An Enigma coding machine which sold at an auction was boosted by a bidding war.
A Sotheby’s spokesman said a telephone bidding war between two unnamed parties had resulted in the Nazis’ cipher creator going for £149,000.
That is not, however, a record. Bonham’s sold another example of the three rotor device for £172,350 in April.
The Oscar winning film The Imitation Game probably helped inflate the sums. The 2014 film recounted the British scientist Alan Turing’s successful effort to break the codes generated by the boxes.
The Enigma machines had 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible settings, leading the Nazis to believe it was uncrackable.
However, Turing was able to develop another machine – the Bombe – building on the work of Polish cryptanalysts.
This was capable of cracking 84,000 Enigma messages a month, the equivalent of two every minute.
Although it has been estimated that the Germans built about 100,000 Engimas – including five different mainstream versions – most were destroyed by the Nazis as they retreated, not knowing that their system had been compromised.
The seller of the Service Enigma Machine (Enigma I) sold at Sotheby’s was a European museum, but its identity has not been disclosed.
The Enigma’s Bakelite thumbwheels may have elevated its selling price. Both Sotheby’s and Bonham’s models featured thumbwheels made of bakelite – an early plastic – rather than metal.
The Nazis switched to bakelite towards the end of World War Two because their metal supplies had become diminished.
The fact that surviving models featuring the substance are particularly rare will have contributed to their high selling prices.
Amazon twenty years ago sold its first book creating one of the first online book stores.
Its story is one of a brazen contempt for what you might regard as the first rule of capitalism – the duty of a public company to maximise profits for its shareholders. Throughout its history, Amazon has seen its revenues climb inexorably while its profits hover around or below zero.
Last year its revenues hit £56 billion , but it made a loss of £153 million. By way of comparison, Tesco’s revenues in 2014 were £71 billion, on which it made a profit of £2.6 billion – though this year it recorded a huge loss after writing down the value of its property.
However, the stock market thinks Amazon is worth roughly eight Tescos.
It is not that Amazon has not made money – from selling books, then all sorts of other goods, then acting as a platform for all kinds of other businesses to sell their products.
It is just that it has relentlessly ploughed that cash back into capital expenditure- mostly aimed at improving the delivery infrastructure at the heart of its business.
That means that it has been able to satisfy consumer desires ever more quickly. There is now even an Amazon button you can press every time you run out of household staples and then get them delivered without going near a computer or phone.
Better, faster service means shoppers gravitate to Amazon in whichever market it enters, generating more revenue which can in turn be ploughed into new conquests rather than returned to shareholders.
In recent years, more of that cash has gone into a whole new business, Amazon’s cloud computing service AWS. It is now generating substantial revenues – and to the surprise of many, turns out to be profitable, though again the surplus is likely to be directed towards further growth.
Investors now seem to accept this constant diet of jam tomorrow, which somehow never arrives.
But in his company’s first decade, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos had to defy the market, refusing to change course when the word on Wall Street was that the business was heading for bankruptcy.
He must now rank alongside the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, not just in longevity but in a steely determination to pursue his vision, no matter what critics or the conventional wisdom may say.
The man with a braying laugh which threatens to shatter glasses has more easygoing charm than many of his peers in the technology world, but he does not seem to mind making enemies.
In recent years, those have included British bookshops and taxpayers. Last year Amazon paid just £11.9 million in tax while booking £5.3 billion in revenue from the UK through its Luxembourg subsidiary.
But despite talk of consumer boycotts the competition regulators seem quiet – indeed Amazon was the big winner when the US found Apple and publishers had conspired to push up digital book prices.
Jeff Bezos’s original vision – the Everything Store as it was described in a history of the firm – has been realised in spades. It is hard to imagine that Amazon will not be a force in our lives 20 years from now – and who knows, it may even be making big profits and paying lots of tax.
Adobe’s Flash is being blocked by default on the Firefox web browser.
The bugs were detailed in a cache of documents stolen from security firm Hacking Team that was hit by attackers last week.
Adobe said it took Flash’s security “seriously” and was planning bug fixes. Flash is widely used on many websites for both multimedia and interactive elements.
On its support pages, Mozilla said the block would remain until “Adobe releases an updated version to address known critical security issues”.
Attackers were known to use vulnerabilities in Flash to install malicious software on computers and steal data, it added.
The vulnerabilities in the documents stolen from Hacking Team have been quickly added to so-called exploit kits which are used by many thieves when they craft
Mozilla also gave advice about how to adjust Firefox’s settings so Flash would only run with the permission of a browser’s user rather than all the time.
