California’s Smartphone “Kill Switch” and Other Tech Headlines for 2/10-2/14

by Modis on February 14, 2014

California May Require “Kill Switch” on All Smartphones

If the legislation introduced in California last week passes, it could require all smartphones and tablets sold in California to have a remote kill switch installed before sale, starting in 2015. The bill, introduced by state senator Mark Leno, is designed to help curb device theft, as well as the violence associated with those crimes. If passed, California would be the first state with such legislation, and would fine companies anywhere from $500 – $2,500 per device for selling them without the kill switch. The bill requires either a hardware or software solution that allows owners to remotely shut off the devices in the event of a theft, and though it requires manufacturers to provide this protection by default, allows individuals to opt-out.

Intel Labs Demonstrates “Network on Chip”

Intel Labs researchers have developed a “network-on-chip” holding a promise of more efficient, faster, and more versatile multi-core processors. The network inside the chip is designed to help supercomputers, as with an expanded number of cores comes issues with allowing the cores to communicate freely with one another. As chips grow in size, so do they in cost. The network-on-chip allows them to reduce issues with communication between cores, as well as overall cost. The chip features a 16-by-16-node mesh, with each of the 256 nodes having independent voltages and clocks. In testing the chip, the team achieved an aggregate throughput of 20.2 terabits per second among the nodes.

Google Forced to Post Privacy Warning on its French Website

Google’s French homepage now displays a message stating that Google has been fined  150,000 euros (approximately $200,000) for violating French privacy laws. France’s Commissions Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) imposed the fine, and the obligation to post the notice, in January. The decision came as a result of Google’s rolling all their products’ privacy policies into one, which French officials say did not give users enough control over their private information. Officials also say the policy did not do a good enough job at explaining what Google did with the information. Google is appealing the decision, saying the requirement to post information about the fine being levied right on the website would cause “irreparable damage” to their reputation.

Barnes & Noble Fires Some Nook Engineering Staff

As a result of plummeting sales (down 66.7% over the 2013 holiday season) reported in January 2014, company spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating came forth to announce significant layoffs to the Barnes & Noble Nook’s Engineering department. Initial reports suggested the entire Nook hardware staff would be without a job, but those were deemed incorrect. Though no specifics were given, there are layoffs across the board at Barnes & Noble, as three top Nook executives left the company last month. In addition to hardware sales declining, digital content sales also saw a 27.3% decline.

McGraw-Hill Buys Engrade in a Move Toward SaaS

Engrade, an online gradebook tool built by a high school student, is now the property of well known textbook manufacturer, McGraw Hill. TechCrunch sources say the sale went for around $50 million. The development process behind Engrade took about 10 years to build and implement before the sale took place, but this is a clear move away from traditional pen and paper for grading, attendance, etc. to the “cloud” for educational institutions all over the world. Over the years, it has grown from a gradebook to include: attendance tracking, parent-teacher conference tracking, standardized test score analysis, report card printing, and more. An API allows it to integrate with other software, as well.

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