Toronto Is the City of the Future

November 17, 2017

Canada is regarded as a calm, nice country that enjoys hockey and maple syrup.  It is not seen as a technology bastion, but Google’s Larry Page decided to make Toronto a digital innovation says the San Francisco Gate in “Larry Page’s Urban Innovation Unit Picks Toronto For First Digital Neighborhood.”

Page dubbed Toronto is now dubbed the “city of the future” (sorry Disney and Tomorrowland).  Alphabet Inc. and Waterfront Toronto plan to build a technology-friendly community along Lake Ontario.  The city will incorporate green energy systems, self-driving transportation, and construction techniques that will lower housing costs.  The new city of the future has been on the drawing board for ten years.  With its construction, Eric Schmidt expressed that the goal is it will improve human lives.

Sidewalk Toronto will dedicate $50 million to planning the project, which will begin with a new neighborhood called Quayside and eventually extend into the Eastern Waterfront, more than 800 acres in one of North America’s largest undeveloped urban parcels. Google’s Canadian headquarters will relocate to the development from the west end to support the project.

Toronto is in the midst of a technology boom, startups are popping up all over the place, and AI research has received increased funding from the government.  The hope is that the new community will help combat the city’s housing crunch.

All we can do is wait and see if Toronto really does become a model city for the future.

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2017

Proprietary Software Cheats Users

November 16, 2017

Cory Doctorow is an outspoken defender of net neutrality, technology education, and user rights.  He has written and spoken about these subjects and shares his opinion on BoingBoing.  The science-fiction magazine Locus recently published one of his new essays,“Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World.”  Doctorow discusses how software can be programmed to take out the human factor of like and steer things in favor of corporations who want to gobble down dollars.

Cheating is a well-established enterprise that originated long before the digital revolution, but it is getting smarter as technology advances.  While in the past it was cheating was more of a danger from outside forces, it is now nestled within the very things we own.

The software allows companies and literally anyone with the know how to cheat you out of money or precious time.  Rather than cheat en masse, the cheating is coming to your home because it is so much easier to infiltrate the individual now.  Even scarier is when he uses an alchemy metaphor, explaining how alchemists were cut-rate lab technicians who believed spirits, God, and demons influenced their experiments.  The technology used for cheating has a similar demonic presence and that is not even the worst factor.

Doctorow pulls out his trump card when he explains how outdated technology laws from the 20th century still had standing today when it is more than obvious they need to be repealed:

What’s worse, 20th-century law puts its thumb on the scales for these 21st-century demons. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (1986) makes it a crime, with jail-time, to violate a company’s terms of service. Logging into a website under a fake ID to see if it behaves differently depending on who it is talking to is thus a potential felony, provided that doing so is banned in the small-print clickthrough agreement when you sign up.


Then there’s section 1201 of the Digital Millen­nium Copyright Act (1998), which makes it a felony to bypass the software controls access to a copy­righted work. Since all software is copyrightable, and since every smart gadget contains software, this allows manufacturers to threaten jail-terms for anyone who modifies their tractors to accept third-party carburetors (just add a software-based check to ensure that the part came from John Deere and not a rival), or changes their phone to accept an independent app store, or downloads some code to let them choose generic insulin for their implanted insulin pump.

Follow Doctorow’s advice, read, test, learn, and just combat ignorance.

Whitney Grace, November 16, 2017

Even Genius Kids Need Teachers

November 14, 2017

Geniuses are supposed to have the innate ability to quickly learn and apply information without being taught.  It is almost like magic what they can do, but even with their awe-inspiring intellects, geniuses need their own mentors.  The Independent wrote about a study that proved geniuses need guidance, “Psychologists Studies 5000 Genius Kids For 45 Years-Here Are Their 6 Takeaways.”

Started in 1971, the “Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth” (SMPY) followed 5000 American children with intelligence measured in the 0.01%, 0.1%, and 1% of all students.  The study’s facilitators learned that the children led extraordinary lives that ranged from them being patent holders, they earned doctorates or graduate degrees, and are in the top 5% of income earners.  One problem is that these children were often ignored by their teachers because they were already meeting their potential.  Teachers had to spend more time helping lower students achieve their academic requirements.

They also learned that skipping a grade can help and intelligence is varied.  The latter means that intelligence cannot be prepackaged, one size fits all, instead, it comes in different forms.  Also despite how much they are loathed, standardized tests do have some predictive ability to measure genius kids success in life.  Perhaps the most interesting factoid is something that is taught in business classes, mindfulness, and other life coaching strategies:

The psychologist Carol Dweck has found that successful people tend to keep what’s known as a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset.” They view themselves as fluid, changing beings that can adapt and grow — they are not static.


SMPY agrees with that assessment, but it also has found that the earliest signs of cognitive ability in kids can predict how well they’ll do later in life, ignoring all the practice that may or may not come in between.

Genius kids are valuable as individuals and their intellect can help the world, but the bigger problem is trying to find ways to help them achieve when the rest of the world is trying to catch up.

