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Tag: Wired

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.

Don’t pray or cry for Apple

Wednesday, 27 April, 2016 0 Comments
Don’t pray or cry for Apple

On 12 December 1980, the Apple IPO saw 4.6 million shares being offered at $22 each. Steve Jobs made $217 million that day, and when the closing bell rang on Wall Street, the stock price had jumped 32 percent to $29, giving the company a market value of $1.7 billion. Lotsa bubbly. Champagne times.

Fast forward to this day, 27 April, in 1997, and sobriety had set in. The Apple share price closed at $17 and the doomsayers were so emboldened by this decline that Wired magazine published a famous cover story in June urging distressed Apple fans to Pray. The company needed divine intervention due to “a confusing product line, little inspiration from the top, software developers fleeing.” 101 solutions were offered, starting with, “1. Admit it. You’re out of the hardware game. Outsource your hardware production, or scrap it entirely, to compete more directly with Microsoft without the liability of manufacturing boxes,” and ending with, “101. Don’t worry. You’ll survive. It’s Netscape we should really worry about.”

In between, there was “27. Relocate the company to Bangalore and make it cheap, cheap, cheap,” “52. Return to the heady days of yore by insisting that Steve Jobs regrow his beard,” and “81. Merge with Sega and become a game company.”

All of this is by way of background to the news that Apple has reported a fall in quarterly sales, the first time its revenue has fallen in 13 years. Apple shares were hovering around $104 when the company released its report yesterday. Half an hour later, the stock price had declined eight percent to under $97. For those prone to panic, it’s worth noting that Apple has a cash hoard of $233 billion, which is more than all the foreign currency reverses around the world, and with a market capitalization $575 billion, it’s the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. Hold those tears.

People have become impatient with Apple because it doesn’t produce something amazing every 12 months. The reality, however, is that major technological innovation is the exception, not the rule. Iteration of the existing product line is the pedestrian norm. Apple has some big cards up its sleeve, however. The company is said to be working on an electric car, stealing engineers from Tesla and looking for test locations in California. It is also filing patents that suggest it’s toying with some kind of a virtual reality device. There’s no need to cry or pray for Apple.

Wired Apple Pray

Playground: The next Big Thing, again

Friday, 15 April, 2016 0 Comments

The history of computing over the past four decades shows that a new platform emerges roughly every 12 years or so:

So, what’s next? Artificial intelligence as a service. Andy Rubin has created Playground, which aims to create a manufacturing and development platform for AI-equipped devices. Playground will build a common infrastructure for these, just as Windows did for PCs and Android did for smartphones. It’s all about the device, not the network:

“At this point, that big, big idea may sound familiar. For the past several years, technol­ogists have heralded the dawn of the Internet of Things — networked thermostats, lightbulbs, refrigerators, and other gizmos that talk to one another. Companies like Google, Apple, and Samsung have all built proprietary ecosystems to enable that communication and are racing to convince manufacturers to build products for them. But Rubin says they have it backward; ecosystems arise to support popular products, not the other way around. Play­ground’s first step is to provide startups with the tech­nology to build new devices; the network will emerge later.”

That’s a quote from “Andy Rubin Unleashed Android on the World. Now Watch Him Do The Same With AI,” which appeared in the March issue of Wired. Earlier this week, John Battelle expanded on Jason Tanz’s article in a NewCo piece titled “Android’s Founder Wants To Give The Internet A Body.” Now that house prices in San Francisco have fallen for the first time in four years, one gets the feeling that the search for the Next Big Thing is taking on a new urgency around the Bay Area.


#IoTDay today and the glass is filling

Saturday, 9 April, 2016 0 Comments

It’s the fifth annual Internet of Things Day today. In a much-quoted report about the IoT issued in November last year, the Gartner research firm predicted that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

These are astonishing numbers and they reinforce the notion that the internet is ubiquitous. Blake Snow considers the implications of this in The Atlantic in a piece titled What Would a World Without Internet Look Like? He quotes the academic Clay Shirky, who thinks that it’s futile now to separate the net from everyday life: “the Internet has become our civilization,” says Shirky.

