Thursday, April 17, 2014

Goodreads Adds Automatic Sync with Amazon Book Purchases - The Digital Reader

A useful option for Goodreads users

"If you’re interested in giving it a go, you can check the My Books page. The option will be listed in the menu on the left – if it is available. If you don’t see the option and you want to import your purchases, you can force the issue here:

https://www.goodreads.com/amazon_purchases [...] Ever since Amazon bought Goodreads last year the retailer has been integrating the social network more closely with its bookstore. Late last year Amazon rolled out an update for the Kindle Paperwhite which added Goodreads integration, including the option to rate and review books.

The site now boasts 25 million members who added 294 million titles to their virtual bookshelves in 2013."
Goodreads Adds Automatic Sync with Amazon Book Purchases - The Digital Reader

Google Chrome Blog: Chrome Remote Desktop goes mobile

iOS version coming later this year

“Have you ever been out and about, and urgently needed to access a file that’s sitting on your home computer? Since 2011, Chrome Remote Desktop has let you remotely access your machine from another laptop or computer in a free, easy and secure way. And now, with the release of the Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, we’re making it possible for you to do the same thing from your Android device.”

Google Chrome Blog: Chrome Remote Desktop goes mobile

Can Facebook Innovate? A Conversation With Mark Zuckerberg - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

A planetary perspective

"But understanding who you serve is always a very important problem, and it only gets harder the more people that you serve. We try to pay a lot of attention to this by a combination of very rigorous quantitative and qualitative feedback. But if you’re serving 1.2 billion people, it’s very hard.

And I think the age thing is probably not the biggest one I worry about. I’m focused on Internet.org and how to connect all these people. But my life is so different from the person who’s going to be getting Internet in two years. One of the things that we do is ask product managers to go travel to an emerging-market country to see how people who are getting on the Internet use it. They learn the most interesting things. People ask questions like, ‘It says here I’m supposed to put in my password — what’s a password?’ For us, that’s a mind-boggling thing."
Can Facebook Innovate? A Conversation With Mark Zuckerberg - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

Profit and Revenue Slip at IBM as Hardware Sales Fall and Layoff Costs Rise - NYTimes.com

IBM: is being morphed

"Under Ms. Rometty, who became chief executive two years ago, IBM has made large investments in big data analytics and cloud computing. In the last three months, said Frank Gens, chief analyst at IDC, the investment program has “gone into hyperdrive,” including billion-dollar commitments to make Watson a mainstream business, build out a network of cloud-style data centers and push its traditional software onto the cloud to attract outside software developers.

So IBM, analysts say, is making the right strategic moves. Still, Steven Milunovich, an analyst at UBS Securities, said, “The question is, can the new stuff really grow fast enough to move the needle, to make up for the challenges in IBM’s legacy businesses?”"
Profit and Revenue Slip at IBM as Hardware Sales Fall and Layoff Costs Rise - NYTimes.com

Earnings and Sales From Google Disappoint - NYTimes.com

From a Google earnings overview

"In absolute terms, Google is doing very well. Here is one way to measure its heft: The company is projected to increase its digital ad revenue this year by more than $5 billion, which is more than the total ad revenue of Yahoo or Microsoft.

The only viable threat to Google comes from Facebook, whose ad revenue is forecast by eMarketer to jump 50 percent this year. Facebook’s revenue is about a quarter of Google’s.

Google’s position on the decline in its profits for mobile ads? Don’t worry about it."
Earnings and Sales From Google Disappoint - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Amazon Smartphone Photos, Specs and Details Revealed: Exclusive Report | BGR

Another Amazon device in the offing

"After years of development, Amazon is finally close to unveiling the first of several own-brand smartphones.

At a distance, Amazon’s upcoming flagship phone looks much like any other touchscreen phone on the market. But the company has spent years creating a unique and, at times, novel user experience that has two main focuses: Amazon products and services, and a custom 3D interface unlike anything we have seen before on a smartphone.

And so begins the story of Amazon’s first smartphone."
Amazon Smartphone Photos, Specs and Details Revealed: Exclusive Report | BGR

Microsoft’s Big-Data Angle: Office as a Friendly Front-End | Re/code

More evidence Microsoft is redoubling its focus on fundamentals

"Filter out the big-data buzzwords, and what Nadella is saying is pretty simple. The Internet of Things produces massive quantities of raw information. Microsoft wants to mine that information for actionable business insights. And because the company controls a popular big-data back end in SQL, Azure and Hadoop and an equally popular front end in Office, it’s in prime position to do just that.

