Be Like Cortana, Really Microsoftish

February 20, 2017

We noted “Microsoft Adds More AI Tools to Dev Cognitive Services Suite.” The battle for lock in continues. Facebook, Google, and others in the online oligopolistic club want to initiate members to their group. The best way, it seems, is to shower the developers with freebies. This is a variant of the Xalisco approach to drug distribution in the United States. Free stuff gets folks coming back for me. Well, that’s the theory.

The write up says:

Microsoft has released three artificial intelligence (AI) tools used in its Skype Translator, Bing search and Cortana speech recognition services to developers as part of a bundle of 25 tools in Microsoft Cognitive Services.

Yes, cognitive. That’s the IBM Watson word, isn’t it? The write up adds:

The collection of tools will enable developers to add features such as emotion and sentiment detection, vision and speech recognition, and language understanding to their applications, according to Microsoft, which claims that they will require “zero expertise in machine learning” to use.

How are these tools working? I would ask Tay, but I prefer a less biased type of Microsoft smart software. And Cortana? Isn’t that the intrusive thing in Windows 10. I can type, thank you.

But, hey, free is free. What’s the long term cost? Good question. Perhaps I can ask Bing? On the other hand, I could swing by H&R Block and ask Watson.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2017

Pinterest Offers the Impulse Shopper a Slice of Wonderfulness

February 20, 2017

How about point-and-click impulse buying? Sound good? Pinterest has merged looking at pictures with spending money for stuff.

Navigate to “Pinterest’s New ‘Lens’ IDs Objects and Helps You Buy Them.” I know that I spend hours looking at pictures on Pinterest. When I see wedding snapshots and notice a pair of shoes to die for, I can buy them with a click… almost. My hunch is that some children may find Pinterest buying as easy as Alexa Echo and Dot buying.

I learned:

[Pinterest] announced a new feature called Lens, which will enable people to snap a picture of an item inside the Pinterest app. The app will then suggest objects it thinks are related. Think Shazam but for objects, not music. Surfacing the products will make it easier for people to take action, according to Pinterest. That could include everything from making a purchase to cooking a meal.

One of Pinterest’s wizards (Evan Sharp) allegedly said:

“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you.” The new technology, Sharp said, “is capable of seeing the world the way you do.”

Isn’t the consumerization of no word search a life saver? Now I need a new gown to complement my size 11 triple E high heels. There’s a bourbon tasting in Harrod’s Creek next week, and I have to be a trend setter before we go squirrel hunting.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2017

Upgraded Social Media Monitoring

February 20, 2017

Analytics are catching up to content. In a recent ZDNet article, Digimind partners with Ditto to add image recognition to social media monitoring, we are reminded images reign supreme on social media. Between Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram, messages are often conveyed through images as opposed to text. Capitalizing on this, and intelligence software company Digimind has announced a partnership with Ditto Labs to introduce image-recognition technology into their social media monitoring software called Digimind Social. We learned,

The Ditto integration lets brands identify the use of their logos across Twitter no matter the item or context. The detected images are then collected and processed on Digimind Social in the same way textual references, articles, or social media postings are analysed. Logos that are small, obscured, upside down, or in cluttered image montages are recognised. Object and scene recognition means that brands can position their products exactly where there customers are using them. Sentiment is measured by the amount of people in the image and counts how many of them are smiling. It even identifies objects such as bags, cars, car logos, or shoes.

It was only a matter of time before these types of features emerged in social media monitoring. For years now, images have been shown to increase engagement even on platforms that began focused more on text. Will we see more watermarked logos on images? More creative ways to visually identify brands? Both are likely and we will be watching to see what transpires.

