Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Amazon updates the Fire HD 10 tablet with a 1080p display and a much lower price - The Verge

Also see Amazon's Newest Gadget Is a Tablet That's Also an Echo (Gizmodo); tangentially, see Amazon has 76% smart home speaker U.S. market share as Echo unit sales reach 15M, new study finds (GeekWire)

"Amazon’s flagship Fire tablet is getting the display fans have been calling for next month — and a much lower price. The company said today that its new Fire HD 10 tablet will come with a 10.1-inch, 1080p display, making it the first Amazon tablet to have a display of that caliber since the Fire HDX in 2013. Pricing for the tablet starts at $150, or $80 less than the previous entry-level price of $230. The new Fire HD 10 starts shipping the week of Oct. 11th.

The new Fire HD 10 has received improved components across the board. The tablet will run on a quad-core processor for the first time, improving the tablet’s speed by 30 percent, Amazon says. Average battery life has improved from eight hours to 10. Dual speakers have Dolby Atmos support. And it has 32GB of storage in the entry-level model, up from 16GB for the previous edition. (As before, a micro-SD card slot lets you expand storage by up to 256GB. A 64GB model is also available.)"
Amazon updates the Fire HD 10 tablet with a 1080p display and a much lower price - The Verge

Your local library's eBooks now appear in Google search (Android Police)

I'm guessing there's some schema.org somewhere in this picture

"Big readers on a small budget have always had a hard time. Library waiting lists can get pretty long, and sometimes titles aren't even available locally. But today Google added a new feature to its search that helps library patrons everywhere. Now the next time you search for a book title, you can see if the e-book is available to borrow from your library. 

This new feature works on both mobile and desktop and manifests simply. If you search for the title of a book, you'll see one of two things. On desktop search, there's an additional heading in the detailed results/information card on the right. But on mobile, it's buried in the Get Book tab, just under the Buy ebook card."
Your local library's eBooks now appear in Google search

Tech innovator Tim O’Reilly: Don’t fear technology, robots or the future | The Press Democrat -

From a wide-ranging interview

"Now O’Reilly, 63, is turning to a much broader general audience with his latest project, a book entitled: “WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.” In it, he takes what he has learned from some 40 years in the tech world and applies it to the challenges facing our economy and society, where artificial intelligence, robots and big data are changing our lives.

O’Reilly doesn’t fear the future. He writes: “Instead of using technology to replace people, we can use it to augment them so they can do things that were previously impossible.”

In an interview at his Oakland home, O’Reilly covered a wide range of topics: his business, weaning ourselves from Wall Street’s influence on our economy, sexism in the tech culture, and why he thinks ride-hailing business Uber has been over-hyped. The transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity."
Tech innovator Tim O’Reilly: Don’t fear technology, robots or the future | The Press Democrat -

Facebook’s war on free will | Technology | The Guardian

From a long post "extracted from World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer;" but is it still a technocracy if deep learning systems are in charge?...

"Without knowing it, Zuckerberg is the heir to a long political tradition. Over the last 200 years, the west has been unable to shake an abiding fantasy, a dream sequence in which we throw out the bum politicians and replace them with engineers – rule by slide rule. The French were the first to entertain this notion in the bloody, world-churning aftermath of their revolution. A coterie of the country’s most influential philosophers (notably, Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte) were genuinely torn about the course of the country. They hated all the old ancient bastions of parasitic power – the feudal lords, the priests and the warriors – but they also feared the chaos of the mob. To split the difference, they proposed a form of technocracy – engineers and assorted technicians would rule with beneficent disinterestedness. Engineers would strip the old order of its power, while governing in the spirit of science. They would impose rationality and order.

This dream has captivated intellectuals ever since, especially Americans. The great sociologist Thorstein Veblen was obsessed with installing engineers in power and, in 1921, wrote a book making his case. His vision briefly became a reality. In the aftermath of the first world war, American elites were aghast at all the irrational impulses unleashed by that conflict – the xenophobia, the racism, the urge to lynch and riot. And when the realities of economic life had grown so complicated, how could politicians possibly manage them? Americans of all persuasions began yearning for the salvific ascendance of the most famous engineer of his time: Herbert Hoover. In 1920, Franklin D Roosevelt – who would, of course, go on to replace him in 1932 – organised a movement to draft Hoover for the presidency."
Facebook’s war on free will | Technology | The Guardian

Equifax Suffered a Hack Almost Five Months Earlier Than the Date It Disclosed - Bloomberg

Looking like a multifaceted IT worst-practices case study

"If the two hacks are unrelated it could be that different hacking teams had different goals. One clue has emerged that suggests one goal of the attackers was to use Equifax as a way into the computers of major banks, according to a fourth person familiar with the matter.

This person said a large Canadian bank has determined that hackers claiming to sell celebrity profiles from Equifax on the dark web -- information that appears to be fraudulent, or recycled from other breaches -- did in fact steal the username and password for an application programming interface, or API, linking the bank’s back-end servers to Equifax.

According to the person and a Sept. 14 internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg, the gateway linked a test and development site used by the bank’s wealth management division to Equifax, allowing the two entities to share information digitally."
Equifax Suffered a Hack Almost Five Months Earlier Than the Date It Disclosed - Bloomberg

Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age - The New York Times

tl;dr: be the sole survivor in your brick-and-mortar retail category; on the other hand, Toys ‘R’ Us Files for Bankruptcy, Crippled by Competition and Debt

"Mr. Joly didn’t explicitly tell me this, but it is obvious: Best Buy has benefited from some serious good fortune.

It’s lucky that the products it specializes in selling, like big-screen TVs and high-end audio equipment, are big-ticket items that many customers still feel uncomfortable buying sight unseen from a website. It’s lucky that several large competitors have gone out of business, shrinking its list of rivals. And it’s lucky that the vendors who make the products it sells, like Apple and Samsung, have kept churning out expensive blockbuster gadgets.

“They’re at the mercy of the product cycles,” said Stephen Baker, a tech industry analyst at NPD Group. “If people stop buying PCs or they don’t care about big-screen TVs anymore, they have a challenge.”"
Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age - The New York Times

Monday, September 18, 2017

Slack Gets Slice of SoftBank’s $100 Billion Tech Bounty - Bloomberg

Few financial constraints for Slack; see Okta's Most Popular Apps Collaboration + Messaging for a related market momentum snapshot

"Slack Technologies Inc. closed a $250 million funding round led by SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund, giving it more ammunition for expansion  in an increasingly competitive market for workplace messaging services.

The financing round values the startup at $5.1 billion, up from $3.8 billion the last time. The Vision Fund is joined by Accel and other investors, Slack said Sunday. Bloomberg reported on the latest funding in July.

San Francisco-based Slack said the money is for “operational flexibility,” not for a particular use, and added that it still has much of the $591 million it already raised. The company this month announced an expansion of its service to work in German, French, Spanish and Japanese as it competes with Microsoft Corp.’s Teams and Atlassian Corp.’s HipChat service for corporate customers."
Slack Gets Slice of SoftBank’s $100 Billion Tech Bounty - Bloomberg

What Jamie Dimon Is Missing About Bitcoin - The New York Times

Meanwhile, bitcoin's price is getting close to $4K again, up ~30% over the last few days...

"Mr. Dimon’s comments may have come as a surprise to the dozens of employees at his bank working on projects related to blockchain, the bookkeeping technology underpinning digital currencies. And the comments must have been especially jarring to those employees who were holding a forum for hedge funds interested in Bitcoin— whose market value stood at about $70 billion at that moment.

It’s no secret that Bitcoin and other digital currencies may dramatically fall in value at any time. How can an asset whose value jumps by 20 percent some days, and which no one can accurately value, plausibly not also suffer huge declines?

But that’s a long way from Bitcoin being a worthless fraud."
What Jamie Dimon Is Missing About Bitcoin - The New York Times

Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls - The New York Times

"It's complicated..."

"As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.

