Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Samsung's Slick New Smartwatch Makes Calls Without a Phone | WIRED

Another future collectors' item from Samsung

"Under the hood of each watch, there’s a dual-core 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM, a paltry 4GB of storage, an accelerometer, a heart-rate monitor, a gyroscope, and a barometer. These watches also aren’t part of the Android Wear family: They both run Tizen, which means they’ll likely only play nice with newer Samsung Galaxy phones. They do offer voice controls, but those will be powered by Samsung’s S Voice system rather than Google Now."
Samsung's Slick New Smartwatch Makes Calls Without a Phone | WIRED

Google’s Chrome Browser Will Begin Blocking Flash Web Ads - Digits - WSJ

All annoying auto-play ads will henceforth be developed in HTML5

"Google’s Chrome browser on Tuesday will begin blocking Internet ads that use Adobe’s Flash technology, a move that will likely prompt advertisers to abandon the video format entirely.

Flash has powered a large portion of online banner and video ads over the past 20 years, but Google says the format increases page-load speeds and device battery consumption, and generally degrades user experience.

As a result, the company will now “pause” Flash ads by default within its Chrome browser, meaning users will have to click on the ads to have them play."
Google’s Chrome Browser Will Begin Blocking Flash Web Ads - Digits - WSJ

Apple - Press Info - Apple and Cisco Partner to Deliver Fast Lane for iOS Enterprise Users

Another enterprise partnership for Apple
"To address the ever-increasing demands on corporate infrastructure, Cisco networks and iOS devices will be optimized so that they work together more efficiently and reliably with the goal of providing users with even greater performance.

Apple and Cisco are also working together to make iPhone an even better business collaboration tool in Cisco voice and video environments, with the goal of providing employees with a seamless experience between iPhone and their desk phone.

With Apple's support, Cisco will deliver experiences specially optimized for iOS across mobile, cloud, and premises-based collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark, Cisco Telepresence and Cisco WebEx in order to deliver seamless team collaboration and reinvent the meeting experience."
Also see Apple and Cisco Team Up in iOS Enterprise Push (Re/code), which includes
 "In a statement, Cisco took pains to portray the deal as different from last year’s Apple-IBM deal: “We view our partnership and offerings as complementary to the Apple and IBM offerings. Our offerings will be yet another step in delivering on our vision for transforming how people work. We’re partnering with the leader in consumer technology with the biggest mobile platform to tackle some of the most pressing problems that businesses face today and help bring it to life.”"
 Apple - Press Info - Apple and Cisco Partner to Deliver Fast Lane for iOS Enterprise Users

European Firms Team Up to Target Google in Civil Lawsuits - The New York Times

The Google Redress and Integrity Platform

"Now, the American search giant may be the target of a series of new civil lawsuits that claim Google abused its market dominance to favor its own services over those of its rivals.

On Tuesday, Hausfeld, an international law firm with connections to companies affected by Google’s activities in Europe, and Avisa, a European public affairs company that has represented complainants in the antitrust case, will announce that they have created an online platform, to help companies sue Google for financial damages in European courts."
European Firms Team Up to Target Google in Civil Lawsuits - The New York Times

Monday, August 31, 2015

Awaiting its iPhone moment | The Economist

From a timely VR market reality check

"For the time being, VR remains a promising technology, worth watching closely, but still in a primitive incarnation. The offspring of today’s VR systems will be ubiquitous in 2030, by which time current devices will look as clunky as the folding camera-phones of 2001 do today. If the smartphone is anything to go by, the rise of VR will wrong-foot incumbent technology giants and turn obscure startups into household names. Sci-fi novelists have already sketched out a bewildering range of uses of AR, from head-up displays for soldiers to virtual jewellery that is drawn around the wearer by other people’s headsets. Such fiction provides a helpful guide to the potential impact of this emerging technology which, like the internet and smartphone, promises to touch every field of human endeavour. Just not very rapidly."
Awaiting its iPhone moment | The Economist

Google OnHub Review: The Wi-Fi Router Gets a Brain - WSJ

Also see Google OnHub review: Routers don't have to be so complicated (Engadget) and Google OnHub review—Google’s smart home Trojan horse is a $200 leap of faith (Ars Technica)
"The biggest downside for Google is that the router comes from… Google. Google swears that it does not track the websites you visit or pull any content from network traffic. (You can read more on all that here.) The search giant says it collects data about Wi-Fi channels, signal strength and the kinds of devices on your network, information that’s “relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance.” You can even turn off the cloud connection in settings, if you don’t like the trade off, but you’ll lose some smarts and the remote access.

