Daily Tech Digest - December 17, 2018

Dell XPS 13: The best Linux laptop of 2018

The system comes with 16GB of RAM. This isn't plain-Jane RAM. It's fast 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM. It's backed by a 512GB PCIe solid state drive (SSD). To see how all this hardware would really work for a developer, I ran the Phoronix Test Suite. This is a system benchmark, which focuses primarily on Linux. This system averaged 461.5 seconds to compile the 4.18 Linux kernel. For a laptop, those are darn good numbers. When it comes to graphics, the XPS 13 uses an Intel UHD Graphics 620 chipset. This powers up a 13.3-inch 4K Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 InfinityEdge touch display. This is a lovely screen, but it has two annoyances. First, when you boot-up, the font is tiny. This quickly changes, but it still can lead to a few seconds of screen squinting. The terminal font can also be on the small side. My solution to this was upscaling the display by using Settings > Devices > Displays menu and moving the Scale field from its default 200 percent to a more reasonable -- for me -- 220 percent. Your eyesight may vary.

Using Microsoft Flow to connect Office 365 to Google's GSuite

Flow is an easy way of integrating applications adding basic business logic around a connection. You don't need to have a Flow-specific subscription to use it, as some of its features are available for free. Flow has a long list of available connectors, offering a mix of endpoints in both Microsoft and third-party services. Connectors are available for standard and premium accounts, with some — like Salesforce and ServiceNow — only available to premium subscribers. Luckily that doesn't affect anyone wanting to connect their Office 365 and GSuite services, as Office and Google endpoints are all part of the standard tier. Currently you'll find endpoints for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Drive, Google Sheets, and Google Tasks. Similar endpoints exist for matching Office 365 services, so you can map one service into another, with much of the functionality you need handled by triggers in the Office 365 Outlook endpoint.

CIO interview: Alan Talbot, CIO, Air Malta

Talbot says he has also dedicated time and resources to other significant technology projects, including the overhaul of flight operation systems with the introduction of best-of-breed technology from Lufthansa. Talbot also points to an integration project with Ryanair, whereby Air Malta now sells flights from the ryanair.com website.  “That project helped break the barrier when it came to proving the benefits of integration within our business,” he says. “Even the most tech-sceptical could see you can really change operations for the better. There’s a lot of pain and effort behind the scenes, of course, but the organisation is already seeing the benefits of transformation.”  Air Malta currently offers an additional 150 destinations through code-share agreements with a number of airlines. About 80% of all passengers are incoming to Malta, with most arriving for holidays.  The airline carries a sizeable amount of cargo each year, including valuables, perishable consignments, pharmaceuticals and microelectronics, and handles special cargo consignments.

Why data privacy professionals need a new approach to compliance

The first approach is a manual approach to identify and document personal data across your organization’s technology environment. This approach requires a significant amount of time to validate the data inventory and mapping. The second approach is the automated approach using data discovery and scanning tools to develop your data inventory mapping. This approach uses less effort to validate the data inventory and mapping, but could potentially miss shadow IT in your organization. If you take this approach, you may still need to ask the business units if they use any technology solutions that fall outside of the IT environment. Most organizations have already implemented a data retention and disposal policy and a retention schedule. Many organizations have already updated these two documents for GDPR; however, most organizations have difficulty disposing of data, even if they have an updated retention schedule.

Microsoft takes on Google Optimize with Clarity

Microsoft says the Bing team uses Clarity to delve into sessions that saw negative customer satisfaction and determine what went wrong. In a few cases, the team figured out that poor user experience was due to malware installed on the end user’s machine that was hijacking the page and inserting bad content. Clarity requires a small piece of JavaScript added to the HTML webpage (desktop or mobile) so it can listen to browser events and instruments layout changes, network requests, and user interactions. The instrumentation data is then uploaded to the Clarity server running on Microsoft Azure. Over on GitHub, Microsoft has open-sourced the JavaScript library that instruments pages. Session Replay is probably enough to pique a web developer’s curiosity, but Microsoft’s plans for Clarity are even more interesting. Literally called “Interesting sessions,” this feature will use Clarity’s AI and machine learning capabilities to help web developers review user sessions with abnormal click or scroll behavior, session length, JavaScript errors, and so on.

