February 24, 2017
We have good news and bad news for fans of government transparency. In their Secrecy News blog, the Federation of American Scientists’ reports, “Number of New Secrets in 2015 Near Historic Low.” Writer Steven Aftergood explains:
The production of new national security secrets dropped precipitously in the last five years and remained at historically low levels last year, according to a new annual report released today by the Information Security Oversight Office.
There were 53,425 new secrets (‘original classification decisions’) created by executive branch agencies in FY 2015. Though this represents a 14% increase from the all-time low achieved in FY 2014, it is still the second lowest number of original classification actions ever reported. Ten years earlier (2005), by contrast, there were more than 258,000 new secrets.
The new data appear to confirm that the national security classification system is undergoing a slow-motion process of transformation, involving continuing incremental reductions in classification activity and gradually increased disclosure. …
Meanwhile, ‘derivative classification activity,’ or the incorporation of existing secrets into new forms or products, dropped by 32%. The number of pages declassified increased by 30% over the year before.
A marked decrease in government secrecy—that’s the good news. On the other hand, the report reveals some troubling findings. For one thing, costs are not going down alongside classifications; in fact, they rose by eight percent last year. Also, response times to mandatory declassification requests (MDRs) are growing, leaving over 14,000 such requests to languish for over a year each. Finally, fewer newly classified documents carry the “declassify in ten years or less” specification, which means fewer items will become declassified automatically down the line.
Such red-tape tangles notwithstanding, the reduction in secret classifications does look like a sign that the government is moving toward more transparency. Can we trust the trajectory?
February 15, 2017
We read with some trepidation the Kansas City Business Journal’s article, “Former Perceptive’s Parent Gets Acquired for $3.6B in Cash.” The parent company referred to here is Lexmark, which bought up one of our favorite search systems, ISYS Search, in 2012 and placed it under its Perceptive subsidiary, based in Lenexa, Kentucky. We do hope this valuable tool is not lost in the shuffle.
Reporter Dora Grote specifies:
A few months after announcing that it was exploring ‘strategic alternatives,’ Lexmark International Inc. has agreed to be acquired by a consortium of investors led by Apex Technology Co. Ltd. and PAG Asia Capital for $3.6 billion cash, or $40.50 a share. Legend Capital Management Co. Ltd. is also a member of the consortium.
Lexmark Enterprise Software in Lenexa, formerly known as Perceptive Software, is expected to ‘continue unaffected and benefit strategically and financially from the transaction’ the company wrote in a release. The Lenexa operation — which makes enterprise content management software that helps digitize paper records — dropped the Perceptive Software name for the parent’s brand in 2014. Lexmark, which acquired Perceptive for $280 million in cash in 2010, is a $3.7 billion global technology company.
If the Lexmark Enterprise Software (formerly known as Perceptive) division will be unaffected, it seems they will be the lucky ones. Grote notes that Lexmark has announced that more than a thousand jobs are to be cut amid restructuring. She also observes that the company’s buildings in Lenexa have considerable space up for rent. Lexmark CEO Paul Rooke is expected to keep his job, and headquarters should remain in Lexington, Kentucky.
Cynthia Murrell, February 15, 2017
February 7, 2017
The article titled The Best Cities in the World for Book Lovers on Quartz conveys the data collected by the World Cities Culture Forum. That organization works to facilitate research and promote cultural endeavors around the world. And what could be a better measure of a city’s culture than its books? The article explains how the data collection works,
Led by the London mayor’s office and organized by UK consulting company Bop, the forum asks its partner cities to self-report on cultural institutions and consumption, including where people can get books. Over the past two years, 18 cities have reported how many bookstores they have, and 20 have reported on their public libraries. Hong Kong leads the pack with 21 bookshops per 100,000 people, though last time Buenos Aires sent in its count, in 2013, it was the leader, with 25.
New York sits comfortably in sixth place, but London, surprisingly, is near the bottom of the ranking with roughly 360 bookstores. Another measure the WCCF uses is libraries per capita. Edinburgh of all places surges to the top without any competition. New York is the only US city to even make the cut with an embarrassing 2.5 libraries per 100K people. By contrast, Edinburgh has 60.5 per 100K people. What this analysis misses out on is the size and beauty of some of the bookstores and libraries of global cities. To bask in these images, visit Bookshelf Porn or this Mental Floss ranking of the top 7 gorgeous bookstores.
Chelsea Kerwin, February 7, 2017
February 4, 2017
CopperEye hit my radar when I did a project for the now-forgotten Speed of Mind search system. CopperEye delivered high speed search in a patented hierarchical data management system. The company snagged some In-Q-Tel interest in 2007, but by 2009, I lost track of the company. Several of the CopperEye senior managers teamed to create the JustOne database, search and analytic system. One of the new company’s inventions is documented in “Apparatus, Systems, and Methods for Data Storage and/or Retrieval Based on a Database Model-agnostic, Schema-Agnostic, and Workload-Agnostic Data Storage and Access Models.” If you are into patent documents about making sense of Big Data, you will find US20140317115 interesting. I will leave it to you to determine if there is any overlap between this system and method and those of the now low profile CopperEye.
