Monday, September 29, 2014

Apple, the post bendgate fiasco

The #bendgate fiasco tarnished the biggest ever iPhone launch in Apple history, caused hundreds of millions in lost sales and probably billions in reputation damage.

iPhone Salvador Dali Style
Who is responsible? In Apple is one person: the CEO. Here are some details  from Walter Isaacson book about Steve Jobs, to substantiate what I say.

During the Apple board meeting  of August 24, 2012, Steve said he can not meet any longer the duties and expectations as Apple's CEO. He was battling a terminal disease. He names Tim Cook successor CEO and he assumes the title of Chairman. At the end of the sad meeting, Steve says:
"Hewlett and Packard built a great company. But now is being dismembered and destroyed. It's tragic. I hope, I've left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple."
Walter Isaacson asks;
"Was  [Steve] smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected and at times magical. He was indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac (*)called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power... With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world's most creative company"
Mark Kac

Daniel Mackenzie, a San Francisco based designer writes in his blog
Selecting the right features for your product is a tough topic that defies any clear explanation. The fact is, you could read a hundred books on innovation and play brainstorming games until you’re blue in the face and still launch with the wrong features. The hard truth about deciding on the right product features is that formulas and methodologies can only take you so far and that the rest requires a bit of magic. If this weren’t true, we would have more people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.
The problem is there are simply too many angles to assess when deciding on a product’s feature set. Some of those angles include the messiness we call human emotions which have a tendency to be fickle and be influenced by social forces we only notice after it’s too late.
 After the dazzling launch of iPhone 6 and 6+,I watched Tim Cook talking in a Charlie Rose interview. Here is what I heard
Rose: Where is Steve in all this?
Cook: Steve is in my heart, and deep in Apple's DNA. His spirit will always be the foundation of the company. I literally think about him every day. His office is still left as it was
Rose: On the 4th floor?
Cook: On the 4th floor, his name is still on the door.  Steve stood for innovation, for the simple and not the complex, and he knew Apple should be only in areas where we control the primary technology ... you could put all the products Apple makes and fit them on this (small) table. We should make $180 billion this year with these products. There is no other company in the world who could say that
Sounds great and emotional, Cook has not substance or know how like Jobs. Tim is not Steve. It is not his fault. That is the way he was born, and other Steve Jobs are in very limited supply.

I imagine for a moment, that the 4th floor office with Steve Jobs suddenly opens and Steve asks the final questions. There might have been like this?
"Why these phones are so thin? How do we know customers want  the phones to be so thin? Did anyone check if they are strong enough? Did anyone check the battery life if the phone was thicker? Why I see the wiring of the antenna on side? Why can't we take  HD 1080 videos? How did  we compensate our users' habit of using the smaller iPhones with one finger, in this phablet? I don't like the word "phablet" call it Roxanne or iLoveIt" :)

The current CEO, is nice man, and he can only by the highest priest in a new religion symbolized by a  4th floor office of Mr. Jobs. He asks the questions, but the only reply, unfortunately, is silence.

Apple is still in a shape that be conserved as a great American company the world loves yet  some changes at the top  are inevitable.

(*) Mark Kac divided geniuses into two classes. Ordinary ones whose achievements others will emulate, and magicians whose inventions are so astounding that it is hard to see how any human could have imagined them

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

About immortality: an Interview with Marius Ursache - the co-founder of

Marius Ursache is one of the most interesting personality from post Ceausescu  Romania to arrive in Silicon Valley. His youthful and sophisticated, well mannered presence makes him the poster-picture son-in-law every mother desires for her daughter.  This is an excerpt from an article about Marius in The New Yorker - How to Become Virtually Immortal
Ursache, a thirty-seven-year-old designer and entrepreneur, dreamed up the idea for a chatbot-navigated Web site ten years ago while he was studying medicine in Romania. He repurposed the idea more recently while attending a program for entrepreneurs at M.I.T.
Marius idea was to create “We all pass away sooner or later, leaving only a few memories behind for family, friends and humanity—and eventually we are all forgotten,” the Web site reads. “But what if you could be remembered forever?”

His idea is deemed controversial. We met in San Francisco a few days ago. It is very hard not to like Marius and not to admire his steadfast determination and elegant thinking

From New Yorker. Illustration for 
MihaWhat do you mean by "immortality"?

