Friday, September 30, 2016

The Hacking of Yahoo - Schneier on Security

Check the full post for more details and links

"I did a bunch of press interviews after the hack, and repeatedly said that "state-sponsored actor" is often code for "please don't blame us for our shoddy security because it was a really sophisticated attacker and we can't be expected to defend ourselves against that."

Well, it turns out that Yahoo! had shoddy security and it was a bunch of criminals that hacked them. The first story is from the New York Times, and outlines the many ways Yahoo! ignored security issues."
The Hacking of Yahoo - Schneier on Security

Samsung May Have Another Exploding Product Problem - The Atlantic

Stuxnet home edition?...

"Samsung could soon be forced to recall another product that explodes while in use. The South Korean company said Wednesday it is in talks with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) over claims that some of the company’s top-loading washing machines vibrate so vigorously they shake themselves apart and throw plastic and metal pieces into the air.

The company said the affected machines were manufactured between 2011 and 2015, but did not specify the models. The CPSC and Samsung confirmed the they were working together to address the safety concerns in a statement Wednesday."
Samsung May Have Another Exploding Product Problem - The Atlantic

Official Google Cloud Blog: All together now. Introducing G Suite.

See G Suite: intelligent tools designed for teams for more details; also see Google Combines Cloud, Corporate Software Offerings Under Greene (Bloomberg)
"We created Google Apps for Work ten years ago (back when it was Google Apps for Your Domain) to do just that — to help people everywhere work and innovate together, so businesses can move faster and go bigger.
And today, we’re introducing a new name that better reflects this mission: G Suite.
G Suite is a set of intelligent apps—Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Hangouts, and more—designed to bring people together, with real-time collaboration built in from the start. And there’s a lot more on the way. Because we believe that when organizations break down silos, connect people and empower them to work together, we get the speed, agility and impact needed to compete in today’s market."
Official Google Cloud Blog: All together now. Introducing G Suite.

Microsoft Reorganizes Its Research Efforts Around A.I. - The New York Times

At least one example of AI-related job creation

"Microsoft said on Thursday that it was reorganizing part of the company to better position itself as one of the significant players in the emerging field of artificial intelligence.

The company has created a new organization that combines its research group, one of the largest in the technology industry, and a number of products that rely on artificial intelligence, including its Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant. The new artificial intelligence and research group at Microsoft will have more than 5,000 employees."
Microsoft Reorganizes Its Research Efforts Around A.I. - The New York Times

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Amazon’s New TV Streaming Stick Has Echo-Like Voice Controls | TIME

Check this Amazon page for details

"Because the new Fire Stick will include the same Alexa assistant as Amazon’s other hardware, like the Echo, those who own the updated Fire Stick will also be able to check their shopping lists, order a pizza, or summon an Uber ride using their voice. Alexa now supports 3,000 skills, or functions from third-party developers that add to its roster of abilities.

By comparison, Roku’s $49.99 streaming stick doesn’t include voice controls. Apple’s Siri, however, is present on that company’s latest Apple TV, offering playback controls and search functionality by voice, even with third-party apps like Netflix and Hulu. However, Apple’s $149 streaming box is much more expensive than Amazon’s new Fire Stick."
Amazon’s New TV Streaming Stick Has Echo-Like Voice Controls | TIME

Apple to Move London Headquarters to Battersea Power Station - Bloomberg

Locate different

"The consumer electronics and software giant will move 1,400 employees to the development in 2021, according to a statement Wednesday from the project’s developer. The lease accounts for about 40 percent of the office space within the development, which is backed by Sime Darby Bhd, SP Setia Bhd Group and the Employees Provident Fund. The power station gained worldwide renown after being used as the iconic cover illustration for the band Pink Floyd’s platinum 1977 album “Animals.” It was depicted on the cover with a pig floating between two of its four chimneys."
Apple to Move London Headquarters to Battersea Power Station - Bloomberg

Protecting Humans and Jobs From Robots Is 5 Tech Giants’ Goal - The New York Times

Check this page for more details

"Five major technology companies said Wednesday that they had created an organization to set the ground rules for protecting humans — and their jobs — in the face of rapid advances in artificial intelligence.

The Partnership on AI, unites Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft in an effort to ease public fears of machines that are learning to think for themselves and perhaps ease corporate anxiety over the prospect of government regulation of this new technology."
Protecting Humans and Jobs From Robots Is 5 Tech Giants’ Goal - The New York Times

A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer - The New York Times

From a timely Google reality check
"If the Assistant or something like it does not take off, Google’s status as the chief navigator of our digital lives could be superseded by a half-dozen other assistants. You might interact with Alexa in your house, with Siri on your phone, and with Facebook Messenger’s chatbot when you’re out and about. Google’s search engine (not to mention its Android operating system, Chrome, Gmail, Maps and other properties) would remain popular and lucrative, but possibly far less so than they are today.   
That’s the threat. But the Assistant also presents Google with a delicious opportunity. The “Star Trek” computer is no metaphor. The company believes that machine learning has advanced to the point that it is now possible to build a predictive, all-knowing, superhelpful and conversational assistant of the sort that Captain Kirk relied on to navigate the stars."
A High-Stakes Bet: Turning Google Assistant Into a ‘Star Trek’ Computer - The New York Times

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BlackBerry Abandons Its Phone - The New York Times

Disintegration time for BlackBerry

"BlackBerry will no longer make its own smartphones, the product it once defined.

Before being overtaken by iPhones from Apple, BlackBerry’s phones were so popular that they were nicknamed CrackBerry. But the distressed Canadian company’s decision, announced on Wednesday, means that the BlackBerry name will will now be found only on handsets made by a group owned by phone companies in Indonesia, which has licensed the brand."
BlackBerry Abandons Its Phone - The New York Times

Facebook At Work is launching next month | TechCrunch

In other enterprise social news, see Slack: Now with more Salesforce, and vice versa (Slack blog) and Microsoft is killing Yammer Enterprise plan in January 2017, will start integrating Office 365 Groups first (VentureBeat)

"Facebook is ready to make work as addictive as socializing. The company plans to launch its enterprise communication and collaboration network Facebook At Work in the next few weeks on a per seat pricing model, The Information (paywall) first reported and a source close to Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch.

Facebook believes it can keep individual employees engaged with the product, so it’s betting on a pricing plan that charges companies “per monthly active user” instead of charging a flat rate per company, says Facebook @ Work director Julien Codorniou. TechCrunch has learned that Facebook will announce launch integrations or partnerships with other SaaS tool providers including Asana."
Facebook At Work is launching next month | TechCrunch

Aetna to Provide Apple Watch to 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost for Customers - Mac Rumors

See this Aetna news release for details
"Insurance company Aetna today announced a major health initiative centered on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, which will see Aetna subsidizing the cost of the Apple Watch for both large employers and individual customers.

Starting this fall during open enrollment season, Aetna will subsidize "a significant portion" of the Apple Watch cost and will offer monthly payroll deductions to cover the remaining cost.

Aetna also plans to provide Apple Watches at no cost to all of its nearly 50,000 employees as part of a wellness reimbursement program to encourage them to live healthier lives."
Aetna to Provide Apple Watch to 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost for Customers - Mac Rumors

Google's AI translation system is approaching human-level accuracy - The Verge

For an overall Google snapshot, see On its 18th birthday, Google is more indispensable than ever (The Verge)

"In some cases, Google says its GNMT system is even approaching human-level translation accuracy. That near-parity is restricted to transitions between related languages, like from English to Spanish and French. However, Google is eager to gather more data for "notoriously difficult" use cases, all of which will help its system learn and improve over time thanks to machine learning techniques. So starting today, Google is using its GNMT system for 100 percent of Chinese to English machine translations in the Google Translate mobile and web apps, accounting for around 18 million translations per day."
Google's AI translation system is approaching human-level accuracy - The Verge

Big Computer Makers Cozy Up to Microsoft’s Cloud - WSJ

Cloud coopetition

"Cloud computing has thrown computer makers into a forbidding landscape where prospective customers have incentives to rely on external service providers rather than buying hardware. But some have found a key ally in one of the biggest cloud providers, Microsoft Corp.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and Dell Technologies this week are using a Microsoft event in Atlanta to step up their public embrace of the software giant’s Azure cloud service. The collaboration is deeper than their dealings with cloud vendors such as Amazon.com Inc.’s AWS unit, which leads the sector, and Google Inc."
Big Computer Makers Cozy Up to Microsoft’s Cloud - WSJ

Elon Musk’s Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond - The New York Times

Behold the Interplanetary Transport System

"“What you saw there is very close to what we’ll actually build,” Mr. Musk said, referring to the rockets and spacecraft in the video.

