"Amazon's Alexa personal assistant is super useful in the Echo and lot of fun to use. But if you don't have an Echo or can't buy one because you're outside of the US, it can be hard to appreciate Alexa's skill set. In light of this, Amazon has created a web app that lets you play with Alexa right in your browser.Amazon built a tool that puts Alexa in your browser | The Verge
You can access the web app at echosim.io and it lets you ask Alexa all kinds of questions. What it doesn't let you experience is the always listening nature of the Echo device and its far field microphone array — you have to click and hold a button on the site before you speak to it. (That makes it closer to the experience you get with the Amazon Tap than the Echo itself.)"
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Tangentially, see Voice-Based Computing with Digital Assistants (Tech.pinions)
"At Computex Taipei today, Intel is introducing its new range of Extreme Edition processors, with the crowning jewel being the company's first 10-core CPU, the $1,723 Core i7-6950X. For that eye-watering price, you get a 3GHz powerhouse capable of running 20 simultaneous work threads and also achieving a turbo boost speed of 3.5GHz. Intel's answer to the inevitable question of what anyone would want to do with all that might is the new concept of mega-tasking.Intel invents the concept of mega-tasking to sell new 10-core CPUs | The Verge
The primary scenario envisioned by Intel is of a gamer playing at 4K resolution while also encoding a recording of his or her match and streaming at 1080p on Twitch at the same time. The extra processor cores make this new EE chip the new champion for handling CPU-intensive tasks running in parallel. Intel has more stats to wow professional users with, such as up to 35 percent faster performance in 3D rendering, 25 percent faster video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, and 20 percent faster video transcoding in HandBrake relative to the previous flagship Core i7-5960X."
Eric Holder, who really wanted to put Edward Snowden in jail, now says he performed a 'public service' | The Verge
Hopefully a leading indicator
Eric Holder, who really wanted to put Edward Snowden in jail, now says he performed a 'public service' | The Verge
"Edward Snowden performed a "public service" by prompting changes to the US government's mass surveillance programs, says former US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder still thinks that Snowden's decision to leak classified documents was "inappropriate and illegal," but — now one year out of office — Holder's view of Snowden seems to have shifted in a substantial way. "We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made," Holder said on the CNN-produced podcast The Axe Files."
Eric Holder, who really wanted to put Edward Snowden in jail, now says he performed a 'public service' | The Verge
Also see Rise of Ad-Blocking Software Threatens Online Revenue (NYT); tangentially, Forbes and Wired, both sites that until recently made their content unavailable to people using ad blockers, no longer do so (which is especially useful for readers of Wired, which at least in my experience routinely serves ads that stall Google Chrome)
"The complaint asks the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the government agency that oversees trade practices, to investigate ad blockers that offer “paid whitelisting,” – a service which charges advertisers to bypass ad-blocking software – along with services that substitute ad blockers’ own advertising for blocked ads or get around publishers’ subscription pages.Newspapers escalate their fight against ad blockers - The Washington Post
The NAA complaint comes at a moment when the newspaper industry continues to struggle with dramatic changes that have eroded its business. Advertising revenues have dropped from roughly $50 billion a decade ago to less than half of that today, according to the NAA. Revenues from print advertising continue to slip as readers consume more news online, and digital advertising brings in far less revenue than print."
Excerpt from another timely Fourth Estate reality check
"The distaste Gawker provokes is largely a result of the world it inhabits and reflects. Gawker is responding to an asymmetry of celebrity power, and the way that celebrities like Bill Cosby, Jimmy Savile, Jian Ghomeshi and Woody Allen, to name a few, become immune to the pressures of civil society.I Stand With Gawker - The New York Times
Whether Gawker should have posted the Hulk Hogan sex tape I will leave to the care of finer souls than mine. I will say this: No one could possibly object if that were the tape of a congressman. But even a pathetic D-lister like Hulk Hogan has more power to shape the world today than most congressmen. The world we live in has made a presidential nominee out of a reality television star. This is the world that Gawker predicted and took up arms against."
Friday, May 27, 2016
Gawker CEO Nick Denton to Peter Thiel: 'The details of your involvement will be gruesome' if you continue suing us - Recode
Also see Mark Zuckerberg Needs to Dump Peter Thiel From the Facebook Board of Directors. He Won’t. (Slate) and What does Facebook think about board member Peter Thiel secretly funding lawsuits against a publisher? No comment (for now). (Recode)
"In an open letter posted on Gawker.com, founder and CEO Nick Denton has issued an ultimatum to tech billionaire Peter Thiel.Gawker CEO Nick Denton to Peter Thiel: 'The details of your involvement will be gruesome' if you continue suing us - Recode
Should Thiel continue to fund lawsuits against Gawker Media, like Hulk Hogan's, Denton warns that Thiel "too will be subject to a dose of transparency" at the hands of the media.
"However philanthropic your intention, and careful the planning, the details of your involvement will be gruesome," Denton wrote, before challenging Thiel to a public discussion of some sort "under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Journalists*, or in a written discussion on some neutral platform such as Medium.""
A different kind of digital diplomacy
"The idea that Pyongyang had turned to digital theft would not be surprising. North Korea’s economy has been ravaged by sanctions, food shortages and other deprivations. Pyongyang does not publish economic data, but estimates have put North Korea’s gross domestic product between $12 billion and $40 billion, tiny when compared with South Korea’s economic output of more than $1.4 trillion.North Korea Linked to Digital Attacks on Global Banks - The New York Times
In the attack at Bangladesh’s central bank in February, the thieves tried to transfer $1 billion in funds from an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Fed officials became suspicious of the some of requested transfers and released only $81 million to accounts in the Philippines.
“If you presume it’s North Korea, $1 billion is almost 10 percent of their G.D.P.,” Mr. Chien said. “This is not small change for them.”"
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Next step: Oracle appeals the verdict
"The victory for Google will cheer many other software developers, who operate much the way Google did when it comes to so-called open-source software. Unlike the traditional software created by corporations and tightly held, open-source products are released, often with some restrictions, for anyone to use and modify.Google Prevails as Jury Rebuffs Oracle in Code Copyright Case - The New York Times
The decision, delivered in United States District Court in San Francisco, means that for now Oracle cannot collect anything from Google’s use of Android."
With initial estimated design capacity of 160 Tbps
"Today we’re excited to announce the latest step in our global cloud infrastructure as Microsoft and Facebook announce plans to build “MAREA” – a new, state-of-the art subsea cable across the Atlantic. The new MAREA cable will help meet the growing customer demand for high speed, reliable connections for cloud and online services for Microsoft, Facebook and their customers. The parties have cleared conditions to go “Contract-In-Force” with their plans, and construction of the cable will commence in August 2016 with completion expected in October 2017."Later in the post:
"As one of the largest cloud operators in the world, Microsoft has invested more than $15 billion (USD) in building a resilient cloud infrastructure and cloud services that are highly available and highly secure while lowering overall costs. Microsoft has now announced 32 Azure regions around the world with 24 generally available today – more than any other major cloud provider. This latest investment, together with Microsoft’s previously announced investments in global fiber assets including the NCP trans-Pacific subsea cable, is further proof of Microsoft’s commitment to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more."Microsoft and Facebook to build subsea cable across Atlantic | Server & Cloud Blog
Final paragraph from a timely Apple VR reality check
"The point of all this is to say it looks like Apple is nowhere in VR and that’s technically true from the outside. It has no announced hardware, no software that’s specifically designed to support VR, and the best indicator we have Apple is even aware of the technology is some vague comments from Tim Cook that the category is interesting. And yet, what we could see in a few weeks at this year’s WWDC, and in a few months with the new iPhone launch, is a series of subtle indicators Apple is indeed taking VR seriously and laying the groundwork for a future product in this space. Some of those indicators may be fairly transparent, while others will be harder to discern ahead of time. But, if you’re looking, I bet you’ll start to see them over the next year. This activity will slowly ramp until suddenly Apple reveals a product — and then the strategy will become obvious in hindsight."Apple’s Route to Virtual Reality | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Unlikely to be branded "WebTV"
"Microsoft's second streaming device is the more interesting of the pair. Sams speculates that it will be a streaming device with advanced functionality. Microsoft originally planned a two-SKU strategy for the Xbox One, but it canceled an "Xbox TV" device. The original TV streaming device was supposed to support the core components of Windows 8, with support for casual gaming through apps. Microsoft's Windows 10 strategy with the Xbox One means that its new rumored Xbox TV device could access universal apps and games from the Windows Store."Microsoft reportedly launching 'Xbox TV' devices next month | The Verge
An interesting strategy by someone who ran for governor of California with job creation as one of her three major platform areas
"On CNBC today, CEO Meg Whitman said that, after the spinoff, HPE will have somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 people. Separately, a spokesman told Recode that about 100,000 jobs will move from HPE to the new CSC-led company.Meg Whitman's five-year plan to fix Hewlett-Packard by breaking it up cost a lot of jobs - Recode
The number of announced jobs cut on Whitman's watch add up to more than 85,000, about 25 percent of the total number of employees at HP when she began, about 350,000 worldwide.
