Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cache is the new RAM | MemSQL - The Database for Speed, Scale & Simplicity

Excerpt from a long-view DBMS/SQL/etc. perspective (thanks to Periscope for the reference)
"As various NoSQL databases matured, a curious thing happened to their APIs: they started looking more like SQL. This is because SQL is a pretty direct implementation of relational set theory, and math is hard to fool. 
To paraphrase Paul Graham’s unbearably smug comment about Lisp: once you add group by, filter, & join, you can no longer claim to have invented a new query language, only a new dialect of SQL. With worse syntax and no optimizer.

Because we had taken this strange detour away from SQL, crucial bits missing from most of the systems are a storage engine and query optimizer designed around relational set theory. Bolting that on later led to severe performance hits. For the ones that got it right (or papered it over by being resident in RAM) there were other bits missing like proper replication."
Cache is the new RAM | MemSQL - The Database for Speed, Scale & Simplicity

Uber’s revolution will drive on - Opinion - The Boston Globe

From an Uber/big-picture privacy reality check (incidentally, you don't need an Android phone to see your location history at google.com/locationhistory, referenced elsewhere in the article; running Google apps on your smartphone will facilitate Google location tracking)
"All of which is to underscore a point most of us at least dimly know: Information about us is constantly being collected. Data from cellphones track our movements. Cameras on the streets see what we’re doing. When we purchase something with a credit card, there’s a record tied of what we bought. Cable companies know the movies we’re watching; e-book companies know what we’re reading; websites track the stories we view.

In this context, the data from ridesharing apps such as Uber’s God View are inconsequential. Indeed, even the anonymity of a traditional taxicab is disappearing. When you pay for your taxi with a credit card, your trip is recorded somewhere. And new apps such as Flywheel are seeking to help the taxicab industry by making it even more like Uber, Lyft, and their kin."
Uber’s revolution will drive on - Opinion - The Boston Globe

Uber removed blog post from data science team that examined link between prostitution and rides | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Chris O'Brien

Another busy week for Uber's PR team

"Neff said she went looking for the post after hearing a recent Marketplace story that mentioned another notorious Uber blog post that had also been taken down called: “Rides of Glory.”

As Marketplace recalls:

“The company examined its rider data, sorting it for anyone who took an Uber between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night. Then it looked at how many of those same people took another ride about four to six hours later – from at or near the previous nights’ drop-off point. Yes, Uber can and does track one-night stands. Consider it the Uber equivalent of the walk of shame.”"
Uber removed blog post from data science team that examined link between prostitution and rides | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Chris O'Brien

Kaspersky Labs Discloses More Info on the Super-Spy Malware Regin | Re/code

Deeply nested

"The intended victims appear to be certain customers of the targeted ISPs and telecom companies. But Kaspersky notes a few classes of victims that Symantec did not: Government agencies, financial institutions and individuals doing advanced research into mathematics and cryptology. [...] Easily the most interesting and ominous disclosure from Kaspersky is the fact that the Regin malware was used to compromise GSM wireless phone base stations. Rather than hitting individual cell sites — or “base stations,” as they’re known — Regin was used to attack what are called Base Station Controllers, systems that manage several individual cell sites at a time."
Kaspersky Labs Discloses More Info on the Super-Spy Malware Regin | Re/code

Amazon Promotes Handyman and Installation Services | Re/code

Full spectrum ecommerce

"Amazon wants to sell you a new flatscreen TV on Black Friday, and then help you mount it on your wall.

The giant online marketplace has begun advertising services such as TV wall mountings and fan installations from local service providers alongside its product listings, according to search results on Amazon.com this evening. The services are being offered by companies that are taking part in a new offering called Amazon Local Services, which Reuters and the Wall Street Journal previously reported on."
Amazon Promotes Handyman and Installation Services | Re/code

Monday, November 24, 2014

Europeans Have Authority To Seek Google Break Up Though Unlikely To Do So [Search Engine Land]

Final paragraphs of a Google + European regulation reality check

"US regulators found that Google search was not a monopoly and declined to pursue a sweeping structural remedy against the company. Thus a decision to try and separate Google’s search business from other parts of the company would be difficult to accomplish on multiple levels and would only pertain to the company’s European operations, adding further complexity.

Vestager is likely to recognize the practical and legal challenges of what the European Parliament is calling for. It’s unlikely then that she and her organization will go down that path. But they also probably know the current settlement proposal is dead.