Marius: Death is one of the most disturbing facts for us, but we've been used to take it as a given. But what scares most people is not death itself, but being forgotten. The only way today to be really immortal is to be a famous writer, artist, scientist or philosopher whose ideas or actions change the world—and they are remembered forever. We want to offer immortality for your thoughts, stories and memories—that is your human mind, which defines YOU more than a physical body.

MihaSome jelly fish never die. They rejuvenate.  What makes humans want to live for ever?

Marius: Humans always want what they don't have. This thirst drives human progress, and I think it's a good cause. This is a thing that can be debated for hours from a psychological and ethical point of view.  Surprisingly, though, the day we are able to rejuvenate forever is not hundreds of years away. I recently attended a private event, the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, and learned that in less than 10 years we will have a scientific way to extend life to 120 years. If you think of cancer, it is essentially a celullar regeneration process which gets out of control. Hacking the DNA and controlling the process will allow our cells to regenerate perpetually, and I think that this is going to happen in this century. That is going to be, at the same time, the greatest accomplishment of science, and the greatest psychological challenge for humanity.

Miha: Some  rabbis  say that our true age should be based on how many years we still have to live. For example if one is 70 years old, the real age is (120 - 70) or 50 years old.

Marius: [smiles]

Miha: Facebook has  over two billion accounts, which is roughly the equivalent of one third of the world population. What happens to an account after the owner passes away?

Marius: Right now there are three options, all of which need at least someone from the family (or legal successor) to take action: (1) Freeze the account, meaning it will tell that the person has passed away. It will not show in searches, but will still be visible in your confirmed friends' search or (2) Remove/delete the account and all associated data. The last option (3) is to download all the content—this is a lengthy process which can only be done in court, and is discouraging for most people going through a grieving stage.

Miha: What does Facebook means by "memorializing" an account?

Marius: Here are some of the key features of memorialized accounts:
  • Facebook does not allow anyone to log into a memorialized account.
  • Memorialized accounts cannot be modified in any way. This includes adding or removing friends, modifying photos or deleting any pre-existing content posted by the person.
  • Depending on the privacy settings of the deceased person's account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline.
  • Anyone can send private messages to the deceased person.
  • Content the deceased person shared (ex: photos, posts) remains on Facebook and is visible to the audience it was shared with.
  • Memorialized Timelines don't appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People You May Know or birthday reminders.
  • Groups solely belonging to a memorialized account will be able to select new admins, while Pages will be removed from Facebook.
Miha: I know quite a few people on Facebook who passed away, yet they appear "alive". Few people bother to follow policies for memorializing accounts. Most don't. How will be different?

Marius: Well, is about creating a rich legacy, which goes beyond your cat or hamburger pictures, that is more interactive and tries to preserve as much of your thoughts, memories and stories as possible.

Miha's note: This will require high performance supercomputing creative techniques to extract meaningful and relevant data.

Miha: Did you consider other social networks as potential partners? will look at all your digital footprint: not only Facebook and other social networks, but also your email, your personal files, data collected from wearable devices... ideally everything that can provide information about who you are and how and what you think.

Miha: This idea is so unusual that  it must succeed. Where do you see three  years from now?

Marius: In three years, will make this dream real at least one million users. Long-term vision the number is 100x or more larger. It's not definitely another app or platform dreaming of a modest exit after the first three year or so. There is this concept of 'evergreen companies'—companies that aim to last 100 years. needs to aim much higher, as our goal is to preserve these legacies for eternity.

MihaWho are your biggest supporters?

Marius: The 25,000 plus people who signed up even before we wrote the first line of code, and who are asking us frequently "When are you going to launch it?".

Miha: What Romanians say about your idea?

Marius: Some are excited, some are skeptical—it's the same as everywhere in the world.

Miha: What about the Bay Area? How does it feel try your luck here? 

Marius: In the Bay Area, everyone is an entrepreneur and has a startup (even Uber drivers). It's like everybody being an actor in LA

However, there is no other option. Marius quietly knows here on the West Coast is the only place  will triumph. Let's listen to Marius Ursache in person in this ABC Fusion TV program. Just click the caption. 

Marius' interview at ABC Fusion with Mario Andrade

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Five Reasons Why High Performance Computing (HPC) startups will explode in 2015

1. The size of the social networks grew beyond any rational expectations

Facebook (FB) official stats state that FB has 1.32 billion and 1.07 billion mobile monthly active users. Approximately 81.7% are outside the US and Canada. FB manages  a combined of 2.4 Billion users, including mobile with 7,185 employees.

