Where are the Borders in the Computing Cloud?

Nominally, the case (linked at the end) is about “privacy”, but the underlying questions are far deeper and far more relevant to anyone who is using any form of “cloud” service: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, etc. The government insists that it can access data belonging to a suspect even if that data is stored on a server in another country, but the service company, Microsoft in this case, insists that it cannot provide that data because that act violates the terms under which it operates its servers in Ireland. The question is, therefore, where is the virtual border drawn? Is material belonging to an American subject but stored on a server in a foreign country under a foreign account that was created in that country subject to US law or the laws of the country in which the account was created. A question in the affirmative leads to the following conundrum.

“If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what’s to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post on Monday.

Where is the line drawn? Does the account belong to the person and, thus, subject to the laws of whichever country in which the person is residing, or is the data owned by the provider and, thus, subject to the laws of the country in which that provider is operating? If the former, then, indeed, foreign countries can have free access to data stored on American servers. This will please Chinese officials who want to identify dissidents. If the latter, then some country–perhaps Ireland–may well become a haven for data akin to the way Switzerland is a haven for money. Neither branch of the dilemma is particularly satisfying. Not solving this problem is an invitation to disaster in the not too distant future as our data slowly come to represent the totality of our existence.

What do we  want as users? Do we want our data to be ours, or do we want to relinquish control to technology companies in order to relieve ourselves of the responsibility of living with the consequences of the data? The breakneck pace of progress in technology doesn’t leave much time for the deep discussion that the subject demands. When the shit hits the fan, it’s going to get really messy. Wear your best virtual rubbers.

Source: U.S. Supreme Court to decide major Microsoft email privacy fight

Facebook to Use AI to Alleviate Its Greed

Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence and update its tools and services to help prevent suicides among its users.

Artificial intelligence is touted as the solution to everything these days, but with respect to suicides committed on or because of Facebook,  AI feels like a band-aid. The only way Facebook can really help prevent suicides is by making its service less addictive so that users can spend more time in real social circumstances with real people instead of being trapped inside a cold illusion of a social experience spawned from their smart phone. Making FB less addictive, however, will make FB lose revenue because its revenues are tied intimately to the number of eyeballs that are glued to the FB web site. Hence, progress is not profitable. The only benefit to society may be the development of an AI baby sitter. As FB and the rest of “social” media infantilize us all, the market will be briskfor such a product.

Source: Facebook turns to artificial intelligence to tackle suicides

Shkreli is sued over his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album

Marin Shkreli is proud of–even smug about–every single act that distinguishes him as a singularly depraved, morally bankrupt and rude human being. The fact that the governing boards of several large corporations have appointed this idiot to run their companies is probably even more shocking. When will the focus of the investigations shift to the incompetent or corrupt corporate boards that betray their shareholders’ interests by giving this imbecile employment?

$2 million for a Wu-Tang Clan album? Are you kidding me? Maybe corporate America should focus on eradicating such stupidity from its ranks before it starts complaining about federal government waste.

Or, maybe the SEC’s sluggish expurgation of such morons from corporate ranks should be the only Federal inefficiency that the corporate world should bemoan.

Martin Shkreli faces a new legal headache, a lawsuit claiming that his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album contains illustrations ripped off from a New York artist, who now wants the former drug executive to pay for them.

Source: Shkreli is sued over his $2 million Wu-Tang Clan album

Will the Markets Realize That Twitter is Bullshit?

Some things can’t be summed up in 140 characters.Twitter Inc’s announcement that Dick Costolo would exit as CEO on July 1 was long on plaudits but offered few clues on how the company will tackle its biggest problem: user growth.

Source: Twitter seeks new CEO, and more users, as Costolo exits | Reuters

So begins Reuters’ report on the turmoil in Twitter, the “social” media company that can’t quite manage to live up to the hype that preceded its transition into a publicly traded company.

In case it wasn’t clear to those who bought in early in this turkey of a stock, Twitter is a big, stinking pile of bullshit.

Twitter is a cute attractive idea to the average user, but nothing more. (I opened my account in 2006, and I “tweeted” 13 times for no apparent reason.) People will want to satisfy their ego by broadcasting 140-character nuggets of wisdom to people who are eager to read these nuggets. The hash tag would will allow Twitter and its customers to organize these missives and, thus, gain insight into the behaviors of the masses, a critical insight for marketing. No one questioned the notion that organizing and analyzing the quips of millions of people can be coalesced into a useful metric. Gaining insight into anything from billions of random quips was suspect from the start.

