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Londoners Want Uber Back, Sign Petition

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Half a million people have signed an online petition in under 24 hours supporting Uber’s bid to stay on the streets of London, showing the company is turning to its tried-and-tested tactic of asking customers for help when it locks horns with regulators.

London’s transport authorities stunned the powerful start-up on Friday when they deemed Uber unfit to run a taxi service for safety reasons and stripped it of its license from next week, although it can continue to operate while it appeals.

The regulator cited Uber’s failure to report serious criminal offices, conduct sufficient background checks on drivers and other safety issues, threatening the U.S. firm’s presence in one of the world’s wealthiest cities.

Uber immediately emailed users in London and urged them to sign a petition that said the city authorities had “caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice”.

By 1200 GMT on Saturday, more than 515,000 people had signed in support of Uber.

It counted 3.5 million active users in London in the past three months. Even if many tourists are probably included in the total, the figure represents a potential political force of commuters who face long journeys between their home and offices and who use Uber as a cheaper alternative to other taxi firms.

Turning to users for help is one of the first steps in Uber’s playbook. In Jakarta, Budapest, Toronto and Portland it asked riders to sign petitions and built online tools to contact lawmakers to show their support.

Regulators have at least partly relented in Portland, Toronto and Jakarta, but Budapest remains a work in progress.

Uber now faces a showdown with London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, who this month said he wouldn’t let his teenage daughters use cabs like Uber on their own over fears for their safety.

Khan, a leading figure in the opposition Labour Party, said on Friday: “All private-hire operators in London need to play by the rules. The safety and security of Londoners must come first.”

As mayor, Khan is chairman of Transport for London, the regulator which stripped Uber of its license.

 London’s decision is the first major challenge for new Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over from co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. He was forced out after internal and external investigations into sexual harassment complaints, the thwarting of government inquiries and potential bribery.

Skype, WhatsApp Calls Allowed Again In Saudi Arabia

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Saudi government has rescinded its ban on calls made through online apps on Thursday but will monitor and censor them, a government spokesman said.

All online voice and video call services – such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber – that satisfy regulatory requirements were set to become accessible overnight.

However, on Thursday morning, Viber appeared to remain blocked inside the kingdom, and WhatsApp worked only when connected to a wireless network.

 Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations were aimed mainly at protecting users’ personal information and blocking content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

Snap Chat Blocks Al Jazeera

September 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Snap has stopped allowing news network Al Jazeera to post to Snapchat in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Snap pulled the Qatari-run news outlet’s Discover Publisher Channel from its app as it violated the country’s law of printed material and publication and anti-cyber crime law.

“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” said a Snap spokeswoman in a statement.

Regional censorship of content has affected almost every global social network and internet company, including Google and Facebook, due to local laws that they may be subject to. Media watchdog Freedom House consistently rates Saudi Arabia as “not free” in its annual Freedom on the Net investigation.

“Popular social media and communication apps are not blocked in the country, although authorities have imposed restrictions on their use,” it said in its 2016 report.

Qatar is currently in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Eqypt, Bahrain and the UAE, which have accused the country of supporting terrorism. The Al Jazeera ban only affects Saudi Arabia and the publisher’s Snapchat Story continues to be live in the other countries.

Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Google Disable Offensive Keywords

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Alphabet Inc’s Google announced that it has disabled a “majority” of the offensive keywords that BuzzFeed found could be used by advertisers to target people searching for racist and anti-Semitic topics.

Google, the world’s biggest advertising platform, not only allowed advertisers to target searches such as “Why do Jews ruin everything” but also suggested the user to run ads next to searches such as “the evil jew” and “jewish control of banks”, a campaign by BuzzFeed discovered.

The ads were visible when such keywords were searched for and Google’s ad buying platform tracked the ad views, according to the internet media company’s report based on the campaign.

Google disabled the keyword searches used in the campaign after BuzzFeed’s inquiry, except an exact match for “blacks destroy everything”, the report said.

“We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again,” Google’s senior vice president of ads Sridhar Ramaswamy said in an email.

The news comes a day after Facebook Inc said it was temporarily disabling the ability of advertisers to target based on people’s self-reported education and job information after a report that those features allowed targeting based on anti-Semitic topics.

