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Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Google Cloud announces new machine learning features for enterprise use

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Machine learning emerges. In the article “Found in translation: More accurate, fluent sentences in Google Translate,” by Barak Turovsky, product lead for Google Translate, writes:

In 10 years, Google Translate has gone from supporting just a few languages to 103, connecting strangers, reaching across language barriers and even helping people find love. At the start, we pioneered large-scale statistical machine translation, which uses statistical models to translate text. Today, we’re introducing the next step in making Google Translate even better: Neural Machine Translation.

Neural Machine Translation has been generating exciting research results for a few years and in September, our researchers announced Google’s version of this technique. At a high level, the Neural system translates whole sentences at a time, rather than just piece by piece. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar. Since it’s easier to understand each sentence, translated paragraphs and articles are a lot smoother and easier to read. And this is all possible because of end-to-end learning system built on Neural Machine Translation, which basically means that the system learns over time to create better, more natural translations.

Today we’re putting Neural Machine Translation into action with a total of eight language pairs to and from English and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. These represent the native languages of around one-third of the world’s population, covering more than 35% of all Google Translate queries! [click image to enlarge – LG]


With this update, Google Translate is improving more in a single leap than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined. But this is just the beginning. While we’re starting with eight language pairs within Google Search  the Google Translate app, and website; our goal is to eventually roll Neural Machine Translation out to all 103 languages and surfaces where you can access Google Translate.

And there’s more coming today too . . .

Continue reading.

And in Martechtoday, Danny Sullivan has an article describing the new cloud platform (and price cuts) for machine learning:

Are you a big business that’s been thinking you’d like some of that machine learning stuff to help with finding job applicants, doing translation, discovering linkages in data, or maybe building your own knowledge graph? Google’s got new offerings out today to help with those and more.

The news came during a special press event for the latest with Google Cloud machine learning. Here’s a summary slide of everything:


Continue reading.

It will be interesting to see how machine learning affects political campaigns…

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2016 at 9:05 am

Paprika Recipe Manager on sale

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I find I use my copy of Paprika Recipe Manager a lot, including for meal planning (deciding on the recipes for the coming week: drag recipe title to the calendar in the program).

Now I see that it is on sale:

Our annual Thanksgiving sale has started once again. All versions of Paprika are discounted until the end of November.

Sale prices:

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2016 at 11:35 am

Posted in Recipes, Software

Protecting Your Digital Life in 7 Easy Steps

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Jonah Bromwich offers some advice in the Washington Post:

There are more reasons than ever to understand how to protect your personal information.

Major hacks seem ever more frequent. Investigators believe that a set of top-secret National Security Agency hacking tools were offered to online bidders this summer.

And many of those worried about expanded government surveillance by the N.S.A. and other agencies have taken steps to secure their communications.

In a recent Medium post, Quincy Larson, the founder of Free Code Camp, an open-source community for learning to code, detailed the reasons it might be useful for people to make their personal data more difficult for attackers to access.

“When I use the term ‘attacker’ I mean anyone trying to access your data whom you haven’t given express permission to,” he wrote. “Whether it’s a hacker, a corporation, or even a government.”

In an interview, Mr. Larson walked us through some of the basic steps he recommended. We added a few of our own, based on additional interviews.

We encourage you to write back with feedback on this article. If the instructions are too vague, the apps aren’t working for you or you have additional questions, we want to hear about it. Send an email to

Now, let’s encrypt.

1. Download Signal, or Start Using WhatsApp to send text messages.

Encryption is a fancy computer-person word for scrambling your data until no one can understand what it says without a key. But encrypting is more complex than just switching a couple of letters around.

Mr. Larson said that by some estimates, with the default encryption scheme that Apple uses, “you’d have to have a supercomputer crunching day and night for years to be able to unlock a single computer.”

He said that the best way to destroy data was not to delete it, because it could potentially be resurrected from a hard drive, but to encode it in “a secure form of cryptography.”

Signal is one of the most popular apps for those who want to protect their text messaging. It is free and extremely easy to use. And unlike Apple’s iMessage, which is also encrypted, the code it uses to operate is open-source.

