Monday, May 22, 2017

How He Used Facebook to Win | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

Final paragraphs from a Trump campaign/social media reality check

"There are many ways that the Democrats lost the election, starting with the foibles of the candidate herself. If the Republicans had lost, that would have been the prevailing story about them and their candidate as well. That the Republicans didn’t lose can be attributed in large measure to their expert manipulation of social media: Donald Trump is our first Facebook president. His team figured out how to use all the marketing tools of Facebook, as well as Google, the two biggest advertising platforms in the world, to successfully sell a candidate that the majority of Americans did not want. They understood that some numbers matter more than others—in this case the number of angry, largely rural, disenfranchised potential Trump voters—and that Facebook, especially, offered effective methods for pursuing and capturing them. While this is clearly the future of campaigns, both Republican and Democratic, it also appears to be Trump’s approach to governing.

Much was made in the last days of the campaign of the fact that if Donald Trump lost, he could take his huge database, Project Alamo, which he owns outright, and start an insurgent political movement or build his own media company. As Steve Bannon said at the time, “Trump is an entrepreneur.” But Trump didn’t lose, and he still owns that database, and it continues to serve him well. In the first three months of his presidency, when only 36 percent of the country gave him a favorable rating, Trump and the Republicans raised $30 million toward his reelection. As a point of reference, this is twice as much as Obama raised in the first three months of his first term, while enjoying much higher approval ratings. What our Facebook president has discovered is that it actually pays only to please some of the people some of the time. The rest simply don’t count."
How He Used Facebook to Win | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible - The Washington Post

Also see ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It (NYT)

"Evan Williams, who still sits on the company's board of directors, recently told the New York Times that he wants to repair the damage he thinks Twitter and the broader Internet have wrought on society in the form of trolls, cyberbullies, live-streamed violence, fake news and — yes — Trump.

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Williams told the Times. “I was wrong about that.”

“If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry,” he said.

Is it true? Hard to say."
Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible - The Washington Post

Friday, May 19, 2017

Omnivoracious: Amazon Charts: A Modern Reimagining of the Bestseller List

Distinguishing between what people are buying (or borrowing) and what they're actually reading, based on the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week

"Today Amazon has launched Amazon Charts, a bestseller list that reflects not only what people are purchasing but what they are reading...regardless of format.

Updated weekly, Amazon Charts has two lists: The Top 20 Most Sold and the Top 20 Most Read. Both lists break out further into top 20 fiction and top 20 nonfiction categories, showing readers a total of 80 books on the Amazon Charts bestseller lists."
Omnivoracious: Amazon Charts: A Modern Reimagining of the Bestseller List

Microsoft redesigned OneNote’s interface to be more consistent across devices - The Verge

See this Microsoft post for more details; tbd if/when macOS OneNote will support multiple open windows, as the full Windows OneNote app has done since 2003...

"Microsoft announced an update for OneNote today across Windows 10, Mac, iOS, Android, and the web, featuring an overhauled design meant to offer improved accessibility and a more consistent feel across the various platforms.

Navigation has been vastly simplified in the new app. Microsoft has moved all controls to be located on the left side of the screen in a series of nested menus, making it simpler to switch between sections, notebooks, and pages from a single place in the app. Additionally, the new design puts the actual information at the center, which Microsoft says will help students avoid distraction."
Microsoft redesigned OneNote’s interface to be more consistent across devices - The Verge

Google’s Waze Is Doing More Than Just Traffic Maps - Bloomberg

From a Waze Carpool overview

"Waze hasn’t finalized its payment structure but says it won’t deliver drivers more than 54¢ per mile in the U.S., meaning they won’t have to declare it as income. A recent Waze Carpool ride from San Francisco to Mountain View (about 38 miles) cost $8.60, about one-fifth of a comparable Uber trip. “We have some real market forces that are going to make sure there’s no gouging,” Eisnor says, meaning there won’t be any Uber-style surge pricing.

Waze is betting this more-casual structure will help it avoid the regulatory issues Uber has faced. On May 11, an advisory panel to the European Union’s high court recommended that the court deem Uber a transport service instead of a software company, which would subject it to much more stringent regulations. Waze Carpool may have to worry about similar issues in the future, though; Eisnor says the company hopes to eventually take a cut of rides set up using the app, and predicts that money from rides will overtake advertising to become Waze’s biggest source of revenue."
Google’s Waze Is Doing More Than Just Traffic Maps - Bloomberg

Why Google Assistant Can't Beat Siri for iPhone Users - Bloomberg

See the full article for a list of Assistant-on-iOS challenges

"Altogether, unless you are deeply in the Google ecosystem, using Google Assistant on the iPhone is a pain compared to Siri. Of course, over time, it is possible that Apple will open up more functionality to the Google Assistant. For now, however, Google Assistant on the iPhone does have one or two advantages over Siri, even for those in the Apple apps and services world. You can type into the Assistant. This is great for situations where you want to quickly get a task done without speaking out loud. And if you have a Google Home speaker, the Assistant on the iPhone integrates well with that device for controlling other connected home gadgets."
Why Google Assistant Can't Beat Siri for iPhone Users - Bloomberg

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Inside Google’s Slow-Mo Virtual Reality Moonshot – Backchannel

Excerpt from a Steven Levy tour of Google's VR/AR activities; also see Virtual and Augmented Realities: Asking the right questions and traveling the path ahead (Clay Bavor on Medium)

"To get to ubiquity, Bavor says, Google and others need to reduce the friction of setup and using VR, improve the core technology, and broaden the set of experiences that developers can create. Certainly the standalone headset will reduce the hassle of using your phone as a VR device. “You don’t need another phone, you don’t need a PC, you don’t need to plug it into anything,” he told me in an early preview. “Everything that you need for VR is contained in the headset itself.” Because the new device doesn’t have to strap a phone to the visor, the weight is distributed more evenly, and it feels more comfortable. To be blunt about it, it’s a pain to repurpose your phone as the VR engine for an uncomfortable headset. The standalone device puts you into VR with the touch of a button.
When I tested it out at Google HQ — in a clunkier version than the upcoming commercial units — I found it a much smoother experience than the Daydream viewer or the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear. The secret, says Bavor, is what Google calls “WorldSense”—a means to track head movements with low latency that not only allows flexibility in what you see, but also lets you move around in a virtual scene."
Inside Google’s Slow-Mo Virtual Reality Moonshot – Backchannel

Stevey's Blog Rants: Why Kotlin Is Better Than Whatever Dumb Language You're Using

From an overview of Kotlin, which received big applause during the Google I/O keynote yesterday (when Google announced Kotlin is now a first-class language for Android app dev); also see kotlinlang.org

"So why is it called Kotlin?  Well, there's a clear play on incrementing the 'J' in Java.  Beyond that, one can only assume that 'Kremlin', 'Khrushchev' and 'KGB' were already taken, probably by UC Berkeley.  So they did the next best thing and named it after a Russian military base.  It's not a bad name, though.  You get used to it.


Last year I noticed that Kotlin had a fair amount of buzz.  Not hype, just... buzz.  People were low-key buzzing about it.  So, sure, whatever, I took a look, just like I've done for fifty or a hundred other languages in the past 15 years, on my Quest to Replace Java with Anything Reasonable."
Stevey's Blog Rants: Why Kotlin Is Better Than Whatever Dumb Language You're Using

What You Should Care About From Google's I/O Conference - Bloomberg

Check the full article for highlights; also see Making AI work for everyone (Sundar Pichai post on the Google Keyword blog)

"During a two hour keynote presentation at its I/O developer conference, Alphabet Inc.'s Google showed off its prowess in the technology world's hottest field: artificial intelligence. From its voice-based digital Assistant to photo sharing and automatic image recognition, AI is everywhere it can possibly be in Google's product portfolio. Here's what you should care about from the event's main stage on day one."
What You Should Care About From Google's I/O Conference - Bloomberg

What Amazon could do to the business of selling prescription drugs - The Washington Post

Prime time for drug domain disruption

"Investors sold off shares of pharmacy giant CVS Health and Walgreens on Wednesday amid renewed speculation that Amazon would enter the business of selling prescription drugs.

As the stock market suffered its biggest loss since before the November election, shares of CVS and Walgreens closed down more than 3 percent, to $76.34 and $81.73, respectively.

