Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (film)
The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the longest time I avoided the movie. What? Kids getting into fights kinda movie? I thought. But once I watched one, I realized the last time I got this excited about a movie was with the Bourne movies. Movie effects can't carry a movie. But they can help a strong plot. And there has to be a timelessness to the theme.

Technological advances will not cure the basic savagery of human nature. There are other remedies to the savagery. And The Hunger Games speak to that. With the Bourne movies it was the idea of a super soldier going to battle with a super government agency. That is the eternal tussle between the individual and the state.
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Friday, March 28, 2014

Facebook Drones: Super Exciting

This is super duper exciting. Does anyone know when 100% penetration is expected? With this immigration reform can take as long as it wants in America. This should have been part of the 2009 stimulus package.

Facebook Looks to Drones to Boost Internet Access
Facebook's new Connectivity Lab is looking at the high-flying devices - not to mention satellites and lasers - to assist in providing Internet access worldwide. ..... work in the Philippines and Paraguay, where 3 million more people now have access to the Web .... Ascenta, whose five-person team worked on early versions of Zephyr, the longest-flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. ..... Zuckerberg launched in August, with the intent of increasing access to the Web, and bringing the Internet "to the next 5 billion people." As of now, about one-third of the world's population has online access. ..... where satellites may do the trick in lower-density areas, solar-powered drones are better suited for more high-frequency locations. ..... Located 20 kilometers above the earth, these drones, which can stay aloft for months at a time, will broadcast the Internet to local users at significantly higher speeds and better connection than a satellite would.

Facebook Will Deliver Internet Via Drones With “Connectivity Lab” Project Powered By Acqhires From Ascenta
While they both have somewhat altruistic objectives, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab could compete with Google’s Project Loon, which uses huge helium balloon vessels to beam Internet to the developing world. ..... will use different vehicles to deliver Internet to different types of locals. In suburban areas it will use “solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft” that can stay in the air for month, are easily deployed, and can provide reliable Internet connectivity. Less populated areas will be served by low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites. ..... when I spoke to Mark Zuckerberg at an event at Facebook headquarters last year, he seemed earnestly adamant about the potential for to empower the world through access to the web
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The List

The List: Mobile Gaming

Audio: One Of The Next Big Things?

I would put audio in one of the next big things category. Textual conversation is nice, it sure is efficient, but if so much is gained, so much is also lost in the process. Would you argue that SMS has finally managed to displace in person meetings? I don't think that will ever be possible. If online video has not managed to displace in person meetings, what are the chances of SMS?

SMS is convenient, it is efficient, and by now it is also cheap. Free is cheap.

There is an inherent richness to audio that textual conversation simply does not capture.

There are a few things that get in the way of audio. One is bandwidth. Audio files are half way to video. They take so much space. There are huge hurdles in search when it comes to audio. We don't have machines that "read" audio files as readily as they read textual files. A comparable search engine for audio files would figure out the language of the audio files and their content, and there would be the option to translate the content into a language of your choice.

Maybe literacy is overrated. And I mean literacy even for the literate. It has always amazed me how the so-called illiterate masses of the Global South tend to be so verbally gifted in their mother tongues. It is a waste that they do not fall under the knowledge worker umbrella.

There should be buttons attached to the comments sections of top blogs that would allow you to join group, real time audio conversations on the topic at hand.

Audio blogging is not as easy an option as textual blogging right now. Believe it or not, I was a huge fan of what the Twitter dudes had before they gave up on it and launched Twitter. I have missed it since.

The best way to reach out to the "illiterate" masses of the Global South is to tackle audio. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

San Fran And New York

Out of fog Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge a...
Out of fog Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in fog and crepuscular rays. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
San Francisco is not a "city" the way New York is a city. San Fran is not big enough. It is not dirty enough. It is not Delhi/Mumbai enough.

