Friday, February 27, 2015

Official Google Blog: Rethinking office space

Check the full post for a video overview of Google's new campus plan

"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

CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud - Nextgov.com

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 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."
CIA’s New Big Data Hub Will be Hosted in the Cloud - Nextgov.com

Amazon wants to fit trucks with 3D printers to speed up deliveries | The Verge

Inevitably...

"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.

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."
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

Telecoms and society: The truly personal computer | The Economist

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

Apple Plans ‘Special Event’ on March 9, Likely for Smartwatch - Digits - WSJ

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.

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."
Apple Plans ‘Special Event’ on March 9, Likely for Smartwatch - Digits - WSJ

Amazon Hires Jay Carney, Former Obama Press Secretary - NYTimes.com

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.

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."
Amazon Hires Jay Carney, Former Obama Press Secretary - NYTimes.com

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Exclusive: Sundar Pichai's Plan To Keep Google Almighty - Forbes

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.”

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."
Exclusive: Sundar Pichai's Plan To Keep Google Almighty - Forbes

Amazon’s product-finding Firefly lands on Fire HD tablets | Gigaom

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.

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."
Amazon’s product-finding Firefly lands on Fire HD tablets | Gigaom

Demand for Apple Watch could use up third of world’s gold | Cult of Mac

Interesting times

"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.

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."
Demand for Apple Watch could use up third of world’s gold | Cult of Mac

Microsoft obsesses over giant displays and super thin tablets in future vision video | The Verge

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.

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."
Following Google deal, Softcard is shutting down its Android and Windows Phone apps | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Emil Protalinski

Official Google for Work Blog: Android is ready for work

In other not-just-playing-games Google news
"Android for Work features four key technology components:
  • 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."
Official Google for Work Blog: Android is ready for work

Cyberattack Takes Down Lenovo Website - Digits - WSJ

Not a good week for Lenovo; also see The real problem with Lenovo’s adware (Tech.pinions)
"Lenovo’s technological woes are continuing.

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."
Cyberattack Takes Down Lenovo Website - Digits - WSJ

A Google Computer Can Teach Itself Games - NYTimes.com

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.

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."
A Google Computer Can Teach Itself Games - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DeepMind's AI is an Atari gaming pro now (Wired UK)

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)

Google Plans New Headquarters, and a City Fears Being Overrun - NYTimes.com

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.

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.”"
Google Plans New Headquarters, and a City Fears Being Overrun - NYTimes.com

Magic Leap clashes with Microsoft over augmented reality health risks - CNET

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.

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."
Magic Leap clashes with Microsoft over augmented reality health risks - CNET

How Loopholes Turned Dish Network Into a ‘Very Small Business’ - NYTimes.com

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.

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."
How Loopholes Turned Dish Network Into a ‘Very Small Business’ - NYTimes.com

HP Earnings Decline 4%, and Outlook Is Lowered - NYTimes.com

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.

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.”"
HP Earnings Decline 4%, and Outlook Is Lowered - NYTimes.com

Apple Ordered to Pay $532.9 Million in iTunes Patent Dispute - NYTimes.com

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 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."
Apple Ordered to Pay $532.9 Million in iTunes Patent Dispute - NYTimes.com

F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama - NYTimes.com

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.

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."
F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama - NYTimes.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Apple Is Now More Than Double the Size of Exxon—And Everyone Else - MoneyBeat - WSJ

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.

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."
Apple Is Now More Than Double the Size of Exxon—And Everyone Else - MoneyBeat - WSJ

Artemis Networks pCell Network to Launch in SF After Dish Deal | Re/code

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 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."
Artemis Networks pCell Network to Launch in SF After Dish Deal | Re/code

IBM Tries to Paint the Computing Cloud Blue - NYTimes.com

A hybrid future for IBM; also see IBM Angles to be Cloud Coordinator (WSJ)

"IBM hopes everything looks better in IBM blue.

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."
IBM Tries to Paint the Computing Cloud Blue - NYTimes.com

Google Guns for Apple in Mobile Payments Race - NYTimes.com

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.

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."
Google Guns for Apple in Mobile Payments Race - NYTimes.com

Edward Snowden Reddit AMA: Citizenfour documentary subject has just one regret. (Slate)

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?”

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."
Edward Snowden Reddit AMA: Citizenfour documentary subject has just one regret.

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 …

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.""
The Believers - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Which SQL on Hadoop? Poll Still Says “Whatever” But DBMS Providers Gain

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

Nicolas Cage Joins Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ | Variety

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.

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."
Nicolas Cage Joins Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ | Variety

Apple To Invest $2B Building Green Data Centers In Ireland And Denmark | TechCrunch

Power different
"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.
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."
Apple To Invest $2B Building Green Data Centers In Ireland And Denmark | TechCrunch

Lenovo hit with lawsuit over Superfish snafu | PCWorld

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.

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."
Lenovo hit with lawsuit over Superfish snafu | PCWorld

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rivals Google and Apple Fight for the Dashboard - NYTimes.com

The near-term center of Apple/Google automotive competition

"But nowhere is that obsession playing out more immediately than in the battle to develop the next generation of cars’ dashboard systems. In the coming weeks and months, dealerships around the country will begin selling vehicles capable of running Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or both. The systems go far beyond currently available Bluetooth pairing for playing music or making a hands-free call, and allow for Google’s or Apple’s operating system to essentially take over the center screen and certain buttons within the car."
Rivals Google and Apple Fight for the Dashboard - NYTimes.com

Boston Is Partnering With Waze to Make Its Roads Less of a Nightmare | WIRED

Boston's traffic is probably a perpetual worst-case scenario for Waze, lately...

"Specifically, the city reached out to Waze, a driving and directions tool owned by Google. By sharing the parade route on the service, the city helped users steer themselves around traffic, potentially easing the overall road burden.

