IBM Supercomputer Starts Swearing

The IBM-developed artificial intelligence computer system named Watson is capable of answering questions posed in natural language. It was specifically developed to answer questions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, the supercomputer competed on the sitcom against two former winners and won the $1 million prize.

Eric Brown, a research scientist with IBM, is responsible for the creation and tutoring of Watson. Its purpose was, as an artificial intelligence, to beat the Turing test. This means that if Watson were to chat with a human and that person could not tell whether the correspondent was man or machine, then Watson would pass the test.

It caused havoc after making obscene outbursts after memorizing the contents of the Urban Dictionary. The website contains slang that is part of informal conversation today, but is not considered appropriate for polite conversation. So great was the damage that Watson’s programmers had to wipe out its memory after they could find no way of stopping the supercomputer from swearing profusely.

As Watson formulates replies based on the working of several supercomputers together, it had put together some words and started responding to many of the questions posed with bulls***.

The original article has reported it as follows,

Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity – which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bulls***” in an answer to a researcher’s query.

Ultimately, Brown’s 35-person team developed a filter to keep Watson from swearing and scraped the Urban Dictionary from its memory. But the trial proves just how thorny it will be to get artificial intelligence to communicate naturally. Brown is now training Watson as a diagnostic tool for hospitals. No knowledge of OMG required.

For the IBM programmers working on Watson, that was certainly a very interesting day at work.

Kill Time with Class

Here is a pick of some entertaining websites that allow us to kill time and relax. Considering that we are spoilt for choice, I looked at websites on the following criteria: interactivity, enjoyment, and revisiting the website. I am not going to count Facebook, YouTube, news websites, and the rest.

Twitter

This is my first recommendation as a source of entertaining comments from people across the world. Unlike Facebook where we decide on what updates matter to our near and dear ones, I find that Twitter provides a far more intimate portrait of any person. It is very easy to understand the mental makeup of a person based on their comments and the people they follow.

Ted

These are records of some of the most brightest and successful minds today. The inspiration that these talks provide is phenomenal. This is something that we should all set some time aside regularly to go through. There will always be a talk that will leave you close to tears, and another that will make your mouth drop at the levels of ingenuity.

UComics

A collection of all your favorite comics in one place. I think that this is the largest collated collection that I have found online so far. From Peanuts to Calvin and Hobbes, there is everything you can imagine here.

StumbleUpon

I was mentally wrestling for quite a while on either Pinterest or StumbleUpon, as they do bring the same thing to your plate (despite their different approaches). I made my choice after I spent an hour on both sites trying to determine which one engaged me more in terms of increasing my energy levels. Plus, StumbleUpon offers a better appeal to members of both genders.

Wikipedia

The never failing Wikipedia has come to our rescue more than a zillion times. It is not a certified source of information by educational institutes, but it has always been that first step we take when we come across something new. I have always considered this website the best example of how free and public web institutions can truly showcase the power of the internet.

Snesbox

If you are allowed to run Flash, playing games here will be quite entertaining. My current favorite is Mortal Combat.

Balldroppings

This interesting JavaScript page is called Ball Droppings. You are supposed to draw lines to make sure that the balls are retained by bouncing back instead of falling out.

iwastesomuchtime

If you are in need of some laughs, this web site will leave you chuckling at some of its funny and insane takes on life. Lots of Facebook rage here.

Neave

The various available items on this website have never left me bored, be it the Planetarium, Webcam Toy, or play with Simon.

Enjoy these time wasters, you know what they say about all work :)

Is Nokia Hijacking Your Phone’s Browser Traffic?

Two days ago, security professional Gaurang Pandya made an interesting discovery about the browser that comes bundled with the Nokia Asha 302, or pretty much any Nokia feature phone. The browser uses a proxy to route its traffic instead of hitting the requested server directly. This led many people to believe that Nokia is performing a MITM attack on their connection. Now, it would be wrong to refute those claims, because this indeed is a MITM technically. However, it is too early to jump to conclusions here.

Nokia-logo

Nokia uses its Nokia/Ovi proxy servers pretty much the same way any other browser manufacturer uses its proxy servers — for transcoding, resulting in data compression and faster browsing. Amazon’s Silk browser does it, Opera Mini does it, but with a slight difference. Others, who do it, are not handset manufacturers. Nokia, on the other hand, is a handset manufacturer and this allows it to proxy HTTPS connections as well. So, how does this work?

Nokia has control of your device (at least during the manufacturing process), and it cunningly includes a fake certification authority (CA) on your device. With this fake certificate issuer on your device, the proxy server can now decode your data because it is signed with a public key for which, the proxy server will have private key [Public Key Cryptography]. The proxy server in turn sends the data to the actual server, only this time, signing it again with a certificate issued by a proper CA. The outcry in this case was that HTTPS connections could also be hijacked by the proxy servers at Nokia, which is not possible with Opera Mini or other browsers that use proxy servers.

