IBM and Big Iron

September 20, 2014

I read an interesting article about IBM. “IBM – A New Behemoth, or a Wounded Beast?” I noted that IBM is continuing to rely on Big Iron for some revenue. The write up reported:

IBM is pushing the mainframe as a Linux engine.  Sales of the mainframe continue to be strong, and the majority of sales now include Linux capabilities.  Although the mainframe is not an engine for everyone, it shows no sign of fading away, and will remain a core part of IBM’s future.

The argument in the article is less on IBM as either a behemoth or a beast. The article suggests that it has a flawed strategy with regard to Intel x86 systems.

IBM faces some significant growth hurdles, and the company has not formulated a winning strategy for its cloud solutions as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft take aim at IBM’s approach to enterprise cloud computing.

Furthermore, IBM is betting on Watson to generate billions in revenue. Is there a strategic vision behind Watson or the allied Cognos-SPSS-i2 lines of business.

What this article does is make very clear that IBM has some significant issues with regard to its corporate strategy. Both HP and IBM are increasingly vulnerable in multiple lines of business. Maybe enterprise apps will generate the types of revenue lift IBM enjoyed in its salad days? But then, maybe not?

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2014

Russian Content: Tough to Search If Russia Is Not on the Internet

September 20, 2014

Forget running queries on if Russia disconnects from the Internet. Sure, there may be workarounds, but these might invite some additional scrutiny. Why am I suggesting that some Russian content becomes unsearchable. Well, I believed the story “Russia to Be Disconnected from the Internet.” Isn’t Pravda a go to source for accurate, objective information?

The story asserts:

This is not a question of disconnecting Russia from the international network, yet, Russian operators will need to set up their equipment in a way to be able to disconnect the Russian Internet from the global network quickly in case of emergency, the newspaper wrote. As for the state of emergency, it goes about both military actions and large-scale riots in the country. In addition, the government reportedly discusses a possibility to empower the state with the function to administer domains. Currently this is a function of a public organization – the Coordination Center for the National Domain of the Internet. The purpose of the possible measure is not to isolate Russia from the outside world, but to protect the country, should the USA, for example, decide to disconnect Russia from the system of IP-addresses. It will be possible to avoid this threat, if Russia has a local regulator to distribute IP-addresses inside the country, rather than the ICANN, controlled by the United States government. This requires operators to set up “mirrors” that will be able to receive user requests and forward them to specific domain names.

Interesting. Who is being kept in the information closet? I suppose it depends on one’s point of view. Need an update for Sphinx Search? There will be a solution because some folks will plan ahead.

Stephen E Arnold, September 20, 2014

Google and Its Possible Really, Really Big Ambitions

September 19, 2014

I read “Looking Past the Search Results: Google 2.0 Will Build Airports and Cities Says Report.” The “report” appears to be the work of an outfit doing business as “The Information.” The founder of The Information is Jessica E. Lessin. She was a Wall Street Journal reporter. She morphed into a “reportrepreneur.” (See About the Information for more about the company.)

The “report” costs money. The Independent’s summary of the main idea reveals:

Larry Page has set up a ‘company within a company’ dubbed ‘Google 2.0’ that will look at the tech giant’s long-term future – presumably for when advertising revenue from search traffic (inevitably) dries up.

The “report” suggests that Google may build airports and cities. I assume these will complement the Loon, Glass, Death, and other moon shot projects.

The Independent reports that Google may form Google Y Labs. No word on Google Z.

I must admit that when I saw the headline, someone had stumbled across my 2007 monograph published by a now defunct UK outfit. That monograph was called “Google Version 2.0.”

I was wrong. The 2014 version 2.0 moves into far more speculative realms than my modest effort to explore some of Google’s technical plumbing. That’s why there are no big thinkers in rural Kentucky. Better to be a big thinker, reportrepreneur.