CNBC reported Tuesday that the online retail giant is considering wading into the complicated retail pharmacy market. The news organization reported that Amazon is hiring a general manager to lead a team to explore the idea but hasn’t made a final decision."
What Amazon could do to the business of selling prescription drugs - The Washington Post

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Research Blog: Introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud (Google Research Blog)

Offering "Up to 180 teraflops of floating-point performance per Cloud TPU"

"Researchers require enormous computational resources to train the machine learning (ML) models that have delivered recent breakthroughs in medical imaging, neural machine translation, game playing, and many other domains. We believe that significantly larger amounts of computation will make it possible for researchers to invent new types of ML models that will be even more accurate and useful.

To accelerate the pace of open machine-learning research, we are introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud (TFRC), a cluster of 1,000 Cloud TPUs that will be made available free of charge to support a broad range of computationally-intensive research projects that might not be possible otherwise."
Research Blog: Introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud

Elon Musk's Boring Company gets a FAQ, and it raises more questions than it answers (Mashable)

Check the FAQ for more details

"The FAQ offers a key bit of insight into this. "The electric skate can transport automobiles, goods, and/or people. And if one adds a vacuum shell, it is now a Hyperloop Pod which can travel at 600+ miles per hour," it says. So even though Musk likes to use the example of Tesla cars using the tunnels, they could, indeed, be a bit like subways, as those electric sleds might be used for transporting people, sans a car. 

Musk and his companies, Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal (which he helped turn into the giant that it is today), have typically been great at disrupting well-established and somewhat stale industries by investing a lot in research and development and taking bold steps that the entrenched giants weren't prepared to make. It's quite possible that he'll be able to apply the same principle to tunneling and make tunnels faster, cheaper and better than the competition.

The newly published FAQ is a good start at giving us an idea of how, exactly, The Boring Company will do that, but we'll need a bit more info before we jump on the bandwagon."
Elon Musk's Boring Company gets a FAQ, and it raises more questions than it answers

Apple Plans Laptop Upgrades to Take on Microsoft - Bloomberg

Lots of product news expected at WWDC

"Apple Inc. plans to announce an update to its laptop lineup at an annual conference for app developers in early June, a move that could help offset new competition from Microsoft Corp. as well as declining iPad sales.

Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel Corp., said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple’s cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said."
Apple Plans Laptop Upgrades to Take on Microsoft - Bloomberg

Report: Refurbished Galaxy Note 7 Renamed To Galaxy Note FE | Androidheadlines.com

Fires Extinguished?

"The Galaxy Note 7R has been all over the news lately, but it seems like Samsung won’t launch the device under that name. According to a new report by ET News, the Galaxy Note 7R will be called the Galaxy Note FE, which is interesting. The ‘FE’ part stands for ‘Fandom Edition’, according to the source, and the phone is coming at the end of June it seems. Now, for those of you who do not know, this actually a refurbished Galaxy Note 7, it is identical to the original Galaxy Note 7 in terms of specs, except for one detail, it comes with a smaller battery pack on the inside."
Report: Refurbished Galaxy Note 7 Renamed To Galaxy Note FE | Androidheadlines.com

Biz Stone Rejoins Twitter With Focus on Corporate Culture - Bloomberg

Back to the future

"In his new role, Stone will be focused on company culture, and he’s not replacing another executive or filling a vacancy, he said Tuesday in a post on Medium. He was invited back to Twitter by Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, another co-founder, who returned in 2015 after also stepping away for years. Twitter shares jumped on the news.

“It’s important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story,” Stone, 43, wrote. “I’ll shape the experience internally so it’s also felt outside the company.""
Biz Stone Rejoins Twitter With Focus on Corporate Culture - Bloomberg

Malware Case Is Major Blow for the N.S.A. - The New York Times

Excerpt from a stark NSA reality check

"Michael Sulmeyer, a former top Pentagon policy official who now runs the cybersecurity program at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said the Shadow Brokers episode was a “disaster” for the National Security Agency that underscored how the stakes of leaks from the agency had changed.

“Ten years ago, the costs were fairly low for things going wrong at N.S.A.,” Mr. Sulmeyer said. Then, he said, leaks could cut off important sources of intelligence, but today the agency wields powerful malicious software. “Now,” he said, “there’s a risk for public safety.”

The agency has spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to develop an arsenal of stealthy software tools to break into foreign computer networks and gather intelligence. When it lost control of those exploits, it was a less lethal version of the Air Force awakening one morning to find many fighter jets missing — and then learning that the fighters were randomly strafing cities around the globe."
Malware Case Is Major Blow for the N.S.A. - The New York Times

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Apple’s New Campus: An Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership | WIRED

Steven Levy goes for a tour

"We drive through an entrance that takes us under the building and into the courtyard before driving back out again. Since it’s a ring, of course, there is no main lobby but rather nine entrances. Ive opts to take me in through the café, a massive atrium-like space ascending the entire four stories of the building. Once it’s complete, it will hold as many as 4,000 people at once, split between the vast ground floor and the balcony dining areas. Along its exterior wall, the café has two massive glass doors that can be opened when it’s nice outside, allowing people to dine al fresco.

“This might be a stupid question,” I say. “But why do you need a four-story glass door?”

Ive raises an eyebrow. “Well,” he says. “It depends how you define need, doesn’t it?”"
Apple’s New Campus: An Exclusive Look Inside the Mothership | WIRED

DocuSign confirms customer emails were stolen and used in phishing campaign | TechCrunch

Awkward...

"DocuSign, the owner of eSignature, one of the most popular digital signature services, said today that a database of customer emails was breached and used in a phishing campaign that began last week.

The phishing emails were designed to look like they were sent by DocuSign and had subject lines that said “Completed: [domain name]  – Wire transfer for recipient-name Document Ready for Signature” or “Completed [domain name/email address] – Accounting Invoice [Number] Document Ready for Signature.” Word Document attachments in the emails installed malware if opened."
DocuSign confirms customer emails were stolen and used in phishing campaign | TechCrunch

Google to Push AI Smarts to iPhone, New Photo Books Service - Bloomberg

On a related note, see Google Wants Android and Its Assistant to Power Your Car Too (Bloomberg)

"Like the Assistant on Google's own Pixel smartphones, the iPhone version will take commands via voice, the person said. The difference is that it won't come pre-installed on the iPhone, a potential barrier to wide adoption. Still, the Assistant app will integrate with other Google apps on the iPhone so a user could ask to see a video and it will begin playing via YouTube.

Google's AI will show up in other new products this week. The company's popular Photos app will be upgraded with a feature for creating physical coffee table photo books, according to the person familiar. Last year, Google upgraded the AI software supporting Photos so the service could automatically create albums by combining relevant and related images."
Google to Push AI Smarts to iPhone, New Photo Books Service - Bloomberg

In Computer Attacks, Clues Point to Frequent Culprit: North Korea - The New York Times

Also see In Ransomware Attack, Where Does Microsoft’s Responsibility Lie? (NYT) and Microsoft Faulted Over Ransomware While Shifting Blame to NSA (Bloomberg)
"Security experts at Symantec, which in the past has accurately identified attacks mounted by the United States, Israel and North Korea, found early versions of the ransomware, called WannaCry, that used tools that were also deployed against Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Bangladesh central bank last year and Polish banks in February. American officials said Monday that they had seen the same similarities.

All of those attacks were ultimately linked to North Korea; President Barack Obama formally charged the North in late 2014 with destroying computers at Sony in retaliation for a comedy, “The Interview,” that envisioned a C.I.A. plot to kill Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader."
In Computer Attacks, Clues Point to Frequent Culprit: North Korea - The New York Times

Monday, May 15, 2017

Get ready for a new iPad and a mysterious Siri speaker at WWDC | TechCrunch

Also see The iPad Mystery (Monday Note)

"According to reliable analyst KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo and 9to5mac, Apple is about to launch not one but two new hardware devices at its WWDC conference in a few weeks. A new iPad with thinner bezels and a bigger screen is likely. This iPad has been rumored for months. There could also be an Amazon Echo competitor from Apple.

As the name suggests, WWDC is a developer conference. For the past few years, Apple has focused on software announcements as these are relevant news for its developer community. This year should be no different. You can expect a preview of iOS 11, macOS 10.13, tvOS 11 and watchOS 4.

