Quote to Note: HP Boss and the HP Management Style

March 25, 2019

I read “The Tech Lawsuit of the Year: HPE v Mike Lynch and Sushovan Hussain.” The write up contains a remarkable passage. The sentences in the article include a quote to note. Here’s what I circled as memorable. Your mileage may vary, of course:

In court filings seen by The Register, Lynch accused HPE chief exec Meg Whitman of responding to concerns he raised in HP management meetings shortly after the Autonomy buyout by “playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods”. Lynch also claimed that he was “placed on gardening leave for six months” after telling Whitman that “we are now rapidly losing a lot of good people”.

For me the description of management approach sounds a chime of truth. Here is the statement next to which I placed an exclamation point and a note to myself saying, “Yes”:

playing country music to the meeting [and] instructing the senior executives attending to take the meaning of the country music songs and apply them to their own management methods“. [emphasis added]

As I considered this observation, two songs in the genre of country, particularly the Wild West of Silicon Valley, activated:

  • I’d Be Better Off in a Pine Box
  • I Bought the Boots That Just Walked Out On Me.

HP and its management methods?

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

Amazonia for March 25, 2019

March 25, 2019

The Bezos bulldozer has encountered a landscape with tropical weathered granite. The diesel engine is under some stress.

Amazon Brands: Not Like Costco’s

Bloomberg reported that Amazon is not batting 1.000 with its house brands. “Most Amazon Brands Are Duds, Not Disrupters, Study Finds” asserts:

Turns out most Amazon-branded goods are flops that don’t threaten other businesses at all, according to Marketplace Pulse. In a study, the New York e-commerce research firm examined 23,000 products and found that shoppers aren’t more inclined to buy Amazon brands even when the company elevates them in search results.

Unlike the “your motherboard is compromised”, this write up has a source, Marketplace Pulse. Not much information about the methodology, but that’s par for the “real news” putting course.

Why the NYC Queens’ Disintegrated

I noted this write up in the Daily Mail, a remarkable source of information:

Mayor Bill De Blasio Implies That Jeff Bezos’ High-Profile Affair with News Anchor Lauren Sanchez Was the Reason Amazon Pulled Out of Its New York Headquarters Deal

The write up states:

De Blasio hinted that the Amazon CEO’s affair with news anchor Lauren Sanchez that erupted in the public eye ruined Amazon’s plans to create a sprawling headquarters. ‘I think we can all say that unusual things were happening within the Amazon family at that time. And that was said politely. There was clearly some unusual factors happening,’ de Blasio said with a smirk on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday.

I found the phrase “pulled out” and the use of the word “smirk” interesting. There was a source: another news organization’s interview.

Preparing for the Amazon Revolution

Biz Journals reported that Amazon is continuing its effort create Amazon savvy technologists. According to “Amazon Web Services Joins Capital CoLAB, an Effort to Prepare Young Workers for Tech Jobs”:

Capital CoLAB members help train students for STEM-related fields through programs and internships…The program strives to equip students with skills for areas such as data analytics, visualization and cybersecurity.

No mention appeared about getting the skills needed to work in an Amazon warehouse or driver an Amazon Sprinter delivery van. No tech skills needed I assume.

uDroppy Picks Up AWS Speed

A uDroppy executive explains how to use an AWS API call to eliminate the cost of a traditional file upload. The trick is to remember that Amazon’s S3 is a storage service, not a content delivery network. The write up explains:

The client sends the file via a PUT HTTP request to S3, and if all requirements are satisfied the file is correctly uploaded. The benefit of this approach is that our server has to handle just a simple API call where there’s no file data. The upload itself is processed by the client, leaving our server free and ready to process the next request very quickly. As you can imagine this method is very scalable, and at the same time not very expensive.

Trick or feature? The write up does not express an opinion.

