"Let’s say Musk nails down all the rocket tech and ensures the things can take off and land safely 100 percent of the time, or acceptably close to it. Let’s say he figures out how to keep them full of fuel, and puts enough people in electric cars that he’s not destroying the atmosphere.Elon Musk's Rocket Travel Plan Could Work, Probably Won't | WIRED
Then he gets to tackle the real problems. Like how to get passengers through the crushing g-forces that come with takeoff and landing. The weightless period in the middle may be cool, but it’s not exactly a work environment business travelers will enjoy. Running anything more than the occasional flight would require an unprecedented integration with the national airspace system, to keep the rockets from taking out planes the way planes take out birds. “From a regulatory point of view it’s very difficult,” Olds says."
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Maybe pass on the beta of this service
Tbd if/when it'll be Bing's turn...
"Google has become the latest Silicon Valley giant to become entangled in a widening investigation into how online social networks and technology products may have played a role in Russian interference in the 2016 election.Google Prepares to Brief Congress on Its Role in Election - The New York Times
On Friday evening, Google said it would cooperate with congressional inquiries into the election, days after Facebook and Twitter provided evidence to investigators of accounts on their networks that were linked to Russian groups. Google was called to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 1."
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Also see The brilliance of Amazon’s Echo sh*tshow (TechCrunch)
"Amazon really wants us all to be talking to its smart assistant, Alexa. The company announced a half-dozen new products that make clear that the tech giant wants you to be talking to its assistant at every point in your day, in every room of your house, no matter who you are.No matter who you are, Amazon wants you to be using Alexa - The Washington Post
The company introduced four completely new products to its smart-speaker category: the high-end Echo Plus that doubles as a smarter home hub; the Echo Spot which is a smart alarm clock with a video screen; a set of button accessories aimed at making the Echo more of an entertainment device; and the Echo Connect — a $35 speakerphone box that plugs into the traditional landline connection and uses your home phone number."
Twitter, With Accounts Linked to Russia, to Face Congress Over Role in Election - The New York Times
Also see Fake News on Twitter Flooded Swing States That Helped Trump Win (Mother Jones); on a related note, see Facebook Responds to Trump and Positions Itself as Election-Ready (NYT)
"For three weeks, a harsh spotlight has been trained on Facebook over its disclosure that Russians used fake pages and ads, designed to look like the work of American activists, to spread inflammatory messages during and since the presidential campaign.Twitter, With Accounts Linked to Russia, to Face Congress Over Role in Election - The New York Times
But there is evidence that Twitter may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers."
Redistribution by process of elimination
"The tech industry has been shifting jobs overseas for decades, and other big American companies like Oracle and Dell also employ a majority of their workers outside the United States.IBM Now Has More Employees in India Than in the U.S. - The New York Times
But IBM is unusual because it employs more people in a single foreign country than it does at home. The company’s employment in India has nearly doubled since 2007, even as its work force in the United States has shrunk through waves of layoffs and buyouts. Although IBM refuses to disclose exact numbers, outsiders estimate that it employs well under 100,000 people at its American offices now, down from 130,000 in 2007. Depending on the job, the salaries paid to Indian workers are one-half to one-fifth those paid to Americans, according to data posted by the research firm Glassdoor."
Final paragraph below; also see Equifax CEO Richard Smith Who Oversaw Breach to Collect $90 Million (Fortune), which notes "The CEO of Equifax is retiring from the credit reporting bureau with a pay day worth as much as $90 million—or roughly 63 cents for every customer whose data was potentially exposed in its recent security breach."
"I’m inclined to accept Equifax’s apology, assuming the data breach doesn’t turn out to be an inside job. But the company has shown no ability to handle the most basic of technological tasks under pressure these last few weeks. So I see no reason to believe that the rollout of this new iteration of its lock will work very well. I’m going to keep my freeze there until further notice and feel good about any additional dollars it cannot make off my name."3 Weeks Later, Equifax Makes a Peace Offering - The New York Times
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
A competitive milestone for Workplace
"Workplace — Facebook’s bid to take on the Slack, Microsoft and the rest of the players in the market of business chat and collaboration — is getting a big push today by way of a significant customer win. The company has signed on Walmart, the retailing giant and the world’s biggest employer with 2.2 million employees on its books.Workplace, Facebook’s enterprise edition, snaps up Walmart as a customer | TechCrunch
Walmart is rolling out Workplace to the whole of its business in stages, starting with associates and teams at Sam’s Club and other parts of the operation."
A battle on the Home front?...
"Amazon’s strident statement makes clear that it doesn’t believe this is a technical mistake, but a conscious choice by Google. Google, however, very much begs to differ on the reason it blocked YouTube on the Echo Show:Google pulls YouTube off the Amazon Echo Show - The Verge
We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon."
Also see, inevitably, A Vacuum Billionaire’s Long Journey to Make a Car That Doesn’t Suck (Bloomberg)
"Dyson Ltd., best-known as a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, hand driers and air filters, will build an electric car by 2020, founder James Dyson said Tuesday.Dyson to Spend £1 Billion Making ‘Radical’ Electric Car - Bloomberg
The company is investing one billion pounds ($1.34 billion) to develop the car, plus the same sum to create solid-state batteries to power it, Dyson said. These investments will dwarf money the company is spending on research and development for its vacuums and air filters."
There's always Bing... Also see What if large tech firms were regulated like sewage companies? (The Economist)
"“They’re really skating on thin ice,” said Michael Bertini, a search strategist at iQuanti, a digital marketing agency. “They’re controlling what users see. If Google is controlling what they deem to be fake news, I think that’s bias.”As Google Fights Fake News, Voices on the Margins Raise Alarm - The New York Times
Despite Google’s insistence that its search algorithm undergoes a rigorous testing process to ensure that its results do not reflect political, gender, racial or ethnic bias, there is growing political support for regulating Google and other tech giants like public utilities and forcing it to disclose how exactly its arrives at search results."
Strange behavior... In other Twitter news, see Twitter to Test Doubling Tweet Length to 280 Characters (NYT)
"At least two government watchdog groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive, believe that when Mr. Trump deletes a tweet he may be breaking the law.Trump Thinks Twice About His Tweets, and Hits Delete - The New York Times
The groups filed a lawsuit in June against Mr. Trump and the Executive Office of the President, claiming that deleting social media posts violates the Presidential Records Act, a law that requires presidential communications to be archived. The groups are also suing to require White House staff members to archive material sent through encrypted messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Signal."
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Probably just until the long-rumored "Surface phone" is released...
""Recently, I actually did switch to an Android phone," he said, speaking on Fox News on Sunday.Bill Gates switches to Android phone - BBC News
Microsoft's own Windows-powered phones have failed to make a significant impact on the smartphone market, which is dominated by devices running Google's Android operating system.
However, Mr Gates said he had installed lots of Microsoft apps on his phone."
