Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘2018

Smarter Assistance

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Happy Friday, and Happy Holidays.

For those of you who have already started fleeing to parts beyond, here’s hoping you did not get caught up in the drone traffic at Gatwick Airport outside of London.

I guess that whole geofencing thing to keep the drones out…yeah, that’s not working out so much.

Me, I’m firmly ensconced in Turbo North, praying for the weather to stay warm enough over the weekend to follow a little white ball around.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep up with the breakneck pace of tech news that was coming out this week.

This one caught my eye from Loup Ventures, where they conducted their annual smart speaker IQ test.

They conducted the test by asking each of the four smart speakers — Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana — 800 questions each, and then measured how well they answered correctly and/or understood the query.

Google Assistant came out on top, answering the questions correctly 87.9 percent of the time and understanding the query 100 percent of the time!

Surprisingly (at least to me, anyways), Siri came in second at 74.6 and 99.6 percent, respectively, and Alexa third, at 72.5 and 99 percent. Cortana was dead last at 63.4 and 99.4 percent.

Meanwhile, if you’re a user of Slack, be prepared to not be cut any if you visited or live in a U.S. sanctioned country recently.

The Verge reported yesterday that Slack is banning some users with links to Iran, even if they’ve left the country. 

“In order to comply with export control and economic sanctions laws…Slack prohibits unauthorized use of its products and services in certain sanctioned countries,” the notice from Slack read. “We’ve identified your team/account as originating from one of these countries and are closing the account effective immediately.” Users received no warning, and had no time to create archives or otherwise back up data.

That right there is the long arm emoji of Uncle Sam hard at work!

And speaking of big guvment, there’s this on the sub-continent of India today: India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has authorized ten government agencies, including intelligence and law enforcement, to monitor, intercept, and decrypt data on all computers in the country. 

The governmental order detailing the powers immediately drew strong criticism from both India’s privacy activists and its opposition parties, who said it enabled blanket state surveillance and violated the fundamental right to privacy that India’s 1.3 billion citizens are constitutionally guaranteed.

People who don’t comply might face up to seven years in prison and a fine, according to India’s Information Technology Act, which the order falls under.

The order caused a major dispute in India’s parliament, with members of the opposition calling it “unconstitutional, undemocratic, and an assault on fundamental rights.”

How come all of a sudden almost every single tech story seems to also have a government or public policy angle?!

That would be a question best responded to by Facebook’s PR team, the next great breeding ground for crisis communications talent.

Okay, back to the salt mines…Happy Holidays, everyone!

Written by turbotodd

December 21, 2018 at 9:40 am

Dezinformatsiya

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If you’ve had any interest in following all those alleged goings on by Russia in the 2016 elections, today was a good day. 

The Washington Post wrote that a new report that was prepared for the U.S. Senate “provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign” and “used every major social media platform to deliver words, images, and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump.”

It was the product of a bipartisan effort from the Senate Intelligence Committee, and you can download the full report here.

Me, I’m neither going to wade into or attempt to drown that particular swamp, but I will say one of the revelations was what a significant role Instagram seemed to play in the Russia Internet Research Agency’s efforts (as opposed to the prior focus on Twitter and Facebook).

I guess a picture’s worth a thousand kompromat!

Meanwhile, more political heat on the search and social media front as The Intercept reports that Google was forced to shut down a data analysis system that it had been using to develop a censored search engine for China “after members of the company’s privacy team raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them.”

The internal rift over the system has had massive ramifications, effectively ending work on the censored search engine, known as Dragonfly, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The incident represents a major blow to top Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, who have over the last two years made the China project one of their main priorities.

You gotta go deep to get to the bottom of this one, but it does appear that the Grinch may have stolen Google’s Chinese search gift this holiday season. I’ll leave it up.

Queue up Dr. Seuss:

And the more the Grinch thought of this Who Christmas Sing,
The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!”
“Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!”
“I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?”

Written by turbotodd

December 17, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Google in the Hot Box

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai is in the hotbox today on Capitol Hill as he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.

I’ve had some of the later testimony on in the background, and there have already been lots of questions about data and data sharing, preloaded apps, privacy, DoubleClick cookies and the merging of offline data (which I found sooo 1999!).

