Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Technology (5)

The word technology refers to the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of toolsmachines, techniques, craftssystems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function.

The largest network equipment manufacturer in the world, Cisco, announces unprecedented layoffs: 4000 employees. The amount represents about 5% of the American workforce giant, citing the difficult economic situation.

Cisco Systems was created in December 1984 by 2 members of Stanford University computer assistance employees : Leonard Bosack the responsible for the computer science department's computers, and Sandy Lerner , the supervisor of Graduate School of Business' computer systems. The american multinational corporation is headquartered in San Jose , California , that designs , manufactures , and sells networking equipment .The stock was included with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on June 8 , 2009 , and is also incorporated into the S&P 500 Index , the Russell 1000 Index , NASDAQ-100 Index and the Russell 1000 Growth Stock Index.

Cisco's profit rose 18% in May-July, the fourth fiscal quarter, to 2.27 billion, while revenues were up 6%, to 12.4 billion dollars.

The Company expects to incur additional costs of $ 550 million after dismissal. Cisco Systems currently has 75,000 employees.

The general manager of Cisco, John Chambers, said the layoffs are due to disappointing pace of global economic recovery.

While orders in the Americas were up 5% in the quarter ended in July, won contracts in Asia dropped by 3%, said Chambers.

Cisco shares fell 9.5% in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Network equipment industry often feels trends in the economy earlier than other sectors of IT & C.


Cisco Systems has developed a campaign to layoffs in the financial and economic crisis. In 2011, the company began a redundancy plan targeting 6,500 employees, yet there have been 10,000 layoffs.

Tech firm US petitions government to allow it to publish number of user accounts affected by secretive court's requests

Google has called on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to relax its gag order on tech companies targeted in US security investigations.


The search giant stepped up its campaign for greater transparency from the US courts Tuesday in the wake of the disclosure of the National Security Agency's top-secret Prism surveillance program.


The legal filing cites the first amendment's guarantee of free speech and follows on from a letter to attorney general Eric Holder asking for permission to disclose the number of requests Google receives under the foreign intelligence securities act (Fisa).


Those requests, targeted at people outside the US, are dealt with in secrecy by a dedicated court. Google is seeking permission to publish the total numbers of requests the Fisa court makes and the numbers of user accounts they affect.


The search firm already publishes a widely imitated "transparency report" that documents demands from the US government and from other governments worldwide. The report documents criminal requests and national security letters, which the government uses to gather information about US citizens in the US. But Google and its peers are barred from disclosing the number of Fisa requests they receive.


"Greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including Fisa disclosures, separately," the company said in a statement.


Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo, the other major tech firms named in the Prism documents, have all called for greater disclosure about government requests for information. They have also strongly denied that they allow the government "direct" access to their servers, denials first reported by The Guardian when the story broke.


"Google's reputation and business has been harmed by the false and misleading reports in the media, and Google's users are concerned by the allegations. Google must respond with more than generalities. Moreover, these matters of significant weight and importance, and transparency is critical to advancing public debate in a thoughtful and democratic manner," Google said in its court filing.


Co-founder Larry Page and chief legal officer David Drummond have already called for the government to act. In a blog post the pair said the secrecy surrounding the current system "undermines the freedoms we all cherish".

Plus Android Humble Bundle, Apple/Samsung duopoly, music identity, Rihanna and Justin Bieber's YouTube battle, and more

In April, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim requested a briefing with Google on the device, and today he, and nine of his colleagues from Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Mexico, and Switzerland, among others, have written to Page asking for detailed information on Google Glass, stating that their knowledge on it comes "from media reports, which contain a great deal of speculation".


The commissioners state in the letter that Google has not approached them to discuss the associated ethical issues with Google Glass while the product is in early testing stages with developers.


They have asked Google eight questions around the associated privacy issues, including asking Google to explain how Glass complies with data protection laws, what the privacy safeguards are, what information Google collects through Glass, who that information is shared with, and whether Google has undertaken a privacy risk assessment.