Whitney Grace, November 14, 2017

AI Changes Power Delivery

November 13, 2017

Artificial intelligence has already changed the way our lives progress daily, and will continue to do so the more advances are made in that field.  What is amazing is how AI concepts can be applied to nearly every industry in the world and T&D World takes a look at how it has affected the power grid, “Artificial Intelligence Is Changing The Power-Delivery Grid.”  The author introduces the article explaining how he has noticed that when people say Thomas Edison would be familiar with today’s modern innovations and how it is a put down to the industry.

In truth, Edison would be hard pressed to rationalize today’s real-time mechanics and AI structure.  AI is an important development in all fields from medical to finance, but it plays an important role in the modern power grid:

Some of us call situational awareness technology machine learning, but most of us use the more common term of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is being used on the grid right now and it is more widespread than you might think. Case in point: In June, the U.S. Department of Energy held its 2017 Transmission Reliability Program in Washington, D.C., and there were several AI presentations. The presentation that caught my attention was about using advanced machine learning with synchrophasor technology. Synchrophasor technology generates a great deal of data using phasor measurement units (PMUs) to measure voltage and current of the grid, which can be used to calculate parameters such as frequency and phase angle.

Edison would not feel at home, instead, he would want to get his toolset and tear the power grid apart to figure out how it worked.  Geniuses may be ahead of their time, but they still are products of their own.

Whitney Grace, November 13, 2017

Reddit Search Improves with Lucidworks

November 10, 2017

YouTube might swallow all of your free time with videos, but Reddit steals your entire life with videos, plus images, GIFS, posts, jokes, and cute pictures of doggos, danger noodles, trash pandas, and floofs.  If you do not know what those are, then shame on you.  If you are a redditor, then you might have noticed that the search function stinks worse than a troll face.  According to TechCrunch, Reddit has finally given their search function a facelift, “Reddit Teams With Lucidworks To Build New Search Framework.”

Reddit has some serious stats when it comes to user searches and postings.  The online discussion platform has more than 500 million users, generates 5 million comments, and 40 million searches are conducted each day.  While one of Reddit’s search challenges is dealing with the varied content, another is returning personalized search results without redactors having to explicitly write them in the search box.

Reddit’s poor search performance is legendary and its head honchos wanted to improve it, but trying to find the time to fix it was a problem.  That is why they hired Lucidworks to do the job for them:

Caldwell said that the company went with the Lucidworks Fusion platform because it had the right combination of technology and the ability to augment his engineering team, while helping search to continually evolve on Reddit. Buying a tool was only part of the solution though. Reddit also needed to hire a group of engineers with what Caldwell called “world class search and relevance engineering expertise.” To that end, he has set up a 30-person engineering search team devoted to maximizing the potential of the new search platform.

Lucidworks currently remains in charge of fixing Reddit’s search issues, but eventually, Reddit will take over.  Within a few searches for danger noodle, floof, and doggo not only have more accurate results, but you can learn the aww language lingo through the results

Whitney Grace, November 10, 2017

Google and VW: How the Quantum World Turns

November 9, 2017

I read “Google and VW Team Up on Quantum Computers.” The main idea is that two of the companies on EU litigators’ radar have become BFFs. Self driving cars? Clever advertising featuring the Pixel phone and VW campers driven by Woodstock types?


The article informed me:

The two corporate heavyweights will work together using quantum computing as they try to solve complex puzzles related to the future of traffic.

I noted this statement:

“Volkswagen has enormous expertise in solving important, real-world engineering problems, and it is an honor for us to collaborate on how quantum computing may be able to make a difference in the automotive industry,” added Hartmut Neven, director of the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Google is pretty good at cracking the problem of fake news and solving death. VW has the diesel emission technology nailed.

The fruits of this collaboration will improve the quality of life for those who have to commute in one of those autonomous autos on streets designed for medieval carts in the Italian town of Sienna. Here in Harrod’s Creek, deep in rural Kentucky I just walk. No almost unusable Google Maps. No cute VW bus with happy hippies. No worries.

Stephen E Arnold,

Mobile Technology Dad Still Waiting for Dream to Become Reality

November 2, 2017

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are the poster children for modern technology, but more people helped bring about the revolution.  One such person is Alan Kay, often referred to as the father of mobile computing.  He directed a research team at Xerox PARC, developed the SmallTalk programming language, and also worked the Xerox Alto personal computer.  He also advocated that computers could be used as tools for creativity and learning.  Kay sat down for an interview with Fast Company, printed in the article, “The Father Of Mobile Computing Is Not Impressed.”

Kay began the interview that Jobs was not the kind of person to befriend and animation studio Pixar was the most honest money Jobs made.  He mentioned that Jobs was also trying to talk the government into giving tax breaks for companies that put computers in schools.  Back in the twentieth century, Kay designed a mobile device that was the predecessor to a tablet.  Called the Dynabook, it had physical buttons implanted in it and was never released for the consumer market.  However, the Dynabook exists in some form today as the iPad.  Kay complained that there is not a place to put a pen on the iPad, however.