So, is there reason to be worried? Of course there is. However, is there reason to blame Nokia? No. There is just reason enough to ask better questions, like how secure are these proxy servers?

Google Doodle Celebrates London Underground 150th Anniversary

U.K. users received a pleasant surprise in the morning when they visited Google’s U.K. homepage. Today, the search giant is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the city’s subway transit system.

The London Underground 150th anniversary Google Doodle features the Google logo rendered in colourful Tube lines. The famous Tube map was first designed by Harry Beck in 1931, and eventually introduced as the official public map in 1933. The doodle even uses the real names and colours of Underground lines.

Google Doodle London Underground

The London Underground was opened to the public in 1863, with the first journey taking place between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway, which now forms part of the Circle and District Line.

When it first opened, there were only seven stations. Today, the city’s subway transit system has 263 more stations. Nearly 1.17 billion passenger rides took place last year. According to the stats based on data from LU Performance Data Almanac, the Underground sees about 3.23 million daily riders, with 3.66 million on weekdays. Comparatively, the New York subway system delivered 1.64 billion rides in 2011.

The Tube’s anniversary is also being celebrated across the country today. The anniversary is being marked with a set of stamps, with London mayor Boris Johnson describing them as a ‘fitting celebration of London Underground’s rich heritage’.

London Underground Stamps

Wikipedia Takes Down Page On “Goan War” After Being Revealed As Elaborate Hoax

And this is how you create history – literally! A long standing hoax on the ‘The Bicholim Conflict’ has been taken down by Wikipedia, when none of the references cited were found to be authentic. There was a detailed entry of 4500 words about the “Bicholin Conflict” of 1640-41, marked as a ‘good article’ on Wikipedia which describes a conflict between the Maratha Empire and the colonial Portuguese forces, which turns out to be a tall tale by some mischievous user.

The article came into existence in 2007 and stood as a respectable article for five long years. Another user, identifying himself as ‘ShelfSkewed’ found that the sources are all either non-existent or fake.

The article has now been taken down and a link cannot be provided, but this is what a part of the article read:
From 1640 to 1641 the might of colonial Portugal clashed with India’s massive Maratha Empire in an undeclared war that would later be known as the Bicholim Conflict.

The article even has photos to back up its claim! Look at the following two photos – one of a building and the other a map – the descriptions of both are now lost after the page was taken down.


However, this kind of hoaxes is nothing new. They have happened before and will definitely happen again. Wikipedia maintains a list of hoaxes that have been seen on the site since 2001. There have appeared Bunaka, an island of Indonesia and Gauis Flavius Antoninus, the fictitious murderer of Julius Caesar.

Wikipedia generally bans users posting such fake content.

Netflix Open Sources Janitor Monkey, an AWS Cleanup Tool

Following the plan to open source its Simian Army gradually, Netflix has now open sourced the Janitor Monkey tool. This is the second Simian tool to be open sourced by Netflix after the source for Chaos Monkey was released to the public in July last year. The Simian Army at Netflix is used to manage cloud services and the last offering of Chaos Monkey was used for stress testing. As a whole, this Simian Army suite is well designed to perform a multitude of actions on cloud services.

Netflix-Logo

The legend behind Janitor Monkey goes as follows:

At Netflix, when we analyzed our Amazon Web Services (AWS) usage, we found a lot of unused resources and we needed a solution to rectify this problem. Diligent engineers can manually delete unused resources via Asgard but we needed a way to automatically detect and clean them up. Our solution was Janitor Monkey.

In short, the Janitor Monkey comes in handy when disposing of unused resources. The Janitor Monkey service runs in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and it can be scheduled to perform regular resource cleanups.

Although Netflix is calling this an open sourcing of the entire tool, it seems like Janitor Monkey have not been open sourced entirely. Only modules that are generalized for other cloud services have been made available under the Apache 2 license.

The source code for Simian Army tools are made available on Github, as and when they are released. Netflix had also open-sourced its Asgard tool in June last year, which was not a part of the Simian Army, but deals with cloud services.

Demand Media Acquires Name.com, Adding 1.5 Million Domains to eNom Division

One of the popular domain name registrars Name.com has been acquired by Demand Media, a public digital media company that owns the domain name and hosting giant eNom, which currently has over 13.5 million domain names registered. The acquisition was announced on Name.com’s blog, however, the terms of the deal have not been disclosed yet.

The company says that the acquisition is envisioned to expand its platform, and comes in preparation for the release of new Top Level Domains (TLDs) this year.

