Turbotodd

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

Archive for August 2019

Two Algos Walk Into a Bar…

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Two AI algos walk into a bar. First algo says to the other algo, “Are you self-aware?” Second algo replies, “The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.”

Two seasoned tech executives meet on the stage of the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai yesterday, different entities, similar results.

I watched most of the interview between Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tesla’s Elon Musk on replay, one in which they discussed everything from going (or not) to Mars, jobs, education, and humanity’s AI-shaped future.

They seemed on somewhat opposite ends of the AI spectrum.

Ma seemed more optimistic, while Musk’s take was more sobering, conveying we were doomed in our attempts to keep up with AI.

Ma’s take was that we’ll never be controlled by machines. Musk pointed out that Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue in chess in 1997!!

Ma projected AI would likely take over more jobs, but that would leave us humans with ample free time to pursue our passions!

Rich stuff from the guy who in April declared the blessing of working 12-hour days, 6 day weeks.

But I’m still rooting for Alibaba’s AI bots (or Musk’s brain-attached Neuralink) to save us all from a life of 72-hour work weeks and soon.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Written by turbotodd

August 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

The Sun Also Sets

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On the subject of AI, I’ve been checking out the 774M parameter OpenAI GPT-2 language model released on August 20.

Adam King released a Web app called “Talk to Transformer” that uses this new model where one can kick the tires. But it’s notable that OpenAI has refused to release the full 1558M model, fearful of malicious use.

It works like this: Enter an initial set of text and then let GP2 run. I tried several entries before settling on this one to share:

“While Ernest Hemingway wrote lots of books and articles in his lifetime, he was also a big fan of the bullfights, fishing, and hunting.”

The GP2 algo responded: “He wrote several of his most famous works – The Sun Also Rises – in bullfights. In 1916, it was the summer of his 50th birthday and the bullring was one of his favourite places to be. I wanted to see his view on the bullfighting from such a unique perspective, so I spent a couple of days there in a small hotel room and the last time I went I was very impressed.”

Not only did GP2 pick up where I left off…it also introduced some omniscient first person AI narrator who wanted to walk in the footsteps of Hemingway!

Everybody wants to be Hemingway.

Even our AI overlords!

Written by turbotodd

August 30, 2019 at 1:09 pm

The New iPhone’s (Almost) Here!

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If you don’t get the headline, go back and watch Steve Martin’s “The Jerk.”  It’ll make you smile on a long Labor (free) Day holiday.

But the new iPhones are apparently almost here. Or at least almost announced.

Tuesday, September 10, 10 AM, Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park Campus in Cupertino.

Macrumors writes the following could be on offer: 

  • Three iPhones, two OLED models in 5.8 and 6.5 inches and on LCD that’s 6.1, and all with camera improvements.
  • 3D Touch goes, haptic feedback makes a resurgence…bilateral wireless charging, bigger batteries, new AMX co-processor and A13 chip.

Likely see a new Apple Watch, new iPad Pros, new 10.2-inch iPad, and a high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Me, I’m still doing well with my dual phone strategy, an iPhone 7+ and a 2008 Nokia E71 that keeps me off-the-grid and that I use mainly for phone calls and texts (which if you’re moving around can admittedly drop the signal). But for $20/month, you can’t beat it (sorry, no data).

My take on the new Apple lineup: The iPhone XR is going to start looking like a fantastic next-gen iPhone for those who don’t aspire to the new 11s. (The retail price of the low-end XR is still $750 on the Apple website, a deal compared to the higher-end Xs and, I would imagine, the 11s). 

Written by turbotodd

August 29, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Posted in 2019, apple, iPhone

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Stuxnet Two?

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The New York Times is reporting that a cyberattack against Iran in June took out a database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm used to plot attacks against oil tankers. The attack also degraded Tehran’s ability to target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, and Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the June 20 attack and get back online.

This attack came right around the time that Iran shot down a U.S. drone, a retaliatory attack for which the Trump Administration called off at the eleventh hour.

MIT Review reports the attack has had a lingering impact on the Iranian military’s ability to target oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and noted the database wiped out belong to Iran’s paramilitary forces known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

U.S. officials said there has been no escalation from Iran, but the Times reports there have been doubts about whether the benefits of the operation outweighed the cost — “lost intelligence and lost access to a critical network used by the Guard.”

The entire episode is reminiscent of Stuxnet, a cyber operation thought to be developed by the U.S. and Israel that targeted and destroyed controller systems for centrifuges in Iran’s uranium enrichment program — only this time at a much faster pace. 

Written by turbotodd

August 29, 2019 at 10:29 am

Knock Knock

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Happy Hump Day.  The GZERO Signal warns this morning that the AI backlash has been recently accelerating.

Noting Bernie Sanders becoming the first 2020 prez candidate to call for an outright ban on facial recognition in policing….European policymakers weighing regs to curtail “indiscriminate” use of AI by companies and governments…Hong Kongers donning masks to prevent authorities from using their faces ID to them.

Wayback machine “Minority Report” showing, anyone? I’ll bring the GMO popcorn!

On the Chimerica front, the Google’s apparently taking no chances on the US-China trade war. 9to5 Google is reporting the Droid is set to move production of its Pixel phone from China to Vietnam, but suggest it’s unclear whether this move will affect the production of the upcoming Google Pixel 4.

If it did, that would be some awfully fast production line and supply chain retooling. Good morning, Vietnam!

Google is also putting its algos to work on the Nest Hello doorbell, which The Verge is reporting can now detect deliveries and notify U.S. users of such for a mere $5/month with its Nest Aware service.

No word yet if the Nest Hello could help say goodbye to porch thieves watching your arriving Prime packages.

Written by turbotodd

August 28, 2019 at 9:52 am

Autonomous Theft

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Big IP theft news coming out of the Valley this PM.