The world population as estimated by United Nations as  of 1 July 2014 at 7.243 billion. Therefore 33% of the world population is on FB. This includes every infant and  person  alive, and makes abstraction if they are literate or not.

Google reports 540 million users per month plus 1.5 billion photos uploaded per week. Add Twitter, Quora, Yahoo and a few more we reach 3 billion plus people who write emails, chat, tweet, write answers to questions and ask questions, read books, see movies and TV, and so on

Now we have the de-facto measurable collective unconscious of this word, ready to be analyzed. It contains information of something inside us that we are not aware we have. This rather extravagant idea come from Carl Jung  about 70 years ago. We should take him seriously as his teachings led to the development of Meyer Briggs  and a myriad of other personality and vocational tests that proved amazingly accurate.

Social media life support  profits depends on meaningful information. FB reports revenues of $2,91 billion per Q2 2014, and only $0.23 billion  come from user payments or fees. 77% of all revenues are processed information monetized through advertising and other related services.

The tools of the traditional Big Data (the only data there is,  is big data) are no longer sufficient. A few years ago we were talking in the 100 million users range, Now the data sets are in  exabyte and zettabyte dimensions

1 EB = 1000^6 bytes = 10^18 bytes = 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 B = 1 000 petabytes = 1 million terabytes = 1 billion gigabytes

1 ZB = 1,000 EB

I compiled this chart from information published. It shows the growth of the world's storage capacity, assuming optimal compression, over the years. The 2015 data is extrapolated from Cisco and crosses one zettabyte capacity

2. The breakthrough in high throughput and high performance computing.

The successful search for Higgs particle exceeds anything in  terms of data size analyzed:
The amount of data collected at the ATLAS detector from the  Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN, Geneva  is described like this:
If all the data from ATLAS would be recorded, this would fill 100,000 CDs per second. This would create a stack of CDs 450 feet high every second, which would reach to the moon and back twice each year. The data rate is also equivalent to 50 billion telephone calls at the same time. ATLAS actually only records a fraction of the data (those that may show signs of new physics) and that rate is equivalent to 27 CDs per minute.
 It took 20 years and 6,000 scientists. They created a grid which has a capacity of 200 PB of disk and 300,000 cores, with most of the 150 computing centers connected via 10 Gbps links.

A new idea, the Dynamic Data Center Concept  did not make it yet mainstream, but it would great if it does.

This concept is described in a different blog entry. Imagine every computer and laptop of this world plugged into a worldwide cloud  when not in use and withdrawn just as easy storage USB card. Mind boggling, but this will be one day reality

3. The explosion of HPC startups in San Francisco, California

There is a new generation of performance computing physicists who senses the affinities of social networks with super computing. All are around 30 years old and you can meet some of them attending this meetup. Many come from Stanford and Berkeley, and have previously worked in Open Science Grid (OSG) or Fermi Lab but went to settle on the West Coast. Other are talented Russians, - with the same talent as Sergei Brin from Google. They are now now happily American . Some extraordinary faces are from China and India

San Francisco is a place where being crazy is being normal. Actually for me all are "normal" in San Francisco. HPC needs a city like this, to rejuvenate HPC thinkers and break away from the mentality where big bucks are spent for gargantuan infrastructures, similar to the palace of Ceausescu in Romania.  The dictator had some 19 churches, six synagogues and 30,000 homes demolished. No one knew what to do with the palace. The dilemma was to make it a shopping center or the Romanian Parliament. Traditional HPC has similar stories, like Waxahacie

Watch what I say about user experience in this video . 95% of the scientists do not have access to super commuting marvels. I say we must make high performance computing accessible to every scientist. In its' ultimate incarnation, any scientists can do higgs-like-events  searches on lesser size data and be most of the time successful.

See for example PiCloud . See clearly how it works  All written in Python.  See clearly how much it costs They still have serious solutions for Academia and HPC

For comparison look at HTCondor documentation, see the installation or try to learn something called dagman.  Simply adding a feature , no one paid attention to make it easy to learn and use

I did work with HTCondor engineers and let me say it, they are of the finest I ever met. All they need an exposure to San Francisco  in a consistent way. 