Why San Francisco Is Not New York
For one thing, today’s San Francisco is much more of a company town. Go into any bar in San Francisco and you will hear people talking about their start-up, or a battle they recently had with a line of code. Stop by a coffee shop in some neighborhoods here and you will be surrounded by venture capitalists being pitched a new idea for a new app. All of these people rarely, if ever, interact with people outside the tech world...... In New York, if you meet someone who works in tech you feel like you’ve met a long-lost relative. Bars, coffee shops and restaurants are a mishmash of people from vastly different industries. ..... The lack of diversity between social groups in San Francisco isn’t going to change anytime soon, as the number of tech employees in the Bay Area is only going to continue to rise. ..... in the early-90s, tech workers made up less than 1 percent of city workers in San Francisco. In 2000, tech employees had risen to 3 percent of the workforce. By 2013, that number had passed 6 percent. ..... Unlike New York, which arguably has more economic, social, and employment diversity than anywhere else on earth, San Francisco’s tech-on-tech layering has created a not-so-little echo chamber. As I wrote last year, people seem to build products here that would make the rest of the country scratch their heads. ....... In San Francisco .. (I know of one successful founder who owns an old beat-up 1985 Honda that he drives to his secret private jet.) ....... When I came across a passage in the book, “The Annals of San Francisco,” about the 1840s Gold Rush, I found the answer to that question...... “Despite the amazingly high cost of living and the extraordinary opportunities for frittering away money, everyone in early San Francisco was supremely confident that he would soon be able to return home with an incalculable amount of gold,” the author writes in the book while describing the city decades ago. “Everything was conceived on a vast scale, and there was always plenty of cash available for any scheme that might be proposed, no matter how impossible or bizarre it seemed.” ..... Well would you look at that. It seems that San Francisco is the new San Francisco.
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Friday, March 07, 2014

Public WiFi In India's Poorest State

This is monumental. Nitish has built many roads and many bridges to help Bihar catch up with the rest of India. But he needs to build public WiFi to help Bihar catch up with the rest of the world. And he is doing it. I am proud.

The entire city of Patna has to be turned into one free public WiFi zone. Bihar has to be turned into a world class knowledge economy.

There is no internet without electricity, and just like the Yellow River was turned from being the sorrow of China to a boon for China, Bihar and Delhi have to work in concert with Nepal to turn Kosi from being the sorrow of Bihar to a boon for Bihar and Nepal. All of Nepal's 200,000 MW hydroelectric potential has to be tapped for the benefit of Nepal and India. That would be the best long term solution to Bihar's energy needs.

I find Nitish endlessly inspiring. To those who say if democracy is the superior form of government, why is China growing so much faster, Nitish is the answer. Nitish Kumar's Bihar is growing much faster than China clocking at 14%.

