All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost.
— excerpt, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
It’s a lovely summer day here, cool and dry. Perfect to go walkabout, which I will do straight away after this post.
Makers making, takers taking
A-brisket, a Brexit
Follow-up: Facebook effery
Looks like Facebook’s thrown in the towel on users’ privacy altogether, opening personal profiles in a way that precludes anonymous browsing. Makes the flip-flop on users’ location look even more sketchy. (I can’t tell you anymore about this from personal experience because I gave up on Facebook several years ago.)
Happy hump day!
Summer bug laid me up. I’m indulging in the audio equivalent of tea with honey, lemon, and a shot of something to scare away the bug. A little cello playing by Yo-Yo Ma never fails to make me feel better.
This sweet video is enlightening, didn’t realize Ma had an older sister who was an accomplished musician at a tender age. Worthwhile to watch this week considering the blizzard of arguments about immigrants and refugees here and abroad.
And then for good measure, a second favorite added in the mix — Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman together, performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto Fantasy.
There. I feel a little better already.
Probably better than frustrated House Democrats led by Rep. John Lewis who are engaging in a sit-in protest on House floor demanding a vote on No-Fly-No-Buy gun control. If you want to watch the action, you’ll have to check social media. It’s said House GOP leadership ensured CSPAN cameras were shut off.
Diesel do you
Sigh, cyber, sigh
Did you know Led Zeppelin is being sued over Stairway to Heaven? Allegedly a key riff in the famous 40-year-old tune was stolen, violating copyright. Forty years. ~smh~
Going back to a recumbent position. Stay braced for the outcome of the sit-in and Brexit vote tomorrow.
There are thirteen verb tenses in English. I couldn’t recall the thirteenth one to save my life and now after digging through my old composition texts I still can’t figure out what the thirteenth is.
If I have to guess, it’s probably a special case referring to future action. Why should our language be any more lucid than our vision?
Vision we’ve lost; we don’t elect people of vision any longer because we don’t have any ourselves. We vote for people who promise us bullshit based on illusions of a simple past. We don’t choose people who assure us the road will be hard, but there will be rewards for our efforts.
Ad astra per aspera.
Fifty-five years ago today, John F. Kennedy Jr. spoke to a join session of Congress, asking our nation to go to the moon. I was six months old at the time. This quest framed my childhood; every math and science class shaped in some way by the pursuit, arts and humanities giving voice to the fears and aspirations at the same time.
In contrast I look at my children’s experience. My son, who graduates this year from high school, has not known a single year of K-12 education when we were not at war, when terrorism was a word foreign to his day, when we didn’t worry about paying for health care because we’d already bought perma-warfare. None of this was necessary at this scale, pervading our entire culture. What kind of vision does this create across an entire society?
I will say this: these children also don’t recall a time without the internet. They are deeply skeptical people who understand how easy it is to manipulate information. What vision they have may be biased toward technology, but their vision is high definition, and they can detect bullshit within bits and pixels. They also believe we have left them no choice but to boldly go and build a Plan B as we’ve thoroughly trashed Plan A.
Sic itur ad astra. Sic itur ad futurum.
Still looking at past, present, and future…
…When the iPhone came out, the BlackBerry continued to do well for a little while. But the iPhone had completely changed the game…
Not only is Arment worrying Apple hasn’t grokked AI as Google has, he’s ignored Android’s ~80% global marketshare in mobile devices. That invisible giant which hadn’t ‘completely changed the game.’
Either I start writing late the night before, or I give up the pretense this is a * morning * roundup. It’s still morning somewhere, I’ll leave this one as is for now. Catch you tomorrow morning — maybe — or early afternoon.
Oye como va
Bueno pa gozar
— excerpt, Oye Como Va by Tito Puente
This Latin jazz song was on the very first album I owned — Santana’s Abraxas. I have no idea what possessed my father to select this way back in 1971 because he’s not musically inclined. I prefer to think he was persuaded by the music store staff to buy it for me rather than think the cover art did it for him. To this day I don’t dare ask; I’d rather live with my illusion.