Mozilla said users should only activate Flash on sites they trust. To check your seetings in Firefox- go to :
Tools-> Add-Ons-> Shockwave Flash and check your setttings.
Firefox is the third most popular desktop browsing program, according to figures gathered by analysis firms that monitor browser market share.
The block comes soon after Facebook’s newly appointed security chief Alex Stamos publicly called for Adobe to kill off Flash.
“It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day,” he said in a tweet.
In a later message he said Adobe setting a date would help everyone plan and prepare for the day it no longer worked.
Flash, and other Adobe products, regularly feature among the top 10 applications favoured by criminals keen to compromise computers and steal saleable data because they are used on so many devices.
UK broadband customers can now start the process of switching broadband supplier with one phone call.
The simpler rules replace the previous “confusing” set-up, under which different systems were used for some services and suppliers.
The changed regime may not end up being faster because of a new 10 day notification period is now built in to the process.
And, say critics, the changes might mean more attempts to switch people without their permission.
Drafted by regulator Ofcom, the new rules apply to both broadband and landline services from BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk, which use the Openreach network.
The new rules came into force on 20 June and mean anyone who wants to change broadband supplier now only has to notify the company they wish to move to. That supplier should then handle every aspect of the change.
Ofcom boss Sharon White said the change would help people “take advantage of very strong competition in the landline and broadband markets”.
In its guidance about the changes, Ofcom warned people that they may face early termination charges if they tried to switch before a minimum service period or contract period had expired.
ISPs must keep records of migration requests to help spot cases of so-called “slamming”, in which people are moved to new suppliers without their consent. Critics have suggested that the new system could be more open to abuse and mistakes.
Before now, swapping supplier meant people had to first contact their existing supplier, cancel their contract and get a CBUK reference code, which they then gave to their new provider to start the migration process.
Ofcom said this process could be “confusing and time consuming” because suppliers ran different systems to handle migration requests.
The “one-touch” migration system is already used for moves to and from fully unbundled services – for example, when customers migrate from TalkTalk to Sky.
Dyenamic solutions warns that the changes do not apply to migration to or from ISPs offering broadband via cable, fixed wireless, satellite or through fibre to the home.
Thousands of young people are taking part in a UK debate about what should be included in a “Magna Carta” for the digital age by the British Library.
The public can now vote online for the clauses they suggested, in a project organised by the British Library.
The vote marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the 25th birthday of the world wide web.
The top 10 most popular clauses will be revealed today.
The Magna Carta was granted by King John of England on 15 June 1215, establishing that the king was subject to the law rather than being above it.
According to analysts ComRes, 29% of people aged 10-18 opted specifically for safety while 17% chose freedom of speech as a clause they wanted to support.
“Nearly half of the clauses talked about students wanting to feel safe and protected online,” said project manager Sarah Shaw.
“We thought there would be more talk about freedom online, and not so much talk on more of a conservative manner.”
She said the 3,000 young people who took part in the workshops viewed the internet and the real world in a similar way.
“Several clauses talked about wanting cyber police,” she said.
At time of writing the most popular clause is for the web to be “a digital utopia; the perfect digital world where enjoyment and fulfilment will be accessible from the reach of our fingertips”.
Seven of the existing top 10 clauses mention freedom.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has voiced his support for the project.
“It’s important for young people to think about the future now, when we are deciding what sort of a future it will be. It’s going to be a future they will have to live in,” he said.
YouTube’s new geographical analytics tool reveals some surprising secrets about the world’s most popular musicians.
“This data can help you get a song added to radio by showing a programmer how big your local fan base is,” YouTube told musicians on its blog.
It also reveals that, for example, Ed Sheeran is “big in the Phillippines”. His videos have been streamed in the country more than 178 million times since September 2014, making it his third biggest market after the US and the UK.
Sheeran discovered the Phillippines’ enthusiasm in March, when he played the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Here are some more surprising facts uncovered by YouTube’s insight tool.
- Katy Perry is more popular in Mexico City than anywhere in the United States;
- Dark Horse is Katy Perry’s most popular video, having been watched 508 million times.
The singer’s videos were watched 44.9 million times in Mexico City over the last nine months, three times as many as New York, her biggest city in the US.
But overall, the singer’s popularity in the US outstrips her Mexican audience, with 372 million streams compared to 231 million.
Country music doesn’t travel well- Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have been named male and female vocalist of the year five times running by the Country Music Awards.
But their fanbase is almost entirely restricted to the USA – with Houston, Chicago and Dallas listed as their top three cities.
A random sample of other country stars (Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban) returns the same three cities.
