Daily Tech Digest - April 12, 2017

A.I. in the kitchen: It's not that far from reality

"Hello Egg comes with cooking assistance even for the most advanced chefs, as well as step-by-step voice-navigated recipe video tutorials and real-time prompts from a human support team for those who might need a little more hand-holding in the kitchen," tech expert Lulu Chang explains. "Moreover, the smart device promises to 'keep a lively conversation going by expressing itself through mimicking facial expressions,' and can also keep you entertained and informed by way of Spotify, audio news feeds, weather forecasts and voice-activated timers and reminders." Having Watson author a smart cookbook and getting to interact with a little egg that responds to your commands is cool, but the future of A.I. in the kitchen has much more in store than trendy products and gadgets.


Why You Should (Sometimes) Let Software Run Your Business

A less radical approach is to take an existing software product (which could be run on premises or accessed as a service) and have it customized to match your company's operations and processes — either by the vendor, by a third party or internally. "That can still be expensive and open-ended," Bartoletti warns. "You can spend two years customizing software, and every change you make can cost you millions." He adds that there is also a risk that you will end up out of sync with the base product's update cycle. That's because each time the base software is update it is your responsibility to test the customizations to ensure that they still work as expected with the base software and modify them as necessary. By the time this work has been carried out the base software may have been updated again — perhaps to include some of the functionality that your customizations provide.


How Amazon is bringing the Alexa experience to your phone

Now instead of facing competition from Google and Apple in the home assistant market, Amazon seeks to strike back by integrating Alexa with phones. As CNET reports, Huawei Mate 9 owners “will get it first in an over-the-air update”, and it is available for iPhone users as well. Other Android users will eventually be able to install Alexa over their phones through the Google Play Store. But while Amazon so far has been looked like an unstoppable juggernaut everywhere it goes, working with smartphones is one area that will be a major challenge. While Amazon can seamlessly integrate Alexa with its own technology in the Echo, integrating it with a phone made by a different company presents challenges. Unfortunately, the Alexa app is not the same as having an Echo in your pocket, though it offers plenty of useful features.


That Fingerprint Sensor on Your Phone Is Not as Safe as You Think

New findings published Monday by researchers at New York University and Michigan State University suggest that smartphones can easily be fooled by fake fingerprints digitally composed of many common features found in human prints. In computer simulations, the researchers from the universities were able to develop a set of artificial “MasterPrints” that could match real prints similar to those used by phones as much as 65 percent of the time. The researchers did not test their approach with real phones, and other security experts said the match rate would be significantly lower in real-life conditions. Still, the findings raise troubling questions about the effectiveness of fingerprint security on smartphones.


The journey of data storage: what’s next?

Reflecting the growing importance of seamless data delivery to businesses as they become ever-more tech dependent, the storage industry has been developing at a significant rate in recent years. Some great new solutions have hit the market, and we are starting to see the beginnings of a shakeup of the industry. For the past twenty years the industry has been dominated by large specialists like EMC and NetApp. However, the emergence of flash storage is providing customers with a simple, cost effective way to manage data, and new companies such as Nimble Storage, Nutanix and Pure Storage are starting to change the way the industry is run. IDC recently found that the flash based storage market grew a massive 71.9 per cent on top of last year, so there is no question that flash storage is dominating the present market and driving greater expectations around performance, and data centre and TCO (total cost of ownership) reduction.


Fintech firms still see a future for fiduciary compliance tools

Financial services marketing consultant Dan Sondhelm, CEO of Sondhelm Partners, said it was smart for the firms to have aggressively promoted DoL-related features before the rule came into effect. "Whether a law is in place to protect investors isn't the issue," Sondhelm says. "The problem is now visible. Advisers have to have to deal with the problem. They have to have an answer and process to show they are looking out for the best interest of their clients. Smarter clients will keep this issue top of mind." There's been no slowdown in demand for the analytics platform being offered by Boston-based FinMason, says its CEO Kendrick Wakeman. "We are not changing our products in light of the delay of the DoL and last week was one of the busiest weeks we have had in our history from the standpoint of sales demand," he says.


When Hacks Are about Image instead of Money

The biggest risks from these hacks is not the exposure of personally identifying information, but the erosion of trust in our organizations and notable figures. This is because cyberespionage and sabotage campaigns don’t just deal with leaked information. Once a hacker gains high-privilege access to a network, he or she can change internal data, public-facing assets and even insert fake data. If you think fake news is a problem, what about the possibility of fake medical or financial information making the rounds with no way to verify its legitimacy? Unfortunately, like most issues in security, there isn’t a straightforward solution to the problem. It’s impossible to predict how extortion can take place, or what data will be used to tarnish the victim’s image.


As cities get smarter, hackers become more dangerous: This could stop them

After the forensic exams were ordered, several of those who filed suit asked the judge to drop their complaints, either because they suspected Anthem would find evidence the data was lost before the breach or because they didn’t want to submit to having their PCs snooped. Or perhaps they just didn’t want the inconvenience of giving up use of their machines for the duration of the search. Regardless, it proved an effective legal strategy for Anthem. If just a few of those who sue walk away, it still means fewer possible payouts. And it points out how difficult it is to prove that personal data used by criminals was stolen in a particular breach. Yes, the victim’s information was exploited, but how it got into the hands of the criminals is not so easily determined.


DARPA to eliminate “patch & pray” by baking chips with cybersecurity fortification

“Security for electronic systems has been left up to software until now, but the overall confidence in this approach is summed up in the sardonic description of this standard practice as ‘patch and pray,’” said SSITH program manager Linton Salmon of the Agency’s Microsystems Technology Office in a statement. “This race against ever more clever cyber intruders is never going to end if we keep designing our systems around gullible hardware that can be fooled in countless ways by software.” Salmon said SSITH specifically seeks to address the seven classes of hardware vulnerabilities listed in the Common Weakness Enumeration, a crowd-sourced compendium of security issues that is familiar to the information technology security community.


21 Hot Programming Trends & 21 Going Cold

Programmers love to sneer at the world of fashion where trends blow through like breezes. Skirt lengths rise and fall, pigments come and go, ties get fatter, then thinner. But in the world of technology, rigor, science, math, and precision rule over fad. That's not to say programming is a profession devoid of trends. The difference is that programming trends are driven by greater efficiency, increased customization, and ease of use. The new technologies that deliver one or more of these eclipse the previous generation. It's a meritocracy, not a whimsy-ocracy. What follows is a list of what's hot and what's not among today's programmers. Not everyone will agree with what's A-listed, what's D-listed, and what's been left out. That's what makes programming an endlessly fascinating profession: rapid change, passionate debate, sudden comebacks.



Quote for the day:


"Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change." -- @tom_peters