Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Facebook’s New Tool Lets You See Which Apps and Websites Tracked You | NYT

Check this Facebook Newsroom post for more details; the tool is initially rolling out in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain
"The company introduced a new tool that lets people better see and control the information that Facebook has gathered about their browsing habits outside the social network.

The tool, Off-Facebook Activity, allows users to view the hundreds of sites and apps that share data and customer information with Facebook. They can disconnect the data from their account if they want.

“This is another way to give people more transparency and control on Facebook,” the company said in a blog post. It added that people generally had more than 80 apps on their phones and used about half of them every month, making it difficult to know which ones had collected personal information and how the data was being used."
Facebook’s New Tool Lets You See Which Apps and Websites Tracked You | NYT

2.6 Million Reasons to Keep Yelling About “Bias” | Slate

Check the full post for more on Robert Epstein's dubious research; tangentially, see Talk Radio Made Today’s Republican Party | The Atlantic
"Despite the severe limitations of Epstein’s research, Trump latched on, exaggerating the already unbelievable findings. Even Epstein didn’t claim that Google directly “manipulated” any votes, and his high number was 10.4 million votes, not 16 million.

Although Trump has reportedly recently weighed signing an executive order that would have federal agencies police how social media companies moderate user content, it’s hard to believe that some sort of real crackdown is in the works—or that if one was, it could survive a court challenge. It’s more likely that conservatives keep talking about bias on social platforms for two reasons. One, the topic really fires up their extremely online supporters—like the group of conspiracy theorists, Infowars regulars and racist meme-makers that the White House hosted recently at a “social media summit.”

The second reason is social media really does work in conservatives’ favor, and they don’t want the companies to do anything that might change that. Month after month this year, the Trump campaign has outspent all the Democratic candidates combined on Facebook ads. Even after the company tweaked its news-feed algorithm to deprioritize news and politics, conservatives across the board are thriving on Facebook. Fox News is one of the biggest publishers on Facebook, far outranking CNN in terms of both followers and engagement. Not coincidentally, all of this discussion of bias obscures many of the real problems with social media—like their ability to amplify emotional and divisive content and their vulnerability to misinformation."
2.6 Million Reasons to Keep Yelling About “Bias” | Slate

Silicon Valley’s Crisis of Conscience | The New Yorker

Excerpt from an approximately 6,700-word reality check
"“A few people around the Bay are starting to wake up,” Tauber, who now works as an executive coach, told me recently. “They’re acknowledging where things have gone wrong, and their role in that, and they’re trying to get their peers to do the same.” Many of the conversations, Tauber acknowledged, would not play well in Peoria. “It can get kind of out there,” he said. “There are folks exploring mindfulness, bodywork, psychedelics. Personal growth can take many forms. But ultimately if a handful of people have this much power—if they can, simply by making more ethical decisions, cause billions of users to be less addicted and isolated and confused and miserable—then, isn’t that worth a shot?”

Near the end of a placid April morning in San Francisco, a nonprofit called the Center for Humane Technology convened more than three hundred people in a midsized amphitheatre named SFJAZZ—co-founders of Pinterest and Craigslist and Apple, vice-presidents at Google and Facebook, several prominent venture capitalists, and many people whose job titles were “storyteller” or “human-experience engineer.” One attendee was Aden Van Noppen, who carried a notebook with a decal that read, “Move Purposefully and Fix Things.” She worked on tech policy in Barack Obama’s White House, then did a fellowship at Harvard Divinity School, and now runs Mobius, a Bay Area organization dedicated to “putting our well-being at the center of technology.” “The Valley right now is like a patient who’s just received a grave diagnosis,” she said. “There’s a type of person who reacts to that by staying in deflect-and-deny mode—‘How do we prevent anyone from knowing we’re sick?’ Then, there’s the type who wants to treat the symptoms, quickly and superficially, in the hope that the illness just goes away on its own. And there’s a third group, that wants to find a cure.” The audience at SFJAZZ comprised the third group—the concerned citizens of Silicon Valley."
Silicon Valley’s Crisis of Conscience | The New Yorker

Apple Card is now available to all US iPhone owners, adds new cash-back rewards | Ars Technica

Be sure to temporarily suspend your TransUnion credit freeze before applying; see Apple Card launches today for all US customers | Apple Newsroom for more details
"Applications to Apple's new digital credit card, dubbed simply Apple Card, are now available to all iPhone users in the United States. This follows a short period when Apple offered early access to a select number of customers who signed up and an employees-only test before that.
[...]
While commentators in the press commonly speculated that it would be a somewhat exclusive card due to its ties to Goldman Sachs, a bank that does not tend to serve the lower end of the market, users in the early access periods found that the majority of people could apply for the card and be accepted, though credit limits range from a couple hundred dollars to many thousands, depending on the applicant's income and other factors.

Users can apply for the card in the Wallet app starting today if they have iOS 12.4 or later installed."
Apple Card is now available to all US iPhone owners, adds new cash-back rewards | Ars Technica

Welcome to McDonald’s. Would You Like a Podcast With Those Fries? | NYT

On a related note, see Welcome to the DeepMind podcast | DeepMind blog
"“You get to catch that busy person where you couldn’t normally get them,” said Rob Walch, a vice president at Libsyn, a podcast distributor that works with companies developing branded content. “They’re listening with earbuds, and you’re literally inside their head.”

By some estimates, there are now as many as 750,000 podcasts, so it’s not necessarily a surprise that major companies are creating their own. What’s more surprising is that consumers, conditioned to skip past commercials on YouTube and install ad blockers on their browsers, are actually listening to them. Within a day of its release last year, “The Sauce” broke into iTunes’ top-100 podcast chart, reaching No. 94."
Welcome to McDonald’s. Would You Like a Podcast With Those Fries? | NYT

Facebook audit of alleged anti-conservative bias fails to pinpoint any | Ars Technica

Also see Conservatives, liberals slam Facebook bias audit | Politico
""Facebook's policies and their application have the potential to restrict free expression," Kyl notes. "Given the platform's popularity and ubiquity, this is a danger that must be taken seriously." The platform has made some baby steps toward transparency that help, he concludes, but "[t]here is still significant work to be done to satisfy the concerns we heard from conservatives."

"While we err on the side of free speech, there are critical exceptions: we don't allow content that might encourage offline harm or is intended to intimidate, exclude, or silence people," Facebook communications VP Nick Clegg wrote in a company blog post. "And we work to slow and reduce the spread of content like debunked hoaxes and clickbait by downranking it in News Feed. We know we need to listen more as we work to strike the right balance with these policies.""
Facebook audit of alleged anti-conservative bias fails to pinpoint any | Ars Technica

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Announcing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission | Lawfare

An announcement from Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Gallagher; also see Getting the Drop in Cyberspace | Lawfare, which notes "Yet U.S. cyber defenses are not just bad but appalling. This mismatch of offense and defense is just one more reason that the strategy that “the best defense is a good offense,” as Sen. Richard Blumenthal put it to Milley, is especially risky."
"This new Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which we are co-chairing, draws inspiration from Eisenhower’s historical legacy. Established by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, this bipartisan, intergovernmental and multisector body is charged with evaluating divergent approaches to defending the United States in cyberspace and driving consensus toward a comprehensive strategy.

Our commissioners include eminent thinkers and cyber experts, private-sector leaders, members of Congress and senior officials from across the executive branch. Strategists, technologists, economists and policymakers populate our staff. The recommendations this commission will issue in the spring of 2020 will be forward looking and prescriptive, rather than a snapshot report that sits on a shelf. The commission will advocate for the implementation of these recommendations so that the U.S. follows through on changing the strategic environment in cyberspace, which currently threatens the long-term security and prosperity of the United States."
Announcing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission | Lawfare

Twitter and Facebook take first actions against China for using fake accounts to sow discord in Hong Kong | Washington Post

In other Twitter disinformation news, see Fact-Checking Trump’s Claim That Google ‘Manipulated’ Millions of Votes for Clinton | NYT
"Twitter said it was suspending nearly a thousand Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies, citing a “significant state-backed information operation” related to protests in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Facebook said it was removing five Facebook accounts, seven pages and three groups after being tipped off to the use of “a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts.”

