Turbotodd

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

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Happy Thanksgiving Black Friday

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Well, it’s that time of year here in the U.S.

Time for giving thanks…briefly…before the real fun begins, shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and all points in between.

I’m only partially joking. For many retailers, this several day period can also be a time for giving thanks and making up for other soft periods throughout the year.

The good news, consumer confidence is high, the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and the Walmarts and Targets and Amazons and Apples and all the other retailers are ready to rock n roll for the full stop start of this year’s holiday shopping season.

My predictions for this year: I’ve learned not to get too far out over my skis on predictions, but I will say I believe mobile shopping (via tablets and smartphones) will continue to grow, more omnichannel opportunities will be taken advantage of so consumers don’t have to fight their way through crowded stores (i.e., buy online only to pick up at the store later), and based on my own personal experience these past few days, Roku and Amazon Fire streaming devices are in high demand.

As for my own shopping proclivities, I don’t have anything tech-related that’s trying to burn a hole in my pocket. I bought a used iPhone 7 Plus off Gazelle earlier this year, and a Google Pixelbook earlier in the year which I really, really like (yes, you can consider that an endorsement). And I’ve had my Air Pods for over a year now, and don’t know how I lived without them (another endorsement).

But if YOU are looking for some help with the holiday shopping onslaught, particularly as it relates to tech, I found the Wall Street Journal “Best Tech Gifts 2018” list helpful. I’ve also become a big fan of The New York Times Wirecutter reviews, and they, too, have a helpful shopping list for electronics and a whole host of other retail categories.

But for today, let us give thanks. For good friends, for family, for great food and abundance, and for each other. Sure, all this stuff can bring some joy to our lives, and I’m also thankful for the benefits technology provides.

Yet as we’ve surely witnessed over the past few years, any technology — including digital technology and social media — can be used for both good and ill.

On this day, the day of giving thanks, I’m going to choose to celebrate the good of those technologies and be thankful for how they keep me closer to my friends and family and enrich my life and theirs.

For despite all the negativity and division, we should step back and realize we live in amazing and wondrous times, with great possibilities and promise ahead, technologically and otherwise.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. And try not to stampede your fellow shoppers at the Walmart this year!

 

Written by turbotodd

November 22, 2018 at 10:51 am

Common Sense AI

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Microsoft announced that it is acquiring conversational AI and bot development software vendor XOXCO, Inc., an Austin-based firm, for an undisclosed amount.

According to a report from ZDNet, XOXCO was founded in 2008, and has been working on conversational AI since 2013.

One of its products, Howdy.ai, has been described as one of the first commercially available bots for Slack that helps schedule meetings.

Though it may be great for scheduling meetings, a new article in WIRED suggests that artificial intelligence and deep learning could stand to gain some common sense:

Deep learning is the reigning monarch of AI. In the six years since it exploded into the mainstream, it has become the dominant way to help machines sense and perceive the world around them. It powers Alexa’s speech recognition, Waymo’s self-driving cars, and Google’s on-the-fly translations. Uber is in some respects a giant optimization problem, using machine learning to figure out where riders will need cars. Baidu, the Chinese tech giant, has more than 2,000 engineers cranking away on neural net AI. For years, it seemed as though deep learning would only keep getting better, leading inexorably to a machine with the fluid, supple intelligence of a person.

But some heretics argue that deep learning is hitting a wall. They say that, on its own, it’ll never produce generalized intelligence, because truly humanlike intelligence isn’t just pattern recognition. We need to start figuring out how to imbue AI with everyday common sense, the stuff of human smarts. If we don’t, they warn, we’ll keep bumping up against the limits of deep learning, like visual-recognition systems that can be easily fooled by changing a few inputs, making a deep-learning model think a turtle is a gun. But if we succeed, they say, we’ll witness an explosion of safer, more useful devices—health care robots that navigate a cluttered home, fraud detection systems that don’t trip on false positives, medical breakthroughs powered by machines that ponder cause and effect in disease.

I look forward to having an argument with a bot…someday.

Written by turbotodd

November 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

Posted in 2018, AI, microsoft, Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

My World Cup Runneth Over

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If you’re a soccer fan (even if the U.S. men’s team didn’t make it into this year’s World Cup, which it most certainly did not), then you had plenty of drama over the weekend and into Monday.I don’t even know where to start.

Over the weekend in the knockout round, France beats Argentina, Uruguay beats Portugal, Russia beats Spain, Croatia beats Denmark (both those last two games went to penalty kicks).

Today, Brazil beat Mexico, and Belgium comes back from a 2-0 deficit to somehow win 3-2.

Obviously, seeing Argentina and Portugal go gentle into that good knockout round is hard for world soccer fans to see, especially considering they have some of the world’s best players.

On the other hand, it IS a team sport, a very collaborative one at that (meaning, you can’t just depend on Ronaldo and Messi), and those who have made it this far are playing a long, and increasingly careful, game to get into the quarterfinals.

I have not seen every team play yet, so I’m holding off on my predictions for the moment.

Up next: Sweden vs. Switzerland and Columbia vs. England tomorrow. We’ll see if they’re as nail biting as several of these knockout round games have been!

Written by turbotodd

July 2, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Oh Snap!

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Oh Snap!

Watch out when Kylie Jenner starts talking smack about your brand, because bad things can and will happen.