See the full post for a timely SQL reality check
"Since the dawn of computing, we have been collecting exponentially growing amounts of data, constantly asking more from our data storage, processing, and analysis technology. In the past decade, this caused software developers to cast aside SQL as a relic that couldn’t scale with these growing data volumes, leading to the rise of NoSQL: MapReduce and Bigtable, Cassandra, MongoDB, and more.Why SQL is beating NoSQL, and what this means for the future of data
Yet today SQL is resurging. All of the major cloud providers now offer popular managed relational database services: e.g., Amazon RDS, Google Cloud SQL, Azure Database for PostgreSQL (Azure launched just this year). In Amazon’s own words, its PostgreSQL- and MySQL-compatible database Aurora database product has been the “fastest growing service in the history of AWS”. SQL interfaces on top of Hadoop and Spark continue to thrive. And just last month, Kafka launched SQL support. Your humble authors themselves are developers of a new time-series database that fully embraces SQL.
In this post we examine why the pendulum today is swinging back to SQL, and what this means for the future of the data engineering and analysis community."
Apple switches from Bing to Google for Siri web search results on iOS and Spotlight on Mac | TechCrunch
In other Bing news, see Finding what you need at work just got easier with Bing for business (Bing blogs)
"Consistency is Apple’s main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft’s Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used.Apple switches from Bing to Google for Siri web search results on iOS and Spotlight on Mac | TechCrunch
“Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari,” reads an Apple statement sent this morning. “We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible.”"
Twitter says Donald Trump’s tweets are newsworthy, which might explain why he hasn’t been suspended - Recode
tl;dr revenue > rules
"In a somewhat confusing post on Monday, the company shed some light on why the tweet was allowed to stay up.Twitter says Donald Trump’s tweets are newsworthy, which might explain why he hasn’t been suspended - Recode
Twitter’s explanation: Because it was newsworthy.
“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules,” the company wrote in a post. “Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”"
First-mover advantage; in other networking partnership news, see Microsoft and Facebook just laid a 160-terabits-per-second cable 4,100 miles across the Atlantic (Recode)
"The ITU works on a first-come, first-served basis, so operators that already secured spectrum for their constellations have priority when satellites inevitably line up with each other in space and their beams cross, threatening to cause interference. This means SpaceX will have to coordinate with rivals such as OneWeb and Telesat, which are closely held.Elon Musk’s Plan to Girdle Earth With Satellites Hits Turbulence - Bloomberg
When the FCC proposed the ITU role in early September, it was described as a "major defeat" for SpaceX by satellite industry consultant Tim Farrar, who has advised several rivals of the startup.
OneWeb, also backed by SoftBank Group Corp., has priority in one band of spectrum outside the U.S., while Telesat has priority in another band in some parts of the world. This means SpaceX will have to restrict the power of its satellites’ signals in some cases, and possibly limit the frequencies it uses, making "it very difficult for SpaceX to provide an economically viable service outside the U.S.," Farrar said."
Who could have anticipated hosting forums/spaces such as "r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown" would be conducive to counterproductive posts?... On a related note, see Russian operatives used Facebook ads to exploit America’s racial and religious divisions (Washington Post)
"“Banning places where people congregate to engage in certain behaviors makes it harder for them to do so,” said Eshwar Chandrasekharan, a doctoral student at Georgia Tech and the study’s lead author.Reddit Limits Noxious Content by Giving Trolls Fewer Places to Gather - The New York Times
Eric Gilbert, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and one of the researchers involved in the study, said that Reddit’s approach worked because it had a clear set of targets. “They didn’t ban people,” he said. “They didn’t ban words. They banned the spaces where those words were likely to be written down.”"
Monday, September 25, 2017
Check the full article for a timely Facebook control reality check
"Facebook withdrew a proposal on Friday that would have split the company’s stock and issued a new class of non-voting shares to the general public — a restructuring that would have allowed CEO Mark Zuckerberg to retain control over the company even while selling his own shares to fund his philanthropic endeavors.Six key questions for Mark Zuckerberg after he gave up on trying to split Facebook stock - Recode
The retraction was a surprise. Zuckerberg, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, have pledged to give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetime. That will mean that the couple is planning to simultaneously give away money while also giving away Zuckerberg’s control over Facebook.
Which is why the stock restructuring plan made sense. At least for Zuckerberg. And now that Facebook and Zuckerberg have backed off, a lot of other questions have suddenly cropped up."
More details on the "it's complicated" relationship between Facebook and reality
"This account — based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the government’s investigation and Facebook’s response — provides the first detailed backstory of a 16-month journey in which the company came to terms with an unanticipated foreign attack on the U.S. political system and its search for tools to limit the damage.Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook - The Washington Post
Among the revelations is how Facebook detected elements of the Russian information operation in June 2016 and then notified the FBI. Yet in the months that followed, the government and the private sector struggled to work together to diagnose and fix the problem.
The growing political drama over these issues has come at a time of broader reckoning for Facebook, as Zuckerberg has wrestled with whether to take a more active role in combatting an emerging dark side on the social network — including fake news and suicides on live video, and allegations that the company was censoring political speech."
Friday, September 22, 2017
"At EFF we understand the need for sites to build a successful business model, but this should not come at the expense of people's privacy. This is why we launched initiatives like the EFF DNT Policy and tools like Privacy Badger. These initiatives and tools target tracking, not advertising. Rather than attacking Apple for serving their users, the advertising industry should treat this as an opportunity to change direction and develop advertising models that respect (and not exploit) users.Apple does right by users and advertisers are displeased | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Apple has been a powerful force in user privacy on a mass scale in recent years, as reflected by their support for encryption, the intelligent processing of user data on device rather than in the cloud, and limitations on ad tracking on mobile and desktop. By some estimates, Apple handles 30% of all pages on mobile. Safari's innovations are not the silver bullet that will stop all tracking, but by stepping up to protect their users’ privacy Apple has set a challenge for other browser developers. When the user's privacy interests conflict with the business models of the advertising technology complex, is it possible to be neutral? We hope that Mozilla, Microsoft and Google will follow Apple, Brave and Opera's lead."
Tbd if MongoDB is losing enough money for a successful IPO...
"The company, which provides open-source database software that became very attractive among early-stage startups, is one of a myriad of companies that have sought to go public by building a business around selling sophisticated tools for that software. The hope is that MongoDB would be able to offer a superior experience for its open-source software and reduce the overall workload for companies that want to deploy its technology. Cloudera also went public earlier this year.Database provider MongoDB has filed to go public | TechCrunch
The company brought in $101.4 million in revenue in the most recent year ending January 31, and around $68 million in the first six months ending July 31 this year. In that same period, MongoDB burned through $86.7 million in the year ending January 31 and $45.8 million in the first six months ending July 31. MongoDB’s revenue is growing, and while its losses seem to be stable, they aren’t shrinking either."
Read Mark Zuckerberg's full speech on how Facebook is fighting back against Russia's election interference - Recode
Quite a shift from Zuckerberg: the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election is ‘crazy’ (The Verge, 11/10/2016)
"In 2016, people had billions of interactions and open discussions on Facebook that may never have happened offline. Candidates had direct channels to communicate with tens of millions of citizens. Campaigns spent tens of millions organizing and advertising online to get their messages out further. And we organized "get out the vote" efforts that helped as many as 2 million people register to vote who might not have voted otherwise. Many of these dynamics were new in this election, or at much larger scale than ever before in history, and at much larger scale than the interference we've found.Read Mark Zuckerberg's full speech on how Facebook is fighting back against Russia's election interference - Recode
But we are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections. But if that's what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion. Our sophistication in handling these threats is growing and improving quickly. We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere."
