Science may have cured biased AI


Scientists at Columbia and Lehigh Universities have effectively created a method for error-correcting deep learning networks. With the tool, they’ve been able to reverse-engineer complex AI, thus providing a work-around for the mysterious ‘black box’ problem. Deep learning AI systems often make decisions inside a black box – meaning humans can’t readily understand why a neural-network chose one solution over another. This exists because machines can perform millions of tests in short amounts of time, come up with a solution, and move on to performing millions more tests to come up with a better solution. The researchers created DeepXplore, software…

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Netflix has thousands of hidden categories. Someone listed them all


There are over 3000 hidden categories on Netflix that require a “secret” code to access and someone took the time to list them all. The number combination, or “secret code” is appended at the end of the URL, after /browse/genre, and acts like a genre itself. The sub-categories on the list range from ‘Comedies Starring Eddie Murphy’ (I just found out Trading Places is on Netflix) to ‘Critically-Acclaimed British Crime Movies‘, the things we’ve always wanted but never knew how to find…right? With such specific categories like these, you’ll no longer have to waste hours figuring out what to watch. The…

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Or just read more coverage about: Netflix

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Cybersecurity in the age of mobile computing


As enterprise data centers evolve, networking also expands to unknown regions. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are now complaint across government and corporate sectors. Entities of data have the agility to move from local and remote storage to cloud-based access points. Change in technology is inevitable and mobile computing infrastructure must be scalable, not proprietary. However, the more scalable infrastructures become, mobile computing presents new challenges. Risk in security continues to expand at a rapid rate as mobile data becomes more susceptible to being maliciously compromised. We generate more data than ever before; the number that’s often referenced is…

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Olympus adds super-fast 45mm and 17mm F1.2 lenses to the micro four-thirds arsenal


The Micro Four-Thirds system favored by Olympus and Panasonic may have smaller sensors than some competing DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras, but its collection of lenses is one of the most versatile out there. Today Olympus is granting the system two more powerful tools in the form of super-wide aperture lenses: a 17mm F1.2 and 45mm F1.2. Both are part of Olympus’ Pro series, meaning they come with a manual focus toggle and are weather-sealed against the elements. The 17mm F1.2 is particularly interesting, as it fills a longstanding gap in the system. 17mm on a Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) camera…

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Hacker pieces together Alexa-powered talking skull


Some people see Amazon’s Alexa as a helpful assistant who exists to make dimming the lights, listening to jazz, and getting a weather report as simple as speaking a command. Other people see the AI as part of an ongoing experiment involving the creation of a monster made from a Raspberry Pi computer, an Echo speaker, and the skull of a witch who was burned at the stake for heresy. Just kidding, the skull looks like it’s made of plastic. The fact that it isn’t real doesn’t stop it from being legitimately scary, starting from the 25 second mark, in…

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President Trump, a frequent Amazon critic, may have just helped the retail giant on its pioneering drone delivery quest

President Donald Trump (BigStock Photo)

Tech giants are not always on the same page with President Donald Trump. But they might have found some common ground — or perhaps should we say common airspace — when it comes to drones.

President Trump today announced a new initiative to make “American aviation great again” through a series of initiatives to boost the usage and integration of unmanned aircraft systems with the national airspace system. The move could be a huge boon for companies such as Amazon and Google, which have hit regulatory headwinds in the past around their efforts to implement technologies that would allow for drone deliveries.

Amazon has tested some of its drone delivery efforts in England, in part due to the friendly regulatory environment. “We’re getting really good cooperation,” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in Seattle last year.

Bezos famously announced its drone delivery program in an episode of 60 Minutes nearly four years ago.

Drone landing in England
Amazon’s delivery drone comes in for a landing over an English field near Cambridge. (Amazon via YouTube)

“The hard part here is putting in all the redundancy, all the reliability, all the systems you need to say, ‘Look, this thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood,” said Bezos, predicting at the time it could take four to five years for the program to take flight in the U.S.

Now, Trump — a frequent critic of Amazon and Bezos — may be opening doors to Amazon and others to spark drone delivery, among other UAV activities.

“Our Nation will move faster, fly higher, and soar proudly toward the next great chapter of American aviation,” said President Trump in a statement issued today.

One key component of the proposal set forth by President Trump’s administration, the ability to allow drones to fly beyond visual line of sight, a key component of drone operators to fly drones to residences or businesses to deliver goods from warehouses that might be miles away.

