Turbotodd

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

IBM Leads the Blockchain

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Happy Monday.

First things first. If you’re a University of Texas football fan, my condolences on Saturday night. That was an epic football game between the ‘Horns and USC, and the last minute comeback by Texas during regulation deserved its own Emmy award for high drama. Then, to go into Double OT…well, let’s hope it’s a harbinger of continued great play.

As for the Monday morning tech world news, there’s certainly plenty to go around.

CNBC reported earlier that, according to Juniper Research, IBM far outranks Microsoft as the blockchain industry leader. The report wrote that "More than 40 percent of tech executives and leaders in the blockchain sector ranked IBM as top, with only 20 percent saying the same of Microsoft."

You can go here to learn more about IBM’s blockchain initiatives.

If you’re keeping track of the tech VC race, Slack just got a huge infusion of $250 million (largely from Softbank’s Vision Fund), valuing the firm at $5.1B.

SiliconANGLE on the infusion: "…Slack said it will use the latest funding to improve its ‘operational flexibility,’ a statement that is vague at best. The company also said it still has much of the $591 million it previously raised in the bank, which should at least give it lots of room for maneuvering in the months and years to come."

SA goes on to explain Slack may need the wiggle room, considering Microsoft has entered into the messaging space with its new Teams application.

In China, autonomous driving startup JingChi has raised a $30M angel round and is raising a $100M Series A. The company’s founder is Wang Jing, former head of Baidu Inc’s Autonomous Driving Unit, and will be HQed in Silicon Valley.

According to China Money Network, it completed a test drive in California in June, and is the 34th company to obtain a license to test autonomous vehicles on public roads there.

So next time you’re driving down the 101 and you see one car after another with nobody driving, you’ll know why.

Written by turbotodd

September 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

Keep An Eye on Those Algos

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If you want to get a fresh look into our collective AI future, look no further than ProPublica’s recent report on how it was able to target pitches to the news feeds of “Jew haters” and similar anti-Semetic propensities.

In their test, ProPublica indicated they paid $30 to target such groups with three “promoted” posts, which then displayed a ProPublica article or post in those users’ feeds.

ProPublica indicates that Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes.

They report Facebook immediately removed the categories once contacted, but what was most interesting about the experiment was that they had originally been created by algorithms, not we mere mortals.

Facebook’s Rob Leathern indicated “We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Uh, yeah, little bit.

This is only one minor example of the role algorithms are going to play in the brave new world where fallible humans continue to shape policy and protocols for their algorithmic counterparts.

In December of last year, Harvard Business Review published a story entitled “Hiring Algorithms Are Not Neutral.” In that story, they wrote that “algorithms are, in part, our opinions embedded in code. They reflect human biases and prejudices that lead to machine learning mistakes and misinterpretations. This bias shows up in numerous aspects of our lives, including algorithms used for electronic discovery, teacher evaluations, car insurance, credit score rankings, and university admissions.”

Another example more specific to the HR focus of the piece:

At their core, algorithms mimic human decision making. They are typically trained to learn from past successes, which may embed existing bias. For example, in a famous experiment, recruiters reviewed identical resumes and selected more applicants with white-sounding names than with black-sounding ones. If the algorithm learns what a “good” hire looks like based on that kind of biased data, it will make biased hiring decisions. The result is that automatic resume screening software often evaluates job applicants based on subjective criteria, such as one’s name. By latching on to the wrong features, this approach discounts the candidate’s true potential.
– via Harvard Business Review

So how to avoid algorithmic bias as we start to allow the machines conduct more of the necessary, but often mundane, tasks we humans prefer to avoid?

In the case of HR, they suggest organizations stop making hard screening decisions based solely on an algorithm. Encourage human reviews that will ask experienced people who have through bias training to oversee selection and evaluation.

But doesn’t that divert unnecessary resources back to us humans when the machines are supposed to now do all the work?

Well, yes, but it’s kind of difficult to get hired if the perfect machine is using its algos to hire an imperfect human.

 

Written by turbotodd

September 15, 2017 at 9:18 am

Posted in 2017, AI, HR, machine learning

A Bit of a Bitcoin

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Happy Thursday.

CNBC is reporting that Bitcoin has gone back into freefall, down 7 percent after one of the biggest Bitcoin exchanges in China indicated it would be shutting down its operation.

