2018

Amazon's missed opportunity with HQ2 choice - Midwest USA versus NYC and Washington DC

(November 13, 2018) After several months of looking for "HQ2", it's new headquarters for the USA, Amazon has chosen two locations - Queens NY and Arlington VA. Each location will house about 25,000 employees and there are hopes of rehabilitating or diversifying the economies of each area. But, while this choice is good for those two locations, it represents a missed opportunity. Plenty of locations in other parts of the country could use the sort of economic injection Amazon HQ2 represents, at a lower cost to Amazon for office space.

Microsoft throws its patent library behind Linux, not quite open-sourcing its patents

(October 11, 2018) As a software developer coming of age in the 1980s, Microsoft was the enemy. During the 1990s I worked for three companies that died or nearly died because Microsoft yawned and stretched its arms a little bit. Microsoft was brutal about dominating the PC market with its operating systems, and software developers chafed under their restrictions. But, something shifted, and over the last few years Microsoft got the open source religion. The various actions Microsoft has taken should make us all rethink labeling Microsoft as the enemy. Today Microsoft has pivoted its strategy around patents. Where Microsoft was formerly threatening the open source world with its patent pool, Microsoft has now joined the Open Invention Network, a multi-company patent pool that is protecting Linux.

USA advanced weapons systems vulnerable to attack over Internet, weak cybersecurity

(October 11, 2018) It's a brave new world. Consider a military warplane flying into battle, or a warship engaged in a sea battle, or a tank battle. In the past that military equipment was standalone, with communications limited to voices speaking over the radio. Now such equipment is connected in a digital communications network using the same technology as the Internet. A recent US Government Accountability Office report found these systems are vulnerable to attacks due to weak cybersecurity. One wonders if the result might be an airplane plummeting out of the sky, or a tank stopping in its tracks, or the guns on a warship going silent, during combat, because the adversary hacked into critical systems.

Slackified Google+ coming to G Suite by August 2019

(October 9, 2018) On Monday Google announced it was shutting down Google Plus following a review of the Google product line-up. Most of the news coverage is focusing on a bug that probably revealed user data. While that bug surely weighed on the decision, from the official blog post it is clear, irregardless of any bug, Google was going to pivot Google Plus to an Enterprise offering through the G Suite product line.

Facebook demotes news from liberal website on conservative site's say-so

(September 11, 2018) Recently many Conservative politicians and the Conservative-friendly news outlets have been beating the war drums against Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al, because of supposed censorship of Conservative viewpoints. The evidence is weak on this, because the culprit is the algorithms for presenting search results. The irony is rich to learn that a Conservative news outlet, a designated Facebook fact checking organization, have labeled news from a Liberal-leaning news outlet as "false". Meaning that Liberal-leaning news is being downgraded by Facebook, when the actual news piece is entirely factual, solely on the say-so of a Conservative-leaning news outlet that has a long history of printing mistruths.

Dept of Justice starts threatened attack on tech companies over supposed stifling of ideas

(September 5, 2018) Following a rage-tweeting incidents where Donald Trump attacked Twitter, Facebook, et al, over supposedly stifling of Conservative voices, and describing it as a serious situation, and threatening that it "will be addressed", the US Department of Justice is starting to put some oomph behind that threat. While representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared before a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Justice issued a statement that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will convene a meeting with several US State Attorneys General to discuss "a growing concern that these companies may be hurting competition and intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms".

NSF launches an Institute to manage huge data output from Large Hadron Collider

(September 4, 2018) The upgraded Large Hadron Collider is expected to produce 1 billion particle collisions every second, of which only a fraction are the collisions that physicists want to study. To weed out the collisions of interest will require a big data software system on a massive scale to essentially find the needle in the haystack. That is, the interesting collisions in a flood of humdrum everyday collisions. When the LHC is fully operational in 2026 scientists will be completely buried in data unless they develop better tools. To that end the NSF is funding a new institute explicitly for that purpose.

Trump rage-Google's himself, rants about conspiracy to silence Conservative voices

(August 28, 2018) In a series of tweets this morning President Trump demonstrates how little he understands search engines and ranking algorithms. The President claimed that Google is stifling "Conservative" news outlets, that 96% of news search results are slanted against Conservatives by the "National Left-Wing Media" and other Liberal establishments like Google. This attack follows recent similar attacks against Twitter and Facebook and the supposed "shadow banning" exercised to keep folks from seeing Conservative views. What this really shows is either that Trump does not understand how search engines and ranking algorithms work, or else that Trump and his cronies are propping up a fake controversy. Based on this misportrayal of Google/Twitter/Facebook policies, the Trump Administration is promising to "look into" regulating these services, raising the chilling prospect of using this to then stifle actual freedom of speech.

Facebook usage may fuel anti-refugee violence in Germany

(August 21, 2018) What steers a peaceful young man to commit violence? We say Muslims can be radicalized by information they find online, causing them to commit violence like terrorist missions. What if that person is instead an American, or German, practicing Christianity, who suddenly commits violence? A recent study of anti-refugee attacks in Germany suggest a strong correlation with Facebook usage, especially if one is flocking to hard-line right-wing groups or postings.