Friday, July 21, 2017

Putin’s Hackers Now Under Attack—From Microsoft (The Daily Beast)

Tbd if the Trump administration will object; tangentially, see Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation (The Washington Post)
"How are they doing it? It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow’s malware: Lawyers.
Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft’s trademarks.  The action, though, is not about dragging the hackers into court. The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls “the most vulnerable point” in Fancy Bear’s espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers.  These servers can be thought of as the spymasters in Russia’s cyber espionage, waiting patiently for contact from their malware agents in the field, then issuing encrypted instructions and accepting stolen documents."
Putin’s Hackers Now Under Attack—From Microsoft

Microsoft Reaps Rewards of Its Cloud-Computing Business - The New York Times

Quite a contrast to IBM's latest results

"Revenue from one of the most closely watched pieces of that business, Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, jumped 97 percent. After being tardy to cloud computing, Azure is the second biggest cloud business after Amazon Web Services, the offering from Microsoft’s crosstown rival. In a call with analysts, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said the company closed the highest number of multimillion-dollar Azure deals to date during the quarter. Ms. Hood also said that for the first time, the revenue Microsoft received from the commercial version of Office 365 — a cloud version of its productivity applications that customers subscribe to — surpassed the revenue the company received from traditional sales of the software."
Microsoft Reaps Rewards of Its Cloud-Computing Business - The New York Times

2 Leading Online Black Markets Are Shut Down by Authorities - The New York Times

Also see On Reddit, Intimate Glimpses of Addicts in Thrall to Opioids (NYT)

"AlphaBay and Hansa Market were successors to the first and most famous market operating on the so-called dark net, Silk Road, which the authorities took down in October 2013.

AlphaBay grew into a business with 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors — or 10 times the size of Silk Road — the Justice Department said Thursday.

The site recently come under scrutiny because many of its vendors sell synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which play a central role in the nationwide overdose epidemic."
2 Leading Online Black Markets Are Shut Down by Authorities - The New York Times

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How will Our Screen Addiction Change? – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Check the full post for projections on how ambient computing, VR, and AR may be game-changers

"A Nielsen Company audience report published in 2016 revealed that American adults devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of 2016. This was an increase of exactly an hour recorded over the same period of 2015. Of those 10 hours, about 4½ hours a day are spent watching shows and movies.

During the same year, the Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey showed that 40% of consumers check their phones within five minutes of waking up and another 30% checks them five minutes before going to sleep. On average we check our phones about 47 times a day, the number grows to 82 times if you are in the 18-24 age bracket. In aggregate, the US consumers check their phones more than 9 billion times per day.

Any way you look at it, we are totally addicted to screens of any form, size, and shape."
How will Our Screen Addiction Change? – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Microsoft unveils a beautiful Cortana-powered thermostat - The Verge

One step closer to Windows 10 for toasters and fridges...

"GLAS will run on Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core operating system, and will have Cortana voice services built into the thermostat. It’s one of the first thermostats to include Cortana integration, after Microsoft revealed its plans to bring its digital assistant to fridges, toasters, and thermostats. Microsoft notes that GLAS has sensors that detect when you’re in the room or not, and the thermostat will constantly monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. All of these sensors are designed to save energy by changing settings on the fly, much like a Nest thermostat or the Ecobee4. Johnson Controls’ GLAS thermostat differs from the Nest by including Cortana voice controls, but competitors like the Ecobee4 do include Alexa built straight in."
Microsoft unveils a beautiful Cortana-powered thermostat - The Verge

First impressions of Samsung's Bixby voice assistant for U.S. Galaxy S8 users - The Washington Post

Also see Bixby feels more like a return of the old Samsung than a path to the future (The Verge), which concludes: "In the case of Bixby, it appears that some things are better never than late."

"For me, however, the biggest problem with Bixby is that it's inconsistently implemented. It works best with a handful of Samsung apps, though users have the option to turn on a “Labs” setting that adds integration with outside apps such as Pandora or Twitter. In both cases, however, I found myself having to repeat my commands or rephrase them. Bixby, while capable of pulling off more complex tasks, is much more strict about the way you have to say things.

It also doesn't seem to be quite as quick as Siri or Google Assistant on mobile. The lag between a “Hi Bixby” command and its execution can drag on, certainly to the point where I feel as though it might be faster to do it myself. It's true that Bixby, like most smart assistants, might learn over time. Right now, the promise of something truly useful is there, but it's not showing up in normal use yet."
First impressions of Samsung's Bixby voice assistant for U.S. Galaxy S8 users - The Washington Post

This App Tells You — and Maybe Other People — When You’re Depressed - Bloomberg

Earlier in the article: "“I’ll help you recognize patterns because ... (no offense) humans aren’t great at that,” Woebot tells me with a smirking smile emoji."

"Chatbots have existed since the 1960s -- one was named after “Pygmalion” heroine Eliza Doolittle -- but advances such as machine learning have made the robots savvier. Woebot is one of an emerging group of technological interventions that aim to detect and treat mental-health disorders. They’re not for everyone. Some people may prefer unburdening themselves to a human, and many apps are hindered by bugs and dogged by privacy concerns. Still, the new technologies may fill gaps in current treatment options by detecting symptoms earlier and acting as coaches for individuals who might otherwise never seek counseling."
This App Tells You — and Maybe Other People — When You’re Depressed - Bloomberg

Facebook Is Pursuing a Subscription Tool for News Outlets on Its Site - The New York Times

All the news that's fit to stream; also see Facebook Journalism Project: Six Month Update (Facebook media blog)
"Facebook’s move to test a news subscription product may be an effort to appease publishers as it combats this and other issues, including regulatory and antitrust scrutiny. And if Facebook were to adopt the subscription feature, it would move the platform closer to controlling the relationship with the reader — a relationship that news outlets used to own directly.

It is not clear if Facebook will benefit financially from a news subscription feature. The company does not intend to take a cut of payments to news outlets, according to one of the people familiar with the talks. Facebook indirectly benefits, however, by encouraging people to spend more time on its site; while they are there, those users will see more ads.

As more publishers move toward subscription models, a news subscription service like the one Facebook has proposed could work to their advantage by driving more casual readers to pay for news."
Facebook Is Pursuing a Subscription Tool for News Outlets on Its Site - The New York Times

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A new chapter for Glass – The Team at X

An update from the Glass Project Lead

"Glass, as you might remember, is a very small, lightweight wearable computer with a transparent display that brings information into your line of sight. In a work setting, you can clip it onto glasses or industry frames like safety goggles so you don’t have to switch focus between what you’re doing with your hands and the content you need to see to do your job.
Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy. That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields. We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long term wear. We’ve increased the power and battery life too."
A new chapter for Glass – The Team at X

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Crypto Coin Market Is a Time-Bomb - Bloomberg

Earlier in the article: "Firms have raised $1.3 billion this year in digital coin sales, surpassing venture capital funding of blockchain companies and up more than six-fold from the total raised last year, according to Autonomous Research."

"Hoskinson, who runs technology research firm IOHK, is part of a growing chorus of blockchain watchers voicing concern about the rapid surge in cryptocurrency prices and digital coin crowdsales that have collected millions of dollars in minutes. Regulation is the biggest risk to the sector, as it’s likely that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has remained on the sidelines, will step in to say that digital coins are securities, he said.

Startups raising money through ICOs usually skip the safeguards required in traditional securities sales, like making sure they’re dealing with accredited investors and verifying the source of funds. That could lead to lawsuits in the future, as digital coin buyers can sue the issuer claiming they didn’t know the risks of buying those assets, Hoskinson said."
Ethereum Co-Founder Says Crypto Coin Market Is a Time-Bomb - Bloomberg

Google introduces the feed, a personalized stream of news on iOS and Android - The Verge

See Feed your need to know (Google Keyword blog) for more details; in other feed frenzy news, see Amazon launches Spark, a shoppable feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members (TechCrunch)
"Google today is rolling out its take on the news feed, a personalized stream of articles, videos, and other content. The feed will appear in its flagship app for Android and iOS, simply called Google. The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.

