Weekend news roundup: Solar flares threaten UK, confusion in the workplace

20 Mar 2012

A trawl through the weekend newspapers’ tech coverage, including how the UK’s national security risks are being undermined by solar flares, how Oracle’s Larry Ellison may buy an NBA team, how technology is overwhelming workers and causing stress, and how a man intends to offer his home in exchange for pre-IPO Facebook stock.

Solar flares threaten UK’s national security

The Observer reported that solar explosions are now on the UK’s official register as a threat to the security of high-tech Britain. The paper reported that the Cabinet Office includes solar flares alongside terrorism, floods and pandemics in a list of catastrophes that could damage the country.

Explosions on the sun that blast solar winds towards the Earth have been identified for the first time as one of the biggest threats to the UK’s ability to carry on normal daily life, according to a new official government register of major risks to the country.

A significant event on the sun could leave large swaths of the country without electricity, lead to the immediate grounding of planes, disable communications and even destroy household appliances.

The danger has been prioritised in the Cabinet Office’s National Risk of Civil Emergencies as the sun enters the most active point in its 10-year cycle – its solar max – raising the chances of a damaging burst of radiation, plasma or energetic particles (such as neutrons).

Coping in the new world of work

The New York Times nailed it with a piece about the overwhelming effect of too much technology in the workplace. As workplace technology and processes steadily improve, many professionals feel less productive than ever.

It may seem a paradox, but these very tools are undermining our ability to get work done. They are causing us to become paralysed by the dizzying number of options they spawn.

Is there a way out of this quandary? Yes, but it’s not going to come from the usual quarters. To be successful in the new world of work, we need to create a structure for capturing, clarifying and organising all the forces that assail us; and to ensure time and space for thinking, reflecting and decision making.

Most professionals are still using their subjective, internal mental worlds to try to keep it all together, but that’s a poor way to navigate the new work environment. It results in unclear, distracted and disorganised thinking, and leaves frustration, stress and undermined self-confidence in its wake.

Ellison’s next purchase?

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who failed in his bid to purchase the Warriors nearly two years ago, is in advanced talks to buy the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies.

There has long been speculation that Ellison wants to own an NBA team with the idea of moving it to San José, California. However, there would be many obstacles to relocating another team in the South Bay, including the Grizzlies’ lease on their arena that runs through 2021 – though it reportedly could be broken in 2017 if certain attendance figures aren’t met.

Also, the Warriors consider the South Bay to be part of their territory, which the NBA would likely not want to infringe upon. It’s also questionable whether the NBA owners would vote to allow a third Northern California team to join the Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

The Facebook effect – man offers house for shares

The LA Times reported how a Silicon Valley executive has offered his Los Gatos home for pre-IPO Facebook shares. The clamour for Facebook shares in the lead-up to the initial public stock offering has officially reached a fevered pitch.

One Silicon Valley executive has put out a news release with an unusual offer: He’s willing to trade his 10,000 sq-foot home on an 11-acre private park in Los Gatos for a stake in the social networking giant.

Silicon Valley has been bracing for a real estate boom, with more than 1,000 Facebook employees expected to become stock-option millionaires. But Kenneth Raasch doesn’t want cash. Raasch, who took Media Arts Group Inc. public in 1994, is asking for US$29m in Facebook stock for the property, which has six bedrooms, and a guest apartment.

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