10 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Retirement to a Scam

A news item that surfaced last week was particularly interesting and personal for me. Several years ago, my wife and I
invested in a project called “Sanctuary Belize” and, like many of the investors, we were incredibly excited about the prospect of
retiring in paradise.

After a time, things just weren’t adding up, which prompted my column, “Tarnished Dreams” (the comments section makes interesting reading). The company supposedly put controls in place to reverse course, but we exited the project. I wrote “Renewed Hope,” with a focus on the improvements and controls that were promised. However, as it turned out, they either were not put in place or failed.

A Slew of Scams

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week announced that it had shut the thing down, and highlighted it as one of the largest scams in its history, with damages estimated
to exceed $100 million. There appears to be little chance that those who stayed with the project will recover much of their investment.

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently has pointed out problems with companies ranging
from Snap to
Tesla (Musk seems to be
balancing between financial genius and scam artist at the moment).

Last week, I
wrote about, Dan Lyons’ new book
Lab Rats. While focused mostly on employee abuse at scale, it also covers the scam represented by many unicorn companies, which typically carry valuations of $1 billion or more, unsupported by profit or revenue.

And then there was the whopping
$6 billion gold scam that set the entire gold industry on its ear.

The Belize thing was a huge learning experience for me. As an analyst, and an ex-auditor and ex-cop, I once held the false belief that I was immune to scams. One of the things that makes many scams work is that they make you part of the effort to fool yourself. A huge problem is that the folks who get caught up in the scam will attack people who catch on to it almost as if they were religious heretics (which, in a way, we are).

Rather than covering the details of each scam, I’ll suggest ways to avoid falling for one, because there are folks trying to trick us out of our money daily. Check out the
seven most common scams attacking older folks at the moment. I’ve gotten calls from folks trying all of them on me, except for the roofing scam, and the approaches are getting ever more sophisticated.

I’m not sure if losing money or the embarrassment of falling for one of these scams is worse. I’ll offer my thoughts on how to keep safe and close with my product of the week: the one thing I’m most looking forward to getting this month.

10 Rules to Avoid Losing Your Retirement

  1. One thing you really have to get, no matter how smart you think you are, is that anyone can get scammed. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid, grandparent, CEO, cop, or even an ex-auditor. If the scam is packaged well enough, you’ll fall for it.

    I recall that Steve Jobs tricked some very smart people into investing in NeXt, using VHS videos showing scripted demos of a product that didn’t exist. He tricked Carly Fiorina into exiting the iPod market before HP had even entered it. That guy could sell nonfunctional refrigerators to Eskimos.

    Once you realize that anyone can be scammed, you’ll have a tendency to look at things more skeptically.

  2. This is an old saying but still valid: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

    The easy ones to spot are the lotteries you won without ever entering, or the widow you’ve never met who’s dying of cancer and wants your help to distribute her millions or billions. My father-in-law fell for the former, and likely died believing he was still going to get the Cadillac and cash he “won” in the Canadian lottery he never entered.

  3. Break the script. Scams tend to be scripted. Like most magic tricks, they restrict your view to what the scam artist wants you to see. We figured out the Belize problem by going to the resort unannounced and outside of a regular tour. If someone had broken the flow of the NeXt demo, the script and fraud would have become obvious.
  4. Avoid investments in areas you know nothing about. That is because the scam artist then can become the “expert” you rely on, and you don’t even know what questions you should be asking.

    However, knowing about a topic doesn’t necessarily mean you are expert in it. I once was tricked into buying a motorcycle because it never occurred to me the guy would lie about its age. (I won in court, but the judge clearly thought, and I tend to agree, that I was an idiot.) In that instance, I knew enough to rebuild the bike — but I got caught up on what a great deal it was, and I was so pressured for time that I didn’t reflect on the changes made to the line since I’d last owned one.

  5. Take your time. One of the tricks with a scammer (or someone negotiating a contract), is to rush you. Take all the time you need to make a decision, even though it might mean delaying a flight. Deadlines are often artificial. (They are selling this stuff all the time, or that mysterious “other buyer” likely doesn’t exist.) Don’t rush. It is better to miss a deal than to be rushed into making one.
  6. Have a good idea what you are willing to spend and lock that down. I’ve seen folks massively overpay at auctions because they get caught up in the moment, or enter into time share agreements because the payments sound like a good deal. (I’d avoid time shares in general, but if you want one, buy it on the secondary market, because they drop like a rock once sold.) Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.
  7. Get an attorney involved before you sign any contract — one who is both qualified and loyal to you. Fine print, terms you don’t understand, and hidden pitfalls are what a good contract attorney is expert at ferreting out. Your attorney actually may have seen scams like the one you otherwise might be tricked into, and that could save your butt.

    Yes, lawyers are expensive, but they are a ton cheaper than losing your investment or having to litigate after the fact. Not getting a good attorney, with the emphasis on “good”, is definitely
    being penny wise and pound foolish.

  8. Avoid contracts with arbitration clauses. They provide a huge advantage to scam artists. Arbitration can be as expensive as a trial, but the awards tend to be far lower and the quality of the arbitrator is far less certain than the expertise of a judge. While arbitration can be cheaper, it isn’t that much cheaper to be worth the risk.
  9. Find your owns sources for due diligence. The scammer will supply shills, and you need to find your own sources of past investors. The Web is your friend. The longer a scam goes on, the higher the number of folks who have been screwed by it.

    Granted, there may be aggressive uses of nondisclosure agreements, and social networking sites that host discussions of the subject can be shut down (both common tactics in the case of Sanctuary Belize), but the Web is a big place, and whack-a-mole isn’t working very well at the moment. Realize that not finding any independent comments on something likely is a huge red flag in and of itself.

  10. Remember the rule of “sunk costs.” Even when people realized that the Belize project was iffy, some kept putting money into it in the mistaken belief that it would help secure their investment. It didn’t. Throwing good money after bad only increases your pain.

Wrapping Up

If you have never lost your retirement and no one close to you has had that experience, you have no idea of the stress and pain it can cause. As noted in the FTC briefing on Sanctuary Belize (later renamed “The Reserve Belize“), there are thousands of people who likely will never see their dream retirement opportunity come to fruition. Many died waiting for it.

Still, scams like the ones the FTC has brought allegations on are ongoing. They extend from unicorn companies to contest winnings, and every one of us, given the right set of circumstances, is vulnerable.

Our only defense is to realize our retirement is under attack and work aggressively to defend against those attacks. (Boy, I suddenly I really miss pensions, though pension funds had their own problems.)

One final comment: If you are in an investment and someone rises up and says something to the effect of “the emperor has no clothes,” maybe rather than attacking the messenger you should listen and actually consider running for the hills. Just saying…

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I’ve had a number of smartwatches, with the most disappointing coming from New Balance. It was based on Intel technology and thus bricked shortly after Intel exited the segment. I’m not wearing a Fitbit Versa. The Versa has been the best by far — mostly because it is extremely focused on quanitfying exercise, and has battery life measured in days not hours.

All smartwatches have had one issue in common, though: They aren’t very good watches, in that their displays are blacked out most of the time. The really cool features, like GPS, typically have required a second wrist-mounted device because they sucked so much power.

That is why I got excited about the
Fossil Sport Smartwatch. It uses the new Snapdragon Wear platform that provides decent battery life (up to three days depending on settings) while still leaving the display active. It has GPS built in; it is swimproof (apparently you can’t dive deep with it, but you can wear it in the pool or shower); it looks like a watch; it connects to your Android phone and iOS (so you aren’t locked into Apple); and it has heart rate monitoring and all the other Android Wear features.

Fossil Sport Smartwatch

Fossil Sport Smartwatch

This means you can talk into your watch if you don’t want to pick up your phone; control your music; use Google Pay to pay for stuff; get messages on your watch; leave your phone behind if you just want to listen to music (it’s kind of an iPod replacement); and take advantage of the typical watch features (stop watch, alarm, customized watch faces, etc.).

I don’t have the watch yet, but damned if I’m not counting the hours till it arrives. If it is as good as I hope, it is in the running for my product of the year. Now if it just had a case more like an Invicta watch

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester.
Email Rob.

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Acumos Project's 1st Software, Athena, Helps Ease AI Deployment

LF Deep Learning Foundation on Wednesday announced the availability of the first software from the
Acumos AI Project. Dubbed “Athena,” it supports open source innovation in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning.

This is the first software release from the Acumos AI Project since its launch earlier this year. The goal is to make critical new technologies available to developers and data scientists everywhere.

