Weekend news roundup

7 Nov 2011

A roundup of the weekend’s tech coverage in the papers, including the strange humour and intelligence of Siri, how watching the kids could be a new way of stopping cyber crime and the trend among tech companies to use home decor to add charm to the work space.

A Siri-ously strange brand of humour

The New York Times’ fashion section reported on the humour that can be found in Apple’s voice-recognition-based artificial intelligence technology Siri – and its ability to talk back.

“Yael Baker, a public relations and media consultant in New York, said that Siri allowed her to dictate text messages while driving and reminded her not to leave the house without keys or coffee. ‘I’m so in awe of Siri that I ask her to marry me every day, and her answers have varied from “That’s sweet but let’s just be friends,” to “Thanks, Yael, but I’m just here to serve you,” she said. ‘Sometimes I feel I have a true friend tucked away in my phone.’”

Watching the detectives

To stop cyber crime, we need to think like the criminals, reported The Observer. Efforts to combat cyber crime concentrate on enhanced security, but intercepting the kids drawn into its web might prove better, the paper argued.

Reporting on the London Conference on Cyberspace, it said: “William Hague talked of ‘threats and opportunities’ but much of the talk at the conference inevitably focused on the former. And with good reason. Most governments have now woken up to the fact that cyber crime is a booming business. Reliable statistics are hard to come by: online crime is massively under reported by banks and many of the organisations publishing scary numbers have a vested interest in raising hairs. But nobody doubts that cyberspace has become a really lucrative opportunity for crooks. The most recent ‘state of cyber crime’ report from Symantec, a security firm, asserts that cyber crime now costs the world $388bn annually, of which $114bn is the direct cash cost of online fraud, and the remainder the indirect costs of dealing with its consequences. This is bigger than the black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined.”

Bringing home to the office

The Financial Times reported on the trend, particularly within tech companies, of incorporating elements of home decor in the work space.

“Following the lead of Silicon Valley’s internet hipsters, many office designers are finding inspiration in residential interiors. These days, office life can involve sending emails from a deck chair, doing research in a wood-panelled library or holding a meeting on a designer sofa.

“A more domestic style of office design has been popular with companies since the dotcom boom and, although many other sectors have since embraced it, internet companies continue to lead the way. Studio O+A, an office design company based in San Francisco, has worked on the interiors for companies such as Facebook, Paypal and Yelp. This summer, it designed a new AOL office in Palo Alto, California. Prior to the redesign, it was a typical office ‘with cubes, private conference rooms and nothing in between,’ says Primo Orpilla, a principal designer at Studio O+A. It now incorporates distinctly domestic elements, from soft furniture and cosy seating areas to an outdoor space with garden chairs and a large mixed-use space with pool tables and games. ‘People are spending more and more time at their office and we want to make sure they are comfortable,’ says Orpilla, ‘so the residential correlation is definitely deliberate.’”

Software sales help exports

Software sales are leading Irish exports, reported The Irish Independent, which said companies sold more services in October, but exporters say growth is slowing.

“Services for export – such as software sales – led the way. NCB Stockbrokers’ purchasing managers index (PMI) showed the Irish services sector expanded in October, for the 10th month in a row.

“The index measures activity on a scale either side of 50, where any number above 50 means growth and a number below 50 shows contraction. In October, Irish services hit 51.5 on the index, based on a survey of company managers. It was up very slightly on the previous month.”

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