"The idea is simple. Instead of constructing immoveable concrete buildings, we’ll create lightweight block-like structures which can be moved around easily as we invest in new product areas. (Our self-driving car team, for example, has very different needs when it comes to office space from our Search engineers.) Large translucent canopies will cover each site, controlling the climate inside yet letting in light and air. With trees, landscaping, cafes, and bike paths weaving through these structures, we aim to blur the distinction between our buildings and nature."Official Google Blog: Rethinking office space
Friday, February 27, 2015
Check the full post for a video overview of Google's new campus plan
Really big data
"The CIA is preparing to take the next step in its quest to shake up the status quo of siloed agencies within the intelligence community.CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud - Nextgov.com
CIA Chief Information Officer Doug Wolfe confirmed Wednesday the intelligence agency will start using Cloudera’s Enterprise Data Hub platform by April, a move he expects “to extend the innovation and push the envelope on a whole range of different solutions” for all 17 IC agencies.
This hub, however, will be hosted on Amazon Web Services’ C2S cloud built for the IC, inaccessible to the public."
"Amazon has been experimenting with new shipping methods lately, but one day soon it might not have to worry about sending items at all, and use 3D printers to produce them on the curbs outside customers' homes instead. The e-commerce giant has filed several patent applications for a system that could print goods on-demand in "mobile manufacturing hubs" — trucks outfitted with 3D printers that could rapidly produce and deliver items on their travels."Amazon wants to fit trucks with 3D printers to speed up deliveries | The Verge
iOS grows to 73% enterprise share in Q4 2014, Android drops to 25%, and Windows Phone stays flat at 1% | VentureBeat | Enterprise | by Emil Protalinski
Enterprise different; also see Apple’s iOS grabbed a record 88.7% of smartphone profits in Q4 2014, Android fell to a new low of 11.3%
"Apple still rules the mobile enterprise space and is extending its lead. iOS gained another 4 percentage points, growing to 73 percent of global device activations in Q4 2014. Android device activations, meanwhile, dropped the same amount to 25 percent of total activations last quarter.iOS grows to 73% enterprise share in Q4 2014, Android drops to 25%, and Windows Phone stays flat at 1% | VentureBeat | Enterprise | by Emil Protalinski
The latest findings come from Good Technology‘s Mobility Index Report. Windows Phone activations remain consistent with the seven previous quarters: flat at 1 percent. Since BlackBerry devices use BlackBerry Enterprise Server for corporate email access, Good Technology does not have insight into BlackBerry handset activations."
Excerpt from the latest Economist cover story, a survey of how "The smartphone is the defining technology of the age"
"By 2020, something like 80% of adults will own a smartphone connected to this remarkable global resource. If they are anything like today’s Europeans and Americans, who are leading in these matters, they will use them for about two hours a day; if they are like today’s European and American teenagers they will use them more than that. The idea that the natural place to find a computer is on a desk—let alone, before that, in a basement—will be long forgotten."The related Leaders section article, Planet of the phones, notes
"THE dawn of the planet of the smartphones came in January 2007, when Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in front of a rapt audience of Apple acolytes, brandished a slab of plastic, metal and silicon not much bigger than a Kit Kat. “This will change everything,” he promised. For once there was no hyperbole. Just eight years later Apple’s iPhone exemplifies the early 21st century’s defining technology."Telecoms and society: The truly personal computer | The Economist
Cue the speculation engine; only 11 days until the next major Apple event
"Apple unveiled the Apple Watch in September when it also showed off its new iPhones and Apple Pay, its mobile-payment service. On March 9, Apple is expected to delve deeper into the various features of the watch. The presentation aims to answer the defining purpose of the company’s first all-new product since it introduced the iPad in 2010.Apple Plans ‘Special Event’ on March 9, Likely for Smartwatch - Digits - WSJ
While Apple did not directly mention a watch, the company hinted at the topic using a watch-related clue. Apple’s invitation said “Spring Forward.” The day before the event is daylight savings when people will set their clocks one hour ahead."
