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The End of Typing

Tuesday, 8 August, 2017 0 Comments

The full title of Eric Bellman’s excellent Wall Street Journal article is “The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice.” Some commentators are criticizing the tech companies Bellman writes about on the grounds that their push for video and voice means that they have a vested interest in prolonging illiteracy. Possibly, they have, but those low-end smartphones also have the potential to enhance the lives of millions of people who are desperately disadvantaged. Snippet:

“Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers — ‘the next billion,’ the tech industry calls them — is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy.”

Eric Bellman gives the last word to Megh Singh, a railway porter in New Delhi, who uses a basic Sony phone with 4GB of storage. “Life has become better. Life has become faster. I wish I had it earlier. We wouldn’t be so backward.”


Automation is different this time

Monday, 12 June, 2017 0 Comments

The automation of the past industrial revolutions will be different to the automation of the future industrial revolutions. That’s because our information age is fundamentally different to the preceding agrarian and industrial ages. Past automation led to higher productivity and created new and better jobs for an expanding, urbanizing population; future automation will happen much faster globally and outpace the creation of new jobs for migrating humans.

These arguments have been discussed by a range of futurists, especially Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, and by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who together wrote The Second Machine Age. Adhering to this somewhat dystopian line, Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, says: “There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.” Recently, the Munich-based YouTube channel Kurzgesagt sampled their core ideas for a video titled “The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time.”


eBike Days

Saturday, 20 May, 2017 0 Comments

Ebike days
ebike days
eBikes


It’s not English as we know it, Jim

Thursday, 18 May, 2017 0 Comments

Sample sentence: “Bitcoin.com Pool Cloud Mining offers the highest profit contracts in the cloud mining industry, due to 110% block reward and competitive contract prices. Additionally, our cloud mining contracts provide 100% guaranteed uptime and stable hashrate.”

Eh?

If you’ve ever thought about where Bitcoin comes from, the answer is that it gets “mined”. Bitcoin mining adds transactions to the block chain and releases new Bitcoin into circulation. The mining involves compiling recent transactions into blocks and trying to solve a computationally challenging puzzle. The first person who solves the puzzle gets to place the next block on the block chain and claim the rewards. The rewards include the transaction fees paid to the miner as well as the newly released Bitcoin.

Clear?

“Our mining pool has been growing fast with a hashrate of 141.19 Ph/s and now captures 2.93% of the Bitcoin network.” That’s from the introduction to yesterday’s press release announcing that Bitcoin’s cloud mining industry has been opened to the public. “Now Anyone Can Mine Bitcoin” is how the initiative is being marketed. So, instead of having to invest in our own mining gear, we can simply leap into the pool.

Pool. Mine. Cloud. Odd that the cryptocurrency is located in such real-world places.


Don’t pay the ransom!

Monday, 15 May, 2017 0 Comments

“The general advice is not to pay the ransom. By sending your money to cybercriminals you’ll only confirm that ransomware works, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the decryption key you need in return.” That’s the guidance offered by the No More Ransom website, and in these days of the WannaCry malware threat, we need to pay attention.

No More Ransom is an initiative by the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch police, Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, Kaspersky Lab and Intel Security. The goal is to help victims of ransomware recover their data without having to pay the criminals. The project also aims to educate users about how ransomware works and what can be done to prevent infection.

Note: “The Wcry ransom note contains a compassionate message towards those who can’t afford to pay up. The malware’s operators claim they would unlock the files for free — after a six-month period!” Security Intelligence.

WannaCry


At the car-charging station

Sunday, 7 May, 2017 0 Comments

It’s a non-commercial, non-profit service hosted and supported by a community of businesses, charities and developers around the world. It’s Open Charge Map and it defines itself as “the global public registry of electric vehicle charging locations.” Currently it lists 95,401 stations across 5,0926 international locations. This charging station is around the corner and it delivers “M-Ökostrom green electricity.”

Car charging station


Chat is king

Wednesday, 26 April, 2017 0 Comments

Jam Koum? Yan Koum? Jan Koum? Russian journalist Darya Luganskaya, who writes cryptic English, snags a rare interview with the reticent co-founder of WhatsApp, who co-trousered $19 billion with Brian Acton when Facebook acquired the app in 2014.

Darya Luganskaya notes that the messenger generation is not that into making phone calls and asks, “Why people turn to text communication so fast?”

Jan Koum: “I can not speak from the others. I personally prefer not to call, because I am afraid to disturb people. Everybody has very rich life, and it seems to me I can distract them from something important. Somebody could have dinner with his family, prepare the homework with his children or attend an important meeting. And then all of a sudden his phone rings, but my call could be absolutely unimportant. I may just want to ask: how is it going?

