Turbotodd

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

Archive for May 2019

Brooks and Bran

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Spoiler Alert!

If you haven’t watched the end of the PGA Championship yet on your DVR, I’m about to congratulate the winner, so stop reading this post now.

If you did watch, you know it was one half of the “Smash Brothers” who took his fourth major golf championship inside of 23 months: Brooks Koepka.

Pretty spectactular stuff.

My boss actually called this one, and I couldn’t say I disagreed with him. Brooks seems to be one of those once in a generation players who comes loaded to bear on the golf course, especially at the majors. 

And when I say loaded to bear, I’m talking about insane distance off the tee (but also accuracy in hitting fairways), great up and down (scrambling), and some great putting (which is an area where he has struggled in the past).

Dustin Johnson, the other Smash bro, put on a good run, especially in the middle of the round when Brooks bogied four holes in a row to take his lead to one, but it just wasn’t to be, and Koepka took the Wannamaker for the second year in a row.

Now, the other spoiler alert: GOT. 

If you don’t watch “Game of Thrones” you need to get with the program. Of course, now it’s all over, and as I predicted, Jon killed Dany and Bran became king.

Apparently a lot of folks didn’t like the last several episodes and/or the ending, but it all worked well for me.  Eight seasons is a lot to wrap up such epic storytelling, and I figured after the Drogon Burning Man fest from last weekend, Dany had to go.  And Tyrian convinced Jon, and that was that.

So what does all this have to do with technology?  Everything and nothing.

GOT certainly has everything to do with clashing empires, which is exactly what we’re seeing now with the “Chimerica” tech wars.

Over the weekend, Reuters reported that Google has suspended business with China’s Huawei telco business, for anything “that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing.”

That means no more licensing of Android to Huawei.

But what this is really about is the burgeoning big power battle over the evolution of 5G technology — meaning, the U.S. does not want China to be a primary provider of 5G equipment due to concerns around … well, you name it: surveillance, national security, concerns over economic power, technology transfer, etc.

So if Huawei loses in the 5G battle (and I’m not convinced they do, particularly if European and other partners don’t go along with the ‘Merica First 5G battle cry), who wins?

Vendors like Ericsson, HPE, Nokia, Intel, and Qualcomm, certainly. But let’s not forget, their products are typically much more expensive than those from Huawei.

We’ll see if it’s the almighty dollar — or the strengthening renminbi — that ultimately prevails.

 

Written by turbotodd

May 20, 2019 at 2:56 pm

Posted in 2019, 5G, china, golf

Tagged with , , ,

Cray Cray and the PGA

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Happy Friday.

For golfers everywhere, it’s an especially special week (and weekend).

Normally, the PGA Championship is the last major championship of the year, played in the heat of the August sun.

This year, the tournament has been moved up to mid-May, and is being played at what they call the “peoples’ country club,” Bethpage Black.

Bethpage Black is the hardest of a number of golf courses open to the general public in Bethpage State Park in Long Island, New York.

It has also been home to a couple of U.S. Opens, one in 2002 and again in 2009…it was, in fact, the first public golf course to host a U.S. Open.

So, that’s the backstory. And while everyone is excited to hear about Tiger Woods play after winning the Masters this year, it was Brooks Koepka, three-time major and one-time PGA Championship winner who sunk putts from every which direction and every which length yesterday who took the lead at 7 under par.

Koepka is due back on the Black this PM, and while he has a couple of great players making chase, including Jordan Spieth who’s in today at a cumulative 5 under and Dustin Johnson (-4), it appears Koepka is in charge of his destiny this PM.

As for destiny, let’s jump over to some Friday PM tech news.

First up, for those of you who remember the hey day of supercomputing (whenever that was), you’ll remember Cray Inc.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is taking Cray off the board for $1.30 billion, roughly $35 per share and a premium of 17.4 percent to Cray’s last close, according to Reuters.

At last count, Cray’s supercomputing systems can handle big data sets, converged modeling, simulations, AI, and analytics workloads.

If this news makes you ill, you might want to check into Health at Scale. TechCrunch is reporting that the AI healthcare startup has raised $16M in a Series A round.

