BlackBerry

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OTTAWA — BlackBerry said on Friday that it would offer a smartphone based on Google’s Android operating system rather than its own software. While the decision appeared to be an admission of defeat for the BlackBerry 10, the company said it was still proceeding with an update for its own software as well.

The announcement came as the company released a larger-than-expected loss of $66 million, excluding accounting adjustments, or 13 cents a share for its second quarter. Analysts had been expecting a loss of 9 cents a share.

Revenue was $490 million compared with $916 million during the same period a year ago. Read more

Apple

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The headline feature in Apple’s latest smartphones, theiPhone 6s and 6s Plus, is something called 3D Touch, which lets you activate shortcuts on the phone by pressing a bit harder on the screen. For now, though, I found a less novel, but far handier feature in the new iPhone — one that has long been the butt of jokes but is now becoming a necessary part of modern computing.

You may have heard of it: It’s called Siri, and together with voice-control initiatives from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and several start-ups, it is poised to change the way we think of computers.

As David Pierce wrote recently in Wired, voice recognition and artificial intelligence are getting so good so quickly that it isn’t really a stretch to imagine that talking to computers will soon become one of the signature ways we interact with them. The new Siri is paving the way to what you might call “ambient computing” — a future in which robotic assistants are always on hand to answer questions, take notes, take orders or otherwise function as auxiliary brains to whom you might offload many of your chores.

Stuart Goldenberg

Picture the “Star Trek” computer, but instead of powering a starship, it’s turning off the basement lights, finding you a good movie on Netflix and, after listening in on a fight between you and your spouse, reminding you to buy flowers the next day. It will be slightly creepy and completely helpful — and it’s coming faster than you think.

There is one key improvement to Siri in the iPhone 6s that suggests these grand possibilities. Rather than having to reach for your phone, you can now activate Siri by yelling at it from a few feet away. “Hey, Siri!” you bellow, and the robotic assistant springs to life. This is not groundbreaking; hands-free voice control has been around in competing smartphones at least since Motorola introduced it in 2013, and several phone makers have adopted it since. Hands-free Siri is also available on older iPhones when the phone is plugged into its charger, because constantly listening for “Hey, Siri” consumes battery power. (The iPhone 6s, however, reduces the drain on the battery through hardware changes.)

But “Hey, Siri” is not the only improvement. In iOS 9, Apple’s new mobile operating system, Siri also has more powers to connect to deeper parts of your phone. It can control devices compatible with Apple’s home-automation system, called HomeKit — you can tell it to turn down the lights, for example. Siri also controls Apple Music, the company’s new streaming service. In the car, say, “Hey, Siri, play Dylan,” and up comes “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

Then there’s the ubiquity of voice-control devices. Besides the phone, Apple has put Siri in its watch and its coming Apple TV set-top box. Amazon has it on the Echo, a voice-controlled computer that is constantly listening and ready to help you out, and also in its TV streaming devices. Google and Microsoft also have embedded voice in phones, computers and TV devices.

A host of start-ups are entering the game, too. One, calledSoundHound, offers a taste of the possibilities of talking to machines: Rather than going through several sites to make a hotel reservation, you can ask, “Find me a three- or four-star hotel in New York next Friday for less than $300,” and off it goes.

The ubiquity of voice-controlled assistants changes the way we interact with them. When Siri and other voice systems were new, they seemed gimmicky. Nobody quite knew what to do with them, and interactions veered toward the awkward. But the more assistants there are, and the more you use them, the more natural they feel — and that means the more you’ll use them, feeding the cycle.

I’ve felt this happen most impressively with Amazon’s Echo, a machine that one addresses with the keyword “Alexa,” and which I keep in my kitchen, the place I most often need a hands-free device. In my early days with the Echo, I didn’t quite know what to use it for, and when it got something wrong, I tended to penalize the device for its shortcomings.

But the more I stuck with the Echo, the better I understood its capabilities. Now I consult the Echo several times a day for the weather, to set timers, to do quick kitchen math and to play music or audiobooks. It’s become one of the most useful gadgets I own. (And the voice-recognition hardware in the Echo is more powerful than that of the iPhone — Alexa can hear me from far across the room, while the iPhone 6’s “Hey, Siri” stopped working beyond about five feet.)

The coming pervasiveness of voice-controlled machines will not occur without some social anxiety. There will be conventions to work out — is it O.K. to call out “Hey, Siri!” on a bus? Probably not soon, but in time, that may happen; you’ll cringe, and then it could become normal. (The new iPhone tries to learn your voice to prevent other people from activating your device.)

There will be questions of privacy, too. To start up when they hear certain keywords, systems like “Hey Siri” have to constantly listen to their surroundings. Apple says Siri is watching for a pattern, not recording or storing any data.

But you can imagine that actually analyzing all of your speech can’t be far off, because it would make voice assistants more useful. In fact, for years now, Google’s top search engineers have been describing the “Star Trek” computer as their vision of the future of search.

“The ‘Star Trek’ computer is not just a metaphor that we use to explain to others what we’re building,” Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s search team, once told me. “It is the ideal that we’re aiming to build — the ideal version done realistically.”

Read More at the New York Times

The Go Africa® Mimosa or Ginjan® Mimosa

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The Go Africa® Mimosa or Ginjan® Mimosa

2 Mimosa Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Ginjan® Premium brand organic ginger juice
  • 4 ounces of Brut champagne

Recipe Instructions:

Fill champagne flute with 2 ounces  of Ginjan® Premium brand organic ginger juice and top up with brut champagne.

