Category Archives: Software

Artificial Intelligence as a Blogging Topic

AI-Blogging

A friend asked me recently if he should get into blogging, I told him “yes!”, because I think it’ll help him hone a writing style and to get comfortable being exposed in social media and the pluses and minuses that come with blogging.

So he asked what he should blog about, he’s a geek so I looked at recent news events to see if anything popped and sure enough it did.

What’s going on with Artificial Intelligence today? In the last few weeks there’s been lots of news about AI, surely it’s a new enough field that it’s worth hosting a blog dedicated to just this topic, right?

Here’s a couple of interesting things I’ve seen recently on AI…

AI-Microsoft

Less than a day after she joined Twitter, Microsoft’s AI bot, Tay.ai, was taken down for becoming a sexist, racist monster. AI experts explained that it went terribly wrong because she was just mimicking the horrible things people were saying to her, no different than a parrot learning some bad words.

She was developed to act as a teenage girl, but after less than a day on Twitter, Microsoft’s chatbot—an AI system called “Tay.ai”—unexpectedly turned into a Hitler-loving, feminist-bashing troll. So what went wrong? TechRepublic turns to the AI experts for insight into what happened and how we can learn from it.

When Tay started training on patterns that were input by trolls online, it started using those patterns. Oops, time to make some tweaks and maybe socialize her a little so she recognizes these situations.

Frankly, my favorite AI has to be Cortana, well maybe she’s not AI but rather a personal assistant.

AI-Google-Deepmind

Google DeepMind project is based on technologies from a British AI company that Google bought a few years ago. It’s a neural network that learns how to play games in a way that is similar to that of humans. It also mimics the short term memory of the human brain.

DeepMind made headlines recently after Google’s AlphaGo algorithm, based on DeepMind, beat world champion Lee Se-do in a series of Go matches. If there’s an end game for DeepMind, it’s not winning games, it’s solving intelligence and using it to help society solve some of the biggest problems humanity faces today. But even Google’s DeepMind scientists say that Human-level artificial intelligence has a long way to go.

This week we also learned that Deepmind is tasking a machine learning system with creating cards for Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, as part of research into language generation.

As you can see there’s some very cool things going on in AI you might consider getting into the scene at the ground floor and blogging about it, or creating a website about Artificial Intelligence. If you do, I recommend you start with website builder reviews to get your start.

AI-end of the world

AI is such a great topic to blog and discuss, not just from the cool advancements being made but from the doomsday scenarios being posed by some of the biggest influencers in science and computer science today.

Lately scientists are now publicly discussing the downside to AI in the future, including the end of mankind because of it. Here’s a few examples – renowned physicist Stephen Hawking fears that AI  could result in the end of the human race.

And Bill Gates says he doesn’t ” understand why some people are not concerned” that an artificial super-intelligence by mid-century might save (or destroy) human civilization. Elon Musk also fears that we are heading blindly down a path we don’t understand in our effort to develop super-smart AI: “”We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.”

 

 

Zolt – My Favorite New Mobile App

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Here’s a cool news app I recently discovered and testing on my iPhone (also for Android) called Zolt.

Zolt’s slogan is: Helping You Stay Updated, Quickly

Sometimes you’ve got five minutes to kill, so you just want to quickly find an article to kill the time. Zolt gives you 60-word summaries from the best stories around the web so you can flick through them until you find one you want to read.

It’s a content discovery platform and news aggregator, constantly updating your news stream via filters for the best news, videos and blogs you desire. I was using Google News app and Yahoo News to stay up to date, but Zolt is definitely my go to now when I want an instant news fix.

Link to the iPhone and iPad app

Link to the Android app

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How Google’s Brain is Making Marketing More Personal

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If there’s one marketing trend that’s likely to become more relevant to webmasters and ad agencies in 2016, it’s Google’s desire to make the Internet less intrusive and more personal. Following a host of changes towards the close of 2016, Google now takes a much more negative view on the humble interstitial.

Admittedly something of an annoyance for online and mobile browsers, these ads that sit over the top of a page’s content until you either dismiss them or acquiesce to their offer are now a negative in Google’s eyes.

Interstitials are Bad

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As outlined by Maile Ohye at SMX Advanced in 2015, “interstitials are bad for users” and it’s something Google is looking to tackle in a big way. Following the warning by Ohye in early 2015, things gradually started to shift towards the end of the year.