Acumos is part of a Linux Foundation umbrella organization, the LF Deep Learning Foundation, that supports and sustains open source innovation in artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning. Acumos is based in Shanghai.

Acumos AI is a platform and open source framework that makes it easy to build, share and deploy AI apps. Acumos standardizes the infrastructure stack and components required to run an out-of-the-box general AI environment, freeing data scientists and model trainers to focus on their core competencies, and accelerating innovation.

“The Acumos Athena release represents a significant step forward in making AI models more accessible for builders of AI applications and models, along with users and trainers of those models and applications,” said Scott Nicholas, senior director of strategic planning at The Linux Foundation. “This furthers the goal of LF Deep Learning and the Acumos project of accelerating overall AI innovation.”

The challenge with AI is that there are very few apps to use it, noted Jay Srivatsa, CEO of
Future Wealth.

“Acumos was launched to create an AI marketplace, and the release of Athena is a first step in that direction,” he told LinuxInsider.

The Acumos AI Platform

Acumos packages toolkits such as TensorFlow and SciKit Learn, along with models that have a common API that allows them to connect seamlessly. The AI platform allows for easy onboarding and training of models and tools.

The platform supports a variety of popular software languages, including Java, Python, and R. The R language is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.

The Acumos AI Platform leverages modern microservices and containers to package and export production-ready AI applications as Docker files. It includes a federated AI Model Marketplace, which is a catalog of community-distributed AI models that can be shared securely.

LF Deep Learning members contribute to the evolution of the platform to ease the onboarding and the deployment of AI models, according to LF Deep Learning Outreach Committee Chair Jamil Chawki. The Acumos AI Marketplace is open and accessible to anyone who wants to download or contribute models and applications.

“Acumos Athena is a significant release because it enables the interoperability of AI, DL and ML models and prevents the lock-in that usually occurs whenever projects are built using disparate configurations, systems and deployment techniques,” explained Rishi Bhargava, cofounder of

It will ease restrictions on AI, DL and ML developers by removing silos and allowing them to build standardized models, chain each other’s models together, and refine them through an out-of-the-box general AI environment, he told LinuxInsider.

“The efficiency of learning models is hugely contingent on the quality and uniqueness of data, the depth and repeatability of feature engineering, and selecting the best model for the task at hand,” Bhargava said. “Athena will free developers of extraneous burdens so they can focus on these core tasks, learn from each other, and eventually deliver better models to businesses and customers.”

Athena Release Highlights

Athena’s design is packed with features to make the software quick and easy to deploy, and to make it easy to share Acumos AI applications.

Athena can be deployed with one-click using Docker or Kubernetes. The software also can deploy models into a public or private cloud infrastructure, or into a Kubernetes environment on users’ own hardware, including servers and virtual machines.

It utilizes a design studio graphical interface that enables chaining together multiple models, data translation tools, filters and output adapters into a full end-to-end solution. Also at play is a security token to allow simple onboarding of models from an external toolkit directly to an Acumos AI repository.

Models easily can be repurposed for different environments and hardware. This is done by decoupling microservices generation from the model onboarding process.

An advanced user portal allows personalization of marketplace view by theme and data on model authorship. This portal also allows users to share models privately or publicly.

“The LF Deep Learning Foundation is focused on building an ecosystem of AI, deep learning and machine learning projects, and today’s announcement represents a significant milestone toward achieving this vision,” said LF Deep Learning Technical Advisory Council Chair Ofer Hermoni of Amdocs.

Unifying Factor

The Acumos release is significant for the advancement of AI, DL and ML innovation, according to Edgar Radjabli, managing partner of
Apis Capital Management.

The AI industry is very fragmented, with virtually no standardization.

“Companies building technology are usually required to write most from scratch or pay for expensive licensed cloud AI solutions,” Radjabli told LinuxInsider. “Acumos can help bring a base (protocol) layer standard to the industry, in the same way that HTTP did for the Internet and Linux itself did for application development.”

LF Deep Learning members are inspired and energized by the progress of the Acumos AI Project, noted Mazin Gilbert, vice president of advanced technology and systems at AT&T and the governing board chair of LF Deep Learning.

“Athena is the next step in harmonizing the AI community, furthering adoption and accelerating innovation,” he said.

Open Source More Suitable

Given the challenges of growing new technologies, open source models are better suited to the development process than those of commercial software firms. Open source base layer software is ideal. It allows greater adoption and interoperability between diverse projects from established players and startups, said Radjabli.

“I believe that Acumos will be used both by other open source projects building second-layer applications, as well as commercial applications,” he said.

Today, the same situation exists in other software development. Open source base layer protocols are used across the industry, both by other open source/nonprofit projects and commercial operations, he explained.

“Athena clearly is geared to an open source environment, given that it already has about 70 or more contributors,” said Future Wealth’s Srivats.

Benefits for Business and Consumers

The benefits to be gained from AI, DL and ML are very significant. Companies across the industry have been making progress in the development of unique applications for AI/DL/MO. More growth in this space will result from Acumos, according to Radjabli.

One example involves a company that uses neural networks for predictive healthcare analytics. This system allows it to diagnose breast cancer with zero percent false negatives simply from patient data correlation analysis. This does not involve any invasive testing or imaging, according to Radjabli.

“The correlation is comprised of over 40 variables, which means it would have never been found through traditional medical research data analysis and was only made possible through the use of convolutional and recurrent neural networks working in combination,” he said.

AI, DL and ML are all geared toward businesses understanding and predicting consumer behavior, added Srivatsa.

“Both will benefit,” he said.

What’s Next for Acumos AI

The developer community for Acumos AI already is working on the next release. The company expects it to be available in mid-2019.

The next release will introduce convenient model training, as well as data extraction pipelines to make models more flexible.

Additionally, the next release will include updates to assist closed-source model developers, such as secure and reliable licensing components to provide execution control and performance feedback across the community.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
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Amazon Is Just the Tip of the AI Bias Iceberg

recently disclosed its 2015 decision to scrap a recruitment tool used to hire talent, after finding that it had a bias against women. While this story has been covered sufficiently, there is a much greater story still to tell: A substantial amount of the artificial intelligence technology that currently is used for recruitment and human resources purposes has been acting independently, without any form of regulation, for some time.

Before exploring this, it will be helpful to understand why this happened with Amazon’s software — what were the ghosts in the machine? I’ll offer some insights about how similar incidents can be avoided, and then explain why this has opened a giant can of worms for the rest of the US$638 billion a year employee recruitment industry.

Two Decades of Male Imprinting

Some of you may be surprised to learn that artificial intelligence has been used within the recruitment process for at least two decades. Technologies like natural language processing, semantics and Boolean string search likely have been used for most of the Western world’s placement into work.

A more commonly known fact is that historically — and even currently — men have dominated the IT space. Today, major companies like Google and Microsoft have tech staffs comprised of only 20 percent and 19 percent women respectively,
according to Statista. Considering these statistics, it’s no wonder that we create technologies with an unconscious bias toward women.

So let’s recap: More than 20 years ago a male-dominated tech industry began creating AI systems to help hire more tech employees. The tech industry then decided to hire predominantly men, based on the recommendations of unconsciously biased machines.

After 20-plus years of positive feedback from recommending male candidates, the machine then imprints the profile of an ideal candidate for its tech company. What we’re left with is what Amazon discovered: AI systems with inherent biases against anyone who included the word “women’s” on their resume, or anyone who attended a women’s college.

However, this problem isn’t limited to Amazon. It’s a problem for any tech company that has been experimenting with AI recruitment over the last two decades.

AI Is Like a Child

So, what is at the center of this Ouroboros of male favoritism? It’s quite simple: There have been too many men in charge of creating technologies, resulting in unconscious masculine bias within the code, machine learning and AI.

Women have not played a large enough role in the development of the tech industry. The development of tech keywords, programming languages and other skills largely has been carried out in a boys’ club. While a woman programmer might have all the same skills as her male counterpart, if she does not present her skills exactly like male programmers before her have done, she may be overlooked by AI for superficial reasons.

Think of technology as a child. The environment it is created in and the lessons it is taught will shape the way it enters the world. If it is only ever taught from a male perspective, then guess what? It’s going to be favorable toward men. Even with machine learning, the core foundation of the platform will be given touchpoints to take into consideration and learn from. There will still be bias unless the technology is programmed by a wider demographic of people.

You may think this is trivial. Just because a female candidate writes about how she was “‘head of the women’s chess league” or “president of the women’s computer club in college,” that couldn’t possibly put her at a disadvantage in the eyes of an unprejudiced machine, could it?

