Archive for September, 2015:

Facebook goes down and Twitter lights up

Social network crashes during lunch break; users turn to Twitter to vent

Facebook crashed for at least 10 minutes today and then struggled to fully come back online.

When users tried to open or refresh their Facebook pages a little after 12:30 p.m. ET today, they were greeted not with their news feed but with a largely blank screen that simply said, “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

The site began to come back online around 12:50 p.m., though some users reported still having trouble loading the site until about 1 p.m.
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Facebook did not return a request for information on what caused the problem.

The web site Downrightnow.com reported that Facebook, the world’s largest social network, with 1.49 billion monthly active users, was likely suffering a service disruption.

Frustrated users quickly turned to Twitter to complain about the crash, during what would be lunch break time on the East Coast.

At least Little Caesars was quick to take advantage of the situation, tweeting, “With #facebookdown, make sure to KEEP CALM & STAY CHEESY and then step out and grab a $5 HOT-AND-READY LUNCH COMBO. ;-)”

And others just took the opportunity to have fun with it.

“Is everybody ok? Did something happen? Are the zombies attacking? I’m scared!!! #facebookdown,” tweeted @MootePoints.

And UK Banter tweeted, “How am I meant to judge the people I went to school with now? #FacebookDown.”

 

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The six pillars of Next Generation Endpoint Protection

Taken together, these core functions can detect the most advanced attack methods at every stage of their lifecycle

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach

Advancements in attack evasion techniques are making new threats extremely difficult to detect. The recent Duqu 2.0 malware, which was used to hack the Iranian nuclear pact discussions, Kaspersky Lab, and an ICS/SCADA hardware vendor, is a prime example. To keep up, a new security model that uses a different approach to the traditional “evidence of compromise” process is needed.

This Next Generation Endpoint Protection (NGEPP) model needs to address six core pillars that, when taken together, can detect the most advanced attack methods at every stage of their lifecycle:

* Prevention. NGEPP must leverage proven techniques to stop known threats in-the-wild. A layer of preemptive protection can block existing threats before they can execute on endpoints. Instead of relying only on one vendor’s intelligence, it’s now possible to collectively tap more than 40 reputation services via cloud services to proactively block threats. This approach also uses a lightweight method to index files for passive scanning or selective scanning, instead of performing resource-intensive system scans.

* Dynamic Exploit Detection. Using exploits to take advantage of code level vulnerabilities is a sophisticated technique used by attackers to breach systems and execute malware. Drive-by downloads are a common threat vector for carrying out exploit attacks. NGEPP should provide anti-exploit capabilities to protect against both application and memory-based attacks. This should be achieved by detecting the actual techniques used by exploit attacks — for example: heap spraying, stack pivots, ROP attacks and memory permission modifications — not by using methods that are dependent on static measures, like shellcode scanning. This approach is much more reliable, since the exploitation techniques themselves are not as easy to change or modify as the shellcode, encoder, dropper and payload components used in malware.

* Dynamic Malware Detection. Detecting and blocking zero-day and targeted attacks is a core NGEPP requirement. This involves real-time monitoring and analysis of application and process behavior based on low-level instrumentation of OS activities and operations, including memory, disk, registry, network and more. Since many attacks hook into system processes and benign applications to mask their activity, the ability to inspect execution and assemble its true execution context is key. To protect against a variety of attacks and scenarios this detection capability is most effective when performed on the device. For example, even if an endpoint is offline, it can be protected against USB stick attacks.

While many vendors now offer endpoint visibility, which is a leap forward, it cannot detect zero day attacks which do not exhibit any static indicators of compromise. Dynamic behavioral analysis that does not rely on prior knowledge of a specific indicator to detect an attack, is required when dealing with true zero threats.

* Mitigation. Detecting threats is necessary, but insufficient. The ability to perform mitigation must be an integral part of NGEPP. Mitigation options should be policy-based and flexible enough to cover a wide range of use cases, such as quarantining a file, killing a specific process, disconnecting the infected machine from the network, or even completely shutting it down. In addition, mitigation should be automated and timely. Quick mitigation during inception stages of the malware lifecycle will minimize damage and speed remediation.

* Remediation. During execution malware often creates, modifies, or deletes system file and registry settings and changes configuration settings. These changes, or remnants that are left behind, can cause system malfunction or instability. NGEPP must be able to restore an endpoint to its pre-malware, trusted state, while logging what changed and what was successfully remediated.

* Forensics. Since no security technology will ever be 100% effective, the ability to provide real-time endpoint forensics and visibility is a must for NGEPP. Clear and timely visibility into malicious activity that has taken place on endpoints across an organization is essential to quickly assess the scope of an attack and take appropriate responses. This requires a clear, real time audit trail of what happened on an endpoint during an attack and the ability to search for indicators of compromise across all endpoints.

