Turbotodd

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

Archive for October 2018

And the Winner of the Call for Code Is…

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When IBM and its partners announced the Call for Code global developer initiative in May, I quickly surmised I was going to be part of a team working on an effort that would be a highlight of my career at Big Blue.

Little did I know the ripple effect that effort would have around the globe.

The rallying cry was an important one: Asking developers everywhere to team up and use their skills and mastery of the latest and greatest technologies to drive positive and long-lasting chance across the world with their code.

Specifically, for the 2018 effort (Call for Code is a multi-year initiative), to create solutions that significantly improve preparedness for natural disasters and relief when they hit in order to safeguard the health and well-being of communities.

The Call officially began in June, and the deadline for contributions was towards the end of September.

Then, last night at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, the winner was announced: Project OWL.

Project OWL’s stated disaster preparedness problem was an important one: To help avoid the chaos and uncertainty a disaster can bring, first responders need to make critical decisions with limited evidence and execute with confidence.

Their solution was brilliant: To use a set of APIs and open data sets from a variety of sources (The Weather Company, the American Red Cross, FEMA) to help build an ad-hoc mobile “Clusterduck” network.

The network would be an offline communications infrastructure created by physical, Wi-Fi-enabled devices dispersed in clusters which would help first responders and relief workers to share information about their specific situation, location and needs.

While the Project OWL team was the winner of the $200K grand prize, the other finalists also offered quite compelling solutions, and I would encourage you to read more about them in this blog post.

As for Project OWL, they took their moment in the spotlight last night in San Francisco and have already turned their attention back to improving upon their initial effort, with the goal of focusing on regions where annual weather patterns consistently impact communities negative, including India, China, the Philippines, and parts of the U.S.

They’ll also receive support from the IBM Corporate Service Corps (think of it as IBM’s Peace Corps), and will have the opportunity to pitch OWL to venture capitalist firm NEA for potential funding.

In the end, over 100k developers from 156 nations participated in this year’s challenge, and built some 2,500 disaster preparedness apps, demonstrating once again the power software developers around the globe have to change the world for the better!

Written by turbotodd

October 30, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Posted in 2018, call for code, developers

Tagged with ,

IBM to Acquire Red Hat

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IBM and Red Hat have announced they have reached a definitive agreement under which IBM will acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Red Hat for $190.00 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately $34 billion.

More simply put, IBM is acquiring Red Hat.

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “IBM will become the world’s #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.

“Most companies today are only 20 percent along their cloud journey, renting compute power to cut costs,” she said. “The next 80 percent is about unlocking real business value and driving growth. This is the next chapter of the cloud. It requires shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data and optimizing every part of the business, from supply chains to sales.”

This acquisition brings together the best-in-class hybrid cloud providers and will enable companies to securely move all business applications to the cloud. Companies today are already using multiple clouds.

However, research shows that 80 percent of business workloads have yet to move to the cloud, held back by the proprietary nature of today’s cloud market. This prevents portability of data and applications across multiple clouds, data security in a multi-cloud environment and consistent cloud management.

“Open source is the default choice for modern IT solutions, and I’m incredibly proud of the role Red Hat has played in making that a reality in the enterprise,” said Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat. “Joining forces with IBM will provide us with a greater level of scale, resources and capabilities to accelerate the impact of open source as the basis for digital transformation and bring Red Hat to an even wider audience –  all while preserving our unique culture and unwavering commitment to open source innovation.”

BM and Red Hat will be strongly positioned to address this issue and accelerate hybrid multi-cloud adoption. Together, they will help clients create cloud-native business applications faster, drive greater portability and security of data and applications across multiple public and private clouds, all with consistent cloud management.

In doing so, they will draw on their shared leadership in key technologies, such as Linux, containers, Kubernetes, multi-cloud management, and cloud management and automation. 

IBM’s and Red Hat’s partnership has spanned 20 years, with IBM serving as an early supporter of Linux, collaborating with Red Hat to help develop and grow enterprise-grade Linux and more recently to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to customers.

These innovations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business. Between them, IBM and Red Hat have contributed more to the open source community than any other organization.

With this acquisition, IBM will remain committed to Red Hat’s open governance, open source contributions, participation in the open source community and development model, and fostering its widespread developer ecosystem. In addition, IBM and Red Hat will remain committed to the continued freedom of open source, via such efforts as Patent Promise, GPL Cooperation Commitment, the Open Invention Network and the LOT Network.

IBM and Red Hat also will continue to build and enhance Red Hat partnerships, including those with major cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba and more, in addition to the IBM Cloud. At the same time, Red Hat will benefit from IBM’s hybrid cloud and enterprise IT scale in helping expand their open source technology portfolio to businesses globally.

Written by turbotodd

October 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm

But Is It Art?

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I think we’re about to jump the AI shark. And that’s before the shark has hardly even started to begun to swim.

A new work of art entitled “Portrait of Edmond de Belamy” is going on sale at Christie’s tonight, and according to a report by Quartzy, at first glance it appears to look like the handiwork of a long-dead Old Master.

Quartzy reports that it has a few smudges, a lightness in the brush strokes, some negative space at the edge of the canvas, and even a subtle chiaroscuro.

But, in fact, the picture of a man in a black shirt is not the work of any painter, living or dead.

No, it’s the result of an artificial intelligence algorithm.

“Portrait of Edmond De Belamy” will be the first algorithm – made artwork to go on auction in the world of fine art.