Check the full post for a list of reasons why Uber might want to try to settle with its "investor-turned-foe"
"Outwardly, Uber appears confident it can beat Alphabet’s claims in court. But there are many reasons why the embattled company would want to settle the case. That’s especially true now after it was revealed Alphabet is seeking $2.6 billion in damages for a single trade secret it claims was stolen.Uber has a lot of reasons to settle the lawsuit with Alphabet - Recode
In other words, Alphabet isn’t just taking Uber for a legal ride. It wants to cause some serious damage, which some inside think is part of an effort to slow down Uber’s self-driving efforts.
But with Alphabet’s endless legal and financial resources — and determination from top execs at the company to make an example of Uber — are powerful reasons that Khosrowshahi might seek a settlement."
For a different perspective, see iPhone 8 Is World's Fastest Phone (It's Not Even Close) (Tom's Guide)
"To be sure, Apple products have gotten bad reviews in the past, only to sell like hotcakes later. And reviewers haven't yet tested the iPhone X, which is expected to be the main object of desire when it becomes available in November. Early sales in Asia may indicate that first-adopters are holding out for the iPhone X, and that pre-orders for the iPhone 8 may be lagging behind its predecessor.Apple’s Latest Products Get Rare Mixed-Bag Reviews - Bloomberg
As the only models likely to be readily available in stores ahead of the holidays, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are great phones, but their $699 to $949 prices make them competitors for rivals' top-end models, like Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy S8. The problem is that these iPhones look dated compared with Samsung’s top-end offerings, and Apple’s own forthcoming iPhone X. Perceptually, the 8-series handsets don't offer significant upgrades over last year’s models -- or even the ones before -- which are still being sold by Apple at lower prices. The main additions are new camera features, a wireless charging mechanism already present on competing phones, and faster chips."
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Also see the source article, Is Trump Mulling Peter Thiel for a Top Intelligence Advisory Post? (Vanity Fair)
"It’s hard to say what qualifies as more disruptive than installing a brain surgeon with no infrastructure experience as head of housing, an anti-environment crusader as chief of the EPA, and putting a man who couldn’t name the Department of Energy in charge of our nuclear arsenal, but apparently, Thiel’s suggestions were pretty out there.Report: Peter Thiel Up for Key Intelligence Position, Wants to Limit Google's Power
Some of Thiel’s pals made it through the confirmation process, like Michael Kratsios, the former chief of staff at Thiel Capital, who is now deputy chief technology officer. Others didn’t get selected but are still being considered for less-official positions that don’t require congressional oversight. That sort of position is what sources said Thiel is being courted to take on.
Three “senior White House sources,” said told Vanity Fair that Thiel has been offered the chairmanship of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB). And as recently as this month, one source said he’s still Trump’s top pick. The board is tasked with overseeing intelligence operations and advising the president on the legalities and shortcomings of the intelligence community. Depending on the president it serves, the board has had varying levels of power. One senior official said that Trump’s iteration will be handed a ton of influence:"
For a bigger-picture perspective, see The Equifax fiasco is a classic case of ‘weapon of math destruction’ (The Washington Post); for a related discussion, see the Pedro Domingos tweet "True fact: there is not a single proven case to date of discrimination by machine learning algorithms."
"It's been almost two weeks since Equifax first admitted it had been hacked in a massive breach affecting as many as 143 million consumers. Ever since, people have been begging Equifax to answer a simple question: "Am I on the list of victims?"The single most depressing thing about the Equifax breach - The Washington Post
Much to America's dismay, Equifax has yet to provide a firm response. It's not clear when or if the country will ever get one. But the most depressing thing isn't Equifax's failure to tell consumers definitively whether they, individually, are at risk. The most depressing thing is that, at this point, the answer may not even matter.
"Once it’s out there, it’s out there," said Justin Shipe, vice president of information security at CardConnect, a payment processor."
SEC reveals it was hacked, information may have been used for illegal stock trades - The Washington Post
"Mistakes were made;" tangentially, see Someone Made a Fake Equifax Site. Then Equifax Linked to It. (NYT)
"The Securities and Exchange Commission, the country’s top Wall Street regulator, announced Wednesday that hackers breached its system for storing documents filed by publicly traded companies last year, potentially accessing data that allowed the intruders to make an illegal profit.SEC reveals it was hacked, information may have been used for illegal stock trades - The Washington Post
The agency detected the breach last year, but didn’t learn until last month that it could have been used for improper trading. The incident was briefly mentioned in an unusual eight-page statement on cybersecurity released by SEC Chairman Jay Clayton late Wednesday. The statement didn’t explain the delay in the announcement, the exact date the system was breached and whether information about any specific company was targeted.
“Notwithstanding our efforts to protect our systems and manage cybersecurity risk, in certain cases cyber threat actors have managed to access or misuse our systems,” Clayton said in the statement."
A case study in managing malignant metadata
"Responding to evidence that its tools had allowed ads to be directed at users who used racist comments or hate speech in their profiles, Facebook said Wednesday that it would change how ads can be targeted.Facebook, After ‘Fail’ Over Ads Targeting Racists, Makes Changes - The New York Times
That its ad-targeting tools could be used in such a way was “a fail” for the company, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said in a post. She added that Facebook would add “more human review and oversight” to its automated systems to prevent further misuse.
Ms. Sandberg, who was directly addressing the social network’s recent advertising issues for the first time, also said the company would do more to ensure that offensive content — including that which attacks people for their race or religion — could not be used to target ads."
See this Google post for more details; in other talent acquisition news, see Apple's Global Web of R&D Labs Doubles as Poaching Operation (Bloomberg)
"HTC said many of its estimated 2,000 employees affected by the deal were already working with the search giant on smartphones. Google leaned on HTC to manufacture its first Pixel smartphone, which was released last year, and is working with the company to produce the next version of the phone, which is expected to be announced on Oct. 4.Google Is Buying HTC’s Smartphone Expertise for $1.1 Billion - The New York Times
Bringing on the team from HTC is a sign that Google is doubling down on plans to produce its own hardware. Company executives have said it is important to tightly couple its artificial intelligence software, like the voice-controlled Google Assistant, with a range of devices."
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
In other Google hardware news in advance of its October 4th event, see Google's miniature Home leaks ahead of Pixel event (The Verge)
"It looks like Google is bringing back the Chromebook Pixel — just under a slightly different name. Droid Life has uncovered photos and details of an upcoming Chromebook called the Google Pixelbook. It’ll be seriously high-end for a Chromebook, just like the original Pixel, but this time around, it’ll also support a stylus and flip around to function like a tablet.Google Pixelbook leak reveals a high-end Chromebook with stylus support - The Verge
The Pixelbook will reportedly come in only one color, silver, and have three different storage tiers: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Those will sell for $1,199, $1,399, and $1,749 — at which point you could have easily bought five cheaper Chromebooks instead. One particular oddity: despite the high price, the Pixelbook apparently won’t ship with its stylus, called the Pixelbook Pen, which is supposed to sell for an additional $99."