To completely replace the protection capabilities of existing legacy, static-based endpoint protection technologies, NGEEP needs to be able to stand on its own to secure endpoints against both legacy and advanced threats throughout various stages of the malware lifecycle. The six pillars described above provide the 360 degrees of protection required for the Cloud generation, where the endpoint has become the new security perimeter.

 

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Windows devices account for 80% of malware infections transmitted via mobile networks

mobile security stock image one bad device
As PC owners increasing take to mobile connections for Internet access, malware follows

Microsoft may have just a single-digit slice of the mobile market, but there’s one segment of mobile that it’s winning: Malware infections delivered via mobile networks.

According to a Wednesday report from Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Lab, in June Windows devices accounted for 80% of the infections spotted on hardware that relied on mobile networks for Internet connectivity. Meanwhile, Android’s share of the total infection count dropped to about 20% after long hovering at the 50% mark.

iOS and other operating systems were at nearly negligible percentages.

The data was generated from scans by Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Guardian technology, which is deployed worldwide by both mobile and fixed-line networks, and monitors traffic from more than 100 million devices.

That Windows malware infections represented such a huge portion of the total when Microsoft’s operating system has been a very minor player in mobile is certainly counter-intuitive. If Windows-powered smartphones make up just 2.6% of all those shipped in 2015 — IDC’s latest forecast — how can Windows comprise 80% of the malware infections?

Simple.
“Most people are surprised to find such a high proportion of Windows/PC devices involved,” Alcatel-Lucent said in its report. “These Windows/PCs are connected to the mobile network via dongles and mobile Wi-Fi devices or simply tethered through smartphones. They are responsible for a large percentage of the malware infections observed.”

While those devices are powered by Windows and on a mobile network, they’re not necessarily smartphones or cellular-equipped tablets. In fact, the vast majority are not: They’re traditional PCs, mainly laptops, that use a mobile network rather than a fixed network composed of copper or fiber optic lines. (Of the latter, a Wi-Fi network connected to a fixed network would still be classified as a fixed network by Alcatel-Lucent, even though there are no wires linking the laptop to the Internet.)

“As the mobile network becomes the access network of choice for many Windows PCs, the malware moves with them,” the report stated.

Long the favorite target of cyber criminals because of its dominance on devices, overwhelmingly so compared to, say, Apple’s OS X — and due to its open ecosystem that differs dramatically from the “walled garden” of iOS — Windows doesn’t escape infection simply because devices have shifted from fixed to mobile networks.

Windows device infection rate — what percentage of the total are detected with malware — was also up significantly in the first half of 2015 on mobile networks. By June, it was approximately 0.6%, representing 6 infections per 1,000 devices. That was more than three times that of Android, the other OS that historically has had a high infection rate.

Alcatel-Lucent credited the decline of Android infection rates to moves Google has made, including efforts to eliminate malware-ridden apps from the Google Play e-mart, as well as Android’s Verify Apps feature. The latter was introduced in 2012 with Android 4.2, aka Jelly Bean, and has been beefed up since then. Verify Apps scans apps a user wants to download, compares them against a Google database, and when a known malicious app is detected, blocks the download.

Google’s intent has been to both clean up Google Play and stymie dangerous downloads from outside sources, like third-party app markets. The decline of Android infection rates and its share of all infections were signs that the strategy has worked, said Alcatel-Lucent.

Microsoft has had a similar protection in place since 2011, when it added an application reputation feature to its Internet Explorer-based SmartScreen technology.

Most of the infections Alcatel-Lucent detected on Windows devices was adware bundled with games and free software.

“The increase in Windows/PC infections can be attributed to the fact that more people are using their phone’s data connection to provide Internet access for their devices,” Alcatel-Lucent concluded.

 

 

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11 cool back-to-school tech tools

Equip yourself for a successful year with these campus tech tools, including an innovative note-taking pen, a laptop-friendly backpack and a clever space-saving power strip.

Back-to-school tech 2015
What, August already? Must be time to start gathering school supplies. These days, of course, that doesn’t mean just the notebooks, pencils and other analog tools you’ll find at the local superstore — it means digital technology of all sorts.

For that reason, every August we track down a selection of such tools to help with studying, communicating and other demands of student life. Here you’ll find everything from a tiny but powerful Bluetooth speaker to a handy portable charger to a scholarship-finding app that just might turn out to be the smartest 99 cents you’ve ever invested.

As ever, we keep the demands of the student budget in mind: The following 11 items average around $60, even without online discounts you might find, and the most expensive item is $170.