Usually I try to plan the call. I ask in the messenger if I could call, for example, in half an hour. For me it is much easier to chat via messengers.”

The WhatsApp user base of more than one billion messaging people is cool with that.


USAFacts

Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 0 Comments

What percentage of Americans has been diagnosed with depression and how much does Washington spend on treating the disease? How much money is collected from parking tickets in Chicago and how much does it cost to collect it? How many police officers are employed across the US and how do their numbers compare to the crime rates? The USAFacts public database is the first nonpartisan attempt to create a fully integrated overview of revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments in America and it’s impressive in its ability and ambition.

USAFacts was developed thanks to the generosity and vision of Steve Ballmer. The ex-Microsoft boss has deep pockets and he has spent more than $10 million so far on the project. With boundless energy and budget, he assembled a crowd of programmers, economists and academics that extended from Seattle to the University of Pennsylvania and together they built the start-up in stealth mode over the last three years. “Let’s say it costs three, four, five million a year,” he told Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing for DealBook. “I’m happy to fund the damn thing.” Way to go, Steve.

The websites EU Facts and Civitas EU Facts that Google returns in response to a search query are not quite Ballmer.


Assange, Snowden and Putin walk into a bar

Thursday, 9 March, 2017 3 Comments

First thing: Assange and Snowden and working with Putin. Second thing: Don’t believe what you read in the papers, especially regarding the WikiLeaks claims that the CIA can intercept encrypted WhatsApp and Signal messages. It can’t. If you have a secure device, then WhatsApp and Signal are secure. If your device is insecure, nothing is secure. As Robert Graham of Errata Security puts it:

The CIA didn’t remotely hack a TV. The docs are clear that they can update the software running on the TV using a USB drive. There’s no evidence of them doing so remotely over the Internet. If you aren’t afraid of the CIA breaking in an installing a listening device, then you should’t be afraid of the CIA installing listening software.

The CIA didn’t defeat Signal/WhatsApp encryption. The CIA has some exploits for Android/iPhone. If they can get on your phone, then of course they can record audio and screenshots. Technically, this bypasses/defeats encryption — but such phrases used by Wikileaks are highly misleading, since nothing related to Signal/WhatsApp is happening. What’s happening is the CIA is bypassing/defeating the phone. Sometimes. If they’ve got an exploit for it, or can trick you into installing their software.

Bottom line: Assange and Snowden are Russian agents. Bonus joke: Snowden and Putin and a dog walk into a bar in Moscow:

“Ow!”
“Ow!”
“Woof!”


Snap post

Monday, 6 March, 2017 0 Comments

Snap (formerly Snapchat) went public last week and raised a huge $3.4 billion that valued the company at over $24 billion. On its minimalist homepage, the business describes itself for a quick-read generation thus: “Snap Inc. is a camera company.”

What we’re witnessing in early 2017 is the transformation of photography into visual computing via the things we still call phones. And next? “We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate,” says Snap. There’s nothing that fuels ambition like a $24 billion-dollar valuation, but to “improve the way people live” will require more than self-destructing images. Or will it? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads is the attitude of the young Snap founders and that’s why adults should read the Economist explainer on “How to make sense of Snapchat.” It’s never too late to be young.

Update: “The optimism for Snap’s stock seems to be fading nearly as quickly as the average message on Snapchat.” Quartz


Coal miners as coders who get dirty

Friday, 10 February, 2017 0 Comments

When Hewlett-Packard was split in two in 2015, HP Inc focused on consumer products like PCs and printers, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise concentrated on business services such as cloud computing and data analytics. On Wednesday, the facility making ink cartridges in Kildare in Ireland told staff that up to 500 jobs will be lost at the plant. It was a nasty reminder that disruption drives the Fourth Industrial Revolution forward, fast and furiously.

Tech jobs come and tech jobs go and most will be redefined in the coming year(s) anyway as a raft of new concepts, such as the machine learning that’s been our theme there this week, make their presence felt. Clearly, the market for PCs and printers is shrinking, but those at currently at the top of the tech tree, programmers, should not rest on those laurels because as Clive Thompson has just warned readers of Wired, “The Next Big Blue-Collar Job is Coding.” But that may not be a bad thing, Thompson says:

“Across the country, people are seizing this opportunity, particularly in states hit hardest by deindustrialization. In Kentucky, mining veteran Rusty Justice decided that code could replace coal. He cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that builds its workforce by retraining coal miners as programmers. Enthusiasm is sky high: Justice got 950 applications for his first 11 positions. Miners, it turns out, are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech. ‘Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty,’ Justice says.”

With a story about coal miners learning to program thanks to Bit Source, we end our week of machine learning on an optimistic note.