Last year Google chief executive Larry Page set off a flurry of speculation when he missed time at the firm due to health issues.
The issues were initially played off by Google execs who said Page had lost his voice due to an unspecified illness. The issue was not said to be serious and Page eventually returned to work.
One year later, Page is finally opening up, saying that the issue with his voice is in fact a chronic condition but is not life-threatening or debilitating. In a post to his Google+ page, the company co-founder said that he has struggled with paralysis in both of his vocal cords.
According to Page, one vocal cord was damaged following a cold 14 years ago, while another began to suffer paralysis last year. The condition has since improved and Page said he's able to speak with colleagues again, joking that co-founder Sergey Brin "says I’m probably a better CEO because I choose my words more carefully".
The disclosure comes with news that Page is working to push a study on individuals with such rare vocal cord paralysis issues. He is hoping to help gather data from patients with similar conditions in hopes of gleaming more information.
It also rehashes a debate that has existed in the IT sector ever since Steve Jobs first shed light on the battle with cancer, which would eventually claim his life. In companies where the chief executive plays such a prominent role in guiding the company, how much of their own health should executives be expected to share?
We now know that Page's life was never in danger from his condition and the company was none the worse for his brief absence. But in the wake of Jobs' death and Apple's struggles since, investors may become worried when the face of the company takes ill. That said, chief executives also have a right to privacy, and in such cases the board should protect their executives from any intrusion while also assuring investors that things are under control.
14 May 2013
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently called on mobile phone companies including Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft to create technology that could curb mobile phone theft. Schneiderman sent three separate letters to the firms in a bid to spread awareness about the growing problem of stolen mobiles.
According to a recent report, 160 iPhones were stolen every day in London last year. While it was recently reported that robberies involving a mobile phone were up 36 percent in San Francisco in 2012.
The New York Times has reported that the increase in mobile phone thefts has led some law enforcement officials to call on companies to install a kill switch into their phones. However, the real problem that needs to be addressed is that network operators have little incentive to implement technology like a kill switch.
Whether from warranty plans or new phone purchases, companies in the industry make money when mobiles are stolen. Mobile network carriers especially have the opportunity to make money from theft victims. When a user buys a phone from a carrier they have the opportunity to buy a warranty that covers them in case their phone is stolen.
The warranty gives the firms another avenue for income. If phones had a kill switch, or some other type of technology, the need for a theft protection warranty would go down immensely.
The other side of the coin is a person who doesn't have a warranty at all; these customers who opt to not buy a warranty plan may have to pay for a new phone.
Sometimes, that replaced phone can cost a customer the full retail price of the mobile. The price tag is even more egregious when you consider that most users don't even pay the full retail price of a device when they sign a contract with a mobile network to begin with.
Unfortunately, phone thefts are not something that will be fixed by companies on their own volition. As long as a company can a swing a dime off of a theft, they have no reason to do anything to stop it.
The president of a US ad tech company has spoken out about the dire state of programming and computer science skills held by most graduates.
In a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kirk McDonald, who is currently the president of PubMatic and the previous president of digital for Time, said such skills are needed by all members of the workforce, even those in roles considered to be non-techy, like sales or marketing.
"The problem is that the right skills are very hard to find. And I'm sorry to say it, dear graduates, but you probably don't have them," said McDonald. "In part, it's not your fault. If you grew up and went to school in the US, you were educated in a system that has eight times as many high school football teams as high schools that teach advanced placement computer science classes."
The comments come as the UK government attempts to transform the computing curriculum in schools to become more focused on programming and computer science. However the blueprint for such a curriculum has been met by a fair amount of opposition, particularly during the national curriculum consultation that ended in April.
Critics have argued that the heavy focus on computer science skills in the proposed government curriculum meant not enough time would be spent teaching students IT basics or digital literacy. At the moment, it is unclear whether the government plans to move ahead with its blueprint, or rejig its proposal to take account of current criticisms, which would mean a watering down of computer science elements.
