Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Pop-up Sites Punished By Google

pop upsGoogle recently announced plans to punish websites that utilize intrusive pop-up advertisements. To do this, the tech mogul plans to update its algorithms for ranking search results so that pages with pop ups are more likely to get lower placings in the ranks. According to Google, the revision of the algorithms should come into affect starting on the 10th of January.

While Google does make most of its profits from placing ads on the internet, experts have seen this decision as more strategic than altruistic. The company likely hopes that, by making ads more sparse, users are less likely to use ad-blockers or search within ad-blocking apps when they surf the web.

Google claimed in its blog that the change would be coming about in an attempt to simply make using its results a little less frustrating:

“Pages that show intrusive interstitials [elements that cover the content] provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible,” it explained. “This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller,” it added.

google dockAs for the precise processes that the Mountain View-based company hopes to discourage, Google gave three examples: pop-ups that cover part of the main content of the website when a user clicks on a page, intermediary webpages that have to be dismissed before the main content can be seen, and ads that fill a web browser’s screen so that a user is forced to scroll down “below the fold” before they can see the material they actually hoped to access.

Google also added that it would be making some exceptions to its anti-pop-up stance. Pop-ups that tell readers about a webpage’s use of cookies, for example, are still kosher. Another exception will be pop-ups that require log-in details before a visitor can transgress a paywall.

“Google is one of the largest advertising companies in the world, but it’s in a very different position to Facebook, Snapchat and other global media consumption apps,” explained Daniel Knapp, senior director of advertising research at the IHS consultancy. “Google is still very reliant on the desktop and mobile web to make money, and it’s much more difficult to clean up that experience than the native app environments,” he continued.

“That’s why it needs to tighten the screws on everyone with this crackdown.”

googPerhaps the real reason that Google needs to “tighten up the screws” is that people are wising up to the pop-up game, and without a more powerful advertising-combating browser the mogul’s seat on the search engine throne may be compromised. After all, people are making web browsers that promise to block all ads except those that users consent to seeing. Pop-up blocking browser additions are normal and suggested, and apps devoted to blocking apps on mobile devices are widely used.

If Google cannot itself provide a less obnoxious advertising environment, it will risk losing its users to the entities working hard at the cutting edge of the internet media-advertisement relationship.

Let’s hope this tech race remains one where the consumer wins.

Computing Competition Even Bigger in 2016

Seven fully autonomous computers are trying to face off this rear in a historic battle in Las Vegas early next month as each team tries to defend themselves and point out flaws without any human control. This is the biggest year by far, and has implications as to what the future of sport and competition will likely be in the United States and across the world going forward. What we can see is that now that Vegas has caught wind of this and is starting to see big moneysfgdsafg potential we can be sure that this trend is only going to get more robust and crazy for the American consumer. What we see is that there has been a real fundamental shift into the sensibilities of the American sport viewer. The reason being is that at the heart of this trend is the notion that safety is king, and for most of the historically most popular sports they are kind of undermined entirely from the decision making process. Lets consider what are the big money grabbers in Las Vegas sports gambling today, there is football which year after year is getting less and less kinds to sign up and participate in the pop warren program which will ultimately become a smaller aspect of the American experience. The other one is the sport of Boxing which may have had its final coffin nail last year in the form of the highly publicized and ultimately disappointing brute between Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Paquieo. The fight was being deemed the fight of the century but didn’t deliver. For this and many other reasons the American competitive better wants something and is getting noting.

Enter the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge whose finals take place in on August 4 right in the middle of the two biggest hacking conferences Blackhat USA and DEFCON, which is possibly proving that machines can beat even the best humans hackers. “Cyber grand challenge is about bringing autonomy to the cyber domain, what we hope to see is proff that the entire security life cycle can be automated.” Says an organizer of the event. He goes on to mutter that, “The machines have to comprehend the language of the software author the logic for that software, write their own network client, and arrive at the path of the new vulnerabilities entirely on their own.” Its kind of funny because the people who see the value in this and are competing heavily to this end are kind of striding towards their own obsolescence and necessity in their respective fields. That may be a real concern for the future but for the people who compete now their is a few things on their mind but mostly cashing in big time. Sure the 2 million dollar prize is nice but what about 750,000 dollars every year as an employee of a top defense firm. That is what you are likely to receive if you play your cards right in this regard so for them they want to cash checks now and ask questions later.