Amazon appears to like the new steps.

“Amazon supports the administration’s efforts to create a pilot program aimed at keeping America at the forefront of aviation and drone innovation,” Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon Prime Air, said in a statement provided to Bloomberg News.

Here’s the full press release that the White House issued today:

BRINGING AMERICAN AVIATION INTO THE 21ST CENTURY: President Donald J. Trump and his Administration are creating a new drone Integration Pilot Program that will accelerate drone integration into the national airspace system.

• With the increase in the number of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly called drones, America’s aviation pioneers need a regulatory framework that encourages innovation while ensuring airspace safety.

• America’s regulatory framework for aviation is outdated, limiting the integration of drones into the national airspace system and driving American technology companies to seek commercial testing and deployment opportunities overseas.

• Under this pilot program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will enter into agreements with State, local, and tribal governments to establish innovation zones for testing complex UAS operations and to attempt different models for integrating drones into local airspace.

o Using existing Federal authorities, the program will accelerate testing of currently restricted UAS operations – such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights and flights over people.

o This program will open the skies for the delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations, and surveys of crops for precision agriculture applications.

o The pilot program will also allow testing of new UAS traffic management systems and detection and tracking capabilities, which are needed to fully integrate UAS operations into the national airspace system.

o The pilot program will increase the number and complexity of UAS operations across the Nation, and will help in the development of a future national aviation regulatory framework that can fuel American leadership in unmanned aviation.

o Jurisdictions eager to participate in the program are strongly encouraged to work closely with industry partners and technical experts to draft proposals for participation.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF AMERICAN AERONAUTICS: Drones are a critical, fast-growing part of American aviation, increasing efficiency, productivity, and jobs.

• UAS, commonly called drones, present opportunities to enhance the safety of the American public, increase the efficiency and productivity of American industry, and create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

• The dramatic increase in UAS deployment in the United States is unprecedented.

o Over one million UAS owners have registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

o The number of commercial UAS are projected to increase fivefold by 2021.

• The FAA UAS Integration Office is coordinating Federal efforts to integrate UAS into the national airspace system

• Through its “Know Before You Fly” educational campaign, the FAA has developed relationships with almost 150 partners, including drone manufacturers, law enforcement agencies, retailers, labor organizations, and institutions of higher education.

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Cutting-edge Microsoft data center fuels a new vision for global energy efficiency

Gov. Jay Inslee — flanked by leaders at Microsoft, Cummins, and McKinstry — cuts a cable to mark the official launch of the Advanced Energy Lab. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

In an industrial Seattle warehouse with plywood walls and exposed pipes, a group of about 60 people gathered Wednesday to mark a breakthrough that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee believes “we will look back on and be very proud.”

The innovation — developed by Microsoft, McKinstry, and Cummins — isn’t as sexy as the smartphone or surprising as the voice-controlled speaker but it could have big implications for the future of cloud computing and sustainable energy. Today, those three companies unveiled the Advanced Energy Lab, a pilot program designed to prove that energy-hungry data centers can be powered by fuel cells.

In a gleaming white room in the warehouse sits a 20-rack data center concept with fuel cells mounted above. Natural gas is pumped directly into the fuel cells and then converted to power to run the racks. The goal is to replace the traditional way data centers are powered, by moving energy over long distances from power plants through substations before converting it into the right voltage at its final destination. The fuel cell technology could herald a big shift away from that method, reducing the energy loss that occurs by transporting and converting the energy.

“This is small but it can grow into very, very significant industrial applications,” Inslee said.

Gov. Inslee delivers the keynote at the opening of the Advanced Energy Lab. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Microsoft and other tech giants have been working to develop more sustainable ways to operate their massive and growing data centers, which hold everything from your employer’s shared documents to your kid’s homecoming photos.

As information increasingly moves to the cloud, companies like Microsoft are forced to expand their data centers to keep up, which butts up against the company’s energy efficiency goals.

Fuel cells sit on top of the 20-rack data center pilot at the Advanced Energy Lab. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

“This is a necessary challenge for us to surmount,” Inslee said during the presentation and unveiling ceremony. “Because we like our data, we like it in gigabytes, and we also like to breath clean air and we insist on both of those accomplishments at the same time.”

