Google Assistant Will Identify Languages

Google Home MiniThis is pretty cool!

Google Assistant will soon detect what language you’re speaking in

The Verge – By: Jacob Kastrenakes – “Google Assistant is getting some important language upgrades this year. By the end of 2018, Google says it’ll be able to understand and speak 30 languages, enough to cover 95 percent of Android users. And sometime later this year, the Assistant won’t be limited to speaking one language at a time. It’ll automatically detect your language each time you speak and respond in kind. So if you’re multilingual, you’ll no longer have to pick only a single language to use with the Assistant.

The Assistant launched widely this time last year, but it was only available in one language — English — at the time. It now supports eight languages — French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese — so Google has 22 more to add over the next 10 months. Nick Fox, product lead for Assistant, says the company doesn’t plan to stop at 30. But 30 offers enough coverage that the team feels comfortable saying Assistant has ‘really gone global at that point.’

Among the new languages will be Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. They’ll be added ‘in the next few months.’

Being able to switch between languages on the fly is a big improvement, too. Previously, you had to completely change Android’s language settings in order to change what language the Assistant was in, which essentially meant you were stuck speaking only one language since switching was a hassle. One thing the Assistant still can’t do, though, is decipher multiple languages in the same sentence; it’s still one language at a time. The multilingual feature will be limited to English, French, and German at launch but is supposed to expand to more languages ‘over time.’

Expanding to 30 languages also helps the Assistant catch up to the one area it really lagged behind Siri. Apple’s voice assistant currently supports 20 languages, several of which are in a number of different dialects (there are nine for English, for example). Siri also works in Cantonese and Mandarin, major languages Google has yet to add.

In addition to the new language features, Google is also announcing the launch of routines and some new integrations for Assistant. It’s going to begin working with Android hardware manufacturers to integrate Assistant with their devices, so it’ll be able to launch specific camera features, for instance. Google’s going to start working with phone carriers so that the Assistant can be used to check your current data usage and other plan details.”

Dropbox Has an IPO!

DropboxThis actually makes me want to get in on the Stock Market! I am a big Dropbox fan!

The Dropbox IPO filing is here

TechCrunch – By: Katie Roof – “It’s official, the Dropbox IPO filing is here.

Going public is a huge milestone for Dropbox and has been one of the most anticipated tech IPOs for several years now. The cloud storage company has been around since 2007 and has raised more than $600 million in funding.

We knew that it had already filed confidentially, but the company has now unveiled its filing, meaning the actual IPO is likely very soon, probably late March.

The company says it will be targeting a $500 million fundraise, but this number is usually just a placeholder.

The filing shows that Dropbox had $1.1 billion in revenue last year. This compares to $845 million in revenue the year before and $604 million for 2015.

The company is not yet profitable, having lost nearly $112 million last year. This shows significantly improved margins when compared to losses of $210 million for 2016 and $326 million for 2015.

Dropbox has been cash flow positive since 2016.

Dropbox, which has a freemium model, says it has 11 million paying users, just a small fraction of the more than 500 million registered users who use its cloud services for free.

Its average revenue per paying user is $111.91.

The big question is whether the company will achieve the $10 billion valuation it raised in the private markets. Part of its success will be measured relative to Box, which went public in 2015 and will be considered a comparable.

The prospectus warns of the competitive landscape.

‘The market for content collaboration platforms is competitive and rapidly changing. Certain features of our platform compete in the cloud storage market with products offered by Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and in the content collaboration market with products offered by Atlassian, Google, and Microsoft. We compete with Box on a more limited basis in the cloud storage market for deployments by large enterprises.’

Box CEO Aaron Levie chatted with us on our ‘Equity’ podcast, sharing his immediate reaction to competitor Dropbox’s filing.

With the filing we see that the largest shareholder is Sequoia Capital, which owned 23.2 percent of the overall shares outstanding. This is a large stake. Accel owned 5 percent overall.

Founder and CEO Drew Houston owned 25.3 percent of the company.

The company is listing on the Nasdaq, under the ticker ‘DBX.’

Others vying to go public soon will keep an eye on the performance of Dropbox. Investors place weight on the ‘IPO window,’ and view recent debuts as a test for appetite for tech listings.

Spotify is gearing up to go public around the same time, but will be shunning the traditional IPO process by listing without doing a fundraise.”

Electric Harley Update!

I mentioned this back in June of 2014 on the show (Dr. Bill.TV Netcast #342) … but now it is about to be released. I want one!

TechCrunch – By: Jake Bright – “Harley Davidson will launch its first production e-motorcycle in 2019.

Yes, the iconic symbol of American steel and piston popping internal combustion is shifting to voltage.

‘We announced we’ll invest more aggressively in…electric technology in premium motorcycles,’ Harley Davidson CEO Matt Levatich said on the company’s recent earnings call.

