Friday Tech News Roundup #25

Below are 10 tech news that I found interesting and are related to topics I care about.

iPhone sales numbers dipped slightly, but revenue is up courtesy of the iPhone X – As far as sales figures go, this last quarter wasn’t entirely rosy for Apple. During today’s earnings report, the company posted sales of 77.3 million iPhones, down just under a million from this time last year. Of course, that 78.2 million figure from 2017 represented a new record for the company. Techcrunch

Apple saw $5.5 billion in revenue from AirPods, Watches, TVs and other products last quarter – Other than its iPhones and computers, Apple sells a bunch of other products, like the AirPods, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats products, iPod Touch and, most recently, the HomePod. In Q1 2018, Apple saw $5.5 billion in revenue for these other products, an increase of 36 percent year over year. Techcrunch

Facebook bans cryptocurrency ads due to frequent fraud – Those cryptocurrency ads that promise to make you rich in a matter of days? You won’t see them on Facebook any more. Mashable

Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop is cheaper and slower at $799 – Microsoft has launched a new version of its Surface Laptop today, bringing the base unit price down to $799. The software giant quietly unveiled the cheaper Surface Laptop over at the Microsoft Store, and the new $799 variant ships with Intel’s Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. That makes the new base model slower and cheaper than the previous version at $999 that shipped with a Core i5 processor and the same low amount of RAM. The Verge

Apple finally lists all the ways you can play audio on HomePod, and Bluetooth isn’t one – After a degree of confusion over the possible ways to play music on its new HomePod speaker, Apple has cleared things up by posting more information on compatible audio sources. The HomePod does indeed work with iTunes Match and purchased iTunes tracks as well as Apple Music, according to Apple’s website, which also mentions Beats 1, podcasts, and the ability to AirPlay “other content” from various Apple products. You should be able to beam songs from apps like Spotify, then, though you won’t be able to play them with spoken commands. The Verge

Google and 3M join the USI, an initiative aimed at creating an open standard for styluses – Touchscreens may have become the norm but styluses still have their uses. While they are primarily used throughout the digital art community, many regular users still prefer them over their fingers due to a stylus’ superior accuracy. Techspot

Cisco issues critical vulnerability alert for devices using WebVPN – Cisco recently issued an urgent security advisory regarding devices configured with WebVPN. The vulnerability is in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) of Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) devices. The company has labeled it a critical flaw with a CVSS score of 10 which is as high as the scale goes. Techspot

Samsung launches 800GB Z-SSD for AI and high-performance computing – There is no shortage of demand for faster enterprise storage and Samsung now has a new product to offer. The SZ985 Z-SSD is an 800GB, four-lane PCIe SSD based on Z-NAND memory that offers nearly ten times the read performance compared to 3-bit V-NAND chips. The SZ985 is designed for supercomputing and artificial intelligence applications and can act as an extremely high-speed cache drive. Techspot

Quantum Computers Threaten Data Encryption – The promise of quantum computing comes with a major downside: “Cryptographically useful” quantum machines will threaten public key encryption used to secure data in the cloud, a new report warns. HPCWire

Firefox users should update now to patch security flaw – Mozilla has released a critical update for Firefox that repairs a security flaw that could have allowed hackers to run unauthorized code on a user’s PC. Techradar

Friday Tech News Roundup #23

Below are 10 tech news that I found interesting and are related to topics I care about.

