Keep Raising the Bar

By Korrine Rounds

When Steve Jobs unveiled the groundbreaking first generation iPhone in 2007, the mobile phone industry exploded. Before the iPhone, the closest thing to a smartphone was the now nearly-defunct BlackBerry and no one had ever seen a touchscreen phone before and many questioned the exclusion of a physical keyboard. Fast forward seven years and Apple has seen its stock skyrocket from $6.56 a share in 2003 to it’s pre-split price of $645.57 in 2014, thanks almost exclusively to the enormous sales generated by the iPhone. Since then, touch-screen smartphones have become the industry standard and while Apple can claim its role as a pioneer, numerous technology companies have since perfected Apple’s innovations and added a few of their own.

Clash of the Titans

In a move that has drawn some criticism from bloggers in favor of a more open technological industry, Apple patented dozens of features introduced with the iPhone from its touchscreen to its “slide to unlock” mechanism and this has touched off countless multi-billion dollar patent lawsuits around the world as Apple looks to maintain its relative supremacy in the mobile device market. With the release of the iPhone 6, Apple seems to have officially lost its untouchable throne and many see the device as emulating the success of so-called “phablets”, a portmanteau of phone and tablet, with the 6’s larger screen and a super high-resolution camera, an option first made standard by Nokia. One of the primary reason for the iPhone’s fall from grace include Google’s Android operating system which includes a myriad of unique features including the ability to swipe across the on-screen keyboard only to have the phone figure out what one meant to type, making many gripes about finicky touchscreens disappear. Today, phone manufacturers are battling to include the greatest and latest hardware advancements, and Google and Apple are slugging it out to develop the most approachable and innovative operating systems. So, where does the state of smartphones stand today?

The Latest and Greatest

In late 2013, Google released the newest Android operating system update to 4.4, named KitKat, which was optimized for lower memory phones, making it much more usable across budget devices, made more compatible with cloud networks, and had a variety of user-friendly options added such as a better Google search for browsing sites and more sensitive motion sensors. The popular Android KitKat 4.4.2 is a strong entry into the already reputable Google OS family and Apple has also recently raised the bar as well with their AOS. Much like many Apple OS launches, iOS 8 was launched with a few glitches that made some Apple users’ lives hell for a few days but they have allegedly since been fixed. The new Apple OS totes a variety of improved application functions and increased cloud compatibility as well as a huge health app that tracks activity, heart rate, and many other vital processes. And lastly, perhaps better late than never, Microsoft has finally entered into the smartphone arena officially with their purchase of Nokia and the release of their Windows Phone OS 8.1 and while it contains practically identical features as KitKat and iOS 8, it has spent quite of bit of advertising boasting about the usability of their “Cortana” artificial intelligence that is supposed to best Apple’s “Siri” function. Numerous reviews and blogs show that the Cortana function is much more comprehensive and understanding than Siri and really does take the idea of interacting with a digital assistant to a new level.

Now, if I could only wait to see what’s coming next…

Smart Technology: SyNapse by IBM Mimics How The Human Brain Works

By Korrine Rounds

IBMsynapseThe Way of the Future
In 1958, prominent mathematician John von Neumann witnessed the early development of computers and believed that human development would reach a so-called “singularity”. The “singularity” is a mathematical term that von Neumann applied to technology when he stated that the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue”.

MIT Professor and king of innovation, Ray Kurzweil popularized the term when he released his book The Singularity is Near in 2005 in which he predicted many future technologies including fully conscious and intelligent machines. While Kurzweil puts an estimate of 2045 as the deadline for these super advanced technologies and they currently have significant obstacles to overcome before ever reaching Kurzweil’s hypothetical goal, IBM has taken a significant step towards true artificial intelligence with their much-heralded SyNAPSE chip

SyNAPSEsingularity
As one can imagine, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body and while its raw computing power doesn’t even come close to the world’s most powerful supercomputers, computers do not have the ability to observe and learn as they normally operate on a pre-programmed cycle. For years, science fiction writers have imagined a world of digital thinking machines and while there have been some minor breakthroughs, such as the questionable Eugene Goostman program, IBM has silently been working on what could be the biggest industry breakthrough of this decade with the innovation of their brain-mimicking SyNAPSE microchip.

The SyNAPSE program originally began in 2008 with funding from the Department of Defenses’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in an attempt to create a microchip that is modeled on the brain rather than traditional chip architecture and therefore could easily be adapted to cognitive artificial intelligence. As IBM describes in their latest press release and in various news articles, the typical computer is designed to direct its computing power towards language and analytical functions. The new design focuses on processing sensory signals and recognizing patterns.

