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John Naughton
For John Naughton's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
LIFE / Digital
May 30, 2014
13 years on, the true cost of Windows XP is only just emerging
One evening a few years ago, I found myself at a Christmas party in London. The event took place on the eighth floor of a building in the heart of the City and, at one point, seeking an escape from the chatter, I took my drink and ventured out on to the balcony.
LIFE / Digital
May 16, 2014
Trying to be anonymous on the Internet can attract more attention
When searching for an adjective to describe our comprehensively surveilled networked world — the one bookmarked by the NSA at one end and by Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Co. at the other — "Orwellian" is the word that people generally reach for.
LIFE / Digital
May 9, 2014
The Twitter paradox: the pros and cons of being free
Life is so unfair. Consider the humble newt — which, in case you're wondering, is an aquatic amphibian of the family Salamandridae. He has had such a bad press over the years. When PG Wodehouse, for example, was looking for a way of signaling that Bertie Wooster's chum Gussie Fink-Nottle was a feeble halfwit, he made him . . . a newt fancier.
LIFE / Digital
May 2, 2014
The robots are taking over, and it won't be pretty
Not often do you hear a "Newsnight" presenter using an arcane mathematical term, but last week was an exception. The culprit was David Grossman, who made an excellent film for "Newsnight" about the threat to employment from advanced robotics. In the course of this, he made the standard pilgrimage to MIT to interview Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who have made much of the running in this area with a number of books, of which the most recent is "The Second Machine Age." Their argument, said Grossman, was that our society has reached an "inflection point," a concept beloved of those who studied differential calculus in their youth, but probably unfamiliar to the average viewer.
LIFE / Digital
Apr 25, 2014
Understanding Facebook and Google's pursuit of drone technology
Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, one of the most revered branches of the inexact sciences was Kremlinology. In the West, newspapers, think tanks and governments retained specialists whose job was to scrutinize every scrap of evidence, gossip and rumor emanating from Moscow in the hope that it would provide some inkling of what the Soviet leadership was up to.
LIFE / Digital
Apr 18, 2014
Who's to blame for the Web's Heartbleed?
Were you a thriller writer seeking a name for an apocalyptic software security flaw that threatened the future of civilization as we know it, then "Heartbleed" would be hard to beat. Last week saw the discovery of such a flaw, and Heartbleed was the name assigned to it.
LIFE / Digital
Apr 11, 2014
Could big-data hype be leading us astray?
Concepts of enduring utility rarely emerge from the market-research business, but the Gartner hype cycle is an exception that proves the rule. It is a graph that describes the life cycle of a technological innovation in five phases.
LIFE / Digital
Apr 4, 2014
Obama's promise to prevent NSA spying rings hollow
Last week in the Hague, Barack Obama seemed to have suddenly remembered the oath he swore on his inauguration as president — that stuff about preserving, protecting and defending the constitution of the United States. At any rate, he announced that the NSA would end the "bulk collection" of telephone records and instead would be required to seek a new kind of court order to search data held by telecommunications companies.
LIFE / Digital
Mar 27, 2014
Military-industrial warnings ring as true as ever
On Jan. 17, 1961, the outgoing U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, went on TV to deliver his valedictory address to the American people. Ike had been a relatively uncontroversial president. He had overseen a period of astonishing prosperity and economic growth. He had impeccable military credentials, having been supreme commander of allied forces in World War II. So nobody could have accused him of being a radical.
LIFE / Digital
Mar 20, 2014
Apathy over Internet snooping is a recipe for disaster
As someone who is supposed to know about these things, I'm sometimes asked to give talks about computing to non-technical audiences. The one thing I have learned from doing this is that if you want people to understand technological ideas then you have to speak to them in terms that resonate with their experience of everyday things.
LIFE / Digital
Mar 13, 2014
Write off bitcoin if you like, but digital currency is here to stay
If I had a bitcoin for every person I've met in the past six months who told me that bitcoin is a scam, I'd be a rich man. Or a poor one, depending in which day of the week we're talking about.
LIFE / Digital
Mar 6, 2014
Nokia revolts against the smartphone revolution at Mobile World Congress
If you were hoping to find a hotel room in Barcelona last week, then tough luck. Barcelona was full, period. It was the week of the Mobile World Congress, you see, the annual convention of what is, for the moment at least, the most dynamic industry on the planet. Everybody and his dog was there, except of course Apple, which sees no need to play second fiddle even to a global conference when it can attract more media attention with its own events.
LIFE / Digital
Feb 27, 2014
Don't be taken in by Amazon's friendly face
When corporate types gather to schmooze at expensive watering holes they talk about competition as an unalloyed public good. It's seen in Darwinian terms: companies engaged in a ceaseless battle for survival, with only the fittest emerging triumphant. But generally the discussion is couched in agreeably vague, general terms. The sordid realities of Darwinian competition — nature red in tooth and claw — are generally eschewed on the golf course and at the poolside.
LIFE / Lifestyle
Feb 20, 2014
Cracking the code of computer education
Last week, my inbox began to fill up with angry emails. Had I seen the dreadful/unbelievable/disgraceful/hilarious (delete as appropriate) "Newsnight" interview with Lottie Dexter? I hadn't, and as I'd never heard of Ms. Dexter, I wasn't unduly bothered. After all, life is too short to watch every edition of "Newsnight."
LIFE / Lifestyle
Feb 13, 2014
The trouble with books that change over time
A few weeks ago, I bought a copy of "The Second Machine Age" by two MIT researchers, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who are among the most insightful commentators currently writing about the likely impact on employment of advanced robotics, machine learning and big-data analytics. Since I already own more physical books than my house and office can hold, I tend now to buy the Kindle version of texts that are relevant to my work, and so it was with the Brynjolfsson and McAfee volume.
LIFE / Lifestyle
Feb 6, 2014
Happy 30th to a California apple that changed life to the core
Almost exactly 30 years ago (on Jan. 24, 1984), a quirky little computer company launched a new product and in the process changed lives and maybe the world. The company was called Apple and the product was named after a type of Californian apple — the Macintosh.
Japan Times
BUSINESS / Tech
Feb 2, 2014
Should we be scared by the rise of Zuck?
On Tuesday, Facebook will turn 10 years old. It has 1.23 billion users. Ponder those two facts for a moment. A company that did not exist 10 years ago now has as many users as India has people.
LIFE / Digital
Jan 30, 2014
Are Britain's plans for its patients' private data totally healthy?
A few days ago, I dropped into my doctor's surgery to pick up a prescription and was confronted by one of those large floor-mounted pop-up displays that one finds at exhibitions, trade fairs and circuses. It informed me of an exciting new scheme by which the "quality of care and health services" would be "improved" by "sharing" information about the care I receive with those who plan health and social care services, as well as with "approved researchers and organizations outside the NHS" (National Health Service).
LIFE / Digital
Jan 23, 2014
Kid-friendly app cat gets its claws into your iWallet
It's 4.30 on a gloomy winter's afternoon. I'm sitting with my grandson having one of those conversations in which grandsons explain complicated stuff to their grandads. He is 4 years old, omniscient in the way that 4-year-olds are, and tolerant of my ignorance of important matters.
LIFE
Jan 16, 2014
Google brats are ruining Frisco for the locals
Just under a year ago, Rebecca Solnit, a writer living in San Francisco, wrote a sobering piece in the London Review of Books about the Google Bus, which she viewed as a proxy for the technology industry in nearby Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino.

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