Will A.I. Replace Teachers

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

There are probably schools where any machines, including PCs and laptops, are regularly stolen because the kids have gone all Lord of the Flies. Things are probably not like that at Wellington College, which is where the prediction has come from.

In a report in The Independent, Sir Anthony Sheldon waxed lyrical about the potential and possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and automated teachers.

“School teachers will lose their traditional role and effectively become little more than classroom assistants” reports the paper.

“They will remain on hand to set up equipment, help children when necessary and maintain discipline.”

This sounds a bit like current teaching, where a television, overhead projector or computer can be wheeled into a classroom and turned on and left to teach.

Sheldon is convinced about this and is excited about the possibility of every kid getting the kind of education that money pays for.

“It certainly will change human life as we know it. It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all. Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised; the software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey. It can move at the speed of the learner,” he said.

“This is beyond anything that we’ve seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology. These are adaptive machines that adapt to individuals. They will listen to the voices of the learners, read their faces and study them in the way gifted teachers study their students.

“We’re looking at screens which are listening to the voice of the student and reading the face of the student. Reading and comprehending.”

Courtesy-TheInq

Google Launching Mobile Payments In India

September 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Google is gearing up to launch a localized digital payment service in India as early as next week, technology website TechCrunch reported, citing a report from news site The Ken.

The payment service, called Google ‘Tez’, will offer payment options beyond the existing ones like Google Wallet or Android Pay, the report said.

Tez, meaning fast in Hindi, will include support for the government-backed Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other consumer payment services including Paytm and MobiKwik, according to the report.

Google launched its payment app Android Pay in the United States two years ago.

A spokesman for Google in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google, Facebook Inc and WhatsApp Inc were in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to provide UPI-enabled payment on their platforms, the Mint daily had reported in July.

Is The Market For A.I. Chips Getting Hot

September 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

It is starting to look like the AI chipmarket is going to be a battle ground for chip development.

The AI market will be worth an estimated $59.8 billion by 2025 — up from just $1.4 billion last year. Nearly all major players in the IT industry have joined the race to develop AI chips and applications with the aim of establishing an early presence.

Currently mainstream products in the AI chip markets are those applied to machine learning and deep neural networks, including ASICs, GPU, FPGA and CPU chipsets. These have involved Nvidia, Intel, Qualcomm, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and IBM, Samsung, Huawei, Baidu and Tencent.

Nvidia is doing rather well with its GPU chipset series and has its foot on the development of a larger slice of development architectures. This includes Tesla Accelerator applied to cloud and supercomputers, Jetson fitted in robots and drones, and Drive PX adopted in automobiles. All of them share the same architecture to enable algorithm acceleration for deep learning.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said that his company has kept improving the design, system architecture, compiler and algorithm of its GPU solutions, and the deep neural network velocity has been already boosted by 50 fold within three years as a result, much faster than the time frame set by the Moore’s Law.

Intel is stepping up its AI blueprints ranging from network edges to datacenters, with AI chip platforms including Xeon, Xeon Phi processors and EPGA accelerators supporting the optimization of specific data load. The company has completed tests of its Lake Crest AI chipset designed to perfect neural network operation to improve deep learning efficiency.

Intel has its Myriad X, which can be applied to drones, smart cameras or AR (augmented reality) devices to sense and understand fast-changing external environments and facilitate interactions and learning.

The other force is Qualcomm with its newly released its Neural Processing Engine (NPE), with its software development kit (SDK) able to help developers optimise the AI performance on the firm’s Snapdragon 600, 800 series processors and support such AI architectures as Tensoflow, Caffe and Caffe 2.

NPE can manage image recognition, scene detection, camera filtration, and photo retouching. Facebook now uses it to accelerate the execution of the AR function of photos and real-time films through smartphone apps.

Google has its Tensor Process Unit (TPU) chipset for deep learning and algorithm, targeting AI developers and open for commercial and academic users through cloud services. Huawei has recently unveiled its Kirin 970 SoC, which is claimed to be the world’s first AI mobile chip fitted with neural processing unit (NPU).

The firm’s new-generation flagship smartphone models Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, set to hit the market in October, will carry Kirin 970 chipset, marking Huawei’s official entry into the AI arena. Baidu and Tencent are also actively developing customised AI chips.

