Germany breaks Brazilian hearts and Twitter records to boot

09 Jul 2014

While Germany’s stupefying 7-1 destruction of Brazil in the World Cup semi-final in their own back yard sent footballing records tumbling, it also helped break two fairly notable Twitter records, which show how big the social network has now become.

As users around the world watched agog as the goals flew in, Twitter exploded. A truly staggering 35.6 million tweets about the company were posted, making it the single most discussed sporting event of all time on the platform.

This easily beat the 24.9m tweets sent about the Super Bowl earlier in 2014. Not only that, but the moment the fifth goal nestled in the back of the net Twitter exploded once again, helping smash the tweet per minute (TPM) record with more than half a million posts.

As the Guardian notes this is by far and away the largest ever number of tweets about one event to be sent in a minute, surpassing numerous events such as Usain Bolt's gold-medal 200m sprint peaked at 80,000 tweets per minute, and Beyoncé's Super Bowl half-time show in 2013 at 268,000 tweets per minute.

A real-time map of messages on Twitter as they were posted also gives some indication of where in the world the result left the biggest impact: unsurprisingly Brazilians were rather vocal about the result.

Samsung Brazil lost $36m worth of phones and devices in armed robbery

08 Jul 2014

A sophisticated gang of criminals have taken around $36m worth of hardware, smartphones and other devices from Samsung in Brazil.

Samsung confirmed the theft in a statement to V3 and reported that there were no casualties. "It is regrettable the incident took place," it said. "However, it is fortunate that there were no casualties. The police are currently investigating the incident, and we will fully co-operate with the police authorities and will make utmost efforts to resolve this issue."

According to a detailed report from Reuters, a group of around twenty people took part in a sophisticated armed robbery that began with the criminals the taking over a staff bus. Hostages were taken and around 100 or so workers were restrained while a group of people drove vans onto the Samsung site, filled them with hardware and then drove off. Around 40,000 Samsung products were taken away in seven trucks.

Reuters said that the police report reads like the plot of a Hollywood movie. Local media has CCTV that shows people in dark clothing and balaclavas moving the stolen hardware into trucks.

"After stopping the shuttle on its way to the factory, seven armed assailants took over the vehicle while colleagues took all but two of the eight employees originally on board to a remote location, where they were set free," it reports.

"With the coast clear, the attackers then allowed 13 other culprits, driving the getaway trucks, into the factory. The robbers, communicating with one another by radio and cell phones, then proceeded to load the vehicles with the loot."

Samsung hardware includes a Find my Mobile feature, but we do not yet know if the firm will use it itself. 

Technology hardware robberies are increasing, as are the scale and scope of virtual robberies and data heists. Virtual assaults affected 552 million web users in 2013, including 40 million at retailer Target alone.

EU Right to be Forgotten mess sees Google censoring BBC, Guardian

03 Jul 2014


The moment the European Court of Justice ruled that the people of Europe do have a right to be forgotten, the warning bells sounded. What on earth would such a woolly, hard-to-define ruling actually mean in the digital age?

It turns out, as many warned, it’s effectively creating a strange, quasi-censorship system that is forcing Google to remove links to news articles that almost certainly deserve to be in the public domain.

Google protested hard against the ruling but ultimately it must comply with the law. So it has chosen to start removing articles from its indexes, and letting the firms involved know. So far the BBC and The Guardian have reported that pieces have been removed from Google, such as a column by Robert Peston commenting on  bankers' woes during the 2007 financial crisis.

It is not clear who made the requests, or why, but Google has decided that it must remove them. It could have possibly deferred the decisions to a legal authority, but instead has chosen to become the judge and jury of the requests it receives.

In many ways this isn’t Google’s fault. With over 50,000 requests piling up, it probably felt compelled to start making some decisions. However, the precedent is worrying.

Like it or loathe it, Google’s reach is huge, and removing a result from the index is a very good way of ensuring bad news is hidden away. While for some there may well be a legitimate reason to want a result removed, for most cases the motives could well be more questionable.

It's already been reported that some have asked for links regarding stories of tax dodgers, paedophiles and dodgy doctors to be removed from the Google search index. Again, the motives for this could come from an honest, understandable stance, but the outcome is worrying.

In effect, the European courts seem to have ended up creating a system of censorship, but rather than being the state that controls it, it is the people that have the right to try and hide themselves, with Google seemingly happy to process requests without question.

