Short Cuts 65

by Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens takes a sideways look at the world of IT.

HardCopy Issue: 65 | Published: February 27, 2015

On the make

Are you a maker? Even better, a fully paid-up member of the “Maker Community”? If so, then congratulations – you qualify for a free copy of Windows 10 to run on your Raspberry Pi 2 computer-without-a-box (or much else). All you need now is a power supply, some I/O devices (for example a keyboard and screen), a Wi-Fi adaptor if your Ethernet cable won’t stretch, and some storage if a single Micro SD card doesn’t look like being sufficient. Cobble it all together, and you’re in business.

2 sheds

Pre-fabricated development shops for Raspberry Pi Makers of Things. On the left is the model for the new Raspberry Pi 2, featuring a quad core processor, 1GB RAM and integral roof guttering.

Short Cuts must confess to not having given the Raspberry Pi the attention it deserves since its launch back in 2011. Essentially a populated motherboard, it’s extremely small, extremely cheap (an eye-popping £24) and extremely British, the sort of thing best worked on in a shed (or, at a push, dangerously cluttered spare bedroom) while listening to Jethro Tull’s Greatest Hits and occasionally breaking off to admire the poster for a forthcoming Real Ale and Craft Beers festival.

Its native software platform is, of course, Linux, and although its official target market is kids learning to program in wonderfully modern and relevant languages such as Python, it’s also found favour as a low-cost controller for the ever-emerging Internet of Things, specifically Things made by Makers, a term which turns out to mean “person with a shed, soldering iron and spare Saturday afternoons, but who prefers a Skinny Soya Latte to the mug of Nescafe tolerated by earlier generations.”

When a home-made drone powered by eight Samsung Galaxy batteries and steered by a grey-import Russian GPS chipset crashes into your shed, chances are it’ll have a Raspberry Pi strapped on, organising the chaos. But since you’ll be able to unstrap it, lob the remains of the drone over your garden fence, go into the remains of your shed and get on with converting the Pi into the communications hub for your 1080p-equipped Edge of Space balloon, all will be well – and, of course, when your balloon crash-lands on the loft conversion of another Pi enthusiast fifteen miles downrange, the whole cycle of innovation will begin again. We’re not sure if this is the kind of thing that Microsoft will really want to have going on behind a Windows 10 splash screen, but we think it’s great.


Breaking up is hard to do

Corporate breakups seem to be the order of the day, with eBay, HP and now Symantec going multiple ways in recent months, accompanied by much talk of ‘autonomy’, ‘focus’ and ‘maximising growth’. To a cynic however (though not to us, naturally) the process can look more like casting the dead wood adrift so as to give the remainder a fighting chance of paddling upstream to safety. In eBay’s case it was PayPal holding the paddles, while HP let its ‘legacy’ desktop PC and printer manufacturing business float away from the trendier cloud-and-services operation. Meanwhile Symantec’s security business, now called, er, ‘Symantec’, is firing on all cylinders and buying up Boeing’s top software engineers, while the left-behind data storage outfit has only just got around to announcing its new logo.

Will Microsoft’s Windows team get left behind as the company’s more fashionable divisions declare independence?

Short Cuts is, as always, tuned in to the next wave of industry developments before their developers have even thought of them. Here’s our roundup of deadly (for some) de-mergers that we expect to see in 2015.

  • Microsoft. Following a master plan drawn up by new CEO Satya Nadella, the Seattle-based behemoth will split into two companies. The first, called ‘Microsoft’ and headed by Nadella, will handle Office, Dynamics, developer tools, phone hardware, Xbox, games, MSN, Skype, Hotmail, Bing, BizTalk, Exchange, Internet Explorer and SQL Server. The second company, as yet unnamed and headed by Joe Smith, formerly Head of Janitorial Services, Building 48, Redmond Campus, will focus on Linux alternatives in the Maker Community workspace.
  • Google. Plans are already advanced at Mountain View for a split into two listed corporations. The first, called ‘Google’, will focus on search. The second, called “Gaggle”, will focus on eyewear, driverless cars, photographing the entire planet, virtual Lego bricks (yes), balloon-mounted Wi-Fi hotspots (yes again), delivery drones and whatever else the company’s team of smoothie-crazed geniuses have come up with this week. Google co-founder Larry Page commented, “What the hell I’m bored.”
  • Apple. The cream of Wall Street is advising on the breakup of the Cupertino, CA-based iPhone vendor, which will yield two entirely separate, independent firms. The first will manufacture desktop, laptop and tablet computers plus telephony and entertainment devices, operating from its worldwide HQ at PO Box 172, 75 Rue de Fiscalité Minimale, Luxembourg (coincidentally next door to Amazon at Box 173). The second spinoff will pay tax on sales of refurbished ex-Obama administration Mac Classics to the American market, from which it’s withdrawing following a patent settlement with Samsung. An Apple spokesperson said “It’s colder here and they don’t speak English so well, but it’s how Steve would have wanted it.”
  • The UK Coalition Government (that’s enough breakups – ed)