But Apple also usually announces new devices during a Spring event. The company’s new devices (and new campus) weren’t quite ready for prime time. So Ming-Chi Kuo thinks Apple is going to use WWDC as the launchpad for its new devices."
Get ready for a new iPad and a mysterious Siri speaker at WWDC | TechCrunch

Amazon is now worth two Walmarts - Recode

Also see Amazon’s epic 20-year run as a public company, explained in five charts (Recode)

"It took Amazon 18 years as a public company to catch Walmart in market value. It took less than another two years for Amazon to be worth twice as much.

On the 20th anniversary of Amazon’s IPO, Amazon’s market cap stands at $459 billion before the market opens for trading. Walmart’s? $228 billion."
Amazon is now worth two Walmarts - Recode

Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars - The New York Times

Also see Alphabet’s Waymo Teams Up With Lyft to Test Autonomous Cars (Bloomberg), which notes "Alphabet’s venture capital arm counts Uber as its largest investment, but tensions rose after Alphabet showed interest in developing a competing ride-hailing service."
"The partnership highlights the fluid nature of relationships in the self-driving-car sector. From technology companies to automakers to firms that manufacture components, dozens of players are angling for a slice of an autonomous vehicle market that many believe will ultimately be a multibillion-dollar industry. To gain an edge and outmuscle rivals, many of these players are forming alliances — and sometimes shifting them. 
The deal between Waymo and Lyft has competitive implications for Uber, the world’s biggest ride-hailing company, which has recently had to confront a spate of workplace and legal problems."
Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars - The New York Times

With New Digital Tools, Even Nonexperts Can Wage Cyberattacks - The New York Times

Also see The need for urgent collective action to keep people safe online: Lessons from last week’s cyberattack (Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, on the Official Microsoft Blog)

"Ransomware is nothing new. For years, there have been stories of individuals or companies horrified that they have been locked out of their computers and that the only way back in is to pay a ransom to someone, somewhere who has managed to take control.

But computer criminals are discovering that ransomware is the most effective way to make money in the shortest amount of time. The advent of new tools that wrap victims’ data with tough encryption technology, hard-to-trace digital currency like Bitcoin, and even online sites that offer to do the data ransoming in return for a piece of the action, have made this method of cybertheft much easier."
With New Digital Tools, Even Nonexperts Can Wage Cyberattacks - The New York Times

Sunday, May 14, 2017

'Accidental hero' halts ransomware attack and warns: this is not over | Technology | The Guardian

Now would be a good time to upgrade, if you're running an old version of Windows

"“I was out having lunch with a friend and got back about 3pm and saw an influx of news articles about the NHS and various UK organisations being hit,” he told the Guardian. “I had a bit of a look into that and then I found a sample of the malware behind it, and saw that it was connecting out to a specific domain, which was not registered. So I picked it up not knowing what it did at the time.”

The kill switch was hardcoded into the malware in case the creator wanted to stop it spreading. This involved a very long nonsensical domain name that the malware makes a request to – just as if it was looking up any website – and if the request comes back and shows that the domain is live, the kill switch takes effect and the malware stops spreading. The domain cost $10.69 and was immediately registering thousands of connections every second."
'Accidental hero' halts ransomware attack and warns: this is not over | Technology | The Guardian

Friday, May 12, 2017

Amazon Prime Video for tvOS will be announced at WWDC, Apple TV returning to Amazon.com (AppleInsider)

Tbd if Apple's rumored Amazon Echo competitor will debut at the same event...

"Citing unnamed sources, John Paczkowski of Buzzfeed reported on Thursday that the Amazon Prime streaming video service will, in fact, come to the tvOS App Store this summer. The partnership is expected to be announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on June 5.

Word of Amazon Prime Video coming to Apple TV first leaked last week, in a report that said Amazon and Apple were close to finalizing a deal. Until now, Apple users wanting to watch Amazon Prime Video and other streaming content have needed to rely on Amazon's iOS app, which includes AirPlay support.

A dedicated tvOS app will allow users to navigate to Amazon content directly from the Apple TV, and could even integrate with services like Siri."
Amazon Prime Video for tvOS will be announced at WWDC, Apple TV returning to Amazon.com

Apple’s Watch can detect an abnormal heart rhythm with 97% accuracy, UCSF study says | TechCrunch

Later in the article: "Atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm, causes 1 in 4 strokes. Ballinger says two-thirds of those types of strokes are preventable with relatively inexpensive drugs."

"According to a study conducted through heartbeat measurement app Cardiogram and the University of California, San Francisco, the Apple Watch is 97 percent accurate in detecting the most common abnormal heart rhythm when paired with an AI-based algorithm.

The study involved 6,158 participants recruited through the Cardiogram app on Apple Watch. Most of the participants in the UCSF Health eHeart study had normal EKG readings. However, 200 of them had been diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat). Engineers then trained a deep neural network to identify these abnormal heart rhythms from Apple Watch heart rate data."
Apple’s Watch can detect an abnormal heart rhythm with 97% accuracy, UCSF study says | TechCrunch

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wants Donald Trump to keep tweeting - Recode

Also see President Trump’s Tweets Are A Gold Mine For Foreign Intelligence (The Federalist)

"“The complicated part,” Dorsey said, “is just what does this mean to have a direct line to how he’s thinking in real time and to see that. ... So we’re definitely entering a new world where everything is on the surface and we can all see it in real time and we can all have conversations about it.”

Dorsey may have another reason to believe Trump’s tweets should stick around — they appear to be helping Twitter’s business."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wants Donald Trump to keep tweeting - Recode

Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial - Recode

In other Uber news, see Uber Suffers Bloody Nose in Its Fight to Conquer Europe (NYT)

"Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber alleging theft of trade secrets from its self driving efforts is going to trial — and in a twist, Uber could potentially face criminal charges.

Judge William Alsup in San Francisco has issued an order denying Uber’s request for arbitration with Alphabet self-driving subsidiary Waymo.

He also issued another order referring the case to the U.S. Attorney for investigation of possibly theft of trade secrets by Uber, though it is not clear whether the U.S. Attorney will accept the case."
Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber will go to trial - Recode

Microsoft Wants Windows to Play Nice With iPhones and Android Devices - Bloomberg

Windows 10 Capitulation Update; also see Microsoft has fully acknowledged that you will never use a Windows Phone for work (Washington Post)
"Microsoft Corp. unveiled an update to Windows 10, adding key features that are likely to benefit users of gadgets that run rival mobile operating systems iOS and Android.

The features, which will be part of an upgrade for the computer operating system this fall, will let people sync different devices, Microsoft officials said in a briefing before they introduced the software. For example, users will be able to share information saved on a clipboard, or pick up tasks on one machine that were left off on another. ITunes, Apple Inc.'s music app, also is going to be available in the Windows App Store, Microsoft said."
Microsoft Wants Windows to Play Nice With iPhones and Android Devices - Bloomberg

Silicon Valley: A Reality Check | Slate Star Codex

Final paragraphs from a timely Silicon Valley reality check

"I don’t want to downplay the problem. Anything remotely good in the world gets invaded by rent-seeking parasites and empty suits. Silicon Valley is no exception, and raising awareness of the infestation is certainly a public service. But for some reason, it’s hard for me to believe that – let’s say Deadspin – really believes in the spirit of Silicon Valley, really thinks that there was once somewhere that weird nerdy people could get together and produce amazing things for the good of everybody, and that to some degree this is still going on, and is a precious thing that needs to be protected. At its worst, some of their criticism sounds more like a worry that there might still be some weird nerds who think they can climb out of the crab-bucket, and they need to be beaten into submission by empty suits before they can get away. Or maybe that’s just paranoia. Fine, I admit I’m paranoid. But I still feel like people should lay off the criticism a little.

When Capitol Hill screws up, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis get killed.

When Wall Street screws up, the country is plunged into recession and poor families lose their homes.

