Turbo Todd

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

Thank You, Arnold Palmer

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There seems to have been more than our fair share of notable deaths in 2016, from the passing of David Bowie to Prince to Glenn Frey and so many more.

The announcement last night of the passing of Arnold Palmer, 87, was of special note to golf and sports marketing fans everywhere.

The New York Times wrote an especially poignant obituary celebrating the life and legend of Arnold Palmer. The opening paragraph went like this:

Arnold Palmer, the champion golfer whose full-bore style of play, thrilling tournament victories and magnetic personality inspired an American golf boom, attracted a following known as Arnie’s Army and made him one of the most popular athletes in the world, died on Sunday evening in Pittsburgh. He was 87.
– via www.nytimes.com

Perhaps, then, it’s somehow fitting that “The King” died on the very same day as the celebrated end to the 2016 golf season, one which saw a dramatic four-hole playoff that resulting in Irish golfer Rory McIlroy taking home both the Tour Championship and FedEx trophies, and an $11.53 million payday — a payday that Arnie most assuredly paved the way for.

It’s also timely considering that this year’s Ryder Cup begins later this week at Hazeltine, as Palmer played on six U.S. Ryder Cup teams and was twice its captain, in 1963 and 1975.

In the end, Arnold Palmer will be remembered as the “Everyman” golfer, and every man, woman and child who loves the game owes a debt of gratitude to Arnold Palmer.

My favorite Arnie quote, which sums up the game just about as well as one could: “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”

And you, Arnie, you were among the very best who ever played that game.

Rest in peace.

Written by TurboTodd

September 26th, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Posted in 2016,golf,PGA,ryder cup

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IBM and China UnionPay Explore Blockchain

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At the Shanghai International Blockchain Week 2016, IBM and China UnionPay E-payment Research Institute previewed the demo of a collaborative project on loyalty bonus points exchange among multiple banks using blockchain technology.  With a few simple and quick steps, consumers will be able to exchange bonus points from among any of the banks they do business with to select the rewards they want.

Bonus points earned through purchases on bank cards have long been an important method to attract and encourage customer loyalty to branded bank cards. The variety and selection of merchandise available in online bonus points exchange shops are an important reason for customers to favor and use specific bank cards. 

Since bonus points cannot be freely exchanged among different banks, many bonus points go unused because of strict bonus points policies or a limited selection of goods for exchange.

Enabling banks to integrate and share bonus point systems can be a challenging and expensive task using conventional technology. To address this problem and provide more value for bank customers, IBM China Research Lab and China UnionPay E-payment Institute created an innovative business platform on IBM Blockchain using the Hyperledger Fabric to create a permissioned network for the exchange of bonus points.

This joint effort will also integrate online and offline channels using blockchain. As a result, it will be possible for China UnionPay card holders to go to any offline supermarket or mall equipped with intelligent point-of-service (POS) devices to exchange bonus points for commodities by direct scanning.

It is anticipated that bonus points from flight mileage, mobile phone bills, gas cards and food and beverage purchases can be freely exchanged and swapped in the future.

“The combination of blockchain technology and expertise from IBM coupled with an innovative business approach by China UnionPay in the payment industry has resulted in a significant first of a kind demonstration of blockchain technology in the financial payments industry,” said Dr. Shen Xiaowei, Director of IBM Research – China, CTO of IBM Greater China Group.  “IBM is partnering with the Hyperledger Project to build an open source, enterprise-grade blockchain platform and is helping clients define and develop more industry use cases. In time, we expect this to result in widespread adoption of permissioned blockchain networks to solve a number of business challenges.”

You can learn more about IBM Blockchain initiatives here.

Written by TurboTodd

September 23rd, 2016 at 3:01 pm

The Swift Enterprise

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Today, IBM has brought the popular Swift development language from the front-end to the back, to the server side.

IBM distinguished engineer Patrick Bohrer provides a technical run down in his post here, one in which he announces specifically the new IBM Bluemix Runtime for Swift:

By including the latest Swift tools and taking care of system dependencies, this runtime allows you to focus on writing your server-side Swift services. And experienced enterprise developers take note: the Swift runtime includes all optimizations necessary to run in IBM Bluemix public, dedicated and local cloud deployments.
– via Bluemix

ComputerWorld also interviewed IBM MobileFirst VP Mike Gilfix about the move, and here are some choice insights from that interview:

The release is incredibly important as it means enterprise developers will be able to build next generation apps in native Swift from end-to-end, client-side to server-side, on the IBM Cloud. It has been made possible by Apple’s decision to make Swift open source.
– via Computerworld