A peculiar political pattern; also see What Amazon’s Hire of Former Obama Spokesman Says About Its PR Machine (Re/code)
"The path from Washington to high-tech is becoming well-worn. Technology companies are pouring money into lobbying as the industry seeks to extend its influence, and brand-name figures are signing up to lead the efforts.Amazon Hires Jay Carney, Former Obama Press Secretary - NYTimes.com
Uber, the fast-growing ride-hailing service, hired David Plouffe, who ran Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. Susan Molinari, a former congresswoman, runs Google’s lobbying shop. Mark Penn, a veteran of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaigns, is at Microsoft. Lisa Jackson, Mr. Obama’s former Environmental Protection Agency chief, works for Apple. Last year, Apple reportedly considered Mr. Carney for a senior post."
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Excerpt from an extensive interview (full transcript here)
"“Google+ has always meant two things for us,” Pichai said. “There’s the stream in the product that you see.” But Google+ also provided a way for the company to ensure users were signed in to its services with “a common identity across our products,” he said. “The second part was in many ways even more important than the first part. That part has worked really well for us.”Exclusive: Sundar Pichai's Plan To Keep Google Almighty - Forbes
But Pichai said that two important parts of Google+, Photos and Hangouts, may soon be separated from the main product. “I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area,” he said."
Also see One of the most promising features of Amazon's flopped smartphone is coming to its tablets (Business Insider)
"Jeff Bezos’ baby, the Fire Phone, sported a few unusual hallmarks when it launched last summer, and one of its banner features is starting to trickling down to Amazon’s less expensive Fire tablets. Amazon started to add its Firefly visual search to Fire HD tablets through an over-the-air update on Wednesday.Amazon’s product-finding Firefly lands on Fire HD tablets | Gigaom
Firefly’s main purpose is to visually search for products on Amazon. Take a picture of, say, a DVD, and Firefly can bring you directly to the Amazon product page. But it’s not just a shopping engine — it can scan business cards, name shows and movies on TV, and even identify great works of art. Bezos reportedly personally requested the art identification feature."
"We’re still waiting for the final pricing details on the Apple Watch, but if recent reports that Apple plans to sell one million gold Edition units a month are true, Apple Watch could wreak havoc on gold prices and do who knows what to the global economy.Demand for Apple Watch could use up third of world’s gold | Cult of Mac
Josh Center at TidBits has done some math on Apple Watch and estimates that if production rumors are correct, Apple will be bidding for a third of the world’s annual gold supply to make enough gold watches to meet demand.
To put those numbers in perspective, Apple needs so much gold it could turn the all 7,000 metric tons of gold stored at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — you know, the one from the plot of Die Hard 3 — into gold watches in less than a decade."
An intriguing vision video; for a more near-term and perhaps dystopian perspective, see 'Modern Family' pulled off a hilarious episode that takes place entirely on a Mac (Mashable); also see 6 Easter Eggs in the "Connection Lost" Episode (ABC)
"Microsoft is back with another vision of the future. If you’ve followed the software maker’s previous future videos then not much has changed. Microsoft is still obsessed with big screens and that infatuation is even clearer with what the company calls "productivity future vision." Set between five and 10 years in the future, Microsoft’s vision includes holograms, 3D printers, super thin tablets, and bendable displays."Microsoft obsesses over giant displays and super thin tablets in future vision video | The Verge
Following Google deal, Softcard is shutting down its Android and Windows Phone apps | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Emil Protalinski
Also unlikely we'll see Apple Pay for Android or Windows Phone real soon now
"Softcard is pointing its users to download Google Wallet, which again only has tap-and-pay on Android. Because there’s no Softcard app for iOS, Apple users aren’t affected by the fact Google Wallet doesn’t support tap-and-go — and they have Apple Pay anyway. Because Google Wallet doesn’t exist for Windows Phone, once Softcard kills its app, Microsoft users will be left out in the cold, again.Following Google deal, Softcard is shutting down its Android and Windows Phone apps | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Emil Protalinski
Some will blame Google for striking a deal that indirectly ends up hurting Windows Phone users, while others will blame Softcard for killing off its Windows Phone app when there isn’t a proper alternative. At the end of the day, it will likely be Microsoft who has to come up with a solution, especially with Windows 10 coming out later this year."