Apple revamps web design for App Store – Apple has updated the look of its web-based App Store, 9to5Mac first reported. It definitely has the feel of the iOS 11 App Store, which Apple completely redesigned and launched last September. But, unlike iOS 11, there’s no focus on app discovery. Techcrunch

A bug is messing up the keyboard for some Messenger users on iPhones (Update: Now fixed) – If you’re having issues with Facebook Messenger on your iPhone right now, you’re not alone. Techcrunch

Tim Cook: next iOS update will let users disable iPhone battery performance throttling – With its admission that it throttles performance on older iPhones, Apple is facing one of its biggest controversies in years. The feature may be for the benefit of the owner, but Apple’s failure to disclose what it’s been doing has been met with anger. Now, Tim Cook says a future update will allow the performance throttling to be switched off, if a user wishes. Techspot

World’s most powerful mobile spyware can read WhatsApp messages, take photos, more – Security firm Kaspersky has uncovered a new Android spyware tool that’s being described as one of the most powerful and advanced forms of mobile malware ever. Named after one of the domains where it was first identified, Skygofree can perform a number of malicious activities, including recording audio and reading WhatsApp messages. Techspot

Apple and Samsung are both under investigation by the Italian government over planned obsolescence – Italy’s antitrust organization has launched two separate investigations against Apple and Samsung over accusations of planned obsolescence. The Verge

Netflix encourages employees to interview at other companies — here’s why – Netflix’s approach to people management can come off as logical but harsh. Business Insider

Microsoft Office for Mac gets a major update – Microsoft has released a new version of Office 2016 for Mac, introducing new online features that bring it closer in line with the cloud-first Office 365. Techradar

Apple forgot the greatest lesson of the MacBook Air – Ten years ago, Steve Jobs hopped on stage at Macworld 2008 and did another one of his seemingly impossible magic tricks: He undid the string on a manila envelope, pulled out the MacBook Air, and forever changed laptops forever. Mashable

This simple text message can paralyze your iPhone — but a fix is coming – A newly discovered iOS bug lets an attacker construct a simple text message which, when sent to an iPhone, immediately freezes and possibly restarts it. Mashable

Facebook became your news diet. Now, it’s going to serve you junk. – Forget about media outlets and Facebook — worry about readers. Mashable

A thought on improving voice user interface while ensuring privacy

Voice user interface is going to be one of the ways we interact with our devices as we go about our daily lives. It is just a very intuitive way for us because we communicate primarily via voice with text and images to complement.

But there still are various problems that need people to work on them to improve the overall experience. One of it is related to how the AI behind voice user interface can interact with us more naturally, like how we interact with fellow human beings.

A premium Medium article written by Cheryl Platz got me thinking about that. It also covered a little on privacy and why it is a contributing factor that make it difficult for current generation of AIs to speak more naturally and understand the context when we speak. Unless, companies don’t give a shit about our privacy and start collecting even more data.

In this article, I am going to share what I thought could help improve the AI and ensure user privacy.

Current Implementations and Limitations

What an AI needs to be better at understanding and responding in ways most useful to us are processing power, a good neural network that allows it to self-learn, and a database to store whatever it has learnt.

The cloud is the best way for an AI to gain access to a processing power and huge enough database. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft offer cloud computing and storage services via their AWS and Azure platform respectively at very low cost. Even Google offers such services via their Compute Engine.

The problem with the cloud is reduced level of confidence when privacy is involved. Anything you store up there is vulnerable, available for retrieval through security flaws or misconfigurations. Companies could choose to encrypt those data via end-to-end encryption to help with protect user’s privacy but the problem is the master keys are owned by said companies. They could decrypt those data whenever they want.

Or you could do it like what Apple did with Siri, storing data locally, and use Differential Privacy to help ensure anonymity but it reduces the AI capabilities because it doesn’t have access to sufficient amount of personal data. Two, Siri runs on devices like Apple Watch, iPhones and iPads, which could be a problem when it comes to processing and compute capabilities, and having enough information to understand the user.

Although those devices have more processing power than room-sized mainframes from decades ago, it’s still not enough, energy-efficiency and capability wise, to handle highly complex neural networks for better experience with voice user interfaces.

Apple did try to change that with its A11 Bionic SoC that has a neural engine. Companies like Qualcomm, Imagination Technologies, and even NVIDIA are also contributing to increase local processing power with energy efficiency for AI through their respective CPU and GPU products.