 

New Developments in the Race to VR

daydream4Google is already on its way to owning the rights to everything you could ever want or need. Now, they’re bringing you your own imagination.

As of the 2015 developer’s conference, Google has launched blueprints for its newest life-changing necessity, Cardboard. With Cardboard, users will be able to have a low-level Virtual Reality experience without having to refinance their cars or sell their homes, because Cardboard is essentially instructions to craft a headset using your own materials. That’s right, kids; a model airplane without the pieces, all to access a fairly unfamiliar platform. You can now walk through the desert or swim underwater, sort of, for only about 20 bucks!

Google’s idea is that this inexpensive new toy will encourage users to contribute ideas to existing Cardboard apps, and hopefully develop their own, new apps to further the growth of the Poor Man’s Headset. With the plastic – and – packaged alternatives pricing in the low hundreds, high thousands – the Oculus pricing anywhere from $900 to $1500 – it’s no wonder the idea’s popularity is skyrocketing. Cardboard and Daydream– a company who is building off the Cardboard platform – are already quoting downloads of over 50 million since its start-up last year.

google cardboardMarxent CTO Barry Besecker told TechNewsWorld that Google is “betting that mobile will be the key to VR proliferation, vs. desktop or console-based hardware like Oculus,” meaning the company hopes that, instead of creating and exploring a virtual world from the safety and comfort of their homes, users will venture out into public, wearing their cardboard headsets freely, unplugged and without need for backup PC power. If you thought Bluetooth to Public secondhand conversation interaction was confusing, just wait to be run over by a canoeist with a cardboard facemask, trying frantically to escape from the 450 foot drop just ahead, oh nooo!!..

However, even though Google’s VR efforts have firmly held the attention of the masses, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, thinks it’s still too early to predict the successes of Daydream and Cardboard, as, despite high interest among buyers, Google has developed a reputation for failing to follow through, he told TechNewsWorld.

“Daydream VR appears to be the new strategic direction for Google VR,” Enderle said, but “be aware that Google has the attention span of a small child on sugar, so how long this will remain ‘strategic’ will likely be measured in months.”

ddreamAnd as we all know, Where there’s a “Will you buy my product?!” There’s a “Wait, no, mine’s better!” Any sign of hesitation on Google’s end could be an open door for its competitors to rush the market.

“Microsoft is betting on HoloLens, and we still have to see what’s up with Apple,” Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics told TechNewsWorld; “Often Apple comes a little bit later than the others, but then they do it a lot better. I think that’s the game plan here.”

While Cardboard eventually grew beyond Android to support iOS, Daydream is native to Google’s mobile operating system, which could be a death sentence all its own. As more and more eager startup companies enter the race to the future, trends still find consumers sticking by the big-name OG companies when it comes to new ideas.

But for now you could still, you know, go outside. But first, Google “cardboard bicycles”.

Factory Workers Lose Jobs to Robots

Foxconn, the major supplier for both Apple and Samsung, just replaced 60,000 of its workers with robots. According to one government official who spoke to the South China Morning Post, one factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots.”

foxconnAccording to Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, “More companies are likely to follow suit.”

China has been making major investments in the creation and implementation of a robotic workforce, much to the dismay of many human workers fearful for their jobs.

Foxconn Technology Group confirmed its automation of “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that this would necessary lead to long-term job losses.

“We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control,” the company said in a statement.

“We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”

Factories across Dongguan, located in the Guangdong province, have invested over around $450 million into the creation of robots that could replace human workers since 2014.