Megan Feil, February 20, 2017

 

Kasperski Discovers Firmware-Level Spyware Linked to NSA

February 20, 2017

It looks like the NSA is hacking computers around the world by accessing hard-drive firmware, reports Sott in their article, “Russian Researchers Discover NSA Spying and Sabotage Software Hidden in Hard Drives.” We learn that Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab found the sneaky software lurking on hard drives in 30 countries, mostly at government institutions, telecom and energy companies, nuclear research facilities, media outlets, and Islamic activist organizations. Apparently, the vast majority of hard drive brands are vulnerable to the technique. Writer Joseph Menn reports:

According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on. Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up. ‘The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over,’ lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

Though the leaders of the still-active espionage campaign could have taken control of thousands of PCs, giving them the ability to steal files or eavesdrop on anything they wanted, the spies were selective and only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets, according to Raiu. He said Kaspersky found only a few especially high-value computers with the hard-drive infections.

Kaspersky’s reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc, Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.”

Kaspersky did not come right out and name the NSA as the source of the spyware, but did connect it to Stuxnet, a known NSA tool. We also learn that a “former NSA employee” confirmed Kaspersky’s analysis, stating these tools are as valuable as Stuxnet.

Menn notes that this news could increase existing resistance to Western technology overseas due to security concerns. Researcher Raiu specifies that whoever created the spyware must have had access to the proprietary source code for the drives’ firmware. While Western Digital, Seagate, and Micron deny knowledge, Toshiba, Samsung, and IBM remain mum on the subject. Navigate to the article to read more details, or to view the four-minute video (scroll down a bit for that.)

Cynthia Murrell, February 20, 2017

Watson to the Future: The Mainframe

February 19, 2017

Hey, you love mainframes. You may have some. IBMs own. Hitachi-style plug compatibles. Whatever.

Want to run some zip zip stuff on them? Now you can load Watson and get cognitive computing for your airline reservations, your government accounting, or your bank’s back office process which no one knows how to port to Goggle-style servers.

The light shined in my mind’s dark rooms when I read “IBM Brings Machine Learning To The Private Cloud.” Nestled into the article is this statement:

BM has extracted the core machine learning technology from IBM Watson and will initially make it available where much of the world’s enterprise data resides: the z System mainframe, the operational core of global organizations where billions of daily transactions are processed by banks, retailers, insurers, transportation firms and governments.

The write up makes some bold assertions; for example, “any” language, popular machine learning framework, transaction data type, and “without the cost, latency, or risk of moving data off premise.”

The write up provides a snapshot of where IBM thinks mainframes and Watson will generate revenues; specifically:

  • Retail
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare.

My thought is that each of these markets may want to reduce their dependence on mainframes and the challenges of cost control, staffing, and rapid application development “chains.”

If Watson were selling like hot cakes, why chase mainframes? Answer: More revenue. Customer demand, in my opinion, might be the wrong answer.

Stephen E Arnold, February 19, 2017

Innovation: Dots and Boundary Crossing

February 18, 2017

I stumbled across a tweet with this graphic in it:

image

Perhaps a drawing by Sandy Carter.

Another tweeter person posted the graphic with these changes:

image

Perhaps a modification by Mike the Fish.

Without being a pedant, I would point out that the chestnut of connecting dots operates in a slightly more complex environment. This illustration is not perfect, but it is closer to the real world:

Related image

A tip of the hat to Ring Realms.

Stephen E Arnold, February 18, 2017

Quote to Note: Technology Bummer

February 17, 2017

I was surfing through Canada’s online newspapers to see what’s hot and what’s not in the world center for artificial intelligence. (Yes, I believe the Industry Canada PR about Google and Microsoft setting up smart software shops in a land where some of my relatives live.)

I read  this uplifting article: “A Flare for Self-Destruction: How Technology Is the Means, Not the Cause, of Our Demise.”

Here’s the quote I noted:

Technologies are just the enabling routes to self-destruction, not the cause.

The write up includes some comments about the cloud, offering this insight to letting other people handle one’s data:

Many computer users go along with this [cloud]  promise, because cloud storage is cheap, convenient and seemingly infinite. But this means that the company has access to our confidential information. Moreover, there is no guarantee that it will keep its side of the deal. It may get taken over, or it may go bankrupt. Moreover, if we stop our payments – or, for that matter, die – the company may render our data inaccessible, or even delete it. Perhaps “cloud computing” should be renamed “cloud-cuckoo computing.”

