Monday, October 31, 2016

You can watch Leonardo DiCaprio's climate change documentary right here (Mashable)

On a related note, We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution (NYT)

"In Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio travels around the globe to explore the effects of global warming as well as possible solutions.

The 95-minute movie is free on a bunch of platforms from Oct. 30 through Nov. 6, including including Facebook, Hulu and, yes, YouTube (see above) [here]. 

The wide distribution on one of the most popular free video platforms in YouTube may be an attempt to bolster views ahead of the United States presidential election on Nov. 8."
You can watch Leonardo DiCaprio's climate change documentary right here

Vertical limit | The Economist

Check the full article for a long-term oligopoly case study
"There are two reasons why trustbusters should now take a tougher line. First, the telecoms industry is already a rent-seekers’ paradise. Americans pay at least 50% more for mobile and broadband service than people in other rich countries. For each dollar invested in infrastructure and spectrum, American operators make 28 cents of operating profit a year, compared with 18 cents for European firms. That reflects the lack of competition. AT&T and Verizon control 70% of the mobile market, and are the only firms that reach 90% or more of Americans with high-speed services. Half of the population has no choice of fixed-broadband supplier. The lack of downstream competition in pipes could distort competition in upstream content.

[...]
A second concern is that AT&T-Time Warner would have vast political and lobbying power, allowing it to bend rules over time, including any antitrust remedies that it agreed with regulators. It would capture 28% of the media-and-telecoms industry’s pre-tax profits and 2% of all corporate profits, making it America’s third-biggest domestic firm. Media and telecoms regulation is already intensely political, and AT&T today is no shrinking violet, being a vocal opponent of net neutrality, the rules that ensure that all online traffic is treated equally."
Vertical limit | The Economist

Tesla unveils its solar roof and Powerwall 2 (The Verge)

Unveiled on the Desperate Housewives set

"At Universal Studios in Los Angeles tonight, Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed off the company's solar roof-top panels, a new $5,500 Powerwall 2 high-capacity residential battery pack, and the Powerpack 2 for businesses.

Musk and company have been teasing these photovoltaic cell-embedded rooftop panels for a few weeks. The event was probably timed as an grand explanation for why it's important that the automaker acquire Solar City. Musk said that if the merger doesn't go through, the launch of the new tiles will be difficult."
Tesla unveils its solar roof and Powerwall 2

Microsoft CEO Envisions a Whole New Reality - WSJ

Final paragraphs from a Satya Nadella interview

"Similarly, if you say, “Well, what if AI can be applied not just to replace humans or to augment humans, but to help humans enjoy life?” One of the projects which was very stunning to me was, we took all of Rembrandt’s works, I think he has around 160,000 or so fragments, analyzed them and then had the machine create the next masterpiece.

Now, you could say, “Well, that is saying that you’re going to replace one of the greatest Dutch masters.” No, that is not the idea. The idea was to be able to say, “Can you inspire a new generation of artists by being able to bring someone from the past alive again?” So that’s another way of thinking about AI.

You can see the impact of AI through this lens of augmenting human capability, human enjoyment, human creativity. That’s the lens through which we’ll look at it."
Microsoft CEO Envisions a Whole New Reality - WSJ

Publishers Are Rethinking Those ‘Around the Web’ Ads - The New York Times

Tangentially, on my recommended-reading list: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu

"Usually grouped together under a label like “Promoted Stories” or “Around the Web,” these links are often advertisements dressed up to look like stories people might want to read. They have long provided much-needed revenue for publishers and given a wide range of advertisers a relatively affordable way to reach large and often premium audiences.

But now, some publishers are wondering about the effect these so-called content ads may be having on their brands and readers. This month, these ads stopped appearing on Slate. And The New Yorker, which restricted placement of such ads to its humor articles, recently removed them from its website altogether."
Publishers Are Rethinking Those ‘Around the Web’ Ads - The New York Times

Friday, October 28, 2016

Google beats Wall Street expectations with $22.45B in revenue, ad value still in decline (TechCrunch)

A strong quarter for the world's second-most-valuable company; the other part of the digital advertising duopoly (Facebook) reports next Weds

"Alphabet’s strategy of trying to stuff the difference between declining mobile advertising value with additional clicks appears to still be paying off as the company once again showed Wall Street that it can make a ton of money and continue to grow.

Alphabet (we’re just gonna call it what it is because we’re talking about the core business: Google) reported earnings of $9.06 per share on revenue of $22.4 billion. That’s another 20 percent gain compared to the same quarter a year ago. Wall Street was looking for earnings of $8.64 per share on revenue of $22.05 billion."
Google beats Wall Street expectations with $22.45B in revenue, ad value still in decline

AWS reports $3.2 billion in revenue in Q3 2016, up 55% over last year | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Jordan Novet

For an overall Amazon quarterly review, see Amazon Comes Up Short on Profits, Focusing on Warehouses and Movies (NYT)

"Ecommerce company Amazon.com today said that its Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud computing infrastructure division generated $3.23 billion in revenue in the third quarter of the year. That means revenue was up 54.9 percent year over year.

AWS produced $861 million in operating income for the quarter, according to today’s earnings statement. The business unit had $2.21 billion in operating expenses.

For its most recent four quarters, AWS has now fetched $11.08 billion in revenue for Amazon."
AWS reports $3.2 billion in revenue in Q3 2016, up 55% over last year | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Jordan Novet

Apple Increases Prices of Macs in U.K. by 20 Percent - Bloomberg

For another Brexit bump, see Microsoft to hike UK enterprise prices after Brexit pounds sterling (TechCrunch)

"Apple Inc. quietly raised the cost of some of its products in Britain by 20 percent, the latest blow to U.K. consumers after the decision to leave the European Union sent the pound sliding.
The computer-maker overnight began charging 2,999 pounds ($3,650) for its “Mac Pro” desktop machine, up from 2,499 pounds earlier in the week. The “Mac Mini” now retails at 479 pounds compared to 399 pounds."
Apple Increases Prices of Macs in U.K. by 20 Percent - Bloomberg

LG's latest 5K screen is Apple's new flagship display (Engadget)

Evidently Apple plans to stay out of the display business

"If you're eyeballing Apple's new MacBook Pro line, but you need even more screen real estate than 15 inches of Retina display -- LG has already got you covered. Taking the place of Apple's own, discontinued Thunderbolt Display, the LG 27-inch UltraFine 5K and 21.5-inch UltraFine 4K displays are stepping up as the new go-to companions for the MacBook Pro's sharp new screen and limited port variety.

The biggest selling point for both models is the ability to charge your new MagSafe-less laptop over the same Thunderbolt 3 connection that delivers video, audio and data. That, plus the three USB-C ports on the back led Phil Schiller to describe them as "the ultimate docking station" during today's presentation."
LG's latest 5K screen is Apple's new flagship display

Broadband Providers Will Need Permission to Collect Private Data - The New York Times

Your next broadband service renewal contract will probably require a bit more scrutiny to avoid inadvertently opting in

"Federal officials approved broad new privacy rules on Thursday that prevent companies like AT&T and Comcast from collecting and giving out digital information about individuals — such as the websites they visited and the apps they used — in a move that creates landmark protections for internet users.

By a 3-to-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission clearly took the side of consumers. The new rules require broadband providers to obtain permission from subscribers to gather and give out data on their web browsing, app use, location and financial information. Currently, broadband providers can track users unless those individuals tell them to stop."
Broadband Providers Will Need Permission to Collect Private Data - The New York Times

More Wretched News for Newspapers as Advertising Woes Drive Anxiety - The New York Times

Tangentially, see Twitter Has an Old Media Problem. Here’s a Solution. (NYT)

"With print advertising continuing to drop precipitously, you would be hard-pressed to find a newsroom devoid of uncertainty anywhere in the country. Companies like Gannett have recently announced layoffs, and its stock price has plunged during a monthslong pursuit of the company that owns The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. The New York Times recently went through buyouts and has acknowledged that its newsroom will get even smaller next year. And for journalists at The Wall Street Journal, anxiety in the last several weeks has been especially pronounced.

