Internet

Current reading: Because Internet

Friday, 16 August, 2019

“Whatever else is changing for good or for bad in the world, the continued evolution of language is neither the solution to all our problems nor the cause of them. It simply is. You never truly step into the same English twice. When future historians look back on this era, they’ll find our changes just as fascinating as we know find innovative works from Shakespeare and Latin or Norman French. So let’s adopt the perspective of these future historians and, and explore the revolutionary period of linguistic history that we’re living through from a place of excitement and curiosity.”

A snippet there from the conclusion from the entertaining first chapter of Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch.

Because Internet


See Klimt, not #Klimt, in Vienna, not #Vienna

Sunday, 9 June, 2019

With Barcelona and Dubrovnik and Venice groaning under the weight of overtourism, land-locked Vienna has decided to target the dread hashtag, so beloved of hipster tourists. Following the techlash, now comes the #hashtaglash.

“This is an invitation from Vienna — an ideal place for a little bit of digital detox and for creating moments that you, and you alone, can treasure forever. Because Vienna is far more colorful when not seen through the lens of a smartphone camera.”

Vienna


Zoho Mail

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019

Those who mail Rainy Day, and some people do, are guaranteed delivery (99.9% uptime). This is thanks to Zoho Mail, an excellent service provided by a company that was founded in 1996 by Sridhar Vembu and Tony Thomas in Pleasanton, California. Today, Zoho has its global headquarters in Chennai, formerly Madras, in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Along with mail, the Zoho product range includes a web-based office suite containing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, wikis, customer relationship management and project management applications.


Keen on Democracy

Wednesday, 27 March, 2019

“Hi. I’m Andrew, and this is Keen on Democracy. A chill is enveloping the world. Everywhere I go these days, the conversation is the same. Everyone is fearful about the fate of democracy in our digital age. The same worried question is on all of our lips: What or who is killing democracy, everybody wants to know. There’s certainly no lack of suspects: Trump, Putin’s trolls, Mark Zuckerberg, authoritarian populism, the Wall, Viktor Orban, #FakeNews, Brexit, Bolsonaro, surveillance capitalism, Erdogan, Twitter or, last but certainly not least, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.”

Thus begins Andrew Keen’s intro to each episode of the podcast he calls Keen on Democracy. Keen is a professional internet scold like Jaron Lanier, Nicholas Carr and Evgeny Morozov, to name but three pundits who are doing very nicely by deploring the very thing that enables them to earn a comfortable living as they whizz around the world from talkfest to talkfest. Each of them has a different shtick. Keen, for example, began his by accusing the internet of degrading culture and society. He’s updated his critique and now he’s saying it’s putting the very notion of democracy in peril.

Keen on Democracy

Intelligent and eloquent, Andrew Keen is the author of Cult of the Amateur, Digital Vertigo, The Internet Is Not The Answer and How To Fix The Future. History might look back and see him as a brave canary in the data mine, or it may treat Keen, Lanier, Carr and Morozov as more modern, cleverer versions of Ned Ludd. Unlike Ned, they’re not interested in destroying the machines because those very machines enable them to podcast, publish and trouser tidy sums of money.


New year, new repression

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019

The old year was ebbing towards its end when Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, took to Twitter to wish people “from all races, religions and ethnicities — a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.” This is the height of cynicism, given that Zarif represents a regime that supports terrorism, pushes gays off buildings, forces women to wear mediaeval garb and refuses to allow the people of Iran free access to the internet.

Just as vile as the regime in Tehran is the regime in Hanoi, which has imposed a draconian new law requiring internet companies in Vietnam to remove content the communist authorities regard as “toxic” and compels them to hand over user data if asked to do so. The law also bans internet users from spreading information deemed to be “anti-state or anti-government,” as well as prohibiting use the internet to “distort history” and “post false information that could cause confusion and damage to socio-economic activities.” The law came into force a week after Vietnam’s Association of Journalists announced a new code of conduct on the use of social media, forbidding its members to post news and photos that “run counter to” the state.”


The IoT is a mess

Monday, 12 November, 2018

The problem with the IoT (Internet of Things) is the huge gulf between hardware and software. So proclaims the blog Digits to Dollars, which is a product of “a multi-purpose consulting firm” called D2D Advisory Inc. that helps companies “achieve their long-term financial and strategic objectives.” D2D was founded by Jonathan Goldberg, who can be found at the “intersection of Technology and Finance.”

What makes the IoT so complicated is that an oil company might want to collect data from thousands of different sensors over hundreds of miles of pipelines, while a shipping company might want to track thousands of pallets thousands of miles away.

Why is IoT such a mess? Snippet:

“IoT networks need two things, they need a network for communications, and then modules, attached to ‘things’, that communicates to those networks. But compare that to all the use cases possible. That oil company needs a long range network, cellular will not work because of the remote locations involved. The module can probably have power, but needs someone to go out and install them. By contrast, the cellular might work for a local delivery fleet, but then everyone fleet will need different sensors built into the module (e.g. temperature, location, activity, camera, whatever). Then remember that none of these companies actually build their own modules for anything, so they have to find someone capable of that. For those of in the technology business, the idea of finding a manufacturer in Asia to build a module is not too remote, for everyone else it is literally the other side of the world. Further complicating all this is the fact that there is no company on the planet capable of providing all the electronics needed — including four or five different flavors of radios and a dozen categories of sensors. The combinatorics behind this are one of those math problems with more answers than there are atoms in the universe.”

