Posts on Sep 2017

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All or nothing in ISP blocking – here’s why (and here’s AI)

A recent online report shows that the Chinese internet service providers caused intermittent service on the WhatsApp platform. This is just one of the many disruptions experienced by WhatsApp, due to censorship.

This incident leads to the old discussion of “should the ISPs be allowed to block certain websites, platforms or apps, or not?” The blocking reasons may vary, and the risk of encouraging censorship in some regions of the world is just one thing to consider.

ISP blocking, not a generic matter

Generic blocking would represent the “all” version of solving the matter. Yet it is only logical that ISP blocking cannot be allowed in a generic manner, then shifting the power of decision to each provider.

Deciding to block certain websites or platform happened so far as a result of specific court orders. For example, in the UK, the EPL won a High Court Order following which the UK ISPs were required to block certain servers that hosted illegal streams of EPL football matches. This means ISP blocking can be enforced, but a proactive action must be taken by those who are harmed, and the reasons are to be validated by a Court.

In theory, this protects all the websites or platforms that could be unreasonably blocked, if the courtroom stage were not required. However, in a biased governing regime, the legal system would be most likely biased, too. Therefore, providing legal means of ISP blocking may return unexpected results when legal does not equal democracy.

In the UK it has also been proven that ISPs block VPNs by default , which is another way of “censoring” the Internet. No Court Order here, just a legislative promise turned reality, according to the source article.

The not so global Internet

  • When “nothing” is not quite what it seems

When looking at the three examples from the above, we may easily wonder whether our posts or apps reach the big world out there, or not. Well, assuming we are not tackling any problematic issues that might get censored in some country or another, the posts should reach absolutely everyone interested, regardless of their location. At least in theory.

The apps are however another category, as WhatsApp’s case proves. Enabling fast-paced, real-time communications between people might not be to everyone’s taste. The more efficient such apps are, the less likely they are seen as suited by oppressive regimes. Some might even be marked as dangerous by non-oppressive systems, due to the fact that in the wrong hands, they serve dangerous purposes. In that aspect, the matter meets the iPhone encryption dispute.

Wait, what are we doing? Penalizing the best apps because their efficiency might be used for malicious purposes? Ironically, sometimes this might be the case.

A point where AI’s contribution would be strategic

Stepping back a little, the problem could be summarized like this: modern technology brought along modern peoples’ rights. The way they are currently handled is not standardized, therefore it varies from region to region. How can malicious actions be stopped, without inducing an oppressive approach for all that Internet access means?

Monitoring Internet traffic with the help of Artificial Intelligence is one way to go. It is not a thing of the future, either. Only that AI progresses and learns, and the more developed it is, the more effective its presence. Sifting through the big data bulks of the Internet traffic to point out only the real risks is not easy to accomplish. Too many false alerts and the system is not credible, while missing the true risk points makes it unreliable.

Meanwhile, Internet neutrality advocates try to keep the status quo. Maintaining the current liberties could prove difficult, could prove risky from some angles, but it is important and it’s part of who we are, or of who we want to be as a modern society.

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Trends that caught our attention: Google Pixel 2 news and DNA nanobots

While recovering from a local storm that managed to wreak havoc on the city here, we couldn’t help but browsing the bigger picture trending subjects – in the tech field, which is always a matter of interest here, at the Canvy Team.

 

Gogle Pixel 2 launch confirmed

With a timing that managed to out-trend even the iPhone X post-launch comments (at least in the USA), Google confirmed its October 4th event marking the launch of Pixel 2.

This high-end device competes in the premium segment. The additional Google-related rumors are that the company will replace the defective Nexus 6P with Pixel XL-s, even if the one year warranty term id overdue.

The price for the expected Pixel 2 remains yet to be announced, as well as the validity of the second piece of (unofficial) news.

 

DNA nanobots

On the healthcare-oriented side of next-gen technology, the Caltech researchers managed to make quite a few waves by reviving the idea of microscopic DNA robots set to intervene in favor of the human health by transporting molecules to specific places in the body. This time the robots evolved into a more feasible concept – the specialists speak of “pegs” that would enable the tiny robots to advance their way towards their destination inside the body.