And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”"
Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls - The New York Times

Friday, September 15, 2017

Oracle's Q1: Cloud, great. Hardware, meh. Mergers, unlikely • The Register

Also see Oracle's profit, cloud growth forecasts drag down shares (Reuters)

"Ellison also eschewed the notion of making a big acquisition to further Oracle's cloud business, saying "there is no one left to buy," and suggesting that Oracle would instead continue to rely on its in-house products.

When he wasn't talking up the cloud gains, Ellison used the earnings release to give a preview of at least one of the things Oracle will be showing off next month at its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

"In a couple of weeks, we will announce the world's first fully autonomous database cloud service," said Ellison. "Based on machine learning, the latest version of Oracle is a totally automated 'self-driving' system that does not require human beings to manage or tune the database.""
Oracle's Q1: Cloud, great. Hardware, meh. Mergers, unlikely • The Register

Facebook ‘Snooze’ button temporarily hides people in your feed | TechCrunch

Subtle social signals

"Pages and Groups may benefit from Snooze, as it could reduce the chances of someone unliking or leaving them. But it also should inspire them not to overshare or spam, otherwise they could be put in time-out.

Facebook already constantly modulates how much you see of someone based on implicit signals, like if you Like, click, comment on or share their posts. It will surely use Snoozing as a signal that it should show you less of someone when they’re allowed to reappear. But if we’re going to spend so much of our lives browsing the News Feed curated by Facebook’s faceless algorithm, it’s nice to see the company equip us humans with more than just binary controls."
Facebook ‘Snooze’ button temporarily hides people in your feed | TechCrunch

Gripping buttons on both sides of iPhone X disables Face ID, recognition works with most sunglasses (AppleInsider)

I'm guessing Apple's patent-pending portfolio in this context is extensive...

"Keith Krimbel emailed Federighi this week, and received a response which he share on Twitter. Krimbel asked what measures Apple was taking to ensure a thief cannot take a user's iPhone X, point it at their face and then run away with the device unlocked.

"There are two mitigations: if you don't stare at the phone, it won't unlock," Federighi said. "Also, if you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when you hand it over, it will temporarily disable Face ID."

Krimbel also asked if Face ID will work with sunglasses, and Federighi explained that "most" but not all will not interfere with the biometric unlock mechanism.

"Most sunglasses let through enough IR light that Face ID can see your eyes even when the glasses appear to be opaque," he explained. "It's really amazing!""
Gripping buttons on both sides of iPhone X disables Face ID, recognition works with most sunglasses

The iPhone X’s processor is more powerful than the newest MacBook Pro – BGR

Still waiting for a post-Intel Mac...

"Geekbench 4 single-core tests average around 4169, while multi-core have a 9836 average. But they can go up to 4274 and 10438, as found by MacRumors. That’s much better than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro (3887 and 9210 average scores), which isn’t surprising, considering that the 2017 iPads have A10X chips inside.

The highest-end dual-core 13-inch MacBook Pro scores 4592 and 9602 in Geekbench 4 tests. That means the iPhone X is slower in single-core tasks but speedier in multi-core tasks.

Sure, that doesn’t mean the A11 Bionic can do all the things a desktop CPU does. But, think about the numbers for a second. When has a mobile chip been able to match a desktop processor in raw benchmarks? What other smartphones can offer similar performance? Even with cheating enabled, no Android device can really touch these numbers, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Qualcomm’s next processor can get anywhere close to that.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also powered by the same A11 Bionic chipset."
The iPhone X’s processor is more powerful than the newest MacBook Pro – BGR

This Silicon Valley start-up wants to replace lawyers with robots - The Washington Post

Accelerating the inevitable; also see Twitch co-founder Justin Kan unveils tech platform for law firms (TechCrunch)
"Silicon Valley’s next hot start-up isn’t likely to be a video chat app. Nor is it likely to be an on-demand service, like Instacart or Uber.

But maybe it could be — and this isn’t a joke — a law firm.

That is, at least, the ambition of Justin Kan, a serial entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about hot start-ups. The 34-year-old Kan built the video game streaming Twitch, which he sold to Amazon for nearly a billion dollars in 2014. He then helped launch hundreds of companies as a partner at the prominent Silicon Valley start-up incubator, Y-Combinator.

Kan’s months-old legal technology start-up, Atrium, is actually incorporated as a law firm — and may be the only Silicon Valley start-up ever to have done so. It has raised $10.5 million so far, and it is even more unusual in a region where rule-breaking and rule-bending are celebrated, and lawyers are among a start-up founder’s last and most reluctant hires."
This Silicon Valley start-up wants to replace lawyers with robots - The Washington Post

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety - The New York Times

In other better-late-than-never news, see Fearing Anti-Semitic Speech, Facebook Limits Audience Targeting (NYT); in another digital dilemma, also see Google and Facebook Fret Over Anti-Prostitution Bill’s Fallout (Bloomberg)
"This week, Google acknowledged the problem — and started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site. “We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision,” Google spokeswoman Elisa Greene said in a statement on Thursday.

Google has taken similar steps to restrict advertisements only a few times before. Last year it limited ads for payday lenders, and in the past it created a verification system for locksmiths to prevent fraud.

In this case, the restrictions will limit a popular marketing tool in the $35 billion addiction treatment business, affecting thousands of small-time operators."
Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety - The New York Times

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Finally, Some Answers From Equifax to Your Data Breach Questions - The New York Times

Final paragraphs; check the full post for recent Equifax guidance
"Look, I get the deal here. We all get it now. These companies don’t think of us as customers. They think of us as products. They get lenders and others to send over our payment histories to them, aggregate it and resell the data elsewhere. And until recently, they answered to no one, more or less. 
Now, however, Equifax has to answer to all of us consumers and others, since they’re going to be sued and investigated to kingdom come. And Experian and TransUnion ought to be more forthcoming.

So to all of them, I say: Want fewer freezes? Less Twitter outrage? Answer our reasonable questions, so we can protect ourselves now that it is utterly clear that many of the supposed experts in this industry cannot do so."
Finally, Some Answers From Equifax to Your Data Breach Questions - The New York Times

Bitcoin exchange BTCChina says to stop trading, sparking further slide (Reuters)

Final sentence: "Bitcoin is on track for its worst month since January 2015." Also see Bitcoin drops below $3,000, Ethereum falls under $200 (Betanews)
"Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCChina said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30, setting off a further slide in the value of the cryptocurrency that left it over 30 percent away from the record highs it hit earlier in the month.

China has boomed as a cryptocurrency trading location in recent years, as investors and speculators flocked to domestic exchanges that formerly allowed users to conduct trades for free, boosting demand.

But that has prompted regulators in the country to crack down on the cryptocurrency sector, in a bid to stamp out potential financial risks as consumers pile into a highly risky and speculative market that has seen unprecedented growth this year."
Bitcoin exchange BTCChina says to stop trading, sparking further slide

Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media, Officials Say - Bloomberg

Probably some difficult days ahead for the Facebook and Twitter PR departments

"Russia’s effort to influence U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to President Donald Trump’s associates, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Mueller’s team of prosecutors and FBI agents is zeroing in on how Russia spread fake and damaging information through social media and is seeking additional evidence from companies like Facebook and Twitter about what happened on their networks, said one of the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the ongoing investigation.

The ability of foreign nations to use social media to manipulate and influence elections and policy is increasingly seen as the soft underbelly of international espionage, another official said, because it doesn’t involve the theft of state secrets and the U.S. doesn’t have a ready defense to prevent such attacks."
Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media, Officials Say - Bloomberg

Kaspersky Lab Antivirus Software Is Ordered Off U.S. Government Computers - The New York Times

Also see Kaspersky: Russia responds to US ban on software (BBC)

"Kaspersky is considered one of the foremost cybersecurity research firms in the world, and has considerable expertise in designing antivirus software and tools to uncover spyware used by Western intelligence services. The company was founded by Eugene V. Kaspersky, who attended a high school that trained Russian spies, and later wrote software for the Soviet Army before going on to found Kaspersky Lab in 1997. He has insisted that neither he nor his company have active ties to the Russian military or intelligence services.