Numerous Journal employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared endangering their jobs, said in interviews and conversations that they have received few specifics from management about the size and scope of the coming cuts. Mr. Baker said in one of his memos last week that changes to the print newspaper would “involve some consolidation of sections of the paper and the teams that produce it.” The employees said that the staff is now openly speculating about the potential for once-prized sections, including Greater New York and Personal Journal, to be folded or significantly reduced. Separately, employees have been working without a union contract since Oct. 1, and negotiations with the company are ongoing."
More Wretched News for Newspapers as Advertising Woes Drive Anxiety - The New York Times

Twitter will revamp safety regulations after election (Slate)

For a timely case study on why this is needed, see Trolls for Trump (The New Yorker)

"Twitter says it will be making some meaningful changes to its safety policy in order to clean up its notoriously toxic atmosphere and crack down on “targeted behavior that harasses or threatens others to silence another person’s voice.”

This is a good move for the beleaguered social media platform, which has found itself home to some of the nastiest trolls on the internet. But Twitter says the changes won’t go into effect until after the election, and considering much of Twitter’s most hateful rancor is politically motivated, this timing seems suboptimal."
Twitter will revamp safety regulations after election.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Microsoft Finally Explains Its VR Strategy - Thurrott.com

With virtual availability details

"Microsoft’s new VR strategy appears to put the coming VR headsets—which will come from PC maker partners like Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, and ASUS—in the same basic sweet spot as the PSVR. That is, they will be capable devices with immersive experiences, though they will be tethered to, and require, a PC. The good news? That PC could cost as little as $500, a far cry from the $1500 or more for an Oculus PC. And the headsets will cost as little as $300.

For Microsoft’s part, it is doing what it always does: Supplying the platform bits needed in Windows to drive these solutions. These will apparently come as part of Windows Holographic, from what I can tell. But they will arrive with the Windows 10 Creators Update, regardless. So we’re looking at Spring 2017 for the software. It’s not year clear what the schedule is for the hardware, but that would of course by the earliest time."
Microsoft Finally Explains Its VR Strategy - Thurrott.com

Hobbyist hackers probably caused Friday’s Internet meltdown, researchers say - The Washington Post

Also see Dyn DNS DDoS likely the work of script kiddies, says FlashPoint (TechCrunch)

"Some have worried that the massive cyberattack that disrupted the Internet on Friday was the work of Russian government-backed hackers, politically motivated hacktivists or sophisticated cybercriminals. But researchers at cyber-intelligence firm Flashpoint say the Internet meltdown may have been carried out by amateurs who haunt a popular hacking forum.

Flashpoint helped Web service provider Dyn determine that hacked Internet-connected devices were involved in the attack. If Flashpoint is right, the attack shows that even hobbyists can cripple the Internet's fragile infrastructure. When asked about Flashpoint's research, Dyn pointed to a blog post on its site Wednesday that said it's “collaborating in an ongoing criminal investigation of the attack and will not speculate regarding the motivation or the identity of the attackers.”"
Hobbyist hackers probably caused Friday’s Internet meltdown, researchers say - The Washington Post

Twitter’s ‘Firehose’ of Tweets Is Incredibly Valuable—and Just as Dangerous - Bloomberg

Troubling Twitter trends

"But if Twitter provides a rare outlet for criticism of repressive regimes, it’s also useful to those regimes for tracking down and punishing critics. In September 2012 a Saudi Twitter user named Bader Thawab was arrested for tweeting “down with the House of Saud.” In March 2014 an eight-year prison sentence was upheld for a Saudi man who’d mocked the king and religious officials on Twitter and YouTube. The following May, a Saudi man in a wheelchair named Dolan bin Bakheet was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 100 lashes for using Twitter to complain about his medical care. In all, there have been dozens of Twitter-related prosecutions in Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch.

Twitter is still popular in the kingdom—the service has added 200,000 active users there since 2014, according to the Arab Social Media Report—but it no longer hosts much dissent. Activists are careful to tweet in coded language, if they tweet at all. “People don’t openly discuss important things on Twitter anymore,” says Ali Adubisi, a Saudi human-rights activist. “Twitter is totally different, totally silent, totally weak.”"
Twitter’s ‘Firehose’ of Tweets Is Incredibly Valuable—and Just as Dangerous - Bloomberg

Microsoft Unveils Its First Desktop PC - The New York Times

Also see Hands on with the Surface Studio, Microsoft’s first desktop computer (Ars Technica)

"The new Microsoft machine is a handsome specimen of the all-in-one PC category best exemplified by Apple’s iMac. It has a sleek aluminum body with 28-inch screen that rests on top of a stand. Microsoft also showed a new accessory device called the Surface Dial that augments computer mice, giving users a precise way to zoom in images and perform other actions.

“This is a product that we believe truly brings out the creator in all of us,” said Panos Panay, a Microsoft corporate vice president.

The new Microsoft PC will not be for everyone though, if only because of its $2,999 price tag. It will go on sale in limited quantities this holiday season, Mr. Panay said. Architects, product designers and engineers are among the likely targets for the product."
Microsoft Unveils Its First Desktop PC - The New York Times

Tesla Surprises Investors With Quarterly Profit Ahead of Merger Vote - The New York Times

Sunny days ahead for Tesla; also see Elon Musk Says Tesla Car-Share Network Is ‘the People vs. Uber’ (Bloomberg)
"The electric carmaker Tesla Motors said on Wednesday that it earned $22 million in the third quarter, its first profitable period since 2013, raising expectations for the success of its expansion plans.

The company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said in a letter to investors that the results reflected improvements in vehicle production, the addition of new stores and a steady increase in market share for its luxury models.

“We were able to have our best quarter ever, and we are heading toward a great fourth quarter as well,” Mr. Musk said in a conference call with analysts."
Tesla Surprises Investors With Quarterly Profit Ahead of Merger Vote - The New York Times

Google: Our Assistant Will Trigger the Next Era of AI (Backchannel)

From a Steven Levy Assistant assessment

"That process, unrolling over the next two years, is The Transition. When millions of people begin conversing with Google, through the Assistant, the seas of difficulty suddenly part. (With Google Home, conversing is the only way you will get any use out of it — there’s no keyboard.) “You can start doing machine learning on that,” Pereira says. “You can move much faster; you can accelerate the process of getting deeper and broader in understanding. This 2016-to-2017 Transition is going to move us from systems that are explicitly taught to ones that implicitly learn.” Think of it as a mini-Singularity.
The data flowing in during this two-year transition won’t stop, of course. (I should clarify here that Pereira and the other Googlers talking about this transition are referring to the collection of data in the aggregate, not in accumulating dossiers on the conversational preferences, peregrinations, and peccadilloes of individual users.) Pereira sees it leading to a better version of the Assistant, which in turn will lead to more usage, more conversation, more data — and more improvement. Perhaps a decade from now, this accelerating cycle may lead to a bot that really knows what we talk about when we talk about…anything."
Google: Our Assistant Will Trigger the Next Era of AI

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit - The Daily Beast

Maybe AT&T/Time Warner/HBO will make a mini-series about this...

"Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.
These new revelations come as the company seeks to acquire Time Warner in the face of vocal opposition saying the deal would be bad for consumers. Donald Trump told supporters over the weekend he would kill the acquisition if he’s elected president; Hillary Clinton has urged regulators to scrutinize the deal.
While telecommunications companies are legally obligated to hand over records, AT&T appears to have gone much further to make the enterprise profitable, according to ACLU technology policy analyst Christopher Soghoian."
AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit - The Daily Beast

This is Jamboard, Google’s new 4K digital whiteboard - Recode

Also see Jamboard — the whiteboard, reimagined for collaboration in the cloud (Google Blog)

"But like most of Google’s suite of business apps, the real point is the software and its collaborative cloud service.

As you might expect, inside a “Jam” session, you can draw, type, import and scribble on images and Google Docs, search the web in a mini-browser, communicate with colleagues via Google Hangout and keep a digital record of your work in Google Drive. Teams using multiple Jamboards can work together on the same project in real time, as long as there’s internet access.

