Friday, February 17, 2017

Dear #MongoDB users, we welcome you in #Azure #DocumentDB | Blog | Microsoft Azure

Embrace and extend, cloud document database service domain

"Moving to DocumentDB doesn’t require you to rewrite your apps or throw away your existing tools. DocumentDB supports protocol for MongoDB, which means DocumentDB databases can now be used as the data store for apps written for MongoDB. This also means that by using existing drivers for MongoDB databases, your applications written for MongoDB can now communicate with DocumentDB and use DocumentDB databases instead of MongoDB databases. In many cases, you can switch from using MongoDB to DocumentDB by simply changing a connection string. Using this functionality, you can easily build and run MongoDB database applications in the Azure cloud - leveraging DocumentDB's fully managed and scalable NoSQL databases, while continuing to use familiar skills and tools for MongoDB. Furthermore, we only support SSL for Mongo (not http) for the benefit of all users."
Dear #MongoDB users, we welcome you in #Azure #DocumentDB | Blog | Microsoft Azure

A breakthrough in Alphabet’s balloon-based internet project means it might actually work - Recode

Skynet, Loon edition; also see Machine Learning Invades the Real World on Internet Balloons (Wired)
"Now, the team says they’ve found a way to keep the balloons in a much more concentrated location, thanks to their improved altitude control and navigation system. Loon says that balloons will now make small loops over a land mass, instead of circumnavigating the whole planet.

“The reason this is so exciting is we can now run an experiment and try to give services in particular places of the world with 10 or 20 or 30 balloons, not with 200 or 300 or 400 balloons,” said the head of X, Astro Teller, at a press event at X’s headquarters in Mountain View today.

The Loon balloons now also adjust how they fly as needed using artificial intelligence software, instead of a set navigation plan.

“We’ve actually made so much progress that we think our timeline for when we can provide useful internet service to people is much, much sooner,” said Sal Candido, an engineer on the Loon project."
A breakthrough in Alphabet’s balloon-based internet project means it might actually work - Recode

Elon Musk Is Really Boring - Bloomberg

An excerpt from this week's Bloomberg Businessweek cover story:

"Musk chose the SpaceX parking lot as the site of his first dig, mostly because it was convenient and he could legally do so without city permits. The plan is to expand the current hole into a ramp designed for a large tunnel boring machine and then start digging horizontally once the machine is 50 feet or so below ground, which would make it low enough to clear gas and sewer lines and to be undetectable at the surface. The company, such as it is, is working on securing permits and hopes to have them by the time the tunnel hits the property line. At the moment, Musk won’t say exactly where this “demo tunnel,” as he calls it, will lead—only that it will accommodate cars and be the very beginning of a vast underground transportation network.

As crazy as tunneling sounds, Musk points out that it’s arguably less crazy than Silicon Valley’s go-to traffic solution: flying cars. Google’s Larry Page has funded two personal-aircraft startups, Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, and companies such as Uber and Airbus have skunk works. But Musk thinks flying cars are a dumb idea, at least for city travel. “Obviously, I like flying things,” he says. “But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution.” As long as the laws of physics hold, he explains, any flying car will need to generate a lot of downward force to stop it from falling out of the sky, which means wind and noise for those on the ground, not to mention debris from midair fender-benders. “If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you,” he says. “Your anxiety level will not decrease as a result of things that weigh a lot buzzing around your head.”"
Elon Musk Is Really Boring - Bloomberg

Snap Aims for Valuation of More Than $20 Billion in I.P.O. - The New York Times

Current market cap snapshots (from Google Finance): TWTR $11.84B, FB $385.61B

"Even at the top of that range, Snap would end up with a valuation on the lower end of the $20 billion to $25 billion mark that it had anticipated months ago. Either way, it is still up from the approximately $16.5 billion the company valued itself late last year.

The final pricing of the new shares — and the company’s valuation — could still change. The share price will be not be set until after Snap embarks on a nearly two-week tour of investors that will take its executives across the country. The company is expected to begin trading around March 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol SNAP.