The suspicion is that Google itself doesn't understand all the ethical issues yet: that's partly what the early tests are for. It's a reminder that outside the early-adopter bubble, Glass' privacy implications will be on the agenda for politicians as well as the public.


Facebook's Video Ads Now Likely Delayed Until Fall >> Advertising Age


Cotton Delo:


As of late last year, Facebook was prepping video ads for their debut in the first half of 2013, but the launch was pushed back to the summer. Now it's unofficially been pushed back until mid-October, according to a source familiar with the product. The given reason is that there are new features Facebook wants to release concurrently with video ads, and they require more software development.


Facebook needs to tread very carefully with this one to avoid a big user backlash, even if its sales teams are champing at the bit as AdAge suggests. I'm intrigued to see how video ads are handled on mobile, to avoid users hurtling through their data limits.


Radical iOS 7 Design Is Threat To Some Existing Apps >> ReadWrite


Brian S. Hall:


iOS 7 is a truly audacious redesign of Apple's chief operating system. I have been using the beta version since last week and it's abundantly clear that Apple is determinedly focused on ensuring that iOS--the software underpinnings of the iPhone and iPad--remains the simplest, purest OS on the planet. It's also obvious that the new iOS 7 design and enhanced functionality will kill off many non-Apple apps, including some good ones.


Weep for the flashlight-app makers. The claim that "iTunes Radio should choke off all but the very best most-entrenched streaming music competitors" is debatable too - or, at least, there are plenty of other reasons why the not-so-best competitors will fall by the wayside.


Kazam Is Another European Startup Hoping Against Hope To Inch In To The Smartphone Hardware Market >> TechCrunch


Natasha Lomas (hat tip to @modelportfolio2003):


Details of how exactly Kazam plans to assault the Samsung and Apple smartphone duopoly were not forthcoming when I asked. Atkins declined to answer the bulk of my questions -- including such specifics as whether Kazam's planned smartphones will run Android and be skinned with a custom UI or keep the experience familiarly stock. Instead, he trotted out a repeated PR mantra: "Today we are just announcing that the Kazam brand is here, for the rest you will have to wait and see."


Remember the days when the UK had its own smartphone manufacturer, Sendo? That didn't end so well. Now Kazam, launched by two former HTC executives, is having another crack at the market, with plans to launch devices later this year. But for now, it's all brand and no (public) hardware.


The Humble Bundle with Android 6


The latest games bundle for Android devices:


Pay what you want for the underwater fantasy action-adventure game Aquaria; the chromatic minimalist puzzler Fractal: Make Blooms Not War; the retro zombie survival game Organ Trail: Director's Cut; and the nail-biting stealth strategy platformer Stealth Bastard Deluxe. You'll also receive a bonus game: the rhythmic audio-visual game Pulse: Volume One. If you pay more than the average, you'll also get the intense tactical combat sim Frozen Synapse and the classic mystery point-and-click adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - Director's Cut!


Many games developers criticise Android for its users' perceived unwillingness to pay for content. Yet with 13 days to go, more than 68k people have stumped up just under $320k for the latest Humble Bundle. There's life beyond the Google Play store...


Premium Smartphone Market: Why the Apple vs. Samsung Duopoly is Misleading >> Tech-Thoughts


Sameer Singh (hat tip to @HotSoup):


The chart above shows the ratio of premium ($400+) smartphone shipments from other vendors to Apple's and Samsung's shipments. While the share of "Others" in the premium smartphone market doubled from 7% in May 2012, to 15% in May 2013, the pattern with respect to Apple & Samsung is quite interesting. In May 2012, premium smartphone shipments from "Others" were just 10% of Apple's shipments and about 35% of Samsung's shipments. By May 2013, the shipments from "Others" had grown to nearly 40% of Apple's shipments and remained at 32% of Samsung's shipments.


A smart look at the data, but do you agree with the conclusion that "the $400+, premium smartphone market may begin to lose its relevance in a year"?