And while she will be remembered for fixing deeply-seated problems at one of America's most storied Silicon Valley icons by essentially breaking it into three more valuable pieces, it's only fair to note the pain caused by job losses along the way."
Joining Apple with a focus on data privacy and protection as strategic competitive differentiation
"The trend is a striking reversal of a long-standing article of faith in the data-hungry tech industry, where companies including Google and the latest start-ups have predicated success on the ability to hoover up as much information as possible about consumers.What’s driving Silicon Valley to become ‘radicalized’ - The Washington Post
Now, some large tech firms are increasingly offering services to consumers that rely far less on collecting data. The sea change is even becoming evident among early-stage companies that see holding so much data as more of a liability than an asset, given the risk that cybercriminals or government investigators might come knocking.
Start-ups that once hesitated to invest in security are now repurposing limited resources to build technical systems to shed data, even if it hinders immediate growth."
I'm guessing Google's new TPU design may not be open-sourced for a while
"Amazon’s new service will let businesses run different frameworks on its computers, including those created by rivals such as Google, which introduced one called TensorFlow last year, according to the people familiar with the situation.Amazon to Battle Google With New Cloud Service for AI Software - Bloomberg
The service will use a new type of rentable computer from Amazon that has eight graphical processing units from Nvidia Corp., up from four available on Amazon computers today, the people said. GPUs are a common type of semiconductor widely used to run AI programs. The more GPUs, the faster Amazon’s computers can run AI software and crunch related data."
"Morgan Stanley analysts led by Katy Huberty and Adam Jonas recently took a look at Apple's spending on incremental R&D and found something shocking. Not only is the creator of the iPhone forking out more now than it did when it launched its most successful product, it's also burning more cash than the top 14 automakers combined, and that's an industry deep in transformation. While Apple has spent $5 billion on additional research and development from 2013 to 2015, the major players looking to electrify the fossil fuel world spent only $192 million. (Tesla Motors Inc., though not one of the 14, has spent about $444 million over that same time frame.)"Forget the iPhone, Apple's Next Big Moneymaker Could Be Cars - Bloomberg
A good data point on how well Oracle Database (and/or perhaps Postgres) runs on AWS...
"Amazon Web Services, the biggest of the cloud-computing providers, has a new line of work: Taking other cloud-computing giants into other countries.Salesforce to Use Amazon’s Cloud to Expand in Canada and Australia - The New York Times
On Wednesday, Salesforce.com announced it would use A.W.S. to expand in Canada and Australia, in a deal valued at about $400 million. If successful, the value of the transaction will most likely get much bigger.
“For sure, we’re talking of billions of dollars in services over the next several years,” said Marc Benioff, the co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce."
Also see In Silicon Valley, Gossip, Anger and Revenge (NYT) and Peter Thiel Does the Impossible! Nobody’s ever sympathized with Gawker before (Politico)
"Mr. Thiel has donated money to the Committee to Protect Journalists and has often talked about protecting freedom of speech. He said he did not believe his actions were contradictory. “I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”Peter Thiel, Tech Billionaire, Reveals Secret War With Gawker - The New York Times
He continued, “It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.” Mr. Thiel said he had not targeted any other media companies."
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Good news for those who wish to use Windows 7 indefinitely
"Users were angry that clicking the cross to dismiss the box meant that they had agreed to the upgrade.Microsoft U-turn on "nasty trick" pop-up - BBC News
Based on "customer feedback", Microsoft said it would add another notification that provided customers with "an additional opportunity for cancelling the upgrade".
The pop-up design had been described as a "nasty trick".
Microsoft told the BBC it had modified the pop-up as a result of criticism: "We've added another notification that confirms the time of the scheduled upgrade and provides the customer an additional opportunity for cancelling or rescheduling the upgrade."
Also see Chewbacca mask video star visits Facebook (USA Today)
"If you thought Candace Payne won the lottery by posting a viral video on Facebook of herself wearing a talking Chewbacca mask while laughing herself silly, stop right there.Chewbacca Mask Mom carpools with J.J. Abrams - CNET
The fun-loving Star Wars fan -- whose video has gotten over 140 million views at last count -- also got to hang out with "The Force Awakens" director J.J. Abrams.
In "The Late Late Show" video segment "Chewbacca Mom Takes James Corden to Work" that posted Monday, Payne drives Corden to his job and on the way picks up his carpool buddy for the day: Abrams."
That should be "reopen;" see SIRI RISING: The Inside Story Of Siri’s Origins — And Why She Could Overshadow The iPhone (Huffington Post, 1/24/2013) for some historical details; also see Siri-creator shows off first public demo of Viv, ‘the intelligent interface for everything’ (TechCrunch)
"Apple is taking two big steps to improve its voice-controlled assistant, Siri, according to a new report from tech news site the Information that cites a single person with "direct knowledge" of Apple's plans. For one, it's apparently working on a standalone speaker that can house the voice-controlled assistant, like Amazon's Echo or the forthcoming Google Home.Apple may open up Siri to developers. That’s a huge deal. - The Washington Post
That may sound like some pretty big news, even Apple is a little late to the market for smart home hubs, apart from some small forays with Siri and the Apple TV. But the real revelation from the Infomation article is the report that Apple's going to open Siri up to developers, perhaps as soon as next month during the company's annual developers conference. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the report."
Check the Meta Wikipedia article for additional details; also see Meta, The World’s First Entry-Level AR Glasses, Hires The Father Of Wearable Computing As Chief Scientist (TechCrunch, from ~3 years ago)
"Put on the Meta 2 headset, and ten holographic computer screens will hover in mid-air. Press the floating Amazon.com webpage with Nike sneakers and the shoes pop out. You can pull the image apart and examine the inner soles. A phone icon appears in front of you, ringing. Press it, and the caller appears in holographic form. She can hand you a model of the Vienna Opera House; you can hold it and turn it around.Will This Augmented Reality Machine Really Replace Your PC? - Bloomberg
With Meta’s technology, you become the operating system by controlling 3D content with your hands. Meta is a smaller player in the growing field of augmented reality, which puts digital images on top of the real world. (It’s not virtual reality, a more immersive experience that attempts to replace the world around you)."
Perhaps part of BlackBerry's employee motivation strategy -- it could have been worse...
"As downbeat a note as the layoffs were for Microsoft’s smartphone business, there isn’t much left of the army of people it once had working on the devices.Microsoft Cutting 1,850 Jobs in Smartphone Unit - The New York Times
About 25,000 workers joined Microsoft as a result of the company’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset business, but Microsoft quickly felt pressure to cut costs as phone sales struggled. In 2014, Microsoft announced it was cutting 18,000 jobs, most of them related to the Nokia deal.
