Weekly Tech Recap - № 190 - IBM/Red Hat, Nybble the kittybot, underwater cloud, party detector, etc.
IBM acquires Red Hat
IBM announced its intent to acquire Linux’s Red Hat for the handsome sum of $34 billion. Red Hat, started in 1994, made a name for itself with its eponymous Linux distribution which was widely used until its phase-out in 2004. With the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution, the company focused on its corporate market while redirecting its general audience to Fedora, a crowd-sourced distribution model that received Red Hat support. For years, Red Hat has positioned itself as a key player in the business of software and tools for servers and cloud computing. This is what IBM aims to acquire, to beef up its cloud-computing product line in competition with the two heavyweights in the ring, Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft (Azure). IBM made an offer of $190 per issued and outstanding Red Hat share. Red Hat stock closed at $116.68 on Friday before the sale was announced. If it comes to term, this transaction will be the third largest in US tech history (behind the merger-acquisition of Dell and AMC for $67 billion and JDS Uniphase’s purchase of SDL optical components for $41 billion). Red Hat will become a standalone business unit within the Hybrid Cloud division. A bold move for the venerable International Business Machines Corporation.
⇨ The Register, “Official: IBM to gobble Red Hat for $34bn – yes, the enterprise Linux biz.”
⇨ Ars Technica, “This is fine: IBM acquires Red Hat.”
Nybble the kittybot
Nybble © Rongzhong Li.
You find cats irresistible, but the hair, the scratched furniture, the soiled litter, and the smell of cod liver cat food aren’t your thing? Here’s a solution: a cat robot that eats nothing but electricity. Nybble is a feline robot with a structure made of thin layers of laser-cut plywood. A custom Arduino-compatible microcontroller with an ATmega328P chip controls its movements. An optional Raspberry Pi can be mounted on top of Nybble's back, to help Nybble with perception and decision. You can program it in your favorite language, and direct Nybble to walk around simply by sending short commands, such as "walk" or "turn left"! Petoi Nybble, developed by Rongzhong Li, is an Indiegogo project that’s already raised US$77,000 on a goal of 50,000. The first shipments are expected April 2019. Nybble builds on the previous version, OpenCat. Meow.
⇨ Hackster.io, “Petoi Nybble.”
Microsoft: the cloud’s future is underwater
Project Natick in Scotland. © Microsoft.
At Microsoft’s Future Decoded conference taking place in London, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that underwater server farms are part of the company's plans for future data centers. He cites the proximity of humans to water: half of the world's population lives within 200 km of a coast. Being closer to users ensures lower latencies. Low latencies are particularly important for real-time services such as Microsoft's forthcoming Xcloud game streaming service. The other big advantage Nadella cited is the speed at which servers can be deployed this way. No need for cost-intensive real estate and infrastructure: just submerge and plug in a pod full of servers. These pods are designed as a sealed unit, deployed underwater for five years before being brought back up to the surface and replaced. Naturally enough, the pod uses water cooling, another cost-saving benefit. One could imagine powering them with offshore windmills or even submarine water turbines that use tidal energy.
⇨ Ars Technica, “Satya Nadella: The cloud is going to move underwater.”
Don’t lie to the digital customs agent
The European Union has launched the iBorderCtrl project to further monitor third-country nationals who want to cross the borders of the Schengen area. Users will interact with a digital border guard that will direct them to enter their passports and visas for digitization and ask them the usual questions. Using AI, the system will analyse the user’s microexpressions to determine whether they’re lying. iBorderCtrl will evaluate the risk that the traveler poses and will decide whether to issue them a QR code that will let them pass through. A six-month trial will soon take place at four border crossing points in Hungary, Greece and Latvia. For the first subjects in this experiment, it’s likely that the experience will be as--if not more--stressful than it was when dealing with a human border guard.
You’re out of town for work, and your teenager is home with minimal supervision. You’ve admonished her not to have parties. But how can you know for sure? It’s not a video camera: do you really want to see what goes on when the cat’s away? And it’s not a recording device—that gets into privacy issues. It’s NoiseAware’s line of internet-connected noise sensors. When decibels exceed a certain threshold, the device alerts you. Nip that kegger in the bud, indoors or outdoors. If someone tries to tamper with the device, you’ll know that too--a features that’s part of the upgraded indoors model. NoiseAware’s Gen3 models join Hive’s Hub 360 and Amazon’s Alexa Guard just in time for holiday buying. I know my uncle’s getting one—from his son. Unfortunately, the device can’t break up the party. And perhaps you didn’t want to know that a party was brewing. But you can make the call as to when it’s time to leave the conference and get on the first flight home.
The NoiseAware Gen 3 is available for preorder directly from the company, and it will start shipping next month. The indoor sensor is available for $199 (after an introductory price of $149), while the outdoor sensor is available bundled with the indoor version for $298 (although it’ll initially be available for $223). You’ll also need to factor in a subscription to the monitoring service, which will cost you $99 a year after an introductory price of $79.
⇨ Circuit Breaker, “This sensor will alert your Airbnb host if it thinks you’re having a party.”