Economists have expressed heavy warnings regarding the automation of jobs and the effect it could have on the job market and the quality of human life. Consultants with the Deloitte in partnership with Oxford University released a report that suggests that up to 35% of jobs may be at risk within the next 20 years.

foxconn2According to Ed Rensi, former McDonald’s chief executive, a minimum-wage increase to $15 would force companies to consider opting into robot workers:

“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” he stated.

The automation of jobs and steady development of the tech industry may cause many to consider what has gone largely undiscussed in our internet era: what is the purpose of technology, and for whom is it supposed to function? To automate a process once performed by thousands of workers without creating some new jobs for those workers to complete would constitute an advancement in technology that can be argued is not for the betterment of humanity or the optimization of the robothuman standard of life. When technological advancements are made not with the intention of helping society at large but instead with the intention of helping one small pocket of society become powerful (technology of war and big business), the necessity for governments to step in and police advancement itself can be argued for.

But what would that policing look like, and what kind of government would be worthy to make such difficult and philosophical decisions? And who can really control whether a technologist creates something that will give power to a group of people or not? It’s a sticky situation and a moral quandry that is up to younger generations to decide.

The Future of Internet Free-Speech in the United States

We are in a major time of flux in the United States regarding the future of the internet and the state of free speech in

U.S. Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump makes a point as he formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event at Trump Tower in New York June 16, 2015.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid  - RTX1GRB9

the internet age. With so much hanging in the balance in the wake of several high profile news stories and cases it is important to become informed of what the most powerful seat in the world thinks of this regard and how their aim to influence policy here. With the election cycle wrapping up and with so little coverage being given to this topic voters should be aware of what they stand to gain from their next president, or tragically lose in this regard. Here are what the remaining presidential candidates views are in regards to Free Speech on the internet and the preservation or curtailment of it.

Hillary Clinton:

Hillary is a strong supporter of censoring the speech of terrorist groups and monitoring the internet closely to ensure “national security.” The problem in this regard is her vagueness in determine what defines a terrorist group and to what extent she is willing to go to obtain such information in this respect. Her word on the shutting down of online terrorists accounts are as follows, “Resolve means depriving jihadists of virtual territory just as we work to deprive them of actual territory. They are using websites social media, chat rooms, and other platforms to celebrate beheading, recruit future terrorists, and call for attacks. We should work with host companies to shut them down.”

I don’t think that many people have a problem with that broad explanation of things that are clearly wrong and should be stopped. however, what defines terrorism? as it stands today the measures Hillary is advocating for a broad and wide ranging and can apply to anyone who has an adverse view of the state. This is a scary president and should be taken into consideration at the ballot box.

 

Bernie Sanders:

Up next is Bernie who has resisted internet censorship in various forms throughout his career. He voted against the failed PIPA anti-piracy bill, which was pushed hard by the Hollywood lobby but ultimately failed back in 2012. Essentially the bill was branded as an anti piracy bill but went way further than was necessary in curtailing the rights of citizens on the web. His words when considering the black list this would make for internet users, are as follows “it is absolutely essential that the internet remain open and free of censorship or the chilling effects that result in self-censorship.”

 

 

Donald Trump:

The tiny hand crusader is not swayed by the “chilling effects” that result from the censorship and communications of terrorist groups on the internet. He’d like to actually help censor everyone a little bit more. he says that, “we have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say ‘oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people we have a lot of foolish people. we have a lot of foolish people.”

 

What’s a Graphics Card?

graphics card bGraphics cards are an integral element to your computer’s proper functioning, even if they’re not as widely discussed as the motherboard or CPU. They’re an important component to understand, especially if you’re in the market for a new computer. Read on for a better understanding of what a graphics card does and why it’s important.

When you look at your computer’s monitor, what you see is actually composed of over one million tiny dots of color called pixels that come together to create one cohesive image. In order for your computer to manage these pixels and ensure that they are all the correct color to create the correct image, it receives binary data from your computer’s CPU and turns it into the picture you can understand. While some computers have this graphics ability built directly into their motherboards, it’s much more common for this translation from binary data to visible image to occur on the graphics card.