Mr. Musk estimated it would cost $10 billion to develop the rocket, and he said the first passengers to Mars could take off as soon as 2024 if the plans went off without a hitch. For now, SpaceX is financing development costs of a few tens of millions of dollars a year, but eventually the company would look to some kind of public-private partnership.

Each of the SpaceX vehicles would take 100 passengers on the journey to Mars, with trips planned every 26 months, when Earth and Mars pass close to each other. Tickets per person might cost $500,000 at first, and drop to about a third of that later on, Mr. Musk said."
Elon Musk’s Plan: Get Humans to Mars, and Beyond - The New York Times

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Andromeda Strain | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Also see Exclusive: Google plans to launch Andromeda on a ‘Nexus’ Huawei tablet, ‘Pixel’ laptop (9to5Google)

"Next week in San Francisco, Google is heavily rumored to announce the release of a new strain of operating system codenamed “Andromeda.” The new OS is expected to combine elements of Chrome with Android. Unlike current efforts to bring support for Android apps into Chrome, however, the new Andromeda OS is expected to bring some of the desktop-like capabilities of Chrome into Android to form a super OS that could work across smartphones, tablets, and notebook-style form factors.
Though details remain sketchy, the new OS is expected to offer true multi-modal windowing, as well as a file system and other typical accoutrements for a desktop-style operating system. In essence, this means that Google’s next OS—expected to be released late this year or sometime next year—will be able to compete directly with Microsoft Windows and MacOS X."
The Andromeda Strain | Tech.pinions - Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Discusses Artificial Intelligence's Impact (Fortune)

Also see Democratizing AI: For every person and every organization (Microsoft News Center)

"“We are not pursuing A.I. to beat humans at games,” said Nadella, taking a subtle hit at competitors like Google and IBM, whose A.I. technologies got some attention for beating humans at the ancient Chinese board game Go and on the game show Jeopardy.

Microsoft’s overarching goal is to “democratize A.I.,” which Nadella explained has something to do with analyzing the mountains of data produced by consumers and businesses and then presenting the findings to people who have far less free time than they used to have."
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Discusses Artificial Intelligence's Impact

Microsoft Joins Adobe to Compete With Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg

For some SharePoint-related Ignite highlights, see SharePoint innovations further advance intelligence and collaboration in Office 365 (Office Blogs)

"Microsoft Corp. is joining with Adobe Systems Inc. to offer cloud-based products to their large mutual customer base, helping the software giant to better compete with leading cloud contender Amazon.com Inc.
With the partnership, Adobe will bring its creative marketing software programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing service, the companies said in a statement Monday. At the same time, Microsoft will make Adobe’s marketing programs the favored choice for its internet-based software that manages customer relationships."
Microsoft Joins Adobe to Compete With Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg

More Than 50% of Shoppers Turn First to Amazon in Product Search - Bloomberg

One-stop shopping

"Fifty-five percent of those surveyed go to Amazon first when searching for products, an increase from 44 percent a year earlier, according to a Labor Day weekend poll of 2,000 people released by the Internet marketing firm BloomReach Inc. The second annual survey showed search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, and retailers losing ground to Amazon. Search engines were the starting point for 28 percent of those surveyed, declining from 34 percent a year earlier. Specific retailers were the starting point for 16 percent, down from 21 percent.
“Amazon has become the reference point for shoppers,” said Jason Seeba, head of marketing for BloomReach. “Shoppers will go to Amazon first to find a product and check prices.”"
More Than 50% of Shoppers Turn First to Amazon in Product Search - Bloomberg

Monday, September 26, 2016

Snapchat’s camcorder goggles are creepy cool and kind of brilliant - Recode

Tbd if the project will prove ephemeral

"“It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said in the Wall Street Journal magazine feature unveiling the gadget, describing a vacation he took with his fiancĂ©e. “It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

Whether or not these Spectacles popularize circular footage the way Snapchat did for vertical video, it’s an audacious new project for Spiegel and Snapchat, which he has renamed Snap Inc. — “a camera company.”

That’s in part because the last big camera-goggles launch, Google Glass, went about as poorly as possible."
Snapchat’s camcorder goggles are creepy cool and kind of brilliant - Recode

Twitter's Buyers Would Get Valuable Data and a Long To-Do List - Bloomberg

Check the full article for more on Twitter's trials and tribulations

"While it remains a destination for conversation among influential people, Twitter would be tough to digest. Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Jack Dorsey has another CEO job at Square Inc. and may not come along with an acquisition. The company put him in charge last year, after an extensive search that sparked executive departures. More strategic changes could mean more valuable employees leaving. Twitter’s product team has gone through at least five heads in six years.
Then there’s the lack of growth -- the reason the company is said to be considering a sale in the first place. Twitter’s user base has stagnated in the U.S. for six straight quarters. Advertisers aren’t spending as much as expected, mostly because they can’t justify buying more ads if the audience isn’t growing. “Twitter’s value proposition to advertisers could be waning,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney wrote, after surveying advertisers recently."
Twitter's Buyers Would Get Valuable Data and a Long To-Do List - Bloomberg

What if ‘One Click’ Buying Were Internetwide? - The New York Times

Pay different

"But the bigger goal behind the W3C project is to create a standard, seamless and secure way to pay for things electronically in a future that will most likely include virtual reality stores, chat-based transactions and machines making payments to other machines (an autonomous car paying for a parking spot, for instance).

The standard will also make it easy to include new payment methods like Bitcoin or the Chinese payment provider Tencent.

“This involves quite radical changes to the way people think about payments,” said Ian Jacobs, the W3C staff member leading the effort. “As a standards body it is our job to be sure it is an open playing field.”"
What if ‘One Click’ Buying Were Internetwide? - The New York Times

Friday, September 23, 2016

Twitter Is Said to Be Discussing a Possible Takeover - The New York Times

Stock up ~21% today

"The social network site Twitter is talking with Salesforce.com, Google and others over a possible takeover of the company, people briefed on the discussions said on Friday.

The discussions are in the early stages, these people said, and there is no guarantee that a deal will be reached.

At the same time, Twitter is weighing a possible revamping of the company that could involve divestitures and layoffs. The company is working with the investment banks Goldman Sachs and Allen & Company on its options."
Twitter Is Said to Be Discussing a Possible Takeover - The New York Times

A Tale of Two SharePoint Platforms: Compelling Content and Collaboration Capabilities in Office 365 | CASAHL

Some timely SharePoint perspectives, heading into Ignite 2016 next week; check the full post for a detailed review of SharePoint in transition

"Microsoft is making significant enhancements to content and collaboration capabilities in modern SharePoint, placing SharePoint Online at the center of its Office 365 content/collaboration value proposition. This post provides an overview of the new capabilities, contrasting them with earlier content/collaboration features in traditional SharePoint (primarily on-premises SharePoint Server). The new capabilities and underlying architecture in modern SharePoint are sufficiently advanced, relative to traditional SharePoint, that it’s not a stretch to think of them as two different (and complementary) SharePoint platforms, sharing a common brand name and some integration options but otherwise designed to address two different eras of enterprise content/collaboration requirements."
A Tale of Two SharePoint Platforms: Compelling Content and Collaboration Capabilities in Office 365 | CASAHL

This chatbot makes voter registration as easy as sending a text - Recode

Also see Save the Day
"Typically, voter registration campaigns involve volunteers going door to door or waiting outside shops with clipboards in hand, begging bystanders to complete legal-sized sheets of paperwork with the promise of getting more paperwork in the mail.

