There’s a fair bit of fun news today, all of which you should read while listening to Michael Bolton sing whatever the hell he feels like during a rap chorus.
There are a multitude of people who think automated trading is a bad idea, citing unfairness or the threat of a glitch screwing up everyone’s monies. Well, that’s happened. Today, Knight Capital Group, a company that uses a high-frequency trading system, had one of those glitches, sending certain stocks like Citigroup, Bank of America and American Airlines up and down after a rogue algorithm decided that today was otherwise boring. The extremely volatile trading affected over 100 stocks, with most recuperating – or getting close – by the end of the day. This sort of thing has happened before, with more ‘oomph,’ and ended up dropping the entire American stock market about 10%. Perhaps we should go back to trading by pigeon. Knight’s stock was down 32% as of this writing.
The C.I.A. doesn’t seem like the sort of government entity that’d be interested in Twitter (well, other than reading every Tweet ever made), so it seemed just a bit odd when the handle @US_CIA (currently suspended) started tweeting things that looked oddly official, using the official seal and all. Some people got wary after little oddities occured, like “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” tacked on to the end of a hiring notice. I guess the prankster got bored, because soon they sent out things like “The Agency is an equal opportunity employer. Here at the CIA we respect all religions, not just the Church of Latter Day Saints,” and “Dear Ayatollah @khamenei_ir, please consider tweeting in English. Our sole Arabic speaking NED analyst is out on vacation this week. Thanks!” Once the real agency caught wind of an imposter using their good name to harass foreign dignitaries, Twitter soon suspended the account. The CIA apparently has no plans to tweet about espionage anytime soon.
Verizon has received word from the FCC that they are no longer allowed to block tethering apps on their networks smartphones. They’ve also agreed to pay $1.25million to the US Treasury. The FCC also said that those with limited data plans should no longer be charged the $20 tethering fee, as their data has a fixed limit; the fee can still be applied to those with grandfather’d unlimited data plans. As one commenter pointed out, “This will not apply to AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile because the ruling is based on the Upper 700MHz C-block “open access” provision during the 700MHz spectrum auction that Verizon must obey, according to the linked article,” so good luck, AT&T fans.
AT&T has reportedly been telling retail assistants to slow their roll on the iPhone, instead to encourage purchasers to look at Windows Phone or Android devices. This comes at a time when Apple’s sales are lagging more than usual before a new launch, and when their competition is picking up speed. Of course, AT&T has issued a statement saying how “farfetched” this idea is, but BGR claims confirmation that staffers are to show any customer asking about the iPhone over towards the Android or Windows Phone lineup. A source has said that iPhone sales – once accounting for 80% of smartphones sold – have dwindled to between 50-60%. Times is hard, Apple. Maybe you should stop fighting over silly stuff.
Today the Windows Team Blog has announced that Windows 8 has been shipped to manufacturers for their tweaks, and that October 26th is still the official launch day for Windows 8. Developers and IT professionals can look forward to August 15th to get their hands on it (for developing and/or enterprise testing purposes). For more info on the RTM product, check this blog.
Google Wallet, the search giant’s way to keep your money where their data is, has been overhauled and now works with all major credit and debit cards, as well has gaining a remote-disable feature.Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover all work, but due to competing services and agreements, Google Wallet now works like Paypal: The NFC chip processes payment, you select which card to use on-screen, but the money comes from Google, who then deducts it from the appropriate account. That means that you’ll see “Google Wallet Purchase” on your account instead of “Jims Boobie Bungalow,” which means you’ll now have to check your Google Wallet account online in addition to your bank statement to see how well your budget is going. As once-writer for the Noisecast Eric puts it: “I can get paid and buy things without ever touching a check, a plastic card, a magnetic strip, cash, or any of the other methods of payment your parents used.”
Samo, our ever-fun British motorbike (byke?) fan pointed this out: A new helmet design seeks to not only protect your noggin from bumps, scrapes and the occasional tire-across-the-brain-housing-group, but to add additional safety in the form of a rear-facing light that would make you easier to spot. The fiber-optic fabric stretches around your current helmet and, via RFID, mimics your bike’s lights: Brakes, turn signal, and hazards. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous in addition to be fun, and not all safety equipment looks as cool as you feel, but this seems fairly low-key, in addition to be an active safety measure (as opposed to reflective straps,) so I’d probably get one if the price were right.
The Oculus Rift, a mysterious name for a 3D virtual reality headset, went up on kickstarter this morning, and has already been funded. The headset has HDMI/DVI inputs as well as a USB port (I assume for motion/look controls) and features a 110 degree field of view. The organizers say it’s not just for desktop use, hoping that mobile devices will be able to tap into the awesomeness that is VR gaming. SDKs will assist developers in adding Rift technology to their existing games, I assume via whichever engine they’re using. Out of the box Unity and Unreal Engine compatibility is promised, so look for Dungeon Defenders in 3D!
I’m not entirely sure if this has anything to do with the top story, but it’s pretty cool. Microsoft partnered with data designer Shing Tat Chung to program a trading bot that is superstitious – it’s been programmed to fear the number 13, and to act in accordance with Numerology and the moon. The robot has been given a year to trade live on the stock market, and so far isn’t doing very well. Chung is a 25 year old design graduate whose parents changed his name on the advice from a fortune teller. He has since had a fixation on superstitions, according to an interview. The robot will not trade on the 13th of any month, or trade any stock with 13 in it, and has a fear of full moons. Since the new moon is generally considered to be ‘luckier,’ it will buy more often closer to a new moon, and has a tendency to sell as the full moon approaches. If you want to check out the algorithms, they’re available here, but don’t expect to make money on it.