Possible Solution

The work on the hardware by companies should continue so that there will be even more powerful and energy efficient processors for AI to use.

In addition to that, what we need is a standard, wireless-based protocol (maybe bluetooth) for the AI on our devices, irrespective of companies, to talk to each other when they are near to each other and in our home network. This way, the AI on each of those devices can share information and perform distributed computing, thereby improving its accuracy, overall understanding of the user, and respond accordingly.

A common software kernel is also necessary to provide different implementation of neural network a standardized way of doing distributed computing efficiently and effectively.

So now, imagine Siri talking to Alexa, Google Assistant or even Cortana via this protocol and vice versa.

Taking privacy into account, information exchanged via this protocol should be encrypted by default with keys owned only by the user. Any data created or stored should only reside on device also encrypted and nowhere else. Taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, the generated keys should come from some kind of hardware-based “Secure Enclave”.

To further improve the neural network, Differential Privacy should be applied on any query or information sent by the AI to the cloud for processing.

Conclusion

The above is really just a thought of how current the AIs powering voice user interfaces can be improved.

At the end, it’s really up to the companies to decide if they want to come together and improve all our lives taking into account our privacy and security.

10 Tech News Roundup #18

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Apple’s iMac Pro is a love letter to developers – The iMac Pro exists because it turns out that there is a lot of air underneath the aging Mac Pro and above the incredibly popular MacBook Pro. A single-digit percentage of Mac customers buy the Mac Pro and, in recent years, Apple had been seeing a major rise in “pro” customers of all shades purchasing iMacs because of their incredible screens, all-in-one form factor and overall ease of deployment. Techcrunch

Knightscope security robot gets fired from its San Francisco job – A five-foot tall, 400-pound robot with four surveillance cameras just got fired from its security job. Right before Christmas. Mashable

Edge Mobile Payments buys what’s left of Plastc in hopes that there’s still life left in smart cards – The death of Plastc back in April looked to many like the final nail in the smart card coffin. After all, the news came only a few months after the space’s other big player, Coin, called it quits. Of course, the loss of Coin wasn’t totally in vain — the company was ultimately purchased by Fitbit, which ultimately incorporated its mobile payment tech into the Ionic smartwatch. Techcrunch

Xage emerges from stealth with a blockchain-based IoT security solution – Getting the myriad of devices involved in the industrial internet of things provisioned and communicating with one another in a secure way will be one of the great technological challenges facing companies in the coming years. Xage (prounounced Zage) emerged from stealth today with a blockchain-based security solution that could help simplify this. Techcrunch

Whoops, iTunes won’t be available in the Microsoft Store this year, after all – Earlier this year at Microsoft’s Build conference, the company revealed it was working with Apple to get iTunes included in the Windows Store. The promise was that it would be available by the end of 2017, but now it looks like that won’t be happening. The Verge

That revamped Mac Pro is still in the works, Apple reminds us – In the very same breath as its iMac Pro availability press release was uttered, Apple slipped in a reminder to the world that an overhaul to its Mac Pro desktop is still in development. Oh, and that homemade professional display is in the works, too. Techradar

Apple patent filing reveals potential whispering Siri functionality – Ever wanted to use Siri in a crowded place — such as a subway, bus or supermarket — without the assistant blaring her response to everyone in the vicinity? If so, you might be in luck if a patent filed by Apple back in 2016 ever becomes a reality. Techspot

Intel tips off potential 960 GB and 1.5 TB Optane SSD 900Ps – I was pretty impressed with the performance of Intel’s Optane caching solution when I messed around with MSI’s Aegis 3 gaming desktop. Still, some folks aren’t going to be satisfied with a simple Optane accelerator. If you’re in that category, the Optane SSD 900P is your jam, and you have a choice between 280 GB or 480 GB models. What, that’s not enough storage? Hang on a bit, then, because an Intel document suggests that 960 GB and 1.5 TB models of the 3D Xpoint-equipped SSD could be on their way. Techreport

