Mayflower Autonomous Ship Gets a Mate Named Watson

September 24, 2020

Christopher Columbus had to make do with mere humans when he sailed the oceans blue. The Mayflower Autonomous Ship or MAS has IBM Watson on board. The MAS is a maritime autonomous drone. Drones are subject to command and control hacking. Will the MAS be the target of this type of attack with bad actors running the ship into vacationers sailing into Zephyr Sailing’s Pandora at six knots? DarkCyber sincerely hopes that IBM Watson can operate at Jeopardy game show performance levels. We learned from “Mayflower Autonomous Ship Launches”:

MAS features an AI Captain built by ProMare and IBM developers which gives MAS the ability to sense, think and make decisions at sea with no human captain or onboard crew. The new class of marine AI is underpinned by IBM’s latest advanced edge computing systems, automation software, computer vision technology and Red Hat Open Source software.

The MAS operates with no human interventions. The ship includes more than 30 sensors and has a maximum speed of 10 knots. The software includes “IBM Visual Insights computer vision technology, IBM edge systems, IBM Operational Decision Manager automation software, IBM Maximo asset management software, and data from The Weather Company.”

Will the MAS be hacked by bad actors? Will the Level 5 drone operate without creating excitement for those in fishing boards, kayaks, and rentals like the Pandora? Watson, what say you? Also, how did that dog matching gig in Mexico work out? And what’s the next PR play from Big Blue?

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2020

Microsoft Channels the Google: Users Moved to Second Class Status

September 9, 2020

Microsoft is notorious for angering its users, no matter how loyal they are to the brand. Microsoft developers must get perverse pleasure from annoying their clients, because Fossbytes details how “New Microsoft Edge Support Page May Have Pissed Users Even More.”

Another thing Microsoft is notorious for is its support and help pages not being helpful at all. Apparently they have upped the ante on useless support information, because users cannot uninstall Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Edge is Microsoft’s built-in Web browser and users do not like it. They want to remove it. Windows will not allow users to install it. The only way to get rid of Edge is to switch to a Mac or join the Linux community. Most computers come with default browsers. Apple products have Safari and Chromebooks from Google use Chrome.

It is SOP for computers to come with a preinstalled Web browser and doing otherwise would not be good marketing, especially for a company as big as Microsoft. What rankles users more than anything is the aggravation and taunting behavior:

“But the way it’s promoting Edge may be easily called as too pushy. Probably, Microsoft shouldn’t have just created a page called “Can’t Uninstall Microsoft Edge” and blatantly tell users they can’t uninstall Microsoft Edge at all. Surely, a user browsing the web to find a solution wouldn’t dance in joy after reading it. If you think your product is good, then you have to release it properly and then at least trust your users that they’ll eventually start using it.”

There is a way around using Microsoft Edge. Download another browser like Chrome or Firefox, then make it the default browser. You might not be able to delete Edge, but you can delete the icon from the desktop and not browse the Web with it.

Whitney Grace, September 9, 2020

A Push for ISYS Search. Sorry, Lexmark. Oh, Right, Hyland

September 9, 2020

Those 1980s and enterprise search were a combo. Ian Davies’ search and retrieval system was very good. In fact, a long time ago I visited the old Crow’s Nest offices and sold a small job. After all, how many people from rural Kentucky end up in Sydney wanting to talk about search? Answer: Not too many. I wrangled an invitation because I complained about how the system displayed PDF files in a results list.

Flash forward and ISYS Search moved some operations to the US. Eventually the excitement waned and ISYS Search became a property of Lexmark. Lexington, Kentucky, had spawned a weird enterprise wide content management system which fetched a pretty price, and I assumed that Lexmark wanted its own content-centric technology. The wheels of time turned like a grindstone and Lexmark was caught between the business ends of the grist wheel. ISYS Search was now getting long in the tooth, and the company was sold to Hyland, also in the content management business. At this time, Lexmark had looped the loop from IBM to Chinese ownership.

Hence I was surprised to read “Why a Government Agency Needs Enterprise Search in the Modern World.” This was a message ISYS in the late 1980s was emitting as it marketed its system to law enforcement agencies with reasonable success. The write up by the Hyland’s Australia manager states:

Enterprise Search is becoming an essential ‘uber tool’ for content organization and discovery. More than just adding yet another layer of applications to the department’s arsenal of tools, enterprise search allows for the organized creation, indexing and retrieval of data – both structured and unstructured – through one simple interface.

In an interview with me in 2008, Ian Davies said:

What defined search back then was the significance of the need — users were after information that truly was mission critical.  Now , juxtapose that with today, where search has expanded to address usability and the need to leverage corporate knowledge. What we have is a keen demand for mission critical search and retrieval, content processing, and analysis. In addition, there are large numbers of organizations that are trying to make the best use of the information in digital form. Mission-critical search manipulates information to identify a criminal, which may be a matter of public safety, or extract the key fact from information related to a legal matter. Essential search helps employees find the answer or the information needed to do their work today. Both drive the growth of ISYS. I don’t see either need diminishing going forward.

