Computer science found an unlikely champion today in the shape of education secretary Michael Gove - who promised to put "dull and demotivating" IT teaching to the sword.
But while few will mourn the passing of an IT curriculum that turned a generation of students off pursuing a career in tech, its hasty destruction could leave a vacuum that schools will struggle to fill.
Under Gove's proposal schools will no longer be bound to follow the current IT curriculum from September this year. From that point on they will be free to teach IT as they see fit, drawing on help from industry groups such as the British Computer Society (BCS), who have drawn up suggested IT curricula.
This freedom will, according to Gove, usher in a renaissance in IT teaching, one that will breed a new generation of tech-savvy students who will have created their first smartphone app before leaving secondary school.
Yet the precarious state of IT teaching in England highlighted in a recent report by Ofsted does not paint the picture of an school system with the know-how to reinvent itself by being left to its own devices. Read more...
That's the remarkable claim made by Stefan Magdalinski of startup Mocality.
The outfit alleges that some of Google's staff based in both Kenya and India had contacted nearly 30 per cent of the people listed on Mocality's database as of 11 January.
The evidence provided by Magdalinski is certainly compelling as it appears to have caught Google employees acting inappropriately.
"Our database IS our business, and we protect and tend it very carefully. We spot and block automated attacks, amongst other measures. We regularly contact our business owners, to help them keep their records up-to-date, and they are welcome to contact our call centre team for help whenever they need it," said Magdalinski, who told The Register that he was yet to hear from Google, following publication of his damning blog post earlier today.
He noted that Google launched its Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO) site in September last year. Read more...
Would-be monopolists have a new tool to claim control over the unsuspecting masses: sloth.
In the offline world, big vendors must go to extensive ends to ring-fence consumers into concentrating their spend with those vendors. Think vertical integration, price fixing and other monopolistic means. But in a heavily digitised world, Apple, Google, Amazon, and others are creating de facto completely legal monopolies by making it brain-dead easy to use their products.
Is this a problem?
Google, for one, says "no". The company's plausible defense against claims that it unfairly monopolises search comes down to one sentence: consumers are always "one click away" from using a different search engine. As Wharton professor Eric Clemons argues, however, this argument isn't as airtight as Google would have us think, because Google does all sorts of things through partnerships and other means to undermine the substance of truly being "one click away" from an alternative. Read more...
CES isn't the only game in Las Vegas this week. For the true down-and-dirty technophile, the real action is at the International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE) – and The Reg got a sneek peek at the geek freak that commences while CES concludes.
The ICCE, under the umbrella of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is a gathering of the creative minds behind the technologies behind the engineering behind the manufacturing behind the products that eventually show up on the CES show floor.
As explained by ICCE's Stuart Lipoff at a CES session on Thursday morning dedicated to this year's ICCE, what's discussed at that conference often makes its way onto the CES show floor in "three to five years", though some technologies may arrive much sooner in fast-moving fields such as smartphones.
Here are some of the topics discussed at that session, titled in true boffinary understatement, "A preview of IEEE ICCE's most interesting technologies". Some of these are currently merely researchers' lab projects, some are in product-development mode, and some are available in the marketplace, but only at prohibitive prices. Read more...
With the constant bombardment of new tech toys that journalists, buyers and other industry people are subjected to at CES (and no, I'm not complaining, exactly -- but it can be overwhelming, even to the most jaded professional), we can sometimes forget that we aren't everyone. Pushed to look at the thinnest laptops, the smallest routers, the largest 3D TVs, the fastest smartphones, etc. etc., we forgot that a lot of the people whom the technology is actually meant for are just looking for something that works.
I was reminded of this yesterday, when I fell into conversation with a couple -- a husband and wife -- on a bus going to the Las Vegas Convention Center. They owned a white box company that put together systems for small- and medium-sized businesses in the San Francisco area and, according to them, were doing quite well. "Many smaller businesses look automatically toward consumer vendors and find that the machines don't work for them and don't last," said the man. He said that he was successfully providing equipment and service to quite a few companies -- some with several hundred employees -- on a local level. Read more...
The Carrier IQ privacy controversy shows little signs of letting up, as three lawmakers today called for a Congressional hearing on the implications raised by the use of the company's software by wireless carriers.
Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), G.K Butterfield (D-NC) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) sent an open letter (download PDF) to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking for an investigation of the data collection and transmission capabilities of Carrier IQ's software and similar products.
The letter, sent to Upton and two other subcommittee chairs, also asked Congress to find out whether Android phones were sold with security problems that would have exacerbated the problems caused by Carrier IQ's software.
"Data collection and transmission by Carrier IQ and similar software is widespread, and consumers appear to have little knowledge and even less control over the practice," the three lawmakers wrote. "There continue to be many unanswered questions about the handling of this data and the extent to which its collection, analysis, and transmission pose legitimate privacy concerns for the American public."
The Carrier IQ controversy erupted in late November, after independent security researcher Trevor Eckhart published a report showing how Carrier IQ's software could be used by wireless carriers to capture detailed information from Android-powered mobile devices, iPhones and other smartphones. Read more...
Samsung had a robotic floor sweeper at CES that's equipped with a camera and speaker. The electronics maker wants you to think about its potential.
Let's say you're at work and you connect, via an app, to your Navibot floor sweeper. You can adjust the camera position on the unit, as well as control its movement via the controller. By shifting the camera's position around the room, this leads to the discovery that the dog is asleep on the couch. Your next step is to shout into your tablet's microphone "bad doggy" -- and presumably the dog will jump off the couch once it hears your voice coming from Navibot.
The Navibot that was demonstrated as CES is an upgrade from earlier versions. Pricing was not yet available.
This Samsung sweeper also uses the camera to map the room for navigation.
But there is another category of drone-like devices that rely more on human controls and may find a place in the workplace and home, if you can get past their seemingly out-of-body experience.
In the ocean of vendors at CES, was Mantaro, a Germantown, Md.-based firm that's selling a device that doesn't sweep floors, but could act as your physical substitute at a business meeting. Read more...
The importance of bundling services and software with mobile devices is finally resonating with Android device makers as they compete with Apple, and some of them outlined their cloud strategies at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Acer and Lenovo, which make Android-based tablets and smartphones and Windows PCs, will offer cloud and hosting services that make it easier for people to synchronize and access content and documents across PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
Acer will load its devices with AcerCloud, a hosting service on which users can push documents and files that can be shared across its tablets, smartphones and PCs. Lenovo provided some details about its upcoming cloud service, which will allow content and files on its TVs, tablets, smartphones, and PCs to be accessed and shared through private or public clouds. Read more...
A Delhi court sent a summons to the headquarters of foreign Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo on Friday, in a private case against objectionable content online.
The Indian operations of some of these companies had earlier said that they were not responsible for the content, as their parent companies run the websites.
Local newspaper editor Vinay Rai found religious content on the sites that he considered offensive, and filed a complaint with a Delhi court, prompting Additional Metropolitan Magistrate Sudesh Kumar to issue notices to 21 Internet sites in December.
In an appeal against the order earlier in the week Google India told the Delhi High Court that it was not responsible for the company's websites, which are run by the parent company in the U.S., adopting a pass-the-buck stand that many Internet companies have taken when sued in India. Facebook also petitioned the High Court. Read more...