Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘2019’ Category

Need a Lyft?

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If you’re looking for a new iPad, Apple is offering up a couple of new options.

A new 10.5” iPad Air ($499), and a 7.9” iPad mini ($399), both with retina displays, the A12 Bionic chip, and support for the first-gen Apple pencil.

For those keeping score, that mini has the same screen size as the previous generation. 9to5Mac writes that the Air is “a halfway house between the $329 iPad and $799+ iPad Pro tiers.”

On the dealmaking and moneyraising fronts, there’s also news from this Monday.

Fidelity National Information Services Inc. said it has agreed to acuire Worldpay Inc for roughly $35 billion in cash and stock, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Why do we care?

This deal would build a global payments giant and back-end financial services business in a sector “under pressure to cut costs, develop new products and add customers.”

The combined FIS and Worldpay expects to generate $500 million in additional revenue and annual cost cuts of about $400 million through combining their one-stop shop services to process online and in-store payments and manage transactions in multiple currencies. The enlarged group, which expects to have annual revenue of about $12.3 billion, also will offer services to manage fraud and advanced data analytics, the companies said.

 FIS helps banks process credit-card transactions, service auto loans and handle back-office functions for money managers among a range of services that it offers. The company says its technology is used in managing transactions involving more than $9 trillion annually.

Finally, if you’re looking for a lift, ride-share company Lyft today disclosed it hopes to raise over $2 billion in its IPO, at an initial market cap that could top $19 billion. 

Lyft is expecting to offer 30.77 million shares valued at between $62 and $68 per share, and its IPO road-show is expected to kick off today.

Might be cheaper to ride a scooter.

Written by turbotodd

March 18, 2019 at 10:25 am

Posted in 2019, apple

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Nothing to Like

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What a thing to wake up to on a Friday morning. 

I’m referring to the horrific shootings in New Zealand.

To not mention seems to ignore it. And yet as with so many of these mass shootings, it’s awfully enticing to want to not mention it (or the culprit) at all.

Largely because it plays into the shooter’s likely desired narrative.

Just as the April 1999 shooting in Columbine seemed to spawn a whole new generation of mass shootings, we’ve seen a next generation of shooters utilizing the power and reach of social media to try and amplify their impact.

The New Zealand shooting seems, based on what we know so far, to be a prime example. 

A New York Times’  opinion piece about the tragedy indicates that the shooting began with the shooter putting on a helmet camera before he drove to a mosque in Christchurch “and began shooting at anyone who came into his line of vision.”

Wrote the Times: “The act of mass terror was broadcast live for the world to watch on social media.”

Despite platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (and others) trying to take the recording down, along with an accompanying manifesto said to be from the gunman, “they [the social networks] were no match for the speed of their users,” and AI algorithms were also not enough to find and prevent the video’s spread. 

But the story also reminds us Christchurch isn’t a first of its kind, either, and likely won’t be its last. There was the live shooting of two reporters in 2015 in Roanoke, Virginia, the killing of Robert Godwin in 2017…it’s as if 1998’s “The Truman Show” has completely jumped the shark, gone off the rails, and headed straight into the dark circles of Cyber Hell.

The forecasted Andy Warholian 15 minutes of fame has morphed into 17 minutes of Facebook livestreamed shooting of innocent worshippers in Christchurch.

The only remedy I can think of is to stop watching these attackers.  

Stop giving them the attention they want, and perhaps they’ll start to second-guess their ill-fated attempts at “fame.”

Put the smartphone down. Turn off the YouTube video.

And whatever you do, don’t RT the name or the Tweet of the terrorist.

There’s really nothing to “like” about them at all.

Written by turbotodd

March 15, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Posted in 2019, facebook, terrorism

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Out (and Outage) at Facebook

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RE: Yesterday’s multi-hour outage at Facebook, which impacted Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus Go.

What The Verge’s T.C. Sottek said in a headline from just a few minutes ago: “Facebook owes us an explanation.”

