Daily Archives: June 6, 2015

Free App for Group Chat With 200 People at a Time


Popcorn Buzz, which enables 200 participants to take part in the conversation at a time, is an android based application developed by Line Corporation, a Japan based software firm.

The company is already well known for developing “Line Messenger” android application.

The flexibility of the new application “Popcorn Buzz” doesn’t just stick to personal chats but the company also claims that it can be a perfect solution for many business conference calls.

The application as of now is not compatible with iOS but the company is also planning to launch a version for the same very soon.

A group video chat feature is also expected to be added to the application shortly.

A press release on the official website of Line Corporation mentioned: “Additionally, existing LINE users can log in to Popcorn Buzz with their LINE account to immediately synchronize their friends list data2 and get started making group calls with their LINE friends right away.”

According to the press release the application will give its best results in 3G, 4G and WiFi internet networks.

The press release further mentioned: The was launched globally in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese, languages.


Lanka Opposition Wants Installation of Majority Govt, Not Parliament Dissolution


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s opposition parties want the installation of a government which has majority support in parliament and not its dissolution and fresh elections.

This was told to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association (FCA) on Friday, by three top leaders of the United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) which has majority support in parliament.

At present, the United National Party (UNP), which holds the reins of power, has less than 45 members in a House of 225, while the UPFA has more than 113.

President Maithripala Sirisena had called upon the UNP to form the government after he was elected on January 8, only because he had been in alliance with that party in the Presidential election.

G.L.Peiris, who along with Dullas Alahapperuma and Dinesh Gunawardene, spoke to the FCA, said that a minority government will not be able to get laws passed or bring about constitutional changes like the 20 th. Amendment (20A) to bring about vital electoral reforms.

“These are best done by a government enjoying majority support in parliament and the UPFA has the majority to form a stable, functioning government,” Peiris argued.

Reasons for No Trust Motion

Explaining the reasons for moving a No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Peiris said that if the motion is carried, as it will surely be because it had been signed by 112 MPs out of 225, the Prime Minister and his cabinet will have to resign. When that happens, President Sirisena will have to call upon a person who, in his opinion, has majority support in parliament, to form an alternative government. He can order dissolution of parliament only after that option has been exhausted, Peiris said.

The No Trust Motion is meant to enable the formation of an alternative viable government based on majority support in parliament and not to secure the dissolution of parliament, he clarified.

Sirisena Against Dissolution

President Sirisena thinks that parliament should not be dissolved before the 20A is passed. His chief lieutenant, Rajitha Senaratne, has said that parliament should not be dissolved till the end of its term in April 2016. Only the UNP wants immediate dissolution. It wants to come back to power with a majority of its own quickly.

Asked if a UPFA government will be able to work with President Sirisena when the UPFA will be having a strong pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa lobby in it, Peiris said: “We will have to work with him.”

Cohabitation is deemed possible because President Sirisena is also Chairman of the SLFP and a titular leader of the UPFA. And Rajapaksa is a Patron of the SLFP.


Federal Data Breach: Hack Came From China Says Former DHS Chief Michael Chertoff


Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said Friday that the devastating cyberattack on a key federal agency was most likely perpetrated by hackers working for, or in concert with, the Chinese government. “What I’ve independently verified on a private basis supports that view,” Chertoff told International Business Times, in an exclusive interview.

Chertoff said the cyberattackers were probably looking for information on government employees in possession of U.S. military or industrial secrets when they broke into systems maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. The goal would be “to comb through it to identify high-value targets,” Chertoff said.

The former secretary, who served under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, said the information could be used to persuade or blackmail a federal worker, say, a nuclear scientist or weapons engineer, into spying for the Chinese government. “It looks like the building blocks of an espionage or counterespionage program,” Chernoff told IBTimes.

OPM disclosed the breach Thursday, but it may have actually happened as early as December 2014. The hackers gained access to sensitive personal information on more than 4,000 government workers, including their birthdates, bank account numbers and Social Security numbers. The intruders may have achieved the breach in part by using data stolen previously through attacks on health insurers Anthem Inc. and Premera Blue Cross. That data has been available for months on various sites on the so-called Deep Web.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with OPM and other agencies to investigate the attack.

Chertoff said that, even knowing that the breach originated inside China, it will be difficult for investigators to pinpoint the exact perpetrators. “There’s always a bit of a shell game with attribution,” said the former secretary, who also served as U.S. Assistant Attorney General and is now executive chairman of security consultants The Chertoff Group. China “may be hosting them; they may be tacitly allowing them to function. The Chinese are quite controlling about what goes in and out of the country on the Internet. So you couldn’t conduct large-scale activities without tacit approval.”

Last year, the U.S. indicted five Chinese military officers and charged them with hacking into U.S. corporate networks to steal industrial and nuclear secrets.

So how should the Obama Administration respond in this case? “When we catch people, we can protest, we can charge people with criminal offenses; if they’re stealing intellectual property there may be trade sanctions,” Chertoff said. The White House has yet to formally accuse China of the attack or announce any retaliatory steps. “No conclusions … have been reached at this point,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday. China has formally denied its involvement. “China itself is also a victim of cyberattacks,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

Some experts were not surprised by the breach. In an interview with IBTimes, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Brett Williams, who was formerly head of U.S. Cyber Command, said the security systems protecting federal agencies’ data are in many cases woefully outdated. “Most government agencies are poorly positioned to deal with even a moderately sophisticated attack,” said Williams, who is now president of Operations and Training at cybersecurity consultants IronNet.

