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An Obscure Infographic About London Coffee Shops

July 29, 2015

Here’s a unique pair of graphics, particularly of interest for anyone who can see themselves enjoying a cup of joe in London. Gizmodo presents “A Taxonomy of Hip Coffee Shop Names.” The infographic from Information is Beautiful lays out London’s hipster coffee shops by both naming convention and location. Both charts size their entries by popularity– the more popular a shop the bigger disk (coaster?) its name sits upon. The brief write-up sets the scene:

“As you walk down the sidewalk, you see a chalkboard in the distance. As you step a little closer, you smell the deep musk of coffee emanating from an artfully distressed front door. Out steps a man with a beard, a Mac slung under his arm, sipping from small re-useable flat white-sized cup. You’ve stumbled across another hip coffee shop. Now, what’s it called?

“Information is Beautiful … breaks the naming structure down by type: there are ones themed around drugs, chatter, beans, brewing, socialism and more. But they all share one thing in common: they sound just like they could be hand-painted above that scene you just saw.”

So, if you like coffee, London, hipsters, or taxonomy-graphics, take a gander. From Alchemy to Maison d’être to Window, a shop or two are sure to peak the curiosity.

Cynthia Murrell, July 29, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Monkeys Cause System Failure

July 28, 2015

Nobody likes to talk about his or her failures.  Admitting to failure proves that you failed at a task in the past and it is a big blow to the ego.  Failure admission is even worse for technology companies, because users want to believe technology is flawless.  On Microsoft’s Azure Blog, Heather Nakama posted “Inside Azure Search: Chaos Engineering” and she explains that software engineers are aware that failure is unavoidable.  Rather than trying to prevent failure, they welcome potential failure.  Why?  It allows them to test software and systems to prevent problems before they develop.

Nakama mentions it is not a sustainable model to account for every potential failure and to test the system every time it is upgraded.  Azure Search borrowed chaos engineering from Netflix to resolve the issue and it is run by a bunch of digital monkeys

“As coined by Netflix in a recent excellent blog post, chaos engineering is the practice of building infrastructure to enable controlled automated fault injection into a distributed system.  To accomplish this, Netflix has created the Netflix Simian Army with a collection of tools (dubbed “monkeys”) that inject failures into customer services.”

Netflix basically unleashes a Search Chaos Monkey into its system to wreck havoc, then Netflix learns about system weaknesses and repairs accordingly.  There are several chaos levels: high, medium, and low, with each resulting in more possible damage.  At each level, Search Chaos Monkey is given more destructive tools to “play” around with.  The high levels are the most valuable to software engineers, because it demonstrates the largest and worst diagnostic failures.

While letting a bull loose in a china shop is bad, because you lose your merchandise, letting a bunch of digital monkeys loose in a computer system is actually beneficial.  It remains true that you can learn from failure.  I just hope that the digital monkeys do not have digital dung.

Whitney Grace, July 28, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Googles Chauvinistic Job Advertising Delivery

July 28, 2015

I thought we were working to get more women into the tech industry, not fewer. That’s why it was so disappointing to read, “Google Found to Specifically Target Men Over Women When It Comes to High-Paid Job Adverts” at IBTimes. It was a tool dubbed AdFisher, developed by some curious folks at Carnegie Mellon and the International Computer Science Institute, that confirmed the disparity. Knowing that internet-usage tracking determines what ads each of us sees, the researchers wondered whether such “tailored ad experiences” were limiting employment opportunities for half the population. Reporter Alistair Charlton writes:

“AdFisher works by acting as thousands of web users, each taking a carefully chosen route across the internet in such a way that an ad-targeting network like Google Ads will infer certain interests and characteristics from them. The programme then records which adverts are displayed when it later visits a news website that uses Google’s ad network. It can be set to act as a man or woman, then flag any differences in the adverts it is shown.

“Anupam Datta, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said in the MIT Technology Review: ‘I think our findings suggest that there are parts of the ad ecosystem where kinds of discrimination are beginning to emerge and there is a lack of transparency. This is concerning from a societal standpoint.’”

Indeed it is, good sir. The team has now turned AdFisher’s attention to Microsoft’s Bing; will that search platform prove to be just as chauvinistic? For Google’s part, they say they’re looking into the study’s methodology to “understand its findings.” It remains to be seen what sort of parent the search giant will be; will it simply defend its algorithmic offspring, or demand it mend its ways?

