Is This the Future of Open Source?

December 11, 2019

Open source software essentially breaks the chains which vendors of proprietary software clamp on their customers. A good idea? Sure, as long as their are multiple people supporting the code and following the rules (such as they are). “OSXfuse Is No Longer Open Source” makes clear that open source software can go away. Bad move? Unfair? Inconsiderate? The write up explains:

So to summarize again
* Apple does Apple things and heavily restricts third-party developers.
* Fleischer, having dealt with malarkey like this for close to a decade, realizes he doesn’t get paid enough for this [expletive deleted].
* He makes the repo closed source in 2017, but doesn’t mention this to anyone.
* In 2019, after making a bunch of critical changes to the code, he quietly announces that the licensing terms of the project are now different.
* At this stage in the proceedings, companies’ choices are to pay up or tell their users that they can’t use the hot new version of macOS.
As far as monetization strategies go, love it or hate it, you’ve got to give the guy props.

However, there are other corrosive forces at work. Examples include the appropriation of open source code by large, well funded entities. The open source software is wrapped in proprietary functions. Open source morphs into — wait for it — proprietary software.

What’s the impact? The old Hegelian thesis, antithesis, synthesis process is alive and well. Good to know.

Stephen E Arnold, December 11, 2019

Digital Tentacles: Feels Good, Squishy Yet Firm

December 11, 2019

The large tech companies are insinuating themselves into every field imaginable; this time, it is financial services. South Africa’s Daily Maverick considers, “Google and Facebook Want your Bank Account. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Ever eager to capitalize on revenue streams and data streams alike, big tech sees the financial services field as a wealth of opportunity. Reporter Tim Cohen summarizes what we know about each major tech company’s plans so far:

“In November 2019, Alphabet, Google’s owner, became the latest tech company to announce it would enter the financial services space, saying it would launch actual, formal bank accounts. But its announcement had an interesting little twist; it would not be doing so alone, but in conjunction with one of the big US banks, Citigroup, and even more bizarrely a tiny bank, the Stanford Federal Credit Union. Facebook’s approach has been very different and much more ambitious; a whole new currency, Libra, which has been the subject of much controversy. But less well known is that Facebook has upgraded its existing payments system, and it’s become clear that if Libra fails for regulatory reasons, the fallback is to build out a payments system. Apple’s approach is different again — more or less. It released earlier this year a credit card in association with credit card provider Mastercard and US bank Goldman Sachs. The card has some tech features, like being both virtual and physical, and uses the existing Apple Pay system. Amazon, meanwhile, has been considering its options, hiring banking experts, and it is also expected to make some kind of foray into the financial services sphere.”

The article posits a reason this is happening now—these companies are seeing a leveling-off of profits from their traditional activities. Last year Google, for example, saw its slowest ad-revenue growth since the 2008 recession. Also, Facebook’s share price is about what it was two years ago. Cohen wonders, though, whether it will be as easy as they think; banking in many countries is complicated and/ or dominated by the state. Perhaps they are setting themselves up for disappointment. We shall see.

Cynthia Murrell, December 11, 2019

YouTube Supplied Music Leads To Massive Video Demonetization

December 10, 2019

YouTube cheats its content creators. The video sharing platform is constantly changing its rules, demonetizing videos without notice, and deleting videos for “offensive” content. YouTube claims it loves its creators and offers tools and services for assistance. One of these services is offering royalty free music for videos, but content creators beware of video platforms offering free music. Torrent Freak reports on how, “‘Royalty Free’ Music Supplied By YouTube Results In Mass Video Demonetization.”

Matt Lowne is a popular game streaming YouTuber, think Pewdiepie except he only has 56 million views. To avoid copyright strikes which lead to demonetization, YouTubers avoid copyrighted content such as music and video clips. Lowne used a track called “Dreams” by Joakim Kraud from YouTube’s audio library for his video introductions. Lowne posted a video, then he was barraged with emails stating that he used SonyATV, PeerMusic, Warner Chappell, LatinAutor, and Audiam material.

Now all of Lowne’s profit from ads are split between the claimant companies and he gets the crumbs. Composer Joakim Karud allows anyone to use his music royalty free which makes him a popular artist on YouTube. Lowne filed a claim to contest the copyright violation, but he only did it for one of his videos. If he filed a claim on every one of his videos, he could get three strikes and be suspended indefinitely from YouTube. Lowne is not the only YouTuber with this problem and the companies filing the copyright claim may have legitimate grounds:

“Sure enough, if one turns to the WhoSampled archive, Dreams is listed as having sampled Weaver of Dreams, a track from 1956 to which Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC and Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. own the copyrights. If the trend of claims against ‘Dreams’ continues, there is potential for huge upheaval on YouTube and elsewhere. Countless thousands of videos use the track and as a result it has become very well-known.”

