Codebreaker - Most Recent
Voice Mail is dying
Alert observers of technology may have picked up on the fact that there are now a million zillion squillion ways to get in touch with other people. Instant messaging, texting, all sorts of other ways. And Voice Mail, I’ll capitalize it to make it a proper noun so you’ll feel more empathy, is being left out of the shuffle.
From USA Today:
In data prepared for USA TODAY, Vonage, an Internet phone company, says the number of voice-mail messages left on user accounts was down 8% in July from a year ago.
Checking one's voice mail seems to be considered an even a bigger chore than leaving a voice message. Retrieved voice mail fell 14% among Vonage users in the same period.
I love the disparity in those numbers. It means there are all these orphaned messages that are never being checked at all. Also USA Today can’t decide on hyphens.
Among the reasons people didn’t like Voice Mail was the long set of instructions people leave about leaving your message after the tone and what information to include on your message AS IF WE HAVEN’T BEEN LEAVING RECORDED PHONE MESSAGES FOR DECADES.
Anyway, thanks for your service, Voice Mail.
Wal-Mart tests Scan & Go
From the depths of a Wal-Mart in Rogers, Ark. comes another Scan & Go, Wal-Mart’s plan to speed you through its stores using that little computer you carry around in your pocket. The company is testing an iPhone scanning system that would let customers scan items while they shop. You’d still have to stop off at a cash register to pay for your goods, but Wal-Mart says this newly proposed method of shopping could save $12 million a second, which only makes me think: Wow - Wal-Mart makes a lot of damn money!
The trial comes after Wal-Mart's chief financial officer, Charles Holley, announced plans in March to add more self-checkout lanes, where shoppers scan and bag items without the help of cashiers. About 1,600 of the more than 4,500 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S. include a traditional self-checkout option.
The experiment seems to be aimed more at speeding up lines and probably gaining access and insight into customer shopping habits rather than a move on the mobile payment chess board. The company recently announced it was joining other retail giants like Target and Lowe’s in a separate mobile app ecosystem called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX).
Looking for a job? You need to pass the robot test first.
A few weeks back, Eric Auld wanted to see how many people he was competing with for jobs he saw posted on Craigslist. After creating a fake ad, it turns out the answer is A LOT - 653 resumes in just 24 hours. Lots of responders used cut and paste methods and generic resumes that would have been flagged had Auld been a robot. “First looks” are becoming increasingly more digital as the BBC reports on the new digital trends companies are employing to, uh... employ you. The Chemistry Group customizes a kind of role playing game for companies and their applicants. The game might start out mundane, with the user (applicant) enjoying a day in the park, but then distractions set in. A bird circles. Emails pop up. And maybe somebody else starts to ask you questions. The game is set up to judge your multi-tasking skills.
It is just one of a new breed of software that reflects the growing impact of the digital age on the recruitment sector.
Another programme, created by talent management firm SHL, features online 3D simulations, which drop graduate applicants into scenarios where a boss with a piercing stare asks for solutions to various dilemmas.
And don’t forget the keywords. For years, companies have been employing software that searches resumes for keywords that relate to specific jobs. It’s such a common practice, in fact, that people try to game the system.
Again from the BBC:
As flexible working and virtual teams become more prevalent, so does the opportunity to pull the wool over an electronic recruiter's eyes.
There are about 40 people guiding your next Netflix choice
According to Netflix, as of this morning, my reviewer user ranking is No. 886, 927. Woo-hoo, cracked a million! Of the 1,287 movies to which I’ve designated a rating, I have reviewed zero. That’s quite a different story for the roughly 40 freelancers Netflix pays to balance out its algorithm. This relatively small group gets paid to tag, rate, and review movies that, in turn, tell you what to watch.
The taggers were hired for their love of entertainment and their ability to evaluate it quickly. Many are film school graduates who once worked in Hollywood — or dream of doing so.
They're the ones who pick from more than 1,000 tags to describe thousands of movies and television series offered by Netflix to viewers in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Great Britain and Ireland. Every movie is watched by a single person, as are at least three episodes of every TV series.
Taggers are paid several hundred dollars per week — pocket change for a company that generated $1.76 billion of revenue in the first six months of this year — to watch between 10 to 20 hours of content.
Netflix won’t release the exact number of streams available, but estimates put it at around 14,000. In other words, way too many for the average viewer to sift through before s/he finds something better to do and cancels their Netflix subscription. The company estimates that around 75 percent of what we watch on the service is based on recommendations, which is why it’s coming up with more and more ways of slicing and dicing tags. In the last six years the number of tags, which used to be completely computer generated, has grown from a couple hundred to over 1000 with the help of the human touch.
Amazon gaining fast on Netflix with Epix deal
Don’t look in your rearview mirror, Netflix. It would only freak you out how quickly Amazon is gaining on you. Amazon has announced a deal with Epix, a film distributor, that will bring a bunch of new titles to the company’s Prime Instant Video service. Amazon viewers will soon be able to catch “The Hunger Games”, “Thor”, and “Super 8” on Amazon’s service, which costs $79 a year. Netflix had an exclusive deal with Epix but that expired last month, so while you’ll still be able to see the titles on Netflix, it won’t be the only place you can see them. Amazon’s catalog is still smaller than Netflix’s but the gap is closing and Amazon has certainly emerged as one of the top three streaming services, along with Netflix and Hulu Plus.
What will be interesting to watch here is what else Amazon does with Prime. Right now, you get free two-day shipping, a Kindle book per month to borrow, and the video streaming. How else can Amazon combine those and other deals? What else can Amazon offer license holders to sweeten the pot in striking deals?
