January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

WikiLeaks said that its founder Julian Assange is confident of winning ‘any fair trial’ in the U.S. and indicated that the founder of the whistleblowing website would stand by all the promises he had made in return for clemency to Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. soldier who disclosed classified data relating to the Iraq War to the site.

On Tuesday, Manning’s prison sentence was commuted by U.S. President Barack Obama raising questions whether Assange would keep his part of a deal he proposed online, and agree to extradition to the U.S.

WikiLeaks has recently also been a thorn in the side of the Democrats in the U.S. by releasing embarrassing emails leaked from the Democratic National Committee that showed that the organization had favored candidate Hillary Clinton over her rival Senator Bernie Sanders for the party nomination for the presidential elections. It also published mails from the account of John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign.

U.S. government officials including from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have pointed a finger to Russia for orchestrating the leaks, though WikiLeaks has said it does not collaborate with states in the publication of documents.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

When Donald Trump is inaugurated as the U.S. President on Friday, Juan Soberanis intends to protest the event—digitally.

His San Francisco-based protest platform is calling on Americans to oppose Trump’s presidency by visiting the Whitehouse.gov site and overloading it with too much traffic. In effect, he’s proposing a distributed denial-of-service attack, an illegal act under federal law. But Soberanis doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s the equivalent of someone marching on Washington, D.C,” he said on Monday. “Civil disobedience has been part of the American democratic process.”

Soberanis’s call to action is raising eyebrows and highlights the isssue of whether DDoS attacks should be made a legitimate form of protest. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, sending a command to a protected computer with the intent to cause damage can be judged a criminal offense. But that hasn’t stopped hacktivists and cyber criminals from using DDoS attacks to force websites offline.  

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

When we think of digital disruption, while all industries are affected in one way or another, some of the largest disruptions ahead may well be experienced within financial services. Of course, bitcoin and blockchain come to mind right away, as well as A.I. for improved customer service and a competitive edge, but there are numerous other disruptions either already in play or poised to take effect very soon.

This is particularly so in Europe, where the Revised Directive on Payment Services (PSD2) has been designed to create a safer and more innovative European payments industry through legislation. Most importantly, it’s having a highly disruptive effect on the financial services industry because it requires banks to open access to customers’ online accounts and payment services to third-party providers, forcing banks to rethink their business models and the very ecosystems in which they operate. 

Another area of ongoing innovation and disruption in financial services is clearly around mobile payments. We’ve witnessed opening salvos over the years in terms of digital wallets and digital deposits, but this is only the beginning. The banking industry as well as the high-tech industry is continuing to experiment with the art of the possible, particularly around the digital-physical blur of payments and redesigned business processes.

Here’s six examples of how payment technology and associated business processes are evolving:

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

The CES trade show, which takes place every January in Las Vegas, is where companies large and small come to meet with potential clients, see what their rivals are up to, and try to impress the press and the public at large with their products and services.

While established companies display their wares in large, elaborately equipped booths on the main floors, there is a place for hopeful entrepreneurs as well. Eureka Park is a section of the show where startups — some that have just launched their first products and others still in development — show their stuff.

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We picked out six of the hopefuls exhibiting there and talked to them about their products, their companies and their futures.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

Microsoft is making a strong push toward building tools for human capital management (HCM). Perhaps best considered a replacement for older-generation human resources tools like PeopleSoft, HCM blends traditional HR features with new analytics tooling to help organizations understand more about their employees.

The Office Graph (as shown in Office 365’s Delve), for understanding social networks inside your organization, is one such example, while other HCM tools take advantage of platforms like Dynamics to develop models around resource requirements and productivity.

There’s a lot of data in our business systems that can promote efficiency and help find the best teams for tackling various business initiatives, and mixing query graphs across platforms combines information sources to answer what can often be complex questions. Adding LinkedIn’s social network to Microsoft’s existing tooling could help with a key aspect of HCM: talent management. Finding new ways to build teams, especially where a significant part of the workforce is freelance, can give businesses a significant advantage over its competition.

StaffHub is one such Microsoft tool aimed at HCM. Replacing what had been ad-hoc paper-based solutions with services that can capture the implicit data in a small team, StaffHub is a simple, powerful tool for smaller organizations that can greatly improve the productivity of your staff. With the rise of virtual and contingent workforces, it may find an effective place in the enterprise as well.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

Scikits are Python-based scientific toolboxes built around SciPy, the Python library for scientific computing. Scikit-learn is an open source project focused on machine learning: classification, regression, clustering, dimensionality reduction, model selection, and preprocessing. It’s a fairly conservative project that’s pretty careful about avoiding scope creep and jumping on unproven algorithms, for reasons of maintainability and limited developer resources. On the other hand, it has quite a nice selection of solid algorithms, and it uses Cython (the Python-to-C compiler) for functions that need to be fast, such as inner loops.

