"The plane flew as high as 3,000 feet, up from the 2,150 feet it did a year ago. Eventually, Facebook hopes Aquila will fly between 60,000 and 90,000 feet in the air for months at a time in order to beam wireless internet down to rural areas of the world where that are currently off the grid.Facebook’s internet-beaming drone completed its second test flight and landed ‘perfectly’ - Recode
Why is Facebook doing this? Because it’s impossible to accomplish its mission, which is to connect everyone in the world, without everyone first being on the internet. Facebook announced this week that it now has two billion total users. Getting to three billion will likely require improvements to wireless infrastructure, so Facebook is hoping to speed things along.
But this will still take some time. Facebook first announced the drone almost two years ago and just completed its second test flight at about 5 percent of the minimum elevation it hopes to achieve."
Friday, June 30, 2017
For more details, see Aquila's successful second flight: Another step forward in bringing the world closer together (Facebook Code blog)
Perhaps Trump's Twitter adventure may be over soon...
"Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information, according to two people familiar with the company's projects.Twitter is looking for ways to let users flag fake news, offensive content - The Washington Post
The feature, which is still in a prototype phase and may never be released, is part of the company’s uphill battle against rampant abuse on its platform. It could look like a tiny tab appearing in a drop-down menu alongside tweets, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the effort."
Likely to mainstream just in time for the 2020 election...
"The video, called “Alternative Face v1.1”, is the work of Mario Klingemann, a German artist. It plays audio from an NBC interview with Ms Conway through the mouth of Ms Hardy’s digital ghost. The video is wobbly and pixelated; a competent visual-effects shop could do much better. But Mr Klingemann did not fiddle with editing software to make it. Instead, he took only a few days to create the clip on a desktop computer using a generative adversarial network (GAN), a type of machine-learning algorithm. His computer spat it out automatically after being force fed old music videos of Ms Hardy. It is a recording of something that never happened. Mr Klingemann’s experiment foreshadows a new battlefield between falsehood and veracity. Faith in written information is under attack in some quarters by the spread of what is loosely known as “fake news”. But images and sound recordings retain for many an inherent trustworthiness. GANs are part of a technological wave that threatens this credibility."Fake news: you ain’t seen nothing yet
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Also see Here's why Elon Musk is waxing philosophical about floors (Business Insider)
"We don’t have details on what Musk hammered out with the city of LA. But he did tweet earlier this month about a meeting with L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti to lay the groundwork for the neccesary permits and regulatory approvals he’d need to start digging with Godot, which weighs about 1,200 tons and runs about 400 feet long. Musk said last month that the first tunnel would run from LAX to Culver City, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Sherman Oaks, with later tunnels covering more of the greater LA area. Now, it looks like the LAX to Culver City route appears underway."Elon Musk's boring machine completes the first section of an LA tunnel | The Verge
Also see Robocalypse Now? Central Bankers Argue Whether Automation Will Kill Jobs (NYT)
"Gains would be split between $6.6 trillion from increased productivity as businesses automate processes and augment their labor forces with new AI technology, and $9.1 trillion from consumption side-effects as shoppers snap up personalized and higher-quality goods, according to the report.AI Will Add $15.7 Trillion to the Global Economy - Bloomberg
“The mindset today is man versus machine,” Anand Rao, an AI researcher at PwC in Boston, said at a briefing Tuesday at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions gathering in Dalian, China, where the report was released. “What we see as the future is man and machine together can be better than the human.”
Global GDP, which stood at about $74 trillion in 2015, will be 14 percent higher in 2030 as a result of AI, according to PwC’s projections."
Also see Trump, Amazon and ‘Internet Taxes’: What Did He Mean? (NYT)
"The Trump administration does have the power to cause trouble for Amazon and Bezos. Trump has said that Amazon has a “huge antitrust” problem, arguing that the company has destroyed department stores and the retail industry. That hasn’t kept the company’s stock from rising 27 percent since election day, and recently topping $1,000. But Amazon’s proposed acquisition of Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, raises a new antitrust vulnerability for the company.Trump Attacks the 'AmazonWashingtonPost' Over Taxes - Bloomberg
Of course, that’s getting pretty far ahead of Wednesday's tweet. The AmazonWashingtonPost wasn’t the only target in the president’s morning Twitter fusillade. He also criticized the New York Times as a “Fake News Joke!” and said “some of the Fake News Media” were wrongly accusing him of being unengaged in the health care debate. The Times ran a front-page story saying that Republican senators were keeping Trump at arms length as it tried to write new health care legislation."
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Also see Redesigning Google News for everyone (Google Keyword blog) for details including "a dedicated Fact Check block"
"It’s difficult to believe that Google News is 15 years old. In that time, it has been through a number of feature changes and minor redesigns. The last major redesign was in 2010, but today it’s getting another one.Google News gets a cleaner look, new features to make it 'more accessible'
The idea is to add feature and content depth but also simplify the layout and navigation. I spoke with Anand Paka, the Google News product manager. He said the redesign intends to connect users with more quality journalism and to make Google News more “accessible” to everyone and less of a power user product."
Also see Facebook’s First, Second, and Third Billions: How Facebook got here, and how it’ll get there (Beyond Devices)
"The user base is bigger than the population of any single country, and of six of the seven continents. It represents more than a quarter of the world's 7.5 billion people.Facebook Hits 2 Billion-User Mark, Doubling in Size Since 2012 - The New York Times
Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through its website or a mobile device, or used its Messenger app, in the past 30 days. It does not include people who use the Instagram or WhatsApp networks but not Facebook."
Based on their recent health care plan, GOP leaders probably won't be interested if IBM isn't planning to leverage Watson to kill jobs and/or people
"The brains behind IBM’s Jeopardy-winning, disease-tracking, weather-mapping Watson supercomputer plan to embark on a lobbying blitz in Washington, D.C., this week, hoping to show federal lawmakers that artificial intelligence isn’t going to kill jobs — or humans.IBM is telling Congress not to fear the rise of an AI ‘overlord’ - Recode
To hear IBM tell it, much of the recent criticism around machine learning, robotics and other kinds of AI amounts to merely “fear mongering.” The company’s senior vice president for Watson, David Kenny, aims to convey that message to members of Congress beginning with a letter on Tuesday, stressing the “real disaster would be abandoning or inhibiting cognitive technology before its full potential can be realized.”"
Also see Box and Microsoft partner for cloud content management with Azure (Microsoft News Center)
"By default, documents stored on Box sit on Box’s own servers and are backed up on AWS, according to Box’s chief strategy officer Jeetu Patel.Box salespeople are going to start pitching storage on Microsoft Azure - Recode
Box also offers an option for selecting geographic zones to store data, meaning companies can store information with Box on servers in specific countries, in order, for example, to comply with those country’s laws about data storage.
Data stored abroad is sometimes contained on servers from IBM, said Patel. As part of this agreement, Box will start adding Azure’s international locations to its zoned data program."
Also see Ransomware Cyberattack Goes Global (Bloomberg)
"The rise of ransomware has coincided with two other major changes in the cyber black market. The first is the growing amount of leaked attack tools from the U.S. government available online. The second is the growing use of digital currencies, which give hackers an easy and potentially anonymous way to get paid. The malware unleashed Tuesday demands payment of $300 in bitcoin. The reason many ransomware operators ask for relatively small payments is that the amount needs to be low enough that enough people will pay, but high enough that it’s worth the effort to attack. Given the secretive nature of cryptocurrencies and the shadowy world in which cybercriminals operate, it’s virtually impossible to get an accurate read on exactly how much the hackers rake in.Ransomware Becomes Go-To Hack as Bitcoin Rallies, NSA Tools Leak - Bloomberg
Because there’s a glut of credit card and identity data for sale on the black market, it’s gotten harder for criminals to get paid, said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy for SentinelOne. But rather than try to sell data to a third party, attackers instead encrypt it -- demanding that the victim pay to get it back."
