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Hot News in IT this week

Simon Eskow, TechBlog Editor. 07 November 2014, 7:00 am

Some highlights from the last seven days in IT News...

SMEs Get Hip to Online

A regular MYOB report shows that more SMEs are using websites, social media or both to increase their market visibility than they did five years ago. As of 2014, 43 per cent of small kiwi firms (which make up the bulk of the New Zealand economy) are now engaging online. This is up from 27 per cent in 2010. Social media showed a market increase from 25 per cent to 42 per cent of SMEs using a social media platrofm for business purpose. Over half of all local businesses (52 per cent) now accept online payments and 39 per cent use tablets in the workplace, according to media reports. The Five Year MYOB Business Monitor Report, which canvases the biannual national survey of over 1000 SMB operators since July 2009, shows businesses have recovered generally from the GFC, with almost twice as many reporting revenue growth than revenue loss. Much of the recovery in the SME sector has come without significant growth in either wages or employment, as investment intentions in both areas have remained static over the last five years.

Computerworld: Report Highlights Turnaround Among NZ SMEs

Read the article posted to Scoop.

Telco jobs to go

Spark and Vodafone will be shedding staff into the new year. It is uncertain the extent of the cuts at the company formerly known as Telecom, but a spokesperson told media that rumors of a 20 per cent reduction in the "Connect" technical department were off the mark. The news comes on the back of a statement from Vodafone stating that the company would be looking to cut up to 250 of its permanent staff members, as well as a significant number of its contractors, by the end of the financial year, according to the Herald. The companies claim that an "increased demand for low prices" and competition are pressuring them to cut staff. The Herald reports that Vodafone as recent as a month ago denied there would be major job cuts within the business, following internal speculation and concern among staff. Vodafone said last month that it would be reducing the number of contractors, as the TelstraClear two year, $840 million merger with TelstraClear had yet to be completed.

Herald: Spark Confirms Job Cuts as Vodafone Downsizes

Techday: Vodafone Axes Staff As Part of Restructure

Locked In

Telcos in New Zealand appear to be going back to the days of locking SIM cards to devices they sell their customers, according to Juha Saarinen, writing in the Herald. The practice ensures users will stay in the telco's network by making it impossible to swap the SIM card for a handset on offer by a competitor. The idea of locking the SIM to a card pre-empts that move by making some phones free or virtually free, an attractive proposition, especially if they want a new, and otherwise costly model that carries the latest features. While commonplace overseas, SIM locking didn't get far for Vodafone when it backed down after the Commerce Commission raised concerns, but according to Saarinen, 2Degrees is talking about putting the practice into effect ahead of the Christmas and back-to-school shopping seasons. The SIM lock won't be permanent if customers wait a set period, or pay $30 to unlock their phones. Saarinen points out that in the US, SIM locking has been deemed anti-competitive. ComCom has indicated it won't do anything about prosposed SIM-locking, Stuff reports. A spokeswoman told the outlet ComCom would keep an eye on the practice but didn't believe the current situation was likely to undermine competition in New Zealand's $2 billion mobile market.

Herald: Return of SIM Locking Shackles NZ to the Past

Stuff: 2degrees "Forced" to Lock Phones

Salud, East Coast

A recently launched initiative to bring more health services to people living in remote areas through teleconferencing was announced in September. Telehealth connects people on the East Coast to health professionals based in Gisborne, through software and webcams installed on computers at six clinics up and down the East Coast, as well as in Gisborne Hospital's emergency department and mental health department. A company called K&L Technologies is working with Ngati Porou, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Bay of Plenty District Health Board, to implement the video conferencing network across six clinics. The company announced this week that it is also working with Ngati Porou to build a datacentre, to allow the iwi greater control and ownership of their information and reduce data sovereignty issues. Marcus Lloyd, Ngati Porou group IT manager, says he is excited about the new partnership. "Working with K&L Technologies is helping us advance our aims to become the most technologically advanced iwi in the country. Their expertise and enthusiasm with allow us to deliver services and value to our people, utilising the best technology and people available." As part of the implementation, K&L has entered a 12-month contract to provide all network, software and fleet maintenance and support, as well as an inbuilt help desk system 24-hour help desk via Google Apps, to Ngati Porou Hauora staff.

Techday: IT Provider Partners with Iwi to Improve Health Services

Scoop: Telehealth to Improve Health Care on East Coast

Game Day

Auckland-based Media Design School is holding its second Girls in Games event on 1 December. Girls in Games is an immersive workshop that covers the basics of game development, art, and design, open to girls aged 14-18 in the Auckland region. The workshop allows participants to create games that they can demonstrate to others. Organisers say New Zealand's expanding game design industry makes it essential to encourage students in secondary schools to consider art and game engineering as viable career options. Media Design School offers specialist degrees for emerging creative industries including Bachelor of Art and Design in 3D Animation and Visual Effects, Bachelor of Creative Technologies (Game Art), Bachelor of Software Engineering and Bachelor of Media Design. The school is part of an international private university group with 70 institutions in 29 countries. Girls in Games will take place at Media Design School on Monday 1 December 2014 from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Scoop: Media Design School to Host Second Girls in Games Workshop

That's Handy

Google has released a security testing tool to help ensure HTTPS connections aren't undermined by common configuration mistakes or known bugs, ZDNet reports. Thr 'nogotofail' tool, named for a bug that affected Mac and iOS systems earlier this year, helps users confirm that internet-connected devices and applications aren't vulnerable to transport layer security (TLS) and secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption issues, such as known bugs or misconfigurations. This has been the year of discovery for SSL and other security vulnerabilities, with many known attacks including POODLE, BEAST and other exploiting the so-called "man-in-the-middle" position in data traffic flow. The tool tests for common SSL certificate verification issues, HTTPS and TLS/SSL library bugs, SSL and STARTTLS stripping issues, and cleartext issues. It can be deployed on a router, a Linux machine, or a VPN server and works for Android, Chrome OS, iOS, Linux, OS X, and Windows - basically any device used to connect to the internet.

ZDNet: Google Releases Nogotofail to Sniff Out Known HTTPS Flaws

ITPro: Swamped by Network Vulnerabilities?

Autocorrect for Coders

Computer scientists at Rice University in Texas and two other institutions have embarked on a US$11 million project to create a tool for helping software developers automatically complete and correct their code. The project, known as PLINY, is underwritten by the US Defense Advanced REsearch Projects Agency, aims to create a tool that instantly compares code with a huge database of publicly available computer programmes. A PLINY official describes it as a more sophisticated version of the "autocomplete" and "autocorrect" functions common to applications. The PLINY system will have a data-mining engine for comparing and contrasting known code in a database, and will analyze it to purge any errors. It will be able to work across all programing languages and code specifications. Project leaders plan to have PLINY ready to deploy within four years.

Voice of America: Computer Programming May Get a Lot Easier


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