Friday, April 28, 2017

Cloudera IPO: CLDR opening price on first trading day (CNBC)

Irrational exuberance, "Hadoop ecosystem" edition; CLDR closed at $18.10

"Cloudera shares bounced about 25 percent in their public debut on Friday.

The stock started trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday under the ticker "CLDR." Shares rose to $18 a share as the stock opened around 10.:45 a.m. ET, and last traded around $18.85 by mid-day.

The company priced its IPO at $15 a share, above the expected range of $12 to $14 a share. But it's significantly less than the $30.92 a share that Intel paid for the stock in 2014, according to regulatory documents."
Cloudera IPO: CLDR opening price on first trading day

Apple Halts License Payments to Qualcomm in `All-Out War' - Bloomberg

Partner different

"Apple told Qualcomm it will stop paying licensing revenue to contract manufacturers of the iPhone, the mechanism by which it’s paid the chipmaker since the best-selling smartphone debuted in 2007, the San Diego, California-based company said in a statement. Qualcomm removed any assumption it will get those fees from its forecast for the current period. Apple doesn’t have a direct license with Qualcomm, unlike other phone makers.

“We’ve been trying to reach a licensing agreement with Qualcomm for more than five years but they have refused to negotiate fair terms,” Apple said in a statement. “Without an agreed-upon rate to determine how much is owed, we have suspended payments until the correct amount can be determined by the court.  As we’ve said before, Qualcomm’s demands are unreasonable and they have been charging higher rates based on our innovation, not their own.”"
Apple Halts License Payments to Qualcomm in `All-Out War' - Bloomberg

U.S. software company Cloudera beats expectations in IPO: source | Reuters

A big reality check day ahead for the Hadoop ecosystem

"U.S. software company Cloudera Inc (CLDR.N) raised $225 million in an initial public offering on Thursday, a source familiar with the situation said, giving the company a market valuation of about $1.9 billion, a steep fall from the $4.1 billion it was once valued at in the private market.

Investors including chip company Intel Corp (INTC.O) piled into Cloudera several years ago when a flood of money into private technology companies pushed valuations skyward.

Cloudera said it priced its shares at $15, above its indicated range of $12 to $14, but still a far cry from the $30.92 a share that Intel paid in 2014.

Cloudera will begin trading tomorrow [Friday] on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "CLDR.""
U.S. software company Cloudera beats expectations in IPO: source | Reuters

Uber’s ‘fingerprinting’ of iPhones after users delete app has sparked an FTC complaint - The Washington Post

I can't remember the last time I saw a positive Uber headline... Also see What will it take for Uber to change? (Recode)
"A New York Times report this week revealed that Uber’s app could give iPhones a unique “fingerprint” so that the company could identify devices even if its app was deleted or the phone was erased entirely. The company intended to stymie account fraud in places like China, where some drivers would create multiple accounts to request and accept fake rides, according to the report.

But the practice of tagging iPhones violates Apple’s rules for app makers, and Uber attempted to prevent engineers there from detecting the code by putting Apple’s Cupertino headquarters inside a “geo-fence,” meaning its software would appear differently when viewed in that location. When Apple discovered the deception, Apple chief executive Tim Cook personally told Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to knock it off or Uber’s app would be pulled from its store, the Times reported.

“The fact that they apparently geo-fenced the Apple headquarters so the engineers there couldn’t figure out what was happening exacerbates the situation and implies they knew what they were doing and they were being deceptive about it,” Simpson said."
Uber’s ‘fingerprinting’ of iPhones after users delete app has sparked an FTC complaint - The Washington Post

Cloud Produces Sunny Earnings at Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet - The New York Times

On a related note, from a Charles Fitzgerald tweet: "Q1 Cloud Company CAPEX: Amazon $4.94B; Google $2.51B; Microsoft $2.1B"

"The worry, however, is that this cannot last forever, not with Microsoft and Google making big investments in their own cloud businesses while trying to undercut Amazon with lower prices.

That has not happened — at least not yet. While A.W.S. revenue grew at a slower pace than in the past, it still rose a healthy 43 percent to $3.66 billion. The company’s shares rose 1 percent in after-hours trading.

“There’s always this moment when people think, ‘Is the magic going to run out?’” said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research. “It just hasn’t panned out.”"
Cloud Produces Sunny Earnings at Amazon, Microsoft and Alphabet - The New York Times

Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century : Nature : Nature Research

Excerpt from a book review by Demis Hassabis

"In Deep Thinking, Kasparov also delves into the renaissance of machine learning, an AI subdomain focusing on general-purpose algorithms that learn from data. He highlights the radical differences between Deep Blue and AlphaGo, a learning algorithm created by my company DeepMind to play the massively complex game of Go. Last year, AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, widely hailed as the greatest player of the past decade. Whereas Deep Blue followed instructions carefully honed by a crack team of engineers and chess professionals, AlphaGo played against itself repeatedly, learning from its mistakes and developing novel strategies. Several of its moves against Lee had never been seen in human games — most notably move 37 in game 2, which upended centuries of traditional Go wisdom by playing on the fifth line early in the game.

Most excitingly, because its learning algorithms can be generalized, AlphaGo holds promise far beyond the game for which it was created. Kasparov relishes this potential, discussing applications from machine translation to automated medical diagnoses. AI will not replace humans, he argues, but will enlighten and enrich us, much as chess engines did 20 years ago. His position is especially notable coming from someone who would have every reason to be bitter about AI's advances."
Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century : Nature : Nature Research

Facebook admits: governments exploited us to spread propaganda | Technology | The Guardian

Also see The most important part of Facebook's disinformation strategy is what it leaves out (The Verge)

"In a white paper authored by the company’s security team and published on Thursday, the company detailed well-funded and subtle techniques used by nations and other organizations to spread misleading information and falsehoods for geopolitical goals. These efforts go well beyond “fake news”, the company said, and include content seeding, targeted data collection and fake accounts that are used to amplify one particular view, sow distrust in political institutions and spread confusion.

“We have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people,” said the company."
Facebook admits: governments exploited us to spread propaganda | Technology | The Guardian

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Facebook Launches "Moon Shot" Effort to Decode Speech Direct from the Brain - Scientific American

Final paragraphs

"Chevillet’s team hopes to have a good idea of the technology needed to create their new optical prosthetic within two years, although it is unclear when they might build a working prototype. To meet these ambitious goals Building 8 has, over the past six months, recruited at least 60 scientists and engineers from the University of California, San Francisco; U.C. Berkeley; Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory; Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis who specialize in machine-learning methods for decoding speech and language, optical neuroimaging systems and advanced neural prosthetics, Dugan says.
Regardless of whether Building 8 succeeds in delivering its BCI prosthetic, Facebook’s investment in the project is a big win for science, says Adam Gazzaley, founder and executive director of U.C. San Francisco’s Neuroscape translational neuroscience center. “We have increasing struggles to squeeze money out of the National Institutes of Health, especially to do high-risk, high-reward projects like what Facebook is describing,” says Gazzaley, who is not involved in the Building 8 research. “It’s a great sign and should be encouraged and applauded if large companies in the consumer space are taking such serious efforts to be innovative in neuroscience.”"
Facebook Launches "Moon Shot" Effort to Decode Speech Direct from the Brain - Scientific American

With new funding & a growing userbase, Quora makes its pitch to advertisers (Marketing Land)

Check the full post for a snapshot of Quora's ad platform

"Quora, the Q&A platform that’s been around since 2009, has quietly grown into a business now valued at nearly $1.8 billion. In the past week, the company announced an injection of $85 million in funding and said monthly active users grew from 100 million to 195 million in the past year. It’s also prepped to put a lot more investment into its fledgling ad business that’s still in beta.

As far as scale and reach go, the major ad-supported platforms — Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn — are significantly bigger than Quora is now. But its slow and steady, under-the-radar approach may be starting to pay off. Quora says it has seen growing advertiser interest despite almost no marketing for the ads beta that launched in April 2016.