Google previewed its new feed in December, when it introduced the feature to its Android app. Previously, the space below the search bar was reserved for Google Now, the company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information."
Google introduces the feed, a personalized stream of news on iOS and Android - The Verge

IBM Misses Revenue Estimates as Cloud Services Unit Falters - Bloomberg

See IBM Reports 2017 Second-Quarter Results (IBM) for details

"IBM missed estimates for quarterly revenue, with sales in a key unit declining for the second consecutive period, further extending Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty’s turnaround plan into its fifth year without significant progress.

Sales in the company’s technology services and cloud platforms segment dropped 5.1 percent from the same period a year earlier, even though executives had said in April that they expected key contracts to come through in the quarter. The unit is a marker for the strength of the company’s push into newer technologies. Total revenue fell to $19.3 billion, IBM said in a statement Tuesday, the 21st straight quarter of year-over-year declines."
IBM Misses Revenue Estimates as Cloud Services Unit Falters - Bloomberg

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act | WIRED

From a Steven Levy update

"Those still using the original Explorer Edition will explode with envy when they see the Enterprise Edition. For starters, it makes the technology completely accessible for those who wear prescription lenses. The camera button, which sits at the hinge of the frame, does double duty as a release switch to remove the electronics part of unit (called the Glass Pod) from the frame. You can then connect it to safety glasses for the factory floor—EE now offers OSHA-certified safety shields—or frames that look like regular eyewear. (A former division of 3M has been manufacturing these specially for Enterprise Edition; if EE catches on, one might expect other frame vendors, from Warby Parker to Ray-Ban, to develop their own versions.) “We did a lot of work to lighten the weight of the frames to compensate for the additional weight [of the Pod],” says Kothari. “So the overall package with Glass and the frames itself actually comes out to be the average weight of regular glasses.”
Other improvements include beefed-up networking—not only faster and more reliable wifi, but also adherence to more rigorous security standards—and a faster processor as well. The battery life has been extended—essential for those who want to work through a complete eight-hour shift without recharging. (More intense usage, like constant streaming, still calls for an external battery.) The camera was upgraded from five megapixels to eight. And for the first time, a red light goes on when video is being recorded. (Inoculation against Glasshole-dom!)"
Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act | WIRED

Snap employees will soon be able to sell their stock. Here’s what that means for Snap’s stock price. - Recode

Another facet of Snap's ephemeral value proposition

"Typically, the end of a lock-up period means that lots of investors, and especially early employees, rush to sell the stock. Many of them have been waiting years to turn their stock awards into actual cash. It’s also usually a milestone that some long-term, vested employees use as a reason to leave the company, which is certainly a possibility with Snap. That’s a bigger issue in the long run than a dip in the stock price.

Regardless, there will soon be a whole lot of Snap stock eligible to trade on the public market. Citi Research projects that the lock-up’s expiration will free up 949 million new shares for trading, significantly more than the current float, which is 230 million shares, according to Snap’s S-1."
Snap employees will soon be able to sell their stock. Here’s what that means for Snap’s stock price. - Recode

A security robot fell into a water fountain at a D.C. office building. And the Internet went wild. - The Washington Post

"We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots."
"A roving security robot — oblong and about four-feet-tall — plunged into a water fountain outside a Washington, D.C., office building Monday afternoon, sending online commentators into a tizzy and causing many people to spot plenty of metaphors for the much-promised autonomous future.

Numerous photos posted online showed the robot on its side in the ankle-deep water as workers tried to figure out how to rescue it."

A security robot fell into a water fountain at a D.C. office building. And the Internet went wild. - The Washington Post

As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away - The New York Times

A multi-$B workflow worst-practices case study

"Judges have already dismissed dozens of lawsuits against former students, essentially wiping out their debt, because documents proving who owns the loans are missing. A review of court records by The New York Times shows that many other collection cases are deeply flawed, with incomplete ownership records and mass-produced documentation.

Some of the problems playing out now in the $108 billion private student loan market are reminiscent of those that arose from the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, when billions of dollars in subprime mortgage loans were ruled uncollectible by courts because of missing or fake documentation. And like those troubled mortgages, private student loans — which come with higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections than federal loans — are often targeted at the most vulnerable borrowers, like those attending for-profit schools."
As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away - The New York Times

Monday, July 17, 2017

Content isn't king — Benedict Evans

Something to watch

"Taking a step back, though, it’s not clear how much all of this really matters to tech. The tech industry has been trying to get onto the TV and into the living room since before the consumer internet - the ‘information superhighway’ of the early 1990s was really about interactive TV, not the web. Yet after a couple of decades of trying, the tech industry now dominates the living room, and is transforming what ‘video’ means, but with the phone, not the TV. The reason Apple TV, Chromecast, FireTV and everything else feel so anti-climactic is that getting onto the TV was a red herring - the device is the phone and the network is the internet. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it. Internet advertising will be bigger than TV advertising this year, and Apple’s revenue is larger than the entire global pay TV industry. This is also why tech companies are even thinking about commissioning their own premium shows today - they are now so big that the budgets involved in buying or creating TV look a lot less daunting than they once did. A recurring story in the past was for a leading tech company to go to Hollywood, announce its intention to buy lots of stuff, and then turn pale at the first rate card it was shown and say “wow - that’s really expensive!”. They have the money now, not from conquering TV but from creating something bigger."
Content isn't king — Benedict Evans

Jefferies gives IBM Watson a Wall Street reality check | TechCrunch

Also see IBM's Watson gets no love on Wall Street (Axios)

"Jefferies pulls from an audit of a partnership between IBM Watson and MD Anderson as a case study for IBM’s broader problems scaling Watson. MD Anderson cut its ties with IBM after wasting $60 million on a Watson project that was ultimately deemed, “not ready for human investigational or clinical use.”

The MD Anderson nightmare doesn’t stand on its own. I regularly hear from startup founders in the AI space that their own financial services and biotech clients have had similar experiences working with IBM.

The narrative isn’t the product of any single malfunction, but rather the result of overhyped marketing, deficiencies in operating with deep learning and GPUs and intensive data preparation demands."
Jefferies gives IBM Watson a Wall Street reality check | TechCrunch

Amazon is reportedly working on a messaging app called Anytime - The Verge

In other messaging/chat news, see Everyone seems to hate the new Skype (The Verge)

"Amazon.com is reportedly working on launching its own messaging app called Anytime, according to a report from AFTV News. The retail giant has begun to survey its customers about potential features, although it’s not clear what form the final product will take.

AFTV News explains that Anytime appears to be “an all-in-one feature rich service that could even rival social networks,” with a focus on messaging, voice and video calls, and photo sharing, with users able to apply filters to pictures and videos, @mention other users, use sticker and Gifs, and play games. Users would be able to call (audio and video) other individuals or groups, contact businesses to order products or make reservations. According to the images taken from the survey, the service be secure and encrypted, and would work on a variety of desktop and mobile devices."
Amazon is reportedly working on a messaging app called Anytime - The Verge

Elon Musk just told a group of America’s governors that we need to regulate AI before it’s too late - Recode

Yes, but when will the horses be Neuralink-enhanced?...

"AI wasn’t the only topic of conversation. A large portion of the talk was about electric vehicles, which Musk’s company, Tesla, is hoping to perfect.

Musk said that the biggest risk to autonomous cars is a “fleet-wide hack” of the software controlling them, and added that in 20 years, owning a car that doesn’t drive itself will be the equivalent of someone today owning a horse.

