Turbotodd

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

Archive for July 2017

True West — Sam Shepard, RIP

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Just out of the blue hearing the news that renowned actor, playwright, and author Sam Shepard is dead from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at the age of 73…well, that was a sucker punch I didn’t see coming.

For those of us who were avid thespians or who studied or were fans of playwriting, that’s up there with saying one of our generations’ Shakespeare’s has exited the typewriter.

For those who reveled in Shephard’s onscreen performances, from his magical turn as the Farmer in “Days of Heaven,” to his boundless Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff,” to his most recent appearance as the family patriarch, Robert Rayburn, on Netflix’s “Bloodline” — never mind all the various and sundry other character parts where his quiet hugeness absolutely filled up the screen — well hell, I don’t even know where to begin.

Shephard’s work painted on a vast, scrambled, and messy canvas of Americana — and not just the good parts, either. Shephard’s work, while celebrating the epic grandeur of the American West, also dug into the seamy underbelly of the American family, the complexity and psychology and contradictions beneath were far from “Leave it to Beaver”-like.

In fact, in his plays especially, it was typically quite the opposite. The so-called great American family was often one convoluted fireball of dysfunction, often held together only by thin seams of necessity and desperation.

And yet, with his words and his performances, he tried to explain it as best he could when we often didn’t even know what to think about it all ourselves.

It’s an open question as to who might continue to take on such giant questions, particularly in the tumultuous times in which we now find ourselves.

From “True West”: This isn’t champagne anymore. We went through the champagne a long time ago. This is serious stuff. The days of champagne are long gone.

Goodbye and Godspeed, Sam Shepard.

There may not be any champagne left, but you still sure left one hell of an impression.

Written by turbotodd

July 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm

No More Nano

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Happy Friday.

Here in Austin, weekend highs of 107 F are expected — another nice, cool Austin summer weekend!

Austin’s not the only thing heating up. The U.S. Commerce Department just announced earlier today that U.S. GDP quickened to 2.6 percent in 2Q, a pace over twice that of 1Q’s 1.2 percent.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “both consumers and businesses helped propel growth in the second quarter.”

If the economy keeps heating up like this, competition for top talent could follow. But don’t expect HPE CEO Meg Whitman to take that top job at Uber. According to a report from TechCrunch “she’s not going anywhere.”

However, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt is apparently on a shortlist for the Uber CEO job, a list that Bloomberg suggests is less than six names.

Immelt was already set to step down as chairman and CEO of GEO next month, so, yeah, he might have some time to take the Uber gig.

While that’s still a developing story, there’s a story about developers also unfolding.

Microsoft just announced that it has opened up Windows 10 S to developers and education customers, but not for testing to consumers.

According to a report from Thurrott, “The Home for Tech Enthusiasts: News, Reviews & Analysis”:

“We’re releasing [Windows 10 S] today to developers because we want to be sure they are testing Windows 10 S,” a Microsoft statement notes. “We especially want EDU-focused developers to continue to innovate and make apps that teachers and students would use from the Windows Store…This is very much meant only for developers and IT pros, not consumers to broadly download/switch to Windows 10 S.”
– via Thurrott.com

And finally, in the “We don’t sell that anymore” category, Apple confimed yesterday it has discontinued the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. 

What happened, you ask?

In short, first the iPhone, and later the Apple Watch, killed the iPod Nano and Shuffle radio star.

I loved me some iPod Shuffle, but at some point we all just gonna have to move on…

Written by turbotodd

July 28, 2017 at 9:53 am

Posted in 2017, apple, GDP, ipod, uber

Back in a Flash

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Head ups. Adobe has announced it will stop updating and distributing Flash at the end of 2020.

You’ve been given ample warning.

TechCrunch is reporting that until then, Adobe will still partner with the likes of Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft and Google to offer security updates for Flash in their browsers and support new versions of them, but beyond that, it’s no frills Flash, all the time.

HTML5 has won the day.

***

U.S. President Donald Trump said yesterday in an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook has committed to build three big manufacturing plants in the U.S., but didn’t elaborate on where those plants would be located or when they would be built.

Do these new Apple plants get build before the Wall on the U.S./Mexico border, or after?

Sorry, I NAFTA hafta ask!

***

AI neuroscience startup Vicarious announced that it has raised $50M in a round led by Khosla Ventures, according to VentureBeat.