People go to Quora to ask questions, or to search questions others have already asked, and get answers from subject-matter experts. Businesses have been engaging organically on Quora for years, answering questions related to their products, services and areas of expertise. The company also has relationships with some 30 publishers to syndicate answers beyond the platform that can give participants more reach. The range of topics addressed on Quora runs the gamut and can deliver very niche, targeted audiences of users in research mode."
With new funding & a growing userbase, Quora makes its pitch to advertisers

Google Classroom outside the classroom (Google Keyword Blog)

PLATO c2017?

"Technology makes learning possible anytime, anywhere. Learners aren’t always sitting in a classroom, and educators aren’t always lecturing at a chalkboard. That’s why last month we made Google Classroom available to users without G Suite for Education accounts. Now, using a personal Google account, teachers and learners in many different settings can teach or attend classes, manage assignments, and instantly collaborate.

Starting today, users can do more than join classes—they can create them, too. Over the past few weeks, teachers and students have been piloting this new feature, and they’ve already created some great new classes for adult education, hobbies, and after school programs. Below we’ll share some of these classes with you."
Google Classroom outside the classroom

How Evil Is Silicon Valley? - WSJ

A related Charles Fitzgerald tweet: "Facebook takes early lead over Google as model for The Circle. Sure lots of PR people tracking this very closely..." Also see Silicon Valley is a creepy place full of megalomaniacs, according to ‘The Circle’, arriving in theaters April 28 (VentureBeat)
"Our creepy times now have their own creepy movie.

I normally review tech products, most of which make our lives better. But “The Circle” film that debuts this week—about a privacy-flouting version of Google, Apple, and Facebook wrapped into one—makes you want to move to the woods. Is surveillance a worthwhile trade-off for any digital service? And is Silicon Valley prepared for the evils its technologies unleash?

In the film, a CEO played by Tom Hanks holds a Steve Jobs-style product launch that fills the globe with tiny constantly broadcasting webcams. His Orwellian mission statement: “If it happens, we’ll know.”"
How Evil Is Silicon Valley? - WSJ

Amazon's new $200 Alexa device will give you advice on your outfits - Recode

Check this Amazon page for more details and Amazon’s camera-equipped Echo Look raises new questions about smart home privacy (TechCrunch) for some important privacy considerations
"On Wednesday, Amazon introduced its latest Alexa-powered device, a gadget with a built-in camera that is being marketed as a way to photograph, organize and get recommendations on outfits. Of course, Amazon will then try to sell you clothing, too.

The new version of the popular Echo — this one is being dubbed the Echo Look — responds to commands like “Alexa, take a photo” or “Alexa, take a video.” It costs $200, or $20 more than the original Echo device, and does all the same things the cheaper one does, with new additions.

People can view the photos Alexa snaps in an accompanying app and track what they’ve worn on which day. Photos and videos can also easily be shared to social networks, which may be attractive to Instagram power users, for examples."
Amazon's new $200 Alexa device will give you advice on your outfits - Recode

Why Instagram Is Becoming Facebook’s Next Facebook - The New York Times

Final paragraphs from an extensive Instagram profile

"“I don’t know much about the history of cars, but let’s say the Model T was the first car,” he said. “So what do you think the first car company other than Ford was thinking? Are we copying Ford, or is this a new mode of transportation that everyone is going to have different takes on?”

This can sound a little too defensive, but it’s not exactly wrong. If you compare how Stories works on Instagram with how it works on Snapchat, they are indeed similar. But the context of the two apps — the fact that Instagram tends to foster larger, more public networks in which people maintain a more polished profile, while Snapchat encourages a smaller, more intimate network — does change the nature of the format. Stories on Instagram feels different from Stories on Snapchat because there are different people on both networks using it for different purposes.

And for me, the Instagram version often offers a superior experience for one obvious reason: I know more people there, and you most likely do, too."
Why Instagram Is Becoming Facebook’s Next Facebook - The New York Times

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jack Dorsey on Donald Trump – Backchannel

Excerpt from a wide-ranging interview

"Now that he has won, there’s a question of whether Twitter should hold a president accountable to the same standards as other users. At Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told employees he was not going to censor a nominee’s—and then a president’s—posts. Did you have to make a decision on that?
I think it’s really important that we maintain open channels to our leaders, whether we like what they’re saying or not, because I don’t know of another way to hold them accountable. Any time we have any leader tweet, including Trump, there’s a very interesting and thriving conversation. A mixture of fact checking, disagreement, agreement, and some random things.
We hold all accounts to the same standards on our policy, and we want to make sure that independent of who you are or where you’re coming from, you understand the guidelines, what our policies are, and what that means. We now have 11 years of a corpus of opinions, statements, emotions, facts, falsehoods—everything you can imagine. It’s all archived in the Library of Congress, as well, in real time. It’s really interesting right now that people are taking the present day and going back to previous statements. So the public nature of the platform, and the fact that tweets stick around, is becoming critical to accountability."
Jack Dorsey on Donald Trump – Backchannel

Twitter reports first ever revenue decline but beats low bar it set for Q1 earnings thanks to user growth | VentureBeat | Social | by Chris O'Brien

Also see Twitter shares spike 10% after it delivers a much-needed earnings beat (TechCrunch) and Twitter’s total revenue shrinks for the first time as ad revenue decline steepens (Marketing Land)

"Struggling Twitter today reported revenues of $548 million in the first quarter of 2017, a drop of 8 percent from the same period a year ago, marking the first such decline for the platform.

Still, that tops the $512.1 million consensus analyst estimate. The company also reported that Monthly Active Users increased 9 million quarter-over-quarter, reaching 328 million. That’s an increase of 6 percent, a slightly better clip than the 4 percent growth the company reported last quarter."
Twitter reports first ever revenue decline but beats low bar it set for Q1 earnings thanks to user growth | VentureBeat | Social | by Chris O'Brien

Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update review: The future is increasingly uncertain | PCWorld

Final paragraphs from a review subtitled "With so few features, for so few phones, one wonders what the point is."

"In other ecosystems, flagship phones like Samsung’s new Galaxy S8+ sail confidently into stores, riding Android’s overwhelming dominance. Only a catastrophe could doom the Galaxy S8’s success. But even if every review praised Windows 10 Mobile to the skies—and they won’t—its odds of success would be long.

It’s possible that Windows Mobile is indeed dead, but that Microsoft plans to replace it with a true “common core” of Windows running across all devices. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella recently reiterated his vision that Windows isn’t just an OS of a single device, but a “fabric of devices” surrounding you. That sounds revolutionary, but it’s also a phrase he used several years ago, in 2014.

With a market share down in the low single digits, and with a reduced stock of devices to run on, Windows Mobile is the proverbial Schrodinger’s cat: either alive or dead, and no one seems to know for sure. Unfortunately, the anemic Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update doesn’t convince me that Microsoft believes in its future."
Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update review: The future is increasingly uncertain | PCWorld

The inventor of Siri says one day AI will be used to upload and access our memories - Recode

Think different, c2017

"Gruber said he thinks that using artificial intelligence to catalog our experiences and to enhance our memory isn’t just a wild idea — it’s inevitable.

And the whole reason Gruber says it’s possible: Data about the media that we consume and the people we talk to is available because we use the internet and our smartphones to mediate our lives.

Privacy is no small consideration here. “We get to chose what is and is not recalled and retained,” said Gruber. “It’s absolutely essential that this be kept very secure.”

Though the idea of digitally storing our memories certainly raises a host of unsettling possibilities, Gruber says that AI memory enhancement could be a life-changing technology for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia."
The inventor of Siri says one day AI will be used to upload and access our memories - Recode

With Secret Airship, Sergey Brin Also Wants to Fly - Bloomberg

Also see Uber wants to demonstrate its network of flying cars in Dubai and Texas by 2020 (Recode); on a related note, Box CEO Aaron Levie tweeted "That awkward moment when your tech company doesn't have an autonomous aircraft strategy yet."
"Larry Page has his flying cars. Sergey Brin shall have an airship.

Brin, the Google co-founder, has secretly been building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to four people with knowledge of the project. It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business. "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now," Brin wrote in an email.