“There will be people that will have non-autonomous cars, like people have horses,” he said. “It just would be unusual to use that as a mode of transport.”"
Elon Musk just told a group of America’s governors that we need to regulate AI before it’s too late - Recode

Behind the Velvet Ropes of Facebook’s Private Groups - The New York Times

Excerpt from a tour of Facebook groups (which are also at the center of Workplace by Facebook)
"My catalyst came in June when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, announced that instead of trying to “make the world more open and connected,” as it had in the past, Facebook would aim to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” in part by placing a greater emphasis on groups. 
Private groups have existed on Facebook for years. But the decision to emphasize them now — at a time when Facebook’s cultural and political influence is being carefully scrutinized — is a fascinating shift for a social network that spent years encouraging its users to share as much information as they could, as publicly as possible."
Behind the Velvet Ropes of Facebook’s Private Groups - The New York Times

Friday, July 14, 2017

Apple’s Health and Fitness Push Accelerates as it Turns 3 – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Check the full post for a detailed update

"In what was one of the most packed WWDC keynotes in recent memory, the Apple Watch got under 15 minutes of stage time, and health and fitness features got only a fraction of that. But that’s not really indicative of all the additions to Apple’s health, fitness, and broader wellness features being made this year, and it’s certainly not indicative of Apple’s commitment to the space. I spent some time this week getting briefings about both what’s new in Apple’s own software, and what developers and others are bringing to the party."
Apple’s Health and Fitness Push Accelerates as it Turns 3 – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Facebook Plans to Unveil a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset for 2018 - Bloomberg

In the meantime, Oculus Rift and Touch bundle temporarily on sale for $399 (Engadget)

"Facebook Inc. is taking another stab at turning its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset into a mass-market phenomenon. Later this year, the company plans to unveil a cheaper, wireless device that the company is betting will popularize VR the way Apple did the smartphone. 

Currently VR hardware comes in two flavors: cheap headsets that turn smartphones into virtual reality players (like Samsung’s $130 Gear VR) and high-end gaming rigs (like Facebook’s $400 Oculus Rift) that hook up to $1,000-plus desktop computers. Facebook’s new headset is designed to bridge the gap -- a device that will sell for as little as $200 and need not be tethered to a PC or phone, according to people familiar with its development. It will ship next year and represent an entirely new category."
Facebook Plans to Unveil a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset for 2018 - Bloomberg

As a Guru, Ayn Rand May Have Limits. Ask Travis Kalanick. - The New York Times

Final paragraphs from a timely Objectivism reality check

"But Rand has little to say about making the transition from this kind of heroic entrepreneurial vision to a mature corporation with many stakeholders, a problem many company founders have confronted and struggled with, whether or not they’ve read or been influenced by her. “She never really had to manage anything,” Mr. Cahoone said. “She was surrounded by people who saw her as a cult figure. She didn’t have employees, she had worshipers.”

For his part, Mr. Kalanick is said to have turned this summer from Rand to what is considered one of the greatest dramatic works in the English language, Shakespeare’s “Henry V” — a play in which the young, reckless and wayward Prince Hal matures into one of England’s most revered and beloved monarchs."
As a Guru, Ayn Rand May Have Limits. Ask Travis Kalanick. - The New York Times

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Announcing AI for Earth: Microsoft’s new program to put AI to work for the future of our planet - Microsoft on the Issues

Also see Microsoft launches AI for Earth to give $2M in services to environmental projects (TechCrunch); tangentially, see Microsoft Creates New AI Lab to Take on Google's DeepMind (Bloomberg)
"Today at an AI event in London, we announced a new program called AI for Earth, aimed at putting the power of artificial intelligence towards solving some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. As a technology company with a deep commitment to sustainability, we understand that our responsibility extends beyond our own operations to innovating towards a healthier and better future more broadly.
We are excited by the potential of putting artificial intelligence in the hands of researchers and organizations to drive new data insights that will help solve important issues related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change.
Microsoft will offer access to cloud and AI computing resources, technology trainings and lighthouse projects – a $2 million commitment in this next fiscal year. And to lead this work, we’ve named Lucas Joppa, longtime Microsoft Research lead on computational ecology, to the role of chief environmental scientist."
Announcing AI for Earth: Microsoft’s new program to put AI to work for the future of our planet - Microsoft on the Issues

Investigators look for links between Trump, Russia cyber operations | McClatchy Washington Bureau

Also see All Roads Now Lead to Kushner (NYT)

"Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries."
Investigators look for links between Trump, Russia cyber operations | McClatchy Washington Bureau

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Time Inc Is Thinking About Changing its Name, How Unfortunate – Mediawire

Maybe they should call it "Anachronism"

"According to a WSJ report, Time Inc execs have been tossing around the idea of ditching the Time Inc name in a refresh effort to mark what the company says is it’s successful transforming from a legacy print media company to multi-platform media company. But some would argue that the transformation has not happened yet and changing the name isn’t going to change that reality and in fact changing the name will potentially bring a lot of unwanted attention to that. One name said to have been tossed out there was “Life”, the retired Time Inc magazine brand that was relaunched as a virtual reality product."
Time Inc Is Thinking About Changing its Name, How Unfortunate – Mediawire

Introducing Gradient Ventures (Google Keyword blog)

Also see Google steps up A.I. investments with a new venture arm (CNBC)

"AI-powered technology holds a lot of promise—from improving patient health to making data centers more efficient. But while we’ve seen some amazing applications of AI so far, we know there are many more out there that haven’t even been imagined yet. And sometimes, these new ideas need support to flourish.

That’s why we’re announcing Gradient Ventures, a new venture fund from Google with technical mentorship for early-stage startups focused on artificial intelligence. Through Gradient, we’ll provide portfolio companies with capital, resources, and dedicated access to experts and bootcamps in AI. We’ll take a minority stake in the startups in which we invest."
Introducing Gradient Ventures

Snap stock is at an all-time low after its lead underwriter said it’s not innovating fast enough - Recode

Does that count as an investor apology from the IPO's lead underwriter?

"The market has reacted to the downgrade, sending Snap stock down more than 7 percent Tuesday. The stock is currently below $16, which is an all-time low. Snap stock closed at $16.99 on Monday, its first time closing below its $17 IPO price.

Morgan Stanley’s note officially vocalized what many have feared about Snap since it went public, that competition from Instagram is a real concern, and the constant innovation needed to catch up to Facebook on the advertising side is tougher than expected."
Snap stock is at an all-time low after its lead underwriter said it’s not innovating fast enough - Recode

Apple to Build First China Data Center to Comply With Law - Bloomberg

Host different

"The new facility, which will be entirely driven by renewable energy, will be built and run in partnership with Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data, Apple said in a messaged statement. Apple aims to migrate Chinese users’ information, now stored elsewhere, to the new facility in coming months. The data center is part of a $1 billion investment by the iPhone maker in the province.

The data center was partly driven by new measures that bolster control over the collection and movement of Chinese users’ data, and can also grant the government unprecedented access to foreign companies’ technology. Forcing companies to store information within the country has already led some to tap cloud computing providers with more local server capacity."
Apple to Build First China Data Center to Comply With Law - Bloomberg

What We Lose When the World Moves On From Email - The New York Times

It's not about email; it's about people who are careless in their choice of apps/services
"Precisely because it’s inescapable, insecure and irresistibly convenient, email provides an almost uncomfortably intimate view into the historical record. It preserves time, location and state of mind, the what-when-where-and-who of every story we might want to dig up. The last two decades, email’s high-water era, have thus been a bounty for anyone wishing to understand exactly what was happening in the inner circles of powerful organizations — for journalists, historians and prosecutors of white-collar crime, among others. 
If common sense prevails, Mr. Trump’s email thread may serve as the final nail in the coffin of email as the universal office communicator. People in business and politics are already moving on to other methods, from cloud-based business tools like Slack to apps like Signal, which promise the discretion of a spymaster. These tools allow for auto-deletion and encryption; they’re not perfectly secret (nothing is), but they’re a fortress compared with email."
What We Lose When the World Moves On From Email - The New York Times

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump voter fraud commission halts data collection amid lawsuits (Slate)

An EPIC win; in other Pence priorities, see Is Mike Pence betting it will all come crashing down on Trump? (The Washington Post)

"On Monday, Donald Trump’s election integrity commission paused its collection of voter data in response to the latest in a series of lawsuits and complaints alleging the controversial task force is breaking the law. The commission, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, recently asked every state for an immense amount of sensitive voter information. In its rush to get the data, it seems, the commission has ignored any number of statutes and agency rules, an oversight that could ultimately prevent the group from getting its hands on any of the information it wants. 
Monday’s abrupt halt in data collection is a direct response to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC alleges that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires federal agencies to establish adequate data protections before collecting personal information using information technology. Specifically, an agency must prepare and publish a Privacy Impact Assessment that explains its methodology, outline how it would secure its data, and state whether the data would be disclosed to others. EPIC claims the Pence-Kobach commission has ignored this safeguard while storing voter records on an unsecure system that is not designed to protect personal data. By doing so, EPIC insists, the commission has run afoul of federal law."
Trump voter fraud commission halts data collection amid lawsuits.

