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My New Electric Car Is Really Like a Phone

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Some thoughts on my first month with a Chevy Bolt

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TheRomit
1 hour ago
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santa clara, CA
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Quickly Find Businesses Along a Route

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About a year ago Bing introduced the all-new Bing Maps and launched new features. One of those features is the ability to search for businesses along a driving route. What Bing didn't highlight was the technology used to actually make it work.
 
Here's an example of planning a drive from work in Bellevue, WA to a favorite restaurant in Marblemount, WA. Bing Maps gives directions, and provides the ability to search for interesting things along the route:




 
Another planning scenario is when the gas tank gets to half full. It's easy to find a gas stations along a trip with minimal deviation from the route and low price options. Tap the gas stations icon and, thanks to Bing's real-time gas prices, there are several options:
 

 
The job of minimizing deviation has already been done – see all gas stations in order of their appearance on the route. The difference in trip time is shown right next to the gas price. Hover over each gas station in the panel and it is highlighted on the map.

It's also easy to choose the gas station that looks best, click the “Directions” dropdown, and add it to the planned route.


 
Once tapping “Add to route…”, the gas station is automatically added in the right order place as a destination along the route and marked on the map. At this point, add some coffee stops, attractions, and more.
 
Problem Space
 
The most basic geospacial searches will take a starting point (like current location) and calculate the geometric distance from that point to several other points. In order to quickly understand the nearness of points, the data must be spatially indexed.
 
Once indexed, points can be found in multiple ways, like bounding box queries or point-radius queries. This will offer computationally fast results for points in the search area, using basic geometry.
 
Neither of these sorts of queries has any concept of roads or travel. In reality, when points are businesses and a passenger is in a car, the crow-flies distance doesn’t present the entire picture. The actual duration and distance to get from one search point to any destination point should be calculated using the road network.
 
Solution
 
Bing has a road network represented as a graph, and uses several graph optimizations and algorithms. To power the ability to search along the route, Bing utilize a hub-based algorithm developed by Microsoft Research.
As described in more detail in the paper, the basic approach is to find “hot” spots on the map – parts of the routing graph which tend to have many driving routes pass through them. In order to calculate these hubs, every possible direction permutation is calculated in Bing's automobile routing graph. If the entire road network in the US has 50 million vertices, the optimal driving distance in a 50M  x 50M matrix is calculated, and every one of those paths is stored (in the case with 50 million vertices, that’s 2.5 quadrillion paths).

Once all paths are assessed, they are analyzed and vertices common across multiple paths are counted. The vertices with the most paths passing through them become the hubs.
 

Traversing hubs away from Seattle
 
After the hub set is created, Bing walks the graph using only hubs, without passing through every individual vertex. In the case below, potential paths are explored (using only hubs) from the route to potential businesses along the path. This doesn't create the instructions for a drive, but it does give a good approximation of the travel deviation to get to a business.  


Traversing hubs away from one of the Bing offices in Bellevue, WA
 
When calculating to find the best business along a route, Bing Maps first locates the hubs that are along the route, then finds the hubs near businesses that may be nearby. After the nearest hubs are found, the driving time deviation is a simple lookup, since every hub-to-hub time has been pre-calculated. This way, thousands of businesses along a route is cycled through incredibly quickly.  
 
After this has all been done, various options for gas stations along the route are presented. At this point, thanks to a hub-based approach, BingMaps hasn't spent any processing time to get the precise route (and instructions) to leave the highway and get to a gas station. Once the ideal gas station is selected, it's inserted into the directions and instructions are re-computed.


 
While this all makes for a very performant way to find things along an existing path in the routing graph, it also eats up a huge amount of storage. There are tens of millions of vertices, which are stored alongside all of the hub data that is pre-computed. Luckily, Microsoft Research has already taken care of this problem. While we won’t dive into the details in this blog post, Microsoft Research has established a solution using sequential memory on the machine doing the calculation
 
-The Bing Team



 
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TheRomit
1 day ago
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The consequences of refusing to unlock your phone at the U.S. border ↦

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by Dan Moren

Over at Ars Technica, our former Macworld colleague Cyrus Farivar has put together a look at exactly what might happen if you’re asked to unlock your phone at the U.S. border and you refuse:

He concluded: “If I was asked to unlock my phone or computer by border officials today, I would politely say no, ask for an attorney, and deal with the consequences from there.”

