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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: 2017-12-16T06:54:45.528-05:00

 



Alphabet tries internet lasers instead of balloons for India (Engadget)

2017-12-15T08:03:10.486-05:00

Also see Alphabet's X sells new wireless internet tech to Indian state (Reuters)
"Alphabet is adopting laser-beaming boxes in favor of Project Loon's balloons for its latest internet-delivery partnership in Andhra Pradesh, India. The state government is snapping up 2,000 of the hubs, which rely on Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) tech, from Alphabet's X innovations lab. Next year, the light-beaming links will be placed kilometres apart on roofs and posts to plug network access gaps between cell towers and WiFi hotspots. "Just like fibre optic cable, but without the cable," according to X's Baris Erkman.

Less than 20 percent of Andhra Pradesh's 53 million populace has access to internet, with the state government pledging to connect 12 million households by 2019 as part of its AP Fiber Grid program. The high-bandwidth FSOC links will form the "backbone of [that] network," said Erkman. For Alphabet, it's all about grabbing more first-time internet users on low-cost smartphones as it looks to tap Google's next billion."
Alphabet tries internet lasers instead of balloons for India



Oracle Shares Drop After Cloud Sales Fall Short for Some - Bloomberg

2017-12-15T07:33:24.997-05:00

On a related note, from the recent AWS re:Invent conference: Amazon's cloud chief takes another swipe at Oracle: 'They're a long way away' (CNBC)
"Oracle, a mainstay of traditional corporate computing software, is fighting to catch up in the newer cloud market with established leaders including Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The company has been hiring engineers to build products that let customers rent software and computing power from Oracle, and adding sales reps to transition businesses to the new offerings. The Redwood City, California-based company has also been making acquisitions like last year’s $9 billion purchase of NetSuite Inc. to add cloud clients and programs.

“They’re late to that whole cloud battle,” said Patrick Walravens, an analyst at JMP Securities. “A lot of people already have a solution they are happy with. The question is what does Oracle bring [to] the table?”"
Oracle Shares Drop After Cloud Sales Fall Short for Some - Bloomberg



Tesla’s NYC Store Sells Solar, Cars and Home Batteries Under One Roof - Bloomberg

2017-12-15T07:27:37.364-05:00

One-stop shopping; later in the article: "In the year since Tesla paid $2 billion to buy SolarCity, it’s ditched its door-to-door sales model, and next week, the integration is expected to be complete. With the exception of a website, the SolarCity name will mostly vanish, with all solar products instead sold under the Tesla brand."

"If there’s any doubt Tesla Inc. isn’t just a car company anymore, its brand-new Manhattan showroom should put it to bed. On Friday, Tesla opens a store in New York’s Meatpacking District that, for the first time, will sell cars, solar panels and batteries permanently under one roof.

In a sparse, glass-walled space, the Model X sport utility vehicle and Model S sedan are on display alongside solar offerings and Powerwall storage systems. A Model S sits across from a sign that reads: “Produce Your Own Clean Energy.” In this store and others that Tesla’s enhancing across the U.S. starting Friday, car and energy salesmen will work side-by-side."
Tesla’s NYC Store Sells Solar, Cars and Home Batteries Under One Roof - Bloomberg



Why Ajit Pai is wrong about net neutrality - The Washington Post

2017-12-15T08:02:24.390-05:00

Also see Watch FCC’s Ajit Pai dress up as Santa and wield a lightsaber to mock net neutrality rules (The Washington post) and The inability of Ajit Pai and Republican FCC commissioners to make a fact-based case for repeal of popular net neutrality rules will be a problem for GOP (The Verge)
"The Dec. 14 vote told us much about the future of our media. The FCC could have acted in the public interest and delayed the vote, or voted to sustain net neutrality in the public interest. It could have considered alternatives, such as the possibility of regulating Internet service providers as common carriers in the future. The historical examples of the UHF dial and the birth of the ABC network show that the FCC can play a vital role in ensuring competition, entrepreneurship and fair play in American media industries.

But on Dec. 14, the three Republican commissioners showed that they lacked the courage to act as their predecessors once did."
Why Ajit Pai is wrong about net neutrality - The Washington Post



That Net Neutrality Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Was Written By a Comcast Attorney (The Intercept)

2017-12-15T08:27:22.574-05:00

WSJ business as usual under Rupert Murdoch
"On his bio page, Leibowitz discloses that he has “advised Comcast Corporation in connection with a number of regulatory matters and acquisitions.” More broadly, Davis Polk was a key adviser in Comcast’s purchase of NBCUniversal, as well as deals with DreamWorks and Time Warner Cable (which didn’t end up being approved). Comcast “has used the New York-based law firm repeatedly,” according to Reuters. NBCUniversal’s general counsel came from Davis Polk.

