Quicklinks: Government spying

Sorry for the lack of updates here. I’ve been very busy helping to organise the human genetics open day, where we show high school kids what we do, and preparing for a postgraduate research day talk, which I presented today. While I try rest a little I’ll share a couple of links I’ve been picking up that are related to the NSA leaks and government spying programmes.

Some people are reporting that the NSA has been bugging the EU and UN, a strange place to look for terrorists. The UN just said that it is protected by international treaties and members are expected to act accordingly.

Not unexpectedly, all the focus on the US spying has damaged people’s trust in US IT companies and fairly large numbers are moving to alternatives. Tech companies aren’t happy about that and this link talks about possible future conflicts with tech companies and government with regards to security and privacy. This is a big thing as Facebook received requests for info on 38 000 users in the first half of this year! Microsoft and Google are even teaming up to sue the US government over the restrictions about what they can reveal about user data requests.

Lastly is a disturbing report that the New York Police Department is labelling entire mosques as terrorist organisations! This allows them to spy on what happens even though they make these designations with apparently no justification, something the FBI refused to do.

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Mobile phones and the future of medicine

Samsung Galaxy Note (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When I attended the first UCT Faculty of Health Sciences Postgraduate Research Day, last year, one of the talks concerned using cell phones to empower community healthcare workers. As I recall, this was primarily focussed on rural health-care, where funds and equipment are especially tight. Cellphones, however, are quite common. More than 75% of South Africans use cellphones, making them more popular than radio, television or computers. Some side-effects of this have been a photo series of disguised towers and Mxit, a local chat application, going international. All these phones also have the potential to help improve medical care. Continue reading

A death in the open-access movement

I saw an article on Yahoo! today about the death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a computer programmer who co-authored RSS 1.0 (If you subscribe to the feeds for either new posts or new comments it is thanks to a later version of RSS), was co-owner of Reddit, a Wikipedia editor and activist. He committed suicide on 11 January, seemingly due to depression and stress relating to charges against him with regards to his activism relating to the open access movement. Continue reading

Just a little Apple bashing

This is a follow-up from an earlier post where I was shocked how people seemed to act like Apple was some sort of saint after it won a court case against Samsung. It’s certainly an impressive company and it has some good accomplishments but it’s not as special as people think. For one I tried to wirelessly transfer data from an Android phone to an iPad only to find the iPad will only communicate with other Apple devices. Isn’t that nice? It seems like other people might have grown tired of it’s quirks too as it’s stocks have recently taken quite a dip. Or maybe they’re up again, stocks can change quickly. Still I do find it amusing how they’re doing in court cases around the world. Continue reading

Apple is not a perfect good guy

I’ve previously spoken about my support of Free and Open-Source Software so it can’t come as much of a surprise that I’m not a big fan of Apple. I like iTunes and my iPod was really important for me for the few years after I got it but in general I find the company to really grating. It probably won’t come as news that they recently won a court battle against Samsung. The California court ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1,05 billion for patent infringements. That may or may not be fair, I don’t know the details but I’m guessing it’s not fair since one of the patents that was violated is for “a grid of rounded square icons against a black background.Continue reading