The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon."
With Secret Airship, Sergey Brin Also Wants to Fly - Bloomberg

Virtual Reality Hits the Gym - Bloomberg

For a review of a (currently) less-VR but similarly expensive exercise option, see My Two-Month Ride with Peloton, the Cultish, Internet-Connected Fitness Bike (The Verge)

"The fitness industry has been trying for decades to make exercise less boring -- from TVs embedded in treadmills to apps nudging users to stay on schedule -- but technology has yet to find a cure for the monotony of working out. Scholl is part of nascent community that believes the addictive pull of video games combined with the immersive power of VR will do the trick.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based VirZOOM Inc. transforms bike machines into VR controllers that let gamers fly horses and drive Formula 1 cars. A Helsinki augmented reality startup overlays digital images onto rock-climbing walls, letting climbers play games or battle each other while ascending. More low-key solutions include home workouts built around VR archery, shooting and boxing games which enthusiasts say help people build upper-body strength and lose weight."
Virtual Reality Hits the Gym - Bloomberg

Our latest quality improvements for Search (Google Keyword blog)

Check the full post for an overview of new tactics; also see Google Rewrites Its Powerful Search Rankings to Bury Fake News (Bloomberg)
"Today, in a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system. The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of “fake news,” where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information. While this problem is different from issues in the past, our goal remains the same—to provide people with access to relevant information from the most reliable sources available. And while we may not always get it right, we’re making good progress in tackling the problem. But in order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes in Search are needed.

With that longer-term effort in mind, today we’re taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the web. This includes improvements in Search ranking, easier ways for people to provide direct feedback, and greater transparency around how Search works."
Our latest quality improvements for Search

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Microsoft starts integrating Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn | ZDNet

Also see LinkedIn hits 500M member milestone for its social network for the working world (TechCrunch)
"On April 24, Microsoft officials said the company will be ready to integrate Dynamics 365 for Sales with LinkedIn's Sales Navigator as of July 2017. This integration will help users who have both Dynamics 365 Sales and LinkedIn to get contextual recommendations and provide tailored content, as well as provide account and lead updates.  
Microsoft is making a promotional bundle available that includes Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise Edition, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator Team for $135 per user per month.
Microsoft also announced today a new human resource app called Dynamics 365 for Talent. This app will integrate with LinkedIn Recruiter and provide a consolidated HR profile, spanning Office 365, Dynamics 365, and LinkedIn profiles. The coming app will be available starting in July, officials said."
Microsoft starts integrating Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn | ZDNet

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launches Wikitribune, a large-scale attempt to combat fake news » Nieman Journalism Lab

Check the full article and the Wikitribune site for more details
"So what would happen if you combined professional journalism with fact checking by the people? On Monday evening, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an independent site (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation) “that brings journalists and a community 
of volunteers together” in a combination that Wales hopes will combat fake news online — initially in English, then in other languages.

The site is launching with a crowdfunding campaign to fund the first Wikitribune journalists (the default amount is $10 a month, but users can donate any amount they wish) “with the first issue of Wikitribune following shortly.” The Wikitribune page said that the goal is to hire 10 journalists."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launches Wikitribune, a large-scale attempt to combat fake news » Nieman Journalism Lab

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? - The New York Times

Excerpt from an extensive Facebook reality check; tangentially, see A scholar asks, ‘Can democracy survive the Internet?’ (Washington Post)
"This is not an especially controversial idea; Zuckerberg is arguing for a kind of digital-era version of the global institution-building that the Western world engaged in after World War II. But because he is a chief executive and not an elected president, there is something frightening about his project. He is positioning Facebook — and, considering that he commands absolute voting control of the company, he is positioning himself — as a critical enabler of the next generation of human society. A minor problem with his mission is that it drips with megalomania, albeit of a particularly sincere sort. With his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg has pledged to give away nearly all of his wealth to a variety of charitable causes, including a long-term medical-research project to cure all disease. His desire to take on global social problems through digital connectivity, and specifically through Facebook, feels like part of the same impulse.

Yet Zuckerberg is often blasé about the messiness of the transition between the world we’re in and the one he wants to create through software. Building new “social infrastructure” usually involves tearing older infrastructure down. If you manage the demolition poorly, you might undermine what comes next. In the case of the shattering media landscape, Zuckerberg seems finally to have at least noticed this problem and may yet come up with fixes for it. But in the meantime, Facebook rushes headlong into murky new areas, uncovering new dystopian possibilities at every turn."
Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? - The New York Times

Oracle Plans Internal 'Startup' to Outpace Rivals' Innovation - Bloomberg

Because, as Charles Fitzgerald tweeted, "Nothing says cutting edge technology like "Solution". Or putting the "startup inside" the bigco in the sales org..."

"Oracle Corp. is forming a unit it's calling a startup within its U.S. operations to work on new technologies that may include virtual reality and artificial intelligence, trying to attract talent and outpace the innovation of rivals.

The company's effort will include new centers in Reston, Virginia, and Denver for "cutting-edge" products, according to job postings on its website. Oracle is seeking to fill at least 50 positions, which were posted earlier this month for the Solution Engineering Centers. The company, founded 40 years ago, said it's a rare opportunity to get in on the "ground floor of building a truly transformational organization" inside its North American operations, according to job postings."
Oracle Plans Internal 'Startup' to Outpace Rivals' Innovation - Bloomberg

Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons - The New York Times

Play different

"But while those games are entertainment designed to grab players by their adrenal glands, Dr. Popović’s latest creation asks players to trace lines over fuzzy images with a computer mouse. It has a slow pace with dreamy music that sounds like the ambient soundtrack inside a New Age bookstore.

The point? To advance neuroscience.

Since November, thousands of people have played the game, “Mozak,” which uses common tricks of the medium — points, leveling up and leader boards that publicly rank the performance of players — to crowdsource the creation of three-dimensional models of neurons."
Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons - The New York Times

Service Faces Backlash Over a Widespread Practice: Selling User Data - The New York Times

Disconcerting data dealings

"What Unroll.me does is far from an anomaly — it is part of an expansive and largely unregulated world of selling personal data collected by online consumer services. As long as a service like Unroll.me has a privacy policy, adheres to it and does not sell personally identifiable information, like someone’s name, it is fairly free to package and sell the data it collects.

Yet privacy advocates said the modern technology of data analytics allowed such fine-grained measurement of a person’s online behavior that the concept of personally identifiable information was all but obsolete.

“Many of the services or apps we use for ‘free’ are monetizing data about us,” said Lee Tien, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization focused on digital rights."
Service Faces Backlash Over a Widespread Practice: Selling User Data - The New York Times

Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon - The New York Times

It would be interesting to see how many investment losses and write-downs Yahoo has taken over the last five years; e.g., see How Yahoo derailed Tumblr (Mashable)

"The filing also disclosed that Yahoo invested in Snap, one of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies, buying 2.3 million shares in a March 2015 fund-raising round that priced the shares at $10.86. After a stock split that doubled the number of shares Yahoo owned, Snap went public in March. Snap shares are now trading at $21.20, valuing Yahoo’s stake at $98 million.

Yahoo also owns stakes in Hortonworks, an enterprise software company; Paperless, a digital event invitation service; and SeatGeek, a ticket reselling service. The company valued Excalibur, its portfolio of patents that are up for sale, at $740 million."
Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon - The New York Times

Monday, April 24, 2017

Amazon blazes a trail to the next frontier in AI: the cloud - SiliconANGLE

From an interview with Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon AI at Amazon Web Services

"Q: Broadly speaking, what are you trying to accomplish here?

A: Our goal is to basically democratize artificial intelligence, to make AI accessible to every developer. To a large extent, even today to build artificial intelligence, it requires in many cases a Ph.D. in machine learning to do a really good job.

We want to enable building new kinds of intelligent applications that can actually do things that humans have been able to do, like being able to see or hear or speak or understand. And we enable businesses and enterprises to make intelligent decisions on top of the data that they have stored in AWS."
Amazon blazes a trail to the next frontier in AI: the cloud - SiliconANGLE

Google Cloud Boss Diane Greene Wants To Be Ahead Of Amazon By 2022 (Forbes)

Earlier in the post: ""I think we have a pretty good shot at being #1 in five years""
"Asked for some examples of where Google was pushing its offerings in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Greene invoked several of the company's acquisitions: DeepMind, acquired in January 2014, and Kaggle, acquired just last month in March 2017. The data science competitions hosted on Kaggle are hoped to give Google an edge, according to Greene, while DeepMind has advanced Google's capabilities in using neural networks to answer questions too abstract or complex for a simple query or regression analysis.