The new takedowns by Facebook and Twitter reflect the extent to which disinformation has become a global scourge, far surpassing the once-secret efforts of Russian agents to stoke social unrest in the United States during the 2016 presidential election. Researchers recently have pointed to similar campaigns linked to Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, efforts aimed at shaping discussions on social media beyond their borders."
Twitter and Facebook take first actions against China for using fake accounts to sow discord in Hong Kong | Washington Post

Apple splashes $6bn on new shows in streaming wars | FT

A related Benedict Evans tweet: "If Apple has ‘committed’ $6bn to TV, that won’t all be in one year, so for comparison purposes it’s a lower number. Meanwhile Netflix will apparently spend $15bn this year and has over $20bn of content on the balance sheet. Not quite play money but not a full-on attack on Netflix"; also see Bloomberg: Apple targeting $9.99 per month for Apple TV+, launching in November with 5 shows | 9to5Mac
"Apple has committed more than $6bn for original shows and movies ahead of the launch of its new video streaming service, a ballooning budget aimed at catching up with the likes of Netflix, Disney and AT&T-owned HBO.

The iPhone maker has been preparing its foray into media for years, after hiring Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two well-known executives from Sony Pictures Television, to lead the charge in 2017.

The pair were initially armed with $1bn to commission original content over their first year but the budget has expanded and the total committed so far has passed $6bn, according to people familiar with the matter."
Apple splashes $6bn on new shows in streaming wars | FT

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Arc of Collaboration | kwokchain

One take-away from this communication/collaboration perspective: Slack should acquire (or clone aspects of) Discord...
"Slack is the 911 for whatever isn’t possible natively in a company’s productivity apps. And though it’s improving, there are still many structural cracks. Slack is current best solution for filling these cracks. But it doesn’t fix the cracks themselves, improved processes and productivity apps are needed for that.

As the ecosystem of specialized SaaS apps and workflows continues to mature, messaging becomes a place of last resort. When things are running smoothly, work happens in the apps built to produce them. And collaboration happens within them. Going to slack is increasingly a channel of last resort, for when there’s no established workflow of what to do. And as these functional apps evolve, there are fewer and fewer exceptions that need Slack. In fact, a sign of a maturing company is one that progressively removes the need to use Slack for more and more situations."
The Arc of Collaboration | kwokchain

Terrorists Turn to Bitcoin for Funding, and They’re Learning Fast | NYT

From an extensive cryptocurrency + terrorism reality check
"The Treasury Department, under Mr. Mnuchin, has been promoting international rules that would require cryptocurrency exchanges to do a full identity check on anyone sending digital tokens out of a wallet.

This could make it easier to spot certain illegal transactions. But terrorists and other criminals who use cryptocurrency are already picking up methods that would make it easier to circumvent the new rules, in part by using cryptocurrencies that provide even more privacy than Bitcoin."
Terrorists Turn to Bitcoin for Funding, and They’re Learning Fast | NYT

Trump says Tim Cook made ‘good case’ that trade war helps Samsung over Apple | The Verge

Tim Cook had to explain this to Trump?...
"“I had a very good meeting with Tim Cook,” Trump said. “I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook, and Tim was talking to me about tariffs. And one of the things, and he made a good case, is that Samsung is their number-one competitor, and Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in South Korea.”

“And it’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they’re competing with a very good company that’s not. I said, ‘How good a competitor?’ He said they are a very good competitor. So Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in a different location, mostly South Korea but they’re based in South Korea. And I thought he made a very compelling argument, so I’m thinking about it.”"
Trump says Tim Cook made ‘good case’ that trade war helps Samsung over Apple | The Verge

Friday, August 16, 2019

Trump Administration Asks Congress to Reauthorize N.S.A.’s Deactivated Call Records Program | NYT

Tbd if Brad Parscale requested this as part of the Trump 2020 campaign's social media strategy...
"Breaking a long silence about a high-profile National Security Agency program that sifts records of Americans’ telephone calls and text messages in search of terrorists, the Trump administration on Thursday acknowledged for the first time that the system has been indefinitely shut down — but asked Congress to extend its legal basis anyway.

In a letter to Congress delivered on Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, the administration urged lawmakers to make permanent the legal authority for the National Security Agency to gain access to logs of Americans’ domestic communications, the USA Freedom Act. The law, enacted after the intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden revealed the existence of the program in 2013, is set to expire in December, but the Trump administration wants it made permanent."
Trump Administration Asks Congress to Reauthorize N.S.A.’s Deactivated Call Records Program | NYT

WeWork isn’t a tech company; it’s a soap opera | The Verge

Also see WeWork IPO Shows It’s the Most Magical Unicorn | Bloomberg
"WeWork — excuse me, The We Company — is primarily a landlord for freelancers and companies. You pay rent on your desk or whatever, and then you don’t have to work in the same place you live. (There are also conference rooms.) And yet the word “technology” appears 110 times in the S-1. “We provide our members with flexible access to beautiful spaces, a culture of inclusivity and the energy of an inspired community, all connected by our extensive technology infrastructure,” The We Company tells us. But I am having the damnedest time figuring out what the “extensive technology infrastructure” is. Does this just mean Wi-Fi? Is it the neon lights? Is it… lasers?

It’s true that The We Company hires lots of engineers, product designers, and so on. But, like, what major company doesn’t? If that’s the standard by which one considers a tech company, JPMorgan Chase is one of the biggest and most important tech companies on earth."
WeWork isn’t a tech company; it’s a soap opera | The Verge

Thursday, August 15, 2019

WeWork IPO filing follows uneven road for other companies going public | Washington Post

A recent Charles Fitzgerald tweet: "The call that a WeWork IPO would kick off the apocalypse is looking pretty good right now..."; tangentially, see 9 key countries are on the verge of recession, driving fears the U.S. could follow | Washington Post
"WeWork’s parent company, the We Co., filed paperwork Wednesday indicating plans to raise $1 billion in its initial public offering. Included in the prospectus was another figure: a net loss of $689.7 million for the first six months of 2019.

As the We Co. enters the club of this year’s much-anticipated IPOs, analysts wonder which way it will fall. Some said the We Co. could go the way of strong tech stocks such as Zoom and CrowdStrike. Or it could be hammered like other tech unicorns, such as Uber and Lyft — whose stocks are trading below their IPO prices — which are struggling to convince investors that their ride-hailing models will be profitable soon. Slack and Dropbox have also been sagging.

“I think there’s a little more focus among investors [for WeWork] to carry the torch where Uber and Lyft have not done that thus far,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities."
WeWork IPO filing follows uneven road for other companies going public | Washington Post

Who Killed Tumblr? We All Did

Also see Exclusive: Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg on what’s next for Tumblr | The Verge
"Thus, it quickly got its lofty valuation with $125 million in investments from tech’s smartest investors and took off. It hit a billion blog posts by 2010, and when the site started accepting advertising in 2012, Tumblr seemed golden.

Fool’s gold. What plagues the internet today hit Tumblr hard and early. There were the inevitable copyright problems and spam and security problems and product problems. And the content itself, which started as edgy, got rather gnarly, from self-harm sites to neo-Nazis to what really tanked Tumblr: sex.

The very fast growth of sites that were soon deemed pornographic got to be a too large part of the site, a development that got a lot of attention in the frenzy of the Yahoo purchase. While some of those blogs were seen as safe havens to explore sexuality, there was too much hard-core pornography — and that did not fly in a corporate setting."
Who Killed Tumblr? We All Did

VMWare in talks to buy Pivotal Software; both controlled by Dell | Reuters

Also see Talk about keeping it in the family: Dell-owned Pivotal shares rocket after Dell-owned VMware mulls gobbling it up | The Register, which adds "Stock price back up to, er, just below IPO level"
"VMware Inc (VMW.N) and Pivotal Software Inc (PVTL.N) are negotiating a deal for VMWare to acquire Pivotal, according to a regulatory filing from Dell Technologies Inc (DELL.N) on Wednesday, valuing Pivotal, a maker of software development and management tools, at about $4 billion.

Pivotal shares jumped 63% to $13.60, while shares of VMWare were down about 3% at $148.25 in extended trading. Dell is the controlling stockholder for both the companies. Dell’s shares dropped 1.65% to $47.80 in after-market trading on Wednesday.
[...]
The offer price represents an 81% premium to Pivotal’s Wednesday close. Shares of Pivotal, which provides tools for software developers working with cloud services from different companies, have fallen 49% this year."
VMWare in talks to buy Pivotal Software; both controlled by Dell | Reuters

Facebook is simplifying group privacy settings and adding admin tools for safety | The Verge

Also see Facebook's crackdown on dangerous content in groups could backfire, experts say | The Guardian
"Facebook announced today that it’s updating its group privacy settings and working to better moderate bad content breaking the platform’s rules. The platform is renaming its confusing public, closed, and secret group settings to the slightly more straightforward public and private settings, with the option to make private groups visible or hidden to non-members. The new settings will also provide more control for admins and members, giving admins more moderation tools and members the option to see the group’s history and preview its content before accepting or declining an invitation.