So a Comcast lawyer used the Wall Street Journal to give an “unbiased” opinion on why the net neutrality repeal represented no threat to consumers. The opinion meshed seamlessly with Comcast’s own published endorsements of the FCC’s action."
That Net Neutrality Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Was Written By a Comcast Attorney



iMac Pro, the most powerful Mac ever, available today - Apple

2017-12-14T09:32:59.919-05:00

Starting at $4,999; selecting all high-end options (18-core, 128GB memory, 4TB SSD, etc.) on the Customize your iMac Pro page can take it to > $13,000...
"iMac Pro takes Mac performance to a whole new level, even when compared to our fastest quad-core iMac.
  • 3D designers can visualize huge 3D models and render scenes up to 3.4 times faster. 
  • Developers can run multiple virtual machines and test environments, and compile code up to 2.4 times faster.
  • Scientists and researchers can manipulate massive data sets and complex simulations, visualizing data up to 5 times faster.
  • Photographers can work with enormous files and perform image processing up to 4.1 times faster.
  • Music producers can bounce (export) massive multi-track projects up to 4.6 times faster and use up to 12.4 times as many real-time plug-ins. 
  • Video editors can edit up to eight streams of 4K video, or edit 4.5K RED RAW video and 8K ProRes 4444 at full resolution in real time without rendering. The iMac Pro can also export HEVC video 3 times faster."
iMac Pro, the most powerful Mac ever, available today - Apple



As Elon Musk’s SpaceX eyes another historic first, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin returns to flight - The Washington Post

2017-12-14T07:35:42.320-05:00

Check the full article for an update on the commercial space race

"Jeffrey P. Bezos's Blue Origin got a step closer to flying tourists to space Tuesday when it launched a life-size dummy the company named “Mannequin Skywalker” from its remote West Texas facility.

The updated booster and crew capsule, which the company hopes to use to fly its first human tourists to space by as early as next year, hit a peak altitude of nearly 100 kilometers, or what's considered the threshold of space, the company said in a statement. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The New Shepard booster, named for Alan Shepard, the first American in space, then flew back to Earth, successfully touching down on a landing pad so that it can be reused. The capsule, designed with what Blue Origin says are the largest windows ever to fly into space, floated back under parachutes for a landing in a flight that lasted 10 minutes and six seconds."
As Elon Musk’s SpaceX eyes another historic first, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin returns to flight - The Washington Post



Would You Buy a $400 Smart Speaker from Google? - Bloomberg

2017-12-14T07:24:56.441-05:00

I'm guessing "Manhattan" may lack an Amazon Prime Video app -- see Amazon and Google are fighting, and that means consumers lose (Washington Post) for some leading indicators

"Isabelle Olsson, the project’s lead hardware designer, said Google went through “hundreds and hundreds” of prototypes, but declined to describe nixed designs in case they show up in future devices. One key challenge: picking the yarn that covers the front of the speaker. Looking for fabric that looked good and wouldn’t impede the sound, the team rummaged through 300 choices before selecting the material at an Austrian mill.

Google declined to say whether it plans to expand the Home lineup. But two people familiar with the matter said the company is working on a touchscreen version, akin to Amazon’s Echo Show. (TechCrunch previously reported the news.) The device is codenamed “Manhattan” and will go on sale as early as next year. In the meantime, the search giant will have to overcome a history of product flops and take on Amazon, Apple and Sonos."
Would You Buy a $400 Smart Speaker from Google? - Bloomberg



Bitcoin And Its Competitors Are Becoming A Problem For US Sanctions (BuzzFeed)

2017-12-14T07:17:55.760-05:00

So apparently bitcoin is not just for speculators; on a related note, see Bitcoin Trading Thrives Wherever Regulators Crack Down Most (Bloomberg)
"As bitcoin sees its value skyrocket, some financial experts and cyber analysts are beginning to worry that the digital cryptocurrency is prime to be exploited by countries like Russia looking to dodge US sanctions.

William Browder, a financier and co-founder of an investment fund that specializes in Russia, will say as much when he testifies on Thursday before the US Helsinki Commission, a government agency that monitors security and human rights policy in Europe.