HGST Touro S 1TB portable hard drive
Four years is a long time in computer years, especially for a computer used in a dorm or classroom environment. Sooner or later something bad will happen, like your laptop crashing a week before finals. Having an emergency backup is just one of the reasons any student needs a high-capacity external hard drive, and we like the 1TB HGST Touro S (HGST stands for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies).

Weighing about 5 oz., the Touro S operates at 7200 rpm, the same speed as an internal drive and 23% faster than the typical 5400 rpm portable drive. Between that and its USB 3.0 compatibility, it can keep up with the demands of modern computers. Not only that, it comes with 3 GB of cloud storage, giving remote access to your most-needed files from anywhere via a browser.

The sturdy 3.2-x-4.5-x-0.5-in. aluminum enclosure is available in available in red, gold, silver and black. List price is $100, but you can usually find it at online resellers for prices starting around $70 or $80. (At Amazon, the price varies by the color you pick.)

PowerCube outlet adapter
A compact outlet-multiplier, especially one with built-in USB ports, is a welcome attachment to any student’s desk. The fully grounded PowerCube eliminates your need to constantly shuffle chargers for a tablet, e-reader, smartphone and/or handheld game player, all the while finding outlet space for a lamp, a heater or fan and yes, sometimes even a vacuum cleaner.

The PowerCube Original turns one AC outlet into five, while the PowerCube Original USB replaces one of those outlets with two USB ports that supply enough amps to charge an iPad. The PowerCube Extended and PowerCube Extended USB models come with a built-in extension cord (in 5-ft. or 10-ft. lengths) and a mounting bracket for locating the unit on a wall or under a desk. You can even chain two PowerCubes together, giving you a wide range of flexible plug-in options.

Prices range from $13 for the basic PowerCube up to $30 for the PowerCube Extended USB with 10-ft. cord; various combo packs are also available for $25 to $40.

iKlip Grip phone tripod/stabilizer
You might be surprised at how often a mini-tripod, monopod or selfie stick will come in handy in your student life. The iKlip Grip ($60) is all those things at once and includes a spring-loaded bracket that can hold your smartphone (screen size 3.5 to 6 in., plus case) at any angle.

You can use the iKlip Grip as a tabletop tripod to hold your smartphone for close-up photography or video projects, or for having hands-free video chats with friends and family. Use the monopod to stabilize your phone while shooting interviews or field reports for class projects. (Judiciously) hold the selfie stick high to get Snapchat shots over the heads of the other people at a concert.

Or mount the monopod on the tabletop tripod to get a full-height angle for group photos — with you in them. The capper is the included Bluetooth remote control (compatible with both iOS and Android) that lets you operate the camera from more than 30 feet away.

Neo smartpen N2
The most extravagant (yet highly useful) item on our list is the Neo smartpen N2. It looks like an ordinary pen, but the $169 N2 works with special notebooks and the iOS or Android Notes app to capture digital copies of whatever you write or draw. The app lets you organize your notes into multiple notebooks, and it can even convert your handwriting into plain text, making the notes searchable. Saving your notes to your computer lets you work with them offline and without your mobile device.

You can automatically sync your notes with Evernote or share them via social media, and you can send an email just by drawing a checkmark on the paper symbol in the notebook. The only real downside is the need to buy the special notebooks, which can run $20 for five spiral-bound ones to $20 for a single hardcover notebook.

Sony Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The Sony SRS-X11 Bluetooth speaker ($70) is an excellent lightweight speaker for whenever you may need it — and a student needs a speaker more often than you might expect. At only about 2½ inches on a side and weighing less than 8 oz., the cube-shaped 10-watt speaker is full of handy features. For starters, it’s got a rechargeable battery that lasts for 12 hours. As well as offering a 3.5mm jack for direct connection, it can be paired wirelessly via either Bluetooth or NFC. If you have a second SRS-X11, you can pair them for stereo output.

On top of all that, it can also function as a speakerphone, so your class-project group can easily communicate with that one member who just happens to be “sick” the day of your meeting. The SRS-X11 comes in white, black, red, blue or pink and has a handy carrying strap. (Sony has announced that its online store will be shutting down soon, but the SRS-X11 is available through many online retailers.)

Ventev Powercell 3015c portable charger
There is literally nothing worse than having your phone go dead halfway through your day and not having any way to charge it, leaving you with nothing to do but pay attention to the lecture. The Ventev 3015c battery charger with Apple Lightning cable ($50) puts a 3,000mAh backup battery in your backpack that will give you a boost of up to 12 hours when your phone starts to fade. The lightweight 3015c comes with its own handy built-in cable, so the only thing you have to remember is the charger itself.