However, as the source article mentions, “there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in order to perfect the technology and understand how the robots could work in a wider variety of situations”, a detail that might temper the enthusiasm, but nevertheless does not impair the fact that the scientists advance on their way to materializing the prototypes.

 

Conclusion in G minor

…Where G can either stand for Google – a brand definitely on top of the digital trends, or you can also look at the trending topics on (again!) Google, and see how G may stand for “games”, a subject that takes at least one of the top places weekly. This may be construed positively (people will always keep their playful nature), or negatively (all this tech primarily serves the gaming field, while other domains are not as appreciated). In fact, the balanced conclusion is nor here nor there.

Modern technology empowered customers like never before – in terms of making choices of high impact. Ultimately, the playfulness or seriousness of any tech product translates not into moral conclusions, but into profitability metrics. The most world saving concept can populate a dusty file if not approached and supported accordingly. Similarly, the video games industry is thriving due to the fact that it manages to captivate people of all ages.

On this note, we leave you to another week of tech discoveries, and we invite you once again to explore Canvy’s full array of features, as you might find things that you’ve missed before. Our Android contact manager app is pretty complex, and we welcome your feedback at out contact addresses!

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Android Oreo – what about the smartphones that are not scheduled to update

The fast-paced technology of our days may sometimes feel frustrating. We tend to form bonds with our possessions, especially when their daily use proves satisfactory. Therefore smartphones cross the boundary between indifferent objects and cherished goods. Many appreciate the new, improved devices, yet still hold on to their older ones – it’s an element of comfort. It may also be an action of wise financial considerations or sustainability.

Regardless of the reason, a lot of people desire to keep their current devices, yet would like to benefit from the latest software updates. Depending on the tech leaders’ policies, this may or may not be possible. What else is there to do, besides giving up your older smartphone and getting a new one just because you want the latest OS features and access to the newest apps?

 

Android Oreo and smartphone obsolescence

Unveiled on the 21st of August this year, the latest Android version was confirmed to arrive preinstalled on smartphones such as “BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia and Sony”, as GhizmoChina confirms (also see here the list of devices that get the new OS).

The logical assumption is that older smartphone versions will not get the Oreo update.

The same publication mentions that, however, those who really wish to have the latest Android version working on their current smartphones can employ custom ROMS and install Oreo. This “solution” is highly questionable, due to its instability and unofficial character – so if you are thinking of it, better move past it.

 

The hardware-software hybrid comes with its own rules

Whenever we acquire a “bundle” made out of hardware and software, we should understand that this type of property is not autonomous, especially in a world of connectivity. The benefits are many, but the rules are very specific ones we must abide to.

Perhaps the digital generations find it hard to even examine this issue in terms of autonomy versus dependency, but the services’ merging that we are witnessing do cause this type of interlocking for various elements, paid or free.

We buy a smartphone – it comes with a preinstalled OS that is part of our decision process when we decide to make this purchase. We install various apps, some of them free – in many instances because we want to connect and our friends and peers are reachable on those particular networks represented by the apps. Or we simply extend our abilities via the apps and we make our activities easier.

From the get go, the quality of digital user will suffer the impact of various factors.

 

Is the customer a false or a true king?

The idiom “the customer is always king” knows a radical transformation in the digital age. On the one hand, the companies do pay attention to the way users react to their product and services and analyze the market before every change – the slightest annoyance can snowball into a worldwide phenomenon or at least has the potential to impact a brand’s image. Therefore, risk management includes the customer reaction as one of the most important factors.

One the other hand, some changes need to go through, no matter what. As we know, innovations are rarely able to guarantee public approval before they launch – so they need to be introduced, they hold risks and often meet the audience’s hostility.

Of course, not everything comes in A/B tests. Some changes that seem to be pre-approved by the customers go wrong when standing the reality trial, while some innovations prove winners, regardless of the first impact.

The idea here would be that, when considering smartphones and the related software, be it their OS or their apps, any major change turns into a global roll out. When the change implies modifications that we do not like, unwanted updates, or even replacing our smartphones for compatibility – we hardly feel like kings.