Bihar Beats Beijing As World’s Longest Free WiFi Zone Opens In Patna
If you are travelling from Patna to Danapur, then between NIT-Patna on Ashok Rajpath to Danapur you can get absolutely free Wi-Fi connectivity. This 20 Kms stretch is the longest free Wi-Fi zone, anywhere in the world. ...... Recently, Bangalore became the first city in India to have free Wi-Fi zones. Named “Namma WiFi”, free Wi-Fi is available at MG Road, Brigade Road, CMH Road, and around the bus stations of Yeshwantpur, Koramangala and Shanthinagar. ..... Narendra Modi has promised that Ahmedabad will also have its own free Wi-Fi zones so has Delhi government assured us of this luxury. Before this, China’s 3.5 Kms long Wi-Fi zone was considered the longest but Patna has now overtaken this achievement. ...... eBihar summit where CM Nitish Kumar also inaugurated ‘Dial 100’ and ‘City Surveillance’ services wherein hundreds of CCTV cameras would be installed all over the city for better safety and security. A dedicated data center has been opened as well, which will store the data captured by these CCTVs all over the city. ........ a bid to make Patna crime-free. In a first of its kind, this project will enable CCTVs to capture vehicle numbers and person’s identity instantly, which would be shared all over the network to nab any criminal. Every vehicle entering or exiting the city would be monitored this way. ..... the state is rich in natural resources and human talent (maximum number of IAS officers are from Bihar) ..... CM Nitish Kumar is now forcing everyone to take notice of the new Bihar.
Bangalore Gets Free Wi-Fi , Starts With MG Rd & Brigade Rd
After ‘Namma Metro’ meaning ‘Our Metro’, Bangalore is all set to get something we all are dreaming of but never got - free Wifi, the first such service in the country, branded as ‘Namma Wifi’. ...... To access free wifi in the hotspots, users will have to open their browser, which will take them to the “Namma Wifi” page. They have to key in their mobile phone number to which a password would be sent. Once the password is keyed in, the user can browse the net free for 30 minutes in 24 hours. Users can expect internet speeds of about 512 kbps. ...... Plans are also afoot to provide similar service in Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli-Dharwad and some other towns in north Karnataka in the coming months. ..... One would have expected such services to start in Mumbai or Delhi first but this is a good move by the Government.
Maharashtra State Transport Buses to Offer Free Wi-Fi!
MSRTC will be installing wi-fi sets in around 100 Shivneri Volvo buses connecting Mumbai and Pune that will enable bus passengers to access internet completely free of cost. ..... Not only will these buses have Wi-fi, but will also be fitted with CCTV cameras and GPS tracking that will help in monitoring movement of buses from central control room as well as deter bag-lifters and thefts that are quite common on these buses. ..... MSRTC will cover the expenses of these extra features by offering advertising on these AC buses. ..... Internet will come to these Shivneri buses via direct satellite link-up.
Outernet: Free Internet to the World Via Satellites!
A New York based non-profit organization called Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has announced its intention to build an “Outernet”—a global network of cube satellites broadcasting Internet data to virtually any person on the planet—for free. The idea is to offer free Internet access to all people, regardless of location, bypassing filtering or other means of censorship. ...... Around 40% of the people in the world today are still not able to connect to the Internet— not just because of restrictive governments such as North Korea or China —also due to the high cost of bringing this service to remote areas. ...... An Outernet would allow people from Siberia to parts of the western United States to remote islands or villages in Latin-America or Africa to receive the same news as those in Los Angeles, New Delhi, Tokyo or Sydney. ...... In today’s digital age, the Internet has grown in size and importance – human rights organizations and others promoting freedom of expression propose that access to the information that the Internet can provide, is a basic human right. What they suggest is that restricting access to the Internet is a violation of human rights. ...... MDIF is proposing that hundreds of cube satellites be built and launched to create a constellation of sorts in the sky, allowing absolutely anyone with a phone or computer to access Internet data sent to the satellites by several hundred ground stations! ........ Project Lead of Outernet Syed Karim says: ‘We have a very solid understand of the costs involved, as well as experience working on numerous spacecraft. There isn’t a lot of raw research that is being done here; much of what is being described has already been proven by other small satellite programs and experiments. There’s really nothing that is technically impossible to this.’ ...... Such satellites typically run $100,000 to $300,000 each to build and launch. ...... deploying the initial CubeSats can be as early as mid-2015. Outernet project also aims to ask NASA for permission to test the technology on the International Space Station. ....... In this era of Edward Snowden, the veil of secrecy and shackles of capitalism should be atleast shaken, if not broken!
Now Free Internet access and Satellite television on Indian Rails
Two premium trains of India – Shatabdi and Rajdhani – will now be boasting on-board free internet and direct-to-home (DTH) services....... The premium trains have been consistently loosing market share over past couple of years to low cost budget airlines offering very competitive rates. In a bid to stem this loosing streak, the Indian railway minister is expected to announce many new initiatives including Free Internet access and DTH services. ..... The tourism ministry has been exploring the idea with the railways for launching at least 5-7 tourist trains as a large number of foreign tourists visiting India do not visit places beyond select destinations like Goa, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. ..... The upcoming railway budget may also open up advertising opportunities on select trains. Under this proposal, which has been successfully implemented in the southern part of the country, companies will pay a fixed fee for advertising on the trains. ...... I had not expected much from Lalu when he was named the union Railways minister, however, in last 5 years he bought a sea-change in Indian railway services and kudos to him for doing that!
I personally love train journeys, but one of the reasons why I have preferred low-cost airlines in recent past was long train journeys break you off completely from the world – no TV, no Internet.
The 20-km free Wi-Fi zone in Patna is world's longest
Once known as a backward state, Bihar has made a strong bid for a mention on the world's infotech map as chief minister Nitish Kumar unveiled the 20km free Wi-Fi zone, the longest across the globe, at a function christened e-Bihar summit in Patna on Wednesday. Kumar also unveiled a 'city surveillance and dial 100' scheme under which at least 100 CCTV cameras installed in different localities of the state capital became operational. A state data centre has also been opened for storing of the 'data' collected by these cameras. ....... CM Kumar announced an IT City would be developed on a 200-acre plot at Rajgir. He also said the government has in principle approved an infotech building on a plot of one lakh sq ft and another on a plot of 5 lakh sq ft in Patna. Besides, an infotech park is coming up on the outskirts of the city....... "Our state should now be the IT industry's fave destination," he said. ...... The state's free Wi-Fi zone is the longest in the world since China's 3.5km zone was treated as the longest so far. The 'city surveillance and dial 100' project is first of its kind in the country as it integrates the surveillance of the city, vehicle tracking and dial 100 control centre schemes. An automated number plate recognition system has been installed on 11 roads, which will automatically note the registration number of the vehicles entering and exiting the city. "It was with this surveillance system's help that the Patna police rescued the son of a city-based trader from Ara within 24 hours of his kidnapping recently," CM Kumar said. ....... IT minister Shahid Ali Khan said free Wi-Fi facility would be provided at all the tourist spots in the state. Principal secretary (IT) N K Sinha said Bihar might be a late entrant to this sector but "we are on the cusp of IT revolution".
BJP-LJP alliance 'unprincipled': Nitish Kumar
Nitish Kumar rules out possibility of JD(U), Congress alliance
Railways gearing up to run Shatabdi Express at 160 km per hour speed
For US high-speed rail, California project is bellwether
a route between San Francisco and Los Angeles will be a watershed moment for a transport concept that has yet to take off across America. ..... would race across California at up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) per hour ...... the 400-mile St. Paul-to-Chicago route takes a tedious eight hours and 16 minutes today, 90 minutes longer than in previous years
Congress open to special status for Bihar, engages JD(U) in tie-up talks
Modi's Gujarat: AAP state leaders quit amid confused signal from Delhi
AAP, BJP neck-and-neck for Delhi Lok Sabha seats: Survey
Arvind Kejriwal attacks ‘Narendra Modi-Ambani link', says 'Modi wave' a media creation
"Apparently, he (Modi) spends Rs50 crore on each of his rallies. He uses (Mukesh) Ambani's helicopter to travel from one city to the other. Modi claims he will bring back black money. But how can we expect him to take actions against Ambani's bank accounts abroad when he has accepted so many favours?" ..... shot down reports of "Modi wave" as media hype and articulated his party's national ambition as "at least 100 seats" in the parliamentary elections. The next government at Centre, he said, would not be formed without AAP's support. Kejriwal plans to hold a four-day roadshow in Modi's Gujarat with a big rally in Ahmedabad on March 7. ...... While UP is central to Modi's PM project, so is it for AAP's national ambition. The party's approach in UP is to focus on 15 Lok Sabha seats — including Meerut, Ghaziabad, Agra, Lucknow, Kanpur, Banaras, Allahabad and Gorakhpur — which are relatively urban in geography and where there is a direct contest between Congress and BJP. "We have projected ourselves as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. So the 15 urban seats in UP, where the two national parties usually perform well, will be our priority," said Adarsh Shastri, grandson of ex-PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, in charge of formulating the AAP's vision document for UP.
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Shake That Thing: Does Amazon Have No Limits?