The new group settings are also part of the Safe Communities Initiative that the company started two years ago, in an effort to monitor and detect bad content in Facebook groups. The announcement comes in the wake of recent findings that secret Facebook groups have been acting as gathering places for racist, offensive activity — one example coming from earlier last month, when ProPublica found a group of Border Patrol agents joking about migrant deaths."
Facebook is simplifying group privacy settings and adding admin tools for safety | The Verge

I Shared My Phone Number. I Learned I Shouldn’t Have. | NYT

Later in the article: "“If you want to give out your number, you are taking additional risk that you might not be aware of,” said Sinan Eren, chief executive of Fyde. “Because of collisions in names due to the massive number of people online today, a phone number is a stronger identifier.”"
"In fact, your phone number may have now become an even stronger identifier than your full name. I recently found this out firsthand when I asked Fyde, a mobile security firm in Palo Alto, Calif., to use my digits to demonstrate the potential risks of sharing a phone number.

Emre Tezisci, a security researcher at Fyde with a background in telecommunications, took on the task with gusto. He and I had never met or talked. He quickly plugged my cellphone number into a public records directory. Soon, he had a full dossier on me — including my name and birth date, my address, the property taxes I pay and the names of members of my family."
I Shared My Phone Number. I Learned I Shouldn’t Have. | NYT

Facebook isn’t ready for 2020 | Washington Post

Brad Parscale, Vladimir Putin, Robert Mercer, and many others are counting on it...
"Facebook often talks about how sophisticated social media manipulation can be and how sophisticated its own methods now are in response. The suspicious activity we found in the European elections, though, was anything but sophisticated. If the European elections were “an important test for us,” as Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg declared last month, it was a test the company failed spectacularly.

If Facebook couldn’t figure out that thousands of coordinated accounts with random two-letter names were suspicious, it has little hope of preventing the next attack by the Russians, the Iranians or anyone else."
Facebook isn’t ready for 2020 | Washington Post

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Snap's Spectacles 3 are made for augmented reality | Engadget

You can pre-order today for $380 (available "this fall")
"Snap's Spectacles 2 were functionally better, but not a revolution -- and they were still a bit dowdy. Its latest attempt at smart eyewear might fare better, though. The social service has unveiled Spectacles 3 glasses that include dual HD cameras to capture scenes in 3D and introduce augmented reality Snapchat effects to moments where they weren't previously an option. You can add 3D filters to your walk, take pseudo-3D still shots of your friends and add 3D Lens effects to a bike ride. While you can only record video for up to a minute of continuous video at a time, that's still a tangible improvement over the 10 seconds from before.

The Spectacles 3 might even look vaguely fashionable, too. While you probably wouldn't treat them as the centerpiece of your ensemble, their steel frame (available in either black Carbon or gold-tinted Mineral) and circular lenses should at least convey some sense of style. This is helped by a leather charging case that can hold four top-ups and fold flat when you're not using it."
Snap's Spectacles 3 are made for augmented reality | Engadget

Elon Musk’s Neuralink: Both an evolution and a plan for radical change | Ars Technica

From a detailed Neuralink reality check
"Before taking a look at the individual components that Neuralink announced recently, let's start with an overview of what the company hopes to accomplish technology-wise. The plan is to access the brain via a hole less than eight millimeters across. This small hole would allow Neuralink to implant an even smaller (4mm x 4mm) chip and its associated wiring into the brain. The chip will get power from, and communicate with, some wireless hardware located behind the ear, much like current cochlear implants.

Inside the brain, the chip will be connected to a series of small threads that carry electrodes to the relevant area, where they can listen in on the electrical activity of neurons. These threads will be put in place using a surgical robot, which allows the surgeon to insert them in a manner that avoids damaging blood vessels.

The chip will take the raw readings of neural activity and process them to a very compact form that preserves key information, which will be easier for their wireless hardware to transmit back across the skull. Electrical impulses can also be sent to the neurons via the same electrodes, stimulating brain activity. Musk thinks that it would be safe to insert as many as 10 of these chips into a single brain, though Neuralink will obviously start testing with far fewer."
Elon Musk’s Neuralink: Both an evolution and a plan for radical change | Ars Technica

Twitter tests letting users follow topics in the same way they follow accounts | The Verge

Better late than never?... Also see Twitter's plans: Follow topics, edit tweets someday | Axios
"The move represents Twitter’s latest effort to help users find the best content on the platform even if they don’t know which accounts to follow. For years, the company has sought to make it easier for people to find value in Twitter, which can be foreboding for newcomers. Previously, Twitter Moments allowed people to follow events such as the Oscars or a sports game.

One reason to restrict the interests that can be followed in the testing phase is to see how amplifying them via the new feature affects the overall Twitter experience. The company has been researching the bad incentives that Twitter can create, with the like and retweet often serving to promote outrage and polarization. It’s unclear whether algorithmic promotion of interests will behave differently than algorithmically promoted retweets. The underlying mechanics appear to be quite similar, at least on the surface."
Twitter tests letting users follow topics in the same way they follow accounts | The Verge

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Solar now ‘cheaper than grid electricity’ in every Chinese city, study finds | Carbon Brief

Also see Solar electricity is now CHEAPER than grid electricity in China — with one in five cities finding renewable energy lower cost than coal | Daily Mail and, tangentially, Fish Farms Now Hosting Almost 9% of China’s Solar Power Panels | Bloomberg Environment
""They say grid parity – the “tipping point” at which solar generation costs the same as electricity from the grid – represents a key stage in the expansion of renewable energy sources.

While previous studies of nations such as Germany and the US have concluded that solar could achieve grid parity by 2020 in most developed countries, some have suggested China would have to wait decades.

However, the new paper published in Nature Energy concludes a combination of technological advances, cost declines and government support has helped make grid parity a reality in Chinese today."
Solar now ‘cheaper than grid electricity’ in every Chinese city, study finds | Carbon Brief

Putin’s Missile Is Far Better Than Trump’s Missile, Kremlin Says | Bloomberg

Also see Russian nuclear engineers buried after 'Skyfall nuclear' blast | Al Jazeera
"President Vladimir Putin “has repeatedly said that Russian developments in this area surpass the level achieved by other countries, and are quite unique,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday on a conference call, in response to a question on Trump’s tweet. U.S. officials have said repeatedly in the past year that its military is working on such programs, so Trump’s statement offers no new information, he said.

An Aug. 8 blast in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region killed five atomic scientists during the test of a missile engine that used “isotope power sources” on an offshore platform in the White Sea. Trump later tweeted that the U.S. “is learning much from the failed missile explosion in Russia” and added that “we have similar, though more advanced, technology,” without giving more details."
Putin’s Missile Is Far Better Than Trump’s Missile, Kremlin Says | Bloomberg

The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley | NYT

From a timely technology + politics reality check
"The latest example of Silicon Valley’s patriotic playacting comes courtesy of Peter Thiel, the Trump-backing venture capitalist. In an op-ed in The New York Times this month, Mr. Thiel took Google to task for opening an artificial intelligence lab in Beijing while canceling a controversial Pentagon contract, accusing the company of trying to “evade responsibility for the good of the country.”

Mr. Thiel’s obvious conflicts of interest aside (he is on the board of Facebook, Google’s rival, and is the chairman of the technology firm Palantir, which has lucrative government contracts of its own), seeing him lecture anyone on patriotism is rich. He was among the first major supporters of the Seasteading movement — a group of libertarians who wanted to flee the United States and build a floating city in international waters — and in 2011, he became a New Zealand citizen after buying up property there. (“It would give me great pride to let it be known that I am a New Zealand citizen and an enthusiastic supporter of the country,” Mr. Thiel wrote in his citizenship application.)"
The Phony Patriots of Silicon Valley | NYT

Icahn Acquires 18 Percent Stake In Cloudera, Gains Two Seats On Board Of Directors | CRN

Also see Cloudera and Carl Icahn Agree to Peace. The Stock Tumbles. | Barron's
"Activist investor Carl Icahn is gaining two seats on the board of big data platform developer Cloudera, under an agreement unveiled Monday, after he acquired a huge stake in the company.