That one-time data fling has resulted in a longer term data-sharing relationship. Last week, the pair sealed the deal: Boston will give Waze a heads-up about any planned closures, and in return the app’s owners will give the city’s traffic management center access to its profoundly valuable stream of user data. In the short term, this will let the city be more responsive to traffic problems as they arise. But going forward, Boston’s road-runners hope the data will help them fine-tune their traffic light timing and keep congestion from building up in the city’s intestinal road network."
Boston Is Partnering With Waze to Make Its Roads Less of a Nightmare | WIRED

Cars and technology: Upsetting the Apple car | The Economist

Excerpt from an Apple car reality check by The Economist

"But whatever the future of the car looks like, it will be tough to overturn the incumbents in a business where clever technology is only part of the equation. Despite a reputation, once richly deserved, for sloth in adopting new technologies, most big carmakers are pouring resources both into battery power and other alternative forms of propulsion, and into automated driving. Ford and Nissan have both opened research labs in Silicon Valley. Tech firms may get all the attention, says Haroon Hassan of Mitsubishi UFJ, a bank, but carmakers are formidable innovators and understand their business well."
Cars and technology: Upsetting the Apple car | The Economist

Friday, February 20, 2015

Microsoft offers free 100GB OneDrive space to Dropbox users worldwide | ZDNet

tbd how long Dropbox can stay in the "decacorn" category, with competitive dynamics such as this

"The promotion gives all Dropbox users 100GB of free OneDrive storage for one year. To claim the free storage, Dropbox users will have to sign up to OneDrive after logging into Dropbox. They'll need to save a OneDrive brochure to their Dropbox account before the promotional storage is added to their OneDrive account.

If Dropbox users want unlimited OneDrive storage after that, however, they will need to become paid subscribers of Office 365."
Microsoft offers free 100GB OneDrive space to Dropbox users worldwide | ZDNet

Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet Review | Re/code

Back to basics at Dell; also see Dell XPS 13 Review (AnandTech)
"Despite its completely forgettable name, the $399, Wi-Fi-enabled, Android-based Dell Venue 8 7000 offers some unique features that help it stand out from other tablets in its size category, such as the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. This includes an extremely thin profile, and a camera system that lets you refocus images after they’ve been taken.

But these are not the main selling points of the Dell tablet — quite the opposite, actually. The solid performance, great battery life and premium design are the real stars."
Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet Review | Re/code

LinkedIn Ads Now Follow You Around the Web | Re/code

A different type of user group

"So, the company is selling ad space on other websites — does this mean LinkedIn now operates an ad network?

Well, yes, but Russ Glass, head of LinkedIn’s marketing solutions products, says he doesn’t view it that way. Instead, Glass thinks of the service as an “audience network,” where advertisers are targeting specific groups of people to advertise to, not specific websites to advertise with.

If this sounds familiar, you’re onto something. Facebook offers advertisers what it calls Audience Network, which does something similar using the company’s vast array of user data. Instead of using personal data, LinkedIn is simply targeting people based on professional data, Glass explained."
LinkedIn Ads Now Follow You Around the Web | Re/code

Auto Team Is Forming at Apple - NYTimes.com

I'm surprised there hasn't been more press speculation about the possibility that Apple is getting into end-to-end home energy and monitoring systems

"The car project is still in its prototype phase, one person said, meaning it is probably many years away from being a viable product and might never reach the mass market if the quality of the vehicle fails to impress Apple’s executives.

It could also go nowhere if Apple struggles to find a compelling business opportunity in automobiles, a business that typically has much lower sales margins than the products the company currently sells, like the iPhone.

Many of Apple’s newer employees have come from companies that specialize in battery and automotive technologies. Apple has hired many engineers from A123 Systems, Tesla and Toyota to work on advanced battery technologies."
Auto Team Is Forming at Apple - NYTimes.com

HP Targets Cisco and Facebook With New Line of Open-Source Networking Gear - NYTimes.com

HP => hardware passé?

"The actual manufacturer of the HP boxes, Accton Technology, has been making gear for HP for 20 years. The open-source software will be supplied by Cumulus Networks, which last year announced it would supply Dell with software for inexpensive networking boxes. The Cumulus relationship with HP is not exclusive, and HP could add more suppliers in the future.

HP “wants the software and service margins and to get rid of being in the hardware business,” said JR Rivers, chief executive and one of the founders of Cumulus. “You’ll see other networking providers get on board with this.”"
HP Targets Cisco and Facebook With New Line of Open-Source Networking Gear - NYTimes.com

Lenovo CTO: We’re Working to Wipe Superfish App Off of PCs - Digits - WSJ

Later in the interview: "The intent of loading this tool was to help enhance our users’ shopping experience. The feedback from users was that it wasn’t useful, and that’s why we turned it off." Also see The Company Behind Lenovo's Dangerous Superfish Tech Claims It's Under Attack (Forbes)
"In an interview Thursday, Lenovo’s chief technology officer, Peter Hortensius, acknowledged that “we didn’t do enough” due diligence before installing Superfish, but that the company doesn’t believe laptop owners were harmed by the app. He said the company realized it needs to do more to respond to consumers’ concerns.

Lenovo, the world’s biggest seller of PCs, is working to write software that will delete any data from the Superfish software off laptops on which it had been installed. Hortensius also said the company should have done more due diligence on the security of the Superfish shopping-search app, which was installed from September to December on Lenovo consumer laptops."
Lenovo CTO: We’re Working to Wipe Superfish App Off of PCs - Digits - WSJ

Investors Create a Billion-Dollar-Baby Boom - NYTimes.com

Excerpt from a "unicorn" mentality reality check; for a handy index, see The Billion Dollar Startup Club (WSJ)
"“The grand experiment that we are running right now is, Can you cram hundreds of millions of dollars into 80 or 90 different private companies and have it end up well?” said Bill Gurley, a partner at the venture capital firm Benchmark who is also an investor in and one of the most vocal proponents of Uber.