Let me point out that the newspaper is not pushing negativism. The article is a book review of Peter Townsend’s The Dark Side of Technology. Sounds like a fun read. Tip: Read Jacques Ellul’s Technological Bluff. It’s a spirit lifter too.

St4ephen E Arnold, February 17, 2017

A Partial List of Search Engines: Yep, Really Incomplete

February 17, 2017

I read “Better Than Google: 7 Search Engines You Should Try.” I love that should. Very parental. Sometimes parents are wrong, however. I noted this passage:

There is no argument about Google being a reliable and popular search engine. But if you are interested in one that suits your specific interest, search type, or desire to help others, then check out these awesome seven alternatives.

I love that word awesome.

Okay, here are the sever search engines mom and dad want me to try out:

  • DuckDuckGo
  • Ixquick, now repositioned as StartPage
  • Vimeo
  • Yahoo image search
  • FindSounds
  • Ecosia
  • Lilo, which pops up an “add to Opera” link and reports that Opera is not supported. Interesting.

image

Not familiar with these. Well, you will find the research  these deliver “awesome.”

I would point out that free Web search engines are struggling for traffic. In one of our HonkinNews’ programs we pointed out that DuckDuckGo “crowed” about having processed about 15 million queries in one day. Google fields billions in 24 hours.

For thorough research, it is often useful to check out such systems as Bing, Qwant, and Yandex. If one is looking with extreme prejudice, a dip into iseek.com, Giburu, or (heaven forbid) commercial services.

But awesome does not mean thorough. Awesome means a nifty view or a sense of apprehension and fear. Yep, that’s what I experience when I learn that I should try these search engines. Stirring.

Stephen E Arnold, February 17, 2017

Bing Improvements

February 17, 2017

Online marketers are usually concerned with the latest Google algorithm, but Microsoft’s Bing is also a viable SEO target. Busines2Community shares recent upgrades to that Internet search engine in its write-up, “2016 New Bing Features.” The section on the mobile app seems to be the most relevant to those interested in Search developments. Writer Asaf Hartuv tells us:

For search, product and local results were improved significantly. Now when you search using the Bing app on an iPhone, you will get more local results with more information featured right on the page. You won’t have to click around to get what you want.

Similarly, when you search for a product you want to buy, you will get more options from more stores, such as eBay and Best Buy. You won’t have to go to as many websites to do the comparison shopping that is so important to making your purchase decision.

While these updates were made to the app, the image and video search results were also improved. You get far more options in a more user-friendly layout when you search for these visuals.

The Bing app also includes practical updates that go beyond search. For example, you can choose to follow a movie and get notified when it becomes available for streaming. Or you can find local bus routes or schedules based on the information you select on a map.

Hartuv also discusses upgrades to Bing Ads (a bargain compared to Google Ads, apparently), and the fact that Bing is now powering AOL’s search results (after being dropped by Yahoo). He also notes that, while not a new feature, Bing Trends is always presenting newly assembled, specialized content to enhance users’ understanding of current events. Hartuv concludes by prompting SEO pros to remember the value of Bing.

Cynthia Murrell, February 17, 2017

The Current State of Enterprise Search, by the Numbers

February 17, 2017

The article and delightful Infographic on BA Insight titled Stats Show Enterprise Search is Still a Challenge builds an interesting picture of the present challenges and opportunities surrounding enterprise search, or at least alludes to them with the numbers offered. The article states,

As referenced by AIIM in an Industry Watch whitepaper on search and discovery, three out of four people agree that information is easier to find outside of their organizations than within. That is startling! With a more effective enterprise search implementation, these users feel that better decision-making and faster customer service are some of the top benefits that could be immediately realized.

What follows is a collection of random statistics about enterprise search. We would like to highlight one stat in particular: 58% of those investing in enterprise search get no payback after one year. In spite of the clear need for improvements, it is difficult to argue for a technology that is so long-term in its ROI, and so shaky where it is in place. However, there is a massive impact on efficiency when employees waste time looking for the information they need to do their jobs. In sum: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live (productively) without it.

Chelsea Kerwin, February 17, 2017

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