Icahn disclosed earlier this month that he had acquired more than 50.3 million Cloudera shares for an 18.36 percent stake in the company, according to a Bloomberg story.

Icahn's involvement with Cloudera comes at a turbulent time for the company. It is in the process of integrating its operations and product line with those of Hortonworks, the direct competitor Cloudera acquired in January for $5.2 billion. In June CEO Tom Reilly announced that he would retire in July, sending the company's stock plummeting almost 30 percent."
Icahn Acquires 18 Percent Stake In Cloudera, Gains Two Seats On Board Of Directors | CRN

Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress’ owner | The Verge

Also see Automattic + Tumblr | Matt on Tumblr
"Verizon, which first acquired Tumblr in 2017 after it purchased Yahoo, started to explore a sale earlier this year. Automattic reportedly bought Tumblr for less than $3 million, according to Axios, a stunning drop in value from the $1.1 billion Yahoo paid for it in 2013.

“Tumblr is a marquee brand that has started movements, allowed for true identities to blossom and become home to many creative communities and fandoms,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in a statement. “We are proud of what the team has accomplished and are happy to have found the perfect partner in Automattic, whose expertise and track record will unlock new and exciting possibilities for Tumblr and its users.”"
Verizon is selling Tumblr to WordPress’ owner | The Verge

Monday, August 12, 2019

Apple Transforms Central Park Into an Augmented Reality Gallery | NYT

For more [AR]T details, see this Apple page; also see [AR]T at the Apple Store: Here’s how Apple is making augmented reality accessible to everyone | 9to5Mac
"Words appeared in the sky, the color of clouds, and then faded into a jumble of letters in the background. It was an ephemeral poem, with lines like “Catch the falling knife” visible for a few seconds through the portal of an iPhone pointed at the skyline above Central Park.

This is a piece by the poet and performance artist John Giorno, called “Now at the Dawn of My Life,” that’s part of a new initiative by Apple called [AR]T — a curation of augmented reality art, featured in a series of guided walks. Apple worked with the New Museum to select the artists: Nick Cave, Nathalie Djurberg, Hans Berg, Cao Fei, Carsten Höller, Pipilotti Rist and Mr. Giorno. Each created an augmented reality work that’s been choreographed into the landscape of the tour, playing with the canvas of public space."
Apple Transforms Central Park Into an Augmented Reality Gallery | NYT

Tech Policy White House questions tech giants on ways to predict shootings from social media | Washington Post

Maybe they should watch the seventh (and final) season of Elementary first...
"Top officials in the Trump administration expressed interest in tools that might anticipate mass shootings or predict attackers by scanning social media posts, photos and videos during a meeting Friday with tech giants including Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The technology could serve as an early-warning system for potential attacks, White House officials proposed at the brainstorming session, perhaps compiling information from across social sites to identify deadly incidents before they occur, according to three people familiar with the matter but not authorized to discuss a private gathering on the record.

In response, though, tech leaders expressed doubt that such technology is feasible, while raising concerns about the privacy risks that such a system might create for all users, two of the sources said."
 Tech Policy White House questions tech giants on ways to predict shootings from social media | Washington Post

Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned | NYT

Later in the article: "“Any wayward tweet … can be elevated to an opinion worth paying attention to,” Ms. DiResta wrote. “If you make it trend, you make it true.”"
"Within minutes, Trump appointees, Fox Business hosts and Twitter pundits revived a decades old conspiracy theory, linking the Clinton family to supposedly suspicious deaths. #ClintonBodyCount and #ClintonCrimeFamily trended on Twitter. Around the same time, an opposite hashtag — #TrumpBodyCount — emerged, focused on President Trump’s decades-old ties to Mr. Epstein. Each hashtag was accompanied by GIFs and memes picturing Mr. Epstein with the Clintons or with Mr. Trump to serve as a viral accusation of foul play.

The dueling hashtags and their attendant toxicity are a grim testament to our deeply poisoned information ecosystem — one that’s built for speed and designed to reward the most incendiary impulses of its worst actors. It has ushered in a parallel reality unrooted in fact and helped to push conspiratorial thinking into the cultural mainstream. And with each news cycle, the system grows more efficient, entrenching its opposing camps. The poison spreads."
Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned | NYT

How YouTube Radicalized Brazil | NYT

From an extensive and disconcerting YouTube reality check
"Members of the nation’s newly empowered far right — from grass-roots organizers to federal lawmakers — say their movement would not have risen so far, so fast, without YouTube’s recommendation engine.

New research has found they may be correct. YouTube’s search and recommendation system appears to have systematically diverted users to far-right and conspiracy channels in Brazil.

A New York Times investigation in Brazil found that, time and again, videos promoted by the site have upended central elements of daily life."
How YouTube Radicalized Brazil | NYT

Friday, August 09, 2019

Why Aren’t We Talking About LinkedIn? | NYT

Earlier in the article: "Now LinkedIn claims to have more than 645 million users, 180 million of them residing in North America. Last year, it produced more than $5.3 billion in revenue for Microsoft. (For scale, that’s about one-tenth the revenue of Facebook, Inc., about half of Instagram’s and almost twice Twitter’s.)"
"Mr. Thompson also estimates that his American followers on LinkedIn are more evenly distributed along the political spectrum, as compared to his followings on Twitter or Facebook, where they tilt liberal. But, he said, “filter bubbles aren’t as strong, in part because people aren’t posting as much about politics.” The 2020 field of candidates is doing plenty of hiring on LinkedIn, but don’t expect campaigning there. Political ads are banned on the platform. In 2017, the last year outside analytics firms could track such things, Forbes.com was the most popular source of news posted to the site, according to NewsWhip. (The majority of posts tend to deal in the genres of self-help, motivation and marketing.) Of the top ten stories of the second half of 2017, nine were explicitly about work, and one was about a solar farm in China that is shaped like a panda.

“The risk on Facebook is becoming too toxic,” Mr. Thompson said. “The risk on LinkedIn is becoming too cheesy.”"
Why Aren’t We Talking About LinkedIn? | NYT

Uber Posts $5.2 Billion Loss and Slowest Ever Growth Rate | NYT

Recalculating route...
"For the second quarter, Uber said it lost $5.2 billion, the largest loss since it began disclosing limited financial data in 2017. A majority of that — about $3.9 billion — was caused by stock-based compensation that Uber paid its employees after its I.P.O.

Excluding that one-time expense, Uber lost $1.3 billion, or nearly twice the $878 million that it lost a year earlier. On that same basis and excluding other costs, the company said it expected to lose $3 billion to $3.2 billion this year.

Revenue grew to $3.1 billion, up 14 percent from a year ago, the slowest quarterly growth rate Uber has ever disclosed."
Uber Posts $5.2 Billion Loss and Slowest Ever Growth Rate | NYT

Huawei reveals Harmony OS, its alternative to Android | Engadget

Also see Huawei’s new operating system is called HarmonyOS | The Verge
"Huawei's long-rumored Android alternative, Hongmeng, is finally official. At today's Huawei Developer Conference, the company's Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu surprised the audience by unveiling "Harmony OS," which he says is faster and safer than Android. That said, the software is primarily aimed at IoT products (such as smart displays, wearables, smart speakers and in-car devices) instead of smartphones, Yu stated that when Huawei can no longer access Google's Android ecosystem, it can deploy Harmony OS "at any time." Until then, Huawei will continue to support Android.

Yu's own presentation was rather technical, but in a nutshell, Harmony OS is positioned as a future-proof, "microkernel-based, distributed OS for all scenarios." The platform is open source, and it's actually more of a competitor to Google's upcoming Fuchsia, given that both are microkernel-based and can be used on multiple types of devices at once. In contrast, his on-stage presentation said Android isn't as efficient due to its redundant codes, outdated scheduling mechanism and general fragmentation issues. Shots fired."
Huawei reveals Harmony OS, its alternative to Android | Engadget

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Microsoft and Samsung partner to empower you to achieve more | Windows Blog

See Microsoft and Samsung partner to bridge Android and Windows closer together | The Verge for more on Microsoft's latest Android assimilation aspirations
"With Microsoft’s Your Phone, you can stay more productive on your Windows 10 PC. With the ability to access your recent photos, text messages, notifications and mobile apps right on your PC, you can stay in your flow, without the need to switch between devices[1]. And now, with native integration of Link to Windows on Galaxy Note10, it’s never been easier to connect your Samsung phone to your Windows 10 PC. Just connect your Galaxy Note10 with your PC via the Link to Windows setting and get instant access to your Android phone’s content that matters to you. Now there’s no need to dig for your phone to check notifications, schedule a ride to the airport, or even text. And you can finally stop emailing yourself photos as you can drag and drop photos directly into your email or your PowerPoint presentation.

