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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: 2017-05-24T08:02:08.297-04:00

 



It's not just Bitcoin anymore... - BBC News

2017-05-24T08:02:08.305-04:00

Also see A surge in the value of crypto-currencies provokes alarm (The Economist)
"The price of Bitcoin, a digital currency once located at the fringe of finance, has been rising to new records in recent months as digital assets move into the mainstream.
On Tuesday, it shot past $2,200 (£1,700), more than doubling from just two months ago. And a newer currency, Ethereum, has climbed even faster.
Industry members say uncertainty surrounding the value of global currencies, including the pound, is driving demand for alternative currencies."
It's not just Bitcoin anymore... - BBC News



Teslabot is a Facebook chatbot to control and talk to your Tesla | Electrek

2017-05-24T07:35:22.736-04:00

A bot named Elon
"SmartCar announced a novel new way to connect to your Tesla today called TeslaBot. In a nutshell, it is a Facebook Chatbot that connects to your Tesla Model S or X via Tesla’s open APIs and can do much of what Tesla’s own app can do, often faster… 
For me this is a great way to interact with my car on a desktop Mac or PC using an interface (Facebook Messenger’s) I’m used to.

However using voice commands on mobile will give users a new way for controlling or getting access to their Tesla. In some quick testing this morning, the service worked as advertized. It even has some tricks if you tell it that you are bored."
Teslabot is a Facebook chatbot to control and talk to your Tesla | Electrek



Millennials will Drive the Digital Transformation of the Workplace – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis

2017-05-24T07:24:47.275-04:00

Work different

"At Creative Strategies, we asked over 1,400 18 to 24 years old in the US what would make them not choose a company to work for after they were offered a job. While 35% were just happy to get a job, 46% would see not being able to work flexible hours as a dealbreaker. 21% would walk away from a job that did not let them use a smartphone for work in conjunction with their laptop or desktop, while another 17% could not tolerate an IT department that restricts what can be done with a smartphone. Finally, 14% could not be in a job that did not offer collaboration practices that fit their desired workflow, such as using apps like Google Docs or Slack, as well as video conference support.

Workflow is different for millennials. Aside from prioritizing collaboration, 65% said their preferred method to communicate is messaging apps. When it comes to collaboration, Google reigns supreme with 81% of US millennials regularly using Google Docs, 62% Google search, 59% Google Mail. Outside of Google, Apple iMessage scored the highest, with 57% of millennials saying they regularly rely on it, followed by Microsoft Word with 51%."
Millennials will Drive the Digital Transformation of the Workplace – Tech.pinions – Perspective, Insight, Analysis



Microsoft is placing a big bet on its new Surface family - The Verge

2017-05-24T06:46:59.885-04:00

It'll be interesting to see how sales sort out between the new Surface laptop and the original toaster-fridge form factor Surface Pro

"I’ve always wondered whether Microsoft is simply trying to push the PC industry forward, testing out its own hardware, or just attempting to beat Apple at its own game. It’s now clear to me that, starting on June 15th, Microsoft is getting serious about its Surface family of hardware. That’s a risky bet, especially as the company had “lower than expected Surface Pro unit volume” during its recent quarterly results, but Microsoft looks well positioned to push the Surface line forward with the new Laptop and Pro devices.

Microsoft now has four distinct PCs, two buildings dedicated to Surface, and hundreds of engineers figuring out things like how people type to the amount of light required for backlit keyboards. It's a big operation now, and while we don't know how much Microsoft is spending on Surface, when you add up this amount of investment, it's clearly a lot."
Microsoft is placing a big bet on its new Surface family - The Verge



Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff - The Washington Post

2017-05-24T06:36:49.220-04:00

Acxiomatic?

"The new credit-card data enables the tech giant to connect these digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before. But in doing so, Google is yet again treading in territory that consumers may consider too intimate and potentially sensitive. Privacy advocates said few people understand that their purchases are being analyzed in this way and could feel uneasy, despite assurances from Google that it has taken steps to protect the personal information of its users.

Google also declined to detail how the new system works or what companies are analyzing records of credit and debit cards on Google’s behalf. Google, which saw $79 billion in revenue last year, said it would not handle the records directly but that its undisclosed partner companies had access to 70 percent of transactions for credit and debit cards in the United States."
Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff - The Washington Post



Amazon Sets Up Shop in the Heart of the Publishing Industry - The New York Times

2017-05-24T06:30:39.198-04:00

From a timely Amazon reality check

"The company’s push into physical stores might seem at odds with its origins as an online retailer. But it fits with Amazon’s continuing expansion into nearly every corner of the publishing industry. Since its founding more than 20 years ago, Amazon has become the dominant book retailer, and has created niches along the way.