According to Ventev, a version of the 3015c with a micro USB cable for Android devices is coming soon.

Native Union Key Cable
Phone out of juice and you forgot your battery backup? Here’s something you won’t forget: the Native Union Key Cable ($30), a charging cable that’s also a keychain. As long as you have your keys with you, you’ll have a USB charging cable with either an Apple Lightning or a Micro USB connector.

Just find any computer on campus when you have an hour to kill, plug your phone into the Key Cable and the Key Cable into the computer’s USB port, and charge your phone for the rest of the day. Given the Key Cable’s thermoplastic and braided nylon construction (in red, blue or “zebra”), it should last the rest of your academic career.

eBags eTech 2.0 Downloader Laptop Backpack
Every student needs a backpack — that’s one of the basics. “But why would anyone buy anything other than a $25 Jansport?” you ask. Here’s why: Because having more than two pockets in a backpack is like carrying along an umbrella on a cloudy day. You might not need it, but you’ll be glad you have it.

The eTech 2.0 Downloader Laptop Backpack gives you more than four times as many compartments for all the stuff you carry, and the pockets are lined in orange to make that stuff easier to find. eBags also provides a special padded laptop pocket with a Velcro clasp at the top to keep your computer from shifting in transit, plus a removable foam pad for added protection. At $50 for the olive model at the time of writing ($60 for the plum one), eBags provides a durable, organizable laptop bag for your everyday student travels.

Transcend JetFlash 710 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 flash drive
The JetFlash 710 is a tiny (0.88-x-0.48-x-0.24-in.), low-cost, large-capacity flash drive. The metal case (available in silver or gold) keeps it resistant to dust and water while making it look cool, and a slot in the case lets you attach it to your key ring. That gives you a flash drive with you at all times, if you want to carry it; but it’s also so tiny that you can leave it plugged into your laptop or USB-equipped car stereo without having it stick out and get in the way. You do have to be careful, though, because it can get hot.

It comes in capacities from 8 to 64GB (64GB in something less than an inch long!). At the time of writing, on Amazon they’re priced from $10 for 16GB up to $25 for 64GB; CDW has the 8GB model for $8.

Kensington KP400 Switchable Keyboard
Sometimes you need to type on your computer; sometimes you need to type on your tablet. With the KP400 Switchable Keyboard ($60), you can do both (not at the same time, of course). A simple key press on this clever keyboard lets you switch between its wired connection to a desktop or laptop computer and a Bluetooth connection to an Android or iOS device (or a second computer for programmers and others who go back and forth between two computers).

The full-size keyboard is rated to work with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, but it also works fine with a Mac — it’s just that some of the special keys, like PrtScn, won’t do anything, and to set it up initially you’ll have to use System Preferences to swap the Alt and Windows keys to match the Mac’s Command-Option setup.

The keyboard is powered through its detachable USB cable or by batteries, and you can switch the Bluetooth off to save battery power when you’re not using it.

Scholly: Scholarship Search app
Higher education is expensive, and the smart student is always looking for ways to defray the cost. Scholly, a 99-cent app for both iOS and Android, as well as free on the Web, could end up paying for itself thousands of times over.

With Scholly, you enter the filters that correspond to your situation, such as intended major, gender, ethnicity and what state you live in, and it’ll return a list of scholarships that you might qualify for, along with details such as application deadlines. According to co-founder and CEO Christopher Gray, who convinced the investors on TV’s Shark Tank to back Scholly to the tune of $40,000, the app has helped students raise more than $15 million in scholarships in less than two years.

This is planning for the future — the scholarship application grind mostly comes after the fall school application frenzy. But it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to pay for it all.

Looking for more student-friendly apps and gear? Check out our back-to-school tech roundups from 2014 and 2013. Some of those products might not be available anymore — that’s the way of the tech world — but most (or their updated replacements) should.

Jake Widman is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Computerworld. Liam Widman is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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What the Amazon culture means

The recent controversy surrounding Amazon’s “brutal” workplace is missing some critical points about corporate culture.

The recent New York Times piece about Amazon’s ‘punishing’ and ‘bruising’ workplace has generated heated conversation about culture and values in Silicon Valley and the IT industry as a whole. But all the outrage over the exposé is missing some crucial data points in the discussion about culture.

Culture does not have a set definition
If the furor over Amazon’s “bruising” and “punishing” work environment teaches us one thing, it’s that “culture,” while an important benchmark in attracting, hiring and retaining elite talent, is not a one-size-fits all proposition. Culture means different things to different people, and it varies widely in its interpretation from company to company.