The startup has founders with both medical and engineering backgrounds, and writes that it “wants to bring machine learning to bear on healthcare treatment options to produce outcomes with better results and less aftercare.”

The idea is to make treatment decisions more data-driven. While they aren’t sharing their data sources, they say they have information, from patients with a given condition, to doctors who treat that condition, to facilities where the treatment happens. By looking at a patient’s individual treatment needs and medical history, they believe they can do a better job of matching that person to the best doctor and hospital for the job. They say this will result in the fewest post-operative treatment requirements, whether that involves trips to the emergency room or time in a skilled nursing facility, all of which would end up adding significant additional cost.

Anything to improve the condition of the American healthcare system.

Written by turbotodd

May 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Ok, Cupid, Goodbye “Chimerica”?

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Happy Tuesday.

The U.S. markets are experiencing slightly less turbulence today than they were yesterday. Maybe the Trump Put is on after all?

If so, that could very well lead to an upsurge in online dating!

In which case, Match.com has your back.

According to a report by Engadget, Match is now offering some human assistance for online daters in the form of “AskMatch,” a service that will connect its paid users to a dating coach for a chat on the phone.

“Match’s mission has always been around relationships and bringing people together. We want to go beyond just being an app on your phone,” said Match CEO Hesam Hosseini in an interview with Engadget. Match users will be able to find the option to “Talk to a coach” under the “Discover” area of the app. If selected, Match will connect you to one of its dating experts for a phone conversation. After the phone call, you can update your coach through the app with any progress you’ve made or ask further questions. 

Hosseini points out that there’s still plenty of room for us humans after all, and that the machines and algos can’t take over everything.

“Automation is great, but it’s not for everything–especially when it comes to relationships and love,” said Hosseini. While it’s doubtful that dating coaches will solve the bigger problems with online dating fatigue — chatting with a human person may help some users find clarity.

Meanwhile, the Chinese owner of Grindr, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., released a statement indicating its being forced out of the gay-dating app game and will be required to sell Grindr by June 2020 under an agreement with U.S. officials.  

And Kai-Fu Lee, whose most recent book I would argue is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the coming AI revolution, is apparently also feeling the U.S./China trade pinch.

Lee had already left his Sinovation U.S. office last year, and now, according to CNBC, has “pulled back alongside many other Chinese investors who are struggling to put money to work in the current political environment.”

So much for “Chimerica,” you say?  

I’d say, China and the U.S. are heading down the wrong path. While trade agreements and disputes around intellectual property and related issues certainly need to be worked on to mutual benefit, a full on Chinese-American Cold War is exactly what we don’t need.

Written by turbotodd

May 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Boxed In

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Big news coming out of SCOTUS this morning: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Apple in case involving its App Store, allowing iPhone users to move forward with an antitrust suit against the company.

According to a report from CNBC, the iPhone users argue that Apple’s 30 percent commission on sales through the App Store was passed along to consumers, an unfair use of monopoly power.

Apple argued that only app developers, and not users, should be able to bring such a lawsuit:

“Apple’s line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits,” [Justice] Kavanaugh wrote.

Shares of Apple, already battered by trade concerns, were down more than 5%, lagging the broader market.

The result of the iPhone users’ litigation could affect the way that Apple, as well as other companies that operate electronic marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet’s Google, structure their businesses. For Apple, hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties could hang on the outcome.

And if you’re worried about becoming boxed in by looming new automation technologies, you might want to steer clear of the Amazon warehouses. 

Reuters is reporting that Amazon is rolling out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: boxing up customer orders.

The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years, which scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.

Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.

That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said.

A video shot by Reuters accompanying the story suggested the human workforce decline would come through attrition: Amazon would simply “refrain” from refilling packing roles over time, a job that already has huge turnover work for its 10-hour shifts.

On the man v. machine front, it sounds as though the machine boxes that box the boxes themselves will eventually beat the humans hands down.

My question is, will the boxing machines ever buy anything from the company store?  

Will Amazon give them a discount for being so efficient at their jobs??  A promotion??

Maybe a corner office on the warehouse floor??