Among the areas Scikit-learn does not cover are deep learning, reinforcement learning, graphical models, and sequence prediction. It is defined as being in and for Python, so it doesn’t have APIs for other languages. Scikit-learn doesn’t support PyPy, the fast just-in-time compiling Python implementation because its dependencies NumPy and SciPy don’t fully support PyPy.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

A few brave souls predict internet of things standards will start to gel this year, but making all those connected things work together still looks like a long shot.

Two years ago, some industry analysts cautiously suggested that a vast array of IoT standards would merge into just a few beginning in 2017. If the internet of things in late 2014 was a cacophony of discordant musicians tuning up, it’s now reached the point where a few virtuosos are playing the same tune. But there’s still a lot of sheet music getting passed around.

Two of the biggest rivals in IoT did find harmony last year. The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) was formed out of the AllSeen Alliance—which used the Qualcomm-developed AllJoyn—and the Intel-backed Open Interconnect Consortium. Previously, each group had been promoting its own way for devices to discover and learn about each other.

In another promising sign, the IEEE p2413 standard, which will provide a unified approach to defining IoT architectures, may be finished this year, according to Oleg Logvinov, chairman of the p2413 working group. The standard is meant to span all industries plus consumer devices. It wouldn’t replace existing data formats but would reduce the amount of effort required to share data among them.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

There’s a lot to like about Apple’s new wireless AirPods. They’re super easy to set up. The small carrying case that comes with them doubles as a charger. The in-ear speakers sound good, although they could use a little more bass. And the directional mics do a good job of picking up your voice if you’re talking on the phone.

For early adopters, the hard part is getting them. Although the $159 wireless headphones were unveiled in September 2016, Apple didn’t start shipping them until December. And well into 2017, getting them was a hit-or-miss proposition. But once you’ve tried them, you’ll find out why they’re so useful and cool — even if people make fun of the way they look. And someone probably will do just that when you’re using them.

The AirPods use a new processor from Apple, the W1 chip. It makes connecting them to an Apple device like the iPhone 7 as easy as turning them on and holding them a couple of inches from the phone. After you’ve done that, they’ll work all your other Apple hardware — as long as your devices are all linked using the same iCloud account. Battery life is good: 5 hours on one charge, and you can get another 3 hours of use with just 15 minutes in the charging case.

The W1 chip is a big part of the AirPods story. It piggy-backs on the existing Bluetooth protocol, which means the AirPods are compatible with anything that can stream through Bluetooth, including Android phones. And they do sound good, with a pretty good balance of highs, lows, and mids. As I said, though, the bass could be a little stronger. That’s the nature of in-ear headphones.

I have had a few audio dropouts, and the reliance on Siri for some functions can be a problem if you don’t have an internet or cellular connection. But unlike some users who’ve complained that their AirPods fall out, most owners say they stay put. I’ve used them while running and lifting and even when I shake my head around, they don’t move. So if you’re using them to listen to your favorite tunes, feel free to bop along.

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

Laptop? Check. Tablet? Check. Smartphone? Check. What’s missing? If you’re like me, a smartwatch. 

Now Android is coming out with Android Wear 2.0, and a couple of new smartwatches to go along with it. So who is making the smartwatches, what features will they sport, and when will they be available?

In IT Blogwatch, we use our watches for everything but to tell the time.

So what is going on? Ron Amadeo has the background:

January 18, 2017 brianradio2016

Qualcomm strong-armed some phone makers into accepting unfavorable technology licensing terms while giving Apple a break in exchange for exclusivity, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has charged.

The company used its dominance in baseband processors, which manage cellular communication in mobile devices, to force vendors to pay elevated royalties for Qualcomm technologies, the FTC charged in a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court.

At the same time, Qualcomm gave Apple favorable terms so it could supply the baseband chips for all iPhones from 2011 to 2016, according to the FTC. Among other things, in 2007 it got Apple to agree not to use WiMax, the original 4G system used on Sprint’s network, in any iPhones, the complaint said. WiMax was promoted by Intel, Qualcomm’s archrival.

Qualcomm’s actions hurt competition and effectively imposed a tax on some products that was passed on to consumers, the FTC said. It’s seeking a court order to undo and prevent the company’s allegedly anticompetitive practices.