Musical Identity >> The Echo Nest


From the music technology company's new Musical Identity blog:


Can your music taste predict your taste in other forms of entertainment (books, movies, games, etc)? This post focuses on some (hopefully) amusing, interesting examples of what our Taste Profiling technology can uncover about the relationship between one's taste in music and one's taste in movies.


BREAKING: Fans of romantic comedies also like Céline Dion. But there are some interesting insights here, and implications for how the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google may be able to learn from our preferences in one area to recommend things in others.


Rihanna Passes Justin Bieber as Most Viewed Artist on YouTube >> The Hollywood Reporter


William Gruger:


Some time early Tuesday morning, June 18, Rihanna passed Justin Bieber as the most-viewed artist on YouTube. The 77 videos on Rihanna's official VEVO channel now have a combined 3.784 billion views in total, surpassing the total view counts of the 79 videos on Bieber's official VEVO channel by roughly two million views.


It's all about the subscribers, apparently: Rihanna has 8.73m while Justin has 4.9m. Still, Bieber remains Twitter king with 40.6m followers. Perhaps he should start tweeting more YouTube links at them.


One year later, the Nexus 7 has gone from the best to worst tablet I've ever owned >> Android and Me


Dustin Earley:


I don't remember when it first started happening, but most say it was when Android 4.2 began hitting devices. The new features and changes in Jelly Bean, 4.2, were certainly welcome additions, but my Nexus' new found love of life in the slow-lane was not. I have not spent a full year using the Nexus 7 as a daily driver, only the last six months. So at first, I didn't notice just how bad things had gotten. I thought maybe it was an illusion from using so many high-end Android phones. Until I started asking around.


Commenters suggest (a) SSD hitting the end of its read-write life (b) Google Currents sucking up resource (c) too little free disk space (d) he's been mistreating it.


Why can't Facebook help Emma Watson with her naked photo problem? >> Graham Cluley


So, if I'm seeing these messages, and readers of this blog keep seeing these messages, why isn't Facebook's security team seeing these messages?


Or is it that they *are* seeing the messages, but they either:


a) don't care?


b) aren't capable of doing anything effective to stop them?


Whatever the explanation, it's disturbing to continue to see spams and scams spreading so effectively across the world's most popular social network.


There aren't any nekkid pics. The app pretending there are will take a lot of liberties, though.

But smartphone buyers may be less interested in Deep Neural Networks, and more keen to know whether Windows Phone 8 has their favourite apps.

Good news for Windows Phone owners in the US: you can now shave 0.5 seconds off the time it takes to find a decent pizza in Seattle by speaking to your smartphone.


Okay, this isn't earth-shattering news, even for pizzaphiles. But Microsoft is excited about the technology behind this development: improvements to the speed and accuracy of Windows Phone's voice-to-text and voice search features.


"Now when you compose a text message or search using your voice, Bing will return results twice as fast as before and increase accuracy by 15 percent," announces Bing's speech team in a (possibly dictated) blog post.


The team has been working with Microsoft's research division for a year to improve the technology. Here's the science bit:


"To achieve the speed and accuracy improvements, we focused on an advanced approach called Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). DNN is a technology that is inspired by the functioning of neurons in the brain. In a similar way, DNN technology can detect patterns akin to the way biological systems recognize patterns.


By coupling MSR's major research breakthroughs in the use of DNNs with the large datasets provided by Bing's massive index, the DNNs were able to learn more quickly and help Bing voice capabilities get noticeably closer to the way humans recognize speech."


Actually, there's an even deeper science bit in a separate post on the Inside Microsoft Research blog, where senior researcher Dong Yu contributes this anecdote on a crucial point in the project:


"I first realized the effect of the DNN when we successfully achieved significant error-rate reduction on the voice-search data set after implementing the context-dependent deep-neural-network hidden Markov model. It was an exciting moment. I was so excited that I did not sleep that night."


Don't laugh: this is a genuinely charming insight into the work going on behind the scenes of the technologies we increasingly take for granted. Not least because Yu's sleepless night may contribute to a much wider range of benefits than just slightly-quicker ordering of a deep-pan Hawaiian with extra pineapple.