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Check the full post for related links
SpaceX is even landing rockets in augmented reality - The Verge
"Like most other ARKit demos we’ve seen so far, this one is brief, and it’s not trying to solve a problem (like this digital measuring tape, for example). But it further illustrates how Apple’s first attempt at augmented reality could be the kind of dazzling feature that the last few iPhones have been missing. And it’s another piece of evidence that ARKit is going to be pretty accurate even without the help of depth sensors. (Though there are rumors that those might be coming to the next iPhone.)
More importantly, seeing demos like these pop up just weeks after ARKit was released is a sign that the platform Apple has built is easier and more accessible to developers than what’s available from the competition. Garcia says he’d never even worked with augmented reality before ARKit, but he’s already working with a team to be ready for when iOS 11 opens up this new segment in the app market."
SpaceX is even landing rockets in augmented reality - The Verge
Interesting automotive times
"Old-school rental-car agencies may have a road map to prosper in the age of self-driving taxis after all.
Avis Budget Group Inc. agreed to manage a fleet of 600 self-driving Chrysler minivans for Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo autonomous technology division. In addition, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. will lease Lexus sport-utility vehicles to Apple Inc., which will convert them to self-driving cars, said people familiar with the matter Monday.
Those deals, while small in scope, comforted investors enough to push up shares of both companies by 14 percent, a remarkable one-day showing for an industry whose stocks have long been out of favor. The reason for the optimism: Calling on the likes of Avis and Hertz shows that Apple and Waymo are willing to partner with traditional players instead of driving them into oblivion. The big technology companies may want into the self-driving vehicle business, but they don’t necessarily want to build, own or shine the metal."Waymo, Apple Deals Bolster Rental-Car Firms for Ride-Sharing Age - Bloomberg
From an extensive Code.org profile
"In a few short years, Code.org has raised more than $60 million from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Salesforce, along with individual tech executives and foundations. It has helped to persuade two dozen states to change their education policies and laws, Mr. Partovi said, while creating free introductory coding lessons, called Hour of Code, which more than 100 million students worldwide have tried.How Silicon Valley Pushed Coding Into American Classrooms - The New York Times
Along the way, Code.org has emerged as a new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform: a social-media-savvy entity that pushes for education policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers — touching nearly every facet of the education supply chain."
Another industry record for Google -- final paragraphs:
"Whatever the outcome, analysts expect a protracted legal battle that will continue for several years as both Google and its rivals fight to define how the search giant can offer its services to Europeans and those farther afield.Google Fined $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling - The New York Times
“The changes could have ramifications beyond Google Shopping, and might even impact Google’s operations in the U.S.,” a number of American companies that have filed antitrust complaints against Google said in a public letter ahead of the ruling on Tuesday. The signatories included Oracle, News Corporation and Yelp."
Monday, June 26, 2017
"But the average person would be wise to wait before buying the Echo Show.Alexa, What Happens if the Echo Has a Screen? You Get This Review - The New York Times
The device is the priciest in the Echo family — $50 more than the Echo speaker and $180 more than the Echo Dot, the miniature version of the speaker. And it remains to be seen what third-party companies do with applications designed for an always-on screen that stays put.
Until then, you could always grab a tablet you already own, put it on a stand and leave it plugged in. The results will most likely be the same."
From a timely AI reality check
"Unlike the Industrial Revolution and the computer revolution, the A.I. revolution is not taking certain jobs (artisans, personal assistants who use paper and typewriters) and replacing them with other jobs (assembly-line workers, personal assistants conversant with computers). Instead, it is poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs — mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too.The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence - The New York Times
This transformation will result in enormous profits for the companies that develop A.I., as well as for the companies that adopt it. Imagine how much money a company like Uber would make if it used only robot drivers. Imagine the profits if Apple could manufacture its products without human labor. Imagine the gains to a loan company that could issue 30 million loans a year with virtually no human involvement. (As it happens, my venture capital firm has invested in just such a loan company.)
We are thus facing two developments that do not sit easily together: enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands and enormous numbers of people out of work. What is to be done?"
Coming soon to an iOS device near you
"Apple has often been accused of acting like it invented things that others have been doing for years. That complaint is not without merit, however Apple can lay claim to transforming existing things into mainstream successes, which takes no small amount of invention in its own right. Fingerprint authentication and contactless payments are just two recent examples, having both existed in Japan and on niche devices for over a decade before Apple raised them to global prominence with the iPhone.Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s | The Verge
Next up on Apple's agenda is augmented reality, the act of superimposing digital data and visuals atop a live video feed of your surroundings — something that Google, Microsoft, and many others have been experimenting with for a long time. Apple is far from being able to claim it invented AR, but its new ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs to suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else."
"The company did read the emails in personal Gmail accounts in order to target users with personalised adverts but said in a blogpost it would stop doing so in order to “more closely align” its business and consumer products. Its business offering, part of G Suite, has never involved scanning emails.Google will stop scanning content of personal emails | Technology | The Guardian
“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalisation,” wrote Diane Greene, the senior vice president in charge of Google Cloud. “Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service. Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change.”"
From a profile of a pioneer
"Dictate a text on your smartphone, search for a photo on Google or, in the not too distant future, ride in a self-driving car, and you will be using technology based partly on Dr. Hinton’s ideas.
His impact on artificial intelligence research has been so deep that some people in the field talk about the “six degrees of Geoffrey Hinton” the way college students once referred to Kevin Bacon’s uncanny connections to so many Hollywood movies.The Man Who Helped Turn Toronto Into a High-Tech Hotbed - The New York Times:
Dr. Hinton’s students and associates are now leading lights of artificial intelligence research at Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber, and run artificial intelligence programs at the University of Montreal and OpenAI, a nonprofit research company."
From a Cisco reality check
Cisco adapts to the rise of cloud computing
"But Cisco’s franchise is facing two threats. First, the more computing is done in the cloud, the less firms have to buy their own gear, including networking equipment. Instead of paying for an “end-to-end network” from Cisco, big cloud operators such as Amazon and Microsoft prefer gear that precisely fits their requirements. This is why Cisco’s cloud sales have disappointed, while more specialised vendors such as Arista have made inroads. The second threat is that software is increasingly important to how networks are run: that makes it easier for rivals to sidestep or overtake Cisco’s products.
Under Mr Robbins, Cisco has responded in several ways. It is offering tailor-made products to the big cloud providers. It has beefed up its software and services business and, to ensure more stable revenues, is making more of its products available as a subscription. Earlier this year the firm bought AppDynamics, which makes software to monitor the performance of corporate applications, and Viptela, whose programs manage networks, for $3.7bn and $610m respectively. Subscriptions and other recurring income now make up a tenth of Cisco’s revenues from products."