It accounts for nearly half of all book sales in the United States, including print and e-books, according to the Codex Group, which analyzes the industry. With the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon drove the e-book and self-publishing boom. It bought Audible, the audiobook producer and retailer, and Goodreads, the popular book review sharing site. It started a publishing company, and now has nine imprints."
Amazon Sets Up Shop in the Heart of the Publishing Industry - The New York Times



U.S. top court tightens patent suit rules in blow to 'patent trolls' | Reuters

2017-05-23T07:59:35.925-04:00

Later in the article: "The ruling is likely to lessen the steady flow of patent litigation filed in a single federal court district in rural East Texas because of its reputation for having rules and juries that favor plaintiffs bringing infringement suits."

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tightened rules for where patent lawsuits can be filed in a decision that may make it harder for so-called patent "trolls" to launch sometimes dodgy patent cases in friendly courts, a major irritant for high-tech giants like Apple and Alphabet Inc's Google.

In a decision that upends 27 years of law governing patent infringement cases, the justices sided with beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC in its legal battle with food and beverage company Kraft Heinz Co (KHC.O). The justices ruled 8-0 that patent suits can be filed only in courts located in the jurisdiction where the targeted company is incorporated."
U.S. top court tightens patent suit rules in blow to 'patent trolls' | Reuters



AWS signs Java 'father' James Gosling | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Blair Hanley Frank

2017-05-23T07:56:40.867-04:00

Tbd if he'll be programming in Kotlin...

"Amazon Web Services has added another computer science heavyweight to its employee roster. James Gosling, often referred to as the “Father of Java,” announced on Facebook Monday that he would be joining the cloud provider as a distinguished engineer.

Gosling came up with the original design of Java and implemented its first compiler and virtual machine as part of his work at Sun Microsystems. He left Sun in 2010 after the company was acquired by Oracle, spent a short time at Google, and most recently worked at Liquid Robotics designing software for an underwater robot."
AWS signs Java 'father' James Gosling | VentureBeat | Cloud | by Blair Hanley Frank



In the Era of Alternative Facts, Steve Ballmer Finds a Hunger for Real Data - Bloomberg

2017-05-23T07:46:39.678-04:00

A different kind of inconvenient truth for the Trump administration

"Two decades ago, it would have been hard to imagine Ballmer and then-Netscape co-founder, now venture capitalist Marc Andreessen on the same side of any issue, but Andreessen is also funding an effort to increase government transparency and accountability by putting data first, Joe Lonsdale's OpenGov, which has raised more than $50 million.

"It's bipartisan," said Andreessen, whose eponymous firm along with Laurene Powell Jobs and other investors plowed $30 million into OpenGov earlier this month. Whether it's Republicans who gather data with an eye toward cutting costs or Democrats who use the information to demonstrate how well programs are working, the appetite is high for immediate and accurate information, he said. "Everyone wants the government to spend money more effectively."

In addition to USAFacts and OpenGov, Lonsdale is backing Socrata, which also has raised north of $50 million, and there are more modest efforts by Junar and Viderum Ltd."
In the Era of Alternative Facts, Steve Ballmer Finds a Hunger for Real Data - Bloomberg



Need Mood Lighting to Go With Your Music? Ask Alexa. No App Required. - The New York Times

2017-05-23T07:33:52.907-04:00

I'd be more impressed if Alexa could provide clear instructions on Ikea furniture assembly...

"On Tuesday, Ikea plans to announce that by this summer, its recently introduced line of smart lighting products can be controlled through voice commands. (Right now, these lights can be activated with an app). The products in the Swedish retailer’s new Tradfri line include light bulbs that work with traditional lamps. Through the integration with Amazon’s products, the bulbs will be wirelessly connected to Alexa so people can instruct the assistant to turn the lights on or dim them in various rooms of a house.