As weird a feeling as it is, letting Google take up a physical role in my household, it’s hard to deny what I witnessed this week: The best wireless networking my home has ever seen."
Google OnHub Review: The Wi-Fi Router Gets a Brain - WSJ

Google Plunges Into Home Services Market - Digits - WSJ

Expanding Amazon/Google competition

"According to a Google spokesperson, services are so far available for plumbers, handymen, locksmiths and house cleaners – terms that customers enter millions of times a day in the Google search bar. In order to qualify, participating small businesses must undergo procedures such as license, insurance and background checks as well as mystery shopping.

Customers can review the service operator, place a call directly and send multiple requests straight from Google’s results page. Never having to leave the Google website, and thus saving clicks, is a feature that differentiates Google’s services from those of most other providers."
Google Plunges Into Home Services Market - Digits - WSJ

Friday, August 28, 2015

Carly Fiorina’s New Campaign Spokesman? Former Foe Tom Perkins - Digits - WSJ

No doubt reassuring to HP shareholders from that time period

"Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina received solid support from an unlikely source.

Tom Perkins, the one-time HP board member and storied venture capitalist who co-founded Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers, rose to Ms. Fiorina’s defense Thursday with a full-page letter published in the New York Times and paid for by Ms. Fiorina’s super PAC, or political action committee.

“Critics often claim Carly was fired at HP because she was unsuccessful,” Mr. Perkins wrote. “As a member of the board, I can tell you this is not true. In truth, it was the Board I was a part of that was ineffective and dysfunctional.”"
Carly Fiorina’s New Campaign Spokesman? Former Foe Tom Perkins - Digits - WSJ

One Billion People Log In to Facebook for First Time - The New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg noted "it's just the beginning of connecting the whole world"

"For the first time, a billion people used Facebook in a single day on Monday. Facebook’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, observed the occasion with a post on his Facebook page, saying that one out of seven people on Earth logged in to the social network to connect with their friends and family."
One Billion People Log In to Facebook for First Time - The New York Times

Apple Watch Shipments Nearly Outpaced Fitbit - The New York Times

Perhaps Apple will share some Apple Watch sales volume details during its 9/9 product event

"A new report estimates that Apple shipped 3.6 million watches in the last quarter — more than some analysts estimated and enough to change the competitive landscape for fitness bands and other wearable devices. Apple shipped enough units of its new smartwatch to nearly overtake market leader FitBit in the last quarter, according to analysts at International Data."
Apple Watch Shipments Nearly Outpaced Fitbit - The New York Times

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Facebook is Building the Commercial Graph | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

In other advertising/shopping evolution news...

"Why is Facebook doing all this? Well, it’s both a continuation of and a break from Facebook’s past business models. It’s a continuation in that, essentially, all of Facebook’s revenue today comes from businesses trying to reach end users through the service, almost exclusively through advertising. But it’s a break in that this new model wouldn’t be about advertising per se, but rather about Facebook facilitating transactions with businesses and potentially taking a cut. Even though Facebook’s advertising revenue has grown from a low of 82% of total revenue in 2012 (in Zynga’s heyday – no pun intended) to 95% of revenue today, chances are the company’s revenue base will diversify significantly over the next few years as it continues to pursue these new business models (and others). Facebook has talked about how its model for monetizing Messenger will mimic its model for monetizing the News Feed — it will be centered around businesses paying to reach users. It seems as though Facebook is launching the services that will eventually provide new revenue streams, without necessarily turning on the monetization just yet."
Facebook is Building the Commercial Graph | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

‘Puzzles Are Fun. Search On’: Google Cops to Secret Recruiting Tool Baked Inside Search | Re/code

A different kind of talent search

"On Tuesday, Max Rosett, a new Google employee, blogged on The Hustle about how he landed his new job at Google. Rosett, a data scientist with the rental marketplace Apartment List, was working on a head-scratching coding problem. He turned to Google’s search box, typing in this query on the programming language: “python lambda function list comprehension.”

Up popped a box inside the search results that read: “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?” It led to google.com/foobar — a programming test Google has used in the past to recruit engineers. It’s not the first time Google’s HR has deployed the nerdy trick. Users on Hacker News posted a similar tale last year."
‘Puzzles Are Fun. Search On’: Google Cops to Secret Recruiting Tool Baked Inside Search | Re/code

Security Blogger May Have New Lead in Ashley Madison Hacking - The New York Times

On the highway to jail?

"Mr. Krebs’s work dovetails with a colorful detail from police reports. The Toronto police have said that Avid Life Media employees first learned their systems had been breached on July 12 when they arrived at work to find a menacing message on their computer screens accompanied by the rock band AC/DC’s song “Thunderstruck.”

Mr. Krebs said he downloaded five years’ worth of tweets from Thadeus Zu. In the tweets, he found boasts about many simple web attacks, including the defacement of several websites, and, buried within, references to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” tune."
Security Blogger May Have New Lead in Ashley Madison Hacking - The New York Times

Amazon Curtails Development of Consumer Devices - WSJ

So perhaps the Fire phone was a one-and-done

"In recent weeks Amazon has dismissed dozens of engineers who worked on its Fire phone at Lab126, its secretive hardware-development center in Silicon Valley, according to people familiar with the matter.

