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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check



Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling



Updated: 2017-07-25T07:23:53.536-04:00

 



Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder

2017-07-25T07:23:53.571-04:00

Don't panic; no doubt the data is cleansed of personal details before it's sold... Also see Roomba vacuum maker iRobot betting big on the 'smart' home (Reuters)
"The Roomba is generally regarded as a cute little robot friend that no one but dogs would consider to be a potential menace. But for the last couple of years, the robovacs have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers, turning the friendly robot into a creeping, creepy little spy. 
While it may seem like the information that a Roomba could gather is minimal, there’s a lot to be gleaned from the maps it’s constantly updating. It knows the floor plan of your home, the basic shape of everything on your floor, what areas require the most maintenance, and how often you require cleaning cycles, along with many other data points. And, according to Reuters, that data is the future of its business strategy:"
Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder



Alphabet Falls on Concern About Rising Google Traffic Costs - Bloomberg

2017-07-25T07:00:55.852-04:00

Also see Alphabet Announces Second Quarter 2017 Results (Alphabet Investor Relations)

"The company accounted for the fine as a one-time dent on profit during the quarter, bringing net income to $5.01 per share. Analysts were expecting $4.45 per share, including the EU fine, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg.

Spending on Alphabet’s “Other Bets” fell sharply during the quarter. Porat attributed this to an ongoing retreat in the expansion of its Google Fiber fast internet service. 

Still, spending on Google’s businesses increased. In particular, the company has plowed money into its cloud-computing business, which Porat said was one of the fastest-growing divisions. Google said it won three times as many cloud deals exceeding $500,000 as it did last year. That was the most the company has disclosed about its cloud sales to date."
Alphabet Falls on Concern About Rising Google Traffic Costs - Bloomberg



Putin’s Hackers Now Under Attack—From Microsoft (The Daily Beast)

2017-07-21T06:53:31.606-04:00

Tbd if the Trump administration will object; tangentially, see Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation (The Washington Post)
"How are they doing it? It turns out Microsoft has something even more formidable than Moscow’s malware: Lawyers.
Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft’s trademarks.  The action, though, is not about dragging the hackers into court. The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls “the most vulnerable point” in Fancy Bear’s espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers.  These servers can be thought of as the spymasters in Russia’s cyber espionage, waiting patiently for contact from their malware agents in the field, then issuing encrypted instructions and accepting stolen documents."
Putin’s Hackers Now Under Attack—From Microsoft



Microsoft Reaps Rewards of Its Cloud-Computing Business - The New York Times

2017-07-21T06:23:32.841-04:00

Quite a contrast to IBM's latest results

"Revenue from one of the most closely watched pieces of that business, Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, jumped 97 percent. After being tardy to cloud computing, Azure is the second biggest cloud business after Amazon Web Services, the offering from Microsoft’s crosstown rival. In a call with analysts, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, Amy Hood, said the company closed the highest number of multimillion-dollar Azure deals to date during the quarter. Ms. Hood also said that for the first time, the revenue Microsoft received from the commercial version of Office 365 — a cloud version of its productivity applications that customers subscribe to — surpassed the revenue the company received from traditional sales of the software."
Microsoft Reaps Rewards of Its Cloud-Computing Business - The New York Times



2 Leading Online Black Markets Are Shut Down by Authorities - The New York Times

2017-07-21T06:19:23.894-04:00

Also see On Reddit, Intimate Glimpses of Addicts in Thrall to Opioids (NYT)

"AlphaBay and Hansa Market were successors to the first and most famous market operating on the so-called dark net, Silk Road, which the authorities took down in October 2013.

AlphaBay grew into a business with 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors — or 10 times the size of Silk Road — the Justice Department said Thursday.

The site recently come under scrutiny because many of its vendors sell synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which play a central role in the nationwide overdose epidemic."
2 Leading Online Black Markets Are Shut Down by Authorities - The New York Times



How will Our Screen Addiction Change? – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

2017-07-20T08:10:08.214-04:00

Check the full post for projections on how ambient computing, VR, and AR may be game-changers

"A Nielsen Company audience report published in 2016 revealed that American adults devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of 2016. This was an increase of exactly an hour recorded over the same period of 2015. Of those 10 hours, about 4½ hours a day are spent watching shows and movies.

