Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What “Hidden Figures” Can Teach Us about AI | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Accentuating the positive potential; also see IBM CEO: Jobs of the future won't be blue or white collar, they'll be 'new collar' (CNBC)
"Change came in 1962 for the segregated West Area Computer Division of Langley Research Center in Virginia where the three women who are the main protagonists of the story worked. Mathematician Katherine Goble and de facto supervisor Dorothy Vaughan are both directly affected by new tech rolling into the facility in the form of the IBM 7090. If you are not familiar with the IBM 7090 (I was not before this weekend), it was the third member of the IBM 700/7000 series of computers designed for large-scale scientific and technological applications. In layman terms, the 7090 would be able to perform in a blink of an eye all the calculations that took the computer division hours. Dorothy understood the threat and, armed with her wit and a book on programming languages, was able to help program the IBM 7090, taught her team to do the same, shifted their skills and saved their jobs.
I realize part of this story might be for the benefit of the screenplay and the world is much more complicated. However, I do think that what is at the core is very relevant — the creation of new skill sets.
Although AI has the potential to affect not only manual jobs that can be automated but also, theoretically, jobs that require learning and decision making, the immediate threat is certainly on the former."
What “Hidden Figures” Can Teach Us about AI | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Making Google+ work better for you (The Keyword)

Not dead yet

"Listening to your feedback inspired us to introduce a new Google+ focused on helping you connect around shared interests a little over a year ago. Your feedback led us to launch more than 50 updates across Android, iOS and web to ensure the new experience serves you even better than the previous one. Big changes like powerful tools for Community moderators, image comments and joining the G Suite family were all thanks to your input.
After all of these updates, more people are discovering vibrant Communities and creating inspiring Collections than ever before. So it’s in this same spirit that we’re pleased to add three new much requested updates, rolling out over the next couple of weeks, to Google+."
Making Google+ work better for you

Mark Zuckerberg, in Suit, Testifies in Oculus Intellectual Property Trial - The New York Times

A ways to go before VR mainstreaming

"But Mr. Zuckerberg also spent much of his time on the stand talking about his broader vision for virtual reality and how it has not arrived yet. He said that Facebook was conceived as a way to share people’s experiences through text and photographs and that virtual reality could come closer to a “perfect representation” of what is happening in people’s lives.

“From my perspective, nothing, other than VR, can capture this best,” he said.

Yet virtual reality still has a long way to go before it gets to that point, Mr. Zuckerberg said. “I don’t think that good virtual reality is fully there yet,” he said. “It’s going to take five or 10 more years of development before we get to where we all want to go.”"
Mark Zuckerberg, in Suit, Testifies in Oculus Intellectual Property Trial - The New York Times

Evernote 8.0 Is More Than an Update—It's a Reboot | WIRED

Speaking of reboots, I had to delete and reinstall Evernote on my iPad to get the new version out of a crash cycle. Also see Evernote is still dead to me, but the iOS app looks better than ever (TNW)

"But you’d be wrong to think this isn’t a hugely important upgrade to Evernote. In fact, this random Tuesday is one of the most significant moments in the nine-year history of the company. Version 8.0 brings with it an entirely new design, a bunch of refinements to what had become a hopelessly overwrought service, and a renewed focus on what Evernote is actually for. It’s the fastest, cleanest app the company has ever released. It’s the culmination of more than a year of overdue under-the-hood work to make Evernote reliable, consistent, and future-proof. And it represents the beginning of a new era for the company, in which it will try to make the transition from a note-taking app to being the place you do your best thinking. And thanks to the latest in machine learning and artificial intelligence, a place that does some of the thinking for you.

