News

Soundbyte 297: Aerials

29 May 2017

Starting the week with a slight buzz still in my head from the Luminis 15 year party of the previous weekend. I had a great time celebrating the past 15 years (of which I have been a part for a little over 5,5 years now) and also looking forward in excitement for the next 15 and what they might bring us. Looking back at what was for some just a short working week because of a long Ascension day weekend, the past week featured all sorts of interesting tidbits of technews, seemingly unconnected:

AI/Machine Learning

Although low-tech holds the edge over high-tech in some case, as demonstrated by the Dutch Police using a trained bird of prey to guard the NATO summit in Brussels against drones, the other way around is also true, as Google’s AlphaGo Deepmind AI implementation was at it again, playing exhibition games in China versus the current world #1, Ke Jie. Although the Chinese Grandmaster tried to defeat the revamped version of AlphaGo with moves from it’s own playbook, effectively trying to use AlphaGo’s own unusual strategy against it, the gambit didn’t really work out and AlphaGo took victory in all of the best-of-three series games. After winning it’s final game on Saturday, Google announced to retire AlphaGo from competition and instead “use their considerable energy into the next set of grand challenges, developing advanced general algorithms that could one day help scientists as they tackle some of our most complex problems, such as finding new cures for diseases, dramatically reducing energy consumption, or inventing revolutionary new materials,” DeepMind co-founder and co-CEO Demis Hassabis said. “If AI systems prove they are able to unearth significant new knowledge and strategies in these domains too, the breakthroughs could be truly remarkable. We can’t wait to see what comes next.” Relating this back to the keynote of Luminis DevCon, humanity and AI have interesting times ahead.

Cyber security

Cyber security seemed to be quite a topic last week. More allegations on Russian interventions in elections across the globe, more proof that North Korea is very likely to be the source for the WannaCry ransomware from which a part of the world is still recovering. And to top that off another very interesting but disturbing exploit was revealed that apparently computers can be hacked via subtitle files: attack by subtitles. The potential of this attack is huge as there are hundreds of millions of users of popular media players like KODI, VLC, and Popcorn Time that are vulnerable to this attack. These media players try to support the many subtitle formats out there, but since there is hardly any security enforced within the players or on the platforms distributing subtitle formats, it is very easy for attackers to take advantage of this exploit. When a media player runs such a malicious subtitle file, hackers can take complete control over any device running them. From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim’s machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device. The potential damage the attacker can inflict is endless, ranging anywhere from stealing sensitive information, installing ransomware, mass Denial of Service attacks, and much more. Updating your media player to the latest version is therefore highly recommended!

Cryptocurrency

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, surged past the magical $2,000 valuation mark this week. Don’t know if it is in some way connected to the WannaCry outbreak, but Bitcoin is definitely on the rise again, hitting all time highs steady for the past couple of months. Last week alone it rose more than 12 percent. Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency that is doing well, similarly also Ripple and Ethereum are high in demand and are showing increase in value. Interesting to see how this is all playing out as the value increases clearly indicate we’re in some sort of a bubble, but experts say we’re still nowhere near the potential of these currencies. But then again…who is an expert in this field? And what are they basing their theories on, as there is no real assets underneath these currencies, so potentially the valuation could be infinite, which is close to zero, I guess.

Patents

In the good news department, Patent trolls, who’ve benefited from an ancient legal standard that made it possible for patent holders to sue companies in almost any U.S. jurisdiction — including a federal district in east Texas that’s notorious for serving as a favorable venue for patent holders — just lost their ability to bring infringement lawsuits in such plaintiff-friendly places. In a unanimous ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled instead that companies can be sued for patent infringement only where they reside or where they have a regular and established place of business. The ruling is a blow to companies that hold patents almost solely (patent trolls) so they can sue companies into financial awards. This sure won’t be the end of patent trolling, but it is raising the bar a bit, which is a step forward in my book.

James Gosling

Possibly the biggest thing in Tech last week (at least for me) was the announcement made by James Gosling on Facebook that the father of Java is joining Amazon Web Services. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years as Chief Architect at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. Gosling’s move to AWS is one of a series of well-known tech luminaries moving to the Seattle Cloud giant. About half a year ago, Adrian Cockroft, former Chief Architect at Netflix joined AWS and a little bit more recent, Arun Gupta, a well-known technical evangelist joined the ranks of AWS as well.
All of this is strengthening my beliefs that AWS at the moment are the absolute leaders in innovative cloud computing, and that we will see a lot of buzz coming out of them in the second half of this year, especially with all these top guns joining forces.

Top Gun 2

Now speakling of top guns…while not having anything to do with tech, but Tom Cruise confirmed in an Australian tv show last week that there will be a sequel to the 1986 movie, and that filming will start in the second half of this year. A guilty pleasure that I could not hide from this soundbyte, and I’m sure will bring some joy to others too.

And now for the music…considering the last piece on Top Gun 2, I could have used the cheesy ‘take my breath away’ theme song from the original movie, but following up on the promise made in my previous soundbyte to evangelize the ‘heavy’ music genre a bit more, I instead have chosen another diamond in the rough for you: System of a Down is one of the headliners of the PinkPop Festival in a few weeks. So if you like their music, you can actually see them perform it live as well. An experience I can highly recommend. The song I chose for this soundbyte comes from the Toxicity album (2001) that contains a bunch of other great songs that I could have chosen instead. I decided to go for ‘Aerials’ as in my opinion this song is a warning to close-mindedness and a call to ‘free your mind and think ahead’…to the next 15 years of Luminis! There you go…

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