TSR on tech: your weekly news summary
|April 8, 2012||Posted by Elliot Davies under TSR on tech|
After a couple of weeks’ absence, owing in part to very slow news weeks (and one to a brief Soviet takeover), TSR on tech is back this week with a round up of all the week’s most important, interesting, and inspiring technology stories. We unfortunately have to start off grimly with cuts at Yahoo!, but then we get to look at how busy the world has been arresting hackers and discover a very cool new idea from Google, so it’s not all bad. Without further ado, read on!
The big story this week was of course the laying off of 2,000 employees at Yahoo!, representing 14% of the permanent workforce. The cuts, championed by CEO Scott Thompson, are the largest in Yahoo!’s history and are part of an overall restructuring effort designed to stop the haemorrhaging of customers, money and talented personnel from the once-formidable company. It is perhaps ironic then that Yahoo!’s Chief Product Officer, Blake Irving, a top staff member, resigned immediately following the layoffs. Many of the firings had been made in Irving’s department, which itself is due to be dissolved in the restructuring. Yahoo! said it would save $375mn with the cuts, though it will have to pay up to $145mn in severances.
Of course, we can only hope that putting people out of work will prove a better way for Yahoo! to shore up its finances than suing Facebook for patent infringement, as it did three weeks ago. This week Facebook made the inevitable counterclaim, suing Yahoo! for infringing 10 of its own patents. In a statement, Facebook’s general counsel Ted Ullyot said: “While we are asserting patent claims of our own, we do so in response to Yahoo’s short-sighted decision to attack one of its partners and prioritize litigation over innovation.”
Perhaps the one good piece of news for Yahoo! this week was its hiring of Amanda Pires, currently at PayPal, to be its new head of communications. Pires previously worked with Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson when he ran PayPal and is highly regarded. She will be moving to Yahoo! on April 16th.
Twitter also gained a new VP of communications in the form of Gabriel Stricker, who is currently director of global communications and public affairs at Google. Stricker is due to start at the microblogging service in a couple of weeks.
HTC announced a rough first quarter of earnings on Friday, with revenues of $2.3bn – down almost 35% year-on-year. The drop wasn’t unexpected but it does show how HTC is struggling against the strong competition from other smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung, which this week reported Q1 profits of $5.1bn on revenues of $39.9bn.
Facebook is to trade under the symbol FB on the NASDAQ for its upcoming IPO.
Amazon is apparently under scrutiny by HM Revenue & Customs after SEC filings in the USA revealed that its UK branch generated £3.3bn in sales for 2011 but that the company did not pay any corporate taxes on the profit. Technically the UK branch is owned by Amazon EU Sarl, based in Luxembourg, while the operation here is classified as a business for delivery and order-fulfilment only. This helps Amazon avoid taxes, leading to cheaper prices for consumers, but the UK government is reportedly quite unhappy with the situation. Amazon did not comment specifically, instead stating: “Amazon EU serves … products to all 27 countries in the EU. We have a single European headquarters in Luxembourg with hundreds of employees to manage this complex operation.”
Hacking & Security
Cody Kretsinger, 24, a member of LulzSec who was arrested in Arizona in September, has pleaded guilty in California to charges of “conspiracy” and “unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.” The charges were made in relation to the attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment in mid-2011 and carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, though Kretsinger is unlikely to serve that long. His sentencing will be held on July 26th.
Another member of LulzSec, Ryan Cleary, the British teenager who was arrested last year, has been sent back to prison after breaching his bail conditions and using the internet to contact former associate “Sabu”. The amusing part is that Cleary was rearrested on March 5th – just one day before the news broke that Sabu had been working for the FBI all along.
Edward Pearson, a British 23-year-old from York, has been jailed for 26 months for fraud after his girlfriend was caught using stolen credit cards to book hotel rooms. Police investigating the credit card case found that he had made £2,400 by hacking and stealing personal information from individuals and companies; between January 1, 2010 and August 30, 2011 he stole eight million personal identities, including PayPal accounts, addresses and 2,701 bank cards. It is estimated Pearson could have made as much as £800,000 if he had continued with the information he had.
A flaw in the Java programming language has left Mac users open to potentially serious malware. Apple has released a patch for this, which can be installed by running Software Update. This is a good time to remember that everyone should run anti-virus software, including Mac users.
Bioware has announced it will be releasing a free “Extended Cut” DLC pack for Mass Effect 3 this summer, which it says will provide “additional cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes” to help wrap up the trilogy. The move comes after the disappointment and even anger expressed by many fans at the trilogy’s lack of closure.
Markus “Notch” Persson, creator of Minecraft, has announced that his next game will be titled 0×10C – good luck pronouncing that – and will involve futuristic space travel with a multiplayer element, not dissimilar to EVE Online. Although the game’s website suggests a focus on mining and engineering and the like, each spacecraft will also include an emulated 16-bit computer with which users can program. The game is apparently still “extremely early” in development.
Google has unveiled “Project Glass,” its project to develop augmented reality glasses. Although almost everything is conceptual at the moment, it seems as if Google intends for the glasses to do pretty much everything a smartphone can, and to be controlled by voice. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was spotted wearing a pair at a recent charity event, although he commented that they really only reboot so far; the technology is probably not too close to reality just yet. Google has however released a very cool concept video showing what might be eventually possible with the glasses.
A 50-megapixel imaging system has uncovered what is very likely a new copy of Shakespeare’s signature on a legal document dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
YouTube is now converting all the short-form 1080p uploads it receives into 3D, for users who happen to have 3D glasses sitting around and still think it’s a novel idea.