During the same year, the Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey showed that 40% of consumers check their phones within five minutes of waking up and another 30% checks them five minutes before going to sleep. On average we check our phones about 47 times a day, the number grows to 82 times if you are in the 18-24 age bracket. In aggregate, the US consumers check their phones more than 9 billion times per day.

Any way you look at it, we are totally addicted to screens of any form, size, and shape."
How will Our Screen Addiction Change? – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis



Microsoft unveils a beautiful Cortana-powered thermostat - The Verge

2017-07-20T06:58:22.230-04:00

One step closer to Windows 10 for toasters and fridges...

"GLAS will run on Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT Core operating system, and will have Cortana voice services built into the thermostat. It’s one of the first thermostats to include Cortana integration, after Microsoft revealed its plans to bring its digital assistant to fridges, toasters, and thermostats. Microsoft notes that GLAS has sensors that detect when you’re in the room or not, and the thermostat will constantly monitor indoor and outdoor air quality. All of these sensors are designed to save energy by changing settings on the fly, much like a Nest thermostat or the Ecobee4. Johnson Controls’ GLAS thermostat differs from the Nest by including Cortana voice controls, but competitors like the Ecobee4 do include Alexa built straight in."
Microsoft unveils a beautiful Cortana-powered thermostat - The Verge



First impressions of Samsung's Bixby voice assistant for U.S. Galaxy S8 users - The Washington Post

2017-07-20T06:46:56.240-04:00

Also see Bixby feels more like a return of the old Samsung than a path to the future (The Verge), which concludes: "In the case of Bixby, it appears that some things are better never than late."

"For me, however, the biggest problem with Bixby is that it's inconsistently implemented. It works best with a handful of Samsung apps, though users have the option to turn on a “Labs” setting that adds integration with outside apps such as Pandora or Twitter. In both cases, however, I found myself having to repeat my commands or rephrase them. Bixby, while capable of pulling off more complex tasks, is much more strict about the way you have to say things.

It also doesn't seem to be quite as quick as Siri or Google Assistant on mobile. The lag between a “Hi Bixby” command and its execution can drag on, certainly to the point where I feel as though it might be faster to do it myself. It's true that Bixby, like most smart assistants, might learn over time. Right now, the promise of something truly useful is there, but it's not showing up in normal use yet."
First impressions of Samsung's Bixby voice assistant for U.S. Galaxy S8 users - The Washington Post



This App Tells You — and Maybe Other People — When You’re Depressed - Bloomberg

2017-07-20T06:40:34.719-04:00

Earlier in the article: "“I’ll help you recognize patterns because ... (no offense) humans aren’t great at that,” Woebot tells me with a smirking smile emoji."

"Chatbots have existed since the 1960s -- one was named after “Pygmalion” heroine Eliza Doolittle -- but advances such as machine learning have made the robots savvier. Woebot is one of an emerging group of technological interventions that aim to detect and treat mental-health disorders. They’re not for everyone. Some people may prefer unburdening themselves to a human, and many apps are hindered by bugs and dogged by privacy concerns. Still, the new technologies may fill gaps in current treatment options by detecting symptoms earlier and acting as coaches for individuals who might otherwise never seek counseling."
This App Tells You — and Maybe Other People — When You’re Depressed - Bloomberg



Facebook Is Pursuing a Subscription Tool for News Outlets on Its Site - The New York Times

2017-07-20T08:51:13.851-04:00

All the news that's fit to stream; also see Facebook Journalism Project: Six Month Update (Facebook media blog)
"Facebook’s move to test a news subscription product may be an effort to appease publishers as it combats this and other issues, including regulatory and antitrust scrutiny. And if Facebook were to adopt the subscription feature, it would move the platform closer to controlling the relationship with the reader — a relationship that news outlets used to own directly.

It is not clear if Facebook will benefit financially from a news subscription feature. The company does not intend to take a cut of payments to news outlets, according to one of the people familiar with the talks. Facebook indirectly benefits, however, by encouraging people to spend more time on its site; while they are there, those users will see more ads.

