Turbotodd

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

Archive for March 2018

Facebook Data

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Facebook shares fell more than 4% in premarket trading today after media reports that a political consultancy that worked on President Trump’s campaign was able to obtain inappropriate access to data on 50 million Facebook users.

According to Reuters, the move knocked $23.8 billion dollars off the social network’s market value of $538 billion as of Friday’s close.

The report also quoted one Wall Street analyst saying that the reports raised “systemic problems” with Facebook’s business model and a number said it could spur far deeper regulatory scrutiny of the platform.

This all comes after news announce Friday that Facebook suspended the account of Cambridge Analytica, the political data company backed by the billionaire Robert Mercer that consulted on both the Brexit and Trump campaigns.

Over the weekend, both The Guardian and The New York Times penned major reports in which the whistleblower Christopher Wylie alleged that Cambridge Analytica had used data that an academic had allegedly improperly exfiltrated from Facebook.

Written by turbotodd

March 19, 2018 at 9:58 am

Latest Austin Bomb Involved a Trip Wire

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So another bomb went off here in Austin last night.

This one was in the southwest side of Austin, probably about 4 miles due southwest of where I live just south of downtown.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said this morning that Sunday night’s bomb, which injured two men in their twenties, was triggered by a trip wire and thus "showing a different level of skill above what we were already concerned that this suspect or suspects may possess."

Investigators indicated the device was made to blend in with the surroundings.

They are still investigating whether the blast was a copy cat of the March 2 and March 12 bombings, or the same person. They will not be able to make that determination until they can more closely reveal the kind of shrapnel that was used in the explosive device, although initial reports last night suggested there were nails used in this latest bomb.

In this latest case, the two victims were Anglo males, according to Chief Manley, which, were the bomb made by the same perpetrator, could start to throw into question that these incidents are hate crimes.

If it is the same perp for this latest bomb, they’ve clearly upped the ante with the trip wire.

Now, don’t pick up strange packages whose provenance you don’t know off your front porch, AND watch out for trip wires.

Written by turbotodd

March 19, 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in 2018, austin, terrorism

Tagged with ,

A Kilowatt for A Bitcoin!

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Happy Friday.

If you’re looking for cheap energy to do your Bitcoin mining, don’t head for Plattsburgh, New York. 

Its city council last evening unanimously voted to impose an 18-month moratorium on Bitcoin mining in the city.

Motherboard reports that the moratorium was proposed by Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read earlier this month after residents began reporting wildly inflated electricity bills in January (some up to $100 or $200 more than average).

And this in a place that advertises itself as having the “cheapest electricity in the world” because of its proximity to a hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence river.

Meanwhile, following up on my post yesterday about the cyber escapades in Saudi Arabia, the plot thickens.

According to a report from Reuters, the Trump Administration yesterday blamed the Russian government for a campaign of cyber attacks stretching back at least two years that targeted the U.S. power grid. That’s the first time the U.S. has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure.

The attempts started in/around March 2016, with the Russian government hackers seeking to penetrate multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and manufacturing.  

You know, pretty much everything to keep a modern industrialized society’s wheels turning!

And if you’re looking for some lighter fare, Facebook Lite will soon be coming to Canada, Australia, the U.K. and U.S. 

Facebook Lite is Facebook’s pared down version of its app that had originally been designed for people in developing countries with limited data plans, but hey, we’re rapidly becoming a third world country here in the U.S., so bring on the Lite Facebook…err, the Facebook Lite. 

How about some new old ad slogans for the newest Lite?

You can call me Ray, and you can call me Jay!

Great taste, less filling!

If you’ve got the time…we’ve got the social network?!  No?

The app will only be available for Android for today’s release, I guess suggesting that we iOS users aren’t in need of such bandwidth relief??!

Written by turbotodd

March 16, 2018 at 9:40 am

Saudi Cyber

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Don’t miss this doozy of a story from The New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth and Clifford Krauss about last year’s cyberattack in Saudi Arabia.

The executive summary: Last August, a petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia was struck by a cyberassault that intended to sabotage the firm’s operations and trigger an explosion.

The only thing that prevented the explosion was a mistake in the attackers’ computer code. 

For cyber warriors on the front line, it’s a must read.

On the flip side, Google recently released its “Android Security 2017 Year in Review” report earlier today, and it cited that 60.3 percent of Potentially Harmful Apps were detected via machine learning.

As reported by VentureBeat, its detection is done by a service called Google Play Protect, which is enabled on over 2 billion devices (running Android 4.3 and up) to constantly scan Android apps for malicious activity.

In other words, artificial intelligence and machine learning are the future of cyber monitoring, and the future has already arrived.

