Top Takeaway from Yahoo!'s testimony to Congress

If you recall, we are to believe that it took Yahoo! leadership years to both recognise that their data storage systems had been breached, and then notify users that their data, including some personally identifiable information had been stolen.

When put in the context of the scandal around the recent Equifax breach, and the emerging understanding of how state actors may be infiltrating US data systems, Senator Bill Nelson seems to have said what everyone was thinking:

 “...only stiffer enforcement and stringent penalties will help incentivize companies to properly safeguard consumer information.”

Meyer had to be subpoenaed after she refused to appear voluntarily. You can read more about the hearing here.

Alien Covenant: A Review

While this blog is mostly intended to lay out my ideas associated with various technologies, every once in a while I'm happy to depart from that theme. 

Last week, Geeks of Doom was gracious enough to allow my opinion to be represented as their review of Alien Covenant. 

My overall assessment? Better than Prometheus, but still flawed. Here's an excerpt of what I had to say:

Alien: Covenant lacks the same emotional heights sci-fi fans associate with Ridley Scott’s film of 1979 or James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, though it’s not without merit. Chief among the complaints is that the new film seems to sit on the franchise’s laurels rather than push it forward in the way Casino Royale did for James Bond or Logan did for X-Men. It’s been 38 years since the original Alien thriller, but this movie lacks some of the lauded learnings and innovations of modern science fiction cinema.
— Dwayne D.

Find tne entire review here at Geeks of Doom.

Toyota uses AI to sell the Mirai - it's Inefficient Eco Car

A few years ago I had a chance to check out the Toyota Mirai - a hydrogen powered electricly propelled car that Toyota claimed was, rather than its Pruis line or the trending battery electric vehicles,  the wave of the future.

Suffice it to say I didn't agree. hydrogen is not a sustainable or ecologically friendly fuel source at this time - maybe never. 

Still, Toyota put a lot of $$$$ into the research and development of the thing and they still believe that this thing, which allows for the continued time, energy and money drive-to-pump model of re-fuelling, in addition to the fact that one needs CNG or LNG to produce the fuel, is a product that Toyota hopes will take off.

To that end, Toyota has reached out to LA-based ad agency Saatchi to develop advertising materials for the series of poor logistical and ecological choices on four wheels that is the Mirai. 

To that end, the ad agency took to IBM's Watson Artificial Intelligence computer, where time and energy was spent programming the supercomputer to write phrases that would appeal to every single type of consumer that would be interested in the hydrogen-powered Mirai.

First, Saatchi LA wrote 50 scripts based on location, behavioral insights and occupation data that explained the car’s features to set up a structure for the campaign. The scripts were then used to train Watson so it could whip up thousands of pieces of copy that sounded like they were written by humans.

“We realized that we couldn’t just let it go out and try to figure out the creative on its own,” Pierantozzi said. “We had to give it guidelines with exactly what we wanted, so then it then had a little bit of creative freedom to come up with some of the thoughts on its own.”
— http://www.adweek.com/digital/saatchi-la-trained-ibm-watson-to-write-thousands-of-ads-for-toyota/?utm_campaign=nl_1&utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=AWK_TodayTech

The computer was able to find myriad new ways to describe the vehicle to potential buyers. Unfortunately, the data neglected to mention that tech-savvy, eco-minded buyers, are not necessarily into under-powered vehicles that have to be powered by fuel that's only available at select pumps in or around California. Especially when they realise that hydrocarbons are needed to create that fuel in the first place.

Still, the method of advertising is novel. While it's not clear how well crafted the data set was that determined the targeting for this campaign, there are plenty of ways to identify users and consumers who are in the market for this or that trinket. The added benefit of AI is that it can make the messages more applicable to potential consumers and, eventually, it holds the promise of being able to do that in real time with the latest available data. Did your Android Watch recently report that you just finished a run? How about a smoothie? 

It may sound "creepy" at first, but relevance is everything when it comes to saving time and money in the ad space. I'd rather be enlightened about something I want than be annoyed by ads that interrupt the flow of my day, pushing products I have no real interest in. 

So what's the takeaway? We're that much closer to Minority Report, which is, in more ways than just advertising, the holy grail of so much of tech.

The Drill Down 461: Explosions, Car Wrecks & The Presidency

On this week’s podcast, The Drill Down co-host emeritus Tom Cheredar joins us to discuss Donald Trump’s first week of Presidency as it affects the tech world, is this the end of Net Neutrality, the final word on the Samsung Note 7 and the Tesla crash, Sprint buys into TIDAL, and much, much more.

Check out the episode on Geeks of Doom.

The Echo Dot is Amazon's Best Seller

Andria Cheng, writing for eMarketer in the wake of holiday sales: 

"Rising sales of digital assistants reflect changing user behaviors as more people become comfortable with the idea of spoken word commands and queries. In September 2016, Google said that fully one in five search queries on its mobile app were voice initiated. And in November, a Google/Ipsos survey found that more than half of the smartphone users had used a voice-activated app to answer a question or perform a task.