This somewhat dated IBM video shows how Twitter data is monetized. Billions of the short missives (i.e., “tweets”) are collected by search criteria and then organized into data structures that can be broken down by useful (in a marketing sense) categories and quantified. These results would, ostensibly, play a constructive role in shaping marketing research and subsequent and campaigns.

But why the fuck would they?

This premise that aggregates of 140-character messages can contain wisdom about marketing is highly suspect at best and an utter fallacy in all likelihood. People possessed with the free time to set up an account, to market themselves to “followers” who would place enough value on random, terse messages to read them, and to broadcast to these throngs of followers can hardly be considered to be representative of the population at large. The bulk are likely to be fickle teenagers whose tastes change in less time it takes for brilliant Ph.D.’s to analyze their tweets with heavy duty software like IBM’s Big Sheets. The rest are celebrities who can gather millions of these teenage followers. These celebrities effectively get free advertising through Twitter because they keep all the proceeds they get for advertising products to their Twitter followers, and they pay no commissions on the sales that their “tweets” generate.

In short, Twitter is an utterly worthless service. It represents nobody, it contains no useful marketing data, it has no way of capturing any portion of the revenues it generates for the people who use it as a marketing tool, and it offers nothing of any social value to those who participate in it. Not one of the relationships forged via the Twitter service can be construed as a true friendship or a business or personal relationship founded on substantive qualities like trust, affection or respect.

Even with respect to communication–the only level wherein Twitter could have had any claim to legitimacy–Twitter fails, too. It is the antithesis of communication, literacy and intellectual discourse. Even teenagers will eventually develop deep feelings and the capability to express these feelings, and the short expression format of Twitter will fail them. Pithiness is a good thing, but expressing true affection or grave disappointment may well be impossible in 140 characters, even it is accompanied by the same photos that one has already posted to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and other worthless “social” media services.

It would be nice if venerable news sources like Reuters had the backbone to expose one of their technology darlings for the failed experiment that it is. Instead, even Reuters chooses to sensationalize the downfall of this business oddity in terms of the failure of the management to grow the business. There was no business, ever, in the Twitter endeavor. The market fell for it in its typical fawning of seemingly revolutionary technology companies.

Furthermore, Reuters, like all other media companies, is remiss to admit to the fact that it happily played up the fallacious merits of a business entity through which it hoped to get much free publicity and marketing. Lest they lose all credibility, however, they ought to start exposing the social media hoax by coming clean about Twitter. Twitter was a cool experiment for a computer geek, but as a business, it is nothing but a giant, massive, repulsive, stinking mountain bullshit now covered with flies feasting on its accelerating state of decay.

And, the rest of the “social media” aren’t much better.

And, yes, I’m sick and tired of “news” about business hoaxes depriving me of real news, real enlightenment and real insight.

The Capitalist Assault against Individuality

Google’s Brin: Individual car ownership needs to go | CNET

What’s the difference between Google and socialism? Not much.

A long time ago an excellent mathematician and member of the Southern California Federation of Scientists (whom I had the privilege of knowing very well) had made the shocking argument that by eliminating automobiles and levying a tax that is equivalent to approximately half the average of cost of individual car ownership, it is possible to fund a complete fare-free transit system that can pickup everyone within 100 yards of their residence and drop them off within 100 yards of their place of work with less than a few minutes of waiting time and use a lot less gas than having a million cars on the road daily.

In fact, he was not the only one. Numerous “idealists” had crunched the numbers and demonstrated expanded bus service could be a much more efficient transit system,

Continue reading “The Capitalist Assault against Individuality”

The American Economic Revelation: We’re Like Europe

UCLA Anderson Forecast paints dismal picture of economic recovery | latimes.com

Five years after the credit bubble burst, the best experts in the country are still wondering why the robust recovery isn’t happening. They employ pessimistic words to avoid the one truth that is perhaps less convenient than Al Gore’s.

“Growth in GDP has been positive, but not exceptional,” UCLA economists wrote in their quarterly Anderson Forecast. “Jobs are growing, but not rapidly enough to create good jobs for all.”

The report, which analyzed long-term trends of past recoveries, found that the long-anticipated “Great Recovery” has not yet materialized.

That truth is that that the American economy has finally become like the European economy. Whether we like it or not, the American economy is going to resemble that of France and Germany, with slow, sluggish upturns and mild downturns punctuating vast seas of stability.

