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Microsoft Launches Stream Video Sharing Service For The Enterprise

July 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft may have YouTube for businesses on its hands with the beta launch of a new service on Monday.

It’s called Stream, and it’s supposed to let people easily work together with one another on videos and then share that content both inside and outside their company.

In the realm of consumer web services, video is ascending. Facebook has been emphasizing video posts on its popular social network, while YouTube is still going strong. Microsoft is trying to take some of that mojo and bring it to the business world with the launch of the open beta for Stream.

Stream allows users to log in to a video portal that lets them see all of the videos that are shared with them, and do things like subscribe to channels, search for subject matter they want to explore, and follow co-workers whose videos they want to see.

People who create videos can upload footage to the service by dragging and dropping files from their computers. Stream will handle the processing and let people add titles, descriptions, and even a caption file so that hearing-impaired viewers can read along with what’s being said.

The service also has the ability to set sharing permissions that can let anyone in an organization view a video, or lock it down to just a small group of people. That way, it’s possible for users to get feedback on a video from a small group before pushing it out to the wider company.

It’s all powered by Azure Media Services, a cloud-based video streaming system that Microsoft has been building up to host a variety of products including public cloud video encoding services used for the Olympics and Skype Meeting Broadcast, a service that lets Skype for Business customers send out a video feed to thousands of viewers.

Microsoft has a smorgasbord of planned features on the roadmap for Stream. IT managers, for example, will have access to greater management controls for the service. Microsoft also plans to add additional intelligence to Stream’s search, and let users of its nPowerApps software build applications that leverage its video viewing and capture capabilities.

Stream is similar to other business apps that Microsoft has recently launched, like Power BI, the company’s data visualization and business intelligence tool, and PowerApps, a service that lets employees build mobile applications that use company data. Like those applications, Stream is a subscription service that lets businesses get a particular capability without buying into one of Microsoft’s big suites.

 

 

 

Was The Rise Of The Machines A.I. Contest A Success?

July 19, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Winograd Schema Challenge is a competition intended to reward technologists who can build a system that understands the kind of ambiguous sentences humans come out with all the time, but which are simple for other humans, even stupid ones, to understand.

Get it right 90 per cent of the time and $25,000 is up for grabs. And with things like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant, the Winograd Schema Challenge must surely be as good as obsolete by now.

Right? Wrong.

The best two entrants at the event this week achieved correct scores only 48 per cent of the time, little better than randomly guessing the meaning of the sentences they were supposed to crack.

This is despite a decade of advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), which has barely shifted since the late 1950s, according to some.

The Challenge posed a series of ambiguously worded sentences to the entrants such as:

The trophy would not fit in the brown suitcase because it was too big (small). What was too big (small)?

The town councillors refused to give the demonstrators a permit because they feared (advocated) violence. Who feared (advocated) violence?

There is an ambiguity in the above examples, read literally, about what is too big (or small) and exactly who is fearing violence, although a semi-intelligent human should be able to work it out with ease.

The problem, according to Gary Marcus, a research psychologist at New York University, who acted as an advisor for the Challenge, is that computers lack common sense, and programming it into them is incredibly difficult.

Indeed, the MIT Technology Review said that most of the entrants in the Challenge used a combination of hand-coded grammatical understanding and a ‘knowledge base’ of facts. It still didn’t help much, though.

However, one of the two best-placed systems, led by Quan Liu, a researcher at the University of Science and Technology of China, together with researchers from York University in Montreal and the National Research Council of Canada, used neural network-based machine learning in a bid to train their computer to recognise the many different contexts in which words can be used.

Liu claimed that after fixing a problem in the AI, he was able to achieve a success rate closer to 60 per cent, which is still a long way from being able to go home with a cheque for $25,000.

The Challenge is deliberately designed to be different from the Turing Test, which tests only whether a human can be fooled into thinking that an AI program is human.

The trouble with this is that there are more than enough idiots who could be fooled into helping an AI system to pass that test. The language test, in contrast, provides a more objective test of genuine AI, argued Marcus.

The failure of the AI programs in the Challenge highlights how far chatbots and other supposedly revolutionary AI-based machines still have to go before humans can clock-off for the last time and leave running the planet to computers.