Why would In-Q-Tel get interested in another database? From my point of view, CopperEye was interesting because:
- The system and method was idea for finding information from large collections of intercept information
- The tech whiz behind the JustOne system wanted to avoid “band-aid” architectures; that is, software shims, wrappers, and workarounds that other data management and information access systems generated like rabbits
- The method of finding information achieved or exceeded the performance of the very, very snappy Speed of Mind system
- The system sidestepped a number of the problems which plague Oracle-style databases trying to deal with floods of real time information from telecommunication traffic, surveillance, and Internet of Things transmissions or “emissions.”
How import6ant is JustOne? I think the company is one of those outfits which has a better mousetrap. Unlike the champions of XML, JustOne uses JSON and other “open” technologies. In fact, a useful version of the JustOne system is available for download from the JustOne Web site. Be aware that the name “JustOne” is in use by other vendors.
The fragmented world of database and information access. Source: Duncan Pauly
A good, but older, write up explains some of the strengths of the JustOne approach to search and retrieval couched in the lingo of the database world. The key points from “The Evolution of Data Management” strikes me as helpful in understanding why Jerry Yang and Scott McNealy invested in the CopperEye veterans’ start up. I highlighted these points:
- Databases have to be operational and analytical; that is, storing information is not enough
- Transaction rates are high; that is, real time flows from telecommunications activity
- Transaction size varies from the very small to hefty; that is, the opposite of the old school records associated with old school IBM IMS system
- High concurrency; that is, more than one “thing” at a time
- Dynamic schema and query definition
I highlighted this statement as suggestive:
In scaled-out environments, transactions need to be able to choose what guarantees they require – rather than enforcing or relaxing ACID constraints across a whole database. Each transaction should be able to decide how synchronous, atomic or durable it needs to be and how it must interact with other transactions. For example, must a transaction be applied in chronological order or can it be allowed out of time order with other transactions providing the cumulative result remains the same? Not all transactions need be rigorously ACID and likewise not all transactions can afford to be non-atomic or potentially inconsistent.
My take on this CopperEye wind down and JustOne wind up is that CopperEye, for whatever management reason, was not able to pivot from where CopperEye was to where CopperEye had to be to grow. More information is available from the JustOne Database Web site at www.justonedb.com.
Is Duncan Pauly one of the most innovative engineers laboring in the database search sector? Could be.
Stephen E Arnold, February 4, 2017
January 17, 2017
This week’s HonkinNews takes a look at Yahoo’s post Verizon name. No, our suggestion of yabba dabba hoo or was it “hoot” was not ignored by Yahoo’s marketing wizards. We also highlight Alphabet Google’s erasure of two letters from its “alphabet.” Goners are “S” and “T”. Palantir is hiring a people centric person. The fancy title may have an interesting spin. Two enterprise search vendors kick off 2017 with a blizzard of buzzwords. The depth of the cacaphones is remarkable because search by any other name would return results with questionable precision and recall. The featured story is the Mitre’s Corporation Jason Report. If you have an interest in artificial intelligence and warfighting, the report provides some insight into what the US Department of Defense may be considering. But the highlight of the unclassified document is a helpful description of Google’s TPU. The seven minute program is at this link. For fans of XQuery, we have a bit of input for you too. Proprietary XQuery too. The program is produced in old fashioned black and white and enhanced with theme music from the days of the Stutz Bearcat. From the hotbed of search and content processing, HonkinNews is different. We’re presenting information other big time outfits ignore. Mitre is a variant of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research. There you go. Live from Harrod’s Creek.
Kenny Toth, January 17, 2017
January 9, 2017
The article on VentureBeat titled Yahoo Takes Steps to Remove Content Posted From ISIS and Other Terrorist Groups remarks on the recent changes Yahoo made to its community guidelines. The updated guidelines now specify that any content or accounts involved with terrorist organizations, even those that “celebrate” violence connected to terrorist activity are up for deletion or deactivation. The article speaks to the relevance of these new guidelines that follow hard upon the heels of Orlando and San Bernardino,
Twitter has responded as well, “suspending over 125,000 accounts” related to terrorism. Messaging app Telegram has also blocked 78 channels that engaged in ISIS-related activity. Kathleen Lefstad, Yahoo’s policy manager for trust and safety, wrote that this new category is in addition to other types of content that are flagged, including hate speech, bullying or harassment, and sharing adult or sexualized content of someone without their consent.
ISIS has grown infamous for its social media presence and ability to draw foreign supporters through social media platforms. Yahoo’s crackdown is a welcome sign of awareness that these platforms must take some responsibility for how their services are being abused. Priorities, folks. If Facebook’s machine learning content security can remove any sign of a woman’s nipple within 24 hours, shouldn’t content that endorses terrorism be deleted in half the time?
