Week’s Top Tech 8; 8th – 15th Jan 2017

The second week of the year comes with a number of interesting stories that caught my attention.

The second week of the year comes with a number of interesting stories that caught my attention.

  1. The car industry is trying to redefine itself in this modern day age, with Cadillac throwing its hat into the ring with a new $1500 a month service that lets you pick and choose your cars as often as you wish
  2. Those crazy Ozzy boys down under, Atlassian, have gone added to their services by buying the popular project management service, Tello service for $425M. They promise not to fiddle with it too much.
  3. The fate of Yahoo has not yet been decided as Verizon still continue their will-they-or-won’t-they game, but Mayer has resigned from the board as Yahoo is renamed Atlaba
  4. The fight for your seats in the air, JetBlue has upped the ante by offering free broadband in the air.  Come on United, do the same thing will ya?
  5. Pandora is still struggling to compete with the plethora of streaming services, as it sheds 7% of its workforce to cut costs
  6. Banana’s are on the brink of extinction if you can believe that?  Our beloved yellow fruit has developed a disease that is proving hard to beat
  7. Seems like everyone is getting into the electric car business.  James Dyson has thrown his hat into the ring.  And why not?  It isn’t a huge leap from expensive vacuum cleaners to automobile!
  8. We all know 3D printers are cool, but how about a bio 3D printer?  One that prints body parts on demand.  Star Trek future is coming faster than anyone ever predicted.


… and this weeks soundtrack was from the early 90’s, as New Kids On The Block was rediscovered as it was popped up in a YouTube evening.


Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 12th Dec

Second week of December and we see Yahoo in more security problems, malware that tests our morality, Cisco bails on their cloud, Verizon puts out the Samsung fire, Slack gains video calling, virtual assistant gets a hologram to keep us company and Henry Heimlich dies.

Second week of December and we see Yahoo in more security problems, malware that tests our morality, Cisco bails on their cloud, Verizon puts out the Samsung fire, Slack gains video calling, virtual assistant gets a hologram to keep us company and Henry Heimlich dies.

  1. New ransomware tests the morality of those infected
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-27-58.pngThis is a new twist in the cyber extortion world.  We all know about how malware can target a machine and start deleting files if they do not pay a given amount of money to the hackers.  Well there is a way to sidestep this payment – that is to infect 2 other people and if they succumb you will get an unlock key and you are off the hook.

    This will be an interesting test of people’s honesty and faith.  Would you pass?

  2. Verizon will disable Samsung’s Note 7 this month
    screenshot-2016-12-11-at-08-14-46Verizon who previously said they wouldn’t get involved in the deactivation of Samsung’s infamous flame bursting phone have reversed their decision and in an upcoming software update they will disable people from charging the phone.  This will effectively render them useless.

    Only 7% of handsets are still out there after the vast majority exchanged them.  This will hopefully push the last few over the line and stop the airlines from having to issue warnings on each flight.

  3. Amazon’s cloud claims another; Cisco discontinues their cloud
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-37-25.pngCisco’s ‘Intercloud’ which had a $1B budget behind it will be closing its doors in March 2017.  While it has not publicly acknowledged Amazon, it has noted that existing clients will be moving to other public cloud operators.

    This is another big casualty in the cloud war, and while I am a huge AWS supporter, I don’t want it to be the only player in town.  We need competition in this space.

  4. Slack has added video calling to its app
    chrome_2016-09-30_22-00-12Slack, the very popular corporate chat system, has finally added video calling to its suite.   This brings it inline with pretty much every other chat system.  You can do one-2-one video calling, or group calling.

    Once they add desktop sharing, then this will be one of the best tools for teams and really take a huge chunk away from the likes of GoTo Meeting.

  5. Yahoo admits to another earlier attack; 1 billion accounts at risk
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-32-32The oldest property on the Internet block is just not having a good time of it.  They have released details of an earlier attack, circa 2013, where over 1 billion accounts were compromised.  This is in addition to the 2014 hack where 500 million accounts were abused.

