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Palantir Thiel: An If Then Chess Move?

July 22, 2016

I read “The Peter Principle: Why Thiel’s GOP Convention Speech Will Be about Him and Not about Silicon Valley.” Interesting write up but I think the “about” part is possibly incorrect. I think the speech just might have been about Palantir, procurement, and displacing the traditional US government defense contractors. The stakes are not ego; the stakes are hundreds of millions in technology business. Silicon Valley and money. It is possible that some Palantir-think informs the political enthusiasms of Mr. Thiel.

In the write up, I noted this passage.

The eccentric investor is not like anyone else in tech.

That is okay. Just like his chess moves, the expected approach may not disrupt an strong opponent’s game. But for those who are not chess masters, the unusual or less probable maneuver can open some doors.

I also circled this paragraph:

He’s been vocal about that at many political gatherings here over the years, including one where those present said he even freaked Tea Party favorite Rep. Paul Ryan out with his thoughts on the need to tear down government as much as possible. It’s not just regulation that Thiel hates, it’s the whole stinking mess, and he has not been shy about saying so. Thus, most people who know him usually give you an oh-that-guy look, shrug their shoulders and move on to easier topics. And many of those who like him personally and call him a “dear friend” are even perplexed, going as far as not talking to him of late because of his Trump support.

The statement is almost edging toward a motivation which I think may be operating. How is this for a possibility:

Palantir wants to provide systems and software to the US government. Mr. Thiel becomes an insider to Mr. Trump, who, surprising many, becomes the president of the good, old USA. As an insider, Mr. Thiel can bring some pressure to bear on those in the government who do not demonstrate the type of enthusiasm for Palantir Technologies which are warranted. The irrational decision making and the failure to follow procurement rules might become a focal point for a Trump-centric administration. Checkmate, US Army. Palantir wins.

There are many moves in chess. This might be one of them with Mr. Thiel looking four or five moves ahead. Critics of Mr. Thiel just might be overlooking an important driver for his Trump support — Palantir’s financial and procurement future. If Mr. Trump wins in November 2016, then Palantir can try to bring rationality to Palantir procurements by certain Federal entities. Just a thought, gentle reader. Just a mental chimera like opening up lines of attack for a bishop and a queen in chess.

Stephen E Arnold, July 22, 2016

Hewlett Packard: Surprise! Autonomy a Tough Sell

July 19, 2016

I read “Hewlett Packard Enterprise Reportedly Looking to Unload Autonomy Assets, Partners Think It’ll Be a Touch Sale.” The source is a cheerleader for outfits which resell other companies’ products. Of course, the resellers add value and perform magic. A good example is that after a company buys a search and content processing engine, a reseller (billed sometimes as a “partner”) has to make the system work. Fair enough in today’s world.

The write up explains:

HPE partners told CRN that the Autonomy software has never been a big seller in the channel, maintaining that HPE never provided partners with sufficient training and support to make the product a channel success.

Yikes. If a partner does not know the product – in this case, Autonomy – how will the savvy partner make a complex search and content processing work? Well, I assume this is a moot point because the write up says clearly, “Autonomy software has never been a big seller in the channel.” Yikes, yikes.

The write up explains:

Autonomy’s Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) technology, which analyzes data from emails, voice, video and social media to identify patterns, was supposed to give HP a unique offering in the big data analytics space. But according to partners, HP didn’t sufficiently train the channel to sell the technology.

Hmm. I think this is a bit repetitive, but who really cares? The point is that the write up wants to make it really clear that HPE dropped the partners into an information black hole, which is the opposite of the weird word infobesity.

I circled this statement in red ink red:

“HP partners had no clue how to sell Autonomy or Vertica — and more importantly, how to build and invest in their businesses to support these products,” the partner told CRN. “I think most partners would welcome the sale of both of those businesses.”

My view is that Hewlett Packard in whatever incarnation it is has compiled an interesting management record in the last few years. Business school case study fodder for some. For me, it is one of the defining examples of what happens when hyperbole gets ahead of what search and content processing systems can provide; to wit:

  • Startling complexity
  • Hard to control costs
  • Mismatch between what the systems output and what the users expect.