McDonald has argued that the US government also needs to address the skills crisis and proposed for states to employ more teachers to focus on science, technology, engineering and math subjects. He also argued for students to be more proactive in their approach to computer science and to learn how to code.
"What we non-experts do possess is the ability to know enough about how these information systems work that we can be useful discussing them with others. Consider this example: Suppose you're sitting in a meeting with clients, and someone asks you how long a certain digital project is slated to take," said McDonald.
"Unless you understand the fundamentals of what engineers and programmers do, unless you're familiar enough with the principles and machinations of coding to know how the back end of the business works, any answer you give is a guess and therefore probably wrong. Even if your dream job is in marketing or sales or another department seemingly unrelated to programming, I'm not going to hire you unless you can at least understand the basic way my company works. And I'm not alone."
V3 is currently running a Make IT better campaign to improve computing learning in schools.
V3 is seeking a reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website as well as helping boost the site’s social media profile. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis and reviews for IT professionals.
While the role is a short-term freelance contract for maternity cover, you will be working full-time with the V3 team in our central London office and get plenty of opportunity to gain experience across all areas of digital journalism.
The role will see you writing news, features and blogs, attending events in London, the UK and across the world, and interviewing senior executives at world-leading companies ranging from the likes of Google and IBM to hot start-ups. Your beat will mainly cover the UK tech startup scene, IT skills and education, and social networks, and you will be encouraged to break stories, take unique angles on industry topics and source off-diary stories.
An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy under pressure is a must, as well as a can-do attitude, a willingness to adapt and alter working practices at a moment’s notice, and understanding the job may require working, and socialising, after office hours.
You will also help manage the V3 brand on numerous social media sites – both those that are well established and any up-and-coming web properties, to ensure V3 gains the maximum relevant audience exposure.
This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too. Ideally you will already have some practical experience of working as a journalist, either through work experience or freelance contracts. And while you don’t need to be a total tech expert to join V3, a passion for IT and the tech scene will be a big help.
This role is offered on a freelance basis as a 9-month contract for a full-time office-based reporter until March 2014.
To apply, please email a covering note explaining why you would be perfect for the V3 reporter role, along with your CV and salary expectations, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
11 May 2013
Apple's iPhone has proven a hit with the general public, but the company's strong security protections are making the device less than popular with law enforcement agencies.
It seems that the encryption on the handset is proving to be so hard for authorities to crack that they have to petition Apple to manually unlock the handset by manually overriding the security controls and decrypting data needed for criminal prosecution.
Unfortunately, there are so many police asking for iPhone decryption that Apple has found itself with a backlog of requests. According to Cnet, law enforcement officials are being told that they must wait as long as two months to gain access to iPhone units that are connected to criminal investigations.
This is not the first time Apple's security protections have caught the eye of law enforcement agencies. Earlier this year the US Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning to agents that messages delivered over Apple's Messages App – which sends data over secured HTTP connections – was all but impossible to eavesdrop in the course of investigations.
The issue rehashes an ongoing battle that has erupted between the need for law enforcement agencies to access data and the right for users to have their data protected from intrusion. Apple is not alone in being caught up in the crossfire. Blackberry has found itself in the crosshairs of government authorities over its strong security protections that can prevent government eavesdropping.
Readers may recall how an original Apple I computer went under the hammer at Christie's last year, expected to sell for £80,000. But it turns out, unbelievably, that the machine failed to sell. Perhaps it had something to do with the system missing its DRAM.
Now, yet another historic Apple is up for grabs at German auction house Auction Team Breker, but this time it is a fully working sample.
Dating from 1976, the Apple I was the company's first ever product, and only about 200 were made. It was basically a single-board computer, which buyers had to kit out with a case, keyboard and display in order to build a working system.
According to Auction Team Breker, the unit due to go up for auction on 25 May is one of only six surviving Apple I systems that are still working.
The guide price is a whopping €200,000-€300,000 (£169,000-£253,000), quite a lot for a device with just 4KB of memory and only capable of a 40x24 text display output.
The question is: are even Apple fans likely to shell out that much money for a piece of the company's history?
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.