Microsoft to Solve Cancer

September 30, 2016

I believe Google is working on the solution to death. Microsoft, aced out of the death challenge, has turned its attention to cancer. I read “Microsoft Will ‘Solve’ Cancer within 10 Years by ‘Reprogramming’ Diseased Cells.” I learned that Microsoft

has assembled a “small army” of the world’s best biologists, programmers and engineers who are tackling cancer as if it were a bug in a computer system.

The write up added:

The biological computation group at Microsoft are developing molecular computers built from DNA which act like a doctor to spot cancer cells and destroy them.

Several thoughts.

First, I wonder if Microsoft might want to get Kindles and Web cams working with Windows 10. Perhaps a less lofty goal than solving cancer, some Windows 10 users might find the fixes helpful.

Second, will Microsoft improve upon its software development so that Tay type errors do not inadvertently cause cancer cells to become more robust. Microsoft’s artificial intelligence has performed in amusing ways, but solving cancer seems a bit more difficult than chatting. Microsoft Tay did not impress.

Third, if Google indeed does solve death, does that not suggest that Google has also solved cancer?

No answers, but the publicity machine is working quite well.

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2016

Solr: The Prestigious Bossie Winner

September 30, 2016

Beyond Search learned that open source search and retrieval solution Solr won a Bossie Award. The outfit involved in the awards said that Solr was a trusted and mature search engine technology.” Big outfits using Solr include Zappos, Comcast, and DuckDuckGo.

Also bringing home an award was Lucene. The description of Elasticsearch pointed out:

As part of the ELK stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana, all developed by Elasticsearch’s creators, Elastic), Elasticsearch has found its killer app as an open source Splunk replacement for log analysis.

Users of Lucene include Microsoft and LinkedIn. (What’s the problem with SharePoint Search? What prevents Microsoft from using Fast Search & Transfer technology in lieu of open source search?)

Why are Solr and Lucene the go to search utilities? Free? Actual bug fixes and not excuses? No licensing leg shackles? Did I mention free?

Stephen E Arnold, September 30, 2016

Lexmark Upgrades Its Enterprise Search

September 30, 2016

Enterprise search has taken a back a back seat to search news regarding Google’s next endeavor and what the next big thing is in big data.  Enterprise search may have taken a back seat in my news feed, but it is still a major component in enterprise systems.  You can even speculate that without a search function, enterprise systems are useless.

Lexmark, one of the largest suppliers of printers and business solutions in the country, understand the importance of enterprise search.  This is why they recently updated the description of its Perceptive Enterprise Search in its system’s technical specifications:

Perceptive Enterprise Search is a suite of enterprise applications that offer a choice of options for high performance search and mobile information access. The technical specifications in this document are specific to Perceptive Enterprise Search version 10.6…

A required amount of memory and disk space is provided. You must meet these requirements to support your Perceptive Enterprise Search system. These requirements specifically list the needs of Perceptive Enterprise Search and do not include any amount of memory or disk space you require for the operating system, environment, or other software that runs on the same machine.

Some technical specifications also provide recommendations. While requirements define the minimum system required to run Perceptive Enterprise Search, the recommended specifications serve as suggestions to improve the performance of your system. For maximum performance, review your specific environment, network, and platform capabilities and analyze your planned business usage of the system. Your specific system may require additional resources above these recommendations.”

It is pretty standard fare when it comes to technical specifications, in other words, not that interesting but necessary to make the enterprise system work correctly.

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

Google and the Future of Search Engine Optimization

September 30, 2016

Regular readers know that we are not big fans of SEO (Search Engine Optimization ) or its champions, so you will understand our tentative glee at the Fox News headline, “Is Google Trying to Kill SEO?” The article is centered around a Florida court case whose plaintiff is Worldwide LLC, accused by Google of engaging in “search-engine manipulation”. As it turns out, that term is a little murky. That did not stop Google from unilaterally de-indexing “hundreds” of’ websites. Writer Dan Blacharski observes:

The larger question here is chilling to virtually any small business which seeks a higher ranking, since Google’s own definition of search engine manipulation is vague and unpredictable. According to a brief filed by e-ventures’ attorney Alexis Arena at Flaster Greenberg PC, ‘Under Google’s definition, any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher, in any manner, could be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress. …

The larger question here is chilling to virtually any small business which seeks a higher ranking, since Google’s own definition of search engine manipulation is vague and unpredictable. According to a brief filed by e-ventures’ attorney Alexis Arena at Flaster Greenberg PC, ‘Under Google’s definition, any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher, in any manner, could be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress.

