Turbo Todd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

The Global Pokemon Menace

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While a few million Americans have been watching the Republican Nationa Circus…err, Convention…this week on the telly, it appears the rest of the world has been getting tuned in and turned on to the wonders of Pokémon Go.

That means it’s also generating a ridiculous amount of press coverage, especially as augmented Pikachu go truly global. The game has spread to 26 countries this week, but alas, didn’t quite make it live to its country of origin, Japan.

TechCrunch reports PG was supposed to go live in Japan yesterday, but the “change of heart” apparently came after its key sponsor in Japan, McDonalds Japan, became concerned that the extreme hype about the game would overload Niantic’s servers.

Pikachus will just have to wait a little longer for that Egg McMuffin.

Meanwhile, The New York Times has given us a summary of reactions around the world to the game:

  • In Saudi Arabia, clerics have renewed an existing fatwa against Pokémon.  To which I say, who knew?!
  • Bosnia is warning players to avoid chasing the creatures onto land mines left over from the 1990s Balkan conflict
  • The Egyptian defense ministry explained that PG is “the latest tool used by spy agencies in the Intel war, a cunning despicable app that tries to infiltrate our communities in the most innocent way under the pretext of entertainment.”
  • Israeli officials warned its soldiers not to use PG on bases lest they reveal their location. And yet the President of Israel actually seemed to be going along with the PG craze, posting a photo on Facebook of a Pokémon in his office with the caption, “Somebody call security personnel.”

If you’re wondering why there were so many empty seats during the primetime speeches of the RNC last night, I have a working theory: Most of them were all outside the actual arena hall playing PG when they should be inside listening to @tedcruz not endorse @realDonaldTrump.

Because, in fact, there are many, many Pokéstops in and around the Quickens Loan Arena, and one correspondent from Yahoo apparently witnessed Drowzee, Pidgey, Weedle, Spearow, Gasly, and an ever elusive Abra in the RNC area.

What is not clear is whether Trump billionaire supporter Sheldon Adelson’s refusal to let Mr. Cruz and his wife into his private suite at the Quicken Loans Arena was related to the PG craze run amuk at the RNC or just plain spite.

Regardless, it should be noted that the entire Republican National Convention site is one huge, gigantic Pokémon gym.

And that’s all you really need to know.

Written by TurboTodd

July 21st, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Macy’s Pilots IBM’s Watson For In-Store Shopping Companion

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Macy’s has announced the pilot of “Macy’s On Call,” a mobile web tool that allows customers to interact with an AI-powered platform, via their mobile devices.

“Macy’s On-Call” uses IBM Watson, via Satisfi, an intelligent engagement platform to deliver a first-of-its-kind solution that will enhance the customer in-store shopping experience at ten test locations nationwide.

The mobile companion allows customers to input natural language questions regarding each store’s unique product assortment, services and facilities and receive a customized response to the inquiry.

Customers can request information a number of ways. 

For example, a customer could type, “Where are the ladies shoes?” or type a combination of brand and product inquiry such as “INC dress,” and they will receive the relevant response and location of that product in the store.

As each Macy’s store is different, and consumers increasingly prefer mobile platforms, “Macy’s On Call” will provide shoppers with a helpful tool to get information fast as they shop and navigate the store.

The system will evolve as it learns more about each store’s customers, something already evident in the popular searches category, which highlights the most asked questions, and responses to which can be accessed at the click of the appropriate button.

Check out the demo video below to learn how you could soon be using IBM Watson to help you with your Macy’s shopping experience.

 

Written by TurboTodd

July 20th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Pokémon Go Goes Home

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The Pokémon Go juggernaut continues, in spite of all the people walking off of cliffs or running of the roads while focused on the Pikachu action.

TechCrunch informed us today that Pokémon Go is launching in Japan tomorrow, which is kind of like PG going home. Nintendo, after all, is a Japanese firm.

Pokémon Go is already now available in over 30 countries, and has become more popular than Twitter, Tinder, and other top mobile apps.

But the story doesn’t end there. McDonald’s has apparently signed up to be the first launch partner with Niantic/Nintendo across 3,000 locations, which will become “gyms” for would-be Pokémon collectors.

It has been widely reported already that the game has been a boon to local businesses getting foot traffic from PG game players, so now it remains to be seen if Ronald McDonald visits skyrocket as well.

A hint to my friends about to start playing in Japan: Look up every once in a while!