However, in 2015, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled in favor of a South Korean businessman who has his laptop seized at Los Angeles International Airport, and searched without a warrant.

The ACLU’s Nathan Freed Wessler, who noted he has personally been sent to secondary screening but has never been asked about his own electronic devices at the border, added that this puts travelers in a “tough spot” between balancing their privacy rights and their ability to get where they are going.

The fact that we have to even think about this issue is unsettling, but we live in unsettling times. Electronic devices carry a lot of our personal information, which is exactly why the government wants to look at them, but it doesn’t mean that they should be given carte blanche to dig through our personal correspondence, private pictures, and so on.

[Read on Six Colors.]

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TheRomit
5 days ago
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It's quite sad that we have to discuss these kinds of things in today's America. I mean, don't get me wrong, this is a good discussion to have in terms of rights and privacy, but asking what can and cannot be revealed at the border is sucky.
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Introducing Turn Touch, a beautiful wooden remote for lights, devices, apps, and NewsBlur

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Turn Touch is a solid wood remote… and it’s about to change the way you use NewsBlur.

Change how?

Here’s how. Turn Touch connects to apps and devices in your home. Think Hue lights and Sonos speakers. Your Mac, your phone, etc.

It also connects to NewsBlur.

This is big. It means you can wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and cycle through news from across the room. Or, hook your Mac up to a display (maybe your living room TV) and skip through photo blogs, headlines, and the day’s best writing.

It’s kind of like getting a new set of speakers. Where before, you’d be chained to your computer with headphones; now, you can listen to music from anywhere you’d like. With Turn Touch, you can leave your computer and read the news no matter what you’re doing— laundry, the dishes, or enjoying a lazy Sunday on your couch.

Get one. Or all three.

Turn Touch is on Kickstarter. Back the project to get your very own. Or—and this is my sincere recommendation—get the complete set, save some money, and give one away to a friend.

I’ve been working on Turn Touch for years and I hope it shows.

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samuel
14 days ago
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This is the big one. Please back Turn Touch and help support NewsBlur!
The Haight in San Francisco
duerig
14 days ago
Already backed. Congrats on your launch!
genseng
14 days ago
I guess I'll be that guy; is there Android support? Not mentioned in the campaign so I assume no.
duerig
14 days ago
It is a bluetooth device so in principle is device-agnostic. I don't know how it will work in practice, though. I'm going to be trying to get it running with a Raspberry Pi.
chrisrosa
13 days ago
i'm not sure how much I'll use it, but I'll back Newsblur just the same.
samuel
13 days ago
In terms of support for non-Apple devices, not yet but it is planned. Android will be a stretch goal. I wish I could have launched out of the gate with it, but I just cannot afford to unless I hit certain numbers. But keep spreading the word about Turn Touch and if it gets popular then Android will be the first platform I expand to.
genseng
13 days ago
Thanks Samuel, I was hoping you might respond with something along those lines.
spiffytech
13 days ago
What's the developer story? How easily can I connect a button to a webhook?
samuel
13 days ago
Easy, there's a Custom URL app that can hit websites on single taps and double taps.
spiffytech
13 days ago
Glad to hear it! Maybe mention that on the page. It's the biggest thing I'm interested in, but the Kickstarter page doesn't include "developer", "webhook", or "Custom URL".
samuel
13 days ago
It does now. Thanks!
digdoug
13 days ago
Backed. And I'll echo others here. I'm not sure how I'll use it, but you've more than earned my trust over the last few years. I'm happy to back it based on that alone. The fact that it might be super cool is just a bonus!
TheRomit
10 days ago
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santa clara, CA
popular
12 days ago
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Protecting innovation in the cloud

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Rapid advancements in cloud computing are creating new capabilities, insights and efficiencies, allowing businesses big and small to transform the way they deliver products and services. As this transformation accelerates, virtually every company in every sector of the economy is becoming in part a digital business. And as a digital business, it must master the new legal challenges that come with participation in the booming digital economy.

One challenge that technology leaders such as Microsoft have long addressed is the risk of patent infringement. We have over two decades of experience and a broad legal infrastructure designed to manage these risks. We’ve thought about our role in promoting digital opportunities more broadly for companies across the economy. We’ve decided that we will use Microsoft’s patent portfolio to help protect our cloud customers.