Project Livewire‘You’ve heard us talk about Project LiveWire… it’s an active project we’re preparing to bring to market within 18 months.’

The Milwaukee based company didn’t provide much more detail on its e-motorcycle plans. CFO John Olin added HD ‘expects to spend an incremental $25 million to $50 million per year’ on EV infrastructure.

A spokesperson wouldn’t confirm specs on Harley’s first production e-motorycle to TechCrunch. But per the CEO’s comments, it will likely be an extension of HD’s LiveWire concept bike. The 460 pound battery powered machine debuted in 2014. It has 74 horsepower, a 93 mph top speed, 50 mile ride time, and automatic drivetrain (i.e., no clutch or shifting),.

HD’s battery-bike news comes as the American motorcycle market struggles to attract younger buyers and lags behind the auto-industry in EV development.

Overall U.S. sales have dropped by roughly 50 percent since 2008, with a sharp decline in ownership by those in their 40s and under 30. The majority of the market is now aging baby-boomers, whose ‘Live to Ride’ days are winding down.

The one bright spot in American motorcycle demographics is increased female ownership. But by most straw polls women prefer lighter motorcycles with smaller engines—pretty much the opposite of Harley Davidson’s design template of the last half-century.

For years the company’s best sellers have come from its voluptuous cruising and touring lines, including the 798 pound, 1340cc Road King.

Unsurprisingly, prevailing trends have brought financial pains to many big motorcycle makers, including Harley Davidson. Along with HD’s EV news, the latest earnings call announced a Kansas City plant closure and 8 percent U.S. sales drop.

As for the overall U.S. motorcycle market, shrinking sales and shifting consumer preferences offer manufacturers a tricky equation. The industry is attempting to serve very different buyer groups: an aging segment that prefers yesteryears’ big engine cruisers and then women and millennials—who aren’t yet enthusiastic about buying bikes, but appear privy to lighter motorcycles and EVs.

Companies have mixed things up to cope with the shifting U.S. landscape. On design, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki now offer more smaller engine, lower weight models. Harley Davidson launched its Street series of leaner bikes, including the 492 pound Street 500.

Companies are also launching learn to ride programs and lifestyle brands—such as Harley’s Riding Academy and Ducati’s Scrambler series—to bring in new buyers and create fresh social groupings around motorcycles.

On the tech side, two-wheel manufacturers have mostly stagnated around EV concepts. None of the big names—Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW, KTM—offer a production electric street motorcycle in the U.S.

Meanwhile, some e-motorcycle startups have emerged. Italy’s Energica announced a 2018 U.S. sales campaign. California also has Alta Motors and Zero Motorcycles—whose Zero SR has 75 horsepower, a 135 mile range, and $10K price.

EVs from these new ventures are closing the gap on gas bikes in price, performance, weight, recharge times, and ride distance.

So how could this all come together to pivot the mainline motorcycle industry toward electric?

A combination of competitive pressure from these upstarts and the number 1 American motorcycle seller, Harley Davidson, debuting an e-bike.

This could prompt the likes of Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki to quickly transition their EV programs from concept to production.”

Intel and AMD Face Lawsuits!

LawsuitsUh oh! The chickens are coming home to roost, so to speak!

First Intel, now AMD also faces multiple class-action suits over Spectre attacks

ZDNet – By: Liam Tung – “Intel rival AMD is also facing a number of class-action lawsuits over how it’s responded to the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws.

As The Register reports, four class-action complaints have been filed against the chip maker seeking damages on behalf of customers and investors.

The suits follow a warning from AMD in late January that warned investors that it is ‘also subject to claims related to the recently disclosed side-channel exploits, such as Spectre and Meltdown, and may face claims or litigation for future vulnerabilities’.

Intel revealed last week that it now faced 32 class-action lawsuits over its handling of the Meltdown and Spectre issues and three additional lawsuits over alleged insider trading.

AMD chips aren’t affected by the Meltdown attack but, like Arm and Intel, its processors have the same design flaws in its use of speculative execution that enable the Spectre attacks.

Three of the four cases represent customers who’d bought AMD processors. The complaints note that AMD continued to market its processors as high-performance chips despite knowing that this level of performance was unattainable without exposing users to the Spectre attack, and that mitigations would slow down performance.

‘Plaintiff and members of the Class would not have purchased or leased — or would have paid substantially less for — AMD processors (or devices containing AMD processors) had they known of the Spectre defect and the reduction in processing performance associated with efforts necessary to mitigate the substantial security risks presented by the Spectre defect,’ reads one complaint.

The shareholder complaint seeks damages on behalf of anyone who bought AMD shares in the year leading to January 11, 2018, the date AMD admitted its processors were vulnerable to both variants of the Spectre attacks and its share price fell by 0.99 percent. Following the first media reports of the flaws AMD suggested it wasn’t vulnerable at all.

