Breakfast Briefing: Valve’s hardware, banks need better IT, saving sci-fi novels

This morning’s top stories include Valve’s move into hardware, scanning books to save them, plans for better wireless spectrum use, criticism of banking IT systems and the truth behind that Bruce Willis story.

Breakfast Briefing: Valve's hardware, banks need better IT, saving sci-fi novels

Valve jumps into hardware

Valve, the computing gaming company behind the Steam platform, is to start making its own hardware. Valve said in a job ad, uncovered by The Verge, that “we’re frustrated by the lack of innovation of in the computer hardware space, so we’re jumping in.” The company hasn’t said exactly what it’s building, but has previously been rumoured to be working on a console and a “wearable” computer – but it suggested it was targeting the PC market.

Banks bosses told to clean up IT act

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has called on the UK’s banks to improve their IT operations in a bid to avoid a repeat of the customer chaos caused by a software glitch at RBS earlier this year.

In a letter from FSA executives to leading banks, the FSA said it was the boardroom’s responsibility to allocate enough funds to IT departments to ensure they can create a stable service, and demanded names of senior managers who would be held personally responsible.

“The FSA has for some time wanted to be sure that the people who take the decisions are the ones held responsible,” Michael Foot, a former regulator now with Promontory Group consultancy, told the Financial Times. “It is the board that sets the risk appetite and approves the IT budget.”

Saving sci-fi, an ebook at a time

Sci-fi fans might want to pay a visit to Singularity & Co, a Kickstarter-funded project that’s aiming to preserve vintage, out-of-print novels by turning them into ebooks. Or as the company puts it: a team of time travelling archivists looking for futures past.

Each month, the four founders and the site’s community identify a sci-fi classic to preserve, scan it in, and then make it available as a DRM-free download to the site’s subscribers.

However, as a profile in Ars Technica reveals, the quartet find they have to overcome familiar hurdles, even though the books are out of print. For a forthcoming title, the crew went on a thousand-mile drive to the only library in the US with a copy of the book, only to be refused permission to scan it. “The default position of the organisation seems to be, ‘I don’t know if this is valuable but, just in case it is, I want to make sure nobody else gets their hands on it’,” they tell Ars.

Europe calls for harmony on radio spectrum

Brussels officials like standardisation and have launched a policy aimed at doing just that to radio spectrum to provide mobile and wireless broadband. Under the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme the European Commission has called for better sharing of network capacity between providers, as well as a harmonised approach to “white space broadband”, which is already being trialled in the UK.

TV network takes sensible approach to piracy

Australian broadcaster ABC has acknowledged that there can be sensible ways to stop piracy. For this week’s new episode of Doctor Who, due to air a week after the UK, ABC tried something different: just hours after the show finished in the UK, ABC put the episode on its iView online player. Rabid fans could watch it immediately, less eager viewers could wait until the following weekend.

“Piracy is wrong, as you are denying someone their rights and income for their intellectual property,” said ABC1 controller Brendan Dahill. “The fact that it is happening is indicative that as broadcasters we are not meeting demand for a segment of the population. So as broadcasters we need to find convenient ways of making programs available via legal means to discourage the need for piracy.”

Bruce Willis not kicking down Apple’s doors over iTunes

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s rumour about Bruce Willis suing Apple isn’t actually true. The thespian’s wife tweeted that the story was false – but not until dozens of Die Hard puns landed in headlines. Charles Arthur at The Guardian has an amusing takedown of the story, and a horrifying suggestion as to where the whole thing originated: the phrase “Estates and Wills” in a press release on the subject. Surely not?

Either way, we reiterate our original suggestion: it’s the leaked story of the next Die Hard, in which John McClane battles the evil Tim Cook for iTunes freedom – come on, it’s hardly the worst Die Hard plot they’ve come up with…

Copyright robots take Hugos offline

The Hugo Awards celebrate the best in sci-fi writing, so it only seems fitting that it was rampant robots that took the live-stream of the event offline.

That attack didn’t come from slightly-humanoid metal machines, but copyright scanning DRM robots, which overreacted to the awards showing a clip from Doctor Who, according to io9. “It was like a Cory Doctorow story crossed with RoboCop 2, with DRM robots going crazy and shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of perfectly innocent broadcasts,” the blog said.

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