Final paragraphs below; in other *coin news, Bitcoin Is Likely to Split Again in November, Say Major Players (Bloomberg)
"How governments choose to regulate this new type of transaction is one of the big outstanding questions in the field. The IRS has said that virtual currency, in general, is taxable — as long as the currency can be converted to a dollar amount.ICOs: What is an Initial Coin Offering and how does it work? - Recode
Some expect the SEC to begin strictly clamping down on ICOs before the cash is raised. That’s already happened in other countries, most notably China — which this month banned the practice altogether. ICOs, while hosted in a certain country, are not confined to a certain jurisdiction and can be traded anywhere you can connect online.
“Ninety-nine percent of ICOs are a scam, so [China’s pause on ICOs] is needed to filter the crooks out,” tech investor Chamath Palihapitiya tweeted this month. “Next phase of ICOs will be real.”"
Final paragraphs below; also see Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE Review: Missed Connections (The Verge)
"Although I think most people can skip buying the cellular model, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first smart watch I can confidently recommend that people buy. While I don’t personally find it attractive enough to replace my wristwatch, the new Apple Watch is a well-designed, durable and easy-to-use fitness tracker for people who want analytics on their workouts and general health (R.I.P., Fitbit).Apple Watch Series 3 Excels, Even if You Don’t Need Cellular - The New York Times
Important features like the stopwatch, calendar and Siri work quickly and reliably. And unlike its predecessors, the watch has impressive battery life — on average, I had more than 40 percent battery remaining after a full day of use.
So the final verdict? The Apple Watch Series 3 is the first sign that wearable computers are maturing and may eventually become a staple in consumer electronics."
In the meantime, Amazon already offers a smart glasses category of (likely doomed) products...
"Amazon wants to make Alexa a more formidable competitor to Google Assistant and Siri by letting you put it on your face and take it anywhere, according to a Financial Times report (paywall). The company is said to be developing a pair of normal-looking eyeglasses that tether to your smartphone and allow you hear, and presumably speak to, Alexa via a bone-conduction audio system. There won't, however, be a screen or camera on the model as with Google Glass.Amazon reportedly working on Alexa-enabled 'smart glasses'
Though the lack of a screen and camera would seem to neuter the glasses, dropping them would dramatically improve its battery life. And in any case, the idea is not to have Google Glass-like vision, but to give users a direct line to Alexa on a smartphone without having to open an app, as is currently the case. That would make them much more useful in a vehicle or on the street, especially if they can be incorporated into comfortable, daily-worn eyeglasses."
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Also see Amazon's Newest Gadget Is a Tablet That's Also an Echo (Gizmodo); tangentially, see Amazon has 76% smart home speaker U.S. market share as Echo unit sales reach 15M, new study finds (GeekWire)
"Amazon’s flagship Fire tablet is getting the display fans have been calling for next month — and a much lower price. The company said today that its new Fire HD 10 tablet will come with a 10.1-inch, 1080p display, making it the first Amazon tablet to have a display of that caliber since the Fire HDX in 2013. Pricing for the tablet starts at $150, or $80 less than the previous entry-level price of $230. The new Fire HD 10 starts shipping the week of Oct. 11th.Amazon updates the Fire HD 10 tablet with a 1080p display and a much lower price - The Verge
The new Fire HD 10 has received improved components across the board. The tablet will run on a quad-core processor for the first time, improving the tablet’s speed by 30 percent, Amazon says. Average battery life has improved from eight hours to 10. Dual speakers have Dolby Atmos support. And it has 32GB of storage in the entry-level model, up from 16GB for the previous edition. (As before, a micro-SD card slot lets you expand storage by up to 256GB. A 64GB model is also available.)"
I'm guessing there's some schema.org somewhere in this picture
"Big readers on a small budget have always had a hard time. Library waiting lists can get pretty long, and sometimes titles aren't even available locally. But today Google added a new feature to its search that helps library patrons everywhere. Now the next time you search for a book title, you can see if the e-book is available to borrow from your library.Your local library's eBooks now appear in Google search
This new feature works on both mobile and desktop and manifests simply. If you search for the title of a book, you'll see one of two things. On desktop search, there's an additional heading in the detailed results/information card on the right. But on mobile, it's buried in the Get Book tab, just under the Buy ebook card."
From a wide-ranging interview
"Now O’Reilly, 63, is turning to a much broader general audience with his latest project, a book entitled: “WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us.” In it, he takes what he has learned from some 40 years in the tech world and applies it to the challenges facing our economy and society, where artificial intelligence, robots and big data are changing our lives.Tech innovator Tim O’Reilly: Don’t fear technology, robots or the future | The Press Democrat -
O’Reilly doesn’t fear the future. He writes: “Instead of using technology to replace people, we can use it to augment them so they can do things that were previously impossible.”
In an interview at his Oakland home, O’Reilly covered a wide range of topics: his business, weaning ourselves from Wall Street’s influence on our economy, sexism in the tech culture, and why he thinks ride-hailing business Uber has been over-hyped. The transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity."
From a long post "extracted from World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer;" but is it still a technocracy if deep learning systems are in charge?...
"Without knowing it, Zuckerberg is the heir to a long political tradition. Over the last 200 years, the west has been unable to shake an abiding fantasy, a dream sequence in which we throw out the bum politicians and replace them with engineers – rule by slide rule. The French were the first to entertain this notion in the bloody, world-churning aftermath of their revolution. A coterie of the country’s most influential philosophers (notably, Henri de Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte) were genuinely torn about the course of the country. They hated all the old ancient bastions of parasitic power – the feudal lords, the priests and the warriors – but they also feared the chaos of the mob. To split the difference, they proposed a form of technocracy – engineers and assorted technicians would rule with beneficent disinterestedness. Engineers would strip the old order of its power, while governing in the spirit of science. They would impose rationality and order.Facebook’s war on free will | Technology | The Guardian
This dream has captivated intellectuals ever since, especially Americans. The great sociologist Thorstein Veblen was obsessed with installing engineers in power and, in 1921, wrote a book making his case. His vision briefly became a reality. In the aftermath of the first world war, American elites were aghast at all the irrational impulses unleashed by that conflict – the xenophobia, the racism, the urge to lynch and riot. And when the realities of economic life had grown so complicated, how could politicians possibly manage them? Americans of all persuasions began yearning for the salvific ascendance of the most famous engineer of his time: Herbert Hoover. In 1920, Franklin D Roosevelt – who would, of course, go on to replace him in 1932 – organised a movement to draft Hoover for the presidency."
Looking like a multifaceted IT worst-practices case study
"If the two hacks are unrelated it could be that different hacking teams had different goals. One clue has emerged that suggests one goal of the attackers was to use Equifax as a way into the computers of major banks, according to a fourth person familiar with the matter.Equifax Suffered a Hack Almost Five Months Earlier Than the Date It Disclosed - Bloomberg
This person said a large Canadian bank has determined that hackers claiming to sell celebrity profiles from Equifax on the dark web -- information that appears to be fraudulent, or recycled from other breaches -- did in fact steal the username and password for an application programming interface, or API, linking the bank’s back-end servers to Equifax.