Some experts have claimed that its development will spark the next industrial revolution, while others, such as Apple co-founder and pontificator Steve Wozniak, suggest that we’ll be adopted as pets by robots.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook didn’t bother entering, perhaps because they feared outright humiliation.  Maybe next year.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

End-to-End Encryption Comes To Facebook Messenger

July 11, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc announced that it began testing end-to-end encryption on its popular Messenger application to prevent snooping on digital conversations.

The limited testing on Messenger, which has more than 900 million users, comes three months after Facebook rolled out end-to-end encryption to its more popular WhatsApp, a messaging application with over 1 billion users that it acquired in October 2014.

The move comes amid widespread global debate over the extent to which technology companies should help law enforcement snoop on digital communications.

End-to-end encryption is also offered on Apple Inc’s iMessage platform as well as apps including LINE, Signal, Viber, Telegram and Wickr.

Facebook Messenger uses the same encryption technology as WhatsApp, which uses a protocol known as Signal that was developed by privately held Open Whisper Systems.

“It seems well designed,” said Matthew Green, a Johns Hopkins University cryptologist who helped review an early version of the protocol for Facebook.

While WhatsApp messages are encrypted by default, Facebook Messenger users must turn on the feature to get the extra additional security protection, which scrambles communications so they can only be read on devices at either end of a conversation.

Facebook said that it was requiring users to opt in to encryption because the extra security is not compatible with some widely used Messenger features.

“Many people want Messenger to work when you switch between devices, such as a tablet, desktop computer or phone,” the company said in an announcement on its website. “Secret conversations can only be read on one device and we recognize that experience may not be right for everyone.”

Facebook also said that Messenger users cannot send videos or make payments in encrypted conversations.

 

 

Facebook Begins Testing Of Language Translation Feature

July 7, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is taking a major step in assisting users around the world connect helping them share their posts and comments in multiple languages.

The world’s largest social network has announced that its own developers have built a multilingual composer. A user test of the service has begun.

The tool enables users to compose a single post that will appear in multiple languages. Other users will see that post in their preferred language.

“People use Facebook to share information and ideas in many different languages,” the Facebook team wrote in a blog post. “In fact, 50% of our community speaks a language other than English and most people don’t speak each other’s languages, so we’re always thinking about ways we can help remove language as a barrier to connecting on Facebook.”

Anyone in the test group can enable the multilingual composer by going to the Language section of their Account Settings.

The composer, Facebook noted, is only available for desktops now, but others can view the multilingual posts across all platforms.

With the multilingual composer, Facebook execs are aiming to let users connect with a broader group of people around the world.

According to Facebook, while the site is just beginning to test the service with individual users, they began testing it with Pages earlier this year.

The composer actually is being used by about 5,000 Pages today to post nearly 10,000 times per day on average, Facebook reported. Those posts are getting 70 million daily views, with 25 million of those views being seen in a language other than what it was originally posted in.

“This will absolutely help Facebook users connect to more people in more places, more easily,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. “This new feature will give Facebook posters a much larger addressable audience and will save them quite a bit of time to boot.”

Language, according to Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, continues to be the barrier that separates people the most. This new artificial intelligence-driven tool could help break down that wall.

“This is some of the magic that A.I. brings to the table that can change our world,” Kagan added. “This has always been a tough task, but with A.I., it’s actually getting much easier.”

According to Facebook, engineers used machine translation to change posts into different languages and language identification technology to determine which language individual users need to see posts in.

When creating a new post, users are given the option to have the post written in additional languages. They can specify each language they want the post written in using drop-down selections.

 

 

 

Microsoft Launches Skype Meetings For Businesses

July 7, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft is offering small businesses a new way to conduct meetings online with the launch of Skype Meetings product that’s aimed at providing professional communication tools for free.

Skype Meetings is free and users can launch meetings for up to 10 people during their first 60 days of using it. After that, they’re limited to only hosting meetings for three or fewer people. Those meetings can take advantage of several features, including the option to bring in participants using a hyperlink and present a PowerPoint slide deck live.

The new service is something of a lure to try and get people hooked on Skype for Business. That’s why Microsoft imposed its user limit restrictions: small businesses can use Skype Meetings without paying, and growing companies are encouraged to buy an Office 365 subscription to hold big meetings.

Microsoft is facing tight competition in that arena, with Google pushing its Hangouts chat and calling software, while Slack is developing calling capabilities for its popular chat app.

Skype Meetings will give users a professional space to coordinate their work with one another and present to people outside their business without having to pay for Office 365. The ability to upload a PowerPoint presentation to a meeting and do things like wave over it with a virtual laser pointer and draw on it with digital ink ought to be of particular interest for people who do a lot of online presentations.

