Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: cognition apps, Page's dreaming, Samsung smart pay, SSD endurance

A thrilling buffet of 11 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

the intelligence that powers cognitive apps will come from cloud based platforms that host their brains — the apps themselves won't really have to be that smart on their own. Which means that truly vast, always increasing, intelligence will be available via APIs to all kinds of apps, and right into the full range of consumer appliances, devices and even the Internet of things. All apps and even things will start to become cognitive.

Even in the last few months several interesting announcements were made that all signify this trend:
• The startup, Vicarious, has developed a new form of AI that is capable of reading CAPTCHA images, the most widely used test for differentiating human and computer actions online.

• Next IT announced the Alme platform for virtual healthcare assistants, furthering the development of intelligent virtual assistants with domain-specific expertise
• Google is finally starting to make search smarter by incorporating more contextual conversational capabilities for queries, and even challenging Siri directly within iOS
• Stephen Wolfram announced the Wolfram Language, which models the world and combines both programs and data — what he calls a new "language for the global brain," — that will essentially be able to weave sophisticated computational knowledge into everything.
• And finally, IBM announced it is going allow third-party developers to build cognitive apps that leverage cognition hosted in the cloud on Watson.

Acquires the horrible acronym CAAS, but one to watch.

Amir Efrati:

The Google 2.0 initiative comes as Mr. Page is discussing with associates his desire to effect major change on many industries and lamenting that he lacked the tools to do so. He's talked about starting a new research-and-development arm that he would oversee personally, says one person who was briefed about it. It would be a cousin to Google X, the research lab that fellow company co-founder Sergey Brin controls. Some have referred to the proposed new lab as "Google Y."

…Another Google 2.0 project involved location. Mr. Page determined that Google in the future should know a person's precise location down to the inches, not just that they're in a particular room or store. That way, people might be able to know who else is in a room with them (assuming they don't know them already).

By knowing which aisle a person was at inside of a store, for instance, Google could potentially provide helpful information to the shopper about what's there. Google could also let people "pair" their smartphone with another device, like a Web-connected TV or Google Chromecast, which might then automatically know what to show on the screen.

Other Google 2.0 initiatives were even "creepier" from an outsider's perspective, says one person who participated but declined to provide specifics. Many Googlers say that, in general, utility beats creepiness. Google Now, a smartphone app that pulls together data from a person's Google account in order to offer helpful automatic reminders, is often cited as a example.

(The full article is paywalled.)

Samsung Electronics is trying to add simple payment functions to its smart watches. By the earliest, Samsung Electronics might reveal a simple payments-enabled smart watch at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015, the world's biggest mobile exhibition to be held early next year.

According to the related industries on 17 September, Samsung Electronics, together with global financial transaction service PayPal, is preparing to install the mobile payment function using a biometric identification sensor including fingerprint verification into its third-generation smart watch to be released next year.

A high-ranking official at Samsung Electronics commented, "We are currently developing the smart watch equipped with fingerprint identification technology and relevant solutions through cooperation with PayPal, the world's most renowned financial transaction service company, as well as Synaptics, a global company specialized in biometric verification. By the earliest, the third generation smart watch to be released early next year will have this new system in which payment is authorized immediately when users identify themselves through biometric sensors such as a fingerprint or login."

Samsung said it has agreed with six representatives at talks currently underway on providing compensation to victims who developed leukemia after working at a chip and display-manufacturing plant, to set up an arbitration body in an effort to agree on financial settlements.

"Samsung Electronics agreed with six of eight affected families to establish an arbitration body on a compensation settlement for the victims and their families. Further discussions will soon get underway," Samsung said in a statement, Wednesday.

This is the first time in four months that Samsung has established an independent unit on compensation settlements since its vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun made a public apology to those suffering from leukemia and vowed to compensate them.

Alessandro Crugnola:

Why is hard to find Android developers?
Because you [businesses] are not committed to Android development. You just think you "have" to do that. Because at some point you realize either that you need it to go global, or because a lot of users are asking it, or just because you think that porting your app will double your users overnight.

But you're not committed to doing it.

And when you start, most of the time it's with a 1-to-1 porting of your iOS app, or at the very best a porting of UI created ad hoc for an iOS environment, which cannot be applied to Android (although, to your credit, you probably don't know this because you didn't bother hiring an Android PM or UX expert). I don't think I even need to mention the cases where you've already given the initial porting to 3rd party companies…

Then, after all of this, you complain because the response of the Android market is not as good as you expected and the profits are not comparable to iOS.

You won't believe how much data can be written to modern SSDs. No, seriously. Our ongoing SSD Endurance Experiment has demonstrated that some consumer-grade drives can withstand over a petabyte of writes before burning out. That's a hyperbole-worthy total for a class of products typically rated to survive only a few hundred terabytes at most.

