Turbotodd

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

A Crypto Kinda Friday

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It’s a crypto kinda Friday.

Engadget’s reporting on an interesting blockchain story, one which has ticket broker Ticketmaster fighting bogus ticket sales by acquiring Upgraded.

Upgraded is a company that combine’s the distributed trust of blockchain with encrypted barcodes to minimize the fraud sometimes seen with paper-based or PDF tickets.

The Engadget story claims with the new one solution one would “have a clearer sense of when a concert pass is legitimate, while even holders will have more of a grip on where their tickets are going.” But Ticketmaster told Engadget it didn’t have a definitive time frame for integrating the Upgraded’s solution.

…While U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase made a recently developed automated security scaling tool available to the public. 

In a report from Coindesk, it was said Coinbase released a program called “Salus” which can automatically choose to run and configure different security scanners and issue a report on the results.”

Salus was available as an open-source tool via GitHub starting yesterday, and is said to “offer the advantage of being able to centrally coordinate security scans across a large number of software storage repositories, avoiding having to configure a scanner for each project.”

And finally, if you’re worried about those crypto assets, U.K-based security firm G4S announced a new service for protecting them.

According to a story from Cointelgraph, the company is offering high-security offline vault storage for crypto assets, a new capability which builds on the company’s existing expertise, which is running prisons and detention centers.

What’s fascinating about the offering is the how. G2S explained in a press release that the company not only take crypto assets offline, but it breaks them up into fragments so that they are independently without value, and then stored in the company’s security vaults.

Access to these sites is heavily restricted with multiple layers of security and robust protocols, and only when all the fragments are combined with specific technology can they unlock access to the value stored within.”

“It has been a justified cliche to describe the cryptocurrency space as a Wild West. Working with our clients, our innovative vault storage concept offers the highest protection to keep people and their assets secure and bring order to the frontier.

So how long until we see a cold storage Bitcoin heist flick on the big screen?  Maybe not until Bitcoin gets back over $10K?!

Written by turbotodd

October 19, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Twitter Releases Massive Data Sets

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YouTube had an outage last night and the world went crazy. Thankfully I was out to dinner with friends and didn’t even notice.

9to5 Google did notice, and reported that “after an agonizing two hours, YouTube servers and PlayStore transactions are simultaneously beginning to recover. The two issues seem likely to be related.”

OMG…YouTube was down for two hours, people!  Panic in the streets!  I really don’t think life as we know it can go on.

Get a frickin’ grip.

Now for me, such panic would ensue only if Amazon Prime or Netflix went down. In fact, I was trying to finish out the third season of “A Man in the High Castle” the other night and I started getting Amazon’s version of the buffering pinwheel.

I almost broke out the flint and tinder (the stuff you make fire with, not the…oh, never mind).

Meanwhile, to the story du jour…Bloomberg is reporting that Twitter has published data sets comprising millions of tweets, images, and videos and thousands of accounts linked to operatives based in Russia and Iran, “who have sought to use the platform for nefarious purposes.”

Nefarious purposes like shutting down YouTube for two hours and sending people across the U.S and Europe into widespread panic? That kind of nefarious purpose?

Twitter indicated it was opening the data up to the public “to encourage independent analysis by researchers, academics and journalists.”

The announcement comes as EU officials are bracing for attempted meddling by Russia-backed operatives and their copycats ahead of the bloc’s elections in the spring, where far-right parties are set to make gains.

The datasets are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media.

Maybe they can hire Cambridge Analytica to analyze all that data and produce a report of their findings?

Written by turbotodd

October 17, 2018 at 9:48 am

Posted in 2018, twitter, youtube

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IBM Reports 2018 Third-Quarter Results

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IBM today announced its 2018 third-quarter results, generating its best year-to-year gross margin performance in three years, which reflected the company’s move towards higher value businesses.

Highlights are as follows:

  • GAAP EPS from continuing operations of $2.94; Operating (non-GAAP) EPS of $3.42
  • Revenue of $18.8 billion, down 2 percent (flat adjusting for currency)
  • Strategic imperatives revenue of $39.5 billion over last 12 months, up 13 percent (up 11 percent adjusting for currency)
  • Cloud revenue of $19.0 billion over last 12 months, up 20 percent (up 18 percent adjusting for currency) 
  • As-a-service annual exit run rate for cloud revenue of $11.4 billion in the quarter, up 21 percent year to year (up 24 percent adjusting for currency)
  • Strong services gross profit margin expansion year to year
  • Maintains full-year operating (non-GAAP) EPS and free cash flow expectations

“IBM’s progress and momentum this year in the emerging, high-value segments of the IT industry are driven by our innovative technology, deep industry expertise and commitment to trust and security,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.  “Our leadership in the technology and services that deliver hybrid cloud, AI, blockchain, analytics and security has helped drive our overall performance, and is helping our clients unleash the full business value of these innovations.”