Sean James is running Microsoft’s fuel cell program. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

If the fuel cell technology proves viable and cost-effective, it could extend beyond data centers. It would be particularly useful for facilities that require electricity and water heating, like apartment buildings, restaurants, and hospitals, according to Microsoft Principal Sean James, who is managing the data center program.

James also said the fuel cells could be powered by renewable energy sources but that isn’t currently feasible for data centers.

“Unfortunately, if you need a lot of gas right now your choice is really, practically, natural gas,” he said. “We’re not satisfied with that. We’re going to be really pushing the industry.”

Funding for the Advanced Energy Lab comes from Microsoft, McKinstry, Cummins, Siemens, and the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund. The concept data-center isn’t online yet but engineers will use it to run tests and prepare the technology for real-world deployment.

James is staying mum on the timeline but “whenever it is, it’s not going to be fast enough for me,” he said.

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OpenStack’s public cloud dreams are still dreams, but emerging tech trends offer new hope

OpenStack, an open-source project that early backers once thought could provide an alternative to Amazon Web Services, has fallen decidedly short of that goal. Still, the foundation behind the development of the cloud computing platform thinks the software might find new life as edge computing starts toe emerge.

Mark Collier, an early leader of the project and now chief operating officer of The OpenStack Foundation, acknowledged the reality of cloud infrastructure computing in 2017 in a recent conversation. The public cloud has gone from an experiment to a part of almost everyone’s IT strategy, but Amazon Web Services dominates this market. Microsoft is a strong second, and there is a pretty crowded group of others below them fighting for relevance.

First introduced in 2010 by RackSpace and NASA, OpenStack was intended to be an open-source way for enterprise tech companies to provide something competitive with AWS through a collection of services, including compute, storage, networking and a lot of other cloud essentials. After years of its vendor partners running amok scrambling to catch up to AWS, buyers took their business elsewhere, and the project settled into a role as the go-to product for private clouds — cloud-native philosophies put into practice on self-managed infrastructure — and the basis for several niche public cloud providers around the world.

Half of the Fortune 100 companies are running OpenStack, Collier said. Because anyone can download OpenStack and set it up on their own, “we don’t really have precise numbers, but we certainly believe there are many, many thousands of OpenStack clouds out there,” he said.

The project has caught on inside the media and retail industries, he said, and CERN is also using it to power an internal cloud that manages the Large Hadron Collider. AT&T uses it for its DirecTV streaming service, and Walmart is actually running its online store on OpenStack, Collier said.

An overview of the OpenStack model for infrastructure management. (OpenStack Image)

While it’s pretty clear OpenStack isn’t going to be an AWS killer any time soon, there are new places emerging where Collier thinks OpenStack might make sense.

Edge computing is one of them. As more large multinational companies start to realize the size and quality of the data they can get from placing sensors around their assets, they’re going to buy more of those sensors. And over time a lot of people — including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — think that those sensors will need to more and more computing themselves because of latency concerns in sending that data back to a centralized cloud provider.

“I think that the notion that (workloads are) just going to go to three or four massive companies that’s just going to run all the infrastructure in some centralized location is not going to come true,” Collier said. The big cloud providers are certainly aware of the edge computing trend, and will deploy services around it to try and grab that business, but services built around OpenStack at least have a chance of competing for that business before the market matures, he said.

There’s also still some opportunity among companies that would like to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy but realize their on-premises infrastructure could use a face lift.

“I think we kind of reached this point where people know that in order to really manage infrastructure at scale, you’ve got to do it through software,” Collier said. “I think OpenStack has come a long way, in terms of being reliable and scalable.”

OpenStack is something of a cautionary tale among cloud computing veterans, and it’s illustrative of challenges faced by industry standards groups.

The OpenStack Foundation tried to be Switzerland among its base of tech vendors when it came to how the software would actually run in data centers, and that resulted in vendors like Rackspace, IBM, and Red Hat competing fiercely to offer the “best” OpenStack implementation. Several members of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which is driving the conversation around modern cloud computing practices, made it very clear to me earlier this year that they had no intention of repeating the mistakes OpenStack made in trying to manage the demands of tech vendors.

Collier acknowledges that the project might do a few things differently if it could hit refresh, but, as you might expect, isn’t ready to give up on OpenStack.

“We’re basically a collection of people — 85,000 members of our foundation, thousands of developers in 180 countries — that are trying to build open infrastructure so people have an alternative for when it makes sense,” he said. If emerging technologies like containers and serverless really do allow users to move their workloads between clouds, Collier thinks OpenStack could play a role as one of those destinations.