Even if the value were to drop, it would still be one of the biggest technology offerings of the decade. At this stage of the offering process, Twitter was valued at more than $12 billion, including options and restricted stock units, in October 2013. A year earlier, Facebook was valued at $86 billion at a similar stage."
Snap Aims for Valuation of More Than $20 Billion in I.P.O. - The New York Times

Behind the Scenes of Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto (Backchannel)

Steven Levy on Mark Zuckerberg's Building Global Community "manifesto;" also see Kara Swisher's I talked to Mark Zuckerberg about his manifesto on the future of Facebook (and the rest of us) (Recode)

"Because this message unrolls more like a State of the Union address than your typical Facebook post, it will undoubtedly fuel speculation that young Zuckerberg may be positioning himself to run for public office. (By the way, he turns 35 — the minimum age for the US president — in 2019.) But why accept what might well be a demotion? It’s true that one could dismiss Facebook as a global power with Stalin’s line to Churchill: “How many divisions does the Pope have?” But Facebook has a foreign policy —in the last year alone Zuckerberg has met with dozens of world leaders, including the Pope. And Facebook’s algorithms determine what information we see and who gets to share our news with us, and the majority of its 1.8 billion users show their support for it — in essence, they vote for it — by using the service every day.
Nonetheless, you might consider Zuckerberg’s post a counterpoint to the dark inauguration speech we recently witnessed. Unlike the one in D.C., Zuckerberg’s has specifics—it outlines a collaborative effort, with Facebook taking the initiative, to build a global set of meaningful communities with five purposes: support, safety, trusted and open information, civic engagement, and inclusion."
Behind the Scenes of Mark Zuckerberg’s Manifesto

Gartner Analyst Defends 'Java EE Is Obsolete' Report -- ADTmag

Check the full article for a timely Java EE reality check
"Thomas wrote the report ("Market Guide for Application Platforms") with contributing analyst Aashish Gupta. In it the authors asserted, among other things, that Java EE has not kept pace with architectural trends and digital business initiatives, that Java developers are demonstrating a clear preference for lightweight frameworks over Java EE, and that Java EE is not an appropriate framework for building cloud-native applications. They also advised those responsible for modernizing an enterprise's application infrastructure to "develop a strategy to deal with the obsolescence of Java EE and other three-tier application frameworks."
Java EE community leaders called the Gartner analysts irresponsible and out of touch with the platform, and many blasted the report in blog posts and social media (and my inbox). I interviewed several of those critics for my January post, which includes links to some of the blogs.

Thomas was a bit surprised at the level of outrage over her and Gupta's observations on what she believes are obvious facts about Java EE and the evolving demands on enterprise developers."
Gartner Analyst Defends 'Java EE Is Obsolete' Report -- ADTmag

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Google's myriad messaging apps: Which are best for you? | Computerworld

From an extensive Google communication/collaboration app reality check

"Google offers 12 communications apps and services. Alphabetically, these are: Allo, Chat, Gmail, Google+, Groups, Hangouts, Inbox, Messenger, Duo, Project Fi, Spaces and Voice. If you look at the various communication actions you might want to take -- voice calls, video calls, email, text messaging and social posting -- Google has at least two offerings for each.

The company is unrepentant about its bewildering lineup. A Google spokesperson told me: "We've designed specific products for distinct use cases, so we don't intend to have one app that does everything for everyone. We think we can better serve our users by creating products that function really well, and users can choose the product that best suits their needs." In other words, choice serves users better than clarity does.

At the same time, the company has a longstanding habit of ditching old products and services that have seen limited success, including Google Wave, Google Reader, Picasa and many more. According to my informal survey of nearly 3,000 Google+ users, a majority (55% as of this writing) said they hesitate to use some Google products because they're afraid Google might kill them off."
Google's myriad messaging apps: Which are best for you? | Computerworld

This 'Star Trek'-like headset helps the legally blind see again - CNET

Also see Smart glasses bring vision to legally blind (Mashable)
"Yvonne Felix is walking toward me wearing a device that could be straight out of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Like Geordi La Forge in the science fiction series, Felix is legally blind. In the show, La Forge, played by LeVar Burton, wore a headset called VISOR that helped him see again. Felix is wearing its real-world equivalent, the eSight 3.