Microsoft puts partners at the center of $4.5 trillion transformation opportunity - The Official Microsoft Blog

Bundles are back

"We are introducing two Microsoft 365 offerings today. Microsoft 365 Enterprise is the evolution of our highly successful Secure Productive Enterprise offering, and includes Office 365 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Enterprise Mobility + Security. It’s designed for large organizations and empowers employees to be creative and work together, securely.
Microsoft 365 Business, available in public preview starting August 2, is designed for small- to medium-sized businesses with up to 300 users and integrates Office 365 Business Premium with tailored security and management features from Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility + Security. It also includes a centralized console for deploying and securing devices and users in one location.
Microsoft 365 represents a fundamental shift in how we will design, build and go to market to address our customers’ needs for a modern workplace.  It’s a more cohesive approach and reflects the shift our partners and our mutual customers are making — from viewing productivity, security and device management as individual workloads to seeking a comprehensive approach to secure productivity. Microsoft 365 is great for partners, too. It represents a significant opportunity to increase deal size, differentiate offerings, and grow their managed services revenue. According to a Forrester Total Economic Impact™ Study (Commissioned Studies conducted by Forrester Consulting), Microsoft 365 Enterprise increases partner revenue opportunity by more than 50 percent versus selling and deploying Office 365 alone."
Microsoft puts partners at the center of $4.5 trillion transformation opportunity - The Official Microsoft Blog

China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs by February - Bloomberg

Also see What China's VPN Ban Means for Internet Users: Quicktake Q&A (Bloomberg)

"Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private government directives.

The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis. China has one of the world’s most restrictive internet regimes, tightly policed by a coterie of government regulators intent on suppressing dissent to preserve social stability. In keeping with President Xi Jinping’s “cyber sovereignty” campaign, the government now appears to be cracking down on loopholes around the Great Firewall, a system that blocks information sources from Twitter and Facebook to news websites such as the New York Times and others."
China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs by February - Bloomberg

Bored Traders on Tinder Are a Symptom of Wall Street Revenue Dip - Bloomberg

Trump era economic leading indicators

"One bond trader says he’s been slipping out early to watch his kids play sports. A fund manager says his office just staged a golf retreat. A trading supervisor at another bank confides he’s swiping through a lot of profiles on Tinder, the dating app.

Welcome back, Wall Street, to the doldrums.

After four straight quarters of rising income from trading, the biggest U.S. investment banks spent the past few months in a renewed slump. Shareholders will soon see how dull it’s been. Analysts estimate the five largest firms will say their combined revenue from trading dropped 11 percent from a year earlier to $18.4 billion -- the smallest haul for a second quarter since 2012. The banks start posting results July 14."
Bored Traders on Tinder Are a Symptom of Wall Street Revenue Dip - Bloomberg

Monday, July 10, 2017

Facebook village? Social media giant to build 'social housing' | Technology | The Guardian

For a preview, see The Circle...
"Facebook is to build its own “village” of 1,500 homes for workers struggling to pay soaring rents as the housing crisis in Silicon Valley deepens. 
The social networking company has submitted plans to the local council to create a new neighbourhood of homes, shops and a public plaza across the street from its global headquarters.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company said it was being forced to build the “mixed-use village” called Willow Campus in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, because the regional government’s “failure” to invest in infrastructure has led to sky-high rents and hours-long commutes to work."
Facebook village? Social media giant to build 'social housing' | Technology | The Guardian

Amazon is quietly rolling out its own Geek Squad to set up gadgets in your home - Recode

Later in the article: "Preferred qualifications include past work as an Apple Genius or Geek Squad Double Agent."

"While Amazon has a marketplace for third parties to offer home services like TV mounting and plumbing, these new smart-home-related services seem important enough to Amazon that it is hiring its own in-house experts. And perhaps for good reason.

Smart-home gadgets make up one of the fastest-growing segments of the consumer electronics industry, but they can be difficult to set up and integrate with each other. That hurdle has led to higher-than-normal return rates, experts say, so Amazon is likely looking at the in-home services as one way to lower that number."
Amazon is quietly rolling out its own Geek Squad to set up gadgets in your home - Recode

When Will Electric Cars Go Mainstream? It May Be Sooner Than You Think - The New York Times

A transportation tipping point; also see Tesla sells the most electric cars in the U.S. Will it stay that way? (Recode)
"The conventional view holds that electric cars will remain a niche product for many years, plagued by high sticker prices and heavily dependent on government subsidies.

But a growing number of analysts now argue that this pessimism is becoming outdated. A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research group, suggests that the price of plug-in cars is falling much faster than expected, spurred by cheaper batteries and aggressive policies promoting zero-emission vehicles in China and Europe.

Between 2025 and 2030, the group predicts, plug-in vehicles will become cost competitive with traditional petroleum-powered cars, even without subsidies and even before taking fuel savings into account. Once that happens, mass adoption should quickly follow."
When Will Electric Cars Go Mainstream? It May Be Sooner Than You Think - The New York Times

Friday, July 07, 2017

China’s electric-vehicle market plugs in | McKinsey & Company

Just getting started

"China has emerged as a leader in both the supply of—and demand for—electric vehicles.

Approximately 375,000 electric vehicles (EVs) were manufactured by Chinese OEMs in 2016—an impressive 43 percent of EV production worldwide. That’s no fluke; Chinese OEMs achieved a 40 percent global share in 2015. OEMs from around the world (Chinese manufacturers among them) also produced approximately 332,000 EVs within China in 2016, and the country now has the largest number of EVs on the road—overtaking, for the first time, the number of EVs in the United States."
China’s electric-vehicle market plugs in | McKinsey & Company

Google’s parent company is letting its geothermal energy startup, Dandelion, become an independent company - Recode

Article subtitle: "Wait, Alphabet was working on geothermal energy?"

"Dandelion CEO Kathy Hannun told Recode the company decided to strike out on its own because there wasn’t enough overlap between its technology and that of other parts of Alphabet to justify remaining a part of Google’s parent company.

Dandelion’s purpose is to make it easier and more affordable to install geothermal energy systems for homes, and the company relies largely on drilling technology.

“But as you can imagine, drilling technology is not a core focus of Alphabet,” said Hannun, who started at Google seven years ago before joining X."
Google’s parent company is letting its geothermal energy startup, Dandelion, become an independent company - Recode

Tesla Loses No. 1 Spot in Market Value Among U.S. Automakers - The New York Times

In other Tesla news: South Australia announces Tesla as backer of world's largest battery (Sydney Morning Herald) and Why Tesla needs the Model 3 to thrive in a future it helped create (The Washington Post)
"But a spate of negative news this week has brought the electric-car maker’s many challenges into focus, especially its ambitious plans to ramp up production of its first mass-market offering, the Model 3, which begins rolling off the assembly line on Friday.