Yet despite its prominence in the cybersecurity world, its origins in Russia have for years fueled suspicions about its possible ties to Russia’s intelligence agencies. Federal officials have warned private companies to avoid Kaspersky software, and earlier this year the firm was removed from two lists of approved vendors used by government agencies to purchase technology."
Kaspersky Lab Antivirus Software Is Ordered Off U.S. Government Computers - The New York Times

Apple explains what exactly happened when Face ID ‘failed’ during iPhone X demo | 9to5Mac

tl;dr: they were holding it wrong

"Apple has officially clarified what happened on stage when the first demo of Face ID didn’t go as planned. While many were quick to call it a “fail,” that’s not what happened in the slightest. Apple confirmed the situation in a statement to Yahoo this evening… Apple explained that the demo iPhone X had been handled by several people before being setup at the demo table for Craig Federighi. Face ID had tried to authenticate the faces of everyone who handled the device, and after failing, the iPhone X moved to require a passcode. Thus, when Federighi went to demo Face ID, the iPhone X was already in passcode mode."
Apple explains what exactly happened when Face ID ‘failed’ during iPhone X demo | 9to5Mac

Twitter founder: Trump presidency is product of short attention spans | US news | The Guardian

A new Medium still evolving

"He also spoke of how he had become disillusioned about the ability of the internet to make people more intelligent. “One of my big learnings, over the last couple of decades, is that access to information alone doesn’t make us smarter. The fake news thing is one small part of it; another even bigger part of it is the quality and depth of the information. Is it actually building our understanding or deepening our understanding of the world or is it just noise?”

And Williams conceded that internet companies could do more to tackle online abuse. He said: “Providers of information systems and the platforms that our media get disseminated on have a big responsibility. It includes removing stuff.

“We are evolving our understanding of what abuse is and how protecting free speech is a lot more nuanced than it sounds. You can be an ardent believer in free speech and also realise that someone’s speech is limiting someone else’s willingness to speak. I’m optimistic that the systems are going to get much better [at tackling online abuse].”"
Twitter founder: Trump presidency is product of short attention spans | US news | The Guardian

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Apple starts cutting the bloat from iTunes by removing iOS App Store | The Verge

And yet somehow iTunes (12.7) now consumes more CPU, at least on my Mac...

"iTunes for PC and Mac is putting the emphasis back on being an app for music. It’s no longer a place for you to get iOS apps, but it’s still got movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and podcasts. Today, Apple quietly released iTunes version 12.7 for both Windows and macOS, and the most immediate change is that it no longer contains any options for syncing apps or ringtones to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

“If you previously used iTunes to sync apps or ringtones on your iOS device, use the new App Store or Sounds Settings on iOS to redownload them without your Mac,” Apple tells users in the update prompt. Apple says that even after this update, apps and ringtones that “are no longer available for redownload” can still be synced by plugging in your iOS device, so I’m guessing (read: I hope) this remains a way of transferring over custom ringtones."
Apple starts cutting the bloat from iTunes by removing iOS App Store | The Verge

How Apple is bringing us into the age of facial recognition whether we’re ready or not - The Washington Post

Actual results may vary for people with evil twins

"The facial recognition system, dubbed the TrueDepth camera system, includes a front-facing camera, a proximity sensor, an infrared camera and a dot projector that beams more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots onto a user’s face to take measurements. The device then combines all the available data to create what Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, called “a mathematical model of your face.”

“The chance that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it with their face is about one in a million,” Schiller said, presenting the new device at Apple’s glitzy new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif."
How Apple is bringing us into the age of facial recognition whether we’re ready or not - The Washington Post

The future is here: iPhone X - Apple

While we're waiting for detailed hands-on reviews, check the full page for an overview of iPhone X features and iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus: A new generation of iPhone for Apple's overview of iPhone 8

"Apple today announced iPhone X, the future of the smartphone, in a gorgeous all-glass design with a beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display, A11 Bionic chip, wireless charging and an improved rear camera with dual optical image stabilization. iPhone X delivers an innovative and secure new way for customers to unlock, authenticate and pay using Face ID, enabled by the new TrueDepth camera. iPhone X will be available for pre-order beginning Friday, October 27 in more than 55 countries and territories, and in stores beginning Friday, November 3."
The future is here: iPhone X - Apple

Bitcoin is a fraud that will blow up, says JP Morgan boss | Technology | The Guardian

Consider the source, but still a timely bitcoin reality check; in other bitcoin news, see In China’s Hinterlands, Workers Mine Bitcoin for a Digital Fortune (NYT)
"Bitcoin is a fraud that will ultimately blow up, according to the JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, who said the digital currency was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea.

Speaking at a banking conference in New York, Dimon said he would fire “in a second” anyone at the investment bank found to be trading in bitcoin. “For two reasons: it’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.”"
Bitcoin is a fraud that will blow up, says JP Morgan boss | Technology | The Guardian

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Microsoft Teams adds guest access and support for more developer tools | TechCrunch

Microsoft Teams continues to gain momentum

"Microsoft today announced that 125,000 organizations in 181 markets now use Teams, its Slack competitor for Office 365 subscribers. That’s up from the 30,000 organizations in 145 markets that had adopted the service by the end of January.

In addition to this momentum update, the company also announced a number of feature updates to the service. Starting today, you can add anyone with an Azure Active Directory account as a guest to a team. Microsoft says there are currently 870 million Active Directory user accounts across its own commercial services and third-party Azure Active Directory apps. That still means there’s a bit of a barrier to entry here for guest access and Microsoft plans to lower than barrier in the near future by also allowing Teams users to add anybody with a basic Microsoft Account to Teams."
Microsoft Teams adds guest access and support for more developer tools | TechCrunch

Lawsuits against Equifax pile up after massive data breach (Reuters)

Also see The Equifax Breach: What You Should Know (Krebs on Security)

"More than 30 lawsuits have been filed in the United States against Equifax Inc (EFX.N) after the credit reporting company said thieves may have stolen personal information for 143 million Americans in one of the largest hackings ever.

At least 25 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts by Sunday, including at least one accusing the company of securities fraud, court records show.

Several more lawsuits were filed against Equifax on Monday. Many of those raising similar claims will likely be combined into a single, nationwide case."
Lawsuits against Equifax pile up after massive data breach

Friday, September 08, 2017

Tesla and SpaceX Share More Than Musk - Bloomberg

In other SpaceX news, SpaceX successfully launches mysterious X-37B spaceplane and recovers first stage (TechCrunch)

"Rocket ships and electric cars may seem like very different ends of the transportation spectrum, but for these two manufacturers, there’s one key link: They share a chief executive officer in Elon Musk. But there are less obvious connections, too. The growing behind-the-scenes collaboration that occurs within Musk’s expanding, post-modern empire has spanned from finding stronger, lighter and cheaper materials to developing software to even sharing executives when the need for trusted talent arises.

“In this race to disrupt the world with both electric cars and autonomy as well as space, you don’t really work for Tesla or SpaceX. You just work for Elon Musk,” technology analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures said. “You have the most wicked smart people who can feed off of each other all working for Elon, and he can call on them to help crack various problems.”"
Tesla and SpaceX Share More Than Musk - Bloomberg

News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017 | Pew Research Center

On a related note, see The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election (NYT)

"As of August 2017, two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media – with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. This is a modest increase since early 2016, when (during the height of the presidential primaries) 62% of U.S. adults reported getting news from social media. While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and nonwhite. This study is based on a survey conducted August 8-21, 2017, with 4,971 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.

For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016. Those under 50, meanwhile, remain more likely than their elders to get news from these sites (78% do, unchanged from 2016)."
News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017 | Pew Research Center

Tulip Fever: There's a Digital Token for That, And So Much More - Bloomberg

What could possibly go wrong?...