Perhaps he simply liked Oye Como Va by Tito Puente and decided I needed it. Maybe that’s what he wanted to listen to when I played the album over and over again, ad nauseam. The song is still easy to listen to even when played by a septuagenarian, isn’t it? Though Puente probably still felt the same way about this song in his last live performance as he did when he first recorded it in 1963.
The personal irony I’m certain my father never considered: the last line is a reference to a mixed race “mulatto” woman. That’s me.
Looks like it’s going to be a lovely late spring weekend here — hope you’re going to have a nice one, too. See you Monday!
This video fascinates me. I’ve watched it a number of times since Nerdist shared it last month; it’s the 24-minute long set by Freddie Mercury and Queen at the 1985 Live Aid concert held in Wembley Stadium.
Nerdist noted the audience’s response reflects the speed of sound — the visible ripple of fans’ hands speeds across the crowd in response to the sound as it leaves the stage area and travels across the venue. The gif they shared was taken about 16:37 into this set, just as the band begins We Will Rock You.
I think there was more at work here because earlier snaps of the audience reaction during Radio Gaga (roughly 4:25 onward) don’t show the same marked wave across the crowd. But several points in the set Mercury interacts with the audience, coaxing them to sing and shout along with him.
And then at 16:35 when he begins We Will Rock You, the crowd is completely in sync with him. They adore him and are utterly engaged. The wave is not just sound but their feeling for Mercury and his performance.
Can you imagine a politician who could induce such a response?
Adobe Flash must die, and Google’s slowly exterminating it in Chrome (Ars Technica) — By year’s end, Flash will be disabled by default in Google’s Chrome browser. It will only play when manually enabled. All part of the slow migration to HTML5 away from risky Flash.
Antivirus app halts heart surgery (Ars Technica-UK) — Holy crap. Why does medical equipment need antivirus software to begin with, let alone how does an A/V app launch and run during surgery?
Dude, that female TA you hit on? An AI bot (Sydney Melbourne Herald) — Wow. Future’s already here and you can’t tell you’ve been dissed by both your prof and the chick-bot-TA.
A series of tubes
Remote healthcare not ready for prime time (ScienceDaily) — Study using fake patients to test direct-to-consumer teledermatology remote health care systems found security problems with IDs, poor-to-bad assignment of clinicians, many errors made in major diagnoses, insufficient warning to pregnant patients when meds prescribed, just for starters. Think of this as Healthcare Internet of Things Fail.
Super. Fast. Wireless. Internet. Coming. To. YOU! Really? (MIT Technology Review) — Ugh, so breathless with excitement they are about this startup called Starry. I was, too, initially, but we’ve been told this crap for more than a decade. Since this requires the cooperation of Verizon, AT&T, Facebook, and Google to standardize on this platform AND reception relies on line-of-sight, I’m not holding my breath.
New business for Amazon to tackle: its own private label groceries (Techcrunch) — Amazon doesn’t want to leave a penny on the table. If customers are too price sensitive to click their Dash button for a big name brand consumer good, they’ll offer their own instead. Prime accounts only, though; first goods will be heavy on baby needs, which makes sense given parents are often a captive audience.
Norway’s sovereign (oil) wealth fund to sue Volkswagen (AP) — Fossil fuel-created fund owns 1.64% stake in Volkswagen. It’s suing to protect its assets exposed by VW’s emissions controls cheat. Imagine me laughing at oil suing a car company for the manner in which it promulgated oil consumption.
Norway’s Statoil to launch first floating wind farm (Bloomberg) — This company is well ahead of Shell when it comes to diversifying energy production.
Flint Water Crisis
Michigan’s top law enforcement agent unaware of Michigan State Police “quiet investigation” (WZZM) — Still scratching my head over this one. Why did the governor ask MSP to conduct an administrative — not criminal — investigation, omitting the state attorney general? And who’s conducting a genuine criminal investigation, including the governor’s role?
