Turbotodd

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

Archive for August 2018

Scooting Across the Bay

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First, an editorial caveat: I’ve been hit twice by folks traveling on scooters while riding my bike near and around Ladybird Lake in Austin.

Fortunately, both times I was able to pop back up, and I won’t let my own personal negative experiences cover my judgment.

Like the 2000-ish problem we had with broadband and the so-called “last mile,” I think scooters (and free-ranging rental bikes) have a real opportunity to help alleviate congestion in major city centers like San Francisco and New York.

But only if there are some rules.

The Verge is now reporting that after more than two months of waiting, San Francisco has announced that only two scooper companies will be allowed to return to that city: Scoot and Skip. 

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), both companies will be allowed to operate a maximum of 625 scooters each for six months starting in October. After that, Scoot and Skip may be allowed to increase that number to 2,500 scooters each.

I find it interesting that The Verge notes other big scooter players Bird and Lime may have been done in by their decision to just drop their scooter’s streets without permission.

Sometimes it’s not better to ask for forgiveness later, and when it comes to keeping city streets safe, permission is probably going to continue to be the better option.

Written by turbotodd

August 31, 2018 at 11:02 am

Apple AR Acquisition

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Happy Thursday.

Reuters is reporting that Apple has acquired a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, a sign that Apple has ambitions to make a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

The company, Akonia, could not be immediately reached for comment, according to Reuters. it reports the company was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists and had originally focused on holographic data storage before pivoting to creating displays for AR glasses.

Neither the purchase price nor the date of the acquisition was revealed, although one executive in the AR industry said the Akonia team had become “very quiet” over the past six months.

Reuter’s suggests that this acquisition is the first clear indication about Apple might handle one of the most daunting challenges in AR hardware: producing crystal clear optical displays thin and light enough to fit in the glasses similar to everyday frames with images bright enough for outdoor use and suited to mass manufacturing at a relatively low price.

Meanwhile, from The Verge we learn that Google’s Titan Security key set — which includes a USB key, a Bluetooth key, and various connectors — is now available to we mere mortals for only $50.

The Titan keys work as a second factor for a number of services, including Google Cloud customers, Facebook, Dropbox, and GitHub. But as The Verge points out, they’re built particularly for Google account logins, and, specifically, the Advanced Protection Program announced last October.

The Verge writes that “Because the keys verify themselves with a complex handshake rather than a static code, they’re far more resistant to phishing attacks than a conventional confirmtion code. The key was initially designed for internal Google use, and has been in active use within the company for more than eight months.”

Google has also indicated the production process makes the keys more resistant to supply chain attacks, because the firmware is sealed permanently Into a secure element hardware chip at production time in the chip production factory. Google says that the chip used is designed to resist physical attacks aimed at extracting firmware and secret key material.

Anything to keep the very bad people away from my data.

Written by turbotodd

August 30, 2018 at 9:49 am

Bing Me An Uber

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A headline in today’s Wall Street Journal: Toyota investing $500 million in Uber in driverless-car pact.

Toyota’s investment values Uber at roughly $72 billion, slightly higher than where SoftBank Group Corp. valued the company earlier this year with its funding.

Through the deal, Uber will integrate self-driving technology into Toyota Sienna minivans for use in Uber’s ride hailing network.

And as the Journal story observes:

For ride-sharing concerns like Uber and Lyft Inc., autonomous vehicles could cut their biggest expense: paying human drivers. For auto makers such as Toyota, the potential of self-driving cars to power car-sharing services represents a major challenge to an industry dominated by individual car ownership.

The Journal also reminds us that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is looking to take the company public next year and has been selling off unprofitable operations while “putting new focus on rentable bikes and scooters.”

Could a Lime or Bird acquisition be in the offing? 

Also on today’s AI frontiers, Search Engine Land is reporting that Bing is introducing a new “Spotlight” news feature which showcases a timeline of how a story has evolved, differing perspectives from news sources, and related social media posts on a topic.

Uh, can we see the full timeline in Spotlight for the Mueller investigation?

Yeah, there’s probably not enough AI on the planet to fully grok that timeline yet.

Lest you worry that the “Spotlight” will render human editors irrelevant, the Search Engine Land story indicates Bing explained that the perspectives and stories “are compiled using a combination of both AI and experienced human editors.”