However, according to Greenlight Digital’s Matt Hawes, when Google takes action against app install interstitials that negatively impact user experience the issue isn’t as black and white as it may seem.

While it’s clear that removing these intrusive ads will improve a user’s overall experience, Hawes has suggested that two different sites can use interstitials in very different ways.

Comparing NME and Yelp, Hawes found that the former would flash up interstitials with no relevance to the page content or user, while the latter would actually offer something of value. However, under Google’s new policy, both sites would be deemed not mobile-friendly because they use interstitials.

Not All Ads are Bad

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Google’s track record with tackling intrusive ads has actually caused problems in the past as webmasters can struggled to keep up with changes. Indeed, back in 2014 Peter Ogtanyan of Pubshare sued Google for $1 million in lost ad revenue after he was refused an expected payout because Google altered its stance on “accidental clicks”.

This ambiguity isn’t helped when Google has been known to tell industry insiders, such as Hawes, that there are “other ways” for sites to run ads.

Fortunately, Google does seem to have some preference when it comes to adverts and one it appears to be favouring as we head further into 2016 is the use of personal PPC. While many webmasters will know that paid advertising can be expensive if it’s not used correctly (Hochman Consultants estimated the average conversion cost per customer using PPC in 2015 was $44.50), tech geeks will also appreciate that Google knows more about us than almost anyone else.

To that end, Google launched its Customer Match service in September 2015. Designed to make advertising much more personal, the premise is simple: those with an email list and ads to push upload their contacts to Google and it will then show each user specific adverts each time they’re logged into their Google account.

Whether they’re conducting a Google search, reading their Gmail or watching videos on YouTube, Customer Match will allow companies to target individual users with ads that may be relevant to them.

Using Tech to Create a More Personal World

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Essentially, what appears to be happening is that Google is continuing to evolve into a purveyor of specificity. However, as has been noted by tech experts such as Hawes, the negative implications for all interstitials might actually go against this principle.

While it’s true that most interstitials are general and unrelated to the page content they’re blocking, it’s also true that some ads are relevant and, therefore, appealing to users. According to a Venture Beat study in 2013, well placed interstitials resulted in a 25X increase in video vide, a 7X increase in conversions and a 9X increase in Effective Cost Per Mille (eCPMs).

However, as with all major changes, it’s likely that Google is taking a broad approach with a mind to refine things later.

It’s clear from the 2015 launch of initiatives such as Customer Match that Google wants companies to use its search brain to be more specific in their marketing efforts. This could mean that personalised interstitials could be exempt from Google’s negative ranking stick in the near future.

However things play out in 2016, what is clear is that marketing will continue to become less general and more specific thanks to the power of Google’s matrix of personal data.

You can now stream movies from The Pirate Bay & Popcorn Time

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Popcorn Time has made a comeback with the launch of its new Web version – Popcorn Time Online – that allows users to stream all of the movies and TV shows it offers (illegally) directly in their browser using a new browser plugin called Torrents Time.

The Pirate Bay is also getting into the streaming action – The plugin for Windows and Mac computers has also turned The Pirate Bay into the world’s biggest streaming site. Look for the ‘Stream it!” button next to the download option.

The Torrents Time plugin lets people stream torrents embedded in webpages without needing to use an external client or download the torrent itself. Developed by the team behind Popcorn-Time.se, a spin-off from the popular pirated streaming service, Torrents Time can be added to any torrenting site.

On Demand Everything – Get Xperts

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First Uber made transportation an on demand service, then companies like AirBnb and Hotel Tonight made travel and housing an on demand service. Now you can get everything on demand from a dog sitter via DogVacay or your grocery shopping via Instacart.

But what about knowledge workers? Where do you go if you are stuck on a problem with Microsoft Excel or some other software program? Tech support is normally a dead end, but now a new company called Get Xperts is changing that.

GetXperts.com is offering experts on demand. They are starting with Microsoft Excel and Google Adwords and they plan to grow into all major software programs as well as Finance, Design, law and any other field that employs knowledge workers.

“Uber is a great company, but they are thinking too small” says founder and CEO Justin Baker. “The market for knowledge workers is more than 10 times bigger than the market for taxis and we are the only company going after it with the on demand solution.

You don’t need to sign up or create an account to get started. Just visit their site and call or email and they will see if they can solve your problems. If so you agree on a price and pay after receiving the service.