In layman’s terms, it makes it possible for developers to create the apps you use on a smartwatch, iPhone, Mac or PC and the server side apps upon which all those connected devices depend using the same programming language. There’s lots of ways this benefits everybody – more efficient apps at the front end, and the capacity to quickly and easily introduce new apps and services hosted at the back end. That’s even before considering the data analytics opportunities inherent within all of this.
– via Computerworld

Starting today IBM’s full suite of Swift tools — Kitura web framework, the IBM Swift Package Catalog, and IBM Cloud Tools for Swift – are Swift 3.0 compliant. The IBM Swift Package Catalog includes IBM Watson services, IBM DB2 and DashDB, IBM Cloudant and Couchbase, IBM ObjectStore and Apache Cassandra.
– via Computerworld

Written by TurboTodd

September 22nd, 2016 at 4:08 pm

IBM Opens Industry’s First Cloud Data Center in the Nordics

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IBM has announced the opening of a new cloud data center in Fetsund, 30 km outside Oslo, Norway, the industry’s first cloud data center in the region.

The IBM Cloud data center will support growing cloud adoption in the Nordics.

Customers throughout the region will now have local access to a complete portfolio of IBM cloud services for running mission critical enterprise workloads, including IBM Bluemix, Watson and analytics capabilities.

EVRY, a leading Nordic IT services company, is already leveraging these capabilities to accelerate its transformation and deliver business value to its clients, which was part of a strategic partnership announced last year. This includes establishing a private cloud solution enabling their clients to further drive innovation.

The facility in Norway is IBM’s 48th global cloud data center and the 12th in Europe. It is part of the company’s growing global data center network, enabling businesses, from large enterprises to start-ups, to digitalize business and operations, and drive innovation.

Written by TurboTodd

September 21st, 2016 at 2:15 pm

IBM Research and MIT Collaborate to Advance Frontiers of Artificial Intelligence

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IBM Research has announced a multi-year collaboration with the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences at MIT to advance the scientific field of machine vision, a core aspect of artificial intelligence.

The new IBM-MIT Laboratory for Brain-inspired Multimedia Machine Comprehension’s (BM3C) goal will be to develop cognitive computing systems that emulate the human ability to understand and integrate inputs from multiple sources of audio and visual information into a detailed computer representation of the world that can be used in a variety of computer applications in industries such as healthcare, education, and entertainment.

The BM3C will address technical challenges around both pattern recognition and prediction methods in the field of machine vision that are currently impossible for machines alone to accomplish.

For instance, humans watching a short video of a real-world event can easily recognize and produce a verbal description of what happened in the clip as well as assess and predict the likelihood of a variety of subsequent events, but for a machine, this ability is currently impossible.

“In a world where humans and machines are working together in increasingly collaborative relationships, breakthroughs in the field of machine vision will potentially help us live healthier more productive lives,” said Guru Banavar, Chief Scientist, Cognitive Computing and VP at IBM Research. “By bringing together brain researchers and computer scientists to solve this complex technical challenge, we will advance the state-of-the-art in AI with our collaborators at MIT.”

The BM3C will be led by Professor James DiCarlo, head of the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences (BCS) at MIT, who will be supported by a team of faculty members, researchers, and graduate students from both the Brain & Cognitive Sciences department and the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). MIT researchers will collaborate with IBM scientists and engineers who will provide technology expertise and advances from the IBM Watson platform.

Cognitive computing systems collaborate with human experts in natural ways, learn through this interaction, and help enable individuals and teams to make more informed decisions by making sense of massive amounts of unstructured data.

Key to the success of these systems is ongoing research in machine learning and reasoning, machine vision, decision techniques, domain-specific knowledge understanding, data assurance and trust, and radically efficient computing infrastructures.

To this end, IBM Research has built a network of university research collaborations that put together IBM researchers with academic researchers in fields including computer science, engineering, brain and cognitive science, to help make fundamental advances in AI.

The goal is to apply the advances to domains such as health, education, law, and business decisions.  The network addresses the entire spectrum of cognitive computing capabilities from curating data and knowledge and developing new algorithms, to building the new computing infrastructures needed to optimize the new data-intensive workloads of a truly digital world.

To learn more visit IBM Research.

Written by TurboTodd

September 20th, 2016 at 3:05 pm

To Halt, Explode, and *Then* Catch Fire

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Samsung is having a bad start to its longgg Labor Day holiday weekend. The company announced it is recalling the Galaxy Note7 smartphone worldwide after reports of the device were catching fire while charging.