Low-code could change much more than just IT, according to exec

With low-code, the opposite is true: by allowing and encouraging users to help develop the system they need, it is possible not only to get everyone on side but also to maximise value as the original system is tweaked to help individuals at the ‘coal face’ do their job better. This is why the new wave of low-code solutions could truly revolutionise corporate IT, allowing businesses to harness the entrepreneurial spirit of their employees and escape the cycle of cumbersome IT procurement, compatibility issues and legacy systems. Everyone has this spirit – but it’s not always aimed in the right direction. Naturally, workers want to make their job easier, although even these solutions can be ingenious and useful: Think of the bottling plant that installed a state-of-the-art system to detect unfilled plastic bottles making their way into the final crates. When managers went to investigate why the system never sounded the alarm, they found an employee had placed a fan next to the conveyor belt, blowing any empties into a convenient bin, before they reached the new sensors. Why?

Seven Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Future Workplaces

As a cause, AI is resetting how we think about human labour. At this point in time, very few people really know how AI will impact organisations or how quickly AI will replace, modify or destroy jobs. Business leaders are confronted with the challenge of unpredictable future headcounts and traditional rules of thumb for forecasting labour needs are no longer valid. As AI platforms become more sophisticated, they will eventually start managing workflows and job creation in organisations (they already are in some leading organisations). Ultimately, these platforms will be better equipped than humans to understand headcount volatility and predict long-term trends, allowing for smarter real estate strategies. AI will not stop unpredictability – just help us understand and manage it better. So, AI is causing us headcount headaches today, but it will take time before AI steps in to help sort out the problem it has created.

Simplifying Blockchain Security Using Hyperledger Ursa

Ursa’s primary objective is to simplify and consolidate cryptographic libraries in a trusted, consumable manner for use in distributed ledger technology projects in an interoperable way.  Within Project Ursa, a comprehensive library of modular signatures and symmetric-key primitives will be available so developers can swap in and out different cryptographic schemes through configuration and without having to modify their code. In addition to this base library, Ursa will also include newer cryptography, including pairing-based, threshold, and aggregate signatures. In addition to these signatures, zero-knowledge primitives including SNARKs will also be included.  Blockchain security is highly dependent upon cryptographic operations, but for developers, choosing the correct implementation is a challenge.

Can Algorithms Run Things Better Than Humans?

The exponential growth of digital sensors, computational devices, and communication technology is flooding the world with data. To make sense of all this new information, Danaher observes, humans are turning to the impressive capabilities of machine-learning algorithms to facilitate data-driven decision making. "The potential here is vast," he writes. "Algorithmic governance systems could, according to some researchers, be faster, more efficient and less biased than traditional human-led decision-making systems." Danaher analogizes algocracy to epistocracy—that is, rule by the wise. And epistocracy is not too dissimilar from the early 20th century Progressive idea that corruptly partisan democratic governance should be "rationalized," or controlled by efficient bureaucracies staffed with objective and knowledgeable experts. If rule by experts is good, wouldn't rule by impartial, infallible computers be better?

NHS and technology: Making the case for innovation

The NHS has tried to fix this before, with the giant National Programme for IT, which attempted, at massive cost, to build gigantic systems that could work across the entire health service. It failed. Since then there has been something of a backlash against centralised systems, but this in turn has made it hard for the NHS bodies to communicate across boundaries -- something which brings new risks, as Hancock bluntly pointed out: "A world in which we ask an ill patient many times over for their name and address is a problem. A world in which a hospital can't pull up a patient's GP record is downright dangerous. So our systems need to be able to talk to each other." The bigger problem is that, while NHS spending continues to rise, it's still being outpaced by increased demand for services. The population continues to grow, and while we're living longer we're also more likely to have multiple, expensive, long-term conditions for doctors to treat.

Quote for the day:

"When we lead from the heart, we don't need to work on being authentic we just are!" -- Gordon Tredgold