Later this month, Galaxy Note10 users will be the first to experience the new Phone screen[2] feature, which allows you to access your Android phone’s apps, right from your PC while using your keyboard and mouse, or touch screen. Users can try out multi-touch gestures such as pinch to zoom, rotate, or swipe from their PC’s touchscreen while using Phone screen. As I demonstrated at the event today, whether it’s messaging someone, requesting a ride, scrolling through friends’ updates or ordering dinner, your phone’s screen will be available directly on your PC. And we are not stopping here; later this year, we are planning to introduce the ability to make and receive mobile calls directly from your PC. Accept the call, reply with a text, or send the caller to voicemail right from your PC. All of these features and experiences will continue to deliver meaningful innovation to help you stay focused and more productive on your Windows PC[3]."
Microsoft and Samsung partner to empower you to achieve more | Windows Blog

Apple and Eli Lilly are studying whether data from iPhones and Apple Watches can detect signs of dementia | CNBC

See this page for the full report
"Apple has been adding health features to its iPhone and smartwatch, and is now working with Eli Lilly to see if data from the devices can help spot early signs of dementia.

According to research published this week, the two companies teamed up with health-tech start-up Evidation to find ways to more quickly and precisely detect cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s disease with the help of popular consumer gadgets.

The study, which will be discussed on Thursday at a conference in Alaska, is the first to publicly link Apple and Eli Lilly. Of the 15 authors of the paper, five work for each company with the other five representing Evidation. It’s the latest sign that Apple’s health team is investing in deep medical research with traditional pharmaceutical players."
Apple and Eli Lilly are studying whether data from iPhones and Apple Watches can detect signs of dementia | CNBC

An Electric Harley Loses the Growl but Still Aims to Turn Heads | NYT

The Harley LiveWire starts at $29,799, if you can find a dealer that hasn't pre-sold its allotment
"The industry is banking on electrics.

“For so long, we thought of motorcycles as being these raw, fire-breathing vehicles,” said Harlan Flagg, founder of Hollywood Electrics in Los Angeles. “Motorcyclists have done themselves a huge disservice by scaring people away with these ridiculously loud bikes that are obnoxious.”

Their electric cousins are easier to ride than the gas-powered monsters. They have no clutch or gearshift, so riders do not need to coordinate all their extremities to operate the controls. They just twist the grip and go. There’s no hot exhaust pipe to burn a leg. And they project a friendlier, more eco-conscious image. They’re whisper-quiet."
An Electric Harley Loses the Growl but Still Aims to Turn Heads | NYT

Tech Companies Must Fight White Supremacy, Regardless of Political Dangers | Lawfare

Final paragraph from this timely reality check: "When there are lives on the line, political awkwardness must give way to responsible corporate behavior and good stewardship of the internet. Reliance on law enforcement, a sound understanding of the ideological underpinnings of terrorist activity, transparency and accountability can be the digital platforms’ best friends as they go all in on thwarting white supremacy online."
"The first step must be to create information-sharing networks with law enforcement on white supremacist terror threats, as tech companies and the government already have built for international terrorism. These must be narrowly focused on sharing only information appropriate and relevant to specific violent extremist activity online at the unclassified level.

Second, application and enforcement of the platforms’ terms of service today are inconsistent. Too many accounts are still online purveying the inherently hateful, discriminatory, and downright dangerous ideologies associated with neo-Nazism, neo-Confederacism and other forms of white supremacy. The platforms should make clear they will establish a zero-tolerance policy for clearly illegal activity including incitement to violence—and will report to the FBI where they see such criminal activity, as they report child pornography. They should clarify that they will take down content that embraces and echoes the underlying ideology of the white supremacist terrorists—like that shared by recent terrorists from Christchurch, New Zealand, to El Paso, Texas—and also clarify under what circumstances they will take down the accounts themselves."
Tech Companies Must Fight White Supremacy, Regardless of Political Dangers | Lawfare

Trump’s executive order on social media bias is a distraction | Vox

For more details, see White House drafting executive order to tackle Silicon Valley’s alleged anti-conservative bias | Politico
"The Trump administration is reportedly drafting an executive order to combat the bias that some Republicans accuse social media companies of displaying against conservatives.

The White House is reportedly sharing drafts of an order on the topic, according to according to Politico, which first reported the story. Details of the draft order are still vague, and it’s not clear what penalties, if any, the administration will be able to legally enforce, given protections to media platforms under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Regardless of whether it’s a serious regulatory threat or not, news of this drafted executive order emphasizes yet again that one of the President Donald Trump’s main campaign tenets in the 2020 election will be to stoke his conservative base’s fears that Big Tech is prejudiced against Republicans and is manipulating the upcoming election."
Trump’s executive order on social media bias is a distraction | Vox

Samsung unveils the Galaxy Book S, an ultra-thin laptop with a 23-hour battery life | VB

Also see Samsung’s new Galaxy Book S is a Qualcomm-powered laptop with 23 hours of battery life | The Verge, which notes: "The big question with this — and all ARM-based PCs, really — is whether the processor can be powerful enough to really feel like a viable main computer. Intel chips may have a bad rap for being power-hungry and a little behind the times, but ARM-based Windows laptops have disappointed us too many times for us to say we can trust this device’s power without testing it first."
"The fanless 2.1-pound, 13.3-inch Galaxy Book S is no slouch in the hardware department. It features an anodized aluminum frame on the top and base and a fully backlit keyboard, and it packs a 10-point touchscreen, a single USB-C port, and a multi-core Qualcomm system-on-chip paired with 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM. That’s in addition to Gigabit LTE Cat.18 connectivity built in and “studio-quality” stereo speakers tuned by AKG and enhanced further by Dolby Atmos technology, not to mention a Windows Hello-compatible camera and fingerprint sensor.
Thanks to software and hardware optimizations out the wazoo, the 42Wh battery (which supports USB Power Delivery 2.0, and Quick Charge 2.0) lasts a whopping 23 hours on a charge, Samsung claims. That’s without Wi-Fi or other connections enabled, though, so expect results to vary."
Samsung unveils the Galaxy Book S, an ultra-thin laptop with a 23-hour battery life | VB

Twitter freezes McConnell campaign account for posting video of protester’s violent threats | Washington Post

Obviously the campaign team should have simply asked Trump to retweet it, since no rules apply to his Twitter account...
"Twitter locked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account from further activity Wednesday as punishment for its sharing of a video of protesters screaming obscenities outside the Kentucky Republican’s home.

The social media company will not unlock @TeamMitch unless it agrees to remove the video.

McConnell’s campaign confirmed to The Washington Post that its account was suspended. The Courier-Journal first reported the story."
Twitter freezes McConnell campaign account for posting video of protester’s violent threats | Washington Post

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Uber Wants to Sell You Train Tickets. And Be Your Bus Service, Too. | NYT

Also see Uber and Lyft finally admit they’re making traffic congestion worse in cities | The Verge
"Since 2015, Uber has inked more than 20 transit deals. The push is now being championed by Dara Khosrowshahi, its chief executive, to turn the company into the “Amazon of transportation.” In that vision, Uber would become a one-stop shop for car, bike, scooter, bus and train trips.

Doing so would help Uber draw more riders, especially as the company faces questions from Wall Street about whether it can make money and revive its once red-hot growth rate. On Thursday, Uber is scheduled to report its latest earnings, including an estimated quarterly loss of nearly $5 billion and declining revenue growth."
Uber Wants to Sell You Train Tickets. And Be Your Bus Service, Too. | NYT

Trump says he’s ‘watching Google very closely’ after meeting with CEO | The Verge

Typical Trump -- tweeting the self-serving Fox News-channeled claims from a disgruntled former Google employee over direct guidance from Google's CEO
"Trump said in the tweets that he had met with CEO Sundar Pichai and discussed recent news about the company, including its work in China. Trump wrote that “it all sounded good” before he learned of a former Google engineer who recently claimed there was a bias against conservatives at the company.

