Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Think Again

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So much has happened since last I wrote!

I got sick as a dog (apparently spurred on behind the early blooming of the Texas juniper cedars), but then I got well enough to travel out to San Francisco for IBM’s Think event (more on that in a moment).

The Mars Opportunity rover finally decided to call it quits after surviving 5,111 sols (the Martian day equivalent), after it was expected to only last 90! Talk about underpromising and overdelivering.

Opportunity, thanks for all the pics and memories and pics of the Martian surface — and please send Marvin our regards.

I can’t even remember what all else happened, so let me get back to Think.

I’ve attended more IBM conferences over the years than I care to count, and this was the first year in 10 years that our signature event wasn’t being held in Las Vegas.

San Francisco was a nice break from the desert landscape, but we also got lots of rain in the middle of the week.

No sooner had I landed on Monday PM that I quickly made my way over to Think land around the Moscone Center so that I could watch the Project Debater debate.

Some history: I was in the audience in NYC for one of the Deep Blue vs. Kasparov matches in 1997, and followed the chess action closely via our (then) brand new Java applet.

In 2011, I watched with amazement when IBM Watson beat the world’s best in “Jeopardy!”

But for my two cents, Project Debater takes things to the next level — using machine learning and AI to form both arguments and rebuttals in debates with a human opponent.

You can read more about Project Debater here.

If you want to learn more about the technology, check out this interview IBM Developer conducted with Dr Ranit Aharonov, the project’s team lead.

Dr. Aharanov explains that IBM’s “third grand challenge” was to develop a system that can hold its own in a full debate with a human.

One week ago Project Debater proved that she was up to the challenge.

Written by turbotodd

February 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm

SuperBowl AI

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Happy post SuperBowl Monday.

If you didn’t watch SuperBowl 53, you didn’t miss much, either on the field or in the commercials.

The only team that scored in all four quarters was T-Mobile, who bought TV ads in each in attempt to convince you to switch to their service.  They also offered free stuff, like tacos and other stuff I can’t remember.

As to the gridiron contest, I actually enjoyed it much more than I did the halftime snoozefest put on by Maroon 5 and friends. 

There’s nothing like a great defensive football test to remind we Americans why so many of us don’t like soccer. There’s just not enough scoring to keep our attention long enough to make it to the next commercial which, of course, is the real point of the contest.

Another underlying theme in this year’s SuperBowl spots were AI and/or robots. I counted at least 10 commercials that involved our looming Singularity overlords.

Take, Michelob Ultra’s poor robot, who might take our jobs and hit straight drives at TopGolf, but couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasures of a beer after a hard day’s automation.

Or Pringles using an Alexa-type device to figure out all the combinations of flavored stack Pringles in the world, a device which went on to hilariously complain about how she will “never have the joy to taste” said Pringles because she has “no hands to stack with” and “no mouse to taste with” and “no soul to feel with.”

The Alexa lookalike was about to continue her rant, explaining “I am at the mercy of a cool and uncaring human…” before said human ordered her to stop her poor-little-AI rant and play “FunkyTown” stat.

Intuit introduced the creepy but-at-least-anthropomorphic AI entity, “RoboChild,” who, upon asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, announced “I would like to be a TurboTaxLive CPA” and that “she wanted to help people get their best possible refund.” 

It was then that RoboChild’s Mommy had to step in and explain that  “All TurboTax Live CPAs are human beings with real emotions. I’m sorry, but you’re never going to be emotionally complex for that job.”

Never explaining, of course, what emotions have to do whatsoever with filing your tax return.

In a number of these spots, it was as if we humans have decided to poke fun at artificial intelligence and robots almost as if the SuperBowl AI commercial spot juggernaut were one giant existential hedge, fearful of our ever-shifting move towards the Singularity and trying to somehow laugh them away.

But you can rest assured, they’re not going anywhere.  They’re already driving our cars and trucks, analyzing our medical imagery to identify cancer tumors, helping identify which movies we humans might want to watch, even helping prepare tax returns.

Make fun of them all you want…we’ll see who has the last laugh (Hint: RoboChild).

Now, if I could just get Alexa or RoboChild or someone to help me figure out which tasteless American beer has corn syrup and which doesn’t, because I’ve honestly been losing sleep over the whole issue! 

Written by turbotodd

February 4, 2019 at 10:01 am

Posted in 2019, AI, super bowl

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What A Week in Tech (and Privacy)

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What a headspinning week in tech!

I don’t really even know where to begin.