He added: “For some, I think it will end badly.”"
Investors Create a Billion-Dollar-Baby Boom - NYTimes.com

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hadoop: And then there were three | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services

Excerpt from Curt Monash's take on ODP:
"Hortonworks, IBM, EMC Pivotal and others have announced a project called “Open Data Platform” to do … well, I’m not exactly sure what. Mainly, it sounds like:
  •  An attempt to minimize the importance of any technical advantages Cloudera or MapR might have. 
  • A face-saving way to admit that IBM’s and Pivotal’s insistence on having their own Hadoop distributions has been silly. 
  • An excuse for press releases. 
  • A source of an extra logo graphic to put on marketing slides."
Also see Who Asked for an Open Data Platform? (Merv Adrian/Gartner Blog)

Hadoop: And then there were three | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services

Microsoft OneNote tutorial: Everything you need to know to start taking notes (PC World)

Lead paragraphs from a timely snapshot of OneNote apps/services, which are all free; also see Microsoft brings its digital ink to the iPad with OneNote handwriting update (The Verge)
"OneNote is the best Microsoft program from you’re probably not using. If you’ve ignored the digital note-taking app because, well, it’s Microsoft, or because you thought “the last thing I need is more software,” then it’s time to reconsider.

Microsoft has liberated its digital notebook from Office and put it just about everywhere: Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, and of course Windows. Read on to discover everything you need to know to start creating a paperless life with OneNote."
Microsoft OneNote tutorial: Everything you need to know to start taking notes

Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections | Ars Technica

A case study on the importance of choosing only well-designed stealthy adware suppliers...

"Lenovo is selling computers that come preinstalled with adware that hijacks encrypted Web sessions and may make users vulnerable to HTTPS man-in-the-middle attacks that are trivial for attackers to carry out, security researchers said.

The critical threat is present on Lenovo PCs that have adware from a company called Superfish installed. As unsavory as many people find software that injects ads into Web pages, there's something much more nefarious about the Superfish package. It installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate that can intercept encrypted traffic for every website a user visits. When a user visits an HTTPS site, the site certificate is signed and controlled by Superfish and falsely represents itself as the official website certificate."
Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections | Ars Technica

Apple poaching auto engineers to build battery division: lawsuit | Reuters

Hire different

"It said in its lawsuit that the engineers who left were of such caliber that the projects they had been working on had to be abandoned after their departures. It also accused one of the five defendants, Mujeeb Ijaz, of helping Apple recruit among its ranks.

"It appears that Apple, with the assistance of defendant Ijaz, is systematically hiring away A123’s high-tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123," according to the lawsuit.

"They are doing so in an effort to support Apple’s apparent plans to establish a battery division that is similar if not identical to A123’s, in competition with A123.”"
Apple poaching auto engineers to build battery division: lawsuit | Reuters

Cloudera Not Rushing to IPO | Re/code

Intel ($) inside... Meanwhile, still tbd if Amazon, Google, MapR, Microsoft, Oracle and other data/cloud leaders will join the gang-up-on-Cloudera Open Data Platform Initiative
"Cloudera founder and chief strategy officer Mike Olson put it simply in an interview with Re/code today: “We have no timeline for an IPO, period.” He declined to rule out whether Cloudera might complete its offering this year or wait until 2016. “We want to have the ability to do it when it makes sense,” he said.

A more likely motivation for the press release is a battle of optics between Cloudera and its primary rival, Hortonworks. Both are significant players in the business of selling and servicing Hadoop, open source software used for managing and analyzing huge troves of corporate data."
Cloudera Not Rushing to IPO | Re/code

Samsung Buys LoopPay, a Competitor to Apple's Mobile Wallet - NYTimes.com

Check this page for details on how LoopPay works; it requires a separate device

"LoopPay, however, believes its reach will extend far beyond that of Apple Pay. LoopPay’s underlying technology relies on a magnetic transmission sent from a user’s phone to a merchant’s payment terminal, mimicking a credit card swipe. The technology, according to LoopPay, can be accepted in more than 90 percent of existing point-of-sale terminals. It is unclear if LoopPay will work on chip-and-pin terminals, which use a more secure form of credit card technology and are being widely phased in this year.

Apple Pay relies on near-field communication technology, which Apple says is available at approximately 220,000 American locations."
Samsung Buys LoopPay, a Competitor to Apple's Mobile Wallet - NYTimes.com

Sony Aims for Huge Leap in Profit - NYTimes.com

Do less, earn more
"The optimism comes from the company’s expectation that it will emerge from years of restructuring with a business focused on higher-margin products.

At the urging of analysts and investors, Sony over the past two years has been easing away from its reliance on computers, televisions and mobile phones in favor of more profitable but smaller-scale products like camera sensors for smartphones, the PlayStation console and video games, and its film studio."
Sony Aims for Huge Leap in Profit - NYTimes.com

Microsoft Has Suddenly Gotten Serious With Mobile - NYTimes.com

The article summary for this net-positive overview of Microsoft's recent iOS and Android investments:

"There’s a new strategy afoot at the company, which has brought apps and services to the Apple and Android devices people actually use, rather than ones that run Windows."
Microsoft Has Suddenly Gotten Serious With Mobile - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Modern Family's new episode never leaves the screen of a MacBook Pro | The Verge

Film different

"MacBooks and iPhones pop up in movies and TV so often that it’s nearly a trope unto itself, but on February 25th ABC’s Modern Family is going a step further. A new episode called "Connection Lost" takes place entirely on the screen of a character’s laptop — and while it’s a fun new riff on the sitcom's successful formula, it’s also one of the most glowing love letters to the Mac you'll see this this side of an Apple keynote."
Modern Family's new episode never leaves the screen of a MacBook Pro | The Verge

New cloud storage integration for Office - Office Blogs

The bigger picture on new Office for iOS cloud storage integration options

"We want Office to be the preferred way to work with documents no matter where they’re stored.  In November we announced a special partnership with Dropbox to make it easy to access, edit and share Dropbox files from the Office apps.  And today, in addition to the existing Dropbox integrations, we’re pleased to announce two new integration features for an even broader set of cloud services: First, file picker integration for the iPad and iPhone; and second, Office Online integration for viewing and editing.  While these may seem like small enhancements, these new features represent a big step forward for Office integration into the apps and services that are important to our customers."
New cloud storage integration for Office - Office Blogs

IBM, G.E. and Others Create Big Data Alliance - NYTimes.com

A big data "standards" power grab attempt? Also see Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson's post on "Cloudera has elected not to join, and I’d like to explain why" and Cloudera co-founder (and Hadoop creator) Doug Cutting's perspective, "Beware of Openwashing"
"On Tuesday, several companies involved in analyzing digital information announced a common set of standards for Hadoop, perhaps the most widespread framework for technology analysis.