We cannot share Blacharski’s alarm at this turn of events. In our humble opinion, if websites focus on providing quality content, the rest will follow. The article goes on to examine Google’s first-amendment based stance, and considers whether SEO is even a legitimate strategy. See the article for its take on these considerations.

Cynthia Murrell, September 30, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



Google: The Blurred Cow Moos

September 29, 2016

I read “How a Blurry Cow Highlights Weaknesses in Google’s Face Recognition.” Write ups which criticize the Alphabet Google thing’s stellar technology ripple the pond in Harrod’s Creek. We learned:

The search engine’s algorithms accidentally blurred a cow’s face in the name of privacy.

Cows are people to in Harrod’s Creek. Many here in rural Kentucky use lab grown “meat” instead of terminating Bessie and grilling her prime parts.

The write up stated:

Like all machine-learning algorithms, though, Google’s must be trained using as many examples as possible. The blurry cow on the River Cam is proof that even with an image database as massive as Street View’s to learn from, the algorithms still aren’t perfect. To help further their training, Google is making appeals to third-party developers, who can harness the detection technology in their own websites and apps via an API.

Yes, we will assist the Google.

We highlighted this quote from a Google professional “spokesperson”:

“We thought you were pulling the udder one when we herd the moos, but it’s clear that our automatic face-blurring technology has been a little overzealous. Of course, we don’t begrudge this cow milking its five minutes of fame.”

Google has a sense of humor to accompany technology which is less than perfect. What happens when one applies Google facial recognition to an autonomous killer drone? My hunch is that Google will find a way to make light of the glitch.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2016

Investigating a Palantir Founder: Is This a Good Idea?

September 29, 2016

I like the idea of researching technology and companies. I like to know something about the founders, but I am not too interested in their hobbies, the name of their dog, or how they spend their vacation days.

I read “MuckRock & Vice Announce Fellowship to Investigate Peter Thiel.” If the write up is accurate, which for the purposes of this blog post, is the operative assumption, I have a question: “Will this effort backfire?”

I understand that law enforcement and certain government agencies need to develop profiles and bubble gum cards about people of interest. When a person runs for a political office, journalists like to dig into the candidates’ past. But a lawyer and entrepreneur? Interesting.

The write up informed me:

I’m [author of the article cited above] not so sure how much Thiel-related info is really FOIA-able, this may put to the test Thiel’s stated claim that he wasn’t against journalism that made him look bad, in funding lawyer Charles Harder to sue Gawker into oblivion, but rather to “send a message” about protecting privacy. Of course, when you try to silence the press, there’s always a chance that the press decides to turn an even bigger spotlight on you.

Fascinating maneuver by MuckRock and Vice. I wonder if these outfits understand how tools like Palantir Gotham work, the tools’s capabilities, and the unintended consequences of collecting information about one of the beloved professionals involved in PayPal?

Worth monitoring from afar. Those lucky fellowship winners may learn quite a bit from the exercise. Did I mention that I wanted to monitor the trajectory of this “real news” adventure from afar. Really afar.

Stephen E Arnold, September 29, 2016

EasyAsk Has a Sticky Search

September 29, 2016

When I first began reading the EasyAsk article, “Search Laboratory: Rock ‘n’ Roll Lab Rats” it has the typical story about search difficulties and the importance about an accurate, robust search engine.   They even include video featuring personified search engines and the troubles a user goes through to locate a simple item, although the video refers to Google Analytics.   The article pokes fun at EasyAsk employees and how they develop the Search Lab, where they work on improving search functions.