For examples of some of Google's latest work with customers in artificial intelligence, Greene noted projects in insurance, satellite imagery and malware detection. With insurance, the Google executive pointed to AXA, a customer that has been using Google's TensorFlow tools to better predict "large-loss" major traffic accidents. With satellite imaging, she pointed to one of the company's high profile customer wins from October 2016, Airbus, which is using the tools to automatically spot and correct flaws in the images. And in malware detection, she name-dropped SparkCognition, named an AI partner to the company in March 2017 and which offers such detection for Android."
Google Cloud Boss Diane Greene Wants To Be Ahead Of Amazon By 2022

Yahoo's Failure Is a Scary Hint at What's to Come - The Atlantic

From a timely digital advertising reality check

"Print newspapers will continue to fold, but Yahoo’s demise is a signal that web-native companies are next. If you run a business that relies on digital-advertising revenue for an outsized portion of your funding, you need to find new streams of revenue. Now. It may already be too late.

Unless you’re Facebook or Google, that is. Facebook and Google are practically drowning in ad revenue—together they command a huge portion of global digital-ad dollars—and that’s the root of the problem for every other business trying to clamor for a piece of it. The precise estimates vary. One often-repeated stat, based on last year’s financials, is that Facebook and Google account for 85-percent of every new dollar spent on digital advertising."
Yahoo's Failure Is a Scary Hint at What's to Come - The Atlantic

Tensor Processing Unit – Perspectives

Excerpt from a James Hamilton review

"I just read about another excellent example higher-level application acceleration. In fact this best example I’ve seen publicly disclosed so far. The paper “In-Datacenter Performance Analysis of a Tensor Processor Unit” will be presented at the upcoming 44th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) to be held in Toronto Canada June 26, 2017.
In my opinion, this is excellent work, a well-written paper, and a balanced analysis of what they produced and started to deploy back in 2015. It’s the normal practice in our industry to only show that which has already been replaced or is about to be replaced but that’s just the reality of commercial innovation and I do the same thing myself.
What I found most striking is the elegant simplicity of what has been done. It wins over general purpose Intel processors and Nvidia GPGPUs of the same generation by the greater than 10x we would expect and yet, they have kept the part simple and shown good taste in what to include and what not to. The paper uses power/performance as a proxy for the price/performance they know they should be using but since this is commercial innovation, pricing needs to remains confidential."
Tensor Processing Unit – Perspectives

The Electric Car Revolution Tesla Began Faces Its Biggest Test - Bloomberg

Also see Musk Nearing $1.4 Billion Windfall as Tesla Achieves Milestones (Bloomberg)

"When the U.S. incentives begin to expire next year, don’t expect a Georgia-sized collapse in the market. The period of greatest peril is ending for EVs, and the time of greatest promise is beginning. All the top carmakers are investing billions of dollars to electrify their drivetrains, and the smart ones will compete aggressively on pricing in the short-term in order to establish market share for the long haul. Incentives are important, but they won’t define the market for much longer."
The Electric Car Revolution Tesla Began Faces Its Biggest Test - Bloomberg

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car - The New York Times

Final paragraphs

"“How is this going to work? I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but we can’t even take our cellphones on airplanes today because of fears about battery fires,” said Missy Cummings, the director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, who is researching personal air transport for NASA.

And don’t forget that flying cars will not be able to pull to the side of the road in an emergency, said John Leonard, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

“Silicon Valley is full of very smart people, but they don’t always get the laws of physics,” he said. “Gravity is a formidable adversary.”"
No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car - The New York Times

Sunday, April 23, 2017

We Are Entering the Era of the Brain Machine Interface (Backchannel)

Excerpt from a Steven Levy BMI reality check

"In a 2004 conversation I had with Google’s co-founders, Larry Page was talking about his vision for the future of search. “Eventually you’ll have the implant,” he told me, “where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.” The remark became notorious, used frequently by reporters and cultural critics as evidence that the ambitions of Google’s founders — and indeed of Silicon Valley in general — would not stop short of a scenario where our very consciousness is plugged into some commercial enterprise’s operating system. The only consolation for those horrified commentators was that the concept was outlandish and impractical, safely consigned to the realm of science fiction.
No more. Last week at Facebook’s F8 conference, former DARPA head Regina Dugan, who leads its research group called Building 8, revealed that Facebook was working on a Brain Machine Interface (BMI) project. Yes, Facebook, whose goal is to connect everyone in the world to its network, now is exploring how to navigate the ultimate last mile problem — the gap between your brain and the keyboard. And for good measure Dugan talked about her group’s work on a second project that could eliminate the screen by communicating text messages through your skin."
We Are Entering the Era of the Brain Machine Interface

Friday, April 21, 2017

Elon Musk has a crazy plan for beating artificial intelligence (Mashable)

In case you don't have time yet to read the full ~37,000-word Wait But Why post; also see Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to turn cloud-based AI into an extension of our brains (TechCrunch)

"The short-term goal is just a way to fund the long-term goal, and this is where things start to get really interesting. Musk and his think-tank do not have everything figured out just yet, but the general idea is to advance the neural implant tech while they wait until laws and regulations let them actually implant something into a healthy person's brain. Ultimately, implants would allow for "uncompressed" communication between people, with the compression part being language. So instead of translating your thoughts into language, you can upload them directly to another person's brain, which would increase communication speed by orders of magnitude. 

This could go in (essentially) two directions: Melding brain with machine, like an artificial intelligence. Or, (and this appears to be Musk's primary focus) vastly increasing communication speed between humans, which would allow the human race to keep up with the advent of super-powerful artificial intelligence (which Musk seems to think is inevitable or at least very probable). 

This will also have vast implications on basically everything we do and everything we are. Reading someone's thoughts instantaneously could turn humanity into one giant brain, which in turn could immeasurably speed up progress of the human race, and so forth."
Elon Musk has a crazy plan for beating artificial intelligence

Why it matters that Google Home can now identify you by voice - The Washington Post

Home security

"That is a feature that Amazon's Echo doesn't have. And it's important for a voice assistant designed to run your household. For an assistant such as Siri, which lives on devices used by just one person, multi-account support isn't as important. But home hubs sit in a central location and operate such things as your lights or your thermostat, which everyone will want to be able to control.

Being able to identify an individual's voice may also help cut down on some unwanted surprises. Google said in a statement that the new feature makes it so that “only you would be able to shop via Google Home.” So others — i.e., your children or an intelligent parrot — shouldn't be able to tell Home to buy something on your account. That avoids instances like one in San Diego in January when Amazon Echo units started ordering dollhouses after hearing a news anchor on television repeat what a girl had said when she had ordered a dollhouse and some cookies. The anchor was reporting on a story about — what else? — a child buying something without permission on the Echo."
Why it matters that Google Home can now identify you by voice - The Washington Post

Virtual Reality Companies Navigate ‘The Trough of Disillusionment’ - Bloomberg

Maybe we should just wait until Neuralink adds full input/output capabilities...

"As disappointment is setting in for virtual reality, expectations are building around its less glamorous cousin, augmented reality, which is also sometimes called mixed reality because it places digitally-rendered elements in the real observed environment. In 2016, Pokemon Go, which is an augmented reality game played on smartphones, became a worldwide phenomenon. Microsoft launched its high-end AR headset, HoloLens, which has found customers mostly among industrial and business users -- such as aeronautical engineers and architects. Snap Inc.'s AR photo filters are one of the most popular features of its messaging service and Facebook has announced a big push into the field with its own AR camera filters.  Many now expect Apple Inc. to introduce an augmented reality product in the next year, which might help AR to leapfrog VR to achieve mass adoption.

"Apple has not made a play yet in this space and I think they will and that it will be huge," said ARiVR's Gallop."
Virtual Reality Companies Navigate ‘The Trough of Disillusionment’ - Bloomberg

Tesla app update lets Powerwall owners keep an eye on their electricity - The Verge

One powerful app...