Version 8.0 of an iOS app may not mean much to you, but it sure means a lot to Evernote."
Evernote 8.0 Is More Than an Update—It's a Reboot | WIRED

Google and Oracle refine their cloud pitches to take on Amazon | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Barb Darrow, Fortune

Check the full post for an assessment of Oracle and Google public cloud trajectories

"The reheated cloud talk will start Tuesday morning at Oracle Cloud World in New York, headlined by Oracle co-chief executive Mark Hurd and president Thomas Kurian. Here, the company’s brain trust needs to show that when it comes to running Oracle databases or financial software, Oracle can out-Amazon Amazon.

Oracle has long relationships with the bulk of Fortune 1000 accounts, most of which rely on its database and business applications to run their accounts and transactions. But for more than a year, Amazon has made a concerted effort to woo these same accounts, as AWS CEO Andy Jassy noted in a recent tweet.

Amazon can do this by persuading the customer to run its Oracle databases on Amazon’s infrastructure or get the customer to move its data out of Oracle databases altogether and funnel it over to Amazon’s Aurora database services."
Google and Oracle refine their cloud pitches to take on Amazon | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Barb Darrow, Fortune

What history teaches about Apple's windows of opportunity for 2017 (AppleInsider)

Summary from an extensive Apple market dynamics reality check

"If you listen to groupthink critics on Apple, you'll hear that the company is deeply troubled by too much reliance on iPhone sales, aging Mac Pro and Mini offerings that haven't been updated in years and a stagnating market for iPads that has fallen precipitously since Peak iPad occurred in 2014. They're wrong, here's why."
What history teaches about Apple's windows of opportunity for 2017

Former Microsoft executive and noted AI expert Qi Lu joins Baidu as COO | TechCrunch

Evidently recovered from his bike accident

"Baidu is best known for its search engine, which dominates in China, but over the past two years it has put focus on developing artificial intelligence, which includes self-driving cars and more. In that respect, the hiring of Lu — who exited Microsoft last year on medical grounds — is a major coup.

Lu most recently ran Microsoft’s applications and services business, and previously headed up the Redmond-based company’s search division having joined in 2009 following an 11-year stint with Yahoo. Fun fact: While with Microsoft, he championed a bid for Slack, but ultimately CEO Satya Nadella and co-founder Bill Gates decided against it.

At Baidu, Lu will be responsible for products, technology, sales, marketing and operations, and particularly lend his expertise to the company’s AI push."
Former Microsoft executive and noted AI expert Qi Lu joins Baidu as COO | TechCrunch

Monday, January 16, 2017

Facebook rolls out fake news filter in Germany - The Verge

Also see After Government Threatens Fines, Facebook Will Test Out Fake News Filtering in Germany (Gizmodo)

"German politicians have warned of the effect that fake news could have on federal elections slated for this fall, following a spate of fabricated articles and hoaxes during the US presidential election. Lawmakers have considered imposing fines on Facebook and other social media companies that allow fake news to spread, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of Russian interference through propaganda or cyberattacks. It was reported last week that the German government has opened an investigation into the spread of fake news, after Breitbart published a false story claiming that a mob set fire to a church on New Year’s Eve.

Under Facebook’s fact-checking system, stories reported as fake by users will be sent to Correctiv, a nonprofit news organization based in Berlin. If an item is deemed false, it will be marked as “disputed,” along with a justification for the label, and the site will warn users before they share it. Disputed items will also show up lower in Facebook’s algorithmically-determined News Feeds."
Facebook rolls out fake news filter in Germany - The Verge

SpaceX nailed its first launch since last year’s big explosion - Recode

Also see SpaceX Launches Rocket, Its First Since Explosion on Launchpad (NYT)

"Saturday’s unblemished execution — from launch, to completing the mission of deploying the satellites, to landing back on its drone ship — is a good sign for the company, particularly after one of its $60 million rockets exploded with a $200 million satellite on it last August.

About those Mars flights: During a presentation in September, Musk said he planned to begin sending unmanned rockets to Mars in 2018, and if all goes well, send rockets with humans in them to Mars by 2024. But he conceded that his contracts with NASA, Iridium and others won’t sufficiently pay for the company’s interplanetary ambitions.