While it certainly isn’t black and white, over the course of millions of resumes even a 5 percent bias where language like this is used could result in a significant number of women being affected. If the employees ultimately in charge of hiring consistently decide to go with candidates with masculine language displayed on their resume, AI slowly but surely will start feeding hirers resumes that share those traits.

Millions of Women Affected

Some quick general math: The U.S. economy sees 60 million people change jobs every year, and we can assume that half of them are women, so 30 million American women. If 5 percent of them suffered discrimination due to unconscious bias within AI, that could mean 1.5 million women affected every year. That is simply unacceptable.

Technology is here to serve us and it can do it well, but it’s not without its shortcomings, which more often than not, are a reflection of our own shortcomings as a society. If there is any doubt that most of the labor force is touched one way or another by AI technology, you should know that recruitment agencies place 15 million Americans into work annually, and all 17,100 recruitment agencies in the U.S. already use, or soon will be using, an AI product of some sort to manage their processes.

So, what is the next logical step to determine how to resolve this? We all know prevention is the best cure, so we really need to encourage more women to enter and advance within the IT tech space. In fact, conscientious efforts to promote equality and diversity in the workplace across the board will ensure that issues such as this won’t happen again. This is not an overnight fix, however, and is definitely easier said than done.

Obviously, the main initiative should be to hire more women in tech — not only because this will help reset the AI algorithms and lead AI to produce more recommendations of women, but also because women should be involved in the development of these technologies. Women need to be represented just as much as men in the modern workplace.

An HR Storm Is Coming

With this understanding of the Amazon situation, in a nutshell, let’s go back to that can of worms I mentioned. The second-largest company in the world, based on market cap, which is a technology house, just admitted that its recruitment technology was biased due to masculine language.

In the U.S., there currently are more than 4,000 job boards, 17,000 recruitment agencies, 100 applicant tracking systems, and dozens of matching technology software companies. None of them have the resources of Amazon, and none of them have mentioned any issues regarding masculine language resulting in bias. What does this lead you to believe?

It leads me to believe that an entire industry that has been using this technology for 20 years most probably has been using unconscious bias technology, and the people who have suffered because of this are millions and millions of women. Lack of representation of women in tech is global, and the numbers are worse going back 20 years. There is no doubt in my mind that the entire industry needs to wake up to this issue and resolve it fast.

The question is, what happens to the women who, even now, are not getting the right opportunities because of the AI currently in use? I am not aware of any companies that can viably and individually test AI solutions to recognize bias, but we need a body that can do so, if we are to rely on these solutions with confidence. This potentially could be the largest-scale technology bug ever. It’s as if the millennium bug has come true in the recruitment market.

My theory on how this has managed to go on for so long is that if you were to ask anyone, they would say they believe technology — a computer AI — is emotionless and, therefore, objective. That is entirely right, but that doesn’t stop it from adhering to the rules and language it has been programmed to follow.

AI’s fundamental qualities include not only a lack of emotion or prejudice, but also an inability to judge common sense — which in this case means knowing that whether language is masculine or feminine language is not relevant to the shortlisting process. Instead, it goes in the complete opposite direction and uses that as a reference point for shortlisting, resulting in bias.

Our assumptions around technology and our persistent sci-fi understanding of AI have allowed this error to continue, and the consequences likely have been astronomically larger than we’ll ever be able to measure.

I believe that a storm is coming for the recruitment and HR industries, and Amazon is the whistleblower. This is an industry-wide problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Arran James Stewart is the co-owner of blockchain recruitment platform
Job.com. Relying on a decade worth of experience in the recruitment industry, he has consistently sought to bring recruitment to the cutting edge of technology. He helped develop one of the world’s first multi-post to media buy talent attraction portals, and also helped reinvent the way job content found candidates through utilizing matching technology against job aggregation.

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Review: Battlefield V Mixes Fantastic Gameplay With Intense Realism

After taking the popular Battlefield series to “the beginning” with the First World War-based Battlefield 1, developers have returned
the action to its World War II roots with Battlefield V.

Anyone who’s not familiar with this first-person shooter (FPS) need know only
that the original game, introduced in 2002 as Battlefield 1942
(BF42), offers players the chance to control vehicles as well as soldiers.

Battlefield V: Attack Capture the Objective

At the time of its introduction, that was a novel twist for the traditional FPS, and it gave developer Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment — more commonly known as “DICE” — and publisher Electronic Arts one of the most successful FPS game franchises. BF42 spawned two expansions, along with several gamer-made mods or modifications.

The series continued the action with Battlefield: Vietnam and several modern day-focused games, including Battlefield 2, Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4, and the companion series Battlefield: Bad Company, which added a single player component to what largely had been a multiplayer-only experience.

Now, with BFV, the action returns to World War II, but in many ways
the real world has moved on in the intervening years. Back when BF42 came out, HBO’s Band of Brothers, along with a slew of movies, such as Saving Private Ryan, had created new interest in “the Greatest
Generation.” World War II-focused games already were in vogue, thanks to EA’s other
shooter series, Medal of Honor, and Activision’s Call of Duty.

Sixteen years later, it is questionable whether World War II seems relevant to today’s players, including gaming veterans who have seen this conflict depicted so many times before. Even with its robust graphics, new storytelling elements and gaming enhancements, the setting risks being perceived as passé.

Going It Alone as Single Player

The Battlefield series long has been known for its multiplayer action
— and it remains one of the only game series to offer 32 vs. 32 epic combat matches. This time, the developers have upped the ante quite a bit with the single player experience, which in past games really was little more than an introduction to the action.

BFV features three robust campaigns that are worthy of games in their
own right, so those who prefer to go it solo won’t be disappointed by
what this one has to offer.

As with other single player
military-themed games it is short on story, of course, so don’t expect
to interact with other characters to advance the plot much. While
there is dialog acted out, the player doesn’t really interact. Instead,
this is very much a linear-focused run and gun experience.

Battlefield V: Frontline Chokepoint Kilo

If there is a complaint, it is that the player is on
point most of the time with little support, as with so many past games (Medal
of Honor
and Call of Duty come to mind). Of course, this is
expected, as what fun would it be merely to watch the action unfold?
Still, being “Johnny on the spot” almost becomes frustrating — fighting off tanks, planes and infantry at various times!

The three different campaigns offer unique perspectives on World War
II. They start with “Under No Flag,” which features commando-style
missions beginning in North Africa. The second campaign, “Nordlys,”
visits the frozen Nazi-occupied Norway as a female member of the
resistance. While it feels cartoonish at times, the story is
straightforward enough.

The final campaign offers the boldest
statement in the franchise to date. In “Tirailleur” — the name of a type
of colonial French infantry from North Africa — players are much like
those men — soldiers fighting for a homeland that wasn’t really
theirs, but for the promise of becoming Frenchmen.

As expected, the single player game offers the chance to be a Rambo-style
hero who can easily outgun the hordes of enemy soldiers. Even in the third campaign, the men fighting alongside you simply feel scripted to die to heighten the sense of sacrifice. While it is nice to see some support from other soldiers, it still isn’t quite
the same experience as one would get in the multiplayer modes.

Where the single player game feels underwhelming is that it offers infrantry operations almost exclusively, so there are only brief moments to control the Battlefield vehicles.

Multiplayer Action

The ability to play online against other human players long has been
the biggest selling point of the Battlefield series, and this remains
absolutely true with BFV. At launch there is a nice mix of maps, and
this provides plenty of variety for gamers. Here is where, despite
the familiar World War II setting, the developers have managed to offer
something fresh.

Battlefield V: Hamada Conquest

Maps include locations in the Netherlands in 1940 and the French
countryside, and even snow-covered vistas in Norway, but the game
allows players to visit more familiar stomping grounds in North Africa
— DICE really likes to create desert maps!

Once again, the game features the usual variety of multiplayer modes
that include the mix of conquest, domination, frontlines, team
deathmatch and breakthrough.

Battlefield V: Attack Ridge Nest

Experienced players will recognize the
different types of gameplay these offer when heading into action. Conquest involves controlling a number of flags around a map, while
frontlines is a tug-of-war style match as players fight back and forth
along a front.

Battlefield V: Twisted Steel Frontlines

BFV also builds on BF1‘s operations mode, which has one team engaging
in an offensive while the other team is able to dig in and stop the
attack. This time, the “Grand Operation” requires allies to push forward over several maps. How players do on each map
determines the amount of equipment and supplies for the next round.
This is meant to simulate how both attackers and defenders can be
affected by continual combat.