There are two points to consider though: firstly, the pressure this situation is creating for the EU could force it to amend its ruling. Secondly, with so many online outlets writing about the articles that are taken down, we could well see the Streisand effect come into play.

Perhaps Google is hoping for both outcomes, in order to show the EU courts how absurd the decision is proving.

US says no to warrantless mobile phone snooping, while UK court finds Andy Coulson guilty of hacking

26 Jun 2014

Mobile phone users can expect a little more privacy, perhaps, thanks to legal moves in the US and UK.

Across the Atlantic the Supreme Court has found that an automatic search of an arrested person's mobile phone is against the Fourth Amendment. It said, rather than search a phone like they would a pocket, the authorities should apply for a warrant [PDF].

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr said the arguments put forward by the US government in favour of warrantless searches could not match the right to privacy.

"The US asserts that a search of all data stored on a cellphone is ‘materially indistinguishable' from searches of these sorts of physical items," he wrote.

"That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon. Both are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together."

Meanwhile former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has been found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones in court. While his predecessor Rebekah Brooks was spared a guilty verdict, Coulson, who was a close advisor to the prime minister, could receive a prison sentence of two years.

Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails. News UK, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, apologised in a statement.

"We said long ago, and repeat today, that wrongdoing occurred, and we apologised for it. We have been paying compensation to those affected and have co-operated with investigations," it said in a statement. "We made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again."

The move is good news for privacy this side of the pond, as a message has been sent out that accessing private phone records and data is not acceptable.

EE lifts the lid on hidden testing labs: in pictures

20 Jun 2014

A short train ride from London lies the commuter town of Borehamwood. Tucked away among the numerous trading estates, high-streets shops and Wetherspoons pubs that are worryingly busy for a Thursday morning, lies a nondescript building with no outwardly obvious role.

But step inside and the familiar aqua and yellow branding of operator EE is immediately visible, for this is one of the firm's two network service delivery department (NSDD) testing labs (the other is in Bristol).

V3 joined a small gathering at the facility on Thursday in a rare chance to peek inside such an environment and to hear from EE about what goes on behind such innocuous-looking doors.

The labs are where EE carries out much of the testing on its network and the devices and services that it will host, to ensure everything is hunky dory before it goes live. This means manufacturers are often to be found lurking inside with never-before-seen devices, as they work with EE to ensure the phone and its components will work on the EE network when its released to the public.

Sadly we didn't see any iPhone 6 devices lying around, but we did spot a few other interesting things that we snapped as we had a look around.

Blast from the past
As you may expect, testing labs are not the sexiest of places, with most of the floors covered in various boxes filled with kit from firms ranging from Sun Microsystems to Nokia and Huawei. However, the below box from long-defunct Canadian telecoms firm Nortel did catch our eye.

Kit from the long-defunct Nortel Networks is still in use to test all kit in use

EE explained that it has to keep such old kit around to test devices and services on all possible technology that they could come into contact with, as while they may be old they still serve their purpose.

A waterfall of wires
Another common sight at any testing facility, or data centre, is wires. Lots of them. Even so, V3 was quite impressed to see a waterfall of wires running through the facility. Quite beautiful in a way.

A waterfall of wires at the EE testing labs

Moore's law in the base station
One other thing that caught our eye was just how much the telecoms kit that powers the mobile world has changed over the past 20 years. We all know that phones have reduced from great bricks to svelte, pocket-sized things, but the same is true of base stations.

The image below shows the unbelievable size that base stations used to be, and getting them installed to deliver nothing more than a 2G services was no easy task, as EE director of Network Services Tom Bennett explained. "You used to have to close the roads and get cranes in and hoist them into position, it was fairly demanding stuff," he explained.

Old base stations that were needed for 2G services

Now, as the Huawei base stations below demonstrate, far smaller units that provide both 2G and 4G coverage, are available. "These are light enough for engineers to carry up onto the roof themselves for installation," added Bennett.

New Huawei base stations providing 2G and 4G services

Tech industry shines in 2014 Honours list

16 Jun 2014

A number of UK tech heroes have been recognised in the Queen's honours list and rewarded for their work in the industry.

The Honours were announced last week and saw a decent number of industry types given gongs. Knighted and commended were games developers and pioneers, industry figureheads and entrepreneurs.

David Braben, of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the creator of classic PC game Elite, was awarded an OBE.