With investors shying away, Tesla has seen its shares fall by almost 17 percent since Monday’s intraday high, to $308.89, including a 5.6 percent drop on Thursday. That reduced the company’s market capitalization to $50.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, and put G.M. ahead once again, at $52.6 billion."
Tesla Loses No. 1 Spot in Market Value Among U.S. Automakers - The New York Times

Hackers Are Targeting Nuclear Facilities, Homeland Security Dept. and F.B.I. Say - The New York Times

Critical infrastructure security tip: only accept PDF résumés...

"The two people familiar with the investigation say that, while it is still in its early stages, the hackers’ techniques mimicked those of the organization known to cybersecurity specialists as “Energetic Bear,” the Russian hacking group that researchers have tied to attacks on the energy sector since at least 2012.

Hackers wrote highly targeted email messages containing fake résumés for control engineering jobs and sent them to the senior industrial control engineers who maintain broad access to critical industrial control systems, the government report said.

The fake résumés were Microsoft Word documents that were laced with malicious code. Once the recipients clicked on those documents, attackers could steal their credentials and proceed to other machines on a network."
Hackers Are Targeting Nuclear Facilities, Homeland Security Dept. and F.B.I. Say - The New York Times

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Microsoft Workplace Analytics helps managers understand worker productivity | TechCrunch

For more details, see Transform your organization with Microsoft Workplace Analytics (Office blog); on a different workforce planning note, see Microsoft employees are bracing for layoffs to be announced Thursday (Business Insider)

"You may be thinking if it can look at positive behaviors and productive employees, it could also be used conversely to identify employees who are being less productive, but Rayani says throughout the private beta, not one company was using it to call out employees.

Instead he said it was about looking at output versus behaviors and finding ways to improve the outcomes. For example, managers could look at the activities of top performers and learn how those people spent their day, then use that data to teach other employees to use those techniques to improve productivity."
Microsoft Workplace Analytics helps managers understand worker productivity | TechCrunch

DeepMind Goes to Alberta For First International Lab - Bloomberg

Also see Why Google’s newest AI team is setting up in Canada (Recode)

"DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company, is hiring three prominent computer scientists from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, to establish its first research facility outside the U.K.

The new lab will be headed by Rich Sutton, a leading expert in reinforcement learning, a form of machine learning in which software learns by trial and error to maximize a reward. The company is also hiring Michael Bowling, a professor who has used reinforcement learning to train software capable of playing poker better than many of the world’s top professionals, and Patrick Pilarski, who has studied the creation of AI-enabled artificial limbs."
DeepMind Goes to Alberta For First International Lab - Bloomberg

Daimler announces new $740 million battery factory in China for Mercedes-Benz’s EVs | Electrek

Perhaps a pattern emerging...

"Just a few weeks after unveiling its own new battery Gigafactory for electric vehicles in Germany, Daimler is now announcing a new $740 million battery factory project in China.

The new factory will support the production of batteries for electric vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz brand.


It’s the first major project as part of Daimler’s new investments in electric vehicles through its joint-venture with BAIC in China."
Daimler announces new $740 million battery factory in China for Mercedes-Benz’s EVs | Electrek

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

All Volvo cars will be electric or hybrid within two years (Engadget)

On a related note (Volvo was sold by Ford to a Chinese company, Geely, in 2010), see China Is About to Bury Elon Musk in Batteries (Bloomberg)

"Volvo is best known for building cars that are safe and beloved by flower children, but it now has a new distinction. Every car it unveils by 2019 will have an electric motor, either as an all-electric EV, plug-in hybrid or hybrid, making it the first major automaker to stop selling cars with only gas or diesel engines. "This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," said Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson in a statement.

Just last week, Volvo rededicated its Polestar performance division to electric cars, but the news that all of its vehicles will be electrified in some way comes out of the blue. Volvo has been behind the curve in that area -- so far, the it built a handful of hybrid cars, and not a single full-on EV. In 2015, it announced that its first series 40 electric cars would arrive in 2019."
All Volvo cars will be electric or hybrid within two years

Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman are launching a new group to rethink the Democratic Party - Recode

See What is #WTF for more details

"Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman want to hack the Democratic Party.

Not literally. Not the likes of what befell the team behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, resulting in scores of private emails being published online — and countless news stories that helped seal her defeat. No, Pincus, the co-founder of Zynga, and Hoffman, the brains behind LinkedIn, want to force Democrats to rewire their philosophical core, from their agenda to the way they choose candidates in elections — the stuff of politics, they said, that had been out of reach for most voters long before Donald Trump became president.

That’s the guiding principle behind Win the Future, a new project by the tech duo that’s launching in time for July 4. The effort — called, yes, WTF for short — aims to be “a new movement and force within the Democratic Party, which can act like its own virtual party,” said Pincus, its lead architect, during an interview."
Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman are launching a new group to rethink the Democratic Party - Recode

Tesla’s Model 3, its mass-market car, expected to roll off factory floor Friday - The Washington Post

Tesla transition time

"Pulling off a successful launch of the Model 3, and sustaining high-volume production is crucial to Tesla’s broader goal of widespread adoption of electric cars, Caldwell said. “In order to promote electric vehicles, it has to go to the mainstream, and right now they are only selling expensive cars to a very limited, wealthy audience.”

In another sign of Tesla’s ambition, the company plans to unveil a working prototype of its semi-truck model at an event in September. Musk also hinted that the event would showcase a surprise announcement. Teasing the audience at the June shareholder meeting, Musk said: “I’d really recommend showing up for the semi-truck unveiling. Maybe there’s a little more than we are saying here.”"
Tesla’s Model 3, its mass-market car, expected to roll off factory floor Friday - The Washington Post

Friday, June 30, 2017

Facebook’s internet-beaming drone completed its second test flight and landed ‘perfectly’ - Recode

For more details, see Aquila's successful second flight: Another step forward in bringing the world closer together (Facebook Code blog)

"The plane flew as high as 3,000 feet, up from the 2,150 feet it did a year ago. Eventually, Facebook hopes Aquila will fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet in the air for months at a time in order to beam wireless internet down to rural areas of the world where that are currently off the grid.

Why is Facebook doing this? Because it’s impossible to accomplish its mission, which is to connect everyone in the world, without everyone first being on the internet. Facebook announced this week that it now has two billion total users. Getting to three billion will likely require improvements to wireless infrastructure, so Facebook is hoping to speed things along.

But this will still take some time. Facebook first announced the drone almost two years ago and just completed its second test flight at about 5 percent of the minimum elevation it hopes to achieve."
Facebook’s internet-beaming drone completed its second test flight and landed ‘perfectly’ - Recode

Twitter is looking for ways to let users flag fake news, offensive content - The Washington Post

Perhaps Trump's Twitter adventure may be over soon...

"Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information, according to two people familiar with the company's projects.

The feature, which is still in a prototype phase and may never be released, is part of the company’s uphill battle against rampant abuse on its platform. It could look like a tiny tab appearing in a drop-down menu alongside tweets, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the effort."
Twitter is looking for ways to let users flag fake news, offensive content - The Washington Post

Fake news: you ain’t seen nothing yet (The Economist)

Likely to mainstream just in time for the 2020 election...