Going for More Realism

As expected, BFV is visually stunning, and it truly highlights the
improvements in gaming graphics since BF42 was released 16 years ago.
A fair comparison would be today’s 4K/UHD TVs to the 480i standard
definition CRT TVs of 2002!

Battlefield V: Attack Silo

Everything simply looks better, which makes for a far more
intense experience, but at times — dare I say it — the realism could be too much.

As a history buff, I’m personally impressed by the attention to details in uniforms and equipment. However, it is a little offputting to be playing as a German soldier of the Third Reich shooting at Allied soldiers, given that I have heard actual war stories from old relatives and friends.

The game’s new wound system has been tweaked so
that players aren’t immediately killed (“fragged” in gamer speak) when
they take hits, but instead can call out for help or opt to bleed
out quickly to respawn faster.

In BFV it isn’t only medics who can offer aid. Each squad member can offer medical attention to squad mates, while
medics can revive anyone on their respective side.

When I called for help, more than once those calls went unheeded. There
were times when other players opted to “bleed out” to
respawn. Today that doesn’t feel quite appropriate, and I have to remind myself that it is still a game.

DICE once again has done a good job of encouraging teamplay. Soldiers serve as a cohesive unit in combat, not a
bunch of lone wolves running around the battlefield. To this end,
squad members can spawn on one another, as well as other designated
spawn points. This certainly can help tip the scales in close matches, but these improvements in gameplay bring down the realism. Reinforcements in battle aren’t teleported to the lone holdout in a bunker!

Battlefield V: Prepare to Capture the Next Objective

More to Come

DICE has offered a lot of add-on content for its Battlefield
titles. With the previous BF1, it even mapped out what players
could expect. Of course, each add-on came with a price, sometimes requiring players to buy a special version.

This time around, DICE has promised that one price will buy everything, so expansions will be free for gamers as they arrive. That could
help persuade those on the fence, as players like to know that a game will have
support down the digital pipeline.

However, at launch the game feels like it could use a bit more
refinement. No doubt the development team has been scrambling to make
sure it is as polished as possible in time for the commercial
release, but the pre-launch version that I tested featured
long load times, some visual glitches, and gameplay that didn’t feel as smooth as BF1 seemed immediately before its release.

Still, as Battlefield games go, this one offers truly stellar
improvements. Controlling the vehicles once again is an absolute
blast, the maps are diverse, and the gameplay can be intense. I can only hope that BFV renews interest in actual history, as past games in this series have done.

Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
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Whether Intended or Accidental, Internet Traffic Rerouting Can Be Costly

By Jack M. Germain

Nov 14, 2018 5:00 AM PT

An apparent prefix leak from an errant router misconfiguration caused Google to lose control of several million of its IP addresses for more than an hour on Monday.

During the event, Internet traffic was misrouted to China and Russia from Nigeria. The incident initially sparked concerns that it might have been a malicious hijacking attempt.

The mishap made Google’s search and other services unavailable to many users intermittently. It caused problems for Spotify, Google cloud customers, G-Suite users and Youtube viewers, among others.

The problem started when the
MainOne Cable Company in Lagos, Nigeria, improperly updated tables in the Internet’s global routing system to declare that its autonomous system was the proper path to reach 212 IP prefixes belonging to Google. China Telecom shortly thereafter improperly accepted the route and announced it worldwide.

That move, in turn, caused Russia-based Transtelecom and other large service providers to follow the route. The misdirected traffic led to China Telecom, the Chinese government-owned provider that recently was caught improperly routing Western carriers’ traffic through mainland China.

“We’re aware that a portion of Internet traffic was affected by incorrect routing of IP addresses, and access to some Google services was impacted. The root cause of the issue was external to Google, and there was no compromise of Google services,” a Google spokesperson told TechNewsWorld via company rep Lindsay Hart.

Questionable Explanation

Google is adamant that the mishap resulted from a prefix leak in configuring BGP, the Internet’s main routing protocol, rather than a hijack. Each Internet Service Provider advertises to all others a list of Internet Protocols it owns. A prefix leak occurs when an ISP advertises a range of IPs it does not own, according to the Google spokesperson.

BGP is a decades’ old technology that is not cryptographically secure, enabling these types of mistakes by third parties, which is what this incident most likely was, said Rick Moy, chief marketing officer at

“There have certainly been nefarious BGP hijackings in the past, and I am sure they will continue because they enable traffic hijacking and even cryptojacking,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Also, unfortunately, there is no quick fix.”

These types of issues are typically due to hacking, rather than a mistake that was made, noted Chris Rivers, vice president of Web development at

However, in this case, the incident seems to have been caused by an error that occurred during planned network maintenance.

“It is interesting that the traffic was rerouted to countries already known for ‘big brother’ uses of technology to spy on citizens,” Rivers told TechNewsWorld. “There was definitely a vulnerability via mistake that Google is denying.”

Looking at the bigger picture, this type of situation caused a massive denial of service to the G Suite. Attacking a vulnerability like this would be designed to disrupt service to its intended audience, he added.

No Harm, No Foul?

Still, Google claims that a Nigerian ISP caused the problem with no malicious intent. This issue only affected network traffic.

Since nearly all Internet traffic to Google services is encrypted, there was no increased risk of data exposure as a result of this leak, according to Google.

Google maintains that nothing indicates this was an attack or a breach. Google’s internal analysis is consistent with Mainone’s claim that the situation was caused by a misconfiguration.

“Given the time to resolve this issue, it is highly likely that this was an honest mistake by a core Internet provider,” said Brian Chappell, senior director for enterprise and solutions architecture at

“The mechanisms for managing the routing of traffic across the Internet have been an area of concern for some time, as there is no real authentication for the information. It is a trust-based approach,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Regardless of an intentional attack or mistake, the implications can range from denial of service and slow response of service to the compromise of data in transit, said BeyondTrust CTO Morey Haber. If there had been an intention to target an ISP, this could have been a serious incident.

“While [data compromise] is much less likely due to all Google traffic being encrypted, there are scenarios from man-in-the-middle attacks to compromised keys that could be utilized in a blended attack to decrypt the traffic,” Haber told TechNewsWorld.

What Comes Next?

Viewed as an accident, this incident will drive attention and activity toward a more robust solution, suggested Chappell. The organization responsible for the mistake very likely will implement more stringent processes to avoid such an event happening again.

“Assuming that the systems in question are accessed through a secure solution, such as a privileged password management solution, it is likely there were session recordings that could be searched to find the event and allow for rapid remediation,” he said. “If not, that is definitely the first step that organizations should be taking.”

Viewed as a malicious action, it highlights the inherent insecurity of routing protocols. While core providers are likely to have significant controls around the manipulation of protocols and tables within their organization, that does not eliminate the possibility of malfeasance by internal and external parties. Either way, we can expect to see renewed activity in this space, according to Chappell.

Whether accidental or deliberate, there are implications that need fixing, noted Haber. The rerouting of traffic out of a geographic region due to pure ISP hygiene is unacceptable. If it had occurred in other regions — like Europe, the Middle East and Africa — it could have been perceived as an EU General Data Protection Regulation violation.

Attack or Accident: Same Impact

This type of attack or accident can have real financial impact for companies doing business online, warned Chappell. Being able to redirect traffic away from legitimate sites, either to interrupt services or worse, to present fake sites, undoubtedly would lead to immediate financial and secondary reputational loss for organizations.

“While it didn’t actually stop [Google’s] platform working, it may have impacted many sites which rely on their services. The final tally will become apparent in time,” he said.

This type of incident is a reminder of the dependencies all cloud users face. Entities in far regions of the world can affect traffic and cause an outage in services users rely on every day, added Haber.

“Businesses operating online need to be reminded that their dependencies on cloud services should have contractual requirements in the form of SLAs,” he said, “and that operational backup plans should be developed in case incidents like this materialize as full-blown attacks.”

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
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Google Shows Off New Android Dev Tools

Google announced support for a range of new Android tools for application developers, chief among them the creation of a new support category for foldable devices, at last week’s Developers Summit.

After years of teasing and speculation, it finally looks as though foldable screen smartphones are headed to market. Google’s dev announcement followed closely on the heels of Samsung’s announcement at its own developer conference of a folding phone/tablet prototype with Infinity Flex Display.

The Android tools will take advantage of the new display technology, which literally bends and folds, noted Stephanie Cuthbertson, director of product management at Google. The technology is based on two variations of screen design: two-screen devices and one-screen devices.

Either way, the new devices will look like phones when folded, so they will fit into a pocket or purse. When unfolded, they will display screen continuity seamlessly. For example, as the device unfolds with an active image already in use, the image will transfer to the bigger screen without flutters or distortions.