Yesterday, in fact, Snap stock slid 6+ percent after analysts warned of the negative reaction to Kylie’s Tweet suggesting she uses Snapchat less than she used to prior to the app’s latest update.

Here’s the Tweet she sent: “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad”

Cost Snap about $1.3 billion in market value, according to Bloomberg.

Day-amn.

And getting back to the topic of better, smarter, faster AI-driven voice assistants, Google Assistant is going multilingual, with 9to5Google reporting it will soon have support for English, French, German, and 30 additional languages by the end of the year (that’s up from a current total of 8).

Additional languages include Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, and Thai, a rollout Google claims will reach 95 percent of all eligible Android phones.

And if you’re tired of telling your Google Assistant what to do over and over, The Verge is reporting Google is announching a number of new updates, including its “routine” feature that allows Assistant to perform multiple actions at once from a single command that you set up in advance.

Kind of like this: Hey Google, sell all my Snap stock, buy me a new Mercedes, go do my grocery shopping, plan my vacation to Tahiti, and, oh yeah, turn out the lights and turn up the heat.

Okay, maybe not like that, but you get the picture.

Written by turbotodd

February 23, 2018 at 9:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Chrome’s New Ad Blocking

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TechCrunch is reporting that Chrome’s built-in ad blocker will go live tomorrow, the first time Google will automatically block some ads in Chrome.

They note that this is not an alternative to AdBlock Plus or uBlock Origin, but rather Google’s effort “to ban the most annoying ads from your browser.”

Uh, that would be all of them, wouldn’t it?

The user experience will go a little something like this: If you end up on a site where Chrome’s blocking ads, you’ll see a small pop-up in Chrome that allows you to sidestepFull page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads will be targeted by Chrome’s ad filtering, which will hopefully result in less of these annoying ads on the web. the ad blocker and allow ads for that site.

The Verge reports Google will be selecting for specific types of ads:

Full page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads will be targeted by Chrome’s ad filtering, which will hopefully result in less of these annoying ads on the web.

This should be fun.

Written by turbotodd

February 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

Bronze, Silver and Gold

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Happy Monday.

Congrats to our U.S. Olympic medalists in Pyeonchang (thus far), with Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson leading the way in men’s and women’s slopestyle snowboarding events, respectively, with each garnering the first U.S. gold medals of these Winter Olympics.

In men’s luge, U.S. team member Chris Mazdzer grabbed a silver medal Sunday night (apparently unexpectedly), while Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu won bronze medals in the team figure skating competition.

Well done all around!

If hacking’s more your sport, though, you may want to check out Sam Kim’s feature about North Korean hackers on Bloomberg. According to Kim’s report, their mission is to use their hacking skills to make money by any means necessary, and they, too, seem to be going for the gold…admittedly that of a different variety.

Meanwhile, Apple has intimated some changes in its software development lifecycle, according to AppleInsider. According to the story, Apple will move away from annual “zero day” releases” as the company works to minimize software bugs while giving its engineers more flexibility in scheduling.

As an example, the company will focus on the next two years of iPhone and iPad software updates, rather than “cramming features into a single update,” reports Apple Insider.

New improvements to iOS could still come later this year, including Animoji characters in Facement, enhancements to Do Not Disturb, deeper integration of Siri into Spotlight, and a revamped Stocks app (yawn).

But a big update in 2018 could see the ability to run several windows in one app on the iPad, one that would allow users to switch between apps just like tabs in a web browser.

AppleInsider also suggests the company is still on track with project “Marzipan,” which will help developers port iOS apps to the Mac more easily and run a single, unified code base.

If you’re looking for a shorter term fix, AppleInsider also reports the company is working on an iOS 11.3 update that will give users the ability to check the health of their device’s battery (especially important after the Apple battery scandal), and choose to enable or disable automatic throttling of older devices to prevent random shutdowns.

That update is also expected to include four new Animoji, support for Messages in iCloud, ARKit 1.5, and tweaks to Apple Music and Apple News.

Written by turbotodd

February 12, 2018 at 9:13 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

That’s a Big Deal!

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Happy Monday.

A big deal could hardly wait for Monday morning.  In fact, the biggest tech deal ever.

Broadcom Ltd. has offered roughly $105 billion for Qualcomm Inc., reports Bloomberg, “kicking off an ambitious attempt at the largest technology takeover ever in a deal that would rock the electronics industry.”

According to the report, Broadcom has made an offer of $70 a share in cash and stock for Qualcomm, a 28% premium for the world’s largest maker of mobile phone chips.

If the deal were to go through and be approved, this would make Broadcom the third largest chipmaker, behind Intel and Samsung. And as Bloomberg estimates, the deal would dwarf Dell’s $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2015.

VentureBeat writes that “the deal would give Broadcom a foothold in the mobile communications market” but comes at a time Qualcomm is still trying to close its own $38 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors, which Qualcomm wants to use to help it get into self-driving technology.

And as VentureBeat points out, Intel is certainly not sitting still as competitive pressure emanates from the likes of Nvidia who are moving into the growing field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, both of which are demanding higher performance semiconductors.

No word at press time as to whether billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and one of the world’s wealthiest men, will be making an investment in this new venture.

The Prince was detained by Saudi authorities on Saturday night, according to the Wall Street Journal, along with at least 10 other princes and more than two dozen current ministers in the Saudi royal family. Mr. al-Waleed is a top investor in tech companies, including Apple and Twitter, and faces charges of money laundering.

 

Written by turbotodd

November 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

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