The former employee, Kevin Cernekee, was the subject of a Wall Street Journal profile last week, and has appeared on Fox News, but has since been criticized for his past statements at Google on topics like white nationalist Richard Spencer. Last night, Trump also posted an interview Cernekee gave to Lou Dobbs, in which he claimed Google would work to damage Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. The company has denounced the comments as baseless.

“All very illegal,” Trump wrote this morning about the company. “We are watching Google very closely!”"
On a related note, see Peter Strzok, whose anti-Trump texts got him fired from the FBI, sues for reinstatement | Washington Post, which notes
"Strzok alleged in the suit that others in the bureau had not received similar discipline for criticism of Clinton, and he claimed Bowdich’s decision was the “direct result of unrelenting pressure from President Trump and his political allies on Capitol Hill.” Trump had repeatedly attacked Strzok publicly and privately and called for his firing.

Strzok asserted in the suit that his sentiments were “protected political speech,” and that his termination violated the First Amendment. He conceded that while the Hatch Act restricts the political activities of some employees, he had not violated even that law, and noted that Trump had rejected a recommendation to fire a senior White House adviser, Kellyanne Conway, for her violations of the Hatch Act."
Trump says he’s ‘watching Google very closely’ after meeting with CEO | The Verge

Trust No One Online | NYT

From Kara Swisher's latest column; BTW be sure to temporarily suspend your TransUnion credit lock before applying for Apple Card (see this article for details); on a related note, see iOS 13 privacy feature will force total overhaul for Facebook apps | Ars Technica
"The good news is that there are glimmers of hope everywhere — like Apple’s new credit card, which I’ve been testing over the last several days. It will be rolled out on Tuesday to a small number of people who have signed up for it and will launch more broadly later this summer.

No surprise that it’s built for the iPhone and its Wallet app, and the setup is pretty seamless, as long as your credit is good. Its daily cash-back feature is a nice touch, putting money on your cash card for every day purchases.

But perks like those are now just table stakes for the credit-card business. More important for Apple — and for all tech companies — is to create products that can be trusted."
Trust No One Online | NYT

FORM Swim Goggles with Augmented-Reality Display Available Today for $199 | Form press release

Also see Form’s AR swim goggles blow Apple Watch out of the water [Review] | Cult of Mac
"Today, sports technology company FORM announced the immediate availability of the FORM Swim Goggles, the first premium swim goggles with a see-through, augmented-reality display that delivers performance metrics in real time. Now in stock at www.formswim.com, these goggles are priced at $199 USD with free shipping in the U.S. and Canada. Each pair is covered under a 45-day fit guarantee, and international shipping options are available.

Swimming is one of the world’s biggest sports, with over 30 million active pool swimmers in the U.S. alone. The FORM Swim Goggles are the first product to give swimmers the same real-time visual feedback that’s become an essential part of training for land-based sports like running and cycling. Metrics like split times, distance, stroke rate, pace per 100, and calories are displayed directly in the swimmer’s line of sight, while they swim. The goggles also feature a premium design that delivers best-in-class fit and durability."
FORM Swim Goggles with Augmented-Reality Display Available Today for $199 | Form press release

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Apple’s Bullish Position on Augmented Reality | Tech.pinions

From a timely Apple AR reality check
"What is intriguing about Apple’s role in AR, is that they are most likely the company that will bring AR to the masses. There is a lot of work going on in AR from many companies but almost all are making AR devices in siloed efforts. While Google is the other company that could challenge Apple head on, the fragmentation of Android will make it harder for them to gain the kind of quick buy in where a IOS and its earlier iterations in most cases will allow for backward compatibility from any AR app or related solutions Apple brings to market. I do suspect that a special version of an iPhone that will be optimized for some type of AR glasses will be designed to maximize the experience. But, I also think that Apple will make AR glasses work with existing iPhones too, albeit without some extra AR capabilities that would come with an iPhone designed around glasses as an extension of the AR experience.

An iPhone will be the delivery system for most AR apps from Apple, but Apple clearly understands that some type of goggle or headset also needs to be part of their AR solution. They have many patents in the works on AR but the most recent patent applied for shows a mixed reality headset that tracks your whole face.

While it is impossible to completely decipher what Tim Cook and team are talking about when they say that they are excited about what is in Apple’s pipeline, I am convinced that the greatest excitement is around what they are doing in AR and how that will impact Apple’s longer term growth."
Apple’s Bullish Position on Augmented Reality | Tech.pinions

Dear Walmart C.E.O.: You Have the Power to Curb Gun Violence. Do It. | NYT

Tangentially, see Bulletproof Backpacks in Demand for Back-to-School Shopping | NYT
"Some critics have suggested that Walmart stop selling guns entirely, but you can use your influence over gun makers for good.

You could threaten gun makers that you will stop selling any of their weapons unless they begin incorporating fingerprint technology to unlock guns, for example. You could develop enhanced background checks and sales processes and pressure gun makers to sell only to retailers that follow those measures.

You have leverage over the financial institutions that offer banking and financing services to gun makers and gun retailers as well as those that lend money to gun buyers. You could use your heft to influence banks and credit card systems to change their processes around tracking gun sales. They have none."
Dear Walmart C.E.O.: You Have the Power to Curb Gun Violence. Do It. | NYT

North Korea took $2 billion in cyberattacks to fund weapons program: U.N. report | Reuters

Later in the article: "They also used cyberspace to launder the stolen money, the report said."
"North Korea has generated an estimated $2 billion for its weapons of mass destruction programs using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential U.N. report seen by Reuters on Monday.

Pyongyang also “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch,” said the report to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee by independent experts monitoring compliance over the past six months."
North Korea took $2 billion in cyberattacks to fund weapons program: U.N. report | Reuters

HPE buys MapR, aims to extend portfolio for AI, machine learning, analytics | ZDNet

Tbd who will acquire what remains of Cloudera
"Hewlett Packard Enterprise said it has acquired the assets of MapR, including its technology, intellectual property and tools for analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

HPE said it will support existing MapR deployments as well as ongoing renewals. HPE also said it will continue to support MapR's partner ecosystem.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

For HPE, MapR can bring more knowhow in big data and workflows for AI deployments and machine learning. Antonio Neri, CEO of HPE, said MapR's file system technology can round out its analytics portfolio. HPE is betting that it can grow by harnessing data flows from the cloud to edge computing."
HPE buys MapR, aims to extend portfolio for AI, machine learning, analytics | ZDNet

Behind the Scenes, 8chan Scrambles to Get Back Online | NYT

In other toxic internet content news, see How the Trump Campaign Used Facebook Ads to Amplify His ‘Invasion’ Claim
"To stay online, 8chan’s administrators raced to find alternatives. They went to Epik, a technology company that could help the site register its web address again. Epik’s subsidiary, BitMitigate, could also protect it from cyberattacks, an 8chan administrator said in a tweet.

After 8chan migrated to Epik and BitMitigate, the site flickered back online in some regions. But its return was brief. Voxility, a company that provides computing services to Epik, was criticized by internet executives for indirectly helping to keep 8chan on the web. In response, Voxility severed its relationship with Epik, taking BitMitigate offline in the process — and making 8chan go down again."
Behind the Scenes, 8chan Scrambles to Get Back Online | NYT

Monday, August 05, 2019

Sorry, scooters aren’t so climate-friendly after all | MIT Technology Review

Pollute different
"The bottom line: roughly two-thirds of the time, scooter rides generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative. And those increased emissions were greater than the gains from the car rides not taken, says Jeremiah Johnson, an engineering professor and one of the authors of the paper.

The electricity used to charge the vehicles is one of the smallest contributors to the product’s emissions. Fully half come from the raw materials and manufacturing process, which the researchers estimated, in part, by disassembling a Chinese-made Xiaomi M365 scooter, a model that Lime and Bird are known to use.
[...]
The other major share of emissions, 43%, comes from the additional fleet of vehicles needed to navigate around a city like Raleigh each day, collecting scooters strewn across yards and sidewalks, taking them to a central charging location, and returning them to spots where riders can find them."
Sorry, scooters aren’t so climate-friendly after all | MIT Technology Review

French inventor successfully crosses the English Channel on a hoverboard | The Verge

Later in the article: "The inventor made headlines in the middle of July when he appeared over crowds during France’s Bastille Day celebrations carrying a gun, a demonstration of some of the uses that the device could have."
"After a failed attempt at the end of July, French inventor Franky Zapata successfully crossed the English Channel early this morning on his Flyboard Air, a jet-powered hoverboard.