Last year, it eliminated an additional 7,800 jobs, trimmed the number of smartphones it offered and took a $7.6 billion accounting charge, writing off nearly the entire value of the Nokia deal. Microsoft has about 110,000 total employees."
Compaq and DEC spin-out/IPO timing still tbd...
"The complex maneuver, known in deal-making circles as a reverse Morris Trust, means that shareholders in both HP Enterprise and Computer Sciences will not have to pay taxes on the merger.A Hewlett-Packard Spinoff Is Preparing to Split Again - The New York Times
Tuesday’s deal essentially undoes HP’s nearly $13 billion takeover of Electronic Data Systems, the outsourcing business founded by H. Ross Perot.
Shares of HP Enterprise rose nearly 11 percent in after-hours trading, to $18, while Computer Sciences shares climbed almost 24 percent, to $44.05."
The write stuff; for some options other than Office and Google Docs, see Now You Can Write the Great American Novel on the Subway (NYT)
"Today’s smartphones, after all, are bona fide supercomputers capable of everything from capturing high-def video to securing dinner reservations. A near lifetime of cellphone use, meanwhile, has left countless teens more proficient at typing on a roughly 2-inch-by-3-inch smartphone screen than a computer keyboard.Teens' newest use for smartphones? Writing school papers on them. - The Boston Globe
And with extracurricular activities gobbling up after-school hours, many students fit in homework where they can, making the cellphone — that portable hunk of super-charged wonder — the instrument upon which many an essay ends up composed.
For students, the appeal is obvious: Why chain yourself to a desk — or laptop, for that matter — when you don’t have to?"
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Looks like I'll be using my current MacBook Air until >= October; hopefully Apple will also see fit to update its Thunderbolt Display, which hasn't been refreshed since it was introduced in mid-2011
"According to a new note from reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI Securities and corroborated by our sources, Apple plans to introduce a dramatically overhauled MacBook Pro later this year. Kuo says the device will have a new “thinner and lighter” design with design cues taken from the 12-inch MacBook, as well as Touch ID support and a new OLED display touch bar above the keyboard.Apple prepping thinner MacBook Pros with OLED screen above keyboard, Touch ID for Q4 | 9to5Mac
Kuo’s report explains that the MacBook Pro updates are the “brightest spot for Apple’s 2016 rollouts” and will come to both the 13-inch and 15-inch models sometime during the fourth quarter of this year.
The OLED display touch bar will replace the physical function keys along the top of the keyboard, while the design will adopt new metal injection molded hinges as reported earlier this year. Additionally, the refreshed MacBook Pros are said to feature USB-C support and Thunderbolt 3."
The "enabling of impatience" (quoting from later in the TechCrunch article) doesn't always apply, however; e.g., see ‘Happy Chewbacca’ Video Is a Conquering Force on Social Media (NYT)
"Yet Facebook knows when the good part of a Live video is coming. When entertained or riled up, viewers can fire off Live comments and reaction emojis during the stream that the broadcaster can see, similar to Facebook Live competitor Periscope’s hearts.Facebook Live lets you skip to the good part | TechCrunch
Now Facebook tells me it’s putting reactions to work to power a visualized timeline of when a Live video receives the most engagement. When you go to fast-forward through the recorded replay of a Live clip, you’ll see the graph of reaction volume overlaid on the progress bar.
Essentially, you’ll be able to see when the video gets interesting and skip there if you want."
Making it up on volume
"Spotify lost more money in 2015.Spotify lost more money than ever last year — which is great news for Spotify - Recode
And its managers and investors are probably very happy about that.
That's because the music streaming service's revenue increased much faster than its losses — something it hasn't always been able to say.
Given that Spotify has told its investors it is headed for an IPO in the next few years, it's the kind of performance it will need to be able to replicate with consistency."
Check Marco Arment's post, If Google’s right about AI, that’s a problem for Apple, for full context-setting
"There's also another interesting reason why Apple may not be going quite as hard into some of the areas that its competitors are: its devotion to privacy. Apple simply doesn't collect data in the same way that Google or others do, by design. Consumers offer a lot of information already to services to make them better — for maps, recommendations, etc. — and software assistants that can manage our schedules, hack our commutes and control our homes will require a lot of pooled data. But perhaps the most interesting part of Arment’s analysis is the footnote in which he says that he doesn't find this a very good excuse.
"It’s possible to build tons of useful services and smarts by just using public data, like the Web, mapping databases, business directories, etc., without any access to or involvement from the user’s private data," he said. In other words, Apple's getting outstripped on even the non-creepy services."Is Apple really at the risk of becoming BlackBerry? - The Washington Post
Facebook is making some big changes to Trending Topics, responding to conservatives - The Washington Post
Check this Facebook post for full details
"Under the change, Facebook will discontinue the algorithmic analysis of media organizations’ websites and digital news feeds that partly determines which stories should be included in Trending Topics. Also being thrown out is a list of 1,000 journalism outlets that currently helps Facebook’s curators evaluate and describe the newsworthiness of potential topics, as well as a more exclusive list of 10 news sites that includes BuzzFeed News, the Guardian, the New York Times and The Washington Post.Facebook is making some big changes to Trending Topics, responding to conservatives - The Washington Post
The updates to Facebook’s curation policy highlight the difficulty the company now faces as its next stage of growth brings the social media giant, with 1.6 billion users, much closer to the kind of editorial work that traditional news outlets have historically performed. Now, Facebook’s increasing resemblance to others in the media industry has raised questions about the company’s approach to disseminating news."
A beefy argument
"Oracle Corp. sued Google over the equivalent of a hamburger.Oracle Sued Google Over a Hamburger, Java-Android Jury Told - Bloomberg
That’s a Google lawyer’s message to jurors at the companies’ copyright infringement trial. Robert Van Nest showed the jury a menu with only “hamburger” written on it and likened it to the packages, or APIs, of Java programming code Oracle claims Google stole to build its Android operating system.
“The API is hamburger there, it’s the menu,” Van Nest said Monday in his closing arguments at a trial that started two weeks ago. The exhibit also showed two burgers, one simple and the other garnished. The message: putting the word “burger” on a menu isn’t unique -- it’s what’s behind the word, how you build your burger, that counts."
A step in the right direction
"On Tuesday, the company, which is based in Redmond, Wash., announced the first winners of grants under a new program called the Affordable Access Initiative. The 12 recipients, who will get $70,000 to $150,000 apiece, include a company in Rwanda franchising solar-powered mobile kiosks that provide Wi-Fi and battery recharges, and an Argentine firm that uses monitoring technologies and chatbots so that farmers can keep tabs remotely on the health of their cattle.Microsoft Awards First Grants to Help Expand Global Internet Access - The New York Times
That’s a pittance compared with Google, which has built a fiber-optic network in Uganda’s capital and has struck deals in Sri Lanka and Indonesia to eventually beam the Internet down from high-altitude balloons. Nor does it display the ambition of Facebook, which offers a free set of basic Internet services with local phone companies in more than three dozen countries and is testing the first of a planned fleet of large, ultralight drones to deliver Internet service from on high."
Monday, May 23, 2016
Apple, Microsoft and Google hold 23% of all U.S. corporate cash, as tech sector accumulates wealth - GeekWire
Balance sheet different
"Apple, Microsoft and Google are the top three cash-rich U.S. companies across all sectors of business, not including banks and other financial institutions — holding a combined $391 billion in cash as of the end of 2015, or more than 23 percent of the entire $1.68 trillion held by the nation’s non-financial corporations."Apple, Microsoft and Google hold 23% of all U.S. corporate cash, as tech sector accumulates wealth - GeekWire
Excerpt from a big-picture Android reality check; also see Google I/O 2016: Android's failure to innovate hands Apple free run at WWDC (AppleInsider)
"In reality the problem Instant Apps actually aims to solve is not so much a problem for users, nor even really the problem with OS level fragmentation in Android. It's the problem of Google search trying to remain relevant in the mobile world.Google I/O 2016: Android's Instant Apps seek to solve a key mobile problem
Google would like mobile users to start in Google search, then follow its search links to arrive at a result deep within a mobile app. The problem is that users may not have the app installed, resulting in a series of delays that might result in the user giving up (perhaps choosing not to download the new app, or running into an issue while downloading, or getting distracted along the way and doing something else).