Another of the customer complaints calls out AMD’s marketing for the high-performance Rizen Threadripper 1950X and 1920 processors which were launched in July and August 2017.

AMD said they delivered ‘uncompromising performance’. Google’s Project Zero researcher Jan Horn is said to have told AMD about the flaws in early June 2017.

‘Despite its knowledge of the Spectre Defect, AMD continued to sell its processors to unknowing customers at prices much higher than what customers would have paid had they known about the Spectre Defect and its threat to critical security features as well as on the processing speeds of the devices they purchased,’ the complaint reads.

Two of the law firms have also filed class-action lawsuits against Intel, similarly alleging it is profiting from products that it knows are defective and don’t perform as advertised.”

Sling TV Grows by 47%

Sling TVLot’s of new Cable Cutters out there!

Dish separates out Sling TV subscribers for first time, reports 47% growth

9to5Mac – By: Ben Lovejoy – “Dish Network has for the first time separated out its Dish TV and Sling TV subscriber numbers. The company revealed the figures in its year-end financials for 2017…

Dish says that Sling TV accounts for 2.212M of its 13.242M Pay-TV subscribers, and told us that this represents 47% growth year-on-year. This contrasts with its legacy satellite TV service, which lost more than a million subscribers in the course of the year.

The company says that Sling TV remains the #1 live and on-demand Internet streaming service. Average revenue per user across its entire subscriber base fell slightly to $86.43.

Sling TV brought its cloud DVR feature to Apple TV back in April of last year, with support added to iOS devices a couple of months later.

Sling TV, which is available on Apple TV, starts at $20/month.”

Angry Birds Champions – Play for Real Money!

‘Angry Birds Champions’ lets players fling pheasants for real money

Engadget – By: Jessica Conditt – “Angry Birds Champions is now available on iOS devices and through the developer’s website, allowing players to fling their feathered friends against precarious piles of pigs in a bid to win real money for the first time. The game is accessible through the WorldWinner iOS app or on, joining the studio’s other real-money tournament games like Wheel of Fortune, Solitaire, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.

‘It’s really the original Angry Birds physics game — and obviously Rovio’s done a number of different derivatives using the iconography — but this is the core physics game of shooting birds and killing pigs,’ WorldWinner boss Jeremy Shea told Engadget.

Angry Birds Champions is an officially licensed title, made in conjunction with Rovio. It uses an asynchronous multiplayer format: Someone pays to enter a tournament and completes one of the two modes, best-of-three or progression, and their highest or combined score is recorded. The game finds another similarly skilled player in the tournament and that person plays the same levels. Whoever ends up with the highest score wins the cash prize, and WorldWinner takes a little off the top of each match.

WorldWinner’s matchmaking system takes a number of factors into account, including how many games you’ve played, how well you’ve performed in specific tournaments, your win-loss ratio, and average or best scores.

These competitions are generally worth a few dollars each and cost less than a dollar to join. Shea wants to be clear that this isn’t gambling — WorldWinner has been building real-money tournament games for 18 years and it knows the laws inside and out. A handful of big-name games, including Star Wars: Battlefront II and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, have come under scrutiny in recent months over their use of loot boxes and other gambling-adjacent systems. WorldWinner argues games like Angry Birds Champions are skill-based competitions, eliminating the element of chance that would turn them into gambling.

Still, 10 states have regulations that make WorldWinner’s lawyers squirm, so cash tournaments aren’t available in those areas (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee).

‘We’re always in conversations with members of different states, and obviously there are players that want to play from certain states that we don’t allow and they’re disappointed when they find out,’ Shea said. ‘But in terms of gambling laws and regulations on a state-by-state or country-by-country basis — we spend a considerable amount of money on attorneys and we’re absolutely in line with the regulations as they are today and will be tomorrow.’

Angry Birds Champions also isn’t trying to become the next big eSport — though Shea would forgive you for thinking so. Players do win real money by playing Angry Birds Champions, but it simply isn’t built to be a spectator sport.

‘We clearly deliver competitions for money, from small two-player tournaments up to thousands of people participating,’ Shea said. ‘We deliver the entry fee and the prize model that most of your eSports competition deliver. But… we’ve never been in the viewership model. So I think that’s the one area where we evolve our lingo from saying we are eSports to we are really on the edge of eSports.’

Angry Birds comes with a built-in player base, with 4 billion downloads (and at least one movie) since the franchise’s launch in 2009. Shea expects Angry Birds Champions to have tens of thousands of players, easily.