Let’s zoom in a little further. Your computer’s CPU works with your computer’s software applications, which are written to send information about the preferred image to the graphics card. The graphics card then decides how to use the pixels provided by your computer’s monitor to create the image that the applications want to project. The graphics card sends that information to your computer’s monitor through a cable, ultimately allowing the image to appear.

g cardTo create an image using only binary data requires a tremendous amount of data. A graphics card attempting to cast a 3D image will need to create a wire frame out of straight lines, then rasterize the image and provide the lighting, texture and color. When this process it put to the test in fast-paced gaming environments, your computer is forced to go through this process around sixty times per second. The graphics card is essential to these fast-paced functions, which would overwhelm your computer were it working alone.

The graphics card functions with the help of four other computer components: the motherboard (for data and power), the processor (for directions regarding each pixel), the memory (to store data regarding each pixel and to store completed pictures), and the monitor (to output the final image).

g card2The graphics card itself is composed of a printed circuit board (much like a smaller-scale motherboard) with its own processor, called the graphics processing unit (GPU) and RAM, or random-access memory. It also contains an input/output, or BIOS chip, where the card’s settings are stored and diagnostics can be run on the memory, input and output upon startup. A graphics card’s GPU is specifically tailored for performing the difficult mathematical and geometric calculations necessary for rendering graphics, and top-tier GPUs can actually possess more transistors than the average computer. That kind of processing power can creates a lot of heat, so graphics cards tend to be located under a heat sink, fan, or both.

When the GPU creates images, the data that composes completed pictures are stored on the graphics card’s RAM. This data could include information about every pixel, from its color to its location on the screen.

That’s just a quick overview of the graphics card. Hope this was helpful!

Facebook Exec Jailed in Brazil Over WhatsApp

Last week, Facebook Regional Vice President Diego Dzodan had to be bailed out of a Brazilian prison. Brazilian police officers made the arrest in response to Facebook’s failure to produce the WhatsApp messages that Brazilian law enforcement demanded due to the messages’ alleged connection with a drug trafficking investigation.

diego dzodanThis dispute is one of an increasingly large number of examples of issues between national law enforcement agencies and tech companies that sell encrypted services to private users. In general, politics and tech are becoming more intertwined than ever.

Digital data is a relatively new element in the global political scene, meaning that laws vary widely from one nation to the next. Many European nations have laws in place that protect citizens’ privacy and tend to value it over the potential for government law enforcement to be more effective in certain cases. Other nations, especially those being ruled under authoritarian regimes, limit their citizens’ ability to access web anonymity in every way they possibly can.

This wide variance in approach towards cyber security is responsible for the mishap in Brazil, and many believe it will cause future incidents.

“These conflicts will continue, because the way foreign governments can obtain data stored with a U.S. provider is to go through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Process,” stated Jadzia Butler. Butler is associated with the Center for Democracy and Technology, where she servers as a fellow on privacy, surveillance, and security. “Unfortunately, this process is extremely cumbersome. It can take up to 10 months for a foreign law enforcement agency to get the data it needs… so governments like Brazil and others have started to resort to extreme tactics in order to get data.” Such measures could include the issue of data localization mandates and the purposeful intimidation of relevant local officials.

facebookThis issue attracted the attention of the House Judiciary Committee last month during a hearing specifically on the subject of MLAT. MLAT stands for mutual legal assistance treaty and is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose creating compromising communication that will allow relevant countries to enforce public or criminal laws in a way that is consistent and understandable. Nations have developed particular methods for requesting and obtaining evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions held across borders.

The hearing that occurred last month attempted to establish which rules should apply in the event that two different countries claim jurisdiction over the same piece of data.