Democrats to stream convention
A lot of things USED to be true about political conventions. Candidates used to be decided there, disagreements were aired, actual news sometimes occurred. Not so much anymore as conventions have become protracted infomercials for the presidential candidates and the TV networks have pulled way back on coverage.
But there’s always the internet! The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte will be livestreamed this year with gavel-to-gavel coverage of every breathtaking minute of some politician you’ve never heard of saying the other guys are creeps.
The Republicans livestreamed their convention as well and as of yet we have not seen a lot of stats for things like total clicks, length of visit, stuff like that. One imagines that the Democrats have a more web-savvy constituency but it would be interesting to see some side-by-side web stats on the two conventions. We also know that TV ratings for the RNC were way down over four years ago.
Cambodia to deport Pirate Bay founder
Not every day that you run across a big technology story involving extradition between Cambodia and Sweden. Yet here we are as the government of Cambodia says it will ship out Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg who had been living in Phnom Penh for the past four years and was arrested on request from the Swedish government. It’s not clear where Warg will be sent since there is no extant extradition treaty between Cambodia and Sweden, because, honestly, who ever thought there would be that much of a need?
Sweden-based Pirate Bay was sued in Swedish court by the Swedish subsidiaries of entertainment companies for hosting unlicensed content.
An appeals court in Sweden sentenced three others behind the Pirate Bay site to between four months and 10 months in prison plus fines in 2010.
Warg failed to attend that hearing due to illness and his sentencing was deferred. He had originally been sentenced to a year in prison in 2009.
Will the bringing down of the Swedish Hammer of Justice (Attorney General: Thor?) coupled with the ongoing Megaupload case be enough to really make a difference in worldwide piracy/file-sharing? As always, GOOD LUCK, BRANCACCIO!
Samsung steps up China inspections
In recent months, the heat has been cranked up on Samsung over allegedly lousy working conditions in its assembly plants in China. Hey, if you’re getting to be a bigger player in personal electronics, there is going to be a bigger amount of scrutiny to go along with it. There’s no truth to the rumor that Apple is suing Samsung with a claim that terrible working conditions are an Apple patent.
Samsung has announced results of an audit of plants run by HEG and claims to have found problems, though no underage workers.
From the BBC:
While it acknowledged some of the workers were students and interns, it said their presence was legal since all were over the age of 16.
However, it said it was concerned workers did not have access to a medical clinic, some employees were doing more than nine hours overtime a week - in breach of local regulations, and staff were being fined if they arrived late for work.
So what happens now? Apparently a lot more inspections by Samsung:
The firm added it would complete on-site inspections at 105 Chinese suppliers who exclusively served it, by September. In addition it pledged to check through the paperwork of a further 144 suppliers in the country who made goods for both Samsung and others to see if additional on-site inspections were required.
Samsung also said it would issue new guidelines including codes of conduct and suggested management training for its suppliers.
Now, I really hope I don’t have to spell out the problem here, you guys. I hope that by now you have spotted that it’s SAMSUNG doing the inspecting and if anything was truly, egregiously horrific, would Samsung - trying to claw past Apple in an insanely competitive category - really tell us?
New Nokia Windows 8 phones debut tomorrow
Leaks galore surrounding Nokia’s new line of Windows 8 phones have been bubbling to the surface over the last week. The line, which will include the Lumia 820 and 920, is expected to be unveiled tomorrow during a press event held by the company. Lots of storage and a snappy camera lead the features.
The new phone, a photo of which was leaked to Twitter on Friday, packs “industry-first” photo abilities, but not the same PureView capabilities found on the company’s 42-megapixel 808 camera, a source told.
The PureView is not Windows 8 enabled and, depending on what you want to use it for, looks either like a slim, powerful camera or a bulky phone with a little lens on it.
Lumia 920 wireless charging support will be provided via an inductive method — lining the device up to the contacts on a charging pad. We're told it will support the Qi wireless power standard — making it compatible with other wireless charging products. Aside from the charging aspect, Nokia's Lumia 920 will also include 32GB of device storage, 1GB of RAM, and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. We have also been able to confirm that it will include a 4.5-inch HD display.
Now the real mystery: will anybody buy it?
The rise of the @ symbol
This is a story about the little symbol that could. Many, many years ago, as Smithsonian Magazine tells us, the @ symbol wasn’t very popular. It was the ugly duckling of symbols.
The first typewriters, built in the mid-1800s, didn’t include @. Likewise, @ was not among the symbolic array of the earliest punch-card tabulating systems (first used in collecting and processing the 1890 U.S. census), which were precursors to computer programming.
In those distant days, the @ symbol still had a role to play--merchants used it for bookkeeping--but it was a small role. But the @ symbol didn’t give up. It worked hard. It dreamed big. Years passed. And then a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson came along. "Ray Tomlinson was facing a vexing problem: how to connect people who programmed computers with one another." He needed a symbol.
Tomlinson’s eyes fell on @, poised above “P” on his Model 33 teletype. “I was mostly looking for a symbol that wasn’t used much,” he told Smithsonian. “And there weren’t a lot of options—an exclamation point or a comma. I could have used an equal sign, but that wouldn’t have made much sense.” Tomlinson chose @—“probably saving it from going the way of the ‘cent’ sign on computer keyboards,” he says. Using his naming system, he sent himself an e-mail, which traveled from one teletype in his room, through Arpanet, and back to a different teletype in his room.
And like that, the @ symbol chugged up the mountain of relevance and turned into a swan.