Fierce competition from Europe and Asia put upward pressure on wages brought by aggressive inflation are enforcing the regime that “socialistic” policies have been enforcing in Europe for over forty years: efficiency. The high wages that strong unions have enforced for decades in Europe are finally coming to the US as businesses that need stability for successful operation realize that they must pay wages that alleviate some of the effects of inflation in order to keep their best employees. Consequently, gone are the most meaningless jobs that one scarcely sees in Europe: parking attendants, valet parkers, bus boys, etc. The most mundane jobs have been automated and the remaining ones ultimately demand a living wage. This level of operational efficiency will not drive job growth.

Similarly, the marketplace is making US capital markets like Europe’s by enforcing stability. Another speculative bubble in the US won’t just be disastrous for the public at large who will be fleeced by opportunistic, well connected executives. It will be disastrous for American institutions who now have to compete globally for the dispensation of capital against mighty institutions in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Short term speculative gains are likely to cause long term annihilation for firms that undertake the Ponzi schemes of the real estate bubble, whether the institution is bailed out or not. Banks’ reluctance to lend even to the most credit-worthy borrowers underscores this fact. Corporate cash hoarding also underscores this fact. They all realize that the next mistake can have existential ramifications whether the government plays savior or not. The core functions of the company matter again. As has always been the case in Europe, a car company has to be a car company again, and a bank has to be responsible.

All of which sums up to a European existence: mild fluctuations peppering vast seas of incredibly boring stability. Global competition enforces a high unemployment rate in such regimes. Companies running efficiently will never effect full employment. This is why Europe has persistent, high unemployment. It is not because they have trouble creating wealth or because they are economically and fundamentally lazy. It is because they are closer to the economic endgame that the US is. Forbes Magazine laments the fact that no path to full employment is visible on the most distant horizon, but, beholden to staunchly conservative owner, it will be the last source to admit that the Europeans were right, that they are ahead.

Let us end this stupid, emotional and utterly vapid debate about the state of the economy and focus on what matters: quality of life. The economy is finally stable. Like Europe, we have the resources to make life better for those who work and for those who do not work. We have the resources to fix our bridges, to build new railroads, to provide healthcare to everyone, to ensure that those willing to work will eventually find a job that will provide a decent living, and to ensure that those who cannot or do not want to work will not be condemn to the oblivion of homelessness and marginalization that will demobilize them from the work force.

We have a stable economy. What do we do about life? Forward, march!

Out Of Control Satellite May Interrupt Cable Television

Out Of Control Satellite Threatens US TV Service – Space News – redOrbit.

This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to cable television. Only basic cable is included in my rent, and I have always been hesitant about upgrading, but, ironically, this is exactly the upgrade that I wanted, and I never could have afforded it.

iPad Carnage

Apple’s new product announcements never make much sense at the time they are made. It takes a while for people to understand the ramifications of the technology being introduced and the shakedowns that will ensue. The iPad announcement may well have been the paradigmatic enigmatic announcement. The stock has tanked, and everyone is talking about the announcement being “underwhelming”, but Apple’s competitors are shaking in fear because they can see the carnage coming. Here is a short list of products or industries that will soon be laid to waste by the iPad. In no particular order, these are the products, corporations or industries that could be eradicated by iPad’s success.

  • The Kindle DX Without a doubt, the first product to die will be Amazon’s Kindle DX, the larger kindle model with a color screen designed for viewing textbooks. For the same price as the Kindle DX, the iPad offers a complete computer capable of viewing textbooks with a far richer content, word processing, games, music, photos and countless heretofore unheard of new applications. The iPad will run Amazon’s Kindle and Stanza apps, on top of all this. So, Amazon was wise to hedge its bets with its iPhone apps. In essence, Amazon was well aware of the inevitable.
  • Portable Game Players If the iPhone and iPod touch failed to obviate the need for small game consoles like Nintendo DS and Playstation Player, then iPad positively will. The iPad promises graphics and action that rival those presently available only on powerful desktop computers. So, why compromise excitement for the sake of mobility? Sure, there will be many holdouts who like the little pocket devices, but the kids will want an iPad, and parents and game enthusiasts will abandon the little devices in droves.
  • Amazon Kindle Subscription Service As the New York Times’ presence at the Apple announcement on Wednesday showed, the iPad offers publishers infinitely more flexibility than the Kindle does. Publishers are free to offer something as simple as a web subscription, and everyone with an iPad (which has a full browser) will be able to take advantage of it. People with Kindles will not. Furthermore, publishers will have the ability to offer their own subscription services or product lines through an app over which they can exercise complete control over appearance, behavior and content. Amazon’s Kindle service is not as accommodating of publishers. The Kindle limits publishers to formats that Amazon defines. Publishers will have no incentive to stay with Amazon. They will abandon it in droves, and the Kindle subscription services is thus assured of a quick and untimely death, unless Amazon can reconfigure the service. Oddly enough, the Sony reader may survive because it is not tied down to any one distribution channel the way the Kindle is.
  • Windows Tablet The most shocking revelation in the iPad announcement was the fact that Apple rewrote its iWork productivity suite to be fully functional on the iPad. iWork on the iPad was a demonstration of how Apple’s grand designs for the iPad were vastly more ambitious than any pundit, prognosticator or Wall Street analyst expected. Apple is announcing that it is beating Microsoft and Google to the mobile computing platform with a fully functional mobile computer that runs a proven and battle tested mobile platform (iPhone OS) and that is ready to do everything out of the box before any of these guys even leave the gate. Oh, yes, indeed. The carnage could be far bigger and far uglier than anyone expected.