Williams said some of the data stolen from OPM was actually stored on servers at the Department of Interior. “It looks like OPM was storing stuff over there, but they weren’t defending it over there.” Williams said bureaucracy may be the federal government’s biggest weakness when it comes to defending itself against cyberattacks. Despite measures like the National Cybersecurity Initiative, which Chertoff helped draft in 2007 and which spells out measures agencies need to take to harden their defenses, hacks against government systems are not uncommon. Indeed, Thursday’s revelation marked the second time in a year that OPM’s systems were breached. An attack on the agency last July was also traced to China.

“We’ve got a real problem unless these government agencies decide security is a number one priority and I’m not confident about that,” said Williams.

OPM spokesman Samuel Schumach, in an email to IBTimes, defended the agency’s security measures. Within the last year, the OPM has undertaken an aggressive effort to update its cybersecurity posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to its various networks,” said Schumach.


Skype For Web Beta Is Now Open To All


Last year Skype announced a new feature called Skype for Web. As the name suggests, this is basically a web version of Skype that will allow users to make calls and send and receive their messages to their contacts via a web interface. This might come in handy in moments when you need to access Skype, but don’t have the app or software installed on your mobile device or computer.

A couple of months ago, the private beta for the service was launched and the good news is that if you’ve been itching to try out the feature but could not get an invite to the closed beta, you’re in luck as Skype has announced that they are now opening up the beta to everyone, so if you want to take Skype for Web for a spin, you can do so by heading on to its website.

We should note that as it stands, the open beta is only available for those living in the US and the UK. If you’re not from either of these two countries, sorry to disappoint but hopefully Skype will eventually open up the beta to other countries soon, although Skype has not offered any dates for if and when that might happen.

To use the feature, all you’d need to do is load the website and log in with your Skype credentials. If you’re new to Skype, that won’t be an issue as you can just sign up for an account there and then and be able to start using the feature straightaway.


We Should Want Robots to Take Some Jobs


The latest witch hunt is underway and gaining momentum. The witches are the rapid innovation in robotics and computing, slated to replace humans in performing increasingly sophisticated – i.e. “white collar” – tasks and so displace jobs across the employment spectrum. The dominant dismal view is that rapid technological innovation has been gobbling up jobs faster than it is creating them. Technological change is causally connected to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States.

For example, as David Rotman wrote in a 2013 MIT Technology Review called “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs” about the work of MIT’s Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee:

[Brynjolfsson and McAfee] have been arguing. that impressive advances in computer technology-from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services-are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.

Two years later, this sort of pessimism is still the prevailing view.

But even class warfare and total societal meltdown is apparently not an apocalyptic enough vision for some. According to Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk and others, once artificially intelligent machines are able to design other machines, humans will become an endangered species. Machines will have exponential improvement as a clear evolutionary advantage.

We appear to be cornering ourselves in the narrow view that crowds man and machine onto the same tasks. But there is an alternative view for a positive man-machine dynamic. While in the minority, arguments exist for a symbiotic man-machine future. They celebrate that which is uniquely human – meaning and creativity – and that which, in my humble opinion, should be the primary business of humans in the first place.

In his latest TechCrunch article, for instance, David Nordfors makes a distinction between a task-centered and human-centered economy. In the task-centered economy humans have no value beyond the tasks they perform. Consequently, they are indistinguishable from machines and will be replaced by them for reasons of cost-efficiency as soon as technically feasible. In the human-centered economy on the other hand machines liberate humans from predefined tasks with prestated outcomes. This allows them to exercise the value that emerges from collaborating with other humans on open-ended, creative endeavors. Nordfors cites Gallup’s astonishingly low figure of worldwide employee engagement (13%) to surmise the opportunity cost between the two economies: $140 trillion over the next few decades in favor of the human economy.

In “Reinventing the Sacred,” Stuart Kauffman pretty much puts to rest the notion that human brains can be framed as glorified computational devices and therefore are bound to become indistinguishable from algorithms as machines eventually attain astonishing sophistication. Kauffman draws from fields as varied as complexity, neuroscience, and cognitive science, and invokes Godel’s incompleteness theorem to point out that higher order human mental processes are beyond algorithmic enunciation. Philosophers such as Sanders Pierce and design thinkers such as Roger Martin have long proposed the ability of human minds to perform leaps of logic to get to creative solutions. Going beyond logical-based arguments and case study proof, Kauffman eloquently describes how machine algorithms, even based on the most sophisticated foreseeable AI technologies, can only solve problems which are bounded by prestated assumptions.

Why do I subscribe to Nordfors’ and Kauffman’s visions? For one, because in my life as a consultant I see the task economy that strips people of their uniqueness and dehumanizes them into glorified algorithm machines every day. It is the very reason why I have a job: because most of my clients have forgotten how to think and solve problems that aren’t tamable by an algorithmic framing. I like to call these “no precedent” problems.

We have, for the majority of humanity’s history, used humans for menial, mechanic, robotic, repeatable, efficiency-minded tasks. A select few were in the business of thinking creatively for the entire species. Technology has finally reached a threshold where creativity and meaning is accessible to everyone. In the 21st century, creating meaning and innovating will be democratized through technology. As David Nordfors rightly asserts, never yet seen avalanche of wealth and prosperity is waiting to be unleashed. We are on the verge of revolution of pace of progress that will forever eliminate the last form of human slavery: meaningless, dehumanizing, algorithmic work.

In closing, my test for outsourcing human work to machines is this: any task that has an output or outcome which can be pre-stated or even guessed, should eventually be performed by a machine. Humans should eventually be left to more or less exclusively deal with open-ended endeavors that generate new organic value (as opposed to efficiency derived value). Alluding to Peter Drucker’s thinking, effectiveness should be a human pursuit, while efficiency should be delegated to machines.

This post is one in a series of perspectives by presenters and participants in the 7th Global Drucker Forum, taking place November 5-6, 2015 in Vienna. The theme: Claiming Our Humanity – Managing in the Digital Age.


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