Microsoft says that users can join a meeting from any device that has a microphone, camera, speaker and web browser. It’s not clear if this product is only browser-based, or if it will also work with client applications like Skype or Skype for Business on smartphones and tablets.

 

‘DoNotPay’ Robot Lawyer Helps Challenge Traffic Tickets

June 30, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Robots are no strangers to the law and legal matters thanks to tools like LawGeex, but one has emerged recently that appears to be a Robin Hood of the modern world.

DoNotPay is the brainchild of 19-year-old Stanford University student Joshua Browder, and it has already successfully contested some 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York. It’s free to use and has reportedly saved its users some $4 million in less than two years.

“DoNotPay has launched the UK’s first robot lawyer as an experiment,” the site explains. “It can talk to you, generate documents and answer questions. It is just like a real lawyer, but is completely free and doesn’t charge any commission.”

Earlier this week the bot was acknowledged on Twitter by the commissioner of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

DoNotPay’s artificially intelligent software uses a chat-like interface to interact with its users. It can also be used to help passengers on delayed airplane flights obtain compensation. Reportedly, Browder plans to extend the service to Seattle next. Meanwhile, he’s also working on helping HIV-positive people understand their rights and on a service for Syrian refugees.

All in all, Browder sees a bigger future for A.I. than the mundane tasks it typically handles today. As he said in a recent tweet, the “value in bots is not to order pizzas.”

 

 

Twitter Moves Further Into Video With New ‘Watch Mode’ Feature

June 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter is looking to compete even more with Facebook. The platform is moving into video in a major way with 140-second clips in both Twitter proper and Vine, a new video section called Watch Mode, and video recommendations for other videos to watch. The network’s most popular users, like President Barack Obama and Justin Bieber, are getting a stand-alone app called Engage, which sounds a lot like Facebook Mentions.

Twitter is making video a huge priority by extending video length from 30 seconds to 140 seconds (staying on-brand, of course). Those longer videos are also coming to Vine, but don’t worry, the popular app for creating hilarious video loops isn’t changing its 6-second limit. Instead, you can post 140-second clips alongside your Vines.

You won’t have to watch these longer videos in-tweet. Now tapping on a video in your timeline will launch a new full-screen viewing mode with recommended clips surfaced just below. The same experience applies to longer videos on Vine.

The new features are rolling out soon on Twitter for iOS and Android.

Twitter Engage launched Tuesday on iOS to help video creators and other important people see metrics on their clips, including likes, retweets, mentions, and views. They can also see demographics for their videos and a feed of what their fans are talking about.

Unlike Facebook Mentions, Engage isn’t solely aimed at celebrities. But the two apps are similar in that they show mentions from so-called “influencers” and filter comments from fans.

Twitter has to try new things, especially since its user growth has stalled at 310 million monthly active users and Wall Street isn’t happy about it. To compare, Instagram just announced it has more than 500 million monthly active users, 300 million of whom check the app on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

Facebook Gearing Up For Live Streaming

June 23, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc has inked deals worth more than $50 million with media giants and celebrities to create videos for its live-streaming service, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Facebook has signed nearly 140 deals, including with CNN, the New York Times, Vox Media, Tastemade, Mashable and the Huffington Post, the Journal reported on Tuesday, citing a document.

Comedian Kevin Hart, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, wellness guru Deepak Chopra and NFL quarterback Russell Wilson are among the celebrities that Facebook has partnered with.

“We have an early beta program for a relatively small number partners that includes a broad range of content types from regions around the world,” Justin Osofsky, the vice president of global operations and media partnerships at Facebook, said in an email.

“We wanted to invite a broad set of partners so we could get feedback from a variety of different organization about what works and what doesn’t.”

The document shows that Facebook’s deal with online publisher BuzzFeed has the highest value at $3.05 million, the Journal said, followed by the New York Times at $3.03 million and CNN at $2.5 million.

 

Twitter Acquires Machine Learning Company Magic Pony

June 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter has been quite vocal regarding its interest in machine learning in recent years, and earlier this week the company put its money where its mouth is once again by purchasing London startup Magic Pony Technology, which has focused on visual processing.