When Silicon Valley screws up, people who want a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer get a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer. Which by all accounts makes pretty good juice."
Silicon Valley: A Reality Check | Slate Star Codex

In Snap Inc.’s Tumble, Start-Ups See a Warning From Wall Street - The New York Times

A rough day for Snap
"This year was supposed to be one in which technology start-ups would easily go public. Silicon Valley had boomed in recent years with a collection of rapidly growing companies that were highly valued by private investors, and many of those companies appeared ready to graduate onto public stock exchanges. Snap, the parent company of the messaging app Snapchat, was exhibit A in that trend — a hip social media service that went public in March in the biggest tech offering in several years. 
But on Wednesday, Snap issued its disappointing earnings, sending the company’s stock down more than 21 percent on Thursday. The virulent market reaction turned Snap into a cautionary tale for venture capitalists and start-up entrepreneurs, some of whom are now reassessing the prospects for their companies’ going public and how prepared those companies really are to deal with the aftermath — especially if the start-ups, like Snap, are deeply unprofitable."
In Snap Inc.’s Tumble, Start-Ups See a Warning From Wall Street - The New York Times

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tesla’s Solar Roof Sets Musk’s Grand Unification Into Motion - Bloomberg

Check the Tesla Solar Roof page for details

"The basic premise of Tesla’s strategy is to make solar ownership more attractive and affordable by eliminating the redundancy of installing both a roof and solar panels. Tesla will manage the entire process of solar roof installation, including removal of existing roofs, design, permits, installation and maintenance. The company estimates that each installation will take about a week.

"What is the future that we should have?" Musk asked on a call with reporters. "What do we think the world should look like?"

In the future, he declares, every rooftop should be beautiful, and they all should produce electricity. The pricing must come down further to make that vision a reality. But it's not so far off, and the price of both batteries and solar cells continues to plummet as those industries scale up globally. If these new solar roof prices are simply Tesla’s opening bid to its early adopters, glass solar shingles may indeed be the asphalt of tomorrow."
Tesla’s Solar Roof Sets Musk’s Grand Unification Into Motion - Bloomberg

Time Inc. missed Q1 estimates and now it’s worth far less than what buyers offered - Recode

Unfortunate timing

"Time Inc. said last month it wasn’t going to sell itself, signaling it could do better on its own than the $18 a share that magazine publisher Meredith offered.

But what was really going on is Time wanted a higher bid, more like $20 a share, and Meredith and other potential buyers couldn’t justify getting to that price. Or couldn’t quite raise that much.

So what’s happened in the weeks since Time decided to go it alone?

Today, the stock is down 16 percent, trading as low as $12.50 after it reported an earnings miss for the first quarter. It had sales of $636 million instead of the expected $641 million, and a loss of 18 cents a share instead of 15 cents."
Time Inc. missed Q1 estimates and now it’s worth far less than what buyers offered - Recode

With Cosmos DB, Microsoft wants to build one database to rule them all | TechCrunch

Also see Microsoft introduces Azure Cosmos DB, a new database with a broad money-back guarantee (GeekWire); on a related note, see Microsoft launches Azure Database for MySQL and PostgreSQL (TechCrunch)

"“What is unusual about Cosmos DB is that it provides different consistency models where the user gets a trade-off between how much consistency he gets over how much of a performance hit he takes,” Leslie Lamport, the Turing Award winner whose work underpins many of these concepts (and who also wrote the LaTeX document preparation system) and who joined Microsoft Research in 2001, told me. Cosmos DB offers three different flavors of consistency for different use cases. “Those kind of intermediary consistency guarantees sort of have been around in academic systems that people build to write papers around,” Lamport explained. Cosmos DB is among the first commercially available database systems to offer this variety of consistency models.

For Cosmos DB (and previously for DocumentDB), that means you can choose between a consistency model where reads are allowed to lag behind writes for only a certain amount of milliseconds, for example, or a model that focuses on offering consistency for a specific client session (in a Twitter-like app, for example), but where it’s not all that important that every user sees every write at the same time (or even in the exact same order)."
With Cosmos DB, Microsoft wants to build one database to rule them all | TechCrunch

Snap’s $2.2 Billion Loss Caps Bumpy First Months as a Public Company - The New York Times

A big chill just went through the tech IPO domain

"Yet just two months into its life as a public company, Snap’s celebration may already be ending.

On Wednesday, Snap, the parent of the messaging app Snapchat, reported earnings that missed Wall Street expectations in almost every regard. Not only did Snap record a $2.2 billion loss for the first quarter, its revenue was lighter than expected, and the company disclosed that its user growth was decelerating sharply. Investors punished the company, sending its stock down more than 25 percent in after-hours trading."
Snap’s $2.2 Billion Loss Caps Bumpy First Months as a Public Company - The New York Times

Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us - The New York Times

Also see the companion quiz Which Tech Giant Would You Drop? (about which Alphabet and Apple are probably pretty happy)

"This is the most glaring and underappreciated fact of internet-age capitalism: We are, all of us, in inescapable thrall to one of the handful of American technology companies that now dominate much of the global economy. I speak, of course, of my old friends the Frightful Five: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

The five are among the most valuable companies on the planet, collectively worth trillions. (Apple reached $800 billion in market capitalization this week, the first of any public company to do so, and the others may not be far behind.) And despite the picture of Silicon Valley as a roiling sea of disruption, these five have gotten only stronger and richer over time."
Tech’s Frightful Five: They’ve Got Us - The New York Times

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Over 200 terabytes of the government web archived! | Internet Archive Blogs

On a much smaller but still significant scale, see Chicago mayor Emanuel posts EPA’s deleted climate change page (Politico)

"In our December post, “Preserving U.S. Government Websites and Data as the Obama Term Ends,” we described our participation in the End of Term Web Archive project to preserve federal government websites and data at times of administration changes. We wanted to give a quick update on the project — we have archived a heck of a lot of data!

Between Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, the Internet Archive archived over 200 terabytes of government websites and data. This includes over 100TB of public websites and over 100TB of public data from federal FTP file servers totaling, together, over 350 million URLs/files. This includes over 70 million html pages, over 40 million PDFs and, towards the other end of the spectrum and for semantic web aficionados, 8 files of the text/turtle mime type. Other End of Term partners have also been vigorously preserving websites and data from the .gov/.mil web domains."
Over 200 terabytes of the government web archived! | Internet Archive Blogs

Microsoft is planning to turn Windows 10 PCs into Amazon Echo competitors - The Verge

Inevitably...

"Microsoft has been working on a new HomeHub feature for Windows 10 to better compete with devices like Amazon’s Echo. HomeHub is designed to create a family environment for a PC with shared access to calendars, apps, and even a new welcome screen. Microsoft is even planning to support smart home devices like Philips’ Hue lights, to enable Windows 10 to act as a hub to control and manage smart home hardware. While we’ve heard about HomeHub before, The Verge has obtained internal concepts of exactly how Microsoft is imagining HomeHub will work.

The major addition is a new welcome screen that includes an “always on” digital corkboard to let families use to-do lists, calendars, and notes. The welcome screen is really designed for kitchen PCs and new smaller hardware with screens that will support Cortana voice commands from across the room. Microsoft appears to be readying Windows 10 for future devices that are similar to Amazon’s new Echo Show hardware, with easy access to voice search, calling, and smart device control. Microsoft’s differentiator is that it wants these devices to be considered full Windows 10 PCs."
Microsoft is planning to turn Windows 10 PCs into Amazon Echo competitors - The Verge

Amazon invested millions in the startup Nucleus — then cloned its product for the new Echo - Recode

Partner different

"“They must realize that by trying to trample over us — a premiere partner in the Alexa Fund ecosystem — that they are going to really cripple that ecosystem and put a warning out for others,” Frankel said.

“If they’re really willing to threaten that,” he added, “it must be a huge opportunity.”

An Amazon spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

For would-be Amazon partners, this is just the latest cautionary tale about the risks of doing business with the online retail giant: No matter what the company says, there are no equal partnerships when Amazon is involved."
Amazon invested millions in the startup Nucleus — then cloned its product for the new Echo - Recode

Apple Pushes Into Analyzing Your Sleep With Beddit Acquisition - Bloomberg

Also see Apple acquires popular Apple Watch & iOS sleep tracking platform Beddit (9to5Mac)

"Beddit sells a $150 sensor strip that can be placed under bed sheets and transfers slumber-related information to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch for analysis. The accompanying Beddit app can tell users how long they slept and breaks down your night into categories such as "restless sleep," "snoring" and "awake." Like the Apple Watch, it also provides heart rate data to an iPhone. 

