Intel Reminds Apple That It Is a Horse Around Company

January 19, 2021

I read “Intel Suggests It Will Wait for New CEO to Make Critical Decisions to Fix Manufacturing Crisis.” The headline suggests that Intel cannot manufacture chips as it did in the glory days of Silicon Valley. Wow, who knew?

There are a couple of other gems in this “real” news story too; to wit:

Intel allegedly embraces this view of Apple, another small outfit in the computing business:

“We have to deliver better products to the PC ecosystem than anypossible thing that a lifestyle company in Cupertino” makes,Gelsinger told employees Thursday. That’s a derisive, ifgood-natured, reference to Apple and the location of its corporateheadquarters.

Yep, lifestyle. Apple, I would remind Intel, has managed to enter the chip business without any of the quantum computing lynchpin baloney like the Horse Ridge innovation. That’s a technical achievement which strikes me as a combination of marketing, jargon, and horse feathers. Maybe a horse collar or a saddle blanket?

Another interesting passage asserts:

In a note to clients after Gelsinger’s hiring [the new CEO], Raymond James analystChris Caso said Intel doesn’t have time to deliberate.

Okay, time. There’s the ever chipper AMD, the Qualcomm outfit, a couple of eager beavers in lands which favor zesty spices. Oh, yes, and there’s the Apple operation, which sells products from pushcarts.

The article details the failures and fantasies of a company which has created Horse Ridge. Unfortunately instead of a stallion, the computational cowboys are riding Norwegian Fjord horses in the chip derbies.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2021

Google Deflections: After 20 Years of Gnawing, Are Rationalizations Long in the Tooth?

January 15, 2021

Two items snagged my limited attention this morning (January 15, 2021). The first is the write up called “Google Completes Fitbit Acquisition.” The mom-and-pop online ad business has purchased Fitbit. Some government authorities have not officially said, “Hey, okay, Google.” But the mom-and-pop shop has quite a bit of work to do. The digital calendars are brimming with important meetings. I did note this statement in the mom-and-pop shop’s blog post:

This deal has always been about devices, not data…

Yep, I think I have heard this explanation before. But perhaps I am misremembering comments made to me by a no-departed Googler. Yep, Google wants to do devices. Look at the wood the company put behind the Loon balloon. That’s a heck of a device. Oh, there is the “new” Google mobile device. Another horsehide ball knocked aloft.

I also spotted this write up a few minutes ago: “Google Throwing Its Weight Around by Burying Links to Some Commercial News Sites, Experts Say.” Some discontents in Australia apparently believe that the mom-and-pop online information service is discriminating. I circled this passage:

Google has decided to hide some Australian news sites from its search results, in a move that is being interpreted as a response to the Australian Government attempting to make the tech giant pay for original news content.

Google’s ever efficient customer service professionals named A Google Spokesperson allegedly said:

The search algorithm tweak affects a small percentage of users and buries links to some commercial news sites …Every year we conduct tens of thousands of experiments in Google Search…”

Two explanations to the mere country with sheep and coal and a darned good law enforcement apparatus. Maybe I should say, “Excellent enforcement?” Yep, excellent.

Let’s step back. Here are three rationales:

  • We don’t care about data. We care about devices.
  • We make a change only a teeny weensy percentage of our users are affected.
  • We do a lot of testing, and maybe — just maybe — a test affects a user’s experience.

These rationalizations are intended to sound oh-so reasonable. But the one I was disappointed to note excluded from these two articles is the bigly one:

It is easier to say “sorry” than ask for permission.

What else does a mom-and-pop shop need to do to stay in business? Formulate you own answer, gentle reader.

I can’t answer. The dog ate my homework. That excuse is long in the tooth.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2021

With Amazon Reviews, Look Beyond the Stars

January 14, 2021

We have covered Amazon’s persistent problem with fake reviews for products on its platform. Ars Technica discusses a slightly different issue in, “Amazon Still Hasn’t Fixed Its Problem with Bait-and-Switch Reviews.” Writer Timothy B. Lee describes his effort to find a good drone for his kids. A certain selection enjoyed thousands of five-star reviews—great! Many shoppers would stop there, hit “add to cart,” and be on their way. However, Lee actually checked out the text of the best reviews and discovered they were singing the praises of a certain brand of honey. Honey! How one would confuse the rich, golden sweetener with a flying head-bonker is beyond us. Lee writes:

“When I sorted the reviews by date, I saw that the most recent reviewers actually had bought a drone and they were overwhelmingly not giving it five stars. ‘Bought this for my Grandson,’ a customer wrote on December 26. ‘He played with it for 2 hours before it broke and is no longer working.’ He gave the drone one star. But the older reviews were for honey. Apparently, the manufacturer had tricked Amazon into displaying thousands of reviews for an unrelated product below its drone, helping the drone to unfairly rise to the top of Amazon’s search results. The story was similar for the second and third results in my drone search. Both had thousands of reviews with five-star averages. In both cases, many of the five-star reviews were obviously for other products—including a bottle of vodka, a bracelet, and a box of Christmas cards. In both cases, the most recent reviews were almost all negative reviews from customers who had actually bought the drones. One reviewer claimed that a drone had scratched their son’s face.”