Culture is more than just foosball tables, Wine Wednesdays and casual dress. It’s about what your company prioritizes and how it uses those priorities to compete in its marketplace. That’s why, faced with an incredibly competitive talent market and a widening skills gap, many organizations turn to culture interviews to find the best fits so they can reduce attrition and cut costs related to turnover.

“Your company culture should align with your business strategy, with the type of competitive environment you’re in and the markets you’re trying to reach,” says Henry Albrecht, CEO of Seattle-based employee wellness company, Limeade.

Related Story: Goodbye to performance reviews, hello to — what?
According to Albrecht, Amazon, for example, is ubiquitous and they have to have a hard-driving, intense, performance-driven strategy to compete in all the markets they do. They compete with likes of Wal-Mart, Microsoft and Rackspace. “That’s a lot of different irons in the fire,” says Albrecht. “Their culture is in line with their vision, their markets and their strategy and is very consistent with their business drivers. So is ours, but our culture is very different because our customers are different.”
Write your own cultural narrative

A well-defined culture is a signpost meant to attract candidates that thrive within the type of environment you create, or at least the type of environment you intend to create, and to a great extent, that is shaped by your technology, your markets and your customers. But it’s also shaped internally by C-level executives and by those responsible for hiring. You have to define your culture, illustrate what success looks like for those who might want to work within that culture, and clearly set out the boundaries and expectations of work, culture and environment within your company before it takes on a life of its own.

A clear definition of your company culture is going to deter some highly qualified talent while attracting others. The point of making culture relevant to recruiting and hiring decisions is to better gauge whether or not a job seeker is going to thrive within the organization, and whether they share the same mission and values above and beyond their ability to perform certain tasks or master certain skills. It’s not fool-proof; there will be some false positives, hires who don’t fit — and some false negatives, those you don’t hire who would have been great.

“This looks like churn, but it’s not. This is what happens when workers experience a culture and say, ‘This is not for me.’ The culture that’s so maligned at Amazon is actually something Bezos has been clear about since the beginning, and it’s been successful, so I don’t think there’s reason to change it. In fact, I think you double-down on it — celebrate this culture, create more stories about it and point to more examples that truly embody it. You have to write your own narrative,” says Marcus Buckingham, an author, talent management expert, researcher, founder and chairman of The Marcus Buckingham Company.

Keep tabs on your culture

Writing your own narrative requires deep insight into what’s working at your organization, what’s not, and how to fix it. This is the great irony of Amazon’s public relations nightmare — how could a company so focused on listening to customer voices miss the grumbling of discontent within its own ranks? “These surprises happen in every company, they just tend to happen much more frequently the bigger you get. You have to be looking at the feedback loops throughout the entire organization, not just those from your peer group,” says Albrecht.

Even in a small organization where the CEO has an open door policy, communication breakdowns can happen, says Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack, a digital forms solution and data collection company. Transparency is a great goal for organizations to have, but it’s difficult to maintain as a business grows; employees might not feel emboldened to walk into the CEO’s office and share what’s on their mind. “If the door is open but no one comes through, you can’t just think, ‘Well, everything must be fine,’ it’s up to you to go out the door and solicit feedback, or you risk missing an issue that could blow up like it did with Amazon,” Byers says.

Technology that provides insights into engagement, health, well-being and productivity is one way to gather data. Amazon’s anonymous Anytime Feedback tool was supposed to have filled this role. “Bezos should have been able to say to The New York Times, ‘You have these anecdotes, we have the data,’ but he doesn’t have it. That’s the great irony here. And it’s a lesson: Leadership needs to know the real-time, reliable measures of engagement within their companies,” says Buckingham.

Culture does not have a moral value judgment

There’s no such thing as “good” culture or “bad” culture, necessarily (though a toxic, abusive workplace is definitely bad news). Just as different businesses define success differently, each company’s culture is unique because of its specialized technology, its customer base, its business priorities, strategy and mission. In a highly competitive, fast-evolving industry such as IT, cultural norms like working late nights, on-call weekends and 100-hour-work-weeks are more common than in other industries. There’s a much greater emphasis on innovation, change and outside-the-box thinking that drives new products, services and solutions, and your organization’s culture has to keep pace.

This particular brand of culture, as with Amazon or throughout Silicon Valley, becomes unsustainable only when your workers lose interest, not because it’s inherently good or evil. Limeade’s says he Albrecht was miserable working long, brutal hours for another technology firm. However, he works the same number of hours, if not more, at his own company because he loves his work. “If you do it because you care about the mission, you care about the work that’s being done, that’s one thing. If you’re doing it because you feel you ‘have to,’ then maybe your values and your priorities don’t match up with that of the company,” he says.


 

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New Jobs movie: A quieter, more authentic portrait

This isn’t an actor’s portrayal; it instead relies on archival footage and interviews of people who knew Jobs personally.