Cisco adapts to the rise of cloud computing
Friday, June 23, 2017
On a related note, see Uber Can’t Be Fixed — It’s Time for Regulators to Shut It Down (Harvard Business Review)
"Uber’s legal fees promise is further evidence that the talent competition in the driverless car sector is cut-throat. It was a highly risky benefit to offer, according to Jim Pooley, a lawyer at Orrick in Menlo Park, California.Uber Made an Unusual Legal Pledge to the Head of Its Driverless Car Project - Bloomberg
The indemnification document may be “very powerful” evidence that Uber suspected Levandowski would be taking proprietary information from Waymo, said Pooley, who has more than 35 years of litigation experience and is the author of the “Secrets: Managing Information Assets in the Age of Cyberespionage.”"
The new Facebook mission statement: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
"Zuckerberg announced the change today at the Facebook Communities Summit for top Group admins where it announced new Group management tools. “For the last decade or so we’ve been focusing on making the world more open and connected. But I used to think that if we just give people a voice and help some people connect that that would make the world a whole lot better by itself,” Zuckerberg admits. “Look around and our society is still so divided. We have a responsibility to do more, not just to connect the world but to bring the world closer together.”Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’ | TechCrunch
Rather than have the new mission be just a philosophy, Zuckerberg says Facebook is turning it into a goal. “We want to help 1 billion people join meaningful communities. If we can do this it will not only reverse the whole decline in community membership we’ve seen around the world… but it will also strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.” Right now Facebook considers there to be only 100 million meaningful group members."
Looking forward to my last Verizon bill in <= 2019
"For many, it's been a years-long pipe dream: Ultra-fast, lag-free Internet that comes to your PC or smartphone via satellite instead of a wire into your home. Facebook, Google and even SpaceX have all explored the idea, partly in hopes of selling broadband access to a growing market with enormous potential — the developing world.We’re one step closer to getting cheaper, faster Internet from space - The Washington Post
But now, a former Googler and friend of Elon Musk has beaten them all to the punch, becoming the first to receive permission to actually build a next-generation satellite Internet service that targets U.S. customers. If it takes off, the project could benefit Americans nationwide by providing broadband anywhere in the United States, particularly in rural areas where it can be difficult to provide fast Internet connections using traditional ground-based cables."
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Google's Eric Schmidt: We need critical thinking now more than ever | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian
From an overview of a timely Eric Schmidt reality check
"He acknowledged that the fast pace of innovation had made many wary of change. But he emphasised that machine learning and artificial intelligence hold opportunities for a broad range of sectors, including farming, energy, fashion, and healthcare, even if they operated very differently to today.
“The largest taxi company has no taxis, that’s Uber. The largest accommodation company has no real estate, that’s Airbnb. The largest phone company has no infrastructure, that’s Skype. The most valuable retailer has no inventory, that’s Alibaba. The largest movie theatre, has no movie theatres, that’s Netflix.Google's Eric Schmidt: We need critical thinking now more than ever | Guardian Small Business Network | The Guardian
“These of course are huge disruptions ... and incumbents [always] resist change. When Henry Ford released his Model T car, it was dismissed as a fad because horses are here to stay. In 1928, a doctor warned that rail travel at high speeds would cause passengers to die of asphyxiation. And – my favourite – in 2007, [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer said there was no chance the iPhone was going to achieve any significant market share.”"
See the full article for additional advice
""Democracy dies in darkness." Before introducing its infamous tagline in the wake of President Donald Trump's election, the Post worked on it for more than a year trying to make it sound a little less ... dark. But it couldn't figure out a way.Jeff Bezos' lessons from Washington Post for news industry
"We wanted a positive version of 'democracy dies in darkness,' and literally we had some of the smartest writers in the world try to invert 'democracy dies in darkness' to get a positive version of it, and we couldn't do it, so we said to hell with it."
His final advice: "When you're writing, be riveting, be right and ask people to pay. They will pay.""
From a post by the CEO of Twist creator Doist; also see Twist is Slack without the annoying distractions (TechCrunch)
"Whether it’s Facebook or Slack, today’s communication apps compete to grab your attention and maximize your time spent inside their apps. That’s how they raise VC money and bolster huge valuations (Slack is currently valued at 3.8 billion dollars).Why we’re betting against real-time team messaging – Ambition & Balance
We want Twist to do well and be profitable, but we want it to be because it truly empowers teams (including ours) to do their best work, not because it hijacks their time and attention. It’s about having a product that’s built to serve users’ needs and not the other way around.
It’s going to be a long, uphill battle. Calm, asynchronous communication isn’t the norm. It’s going to take a major shift in thinking to recognize that focus and balance are vital assets that companies need to protect in order to be successful."
Perhaps not dead yet
"After Glass' initial launch and failure, the Glass team "graduated" Google X and moved it under the control of Nest's then-boss Tony Fadell. Fadell had the group "reset their strategy" for a new version, and Google even hired a bunch of people from Amazon's Fire Phone team, but a followup never came. The last we heard from the group was a foldable prototype unit that hit the FCC at the end of 2015.Google Glass is apparently back from the dead, starts getting software updates | Ars Technica
The new updates certainly make it seem like no one has been doing Glass development work over the last three years. Both the firmware and app seem mostly unchanged compared to the version from three years ago other than the aforementioned bug fixes. It's very odd that Google would suddenly start sending out updates, especially to a device that is around five years old. I'd imagine most Glass units are even broken at this point or in need of new flash storage or a battery replacement. Is the Glass team starting up again, or was someone at Google just really bored this week?"
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Apple began "Project Purple" because Steve Jobs hated Microsoft exec, says Scott Forstall (AppleInsider)
More iPhone 10th anniversary insights -- context: "In his first public interview since leaving Apple in 2012, former head of iOS development Scott Forstall provided commentary on his background, the first iPhone and his relationship with company cofounder Steve Jobs."
"According to the former executive, it was Jobs' hatred of a particular Microsoft executive that sparked his interest in tablet computing. Jobs' wife Laurene had a friend whose husband worked for Microsoft, Forstall said. This unnamed executive apparently rubbed Jobs the wrong way on multiple occasions, but it was one meeting in particular that set the tech guru off.Apple began "Project Purple" because Steve Jobs hated Microsoft exec, says Scott Forstall
Microsoft was developing a tablet platform based on stylus interactions that was cutting edge for the time. The unnamed executive "shoved it in Steve's face" that the technology would "rule the world." Pooh-poohing the notion of a stylus first user interface, Jobs decided to challenge Microsoft with Apple's own solution."
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on - Recode
A new chapter begins for Uber
"Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo.Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on - Recode
Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay.
But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called “Moving Uber Forward” on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit."
""Advanced sensors and camera capabilities will enhance the iPhone; eventually there could be independent hardware offerings, perhaps iGlass," UBS analyst Steven Milunovich said. "We can imagine a pair of glasses with quintessential Apple design (iGlass), which enable a Hololens-type experience," the company said, referring to Microsoft's bulky alternative.Apple smart glasses for augmented reality could leverage iPhone power, UBS says
"However, the amount of compute power and sensors required likely pose a serious design challenge. If Apple could find a way to send massive amounts of data from the eyeglasses to the iPhone where the bulk of the compute would occur, the eyewear could have a more attractive design. The issue then becomes how to transfer massive amounts of complex data between devices quickly.""
From a timely Amazon reality check
"But antitrust officials would be naïve to view this deal as simply about groceries. Buying Whole Foods will enable Amazon to leverage and amplify the extraordinary power it enjoys in online markets and delivery, making an even greater share of commerce part of its fief.Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power - The New York Times
The company has established its level of dominance because of the failings of our current antitrust laws. To understand why, you first need to understand the scope of Amazon’s power. It has captured 43 percent of all internet retail sales in the United States, with half of all online shopping searches starting on Amazon. In 2016, it had over $63 billion in revenue from online sales in the United States — or more than the next 10 top online retailers combined. It controls 74 percent of e-book sales, is the largest seller of clothes online and is set to soon become the biggest apparel retailer in the country."