My view is that Google faces some significant challenges; for example, the company has yet to find a fast ramp solution to the difference between old style online advertising based on the Yahoo/Overture/GoTo model for desktop computers and the new, limited screen real estate of mobile devices. Google has demonstrated that it is vulnerable to regulators in Europe. Google has lagged Amazon in the cloud market and most recently in buying a top level domain. Now Apple is probing Google in terms of its apparent willingness to trade on customer content. There are some other issues. Some are big like the management structure at Google. Some are small like the interpersonal interactions of a Google manager, a colleague, and the surprising departure of a wizard to Amazon.

Google is interesting because it seems to have fulfilled Steve Ballmer’s prophecy of the GOOG as a one trick pony. I think Google 3.0 may be a better name for the new “report.”

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2014

Is Google Slowing Down?

September 19, 2014

Perish the thought. I am confident that Google is the lean, mean money making machine with the swiftness of Hermes (the Greek god, not the maker of the parfum Eau des Merveilles).

Amazon somehow ended up with a video service of people watching video games. I read that the profit free digital WalMart snagged the top level domain dot Buy.

Wow: Buys .Buy for $4.6 Million, .Tech Sells for $6.8 Million” stated:

Amazon beat Google, Donuts and Famous Four Media in the auction. PVT Registry did not participate. Only two bidders bid above $1.5 million.

The likelihood of a Google-Zon emerging seems to have diminished a bit.

Who will win the next sprint? Mr. Bezos or the dynamic duo of Messrs. Brin and Page.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2014

AI Is Learning To Read

September 19, 2014

Machines know how to read, because they have been programmed to understand letters and numbers. They, however, do not comprehend what they are “reading” and cannot regurgitate it for users. The Research Blog that comments on Google’s latest news “Teaching Machines To Read Between The Lines (And A New Corpus With Entity Salience Annotations),” about how the search engine giant is using the New York Times Annotated Corpus to teach machines entity salience. Entity salience basically means machines can comprehend what they are “reading,” locate required information, and be able to use it. The New York Times Corpus is a large dataset with 1.8 million articles from twenty years. If a machine can learn salience from anything, it would be this collection.

Entity salience is determined by term ratios and complex search indexing done-brought to you by Knowledge Graph. The machine reading the article records the indicator for salience, byte offsets, entity index, mention count of entity determined by conference system, and other information to digest the document.

The system does work better with proper nouns:

“Since our entity resolver works better for named entities like WNBA than for nominals like “coach” (this is the notoriously difficult word sense disambiguation problem, which we’ve previously touched on), the annotations are limited to names.”

On a similar note on the Team Leada blog people can ask Google’s Director of Research Peter Norvig questions. He was asked:

“What is one of the most-often overlooked things in machine learning that you wished more people would know about or would study more? What are some of the most interesting data science projects Google is working on?”

Norvig responded that there are many problems depending on the project you are working on and Google is doing a lot of data science projects, but nothing specific.

Machine learning and reading is being worked on. In short, machines are going to school.

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Cross Books Off the Back To School List

September 19, 2014

No more pencils, no more books, no more…wait! No more books? According to an io9 article, “The First College In The US To Open Without Any Books In Its Library” dead tree items might be a thing of the past at least for one university. Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland recently opened with 550 students as part of its first class. The brand new campus has the usual campus buildings, including a library. The library, though, is different from your typical archive of knowledge: it is the nations first all digital library collection.

All of the books in the library are available via software that allows the students to download ebooks and what we can assume access to academic databases. An even bigger change is that librarians will not man the reference desk, because its name has been switched to the “success desk.” Librarians will instead be train students on information literacy and how to access electronic resources. Students will still be able to access books via interlibrary loan from other universities. They will also be able to decide how Florida Polytechnic spends its $60,000 library budget.

These are some good ideas in theory, but the technology is not up to being a free and browseable collection:

“Defenders of brick-and-mortar bookstores have argued the opposite, saying that the experience of wandering among bookshelves inspires serendipitous discoveries, while searching a database yields only the exact results you set out to find. While you can find related books in a database, it is unlikely you’ll stumble across an unrelated but helpful book while searching for another one by title.”