In other not-just-playing-games Google news
"Android for Work features four key technology components:Official Google for Work Blog: Android is ready for work
- Work profiles – We’ve built on the default encryption, enhanced SELinux security enforcement and multi-user support in Android 5.0, Lollipop to create a dedicated work profile that isolates and protects work data. IT can deploy approved work apps right alongside their users' personal apps knowing their sensitive data remains secured. People can use their personal apps knowing their employer only manages work data and won’t erase or view their personal content.
- Android for Work app – For devices running Ice Cream Sandwich through Kitkat, or that don’t run work profiles natively, we’ve created the Android for Work app. The app, which delivers secure mail, calendar, contacts, documents, browsing and access to approved work apps, can be completely managed by IT.
- Google Play for Work – Google Play for Work allows businesses to securely deploy and manage apps across all users running Android for Work, simplifying the process of distributing apps to employees and ensuring that IT approves every deployed app.
- Built-in productivity tools – For everyday business tasks, we’ve created a suite of business apps for email, contacts and calendar, which supports both Exchange and Notes and provides document editing capabilities for documents, spreadsheets and presentations."
Not a good week for Lenovo; also see The real problem with Lenovo’s adware (Tech.pinions)
"Lenovo’s technological woes are continuing.Cyberattack Takes Down Lenovo Website - Digits - WSJ
The personal-computer maker said a cyberattack had taken down its website on Thursday, a week after the company apologized for preloading software on some of its laptops that made customers more vulnerable to hacking.
On Thursday morning in Asia, the website showed a blank page that said the Lenovo site was unavailable due to system maintenance. The url Lenovo.com redirected some users Wednesday afternoon U.S. time to a slideshow of kids looking into a webcam, according to reports in the U.S."
More Google/DeepMind DQN details
"The breakthrough is similar to IBM’s chess-winning Deep Blue computer, or Watson, a computer that IBM programmed to win at Jeopardy! In some ways the latest advance is more profound, however; Deep Blue and Watson were taught strategies that worked inside the rules of their respective games. The new program learned — without training — how to succeed at a range of different games.A Google Computer Can Teach Itself Games - NYTimes.com
The rules-learning technology, initially described in the British journal Nature on Wednesday, could initially be important to Google for things like search, voice recognition and language translation. Further out, the researchers said, the learning system could be useful for robots and driverless cars."
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Not just playing games
""It's the first time that anyone has built a single general learning system that can learn directly from experience," he told journalists ahead of the announcement. "The ultimate goal is to build general purpose smart machines -- that's many decades away. But this is going from pixels to actions, and it can work on a challenging task even humans find difficult. It's a baby step, but an important one.""DeepMind's AI is an Atari gaming pro now (Wired UK)
Final paragraphs of a Googleplex++ preview
"Google’s headquarters proposal does not include any plans for housing. But the company has told the City Council that it wants housing, and lots of it. Councilman Siegel, for one, agrees. He wants to amend the city’s plan to allow at least 5,000 new housing units.Google Plans New Headquarters, and a City Fears Being Overrun - NYTimes.com
That this could bring in even more Google employees is just what some people fear.
“This last election we had maybe 12,000 voters,” said Jac Siegel, a city councilman who left office this year and is not related to Leonard Siegel. “If you brought 5,000 people in and they all work for Google and they said, ‘We want you to vote for this candidate,’ they can own the town.”"
Competitive head games?...
"Microsoft's recently announced futuristic holographic headset may pose a health risk to users, according to the CEO of Magic Leap, a secretive augmented-reality startup and newfound rival to Microsoft in the burgeoning AR space.Magic Leap clashes with Microsoft over augmented reality health risks - CNET
Microsoft's HoloLens uses an input system that does not fully replicate the physical connections between our eyes and our brains, possibly resulting in permanent effects on your brain, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz wrote Tuesday in a Reddit AskMeAnything thread when asked about the device. As such, Abovitz recommended avoiding use of the headset and others like it."
Check the full article for deeply dubious Dish deal details
"Charles W. Ergen, the billionaire who controls the satellite-TV provider Dish Network, and his company are about to make a cool $3.25 billion — courtesy of the American taxpayer.How Loopholes Turned Dish Network Into a ‘Very Small Business’ - NYTimes.com
This windfall came from a recent successful auction of wireless spectrum that raised more than $40 billion for the American treasury. But it will be $3.25 billion less than it ought to be, if Mr. Ergen and his clever lawyers have their way."