This October, Michael Fassbender will join Ashton Kutcher among the actors to have played Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin’s movie adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography is one of many dramatizations of the life of Apple’s co-founder, who died in 2011.

This week sees a quieter yet more authentic release in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, available Sept. 4 in theaters and on iTunes from Magnolia Pictures. Rather than offering a straight biography, Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney sets out to answer a question: Why were so many people so moved by the death of someone who he describes as “ruthless, deceitful, and cruel”? If we loved products that came from someone also described as incapable of love, what does that say about the man?

To solve that mystery, Gibney narrates as he investigates Jobs and the people whose lives he touched directly. Unlike more dramatic films, this movie’s Steve Jobs is played by Steve Jobs courtesy of such archival footage the 1995 “lost” interview, his 2008 deposition about issues related to the backdating of stock options, his Stanford commencement speech and his many MacWorld and WWDC appearances, including his last in June 2011.

Balancing these familiar reels are original interviews with employers and colleagues such as Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and 1984 commercial mastermind Regis McKenna, former lover Chrisann Brennan and travel buddy Dan Kottke, pop culture expert Sherry Turkle and reporters from Gizmodo and Fortune. Absent are the most well-known Apple employees Tim Cook or Jony Ive, or co-founder Steve Wozniak, and family, including Laurene Jobs and Lisa Brennan-Jobs (although an actor reads an excerpt of the latter’s “Confessions of a Lapsed Vegetarian”).

It wasn’t just his customers, but his friends and family, who fell under Jobs’ spell. Bob Belleville, director of engineering for Macintosh, 1982 -1985, was the most emotional of Gibney’s guests. Describing Jobs as a cross between James Dean, Princess Diana, John Lennon and Santa Claus, Belleville reflected, “It’s easy to make chaos, and if you’re comfortable with it, you can use it as a tool [as Jobs did] to get other people involved in his schemes. He’s seducing you, he’s vilifying you, and he’s ignoring you. You’re in one of those three states.” The demands of launching the Macintosh cost Belleville his wife and children, but in hindsight, it seems a price he was willing to pay: “It was a life well and fully lived — even if it was a bit expensive for those of us who were close.”

Jobs, who believed simplicity was the ultimate sophistication, fell short in this area as well, but the film does not shy from moments of subtlety. When playing an old interview with Kobun Chino, an early mentor of Jobs’, the film makes a one-time transition from live action to animation, using simple black-and-white line art to depict master and student. This sequence is both surprising and elegant: it stands out for being so different from the rest of the film, yet the transition to and from this sequence and its slower, simpler pace represent something Jobs never achieved. It dovetails with Brennan’s observation that Jobs sought and attained enlightenment yet retained his ego. “He blew it,” she sighs — referring not to his commercial or design success, but to his humanity.

Jobs didn’t seem willing or able to connect with humanity, his own or others’ — so he instead created a company that connected with people, and which helped them connect with each other. Said Jobs, “People sometimes forget that they’re unique. The whole computer industry wants to forget about the humanist side and just focus on the technology. Can we do more than just spreadsheets and word processors? Can we help you express yourself in richer ways?”

It’s almost as though Apple were a proxy for something Jobs lacked in his own life: If consumers loved Apple, then it’s almost as if they loved him. Said Kottke, Apple employee number 12, of Jobs being adopted at birth, “That was clearly a very defining image in his life: both that he was rejected and he was special.” That dichotomy would resonate throughout Jobs’ 56 years.

Retellings of Jobs’ life often omit details of his 12 years away from Apple; after all, “Apple was a 30-year sitcom, and Steve was the main character,” said McKenna. Likewise, except for a brief interview with NeXT engineer Michael Hawley, The Man in the Machine glosses over that era and how it affected Jobs. We instead return to Apple, where Andy Grignon, senior manager of the iPhone, paints Jobs as a Godfather-like figure one crossed at one’s own peril.

Yet for all these damning recollections, the film is balanced by letting Jobs speak for himself. Whether he’s enthusiastically introducing the iMac to a reporter, presenting the iPad to a crowd, speaking candidly with Walt Mossberg, or being interrogated for a deposition, he never comes across as wicked or vile or cruel. Throughout his life, he’s passionate, dedicated, and driven; near the end, he seems tired, even a bit scared. Even if the facts of the film were familiar to me, perhaps Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field extends from beyond the grave, as I felt I saw a side of Jobs that was hitherto unknown to me.