Cynthia Murrell, July 28, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Neural Networks and Thought Commands

July 22, 2015

If you’ve been waiting for the day you can operate a computer by thinking at it, check out “When Machine Learning Meets the Mind: BBC and Google Get Brainy” at the Inquirer. Reporter Chris Merriman brings our attention to two projects, one about hardware and one about AI, that stand at the intersection of human thought and machine. Neither venture is anywhere near fruition, but a peek at their progress gives us clues about the future.

The internet-streaming platform iPlayer is a service the BBC provides to U.K. residents who wish to catch up on their favorite programmes. In pursuit of improved accessibility, the organization’s researchers are working on a device that allows users to operate the service with their thoughts. The article tells us:

“The electroencephalography wearable that powers the technology requires lucidity of thought, but is surprisingly light. It has a sensor on the forehead, and another in the ear. You can set the headset to respond to intense concentration or meditation as the ‘fire’ button when the cursor is over the option you want.”

Apparently this operation is easier for some subjects than for others, but all users were able to work the device to some degree. Creepy or cool? Perhaps it’s both, but there’s no escaping this technology now.

As for Google’s undertaking, we’ve examined this approach before: the development of artificial neural networks. This is some exciting work for those interested in AI. Merriman writes:

“Meanwhile, a team of Google researchers has been looking more closely at artificial neural networks. In other words, false brains. The team has been training systems to classify images and better recognise speech by bombarding them with input and then adjusting the parameters to get the result they want.

But once equipped with the information, the networks can be flipped the other way and create an impressive interpretation of objects based on learned parameters, such as ‘a screw has twisty bits’ or ‘a fly has six legs’.”

This brain-in-progress still draws some chuckle-worthy and/or disturbing conclusions from images, but it is learning. No one knows what the end result of Google’s neural network research will be, but it’s sure to be significant. In a related note, the article points out that IBM is donating its machine learning platform to Apache Spark. Who knows where the open-source community will take it from here?

Cynthia Murrell, July 22, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Facebook and Google: Deep Learning with New Scuba Divers

July 20, 2015

The Facebook-Google type of company wants to explore the frontiers of knowledge as perceived by the science club types. Smart software may be a digital Mariana Trench which has to be turned into a tourist destination.

To achieve this, Google has 50,000 plus really smart people. Facebook has lots of people including Google alums. When the company buys and outfit for its talent or hires a pride of professionals, the firm is (perhaps unconsciously) signaling that the existing team needs upgrading. Think of a professional football team. Each year, the owners, coaches, and advisers identify new talent. Big money is paid. The young calves are placed in the herd. The older animals get to sit on the bench, maybe move into coaching, or, sad to say, become used automobile sales professionals in Dallas, Texas. Facebook, perhaps because of its Xoogler ratio, is following the same path.

I read “Welcome to the AI Conspiracy: The ‘Canadian Mafia’ Behind Tech’s Latest Craze.” Interesting. I learned:

The pace of the AI field, however, is clear. As deep learning has grown in popularity, scores of companies are racing to scoop up scarce talent while computer scientists are finally starting to flood into the field.


Money is at play. An engineer proficient in deep learning can earn upward of $250,000 a year at places like Google and Facebook, according to several sources; exceptional or more experienced ones can net seven-figure salaries.

No doubt that smart software is important to big outfits. I view the recruitment of superstars in a different way:

Perhaps the smart software vehicle is more like a Honda Civic than a McLaren?

Post sale values for ageing scuba divers may plummet like a lead filled diving belt. Today’s divers are under considerable pressure to perform, particularly when cost controls surface as a concern. When MBA think blends with the science club, what looks like progress may be a signal that the problem is harder than imagined. Where do deep sea divers go to recuperate? Home again?

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2015


On Embedding Valuable Outside Links

July 17, 2015

If media websites take this suggestion from an article at Monday Note, titled “How Linking to Knowledge Could Boost News Media,” there will be no need to search; we’ll just follow the yellow brick links. Writer Frederic Filloux laments the current state of affairs, wherein websites mostly link to internal content, and describes how embedded links could be much, much more valuable. He describes:

“Now picture this: A hypothetical big-issue story about GE’s strategic climate change thinking, published in the Wall Street Journal, the FT, or in The Atlantic, suddenly opens to a vast web of knowledge. The text (along with graphics, videos, etc.) provided by the news media staff, is amplified by access to three books on global warming, two Ted Talks, several databases containing references to places and people mentioned in the story, an academic paper from Knowledge@Wharton, a MOOC from Coursera, a survey from a Scandinavian research institute, a National Geographic documentary, etc. Since (supposedly), all of the above is semanticized and speaks the same lingua franca as the original journalistic content, the process is largely automatized.”