“Official support from the Android development team means that folding phones are being taken seriously as a new type of device,” said Brandon Ackroyd, head of customer insight at
Tiger Mobiles.

Marketability Unknown

Consumer interest in owning foldable devices is still an unknown factor. It might turn out that if they build them, no one will come.

While Google’s new developer support augurs well for Samsung and other manufacturers working on foldable devices, Ackroyd does not think it means foldable phones are going to be the must-have product of the future.

“Right now, I don’t see the use case or any apparent advantages,” he told LinuxInsider. “What I do see, however, is a proof-of-concept of this type of foldable screen technology, and I think we’re going to see many different products make use of this soon. Perhaps [it will become] the next-generation type wearable that fully wraps around your wrist.”

Foldable mobile devices are not guaranteed to be successful as the technology transitions from concept to reality, observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“In many ways, smartphone users are the world’s largest community of lab rats, in the sense that so many are willing to follow wherever handset makers lead in terms of new features and functions,” he told LinuxInsider.

It was not so long ago that oversized smartphones made by a few adventuresome vendors were dismissively called “phablets,” he recalled, but today, larger form factors dominate the high end of the market.

Foldables could catch on among consumers who are tired of lugging around phones that resemble paperback books. Those consumers still want large displays for media consumption.

“It will be interesting to see whether that happens, or if buyers simply stick with the designs they know,” said King.

Flexible Future

Given the resources that are available today, manufacturers have a good shot at making foldable screen devices appealing to consumers, suggested Rob Webber, CEO of

Futuristic-looking foldable smartphones have always been a dream concept, he noted.

“Smartphones have evolved dramatically since they were first invented, especially their displays,” Webber told LinuxInsider, recalling the stylus input before Apple introduced touchscreens that were able to react to the electrical impulses generated by the user’s fingers.

“Now we’re at a stage where edge-to-edge displays are the norm. Some could say that foldable displays are just the next rung on the ladder,” he said.

However, it’s unlikely the new technology will be a simple transition, Webber added. It will face many obstacles before the technology advances. The key to the foldable mobile device being a success is hardware and software integration, which will take time for manufacturers to perfect.

Cost also might be an issue. With the continually rising prices of new smartphones, if foldable devices are going to cost significantly more, they may appeal only to a very niche market, Webber reasoned.

“Having said that, I think we are currently at an exciting stage that marks the beginning of an emerging battle between manufacturers and the start of a very flexible future,” he said.

Potential Exploit and Failure

Money may not be the only cost factor consumers will face if foldable screens catch on. Smaller yet expanding devices may be more appealing to hackers than to consumers, warned Mike Banic, vice president of marketing at

The number of Web searches performed on a mobile device has been increasing steadily. New mobile technology that makes it easier to use mobile devices to create as well as consume information means that attackers will exploit the trend, he told LinuxInsider.

Additionally, the number of mobile vulnerabilities is highest on Android apps, largely due to its open source nature and the questionable security of third-party app stores, Banic said.

“Mechanicals could introduce a point of failure that may cause adoption to stumble,” he noted.

Google Dev Support Wrapup

Google’s plan to bring more Android tools to app developers is part of an ongoing program. The Dev Summit announcements suggest the company has decided to take an aggressive approach.

The new features will be rolled out to a number of developers who are considered “partners.” Availability then will expand further to devs before they eventually become accessible to all.

“It is a solid group of announcements that most Android developers will welcome,” said Pund-IT’s King. “At a time when smartphone market growth appears to have stalled, introducing support for new features and form factors could offer Android device makers what they need to make their products stand out from the crowd and attract customer interest.”

  • Updates to Kotlin Programming Language

    Kotlin is not a Google-developed language, but it is one that devs have favored. Last week,
    JetBrains released the latest version of Kotlin, 1.3, which brings new language features, APIs, bug fixes and performance improvements.

    It has become the fastest-growing language, in terms of the number of contributors on GitHub, and has been voted the second most-loved language on Stack Overflow.

    In Google’s surveys, the more developers use Kotlin, the higher their satisfaction, according to Google’s Cuthbertson.

  • Android Jetpack

    Google announced new Jetpack libraries, the next generation of tools and Android APIs to accelerate Android application development. It contains two new Architecture Component libraries: Navigation and Work Manager, that will move to Beta this month.

    The Navigation Architecture Component offers a simplified way to implement Android’s navigation principles in an application. Plus, the new Navigation Editor in Android Studio creates and edits navigation architecture.

    Jetpack Navigation Editor

    Jetpack Navigation Editor

    This eliminates navigation boilerplate while adding atomic navigation operations with easier animated transitions and more. WorkManager makes it easy to perform background tasks in the most efficient manner, choosing the most appropriate solution based on the application state and device API level.

  • Slices

    Google moves Android Slices to public Search experiments. Slices is a new way to bring users to an app. It works like a mini snippet of an app that surfaces content and actions.

    “Aside from the foldable announcement, the most interesting angle was the further development of Google Slices. This new concept allows Android apps to push relevant components and features of their apps into other places, such as the Google Search,” said Tiger Mobiles’ Ackroyd.

    By loading a small part of an app right from the search results, users can get a near-native app experience without actually fully opening the app, he said. For example, if you google ‘What is the Tesla stock price?’ and you have a stocks app installed, that app can use a ‘slice’ to give you the info.

    Google announced the concept of Slices with Android 9 Pie. This new paradigm allows apps to surface relevant components and features in natural places, like Google Search.

    This month, Google will make Slices available as part of a public Early Access Program with partners. Google also will begin experiments in the Search app to surface various Slices when relevant.

  • Android Studio

    Android Studio, Google’s official IDE for Android development, has a new focus on productivity, build speed, quality and fundamentals.

    Google launched Android Studio 3.3 beta 3 last week. Upcoming releases will add a strong focus on quality and fundamentals. Google also announced the development of Android Studio on Chrome OS early next year.

  • Android App Bundles and Dynamic Features

    The Android App Bundle is the new publishing format that serves only the code and resources users need to run an app on their specific devices. It will reduce app sizes with an average of 35-40 percent savings compared to a universal APK.

    The app bundle now supports uncompressed native libraries. With no additional developer work needed, the app bundle now makes apps using native libraries an average of 8 percent smaller to download and 16 percent smaller on disk on M+ devices.

  • In-app Updates API

    Google is giving devs more controls to ensure that users run the latest and greatest version of their apps. In-app Updates API will give devs two options.

    The first is a full-screen experience for critical updates when you expect the user to want the update to be applied immediately.

    The second option is a flexible update. It lets users continue with the existing installed version while the update is downloaded. The developer can use it to ensure that users have the most up-to-date version, because the app can be pushed to install in the background using the automatic updates feature.

  • Instant Discovery

    Google hopes to make instant apps easier to adopt. The company recently made the use of Web URLs optional, so devs can send their existing Play Store deep link traffic to their instant experience if it is available.

    Also, Google raised the instant app size limit to 10 MB for the Try Now button on the Play Store and Web banners for greater adoption ease.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Star Explorer Mae Jemison: The Sky Connects Us

Dr. Mae Jemison and I have a few things in common. We both grew up in houses that had scary basements with cobwebs, coal bins and wringer washing machines. We both wore out our Chicago Public Library cards. We both were tormented by siblings but taught by our parents to stick up for each other, which we did. I memorized the soundtrack of West Side Story word-for-word; Jemison danced in a production of the show.

The list of similarities doesn’t stretch too long, however. She was a skinny black girl who lived on the South side, and I was a chubby white girl who lived on the North side. Not to knock my own accomplishments, but I didn’t graduate from high school at 15, as Jemison did, or go on to earn an engineering degree from Stanford, or a medical degree from Cornell.

I didn’t serve in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia, or work as a doctor in a Cambodian refugee camp.

You won’t find my likeness on a LEGO figurine meant to inspire children because I didn’t become an astronaut. I liked thinking about space, but Jemison went there — and she was the first woman of color who did. To say that there just isn’t another Earthling like Mae Jemison is not an overstatement.

Jemison has served on numerous boards and task forces. She founded a consulting company and a science camp. She’s been named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame, the Texas Science Hall of Fame, and the International Space Hall of Fame. She has received the National Organization for Women’s Intrepid Award, and many other awards and honors.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with her, and although she shared some illuminating recollections of her mission on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992, her experiences as an astronaut were neither the starting point nor the ending point of our conversation. This extraordinary woman’s career is too packed with present and future endeavors to dwell very long on her stellar past.

She currently leads
100 Year Starship, a nonprofit initiative to build a foundation for interstellar travel within the next hundred years.

