Considering many people still haven’t found financial stability after the financial crisis of 2007 hit the American and global economy, rumors that the super star growth of Silicon Valley businesses may be more of a tech bubble than a tech boom are, to say the least, worrying to the general population.
Is it a tech bubble? If so, how did it get to the point that it is today? When will the bubble burst, and what will be the consequences? Not all of these answers are widely agreed upon, but there are plenty of highly-esteemed economists and investors who are coming out today and affirming that the tech bubble is indeed a tech bubble. As to when it will burst and what the consequences will be, people have predictions but no one knows for sure. What there’s more tangible information about is how the tech industry got to its current, bubbly circumstances, and what factors can be attributed to where we are today.
It’s difficult to know where to begin in this narrative, but as decent place as any would be when Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital gave a famous presentation titled “R.I.P. Good Times” in 2008, i.e. in the midst of the financial crisis. Leone warned entrepreneurs to save and spend conservatively due to a predicted major recession in venture capitalist funding. While his presentation ended up being defined as overly alarmist as time went on, older industry players are now counseling younger batches of rising entrepreneurs to follow that advice.
“The main thing we’re trying to impress on our CEOs right now is that the market is saying, ‘We want to see growth, we want to see geographic expansion,’ but that may not always be the case.” explains Scott Kupor, a managing partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “Investors change their priorities. Soon, they may be telling you, ‘We want to see profitability even at the expense of growth.’ So you need to think about the levers you can pull in your business to make that happen.”
What does this all have to do with the bubble bursting? Kupor’s advice contradicts the logic of a technique that tech moguls like Microsoft and tech startups like Slack have been commonly utilizing for years: seeking the highest possible valuation for their companies. They do this with a number of positive outcomes in mind. High valuations minimize dilution and generates publicity, which then attracts talent, clients, and even more capital. The two-year-old, hugely successful startup Slack famously raised $160 million upon being valued at $2.8 billion, for example. And it’s not just new startups that profit from high (and potentially inflated) valuations. Uber was valued at $50 billion this year and AirBnb at $50 billion. In both cases, the companies were valued at extremely high multiples of their actual revenues. According to investors, this is because their enormous potential makes it illogical to put a ceiling on their growth.
When these overly-valued companies come back to earth (as they must inevitably do as a result of rising interest rates), founders who have overreached must then struggle to defend their valuations. In cases when founders have managed to finagle an extra 10 to 20 percent value to be attributed to their company by granting investors aggressive downside protections (which enable VCs to make reckless bets without risking real consequences), founders can lose control of their businesses all together.
So because so many tech companies have been valued not based on their revenue but on their projected revenue, a fair amount of investors have been conned into pouring money into places that aren’t equipped to generate more.
Microsoft has said this week that they want the “Internet of Things” to relate to all things. That is to say that they want the internet to be a fundamental part of the functionality of things as diverse as jet engines, to refrigerators, from factory floors, to child care devices. This is coming in the wake of their partnership announced at the Hannover Messe industrial fair in Germany.
They aim to take advantage of the Microsoft Azure loT suite which will gather data from industrial products and their assembly all the way through when they are disposed of. They hope to find trends and figure out how to improve performance in a big data project on a scale that the world has never seen.
To give some perspective, Rolls-Royce will incorporate these software tools into its total care maintenance package as well as for its aircraft engines. They hope that air traffic control information, and route restrictions and fuel usage can be better understood through this joint venture.
“Our customers are looking for ways to leverage the digital landscape to increase efficiency and improve their operations,” said Tom Palmer of Rolls Royce. He goes on to say that “by working with Microsoft we can really transform our digital services, supporting customers right across engine related aircraft operations to make a real difference to performance.”
It is not obvious to most because you just associate Rolls Royce with their autos, however, their engines power more than 50,000 flights around the world each month and that is really their main source of income.
Jabil is a leading manufacturing company that has unveiled their use of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform at their factory mega-site in Malaysia and Mexico. they hope to take this platform worldwide. The hope is that they can know the problems in their manufacturing processes before their people working on them know themselves. Moreover, they want to predict and respond to problems months in advance so they do not have the hiccups of just being slammed by change in an instance. For example by knowing the global prices of their raw materials, to the global weather patterns, all the way though the world socio-political landscape they will have the answers to questions we do not to ask yet.
A Jabil spokesperson says that, “that means ever if there is a mistake made in the first step, they’re able to connect back to the cloud, use machine learning, detect that mistake and correct it before it goes all the way to the end of the production line.”