As of now, the most advanced projections for the processor that IBM is willing to produce are things like your phone recognizing an apple and being able to tell what kind of apple it is and if it is ripe or not depending on its digital color and texture. Obviously this is mind-blowing, but there is still so much more to be accomplished in this field according to expert analysts.

A Rapid Development
As it stands, IBM’s SyNAPSE – Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics – boasts one million neurons and 256 million synapses. Unfortunately, this is paltry when compared to the data processing power of the 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses that the human brain possesses, but it still represents a milestone in computing power as the idea of creating a machine capable of learning has been an obsession for decades. Ideally, researchers could use the SyNAPSE microchip to create a functional model of the brain which is one of the goals of the project.

In 1989, Carnegie Mellon launched a research programmed called ALVINN – Autonomous Land Vehicle In a Neural Network – sought to utilize what they called a “neural network” for driver-less cars. In 1992, Bloomberg Business News did an article on Carnegie Mellon’s experiments and they described a neural network as a computer network that works like a brain and in this case, the network functions as thus: “incoming video signals are fed to a network of computers that constantly matches them against the thousands of video images it already has learned, such as trees, parked cars, and pavement.” The ALVINN program paved the way for today’s latest driverless car technology, no pun intended, and it also helped lay the foundations for the SyNAPSE technology.

The Futuredata
With many industry experts predicting a future with machines so advanced that the average person would not be able to tell the difference between it and a real person, the dystopian world of Blade Runner seems inevitable. In fact, some die-hard doomsayers will panic at the idea that the military is funding these programs. Sure, it’s easy to let one’s imagination get carried away, but one cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are infinitely more beneficial than potentially apocalyptic aspects to creating processors capable of learning, especially in data intensive fields such as health and business.

Interesting Tech: Machine Learning

By Korrine Rounds

 

computer

Machine learning, sometimes conflated with the related field of data mining, is a new approach to data analysis that is changing the world of statistics. The basic idea of machine learning is to teach computers how to recognize patterns in data without the direct help of a human. Training a program to master a task can have far-reaching implications for anything from driving cars to our healthcare system.

Some common reasons to employ machine learning include tasks where there is too much data or too many options for a program to explicitly account for all cases. For example, teaching software to drive a car is a difficult task because while driving a car seems simple, it is made up of many different actions and combinations, and it is also dependent on a lot of information about the area around the car. A traditional program would try to provide the computer with a direct guide about how to drive the car, accounting for everything that could possibly come up. An algorithm that teaches the computer would let it build up a memory of what works and what doesn’t work, then learn from that experience to become a better driver.

Some tasks for software are more focused on traditional data work. For example, a researcher might be interested in trying to predict whether or not a person has a certain rare disease. The researcher could try to use a traditional program to account for every possible combination of symptoms that indicate the disease, or they could let a machine learn from old case files of the disease and decide for itself which symptoms are important and which are not. Adaptive applications like that could transform medical science.

neuralTeaching programs to learn is a kind of computer science. It uses artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics, artificial and organic neural networks, business analytics, and other fields to build models that algorithms can use as guides. It mimics the way humans themselves learn- through experience and feedback. The goal of an ML project is to use the speed and power of computers to accomplish tasks and predict the future in a way that would be too hard to for people in a reasonable time frame; like deciding which ads to display in a Google search of a keyword.

The possibilities for machine learning are infinite, especially when the science behind processors advances to quantum computing. ML techniques can help researchers teach robots to parse real language, or interpret visual input the same way the eye does. Combining natural language processing with vision could lead to an adaptive “spam filter” that can sort physical letters and documents according to topic and importance.

The field is drawing so much attention because of the way it is particularly good at analyzing big data, whether that be Google’s cache of information on everyone who uses their services or the transactions in the stock market. These environments are too complex for even Bayesian methods to be completely reliable ways to build models. The solution is to let the silicon decide what is important without human direction, using neural networks that simulate the brain or other techniques.

treeIf artificial intelligence becomes just as good at pattern recognition as people, and can do the task much faster, why not have the bots do the work? This area, called data mining, deals with how to handle the huge amounts of information we collect in the Internet age.

Of course, coding a working algorithm is far from easy. In fact, part of the reason it has become such a hot field is that such coding is so hard that it takes a highly-trained science team quite a while to develop a working system- even in an academic setting. As a result, good software developers are in short supply. The work is a combination of advanced software and powerful hardware, so researchers also need access to the world’s best computing facilities. These systems are so valuable that tech giants, financial institutions, and academic researchers all use them for their cutting-edge pattern recognition in the sea of information.