According to the person and a Sept. 14 internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg, the gateway linked a test and development site used by the bank’s wealth management division to Equifax, allowing the two entities to share information digitally."
tl;dr: be the sole survivor in your brick-and-mortar retail category; on the other hand, Toys ‘R’ Us Files for Bankruptcy, Crippled by Competition and Debt
"Mr. Joly didn’t explicitly tell me this, but it is obvious: Best Buy has benefited from some serious good fortune.Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age - The New York Times
It’s lucky that the products it specializes in selling, like big-screen TVs and high-end audio equipment, are big-ticket items that many customers still feel uncomfortable buying sight unseen from a website. It’s lucky that several large competitors have gone out of business, shrinking its list of rivals. And it’s lucky that the vendors who make the products it sells, like Apple and Samsung, have kept churning out expensive blockbuster gadgets.
“They’re at the mercy of the product cycles,” said Stephen Baker, a tech industry analyst at NPD Group. “If people stop buying PCs or they don’t care about big-screen TVs anymore, they have a challenge.”"
Monday, September 18, 2017
Few financial constraints for Slack; see Okta's Most Popular Apps Collaboration + Messaging for a related market momentum snapshot
"Slack Technologies Inc. closed a $250 million funding round led by SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund, giving it more ammunition for expansion in an increasingly competitive market for workplace messaging services.Slack Gets Slice of SoftBank’s $100 Billion Tech Bounty - Bloomberg
The financing round values the startup at $5.1 billion, up from $3.8 billion the last time. The Vision Fund is joined by Accel and other investors, Slack said Sunday. Bloomberg reported on the latest funding in July.
San Francisco-based Slack said the money is for “operational flexibility,” not for a particular use, and added that it still has much of the $591 million it already raised. The company this month announced an expansion of its service to work in German, French, Spanish and Japanese as it competes with Microsoft Corp.’s Teams and Atlassian Corp.’s HipChat service for corporate customers."
Meanwhile, bitcoin's price is getting close to $4K again, up ~30% over the last few days...
"Mr. Dimon’s comments may have come as a surprise to the dozens of employees at his bank working on projects related to blockchain, the bookkeeping technology underpinning digital currencies. And the comments must have been especially jarring to those employees who were holding a forum for hedge funds interested in Bitcoin— whose market value stood at about $70 billion at that moment.What Jamie Dimon Is Missing About Bitcoin - The New York Times
It’s no secret that Bitcoin and other digital currencies may dramatically fall in value at any time. How can an asset whose value jumps by 20 percent some days, and which no one can accurately value, plausibly not also suffer huge declines?
But that’s a long way from Bitcoin being a worthless fraud."
"As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls - The New York Times
And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.
“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”"
Friday, September 15, 2017
Also see Oracle's profit, cloud growth forecasts drag down shares (Reuters)
"Ellison also eschewed the notion of making a big acquisition to further Oracle's cloud business, saying "there is no one left to buy," and suggesting that Oracle would instead continue to rely on its in-house products.Oracle's Q1: Cloud, great. Hardware, meh. Mergers, unlikely • The Register
When he wasn't talking up the cloud gains, Ellison used the earnings release to give a preview of at least one of the things Oracle will be showing off next month at its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.
"In a couple of weeks, we will announce the world's first fully autonomous database cloud service," said Ellison. "Based on machine learning, the latest version of Oracle is a totally automated 'self-driving' system that does not require human beings to manage or tune the database.""
Subtle social signals
"Pages and Groups may benefit from Snooze, as it could reduce the chances of someone unliking or leaving them. But it also should inspire them not to overshare or spam, otherwise they could be put in time-out.Facebook ‘Snooze’ button temporarily hides people in your feed | TechCrunch
Facebook already constantly modulates how much you see of someone based on implicit signals, like if you Like, click, comment on or share their posts. It will surely use Snoozing as a signal that it should show you less of someone when they’re allowed to reappear. But if we’re going to spend so much of our lives browsing the News Feed curated by Facebook’s faceless algorithm, it’s nice to see the company equip us humans with more than just binary controls."
Gripping buttons on both sides of iPhone X disables Face ID, recognition works with most sunglasses (AppleInsider)
I'm guessing Apple's patent-pending portfolio in this context is extensive...
"Keith Krimbel emailed Federighi this week, and received a response which he share on Twitter. Krimbel asked what measures Apple was taking to ensure a thief cannot take a user's iPhone X, point it at their face and then run away with the device unlocked.Gripping buttons on both sides of iPhone X disables Face ID, recognition works with most sunglasses
"There are two mitigations: if you don't stare at the phone, it won't unlock," Federighi said. "Also, if you grip the buttons on both sides of the phone when you hand it over, it will temporarily disable Face ID."
Krimbel also asked if Face ID will work with sunglasses, and Federighi explained that "most" but not all will not interfere with the biometric unlock mechanism.
"Most sunglasses let through enough IR light that Face ID can see your eyes even when the glasses appear to be opaque," he explained. "It's really amazing!""
Still waiting for a post-Intel Mac...
"Geekbench 4 single-core tests average around 4169, while multi-core have a 9836 average. But they can go up to 4274 and 10438, as found by MacRumors. That’s much better than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro (3887 and 9210 average scores), which isn’t surprising, considering that the 2017 iPads have A10X chips inside.The iPhone X’s processor is more powerful than the newest MacBook Pro – BGR
The highest-end dual-core 13-inch MacBook Pro scores 4592 and 9602 in Geekbench 4 tests. That means the iPhone X is slower in single-core tasks but speedier in multi-core tasks.
Sure, that doesn’t mean the A11 Bionic can do all the things a desktop CPU does. But, think about the numbers for a second. When has a mobile chip been able to match a desktop processor in raw benchmarks? What other smartphones can offer similar performance? Even with cheating enabled, no Android device can really touch these numbers, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Qualcomm’s next processor can get anywhere close to that.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also powered by the same A11 Bionic chipset."
Accelerating the inevitable; also see Twitch co-founder Justin Kan unveils tech platform for law firms (TechCrunch)
"Silicon Valley’s next hot start-up isn’t likely to be a video chat app. Nor is it likely to be an on-demand service, like Instacart or Uber.This Silicon Valley start-up wants to replace lawyers with robots - The Washington Post
But maybe it could be — and this isn’t a joke — a law firm.
That is, at least, the ambition of Justin Kan, a serial entrepreneur who knows a thing or two about hot start-ups. The 34-year-old Kan built the video game streaming Twitch, which he sold to Amazon for nearly a billion dollars in 2014. He then helped launch hundreds of companies as a partner at the prominent Silicon Valley start-up incubator, Y-Combinator.
Kan’s months-old legal technology start-up, Atrium, is actually incorporated as a law firm — and may be the only Silicon Valley start-up ever to have done so. It has raised $10.5 million so far, and it is even more unusual in a region where rule-breaking and rule-bending are celebrated, and lawyers are among a start-up founder’s last and most reluctant hires."