The companies, including General Electric, Hortonworks, IBM, Pivotal and Verizon, said they would develop their products and services on a common core of Hadoop’s key components.

Common standards often follow early development of software and hardware. If more companies use the same stuff, it usually helps with things like learning and certification, application development, and new products."
IBM, G.E. and Others Create Big Data Alliance - NYTimes.com

Facebook Challenges Google With Product Ads - Digits - WSJ

A new challenge to both Google and Amazon

"Facebook Tuesday launched a competitor to Google’s Shopping advertising service, allowing marketers to show users some or all of their product catalogs.

With Product Ads, Facebook is challenging one of Google’s most successful new businesses in recent years. Originally called product-listing ads, Google started offering the ads, which typically include pictures and prices, in 2012 to compete with Amazon.com.

Google displays the ads based on a user’s search for products. Facebook said in a blog post it would show product ads, also with pictures and prices, to Facebook users who visited the advertiser’s website or mobile app, or based on a user’s interests or location."
Facebook Challenges Google With Product Ads - Digits - WSJ

Home Automation Comes of Age - WSJ

For a less optimistic state-of-the-art snapshot, see Why Is My Smart Home So F***ing Dumb? (Gizmodo)

"The prototype kitchen by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech, includes numerous networked appliances and fixtures. Each can be controlled by voice commands or gestures, the homeowner’s smartphone or through touch screens such as the 55-inch screen embedded in the kitchen’s island countertop.

Whether consumers will use such applications, and whether builders will need to incorporate them in the future, remains a focus of experimentation and research. “It’s more or less filtering of what is useful and what isn’t,” said Joseph Wheeler, coordinator of Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research."
Home Automation Comes of Age - WSJ

Valuation for Snapchat Could Rise to $19 Billion - NYTimes.com

A classic VC math case study in the making

"The company is raising a round of venture capital that could value the company at up to $19 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. If the company is able to raise capital at that price, it will cement its status as one of the highest-valued private companies in Silicon Valley.

Snapchat could raise up to $500 million in the round of financing, said this person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are continuing. If the round closes, Snapchat’s value will have nearly doubled since last year, when the company was in talks to raise money at a $10 billion valuation."
Valuation for Snapchat Could Rise to $19 Billion - NYTimes.com

Malden entrepreneur uses 3D printers to make sandstone sculptures - Business - The Boston Globe

Interesting times

"Zhang, 28, of Malden, owns 3D Bean, which makes lifelike sandstone figurines by using 3D printing technology. He spent the past year developing a technique that uses 90 cameras to create 3D images in a small office in Malden Square. He is now ready to start marketing his services from a studio in Boston’s South End, where he is hoping to get more exposure.

“This product is very similar to a photo. It saves a moment in time and that is its value,” Zhang said. “It’s not just sandstone. It’s a moment that you won’t be able to capture again.”"
Malden entrepreneur uses 3D printers to make sandstone sculptures - Business - The Boston Globe

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Microsoft Office for iOS now supports iCloud storage | The Verge

Check the full post for some access-different details

"Microsoft is updating its Office for iOS applications with support for Apple’s iCloud storage today. The updated apps allow iPhone and iPad users to open, edit, and save documents to iCloud without having to pay for an Office 365 subscription or use Microsoft’s own cloud storage service, OneDrive. While Microsoft added similar support for Dropbox back in November, the iCloud feature is a little less obvious to use."
Microsoft Office for iOS now supports iCloud storage | The Verge

NSA Can Hide Spyware in Hard Disk Firmware | Re/code

Something to be said for persistence... See How “omnipotent” hackers tied to NSA hid for 14 years—and were found at last (Ars Technica) for a detailed overview.
"The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Labs, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyber espionage operations."
NSA Can Hide Spyware in Hard Disk Firmware | Re/code

Monday, February 16, 2015

Intelligent use of big data fuels CRM opportunities (SearchCRM)

First part of a two-part interview podcast on big data market dynamics (second part is here)

"With data coming from many different channels, organizations -- as well as the tools they use -- must get smarter and more efficient with data management. Organizations' customer data management efforts today involve harnessing big data to understand customer preferences and to augment product and service offerings.

Big data doesn't refer just to the massive volume of data but also to the variety of sources and formats it comes from -- such as social media, video and audio -- and the speed with which companies collect it.

In this podcast, independent consultant Peter O'Kelly defines big data and explains its broad applicability to CRM. The lower price of technology and the entrenchment of cloud, open source and other machine learning platforms have made it possible to work with data in ways that would've been too expensive or impossible 10 years ago, he said."
Intelligent use of big data fuels CRM opportunities

Hands On: Mattel and Google's New VR View-Master | Video | PCMag.com

A new Google Cardboard app

"The new View-Master is a smartphone holder with lenses that separate the inserted device's screen into two images for the user. While it's a Google Cardboard device, it's actually a plastic headset that looks very similar to the classic View-Master, if it was crossed with a Samsung Gear VR.
The View-Master works with all Google Cardboard-compatible VR apps on the Google Play store, including a Mattel-specific View-Master app planned for the device. It won't rely entirely on app downloads, though. Mattel has reimagined the View-Master picture discs as augmented-reality markers and downloadable content tokens. Instead of inserting them into the View-Master, they can be placed on a flat surface and the View-Master app will scan them and load content into the View-Master, using the discs as positional anchors."
Hands On: Mattel and Google's New VR View-Master | Video | PCMag.com

The New Yorker profiles Jony Ive: details post-Jobs Apple, iPhone 6, Apple Watch and more | 9to5Mac

From a summary of a lengthy (16K+ word) Jony Ive profile in The New Yorker; also see What an epic profile says about the Apple Watch, Jony Ive, and his design notes for new lightsabers (VentureBeat)
"The New Yorker has published an extensive report on Jony Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design. Many newspapers have written up articles on Ive in recent years, but this latest account by Ian Parker is by far the most detailed and (arguably) the most interesting, revealing new anecdotes and tidbits on Apple’s latest products in the process.