BTC China said it will close by September 30th, as Chinese authorities crack down on cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this month, China regulators banned companies from raising money through initial coin offerings, or “ICOs,” and since that time, Bitcoin has fallen some 20 percent.

In other news concerning China, Bloomberg is reporting that President Donal Trump has blocked a Chinese-backed investor from buying Lattice Semiconductor Corp., only the fourth time in a quarter century that a U.S. president has ordered a foreign takeover of an American firm stopped on national security concerns.

Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin had this to say:

“Consistent with the administration’s commitment to take all actions necessary to ensure the protection of U.S. national security, the president issued an order prohibiting the acquisition.”
– via Bloomberg.com

Lattice shares were down as much as 1.7 percent on the blocked sale.

According to Bloomberg’s report, Lattice makes programmable logic chips which have a vaiety of uses, including in communications, computing and industrial and military applications.

Written by turbotodd

September 14, 2017 at 9:01 am

All You Need is Love…and $999

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Well, I was able to make my way through the entire Apple keynote today LIVE (via streaming video) from the new Steve Jobs Theater on the also new Apple Park spaceship-like campus.

The opening video was clever, as it showed people walking into the new theater for the first time ever. Accompanying the walk-in video was The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”

Yes, all you need is love, and $999, if you wish to purchase the new Apple X (pronounced “ten,” not “ex”) 64GB iPhone, whose new features include an A11 Bionic neural engine chip, a first-of-its-kind OLED screen, and a new Facial ID security feature that makes Touch ID obsolete and has a 1 in a million (according to Apple) chance of being hacked.

No doubt, it’s a gorgeous new smartphone, and yes, it’s being released in the 10th anniversary year of the original iPhone’s introduction. But unless you’re really excited by the novelty of the Face ID authentication or the “Super Retina Display” or the increased speeds and feeds of the A11 bionic neural networking chip, then this particular “one more thing” may just be that.

Apple also introduced the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which also come with the A11 chip, which is optimized for 3D games and Metal 2, paving the way for Apple’s coming Augmented Reality onslaught. Both the iPhone 8 devices and the X will now be charged via Qi-standards based wireless chargers, which apparently will create a new cottage industry of 3rd party opportunities for the likes of Mophie.

For me, the upside surprise came with the new Apple Watch Series 3, one which has built-in LTE and gets us closer than ever to Dick Tracy-land. In fact, the demo involved the presenter making a live Watch-to-Watch call to another Apple employee who was out on a body of water somewhere paddle boarding. Thankfully, she didn’t fall in while on camera, but the new Apple Watch working as a phone with no iPhone in sight was, well, a welcome sight. Too bad I just bought a Series 1 earlier this year!

In terms of software, I should have known better — there wasn’t much on offer for what clearly was an Apple fall hardware announcement. There were some cute new animated emojis using the Face ID tech: “animojis.” The Apple Watch includes some new heart monitoring capabilities, including the ability to monitor for atrial fibrillation (if your heart is fibrillating, put down your Apple Watch and call your doctor, FAST!).

My favorite was what looks to be a killer new AR game called “The Machines” where you can point your iPhone 8 (but what about my SE??) and shoot stuff with your friends.

And if you *were* awaiting news about the new iOS 11, Apple indicated it would be available for download starting a week from today (September 19th).

As for buying new stuff, I’ll stick with my year-old Apple iPhone SE for now — it still has a headphone jack I can actually plug stuff into, even if I do have to … first world deep sigh … plug it in as well every night to charge the thing. Oh, the horror….

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm

What I’m Looking For In Today’s Apple Announcements

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In a phrase, not much.

First, I’m excited about seeing the new Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s new spaceship HQ.

Second, while I *am* interested in seeing the specs, speeds and feeds of the reported Apple X and iPhone 8 models, I’m not sure there’s anything transformative that will appear (maybe the presumed "Face ID" facial recognition will be interesting).

The new LTE-enabled Apple Watch? Well, I waited two years to buy the Apple Watch, and Apple told me it had to be tethered to my iPhone and that for my watch to work, I would have to carry my iPhone everywhere I go.

So I did. And I do!

The new Apple TV…meh. I already got one and I hardly use the thing, and I don’t think 4K support will be the kickstarter.

Which leaves us with…what?

Software.

I’m looking to see how the software changes and improves.