The arrangement is not exclusive to Amazon, so Ikea can strike similar agreements with makers of other smart speakers like Google Home."
Need Mood Lighting to Go With Your Music? Ask Alexa. No App Required. - The New York Times



Google’s AlphaGo Defeats Chinese Go Master in Win for A.I. - The New York Times

2017-05-23T07:48:13.089-04:00

Earlier in the article: "“Last year, it was still quite humanlike when it played,” said Mr. Ke after the game. “But this year, it became like a god of Go.”" Also see Google Cozies Up to China With AI Secrets And a Game of Go (Bloomberg)
"In the first game, Mr. Ke made several moves that commentators said were reminiscent of AlphaGo’s own style. Wearing a blue tie and thick-framed black glasses, the boyish Mr. Ke kept things close in the early going. By AlphaGo’s own assessment, it did not have a big statistical advantage until after the 50th move, according to a DeepMind co-founder, Demis Hassabis.

Mr. Ke, who smiled and shook his head as AlphaGo finished out the game, said afterward that his was a “bitter smile.” After he finishes this week’s match, he said, he would focus more on playing against human opponents, noting that the gap between humans and computers was becoming too great. He would treat the software more as a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves.

“AlphaGo is improving too fast,” he said in a news conference after the game. “AlphaGo is like a different player this year compared to last year.”"
Google’s AlphaGo Defeats Chinese Go Master in Win for A.I. - The New York Times



How He Used Facebook to Win | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books

2017-05-22T07:59:15.093-04:00

Final paragraphs from a Trump campaign/social media reality check

"There are many ways that the Democrats lost the election, starting with the foibles of the candidate herself. If the Republicans had lost, that would have been the prevailing story about them and their candidate as well. That the Republicans didn’t lose can be attributed in large measure to their expert manipulation of social media: Donald Trump is our first Facebook president. His team figured out how to use all the marketing tools of Facebook, as well as Google, the two biggest advertising platforms in the world, to successfully sell a candidate that the majority of Americans did not want. They understood that some numbers matter more than others—in this case the number of angry, largely rural, disenfranchised potential Trump voters—and that Facebook, especially, offered effective methods for pursuing and capturing them. While this is clearly the future of campaigns, both Republican and Democratic, it also appears to be Trump’s approach to governing.

Much was made in the last days of the campaign of the fact that if Donald Trump lost, he could take his huge database, Project Alamo, which he owns outright, and start an insurgent political movement or build his own media company. As Steve Bannon said at the time, “Trump is an entrepreneur.” But Trump didn’t lose, and he still owns that database, and it continues to serve him well. In the first three months of his presidency, when only 36 percent of the country gave him a favorable rating, Trump and the Republicans raised $30 million toward his reelection. As a point of reference, this is twice as much as Obama raised in the first three months of his first term, while enjoying much higher approval ratings. What our Facebook president has discovered is that it actually pays only to please some of the people some of the time. The rest simply don’t count."
How He Used Facebook to Win | by Sue Halpern | The New York Review of Books



Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible - The Washington Post

2017-05-22T07:17:16.318-04:00

Also see ‘The Internet Is Broken’: @ev Is Trying to Salvage It (NYT)

"Evan Williams, who still sits on the company's board of directors, recently told the New York Times that he wants to repair the damage he thinks Twitter and the broader Internet have wrought on society in the form of trolls, cyberbullies, live-streamed violence, fake news and — yes — Trump.

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Williams told the Times. “I was wrong about that.”

“If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry,” he said.

Is it true? Hard to say."
Twitter co-founder: I’m sorry if we made Trump’s presidency possible - The Washington Post



Omnivoracious: Amazon Charts: A Modern Reimagining of the Bestseller List

2017-05-19T07:39:28.559-04:00

Distinguishing between what people are buying (or borrowing) and what they're actually reading, based on the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week

"Today Amazon has launched Amazon Charts, a bestseller list that reflects not only what people are purchasing but what they are reading...regardless of format.

Updated weekly, Amazon Charts has two lists: The Top 20 Most Sold and the Top 20 Most Read. Both lists break out further into top 20 fiction and top 20 nonfiction categories, showing readers a total of 80 books on the Amazon Charts bestseller lists."
Omnivoracious: Amazon Charts: A Modern Reimagining of the Bestseller List



Microsoft redesigned OneNote’s interface to be more consistent across devices - The Verge

2017-05-19T07:25:41.155-04:00

See this Microsoft post for more details; tbd if/when macOS OneNote will support multiple open windows, as the full Windows OneNote app has done since 2003...

"Microsoft announced an update for OneNote today across Windows 10, Mac, iOS, Android, and the web, featuring an overhauled design meant to offer improved accessibility and a more consistent feel across the various platforms.