Jemison also leads
Look Up, a movement that encourages people to connect with the sky above us on one day each year. Participants collaborate on weaving a global tapestry of
Skyfies — sky selfies — accompanied by reflections on their feelings, thoughts, hopes and needs as they look up. This year’s Look Up day was Oct. 18.

In the Library

Though Jemison’s path has been far different from mine, our conversation started with an important influence in both of our young lives: many hours spent in libraries, making discoveries and imagining possibilities. Jemison shared her concern that the search engines we now rely on eliminate a crucial part of learning that can take place only in the presence of physical books on shelves.

“I remember as a little kid — six years old, seven years old — going with my brother and sister and mother to the library, and there’s something that’s very special about being there with other people,” she recalled. “You really get to search through books and things that are adjacent on this side or on that side, and get to walk through rows and see all of these ideas. And it’s a little bit different — in fact, I think it’s quite different — than where the search engines are taking us these days, where search engines take you to places that they want you to see, based on their algorithms, based on their idea of ‘Did I make a profit off of this or not? Did I get paid for it?’

“That’s a very, very different experience, and it’s a very truncated experience,” Jemison said.

Even now, when she’s engaged in research, some of the most fundamental things happen when she starts looking for material and finds books or research articles adjacent to the volume she was looking for, she pointed out. It’s a fundamentally different process from being directed by a search engine to see what it wants you to see.

Jemison is an advocate of reading as a way to explore with your mind and “create the footpath” toward achieving goals. Allowing scope for the imagination is critical to children’s learning, she said.

“People always say, ‘well the kid plays with the box instead of the toy,’ right? It’s because sometimes the [toy] is too concrete,” Jemison explained. “And these days we have these experiences that are so concrete that it doesn’t challenge the individual to think about the world and to explore possibilities. I mean, I’m not saying it’s not important to have concrete ideas, and be very disciplined and know there’s factual things and all of that — but there’s also a different part of play, which allows you to expand and try new avenues.”

Look Up

One of Jemison’s current passions, Look Up, began with a conversation she had with LeVar Burton and Jill Tarter following a South by Southwest panel discussion a few years back. Burton and Tarter are both on the 100 Year Starship advisory board.

Burton is famous for his portrayals of Geordi La Forge in Star Trek and Kunta Kinte in Roots, among many other acting credits. He’s also well known as the host of the long-running educational program, Reading Rainbow.

Astronomer Jill Tarter, cofounder of the SETI Institute, is a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Carl Sagan’s novel Contact and the film based on it feature a protagonist whose character is informed by Tarter’s work.

That pivotal conversation involving Jemison, Burton and Tarter centered on how to connect people to space.

“We were really working very hard on that,” Jemison recalled, “so we actually thought that in some kind of way we have to get back to folks thinking about the world as connected. And in fact, Jill talked about the fact that if we don’t consider ourselves as ‘Earthlings’ … that’s a major concern. All the work that I’ve ever done, since I’ve come out of NASA, is really about ‘how do we connect with each other on this planet?'”

That conversation led to Look Up.

“One of the things we have to do is understand that we’re inextricably connected to this planet,” said Jemison. “Our biology, our rhythms, our cycles, our knowledge is connected to this planet. Yet at the same time we’re connected to each other across this planet and the greater universe. So it was really, how do we get this sense of being? The sky is one of those things that’s a transition point. You know, it connects us. What if one day we just stopped looking down, and we looked up?”

Mae Jemison

Although it’s still a nascent movement, Look Up picked up some steam this year. For the first time, participants could contribute their own sky images and messages using the new mobile Skyfie app. They were able to upload them to a global tapestry and then “spin the globe” to see what others were seeing and thinking.

People stayed on the app, which was introduced just in time for Look Up’s designated 24-hour period, for 10-15 minutes, Jemison noted. There were contributions from every continent.

Pondering the theme of connections that Jemison emphasized so strongly, I wondered about her use of the word “Earthlings” rather than, say, “humans.”

“Well, you know Jill came up with it” as a way to counter the human tendency to separate, she said. “So the plants are Earthlings, the microbes are Earthlings, my cat is an Earthling. We’re all tied together.”

Jemison recalled a conversation she had with a group of students on Oct. 18 — Look Up day.

“We were talking about Earthlings, and if you went to Mars, would you be a Martian? And they said, ‘No, you’re still sort of an Earthling, but you’re a human-ling.’ You know, you don’t change — you’re still connected.”

Those connections that can be felt so strongly when we look up at the sky can have a powerful influence on the world beneath our feet. With all of the knowledge and the capabilities we have, how does an organization like the United Nations, for example, push for sustainability goals?

“How do we get clean water to everyone, and those kinds of things? We already know how to do this,” Jemison said.

“We have the capacity to feed everyone on this planet, right? … We have the capacity to educate all children. All of those things are possible. That doesn’t mean we can’t go to space. We can do all of this without sacrificing quality of life from one society to another. “But part of the issue is really we don’t — we don’t care about other folks.”

I suggested that we don’t think of ourselves as planetary citizens. We think about little divisions and disagreements, instead of thinking in terms of how we can solve problems as a unified people.

“Nature connects us,” Jemison laughed. “It really doesn’t give a damn about those ideas that we come up with — those divisions and things. It really doesn’t care. … When the distractions that separate us… the noise is louder than ever… look up at what’s common to all of us: the sky, weather, what passes through.

“What’s above us unites us,” she continued. “That’s the sky, if we can just start to think that every group of people have looked up at the sky. The African proverb says, ‘No one shows a child the sky.’ It’s something that we do. It’s common. The mystery about the stars. What is the sun? … That people look up with hope. You know, it’s almost universal.”

Not Lost in Space

We all can heed Jemison’s call to look up, but very few of us can travel to where she’s been. I asked her how actually being in space changed her thinking.

“I’m going to get rid of the overview effect real quick,” she said. “The overview effect where people say, you know, astronauts look down and ‘everything important to me in the entire universe is on this planet.’ And that I realized that there were no borders — there’s this whole mantra about that.

“That didn’t happen to me. I never thought that,” Jemison continued. “I never just thought that the Earth was the center of the universe — I don’t think it now. I never thought that those borders that people draw on maps actually existed. I knew that those are constructs they had in their mind. I never believed that people were that fundamentally different from one to the other.”

What being in space did do for her, she said, “was it confirmed something that I’ve always believed — that the Earth will be here. We may not. You know, when you see this thin shimmering layer of blue light that’s our atmosphere, you recognize that we don’t have to be here. This planet that offers us so much — it will be here, but humans don’t have to be here. We just have way too much hubris in thinking that we can exist without the Earth. We can not.

“Now, the other thing I felt is that I felt very connected with the rest of the universe,” Jemison said. “That was maybe the pivotal moment for me. I was thinking, would I feel lost? But I could imagine myself in a star system 10,000 light years away, and I felt connected. And that was like fundamental — that connection.”

Was there ever a moment in her life as an astronaut, I wondered, when she was out there in space, when she felt fear?

“I actually tried to make myself afraid while I was up,” Jemison said. “I did… because I was feeling way too jazzy. Way too mellow, right? And I couldn’t, because I really felt that connection. It was as though everything was OK. I was connected.

“It was calm, and it was very centered, and you could deal with lots of things,” she recalled. One of those things was that “the world lives on, but I should always be prepared to die. Not to be here. And what would I want to be like at that time?”

Jemison was in the first class of astronauts after the Challenger accident, and she noted in what I viewed as a considerable understatement, that she had done things that were not risk-free prior to ever joining the astronauts. She worked as a doctor in a Cambodian refugee camp while in the Peace Corps, to cite just one example.

“You know, it was a matter of steadying yourself and feeling very comfortable about things,” she said.

Alternative Adventures

Although most of us won’t get to venture where Jemison has gone, we can get a taste of experiences that otherwise would be inaccessible to us through technology — virtual and augmented reality, for example.

Jemison recently took part in Defying Gravity: Women in Space, a mixed-reality experience brought to life through Microsoft’s HoloLens. I asked her about the usefulness of virtual and augmented reality.

One thing she worries about, she said, is “people not being freed up to use their imagination enough. So that they exercise their brain cells, right? To come up with new things — or to come up with other perceptions. So I think virtual reality and augmented reality allow you to maybe explore and walk around something that you wouldn’t be able to. And if you feel like you’re physically there, what does that capture for you? That could be really exciting.”

She recalled visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, when she was a young girl.