Gregory T. Nojeim, director of the CDT’s Project on Freedom, Security and Technology, had this to say:

brazil“Increasingly, one country’s law will require disclosure and another country’s law will prohibit it, or at least subject the disclosure to local rules that the requesting country may find difficult to meet. Because of the explosive growth of global communications and of the communications service providers, and because of the increasingly central role that communications content and metadata play in law enforcement investigations worldwide, this problem is growing…Moreover, because the largest communication service providers are located in the U.S., the volume of data demands coming into the U.S. from foreign governments far exceeds the volume of demands made by the U.S.”

This puts the U.S. at a particularly important position in terms of creating its own precedent for how to cope with government surveillance vs. privacy rights. Its jurisdiction will be the starting point with which foreign governments must compromise.

The Disconcerting Relationship Between Obama and Google

obama schmidtAlthough there are plenty of instances in which technological advances harness the power of the collective people to solve major issues, there’s also an unfortunate trend between tech goliath harnessing the power of politicians to further the tech goliath’s own (generally financial) agenda.

Unfortunately for Americans, this trend reaches all the way to the top of the political/corporate ladder (the difference between the two has been steadily blurring since the Citizens United ruling). That’s right, according to some sources, Barack Obama has been comfortably nestled in Google’s luxury pockets since his first campaign for presidency. Let’s take a closer look.

Google employees donated a total of $1.6 million to Obama’s two presidential bids, all around the time that Google was having some major issues with the United States Federal Trade Commission regarding antitrust concerns. It was investigated in 2011 and was later let off the hook instead of being sued and broken down by the FTC. The FTC has found that Google has manipulated search results in ways that favored its own products and put other companies like eBay and Amazon at a disadvantage. Around this time, Goodle chairman Eric Schmidt met with Obama senior adviser Pete Rouse in the White House and Google co-founder Larry Page met with FTC officials in late 2012. Two months after Obama won re-election, the government closed its investigation.

Then in the 2012 election, Google’s search algorithm customized results for Obama but not for Mitt Romney.

Also worth nothing: Google executives have left to work in the White House many a time, and a past Google executive currently holds the position of Obama’s chief technology officer. Hillary Clinton’s tech chief also came from Google.

And Google is, of course, big on lobbying. In 2014, it spent $16.8 million on lobbying, which was four times the amount spent by Apple.

kissSchmidt’s influence in Obama’s political career and Obama’s influence in Schmidt’s business and political career has been an ongoing relationship since 2007, when Obama visited Google’s California headquarters for a one-on-one interview viewed by 16,000 Google employees. The interview allowed for Obama to collect more tech donations than any other candidate.

Obama offered Schmidt a variety of political positions on his cabinet in 2012, from Treasury to Commerce to a new position known as the “Secretary of Business.” Schmidt declined but did take up a post on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Schmidt was even working on Obama’s campaign on election day in 2012, overseeing the attempts to leverage Big Data results so as to better enable last-minute voters to enter the polls. His specialized software gave the then-Senator access to high-tech voter targeting algorithms in 2008 that Republican John McCain was totally unprepared for.

In fact, Obama’s successful campaigns have gone down as testaments to the power of effective utilization of technology in the political arena, and politicians after him have been mocked for not taking advantage of the same technology which gave Obama such a big boost. Without the kind of big data collection and analysis technology that Obama used in 2012, he likely would never have won 2012 despite having negative approval ratings.

Find the Right Laptop for You

happy woman using laptopWith so many products on the market, it’s definitely an intimidating process for any non-tech-guru to figure out exactly what kind of device is going to fit their processing needs. Here’s a guide for how to better understand what you’ll want in a device that best suits your lifestyle.

There’s a few different factors to consider when you search for the right laptop: You’re going to want think about your preferred screen size and weight, the CPU that best suits your needs, and how much RAM you’re going to want.

As far as screen size goes, know that laptop screens tend to range in size from 9- to 17-inch displays. If you’re thinking you’re going to be playing a lot of COD on your device, you’ll probably want a bigger screen so you can see the action that much clearer. The same goes for video editing and graphic designing. Basically if you plan on using your computer a fair amount for business, you’re just going to feel better with a larger screen so you can see what you’re actually doing. If you’re looking for a laptop to take on the road with you between destinations that have desktop computers or provided laptops, you might want to opt into a smaller screen so it’s more portable and less expensive.