Instead, it will require massive public-private partnerships, he said."
SpaceX nailed its first launch since last year’s big explosion - Recode

Andy Rubin Nears His Comeback, Complete With an ‘Essential’ Phone - Bloomberg

Apparently missed the Peter Thiel observation about smartphone innovation being over

"A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets, one of the people said. 

The centerpiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Rubin discussed the smartphone with mobile carrier executives, including some from Sprint Corp., people familiar with the talks said."
Andy Rubin Nears His Comeback, Complete With an ‘Essential’ Phone - Bloomberg

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Will Mark Zuckerberg Be Our Next President? | Vanity Fair

Excerpt from a timely political reality check; in other political speculation, see Peter Thiel considering bid for California governor (Politico)
"Of course, these are just a series of hints. In a funny way, and as insane as it sounds to say out loud, Zuckerberg is one of the few people for whom becoming president of the United States might be a step down. As the chief of Facebook, he is already the true leader of the free world. Zuckerberg commands a company that touches a quarter of the Earth’s population, some 1.8 billion monthly active users. There is no one alive who can affect more people with the touch of a button. He has more power and influence than most world leaders and, as is evident with the real fake-news problem (not the fake fake-news issue that Republicans have adopted as a deflection), Facebook can surely sway public opinion in incomparable ways."
Will Mark Zuckerberg Be Our Next President? | Vanity Fair

Friday, January 13, 2017

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros - Consumer Reports

A recharged review

"Consumer Reports has now finished retesting the battery life on Apple's new MacBook Pro laptops, and our results show that a software update released by Apple on January 9 fixed problems we’d encountered in earlier testing.

With the updated software, the three MacBook Pros in our labs all performed well, with one model running 18.75 hours on a charge. We tested each model multiple times using the new software, following the same protocol we apply to hundreds of laptops every year."
Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros - Consumer Reports

PC shipments have now declined for 5 years in a row - The Verge

Also see Mac sales stabilize in Q4 amid worldwide PC shipment decline (AppleInsider)

"The PC industry has been declining for years, but it just hit a big milestone. PC shipments have now declined for 5 years in a row, with between 260 and 270 million machines shipped during 2016 according to Gartner and IDC. Both firms' estimates vary due to how they count convertibles and other form factors, but the overall message is that the market has hit five years of decline."
PC shipments have now declined for 5 years in a row - The Verge

Amazon says it will create 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months - The Washington Post

Tangentially, see Macy’s delivers disappointing holiday season, plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs (The Washington Post) and Sorry, Wal-Mart. Amazon Wants Your Food Stamp Customers As Well (Bloomberg)
"Amazon.com on Thursday announced plans to create more than 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months, a massive hiring spree that suggests the e-commerce company expects a run of breakneck growth in its retailing operations and lucrative cloud computing division.

Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post, said the hiring would include a broad range of positions, including engineers and software developers and employees in its growing network of fulfillment centers."
Amazon says it will create 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months - The Washington Post

Robots Will Take Jobs, but Not as Fast as Some Fear, New Report Says - The New York Times

Also see A Darker Theme in Obama’s Farewell: Automation Can Divide Us (NYT)

"The report, which was released Thursday, breaks jobs down by work tasks — more than 2,000 activities across 800 occupations, from stock clerk to company boss. The institute, the research arm of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, concludes that many tasks can be automated and that most jobs have activities ripe for automation. But the near-term impact, the report says, will be to transform work more than to eliminate jobs.

Globally, the McKinsey researchers calculated that 49 percent of time spent on work activities could be automated with “currently demonstrated technology” either already in the marketplace or being developed in labs. That, the report says, translates into $15.8 trillion in wages and the equivalent of 1.1 billion workers worldwide. But only 5 percent of jobs can be entirely automated."
Robots Will Take Jobs, but Not as Fast as Some Fear, New Report Says - The New York Times