This is going to be a great tool for their company but we need to wonder what if they data gives up paths to ends that are not themselves the future. What I mean is that we are giving these systems a lot of respect and power, but many times they totally miss the make. For example, when Watson is wrong it is wrong in a way a person would never be, and that is bad when you consider the weight it will have in our world economy here after.
Just yesterday, the Oculus Rift received its first ever (and generally praise-filled) reviews. That said, reviewers were also apt to point out some more obvious flaws with the first generation technology.
The headset display is generally seen as well-crafted and surprisingly durable for the sensitivity of the technology it supports. The well-known drawbacks include its steep costs (US $600) and the fact that its true gaming potential can only be unlocked with those financially blessed enough to host a powerful enough gaming system to really run it.
The cost will of course come down as the technology becomes more familiar and more VR systems enter the market with competitive pricing. The quality will also undoubtedly improve as the years go by, though how developers will react to VR’s issue of bulky hardware remains to be seen.
“When you first put on a Rift, you are all too aware of the headset. It’s somewhat comfortable, but the way it envelops your head can make it feel like a helmet,” described Peter Brown, writer for Gamespot.
“Not every VR game is going to be an instant hit,” continued Brown. Other reviewers also wrote of being unimpressed by the first wave of VR games programmed for the Rift. That said, Mario Aguilar of Gizmodo stated that the games made for the finished hardware were actually fun and far superior to the early development builds released months back.
“These issues can’t take away from the fact that Rift delivers on its promise to enable more immersive and personal gaming experiences than we’ve ever seen before,” said Brown after reexamining his complaints regarding the games themselves. After all, the first wave of games are more of an experiment than a proof of concept.
Early buyers of the Oculus Rift will have to make due with a headset and a single Xbox controller, while a motion-supported controller is still undergoing development. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, warned that an upgrade may be necessary for VR aficionados to access a truly immersive experience:
“It plays best with two external cameras and two VR controllers. It ships with one external camera and an Xbox controller, which cripples the experience… This will get fixed later in the year with a more expensive version.”
And of course there’s the issue of the Rift’s raw youth in terms of its technology and its brand; it will take years for the company to receive accurate and complete data regarding that people hope to do with the technology and how best to use it.
The final common complaint involves the fact that gamers must remain tethered to their computers during gaming sessions, limiting the VR experience.
“Once this connects with gaming systems designed for it and with 2D treadmills, this will likely change,” continued Enderle.
“Folks are also recognizing that the idea of being able to actually integrate the room, like with Micosoft’s HoloLens, might be a really good idea now.”
Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg has been a major investor in the Rift and is hoping it will unlock the door to entirely new communication systems.
The encryption battle between Apple and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation shows no signs of letting up; the FBI’s attempts to compel Apple to write software that would unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the deceased San Bernardino terrorists under the authority of the 18th century All Writ’s Law has caused controversy throughout the tech world. The role of social media and tech companies in the fight against terrorism continues to be the subject of debate.
According to Federighi, terrorists and other malintended criminals could launch attacks on the infrastructure vital to our every day life through access “to just one person’s smartphone.” He went on to describe encryption on smartphones as “a critical line of defense.”
Federighi also criticized law enforcement officials over their request that Apple return to the safeguards created for iOS 7. These safeguards “have since been breached by hackers,” wrote Federghi. “Further, hacker kits to attack iOS 7 weaknesses are available to less-skilled attackers.”
“Yesterday’s best defenses cannot fend off the attacks of today or tomorrow,” stated Federighi. He believes there’s no going back in the security game, which is more of “an endless race” against hackers than a constant proliferation of relevant safeguards.
Federighi’s op-ed prompted over 800 responses for and against his position.
“Arguing that only bad actors need worry about government intrusions is specious since the data analytics that sifts through metadata and associated content to establish networks of associations… is hardly foolproof,” wrote one user under the name Code Ferret.
Joan Ashley stated her worry that “The FBI could abuse the power obtained under a favorable court ruling.”
However, Rbobbin disagreed, stating that encryption is too sweeping.
Even among the security committee, opinions vary.
“Compelling Apple to build a backdoor for its own product actually undermines the security and personal safety of millions of Americans and others around the world, especially those living under authoritarian regimes,” stated staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Sophia Cope. She continues on to state that this occurs “by creating the legal precedent, by weakening the trust users have in software updates supposedly authorized by companies, and by building the technology itself.”