Dolly Parton is the exception that breaks the rule – and she breaks it quite spectacularly. Her top five territories are London, Bucharest, Nairobi, Tel Aviv and Dublin.
Bruce Springsteen is more popular in London than New York- the Boss’s best known songs chronicle his working-class roots in New Jersey – but they’ve been watched more times in London (1.5 million times) than in New York – which is the closest city to his hometown listed in YouTube’s data set.
The Beatles trump the Stones- at some point, every music fan has to pick a side: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Well, according to YouTube, The Beatles have won. Their music has been played 667 million times, compared to The Stones’ paltry 474 million.
Liverpudlians are more decisive on the matter. The Beatles have notched up 876,403 streams in their hometown – but the city doesn’t feature anywhere in The Stones’ top 100.
For the record, Paul McCartney is more popular than John Lennon, and Oasis beat Blur by a factor of 2:1.
Taylor Swift should go to Thailand- Taylor Swift’s videos have been watched a staggering 3.3 billion times. Swift has more fans in Bangkok than anywhere else in the world – with 49.5 million attempts to shake it off in Thailand’s capital.
But her 1989 tour – which starts in the UK on 23rd June – isn’t currently scheduled to stop in the country.
Low value transactions drove a 10% rise in purchases made on a card in 2014 compared with a year earlier.
Use on London buses and trains now account for 11% of all contactless transactions, the UK Cards Association said.
Recent data showed cashless payments have now overtaken notes and coin use.
Last month, the Payments Council said the use of cash by consumers, businesses and financial organisations fell to 48% of payments last year.
The remaining 52% was made up of electronic transactions, ranging from high-value transfers to debit card payments, as well as cheques.
The latest figures show that the average amount paid via debit card was £43.45 last year, down by £1.04 since 2013.
This reflected the impact of an increasing number of lower value contactless payments, the UK Cards Association said.
The limit on contactless payments is £20 per transaction. This will rise to £30 in September.
“Consumers are making more than twice as many card payments every day than they were 10 years ago,” said Richard Koch, head of policy at the association.
Another reason for the rise was the frequency of transactions over the internet, the association said.
Online shopping accounted for £21 of every £100 paid via cards at UK retailers, figures collected for the first time show. Some 28% of this was spent with entertainment retailers.
About 60% of the UK adult population have a credit card, the association said. Some 80% of credit and charge card spending was made by people who paid it off in full before the end of the month before incurring any additional charges.
The association said the use of fingerprint technology on smartphones was likely to increase the frequency of payments made without the need to enter a four-digit pin number.
Google has centralised all its privacy and security controls into a single place.
Google says the move is designed to make it easier for people to see and control what data is being gathered about them.
Users are still limited to the same choice of settings, but the company says they should find it more “intuitive” to make changes.
Dyenamic Solution thinks it this is a positive development, but suggests some of the language used in the hub’s explanatory text represented “spin” as the entire thing is about convincing people to turn these settings on rather than off.
The new hub is called My Account, and it sub divides the settings into three sections, whose content is presented in what a spokeswoman described as “plain speak”:
- Sign-in and security – this includes account passwords, whether or not two-step verification is switched on, and details about which of Google’s apps and other third-party;
- Services have access to the user’s data personal info and privacy – including details of a user’s Search and YouTube history – with the ability to delete specific queries, control over what location data is;
- Gathered, and the ability to prevent search results and displayed ads from being personalised
account preferences – including language settings and the ability to remove oneself completely from specific Google services, including Gmail, YouTube and the Google+social network
Google had already offered a “security check-up” tool, but it now adds a second privacy-themed one.
This steers the user through many of the choices contained in the “personal info and privacy” section, providing background information about them.
For example, a user can tell YouTube to stop recording their search history, but they are told that if they let it continue it will make “future searches faster and improve your video recommendations”.
The company suggests the whole process should only take about two and a half minutes to complete, and adds that it intends to prompt regular use of the facility via its home page.
The campaign group Privacy International has also raised concerns.
“We cautiously welcome the step that Google has taken today. At long last, it is being more forthcoming with users about the information Google retains about them,” said Dr Richard Tynan.
“However, the statement and tools seem limited only to information associated with an individual’s account.
“It remains to be seen whether Google will be transparent with all the people it collects information on, whether signed in as a user or not, about exactly what information Google collects about them, what can be done with it and how we can discover the totality of information held about our daily lives and interests.”
The revamp comes at a time when the company is facing increased scrutiny about how they handle EU citizens’ data, which is often stored outside the country in which it gathered.
Employers must tackle an epidemic of staff checking work emails after hours.
