Computing

The new energy vampires

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 0 Comments

Most homes use a lot less energy to heat or cool indoor air than they did in the 1970s. “That’s the good news,” says Matt Power of Green Builder Media, “But the bad news is that during that time we’ve added electric gadget after gadget to our ‘normal’ household environment.” These are the new energy vampires that drain away power in standby mode and they’re abetted by the digital devices that are constantly running or charging. Around the corner is the Internet of Things that will draw down even more electricity to to churn out Big Data.

Today, it was announced that the technology giant IBM and the chip designer ARM are marketing a “starter kit” designed to speed up the invention of internet-connected things. They say that “it can take just five minutes to unbox the equipment and start sending readings to online apps.” Not a word about the energy needed to make all this happen, though.

Internet of Things


TAG Heuer + Xiaomi

Wednesday, 7 January, 2015 0 Comments

Silke Koltrowitz, reporting for Reuters: “TAG Heuer is pushing ahead with plans for a smartwatch to more directly compete with the likes of the Apple Watch and may make acquisitions to help drive the strategy, its head said on Tuesday.”

Matt Richman, an up-and-coming tech blogger, is not buying it: “TAG Heuer’s smartwatch won’t sell. There’s no market for it,” he wrote. His reasoning: “In order to have even a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch, then, TAG’s smartwatch will have to pair with an Android phone. However, TAG wearers aren’t Android users. Rich people buy TAG watches, but rich people don’t buy Android phones.”

But what if rich people were to buy those “Apple of China” phones? In his predictions for 2015, Fred Wilson noted: “Xiaomi will spend some of the $1.1bn they just raised coming to the US. This will bring a strong player in the non-google android sector into the US market and legitimize a ‘third mobile OS’ in the western world. The good news for developers is developing for non-google android is not much different than developing for google android.”

TAG Heuer and Xiaomi? Matt Richman points out that Jony Ive, the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, said, “Switzerland is fucked,” but China and Switzerland might not be so easy to dismiss.

Xiaomi


This time it’s different

Friday, 15 August, 2014 1 Comment

Before watching the video, read AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs from the Pew Research Center. After watching the clip, have a look at the reddit thread.


Connecting Myanmar

Tuesday, 15 July, 2014 0 Comments

By the way, Sweden’s Ericsson is not the only runner in the race to connect Myanmar. Norway’s Telenor has pledged $1 billion to roll out a modern telecoms infrastructure. TelenorMyanmar plans a 3G service and says it can make a profit even with monthly revenue averaging only $1 a user.

Until recently connecting to the outside world was a crime in Myanmar, and people went to prison for owning an unauthorized fax machine. When it comes to press freedom, the country still has a long way to go. Last week, five journalists were sentenced to 10 years in jail, with hard labour, for writing that the military was making chemical weapons.


#AmazonCart

Tuesday, 6 May, 2014 0 Comments

“No more switching apps, typing passwords, or trying to remember items you saw on Twitter,” says @amazon. Is this the long-heralded fusion of social media and ecommerce? From now on, if you see a tweet with an Amazon product link, you’ll be able to purchase it by retweeting it with the hashtag #amazoncart in the US and #amazonbasket in the UK. For many users, Twitter is a news and information stream, not a commerce stream, so this move might not get a rapturous welcome.


There’s gold in them there Alps of apps

Friday, 27 September, 2013 0 Comments

“Mountain, Society, Technology” is the theme of this year’s Innovation Festival in Bolzano-Bozen. The South Tyrol region has prospered mightily from its combination of tourism, agriculture, industry and services but as Jeff Bezos once remarked, “If your customer base ages with you, you’re Woolworths,” and the danger is that a place which is profiting from affluent German, Italian and Austrian pensioners in search of hiking, skiing and dining holidays may miss out on the information revolution, with all its apps and its opportunities.

This morning’s discussion, then, “Open Data — Digital gold” is designed to get regional innovators and planners thinking about how digital access to public databases can improve daily life for the citizenry. The panelists include Ulrich Atz, Mark Madsen, Ivan Moroder, Brunella Franchini, Alex Meister and Sandy Kirchlechner. According to the organizers, “Even the layperson will realise that Open Data could turn out to be a digital gold mine.” Time to stock up on shovels, eh?

Innovation Festival


Reading Big Data

Wednesday, 25 September, 2013 0 Comments

Currently reading Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier. Definition: “Big Data refers to things one can do at a large scale that cannot be done at a smaller one, to extract new insights or create new forms of value, in ways that change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and government, and more.” In short, the two authors say, Big Data is about predictions. But Big Data is not new as Tim Smith explains in this depiction of CERN’s involvement with the concept over the past five decades.

And what, if anything, has that got to do with Google and its quest for life in the face of death that we posted about here on Monday? Well, a good place to start is Google Flu Trends. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier begin their book as follows: “In 2009 a new flu virus was discovered… As it happened, a few weeks before the H1NI virus made headlines, engineers at the Internet giant Google published a remarkable paper in the scientific journal Nature.”

Mining Big Data in the Alpine region of South Tyrol is our topic here on Friday.