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
See Connecting more Americans with jobs (Google Keyword blog) for more details
"Looking for a new job is getting easier. Google today launched a new jobs search feature right on its search result pages that lets you search for jobs across virtually all of the major online job boards like LinkedIn, Monster, WayUp, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilder and Facebook and others. Google will also include job listings its finds on a company’s homepage.Google launches its AI-powered jobs search engine | TechCrunch
The idea here is to give job seekers an easy way to see which jobs are available without having to go to multiple sites only to find duplicate postings and lots of irrelevant jobs."
"This is the key to understanding the purchase of Whole Foods: to the outside it may seem that Amazon is buying a retailer. The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.Amazon’s New Customer – Stratechery by Ben Thompson
Today, all of the logistics that go into a Whole Foods store are for the purpose of stocking physical shelves: the entire operation is integrated. What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets."
Just another day in White House Reality TV
"“Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” said Mr. Trump, who strolled in at the end of the meeting to greet the tech titans. “We’re going to change that with the help of great American businesses like the people assembled.”
He later said, drawing laughter, “We have approximately $3.5 trillion of market value in this room — but that’s almost the exact number that we’ve created since my election.”Also see What you need to know about Trump’s meeting with tech CEOs (The Washington Post), which concludes:
Few technology specialists from the White House attended. The administration has not filled several major science and technology positions. But the business and economics team closest to the president attended, including Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, senior counselor for economic initiatives."
"“The whole belief that you're going to bring these high-level thinkers to a table for an hour or two and have them solve all these things is at the heart of what this administration's problems are,” said one tech industry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the topic more freely. “As Trump has said, 'Who knew health care could be so difficult?' Well, who knew that cloud infrastructure could be so difficult? Who knew that Big Data could be so difficult? They're all about the scalps in the room.”"Tech Titans Make Pilgrimage to White House to Discuss Government Systems - The New York Times
From a digital advertising reality check
"Google and Facebook together collect nearly half of global spending. Last year, the U.S. online ad market expanded by nearly $12 billion and the two firms accounted for over 77% of that spending growth, according to eMarketer.The Race Is On to Challenge Google-Facebook ‘Duopoly’ in Digital Advertising - WSJ
Advertisers are hoping for the emergence of a legitimate third player to provide competition that can give them more leverage and help keep prices in check. For ad agencies, the matter is existential: Google and Facebook have the resources to deploy entire teams to work with marketers directly, cutting out the middleman."
Final paragraphs of a The One Device review
"But when he gets back to the actual iPhone’s creation, Merchant tells a far richer story than I — having covered Apple for years as a journalist — have seen before. If you’ve ever worked on a hopeless project that felt like it was going nowhere, you will draw spiritual strength from Merchant’s account of life in the Purple trenches. It includes fascinating dead ends and might-have- beens (a prototype based on the original iPod’s click wheel, backlit in blue and orange); personal sacrifices (“The iPhone is the reason I’m divorced”); obscure technical hurdles (the phone’s infrared proximity sensor, which turns the screen off when it’s near your head, wouldn’t recognize dark hair); backstage tension at the launch (I was actually there, watching Jobs rehearse the famous iPhone keynote, but apparently missed everything); even a symbolic onstage assassination (when Jobs publicly demonstrated swiping to delete a contact, he used Apple vice president Tony Fadell’s name, foreshadowing Fadell’s imminent departure).The iPhone Is 10 Years Old. Here’s the Story of Its Birth. - The New York Times
The iPhone masquerades as a thing not made by human hands. Merchant’s book makes visible that human labor, and in the process dispels some of the fog and reality distortion that surround the iPhone. “The One Device” isn’t definitive, but it’s a start. What we need is the critical equivalent of a Pentalobe, a book that will crack open the meaning of the iPhone, to properly interrogate this digital symbiont, or parasite, that has introduced new kinds of both connection and disconnection into our lives. If the iPhone was a revolution, who or what exactly was overthrown? One of the stories Merchant tells comes from Grignon, who was the first person to receive a call on the iPhone. The punch line is that he didn’t pick up. “Instead of being this awesome Alexander Graham Bell moment, it was just like, ‘Yeah,… go to voice mail,’” Grignon says. “I think it’s very apropos, given where we are now.”"
Monday, June 19, 2017
Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter (The Intercept)
Oops... See The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak (UpGuard) for more details
"What UpGuard appears to have discovered, sitting on an Amazon cloud storage drive with no password or username required for access by anyone on the internet, was terabytes of the data used to map the voter proclivities and demographics key to finding voters in those buckets. Beyond personal information like religion, age, and probable ethnicity, certain database files among those made public include individual scores for nearly 50 different beliefs, according to UpGuard’s analysisRepublican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter
Most Americans would likely be disturbed that this kind of information was generated about them in the first place, to say nothing of the fact that it was accidentally made public by the very companies being paid by the Republican Party to make it, with essentially zero security precautions of any kind taken with how it was stored in the cloud."
Excerpt from a multi-book review by Walter Isaacson
"Three new fast-paced narrative books written by seasoned business journalists (all of whom I have known since my days in the magazine world) detail the personal, financial and social aspects of the rise of these companies. “Wild Ride,” by Adam Lashinsky, executive editor of Fortune, is a crisp and lively look at both the good and bad aspects of the rise of Uber and its C.E.O., Kalanick. His Fortune colleague Leigh Gallagher has similarly produced a colorful account of Airbnb and its C.E.O., Brian Chesky, “The Airbnb Story.” And Brad Stone of Bloomberg News has intertwined the two tales in “The Upstarts,” a richly researched and highly readable narrative that provides additional layers of insight by weaving in contrasting stories of competing companies that failed.
In addition to these narratives, which are generally celebratory, it is also useful to read a darker counterpoint, Jonathan Taplin’s “Move Fast and Break Things,” which argues that the radical libertarian ideology and monopolistic greed of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs helped to decimate the livelihood of musicians and is now undermining the communal idealism of the early internet. “The original mission of the internet,” he writes, “was hijacked by a small group of right-wing radicals to whom the ideas of democracy and decentralization were anathema.”"How Uber and Airbnb Became Poster Children for the Disruption Economy - The New York Times
Check the full post for details
"While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.Four steps we’re taking today to fight online terror
We have thousands of people around the world who review and counter abuse of our platforms. Our engineers have developed technology to prevent re-uploads of known terrorist content using image-matching technology. We have invested in systems that use content-based signals to help identify new videos for removal. And we have developed partnerships with expert groups, counter-extremism agencies, and the other technology companies to help inform and strengthen our efforts.
Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps."
Amazon’s Whole Foods buy removed nearly $22 billion in market value from rival supermarkets - Recode
New retail math; also see How Amazon Is Changing the Whole Concept of Monopoly (The New Republic)
"Amazon’s Friday morning announcement that it was acquiring Whole Foods sent the high-end grocery’s stock soaring. This was bad news for Whole Foods’ grocery competitors, who now face a fierce battle with Amazon.Amazon’s Whole Foods buy removed nearly $22 billion in market value from rival supermarkets - Recode
Target, Kroger, Costco, Walmart, Dollar General, SuperValu and Sprouts lost a combined market value of $21.7 billion in one day — 6 percent of their total worth, according to data from FactSet.
