Zo Tay! Piz Daint. Microsoft Talks Quantum But Goes Cray

December 8, 2016

There’s a new Microsoft chatbot coming. Microsoft wants to deploy smarter, less racist chatbots I assume. To achieve that goal, Microsoft talks quantum computing and qubits (not Quberts). However, when it comes to crunching data, Microsoft is embracing the ever popular and somewhat iconic Cray outfit.

Navigate to “Microsoft Goes Cray for Deep Learning on Supercomputers.” The write up informed me that:

The deep learning process could be about to change dramatically thanks to work being carried out Cray, Microsoft and the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre. In existing architectures and conventional systems, deep learning requires a slow training process that can take months, something that can lead to significantly higher costs and delays in making scientific discoveries. Cray believes that its work with Microsoft and CSSC could have solved this problem by applying supercomputing architectures to accelerate the training process.

The name of my servers are derived from dogs owned by my friends. Yes, there was an Oreo and a Biscuit.

But what is the name of the pricey, complex, and semi fast Cray supercomputer?

Give up? Here’s a clue: “A prominent peak in Grisons that overlooks the Fuorn pass.”

Need more time?

Give up?


The answer is…

Piz Daint

There you go. Tay, Zo, and Piz Daint. Outstanding.

The write up told me:

According to the supercomputer manufacturer, deep learning problems share algorithmic similarities with applications that are traditionally run on a massively parallel supercomputer. So by optimizing inter-node communication using the Cray XC Aries network and a high performance MPI library, each training job is said to be able to leverage more compute resources and therefore reduce the amount of time required to train them.

I too believe everything computer assemblers tell me. I recall a demonstration online system which boasted fancy Dan machines from Sun Microsystems. The high powered, expensive hardware could support four—yep, four—simultaneous users. Another example is the system designed to search video news which boasted a five minute response time. Flashy hardware. Software seemed to be the problem. And Microsoft rarely distributes software which does not work as advertised. I wish I knew how to get that Word numbering system to work. Oh, well.

Keep in mind that Cray is providing some Microsoft hardware with its machines. Plus, Cray is based in Seattle. Microsoft’s and Cray’s partner in the test is the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS). I like Switzerland, and I assume there will be some meetings there. The Swiss also enjoy US holiday shopping. I assume there will be or have been some visits by Swiss wizards to Seattle. I am not sure how many meetings will be scheduled in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, however. I thought Cray was owned by Tera Computer. I did a quick check on the financial health of the Cray outfit. I concluded that the tie up will definitely be a plus for the Cray folks. By the way, Cray was founded in 1972.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2016


IBM Thinks Big on Data Unification

December 7, 2016

So far, the big data phenomenon has underwhelmed. We have developed several good ways to collect, store, and analyze data. However, those several ways have resulted in separate, individually developed systems that do not play well together. IBM hopes to fix that, we learn from “IBM Announces a Universal Platform for Data Science” at Forbes. They call the project the Data Science Experience. Writer Greg Satell explains:

Consider a typical retail enterprise, which has separate operations for purchasing, point-of-sale, inventory, marketing and other functions. All of these are continually generating and storing data as they interact with the real world in real time. Ideally, these systems would be tightly integrated, so that data generated in one area could influence decisions in another.

The reality, unfortunately, is that things rarely work together so seamlessly. Each of these systems stores information differently, which makes it very difficult to get full value from data. To understand how, for example, a marketing campaign is affecting traffic on the web site and in the stores, you often need to pull it out of separate systems and load it into excel sheets.

That, essentially, has been what’s been holding data science back. We have the tools to analyze mountains of data and derive amazing insights in real time. New advanced cognitive systems, like Watson, can then take that data, learn from it and help guide our actions. But for all that to work, the information has to be accessible.”

The article acknowledges that progress that has been made in this area, citing the open-source Hadoop and its OS, Spark, for their ability to tap into clusters of data around the world and analyze that data as a single set. Incompatible systems, however, still vex many organizations.

The article closes with an interesting observation—that many business people’s mindsets are stuck in the past. Planning far ahead is considered prudent, as is taking ample time to make any big decision. Technology has moved past that, though, and now such caution can render the basis for any decision obsolete as soon as it is made. As Satell puts it, we need “a more Bayesian approach to strategy, where we don’t expect to predict things and be right, but rather allow data streams to help us become less wrong over time.” Can the humans adapt to this way of thinking? It is reassuring to have a plan; I suspect only the most adaptable among us will feel comfortable flying by the seat of our pants.

Cynthia Murrell, December 7, 2016

On Accountability for Search Engine Content

December 6, 2016

For better or worse, Google and, to a lesser extent other Internet search engines, shape the way many people view the world. That is a lot of power, and some folks are uneasy about allowing those companies to wield it without some sort of oversight. For example, MIT Technology Review asks, “What’s Behind Google’s Secretive Ad-Blocking Policy?” At the heart of the issue is Google’s recent decision to ban ads for payday loans, a product widely considered to be predatory and currently under investigation by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Reporter Elizabeth Woyke observes that such concerns about gate-keeping apply to other major online companies, like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Baidu. She writes:

Consumers might not realize it, but Google—and other ad-supported search engines—have been making editorial decisions about the types of ads they will carry for years. These companies won the right to reject ads they consider objectionable in 2007, when a Delaware district court ruled that constitutional free-speech guarantees don’t apply to search engines since they are for-profit companies and not ‘state actors.’ The decision cited earlier cases that upheld newspapers’ rights to decide which ads to run.

