Category: Business

Twitter wants to know what other apps you have on your phone

Twitter, hungry for new data to fuel its targeted advertising, will start looking at what other apps its users have downloaded.

Starting Wednesday, the company will begin collecting data on which other apps its users have on their iOS and Android smartphones. The data, Twitter says, will help it deliver better “tailored content” to its users. That’s sure to include ads, but maybe also better recommendations about whom to follow when users sign up, or more relevant first tweets in the feed, which could help Twitter hook people early.

It’s strictly a list of the apps users have installed, Twitter says, not data pertaining to what people do inside those apps. So Twitter would know if you have a ride-hailing app, but it wouldn’t see your rides taken with the app.

Well, this week, anyway.

…Twitter’s move stands to raise privacy concerns at least among some people, perhaps depending on which other apps are on their phones.

Twitter’s data collection will start automatically, unless users have already turned on the built in “limit ad tracking” or “opt out of interest-based ads” option on iOS or Android phones, respectively. Twitter users will be notified of the data collection, but they can turn it off at any time from within their app’s settings, Twitter says. If users turn it off, the data is removed from Twitter’s servers…the company says.

Is the NSA buying stock in Twitter, yet?

Thanks, Mike

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Creepy journal accepts bogus study requesting removal from mailing list

An open-access “predatory” academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.

The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title’s seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

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Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

“There’s been this move to open-access publishing which has often meant essentially a user-pays system,” Vamplew said. “So you pay to have the paper published and it’s available to the public for free.”

An academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Jeffrey Beall, told Nature magazine last year that up to 10% of open-access journals were exploiting the model by charging a fee to proofread, peer-review and edit a research paper without actually carrying out the work.

“They’re predatory journals, preying on young, inexperienced researchers who unwittingly don’t realise they’re of questionable quality,” Vamplew said.

Weeks later he received good news: “It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair.”

BTW, they still haven’t taken him off their mailing list – even with the event going viral in Australia and elsewhere.

Top of the charts for funerals in the UK

A British survey has named Monty Python song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as the country’s most-requested funeral tune…For the first time ever, the song, from Life of Brian, topped a regular poll conducted by Britain’s Co-operative Funeral Care.

The goofy diddy took over the spot held by Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” for more than a decade. In fact, “My Way” was bumped down to the No. 5 spot.

The results of the poll came from information from 30,000 funerals held in Britain.

Har. Banned for blasphemy when the film, “The Life of Brian” first came out in the UK – it’s nice to see that ordinary folks’ sensibilities and whimsy have surpassed every negative classification assigned the movie and the music by officially conservative clods.

Microsoft campus defended by autonomous robot guards


look, mom – a new kind of Dalek

With proprietary secrets and employees to protect, Microsoft turns to special robot guards to keep its Silicon Valley campus safe…

While it sounds high-tech and interesting, these drones are not reminiscent of RoboCop. They are five feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. Equipment includes cameras, sensors, alarms, and rudimentary artificial intelligence, but no weapons. Their primary function is to patrol large areas like parking lots and alert human security guards to any danger or intrusion.

The system was built and designed by Knightscope, a company located in Mountain View, California. Knightscope markets the robots as data machines that demand to be noticed and yet offer a non-intimidating presence. The company kept the robots in development for several years as engineers perfected a discerning camera.

The resulting high-definition cameras read license plates and distinguish between a harmless employee gathering and something sinister, like an attempted break-in. Other specific equipment includes microphones, weather sensors, loud alarms, and Wi-Fi connectivity to alert human security enforcement. In addition to scanning for intruders, the robots can detect explosives, possible natural disasters, and other emergencies…

As of now, Microsoft has five drones monitoring the campus. Once aware of a possible disturbance, the K5 will either sound its alarm or contact a human. If people attempt to mess with it, it will first sound a warning and then work up to a piercing alarm if the behavior continues…

Purchasing the robots is a cost-savings venture allowing Microsoft to hire fewer security guards. Competitively priced, Knightscope indicates that any company can deploy several robots and make crime prevention much easier.