For a true, old-school Buck’s Fizz, add 1/2 teaspoon grenadine; for a true Mimosa, it’s a teaspoon or so of Grand Marnier (not enough, we’re afraid, to compensate for the champagne deficit).

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How does tiny Xavier University in New Orleans manage to send more African-American students to medical school than any other college in the country?

Norman Francis was just a few years into his tenure as president of Xavier University of Louisiana, a small Catholic institution in New Orleans, when a report that came across his desk alarmed him. It was an accounting of the nation’s medical students, and it found that the already tiny number of black students attending medical school was dropping.

It was the 1970s, at the tail end of the civil rights movement. Francis, a black man in his early 40s, had spent most of his life under the suffocating apartheid of the Jim Crow South. But after decades of hard-fought battles and the passage of three major civil rights laws, doors were supposed to be opening, not closing. Francis, the son of a hotel bellhop, had stepped through one of those doors himself when he became the first black student to be admitted to Loyola University’s law school in 1952.

Francis believed he was in a unique position to address the dearth of black doctors. Xavier served a nearly all-black student body of just over 1,300. At the time, most of Xavier’s science department was housed in an old surplus Army building donated to the college by the military after World War II. It had no air-­conditioning, and the heater was so loud in the winter that instructors had to switch it off to be heard. But the science program had always been strong, if underfunded, and began producing its first medical-­school students not long after the university was founded in 1925. Read more

tech startup

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Crystal isn’t my best friend or coworker. She’s never met me but yetshe knows me.

Ask Crystal about me, and she’ll tell you that I’m ambitious (true), easily distracted (mostly correct), and makes quick decisions that can seem unpredictable (eh, sometimes).

and then she’ll tell you how to interact with me: bring lots of energy to the conversation (yes, please), and use an emoticon (so true! monkey emojis preferred).

Crystal is a tech startup that scrapes the web for a person’s online information to analyze his or her personality. Its purpose is to help people interact more effectively with one another.

Founder Drew D’Agostino came up with the idea for Crystal to suit his own needs. He was heading up an engineering team at a software company and wanted a better way to foster work relationships. Crystal wasn’t meant to be a stand-alone business — D’Agostino was simply trying to understand his coworkers.

“I figured out a way to detect people’s personalities based on anything they’ve had written about themselves online,” he said, of the original prototype.

Using available information, Crystal assigns a person to one of 64 different personality types. It provides one sentence about communication style, then breaks down how to speak to that person, how to email them, work with them, recruit them and more.

Crystal predicted my personality — and it was pretty dead-on.

 

With Crystal’s simple search, I was able to turn up the personality profiles of my coworkers and friends. It was pretty dead-on in assessing their personalities. Crystal’s Chrome extension makes it super easy to find the personalities of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn contacts. (A “View personality” button appears on profile pages of your friends.)

Crystal’s personality search functionality is free — but getting people to convert into paying customers is the harder sell.

Crystal also offers premium features for a monthly subscription (ranging from $19 to $49). These tools take the personality data one step further. A Gmail plug-in helps you tailor emails to best suit the recipient’s personality. A relationship prediction tool shows how a person might fit into an existing team.

Entrepreneur Lane Campbell said he tried out the Gmail functionality as part of a free trial, but didn’t think it was worth paying for.

“I didn’t find it valuable to pay for, [but] the predictions were accurate,” he said. “The usability is what they have to figure out.”

Campbell said he would love a version of Crystal that automatically wrote emails for him. Currently, users are prompted to consider different greetings or turns of phrase, but it doesn’t craft entire emails.

Another entrepreneur, Yan Revzin, said he paid for a subscription for his interns, some of whom don’t speak native English.

“It was a great help for the interns,” he said. “They don’t teach how to write emails in college.”

Revzin said that it was just a temporary expense though: “After a month or two of using it extensively, they didn’t really need it. It becomes repetitive.”

Crystal is still in its early stages. D’Agostino, who is based in Nashville, runs the company with four full-time employees. He said the business has taken off by word of mouth since launching about six months ago.

He’s seeing about 1,000 new users sign up each day — most of whom aren’t paying. But he said employees at firms like Accenture, Hubspot, Google (GOOG) and Thompson Reuters are all using the service, as both free and paying customers.

As for Campbell’s suggestion, D’Agostino hinted at developing a “reply all” type functionality.

“We want to add value for everyone,” he said.

Read more at CNN

or visit https://www.crystalknows.com/

Read More at CNN

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In what could be the largest natural gas discovery in history, Italian energy company Eni says it has unearthed a “supergiant” gas field in the Mediterranean Sea covering about 40 square miles.

The gas field could hold a potential of 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Eni says that’s the energy equivalent of about 5.5 billion barrels of oil. The company won’t know the field’s true size until it begins to develop it.

ound in the deep waters off the northern coast of Egypt, Eni claims the gas field to be the largest ever in the Mediterranean and possibly the world.

After Eni explores and begins to develop the field, the company estimates that it will be able to satisfy Egypt’s natural gas demand for “decades.”

“This historic discovery will be able to transform the energy scenario of Egypt,” said Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi in a statement.

With a large presence already established in Egypt, Eni said it expects to be able to quickly take advantage of its find.

Read More at CNN