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The Geek’s Reading List: Week of February 6th, 2015

Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president, Operating Systems.The big technology news of the week was associated with moves by the FCC to foster competition in broadband services.

I believe most of the coverage makes the mistake of assuming policy will become law, which is unlikely in a sector so carefully controlled by lobbyists. Other than that we have a good mix of articles ranging from news on Windows 10 to scientific advancement.

Adblocking goes mainstream

I believe this report cam out in Q3, 2014 but I appear to have missed it. Adblocking is a rapidly emerging trend where browser plugins are used to block internet advertizing. The most popular software allows “whitelisted” ads provided they meet certain requirements, in particular paying the company money. It is easy to configure the software to block all ads and I have been using it that way since it was introduced. Note how penetration is highest among more sophisticated users (i.e. those capable of downloading a browser and the plugin). Most likely, use will spread as more people become aware of it, resulting in countermeasures by the likes of Google.

“The adblock community is expanding rapidly. In Q2 2014 there were approximately 144 million monthly active adblock users globally (4.9% of all internet users); a number which has increased 69% over the previous 12 months. Google Chrome is bringing ad blocking to the masses and seeing the largest increase of adblockers, up by 96% to approximately 86 million monthly active users between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014. Share of ads blocked by “end-user installed” browsers is 4.7x higher than by “pre-installed” browsers.”

Test shows big data text analysis inconsistent, inaccurate

Big data doesn’t make the headlines it used to, at least if you ignore the Snowden/NSA spying news. This study strongly suggests the conclusions arrived at through standard techniques are of questionable quality, which is scarcely surprising as it is am emerging field. Another consideration would be what the analysis is used for: if used as part of a matrix for a decision the implications are different than if it is used to directly drive a decision. Human nature being what it is I suspect more the later than the former.

“The team tested LDA-based analysis with repeated analyses of the same set of unstructured data – 23,000 scientific papers and 1.2 million Wikipedia articles written in several different languages. Even worse than being inaccurate, the LDA analyses were inconsistent, returning the same results only 80 percent of the time even when using the same data and the same analytic configuration. Accuracy of 90 percent with 80 percent consistency sounds good, but the scores are “actually very poor, since they are for an exceedingly easy case,” Amaral said in an announcement from Northwestern about the study.”


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The FCC is moving to preempt state broadband limits

The North American broadband market is characterized by extraordinary profitability and sub-par performance and availability. This is almost exclusively due to corrupt and/or incompetent regulation which has benefited carriers at the expense of business and consumers. Remarkably, the notoriously ‘free-market’ US has all kinds or regulations restricting competition whereby the purportedly anti-‘free-market’ Canada maintains a more or less hands off approach to oligopolism and widespread anticompetitive practices by carriers. As least the US seems to be moving in the direction of permitting increased competition, though this might only persist as long as the current administration.

“Federal regulators are moving ahead with a proposal to help two cities fighting with their state governments over the ability to build public alternatives to large Internet providers. The Federal Communications Commission this week will begin considering a draft decision to intervene against state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that limit Internet access operated and sold by cities, according to a senior FCC official. The agency’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, could circulate the draft to his fellow commissioners as early as Monday and the decision will be voted on in the FCC’s public meeting on Feb. 26.”

Windows 10 Installs Automatically On Windows 7 And Windows 8

This certainly is interesting news. I wiped the hair shirt that is Windows 8 off my development machine and replaced it with Linux. My “writing” computer is a very long in the tooth Windows 7 machine with a host of mechanical troubles. I have been considering replacing it, however, the pain of using Windows 8 held me off. Since an evaluation copy of Windows 10 can’t possibly be as bad a Windows 8 I might reconsider. Depending on how stable evaluation versions of Windows 10 is, this might actually serve to rejuvenate PC sales prior to its launch.

“In a media event Microsoft unveiled that their latest build of Windows 10 will make updating from older operating systems much easier than it has ever been before. Windows 7 and 8 users will be able to update to Windows 10 directly through Windows Update, negating the need for us to burn a DVD or making a USB boot drive to then fiddle about with the Bios. It is great to see Microsoft make the upgrade process so easy now, especially given how it will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users for the first year.”

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