Com­par­ing a huge multi­na­tional tech com­pany with a small UK firm pro­duc­ing dig­i­tal maps is like com­par­ing ap­ples and pears, says Zy­gote – un­less you hap­pen to be a cor­po­rate lawyer

The UK is lag­ging be­hind the rest of world, says Zy­gote, espe­cially when it comes to gov­ern­ment IT sys­tems, drone tech­nol­ogy and hard­core porn at rail­way sta­tions

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS -


An ap­ple is dif­fer­ent from a pear. Lin­guis­ti­cally, ap­ple-pie or­der means things are fine, but ‘it’s all gone pear-shaped’ means the op­po­site. Ac­cord­ing to medics, to be ap­ple-shaped refers to a rounded ab­dom­i­nal con­fig­u­ra­tion, whereas to be pear-shaped in­di­cates a nar­rower waist and broader hips. They are dif­fer­ent.

Well, they’re dif­fer­ent un­less you’re a trade­mark lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Ap­ple Cor­po­ra­tion against Pear Tech­nol­ogy. Pear is a UK com­pany pro­duc­ing dig­i­tal maps for healthy out­door types such as farm­ers, foresters and grave dig­gers, whereas Ap­ple isn’t. But that doesn’t seem to mat­ter to the lat­ter’s lawyers. The cor­po­rate Pear logo con­sists of a whole pear with no bite out of it, topped by a stalk not a leaf, and with the com­pany name be­low, whereas the cor­po­rate Ap­ple logo doesn’t con­sist of any of these el­e­ments. But that doesn’t seem to mat­ter to the lawyers, ei­ther.

Even when Pear Tech­nol­ogy changed its logo from a pear to a se­ries of stylised blobs and rec­tan­gles, Ap­ple’s le­gal mob was still not sat­is­fied. In a rul­ing by a judge that can only be de­scribed as bananas, Ap­ple has won a breach of copy­right case in which its lawyers as­serted that the Pear logo is an in­fringe­ment of the Ap­ple logo be­cause it’s ‘a rounded sil­hou­ette of a fruit’. For once, Zy­gote is speech­less.


Bev­er­ley Swaim-Sta­ley rep­re­sents the Union Sta­tion Rede­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of Wash­ing­ton DC, and she reck­oned it would be a great idea to in­stall a load of touchy-feely guides all over the sta­tion con­course. She thought it would be even bet­ter to make the screens as big as pos­si­ble and place them at eye level.

Much to her sur­prise, rail pas­sen­gers got a bit hot and both­ered dur­ing the evening rush hour when her screens bom­barded them with ex­tremely touchy-feely im­ages cour­tesy of the PornHub net­work. Ms Swaim-Sta­ley claimed the sys­tem had been hacked, but Zy­gote won­ders if the cur­rent trend of blam­ing hack­ers for ev­ery­thing is just a con­ve­nient way of mask­ing tra­di­tional cock-ups.

Corey Price is vice-pres­i­dent of PornHub, which cur­rently has 75 mil­lion mem­bers, and reck­ons that “the per­pe­tra­tor of this in­ci­dent was an avid fan pe­rus­ing our con­tent, who un­for­tu­nately mis­han­dled the tech­nol­ogy at Union Sta­tion. We do hope it pro­vided some re­lief in the midst of a hel­la­cious com­mute home.”

Zy­gote has no com­ment to make on which of these ver­sions of what hap­pened is true, but wel­comes the use of the word ‘hel­la­cious’, which has been rarely used since first ap­pear­ing in the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary in 1929. The word ‘porn’, by con­trast, first ap­peared in 1535.


The In­dian gov­ern­ment has is­sued de­fin­i­tive IT di­rec­tives that will af­fect all of the na­tion’s 1.3 bil­lion cit­i­zens from now un­til the year 2025. Three mil­lion more IT jobs will be cre­ated in In­dia, on top of the four mil­lion that ex­ist al­ready. Bio­met­ric au­then­ti­ca­tion is now manda­tory, with fa­cial recog­ni­tion, iris scans or fin­ger­print sen­sors all ac­cept­able.

All com­puter sys­tems in­volv­ing pub­lic em­ploy­ees are to be open source and free of charge, and able to share data be­tween all gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. If a gov­ern­ment depart­ment wishes to use a paid-for pro­pri­etary plat­form, they need to prove an open­source plat­form can’t do the same job, and they also need to fight for any ad­di­tional fund­ing.

In con­trast, Zy­gote is fed up writ­ing about the swathe of UK gov­ern­ment de­part­ments still us­ing out-of-date and in­se­cure pro­pri­etary plat­forms such as Windows XP, and even more fed up with the mas­sive amounts of tax­pay­ers’ money needed to patch and mend them when they in­evitably fail.


Re­searchers at New York Univer­sity have de­vel­oped ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence soft­ware ‘to fight against the al­go­rith­mic en­force­ment of norms’. Trans­lated into plain English, that means they want to pro­duce au­to­mated text sys­tems to com­bat the sort of cul­tural and gen­der bias pro­duced by soft­ware trained on bor­ing sources such as Wikipedia, where the text is sani­tised and un­con­tro­ver­sial.

This is why the PhD stu­dents de­cided to go to a less bor­ing source of text, and scan in the col­lected works of Dr Chuck Tin­gle, who has a cult fol­low­ing in what can best be de­scribed as niche lit­er­ary cir­cles. Ini­tial re­sults have been spec­tac­u­larly suc­cess­ful, and there’s not a trace of cul­tural or gen­der norms. The com­puter out­put con­sists of reams of ex­plicit sex­ual ac­tiv­ity in­volv­ing the rec­tal pen­e­tra­tion of uni­corns and di­nosaurs dur­ing the Brexit process from an evan­gel­i­cal per­spec­tive.


It’s taken al­most a year for the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity to clear the first test flight of a pro­to­type Ama­zon de­liv­ery drone, but the ap­proval is al­ready out of date. It’s out of date be­cause Ama­zon has built a new gen­er­a­tion of big­ger drones, ca­pa­ble of a 10-mile ra­dius and a pay­load of 25kg.

But com­pare that with what’s hap­pen­ing in China, where the Jing­dong net­work sat­is­fies 235 mil­lion reg­u­lar cus­tomers us­ing de­liv­ery drones over a 300-mile ra­dius. The max­i­mum pay­load of these drones? One ton.

Mean­while, here in the UK our tech­ni­cal prow­ess must be giv­ing the Chi­nese sleep­less nights. A suc­cess­ful de­liv­ery has been made from the Prime Air ful­fil­ment cen­tre in Cam­bridge to a cus­tomer a mile away. The pay­load? A bag of pop­corn.

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