Toy maker(s) insisted Iron Man 3 movie must have male, not female villain (The Mary Sue) — In other words, Marvel’s big sweeping superhero movies are really just very long trailers to sell boys’ toys. Girls and women need not apply. I have no idea how they can make a decision based on any realistic data given the dearth of female villains on screen and in toys. Is this just some lame argument for inequity in front and behind the camera?
Running behind, probably read too much today and swamped my processing circuits. Hope mid-week becomes a little more focused — catch you tomorrow!
This morning feels like a fall from great height — disorienting yet certain to end only one way.
Should have rolled over and gone back to sleep instead of mixing it up about politics during the wee hours. ~ yawn ~
The embedded video actually launches a playlist of Afro Celt Sound System. They’re a favorite mood lifter, a perfect example of diverse music styles meeting to create something even more special. Cuts I’ve worn out besides When You’re Falling (with Peter Gabriel) are Lagan, Life Begin Again (both with Robert Plant), and North — yes, I think my favorite album is Volume 3 – Further in Time.
Let’s fall forward.
Oracle v. Google: The most important technology case not about privacy and security
Yet another reminder/disclosure before I start on this case: I own $GOOG, $GOOGL, and $AAPL. I do not own $ORCL or $MSFT, nor did I ever own Sun before it was acquired.
That said, Oracle v. Google is about the gift economy, the march of time and its effect on technology companies, and patent/intellectual property trolling as a business model. The gift economy I’ve followed for years; I was hired to provide competitive intelligence on open source software because the company seeking my services felt it was a threat to their business. And it was, it very much was, though the threat changed over the last decade from free open source software (FOSS) to free software as a service (SaaS) provided with cloud storage.
In a nutshell, Oracle is suing Google for $9 billion — the amount it feels it is due as the heir to Java, acquired when it bought the former Sun Microsystems in 2010. You’ll recall that Sun Micro was once a moderately competitive producer of servers and the creator of open source operating system OpenSolaris (based on Solaris Unix) as well as Java.
Java is a software language used as an alternative to C and C++. Its creators at Sun wanted “Write Once, Run Anywhere” capability so that software written in Java could run on any hardware platform. Contrast this to Microsoft software which runs on Windows-compatible PCs only. Sun did not sell Java licenses but instead sold developers’ kits to encourage the propagation of both the language and its Java-friendly hardware and Solaris Unix operating system. Java was a loss leader offering — like the dozen eggs for free if your total grocery order is $50 or more. This is the gift economy at work.
Java’s creation was initially a response to the lock-in of the desktop PC environment. However, IBM began using Java, allowing the same language to be used on everything from its mainframes to IBM-supported handheld devices.
Handheld devices now include smartphones and tablets running the Android operating system, a variant of Linux now owned by Google after its acquisition of Android, Inc. in 2005. Android’s popularity ate away at cellphone market share running Symbian, Nokia OS, and Windows-based mobile OS. Approximately 80% of the world’s smartphones now run on Android and with it Java application programming interfaces (Java APIs). It’s this installed user base from which Oracle insists it deserves a cut of the revenues.
Oracle is a software company, though unless you are in a larger enterprise, you’ve probably not used their products. Initially, a relational database management system company, over time Oracle has purchased a number of middleware businesses which rely on databases. Like PeopleSoft, a human resource management software — human resource information in a database, manipulated and managed by a middleware application above it. It has also acquired software and businesses with which its products once competed. Innobase, an open-source relational database management system (RDBMS) developer, was acquired in 2005; its application was based on MySQL, another open-source RDBMS.
MySQL’s parent company MySQL AB was itself purchased by Sun in 2008, and acquired by Oracle with Sun in 2010. MySQL remains open source and underpins many commonly used applications used across the internet, though Oracle is now its owner/developer.