The layoffs were the first in the division’s 11-year history, these people said. But the precise toll on its roughly 3,000-person staff couldn’t be learned, in part because Amazon typically requires employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for severance payments.

The company also has scaled back or halted some of Lab126’s more ambitious projects—including a large-screen tablet—and reorganized the division, combining two hardware units there into one, people familiar with the matter said."
Periodic reminder: to view an article behind the wsj.com paywall, if you don't have a subscription, select the article title, search, and click the article link in the search result

Amazon Curtails Development of Consumer Devices - WSJ

As ad blockers rise, will the Web business model fall? | BetaBoston

Ad blocking as accelerated online advertising evolution

"“Ad blocking is a symptom of bad advertising online,” said Williams, who thinks the impending crisis is an opportunity to finally get it right.

His rival Matt Adkisson agrees. He said Sourcepoint plans to let users opt out of receiving ads that get on their nerves. Another anti-ad block company, Ireland’s PageFair, works with publishers to help them develop inoffensive ads that users won’t want to block."
As ad blockers rise, will the Web business model fall? | BetaBoston

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Peek Inside Mr. Robot's Toolbox | WIRED

Check the full article for a handy list

"That kind of paranoia—Esmail’s included—may be irrational to some extent, but that doesn’t make it any less palpable. Esmail believes society and technology play into these fears. “[Governments and corporations] really do have the tools to follow you. They really do have the tools to monitor you, if they wanted to, so the mere fact that it exists just kind of amps that paranoia,” he says.

Esmail and his technical consultants have also worked exhaustively to portray the technology on the show as authentically as possible. To celebrate the end of the first season, let’s take a look at some of the apps and tools used on the show, all of which actually exist and which you could also use. (Faraday cage not included.)"
A Peek Inside Mr. Robot's Toolbox | WIRED

Facebook Launches M, Its Bold Answer to Siri and Cortana | WIRED

AI + IA (artificial intelligence + intelligence augmentation); see The Transhuman Condition (Harper's) for an excerpt of Machine of Loving Grace, John Markoff's latest book, which addresses related topics

"Companies from Google to Taskrabbit are engineering products to act as superpowered personal assistants. Some, like Apple’s Siri, Google Now, or Microsoft’s Cortana, rely entirely on technology, and though they can be used by a lot of people, their range of tasks remains limited. Others, like startups Magic and Operator or gig-economy companies like TaskRabbit, employ people to respond to text-based requests. These services can get nearly anything done—for a much smaller number of folks. M is a hybrid. It’s a virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence as well as a band of Facebook employees, dubbed M trainers, who will make sure that every request is answered."
Facebook Launches M, Its Bold Answer to Siri and Cortana | WIRED

Private Investigator Startup Exploits Ashley Madison Hack | WIRED

Signs of the times

"“Historically, going back to Abraham Lincoln, PIs were a service for the wealthy,” he explains. “We’ve made it so the average consumer can now afford a PI. We’ve democratized the service—anyone with $67 can get a PI to do surveillance or an Internet investigation.” (Through the company, PIs cost $67 an hour.)

But while Trustify typically sees customers who are looking to locate an old friend or do a more thorough background check on, say, a new nanny, the Ashley Madison hack has been especially good for business. The company says it has seen its daily caseload increase fifteenfold in the past week with new sign-ups specifically looking to find out if their partner or spouse is a cheater."
Private Investigator Startup Exploits Ashley Madison Hack | WIRED

The Uber Endgame - The Awl

From an Uber strategy reality check

"The subtext of Uber’s new products having the look and feel of a slightly shinier version of mass transit is, of course, that Uber wants to be privatized mass transit. In Uber’s grand vision, no one owns cars because nearly everyone is taken everywhere in a driverless, electric, omnisciently networked Uber conveyance that arrives precisely when it is needed for a price cheap enough that for many people it feels free (but is just enough to make a profit, since one day, as unimaginable as it seems, the venture capital will run out). This is why Uber earnestly speaks of ending car ownership, taking cars off the road, and helping nurses commute to and from night shifts in the Bronx at two in the morning."
The Uber Endgame - The Awl

Google launches YouTube Gaming to challenge Amazon-owned Twitch | Technology | The Guardian

Big numbers for live gaming

"YouTube Gaming makes games the third entertainment category to get special attention from Google’s online video service, following music and children’s videos. Music-streaming service YouTube Music Key remains in beta testing, while the YouTube Kids app launched in the US in February 2015.

Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s head of gaming, said: “Gaming is so big now. We’re doing billions of hours of watch-time a month, with hundreds of millions of users. It’s astonishing.”"
Google launches YouTube Gaming to challenge Amazon-owned Twitch | Technology | The Guardian