The eSight 3 has a camera that works with high-resolution displays and optical prisms in the headset to restore sight to those with low vision. The video image is presented to the user in a way that can overcome the cause of their vision loss."
This 'Star Trek'-like headset helps the legally blind see again - CNET

Mossberg: Android apps on Chrome OS arrive, disappoint - The Verge

On a related note, see Google’s not-so-secret new OS (Tech Specs)

"I’m happy to report that the first Chromebook designed from the ground up to run Android apps out of the box has arrived, albeit a little past the end of 2016. It goes on sale this week for $450. It’s called the Samsung Chromebook Plus, and it runs on an ARM processor, the same type of processor that powers the vast majority of smartphones and tablets. It was designed in close cooperation with Google.

Alas, in my tests of the Plus over the last few days, I found the Android execution frustrating.

The Android app feature is still in beta, not all apps work, and too many of those that do run seem like awkwardly blown-up phone apps, not software that’s tailored for the Chromebook's 12-inch screen. And there are other issues."
Mossberg: Android apps on Chrome OS arrive, disappoint - The Verge

Facebook is rolling out job postings and applications - Recode

Coincidentally, LinkedIn, a Microsoft company since December 2016, is expanding its social networking overlap with Facebook.  Also see Facebook’s new job opening posts poach business from LinkedIn (TechCrunch)

"Businesses were already posting jobs to their Pages, according to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's VP of ads and its business platform. The hope is that now it'll be easier to find those postings and apply for them.

The news is not so great for existing job platforms like LinkedIn, which charges recruiters to post and promote jobs on its platform. Facebook isn't necessarily the first place you think of when looking for a new job, but it could certainly offer some competition to LinkedIn and has a much larger user base.

The new feature will start to roll out beginning Wednesday, but only in the U.S. and Canada."
Facebook is rolling out job postings and applications - Recode

Apple Vowed To Revolutionize Television. An Inside Look at Why It Hasn’t - Bloomberg

Tangentially, see Apple Struggles to Make Big Deals, Hampering Strategy Shifts (Bloomberg); also see Acquisitions in Tech have a Checkered History (Tech.pinions)
"Early on, the Apple TV was going to replace the clunky set-top boxes from the cable companies and stream live television. It never happened. The team debated bundling a gaming controller with the current model to better compete with Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation. That didn't happen either. Originally, viewers were going to be able to shout commands from the couch to the Apple TV. Instead they must talk to the remote control.

Apple has essentially settled for turning the television set into a giant iPhone: a cluster of apps with a store. "That's not what I signed up for," says one of the people, who requested anonymity to talk freely about internal company matters. "I signed up for revolutionary. We got evolutionary." Gene Munster, who covered Apple for more than a decade as a Piper Jaffray analyst and now runs Loup Ventures, echoes the criticism. "Apple TV begs the question: Why does Apple do hobbies?" he says. "Either do it right or don't do it at all.""
Apple Vowed To Revolutionize Television. An Inside Look at Why It Hasn’t - Bloomberg

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Google launches Cloud Spanner, its new globally distributed relational database service | TechCrunch

See Introducing Cloud Spanner: a global database service for mission-critical applications  and Inside Cloud Spanner and the CAP Theorem (Google Cloud Platform Blog) for details
"Google today announced the beta launch of Cloud Spanner, a new globally distributed database service for mission-critical applications. Cloud Spanner joins Google’s other cloud-based database services, like Bigtable, Cloud SQL and the Cloud Datastore, but with the crucial difference of offering developers the best of both traditional relational databases and NoSQL databases — that is, transactional consistency with easy scalability. Maybe the easiest way to think about Cloud Spanner is as an alternative for developers who are hitting the limits of traditional relational databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL.