Google currently prohibits ads for ‘dangerous,’ ‘dishonest,’ and ‘offensive’ content, such as recreational drugs, weapons, and tobacco products; fake documents and academic cheating services; and hate-group paraphernalia. Google also restricts ads for content it deems legally or culturally sensitive, such as adult-oriented, gambling-related, and political content; alcoholic beverages; and health care and medicine. It may require additional information from these advertisers and limit placement to certain geographical locations.”

Legal experts, understandably, tend to be skittish about ceding this role to corporations. How far, and in which directions, will they be allowed to restrict content? Will they ever be required to restrict certain content that could cause harm? And, where do we as a society draw those lines? One suggestion that seems to make sense is a call for transparency. That way, at least, users could tap into the power of PR to hold companies accountable. See the write-up for more thoughts on the subject from legal minds.

Cynthia Murrell, December 6, 2016

Web Search Engine Market Share: Some Surprises

November 29, 2016

Did you know that the Excite search engine, owned by IAC Corporation, still operates the Excite.com Web site in the US, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK? I must admit neither my goslings or I knew this fact. I was prompted to check out excite after I read “Is Bing A Thing? The Answer: It Depends.”

The write up points out that Google has a global desktop Web search share of 75.2 percent. Google’s share of the mobile table search engine market is 94.18 percent. The data appeared in these two charts.




Bing commands 1.26 percent of the mobile table search market which lags behind Yahoo’s 3.51 percent. In the back of my mind, a tiny voice says that Microsoft provides Yahoo search with search.

The second surprise after the data stunned me, was this series of statements:

What differences in search algorithms do Bing and Google have? According articles from HubSpot and Ignite Visibility, here are a few:

  • Bing favors factually relevant results over socially relevant sites
  • Bing places more weight on only websites with official domain names like .gov or .edu
  • Bing places more emphasis on social media signals
  • Bing still considers keywords used in page title, meta tags, and meta keyword field

Well, well, well. Bing is into facts despite its stake in Facebook.

Are the data accurate? Well, the Google mobile search market strikes me as unreasonably low.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2016



Hear That Bing Ding: A Warning for Google Web Search

November 23, 2016

Bing. Bing. Bing. The sound reminds me of a broken elevator door in the Block & Kuhl when I was but a wee lad. Bing. Bing. Bing. Annoying? You bet.

I read “Microsoft Corporation Can Defeat Alphabet Inc in Search.” I enjoy these odd, disconnected from the real world write ups predicting that Microsoft will trounce Google in a particular niche. This particular write up seizes upon the fluff about Microsoft having an “intelligence fabric.” Then with a spectacular leap, which ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of the humans use Google Web search, suggests that Bing will be the next big thing in Web search.

Get real.

Bing, after two decades of floundering, allegedly is profitable. No word on how long it will take to pay back the money Microsoft has invested in Web search over these 4,000 days of stumbling.

I highlighted this passage in the write up:

Rik van der Kooi, corporate vice president of Microsoft Search Advertising, referred to Bing as an “intelligence fabric” that has been embedded into Windows 10, Cortana, Xbox and other products, including Hololens. He went on to say the future Bing will be personal, pervasive and offer a personal experience so much that it “might not be obvious users are even interacting with the search engine.

I think I understand. Microsoft is everywhere. Microsoft Bing is embedded. Therefore, Microsoft beats Google Web search.

Great thinking.

I do like this passage:

This is a bold call considering that Google owned 89.38% of the global desktop search engine market, while Microsoft owned 4.2% as of July 2016, according to data provided by Statista. With MSFT’s endeavors to create an integrated ecosystem, however, the long-term scale is tipping in the favor of Microsoft stock. That’s because Microsoft’s traditional business is entrenched into many people’s lives as well as business operations. For instance, the majority of desktop devices run on Windows.

Yep, there are lots of desktops still. However, there are more mobile devices. If I am not mistaken, Google’s Android runs more than 80 percent of these devices. Add desktop and mobile and what do you get? No dominance of Web search by Bing the way I understand the situation.

Sure, I love the Bing thing. I have some affection for Qwant.com, Yandex.com, and Inxight.com too. But Microsoft has yet to demonstrate that it can deliver a Web search system which is able to change the behaviors of today’s users. Look at the Google in the word processing space. Microsoft continues to have an edge and Google has been trying for more than a decade to make Word an afterthought. That hasn’t happened. Inertia is a big factor.

Search for growing market share on Bing. What’s that answer look like? Less than five percent of the Web search market? Oh, do that query on Google by the way.

Stephen E Arnold, November 23, 2016

Android Has No Competition in Mobile OS Market

November 23, 2016

Google’s Android OS currently powers 88% of the smartphones in the world, leaving minuscule 12.1 percent to Apple’s iOS and the remaining 0.3 percent for Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS and Tizen.