Our experiment began with the Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB, Intel 335 Series 240GB, Samsung 840 Series 250GB, and Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, plus two Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB drives. They all surpassed their endurance specifications, but the 335 Series, 840 Series, and one of the HyperX drives failed to reach the petabyte mark. The remainder pressed on toward 1.5PB, and two of them made it relatively unscathed. That journey claimed one more victim, though—and you won't believe which one.

OMG SSD CLICKBAIT IS A THING.

Avi Asher-Schapiro:

Kazi drives a Toyota Prius for Uber in Los Angeles. He hates it. He barely makes minimum wage, and his back hurts after long shifts. But every time a passenger asks what it's like working for Uber, he lies: "It's like owning my own business; I love it."

Kazi conceals his opinion because his job depends on it. After passengers finish a ride, Uber asks them to rate their driver on a scale from one to five stars. Drivers with an average below 4.7 can be deactivated — tech-speak for fired.

Gabriele Lopez, an LA Uber driver, also withholds the truth. "We just sit there and smile, and tell everyone that the job's awesome, because that's what they want to hear," said Lopez, who's been driving for UberX, the company's low-end car service, since it launched last summer…

Uber drivers have no say in the pricing, yet they must carry their own insurance and foot the bill for gas and repairs — a cost of 56¢ per mile, according to IRS estimates. With Uber's new pricing model, drivers are forced to work under razor-thin margins. Arman, for instance, made about $20 an hour just a year ago. And now? Some days he doesn't even break minimum wage.

Chris Soghoian, principal technologist, on the privacy protection in iOS 8:

This was a big step for Apple, and one that likely required significant engineering work. What is so interesting and smart about this move is that rather than telling the government that they no longer want to help the government, they re-architected iOS so they are unable to help the government. Think of it as Apple playing a game of chicken, and the company has just thrown the steering wheel out of the window.

That's something that's going to be difficult for most tech companies to do, because so many of them have built their businesses around access to user data. If the companies can search and analyze that data, they can be forced to turn it over to the government. Apple's business model—selling expensive, luxury hardware to consumers—gives them the freedom to lock themselves out of access to their customers' data. Apple doesn't care what you store on your phone as long as you buy a new one every two years.

Although today's announcement is certainly big news, in many ways, it is far less significant than Apple's success in delivering end-to-end encrypted text, voice and video communications to the hundreds of millions of people using iMessage and FaceTime. To date, these apps have been advertised as free and easy ways for people to stay in touch with loved ones and family. However, the company could and should start advertising them as a much more secure alternative to regular telephone calls and text messages.

51 Degrees is a mobile consultancy, here looking at a McDonalds QR code in-store promotion on some of its tray leaflets, which then opens a URL on your mobile:

The page is optimised for large screen laptop computers, or at best bigger screen tablets. How many of McDonalds' customers are really going to be using laptops and tablets to scan the QR Code and view the content? Less than 20% would be my guess, but more on that shortly.

Less than 20%? More likely to be less than 2%, surely. Still feels like an idea that hasn't quite hit its mark.

An anonymous e-mailer threatened to blow up a bomb at the Game Developers Choice Awards this past March unless the hosts rescinded an award recognizing feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, the organizers of the event have confirmed to Kotaku.

"We can confirm that approximately 25 of GDC's organizers received an anonymous email early in the morning of Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 during GDC 2014," the organizers said in a statement.

"The email stated the following: 'A bomb will be detonated at the Game Developer's Choice award ceremony tonight unless Anita Sarkeesian's Ambassador Award is revoked. We estimate the bomb will kill at least a dozen people and injure dozens more. It would be in your best interest to accept our simple request. This is not a joke. You have been warned.'"

The threat merited the attention of the San Francisco Police Department's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Division, which sent officers and bomb-sniffing dogs to the Moscone Center, where GDC is held.

That's not even the scariest thing Sarkeesian has had to deal with. Read the piece and consider how you would hold up. Plus the commenter(s) insistent it could have been her. Or, equally, space aliens.

The plan, which faces stiff resistance within the Japanese carmaker, would see US and British production phased out and a reduced output of next-generation batteries concentrated at its domestic plant, two alliance sources told Reuters.

In what may also prove a politically sensitive blow to Japan Inc., Nissan would follow Renault by taking cheaper batteries from South Korea's LG Chem for some future vehicles, including models made in China.
"We set out to be a leader in battery manufacturing but it turned out to be less competitive than we'd wanted," said one executive on condition of anonymity. "We're still between six months and a year behind LG in price-performance terms."

So it's not that electric cars as a whole aren't working, just Nissan's battery production.

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