    As you know Verizon are trying to close a deal to purchase Yahoo, and while this probably won’t make Verizon to step away, it gives them yet another excuse to drive down the asking price from the $4.7B.

  6. Tech titans, minus one, met with Trump this week
    The country’s new President-elect met with all the tech titans this week in a summit to discuss various things.   The big players were there, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, etc.  However one player was noticeably absent from this group – namely Jack Dorsey from Twitter.

    The very company that arguably won him the election, was left out because Trump felt they were too small a player. What do you even say to that?!?

  7. Girl in a box is the face of a virtual assistant
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-49-52.pngWe are all starting to get use to the faceless helpers such as Amazon’s Echo, or Apple’s Siri.  Well GateBox have upped the ante here and offered up a hologram to respond to your every move.   While this may first appear creepy, it does make a lot of sense, to have something more contextual to react to instead of just a voice.   The avatar can feedback using actions which will speed up the interactions.

    This I believe is the future of this style AI functions and I can see us all having our own customized avatar that will be with us for life.   Watch this space – more to come here I am sure.

  8. Henry Heimlich, yes that one, has sadly died
    chrome_2016-12-18_19-57-02.pngThe man that invented one of the most famous anti-choking moves in the world, has sadly passed away at the age of 96.   Henry invented the technique in 1974 when he discovered an alarming number of people died while eating out.   He died of natural causes, as opposed to choking himself – the irony would have been too much.

    In honor of the man that saved many, I give you an excellent clip from Eddie Izzard as he performs a stand-up routine around on the technique.

.. the countdown to Christmas day is in full swing and I discovered this seasonal tune from ColdPlay.  I am a big Chris Martin fan, so surprised this one slipped by me a couple of years ago.

Last Week’s Top 8 Tech Stories – 7th Nov

Welcome to this week’s, election free, roundup of the news that caught my attention this week, ranging from self-testing USB sticks, security attacks on Tesco, how Facebook buys passwords from hackers, NFL losing viewers, cramped airlines, Yahoo still dancing with Verizon, to a warning about pervy teenagers in sunglasses.

Welcome to this week’s, election free, roundup of the news that caught my attention this week, ranging from self-testing USB sticks, security attacks on Tesco, how Facebook buys passwords from hackers, NFL losing viewers, cramped airlines, Yahoo still dancing with Verizon, to a warning about pervy teenagers in sunglasses.


  1. USB stick for detecting the HIV virus in blood
    explorer_2016-11-13_10-28-48A company in the UK has developed a USB stick that can detect the amount of HIV in the blood within 20 minutes, with 88% accuracy.  This is a huge improvement on the ‘try-at-home’ mouth swab self testing kits that are currently available.  No hint of availability or cost.

    This is a very controversial space since Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos fame, somewhat shit in the blood test nest for everyone else.  If it does bear out, it will have huge implications for testing in 3rd world countries where access to medical equipment is scant at best.

  2. Tesco Bank, the UK’s largest supermarket, runs foul of cyber thieves as they do a ‘Superman III’ attack
    chrome_2016-11-13_10-42-07Last weekend, cyber thieves managed to successfully siphon off £2.5M from 9000 online accounts.  There is no official how so far, but experts have stepped forward noting their mobile apps had some possible problems, coupled with a potential insider who was apparently selling access in the dark web.

    No amount of security will protect us from the disgruntled employee; every company has that person that knows that little too much.  Apparently they have been sucking off small amounts for months now, but someone got greedy/impatient I imagine, resulting in everything being shut down.

  3. Verizon and Yahoo continue to tease us, with threats Verizon may step away
    chrome_2016-11-13_10-56-35.pngThis one is turning out to be the tech equivalent of will they or won’t they Mulder and Scully love affair.  After discovering a huge data breach (500M accounts) was lost and some inside Yahoo knew this before the deal was signed, Verizon are being very coy and stroking their chins deciding on whether to continue with the $4.8B deal.