Similar? Yep.


  • Enterprise search is a challenge and shall remain so
  • The lingo used to explain enterprise search is almost timeless
  • The technology and its “promises” have persisted at ISYS for more than two decades.

Why hasn’t ISYS generated greater traction? Why has the core plumbing remained the same for decades? Those are important questions because they reveal much about the enterprise search sector which seems like an easy way to generate oodles of cash.

One issue is that enterprise search, like most policeware and intelware systems as well, is that the market sector is a very difficult one. One of the most popular enterprise search systems is, for instance, open source and free of license fees. That’s new. The sales pitch and arguments for paying for search are not.

Stephen E Arnold, September 9, 2020

Thought Leaders Thought Lead: Better Late Than Never

September 8, 2020

I read “Scale Digital Technologies to Thrive in New Reality: KPMG.” This document is what I would characterize as a “thought leader piece.” The idea is that consulting firms have to give the impression that their sales pitches are in step with most business thought just a tiny bit ahead. Then the thought leader becomes an expert on the subject and can use that perception to sell consulting work. The method has worked since the efficiency studies of Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Gnostic message of the buggy whip case study.

This particular blue chip consulting firm output tackles the importance of being digital by Oscar Obvious Wilde, who wears upscale casual clothing, has a family confident in its wealth and connections, and a day time TV star smile. What’s not to like?

The write up states:

Improved decision-making is the top criteria for investments in emerging technologies…More than 90 per cent of companies are investing across emerging technologies as enterprises believe more in combined use of emerging technologies.

I think this means invest to make better decisions. Don’t worry about silver bullet technologies. Combine technologies.

Let’s go back to “what’s not to like”.

Sticking or combining technologies together is not magnetic. Two magnets will either snap together or push one another away. Now dump 12 magnets on the table and push them together. What happens? That’s tough to predict, so one has to be prepared to run tests, then fit the data to a pattern.

Does that sound like a sure fire way to spend a lot of time without having a result on which one can depend?

Yep, that’s the purpose of being a thought leader. Sell time and services. Does the approach create improved decision making. Sometimes. The client learns to be less accepting of some experts’ pronouncements.

Transformation can be hard and digital ones can be harder if we are not bold to question the status quo. It is a reboot/reset moment for all of us. We either ride the wave or get drowned.

There is an alternative, particularly for firms which embraced digital solutions years ago. Another option is to stay out of the water. Not everyone wants to be a surfer writing big checks.

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2020

Intel Code Names: Horse Feathers, Horse Collars, and Fancy Dancing

September 3, 2020

Intel loves code names. And what a knack for coinages? Pentium. What’s not to like. I noted this item last year (2019) I believe:

Intel, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, and Cray, is building the nations first Exascale supercomputer. By accelerating the convergence of high performance computing and artificial intelligence, Exascale supercomputing will advance scientific research and enable breakthroughs in neuroscience and cancer research, aerospace modeling and simulation, and theoretical research of our universe. The Aurora system will be based on the future generation of the Intel® Scalable Processor, the future Intel® Xeon® compute architecture, the next generation Intel® Optane™ DC persistent memory, and supported by Intel’s One API software.

Note the word choice: Convergence, high performance, artificial intelligence, Exascale, super computing, modeling, simulation, theoretical research, scalable, Optane, and One API.

Do I have a problem with this English major with a minor in marketing writing? Nah. Makes zero difference to me. We switched to Ryzen 3950X silicon. Workin’ just fine.

However, the venerable New York Times published “Intel Slips, and a High Performance Supercomputer Is Delayed.” That write up stated:

Intel, the last big US company that both designs and makes microprocessors, signaled in July that it might for the first time use foundries owned by other companies to make some cutting edge chips.

Now it’s September, and how is Intel doing?

Not too well. The Argonne Aurora supercomputer is delayed. Chinese computer scientists rejoice.

Is this Intel stumble important?

Yes, buzzwords and MBA speak cannot disguise the fact that Intel cannot deliver on time and on target. But, wow, Intel can spin fancy phrases; for example, Optane as in “Argonne can Optane its supercomputer.”

Another Covid moment?

Stephen E Arnold, September 3, 2020

No Return of the JEDI for Amazon

August 31, 2020

i read “Conflict of Interest? We’ve Heard of It. AWS on Selection Panel to Choose’s Chief Digi [sic] Officer.” The main point of the article, which I assume is accurate, is that AWS UK top dog Doug Gurr will sit on a committee responsible for choosing the UK’s next chief digital officer. The Register article provides links and contextual information. Helpful.

