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Google Magenta Creates Blah Music But Proves Technology

posted Sunday Jun 5, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Google Magenta Creates Blah Music But Proves Technology

Artificial Intelligence is a computing concept that has been an obsession for many for decades. Science fiction stories are littered with AI, both positive and negative. In the real world, however, AI and neural networks have only recently become a big topic of research because of the power of cloud computing. Distributed computing has been used for long-running computing cycles for years, but now, thanks to the cloud, it can be used for large, short-term processes.

Different companies with distributed computing platforms and neural networks have used it for distinctly different purposes. While Microsoft is using Azure technology to build Cortana, Microsoft Health and the like, IBM has used Watson to design a barbeque sauce. Both have their purposes - Microsoft is building products to show what Azure can do, while IBM is showing the breadth of capabilities of Watson.

Google seems to be following in IBM's footsteps, allowing Magenta to play board games and, as of this week, compose music. The music, available here, isn't very good, but that isn't the point. The point is that the music, minus the drums, was written by first listening to other music, discovering patterns, and then creating something based on it. The music itself will never win an award, but it could help inspire others, like in the linked MP3. The drums were added later, making the music itself sound more engaging.

Douglas Eck, a Google research scientist, said,

Magenta has two goals. First, it's a research project to advance the state of the art in machine intelligence for music and art generation. Machine learning has already been used extensively to understand content, as in speech recognition or translation. With Magenta, we want to explore the other side - developing algorithms that can learn how to generate art and music, potentially creating compelling and artistic content on their own.

As research projects like this increase, the overall knowledge about how neural networks learn the best, and the best ways to build them. Over time, these networks can be used to increase medical knowledge and much more. This is simply the first step of many, but at the current rate of development, those steps will continue to get faster and we can begin to use the technology to accomplish real good.

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Twitter Considered Purchasing Yahoo

posted Sunday Jun 5, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Twitter Considered Purchasing Yahoo

In the tech industry, the billion dollar question is, "What is the future of Yahoo?" A decade ago, the brand was one of the most visited sites on the Internet. Today, however, the company is in disarray and its CEO, Marissa Mayer, has done everything that she can think of to keep the sinking ship afloat. While she has helped the bottom line significantly, she has not been able to patch the hole in the boat.

At first, Mayer fought the idea of selling the company in parts, but eventually agreed to sell it as a whole. Since then, many people and companies have considered adding Yahoo to their portfolios, including Warren Buffet, AT&T and even The Daily Mail. AT&T makes sense with Verizon's purchase of AOL. The Daily Mail makes sense with Tumblr being part of the asset collection. As of today, however, no one has written a check.

This week, according to a New York Post article, Twitter also considered getting into the fray. In fact, Twitter executives minus CEO Jack Dorsey met with Mayer a few weeks back to discuss the possibility of bringing Twitter and Yahoo together. The meetings must not have been successful, however, as they ended unsuccessfully, with no further talks expected.

Can Mayer find a buyer for the company, or is Yahoo destined to continue shrining its relevance until its value is completely lost? Hopefully for the company they find a buyer soon.

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Minecraft Becomes Second Best Selling Videogame Ever

posted Sunday Jun 5, 2016 by Scott Ertz

<i>Minecraft</i> Becomes Second Best Selling Videogame Ever

A videogame that is capable of engaging people of all ages across all demographics comes infrequently. In fact, it happens almost never. Minecraft is, without question, one of those games. Children and adults have become obsessed with the digital LEGO, world-building game across desktop, Windows 10, mobile, console - anywhere you are, you can likely play the game.

That wide availability has led to an achievement worth celebrating - Minecraft is officially the second-most purchased videogame in history, second only to Tetris. One of the main reasons why this achievement is so impressive that Tetris has been on the market for nearly the entire existence of digital computing, and Minecraft has only been around for 4.5 years.

According to their website, which updates the statistics live, the company has sold over 105 million copies of the game across all platforms. That is compared to Tetris, which has sold somewhere in the vicinity of 500 million copies across a variety of platforms, with decades of a head start. Developer Mojang and Microsoft Studios see this merely as a challenge, and one they are willing to undertake. A representative said,

We plan to continue to add new features and support our vibrant, creative community on a variety of platforms across the world!

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Windows Hello Gets Wearable Support Through New API

posted Sunday Jun 5, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Windows Hello Gets Wearable Support Through New API

One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Windows 10 is Windows Hello. This is the altered login system that can use a variety of different unique identifiers to unlock your computer without you having to type your password. Currently, the most common authentication methods are facial recognition and the old standby, fingerprint reader.

Microsoft has made available a new library for developers which gives IoT devices the ability to be used as an authentication method as well. Dubbed the Windows Hello Companion Device Framework, it gives devices full system authentication capabilities, meaning you can unlock your PC, make Windows Store purchases, login to a website on Edge and more, all by wearing your existing device.

Shown at Computex using a Microsoft Band 2, Microsoft says that it would be easy for a developer to include this technology on any Android Wear device, a Pebble, etc. The device can use almost any connection method to pair, including direct connection via cable, Bluetooth, NFC - basically any technology the device itself supports.

The ability to remove passwords and PINs from the equation is an important one, as it also removes the majority of human fallibility from the world of security. No longer will people write down their passwords near their computers or in their laptop bags, choose easy passwords or PINS to secure their computers. Instead, all you need to do is be near your machine - easier and safer for everyone.

It is expected that this feature will make its first public appearance in the upcoming Anniversary Update, along with a host of other new features.

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Amazon Readies Its Next Round of Pilots

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Amazon Readies Its Next Round of Pilots

The video streaming market is fierce. What started with Netflix providing other people's content has become a whole new industry. The Big 3 continue to try to separate themselves from the pack, and a great way to do that is to produce original content.

While Netflix and Hulu tend to subscribe to a more traditional media approach, Amazon has looked to its customer base for feedback about future projects. Over the past few years Amazon has produced a number of pilots and asked its customers to vote on which ones to produce.

This method has produced a number of top quality, award winning shows. This week Amazon announced that its next collection of pilots will be available on June 17. While, like in the past, there are a number of children's shows, there are also 2 hour long adult programs.

The adult shows are both an hour long and feature showrunners with Academy Award nomination, as well as first rate acting talent, including Kelsey Grammar. How many of the shows get picked up for full seasons is entirely up to you. Make sure to watch them and give your feedback if you have Amazon Prime.

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Network Level Ad Blocking to Begin Next Month in the UK

posted Friday May 27, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Network Level Ad Blocking to Begin Next Month in the UK

One topic we've talked about a lot has been in online advertising. Advertising is one of the keys to the free web. Without online advertising, companies like ours can't make money and provide content to you without charging you. Therein lies the main problem with ad blockers.

Until recently, blocking ads on your mobile device was uncommon. Lately, however, it has become a norm. Many mobile browsers allow ad blocking, including Apple's own Safari. Fortunately for content providers and carriers, it is still an opt-in feature.

That could begin to change next month as UK wireless carrier Three will begin testing network level mobile ad blocking. The initial roll out will allow 500,000 current customers to opt-in to the test. This will prevent the devices from accessing the advertising content at all.

The company claims that the move is all about data costs. They believe that the consumer should not be responsible for paying for the bandwidth to transfer the ads. The problem with that theory is that the consumer isn't the only one paying for bandwidth. Anytime an advertisement is accessed, the provider is paying for bandwidth as well. The consumer is also aware that they are visiting a free website that is advertisement supported.

The problem here does not lie with either the consumer or the advertiser; the problem lies with the carrier. If Three truly believes that the consumer should not be paying for bandwidth on certain content the consumer is asking for, then they should stop charging for bandwidth. By making sweeping accusations and a move like this, Three's customers will see a decrease in their data usage, but mostly from sites that are going to block the carrier.

If a site is providing content free of charge, they have to find a way to monetize that content. If a carrier is going to strip a content provider of its ability to pay to produce that content, then the consumers of that content will eventually be penalized.

The trend toward blocking mobile advertising is going to change the Internet, but not for the better.

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