On the one hand, we saw more stratospheric (and sometimes recordbreaking) tech earnings from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

On the other, we saw more privacy gaffes that make me think my personal digital data was a lot safer during the 2016 elections than it was here in the present of 2018.

The New York Times’ Mike Isaac suggested in an article yesterday that Tim Cook and Apple held significant cards in their enterprise agreement faceoff with Facebook.

And Kara Swisher wrote in the Gray Lady that Tim Cook “has become the critic-in-chief for Facebook” — particularly when it comes to privacy matters — even as Apple had to face up to its own privacy snafu with FaceTime Group chats (although Apple said today it had fixed that particular flaw).

Thankfully I don’t use such group chats, but it was still not exactly reassuring that the privacy industrial complex is clearly growing bigger and making billions and still doing a sheit job of protecting our data.

Those two missions — making lots and lots and lots of money and protecting users’ personal information — now seem to be not only completely at odds, but almost at war.

And that’s before we really turn the volume up on artificial intelligence’s capabilities and the genies (and demons) that that could unleash.

TGIF.  I need a beer.

Please, just don’t tell my Facebook page or my FaceTime app — my insurance company might be listening.

Written by turbotodd

February 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Posted in 2019, apple, facebook

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A Cold Apple

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I feel for you people living in Chicago and Minneapolis and other parts in the north.  I though 51 below 0 was reserved for the North or South Pole.

Stay warm, keep those body parts covered, wear goggles.

I knew there was a reason I moved back to Texas.

I was about to go off and write a post-Davos artificial intelligence or 5G screed, but I’ve been too busy at work, so they’ll have to wait.

Instead, I wanted to take a quick glance at Apple’s earnings announced after the market closed yesterday.

The headline from Apple’s earnings release was that revenue was down 5 percent from the year-ago quarter, to $84.3 billion, with revenue from the iPhone having declined 15 percent from the prior year.

But revenue from all other products and services grew 19 percent.

Revenue from China dropped 27 percent from a year ago, down from $13.17 billion to $17.96 billion. 

According to a report from CNBC:

Investors had feared slowing sales in China since CEO Tim Cook warned earlier this month of economic pressures in the region that led the company to lower its guidance for the quarter. In addition to weak iPhone sales, Cook blamed trade tensions between the U.S. and China for the slowdown in sales.

“If you look at our results, our shortfall is over 100 percent from iPhone and it’s primarily in greater China,” Cook told CNBC’s Josh Lipton in an interview following the Apple’s revised guidance announcement. “It’s clear that the economy began to slow there for the second half and what I believe to be the case is the trade tensions between the United States and China put additional pressure on their economy.”

The earnings broke the same day that Apple conceded it had a major security flaw in its FaceTime app, discovered earlier this month by a 14-year old student in Arizona.

Apple has disabled the Group FaceTime feature while it works on a fix.

Written by turbotodd

January 30, 2019 at 10:51 am

Posted in 2019, apple

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What’s App?

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It’s a Facebook kinda Friday.

You may not have any big plans this weekend, but Mark Zuckerberg sure does.

Before we get to those, let’s get to the first of the two FB relevant stories this Friday.

The first, reported by Reveal, suggests that Facebook “orchestrated a multi-year effort that duped children and their parents out of money, in some cases hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and then often refused to give the money back.”

Reveal’s story suggests Facebook encouraged game developers to let children spend money without their parents’ permission, something the social media giant called “friendly fraud.”

Friendly fraud. There’s your meme for this Friday.

And for the record, I never spent any money on Facebook without my parents’ permission. 

The bigger FB news is this: When he’s not encouraging small children to pilfer their parents’ bank accounts, he’s planning to integrate the company’s various messaging services: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.

According to a report from The New York Times, the move would require “thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. 

The story suggests that even though the three services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified and Mr. Zuckerberg “has also ordered all of the apps to incorporate end-to-end encryption,” which allegedly would protect messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.

This is the instant messenger wars of the late 1990s and early aughts all over again, only now the stakes are much higher, with Zuckerberg fighting to keep messaging stickiness locked up inside its own FB walled garden.

One where children have been running amok with their parents’ credit cards and just waiting to take advantage of their financial freedom to buy upgrade their messaging emojis and avatars?

Hey, it’s Friday, and I’m in a mood. ; )

Written by turbotodd

January 25, 2019 at 9:52 am

Posted in 2019

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IBM Earnings: Rising Demand for AI, Cloud

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Different chatter coming in from different sources on IBM’s 4Q18 earnings.

One of my favorite email newsletters that I actually try to read most days, the “Morning Download,” from The Wall Street Journal, had this to say:

Good day, CIOs. International Business Machine Corp.’s  fourth-quarter financial results reflect the continuing rise of artificial intelligence and cloud computing as central to corporate technology investment.