There’s also a full-featured tablet app for iOS and Android (so others can participate without a Jamboard) and a simpler version of the app for smartphones. Companies can test the concept just using these apps, though Google (obviously) thinks the huge touchscreen is a big part of the equation. It has been testing the software and devices with about 30 teams internally and with external partners including Netflix and Spotify."
This is Jamboard, Google’s new 4K digital whiteboard - Recode

Apple Said to Develop Car Operating System in BlackBerry Country - Bloomberg

Yet another Blackberry bummer
"The engineers now work at an Apple office in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, about a five-minute walk from QNX, the people said. Apple targeted QNX employees because of their experience developing fundamental components of operating systems and power management, a former QNX executive said. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
The most notable Apple hire from QNX was its chief executive officer, Dan Dodge. Since joining Apple’s Project Titan car initiative early this year, he’s taken on a larger role overseeing the car operating system, splitting his time between Canada and California, the people said. Another notable addition is Derrick Keefe, who left QNX last year after more than a decade as a senior engineer, one of the people said."
Apple Said to Develop Car Operating System in BlackBerry Country - Bloomberg

IBM Teams Up With Slack to Build Smarter Data-Crunching Chatbots - Bloomberg

Later in the article: "About 30,000 IBM employees use Slack’s messaging system, making it one of the San Francisco startup’s biggest customers." On a related note, see Microsoft could be unveiling Teams, its Slack competitor, next week (Ars Technica).
"IBM is teaming up with Slack Technologies Inc. to make it easier for companies to build custom chatbots into the startup’s workplace-messaging systems, the latest move by Big Blue to add more diverse business cases for its Watson artificial-intelligence technology.
The two companies will release a developer toolkit that includes Watson technologies and can integrate easily into Slack, they said in a statement Wednesday. International Business Machines Corp. will also build a chatbot -- a conversation-based application -- that will help IT departments identify and resolve issues without having to leave the Slack platform. The startup’s own customer-service bot will incorporate the Watson Conversation system, which includes technologies such as speech-to-text conversion and natural-language processing, or the ability for a computer to understand what a person is saying."
IBM Teams Up With Slack to Build Smarter Data-Crunching Chatbots - Bloomberg

Google Curbs Expansion of Fiber Optic Network, Cutting Jobs - The New York Times

Less Fiber in Alphabet's diet; also see Google’s Alphabet Experiment Misses Key Goal: Keeping Executives (Bloomberg)
"The company said on Tuesday that it was curbing the expansion of its high-speed fiber optic internet network and reducing staff in the unit responsible for the work. Alphabet did not provide an exact number for the jobs that will be cut.

Craig Barratt, chief executive of Access, the Alphabet division containing Google Fiber, also said he planned to step down because the company was shifting to new technologies and methods of deploying high-speed internet. No replacement was announced. Mr. Barratt, an Alphabet senior vice president, said he would remain an adviser to the company."
Google Curbs Expansion of Fiber Optic Network, Cutting Jobs - The New York Times

Apple Predicts a Big Holiday Bounce After Its Biggest Rival, Samsung, Falters - The New York Times

Also see 4 ways Tim Cook made lemonade out of Apple’s Q4 2016 earnings (Macworld)

"“There’s more demand we can supply right now,” Apple’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, said in an interview. Interest in the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple’s largest model and the most direct rival to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, is so intense that Apple said production could still lag demand even by December.

If the company’s forecast is accurate, it will mark a turnaround from what has been a disappointing year for the Silicon Valley giant. In April, Apple announced that sales in the first three calendar months of 2016 shrank for the first time in 13 years.

The poor performance continued through the quarter that ended on Sept. 24, the company reported on Tuesday. For the most recent three-month period, Apple said, revenue fell 9 percent to $46.9 billion. Net income fell 19 percent to $9 billion."
Apple Predicts a Big Holiday Bounce After Its Biggest Rival, Samsung, Falters - The New York Times

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

IBM's cloud move: New unified platform buries SoftLayer under Bluemix brand | ZDNet

Bluemixed results ahead; see this IBM blog post for more branding details

"According to Hazard, SoftLayer products will be available on both SoftLayer.com and IBM.com/Bluemix for the next few months. IBM has also integrated the SoftLayer control portal with the Bluemix console to manage infrastructure and cloud services.

The brand shift comes as IBM moves to become a 'cloud broker' and sell not just its own SoftLayer infrastructure, but also Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Compute Engine."
IBM's cloud move: New unified platform buries SoftLayer under Bluemix brand | ZDNet

Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook | WIRED

Testing Facebook's hate speech filtering policy...

"Members of the media quickly seized on the event, calling it a test drive for Trump TV, the post-election television network that Trump is rumored to be considering in the event he loses in November. Despite reports that his son-in-law has been talking to media dealmakers about Trump TV, Trump himself has denied he has any interest in such a thing.

Epshteyn says this nightly Facebook Live stream is simply a way for the campaign to circumvent the mainstream media Trump so publicly loathes. “We all know how strong the left wing media bias is. This is us delivering our message to voters,” he says. “It has nothing to do with Trump TV. It’s about using 21st century technology and communication in a way that’s effective.”"
Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook | WIRED

The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’: Robots That Could Kill on Their Own - The New York Times

Also see A.I. Inspiration: The Science Fiction That Frames Discussion (NYT)

"At the core of the strategic shift envisioned by the Pentagon is a concept that officials call centaur warfighting. Named for the half-man and half-horse in Greek mythology, the strategy emphasizes human control and autonomous weapons as ways to augment and magnify the creativity and problem-solving skills of soldiers, pilots and sailors, not replace them.

The weapons, in the Pentagon’s vision, would be less like the Terminator and more like the comic-book superhero Iron Man, Mr. Work said in an interview.

“There’s so much fear out there about killer robots and Skynet,” the murderous artificial intelligence network of the “Terminator” movies, Mr. Work said. “That’s not the way we envision it at all.”"
The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’: Robots That Could Kill on Their Own - The New York Times

AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is a Strike in the Dark - The New York Times

Also see A Chilly Reaction to AT&T-Time Warner Deal (NYT)

"We are witnessing the emergence of a new order in the TV business. In five or 10 years’ time, that order may become clear. There’s a good chance it will involve some current players — Comcast, Disney and a merged AT&T and Time Warner will all play a role in the entertainment business of tomorrow. But these behemoths’ size and influence will almost certainly be diminished by new tech-powered players, whose pocketbooks and ambitions seem limitless — companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and possibly Twitter and Snap.

What’s scary for the incumbents is that at the moment, much of the future seems up for grabs, because consumer behavior is neither settled nor predictable. Even viewership of N.F.L. games is down this season. Down!"
AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is a Strike in the Dark - The New York Times

Monday, October 24, 2016

How Dan Rather Became the Only Good Newsman on Facebook - The Daily Beast

Insights from social media/journalism pioneer Dan Rather -- if you're among the 1.7 billion people using Facebook, check out his page here

 "My goal with this is not to convince anybody of any political persuasion. What I’m really hoping I’m doing is encouraging people to think—and I think it’s happening far more than I ever would’ve imagined. A lot of journalistic operations in print and online have begun slugging off their sleepwalking and started calling truth and lies as they see it. And not a moment too soon. It’s maybe even too late. What I worry about is moving into the post-truth era of American politics. God help us if we’ve moved into such an era."
How Dan Rather Became the Only Good Newsman on Facebook - The Daily Beast

Chinese firm admits its hacked DVRs, cameras were behind Friday's massive DDOS attack | PCWorld

Or as Benedict Evans noted in his latest weekly newsletter: "A network designed to withstand nuclear attack, brought down by toasters."

"A Chinese electronics component manufacturer says its products inadvertently played a role in a massive cyberattack that disrupted major internet sites in the U.S. on Friday.

Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, a vendor behind DVRs and internet-connected cameras, said on Sunday that security vulnerabilities involving weak default passwords in its products were partly to blame.

According to security researchers, malware known as Mirai has been taking advantage of these vulnerabilities by infecting the devices and using them to launch huge distributed denial-of service attacks, including Friday’s outage."
Chinese firm admits its hacked DVRs, cameras were behind Friday's massive DDOS attack | PCWorld

Daily Report: Microsoft, Ahead in the Cloud - The New York Times

Looking at clouds from both sides now

"Here, as elsewhere, things were not exactly what they seemed, in good ways and bad. Adjusting for inflation, Microsoft shares, about $60.60 apiece in after-hours trading Thursday, will have to rise above $85.09 to be worth more than they were at the peak of the internet bubble.

In addition, it’s still hard to say exactly what to make of cloud-computing revenue at Microsoft: Is a customer really paying for access to the kind of advanced hardware and software that is in Microsoft’s cloud, called Azure?

Or is the business buying standard Microsoft software applications, like Office, which are now sold in jazzed-up versions that are sold via Azure, as a subscription? To some, that kind of revenue matters less, since people buy Office anyway — it’s not like Microsoft really did anything new to get this money, the argument runs."
Daily Report: Microsoft, Ahead in the Cloud - The New York Times

AT&T Is Buying Time Warner Because the Future is Google | WIRED

Turbulent telecommunications times; also see AT&T-Time Warner Deal Is Mostly About Defense (WSJ) and Swift Opposition to Resurrection of AT&T Giant (NYT)
"Telecommunications companies are becoming media companies. That explains AT&T’s agreement to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion. But something else explains it, too.