The problem of the user not getting to the result Google is recommending is a bigger problem for Google than the user, because while the user is likely to eventually solve their own problem somehow (perhaps by downloading that app or a similar one later on), without capturing the user's attention long enough to complete a sale, Google can't get paid."
One way to boost Windows 10 upgrade numbers
"But here’s the icky part: The redesigned GWX pop-up now treats exiting the window as consent for the Windows 10 upgrade.How Microsoft's tricky new Windows 10 pop-up deceives you into upgrading | PCWorld
So after more than half a year of teaching people that the only way to say “no thanks” to Windows 10 is to exit the GWX application—and refusing to allow users to disable the pop-up in any obvious manner, so they had to press that X over and over again during those six months to the point that most people probably just click it without reading now—Microsoft just made it so that very behavior accepts the Windows 10 upgrade instead, rather than canceling it."
In other race-to-the-bottom (of the smartphone business) news, see The man who answered the call to save BlackBerry (The Washington Post)
"Worldwide smartphone sales increased by nearly 4 percent in the recent quarter, but Microsoft's Windows Phone OS failed to capitalize on the growth and dropped below 1 percent market share. Gartner's latest smartphone sales report provides the latest proof of the obvious: Windows Phone is dead. Gartner estimates that nearly 2.4 million Windows Phones were sold in the latest quarter, around 0.7 percent market share overall. That's a decrease from the 2.5 percent market share of Windows Phone back in Q1 2015."Windows Phone market share sinks below 1 percent | The Verge
This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and social lives - The Washington Post
Some scary stats
"It is easy to scoff at the idea of Internet addiction, which is not officially recognized as a disorder in the United States. Medical science has yet to diagnose precisely what is going on in the brains of the addicted, and there is no clear definition of what entails an Internet addiction. Yet a growing number of parents and experts say addiction to screens is becoming a major problem for many young Americans, causing them to drop out of school, withdraw from their families and friends, and complain of deep anxieties in social settings.This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and social lives - The Washington Post
A recent study by Common Sense Media, a parent advocacy group, found that 59 percent of parents think their teens are addicted to mobile devices. Meanwhile, 50 percent of teenagers feel the same way. The study surveyed nearly 1,300 parents and children this year."
Sunday, May 22, 2016
Election 2016: state-of-the-art data analytics versus semi-random tweets
"After the 2012 election, when Mitt Romney’s vaunted, custom-built Orca get-out-the-vote system failed on Election Day, Republicans publicly promised that they’d close the technology gap with Democrats by 2016. Instead, the party has a candidate who doesn’t seem to think much of the data analytics operation pioneered by President Barack Obama. “I’ve always felt it was overrated,” Donald Trump told the Associated Press on May 10. “Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine. And I think the same is true with me.”"How an Eric Schmidt-Backed Startup May Help Clinton Get Elected - Bloomberg Politics
Friday, May 20, 2016
Strange days indeed; also see Zuckerberg’s GOP Meeting Shows a Master Politician in the Making (Wired)
"After sitting down with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a host of prominent conservatives this week, the pundit wrote a blog post provocatively titled “What disturbed me about the Facebook meeting.” It’s a clever headline, because it sets you up to expect a diatribe against the social network. Instead, Beck points the finger at his fellow conservatives for over-reacting to one ex-Facebook contractor’s anonymous allegations. Those allegations, published by the tech blog Gizmodo last week, incited a media frenzy and unleashed a wave of conservative outrage in which Facebook became the latest emblem of the vast liberal media conspiracy. (Here’s a primer on the whole convoluted controversy.)Glenn Beck visited Facebook—and blames conservatives for the controversy that put him there.
Beck came away from the meeting impressed by Zuckerberg—but by his fellow conservatives, not so much. “I looked around the room, I heard the complaints, I listened to the perspectives, and not a single person in the room shared evidence of any wrongdoing,” he writes."
In other Salesforce architecture speculation, see Salesforce Caught Between Two Software Worlds (Fortune on Pat Helland's role and a potential Oracle Database => Postgres port)
"The CEOs comments came in an earnings call that followed the release of Salesforce’s Q1, 2016 results on Wednesday. The company’s shift to AWS from its own data centers appears to represent a major strategic shift from Saleforce, even if it’s not yet complete.Salesforce expands relationship with AWS as it claims “best ever” opening quarter | SiliconANGLE
“We’ve got a great relationship with Amazon; they are a huge user of Salesforce and that certainly has been a huge part this quarter as well. We did a very significant and very large transaction with Amazon, and Jeff Bezos and I have a great meeting of the minds, (on) the future of the cloud. I think that it’s been a great relationship and partnership for us,” said Salesforce President and COO Keith Block when asked about expanding Salesforce’s use of AWS beyond Heroku and its IoT cloud. “We want to continue to grow that and expand that strategically. We are definitely exploring ways so we can use AWS more aggressively with Salesforce.”"
Also see Google’s Making Its Own Chips Now. Time for Intel to Freak Out (Wired)
"Reaching even further, it’s possible that instructions are statically scheduled in the TPU, although this was based on a rather general comment about how static scheduling is more power efficient than dynamic scheduling, which is not really a revelation in any shape or form. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the TPU actually looks an awful lot like a VLIW DSP with support for massive levels of SIMD and some twist to make it easier to program for, especially given recent research papers and industry discussions regarding the power efficiency and potential for DSPs in machine learning applications. Of course, this is also just idle speculation, so it’s entirely possible that I’m completely off the mark here, but it’ll definitely be interesting to see exactly what architecture Google has decided is most suited towards machine learning applications."Google’s Tensor Processing Unit: What We Know
A compelling container case study (via Mary Jo Foley)
"We can't say that the announcement of Google Play on Chrome OS is a surprise. Google first started publicly experimenting with Android apps on Chrome OS in 2014 with ARC, the App Runtime for Chrome. ARC implemented the Android runtime on top of Chrome's "Native Client" extension architecture, and Google worked with some developers to port a handful of Android apps to Chrome OS. Given that the Native Client extension system was designed with portability in mind, ARC ran on every platform that supports Chrome extensions, so this small amount of Android apps could run on Chrome OS, Windows, Mac, and Linux.The Play Store comes to Chrome OS, but not the way we were expecting | Ars Technica
The real shocker here is that this release of Google Play on Chrome OS is not based on ARC. Zelidrag Hornung, the engineering director of Chrome & Android, filled us in on the details: "We have redone this completely differently. There are no connecting points between the two projects (ARC and today's announcement) from an implementation perspective." ARC wasn't good enough, so Google started over from scratch. "With the initial version of ARC, we managed to push things forward, but fundamentally developers still needed to do serious work to their application to make it work in that environment." Hornung told Ars. "With this new model, there is virtually no work that an Android Developer needs to do with their app. They just publish it to the Play Store and it just works.""
More Oracle/Sun history
"Catz testified that, when Sun’s stock slid in the mid-2000s, she began to fret about the fate of Java. Oracle was already using Java to build software and Catz was concerned that, if Sun tanked, Oracle’s go-to programming language would falter.In Oracle’s world, Android is a crime against open source | TechCrunch
“We were concerned [Sun] wouldn’t invest enough, and Java was critical for our product,” Catz said.