Perhaps an investment bank will step in and try to pull off an Allen & Company-Convera-type play? Worth watching.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2016

Recommind Follows BRS, IDI Basis, Fulcrum, and Nstein

July 19, 2016

OpenText is, by golly, one of the outfits which “owns” more search and retrieval technology than any other firm I can name. I read “OpenText Lives Up to Promise, Acquires Recommind.” The write up points out:

Just a week after it announced it was selling off $600 million worth of senior debt notes to fund future acquisitions, OpenText dropped $163 million to acquire Recommind, an e-discovery and information analytics provider.

The write up explains that Recommind “could generate between $70 and $80 million of annualized revenues.” This is a hefty sum for a system which has in my mind been dumped into the Autonomy-type search system pigeon hole. (If anyone is interested, I have a profile of Recommind technology. Write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com for details.) Frankly I was surprised at the modest size of the deal. What would Recommind have been worth if it had added Big Data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence to its system? On the other hand, maybe Recommind did exactly that.

Several observations:

  • Search and content processing systems incur significant technological debt. This means that the software system has be fed regular injections of real cash to work, keep customers happy, and keep pace with the competition
  • A vendor with multiple systems has to figure out exactly what system to pitch to a potential customer. This is often difficult if the prospect asks such questions as, “What is Nstein’s capability in terms of Recommind’s functions?” Or, “What search system is included with RedDot and what other options are available to install today and use tomorrow?”
  • Portfolio search and content processing vendors are rare birds in today’s corporate jungle. IBM is similar, and its financial performance suggests that having numerous search and content processing arrows in its quiver does not seem to hit the financial bull’s eye.

OpenText, in my view, is a company which may have to make very hard decisions about what technology debt to retire. The interest on that debt could, if left unmanaged, could lead to financial headaches.

Stephen E Arnold, July 19, 2016

Defending Against Java Deserialization Ransomware

July 13, 2016

What is different about the recent rash of ransomware attacks against hospitals (besides the level of callousness it takes to hold the well-being of hospital patients for ransom)? CyberWatch brings us up to date in,  “My Layman’’s Terms: The Java Deserialization Vulnerability in Current Ransomware.” Writer Cheryl Biswas begins by assuring us it is practicality, not sheer cruelty, that has hackers aiming at hospitals. Other entities, like law enforcement agencies, which rely on uninterrupted access to their systems to keep people safe are also being attacked. Oh, goody.

The problem begins with a vulnerability at the very heart of any Java-based system, the server. And here we thought open source was more secure than proprietary software. Biswas informs us:

“This [ransomware] goes after servers, so it can bring down entire networks, and doesn’t rely on the social engineering tactics to gain access.  It’s so bad US-CERT has issued this recent advisory. I’ve laid out what’s been made available on just how this new strain of ransomware works. And I’ve done it in terms to help anybody take a closer look at the middleware running in their systems currently. Because a little knowledge could be dangerous thing used to our advantage this time.”

The article goes on to cover what this strain of ransomware can do, who could be affected, and how. One key point—anything that accepts serialized Java objects could be a target, and many Java-based middleware products do not validate untrusted objects before deserialization.  See the article for more technical details, and for Biswas’ list of sources. She concludes with these recommendations:

“Needs to Happen:

“Enterprises must find all the places they use deserialized or untrusted data. Searching code alone will not be enough. Frameworks and libraries can also be exposed.

“Need to harden it against the threat.

“Removing commons collections from app servers will not be enough. Other libraries can be affected.

“Contrast Sec has a free tool for addressing issue.  Runtime Application Self-Protection RASP.  Adds code to deserialization engine to prevent exploitation.”

Organizations the world over must not put off addressing these vulnerabilities, especially ones in charge of health and safety.


Cynthia Murrell, July 13, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Get Them While They Are Hot: Microsoft Search APIs

July 11, 2016

If you want to buy some Microsoft smart APIs, now is the time. Navigate to Microsoft Azure and pick your API. On offer are some content processing APS like text search, image search, autosuggest, etc. How much are these goodies? Well, the fee varies with the number of transactions. What’s a “transaction”? Like Amazon AWS, you will find that out as you move forward, gentle reader. Here’s the display for the search API fees:


I know that these low contrast Web pages are just so easy to read. In a nutshell, you will owe the Microsofties by tier. The S1, S2, etc. remind me of IBM’s tiered prices. The number is dependent on how may transaction, which tier, and I assume any other special goodies one requires. Think in terms of blocks of $30.