The company is said to be using computational neuroscience to build better machine learning models that help robots address a wide variety of tasks. They focus on the neocortex, a part of the brain concerned with sight and hearing.

Does that mean Alexa will soon be able to fetch me a beer from the fridge??!

Written by turbotodd

July 26, 2017 at 8:36 am

IBM X-Force’s New Services for Automotive and IoT

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The Black Hat 2017 security conference kicks off this week in Viva Las Vegas, Nevada (actually, the happening unofficially started over the weekend).

So it’s no surprise that IBM Security earlier today announced the launch of two new security testing practice areas focused on automotive security and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The new services will be delivered via an elite team of IBM X-Force Red researchers focused on testing backend processes, apps and physical hardware used to control access and management of smart systems.

The new IoT services will be delivered alongside the Watson IoT Platform to provide security services by design to organizations developing IoT solutions for all industries. The Watson IoT Platform provides configuration and management of IoT environments, and the IBM X-Force Red services bring an added layer of security and penetration testing.

IBM X-Force Red marked its first-year anniversary with the addition of security specialists such as Cris Thomas (aka Space Rogue) and Dustin Heywood (aka Evil_Mog with Team Hashcat), who add to the team’s impressive roster of talent globally. To further optimize their engagements, IBM X-Force Red has also built a password cracker called “Cracken” designed to help clients improve password hygiene.

IBM X-Force Red at Black Hat 2017 and DEF CON 2017

Charles Henderson, Global Head of IBM X-Force Red, will present his discussion of real-life penetration testing, “Better Than Mr. Robot at Black Hat USA 2017. The session will be held in Business Hall Theater B, Mandalay Bay on Thursday, July 27 from 11:00-11:50 a.m. PT.

Chris Thompson, Red Team Ops Lead, IBM X-Force Red, will present his demonstration of advanced Red Team tactics, “MS Just Gave the Blue Team Tactical Nukes (and How Red Teams Need to Adapt)” at DEF CON 25. The demo will be held in the 101 Track on Saturday, July 30 from 3:00-3:45 p.m. PT.

X-Force Red and other IBM Security experts will demonstrate the latest offerings at Booth #616, Level 1 Business Hall, Mandalay Bay on July 26 & 27.

You can learn more about IBM Security solutions here.

Written by turbotodd

July 24, 2017 at 11:17 am

Alexa, Buy Graphiq

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Amazon’s doing some shopping of its own, this week acquiring Santa Barbara-based data analytics and search engine startup Graphiq for an estimated $50M.

According to Crunchbase, Graphiq positioned itself as a data aggregation and visualization company focused on turning cmoplicated data into contextually-rich presentations of the world’s knowledge.

The company was founded in 2009 as “FindTheBest,” according to the LA Times, and was co-founded with former DoubleClick CEO and Founder, Kevin O’Connor.

How will Graphiq’s technology possibly be used in the Amazon?

The technology Graphiq has developed to connect the dots between billions of pieces of information could be valuable to Amazon as it tries to make Alexa smarter. Akin to Siri on the iPhone, Alexa answers queries about the weather, sports and other topics on devices such as Amazon’s Echo speaker. Last year, Graphiq produced a now-unavilable Alexa app that aimed to answer questions such as “What is the fastest 2016 sedan?” according to app aggregation website ChatBottle. Amazon also gave Graphiq access to a database about books to put its technology to the test, according to a source.
– via latimes.com

Written by turbotodd

July 21, 2017 at 10:41 am

IBM and University of Alberta Publish New Data on Machine Learning Algorithms to Help Predict Schizophrenia

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IBM scientists and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, have published new data in Nature’s partner journal, Schizophrenia1, demonstrating that AI and machine learning algorithms helped predict instances of schizophrenia with 74% accuracy.

This retrospective analysis also showed the technology predicted the severity of specific symptoms in schizophrenia patients with significant correlation, based on correlations between activity observed across different regions of the brain. This pioneering research could also help scientists identify more reliable objective neuroimaging biomarkers that could be used to predict schizophrenia and its severity.

Schizophrenia is a chronic and debilitating neurological disorder that affects 7 or 8 out of every 1,000 people. Those with schizophrenia can experience hallucinations, delusions or thought disorders, along with cognitive impairments, such as an inability to pay attention and physical impairments, such as movement disorders.