Speaking of the future and cybersecurity, at next week’s IBM Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas, you’ll be able to tune in to over 100 sessions LIVE via the IBM UStream. 

Be sure to check out the schedule here, and to case the cyber keynote from 12:30-1:10 PST on Tuesday, March 20th, entitled “Ready for Anything: Build a Cyber Resilient Organization.”

Written by turbotodd

March 15, 2018 at 10:16 am

Stephen Hawking and the Stars

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Today, we lament the passing of celebrated physicist and best-selling author Dr. Stephen W. Hawking.  Dr. Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, had this to say about Mr. Hawking’s life: 

“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world.”

And as his New York Time’s obituary observed, “what is equally amazing is that he had a career at all,” having been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease as a grad student in 1963 and then given only a few years to live.

In fact, he lived on this planet 55 more, and transcended the physical limitations of the disease with a brilliant and active mind and, later, through the use of modern computer speech technologies that allowed him to continue to communicate with the world.

The Times’ obituary highlighted Hawking’s breakthrough work:

He went on to become his generation’s leader in exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape them.

That work led to a turning point in modern physics, playing itself out in the closing months of 1973 on the walls of his brain when Dr. Hawking set out to apply quantum theory, the weird laws that govern subatomic reality, to black holes. In a long and daunting calculation, Dr. Hawking discovered to his befuddlement that black holes — those mythological avatars of cosmic doom — were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.

The next year, he would connect gravity and quantum mechanics in an article in Nature entitled “Black Hole Explosions?”

The image of Hawking that will always stay with me was his gleeful ride aboard a Boeing 727 in April 2007, a literal attempt to defy gravity and physically transcend for a few fleeting moments the confines of his wheelchair.

When he spoke of the experience, Dr. Hawking responded: “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.”

It’s safe to say his spirit remained intact throughout his remarkable life, one that served as an inspiration to so many around the globe.

RIP, Dr. Hawking — we’ll see you in the stars.

Written by turbotodd

March 14, 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in 2018, obituary

No Big (Qualcomm) Deal

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First, let me thank the rest of the world for their concern for Austin, Texas, and the two horrific bombings that occurred here yesterday, and the other that killed another man on March 2nd. 

To recap, that’s three bombings in ten days that have left two people dead and three people wounded after opening packages left at their doors.

While police have suggested none of these packages were delivered by the usual suspects — USPS, UPS, FedEx, Amazon — it is enough to make you second guess picking up any package off your front porch.

Coincidence these bombings occurred the first full weekday swing of SXSW Interactive, where the world’s media has descended? Or that the bombs were all placed at the homes of minorities?  

Austin Police either don’t know or aren’t saying yet, but it’s hard not to harken back to Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), whose methods weren’t entirely dissimilar (although in his case Kaczynski was targeting individuals involved in developing modern technologies).

While we wait to learn more, President Trump has taken the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and decided to block Broadcom’s proposed buyout of Qualcomm, citing national security concerns.

Despite Broadcom’s having agreed to move its headquarters from Singapore to the U.S. in an effort to save the deal, CNBC reports that both companies were ordered to immediately abandon it post haste.

But Bloomberg suggests there was more at stake, some geopolitical and technological chess being played by the world’s biggest state actors. 

Their suggestion: CFIUS was concerned Broadcom would cut back on R&D funding at Qualcomm, which in turn would strength China-based Huawei, giving Chinese companies like they and ZTE the upper hand in steering the direction of wireless communications development, most notably 5G. Never mind the fact that the U.S. House Intelligence Committee blacklisted Huawei and ZTE in 2012, again citing security risks.

Bloomberg reminds us that Huawei uses Broadcom’s chips in networking products such as the switches that direct data between connected computers…and Qualcomm also works with Huawei. So if China’s 5G (and beyond) standards start to become just that, well, it leaves the American telcos potentially out in the cold Beijing snow.

Huawei is among China’s top filers of international and domestic patents, ranging from data transmission to network security, and Bloomberg suggests Huawei may even own a 10th of essential patents on 5G, and has been “angling for full-scale of commercialization of 5G networks by 2020.”

There’s a lot of money, and ergo, influence, at stake in the 5G decision. And apparently it’s not one that the Trump Administration  wants to possibly leave in the hands of President Xi.

Written by turbotodd

March 13, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in 2018, 5G, telecommunications

Tagged with , , ,

To Mars and Augusta and Back

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SXSW Interactive kicked into high gear over the weekend here in Austin. I won’t be in attendance this year, but Elon Musk made some news over the weekend by suggesting that SpaceX is on track to send his Mars-intended rocket on short trips by 2019.

