Tag Archives | IBM

Computers on Game Shows: What a Concept!

JeopardyWhen IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat chess world champion Garry Kasparov back in 1997, my reaction was pretty dispassionate: As someone who’s played only a few games of chess in my life, I simply didn’t have a deep understanding of the game or an emotional attachment to it. But when the news came out over the weekend that IBM is programming a supercomputer to play Jeopardy–well, that’s a breakthrough I can relate to. I haven’t watched the venerable game show much in years, but back in the 1980s, I planned my college courses around it to make sure I was home in time to watch (this was before I had a VCR). I get the game’s subtleties–it’s not just about having an encyclopedic knowledge of both serious stuff and pop culture, but also about being able to unpack the meaning of those questions-phrased-as-answers in a split second. And given that countless very smart people have gone on the show and fallen flat on their faces, I’ll be impressed if IBM’s computer manages an unembarrassing third-place finish. But I don’t have any difficulty dealing with the idea that a computer might someday beat any flesh-and-blood Jeopardy player on the planet.

Thinking about the prospect of a computer taking on Alex Trebek, metaphorical buzzer in hand, led me to the conclusion that game shows in general aren’t a bad Turing Test-like gauge of artificial intelligence. They require knowledge–okay, only a little of it in many cases, but some. They’ve got a social component, by definition. They involve thinking on one’s feet, or the simulation thereof.

So how might a really well-programmed supercomputer fare at other famous game shows of the present and (mostly) past?

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5Words for March 18th, 2009

5wordsHere’s what I’m reading this morning:

Google Chrome: In beta! Again!

Big Blue to buy Sun?

Palm Pre vs. iPhone.

Jailbreakers dive into iPhone 3.0.

Fujitsu sells a color e-reader.

More hot water for Kindle.

Watch your mouth on Twitter.

Privacy group wants Google investigated.

McCain Twitter interview: kinda lame.

A $132 PC, sort of.

Psystar introduces another Mac clone.

Early TV digital transition list.

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IBM Delivers High Speed Internet Over Power Lines

IBM LogoJust days after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law, today IBM announced that it successfully delivered broadband Internet service to rural areas over power lines. With $7 billion allocated to high speed Internet service, the Recovery Act is a boon for companies like IBM.

Big Blue’s timing might be serendipitous, but it is certainly on message. IBM is touting its relationships with rural electric cooperatives in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and Virginia, as well as the cost-effectiveness of its solution. The deployments were subsidized by the Rural Development Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Electric power lines may also be a better alternative than wireless services for areas that have hilly terrain, and are more cost effective per mile than DSL telephone service, IBM’s Raymond Blair, director of advanced networks, told the New York Times.

I can’t help but think back to the push for electrification in rural areas after the Great Depression, and the role that played in modernizing undeveloped areas of the United States. Decades later, with the electric grid laid, IBM is saying that government subsidies will permit utilities to cover sparsely populated areas that may otherwise remain unserviced.

Indeed, there may be pent up demand for high speed services. IBM’s Blair noted that a rural utility cooperative in Michigan signed up 5,000 customers within two weeks. My brother lives in an area that is not serviced by cable, and I’m certain that he would jump at the opportunity to sign up for broadband.

My take is that electric power line data transmission will likely be part of a mix of broadband solutions. Different technologies will be better suited for specific regions, and government officials, working in partnership with companies including IBM will work it out over time. It goes without saying that there will be glitches and cost overruns along the way, but when all is said and done, broadband Internet will be significantly more accessible than it is today.


IBM to Watch Papermaster’s Moves at Apple

It appears as if for now, IBM will let Mark Papermaster work at Apple starting in April, but with a catch. Everytime there may be a question of whether or not Papermaster might disclose confidential information, he must check in with IBM, court documents indicate.

IBM’s assistant general counsel Ron Laureldale would then make a determination “in good faith” whether or not the information may include trade secrets of the company.

Additionally, in July and October he would be required to sign declarations that he has not shared any IBM trade secrets with Apple under penalty of purjury. The agreement expires on October 24, one year after he left IBM.

What does this mean? Big Blue could get unprecedented access by a third-party into Apple’s plans for future products. No doubt, this must not have Jobs and Co. very happy considering the level of secrecy they like to maintain over products, however Papermaster must be such a catch that Apple is willing to sacrifice a little security.

Agreements like this are not unheard of, but are rather rare to be disclosed publicly. No doubt, the media attention this case has made this a little higher profile than most non-compete litigation.

When he joins Apple, Papermaster will take the position of iPod/iPhone developement chief, replacing Tony Fadell who stepped down late last year.

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“Father of the iPod” Departs Apple

We usually don’t cover executive comings and goings here at Technologizer, but this onee merits a mention: Apple Senior Vice President Tony Fadell has left full-time work at Apple and will be an advisor to the company. Fadell was not only the head of the company’s iPod division, but the guy who came up with the idea of the iPod in the first place. In fact, the former Philips employee–anyone remember Philips PDAs such as the Velo?–came up with the idea of the iPod on his own, and approached Apple with it. I’m pretty sure that Steve Jobs is awfully glad that Fadell came to Apple, and that Apple was smart enough to see the idea’s potential.

(It makes for an unanswerable but fun what-if question to muse on what might have been if Fadell had sold the iPod idea to a different company: There’s probably an alternate universe in which it ended up being a product from Philips, Creative, Rio, or some other company. It might have been very successful, but it also wouldn’t have been the iPod that Apple made. And speaking of what-ifs, where would Apple be today if Fadell hadn’t approached it with the iPod idea? Would it have ended up making an iPod anyhow? We’ll never know…)

Fadell is being replaced by Mark Papermaster, a former IBM executive. IBM is suing him, saying that his contract with Big Blue had a non-compete clause which prohibits him from working for Apple.

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