It’s time for an upgrade, which is why the tech-savvy activists at the nonprofit Fight for the Future are rolling out a new chatbot today to handle the voter registration process.

Called Hello.Vote, it works with regular SMS texts, as well as Facebook Messenger, to ask a few quick questions and get you on your way to fulfilling your civic duty."
This chatbot makes voter registration as easy as sending a text - Recode

Amazon’s stock price has soared past $800 for the first time - Recode

Tangentially, see Audiobooks Turn More Readers Into Listeners as E-Books Slip (NYT)

"Amazon has posted record profits for three straight quarters. Now it has a record stock price to go with it.

The company’s shares shot across $800 for the first time ever on Thursday morning. The company’s $386 billion market cap is the fourth largest in the world, behind only Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft."
Amazon’s stock price has soared past $800 for the first time - Recode

LinkedIn wants to be fun - The Washington Post

For more details, see Accelerating LinkedIn's Vision Through Innovation (LinkedIn blog)

"Roughly 105 million people visit LinkedIn every month, compared to Twitter’s 313 million monthly active users and Facebook’s massive 1.7 billion audience. Many LinkedIn visitors use the site to make a connection with other professionals, but they don’t linger as they do on Facebook, getting absorbed in stories and news.

The new features are not only intended to boost “stickiness” — the amount of time people linger and click within a site — but to turn LinkedIn into a hub of economic opportunity, said LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner at an event at the company’s San Francisco offices on Thursday. It will be a hotspot for useful conversations that helps users become more savvy at work and improve their job prospects."
LinkedIn wants to be fun - The Washington Post

Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014 - The New York Times

Also see How to Protect Yourself After the Yahoo Attack (NYT) and How Many Times Has Your Personal Information Been Exposed to Hackers? (NYT)

"Yahoo announced on Thursday that the account information of at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network.

In a statement, Yahoo said user information — including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions — was compromised in 2014 by what it believed was a “state-sponsored actor.”"
Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014 - The New York Times

Microsoft adds more firepower to its HoloLens team | ZDNet

Meanwhile, in Facebook's VR zone, see Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine (The Daily Beast) and Palmer Luckey is funding Donald Trump's internet trolls with his Oculus money (The Verge)
"Microsoft is adding some new key members to its HoloLens/mixed-reality team.

Microsoft Principal Researcher Jamie Shotton announced on Twitter on Sept. 22 that he is joining the HoloLens team and working on a new Cambridge UK computer vision research team "to help make the best #MixedReality platform even more amazing".
Shotton has been leading the Machine Intelligence and Perception group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, according to his MSR biography. His research has been focused "at the intersection of computer vision, AI, machine learning and graphics, with particular emphasis on systems that allow people to interact naturally with computers"."
Microsoft adds more firepower to its HoloLens team | ZDNet

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Oracle’s Cloudy Future – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Excerpt from a long-term Oracle perspective; tangentially, see Microsoft Azure Germany now available via first-of-its-kind cloud for Europe (Azure blog)
"Ellison, meanwhile, got up on stage at the company OpenWorld conference this week and declared that “Amazon’s lead is over” when it comes to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, all because Oracle’s top-of-the-line server instance was faster and cheaper than Amazon. Well sure, but hierarchical databases were faster than relational databases too; speed isn’t everything, nor is price. Optionality and scalability matter just as much as they always have, and in this case Oracle’s quite basic offering isn’t remotely competitive.

Ellison’s statement is even more ridiculous when you look at the number that really matters when it comes to cloud services: capital expenditures. Over the last twelve months Oracle has totaled $1.04 billion in capital expenditures; Amazon spent $3.36 billion in the last quarter, and $10.9 billion in the last twelve months. Infrastructure-as-a-Service is not something you build-to-order; it’s the fact that the infrastructure and all the attendant services that rest on top of that infrastructure are already built that makes AWS’s offering so alluring. Oracle is not only not catching up, they are falling further behind."
Oracle’s Cloudy Future – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Elon Musk's Mars colonization plans: what we know so far - The Verge

Time to learn more about BFR and BFS
"In less than a week, SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk will finally explain how he plans to colonize Mars within the next few decades. It’s a goal that he has adamantly championed for years, though he hasn’t given many specifics about it. That will change on September 27th, when Musk is expected to talk about the vehicles and technologies needed to bring people to the Red Planet, and then build a long-term settlement there.
For many, the lecture is long overdue. Musk has been very vocal about his desire to put people on Mars, arguing that it’s necessary for human survival. "I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen," Elon told Aeon Magazine in 2014."
Elon Musk's Mars colonization plans: what we know so far - The Verge

Apple targets historic Carnegie Library for downtown flagship store - The Washington Post

Retail different

"They said the proposed store was reminiscent of the location Apple opened in May on San Francisco’s Union Square, which in addition to the company’s products includes a plaza with outdoor seating, public Wi-Fi and events space where the company hosts concerts, forums and children’s events.

In entering top cities recently, Apple has also eschewed glass-box designs for locations retrofitted into prominent, historic buildings including in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, on Regent Street in London and in a 130-year-old former bank in Paris.

“We have a deep commitment to the cities we work in, and are aware of the importance that architecture plays in the community,” said Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, in announcing the San Francisco store. “It all starts with the storefront — taking transparency to a whole new level — where the building blends the inside and the outside, breaking down barriers and making it more egalitarian and accessible.”"
Apple targets historic Carnegie Library for downtown flagship store - The Washington Post

The Chevy Bolt aims to dethrone Tesla. Here are our first impressions. - The Washington Post

Also see How Did G.M. Create Tesla’s Dream Car First? (NYT)

"Tesla and Chevrolet are locked in a fierce battle for consumers who've never considered an electric vehicle before. Previous generations of EVs lacked range and performance, but both companies say their forthcoming vehicles will be capable of going more than 200 miles on a single charge. Even though EVs account for 1 percent or less of new vehicle sales, automakers like Tesla and Chevy are hoping the arrival of a car that can go toe-to-toe with gas guzzlers will change that equation.

I had an opportunity to test-drive the Chevy Bolt on Tuesday. Chevrolet this week confirmed the price of the Bolt at $37,495 — officially making it one of the most affordable electric cars around in a nod to the mainstream consumer. As we glided through the morning rush hour in Washington, one thing immediately became clear: Chevy has taken everything it has learned in its 104-year-old history and carefully broken with a few of the industry's long-standing conventions. (Its rival, the Model 3, isn't yet available, so its performance remains a mystery for now.)"
The Chevy Bolt aims to dethrone Tesla. Here are our first impressions. - The Washington Post

Apple Is Said to Be Talking to Vehicle Technology Companies - The New York Times

More Project Titan rumors; also see McLaren or not, Apple needs a carmaker partner (Recode)
"The tech giant has been talking with McLaren, the automaker known for its Formula One racecars, about an investment in the company, according to two people briefed on the talks who asked to remain anonymous because the discussions were confidential.

Apple is also in talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Apple has already hired several former Lit Motors engineers."
Apple Is Said to Be Talking to Vehicle Technology Companies - The New York Times

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Larry Ellison says Amazon is '20 years behind' Oracle | Computerworld

I look forward to Amazon's response to Oracle's latest assertions; also see Why Oracle won't beat Amazon (InfoWorld)
""Amazon Web Services are simply not optimized for the Oracle Database. I'll go further than that: Amazon Web Services aren't optimized for their own databases either, as you will see," he said, while displaying a set of benchmarks that showed Oracle Database performing several times faster on Oracle's cloud than it does on Amazon's cloud. "It doesn't get better, it gets worse."
Ellison ripped into AWS, accusing the cloud provider of being 20 years behind on releasing features for its Redshift and Aurora database services compared to Oracle Database. It was part of his pitch to customers to move their workloads into Oracle's public cloud offering, rather than go with Amazon for similar services."
Larry Ellison says Amazon is '20 years behind' Oracle | Computerworld

Facebook, Google, other tech giants answer Obama's refugee plea - CNET

Later in the article: "For these companies to put themselves out there on behalf of the most vulnerable citizens in the world," Obama said, is an "extraordinary gesture of compassion."