“Magic Pony’s technology — based on research by the team to create algorithms that can understand the features of imagery — will be used to enhance our strength in live [streaming] and video and opens up a whole lot of exciting creative possibilities for Twitter,” Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

The startup’s team includes 11 Ph.Ds with expertise across computer vision, machine learning, high-performance computing and computational neuroscience, Dorsey said. They’ll join Twitter’s Cortex group, made up of engineers, data scientists and machine-learning researchers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition follows several related purchases by the social media giant, including Madbits in 2014 and Whetlab last year.

 

 

 

Twitter Takes Stake in SoundCloud

June 16, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter Inc has decided to invest nearly $70 million in Berlin-based music service SoundCloud, technology website Re/code reported citing people familiar with the deal.

Twitter confirmed the investment, but did not provide any financial details.

“Earlier this year we made an investment in SoundCloud through Twitter Ventures to help support some of our efforts with creators,” Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey said.

Soundcloud, a platform that enables people to upload and share music and other audio files, also confirmed that Twitter had made the investment.

Twitter’s investment was part of a funding round expected to be in the range of $100 million, which would value SoundCloud at about $700 million, the Re/code report said.

The microblogging site has previously attempted to make a foray into music with the launch of Twitter Music in 2013, which was closed a year later. At the time, the company said that it would look for new ways to bring music based content to the service.

 

Facebook Video Comment Feature Looks To Draw Younger Users

June 14, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is joining the current wave of interest in videos by allowing users to upload videos into their comments and replies.

Bob Baldwin, an engineer at Facebook, announced in a blog post that the company is allowing users post video in their comments on other peoples’ posts.

The new feature is available worldwide immediately.

To try it, click the camera icon next to the comment field.

“This adds to the suite of multimedia features within comments including: links, photos, stickers, emoji, and starting today video,” Baldwin wrote in his post. “This was no small feat to add support across interfaces and within two heavy traffic services, like comments and videos.”

Considering how popular video is in the social media world right now, this was a smart move — one that even could draw in younger users, who have been so important but elusive for Facebook.

“I think this will have huge appeal with the younger audience,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I think it could help attract younger users. People love video, so being able to do more with it will have appeal.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, also said this could be a move that helps draw younger users to the site or — at least keep current younger users from straying. Younger people are drawn to video services like Periscope and Meerkat, analysts said.

“Young users are more comfortable with video interaction and given the enhanced interaction with this feature, this is attractive to them,” he added. “I think it’s not a feature that many consumers are asking for, but I believe when some try it, it could be a preferred mechanism… Video is that appealing.”

Facebook’s Baldwin noted that the feature was first prototyped at the company’s 50th Hackathon held earlier this year.

 

 

 

Twitter Locks Accounts After Millions Of Passwords Reportedly Exposed

June 13, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter said it had locked down and forced a password reset of some accounts after an unconfirmed claim of a leak of nearly 33 million usernames and passwords to the social network.

The company said the information was not obtained from a hack of its servers, and speculated that the information may have been gathered from other recent breaches, malware on victim machines that are stealing passwords for all sites, or a combination of both.

“In each of the recent password disclosures, we cross-checked the data with our records. As a result, a number of Twitter accounts were identified for extra protection. Accounts with direct password exposure were locked and require a password reset by the account owner,” Twitter’s Trust & Information Security Officer, Michael Coates said in a blog post.

Millions of users have been notified by Twitter that their accounts are at risk of being taken over, reported the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.  The company did not specify to the newspaper how many users were notified and forced to change their passwords but said that the total is in the millions.

Hacked information database LeakedSource revealed on Wednesday that it had acquired a database of 32.8 million records containing Twitter usernames, emails and passwords from a user who goes by the alias Tessa88@exploit.im., but there were questions from some experts as to the authenticity of the data.

The same user provided LeakedSource with names and passwords of alleged users of MySpace.com and VK.com.

“We have very strong evidence that Twitter was not hacked, rather the consumer was,” LeakedSource said. It pointed out that the passwords were in plain text with no encryption or hashing. Twitter said it used a password hashing function called bcrypt. The credentials are “real and valid” as out of 15 users asked, all 15 verified their passwords, LeakedSource said.

 

Salesforce Acquiring Demandware For $2.8B

June 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cloud-based software maker Salesforce.com Inc that it will be acquiring Demandware Inc, whose software is used by businesses to run e-commerce websites, for about $2.8 billion.

The deal will help Salesforce open a new front as it look to take away more market share from traditional software providers such as Oracle Corp and SAP AG, both of which already offer cloud-based e-commerce services.