Media companies are becoming telecoms.

Internet firms like Google and Facebook and Amazon and Netflix are the new media companies. They deliver enormous amounts of video online, posing a direct threat to old-school television and movie companies. But they also are becoming telecoms, threatening the likes of AT&T and Verizon."
AT&T Is Buying Time Warner Because the Future is Google | WIRED

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Slack versus Facebook (FB) Workplace on DAUs — Quartz

New constraints for Slack

"Slack and Facebook will tussle over companies with office-bound populations, like big ad agencies, other tech companies, or media organizations—all current Slack customers. But Facebook has said it intends to go after a far broader spectrum of workers than that. At its Workplace launch event in London, it said it intended its messaging system to be used by everyone from factory workers to baristas—in addition to white-collar folks like the employees of ad agency TBWA, which tested the platform.
Scant data is available for Workplace for now, but Slack’s salad days appear to be behind it. From now on, its user metrics will be benchmarked against Facebook’s work offering, which means it has little opportunity to slack off."
Slack versus Facebook (FB) Workplace on DAUs — Quartz

How an Internet-of-Things Botnet Took Down Twitter, Reddit, and Github - The Atlantic

A Bruce Schneier quote later in the article: "What this all means is that the [internet of things] will remain insecure unless government steps in and fixes the problem."

"The websites were not targeted individually. Instead, an unknown attacker deployed a massive botnet to wage a distributed denial-of-service attack on Dyn (pronounced like dine), the domain name service (DNS) provider that they all share.

A distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS, is not an uncommon attack on the web, and web hosts have been fending them off for years. But according to reports, Friday’s attack was distinguished by its distinctive approach. The perpetrator used a botnet composed of so-called “internet-of-things” devices—namely, webcams and DVRs—to spam Dyn with more requests than it could handle."
How an Internet-of-Things Botnet Took Down Twitter, Reddit, and Github - The Atlantic

Friday, October 21, 2016

Macs are cheaper for businesses, and even IBM says so - Recode

Interesting enterprise computing times

"Big Blue released data on Wednesday showing that it saves anywhere from $265 to $535 over a four-year period for each employee who uses a Mac over a PC.

To understand how we are at a place where IBM even has such data, you have to know that IBM no longer makes Windows PCs. It is also Apple’s primary partner in selling devices into large business.

IBM is actually Apple’s largest corporate customer, with 90,000 Macs deployed and an expectation that it will top 100,000 by the end of the year."
Macs are cheaper for businesses, and even IBM says so - Recode

Tesla Sets Price for Self-Driving Feature, Lays Groundwork for Ride-Hailing Service - WSJ

Also see Tesla won't let its cars autonomously drive for Uber or Lyft (Engadget)

"Tesla Motors Inc. said it plans to charge buyers of its newest cars $8,000 to activate autonomous-driving technology, hinting those who do would be able to offset the cost through a ride-hailing network similar to Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc.

The $8,000 price covers the software to enable a new hardware option, called Full Self-Driving Capability, which will cost $10,000 if purchased separately from the vehicle.

The autonomous-driving software still needs to be validated, and regulators must approve it, the company said."
Tesla Sets Price for Self-Driving Feature, Lays Groundwork for Ride-Hailing Service - WSJ

Microsoft Shares Hit a High With Promise of the Cloud’s Profit Margins - The New York Times

Post-PC Microsoft momentum; also see Microsoft's cloud sales buffer Windows pain (USA Today)

"Microsoft has staked its future on cloud computing, the next big technology wave for companies, and is now telling investors more about how much money it’s making from the business.

It appears they like what they hear so far: Microsoft’s share price hit a high on Thursday — up 6 percent to more than $60 a share in after-hours trading — after the company released the financial results of its most recent quarter.

The last time Microsoft’s stock was this valuable was back in 1999, when Bill Clinton was still president, Mark Zuckerberg was in high school and the company was heading toward an antitrust showdown with the Department of Justice."
Microsoft Shares Hit a High With Promise of the Cloud’s Profit Margins - The New York Times

Nintendo Switch Console Is Met With Skepticism From Investors - The New York Times

Tbd if gamers will Switch; also see 6 Major Concerns About The Nintendo Switch (Forbes) and Nintendo’s Dream of Gaming On-the-Go Gets a Reality Check (Bloomberg)
"Nintendo unveiled its latest piece of video game hardware on Thursday: the Nintendo Switch, a shape-changing console that doubles as a traditional home-based machine and a smaller portable device. Gamers will have until March, the official launch date, to decide whether it’s a must-have. (Nintendo hasn’t set a price yet.) Investors got to weigh in faster, though, and the initial review was not encouraging. Nintendo’s share price plummeted 7 percent on Friday after trading opened in Tokyo."
Nintendo Switch Console Is Met With Skepticism From Investors - The New York Times

Slack’s rapid growth slows as it hits 1.25M paying work chatters | TechCrunch

The release of Workplace by Facebook probably isn't going to help Slack's momentum

"Slack is still growing fast, about 33% in daily users and paid seats in the last 5 months. But not as fast as before, when it saw 50% DAU growth and 63% paid seat growth in the 5.5 months from December 15th to May 25th.

This aligns with rumors TechCrunch has heard about a slight dip in customer retention at Slack, as the casual, GIF-filled workplace chat app can get noisy and distracting for bigger companies, and have trouble scaling. Uber, for example, dropped Slack back in April.

Slack revealed in a blog post today that it now has 4 million daily active users, 5.8 million weekly active users, over 1.25 million paid users, and 33,000 paid teams. That gives it a current annual run rate of $100 million. That’s not much for a company with over 650 employees across 7 offices that was valued at $3.8 billion when it raised $200 million in April."
Slack’s rapid growth slows as it hits 1.25M paying work chatters | TechCrunch

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Facebook’s Three-Point Plan to Get Four Billion More People Online [Technology Review]

Connect different

"Satellites, stratospheric drones, and new forms of wireless networks—these are the technologies Facebook is betting on to make Internet access much, much cheaper and more widely available.

Today, roughly 4.2 billion people are not online. The social network established its Connectivity Lab in 2014 to work on new communications technologies to dramatically shrink that number.

Yael Maguire, head of the connectivity lab, laid out his plan to deliver on that mission at EmTech MIT 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Tuesday. He said the lab has to develop multiple new technologies in parallel because the problem of getting people online is too complex for a single answer."
Facebook’s Three-Point Plan to Get Four Billion More People Online

Five new ways to reach your goals faster with G Suite (Google The Keyword blog)

Check the full post for details on how Google is leveraging machine learning, Slack integration, and more in G Suite

"One of the core promises of Google Docs is to help you and your team go from collecting ideas to achieving your goals as quickly and easily as possible. That’s why last month we launched Explore in Docs, Sheets and Slides — with machine intelligence built right in — to help your team create amazing presentations, spreadsheets and documents in a fraction of the time it used to take.

Today, we’re introducing five new time-saving features designed to speed up and simplify the way you work, so you can focus on bringing your team’s ideas to life."
Five new ways to reach your goals faster with G Suite

Apple lawsuit says 90 percent of 'official' chargers sold on Amazon are fake - The Verge

Later in the article: "The lawsuit says that when Apple alerted Amazon to the problematic chargers supplied to it by Mobile Star, the online retailer turned over its entire inventory purchased from the company."

"Ever had to buy a new Apple charger from Amazon? Well beware even those labelled as the genuine article — according to a recent lawsuit filed by Apple, 90 percent of them are fake.

The iPhone-maker is currently suing a company named Mobile Star LLC for trademark infringement, alleging that the firm has been passing off counterfeit Apple chargers as the real thing. PatentlyApple has posted the text of the lawsuit, in which Apple reports buying a number of Mobile Star's chargers from Amazon."
Apple lawsuit says 90 percent of 'official' chargers sold on Amazon are fake - The Verge

Apple sends out invites for Oct. 27 event - The Washington Post

Launch event confirmed for 10/27 (10:00 a.m. PT)
"Prepare for another Apple event. The company on Wednesday sent invitations to the media, asking them to gather at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., for a product launch event.