"The US tech industry is stepping up in the global refugee crisis.

Tech leaders are among 51 companies "investing, donating, or raising" more than $650 million for the education, training and employment of 6.3 million refugees in 20 countries.

Microsoft, TripAdvisor, HP and Google will help more than 80,000 children in refugee camps get an education, President Barack Obama said Tuesday at the Leaders Summit on Refugees at the United Nations."
Facebook, Google, other tech giants answer Obama's refugee plea - CNET

Comcast will launch a cellphone service next year, executives say - The Washington Post

A tangled wireless web...

"When there's no Comcast WiFi to be found, devices on Comcast Wireless will seamlessly jump onto Verizon's cellular network to stay connected. Comcast will not be the first to try this hybrid cellular-WiFi network, but it will probably be among the largest. And combined with Comcast's existing advantages in size and scope, Comcast Wireless could be priced to compete in an already cutthroat industry.

But why would Verizon allow Comcast — which has 28 million customers — to benefit by using its network? Well, the two companies struck a deal in 2011 that had Comcast giving up some valuable airwaves that Verizon could use to expand its cellular capacity. In exchange, Verizon agreed to grant Comcast the right to set up its carrier that would piggyback on Verizon's infrastructure at agreed-upon rates."
Comcast will launch a cellphone service next year, executives say - The Washington Post

Google Shows Up Late in Crowded AI-Based Digital-Assistant Field - Bloomberg

Also see Allo’s Tryout: 5 Days With Google’s Annoying Office Intern (NYT) and Google has rejoined the messaging wars with its artificially intelligent app, Allo (Recode)
"Google is adjusting to a new world in which people interact more often with smartphones and other devices and appliances linked to the internet than with personal computers, and are increasingly speaking to these smaller gadgets instead of typing in commands. There are hundreds of Googlers working on the Assistant, according to one person familiar with the team, and it represents one of the biggest bets by Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai since he took the helm of Google from co-founder Larry Page last year.
Google thrived in the PC era by creating a search engine that became the main access point for information on the web. Relevant ads and billions of dollars in profit followed. The mobile revolution has offered opportunities for rivals to challenge that role. Amazon.com Inc.’s digital assistant, Alexa, was rolled out in 2014 and is already handling verbal orders and other requests from millions of users of its Echo in-home device. Apple Inc.’s Siri, introduced in 2011, interacts billions of times a year with people speaking into their iPhones. Microsoft Corp. has added its Cortana digital assistant to Windows, and Facebook Inc.’s Messenger mobile app is building a digital nest for AI-powered assistants."
Google Shows Up Late in Crowded AI-Based Digital-Assistant Field - Bloomberg

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New York Times and Jigsaw Partner to Scale Moderation Platform – Jigsaw – Medium

For more on Jigsaw, see Inside Google's Internet Justice League and Its AI-Powered War on Trolls (Wired)
"Today, we are excited to announce that Jigsaw is investing in new research collaborations with The New York Times and the Wikimedia Foundation to explore how communities and publishers can use open source resources like TensorFlow to improve their online discussions. Together, we will be creating new open source datasets, machine learning models, and community tools to help improve conversations at scale. This research initiative called “Conversation AI” was created jointly by Jigsaw and Google’s counter-abuse technology team.
Currently The New York Times manually reviews every comment that is submitted, which means that someone literally reads each submission in real-time to make sure a wide range of opinions is represented and that the discussion remains civil. As a result, The Times has incredibly high quality comments, but even with a team of full-time 24/7 moderators, their labor-intensive process means they can only allow comments for about 10% of their articles each day."
NEW YORK TIMES AND JIGSAW PARTNER TO SCALE MODERATION PLATFORM – Jigsaw – Medium

Official Google Blog: See more, plan less – try Google Trips

Also see Google Trips is a killer travel app for the modern tourist (The Verge)

"Whether you’re juggling work, school, family, or just the demands of daily life, everyone needs a little break and a new adventure sometimes.
But knowing what to do once your vacation starts can turn what’s supposed to be fun into a lot of work. You might get recommendations from friends, professional travel guides, or online reviews — but figuring out how to squeeze everything you want to do into a finite window of time can be stressful, especially when you’re in a new place, often with limited access to the web. In fact, a GoodThink study showed that 74% of travelers feel the most stressful aspect of travel is figuring out the details.
We wanted to reduce the hassle and help travelers enjoy their hard-earned vacations. So today, we’re introducing a new mobile app to help you instantly plan each day of your trip with just a few taps of your finger: Google Trips."
Official Google Blog: See more, plan less – try Google Trips

Google acquires API.AI to build conversational interfaces | ZDNet

Also see Making Conversational Interfaces Easier to Build (Google Developers Blog) and API.AI is joining Google! (api.ai blog)

"Google on Monday said that it's acquiring the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup API.AI, continuing its investment in machine learning technologies that enable natural language interfaces. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"API.AI has a proven track record for helping developers design, build and continuously improve their conversational interfaces," wrote Google Vice President of Engineering Scott Huffman in a blog post. More than 60,000 developers are using API.AI to build conversational experiences for Slack, Facebook Messenger, Kik, and other environments, he noted.

API.AI also created Assistant, its own leading conversational assistant app with more than 20 million users."
Google acquires API.AI to build conversational interfaces | ZDNet

Barack Obama: Self-driving, yes, but also safe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On a related note, see The Third Transportation Revolution (by Lyft co-founder John Zimmer)

"Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice. Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives.

Safer, more accessible driving. Less congested, less polluted roads. That’s what harnessing technology for good can look like. But we have to get it right. Americans deserve to know they’ll be safe today even as we develop and deploy the technologies of tomorrow.

That’s why my administration is rolling out new rules of the road for automated vehicles – guidance that the manufacturers developing self-driving cars should follow to keep us safe. And we’re asking them to sign a 15-point safety checklist showing not just the government, but every interested American, how they’re doing it."
Barack Obama: Self-driving, yes, but also safe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Spotify, Apple Drive U.S. Music Industry’s 8% First-Half Growth - Bloomberg

Check the full article for a stark sales chart by format

"After almost two decades of relentless decline caused by piracy and falling prices, the music business is enjoying a fragile recovery thanks to the growth of paid streaming services like Spotify Ltd. and Apple Music.
Retail spending on recorded music grew 8.1 percent to $3.4 billion in the first half of 2016, according to a draft midyear report from the Recording Industry Association of America that was obtained by Bloomberg News. That means the U.S. industry is on pace to expand for the second straight year -- the first back-to-back growth since 1998-1999."
Spotify, Apple Drive U.S. Music Industry’s 8% First-Half Growth - Bloomberg

Google to Hold Oct. 4 Event to Unveil New Smartphones, Hardware - Bloomberg

Also see Google confirms October 4th event—prepare for Pixel phones (Ars Technica)

"Google sent invitations for an event in San Francisco on Oct. 4 where the web company is expected to introduce new smartphones and home-automation hardware, along with other new product upgrades.
The text of the letter, which includes the phrase "Ok Google, add to calendar," suggests a bigger role for the Google Now voice assistant. The invitation also features an animated graphic showing a search bar that morphs into the shape of a smartphone."
Google to Hold Oct. 4 Event to Unveil New Smartphones, Hardware - Bloomberg

Cellphone Alerts Used in New York to Search for Bombing Suspect - The New York Times

A mobile media milestone

"For what is believed to be the first time, the nation’s Wireless Emergency Alerts system was deployed as an electronic wanted poster, identifying a 28-year-old man sought in connection with the bombings in Manhattan and New Jersey over the weekend.

Suddenly, from commuter trains to the sidewalks of the city, millions were enlisted in the manhunt.

