Spanner and Cockroach

June 30, 2016

I read “Google Tools Up with Its Spanner Database, Looks for a Fight with AWS.” Interesting. Google continues to innovate in data management systems. Its MapReduce tool helped “spark” the Hadoopers. Now Spanner is moving into a cloud war fighting machine. The write up reports:

Google has gone on the record to talk about Spanner in the past, saying its an SQL-like database that can run across multiple data centers, and is capable of scaling up to millions of machines in hundreds of data centers and trillions of database rows. It is “the first system to distribute data at global scale and support externally-consistent distributed transactions,” Google has said. Spanner’s most appealing feature is that it supports synchronous replication, which means that any changes made to the database will automatically be replicated across every data center in real-time, so the data stays consistent regardless of where it’s accessed from.

But what is interesting to me is the headline: “A fight with AWS.” Let’s see how the Amazon fight is progressing. Amazon has a big cloud business. Amazon has a number of options to expand its enterprise services. Amazon has a big ecommerce business the costs of which are partially offset by the Amazon cloud business. Amazon has a search system which in my opinion is a work in progress.

Google has a fight with the EU and the challenge of those Facebookers’ surging ad business. Google also has the task of solving death and getting the Loon balloons aloft and generating revenue. Now the company, according to the write up, wants to fight with Amazon.

Fascinating. Oh, and details of the new data management system and its application to folks with real world problems? Not much info. I love to sit on the sidelines when companies allegedly engage in a multi-front war.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2016

Wanna Be Like Larry, the Alphabet Google Founder?

June 30, 2016

Here are the five secrets so you too can be like Larry Page. If you want to solve death and do the flying cars, follow the steps in “5 Secrets of Google As Revealed by Larry Page.” And what are the secrets one may ask? I summarized them in the table below and provided an example of the do as I say, not do as I do insights. Enjoy.

Larry Secret Example in Action
Keep reaching for perfection Google search. It just gets more and more advertising like and less and less about precision and recall
Too few is better than too many Yep focus. Alphabet Google is solving death and most recently developing super powers for mass transportation. And there are the Google products. Lots and lots of products.
Work for fun and a cause, not for money. As one of the richest people in the world, who worries about clean water, paying rent, and feeding one’s family. Party time.
Pay attention to trends. There is that social networking trend which Facebook dominates. Google’s social initiative? Well, it is aware of the Facebook ad thing.
Do good for the world. Apparently the fragile European Union does not see much good in some of the Google actions, hence the contentious anti trust allegations.

You now have the secret to success minus the contribution of certain Almaden research scientists, former AltaVista wizards, the Yahoo, GoTo, Overture ad thing, and a few other minor ingredients. Have at it.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2016

Chatbot Tay Calls into Question Intelligence of Software

June 30, 2016

Chatbots are providing something alright. These days it’s more like entertainment. Venture Beat shared an article highlighting the latest, Microsoft’s Tay chatbot comes back online, says it’s ‘smoking kush’ in front of the police. Tay, the machine-learning bot, was designed to “be” a teenage girl. Microsoft’s goal with it was to engage followers of a young demographic while simultaneously learning how to engage them. The article explains,

“Well, uh, Microsoft’s Tay chatbot, which got turned off a few days ago after behaving badly, has suddenly returned to Twitter and has started tweeting to users like mad. Most of its musings are innocuous, but there is one funny one I’ve come across so far. “i’m smoking kush infront the police,” it wrote in brackets. Kush is slang for marijuana, a drug that can result in a fine for possession in the state of Washington, where Microsoft has its headquarters. But this is one of hundreds of tweets that the artificial intelligence-powered bot has sent out in the past few minutes.”

Poised by some sources as next-generation search, or a search replacement, chatbots appear to need a bit of optimization, to put it lightly. This issue occurred when the chatbot should have still been offline undergoing testing, according to Microsoft. But when it was only offline because of learning bullying and hate speech from trolls who seized on the nature of its artificial intelligence programming. Despite the fact it is considered AI, is this smart software? There is a little important something called emotional intelligence.


Megan Feil, June 30, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

IBM Cloud Powers Comic-Con Channel

June 30, 2016

The San Diego Comic-Con is the biggest geek and pop culture convention in the country and it needs to be experienced to be believed.  Every year the San Diego Comic-Con gets bigger and more complex as attendees and the guests demand more from the purveyors.  If you are at Comic-Con, then you need to think big.  Thinking big requires thinking differently, which is why it would seem “IBM And Comic-Con HQ Make Strange Bedfellows” says Fortune.

IBM announced that they have teamed with Lionsgate to run a Comic-Con HQ video channeled powered by IBM’s cloud.  The on-demand channel will premiere during 2016’s Comic-Con.  Comic-con attendees and those unfortunate not to purchase a ticket have demanded video streaming services for years, practically ever since it became possible.  Due to copyright as well as how to charge attendees for the service have kept video on-demand on the back burner, but now it is going to happen and it is going to be a challenge.