Sisense: A Cyber Intel and Analytics Vendor Joins the Amazon Bandwagon

Amazon has a number of cyber intelligence and analytics companies as clients. According to “Sisense Accelerates Cloud Analytics with Amazon Web Services”:

the release of its new Elastic Data Hub, a unique offering in the BI space that allows organizations to easily connect and mashup live, real-time data with cached in-memory data on the same dashboard. This breakthrough offering leverages Sisense powerful, live data connector with Amazon Redshift from Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), a fast and powerful, fully managed, petabyte-scale data warehouse service in the cloud.

Is Amazon becoming the “roundhouse” for the cyber intelligence high speed trains?

Amazon: Squeezing Elastic

If you want a run down of Amazon’s squeezing of the Elastic open source Elasticsearch system, navigate to “With its Elasticsearch Distribution, Amazon Web Services Sends More Shockwaves Through Open-Source Software.” For many cyber intelligence companies, Elasticsearch is useful because it provides utility search and can accommodate add ins, add ons, proprietary modules, and the other enhancements. The article states:

Elastic CEO Shay Banon did not take kindly to AWS’s move, suggesting in his own blog post last week that AWS first approached Elastic wanting “preferential treatment” compared to other customers before Elastic said no and AWS released its version. “We have a commitment that we will treat a single developer contributing to our products the same as others,” he wrote.

More excitement to follow as Amazon implements its version of IBM’s approach to software lock in.

Pinterest Spend at AWS

GeekWire reported that Pinterest cut a deal with Amazon Web Services that requires it to spend $750 million by 2023.

AWS Embraces Nvidia Server Chips

Marketwatch reported that Nvidia’s latest server chips have now been adopted by AWS. Google and Alibaba also use the company’s silicon. Marketwatch stated:

The Santa Clara, Calif.,-based chip maker said its T4 Tensor Core graphics processing units, or GPUs, would be deployed to Amazon Web Services through Elastic Compute Cloud G4 in the coming weeks. While other public cloud services have been chipping away at market share over the past few years, Amazon’s AWS still ranks as a global market-share leader in public cloud services.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

Forbes Raises Questions about Facebook Encryption

March 25, 2019

I am never sure if a story in Forbes (the capitalist tool) is real journalism or marketing. I was interested in a write up called “Could Facebook Start Mining Decrypted WhatsApp Messages For Ads And Counter-Terrorism?” The main point is that Facebook encryption could permit Facebook to read customers’ messages. The purpose of such access would be to sell ads and provide information to “governments or harvesters.” The write up states:

The problem is that end-to-end encryption only protects a message during transit. The sender’s device typically retains an unencrypted copy of the message, while the recipient’s device necessarily must decrypt the message to display to the user. If either of those two devices have been compromised by spyware, the messages between them can be observed in real-time regardless of how strong the underlying encryption is.

No problem with this description. Intentionally or unintentionally, the statement makes clear why compromising user devices is an important tool in some government’s investigative and intelligence toolbox. Why decrypt of the bad actor’s mobile device or computer just emails the information to a third party?

I noted this statement as well:

The messaging app itself has access to the clear text message on both the sender and recipient’s devices.

If I understand the assertion, Facebook can read the messages sent by its encrypted service.

The write up asserts:

As its encrypted applications are increasingly used by terrorists and criminals and to share hate speech and horrific content, the company will come under further pressure to peel back the protections of encryption.

Even if Facebook wants to leave encrypted information in unencrypted form, outside pressures may force Facebook to just decrypt and process the information.

The conclusion of the write up is interesting:

Putting this all together, it is a near certainty that Facebook did not propose its grand vision of platform-wide end-to-end encryption without a clear plan in place to ensure it would be able to continue to monetize its users just as effectively as in its pre-encryption era. The most likely scenario is a combination of behavioral affinity inference through unencrypted metadata and on-device content mining. In the end, as end-to-end encryption meets the ad-supported commercial reality of Facebook, it is likely that we will see a dawn of a new era of on-device encrypted message mining in which Facebook is able to mine us more than ever under the guise of keeping us safe.