Apple is widely expected to introduce a batch of laptops at the event — an area of the company's product lineup that has gone without a major refresh for quite a while. Apple hasn't updated its Retina MacBook Pro or MacBook Air in more than a year; the company did offer a refresh of its MacBook in April. The standard MacBook Pro hasn't had an update in four years."
Apple sends out invites for Oct. 27 event - The Washington Post

Tesla Will Make Its Cars Fully Self-Driving, but Not Turn the System On Yet - The New York Times

Check this Tesla post for more details

"Tesla Motors said on Wednesday that it would equip all of its new vehicles with technology that enables fully autonomous driving, but would not activate the system until it undergoes further testing.

In a blog post, the maker of electric cars said the new hardware included cameras, sensors and radars that allow the vehicles to operate without a human driver.

The company said the technology would be installed in all of its models, including the much-anticipated Model 3 sedan, which is expected to reach the United States market next year."
Tesla Will Make Its Cars Fully Self-Driving, but Not Turn the System On Yet - The New York Times

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to endorse a political candidate on Facebook and lose friends forever - The Verge

Perhaps best to wait until after the final debate tonight...

"Facebook is a place for making friends, sharing photos, and stoking bitter political arguments that last a lifetime. And while the social network pays a lot of attention to the first two activities, it's rather neglected the third. Not any more: as of this week, you can publicly endorse political candidates on Facebook.

There's a whole guide to this process in Facebook's Help Center, but it's pretty straightforward. Just go to the Facebook page of a candidate you like, select the "Endorsement" tab on the left-hand sidebar, and hit "Endorse" on the right. You can then choose who to share this endorsement with whoever you like — friends, enemies, soon-to-be-enemies — and write a little message to go along with it."
How to endorse a political candidate on Facebook and lose friends forever - The Verge

Apple plans to launch new Macs at an October 27 event - Recode

It's going to be an interesting week; also see Microsoft to launch new Surface PC at October 26th event (The Verge) and What to expect at Apple’s Mac event: All-new MacBook Pros, refreshed Airs & iMacs, more (9to5Mac)
"Apple is planning to introduce new Macs at an Oct. 27 event, sources confirmed to Recode.

The move had long been expected, given that the company released MacOS Sierra last month but had yet to introduce any new computer models sporting the software. It also comes just in time for Apple to have the new products on sale for the full holiday season.

Apple has gone a long time without making significant changes to any of its Mac models, with most experts encouraging customers to hold off all but essential new purchases until the lineup was updated. Tops among the rumors have been reports that Apple will introduce a new MacBook Pro sporting a row of customizable touchscreen keys."
Apple plans to launch new Macs at an October 27 event - Recode

Yahoo met its earnings goals by cost-cutting, not by building its business - Recode

Also see Yahoo Says Traffic Rose Despite Hacking That Could Alter Verizon Deal (NYT)

"Analysts had expected the company to report earnings of 14 cents per share, excluding certain expenses, compared to 15 cents in the same period a year ago. Instead, Yahoo reported earnings of 20 cents.

Wow, right? Well, no. While it looks like a big beat, this result is primarily due to cost cuts and not massive growth in its businesses. Adjusted Ebitda, which is a real measure of performance, was down to $229.2 million from $244.2 million. (Kudos to CFO Ken Goldman for making it look better than it is at Yahoo via cost cuts and creative accounting!)

While revenue in its mobile, video and native businesses rose, the big moneymakers declined as advertisers fled and traffic declined. Display ad revenue was down 7 percent and search revenue was down 14 percent."
Yahoo met its earnings goals by cost-cutting, not by building its business - Recode

Samsung is setting up booths at airports to exchange Note 7s - The Washington Post

Convenient for Note 7 users who didn't get the memo re The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is officially banned from airplanes (The Washington Post)

"The Transportation Department's ban on the Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 could be leaving some users in a lurch if they try to bring the phone on any flight going to or from any part of the United States. To help those folks, Samsung is setting up pop-up exchange booths at airports to offer customers another Samsung phone in exchange for their faulty Notes.

In a statement, Samsung said booths in the United States will be at “some of the most frequently visited airports around the country,” but it did not provide a full list of airports. San Francisco International Airport seems to be one of them as Twitter users have reported seeing booths there."
Samsung is setting up booths at airports to exchange Note 7s - The Washington Post

Whoever Wins the White House, This Year’s Big Loser Is Email - The New York Times

Final paragraph: "In other words, limits often help. Get on the phone, make a decision, ditch your inbox. The world will be better off for it." On a related note, see Trump Organization uses really, really insecure e-mail servers. Sad! (Ars Technica)
"Instead, let’s examine a more basic mystery buried in the emails: Why were all these people discussing so much over email in the first place? Haven’t they heard of phone calls? Face-to-face meetings in dimly lit Washington parking garage? Anyplace else where their conversations weren’t constantly being recorded, archived and rendered searchable for decades to come?
The answer, of course, is that email is as tempting as it is inescapable, for Mrs. Clinton as well as for the rest of us. More than 50 years after its birth, email exerts an uncanny hold on all of our internal affairs.

But everything must meet its maker, and for email, that time is nigh."
Whoever Wins the White House, This Year’s Big Loser Is Email - The New York Times

Google Pixel Review: Assessing the New Smartphone - The New York Times

For more positive Pixel perspectives, peruse Google Pixel review: Home run (The Verge), Mossberg: Google's first phone is first rate (The Verge), and Google Pixel Review: The Android iPhone You’ve Been Waiting For (WSJ)

"The absence of a major competing Android device works out especially well for Google because the Pixel is, relatively speaking, mediocre. It is slower than Apple’s iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, Samsung’s smaller flagship phone. Photos shot with Pixel’s camera don’t look as good as the iPhone’s. And Google’s built-in artificially intelligent virtual assistant, called Assistant, is still fairly dumb.

But hey, the Pixel probably won’t burn down your garage or injure a child. So if you prefer Android and are already hooked on Google’s suite of internet-powered software, including its maps, photos, email and document-editing apps, then you probably won’t regret buying the Pixel."
Google Pixel Review: Assessing the New Smartphone - The New York Times

WikiHillary for President - The New York Times

Thomas Friedman on the campaign significance of WikiLeaks; also see Ecuador Cuts Internet of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ Founder (NYT)

"Thank God for WikiLeaks.

I confess, I was starting to wonder about what the real Hillary Clinton — the one you never get to see behind closed doors — really stood for. But now that, thanks to WikiLeaks, I’ve had a chance to peruse her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, I am more convinced than ever she can be the president America needs today.

Seriously, those speeches are great! They show someone with a vision, a pragmatic approach to getting things done and a healthy instinct for balancing the need to strengthen our social safety nets with unleashing America’s business class to create the growth required to sustain social programs."
WikiHillary for President - The New York Times

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fed-Up Belichick Takes Screen Out of His Arsenal. (The Hand-Held One.) - The New York Times

Final paragraph: "Microsoft said in a statement: “We respect Coach Belichick’s decision, but stand behind the reliability of Surface. We continue to receive positive feedback on having Surface devices on the sidelines from coaches, players and team personnel across the league.”"

"“They’re just too undependable,” Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ chronically unimpressed coach, said.

“It’s basically a problem every week,” he added.

“I just can’t take it anymore,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Was Belichick talking about backup quarterbacks? Properly inflated footballs? Nope. He was talking, of course, about the scourge of the N.F.L.: tablet computers. The Microsoft Surface tablets that the league uses on the sideline to provide images of plays are an I.T. nightmare, Belichick said."
Fed-Up Belichick Takes Screen Out of His Arsenal. (The Hand-Held One.) - The New York Times

How Microsoft Fell Hard for FPGAs (The Next Platform)

Also see The moonshot that succeeded: How Bing and Azure are using an AI supercomputer in the cloud (Microsoft blog) and A Cloud-Scale Acceleration Architecture (Microsoft Research PDF) for details
"Microsoft’s embrace of programmable chips knowns as FPGAs is well documented. But in a paper released Monday the software and cloud company provided a look into how it has fundamentally changed the economics of delivering hardware as a service thanks to these once-specialty pieces of silicon.