Enjoy the taxi meter approach. In my experience, these work out really well for those selling services. I love metered, tiered prices with “transactions” left wonderfully fluid. Does the phrase “lock in” resonate? Does the concept of “price lift” have relevance? Have fun budgeting costs over a three to five year span.

Stephen E Arnold, July 11, 2016

Bad Actor Investments in Research

July 8, 2016

Want to chop your overhead? One easy way is to eliminate research and development. Most US companies are thinking long and hard about buying start ups to get innovative opportunities. Bad actors like hackers and online thieves are taking a slightly different approach. Navigate to “Hackers Investing 40% of Crime Proceeds in New Criminal Technologies.” Now this 40 percent number may be fluff, but the idea is an interesting one. Instead of recycling old exploits which smart networking monitoring services are able to thwart, the bad actors are doing the Thomas Edison thing: Some innovative, some borrowing, and some rethinking old methods (hybridization).

The write up highlights the innovation angle, stating:

Nikolay Nikiforov, an official spokesperson at Russia’s Ministry of Communications, told SC that investment of crime proceeds in new attack methods is mainly due to a change of priorities by hackers seen in recent years whereby they are no longer solely interested in attacks on the private bank accounts of individuals, but mainly targeting the breach of correspondent accounts of banks.

I find the moving upstream angle an intriguing one. What happens when US companies chop off spending for research and development? Do these outfits become more vulnerable? One of my former clients commented that his firm would worry about hacking when something happened. Yep, that’s enlightened thinking.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2016

Yahoo Acquisitions: The Marissa Mayer Drama

June 22, 2016

The word “all” in “All the Startups Yahoo Bought in the Last Few Years, and What Happened to Them” turned me off. I persisted and worked my way through the shopping list of outfits purchased by Yahoo since the Xoogler seized the steering wheel. Like Hewlett Packard, Yahoo has found itself in the spotlight. HP may have the marvel of the Autonomy acquisition, subsequent write down, and legal dust up crown. But Yahoo has been more profligate on its multi year shopping spree.

The write up points me to this write up, “Here’s What Happened To All 53 of Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo Acquisitions.” Another “all.” Sigh. The upside of the Xoogler on the bridge was:

When she took over in mid-2012, employees were so enthusiastic about her arrival that one even photoshopped her face on Obama-style “hope” posters and hung them up around the company’s headquarters. Mayer did her best to live up to lofty expectations. She deployed quick fixes to solve Yahoo’s morale problems, including expanding parental leave and hiring high-profile celebrities to run the company’s media division.

The downside? I read:

But what’s clear is that the MaVeNS and acquisitions rescue strategy hasn’t been able to save the company from itself, despite Mayer’s protestations that it was successful. It’s worth looking, then, at exactly why these deals were made, and what has happened since.

Yep, PowerPoint fever, which is a variant of Excel spreadsheet fever. The problem is that the digital representations are not reality.

I learned that the Xoogler took these types of decisions:

  • Shut down and “gutted” some of the acquisitions
  • Rolled some companies into “existing divisions”
  • A few companies are still “kicking”; for example, Tumblr.

I recommend that you work through the companies and the brief commentaries.

The way I read “Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Increased Spending after Secretly Agreeing with Investors to Cut Costs” undermines my confidence in the behavior of Xooglers. I thought ethical behavior was a core Google aptitude. Was I incorrect in this assumption?

What’s evident is that some Xooglers are outstanding PowerPoint types. The Excel expertise seems to be wanting. I assume the Board of Directors were convinced by the Xoogler’s digital confections. Savvy folks.

Stephen E Arnold, June 22, 2016

Bzzz. Bzzz, Hello, Ms. Android, It Is Time to Wake Up.

June 20, 2016

Here in rural Kentucky, I thought the Alphabet Google thing had no chinks in its digital armor. Search. Bingo. Loon balloons. Bingo. YouTube videos of cats. Bingo, bingo.

Then I read an allegedly accurate write up called “Huawei Hedges Bet on Google’s Android, Plans In-House OS.” The subtitle hinted as a fork, not a benign open source fork, but a rootin’, tootin’ go-our-own-way change of direction:

Like Samsung before it, Huawei hopes to have a “Plan B” should Android terms go bad.