Filloux posits that such a trend would be valuable not only for today’s Web surfers, but also for future historians and researchers. He cites recent work by a couple of French scholars, Fabian Suchanek and Nicoleta Preda, who have been looking into what they call “Semantic Culturonomics,” defined as “a paradigm that uses semantic knowledge bases in order to give meaning to textual corpora such as news and social media.” Web media that keeps this paradigm in mind will wildly surpass newspapers in the role of contemporary historical documentation, because good outside links will greatly enrich the content.

Before this vision becomes reality, though, media websites must be convinced that linking to valuable content outside their site is worth the risk that users will wander away. The write-up insists that a reputation for providing valuable outside links will more than make up for any amount of such drifting visitors. We’ll see whether media sites agree.

Cynthia Murrell, July 17, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Microsoft Takes SharePoint Criticism Seriously

July 16, 2015

Organizations are reaching the point where a shift toward mobile productivity and adoption must take place; therefore, their enterprise solution must follow suit. While Office 365 adoption has soared in light of the realization, Microsoft still has work to do in order to give users the experience that they demand from a mobile and social heavy platform. ComputerWorld goes into more details with their article, “Onus on Microsoft as SharePoint and OneDrive Roadmaps Reach Crossroads.”

The article states Microsoft’s current progress and future goals:

“With the advent of SharePoint Server 2016 (public beta expected 4Q 2015, with general availability 2Q 2016), Edwards believes Microsoft is placing renewed focus on file management, content management, sites, and portals. Going forward, Redmond claims it will also continue to develop the hybrid capabilities of SharePoint, recognizing that hybrid deployments are a steady state for many large organizations, and not just a temporary position to enable migration to the cloud.”

Few users chose to adopt the opportunities offered by Office 365 and SharePoint 2013, so Microsoft has to make SharePoint Server 2016 look like a new, enticing offering worthy of being taken seriously. So far, they have done a good job of building up some hype and attention. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and he has been covering the news surrounding the release on Additionally, his dedicated SharePoint feed makes it easy to catch the latest news, tips, and tricks at a glance.
Emily Rae Aldridge, July 16, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Remote Access Round Up

July 15, 2015

I received an inquiry about remote access tools. With the mass media frenzy over the hack of a Italian services firm, interest in controlling another computer from a distance—that is, by remote control—seems to be on the uptick. If you want to dabble with remote access, navigate to “9 Free Remote Access Tools.” You can download a few and give them a whirl. The real question is, “How do you get the tool on another computer if that computer is not your mom’s or a helpless neighbor’s machine?” That is the big question, not the RAT technology. Enjoy.

Stephen E Arnold, July 18, 2015

The Skin Search

July 15, 2015

We reported on how billboards in Russia were getting smarter by using facial recognition software to hide ads advertising illegal products when they recognized police walking by.  Now the US government might be working on technology that can identify patterns on tattoos, reports Quartz in, “The US Government Wants Software That Can Detect And Interpret Your Tattoos.”

The Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and the FBI sponsored a competition that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently held on June 8 to research ways to identify ink:

“The six teams that entered the competition—from universities, government entities, and consulting firms—had to develop an algorithm that would be able to detect whether an image had a tattoo in it, compare similarities in multiple tattoos, and compare sketches with photographs of tattoos. Some of the things the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the competition’s organizers, were looking to interpret in images of tattoos include swastikas, snakes, drags, guns, unicorns, knights, and witches.”

The idea is to use visual technology to track tattoos among crime suspects and relational patterns. Vision technology, however, is still being perfected.  Companies like Google and major universities are researching ways to make headway in the technology.

While the visual technology can be used to track suspected criminals, it can also be used for other purposes.  One implication is responding to accidents as they happen instead of recording them.  Tattoo recognition is the perfect place to start given the inked variety available and correlation to gangs and crime.  The question remains, what will they call the new technology, skin search?

Whitney Grace, July 15, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Short Honk: Saudi Supercomputer

July 14, 2015

In order to crunch text and do large scale computations, a fast computer is a useful tool. Engineering & Technology Magazine reported in “Saudi Machine Makes It on to World’s Top Ten Supercomputer List”:

The Shaheen II is the first supercomputer based in the Middle East to enter the world’s top ten list, debuting at number seven. The Saudi supercomputer is based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and is the seventh most powerful computer on the planet, according to the Top 500 organization that monitors high-performance machines. China’s Tianhe-2 kept its position as the most powerful supercomputer in the world in the latest rankings.

If you are monitoring the supercomputer sector, this announcement, if accurate, is important in my opinion. There are implications for content processing, social graph generation, and other interesting applications.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2015

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