3 Great Services to Help You Test Your SMTP Server

When you are crafting an application which is supposed to send emails to customers, it is a good idea to test its email delivery functionality. Making sure that you are not sending messages to real email addresses is a bit cumbersome. But there is a great solution to this issue – fake SMTP servers. We’ve taken a look at three of them, and here’s what we’ve found:

DevNull SMTP

DevNull SMTP is a Java-based fake SMTP server. It helps you view the client-server communication and troubleshoot effectively if there is anything wrong with your application. These dummy emails don’t actually go anywhere, they are sent to the DevNull SMTP server, where you can view them, and then they get deleted. DevNull SMTP can run from your browser. Alternatively, you can download the application and run it using the command line.

MailCatcher

MailCatcher works in a similar way. It catches all the emails sent to its server and displays them in a web interface. The setup procedure is pretty straightforward – download the program, set it according to the instructions given at the service’s website, run MailCatcher and set its SMTP instead of the default SMTP server of your app. MailCatcher shows your messages as HTML, Plain Text and Source versions. You can also download the original message to view in your email client. MailCatcher is written very simply, so if there is something you’d like to change, you can easily dive in and do it. There are a number of other great features that make MailCatcher a great tool for your email testing purposes.

Mailtrap email server test

Mailtrap is a fantastic service. What really sets this tool apart from the competition is that email testing isn’t the only thing it can be used for. With Mailtrap you can see how your email will be displayed in all major web email clients, test it for spam and blacklist to make sure it lands in your clients’ inboxes, organize your test emails as you like or forward them to regular inboxes.

The setup process is incredibly fast and easy. You simply set Mailtrap as your app’s SMTP server, and that’s it. You can also use one of the following popular framework configs: Symfony, Django, Ruby on Rails, JBoss, Zend Framework, etc.

Mailtrap is available for free, but only if one inbox is enough for your email testing goals. More inboxes and some other features come with two paid subscription plans. The other two services we’ve talked about here are open-source, and therefore completely free to download and use, but they don’t have all the cool features that Mailtrap has to offer. However, if you run an open source or a non-profit project, you’ll be happy to know that one of Mailtrap’s subscription plans is also available for you free of charge.

United Airlines Rolls Out Bug Bounty Program

United Airlines

Earlier in the year, 10k frequent flier accounts were hacked, United is trying to make up for this by leveraging the expertise of the broader community of software engineers. To be clear, this program is not related to any of the third party customer facing web properties or apps.

From Info-Security Magazine:

In the wake of a high-profile frequent flier account hack, United Airlines has rolled out a bug bounty program, promising airline miles for vulnerabilities. A lot of miles too: up to 1 million for a remote code execution flaw.

United said that it’s looking for issues that affect the confidentiality, integrity and/or availability of customer or company information. The eligible list includes: Authentication bypass; bugs on customer-facing websites, the United app or third-party programs loaded by united.com or its other online properties; cross-site request forgery (CSRF) and cross-site scripting (XSS); potential for information disclosure; remote code execution; timing attacks that prove the existence of a private repository, user or reservation; and the ability to brute-force reservations, MileagePlus numbers, PINs or passwords.

 

New Machine Learning Course on Coursera

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Coursera has just opened a new version  of the course “Machine Learning” in the on demand format.

Machine learning is the science of getting computers to act without being explicitly programmed. In the past decade, machine learning has given us self-driving cars, practical speech recognition, effective web search, and a vastly improved understanding of the human genome. Machine learning is so pervasive today that you probably use it dozens of times a day without knowing it. Many researchers also think it is the best way to make progress towards human-level AI. In this class, you will learn about the most effective machine learning techniques, and gain practice implementing them and getting them to work for yourself.

The on demand format allows you to work through the materials at your own pace. All materials are available at any time, and there are no deadlines for exercises or assignments.

Skype as “Universal Translator”

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Microsoft has released its first preview of Skype Translator, which allows real-time conversations between spoken English and Spanish and will be extended to more languages. The program will learn by recording conversations in order to analyze scripts and train the system to better learn each language.

The preview program kicks-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.

Read details on this “universal translator” at the Skype blog announcement.

Apps that help you pass the time

Apps that help you pass the time 

There is always the possibility to be caught passing the time just because the bus or the train has not yet arrived or lining up to get a ticket or an entry to a certain place. At this point of time, boredom can easily set in and it is the most awful state to be in. However, with the explosion of the internet and mobile technology, and also by simply downloading apps, passing the time has never been that awesome and cool.