Zapata departed from Sangatte, France and arrived in Dover, England 22 minutes later, reaching speeds of up to 106 miles per hour during the 22-mile trip. “We made a machine three years ago,” he said after landing, “and now, we’ve crossed the Channel, it’s crazy.”

The Guardian reports that the trip wasn’t a continuous one: because he only carried a 10-minute supply of fuel on his back, he had to make a pit stop at the halfway mark to refuel."
French inventor successfully crosses the English Channel on a hoverboard | The Verge

Terminating Service for 8Chan | Cloudflare Blog

Also see Three mass shootings this year began with a hateful screed on 8chan. Its founder calls it a terrorist refuge in plain sight. | Washington Post
"8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare's service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time. The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.

We do not take this decision lightly. Cloudflare is a network provider. In pursuit of our goal of helping build a better internet, we’ve considered it important to provide our security services broadly to make sure as many users as possible are secure, and thereby making cyberattacks less attractive — regardless of the content of those websites.  Many of our customers run platforms of their own on top of our network. If our policies are more conservative than theirs it effectively undercuts their ability to run their services and set their own policies. We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services."
Terminating Service for 8Chan | Cloudflare Blog

Friday, August 02, 2019

Swiss drone crashes near children, forcing suspension of delivery program | The Verge

 No need to worry; they're going to add a second parachute rope...
"A drone delivery program in Switzerland has been suspended indefinitely after one of the vehicles crashed just 50 yards away from a group of children. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports (via IEEE Spectrum) that the 10-kg (22-pound) drone, capable of carrying up to 2-kg of cargo, encountered an issue during a flight in Zurich in May. Although the drone was equipped with an emergency parachute, it managed to cut the connecting cord during its emergency landing, resulting in an uncontrolled crash. Nobody was injured.

The incident comes as multiple regulators are easing flight restrictions to allow commercial drone deliveries. Google’s Wing has been granted regulatory approval to make deliveries in the US and Australia, and in the US the FAA is considering new rules that would allow drones to fly over crowds and at night."
Swiss drone crashes near children, forcing suspension of delivery program | The Verge

Press Releases From the Future: HCL Technologies to Acquire Red Hat Software Products from IBM for $340 Million | Platformonomics

Charles Fitzgerald speculates about the potential future of IBM/Red Hat
"ARMONK, N.Y. and NOIDA, India, August 2, 2022 — IBM and HCL Technologies (HCL) today announced a definitive agreement under which HCL will acquire select IBM Red Hat software products for $340 million. The transaction is expected to close by mid-2023, subject to completion of applicable regulatory reviews.

The next generation true open hybrid multi cloud software products in scope represent a total addressable market of $1 trillion and include:
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux
  • Red Hat Ansible
  • Red Hat JBOSS
The former Red Hat OpenShift and OpenStack product families were not included in the asset transfer because IBM has already successfully accelerated the de-monetization of those product lines through the transcendental realization of true openness."
Press Releases From the Future: HCL Technologies to Acquire Red Hat Software Products from IBM for $340 Million | Platformonomics

After Trump cites Amazon concerns, Pentagon reexamines $10 billion JEDI cloud contract process | Washington Post

Final paragraphs:
"Government contracting analysts said it would be improper for a president to influence a procurement if he were to steer a contract toward or away from a specific company.

“Prior to an award — if the Defense Department needs to change its acquisition strategy, it’s going to have a lot of flexibility to do that. And there’s nothing improper about a new secretary of defense changing the strategy,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, a trade group for government contractors. “The only thing that would trouble me about the president being involved is if he were involved in the source selection.”

Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who is now a partner focusing on government contracts law at Holland & Knight, said the president’s intervention probably will become the subject of litigation.

“He has every right to cancel the contract,” Davis said. “But he can’t say, ‘Don’t give it to Amazon. Give it to someone else.' That would run into legal problems.”"
After Trump cites Amazon concerns, Pentagon reexamines $10 billion JEDI cloud contract process | Washington Post

Good for Google, Bad for America | NYT

From an opinion piece by Trump pawn Peter Thiel; also see DealBook Briefing: Peter Thiel Accuses Google of Arming China (Again) | NYT
"How can Google use the rhetoric of “borderless” benefits to justify working with the country whose “Great Firewall” has imposed a border on the internet itself? This way of thinking works only inside Google’s cosseted Northern California campus, quite distinct from the world outside. The Silicon Valley attitude sometimes called “cosmopolitanism” is probably better understood as an extreme strain of parochialism, that of fortunate enclaves isolated from the problems of other places — and incurious about them.

A little curiosity about China would have gone a long way, since the Communist Party is not shy about declaring its commitment to domination in general and exploitation of technology in particular. Of course, any American who pays attention and questions the Communist line is accused by the party of having a “Cold War mentality” — but this very accusation relies on forgetfulness and incuriosity among its intended audience."
Good for Google, Bad for America | NYT

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Made By Google Might Finally Mean Business with Pixel 4 | Tech.pinions

Also see Google’s New Pixel 4 Imagines a World of Hands-Free Computing | OneZero
"Judging Pixel’s performance as a proportion of the overall market, however, is not the best way to assess how Google is doing. After all, Pixel is not intended to appeal to the whole breadth of the smartphone market. Google is interested in those consumers who can be highly engaged not just with the device but with Google services as well. This limits the addressable market both by geography and income.

Because of the target audience, I see Google’s best opportunity to drive sales resting in Samsung and Apple’s installed base. If we go by the schedule all companies have kept over the past couple of years, we know both Samsung and Apple will have new models in the market before Pixel 4 is out. Samsung’s Unpacked is scheduled for August 7, and here we are expected to see the new Galaxy Note, then Apple is expected in early September.

While some people were quick to speculate about Google’s lack of concern for cannibalizing Pixel 3 sales, I appreciated the attempt to get people’s attention before competitors drop their products. All Google needs to do is instill enough interest to get people to wait for Pixel 4 to launch before committing to the new Galaxy Note or the new iPhone. At the end of the day, if you are in the market for a Pixel now, and your purchase is not an emergency, you are most likely going to wait and see the new model and any price adjustments on the current one. So, really, no harm no foul on Pixel 3."
Made By Google Might Finally Mean Business with Pixel 4 | Tech.pinions

Greenland Is Melting Away Before Our Eyes | Rolling Stone

On a related note, see Alaska’s sweltering summer is ‘basically off the charts’ | Washington Post
"Amid an ongoing heat wave, new data show the Greenland ice sheet is in the middle of its biggest melt season in recorded history. It’s the latest worrying signal climate change is accelerating far beyond the worst fears of even climate scientists.
The record-setting heat wave that sweltered northern Europe last week has moved north over the critically vulnerable Greenland ice sheet, triggering temperatures this week that are as much as 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal.
Weather models indicate Tuesday’s temperature may have surpassed 75 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions of Greenland, and a weather balloon launched near the capital Nuuk measured all-time record warmth just above the surface. That heat wave is still intensifying, and is expected to peak on Thursday with the biggest single-day melt ever recorded in Greenland. On August 1 alone, more than 12 billion tons of water will permanently melt away from the ice sheet and find its way down to the ocean, irreversibly raising sea levels globally."
Greenland Is Melting Away Before Our Eyes | Rolling Stone

And Now, a Bicycle Built for None | NYT

Tbd when the first self-driving bike will be crushed by a self-driving car...
"It is not the first-ever autonomous bicycle (Cornell University has a project underway) or, probably, the future of transportation, although it could find a niche in a future world swarming with package-delivery vehicles, drones and robots. (There are even weirder ideas out there.) Nonetheless, the Chinese researchers who built the bike believe it demonstrates the future of computer hardware. It navigates the world with help from what is called a neuromorphic chip, modeled after the human brain.

In a paper published on Wednesday in Nature, the researchers described how such a chip could help machines respond to voice commands, recognize the surrounding world, avoid obstacles and maintain balance. The researchers also provided a video showing these skills at work on a motorized bicycle."
And Now, a Bicycle Built for None | NYT

IBM Fired as Many as 100,000 in Recent Years, Lawsuit Shows | Bloomberg

Earlier in the article: "“We have reinvented IBM in the past five years to target higher value opportunities for our clients,” IBM said in a statement. “The company hires 50,000 employees each year.”"
"In a deposition in one of the civil cases, Alan Wild, former vice president of human resources, said IBM had “laid off 50,000 to 100,000 employees in just the last several years,” according to a court document filed Tuesday in Texas.