Whole Foods, on the other hand, gained more than $3 billion in market cap, up 29 percent, from Thursday to Friday and nearing its $13.7 billion purchase price."
Saturday, June 17, 2017
From a wide-ranging interview
"How do you respond to critics who say Apple isn’t as innovative as it once was?Apple’s Tim Cook on Donald Trump, the HomePod, and the Legacy of Steve Jobs - Bloomberg
We invest for the long term. We don’t feel an impatience to be first. It’s just not how we’re wired. Our thing is to be the best and to give the user something that really makes a difference in their lives. When you look back in time, the iPod was not the first MP3 player. The iPhone was not the first smartphone. The iPad was not the first tablet. I could go on.
If you get caught up in the shiny thing du jour, you lose sight of the biggest forest. When I think about the big things, I think about AR. We’re not the first people talking about AR. Nor was it our objective to be. We wanted something well thought out that we could integrate into the platform and unleash a lot of developers to do some really cool stuff with it. We’ve got a great initial start there. Same thing on the home speaker. We’ve been working on this multiple years. We didn’t feel an urgency to get something because somebody else had it. It’s actually not about competing, from our point of view. It’s about thinking through for the Apple user what thing will improve their lives."
Friday, June 16, 2017
Amazon appears to be on something of a shopping spree lately... A WSJ reporter noted, in a tweet, "Amazon did not just buy Whole Foods grocery stores. It bought 431 upper-income, prime-location distribution nodes for everything it does."
"Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) today announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire Whole Foods Market for $42 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $13.7 billion, including Whole Foods Market’s net debt.Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods Market | Business Wire
“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”"
Keep calm and carry on...
"In the report, researchers at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab describe using machine learning to train their “dialog agents” to negotiate. (And it turns out bots are actually quite good at dealmaking.) At one point, the researchers write, they had to tweak one of their models because otherwise the bot-to-bot conversation “led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating.” They had to use what’s called a fixed supervised model instead.An Artificial Intelligence Developed Its Own Non-Human Language - The Atlantic
In other words, the model that allowed two bots to have a conversation—and use machine learning to constantly iterate strategies for that conversation along the way—led to those bots communicating in their own non-human language. If this doesn’t fill you with a sense of wonder and awe about the future of machines and humanity then, I don’t know, go watch Blade Runner or something."
Another company on a similar trajectory this week: Cloudera
"That means that pretty much everyone who bought Snap stock in the days before it hit public markets is back to even on the deal. But anyone who bought the stock on its IPO day or after is in the red. Snap’s stock has dropped 30 percent in value since it closed at $24.48 on its first full day of trading.Snap stock has fallen back to its $17 IPO price - Recode
There doesn’t appear to be any particular catalyst for Thursday’s stock dip, but people are concerned about Snap’s user growth and weren’t thrilled with its Q1 revenue, which came in below analyst estimates."
Full transcript: NYU business school professor and L2 founder Scott Galloway on Recode Decode - Recode
Excerpt from the transcript of a timely and thought-provoking podcast
"I think Facebook is love. I think one of the wonderful things about our species is we have a need to be loved and a need to love others. I think the strongest indicator of whether you live to 100 — and this isn’t my research, this is a great book called “Blue Zones” — is how many people you care for and how many people you feel empathy for. I think Facebook does help us connect, have more interaction and feel empathy for other people. I think Facebook is “love.” I think it’s probably the best-managed company in the world right now. I think the best visionary, if you will, the best storyteller is Amazon. You just hear him talk and I want to buy the stock. He’s sort of the next generation Warren Buffett.Full transcript: NYU business school professor and L2 founder Scott Galloway on Recode Decode - Recode
I think in terms of a visionary with adult supervision, and great management with Sheryl Sandberg, an ability to attract really thoughtful talented people, I just think they’re an outstanding organization. They’re also responsible for the most agile move I think in the last 20 years in business, and that is 0 percent of our revenue from mobile, what was it four years ago, and within 36 months they’re at 80 percent mobile. Yahoo saw mobile coming, The Wall Street Journal saw, all of us saw mobile coming. It wasn’t a shocker, but one company was able to pivot and get 80 percent of their revenues from it. This is arguably the most agile, nimble company in the world."
See Hard Questions (Facebook Newsroom) for more details
"“Although academic research finds that the radicalization of members of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda primarily occurs offline, we know that the internet does play a role -- and we don’t want Facebook to be used for any terrorist activity whatsoever,” Bickert and Fishman write.Facebook Enlists AI, Human Experts in New Push Against Terrorism - Bloomberg
Over the past year Facebook has increased its team of counterterrorism experts and now has more than 150 people primarily dedicated to that role. Many of these people have backgrounds in law enforcement and they collectively speak almost 30 languages. In addition, Facebook has thousands of employees and contractors around the world that respond to reports of violations of its terms of service, whether that’s online bullying, posting porn or hate speech."
A less constrained Slack; also see Five Reasons Why an Amazon-Slack Deal Could Make Sense (Bloomberg)
"Slack, an office messaging company, is in talks to raise around $500 million at a valuation around $5 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the financing.Slack Is Said to Be in Talks to Raise $500 Million - The New York Times
The funding talks are advanced enough that investors are committed to the deal, but Slack could still change its mind, those people said. The company, based in San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, has already raised about $500 million over the past three years and was valued by investors last year at about $4 billion."
"The message was classic Bezos — challenging conventional wisdom, seeking the wisdom of the market and highlighting his various businesses. Yet it failed to answer a question that is likely to follow him more often if and when he becomes the richest man: What are his plans to give away some or all of his wealth?
Mr. Bezos, who owns about 17 percent of Amazon, has enjoyed what could be the most rapid personal-wealth surge in history. As Amazon’s share price has more than tripled since 2015, its leader has added more than $50 billion to his net worth, bringing his current total to nearly $83 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is now less than $7 billion shy of taking the title of the world’s richest person from Bill Gates, who has held the crown for 18 of the past 23 years."At Last, Jeff Bezos Offers a Hint of His Philanthropic Plans - The New York Times
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Toaster-fridge twilight time?
"It’s been a week with the new Pro — Microsoft’s part-tablet/part-laptop hybrid machine — and I already find myself looking longingly at the Surface Laptop. It’s not that the latest Surface Pro isn’t a good and capable machine (it is), it’s just that, well, the Laptop is much better for my needs — and, I’m sure, the needs of most users. Having a keyboard built into your machine is a lot more useful than you might think.The Surface Laptop makes the new Surface Pro mostly a nonstarter | TechCrunch
The convertible category is the sort of thing that looks great on paper — the idea of essentially getting two products for the price of one. But at the end day, how often do most users really switch back and forth? In this past week, I only pulled off the keyboard case once: when it came time to take the photos for this story. For the rest of my needs, there’s no reason to not just keep it in place."
In other Slack news, see Message Startup Slack Said to Draw Interest From Amazon.com (Bloomberg)
"Imagine returning to work after a long vacation — or even a string of back-to-back meetings — and having important information summarized for you. Think how fast you’d be able to catch up on what you’ve missed and get the context to pick up where you left off. Now with Highlights in Slack, you can do just that.Focus on the important things with Highlights in Slack
Befitting of the name, Highlights call attention to your most important messages in Slack. They are Slack’s best prediction of the information that matters to you, and are based on your interactions with people, channels, files, and apps. Highlighted messages will appear both directly within the channels you work in and collated at the top of All Unreads. Now, on to how they work."