It’s now self-evident that something more “demanding” of Google will be required. But what that will be is not yet clear."
Europeans Have Authority To Seek Google Break Up Though Unlikely To Do So

BBC News - Regin, new computer spyware, discovered by Symantec

Curiously, no instances yet found on systems in China or the U.S. (per Re/code)...
"Symantec says the bug, named Regin, was probably created by a government and has been used for six years against a range of targets around the world.

Once installed on a computer, it can do things like capture screenshots, steal passwords or recover deleted files.

Experts say computers in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ireland have been hit most.

It has been used to spy on government organisations, businesses and private individuals, they say."
BBC News - Regin, new computer spyware, discovered by Symantec

‘Serial,’ Podcasting’s First Breakout Hit, Sets Stage for More - NYTimes.com

The future is highly asynchronous

"Podcasts have moved beyond being a nerd curio because all of the friction has been removed from the process, which used to require setting up RSS feeds or cutting and pasting web addresses into a browser. Now, with the advent of ever smarter smartphones, it has become one more push-button technology, allowing consumers to download an app and listen to audio programming at a time of their choosing. If that sounds familiar — Netflix, anyone? — it’s no surprise that it will have similar transformative effects on traditional providers of serious audio programming, which means public radio."
‘Serial,’ Podcasting’s First Breakout Hit, Sets Stage for More - NYTimes.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Microsoft Strategy Vice President Teper: 'Minecraft is a development tool' | ZDNet

Developers, developers, developers, but don't neglect your school homework...
"Jeff Teper — the "father of SharePoint" and (as of earlier this year) Corporate Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft — explained the thinking behind Microsoft's Minecraft acquisition quite succinctly during a recent tech conference.

"Minecraft is a development tool," Teper told attendees of the UBS Global Technology Conference in Sausalito, Calif., last week. "People build worlds out of it. If we can get eight-year-old girls and boys building worlds and getting inspired by creating content digitally, as they grow up they'll want to create in PowerPoint, or Visual Studio. And in addition to being one of the few gaming franchises that doesn't have to be freemium, Minecraft can actually charge money. It turns out it's a great business with lots of upside.""
Microsoft Strategy Vice President Teper: 'Minecraft is a development tool' | ZDNet

Automation Makes Us Dumb - WSJ

Final paragraphs of a Nicholas Carr pessimistic perspective piece; perhaps timely to revisit Shoshana Zuboff's "informating" concept

"We are amazed by our computers, and we should be. But we shouldn’t let our enthusiasm lead us to underestimate our own talents. Even the smartest software lacks the common sense, ingenuity and verve of the skilled professional. In cockpits, offices or examination rooms, human experts remain indispensable. Their insight, ingenuity and intuition, honed through hard work and seasoned real-world judgment, can’t be replicated by algorithms or robots.

If we let our own skills fade by relying too much on automation, we are going to render ourselves less capable, less resilient and more subservient to our machines. We will create a world more fit for robots than for us."
Automation Makes Us Dumb - WSJ

The Difference Between Uber and Airbnb | Re/code

Interesting case studies in cutthroat versus collaborative capitalism
"Uber and Airbnb have a lot in common: They are the tech startup darlings of the moment, they are valued in the tens of billions of dollars and make significant revenue, they connect the convenience of the Internet to the offline world, they are unpopular all over the world with incumbents and regulators and they exist by virtue of the non-employees who do the real work of renting their homes and driving their cars.
But where Uber is increasingly seen as an untrustworthy company due to its cutthroat handling of pricing, drivers, passengers and critical press — Airbnb is working to cultivate a very different image."
The Difference Between Uber and Airbnb | Re/code

Detekt Is Free Software That Spots Computer Spyware - Businessweek

Windows only, at this point :(

"For more than two years, researchers and rights activists have tracked the proliferation and abuse of computer spyware that can watch people in their homes and intercept their e-mails. Now they’ve built a tool that can help the targets protect themselves.

The free, downloadable software, called Detekt, searches computers for the presence of malicious programs that have been built to evade detection. The spyware ranges from government-grade products used by intelligence and police agencies to hacker staples known as RATs—remote administration tools. Detekt, which was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri, is being released in a partnership with advocacy groups Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Privacy International."
Detekt Is Free Software That Spots Computer Spyware - Businessweek

Facial recognition technology goes way back - Ideas - The Boston Globe

A timely facial recognition reality check

"Concerns about privacy have largely faltered before the stated goal of most facial recognition programs: to recognize danger and to keep society safe. The belief that crime can be defeated through technological means propels innovations in the field ever onward. Today, companies are experimenting with more commercial uses of the technology as well—for example, to develop “ultra-targeted advertising.”