In other better-late-than-never news, see Fearing Anti-Semitic Speech, Facebook Limits Audience Targeting (NYT); in another digital dilemma, also see Google and Facebook Fret Over Anti-Prostitution Bill’s Fallout (Bloomberg)
"This week, Google acknowledged the problem — and started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site. “We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision,” Google spokeswoman Elisa Greene said in a statement on Thursday.Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety - The New York Times
Google has taken similar steps to restrict advertisements only a few times before. Last year it limited ads for payday lenders, and in the past it created a verification system for locksmiths to prevent fraud.
In this case, the restrictions will limit a popular marketing tool in the $35 billion addiction treatment business, affecting thousands of small-time operators."
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Final paragraphs; check the full post for recent Equifax guidance
"Look, I get the deal here. We all get it now. These companies don’t think of us as customers. They think of us as products. They get lenders and others to send over our payment histories to them, aggregate it and resell the data elsewhere. And until recently, they answered to no one, more or less.
Now, however, Equifax has to answer to all of us consumers and others, since they’re going to be sued and investigated to kingdom come. And Experian and TransUnion ought to be more forthcoming.Finally, Some Answers From Equifax to Your Data Breach Questions - The New York Times
So to all of them, I say: Want fewer freezes? Less Twitter outrage? Answer our reasonable questions, so we can protect ourselves now that it is utterly clear that many of the supposed experts in this industry cannot do so."
Final sentence: "Bitcoin is on track for its worst month since January 2015." Also see Bitcoin drops below $3,000, Ethereum falls under $200 (Betanews)
"Chinese bitcoin exchange BTCChina said on Thursday that it would stop all trading from Sept. 30, setting off a further slide in the value of the cryptocurrency that left it over 30 percent away from the record highs it hit earlier in the month.Bitcoin exchange BTCChina says to stop trading, sparking further slide
China has boomed as a cryptocurrency trading location in recent years, as investors and speculators flocked to domestic exchanges that formerly allowed users to conduct trades for free, boosting demand.
But that has prompted regulators in the country to crack down on the cryptocurrency sector, in a bid to stamp out potential financial risks as consumers pile into a highly risky and speculative market that has seen unprecedented growth this year."
Probably some difficult days ahead for the Facebook and Twitter PR departments
"Russia’s effort to influence U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to President Donald Trump’s associates, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media, Officials Say - Bloomberg
Mueller’s team of prosecutors and FBI agents is zeroing in on how Russia spread fake and damaging information through social media and is seeking additional evidence from companies like Facebook and Twitter about what happened on their networks, said one of the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the ongoing investigation.
The ability of foreign nations to use social media to manipulate and influence elections and policy is increasingly seen as the soft underbelly of international espionage, another official said, because it doesn’t involve the theft of state secrets and the U.S. doesn’t have a ready defense to prevent such attacks."
Also see Kaspersky: Russia responds to US ban on software (BBC)
"Kaspersky is considered one of the foremost cybersecurity research firms in the world, and has considerable expertise in designing antivirus software and tools to uncover spyware used by Western intelligence services. The company was founded by Eugene V. Kaspersky, who attended a high school that trained Russian spies, and later wrote software for the Soviet Army before going on to found Kaspersky Lab in 1997. He has insisted that neither he nor his company have active ties to the Russian military or intelligence services.Kaspersky Lab Antivirus Software Is Ordered Off U.S. Government Computers - The New York Times
Yet despite its prominence in the cybersecurity world, its origins in Russia have for years fueled suspicions about its possible ties to Russia’s intelligence agencies. Federal officials have warned private companies to avoid Kaspersky software, and earlier this year the firm was removed from two lists of approved vendors used by government agencies to purchase technology."
tl;dr: they were holding it wrong
"Apple has officially clarified what happened on stage when the first demo of Face ID didn’t go as planned. While many were quick to call it a “fail,” that’s not what happened in the slightest. Apple confirmed the situation in a statement to Yahoo this evening… Apple explained that the demo iPhone X had been handled by several people before being setup at the demo table for Craig Federighi. Face ID had tried to authenticate the faces of everyone who handled the device, and after failing, the iPhone X moved to require a passcode. Thus, when Federighi went to demo Face ID, the iPhone X was already in passcode mode."Apple explains what exactly happened when Face ID ‘failed’ during iPhone X demo | 9to5Mac
A new Medium still evolving
"He also spoke of how he had become disillusioned about the ability of the internet to make people more intelligent. “One of my big learnings, over the last couple of decades, is that access to information alone doesn’t make us smarter. The fake news thing is one small part of it; another even bigger part of it is the quality and depth of the information. Is it actually building our understanding or deepening our understanding of the world or is it just noise?”Twitter founder: Trump presidency is product of short attention spans | US news | The Guardian
And Williams conceded that internet companies could do more to tackle online abuse. He said: “Providers of information systems and the platforms that our media get disseminated on have a big responsibility. It includes removing stuff.
“We are evolving our understanding of what abuse is and how protecting free speech is a lot more nuanced than it sounds. You can be an ardent believer in free speech and also realise that someone’s speech is limiting someone else’s willingness to speak. I’m optimistic that the systems are going to get much better [at tackling online abuse].”"
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
And yet somehow iTunes (12.7) now consumes more CPU, at least on my Mac...
"iTunes for PC and Mac is putting the emphasis back on being an app for music. It’s no longer a place for you to get iOS apps, but it’s still got movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and podcasts. Today, Apple quietly released iTunes version 12.7 for both Windows and macOS, and the most immediate change is that it no longer contains any options for syncing apps or ringtones to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.Apple starts cutting the bloat from iTunes by removing iOS App Store | The Verge
“If you previously used iTunes to sync apps or ringtones on your iOS device, use the new App Store or Sounds Settings on iOS to redownload them without your Mac,” Apple tells users in the update prompt. Apple says that even after this update, apps and ringtones that “are no longer available for redownload” can still be synced by plugging in your iOS device, so I’m guessing (read: I hope) this remains a way of transferring over custom ringtones."
How Apple is bringing us into the age of facial recognition whether we’re ready or not - The Washington Post
Actual results may vary for people with evil twins
"The facial recognition system, dubbed the TrueDepth camera system, includes a front-facing camera, a proximity sensor, an infrared camera and a dot projector that beams more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots onto a user’s face to take measurements. The device then combines all the available data to create what Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, called “a mathematical model of your face.”How Apple is bringing us into the age of facial recognition whether we’re ready or not - The Washington Post
“The chance that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it with their face is about one in a million,” Schiller said, presenting the new device at Apple’s glitzy new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, Calif."
While we're waiting for detailed hands-on reviews, check the full page for an overview of iPhone X features and iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus: A new generation of iPhone for Apple's overview of iPhone 8
"Apple today announced iPhone X, the future of the smartphone, in a gorgeous all-glass design with a beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display, A11 Bionic chip, wireless charging and an improved rear camera with dual optical image stabilization. iPhone X delivers an innovative and secure new way for customers to unlock, authenticate and pay using Face ID, enabled by the new TrueDepth camera. iPhone X will be available for pre-order beginning Friday, October 27 in more than 55 countries and territories, and in stores beginning Friday, November 3."The future is here: iPhone X - Apple
Consider the source, but still a timely bitcoin reality check; in other bitcoin news, see In China’s Hinterlands, Workers Mine Bitcoin for a Digital Fortune (NYT)
"Bitcoin is a fraud that will ultimately blow up, according to the JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, who said the digital currency was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea.Bitcoin is a fraud that will blow up, says JP Morgan boss | Technology | The Guardian
Speaking at a banking conference in New York, Dimon said he would fire “in a second” anyone at the investment bank found to be trading in bitcoin. “For two reasons: it’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.”"