So, in order to avoid losing Java to decay or to a competitor, Oracle started trying to buy it. Catz explained that Oracle started small, offering to purchase only Java and some other pieces of Sun’s software business, only to be rebuffed. When it became clear that IBM might buy Sun, hardware and all, Oracle came back to the table with $7.4 billion and beat IBM’s offer of $7 billion to buy the entire company."
Also see Oracle says that it had to give Amazon a 97.5 percent discount just to stay competitive with Google (Business Insider)
""I've already testified that I know the APIs and declarations are in the phones," said Page. "They comprise the Java language."CEO Larry Page defends Google on the stand: “Declaring code is not code” | Ars Technica
"Now tell the jury how much you paid to Oracle for using that," snapped Bicks. "Have you paid anything to Oracle for using that intellectual property?"
"When Sun established Java, they established it as an open source thing," Page said. "I believe the APIs we used were pretty open. No, we didn't pay for the free and open things."
"So you didn't get a license?" Bicks asked.
"I'm not a lawyer," Page said. "I don't know the vagaries of licensing.""
Also see The Google Play store, coming to a Chromebook near you (Chrome Blog), which notes "and in Q1 of this year, Chromebooks topped Macs in overall shipments to become the #2 most popular PC operating system in the US"; also see Empower your workforce with Android apps on Chrome devices
"Android apps like Microsoft Corp.’s Skype video calling service, will now work on Chromebooks, filling several gaps that made the computers less useful in the past.Google’s Android and Chrome Operating Systems Get Closer - Bloomberg
The move is the latest sign that Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., may eventually combine Android and Chrome OS into a single operating system. While the company has said it has no current plans to eliminate Chrome OS, a top Google executive addressed the subject Thursday.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about Android and Chrome OS merging,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, head of Android and Chrome OS at Google. “Our approach is to take the best attributes of each and share them with the other.”"
"You can buy an iPhone as you walk down The Avenue, enjoy a seminar with artists in The Forum, fix your laptop under the trees in the Genius Grove and get some training in The Boardroom. You've been in an Apple Store the whole time.Inside the New Apple Retail Store Design - Bloomberg
When Apple opened its first location 15 years ago, the company pioneered a spare, uncluttered layout—a look quickly copied (with varying degrees of success) by traditional chains. The stores confounded early expectations and helped Apple become one of the most admired consumer brands in history. Now iPhone sales are slowing, and the company is keen to upgrade a shopping experience that has lost some of its original magic."
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Excerpt from a Mary Jo Foley Lumia/Surface reality check
"The one thing I do continue to hear is that Panos Panay, who has headed engineering for all of Microsoft's hardware since July 2015, is pushing ahead with building new phones and other types of new devices.Goodbye, Microsoft Lumia. Hello Surface mobile? | ZDNet
If Nadella and the management team deem any kind of new phone/mobile device line, which will likely be branded as "Surface," as something differentiated enough to help Microsoft sell more software and services, I believe Microsoft will announce that new Surface device family around the spring of 2017. (I say "if" here because Nadella opted to ditch Microsoft's Surface Mini tablet despite having manufactured thousands of them, before they were brought to market because they didn't pass his differentiation test.)"
Final paragraph from an assistant assessment
"I started this piece by saying these home devices will be endpoints but not the endgame. Let me return to that. Yes, these are the newest endpoints in this broader mission of providing intelligent assistants to respond to our needs in a variety of situations. But they won’t be the last – smartwatches obviously have a role here too, but then so do cars, future wearables, and many other devices not yet conceived of. What makes these assistants most useful is they will move through our lives with us on our different devices. That in turn will require either a greater willingness by users to commit to single-vendor device portfolios or by vendors to take their applications cross-platform. History suggests Apple will likely try the former route, while Google and Amazon will probably favor the latter. But this will only get more challenging as the variety of devices on which personal assistants live continues to proliferate."Echo and Home are Endpoints, not the Endgame | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis
Google just showed off an impressive, AI-filled vision of the future — now it needs to ship - Recode
Reflecting big changes in the Googleplex; also see Google just revealed how it plans to win the post-search world (Mashable)
"By previewing these products early, Google is, in a way, boasting about its capabilities. In an odd twist, it's a launch approach that Apple usually takes, not Google. We see what you did with Echo, Amazon. We see what you did with Messenger, Facebook. We can do that better.Google just showed off an impressive, AI-filled vision of the future — now it needs to ship - Recode
Or it's a sign that Google feels it needs to plant its flag in these fields before others run away with the lead. Apple has usually taken the "wait, then perfect" approach to products. But Apple typically ships its products immediately after showing them off.
"We believe the real test is whether humans can achieve a lot more with machine learning assisting them," Pichai said to close out his keynote."
From a chart later in the article: sales and marketing costs as a percentage of revenue in the last 12 months: 19% for Atlassian, 80% for Box
"Atlassian, which makes popular project-management and chat apps such as Jira and HipChat, doesn’t run on sales quotas and end-of-quarter discounts. In fact, its sales team doesn’t pitch products to anyone, because Atlassian doesn’t have a sales team. Initially an anomaly in the world of business software, the Australian company has become a beacon for other businesses counting on word of mouth to build market share. “Customers don’t want to call a salesperson if they don’t have to,” says Scott Farquhar, Atlassian’s co-chief executive officer. “They’d much rather be able to find the answers on the website.”"This $5 Billion Software Company Has No Sales Staff - Bloomberg
Number of Daydream believers tbd; also see What's inside Google's new Daydream virtual reality headset (Recode)
"Google is expanding its virtual reality ambitions with a new system called Daydream, which encompasses a range of VR-capable Android smartphones, a headset design, a controller and applications.Google Expands Virtual Reality Ambition With Headset, Controller - Bloomberg
The Alphabet Inc subsidiary will release Daydream this fall, said Clay Bavor, Google’s vice president of virtual reality, at its I/O developer conference near its Silicon Valley headquarters Wednesday. "Daydream is our platform for high-quality mobile virtual reality," Bavor said."
Denying data-driven democracy
"“Trump is very much a creature of mass media, and his use of Twitter fits that paradigm,” Mr. Issenberg said. “He’s put together as large an audience as possible. He doesn’t distinguish whether these are people who vote or don’t vote, whether they’re in the U.S., whether they’re over 18, and whether they support him or Hillary Clinton. His goal seems to be to produce content there that lands in front of as large an audience as possible.”Twitter, Trump’s Trusty Weapon, Could Backfire - The New York Times
But throwing out content haphazardly is the last thing a campaign should do. “It’s immensely counterproductive for him to put out a get-out-the-vote message in front of a Hillary Clinton supporter,” Mr. Issenberg said."
Driven to extremes
"Do you regularly visit a church, a strip club, or the public library? Drive a truck or lecture at Harvard? Give marketers a list of places you regularly visit, and they can accurately guess what you buy.When the billboard has a brain - The Boston Globe
Your cellphone company has that list, and uses it to deliver targeted cellphone advertising. Make a lot of trips to the library, for instance, and you’ll get pop-up ads for the latest bestsellers.
Now the nation’s largest billboard company, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., is bringing customized pop-up ads to the interstate. Its Radar program, up and running in Boston and 10 other US cities, uses data AT&T Inc. collects on 130 million cellular subscribers, and from two other companies, PlaceIQ Inc. and Placed Inc., which use phone apps to track the comings and goings of millions more."
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Taking cloud platform competition to a new level
"But one thing we know to be true at Google: great software shines brightest with great hardware underneath. That’s why we started a stealthy project at Google several years ago to see what we could accomplish with our own custom accelerators for machine learning applications.Google Cloud Platform Blog: Google supercharges machine learning tasks with TPU custom chip
The result is called a Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), a custom ASIC we built specifically for machine learning — and tailored for TensorFlow. We’ve been running TPUs inside our data centers for more than a year, and have found them to deliver an order of magnitude better-optimized performance per watt for machine learning. This is roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future (three generations of Moore’s Law)."