Navigation has been vastly simplified in the new app. Microsoft has moved all controls to be located on the left side of the screen in a series of nested menus, making it simpler to switch between sections, notebooks, and pages from a single place in the app. Additionally, the new design puts the actual information at the center, which Microsoft says will help students avoid distraction."
Microsoft redesigned OneNote’s interface to be more consistent across devices - The Verge



Google’s Waze Is Doing More Than Just Traffic Maps - Bloomberg

2017-05-19T06:20:28.764-04:00

From a Waze Carpool overview

"Waze hasn’t finalized its payment structure but says it won’t deliver drivers more than 54¢ per mile in the U.S., meaning they won’t have to declare it as income. A recent Waze Carpool ride from San Francisco to Mountain View (about 38 miles) cost $8.60, about one-fifth of a comparable Uber trip. “We have some real market forces that are going to make sure there’s no gouging,” Eisnor says, meaning there won’t be any Uber-style surge pricing.

Waze is betting this more-casual structure will help it avoid the regulatory issues Uber has faced. On May 11, an advisory panel to the European Union’s high court recommended that the court deem Uber a transport service instead of a software company, which would subject it to much more stringent regulations. Waze Carpool may have to worry about similar issues in the future, though; Eisnor says the company hopes to eventually take a cut of rides set up using the app, and predicts that money from rides will overtake advertising to become Waze’s biggest source of revenue."
Google’s Waze Is Doing More Than Just Traffic Maps - Bloomberg



Why Google Assistant Can't Beat Siri for iPhone Users - Bloomberg

2017-05-19T06:16:40.358-04:00

See the full article for a list of Assistant-on-iOS challenges

"Altogether, unless you are deeply in the Google ecosystem, using Google Assistant on the iPhone is a pain compared to Siri. Of course, over time, it is possible that Apple will open up more functionality to the Google Assistant. For now, however, Google Assistant on the iPhone does have one or two advantages over Siri, even for those in the Apple apps and services world. You can type into the Assistant. This is great for situations where you want to quickly get a task done without speaking out loud. And if you have a Google Home speaker, the Assistant on the iPhone integrates well with that device for controlling other connected home gadgets."
Why Google Assistant Can't Beat Siri for iPhone Users - Bloomberg



Inside Google’s Slow-Mo Virtual Reality Moonshot – Backchannel

2017-05-18T07:35:15.222-04:00

Excerpt from a Steven Levy tour of Google's VR/AR activities; also see Virtual and Augmented Realities: Asking the right questions and traveling the path ahead (Clay Bavor on Medium)

"To get to ubiquity, Bavor says, Google and others need to reduce the friction of setup and using VR, improve the core technology, and broaden the set of experiences that developers can create. Certainly the standalone headset will reduce the hassle of using your phone as a VR device. “You don’t need another phone, you don’t need a PC, you don’t need to plug it into anything,” he told me in an early preview. “Everything that you need for VR is contained in the headset itself.” Because the new device doesn’t have to strap a phone to the visor, the weight is distributed more evenly, and it feels more comfortable. To be blunt about it, it’s a pain to repurpose your phone as the VR engine for an uncomfortable headset. The standalone device puts you into VR with the touch of a button.
When I tested it out at Google HQ — in a clunkier version than the upcoming commercial units — I found it a much smoother experience than the Daydream viewer or the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear. The secret, says Bavor, is what Google calls “WorldSense”—a means to track head movements with low latency that not only allows flexibility in what you see, but also lets you move around in a virtual scene."
Inside Google’s Slow-Mo Virtual Reality Moonshot – Backchannel



Stevey's Blog Rants: Why Kotlin Is Better Than Whatever Dumb Language You're Using

2017-05-18T07:07:31.483-04:00

From an overview of Kotlin, which received big applause during the Google I/O keynote yesterday (when Google announced Kotlin is now a first-class language for Android app dev); also see kotlinlang.org

"So why is it called Kotlin?  Well, there's a clear play on incrementing the 'J' in Java.  Beyond that, one can only assume that 'Kremlin', 'Khrushchev' and 'KGB' were already taken, probably by UC Berkeley.  So they did the next best thing and named it after a Russian military base.  It's not a bad name, though.  You get used to it.


