Weekend news round-up: Irish invade Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs’ no to Apple television

18 Mar 2014

The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple

In our round-up of the weekend’s technology news, Irish start-ups are invading Silicon Valley in droves, Steve Jobs ruled out the likelihood of an Apple television before his death, and the spectre of sexism continues to haunt Silicon Valley.

The Irish invasion of Silicon Valley

The San Jose Mercury News had an op-ed from businessman and former mayor of San Jose Tom McEnergy about how Irish start-ups are pouring into Silicon Valley in California.

“Ireland has long been a land of emigrants and our valley has always welcomed them. The links go back to the earliest days. In 1844, Martin Murphy crossed the Sierras and founded Sunnyvale. Menlo Park was begun by two Irishmen who named the area after their native Menlo near Galway. The chief lieutenant of the legendary Michael Collins, lived for 30 years in Los Gatos.

“Yet the bonds that really tie are those business and cultural ones between San Jose and Dublin, Silicon Valley and Ireland. The rich past was but a prelude to a connection that has long been the European base of choice for American technology companies, such as Intel, Apple, Cisco, Seagate, Google and many others calling it home. I was honoured to be at Intel’s seminal groundbreaking 25 years ago.”

Steve Jobs ruled out future Apple television before his death

Before he died, then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs is believed to have told top executives that Apple would not be making a TV, Business Insider reported.

The claim has been made in former Apple beat reporter Yukari Iwatani’s new book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal. When Jobs was asked at an annual pow-wow of Apple executives if a television was in the works, Jobs did not hesitate.

“He said, ‘No. TV is a terrible business. They don’t turn over and the margins suck.’”

Spectre of sexism still haunts Silicon Valley

One of the revelations to shake the erstwhile clean-as-a-whistle tech scene in California has been the news that talented software engineer Julie-ann Horvath left her position at GitHub, alleging sexism and intimidation behind her decision, according to a report by TechCrunch.

“Horvath said that she felt she was being treated differently internally simply due to her gender and not the quality of her work. She calls her colleagues’ response to her own work and the work of other female GitHub employees a ‘serious problem’. Despite GitHub hiring more female developers, Horvath said she struggled to feel welcome.”

But that was just a hint of what was to come, with allegations regarding intimidation by the wife of the one of the founders, as well as unwelcome advances from a male colleague.

GitHub responded swiftly to the situation, suspending the founder and launching an investigation into Horvath’s allegations. CEO and co-founder Chris Wanstrath said: “We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that’s ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer. The founder’s wife discussed in the media reports has never had hiring or firing power at GitHub and will no longer be permitted in the office.”

The NSA’s most powerful internet attack tool

Wired provided a fascinating insight into a US National Security Agency (NSA) system called QUANTUM, a near-universal internet exploitation mechanism.

“QUANTUM packs a suite of attack tools, including both DNS injection (upgrading the man-on-the-side to a man-in-the-middle, allowing bogus certificates and similar routines to break SSL) and HTTP injection. That’s reasonable enough. But it also includes gadgets like a plug-in to inject into MySQL connections, allowing the NSA to quietly mess with the contents of a third-party’s database. (This also surprisingly suggests that unencrypted MySQL on the internet is common enough to attract NSA attention.)

“And it allows the NSA to hijack both IRC and HTTP-based criminal botnets, and also includes routines which use packet-injection to create phantom servers, and even attempting (poorly) to use this for defence.”

Humanity is screwed

Gizmodo reported on a new study by NASA that posters the world’s industrial societies are on the brink of collapse under the weight of their own unsustainable appetites for resources.

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilisations can be both fragile and impermanent,” the NASA study says, arguing that the reduction of economic inequality, a focus on renewable resources and reduced population growth are the only solutions left.

Stay informed – get daily updates on the latest happenings in technology directly to your inbox.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years