I’m looking to see if Siri is getting smarter and more usable.

I’m really looking to see if iOS 11 delivers on some needed improvements…a new, designed Control Center (for better shortcuts and preferred app settings)…Document scanner in Notes…Drag and drop with the iPad…Instant Markup with the Apple Pencil (through a variety of apps)…In short, I’m looking to see if the iPad Pro could actually start me down the road to using the iPad as an MBP replacement.

Other than that, I don’t expect much. : 0

Don’t get me wrong, because I am, indeed, invested heavily in the Apple ecosystem.

But in the past I’ve also bought into too much hype of these types of announcements.

So rather than drool over my screen like a fanboy ready to wait in line for the iPhone X until next February, I’m instead looking for some serious progress on the software front.

Siri, are you listening?

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

New IBM Linux-only Mainframe Delivers Breakthrough Security

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IBM has unveiled the IBM LinuxONE Emperor II, the next generation of its family of Linux-only enterprise systems, which delivers new capabilities aimed at helping organizations achieve very high levels of security and data privacy assurance while rapidly addressing unpredictable data and transaction growth.

A key feature of the new LinuxONE Emperor II, IBM Secure Service Container is an exclusive LinuxONE technology that represents a significant leap forward in data privacy and security capabilities.

Last year, more than four billion data records were lost or stolen, a 556 percent increase over 2015. Of the more than nine billion records breached during the past five years, only four percent were encrypted – or securely scrambled — leaving most of that data exposed and vulnerable to attackers.

With IBM Secure Service Container, for the first time, data can be protected against internal threats at the system level from users with elevated credentials or hackers who obtain a user’s credentials, as well as external threats.

Software developers benefit by not having to create proprietary dependencies in their code to take advantage of these advanced security capabilities. An application only needs to be put into a Docker container to be ready for Secure Service Container deployment, and the application can be managed using the Docker and Kubernetes tools that are included to make Secure Service Container environments easy to consume.

Developers and clients can learn more and apply to participate in the beta at: http://ibm.biz/sscbeta. Developers can access new technologies, open source code and documentation on containers, mainframe development and more with IBM Developer Journeys: https://developer.ibm.com/code/journey/.

The most advanced enterprise Linux platform for data

The new LinuxONE Emperor II is the world’s most advanced enterprise Linux platform, featuring the industry’s fastest microprocessor and a unique I/O architecture with up to 640 cores dedicated to I/O processing. The vertical scale, shared-everything system design allows LinuxONE Emperor II to:

  • Scale-up a single MongoDB instance to 17 TB in a single system and get 2.4x more throughput and 2.3x lower latency on LinuxONE Emperor II leveraging the additional memory available compared to LinuxONE Emperor – providing applications faster, more secure access to data while enabling greater scale at reduced complexity.
  • Provide up to 2.6x better Java performance than x86 alternatives, and integrated hardware for pause-less garbage collection, enabling mission-critical Java workloads — which require consistent high-throughput and low-latency processing — to minimize unpredictable transaction delays due to garbage collection.
  • Provide a Docker-certified infrastructure for Docker EE with integrated management and scale tested up to two million Docker containers – allowing developers to compose high-performance applications and embrace a micro-services architecture without latency or scale constraints.

Learn more about IBM LinuxONE.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2017 at 9:09 am

No Yuan

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First China banned initial coin offerings.

Now Chinese authorities plan to shut down domestic bitcoin exchanges, writes The Wall Street Journal, which it claims will deliver “a final blow to a once-thriving industry of commercial trading for virtual currencies.”

Apparently regulators have been investigating bitcoin and other virtual currencies since the beginning of the year, but when it became evident that Chinese investors used bitcoin as a short against the promise of a falling yuan…well, you do the math.

Bloomberg reports separately that China is home to nearly a quarter of the the world’s bitcoin trades, but that this move by the Chinese authorities will “definitely slow the development of cryptocurrencies in China.”

The move can be viewed in the larger context of a broad clampdown on financial risk as we draw closer to next month’s 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

Bitcoin users will still be able to trade cryptocurrencies in China without exchanges after this move, but the process is likely to be slower and come with increased credit report, says Bloomberg.

Written by turbotodd

September 11, 2017 at 9:09 am

Posted in 2017, bitcoin, blockchain, china, crytocurrency

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