AMD meanwhile has Vega to run cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning tasks—the kinds that fuel Siri and Alexa and are used by corporate giants like GE to analyze “big data” streams.

While investors are certainly optimistic about AMD, there’s little proof that the company can overtake NVIDIA in the AI at the moment. NVIDIA is already a self-driving car tech leader, is the go-to GPU maker for many AI servers, and has a clear understanding of its market potential in the AI space.

Courtesy-Fud

Social Media Is The News Source For Two Thirds Of Adults

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly two-thirds of American adults are getting “at least some of their news on social media” with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a Pew Research Center survey this week.

About 67 percent of American adults somewhat rely on social media platforms such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Snapchat for news, the survey showed, compared with 62 percent in 2016.

For the first time in the Center’s surveys, the research also found that 55 percent of Americans adults over 50 were consuming news on social media sites, up from 45 percent in 2016.

 “While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and non-white,” the research said.

Those under 50 years of age remained more likely than their elders to get news from these sites – 78 percent said they consume news on social media platforms, unchanged from 2016.

Facebook remained as the dominant platform for news with 45 percent of American adults saying they get news from the social media site. Alphabet Inc’s YouTube was next with 18 percent while only about 11 percent of U.S. adults said they get their news on Twitter.

The research also showed about three-quarters of non-whites or 74 percent, get news on social media sites, up from 64 percent in 2016.

Social media news use also increased among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, up 9 percentage points to 69 percent in 2017 from the previous year. Alternatively, among those with at least a college degree, social media news use declined slightly this year.

While Twitter lags far behind Facebook and YouTube in total news consumers, the site still seems to be benefiting from U.S. President Donald Trump who is one of the most active politicians on the social media platform.

Pew found that 74 percent of U.S. adults who use Twitter say they get news there, up from 59 percent of the site’s users in 2016.

Waze Carpool App Looks To Aid Hurricane Harvey Victims

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Texans and Louisiana residents affected by Hurricane Harvey can now help each other get around for free with the Waze Carpool app.

Waze announced its carpool app, which usually connects commuters heading to work with a ride, will be available in parts of Texas and Louisana that were affected by Hurricane Harvey. If people have a car with an open seat available, they’ll be able to offer it to other Waze Carpool users who are heading in the same direction. Similarly, people without transportation can request a ride, and they’ll be matched up with an empty seat.

Waze has also set up a Facebook Group to help work together to overcome the loss of 1 million cars and 60,000 damaged structures. Waze is also asking app users to assist their real-time editors in keeping the map up-to-date by calling out road closures, hazards and traffic as it occurs.

Julie Mossler, a spokesperson for Waze, said it’s too early to know if it’s necessary or possible to open up the carpool app in Florida for Hurricane Irma.

WhatsApp Unveil Messaging App For Businesses

September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has revealed plans to develop standalone versions of its mobile app aimed at connecting businesses and their customers more easily.

WhatsApp Business will be free for small businesses, with a paid-for enterprise version targeted at those with a global customer base – an indication of one way Facebook plans to monetize the app, which now has a billion daily users.

In a blog post the company said the proposed enterprise app will allow large organizations including airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks to contact customers with notifications, such as “flight times, delivery confirmations, and other updates”.

Pricing information was not disclosed, though The Wall Street Journal reported that the corporate tool will require a fee.

WhatsApp has been steadily enhancing its business-to-consumer capabilities for some time now. Last week, the firm announced a business verification system, with a green badge indicating WhatsApp has confirmed a phone number belongs to an authenticated business account – similar to Facebook’s own grey badge for business pages. WhatsApp has previously announced plans to allow businesses to contact customers with marketing messages.

In its blog post, WhatsApp said it will work with business users as part of a closed pilot program to test additional new services ahead of a wider launch.

One of the companies testing the enterprise service, UK-based e-commerce firm Yoox Net-a-Porter, said in a blog post that many of its customers prefer to use WhatsApp rather than email to complete transactions and get product suggestions. The company, which also has operations in the U.S., said it has completed single item sales of up $104,000. WhatsApp is now integrated with its order management system application and is being tested as a notification system for order shipping confirmations.

The announcement serves to highlight the growing acceptance of the consumer messaging app by business users. WhatsApp claimed that many small businesses are already using its platform to interact with customers, though acknowledged that kind of connection is “pretty rudimentary.”