However, the write up does not address what DarkCyber’s research team is the reason for the approach to providing input. Is it possible that Amazon’s top dogs remember the significant and somewhat humiliating defeat delivered right between the eyes of the tag team of Jeff Bezos and Teresa Carlson, world’s richest human and former head of Microsoft governmental sales respectively?

Losing that work has already had a negative impact on Amazon’s policeware business and dims its hoped for incursions into adjacent services; for example, processing IRS tax returns to identify possibly fraudulent claims. Microsoft has had the original idea of stepping up competitive pressure in Middle Eastern countries which AWS has worked hard to move to these nation states’ technological futures. Yikes.

Net net: Amazon is doing what it can to make sure there will be no return of the JEDI.

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2020

Xoogler Awakes to a Reality: How about That?

August 30, 2020

Navigate to “Eric Schmidt: China Could Be AI’s Superpower If We Don’t Act Now.” The point of the write up seems to be to overlook the obvious. Mr. Schmidt was the “adult” at Google. He is now the technical advisor to the board of Alphabet where he was formerly the executive chairman. As executive chairman, he was responsible for the external matters of all of the holding company’s businesses, including Google Inc., advising their CEOs and leadership on business and policy issues.

Based on the information in the article, he seems to be going into full pundit mode.

Google and China. Advisor to Alphabet’s Board. Yep, telling the US China could be a leader in artificial intelligence. Perfect for 2020, a year of novelties.

I want to point out that an AI hot spot in China is Tsinghua University. This means that if the information in “Tsinghua University Plans to Open AI Research Center in China, Names Google’s AI Chief as Advisor” is accurate, Mr. Schmidt may want to focus on sending his message directly to Google.

The interview is just about as 2020 as Palantir’s insistence that it is not a Silicon Valley type outfit.

Yes, 2020. A good year for insights and interesting information.

Oh, Jeff Dean? He’s one of the serious engineers at the Google. BigTable, Chubby, and more, particularly in the smart software realm. Perhaps he is advising Tsinghua University on recipes, once an interest of the person who may be the smartest Googler in the collection of wizards.

This AI thing. Is Google helping out China in its AI efforts? Good question. Maybe a Sillycon Valley journalist will do some investigative reporting? Nah, it’s 2020. Redefine reality.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2020

Zero Search Results = Useful Information

August 26, 2020

I saw a notice for a conference called “Activate.” Zippy title. What caught my attention was the title of a talk; specifically, “Implementing a Deep Learning Search Engine.” The technology appears to be the open source Solr search system. As you know, dig into Solr and what do you find? Lucene. The hay day of enterprise search has gone. Perhaps another harvest will come? But after the implosion of the promises made by Fulcrum, Verity, Autonomy, Fast, Convera, and Entopia, I am not sure search has credibility.

Don’t get me wrong. Search is a major part of companies; for example, Salesforce bought Diffeo, which was an interesting search system. Elastic is, of course, the commercial firm selling support for the open source Elasticsearch system. There are unusual systems as well; for example, the quirky Qwant, which has some Pertimm inside.

But consider this description of the talk for the Activate conference delivered by two wizards (well, maybe apprentice wizards) from the Lucidworks outfit:

Recent advances in Deep Learning brings us the possibility to get improvements in almost any domain. Search Engines aren’t an exception. Semantic search, visual search, “zero results” queries, recommendations, chatbots etc. – this is just a shortlist of topics that can benefit from Deep Learning based algorithms. But more powerful methods are also more expensive, so they require addressing the variety of scalability challenges. In this talk, we will go through details of how we implement Deep Learning Search Engine at Lucidworks: what kind of techniques we use to train robust and efficient models as well as how we tackle scalability difficulties to get the best query time performance. We will also demo several use-cases of how we leverage semantic search capabilities to tackle such challenges as visual search and “zero results” queries in eCommerce.

Three points:

  1. Deep learning is one of those buzzwords that recyclers of open source technology slap on a utility function like search. What search vendor does not include smart software, semantics, and more Gartner-infused techno babble? Not many.
  2. Short cuts for training smart software for machine learning is indeed important. However, the approach which strikes me as interesting is the one taken by the ever-pragmatic AWS system pushed along by the Bezos bulldozer. AWS wants to make training a matter of buying commodity solutions of data off the shelf. Presumably the approach works like one of those consumer soap tablets I have seen in our local grocery store. Buy, rip, and wash. Bingo! Clean ML. Grubbing in data is time consuming, expensive, and oh-so-easy to get wrong.
  3. The goal of “zero results” in eCommerce or any other domain is not exactly a challenge. Zero results deliver data. I know that an objective system displays only the objects matching my query. Not any longer. Synonym expansion, predictive analytics, clustering, and other numerical processes are going to show me something. Too bad that the “something” is usually not what I want.
  4. For special cases like ecommerce, instead of a list of crazy options, why not ask the user, “Do you want to see what products other people purchased when searching for X?” Choice is sometimes helpful.

