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Monthly Archives: February 2016

24
Feb
2016

Google Stops Showing Ads On Right Side of Desktop Search Results

by Bill

In a move that is surprising many, Google announced this week that it will no longer display sponsored links and ads along the right side of their search results pages.  According to SearchEngineLand.com this change is the culmination of internal testing that has been ongoing at Google since 2010.

While this represents a significant reduction in available ad space for Google, the company is also adding a fourth sponsored ad location at the top of the page as well.  This should result in fewer ad spots being displayed overall, and higher bids for the available locations do to their scarcity.

Some industry watchdogs are unhappy with the likely outcome that large corporate entities will now be able to block out competition more easily by simply outbidding smaller start-ups on lucrative keywords for a few slots rather than engaging in the prohibitively expensive practice of trying to buy all the slots on the right side as well. Opponents counter that the right side ads were notoriously overlooked by consumers and resulted in poor CTR for advertisers in any case.

With the proliferation of ad blocking software, ability of jaded netizens to overlook ad spots intentionally, and staunch prohibitions on embedded advertising put in place by the Federal Trade Commission, it is becoming increasingly difficult for commercial entities to get their messages in front of their target consumers. Add in the sharing economy favored by millennials, the rampant distribution of pirated content online, and we are left with an ecosystem that requires a great deal of creativity to profit from successfully.

However, for those that do find ways to stand out from the crowd, the enormous revenue available is worth all the adapting necessary to stay ahead of the curve.

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24
Feb
2016

Apple Battles Government Over Privacy And Digital Encryption

by Bill

The underlying circumstances surrounding the recent government requests for Apple’s help with hacking an iPhone are bringing many important societal issues into focus for what may be a far reaching determination about the right to privacy that Justice Lewis Brandeis eloquently established in a Harvard Law Review article in 1890, and in his 1928 landmark dissenting opinion as a supreme court justice in Olmstead v. United.

The current situation involves the recent San Bernardino shooting incident and the fact that the FBI has been unable to access files on the perpetrator’s iPhone. They government has requested assistance from Apple engineers to ‘hack’ the phone and when Apple refused, the government obtained a District court ruling by U.S. Magistrate Sheri Pym requiring Apple to provide the requested technical assistance.

In response, Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter that argues this kind of circumvention of privacy constraints and technical encryption poses a serious risk to all peoples’ privacy and that the risk to privacy far outweighs any benefit that may be gained from this one particular device being accessed.

“The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor” stated Cook. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

Cook went on to question the procedural methods being used by the FBI and raised questions about the eventualities that a government required backdoor would present for all citizens: “Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority…. Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S 20 mg prednisone. government.”

At a time when the Supreme Court has only 8 Justices, and when a 4-4 tie allows a lower court ruling to stand, the speed with which this matter gets adjudicated and the way the judicial appointment process is carried out add additional layers of complexity to one of the most complex legal issues of our time. Hopefully a Brandeis level moment of enlightenment will lead to a workable legal / technical outcome, but given the current political climate it seems we are destined to be dealing with these kinds of serious hardware and communications concerns for a long time yet to come.

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12
Feb
2016

Google Head of Search Being Replaced By Google Head of AI

by Bill

It was recently reported that Google has become the world’s most valuable company, and the largest segment of that revenue stream can be traced to the dominance over the digital Search sector of their company. That division was headed up by world renowned technologist Amit Singhal for the last 15 years, but Mr. Singhal announced in a blog post recently that he will be stepping down to pursue his philanthropic interests as of February 26th of 2016.  His decision to move on did not catch many by surprise, but the appointment of his successor has quickly become an even more interesting story.

John Giannandrea is a 50-year-old engineering expert in Artificial Intelligence who has been elevated to the head of Search post from within Google. Born in Bridge of Allan, Scotland, he created early personal assistant software at an Apple spin-off named General Magic while working there in the mid 1990s. Giannandrea later became the CTO of Internet levitation Netscape, which he subsequently left to co-found voice-recognition startup TellMe, which focused on novel concepts at the time like calling to find out sports scores or to have an AI backed conversation with Santa Claus.

What matters is that Google had its pick of practically any person on the planet to take the helm of its ubiquitous search engine, and the choice they made was someone intimately familiar with technologies like voice recognition, AI and other ancillary services that all cluster around the notion that technology need not be divorced from the idea concept of personality.

In the coming months and years, Google’s search algorithm will undoubtedly continue to become more sentient as the company improves on existing work done as part of its Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin projects. However, this new head of Search may signify moves to make the Search system far more intimate and personal for users. Beyond what Siri or Cortana pretend to provide and more in line what sci-fi writers have long dreamed about, a personality capable of bridging the gap between human feeling and cold hard analytical power.

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05
Feb
2016

The Facts About The New Microsoft Underwater Cloud Data Center

by Bill

One of the main expenses and environmental impacts of the modern digital economy stems from the need to maintain cool enough temperatures to operate state of the art data centers. Many data centers utilize the best available technology to reduce their environment impact and lower the costs of cooling equipment with traditional machinery like air conditioning. This has lead to innovations as simple as opening exterior doors and windows, to moves by data giants like Facebook and Google to relocate data centers to very cold climates. However Microsoft is now seeking to revolutionize data cooling by going deep under water with their hardware.

As Microsoft said recently: “50% of us live near the coast. Why doesn’t our data?”

Building massive data centers underwater might sound crazy, but it is exactly something Microsoft is testing with its first submarine data center, dubbed Leona Philpot (a name taken from the company’s popular Halo videogame universe).

The first submerged data center was tested last August, in an enormous steel capsule sunk 30 feet underwater in the Pacific Ocean, about a kilometer off the California coastline. The 8’ wide capsule houses one datacenter computing rack and the exterior of the capsule was enveloped by sensors designed to monitor the underwater environment including pressure, humidity and sea current motion.

105 days later the capsule was recovered and engineers have claimed the experiment was even more successful than they anticipated. According to Microsoft, placing the data center underwater completely eliminated the need for artificial cooling and cut energy costs significantly. Microsoft also explained that while more than half of the world’s population lives within 200 kilometers of the coast, many data centers are inexplicably landlocked far away, creating less than optimal land use policy and extensive data transmission latency which would all be reduced if the data machinery were literally kept offshore.

The goals here are admirable and the early success signals a real possibility for eventual evolution of the way data is stored and accessed. However, it is imperative to keep in mind that these initiatives involve billion dollar companies making high profile bets on distant future technologies. Many factors must be examined more carefully and the diversity of topography, climate and environments from one coastline to another (or even the same coastline miles apart) make it unlikely there will be wide scale adoption of offshore underwater data in the next few years. Still, the company should be applauded for taking the initiative and working toward the sustainable data rich world we all wish to live in for many generations to come.

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