“There was this exhibit … I think it was the street of yesteryear or something. It was like a turn-of-the-century street with cobblestones and silent movies and all of that. I was just absolutely fascinated by it, because it was sort of like, now I have to stop and think, what might life have been like then? What could you do? So augmented reality could bring us that as well — as long as we encourage folks to think beyond that, not just to walk through it. So I think there’s some really powerful pieces to it.”

Space Settlements

I asked Jemison about the future of human space exploration, and though she firmly rejected the use of the word “colony” to describe any settlements that might result, she did say she knew that we could do it, depending on our commitment.

“What it would be like depends very much on who’s involved,” she said. “So my big task with space exploration has been to get more people involved. And my big task in science has been ‘how do we get more people involved?’ In fact, the proposal for 100 Year Starship was ‘An Inclusive Audacious Journey Transforms Life Here on Earth & Beyond.’ The first word is ‘inclusive’ because I think we come up with the best solutions and the best possibilities when we have more perspectives on board.”

I wondered whether a continuing commitment to work on 100 Year Starship and other paths to advance space exploration might help solve some of planet Earth’s most pressing problems.

“For 100 Year Starship … the way we look at it is that most of the major problems we have to solve very much mirror the challenges that we face on this starship — that we face on Earth today,” Jemison said. It’s crucial to bring in a variety of people, she pointed out — social scientists, physicists, material scientists, artists, storytellers.

“Pursuing the extraordinary gives us something that we can build on today,” she continued, “and the other part of this is that people need an adrenaline rush. We need adrenaline as humans. And right now, all of our adrenaline — so much of our adrenaline — is being generated by fear and war. Those things are not really going to hold you in good stead in the long run, but they’re an easy way to generate adrenaline.”

Because in addition to all of her other many roles, Jemison has been a dancer and an actor and a writer, I asked what she thought about the importance of melding the arts and humanities with science.

“They’re all part of being human,” she said. “We see colors, we feel, we think. Anyone who tells you that science isn’t emotional is a liar. Science is creative. There’s some objectivity to it. I mean, we can look at the social sciences with some objectivity as well, right? But the reality is that what we choose to research and study is very emotionally connected. You know, the solutions that we look at many times are generated from our cultural background — generated from our experiences, which is part of our culture, right? And so… all of it… if we don’t recognize that, then we fail to come up with the kinds of solutions that make a difference.”

The perception that scientists are neither creative nor intuitive is a fallacy, Jemison said.

“They certainly are as well, and they use that to a large extent. And that’s the same thing with art and, I always remind people, with social sciences, which are really hard. Because if we think of the sciences as only the best and the purest are things that we can quantify easily… eh… it’s hard to do social sciences,” she pointed out.

“Clearly, to be human, to be part of this universe, there’s this wealth and this range of ways we interact and ways we think we know things,” Jemison said, “and to ignore any of those is to ignore a major part of the universe and our capacity to interact with it.”

Mick Brady is managing editor of ECT News Network.

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Let's Create a TV Show to Fix Silicon Valley

Startups have been creating employee hell in Silicon Valley. That was in the forefront of my mind as I read the book
Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us. I think this book should be required reading for anybody who thinks working for a startup in Silicon Valley would be fun.

Unless you are into humiliation and abuse (giving or getting), you probably should avoid these startups like the plague. Yes, you could get rich, but you also could end up with a ruined life — broke, divorced, homeless, or maybe even dead by your own hand.

The problems aren’t confined to startups, though. After reading the book, you likely would end up with a whole different perspective about firms like Apple, Google and Facebook as well. And VCs — oh my god. This well-researched book could have you thinking most of them are run by literal demons.

In much the same vein as Brotopia, but expanding beyond abuse of women, this book explains the increase of suicides, mental health issues, and even the expansion of homelessness around some of the most powerful and richest companies in the world — companies you send a lot of money to.

It also takes a look at unicorns, companies with massive valuations but no real way to generate profit, and the con artist management experts permeating the industry who seem to relish creating their own little hells on earth.

Finally, and this is a good thing, the book showcases some of the companies that treat their employees well including a VC where they have focused not only on excellent work/life balance, but also on investing in firms that specifically focus on making the world a better place.

I’ve known Dan Lyons and have read his work for much of my adult life. We kind of went through a war together on the same side, and I couldn’t recommend his book more highly.
However, rather than providing a book review or detailed summary (which might prevent your buying or reading the book), I’m going to propose a spinoff.

It struck me that this book would make a good foundation for a comedy, drama, or reality TV show that would be fascinating to watch, and at the same time actually help make people aware of (and want to fix) this problem. I feel strongly that abuse of any form should be wiped out.

I’ll end with my product of the week: the Oculus Go, a new VR headset from Oculus based on Qualcomm technology.

The Comedy Version

What prompted me to think of a TV show was that Dan has been a writer for the series
Silicon Valley. That show, which I find pretty hard to watch, focuses on a startup. I’m also reminded that The Office was based on a broader retelling of Dilbert-like stories that likely do exist in office environments, in some form or other. The U.S.-based show was based on a show produced in England, and it was a hit for a number of years.

My idea is to focus on a company of young engineers desperate for help in managing people who then hire “experts” to help them fix the problems. The experts would mirror and expand on types showcased in Dan’s book. They would range from fake experts who use deep, thoughtful, adult tools — like Legos — to those who rely on management by Feng Shui.

Penn & Teller developed a show that made somewhat similar points, called
Bullshit! It ran for several years, but a lot of folks sued them, which suggests that comedy might work better then Penn & Teller’s reality show approach.

There would be a central character who was smart and would break the fourth wall — like George Burns in the really old
George Burns and Gracie Allen Show — or, more recently, like

So, the audience would always be in on the joke. This character would use sarcasm and innuendo heavily to point out why each of these “expert” geniuses really were idiot con artists, and foil their efforts.

The company could be, I don’t know, really fictional like an electric car company lead by people who didn’t know how to build cars, or maybe even a chip company with a board made up of financial types and MDs — you know things that might not happen in real like. Oh wait…

What really might be fun would be to have the central character present like some uneducated blue-collar worker but actually be the secret owner of the company and a billionaire with only the audience in on this as well.

Another twist could show the central character coming in as a janitor and taking a lot of abuse, but learning where all the idiots are. He then would buy company, get rid of all the idiots, and promote the heroes in the firm who actually provided value. Hmm — you know that might work in real life.

(I’ve often pondered a company that was made up of ex-spies who would be hired to go into a firm secretly to find out all of its problems prior to an acquisition.)

The Drama Version

The drama would pit a group of experts against a plot from a foreign government — let’s say, oh, China — that wanted to destroy U.S. business by infecting it with management practices that sound really smart but actually are idiotic.

Using a combination of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. concepts (with regard to headquarters and tools), some NCIS-like analysis, and some Mission Impossible-like stunts, their job would be to undermine the foreign entity’s efforts without letting anyone know they were even there.

Rather than destroying the business with bad practices, they would trick the firm into implementing good business practices with the long-term goal of finding and stopping the evil mastermind deploying the phony efficiency expert teams.

This would convey why many of these screwy practices are idiotic, and simultaneously address things like phishing and spearphishing, along with practices that trick people into installing viruses or buying into Ponzi schemes.

Done right, it not only would be entertaining, but also — depending on how the plot evolved — could help people understand and avoid the con artists and others constantly trying to scam them. (It also might help with our gullibility with regard to fake news.)

While there likely are enough stories in Dan’s book to fill a season, this show could pull its plots from the same kind of research he did and keep that research — and exposing frauds — in the news, helping to correct this bad behavior.

The Reality TV Version

The Reality TV angle would be to focus on the abusers. People would submit stories of abuse and undercover wired actors would go into the firm and then record and share what was going on.

This would be more like a 60 Minutes expose, but one that specifically focused on abusive managers. A team of experts, likely pulled from the list of good actors in Dan Lyons’ book, would sit on a panel and run a commentary on why what we were watching not only wouldn’t work but why it constituted abuse.

There would be some risks — particularly if some of the very powerful men who make a habit of abusing women, in particular, were showcased. One way around that issue would be to get those who complained of abuse to dictate what happened, and then re-enact the event.

Given that some of the folks who would come forward for a show like this might fake accusations for screen time and attention, it might be interesting to out those people, reducing the number of folks who would make fake claims over time.

Much in the same way that NBC’s
Dateline went after pedophile,s this show would focus on catching extremely abusive executives and managers in the act, forcing change by exposing extremely abusive behavior.

Wrapping Up

The issue with books like Lab Rats is that they typically get an initial wave of readers but then fall into the dustbin of history, and the lessons and insights are lost. I think a TV show could take the concept of Lab Rats and turn it into an interesting lasting lesson that could help make the future a better place for those unfortunate enough to work for one of these insanely abusive and terminally stupid startups.