Demand Media Acquires Name.com

Richard Rosenblatt, chairman and CEO of Demand Media, said:

“Name.com will provide a direct channel for us to reach consumers and small businesses as they develop and manage their online identities. This becomes even more valuable as over one thousand new domain extensions are expected to become available for registration in the years ahead.”

Demand Media has currently applied for 26 new gTLD’s, and is a partner with Donuts Inc. in another 100 of its new gTLD applications. The company will retain the Denver-based team and the business will report to Taryn Naidu, executive vice president, Registrar Services. It also aims to “provide an end-to-end solution for all things domains — whether you are looking to consume or distribute names and services,” said Naidu.

Name.com was founded in 2003, and it said to have registered nearly 1.5 million domains till date, which will now add up with eNom’s current 13.5 million registered domains.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 Complete Events Schedule

The much-awaited Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 is finally here. As usual, the event will be held between January 8 – January 11 in Las Vegas, United States. HP, Lenovo and Vizio are expected to launch a number of ultrabooks, while LG, Samsung, Sony and HTC will launch their flagship smartphones and tablets. Check out the complete schedule below. All timings are mentioned in PST (GMT -0800).

Monday, January 7, 2013:

  • 08:00 am – LG Press Conference
  • 09:00 am – Sharp CES Press Showcase
  • 09:00 am – AT&T Developers Summit
  • 12:00 pm – Fujifilm Press Conference
  • 12:00 pm – NETGEAR Press Conference
  • 01:00 pm – Huawei Device Press Conference
  • 01:00 pm – Intel CES Press Briefing
  • 02:00 pm – Samsung Press Conference
  • 03:00 pm – Casio America Inc. Press Conference
  • 04:00 pm – Ford Motor Company Press Conference
  • 05:00 pm – Sony Press Conference
  • 06:30 pm – Qualcomm Keynote

Tuesday, January 8, 2013:

  • 11:00 am – Audi Press Conference
  • 01:00 pm – Bang & Olufsen Press Conference
  • 01:30 pm – ZTE Grand S Announcement
  • 04:00 pm – U.S. Launch of Motörheadphönes
  • 04:30 pm – Verizon Wireless Keynote
  • 05:30 pm – T-Mobile Press Event

Wednesday, January 9, 2013:

  • 09:00 am – Pebble: E-Paper Smartwatch for iPhone and Android Announcement
  • 11:30 am – Official Launch of SendBoo Mobile Application
  • 02:00 pm – SmartKlear by LensPen launch: Remove Fingerprints from your iPhone Screen
  • 02:00 pm – TAIWAN Products Launch & International Press Conference
  • 03:30 pm – Synaptop: Living in the Cloud Announcement
  • 06:00 pm – Kenwood USA Press Conference

Microsoft Wins Bid for R2 Studios Against Apple and Others

Last month, we reported that Apple along with Microsoft and Google were in talks to acquire home automation company R2 Studios. R2 was created in 2011 by Krikorian who founded Sling Media Inc., maker of the Slingbox TV streaming device.

Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft has won the bidding war. Microsoft will use the acquisition to improve its Xbox division and increase its presence in the living room. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

“Microsoft Corp. MSFT +3.41% has acquired a small home-entertainment technology startup to beef up its Xbox unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company, id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., was created by entrepreneur Blake Krikorian in May 2011. Mr. Krikorian will be joining the Redmond, Wash., software giant with a small team. As part of the deal, Microsoft also acquired some patents owned by the startup related to controlling electronic devices.

The price of the deal couldn’t be learned.”

R2 Studios is currently developing a home automation technology, but as of now, it does not have any products in the market except for an Android application.

Intel Plans to Bring Channel-based TV Subscription

Television has run on the cable model for as long as we can remember. Channel subscriptions always come in bundled packages, and more often than not, we end up subscribing for the bundle just to get those few channels. That is not a very efficient way of doing things and Intel has a grand plan to change this scenario. Intel is joining Apple and Google in the IPTV race. However, the unique selling proposition here is that Intel’s service would allow us to subscribe to individual channels of our preference, instead of complete bundles. The project has been developed in secrecy, and this is the first time anyone has heard of it.

intel

The product will be made available to a limited set of beta-tester customers in March, and will be made available through an internet connection. This makes the service independent of any cable provider. The service will also include games, on-demand shows and Intel’s app marketplace.

Much of this effort is being worked upon by the Microsoft Mediaroom team, with Jim Baldwin as the VP of this program at Intel. Intel has the expertise in chip manufacturing, and it has also stuck just the right deals with Hollywood to keep this product profitable for everyone.

The project will not be showcased at CES this year. Moreover, there are many unanswered questions here. Some people are skeptic about content providers actually wanting to accept this model. Others have speculated that as the prices for these individual channels will be adjusted in such a way that the profitability per channel remains the same in both these systems. At the end of the day, the consumer will probably still end up paying the same amount overall.