Speculation? Part of the capitalist toolkit it seems. Is there a solution? The write up just invokes Orwell. Fear, uncertainty, doubt. Whatever sells. But news?

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

Intelware: A Tricky Business

March 25, 2019

Short honk: I read “A New Age of Warfare”. The write up names specific companies like the NSO Group and DarkMatter. People are identified as well. Most coverage of intelligence software and systems is conducted in trade publications and at specialized conferences. The NYT may be sending a not-so-subtle alert that it wants to dig into software, systems, and business practices of highly specialized products and services. My hunch is that some companies and people will be eager to assist the NYT. Others may take a  different approach. Worth monitoring how the Gray Lady moves forward. Unforeseen consequences ahead? Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2019

RedMonk and Its Assessment of IBM as an Open Source Leader

March 24, 2019

I read “The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings: January 2019.” The analysis was interesting and contained one remarkable assertion and one probably understandable omission. The guts of the report boiled down, in my opinion, to a reminder to job hunters. If you want to increase your chances of getting hired, know:

1 JavaScript
2 Java
3 Python
4 PHP
5 C#

But the surprising statement in the write up was this one:

IBM remains at the forefront of open source innovation.

Now the omission. If IBM is in the forefront, where is Amazon? The company has made an effort to support most of the widely used open source software. Plus, the company appears to be taking tactical steps to close or capture open source.

From my vantage point, Amazon is taking a more “innovative” approach to open source. Granted Amazon’s “approach” may be a milestone in the company’s enhanced walled garden approach to core software systems. IBM’s approach seems little more than Big Blue’s attempt to give back and convince the open source community that it is not the IBM of its mainframe heritage.

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2019

Silos Persist: GAO Analysis of DHS Asserts

March 23, 2019

Government reports are often filled with useful information. Some reports can be difficult to locate. A good example is GAP-19-210 “Homeland Security: Research & Development Coordination Has Improved, but Additional Actions Need to Track and Evaluate Project.” This report is online as of March 23, 2019, at this link: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-19-210. In order to obtain a copy, right click on the link and download the PDF. Rendering of the document in a browser is not reliable.

I think this findability issue provides a good example of the information sharing issues discussed in the 59 page report.

If you are interested in the structure of DHS, the report contains several current organization charts.

The information about the technologies in use for border control is one of the first lists of this type which I have seen recently. You can find these data in Appendix I: Overview of the Science Technology Directorate’s Research and Development Projects on pages 48 and following.

This is a useful document because future procurements are hinted at.

A quick heads up. If you look for the document at www.gao.gov, the document does not appear on the public facing Web site yet. Experimenting with the different options for locating public information, one selector returned a list of DHS related reports with the most recent document dated 2014.

Stephen E Arnold, March 23, 2019

Smart or Not So Smart Software?

March 22, 2019

I read “A Further Update on New Zealand Terrorist Attack.” The good news is that the Facebook article did not include the word “sorry” or the phrase “we’ll do better.” The bad news is that the article includes this statement:

AI systems are based on “training data”, which means you need many thousands of examples of content in order to train a system that can detect certain types of text, imagery or video. This approach has worked very well for areas such as nudity, terrorist propaganda and also graphic violence where there is a large number of examples we can use to train our systems. However, this particular video did not trigger our automatic detection systems. To achieve that we will need to provide our systems with large volumes of data of this specific kind of content, something which is difficult as these events are thankfully rare. Another challenge is to automatically discern this content from visually similar, innocuous content – for example if thousands of videos from live-streamed video games are flagged by our systems, our reviewers could miss the important real-world videos where we could alert first responders to get help on the ground.

Violent videos have never before been posted to Facebook? Hmmm.

Smart software, smart employees, smart PR. Sort of. The fix is to process more violent videos. Sounds smart.