"More than $2 billion has been raised this year through initial coin offerings -- a crowdfunding method that allows startups to make big bucks fast by selling digital tokens -- even with regulators from the U.S. to China trying to slow or halt the practice amid allegations of fraud and unbridled speculation.

One project, Synthorn, is raising money through an ICO to "help measure demand for synthetic rhino horn aphrodisiac pills." Socialite and businesswoman Hilton is backing Lydian tokens, a cryptocurrency issued by advertising company Gravity4 Inc., whose founder, Gurbaksh Chahal, was sentenced to a year in jail after beating his girlfriend. Even Burger King is reportedly trying its hand at creating its own cryptocurrency, which is called exactly what you would expect -- Whoppercoin."
Tulip Fever: There's a Digital Token for That, And So Much More - Bloomberg

Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Affected 143 Million Customers - The New York Times

Oops... Also see How to Protect Your Information Online (NYT)

"Equifax, based in Atlanta, is a particularly tempting target for hackers. If identity thieves wanted to hit one place to grab all the data needed to do the most damage, they would go straight to one of the three major credit reporting agencies.

“This is about as bad as it gets,” said Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group. “If you have a credit report, chances are you may be in this breach. The chances are much better than 50 percent.”"
Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Affected 143 Million Customers - The New York Times

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Writing “Hit Refresh” | Satya Nadella | Pulse | LinkedIn

Check the full post for more details about Satya Nadella's new book

"“Hit Refresh” isn’t a victory lap or a how-to manual. That would be premature. It’s a set of reflections, ideas and principles on transformation. It explores the renaissance of a storied company and the implications of the coming wave of technology — artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing — which will soon disrupt the status quo impacting our lives, communities and economies. It’s also a set of questions for anybody searching for improvement — for themselves as leaders, for their institutions and for society."
Writing “Hit Refresh” | Satya Nadella | Pulse | LinkedIn

SpaceX set to launch the X-37B, the Pentagon’s secretive autonomous space drone - The Washington Post

A major SpaceX milestone

"For nearly a decade, the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, had a monopoly on Pentagon launches. SpaceX filed suit against the Air Force for the right to compete. In 2015, the parties settled and SpaceX was ultimately allowed to compete against ULA, opening up a potentially lucrative source of revenue. Since then, SpaceX has won two of three contested launch contracts.

While the launch of the X-37B was not competed — ULA President Tory Bruno has said that his company was not given the option to bid — it marks SpaceX’s first military mission after years of launching payloads for NASA and commercial satellites. All four of the X-37B's previous launches were aboard ULA's Atlas V rocket.

The Pentagon said it was grateful to have two companies with the ability to launch, introducing competition, and lower prices."
SpaceX set to launch the X-37B, the Pentagon’s secretive autonomous space drone - The Washington Post

Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads - The New York Times

See this Facebook post for more details

"The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election. Multiple investigations of the Russian meddling, and the possibility that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia, have cast a shadow over the first eight months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Facebook staff members on Wednesday briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are investigating the Russian intervention in the American election. Mr. Stamos indicated that Facebook is also cooperating with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, writing that “we have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”"
Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads - The New York Times

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

IBM pitched Watson as a revolution in cancer care. It's nowhere close (Stat)

From an extensive IBM Watson reality check

"Breathlessly promoting its signature brand — Watson — IBM sought to capture the world’s imagination, and it quickly zeroed in on a high-profile target: cancer.

But three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care."
IBM pitched Watson as a revolution in cancer care. It's nowhere close

Laurene Powell Jobs is using Ronald Reagan in political ads to attack Trump’s DACA decision - Recode

On a related note, Microsoft says it will defend its 39 ‘dreamers’ in court if the government tries to deport them (Washington Post)

"Emerson Collective, Powell Jobs’s vehicle for activism and investments, will begin a flight of spots on Wednesday that attack President Donald Trump. A large Democratic donor, Powell Jobs is lambasting the Trump administration for rescinding the DACA program that protected young immigrants who arrived in the United States without proper papers.

The spot uses Ronald Reagan’s farewell address at length as he lauds the country’s diversity.

“If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors. And the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here,” Reagan says from the Oval Office, as diverse faces of Americans are shown. “That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”"
Laurene Powell Jobs is using Ronald Reagan in political ads to attack Trump’s DACA decision - Recode

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8: The Best Screen, for a Hefty Price - The New York Times

Probably not the review Samsung was hoping for

"There is as much to love about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as there is to hate.

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. For unlocking the phone, the eye scanner barely works and the fingerprint sensor is in a lousy place. Samsung’s Bixby, which is included, is the most incompetent virtual assistant on the market. And — need I remind you — this phone line has a reputation for gadgets that spontaneously combust.

If you are the forgiving type, you may love the Note 8 despite its flaws. It has the best smartphone display — as bright and vivid as a screen on a high-end television set — that I have ever tested. The camera is fast and takes professional-quality photos. Jotting down notes with the stylus feels almost as good as writing on a paper notepad. And most importantly, Samsung did extra safety checks to make sure this one doesn’t explode."
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8: The Best Screen, for a Hefty Price - The New York Times

Facebook Offers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Music Rights - Bloomberg

Compete different

"Getting into business with Facebook presents something of a Faustian bargain. Rights holders need a deal. Given the current legal framework for copyright online, users are going to upload video with infringing material no matter what. The onus is on rights holders to police those videos. A deal ensures they get something rather than waste resources tracking down all the illegal videos.

Music industry executives also hope licensing songs for user-generated video on Facebook will place greater pressure on YouTube to behave. Yet by further empowering Facebook to host video and music, rights holders risk creating another YouTube –- a great source of promotion, but a place where consumption outpaces sales."
Facebook Offers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Music Rights - Bloomberg

Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Help Steal Signs Against Yankees - The New York Times

The Boston Globe notes "Cheating in baseball? There’s apparently an app for that."

"For decades, spying on another team has been as much a part of baseball’s gamesmanship as brushback pitches and hard slides. The Boston Red Sox have apparently added a modern — and illicit — twist: They used an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees and other teams.

Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter."
Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Help Steal Signs Against Yankees - The New York Times

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Elon Musk says AI could lead to third world war | Technology | The Guardian

Also see Putin says the nation that leads in AI ‘will be the ruler of the world’ (The Verge)
"His fears were prompted by a statement from Vladimir Putin that “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind … It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Hashing out his thoughts in public, Musk clarified that he was not just concerned about the prospect of a world leader starting the war, but also of an overcautious AI deciding “that a [pre-emptive] strike is [the] most probable path to victory”.

He’s less worried about North Korea’s increasingly bold nuclear ambitions, arguing that the result for Pyongyang if they launched a nuclear missile “would be suicide” – and that it doesn’t have any entanglements that would lead to a world war even if it did. His view is that AI is “vastly more risky” than the Kim Jong-un-led country."
Elon Musk says AI could lead to third world war | Technology | The Guardian

Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams • The Register

An unhappy Labor Day weekend for former Sun employees working for Oracle

"Tech industry observer Simon Phipps claims “~all” Solaris staff were laid off. His use of a tilde, and threads on anonymous message board The Layoff that mention small numbers of staff being retained, lead us to believe that a small Solaris team remains in place. Other comments mention hundreds of workers recently moved from dedicated Solaris teams to Oracle's Linux development efforts. The Register feels it's conceivable that such teams could work on Solaris and Oracle Linux code, leaving significant resources available to both and perhaps even to deliver on Oracle's plan for continuous updates to Solaris 11.3 instead of a full 12.0 upgrade.

Threads on The Layoff suggest that around 2,500 layoffs have been made, covering Solaris, SPARC silicon development and storage hardware, including tape libraries, with one result being that development work has ceased on the ZFS Storage Appliance. The fate of Solaris and SPARC silicon remains unclear."
Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams • The Register

New York Daily News sells to Tronc for zero dollars - Recode

Newspaper economics

"The New York Daily News is one of the biggest newspapers in the country. It’s an influential voice in the biggest city in the country. Earlier this year, it won a Pulitzer.

And it is officially worth ... nothing.