Yesterday, somewhere in the sixth hour of Facebook’s record outage, I sat dumbfounded alongside my fellow editors at The Verge. We wondered how it was possible that the largest and most influential technology company in the world could have a day-long service disruption and basically say nothing about it except for a curt and cryptic tweet. Facebook eventually said that the outage was the result of a “server configuration change” — an impenetrable combination of words that translates to “we played ourselves.” The company wasn’t being attacked, so why not just come clean early?

Facebook’s loss was apparently Telegram’s gain. Telegram is a private messaging platform that apparently saw 3M new users added within the last 24 hours, according to a report from TechCrunch.

I don’t think the outage meant the world was coming to an end or anything, but as a regular user and someone curious, I’d like to see a more robust explanation of what exactly happened. 

Sottek explains:

The Verge, The New York Times, and others tried to get more information out of Facebook when following up for comment. After Facebook issued its statement today, we asked the company to explain more about the outage, including the real scope of the problem. How many countries did it affect? How many people were disrupted? Facebook ignored our questions, referring us to its generic statement and apology.

In light of Facebook’s long list of wrongdoings, a temporary service outage might not seem like a big deal. It’s even good material for jokes about Facebook. But what if we took Facebook seriously? What if, as an experiment, we charitably assumed all of the things Facebook says about itself are true?

This is the explanation we got (ahem, ahem, via a Tweet from @facebook):

Yesterday, as a result of a server configuration change, many people had trouble accessing our apps and services. We’ve now resolved the issues and our systems are recovering. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate everyone’s patience.

Our systems are recovering. What, did they catch pneumonia or something? Did they not drink enough fluids?

Piling on, today Facebook announced two key execs were leaving the company, Chief Product Officer Chris Cox and VP of WhatsApp Chris Daniels.

Explanation: Cox wants to do something different (he’s been with the company over a decade) and Daniels…well, Mark Z enjoyed working with him but doesn’t really tell us in his message to the world what Daniels is up to next.

Has the post privacy/Cambridge Analytica/6-hour outage Facebook brain drain begun??

Written by turbotodd

March 14, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Posted in 2019, privacy

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Facebook Down, 5G Up, Boeing 737 Max Grounded

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It’s a busy hump day.

The Verge (and others) are reporting that Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp are having a difficult day, working to bring its services back online:

Facebook and Instagram appear to be partially down for some users around the world today. While you can open both platforms, it looks like you can’t send or receive messages on either platform, and you can’t post new content either.

WhatsApp appeared to be fine for many people, but users in Paraguay, India, Bangladesh, Argentina, and more note that they are experiencing issues with sending messages. DownDetector indicates that those in Brazil were experiencing the most severe outages.

Oculus Go users are also reporting issues.

Meanwhile, President Trump has announced a ban of Boeing 737 Max flights, according to a report from The New York Times: 

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia.

The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen “no systemic performance issues” that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet.

“The safety of the American people, of all people, is our paramount concern,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the White House.

And if you’re looking for some futuristic technology good news, you can smile if you live in Chicago and Minneapolis: Verizon’s 5G service is slated to launch there on April 11 and will cost $85-$105 U.S. for unlimited plans.

Bloomberg reports how Verizon got around the absence of 5G phones as they work to make this forward leap in cellular communications:

Verizon sidestepped one of the main challenges to 5G introduction — the absence of 5G phones — by offering an adaptation. Starting Thursday, the company is taking orders for a $50 snap-on module for the Motorola Z3 phone, making it the only phone that will be enabled for the advanced service by the April 11 launch date.

Written by turbotodd

March 13, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Posted in 2019, 5G, airlines

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IT Skills Up, Up and Away

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IT skills are in demand and increasingly scarce.

So says a report from The Wall Street Journal.

According to the report, companies across the U.S. economy last month hired IT workers at the sharpest pace in more than four years.

The number of new IT jobs in all industries expanded by an estimated 253K positions in February, the largest one-month gain since November 2015.

That pushed the unemployment rate for IT occupations down to 2.3 percent, and it was software/app developers, computer user support specialists and computer systems engineers and architects that continued to be the most in-demand tech skills sought by employers.