“We want our users to be able to reason over all their data, no matter where it lives,” Nadella said. “And one way we’re doing that is with Office. Think of Office as a canvas or scaffolding from which users can access all their data.”"
Microsoft’s Big-Data Angle: Office as a Friendly Front-End | Re/code

Twitter Acquires Gnip, Bringing a Valuable Data Service In-House - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

A related article in The Register notes "Wall Street reacted positively to the news, with Twitter's stock price rising over ten per cent. The social media's stock price has been sliding since the start of the year, but now the analysts suspect Twitter might be getting serious about making a profit someday."

"Twitter on Tuesday announced that it had acquired Gnip, a company that provides data about activity on the social network as it is occurring.

The eight-year-old company is the latest in a series of data companies acquired by Twitter as the micro-messaging service improves its ability to provide information about its users’ behavior to potential sponsors, advertisers and others who analyze the service."
Twitter Acquires Gnip, Bringing a Valuable Data Service In-House - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

M.I.T.'s Alex Pentland: Measuring Idea Flows to Accelerate Innovation - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

For a reality mining reality check, see The Limits of Social Engineering (Nicholas Carr in MIT Technology Review)

"Reality mining, for example, examines the data about what people are actually doing rather than what they are looking for or saying. Tracking a person’s movements during the day via smartphone GPS signals and credit-card transactions, he argues, are far more significant than a person’s web-browsing habits or social media comments.

But Mr. Pentland argues that even the less valuable information in current flood of personal data could help open the door to what he calls “social physics.” That topic is the subject of his new book, “Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread — The Lesson From a New Science.”"
M.I.T.'s Alex Pentland: Measuring Idea Flows to Accelerate Innovation - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

Amazon’s Dash Scanning Device Wins Early Kudos - Digits - WSJ

Check this Amazon page for more Dash details

"Amazon.com’s new handheld grocery ordering device, the Dash, has begun arriving in people’s homes. And to hear users tell it, virtual shopping carts might fill up just a bit more.

The device, free for now, allows users to order goods by scanning barcodes of everyday groceries. When there is no barcode–as on a pineapple–a microphone and voice recognition technology allow users to speak their additions to a shopping list."
Amazon’s Dash Scanning Device Wins Early Kudos - Digits - WSJ

A Price War Erupts in Cloud Services - WSJ.com

Irresistible economics

"Behind the growth are big savings. A medium-sized website with about 50 million page views a month might spend about $1,200 a month to buy two computer servers, hardware to push data to the Web and other gear, according to calculations by Simon Margolis at technology-consulting firm SADA Systems. The same company might pay roughly $270 to $530 to rent equivalent computing power from Amazon, Microsoft or Google, he says.

Consultants say such savings are tempting some bigger companies to rent, rather than own, more of their computing power. Already, about 87% of technology executives say they use an outsourced computing provider for at least one task, according to a recent survey by consultant RightScale Inc. But it's rare for a large company— Netflix Inc. is the most cited example—to operate primarily this way."
A Price War Erupts in Cloud Services - WSJ.com

Yahoo Profit Is a Footnote to Alibaba’s Huge Gains - NYTimes.com

Excerpt from a Yahoo reality check

"Yahoo, which was reporting its first-quarter results, said that revenue and profit growth were flat, a slight improvement from previous quarters. However, from the perspective of investors, those figures were basically a footnote to the Internet portal’s investments in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

“You can be a relative optimist like me about the core business and attribute $7 or $8 to it,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research. “But you can make an argument that the entirety of the value is Alibaba.”"
Yahoo Profit Is a Footnote to Alibaba’s Huge Gains - NYTimes.com

Google Hints It May Begin Favoring Encrypted Sites in Searches | TIME.com

One potential way of creating a strong security incentive

"Google is considering giving a boost to encrypted sites in its search-engine results, one of its top engineers has hinted.

Matt Cutts, an engineer in charge of liaising with website designers and minimizing spam in search, said that by doing so Google would make it harder for third parties to spy on Internet users. He was speaking at the SMX West conference in San Jose, Ca.,

Rewarding sites for adopting encryption “would be a huge step,” said search expert Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land."
Google Hints It May Begin Favoring Encrypted Sites in Searches | TIME.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Microsoft’s new cheaper 365 subscription gets you Office on one Mac & iPad for $69/year | 9to5Mac

The Amazon offer referenced below (see the full article for links) looks like a pretty good deal, if you're looking to install Office on > 1 Mac and/or PC in the near future; the full Home subscription digital license version is still $99.99, suggesting Microsoft may be clearing out inventory of the wasteful card-key-in-a-box SKU. Note that it's an annual subscription, however, and you'll likely be paying the full license fee for years >= 2.