"Heartfelt thanks to all those that have sent congratulations on my OBE. This award is for all of us at Frontier that have worked very hard," he said on Twitter.

Braben is one of Raspberry Pi's founding trustees. Earlier in June, during an event at Buckingham Palace, the Foundation was able to reveal that it had shipped three million Raspberry Pi units.

Also awarded the OBE is Dr Paul Hawkins, the sports technology pioneer whose work led to the creation of ball-tracking kit Hawk-Eye. The technology will be used at the tennis championships in Wimbledon this summer.

Belinda Parmar, campaigner and founder of the Lady Geek group, also received an OBE, and was commended for her services to women in technology.

"Thank you so much for all your OBE congratulations," she commented. "This award is for all of you who tirelessly work to get more women in tech."

Prosthetic limb pioneer Dr David Gow was awarded the CBE, his work on the I-Limb hand and his services to upper-limb prosthetics. Alastair Lukies, founder of Monitise, was also appointed a CBE.

Black cabs take umbrage at Uber with London gridlock protest

11 Jun 2014

Whenever a disruptive technology arrives on the scene those who are threatened usually respond with anger and derision.

From the Luddite machine breakers of the early 1800s to Steve Ballmer's cheery dismissal of the iPhone, such reactions are commonplace. The outcome, though, is usually the same, as the disruptive ground-breaking technology continues to thrive and the older system struggles.

So, with this short revisionist history lesson, let us turn our gaze to the streets of London where on Wednesday afternoon black cab drivers staged a protest against taxi app Uber, claiming it is unfairly muscling in on their patch.

The cabbies say that because Uber allows unlicensed, untrustworthy individuals to run their cars as private hire vehicles, they are not only putting the public at risk but breaking the law by using a meter to calculate journey costs.

Transport for London referred the situation to the High Court as it said it wasn't sure whether an app generating a fee for a journey did represent an infringement of this law, but the cabbies are protesting anyway.

This means that streets across the capital have been gridlocked, causing mayhem for millions.

The timing of the protest was seized on by Uber for a fairly nifty piece of marketing, as it announced that its service can now incorporate black cabs, so that those seeking the nearest vehicle could end up in a traditional Hackney Carriage.

Whether black cabs want to be included on the service remains to be seen, as judging by today's protests they may well choose to have nothing to do with it in the future. Those who willingly reject the offer could well end up regretting it, though, if history does indeed repeat itself.

With some reports that downloads of the app have increased 850 percent as a result of the protest, the taxi brigade could have inadvertently started their own demise. Time will tell.

BT remembers historic role in D-Day landings

06 Jun 2014


As the world commemorates the bravery and sacrifices made by the Allied soldiers and airborne troops who took part in Operation Overlord 70 years ago today, the technology that made much of the invasion possible has also been celebrated.

BT, then the Post Office and a public organisation, was instrumental in laying a telecoms network right along the south coast of the UK and then over the Channel and on into Europe as the Allied forces marched towards victory.

BT head of heritage and archives David Hay explained more: “Preparations for the Normandy invasion required the laying of a new network of hundreds of miles of cable as well as the installation of switchboards, telephones and teleprinters at numerous points along the south coast of England.

“Once the invasion was under way, new cross-Channel cables were laid and, by VE-Day, Post Office engineers had made direct communication possible by telephone or teleprinter to all allied forces in north-west Europe.”

These efforts even earned the praise of General Eisenhower, supreme commander of allied forces in Europe, who wrote:

The build up of the necessary forces for the current operations has involved the construction of a vast network of communications radiating from key centers of vital importance in the United Kingdom. The greater part of this work has been undertaken by the engineers and staff of the General Post Office.

Colossus code breaking machine at The National Museum of Computing

As well as this vital work, the Post Office also played an instrumental role in helping the Allied forces gather knowledge of the Nazi’s plans, thanks to the Colossus computer.

It was developed by telecoms research engineer Tommy Flowers, working at the Dollis Hill research station, now BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories. The computer first sprang to life on 5 February 1944 when it was let loose on messages that had been sent by German units and encrypted using the Lorenz machine.

The Colossus could read 5,000 characters a second, far in advance of anything else available at that time, and this meant it could take just four hours for it to find the first key in a code, the most important part in any code-breaking.

By the end of the war, it is estimated that Colossus had deciphered 63 million characters of German messages, helping shorten the war and save countless lives. Despite this, its existence was kept secret for 30 years after the war.

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