The deal gets Apple further into the business of health tracking. The company has been working on sleep tracking functionality for the Apple Watch for a number of years, Bloomberg News has reported. Beddit's technology could help with that. Fitbit Inc., an Apple competitor in the fitness device space, recently rolled out more sleep-tracking features for its line of wearables."
Apple Pushes Into Analyzing Your Sleep With Beddit Acquisition - Bloomberg

Amazon to Share New Building With Homeless Shelter in Seattle - The New York Times

On a related note, Nonprofit pledges $100 million to aid SF’s chronically homeless (San Francisco Chronicle)

"The motel was on a chunk of downtown property where Amazon planned to eventually erect yet another set of sparkling buildings to meet its insatiable need for office space in this city, where it has come to embody both the region’s economic boom and its struggles with affordability. The hotel would be torn down and the shelter kicked out when that time came.

Instead, Amazon has decided to let the shelter stay. In an unusual arrangement, the company has agreed to give the shelter, Mary’s Place, a permanent home inside one of the new office buildings for which it will break ground in the fall."
Amazon to Share New Building With Homeless Shelter in Seattle - The New York Times

Hackers Came, but the French Were Prepared - The New York Times

A new standard operating procedure for all political campaigns

"“We went on a counteroffensive,” said Mr. Mahjoubi. “We couldn’t guarantee 100 percent protection” from the attacks, “so we asked: what can we do?” Mr. Mahjoubi opted for a classic “cyber-blurring” strategy, well known to banks and corporations, creating false email accounts and filled them with phony documents the way a bank teller keeps fake bills in the cash drawer in case of a robbery.

“We created false accounts, with false content, as traps. We did this massively, to create the obligation for them to verify, to determine whether it was a real account,” Mr. Mahjoubi said. “I don’t think we prevented them. We just slowed them down,” he said. “Even if it made them lose one minute, we’re happy,” he said."
Hackers Came, but the French Were Prepared - The New York Times

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A novel approach to neural machine translation | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

Also see Facebook posts its fast and accurate ConvNet models for machine translation on GitHub (TechCrunch)

"Language translation is important to Facebook's mission of making the world more open and connected, enabling everyone to consume posts or videos in their preferred language — all at the highest possible accuracy and speed.

Today, the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) team published research results using a novel convolutional neural network (CNN) approach for language translation that achieves state-of-the-art accuracy at nine times the speed of recurrent neural systems.1 Additionally, the FAIR sequence modeling toolkit (fairseq) source code and the trained systems are available under an open source license on GitHub so that other researchers can build custom models for translation, text summarization, and other tasks."
A novel approach to neural machine translation | Engineering Blog | Facebook Code

Introducing Echo Show - Amazon Official Site

Show time -- check the product page for more details; also see Amazon’s new Echo Show proves that the smart home phenomenon is finally moving into the mainstream (Recode)
  • "Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.
  • Introducing a new way to be together. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.
  • See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music. Just ask to play a song, artist or genre, and stream over Wi-Fi. Also, stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.
  • Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response
  • Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby's room with compatible cameras from Ring and Arlo. Turn on lights, control thermostats and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
  • With eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Uber, Jeopardy!, Allrecipes, CNN, and more"
Introducing Echo Show - Amazon Official Site

Apple’s Workflow for iOS restores Chrome actions, adds Apple Music features | 9to5Mac

See What’s New in Workflow for details

"Workflow, the automation app recently acquired by Apple, has just released a new update with bug fixes and the return of Google Chrome and Pocket functionality. The actions which were originally pulled after the Apple acquisition, were added alongside the introduction of two new Apple Music features.



Following the acquisition, Apple made Workflow free and began refunding recent purchases of the app.  Soon after, the team behind Workflow made it clear that no further updates would be seen in the foreseeable future. That makes today’s update a small, but welcome surprise."
Apple’s Workflow for iOS restores Chrome actions, adds Apple Music features | 9to5Mac

Google’s “Fuchsia” smartphone OS dumps Linux, has a wild new UI | Ars Technica

Also see Google’s mysterious new Fuchsia OS has a UI now (The Verge)

"Fuchsia really seems like a project that asks "how would we design Android today, if we could start over?" It's a brand-new, Google-developed kernel running a brand-new, Google-developed SDK that uses a brand-new, Google-developed programming language and it's all geared to run Google's Material Design interface as quickly as possible. Google gets to dump Linux and the GPL, it can dump Java and the problems it caused with Oracle, and Google can basically insulate itself from all of Android's upstream projects and bring all the development in-house. Doing such a thing on the scale of Android today would be a massive project.

The hardest part might not even be developing the OS, but coming up with some kind of transition plan from Android, which has grown to be the world's most popular operating system. The "cross platform" feature of the Flutter SDK sounds important for a transition plan. If Google could get developers to start writing apps in Flutter, it would be creating an app ecosystem that ran on iOS, Android, and, eventually, Fuchsia. Google has also shown that it is able and willing the make the Android Runtime work on non-Android platforms with Chrome OS, so if Google does choose to go through with a transition plan, perhaps it could port and entire Android stack over to Fuchsia as a stop-gap app solution."
Google’s “Fuchsia” smartphone OS dumps Linux, has a wild new UI | Ars Technica

Amazon could unveil touch screen Echo device on Tuesday, report says (AppleInsider)

Perhaps something to see later today; on a related note, Amazon to control 70 percent of the voice-controlled speaker market this year (TechCrunch)
"In internal beta testing for "a few months," the unnamed device is expected to carry a retail price of over $200. That would place the touch screen model at the top of Amazon's Echo lineup, above the Echo flagship speaker, which is currently on sale for $149, and the $199 Look.

According to sources, Amazon is planning to announce the device as early as Tuesday before shipments begin in June, the report said.

Alongside the new Echo model, Amazon is expected to announce telephone services for existing Echo devices in the coming weeks, the report said. Sources claim calling features will be internet based and could roll out in stages, the first being intercom functionality between two Echo devices in a single home or with other Echo owners."
Amazon could unveil touch screen Echo device on Tuesday, report says

Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant will soon have its own smart speaker - The Washington Post

See Harman Kardon Invoke featuring Cortana: Captivating sound meets personal digital assistant (Windows Blog) for more details; also see Samsung just launched Bixby, so of course Samsung-owned Harman is making a Cortana speaker (BGR; in fairness, the acquisition only closed a couple months ago)
"Microsoft said Monday that it has partnered with audio equipment maker Harman Kardon to put the tech giant's voice-activated assistant, Cortana, into a smart speaker of its very own. The Invoke, as the speaker is called, will allow its owners to use the speaker like a phone, by using Microsoft's Skype. It will also have features similar to its competitors, such as the ability to control smart appliances and tell users what the traffic conditions are like on their commutes, what the latest news is, and what their schedules look like that day.

The move puts Microsoft into direct competition with Amazon's Echo and Google Home — both smart speakers that are designed to act as a "home hub" for smart devices and digital information."
Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant will soon have its own smart speaker - The Washington Post

Monday, May 08, 2017

Apple's SVP Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller thinks that Echo-Like Devices should have a Display - Patently Apple

On a related note, This could be Amazon’s Echo with a built-in display (TechCrunch)

"First of all, there is a lot of talk in the industry about voice-driven assistants and we believe deeply in voice-driven assistants that's why invest in Siri, but there is interest in a voice-only assistant, where there is no screen, and we think it's important to that there are times when it's convenient to simply use your voice when you are not able to use the screen. For example, if you're driving [and] you want Siri to work for you without having to look at the screen, that's the best thing. Or maybe you're across the room, and you want to ask Siri to change the song you were listening to - you don't have to walk over and back [and you can use Siri instead].

 

So there's many moments where a voice assistant is really beneficial, but that doesn't mean you'd never want a screen. So the idea of not having a screen, I don't think suits many situations. For example if I'm looking for directions and I'm using Maps, Siri can tell me those directions by voice and that's really convenient but it's even better if I can see that map, and I can see what turns are coming up, and I can see where there is congestion, I understand better my route, and what I'm going to do."
Apple's SVP Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller thinks that Echo-Like Devices should have a Display - Patently Apple

Facebook Aims to Tackle Fake News Ahead of U.K. Election - The New York Times

Also see Facebook tells UK users how to spot fake news in full-page print ads (The Verge)

"Facebook is taking its battle against fake news to Britain ahead of general elections next month.