4. Can social networks giants acquire HPC HTC competency using HR?

No. They can't. Individual HPC employees recruited through HR will not create a new culture. They will mimic the dominant thinking inside groups and loose original identity and creativity. As Drop-box wisely discovered, the secret is to acquihire, and create an internal core competency with  a startup who delivers something they don't have yet.

5. The strategy to make HPC / HTC start ups successful.

Yes it is hard to have 1 million users as PiCloud. Actually, it is impossible. 

But PiCloud technology can literally deliver hundreds of millions dollars via golden discoveries using HPC / HTC in social company that already have 100 million users and more.

The lesson we learn is this: HPC / HTC  cannot parrot the social media business model of accumulating millions, - never mind billions - of users 

Success is not made up of features. Success is about making someone happy. You have to know that someone. Social networks are experts in making easy for people to use everything they offer.

And HPC /HTC should make the social media companies happy. It is only through this symbiosis HPC/HTC -  on one side - and Social Media plus Predictive Analytics everywhere - on the other side - that high performance computing will be financially successful as a minimum viable product (MVP)
Figure 2: The Ahrono Associates strategy for new HPC ventures

Monday, September 08, 2014

Amazon Web Services is going towards complexity and user unhapiness

In a recent blog entry  I quoted David Pogue from New York Times  describing two types of tech users
When will we recognize the existence of the two different types of technical consumers—the Knows and the Know-Nots?
Over and over again, I run into products that have been tacitly designed for either group. The creators have a mental picture of a product's audience and the users' technical experience. You can tell from terminology, the amount of detail in the instructions, the number of steps required to accomplish anything.
Unfortunately, there is no one type of tech consumer. Someone winds up unhappy. If the design and interface are too technical, novices feel incompetent, shut out and stupid; if the experience is too simple, tech geeks feel insulted and talked down to.
Amazon Web Service lately talks only to Knows, completely forgetting the Knows-Nots
But even high level Knows, like Adrian Cockroft,  @adrianco -  one of  the "fathers" of Netflix streaming  using AWS  wrote in his AWS  spreadsheet analysis 
Data assembled and estimated by @adrianco who was getting confused by too many instance types - Updated April 2014 including prices 
There is great feat for AWS to manage to confuse one the best known evangelists of Amazon and a technical lead from their biggest customer. If Adrian is confused, as a former distinguished engineer in Sun, what the rest of us? You can read his blog here. It has to be updated again with the waves of instances AWS pours incessantly.

What AWS offers now

Once upon a time,  AWS had only one kind of an instance    I looked at  Amazon EC2 Instances and I see  T2, M3, S3, C3,  R3, GPU G2, Storage Optimized I2 and HS1

AWS offers now 23 different instances. Fixed Performance Instances or Burstable Performance Instances, to block level storage via Amazon EBS or instance store, you can also use Amazon S3 for durable storage. Choose between SSD and magnetic storage

For more money, you can have EBS optimized  between 500 and 2,000 Megabits per second. There are also three Reserved Instance types (Light, Medium and Heavy Utilization Reserved Instances)

Reserved Instances can be purchased directly from AWS for 1 or 3 year terms. Or purchasing Reserved Instances from AWS Reserved Instance Marketplace Seller

One can still purchase "previous generation instances", because of software optimized for those older instances. The documentation for stopping an old instance and restarting a new one is not for the faint of heart

On September 4, 2014, Amazon announces even more instances in their blog for the the AWS GovCloud (US). Five more plus 23, now we have 28 instances plus the previous generation instances.

The AWS blog

The AWS blog gets more an more unreadable for non developers.  Here is a sample:

Sample of AWS blog. This is not documentation. This is an intent to delight readers

What happens to Amazon traditional user experience?

They are #1 on Gartner Magic Quadrant for IaaS three years in a row (see Amazon Web Services: We hate you and We love you.  )

As Amazon e-commerce has one of the most intuitive and easy to use web site in the world, it is puzzling how AWS,  is drowning in oceans of complexity, They claim they have instances for computing, instances for storage, instances big, instances small, instance for US Government. And the reason they still offer legacy instances, is because what customers have already are not optimized for other instances than legacy.

Did they ever asked themselves whether what they do makes people happy?

"Your job is to make the user happy. The user doesn’t care about your features or how you make their problems disappear, they care about being happy." Tristan Kromer

There one way to stop this. Someone should step in AWS and ban new features, not tested on whether they are  making users happy. They must first decide which users they want: Knows or Knows-Nots. 

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