Field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs, are chips where the logic and networking functions can be reconfigured after they’ve been manufactured. They are typically larger than similarly functioning chips and traditionally were made for small jobs where the performance advantage outweighed the higher engineering cost associated with designing them."
How Microsoft Fell Hard for FPGAs

Facebook Messenger suggests what to talk about with “Conversation Topics” feature | TechCrunch

Tbd if it'll go full ELIZA mode and, e.g., encourage you to text your mom; also see Facebook Messenger's New 'Conversation Topic' Feature Seems Creepy and Bad (Gizmodo)

"Facebook Messenger may have already hit the billion-user club this past summer, but the company is always looking for new ways to increase app usage. The latest attempt is the introduction of “conversation topics” on Messenger – a feature offering suggestions about what to talk about with friends. These conversation starters appear to rely on Messenger’s connection to Facebook’s larger social network, as they reference things your friends have done lately – like where they’ve been, or events they plan to attend, for example.

The feature was spotted this weekend on the iOS app by Chris Messina, who posted to Twitter about the new conversation starters."
Facebook Messenger suggests what to talk about with “Conversation Topics” feature | TechCrunch

American Experience "Tesla" Documentary: Watch an Exclusive Clip | WIRED

The Tesla documentary premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern; also see Inside Nat Geo’s Incredible Documentary Mission to Mars (Wired)

"ON TUESDAY, THE PBS historical series American Experience will premiere its latest documentary, “Tesla.” No, it’s not about the electric car company. It’s about Nikola Tesla, the electrical engineer whose experiments and inventions moved electronics into the modern era. Tesla was a wacky guy with some far-fetched ideas, but many of theories about how electricity could work would eventually prove to be dead on."
American Experience "Tesla" Documentary: Watch an Exclusive Clip | WIRED

Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image - Bloomberg

Also see Twitter trolls were part of the reason why Salesforce walked away from a deal (Business Insider) and Twitter's Next Act: Zombiehood (Fortune)
"Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.
The producer of family fare like “Finding Dory” had gone so far as to hire two investment banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Guggenheim Partners LLC, to help evaluate a bid for Twitter. Disney management also listened to a presentation about the business from Twitter executives, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private."
Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image - Bloomberg

IBM Revenue, Profit Edge Lower - WSJ

Also see IBM Watson Will Run On IBM and IBM Alone (Fortune) and IBM Profit Margins Shrink Again in Shift to Cloud Computing (Bloomberg)
"Alongside falling revenue in some older lines of business, revenue from cloud services across all IBM business segments grew 42% in constant currency to $3.4 billion, Mr. Schroeter said. Those cloud services include SoftLayer, which sells access to computing capacity over the internet, and Bluemix, which sells access to software over the web, among other things. The cloud business during the quarter added new customers including Dixons Carphone Group, JFE Steel Co., Ltd. and Vodafone India.

Cloud computing is one of several faster-growing areas that IBM calls strategic imperatives. Those businesses, which also include artificial intelligence, data analytics and security, grew 15% in constant currency during the third quarter compared with 12% during the second quarter. They now represent 40% of IBM’s overall business."
IBM Revenue, Profit Edge Lower - WSJ

Monday, October 17, 2016

How Apple Scaled Back its Titanic Plan to Take on Detroit - Bloomberg

The Project Titan mystery continues

"Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.
Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1,000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren’t public. 

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person."
How Apple Scaled Back its Titanic Plan to Take on Detroit - Bloomberg

The Perils of Peak Attention | New Republic

From another review of Tim Wu's The Attention Merchants
"Picture Thoreau now, on his obligation-shedding saunter through the Massachusetts woods. There are unanswered emails from the morning’s business a twitchy finger away. Facebook notifications fall upon him like leaves. The babbling brook is not only lovely, but demands to be shared via Instagram, once the correct filter (“Walden,” natch) has been applied. Perhaps a quick glance at the Health app to track his steps, or a browse of the TripAdvisor reviews of Walden Pond (“serene and peaceful”). There may be Pok√©mon Go baubles to collect—the app may have even compelled his walk in the first place."
The Perils of Peak Attention | New Republic

The Atlantic's Website Will Now Let Some Pay to See No Ads | Media - AdAge

In Wired's case, I'd settle for ads that don't cause major performance problems on my Mac

"Wired magazine rolled out a similar approach to ad-blocking earlier in the year, asking readers to either whitelist the site or pay $1 a week for an ad-free version. In April, the magazine's then-head of product and business development told Ad Age that the approach was "going great."
Wired, at the time, reported that 20% of unique visitors were using blockers, making the problem even more pronounced than for The Atlantic. The New York Times is also considering an ad-free digital subscription offering, though that effort doesn't seem to have progressed beyond the exploratory stages.
"All the cool kids are doing it," Ms. Lau said when asked about the rise of ad-free subscription offerings."
The Atlantic's Website Will Now Let Some Pay to See No Ads | Media - AdAge

Why Twitter Is Actually a Media Company - WSJ

Later in the article: "If investors come to view Twitter purely as a media company, its stock price could be cut in half."

"If you are among the 73% of American adults who don’t log in to Twitter at least once a month, you can be forgiven for viewing it primarily as a place where presidential candidates launch broadsides and celebrities embarrass themselves.

Twitter Inc.’s long struggle to define itself goes hand in hand with its recent inability to grow beyond its active but hard to grasp subcommunities. The mix of content, curation, humor, self-promotion and invective confounds its product teams, leaders and investors.

So let’s define Twitter once and for all. Twitter is a media company that happens to be based in San Francisco, and it should be structured, led and valued as such. Twitter is no longer a technology-driven hypergrowth unicorn. Twitter has, in a way, admitted as much. Last week, in a memo to Twitter staff, Chief Executive Jack Dorsey called the service the “People’s News Network.”"
Why Twitter Is Actually a Media Company - WSJ

Air Passengers With Samsung Note 7 Phones Face Fines in U.S. - Bloomberg

Another incentive for Samsung customers to replace Note 7s

"Airline passengers who try to carry Samsung Electronics Co. Note 7 smartphones on flights will have them confiscated and may face fines under an emergency U.S. order that significantly expands restrictions on the devices linked to almost 100 incidents of overheating and fires.
The devices won’t be allowed aboard passenger or cargo aircraft even if they’ve been shut off, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday. Flight restrictions will be extended to each of the 1.9 million Note 7s sold in the U.S. starting at noon New York time on Saturday."
Air Passengers With Samsung Note 7 Phones Face Fines in U.S. - Bloomberg

IBM Is Counting on Its Bet on Watson, and Paying Big Money for It - The New York Times

From an AI market dynamics reality check

"IBM has invested billions of dollars in its Watson business unit, created at the start of 2014, which now employs an estimated 10,000 workers. Its big-ticket marketing push includes clever television ads that feature Watson trading quips with famous people like Serena Williams and Bob Dylan. And Watson, after a slow start, has shown its mettle by assisting in daunting tasks like diagnosing cancer.

Yet industry experts question how quickly IBM can build a business around Watson. “IBM has pursued big, bespoke moonshot initiatives that can take years and are extremely expensive,” said Tom Austin, a research fellow at Gartner. “It seems like they’re swimming upstream with that.”"
IBM Is Counting on Its Bet on Watson, and Paying Big Money for It - The New York Times

Saturday, October 15, 2016

They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are by Jacob Weisberg | The New York Review of Books

From a review of Tim Wu's new book (to be released 10/18)
"The economist Herbert A. Simon first developed the concept of an attention economy in a 1971 essay. Taking note of the new phenomenon of “information overload,” Simon pointed out something that now seems obvious—that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” In recent years, thinking about attention as a scarce resource has come into vogue as a way to appraise the human and psychological impact of digital and social media.
The animating insight of Tim Wu’s illuminating new book, The Attention Merchants, is to apply this concept as a backward-facing lens as well as a contemporary one. Modern media, he argues, have always been based on the reselling of human attention to advertisers. Wu, who teaches at Columbia Law School, is a broad thinker about law, technology, and media who has had a varied career as an academic, a journalist, and a 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor of New York. He is best known for developing “net neutrality”—the principle that access providers (such as Comcast or Time Warner) should treat all Internet traffic equally—which formed the basis of a federal regulation that went into effect last year."
They’ve Got You, Wherever You Are by Jacob Weisberg | The New York Review of Books

Twitter Has Never Been Stronger—or Weaker - The New Yorker

Final paragraph from a timely Twitter reality check

"Yet it’s important to see that even these critiques of Twitter, sensible as they may be, are predicated on the idea that the proper goal for the company is to grow ever bigger. It’s a way of criticizing Twitter for not being Facebook or Google. But the truth is that not every company needs to be—or should be—huge. Nor is growth the only, or even the most important, metric by which to judge a company. Indeed, if you look at Twitter in terms of social impact and user engagement, you would say that the company is doing quite well and adding a great deal of value. The problem is that, for a publicly traded company, that value is irrelevant if it can’t be translated into continually rising profits. Going public pushes you to define yourself in the market’s terms rather than your own. As a private company, Twitter might be seen as a great success. As a public company, it’s a perpetual disappointment."
Twitter Has Never Been Stronger—or Weaker - The New Yorker

Friday, October 14, 2016

Google will tell you where to vote, who's on your local ballot - CNET

See Get polling place and ballot information quickly and easily (The Keyword) for details

"Google wants to make sure you have no excuse for not voting.