In most cases, students are also limited to how many times the can download and read an ebook. Digital licenses can track that kind of usage, so how long will some of these ideas last?

Whitney Grace, September 19, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Palantir and Its Funding

September 18, 2014

I read “Palantir May Have Raised More Than We Thought, Perhaps $165 million.” The article presented a revisionist view of how much money is in the Palantir piggy bank. Here’s the number I circled: $165 million since February 2014. I also marked this paragraph:

The Palo Alto company led by CEO Alex Karp disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday that it had raised more than $440 million in a funding round that began last November.

The numbers add up. The write up asserted:

The company co-founded by Karp, Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale and others in 2004 has raised a total of about $1 billion, with some of that funding coming from In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of U.S. intelligence agencies.

This works out to a $9 billion valuation.

The question now becomes, “How long will it take Palantir to generate sufficient revenue to pay back the investors and turn a profit?” The reason I ask is that IBM is chasing this market along with a legion of other firms.

Terrorism, war fighting, and Fancy Dan analytics are growth buttons. Will there be enough customers to feed the appetites of the outfits chasing the available money?

My hunch is that some of the competitors in this segment will come up empty.

Also, the tonnage of money Palantir has had dropped in its bank account makes the separate injections of $30 million funding into three firms— Attivio, BA Insight, and Coveo—look modest indeed. Perhaps there is more to the Big Data pitch than just words?

Stephen E Arnold,

Hakia Down

September 18, 2014

We ran a check on the search and content processing vendors in our file. The site appears to be down.

Hakia was a developer of semantic search and offered several demonstrations of its technology. To learn about the company, the interview with Riza C. Berkan, navigate to this Search Wizards Speak issue.

Stephen E Arnold, September 18, 2014

Googles Knowledge Vault Holds Hundreds of Millions of Facts, and Gathering Even More

September 18, 2014

The article titled Google’s Fact-Checking Bots Build Vast Knowledge Bank on New Scientist reports on the latest Google innovation. The Knowledge Vault is an entirely computerized system that is gathering information without human help. Sound like IBM’s Watson? It isn’t your imagination. The article states,

“Knowledge Vault has pulled in 1.6 billion facts to date. Of these, 271 million are rated as “confident facts”, to which Google’s model ascribes a more than 90 per cent chance of being true. It does this by cross-referencing new facts with what it already knows…As well as the ability to analyse text on a webpage for facts to feed its knowledge base, Google can also peer under the surface of the web, hunting for hidden sources of data…”

Google is not the only company investing in this sort of system. Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are all working on similar projects, as well as IBM. The possibility of a virtual personal assistant is coming closer than ever (think Her, not Siri). Google may have a leg up in its ability to cull personal information from Gmail, Google Plus and Youtube as well as public knowledge. The article suggests that the Knowledge Vault’s accumulated data may change the way we understand history, and even help us predict the future.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 18, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Most App Users Stick to the Apps They Need

September 18, 2014

The article on Quartz titled Most Smartphone Users Download Zero Apps Per Month makes that revelation and considers the reasons why. In spite of the statistics that make it sound like everyone is constantly downloading apps, most people get the ones they want and leave the rest alone. The article reports,

“Apple boasted 75 billion all-time App Store downloads at its developers conference in June, and followed up by declaring July the best month ever for App Store revenue, with a record number of people downloading apps… Only about one-third of smartphone owners download any apps in an average month, with the bulk of those downloading one to three apps. The top 7% of smartphone owners account for “nearly half of all download activity in a given month,” comScore reports.”

The article rules out expense or uselessness as answers to why this is the case. Instead most people love their favorite app and spend 42% of all their “app-time” on that one alone. Another possibility is that while Apple’s App Store was a breakthrough in 2008, it is an imperfect search system, perhaps preventing users from finding the apps that they might download. For the app cheerleaders out there, how are those apps doing?

Chelsea Kerwin, September 18, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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