Bing monitors millions of queries and news articles every day and identifies impactful stories that evolve over a period of weeks or months. We look at various user signals such as queries and browser logs, and document signals from publishers such as how many publishers cover a story, their angles, and how prominently they feature the story on their site.  For controversial topics, in the Perspectives module, we show different viewpoints from high-quality sources. For a source to be considered high quality, it must meet the Bing News PubHub Guidelines, which is a set of criteria that favors originality, readability, newsworthiness, and transparency. Top caliber news providers identify sources and authors, give attribution and demonstrate sound journalistic practices such as accurate labeling of opinion and commentary. Behind the scenes, we leverage our deep learning algorithms and web graphs of hundreds of millions of web sites in the Bing index to identify top sources for national news, per category, query, or article. Our goal is to provide broader context for impactful stories, from politics to business to major disasters, and much more.

All the news that’s fit to algo.

Written by turbotodd

August 28, 2018 at 9:21 am

Posted in 2018, AI, algorithms, microsoft, news

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Facebook Deletes 600+ Accounts Linked to Influence Campaigns from Iran and Russia

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Happy Thursday.

Facebook has once again removed multiple pages, groups and accounts for coordinated and authentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.

The company indicated that “some of this activity originated in Iran, and some originated in Russia.”

The Verge reported that Facebook took down 652 fake accounts and pages that published political content, the existence of which was first uncovered by the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

“These were networks of accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters. “We ban this kind of behavior because authenticity matters. People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook.”

Separately, CNBC is reporting that Apple has removed Facebook’s Onavo security app from the App Store because it does not comply with its privacy rules.

Citing a Wall Street Journal story from Wednesday, Apple officials told Facebook that Onavo violated the company’s rules on data collection by developers, and suggested last Thursday that Facebook voluntarily remove the app. 

Facebook acquired Israel-based Onavo in 2013, snapping up the free security app that lets users access a virtual private network, or VPN, to browse the web and download apps with a greater degree of privacy. Facebook in the past has offered that service to users without clearly disclosing that it owns the app, and has collected data about what other types of apps those customers use.

Written by turbotodd

August 23, 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Give the Fancy Bear Some Slack

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Happy Tuesday.

Another hacking story concerning the Russians, this time from The New York Times alleging that Microsoft has “detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U.”

The story goes on to suggest the sites were an attempt meant to trick people into thinking they were going to be visiting conservative think tank sites like the Hudson Institute, but instead were redirected to pages created by the hackers in order to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft president Brad Smith had this to say: 

These attacks are seeking to disrupt and divide,” he said. “There is an asymmetric risk here for democratic societies. The kind of attacks we see from authoritarian regimes are seeking to fracture and splinter groups in our society.

But enough depressing security news…what new gadgets are coming out and how much do they cost?

Apple is rumored to be developing a pro-focused upgrade to the Mac mini and a MacBook Air reboot that will have smaller bezels and a retina 13” screen later this year. This according to a report from Bloomberg.

Bloomberg suggests the new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air and will remain about 13 inches. No word on cost. Me, my 2011 vintage MacBook Air still works just fine, thank you very much.

Finally, Slack has raised $427 million in a new Series H round, valuating the company “north of $7.1B,” according to a story by Axios

At last count, Slack had 8 million daily active users and over 70K paid teams, and only just three years ago was valued just above that of your standard, everyday Silicon Valley unicorn (just north of $1B).

Maybe they need a new term for those unicorns who graduate to +$5B valuations.  Unicornaminotaur?

Written by turbotodd

August 21, 2018 at 9:51 am

Hack the Fax

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Your fax machine is making that awful sound and is out of paper, and oh, yeah, now it’s also being hacked.

And the 1980s wants it back, stat.

While you’re waiting for the time machine to kick in, know that CNBC is reporting that Check Point Software Technologies researchers on Sunday released a report indicating that fax machines have serious security flaws.

And those vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to steal sensitive files through a company’s network using just a phone line and a fax number.

To whit one must logically ask the question, who in 2018 is still using a fax machine?

And to which the answer is apparently tens of millions (including in those nifty all-in-one printers).

Here’s how CNBC is reporting that the hack works:

They faxed over lines of malicious code disguised as an image file to the printer, relying on the fact that no one usually checks the contents received over a fax. The file was decoded and stored in the printer’s memory, which allowed the researchers to take over the machine. From there, they were able to infiltrate the entire computer network to which the printer was connected.

These kinds, they think of everything these days. 

What’s my next, my Royal portable typewriter??

Written by turbotodd

August 13, 2018 at 9:24 am

Posted in 2018, cyber security

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