"The new app lets customers monitor all their Tesla products including the Model S and Model X vehicles, Powerwall, and solar panels. Real-time data on solar power generation, battery power flow, and household energy consumption are displayed. The app can also notify customers of a power grid outage and share info about current Powerwall status and that the battery has kicked in to keep the home powered up.

In the event of an anticipated power outage, either planned or because of possible bad weather, Powerwall owners can also adjust the amount of power stored by their home battery pack."
Tesla app update lets Powerwall owners keep an eye on their electricity - The Verge

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future - Wait But Why

From the intro of another epic Wait But Why post

"When I wrote about Tesla and SpaceX, I learned that you can only fully wrap your head around certain companies by zooming both way, way in and way, way out. In, on the technical challenges facing the engineers, out on the existential challenges facing our species. In on a snapshot of the world right now, out on the big story of how we got to this moment and what our far future could look like.

Not only is Elon’s new venture—Neuralink—the same type of deal, but six weeks after first learning about the company, I’m convinced that it somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be.

The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around—but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked. I feel like I took a time machine to the future, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even weirder than we expect."
Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future - Wait But Why

Launching the Wolfram Data Repository: Data Publishing that Really Works—Stephen Wolfram Blog

From the conclusion of an extensive overview of an amazing data resource

"Many things have had to come together to make today’s launch of the Wolfram Data Repository possible. In the modern software world it’s easy to build something that takes blobs of data and puts them someplace in the cloud for people to access. But what’s vastly more difficult is to have the data actually be immediately useful—and making that possible is what’s required the whole development of our Wolfram Language and Wolfram Cloud technology stack, which are now the basis for the Wolfram Data Repository.
But now that the Wolfram Data Repository exists—and private versions of it can be set up—there are lots of new opportunities. For the research community, the most obvious is finally being able to do genuine data-backed publication, where one can routinely make underlying data from pieces of research available in a way that people can actually use. There are variants of this in education—making data easy to access and use for educational exercises and projects.
In the corporate world, it’s about making data conveniently available across an organization. And for individuals, it’s about maintaining data in such a way that it can be readily used for computation, and built on."
Launching the Wolfram Data Repository: Data Publishing that Really Works—Stephen Wolfram Blog

EFF: Google Chromebook is still spying on grade school students (Apple Insider)

From a Chromebook privacy reality check

"The privacy groups investigation has "found that educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely," tying personally identifying information (including names and birthdays) with children's "browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioral information."

The EFF noted that "some programs upload this student data to the cloud automatically and by default. All of this often happens without the awareness or consent of students and their families."

In stark contrast, Apple has emphasized in its education site that it "will never track, share, or sell student information for advertising or marketing purposes" and that the "security, privacy, confidentiality and integrity of student information is always protected." The site also provides a data and privacy overview for schools and privacy guide for parents."
EFF: Google Chromebook is still spying on grade school students

Microsoft Data Amp heralds Python in SQL Server 2017, and lots more | ZDNet

Final paragraphs from a SQL Server snapshot

"Let all that settle in for a minute: SQL Server runs on Linux, in containers, and on a Mac. It accommodates code written in Python and R, including code that uses an array of external open source libraries for both languages. Microsoft also has an entire micro-site, filled with SQL Server code samples, not only for C#, but also for Java, Node.js, PHP, Python, Ruby and R.

SQL Server has been around for a long time now -- almost a quarter century, in fact. The degree and extent to which Microsoft's attitude toward competing platforms has evolved over that time is staggering. In fact, you might need an entire SQL Server database to keep track of it."
Microsoft Data Amp heralds Python in SQL Server 2017, and lots more | ZDNet

Microsoft to shut down Wunderlist in favor of its new app, To-Do | TechCrunch

Hey Siri, take a note: try to figure out Microsoft's note-taking strategy; also see Introducing Microsoft To-Do—now available in Preview (Office blog)
"Microsoft acquired the popular mobile to do list application Wunderlist back in 2015, and now it’s preparing users for its eventual demise with the release of its new application “To-Do,” announced today. The new app was built by the team behind Wunderlist, and will bring in the favorite elements of that app in the months ahead, Microsoft says. The company also added that it won’t shut down Wunderlist until it’s confident that it has “incorporated the best of Wunderlist into To-Do.”

In case you’re hoping Wunderlist will get some sort of reprieve, Microsoft makes its forthcoming demise pretty clear. Stating its plans in black-and-white: “we will retire Wunderlist,” it says in a blog post."
Microsoft to shut down Wunderlist in favor of its new app, To-Do | TechCrunch

Apple Pledges to End Mining and Use 100% Recycled Materials for Products - Mac Rumors

Check the full post for Apple carbon footprint and renewable energy use snapshots

"Just ahead of Earth Day, Apple has released its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Report [PDF] with a lofty new goal: ending mining. Apple says the company is working on a "closed-loop supply chain" that would allow it to stop mining the earth for rare minerals and metals.

"One day, we'd like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products," Apple says on its updated Environment site. In an interview with VICE, Apple vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives Lisa Jackson commented on the mining plan, saying "it's where technology should be going.""
Apple Pledges to End Mining and Use 100% Recycled Materials for Products - Mac Rumors

Google Plans Ad-Blocking Feature in Popular Chrome Browser - WSJ

Google and partners to determine "acceptable" ads

"The ad-blocking step may seem counter-intuitive given Google’s reliance on online advertising revenue, but the move is a defensive one, people familiar with the plans said.

Uptake of online ad blocking tools has grown rapidly in recent years, with 26% of U.S. users now employing the software on their desktop devices, according to some estimates.

By switching on its own ad-filter, Google is hoping to quell further growth of blocking tools offered by third-party companies, the people said, some of which charge fees in exchange for letting ads pass through their filters."
Google Plans Ad-Blocking Feature in Popular Chrome Browser - WSJ

Google’s Health Moonshot Comes Back to Earth - Bloomberg

From an Alphabet/Verily reality check

"Opening on April 19, the study is called Baseline, as in a starting point for what healthy biometric data should look like. It’s the first serious public test for Verily Life Sciences, formerly Google Life Sciences. While Verily has separated from Google’s internet business within the Alphabet Inc. holding company, it’s taking a page from the playbook of its former parent, which aims to collect and organize information online. Verily wants to collect data from our bodies, using it to guide better health decisions.

While that sounds ambitious, it’s much more modest than the missions Verily promoted when it was officially part of Google. Years ago, the biotech division promised projects such as glucose-monitoring contact lenses and all-in-one medical scanners; those remain in the lab. Former employees say the internal code name for the life sciences division was Panacea—cure-all. That’s over."
Google’s Health Moonshot Comes Back to Earth - Bloomberg

Facebook has 60 people working on how to read your mind | Technology | The Guardian

Also see Facebook is developing a way to read your mind (Recode)

"So what is the answer to this very modern affliction? Mindfulness apps? Yoga? A digital detox?

Nope. According to Facebook it’s developing technology to read your brainwaves so that you don’t have to look down at your phone to type emails, you can just think them.

Facebook has assembled a team of 60 people, including machine learning and neural prosthetics experts, to enable such a system. Facebook is currently hiring a brain-computer interface engineer and a neural imaging engineer. Its goal? To create a system capable of typing one hundred words per minute – five times faster than you can type on a smartphone – straight from your brain."
Facebook has 60 people working on how to read your mind | Technology | The Guardian

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Workplace by Facebook continues to mature | TechCrunch

See this Facebook post for more details; also see Box and Workplace by Facebook: Making Work Simpler (Box blog), Announcing New Salesforce Integrations with Workplace by Facebook (Salesforce blog), and Share directly from Dropbox with our Workplace by Facebook integration (Dropbox blog)
"When Workplace by Facebook launched last fall, it was an attempt to take Facebook and put it into a business context. But working with businesses has a different set of requirements than consumers, and that means working with third-party business software in a seamless way. It’s certainly something that one of the company’s chief rivals in this space, Slack, has recognized and built into its product from the earliest days.

Today’s updates are about bringing that same type of integration, including file sharing, bots and compliance and governance tools, into the Workplace by Facebook experience. This kind of blending has been on the drawing board from the beginning, according to Julien Codorniou, vice president of Workplace.