The message was simple: “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

In an instant, the reach and ubiquity of law enforcement in an age of terrorism and digital technology became apparent."
Cellphone Alerts Used in New York to Search for Bombing Suspect - The New York Times

Amazon hiring for bookstore in Dedham, expanding its storefront experiments - The Boston Globe

Apparently not in a hurry with its retail store strategy at this point; tangentially, see As Amazon Arrives, the Campus Bookstore Is a Books Store No More (NYT)
"Job postings on its corporate website show that Amazon is hiring for nearly 20 positions at a new bookstore at the Legacy Place mall in Dedham. Those workers, Amazon notes, “are in the unique position of being face-to-face with our customers.”

The new Massachusetts location would join three other Amazon Books outlets: one in its hometown of Seattle, another in San Diego, and a third planned for Portland, Ore. Media reports have also indicated that Amazon may open bookstores in Chicago and New York."
Amazon hiring for bookstore in Dedham, expanding its storefront experiments - The Boston Globe

Monday, September 19, 2016

The iPhone's new chip should worry Intel - The Verge

Later in the article: "By straying into the performance waters previously reserved for Intel’s laptop CPUs, Apple is teasing us with the question of why not inject the A10 (or its successors) into actual laptops?"

"Now, before you accuse me of being high on my own metaphorical supply, I’m not saying that Intel will be crippled or surpassed anytime soon. But I am arguing that the chip giant is under a substantial threat, the likes of which it hasn’t faced for a long time, maybe ever. A quick look at the Geekbench scores attained by the iPhone 7 quantifies a staggering achievement: the single-core performance of Apple’s latest generation of smartphone processors has basically caught up with Intel’s laptops CPUs. The A10 chip inside the iPhone 7 comfortably outpaces its predecessors and Android rivals, and even outdoes a wide catalog of relatively recent Mac computers (including the not-so-recent Mac Pro). The iPhone’s notoriously hard to benchmark against anything else and this is just one metric, but it’s illustrative of Apple’s accelerating momentum and mobile focus."
The iPhone's new chip should worry Intel - The Verge

Oracle’s Ellison Takes Shot at Amazon With New Cloud Services - Bloomberg

Also see Oracle CEO Larry Ellison Talks A Big Game Against Amazon Web Services (Fortune)

"Oracle Corp. unveiled new services that help customers take advantage of cloud computing as the company takes more direct aim at rival Amazon.com Inc.
The company announced “Cloud@Customer,” which takes the latest gear from its own data centers and puts that hardware on customer data centers, Executive Chairman Larry Ellison said Sunday during a presentation at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. Customers won’t need to buy the technology -- and can instead subscribe to the service on a monthly basis, just like they would do if they were buying from a distant data center. He also announced what he said were more powerful products at a lower cost than Amazon, the leading public cloud provider and the company’s No. 1 competitor in infrastructure.
“Amazon’s lead is over,” Ellison said during the presentation. “Amazon’s going to have serious competition.”"
Oracle’s Ellison Takes Shot at Amazon With New Cloud Services - Bloomberg

Artificial Intelligence Software Is Booming. But Why Now? - The New York Times

Later in the article: "“No one really knows where the value is,” said Marc Benioff, co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce. “I think I know — it’s in helping people do the things that people are good at, and turning more things over to machines.”"

"This is the year artificial intelligence came into its own for mainstream businesses, at least as a marketing feature.

On Sunday, Salesforce.com, which sells online software for sales and marketing, announced it would be adding A.I. to its products. Its system, called Einstein, promises to provide insights into what sales leads to follow and what products to make next.

Salesforce chose this date to pre-empt Oracle, the world’s largest business software company, which on Sunday evening began its annual customer event in San Francisco. High on Oracle’s list of new features: real-time analysis of enormous amounts of data. Oracle calls its product Oracle A.I."
Artificial Intelligence Software Is Booming. But Why Now? - The New York Times

Twitter in retweet | The Economist

Excerpt from a stark Twitter reality check

"But Twitter’s share price has fallen by half since Mr Dorsey returned, to around $18. And the reasons to be pessimistic are multiplying. The first problem is Mr Dorsey himself. Considering the firm’s challenges, it needs a full-time boss if it is to have any hope of rebounding. Yet Mr Dorsey continues to split his time between Twitter and Square, another public company he co-founded which manages financial payments (and which has also struggled of late). Far more of his net worth is tied to Square’s performance than to Twitter’s. Having a boss who shows up part-time affects morale at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, say people there. Because he is often working at Square, many managers arrive late, depart early and generally show up just to “punch the time card”, says one former senior executive who has sold all of his shares."
Twitter in retweet | The Economist

Three-hit wonder | The Economist

From a brief Medium overview
"Mr Williams’s latest venture, Medium, which launched in 2012, is a clean, elegant-looking destination for essays, open letters and “big think” pieces. It is trying to become the central hub for writing by the public at large, as YouTube is for amateur videos. Journalists, business executives and heads of state, including Barack Obama, have all published on Medium. When Amazon disagreed with a New York Times article on the e-commerce giant’s apparently brutal work culture, a senior executive from the firm wrote a long retort on Medium. Small papers and digital-media firms, such as the Pacific Standard and The Ringer, are using it to publish content.
 As in Hollywood, it is easier to sell a sequel in Silicon Valley. In 1999 Mr Williams co-founded Blogger. The startup helped popularise the concept of blogging and the word itself by making it simple for people to post their musings without needing to code. After Google bought the company in 2003, Mr Williams worked on a podcasting firm called Odeo that ended up launching a text-messaging service, which became Twitter. “Anyone who has changed the world twice, I would bet on a third time,” says Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at City University of New York."
Three-hit wonder | The Economist

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tesla Wins Utility Contract to Supply Grid-Scale Battery Storage After Porter Ranch Gas Leak - Bloomberg

The energy company that also makes cars

"Tesla just won a bid to supply grid-scale power in Southern California to help prevent electricity shortages following the biggest natural gas leak in U.S. history. The Powerpacks, worth tens of millions of dollars, will be operational in record time—by the end of this year.
Tesla Motors Inc. will supply 20 megawatts (80 mWh) of energy storage to Southern California Edison as part of a wider effort to prevent blackouts by replacing fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries. Tesla's contribution is enough to power about 2,500 homes for a full day, the company said in a blog post on Thursday. But the real significance of the deal is the speed with which lithium-ion battery packs are being deployed."
Tesla Wins Utility Contract to Supply Grid-Scale Battery Storage After Porter Ranch Gas Leak - Bloomberg

iPhone Fever Sets Up Apple’s Biggest Weekly Gain in Years - Bloomberg

A strong leading indicator...

"Apple Inc.’s shares are poised for their first weekly gain of 10 percent or more since 2013 as the company gets ready to start selling its newest smartphones, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The stock reached a high for the year on Thursday, adding to gains on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A double-digit percentage advance for the week would be the 10th since the iPhone was introduced in January 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."
iPhone Fever Sets Up Apple’s Biggest Weekly Gain in Years - Bloomberg

Ted Cruz Fights Internet Directory’s Transfer; Techies Say He Just Doesn’t Get It - The New York Times

Back to his day job...

"“Imagine an internet run like many Middle Eastern countries, that punish what they deem to be blasphemy,” Mr. Cruz warned in a Senate hearing he led earlier this week. “Or imagine an internet run like China or Russia, that punish and incarcerate those that engage in political dissent.”

Technologists and administration officials say Mr. Cruz simply does not understand how the web operates. The government’s current job of domain name administrator is largely clerical and cannot influence editorial decisions on the web, they say.