    Of course they aren’t walking away, they are just going to lob off a couple of billion and get one of the oldest Internet properties at a steal (ironic eh?).

  4.  Facebook buys stolen passwords on black market to help protect the stupid
    chrome_2016-11-13_11-05-49.pngThis week, head of security at Facebook gave a talk on security noting that the biggest problem facing security today, is that users are still using the same password across all their online properties.  To help them fight this, they have bought password lists from hackers in the dark web to run them against their database to flag such people and have them update accordingly.

    This one has me on the ethical fence; like a movie where the company buys back the painting from the cat burglar to save some bad publicity.  There is no excuse for reusing the same password, we just need to educate people –  LastPass went free for everyone the other week.

  5. NFL ratings tank; who knew that 70 ads per game was too much?
    chrome_2016-11-13_11-16-05.pngOne of America’s most loved sports is in chaos as ratings plunge.  NFL Commissioner has come out and said the game needs to change because people are just not willing to wait anymore.  Continual timeouts, stoppages, ads (70 per game!!) are all adding up to a frustration that are turning people off the game.   The Netflix ‘ad-free uninterrupted experience‘ culture is being blamed.

    Though, if non-stop action is what you are looking for, then take a look at soccer or even rugby (which is NFL without padding) – it may surprise you.

  6. New York to London in 3hrs and for only $2500? Sonic jets are back
    chrome_2016-11-13_11-27-02Ever since Concorde got grounded 13 years ago, we’ve had no way to get around the planet at any faster than 575 mph commercially speaking.  However a new company, Boom Super Sonic has emerged stating they could begin flying us back and forth as early as 2020, for as little as $2500.

    Their technology is promising even faster speeds than Concorde, using less fuel and less noise.  Though we will still have that wonderful boom as the sound barrier is broken.  About time air travel had some real innovation.

  7. BA planes to add 52 seats to existing planes for more capacity
    chrome_2016-11-13_11-36-51.pngTo know love, we first must suffer pain and BA is going to help us with that after reading about supersonic jets.  They plan to add an extra seat to every row, increasing the number of seats in a standard 777 to 332 from 280.

    Assuming the laws of physics are still being adhered to, if the total volume inside the plane isn’t increasing, then we can only assume the already thin seats are about to get smaller.  Where the hell you going to put an extra 52 people and all their carry-on in a 777!?!?

  8. Beware of grinning teenagers wearing cheap looking plastic shades
    chrome_2016-09-24_05-46-33As I’ve noted before, Snapchat is getting into the wearables market with a pair of sunglasses that can record 10 seconds of video for only $140 a pair (compared to the $1500 of the Google Glass experiment).  This week they tested the market with a stealth pop-up kiosk selling the first run of units.

    What makes the Snap glasses different is that they don’t look like glasses with a video camera installed in them; so infinitely more stealthy.  You’ve been warned.


… and this week’s soundtrack is a bittersweet one, with 2016 claiming another victim, as Leonard Cohen was taken from the world at 82 years of age.  So I give you one of my favourite video’s from the gentlemen of music.

Weekly Top 8 Tech Stories – 10th October

This weeks top tech stories for the week of the 10th Oct. Amazon, SalesForce, Netflix, Twitter, Samsung, AOL

Another week in the world of tech and here are the stories that caught my attention on this week starting 10th October 2016.

  1. Samsung pull the plug on its flagship Note 7
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-28-02After all of its woes, and for the first time a manufacturer has done such a step, Samsung have finally stopped making and shipping the Note 7.  Too many flames in that smoke.  This whole incident will cost the company $5B in real money and likely a more in customer goodwill and brand damage.   It is a complete nightmare.

    After recalls and units still bursting into flames, the Department of Transport officially ban people from flying with the phone, there is no recovery from this, so Samsung are looking to S8 due out in the 1st quarter of 2017.   You can be rest assured the likes of Apple, Google, HTC and LG are looking into the quality of their supply chain.