Written by turbotodd

October 16, 2018 at 4:45 pm

A $1B AI School

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Happy Tuesday. It’s still raining here in Austin, and about 80 miles west of us the Llano River has reached a 40-foot flood stage. Please stop the rain, at least for a little while. We’ve had enough.

If you need a ride away from the floods, or were simply wondering what’s been going on with Uber, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company could be valued at 120 billion dollars in an IPO as early as 2019, which would nearly double its valuation from just two months ago.

As the Journal story points out, that “eye-popping” figure would make Uber worth more than General Motors, Ford Motor, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles combined.

While Uber is focused on making smarter car rides, Paperspace has scored $13 million in investment for its AI-fueled application development platform.

According to a report from TechCrunch, Paperspace wants to help developers build AI and machine learning apps with a software and hardware development platform powered by GPUs and other powerful chips.

Last spring, the company released gradient, a serverless tool to make it easier to deploy and manage Ai and machine learning workloads.

By making Gradient a serverless management tool, customers don’t have to think about the underlying infrastructure. Instead, Paperspace handles all of that for them providing the resources as needed. “We do a lot of GPU compute, but the big focus right now and really where the investors are buying into with this fundraise, is the idea that we are in a really unique position to build out a software layer and abstract a lot of that infrastructure away [for our customers].

In other news, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced yesterday it was creating a new college focused on better preparing students to adapt to the increasingly disruptive AI wave through a planned $1 billion investment, $350 million of which came from private equity guru Stephen Schwarzman.

According to a report in The New York Times:

Mr. Schwarzman said he hoped that the M.I.T. move might trigger others to invest in America’s A.I. future, not just commercially. He points to the major push the Chinese government is making, and notes the fruits of United States government-funded research in the past — technologies that helped America take the global lead in industries from the personal computer to the internet.

Just last month, IBM and MIT announced a 10-year, 240 million dollar investment to create the MIT-IBM Watson AI lab, which will carry out fundamental AI research and seek to propel scientific breakthroughs than unlock the potential of AI.

Written by turbotodd

October 16, 2018 at 12:10 pm

RIP Paul Allen

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The news just came across the wire that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died today at the age of 65.

Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same cancer he overcame nine years ago but which he announced earlier this month had returned and for which he was seeking treatment. 

His family released a statement, which in part said:

While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend. Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, and after leaving the company went out to found and chair Vulcan Inc., an entity which managed his various business and philanthropic efforts. 

Allen was also the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and throughout his lifetime gave away more than $2 billion to such causes that included education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, and health and community services.

Written by turbotodd

October 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Posted in 2018, microsoft, obituary

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Khashoggi’s Watch

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I’ve been following the disappearance and possible (likely) murder of expat Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey with both horror and fascination.

When I read that Turkish newpaper Sabah wrote that Khashoggi’s Apple Watch may have provided evidence by Turkish officials of his murder, I paid even closer attention.

Could Khashoggi have activated a recording app on his Apple Watch, which was, in turn, connected to the iPhone he left in the car with his wife, and then have had that recording automagically uploaded to his iCloud account?

A report from CNBC pointed out some holes in Sabah’s story which bear following up.

First, they point out there’s no fingerprint sensor on the Apple Watch, so Sabah’s report that the Saudis attempt to delete the audio recording using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock the Apple Watch wouldn’t be viable. The Apple Watch is unlocked with a passcode.

Also, the Apple Watch typically remains unlocked as long as the wearer keeps it strapped to their wrist after inputting the passcode.

Second, CNBC reports that the Sabah report indicated the audio recording was sent to Khashoggi’s iPhone from his Apple Watch, but if he left his iPhone with his fiancee outside the Saudi consulate, it would likely be difficult to maintain a Bluetooth connection to send the audio recording data to that phone.  