The story tracks how Jony arrived at Apple back in the late 90’s, how his relationship with Jobs developed over that period and how he is adapting to ‘leading’ design in post-Jobs Apple. The piece includes some new details about how the Watch project and the newest iPhones formed, as well as incorporating quotes from Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield and others."
The New Yorker profiles Jony Ive: details post-Jobs Apple, iPhone 6, Apple Watch and more | 9to5Mac

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Fantastic Apple Car | Monday Note

Excerpt from a Jean-Louis Gassée Apple + car reality check

"There is a simpler and regrettably less grand explanation for the rumors.

Johann Jungwirth, the Mercedes Benz R&D exec that Apple hired last September, worked on infotainment systems, which makes him a natural for Apple’s work on CarPlay. The mystery vans are most likely part of the company’s Maps product.

Apple has made a commitment to better in-car systems, not in and for themselves in isolation, but as a reinforcement of the iOS ecosystem. If the large number of engineers that they’ve “poached” from Tesla seems a bit much, consider again the enormous size of iPhone (and iPad) revenue for this past quarter: $60B – compared to GM’s $40B for the same period. To Apple, anything that helps the iOS ecosystem is well worth what looks like oversized investments to outsiders."
The Fantastic Apple Car | Monday Note

Five Ways That Apple Is Already Positioned to Be a Car Company - Bloomberg Business

Check the full article for a list of reasons why the timing may be right for Apple to enter the automobile business

"“It makes a ton of sense,” Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray Cos., said Saturday in an interview. “If you would’ve said 10 years ago, ‘Apple is going to be in the car business,’ I think people would’ve said you’re crazy -- because it would’ve been crazy -- and today it’s a much different company that’s able to tackle these massive addressable markets.”
Apple, with a market capitalization that’s more than $700 billion, needs to continue growing sales in iPhones, its largest revenue generator, while also expanding into new markets, such as automobiles, if it’s to reach a $1 trillion valuation, Munster said. He added that he doesn’t think Apple would bring out a car in the next five years."
Five Ways That Apple Is Already Positioned to Be a Car Company - Bloomberg Business

Apple’s Tim Cook Skewers Those Who Don’t Protect Privacy - Digits - WSJ

Taking a stand at a cybersecurity summit other tech execs skipped

"“If those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money,” he said. “We risk our way of life.”

“We must get this right,” he said. “History has shown us that sacrificing our right to privacy can have dire consequences. We still live in a world where all people are not treated equally. Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion, or express their opinion, or love who they choose.”

Many people, he said, live “in a world in which that information can make the difference between life and death.”"
Apple’s Tim Cook Skewers Those Who Don’t Protect Privacy - Digits - WSJ

What Should We Think of Machines That Think? - The CIO Report - WSJ

Irving Wladawsky-Berger shares his impressions of answers to the latest Edge.org annual question

"I read a number of the 191 responses to his question. They were generally quite interesting.  Some were really worried about the future of the human race. Cambridge emeritus professor Martin Rees wrote in Organic Intelligence Has No Long-Term Future: “… by any definition of thinking, the amount and intensity that’s done by organic human-type brains will be utterly swamped by the cerebrations of AI.”  Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, wrote:  “Machines are currently very bad at thinking (except in certain narrow domains). They’ll probably one day get better at it than we are (just as machines are already much stronger and faster than any biological creature).”"
What Should We Think of Machines That Think? - The CIO Report - WSJ

Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware - NYTimes.com

Cybersecurity is looking like a promising career choice...

"Kaspersky Lab says it has seen evidence of $300 million in theft through clients, and believes the total could be triple that. But that projection is impossible to verify because the thefts were limited to $10 million a transaction, though some banks were hit several times. In many cases the hauls were more modest, presumably to avoid setting off alarms.

The majority of the targets were in Russia, but many were in Japan, the United States and Europe.

No bank has come forward acknowledging the theft, a common problem that President Obama alluded to on Friday when he attended the first White House summit meeting on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University. He urged passage of a law that would require public disclosure of any breach that compromised personal or financial information."
Bank Hackers Steal Millions via Malware - NYTimes.com

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Apple’s Titan Car Project to Challenge Tesla - WSJ

Drive different?
"Mr. Cook approved the car project almost a year ago and assigned veteran product design Vice President Steve Zadesky to lead the group, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Zadesky is a former Ford engineer who helped lead the Apple teams that created the iPod and iPhone.

Mr. Zadesky was given permission to create a 1,000-person team and poach employees from different parts of the company, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Working from a private location a few miles from Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, the team is researching different types of robotics, metals and materials consistent with automobile manufacturing, the people said."
Periodic reminder: if you don't have a wsj.com account and encounter its paywall, Google the full article title; that usually returns a link with full article access

Apple’s Titan Car Project to Challenge Tesla - WSJ

Friday, February 13, 2015

Pinterest bans all affiliate links, asks power users to monetize in other ways | VentureBeat | Social | by Harrison Weber

Pinteresting times

"These announcements arrive at a curious time.

Pinterest’s plan to turn its millions of users into currency has made headlines lately. In recent months, Pinterest has pitched Promoted Pins, an ad offering that followed its own affiliate link experiment. Then Pinterest announced a deal with Apple, potentially paving the way for app install ads. Hours later, news broke that Pinterest could launch its own buy button in partnership with Stripe.
Pinterest clearly aims to monetize its network, and no matter how it plans to turn a buck, a pool of power users dependent on affiliates could get in the way. It’s noteworthy that Pinterest appears determined to handle the situation delicately."
Pinterest bans all affiliate links, asks power users to monetize in other ways | VentureBeat | Social | by Harrison Weber

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life - NYTimes.com

Final paragraph from a case study on how to self-destruct via social media

"It was a profound reversal for Sacco. When I first met her, she was desperate to tell the tens of thousands of people who tore her apart how they had wronged her and to repair what remained of her public persona. But perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see."
How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life - NYTimes.com