“It sounds like a fairy tale to anyone who understands how the internet works,” said Andrew Sullivan, chair of the Internet Architecture Board, a nonprofit group of network engineers and tech firms such as Google and Cisco."
Ted Cruz Fights Internet Directory’s Transfer; Techies Say He Just Doesn’t Get It - The New York Times

Review: ‘Snowden,’ Oliver Stone’s Restrained Portrait of a Whistle-Blower - The New York Times

Final paragraph:

"At times, I found myself wishing that it would go further — that it would feel angrier, crazier, more frightening. But that would have made it easier to shake, and perhaps also to dismiss. This movie won’t necessarily dazzle or enrage you, and I’m not sure that it wants to. What it wants — what Mr. Snowden himself always claims to have wanted — is to bother you, to fill you with doubt about the good intentions of those who gather your data and tell you it’s for your own protection."
Review: ‘Snowden,’ Oliver Stone’s Restrained Portrait of a Whistle-Blower - The New York Times

Thursday, September 15, 2016

These Microsoft veterans are on their way out | ZDNet

Among the recent exits: Bill Laing, Rick Rashid, Chuck Thacker, and Dave Campbell

"A few long-time Microsoft managers are on their way out, with some retiring and some hinting they're moving on to new things. Here are five of the most prominent."
These Microsoft veterans are on their way out | ZDNet

Google sees Evernote as an 'innovation partner' as note-taking service moves to search giant's cloud - GeekWire

A noteworthy win for Google Cloud Platform; see Evernote’s Future Is in the Cloud (Evernote blog) for more details; in other Evernote news, see Exclusive: Phil Libin and Max Levchin Leaving Evernote Board (Fortune)

"Google plans to be an “innovation partner” with Evernote, the popular note-taking and productivity service that today said it will move from its own servers to Google’s cloud, said Diane Greene, senior VP of Google Cloud Platform, in an onstage interview.

“At an engagement, when we can get our engineers together, they see we’ve got everything they need,” Greene said at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco. “The security of Evernote’s data is paramount, and we worked to show them how they can rely on us.” Evernote, with 200 million users and five billion notes, was founded eight years ago, when there was no public cloud, Greene observed. “Now they’ll be able innovate faster in their business, with us innovating for them on the back end.”"
Google sees Evernote as an 'innovation partner' as note-taking service moves to search giant's cloud - GeekWire

'Edward Snowden did this country a great service. Let him come home' | US news | The Guardian

Snowden week continues

"Writing in the Guardian, the runner-up in the race to become Democratic presidential candidate argues that Snowden helped to educate the American public about how the NSA violated the constitutional rights of citizens with its mass surveillance program. Sanders argues that there should be some form of resolution that would acknowledge both the “troubling revelations” that he had brought to light and the crime that he committed in doing so, that would “spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile”.

Sanders joins 20 other prominent public figures – from Hollywood actors and rock musicians to politicians, professors and Black Lives Matter activists – who call on Barack Obama to find some way of allowing Snowden to return home to the US from exile in Russia. The Guardian’s voices are raised in the week that Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, is released in the US and that a coalition of groups including the ACLU and Amnesty International launch a new campaign for a presidential pardon before Obama steps down."
'Edward Snowden did this country a great service. Let him come home' | US news | The Guardian

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Edward Snowden makes 'moral' case for presidential pardon | US news | The Guardian

Oliver Stone may help build support for his case

"Edward Snowden has set out the case for Barack Obama granting him a pardon before the US president leaves office in January, arguing that the disclosure of the scale of surveillance by US and British intelligence agencies was not only morally right but had left citizens better off.

The US whistleblower’s comments, made in an interview with the Guardian, came as supporters, including his US lawyer, stepped up a campaign for a presidential pardon. Snowden is wanted in the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act and faces at least 30 years in jail."
Edward Snowden makes 'moral' case for presidential pardon | US news | The Guardian

Mossberg: Choosing the iPhone 7 is tougher than in the past - Recode

Final paragraphs from a Walt Mossberg review; also see iPhone 7 and 7 Plus review: Great annual upgrades with one major catch (Ars Technica)
"The iPhone remains an outstanding smartphone, and this latest model makes it even better in many ways. And, unlike rival Samsung, Apple isn’t beset with the very serious problem of exploding batteries. But the whole audio jack thing makes choosing the iPhone 7 more difficult than it might have been.

You won’t go wrong buying the iPhone 7 if you can tolerate the earbud issue, especially if you’re on an installment plan like Apple’s that just gets you a new iPhone every year. You could get the iPhone 7 and then the big redesign next year, as long as you keep paying the monthly fee.

But despite the undisputed improvements, this new iPhone just isn’t as compelling an upgrade as many of its predecessors. Some might want to wait a year for the next really big thing — and maybe a better audio solution to boot."
Mossberg: Choosing the iPhone 7 is tougher than in the past - Recode

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HP Inc. to Buy Samsung Electronics’ Printer Business - The New York Times

Seeking to revitalize the dead-tree part of the IT industry

"HP Inc. said on Monday that it had agreed to acquire Samsung Electronics Company’s printer business in a deal valued at $1.05 billion.

The deal, HP said, would position it to disrupt and reinvent the $55 billion copier industry by mounting a push to replace office copy machines with multifunction printers.

The company said the sector required innovation, describing copiers as “outdated, complicated machines with dozens of replaceable parts requiring inefficient service and maintenance agreements.”"
HP Inc. to Buy Samsung Electronics’ Printer Business - The New York Times

Apple Offers Free App to Teach Children Coding (iPads Sold Separately) - The New York Times

A Swift move for education

"Apple’s app, called Swift Playgrounds, introduces basic computer programming concepts, like sequencing logic, by asking students to use word commands to move cartoon avatars through a fanciful, animated world. Unlike some children’s apps, which employ drag-and-drop blocks to teach coding, the Apple program uses Swift, a professional programming language that the company introduced in 2014.

“When you learn to code with Swift Playgrounds, you are learning the same language used by professional developers,” Brian Croll, Apple’s vice president of product marketing, said in a telephone interview. “It’s easy to take the next step and learn to write a real app.”"
Apple Offers Free App to Teach Children Coding (iPads Sold Separately) - The New York Times

Meet New Glenn, the Blue Origin Rocket That May Someday Take You to Space - The New York Times

A new chapter in the Bezos/Musk space race

"Blue Origin, the secretive space company created by Jeffrey P. Bezos, offered a look at its newest rocket design on Monday — and, by extension, its ambitions to make space travel more frequent and inexpensive.

Both the rocket and the ambitions appear to be big.

The rockets, named New Glenn after John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, are almost as large as the Saturn V rocket that NASA used from 1966 to 1973, before rockets started being built smaller. The two-stage version that could venture to low-Earth orbit will be 270 feet tall, and the three-stage version, which could fly outside Earth’s orbit, will be 313 feet tall. Both will be 23 feet in diameter, packing seven BE-4 engines, which are developed by Blue Origin, and lifting off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust."
Meet New Glenn, the Blue Origin Rocket That May Someday Take You to Space - The New York Times

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Apple dream car might not happen - Recode

More "Project Titan" speculation

"“Dozens of employees” in Apple’s car project “have departed in recent weeks,” the FT reports. The company has had more than 1,000 people working on its so-called “Project Titan,” but “it has struggled to make progress,” according to the New York Times, noting that a series of layoffs was part of a “reboot.”

Under its new boss, returning veteran Apple executive Bob Mansfield, the project has shifted “from an emphasis on designing and producing an automobile to building out the underlying technology for an autonomous vehicle,” the NYT’s Daisuke Wakabayashi and Brian X. Chen report."
The Apple dream car might not happen - Recode

The Extraordinary Link Between Deep Neural Networks and the Nature of the Universe (Technology Review)

Check the full article for details

"But there is a problem. There is no mathematical reason why networks arranged in layers should be so good at these challenges. Mathematicians are flummoxed. Despite the huge success of deep neural networks, nobody is quite sure how they achieve their success.

Today that changes thanks to the work of Henry Lin at Harvard University and Max Tegmark at MIT. These guys say the reason why mathematicians have been so embarrassed is that the answer depends on the nature of the universe. In other words, the answer lies in the regime of physics rather than mathematics."
The Extraordinary Link Between Deep Neural Networks and the Nature of the Universe

Elon Musk says rocket explosion is the most “difficult and complex” failure SpaceX has ever had - The Washington Post

The SpaceX explosion mystery continues

"The spectacular explosion of a SpaceX rocket turned into a full-blown mystery Friday after Elon Musk took to Twitter to say the company is so baffled about what happened it needs help from the public.

