Weekend news roundup

28 Feb 2011

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend’s newspapers, including the enigma that is Quora, Harper Collins on giving e-books to public libraries, the capture of a criminal mastermind and Kainos’ expansion into the UK healthcare market.

Skimming mastermind cornered

The Irish Independent revealed on Saturday how the mastermind behind an international fraud operation responsible for skimming both private and business bank accounts has been uncovered in Limerick.

Following a major joint investigation by gardai and customs officers, a man was arrested at a house in Limerick City yesterday.

The evidence recovered at the suburban home and taken away by officers last night included personal and business bank account details, ATM skimming machines, presses for manufacturing bank and credit cards, electrical components for recording electronic data, and pinhole cameras with covers attached that are fitted over ATMs.

Blank bank and credit cards and other cards with names pressed were also recovered along with $10,000 (€7,272). Some of the names on the bank cards are of Irish origin and gardai are attempting to establish if and how the identities were stolen.

The Irish Independent understands that the man has been under surveillance over recent months. It’s believed he has based his sophisticated operation from the Limerick house for the last two years.

Questions and answers

The Observer’s Jemima Kiss reported on latest Silicon Valley phenomenon Quora. She asked: Where does your web journey start? Chances are often at Google.com, where the page now attempts to suggest search results even before you’ve finished typing. But however doggedly Google pursues its mission to organise the world’s information, there are among the growing band of website pioneers new, innovative and increasingly influential companies pushing alternative ways to find what you’re looking for.

Type a question into Google these days and, particularly if it’s related to the technology business, you’re increasingly likely to be served results from Quora.com. A simple Q&A site with well-executed rating features and social media integration, Quora has become the darling of Silicon Valley’s elite and has provided easy pickings for quote-hunting technology journalists since it was launched in January 2010.

This week, the latest bubble-expanding rumours claimed that Quora turned down investment funds that valued the firm at $1bn (£620m). Hot on the heels of Facebook’s latest astonishing valuation of $60bn, Twitter at $10bn and social-games company Zynga at $9bn, Quora’s perceived value can be taken as another indicator of an inflated and unrealistic internet market. But it is also incontrovertible evidence that the online Q&A business is on a steep upward curve.

Kainos looks at UK healthcare business

The Sunday Business Post reported how Brendan Mooney, the chief executive of Belfast-based software firm Kainos, said his company was still struggling to find Irish IT graduates. Mooney is not the first company boss to bemoan the low throughput of IT graduates, indicating that a real shortage of homegrown talent exists right across the sector.

Three and a half years ago, the company decided to find an alternative source of staff, and looked at a number of locations in Europe. It eventually settled on Gdansk, in Poland, where it now employs 18 graduates, all the product of local third-level colleges.

‘‘It probably goes back to 2000 and 2001, when IT companies were laying off lots of people,” he said.

‘‘It may have gotten into parents’ heads that technology should be avoided. Certainly, in Britain, computer science teaching in schools has shifted away from software development to IT as an end-user. We are producing more adept users, but not developers.”

E-books and public libraries

The New York Times reported yesterday that beginning in March, e-books from HarperCollins may be lent by public libraries only 26 times before the licence expires.

A print book can be checked out of a library countless times, at least until it falls apart and needs to be replaced.

What about an e-book?

HarperCollins, the publisher of Michael Crichton, Sarah Palin and Dennis Lehane, said on Friday it had revised its restrictions for libraries that offer its e-books to patrons.

Until now, libraries that have paid for the privilege of making a publisher’s e-books available for borrowing have typically been granted the right to lend an e-book – say, the latest John Grisham thriller – an unlimited number of times. Like print books, e-books in libraries are lent to one person at a time, often for two weeks. Then the book automatically expires from the borrower’s account.

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