Sir Cary Cooper- a former UK government adviser has said a compulsion to deal with the messages had caused UK’s employees to become less productive than many of their international counterparts.
“For people to be working at night, weekends and holiday on emails is not good for the health of our country,” the professor.
“We also need to ban emails being sent and received within the same building,” he said, advocating instead for face to face meetings and phone calls.
His comments follow a speech he gave on the topic to the British Psychological Society’s annual conference, which was covered by the Times.
However, the academic sought to clarify the newspaper’s claim that he wanted IT staff to shut down employers’ computer servers outside office hours.
“I’m not encouraging them to do that – I think it’s pretty extreme to close down your server,” he said. “But if it turns out email is adversely affecting your business and the health of your employees, then that’s an option.”
A more practical solution, he said, would be to flash warnings if workers were detected to be using work email when they should be relaxing or engaged in family activities.
“They could get a message back, for example, saying, ‘You have accessed 27 messages today,’ alerting them to what they are doing.
“Every organisation has to come to a conclusion as to what is a good way to be operating, and the best way to do that is by asking the employees themselves how do we stop this epidemic of us being linked all the time to our emails.”
Sir Cary is professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University and previously advised the Government Office for Science about mental health in the workplace.
He referenced recent figures from the Office for National Statistics that indicate the UK has the second lowest rate of productivity out of the leading G7 industrial nations – putting it behind the US, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but ahead of Japan.
The professor acknowledged that email use was not the only factor involved, but suggested that the UK’s development of a “macho culture”, in which employees wanted to be seen to be available by email at all hours, was causing stress and depression, and in turn making workers less efficient.
While some organisations have adopted work-focused social networks as an alternative to email – using products such as Microsoft’s Yammer, Slack and Jive – Sir Cary said these were “symptoms of the same problem”.
Is the digital transformation of our society changing the future of recorded history?
Data specialist EMC estimates that in 2013 the world contained about 4.4 trillion gigabytes of data. By 2020, it expects this to have risen tenfold.
History, in other words, is going online.
While this means unprecedented instant access to vast stores of human knowledge and culture, it also means that mountains of digital data of crucial importance to archivists and future historians are potentially under threat from deletion, corruption, theft, obsolescence and natural or man-made disasters.
In the past, we wrote on stone, wax tablets, parchment, calfskin vellum and paper. And these hard copies lasted pretty well – some cave paintings survived more than 40,000 years, while Egyptian hieroglyphics date from about 3500BC.
But anyone who’s seen their photo or music collections wiped out, knows how easily digital files can be lost.
A digital version of the fire that nearly destroyed the great Library of Alexandria – and many of its culturally significant books and scrolls – in 48BC, may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear explosion, for example, could easily wipe out entire electricity networks and effectively bring civilisation to a crashing halt. Computers, unlike printed books, need power to work.
And in an increasingly networked digital world, the same catastrophic result could be achieved by a particularly virulent piece of malware or through state sponsored cyber-warfare.
The loss of this data could plunge the world into a “digital dark age”, warns “father of the internet” Vint Cerf – one of the inventors of the net’s language and architecture.
Obsolescence is another threat to this data as many of the earliest floppy disks can no longer be read – the data they contain has been lost forever.
If data has been written or compressed using software devised by a private sector company that has since gone bust, new technologies and operating systems may be unable to “read” or interpret the data.
Future generations could be faced with an ocean of well preserved but unreadable data because they have lost the keys to interpreting it.
At the moment there are only a few museums or archives for software – the Internet Archive Software Collection being an honourable exception. The British Library is also archiving UK based websites.
As it is, the latest operating systems often cannot handle files written in earlier versions. And modern web browsers are increasingly dropping compatibility with plug-in extensions like Java and Silverlight, potentially making some older websites unreadable.
Mr Cerf has proposed taking “a digital X-ray snapshot” of the content, the application and the operating system all together – effectively replicating the exact system as it was when the content was written.
But this would require information to be digitally preserved in virtual machines in the cloud. And to achieve this “is not exactly trivial”, says Mr Cerf.
Others believe the tech industry will come up with its own solutions, driven largely by market forces.
Until Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th Century, copying and distributing written works was a laborious process, so access to knowledge was restricted to an elite few.
But in the age of distributed “cloud based” computing, we can copy files ad infinitum and store mirror images of huge databases in multiple locations and keep them updated in real time.
Bomb proof data centres protected by increasingly sophisticated physical and cyber security systems are becoming more common as banks, insurance companies, governments and others with a vested interest in keeping data safe and accessible for the long term wake up to the potential threats.