The target for a cargo mission was 2022.

In a report  from CNBC, Musk also elaborated about what was needed to get things going on the Red Planet: “Mars will need Glass domes, a power station, and an assortment of basic living fundamentals.”

One would presume those fundamentals include at least 2-3 Tesla Model 3s.

‘Cause, you know, you gotta tool around Mars in style.

Back here on planet Earth, a longtime unicorn may very well finally be going public. Dropbox filed an updated IPO prospectus indicating it planned to sell 36 million shares between $16 and $18 a share, according to a report from The New York Times. 

The company is expected to start trading on the Nasdaq next week under the ticker symbol “DBX.”

Finally, golf fans everywhere were treated to a real treat at this weekend’s Valspar Championship.

Tiger Woods was back in contention at a PGA Tour event. He hadn’t won a tournament since 2013, and he still hasn’t. 

But his play on the tough Innisbruck Copperhead Course, home of the golf snakebite, was in top form and he ended up tied for second. Englishman Paul Casey won the tournament, garnering only his second win on the PGA Tour and his first since 2009. Congrats!

So, there were cinderella redux stories all around, and The Masters is only a few weeks away. Might Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods be ready to set the pace once again at Augusta National?

A final round pairing of those two at The National?…well, a fella can always dream.

Written by turbotodd

March 12, 2018 at 9:42 am

Turning Up the Heat on Crypto

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The cryptocurrency juggernaut continues to build momentum. It seems as though there’s a new initial coin offering every day now.

Multicoin Capital is looking to raise $250 million in capital by the end of June, and Reuters is reporting that Marc Andreessen and a “slew of big individual and institutional investors” have invested thus far.

Multicoin views cryptocurrencies as a long-term investment (three to four years), as opposed to the short-termism we’ve been seeing in recent weeks.

Other investors include PayPay’s first COO, David Sacks, and Elad Gil, co-founder of genomic testing company Color Genomics. 

In related news, Bitcoin’s price has now settled down to around $9,000, and this as Japan suspended trading on two cryptocurrencies on Thursday following a reported $530 million cyber heist at Coincheck, one of the country’s largest crypto platforms.

According to a story in Fortune, Japan’s Financial Services Agency has ordered Bitstation and FSHO to suspend business for at least one month, the first due to an executive using customer funds for personal transactions, and the second for allegedly failing to shore up customer protection.

And finally, in the better cryptocurrency mousetrap category, French startup Qarnot has unveiled a new computing heater made specifically for cryptocurrency mining.

A heater. With a computer. Just for mining bitcoins. And heating you.

Three words, people: Picks and shovels.

Addendum: Check out Paul Ford’s Bloomberg story, “Bitcoin is Ridiculous, Blockchain is Dangerous” where he compares to the emerging crypto tulip-mania to the early days of the WWW. 

Written by turbotodd

March 9, 2018 at 9:34 am

No Laughing Matter

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Did you hear the one about the personal voice assistant that, for seemingly no apparent reason whatsoever, started breaking into strange laughing noises at random?

No?

Well, I heard about it firsthand, but apparently I missed the opportunity to hear random guffawing of my own personal Amazon Tap.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon confirmed yesterday that in rare circumstances, the voice assistant can mistakenly hear the phrase “Alexa, laugh,” which under its normal programming would cause it to chuckle. 

Amazon has updated a fix for the problem, and is changing the trigger phrase for laughing to “Alexa, can you laugh?” instead.

A few moments ago, I tried the new command, and all I got from Alexa was a “Tee hee.”  

How very anti-climactic.

This quirk has been referred to in AI circles as a “false positive.”

Let’s just hope the voice commands for the AI algos running the armed drones have their laughs in order.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2018 at 9:02 am

Real Not Fake News

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Read about Farhood Manjoo’s “slow-jamming” of the news. Manjoo stopped looking at news online for two months, and instead reverted back to getting real paper newspaper subscriptions. 

I won’t give away the whole story, but one of his verdicts was that he felt as though reading an actual newspaper, he felt he was was getting some actual real news.  

What a concept, and no bots!

Of course, if bots are your thing, you may want to know about the $13.5 million Series A round that Voicera just raised.

Voicera’s elevator pitch is that it wants to make it simpler to record meetings and pull out action items automatically using AI. It will do so by recording and creating a transcript of the meeting.

It’s technology centers around “Eva,” an AI-fueled note-taking assistant. Eva’s job is to record the meeting, create the transcription, identify the important stuff, and then send out an email with the highlights to all meeting participants.

What? Eva won’t do my to dos in the process?!  What kind of AI is this?!

 

Written by turbotodd

March 7, 2018 at 12:26 pm

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