In his deposition, Wild said 108-year-old IBM faced talent recruitment problems and determined one way to show millennials that IBM was not “an old fuddy duddy organization” was to make itself appear “as [a] cool, trendy organization” like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon.com Inc., according to the document. To do that, IBM set out to slough off large portions of its older workforce using rolling layoffs over the course of several years, according to court documents."
IBM Fired as Many as 100,000 in Recent Years, Lawsuit Shows | Bloomberg

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Monday.com raises $150M more, now at $1.9B valuation, for workplace collaboration tools | TechCrunch

For comparison, Atlassian's market cap is ~$32.5B
"The closer rivals, they note, are the likes of Airtable (now valued at $1.1 billion) and Notion (which we’ve confirmed with the company was raising and has now officially closed a round of $10 million on an equally outsized valuation of $800 million), as well as the wider field of project management tools like Jira, Wrike and Asana — although as Mann playfully pointed out, all of those could also feasibly be integrated into Monday.com and they would work better…

The market is still so nascent for collaboration tools that even with this crowded field, Mann said he believes there is room for everyone and the differentiations that each platform currently offers: Notion, he noted as an example, feels geared toward more personal workspace management, while Airtable  is more about taking on spreadsheets.

Within that, Monday.com hopes to position itself as the ever-powerful and smart go-to place to get an overview of everything that’s happening, with low chat noise and no need for technical knowledge to gain understanding."
Monday.com raises $150M more, now at $1.9B valuation, for workplace collaboration tools | TechCrunch

Google Chrome 76 arrives, makes it harder to use Flash and easier to dodge paywalls | The Verge

Unsurprisingly, the detailed release overview at New in Chrome 76 | Google Developers neglects to mention the paywall permeability part (which appears to be an "actual results may vary" proposition anyway, e.g., the WSJ and Bloomberg Businessweek paywalls still work in Chrome 76 Incognito mode)
"While Adobe Flash won’t truly die till 2020 and has been blocked by every major browser in one way or another for several years now, Chrome 76 is taking it one step further. Not only are individual Flash items blocked by default, but now the entire browser feature is off by default as well. If you head over to chrome://settings/content/flash, you should see the with the little “Ask First” setting flipped off instead of on, according to 9to5Google.

Another somewhat covert tweak: Google Chrome developer Paul Irish says that websites will no longer be able to detect when your Chrome browser is in Incognito Mode. That one’s going to be pain for publishers like The New York Times which use those detection schemes to keep you from reading an infinite number of free stories — and steer you into paying for a subscription."
Google Chrome 76 arrives, makes it harder to use Flash and easier to dodge paywalls | The Verge

Facebook Closer to Augmented Reality Glasses With Brain Implant That Decodes Dialogue From Neural Activity | IEEE Spectrum

For more details, see Imagining a new interface: Hands-free communication without saying a word | Tech@Facebook; also see Brain-computer interfaces are developing faster than the policy debate around them | The Verge
"Chevillet’s optimism is fueled in large part by a first in the field of brain-computer interfaces that hit the presses this morning: In the journal Nature Communications, a team at the University of California, San Francisco, funded by Facebook Reality Labs, has built a brain-computer interface that accurately decodes dialogue—words and phrases both heard and spoken by the person wearing the device—from brain signals in real time.

The results are an important step toward neural implants could be used to restore natural communication to patients who have lost the ability to speak due to stroke, spinal cord injury, or other conditions, says senior author and UCSF neurosurgeon Edward Chang.

Facebook, however, is more interested in building augmented reality glasses than biomedical devices. This work provides a proof of principle that it is possible to decode imagined speech from brain signals by measuring the activity of large populations of neurons, says Chevillet. “This [result] helps set the specification of what type of a wearable device we need to build.”"
Facebook Closer to Augmented Reality Glasses With Brain Implant That Decodes Dialogue From Neural Activity | IEEE Spectrum

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Apple beats Q3 estimates with record Services revenue | TechCrunch

Diversify different
"While Cook stressed improving iPhone trends, revenue from iPhone sales totaled $25.99 billion, down from $29.47 billion in Q3 2018. Apple no longer breaks out product unit sales by device.

Mac sales totaled $5.82 billion, up from $5.26 billion, and iPad sales came to $5.02 billion, up from $4.63 billion. The Wearables, Home and Accessories segment brought in $5.53 billion, up from $3.73 billion. Apple's Wearables business is now bigger than 60 percent of the Fortune 500, Cook boasted on a conference call Tuesday.

Services revenue came to $11.46 billion, up from $10.17 billion. The company expects its momentum in Services to continue, particularly with important launches on the horizon. The Apple Card, the company's upcoming credit card that relies on the iPhone, will launch in August, Cook announced Tuesday. Meanwhile, Apple Arcade and Apple TV Plus will roll out in the fall."
Apple beats Q3 estimates with record Services revenue | TechCrunch

Facebook’s Libra Could Aid Law Enforcement | WSJ [via Apple News+]

Tbd if law enforcement agencies will have to pay for targeting based on Libra user information, following the traditional Facebook business model...
"Lawmakers were up in arms this month about whether Libra, Facebook Inc.’s proposed new cryptocurrency, would be a haven for money launderers and other criminal activities.
Facebook, though, says Libra could be a valuable tool for law enforcement, partly because of the vast amounts of information that will be generated about its users. That was the message Facebook executive David Marcus took to Congress during hearings this month.
The conversation represents how some portions of the crypto world are trying to move beyond the industry’s Wild West heyday and become a viable payments option."
Facebook’s Libra Could Aid Law Enforcement | WSJ [via Apple News+]

Introducing Megapack: Utility-Scale Energy Storage | Tesla blog

Check this Tesla page for details
"Megapack significantly reduces the complexity of large-scale battery storage and provides an easy installation and connection process. Each Megapack comes from the factory fully-assembled with up to 3 megawatt hours (MWhs) of storage and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity, building on Powerpack’s engineering with an AC interface and 60% increase in energy density to achieve significant cost and time savings compared to other battery systems and traditional fossil fuel power plants. Using Megapack, Tesla can deploy an emissions-free 250 MW, 1 GWh power plant in less than three months on a three-acre footprint – four times faster than a traditional fossil fuel power plant of that size. Megapack can also be DC-connected directly to solar, creating seamless renewable energy plants.

For utility-size installations like the upcoming Moss Landing project in California with PG&E, Megapack will act as a sustainable alternative to natural gas “peaker” power plants. Peaker power plants fire up whenever the local utility grid can’t provide enough power to meet peak demand. They cost millions of dollars per day to operate and are some of the least efficient and dirtiest plants on the grid. Instead, a Megapack installation can use stored excess solar or wind energy to support the grid’s peak loads."
Introducing Megapack: Utility-Scale Energy Storage | Tesla blog

Capital One says data breach affected 100 million credit card applications | Washington Post

What's in your wallet? Ask a hacker...
"Capital One, the Virginia-based bank with a popular credit card business, announced Monday that a hacker had accessed about 100 million credit card applications, and investigators say thousands of Social Security and bank account numbers were also taken.

The FBI has arrested a Seattle area woman, Paige A. Thompson, on a charge of computer fraud and abuse, according to court records.

The hack appears to be one of the largest data breaches ever to hit a financial services firm. In 2017, the credit-reporting company Equifax disclosed that hackers had stolen the personal information of 147 million people. Last week, it reached a $700 million settlement with U.S. regulators over that breach."
Capital One says data breach affected 100 million credit card applications | Washington Post

Pentagon issues forceful rebuke of Oracle as debate over a massive federal contract turns caustic | Washington Post

Not fault tolerant
"The Pentagon issued an unusually strong rebuke of Oracle over the weekend, accusing the company of employing “poorly-informed and often manipulative speculation” in its efforts to undermine the military’s process of awarding a massive 10-year contract for cloud computing technology.

The remarks were the latest flash point in the long-running dispute over the bidding process for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), a $10 billion contract that would be one of the federal government’s most expensive information technology procurements ever." 
Pentagon issues forceful rebuke of Oracle as debate over a massive federal contract turns caustic | Washington Post

Friday, July 26, 2019

Russia Targeted Elections Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds | NYT

On a related note, see Mitch McConnell is right. Secure, open elections would elect more Democrats. | Washington Post
"The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time.

But while the bipartisan report’s warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out.

The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came 24 hours after the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.”"
Russia Targeted Elections Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds | NYT