In a statement, Samsung explained that as of September 1st , “there have been 35 cases that have been reported globally and we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market.”

It went on to explain that because customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, that they have stop sales of the Galaxy Note7. They also indicated they would voluntarily replace current devices with a new one over the coming weeks.

And in case you’ve been doing your own personal launch countdown, the second season of the AMC TV series that I like to refer to as the “Mad Men” of the personal computing glory days , “Halt and Catch Fire,” is now available.

The name of this show and Samsung’s situation are not related. At least, not directly.

Nor is the SpaceX launch explosion yesterday during a pre-launch test. But it is a big bummer for the AMOS-6 satellite, which was a key component in Facebook’s Internet.org program to deliver the Interwebs to the developing world.

I fear an even larger question lingers over the continued feasibility of commercial space flight. The satellite’s maker, Israeli firm Spacecom Ltd., took a 9% hit to its stock yesterday, and SpaceX still has another nine scheduled launches for 2015.

Wired’s Nick Stockton poses the key question: Does SpaceX have a rocket problem, was it the payload that blew, or “maybe a friggin’ rat was chewing on cables somewhere in the payload fairing"?

If it’s the latter, it’s not without precedent.

In August 2014, NASA drew up plans to launch a team of rats with “the right stuff” to the International Space Station.

To which I say, that’s a long orbit away from John Glenn’s transcendent last shuttle flight in October 1998 at the ripe old age of 77.

Godspeed, John Glenn, SpaceX, Facebook…and you too, you rat.

Written by TurboTodd

September 2nd, 2016 at 3:30 pm

IBM Watson Serves Cognitive Insights At 2016 US Open

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One of the most exciting, world-class professional tennis tournaments is under way, the US Open, in Flushing Meadows, Queens in New York City.

And this year, IBM and the United States Tennis Association announced that IBM Watson is coming to the US Open.

However, Watson won’t be picking up a racket or swinging at any tennis balls.

Instead, Watson will be providing a new cognitive concierge feature that is being piloted in the tournament’s official mobile app, and which will help fans’ on-the-ground experience at the tournament.

The US Open mobile app "Guest Services" companion will pilot a Watson-enabled discovery tool that allows fans to input natural language questions and receive immediate responses about a range of tournament topics, such as transportation and directions, food and drink options, and a range of other topics relevant to the fan experience.

Available for download, the Watson-enabled mobile apps for Apple iPad and iPhone, and Android devices are built to engage and inform US Open fans while enriching their understanding of the game – no matter where they are following the tournament. And rhe apps also offer an interactive second screen experience for fans watching the Open on TV.

In addition to integrating Watson’s cognitive capabilities into the US Open app, IBM and the USTA are tapping into other Watson services available through the IBM Bluemix hybrid cloud platform to deliver real-time analysis and insights about the tournament, including:

  • The Watson Speech-to-Text API will "listen" to video-on-demand clips of player interviews, tournament action and automatically generate subtitles and transcripts for videos published to the US Open website and other digital platforms.
  • The Watson Visual Recognition API will dynamically analyze every photo taken by the USTA photographers to accelerate identification of photo subjects (players and celebrities), allowing the USTA to speed publication of photos across its digital environment.

IBM and the USTA are furthering their 25+ year partnership and commitment to delivering new and enhanced technologies that continuously improve and transform how fans follow and watch the tournament – both in the stands and on the go.

That commitment has led to the redesign of the US Open digital fan experience across all platforms, enabling it to dynamically adapt to a user’s device and provide optimal viewing and engagement.

“We’re excited to introduce IBM Watson’s game-changing cognitive computing power to the US Open’s digital platform,” said Noah Syken, vice president of Global Sponsorships and Client Executive Programs, IBM. “Watson is revolutionizing the way fans can navigate the tournament this year. By tapping into unstructured data, Watson is enabling us to extract and apply insights that can improve how people engage with technology on-site, making their experiences more meaningful and natural.”

The advanced technology platform that powers the US Open fan experience is supported by a range of hardware, software and services, including IBM Power systems; IBM Cloud Orchestrator; IBM WebSphere and Tivoli Storage Manager software; Apache Spark on Bluemix; IBM QRadar; and a range of other IBM technologies that help the USTA capture, analyze, publish, store, monitor and secure the historical and real-time tournament data.

Written by TurboTodd

September 1st, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Siri At My Command

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So Apple is finally going to get Siri to open up and talk to others.