You can see the ownership chain gets incredibly messy over time. But it’s also easy to see that Oracle is predatory; its business model relies on consuming other businesses to ensure the survival of its underlying database software, not merely to flesh out its offerings. It has acquired software to build an enterprise stack, or it buys nascent threats to its database software and closes them off in a way to ensure no leak of profit-making opportunities (ex: killing OpenSolaris, the FOSS version of Sun’s Solaris operating system). It also buys businesses and applications used to monitor intellectual property and competitive intelligence.
A test of the gift economy and the open source movement are at the heart of this case. FOSS relies on it, and now the internet does, too. Anyone connecting to the internet is touched by software and hardware consisting of or shaped by FOSS. Many believe the roots of the open source movement are in software, but the underlying premise goes even further back, to the late 1700s and the first freedom of information law (Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act, c. 1766). Based on freedom of information, some contemporary governments demand FOSS as a means to ensure citizens have access to information without regard to proprietary business models.
Read any of the links above and your head will spin with the Byzantine convolutions of the software industry over the last two decades. Add the snark-laden quirks of geekdom shaping the decision-making process — quirks which are inside baseball and define one’s belonging to the industry.
Top it off with the inexorable co-development and emergence of the gift economy, and it’s utterly beyond the comprehension of the average Joe or Josephine on the street. Unfortunately, Joe and Josephine are seated as jurors, directed by an equally clueless judge appointed by a neoliberal president (who likewise cannot grok anything created and given to benefit all without some immediate upfront cost benefit in an offshore account). The concepts behind APIs are particularly hard for the judge and jury to understand, exacerbated by testimony from people who did not rise to the top of their industry because of their facility with spoken English.
Read Sarah Jeong’s piece in Motherboard about this case. Read others, like the overview at Ars Technica (read the enlightening comments, too), but keep in mind that everyone who has a stake in the success of technology also has an agenda. Sometimes it’s as simple as their stock portfolio or the type of phone they hold in their hand.
Sometimes their agenda is more complex and based on the concepts of free open-source software and the gift economy. What is open-source if it can be bought and retroactively used as a profit center long after the horses have been freed from the barn? What did the progenitors and decades of collaborators intend Java to be: a profit center in itself for a company they couldn’t see coming more than a decade later, or a means by which users/owners could freely choose more than a single software or hardware company to accomplish their tasks?
And will this case discourage and suppress the explosion of technology developed using a variety of open source licenses?
Phew, this was more than I expected to write about this. Swamped my usual morning roundup, which I’ll save for tomorrow morning.
One more thing: after reading the above about the legal war between the Titans of Technology, you might find this speculative mythological fiction rather entertaining. Where do these Titans fit in this mythology?
Why’d I pick this music video, besides the fact I like the tune? Oh, no reason at all other than it’s trash day again.
Speaking of trash…
“…News curators aren’t Facebook employees—they’re contractors. One former team member said they received benefits including limited medical insurance, paid time off after 6 months and transit reimbursement, but were otherwise excluded from the culture and perks of working at Facebook. […] When the curators, hired by companies like BCForward and Pro Unlimited (which are then subcontracted through Accenture to provide workers for Facebook), arrive at work each day, they read through a list of trending topics ranked by Facebook’s algorithm from most popular (or most engaged) to least. The curators then determine the news story the terms are related to.
The news curation team writes headlines for each of the topics, along with a three-sentence summary of the news story it’s pegged to, and choose an image or Facebook video to attach to the topic. The news curator also chooses the “most substantive post” to summarize the topic, usually from a news website. […] News curators also have the power to “deactivate” (or blacklist) a trending topic—a power that those we spoke to exercised on a daily basis. …” (emphasis mine)
I see a Facebook-generated algorithm, but no direct employees in the process — only curator-contractors.
“…Over time, the work became increasingly demanding, and Facebook’s trending news team started to look more and more like the worst stereotypes of a digital media content farm.