In the last 30 minutes, this two-hour documentary hits upon Apple’s many scandals and outrages in rapid succession: The antitrust suit with Google; backdated stock options; suicides at iPhone manufacturer Foxconn; and the iPhone 4 leak to Gizmodo. It’s almost as though the director wanted to end on a low note, with Jobs’ life petering out in ignominy. In reality, this lopsided view of Jobs’ Machiavellian qualities underscores the gulf between the man and our adoration of him.

Gibney’s conclusion was that our love for Jobs originated not with the man, but what he gave us — which was more than a product. Devices like the iMac, iPod, and iPhone were personal, helping us to connect not just with each other, but with ourselves. Says Gibney: “Jobs’ genius was in how he sold the iPod. It wasn’t a machine for you; it was you.” When Jobs died, a bit of ourselves died with him.

That’s not something I think we’re likely to find in Michael Fassbender.
 

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13 more big data & analytics companies to watch

So many big data and analytics-focused startups are getting funding these days that I’ve been inspired to compile a second slideshow highlighting these companies. This new batch has reined in some $250 million this year as they seek to help organizations make sense of the seemingly endless pool of data going online.

So many big data and analytics-focused startups are getting funding these days that I’ve been inspired to compile a second slideshow highlighting these companies (see “13 Big Data and Analytics Companies to Watch” for the previous collection). This new batch has reined in some $250 million this year as they seek to help organizations more easily access and make sense of the seemingly endless amount of online data.

Alation
Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Redwood City, Calif.
Funding/investors: $9M in Series A funding led by Costanoa Capital and Data Collective.

Focus: Its data accessibility platform is designed to make information more usable by the masses across enterprises. The company is led by former Oracle, Apple, Google and Microsoft engineers and executives, and its on-premises and virtual private cloud-based offerings promise to help data analysts get in sync, optimize data across Hadoop and other stores, and ensure data governance. Boasts customers including eBay and Square.

Aviso
Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Menlo Park, Calif. (with operations in India, too)
Funding/investors: $15M in Series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners and Next World Capital, bringing total funding to $23M.

Focus: Data science-driven predictive analytics software for sales teams, including the newly released Aviso Insights for Salesforce. Co-founder and CEO K.V. Rao previously founded subscription commerce firm Zuora and worked for WebEx, while Co-founder and CTO Andrew Abrahams was head of quantitative research and model oversight at JPMorgan Chase. The two met about 20 years ago at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Birst
Founded: 2004
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding/investors: $156M, including a $65M round in March led by Wellington Management.

Focus: Cloud-based business intelligence and analytics that works across compliance-sensitive enterprises but also gives end users self-service data access. This company, formed by a couple of ex-Siebel Analytics team leaders, has now been around for a while, has thousands of customers and has established itself as a competitor to big companies like IBM and Oracle. And it has also partnered with big companies, such as AWS and SAP, whose HANA in-memory database can now run Birst’s software.

BlueData
Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Mountain View
Funding/investors: $39M, including a $20M Series C round led by Intel Capital in August.

Focus: A founding team from VMware has delivered the EPIC software platform designed to enable customers to spin up virtual on-premises Hadoop or Spark clusters that give data scientists easier access to big data and applications. (We also included this firm in our roundup of hot application container startups.)

Datameer
Founded: 2009
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding/investors: $76M, including $40M in Series E funding led by ST Telemedia.

Focus: Big data analytics application for Hadoop designed to let any employee analyze and visualize structured and unstructured data. Counts British Telecom and Citibank among its customers.

Deep Information Sciences
Founded: 2010
Headquarters: Boston
Funding/investors: $18M, including an $8M Series a round in April led by Sigma Prime Ventures and Stage 1 Ventures.

Focus: The company’s database storage engine employs machine learning and predictive algorithms to enable MySQL databases to handle big data processing needs at enterprise scale. Founded by CTO Thomas Hazel, a database and distributed systems industry veteran.

Looker
Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Santa Cruz
Funding/investors: $48M, including a $30M B round in March led by Meritech

Focus: Web-based business intelligence platform that provides access to data whether in a database or the cloud. A modeling language called LookML enables analysts to create interfaces end users can employ for dashboard or to drill down and really analyze data. Founded by CTO Lloyd Tabb, a one-time principal engineer at Netscape, where he worked on Navigator and Communicator. Looker claims to have Etsy, Uber and Yahoo among its customers.

Maana
Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Palo Alto
Funding: $14M, including $11M in Series A funding in May, with backers including Chevron Technology Ventures and Intel Capital.

Focus: Semantic search engine that plows through big data from multiple sources and delivers information in a way that can be consumed by line-of-business application users. The company announced in June that its platform is now powered by Apache Spark. Co-founder Donald Thompson spent 15 years prior to launching Maana in top engineering and architect jobs at Microsoft, including on the Bing search project.