Darpa Is Developing a Search Engine for the Dark Web | WIRED

An additional detail, from Sleuthing Search Engine: Even Better Than Google? (WSJ): "Unlike many other tools, though, it is free of charge for those who want to download, distribute and modify. Dr. White said he wanted Memex to be free “because taxpayers are paying for it.”"
"But the creators of Memex don’t want just to index content on previously undiscovered sites. They also want to use automated methods to analyze that content in order to uncover hidden relationships that would be useful to law enforcement, the military, and even the private sector. The Memex project currently has eight partners involved in testing and deploying prototypes. White won’t say who the partners are but they plan to test the system around various subject areas or domains. The first domain they targeted were sites that appear to be involved in human trafficking. But the same technique could be applied to tracking Ebola outbreaks or “any domain where there is a flood of online content, where you’re not going to get it if you do queries one at a time and one link at a time,” he says."
From the program introduction (2014/02/09):
"The Memex program gets its name and inspiration from a hypothetical device described in “As We May Think,” a 1945 article for The Atlantic Monthly written by Vannevar Bush, director of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) during World War II. Envisioned as an analog computer to supplement human memory, the memex (a combination of “memory” and “index”) would store and automatically cross-reference all of the user’s books, records and other information.
This cross-referencing, which Bush called associative indexing, would enable users to quickly and flexibly search huge amounts of information and more efficiently gain insights from it. The memex presaged and encouraged scientists and engineers to create hypertext, the Internet, personal computers, online encyclopedias and other major IT advances of the last seven decades." 
Darpa Is Developing a Search Engine for the Dark Web | WIRED

Facebook Heir? Time to Choose Who Manages Your Account When You Die - WSJ

Friends forever

"Asking us to make plans for a digital afterlife may sound morbid, but it can bring clarity to an issue that’s both legally and emotionally challenging. In 2013, Google became the first major Internet company to allow users to select digital heirs for its Gmail, cloud storage and other services, dubbed “inactive account managers.”

What’s the point of maintaining a social network after death? Facebook legacy contacts will be able to manage accounts in a way that can turn the deceased person’s Facebook page into a kind of digital gravestone. Legacy contacts can write a post to display at the top of their friend’s memorialized profile page, change the friend’s profile picture, and even respond to new friend requests on behalf of the deceased."
Facebook Heir? Time to Choose Who Manages Your Account When You Die - WSJ

Expedia to Acquire Orbitz as Travel Sites Consolidate - NYTimes.com

Preparing for the next wave of disruptive competition

"The company struck its second acquisition in two months on Thursday, agreeing to buy Orbitz Worldwide for about $1.3 billion in cash to add yet another well-known brand to its ranks.

The transaction further solidifies the American market for online travel booking to two companies, Expedia and the much bigger Priceline Group. Still, both companies continue to face competition as new rivals like Google and the start-up Hipmunk enter their business."
Expedia to Acquire Orbitz as Travel Sites Consolidate - NYTimes.com

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Microsoft's latest mobile app acquisition shows it gets urgency | Computerworld

Excerpt from a timely Microsoft reality check

"The true test for Microsoft, said Dawson, will be how well it expands the footprint of the acquired technologies and user experiences beyond mobile and onto the desktop. That's necessary to make good on Microsoft's expressed plan to create software that works, looks and operates similarly on all devices, on all platforms.

Dawson cited the Mac edition of Office as the old Microsoft, which favored Windows and only begrudgingly created a suite for OS X, one that most saw as sub-standard. With Windows' share of all devices rapidly falling as iOS, and especially Android, dominate smartphones and tablets -- and as Windows-powered personal computer sales slump or at best stall -- Microsoft cannot afford that thinking: Apps on rival operating systems must be top-notch, not simply adequate."
Microsoft's latest mobile app acquisition shows it gets urgency | Computerworld

Elon Musk says Tesla will unveil a new kind of battery to power your home | The Verge

Production in six months -- should be enough time to melt the snow off solar panels in the Boston area...

"Tesla didn't ship nearly as many cars this quarter as it had projected, but CEO Elon Musk remained upbeat during today's earnings call as he he let some details slip about a brand new product. According to Musk, the company is working on a consumer battery pack for the home. Design of the battery is apparently complete, and production could begin in six months. Tesla is still deciding on a date for unveiling the new unit, but Musk said he was pleased with the result, calling the pack "really great" and voicing his excitement for the project."
Elon Musk says Tesla will unveil a new kind of battery to power your home | The Verge

Datameer Heads To The Cloud With Latest Big Data Product | TechCrunch

Check this Datameer page for more details

"Datameer launched a new cloud service called Datameer Professional today that offers customers a Big Data solution without the hassle of installing, configuring and maintaining it themselves in-house. The goal of this new approach is to put the buying decision into the hands of business units, instead of being mainly driven by IT.

Datameer, which launched in 2009, offers big data and analytics running Hadoop for a range of applications. It has been selling an enterprise version since 2010 and boasts over 240 deployments including the three biggest credit card companies and two of the top three biggest banks, according to CEO Stefan Groschupf."
Datameer Heads To The Cloud With Latest Big Data Product | TechCrunch

Facebook's ThreatExchange is a social platform for sharing cybersecurity threats (Mashable)

Building on Facebook's internal ThreatData system

""Our goal is that organizations anywhere will be able to use ThreatExchange to share threat information more easily, learn from each other's discoveries, and make their own systems safer," Mark Hammell, Facebook's manager of threat infrastructure, wrote in a blog post announcing the project.

Security threats aren't typically relegated to just one target, and the lack of communication between malware targets ends badly for everyone, according to ThreatExchange. So far, some pretty big-name Internet players have joined Facebook on ThreatExchange, including Bitly, Dropbox, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and Yahoo. The platform expect to attract more partners as time goes on."
Facebook's ThreatExchange is a social platform for sharing cybersecurity threats

Microsoft Wants To Buy Love In Silicon Valley | TechCrunch

Accelerating cloud competition

"Microsoft is making a play for the hearts, minds, and future business of startups. Give a team half a million in cloud computing, and that is a half million that the smaller company doesn’t have to raise in the near-term. That allows companies to spend more efficiently, and delay pricing their firms, likely allowing for a higher valuation mark to be set.