“This unique, innovative multidisciplinary approach opens new insights and advances our understanding of the neurobiology of schizophrenia, which may help to improve the treatment and management of the disease,” says Dr. Serdar Dursun, a Professor of Psychiatry & Neuroscience with the University of Alberta. “We’ve discovered a number of significant abnormal connections in the brain that can be explored in future studies, and AI-created models bring us one step closer to finding objective neuroimaging-based patterns that are diagnostic and prognostic markers of schizophrenia.”

In the paper, researchers analyzed de-identified brain functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) data from the open data set, Function Biomedical Informatics Research Network (fBIRN) for patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders, as well as a healthy control group. fMRI measures brain activity through blood flow changes in particular areas of the brain.

Specifically, the fBIRN data set reflects research done on brain networks at different levels of resolution, from data gathered while study participants conducted a common auditory test. Examining scans from 95 participants, researchers used machine learning techniques to develop a model of schizophrenia that identifies the connections in the brain most associated with the illness.

The results of the IBM and University of Alberta research demonstrated that, even on more challenging neuroimaging data collected from multiple sites (different machines, across different groups of subjects etc.) the machine learning algorithm was able to discriminate between patients with schizophrenia and the control group with 74% accuracy using the correlations in activity across different areas of the brain. 

Additionally, the research showed that functional network connectivity could also help determine the severity of several symptoms after they have manifested in the patient, including inattentiveness, bizarre behavior and formal thought disorder, as well as alogia, (poverty of speech) and lack of motivation.

The prediction of symptom severity could lead to a more quantitative, measurement-based characterization of schizophrenia; viewing the disease on a spectrum, as opposed to a binary label of diagnosis or non-diagnosis. This objective, data-driven approach to severity analysis could eventually help clinicians identify treatment plans that are customized to the individual. 

“The ultimate goal of this research effort is to identify and develop objective, data-driven measures for characterizing mental states, and apply them to psychiatric and neurological disorders” said Ajay Royyuru, Vice President of Healthcare & Life Sciences, IBM Research. “We also hope to offer new insights into how AI and machine learning can be used to analyze psychiatric and neurological disorders to aid psychiatrists in their assessment and treatment of patients.”

The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative of NIMH emphasizes the importance of objective measurements in psychiatry. This field, often referred to as “computational psychiatry”, aims to use modern technology and data driven approaches to improve evidence-based medical decision making in psychiatry, a field that often relies upon subjective evaluation approaches.

As part of the ongoing partnership, researchers will continue to investigate areas and connections in the brain that hold significant links to schizophrenia. Work will continue on improving the algorithms by conducting machine learning analysis on larger datasets, and by exploring ways to extend these techniques to other psychiatric disorders such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can learn more about IBM Watson Health solutions here.

Written by turbotodd

July 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

A Mammoth Customer Base

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IBM today announced that Mammoth Resorts, the leading four-season mountain resort operator in California, is using Watson Customer Engagement solutions on the IBM Cloud to create customized offers that are helping to drive record numbers of visitors to the resort every year.

One challenge facing year-round travel destinations such as Mammoth is attracting consumers who often visit multiple location web sites to research potential getaways only to hold off on making a firm decision until they’ve assessed all of their options.

For Mammoth, the question was how to bring prospective customers back to the Mammoth website to ultimately book a trip in advance of peak vacation periods.

With cloud-based Watson Marketing solutions, Mammoth is able to closely monitor customer activity on their website including where visitors are spending most of their time, what they were looking at, whether they left their shopping cart empty and more.

With these details, Mammoth is triggering responsive email campaigns that feature deals on the very items customers were viewing such as a free night’s stay on their next visit. The team can then track which promotions are most successful in sparking return visits to the site.

Since launching these campaigns, the results were almost instantaneous, with email click through rates climbing from 8 percent to 34 percent year-over-year, a growth of 325 percent.

In addition to attracting new guests, IBM Watson Customer Engagement is helping Mammoth build customer loyalty through timely, personalized campaigns that take into account each person’s preferences based on past stays. 

Mammoth Resorts then uses these details to proactively recommend trips, such as a return stay during the February winter break for summer guests that includes the same number of rooms and discounts on lift tickets.

Mammoth also automatically delivers guest alerts around birthdays, booking anniversaries and more, with each communication including special deals on both lodging and other items such as lift tickets as well as recommendations on, for example, off-season vacations options such as a summer mountain bike trip for the family.

You can learn more about IBM Watson Customer Engagement solutions here.

Written by turbotodd

July 20, 2017 at 11:08 am

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