"The video, called “Alternative Face v1.1”, is the work of Mario Klingemann, a German artist. It plays audio from an NBC interview with Ms Conway through the mouth of Ms Hardy’s digital ghost. The video is wobbly and pixelated; a competent visual-effects shop could do much better. But Mr Klingemann did not fiddle with editing software to make it. Instead, he took only a few days to create the clip on a desktop computer using a generative adversarial network (GAN), a type of machine-learning algorithm. His computer spat it out automatically after being force fed old music videos of Ms Hardy. It is a recording of something that never happened. Mr Klingemann’s experiment foreshadows a new battlefield between falsehood and veracity. Faith in written information is under attack in some quarters by the spread of what is loosely known as “fake news”. But images and sound recordings retain for many an inherent trustworthiness. GANs are part of a technological wave that threatens this credibility."
Fake news: you ain’t seen nothing yet

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Elon Musk's boring machine completes the first section of an LA tunnel | The Verge

Also see Here's why Elon Musk is waxing philosophical about floors (Business Insider)

"We don’t have details on what Musk hammered out with the city of LA. But he did tweet earlier this month about a meeting with L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti to lay the groundwork for the neccesary permits and regulatory approvals he’d need to start digging with Godot, which weighs about 1,200 tons and runs about 400 feet long. Musk said last month that the first tunnel would run from LAX to Culver City, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sherman Oaks, with later tunnels covering more of the greater LA area. Now, it looks like the LAX to Culver City route appears underway."
Elon Musk's boring machine completes the first section of an LA tunnel | The Verge

AI Will Add $15.7 Trillion to the Global Economy - Bloomberg

Also see Robocalypse Now? Central Bankers Argue Whether Automation Will Kill Jobs (NYT)

"Gains would be split between $6.6 trillion from increased productivity as businesses automate processes and augment their labor forces with new AI technology, and $9.1 trillion from consumption side-effects as shoppers snap up personalized and higher-quality goods, according to the report.

“The mindset today is man versus machine,” Anand Rao, an AI researcher at PwC in Boston, said at a briefing Tuesday at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions gathering in Dalian, China, where the report was released. “What we see as the future is man and machine together can be better than the human.”

Global GDP, which stood at about $74 trillion in 2015, will be 14 percent higher in 2030 as a result of AI, according to PwC’s projections."
AI Will Add $15.7 Trillion to the Global Economy - Bloomberg

Trump Attacks the 'AmazonWashingtonPost' Over Taxes - Bloomberg

Also see Trump, Amazon and ‘Internet Taxes’: What Did He Mean? (NYT)

"The Trump administration  does have the power to cause trouble for Amazon and Bezos. Trump has said that Amazon has a “huge antitrust” problem, arguing that the company has destroyed department stores and the retail industry. That hasn’t kept the company’s stock from rising 27 percent since election day, and recently topping $1,000. But Amazon’s proposed acquisition of Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, raises a new antitrust vulnerability for the company. 

Of course, that’s getting pretty far ahead of Wednesday's tweet. The AmazonWashingtonPost wasn’t the only target in the president’s morning Twitter fusillade. He also criticized the New York Times as a “Fake News Joke!” and said “some of the Fake News Media” were wrongly accusing him of being unengaged in the health care debate. The Times ran a front-page story saying that Republican senators were keeping Trump at arms length as it tried to write new health care legislation."
Trump Attacks the 'AmazonWashingtonPost' Over Taxes - Bloomberg

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Google News gets a cleaner look, new features to make it 'more accessible' (Search Engine Land)

Also see Redesigning Google News for everyone (Google Keyword blog) for details including "a dedicated Fact Check block"

"It’s difficult to believe that Google News is 15 years old. In that time, it has been through a number of feature changes and minor redesigns. The last major redesign was in 2010, but today it’s getting another one.

The idea is to add feature and content depth but also simplify the layout and navigation. I spoke with Anand Paka, the Google News product manager. He said the redesign intends to connect users with more quality journalism and to make Google News more “accessible” to everyone and less of a power user product."
Google News gets a cleaner look, new features to make it 'more accessible'

Facebook Hits 2 Billion-User Mark, Doubling in Size Since 2012 - The New York Times

Also see Facebook’s First, Second, and Third Billions: How Facebook got here, and how it’ll get there (Beyond Devices)

"The user base is bigger than the population of any single country, and of six of the seven continents. It represents more than a quarter of the world's 7.5 billion people.

Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through its website or a mobile device, or used its Messenger app, in the past 30 days. It does not include people who use the Instagram or WhatsApp networks but not Facebook."
Facebook Hits 2 Billion-User Mark, Doubling in Size Since 2012 - The New York Times

IBM is telling Congress not to fear the rise of an AI ‘overlord’ - Recode

Based on their recent health care plan, GOP leaders probably won't be interested if IBM isn't planning to leverage Watson to kill jobs and/or people

"The brains behind IBM’s Jeopardy-winning, disease-tracking, weather-mapping Watson supercomputer plan to embark on a lobbying blitz in Washington, D.C., this week, hoping to show federal lawmakers that artificial intelligence isn’t going to kill jobs — or humans.

To hear IBM tell it, much of the recent criticism around machine learning, robotics and other kinds of AI amounts to merely “fear mongering.” The company’s senior vice president for Watson, David Kenny, aims to convey that message to members of Congress beginning with a letter on Tuesday, stressing the “real disaster would be abandoning or inhibiting cognitive technology before its full potential can be realized.”"
IBM is telling Congress not to fear the rise of an AI ‘overlord’ - Recode

Box salespeople are going to start pitching storage on Microsoft Azure - Recode

Also see Box and Microsoft partner for cloud content management with Azure (Microsoft News Center)

"By default, documents stored on Box sit on Box’s own servers and are backed up on AWS, according to Box’s chief strategy officer Jeetu Patel.

Box also offers an option for selecting geographic zones to store data, meaning companies can store information with Box on servers in specific countries, in order, for example, to comply with those country’s laws about data storage.

Data stored abroad is sometimes contained on servers from IBM, said Patel. As part of this agreement, Box will start adding Azure’s international locations to its zoned data program."
Box salespeople are going to start pitching storage on Microsoft Azure - Recode

Ransomware Becomes Go-To Hack as Bitcoin Rallies, NSA Tools Leak - Bloomberg

Also see Ransomware Cyberattack Goes Global (Bloomberg)

"The rise of ransomware has coincided with two other major changes in the cyber black market. The first is the growing amount of leaked attack tools from the U.S. government available online. The second is the growing use of digital currencies, which give hackers an easy and potentially anonymous way to get paid. The malware unleashed Tuesday demands payment of $300 in bitcoin. The reason many ransomware operators ask for relatively small payments is that the amount needs to be low enough that enough people will pay, but high enough that it’s worth the effort to attack. Given the secretive nature of cryptocurrencies and the shadowy world in which cybercriminals operate, it’s virtually impossible to get an accurate read on exactly how much the hackers rake in.

Because there’s a glut of credit card and identity data for sale on the black market, it’s gotten harder for criminals to get paid, said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy for SentinelOne. But rather than try to sell data to a third party, attackers instead encrypt it -- demanding that the victim pay to get it back."
Ransomware Becomes Go-To Hack as Bitcoin Rallies, NSA Tools Leak - Bloomberg

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SpaceX is even landing rockets in augmented reality - The Verge

Check the full post for related links

"Like most other ARKit demos we’ve seen so far, this one is brief, and it’s not trying to solve a problem (like this digital measuring tape, for example). But it further illustrates how Apple’s first attempt at augmented reality could be the kind of dazzling feature that the last few iPhones have been missing. And it’s another piece of evidence that ARKit is going to be pretty accurate even without the help of depth sensors. (Though there are rumors that those might be coming to the next iPhone.) 
More importantly, seeing demos like these pop up just weeks after ARKit was released is a sign that the platform Apple has built is easier and more accessible to developers than what’s available from the competition. Garcia says he’d never even worked with augmented reality before ARKit, but he’s already working with a team to be ready for when iOS 11 opens up this new segment in the app market."

SpaceX is even landing rockets in augmented reality - The Verge

Waymo, Apple Deals Bolster Rental-Car Firms for Ride-Sharing Age - Bloomberg

Interesting automotive times
"Old-school rental-car agencies may have a road map to prosper in the age of self-driving taxis after all.

