Free Content Destroying Print Media

August 8, 2017

Today’s generation has no concept of having to wait for the day’s top stories till the newspaper is delivered. If they want to know something (or even they don’t) they simply turn on their Smart phone, tablet or even watch! With news stories available 24/7 with automatic alerts, most people under thirty can’t possibly fathom paying for it.

It almost wasn’t that way. According to Poynter,

In the 1990s, a cantankerous, bottom-line-obsessed and visionary Tribune Company executive named Charles Brumback pushed something that was called The New Century News Network. The top print news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Times-Mirror would form a network in which they’d house their content online and charge for it. Members would get paid based on usage. They even started a newswire that was similar to what we know as Google News.

Unfortunately, the heads of print media couldn’t see the future and how their pockets would be deflated due to the giving away of their content to online giants such as Facebook and Yahoo and Google.

Now, these same short-sighted network bigwigs are wanting Congress to intervene on their behalf. As the article points out, “running to Congress seems belated and impotent.”

Catherine Lamsfuss, August 8, 2017

Watson Powers New Translation Earpiece, No Connection Required

August 4, 2017

A start-up out of Australia is leveraging the prowess of IBM’s Watson AI to bring us a wearable translator, dubbed the Translate One2One, that does not require connectivity to function, we learn from “Lingmo Language Translator Earpiece Powered by IBM Watson” at New Atlas. Writer Rich Haridy notes that last year, Waverly Labs found success with its Pilot earpiece. That device was impressive with its near real time translation, but it did depend on a Bluetooth connection. Haridy asserts that New Atlas’ device is the first of its connection-independent kind; he writes:

Lingmo is poised to jump to the head of the class with a system that incorporates proprietary translation algorithms and IBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding and Language Translator APIs to deal with difficult aspects of language, such as local slang and dialects, without the need for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity. …

The system currently supports eight languages: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Brazilian Portuguese, English and Spanish. The in-built microphone picks up spoken phrases, which are translated to a second language within three to five seconds. An app version for iOS is also available that includes speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities for a greater number of languages.

The device is expected to be available in July and can be pre-ordered now. A single unit is $179, while a two-piece pack goes for $229. Lingmo launched its first translation device in 2013 and has been refining its tech ever since. Who will be next in the field to go connection-free?

Cynthia Murrell, August 4, 2017

Facebook Grapples with Moderation

August 1, 2017

Mashable’s Alex Hazlett seems quite vexed about the ways Facebook is mishandling the great responsibility that comes with its great power in, “Facebook’s Been Making It Up All Along and We’re Left Holding the Bag.” Reporting on a recent leak from the Guardian of Facebook moderator documents, Hazlett writes:

It confirmed what a lot of people had long suspected: Facebook is making it up as they go along and we’re the collateral damage. The leaked moderator documents cover how to deal with depictions of things like self-harm and animal cruelty in exceedingly detailed ways. A first read through suggests that the company attempted to create a rule for every conceivable situation, and if they missed one, well they’d write that guideline when it came up. It suggests they think that this is just a question of perfecting the rules, when they’ve been off-base from the outset.

The article notes that communities historically craft and disseminate the rules, ethics, and principles that guide their discourse; in this case, the community is the billions of Facebook users across the globe, and those crucial factors are known only to the folks in control (except what was leaked, of course.) Hazlett criticizes the company for its “generic platitudes” and lack of transparency around an issue that now helps shape the very culture of the entire world. He observes:

Sure, if Facebook had decided to take an actual stand, they’d have had detractors. But if they’d been transparent about why, their users would have gotten over it. If you have principles, and you stick to them, people will adjust. Instead, Facebook seems to change their policies based on the level of outrage that is generated. It contributes to a perception of them as craven and exploitative. This is why Facebook lurches from stupid controversy to stupid controversy, learning the hard way every. single. time.

These days, decisions by one giant social media company can affect millions of people, often in ways, those affected don’t even perceive, much less understand. A strategy of lurching from one controversy to another does seem unwise.

Cynthia Murrell, August 1, 2017

Android VPN App Security Analyzed

July 12, 2017

Here’s an important warning for users of mobile devices—beware VPN apps in the Google Play store.  Thats the upshot of a white paper from Australian research organization CSIRO, “An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of Android BPN Permission-Enabled Apps.” Researchers found, for example that 18% of VPN apps in the Google Play store do not actually encrypt anything, and 38% harbor malware of some sort.