"Microsoft is launching a cheaper ‘Personal’ Office 366 subscription today that will give you access to the cloud services and mobile apps for $69/year or $6.99/month opposed to the $99/year Home subscription. The new Personal subscription only provides access for one Mac (or PC) and iPad (or tablet) instead of the 5 PC or Macs and 5 tablets you get with a Home subscription.

You might want to hold off on the new subscription, however, as Amazon is currently selling the full Home subscription for just $63 (37% off). That’s cheaper than the new $69 Personal plan, but it’s possible Microsoft could soon end that discount and change prices on Amazon now that the new Personal subscription is launching."
Microsoft’s new cheaper 365 subscription gets you Office on one Mac & iPad for $69/year | 9to5Mac

Microsoft concedes Chromebooks are work-worthy - Computerworld

Another signal, imho, that Microsoft is getting more constructively customer-focused

"Microsoft on Monday conceded that Google's Chrome OS and the Chromebooks the operating system powers are capable of doing real work, a reversal of its "Scroogled" campaign that once blasted the laptops as worthless.

Almost as an afterthought, Microsoft yesterday announced it was bringing its free Office Online apps -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- to rival Google's Chrome Web store, the primary distribution channel for Chrome OS software."
Microsoft concedes Chromebooks are work-worthy - Computerworld

Grush turns brushing your teeth into a video game - CNET

Sign of the times

"The Grush brush has built-in motion sensors to keep track of its movements. It communicates with a corresponding app for iOS and Android devices. One of the games features a set of teeth and gums with little squidlike creatures popping up on the teeth. Using the brush for the correct amount of time in the right place makes the monstrous enemies disappear. Another game involves caring for a virtual pet giraffe, encouraging it to grow by brushing.

The app tracks brushing activities over time so parents can discreetly monitor how their kids are doing, which sure beats standing in the doorway of the bathroom with a stopwatch."
Grush turns brushing your teeth into a video game - CNET

Google unveils email scanning practices in new terms of service | Reuters

Hopefully not a surprise to any Gmail user

"Google spokesman Matt Kallman said in a statement that the changes "will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we've received over the last few months."

Google's updated terms of service added a paragraph stating that "our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored."
Google unveils email scanning practices in new terms of service | Reuters

Uncle Sam Wants Cyber Warriors, but Can He Compete? - Businessweek

Cybersecurity supply and demand

"It’s not just government agencies that are desperate for cybersecurity specialists. Almost four in 10 IT security positions went unfilled in 2013, according to a survey of more than 500 organizations by the Ponemon Institute, which studies privacy, data protection, and information-security policy. The figure was almost six in 10 for senior security jobs.

“Market forces aren’t happening fast enough in security,” says Art Gilliland, general manager of enterprise security products at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which funded the Ponemon research. “The typical security person is paid the same as a typical IT person, and yet the demand is way higher. The salaries are not increasing fast enough to attract more people.”"
Uncle Sam Wants Cyber Warriors, but Can He Compete? - Businessweek

With Purchase of Drone Maker, Google Sees a Fleet of Satellites - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

Facebook/Google drone wars

"While Google’s goals may sound lofty, Google may share them with a competitor: Facebook, which recently bought Ascenta, a British company that makes a similar type of drone. Earlier reports said that Facebook was in talks to buy Titan Aerospace.

The Titan Aerospace drones are notable because they are solar-powered and can fly for several years, according to the company’s website.

Drones that can remain aloft for long periods of time could be used to constantly update images of the earth, which Google could put to use in its Maps platform."
With Purchase of Drone Maker, Google Sees a Fleet of Satellites - NYTimes.com - NYTimes.com

Monday, April 14, 2014

Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence - The Washington Post

From an extensive Google lobbying overview

"The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence.

That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.