That’s according to the deal that Tronc, which already owns the Los Angles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has struck with News owner Mort Zuckerman, who will take zero dollars in payment when he hands off his paper tomorrow."
New York Daily News sells to Tronc for zero dollars - Recode

Lilium, a Flying Car Start-up, Raises $90 Million - The New York Times

See this Lilium page for a technology overview

"The investment was led by Tencent Holdings, the Chinese internet giant. Other investors in the round included LGT, the investment vehicle of Lichtenstein’s royal family; Atomico, the venture firm run by a founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom; and Obvious Ventures, the investment firm co-founded by the Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. Mr. Zennstrom has previously invested in the company.

Lilium is among several companies looking to usher in an era of Jetsons-type flying cars, including those backed by the Google co-founder Larry Page, Uber and Airbus. But the two-year-old company is trying to stand out by focusing on an electric jet — unlike other models that effectively function more like hovercraft."
Lilium, a Flying Car Start-up, Raises $90 Million - The New York Times

Friday, September 01, 2017

Fueled by Apple Watch sales growth, smartwatches take over wearables market (AppleInsider)

In other "other" news, see AirPods dominating wireless headphone market despite competition & early supply issues (9to5Mac)

"Apple exhibited strong growth after the release of Apple Watch Series 2, a revamped version of the tech giant's original wearable that places an emphasis on health and fitness. Watch took 13 percent of the overall wearables market in quarter two, shipping 3.4 million units over the three-month period, IDC said. That figure is up 49.7 percent from the same time last year.

Fitbit, which popularized basic fitness trackers, fell precipitously from first to third place over the past year. The firm managed the same 3.4 million unit shipments recorded by Apple in the second quarter, but took 12.9 percent of the market, down from 5.7 million shipments and a 24.1 percent share in 2016."
Fueled by Apple Watch sales growth, smartwatches take over wearables market

After Harvey, Small Social Networks Prove Their Might (BuzzFeed)

A compelling collaboration case study

"Member activity in the affected areas is five times greater than normal, Nextdoor told BuzzFeed News, and its membership in those areas is up 650%. Close to 100 local agencies are using Nextdoor to connect with residents in the affected areas, the company said.

Though Facebook is a major social platform of more than 2 billion members, its groups form individual mini social networks of their own, operating outside the usual broadcast-style method of sharing content on the platform. And these groups have been active too, used to coordinate everything from animal rescue to boat dispatch."
After Harvey, Small Social Networks Prove Their Might

Uber’s troubles hurt U.S. market share and benefit Lyft - Recode

Difficult days ahead for Uber's new CEO

"The past year has been a PR nightmare for Uber, as the ride-sharing company has committed all sorts of blunders — legal and otherwise. Uber has been accused of sexual harassment, stealing trade secrets and profiteering off protests.

But do customers care? It seems so.

Since the beginning of 2014, Uber has gone from owning 91 percent* of the U.S. ride-sharing market down to 74.3 percent as of this month, according to data from Second Measure, a research firm that tracks billions of dollars in anonymized credit card purchases."
Uber’s troubles hurt U.S. market share and benefit Lyft - Recode

Apple, Facebook, Google and scores of businesses are imploring President Trump to protect the Dreamers - Recode

Also see Satya Nadella and Microsoft take strong stance against reported end to DACA (The Verge)

"The chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google joined roughly 300 business leaders urging President Donald Trump late Thursday to continue protecting children brought illegally to the United States from being deported.

Since 2012, the U.S. government has allowed those children — young adults now known as Dreamers — to continue living in the country as long as they obtain and renew work permits under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

But Trump on Friday is expected to eliminate that legal shield entirely. Months after promising to approach the issue with “great heart,” the president reportedly is expected to order the government to cease granting work permits for undocumented young adults to stay. Meanwhile, the roughly 800,000 currently registered in DACA would not be allowed to obtain additional work authorizations once their current approvals expire."
Apple, Facebook, Google and scores of businesses are imploring President Trump to protect the Dreamers - Recode

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Artificial intelligence: The future is superintelligent : Nature : Nature Research

Also see A physicist explores the future of artificial intelligence (Science); if you're going to be in the Boston area 9/15, also consider A Reno Family Foundation Symposium – Life 3.0 at the Museum of Science, with Max Tegmark and Erik Brynjolfsson (free, but tickets required)

"The book's title refers to a third phase in evolutionary history. For almost 4 billion years, both hardware (bodies) and software (capacity for generating behaviour) were fixed by biology. For the next 100,000 years, learning and culture enabled humans to adapt and control their own software. In the imminent third phase, both software and hardware can be redesigned. This may sound like transhumanism — the movement to re-engineer body and brain — but Tegmark's focus is on AI, which supplements mental capabilities with external devices.

Tegmark considers both risks and benefits. Near-term risks include an arms race in autonomous weapons and dramatic reductions in employment. The AI community is practically unanimous in condemning the creation of machines that can choose to kill humans, but the issue of work has sparked debate. Many predict an economic boon — AI inspiring new jobs to replace old, as with previous industrial revolutions. Tegmark wryly imagines two horses discussing the rise of the internal combustion engine in 1900. One predicts “new jobs for horses ... That's what's always happened before, like with the invention of the wheel and the plow.” For most horses, alas, the “new job” was to be pet food. Tegmark's analysis is compelling, and shared by economists such as Paul Krugman. But the question remains: what desirable economy might we aim for, when most of what we now call work is done by machines?"
Artificial intelligence: The future is superintelligent : Nature : Nature Research

Google forced out New America's Open Markets division. What's next? - The Washington Post

From a Zephyr Teachout article on Google's New America problem:
"About 10 years ago, Tim Wu, the Columbia Law professor who coined the term network neutrality, made this prescient comment: “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king.”

Wu was right. And now, Google has established a pattern of lobbying and threatening to acquire power. It has reached a dangerous point common to many monarchs: The moment where it no longer wants to allow dissent."
Final paragraph:
"Google’s actions forced the Open Markets team to leave New America. But, thankfully, it did not succeed in silencing them entirely. Open Markets will continue on as a separate organization, which I will chair. Their work exposing corporate monopolies and advocating for regulation is more important than ever. Google shows us why."
Google forced out New America's Open Markets division. What's next? - The Washington Post

FDA recalls close to half-a-million pacemakers over hacking fears (Engadget)

Also see Firmware Update to Address Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities Identified in Abbott's (formerly St. Jude Medical's) Implantable Cardiac Pacemakers: FDA Safety Communication

"Turns out former Vice President (and erratic shooter) Dick Cheney was right all along: Your heart can be hacked. At least if you have a pacemaker, that is. On Tuesday, the FDA recalled 465,000 of the medical devices -- the ones that help control your heart beat -- citing security vulnerabilities. The pacemakers, which come from health company Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical), require a firmware update. Fortunately, it can be installed by a health care provider in just three minutes. The models affected include the Accent, Anthem, Accent MRI, Accent ST, Assurity, and Allure."
FDA recalls close to half-a-million pacemakers over hacking fears

The Smartphone’s Future: It’s All About the Camera - The New York Times

Looking forward to September 12th...

"Here’s a peek into how the camera may come into play: As soon as you pick up your gadget, it will see you and know you are the owner and unlock the screen. Overseas, you will be able to point the camera at a restaurant menu to translate items into your native language. When shopping for furniture, you can point your phone camera at your living room floor and place a virtual rendering of a coffee table down to see how it looks and move around and peek underneath it.

Some of this futurism is already starting to happen.

Next month, Apple plans to hold a special event to introduce a set of new iPhones, including a premium model that can scan 3-D objects — including your face. Samsung, the No. 1 phone maker, also recently introduced the Galaxy Note 8, highlighting its fast dual-lens camera as the signature feature. And rivals will soon work to catch up with Samsung and Apple."
The Smartphone’s Future: It’s All About the Camera - The New York Times

F.D.A. Approves First Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment, Costing $475,000 - The New York Times

For an overview of broader trends in this context, see The Brave New World of Gene Editing (New York Review of Books)

"The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, a milestone that is expected to transform treatment in the coming years.