Nokia announces return to mobile phones and tablets, as Microsoft sells feature-phone unit for $350M | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Paul Sawers
A smoldering platform?... Also see Nokia is coming back to phones and tablets (The Verge)
"Once the deal is complete, around 4,500 employees will “have the opportunity” to join FIH Mobile, or HMD Global. HMD Global was founded out of Finland in 2015, and initially it looked like it was a business vehicle of sorts set up to help facilitate the Microsoft transaction — Finland, if you remember, is home to Nokia, the former mobile phone giant that sold its core hardware assets to Microsoft two years back. But this is where things start to get really interesting, because Nokia has now confirmed that it plans to reenter the mobile phone and tablet realm globally through a “strategic agreement covering branding rights and intellectual property licensing.”"Nokia announces return to mobile phones and tablets, as Microsoft sells feature-phone unit for $350M | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Paul Sawers
"The Google-backed carpool experiment differs significantly from some of the biggest companies in the ride-hailing industry, such as Uber and Lyft, which are explicitly designed to provide drivers with a supplementary source of income. These mainstream companies also tout the work flexibility that their drivers enjoy; whether it's serving weekday commuters or late-night partiers, the contractors can choose to drive during the times that suit them best.This experiment puts Google one step closer to driverless ridesharing - The Washington Post
By contrast, Waze Carpool drivers won't be paid — at least for now — beyond the 54 cents per mile that riders will be charged for gas and other routine expenses. And Waze Carpool will only be available to users twice a day, during the morning and evening rush hours.
Still, the offering represents an important first step by Google into ridesharing, one that sets the stage for a future service that could potentially involve not just human drivers, but self-driving cars."
Tangentially, see Google to Introduce Its Voice-Activated Home Device (NYT)
"Amazon on Tuesday announced that it is adding new features to its voice-activated app, Alexa, as it works with its Fire TV set-top box, empowering the assistant to start videos and search for movies or television shows. You can even look up local restaurants if you need dinner after your binge-watching session ate up your lunch.Amazon’s Fire TV will now listen to more of your commands - The Washington Post
The company said that those features and others, such as being able to have Alexa read you your Kindle e-books through your Fire TV, would launch in the "coming weeks.""
The Oracle/Google saga continues
"Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz put an Old Testament spin on her company’s software copyright battle with Google as she told jurors about an encounter with her adversary’s top lawyer at a bat mitzvah in 2012.Oracle’s Catz Tells Jurors Google Plays by Own Set of Rules - Bloomberg
“You know, Safra,” General Counsel Kent Walker said, according to Catz, “Google is this really special company, and the old rules don’t apply to us.”
“I immediately said, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’” Catz testified Tuesday. “It’s an oldie but goodie.”"
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Chrome hits 60.5% of PC browser share worldwide
"Firefox now has more desktop users than both Microsoft's web browsers combined -- but it's a rivalry that is increasingly irrelevant as Google Chrome has almost twice the share of Firefox and Microsoft together.Firefox’s market share is bigger than that of all Microsoft’s browsers combined | PCWorld
The latest figures from Statcounter show that Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer combined had a 15.5 percent share of worldwide desktop browser usage in April, a decline from 15.8 percent in March.
The effect of Microsoft's new Edge browser is, it seems, marginal, with Windows 10 users apparently preferring other browsers."
Also see Google is still trying to figure out the social Web with this confusing new app (The Washington Post)
"Group sharing isn’t easy. From book clubs to house hunts to weekend trips and more, getting friends into the same app can be challenging. Sharing things typically involves hopping between apps to copy and paste links. Group conversations often don’t stay on topic, and things get lost in endless threads that you can’t easily get back to when you need them.Official Google Blog: Introducing Spaces, a tool for small group sharing
We wanted to build a better group sharing experience, so we made a new app called Spaces that lets people get people together instantly to share around any topic.
With Spaces, it’s simple to find and share articles, videos and images without leaving the app, since Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome come built in."
Also see Berkshire Bought Apple Stock, But Warren Buffett Didn’t (WSJ)
"The Apple investment appears especially curious given that Buffett’s only prior tech investment, IBM, hasn’t fared well so far. The stock’s performance has trailed U.S. markets the past five years.Warren Buffett never liked tech stocks. So why does he own Apple? - The Washington Post
But much has changed since Buffett first invested in household names such as Coca-Cola and Geico. Now Buffett is 85, and his apparent successors at Berkshire Hathaway, Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, wait in the wings. The duo invest independently, so a tech company that makes semiconductors, such as Apple, is fair game.
After the news broke of the investment, Buffett told the Wall Street Journal that either Combs or Weschler made the investment."
Tracking trucking's transformational trajectory
"Otto, led by 15 former Google engineers, including major figures from the search company’s self-driving car and maps projects, is aiming at the long-haul freeway driving that is the bread and butter of the commercial trucking industry.Want to Buy a Self-Driving Car? Trucks May Come First - The New York Times
The engineers think that automating trucks rather than passenger vehicles could be more palatable financially and to regulators. Nationally, trucks drive 5.6 percent of all vehicle miles and are responsible for 9.5 percent of highway fatalities, according to Department of Transportation data."
Monday, May 16, 2016
See Don't laugh: Google's Parsey McParseface is a serious IQ boost for computers (CNet) for some additional context
"At Google, we spend a lot of time thinking about how computer systems can read and understand human language in order to process it in intelligent ways. Today, we are excited to share the fruits of our research with the broader community by releasing SyntaxNet, an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems. Our release includes all the code needed to train new SyntaxNet models on your own data, as well as Parsey McParseface, an English parser that we have trained for you and that you can use to analyze English text.Research Blog: Announcing SyntaxNet: The World’s Most Accurate Parser Goes Open Source
Parsey McParseface is built on powerful machine learning algorithms that learn to analyze the linguistic structure of language, and that can explain the functional role of each word in a given sentence. Because Parsey McParseface is the most accurate such model in the world, we hope that it will be useful to developers and researchers interested in automatic extraction of information, translation, and other core applications of NLU."
See the Project Tango site for more details
"Tango packs cameras and depth sensors along with other software into Android smartphones and tablets. Fire up the application and point the device at a space and it sucks in images and depth information to re-create the environment on the screen and locates itself within that new digital realm.Google Plans to Map the Interior World in 3-D - Bloomberg
Google hopes Tango will support a system for independent developers to create new virtual reality applications and services. Video games could have characters that hide behind real-life furniture. A museum app could show 3-D animations when you walk past an exhibit. A grocery store could highlight sale items and guide shoppers to the right shelf."
Also see Google Chrome is now the undisputed champion of the web browser world (Quartz), which notes "That means Google now controls the internet experience for the majority of internet users—every step of the way."
"It's no secret that Flash is slowly going the way of the dodo, but Google's Chrome will likely accelerate that processes by blocking Flash content on most Internet sites.Google Chrome plans to start blocking Flash, with a few exceptions
Chrome's development team revealed last week a plan to automatically switch Flash content with a HTML5 alternative, if possible. If a site doesn't provide an HTML5 version, the content will be available to users only after they approve it."
Amazon is going to sell its own lines of food, detergent and diapers, and it's going to be a really big deal - Recode
Also see Amazon to Expand Private-Label Offerings—From Food to Diapers (WSJ)
"While some people will point out that so-called "private-labeling" is nothing new — grocery stores and big-box retailers have been increasingly pushing their in-house brands — this is a much bigger deal.Amazon is going to sell its own lines of food, detergent and diapers, and it's going to be a really big deal - Recode
That's because the growth in retail is all going to be online, and Amazon owns online. It already accounts for half of all sales growth in U.S. e-commerce.