Ay, Caramba! This sellers’ scam has been going on for some time now; we’re reminded Buzzfeed covered it over two years ago. We doubt Amazon will ever raise a finger to fix the problem—that would cost money, which they would prefer to avoid. As much as the company blusters about putting the customer first, it is really the bottom line at the top of its agenda.

Cynthia Murrell, January 14, 2021

TikTok: The Fluttering Sound Is Hand Waving

January 13, 2021

I read “TikTok: All Under-16s’ Accounts Made Private.” The write up explains:

TikTok users aged under 16 will have their accounts automatically set to private, as the app introduces a series of measures to improve child safety. Approved followers only can comment on videos from these accounts. Users will also be prevented from downloading any videos created by under-16s. TikTok said it hoped the changes would encourage young users to “actively engage in their online privacy journey”.

That sounds good. But is it the sound of hand waving in the thick atmosphere of appearing to do something when nothing is really being done?

Questions the Beeb’s write up sparked are:

  • How will TikTok know the verifiable age of a new user?
  • How will TikTok know if an over age user pays an under age user to create an account?
  • How will TikTok verify that “all” accounts are made private?
  • Won’t system administrators and others have access to these data?

Flutter, flutter, flutter.

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2021

Google: Doing the Travel Agent Thing

January 13, 2021

Just a brief honk to draw our dear readers’ attention to in interesting development. India’s Zee News tells us, “Now, Book Vistara Flight Ticket Directly from Google.” Yes, one can now purchase a ticket for Vistara, an airline that operates in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, directly from one’s Google search. The succinct write-up reports:

“Vistara customers can directly search and book Vistara flights on Google through the integrated ‘Book on Google’ feature. Recently the airline adopted the New Distribution Capability (NDC), through a technology partnership with Amadeus, passengers will now be able to book Vistara flights while searching for them on Google. The biggest advantage is that now customers will be able to search and book air tickets, without getting redirected to any other website. Vistara airline is a joint venture of Tata and Singapore airlines.”

Amadeus is a travel technology company and NDC is an XML-based data transmission standard created specifically for airline ticket distribution. Users must log into their Google account to book their flights, which the service uses to manage contact and payment information. Naturally, one also chooses optional upgrades, baggage allowances, and seat selections here. Just one more way Google aims to save users a few clicks—and collect more of their data in the process.

Here’s an idea. Why not do an AirBnB / VBO mash up with some Google secret spices?

Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2021

High School Science Club Management Guidelines: The View from an Engineer Working at Home Alone

January 11, 2021

I have been collecting examples of high school management manifested in high technology companies. I am interested in online, but any firm which embodies the elitism, the “we know better” attitude, and “it’s easier to say sorry that ask for permission” are fair game.

I read “What Silicon Valley “Gets” about Software Engineers that Traditional Companies Do Not” is an outstanding essay. It captures the essence of high school science club management method or HSSCMM.

What are these principles? Let me compress them and urge you to read the source document while thinking about these points:

  • Unbridled data capture and the use of these data to manipulate users, advertisers, partners, regulators, and probably moms and dads
  • The “we know better” view of solving a problem
  • Clever is more important than historical context.

Now let’s look at the compressed points from the source essay:

  1. Software engineers have to be left alone.
  2. Software engineers have to solve problems, not function as librarians or amanuenses
  3. Software engineers want to know everything we define as relevant
  4. Software engineers want to have access to fundamental data; that is, revenue, trade secrets, legal deals, etc.
  5. We don’t want to be hamstrung by hierarchies. Anyone we identify as a useful resource must be available to the software engineers.
  6. Software engineers have to be made and kept happy; otherwise, well, maybe bad things will happen.
  7. Software engineers deserve more money than any other employee in the organization.

This is a very good list. Now let me pose a few questions for an intrepid reader to ponder:

What type of organization emerges when these principles are implemented?

What’s the likelihood of fair and equal treatment of employees who are not engineers?

What’s the likelihood of actions which “break things” perceived as inefficient?

What is the role of ethical decision making in this type of organization?