This is a philosophy that would be endorsed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. Two years ago, in a post on Medium, he looked at innovation from the viewpoints of 1984 and 2044, and concluded: “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.”

Glass There is, however, a different take on the IoT and it was expressed, also in 2014, by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, in “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.” This long-form composition was in the style of his 2005 book Shaping Things. For Sterling, the IoT is an ominous social transformation: omnipresent automation via digital surveillance enabled by wireless broadband. Snippet:

“So, let’s imagine that the reader has a smartphone in one hand, as most people in the Twenty-Teens most definitely tend to. In the other hand, the reader has some ‘Thing’. Let’s say it’s the handle of his old-fashioned domestic vacuum cleaner, which is a relic of yesterday’s standard consumer economy.

As he cheerfully vacuums his home carpet while also checking his Facebook prompts, because the chore of vacuuming is really boring, the reader naturally thinks: ‘Why are these two objects in my two hands living in such separate worlds? In my left hand I have my wonderfully advanced phone with Facebook — that’s the ‘internet’. But in my right hand I have this noisy, old-fashioned, ineffective, analogue ‘thing’! For my own convenience as a customer and consumer, why can’t the ‘internet’ and this ‘thing’ be combined?”

And then it turns pessimistic. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a Happy #IoTDay! 🙂

The eBay compromise and the hacking of Mat Honan

Thursday, 22 May, 2014 0 Comments

Having gone to the bother of creating an elaborate password for eBay some weeks ago involving a variety of symbols, digits and letters, it’s dispiriting to find that the hackers may now have my name, e-mail address, phone number and, worst of all, my “encrypted password”. The story brings back scary memories of what happened to Wired writer Mat Honan when he was hacked two years ago: Snippet:

“At 5:02 p.m., they reset my Twitter password. At 5:00 they used iCloud’s ‘Find My’ tool to remotely wipe my iPhone. At 5:01 they remotely wiped my iPad. At 5:05 they remotely wiped my MacBook. Around this same time, they deleted my Google account. At 5:10, I placed the call to AppleCare. At 5:12 the attackers posted a message to my account on Twitter taking credit for the hack.”

The conclusion of How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking is worth noting: “I’m angry that Amazon makes it so remarkably easy to allow someone into your account, which has obvious financial consequences. And then there’s Apple. I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can’t put a price on.”

Add eBay to the list. Onward now with with the chore of thinking up a new password.

“I want to thank Canada,” Mr. Affleck said

Tuesday, 26 February, 2013 0 Comments

Back when we tipped it to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, we wrote: “Sure, there’s a lot of alcoholic beverage knocked back in Argo, but the booze acts as an expression of civilization and an antidote to the emerging barbarism of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ben Affleck stars in and directs a film that’s funny, clever, taut and a necessary reminder of the threat that faces us. Argo deserves the Best Film Oscar, and the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ award should go to Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, a producer so cynical that the knows the price and the value of everyone in Hollywood.”

Well, Alan Arkin didn’t quite get the gong, but he did play a key role in an excellent film and that’s another milestone in an acting and directing career that stretches back over 50 years. By the way, the Argo screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on the May 2007 Wired magazine article The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman, and chapter nine of The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez, is available here (PDF) for all those who would like to study Hollywood tradecraft. And congratulations to Ben Affleck for turning the script into a film that has finally pleased the Canadians. Not an easy thing to do, that.

Warhol upgraded from 15 minutes to 6 seconds

Friday, 25 January, 2013 0 Comments

In 1968, Andy Warhol said that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” The prediction was an immediate hit as it hit the nail of the nascent celebrity culture right on the head. But that was then and in 2013 the Zeitgeist has sped up to the point where 15 minutes feels like an eternity. Enter Vine, which is based on a tweeted version of the Warholian concept that now reads, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 6 seconds.” And that fame will loop eternally.

But isn’t six seconds an absurdly short time frame for anything? To even ask the question is to misunderstand the nature of sharing online. According to Wired: “It’s clear that Vine’s unique recording process, and specific six-second time limitation, is what will spark creative videos.”