There was a mysterious bang of unknown origin seconds before ignition, he noted. There was no apparent source of heat that could have ignited the blast, he said. And then he refused to rule out the rampant Internet speculation that something--a drone? UFO?--may have crashed into the rocket, fueling rumors of sabotage. He did, however, seem to rule out alien involvement."
Elon Musk says rocket explosion is the most “difficult and complex” failure SpaceX has ever had - The Washington Post

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Apple takes on Google & Microsoft with iWork real-time collaboration | TechCrunch

Free "for qualifying devices with initial activation on or after September 1, 2013" (see this Apple page for more iWork details)

"Announced at Apple’s event today, the company takes on Google Documents with real-time collaboration on iWork documents. The long-awaited feature makes it easier to cooperate and create documents on the fly.

With the newest generation iWork apps, Users can collaborate on images, text and everything else across the iWork suite, including on the Mac, iPad, iPhone and on the web. All the iWork apps – Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Aimed at students, professional setting and other collaborative efforts, it’s a long overdue addition to Apple’s productivity suite."
Apple takes on Google & Microsoft with iWork real-time collaboration | TechCrunch

Google is teaming up with cloud company Box to sell more Google apps for work - Recode

A busy week for the Box partnership and PR teams

"The search giant is partnering with Box, the cloud storage company, to deliver more of Google’s apps to paying business clients. The companies announced the tie-up at the BoxWorks event on Wednesday.

Box customers will get easier access to Google Docs and its other apps. That’s good news for Google amid its attempt to compete in this market with Microsoft and Salesforce, which recently bought Google Docs competitor Quip.

Google and Box will also, per a press release, “work together to develop and deliver next-generation intelligence to Box users searching for content on Google Springboard” — Google’s new search-like function for all its enterprise apps."
Google is teaming up with cloud company Box to sell more Google apps for work - Recode

Apple’s AirPods do use Bluetooth and they don’t require an iPhone 7 - Recode

Check this Apple page for more details

"It turns out Apple isn’t using some Bluetooth-like wireless technology, as rumors suggested, but rather Bluetooth itself.

The company has added some special software sauce to enable the earbuds to automatically pair with a phone and stay connected. It then takes things a step further and also registers the earbuds over iCloud with iPads, Apple Watches and Macs. (All need to be running the latest operating system.)

Apple has also crammed two microphones inside, as well as accelerometers to detect when the earphones are in. If both are in and you pull one out, the music or movie you are listening to pauses. Pop it back in and the audio resumes."
Apple’s AirPods do use Bluetooth and they don’t require an iPhone 7 - Recode

I played around with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; here’s what it was like - The Washington Post

For another perspective on Apple's new products, see What’s Really Missing From the New iPhone: Dazzle (NYT); evidently 40% faster processing, 50% faster graphics performance, a 25% brighter display, a new 12MP camera, the best battery life of any iPhone, and more, all with no price increase, just doesn't cut it for some reviewers
"Overall, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, even at first blush, are wonderful phones. The upgrades here may not be exciting, but they are practical. Waterproofing, additional storage and small design changes fix long-held consumer gripes. Nothing really moves Apple any further away from its competition, but these designs do strengthen the weak points that have been raised about the iPhone in the past.

If you're coming to the phone from the iPhone 6 generation, this should feel like a pretty substantial upgrade — even if it is an iterative improvement on an iterative improvement.

So, at the end of the day, these seem like the best iPhones that Apple has introduced, as the company claimed. The question here will be whether the iPhone experience — even an excellent one — is still enough to draw customers in droves."
I played around with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; here’s what it was like - The Washington Post

Dell Gets Bigger and Hewlett Packard Gets Smaller in Separate Deals - The New York Times

Cloudy days ahead for enterprise IT vendors; tangentially, see TPG to Buy Intel’s McAfee Security Unit in $4.2 Billion Deal (Bloomberg)
"On Wednesday, Mr. Dell, who 32 years ago started a personal computer business from his college dorm room, officially completed his giant $67 billion merger with EMC, a data storage company with interests in software and security. He also changed the name of his operation to Dell Technologies.

Later in the day, Ms. Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, announced a sale of most of her company’s software assets to a British outfit called Micro Focus for about $8.8 billion. H.P.E. also announced higher earnings in the company’s most recent quarter, but a decline in revenue from the same period a year ago."
Dell Gets Bigger and Hewlett Packard Gets Smaller in Separate Deals - The New York Times

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

HP Opens Pre-Orders for HP Elite x3 with Some Extra Perks - WinBuzzer

Boldly upstaging today's iPhone 7 launch...

"Though Microsoft pushed the Elite x3’s ship date back to September 23rd, the HP has begun accepting pre-orders for the device. The US store listing now displays a “Pre-order Now” message, and will start on September 7th.

The flagship phone will set users back $799, but includes a Desk dock and few other perks. US customers will get up to $40 off select Bose speakers, and the HP OfficeJet 4650 for $29.99.Other than that the listing doesn’t differ from the one on the Microsoft Store, but customers will likely want to get their hands on the device as early as possible."
HP Opens Pre-Orders for HP Elite x3 with Some Extra Perks - WinBuzzer

Google wants you to buy clothes straight from search results | The Verge

No longer just browsing...

"Google is launching a new advertising program called Shop the Look that will let you search for specific outfits and receive photos and purchase links right from the results page. The company is starting out by partnering with sites like Polyvore and LiketoKnow.it, which are Pinterest-like networks that help fashion bloggers make money off social media posts. That way, Google is able to pull in photos and affiliate links when people search for items like "summer dress." The program is part of Google’s overall shopping ad product, so down the line big-name retailers may be able to sell clothes using the tool as well.

Shop the Look is part of the company’s ongoing efforts to make its search engine more powerful and useful, in hopes users won’t spend their time in mobile apps instead. Because as more users access the internet via smartphones running apps, Google’s influence has been diluted alongside the mobile web’s. Why go fire up Google Chrome when you follow your favorite designers or clothing brands on Instagram, or have a curated list of popular Pinterest boards to choose from?"
Google wants you to buy clothes straight from search results | The Verge

Box Banks on New Product Built With IBM to Reach More Business Customers - Bloomberg

Later in the article: "'About 150 percent of our customers' have told Box they need this sort of software, Levie said."

"Called Box Relay, the product lets customers build processes and invite workers and outside partners to participate. They can review, edit, upload and reject needed documents and receive alerts to keep up to date on progress. It relies on workflow software from Box partner International Business Machines Corp. 
Currently companies use a variety of programs for this kind of collaborative effort, from older, complex products like Microsoft Corp.'s SharePoint and EMC Corp.'s Documentum to spreadsheets and e-mails that aren't meant for managing workflow. Box wants to create a more general-purpose tool that can handle processes that require lots of documents that are often stored in dozens of applications. The cloud file-sharing and synchronization company is trying to add paying customers to reach profitability after going public in January 2015."
Box Banks on New Product Built With IBM to Reach More Business Customers - Bloomberg

Exclusive: Microsoft working on Skype Teams, its own Slack competitor - MSPoweruser

Tbd who's sorrier to see this development -- Slack or the Microsoft Yammer team
"Skype Teams is going to be Microsoft’s take on messaging apps for teams. Skype Teams will include a lot of similar features which you’ll find on Slack. For example, Skype Teams will allow you to chat in different groups within a team, also known as “channels”. Additionally, users will be able to talk to each other via Direct Messages on Skype Teams.

Skype Teams will also feature Threaded Conversations, which is a major feature that’s lacking on Slack. With Threaded Conversations, you can simply reply to a message on a channel by clicking on the reply button and anyone else can join the thread whenever they want — just like Facebook Comments, or Disqus Comments."
Exclusive: Microsoft working on Skype Teams, its own Slack competitor - MSPoweruser

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Apple Music for Android Surpasses 10 Million Downloads - Mac Rumors

tbd if/when other Apple apps will follow

"Apple Music expanded to Android in November 2015, around four months after the streaming music service debuted on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The app, which is no longer in beta as of August, has a similar design and features as its iOS counterpart, including the same three-month trial and prices.