One of the experiments that Search Lab worked on is “sticky search.”  What is sticky search?  Do you throw a keyword reel covered in honey into the Web pool and see what returns?  Is it like the Google “I Feel Lucky” button.  None of these are correct.  The Search Lab conducted an experiment where the last search term was loaded into the search box when a user revisited.  The Search Lab tracked the results and discovered:

As you can see, the sticky search feature was used by close-to one third of the people searching from the homepage, but by a smaller proportion of people on other types of page. Again, this makes sense as you’re more likely to use the homepage as a starting point when your intention is to return to a previously viewed product.  We had helped 30% of people searching from our homepage get to where they wanted to go more quickly, but added inconvenience to the other two thirds (and 75% of searchers across the site as a whole) because to perform their searches, rather than just tapping the search box and beginning to type they now had to erase the old (sticky) search term too.

In other words, it was annoying.  Search Lab retracted the experiment, but it was a decent effort to try something new even if the results could have been predicted.  Keep experimenting with search options SearchLab, but keep the search box empty.

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

Googley Spin-Offs Underwhelm

September 29, 2016

One might think that starting out as a derivative of one of the most successful companies in the world would be a sure path to profits. Apparently one would be wrong. The Telegraph reports, “Alphabet’s Spin-Offs are Struggling to Repeat the Google Success Story.” Readers will recall that Alphabet was created last year as the holding company for Google and its derivatives, like Calico, Google Capital, Nest, Google Ventures, Verily, and X. Writer James Titcomb explains the logic behind the move:

The theory behind Alphabet, when Page laid it out in August, made sense. Google had become more than just an internet services and advertising company, even though the main internet business still made all the money. Google had set up units such as Calico, a life sciences division trying to eradicate death; Project Loon, which is trying to beam the internet to rural Asia with gigantic space balloons; and Boston Dynamics, which is trying to build humanoid robots.

These ‘moonshots’ weren’t able to realize their potential within the confines of a company focused on selling pay-per-click internet advertising, so they were separated from it. Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s two co-founders, left the everyday running of the internet business to their trusted lieutenant, Sundar Pichai, who had been effectively doing it anyway.

Being liberated from Google, the moonshots were supposed to thrive under the Alphabet umbrella. Have they? The early signs are not good.

The article concedes that Alphabet expected to lose money on some of these derivative projects, but notes that the loss has been more than expected—to the tune of some $3.6 billion. Titcomb examines Nest, Google’s smart-thermostat initiative, as an example; its once-bright future is not looking up at the moment. Meanwhile, we’re reminded, Apple is finding much success with its services division. See the article for more details on each company.

Will Alphabet continue to use Google Search’s stellar profits to prop up its pet projects? Consider that, from the beginning, one of the companies’ winning strategies has been to try anything and run with what proves successful; repeated failure as a path to success. I predict Alphabet will never relinquish its experimental streak.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

What Content Management Systems Ring the Chimes of US Government Procurement Teams?

September 28, 2016

The answer to this question does not require a consultant in content management or, as the insiders term it, CMS. Navigate to Digital Gov’s run down. The list is, like many things about the US government, “unofficial.” You can look up an agency like the Economic Research Service and learn that the whiz kids at ERS rely upon Umbraco, an open source CMS which works with Microsoft software. It should. Umbraco lists Microsoft as a customer. What this says about SharePoint I will leave to you, gentle reader.

There are some interesting systems in use; for example:

  • EpiServer from former Microsoft Sweden folks
  • DotNetNuke for the Department of Defense. The name of the product may have resonated with someone at the DoD.
  • RedDot, a German software product which is now an OpenText property
  • WebZerve, product of xpdient Inc.
  • InMagic Presto, which I thought was a law firm centric system. InMagic is now owned by a Canadian firm.

The list is a sure fire guide for those who want to sell CMS consulting services to government agencies. Any notion of standardization or buying US software seems to be out of fashion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2016

MCMC: No, Not a Musical Trend

September 28, 2016

If you wonder why a Grand Canyon exists between the people who offer point-and-click statistical analysis and the folks who “do” the math, you will want to read “Markov Chain Monte Carlo Without All…” When you read the source document, keep in mind that selecting an icon and generating a report is like using an automatic teller machine. Punching buttons delivers an output. The inner workings of the system are not visible. User friendly, embedded business intelligence systems are like the chrome trim on a door stop.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2016

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