Turbotodd

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

Archive for March 2017

PC On Your Person

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The jokes about the new Samsung Galaxy S8 were all but inevitable.

I confess, I played as well, saying to one of my colleagues yesterday via IM, “Does it come with an asbestos burn bag??”

And that’s all the beating up I’ll do on poor Samsung — they’ve had one tough year and are trying to rise from the ashes.

The Wall Street Journal’s Geoffrey Fowler covered the basic speeds and feeds, its new Bixby virtual assistant, and other regular fare in his latest column.

But he also highlighted the looming possibility of the smartphone as desktop replacement:

The S8 has one other unexpected software talent: With an adapter, the S8 can transform into a computer, capable of driving a monitor, mouse and keyboard. It’s actually a Samsung-modified version of Android called DeX, which creates a desktop-like experience including resizable windows.
– via WSJ

That’s almost enough to stop your nightmares of phone batteries exploding in your pockets or while playing Angry Birds on airplanes!

Imagine, a computer in your pocket that you could take to work, plug it in, and not need to carry around a boat anchor (even today’s admittedly lighter laptop boat anchors).

As Fowler points out, at your desk, you’d obviously need a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, but other than that, you’d be good to go and you could always have your “computer” be on your person without much hassle.

Engadget put the S8 through some desktop paces during its own demo time and had this to say.

In summary, they wrote “The road to the perfect phone-desktop hybrid is littered with the carcasses of ambitious failures…” but that they were “…particularly impressed with the way Samsung has customized Android for bigger screens.”

Et tu, iPhone?

Written by turbotodd

March 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

A Stock Picking Machine

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If you’re looking for a little AI-related news, yesterday didn’t disappoint.

The New York Times reported that the largest fund company in the world, BlackRock, will be throwing a counterpunch against all those little pesky computer-driven funds that have sprouted up over the past several years.

Founder Laurence D. Fink, founder and CEO of BlackRock, “has cast his lot with the machines,” wrote the Times.

Meaning what, exactly?

BlackRock has laid out a plan to consolidate a large number of actively managed (read: by humans) mutual funds with peers that rely more on algorithms and models to pick stocks.

“The democratization of information has made it much harder for active management,” Mr. Fink said in an interview. “We have to change the ecosystem — that means relying more on big data, artificial intelligence, factors and models within quant and traditional investment strategies.”
– via www.nytimes.com

 

With Paul Bunyan, it was Man v. Machine…with the stock pickers, it’s the “quants” vs. the bots.

And oh, the sweet, sweet irony, to re-visit now last week’s comments from former Goldman Sachs banker and now Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, who, when asked about the arrival of impactful artificial intelligence, suggested it was 50 to 100 years out.

Uh, how about next week, Mr. Secretary??

Oh yeah, if you want a great read about the looming possibilities and threats of AI, look no further than Vanity Fair.

None other than Maureen Down goes deep into the AI Matrix with Elon Musk, Greg Brockman, and a host of other tech thought leaders to try and ascertain how far and how fast humanity should build out AI capabilities, and the consequences of going both too slow and too quickly.

A conundrum? Sure, but one the machines will be able to figure out in no time…if we let them.

Written by turbotodd

March 29, 2017 at 9:22 am

Natixis, IBM and Trafigura Introduce Blockchain Solution For U.S. Crude Oil Market

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Natixis, IBM and Trafigura have pioneered the first blockchain solution in commodity trade finance for US crude oil transactions.

The distributed ledger platform, built on the Linux Foundation open source Hyperledger Fabric, allows major steps in a crude oil transaction to be digitized on the blockchain, ensuring improved transparency, enhanced security, and optimized efficiency.

By having the buyer, seller and their respective banks all on the same ledger, all parties can simultaneously view and share data on the status of a transaction, from the time a new trade is confirmed and validated, to when the crude oil is inspected, to its final delivery and cancellation of the letter of credit.

This initiative is part of a broader effort to modernize trading in the global crude oil industry, which today is predominantly driven by manual, non-digital processes.

Key benefits of the solution include reduced cash cycle times, improved efficiency via lower overhead costs and fewer cost intermediaries, increased transaction visibility to help reduce the threat of tampering, fraud and cyber-crime, and the creation of transparent transactions by using shared processes and recordkeeping.

The new trading platform allows trade documents, shipment updates, delivery and payment status to be shared across a single shared ledger, helping to reduce transaction time, duplication of documents and authentication processes among all trading partners. Traditionally these transactions require complex workflows and paper-based processes in which documentation is shared through courier, fax and email exchange. The solution, which is hosted on IBM’s cloud platform, Bluemix, was led and delivered by IBM France.

“Natixis wants to use blockchain to enhance client service by optimizing the antiquated arena of commodity trade finance,” said Arnaud Stevens, Natixis’ New York Head of Global Energy & Commodities. “The current process is paper and labor intensive, we have multiple friction points with high processing costs and limited automation. Distributed ledger technology brings some much-needed innovation into our industry.”

The platform will soon be expanded to allow all parties in the transaction to enter data directly onto the blockchain. For example, the shipping company, pipeline operator, inspector or warehouse can provide real-time status updates via the blockchain on the crude oil transaction, helping lower the risk of fraudulent transactions.