Still sounds like this is a project designed to evolve into Robocop. Or Daleks.

Thanks, Mike

Jay Leno cancels appearance at gun show

gunviolence
Thanks, Ursarodinia

Comedian Jay Leno cancelled his participation in hosting a gun event next year, less than 24 hours after three reform groups created a petition asking the former “Tonight Show” host to think twice about associating himself with the organization.

Leno was scheduled to moderate the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, an annual event backed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The trade association is a pro-gun lobbying group based in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

“When it came to his attention that this was actually a pro-gun lobby show, he immediately cancelled his appearance,” Bruce Bobbins, spokesman for Leno, told msnbc. The gig was presented to the comedian as a sportsman show, which he assumed focused on hunting, Bobbins added…

Members of the Newtown Action Alliance said Leno called the chairman of their group Wednesday night to inform her of his decision and to reveal that he wasn’t aware NSSF is based about three miles from the site of the shooting rampage.

NSSF publicly opposes gun-reform legislation, including bills that would close the loophole in the federal background checks system. Under the law, buyers can purchase firearms at gun shows and on the Internet without passing background checks.

Leno doesn’t consider himself a conservative. I do. I consider him an old-fashioned American conservative which means he still cares for people and human rights – and doesn’t let his political life be governed by the elitist ideology of today’s Republican Party. He certainly doesn’t care to be seen as a flunky for one of the most reactionary segments of our nation’s corporate hierarchy.

Bravo!

Google joins fight against overfishing


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Google has partnered with SkyTruth and Oceana to produce a new tool to track global fishing activity. Known as Global Fishing Watch, the interactive web tool uses satellite data to provide detailed vessel tracking, and aims to harness the power of citizen engagement to tackle the issue of overfishing.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are working at peak capacity, with as much as one-third of marine fish stocks now suffering from overfishing.

Though a clear issue, the distant and out-of-sight nature of commercial fishing creates a problem when it comes to accountability. To help combat this, Google has teamed up with marine advocacy group Oceana and mapping company SkyTruth to develop the Global Fishing Watch – a tool that allows anyone with an internet connection access to the timing and position of intensive fishing around the world…

The tool shows users the number of hours that individual ships spent fishing certain areas, and allows almost anyone to explore global fishing activity. Users can filter data by country, and can even look at the route taken by individual vessels, with a data point being created every time a ship sets and retrieves its lines.

In the long run, it provides fisherman and companies with an opportunity to illustrate that they’re obeying the law in regard to overfishing. It will also likely prove a useful tool for researchers, who will be able to access a comprehensive database of global fishing activity, with data spanning back for years.

I grew up in a family that relied on subsistence fishing for most of our weekly animal protein. It was early days for coastal trawlers. They would be considered small and inefficient by today’s factory ship standards.

Still, we knew if just one showed up and wandered along our favorite fishing spots – no matter what variety of fish was running at the time – we might as well pack up and go home. There would be nothing left for us for the next few days.

No one in government cared a rat’s ass either.

Board your flight – check email – upload paperwork – get billed over $1000!

wifi phone bill

When it comes to offering Wi-Fi in the sky, airlines enjoy a situational monopoly. Still, this takes the cake: a Singapore Airlines passenger stepped off a plane, looked at his phone and discovered this bill for $1,171.46:

As the passenger, Jeremy Gutsche, explains on TrendHunter, the eye-popping total came about as result of ordinary internet use — sending emails, uploading documents and such things. But since the airline’s $28.99 sign-on fee only included a paltry 30 MB of data, the overage charges hit hard.

“I wish I could blame an addiction to Netflix or some intellectual documentary that made me $1200 smarter. However, the Singapore Airlines internet was painfully slow, so videos would be impossible and that means I didn’t get any smarter… except about how to charge a lot of money for stuff. I did learn that,” noted Gutsche…

Meanwhile, the airlines are locked into long-term exclusive contracts with Wi-Fi providers like Gogo, which appears to have settled a recent price-gouging suit but has failed to bring down prices. The hope of future competition doesn’t look great either, as AT&T this week said it would ground plans to build in-flight Wi-Fi.