Written by turbotodd

May 13, 2019 at 10:32 am

Breaking Up Facebook

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Wow.

Check out this opinion piece in The New York Times by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, entitled “It’s time to Break Up Facebook.”

I’m going to assume it will defacto get him de-listed from the Mark and Priscilla Christmas card list.

In it, Hughes call for the breakup of Facebook into multiple companies, among other remedies:

First, Facebook should be separated into multiple companies. The F.T.C., in conjunction with the Justice Department, should enforce antitrust laws by undoing the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions and banning future acquisitions for several years. The F.T.C. should have blocked these mergers, but it’s not too late to act. 

And as to how such a breakup would work:

Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares.

Hughes also calls for a new agency “empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. Its first mandate should be to protect privacy.”

Hughes tips his hat to the European General Data Protection Regulation, a law that “guarantees users a minimal level of protection.” He then writes that:

A landmark privacy bill in the United States should specify exactly what control Americans have over their digital information, require clearer disclosure to users and provide enough flexibility to the agency to exercise effective oversight over time. The agency should also be charged with guaranteeing basic interoperability across platforms.

Next, and finally, Hughes suggests this new agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media:

This idea may seem un-American — we would never stand for a government agency censoring speech. But we already have limits on yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, child pornography, speech intended to provoke violence and false statements to manipulate stock prices. We will have to create similar standards that tech companies can use. These standards should of course be subject to the review of the courts, just as any other limits on speech are. But there is no constitutional right to harass others or live-stream violence.

As for Hughes being the billionaire pot calling the Facebook kettle black? Well, he has an answer for that, too:

I take responsibility for not sounding the alarm earlier. Don Graham, a former Facebook board member, has accused those who criticize the company now as having “all the courage of the last man leaping on the pile at a football game.” The financial rewards I reaped from working at Facebook radically changed the trajectory of my life, and even after I cashed out, I watched in awe as the company grew. It took the 2016 election fallout and Cambridge Analytica to awaken me to the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly. But anyone suggesting that Facebook is akin to a pinned football player misrepresents its resilience and power.

If it took you you until the Cambridge Analytica and 2016 election fallout to “awaken” you to “the dangers of Facebook’s monopoly,” one must ask the question were you living under a rock all those years, Mr. Hughes?

However, I’m not completely convinced of Hughes’ remedies, nor of the argument that Facebook is a monopoly.

There have been plenty of other social networks and messaging apps out there (and still are…LinkedIn…WhatsApp…Twitter…). It’s called consumer choice, and Facebook built the better mousetrap.

Just because we don’t like some of the mice it catches doesn’t mean we should break it up into Baby Zuckerbergs. 

As for data protection, I think there’s more room and inclination to maneuver there, and even Mark Zuckerberg himself has called for a GDPR-like set of regulations to provide even more consumer protection. Figuring out a solution on that front could prove a hamstring, however.

And even there I would proceed with caution.

Big data is going to fuel the next wave of innovation and serve as fuel for the next generation of artificial intelligence battles of the 21st Century, particularly when notable competitors like China have no qualms whatsoever about utilizing all varieties of data to power that engine.

Are we going to put a governor on the engine of AI before the plane has even left the ground?

Stop. Think. Deliberate. And then think some more.

It’s easy for Chris Hughes to want to dampen the Facebook bonfire after he’s cashed out his billions.

But if Facebook and its business model really bothers you that much, the easiest solution, and the one with the most market power, is this: Delete your account.

Nothing will send a clearer, unencrypted message to Mark Zuckerberg and team than that.

Written by turbotodd

May 9, 2019 at 11:13 am

Posted in 2019, artificial intelligence, privacy

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Hey Google, Get Me a Red Hat Tattoo!

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There’s so much tech news breaking this week I can’t keep up. 

I need some kind of artificial intelligence thingamajiggy to keep up with it all.

There are people working on that, but in the meantime, allow me to put my human filter on (while I still have some relevance) and convey what I perceive to be the most relevant news of the day/week.