Apple's streaming music service had 15 million paying subscribers as of WWDC 2016 in June. Industry leader Spotify, by comparison, had 30 million paying subscribers at around the same time period. On iOS 10, Apple has completely revamped the app with improved organization and a new design centered upon bold, large text."
Apple Music for Android Surpasses 10 Million Downloads - Mac Rumors

Will the New Apple iPhone Have a Headphone Jack? Rumormongers Say It Won’t - The New York Times

Only two days until the industry can shift its focus to iPhone 8 speculation...

"Anyone who cares enough about the iPhone to know that a new model is being released this month already knows what it is supposed to be like: a little thinner, a little faster and equipped with superior cameras on the Plus model.

By far the most controversial feature, however, is the one that will be missing: a headphone jack. A standard element of technology that can be traced back to 1878 and the invention of the manual telephone exchange, the jack is apparently going the way of the floppy disk and the folding map. The future will be wireless."
Will the New Apple iPhone Have a Headphone Jack? Rumormongers Say It Won’t - The New York Times

Friday, September 02, 2016

How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone - The New York Times

Reminder for Apple customers: now would be a good time to update your iOS/Mac OS devices, if you haven't done so this week

"The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group’s corporate mission statement is “Make the world a safe place.”

Ten people familiar with the company’s sales, who refused to be identified, said that the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to. An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export license.

But critics note that the company’s spyware has also been used to track journalists and human rights activists."
How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone - The New York Times

Exclusive: HP Enterprise in talks to sell software unit to Thoma Bravo - sources | Reuters

Expected to fetch between $8B and $10B

"HPE's software unit generated $3.6 billion in net revenue in 2015, down from $3.9 billion in 2014. The company has said revenue growth in its software unit has been challenged by a market shift toward cloud subscription offerings.

HPE acquired part of its software portfolio as a result of its ill-fated $10.3 billion acquisition of Autonomy Corp in 2011 and the $4.5 billion acquisition of Mercury Interactive in 2006.

The software assets also include Vertica, a big data analytics platform, ArcSight, a cyber security firm as well as products for IT operations management."
Exclusive: HP Enterprise in talks to sell software unit to Thoma Bravo - sources | Reuters

Samsung is recalling all Galaxy Note 7 phablets globally after identifying battery flaw - Recode

Also see Samsung to Recall 2.5 Million Smartphones Over Battery Issue (NYT)

"Samsung said Friday that it will replace all of the Galaxy Note 7 phablets it has sold amid reports some batteries on the phones have exploded.

In what could be the most major smartphone recall ever, Samsung said it will replace all devices in the coming weeks. The company said it has confirmed an issue with the battery cells used in the phone and has halted sales globally.

“Because our customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note 7,” Samsung said in a statement to Recode. “For customers who already have Galaxy Note 7 devices, we will voluntarily replace their current device with a new one over the coming weeks.”"
Samsung is recalling all Galaxy Note 7 phablets globally after identifying battery flaw - Recode

Alphabet Ends Effort to Create Modular Smartphone - The New York Times

In other Google phone speculation, see Google's Nexus phone successors may be called Pixel and Pixel XL (The Verge); tangentially, see Motorola’s modular phone concept just got even more fun, but remains a tough sell (Recode)
"The idea of a customizable phone generated a lot of excitement, because it offered the promise of extending a product’s life with replaceable parts such as a new screen or battery. But it proved difficult to execute and move beyond prototypes. Google had planned to begin offering the phone in a test program in Puerto Rico last year, but it canceled the rollout.

The project also suffered from some organizational upheaval. It was part of Google Advanced Technology and Projects, known internally as ATAP, a group headed by Regina Dugan, the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Ms. Dugan left Google to spearhead a similar group at Facebook."
Alphabet Ends Effort to Create Modular Smartphone - The New York Times

Elon Musk and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good $779 Million Day - Bloomberg

Not a great September for Elon Musk thus far

"Elon Musk has a lot riding on his plan to merge Tesla Motors Inc. with SolarCity Corp. -- including a big chunk of his $8.3 billion fortune.
He may be better off just giving up on the debt-ridden solar-panel installer and focusing on turning Tesla into a profitable enterprise. But Musk has a long history of throwing his money after his grand visions, like weaning the world off fossil fuels and colonizing Mars, sometimes running very low on cash and coming close, by his own admission, to personal bankruptcy."
Elon Musk and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good $779 Million Day - Bloomberg

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Visio updates—advanced design collaboration, data-linked diagrams and cross-platform coverage - Office Blogs

See the full post for more details including early releases of Visio Online and Visio on iPad

"The Visio team is committed to empowering individuals to create anything visually, teams to collaborate throughout the processes, and organizations to effectively communicate one version of the truth. The three scenarios in today’s Microsoft Mechanics demo highlight Visio’s enhancements as a collaboration platform.

For example, with the improved AutoCAD import, architects, engineers and the operations team can now work together on advanced design originating from AutoCAD 2013 files. Teams can also use Office 365 collaboration features and tools, such as inking and Skype for Business. With one-step data linking, end users and IT professionals can quickly bring their diagrams to life. This helps make sure data-linked diagrams are always up-to-date. You can also surface operational insights on top of real-world processes and plans—enabling your organization to get insights in more intuitive ways. You will be able to leverage these capabilities through the Visio Pro for Office 365 subscription. Give us your feedback and vote for upcoming features in UserVoice."
Visio updates—advanced design collaboration, data-linked diagrams and cross-platform coverage - Office Blogs

Lenovo’s new Yoga Book is a 360 degree laptop without the keyboard | Ars Technica

Likely to draw attention; also see Rewriting the Tablet (The Verge) and Lenovo's press release

"Microsoft's Courier was supposed to be an electronic journal or diary, a piece of hardware purpose-built for applications like OneNote. Two screens with a hinge between them, it opened and closed like a book, supporting both touch and stylus input on both its screens. Lenovo's new Yoga Book looks like a riff on the Courier combined with the company's successful range of 360 degree hinge Yoga-branded laptops.

Like a Yoga machine, it's a more or less clamshell form factor that can be opened right up to turn it into a tablet of sorts. Like Courier, it's got book-like styling with both halves approximately the same size for a symmetrical look. And like the Courier, it's designed for mixed touch and pen input. But it has a twist. A normal laptop has a screen and a keyboard. Courier has a screen and another screen. The Yoga Book does neither of these things; it has a conventional touch screen paired with a special touch input surface designed for a stylus, dubbed the Create Pad."
Lenovo’s new Yoga Book is a 360 degree laptop without the keyboard | Ars Technica

Mossberg: The post-Jobs Apple has soared financially, but lacks a breakthrough product - Recode

Also see After Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO, he was still working on an Apple TV set (Recode)

"With iPhone and company sales falling in recent quarters, and likely to do so again, Apple needs the all-new product breakthrough that has eluded Cook — sooner rather than later. The company is seriously working on augmented reality, though I don’t know details. Like everyone else, it’s toiling away on artificial intelligence and machine learning, though it’s focused more on building smarts into individual devices rather than in the cloud, like most of its competition. And it continues to work on automotive technology, though it isn’t clear whether that means an entire car.

But all of those potential payoffs are a ways off. Right now, Apple just needs an exciting new iPhone. After I saw Samsung’s gorgeous new Galaxy S7 in March, I wrote a column calling for the next iPhone to be “spectacular.” Based on rumors, that much oomph may not be in the offing until 2017."
Mossberg: The post-Jobs Apple has soared financially, but lacks a breakthrough product - Recode

How Tech Giants Are Devising Real Ethics for Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times

Collaborating to avoid business-unfavorable AI regulation, among other concerns; tangentially, also see New Center for Human-Compatible AI (Future of Life Institute news)
"For years, science-fiction moviemakers have been making us fear the bad things that artificially intelligent machines might do to their human creators. But for the next decade or two, our biggest concern is more likely to be that robots will take away our jobs or bump into us on the highway.

Now five of the world’s largest tech companies are trying to create a standard of ethics around the creation of artificial intelligence. While science fiction has focused on the existential threat of A.I. to humans, researchers at Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and those from Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have been meeting to discuss more tangible issues, such as the impact of A.I. on jobs, transportation and even warfare."
How Tech Giants Are Devising Real Ethics for Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times