The New York Times is following much more closely, and here are some highlights of what they’ve observed:

Republican lawmakers displayed the party’s growing distrust toward Google, raising a broad array of tough questions on the search giant’s market power, plans to relaunch service in China, and whether the site suppresses conservative content. At the core of their questions was a concern over the company’s commitment to free expression.

Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Leader, had this to say:

“All of these topics — competition, censorship, bias, and others — point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention. Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom or instruments of control?”

There was also discussion around liberal-leaning biases of employees and whether or not those biases “affect[ed] filtering decisions for its search engine,” a claim many right-leaning leaders have suggested in the past.

Location information was also prevalent, and Texas Republican Ted Poe held up his own smartphone and asked Pichai if Google was tracking his whereabouts if we walked to the other side of the room.

Pichai’s response: “Not by default,” suggesting it depended on the congressman’s app settings.

The Times also observed that Google’s been taking heat both internally and externally for “Project Dragonfly,” it’s initiative to build a censored search engine that could be used in the Chinese market.

My observation: Regulation of American Internet giants is not a question of if, but when, and how much. They’ve amassed too much personal data far too quickly and treated it with reckless abandon, and now the question becomes what measures can an American regulatory regime take that has both teeth for the consumer but doesn’t stifle innovation for industry.  

It’s a tall order and a complicated ask, but they, that’s why all those lobbyists get paid the big bucks! ; )

Written by turbotodd

December 11, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Some iPhone Models Banned In China

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Happy Monday.

Axios is reporting that a Chinese court has banned the sale of a number of recent iPhone models “citing infringement of two Qualcomm patents.”

Axios writes why this matters:

The preliminary injunction blocks the sale and import of iPhones into China, but not the manufacture or export of the devices, so the direct impact is limited to the domestic Chinese market. Still, it represents a significant disruption to Apple’s business and could bring the two parties to the negotiating table in their long litigation war.

The injunction prevents the sale and import of the iPhone 6s, 6sPlus, 7, 7 Plus, iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X. 

Apple’s response: 

“Qualcomm’s effort to ban our products is another desperate move by a company whose illegal practices are under investigation by regulators around the world. All iPhone models remain available for our customers in China. Qualcomm is asserting three patents they had never raised before, including one which has already been invalidated. We will pursue all our legal options through the courts.”

And Qualcomm’s:

Apple continues to benefit from our intellectual property while refusing to compensate us. These Court orders are further confirmation of the strength of Qualcomm’s vast patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Kara Swisher writing in The New York Times pulls back the camera and asks the question, “Can the U.S. Stop China from Controlling the Next Internet age?”

Rhetorical???

Written by turbotodd

December 10, 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in 2018, apple, china, iPhone

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Wide Open (Source) Software

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2018 has been the biggest year for open source software (OSS), evuh.

So writes Astasia Myers with Redpoint Ventures:

The most significant exit for an open source business was IBM’s $35B acquisition of Red Hat. As my colleague Tomasz Tunguz claimed, it was “a triumph of open source.” Red Hat’s acquisition was the largest software acquisition in history, and the third largest technology acquisition after Dell/EMC at $67B and JDS/SDL for $41B.

Next, in early November VMware acquired Heptio, a startup that helps companies deploy and manage upstream Kubernetes. Founded by ex-Googlers Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, Heptio was mostly a services business with some open source projects like Ark, Sonobuoy, Contour, and Gimbal. Heptio competes against Red Hat so it is clear VMware is trying strengthening its role in the cloud-native ecosystem.

Hortonworks had a $5.2B merger with Cloudera, and Myers notes that there’s been at least $46.8B spent on acquiring open source companies.

See Myer’s post for a full breakdown of OSS deals since 2011.

The rise in open source and cloud solution has also led to some changes in the more traditional vertical software market.

Just today, HCL Technologies has paid $1.8 billion to pick up a number of IBM Software products, including Notes and Domino; Connections; on-prem versions of Portal, Commerce, and Unica; BigFix; and AppScan.