To make matters even worse, YouTube issued an authorized statement that said “Dreams” was never listed in its official audio library. “Dreams” was listed as a royalty free music on an unofficial channel that claimed to be the YouTube audio library. Oh boy! It is even more important to double check if music is royalty free. Maybe it would be better to use music in the public domain or hire someone to compose original music?

Whitney Grace, December 10, 2019

Amazon Ads Frustrate Shoppers

December 10, 2019

Is it wise for Amazon to put advertising revenue above customer satisfaction? The Washington Times reports, “Ad Business a Boon for Amazon but a Turn-Off for Shoppers.” Amazon now intersperses its organic search results with paid ads, distinguishable only by a small gray “Sponsored” label. Those that appear at the top of the results can be misleading—they are not actually the top results.

Amazon started mixing its shopping platform with its ad service in 2014 and has since beat out Microsoft to become the third-largest online ad platform (after Google and Facebook). It has a peculiar advantage—many shoppers have become accustomed to starting their product searches at Amazon, bypassing search engines like Google and Bing altogether. However, will that change as it gets harder and harder for users to find what they are actually looking for on the site? Reporter Joseph Pisani writes:

“Advertising is one of Amazon’s fastest-growing businesses, helping to offset some of its more expensive endeavors like one-day delivery, which is hugely popular with customers but also a drain on the company. Amazon hasn’t said exactly how much it makes from ads, but its ‘other’ business is mostly made up of advertising, which brought in $9.3 billion in the first nine months of this year, up 38% from the same period the year before. Amazon launched its auction-like ad platform in 2014. Advertisers bid for specific keywords, similar to what search giant Google does. Skippy, for example, can bid to show up when someone searches for ‘peanut butter’ or its rival, ‘Jif.’ Some keywords can cost under a buck. Sought-after ones could cost much more. Amazon gets paid only when someone clicks on the ad, even if the product isn’t purchased. The company said its sponsored ads are a way for customers to find products they may be interested in. And it uses machine-learning technology to try and show ads that are relevant to shoppers. But that doesn’t always happen.”

For example, the author of a recent book about human lifespan and aging felt compelled to warn his followers—supplement makers had pegged his readership as potential customers and paid to have their ads show up whenever someone searched for his book. Not only did it make it harder for readers to find the book, it kind of looked like the author endorsed the supplements; he most certainly did not. Though Amazon removed those ads after the Associated Press got involved, the potential for such tactics remains.

Cynthia Murrell, December 10, 2019

Vaporware? You Are Not Aware of Agile?

December 9, 2019

I spotted an item of Slashdot  which referred to documents filed in a court. It is possible— maybe, perhaps, sort of — that these documents contain a suggestion of an anomalous situation. Slashdot’s post “Former Oracle Product Manager Claims He Was Forced Out For Refusing to Sell Vaporware” decribes what may be viewed by some as unifornication. Unlike a regular unicorn, the approach is presented in this way:

The problem, according to the complaint, is that Oracle was asking Daramola to sell vaporware — a charge the company denies. “Daramola gradually became aware that a large percentage of the major projects to which he was assigned were in ‘escalation’ status with customers because Oracle had sold his customers software products it could not deliver, and that were not functional,” the complaint says. Daramola realized that his job “was to ratify and promote Oracle’s repeated misrepresentations to customers” about the capabilities of its software, “under the premise of managing the customer’s expectations.” The ostensible purpose of stringing customers along in this manner was to buy time so Oracle could actually implement the capabilities it was selling, the court filing states.

Is the idea worthy of a new word, unifornication? DarkCyber is not sure. What may be hypothesized is that this rare and unusual tactic of selling illusory software is the physical interaction of a marketer and a customer who bought a solution. Hence, unifornication may capture the spirit of such interaction. One promises; another pays. The back and forth without a fully functioning system is one facet of unifornication.

There may be other techniques available. Those may be discussed in the mellow glow of the afterwords.

Stephen E Arnold, December 9, 2019

Apple, Google Redraw Maps upon Russian Demand

December 7, 2019

Ukraine, the U.S., the European Union, and most of the world have all refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia following the 2014 annexation. Apple, though, seems to have taken Russia’s side—at least as far as anyone who uses Apple Maps or Apple’s weather app from within Russia can see. There, Crimea has been cemented as part of Russia in the online references. Everywhere else Crimea shows as a separate territory. The BBC reports, “Apple Changes Crimea Map to Meet Russian Demands.” The write-up states:

“The State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, said in a statement: ‘Crimea and Sevastopol now appear on Apple devices as Russian territory.’ Russia treats the naval port city of Sevastopol as a separate region. The BBC tested several iPhones in Moscow and it appears the change affects devices set up to use the Russian edition of Apple’s App Store. Apple had been in talks with Russia for several months over what the State Duma described as ‘inaccuracy’ in the way Crimea was labelled. The tech giant originally suggested it could show Crimea as undefined territory – part of neither Russia nor Ukraine. But Vasily Piskaryov, chairman of the Duma security and anti-corruption committee, said Apple had complied with the Russian constitution. He said representatives of the company were reminded that labelling Crimea as part of Ukrainian territory was a criminal offence under Russian law, according to Interfax news agency. ‘There is no going back,’ Mr Piskaryov said. ‘Today, with Apple, the situation is closed – we have received everything we wanted.’”

