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The Uncertain Fate of OpenOffice

September 27, 2016

We are in danger of losing a popular open-source alternative to the Microsoft Office suite, we learn from the piece, “Lack of Volunteer Contributors Could Mean the End for OpenOffice” at Neowin. Could this the fate of open source search, as well?

Writer William Burrows observes that few updates for OpenOffice have emerged of late, only three since 2013, and the last stable point revision was released about a year ago. More strikingly, it took a month to patch a major security flaw over the summer, reports Burrows. He goes on to summarize OpenOffice’s 14-year history, culminating it the project’s donation to Apache by Oracle in 2011. It appears to have been downhill from there. The article tells us:

It was at this point that a good portion of the volunteer developer base reportedly moved onto the forked LibreOffice project. Since becoming Apache OpenOffice, activity on project has diminished significantly. In a statement by Dennis Hamilton, the project’s volunteer vice president, released in an email to the mailing list it was suggested that “retirement of the project is a serious possibility” citing concerns that the current team of around six volunteer developers who maintain the project may not have sufficient resources to eliminate security vulnerabilities. There is still some hope for OpenOffice, though, with some of the contributors suggesting that discussion about a shutdown may be a little premature, and that attracting new contributors is still possible.

In fact, OpenOffice was downloaded over 29 million times last year, so obviously it still has a following. LibreOffice is currently considered more successful, but that could change if OpenOffice manages to attract a resurgence of developers willing to contribute to the project. Any volunteers?

Cynthia Murrell, September 27, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/



Microsoft and Both Hewlett Packards Are Chums

September 20, 2016

I read “Microsoft Beats Out Rivals for HP Software Deal.” The write up does not answer the following questions:

  1. Did Microsoft or HP’s public relations advisers bring this story to Fortune Magazine?
  2. How much will HP save by using Microsoft’s sales management and database software instead of Oracle’s and Salesforce’s software?
  3. How much will the transition from the Oracle and Salesforce systems to the Microsoft system cost?
  4. Why couldn’t HP use its hardware with the Oracle and Saleforce systems?
  5. Why did HP choose a proprietary solution when there are satisfactory open source options available?
  6. Who back was injured after the frenzy of scratching ended?

What the write up reveals is that Oracle and Salesforce lost a big customer. I also highlighted this passage:

This deal adds another dimension to HP-Microsoft partnerships. HP is a huge and longtime hardware partner—its PCs ship with Microsoft Windows and often with its Office applications as well. There is significant overlap between the two companies’ reseller partners. And since most Microsoft partners run Dynamics CRM already, HP’s use of the product could simplify collaboration and data exchange. HP claims about 100,000 partners worldwide.

I will not comment about the “claims” about partners. Let’s see. HPQ buys hardware from HPE. Microsoft is a partner for HPQ and HPE. Looks like a friendly group. Add one person and the companies have a gold foursome. Will Google get asked to join the group? We know Oracle and Salesforce won’t.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2016

Algorithm Bias in Beauty Contests

September 16, 2016

I don’t read about beauty contests. In my college dorm, I recall that the televised broadcast of the Miss America pageant was popular among some of the residents. I used the attention grabber as my cue to head to the library so I could hide reserved books from my classmates. Every little bit helps in the dog eat dog world of academic achievement.

When Artificial Intelligence Judges a Beauty Contest, White People Win” surprised me. I thought that algorithms were objective little numerical recipes. Who could fiddle 1=1=2?

I learned:

The foundation of machine learning is data gathered by humans, and without careful consideration, the machines learn the same biases of their creators. Sometimes bias is difficult to track, but other times it’s clear as the nose on someone’s face—like when it’s a face the algorithm is trying to process and judge.

Its seems that an algorithm likes white people. The write up informed me:

An online beauty contest called Beauty.ai, run byYouth Laboratories (that lists big names in tech like Nvidia and Microsoft as “partners and supporters” on the contest website), solicited 600,000 entries by saying they would be graded by artificial intelligence. The algorithm would look at wrinkles, face symmetry, amount of pimples and blemishes, race, and perceived age. However, race seemed to play a larger role than intended; of the 44 winners, 36 were white.

Oh, oh. Microsoft and its smart software seem to play a role in this drama.

