Weekend news roundup

20 Jun 2011

A selection of some of the breaking tech stories in the weekend’s newspapers, including a new jet that travels at four times the speed of sound, the hacking of Sega’s website and how Silicon Valley residents await the landing of Apple’s giant iSpaceship.

Anticipating the landing of the iSpaceship

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the humongous Apple mothership campus will one day call Cupertino, California, home, but it’ll sit so close to Sunnyvale and Santa Clara that residents there will be able to look out their windows and catch a glimpse of Apple CEO Steve Jobs heading to work – along with 12,000 other employees.

But the tech giant’s pure economic prowess, with its potential to raise nearby property values and bring good jobs to the region, is easing – for now, at least – the typical NIMBY-like disputes and border wars that have plagued these cities in the past.

So even though Cupertino will soak up the worldwide prestige and millions of dollars in tax revenues, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are not raising alarm yet about the extra traffic, noise and other suburban headaches sure to be buzzing around their borders.

Sunnyvale resident David Cookson – who has for the past 18 years lived across the street from the 155-acre site of the forthcoming campus, now occupied by HP – says he isn’t thrilled about the extra commotion sure to cook up from the iSpaceship sizzling less than 30.5 metres away from his doorstep. But he’s more than willing to overlook those bothers if it means he can drink in the successes of a campus he joked is destined to become “the eighth wonder of the world.”

“A project like that, how could you say no?” said Cookson.

Sega security hacked

The Telegraph reported that Sega has alerted users of its online Sega Pass network that hackers had managed to obtain personal information.

An email sent to users warned that email addresses, dates of birth and encrypted passwords had been obtained, but no financial information was at risk.

The Sega Pass system was taken offline on Thursday and all users’ passwords have been reset.

Customers have been advised to be on the alert for suspicious emails asking for further personal information.

It is the latest in a series of high-profile attacks on computer games companies, including Sony and another games company, Codemasters.

No mention of Facebook or Twitter on TV – it’s a French thing

The Observer reported on a curious French initiative in internet control. The background is that earlier this month the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA), France’s media regulator, ruled that the country’s TV networks and radio stations will no longer be able to explicitly mention Facebook or Twitter on air, except when discussing a story in which either company is directly involved.

In ruling thus, the regulator was implementing a 1992 government decree that makes it illegal for media organisations to promote brands during news broadcasts, on the grounds that doing so might inhibit competition. This means that French broadcast journalists cannot invite viewers or listeners to “follow” them on Facebook or Twitter but instead have to resort to circumlocutions like “your favourite social network”.

A spokeswoman for the CSA explained the thinking behind the ban. “Why give preference to Facebook, which is worth billions of dollars,” she asked, “when there are many other social networks that are struggling for recognition? This would be a distortion of competition. If we allow Facebook and Twitter to be cited on air, it’s opening a Pandora’s Box – other social networks will complain to us saying, ‘Why not us?’ ”

Blisteringly fast jet to soar 32 kilometres above the Earth

The Telegraph reported that if the futuristic plans for ZEHRA, standing for Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation, prove feasible, the 5,029 km/h jet will transport up to 100 passengers at more than four times the speed of sound, soaring 32 kilometres above Earth – just outside its atmosphere.

At such speeds, it will take just 90 minutes to fly from Paris to New York, compared to three and a half hours for Concorde and almost eight hours in a normal passenger jet.

EADS, the European plane maker which is due to detail its plans at the Paris air show starting today, expects ZEHRA’s first commercial flight to take place in 2050, with the first non-manned test flight slated for 2020.

Under blueprints leaked to Le Parisien newspaper yesterday, the jet will be almost totally environmentally “clean”, forgoing kerosene in favour of a mixture of biofuel, hydrogen and water. Most of what little pollution it emits will remain in space.

It will target business passengers willing to pay the same price as a Concorde, namely around £5,000 pounds return from London to New York.

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