Ebba Blitz, CEO of Alertsec, stated her opinion on the matter rather concisely: “Walking backwards into the future is never a clever way… It’s not only weakening encryption for individuals and companies; it’s also weakening encryption for the American government… by creating the possibility of brute force attacks, we are paving the way for anyone, including terrorists, to hack into our data easily.”
Blitz went on to consider the outcome that the law could potentially drive the U.S. tech industry overseas.
“Everything from health data to financial data to conversations with and about our kids is protected because of encryption,” stated Jake Ward, president and CEO of the Application Developers Alliance. “Why would we want to go back to iOS 7?”
He says that purposefully degrading encryption “just for the good guys” is not actually a possibility. “You can’t secure your home while leaving a window open for the police, hoping bad guys don’t find and use it.”
Einstein predicted their existence over a century ago, and physicists have been on the hunt for gravitational waves ever since. It’s just been made official that they found then, too.
According to researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory or LIGO, a month or so of round-the-clock testing has confirmed that a gravitational wave was sensed.
The posible wave was observed on September 14th, 2015, around 5:51 am ET by both of the LIGO detectors, who were located in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington at the time. The source of the findings was a supermassive hole collision that took place about 1.3 billion ears ago and, when it happened, converted three times the mass of the sun into energy in a fraction of a second.
The discovery’s publication was accepted by Physical Review Letters.
So what is a gravitational wave? They’re ripples in the universe caused by extremely energetic cosmic events that can range from exploding stars to supermassive black hole mergers. As they propagate through space and time, these waves can cause tiny tremors in atoms that make up matter.
Einstein predicted their existence in his theory of general relativity in 1916 and their existence was indirectly proven in the 1980’s, but this is the first time that the hunt for spacetime ripples actually came up with a real life occurrence.
The LIGO detector was created for this very purpose in 2002, but it took ten years to make the instrument sensitive enough to sense the minuscule gravitational waves and atomic jitters that would hit our world after two black holes collide in a distant galaxy. LIGO uses high powered lasers to measure tiny changes in distance between these two objects, but possible signals can be made from all kinds of outside factors like a train lumbering by, an earthquake, or a storm.
LIGO underwent a series of upgrades and has been functioning as its current version since 2015. Its powerful lasers and improved isolation system made its prospects of detecting the first gravitational waves better than ever before. A few scientists seen predicted that we’d have our first positive detection in 2016, though few saw reason to believe them.
LIGO apparently saw gravitational waves almost immediately after its most recent version came on. The hold up has been waiting for the team of scientists associated with the project to exhaustively investigate potential instrumental disturbances to confirm that the signal was indeed real.
According to those scientists, the two black holes that collided were 29x and 36x times the mass of the sun, respectively. During the most powerful moments of their collision, LIGO estimates that their power output was about 50 times that of the entire visible universe.
“The description of this observation is beautifully described in the Einstein theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago and comprises the first test of the theory in strong gravitation,” commented Rainer Weiss, the first proposer of LIGO. “It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein’s face had we been able to tell him.”
The discovery is said to open a new chapter in our exploration of space and time, especially since gravitational waves can now be used to probe mysterious celestial objects that do not emit light.
“There’s a lot of rich information encoded in gravitational waves,” said MIT astrophysicist Scott Hughes. “As an astronomer, I try to think about how to go from the ‘sound’ of the waveform that LIGO measures, to the parameters that produce that waveform.”
The internet may have been around for decades, but it’s only now that many of us are learning out how navigate it’s intensely overstimulating array of information with any aptitude whatsoever. Here are some tips to get you started on a journey through the internet prepared and aware.
1. You can log out of Facebook remotely.
….which is definitely a good idea if you’re addicted and have to check it at work, at friends’ houses, at libraries, internet cafes, whatever. Log in on whatever device you want, go to “Settings” using the upper right dropdown menu, choose “Security” and then “When you’re logged in.” You should be shown a screen that displays on which devices you’re logged in and gives you the option of ending sessions accordingly.
2. Search phrases you can’t even remember.
If you’re ever trying to remember a quote, proverb or lyric, you can google whatever fragment you got and likely find what you’re looking for. If you’re really blanking, put quotes at the beginning and end of the phrase, add in whatever you can remember, and if there are missing words, just replace them with an asterisk.
3. Soft block frenemies.
On Twitter there’s the mute button and on Facebook you can always uncheck the box that says “Show in News Feed” when you run your curser over an unwanted post, or simply uncheck “Following” when you hover over the friend’s name.
