Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg thinks AI fearmongering is bad. Elon Musk thinks Zuckerberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about. - Recode

On a related note, check the frequency (and substance) of updates from the Elon Musk-backed Open AI versus the Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google/DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft-backed Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (spoiler alert: 5 updates since 9/28/2016, for the latter)

"“I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I don’t understand it,” Zuckerberg replied. “It’s really negative, and in some ways I think it's pretty irresponsible.”

When Musk then saw Zuckerberg’s comments in a story posted to Twitter, he chimed in.

“I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited,” Musk tweeted.

There it is. Two great Silicon Valley techies, sort-of feuding over the future of human civilization. It’s no Donald Trump vs. Rosie O’Donnell beef, but considering the players involved, it’s certainly a lot more interesting."
Mark Zuckerberg thinks AI fearmongering is bad. Elon Musk thinks Zuckerberg doesn’t know what he’s talking about. - Recode

The most-loved social network among Americans isn’t the one you think - The Washington Post

Google+: not dead yet

"It didn't take off for many reasons, including: its complexity, the fact that people were pretty set in their social media ways and Google's somewhat ham-handed attempts to require people to use it to comment on YouTube. Google eventually detangled many of its services, including YouTube and Google Accounts, from Google+, and it faded from the minds of most people who don't work at Google.

But Google+ did find footing with groups looking to make community pages, and now has an estimated 111 million users, according to Forbes — about one-third of Twitter, or 1/6 of Facebook. It's continued to work on the product for those customers. And that, at least in terms of customer satisfaction, seems to have paid off."
The most-loved social network among Americans isn’t the one you think - The Washington Post

Adobe Plans to Stop Distributing Flash Service at End of 2020 - Bloomberg

See Flash & the Future of Interactive Content (Adobe blog) for more details

"Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash service -- which had long faced criticism for its cumbersome user experience and vulnerability to hacking -- is finally set to fade into history.

At the end of 2020, the company will stop updating and distributing the online tool, a separate plug-in that improves graphically intensive activities for web surfers like video and playing games, Adobe said in a blog post Tuesday. Adobe, which made the change in collaboration with Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other tech companies, is encouraging developers that use the Flash program to seek other options."
Adobe Plans to Stop Distributing Flash Service at End of 2020 - Bloomberg

How Microsoft Has Become the Surprise Innovator in PCs - The New York Times

Final paragraphs

"Microsoft’s machines aren’t perfect. I found Surface Studio, which starts at $3,000, to be underpowered for its price. Surface Pro is a wonderful laptop, but as a tablet, it isn’t as good as the iPad. And it, too, is pricey — though it starts at $800, you’re looking at $1,200 to $1,500 to get a model with decent speeds and the pen and keyboard accessories (crazily, they’re sold separately).

For these reasons and others, it’s unlikely that Microsoft’s PC hardware business will beat Apple’s anytime soon. But anyone who cares about the future of the PC should be thrilled that Apple now faces a serious and creative competitor."
How Microsoft Has Become the Surprise Innovator in PCs - The New York Times

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder

Don't panic; no doubt the data is cleansed of personal details before it's sold... Also see Roomba vacuum maker iRobot betting big on the 'smart' home (Reuters)
"The Roomba is generally regarded as a cute little robot friend that no one but dogs would consider to be a potential menace. But for the last couple of years, the robovacs have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers, turning the friendly robot into a creeping, creepy little spy. 
While it may seem like the information that a Roomba could gather is minimal, there’s a lot to be gleaned from the maps it’s constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. And, according to Reuters, that data is the future of its business strategy:"
Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder

Alphabet Falls on Concern About Rising Google Traffic Costs - Bloomberg

Also see Alphabet Announces Second Quarter 2017 Results (Alphabet Investor Relations)

"The company accounted for the fine as a one-time dent on profit during the quarter, bringing net income to $5.01 per share. Analysts were expecting $4.45 per share, including the EU fine, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.

Spending on Alphabet’s “Other Bets” fell sharply during the quarter. Porat attributed this to an ongoing retreat in the expansion of its Google Fiber fast internet service. 

Still, spending on Google’s businesses increased. In particular, the company has plowed money into its cloud-computing business, which Porat said was one of the fastest-growing divisions. Google said it won three times as many cloud deals exceeding $500,000 as it did last year. That was the most the company has disclosed about its cloud sales to date."
Alphabet Falls on Concern About Rising Google Traffic Costs - Bloomberg

Friday, July 21, 2017

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

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

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

Quite a contrast to IBM's latest results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft unveils a beautiful Cortana-powered thermostat - The Verge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A new chapter for Glass – The Team at X

An update from the Glass Project Lead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBM Misses Revenue Estimates as Cloud Services Unit Falters - Bloomberg

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act | WIRED

From a Steven Levy update

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

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

Another facet of Snap's ephemeral value proposition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A multi-$B workflow worst-practices case study

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Content isn't king — Benedict Evans

Something to watch

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

Jefferies gives IBM Watson a Wall Street reality check | TechCrunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

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

Check the full post for a detailed update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final paragraphs from a timely Objectivism reality check

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

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

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

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

Also see All Roads Now Lead to Kushner (NYT)

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

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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

Maybe they should call it "Anachronism"

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

Introducing Gradient Ventures (Google Keyword blog)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Host different

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

Bundles are back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump era economic leading indicators

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

Welcome back, Wall Street, to the doldrums.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 07, 2017

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

Just getting started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Microsoft Workplace Analytics helps managers understand worker productivity | TechCrunch

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

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

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

DeepMind Goes to Alberta For First International Lab - Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

Perhaps a pattern emerging...

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

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


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

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

See What is #WTF for more details

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

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

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

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

Tesla transition time

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

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