moved to build a paradagim full of low, mid, and high range smartphones. With the new paradagim, feature phones have become phased out.
The market for cheap smartphones in the developing world is now a huge industry. It's why Samsung leads the world in sales. It's also the reason why Apple keep's hearing rumors of a lower priced iPhone.
Apple is not in the cheap device industry. The firm lives off of big margins and high quality electronics. That somewhat changed with the release of the iPad Mini. The cheaper tiny iPad was the firm's first mobile foray into cheaper end devices.
It seems likely that Apple will have to continue to push its margins lower. Apple won't do it because they want to, they'll do it because they have to. The smartphone game is changing and the developing world is the new frontier.
The smartphone arena is just as much about software as hardware. Apple makes money from ads and apps featured on iOS. With more users on an iPhone, Apple stands to gain more money through software.
Google has always been about getting Android in as many paws as possible. Now, Apple has a chance to do something similar. If the firm builds its user base in the developing world it can get more people onboard with iOS.
With more users on-board it can gain in software what it might lose in hardware margin profits. The world is changing and Apple's current strategy just doesn't fit with it. Apple will have to offer a larger smartphone portfolio if it wants to keep its crown as a leader in the smartphone world.
CharityBuzz is offering bidders the chance to have a cup of coffee with Apple chief executive Tim Cook. Bids are currently at $210,000 for the once and a lifetime chance to drink coffee with the guy who introduced the iPhone 5.
So far, 58 bidders have jumped on the chance to spend quality time with Cook. Those interested in the having a cup of Joe with Cook have until 14 May to make their dreams come true.
For those bidders who may try to milk their time with Cook, be warned that the coffee chat will last no longer than an hour. According to the auctions terms, Cook will not have coffee with anymore than two people and the winning bidder must supply their own travel to Apple HQ.
The auction brings up an obvious question. What would you talk about with the leader of Apple? Would you ask him about Steve Jobs? Whether the iWatch is for real? Can you have tea instead of coffee? There are just so many topics to cover and so little time.
No matter what the winning bidder talks about, the winning funds go to a good cause. All proceeds from the auction will go to the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. The group works to increase human rights around the globe.
Hopefully, Tim Cook's charitable nature extends to other past and present Apple executives. V3 looks forward to the day when former Apple chief executive John Sculley offers charitable souls the chance to spend a weekend with him.
Sculley is well renowned for firing Steve Jobs and selling sugar water. Perhaps Sculley could offer someone the chance to hang out for a total of two days in his derelict mansion.
For those unaware, Sculley's mansion is known as a design oddity that puts aesthetics over functionality. Architecture Digest called Sculley's mansion, "the architectural equivalent of the Apple III" and "the worst piece of design they have ever seen".
During your stay with Sculley you could be delighted with stories of the Newton PDA, Macintosh Portable, and what it's like to yell at Steve Jobs.