What’s the fix? Better data. The write up includes this statement from a Microsoft expert:

“If a system is trained on photos of people who are overwhelmingly white, it will have a harder time recognizing non-white faces,” writes Kate Crawford, principal researcher at Microsoft Research New York City, in a New York Times op-ed. “So inclusivity matters—from who designs it to who sits on the company boards and which ethical perspectives are included. Otherwise, we risk constructing machine intelligence that mirrors a narrow and privileged vision of society, with its old, familiar biases and stereotypes.”

In the last few months, Microsoft’s folks were involved in Tay, a chatbot which allegedly learned to be racist. Then there was the translation of “Daesh” as Saudi Arabia. Now algorithms appear to favor folks of a particular stripe.

Exciting math. But Microsoft has also managed to gum up webcams and Kindle access in Windows 10. Yep, the new Microsoft is a sparkling example of smart.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2016

Revenue Takes a Backseat to Patent Filings at IBM

September 9, 2016

The post on Slashdot titled IBM Has Been Awarded an Average of 24 Patents Per Day So Far in 2016 compares the patent development emphasis of major companies, with IBM coming out on top with 3,617 patent awards so far in 2016, according to a Quartz report. Patents are the bi-product of IBM’s focus on scientific research, as the report finds,

The company is in the middle of a painful reinvention, that sees the company shifting further away from hardware sales into cloud computing, analytics, and AI services. It’s also plugging away on a myriad of fundamental scientific research projects — many of which could revolutionize the world if they can come to fruition — which is where many of its patent applications originate. IBM accounted for about 1% of all US patents awarded in 2015.

Samsung claimed a close second (with just over 3,000 patents), and on the next rung down sits Google (with roughly 1,500 patents for the same period), Intel, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Apple. Keep in mind though, that IBM and Samsung have been awarded more than twice as many patents as Google and the others, making it an unstoppable patent machine. You may well ask, what about revenue? They will get back to you on that score later.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 9, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Big Data Processing Is Relative to Paradigm of Today

September 7, 2016

The size and volume that characterizes an information set as big data — and the tools used to process — is relative to the current era. A story from NPR reminds us of this as they ask, Can Web Search Predict Cancer? Promise And Worry Of Big Data And Health. In 1600’s England, a statistician essentially founded demography by compiling details of death records into tables. Today, trends from big data are drawn through a combination of assistance from computer technology and people’s analytical skills. Microsoft scientists conducted a study showing that Bing search queries may hold clues to a future diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

The Microsoft scientists themselves acknowledge this [lack of comprehensive knowledge and predictive abilities] in the study. “Clinical trials are necessary to understand whether our learned model has practical utility, including in combination with other screening methods,” they write. Therein lies the crux of this big data future: It’s a logical progression for the modern hyper-connected world, but one that will continue to require the solid grounding of a traditional health professional, to steer data toward usefulness, to avoid unwarranted anxiety or even unnecessary testing, and to zero in on actual causes, not just correlations within particular health trends.”

As the producers of data points in many social-related data sets, and as the original analyzers of big data, it makes sense that people remain a key part of big data analytics. While this may be especially pertinent in matters related to health, it may be more intuitively understood in this sector in contrast to others. Whether health or another sector, can the human variable ever be taken out of the data equation? Perhaps such a world will give rise to whatever is beyond the current buzz around the phrase big data.

Megan Feil, September 7, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233599645/

Real Time Data Analysis for Almost Anyone

August 25, 2016

The idea that Everyman can tap into a real time data stream and perform “analyses” is like catnip for some. The concept appeals to those in the financial sector, but these folks often have money (yours and mine) to burn. The idea seems to snag the attention of some folks in the intelligence sector who want to “make sense” out of Twitter streams and similar flows of “social media.” In my experience, big outfits with a need to tap into data streams have motivation and resources. Most of those who fit into my pigeonhole have their own vendors, systems, and methods in place.

The question is, “Does Tom’s Trucking need to tap into real time data flows to make decisions about what paint to stock or what marketing pitch to use on the business card taped to the local grocery’s announcement board?”

I plucked from my almost real time Web information service (Overflight) two articles suggesting that there is money in “them thar hills” of data.

The first is “New Amazon Service Uses SQL To Query Streaming Big Data.” Amazon is a leader in the cloud space. The company may not be number one on the Gartner hit parade, but some of those with whom I converse believe that Amazon continues to be the cloud vendor to consider and maybe use. The digital Wal-Mart has demonstrated both revenue and innovation with its cloud business.