It's the smartphone battle between Apple, Google, Microsoft, BlackBerry and other platforms that's pumping investment into speech recognition, voice search and related technologies with wide applications.


Or, as Yu puts it: "I believe this is just the first step in advancing the state of the art. Many difficult problems may be attacked under this framework, which might lead to even greater advances."


Microsoft's challenge is to make the fruits of this research a big selling point for Windows Phone, as it tries to secure a bigger foothold in the market against iPhone and Android, which both feature their own prominent voice recognition features.


Many people's purchase decisions will come down to more basic questions: whether the phone looks nice, how good its camera is and whether their favourite apps are available for it, rather than its speech recognition speed and accuracy.


Nokia is working hard on the design and camera questions, while Microsoft seems well aware of the challenge faces on the apps side of things. Just this week, Business Insider claimed it is paying some developers up to $100k to bring popular apps to its platform.


In some areas, like games – N.O.V.A. 3, Temple Run: Brave, MapQuest, Jetpack Joyride, Rayman Jungle Run and Angry Birds Rio in the last month alone – its efforts are paying off. Elsewhere, even long-term holdout Instagram is rumoured to be on its way to Windows Phone, possibly as soon as the end of this month.


Microsoft's efforts, whether in the research labs with DNN technology or out in developers' offices with a cheque book, are important.


Apple and Google's fierce rivalry with iOS and Android means neither can afford to rest on their laurels, but stronger competition from a third player in Microsoft / Windows Phone (with BlackBerry, Firefox OS and Tizen all hoping for a say as well) is good news for smartphone owners. Whatever their pizza preferences.

With 100m users, photo-sharing app tipped to help social network fend off competition from Twitter's Vine

Facebook may be preparing to add video-sharing features to its Instagram app, in a direct response to the popularity of Twitter's Vine app.


The new features could be announced this week, with Facebook having invited US journalists to an event on 20 June with the words "A small team has been working on a big idea".


TechCrunch claims that big idea is the ability to shoot and share short videos, citing a previous report by independent journalist Matthew Keys suggesting that the new feature would cover videos of 5-10 seconds in length.


A direct strike at Vine, then. Twitter's standalone video-sharing app was downloaded 13m times for iPhone between its launch in late January 2013, and early June when the Android version was released.


The latter has since been installed between 1m and 5m times globally, according to the Google Play app store's stats.


Evidence against Instagram getting video this week? The second sentence in Facebook's press-event invitation: "Join us for coffee and learn about a new product." That hints at more than simply new capabilities for an existing app.


TechCrunch has that covered too with a separate post predicting that Facebook may unveil its own news reader service, just in time to capitalise on the closure of Google Reader.


Both rumours could be right, even if only one of them becomes hard fact on Thursday. But it would be entirely unsurprising if Facebook isn't thinking hard about how to do more with video on its service.


The social network has been the world's largest photo-sharing service for years now: as far back as October 2008 its users were uploading 2-3 terabytes of photos a day, with Facebook serving more than 15bn images a day.


Video? It's pretty popular on Facebook too. comScore pegged it as the second biggest US online video site in May 2013 with 60.4m unique viewers watching 727.4m videos in the US alone, behind only YouTube.


Yet video remains something of an afterthought for Facebook, particularly in its smartphone apps: on iPhone, you still upload a video by tapping a button marked "Photo" for example.


Facebook could go the Vine route and launch a standalone shortform video-sharing app, much like it released Facebook Camera in May 2012 as a way to test photography features before rolling them into its main app.


Adding video to Instagram instead may be a way to hit the ground running: the app has more than 100m monthly active users, split nearly half-and-half between iPhone and Android.


Instagram's signature "filter" visual effects could work for videos too. Indeed, video-sharing apps like Socialcam, Viddy and VideofyMe have provided exactly that.


The risks? If Facebook simply shoehorns video into Instagram as a hastily-conceived blocking manoeuvre against Vine, it risks alienating existing users.



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