Today we are taking an important step to do just that. I am pleased to announce that we are launching Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program – the industry’s most comprehensive protection against intellectual property (IP) risks.

Our goal is to help foster a community that values and protects innovation and investments in the cloud. We want software developers to be able to focus on coding, and businesses and enterprises to be able to respond to the changing needs of their customers with agility without worrying about lawsuits.

It’s a goal that we believe deserves more attention than it has received to date. On the one hand, the cloud-based economic opportunity is enormous. This shift to the cloud will generate more than $1 trillion in IT spending by 2020, according to the research firm Gartner, representing an incredible economic opportunity for individuals and businesses around the world.

But at the same time, it’s important to address the growing risk of intellectual property lawsuits in the cloud. According to Boston Consulting Group, there has been a 22 percent rise in cloud-based IP lawsuits over the last five years in the United States. And non-practicing entities (NPEs) have increased their acquisition of cloud-related patents by 35 percent over the same period.

To address this growing challenge, the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program will include the following benefits:

1)      Our best-in-industry intellectual property protection with uncapped indemnification coverage will now also cover any open source technology that powers Microsoft Azure services, such as Hadoop used for Azure HD Insight.

2)      We will make 10,000 Microsoft patents available to customers that use Azure services for the sole purpose of enabling them to better defend themselves against patent lawsuits against their services that run on top of Azure. These patents are broadly representative of Microsoft’s overall patent portfolio and are the result of years of cutting-edge innovation by our best engineers around the world.

3)      We are pledging to Azure customers that if Microsoft transfers patents in the future to non-practicing entities, they can never be asserted against them. We do not have a practice of making such transfers, but we have learned that this is an extra protection that many customers value.

With these changes, Microsoft now offers our customers industry-leading protection against intellectual property risk in the cloud. After previewing the program, our customer Shigeki Tomoyama, President of Toyota’s Connected Company, said, “With Azure IP Advantage we can operate and innovate more freely in the cloud while reducing our IP risk. Microsoft is uniquely able to provide such a comprehensive patent offering.

We take seriously our responsibility to make sure the cloud is used for good, and we stand with our customers to protect them against intellectual property risk. In partnership with our customers, we are committed to creating an ecosystem where developers, entrepreneurs, enterprises and customers can innovate with confidence.

To learn more, hear about Microsoft Azure IP Advantage from some of our early preview customers and see how Azure IP Advantage works, see our animated video. If you’re an Azure customer, you can learn more here.

 

The post Protecting innovation in the cloud appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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TheRomit
12 days ago
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The cult of tribalism and the death of the United States

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“Death of the United States?”, you ask, shaking your head at the lunacy of a blog post that dares to suggest such a thing.

As we sit here in 2017, days into a new administration, we are faced with a dangerously narcissistic man in the White House who has suggested voter fraud based on no provable facts, but instead based on his own opinion; a press secretary who parrots whatever he is told, whether it is provably false or not; a chief strategist who has openly discussed destroying the republic; and an advisor/press liaison who openly suggested that “alternative facts” are anything other than a lie.

A few weeks ago, I met with a friend for drinks. I shared with him a thesis that I had come up with earlier in the day, which went as follows:

There is an opportunity cost to immediate information. Connectedness, absent mindfulness, equals insanity.

What do I mean by that? I mean, with our rapid information consumption, through Twitter, Facebook, other social media, “always on” news, and innumerable sites competing for our eyes with rapid fire information that is rarely checked for accuracy, if we don’t stop to question things, reality disappears, and we wind up bathing in a cult of our own tribalism.

If you aren’t familiar with it, I encourage you to read Thinking, Fast and Slow to get a frame of reference here. Here’s a good summary.

In a nutshell, the two parts of our brain are constantly at odds – this entire presidential campaign, rather than being grounded in debate, logic, and considered thought (System 2), was grounded in emotion (System 1).

If you look carefully at the statements that DJT used throughout the campaign, and that he continues to use, there’s a common refrain. What is that refrain?

