IBM Watson CTO Rob High on bias and other challenges in machine learning

 For IBM Watson CTO Rob High, the biggest technological challenge in machine learning right now is figuring out how to train models with less data. “It’s a challenge, it’s a goal and there’s certainly reason to believe that it’s possible,” High told me during an interview at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Read More

Square’s bets beyond a register brought in $253M last year as it posts a largely positive fourth quarter

 Square posted a largely successful fourth quarter that showed continuing growth with its Cash App — with users spending around $90 million on its Cash card in December, putting it on a potentially $1 billion run rate. That would offer another significant avenue for Square to snap up additional customers as it looks to chip away at the alternatives available for directly sending cash… Read More

Hangouts Chat, Google’s Slack competitor, comes out of beta

 Hangouts Chat, Google’s take on modern workplace communication, is now generally available and is becoming a core part of G Suite. Hangouts Chat was first announced at Google Cloud Next 2017, together with Hangouts Meet. While Meet went right into public availability, though, Chat went into an invite-only preview. Now, Google is rolling Chat out to all G Suite users. Read More

OpenStack gets support for virtual GPUs and new container features

 OpenStack, the open-source infrastructure project that aims to give enterprises the equivalent of AWS for the private clouds, today announced the launch of its 17th release, dubbed “Queens.” After all of those releases, you’d think that there isn’t all that much new that the OpenStack community could add to the project, but just as the large public clouds keep adding… Read More

New Bug Discovered in iOS That Can Disable iPhone Apps

Last year, Apple had to fix a “special character” bug in their Message app that was more of an annoyance than anything.  This year, a new special character bug has been found, but this one is much more serious and could allow an attacker to crash your phone and block access to a variety of messaging apps.

The bug is specific to iOS 11, so if you’ve got an older version, you don’t have anything to worry about.  The company has already announced that it will be fixed in the upcoming release of iOS 11.3.

Unless you’re in the habit of getting messages in Telugu (Indian language), you’re not likely to see it, because the bug relies on one of the special characters utilized in that language pack.  Once you receive a message containing the special character, your phone will crash.  Even after you restore it, you’ll find that you’re not able to access iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Gmail, or Outlook for iOS. Although if you use either Telegram or Skype, these appear to be unaffected.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of control over who sends text messages to you, so until the patch is released this spring, there’s not much you can do except to be mindful that it could happen.

If you’re a long time user of Apple products, then you know that this is hardly the first time that strange things have caused the OS to crash.  Just last month, it was discovered that a properly formatted URL could cause a system crash.  In 2015, researchers discovered that a properly formatted text string could cause iMessage to crash. Just last year, a five-second video caused iPhones around the world to crash.  All that to say, keep an eye out for strange text messages, and definitely upgrade to iOS 11.3 as soon as you get the opportunity to do so.


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Here’s the latest update on the very spicy beef between two massive chipmakers

 Broadcom and Qualcomm, the former of which is trying to acquire the latter, are continuing to duke it out on their respective investor relations pages by issuing public statements to investors over how much drama there is over the pricing of this deal. Read More

Hunter2 wants to teach engineers to handle web app security with a hands-on approach

 When Equifax was broken into late last year — one of the biggest security breaches in recent history — Fletcher Heisler wanted to make sure engineers got to know exactly what happened right away, and how to fix it. That’s part of the goal of Hunter2, a new online learning platform for engineers that’s designed to teach them how to handle these kinds of breaches in a… Read More

EnvKey wants to create a smarter place to store a company’s API keys and credentials

 If an engineer ends up leaving a company, on their own, or for any other reason, the company work is going to have to quickly work to change all of their keys for their credentials and keys application components. That’s a huge hassle, because often times it’s hard to know where they are stored, who can access what, and how to change everything at a massive scale — especially… Read More

Google Will Get Tougher On Websites Not Using HTTPS

Google is poised to make an important change to its Chrome browser beginning in July 2018.

Here’s the summary from Emily Schechter, the Google Chrome Security Product Manager:

“For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption, and within the last year, we’ve also helped users understand that HTTP sites are not secure by gradually marking a larger subset of HTTP pages as ‘not secure.’  Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure.'”

All the major browsers already have plug-ins that alert users anytime they’re visiting a non-secure (HTTP) website, but Google’s planned move will likely prompt them to incorporate the notification into their core product as well.

According to Google’s statistics, 81 of the top 100 sites (as ranked by traffic volume) already use HTTPS.  In addition to that, Google reports that 68 percent of Chrome users are finding HTTPS when using Android and Windows, and 78 percent of the time when using Mac OS X, iOS, and Chrome OS.  Those figures are markedly higher than they were in 2010, when an estimated 40 percent of websites were using the secure socket layer.

If your company’s website hasn’t already made the switch, the time to do so is now.  The writing is clearly on the wall, and it’s not hard to imagine that after Google begins “shaming” non-secure sites with the notification, they’ll also start implementing penalties that will hurt their position on search results pages.  Even if they don’t, the persistent non-secure warnings will be enough to keep many users away, so it doesn’t matter how well optimized or SEO-friendly your site is, an increasing percentage of users may simply opt out if it’s not secure.


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Changes To Google Images Will Make Image Theft Difficult

Image theft is one of the biggest problems on the internet.  If you’re a photographer, you’ve almost certainly lost money because people find your work online and make a copy of it rather than paying for the right to use it.

Unfortunately, Google has made that incredibly easy to do, but that’s changing.  Until recently, if you did a Google image search, you’d get a list of images that matched your search phrase, and one of the buttons displayed was a “View Image” button that would take you to the image file itself, as opposed to viewing the image in the context of whatever web page it was displayed on.

This, of course, made stealing the image a trivial task.  Content providers have been complaining loudly, and Google listened.  Effective February 15, the “View Image” button is no longer listed.  Of course, it’s still possible to steal the image in question, but users will have to jump through at least a couple more hoops to do so.

A second, smaller and somewhat less impactful change is the fact that Google has also removed the “Search By Image” button that formerly appeared when you navigated straight to an image file.  Savvy users will still be able to drag the image itself to the search bar and accomplish the same thing, but relatively few people are aware of this, which will cut down on its use significantly.  The thinking here is that netizins were making use of this feature to find copies of images that didn’t have a watermark visible.

While these two changes give photographers reason to cheer, it definitely negatively impacts the user experience, as there are a number of perfectly legitimate uses for copyrighted image material.  The bottom line is that if you’re accustomed to the old way of searching for and acquiring images, you’ll have a bit of an adjustment period ahead.

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