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  • TECH

    Apple sours as rivals rise

    Life, James Hein, Published on 04/12/2019

    » Apple can't seem to win a trick these days. Overall phone sales in Europe picked up during the last quarter but iPhone sales did not follow the upswing and ended up 4% down on the same quarter last year. The problem is that the latest models are not giving many users a reason to upgrade. Their battery replacement programme and bad sales in China have not helped either. Overall market share worldwide has dropped from 20.8% to 18.6%. By comparison, Samsung has increased their share to over 35% in the same market. Huawei, in second place, sits about the same on 22.2%. Xiaomi is still in fourth place but well behind the others at 10.5%. The biggest impacts predicted going forward are 5G and Brexit though in reality I don't think the latter will have any real impact other than short term. The most popular Samsung models were the Galaxy A10, A20e, A40 and A50.

  • TECH

    Finally, an iPod replacement

    Life, James Hein, Published on 20/11/2019

    » Those who have known me for a while know I'm a lover of new technology. Aside from computer- and guitar-related items, I also like to listen to good quality sound playback. To further that goal I recently picked up a few FiiO devices. The M5 is a small, square, HD music player. It supports all Bluetooth protocols and when they are available up to a 2TB microSD card. While the unit will play back MP3s the focus is on the high-end codecs including FLAC. I paired this with the new FH7 in-ear headphones, which provided the broadest soundscape I have ever listened to and allowed me to follow a single instrument through the entire song. The last item was their BD3, a small unit that plugs into a cable allowing the headphones to act as a Bluetooth unit that can be paired to the M5 if I decide to wear it like a watch. As I found out when researching, you can pay some very large sums for headphones and related equipment but this set seems to be a nice sweet spot of quality and flexibility without going crazy.

  • TECH

    Don't call AI bigoted

    Life, James Hein, Published on 06/11/2019

    » Despite what some claim, Artificial Intelligence is not racist. Google built a system to detect hate speech or speech that exhibited questionable content. Following the rules given, it picked out a range of people with what some try to claim was a bias toward black people. Wrong. The AI simply followed the rules and a larger number of black people and some other minorities, as defined in the US, were found to be breaking those rules. It didn't matter to the machines that when one group says it, it isn't defined as hate speech by some; it simply followed the rules. People can ignore or pretend not to see rules, but machines don't work that way. What the exercise actually found was that speech by some groups is ignored while the same thing said by others isn't. As the saying goes, don't ask the question if you're not prepared to hear the answer.

  • TECH

    In 2020, China heads into 1984

    Life, James Hein, Published on 23/10/2019

    » China will have 626 million CCTVs installed by 2020. That's close to one for every two people in the country. By the end of 2019, any application for Internet access will require first having your face scanned. In 2020, if you want to surf the web you will first have to pass a facial recognition process. If you are recognised and your social score is high enough you will be able to connect. This directive comes from the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Technology.

  • TECH

    The limits of simulations

    Life, James Hein, Published on 09/10/2019

    » I've recently been assigned to a team working on a simulator to model and test some business scenarios. The details aren't important but the upshot is that a model will be built, some decision points assigned percentages and times, then 1,000 transactions run through to see what the baseline is.

  • OPINION

    None more black

    Life, James Hein, Published on 25/09/2019

    » Accidental discoveries have been responsible for many useful items like rubber and penicillin. A couple of science types at MIT in the US wanted to see if they could grow carbon nanotubes on aluminium to increase its conductance properties. Instead they found they had made the blackest substance yet known to man. It absorbs 99.96% of the light from any angle making it 10 times blacker than the current options. Potential uses include telescopes, optical blinders and art. Carbon nanotubes, is there anything they can't do, eventually?

  • TECH

    Seamless synchronicity

    Life, James Hein, Published on 11/09/2019

    » As I was walking to work thinking about this week's column, I did a quick self-inventory. I was listening to On Liberty by John Stuart Mill through my noise cancelling headphones. The audio was being sent by Bluetooth from my Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone that I was also using to play a location-based game, Ingress. This was being fed my position by satellite and receiving information from the internet via my phone's data connection. Occasionally I would pull down the notification tab to see what was on for the day and who had tried to contact me via a number of social-media services.

  • TECH

    AI -- what is it good for?

    Life, James Hein, Published on 28/08/2019

    » Why do we care about machine learning and the kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems I mentioned last time? The amount of data being taken in by systems in modern times is outstripping the ability of humans to keep up. Enter machine learning systems to pre-process the information, highlight patterns and identify the bits and pieces that humans may find interesting. Key areas include fraud detection, whereby a set of rules is applied to data and flagged if those rules are detected. It also includes the age-old problem of the best delivery routes to bring manufactured goods to customers, with the additional benefit of using less fuel. A recent McKinsey report found that AI improved on "traditional analytics techniques" in 400 use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions. As far as the current situation, AI or machine learning is not an end state. Human intervention is still required to make sure the results make sense and also to ensure stuff isn't being missed in the process. There is also continuing training and refinement being regularly applied. It's a growing field and those organisations that are not at least aware of it could be left behind by their competitors. At least, until Skynet takes over.

  • TECH

    AI deserves our human paranoia

    Life, James Hein, Published on 14/08/2019

    » For most of my IT career I have seen promises of the "silver bullet" application. The modern iteration of this is the overused promise of Artificial Intelligence. Every man and his dog are jumping onto this marketing bandwagon and Microsoft has been no exception making it part of their database offerings.

  • TECH

    The madness of big data

    Life, James Hein, Published on 31/07/2019

    » 'Data is the new oil." That's what the marketing departments are telling us at least and in particular our senior management.

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