Chelsea Kerwin, January 9, 2017
December 8, 2016
The article on Vanity Fair titled Facebook Is Reportedly Building a Censorship Tool to Win Over China suggests that the people nervous about what it will mean to address the fake news proliferation are correct. The fear that Facebook managing fake news stories might lead to actual censorship of the news is not so far-fetched after all. The article states,
Auditing fake news is considered to be a slippery-slope problem for the company, which is just now starting to use fact-checkers to “grade” the veracity of news stories shared on its Web site and to crack down on false or partially false news stories shared on Facebook. Still, beneath it all, Facebook remains a publicly traded company with a fiduciary duty to its shareholders—and that duty is to make money.
Zuckerberg’s interest in capturing China’s 700M+ internet users has led to the creation of a censorship tool that can “automatically suppress content in specific geographic areas.” The tool has not been implemented (yet), but it suggests that Zuckerberg has a flexible relationship with freedom of information, especially where money is at stake. And there is a lot of money at stake. The article delves into the confusion over whether Facebook is a media company or not. But whatever type of company it is, it is a company. And that means money comes first.
Chelsea Kerwin, December 8, 2016
November 29, 2016
I love the chatter about fake news. I noted the story “Putting This Out There for Everyone’s Information (Is This for Real?) Before ItsNews 11-18-16… Wikileaks Is Gone.” According to the write up, a person named Jim Stone thinks that Wikileaks is a gone goose. The source cited above “felt drawn to put this [the story about Wikileaks as a disappeared organization] out there. To step away from the possibility that the story is bogus, the author of Kauilapele blog crawfishes:
Once more, I do not know for sure if this is true.
What’s the big reveal? Here you go:
The destruction of WikiLeaks was an unprecedented global effort.
There you go. Will accuracy and truthiness algorithms snag the Kauilapele item as possibly incorrect? Run those Bing, Google, and Yandex queries and decide for yourself.
Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2016
November 25, 2016
Despite our broader knowledge, we still believe that if we press a few buttons and press enter computers can do all work for us. The advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence does not repress this belief, but instead big data vendors rely on this image to sell their wares. Big data, though, has its weaknesses and before you deploy a solution you should read Network World’s, “6 Machine Learning Misunderstandings.”
Pulling from Juniper Networks’s security intelligence software engineer Roman Sinayev explains some of the pitfalls to avoid before implementing big data technology. It is important not to take into consideration all the variables and unexpected variables, otherwise that one forgotten factor could wreck havoc on your system. Also, do not forget to actually understand the data you are analyzing and its origin. Pushing forward on a project without understanding the data background is a guaranteed fail.
Other practical advice, is to build a test model, add more data when the model does not deliver, but some advice that is new even to us is:
One type of algorithm that has recently been successful in practical applications is ensemble learning – a process by which multiple models combine to solve a computational intelligence problem. One example of ensemble learning is stacking simple classifiers like logistic regressions. These ensemble learning methods can improve predictive performance more than any of these classifiers individually.
Employing more than one algorithm? It makes sense and is practical advice why did that not cross our minds? The rest of the advice offered is general stuff that can be applied to any project in any field, just change the lingo and expert providing it.
November 9, 2016
I read “Peter Thiel Explains Why His Company’s Defense Contracts Could Lead to Less War.” I noted that the write up appeared in the Washington Post, a favorite of Jeff Bezos I believe. The write up referenced a refrain which I have heard before:
Washington “insiders” currently leading the government have “squandered” money, time and human lives on international conflicts.
What I highlighted as an interesting passage was this one:
a spokesman for Thiel explained that the technology allows the military to have a more targeted response to threats, which could render unnecessary the wide-scale conflicts that Thiel sharply criticized.
I also put a star by this statement from the write up:
“If we can pinpoint real security threats, we can defend ourselves without resorting to the crude tactic of invading other countries,” Thiel said in a statement sent to The Post.
The write up pointed out that Palantir booked about $350 million in business between 2007 and 2016 and added:
The total value of the contracts awarded to Palantir is actually higher. Many contracts are paid in a series of installments as work is completed or funds are allocated, meaning the total value of the contract may be reflected over several years. In May, for example, Palantir was awarded a contract worth $222.1 million from the Defense Department to provide software and technical support to the U.S. Special Operations Command. The initial amount paid was $5 million with the remainder to come in installments over four years.
I was surprised at the Washington Post’s write up. No ads for Alexa and no Beltway snarkiness. That too was interesting to me. And I don’t have a dog in the fight. For those with dogs in the fight, there may be some billability worries ahead. I wonder if the traffic jam at 355 and Quince Orchard will now abate when IBM folks do their daily commute.
Stephen E Arnold, November 9, 2016