‘That is one of reasons that we went with the partnership with Rovio, in particular at this stage of our development: In the past six months we have shifted our focus from being very committed to delivering a PC-based consumer experience where we’ve had our success for close to two decades, to trying to enter the mobile space,’ Shea said. ‘Our expectation is that this week, we hit all of our launch targets and this will quickly scale to be one of our top-performing games, which would put it in the thousands of players playing in a given day.’

And that’s just on iOS — WorldWinner is working on an Android version of the game as well, though there’s no launch window just yet.”

Intel to Release Firmware to Combat Spectre

Spectre and MeltdownAt least they are addressing it! Kudos to them!

Intel’s new Spectre fix: Skylake, Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake chips get stable microcode

ZDNet – By: Liam Tung – “Customers running machines with newer Intel chips can expect to receive stable firmware updates for the Spectre CPU attack Variant 2 soon.

Intel says it has given PC makers a new set of microcode updates that mitigate the branch target injection Spectre attack on its 6th, 7th, and 8th generation Intel Core chips.

It also has new updates for its latest Core X-Series and Intel Xeon Scalable and Xeon D processors for datacenters.

‘We have now released production microcode updates to our OEM customers and partners for Kaby Lake- and Coffee Lake-based platforms, plus additional Skylake-based platforms,’ Intel vice president Navin Shenoy said on Tuesday.

The updates signal that Intel is making progress on reissuing stable microcode mitigations for the Spectre attack revealed by Google on January 3.

Intel on January 22 said it had identified the root cause of unexpected reboots on updated Broadwell and Haswell chips and advised PC makers to stop deploying its mitigations for the Variant 2 attack.

It initially said the reboots were only occurring on Broadwell and Haswell processors but later admitted its patch was also causing stability issues on Skylake and Kaby Lake chips.

Dell, HP, and Lenovo paused their respective BIOS updates while Intel worked on stable fixes. Microsoft also released an out-of-band patch to disable Intel’s fix on systems it had been installed on.

Earlier this month Intel released new microcode for several Skylake chips but didn’t disclose the status of Broadwell and Haswell chips.

It now has updated its guidance with the current status of microcode updates for various generations of chips, which now indicates that fixes for Broadwell, Haswell, Sandy Bridge and some Ivy Bridge chips have reached beta. It also has production updates available for Apollo Lake and Cherry View and Bay Trail chips.

The chip giant last week revealed it is facing 32 class action lawsuits over the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, and additional lawsuits over alleged insider trading.

Intel last week published a new whitepaper explaining how Google’s software-based fix for Variant 2 called Retpoline works. The search company found Retpoline doesn’t cause the performance overhead that Intel’s earlier mitigations did.

‘There are a number of possible mitigation techniques for the branch target injection Spectre variant 2 exploit. The Retpoline mitigation technique presented in this document is resistant to exploitation and has attractive performance properties compared to other mitigations,’ Intel notes in the paper.”

A 30TB Solid State Drive!

Samsung SSDWow! 30 TB on an SSD in your computer! That is like having a whole datacenter at your fingertips!

Samsung unveils world’s largest SSD with whopping 30TB of storage

The Verge – By: James Vincent – “Samsung has unveiled the world’s largest solid state drive — an unassuming-looking bit of kit that boasts a whopping 30.72 terabytes of storage. It’s the most storage ever crammed into the 2.5-inch form factor, and is designed for enterprise customers looking to move away from the mechanical parts of your standard disk-based hard drive.

The PM1643 is built from 32 sticks of 1TB NAND flash packages, each of which contains 16 layers of 512Gb V-NAND chips. That’s enough space to hold 5,700 HD movies or roughly 500 days of non-stop video, and offers twice the capacity of the former largest SSD — a 16 terabyte drive also released by Samsung back in March 2016. (Seagate has made a bigger 60 terabyte SSD, but that was in the more spacious 3.5-inch form factor, and was ‘demonstration technology’ that doesn’t seem to have ever gone on sale.)

The new Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drive offers impressive sequential read and write speeds of up to 2,100MB/s and 1,700 MB/s. That’s about three times as fast as the average SATA SSD you’d find in a consumer desktop or laptop, like Samsung’s own SSD 850 EVO. And the drive is robust too, with Samsung offering a five-year warranty that’s good for one full drive write per day.

When exactly the PM1643 will go on sale and for how much isn’t known, but Samsung says now it’s got this form factor settled it’ll expand its range of SAS SSDs later this year, with 16.36TB, 7.68TB, 3.84TB, 1.92TB, 960GB, and 800GB versions to come. As Samsung executive VP of memory sales Jaesoo Han said in a press statement, the company will ‘continue to move aggressively in meeting the shifting demand toward SSDs over 10TB.’

Don’t expect to see 30TB SSDs turning up in laptops or desktop PCs anytime soon of course. But new biggest-ever storage components like this are always trailblazers, and create downward pressure on prices in the consumer market. Now if only we could get a terabyte’s worth of storage in our phones.”

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