Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NOW do you believe that Russia is in serious trouble?
Apple Halts Online Sales In Russia As The Ruble Collapses
… Russia’s currency has dropped by more than 20% this week, even after the country’s central bank raised interest rates to 17% in a bid to stem the decline. Wednesday alone the rule is down 5%, to 71 rubles against the dollar. The currency is falling because of the falling price of oil and Western sanctions over Russia’s military actions in Crimea.
… Apple had held back from raising its prices in Russia to offset the drop, up until November 26, when it raised the price of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus by 25%. Yet even after raising the price of the iPhone 6 to 39,990 rubles, the value of the sale to Apple in dollar terms had dropped from $847 to $585.

Markets rule, 'Russia is on its knees': Altman
… What Russia's currency crisis has exposed is how profoundly weak the country has become, the investment bank's founder and executive chairman said on "Squawk Box." The commodity-centered economy now faces massive financial flight, a lack of meaningful foreign investment and highly leveraged corporations, Altman added.
"We live in an era where the global capital markets are the super power in the world, and when they move against you, as they've moved against Russia as we've all seen in the ruble, there's nothing that can stop that," Altman said. "The global capital markets have spoken, and Russia is on its knees."

Strange that the hackers keep communicating. Makes them easier to trace.
Sony hackers threaten terror attacks on theaters
The hackers who attacked Sony threatened terrorist attacks against the United States on Tuesday, warning people who plan to go see "The Interview" in theaters could face a "bitter fate."
The hacking group, which goes by "Guardians of Peace," referenced the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as they warned people not to go see the comedy about a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“Warning[.] We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places ‘The Interview’ be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to,” the hackers proclaimed.
… The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is aware of the threat and analyzing its credibility, according to an official.
“At this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.

(Related) Apparently, Sony (or the actors) don't trust DHS to protect them?
Seth Rogen, James Franco cancel publicity tour after hacker threats
… Multiple outlets reported on Tuesday that the movie studio has pulled back the comedy duo’s planned appearances ahead of the Christmas Day opening of their movie “The Interview.”
BuzzFeed News reported that the comedy pair canceled all of their public appearances ahead of the film’s opening. Variety confirmed the report, but added that the two are still planning to appear at a special screening of the film in New York on Thursday.
… The ongoing repercussions of the hack have been a disaster for the studio and could cost Sony well more than $100 million when all is said and done. [Sony's not talking, so this is likely a guess. Bob]

So a “Best Practice” might be to hold back a “significant” improvement in case you need to cover up a significant change that impacts the competition?
Apple Wins Decade-Old Suit Over iTunes Updates
A jury took about three hours to reject an antitrust lawsuit — 10 years in the making — that accused Apple of using a software update to secure a monopoly over the digital music market.
The eight-member jury in federal court here unanimously determined that Apple had, in fact, used an update of the iTunes software that it issued eight years ago to deliver genuine improvements for older iPods.

What's going on here? Because your photos don't rise to the level of quality Facebook expects? Because you are frightening off other users?
Facebook Automatically Enhances Photos
Facebook thinks it knows better than you… because you’re wholly incapable of editing your own photos. Hence, from now on, Facebook will automatically enhance any photos you upload to the social networking site from your smartphone.
Previously, you were presented with your unedited photo and given the option to add a filter or adjust its quality in another way. Now, each photo will be auto-enhanced, with a simple slider allowing you to adjust the level of enhancement.

For my students.
How To Get A Chromecast For Free
U.S. retailer Best Buy is running a deal at the moment which effectively makes the Google Chromecast free to buy. The Chromecast is priced at $30, Google is giving $20 of Google Play credit to buyers, and Best Buy are giving away an extra $20 of Google Play credit on top of that.
For those who suck at maths, that’s a Chromecast and $40 of credits for an outlay of just $30. Which means Google is now paying you to take the brilliant little media streaming stick off its hands. The one caveat being you need to register your device and redeem the offers by December 21. What a hardship.

For my fellow academics.
Achieving human and machine accessibility of cited data in scholarly publications
Achieving human and machine accessibility of cited data in scholarly publications. PeerJ PrePrints 2:e697v2
“This brief article provides operational guidance on implementing scholarly data citation and data deposition, in conformance with the Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles (JDDCP, to help achieve widespread, uniform human and machine accessibility of deposited data. The JDDCP is the outcome of a cross-domain effort to establish core principles around cited data in scholarly publications. It deals with important issues in identification, deposition, description, accessibility, persistence, and evidential status of cited data. Eighty-five scholarly, governmental, and funding institutions have now endorsed the JDDCP. The purpose of this article is to provide the necessary guidance for JDDCP-endorsing organizations to implement these principles and to achieve their widespread adoption.”

Part of my ongoing research into beer technology! [Translation: Can you send me a few cases so I can taste that? Bob]
The Magic of Beer and Magnets
… What they found was that when the brew passed through the magnetic field, the hops broke apart and spread throughout the beverage, effectively increasing their surface area. With more surface area, the tiny antifoaming particles bound with more hydrophobins than whole hops could, the team reported in a paper set to appear in the January edition of the Journal of Food Engineering.

Interesting video? My computer thinks so.
Jeremy Howard: The wonderful and terrifying implications of computers that can learn
What happens when we teach a computer how to learn? Technologist Jeremy Howard shares some surprising new developments in the fast-moving field of deep learning, a technique that can give computers the ability to learn Chinese, or to recognize objects in photos, or to help think through a medical diagnosis. (One deep learning tool, after watching hours of YouTube, taught itself the concept of “cats.”) Get caught up on a field that will change the way the computers around you behave … sooner than you probably think.

Most of my classes include at least a mention of the “strategic implications of X” Dilbert explains how valuable that is...

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