China has a way of keeping some people alert. There is the communications dust up with Taiwan. There is the island in the sea thing. Then there is the Apple hassle. The middle kingdom seems to be front and center is food fairs too.

The write up reported:

To spearhead the development of an in-house operating system—and improve its Android skin—Huawei has hired former Apple designer Abigail Brody. The report says that the non-Android OS “isn’t far along” and is a “contingency measure” in case Google’s current Android terms become undesirable to Huawei.

Huawei is the number three smartphone OEM, behind Samsung and Apple. The Chinese company isn’t a huge deal in the West, though—a big portion of those sales come from Huawei’s home turf. Huawei is often seen as being in a position similar to Samsung’s, just at an earlier stage of development. Like Samsung, Huawei is a massive company. It’s the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer, and it designs its own SoCs. Now Huawei is taking another page from the Samsung playbook and is trying to develop an Android alternative.

The Alphabet Google thing now has to worry about another outfit nosing into the phone operating system business.

My thought is that South Korea is a bit more business friendly to the US than its neighbors to the north.

I am hoping the Alphabet Google thing does not suffer a challenge to its hegemony. After all, what’s the big deal when a US company suggests to a foreign government that it changes its ways. Look at the big picture, not a mere detail.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Ballmer Was Right: Google a One Trick Pony

June 4, 2016

Years ago Steve Ballmer allegedly said that Google was a one trick pony. In my Google Legacy (2004), I identified potential revenue streams for the Web search system. As time unspooled, my nifty diagram became less and less relevant. The early promise of diversified revenue at Google faded. Google, now the Alphabet thing, could not find a substantive stream of non search revenue. I was wrong about the Google. Ballmer, it seems, was spot on in his assessment.

I read “Advertising Will Always Dominate Google Despite New Tech Expansion, Says Ex CEO Eric Schmidt.” I learned:

…despite the exponential growth of these new tech formats, the money still lies, and will always lie, in advertising. This was the opinion of Google’s former chief executive Eric Schmidt, appearing just a week after the I/O conference at the Startup Fest Europe conference on May 24, to tell audiences that Google’s revenue stream is never likely to change.

Here’s the allegedly accurate statement I highlighted:

I have been at Google and Alphabet for 15 years and it has always been advertising and I suspect it will always be advertising, because advertising is such a large part of the global phenomena, and because our advertising is more accurate as a return on investment.

What does this mean for the moon shots? What about the myriad efforts to create an alternative to Facebook? Doomed from the start, perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, June 4, 2016

Artificial Intelligence: Let the Claims and Counter Claims Begin

June 3, 2016

Amazon has artificial intelligence. More important, Amazon has a gizmo which people seem to be buying. Google has artificial intelligence. The Google I/O conference was a litany of smart software choir members. Now Facebook is, according to “Facebook Is Using ‘Near-Human’ AI to Muscle in on Google’s Home Turf,” going to make life tough for the Alphabet kids.

Well, wouldn’t you know it. IBM is in the game as well. “IBM Is building Cognitive AI to Impact Every Decision Made,” which I assume means decisions at Amazon, Facebook, Google, and the other outfits in the artificial intelligence hyperbole parade.

I like the “every.”

According to the write up:

“If it’s digital, it’ll be cognitive,” explained IBM CEO Ginny Rometty in a wide-ranging discussion with Recode’s Kara Swisher on Wednesday during the annual Code Conference.

Another sweeping categorical affirmative. The logic might get a first year philosophy major in trouble, but this is the wild and crazy world of the really, really Big Thing. Big Data and predictive analytics, visualization, and the other faux Big Things have to step aside.

The write up quotes IBM’s chief cognitive humanoid as saying:

You aren’t going to stop it…the trend is gonna keep moving,” she said, noting that she thinks repetitive task jobs will take a hit, but new jobs in areas like data will emerge.As for AI being evil, Rometty said, “What really matters is who teaches these things. Watson is taught. It’s about the data you use and who is teaching.” She added that, in the case of health care, Watson is being taught by the world’s greatest oncologists.

First, Amazon has a consumer product with AI. Second, I thought the Weather Channel delivered [a] data useful to DCGS and [b] new professionals who have more applicable skills than the deadwood terminated by IBM.

Wrong again. I like the “every.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 3, 2016

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