For me, we are watching the fruits of the science club’s approach to people, processes, and procedures transform society.

How is that working out? Snort, ho ho, chuckle sound effects, please.

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2021

Oracle: Dons White Hat and Tries to Lasso the StreamScam Stallion

January 6, 2021

Oracle is only of passing interest to me. I paid attention to Oracle’s search efforts which I think once involved Applied Linguistics, TripleHop, Endeca, and a natural language processing company crafting smart software to replace trained human customer support types. Oh, I did check out Oracle SES. As I recall, the first “s” meant secure. The idea was that Oracle had discovered that most vendors of enterprise search provided systems which were not focused on security. Just getting these overhyped and jargon infused puppies to behave consumed quite a bit of developer, MBA, and ultimately CPA energy.

I read “Oracle Exposes largest CTV Ad Fraud Operation Ever” reminded me of the Oracle Secure Enterprise Search hook: Enterprise search vendors did not provide Oracle-grade security. That was, as it turned out, mostly true. The problem was that organizations purchasing enterprise search were not buying security. The organizations were trying to find a way to deal with the increasing flows of digital information. Prior to the implosion of Delphes, Entopia, and Fast Search & Transfer — tools were not widely available. Today, of course, an enterprising and enthusiastic developer can download or just use a variant of Lucene/Solr. Amazon and IBM support these open source solutions, and developers of proprietary systems like Coveo, Mindbreeze, and others have to put in extra hours on their sales Peloton’s to generate sustainable revenues. Oracle’s run at enterprise search as security disasters went nowhere.

Now Oracle has donned its white hat and is now lassoing or trying to lasso the online advertising sector. In my research, we have encountered numerous reports of online advertising fraud. Making the charges stick to the Google, its subsidiaries, outfits like Facebook, and the third party intermediaries has been difficult. Gobbledygook explanations and intentional complexity are designed to keep those advertising dollars flowing.

The StreamScam is probably the first in a series of oracular pronouncements about alleged fraud: Click, view time, reach, etc., etc. The write up states:

StreamScam perpetrators capitalized on vulnerabilities in the technology used to improve the video viewing experience in CTV. Known as Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI), the technology combines content and ads into a single video stream that can play seamlessly with no delays on end-user devices, such as Roku, AppleTV, and FireTV.

The idea is that advertisers don’t know if online advertising generates sales. Marketers emphasize misty notions of brand and reach. But what’s an advertiser to do? The answer is that newspaper, television, and radio have been replaced among certain desirable market segments by streaming, Twitter, and podcasts. Therefore, a device like a smart TV seems to straddle some of these technology. Put money into connected televisions, YouTube, Facebook, and maybe — just maybe — TikTok.

I agree with “CTV Ad Fraud Schemes Like the One Oracle Exposed Will Become More Common But That Won’t Affect Marketers’ Spend.” I would, however, add a caveat to this write up’s assertion about not impacting what marketers spend and where; to wit: What choice does an advertiser have? Old fashioned direct mail? When the post office worked, that was an option. How about telemarketing? Some desirable demographics don’t answer their mobile’s chirps. What about billboard advertising? Covid and work from home may have reduced the impact of these view enhancing objects of art.

With more and more GenX and millennials positioning themselves as experts in social media, online ads are necessary complements to influencer campaigns. The Google ad purveyors are reassuring and armed with data illustrating that online ads really do work. Don’t like the Google rep, check out the Facebook pitch with micro and nano targeting that really works better than Googzilla’s approach. Amazon, Apple, yes. Options.

Net net: Ad fraud is endemic. No one survives who documents it. But Oracle has a white hat and maybe will own TikTok some day. There’s gold at the end of the digital rainbow even though one end is in Beijing.

My take: “Whoa, StreamScam! The Lone Oracle is gonna break you down. Right, Don Quixote.” (Tonto is in Covid lockdown.)

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2021

Telecom Security: An Oxymoron?

January 4, 2021

Two ideas: First, an unanticipated suggestion for bad actors and a reminder that the telco pros at AT&T are more like the New York Jets than the A team at the old AT&T IBM facility in Piscataway.

I read “Nashville Bombing Froze Wireless Communications, Exposed Achilles’ Heel’ in Regional Network.” USA Today is not my go to source for high technology information. One of my research team was a technology columnist, and I recall his comments about those who reviewed his write ups. Those mentioned at lunch were different from the topics my team and I discussed. Remember those Dummy books from some rolling-in-dough dead tree publisher. My recollection is that the technology write ups were simpler, edited by the estimable Gannett to TV Digest readability. It seems that USA Today pushed its content barriers with this USA Today write up about the Nashville incident included some information of use to bad actors. Here are a couple of examples:

  • An injury to one’s Achilles’ heel means crippling. To a pro football player like AT&T, that’s not good.
  • Single-point-of-failure. For a professional telecom like AT&T, this means zero effective redundancy, fail over, or smart route arounds. (Was the pre Judge Green AT&T built this way?)
  • Three feet of water pooled where the back up generators lived. Water and generators, water and batteries – quite a one-two combo like an ailing quarterback and an ineffective but expensive offensive line.