  2. Twitter is the house on the block no one wants to buy
    chrome_2016-10-16_10-37-48The last few weeks had a lot of buzz around the potential buy-out of Twitter by the likes of SalesForce, Google or even Disney.  However, all parties have had a deep look at the in’s and out’s and opted to walk away, citing they aren’t the right fit.

    This is seriously bad news for Twitter, because if those big players are out of the picture, who else is left that thinks they can monetize this medium that fits between the cracks of social media.  Stock price depressed upon this news.

  3. Yahoo fighting for survival on a number of fronts
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-32-32Yahoo is trying to close the sale to Verizon, however Verizon are now looking to walk away from the deal due to the huge data security breach of its user base. If that isn’t enough, those people still using @yahoo.com email accounts, discovered this week that Yahoo pulled the feature to auto-forward emails.   This effectively is locking people into Yahoo and not making it easy for them to migrate off.  As you can appreciate this is infuriating its user base.  Yahoo put it back in again at the end of the week, but its excuse was awfully flimsy to why it pulled the feature in the first place.

    Marissa Mayer looks to be blundering here at the very time Yahoo needs a strong and determined CEO.   She can still save this so the next couple of weeks is going to be crucial.

  4. Germany votes to ride the combustion engine by 2030
    chrome_2016-10-16_10-51-37The home of the automobile (BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche) have voted to stop manufacturing and selling traditional gas powered engines by 2030.  A bold step but their hopes is to speed up the innovation around alternative fuels.  Tesla has already set the bar very high as to what electric cars can do, and Mercedes has declared they will over take Tesla’s innovation in 10 years time.

    The reality here is that they looking to have zero-emission engines.  Be interesting to see if other countries will follow suit here, but one upside is that we are going into a phase of extremely clean air in our cities.

  5. Amazon calls bullshit on Oracle’s cloud claims
    chrome_2016-09-24_05-16-50Oracle has never been shy about its boasts on its own technology.  Do you remember the whole ‘Unbreakable Linux’ claim 15 years ago, until it was proven it was indeed breakable?   Well Larry Ellison is at it again, claiming that Amazon is 20 years behind Oracle’s cloud and up to 24 times slower.   Oh dear.

    Well Amazon, who usually do not dignify such claims by getting involved, fired back at Larry.   Oracle is desperately trying to be relevant in the cloud space and the reality is that they are the ones that are years too late with too little services too late.  Gartner noted that Amazon is 10x bigger than its next 14 competitors combined.  There is a reason for this – it works and works very well.

  6. Morgan Stanley updates its yearly 30 top stocks to look for
    Morgan Stanley released the top stocks that they believe will do best when should the economy slow down a little.  We have Amazon, Google, Netflix, Facebook in there from the world of big tech.
  7. Netflix will offer offline viewing by year end
    chrome_2016-10-16_11-16-04Speaking of Netflix, it looks like that they can’t dodge the disconnected offline world we live in and are going to finally allow its content to be downloaded to be viewed later.  Applaud Netflix for listening to its paying customers.

    This could actually lessen the bandwidth load as people can download quicker in short bursts and then enjoy the content at their leisure in the air for the example.

  8. The history of the AOL CD
    This week, we seen the head of sales leave AOL, reminding us all that AOL still exists (part of Verizon if you recall).  You have to wonder just how hard a job that is, when you have a brand that people associate most with is dial-up internet access and their infamous CD ROM.

    Mental Floss published a fascinating look back at the history of the CD ROM this week.


and finally, this week’s audible distraction was provided by Nate Ruess and his, Grand Romantic album released last summer.


Weekly Top 8 Tech Stories – 3rd October

The top stories from the week of the 3rd Oct; Samsung, Amazon, SalesForce, VMware, Yahoo, security and candles!

Here are the stories that caught my attention in the week starting 3rd October 2016.