First, on the IBM Red Hat front, the U.S. Department of Justice approved IBM’s $34B acquisition of Red Hat…While “IBM and Red Hat continue to work with competition authorities in other jurisdictions, and IBM continues to expect the transition to close in the second half of 2019.” 

FYI, the Red Hat Summit kicked into full gear today in Boston, and you can follow on Twitter at #RHSummit  And don’t forget to get your Red Hat tattoo while you wait for Ginni’s keynote to start this PM.

Google’s I/O developer conference also kicked off today and there’s more news coming out of Mountain View than you can shake an Alexa Echo at, but some headlines that caught my attention:

  • New Google Pixel 3a, comes in with “excellent camera” and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but a slower processor and no wireless changing. Starting at $399, you can’t have everything.
  • Android Q will now have a dark mode (welcome to the club, says iOS), better gestures, Live Captions, Focus Mode, and mas
  • Google Assistant’s shifting into a higher gear, with the Google Borg claiming it’s now 10X faster and has more app-specific functionality. Read that privacy policy, though. It will also have a driving mode, which hopefully will put millions of eyes back on the road where they belong. We’ll see if Siri has a response to Google A’s new smarts at WWDC shortly.
  • Google Lens is coming to Google Search, which means AR could soon help feet on the street more easily find local joints. Pokemon Go, it could be game on!

Of all these, Google Lens could be the most transformational in terms of real world implications, but I suspect I’ll get the most use out of Google Assistant’s improvements my own self. 

Finally, if you’re a full on cybersecurity enthusiast, The New York Times has a must read piece on how Chinese intelligence agencies acquired NSA hacking tools and repurposed them to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia.

Talk about the laws of unintended consequences. Uh, could the last one out please lock down the Faraday Cage so we can put an ix-nay the Chinese acking-hay?

Written by turbotodd

May 7, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Chasing Dragons and Developers

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Okay, Sanity Check. 

Were you more upset with the Kentucky Derby winner kerfluffle, or last night’s shocking GoT episode?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Spoiler alert: Daenerys is down to a single dragon, and her advisers are dropping like flies. And another nearly 90 minute episode? HBO definitely got its game on for the final season!

But it’s Monday, and it’s time for a tech sanity check as well.

We’re starting to get some sneak previews into coming developer confabs.

VentureBeat is reporting that this week’s Microsoft Build will feature lots of AI, assistants, and bots (Cortana), as well as lots of IoT. No shocker there.

Also expected to feature: Azure and the hybrid cloud, containers, serverless, blah blah blah.

And…MS 365, Windows 10, HoloLens, GitHub, Visual Studio, .Net…and Edge/Chromium.

And Apple’s WWDC? 

The Verge is counting out rumors, including the possibility of a new Mac Pro and a new external monitor (possibly as big as a 31.6-inch 6K screen using mini-LED backlighting to help with contast).

You know, so you can watch last week’s GoT’s “Long Night” episode over and over again in the dark and actually see movement.

Software-wise, expect an iOS dark mode, iPad apps on the Mac, Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts on the Macs, and updates to the iPad’s home screen and multitasking, among others.

And lest you forget, the 2019 Red Hat Summit kicks off officially tomorrow in Boston, MA.  

Follow @RedHatSummit and #RhSummit on Twitter for all the latest, and get the basic deets on the Red Hat FAQ page. 

And be sure to show off those newfangled Red Hat tattoos!

Written by turbotodd

May 6, 2019 at 10:50 am

Coin of the Facebook Realm

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And you thought you had a bad week.

Actually, my week was pretty good, but there were some that weren’t so lucky.

Like Tumblr. 

Remember them?  No?

The all-things-blogging-and-sharing site that Yahoo paid a cool $1.1B for in 2013, and which was later subsumed into the Oath/Verizon Media Group.

And which is now for sell, and which brings with it some 400M blogs but which Yahoo wrote down by $230M in 2016 before the sell to Verizon.

Speaking of Verizon, Can you hear me now?  I’m leaving you, Verizon. I was going to go to Google Fi, but I had one of the worst customer service experiences *ever* with them the other day.

The whole point of Google Fi (and other MVNOs) is to limit my interaction with humans on the phone.