So Amazon's move into consumer packaged goods gives it even more opportunity to flex its muscle with suppliers. That means giving its own products better placement on its site, and undercutting competitors on pricing."
We now know who owns the government surveillance SUV disguised as a Google Maps car - The Washington Post
Strange days indeed
"The Philadelphia Police Department, which operates separately from the Pennsylvania State Police, has been using license plate reading technology since 2011. These powerful cameras allow law enforcement to track the whereabouts of any Philadelphia resident without a warrant. This data can be stored up to one year for any citizen and indefinitely for anyone who may be linked to a criminal investigation. The license plate storage program is managed by a separate police task force, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force, whose mission appears to include reducing terrorist threats.We now know who owns the government surveillance SUV disguised as a Google Maps car - The Washington Post
Google has told Motherboard that it is looking into how its stickers got on a city police SUV. Why the Philadelphia Police Department would want to disguise this vehicle when it has been openly collecting license plate information is unknown.
But now, at least, several people are asking that question."
Also see Relaxed rules allow anyone to invest in online startups (Boston Globe)
"Now startups raising money through online crowdfunding portals will be able to sell shares to people regardless of their wealth or income so long as the founders have submitted annual financial reports to the SEC. In exchange, companies can raise up to $1 million.Anyone Can Back a Startup Now. But Good Luck Finding the Next Uber - Bloomberg
The rules, implemented as part of Title III of the JOBS Act, were four years in the making and the result of industry lobbying to make the process more democratic. The big question is how much the change will transform crowdfunding, which has typically rewarded backers with T-shirts, events tickets and early iterations of gadgets."
Sunday, May 15, 2016
"Being able to capture your ideas is a pretty big deal — after all, you never know which one might become the one. But for an idea to really take shape, it often needs context like research, drawings, documents, and photos. Evernote is a popular tool for capturing ideas and, starting today, you can easily drop any file from Google Drive into Evernote notes to add context.Google Drive Blog: Grow your ideas with Evernote and Drive
Instead of pasting links to files, Drive content added to Evernote will now include thumbnail previews and a rich viewing experience. You can also search Drive from Evernote and any changes to files in Drive will sync automatically with your notes. There’s even a handy icon in the Evernote toolbar to jump right into your Drive."
From a Slack snapshot
"Slack’s rise points to three important changes in the workplace. First, people are completing work across different devices from wherever they are, so they need software that can work seamlessly on mobile devices. Messaging naturally lends itself to this format. Second, communication is becoming more open. Just as offices went from closed, hived-off rooms to open-plan, Slack is the virtual equivalent, fostering a collaborative work environment, says Venkatesh Rao of Ribbonfarm, a consultancy. Slack’s default setting is to make conversations public within a firm.The Slack generation | The Economist
Third, software firms are trying to automate functions that used to be done by people in order to make employees more productive. Slack has made a big push into “bots”, algorithms that can automate menial tasks which used to be done by humans. Slack offers bots that compile lunch orders and projects’ progress reports, or generate analytics on demand. In the future employees will be able to chat with software agents to get more done, working alongside bots as well as their peers."
Friday, May 13, 2016
Some reminiscences from the surviving half of an odd couple
"Ellison's idea was to buy Apple and immediately make Jobs CEO. It made sense. Apple was worth only about $5 billion at the time, and, as Ellison said, "We both had really good credit, and I had already arranged to borrow all the money. All Steve had to do was say yes."Larry Ellison talked about a long hike with Steve Jobs in USC's commencement speech - Recode
Jobs proposed what Ellison called "a more circuitous route." He would persuade Apple to acquire Next, and then join Apple's board. "Over time the board would recognize that Steve was the right guy to lead the company." As we all know, that's exactly what happened the following year."
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Also see Stakes Are High in Oracle v. Google, But the Public Has Already Lost Big (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
"Former Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz testified that Sun wanted to attach its Java brand to Android, which is now the world’s most popular mobile-operating system. But Mr. Schwartz said Google pulled out of negotiations because of “a combination of money and technical dependence.…Google didn’t want to rely, as best as I understand, on anyone else.”Trial Focuses on Google’s Past Efforts to License Java Software - WSJ
Andy Rubin, the former head of Android at Google, testified that Sun had reservations about Google’s plan to give Android to phone makers for free. “I think it was a difficult thing we were asking them to do.”"
"The decision is the first time Google has announced a global ban on ads for a broad category of financial products. To this point, the search giant has prohibited ads for largely illicit activities such as selling guns, explosives and drugs, and limited those that are sexually explicit or graphic in nature, for example. Critics of payday lenders say they hope the move by Google and other tech companies might undercut the business which finds huge numbers of willing customers on the internet.Google to ban payday loan advertisements - The Washington Post
The move also shows the willingness of big tech companies to weigh in on critical policy issues -- and exert their power as the gateways for the internet. Facebook also does not display ads for payday loans. But others, such as Yahoo, still do."
A $199 "connected basketball;" check the full article for some other creative innovations
"For those with unfulfilled hoop dreams, the Wilson X Connected basketball was created to help develop shooting skills by tracking shots in real time. The basketball, regulation size and weight, has a durable grip and solid bounce. You don’t notice the small sensor embedded inside that records made and missed shots, gauging your efficiency from different spots on the court.Fitness Trackers Move to Earphones, Socks and Basketballs - The New York Times
The ball works with any regulation 10-foot hoop with a net, but it’s not for layups; shots have to be at least seven feet from the hoop. The ball does not need to be charged, and Wilson says that it will last for up to 100,000 shots, or just under 300 a day for a year. As a bonus, the app has four training games intended to help improve your game under pressure."
Inevitably and disconcertingly
"The Pentagon’s intense interest in A.I. — and by connection the Silicon Valley companies specializing in that technology — has grown out of the “Third Offset” strategy articulated by Mr. Carter last fall. Concerned about the re-emergence of China and Russia as military competitors, he stated that computer-based, high-tech weapons would give the American military an edge in the future.Pentagon Turns to Silicon Valley for Edge in Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times
Third Offset is a reference to two earlier eras when Pentagon planners turned to technology to compensate for a smaller military. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower emphasized nuclear weapons as a deterrence to larger Warsaw Pact armies. A second “offset” occurred in the 1970s and ’80s when military planners turned to improved technology in conventional weapons to again compensate for smaller numbers."
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
CASAHL's take on last week's SharePoint strategy update; see the full post for details
A Refined and Revitalized Role for Modern SharePoint | CASAHL
"This post provides an overview of the new SharePoint strategy and its implications. We’ll start with some context-setting, revisiting some of the reasons many people were, prior to the 5/4 event, wondering if SharePoint had much of a future. Next, we’ll take a big-picture tour of Microsoft’s overall productivity platform plan, with a focus on the role of modern SharePoint within Office 365. Finally, we’ll close with some comments about the ongoing relative roles for the traditional and modern versions of SharePoint, and how the new strategy expands the need for full-spectrum enterprise migration solutions."(Note: I continue to do consulting work for CASAHL and assisted with this post)
A Refined and Revitalized Role for Modern SharePoint | CASAHL
A potentially pivotal publishing permutation
"E-books could become much more dynamic and interactive, though. That's because two groups -- the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) -- are trying to join forces. The first advances and standardizes the technology underpinning the Web; the second the Epub format used to package e-books. In a statement Tuesday, Web creator and W3C leader Tim Berners-Lee said the planned merger would "create a rich media environment for digital publishing."E-books, why so old-fashioned? Here's a Web wakeup call - CNET
The current Epub 3.0 standard already uses Web technologies, but e-books remain a separate domain from the Web. The new Portable Web Publications effort would erase the distinction. That would make it easier to publish a single Web document that's conveniently separated into multiple chapters, lets you flip from page to page, and better handles math formulas in textbooks."