The e-commerce market has been growing at a blistering pace as retailers expand their online presence, boosting demand for software that helps manage functions such as payment processing and inventory management.

Salesforce’s cash offer of $75.00 per share represents a 56.3 percent premium to Demandware’s Tuesday closing.

Demandware’s shares, which have fallen about 21 percent in the past year. Shares of Salesforce, considered a barometer for the cloud-computing industry, slipped 2 percent.

Demandware, whose customers include Lands’ End Inc, L’Oreal SA and Marks and Spencer Group Plc, has reported sales growth of more than 30 percent for the last 10 quarters.

Global spending on digital commerce platforms is expected to grow over 14 percent annually to about $8.5 billion by 2020, Salesforce said, citing research firm Gartner.

The deal, slated to close in Salesforce’s second quarter ending July, is expected to increase the company’s 2017 revenue by about $100 million-$120 million.

Salesforce had forecast fiscal 2017 revenue of $8.16 billion-$8.2 billion in May.

BofA Merrill Lynch is Salesforce’s financial adviser for the deal, while Goldman Sachs is advising Demandware.

 

Facebook Implement Changes To ‘Trending Topics’ Amid Criticism

May 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc said that it had made some tweaks to the procedures for its “Trending Topics” section after a news report alleging it suppressed conservative news prompted a U.S. Congressional demand for more transparency.

The company said an internal probe showed no evidence of political bias in the selection of news stories for Trending Topics, a feature that is separate from the main “news feed” where most Facebook users get their news.

But the world’s largest social network said in a blogpost that it was introducing several changes, including elimination of a top-ten list of approved websites, more training and clearer guidelines to help human editors avoid ideological or political bias, and more robust review procedures.

Earlier this month, a former Facebook contractor had accused the company’s editors of deliberately suppressing conservative news. The allegations were reported by technology news website Gizmodo, which did not identify the ex-contractor.

The report led Republican Sen. John Thune to write a letter demanding that the company explain how it selects news articles for its Trending Topics list.

Two days after Thune’s letter, Facebook published a lengthy blogpost detailing how Trending Topics works even though it rarely discloses such practices. Previously, it had never discussed the inner workings of the feature, which displays topics and news articles in the top right hand corner of the desktop homepage for its more than 1.6 billion users.

Facebook said its investigation showed that conservative and liberal topics were approved as trending topics at nearly identical rates. It said it was unable to substantiate any allegations of politically motivated suppression of particular subjects or sources.

But it did not rule out human error in selecting topics.

“Our investigation could not fully exclude the possibility of isolated improper actions or unintentional bias in the implementation of our guidelines or policies,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s General Counsel, wrote in a company blogpost.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg met last week with more than a dozen conservative politicians and media personalities to discuss issues of trust in the social network.

 

 

Hacker Offering 167 Million LinkedIn User Records For Sale

May 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

A hacker is attempting to sell a database dump containing account records for 167 million LinkedIn users.

The announcement was posted on a dark market website called TheRealDeal by a user who wants 5 bitcoins, or around $2,200, for the data set that supposedly contains user IDs, email addresses and SHA1 password hashes for 167,370,940 users.

According to the sale ad, the dump does not cover LinkedIn’s complete database. Indeed, LinkedIn claims on its website to have more than 433 million registered members.

Troy Hunt, the creator of Have I been pwned?, a website that lets users check if they were affected by known data breaches, said it’s highly likely for the leak to be legitimate. He had access to around 1 million records from the data set.

“I’ve seen a subset of the data and verified that it’s legit,” Hunt said.

LinkedIn suffered a data breach back in 2012, which resulted in 6.5 million user records and password hashes being posted online. It’s highly possible that the 2012 breach was actually larger than previously thought and that the rest of the stolen data is surfacing now.

LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attempts to contact the seller failed, but the administrators of LeakedSource, a data leak indexing website, claim to also have a copy of the data set and they believe that the records originate from the 2012 LinkedIn breach.

When the 6.5 million LinkedIn password hashes were leaked in 2012, hackers managed to crack over 60 percent of them. The same thing is likely true for the new 117 million hashes, so they cannot be considered safe.

Worse still, it’s very likely that many LinkedIn users that were affected by this leak haven’t changed their passwords since 2012. Hunt was able to verify that for at least one HIBP subscriber whose email address and password hash was in the new data set that is now up for sale.

Many people affected by this breach are also likely to have reused their passwords in multiple places on the Web, Hunt said via email.