CompTIA, which conducted the research, indicated that blockchain, AI, machine learning, and other emerging tech skills were also helping to add to tech employment gains, with this categories increasing 74 percent last year.

The Journal cited staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. as also indicated more than 80 percent of some 2,800 tech-hiring decision makers at U.S. companies said finding talent was a challenge, and that the average CIO salary had hit $300,000 this year.

As Steve Ballmer used to scream, “Developers, developers, developers!”

You can start or continue to build your own tech skills at IBM Developer.

Written by turbotodd

March 12, 2019 at 10:18 am

Nvidia’s New Chips

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Nvidia announced its largest-ever acquisition today, offering $6.9 billion for data center chip technology maker, Mellanox.

Bloomberg is reporting that Mellanox beat out rivals that included Intel in a bidding process for the American-Israeli company, one which its founder, Jensen Huang, built in under three years by “persuading owners of data centers that his graphics chips are the right solution for processing the increasingly large amounts o information needed for artificial intelligence work, such as image recognition.”

The growing reams of data generated means work on AI and large databases needs to be split between multiple computers. Simply using a faster processor isn’t enough, Huang said. To deal with this, data centers in future will be built as though they are single giant computers “with tens of thousands of compute nodes,” requiring inter-connections that let them work in parallel. Nvidia will use its newly acquired technology to make those giant warehouses full of machinery more efficient and effective, he said.

The deal may signal a resumption of consolidation in the $470 billion semiconductor industry, which has been reshaped over the past five years as companies combined to gain scale while battling rising costs and shrinking customer lists.

The deal will require regulatory approval.

ZDNet’s take

Nvidia’s purchase of Mellanox for $6.9 billion will translate into a broader data center play for beyond the graphics and high performance computing markets.

  • Nvidia’s rivalry with Intel hits a new stage.
  • Nvidia gets more revenue diversification and data center sales.
  • Mellanox gives Nvidia more entries into high performance computing and the data center.
  • As artificial intelligence workloads become the norm, Nvidia with Mellanox be more an architecture play.

And SiliconANGLE spoke with analyst Patrick Moorhead about the deal:

“Both Nvidia and Mellanox are big in the high performance computing, machine learning, automotive, public cloud and enterprise data center markets, and could bring even more value to customers when [their technologies are] combined.”

“Scale and diversification is everything in the chip business, and Nvidia gets both with this acquisition,” added Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president of Constellation Research Inc. “It allows the company to scale and diversify from its existing graphics, gaming and AI use cases. Getting in the data center is vital with the overall move to the public cloud, so if this goes through, it means Nvidia will become more relevant for both executives and developers alike.”

The financial spin: Nvidia is paying a 15% premium to Mellanox’s Friday closing level, and indicated the purchase would be immediately accretive to earnings, margins and cash flows.

Written by turbotodd

March 11, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Call for Big Tech Regulation

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Well, the gloves are coming off.

In a report this morning from The New York Times, Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s biggest Tech firms, including Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Specifically, the Proposal calls for the appointment of regulators who would unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition and legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

Excerpts from her blog post announcing the proposal:

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Warren argues that America’s big tech companies have used mergers and proprietary marketplaces to limit competition, and that “weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector.”

Some specific remedies Warren calls for: Unwinding Facebook’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s acquisitions of Whole Foods and Zappos, and Google’s acquisitions of Waze, Nest, and DoubleClick (an acquisition that occurred, FYI, back in 2007 before the iPhone had even been introduced).

My own free market tendencies would generally disapprove of any such unwindings, but never mind the larger point I think that needs to be made, which is that Warren seems to be fighting the tech war of yesterday.

While she seems concerned about existing scale and domination, there doesn’t seem to be any focus on going on offense and preparing the workforce for the tsunami of robotic assistance and automation that is yet to come, a wave some would argue is already here and which could make this Big Tech trustbusting play look like, well, child’s play.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2019 at 11:01 am

Posted in 2019, AI, politics

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