The rate of data transfer between Bluetooth 4.0 devices can be up to 25 Mbps, and though the signal can work through walls, the more objects in between the devices, the less overall range. The general range for Bluetooth 4.0 is up to 300 feet, so depending on how close his fiancee’s car was to the actual room where Khashoggi was allegedly being dismembered, the file might or might not have been transferrable back to his iPhone.

If you were thinking perhaps Khaoshoggi was wearing an Apple Watch that has a cellular data connection, CNBC points out that that particular model of the Apple Watch is incompatible with cellular networks in Turkey.

Finally, even if Khashoggi used an app to record from his Apple watch, Apple doesn’t actually ship the watch with a recording app.

So, he would have had to use one of several third-party apps that enable audio recording on the watch, and Apple’s privacy rules require such apps to display a red indicator on the watch a screen while it’s recording audio.

Anyone who looked at the watch would likely know they were being recorded. Of course, it’s certainly possible someone unfamiliar with the Apple Watch might not know what that big red button meant. But an alleged 15 highly-trained assassins?

Which leads me back to a hypothesis shared with me via a former member of the U.S. military. The Sabah Apple Watch story was very possibly a smokescreen published by Turkish intelligence intended to protect its own sources and methods.

Meaning, the Turkish government most likely had that Saudi consulate bugged to high heaven, so it’s very likely they do know if there was a murder and dismemberment taking place there. 

But suggesting via an open source record like a Turkish newspaper that such knowledge came in via an Apple Watch versus a well-placed bug is a very convenient way to let the world know that the Turks had that information, without really letting the world, and the Saudis, know exactly how.

Whatever the role these technologies did or didn’t play, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi has evolved into an international incident.

Just this morning, The New York Times reported that President Trump said that he spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia and that “the ruler denied any knowledge of what happened to a missing Saudi dissident journalist [Jamal Khashoggi].”

Yet, Trump indicated he would still be sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudia Arabia later this morning to meet with King Salman.

No word yet on whether or not Secretary Pompeo will be wearing an Apple Watch!

Written by turbotodd

October 15, 2018 at 11:03 am

Don’t Squeeze the Garmin

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Happy Friday.

If you were wondering whether there was any election cyber shenanigans going on, the Washington Post (“WAPO”) is reporting that Facebook has already purged over 800 U.S. accounts and pages for pushing political spam.

WAPO points out that in doing so, Facebook is potentially wading into politically treacherous waters, because some of those accounts had been in existence for years and had amassed millions of followers on both sides of the aisle.

At stake is the company’s future ability to operate with minimal government scrutiny: Prominent Republican and Democratic politicians now say Facebook should be regulated more heavily if it cannot control a growing list of abuses, including foreign meddling, the spread of misleading news — and if it abuses its power to censor, as conservatives have repeatedly alleged.

Still long on Facebook, much?

Meanwhile, back in the entertainment realm, here’s a creepy but interesting one for you.  Amy Winehouse is coming back to life and going out on tour as a hologram.

Proceeds from the tour will go toward the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which is dedicated to drug and alcohol abuse awareness and prevention among young people.

The tour is being produced by BASE Hologram, which uses holographic film technology to produce live entertainment tours and attractions worldwide, in partnership with the Winehouse family.

The tour will featured digitally remastered arrangements of the British singer’s hits — including “Rehab,” “Back to Black” and “Valerie” — with Winehouse’s hologram backed by a live band, singers and “theatrical stagecraft,” according to BASE.

I was a fan, and call me old fashioned, but I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to show up to a stadium full of fans in order to watch a hologram sing. 

And if you’re in the market for a hardcore new smart watch to make sure you don’t miss the Amy hologram show, Garmin’s got your back with a new GPS watch called “Instinct,” which The Verge is reporting is built for endurance for outdoor activities like running or mountain biking.

Instinct comes with a 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo). Support for multiple navigation systems allows the watch to track a user’s location even in more remote environments. It also uses Garmin’s TracBack feature, which sets “digital breadcrumbs” as you travel and can navigate you back to your starting point.

The Instinct also comes with heart rate sensors and monitors other health markers like daily activity, calories burned, sleep, and stress (measured through heart rate variability). There’s also a variety of built-in sports apps.

Garmin says the Instinct is built to military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance (the latter rated to 100 meters). It comes with a fiber reinforced polymer case, silicon band, and a display the company says is “chemically strengthened” as well as scratch resistant.

The Garman Instinct will be priced at U.S. $299.99.

Written by turbotodd

October 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Posted in 2018, hollywood, music, wearables

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