The social network published a series of advertisements in newspapers in Britain on Monday, giving advice to its millions of users in the country on how to spot misinformation online. It also said it had removed tens of thousands of possibly fake accounts in Britain, and had tweaked its algorithms in the country to reduce the amount of misinformation and spam that people will see in their Facebook news feeds."
Facebook Aims to Tackle Fake News Ahead of U.K. Election - The New York Times

A group of Obama veterans are banding together to invest in tech that can help Democrats win - Recode

See Higher Ground Labs for more details

"So far, they’ve got $1 million in capital commitments, though Hoover, a founding partner at the political consulting firm 270 Strategies, won’t say who provided the funding. Still, the group says it has already put some cash toward a startup called Deck, which tries to generate election turnout scores for voters in congressional districts, then forecasts election outcomes.

The board advising Higher Ground Labs, meanwhile, is plucked right from the roster of Obama’s two White House tours. The list includes Jeremy Bird, Obama’s 2012 field director; Jon Favreau, Obama’s speechwriter turned podcaster; Greg Nelson, a former aide on the National Economic Council; and Michael Slaby, the chief technology officer for Obama’s 2008 bid."
A group of Obama veterans are banding together to invest in tech that can help Democrats win - Recode

Buffett Says His IBM Thesis Was Flawed, He Blew It on Google - Bloomberg

Invest different

"Buffett said time will tell about whether his recent wager on Apple is smarter than the 2011 IBM investment. He stressed that the companies have different types of customers, so each stock requires unique analysis.

“They are two different types of decisions, and I was wrong on the first one,” Buffett said. “We’ll find out whether I’m right or wrong on the second.”

Munger said it was a “very good sign” that Buffett jumped into Apple.

“It shows either one of two things: Either you’ve gone crazy, or you’re learning,” Munger said. “I prefer the learning explanation.”"
Buffett Says His IBM Thesis Was Flawed, He Blew It on Google - Bloomberg

Friday, May 05, 2017

Apple Watch Takes Global Wearables Lead over Fitbit in Q1 2017 - Patently Apple

Also see Apple Watch sales have nearly doubled since last year (The Verge)

"Steven Waltzer, Industry Analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, "Global wearables shipments reached 22.0 million units in Q1 2017, rising 21 percent annually from 18.2 million in Q1 2016. Stronger demand for new smartwatch models in North America, Western Europe and Asia drove the uptick."

 

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, said, "Apple shipped 3.5 million wearables worldwide in Q1 2017, rising 59 percent annually from 2.2 million units in Q1 2016. Apple captured 16 percent global market share and overtook Fitbit to become the world's largest wearables vendor. The new Apple Watch Series 2 is selling relatively well in the US, UK and elsewhere, due to enhanced styling, intensive marketing and a good retail presence. Xiaomi shipped 3.4 million wearables for 15 percent market share worldwide in Q1 2017. Demand for its popular Mi Band fitness range was broadly flat across its core markets of Asia.""
Apple Watch Takes Global Wearables Lead over Fitbit in Q1 2017 - Patently Apple

Now’s your chance to help Elon Musk name his tunneling machine - The Verge

"Snoop Dug" reportedly won

"Elon Musk is building a boring machine, and he needs your help to name it. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO tweeted tonight that he was considering potential titles for the tunneling machine, currently in production by his latest venture, The Boring Company.

He’s not actively soliciting names, to be fair, but Musk has already replied to a few choice suggestions sent in by Twitter followers, including “Boring machine,” and the inevitable “Tunnel McTunnelFace.” Other suggestions vary between the highbrow — “William Burroughs” — and the slightly more base, like “The Elongater,” “Dirt Diggler,” and the thinking emoji."
Now’s your chance to help Elon Musk name his tunneling machine - The Verge

Americans hang up on landlines as cellphone homes dominate (AP)

A sign of the telecom times

"According to a U.S. government study released Thursday, 50.8 percent of homes and apartments had only cellphone service in the latter half of 2016, the first time such households attained a majority in the survey. Braswell and her family are part of the 45.9 percent that still have landline phones. The remaining households have no phone service at all.

More than 39 percent of U.S. households — including Braswell’s — have both landline and cellphone service. The landline comes in handy when someone misplaces one of the seven cellphones kicking around her three-story house in a Birmingham suburb. “You walk around your house calling yourself to find it,” she says."
Americans hang up on landlines as cellphone homes dominate

Apple iPad still king of retreating tablet market - CNET

Still waiting to hear about the next iPad Pro...

"Apple's iPad is still the best-selling tablet on the market, but it's a market that is still in decline.

Apple shipped 8.9 million iPads in the first quarter of 2017, giving it a 24.6 percent market share, researcher IDC reported Thursday. As impressive as that may sound, the total number of iPads shipped slipped 13 percent compared with the same period last year, giving Apple its 13th consecutive quarter of year-over-year shipment decline, IDC said.

Apple's decline was by far the greatest drop of any single company and reflects a global market that continues to grapple with declining consumer interest. Tablet shipments in the quarter totaled 36.2 million units, a decline of 8.5 percent over the first quarter of 2016 and the 10th consecutive quarter that tablets have experienced a decline over the same quarter a year earlier."
Apple iPad still king of retreating tablet market - CNET

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Can Wal-Mart’s Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon? - Bloomberg

Excerpt from an extensive profile of Walmart's latest attempt to more effectively compete with Amazon

"He’d like to extend Jet’s sensibility and business model to Walmart.com, the second-biggest e-commerce destination in the U.S., according to ComScore Inc. A site redesign is due this summer. (He’s thinking of recording another set of personalized introductions.) Lore also recently announced free delivery on Walmart.com for orders of more than $35, a Jet-like (and Amazon-like) tactic to give customers discounts for buying more stuff at once, so it can be shipped more efficiently in a single box. He also announced that shoppers will be able to save money on 1 million products if they order online and pick them up at one of the chain’s 4,700 U.S. stores, where it’s cheaper for the company to deliver.

Crowning the entire strategy is an acquisition spree: buying middling e-commerce startups such as Shoebuy.com ($70 million), fashion retailer ModCloth ($75 million), and outdoor apparel seller MooseJaw ($51 million); installing their founders as his deputies; and selling their products on Walmart.com, where the selection still lags far behind Amazon’s. Later this spring, Lore is also likely to announce Wal-Mart’s reported $300 million acquisition of Bonobos Inc., a decade-old menswear website that offers well-fitting pants and a team of enthusiastic customer service people—Bonobos calls them “ninjas”—that wouldn’t normally be associated with a giant like Wal-Mart."
Can Wal-Mart’s Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon? - Bloomberg

Qualcomm Said to Seek U.S. Import Ban for iPhones - Bloomberg

Somehow it seems unlikely this is going to end well for Qualcomm

"The escalating legal dispute revolves around patents Qualcomm holds that let it to charge a percentage of the price of every modern high-speed data-capable smartphone, regardless of whether the devices use its chips. Apple argues the system is unfair and Qualcomm has used licensing leverage to illegally help its semiconductor unit.

That spat worsened late last month when Apple cut off technology license payments to San Diego-based Qualcomm. The blow to the chipmaker’s most profitable business spurred the company to intensify the fight to improve its negotiating position.

“They have to do something,” said Kevin Cassidy, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “The bigger risk is other companies or countries say we’re not going to pay, too. That’s the danger of letting Apple get away with this.”"
Qualcomm Said to Seek U.S. Import Ban for iPhones - Bloomberg

Facebook Scrambles to Police Content Amid Rapid Growth - The New York Times

Final paragraphs -- not entirely encouraging if you happen to be human

"Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, said in an interview this week that like Facebook, his company believed the internet was so vast that machine learning had to work hand-in-hand with human reviewers to improve vetting.

”We don’t think the problem over time should involve humans, because of the scale of the problem,” he said. “But we are definitely using humans. We have invested pretty heavily in humans because they are training the machine learning.”"
Facebook Scrambles to Police Content Amid Rapid Growth - The New York Times

Tesla, Reporting Bigger Loss, Emphasizes Gains in Production and Sales - The New York Times

So it'll probably be a day or two until its stock is back at record-high levels... On a related note, Elon Musk really wants to remind you that Tesla’s new Model 3 is not as good as the Model S (Recode)
"The electric-car maker Tesla said on Wednesday that its losses had widened in the first quarter, but that sales and revenues had grown rapidly as the company prepared for the critical launch of a mass-market model.