Games Apps

Adults and the young will surely keep awake and alive by playing mobile games. Angry Birds is a game app that keeps the young and the old with wide-open eyes while figuring it out how to destroy Pig’s brick and ice fortress. It is a popular game that can be easily downloaded on iPhones, Ipad and androids tablets. The Plant and the Zombies is another engaging mobile game that will surely bash boredom. If you have skills in playing poker or blackjacks, the best way to pass the time is play mobile casino. You kick out the boredom and at the same time, you can earn extra money that you can use to level up your gadget.

Entertainment Apps

Love to read? Take your mid-range tablet or your Kindle and read you favorite authors. You can even reread some of the classic novels and recall passages that have been part of your life. You can download and read free online magazine like the Cosmo, Vogue and the iconic Reader’s Digest. If you want to be entertained and laugh out your boredom away, get Youtube app and watch funny and crazy videos. The best way to have fun is to have some good laughs. Google reader is a hybrid reader and audio and you can follow your favorite blogs or stream music.

Music

Tuneln Radio is unlike Pandora as it only streams popular radio channels. It lets you tune in most locals and abroad radio channels. Spotify on the other hand will allow you to listen to your music even without an internet connection. To avail this feature you must have Spotify Premium account. The app is free but there is a monthly subscription fee.

Passing the time is a moment when you are in a slow pace and looks like there‘s no need to hurry up. It’s a state when you can easily have moments of pleasures all for yourself.

 

The Most Common Smartphone Passcodes

 

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Daniel Amitay collected passcodes from thousands of iPhones and provides some analysis of the passcodes people are using on the smartphone. This is really interesting stuff.

The Top 10 iPhone passcodes were: 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683, 0852, 2222, 1212, 1998

Is yours listed?  🙂

A couple of things to note here, I think his sample size is probably large enough that the data is probably roughly applicable to Android and WP7 as well, not just limited to the behaviors of iPhone users themselves.

If you want just the analysis, head to the link above. If you want the backstory around how he collected this information, it starts with the Big Brother Camera app for the iPhone which reached #18 most popular iPhone application. Then leads to analysis of passcodes his app was sending back (not the screen unlock codes!), and eventually the back and forth with Apple as they removed his app.

Sergey Brin Blows Smoke Up Your A**

Google Book

“Big Money” analyzes Sergey Brin’s NYTimes op-ed piece proclaiming Google has your best interest at heart in the Google Book Search project:

At least it’s an exotic experience. How many times have you had a man worth billions work so hard to whip out his Google, leak on your leg, and swear to God it’s raining? Today, Sergey Brin does his best to sell you the snake-oil that his Google Book Search project is an undiluted good for the world, all those annoying monopoly worries aside.

Or, if you’re a believer, you can read the op-ed piece by Brin and just for yourself.

Trekkers Rejoice! Star Trek MMO First Look

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I can’t tell you just how long I’ve been waiting for this bad boy to be released!  I’d heard rumors of it as far back as two years ago, when NCSoft was shutting down some of its earlier developed games, and announced upcoming developments.  If you remember, Andy and I were down in Vegas last summer, and had an opportunity to check out some of the literature for the game there, and there was even a presentation of the MMO by none other than Leonard Nimoy himself.  Early videos promised some beautiful, yet functional space battles, unique character customizations, and many innovative worlds to explore.  One of the online consultants from MMORPG.com has had an opportunity to play the game, and give a semi-detailed analysis of its play HERE.

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I’m chomping at the bit to play this game – and I’m hoping that it’s released soon.  With the new Star Trek movie just around the corner, it would be a smart move to ride the popularity coattails to help promote the game.  Especially since this early look suggests that there are tie-ins between the MMO and movie 🙂

Titan Backup With A Bang!

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Hey folks!  Our good friend, Flavius Saracut over at Neobyte Solutions (creators of Titan Backup)got a hold of me the other day to tell me about a fantastic weekly giveaway they’re sponsoring right now.  Every week, one lucky person will walk away with a 500gb LaCie external hard disk.  How awesome is that?  I think everyone could use an extra 500gb of storage, myself included :)  All you have to do is head on over to their website, and click on the banner across the top of the page.  Good luck!

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Click HERE to go check out the review on Titan Backup!