As more publishers move toward subscription models, a news subscription service like the one Facebook has proposed could work to their advantage by driving more casual readers to pay for news."
Facebook Is Pursuing a Subscription Tool for News Outlets on Its Site - The New York Times



A new chapter for Glass – The Team at X

2017-07-19T07:38:01.740-04:00

An update from the Glass Project Lead

"Glass, as you might remember, is a very small, lightweight wearable computer with a transparent display that brings information into your line of sight. In a work setting, you can clip it onto glasses or industry frames like safety goggles so you don’t have to switch focus between what you’re doing with your hands and the content you need to see to do your job.
Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy. That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields. We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long term wear. We’ve increased the power and battery life too."
A new chapter for Glass – The Team at X



Ethereum Co-Founder Says Crypto Coin Market Is a Time-Bomb - Bloomberg

2017-07-19T06:58:42.373-04:00

Earlier in the article: "Firms have raised $1.3 billion this year in digital coin sales, surpassing venture capital funding of blockchain companies and up more than six-fold from the total raised last year, according to Autonomous Research."

"Hoskinson, who runs technology research firm IOHK, is part of a growing chorus of blockchain watchers voicing concern about the rapid surge in cryptocurrency prices and digital coin crowdsales that have collected millions of dollars in minutes. Regulation is the biggest risk to the sector, as it’s likely that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has remained on the sidelines, will step in to say that digital coins are securities, he said.

Startups raising money through ICOs usually skip the safeguards required in traditional securities sales, like making sure they’re dealing with accredited investors and verifying the source of funds. That could lead to lawsuits in the future, as digital coin buyers can sue the issuer claiming they didn’t know the risks of buying those assets, Hoskinson said."
Ethereum Co-Founder Says Crypto Coin Market Is a Time-Bomb - Bloomberg



Google introduces the feed, a personalized stream of news on iOS and Android - The Verge

2017-07-19T08:07:03.332-04:00

See Feed your need to know (Google Keyword blog) for more details; in other feed frenzy news, see Amazon launches Spark, a shoppable feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members (TechCrunch)
"Google today is rolling out its take on the news feed, a personalized stream of articles, videos, and other content. The feed will appear in its flagship app for Android and iOS, simply called Google. The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.

Google previewed its new feed in December, when it introduced the feature to its Android app. Previously, the space below the search bar was reserved for Google Now, the company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information."
Google introduces the feed, a personalized stream of news on iOS and Android - The Verge



IBM Misses Revenue Estimates as Cloud Services Unit Falters - Bloomberg

2017-07-19T06:38:05.180-04:00

See IBM Reports 2017 Second-Quarter Results (IBM) for details

"IBM missed estimates for quarterly revenue, with sales in a key unit declining for the second consecutive period, further extending Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty’s turnaround plan into its fifth year without significant progress.

Sales in the company’s technology services and cloud platforms segment dropped 5.1 percent from the same period a year earlier, even though executives had said in April that they expected key contracts to come through in the quarter. The unit is a marker for the strength of the company’s push into newer technologies. Total revenue fell to $19.3 billion, IBM said in a statement Tuesday, the 21st straight quarter of year-over-year declines."
IBM Misses Revenue Estimates as Cloud Services Unit Falters - Bloomberg



Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act | WIRED

2017-07-18T08:00:54.410-04:00

From a Steven Levy update

"Those still using the original Explorer Edition will explode with envy when they see the Enterprise Edition. For starters, it makes the technology completely accessible for those who wear prescription lenses. The camera button, which sits at the hinge of the frame, does double duty as a release switch to remove the electronics part of unit (called the Glass Pod) from the frame. You can then connect it to safety glasses for the factory floor—EE now offers OSHA-certified safety shields—or frames that look like regular eyewear. (A former division of 3M has been manufacturing these specially for Enterprise Edition; if EE catches on, one might expect other frame vendors, from Warby Parker to Ray-Ban, to develop their own versions.) “We did a lot of work to lighten the weight of the frames to compensate for the additional weight [of the Pod],” says Kothari. “So the overall package with Glass and the frames itself actually comes out to be the average weight of regular glasses.”
Other improvements include beefed-up networking—not only faster and more reliable wifi, but also adherence to more rigorous security standards—and a faster processor as well. The battery life has been extended—essential for those who want to work through a complete eight-hour shift without recharging. (More intense usage, like constant streaming, still calls for an external battery.) The camera was upgraded from five megapixels to eight. And for the first time, a red light goes on when video is being recorded. (Inoculation against Glasshole-dom!)"
Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act | WIRED



