Weekend news roundup: Bono, webOS, hackers and fashion

20 Feb 2012

A trawl through the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, which includes Bono’s windfall from Yelp ahead of the Facebook IPO, how the IT people staved off the biggest hacker attack yet, the future for webOS and how fashion is bringing social media to the catwalks.

Bono Yelps with delight!

The Sunday Independent reported how U2 frontman Bono is set for a major windfall as another massive technology investment pays off. Bono is a partner in Silicon Valley private equity firm Elevation Partners, which owns a 22pc chunk of social media and review site Yelp, which announced plans for a €650m IPO last week.

All eyes will be on the Yelp flotation as it will be the first major internet company to IPO on Wall Street this year.

The Yelp float – which will raise about €80m for the company – is seen as a huge barometer of tech investor sentiment ahead of the €100bn Facebook listing in coming months.

The white hats out to save society from destruction

The Observer told a story of how a few self-selecting techno geeks fought the most devious and destructive attack ever launched on the web.

Today, the most serious computer predators are funded by rich criminal syndicates and even nations.

Cyber attacks were launched at digital networks in Estonia by ethnic Russian protesters in 2007 and in Georgia before Russia attacked that country in 2008; and someone, probably Israel or the United States (or both), successfully unleashed a worm called Stuxnet in 2010 to sabotage computer-controlled uranium centrifuges inside Iran’s secretive nuclear programme.

The threat may be virtual, but the consequences would be all too real. A successful computer attack could compromise nuclear reactors, electrical grids, transportation networks, pipelines – you name it.

The future of webOS

The San Jose Mercury News reported on how the future of webOS – the innovative mobile software that three successive CEOs at Hewlett-Packard have struggled to make into a profitable product – may lie somewhere in the windowless rooms of a Stanford Medical School radiology lab.

That’s where researcher Andrew B. Holbrook is working on ways to operate a cutting-edge, million-dollar medical scanner with the help of a discontinued model Palm smartphone that he bought online for US$50.

HP had bigger things in mind for webOS when it paid US$1.4bn to buy Palm two years ago: Executives talked about putting Palm’s critically praised software on millions of phones, tablets and even PCs. But after a predecessor abruptly abandoned those plans, CEO Meg Whitman decided in December that HP would release the code under an open-source licence, which means other companies and individuals like Holbrook are free to come up with their own uses.

And while many experts say it’s unlikely the software will ever supplant more widely used mobile operating systems from Apple or Google, analysts say webOS could find a new life if developers use it to create applications for specialised automotive, industrial or medical equipment, such as Holbrook’s MRI scanner.

Did NAMA nearly lose Google data centre project?

The Sunday Independent reported how a lack of urgency by NAMA almost cost the country 230 jobs and more than €100m of investment by global internet giant Google.

Google’s investment in a new data centre, which is now under construction at Profile Park in west Dublin, would have gone to Stockholm, had it not been for the last-minute intervention by Environment Minister Phil Hogan with officials at South Dublin County Council.

Incredibly, the minister had to be called in to see that the site Google wanted would have water pipe connections and sewerage services after NAMA failed to resolve the issue with the council for more than a year.

The revelation comes just two weeks after it emerged that 800 jobs promised for Dublin by broadcasting giant Sky were nearly lost to the UK when NAMA refused to back down on demands that the company lease more office space than it actually needed.

NAMA has refuted the reports.

Fashion takes to the digital catwalk

Although the fashion industry has been quick to use digital media to become more accessible to consumers, certain designers are using the same tools to keep catwalk access exclusive, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Burberry kick started it with the Tweetwalk last September – offering those on Twitter a glimpse of each look seconds before those actually in attendance. The same is planned for tomorrow’s show, with a delayed version of the image stream also being posted on the giant Cromwell Road billboard in London (Europe’s longest advertising outdoor space), as well as on mobile and tablet devices.

Harrods is taking it one step further again by handing the buying decision of the forthcoming Burberry collection over to its Facebook fans. On Tuesday, the day after the designer’s show, the department store will post images of every look on its Facebook page. Those that receive the most ‘Likes’ will be incorporated into the store’s purchases for the season.

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