The new therapy turns a patient’s cells into a “living drug,” and trains them to recognize and attack the disease. It is part of the rapidly growing field of immunotherapy that bolsters the immune system through drugs and other therapies and has, in some cases, led to long remissions and possibly even cures."
F.D.A. Approves First Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment, Costing $475,000 - The New York Times

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Amazon's on a mission to make Alexa on your Echo more human (CNET)

From an extensive Alexa profile; on a related note (from 2012), see To boldly search: Google reveals how Star Trek inspired its vision for the future of computing (Daily Mail)

"But despite Alexa’s human name and female persona, Zorn counters that Amazon doesn’t aim to turn its voice assistant into another member of your family. Instead, the team’s guiding light and original idea for the Echo is the all-knowing but behind-the-scenes computer from “Star Trek.”

“We don’t have an explicit desire for customers to anthropomorphize more or less than they do,” Zorn says, as if reading aloud the warning label on the tush of a giant metal robot. “We’ve recognized that some do.”

To find out about Alexa’s future, I visited Amazon’s HQ for a rare opportunity to talk to four Alexa execs about their digital assistant’s budding personality, origin story and smart-home capabilities. I also went to Princeton University, where a group of graduate students are developing an Alexa-based socialbot that can chat with people about a handful of topics."
Amazon's on a mission to make Alexa on your Echo more human

‘Cortana, Open Alexa,’ Amazon Says. And Microsoft Agrees. - The New York Times

Hey Siri, is anybody likely to actually use this integration?... Check this Microsoft post for more details

"For the past year, the two companies have been coordinating behind the scenes to make Alexa and Cortana communicate with each other. The partnership, which the companies plan to announce early Wednesday, will allow people to summon Cortana using Alexa, and vice versa, by the end of the year.

It is unusual for big tech companies to cooperate on important new technologies that they want to stand out from the competition. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and nearly every other big tech company is pouring huge amounts of money into making digital assistants that are smarter and can do more, seeing them as a new way for people to interact naturally with devices and online services."
‘Cortana, Open Alexa,’ Amazon Says. And Microsoft Agrees. - The New York Times

Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant - The New York Times

Final paragraphs:

"Google’s willingness to spread cash around the think tanks and advocacy groups focused on internet and telecommunications policy has effectively muted, if not silenced, criticism of the company over the past several years, said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. His group, which does not accept any corporate funding, has played a leading role in calling out Google and other tech companies for alleged privacy violations. But Mr. Rotenberg said it is become increasingly difficult to find partners in that effort as more groups have accepted Google funding.

“There are simply fewer groups that are available to speak up about Google’s activities that threaten online privacy,” Mr. Rotenberg said. “The groups that should be speaking up aren’t.”"
Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant - The New York Times

How ‘Doxxing’ Became a Mainstream Tool in the Culture Wars - The New York Times

On a related note, check this Ezra Klein podcast interview with Angela Nagle: From 4Chan to Charlottesville: where the alt-right came from, and where it's going

"“Originally it was little black-hat hacker crews who were at war with each other — they would take docs, like documents, from a competing group and then claim they had ‘dox’ on them,” said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who wrote a book about the hacker vigilante group Anonymous. “There was this idea that you were veiled and then uncovered.”

Now the online hunt to reveal extremists has raised concerns about unintended consequences, or even collateral damage. A few individuals have been misidentified in recent weeks, including a professor from Arkansas who was wrongly accused of participating in the neo-Nazi march. And some worry that the stigma of being outed as a political extremist can only reinforce that behavior in people who could still be talked out of it."
How ‘Doxxing’ Became a Mainstream Tool in the Culture Wars - The New York Times

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Google Delivers an Answer to Apple on Augmented Reality - Bloomberg

For more details, see ARCore: Augmented reality at Android scale (Google Keyword blog); on a related note, see In the Augmented Reality Race Microsoft Is Now Playing Catch Up Despite Early Announcements (Supersite Windows)

"The Alphabet Inc. company released a mobile developer tool on Tuesday to get more AR features on Android phones without those costly hardware tweaks. Called ARCore, the software helps mobile apps and websites better track physical objects and overlay them with virtual images. Google will now pitch Android partners on its software, rather than courting them to be compatible with Tango.

ARCore will be available for developers to preview on Tuesday with Google’s own Pixel phones and Samsung Electronics Co.’s S8 smartphone. Google plans to add more Android devices over time and fully launch the software this winter. "We have a path to getting this on north of 100 million phones very quickly," said Clay Bavor, who leads Google’s virtual reality and AR efforts."
Google Delivers an Answer to Apple on Augmented Reality - Bloomberg

Sonos to announce new smart speaker on October 4th - The Verge

What, no Cortana support?... On a related note, see Alexa’s new music feature makes your speakers work like Sonos (CNET)

"Sonos has been criticized for being late to the smart speaker game. But that looks like it's about to change in a big way if what we’ve seen in the FCC comes to fruition on stage in October. Will Sonos free us from Apple, Google, and Amazon ecosystem lock-in by letting us choose between Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa voice assistants as it does with their respective music services? You'll have to tune in on October 4th to find out."
Sonos to announce new smart speaker on October 4th - The Verge

Oracle: 5,000 new warriors will join cloud fight with Salesforce (The Mercury News)

Yes, but will Oracle still be allowed to advertise on Facebook (see the next post)?

"In the battle between Oracle and Salesforce for cloud software supremacy, Oracle is about to add 5,000 new soldiers to its army.

On Monday, Oracle said it will hire 5,000 new professionals to work on its cloud-based products and services. According to Oracle, these hires will include “new engineers, consultants, sales and support people” for what the company says is “already the world’s fastest growing multi-billion-dollar cloud business.”"
Oracle: 5,000 new warriors will join cloud fight with Salesforce

Blocking Ads from Pages that Repeatedly Share False News | Facebook Newsroom

Also see Finally, Facebook no longer lets fake news sites advertise to you (Mashable)
"False news is harmful to our community. It makes the world less informed and erodes trust. At Facebook, we’re working to fight the spread of false news in three key areas:
  • Disrupting the economic incentives to create false news; 
  • Building new products to curb the spread of false news; and 
  • Helping people make more informed decisions when they encounter false news. 
Today’s update helps to disrupt the economic incentives and curb the spread of false news, which is another step towards building a more informed community on Facebook."
Blocking Ads from Pages that Repeatedly Share False News | Facebook Newsroom

Japan Wakes to a Text Message: Missile Approaching - The New York Times

Appropriate emoticon tbd...

"In earthquake-prone Japan, the public has grown accustomed to seeing regular alerts on television and their cellphones advising them to seek cover or move inland in advance of a tsunami. But on Tuesday, residents received a rare warning: A missile was approaching from North Korea and was likely to fly over parts of Japan.

Citizens living beneath the missile’s flight path received a beeping alert on their cellphones at 6:02 a.m., just four minutes after the projectile was launched, rousing some from sleep."
Japan Wakes to a Text Message: Missile Approaching - The New York Times

Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for ‘Moral Responsibility’ - The New York Times

Leading by example

"“The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn’t working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up.”