  1. Samsung’s Note 7 replacement catches fire; plane is evacuated
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-28-02Samsung’s woes just got worse when its flagship Galaxy Note 7 burst into flames, when it was already turned off, onboard a Southwest flight.  The irony here was that this was a replacement phone from the first batch of faulty phones.  Network carriers are now offering free replacements to other handsets.

    Such a shame to see this, as I love my Note 5 and I was looking for to upgrading to the Note 7.  My reason is because the phone is waterproof – though I will need it to be flame proof too!

  2. Yahoo caught spying on its users emails for the NSA
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-32-32This is the first major email provider that has been caught with its fingers in their user’s inbox.   They not only gave data to the NSA, but actually helped the NSA do their job by building filtering software to track for certain keywords. This is not good for Yahoo as they try to close the deal with Verizon, who are seeking a $1B discount off the sale price because of the stolen 500M users details.

    Email is still our primary link to our digital world – we have to trust our email providers safeguard our precious data.  This is 2 major strikes against one of the oldest domains.

  3. Saving babies lives thanks to IoT
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-54-21Internet of Things is creating buzz all over the industry at the moment as we look to track everything, and one company, Owlet Baby Care has taken it to your baby.   They have developed a sock ($250) that monitors the wee ones heart rate and oxygen levels alerting the parents when things significantly change.

    This gives me such joy to see technology coming together so beautifully to save lives in a space where there is much research being done on infant premature death.

  4. Save yourself – how to avoid being scammed online
    chrome_2016-10-08_07-56-35The vast majority of security hacks are down to the infallibility of the human – we’re so easily seduced and tricked into doing things we really shouldn’t.  A very handy info-graphic was released this week to show all the ways scammers try to seduce you and the very simply steps you can do to present.

    Covers all forms of online scams in a very easy digestible format.  Do yourself a favor and take a look, and then either feel educated, or smug you already knew it all.

  5. SalesForce announces an improved IoT offering
    chrome_2016-10-08_08-03-07The big cloud providers are desperate for your IoT data – Amazon, Google, Microsoft and SalesForce have extremely rich offerings to make it real easy to pump your device data to their cloud.   This week was DreamForce in San Francisco, the annual SalesForce love fest, where they announced a number of updates to their Thunder IoT cloud.  The main one is marrying up the device data with core data stored in SalesForce.

    This is a huge step considering how many companies run exclusively inside of SalesForce.  Though price is their achilles heel – running inside SalesForce is not a cheap experience when compared to Amazon.

  6. Dongle technology finally comes to ordinary credit cards
    chrome_2016-10-08_08-17-06.pngI am sure you have seen the security dongles that many banks issue for online access to your account.  They are small devices that continually generate numbers that you read off and type in to gain access.   This technology has now come to credit cards, with France trialing the card that updates the 3 digit number on the back every hour.

    While this will complicate our lives a little more, not being able to save the card online for fast purchasers as we will be forced to look at the card and type in the ever-changing 3 digits, it is a small price to pay to be immune from hacks and data dumps.

  7. VMware throws in the towel; joins Amazon’s cloud
    chrome_2016-09-24_05-16-50VMware, recently part of Dell, was the early pioneer of virtualization technology that allowed the cloud world to even exist.  Like the Yahoo’s of its era, VMware has struggled to compete with the mammoth Amazon offering and this week, we learned that they have finally decided to stop fighting it and now offer their software to run within the Amazon cloud.

    This is a huge admission that their own cloud offering is failing to take off and instead of losing out on the customer relationship altogether they have wisely decided to give their clients what they want.

  8. Keep that new Apple Mac feeling going longer with the Mac candle
    chrome_2016-10-08_08-24-52Nothing better than that new smell that comes with a car or even a house, but what about the smell from a newly booted Apple Mac?   Well for those diehard Apple fanboys they can keep that smell going longer, thanks to a new candle that burns the scent of a new Mac.