Amazon’s AWS cloud platform remains the de facto choice among startup founders that I speak to here in the Valley. The Azure deal may tip the scales slightly among the current Y Combinator class, and those that follow, as the program will recur. It will be interesting to see what percentage of the current Y Combinator class chooses Azure over AWS, and keeps that choice through the end of the period and into their life as a launched company."
Microsoft Wants To Buy Love In Silicon Valley | TechCrunch

​Apple partners with Pinterest to make iOS app discovery easier | ZDNet

Pinteresting

"With well over a million apps now in the Apple App Store, it can be easy to miss apps that might be useful but which aren't, say, in the top 10. Meanwhile, as developers of lesser-known apps have complained before , using search on the App Store can result in potentially relevant apps being buried beneath a long list of irrelevant ones. As of today, Apple is tapping into Pinterest's way of curating the web, and applying to it iOS apps. Now, along with dedicated pins for places, products, articles, movies, and recipes, Pinterest users can pin iOS apps and share them on the platform.

The new tie-up also allows Pinterest users to install App Store apps from Pinterest's own app."
​Apple partners with Pinterest to make iOS app discovery easier | ZDNet

Facebook Takes Its Hardware Designs to a Giant Scale - NYTimes.com

Networking hardware demonetized?

"Facebook on Wednesday released as an open source project its design for a networking device that it says will coordinates the actions of hundreds of thousands of servers in Facebook’s data centers.

The machine, which relies primarily on off-the-shelf components and sophisticated software, has a design that Facebook says will add speed and efficiency to most commercial computer centers.

It also adds new, and free, competition for companies like Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Arista Networks, which are among the more notable makers of commercial networking equipment."
Facebook Takes Its Hardware Designs to a Giant Scale - NYTimes.com

Microsoft acquires Sunrise, creator of an innovative calendar app for mobile devices - The Official Microsoft Blog

Another big Microsoft acquisition for Android and iOS apps/services; also see Outlook for iPhone, Android Is a Powerful Productivity App (Re/code)
"This is another step forward on our journey to reinvent productivity and empower every person and organization to achieve more. Today’s acquisition of Sunrise, our recent acquisition of Acompli, and our new touch-optimized universal Office apps for Windows 10 all exemplify Microsoft’s ambition to rethink the productivity category. Our goal is to create more meaningful, beautiful experiences in mobile email and calendaring across all platforms. And as you will hear in the video below, the creative talent and fresh thinking at Sunrise and Acompli will make a lasting impact on the Microsoft family as we seek to reinvent productivity."
Microsoft acquires Sunrise, creator of an innovative calendar app for mobile devices - The Official Microsoft Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Google buys Altamont wind energy to power Googleplex - San Jose Mercury News

A greener Googleplex

"The company will announce Wednesday that it is buying power from the Altamont Pass, one of the nation's oldest, largest and most iconic wind farms that is about to get a Google-funded makeover.

The tech giant has no plans to brand the blades with its multicolored logo, but its 20-year power purchase agreement with Florida-based NextEra Energy will dramatically transform the rolling, treeless landscape that connects the Bay Area with the Central Valley. About 770 old turbines from the 1980s will be replaced this year by 48 new machines producing twice as much energy, enough to power Google's corporate campus in Mountain View with 100 percent renewable power."
Google buys Altamont wind energy to power Googleplex - San Jose Mercury News

Apple Is Basically a Small Country Now - The Atlantic

Plenty of room to grow...

"No modern tech company has approached the value of trading companies of the 1700s, though, and the Dutch East India Company trumps them all. The shipping juggernaut was the world's first publicly traded company. At its height, according to several estimates, it was worth the equivalent of more than $7 trillion in 2015 dollars. That's a seven with 12 zeros after it—or Apple's valuation today 10 times over."
Apple Is Basically a Small Country Now - The Atlantic

Jeb Bush dumps emails including social security numbers of Florida residents online | The Verge

Oops

"Jeb Bush, a rumored 2016 Republican presidential candidate, just decided to publish hundreds of thousands of emails sent to him during his time as governor of Florida. On its face it seems like a great idea in the name of transparency, but there's one huge problem: neither Bush nor those who facilitated the publication of the records, including the state government, decided to redact potentially sensitive personal information from them."
Jeb Bush dumps emails including social security numbers of Florida residents online | The Verge

Hands-on Review of New Flipboard for Desktop | Re/code

From a first look at the new Flipboard browser client option; see this Inside Flipboard post for more details, and Flipboard swims against the tide by launching a website (GigaOM) for another perspective
"Flipboard magazines were already addictive, but now this is especially true on the Web, where you have more space to look around and more time to read. A few dozen flips later and your habits backfire, surrounding you with virtual stacks of articles that you may never have time to read.

I recommend alleviating this burden by sharing Flipboard articles with social networks and friends, or creating a magazine to share with someone else.

If you’re a Flipboard user who, like me, has waited for years for this to come to the Web, I can say that you won’t be disappointed. For new users, I recommend adding this tab to your browser."
Hands-on Review of New Flipboard for Desktop | Re/code

Obama Administration Plans to Open Center to Fight Cyberattacks - NYTimes.com

Disconcerting

"The new center would essentially put greater control of assessments into the hands of the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. While there are a number of federal cybercenters in operation, the Department of Homeland Security, which has primary responsibility for the defense of American domestic networks, has often been at odds with the National Security Agency, the military’s United States Cyber Command and other branches of the government responsible for assessing or reacting to cyberattacks.

Mr. Obama is also attempting to press companies and the government to cooperate more fully in sharing information on cyberattacks. He is scheduled to travel to Stanford University on Friday to sign an executive order easing the way for American companies to share data with the government."
Obama Administration Plans to Open Center to Fight Cyberattacks - NYTimes.com

Search Whiz Udi Manber Leaves Google - Digits - WSJ

Apparently missed the health info in the Knowledge Graph post...

"Google veteran Udi Manber, a computer scientist best known for his work on search, has left the company to join the National Institutes of Health.