Snap employees will soon be able to sell their stock. Here’s what that means for Snap’s stock price. - Recode

2017-07-18T06:59:49.795-04:00

Another facet of Snap's ephemeral value proposition

"Typically, the end of a lock-up period means that lots of investors, and especially early employees, rush to sell the stock. Many of them have been waiting years to turn their stock awards into actual cash. It’s also usually a milestone that some long-term, vested employees use as a reason to leave the company, which is certainly a possibility with Snap. That’s a bigger issue in the long run than a dip in the stock price.

Regardless, there will soon be a whole lot of Snap stock eligible to trade on the public market. Citi Research projects that the lock-up’s expiration will free up 949 million new shares for trading, significantly more than the current float, which is 230 million shares, according to Snap’s S-1."
Snap employees will soon be able to sell their stock. Here’s what that means for Snap’s stock price. - Recode



A security robot fell into a water fountain at a D.C. office building. And the Internet went wild. - The Washington Post

2017-07-18T06:52:33.404-04:00

"We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots."
"A roving security robot — oblong and about four-feet-tall — plunged into a water fountain outside a Washington, D.C., office building Monday afternoon, sending online commentators into a tizzy and causing many people to spot plenty of metaphors for the much-promised autonomous future.

Numerous photos posted online showed the robot on its side in the ankle-deep water as workers tried to figure out how to rescue it."

A security robot fell into a water fountain at a D.C. office building. And the Internet went wild. - The Washington Post



As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away - The New York Times

2017-07-18T06:44:12.759-04:00

A multi-$B workflow worst-practices case study

"Judges have already dismissed dozens of lawsuits against former students, essentially wiping out their debt, because documents proving who owns the loans are missing. A review of court records by The New York Times shows that many other collection cases are deeply flawed, with incomplete ownership records and mass-produced documentation.

Some of the problems playing out now in the $108 billion private student loan market are reminiscent of those that arose from the subprime mortgage crisis a decade ago, when billions of dollars in subprime mortgage loans were ruled uncollectible by courts because of missing or fake documentation. And like those troubled mortgages, private student loans — which come with higher interest rates and fewer consumer protections than federal loans — are often targeted at the most vulnerable borrowers, like those attending for-profit schools."
As Paperwork Goes Missing, Private Student Loan Debts May Be Wiped Away - The New York Times



Content isn't king — Benedict Evans

2017-07-17T07:32:29.612-04:00

Something to watch

"Taking a step back, though, it’s not clear how much all of this really matters to tech. The tech industry has been trying to get onto the TV and into the living room since before the consumer internet - the ‘information superhighway’ of the early 1990s was really about interactive TV, not the web. Yet after a couple of decades of trying, the tech industry now dominates the living room, and is transforming what ‘video’ means, but with the phone, not the TV. The reason Apple TV, Chromecast, FireTV and everything else feel so anti-climactic is that getting onto the TV was a red herring - the device is the phone and the network is the internet. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it. Internet advertising will be bigger than TV advertising this year, and Apple’s revenue is larger than the entire global pay TV industry. This is also why tech companies are even thinking about commissioning their own premium shows today - they are now so big that the budgets involved in buying or creating TV look a lot less daunting than they once did. A recurring story in the past was for a leading tech company to go to Hollywood, announce its intention to buy lots of stuff, and then turn pale at the first rate card it was shown and say “wow - that’s really expensive!”. They have the money now, not from conquering TV but from creating something bigger."
Content isn't king — Benedict Evans



Jefferies gives IBM Watson a Wall Street reality check | TechCrunch

2017-07-17T07:06:14.837-04:00

Also see IBM's Watson gets no love on Wall Street (Axios)

"Jefferies pulls from an audit of a partnership between IBM Watson and MD Anderson as a case study for IBM’s broader problems scaling Watson. MD Anderson cut its ties with IBM after wasting $60 million on a Watson project that was ultimately deemed, “not ready for human investigational or clinical use.”

The MD Anderson nightmare doesn’t stand on its own. I regularly hear from startup founders in the AI space that their own financial services and biotech clients have had similar experiences working with IBM.