Burnout was rampant. ‘Most of the original team isn’t there anymore,’ said another former news curator. ‘It was a stop-gap for them. Most of the people were straight out of [journalism school]. At least one of them was fired. Most of them quit or were hired by other news outlets.’ …” (emphasis mine)
It’s not as if unhappy contractors won’t have newsworthy tips, but what about unhappy Facebook employees? Where are they in either of Gizmodo’s pieces?
“Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project.
Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work. …”
Note the use of “a” in front of “former journalist” and “the” in front of “conservative curator.” (Note also Gizmodo apparently needs a spell check app.)
When asked about the trending news team and its future, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on rumor or speculation. As with all contractors, the trending review team contractors are fairly compensated and receive appropriate benefits.”
I’m disappointed that other news outlets picked up Gizmodo’s work without doing much analysis or followup. Reuters, for example, even parrots the same phrasing Gizmodo used, referring to the news curators as “Facebook workers” and not contract employees or contractors. Because of this ridiculous unquestioning regurgitation by outlets generally better than this, I felt compelled to write about my concerns.
And then there’s Gizmodo itself, which made a point of tweeting its report was trending on Facebook. Does Gizmodo have a beef with Facebook, too? Has it been curated out of Facebook’s news feed? Are these two pieces really about Facebook’s laundering of Gizmodo?
I don’t know; I can’t tell you because I don’t use Facebook. Not going to start now because of Gizmodo’s sketchy reporting on Facebook, of all things.
Just some odd bits read because today is as themeless as yesterday — lots of garbage out there.
Skepticism: I haz it
As I read coverage about news reporting and social media leading up to the general election, I also keep in the back of my mind this Bloomberg report, How to Hack an Election:
As for Sepúlveda, his insight was to understand that voters trusted what they thought were spontaneous expressions of real people on social media more than they did experts on television and in newspapers. […] On the question of whether the U.S. presidential campaign is being tampered with, he is unequivocal. “I’m 100 percent sure it is,” he says.
Be more skeptical. See you tomorrow morning!
UPDATE — 1:30 P.M. EDT —
JUST IN: Senate Commerce Commtitte chair sends letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg seeking answers on alleged manipulation of trending news
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS? THE SENATE GOING TO WASTE TAX DOLLARS ON THIS WHEN EVERY. SINGLE. NEWS. OUTLET. USES EDITORIAL JUDGMENT TO DECIDE WHAT TO COVER AS NEWS?
poorly sourced hit piece says,
“…In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. …”
Yet the Senate is going to pursue this
bullshit story after Gizmodo relied on ONE conservative curator-contractor — and their story actually says an algorithm is used?
Jeebus. Yet the Senate will ignore Sheldon Adelson’s acquisition of the biggest newspaper in Las Vegas in a possible attempt to denigrate local judges?
I can’t with this.
UPDATE — 3:35 P.M. EDT —
The Guardian reports the senator wasting our tax dollars questioning a First Amendment exercise by Facebook is John Thune. Hey! Guess who’s running for re-election as South Dakota’s senior senator? Why it’s John Thune! Nothing like using your political office as a free press-generating tool to augment your campaign. I hope Facebook’s algorithm suppresses this manufactured non-news crap.
That’s how I feel this morning — my head feels like a bunch of scattered pictures lying on my bedroom floor. Can’t tell how much of this sensation is work hangover from a too-busy weekend, or a result of a themeless news morning.
Often as I browse my feeds I find narratives emerge on their own, bubbling up on their own. Today? Not so much. There are too many topics in flight, too many major stories juggled, too many balls in the air, everything’s a blur.
The biggest stories adrift and muddled are those in which elections are central:
Anyhoo…here’s some miscellaneous flotsam that caught my eye in today’s debris field.
Deux chercheurs de Georgia Tech, Mark Riedl et Brent Harrison, vont encore plus loin. Selon eux, la littérature peut inculquer des valeurs morales à des programmes d’intelligence artificielle. « Nous n’avons pas de manuel rassemblant toutes les valeurs d’une culture, mais nous avons des collections d’histoires issues de ces différentes cultures », expliquent-ils dans leur article de recherche publié en février.