Written by TurboTodd

July 19th, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Posted in gaming,mobile

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IBM Reports 2016 Second-Quarter Earnings

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IBM announced its 2016 second quarter earnings today.

Second-quarter revenues from the company’s strategic imperatives — cloud, analytics and engagement — increased 12 percent year to year, while cloud revenues (including public, private, and hybrid) for the quarter increased 30 percent.

Cloud revenue over the trailing 12 months was $11.6 billion, and the annual run rate for cloud-as-a-service revenue increased to $6.7 billiion from $4.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015. 

Revenues from analytics increased 5 percent (up 4 percent adjusting for currency).  Revenues from mobile increased 43 percent and from security increased 18 percent.

“IBM continues to establish itself as the leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company.  In doing so, IBM is pioneering new business opportunities beyond the traditional IT marketplace,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.  

“In the second quarter we delivered double-digit revenue growth in our strategic imperatives, driven by innovations in areas such as analytics, security, cloud video services and Watson Health, all powered by the IBM Cloud and differentiated by industry.  And we continue to invest for growth with recent breakthroughs in quantum computing, Internet of Things and Blockchain solutions for the IBM Cloud.”

“In the first half of 2016, we grew our R&D investment, closed 11 acquisitions for more than $5 billion and invested nearly $2 billion in capital expenditures, while returning more than $4 billion to shareholders through dividends and gross share repurchases,” said Martin Schroeter, IBM senior vice president and chief financial officer. “These investments are key in helping us build new markets and maintain our leadership in enterprise IT.”

Written by TurboTodd

July 18th, 2016 at 9:38 pm

SoftBank Acquiring ARM Holdings

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Here’s a big deal: SoftBank has agreed to acquire ARM Holdings for £24.3B (~$32B U.S.), a 43% premium over last week’s closing price.

If you’re wondering who ARM Holdings is, they design chips (design, not make) for a wide variety of devices, mostly smartphones. Mostly for Apple and Samsung. You know, bit players in the mobile realm.

Recode reports that the number of chips containing ARM processors reached almost 15 billion in 2015, up from about six billion in 2010.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son explained at a press conference that “I have admired this company for over ten years,” and ARM CEO Simon Segars has indicated ARM will continue to operate as an independent unit.

ARM is headquarted in Cambridge in the U.K., where it will remain. The company currently employs 4,000 people worldwide.

Written by TurboTodd

July 18th, 2016 at 2:13 pm

The Epic Open

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If you’re even the most minimalist of a golf fan and you didn’t watch the epic mano a mano between five-time golf major winner Phil Mickelson, and (until) no-time golf major winner Henrik Stenson, you missed some of the best head-to-head golf we’ve witnessed between two of the world’s best golfers probably since Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus went at it at the Open at Turnberry in 1977.

This time the stage was Royal Troon, and Phil had the lead by one stroke going into the last round. The winds were still up, but the weather was certainly better than Friday’s and Saturday’s rainy rounds, and the course Royal Troon with all its pot bunkers and gorse-laden rough was waiting for its victims.

Only Mickelson and Stenson weren’t victims in this particular charade — they were mastering the Troon, playing it like tiny violins, refusing to give in to its ghastly hazards, whether sand or flora, and instead played each other. Back and forth it went, like a good tennis volley, with the lead changing hands several times, and Mickelson scoring several birdies and an eagle to stay in the hunt.

But Stenson was determined, and 10 birdies later, including an incredible long, uphill, dropped-at-the-last-moment one on 18, and it was: He was the first male Swede to ever win a major golf championship, and The Open, the oldest, and arguably, sweetest of them all.

This was, as they would say, one for the ages. For Stenson fans and Mickelson loyalists — and I would count myself among them — it was hard to choose who to root for.

But in the end, it didn’t matter, because it was the game of golf, being played in the land where it was born so many centuries ago, that was the biggest winner of the day.

Written by TurboTodd

July 18th, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Getting Coding

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If you’re looking to learn how to program, Apple’s new Swift Playgrounds could be the place to start — but only if you have an iPad (and not available until the fall).

Swift Playgrounds use puzzles in the iPad app to help aspiring programmers master the basics of using Swift, then move on to more advanced challenges to bolster those skills.

Swift Programming don’t assume any existing coding knowledge, so if you *really* are a coding beginner, it’s a good place to start.

Ars Technica explains Swift Playgrounds in more detail here.

Of course, if you’re more into playing games than building them, there’s always the new Nintendo Classic Mini, which Engadget recently gave a rundown.