“These cryptocurrencies are a gift from God to criminals and dictators who want to keep their money safe,” said Browder in a phone interview on Tuesday."
Bitcoin And Its Competitors Are Becoming A Problem For US Sanctions



Box launches new consulting unit to help customers struggling with digital transformation | TechCrunch

2017-12-13T07:32:26.656-05:00

Who knew content/collaboration could be so complicated?... See Introducing Box Transform: Accelerate at the speed of business (Box blog) for more details

"Box announced a new consulting organization today called Box Transform. It is designed to help companies understand that transformation requires a new way of working and thinking as an organization, beyond simply adopting new technologies like Box.

Box CEO Aaron Levie says that as his company has grown, they see their mission as more than selling software. It’s about helping change the entire way people work and interact with the content they use on a daily basis. Box wants to use its experience working with thousands of customers to help those companies that need an organizational push to get their transformation off the ground."
Box launches new consulting unit to help customers struggling with digital transformation | TechCrunch



Study: More than 8 in 10 Americans -- and 75 percent of Republicans -- oppose the net neutrality plan by the FCC and Ajit Pai - The Washington Post

2017-12-13T07:57:36.625-05:00

Ajit Pai may have to accelerate the timing of his career shift to telecommunications lobbyist, if he goes ahead as expected tomorrow; also see Act now to save the internet as we know it (Tim Berners-Lee on Medium)
"The survey by the university's Program for Public Consultation and Voice of the People, a nonpartisan polling organization, concluded that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC proposal. Just 16 percent said they approved.

Americans in the survey were far less likely to find the FCC's arguments for repeal persuasive, and far more likely to agree with arguments for keeping the regulations. While 48 percent said they found the government's case convincing, 75 percent said they found the contrasting arguments of consumer groups and tech companies convincing.

About one in five Republicans said they were in favor of the FCC's proposal."
Study: More than 8 in 10 Americans -- and 75 percent of Republicans -- oppose the net neutrality plan by the FCC and Ajit Pai - The Washington Post



Twitter makes it easier to rant by making tweetstorms an official feature - The Washington Post

2017-12-13T07:01:54.246-05:00

See Nice Threads (Twitter blog) for more details

"Twitter announced Tuesday that it's adding a tool that makes it easy to thread tweets together, giving users more space for thoughtful commentary, unhinged rants and everything in between. The move builds on the company's recent decision to abandon its traditional 140-character count for 280 characters to allow people more room per tweet — even as the social network struggles to clarify its policies on what is appropriate conduct on Twitter.

The company said in a blog post that it was inspired to create the tool based on what users were already doing. “At Twitter, we have a history of studying how people use our service and then creating features to make what they’re doing easier. The Retweet, @reply, and hashtag are examples of this,” product manager Sasank Reddy said."
Twitter makes it easier to rant by making tweetstorms an official feature - The Washington Post



How 2017 Became a Turning Point for Tech Giants - The New York Times

2017-12-13T06:56:49.876-05:00

Better late than never

"For years, despite their growing power, tech platforms rarely garnered much scrutiny, and they were often loathe to accept how much their systems affected the real world. Indeed, the online ethos has been that platforms aren’t really responsible for how people use them. It might as well be the slogan of Silicon Valley: We just make the tech, how people use it is another story.

In 2017, that changed. At first grudgingly and then with apparent enthusiasm, platform companies like Facebook began accepting some responsibility for how they are affecting the real world. They did not go as far as some critics would have liked — but in many significant ways they offered a shift in tone and tactics that suggested they were rethinking their positions."
How 2017 Became a Turning Point for Tech Giants - The New York Times



Microsoft Takes Path Less Traveled to Build a Quantum Computer - Bloomberg

2017-12-12T07:48:18.609-05:00

For more details, see The future is quantum: Microsoft releases free preview of Quantum Development Kit (Microsoft AI blog)

"In the race to commercialize a new type of powerful computer, Microsoft Corp. has just pulled up to the starting line with a slick-looking set of wheels. There’s just one problem: it doesn't have an engine – at least not yet.

The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant is competing with Alphabet Inc.’s Google, International Business Machines Corp. and a clutch of small, specialized companies to develop quantum computers – machines that, in theory, will be many times more powerful than existing computers by bending the laws of physics.

Microsoft says it has a different approach that will make its technology less error-prone and more suitable for commercial use. If it works. On Monday, the company unveiled a new programming language called Q# – pronounced Q Sharp – and tools that help coders craft software for quantum computers. Microsoft is also releasing simulators that will let programmers test that software on a traditional desktop computer or through its Azure cloud-computing service."
Microsoft Takes Path Less Traveled to Build a Quantum Computer - Bloomberg



Net neutrality: 'father of internet' joins tech leaders in condemning repeal plan | Technology | The Guardian

2017-12-12T07:36:35.504-05:00

The full letter: Internet Pioneers and Leaders Tell the FCC: You Don’t Understand How the Internet Works

"More than 20 internet pioneers and leaders including the “father of the internet”, Vint Cerf; the inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee; and the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak have urged the FCC to cancel its vote to repeal net neutrality, describing the plan as “based on a flawed and factually inaccurate” understanding of how the internet works.