Apple was not the first to cave on this issue, however; we learn Google did the same thing with Google Maps back in March. Why would tech companies agree to support Russia’s claim when most of the world does not? Apple has made no comment on the issue, but it looks like the almighty ruble is indeed a powerful thing.

Cynthia Murrell, December 7, 2019

Gamer Company Provides High School Science Club Management Methods Case Example

December 6, 2019

Razer is an ecommerce and product business serving that wonderful community of online game players. Now the company is the subject of a write up, which may be false, partially false, partially true, or true. Figuring out which these days is difficult.

Razer is in the spotlight which “is a desktop streaming camera with a powerful, multi-step ring light that you can dim or brighten on command.”


“So smile,” says “Razer CEO Berated And Threatened His Staff, Former Employees Say.” The write up reports in the glow of the Razer Kiyo ring light:

Tan [the top dog at Razer] has developed a reputation for being a tempestuous, volatile boss…

The company has a snake mascot. DarkCyber is not sure if the snake is a refugee from a high school science club herpaterium or just an emotion charged symbol like those cataloged by Juan Eduardo Cirlot. In case you are curious, more about Cirlot appears here.

The point of the write up is that Razer’s management approach is remembered by employees as:

  • Infused with top down control
  • Volatile management behavior
  • Demonstrations of management dissatisfaction
  • Curse words with a handful of faves recalled by former employees
  • Yelling
  • Abrupt terminations but the article does not pinpoint major holidays as the best time to allow an individual to find his/her future elsewhere.

Sound familiar?

DarkCyber characterizes the approach to motivating the game hardware company’s professionals illustrates HSSCMM or high school science club management methods.

Why document this approach in DarkCyber? The reason is that a certain very large online advertising company could be amping up its HSSCMM procedures.

There may be some lessons to be learned by studying Razer and streaming the results to the faithful.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2019

Amazon Enterprise Search: Kendra

December 6, 2019

Years ago I worked on a small project for a company connected to the film industry. At one of those Hollywood “lunches”, a person pointed across the restaurant and said, “That’s Kendra.” I had zero idea who or what a Kendra was. It turned out that “Kendra” was famous, a star. She was a Playboy bunny! She looked like most of the other female appearing types in the room.

Amazon’s Kendra is not a Playboy bunny. Kendra is Amazon’s new online enterprise search service. It looks pretty much like all the other online enterprise search services in the room.

There’s a difference. This enterprise search service is mounted on the Amazon platform, and it has open source goodness, some proprietary fashion flair, and hooks into numerous good looking advanced AWS services.

Amazon says in “Amazon Kendra”:

Amazon Kendra is a highly accurate and easy to use enterprise search service that’s powered by machine learning. Kendra delivers powerful natural language search capabilities to your websites and applications so your end users can more easily find the information they need within the vast amount of content spread across your company.

I am not sure what “accurate” means, but it sure differentiates the service from the odd ball results some enterprise search solutions deliver. The “easy” part is also relative and subjective. Which of AWS’s more than 170 functions and services does Kendra get along with? Too soon to tell.

Some observations:

  • The enterprise search vendors who have convinced venture capitalists to invest hundreds of millions in enterprise search and retrieval may be curious about Amazon’s sudden aggressiveness
  • The enterprise search companies themselves now have to decide: Put services on AWS or go elsewhere despite the costs and resources required
  • The AWS customers may want to kick the tires of the AWS service and postpone a procurement of a venture funded old school search engine. (Talking about NLP and machine learning is one thing. Delivering productized services from an AWS dashboard is another.)

Net net: For organizations struggling to federate and provide blockchain centric information access management, Amazon’s Kendra might look quite fetching.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2019

Google Avoids a Prince Andrew Like Interview

December 5, 2019

Yep, prime time. After a football game. A hard hitting interview with a PR message. You can read and watch some of the talk in the self referential, Google indexing friendly news story “How Does YouTube Handle the Site’s Misinformation, Conspiracy Theories and Hate? YouTube’s Mission Is to Give Everyone a Voice, But the Site’s Open Platform Has Opened the Door to Hate. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Tells Lesley Stahl What the Company’s Doing about It.