“Being the communication layer and discovery platform for other services has always been part of the plan,” he told TechCrunch. “Workplace wants to be the app that connects everyone,” he added."
Workplace by Facebook continues to mature | TechCrunch

Google's Greatest Time-Sucking Invention Just Got a Lot Better (Gizmodo)

See Welcome home to the new Google Earth (Google blog) for an overview

"Above all of the other updates, the most significant overall is the new “Voyager” feature, which is available by clicking the ship’s wheel icon. Google has partnered with organizations like BBC Earth and DigitalGlobe to create little informative experiences. Clicking on “Endangered Species Around the World” will show you the locations of various endangered species, give you photos and a “knowledge card” gives some background about them. It’s kind of like Wikipedia mixed with Google Earth. Other Voyager stories feature regular and 3D videos. “Itineraries” offer guided tours of cities and a lot more information has been added to major destinations. So far, there are a little over 50 stories but Google plans to add more every week. There are also 20,000 destinations with knowledge cards. It seems all but inevitable that a crowdsourcing model will be implemented eventually to flesh this tool out."
Google's Greatest Time-Sucking Invention Just Got a Lot Better

Google’s cloud clients now have full access to its speech recognition software - Recode

See Cloud Speech API is now generally available (Google Cloud Platform Blog) for more details

"Google has released an improved version of its speech software for its cloud customers, and is allowing them to use the software more widely. The software is used for tasks such as transcription and voice commands.

Google, which makes most of its money from digital advertising and search, sees enterprise offerings like cloud services as a key driver of future revenue growth, but it lags behind competitors that have been in the cloud space longer, like Amazon and Microsoft.

The new version of Google’s speech software is another example of how Google is trying to be a more competitive cloud provider. It’s also another way to show off Google’s AI abilities in what is quickly becoming a technology arms race with Amazon, Facebook and Apple."
Google’s cloud clients now have full access to its speech recognition software - Recode

Why Facebook Keeps Beating Every Rival: It’s the Network, of Course - The New York Times

Check this Facebook post for an F8 2017 day 1 keynote overview

"Do you know what happens when you control four of the biggest social networks in the world? You get to stop worrying about competitors beating you on features.

Mr. Zuckerberg had done it before: Every time some other social company came up with social features that people seemed to enjoy — Twitter with the follower mechanism, Foursquare with checking in to stuff, Vine with short videos, Periscope and Meerkat with live video — Facebook or one of its subsidiaries (or all of them) could just copy and co-opt.

Mr. Zuckerberg didn’t win all of this stuff; sometimes the features turned out to be less important than initially thought, but that didn’t matter. At the very least he would neutralize his enemy’s growth, cutting it off before it became an existential threat to Facebook."
Why Facebook Keeps Beating Every Rival: It’s the Network, of Course - The New York Times

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Microsoft buys Intentional Software; Simonyi to rejoin Microsoft | ZDNet

Check this page for perspectives from Charles Simonyi

"Microsoft is positioning the acquisition as "build(ing) on the work we're already doing to deliver the tools necessary to be productive in an information-rich world," in the words of Rajesh Jha, executive vice president, Microsoft Office product group.

Intentional Software, founded in 2002, was originally focused on making programming less complicated using concepts for "intentional programming," which Simonyi originally pioneered in work he did with Microsoft Research. More recently, Intentional Software has been working on productivity scenarios for future workplaces."
Microsoft buys Intentional Software; Simonyi to rejoin Microsoft | ZDNet

Follow the CAPEX: Cloud Table Stakes – Platformonomics

Extensive and insightful cloud competitive landscape analysis by Charles Fitzgerald; also see How Many Data Centers Needed World-Wide by AWS Distinguished Engineer James Hamilton
"The capital expenditures (CAPEX) going into the cloud are Sagan-esque, with billions upon billions being spent on sprawling complexes of interconnected datacenters scattered across the planet. The hyper-scale public cloud operators (Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft) operate BFGCs (big, uh, freakin’ global computers) at immense industrial scale, with townships of well-ventilated warehouses that collectively hold millions of servers, connected by their own transoceanic cables."
Follow the CAPEX: Cloud Table Stakes – Platformonomics

Cloudera expects market cap to be less than half private valuation | TechCrunch

A different kind of big data analytics

"Cloudera, the enterprise big data company that’s received significant backing from Intel, has released the expected price range for its IPO. The company says it plans to price its shares between $12 and $14. The price will get finalized the night before Cloudera debuts on the stock market, which is expected to happen later this month.

The proposed price is a significant disappointment for some of the investors and employees of the company because it will mean it has gone down in value since its last private round. If it prices at the top of the range, Cloudera will be valued at $1.8 billion, significantly less than the $4.1 billion valuation from its 2014 round. This scenario has become known as a “down round IPO.”"
Cloudera expects market cap to be less than half private valuation | TechCrunch

Facebook wanted ‘visceral’ live video. It’s getting live-streaming killers and suicides. - The Washington Post

Also see A Murder Posted on Facebook Prompts Outrage and Questions Over Responsibility (NYT)

"In recent interviews and blog posts, Zuckerberg has acknowledged the complexity of the company’s new role in the global spotlight. He hopes to “amplify the good” and “mitigate the bad” effects of the Facebook platform, he wrote earlier this year.

Since Facebook launched live-streaming, first with celebrities in late 2015 and then to the general public, there have been so many live suicides broadcast that the company decided to create a set of tools for users to flag them and alert law enforcement, a tacit acknowledgment of its gatekeeper responsibilities.

Yet in July, the company apologized and blamed a technical glitch after live video of the aftermath of the Philando Castile police shooting, which was posted by his girlfriend and caused a national outcry, was temporarily disabled by Facebook software."
Facebook wanted ‘visceral’ live video. It’s getting live-streaming killers and suicides. - The Washington Post

Apple Readies iPhone Overhaul for Smartphone's 10th Anniversary - Bloomberg

On a related note, see Why You Should Wait Before Buying Samsung’s New Galaxy S8 (NYT)

"Apple is preparing three iPhones for launch as soon as this fall, including upgraded versions of the current two iPhone models and a new top-of-the-line handset with an overhauled look, according to people familiar with the matter. For the redesigned phone, Apple is testing a new type of screen, curved glass and stainless steel materials, and more advanced cameras, the people said. Those anxiously awaiting the redesigned iPhone, however, may have to wait because supply constraints could mean the device isn't readily available until one or two months after the typical fall introduction. 

The iPhone is Apple’s most important product, representing about two-thirds of sales. It also leads customers to buy other Apple devices like the iPad and Apple Watch, and serves as a home for lucrative services like the App Store. This year's new iPhone lineup comes at a critical time. Last year, Apple broke its typical upgrade cycle by retaining the same iPhone shape for a third year in a row and endured a rare sales slide. Samsung Electronics Co.'s new S8 lineup has also been thus far well received after last year's Note 7 battery debacle."
Apple Readies iPhone Overhaul for Smartphone's 10th Anniversary - Bloomberg

Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove - The New York Times

See the USAFacts About Us page for more details; also see Steve Ballmer thinks you don’t have enough data about your government (Recode)
"On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments.

Want to know how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates? Want to know how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect? Want to know what percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it? That’s in there. You can slice the numbers in all sorts of ways.

Mr. Ballmer calls it “the equivalent of a 10-K for government,” referring to the kind of annual filing that companies make."
Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove - The New York Times

Monday, April 17, 2017

What you need to know about that latest NSA data dump - Recode

Check the full post for details; also see Leaked NSA Malware Threatens Windows Users Around the World (The Intercept) and Microsoft patched 'NSA hack' Windows flaws before leak (BBC)
"A group of hackers released on Friday what appears to be the most extensive data dump from the National Security Agency.

The hack could have consequences for the relationship between big software companies and the U.S. government and could make it harder for Europe to trust the U.S. to respect privacy agreements.