Avis Budget Group Inc. agreed to manage a fleet of 600 self-driving Chrysler minivans for Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo autonomous technology division. In addition, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. will lease Lexus sport-utility vehicles to Apple Inc., which will convert them to self-driving cars, said people familiar with the matter Monday. 
Those deals, while small in scope, comforted investors enough to push up shares of both companies by 14 percent, a remarkable one-day showing for an industry whose stocks have long been out of favor. The reason for the optimism: Calling on the likes of Avis and Hertz shows that Apple and Waymo are willing to partner with traditional players instead of driving them into oblivion. The big technology companies may want into the self-driving vehicle business, but they don’t necessarily want to build, own or shine the metal."
Waymo, Apple Deals Bolster Rental-Car Firms for Ride-Sharing Age - Bloomberg

How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms - The New York Times

From an extensive Code.org profile

"In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Partovi said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried.

Along the way, Code.org has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers — touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain."
How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms - The New York Times

Google Fined $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling - The New York Times

Another industry record for Google -- final paragraphs:

"Whatever the outcome, analysts expect a protracted legal battle that will continue for several years as both Google and its rivals fight to define how the search giant can offer its services to Europeans and those farther afield.

“The changes could have ramifications beyond Google Shopping, and might even impact Google’s operations in the U.S.,” a number of American companies that have filed antitrust complaints against Google said in a public letter ahead of the ruling on Tuesday. The signatories included Oracle, News Corporation and Yelp."
Google Fined $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling - The New York Times

Monday, June 26, 2017

Alexa, What Happens if the Echo Has a Screen? You Get This Review - The New York Times

Final paragraphs

"But the average person would be wise to wait before buying the Echo Show.

The device is the priciest in the Echo family — $50 more than the Echo speaker and $180 more than the Echo Dot, the miniature version of the speaker. And it remains to be seen what third-party companies do with applications designed for an always-on screen that stays put.

Until then, you could always grab a tablet you already own, put it on a stand and leave it plugged in. The results will most likely be the same."
Alexa, What Happens if the Echo Has a Screen? You Get This Review - The New York Times

The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times

From a timely AI reality check

"Unlike the Industrial Revolution and the computer revolution, the A.I. revolution is not taking certain jobs (artisans, personal assistants who use paper and typewriters) and replacing them with other jobs (assembly-line workers, personal assistants conversant with computers). Instead, it is poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.

This transformation will result in enormous profits for the companies that develop A.I., as well as for the companies that adopt it. Imagine how much money a company like Uber would make if it used only robot drivers. Imagine the profits if Apple could manufacture its products without human labor. Imagine the gains to a loan company that could issue 30 million loans a year with virtually no human involvement. (As it happens, my venture capital firm has invested in just such a loan company.)

We are thus facing two developments that do not sit easily together: enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands and enormous numbers of people out of work. What is to be done?"
The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times

Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s | The Verge

Coming soon to an iOS device near you

"Apple has often been accused of acting like it invented things that others have been doing for years. That complaint is not without merit, however Apple can lay claim to transforming existing things into mainstream successes, which takes no small amount of invention in its own right. Fingerprint authentication and contactless payments are just two recent examples, having both existed in Japan and on niche devices for over a decade before Apple raised them to global prominence with the iPhone.

Next up on Apple's agenda is augmented reality, the act of superimposing digital data and visuals atop a live video feed of your surroundings — something that Google, Microsoft, and many others have been experimenting with for a long time. Apple is far from being able to claim it invented AR, but its new ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs to suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else."
Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s | The Verge

Google will stop scanning content of personal emails | Technology | The Guardian

Less scroogled

"The company did read the emails in personal Gmail accounts in order to target users with personalised adverts but said in a blogpost it would stop doing so in order to “more closely align” its business and consumer products. Its business offering, part of G Suite, has never involved scanning emails.

“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalisation,” wrote Diane Greene, the senior vice president in charge of Google Cloud. “Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service. Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change.”"
Google will stop scanning content of personal emails | Technology | The Guardian

The Man Who Helped Turn Toronto Into a High-Tech Hotbed - The New York Times

From a profile of a pioneer
"Dictate a text on your smartphone, search for a photo on Google or, in the not too distant future, ride in a self-driving car, and you will be using technology based partly on Dr. Hinton’s ideas. 
His impact on artificial intelligence research has been so deep that some people in the field talk about the “six degrees of Geoffrey Hinton” the way college students once referred to Kevin Bacon’s uncanny connections to so many Hollywood movies.

Dr. Hinton’s students and associates are now leading lights of artificial intelligence research at Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber, and run artificial intelligence programs at the University of Montreal and OpenAI, a nonprofit research company."
The Man Who Helped Turn Toronto Into a High-Tech Hotbed - The New York Times:

Cisco adapts to the rise of cloud computing (The Economist)

From a Cisco reality check
"But Cisco’s franchise is facing two threats. First, the more computing is done in the cloud, the less firms have to buy their own gear, including networking equipment. Instead of paying for an “end-to-end network” from Cisco, big cloud operators such as Amazon and Microsoft prefer gear that precisely fits their requirements. This is why Cisco’s cloud sales have disappointed, while more specialised vendors such as Arista have made inroads. The second threat is that software is increasingly important to how networks are run: that makes it easier for rivals to sidestep or overtake Cisco’s products.

Under Mr Robbins, Cisco has responded in several ways. It is offering tailor-made products to the big cloud providers. It has beefed up its software and services business and, to ensure more stable revenues, is making more of its products available as a subscription. Earlier this year the firm bought AppDynamics, which makes software to monitor the performance of corporate applications, and Viptela, whose programs manage networks, for $3.7bn and $610m respectively. Subscriptions and other recurring income now make up a tenth of Cisco’s revenues from products."

Cisco adapts to the rise of cloud computing 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Uber Made an Unusual Legal Pledge to the Head of Its Driverless Car Project - Bloomberg

On a related note, see Uber Can’t Be Fixed — It’s Time for Regulators to Shut It Down (Harvard Business Review)

"Uber’s legal fees promise is further evidence that the talent competition in the driverless car sector is cut-throat. It was a highly risky benefit to offer, according to Jim Pooley, a lawyer at Orrick in Menlo Park, California.

The indemnification document may be “very powerful” evidence that Uber suspected Levandowski would be taking proprietary information from Waymo, said Pooley, who has more than 35 years of litigation experience and is the author of the “Secrets: Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage.”"
Uber Made an Unusual Legal Pledge to the Head of Its Driverless Car Project - Bloomberg

Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ | TechCrunch

The new Facebook mission statement: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

"Zuckerberg announced the change today at the Facebook Communities Summit for top Group admins where it announced new Group management tools. “For the last decade or so we’ve been focusing on making the world more open and connected. But I used to think that if we just give people a voice and help some people connect that that would make the world a whole lot better by itself,” Zuckerberg admits. “Look around and our society is still so divided. We have a responsibility to do more, not just to connect the world but to bring the world closer together.”

Rather than have the new mission be just a philosophy, Zuckerberg says Facebook is turning it into a goal. “We want to help 1 billion people join meaningful communities. If we can do this it will not only reverse the whole decline in community membership we’ve seen around the world… but it will also strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.” Right now Facebook considers there to be only 100 million meaningful group members."
Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ | TechCrunch

We’re one step closer to getting cheaper, faster Internet from space - The Washington Post

Looking forward to my last Verizon bill in <= 2019

"For many, it's been a years-long pipe dream: Ultra-fast, lag-free Internet that comes to your PC or smartphone via satellite instead of a wire into your home. Facebook, Google and even SpaceX have all explored the idea, partly in hopes of selling broadband access to a growing market with enormous potential — the developing world.

But now, a former Googler and friend of Elon Musk has beaten them all to the punch, becoming the first to receive permission to actually build a next-generation satellite Internet service that targets U.S. customers. If it takes off, the project could benefit Americans nationwide by providing broadband anywhere in the United States, particularly in rural areas where it can be difficult to provide fast Internet connections using traditional ground-based cables."
We’re one step closer to getting cheaper, faster Internet from space - The Washington Post

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Google's Eric Schmidt: We need critical thinking now more than ever | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian

From an overview of a timely Eric Schmidt reality check
"He acknowledged that the fast pace of innovation had made many wary of change. But he emphasised that machine learning and artificial intelligence hold opportunities for a broad range of sectors, including farming, energy, fashion, and healthcare, even if they operated very differently to today. 
“The largest taxi company has no taxis, that’s Uber. The largest accommodation company has no real estate, that’s Airbnb. The largest phone company has no infrastructure, that’s Skype. The most valuable retailer has no inventory, that’s Alibaba. The largest movie theatre, has no movie theatres, that’s Netflix.

