Another week in Tech has flown by as we head into December and the inevitable Christmas rush. This week we’ve had the good, the bad and the down-right ugly rear their heads in the world of consumer technology.
In a break from tradition we’ll start with the bad. Virgin Media announced this week that it would be snooping into 40% of it’s customers traffic using a technology called CView, which conducts Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) in an effort to determine the rate of music piracy across it’s network. Yes that’s right, Virgin is going to examine everything that goes to and from your computer if you happen to be in the lucky 40%. What does this really mean? Well if you’re pirating music across an unencrypted network like BitTorrent, VM will know and what they’ll do about it is unknown. Virgin are set to launch a music service in conjunction with Universal and their official line is that they want to gauge piracy levels. I don’t know about you, but piracy or not, I don’t want people snooping at everything I do or send across the Internet including email, IM, Waves and surfing. Maybe it’s time to protect yourself by changing providers or using a SSL tunnel to a proxy you trust.
Well that’s the bad out the way, how about the ugly? Are you living off Daddy’s trust fund or have recently come into a load of money? Do you have £1.92m burning a hole in your pocket? Well I’ve got just the thing for you. How about a solid gold iPhone encrusted with 136 flawless diamonds just in the front bezel? The iPhone 3GS supreme features a very rare, single cut, 7.1 carat diamond for a home button and 53 flawless diamonds making up the Apple logo on the back. Nice. But I think I’ll stick with a vanilla 3GS thanks, all that gold can’t be good for reception.
On with the good and more Apple rumours this week. Apple names it’s hardware via strict numerical numbering system, a single generation number followed by a decimal iteration number. For instance the current generation of Macbook Pro is 5,3 for the mid-2009 15″ model. An iPhone identified as 3,1 has been spotted by a software analytics program operating in the San Francisco area. The current iPhone 3GS carries an iPhone 2,1 identifier and it was spotted in much the same way in testing in October 2008, eight months before it’s eventual release. What does this mean? Well, we already knew Apple was likely to release a new iPhone in just over 6 months time, but the 3,1 identifier indicates that Apple will consider this a major hardware refresh. Whether this means a move to a PA Semi ARM chip, an OLED screen or a forward facing camera for mobile iChat is anyone’s guess. Others have speculated that the 3,1 moniker actually refers to the iTablet/iSlat/iPad, which is entirely possible as current rumours suggest that the fabled device will use the iPhone OS rather than a fully fledged OSX. I guess time will tell but my money is on another iPhone iteration.
Speaking of video calling, Fring bought one-way video calling to the iPhone this week with an app update. While one-way video is not particularly useful, other so you with the iPhone can see the other person, given hardware limitations, it’s better than nothing right? Maybe this’ll be more useful with the iPhone 4th Gen?
How about a solar powered aeroplane? Not possible you say, can’t generate enough juice from the sun to fly a plane. Well if you meant something like a 747 you’d be spot on, no chance with current solar energy tech, but how about something with the wing span of an Airbus but only the weight of a car? Well a one Captain Piccard (I kid you not), having successfully conducted runway testing has managed the first ever solar powered flight. OK, they only managed a 28 second flight at the dizzying height of one meter for 350 meters, but it’s a start right? Whether this proof of concept will ever produce something that you can actually use to fly to somewhere exotic it’s unlikely without a huge leap in photovoltaic tech, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic achievement. Next step for Bertrand Piccard and his team is a 36 hour day-night-day flight, so best of luck chaps, I’m routing for you.
In other news this week, Google has killed off development of Gears now that HTML 5 is making headway. Google’s plan for Gears was to introduce the concept of rich, offline webapps like Google Docs, Wave and Gmail and force adoption of a standard that did away with the need for plug-ins like HTML5. Now that it’s mission is complete, Gears will cease development but be maintained for the near future, as more and more browsers become HTML5 compliant.
Facebook also broke news this week that it’s reached an enormous 350m users, that’s more people than many small countries, and that it’s beefing up it’s privacy measures to help keep it’s users safe. Facebook also said that regional networks are going the way of the Dodo as they’re no longer functional due to the total number of users. Regional networks were designed to help people find each other and allow only certain people to see your information. Now that some regional networks have in excess of 1m people in them, they no longer fulfil the purpose they were designed to do. Fair enough I say, it’s not like I absolutely need regional networks with all the other work, college and misc networks available to connect to friends.
With Google about to make the PND market pretty mixed up with it’s free turn-by-turn navigation software for Android and others, GPS manufacturers like TomTom have been searching for weapons to fend off the Google invasion. Step forward Voice Skins, the folks behind other amusing celebrity voice packs like Homer Simpson, with what could be the best voice to hit your TomTom, Snoop Dogg. Fancy Mr. Dogg on your TomTom? Well for the bargain price of $12.95 you too can get Snoop to guide you to your destination. Eat that Google!
That’s your lot for this week, check back next Friday for more cherry picked stories from the tech world for your reading pleasure.