Okay, enough already.

What do these factoids say to a person struggling for an idea to impair a major US telco? Maybe six RVs at regional centers conveniently located near fiber rich interstates? What about pulling a Quinn in front of Nashville-type facilities simultaneously with a half dozen cheap RVs?

Sound like a working idea?

The USA Today makes the idea more appealing with the statement from an AT&T professional:

Our systems are not redundant enough.

No kidding. Is it necessary, dear Gannett, to provide a roadmap for bad actors? Let’s hope the write ups in USA Today are not crafted with an eye toward readers who are looking for info between the lines. That takes more thought than making something simple.

And for the pros at the AT&T practice field, why not up your game. Less direct marketing of a failing TV venture and more of the old fashioned Ma Bell?

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2020

Backscratching: No Big Deal, Of Course, Among Science Club Members

January 1, 2021

I read “Facebook : Inside the Google-Facebook Ad Deal at the Heart of a Price-Fixing Lawsuit.” The write up is interesting because it reveals how high school science club thinking operates. I learned:

Header bidding helped website publishers circumvent Google’s exchanges for buying and selling ads across the web. The exchange auctions ad space to the highest bidder during the split second it takes a webpage to load. Header bidding allowed the publishers to directly solicit bids from multiple ad exchanges at once, leading to more favorable prices for publishers. By 2016, about 70% of major publishers used the tool, according to the states’ lawsuit. Google worried a big rival might embrace header bidding, such as the Facebook Audience Network ad service, or FAN, cracking Google’s profitable monopoly over ad tools, the states allege. The Facebook service said it paid publishers $1.5 billion in 2018, the last time it provided such details on its financial payouts.

This seems to boil down to a slick way to ensure that maximum money rolls in from certain types of advertisers.

Here’s the swizzle:

the states allege in the final suit, Google gave Facebook special treatment. Among other things, it allowed Facebook to send bids directly into Google’s widely used software, known as an ad server, the draft lawsuit says. Typically, bidders go through an exchange, which sends the winner on to Google’s server. By circumventing the middleman, Facebook could face less competition and save money. Google charged Facebook 5% to 10% on each transaction compared with the standard fee on Google’s exchange of around 20%, and it barred Facebook from discussing pricing terms publicly, according to the draft lawsuit.

What’s up? Nothing. Think of the deal as the lunch at one of those College Bowl type of competitions for science club members.

No big deal, of course.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2020

Finding Google Maps: Sundar Pichai, I Presume?

December 31, 2020

The Google is not getting the respect it once assumed was its droit du seigneur. A recent example is this comment from “Google Maps’ Moat is Evaporating”:

I suspect we’re at the tail end of the golden era for Google Maps. They appear, to me, to be acting from a place of fear and conservatism rather than innovation.

The Google service under the microscope is Google’s ever-so-helpful implementation of a former Sun Microsystems’ observation that when one drives a car with zippy map technology, the map will show you where a gas station is.

That seems quaint now with maps everywhere, even when one does not want them; for example, in a Google search result for certain types of information like C-UAS methods or FPAAs.

The write up strikes me as gleeful in a way. Hey, Google, you are losing it.

Here’s an example:

The trouble is, Google isn’t the only game in town anymore. If they keep alienating their customers and pursuing a proprietary data strategy at all costs, they’re going to continue to lose ground to competition while spending more than ever just to tread water.

Yikes, competition, once thought to be extinct at the GOOG.

Then the cow analogy, an animal some view as sacred:

If Google doesn’t start taking the Google Maps Platform seriously, they’ll slowly but surely find themselves alone on an island of inferior, less frequently updated, and expensive-to-maintain proprietary data. A new generation of innovative apps built on top of OSM will feast like piranhas on a cow treading water.

What’s the cost of digital maps lost in the corporate wilderness? Navigate to “Google Maps Changes a Route after the Drama of Young People Lost on a Ghost Road.” With no local businesses buying ads, resources are better directed elsewhere. Sounds plausible to me, but I am not young, lost, or on a ghost road.

The author may want to make sure the Google cow does not have swim fins.

Stephen E Arnold, December 30, 2020

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