Also see Facebook made a bot that can lie for better bargains (Engadget); perhaps not what Turing had in mind...
"Facebook claims the bots got smart enough to negotiate with humans who didn’t realize they were dealing with a machine. As explained in a Facebook blog post: “Interestingly, in the [Facebook AI Research] experiments, people did not realize they were talking to a bot and not another person — showing that the bots had learned to hold fluent conversations in English in this domain.”Facebook is building chat bots that can negotiate and plan ahead like actual humans - Recode
Facebook says that the bots even learned to bluff, pretending to care about an outcome they didn’t actually want in order to have the upper hand down the line. “This behavior was not programmed by the researchers but was discovered by the bot as a method for trying to achieve its goals,” reads Facebook’s blog post."
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus tops Consumer Reports rankings, putting pressure on next iPhone - The Washington Post
Later in the article: "One thing to note about the rankings is that the calendar tends to favor Samsung. The company usually releases its products earlier in the year before the Consumer Reports rankings come out, while Apple tends to wait until the fall. And as long as Samsung keeps its edge in features and design, this will continue to work to its advantage over Apple." Also see iPhone 7 & 7 Plus remain top-selling phones in U.S. as Samsung’s S8 sales disappoint (9to5Mac)
"The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus stood atop the newly released smartphone rankings by Consumer Reports on Tuesday, beating out Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7.Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus tops Consumer Reports rankings, putting pressure on next iPhone - The Washington Post
According to Consumer Reports, the Galaxy S8 Plus won the top spot in the annual ranking because of its high-quality camera, extended battery life and its long, slender appearance.
Its little sibling, the Galaxy S8, came in second. Samsung also took the top spot in the 2016 consumer rankings with its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge."
Amazon debuts $20 Dash Wand with Alexa inside, and tonight's it's basically free | VentureBeat | AI | by Khari Johnson
Check this Amazon page for details
"The Dash Wand is the latest Alexa-enabled device to come to market, following the Echo Show and Echo Look last month, devices that respectively brought a visual interface and computer vision to the Alexa experience.Amazon debuts $20 Dash Wand with Alexa inside, and tonight's it's basically free | VentureBeat | AI | by Khari Johnson
The Dash Wand is the size of a small remote control and fits in your palm. The device can scan bar codes to add items to your Amazon shopping list, and pressing the button on top lets you speak to Alexa for all the things Alexa does, from controlling voice apps to calling your mom or ordering a pizza."
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Tbd when Amazon will simplify the process by allowing you to direct-deposit all of your income to an Amazon account
"There are some small complications, but for the most part the program seems straightforward enough. First you have to give Amazon your debit card number as well as your bank account and routing info. You then have to transfer cash directly into an Amazon account. And then you can pay for your stuff on Amazon using that balance.
In exchange for the hassle, Amazon will give out a 2 percent bonus on all cash loaded into its system this way. While that means your money is stuck inside Amazon, it’s not a bad deal for anyone who regularly uses the site to buy stuff — which is probably a lot of Prime members."Amazon is now bribing Prime members to avoid credit card fees - The Verge
Check the source page for an extensive excerpt
"This month marks 10 years since Apple launched the first iPhone, a device that would fundamentally transform how we interact with technology, culture, and each other. Ahead of that anniversary, Motherboard editor Brian Merchant embarked on an investigation to uncover the iPhone’s untold origin. The One Device: The secret history of the iPhone, out on June 20th, traces that journey from Kenyan mines to Chinese factories all the way to One Infinite Loop. The following excerpt has been lightly condensed and edited."The secret origin story of the iPhone - The Verge
On a related note, see How Uber’s Chief Is Gaining Even More Clout in the Company (NYT)
"At Alphabet, the parent company of Google, voting power is even more concentrated because of a limited supply of supervoting shares belonging mostly to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.Alphabet shareholders want more voting rights but Larry and Sergey don’t want it that way - Recode
Basically, it’s a founders’ company with the founders controlling the outcome of the vote.
One proposal this year in particular demonstrates just how much control Page and Brin have because of their special voting powers, and it’s a proposal that deals with that very issue."
Also see One Way to Fix Uber: Think Twice Before Using It (NYT)
"Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick told staff he plans to take a leave of absence, without disclosing a return date. The company will be run by a management committee as it tries to navigate a wave of scandals.Uber CEO to Take Leave, Have Diminished Role After Scandals - Bloomberg
Upon Kalanick’s return, Uber will strip him of some duties and appoint an independent chair to limit his influence, according to an advance copy of a report prepared for the board."
Also see Marissa Mayer's farewell note (tl;dr: it wasn't my fault!)
"Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer, resigned from the company after the deal closed. Although she failed to turn around Yahoo’s long-struggling business, she was well compensated for her five years leading the company, earning $246 million, or an average of $1 million a week, based on the company’s final stock price. During her tenure, Yahoo’s share price more than tripled as the value of its Asian investments soared.Verizon Completes $4.48 Billion Purchase of Yahoo, Ending an Era - The New York Times
Yahoo’s stockholders will retain shares in a new company called Altaba that will own its $52 billion stake in Alibaba Group and its $9 billion stake in Yahoo Japan.
“Looking back on my time at Yahoo, we have confronted seemingly insurmountable business challenges, along with many surprise twists and turns,” Ms. Mayer wrote in a farewell note to employees. “Working with you has made my time as C.E.O. nothing short of a privilege.”"
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Google is God, Facebook is love and Uber is ‘frat rock,’ says brand strategy expert Scott Galloway - Recode
Excerpts from a wide-ranging podcast and a preview of what promises to be an interesting book: The Four: The Hidden DNA of the Tech Giants (to be published in October)
"Apple: “The most value-creating decision in the last two decades was Apple’s crazy, irrational decision to forward-integrate into something they knew nothing about, and that was retail. The pre-purchase branding is getting duller and duller. But go buy a Samsung phone in a Verizon or an AT&T store. It’s an awful, soul-crushing and confusing, uninspiring ... go to an Apple store, you just want to hang out.”Google is God, Facebook is love and Uber is ‘frat rock,’ says brand strategy expert Scott Galloway - Recode
Google: “Google is God. I think it’s replaced God for us. As societies become more wealthy, more educated, religious institutions tend to play a smaller role in their lives, yet our modern-day anxieties and questions grow. There’s an enormous spiritual void for a divine intervention ... One in five queries posed to Google have never been asked before in the history of humankind. Think of a cleric, a rabbi, a priest, a teacher, a coach that has so much credibility that one in five questions posed to that individual have never been asked before.”"
See this Jigsaw page for some comment toxicity rating examples
"The Times today is rolling out a new structure of comment moderation using software from Google called Perspective, developed by the company’s incubator, Jigsaw. The tool will automatically approve some comments and help moderators wade through others more quickly.The New York Times is expanding comments with the help of Google’s AI - Recode
“What moderator really is about is about scale,” said Times community editor Bassey Etim, who oversees a core team of 14 moderators; she is project manager for the new content management system for the Times’ moderators, which uses Perspective. He said moderators won’t be replaced by the software, but that their jobs would be augmented."
But in the final paragraph: "In the interview on Bloomberg Television, Cook was hesitant to disclose whether Apple will ultimately manufacture its own car. "We’ll see where it takes us," Cook said. "We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.""
"After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It’s concentrating on self-driving technology.Cook Says Apple Is Focusing on Making an Autonomous Car System - Bloomberg
“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on June 5. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.”
“We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple’s plans in the car space. “It’s probably one of the most difficult A.I. projects actually to work on.”"
More cascading consequences of Microsoft's mobile meltdown
"Microsoft pulled out all the stops this week — flashing lights, pounding music, fake smoke — to debut its new $500 game console, aimed at the kind of hard-core gamer who appreciates a good glamour shot of a microprocessor. But how many will actually buy it?Does the Xbox still make sense in a mobile gaming world? - The Washington Post
That's the question looming around Microsoft's launch, as the technology giant touts its most powerful console ever to an audience that increasingly is becoming more casual. Mobile games now make up 42 percent of the game industry's revenue worldwide, according to a report from game industry analysis firm Newzoo. It is expected to pass the 50 percent mark by 2020. Console sales have continued to grow, but at a much slower pace — keeping more or less steady with 20 percent of revenue for the industry.
"It's a fairly limited market," said analyst David Cole of DFC Intelligence, of the group of gamers the Xbox One X is reaching. Mobile, Cole said, is where there is real growth potential for the market. But Microsoft, with no mobile device and no mobile distribution channel, isn't well positioned to tap into the rise of the casual gamer, he said."
From a Mary Jo Foley review; also see Microsoft Surface Laptop Review: Worth the Wait (The Verge)
"So what's my lappability rating on Surface Laptop? I'd give it a 7.5. It's more lappable than I thought it might be when I had a few moments with it at the Surface Laptop launch in early May. But its 3:2 aspect ratio and location of the batteries behind the screen still leave it a bit more top heavy than I'd like. I also find the screen a bit wobbly when poked/touched and the base a bit slippery, requiring me to hold the device in place firmly with my wrists. All that said, I'd still call this Microsoft's most lappable Surface device to date.Review: Microsoft's Surface Laptop | ZDNet
I understand not everyone wants or needs to use a laptop on her/his lap. On a flat surface, the newest Surface is well balanced, even when using touch, which is not the case with the Surface Book in my limited experience. The Surface Laptop also works with Microsoft's pens and Dial, but I didn't try it with either. I am one of the estimated 70 percent of Surface users who don't need or use a pen. I also don't often use touch, as the trackpad on this device is quite good."
Monday, June 12, 2017
From a extensive review; tl;dr: great hardware that's optimized for iOS 11 (expected in the fall)
"So we’re left to evaluate the improved hardware without the virtue of the improved software that Apple announced with it. And it is very good hardware! I mean, it’s still an iPad. It’s still a big slab that’s mostly screen. It does all the regular iPad stuff, a little faster and a little better. It’s a noticeable improvement over both last year’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the cheaper, more basic $329 iPad. And now that Apple has synced up the core hardware features of the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads Pro (same A10X, same RAM, same camera, same screen tech), you can now pick the size and weight you want without making any other compromises.Review: The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is much more “pro” than what it replaces | Ars Technica
Those improved specs, the better keyboard, and all of iOS 11’s new features (most notably the file manager and the new multitasking features) also earn these tablets more right to the “Pro” name than their predecessors had. The new hardware won’t change your mind if you already think iPads have no business being “Pro,” but in the fall when iOS 11 comes out these tablets are going to be more computer-y than they have been at any point in their seven-year history. There are still things that you really just can’t do with them, software development chief among them, but for writers or artists or even video editors the combination of hardware and software is increasingly convincing."
From a Jean-Louis Gassée Apple hardware + software reality check; also see WWDC 2017 — Some Thoughts (Steven Sinofsky)
"The industry came to accept the idea Apple has one of the best, if not the best, silicon design team; the company just hired Esin Terzioglu, who oversaw the engineering organization of Qualcomm’s core communications chips business. By moving its smartphones and tablets — hardware and software together — into the 64-bit world, Apple built a moat that’s as dominant as Google’s superior Search, as unassailable as the aging Wintel dominion once was.Apple Silicon and Machine Learning – Monday Note
I think we might see another moat being built, this time in the fields of Augmented Reality (AR), Machine Vision (MV), and, more generally, Machine Learning (ML)."
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Also see Tim Cook: Technology Should Serve Humanity, Not the Other Way Around (MIT Technology Review)
"Cook drew chuckles from the audience — who greeted him by waving their iPhones in the air — as he recounted his path to the top of the transformative tech company.Apple’s Tim Cook urges MIT grads to keep humanity at center of their work - The Boston Globe
“I went to grad school at Duke, looking for the answer,” he said of his search for purpose. “I tried meditation. I sought guidance in religion. I read great philosophers and authors. And in a moment of youthful indiscretion, I might even have experimented with a Windows PC.”"
Friday, June 09, 2017
Microsoft's Docs.com dies a second time; the first Docs.com, launched in 2010, was a joint Microsoft/Facebook service for using Office Online apps via a Facebook account, and Docs.com was relaunched in 2015 with Sway support and some collaboration features. Check this Wikipedia article for more details.
"Microsoft is retiring the Docs.com service on Friday, December 15, 2017 and we are hereby advising all users to move their existing Docs.com content to other file storage and sharing platforms as soon as possible, as Docs.com will no longer be available after this date.Important information about Docs.com end of service - Office Support
Following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, SlideShare has joined the Microsoft family, and represents the ideal platform for publishing your Word, PowerPoint, and PDF content with its audience of 70 million professionals, and vast content library. For custom sharing, OneDrive offers additional tools, permission settings, and security to help share and protect your data and content. With the retirement of the Docs.com service, we hope to streamline our offerings in this space and provide you with a more cohesive experience."
Final paragraphs from a timely Apple *R reality check
"So yes, Apple showed us its first forays into both VR and AR at WWDC, but those first steps into each market look very different. Apple’s VR strategy is indicative of its desire to support creators and developers as they mostly build products for consumption on other platforms, while Apple’s AR bet is very much about supporting its own users on its own platforms. The latter is a vastly bigger market today than the former, and much better aligned with Apple’s existing strengths and its user base. That’s going to make it a big player in AR by the end of the year even as it takes much slower more subtle steps into VR.Apple’s Very Different Approaches to VR and AR – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis
And of course none of this closes the door to an eventual entry by Apple into that other flavor of AR, the headset market, or as I think it will actually be by the time Apple enters: the glasses-based variety. Everything it and its developers are learning and building today will be applicable to that eventual more immersive version of AR too."
A Prime case study in market domination
"Amazon Prime membership is lowest among households that make less than $41,000 per year, according to a survey earlier this year by investment bank Piper Jaffray. That means Amazon has the most room to grow among lower-income consumers.Amazon needs to court Walmart shoppers because the wealthiest Americans already have Prime - Recode
Households that made more than $112,000 per year, on the other hand, are nearing saturation, with 82 percent in possession of Amazon Prime memberships, according to a survey of 5,500 U.S. teens about whether their families had Prime memberships. The insight comes from a ongoing Jaffray survey on what brands teens consume and what trends teens follow. It bases income on average household income for each teen’s zip code."
Thursday, June 08, 2017
Advertise different -- check "Earth - Shot on iPhone" (Apple on YouTube) to view in HD
"During game No. 3 of the NBA finals, Apple ran an ad that talked about how the Earth itself is "a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena."Apple confronts Trump climate agenda during NBA finals - CNET
Written and narrated by cosmologist Carl Sagan, the ad contrasted beautiful images shot on iPhones with a dire message of environmental danger.
Amid these gorgeous, expansive images, Sagan intoned: "There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.""