The article explains that Amazon has picked  up the threads of Hadoop, SQL, and assorted enabling technologies and woven Amazon Kinesis Analytics. The idea is that Amazon delivers a piping hot Big Data pizza via a SQL query. The write up quotes an Amazon wizard as saying:

“Being able to continuously query and gain insights from this information in real-time — as it arrives — can allow companies to respond more quickly to business and customer needs,” AWS said in a statement. “However, existing data processing and analytics solutions aren’t able to continuously process this ‘fast moving’ data, so customers have had to develop streaming data processing applications — which can take months to build and fine-tune — and invest in infrastructure to handle high-speed, high-volume data streams that might include tens of millions of events per hour.”

Additional details appear in Amazon’s blog post here. The idea is that anyone with some knowledge of things Amazon, coding expertise, and a Big Data stream can use the Amazon service.

The second write up is “Microsoft Power BI Dashboards Deliver Real Time Data.” The idea seems to be that Microsoft is in the real time data analysis poker game as well. The write up reveals:

Power BI’s real-time dashboards — known as Real-Time Dashboard tiles — builds on the earlier Power BI REST APIs release to create real-time tiles within minutes. The tiles push data to the Power BI REST APIs from streams of data created in PubNub, a real-time data streaming service currently used widely for building web, mobile and IoT applications.

The idea is that a person knows the Microsoft methods, codes the Microsoft way, and has a stream of Big Data. The user then examines the outputs via “tiles.” These are updated in real time. As mentioned above, Microsoft is the Big Data Big Dog in the Gartner kennel. Obviously Microsoft will be price competitive with the service prices at about $10 per month. The original price was about $40 a month, but the cost cutting fever is raging in Redmond.

The question is, “Which of these services will dominate?” Who knows? Amazon has a business and a real time pitch which makes sense to those who have come to depend on the AWS services. Microsoft has business customers, Windows 10, and a reseller/consulting community eager to generate revenue.

My thought is, “Pick your horse, put down your bet, and head to the Real Time Data Analytics race track.” Tomorrow’s $100 ticket is only a few bucks today. The race to low cost entry fees is about to begin.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2016

Microsoft Considers next Generation Artificial Intelligence

August 24, 2016

While science fiction portrays artificial intelligence in novel and far-reaching ways, certain products utilizing artificial intelligence are already in existence. WinBeta released a story, Microsoft exec at London conference: AI will “change everything”, which reminds us of this. Digital assistants like Cortana and Siri are one example of how mundane AI can appear. However, during a recent AI conference, Microsoft UK’s chief envisioning officer Dave Choplin projected much more impactful applications. This article summarizes the landscape of concerns,

Of course, many also are suspect about the promise of artificial intelligence        and worry about its impact on everyday life or even its misuse by malevolent actors. Stephen Hawking has worried AI could be an existential threat and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has gone on to create an open source AI after worrying about its misuse. In his statements, Choplin also stressed that as  more and more companies try to create AI, ‘We’ve got to start to make some   decisions about whether the right people are making these algorithms.

There is much to consider in regards to artificial intelligence. However, such a statement about “the right people” cannot stop there. Choplin goes on to refer to the biases of people creating algorithms and the companies they work for. Because organizational structures must also be considered, so too must their motivator: the economy. Perhaps machine learning to understand the best way to approach AI would be a good first application.

Megan Feil, August 24, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Gartner Declares Microsoft a Winner

August 12, 2016

I read “Microsoft Is a Leader in 18 Gartner Magic Quadrants, Including Cloud Infrastructure as a Service.” Those folks at Microsoft should be darned proud of themselves. Receiving  A grades in 18 Gartner Magic Quadrants is remarkable.

I noted this passage in the write up:

Microsoft is the only cloud computing vendor that is a Magic Quadrant Leader in all of the major cloud services categories, including IaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). These ratings place Microsoft in an enviable position above Amazon AWS, Salesforce, and Google. Looking at the following chart, we can see that Microsoft is a Leader in fully 18 different Magic Quadrants.

Yes, Microsoft stomps on Amazon. I can here the chant “We’re number one” now even though I am in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

What are those 18 Magic Quadrants? I think this is the list, but I can be wrong. My view is that Gartner’s experts are never, ever, ever incorrect in their objective analyses of leading vendors. Perish the thought that the Magic Quadrant is influenced by any subjective element. I shudder to think how subjectivity influencing ratings would rock the myriad consultants wherever they may work.