 

Enjoy what you have

The good part is that old sayings never go out of business – and the ones about enjoying what you have are the golden rule when in doubt about changes that you are not sure of. Ponder your options – you have the time since usually there is a lag between the new and the old, in the sense that you are able to keep your old options/devices and not be completely out-networked for a while.

The same advice should go to the companies, as well. The truth is that customers appreciate not being pushed into unwanted options, or being left behind because they choose to do things differently. The ethics, the customer-friendliness and the customer loyalty are perhaps harder to quantify, but extremely valuable. When introducing innovations, it would be nice to let them exist along classical options, instead of annihilating these last ones. Just saying… at least when there is enough room for both to coexist.

Canvy Team digital precognition

The Canvy Team ponders on the need for digital precognition, as displayed by the Google Search

In a world of progress and digital revolution, the leading-edge tech companies have made it clear that mastering big data is the key to success. However, not all businesses have the resources to directly tap into this ocean of raw information. Yet all need to get exactly the right details out of it – in order to sell better, and provide better services to their customers. The percentage of companies that pay for “Interpreted-Data-as-a-Service” is most likely higher than the one of the companies that handle their own data needs on premise.

This is definitely one way to succeed in the modern business world – extrapolating and interpreting data. We might even say obsessing about it, when the results prove unsatisfactory – a sort of passion about numbers that holds the promise of the ultimate clarity, of the logical anticipation of the following key strategic steps.

 

Reducing the options, a way of better handling big data

Recently, Google’s search app on iOS got a Twitter-like “trending” feature, as well as the capability of displaying the estimated search results “even before (the users) press the search button”. Of course, the Android users of the Google App are already used with the “trending” suggestions, which appeared approximately one year ago – generating a long line of complaints.

Well, it seems like not all customers complaints’ are seen as constructive feedback by the company. Google simply goes on with certain features, regardless of the way the audience receives them. Probably, the higher purpose in introducing certain changes prevails.

And definitely a very important role of many of the latest changes, from algorithms to app updates or digital tools’ changes is related to what the machines need, in order to be able to process the global data and produce relevant results. For attaining a reasonable predictability, the algorithms need to evolve or – a more short-term alternative – to be fed logically organized data.

 

The randomness that usually characterizes human nature just isn’t that productive at the moment

Therefore, when searching for whatever goes through your mind on Google, its search app prompts various “nearest” categories, trying to eliminate unnecessary variation. Perhaps you call the same thing a different way, and in fact you are looking for exactly what your next-door neighbor is looking for. Perhaps you are susceptible of being influenced and you will end up looking for the same thing your neighbor looked for… the reasons you might take Google’s suggestions instead of using your own head are countless.

The outcome is what matters – big data becomes more logical, more efficiently digestible. Bots and algorithms can provide valid final predictions and results, businesses adopt these tools on a large scale. This technology is successful, even in its more rudimentary forms (as opposed to the highly advanced projects that try to materialize AGI)…

 

Digital precognition, data and businesses

Machine Learning is built on the (valid) assumption that the human brain works as a machine would, only it is an extremely sophisticated system. Well, this theory would find a lot of opponents, and even when accepted, it includes listing many exceptions, in order to fully describe the way we think and function.

However, the schematics of this concept are enough for the ML promoters to work on. Developing more and more advanced software tools, those who work in this field learn as they go along, combining the commercial value of each step and intermediary tool with their experimental value. The activity is both interesting and profitable.

Digital precognition, or the capacity of anticipating certain elements, from market movements to people’s reactions or choices, is already incipiently present in various software tools. Monitoring or cybersecurity tools, for example, are in some cases capable of alerting the users on the probability of an incident.

Therefore, we may say we already have achieved a certain degree of digital precognition.  Also, by teaching people to organize their thoughts and think in a less complicated/sophisticated way, the point where machines meet human thinking gets closer and closer.

Out of curiosity, just ask yourself what each update in your favorite apps that does not feel quite comfortable is in fact trying to teach you?