“The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped,” said the technology luminaries in an open letter to lawmakers with oversight of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday."
Net neutrality: 'father of internet' joins tech leaders in condemning repeal plan | Technology | The Guardian



Apple has bought Shazam, the music recognition app - Recode

2017-12-12T07:20:36.549-05:00

For an overview of Shazam's visual recognition capabilities (from 2015), see Shazam Introduces Visual Recognition Capabilities, Opening Up A New World Of Shazamable Content

"Note that Apple references “approval of today’s agreement,” which is also unusual. Normally Apple just buys a company and that’s that. So Apple presumably thinks that it will need some sort of regulatory approval to get the deal done — perhaps that’s because Shazam is based in the U.K. I’ll update if Apple provides any info.

One other thought: While Shazam has played up its ability to do more than just recognize a song that’s playing — it has a “visual Shazam” capability that lets you use your camera to ID objects — my hunch is that Apple is interested, first and foremost, in Shazam’s core utility. I imagine it will eventually be integrated directly into the iPhone’s iOS."
Apple has bought Shazam, the music recognition app - Recode



The ‘Alt-Right’ Created a Parallel Internet. It’s an Unholy Mess. - The New York Times

2017-12-12T07:05:05.614-05:00

Final paragraphs from an alt-right + internet reality check

"The good news for the alt-right’s detractors, then, is that the movement’s vision of a flourishing parallel internet seems doomed to fail.

The bad news is that, without a functional alternate ecosystem, it may be harder to quarantine the views of neo-Nazis and other noxious ideologues to little-used corners of the internet, far from the vast majority of users. Facebook, Twitter, and other mainstream services will continue to be the dominant venue for ideological battles, and keeping these platforms free of hate and misinformation will remain those companies’ responsibility. Let’s hope they’re up to the challenge."
The ‘Alt-Right’ Created a Parallel Internet. It’s an Unholy Mess. - The New York Times



Bitcoin Futures Set Scene for More Gambling - The New York Times

2017-12-12T07:44:05.783-05:00

In other irrational investor news, see People are taking out mortgages to buy bitcoin, says securities regulator (CNBC) and Is Bitcoin the Most Obvious Bubble Ever? (The Atlantic)
"Proponents reckon that the entry of two big, regulated United States exchanges bolsters the legitimacy of Bitcoin. It certainly broadens the universe of possible investors, and it invites the creation of new exchange-traded funds, which need a liquid benchmark to track. That would bring Bitcoin exposure to retail investors. 
Yet the Futures Industry Association, which represents clearinghouses and big banks, is apprehensive about the light regulatory scrutiny so far. And making the contracts cash-settled means the exchanges — and their customers — can now ride the Bitcoin bandwagon without touching the cryptocurrency at all."
Bitcoin Futures Set Scene for More Gambling - The New York Times



Google leads in the race to dominate artificial intelligence - Battle of the brains (The Economist)

2017-12-11T08:41:00.817-05:00

From an AI market dynamics review

"As with past waves of new technology, such as the rise of personal computers and mobile telephony, AI has the potential to shake up the businesses of the tech giants by helping them overhaul existing operations and dream up new enterprises. But it also comes with a sense of menace. “If you’re a tech company and you’re not building AI as a core competence, then you’re setting yourself up for an invention from the outside,” says Jeff Wilke, chief executive of “worldwide consumer” at Amazon, and adjutant to Jeff Bezos.

Fuelled by rivalry, high hopes and hype, the AI boom can feel like the first California gold rush. Although Chinese firms such as Baidu and Alibaba are also investing in AI, and deploying it in their home market, the most visible prospectors are Western tech firms. Alphabet is widely perceived to be in the lead. It has been making sizeable profits from AI for years and has many of the best-known researchers. But it is early days and the race is far from over. Over the next several years, large tech firms are going to go head-to-head in three ways. They will continue to compete for talent to help train their corporate “brains”; they will try to apply machine learning to their existing businesses more effectively than rivals; and they will try to create new profit centres with the help of AI."
Google leads in the race to dominate artificial intelligence - Battle of the brains



Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society - The Verge

2017-12-11T07:30:44.677-05:00

Later in the article: "He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”"

"Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”"
Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society - The Verge



Can Parents ‘Robot-Proof’ Their Child’s Job Future? - The New York Times

2017-12-11T06:54:58.334-05:00

From an employment + automation reality check

"As a matter of professional survival, I would like to assure my children that journalism is immune, but that is clearly a delusion. The Associated Press already has used a software program from a company called Automated Insights to churn out passable copy covering Wall Street earnings and some college sports, and last year awarded the bots the minor league baseball beat.

