Daily Archives: March 21, 2016

With the new announcements, Apple reinforces their affordable line of products


Apple took a turn towards something I was hoping they would do: (relative) affordability. You can see it in this piece from  Business Insider:

Apple introduced an iPhone with a smaller screen on Monday called the iPhone SE. The best way to think about it is as Apple’s current top-of-the-line iPhone specs in a smaller body. It costs $399 without a contract — a surprisingly low price for a new iPhone. …the older iPad Air 2 got a price cut to $399…. While the Apple Watch didn’t get a hardware update, Apple did unveil new nylon bands and cut its starting price from $350 to $299.

I was wondering if Apple was going to try and offer some affordable products or reposition itself as a luxury brand. I am glad to see they went with affordable. There are now lots of products from Apple at a wide range of price points, starting with the iPod (at $59). I have always been a fan of the lower priced iPods, and I am glad to see Apple still offers them. Likewise, the iPad Mini 2 is an excellent tablet and the iMac mini is an excellent computer. Relative to the market, they are priced competitively and yet superior technology. Now the new Watch and the new SE phone join them.

For people who want to spend lots of money, Apple has a product for them. By offering the lower end products, they both force their competitors to offer better products as well as allow more people to have access to their excellent technology.

P.S. I realize for some people, even these relatively low prices are not affordable. In the context of this post, affordable is in context to the rest of the marketplace an Apple product competes within.

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Is it worthwhile buying a slow cooker?


Short answer: it depends. According to this, Is it worthwhile buying a slow cooker?, slow cooked food tastes better and looks better, though the food in a slow cooker ends up being more moist. Go with an oven if you can  attend to it. Go with a slow cooker if you want to have a minimal cooking process going all day that doesn’t require you to do much more than to load up the cooker and go. An additional consideration: a slow cooker uses very little power. Go with a slow cooker if you want to minimize energy use.

Read the article and see what you think. And if you like the idea of slow cooker recipes but slow cookers aren’t for you, read it and get some ideas on how to use your oven to slow cook instead.

(Image via Wikimedia)

The problem with AI, Bots and social networks

Bots combined with AI and social networks are going to become an increasing problem. I thought of this when reading about the relatively recent Ashley Madison fiasco. Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead using such a service, this applies to you in other ways.

One of the fascinating aspects of Ashley Madison was just how many bots were employed by the company, at least according to this article: Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots. 

How many? Alot! From the article:

After searching through the Ashley Madison database and private email last week, I reported that there might be roughly 12,000 real women active on Ashley Madison. Now, after looking at the company’s source code, it’s clear that I arrived at that low number based in part on a misunderstanding of the evidence. Equally clear is new evidence that Ashley Madison created more than 70,000 female bots to send male users millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.

Here’s some examples:

This matters to you because chances are you will be interacting more and more with bots. Bots are cheap, and companies and organizations are going to go with them to meet their needs and yours.  Maybe the bots will be harmless, like customer service reps that are actually just software programs. However it is also possible, just like it was at Ashley Madison, that these bots will be customized to con you into thinking you are dealing with a real person so that you will give them more money in some form or another. Bots may be obvious now, but as AI improves, so will the ability of bots to fool you. It’s not inconceivable that we will spend more and more time interacting with software that we think is human. It is something we need to think about and talk to fellow humans — and not AI driven bots — about how it will affect us and if it is negative, what we are going to do about it.

Robots in the real world may not realistically resemble humans for a very long time. Online bots that realistically resemble humans will get there much sooner.  We need to quickly anticipate what positive and negative effects that will have and prepare for that.