They announced this intention at WWDC, indicating iOS 10 would include many new features, including the ability to play well with others (integrate with third-party applications).

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that in this new version, you’ll be able to control third-party app functions using Siri in particular, and among the first apps to integrate with Siri include WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Square Cash, and Slack.

I can see the scenarios playing out already at food trucks throughout South Austin: “Pay the d—ed bill, Siri!…Siri, I mean it!”

The Journal’s Nathan Olivarez-Giles put the new and improved Siri through some basic paces, including making payments, looking for photos, and for basic messaging.

For developers on the prowl, Giles indicated that “if an iPhone app has an Apple Watch counterpart, developers will be able to build similar Siri commands for WatchOS, too.”

But will the virtual comedienne be in a position to take up more sophisticated tasks that require her being a little more on-the-ball?

No offense, but “Siri, is there an app for making you smarter?”

Actually, there’s a “SiriKit,” which helps developers enable their iOS 10 apps work with Siri. SiriKit “extend[s] Siri’s support for messaging, photo search, and phone calls to more apps…[and] also adds support for new services, including ride booking and personal payments.”

MacRumors warns, however, that “Apple has limited SiriKit to certain kinds of apps in order to keep a tight rein on privacy, control the Siri experience, and developer Siri’s understanding of language and context.” They go on to explain that third-party apps will only get access to the data necessary to “perform a requested function.”

Important stuff, like “Siri, what is the nutritional information for a bowl of Cheerios?”

Written by TurboTodd

August 31st, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Posted in AI,apple,developers,machine learning,siri

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Uber, Can I Get a Lyft?

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The citizenry of my (mostly) progressive city of Austin, Texas, kicked out the likes of Uber and Lyft earlier this year. Vocativ called us a “ride-sharing wasteland.” Very Dostoevsky-ish, don’t you think?

I would call it Austin’s “Brexit,” only instead of separating from a continent, we separated ourselves from companies and technologies that would have very likely helped liberate the traffic-congested roads of Austin — all under the auspices of “security.”

So, now rideshare drivers in Austin are subjected to a fingerprint-based background check (yay, security!) before they can work for a ridesharing company, but just not for Uber and Lyft (who opted out of Austin).

We have embraced Google Fiber in Austin, and now The Wall Street Journal has written that Google is moving onto Uber’s turf “with its own ride-sharing service in San Francisco that would help commuters carpool at far cheaper rates.”

The idea is to take the technology behind Waze (a Google acquisition) and connect fellow commuters who are heading in the same direction with one another. The pilot’s current pilot charges a mere 54 cents a mile.

This has the making of an interesting turf battle, and WSJ’s Jack Nicas reminds us Google and Uber were once allies and that Google had invested $258M U.S. In Uber back in 2013.

But that was back in 2013.

They say competition is supposed to be good for the marketplace, so we’ll see.

I just wish here in Austin I could get a Lyft.

Written by TurboTodd

August 30th, 2016 at 8:12 pm

IBM and VMware Expand Partnership, Focus on Hybrid Cloud Adoption

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Today at VMworld 2016, IBM and VMware made several key announcements, including the availability of industry-first cloud services that help organization to quickly and easily move enterprise workloads to the cloud.

There are already more than 500 clients engaged in partnership with IBM and VMware to extend existing workloads to the cloud in hours, as opposed to weeks or months.

These are fruits borne of the challenge the two companies tackled earlier this year, and one of the industry’s most pressing challenges: extending existing VMware workloads from on-premises environments to the cloud without incurring the cost and risk associated with retooling operations, re-architecting apps, and re-designing security policies.

The more than 500 mutual clients that have begun moving their VMware environments to IBM Cloud included Marriott International, Clarient Global LLC and Monitise. With almost 100 percent of the Fortune 100 customers using VMware technologies, the partnership is designed to preserve and extend customer investments across thousands of data centers.

Today is also seeing the introduction of VMware Cloud Foundation, which combines VMware’s market-leading compute, storage and network virtualization solutions into an integrated platform.

For the first time, organizations can now automatically provision pre-configured VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) environments on IBM Cloud in hours versus weeks or months.

The platform integrates VMware vSphere, VMware Virtual SAN, VMware NSX and VMware SDDC Manager, and gives customers broad choice in their infrastructure decisions.

In addition to new services, IBM is training more than 4,000 service professionals with the expertise required to provide clients with VMware solutions.

This expansive team of sellers and advisers will provide clients with the expertise to extend VMware environments to the cloud.

You can learn more about IBM Cloud here.

Written by TurboTodd

August 29th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

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