And, the folks at Wired.com seem to agree, though they use slightly less explicit language.

Of course, the basic premise that people will want to do their computing with hand gestures on a thin, mobile tablet that has amazing computing capabilities may turn out to be false, but Apple’s experiences with mobile devices so far would imply otherwise.

It will be interesting to see who still stands after the iPad earthquake and all of its aftershocks because the landscape will change completely.

AOL Time Warner: The Stupidity of Greedy CEOs

BBC News  |  Why AOL Time Warner failed to change the world

More than ten years after a horribly ill-conceived and thoroughly fraudulent union between an old world entertainment company, Time-Warner, and new-age chimera, AOL, predictably failed, people are wasting ink trying to analyze why the venture failed in a feeble attempt to gloss over the naivete with which they welcomed this incredibly stupid business deal.

It was very clear to me and many others that this merger made absolutely no sense. Why would a content distributor like AOL limit the content that it can distribute and why would a content producer like Time-Warner limit the number of outlets through which it would distribute its content? There was no synergy to be had because these were fundamentally different companies fulfilling different roles that resulted in a conflict of interest.

So, why did the deal go through? So that the CEOs can give themselves a fat bonus. Steve Case of AOL ran away with hundreds of millions of dollars even though he was summarily fired, and Gerald Levin of Time-Warner rewarded himself similarly and retired.

Now everyone is blaming the different internet climate, the emergence of Google and YouTube and supposed mismanagement at AOL-Time-Warner. The truth remains that what killed AOL-Time-Warner was this conflict of interest that arises when distribution and production are combined. AOL could not compete with YouTube because the possibility of distributing content that competes with Time-Warner content was not desirable for Time-Warner.

Similarly, it was difficult for Time-Warner to enter into distribution deals with emerging online channels because of the obligations it had toward AOL by virtue of the merger. Consequently, the company was hampered–manifestly and predictably so given the fundamental conflict of interest–and new internet distribution channels ran away with their prize.

Let’s end this stupid naivete of the press. Let’s call the AOL-Time-Warner failure exactly what it was: a scam that enriched the CEOs and left the shareholders holding the bag.

You’ll never hear this truth from CNN. As a Time-Warner component, CNN will never publicize the scandalous behavior and the malfeasance of its corporate parent’s executives. In this day and age, it behooves everyone to rely on reason and sound judgment rather than any corporate news outlet. Obviously, they are out to fool everyone, especially their own shareholders.

Why Microsoft Sucks

Nothing can possibly explain Microsoft’s total ineptitude in the consumer electronics market than the composition of its board. The only real techie is Bill Gates, who never really understood consumer electronics. Reed Hastings understands the efficiencies to be gained from digital delivery of movies, but nobody on this board knows has the background that would lend itself to understanding software design, device architecture, or user experience. Virtually everyone on this board has a business training, and that probably explains why nobody can see beyond Microsoft’s traditional business model of leveraging its monopoly status solely for the purpose of exploiting its customers.

With his departure, the Redmond computer giant (NASDAQ: MSFT) will have nine members: Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft; Steve Ballmer, CEO; Dina Dublon, former CFO of JPMorgan Chase; Raymond Gilmartin, former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Merck & Co. Inc.; Reed Hastings, founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix Inc.; Maria Klawe, president, Harvey Mudd College; David Marquardt, general partner at August Capital; Charles Noski, former vice chairman of AT&T Corp.; and Helmut Panke, former chairman of the board of management at BMW AG

via Cash leaving Microsoft board – Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)