Make Money Blogging in 2014

By Korrine Rounds

blog
Creating money from a blog or website in today’s world is harder than it once was in the past. Thanks to the number of updates released by Google in the last few years, you now need to look at how you can diversify your site and make more through different means. Diversifying lets you keep ahead of any future updates.

How to Make Cash Off Your Site
There are literally dozens of ways that you can make cash off your website, but the method that works best for you often depends on the amount of traffic and readers coming to your site. Whether you rely on marketing techniques, create a business from your site or offer a service, it’s possible to make enough that you can quit your day job.

Selling Ads
One of the easiest ways to generate income from a website is with ads. AdSense is one of the most popular ad selling companies around. With AdSense, you can create ads that relate to the keywords and information found on your site. You earn a small amount for the number of times that people on your site view those ads and a larger amount when someone buys an item from one of those ads.

Ads vs. Affiliate Products amazon
Amazon and eBay are just two companies that offer affiliate programs. You generally need a PayPal address or the ability to accept direct deposits to your checking account. Some companies will send you a check for the amount that you earn, but to receive a check, you generally need to make more sales. As an affiliate, you place a capsule on your page that shows products for sale, and you can often choose which products you want to highlight. When someone uses your site to make a purchase, you receive a commission on that purchase. Even if a user follows your link and makes a purchase days later, you’ll often receive a commission.

Using Articles and Keywords
The only way you can drive people to your site is with high quality content. If you don’t feel confident with your ability to look at analytics to determine keywords and use those keywords in articles, you can hire people to write that content for you. Search engines use the keywords on your page and any other information you offer to determine the ranking of your site. Providing users with better information can help you rank higher.

Offer a Service
Did you know that you can turn your simple website into a high paying business? You need to find a way to offer your readers something that they can’t find online. You might create a membership program that lets users pay a small fee to gain access to your email newsletter and for instructional videos not available on other sites. You can also create a forum or community that goes along with your site. Only those who subscribe have the chance to post a video or photo that goes along with the page.

Get the People to You
If you want to make money online, you need to find a way to drive traffic to your blog. One of the best ways to do this is with social networking sites. You can use a Twitter account to post links to articles on your site and other information, and the hashtags that you use will help users easily find that information. The following that you gain on Twitter can lead to high page views. YouTube is another way to grab readers. Each video or photo montage that you post will reach users who don’t use Twitter and other sites. Make sure you include links to any membership opportunities you offer and your community.

googkeAvoid the Google Ding
When you rely solely on marketing, you risk adding too many ads, which can lead to the search engine dinging you and dropping your ranking. The more of a following you develop, the higher your rank rises, and providing your viewers with the chance to subscribe may increase your rank as well. Though it might take some trial and error, you can eventually develop a site that will put money in your pocket.

10 Technology Blogs and Sites To Follow

By Korrine Rounds

BlurbBlogDirectory
The Verge
A relative newcomer to the tech site scene, The Verge was founded in 2011 by Vox Media. Now, in 2014, The Verge is one of the most respected tech sites on the web. The Verge focuses on news, trend analysis, video reviews and some of the most entertaining features you can find on the web. The Verge also provides live blogging and analysis of major tech events.

Gizmodo
Gizmodo, just one blog under Gawker Media’s expansive network, focuses on tech news and pop culture, with a heavy emphasis on community interaction. Gizmodo’s comment system, Kinja, was established to make the site more like social media sites Reddit and Twitter. The Gizmodo layout is perfect for mobile browsing and perhaps the preferred way to navigate the site.

Engadget
Engadget has recently made strides towards becoming the home for aggregated reviews on the web. While the site still posts its own thoughts on new technology, it draws reams of scores from elsewhere on the web. Engadget also provides smartly designed shopping guides based around yearly events like Father’s and Mother’s Day, the beginning of the school year and Christmas.

The Wirecutter
The Wirecutter is your definitive guide to purchasing technology in 2014. Timed obsolescence is a reality in the modern tech world. Products become outdated quickly. The Wirecutter tests and then suggests the best product from amongst the pack. The site’s writers also provide their reasoning for why the selected product beat out the competition, and choices are continuously updated to stay relevant.

wired
Wired
Wired has long been one of the most informative science and tech magazines available, featuring in-depth features and articles relevant to the moment in the tech and science industries. While Wired has largely moved away from reviews, their features are informative, entertaining, and centered on unique human angles.