Now that’s a headline.

A couple words in this 43 word headline caught my attention. First the word “mission”, the phrase “everyone a voice,” “tells,” and “company’s doing.” Interview? More like a sales pitch, perhaps?

Very PR like. Almost Prince Andrewish.

The main point: The quantity of video is a problem, an excuse. The numbers sure sound impressive.

What’s the fix? Limit the video uploads. Presto. No more cost challenges. Editorial guidelines. Responsibility. Conformance to the laws of nation states. (Think how silly Apple looks changing the maps to make the Russian government happy. Crimea? Just upload a YouTube video and make your voice heard, right?)

Users are, after all is said and done, the point of the service.

Here’s a telling comment in response to a question about providing a YouTube video of murders in New Zealand:

Susan Wojcicki: This event was unique because it was really a made-for-Internet type of crisis. Every second there was a new upload. And so our teams around the world were working on this to remove this content. We had just never seen such a huge volume.

Yep, unique plus the fact that Google/YouTube was obviously unprepared. Like this sign:

Image result for plan ahead

Prince Andrewish or not? You decide:

  1. A lack of awareness of the situation Google sustains?
  2. Is there a “certain blindness” to examine the content findable by individuals who know where to look for stolen software’s unlock codes, images of interest to bad actors, and content designed to promote activities which can harm a person?
  3. Is a slow waltz required to mute the perception that advertising revenue is more important than Austrian concert master virtues?
  4. Why not explain that the goal of YouTube is engagement is to keep children and the young at heart clicking, viewing, and sticking. The more engagement, the greater the real estate for ads. (See item 3 above, please.)

Prince Andrew’s train wreck interview underscored his interesting behavior and caused the Queen to take away his flag. (Yep, he had his own flag!) Google still has its flag for the sovereign state of Google, just a new and beloved leader.

Did the CBS news team get a Google mouse pad before leaving the Google office? Probably but the big numbers about the YouTube videos may have left the team addled. Big is good. PR is gooder. Google advertising? The absolute goodest.

This interview was not Andrewesque; it was Googley.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2019

AWS: A Semi Critical Look

December 3, 2019

DarkCyber found “Unbundling AWS” interesting. We decided to label the write up as semi critical. We will reveal the reasons at the foot of this post.

The write up explains one reason why AWS has become one of the leaders in cloud service. (Yes, we are hedging our bets because it is not clear how the cloud vendors in China are keeping score for their “growth.”)

The article includes this chart. Its story is clear. AWS is growing. The article highlights some important attributes of Amazon. First, there’s the old saw about AWS being a juggernaut, a word I like better than flywheel. Second, there’s this observation:

Getting a new software product to market has never been as cheap or fast as it is today, despite the fact that the surface area of in-depth knowledge required to build high-performing software has never been higher.


DarkCyber thinks this is a very, very important facet of Amazon’s approach. Why? You will have to wait until my chapter in a forthcoming book becomes available or attend my lecture in Washington, DC, on December 11, 2019, at the DG Vision conference.

Third, the article includes this important observation, often overlooked by retail crazed MBAs:

The availability of open source tooling and the ease of access to infrastructure on AWS and other IaaS providers, and infrastructure turning into software, which means it’s programmable and, increasingly, thinly-sliced.

Big implications ahead, gentle reader.

But what DarkCyber found particularly rewarding was the overt statement that entrepreneurs will just use AWS. We noted this bulleted list:

  • “Frameworks and deployment tools that make application software agnostic to the underlying infrastructure provider. Things like the Serverless framework, containers + orchestration, or IAC tools like Saltstack, Terraform, Ansible, etc
  • The overlapping areas of logging, APM, and monitoring. This is a hot area right now, with IPO’s like Dynatrace or Datadog, or acquisitions like SignalFX. Related: Cloudwatch is terrible!
  • Data science workflows – this is my subjective, anecdotal experience, but most data scientists I know have a preference for Google Cloud for a lot of their work, and custom hardware like TPUs likely play a role here
  • Authentication and identity – Auth0, LoginRadius, Okta, etc … where it may make sense to have a third-party handle
  • Paradigms that lead to different stack choices – I’m a big proponent of the JAMstack, and it’s a prime example of a paradigm where AWS may not be a natural choice for parts of this architecture. I believe that we will continue to see this and other new architectural paradigms evolve.”

We think the write up gets one thing off center; specifically:

we should all be so lucky to be at a scale and level of popularity where this becomes a problem. It’s hard for me to see a lot of cases where AWS will be competing with companies before they reach scale.

We think AWS will compete with its entrepreneurs and big buck customers. Amazon Essentials makes that clear.

Stephen E Arnold, December 3, 2019

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