The company said it lost $397 million in the quarter, compared with a loss of $282 million in the same period a year earlier.

But the automaker emphasized that production had increased by about 65 percent from last year’s first quarter, to 25,000 vehicles, and that revenue had more than doubled, to $2.7 billion. (The figure includes revenue from SolarCity, the solar-panel maker that Tesla merged with last year; automotive revenue alone was $2.3 billion.)"
Tesla, Reporting Bigger Loss, Emphasizes Gains in Production and Sales - The New York Times

Email Attack Hits Google: What to Do if You Clicked - The New York Times

Tip #1: "Do not click, even when the email is from your mother." See the full article for more details and guidance.

"The scheme emerged Wednesday afternoon, when spammers dispatched malicious email, appearing to come from people the recipients knew, beckoning them to click on what appeared to be a shared Google document.

Recipients who clicked on the links were prompted to give the sender access to their Google contact lists and Google Drive. In the process, victims allowed spammers to raid their contact lists and send even more email.

“We are investigating a phishing email that appears as Google Docs,” Google said statement posted on Twitter. “We encourage you to not click through and report as phishing within Gmail.”"
Email Attack Hits Google: What to Do if You Clicked - The New York Times

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Facebook’s business isn’t slowing as fast as Wall Street expected - Recode

So naturally Facebook's stock is down in after-hours trading; also see Facebook shares dip despite better-than-expected earnings (CNBC)

"Facebook’s revenue growth is slowly declining, but the company’s business is still growing faster than Wall Street expected.

The social network reported revenue of $8.03 billion for the first quarter of 2017, a 49 percent jump over the same quarter last year. Analysts were looking for Facebook to bring in $7.83 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 45 percent revenue jump over the same period a year ago."
Facebook’s business isn’t slowing as fast as Wall Street expected - Recode

Microsoft’s Slack competitor is designed to hook students with emoji, stickers, and GIFs - The Verge

Office 365 for Education with Microsoft Teams is also free for teachers and students; see this Microsoft post for details

"Microsoft Teams started life competing with Slack in the workplace, but now Microsoft plans to bring its chat and collaboration app to another environment: schools.

During a presentation today, Microsoft showed a new version of Teams designed for education. It allows teachers to set up a dashboard for their students, with access to activities, tests, and lesson materials. Students will be able to comment on items and start discussions — naturally, there’ll be support for emoji, stickers, and GIFs, too.

Teams is meant to make teachers’ lives easier, too. Educators will be able to chat with one another through the app. And Microsoft says the app will be able to automatically update student rosters at the beginning of each year — though, clearly some sort of administrator will have to enter the information somewhere along the line."
Microsoft’s Slack competitor is designed to hook students with emoji, stickers, and GIFs - The Verge

Meet the Latitude 11 EDU, Dell's Windows 10 S answer to the Chromebook | PCWorld

Or, if you'd prefer to pay more than three times as much for a Windows 10 S MacBook Air clone, see Microsoft's Surface Laptop doesn't need gimmicks to be special (Engadget); for cheaper options, see Windows 10 S laptops will start at $189 and ship this summer (TechCrunch)
"Dell’s Latitude 11 EDU 360 3189 is one of the sturdy, affordable Windows 10 S laptops joining Microsoft's campaign to nudge Chromebooks out of the classroom. You don't have to be a student or a parent to understand the software giant's desire to nurture a new generation of Windows users. When we tried it at Microsoft's education-focused event May 2 in New York, we could see how it might have a fighting chance.

The $299 Latitude 11 EDU has company: Other hardware partners include HP, Samsung, Toshiba, and Acer. It's worth noting that all these companies already sell Chromebooks, so they know a lot about the competition. Most of these models are designed to be your kids' first Windows machine, sticking with them all the way through high school on Windows 10 S. Over time, they’ll graduate to something a bit more powerful (and expensive), like a Surface Laptop."
Meet the Latitude 11 EDU, Dell's Windows 10 S answer to the Chromebook | PCWorld

Why Apple’s Services business is so valuable - Recode

Check the full post for more Apple services details; also see Apple’s Q2 earnings in five charts (Recode)

"Apple’s Services segment generated $7 billion in revenue last quarter, its “highest revenue ever for a 13-week quarter.”

It was the second quarter in a row that Services revenue passed $7 billion. And “it's well on the way to being the size of a Fortune 100 company,” CEO Tim Cook said during the company’s earnings call.

For context, that’s a much bigger business than other notable internet services, such as Netflix and Amazon Web Services."
Why Apple’s Services business is so valuable - Recode

Coming Soon: Cyclist Goggles With Fighter Pilot Technology - Bloomberg

A hopeful leading indicator -- ideally with a voice command option to capture video of reckless drivers
"Elbit Systems Ltd., the Israeli drone maker, is gearing up to sell its first consumer product in nearly a quarter-century -- augmented reality goggles for bicycle riders, equipped with technology developed for fighter-pilot helmets. 
Made by Everysight, an Elbit spinoff, the glasses have a map-projection overlay that helps riders navigate new terrain, gives real-time performance metrics and allows cyclists to receive notifications, calls and text messages. Chief Financial Officer Joseph Gaspar said the solution is similar to obstacle-avoidance technology for autonomous cars developed by Mobileye NV, an Israeli company that Intel Corp. bought in March for $14.7 billion."
Coming Soon: Cyclist Goggles With Fighter Pilot Technology - Bloomberg

Customers Waiting on New iPhones Crimp Apple’s Profits - The New York Times

Some of us are also waiting to hear about the next iPad Pro...
"The first two calendar quarters are often sluggish for Apple as customers await new versions of products. But unusual expectations for the 10th anniversary iPhones, due in September, may have worsened the slowdown. 
“People are waiting to see what’s going on with the new iPhone,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Securities. “Apple needs to make sure the next phone has that ‘wow’ factor.”

That will be particularly important in China, the world’s largest smartphone market, where revenue fell 14 percent in the three months that ended April 1. The continuing poor results there dragged down brisk sales elsewhere, Apple executives said."
Customers Waiting on New iPhones Crimp Apple’s Profits - The New York Times

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Apple Sells Fewer iPhones in Last Quarter, Shares Slide - Bloomberg

Check Apple Reports Second Quarter Results (Apple Newsroom) for full details

"Apple stock slipped about 1 percent in extended trading, following the release of the results. The shares jumped 27 percent this year and closed at a record Tuesday on anticipation for an iPhone 8 launch in the fall. That’s more than double the benchmark Nasdaq Composite Index. BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis said before earnings were released that any weakness in iPhone sales might spark a sell-off in the stock.

Apple extended cash returns to shareholders, announcing $50 billion in new buybacks and a 63-cent dividend. Analysts had forecast 62 cents, up from the 57 cents paid in its 2016 fiscal year. The company had already announced $175 billion in repurchases, helping maintain the stock price in lulls between new products.

Earnings per share in the fiscal second quarter were $2.10 on revenue of $52.9 billion. Analysts expected profit of $2.02 per share on sales of $53.1 billion."
Apple Sells Fewer iPhones in Last Quarter, Shares Slide - Bloomberg

Microsoft Looks to Regain Lost Ground in the Classroom - The New York Times

See this Microsoft post for more details and this post for more on the role of Microsoft Teams in education
"The company is also making full versions of its Office applications, rather than more limited web versions, available to schools for free. It has modified a version of its Microsoft Teams group-chat tool so teachers can collaborate with students. It is also waiving the cost of an educational version of Minecraft, a popular video game it owns, for the first year schools use it.