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‘The Oatmeal’ creator rips Facebook in comic — and Facebook asks if he wants to ‘boost’ the post

The Oatmeal
(The Oatmeal via Facebook)

Mathew Inman, the Seattle-based creator of the popular comic “The Oatmeal,” took a shot at Facebook in a new strip and in the truest sense of something being meta, Facebook’s behind-the-scenes bots asked if he wanted to “boost” the post.

The comic, titled “Reaching People on the Internet,” shows a character describing how things used to be online, when someone wanted to attract people to content they were sharing on a website. The introduction of Facebook into the equation supposedly made it easier for people to reach each other, so people were encouraged to have their followers join them there.

The third panel in the strip, in the “where we’re at now” phase of things, shows the character asking Facebook to share the new stuff he made with his followers. The giant, locked Facebook building responds with a message about how a user can boost a post for thousands of dollars to reach a fraction of their followers.

Inman described in his Facebook comments what the point was behind the strip:

I get why Facebook is doing this. They’re trying to clean up people’s feeds, which become littered with ads, discount codes, clickbait, and other promotional content. The end result is that they’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater — the babies being creative professionals who generate original, meaningful content, and the bathwater being the pages that are business-centric.

I used to employ a philosophy of “make compelling, meaningful content and people will like you.” See here.

Unfortunately, that philosophy doesn’t really apply when a social network is locking away your followers.

Bottom line: if you want to see everything I post, be sure to follow me on a variety of social networks by going to my website directly.

Hugs and kisses,
-The Oatmeal

A short time later, the irony kicked in big time.

Inman shared again in the comments and on Twitter an actual message from Facebook circled beneath the comic, in which the company proves his point, with a message that reads: “Get more likes, comments and shares” and encourages him to “boost” his post for $2,000 so that he can reach up to 490,000 of his followers.

Inman pointed out in a reply that while that sounds like a lot of people, it’s a tiny fraction of the 4 million people who follow “The Oatmeal” on Facebook.

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F5 Networks tops Q4 estimates after cutting costs, but revenue outlook disappoints investors

F5 has leased all of the office space in the 44-story skyscraper that will now be called F5 Tower, the angular building to the left of the 76-story Columbia Center in this rendering. (The Mark Image)

Seattle’s F5 Networks ended its 2017 fiscal year on an up note, posting revenue and net income that exceeded analyst expectations after a couple of rough quarters to start new CEO Francois Locoh-Donou’s tenure at the company.

For the fourth quarter, revenue was $538 million, up 2.4 percent from the same period last year. That’s hardly exciting growth, but financial analysts were expecting the company to post $534.8 million in revenue, which initially gave F5’s stock a bit of a boost in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Net income during the quarter was $135.7 million, or $2.14 a share, up 25 percent compared to the year-ago quarter. Excluding a whole host of special items, including restructuring charges related to layoffs this past summer, non-GAAP earnings per share was $2.44 per diluted share. Analysts were expecting $2.21 in non-GAAP earnings per share.

But the good news came with some disappointing news, as F5 forecast that revenue in the current quarter will be around $520 million, well below the $531 million that analysts were projecting the company would take in during that quarter. That reversed F5’s after-hours momentum ahead of a conference call to discuss the results. After the quarter ended, F5 directors also authorized $1 billion in share buybacks, it said.

“There (are) potential grteat drivers of product revenue growth — long-term drivers for the company — where we are doing very well,” Locoh-Donou said on the conference call. F5’s virtual application delivery controller business grew 35 percent compared to last year, and security is also showing promise as a growth area, he said.

F5 has been facing many of the same problems that other technology companies have run into amid the growth of cloud computing. With the market for its application delivery controllers stagnating, F5 has been plunging resources into improving its software and services products, but that is a transition that takes some time.

The company laid off around 140 workers in September, six months after Locoh-Donou took the top job after a few tumultuous years in the CEO’s office at F5. The company is preparing to move into the former Mark building (pictured above) in downtown Seattle in 2019.

“Some of the investments and reliangements we’ve made in the quarter are all about making sure we maximize the resources that we’re putting in front of the highest growth areas of the company,” Locoh-Donou said.

(Editor’s note: This story was updated several times as more information became available and after the earnings call.)

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