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Microsoft Teams continues to gain momentum
"Microsoft today announced that 125,000 organizations in 181 markets now use Teams, its Slack competitor for Office 365 subscribers. That’s up from the 30,000 organizations in 145 markets that had adopted the service by the end of January.Microsoft Teams adds guest access and support for more developer tools | TechCrunch
In addition to this momentum update, the company also announced a number of feature updates to the service. Starting today, you can add anyone with an Azure Active Directory account as a guest to a team. Microsoft says there are currently 870 million Active Directory user accounts across its own commercial services and third-party Azure Active Directory apps. That still means there’s a bit of a barrier to entry here for guest access and Microsoft plans to lower than barrier in the near future by also allowing Teams users to add anybody with a basic Microsoft Account to Teams."
Also see The Equifax Breach: What You Should Know (Krebs on Security)
"More than 30 lawsuits have been filed in the United States against Equifax Inc (EFX.N) after the credit reporting company said thieves may have stolen personal information for 143 million Americans in one of the largest hackings ever.Lawsuits against Equifax pile up after massive data breach
At least 25 lawsuits had been filed in federal courts by Sunday, including at least one accusing the company of securities fraud, court records show.
Several more lawsuits were filed against Equifax on Monday. Many of those raising similar claims will likely be combined into a single, nationwide case."
Friday, September 08, 2017
In other SpaceX news, SpaceX successfully launches mysterious X-37B spaceplane and recovers first stage (TechCrunch)
"Rocket ships and electric cars may seem like very different ends of the transportation spectrum, but for these two manufacturers, there’s one key link: They share a chief executive officer in Elon Musk. But there are less obvious connections, too. The growing behind-the-scenes collaboration that occurs within Musk’s expanding, post-modern empire has spanned from finding stronger, lighter and cheaper materials to developing software to even sharing executives when the need for trusted talent arises.Tesla and SpaceX Share More Than Musk - Bloomberg
“In this race to disrupt the world with both electric cars and autonomy as well as space, you don’t really work for Tesla or SpaceX. You just work for Elon Musk,” technology analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures said. “You have the most wicked smart people who can feed off of each other all working for Elon, and he can call on them to help crack various problems.”"
On a related note, see The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election (NYT)
"As of August 2017, two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media – with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. This is a modest increase since early 2016, when (during the height of the presidential primaries) 62% of U.S. adults reported getting news from social media. While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and nonwhite. This study is based on a survey conducted August 8-21, 2017, with 4,971 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017 | Pew Research Center
For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in 2016. Those under 50, meanwhile, remain more likely than their elders to get news from these sites (78% do, unchanged from 2016)."
What could possibly go wrong?...
"More than $2 billion has been raised this year through initial coin offerings -- a crowdfunding method that allows startups to make big bucks fast by selling digital tokens -- even with regulators from the U.S. to China trying to slow or halt the practice amid allegations of fraud and unbridled speculation.Tulip Fever: There's a Digital Token for That, And So Much More - Bloomberg
One project, Synthorn, is raising money through an ICO to "help measure demand for synthetic rhino horn aphrodisiac pills." Socialite and businesswoman Hilton is backing Lydian tokens, a cryptocurrency issued by advertising company Gravity4 Inc., whose founder, Gurbaksh Chahal, was sentenced to a year in jail after beating his girlfriend. Even Burger King is reportedly trying its hand at creating its own cryptocurrency, which is called exactly what you would expect -- Whoppercoin."
Oops... Also see How to Protect Your Information Online (NYT)
"Equifax, based in Atlanta, is a particularly tempting target for hackers. If identity thieves wanted to hit one place to grab all the data needed to do the most damage, they would go straight to one of the three major credit reporting agencies.Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Affected 143 Million Customers - The New York Times
“This is about as bad as it gets,” said Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group. “If you have a credit report, chances are you may be in this breach. The chances are much better than 50 percent.”"
Thursday, September 07, 2017
Check the full post for more details about Satya Nadella's new book
"“Hit Refresh” isn’t a victory lap or a how-to manual. That would be premature. It’s a set of reflections, ideas and principles on transformation. It explores the renaissance of a storied company and the implications of the coming wave of technology — artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing — which will soon disrupt the status quo impacting our lives, communities and economies. It’s also a set of questions for anybody searching for improvement — for themselves as leaders, for their institutions and for society."Writing “Hit Refresh” | Satya Nadella | Pulse | LinkedIn
SpaceX set to launch the X-37B, the Pentagon’s secretive autonomous space drone - The Washington Post
A major SpaceX milestone
"For nearly a decade, the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, had a monopoly on Pentagon launches. SpaceX filed suit against the Air Force for the right to compete. In 2015, the parties settled and SpaceX was ultimately allowed to compete against ULA, opening up a potentially lucrative source of revenue. Since then, SpaceX has won two of three contested launch contracts.SpaceX set to launch the X-37B, the Pentagon’s secretive autonomous space drone - The Washington Post
While the launch of the X-37B was not competed — ULA President Tory Bruno has said that his company was not given the option to bid — it marks SpaceX’s first military mission after years of launching payloads for NASA and commercial satellites. All four of the X-37B's previous launches were aboard ULA's Atlas V rocket.
The Pentagon said it was grateful to have two companies with the ability to launch, introducing competition, and lower prices."
See this Facebook post for more details
"The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election. Multiple investigations of the Russian meddling, and the possibility that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia, have cast a shadow over the first eight months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads - The New York Times
Facebook staff members on Wednesday briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are investigating the Russian intervention in the American election. Mr. Stamos indicated that Facebook is also cooperating with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, writing that “we have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”"
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
From an extensive IBM Watson reality check
"Breathlessly promoting its signature brand — Watson — IBM sought to capture the world’s imagination, and it quickly zeroed in on a high-profile target: cancer.IBM pitched Watson as a revolution in cancer care. It's nowhere close
But three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care."
Laurene Powell Jobs is using Ronald Reagan in political ads to attack Trump’s DACA decision - Recode
On a related note, Microsoft says it will defend its 39 ‘dreamers’ in court if the government tries to deport them (Washington Post)
"Emerson Collective, Powell Jobs’s vehicle for activism and investments, will begin a flight of spots on Wednesday that attack President Donald Trump. A large Democratic donor, Powell Jobs is lambasting the Trump administration for rescinding the DACA program that protected young immigrants who arrived in the United States without proper papers.Laurene Powell Jobs is using Ronald Reagan in political ads to attack Trump’s DACA decision - Recode
The spot uses Ronald Reagan’s farewell address at length as he lauds the country’s diversity.