The search giant on Thursday launched new tools designed to get people more information for November 8, when America goes to the polls.

When you ask Google who or what's on the ballot, the search engine breaks it down to national, state and local races. You'll also see local candidates and measures."
Google will tell you where to vote, who's on your local ballot - CNET

Labeling fact-check articles in Google News (The Keyword -- Google blog)

Check the full post for examples and links

"In the seven years since we started labeling types of articles in Google News (e.g., In-Depth, Opinion, Wikipedia), we’ve heard that many readers enjoy having easy access to a diverse range of content types. Earlier this year, we added a “Local Source” Tag to highlight local coverage of major stories. Today, we’re adding another new tag, “Fact check,” to help readers find fact checking in large news stories. You’ll see the tagged articles in the expanded story box on news.google.com and in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps, starting with the U.S. and the U.K.
Google News determines whether an article might contain fact checks in part by looking for the schema.org ClaimReview markup. We also look for sites that follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks. Publishers who create fact-checks and would like to see it appear with the “Fact check” tag should use that markup in fact-check articles. For more information, head on over to our help center."
Labeling fact-check articles in Google News

Facebook now lets you stream video to Apple TV and Chromecast - The Verge

See A New Way to Watch Videos From Facebook on Your TV (Facebook Newsroom) for more details

"This is just one small step in Facebook’s grander video ambitions. The company has invested significant resources into transforming the News Feed into a place to digest all sorts of video, be it live streamed clips from a stranger’s mobile phone to professionally edited videos crafted by news organizations. Adding streaming support to watch these videos on larger displays is an obvious choice to increase consumption. For Facebook Live videos, you’ll be able to see reactions on your TV screen, as well as browse other parts of Facebook on your phone while the video continues playing."
Facebook now lets you stream video to Apple TV and Chromecast - The Verge

VMware is turning to rival Amazon AWS to power its new cloud service - Recode

Also see Here's Who Wins and Who Loses Now that Amazon and VMware Are BFFs (Fortune) and AWS has made VMware the Airbnb of the cloud (The Register)
"Amazon’s fast-growing cloud service just landed another high-profile customer. Enterprise heavyweight VMware is using AWS for its new cloud service, the two companies confirmed Thursday at an event at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. The news was a bit anticlimactic as VMware had jumped the gun with a blog post earlier in the day.

But the partnership itself represents a significant shift for VMware and demonstrates just how much AWS has grown too big to ignore. VMware had previously declared AWS its sworn enemy.

“This is the result of customers telling us what they needed,” VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said at the event."
VMware is turning to rival Amazon AWS to power its new cloud service - Recode

Verizon Says Yahoo Hack Could Reopen $4.8 Billion Deal Talks - The New York Times

Also see Verizon Is Said to See Yahoo Breach Affecting Acquisition (Bloomberg)
"The Securities and Exchange Commission’s guidance on cyberattacks says breaches can have a material impact and lead to lost revenue if proprietary information is stolen, or if companies “fail to retain or attract customers following an attack.”

“There are some serious questions about whether Yahoo’s customers will continue to use the service knowing that their data has been compromised,” said Jacob Olcott, vice president of BitSight Technologies, a security company. “That is likely to be the biggest question Verizon is trying to determine here. They acquired Yahoo, in part, because of its large customer base.”

Yahoo customers have been inquiring how to switch out email accounts after the breach. Earlier this month, the company turned off automatic email forwarding, making it harder for users to switch to alternative services."
Verizon Says Yahoo Hack Could Reopen $4.8 Billion Deal Talks - The New York Times

Thursday, October 13, 2016

OneNote update preview – Paul Carpenter's Tech Blog

Worth exploring, if you're a macOS or iOS OneNote user

"There is an option to get early access to new releases of Microsoft Office MacOS Apps by selecting [Join Office Insider Program] in the Microsoft Update App. Similarly with OneNote there is an option under settings / preferences  to [Access Experimental Features] both in iOS and MacOS.

The preview OneNote app sports a redesigned interface with sections appearing hierarchically between Notebooks and Pages in the left hand pane. The new arrangement is not only aesthetically pleasing but also a more logical way to navigate OneNote content."
OneNote update preview – Paul Carpenter's Tech Blog

Mossberg: Why does Siri seem so dumb? - Recode

Also see Google’s Assistant Is More Ambitious Than Siri and Alexa (Technology Review)

"Yes, Siri can usually place a call or send a text. It can tell you sports standings, Yelp restaurant reviews and movie times — features Apple added years ago. And it must be said that all of its competitors have their own limitations and also make mistakes.

But in its current incarnation, Siri is too limited and unreliable to be an effective weapon for Apple in the coming AI wars. It seems stagnant. Apple didn’t become great by just following the data on what customers are doing today. It became great by delighting customers with feats they didn’t expect. The AI revolution will demand that."
Mossberg: Why does Siri seem so dumb? - Recode

Samsung raises recall deals to retain Note7 customers | Computerworld

On a related note... see Galaxy Note 7 Is Not Samsung’s Only Problematic Product (NYT)
"In a bid to retain customers, Samsung Electronics is giving larger financial incentives to people who choose to exchange the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 for another smartphone from the company, rather than seek a refund. 
In the U.S., the company is giving customers a $25 bill credit through carriers and retailers to customers who return a Note 7 for a refund or for any other branded smartphone. But if they choose to exchange the Note 7 for any Samsung smartphone, they will get a whopping $100 bill credit from select retailers and carriers. The company did not immediately provide further details on the program."
Samsung raises recall deals to retain Note7 customers | Computerworld

White House report says AI will take jobs, but also help solve global problems - Recode

Also see Barack Obama on Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Cars, and the Future of Humanity (Wired)

"President Obama thinks artificial intelligence could solve many of the world’s biggest problems — like disease, climate change, even economic inequality. To that end, his administration is recommending more investment in the technology across all levels of government, including funding STEM education to have a prepared workforce, advanced research projects, local grants and new federal infrastructure.

The White House released a 48-page report today featuring 24 recommendations for how the government can be involved in an increasingly AI-powered future, as well as ways to regulate the budding technology."
White House report says AI will take jobs, but also help solve global problems - Recode

Elon Musk’s Wild Ride (Bloomberg)

Final paragraphs from an Elon Musk profile by Ashlee Vance; tangentially, see SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has done the ‘real’ Iron Man several favors (Recode)
"With advances in cars, energy, and space exploration, Musk has ushered in a new industrial age. The world of machines and infrastructure suddenly looks poised to advance at a rapid clip. It does not seem hyperbolic to suggest that Musk has played a major role in changing the world.

That we forget all this is a curse of Musk’s own making. At every point where his companies seem to be on stable footing, Musk takes on more and promises more, erasing the memory of past gains. He might now be addicted to one-upping himself.

Wall Street and casual onlookers often find Musk’s approach abhorrent, and this makes perfect sense. They want consistent earnings-per-share figures and straight talk, while he’s in an inventive fugue state more concerned with trying to save mankind from oblivion. Musk lives in a way that few of us would choose and has a tolerance for risk that would drive most of us nuts. It’s precisely because Musk has operated his companies on the edge of what’s possible that he has achieved so much."
Elon Musk’s Wild Ride

Donald Trump Finds Improbable Ally in WikiLeaks - The New York Times

In other technology + politics news, see Facebook Helped Drive a Voter Registration Surge, Election Officials Say (NYT)

"In the final weeks of a dizzying presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump is suddenly embracing an unlikely ally: The document-spilling group WikiLeaks, which Republicans denounced when it published classified State Department cables and Pentagon secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump, his advisers, and many of his supporters are increasingly seizing on a trove of embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign that WikiLeaks has been publishing — and that American intelligence agencies said on Friday came largely from Russian intelligence agencies, with the authorization of “Russia’s senior-most officials.”"
Donald Trump Finds Improbable Ally in WikiLeaks - The New York Times

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are building out a tech team to help them give away billions - Recode

A different kind of search

"Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan have promised to give away all of their wealth, and they chose a lofty goal for one of their first philanthropic ventures: Cure all disease. The couple believes this will be a technological challenge in addition to a medical one.

