So, the hot topic right now is Facebook after the Cambridge Analytic story broke.
To put this into perspective, Facebook accumulated a net income of 15.9 billion US dollars in 2017 from 2.2 billion monthly active users. Most of this income was from advertising alone, which just goes to show that they must be able to profile someone pretty accurately to make their information that valuable to third parties.
Personally i was very aware that Facebook, being one of many a free social media services, would utilise any data i added to help drive up their advertising revenue (Social Media Data) But what with the current public outcry, it would seem that many were not.
So, what is Social Media Data? Social media data is information that’s collected from social media platforms. It shows how users view, share and engage with your content. On Facebook, social media data includes numbers of likes, increases in followers, or number of shares. On Twitter, results include numbers of impressions or retweets. On Instagram, hashtag usage and engagement rates are included in the raw data.
Once this information is mined, organisations can begin marking trends, measuring engagement and drawing insights that further influence their business strategies.
The biggest issue with Cambridge Analytic is the method they used to collate such a vast quantity of data. Though technically they didn't break any rules as the data they collected was in fact all Public knowledge anyway. They didn't have to hack, or steal information, it was present as part of the Facebook platform.
Don't believe me.... well, this is a quick list of data collection tools for just Facebook and Twitter links, but bare in mind Instagram is the biggest source of Social Media information and I've not covered that here:
Facebook data collection tools (applications):
Social data vendors (these sell data for analysis within their own platforms or independently):
Yup, with all those tools, you really don't need to be a big organisation to exploit this Public data.
So what can you do about it? Well, you could delete your accounts! but for me thats a bit extreme. Id suggest you check and re-check your security settings, restrict the data Social Media services can collect on you. Read their terms and conditions and educate yourself as to what product you are providing Social Media companies.
Here's a great website that walks changing your Privacy and Security settings on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter: https://www.europol.europa.eu/how-to-set-your-privacy-settings-social-media
Remember, nothing is really ever truly free, If you are not paying for it, you're the product.
A quick follow up to my earlier post about Windows 10, i mentioned that the Win 10 OS will ship with Cortana pre-installed, even for PC and laptop. Interestingly, Microsoft Windows has always dabbled with speech recognition, hell i remember trying to teach my Dads Packard Bell running Windows 95 to understand speech, but for me, it never really nailed it! I mean Cortana was actually last in line for the virtual assistants on the mobile platform, with Google and Apple taking the lead. Lets not forget though, that these are speech recognition engines as part of a bigger OS, its not a specialisation for any of the companies previously mentioned. So, what about those specialist apps? What kind of level are they not operating at? Well, i recently saw a demonstration of an app called 'Hound', its produced by SoundHound inc, who's music recognition app (like Shazam) i have used on many occasions. Rather than ramble on, im going to just link a couple of video's below, the first is a Windows Vista speech recognition test (which is hilarious!!) the second is an internal demonstration of Hound, ill let the video's speak for themselves (though in the Vista video @input eagles had me in stitches!!)
So this week I attended a Microsoft Windows 10 road show, and I must admit, for the first time in years, I truly feel that one of the big competitors has finally pulled innovation back out of the bag and decided to use it again.
For context, I have a Windows 7 machine, an Ubuntu machine and a CentOS machine at home. Im more an open source fanboy these days, but after years of working on Windows servers and client alike, Win7 has always been a happy place for me. This as you can imagine is fine, but the disappointment of Vista, Windows 8 and even 8.1 to some extent, really left me thinking that Linux flavours were the future (I mean Ubutu is easier to use than Windows!!)
I attended a few of the Microsoft sessions without too much hope and expecting a very healthy dose of ‘Micro$oft Marketing’. Firstly, the desktop, it has the Start button back ala 8.1 (#Cheers) It also has all the integrated apps available just like Windows phone (more on that later). Now the interesting moment came when it was announced that Windows 10 also shipped with Cortana…. We all know Microsoft has dealt with languages and speech recognition for years (heck I remember trying to teach my dad’s Packard bell running Windows 95 to swear!!) but to integrate a mobile capability to a desktop…. Ok I’m interested now.