“You can be sure by looking at the code that they’re not doing anything weird with your data,” Mr. Larson said.

“In general, the idea behind the app is to make privacy and communication as simple as possible,” said Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of Open Whisper Systems, the organization that developed Signal.

That means that the app allows you to use emojis, send pictures and enter group texts.

One bit of friction: You do have to persuade your friends to join the service too, if you want to text them. The app makes that easy to do.

WhatsApp, the popular chat tool, uses Signal’s software to encrypt its messaging. And in Facebook Messenger and Google’s texting app Allo, you can turn on an option that encrypts your messages.

Here’s how to do that on Facebook. Here’s how to do it on Allo.

Mr. Marlinspike said that the presidential election had sparked a lot of interested in Signal, leading to a “substantial increase in users.”

When asked to speculate why that was, Mr. Marlinspike simply said, “Donald Trump is about to be in control of the most powerful, invasive and least accountable surveillance apparatus in the world.”

To download Signal, click here for iOS, or here for Android.

2. Protect your computer’s hard drive with FileVault or BitLocker.

Your phone may be the device that lives in your pocket, but Mr. Larson described the computer as the real gold mine for personal information.

Even if your data were password protected, someone who gained access to your computer “would have access to all your files if they were unencrypted.”

Luckily, both Apple and Windows offer means of automatic encryption that simply need to be turned on.

Here’s the link to do that for Apple computers. Here’s the one for Windows computers.

3. The way you handle your passwords is probably wrong and bad. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 November 2016 at 10:42 am

Posted in Software, Technology

Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps

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One hopes the apps are worth their cost in human lives. Here’s the repport.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2016 at 5:40 pm

Speaking of memes: Facebook and Google Are Spreading Way Too Many Lies

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A brief post by Kevin Drum that suggest Facebook and Google take more of the curatorial responsibility and adjust their algorithms to reduce the rank (and number) of fake-news sites.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 November 2016 at 12:55 pm

Signal seems to be the messaging app to use

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Joshua Koptstein reports at Motherboard:

If you use the popular encrypted messaging app Signal, you may have noticed an influx of friends downloading the app following the conclusion of the 2016 US presidential election.

Signal received some significant buzz on November 9th, as the world awoke to find out Donald Trump was president-elect. In the 48 hours after the final results were announced, my phone had buzzed with no less than two dozen notifications informing me that friends and acquaintances—many of whom I’d long lost contact with—had finally installed the end-to-end encryption app, which has been praised by security experts and famously endorsed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“Signal’s growth has really accelerated over the past week, and it isn’t showing any sign of slowing down,” Moxie Marlinspike, the pseudonymous creator of Signal’s encryption protocol, told Motherboard in an encrypted chat.

On Twitter and the App Store, Signal began trending in the US as cybersecurity experts recommended people download the app as part of their preparation for the difficult days ahead. Open Whisper Systems, the non-profit behind the app’s open-source development, didn’t mention any specific plans to respond to the turn of events in the US. But its creators note that Signal—which was adopted by Hillary Clinton’s campaign staffers after a series of damaging data breaches—was specifically designed to protect people in these kinds of situations.

“People are really starting to take privacy truly seriously, perhaps for the first time since the Snowden revelations,” Signal designer Tyler Reinhard told me after Signal downloads spiked earlier this week.

For privacy advocates, it’s a silver lining to a highly contentious election year. Given that Trump has explicitly promised to jail his political opponents, prosecute journalists, and punish women for having abortions, there will likely be no shortage of people newly-emboldened to take steps to protect their communications and data. . .

Continue reading.

Better to use it and not need it than to need it and not use it.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2016 at 7:02 pm

Silicon Valley introspects on what it has enabled and where it’s going

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The obvious question as you read the article is “Who’s in control?” That is, who (CEO, corporation, trade group, standards committee, ..) is in a position to fix what is wrong? Answer: No one.

So what is happening is, in a real sense, uncontrolled: memetic evolution at high speed, moving toward optimal exploitation of available resources, just as with genetic evolution.