The in-depth paper describes the investigation into four main areas of concern: third-party user tracking and permissions access; malware presence; traffic interception; and user awareness of potential risks. The researchers specify:

In this paper we provide a first comprehensive analysis of 283 Android apps that use the Android VPN permission, which we extracted from a corpus of more than 1.4 million apps on the Google Play store. We perform a number of passive and active measurements designed to investigate a wide range of security and privacy features and to study the behavior of each VPN-based app. Our analysis includes investigation of possible malware presence, third-party library embedding, and traffic manipulation, as well as gauging user perception of the security and privacy of such apps. Our experiments reveal several instances of VPN apps that expose users to serious privacy and security vulnerabilities, such as use of insecure VPN tunneling protocols, as well as IPv6 and DNS traffic leakage. We also report on a number of apps actively performing TLS interception. Of particular concern are instances of apps that inject JavaScript programs for tracking, advertising, and for redirecting e-commerce traffic to external partners.

The paper concludes by recommending Android revamp their VPN permission model. It also describes most users as “naïve” to the realities of mobile VPN security. For anyone wishing to educate themselves on the issue, this paper is a good place to turn.

Cynthia Murrell, July 12, 2017

Russia Compels Google to Relinquish Default Search-Engine Status on Android

May 11, 2017

Russia has successfully pushed Google into playing fair (on one matter, anyway), we learn from “Google Agrees to Open Android to Other Search Engines in Russia” at the Verge. Writer Jacob Kastrenakes reveals:

In addition to paying a $7.8 million fine, Google has agreed to stop preventing phone manufacturers from changing the default search engine to anything but Google. Google won’t be allowed to require any app exclusivity on new phones, nor will it be allowed to prevent other companies’ apps from coming preinstalled.

While Android is an open platform, core parts of the operating system aren’t, including Google’s app store. That’s allowed Google to set strict conditions for any phone manufacturer that wants to build a phone with access to the Play Store’s millions of apps. Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service said this counted as an abuse of Google’s dominant market position, and for the past two years, it’s been investigating and suing over the company’s restrictive terms.

Naturally, Russian search giant Yandex stands to gain from the concession. We can expect that company to negotiate with Android-phone manufacturers to have their search engine preinstalled within Russia. In fact, Yandex’s founder and CEO  issued a statement celebrating the settlement, noting that “competition breeds innovation.” Indeed.

Russian Android users will soon be empowered to reject Google Search, too. The company promises a to implement a widget for Chrome that will enable users to set a non-Google search engine as their default. The caveat— prospective engines must sign a commercial agreement with Google. After all, that global near-monopoly will not relinquish any more control than it must.

Cynthia Murrell, May 11, 2017

Cortana Becomes an MD

April 17, 2017

Smartphone assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana are only good for verbal Internet searches.  They can be made smarter with an infusion of machine learning and big data.  According to Neowin, Microsoft is adding NLP and AI to Cortana and sending it to medical school, “The UK’s Health Services Now Relies On Cortana Intelligence Suite To Read Medical Research.”

Microsoft takes a lot of flak for their technology, but they do offer comprehensive solutions that do amazing things…when they work.  The UK Health Services will love and hate their new Cortana Intelligence Suite.  It will be utilized to read and catalog medical research to alert medical professionals to new trends in medicine:

Researching and reading can consume medical professionals’ times, stealing a valuable resource from patients.

That’s why the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is now relying on Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite for sifting through medical data. NICE uses machine-learning algorithms to look at published medical research, categorize it, and feed it to volunteer citizen scientists which then re-categorizes and processes it. This leaves researchers time to go through the final data, interpret and understand it, without having to waste time on the way. It also forms a virtuous cycle, whereby the citizen scientists feed the computer algorithm data and improve it, and the computer algorithm feeds the volunteers better data, speeding up their work.

Medical professionals need to be aware of current trends and how medical research is progressing, but the shear amount of papers and information available is an impossible feat to control.  Cortana can smartly parry down the data and transform it into digestible, useful material.

Whitney Grace, April 17, 2017

Yikes! Google Skeptics Amp Up

April 6, 2017

Beyond providing search, email, office suite services, and not doing any evil, another of Google’s goals is to ramp up its search speed.  Media Post shares via its Search Marketing Daily column that “Search Experts Skeptical Of Google Amp Updates.”  Google’s Accelerated Mobile Project (AMP) might make it easier to access the original URL from search results, companies who rely on mobile search for marketing and advertising are not happy with it.

AMP reduces a Web site’s functionality by caching the content and in search results it prioritizes AMP.  Companies are losing potential clients when they are unable to display their wares in the growing mobile market.  It also does not bode well for Google, which draws a significant profit from ad revenue.  Why would Google hinder its own clients?  It is all in an effort to make the end user’s Google mobile search experience better.

The clients want to forgo the AMP experience:

‘If load times and user experience is really the issue here, then Google should prioritize based on load speed,’ wrote Yee Cheng Chin. ‘An AMP site with tons of images isn’t necessarily better than a simple minimal static page Web site served over CDN. I also want to use Google to look for relevant content, not whether a website conforms to Google’s own proprietary standards when searching.’ Chin, along with others, simply want to know how to disable the feature.

End users are frustrated as well because AMP changes the original URL’s content and does not always show what would be available on a full page.