This is a great way to avoid the bombardment of information coming certain kinds of internet users without making as bold a statement as unfriending them or blocking them. After all, they might post about it if they notice you did it.
4. Browse stress free with incognito mode.
All major browsers have incognito mode, a type of window you can open that doesn’t store your search history. This is great for looking at dumb stuff on the internet at work, watching explicit stuff you don’t want your spouse or partner to know about, or even just searching for a gift for something that also uses the computer. Just keep in mind that ISPs will know what sites you visited; get Tor if you want to avoid that.
5. Mute email threads.
Thank god, if only they had this for group messaging. Using Gmail, all you have to do is click on the “More” tab and then choose the mute option. You should stop receiving notifications as people chime in.
6. Emoji wherever possible.
Stop copy pasting from getemoji.com. If you have a Mac, all you have to do to add in an emoji to a text box that doesn’t have its own emoji dropdown menu is simultaneously press the command, control and space bar at the same time. With Windows, go to task bar>toolbar>touch keyboard and pick the smiley key.
7. Check out Gchat.
Gchat’s fun, but make it even more fun by typing in /ponystream. You’ll see.
8. Play YouTube videos in slow motion.
Just press the space key as you’re watching!
9. Go Cold Turkey.
Need to be more productive and less distracted? Download Cold Turkey onto your browser to keep you from visiting some sites instead of others. You can lock certain sites and applications on a timer to make sure you stay away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, whatever.
Recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadina, California have created a new debate regarding the role tech companies should play in the fight against radical jihadists.
Hillary Clinton hosted a press conference after the tragedy in Paris unfolded weeks ago, asserting the role that tech companies must play in crisis of our modern age:
“We need to put the great disruptors at work at disrupting ISIS… Resolve means depriving the jihadists of virtual territory just as we work to deprive them of actual territory… They are using websites, social media, chat rooms, and other platforms to celebrate beheadings, recruit future terrorists, and call for attacks.”
The great disruptors aren’t so sure about their necessary role. Tech giants like Apple and Google have actively been fighting the government’s claims that the encryption services they provide for their clients is an unnecessary and dangerous hindrance of national surveillance efforts.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he stated that tech companies’ more rightful interference in terrorist affairs should involve keeping social media from becoming a tool to spread hatred or violence.
“We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media, sort of like spell checkers, but for hate and harassment,” he recommended. He believed that social networks should figure out which accounts are held by terrorists and monitor them to make sure that they cannot disseminate violent videos or terrorist propaganda.
According to the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy, ISIS supporters used more than 46,000 Twitter accounts (potentially as many as 70,000) between September and December 2014.
Facebook spokesperson Jodi Seth stated that Facebook “shares the government’s goal” of keeping terrorist activity on its site to a minimum. “Facebook has zero tolerance for terrorists, terror propaganda or the praising of terror activity and we work aggressively to remove it as soon as we become aware of it,” she continued.
Seth explained that Facebook has a terrorist policy that involves passing on information to law enforcement as soon as it becomes aware of any planned attack or threat of imminent harm and sees fit to follow through with that policy on a daily basis.
“This is a developing cancer, and there’s a good chance that the answers today may need to be transformed as the nature of these exploits, propaganda techniques and heinous actions evolve.”
Not everyone believes that a share of the responsibility for managing the country’s safety should be put in tech companies’ hands.
Danny Obrien, international director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, stated that “Social media companies shouldn’t take on the job of censoring speech on behalf of any government, and they certainly shouldn’t do so voluntarily.”
“Numerous circumstances would be problematic, to say the least,” he continued. “For example, would Facebook take down a post from a group that the Russian, Saudi, Syrian or Israeli government claimed were terrorists?”
“An issue of transparency remains on the table. Some social media groups have been more transparent than others about government requests to take down an account or remove content.”
A capacitor is made up of two electrical conductors called plates separated by an insulator called the dielectric. The two plates within a capacitor are each wired to two electrical connections on the outside called terminals, which can be hooked into an electric circuit. The point of capacitors is to store and release electrical energy; its two plates hold opposite charges and their separation creates an electric field, allowing for electric energy to be stored. To store additional electrical energy in a capacitor is called charging, while releasing that energy is called discharging.
A capacitor is distinct from a battery in that while a battery uses chemicals to store electrical energy and release it through a circuit at a slow, measured pace, a capacitor generally releases its energy much more rapidly. A capacitor would be used, for example, to generate the energy necessary to light a flash bulb on your camera. It may charge up using energy from your camera’s batteries before the flash goes off, but the devices are interconnected, yet not one in the same.