With visions like that now on the horizon, here is a brief tour of how we got here: the moments when facial recognition shot ahead, and a few moments of concern along the way."
Facial recognition technology goes way back - Ideas - The Boston Globe

Friday, November 21, 2014

Google to Help Publishers Make Money by Blocking Ads | Media - Advertising Age

tbd if/when Google Contributor will get beyond experimental status

"It may seem odd for a company like Google, which made 89% of its $16.5 billion in third-quarter revenue from advertising, to enable publishers to build their businesses without advertising. But it isn't, really.
For starters, Google's business of selling ads on other publishers' sites isn't as strong as it was a couple years ago. And the company has spent the past few years building up its non-advertising media business as a increasingly important source of revenue. Google's "other" revenue category includes sales of mobile apps, TV shows and movies and grew by 50% year-over-year in Q3 to $1.8 billion. And more recently Google's YouTube has expressed an interest in opening up an ad-free, subscription-based revenue stream. Last month YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki said the online video service was considering introducing a paid tier, and last week YouTube announced an ad-free, subscription-based music streaming service."
Google to Help Publishers Make Money by Blocking Ads | Media - Advertising Age

Amazon Echo review: A perfect 10 | ZDNet

Excerpt from the conclusion of a detailed review

"It’s a reasonably good audio system at its base level, and the interaction with Alexa adds a lot of value. It is very useful when you need information to just ask Alexa to get it. After only a few hours of using the Echo you will likely find, as I did, that you are already coming to rely on Alexa.

After just a day with the Echo, it’s already become a routine for me to walk in the front door and tell Alexa to play some genre of music or artist. That’s impressive, as my front door is over thirty feet from the Echo. I already do it without thinking about it, which shows the beauty of the Amazon Echo. It becomes part of the environment."
Amazon Echo review: A perfect 10 | ZDNet

Amazon Vows to Run on 100 Percent Renewable Energy | WIRED

Following the leaders

"Over the past few years, Apple, Google, and Facebook pledged to run their online empires on renewable energy, and considering how large these empires have become—how many data centers and machines are now required to keep them going—this was a vital thing. But despite pressure from the likes of Greenpeace, the environmental activism organization, the other big internet name, Amazon, didn’t budge.

That all changed on Wednesday. With a post on its website, Amazon’s cloud computing division—Amazon Web Services—said it has a “long-term commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint.”"
Amazon Vows to Run on 100 Percent Renewable Energy | WIRED

Virtual Paul McCartney app is mind-blowingly cool (Mashable)

A promising leading indicator; in other VR news, see How Magic Leap Is Secretly Creating a New Alternate Reality (Gizmodo)
"Google unveiled the VR headset earlier this year. At the time, to be honest, I didn’t get it. Oculus VR’s Rift headset (now owned by Facebook) is state of the art virtual reality. Why would anyone want a cardboard knockoff?

Thanks to Jaunt VR and Paul McCartney, I now have my answer. [...] 
Jaunt VR also plans to release the app on Oculus Rift and Samsung’s new Gear VR headset, which works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone."
Virtual Paul McCartney app is mind-blowingly cool

Google Just Gave You a Good Reason to Quit Spotify (Gizmodo)

Given the popularity of music on YouTube, I suspect Google won't abandon this service after a year or two

"And then Google introduced YouTube Music Key, which gives YouTube all of the functionality its users have been clamoring for. First, you can watch music videos without any advertisements, so no more pre-roll before every darn Vevo hit. Second, you can now cache videos and playlists for offline playback on your phone. And finally, music will now continue to play in the background even when you switch to another app or lock your phone.

All of that, plus you get access to a full Google Music subscription, which is basically a Spotify clone. Once trials and introductory pricing wear off—you can get in for $8/month for a limited time, and the first six months are free—the whole shebang will cost $10 per month, the same exact amount as Spotify. In other words, you get the regular subscription music service you would be paying for anyway, plus a suite of neat new features that no one else can offer."
Google Just Gave You a Good Reason to Quit Spotify

Twitter Eases Pain of Sharing Tweets Through Direct Messages - Digits - WSJ

Twitter gets (and sends) the message

"Twitter has rolled out the first of several promised changes to make the service more user-friendly.

On Thursday, the company said users can now share tweets through direct messages, a feature that’s aimed to make it easier to continue public conversations in a private forum.

The new feature would also lessen the need for users to leave the site. Previously, users who wanted to share tweets privately would have to use email or copy and paste the link into a direct message."
Twitter Eases Pain of Sharing Tweets Through Direct Messages - Digits - WSJ

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Yahoo Replaces Google as Mozilla Search Partner | Re/code

A big bonus for Bing, although, quoting from Mozilla CEO: It Wasn’t Money — Yahoo Was The Better Strategic Partner For Firefox (Marketing Land), "One bright spot for Google — it remains the Firefox partner in Europe, something the Firefox blog post omitted. That post made clear Yahoo was the new US choice, Yandex the new Russian choice and Baidu the choice in China."
"After six years of generating close to 90 percent of its revenue from referring Firefox browser users to search using Google, Mozilla announced today it is partnering with Yahoo instead.

Mozilla and Google had continued their relationship despite the fact that Google’s Chrome competed directly with Firefox and surpassed its traffic in 2011. The latest three-year deal had Google paying Mozilla some $300 million per year.

Choosing Yahoo was about “choice and independence,” said Mozilla CEO Chris Beard. He noted Firefox users search the Web more than 100 billion times per year."
Yahoo Replaces Google as Mozilla Search Partner | Re/code

How the Mac went from obscurity to ubiquity | Re/code

Check the link below for a Walt Mossberg review of Mac milestones and market momentum

"“The Mac is still really important to us,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Yes, we care about iPhones and iPads, and the new Apple Watch. But we care about the Mac just as much.”

I attribute the rebirth of the Mac to three main factors: Steve Jobs, the Internet, and blunders by Microsoft."
How the Mac went from obscurity to ubiquity | Re/code

Apple's Plans for Beats Music Start to Take Shape - NYTimes.com

And the Beats goes on...

"Apple’s plans for Beats, the company it acquired for $3 billion earlier this year, are coming into sharper focus.

Apple plans to include its Beats music service in future versions of iOS, its mobile software system for iPhones and iPads, according to people briefed on the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not yet official."
Apple's Plans for Beats Music Start to Take Shape - NYTimes.com

We Now Spend More Time Staring at Phones Than TVs - Businessweek

A phabulous future for advertisers

"Marketers think of smartphones and tablets as the “second screen,” places where people direct their attention during commercial breaks on TV. It may be time to reverse those distinctions.

People with access to a smartphone or tablet now spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes on them each day, says digital analytics firm Flurry, putting phones ahead of televisions as time-sucks. The old first screen on average gets about 2 hours and 48 minutes of attention each day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mobile device emerges as an even bigger winner when you filter the data for dedicated users. Flurry clocks daily mobile device users at 3 hours and 45 minutes per day, compared with 3½ hours for daily television watchers."
We Now Spend More Time Staring at Phones Than TVs - Businessweek

Picking Your Car’s Computerized Brain - NYTimes.com

tbd how long it'll be until your insurance company offers you a discount to install this type of device

"You also get a driver score for good behavior, like avoiding speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking. That sounds like a buzz kill for those who like to drive for sport, but it’s helpful if there’s a teenager in the house or if you’ve had a lot of speeding tickets. And both Mojio and Automatic would come in handy if you had a mechanical problem and needed a quick diagnosis.

Automatic also offers some free features that make it attractive to parents. One called License Plus coaches people through hours of driving practice to improve their overall skills and responses. Parents can also track their children’s driving habits through a web-based version of the Automatic software."
Picking Your Car’s Computerized Brain - NYTimes.com

Jeff Bezos Makes His Mark on Washington Post With New Kindle App - NYTimes.com

Also see Washington Post launches twice-daily tablet editions on Amazon Fire app (The Washington Post; I suppose that's an example of "native advertising"...)

"The app, which was designed to reduce the noise of the web to something as streamlined as a print publication, will be automatically added to certain Kindle Fire tablets in a software update. It will feature two editions each day, at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., times the company believes it will reach the most readers.

The app will be free for Kindle Fire owners for six months, and will then cost a dollar a month for the next six months. A version of the app will be available for Android and iOS operating systems next year, at $3.99 a month."
Jeff Bezos Makes His Mark on Washington Post With New Kindle App - NYTimes.com

Is this IBM email app creepy or just really efficient? | IT World Canada News

"I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you postpone that meeting..."

"In the future, IBM Verse users will even have the option to embed a Watson feature into their collaboration environment, enabling users to query IBM’s artificial intelligent supercomputer system on almost any topic “and receive a direct reply with answers ranked by degree of confidence.”

It’s almost like having a HAL 9000 in your PC, but actually Big Blue just hopes IBM Verse, with the help of cloud computing and analytics, will someday replace Outlook, Microsoft Corp’s personal information manager that has been handling the email, contacts, calendar, tasks and note taking duties in millions of computers since the late 1990s."
Is this IBM email app creepy or just really efficient? | IT World Canada News