But due to a billing situation when trying to order my Google Fi sim card, I was forced to call Google’s customer support, which made any trek I’ve ever had to the State of Texas Department of Motor Vehicles outlet feel like an excursion to Six Flags.

Never again, Google.  Keep to the algos, you’re clearly worst in class with the call centers.

So, instead, I’m moving to Tracfone…Don’t call me unless it’s really, really necessary.

If you’re having trouble giving your money to someone, check this out: Facebook’s apparently moving in to the crypto payments world, big time.

According to a report from TheBlockCrypto, Facebook’s “Project Libra” puts Facebook’s stablecoin at the center of a brand new payments network.

Summary:

  1. Facebook is planning to launch a full payments network (rather than just remittances) and in discussions with payment networks Visa and Mastercard, payments processors such as giant First Data as well as large e-commerce merchants to support the launch.
  2. Facebook is seeking up to $1 billion in investments collectively from these firms in order to act as collateral to bolster and back a stablecoin that will be associated with the payments network.
  3. A stablecoin will exist as the currency of the payments system in order to eliminate credit card fees for . merchants as well as to avoid the volatility of other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.
  4. The company is considering tying the coin to Facebook’s core ads engine, rewarding users for viewing ads and then purchasing goods, similar to how loyalty points rewards work.

Why do I think this is potentially a very big deal?

Facebook conquered its first couple a billion people by linking identity and demography, putting faces (sorry) to names on the Interwebs.

Now they’re going to possibly enable all those people to start trading in transactions with one another using cryptocurrency, in (again, possible) partnership with major payment processors and networks (Visa, MC, First Data), and with large e-commerce merchants.

And, they’re going to tie all that with their advertising network, which could flip the switch on the Facebook value exchange, whereby users could be paid to watch ads, early loyalty awards with their purchases, etc.?

People, we’re already WAY behind China when it comes to using mobile apps for simple things like payments for, well, pretty much everything!

Someone has to take on this e-payment capability sometime, and the Apple Pays and Venmos of the world aren’t moving the needle.  You say you don’t trust Facebook? But might you trust them partnering with Visa, MC, and other vendors you already *do* trust?

The Facebook Coin, if it proves out, could be the biggest tech news of the year.

Now, show me the money.

Written by turbotodd

May 3, 2019 at 9:59 am

Posted in 2019, blockchain, facebook

Tagged with , ,

Facebook Going Private?

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Facebook’s going private.

Not in the market sense of the term, but rather, in the sense that Mark Zuckerberg and company have decided to double down on privacy.

That, and I have a vast area of swampland in south Florida I can sell you for cents on the dollar.

But seriously, at its F8 developer conference yesterday, these were the words Zuck spoke:

“I believe the future is private…This is the next chapter for our services.”

As CNET had reported, Zuckerberg last month indicated Facebook would refocus the entire company around privacy, and that infrastructure of all of Facebook’s services — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger — would be more technical integrated and prioritize end-to-end encryption.

As to what the company introduced in yesterday’s keynote, Business Insider described it this way:

the California-based tech giant announced a sweeping redesign of the social network — ditching its iconic blue menu bar and replacing it with a cleaner, white design, and placing greater-than-ever emphasis on groups.

And this:

The new Facebook design also gives Stories — the buzzy ephemeral-photo-sharing format — prominent placement at the very top of users’ feeds.

There are also significant structural changes that place greater emphasis on user-created groups. Users can post to groups directly from the homepage, groups are given greater prominence on the left-hand sidebar (on desktop), and new tools are being added to specialized types of groups.

The redesigned mobile app will launch “right away,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed announcement, while it’ll roll out more slowly on desktop — “in the next few months.”

As of this morning, I’m still waiting for those changes to arrive.  That, and privacy on Facebook, which still makes chuckle out loud when I write that.

Why?

Because I’ve yet to figure out how a social network whose business model is based entirely on monetizing our personal information makes such a model work with private, more personal and encrypted communications.

But maybe I’m just slow.

Written by turbotodd

May 1, 2019 at 9:24 am

Posted in 2019, facebook

Tagged with , ,

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