That was Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, across the table from me over breakfast here in downtown Austin late last week at the end of a mini-tour across the country during which he focused on topics usually reserved for politicians: manufacturing, jobs and education."
Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for ‘Moral Responsibility’ - The New York Times

Monday, August 28, 2017

Members of Trump’s cybersecurity council resign in protest - The Verge

On a related note, see Joe Biden's 'We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation' (The Atlantic)
"In a resignation letter obtained by NextGov, eight members of the 28-person National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) said that the president’s “actions have threatened the security of the homeland I took an oath to protect.” The letter states that the Trump administration is not “adequately attentive to the pressing national security matters within the NIAC’s purview,” and that Trump has paid “insufficient attention” to the growing threats that the US faces to its cybersecurity. 
The letter also points to Trump’s failure to condemn neo-Nazis and white nationalists following this month’s violence in Charlottesville, as well as his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, which the signees cite as evidence of the president’s “disregard for the security of American communities.”"
Members of Trump’s cybersecurity council resign in protest - The Verge

Internet censorship in China: new rules aim to prevent anyone who hasn't provided their real identity from commenting online — Quartz

Online communities and discussion forums in China are likely to get a bit quieter
"So what exactly constitutes forbidden topics on the Chinese internet? An unnamed CAC official told a journalist the following when asked about the new rules (first translated by The Diplomat):
  1. opposing the principles of the constitution of China 
  2. endangering national security, revealing state secrets, subverting state power, and undermining national reunification 
  3. damaging national honor and interests 
  4. inciting national hatred, ethnic discrimination, and undermining national unity 
  5. undermining the state’s policies on religion or promoting cults and feudal superstitions 
  6. spreading rumors or disrupting social order 
  7. spreading obscenity, pornography, violence, or terror, or abetting a crime 
  8. insulting or slandering others and infringing upon the lawful rights and interests of others 
  9. violating any other laws and regulations 
Good luck avoiding all of those."
Internet censorship in China: new rules aim to prevent anyone who hasn't provided their real identity from commenting online — Quartz

A Game You Can Control With Your Mind - The New York Times

Play different

"The Neurable prototype shows what is possible today. Using electroencephalography, or EEG — a means of measuring electrical brain activity that has been around for decades — the company can provide simple ways of mentally interacting with a game. Some companies hope to go much further, and want to build ways of performing nearly any computing task with the mind. Imagine a brain interface for rapidly typing on a smartphone.

Even for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Mr. Musk, setting that goal pushes technological optimism to new heights. Some efforts seem particularly quixotic. Mr. Musk said in one interview that Neuralink planned to develop ways of implanting hardware in the skulls of completely healthy people."
A Game You Can Control With Your Mind - The New York Times

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Big Software Company Hardware Push – Tech.pinions

Excerpt from a timely reality check:

"For all that, the early efforts from each of these companies have met with mixed success at best so far. Facebook’s phone push with HTC never went anywhere, leaving it entirely without a stake in mobile platforms, while Oculus hasn’t been a huge seller in the VR market and Oculus’s business is still formally immaterial to Facebook’s overall finances.

Google’s hardware has a mixed record too, with the Motorola acquisition a failure, the Pixel laptop and tablets also-rans in their respective markets, and the Pixel phone a modest seller in its first year thanks to limited supply and distribution channels. The Google Home seems to be selling decently well as the only real competition to the Amazon Echo, but it’s far from clear what its long-term business plan is here – advertising seems the obvious revenue model, but is fraught with risk and likely to encounter significant resistance from paying customers.

Microsoft’s Surface is arguably the big success story here, though even then it’s a tiny player in the overall PC market, it took several years of work to figure out the right model for the Surface Pro hardware and software, and it has of course recently seen blowback from last year’s reliability issues. The Nokia acquisition, meanwhile, may have become an inevitability by the time it happened, but certainly hasn’t panned out well either. And HoloLens has an interesting role in the enterprise and education markets, but is far from a mainstream AR or VR product."
The Big Software Company Hardware Push – Tech.pinions

Apple Is Planning a 4K Upgrade for Its TV Box - Bloomberg

An "it just works" Apple TV display might be a popular option for people tired of juggling remotes; also see Roku is the top streaming device in the U.S and still growing, report finds (TechCrunch)
"Apple is planning to unveil a renewed focus on the living room with an upgraded Apple TV set-top box that can stream 4K video and highlight live television content such as news and sports, according to people familiar with the matter.

The updated box, to be revealed alongside new iPhone and Apple Watch models at an event in September, will run a faster processor capable of streaming the higher-resolution 4K content, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t yet public. The 4K designation is a quality standard that showcases content at twice the resolution of 1080P high-definition video, meaning the clarity is often better for the viewer. Apple is also testing an updated version of its TV app, which first launched in 2016, that can aggregate programming from apps that already offer live streaming."
Apple Is Planning a 4K Upgrade for Its TV Box - Bloomberg

Elon Musk promised full self-driving abilities despite engineers’ safety concerns: report - The Verge

On a related note, see Exclusive: Tesla's 'long-haul' electric truck aims for 200 to 300 miles on a charge (Reuters); in a deeper development, see Elon Musk’s Boring Company wins approval to dig a two-mile test tunnel in California (The Verge)
"A major cause of this conflict has apparently been the way Musk chose to market Autopilot. The decision to refer to Autopilot as a “full self-driving” solution — language that makes multiple appearances on the company’s website, especially during the process of ordering a car — was the spark for multiple departures, including Sterling Anderson, who was in charge of the Autopilot team during last year’s announcement. Anderson left the company two months later, and was hit with a lawsuit from Tesla that alleged breach of contract, employee poaching, and theft of data related to Autopilot, though the suit was eventually settled.

A year before that, a lead engineer warned the company that Autopilot wasn’t ready to be released shortly before the original rollout. Evan Nakano, the senior system design and architecture engineer at the time, wrote that development of Autopilot was based on “reckless decision making that has potentially put customer lives at risk,” according to documents obtained by the WSJ."
Elon Musk promised full self-driving abilities despite engineers’ safety concerns: report - The Verge

Smartphone Maker HTC Explores Strategic Options - Bloomberg

Not Pixel perfect

"HTC Corp., the beleaguered manufacturer that once ranked among the world’s top smartphone makers, is exploring options that could range from separating its virtual-reality business to a full sale of the company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Taiwanese firm is working with an adviser as it considers bringing in a strategic investor, selling its Vive virtual reality headset business or spinning off the unit, the people said. HTC has held talks with companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private."
Smartphone Maker HTC Explores Strategic Options - Bloomberg

Amazon Plans to Lower Some Prices at Whole Foods - The New York Times

Prime time for grocery price competition; also see Amazon cuts Whole Food prices in clear signal of sweeping changes to come (Washington Post) and Amazon’s Price Cuts on Food Leave Rivals Bracing for Impact (Bloomberg)
"Mr. Bezos has always been willing to lose money, disappoint shareholders and start discount wars in his efforts to challenge and inflict pain on competitors. In the 23 years that Amazon has been in business, he has done it again and again — with books, diapers and now groceries — fundamentally changing entire retail categories.

“I absolutely think it’s putting the rest of the market on notice,” Bob Hetu, an analyst at Gartner, the technology research firm, said of Amazon’s announcement on pricing. 
Investors drove Kroger shares down more than 8 percent on Thursday; shares of Walmart, the nation’s biggest grocer, fell about 2 percent. Both companies’ shares also fell sharply when the deal was announced in June."
Amazon Plans to Lower Some Prices at Whole Foods - The New York Times

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Android on Chromebook Edges From Fantasy Into Reality - Thurrott.com

Android on Chromebooks is gaining momentum after a rough start

"Put another way, the majority of Chromebooks out in the world do not yet have access to Android apps. But there are over 30 Chromebook models that can access this functionality today, and of course all new Chromebooks now and going forward will offer it too. The situation has improved dramatically since last year, for sure, but it’s also improved markedly just since the beginning of the summer.

And with that, it’s time to switch from the current “nothing to see here” mode and accept that the Chromebook threat to Windows is real. It’s also time to wake up and acknowledge that Windows 10 S, as currently designed, represents the weakest possible response that Microsoft could have offered. And unless and until this situation changes, I expect Chromebooks, and other Chrome OS devices, to continue eating into Windows 10’s usage and market share. This is Microsoft’s market to lose."
Android on Chromebook Edges From Fantasy Into Reality - Thurrott.com

Former CIA officer wants to buy Twitter to kick Trump off - ABC News

A multifaceted sign of the Twitter times (the campaign is up to $38,054 at the time of this post)
"Former undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson is looking to crowdfund enough money to buy Twitter so President Donald Trump can't use it.