More importantly, the distributed ledger for crude oil transactions is designed to be adopted at scale across the entire industry. By creating a shared permissioned ledger for use across all trading partners, including multiple buyers, sellers, banks and trading partners, even further efficiencies can be anticipated.

You can learn more about IBM Blockchain solutions here.

Written by turbotodd

March 28, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Dormi

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While everybody else in America was focused on March Madness, I was focused on the Dell Technologies World Golf Championship here in Austin over the weekend.

For rabid golf fans, there’s nothing like watching professional golfers play head to head — you learn a lot watching pro golfers in match play (as opposed to the week in week out stroke play).

What did we learn this weekend? That Dustin Johnson has more than earned his world #1 ranking.

That an obscure 38-year old Japanese golfer named Hideto Tanihara was the only player who really gave Johnson a run for his money in the semifinals, losing only 1 up on the 18th hole.

That Tanihara earned himself a precious spot in the upcoming Masters, and, oh yes, made an ace on the longgg par 3 #7 in his consolation match with Bill Haas.

In the final match, the hard-charging 22 year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm was 5 down through number 8 before Johnson lost the plot for a few holes.

But in the end, he outsmarted and outplayed the rookie, and took home yet another trophy. Johnson keeps playing like this, that #1 ranking could reside aside his name for some time.

And if he does bring that particular game to Augusta National in two weeks…watch out. Although that fade doesn’t lend itself to Augusta, say, the way Phil’s lefty slice does….

Written by turbotodd

March 27, 2017 at 8:45 am

Get Your Popcorn (and Personal Data), Heah!

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If you’re not worried about the privacy of your ISP data, now might be a good time to start being concerned.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to make it easier for ISPs to share sensitive information about their customers, a first step in overturning landmark privacy rules for the digital age.

Those rules were passed by the Federal Communications Commission in Obama’s final months as president, and prohibited Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon from selling customer data, including browsing history and location data, without first getting consent.

Those rules also compelled providers to let customers know about the data they collect, the purpose of that data collection, and to identify the types of third-party companies that might be given access to that data.

From The Verge:

“This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers’ use of social media sites and websites that often they talk for granted,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in the Senate today ahead of the vote.
– via www.theverge.com

Your personal information will soon be available to the highest bidder, and you probably don’t even care.

Until you do.

Written by turbotodd

March 24, 2017 at 10:45 am

Posted in 2017, congress, ISPs, privacy

Apple Acquires Workflow

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Happy Thursday… Much as with March Madness, there were some significant upsets yesterday in the Dell World Golf Championships here in Austin Texas… Most tragic was last year’s winner, Jason Day, announcing his withdrawal from the tournament after six holes due to his mother’s terminal cancer. He held a gutwrenching press conference, but the former world number one golfer clearly has his priorities in the right place.

Jason, here’s wishing you and your entire family all the best as your mom fights for her life. For those of us familiar with your backstory, we know how much of a fighter she is and how much she helped you get to where you are today.

Now, back to the technology news of the day: Apple has finalized a deal to acquire Workflow, a tool that lets you put together apps and functions within apps in strings of commands to automate tasks.

TechCrunch reported the news, but was unable to get financial details for the deal. As they write:

Workflow has been around for a couple of years and we’ve covered it and its updates. It shares some similarity with the service IFTTT, in that it allows people to group together a bunch of actions that can allow them to perform complicated tasks with one tap. It had built up a sizeable number of users and downloads over the past few years.
– via TechCrunch

They also report that the Workflow app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today.

Which makes all you people who bought the app in the last week suckers.

Written by turbotodd

March 23, 2017 at 10:07 am

New Androids, Big Brains

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SXSW has barely ended and Austin’s about to host another world class event, this time for golf fans.

The World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies match play tournament commences with its first round today at Austin Country Club. PGA golfers from around the world, welcome to Austin, and good luck!

In the meantime, things in the tech world certainly aren’t slowing down.

The Verge reports that for the second year in a row, Google is making a developer preview for the next version of Android available in March. There are said to be improvements to battery life and some changes in notifications, and Google is “aiming to improve sound quality with wireless headphones with ‘high-quality Bluetooth audio codes.’”

LInkedIn is also introducing some changes today, writes Recode:

On Wednesday, the professional network is rolling out a “Trending” topics feed, a new section of the app where users can find a collection of recent news stories and accompanying user posts that are personalized based on their interests and profession. LinkedIn LinkedIn will use a combination of human editors and computer algorithms to detect important storylines, then collect articles and posts related to those storylines and put them into individual feeds. The product looks very similar to what Facebook does with its own trending topics section, and is somewhat similar to Twitter’s Moments feature.
– via Recode

It’s LinkedIn, only, like Facebook. Got that?

And hiring human editors with big brains? I thought the machine overlords were taking over those mundane tasks so we humans could sit on the beach and sip from rummy yummy drinks with cute little umbrellas???

Speaking of big brains, Chinese search giant Baidu lost a big one yesterday when the company’s AI chief, Andrew Ng, announced he would be resigning.

Wrote Ng in his announcement blog post:

 

Just as electricity transformed many industries roughly 100 years ago, AI will also now change nearly every major industry — healthcare, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing — enriching the lives of countless people. I am more excited than ever about where AI can take us.
– via Medium

Clearly, just not at Baidu.

Written by turbotodd

March 22, 2017 at 9:18 am

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