Weekend news roundup

18 Apr 2011

In our review of the weekend’s newspapers, how Silicon Valley’s finest firms roared back from the Great Recession, bungling UK civil servants have published secret data online for all to see and Siemens has been accused by Iran of supporting the Stuxnet attack.

Silicon Valley’s finest roar out of the recession

Roaring back from the Great Recession, the 150 biggest public companies in Silicon Valley had their most profitable year in history in 2010, as their combined stock value climbed to the highest level since the internet boom of 2000, The San Jose Mercury News reported over the weekend.

Revenue and profits soared as consumers flocked to buy new handheld gadgets, while corporations and public agencies resumed buying hardware and software to handle a rising tide of digital data — from emails, tweets and videos to all manner of online transactions and internet search results.

Those trends drove tech sales and profits higher than they were before the downturn of 2008 and 2009. For companies on the Mercury News‘ SV150 list, combined sales for the past four quarters rose 20.3pc from a year earlier. Combined profit skyrocketed 78.6pc. The list comprises the 150 biggest public companies, measured by revenue, that are based in Silicon Valley.

Companies responded by significantly boosting their spending on research and development, new plants and equipment, and stock repurchases. Big companies bought up dozens of smaller ones. But after laying off thousands during the downturn, many were cautious about adding new jobs.

“The industry definitely came out of recession in 2010,” said Stephen Minton, an analyst for the IDC research firm. He said the resumption of tech purchases “was faster than expected and it occurred more quickly than after previous recessions.”

German engineering giant accused of supporting cyber attack

The Observer has reported that Iran accused Siemens of helping launch a Stuxnet cyber attack. A senior official says the German engineering giant supplied US and Israel with details of a control system used by Tehran.

Iran has accused Siemens of helping Israel and the US launch a computer worm designed to sabotage its nuclear facilities.

A senior Iranian military commander said the company facilitated the Stuxnet worm cyber attack against Iran by providing Washington and Jerusalem with information about a Siemens-designed control system, SCADA, used in Iran’s nuclear sites.

Google Video to no longer host videos

USA Today reported that Google this weekend sent a notice to users that it was shutting down the hosting service, which had stopped taking uploads a couple of years ago.

Google is asking that folks migrate their material to YouTube, its uber popular video site. The move is not surprising, given YouTube’s place in the market.

Wikipedia notes that the service began in 2005, the year before Google bought YouTube. Google said it would instead focus its efforts on video search technologies.

UK officials bungle state secrets online

The Daily Telegraph reported how sensitive secrets were put on the internet in Whitehall blunders. Secret information from at least three separate government departments is available on the internet because of incompetent handling of sensitive material by Whitehall officials, The Daily Telegraph disclosed.

The Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government have published sensitive documents online, but then failed to properly ”redact” classified information.

As a result, information that is supposed to be hidden from public view can be read by anyone with access to a computer.

The Daily Telegraph discovered the security breaches yesterday after the Ministry of Defence admitted that secrets about Britain’s nuclear submarines were obtainable from a government report published online.

A technical error meant blacked-out parts of the report could be read by ”copying and pasting” its contents into another document.

High-tech response to call of nature

When nature calls, most of us head to the nearest toilet to do our business, reported USA Today. If the bathroom has the Kohler Numi that launches in the US at the end of the month, you might be tempted to hang out awhile.

The customisable “smart toilet” lets you adjust seat position, water temperature and pressure, ambient lighting and even audio. Numi not only has a built-in music system with rear speakers, but also an FM radio and audio input jack for an MP3 player.

It has an adjustable heated seat and foot warmer, too, plus an integrated stainless steel, self-cleaning bidet wand with a dryer. A motion-controlled seat and lid can automatically open when you approach and close when you split.

Tripping a bar of light on the floor to the side of the toilet automatically raises the seat, while the toilet automatically flushes when walking away.

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