Amazon said Tuesday that popular requests made to Echo over the holidays included queries about mixing cocktails and requests to play holiday music."

the $50 pricepoint of the Dot 2 was an incredible move to get the device into the hands of myriad consumers, which, through their voice platform, makes the entire system stronger. The Skills piece is also a huge part of the device's success.

Accolades these may be; the app interface leaves a lot to be desired in terms of UI and performance. Echo will need all of these elements to be top knot here if it wants to survive the oncoming onslaught from Google and (eventually) Apple, who is no doubt developing hardware with similar functionality that ties in deeply with its existing tech toy ecosystem.

Designer of 'Star Wars' Death Star still calls Boulder home base

Mitchell Byars writing for my local paper, 'The Daily Camera:'

 "While the design for the deadly space station is in the hands of the Empire in the movie, in real life they came from the mind of Cantwell, who was one of the first people George Lucas hired to work on the movie, having been introduced to Lucas after his work on Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." "

America, Properly Defined By German Automotive Engineering

In this time of discord about what makes America great, this 30 second ad spot (yay capitalism?) could be the greatest, most significant message about what the USA is. It is fitting that it was designed around and relies upon the Olympics.
Not surprisingly, it is a view from the outside that looks in to tell us the truth about ourselves. Thanks BMW.

The Drill Down 437: All In The Family

On this week’s Drill Down podcast, we ask whether the Russians hacked the DNC, and discussed how Instagram is out-Snapchatting Snapchat. We also get into how Uber exited China, Oracle's acquisition of NetSuite, how Tesla sealed deal with Solar City, and whether we should be concerned that all three mergers were between family members. 

We also go into the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a real-world tribute to Pikachu, and ask the question: Who’s the most tech-savvy Presidential candidate?

That and more this week on #TheDrillDown

Password Sharing Is a Federal Crime, Appeals Court Rules

Jason Koebler, writing for Motherboard:

One of the nation’s most powerful appeals courts ruled Wednesday that sharing passwords can be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a catch-all “hacking” law that has been widely used to prosecute behavior that bears no resemblance to hacking.

In this particular instance, the conviction of David Nosal, a former employee of Korn/Ferry International research firm, was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who said that Nosal’s use of a former coworker’s password to access one of the firm’s databases was an “unauthorized” use of a computer system under the CFAA.

The decision is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties groups, who say that such a broad interpretation of the CFAA means that millions of Americans are unwittingly violating federal law by sharing accounts on things like Netflix, HBO, Spotify, and Facebook. Stephen Reinhardt, the dissenting judge in the case, noted that the decision “threatens to criminalize all sorts of innocuous conduct engaged in daily by ordinary citizens.”

This is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.

Fun with Geeks of Doom

I've been having some fun popping little stories and ideas off over at Geeks of Doom, where The Drill Down podcast lives. It's a fun little hobbyist/enthusiast site to pop around in if you have the chance.

While there, you can check out these snippets I've posted:

‘Ghostbusters’ Theme Song Gets Japanese Pop Remix

Two Doctors, One Time Lord: Samantha Bee Brings Geeks To The Brexit

'Game Of Thrones’: The (Not So) Great Houses Of Westeros

‘Game Of Thrones’ Geek Discussion: About That Jon Snow Reveal…

HBO Clears Up Jon Snow Confusion With Infographic (should be my byline/not sure what happened.

The Drill Down 432: Ten Laws of Robotics?

This week, the tech world responds to BREXITMicrosoft revises Asimov’s laws of robotics, Facebook and YouTube use AI to filter out extremist content, and Facebook wants you to see more of your loved ones’s content rather than upworthy shares. Also, we show you why the car in that ad may not be what you think it is, and Boston Dynamics brings a robot to the home, so keep those bananas around

Find the episode on iTunesStitcher, or on Geeks of Doom.

Netflix Sued over Price Increase

Netflix offers extraordinary value to US consumers for the money they expect. I'm happy to pay a bit more-- especially since I understand that prices for the IP they stream are going up.

Still, it wouldn't be America without a little litigious love, as a man who thought he was locked into the $8/mo price was outraged when his bill came in at $10/mo.

"For a period of time, Netflix solicited persons to subscribe to Netflix's streaming service by guaranteeing that Netflix would not increase monthly subscription prices as long as the subscribers maintained the subscription service continuously," states the complaint. "Netflix has broken its contract with these subscribers by unilaterally raising monthly subscription prices."

The Drill Down 431: At Least I (Still) Have Chicken

This week, the guys and I discuss how Microsoft goes green (sort of), BitTorrent's legitimate attempt at a news channel, why Tesla decided to invest in solar, and how big-name musicians are attempting to rally against YouTube. Also--  Star Wars hits VR...or is it AR?

Find the episode on iTunes, Stitcher, or on Geeks of Doom.