The 18 Magic Quadrants:

Application develop life cycle management or ADLM

Business intelligence and analytics platforms or BIAP

Cloud infrastructure as a service or CaaS

CRM customer engagement center or CRMCEC

Data warehouse and data management solutions for analytics or DWaDMSfA

Disaster recovery as a service or DRaaS

Enterprise content management or ECM

Horizontal portals or HP (Please, do not confuse the leadership outfit Microsoft with the struggling Hewlett Packard)

Identity as a service or IDaaS

Mobile application development platforms or MADP

Operational database management systems or ODBMS

Public cloud storage services or PCSS

Sales force automation or SFA

Unified communications or UC (Not to be confused with Google ooze)

Web conferencing or WC (Please, be careful with this acronym in the UK)

X86 server virtualization infrastructure or XSVI.

Frankly, the best acronym on this list, which is filled with impressive acronyms, is DWaDMSfA. However, I quite like UC which may be pronounced “uck” and  WC. But for the connotation of a loo, WC is outstanding. I know that Microsoft is the all time champ of the enterprise.

Perhaps Amazon will pick up its marbles and focus on space travel and selling weird voice activated surveillance devices? Kudos to Microsoft for its stellar and totally objective achievement.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2016

SharePoint and Business Intelligence Data

August 4, 2016

Lucky for me one of my dogs is a member of TechTarget. I was able to read “Three Ways to Import Power BI Data into SharePoint.” The headline caught my attention because I had just checked out the wild and crazy assertions Recommind made for importing Encase data into its patented Autonomy IDOL like system. The trick is to pay extra for the connector.

Well, no need to spend more money with SharePoint because it can import data from Microsoft’s own business intelligence systems and even urls. Now before you jump up and down about importing data from urls, keep in mind that urls often present some darned exciting information to users. Importing directly can be a thrilling experience. Make sure you have taken a deep breath and have plenty of space for the exceptions and, of course, the data.

The write up presents two methods which strike me as a bit more straightforward. One can import business intelligence data from Excel. There you do. A SharePoint installation can use Excel data. I am not eager to fiddle with the results of the import because some text, programmatic instructions, and the Fancy Dan formatting can produce interesting results. But, hey, the write up says it works. Set aside some extra time to twiddle the resulting information.

The third approach is more interesting. The use case involves importing “raw data.” Here’s the really clever trick, gentle reader:

The report data can be saved as a comma-separated values file. Now, simply upload the CSV file to a SharePoint list within your team site.

I am not sure my understanding of “raw data” corresponds to information in a report, but what do I know? Not much.

What’s remarkable is that SharePoint, after all these years of hyperbole, does not provide seamless data interchange among Microsoft’s own products. Never fear. When the import does not produce information usable in SharePoint, just call a Gold Certified consultant. That’s a user friendly way to deal with a really unusual task like sharing information with SharePoint.

Ah, Microsoft. Ask Cortana for help in locating an expert who can do the sharing thing.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2016

Azure Media Services Meets Microsoft Machine Learning

July 26, 2016

The article on TechCrunch titled Microsoft Is Bringing Automatic Video Summarization, Hyperlapse, OCR, and More to Azure Media Services discusses the machine learning enhancements coming soon to the cloud-based resources for video workflows. Media Services will be able to summarize videos, perhaps more honestly than the average theatrical trailer. Face detection is another perk. The article details,

“Microsoft is building face detection into these tools and the company is including its ability to detect people’s emotions (something the company’s Cognitive Services already do for still images). Using this, you could easily see how people reacted to a speech at an event, for example. If your keynote goes on for too long, you will probably see people’s emotions go from happiness to indifference and then to sadness and contempt.”

The face detection and feature-reading technology is also shown in CaptionBot, Microsoft’s AI robot that can describe images. The uses of this sort of capability are extremely broad, but marketing professionals especially must be foaming at the mouth. Other features such as motion detection and optical character recognition as well as superior speech-to-text capabilities will certainly have users flocking to the upgrades. Also exciting is the Hyperlapse developments, which Microsoft promises will enable time-lapsing of videos in Azure Media Services without frame limitations.


Chelsea Kerwin, July 26, 2016

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on July 26, 2016. Information is at this link: http://bit.ly/29tVKpx..

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