The Atlantic: RadioShack Is Doomed (and So Is Retail)
RadioShack's long slide coincides the steep ascendance of Amazon as America's great brick-and-mortar destroyer. In 2003, Amazon and RadioShack each had about $5 billion in sales, as WSJ business editor Dennis Berman pointed out. Last year, Amazon had $75 billion to RadioShack's $3.5 billion. ....... At the end of 2013, RadioShack had 5,000 brick-and-mortar stores with 27,500 employees and $3.5 billion in sales, which is $127,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 1,066th most popular in the world. At the end of 2013, Amazon had zero brick-and-mortar stores with 117,300 employees (full- and part-time) and $75 billion in sales, which is $640,000 in sales per employee. Its website is the 5th most popular in the world. ..... The company's biggest sales category is the wireless market, and that's some of the worst news for RadioShack. “The mobile phones category was very weak, and mall traffic is very weak,” analyst David Schick said. “The majority of folks have their mobile phones. We are past adoption.” ...... the confluence of e-retail and increasingly efficient global sourcing and stocking (i.e.: the Amazon & Wal-Mart Effect) would eventually gut retail employment ...... With $600,000 in sales per employee, Amazon is 3X-4X more efficient than the stores it's eating.

Does have no limits? It does. It has severe limits. (1) It is not even attempting to do High Touch. Health and education are all about High Touch, it seems. That same principle can be applied to traditional retail. (2) You can piggyback on Amazon infrastructure and do retail. You can use their warehouses.

Stores like RadioShack do have the option to rise from the ashes. But I doubt they will. The rethink that is required, I don't think they will go for it. RadioShack is like the New York Times. It has taken a Huffington Post to "get" digital. News is not going away. Neither is retail. If anything it is getting bigger than ever. RadioShack has to move from being a poorly stocked itty bitty warehouse to being an experience.