According to ZDNet:

“The products that we are acquiring are in large growing market areas like security, marketing, and commerce, which are strategic segments for HCL,” president and CEO of HCL Technologies C Vijayakumar said.

“Many of these products are well regarded by clients and positioned in the top quadrant by industry analysts.”

Vijayakumar added the company sees “tremendous potential” for creating as-a-service offerings by combining the acquisitions with its existing products.

A year ago in October, IBM had already entered into an arrangement that had HCL become responsible for the development of Domino products. 

End of an era?

Written by turbotodd

December 7, 2018 at 10:05 am

Posted in 2018, open source, red hat

Tagged with ,

Apple a Day

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Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is “experimenting” with iPhone marketing strategies it rarely uses, including discount promotions with generous device buyback terms, to help bolster sales of its new line of smartphones.

Apparently they were selling below expectations, and not coincidentally Apple has lost about a fifth of market value since the start of October. And iPhone supplier Cirrus Logic cut its holiday quarter sales forecast 16 percent due to slack demand.

You can visit apple.com if you want to see whether or not your older iPhone is eligible for the trade-in, one which is lowering the cost of an XR model by up to $300.

 

Written by turbotodd

December 5, 2018 at 2:13 pm

Posted in 2018, apple, iPhone

Tagged with , , ,

Apple’s Golden Eggs

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Good morning and Happy Tuesday.

Here’s hoping you got everything you wished for on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

I bought some coffee, which isn’t very cyber, I know, but hey, a man’s gotta have his caffeine.

You know who else might need some caffeine soon?

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

Yesterday, justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (hereafter referred to as “SCOTUS”) appeared open to letting a lawsuit proceed against Apple that accused it of breaking federal antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for iPhone software applications and causing consumers to overpay.

According to a report from Reuters:

The nine justices heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by the Cupertino, California-based technology company of a lower court’s decision to revive the proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in California in 2011 by a group of iPhone users seeking monetary damages.

The lawsuit said Apple violated federal antitrust laws by requiring apps to be sold through the company’s App Store and then taking a 30 percent commission from the purchases.

Reuters points out that while developers set the prices of their apps, Apple collects the payments from iPhone users and keeps 30 percent commission on each purchase. Developers earned more than $26 billion from the store in 2017, a 30 percent increase from the year before.

Goose. 

Golden.

Eggs.

Don’t.

Kill.

Written by turbotodd

November 27, 2018 at 9:49 am

Posted in 2018, app store, apple, developers

Tagged with , ,

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 , ,

A Foldable Phone

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Happy Monday.

We have ourselves another weekend-announced tech deal, this time SAP announcing that it would purchase survey-software provider Qualtrics for $8 billion in cash.

Axios reports that "this would be the largest-ever purchase of a VC-backed enterprise software company" and "the third-largest sale of any SaaS company (behind Oracle buying NetSuite for $9.3B, and SAP buying Concur for $8.3B).

AP CEO Bill McDermott said in a conference call that the Qualtrics IPO was already over-subscribed, and that this deal will be as transformative for SAP as buying Instagram was for Facebook — with SAP being able to merge its massive trove of operational data with Qualtrics’ collection of user experience data.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been keeping an eye on that nifty-looking foldable Galaxy F smartphone, Yonhap News Agency is reporting that it will launch in March, "along with a fifth-generation (5G) network-powered Galaxy S10."

Yonhap reports that the eagerly anticipated foldable smartphone is expected to launch at the Mobile World Congress in February, but that it is not expected to support 5G. So all that folding will have to transpire on existing 4G networks.

Hey, a slower folding phone is better than no folding phone, right?

And if you’ve already started that Christmas shopping binge, looking for the latest and greatest gaming console, you might want to hit "pause" just long enough to read this effort from The Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Needleman.

She writes that tech giants are "trying to bring videogames the same streaming capabilities that gave rise to Netflix and Spotify," which could potentially do an end around traditional gaming consoles.

I wouldn’t short the X-Box or Playstation just yet, but there is the possibility those consoles will have to reinvent themselves to stay up to speed with the Jones’s…errr, I meant to say, the Streamers.

Written by turbotodd

November 12, 2018 at 12:22 pm

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