A couple of weeks ago we featured a story about a man who had put his house up for sale for the virtual currency Bitcoins, and advised to stay well clear. This was highlighted this week when hackers broke into the MTGox website which administers most of the Bitcoin trades. The exchange rate fluctuated rapidly this week going from $90 up to $142 and then back down to $120 when the hack took place. Industry insiders think the hackers may be trying to manipulate the price of the virtual currency so that they can buy it when it’s low and then sell on when they’ve forced the price up.
A currency that can be hacked into and the price manipulated? It’s going from not-a-good-idea to even worse and, with Instawallet – the site where many people keep their Bitcoins – shut down because of a separate hack attack, I’ll keep my cash in a web bank. Or I would if I had any. Some people are saying that this is the first version of Bitcoins and that when these glitches are ironed out it'll be just as viable as any other currency. Yep, they're also saying that about the Euro. Don't go there.
A couple of months ago we brought to your attention the worrying news that children are getting hold of computers and being better at doing them than I can. We mentioned the Raspberry Pi, a cheap and accessible computer that had been invented to encourage children to learn programming skills (and with Nick D’Aloisio pocketing £19m for selling Summly last week, who wouldn’t?). Thanks to Nick, my 5-year-old is currently locked in a darkened room with a laptop, PC, tablet and iPad and a whole load of fizzy pop and is under strict instructions that he can’t come out until he’s invented something that’s going to pay off the mortgage and keep me in slippers and liquorice allsorts until I’m happily senile.
This week PA Consulting announced the winners of a competition for schools to put the Pi to good use. The winning entries were all useful and the wonderful, life-affirming thing that happened is that two of the four prizes went to inventions that help to improve elderly people’s lives. One of them was a device that opens a front door and sends a message to the visitor. Although there are plenty of video door security systems already available, one that can be operated from a portable device is especially useful for the elderly and disabled. As is a remotely-operated pill dispenser that a GP can use to release medication to elderly or ill people or confused guys like me who can’t remember how many B12 tablets he’s taken that day. These may be small considerations, and may not even be that original, but it looks like future is secure both technically and socially. The only downside was the low number of entries from state schools.
There were a few April Fool’s jokes out there on the net last week, but this one for the Apple iPlay was my favourite. If they’d kept the talking heads in shot it would have been scarily real.