Saturday, November 15, 2014

Boot up: Baidu's AI ads, no hamburgers!, Google v AOSP, Yosemite privacy

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Cade Metz:

Deep learning can do many things. Tapping the power of hundreds or even thousands of computers, this new breed of artificial intelligence can help Facebook recognize people, words, and objects that appear in digital photos. It can help Google understand what you're saying when you bark commands into an Android phone. And it can help Baidu boost the bottom line.

The Chinese web giant now uses deep learning to target ads on its online services, and according to Andrew Ng—who helped launch the deep learning operation at Google and now oversees research and development at Baidu—the company has seen a notable increase in revenue as a result.


Because spamming techniques are constantly changing, the spam you see in your mailbox today is different from the spam you received yesterday. Your spam messages may look similar, but they're not the same; they're slightly (or greatly) different, with a different signature and are designed to evade filters. Spam campaigns vary in duration from a few minutes to many hours. We've tracked campaigns that send thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of spam messages in a few minutes.

EOP's defenses are adjusted as soon as the system detects unusual patterns and/or users start to submit samples of undetected spam.

Microsoft blocks about 10m spam emails per minute. Looks like Bill Gates didn't quite have it right in 2004.

From a transcript of a talk at this year's Apple developer conference about usability, looking at those menus consisting of some horizontal lines at the side of the screen:

Remember, the three key things about an intuitive navigation system is that they tell you where you are, and they show you where else you can go. Hamburger menus are terrible at both of those things, because the menu is not on the screen. It's not visible. Only the button to display the menu is.

And in practice, talking to developers, they found this out themselves. That people who use their app don't switch to different sections very frequently when they use this menu. And the reason for that is because the people who use their app don't know where else they can go. Right? They don't know because they can't see the options, or maybe they saw it at one point in time, but they have since forgotten.

And if you use this control, you have to recognise that the people who use your app may not realise the full potential of your app… It takes at least twice as many taps to change sections. Something that should be very easy and fluid is made more difficult.

Nor do 'hamburger menus' play nicely with back buttons.

Amir Efrati on the rise of AOSP phones, which while they were just inside China weren't a problem to Google's Android ad revenues, because Google is mostly banned in China. But once AOSP becomes popular outside China, Google has a problem:

Until recently, many analysts said virtually all of the open-source Android devices were sold in China. But there is new data showing that the phenomenon has spread well beyond China. The data comes from sources including Jana, which makes an app called mCent that helps Android smartphone users in emerging markets get free data to use apps.

Nathan Eagle, chief executive of Jana, says the app, which launched in the second quarter of this year, already has more than 500,000 monthly active users in seven key emerging markets where data charges remain high for consumers. About a quarter of those users owned open-source Android devices rather than Google Android devices in September, the first month Jana began to track the data.

Globally, open-source Android phone shipments grew to about 65 million in the second quarter of this year, up from nearly 54m in the first quarter, according to research firm ABI Research. That meant open-source Android (which is often referred to as Android Open Source Project, or AOSP) captured 20% of all phone operating systems (which includes Apple and feature phones) in the second quarter, up from 13% in the first quarter, the firm said.

Google's solution: make it easier for AOSP phone makers to get Google certification.

More importantly, all that information is grouped under an ephemeral session ID which automatically resets every 15 minutes, making it extremely difficult to trace a string of searches back to a specific user. That also makes the data significantly less useful to marketers, since it can't track behavior over any meaningful length of time. And most importantly, the data is transmitted over an HTTPS connection, so it can't be intercepted in transit.

The biggest concern is that a user might accidentally search their own computer for a sensitive file — in Post reporter Barton Gellman's example, "secret plans Obama leaked me" — and unwittingly reveal that search term to Apple more broadly. But under the new scheme, there wouldn't be anything to tie the search to Gellman himself other than the ephemeral ID. More importantly, users who are concerned about such a scenario can easily disable Spotlight's Suggestions feature, effectively disabling the attack.

Apple has further detailed how Spotlight Suggestions work behind the scenes. In a statement to The Verge, the company says it's taken steps to "blur" location on devices, use temporary session identifiers, and let people opt out of the feature completely:

Gellman's concern is rational, but until someone develops a magic golden key to unlock encrypted files, not a worry. (At worst? Disconnect from the internet.)

Alyson Shontell:

wildly successful exits like Divide's sometimes fly under the radar. New York startup TXVia, for example, was sold to Google for more than $100 million in 2012, but that amount has never been reported either. 

Google declined to let Business Insider speak with Toy about Divide or the acquisition. Instead, we spoke with other Divide insiders, as well as friends and family members of Toy.

They helped us piece together the story of how first-time founders built a massive enterprise startup that became one of the largest, and quietest, New York City tech exits of the year.

Fantastic reporting, and this looks like a company that will be really useful for Google's ambitions for Android in the enterprise.

"If you think about what mobile computing is right now, it's portable, it's great, and I call it 'making your hand happy,' in that you can hold it and it's great," [CEO Rony] Abovitz said. "Your hand is happy, but your eye is not. What I mean by your eye is not happy, if you step outside your office and look at San Francisco Bay, it's just this visual feast, and there's no movie theater, there's no television display, there's nothing that will ever match the grandeur of what our own brains can create in terms of visual experience."

Magic Leap, then, is combining that inherent visual ability with mobile computing – giving you visual output equivalent to when you step outside into the world, but powered by the mobile tech you carry around. Nor will this be something that involves a huge head-mounted display, Oculus Rift-style, Abovitz is keen to note – he characterized it as a "lightweight wearable" hardware solution, though he wouldn't go into further detail about what exactly that meant. Based on his comments, it sounds like artificial, but extremely realistic images like the one shown in the image above might be projected directly onto a user's retina to achieve this effect, but we may have to wait until an official reveal to learn more about the nature of the device(s) in use here.

Virtzilla had the idea of dual-persona phones back in about 2011, when it floated the notion of a Mobile Virtual Platform (MVP) hypervisor. The plan was for handset-makers to install the hypervisor and for carriers to use VMware's back-endery to allow BYOPD phones to have a conventional Android environment for all but mission-critical tasks that required more security. When workers flicked the switch into the second, buttoned-down, persona, they'd be allowed through the firewall and offered access to a range of apps provisioned by IT.

VMware had a couple of wins with what came to be known as Horizon Mobile, with Telefonica having a go and Verizon signing up to play with handsets from LG and Motorola. But The Reg's virtualisation desk hasn't heard much about the concept of late and Marshall today told us that the concept has been "shut down" at the Airwatch Connect event in Sydney.

"You can't out-Google Google," Marshall said enigmatically, possibly referring to the fact that Android 5 – aka Lollipop – now offers multiple user accounts and therefore makes dual-persona phones a bit less attractive. Marshall added that he personally argued very strongly against continuing with the dual persona plan, but that the decision to stop pursuing it was a "group decision" made by VMware and Airwatch.

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