Fear

His entire campaign was about fear. His speeches preyed upon emotion, rather than logic. He was a fast-twitch candidate, if you will. His bold, often demonstrably false, claims fed the fears of his base. ISIS. Refugees. Immigrants. Overregulation. Jobs. Rampant crime/shootings/carnage. Voter fraud. (A card he continues to play, as it resonates, due to the popular/electoral mismatch.) But the same base that lovingly digested those lies would push back diligently throughout the campaign at press that questioned that “truth”, because doing so would make them question their own beliefs, and their own comfortable reality they had created.

As my friend and I talked, he suggested something I hadn’t considered. Maslow’s hierarchy. Humans crave food first – and only at the top are they able to become self-actualized. In other words, “I’m going to watch out for my own interests until I can ensure they’re safe.” In this cult of tribalism I discussed above, people refuse to question their tribe… to question their beliefs. I mean, sure, you should fear ISIS. But good grief. You’re throwing away the very foundation this country was built on if you say “immigrants aren’t welcome here”.

That’s just it. We’ve got this selective reality in this country now, where the hard left will tell you one thing, the hard right will tell you something completely different, the news media all digests it and spits it back out at high velocity. How on earth is anyone supposed to end up with anything but a subjective opinion that mirrors their own existing reality???

We choose whether to listen to others, or to close off and say “my way is right.” And I’ll admit, it’s going to be pretty hard to get someone to see something when their livelihood depends on them not seeing it. People in coal and petroleum industries will fight you tooth and nail about climate change, because their literal reality depends on your literal reality not being true?

How the hell are we supposed to move forward as a country, if we can’t all stop, and think for a moment? A friend used the expression “low vibration minds” as a gentle way to refer to people who are unable to, or unwilling to, think beyond themselves. That’s really what this all comes down to – a level of mindfulness. But if someone doesn’t want to listen – if listening means that you question, and or destroy the very fabric of who they are?

  • How do you get someone to listen?
  • How do you get someone to listen to the truth? (By this, I mean a calculated, proven, truth.)
  • How do you get someone to listen to the truth that undermines the truth as they understand it, and reality as they want it to be?

When we would fly as kids, I would often ask my mother what made the sky so blue. My brother would say, “It’s not blue. It’s pink.” This used to annoy the hell out of me, because it was provably false. As we find ourselves in this weird alternative reality, it’s important to realize the exact antics and approach being used by Steve Bannon and others occupying the White House who seem to, in my opinion, not have the best interests of the country in mind with their actions.

Fear is a powerful thing. It fed the marginal approval for Brexit. It fed the marginal approval for DJT. In fact, it’s important to unwind a truism before both of these votes – that they were polling that they weren’t going to pass. Why? My opinion is… fear. Those willing to vote for these actions, based upon ungrounded, potentially irrational, fears, weren’t willing to have those views questioned. With such overt xenophobia, racial hatred, and anger driving both – and the ricochet of hate that resulted from both, it’s not hard to see why someone might want to be a closet Brexit or Trump backer. Cowardly, IMHO, but not hard to understand – again, the position for pushing for both being based upon fear.

Unfortunately, as we already see six days into this administration, those leading it – not necessarily the guy in the chair – choose to continue the antics that played well to his base as standard operating procedure.

However, I would like to offer a few words of advice on dealing with the propaganda-based approach being deployed by this White House administration:

  1. It’s very important for all media, regardless of their political bent, to question provably false statements coming from them.
  2. But understand that when you do, you will be confronted by his staff, and challenged on it, because you are not endorsing the message they want to resonate.
  3. If you continue to try and question, you will in turn be questioned. Like a football star accused of sexual assault, their defense will focus not on debasing your statement, but on debasing you. Be strong, stand firm, and defend the truth.

I also think that it is critically important at this moment in time, that Americans – “left” or “right”, regardless of faith, gender, race, age, economic strata… that all Americans – including those who represent us in Congress – need to start listening to others, and understanding why they feel the way they feel, why they believe the way they believe, and why they fear the way they fear. We will not move forward as a country with this “my way or else” bullshit. We must work together, even where a precise common ground does not, or likely cannot, exist.

I started out this post with a bold claim. I genuinely believe we are at a dangerous point in our beautiful country’s life, when the men running this country are willing to blatantly lie for their own benefit, and to the detriment of the country, its citizens, and the world at large.

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TheRomit
14 days ago
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