On a bright note, Sony => security professional services full-employment act
"Ms. Whitman said that HP was not cutting back on research and development, despite the lower earnings, and said valuable new products were on the way, particularly in business computing.HP Earnings Decline 4%, and Outlook Is Lowered - NYTimes.com
Another bright area, she said, was HP’s security software business, thanks to the hacking last year on Sony Pictures. While there had been earlier violations of corporate computers, she said, Sony took the business up to a new level. “We’re sold out — 5,000 security professionals.”"
Evidently patent litigation is a thriving industry in Tyler, Texas; also see Smartflash wins their Lawsuit against Apple who Vows to Appeal (Patently Apple)
"After deliberating for eight hours in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the jury said that Apple not only had used the Smartflash patents without permission but also had done so willfully.Apple Ordered to Pay $532.9 Million in iTunes Patent Dispute - NYTimes.com
Apple suggested the outcome was a reason why change is needed in the patent system to curb litigation by companies like Smartflash that do not make products themselves.
“We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system,” Apple said in a press release."
Also see Comcast Reports Small Profit Gain in the Face of Regulatory Uncertainty (NYT)
"Senior Republicans conceded on Tuesday that the grueling fight with President Obama over the regulation of Internet service appears over, with the president and an army of Internet activists victorious.F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama - NYTimes.com
The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet. While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners."
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Also see Apple's record close brings market cap to $775B (CNBC)
"As the iPhone-maker’s shares continue to set fresh record highs, its market cap is now above $765 billion. Combined with Exxon Mobil Corp.'s pullback over the past six months, Apple has pulled off the rare occurrence of being worth at least double any other publicly traded U.S. company. No. 2 Exxon’s market cap has eased to $374 billion.Apple Is Now More Than Double the Size of Exxon—And Everyone Else - MoneyBeat - WSJ
On a year-end basis, the last time the biggest company by market value was worth at least double the second-largest was 30 years ago, says S&P Dow Jones Indices’ Howard Silverblatt. At the conclusion of 1983, 1984 and 1985, International Business Machines Corp.’s market cap was more than twice Exxon, which ended each of those years in second place. At its widest year-end point back then, IBM was worth 140% more than Exxon."
Check the full post for links to Artemis information resources explaining its technology; also see Artemis is building a 4G network in SF to prove its pCell tech works (Gigaom)
"A new wireless technology that claims exponentially better performance than current mobile networks will be introduced in San Francisco as soon as this year, pending regulatory approval.Artemis Networks pCell Network to Launch in SF After Dish Deal | Re/code
Artemis Networks has reached a deal with Dish Networks to lease mobile spectrum in San Francisco for up to two years, clearing the way for the first deployment of a wireless technology known as pCell. It will also be offered in Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers professional football team.
“This is the largest single advance in the history of wireless,” said Artemis founder and Chief Executive Steve Perlman."
A hybrid future for IBM; also see IBM Angles to be Cloud Coordinator (WSJ)
"IBM hopes everything looks better in IBM blue.IBM Tries to Paint the Computing Cloud Blue - NYTimes.com
The company Monday announced at a conference in Las Vegas a series of technologies and investments designed to win business customers over to IBM’s version of modern computing. As the chief executive Virginia Rometty sees it, the future is about using computers both inside corporations and in remote cloud computing systems.
Companies need these, the thinking goes, to rapidly create mobile and data analysis-intensive applications. That leaves a potentially profitable opening for IBM’s thousands of consultants to work with corporate customers."
Also see Google Strikes Deal With Carriers for Payments (WSJ), which notes "For their part, the wireless carriers have a bigger incentive to work with Google because they get no revenue from Apple Pay, according to people familiar with the matter."
"Google announced on Monday that it has cut a deal with three wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon — as well as their jointly-owned payments company, Softcard, to have its Google Wallet payment application preinstalled on Android phones sold by the carriers.Google Guns for Apple in Mobile Payments Race - NYTimes.com
As part of the deal, Google said, it acquired “technology and intellectual property” from Softcard.