David Pierson writes in the LA Times:

Hillary Clinton was the choice of nearly every American newspaper editorial board. It didn’t matter.

When it comes to influencing public opinion, the 2016 presidential election demonstrated with sobering effect the weakening role of traditional media and the ascendant power of social networks like Facebook.

Forty-four percent of Americans get their news from Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, filling a void left by the declining ranks of newspapers. By comparison, only 2 in 10 U.S. adults get news from print newspapers today.

The consequences of Facebook’s growing sway became clear during an election cycle that saw the rise of partisan news, conspiracies, fake articles and a winning candidate who fully embraced social media as a way to circumvent the media establishment and its proclivity for checking facts.

The problem with rumors and fake news grew so acute that President Obama felt the need to address it at a Clinton rally Monday in Michigan.

“And people, if they just repeat attacks enough, and outright lies over and over again, as long as it’s on Facebook and people can see it, as long as it’s on social media, people start believing it. And it creates this dust cloud of nonsense,” he said.

The question now is whether Facebook and other social media platforms have the responsibility to stop, or at least identify to readers, phony news. That’s eliciting some reflection in Silicon Valley, which has always advocated a laissez faire approach to information.

In a widely shared video Wednesday, Dave McClure, founder of the business accelerator 500 Startups, went on an expletive-laden tirade about technology and President-elect Donald Trump’s victory at a tech summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Technology has a role in that we … provide communication platforms for the rest of the [expletive] country and we are allowing [expletive] to happen like the cable news networks.… It’s a propaganda medium. People aren’t aware of the [expletive] they’re being told.”

I.e., it’s a perfect medium for memes and they are evolving out of control. See The Meme Machine, by Susan Blackmore. Note that with the internet, memes can evolve quickly in many different memetic ecoysystems, including some, we see, that are quite extreme (e.g., ISIS).  Resuming the article:

In a phone interview later, McClure challenged other entrepreneurs to live up to the industry cliche of making the world a better place.

“We have to support the well-being of society,” McClure said. “With great power comes great responsibility. These are platforms with hundreds of millions of people.”

Even backers of Reddit, a sprawling network of user-generated forums that bills itself as the “front page of the Internet,” are having second thoughts about an ecosystem that prizes virality and offers little reward for accuracy.

“Back when Reddit was first started, I thought their cheeky tag line ‘freedom from the press’ was all to the good,” said Paul Graham, co-founder of tech incubator Y-Combinator and the first investor in Reddit. “Now I worry about where we’re headed.”

“Technological change is mostly inevitable,” Graham continued. “I don’t think we could have avoided what’s happened. Often when technology causes a problem, it also hands you a solution. I’m hoping that will be the case here. But I’m damned if I know what it is.”

Facebook has long argued that its news feed is a reflection of a user’s wider world. Over the summer, the company changed its news feed algorithm to deliver more posts from friends and family rather than articles. The company said Wednesday it would continue to tweak its news feed algorithm, but declined to address bogus journalism on its platform.

“While Facebook played a part in this election, it was just one of many ways people received their information — and was one of the many ways people connected with their leaders, engaged in the political process and shared their views,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

The Internet has always been home to fringe ideas and hoaxes, of course, but rarely have they been bolstered by an all-consuming topic like this year’s election and powerful social media platforms to fan the flames. . .

Continue reading.

And the pace of memetic evolution picks up. Later in the article:

. . . The staggering election-related activity on Facebook comes at a time when the social network has been littered with thousands of fake stories with headlines like “FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE” from fake news organizations with reputable-sounding names such as the Denver Guardian.

Last week, BuzzFeed reported on teens in Macedonia who churn out hundreds of politically charged make-believe articles for American audiences, reaping the digital advertising revenue from hundreds of thousands of shares.

The article noted that a fake story from Macedonia headlined, “Hillary Clinton In 2013: ‘I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office; They’re Honest And Can’t Be Bought,’” garnered 480,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. That’s nearly three times the Facebook interactions the New York Times got for its scoop about Donald Trump declaring $916 million in losses on his 1995 income tax returns, the BuzzFeed story said.  . .

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2016 at 2:17 pm

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