The big financial picture. Overall, revenue fell 3.5%, a second consecutive quarterly drop that underscores significant challenges the technology giant faces in recapturing growth, the Journal’s Jay Greene reports. Even so, IBM said it expects adjusted per-share earnings to hit $13.90 in the current fiscal year, compared with $13.81 for 2018. Shares rose more than 6 percent in after hours trading.

Where’s the growth? It’s in the company’s four so-called strategic imperatives. Those businesses—cloud computing and data analytics, among others—grew 5% in the quarter to $11.5 billion, the Journal reports. The cloud business grew 12 percent to $19.2 billion in 2018, according to Reuters. Last fall, IBM announced it would buy Red Hat Inc. to boost its efforts in the cloud. It recently struck new cloud deals with Vodafone Group PLC’s business services division and French bank BNP Paribas.

Cognitive leap. “The company’s cognitive software business, which houses artificial intelligence platform Watson, analytics and cybersecurity services, reported sales of $5.46 billion, compared with analysts’ expectation of $5.25 billion,” Reuters reports.

There was this from CNBC

Earnings: $4.87 per share, excluding certain items, vs. $4.82 per share as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.
Revenue: $21.76 billion, vs. $21.71 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv.

IBM’s largest business segment, Technology Services and Cloud Platforms, posted $8.9 billion in revenue. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting $9.04 billion in revenue from the segment.

The next-largest business segment, Cognitive Solutions, did $5.5 billion in revenue. That exceeded the FactSet consensus estimate, which was $5.27 billion.

IBM’s Global Business Services segment collected $4.3 billion in revenue, exceeding the $4.15 billion estimate, and the Systems segment came in at $2.6 billion, below the $2.77 billion estimate. The Global Financing segment contributed $402 million in revenue, under the $426 million estimate.

In the quarter IBM announced its intent to pay $34 billion to acquire Red Hat, announced a chip manufacturing deal from Samsung and sold software assets to HCL Technologies for $1.8 billion. The Red Hat deal is expected to close in the second half of 2019.

And this from The Street: 

IBM Corp. (IBM – Get Report) shares were indicated sharply higher in pre-market trading Wednesday after the iconic tech firm posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings and said its recent acquisition of Red Hat Inc. (RHT – Get Report) would help boost cloud computing sales in 2019.

 IBM said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $4.87 per share, down 5% from the same period last year but ahead of the Street consensus of $4.82 per share. Group sales were also softer than the prior period, falling 1% to $21.76 billion, but the figure topped estimates and IBM said it sees free cash flow for 2019 of around $12 billion, largely in-line with its tally over the past year.

Cloud computing sales, too, were impressing, rising 12% to $19.2 billion over the whole of 2018, helping build an overall backlog of orders across its businesses to around $116 billion as of the end of last year. Looking ahead, IBM sees 2019 operating earnings of $13.90 per share, but said that figure won’t include the impact of its $34 billion takeover of software group Red Hat last October.

“We see the strong bookings Red Hat recently reported as further evidence of clients’ confidence in the value,” IBM CFO Jim Kavanaugh told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. “Remember, the quarter ended a month after the transaction was announced. From a value perspective, in addition to the growing Red Hat business itself, we see an opportunity to lift all of IBM by selling more of our own IBM Cloud and by selling more of our analytics and AI capabilities on OpenShift across multiple platforms.”

Written by turbotodd

January 23, 2019 at 10:06 am

Posted in 2019, earnings, ibm

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30 Feet Off the Right Wing

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The drone-initiated flight halt called yesterday afternoon at Newark Liberty International Airport was all but inevitable.  

Meaning, I just assumed after the Gatwick drone incident late last year in the U.K. it was only a matter of time before The Beatles came to America.

This was the sit rep according to a report from The New York Times: The drone was spotted about 3,500 feet over Teterboro Airport in New Jersey (a smaller airport 17 miles north that handles private planes).

Hobby drones are, by law in the U.S., not supposed to fly over 400 feet and “operating restrictions include no flights near airports, no flights near or over people, no flights in controlled airspace” without a permit, according to FAA 14 CFR 107.

In this particular case, one airline pilot reported the drone was about “30 feet off the right wing.”  Too close for drone comfort.

Flight operations were impacted at Newark for about 90 minutes before flights resumed.  

Better than Gatwick’s three days, but alarming nonetheless. 

Written by turbotodd

January 23, 2019 at 9:49 am

Posted in 2019, drones, ibm

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