After a brief explanation about human society and the desire to learn, he begins to talk about his idea of mobile computing.  One of the things he liked about the earliest Mac computers was that they allowed people to undo their learning and explore how to use a computer, but the iPhone is stupid:

So, this is like less than what people got with Mac in 1984. Mac had a really good undo. It allowed you to explore things. Mac had multitasking. The iPhone is basically giving one little keyhole and if you do something wrong, you actually go back out and start the app over again.


Think about this. How stupid is this? It’s about as stupid as you can get. But how successful is the iPhone? It’s about as successful as you can get, so that matches you up with something that is the logical equivalent of television in our time.

Kay spends most of the interview speaking about how people learn, how education has changed, and some philosophical stuff.  It is more about how to improve ourselves than an interview about mobile computing.

Whitney Grace, November 2, 2017

Silicon Valley Hubris

November 1, 2017

Are today’s big tech companies leading our culture down foolish paths? Writer Scott Hartley at Quartz declares, “Silicon Valley Is Suffering from an Icarus Complex.” After briefly summarizing the story of Daedalus and Icarus, Hartley extrapolates that, today, the same examples of hubris would be cast as a pair of tech entrepreneurs, lauded for their bold wing-building initiative and attracting eager investors. He observes:

The Greeks distinguished between craftsmanship, known as technae, and knowledge, known as espisteme. But today we conflate doing with knowing: We believe that doers are wise, when perhaps they are only clever. Silicon Valley is so obsessed with crafting new wings—to harness the power of the Gods and tame the heavens—that it has overlooked the notion that cleverness is not necessarily wisdom. The ability to harness technology alone may be clever, but it isn’t wise unless it is contextualized within a greater human need. For example, someone might design the cleverest new system to optimize ad delivery—but few of us would call such an entrepreneur sagacious or wise. We might justly lionize them for their capitalistic prowess or for their ability to abstract value from the ever-tightening mechanics of how pixels are dangled before us like candy—but we wouldn’t call them a ‘genius.’ We require great technologists and clever doers, but we require those who question, probe, and seek to contextualize our advances in equal measure.

Yes. Just because we can “reinvent every human process with something mechanistic,” as he puts it, does not mean we should. We need more wise minds to consider what technology goals are worthy, and fewer who would pursue anything they can devise to make a buck, regardless of the consequences to society as a whole.

Cynthia Murrell, November 1, 2017

Google Home: A Content Vacuum?

October 12, 2017

i read “Google Is Nerfing All Home Minis Because Mine Spied on Everything I Said.” The write up is interesting because it documents a Google product which has a flaw; that is, the Google Home device in question acts like a content vacuum cleaner. The device allegedly copies what it hears without the user’s permission. Google continues to assume me that it wants to do “better”. I think that doing better is a great idea, particularly when a smart assistant functions as a listening and recording device in a way that surprises a user. The original post cited above contains some nice words for Google, screenshots, and a gentle presentation of the alleged spy function. The European Union may find this device an interesting one to evaluate for privacy regulation compliance. I think “nerf” as a verb means “kill” or more colloquially “brick”; that is, the digital equivalent of shooting a horse. Alexa, what does nerfing mean? I think it means that Google is killing this “great idea”.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2017

Hewlett Packard and Code Reviews: Micro Focus Policy Shift

October 12, 2017

I noted that Hewlett Packard Enterprise allowed Russia to perform a code review. The software under “review” performs some security related functions. HPE is no longer in the software business after its sale of Autonomy to Micro Focus earlier this year and the somewhat interesting hiving of the HPE Micro Focus stake to the creatively named Seattle SpinCo in August 2017.

Micro Focus, according to Reuters, announced on October 9, 2017, that it would no longer permit code reviews by what Reuters called “high risk” governments. Prompt action for a giant roll up of different companies and their technologies. Somebody at Micro Focus mashed the pedal to metal for this policy change. Maybe Micro Focus’ UK customers were less than enthusiastic about the code review than US officials?

I am not sure what to make of HPE’s action, but on the surface, it seems that Micro Focus appears to be scrambling to contain the issue.

I did a quick look at Micro Focus and turned up a number of pointers to a company called Entit Software. This is a company with which I am not familiar. Entit has a number of offices, including one which looks pretty close to Hewlett Packard in Silicon Valley.

What’s amusing about this story is that HPE seems to be executing a complex combination of the paso double combined with a down home square dance. CNBC reported that “a White House cyber official called Russian review of Pentagon software problematic.” That seems like a criticism of HPE from my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek.

Interesting executive decision making plus footprints from corporate intermediaries. Perhaps Autonomy was not the challenge for Hewlett Packard. HP may be its own storm system? Seattle SpinCo? Really? MBAs and lawyers should be more creative in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, October 12, 2017

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