«Les histoires encodent de nombreuses formes de connaissances implicites. Les fables et les contes ont fait passer de génération en génération des valeurs et des exemples de bons comportements. (…) Donner aux intelligences artificielles la capacité de lire et de comprendre des histoires pourrait être la façon la plus efficace de les acculturer afin qu’elles s’intègrent mieux dans les sociétés humaines et contribuent à notre bien-être.»
Two researchers from Georgia Tech, Mark Riedl and Brent Harrison, go even further. They believe literature can inculcate moral values in artificial intelligence programs. “We have no manual containing all the values of a culture, but we have collections of stories from different cultures,” they explain in their research article published in February.
“The stories encode many forms of implicit knowledge. Fables and tales were passing generation to generation the values and examples of good behavior. (…) Giving artificial intelligence the ability to read and understand stories may be the most effective way to acculturate them so they can better integrate into human society and contribute to our well-being.”
Gods help us, I hope they didn’t feed the AI that POS Fifty Shades of freaking Grey. Though I’d rather 90% of romance novels for morals over Lord of the Flies or The Handmaid’s Tale, because romance’s depiction of right and wrong is much more straightforward than in literary fiction, even the very best of it.
That’s quite enough trouble to kick off our week, even if it’s not particularly coherent. Catch you tomorrow morning!
It’s Friday, when we usually cover a different jazz genre. But we’re playing these sorry cards we’ve been dealt this week and observing the passing of a great artist.
We’ll probably all be sick of seeing this same video, but it is one of the very few of Prince available for embedding with appropriate intellectual property rights preserved. It’s a result of Prince’s tenacious control over his artistic product that we won’t have ready access to his past performances, but this same tenacity taught many artists how to protect their interests.
It’s worth the hour and a quarter to watch the documentary Prince in the 1980s; the enormity of his talent can’t be understood without reactions by professionals to his abilities.
The way his voice slides easily into high registers at 05:44, his guitar playing beginning at 06:53, offer us just the smallest glimpses of his spectacular gifts.
Good night, sweet Prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Great Google-y moogley
Under Not-Google: Opera browser now has free built-in VPN
A lesser-known browser with only 2% of current market share, Opera is a nice alternative to Chrome and Firefox. Its new built-in free VPN could help boost its market share by offering additional privacy protection. It’s not clear this new feature will protect users against censorship tools, though — and this could be extremely important since this Norwegian software company may yet be acquired by a Chinese company which placed a bid on the firm a couple of months ago.
Definitely Not-Google: Apple cracker cost FBI more than $1 million
Can’t swing an iPad without hitting a report on FBI director James Comey’s admission at the Aspen Security Forum this week in Londn that cracking the San Bernardino shooter’s work iPhone cost “more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is 7 years and 4 months,” or more than $1 million dollars. Speaking of exorbitant expenses, why was Comey at this forum in London? Oh, Comey was the headliner for the event? Isn’t that interesting…wonder if that speaking gig came with speaker’s fee?
That’s it for this week’s morning roundups. Hope you have a nice weekend planned ahead of you!
When you need a break this hectic Monday morning, take five minutes and watch ANA from Factory Fifteen. I’m intrigued by the props and set — how much is CGI, and how much is actual production line? What company allowed this production company access to their equipment?
Though snappy and visually engaging, the story’s not realistic — yet. But much of the equipment on the production line is very close to that used in manufacturing today. And just as depicted in this short film, the weakest link is the human.
Worth keeping in mind this week as we plow deeper into the conflict at the intersection of humans and devices. Speaking of which…
Apple-heavy week ahead
HEADS UP TECH USERS
Before the machines complete their occupation of our world…
After watching that video at Bloomberg, I think we’re a lot closer to ANA than we realized. Watch your backs — Monday is certainly gaining on you, if robots aren’t.