Bottom line: There will be no IoT platform. Instead, different solutions for different industries will emerge. “Time to stop dreaming and get building,” say the D2D writers.


Post from Kathmandu

Wednesday, 10 May, 2017 0 Comments

One in two Nepalis now use the internet, according to the latest report by the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA). There are 14.18 million internet subscribers in the landlocked Himalayan country, or nearly 56 percent of the national population of 26.49 million, writes The Kathmandu Post. “The report shows that internet penetration has increased by a whopping 18.22 percent over the year ending mid-February,” says the Post, adding: “Almost all the growth in web connectivity has come from mobiles as more and more people are using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.”

Mr. Digambar Jha  Chairman of the NTA The Malaysian company Ncell has 6.21 million subscribers, representing 42.05 percent of the market. It posted a 2.4 percent growth in revenue in 2016, “driven by a significant rise in its data receipts.”

This news will be welcomed by Mr. Digambar Jha, the Chairman of the NTA. His rivals for the job challenged his appointment on the that he did not possess the required qualifications for the post. They pointed out that while he did hold a BA in mechanical engineering, he had no expertise in the telecom sector. The court, however, sided with Chairman Jha.

Meanwhile in Nepal, “A cholera epidemic since the past few days in Musahar settlement in Kachanari of Bariyarpatti Village Council of Siraha has claimed a girl,” reports The Post.


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.


Talkin’ Industry 4.0

Saturday, 5 November, 2016 0 Comments

Today, at the 29th IATEFL BESIG Annual Conference in Munich, I’ll be talking about the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its seven key components: Industry 4.0, IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, robotics, AI and cybersecurity.

As with the three preceding Industrial Revolutions, which were powered, respectively, by steam, electricity and transistors, the cyber-physical systems now driving this fourth upheaval will transform manufacturing and replace William Blake’s vision of dark Satanic sweatshops with that of a better, cleaner, cleverer place — the smart factory.

“And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

Jerusalem by William Blake (1757 — 1827)


The war of the Mirai and XiongMai

Saturday, 22 October, 2016 0 Comments

It sounds like something from Star Trek: The war of the Mirai and the XiongMai. But it’s neither Hollywood nor science fiction. It’s real. Yesterday, users of Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix experienced problems because Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that provides critical services to these sites, sustained a massive, malicious attack. Spearheading it was Mirai, malware that had hijacked digital video recorders and cameras made by XiongMai Technologies, a Chinese hi-tech company. Mirai trawls the web for cheap devices protected by just their factory-default usernames and passwords and then conscripts them for attacks that launch wave upon wave of junk traffic at targets until they can no longer serve legitimate users.

Only a week ago, US-CERT, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning titled “Heightened DDoS Threat Posed by Mirai and Other Botnets.” It pointed the finger at the vulnerability of the Internet of Things (IoT), “an emerging network of devices (e.g., printers, routers, video cameras, smart TVs) that connect to one another via the Internet, often automatically sending and receiving data.” According to US-CERT, “IoT devices have been used to create large-scale botnets — networks of devices infected with self-propagating malware — that can execute crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. IoT devices are particularly susceptible to malware, so protecting these devices and connected hardware is critical to protect systems and networks.”

The solution? Security expert Brian Krebs is calling for a major, global effort to recall and remove vulnerable systems from the internet. “In my humble opinion, this global cleanup effort should be funded mainly by the companies that are dumping these cheap, poorly-secured hardware devices onto the market in an apparent bid to own the market. Well, they should be made to own the cleanup efforts as well.”

Malware  code


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Sunday, 2 October, 2016 0 Comments

“The prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully,” is the popular variant of a famous quote by Dr Johnson. And the prospect of making a presentation on the topic of the language of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in early November means this blog will be focusing on all things i4.0 in the coming weeks. So let’s get going with some basic terminology:

  • The First Industrial Revolution: The steam engine freed people from relying on their own muscular strength or that of animals for manufacturing and transport.
  • The Second Industrial Revolution: Electricity powered spectacular improvements in productivity, innovation, comfort and well-being.
  • The Third Industrial Revolution: The microprocessor, the computer and the internet led to dramatic developments in efficiency, commerce and creativity.
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The smartphone, the Internet of Things, 5G, genetic engineering, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, robotics, nanotechnology, machine learning… will affect how we live and work for the remainder of this century.

“Our ancestors could believe that their achievements had a chance of bearing up against the flow of events. We know time to be a hurricane. Our buildings, our sense of style, our ideas, all of these will soon enough be anachronisms, and the machines in which we now take inordinate pride will seem no less bathetic than Yorick’s skull.” — Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work