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2019

Amazon and Video Advertising

March 22, 2019

DarkCyber monitors Amazon for policeware, not advertising. But the article “Amazon to Launch Mobile Ads, in a Threat to Google and Facebook” adds a bit of color to the otherwise drab Bezos bulldozer. Google and Facebook sell ads, but each is facing pushback from governments and users. Both firms may be dulling the edge of their targeting scalpels in order to appease antagonistic factions.

What does Amazon do? If the information in the Bloomberg (we don’t need sources for some articles about fiddled hardware) write up is accurate, Amazon:

has hit on a new way to grab a chunk of the $129 billion digital advertising market now dominated by Google and Facebook Inc.: sell video spots on the e-commerce giant’s smartphone shopping app.

Yep, video ads. The ground zero for demographics with short attention spans and a desire to squint at tiny screens.

The write up asserts:

For years, Amazon refrained from selling advertising space on its site for fear of disrupting the shopping experience. Instead it used price, product descriptions and consumer reviews to determine which products were most prominent on the page. The site is increasingly a pay-to-play platform, with the top of the page dedicated to the highest bidder, a shift that has helped boost Amazon’s profits.

How will the search and social media giants respond?

If recent actions are any indication, not in an effective manner. The Bezos bulldozer chugs forward in a measured, now predictable manner.

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2019

Instagram: Another Facebook Property in the News

March 22, 2019

Instagram (IG or Insta) has become an important social media channel. Here’s a quick example:

My son and his wife have opened another exercise studio in Washington, DC. How was the service promoted? Instagram.

Did the Instagram promotions for the new facility work? Yes, quite well.

The article “Instagram Is the Internet’s New Home for Hate” makes an attempt to explain that Facebook’s Instagram is more than a marketing tool. Instagram is a source of misinformation.

The write up states:

Instagram is teeming with these conspiracy theories, viral misinformation, and extremist memes, all daisy-chained together via a network of accounts with incredible algorithmic reach and millions of collective followers—many of whom, like Alex, are very young. These accounts intersperse TikTok videos and nostalgia memes with anti-vaccination rhetoric, conspiracy theories about George Soros and the Clinton family, and jokes about killing women, Jews, Muslims, and liberals.

We also noted this statement:

The platform is likely where the next great battle against misinformation will be fought, and yet it has largely escaped scrutiny. Part of this is due to its reputation among older users, who generally use it to post personal photos, follow inspirational accounts, and keep in touch with friends. Many teenagers, however, use the platform differently—not only to connect with friends, but to explore their identity, and often to consume information about current events.

Is it time to spend more time on Instagram? How do intelligence-centric software systems index Instagram content? What non obvious information can be embedded in a picture or a short video? Who or what examines content posted on the service? Can images with hashtags be used to pass information about possibly improper or illegal activities?

Stephen E Arnold, March 22, 2019

A Chat Search Feature for WhatsApp

March 21, 2019

Computers and anything with a hard drive or indexable database can be searched. Chat and text messages are stored are such devices, but good luck trying to find information with a quick search. WhatsApp is a popular message service and it might be on the verge of a breakthrough in chat technology: search. Mirror shares the story, “WhatsApp’s New Feature Will Make Searching Through Chats MUCH Easier.”

WhatsApp and other message services already have basic search functions that allow users to find specific messages, some keywords, and other information. The basic search still requires users to search through their messages to find information they cannot pull up with the function. That takes a long time and often does not yield successful results. WhatsApp will debut an advanced search mode that will outpace its basic search by a long run.

What will the new Whatsapp advanced search do?

“Advanced Search will let you filter your search, whether you’re looking for photos, links, audio, documents, GIFs or videos. The feature will also show your Search History. WABetaInfo explained: “If you tap a media file, for example Photos, WhatsApp will show all messages that contain an image!” Thankfully, your history an also be easily deleted, using a ‘Clear’ button. Your search results will also include a preview, meaning there’s no need to open the search result in order to see it.”

We believe this development could be an important one.

Whitney Grace, March 21, 2019

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