“I had a wonderful nine years at Google and YouTube, but I could not resist the amazing opportunities at NIH,” Manber said in a statement relayed by Google. “Improving access to medical knowledge can have a big impact. I hope to help.”"
Search Whiz Udi Manber Leaves Google - Digits - WSJ

A $710 Billion Apple – The Numbers - WSJ

Check the full post for some additional Apple stats; in other Apple news and numbers, see Apple Building Solar Farm to Power California Operations (NYT)
"Apple broke another record Tuesday when it became the first U.S. company to have a market value of more than $700 billion. A look at the numbers."
A $710 Billion Apple – The Numbers - WSJ

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hitachi Buys Pentaho to Build Internet of Things That Matter (CMS Wire)

The Internet of one fewer independent BI/analytics vendors

"Managing all the data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) is both a daunting task and a tremendous opportunity. The company that does it well, first, and for the right reasons could have an unprecedented ability to impact the world in a positive way.
Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) wants to be that company and it believes that adding big data analytics capabilities to its portfolio is key. So it goes to follow that today it announced its intent to acquire BI vendor Pentaho, which is best known for its big data platform that simplifies preparing and blending all types of data and includes a spectrum of tools that enable users to easily analyze, visualize, explore, report insights and predict outcomes."
Hitachi Buys Pentaho to Build Internet of Things That Matter

New agency to sniff out threats in cyberspace - The Washington Post

Sign of the times

"“The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policymakers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said in an interview. “It will help ensure that we have the same integrated, all-tools approach to the cyberthreat that we have developed to combat terrorism.”

Monaco will announce the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center on Tuesday in a speech at the Wilson Center.

“It’s a great idea,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official. “It’s overdue.”"
New agency to sniff out threats in cyberspace - The Washington Post

Official Google Blog: A remedy for your health-related questions: health info in the Knowledge Graph

From a snapshot of one of many Google Knowledge Graph-enhanced domains

"[...] one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information. And you should find the health information you need more quickly and easily.

So starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators. Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor."
Official Google Blog: A remedy for your health-related questions: health info in the Knowledge Graph

The great internet swindle: ever get the feeling you've been cheated? | Technology | The Guardian

Perhaps time to revisit W. Brian Arthur's theory of increasing returns

"Part of the problem here, argues Keen, is that the digital economy is, by its nature, winner-takes-all. “There’s no inevitable or conspiratorial logic here; no one really knew it would happen,” he says. “There are just certain structural qualities that mean the internet lends itself to monopolies. The internet is a perfect global platform for free-market capitalism – a pure, frictionless, borderless economy … It’s a libertarian’s wet dream. Digital Milton Friedman.”Nor are those monopolies confined to just one business. Keen cites San Francisco-based writer Rebecca Solnit’s incisive take on Google: imagine it is 100 years ago, and the post office, the phone company, the public libraries, the printing houses, Ordnance Survey maps and the cinemas were all controlled by the same secretive and unaccountable organisation. Plus, he adds, almost as an afterthought: “Google doesn’t just own the post office – it has the right to open everyone’s letters.”"
The great internet swindle: ever get the feeling you've been cheated? | Technology | The Guardian

How the Sony Data Breach Signals a Paradigm Shift in Cybersecurity - WSJ

Excerpt from a stark security reality check

"The lesson you can take away from this is you need to be in a position where you can detect when something bad happens and stop the bad guy before he accomplishes his mission, whether it’s stealing data, leaking data, destroying data, changing data, whatever the case is. If you’re a sufficiently interesting target, you will be breached. There is no company or organization in the world that can stop it, including the U.S. government. We’ve seen that. But you need to cut off the bad guys before they do what they came there to do.

Our current research shows the amount of dwell time—the amount of time a bad guy spends in your enterprise before somebody notices—is a median of 209 days. And two-thirds of the time, somebody else tells you—usually the FBI. We need to bring that way down."
How the Sony Data Breach Signals a Paradigm Shift in Cybersecurity - WSJ

Google Makes It Official: Answers Not Just Links - Digits - WSJ

Signalling a strategic search shift

"Google tweaked its annual securities filing to reflect changes in its search results, notably its move to provide users with answers, in addition to links.

“We used to show just ten blue links in our results,” Google wrote in the preamble to the filing, submitted Monday. “You had to click through to different websites to get your answers, which took time. Now we are increasingly able to provide direct answers — even if you’re speaking your question using Voice Search — which makes it quicker, easier and more natural to find what you’re looking for.”"
Google Makes It Official: Answers Not Just Links - Digits - WSJ

Monday, February 09, 2015

Apple is taking 93% of the profits in the smartphone industry now - Business Insider

Profit different

"Apple is basically the only company making money from smartphones anymore. 

Every quarter, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley takes a look at the state of the profits of smartphone companies. This quarter, Walkley found Apple had a record breaking 93% of the industry's profits.

Apple is always the leader, but for a short while, it looked like Samsung was going to catch Apple. Those days are long gone. Apple has blasted away from the pack."
Apple is taking 93% of the profits in the smartphone industry now - Business Insider

ISIS is a virus that Anonymous plans to cure: Hacktivists hammer ISIS with #OpISIS | Computerworld

Strange days indeed

"ISIS is a virus that Anonymous plans to cure; so far the hacktivist group has put the hurt to the online ISIS terrorist presence by knocking out websites spreading jihadist propaganda and social media accounts that have been used for recruiting new members. In the first wave of a massive cyberattack, the hacker collective managed to “destroy months of recruiting work” for the terrorist network ISIS."
ISIS is a virus that Anonymous plans to cure: Hacktivists hammer ISIS with #OpISIS | Computerworld

Review of Amazon’s Voice-Controlled Echo Speaker | Re/code

Excerpt from a bit of an Alexa-as-Her review

"The allure of Alexa is her companionship. She’s like a genie in a sci-fi-looking bottle — one not quite at the peak of her powers, and with a tiny bit of an attitude.

She told me right away she’s better with factual questions. I asked her to tell me her backstory: Where she came from, who invented her, what she does. I asked her how old she is. “I’m four,” she replied. Joan Didion, she’s not.

She’s not really whimsical or seductive, or playful. She’s all business, or trying to be, like a substitute teacher. I asked her about her rival, Siri, and she was respectful but noncommittal."
Review of Amazon’s Voice-Controlled Echo Speaker | Re/code