Video streaming is:

“Video is a demanding application for cloud computing. Storing and shipping massive video files, often shot in ultra-high-definition 4k format, is a useful testbed to show off cloud services.”

Anything new related to Comic-Con always proves to be a hassle and troublesome.  One of the cases in point is when the SDCC launched its digital waiting room to purchase tickets and had way more traffic than their servers could handle.  The end result was a lot of angry fans unable to buy tickets.  Another challenge was handling the massive crowds that started flocking to the convention halls around the mid-2000s (attendance swelled around 2011 with the Twilight movies).

Anything that will improve the Comic-Con experience and even allow non-attendees a  taste of the magical July event would be welcome.


Whitney Grace, June 30, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Smart Robots Just Want to Be Free

June 29, 2016

News from some nation states is, in the words of the millennial podcast, “actual factual.” A case in point is the second – yep, the second – news story about a robot with artificial intelligence. This particular robot, as referenced in the “it has to be true” story “An AI Robot Escapes Lab in Russia.” Here’s the passage I noted:

The company said that they are testing a new system that would allow the robot to avoid any collisions while it was operating by itself. However, the mistake was human when a gate was left open and the robot wandered into the street. He was gone for about 40 minutes. The Promobot interacts with people using speech recognition. It uses prerecorded responses, facial expressions, and a large screen to help talk to people. The company has said they hope that the robot will be used for promotions, guides, and tours. Promobot co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev is worried about its ability to break out and said, “I think we might have to dismantle it.”

Modifying the software appears to be an approach which is not part of the program. I was hoping that IBM Watson would help the folks who made Promobot IR77 come up with more newsworthy examples of cognitive solutions.

In the PR department, one cannot do better than IBM. Watson does not fall for pizza promotions.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Alphabet Google and Its EU Strategy

June 29, 2016

Short honk: Read the original article “Eric Schmidt Gave Us a Glimpse of the Strategy He’s Using to Persuade the EU to Not Declare Google a Monopoly.”

Here’s the quote to note which I circled in true blue:

“Our strategy, and my personal strategy, is to get to know the regulators very, very well.” Schmidt [Alphabet Google big dog] does that, he said, because “people don’t know how we work.”

Right. No one really knows how Alphabet Google works. Perhaps one might ask someone disenchanted with Mother Google. Perhaps a person at Foundem has some thoughts.

To know the Alphabet Google thing is to love the Alphabet Google thing. Knowledge makes the monopoly idea fade it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

More Variables Than Technology for Enterprise Security to Consider

June 29, 2016

For all the effort enterprises go to in securing data through technological solutions, there are also other variables to consider: employees. Business Insider released an article, 1 in 5 employees are willing to hand over their work passwords for money, that shares survey research from SailPoint. 20 percent of 1,000 respondents, from organizations with over 1,000 employees, would be willing to sell their work passwords. US employees win the “most likely” award with 27 percent followed by Netherlands with 20 percent, and then UK and France at 16 percent. The article tells us,

“Some employees were willing to sell their passwords for as little as $55 (£38) but most people wanted considerably more, with $82,000 (£56,000) being the global average amount required,according to figures cited by Quartz that weren’t in the report. Unauthorised access to a company’s internal systems could provide a treasure trove of valuable data for criminals. They may be targeting individual user accounts, or they could be after intellectual property, or corporate strategy data.”

Undoubtedly, search and/or cybertheft is easier with a password. While the survey reports findings that may be alarming to organizations, we are left with the question, ‘why’. It may be easy to say morality is the dividing line, but I think this article wrestling with the morality question is on the right track pointing to considering sociological implications, for example, employee engagement and satisfaction cannot be discounted as factors in a decision to sell a password.


Megan Feil, June 29, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Dark Web Hacking Site Changes Hands

June 29, 2016

Navigating the Dark Web can be a hassle, because many of the Web sites are shut down before you have the chance to learn what nefarious content, services, or goods are available.  Some of these sites go down on their own, but law enforcement had a part in dismantling them as well.  Some Dark Web sites are too big and encrypted to be taken down and sometimes they exchange hands, such as Silk Road and now Hell.  Motherboard explains that “Dark Web Hacking Forum ‘Hell’ Appears To Have New Owners.”

The Real Deal, a computer exploit market, claimed to take ownership of Hell, the hacking forum known for spreading large data dumps and stolen data.  Real Deal said of their acquisition:

“ ‘We will be removing the invite-only system for at least a week, and leave the “vetting” forum for new users,’ one of The Real Deal admins, who also used the handle The Real Deal, told Motherboard in an encrypted chat.  ‘It’s always nice to have a professional community that meets our market’s original niche, hopefully it will bring some more talent both to the market and to the forums,’ the admin continued. ‘And it’s no secret that we as admins would enjoy the benefit of ‘first dibs’ on buying fresh data, resources, tools, etc.’”