While much of Microsoft’s focus is on software that makes using inexpensive devices — often in the $200 to $300 range — more palatable, the company will also release a $999 device called the Surface Laptop, a twist on its Surface tablets. The device will run Windows 10 S."
Microsoft Looks to Regain Lost Ground in the Classroom - The New York Times

Microsoft (MSFT) named Eric Horvitz, it's biggest name in AI, as head of all research — Quartz

Check the full post for an Eric Horvitz profile

"Horvitz wants to fundamentally change the way humans interact with machines, whether that’s building a new way for AI to fly a coworker’s plane or designing a virtual personal assistant that lives outside his office. He will get a chance to further his influence, with his appointment yesterday as head of all of Microsoft’s research centers outside Asia.
In his new role, Horvitz will harness AI expertise from each lab—in Redmond, Washington; Bangalore, India; New York City, New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Cambridge, England—into core Microsoft products, as well as setting up a dedicated AI initiative within Redmond. He also plans to make Microsoft Research a place that studies the societal and social influences of AI. The work he plans to do, he says, will be “game-changing.”"
Microsoft (MSFT) named Eric Horvitz, it's biggest name in AI, as head of all research — Quartz

Apple's Siri-based Echo competitor to carry premium price, feature high-end audio with 1 woofer & 7 tweeters (AppleInsider)

Also see Apple’s Siri speaker could be announced at WWDC in June (The Verge)

"KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo weighed in with details on Apple's first home artificial intelligence product in a note to investors on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by AppleInsider. He believes there is more than a 50 percent chance that Apple will announce the product at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, before launching it in the second half of the year.

The device will apparently feature one woofer and seven tweeters for rich sound. It's also believed that it will be powered by a custom ARM processor equal in power to at least the A8 CPU on the iPhone 6 or newer.

These characteristics lead Kuo to believe that Apple will sell its home accessory at a higher price than the Amazon Echo lineup. He believes that the product will be positioned for the high-end market with a better entertainment experience and superior sound quality."
Apple's Siri-based Echo competitor to carry premium price, feature high-end audio with 1 woofer & 7 tweeters

Twitter Announces More Live Video Deals - WSJ

Also see Twitter still thinks it’s a TV platform — and here are its dozen new shows (Recode); on a related note, US Adults Now Spend 12 Hours 7 Minutes a Day Consuming Media (eMarketer)
"Twitter  announced a range of live-streaming video deals on Monday evening during a “NewFront” sales presentation its executives made to marketers in New York.

The social network unveiled partnerships with companies such as BuzzFeed, Vox Media, MLB Advanced Media and Live Nation to produce or provide live-streaming content for the platform. [...] 
Elsewhere in the news arena, Twitter is joining with Bloomberg, which will launch a 24/7 live-streaming channel with content produced solely for the social platform, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday."
Twitter Announces More Live Video Deals - WSJ

Apple’s AirPods: a Hit With 98% Customer Satisfaction – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

From an AirPods market reality check

"While the overall satisfaction number is remarkable, a second question we asked of these owners stood out even more. We used a standard benchmark question called a Net Promoter Score, which ranks a consumer’s willingness to recommend the product to others. This ranking is on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being extremely likely to recommend and 0 being not likely at all to recommend. It was this number that surprised me. Apple’s Net Promoter Score for AirPods came back as 75. To put that into context, the iPhone’s NPS number is 72. Product and NPS specialists will tell you anything above 50 is excellent and anything above 70 is world class. According to Survey Monkey’s Global Benchmark of over 105,000 organizations who have tested their NPS, the average is an NPS of 39."
Apple’s AirPods: a Hit With 98% Customer Satisfaction – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

Google and Facebook bring in one-fifth of global ad revenue | Media | The Guardian

Facebook has its next quarterly earnings announcement tomorrow

"Google, owned by parent company Alphabet, is by far the biggest media owner in the world and attracted $79.4bn (£61.5bn) in ad revenues in 2016, three times more than the second-largest, Facebook, which pulled in $26.9bn, according to Zenith. The previous year, Alphabet took $67.4bn of ad revenues and Facebook $17.1bn.

Together, the two companies accounted for nearly 20% of global advertising spending last year, up from 16.3% in 2015 and 10.6% in 2012. The largest traditional media owner is US broadcasting and cable television company Comcast, which was third with $12.9bn in ad revenues in 2016, up from $11.5bn the year before."
Google and Facebook bring in one-fifth of global ad revenue | Media | The Guardian

Monday, May 01, 2017

Who is Publishing NSA and CIA Secrets, and Why? - Schneier on Security

Final paragraphs from a spooky snapshot

"The message that comes with publishing seems clear to me: "We are so deep into your business that we don't care if we burn these few-years-old capabilities, as well as the fact that we have them. There's just nothing you can do about it." It's bragging.

Which is exactly the same thing Ledgett is doing to the Russians. Maybe the capabilities he talked about are long gone, so there's nothing lost in exposing sources and methods. Or maybe he too is bragging: saying to the Russians that he doesn't care if they know. He's certainly bragging to every other country that is paying attention to his remarks. (He may be bluffing, of course, hoping to convince others that the US has intelligence capabilities it doesn't.)

What happens when intelligence agencies go to war with each other and don't tell the rest of us? I think there's something going on between the US and Russia that the public is just seeing pieces of. We have no idea why, or where it will go next, and can only speculate."
Who is Publishing NSA and CIA Secrets, and Why? - Schneier on Security

Analysis: Cloudera's biggest hurdle in the cloud era is ... the cloud - SiliconANGLE

From a timely Cloudera reality check

"More than the newest hot stock after its successful initial public offering today, Cloudera Inc. has an opportunity to take advantage of a once-in-a-generation shift to a new platform for applications that inform or automate decisions with ever-better and ever-faster answers.

But investors and customers may be getting ahead of themselves if they assume the company is ready anytime soon to seize that opportunity, a market likely to be worth tens of billions of dollars in a few years. Competing for that market will require success in three emerging areas for Cloudera’s platform: hybrid cloud migration, machine learning and operational databases.

Of the three areas, hybrid cloud and machine learning are high-risk. Cloudera will face competition from leading cloud providers Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, each of which has deep advantages."
Analysis: Cloudera's biggest hurdle in the cloud era is ... the cloud - SiliconANGLE

Apple’s cash reserves now exceed a quarter of a trillion dollars – WSJ | 9to5Mac

A quote from the referenced WSJ article: "Apple Inc. is expected to report Tuesday that its stockpile of cash has topped a quarter of a trillion dollars, an unrivaled corporate hoard that is greater than the market value of both Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. and exceeds the combined foreign-currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined. [sic]"

"There have also been the usual suggestions of Apple buying Tesla and/or Netflix, investors noting that Apple could comfortably afford both companies.

Apple may, however, be holding fire to see whether the Trump administration makes good on campaign promises to allow overseas capital to be repatriated to the U.S. at a lower rate of tax. More than 90% of Apple’s cash is held outside the USA.

It was Steve Jobs who started the policy of stockpiling cash after the company had to be bailed out by a cash injection from Microsoft. He also believe that the company would grow its market value faster through investment in new product development than it would by buybacks and dividends. Under Cook’s leadership, the company has done both, returning more than $200B to shareholders whilst also increasing R&D spend."
Apple’s cash reserves now exceed a quarter of a trillion dollars – WSJ | 9to5Mac

Real books are back. E-book sales plunge nearly 20% - Apr. 27, 2017 (CNN)

Also see 'Screen fatigue' sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print (The Guardian); a related Dan Gillmor tweet (on the CNN article): ""Journalism" -- article about dropping sales of e-books doesn't mention 30-50% price hike for many e-books."

"New data suggest that the reading public is ditching e-books and returning to the old fashioned printed word.
Sales of consumer e-books plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016, according to the Publishers Association. Sales of physical books and journals went up by 7% over the same period, while children's books surged 16%.
The same trend is on display in the U.S., where e-book sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%."
Real books are back. E-book sales plunge nearly 20% - Apr. 27, 2017

Amid Brick-and-Mortar Travails, a Tipping Point for Amazon in Apparel - The New York Times

Also see Detailing Amazon’s Custom-Clothing Patent (NYT)

"The outlook for physical retailers is grim, the sector roiled by store closings, layoffs and bankruptcies. This year, Amazon will surpass Macy’s, which last year announced it would shut 100 stores, to become the largest seller of apparel in America, by several analysts’ estimates.

It is looking at ways to keep expanding, too. Amazon is exploring the possibility of selling custom-fit clothing, tailored to the more precise measurements of customers, and it has considered acquiring clothing manufacturers to further expand its presence in the category."
Amid Brick-and-Mortar Travails, a Tipping Point for Amazon in Apparel - The New York Times