If the name Cloud Spanner sounds familiar, that’s probably because Google has long used a version of this database internally, and published a paper about it in 2012. As Google’s Deepti Srivastava told me, Google started working on Spanner in 2007 because it was looking for an alternative to MySQL, which previously ran many of the company’s products. Today, products like Google Photos and many of Google’s mission-critical applications run on Spanner. With Cloud Spanner, Google is making this same database service available to outside developers, as well."
Google launches Cloud Spanner, its new globally distributed relational database service | TechCrunch

Facebook is launching an app for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV - Recode

Check this Facebook newsroom post for more details

"The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen.

Dan Rose, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif.

“A lot of people when they’re watching video on News Feed during the day will save it for later because they don’t have time to watch that three-minute video,” Rose said. “Now it’s easy to go on your TV if you want to do that at night."

The new app, which will launch in the next few weeks, gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads."
Facebook is launching an app for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV - Recode

Google’s chief business officer: 'We have to take the fake news problem very, very seriously’ - Recode

Check the full post for a brief interview excerpt

"“We have to take the fake news problem very, very seriously and think about what we can do there,” he said at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif.

The proliferation of misinformation online is a tricky problem to solve, he said, but the company has made efforts by cutting fake news publishers off from one of its advertising platforms. Google has also added labels when certain stories in Google News have been fact-checked.

“Fake news means a lot of different things to different people, and it’s often very hard to draw the line, obviously, between fake news and bad journalism,” he said, adding that concerns about censorship also arise."
Google’s chief business officer: 'We have to take the fake news problem very, very seriously’ - Recode

Your complete guide to choosing an unlimited data plan - The Washington Post

Check the full article for some timely "unlimited" wireless data plan considerations

"With all the unlimited mobile data plans out there these days, it's easy to feel a little lost. Between the varying offers and the fine print, choosing a data plan in 2017 may seem like an exercise in frustration.

The good news is, you're not alone. Today, we're going to flesh out the details of each plan to help you make a better decision. If you're wondering whether these newfangled plans are a good deal, read on for everything we know."
Your complete guide to choosing an unlimited data plan - The Washington Post

Intel Drops Its Sponsorship of Science Fairs, Prompting an Identity Crisis - The New York Times

A busy couple weeks for Intel's PR department; also see Intel gives Trump credit for $7bn US factory it announced under Obama (The Guardian)

"The Intel decision provoked a sharp difference of opinion between Brian Krzanich, Intel’s current chief executive, and Craig R. Barrett, a former Intel chairman and chief executive.

Mr. Krzanich has told colleagues privately that the science fairs were the fairs of the past and had become tilted to life sciences and biotechnology, not primary fields for Intel, according to two people who are not authorized to speak publicly for the company.

Mr. Barrett disagreed. In an email, he said, “you might instead conclude that Intel is a company of the past, just like Westinghouse when they dropped” sponsorship of the national science fair in 1998."
Intel Drops Its Sponsorship of Science Fairs, Prompting an Identity Crisis - The New York Times

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The need for a Digital Geneva Convention - Microsoft on the Issues

From an extensive post by Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer

"Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust."
The need for a Digital Geneva Convention - Microsoft on the Issues

Elon Musk says humans need to merge with machines or risk becoming irrelevant in the AI age (IBT)

In a Tesla tangent, see Tesla’s shares hit an all-time high (VentureBeat)
"Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says humans will need to merge with machines or risk becoming irrelevant in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Musk said the speed at which our brains operate and communicate is much slower than computers.

"Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence," Musk said, CNBC reports. "It's mostly about bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.""
Elon Musk says humans need to merge with machines or risk becoming irrelevant in the AI age

Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Room for communication/collaboration improvement

"The key takeaway is that both technologies and habits rooted in the 20th century are keeping the 21st century vision of the modern workplace from becoming reality. For example, despite the appearance of modern communications and collaboration tools, it’s the “old school” methods of emails, phone calls and texts that make up 75% of all communications with co-workers. There are certainly some differences based on the age of the employee, but even for workers under 45, the number is 71% (emails and voice calls make up 58% for that age group).
From a device perspective, the most common tool by far is not a smartphone, but a company-owned desktop PC, which is used for just under half (48%) of all device-related work. (For the record, personally owned smartphones are only used for 7.5% of total work on average.) Partially as a result, some version of Windows is used for rougly 2/3 (65%) of all work, with Android at 11%, iOS at 10%, and the rest split among cloud-based platforms, Macs, Linux and other alternative options. Arguably, that is a drop from the days when Windows owned 90%+, but it still shows how dominant Microsoft is in the workplace."
Modern Workplaces Still More Vision Than Reality | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Apple Shares Hit Record Close on Optimism for Next iPhone - Bloomberg

For a refresher on recent conventional wisdom, see Apple Is 'Doomed' 2016 Edition (Forbes, 11/30/2016)

"Apple Inc. shares hit a record on optimism the next iPhone will drive a resurgence in sales and help the company’s services businesses grow.

The stock climbed less than 1 percent to $133.29 at the close Monday in New York, the highest on record. The increase valued Apple at about $699 billion, making it the world’s most highly capitalized company. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is next at $573 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."
Apple Shares Hit Record Close on Optimism for Next iPhone - Bloomberg

Amazon launches Chime, a video conferencing and communications service for business | TechCrunch

See this Amazon page for more details

"Amazon has taken the wraps off of its own Skype competitor. Chime is a new video conferencing and communications from AWS that’s focused on business users.

Beyond VoIP calling and video messaging, Chime includes virtual meetings, allowing users to host or join a remote meeting through the service. Pricing starts at $2.50 per user per month on the lowest end, with a higher tier plan of $15 per user which includes video and screen-sharing among other features. There is a basic option available for free but that is limited to video calls and chat rooms between two users.

Chime is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android devices."
Amazon launches Chime, a video conferencing and communications service for business | TechCrunch

Monday, February 13, 2017

Snapchat Spectacles and Making Memories | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

On a related note, see Tim Cook says augmented reality is ‘a big idea like the smartphone’ (The Verge)

"What has gotten better over the years, as GoPro has evolved and even more with Spectacles + Snapchat, is the ease to go straight from memory capture to sharing/saving. I’d argue the experience with Spectacles + Snapchat is the most seamless I’ve used yet with a device that isn’t a smartphone. With a GoPro, it could take me several minutes to get a video I just took, add some slight editing, and share it, With Spectacles, it takes seconds since the video is quickly synced with your smartphone and available in the app to edit and share. The great thing about Spectacles is they truly function like an extension of your smartphone camera that seamlessly integrates back into the software. This is an area where I feel there is a broader opportunity for companies, Apple and Facebook in particular, and perhaps Google to continue to explore.
While the smartphone will remain a primary capture device for some time, capture accessories that become extensions of our smartphone camera, like a GoPro or Spectacles, make a great deal of sense when done right. Particularly with things like virtual and augmented reality experiences in the future where we can relive memories in virtual reality or simulate being present at a sports game or event in another town without having to be physically present. In most cases, these capture devices will not be your smartphone and will most likely come from companies perfecting the optics, silicon/sensors, design, and software today. Which is a key reason, Snap Inc., in making their key mission to be a camera company, is so interesting."
Snapchat Spectacles and Making Memories | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Fake news is killing people's minds, says Apple boss Tim Cook (The Telegraph)

Inform different

"Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, is calling for governments to launch a public information campaign to fight the scourge of fake news, which is “killing people’s minds”.

In an impassioned plea, Mr Cook, boss of the world’s largest company, says that the epidemic of false reports “is a big problem in a lot of the world” and necessitates a crackdown by the authorities and technology firms.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, he calls for a campaign similar to those that changed attitudes on the environment to educate the public on the threat posed by fabricated online stories."
Fake news is killing people's minds, says Apple boss Tim Cook