The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business."
Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence - The Washington Post

How to Survive an Internet Apocalypse : The New Yorker

Final paragraph from a timely reality check

"The big lesson of the simulation was that building a post-apocalyptic network is hard. This wasn’t particularly surprising, but it was still alarming. Judging by the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, the “Internet apocalypse” might not arrive with a bang but through the slower and more subtle means of corporate centralization, censorship, and surveillance. The Internet is, by definition, a “network of networks,” one that grew over time from an American military grid to an all-encompassing infrastructure that guides our social, political, and economic activity. As we rely on the Internet to facilitate a growing list of ever more mundane activities, connecting everything from our phones to our refrigerators, we are frighteningly ill-prepared to create parallel networks of our own—the ones we may need the most."
How to Survive an Internet Apocalypse : The New Yorker

Dell Chromebook 11 review | The Verge

A sign of the Wintel times

"Almost every Windows laptop maker has a Chromebook or two in its lineup, and now Dell is entering the fray. Its Chromebook 11 (not to be confused with the HP Chromebook of the same name) is being targeted specifically to the education market, where Chromebooks seem like a natural fit. But anyone can order the Chromebook 11 for $299 from Dell’s website today — and get possibly the best Chromebook ever made."
Dell Chromebook 11 review | The Verge

Still No. 1, and Doing What He Wants - NYTimes.com

From a Larry Ellison snapshot

"It is good to be the king. It is even better to be Larry Ellison.

Most of us spend much of our lives thinking that we should do the right thing, or worrying that we didn’t do the right thing, or trying at long last to finally do the right thing. Mr. Ellison, the fifth-richest person in the world and the chief executive with the highest total compensation in 2013, appears burdened by no such concerns."
Still No. 1, and Doing What He Wants - NYTimes.com

Friday, April 11, 2014

Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Surfacing your business's contact and local info in Google

Another schema.org extension to help "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"

"Every day, searchers use Google to find information about businesses. Common queries include finding the phone number for customer service, the location of a business, and opening hours.
This information is typically found in a business's location page or a "contact us" section of a company's website. When Google correctly identifies these pages and is able to extract the relevant information from them, it is more likely to surface that information to searchers looking for the business.
Today we would like to share our recommendations for helping Google identify and surface this information."
Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Surfacing your business's contact and local info in Google

Bitcoin Falls Below The $400 Mark, Down More Than 60% From Its All-Time High | TechCrunch

Fun while it lasted, at least for people who bought in early...

"The price correction was driven by news from China, as it often has been. Fresh rumors of a government crackdown on the currency in the country, which could blunt demand and adoption, and therefore impair its value, sent the price of bitcoin down a quick 10 percent. It has since continued to slip.

According to Bitcoin Average, the average price of bitcoin is currently around $388, down from a 52-week high of roughly $1,132. Coinbase has the current price of bitcoin at around $394, down from a peak of $1,126."
Bitcoin Falls Below The $400 Mark, Down More Than 60% From Its All-Time High | TechCrunch

IRS Misses Windows XP Deadline, Gets Extension | Re/code

An indirect taxpayer penalty

"The IRS is among the governments and large businesses that have taken out a paid custom support contract with Microsoft to get an extra year of security patches while it works to migrate its systems.

“This support will provide coverage for our enterprise across the IRS for a year while we complete upgrading all workstations from Windows XP to Windows 7,” the IRS said. “We are taking appropriate steps to ensure our networks, systems and taxpayer data are safe and secure.”"
IRS Misses Windows XP Deadline, Gets Extension | Re/code

Dropbox Rankles Valley Orthodoxy with Rice Board Appointment - Digits - WSJ

Sign of the times

"The file-sharing startup Wednesday added former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a director to “help us expand our global footprint.”

Quickly, an Internet protest sprang up to encourage Dropbox users to boycott the service unless the San Francisco startup forces her off its board. A new website, “Drop Dropbox,” said Rice’s role in helping set U.S. policies in Iraq, and in promoting U.S. intelligence agencies’’ surveillance policies, made her a poor fit for a startup that “we are trusting with our most important business and personal data.”"
Dropbox Rankles Valley Orthodoxy with Rice Board Appointment - Digits - WSJ

Security Flaw Could Reach Beyond Websites to Digital Devices, Experts Say - NYTimes.com

Home-front Heartbleed

"Security experts say personal home routers often incorporate OpenSSL, which could make them vulnerable. But they note that because many home routers are configured to block outside traffic, the risk of a hacker using the Heartbleed bug to lift data like passwords to online banking and email accounts is low. This is particularly so, they said, when there are still thousands of vulnerable websites where this data could be pulled from much more easily.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kurtz said, users would be wise to check with their home router manufacturers to upgrade their devices if they want to be absolutely secure."
Security Flaw Could Reach Beyond Websites to Digital Devices, Experts Say - NYTimes.com