What about other glamour jobs, like airline pilot? Well, last spring, a robotic co-pilot developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as Darpa, flew and landed a simulated 737. I hardly count that as surprising, given that pilots of commercial Boeing 777s, according to one 2015 survey, only spend seven minutes during an average flight actually flying the thing. As we move into the era of driverless cars, can pilotless planes be far behind?"
Can Parents ‘Robot-Proof’ Their Child’s Job Future? - The New York Times



Bitcoin futures rise as virtual currency hits major exchange - The Washington Post

2017-12-11T07:34:48.978-05:00

What could possibly go wrong?... Also see Bitcoin Futures Start With a Bang as 26% Rally Triggers Halts (Bloomberg) and A quarter trillion dollars is at risk when bitcoin crashes — and that’s just for starters (Axios)
"The first-ever bitcoin future jumped after it began trading Sunday as the increasingly popular virtual currency made its debut on a major U.S. exchange.

The futures contract that expires in January surged more than $3,000 to $18,580 eight hours after trading launched on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The contract opened at $15,000, according to data from the CBOE.

The CBOE futures don’t involve actual bitcoin. They’re securities that will track the price of bitcoin on Gemini, one of the larger bitcoin exchanges."
Bitcoin futures rise as virtual currency hits major exchange - The Washington Post



How Duterte Turned Facebook Into a Weapon—With Help From Facebook - Bloomberg

2017-12-08T07:08:03.000-05:00

An excerpt from this week's Bloomberg Businessweek cover story

"Even in the U.S., where Facebook has been hauled before Congress to explain its role in a Russian disinformation campaign designed to influence the U.S. presidential election, the company doesn’t have a clear answer for how it will stem abuse. It says it will add 10,000 workers worldwide to handle security issues, increase its use of third-party fact-checkers to identify fake news, and coordinate more closely with governments to find sources of misinformation and abuse. But the most challenging questions—such as what happens when the government itself is a bad actor and where to draw the line between free speech and a credible threat of violence—are beyond the scope of these fixes. What stays and what goes from the site is still decided subjectively, often by third-party contractors—many of them stationed, as it happens, in the Philippines, a long-standing outsourcing hub.
Facebook is inherently conflicted. It promises advertisers it will deliver interested and engaged users—and often what is interesting and engaging is salacious, aggressive, or simply false. “I don’t think you can underestimate how much of a role they play in societal discourse,” says Carly Nyst, a London-based consultant on technology and human rights who has studied patriotic trolling around the world. “This is a real moment that they have to take some responsibility. These tools they’ve promised as tools of communication and connection are being abused.”"
How Duterte Turned Facebook Into a Weapon—With Help From Facebook - Bloomberg



Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That. - The New York Times

2017-12-08T06:57:00.714-05:00

On a related note, see How Trump Did the Impossible: Getting Solar and Oil Lobbyists to Unite (Bloomberg)

"The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production.

The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences."
Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That. - The New York Times



Q&A: Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality and why he won’t have Alexa in the house – Wikitribune

2017-12-08T06:50:49.328-05:00

Check the full article for his views on Alexa and other topics

"Q: How do you think “fake news” can be tackled?

A: I think the label “fake news” covers a really complicated, interesting space of many different dysfunctional mechanisms…I think the power of fake news is the ability of humanity to divide itself into different pools, where you have one group, which are scientific and … the other group, they live off conspiracy theories, they’ll believe anything they hear from an authority or science, and who will have a completely inconsistent view of the world but not consistent with reality. [They are] quite consistent with themselves and where they’re in an echo chamber…

[Berners-Lee said it was important to do more research on how Twitter and Facebook, as examples of social media, might drive the creation of those echo chambers.]: Maybe we shouldn’t really blame those people so much as the people who engineered the software they use, because the software they use is encouraging them. It’s built to feed them more of what they had before, and connect them to more people who like the same stuff. If the software has been deliberately built to make the echo chambers and thought bubbles, then the responsibility is with the people who built them…You as a journalist, I as a member of the web, should be holding these people and these web properties to account and say, “Oh, you need to do better. You need to reprogram these things so we get a less polarised world.”"
Q&A: Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality and why he won’t have Alexa in the house – Wikitribune