Wilson launched the fundraiser last week, tweeting, "If @Twitter executives won't shut down Trump's violence and hate, then it's up to us. #BuyTwitter #BanTrump." The GoFundMe page for the fundraiser says Trump's tweets "damage the country and put people in harm's way."

As of Wednesday morning, she had raised less than $6,000 of the billion-dollar goal.

In an emailed statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the low total shows that the American people like the president's use of Twitter.

"Her ridiculous attempt to shut down his First Amendment is the only clear violation and expression of hate and intolerance in this equation," the statement read."
Former CIA officer wants to buy Twitter to kick Trump off - ABC News

Help Elon Musk Sell Teslas And He'll Reward You By Letting You Dig a Tunnel for Him (Gizmodo)

Vertically integrated

"As program members refer more people, they can unlock “secret level” prizes. Their latest secret-level offer is a truly unique experience: helping Elon Musk dig a tunnel.

Tesla news site Teslarati posted a screenshot of one of the referral program’s latest offers. “You’ve unlocked the second secret level. Share your referral code to give 5 more of your friends free unlimited Supercharging and $1,000 off a new Model S or Model X,” the message reads. “Once all 5 take delivery, we’ll give you the opportunity to drive an electric tunnel boring machine with The Boring Company in Hawthorne, CA.”"
Help Elon Musk Sell Teslas And He'll Reward You By Letting You Dig a Tunnel for Him

Inside Waymo's Secret World for Training Self-Driving Cars - The Atlantic

Waymo details
"At any time, there are now 25,000 virtual self-driving cars making their way through fully modeled versions of Austin, Mountain View, and Phoenix, as well as test-track scenarios. Waymo might simulate driving down a particularly tricky road hundreds of thousands of times in a single day. Collectively, they now drive 8 million miles per day in the virtual world. In 2016, they logged 2.5 billion virtual miles versus a little over 3 million miles by Google’s IRL self-driving cars that run on public roads. And crucially, the virtual miles focus on what Waymo people invariably call “interesting” miles in which they might learn something new. These are not boring highway commuter miles.

The simulations are part of an intricate process that Waymo has developed. They’ve tightly interwoven the millions of miles their cars have traveled on public roads with a “structured testing” program they conduct at a secret base in the Central Valley they call Castle."
Inside Waymo's Secret World for Training Self-Driving Cars - The Atlantic

Facebook confirms it will add subscriptions to Instant Articles - The Verge

Check this Mark Zuckerberg post for more details

"You will soon be able to subscribe to publications after reading their stories in Facebook’s Instant Articles, the company confirmed Wednesday. CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the company will begin testing subscriptions inside Instant Articles, the company’s fast-loading news format, later this fall. “If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “We plan to start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year and we’ll listen to their feedback.”

News that paid subscriptions were coming was first reported by Recode last month. Big publishers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have begun moving away from Instant Articles amid concerns that the format caused them to lose money without substantially growing their audiences on Facebook. If Facebook can help those publishers increase subscription revenue, some have indicated that they would be willing to come back."
Facebook confirms it will add subscriptions to Instant Articles - The Verge

Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Clears Last Two Major Hurdles - The New York Times

Done deal

"Amazon’s bid to become a bigger player in the grocery business took a major step forward Wednesday, as federal antitrust regulators approved the internet company’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market.

And earlier in the day, Whole Foods shareholders voted to approve the $13.4 billion deal, which will give Amazon a major bricks-and-mortar presence with more than 460 stores in a huge retail category where success has eluded the company."
Amazon-Whole Foods Deal Clears Last Two Major Hurdles - The New York Times

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 faces one low, but unconditional expectation - The Verge

In other smartphone news, see Report: Carrier sources indicate Apple iPhone 8 event date set for September 12 (9to5Mac)

"Now Samsung stares down the demons of its past with the Note 7’s successor, the Galaxy Note 8, which launches in New York today. This will be the most atypical Note launch in the line’s seven-year (there was no Galaxy Note 6 as Samsung skipped a number last year to sync up with its Galaxy S product numbering) history. In past times, our expectations of the Galaxy Note series have been to see Samsung at its most ambitious and ostentatious: the very best specs available, the most eye-catching designs, and the most grand and splashy presentation possible. But this year, we all want to just see the Galaxy Note 8 survive unscathed by the calamity that dragged down its predecessor. All our hopes and expectations basically amount to: please don’t explode."
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 faces one low, but unconditional expectation - The Verge

A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization - The New York Times

On a related note, see At Rally, Trump Blames Media for Country’s Deepening Divisions (NYT)

"A more lasting plan involves directly intervening in the process of radicalization. Consider The Redirect Method, an anti-extremism project created by Jigsaw, a think tank founded by Google. The plan began with intensive field research. After interviews with many former jihadists, white supremacists and other violent extremists, Jigsaw discovered several important personality traits that may abet radicalization.

One factor is a skepticism of mainstream media. Whether on the far right or ISIS, people who are susceptible to extremist ideologies tend to dismiss outlets like The New York Times or the BBC, and they often go in search of alternative theories online.

Another key issue is timing. There’s a brief window between initial interest in an extremist ideology and a decision to join the cause — and after recruits make that decision, they are often beyond the reach of outsiders. For instance, Jigsaw found that when jihadists began planning their trips to Syria to join ISIS, they had fallen too far down the rabbit hole and dismissed any new information presented to them."
A Hunt for Ways to Combat Online Radicalization - The New York Times

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon - The New York Times

To which a common reader response is likely: "Wait, Google has an online shopping mall?..." Also see Google and Walmart are partnering on voice shopping in a challenge to Amazon’s Alexa (Recode)
"The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com. Amazon’s dominance in online shopping is challenging brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, while more people are starting web searches for products they might buy on Amazon instead of Google."
Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon - The New York Times

Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car - The New York Times

Must be a slow news day for the NYT

"Five people familiar with Apple’s car project, code-named “Titan,” discussed with The New York Times the missteps that led the tech giant to move — at least for now — from creating a self-driving Apple car to creating technology for a car that someone else builds. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about Apple’s plans.

The project’s reduced scale aligns Apple more closely with other tech companies that are working on autonomous driving technology but are steering clear of building cars. Even Waymo, the Google self-driving spinoff that is probably furthest along among Silicon Valley companies, has said repeatedly that it does not plan to produce its own vehicles."
Apple Scales Back Its Ambitions for a Self-Driving Car - The New York Times

Monday, August 21, 2017

Who Owns the Internet? - The New Yorker

From a timely Elizabeth Kolbert book review:

"Either out of conviction or simply out of habit, the gatekeepers of yore set a certain tone. They waved through news about state budget deficits and arms-control talks, while impeding the flow of loony conspiracy theories. Now Chartbeat allows everyone to see just how many (or, more to the point, how few) readers there really are for that report on the drought in South Sudan or that article on monopoly power and the Internet. And so it follows that there will be fewer such reports and fewer such articles. The Web is designed to give people what they want, which, for better or worse, is also the function of democracy."
Who Owns the Internet? - The New Yorker

How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature - The New York Times

On a related note, see This Group has Successfully Converted White Supremacists Using Compassion. Trump Defunded It (The Intercept)

"This was also a moment these hate groups were anticipating; getting banned in an opaque, unilateral fashion was always the way out and, to some degree, it suits them. In the last year, hard-right communities on social platforms have cultivated a pre-emptive identity as platform refugees and victims of censorship. They’ve also been preparing for this moment or one like it: There are hard-right alternatives to Twitter, to Reddit and even to the still-mostly-lawless 4chan. There are alternative fund-raising sites in the mold of GoFundMe or Kickstarter; there’s an alternative to Patreon called Hatreon. Like most of these new alternatives, it has cynically borrowed a cause — it calls itself a site that ‘‘stands for free speech absolutism’’ — that the more mainstream platforms borrowed first. Their persecution narrative, which is the most useful narrative they have, and one that will help spread their cause beyond the fringes, was written for them years ago by the same companies that helped give them a voice."
How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature - The New York Times