The load times might be fast, pages are easier to read, but original intent and content are lost.  What is the solution?  Wait for technology to be upgraded enough to handle the original Web pages and bigger screens.

Whitney Grace, April 6, 2017

Android Introduces in Apps Search

March 20, 2017

Android has announced a new search feature, this one specifically for documents and messages within your apps. With this feature, if you want to revisit that great idea you jotted down last Tuesday, you will (eventually) be able to search for it within Evernote using whatever keywords you can recall from your brilliant plan. The brief write-up at Ubergizmo, “Google Introduces ‘In Apps’ Search Feature to Android,” explains the new feature:

According to Google, ‘We use apps to call friends, send messages or listen to music. But sometimes, it’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. Today, we’re introducing a new way for you to search for information in your apps on your Android phone. With this new search mode, called In Apps, you can quickly find content from installed apps.

Basically by searching under the ‘In Apps’ tab in the search bar on your Android phone, instead of trying to search the web, it will search within your apps itself. This will be ideal if you’re trying to bring up a particular message, or if you have saved a document and you’re unsure if you saved it in Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, in your email, and so on.

So far, In Apps only works with Gmail, Spotify, and YouTube. However, Google plans to incorporate the feature into more apps, including Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Glide, Todoist, and Google Keep. I expect we will eventually see the feature integrated into nearly every Android app.

Cynthia Murrell, March 20, 2017

Big Data Requires More Than STEM Skills

March 13, 2017

It will require training Canada’s youth in design and the arts, as well as STEM subjects if that country is to excel in today’s big-data world. That is the advice of trio of academic researchers in that country, Patricio Davila, Sara Diamond, and Steve Szigeti,  who declare, “There’s No Big Data Without Intelligent Interface” at the Globe and Mail. The article begins by describing why data management is now a crucial part of success throughout society, then emphasizes that we need creative types to design intuitive user interfaces and effective analytics representations. The researchers explain:

Here’s the challenge: For humans, data are meaningless without curation, interpretation and representation. All the examples described above require elegant, meaningful and navigable sensory interfaces. Adjacent to the visual are emerging creative, applied and inclusive design practices in data “representation,” whether it’s data sculpture (such as 3-D printing, moulding and representation in all physical media of data), tangible computing (wearables or systems that manage data through tactile interfaces) or data sonification (yes, data can make beautiful music).

Infographics is the practice of displaying data, while data visualization or visual analytics refers to tools or systems that are interactive and allow users to upload their own data sets. In a world increasingly driven by data analysis, designers, digital media artists, and animators provide essential tools for users. These interpretive skills stand side by side with general literacy, numeracy, statistical analytics, computational skills and cognitive science.

We also learn about several specific projects undertaken by faculty members at OCAD University, where our three authors are involved in the school’s Visual Analytics Lab. For example, the iCity project addresses transportation network planning in cities, and the Care and Condition Monitor is a mobile app designed to help patients and their healthcare providers better work together in pursuit of treatment goals. The researchers conclude with an appeal to their nation’s colleges and universities to develop programs that incorporate data management, data numeracy, data analysis, and representational skills early and often. Good suggestion.

Cynthia Murrell, March 13, 2017

Take the Time for Alexa

March 6, 2017

In the new digital assistant line up, Alexa responds better than Cortana and Siri, because it can provide better and more intelligent services that the smartphone based app.  As an Amazon product, as with Amazon Web Services, developers can learn how to build apps and other products for Alexa.  The question is how to get started?  HeroTurko created a learning tutorial for interested Alexa developers and it can be checked out at, “Amazon Alexa Development From Beginner To Intermediate.”

Voice-based apps are a growing sector in the technology industry and will only get bigger as the demand for voice-controlled technology increases.  The tutorial is designed to teach developers how to design voice apps and then launch them on the Amazon Echo.  Building your Alexa skills is a necessary step, so the course says, to get an edge on the voice app market:

The biggest industries in technology are surrounded by AI, Bots, and Voice technology. Voice technology I believe will be the new 21st user interface that will not only understand basic commands, but will be so smart to understand anything you tell it. This is why Amazon is making a big bet with Alexa, which it plans to generate close to $11 billion dollars by 2020. They know something about Amazon Echo, which is why now is the best time to learn these skills before the mainstream starts developing applications. We all know the story about apps for the smartphones, this is the same thing.

This course contains over 50 lectures and 1.5 hrs of content. It’s designed for beginners to play with new platforms in the voice space. You’ll learn the tools needed to build the Alexa Skills, how Alexa Skills work, and publish a skill to Amazon’s Alexa store.

Learning how to use Alexa is the precursor to designing other voice app and will probably segway into NLP.  If you want to learn where the IT market is going beyond machine learning and artificial intelligence, this is one of the places to start.

Whitney Grace, March 6, 2017

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