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for approximately $22 billion and has been attempting to find ways to generate revenue streams from the popular messaging app.

YouTube Live Updated, Streaming Simplified

September 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is aiming to make your livestreaming more about the moment and less about the technicalities.

New launched updates to YouTube Live will bring more streaming power to your iPhone or iPad, help you moderate comments, and stream with less of a delay, Kurt Wilms, product lead for YouTube Live, said in a blog post.

“Whether it’s solar eclipses, NBA superstars, the hottest music artists, pro gamers, creators donating to charity, or the world’s most famous giraffe, creators use live to connect with fans during the moments that matter,” Wilms said.

The additions come as more celebrities, YouTubers and regular folks experiment with broadcasting video via their phones. It helps that there are myriad options, including Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope. The tech giants behind livestreaming all hope that when you feel the need to broadcast in real time, you’ll pick them.

YouTube’s updates include making it simpler to stream from your Apple iPhone and iPad. Although you can already livestream from certain apps via the YouTube Gaming app, the feature will now come to the main YouTube app so you can use your phone’s microphone and front-facing camera to add audio and video commentary to your stream.

No matter what you’re streaming, you’ll be doing it with lower latency, or less of a delay between when you broadcast the video and when people actually see the feed. The new feature is called ultra-low latency and cuts down on lag so you can answer questions or get viewer response faster. It’s a step toward real-time interaction with folks watching your live video.

Finally, there are also several new tools aimed at chat moderation. One lets you pause the chat to moderate by pressing and holding “alt/option.” Another lets you check for inappropriate messages and hold them for approval. The system, if you opt in to it, learns over time what you want to hold for review. Another tool is shared hidden user lists, which let moderators use the same hidden user lists for comments and live chat. A hidden user list consists of people a creator does not allow to comment.

Did The CIA Spy On Intel’s Partners

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The FBI and Homeland Security, who relied on the CIA for tech support for biometric data, were being targeted by spyware.

According to what is fairly likely to be Russian intelligence leaked to Wikileaks, the CIA wrote a program called ExpressLane, is designed to be deployed alongside a biometric collection system that the CIA provides to partner agencies.

Since 2009 this software has been siphoning data back to the CIA on the off-chance those partners are holding out on them.

ExpressLane masquerades as a software update, delivered in-person by CIA technicians — but the documents make clear that the program itself will remain unchanged. The program siphons the system’s data to a thumb drive, where agents can examine it to see if there’s anything the partner system is holding back. If the partners refuse the phoney update, there’s a hidden kill-switch that lets agents shut down the entire system after a set period of time, requiring an in-person visit to restore the system.

WikiLeaks’s “sources” claim the program was primarily used against US agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, although the documents themselves do not say that. In fact the CIA doesn’t maintain any significant biometric database of its own, it’s also unclear what the agency would do with any data it obtained. 

WikiLeaks continues to release the agency’s hacking tools as part of the Vault 7 campaign.

Courtesy-Fud

Facebook Ramps Up Fight Against Fake News Ads

August 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Fake news peddlers consider yourself on notice.

Facebook has announced that it’s blocking any pages from posting advertisements on its massive social network if they continually share fake news. The company is using third-party fact-checking organizations like Snopes to flag fake news stories, after con artists and hoax authors realized they could take advantage of people’s gullibility and Facebook’s ability to make it viral.

Facebook acknowledged it had a fake news problem after the 2016 presidential election, thanks to millions of spam accounts and misleading but influential articles posted on newsfeeds. Previously, Facebook announced that it was blocking advertisers from promoting stories that link to fake news.

Now it’s ramping up its effort by blocking pages from advertising at all if they have been flagged too many times for spreading fake news. Facebook called out fake news for spreading mistrust and making “the world less informed.” Product managers at the company saw that people were using ads on Facebook to build a fake news empire.

“This update will help to reduce the distribution of false news, which will keep Pages that spread fake news from making money,” Satwik Shukla and Tess Lyons, two product managers at Facebook, said in a blog post on Monday.

Pages will be able to advertise again if they stop sharing fake news, they said.