The article ends with a CYA explanation about startup costs for airplane wifi services. Scant help to consumers who have been shafted.

And a lousy business model – apparently acceptable to some providers.

So, a word of caution. Check what’s included in what you sign up for. You know from the gitgo that airlines aren’t in the business of providing anything at a reasonable cost. They will screw you a bit more for some services than others.

When Jack Ma throws a one-day sale, he ain’t just kidding!

singles dat sale
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Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma looks back at a giant electronic screen showing real-time sales figures of the company’s Taobao.com and Tmall.com, on the “Singles’ Day” online shopping festival, at the company headquarters in Hangzhou, China.

Watching the sidebar on Bloomberg TV, they reported over $9.3 billion in the 24-hour sale. The first billion$ took 12 minutes. During peak hours, Alibaba was processing 19,000 sales per second.

Contractor uses taxpayer dollar$ to lobby illegally for no-bid contract


Click to enlarge — Yup, we pick up the tab for this, every year

A top government contractor managing a key Department of Energy laboratory inappropriately sought help from lawmakers and Obama administration officials to obtain a no-bid contract extension worth $2.4 billion per year, according to a federal review.

…Department of Energy Inspector General Gregory Friedman cited planning documents from Sandia Corporation showing that the firm, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that operates Sandia National Laboratories, formulated a strategy to “campaign aggressively (Administration and Congress) to convince [then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu] to extend the M&O contract.”

Former New Mexico congresswoman Heather Wilson, a Republican, was involved in the efforts, according to the review. The ex-lawmaker now runs a consulting firm and serves as president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Sandia’s tactics included persuading the New Mexico congressional delegation, a former U.S. senator, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and top advisers to the energy secretary to pressure Chu…

Friedman said the costs of the efforts were “borne by the U.S. taxpayers,” because Sandia paid for them with money that the federal government had previously given to the firm. He added that the plan represented a violation of federal acquisition guidelines and a federal law barring the use of congressionally appropriated funds to influence contracting decisions.

Sandia had sought a six-year, no-bid extension, but the Department of Energy ultimately extended the contract for two years without competition so the agency could prepare for a “full and open competition,” the inspector general said.

Well, it’s a good thing the representatives of our government are so tough on scumbags using sleazy illicit tactics. How can Sandia possibly expect to keep the wolf from the door with only a two-year no-bid contract to prepare itself for an actual competitive bid?

This crap criminality doesn’t even make good fiction.

Thanks, Mike

Obama finally backs net neutrality — UPDATED

US President Barack Obama voiced support for a new regulatory system for Internet providers aimed at avoiding a two-speed system leaving some services in an online “slow lane.”

Obama endorsed an effort to reclassify the Internet as a public utility to give regulators authority to enforce “net neutrality,” the principle barring Internet service firms from playing favourites or opening up “fast lanes” for those who pay more.

In a statement on Monday, Obama said he wants the independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

Obama’s comment comes as the FCC seeks to draft new rules to replace those struck down this year by a US appeals court, which said the agency lacked authority to regulate Internet service firms as it does telephone carriers.

“‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation – but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted,” Obama said in a statement.

“We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” Obama added…

Obama also said he wants the same rules to apply to mobile broadband, which was not covered in the earlier regulations.

Predictable creeps, ranging from profiteers in cable and telecom to absolute ignoranuses like Ted Cruz are lining up according to pay grade to oppose equal access to Web communications. Cruz, of course, is chartered by his owners to oppose anything that contains the word “equal”. The telecom model is simply to lie even more than politicians. Usually about imaginary costs and research.

While we do have some of the most expensive broadband in the world – we’re down to about 18th in the world for the speeds we get for our buck$.

UPDATE: FCC chairman kicks the can down the road – to have backing of rightwing Congress. So much for government agencies dedicated to the good of the whole nation, eh?