Also see WhatsApp launches native desktop app for Windows and Mac (VentureBeat)
"With the addition of desktop apps, WhatsApp is now available pretty much everywhere: On all major smartphone operating systems (Android, iOS and Windows Phone), through web browsers and now on the most popular desktop operating systems. The desktop software will allow users to message friends sending images, video and audio files, but initially at least, it won't allow for voice calls to be made.WhatsApp Desktop Apps For Mac And Windows Launched To Take On Skype
The only other app with such ubiquity is Skype and with video-calling still not available on WhatsApp, it retains a key appeal for users. However, code within a beta version of its iOS app indicated that video calling is being developed and if this is rolled out to all platforms, it could have a significant impact on Skype's business."
Check this Amazon page for more Amazon Video Direct details
"The new platform places Amazon in direct competition with Google's YouTube, the firm leader in the video upload space that counts 1 billion users. YouTube has its own revenue sharing model for its top creators. Starting in 2007, it launched its Partners Program, which gave popular content creators a cut of the ad revenue earned from views to their pages.Amazon and YouTube get ready to rumble over online video - The Washington Post
But there has been controversy in connection with the cut that YouTube takes, which is 45% of the revenue, and the site does not offer to cover any video creation costs, leading some YouTube creators to speak out about comparatively unfair profits."
Also see Senator Demands Answers From Facebook on Claims of ‘Trending’ List Bias (NYT)
"The question isn’t whether Facebook has outsize power to shape the world — of course it does, and of course you should worry about that power. If it wanted to, Facebook could try to sway elections, favor certain policies, or just make you feel a certain way about the world, as it once proved it could do in an experiment devised to measure how emotions spread online.Facebook’s Bias Is Built-In, and Bears Watching - The New York Times
There is no evidence Facebook is doing anything so alarming now. The danger is nevertheless real. The biggest worry is that Facebook doesn’t seem to recognize its own power, and doesn’t think of itself as a news organization with a well-developed sense of institutional ethics and responsibility, or even a potential for bias. Neither does its audience, which might believe that Facebook is immune to bias because it is run by computers."
A compelling communication/collaboration combination; see the full post and the Quip-Slack Integration Guide for more details; also see Slack wants to help you sign in to all your other office apps (Recode)
"We’re excited to announce that we’ve built a powerful Slack integration that brings Quip’s living documents into your favorite Slack channels. The combo leverages Slack’s chat with Quip’s modern approach to collaborative docs, spreadsheets, and checklists for teams. The result? Happier, more productive teams."Quip - Quip now connects with Slack to help teams kick more butt across the globe
A greenfield opportunity
"HelloMD was able to use its existing technology to make an already-legal process more efficient and discreet. Within six weeks, the revamped HelloMD app was available to Californians. Consumers download it, answer two dozen health questions and spend roughly 20 minutes video chatting with a doctor, who can then recommend various marijuana strains. Customers receive a PDF of the doctor's approval a few minutes later and a laminated card in the mail. The whole process costs $49.Hoping to Avoid Burnout, Some Startups Turn to Pot - Bloomberg
HelloMD is one of a growing cluster of startups pivoting their businesses into the cannabis industry. According to a 2015 estimate by the Marijuana Policy Project, nearly 1.5 million Americans have secured doctor recommendations to use marijuana as medicine."
Write once, sue everywhere; also see Eric Schmidt plays good defense at the Oracle-Google trial (PCWorld)
"Eric E. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, may have unique insight into the multibillion-dollar lawsuit filed against his company by another Silicon Valley heavyweight, Oracle Corporation.Alphabet Chairman Testifies in Oracle Suit Against Google - The New York Times
Mr. Schmidt, in an earlier job, was in charge of the programming language that Oracle claims Google misused years later when it created software called Android, which is now the most popular operating system in the world.
On Tuesday, Mr. Schmidt was the first witness in the latest round of a lawsuit Oracle first filed against Google nearly six years ago."
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Final paragraph from a timely bitcoin reality check
"It is no surprise that bitcoin has found many backers in Silicon Valley; the founders of today’s billion-dollar tech companies often espouse a milder form of the Cypherpunks’ techno-libertarianism. It is most evident in the Silicon Valley fetish for “disruption,” the buzzword that celebrates technological innovation as an end in itself, with little regard for the costs to existing social relations. This ideology has motivated the development of amazing new technologies in the face of legal and economic hurdles, but it is also at the root of Silicon Valley’s widely criticized arrogance. It leads to missteps like Facebook’s ham-fisted, neocolonial “free basics” disaster, and the blinkered view that many tech elites have toward the lack of diversity in their field. Turning away from the question of Nakamoto’s identity is a way to deny the fact that bitcoin, like all technology, is ultimately, imperfectly, human. The world could use this reminder now more than ever."We Need to Know Who Satoshi Nakamoto Is - The New Yorker
Not sure I got the point of this article...
"Reading something on a screen -- as opposed to a printout -- causes people to home in on details and but not broader ideas, according to a new article by Geoff Kaufman. a professor at Carnegie Mellon, and Mary Flanagan, a professor at Dartmouth.Researchers say computer screens change how you think about what you read - The Washington Post
"Digital screens almost seem to create a sort of tunnel vision where you're focusing on just the information you're getting this moment, not the broader context," Kaufman said."
The "Musk Doctrine" seems to be working pretty well at SpaceX...
"Tesla Motors Inc.'s chief executive officer, Elon Musk, is known for making the future come early. Yet somehow he's always running behind schedule. Some would call this a failure of management, but it might just be a business strategy. Call it the Musk Doctrine.Elon Musk's Tesla Strategy: Win Big by Falling Short - Bloomberg
It goes something like this: People do paradigm-shifting work only when they’re under tremendous pressure, so the key is to ensure deadlines are always impossible. This could help explain why Musk has never launched a product on time, yet no one seems able to keep up with him. It drives Wall Street nuts."
"Right-wing persecution" seems to be a meme of the week; also see A Confession of Liberal Intolerance (NYT; be sure to also explore the reader comments)
"Facebook denied the allegations after a backlash — from both conservative and liberal critics — erupted. “It is beyond disturbing to learn that this power is being used to silence viewpoints and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda,” read a statement from the Republican National Committee. “NOT LEANING IN… LEANING LEFT!” blared the top story on The Drudge Report, a widely read website.Conservatives Accuse Facebook of Political Bias - The New York Times
The journalist Glenn Greenwald, hardly a conservative ally, weighed in on Twitter: “Aside from fueling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content.” And Alexander Marlow, the editor in chief of Breitbart News, a conservative-leaning publication, said the report confirmed “what conservatives have long suspected.”"
Increased regulation and/or competition ahead, but probably not soon
"Given the expanding universe of high-quality programming available through the Internet, it may seem surprising that people are sticking with pay TV, but it’s all about costs and benefits. Perhaps the biggest issue is this: Cutting the cord doesn’t save that much money.The myth of TV cord-cutting - The Boston Globe
Even if you drop pay TV, you still need Internet. And guess who provides high-speed Internet? The very same companies offering pay TV subscriptions. That gives them incredible market power, allowing them to adjust prices in a way that limits the benefits of cord-cutting."
Monday, May 09, 2016
Also see Siri-creator shows off first public demo of Viv, ‘the intelligent interface for everything’ (TechCrunch)
"Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer created the artificial intelligence behind Siri, Apple's iconic digital assistant, and one of the first modern apps to capably handle natural language queries on a smartphone. Today the pair showed off their newest creation, Viv, a next generation AI assistant that they have been developing in stealth mode for the last four years. The goal was to create a better version of Siri, one that connected to a multitude of services, instead of routinely shuffling queries off to a basic web search. During a 20-minute demo onstage at Disrupt NYC, Viv flawlessly handled a dozen complex requests, not just in terms of comprehension, but by connecting with third-party merchants to purchase goods and book reservations."The creators of Siri just showed off their next AI assistant, Viv, and it's incredible | The Verge