A capacitor can be charged simply by wiring it up to an electric circuit; when you turn on the power, the electric charge gradually builds up on the plates. If you disconnect the electric circuit and the capacitor, the charge will be stored on the plates (though it will likely leak some charge over time). If you keep them connected and then hook the capacitor up to an electric engine or a flash bulb, the charge will flow through the capacitor to the motor until the capacitor’s plates are all out of charge.
The amount of electrical energy that a single capacitor can store is called its capacitance. Capacitance is measured in farads (F). Because one farad is so large, most capacitors’ capacitance is measured in fractions of a farad. To increase a capacitor’s capacitance, its plate size can be increased, its plates can be placed closer together, and its dialectric can be replaced with an even more powerful insulator. Dialectrics can be composed of a variety of insulators, from normal air to ceramics to plastic.
Capacitors may only really store energy, but the way that they do so makes them very useful. Because they generally take a very precise, predictable amount of time to charge, they can be used as timing devices. They also can smooth voltage in circuits, help people to tune into particular radio and TV stations, and, in the form of larger supercapacitors, they can be used in place of batteries.
If the physics is still confusing you, imagine all of these elements in the context of a large cloud during a lightning storm: Ice particles flying around in the cloud rub against the air and gain static electrical charges. Lighter, positively charged particles move to the top of the cloud while negatively charged particles move to the bottom. The polarity of the cloud’s charges turn it into somewhat of a capacitor; the more static electricity builds, the more polar the cloud becomes and the more electrical potential is being stored in this growing storm. Once the voltage reaches a certain level, the air in the cloud converts from an insulator to a conductor, allowing for all of the energy to be released at once in the form of lightning.
Whether you’re keeping track of a family or running a business, archiving your data is going to be imperative to your success. Unfortunately, archives can be vulnerable to damage and destruction. Protecting archives has been a profession since the invention of librarians, but nowadays even hard drives have become antiquated technology.
The next big thing? Backing up your files to the cloud.
Saving your data to the cloud has a lot of advantages over regular old hard drive back-ups. For one, you don’t have to worry about keeping track of/protecting your back up hard drive. If you all your data and then find that you’ve also lost your hard drive, you’re definitely in trouble. With cloud storage, your information is stored on the internet, so you can access it from any advice. Although uploading all your data for the first time can be tedious, updates are manageable and most likely easier with a hard drive.
So once you’ve cross over to the cloud side, you’re faced with another dilemma: Which of the dozens of cloud storage providers is right for your particular needs? This is a question that takes a fair amount of research to answer, but here’s some info on a few options, just to get you started.
Named for the fires firefighters start to destroy fuel for wildfires, Backblaze offers unlimited storage capacity for $5 a month or $50 a year and can be set to automatically backup your files at whatever schedule best fits your needs. It does have some shortcomings however; Backblaze can only archive particular file types and excludes system, program and Windows files. There’s no way to share your files, and it also doesn’t have the ability to back up the entire system to an external hard drive. That said, its security definitely ranks among the most airtight of all cloud storage providers.
Carbonite offers several options as a cloud storage provider. For $59 a year, the Carbonite Home service offers unlimited backup for Windows and Mac systems. HomePlus ($99 a year) includes an external hard drive backup along with the ability to make copies. The $149 a year HomePremier service throws in a courier-recovery service where users can receive a copy of their backup in the mail.
Reviewers say Carbonite has an easy-to-use interface and even places a color-coded dot next to every file that will be affected by the backup. However, Carbonite does not provide a log of its operations. Its default backup includes only the desktop, music, document, photo, settings, email and video files. You can add other files, but Carbonite’s software has issues with system, Windows and program files. Carbonite can also back up files continuously or on a schedule. Your files will remain accessible from Carbonite’s online server for thirty days after you’ve deleted them from your computer’s hard drive.
CrashPlan can be used by a variety of users, from Mac to Windos to Linux. It also has apps for accessing data for AppleiOS and Android devices. It offers various plans, including a free version that allows you to back up to other computers (but not to the cloud). Paid versions allow you to back up your data online and users can purchase unlimited storage for no more than $50 a year. 10GB costs $25.
CrashPlan logs all tasks it performs and automatically backs up music, video and desktop files. Windows and system files can be backed up manually. It notices any changes made in your system’s files and automatically implements those changes into your next back up. It also never deletes your data.
All of these services have something special to offer, so it’s up to you to figure out what works best with your lifestyle and your archiving habits.