The move will allow Google to get its Wallet app in front of a whole lot more people, but it is facing an increasingly crowded field. Last week, Samsung acquired Loop Pay, signaling its move into mobile payments."
Check the full article for more Snowden snapshots
"Another top question for Snowden on Monday was potentially a little more substantive. Reddit user TheJackal8 asked him: “Mr. Snowden, if you had a chance to do things over again, would you do anything differently? If so, what?”Edward Snowden Reddit AMA: Citizenfour documentary subject has just one regret.
Snowden’s response displayed the sort of nimble job-interview skills that one imagines helped him land that fateful Booz Allen gig in the first place. Regrets? Sure, Snowden has one:
I would have come forward sooner. I talked to Daniel Ellsberg about this at length, who has explained why more eloquently than I can.
Had I come forward a little sooner, these programs would have been a little less entrenched, and those abusing them would have felt a little less familiar with and accustomed to the exercise of those powers. … Once you grant the government some new power or authority, it becomes exponentially more difficult to roll it back.
Don't let it happen in your country."
Monday, February 23, 2015
The Believers: The hidden story behind the code that runs our lives - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Excerpt from a long-term deep learning overview
"With each announcement, deep learning has nudged the notion of artificial intelligence back into the public sphere, though not always to productive ends. Should we worry about the robot revolution to come? Spoiler alert: not right now; maybe in 50 years. Are these programmers foolish enough to think they’re actually mimicking the brain? No. Are we on the way to truly intelligent machines? It depends on how you define intelligence. Can deep learning live up to its hype? Well …The Believers - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Such a clamor has risen around deep learning that many researchers warn that if they don’t deliver on its potential, they risk a backlash against all of artificial intelligence. "It’s damaging," says Yann LeCun, a professor at New York University who now directs Facebook’s AI research. "The field of AI died three or four times because of hype.""
Final paragraph from a Gartner survey summary
"The big winner? Using DBMS vendors’ external table capabilities – it more than doubled, from 9% to 19%. What that suggests to me is that we are indeed approaching the “Bambi meets Godzilla” stage of the market. New entrants are turning to their “strategic suppliers” of information management technology in the typical flight to quality that occurs in maturing markets for technology that was innovated at the edge. I expect to see more, not less, of this in the quarters ahead."Which SQL on Hadoop? Poll Still Says “Whatever” But DBMS Providers Gain
Opening in the U.S. 2015/12/25
"Nicolas Cage has joined the cast of “Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s take on the Edward Snowden whistleblower story.Nicolas Cage Joins Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ | Variety
Cage will play the role of a former U.S. Intelligence Official in the thriller.
Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour,” a non-fiction treatment on an episode of the Snowden story won the best documentary Academy Award on Sunday night."
"The data centers in Ireland and Denmark will be state-of-the-art facilities, and in both cases Apple is trying to do more than just develop projects for its own direct benefit — a positive by-product even if you view the moves in a more cynical and opportunistic light.Apple To Invest $2B Building Green Data Centers In Ireland And Denmark | TechCrunch
In Athenry, Apple says it will be building the data center on land that had been used to for commercial forestry, growing and harvesting non-native trees. It will also be undergoing a project to restore native trees to Derrydonnell Forest, and building an outdoor education space.
In Denmark, the center will be built next to one of Denmark’s largest electrical substations, the company says. That will mean no need to build additional generators. And Apple says it will use heat generated from its facility to provide heat to local homes."
Also see The Superfish Funder List (Qntra.net), noting "In the wake of yesterday's disclosure of Lenovo's appalling inclusion of the Superfish malware on their OEM Windows installs, let us highlight the Venture Capital Firms which made Superfish possible"
"Lenovo admitted to pre-loading the Superfish adware on some consumer PCs, and unhappy customers are now dragging the company to court on the matter.Lenovo hit with lawsuit over Superfish snafu | PCWorld
A proposed class-action suit was filed late last week against Lenovo and Superfish, which charges both companies with “fraudulent” business practices and of making Lenovo PCs vulnerable to malware and malicious attacks by pre-loading the adware."