CPU is another important factor. Definitely opt into more CPU for anything that involves video editing, music producing, video game playing, etc. However, if mostly you’ll be using the computer for writing or browsing the web, you don’t really need the top model. The less CPU, the cheaper, so keep that in mind.

laptop2And let’s not forget RAM. RAM or Random Access Memory is important for any laptop user who wants a quick boot for the computer and high processing capabilities. This is another computer feature that will be enjoyed in large amounts by graphic designers, video editors and video game players while people who need to do writing work, browse the web and send emails can opt into more cost effective options. RAM helps people to feel good about their computers if they actually care about that kind of thing, but is useless past a couple GB for most non-tech-field workers who simply need the basics of a computer.

So now if you’ve figured out exactly what kind of computer user you are, you might be able to browse with a little more efficiency and more effectively. There are a lot of online resources that are also available to the laptop shopper, including shopping sites with tools and search engines that can help you to choose the right laptop. Microsoft actually created a very innovative and useful program called PC scout that can help users to walk through the process of choosing a computer and present viable choices (that are obviously going to run off Windows) at the end. This might be a good exercise for PC shoppers or really any potential laptop buyers, but just make sure to take the results with a grain of salt; it’s not just a test, it’s also an advertising method.

Humans and Computers Team Up Against World Issues

Thuman computationhe journal Science just released an article written by researchers who envision a world in which combined human and computer intelligence could yield unprecedented solutions to historic problems.

The researchers hailed from Cornell University and the Human Computation Institute. They called for increased efforts in the acceleration of computational research being done to help investigate and counter issues related to cancer, HIV, climate change and drought.

It’s not uncommon to crowdsource the analysis of research materials. In fact, crowdsourcing research has even taken the form of creating games for people to play which are both entertaining and complete important analysis-related tasks for researchers.

These games, for which the purpose its actually to forward the advancement of science, fall under the category of “citizen science,” explained the director of the Human Computation Institute Pietro Michelucci. According to Michelucci, the surfacing of new forms of infrastructure and new development tools have allowed scientists to combine “carious methods of crowdsourcing and create more complex and sophisticated systems… So this means, instead of creating just one-off human computation systems from scratch each time, we now have the ability to connect different methods of engagement and have real-time access to crowds.”

Websites like Kickstarter and groups like Anonymous have demonstrated the huge amounts of power that internet communities can possess if accessed and mobilized in the right way. Citizen Science is no exception; once HIV-related research was released in the form of a protein golding game called Foldit, citizen scientists reached a finding that had previously eluded researchers for decades.

“If you could create an expert by combining people in the crowd, then you have access to a lot more crowd experts,” explained Michelucci. “So we use the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ method to combine contributions from the general public.”

minions“Combined experts” were used to diagnose malaria in a smartphone app called “Malaria Spot.” Researchers found that every 23 diagnoses made from citizen scientists were as accurate as one diagnosis from a certified pathologist. The same method is set to be used for Alzheimers, though the numbers themselves may be different.

“We have too figure out how many members of the public it takes to analyze a certain mount of data before that analysis is as accurate as the one from the trained scientist working in the lab,” asserted Michelucci. “When we can make that work, we have this force multiplier. If we have 30,000 people in the general public and it takes 30 people, then we have 1,000 crowd experts.”

Crowd experts could impact more than the field of science. Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group pointed out that human computation would also come in handy with “litigation, both case law and discovery, primary research on trends and causes… Politics would be timely, for instance.”

Timely political responses could lead to huge changes for human society; imagine how quickly gun control laws would change if people could simply put laws into action after 2015’s tragic onslaught of deadly shootings. It could also help to solve lobbyist issues, though they would perhaps just take a different form.

-->