IBTimes in an article titled Android Rules! 9 out of Every 10 Phones Run Google’s OS says:

Google’s Android OS dominated the world by powering 88 percent of the world’s smartphone market in the third quarter of 2016. This means 9 out of every 10 mobile phones in the world are using Android, while the rest rely on iOS or other mobile OS such as BlackBerry OS, Tizen and Windows Phone.

The growth occurred despite the fact that smartphone shipments are falling. China and Africa which were big markets have been performing poorly since last three-quarters. Android’s gain thus can be attributed to the fact that Android is an OpenSource system that can be used by any device manufacturer.

Despite being the clear leader, the mobile OS is full of bugs and other inherent problems, as the article points out:

Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place.

At present, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo are the leading Android phone makers. However, Google recently unveiled Pixel, its flagship phone for the premium category. Does it mean that Google has its eyes set on the premium handset category market? Only time can tell.

Vishal Ingole, November 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Microsoft Factoid of the Month: A Browser Downdraft

November 16, 2016

Most people think in terms of uptake. The approach is a sign of a healthy mind. Uptake means good things.

I read “Microsoft Loses about 40 Million Internet Explorer Users in One Month.” Let’s assume that the data are spot on, which is risky these days.

The write up states:

…In October alone, Microsoft shed some 40 million users, with the likes of Chrome and Firefox scooping them up.

What’s the outlook for Microsoft’s browser market share? The write up reports:

At the end of 2015, Microsoft’s total browser share was comparable to Chrome’s now and yet as we close out 2016, it has been reduced to barely a quarter. While it is unknown whether Firefox’s share can continue its upswing it has experienced lately, it seems Microsoft’s overall share will continue to diminish.

Let’s ask Tay what’s up?

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2016

Azure Search Overview

November 15, 2016

I know that Microsoft is a world leader in search and retrieval. Look at the company’s purchase of Fast Search & Transfer in 2008. Look at the search in Windows 7, 8, and 10. Look at the Microsoft research postings listed in Bing. I am convinced.

I did learn a bit more about Azure Search in “Microsoft Azure Search and Azure Backup Arrive in Canada.” I learned that search is now a service; for example:

Azure Search is Microsoft search-as-a-service solution for cloud. It allows customers to add search to their applications using REST API or .NET SDK. Microsoft handles the server and infrastructure management, meaning developers don’t need to worry about understanding search.

Here are the features I noted from the write up:

  • Query syntax including Boolean and Lucene conventions
  • Support for 56 different languages
  • Search suggestions for auto complete
  • Hit highlighting
  • Geo spatial support
  • Faceted navigation just like Endeca in 1998

The most interesting statement in the write up was in my opinion:

Microsoft handles the server and infrastructure management, meaning developers don’t need to worry about understanding search.

I love that one does not need to understand search. That’s what makes search so darned fascinating today. Systems which require no understanding. I also believe everything that a search system presents in a list of relevance ranked results. I really do. I, for example, believed that Fast Search & Transfer was the most wonderful search system in the world until, well, the investigators arrived. Azure is even more wonderful as a cloud appliance thing that developers do not need to understand. Great and wonderful.

Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2016

Quote to Note: Microsoft on Mobile Phones

November 3, 2016

This quote is a short one. The source is “Microsoft’s CEO Admits They Missed The Boat On Mobile.” Here’s the statement attributed to Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella:

We clearly missed mobile. There is no question.

No kidding? Perhaps Microsoft can team with Samsung and give it the old college try.

Stephen E Arnold, November 3, 2016

Job Hunting in Secret Is Not So Secret

November 3, 2016

While the American economy has recovered from the recession, finding a job is still difficult.  Finding a new job can be even harder has you try to be discreet while handling emails, phone calls, and Web traffic under the radar.  A bit of advice is to not search for jobs while at your current position, but that is easier said than done in many respects.  Social media is a useful job seeking tool and LinkedIn now offers a job search incognito mode.  SlashGear discusses the new mode in the article, “LinkedIn’s Open Candidates Feature Helps You Find A Job In Secret.”

The Open Candidates feature allows LinkedIn users to search for a new job while hiding their job search activity from their current employer.  It will try to hide your job search activity, while at the same time it will add a new search feature for recruiters that displays profiles of people who have listed themselves under the Open Candidates feature.  The hope is that it will bring more opportunity to these people.

However, nothing is ever secret on the Internet and LinkedIn can only do its best to help you:

While the new feature will probably be welcome by people who would prefer to carry out a job search while ruffling as few feathers as possible, LinkedIn does warn that even it will try to prevent your current employer from seeing that you’ve listed yourself as an Open Candidate, it can’t guarantee that it will be able to identify all of the recruiters associated with your company.  In other words, use at your own risk.

If you work in a company that tracks your online social life or for a tech organization, you will have difficulty using this feature.  LinkedIn and Microsoft employees will definitely need to use the first piece of advice, search for a new job on your personal computer/device using your own Internet.

Whitney Grace, November 3, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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