US regulators ‘broke the internet as we know it’, VPN providers say – The US FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) decision on Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules has provoked an outcry among startups and NGOs, and also the wider public, both in the US and abroad. Techradar

A bombshell letter charges that Uber hacked into competitors’ networks and wiretapped people at a hotel – A security group within Uber hacked into competitors’ computer systems, stole data from rivals, and recorded the private conversations of competitors at a hotel, according to a letter made public Friday by the judge overseeing the company’s lawsuit with Google-spinoff company Waymo. Business Insider

10 Tech News Roundup #17

Here are 10 tech news that I found interesting.

Zero-day iOS HomeKit vulnerability allowed remote access to smart accessories including locks, fix rolling out – A HomeKit vulnerability in the current version of iOS 11.2 has been demonstrated to 9to5Mac that allows unauthorized control of accessories including smart locks and garage door openers. Our understanding is Apple has rolled out a server-side fix that now prevent unauthorized access from occurring while limiting some functionality, and an update to iOS 11.2 coming next week will restore that full functionality. 9to5Mac

Apple hires yet another veteran TV programming exec for its original content efforts – As part of its growing original content efforts, Apple has hired programming veteran Michelle Lee to join its worldwide video department, as reported by Variety. Lee has previously worked on popular shows for several major networks as a producing partner at Universal Television’s True Jack Productions… 9to5Mac

Nvidia’s $2,999 Titan V is a 110 teraflop GPU for AI processing – Nvidia cards are the de facto standard for running machine learning workloads and today, the company added yet another high-end compute-centric card to its line-up: the Titan V. This card, which is based on Nvidia’s Volta architecture, features 21.1 billion transistors on a 815 mm2 chip that can produce a full 110 teraflops of compute power. Techcrunch

Uber lands investment from Singapore’s largest taxi operator in blow to rival Grab – Uber has struck a major deal in Southeast Asia after ComfortDelGro, Singapore’s largest taxi operator, announced [PDF] it has agreed to buy a majority share of the ride-hailing giant’s Singapore-based car rental business. Techcrunch

Uber reportedly paid a 20-year-old man to keep silent about security breach – A 20-year-old man was responsible for the massive data breach at Uber last year, and the company paid him to destroy the data through its bug bounty program, reports Reuters. In November, Uber revealed it suffered from a cyberattack in October 2016 that exposed the private data of 57 million drivers and customers, which it then covered up. Uber allegedly paid hackers a $100,000 ransom to delete the data and not disclose what had happened to the media and public. The company didn’t say how the hacker was paid, or who he was. The Verge

Bitcoin value tops $16,000 and shows no signs of slowing down – Bitcoin’s track record is a lot like a manic-depressive illness, defined by extremely high peaks and incredibly deep valleys. Judging by its latest rally, the popular cryptocurrency’s volatility isn’t going to normalize anytime soon. Techspot

Intel Nervana processor goes beyond terabit bandwidth with refined architecture – Earlier this year, Intel showed off its research and development efforts to build the Intel Nervana Neural Network Processor. The newly designed chip will far surpass any general-purpose processors for machine learning and artificial intelligence applications. Best yet, it is a product that actually is going to make it to market. Techspot

AirPods will be even more ubiquitous in 2018, says report – Get ready to see even more of those distinctive AirPod stems sticking out of ears everywhere you go next year. Mashable

Windows 7 users are officially dropping like flies – For the first time in a long time, Windows 7 is now being run by less than half of PC users. Only 43.12% still use the eight-year-old operating system, reports TechRadar. Mashable

Every 2018 iPhone model could get a battery boost thanks to this new tech – Hands up who wants more battery life from their smartphone? The good news is that noted mobile analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI Securities fame, reckons that all three of the 2018 iPhones are going to get a boost in capacity across the board, thanks partly to a new L-shaped battery design. Techradar