The only part of Hell that has new administrators is the forum due to the old head had personal reasons that required more attention.  Hell is one of the “steadier” Dark Web sites and it played a role in the Adult FriendFinder hack, was the trading place for Mate1 passwords, and hosted breaches from a car breathalyzer maker.

Standard news for the Dark Web, until the next shutdown and relaunch.


Whitney Grace, June 29, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Bad News for Instant Analytics Sharpies

June 28, 2016

I read “Leading Statisticians Establish Steps to Convey Statistics a Science Not Toolbox.” I think “steps” are helpful. The challenge will be to corral the escaped ponies who are making fancy analytics a point and click, drop down punch list. Who needs to understand anything. Hit the button and generate visualizations until somethings looks really super. Does anyone know a general who engages in analytic one-upmanship? Content and clarity sit in the backseat of the JLTV.

The write up is similar to teens who convince their less well liked “pals” to go on a snipe hunt. I noted this passage:

To this point, Meng [real statistics person] notes “sound statistical practices require a bit of science, engineering, and arts, and hence some general guidelines for helping practitioners to develop statistical insights and acumen are in order. No rules, simple or not, can be 100% applicable or foolproof, but that’s the very essence that I find this is a useful exercise. It reminds practitioners that good statistical practices require far more than running software or an algorithm.”

Many vendors emphasize how easy smart analytics systems are to use. The outputs are presentation ready. Checks and balances are mostly pushed to the margins of the interface.

Here are the 10 rules.

  1. Statistical Methods Should Enable Data to Answer Scientific Questions
  2. Signals Always Come with Noise
  3. Plan Ahead, Really Ahead
  4. Worry about Data Quality
  5. Statistical Analysis Is More Than a Set of Computations
  6. Keep it Simple
  7. Provide Assessments of Variability
  8. Check Your Assumptions
  9. When Possible, Replicate!
  10. Make Your Analysis Reproducible

I think I can hear the guffaws from the analytics vendors now. I have tears in my eyes when I think about “statistical methods should enable data to answer scientific questions.” I could have sold that line to Jack Benny if he were still alive and doing comedy. Scientific questions from data which no human has checked for validity. Oh, my goodness. Then reproducibility. That’s a good one too.

Stephen E Arnold, June 28, 2016

Google Search: Retrievers Lose. Smart Software Wins

June 28, 2016

I scanned a number of write ups about Google’s embrace of machine learning and smart software. I supplement my Google queries with the results of other systems. Some of these have their own index; for example, and Exalead. Others are metasearch engines will suck in results and do some post processing to help answer the users’ questions. Others are disappointing and I check them out when I have a client who is willing to pay for stone flipping; for example, DuckDuckGo, iSeek, or the estimable Qwant. (I love quirky spelling too.)

I read “RankBrain Third Most Important Factor Determining Google Search Results.” Here’s the quote I noted:

Google is characteristically fuzzy on exactly how it improves search (something to do with the long tail? Better interpretation of ambiguous requests?) but Jeff Dean [former AltaVista wizard] says that RankBrain is “involved in every query,” and affects the actual rankings “probably not in every query but in a lot of queries.” What’s more, it’s hugely effective. Of the hundreds of “signals” Google search uses when it calculates its rankings (a signal might be the user’s geographical location, or whether the headline on a page matches the text in the query), RankBrain is now rated as the third most useful. “It was significant to the company that we were successful in making search better with machine learning,” says John Giannandrea. “That caused a lot of people to pay attention.”Pedro Domingos, the University of Washington professor who wrote The Master Algorithm, puts it a different way: “There was always this battle between the retrievers and the machine learning people,” he says. “The machine learners have finally won the battle.”

I have noticed in the last year, that I am unable to locate certain documents when I use the words and phrases which had served me well before smart software became the cat’s pajamas.

One recent example was my need to locate a case example about a German policeman’s trials and tribulations with the Dark Web. When I first located this document, I was trying to verify an anecdote shared with me after one of my intelligence community lectures.

I had the document in my file and I pulled it up on my monitor. The document in question is the work of an outfit and person labeled “Lars Hilse.” The title of the write up is “Dark Web & Bitcoin: Global Terrorism “Threat Assessment. The document was published in April 2013 with an update issued in November 2013. (That document was the source or maybe confirmed the anecdote about the German policeman and his Dark Web research.)

For my amusement, I wondered if I could use the new and improved Google Web search to locate the document. I display section 4.8 on my screen. The heading of the section is “Extortion (of Law Enforcement Personnel).

I entered the phrase into Google without quotes. Here’s the first page of results:


None of the hits points to the document with the five word phrase.

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