TechCrunch
TechCrunch’s content is focused on the business end of the tech industry and is geared towards the inner workings of both startups and larger companies. TechCrunch also operates CrunchBase, a database of tech startups, the people who run them and their funding. Upon registration, nearly anyone can alter this database (after an approval process).

CNet
CNet is not only a technology site, it’s also one of the largest repositories of downloads, tools and software on the web. If you need a software tool, like an anti-virus program, chances are CNet will have it at their Downloads site. CNet takes advantage of their vast collection of computer applications and frequently runs advice articles about which kinds of tools are necessary on today’s machines.

TechRadar
TechRadar is one of the few sites whose content is tailored to technology outside of the United States. The site features a selectable American, Great Britain and Australian version. While the difference in content is minimal, the region specific articles can be a valuable addition to readers around the world as it’s often difficult to find news on tech culture and company policy changes overseas.

PC Magazinepc
Like the name suggests, PC Magazine has been reporting on computers practically since they’ve existed. PC Magazine’s print version was nixed back in 2009 in favor of a fully digital format. Today, PC Magazine also serves as something of a time capsule for the tech industry. The site has been around for so long that you can now find reporting on all manner of old tech, like the Motorola RAZR and the original Compaq Presario line.

Ars Technica
Ars Technica is a mixture of science and tech writing. You can find informative articles on net security and tech culture, mixed in with roundups on the latest social media drama. Ars Technica community members are also fiercely loyal, as many have been following the site since its launch.

Develop Your Brand Through Blogging

By Korrine Rounds

brand-buildBrand development through an online blog has become more than just a creative marketing and business strategy. It is one of the best ways to establish contact and connect with your customer base. It can also generate successful news buzz about an item/product, share and advertise unique images for a product, allow interested people to subscribe to it, and disseminate unique information with consistency and creativity. The following are some things that must be known about branding and blogging:

Promote Conversations Through Blogging
Conversation and communication is the heart of blogging and marketing. You cannot be a successful blogger and generate news story unless you are perceived as real. Have a personal connection and interaction with your consumers and let them see, through these chats, the vision of the item. It’s like buying a product because your favorite celebrity is endorsing it.

In fact, it is impossible for the consumer to trust you when you are just plastic and have no identity. The moment you become a person is when the relationship begins. The personal connection is the reason why item development through blogging is called conversational media marketing.

Word of Mouth Marketing
Blogging is a bit like word of mouth marketing, except that the mouths can be located anywhere in the world and the words are said in a hundred different languages. Even if you are a staunch proponent of the traditional word of mouth advertising, you will realize that blogging facilitates exactly that.

When people like a blog, they talk about it to each other and so, the word spreads. Blogging allows you to connect with all these people who are interested in your business and contact them with relative ease. This creative business strategy is pretty similar to traditional modes of advertising, except that it has no boundaries or limitations.

Develop a Connection
When you meet a person, there is a greater chance of you ignoring them than there is of liking them. The reason is that people are different and have different interests. If a person talks to you about something you like, say your favorite band, you will be instantly attracted to them and the conversation could go on. While blogging, this principle should be kept in mind. In order to develop a connection, you have to find something common between you and your readers, and provide them with a regular dose of it.

Create Communities
Once you have developed a connection, you have to take it one step further and that is where social media comes in. LinkedIn, Facebook and similar sites allow you to make communities where consumers will similar interests can talk, chat and share information online. They can find good and quality content with consistency and discuss their interests. You can use your product name and build these communities around it, making it unique and giving your business a special image. Make use of customer ratings, reviews, profiles, user groups and message boards to facilitate this peer to peer exchange.

Cost Effective
One of the most important points, especially for small businesses is how cost effective blogging can be to advertise a product. There is no extra budgeting needed because it is free. Platforms like WordPress and Blogger are great places to start. Once you get the hang of blogging, you will realize that the free versions just don’t cut it anymore but that is okay. Then you will have the necessary knowledge to build something from what you have learnt. Paid platforms offer a lot of freedom and are a bit more professional when it comes to layout and advertisement options.

Guest Blogging
Google may have said that guest blogging is not an effective SEO tool anymore but that was never the main purpose of guest blogging. Guest blogging allows people to know your brand through other more popular blogs. If you write a good post, people will be interested in knowing who you are, especially if you provide interesting content. So, write a few guest posts for your friends and see how it helps your item gets noticed.
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