YouTube paid channels are part of a possible future

Friday, 10 May, 2013 0 Comments

YouTube has launched a paid channels experiment that can be accessed by paying a variable subscription fee, which starts at $0.99 a month. National Geographic is there, and so is TNA Wrestling Plus. Among the other offerings: Fix My Hog and Gay Direct. And there’s more to come. Notorious B-movie producer and director Roger Corman has announced that he will launch a paid YouTube channel this summer. “Corman’s Drive-In” will showcase his library of around 400, er, classics.

For all those who equate YouTube with free, this will come as a shock, but Jaron Lanier, the computer scientist who popularized the term “virtual reality”, will be pleased. Who Owns the Future? is the title of his new book and in it he pleads for a radical rethink of how all those busily engaged in creating the digital commons should be compensated. The Lanier solution? If information is worth money (and the share price of Google would suggest it is), then people must be paid for what they contribute to the web. He proposes an intricate system in which Facebook, for example, is no longer free, but also stops getting user data for free. Information creators of would be rewarded with nanopayments generated by users of information in Lanier’s scheme.

The internet, claims Lanier, is currently biased in favour of “siren servers” (big companies) that convince users to exchange data for “free” services — search, e-mail, social networks. But instead of heralding a new age of prosperity, he writes, the net is making us poorer. Careers in professions such as music and writing are disappearing, thanks to the ease of copying, and more traditional middle-class jobs will certainly follow. “To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates,” wrote Tim Rutten. While some grow fat, creatives are not paid and many are driven to destitution by those who pretend that they have our interests at heart. Jaron Lanier’s heart is in the right place, but his nanopayment proposal is unworkable. Paid channels offer a better solution.


If coding is the new black why are you wearing blue?

Monday, 6 May, 2013 0 Comments

One of the reasons the Mashable website is so popular is that it exudes positivity. Sure, there are viral cat videos, but it’s mostly tech optimism. Typical of the genre is the recent article by Adam Popescu, “Coding Is the Must-Have Job Skill of the Future.” Not content with that broad statement, he adds that “Coding is the new black,” and he quotes Hank Leber, CEO and cofounder of the data-sharing utility GonnaBe, who calls coding the new literacy. “Leber cites the growing unemployment rate and diminishing prospects for newly-minted college graduates as motivators,” writes Popescu.

But is that really true? If coding is so cool and it’s where the jobs really are, why are millions of Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish and lots of Americans signing on for welfare instead of learning MySQL or to how to administer Cisco and Linux? On the face of it, getting a job as a programmer appears easy as it doesn’t require a particular degree or training. Indeed, programming or system administration can be learned by anyone anywhere who has a personal computer and an internet connection. That being the case, it’s perplexing that millions of jobless Americans haven’t learned to code. And neither have millions of up-and-coming Chinese, Indians and Africans who could, theoretically, make fortunes if they learned the skills needed to turn First-World customer needs into working code. Here’s an e-commerce website that the government of California has spent $327 million upon, and it still isn’t finished. Coders from less wasteful cultures would surely have completed the job for less.

As it happens, there’s a good reason why everyone isn’t a good programmer. Simply, the job is not for everyone. Jeff Atwood, who runs the excellent Coding Horror blog, put up a post titled “So You Don’t Want to be a Programmer After All” last week and it contains some sobering insights for those dreaming of instant app riches. According to Atwood, it all comes down to one word: passion. If you don’t have a passion for software, you won’t be a good programmer and you would be better off doing something else. Coding may be cool in some quarters, and the software field does offer great opportunities, but according to Mashable’s rival, The Verge, Orange is the New Black. Talking of memes, Lucy Kellaway, management columnist with the Financial Times, is adamant that “White is not the new black.” She concludes, “Black is black, white is white.” Hard to argue with that. Punditry is, by a mile, the best job of all. Unlike coding, where logic counts, the pundit can say whatever she wants, no matter how obvious or vague.


Deep Thunder from IBM in Rio

Wednesday, 10 April, 2013 0 Comments

Rio de Janeiro, the iconic Brazilian city, is famed for its natural beauty but the price is a plague of flash floods and landslides down the steep mountains that frame Copacabana Beach. Two years ago this month, a severe storm caused 212 deaths and left 15,000 people homeless.

IBM Enter IBM. It’s providing Rio with computing power for an urban operations centre to help meteorologists, police and more than 30 city departments to predict the danger of, and respond rapidly to emergencies. The high-end weather system, called Deep Thunder, combines tracking of incoming storms with a “deep computing” capacity that’s able to predict the likely intensity of an oncoming storm.

The data can then be correlated with sensor systems on hillsides that determine soil stability and landslide danger. Alerts should make it possible to warn residents in advance of storms, to close down streets, mobilize ambulances and turn off electric power to prevent electrocutions. The system is connected to the mayor’s home so that even in the middle of the night he can be in the emergency communications and command centre when danger looms.

IBM: “With the World Cup coming to Rio in 2014, the forecast for the business-of-weather approach pioneered by Deep Thunder looks bright.”


GigaOM gets responsive

Thursday, 10 January, 2013 0 Comments

January AdAge headline: “AOL to Redesign All Content Sites with Responsive Design.” December Mashable headline: “Why 2013 Is the Year of Responsive Web Design.” What’s going on? Well, responsive design is a new approach that enables web developers to build and maintain a single website to serve to all kinds of devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops […]

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