So how was the painting produced?

The humans behind the AI, a Parisian art collective called “Obvious,” first fed 15,000 images of paintings from between the 14th and 20th centuries into an open-source generative adversarial network, or “GAN”: 

This sort of neural network works in two parts: one generates the picture using the data available, and the other “discriminates,” essentially telling it whether it’s done a good job or whether the finished images are still obviously the work of a machine. It’s not clear exactly how many images the network shored up on the screen in total, but this is the one that won out. Obvious members then printed it on canvas, framed in gilt—and put it up for sale.

Will anybody buy it?

Quartzy reports that Christie’s is banking on somebody biting, probably with a final sale price of between $7,000 to $10,000?

No word yet whether or not the first AI-produced painting will shed itself after the sale, but knowing the arrogance of those AI algorithms, there’s a good stance it will instead attempt to replicate itself.

Written by turbotodd

October 25, 2018 at 9:39 am

Tim Cook and the Data Industrial Complex

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TechCrunch is reporting that Apple CEO Tim Cook has begun to basically throw down the gauntlet with respect to the global trade in digital data, suggesting that it has exploded into a “data industrial complex.”

“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” warned Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.

“Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”

This discussion came about as a result of a keynote speech Cook was giving to the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels.

Cook also addressed the issue of artificial intelligence, saying that “at its core this technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. But advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency.”

“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.”

I find it fascinating that Cook tied up AI and privacy. He’s clearly looking well ahead to where some of the next major digital battlegroups are likely to take place, and the raw horsepower AI could bring to privacy violations.

Cook went on to say that Apple is “in full support of a comprehensive, federal privacy law in the United States.

He argued that a U.S. privacy law should prioritize four things:

  1. Data minimization — “the right to have personal data minimized”, saying companies should “challenge themselves” to de-identify customer data or not collect it in the first place
  2. Transparency — “the right to knowledge”, saying users should “always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for, saying it’s the only way to “empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t”. “Anything less is a shame,” he added
  3. The right to access — saying companies should recognize that “data belongs to users”, and it should be made easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data
  4. The right to security — saying “security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights”

Over the past several years, Apple has positioned itself as a protector of digital privacy rights. However, it should be noted that  Apple is also far less dependent on digital advertising revenue as are other key players in the tech space (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.)

Written by turbotodd

October 24, 2018 at 11:49 am

Facebook’s Teen Problem

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CNBC had a story out yesterday citing data from investor analyst firm Piper Jaffray which indicated that teens are abandoning Facebook “at a staggering rate.”

But went on to say they’re still “flocking to sister app Instagram.”

Palo Alto, we have a problem.

The CNBC article indicated that just over a third of teenagers use the core Facebook platform at least once a month.

I wonder if a third of those are from Russia??

That number is “down significantly from 52 percent of teens two years ago and from close to two-thirds of teens in spring of 2016.”

On the plus side, Instagram “edged out SnapChat as the most-used social platform by teenagers for the first time” since Piper Jaffray started conducting its survey.

So, marketeers everywhere, uh, take more pictures?  

Maybe you can use that newfangled Apple iPhone XR, which is getting rave reviews across the board (and which comes in several hundred dollars less than the iPhone XS).

Speaking of Russians, The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. Cyber Command is now targeting individual Russian operatives “to try to deter them from spreading disinformation in elections.”

The campaign, which includes missions undertaken in recent days, is the first known overseas cyberoperation to protect American elections, including the November midterms.

Senior defense officials said they were not directly threatening the operatives. Still, former officials said anyone singled out would know, based on the United States government’s actions against other Russian operatives, that they could be indicted or targeted with sanctions. Even the unstated threat of sanctions could help deter some Russians from participating in covert disinformation campaigns, said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former intelligence official now with the Center for a New American Security.

Huh.  That only took a couple of years to get rolling.

Written by turbotodd

October 23, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Waiting to Vote, Boiling the Agua

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Well, I did my civic duty by getting out early today to, as it turned out, wait in a very long line to vote.

I had to leave my iPhone at home because I hadn’t charged the thing overnight, so I was doubly handicapped as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot where the early polling was taking place.

The line was already out the door, and if I’d known how far it snaked through into the building, I might have turned around to come back another day. But, I thought, I’m here, let’s get to it.

So it was pretty slow going, and there was a Starbucks stand directly to my left, but nobody was standing in *that* line.  Nobody in a Starbucks line?  In the Westlake section of Austin?!!

Something was amiss.

That was when I discovered that Austin was in for a water boil order that had started overnight, this attributed to the flooding we’ve had out west in Llano.  

The Reader’s Digest version: The city water has to be kept a specific pressure in order to service fire trucks at fire scenes. However, the silt factor, which is normally at around 3, is up around 400. This is because the city has only been able to process around 100 million gallons of water the last couple of days (which is about how much water we use), instead of the normal 300 million. 

So, we’re getting down to the storage units, which need to be replenished, and essentially allow the city to catch up to all that silt.

In the meantime, the time it took me to vote in this election, versus even 2016, was a good 30 minutes longer — in total, about an hour. 

For a midterm.  American democracy is alive and well.

Though I did joke with my friends waiting in line, that if the Russians were really helping out, they could have cut that hour to at least 30 minutes or less.

Dos vydana.

Written by turbotodd

October 22, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Posted in 2018

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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

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