It also would help mainstream firms that once fell for concepts like forced ranking, and help them make better choices in the future.

I really recommend that you read the book
Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us, and if you are going to work in tech, pick one of the firms that treats employees with respect over one in which the managers secretly wear “Abuse ‘R’ Us” T-shirts.

My lasting impression of the book is that there are a lot of folks in power who should be kicked out of the human race. The right program might, at least, get them the hell out of management.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

I received an
Oculus Go from Qualcomm as the leadup to its analyst event in Hawaii this year. It showcases both what works and what doesn’t work with this technology at the moment.

Addressing some of the early problems with the standalone cell phone-based products, the Oculus Go has decent performance and image quality. This class still is focused on providing a low-cost entry-level VR experience, and it does that.

Oculus Go

Oculus Go

It was sent out so that we could explore the venue we were going to virtually, in advance of our trip. It is ideal for that. In fact, it is good for movies in general. With a decent set of headphones, it provides a nice streaming or download movie experience. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be an Amazon Prime app available, but it handled Netflix like a champ.

VR games remain a problem, though. Finding a game that I really like playing has been an issue, and the lack of consistency between platforms with the controller is another issue. For instance, one first-person space shooter that I was enjoying appeared to require two controllers (the Oculus Go comes with one) and a button on the controller that the higher-end Oculus has but this product does not (so I couldn’t figure out how to fire the damn missiles).

I really don’t understand why Facebook, which owns Oculus, didn’t specify Oculus Rift-like controllers. The Rift is the more expensive product (US$349 vs. $249). That way the user experience with different classes of device could be more consistent. There are aftermarket controllers, but I doubt that many games have been designed with them in mind, due to low volume. I’m not even sure they actually would work with the Go.

The Oculus Go is a solid improvement over its predecessors. At less than $250, it is a real value that is hampered by a lack of controller consistency across the Oculus line and the lack of a truly compelling game.

Unlike the Oculus Rift, it doesn’t require a PC, making the setup a ton easier and the device realistically portable.

If you are bored and waiting for an appointment or having your teeth cleaned, this is a good way to distract yourself. It is handy if you want to watch a Netflix movie, and many of the shortcomings could be addressed with a couple accessories and one good Halo-like game (Xbox).

I like values, and at under $250, this is a decent one, so this week the Oculus Go is my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester.
Email Rob.

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IBM Dons Red Hat for Cloudy Future

IBM’s deal to acquire Red Hat caught everyone by surprise when it was announced less than two weeks ago. While concerns spread quickly about what it would mean for the largest enterprise Linux platform, IBM and Red Hat executives assured employees and customers that Red Hat would continue to operate independently — at least for now.

IBM Dons Red Hat for Cloudy Future

Intel made a similar acquisition of Wind River, the leader in embedded operating systems, in 2009. In a similar manner, that deal could have been viewed negatively by other chip and embedded systems vendors because of their competition with Intel.

However, Intel successfully operated Wind River as an independent entity for many years. That helped preserve Wind River’s business, but it also made employees feel like they were immune from Intel’s culture and oversight.

With any acquisition, the overall value must equal more than the two entities alone, which means integration of the company culture, as well as its the products and services, is needed. For various reasons, Intel never did realize the full value of Wind River, and it sold the group for an undisclosed amount earlier this year.

Change Without Fear

For IBM and its customers, the acquisition of Red Hat is a great move. It combines IBM’s platforms and services with the largest enterprise Linux platform and container solution. Services and solutions from the two companies complement each other very well, especially for private and hybrid cloud implementations.

The combination also makes IBM more competitive with vendors like Amazon, Google and Microsoft — all of which have a large customer base leveraging Red Hat.

The acquisition comes with significant hurdles, however.

The challenge is convincing existing Red Hat customers and partners, including IBM’s competitors, that the change will not impact them, while offering a solution that combines the technology and expertise of the two entities into something greater.

Meshing Open Source, Corporate Cultures

The first objective can be achieved by operating Red Hat independently, but that would not advance the financial or strategic goals of the acquisition. Strategically, it would be better to integrate the two over a reasonable time.

Whether the integration begins immediately or in the near future, it is necessary for the success of the combined company.

Additionally, the acquisition will spark competitors to seek alternative solutions — so, the clock is ticking for IBM to reassure and secure existing customers. Going forward, however, IBM has the opportunity to expand into new market segments with new customers.

An even greater challenge is the difference in culture. While IBM has been a strong supporter of the open source community, it is faced with the challenge of integrating an open source mentality into a more formal corporate culture. This means either adapting to the new culture or risk losing some of the talent and prospects for a group that currently is growing rapidly.

The acquisition of Red Hat will be a good move by IBM, but challenges lie ahead, and the company should address them quickly to ensure that its US$34 billion was well spent and helps enhance IBM’s position as leading cloud services provider.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Jim McGregor has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2017. He is the founder and principal analyst at
Tirias Research with more than 30 years of high-tech industry experience. His expertise spans a broad range of product development and corporate strategy functions, such as semiconductor manufacturing, systems engineering, product marketing, marketing communications, brand management, strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, and sales. McGregor worked for Intel, Motorola, ON Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics and General Dynamics Space Systems prior to becoming an industry analyst and In-Stat’s chief technology strategist. Email Jim.

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The Internet's Precarious Health

This story was originally published on LinuxInsider on April 4, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

Mozilla earlier this week launched the first full edition of its
Internet Health Report.

The report is “an open source effort to explore the state of human life on the Internet,” wrote Mozilla Executive Director Mark Surman in an online post.

It consists of research and analysis about the Internet compiled by researchers, engineers, data scientists, policy analysts and artists in Mozilla’s extended community.

The digital rights, open source, and Internet freedom movements stand for the idea that it is possible to build a digital world that is open, accessible and welcoming to all, according to Mozilla.

The Internet Health Report is based on the principles of the recently expanded
Mozilla Manifesto.

“The optimist in me sincerely hopes this will be successful,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

That said, “you also have to ask how many outside the Mozilla community are paying attention,” he told LinuxInsider.

Mozilla “is seeking to see the moral high ground as governments explore regulating the Internet by jumping on the ethics bandwagon early and often,” suggested
Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Fake News, Fuzzy Facts

In this first issue of the Internet Health Report, fake news and misinformation are in the spotlight.

The topic engendered considerable interest, Surman said, and data collection became the central focus. The discussion encompassed several issues:

  • Precision-targeted ads;
  • Bots and fake accounts;
  • Facebook’s domination of news distribution; and
  • Insufficient Web literacy among the general public.

Taken together, these activities and circumstances provide the fuel for fraud and abuse, along with very bad real world outcomes, Surman said.

“Mozilla is trying to stand out as an organization with the user’s best interests at heart,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“This is well-timed, given that the issues Facebook has with data collection — and Cambridge Analytica — likely have people concerned about all tech firms at the moment,” he told LinuxInsider.

Also included in the report:

  • A piece on engineers in Brazil building an
    open source bot that automatically inspects politicians’ expenses and discloses officials’ use of public money for private purchases; and
  • A story about FIRST, a global network of
    volunteer cybersecurity experts.

Borders and Battles

There has long been speculation that governments, companies and organizations would carve up the Internet, and that it would end up reflecting the real world — with territories, borders, and battles between different groups.

“Absolutely,” Frost’s Jude told LinuxInsider. “Look at China’s attempts to close off their Internet from the rest of the world, and the EU attempting to impose privacy rights on the entire Web, regardless of where a company’s based.”

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies, also known as the “Five Eyes,” have been spying on one another’s citizens online, and sharing information to get around domestic restrictions.

In the business world, “companies always try to game the regulatory process,” Jude remarked.

Although some large players dominate the space, the Internet “is still very much of a free-for-all,” said Dan Goldstein, president of
Page 1 Solutions.

The Internet Health Report is “an attempt to get people to think about what they’re doing and what tools they’re using with the subtext that we all need to be safer,” Enderle remarked.

“Unfortunately, Mozilla doesn’t have much reach on a good day,” he pointed out, “and with Trump and Facebook news chewing up all available bandwidth, much more powerful entities are having trouble getting attention at the moment.”

The collection of consumer data by Internet companies is a concern, but “It would be a significant mistake to eliminate free services like Facebook and Google Search,” Page 1’s Goldstein told LinuxInsider.

That’s not likely to happen in our capitalistic economy, he said, but “it’s important that we encourage all consumers to protect their private information both online and offline.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
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