RapidMiner
Founded: 2007
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.
Funding/investors: $20M, including $15M in Series B funding led by Ascent Venture Partners.
Focus: This company, which got its start in Germany under founder Ingo Mierswa, offers an open source-based predictive analytics platform for business analysts and data scientists. The platform, available on-premises or in the cloud, has been upgraded of late with new security and workflow capabilities. Peter Lee, a former EVP at Tibco, took over as CEO in June.

Reltio
Founded: 2011
Headquarters: Redwood Shores, Calif.
Funding/investors: $10M in Series A funding in March, from Crosslink Capital and .406 Ventures.

Focus: The team behind Informatica/Siperian MDM started Reltio, which offers what it calls data-driven applications for sales, marketing, compliance and other users, as well as a cloud-based master data management platform. The company claims its offerings break down silos between applications like CRM and ERP to give business users direct access to and control over data.

Sensai
Founded: 2014
Headquarters: Palo Alto
Funding/investors: $900K in seed funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Formation8.

Focus: A “data science platform for the unstructured world.” Sensai’s offering makes it possible to quantify and analyze textual information, such as from news articles and regulatory filings. The company is focused initially on big financial firms, like UBS, though also has tech giant Siemens among its earlier customers. Two of Sensai’s co-founders come from crowdfunding company

Spare5
Founded: 2014
Headquarters: Seattle
Funding/investors: $13.25M, including a $10M Series A round led by Foundry Group, New Enterprise Associates and Madrona Venture Group

Focus: This iPhone app enables businesses to tap into smartphone users (or “Fives”) to clean up big data in their spare time for a little spare cash. The idea is that computing power alone can’t be counted on to crunch and analyze big data. Micro-tasks include everything from SEO-focused photo tagging to conducting surveys.

Treasure Data
Founded: 2011
Headquarters: Mountain View
Funding/investors: $23M, including $15M in January in Series B funding led by Scale Venture Partners.

Focus: Provides cloud services designed to simplify the collection, storage and analysis of data, whether from mobile apps, Internet of Things devices, cloud applications or other sources of information. This alternative to Hadoop platforms and services handles some 22 trillion events per year, according to the company, which has a presence not just in Silicon Valley, but in Japan and South Korea as well.

 

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Steve Ballmer might be dipping his toes back into tech

Ballmer doesn’t have to leave the Clippers to return to tech if he turns the Clippers into a tech company.

Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently rejected a $60 million offer for TV rights to his team’s regular-season games and is now considering launching his own over-the-top streaming network, The New York Post reported yesterday. Earlier this year, Ballmer turned down the $60 million per year offer from Fox Sports’ regional network Prime Ticket, marking a substantial increase from its current $25 million per year, according to the report. The Post also claims Prime Ticket’s exclusive negotiating period ended in June.
See also: How to watch football: A guide to streaming for the 2015 NFL and college football season

While some anonymous sources quoted in The Post’s story claim Ballmer is instead moving toward a streaming model, others reportedly see the claims as a negotiating tactic. Ballmer’s extensive experience and relationships in the tech industry make him seem a more legitimate candidate to go online-only, so he could be using that threat to drive up the bidding price for regional broadcast TV rights.

Specifically, The Post’s sources pointed to the difficulty Ballmer and the Clippers would have reaching revenue numbers that would justify Ballmer’s rejection of the $60 million offer. Broadcast TV currently distributes Clippers games to 5 million viewers in the area as part of cable TV packages, whether the customers watch the games or not. A streaming service would need to convince individual users to sign up. To do so, the company would have to strike a balance in pricing, making it high enough to cover the investment but low enough that it’s affordable to large amounts of customers. Then there’s the offseason issue – would customers be willing to pay for an NBA streaming service during the summer and fall months when the Clippers aren’t playing?

However, this could be where Ballmer’s experience in the tech industry could separate him from those with experience only in sports media. Once the technology is in place – which would make the Clippers the first NBA team with such a service – it could open all kinds of opportunities. Earlier this month, The Verge ran an in-depth profile of Baseball Advanced Media (BAM), which began as a small division with Major League Baseball dedicated to building and maintaining team websites. Over time, however, the people working at BAM saw the opportunity for streaming baseball games over the internet. Now BAM has broken out as its own organization and handles streaming for HBO and the WWE. Ballmer has to see the difficulties in making a profit by launching a streaming network just for Clippers games, but he might see the greater value in being the first to market with the technology.

Although it has lagged far behind the rest of the media industry in the transition to internet streaming, the sports world has warmed up to the idea in the past few years. This market is still very young, so, as Baseball Advanced Media showed, those who claim a stake early on might reap some pretty massive benefits down the line.

 

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