“These of course are huge disruptions ... and incumbents [always] resist change. When Henry Ford released his Model T car, it was dismissed as a fad because horses are here to stay. In 1928, a doctor warned that rail travel at high speeds would cause passengers to die of asphyxiation. And – my favourite – in 2007, [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer said there was no chance the iPhone was going to achieve any significant market share.”"
Google's Eric Schmidt: We need critical thinking now more than ever | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian

Jeff Bezos' lessons from Washington Post for news industry (CNBC)

See the full article for additional advice

""Democracy dies in darkness." Before introducing its infamous tagline in the wake of President Donald Trump's election, the Post worked on it for more than a year trying to make it sound a little less ... dark. But it couldn't figure out a way.

"We wanted a positive version of 'democracy dies in darkness,' and literally we had some of the smartest writers in the world try to invert 'democracy dies in darkness' to get a positive version of it, and we couldn't do it, so we said to hell with it."

His final advice: "When you're writing, be riveting, be right and ask people to pay. They will pay.""
Jeff Bezos' lessons from Washington Post for news industry

Why we’re betting against real-time team messaging – Ambition & Balance

From a post by the CEO of Twist creator Doist; also see Twist is Slack without the annoying distractions (TechCrunch)

"Whether it’s Facebook or Slack, today’s communication apps compete to grab your attention and maximize your time spent inside their apps. That’s how they raise VC money and bolster huge valuations (Slack is currently valued at 3.8 billion dollars).
We want Twist to do well and be profitable, but we want it to be because it truly empowers teams (including ours) to do their best work, not because it hijacks their time and attention. It’s about having a product that’s built to serve users’ needs and not the other way around.
It’s going to be a long, uphill battle. Calm, asynchronous communication isn’t the norm. It’s going to take a major shift in thinking to recognize that focus and balance are vital assets that companies need to protect in order to be successful."
Why we’re betting against real-time team messaging – Ambition & Balance

Google Glass is apparently back from the dead, starts getting software updates | Ars Technica

Perhaps not dead yet

"After Glass' initial launch and failure, the Glass team "graduated" Google X and moved it under the control of Nest's then-boss Tony Fadell. Fadell had the group "reset their strategy" for a new version, and Google even hired a bunch of people from Amazon's Fire Phone team, but a followup never came. The last we heard from the group was a foldable prototype unit that hit the FCC at the end of 2015.

The new updates certainly make it seem like no one has been doing Glass development work over the last three years. Both the firmware and app seem mostly unchanged compared to the version from three years ago other than the aforementioned bug fixes. It's very odd that Google would suddenly start sending out updates, especially to a device that is around five years old. I'd imagine most Glass units are even broken at this point or in need of new flash storage or a battery replacement. Is the Glass team starting up again, or was someone at Google just really bored this week?"
Google Glass is apparently back from the dead, starts getting software updates | Ars Technica

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Apple began "Project Purple" because Steve Jobs hated Microsoft exec, says Scott Forstall (AppleInsider)

More iPhone 10th anniversary insights -- context: "In his first public interview since leaving Apple in 2012, former head of iOS development Scott Forstall provided commentary on his background, the first iPhone and his relationship with company cofounder Steve Jobs."
"According to the former executive, it was Jobs' hatred of a particular Microsoft executive that sparked his interest in tablet computing. Jobs' wife Laurene had a friend whose husband worked for Microsoft, Forstall said. This unnamed executive apparently rubbed Jobs the wrong way on multiple occasions, but it was one meeting in particular that set the tech guru off.

Microsoft was developing a tablet platform based on stylus interactions that was cutting edge for the time. The unnamed executive "shoved it in Steve's face" that the technology would "rule the world." Pooh-poohing the notion of a stylus first user interface, Jobs decided to challenge Microsoft with Apple's own solution."
Apple began "Project Purple" because Steve Jobs hated Microsoft exec, says Scott Forstall

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on - Recode

A new chapter begins for Uber

"Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo.

Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay.

But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called “Moving Uber Forward” on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit."
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on - Recode

Apple smart glasses for augmented reality could leverage iPhone power, UBS says (CNBC)

View different
""Advanced sensors and camera capabilities will enhance the iPhone; eventually there could be independent hardware offerings, perhaps iGlass," UBS analyst Steven Milunovich said. "We can imagine a pair of glasses with quintessential Apple design (iGlass), which enable a Hololens-type experience," the company said, referring to Microsoft's bulky alternative.

"However, the amount of compute power and sensors required likely pose a serious design challenge. If Apple could find a way to send massive amounts of data from the eyeglasses to the iPhone where the bulk of the compute would occur, the eyewear could have a more attractive design. The issue then becomes how to transfer massive amounts of complex data between devices quickly.""
Apple smart glasses for augmented reality could leverage iPhone power, UBS says

Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power - The New York Times

From a timely Amazon reality check

"But antitrust officials would be naïve to view this deal as simply about groceries. Buying Whole Foods will enable Amazon to leverage and amplify the extraordinary power it enjoys in online markets and delivery, making an even greater share of commerce part of its fief.

The company has established its level of dominance because of the failings of our current antitrust laws. To understand why, you first need to understand the scope of Amazon’s power. It has captured 43 percent of all internet retail sales in the United States, with half of all online shopping searches starting on Amazon. In 2016, it had over $63 billion in revenue from online sales in the United States — or more than the next 10 top online retailers combined. It controls 74 percent of e-book sales, is the largest seller of clothes online and is set to soon become the biggest apparel retailer in the country."
Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power - The New York Times

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Google launches its AI-powered jobs search engine | TechCrunch

See Connecting more Americans with jobs (Google Keyword blog) for more details

"Looking for a new job is getting easier. Google today launched a new jobs search feature right on its search result pages that lets you search for jobs across virtually all of the major online job boards like LinkedIn, Monster, WayUp, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilder and Facebook and others. Google will also include job listings its finds on a company’s homepage.

The idea here is to give job seekers an easy way to see which jobs are available without having to go to multiple sites only to find duplicate postings and lots of irrelevant jobs."
Google launches its AI-powered jobs search engine | TechCrunch

Amazon’s New Customer – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Acquire different

"This is the key to understanding the purchase of Whole Foods: to the outside it may seem that Amazon is buying a retailer. The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.

Today, all of the logistics that go into a Whole Foods store are for the purpose of stocking physical shelves: the entire operation is integrated. What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets."
Amazon’s New Customer – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Tech Titans Make Pilgrimage to White House to Discuss Government Systems - The New York Times

Just another day in White House Reality TV
"“Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” said Mr. Trump, who strolled in at the end of the meeting to greet the tech titans. “We’re going to change that with the help of great American businesses like the people assembled.”   
He later said, drawing laughter, “We have approximately $3.5 trillion of market value in this room — but that’s almost the exact number that we’ve created since my election.”

Few technology specialists from the White House attended. The administration has not filled several major science and technology positions. But the business and economics team closest to the president attended, including Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, senior counselor for economic initiatives."
Also see What you need to know about Trump’s meeting with tech CEOs (The Washington Post), which concludes:
"“The whole belief that you're going to bring these high-level thinkers to a table for an hour or two and have them solve all these things is at the heart of what this administration's problems are,” said one tech industry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the topic more freely. “As Trump has said, 'Who knew health care could be so difficult?' Well, who knew that cloud infrastructure could be so difficult? Who knew that Big Data could be so difficult? They're all about the scalps in the room.”"
Tech Titans Make Pilgrimage to White House to Discuss Government Systems - The New York Times