The narrative isn’t the product of any single malfunction, but rather the result of overhyped marketing, deficiencies in operating with deep learning and GPUs and intensive data preparation demands."
Jefferies gives IBM Watson a Wall Street reality check | TechCrunch



Amazon is reportedly working on a messaging app called Anytime - The Verge

2017-07-17T07:01:14.688-04:00

In other messaging/chat news, see Everyone seems to hate the new Skype (The Verge)

"Amazon.com is reportedly working on launching its own messaging app called Anytime, according to a report from AFTV News. The retail giant has begun to survey its customers about potential features, although it’s not clear what form the final product will take.

AFTV News explains that Anytime appears to be “an all-in-one feature rich service that could even rival social networks,” with a focus on messaging, voice and video calls, and photo sharing, with users able to apply filters to pictures and videos, @mention other users, use sticker and Gifs, and play games. Users would be able to call (audio and video) other individuals or groups, contact businesses to order products or make reservations. According to the images taken from the survey, the service be secure and encrypted, and would work on a variety of desktop and mobile devices."
Amazon is reportedly working on a messaging app called Anytime - The Verge



Elon Musk just told a group of America’s governors that we need to regulate AI before it’s too late - Recode

2017-07-17T06:49:19.606-04:00

Yes, but when will the horses be Neuralink-enhanced?...

"AI wasn’t the only topic of conversation. A large portion of the talk was about electric vehicles, which Musk’s company, Tesla, is hoping to perfect.

Musk said that the biggest risk to autonomous cars is a “fleet-wide hack” of the software controlling them, and added that in 20 years, owning a car that doesn’t drive itself will be the equivalent of someone today owning a horse.

“There will be people that will have non-autonomous cars, like people have horses,” he said. “It just would be unusual to use that as a mode of transport.”"
Elon Musk just told a group of America’s governors that we need to regulate AI before it’s too late - Recode



Behind the Velvet Ropes of Facebook’s Private Groups - The New York Times

2017-07-17T06:37:44.010-04:00

Excerpt from a tour of Facebook groups (which are also at the center of Workplace by Facebook)
"My catalyst came in June when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, announced that instead of trying to “make the world more open and connected,” as it had in the past, Facebook would aim to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” in part by placing a greater emphasis on groups. 
Private groups have existed on Facebook for years. But the decision to emphasize them now — at a time when Facebook’s cultural and political influence is being carefully scrutinized — is a fascinating shift for a social network that spent years encouraging its users to share as much information as they could, as publicly as possible."
Behind the Velvet Ropes of Facebook’s Private Groups - The New York Times



Apple’s Health and Fitness Push Accelerates as it Turns 3 – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

2017-07-14T07:16:19.291-04:00

Check the full post for a detailed update

"In what was one of the most packed WWDC keynotes in recent memory, the Apple Watch got under 15 minutes of stage time, and health and fitness features got only a fraction of that. But that’s not really indicative of all the additions to Apple’s health, fitness, and broader wellness features being made this year, and it’s certainly not indicative of Apple’s commitment to the space. I spent some time this week getting briefings about both what’s new in Apple’s own software, and what developers and others are bringing to the party."
Apple’s Health and Fitness Push Accelerates as it Turns 3 – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis



Facebook Plans to Unveil a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset for 2018 - Bloomberg

2017-07-14T06:33:05.302-04:00

In the meantime, Oculus Rift and Touch bundle temporarily on sale for $399 (Engadget)

"Facebook Inc. is taking another stab at turning its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset into a mass-market phenomenon. Later this year, the company plans to unveil a cheaper, wireless device that the company is betting will popularize VR the way Apple did the smartphone. 

Currently VR hardware comes in two flavors: cheap headsets that turn smartphones into virtual reality players (like Samsung’s $130 Gear VR) and high-end gaming rigs (like Facebook’s $400 Oculus Rift) that hook up to $1,000-plus desktop computers. Facebook’s new headset is designed to bridge the gap -- a device that will sell for as little as $200 and need not be tethered to a PC or phone, according to people familiar with its development. It will ship next year and represent an entirely new category."
Facebook Plans to Unveil a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset for 2018 - Bloomberg