‘Silicon Heartlands’, 3D-printed guns and Ryanair’s European turbulence

Planet Business: Not all technology represents progress

Model promotion: Daisy Lowe is camouflaged into a wall of daisies by artist Carolyn Roper to publicise Samsung’s ‘ambient mode’ television screens. Photograph: Matt Alexander/PA

Model promotion: Daisy Lowe is camouflaged into a wall of daisies by artist Carolyn Roper to publicise Samsung’s ‘ambient mode’ television screens. Photograph: Matt Alexander/PA


In numbers: Downloadable guns


Number of US states that sued the Trump administration after it allowed the publication of software that would help consumers to 3D-print firearms. A federal judge in Seattle has now blocked the release.


There were at least this many downloads of the blueprints published by the gun access group Defense Distributed last week for a gun modelled on the AR-15 rifle used in many mass shootings.

265 million

The number of firearms already estimated to be in the possession of US civilians anyway, even before the addition of totally untraceable, DIY plastic guns that can evade metal detectors.

Image of the week: Model mode

Samsung seems rather pleased with the new “ambient mode” on its QLED television sets, which magically enables the screen to “blend in” to the wall behind it – the sight of dust-smeared black TV screens in a living room being passé, obviously. Normally, the way it works is the user takes an image of the TV on the wall through a special mobile app and it then analyses the wall’s pattern and texture to generate a camouflaged image. (Alternatively, the display image can change with the time of day and weather.) Here, and strictly for promotional purposes, model Daisy Lowe is painted into a wall of daisies by the body paint artist Carolyn Roper to publicise Samsung’s feature. It took eight hours for Roper to do this, so it’s probably best not to try it at home.

The lexicon: Silicon Heartlands

Not to be confused with Dublin’s Silicon Docks, London’s Silicon Roundabout, Silicon Valley itself or indeed the “Hidden Heartlands” of the current grey-skied tourism campaign, the Silicon Heartlands are a part of the midlands that happen to overlap with the constituency of Minister for Communications Denis Naughten. It was indeed the Minister who coined the phrase to describe a veritable cluster of software developers in Athlone following a recent jobs announcement for the town by Belfast-headquartered Neueda Technologies. The infrastructure is there, Naughten says, for other towns in the area to “leverage off” Athlone’s silicon strength. This includes the potential to create a “digital hub” in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, where there are said to be excellent hot-desking opportunities.

Getting to know: Beth Ford

Beth Ford is “humbled and honoured” to become the new chief executive of US agricultural co-op Land O’Lakes, a promotion that makes her only the third openly gay chief executive of a Fortune 500 company after Apple’s Tim Cook and the Dow Chemical Company’s Jim Fitterling and the only out lesbian to hold such a role. Iowa-born Ford, who lives in Minneapolis with spouse Jill Schurtz and their three teenage children, told CNN that she had “made a decision long ago to live an authentic life”, and that if being named chief executive helped others to do the same, “that’s a wonderful moment”. The appointment has been hailed by as a powerful message by equality campaigners and LGBTQ groups.

The list: Ryanair strikes

Across Europe, the whole industrial relations thing has not gone terribly well for Ryanair since the airline finally said last December that it would recognise trade unions.

1: Ireland. Barring a last-minute aversion, the latest stoppage by pilots in Ireland will take place today in an increasingly toxic dispute that Ryanair has blamed on Aer Lingus pilots.

2: Spain, Belgium and Portugal. During a two-day strike in the three countries, cabin crew outside Madrid airport recently chanted for the resignation of Michael O’Leary in their pursuit for the same “basic rights” available to other Spanish workers.

3: Italy. In June, Italy became the first place where Ryanair agreed a cabin crew recognition deal. Relations have got off to a lively start, with crew staging a 24-hour strike last week.

4: Germany. No strike dates have been scheduled (at the time of writing), but there’s definitely some industrial turbulence percolating in Germany, where the majority of Ryanair pilots are directly employed.

5: Sweden. Swedish pilots have now served notice that they will strike on August 10th, saying they were left with no option after management failed to meet its union representatives for more than eight months.