Last year I noticed that Kotlin had a fair amount of buzz.  Not hype, just... buzz.  People were low-key buzzing about it.  So, sure, whatever, I took a look, just like I've done for fifty or a hundred other languages in the past 15 years, on my Quest to Replace Java with Anything Reasonable."
Stevey's Blog Rants: Why Kotlin Is Better Than Whatever Dumb Language You're Using



What You Should Care About From Google's I/O Conference - Bloomberg

2017-05-18T06:42:46.325-04:00

Check the full article for highlights; also see Making AI work for everyone (Sundar Pichai post on the Google Keyword blog)

"During a two hour keynote presentation at its I/O developer conference, Alphabet Inc.'s Google showed off its prowess in the technology world's hottest field: artificial intelligence. From its voice-based digital Assistant to photo sharing and automatic image recognition, AI is everywhere it can possibly be in Google's product portfolio. Here's what you should care about from the event's main stage on day one."
What You Should Care About From Google's I/O Conference - Bloomberg



What Amazon could do to the business of selling prescription drugs - The Washington Post

2017-05-18T06:36:52.335-04:00

Prime time for drug domain disruption

"Investors sold off shares of pharmacy giant CVS Health and Walgreens on Wednesday amid renewed speculation that Amazon would enter the business of selling prescription drugs.

As the stock market suffered its biggest loss since before the November election, shares of CVS and Walgreens closed down more than 3 percent, to $76.34 and $81.73, respectively.

CNBC reported Tuesday that the online retail giant is considering wading into the complicated retail pharmacy market. The news organization reported that Amazon is hiring a general manager to lead a team to explore the idea but hasn’t made a final decision."
What Amazon could do to the business of selling prescription drugs - The Washington Post



Research Blog: Introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud (Google Research Blog)

2017-05-17T20:29:39.346-04:00

Offering "Up to 180 teraflops of floating-point performance per Cloud TPU"

"Researchers require enormous computational resources to train the machine learning (ML) models that have delivered recent breakthroughs in medical imaging, neural machine translation, game playing, and many other domains. We believe that significantly larger amounts of computation will make it possible for researchers to invent new types of ML models that will be even more accurate and useful.

To accelerate the pace of open machine-learning research, we are introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud (TFRC), a cluster of 1,000 Cloud TPUs that will be made available free of charge to support a broad range of computationally-intensive research projects that might not be possible otherwise."
Research Blog: Introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud



Elon Musk's Boring Company gets a FAQ, and it raises more questions than it answers (Mashable)

2017-05-17T07:25:44.899-04:00

Check the FAQ for more details

"The FAQ offers a key bit of insight into this. "The electric skate can transport automobiles, goods, and/or people. And if one adds a vacuum shell, it is now a Hyperloop Pod which can travel at 600+ miles per hour," it says. So even though Musk likes to use the example of Tesla cars using the tunnels, they could, indeed, be a bit like subways, as those electric sleds might be used for transporting people, sans a car. 

Musk and his companies, Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal (which he helped turn into the giant that it is today), have typically been great at disrupting well-established and somewhat stale industries by investing a lot in research and development and taking bold steps that the entrenched giants weren't prepared to make. It's quite possible that he'll be able to apply the same principle to tunneling and make tunnels faster, cheaper and better than the competition.

The newly published FAQ is a good start at giving us an idea of how, exactly, The Boring Company will do that, but we'll need a bit more info before we jump on the bandwagon."
Elon Musk's Boring Company gets a FAQ, and it raises more questions than it answers



Apple Plans Laptop Upgrades to Take on Microsoft - Bloomberg

2017-05-17T06:39:15.331-04:00

Lots of product news expected at WWDC

"Apple Inc. plans to announce an update to its laptop lineup at an annual conference for app developers in early June, a move that could help offset new competition from Microsoft Corp. as well as declining iPad sales.

Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel Corp., said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple’s cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said."
Apple Plans Laptop Upgrades to Take on Microsoft - Bloomberg



Report: Refurbished Galaxy Note 7 Renamed To Galaxy Note FE | Androidheadlines.com

2017-05-17T06:32:15.202-04:00

Fires Extinguished?

"The Galaxy Note 7R has been all over the news lately, but it seems like Samsung won’t launch the device under that name. According to a new report by ET News, the Galaxy Note 7R will be called the Galaxy Note FE, which is interesting. The ‘FE’ part stands for ‘Fandom Edition’, according to the source, and the phone is coming at the end of June it seems. Now, for those of you who do not know, this actually a refurbished Galaxy Note 7, it is identical to the original Galaxy Note 7 in terms of specs, except for one detail, it comes with a smaller battery pack on the inside."
Report: Refurbished Galaxy Note 7 Renamed To Galaxy Note FE | Androidheadlines.com