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Deep Learning

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (album)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"..... deep learning, a relatively new field of artificial intelligence research that aims to achieve tasks like recognizing faces in video or words in human speech ..... "

Is Google Cornering the Market on Deep Learning?
Companies like Google expect deep learning to help them create new types of products that can understand and learn from the images, text, and video clogging the Web..... Not everyone is happy about the arrival of the proverbial Google Bus in one of academia’s rarefied precincts..... a cultural “boundary between academia and Silicon Valley” had been crossed ..... deep learning experts were in such demand that they command the same types of seven-figure salaries as some first-year NFL quarterbacks..... Of the three computer scientists considered among the originators of deep-learning—Hinton, LeCun, and Bengio—only Bengio has so far stayed put in the ivory tower. “I just didn’t think earning 10 times more will make me happier,” he says. “As an academic I can choose what to work on and consider very long-term goals.” ..... in December, DeepMind published a paper showing that its software could do that by learning how to play seven Atari2600 games using as inputs only the information visible on a video screen, such as the score. For three of the games, the classics Breakout, Enduro, and Pong, the computer ended up playing better than an expert human. ..... might be particularly useful in helping robots learn to navigate the human world
Have you sometimes wondered, especially if you are someone who takes, uploads and publicly shares a ton of photos, that maybe noone else is seeing all those photos? What if your thing is video not photo? Then definitely even less people are watching the videos. What if there are important nuggets in them? What if it is a problem that no one is watching your videos?

Deep Learning
Deep-learning software attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the neocortex, the wrinkly 80 percent of the brain where thinking occurs. The software learns, in a very real sense, to recognize patterns in digital representations of sounds, images, and other data. ..... computer scientists can now model many more layers of virtual neurons than ever before ..... remarkable advances in speech and image recognition. ..... Last June, a Google deep-learning system that had been shown 10 million images from YouTube videos proved almost twice as good as any previous image recognition effort at identifying objects such as cats. Google also used the technology to cut the error rate on speech recognition in its latest Android mobile software. ...... a demonstration of speech software that transcribed his spoken words into English text with an error rate of 7 percent, translated them into Chinese-language text, and then simulated his own voice uttering them in Mandarin. ...... image recognition, search, and natural-language understanding ...... machine intelligence is starting to transform everything from communications and computing to medicine, manufacturing, and transportation. .... “deep learning has reignited some of the grand challenges in artificial intelligence.” ..... software that is familiar with the attributes of, say, an edge or a sound ...... This is much the same way a child learns what a dog is by noticing the details of head shape, behavior, and the like in furry, barking animals that other people call dogs. ...... In 2006, Hinton developed a more efficient way to teach individual layers of neurons. The first layer learns primitive features, like an edge in an image or the tiniest unit of speech sound. It does this by finding combinations of digitized pixels or sound waves that occur more often than they should by chance. Once that layer accurately recognizes those features, they’re fed to the next layer, which trains itself to recognize more complex features, like a corner or a combination of speech sounds. The process is repeated in successive layers until the system can reliably recognize phonemes or objects. ...... At least 80 percent of the recent advances in AI can be attributed to the availability of more computer power ...... Until last year, Google’s Android software used a method that misunderstood many words. But in preparation for a new release of Android last July, Dean and his team helped replace part of the speech system with one based on deep learning. Because the multiple layers of neurons allow for more precise training on the many variants of a sound, the system can recognize scraps of sound more reliably, especially in noisy environments such as subway platforms. Since it’s likelier to understand what was actually uttered, the result it returns is likelier to be accurate as well. Almost overnight, the number of errors fell by up to 25 percent—results so good that many reviewers now deem Android’s voice search smarter than Apple’s more famous Siri voice assistant. ..... Some critics say deep learning and AI in general ignore too much of the brain’s biology in favor of brute-force computing. ....... deep learning fails to account for the concept of time .... human learning depends on our ability to recall sequences of patterns: when you watch a video of a cat doing something funny, it’s the motion that matters, not a series of still images like those Google used in its experiment. “Google’s attitude is: lots of data makes up for everything” ...... deep-learning models can use phoneme data from English to more quickly train systems to recognize the spoken sounds in other languages ....... more sophisticated image recognition could make Google’s self-driving cars much better ....... Kurzweil will tap into the Knowledge Graph, Google’s catalogue of some 700 million topics, locations, people, and more, plus billions of relationships among them. It was introduced last year as a way to provide searchers with answers to their queries, not just links. ....... apply deep-learning algorithms to help computers deal with the “soft boundaries and ambiguities in language.” ..... sensors throughout a city might feed deep-learning systems that could, for instance, predict where traffic jams might occur.
It is possible to imagine a city that has zero traffic jams. If all cars are smart, driverless cars, and all traffic is machine coordinated, it is possible to get rid of traffic jams.
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