Is this important? To me, yes. To most others, no.

The problem with making information easy is everywhere today. From individuals who disbelieve verifiable information like the earth is spheroid to the wisdom of demanding no law enforcement. Yeah, that will work.

Some quick facts to put this Lucidworks’ assertion in perspective. The company has ingested more than $209 million since 2007. I did some advice giving to the first president of Lucidworks, then called Lucid Imagination. I did some advice giving for another semi-lucid president. None of that advice resonated because recycling jargon does not generate sustainable revenues.

The point is that jazzy words and crazy ideas like “zero results” are bad are part of the problem search vendors face. Today’s search systems have drifted from displaying results which match a user’s query to dumping baloney on the display.

It is easier to yip yap with buzzwords that deal with some of the painful realities of information retrieval. Deep learning? Yeah, that will help the person locate that PowerPoint… not.

Stephen E Arnold, August 26, 2020

Gartner Group: Planning Its Next Generation of Marketing Pitches

August 25, 2020

If you are a fan of Gartner, a mid-tier consulting firm, you will want to navigate to “Gartner Hype-Cycle Adds 20+ New Technologies.” Now the “new” part interests me. Examples include:

  • AI-assisted design (maybe Eli Attia’s method or Google’s approach?)
  • Biodegradable sensors
  • Differential privacy (like having one work mobile and one personal mobile?)
  • Composable enterprise (I have zero clue what this means)
  • Health passports (like a receipt for passage to Poveglia (a Plague Island in 1793?)
  • Social distancing technologies.

The write up reports:

Trust models based on responsible authorities are being replaced by algorithmic trust models to ensure privacy and security of data, source of assets and identity of individuals and things. Algorithmic trust helps to ensure that organizations will not be exposed to the risk and costs of losing the trust of their customers, employees and partners. Emerging technologies tied to algorithmic trust include secure access service edge (SASE), differential privacy, authenticated provenance, bring your own identity, responsible AI and explainable AI.

When will AI create the Gartner hype cycle? Will use of that technology generate “trust”? Gobble down a biodegradable sensor and social distance. The future of consulting is … no human consultants. That might be a step forward? Come to think of it. An AI generating a hype chart might actually use numbers and data, not opinions of those good enough to work at a mid tier consulting firm.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2020

IBM: A New PR Direction without Recipes and TV Game Shows?

August 18, 2020

IBM appears to be shifting its marketing in an interesting way. IBM announced its Power10 chips. Representative of the coverage is Forbes’ Magazine’s “IBM POWER10 Mega Chip For Hybrid Cloud Is Revealed.” The write up is not written by Forbes’ staff. The article is from an outfit called Tirias Research, a member of a contributor group. I am not sure what a contributor group is. The article seems like marketing speak to me, but you judge for yourself. Here’s a snippet:

To handle the ever more complex cloud workloads, the POWER10 improves capacity (socket throughput) and efficiency by about 3x over the POWER9. The energy efficiency gains were critical because IBM increased CPU core count over the POWER9 but kept the socket power roughly the same. All in all, the POWER10 big step forward for the architecture.

Next, I noticed write ups about IBM’s mainframe business. Navigate to “COBOL Still Handles 70% of Global Business Transactions.” The content strikes me as a recycling of IBM-prepared visuals. Here’s an example of the “analysis” and “news” in the article about the next big future:


Several observations:

  1. It was not that long ago that IBM was touting IBM Watson as capable of matching pets with potential owners. Now IBM is focusing on semiconductors and “workhorse” mainframes
  2. There are chips using technology more advanced than IBM’s 7 and 14 nanometer chips. Like Intel, IBM makes no reference to manufacturing techniques which may offer more advantages. That’s understandable. But three nanometer fabs are approaching, and IBM appears to be following, not leading.
  3. The cheerleading for hybrid clouds is different from cheerleading for “the cloud.” Has IBM decided that its future pivots on getting companies to build data centers and hire IBM to maintain them.

The craziness of the state unemployment agencies with COBOL based systems is fresh in my mind. For me, emphasizing the dependence of organizations upon COBOL is interesting. This statement caught my attention:

COBOL still handle [sic] more than 70% of the business transactions that take place in the world today.

Is this a good thing? Are Amazon, Microsoft, and Google embracing mainframes? My hunch is that companies are unable to shift from legacy systems. Inertia, not innovation, may be creating what some people seeking unemployment benefits from COBOL-centric systems perceive as a dysfunctional approach.

Net net: At least IBM is not talking about recipes created by Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2020

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