“If there had to be city walls, the walls had doors. And the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here,” Reagan says from the Oval Office, as diverse faces of Americans are shown. “That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”"
Probably not the review Samsung was hoping for
"There is as much to love about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as there is to hate.Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8: The Best Screen, for a Hefty Price - The New York Times
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. For unlocking the phone, the eye scanner barely works and the fingerprint sensor is in a lousy place. Samsung’s Bixby, which is included, is the most incompetent virtual assistant on the market. And — need I remind you — this phone line has a reputation for gadgets that spontaneously combust.
If you are the forgiving type, you may love the Note 8 despite its flaws. It has the best smartphone display — as bright and vivid as a screen on a high-end television set — that I have ever tested. The camera is fast and takes professional-quality photos. Jotting down notes with the stylus feels almost as good as writing on a paper notepad. And most importantly, Samsung did extra safety checks to make sure this one doesn’t explode."
"Getting into business with Facebook presents something of a Faustian bargain. Rights holders need a deal. Given the current legal framework for copyright online, users are going to upload video with infringing material no matter what. The onus is on rights holders to police those videos. A deal ensures they get something rather than waste resources tracking down all the illegal videos.Facebook Offers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Music Rights - Bloomberg
Music industry executives also hope licensing songs for user-generated video on Facebook will place greater pressure on YouTube to behave. Yet by further empowering Facebook to host video and music, rights holders risk creating another YouTube –- a great source of promotion, but a place where consumption outpaces sales."
The Boston Globe notes "Cheating in baseball? There’s apparently an app for that."
"For decades, spying on another team has been as much a part of baseball’s gamesmanship as brushback pitches and hard slides. The Boston Red Sox have apparently added a modern — and illicit — twist: They used an Apple Watch to gain an advantage against the Yankees and other teams.Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Help Steal Signs Against Yankees - The New York Times
Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams, according to several people briefed on the matter."
Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Also see Putin says the nation that leads in AI ‘will be the ruler of the world’ (The Verge)
"His fears were prompted by a statement from Vladimir Putin that “artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind … It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”Elon Musk says AI could lead to third world war | Technology | The Guardian
Hashing out his thoughts in public, Musk clarified that he was not just concerned about the prospect of a world leader starting the war, but also of an overcautious AI deciding “that a [pre-emptive] strike is [the] most probable path to victory”.
He’s less worried about North Korea’s increasingly bold nuclear ambitions, arguing that the result for Pyongyang if they launched a nuclear missile “would be suicide” – and that it doesn’t have any entanglements that would lead to a world war even if it did. His view is that AI is “vastly more risky” than the Kim Jong-un-led country."
An unhappy Labor Day weekend for former Sun employees working for Oracle
"Tech industry observer Simon Phipps claims “~all” Solaris staff were laid off. His use of a tilde, and threads on anonymous message board The Layoff that mention small numbers of staff being retained, lead us to believe that a small Solaris team remains in place. Other comments mention hundreds of workers recently moved from dedicated Solaris teams to Oracle's Linux development efforts. The Register feels it's conceivable that such teams could work on Solaris and Oracle Linux code, leaving significant resources available to both and perhaps even to deliver on Oracle's plan for continuous updates to Solaris 11.3 instead of a full 12.0 upgrade.Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams • The Register
Threads on The Layoff suggest that around 2,500 layoffs have been made, covering Solaris, SPARC silicon development and storage hardware, including tape libraries, with one result being that development work has ceased on the ZFS Storage Appliance. The fate of Solaris and SPARC silicon remains unclear."
"The New York Daily News is one of the biggest newspapers in the country. It’s an influential voice in the biggest city in the country. Earlier this year, it won a Pulitzer.New York Daily News sells to Tronc for zero dollars - Recode
And it is officially worth ... nothing.
That’s according to the deal that Tronc, which already owns the Los Angles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has struck with News owner Mort Zuckerman, who will take zero dollars in payment when he hands off his paper tomorrow."
See this Lilium page for a technology overview
"The investment was led by Tencent Holdings, the Chinese internet giant. Other investors in the round included LGT, the investment vehicle of Lichtenstein’s royal family; Atomico, the venture firm run by a founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom; and Obvious Ventures, the investment firm co-founded by the Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. Mr. Zennstrom has previously invested in the company.Lilium, a Flying Car Start-up, Raises $90 Million - The New York Times
Lilium is among several companies looking to usher in an era of Jetsons-type flying cars, including those backed by the Google co-founder Larry Page, Uber and Airbus. But the two-year-old company is trying to stand out by focusing on an electric jet — unlike other models that effectively function more like hovercraft."
Friday, September 01, 2017
In other "other" news, see AirPods dominating wireless headphone market despite competition & early supply issues (9to5Mac)
"Apple exhibited strong growth after the release of Apple Watch Series 2, a revamped version of the tech giant's original wearable that places an emphasis on health and fitness. Watch took 13 percent of the overall wearables market in quarter two, shipping 3.4 million units over the three-month period, IDC said. That figure is up 49.7 percent from the same time last year.Fueled by Apple Watch sales growth, smartwatches take over wearables market
Fitbit, which popularized basic fitness trackers, fell precipitously from first to third place over the past year. The firm managed the same 3.4 million unit shipments recorded by Apple in the second quarter, but took 12.9 percent of the market, down from 5.7 million shipments and a 24.1 percent share in 2016."
A compelling collaboration case study
"Member activity in the affected areas is five times greater than normal, Nextdoor told BuzzFeed News, and its membership in those areas is up 650%. Close to 100 local agencies are using Nextdoor to connect with residents in the affected areas, the company said.After Harvey, Small Social Networks Prove Their Might
Though Facebook is a major social platform of more than 2 billion members, its groups form individual mini social networks of their own, operating outside the usual broadcast-style method of sharing content on the platform. And these groups have been active too, used to coordinate everything from animal rescue to boat dispatch."
Difficult days ahead for Uber's new CEO
"The past year has been a PR nightmare for Uber, as the ride-sharing company has committed all sorts of blunders — legal and otherwise. Uber has been accused of sexual harassment, stealing trade secrets and profiteering off protests.Uber’s troubles hurt U.S. market share and benefit Lyft - Recode
But do customers care? It seems so.
Since the beginning of 2014, Uber has gone from owning 91 percent* of the U.S. ride-sharing market down to 74.3 percent as of this month, according to data from Second Measure, a research firm that tracks billions of dollars in anonymized credit card purchases."
Apple, Facebook, Google and scores of businesses are imploring President Trump to protect the Dreamers - Recode
Also see Satya Nadella and Microsoft take strong stance against reported end to DACA (The Verge)
"The chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google joined roughly 300 business leaders urging President Donald Trump late Thursday to continue protecting children brought illegally to the United States from being deported.Apple, Facebook, Google and scores of businesses are imploring President Trump to protect the Dreamers - Recode
Since 2012, the U.S. government has allowed those children — young adults now known as Dreamers — to continue living in the country as long as they obtain and renew work permits under a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
But Trump on Friday is expected to eliminate that legal shield entirely. Months after promising to approach the issue with “great heart,” the president reportedly is expected to order the government to cease granting work permits for undocumented young adults to stay. Meanwhile, the roughly 800,000 currently registered in DACA would not be allowed to obtain additional work authorizations once their current approvals expire."