Weekend news roundup

15 Aug 2011

A trawl through some of the technology news coverage in the weekend papers.

Amazon boss patents mobile phone airbags

Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos has applied for a patent on a mobile phone safety feature that would deploy an airbag if the device falls, The Telegraph reported.

According to the patent filing, which was submitted in February, but has only just been made public, tiny airbags would be deployed from the phone if the in-built accelerometer detected that was falling.

The patent submitted by the Amazon boss also suggests using a laser or even radar to determine the distance between the phone and the ground.

Other suggestions for protecting a falling phone include springs that would be released from the casing to ensure that the phone safely bounced on hitting the ground. The patent application also suggests a gyroscope or jets of compressed air could be used to alter the angle of the device in the air.

The invention is credited to Bezos and Amazon vice-president Greg Heart but the patent has not yet been granted.

Google probe expands

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the US Federal Trade Commission has expanded its antitrust investigation of Google Inc., issuing demands for information to other technology companies, two people familiar with the matter said.

The people, who didn’t want to be named because they weren’t authorised to speak about the probe, said they didn’t know which companies had received the civil investigative demands from the FTC. The demands are similar to subpoenas.

The demands will probably be sent out in groups to rivals that have complained that Google has used its dominance as the world’s most popular search engine to hurt competition in the internet industry, said a third person familiar with the matter.

The FTC is focusing on whether Google unfairly ranks search results to favour its own businesses and increases advertising rates for competitors, the person said. The agency also is examining whether the company is using its control of the Android mobile operating system to discourage smart-phone makers from using rivals’ applications, the person said.

Superfast broadband gets ready to go UK-wide

Britain’s culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will this week allocate a stg£530m fund for broadband-starved communities in Britain, The Guardian reports.

Cornish fishing villages, Welsh valleys and Cumbrian farmsteads will all have access to high-speed internet within four years if telecoms companies add their money to the state pot and consumers show interest.

Hunt is expected to announce how the money, diverted from the BBC to create a digital Britain, will be shared among 40 areas, including English councils, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A further £300m has been promised after 2015.

The British government wants all 25m UK homes to have access to a minimum speed of 2Mbps.

North Korean hackers stole $6m in gaming scheme, claims South

The Guardian also reported how South Korean police claimed $6m was stolen after 30 hackers from the North infiltrated online game servers in Seoul.

North Korea, whose people may be the most cut-off nation in the world, stands accused by its southern rival of operating an elaborate hacking network that allegedly broke into online sites hosted in South Korea and stole prize points worth almost stg£3.7m ($6m).

Police in the south believe the hackers based in northeast China were hired to infiltrate the servers and build so-called “auto programs” based on the data they siphoned. Investigators arrested five South Koreans last week and accused them of building and distributing the illegal programs. They said some of the proceeds went to the cash-strapped regime in Pyongyang.

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