See this Airbnb post for more details
"Open Homes solves many of the logistical problems Airbnb has faced in trying to help refugees in the past, most notably the manual matching between hosts and those who are displaced. Airbnb’s approach is not the first to match those who need aid with housing — joining the ranks of organizations like France’s SIGNA and UK-based Refugees at Home — but it is the most cohesive and simplified approach the company has presented to date. It also allows for a faster process to match those in need with homes, meaning fewer missed opportunities to help in real time.Airbnb finally has a solution for its pledge to host 100,000 refugees - The Verge
As of now, there are 6,000 listings available for use on Open Homes around the world, half of which are offered by individuals who are not existing Airbnb hosts, but simply have a desire to help. Airbnb’s five-year goal is to provide free short-term housing to 100,000 people in need."
Meanwhile, while many people have been distracted by the latest self-destructive rants of the Tweeter in Chief, the article also notes "This would be all the more important if a bill that was just overwhelmingly passed in the House becomes law. The bill could make it a felony — punishable by 15 years in jail — if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves."
"There is a very real biological basis for this behavior. The combination of social media pressure and an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that helps us rationalize decisions, control impulsivity and make judgments, can contribute to offensive online posts.The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers - The New York Times
In a recent study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the areas of teens’ brains focused on reward processing and social cognition are similarly activated when they think about money and sex – and when they view a photo receiving lots of likes on social media. When teens viewed photos deemed risky, researchers found the brain regions focused on cognitive control were not activated as much, suggesting that it could be harder for them to make good decisions when viewing images or videos that are graphic in nature. Teens seeking external validation become intoxicated by sensationalist engagement, sometimes sending compromising photos or comments. Of course, some adults have fallen into the same trap."
Final paragraph: ""You can’t really come up with a valuation for it and it doesn’t yield anything yet people perceive it as a safe place just in case everything else goes completely nuts," said Brad Bechtel, a currency strategist at Jefferies LLC."
"The market capitalization of digital currencies has soared to around $100 billion since the start of the year, with bitcoin almost tripling in price to as high as $2,938.50 on Tuesday, as the frenzy around cryptocurrencies grows. Demand is swelling as more companies embrace blockchain and the similar technologies backing the various methods of exchange and some investors see it as a haven from uncertainty across the globe.Bitcoin’s Valuation Is Confusing Currency Analysts - Bloomberg
While the technology is used as a means of payment -- the most basic function of money -- it may be better to view digital currencies like gold or say, a painting, than a traditional currency. Bitcoin is more volatile than even the most capricious fiat currencies and its decentralized structure makes it difficult to consider valuation."
A call for targeted political marketing transparency
"“It’s a fundamental conversation to have about how we regulate this,” said Nick Anstead, a media and communications expert at the London School of Economics. “Facebook has a responsibility to tell its users who is buying advertising that is targeting their votes.”Facebook’s Role in European Elections Under Scrutiny - The New York Times
In response, the company says its roughly two billion users worldwide have complete control over which ads they are shown on the network, and that it is the responsibility of individual political parties to comply with their countries’ electoral laws. Facebook adds that its commercial agreements and protection of individuals’ privacy restrict it from sharing more data on how information is distributed on the platform."
Wednesday, June 07, 2017
Tumultuous Twitter times; also see Twitter Users Blocked by Trump Seek Reprieve, Citing First Amendment (NYT)
"A free-speech institute on Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Trump demanding the prolific tweeter unblock certain Twitter users on grounds the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.Trump's blocking of Twitter users violates U.S. Constitution: rights institute | Reuters
Trump's @realDonaldTrump account recently blocked a number of accounts that replied to his tweets with commentary that criticized, mocked or disagreed with his actions. Twitter users are unable to see or respond to tweets from accounts that block them.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York said in its letter that the blocking suppressed speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution."
Excerpt from an iPad Pro (and iOS 11) reality check
"Getting to grips with the iOS 11-powered iPad Pro at Apple’s event yesterday, my colleague Jake Kastrenakes noted that he never felt like he could move quickly and efficiently around iOS before, but the new version is the first one that feels like it could change that. I’m on exactly the same page: iOS has always felt like a more leisurely way to use a mobile device, not quite the lean and mean productivity workhouse that I could sculpt together in macOS. But with more robust split-screen multitasking and the ability to float additional apps and picture-in-picture video on the screen, I foresee finally being able to get Real Work done on an iPad.The iPad takes a big step toward being the computer for everyone - The Verge
Being able to manipulate files in the self-explanatory Files browser is basically the tipping point: I get the extra degree of control I’ve always felt has been missing on iOS, and now I’m wondering exactly what I’d be losing if I switched to doing my research and writing on one of Apple’s tablets. Sure, I’d need to hunt down a good third-party keyboard, but there’s never a shortage of good accessories for Apple devices. By making the changes it’s made in iOS 11, Apple looks to have successfully attracted professional holdouts like me while still retaining its touch-friendly and accessible interface for the majority of others."
Or you could pay $9.99/month (or $99.99/year) for Office 365 Home, providing Office and 1TB OneDrive storage (each) for up to 5 users; conveniently, the new iOS 11 Files app will simplify working with OneDrive (and Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive)
"The company will now allow customers to share either their 200GB or 2TB iCloud storage plans with members of their entire family. This could bring costs down for larger families, who before were paying for each member’s iCloud plan individually.Apple doubles its $10/month iCloud storage plan to 2TB, adds family sharing | TechCrunch
Family Sharing will be possible with iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, both of which will ship to the general public this fall. But you can pre-emptively opt in to the new $10/mo 2TB plan today, which is available across current devices and OS versions."
Extreme antisocial networking
"The victim had a choice: Pay the hackers a ransom of one bitcoin, a digital currency worth roughly $2,365, in exchange for regaining access to the computer, or try to infect two new people on behalf of the attackers. If someone the victim knew fell for the bait and became infected, the attackers would consider the ransom paid and cede control of the infected computer.Ponzi Scheme Meets Ransomware for a Doubly Malicious Attack - The New York Times
The attack late last year was, according to the cybersecurity researchers who discovered what they now call the Popcorn Time ransomware, the first Ponzi scheme for one of the internet’s oldest types of cyberattacks."
Tuesday, June 06, 2017
Check this page if you use Kindle annotations and found the kindle.amazon.com user experience lacking
"For many years now Amazon has enabled Kindle users to manage and share their annotations via a website at Kindle.Amazon.com (just one of many ways you can curate your notes).Amazon Gave Your Notes & Highlights a New Home on the Web | The Digital Reader
Now Amazon has launched a new and much-improved way for readers to access their Kindle notes and highlights"
Also see Box Previews the Future of Work with Apple at WWDC (Box blog) and Coming to iOS 11: Dropbox support in the new Files app (Dropbox blog); Google Drive and some other services will also be accessible from Files
"OneDrive makes it easier for you to access your files, and we are continually working to ensure you have the best OneDrive experience on every platform and every device. OneDrive already supports many iOS capabilities, including OneDrive for iMessage, the Share extension, and Apple Pencil and split-screen support on iPad. Today, Apple announced the new Files app at WWDC for iOS 11, and we are excited to announce support for the new app and its file management capabilities. OneDrive integration with the Files app will make it easier for you to access your content from any Apple device and will provide a better file management experience on iOS for your personal and work OneDrive and SharePoint sites. We will share more details when iOS 11 releases."Announcing OneDrive support for the Files app in iOS 11 - Office Blogs
Also see Intelligence Contractor Is Charged in First Leak Case Under Trump (NYT)
"This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election
The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results."