TD Ameritrade Unveils Facebook Chatbot

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

TD Ameritrade has rolled out a “chatbot”, an automated program that can communicate with the brokerage’s customers on Facebook Inc’s messaging application, to give them information about markets and their accounts.

TD Ameritrade’s chatbot uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to respond to natural language messages from users on Facebook Messenger about their investments and stock prices, the brokerage said on Tuesday.

For example, customers could ask the chatbot for the price of Apple Inc shares or information on the performance of their portfolio without leaving the messaging app. It also offers educational content such as videos on different investment topics.

Unlike other chatbots, TD Ameritrade’s bot will be backed by a human customer support team, which will receive notifications if the bot detects it is unable to handle some interactions. This will include cases in which the user is expressing frustration through colorful language or if they expressly request human help.

“If salty language is used it will automatically escalate it to the human,” Sunayna Tuteja, director of emerging technologies and innovation at TD Ameritrade, said in an interview.

Chatbots and virtual assistants have become more popular in banking and other consumer facing industries because improvements in artificial intelligence have made them more adept at interacting with humans.

Financial firms are hopeful that they can be used to replace their costly call centers populated by humans while offering 24/7 support.

Tuteja said TD Ameritrade believes that while bots are useful at providing some customer service, a human element will always be required in financial services.

“In our business we feel it will always be an elegant combination of bot and human service,” she said. The company last year launched a voice-bot for Amazon Inc’s Echo device.

While bots have improved in their interactions with humans, the technology is still in its early days and functionality is limited. For example, the TD Ameritrade chatbot does not yet let users transact, but does allow them to initiate the process of opening a new account.

HTS Vive Virtuality Reality Headset Price Slashed

August 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

HTC is aware that consumers are still iffy regarding virtual reality, so it’s sweetening the deal. As of Monday, an HTC Vive VR headset and controller kit will cost just $600, £600 or AU$1,000.

Make no mistake, that’s a huge price cut — a full $200, £160 or AU$400 cheaper than you’d have to pay previously.

It’s the first time the Taiwanese electronics company permanently dropped the price of its headset — but it could also be seen as the latest sign consumers aren’t yet sold on VR. For instance, Facebook also chopped the price of its rival Oculus Rift kit in half this year, after reportedly experiencing slow sales and quietly closing hundreds of pop-up demo stations at Best Buy stores.

Most companies still aren’t willing to share sales numbers for VR, and those that do come with caveats: Though Samsung has shipped over 5 million Gear VR headsets, it hasn’t said how many of those were included free with a Samsung Galaxy phone. Google’s Daydream has seen significant discounts, too.

Only Sony has reported sales of over 1 million for a $100+ headset and even so, a Wall Street Journal report in April suggested Sony’s PlayStation VR had seen slower-than-expected sales.

Which might be why both VR companies and experts agree these price cuts aren’t really about competing with each other — they’re about “penetrating the market, period,” to quote SuperData analyst Stephanie Llamas. IDC analyst Ryan Reith says the price cut will likely keep the HTC Vive in the same position it’s in today: beating Facebook, but not Sony.

As for HTC, VR boss Dan O’Brien says that Facebook’s price cut didn’t factor into his decision at all. “We’ve been planning it for quite some time,” he tells CNET. “It’s essential that we reset the price for Vive going into the holiday season.” According to O’Brien, the price cut is merely about growing the audience.

That’s what Facebook told us, too, but it’s true that HTC hasn’t been at quite the same disadvantage. Right out of the starting gate in April 2016, the HTC Vive’s motion controllers and ability to freely walk around a virtual room made it a reviewer’s favorite, and it took eight months for Facebook’s tech to (mostly) catch up.

But assuming you want an HTC Vive, is this price cut enough? “At $599 I think it’s a much more accessible price, but still not quite to the point of a $299 or $399 mainstream price,” says Moor Insights and Strategy analyst Anshel Sag.

And that’s without considering that — while they’re growing more affordable — you’ll still need a potent PC to use a Vive or Oculus Rift, the headsets still have cords to trip over and the search for a killer app (or three) continues on.

For the record, HTC’s O’Brien wants you to know that his price cut has nothing to do with clearing shelves for an eventual Vive 2. “It’s not about trying to sell through all the existing Vive Ones,” he says. “We will take this version of Vive well into 2018.”

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