So Zuckerberg and Chan have hired a technical lead for their new corporation: Amazon search executive Brian Pinkerton is joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as its new CTO.

That means Pinkerton will lead CZI’s tech team, which he says could grow to a “couple hundred people” over the next few years. It’s not entirely clear what his team will work on right away. “The jury is a little bit out on this; it’s brand new,” Pinkerton told Recode, but added that it’ll likely be a mix of building tech in-house for the corporation while also dispatching technical support to CZI’s partners."
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are building out a tech team to help them give away billions - Recode

How Obama brought capitalism to outer space - The Washington Post

Also see Barack Obama: America will take the giant leap to Mars (CNN)

"Now, six years after that speech, as he nears the end of his presidency, Obama is bookending his charge by doubling down on NASA’s plan to get to Mars, even though space is a topic he has rarely addressed publicly. In an op-ed published by CNN Tuesday morning ahead of the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, he reiterated his administration’s goal of “sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

But while Mars remains years, if not decades away, Obama's true legacy may be something altogether different: the standing up of a commercial space industry that has ended the government’s monopoly on space."
How Obama brought capitalism to outer space - The Washington Post

Amazon to Build Convenience Stores, Wall Street Journal Reports - Bloomberg

Alexa, tell the car to go pick up my groceries

"Amazon.com Inc. is planning to build convenience stores and develop curbside pickup locations for food shoppers in its latest move to expand into groceries, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Amazon’s stores will sell perishable goods including milk and meats, the newspaper said, citing unnamed sources. Customers in the stores can also order other items with longer shelf lives for same-day delivery, the Journal said. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant will also build drive-in locations for consumers in a rush where online grocery orders will be brought to the car. Only subscribers to Amazon’s Fresh service will have access to these stores, known as Project Como."
Amazon to Build Convenience Stores, Wall Street Journal Reports - Bloomberg

Everything you need to know about Workplace by Facebook | Jaap Linssen | Pulse | LinkedIn

Conclusion from a detailed Facebook Workplace review
"I have high expectations of Workplace. Earlier in this article I described 4 aspects that make Workplace stand out: 
  1. Workplace’s maker does one thing and that is social.
  2. The mobile first strategy will ensure that many more people will participate.
  3. People without a company email address can participate.
  4. If you can use Facebook (and we can) you can use Workplace.
But what might be the most telling about the Facebook's attitude towards this is a quote from Zuckerberg himself: “This isn’t about software. This is doing business in an entirely different way.”"
Everything you need to know about Workplace by Facebook | Jaap Linssen | Pulse | LinkedIn

PC Shipments Drop 3.9% as Declines Slow Before Holiday Shopping - Bloomberg

Looks like it's about time to refresh the Mac product line... Also see PC industry is now on a two-year downslide (The Verge)
"Globally, China-based Lenovo Group Ltd. kept its perch atop the industry with 21.3 percent of the market in the third quarter, IDC said. No. 2 HP Inc. jumped to 21.2 percent while No. 3 Dell grabbed 15.8 percent -- with both of the U.S. brands adding 1.5 percentage points from the year-ago period. No. 4 Apple Inc. had 7.4 percent of the market, down from 8.1 percent a year earlier.
In U.S. shipments, the top three providers gained market share, according to IDC. HP Inc. was No. 1 with almost 30 percent while Dell had 26 percent and Lenovo had 15 percent. No. 4 Apple also lost ground in its home market, falling to 11.8 percent from 13.9 percent.
PC shipments were bolstered by strength from Google-backed Chromebooks in the education segment, along with a build up of inventory, IDC said. Still, the outlook is “cautious” for the fourth quarter, the researcher said."
PC Shipments Drop 3.9% as Declines Slow Before Holiday Shopping - Bloomberg

Tech Companies Expect Free High-Speed Internet for Poorer Americans to Pay Off Later - The New York Times

Check this Sprint page for details on the 1Million Project

"With broadband now classified like a utility, telecom and tech companies, including Sprint, Comcast and Facebook, are increasingly working to make high-speed internet accessible to every American, not just a luxury. The companies are among those that have set their sights on bringing free or cheap high-speed internet service to low-income and rural populations in the United States, spurred by philanthropy and, for some, the hope of turning Americans who are not online today into full-paying customers in the future.

Those goals were on display Tuesday, when Sprint announced that it planned to give one million low-income high school students a free device and a free high-speed data plan until graduation. Facebook is also working to bring to the United States a service known as Free Basics, which gives people free access to certain websites, including Facebook. Comcast recently loosened requirements for its low-cost broadband service, expanding it to anyone in public housing."
Tech Companies Expect Free High-Speed Internet for Poorer Americans to Pay Off Later - The New York Times

Amazon Pairs Its Speaker With Streaming Music, at a Bargain Price - The New York Times

Also see Amazon’s full on-demand streaming music service launches today (The Verge), which concludes "According to [vice president of Amazon Music Steve] Boom, this is just the first iteration of Amazon’s take on an on-demand music service, and there’s plenty more to come in the future."

"The cost of Amazon’s new service may have even more impact. The standard price for Music Unlimited is $10 a month, the same as Spotify, Apple Music and most others. For members of Amazon’s Prime program — which costs $99 a year and brings perks like free shipping and access to online videos — it will cost an additional $8 a month, or $79 a year, a discount that itself represents a triumph of negotiation, since a year ago the major record labels balked at Apple’s wanting to charge less than $10 for Apple Music.

But for customers who own an Echo device, Amazon will offer the service at just $4 a month, deeply undercutting its competitors. That price comes with a restriction: The service can be used on a single Echo device and nowhere else, like a phone or a computer. But the price is far lower than has ever been charged for what is essentially a complete catalog of music online — except for outlets like YouTube and Spotify’s free version, which charge nothing but have advertising."
Amazon Pairs Its Speaker With Streaming Music, at a Bargain Price - The New York Times

Sunken flagship: Samsung’s meltdown 2016-10-13 | Espresso

A succinct Samsung summary; also see Why Samsung Abandoned Its Galaxy Note 7 Flagship Phone (NYT)
"The fiasco harms the South Korean giant in three ways. The first is financial: Samsung had expected to sell as many as 20m units of the large-screen Note 7 over its lifespan, worth $17 billion. Now it must pay to sort out the mess. Second, the popular Note sub-brand is toast, and Samsung’s reputation for quality, reliability and manufacturing expertise has been burned too. That may dent sales of its other products. Third, Samsung’s market share will take a hit: the Note 7 had won rave reviews, so its demise is a gift to rival handset-makers. Samsung’s dream was that its flagship handset would show it can out-innovate Apple. That’s gone up in flames too."
Sunken flagship: Samsung’s meltdown 2016-10-13 | Espresso

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Official: Samsung permanently ceases production of Note 7 | SiliconANGLE

Extinguished

"The decision to completely terminate the Galaxy Note 7 line leaves Samsung without its top of the range phone, a device that was meant to compete with Apple’s iPhone Plus.
Whether Samsung will resurrect a new version of the phone in the coming year, as in the Galaxy Note 8, is yet to be seen, but the Note name may now be completely sullied as a brand.
Samsung does make a number of phablets including the Galaxy Mega, however, unlike the Note series the phones have never been particularly popular outside of Asia."
Official: Samsung permanently ceases production of Note 7 | SiliconANGLE

This is the guy convincing your company to let you use Facebook at work (Mashable)

Aiming high
"Is there an industry or sized business that you are going for?
[Julien Codorniou, Workplace director] Surprisingly banking, which is a very conservative and complicated industry, has been one of our main sweet spots. I'm sure you've heard about Royal Bank of Scotland, Norway, India have been using Workplace for months now with a pretty high satisfaction.

What’s unique is that it’s for everyone in the company. We care about people that have never had email before. We care about people who just had a mobile device. Everyone in the company; every employee; every industry; that's what is unique about it.

When we think about KPIs [key performance indicators], we don’t think about number of companies using it. We think about it as the percentage of the country’s working population that is using it."
This is the guy convincing your company to let you use Facebook at work