The New York Times and others are reporting that Anthony Levandowski, a self-driving technology guru, was charged by federal prosecutors on Tuesday with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google.

This could present a new front in the all-out IP war between the major autonomous driving players: Uber, Google’s self-driving outfit, Waymo, potentially others.

The cause of action? Mr. Levandowski is alleged to have downloaded more than 14k files containing “critical information about Googles autonomous-vehicle research before leaving the company in 2016.” And then transferred those files to his personal laptop…which was a no-no.

The files he’s alleged to have stolen contained drawings and schematics pertaining to circuitry and LIDAR laser-sensors used in Google’s self-driving cars.

Here’s what the U.S. attorney, David L. Anderson, had to say in a statement issued by the DOJ: “All of us have the right to change jobs; none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door. Theft is not innovation.”

If convicted of the charges against him, Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000. Leave those USB sticks at home, kids!

Written by turbotodd

August 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Gaming Apple

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Apple has released an emergency patch for the iPhone. The backstory: iOS 12.4 had an update that reintroduced a bug they had previously fixed, and the world’s hackers clued into an iPhone jailbreak for the first time in years. If you want to keep a tight iPhone ship, download 12.4.1 which re-fixes the bug.

Also on the Apple front, what’s happened since the App Store’s big makeover in 2017? TechCrunch reports that was Apple’s attempt to “shift consumer’s attention away from the Top Charts and more toward editorial content.”

But app devs want to make it to the No. 1 position, and according to new research from Sensor Tower, it has become easier for non-game apps to do so.

Probably, they speculate, because the U.S. market has been saturated top apps like Facebook and Messenger and leaving more room at the top.

For games, in 2016 it only took 118K median downloads to top the charts. This year, it’s required more like 174,000 downloads for a game to reach the top on any given day, 85% more than the 94K installs required for non-game apps.

So maybe build a non-saturated Facebook/Instagram-ish like app that lets you play Asteroids or Defender…?

Written by turbotodd

August 27, 2019 at 9:35 am

Posted in 2019, apple, apps, gaming

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Mr. Speaker

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Canalys is reporting that the global smart speaker market grew 55.4% in Q219 to reach 26.1M units. While Amazon kept its global lead at 6.6M units, Baidu gew 3,700% to reach 4.5M units, serving only the Chinese domestic market. That shifted Baidu in front of Google, which shipped 4.3M.

Also on the Chinese front, facial recognition startup Megvii filed for a Hong Kong IPO at a roughly $4B valuation. Megvii sells AI products that range from facial reco to algorithms designed for traffic management.

Some other Monday morning AI funding rounds:

Versatile Natures, $5.5M (seed), nurtured in Autodesk’s Build Space in Tel Aviv since April 2017, uses AI to improve construction processes.

Capacity (formerly Jane.ai), $13.2M Series B, AI that helps companies maintain a searchable index by consolidating info from various apps.

And Tech Nation reports that UK tech startups hit a record $6.7B in the seven months of 2019, suggesting there’s no Brexit brakes on innovation!

Speaking of brakes, after President Trump’s Tweets raising tariffs on China whipsawed global markets Friday, U.S. markets seem to have settled down after the President tweeted this AM: “Talks are continuing.”

Your 401K: It’s better just not to look. No, really.

Written by turbotodd

August 26, 2019 at 9:51 am

Love and Smartphones

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Okay, admit it, you’re *really* excited about the drop of Taylor Swift’s new album…Okay, maybe not.

It’s apparently official: VMWare is buying both Carbon Black and Pivotal for roughly $4.5B. Carbon Black is a cybersecurity firm, and Pivotal a hybrid-cloud infra ops player born out of assets spun off from VMWare and Dell back in 2013.

If you wonder where you fall in the buying a new smartphone spectrum, there’s a study for that. 9to5 mac cites Strategy Analytics data on the smartphone purchasing habits of U.S. consumers: They upgrade very 33 months, had their current iPhone an average of 18 months, and 7 percent plan to spend over $1,000 on their next upgrade. Now you know why Apple is focusing so much more on razors (services, infotainment…) and not just razor blades (iPhones).

Yesterday Google jumped on board the high speed Chinese anti-propaganda train campaign by suspending 210 YouTube channels after they were found to have been tied to misinformation about HK protesters.

Google Security’s Threat Analysis Group wrote in a blog post that “We found use of VPNs and other methods to disguise the origin of these accounts and other activity commonly associated with coordinated influence operations.”

Gambling? In the casino??

Written by turbotodd

August 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

No More Android Dessert

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Bloomberg’s jumped all over Apple’s upcoming new hardware: Pro iPhones, New iPads, a larger MacBook Pro.

Details: a refreshed iPad Pro with upgraded cameras, fasters chips. An entry level iPad with a bigger screen; new Apple Watch revs; first revamp to MBP in 3 years. Updates to AirPods and HomePod. Also Apple TV+ video and Apple Arcade gaming subscription service.

Could be a very long fall keynote.

If you’re an Android, however, no more desserts for you. The Keyword blog announced that the desserts were confusing to worldwide audiences. That’s right, no more gingerbreads, no more eclairs, no more donuts.

The next rev of the Goog’s mobile OS is simply: “Android 10.” Our Lord in AI Heaven, please don’t let Deep Mind have come up with that name.

And back to Chimerica, if you were looking to get in on some Alibaba IPO action, the Chinese-based firm has delayed its Hong Kong listing. And NO, not because the traders couldn’t get to the subway. But YES, because the unrest didn’t exactly present a convenient time for a massive and important stock float.

Check back with your broker in early October.

Written by turbotodd

August 22, 2019 at 9:59 am

Posted in 2019, alibaba, apple, china

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