If you want to relive your glory days of using the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and Pokémon Go’s not quite doing it for you, think of the Classic Mini as a black box that contains 30 original NES titles, from Donkey Kong to Super Mario Bros. and beyond.

All for the low price of $59.99 U.S. (but not available until November 11th).

Anti…ci…pation….

Written by TurboTodd

July 15th, 2016 at 6:08 pm

IBM Launches Cloud Services for Blockchain on Secure Server

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IBM has announced a new cloud service for organizations requiring a secure environment for blockchain networks. Ideal for organizations in regulated industries, this environment allows clients to test and run blockchain projects that handle private data.

IBM’s secure blockchain cloud environment, underpinned by IBM LinuxONE, the industry’s most secure Linux-only server, is ideal for organizations such as Everledger, a company that tracks and protects diamonds and other valuables via the blockchain.

Everledger is building a digital business network using IBM Blockchain to power its global certification system to track valuable items through the supply chain, helping to protect suppliers, buyers and shippers against theft, counterfeiting and other forms of corruption. The blockchain is used to demonstrate the origin of high-value goods such as diamonds, fine art and luxury goods.

As blockchain grows in influence and organizations begin to evaluate cloud-based production environments for their first blockchain projects, they are exploring ways to maximize the security and compliance of the technology for business-critical applications.

The average total cost of a data breach for enterprises reached $4 million last year, and with security incidents up by 64 percent in 2015, the risks are higher than ever. Security is critical – not just within the blockchain itself but with all the technology touching the ledger.

The business network on the IBM Blockchain cloud environment helps secure entry points and fight against insider threats. With features that help protect data and ensure the integrity of the overall network, LinuxONE is designed to meet the stringent security requirements of the financial, health care and government sectors, helping to foster compliance.

Currently in limited beta, these new secure cloud services to run blockchain in a production environment allow clients to quickly and easily access a secure, partitioned blockchain network to deploy, test and run projects. Clients can sign up here. The latest version of IBM Blockchain is available today through Bluemix.

Written by TurboTodd

July 14th, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Not PC

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It’s still not a good time to be a PC.

Engadget’s reporting that both Gartner and IDC have concluded that worldwide deliveries have dropped between 4.5 to 5.2 percent in the second quarter.

It seems people are more inclined to buy smartphones and tablets, especially now that Pokémon Go is so widely distributed.

Engadget suggested the Gartner/IDC numbers did have some rays of sunshine for PC and tablet sales here in the U.S. in 2Q.

Gartner had sales for PC sales up 1.4 percent, and 4.9 percent for IDC.

The now free Windows 10 upgrade will soon cost $119, which could spur folks to go ahead and buy that new machine.

In terms of PC share in the U.S, Lenovo led in 2Q at 20.5, followed by HP at 19.1, Dell at 15.2, and Asus at 7.3, and Apple at 7.1.

Written by TurboTodd

July 13th, 2016 at 1:48 pm

IBM To Open Blockchain Innovation Center In Singapore

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IBM has announced plans to establish the first IBM Center for Blockchain Innovation in Singapore.

In the first collaboration of its kind with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), IBM Researchers will work with government, industries and academia to develop applications and solutions which are based on enterprise blockchain, cybersecurity, and cognitive computing technologies.

In addition to drawing from the expertise in the Singaporean talent pool and that of the IBM Research network, the Center will also engage with small- and medium-sized enterprises to create new applications and grow new markets in finance and trade.

The first projects for the Center will focus on trade solutions using blockchain to improve efficiency of multi-party trade finance processes and transactions.

The solutions and associated blockchain platform will be designed and developed in Singapore. These projects, which could also involve global banks and emerging financial technology companies known as “FinTechs,” are aligned with the vision of MAS, Singapore’s Central Bank, to further develop Singapore as a Smart Financial Center.

IBM will also work with PSA Singapore Terminals, the world’s largest container transhipment port, and others to create a trade ecosystem which connects emerging financial technologies with the physical world of global trade and logistics. This will lead to new business models and attract more global trade and finance to Singapore.

Over the next three years, the Innovation Center is expected to deliver a number of technology pilots across the finance and trade industries.

These projects will build on IBM’s work with the Linux Foundation Hyperledger platform. The Innovation Center will be staffed with technical talent from Singapore as well as researchers from IBM Research Labs worldwide.

Written by TurboTodd

July 12th, 2016 at 1:57 pm

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