Next we look at the ‘Smart Snap’ function, so not only can you snap to edge, you can choose to dock documents alongside each other. Ok, pretty nifty but meh, old hat really…. but now were somewhere different (for windows) multiple desktops…. Now this is close to my heart as it’s a Linux feature that allows me to have a Work Desktop and a play Desktop with different shortcuts and documents! Bravo M$ for finally taking the hint!!
Next they open the File Explorer app…. Wait…. Did you say “app”? Yes. File explorer, photo editor, Office, they are now all apps. This is because the Windows 10 operating system is universal, you install the same software on a phone, phablet, tablet, pc, desktop, the OS simply resizes and amends the UI to fit!! This means ‘EVERYTHING’ is universal!! Heck, you can plug a phone into a dock, set it to PC mode and use it as a fully functional PC with the Windows Start button and everything, it simply renders the PC UI on the monitor!! They call this capability ‘Continuum’ and they boldly announce that Windows 10 will be the “Last Major Version of Windows”. OK, now I’m interested and paying much closer attention.
Next, Edge, the new Microsoft web browser (see, you can tell I’m liking them more as I dropped the $!) its very plain looking and minimalistic, it comes with an inbuilt reading view that removes all ads, video’s and images from the screen, so you just get the text and you can actually read it. It also comes with an inbuilt offline mode so you can save the content to read later. This is not that impressive as you’ve been able to do that for years with ‘add ons’. Personally I don’t expect Edge to make much of an impact on a market where Chrome and Firefox are well and truly in charge.
Next up, the Security upgrades. They opened this segment with a very bold statement…. “You will never need passwords again!” Say what…. Basically they have decided to use a either a physical of virtual TPM (Trusted Platform Module). So what does that mean? It means that you use biometrics to access your machine, full face recognition or fingerprints, this then authenticates you onto your local TPM chip, this is called Microsoft Hello. Now, that chip then uses encrypted certificates (as part of Microsoft passport) to communicate with websites, email, banking etc. and automatically log you in! No password = nothing for anyone to hack! No local password means no NLM hash stealing and unauthorised network access…. That’s actually really cool and very much unexpected to come as default!
Microsoft Hello and Passport: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AsoSnOmhvU
Well after that one I’m stoked! But the best is definitely still to come and it left me jabbering on like a old fish wife to my colleagues for the rest of the afternoon. This session was pre-fixed with the following statement “Everything you see here is functional and production ready. This isn’t CGI, these are actual real life user experiences captured for demonstrative purposes”
They then proceeded to play this video: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us?video-url=vdeHHP
Yep, god damned real life holograms!!!! This is the Hololense, it is a fully functional Windows 10 laptop that is mounted inside a headset and can project your computer screen onto any surface. It has Bluetooth connectivity so you can use a keyboard and mouse, but it functions primarily off Gesture, Sound and Gaze!!! Basically you walk into a room; it scans the room and then uses it as a canvas!! You then use your hands to start throwing out spreadsheets like Shuriken (ninja stars). You can stick bloody excel spread sheets to a wall, walk out of the room and they’ll still be there when you come back!! You can open up Netflix full screen and make it follow you around the house!! Best of all it can be fully immersive like the vomit inducing Oculus Rift (it’s so immersive it makes you dizzy and feel queasy) or it leaves your peripheral vision unhampered, which allows your eyes and head (and stomach!) to adjust and not spin you out! I mean who wouldn’t want to turn their kitchen of lounge into a unique Minecraft world and the flick of a switch!!! Honestly, the possibilities with this are endless!! It is the future (with a large subset of humanity never leaving the house again!! Especially when you think they have Holoskype….. videos to follow but look at the mars scene in the video, that’s work they have done with NASA to recreate Mars on earth, the golden avatar is another person sitting in their office looking at exactly the same Mars land scape and interacting within it…. #Perspective)
We were shown several other videos, given a date for the Dev kits to be released, a cost and an estimated arrival on the market, but unfortunately those details are still Confidential.
To surmise, I’m impressed. Microsoft has been able to hide a piece of technology they have been working on for years and make it functional and practical to both home and business users. I mean the motorcycle scene is real, it is a 3D modelling application that takes the model off screen and allows you to place it in a real life scenario, any amendments you make are then saved back. Personally I can’t wait to play Minecraft with my kids… and I can say that I won’t have to sell one of them to afford Hololense either….
NOTE: This is partly plagiarised (the crazy maths bits) but it was really just too mind blowing to not share.