Experts believe the hacker group behind the leak, Shadow Brokers, is connected with the Russian government. The group has released stolen information from the NSA before."
What you need to know about that latest NSA data dump - Recode

Slack, an Upstart in Messaging, Now Faces Giant Tech Rivals - The New York Times

Excerpt from a Slack reality check

"There is no illusion within Slack that success is certain. But Stewart Butterfield, the chief executive, said small tech companies with new ideas had long defeated larger rivals that tried to copy them. Think of Apple’s beating IBM in personal computing, Google’s beating Microsoft in search and Facebook’s crushing Google in social networks.

One advantage Slack does have is focus, Mr. Butterfield maintains. Microsoft, for example, has numerous Slack-like products including Yammer, SharePoint, Skype for Business and now Teams. The executives who run those businesses within Microsoft must “compete for budget and mind share and attention,” he said, providing an opening for Slack to gain users while Microsoft managers wage internal wars.

Microsoft said users would embrace Teams because it had strong encryption and global support and worked seamlessly with software they already used, like Excel. “We think customers value coherence,” said Bryan Goode, the general manager of Office 365 at Microsoft."
Slack, an Upstart in Messaging, Now Faces Giant Tech Rivals - The New York Times

Donald Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet - The New York Times

Unclear if anyone other than lobbyists voted for this

"If there’s one thing that brings Americans together, it’s our hatred of the giant companies that sell us high-speed data services. Consumers routinely give Comcast, Charter (now Spectrum), Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T basement-level scores for customer satisfaction. This collective resentment is fueled by the sense that we don’t have a choice when we sign up for their services.

By and large, we don’t: These five companies account for over 80 percent of wired subscriptions and have almost total power in their territories. According to the Federal Communications Commission, nearly 75 percent of Americans have at most one choice for high-speed data.

It’s about to get worse: President Trump’s F.C.C., under the leadership of its fiercely deregulatory chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to let these companies become even more powerful by letting them do whatever they want and allowing them to merge with one another."
Donald Trump’s Multi-Pronged Attack on the Internet - The New York Times

Friday, April 14, 2017

Workflow automation app has no ‘further updates planned’ following Apple acquisition | 9to5Mac

Workflow state tbd

"Apple’s plans for the Workflow team are unclear although the most obvious inference is that the company wants to build more advanced automation features into iOS itself. The Workflow app should probably be seen as a stop-gap offering until something is included in the operating system natively.

As a third-party app, Workflow always faced limitations on what it could do. It would be logical to expect an Apple approach to iOS automation to be much more streamlined and more capable.

Perhaps iOS 11 will give more visibility on Apple’s wider plans for professional iPhone and iPad users. There’s also the possibility that the Workflow team is now working on something completely different inside Apple and that the buyout was more of a talent ‘acquihire.’"
Workflow automation app has no ‘further updates planned’ following Apple acquisition | 9to5Mac

Elon Musk says Tesla will unveil its electric semi truck in September - The Verge

More telling Tesla tweets

"Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his company will unveil its electric tractor-trailer truck this September, calling the vehicle “seriously next level” and praising the Tesla team for doing “an amazing job.”

He also revealed that Tesla will show off an electric pickup truck in “18 to 24 months,” and that the next Tesla roadster sports car will be a convertible."
Elon Musk says Tesla will unveil its electric semi truck in September - The Verge

Google is trying to turn Image Search into a shopping tool - Recode

See this Google post for more details

"A preview of the feature, launching in mobile search, demonstrates a search for a purse from Zara. Below the carousel of products similar to the purse is a grid of photos of various models pairing the purse with a jean jacket, gray suede boots and a pastel pink hijab.

The new feature is clearly aimed at getting people looking at products to think of Google as a place to start shopping searches — and to use it instead of shopping portals like Amazon or eBay.

Despite its general preeminence in search, Google lags behind Amazon when it comes to product search, and the trend is getting worse for Google."
Google is trying to turn Image Search into a shopping tool - Recode

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen meets Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for the first time - GeekWire

Steve Wozniak also tweeted "Got to tell Paul Allen how what he did was a part of starting Apple. That's what doing things first is about."

"The two tech luminaries never crossed paths despite the fact that they helped launch two of the most influential technology companies that have gone toe-to-toe against each other for the past four decades.

Allen brought folks together at the Living Computer Museum + Labs in Seattle, which he founded in 2006. It was a private Apple reunion event of sorts, in advance of a new permanent Apple Computer Exhibit that debuts Friday and showcases Apple’s first 23 years in business. On display are computers like an operable Apple I — a Living Computer Museum director called it “the most important computer in history” — and machines like the original Apple II, IIe, IIc, Apple III, Lisa, and Macintosh computers, as well as a Bondi Blue iMac."
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen meets Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak for the first time - GeekWire

Tesla's Musk tells disgruntled shareholders: Buy Ford | Reuters

Investor relations by tweet

""We expect that as companies make the transition to publicly-traded status, the governance structures and practices in place at the time of the IPO will evolve to align with the company's changing strategy," the letter reads. "However, Tesla's seven-member board is largely unchanged from its pre-IPO days."

Led by the enigmatic Musk, Tesla recently became the most valuable U.S. car company, passing General Motors Co (GM.N) for the top spot.

Tesla's market value has since slipped to just shy of GM's. As of Wednesday, the market cap of the Silicon Valley automaker was $50.3 billion, while GM's was $50.8 billion.

"This investor group should buy Ford stock," Musk posted on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon. "Their governance is amazing..."

Musk then said on Twitter that he would follow up soon on an earlier promise to appoint more independent directors, "but this (investor) group has nothing to do with it.""
Tesla's Musk tells disgruntled shareholders: Buy Ford | Reuters

Facebook Messenger has 1.2 billion users and is now twice the size of Instagram - Recode

Tangentially, see Snap will report earnings for the first time on May 10 (Recode)

"Messenger on Wednesday announced that it now has 1.2 billion users, more than 700 million more users than it had when it separated Messenger from Facebook back in 2014. Messenger is now the same size as Facebook’s other messaging app, WhatsApp, and massively bigger than most other consumer apps on the market (that aren’t owned by Facebook, of course).

Messenger has evolved a lot as a standalone app; it has added things like payments, chat bots and video calls. Still, the company told Recode this month that it plans to follow in Facebook’s footsteps when it comes to monetizing — Messenger is getting into the advertising game."
Facebook Messenger has 1.2 billion users and is now twice the size of Instagram - Recode

Is the Chevy Bolt a model electric car? - The Boston Globe

Check the full article for some pros and cons

"The Bolt is just one of several midpriced electric vehicles headed to showrooms. Tesla has already received 400,000 advance orders for its Model 3, due to go on sale this summer, with a 215-mile battery range and a starting price of $35,000. Nissan has sold more than a quarter-million Leaf electrics, partly thanks to its $30,000 price. But the Leaf offers only 107 horsepower and about 100 miles on a single charge, not enough for commuters with range anxiety. So Nissan is developing a Leaf with a range of more than 200 miles, though the company hasn’t announced a release date.

Electric cars won’t be bestsellers this year or next. But the Model T wasn’t an overnight sensation either. It took Ford seven years to sell his first 1 million cars. But just 18 months later, he sold his second million. After my drive in the Bolt EV, I’m betting history will repeat itself."
Is the Chevy Bolt a model electric car? - The Boston Globe

Google Home devices stop responding to Burger King's TV ad prompt | Business | The Guardian

Also see Burger King hijacks the Google Assistant, gets shut down by Google (Ars Technica)
"The 15-second ad features a man in a Burger King uniform leaning into the camera to say: “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” 
People with the Google Home assistant and Android phones with voice search enabled within listening range of their TV discovered that the command triggered devices to read aloud the Wikipedia entry for Burger King’s flagship burger.

The intrusion was short-lived. Google Home devices stopped responding to the prompt spoken in the commercial a few hours after it launched. The devices will still respond if someone else (eg the real owner of the smart assistant) asks the same question. It is likely that Google updated the Home software to ensure it didn’t respond to the specific Burger King sound clip. Google did not respond to a request to confirm this."
Google Home devices stop responding to Burger King's TV ad prompt | Business | The Guardian

Self-funded team led by an ER doctor wins ‘Star Trek’-inspired competition - The Washington Post

Gene Roddenberry continues to inspire; on a related note, see Apple is reportedly working on sensors for diabetes treatment (The Verge)
"The competition’s tricorder, weighing five pounds or less, has the potential to revolutionize home health care. It can tell a person whether he or she has pneumonia or diabetes or other conditions, while monitoring the person’s blood pressure, heart rate and other health vitals. Additionally, it can share real-time information with medical professionals and could help millions of patients in medically underserved communities.

And it would arrive 250 years ahead of the one imagined in the original “Star Trek.”

The X Prize, funded by the Qualcomm Foundation, has committed $3.8 million toward continued consumer testing and development for the two top teams and four semifinalists. The organization will also provide both groups with support in Food and Drug Administration testing, in securing production and marketing, and in creating a documentary and museum exhibit about the tricorder’s potential."
Self-funded team led by an ER doctor wins ‘Star Trek’-inspired competition - The Washington Post

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Consumers go off PCs as global shipments continue their decline • The Register

Also see Gartner: Global PC shipments fell 2.4% in Q1 2017, 10th quarter of decline in a row (VentureBeat)

"Global shipments of PCs continue to slow as consumer demand declines, according to preliminary analysis by Gartner, with only "modest" growth visible in the business segment.

Only 62.2 million units were shipped during the first three months of 2017, a 2.4 per cent drop compared to the same period of 2016. This is the first time in a decade that the PC market experienced shipments below 63 million units in a quarter.

While the industry experienced "modest growth" in the business PC market, this was offset by declining demand as consumers refrain from replacing older PCs or abandon them altogether."
Consumers go off PCs as global shipments continue their decline • The Register

Slack launches in-message drop-down menus for apps | VentureBeat | Dev | by Ken Yeung

The quest to reinvent Lotus Notes continues; also see Take your pick (Slack blog)
"Message menus are drop-down menus that developers can incorporate into their Slack apps. Not everything can be responded to with a couple of buttons, but when you’re dealing with information pulled from a database, a drop-down menu may be best. One example is if you’re connecting Slack with a customer relationship management tool like Salesforce, you could incorporate a Message menu to show relevant accounts to the user. This added feature is geared towards scenarios that require more nuanced decision-making and not a binary response. 
There are five different types of menus that developers can use: static menus, which present a set of fixed choices; user menus, which show the members of the Slack team; channel menus, which provide public channels; conversation menus, which list all the channels (public and private) and direct messages; and live menus, which load dynamically based on a server’s response."
Slack launches in-message drop-down menus for apps | VentureBeat | Dev | by Ken Yeung

Fast Drawing for Everyone (Google Keyword blog)

Check it out at autodraw.com; also see Google’s AI doodle bot will transform your crude drawings into glorious clip art (The Verge)
"Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw.

It works on your phone, computer, or tablet (and it’s free!). So the next time you want to make a birthday card, party invite or just doodle on your phone, it’ll be as easy and fast as everything else on the web."
Fast Drawing for Everyone

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Boeing to save up to $3 million per plane by 3D-printing parts for 787 Dreamliner | VentureBeat | Transportation | by Reuters

All the screws that's fit to print

"Boeing Co hired Norsk Titanium AS to print the first structural titanium parts for its 787 Dreamliner, a shift that the Norwegian 3-D printing company said would eventually shave $2 million to $3 million off the cost of each plane.

The contract announced on Monday is a major step in Boeing’s effort to boost the profitability of the 787 and a sign of growing industrial acceptance of the durability of 3-D printed metal parts, allowing them to replace pieces made with more expensive traditional manufacturing in demanding aerospace applications."
Boeing to save up to $3 million per plane by 3D-printing parts for 787 Dreamliner | VentureBeat | Transportation | by Reuters

Poker-Playing Engineers Take on AI Machine - And Get Thrashed - Bloomberg

No sunglasses required

"Tuomas Sandholm, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, has been honing the research underlying Libratus since 2004, honing its ability to make decisions in situations with imperfect information. The point of training AI to win at games like chess, Go, and poker isn’t for the sake of games themselves, but because controlled environments help computers hone strategic decision-making. Those reasoning skills can then be applied to real-world problems such as business, finance, and cybersecurity, he said.

“People have a misunderstanding of what computers and people are each good at. People think that bluffing is very human -- it turns out that’s not true,” said Noam Brown, Sandholm’s PhD student and a co-developer of Libratus. “A computer can learn from experience that if it has a weak hand and it bluffs, it can make more money.”"
Poker-Playing Engineers Take on AI Machine - And Get Thrashed - Bloomberg

Monday, April 10, 2017

The next evolution in office working could be employees getting implanted with a microchip - Recode

Handy

"“I’m turning the internet of things into the internet of us,” said Jowan Osterlund in an interview with Recode. Osterlund is the founder of Biohax, a Swedish company that specializes in injecting small microchips, about the size of a grain of rice, under people’s skin.

The microchips, says Osterlund, can be programed to speak to other networked devices, like coffee makers, speakers or doors with electronic locks. The idea is that it’s more convenient to wave your hand in front of the door than use a key card."
The next evolution in office working could be employees getting implanted with a microchip - Recode

Friday, April 07, 2017

Comcast wants be your new cellphone carrier. Here’s everything you need to know. - The Washington Post

A new option for donating your personal data and activity to Verizon's advertising network

"Comcast's network differs from that of its rivals in the phone business. The cable company's service relies primarily on Comcast's network of 16 million public WiFi hotspots for connectivity, allowing users to surf the Web, watch video and listen to streaming music on their phones without paying for cellular data. When the company's WiFi signals are unavailable, Xfinity Mobile will connect to the traditional cellular network owned by Verizon, which Comcast is using as a result of an airwaves agreement signed several years ago. It's similar to the approach taken by Google when it launched its Project Fi wireless service.

Comcast views Xfinity Mobile as a way to expand the traditional cable bundle, adding a fourth service on top of residential Internet, landline phone service and cable television. A Comcast Internet subscription is required for Xfinity Mobile to work, the company said. And the wireless service's lowest rate (the $45 per month plan) will be available only to customers who subscribe to Comcast's Xfinity Premier Double Play or Triple Play, according to spokesmen."
Comcast wants be your new cellphone carrier. Here’s everything you need to know. - The Washington Post

Google adds fact-check findings to search and news results - The Verge

On a related note, see Facebook Starts to Educate Users on How to Spot Fake News (Bloomberg)
"Beginning today, Google will present richer information from fact-checking sites like PolitiFact and Snopes when they show up in search and news results. Those sites will be able to display richer information on Google, including directly noting whether they’ve judged a claim to be true, false, or somewhere in between. 
What this update won’t do is improve the search rank for fact-checking sites or bring their information to the top of the page in Google’s “featured snippets” box. So while this change will help fact-checking sites stand out and have a better chance of reaching people, this doesn’t do anything to directly combat the use of Google’s platform to spread false or offensive stories."
Google adds fact-check findings to search and news results - The Verge

The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret. - The Washington Post

Tbd when @realDonaldTrump will tweet his frustration

"Twitter filed a lawsuit Thursday to block an order from the Department of Homeland Security that seeks to reveal the user of an account who has been critical of the Trump administration's immigration policies.

Tweets from the account -- @ALT_uscis -- indicate that it is run by someone who is an employee of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services division of Homeland Security.

Free speech advocates said the DHS order appeared to be the first time the government has attempted to use its powers to expose an anonymous critic -- a development that, if successful, would have a "grave chilling effect on the speech of that account" as well as other accounts critical of the U.S. government, Twitter said."
The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret. - The Washington Post

Lyft Gets $500 Million in New Funding as Its Rival Uber Wobbles - The New York Times

Probably lots of start-ups changing "The Uber of <target domain>" pitches these days
"Lyft is being bolstered by the woes at Uber, which has been dealing with scandals involving the company’s workplace culture and aggressive leadership team. A grass-roots movement to boycott Uber has sprung up around the country, with the hashtag #deleteuber spreading quickly across Twitter related to the company’s shortcomings. 
Lyft has been trying to capitalize on the stumbles of its opponent. The company has shown investors a recent surge in ride requests, buoyed by Uber’s negative publicity. It has also presented itself as a kinder alternative to Uber."
Lyft Gets $500 Million in New Funding as Its Rival Uber Wobbles - The New York Times