    Naturally, special order at the moment, until such times that Yankee Candle decides they need a whole range of ‘new unboxing scents’.


and finally, this week’s soundtrack was Passenger’s new album.

[review] Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!

I am always fascinated at the history of companies, particularly those that we interact with on a daily basis.  Yahoo is one of the original pioneering internet companies that seems to be a poison chalice for any CEO that attempts to reform it back to its glory days.

This book, contrary to the title, is not all about Mayer and her fight to save Yahoo.  It is instead a history of Yahoo, the many board room drama’s it has faced, the near misses and numerous hits.   There is a number of chapters focusing on Mayer at Google and how she rose up through the ranks there.

I had the good fortune of meeting and chatting with Marissa Mayer a long time ago, after a talk she delivered on the design of the Google search page.  I was impressed by her nervousness that overshadowed her brilliance trying to break through publicly.   That was nearly 10 years ago and after reading this book, it looks like she still suffers from this nervousness.

The book is fast paced and well written, taking the reader through each episode of Yahoo’s beleaguered history.  I read this book, 341 pages, in one night, failing to put it down as each chapter kept my interest and excitement at how things were panning out.   I knew of Yahoo’s many failures (attempt to buy Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc) but what I didn’t know was the real story behind those.  Fascinating.

An example when Microsoft attempted to buy Yahoo, for 3 times the price of the stock at the time.  Too much pontification and posturing ensured the deal was destined for failure, including the creation of a “suicide pill” which would make it very expensive for any would be suitor to make big changes.

It voted to adopt a new severance plan for Yahoo employees where, if the company were to be acquired, any Yahoo employee who quit “for good reason” would get a large cash payout and a bunch of stock they would have otherwise had to stay in their jobs for years to get.

A “good reason” would be “any substantial adverse alteration” in the employee’s job over the two years following the change in control. Given that many Yahoos had very specific responsibilities and qualifications, many of them would have been able to walk with cash and stock after the deal.

What was fascinating for me to learn was just how many CEO’s Yahoo went through that never knew technology – one never even used email!  This was ultimately the failure that lead Yahoo to be where it is today; two founders that never had the business ambition of Page/Brin. Got the sense they were never really that passionate about the business.

Yahoo created the very industry that made it irrelevant.  Netscape, an early pioneer under Jim Clark/Marc Andreessen, had the decency to call it a day and realize it was no longer in the game.  Yahoo suffers the same fate, however, management have checked out, but HR haven’t been told so the payroll continues.

The sheer size of the company was staggering to learn, the amount of projects (400+) it was supporting, all with their own infrastructure and languages.  There was no standard.  No unifying business strategy.  An example was Yahoo Photos competed with Flickr (an acquisition Yahoo made) for many years.

The only reason that Yahoo is still in the game today, is due to a $1B investment it made in Alibaba (the chinese online marketplace company) a number of years ago.  This has resulted in Yahoo’s stock to be in excess of $37B.   This is a good problem to have, however Yahoo’s stock is trading high not because of what it is doing back at home, but how it’s investment in Alibaba is doing.

Mayer is having to make a big decision this quarter on what she is going to be doing with that investment as shareholders are itching for her to give back.

Mayer has a big battle in front of her.  She has made huge progress with Yahoo in the first couple of years since taking over.   Focusing on some of its flag ship products (mail, home page) and bringing in a focus on mobile apps (their weather one won an Apple design award last year).  She is running the company finally as a product company with a laser like focus of her time going over the smallest of details.

“This page is too busy. What you need to do is look at every font on the page, every font size. And every time you see a new color or a new font size, you add up a point. I want this page below five points.”

Moral overall is much higher, employees are far more engaged and resumes are coming in.

She isn’t without blunders so far though.  She hasn’t hired terribly well for those around her management team, with one costing Yahoo $100M.

The book is unfinished.  Mayer is only just getting started in Yahoo and while it is easy to quickly snap to judgement I believe there is more to come on the Yahoo story.

[review] Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!