In the last 8 years, Amazon AWS, Google and a number of other players have come to dominate the utility computing market. As a consumer of these services, It's sometimes hard to comprehend the sheer scale Cloud Computing has achieved.
What is Amazon Web Services (AWS)?
"Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a collection of remote computing services, also called web services that together make up a cloud computing platform by Amazon.com since 2006. The most central and well-known of these services are Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3. The service is advertised as providing a large computing capacity (potentially many servers) much faster and cheaper than building a physical server farm."
Even if you have never heard of it, chances are you are using services built upon it. They power 4OD, Dropbox, duolingo, etsy, Foursquare, IMDb, intuit, Kelloggs, NASA, Netflix, Nike, Pinterest, Reddit, the Royal Opera House, Sage, SAP, Shazaam, Sonos, Spotify, SuperCell, TicketMaster and Zumba to name but a few.
Just How Big is Amazon Web Services?
Simply put, massive. It's not just big; it's off-the-charts-big. According to Gartner, Amazon has over 5 times the number of servers than the next 14 biggest competitors combined. When you consider that these competitors contain the likes of CSC, Google, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Rackspace, Softlayer and VMWare, that gives you a rough idea of just how big AWS really is!
AWS offers services from 11 'Regions' across the world and carves each of these up into a number of distinct 'Availability Zones'. There are currently 28 Availability Zones split across the 11 Regions (each Region contains between 2 to 5 depending on location). An Availability Zone is made up of a number of data-centres pulled together so that, from a customer's point of view, the individual data-centres are invisible. Each Availability Zone contains between 2 and 6 data-centres.
Amazon don't talk in absolutes, but doing some quick maths (and taking the average of each figure given), we can safely estimate that Amazon is currently running around 100 data-centres around the world (note that even the minimum number possible, based on the figures found, is a respectable 60 data centres. I actually think they must be just shy of 100 - if they had broken that barrier I would have thought that we would have heard about it).
Each of these data-centres has between 50,000 and 60,000 servers running at a total of between 25 and 30MW (Amazon states that anything bigger than this and the economies of scale start breaking down - 25-20MW seems to be their sweet-spot).
At a minimum, AWS owns 3 million servers and a middle-of-the-road estimate would put Amazon as owning over 7 million servers. And these would draw around 3 Gig-watts (which, if I recall correctly, is more than enough to get you a round trip to 1955).
Based on the current US Wholesale electricity price of $36/MWh, their daily electricity bill would be around $10.2 million (or $3.7 billion per year).
Noting that Amazon have a long standing pledge to power AWS via 100% renewable sources, it's interesting to note that it would take a 60 square-mile solar farm to achieve this today (the biggest solar farm in the world produces 550MW and covers 9.5 square-miles
Another fascinating stat is that everyday Amazon adds enough new server capacity to support all of their global infrastructure when they were a $7B annual revenue enterprise.
They also build their own power stations; contrary to popular belief, this isn't because they can do it cheaper (it is cheaper, but only by a very small margin), the reason they roll their own is because the Utility companies can't meet their demand fast enough; they are just not geared up for this pace of change.
So how big are their competitors? If we estimate that Amazon has 7m servers (and according to Gartner research, it owns 5x more than the total of the 14 combined), then it stands to reason that the average number of servers owned by their top 14 competitors is around 100,000.
A company with 100,000 servers is not to be sniffed at - that's a huge number in itself and would draw about 50MW of power.
I recently saw a slide pack that utilised the concept of a Black background and White text theme. If I’m honest, I got half way through and i actually found it rather difficult to read, so I stopped.
I started to question the concept of using the white on black theme as it appears to be a recent trend for both presentations and web design alike. It made me wonder what the appeal really was.
Don’t get me wrong, In some instances I think this theme has a high impact and can be visually really appealing, but on the flip side, I also think it can look like a view is underselling itself and the theme actually takes over from the content that is being displayed.
I delved into the world of Google and found lots of arguments for the use of dark backgrounds and light text, but what I also found, and what most people don’t realise, is that there also seem to be some rules that govern its use; as well simple colour schemes that complement the concept.
I guess im trying to understand:
What are people’s thoughts?
Some reading for your consideration, which I think makes some very good points for dark backgrounds used in the correct manner: