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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

O’ Jerusalem

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

From my 6th row aisle seat, I observed the motley assemblage ascending the Egged bus I was riding in Jerusalem. Nearly all shared one common characteristic; they were tuned in and tuned out – tuned into themselves and tuned out to their fellow passengers. Some qualified for chiropractic “before” pictures with necks inelegantly cocked supporting cell phones, while others visually displayed virtual euphoria plugged into MP3s. What a pity. Victims of technology, they will never taste the adventure and reality of the Jerusalem that greeted me some 30 years before.

The primary mode of transportation for the majority of Jerusalemites for decades has been an Egged bus. Call it mazal, call it destiny; Jerusalem is a city that always gives more than you bargain for, even regarding something as mundane as a bus ride. Depending on your mazal, you might have been happened upon by an elderly Sepharadi, shuffling down the aisle schlepping his bags and squishing himself into you as if you were part family, part favorite recliner. No sooner had he landed in his seat, when he turned to you and asked how many children you had; “How many?” not “If?” Escorted by the aroma of Machaneh Yehuda wafting from the bags he piled half in the aisle, half in his lap and somehow, half on you, he volunteered stories of his native Baghdad, oblivious to the fact that you never requested. Offense to your American etiquette aside, no sooner had he launched into his verbal missive than he captivated your imagination with a first-hand account of a life more charming than Lawrence of Arabia; a life so distant, so different from your own, so fascinating.

At times, “mazal” might place you next to an elderly payos-framed chassid attired in typical chassidic garb, who reminisced about the long destroyed European chassidic court he visited in his youth – having deemed destiny wanted you to know while anointing him as narrator. Graphically breathing life into vague memories, he artistically resuscitated history into current events; unearthing the life buried in those all too familiar photos of destruction every Jew knows only too well. Swept up in a surreal reality, you traveled with him, at one moment swaying next to him at the Rebbe’s tisch and moments later, hovering over him like an accompanying angel as he fled the destruction of his town and the tragic end of his family. Were you listening for yourself or for him? You never really knew.

Mazal might find you seatmates with an old Jerusalemite offering a personal account of stories you read decades before in Yerushalayim Shel Maala. Stories you hitherto suspected might be liberally sprinkled with poetic license swiftly became vividly real and authentic. The cobblestone streets of Me’ah She’arim visited umpteen times as archaic tourist sites morphed into someone’s home; the place where Jews lived great in spirit in spite of hardships unfathomable to you, the American.

And, as each passing traveler trudged off into his or her own world, never did they leave without gruffly blessing you with nachas from your children and that they be healthy and good Jews…

How many exotic journeys did I take, how much of the world did I witness in just a few stops on a bus? One of the things I loved most about exploring Jerusalem was never knowing in advance what awaited me. In Jerusalem, even a “mundane” bus ride boasts magical and majestic.

How much did I appreciate entering and experiencing the lives of Jews from throughout the world just because my ears were open and strangers – if they could be called that – filled them with their stories.

Today, the ears are closed. Nobody listens. Nobody communicates with live people. Nobody acknowledges the person next to him or her. People have become islands; traveling in public yet condemning themselves to solitary confinement. The Jerusalem that welcomed me was a city that understood the technology of people. Sadly, today I find people of technology. I lament the lost joy and intrigue – the journey into the unknown – that I experienced as a Wandering Jew, who, throughout all his wanderings, became enriched by the flavor of ethnic “baggage” each Jew brought here and unselfishly dropped in my lap. What an unimaginable wealth of gems are to be found upon the streets of Jerusalem, thanks to the people who love this Holy City, hold Jerusalem dear, share their stories and welcome strangers into their lives…

Presbyterian Committee Approves Israel Divestment

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The country’s largest Presbyterian church has agreed to vote by week’s end on divesting its portfolio from three companies that it says have resisted the request to stop providing services that aid Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s Middle East Committee voted 36 to 11 with one abstention in favor of divesting its portfolio from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The Committee said these companies helped “Israel’s use of their products in violations of Palestinian human rights.”

The group recommended the church put those funds instead into companies “engaging in peaceful pursuits in Israel and Palestine.”

The Church’s full convention, being held in Pittsburgh, is expected to vote on Thursday or Friday on the proposal.

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, is at the convention and is reportedly speaking with Church leaders about toning down the resolution, according to a JCPA spokesman.

A 2011 church report found that Caterpillar supplied bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes, Motorola provided cell phone technology to Jewish settlements and Hewlett-Packard managed information technology for the Israeli Navy.

Judea and Samaria do not share a coastline.

Stealth: Not-So-Secret Secrets

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

We are now seeing Russian and Chinese “stealth” aircraft appear, at least in prototype form. The Chinese have prototypes of the J-20 large fighter bomber, which looks as if it may enter service with the Chinese Air Force in 2018. In a recently published report on Chinese military power, the US Department of Defense wrote that the J-20 shows “China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics and supercruise capable engines.” Supercruise in this context means that the aircraft can fly at supersonic speeds for sustained periods of time. This has only been achieved by the now grounded US SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance jet and the F-22.

Americans should get used to the idea that today’s military technological breakthrough will be commonplace on tomorrow’s battlefield. It costs a lot to develop and build the best military in the world.

If the pundits are right, and if major international war really is obsolete, it is largely due to America’s overwhelming military superiority: it makes adversaries reluctant to take us on. Maintaining this U.S. superiority is what keeps the world more or less at peace.

Russia, meanwhile, is working on the Sukhoi T-80, also known as the PAK-FA — a supposedly stealthy version of the SU-27 family of fighter bombers. The Russians have negotiated a co-development deal for this aircraft with India, which plans to buy around 200 of the stealth aircrafts.

Sukhoi has three T-80 test aircraft in operation, and hopes to have 11 more test aircraft flying before the first production model is delivered in 2013. The Russian air force is planning to have the T-80 in service sometime in 2015 or 2016, but its arrival in the Russian Air Force will probably be delayed. How effective the T-80 will be is open to question. Russia has developed some excellent combat airplanes over the years, but it has also built large numbers of fighters that have proven to be less than reliable, such as the 1970s’ MiG 23.

Meanwhile, the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which originated in 1993, grinds ahead. It has already cost US taxpayers more than $400 billion. By the time the last F-35 leaves the production line sometime in the 2030s, the whole program will have cost more than one-and-a-half trillion dollars.

The F-35 was supposed to be the final manned fighter airplane built by the US; after that, all combat flying would be done by drones — but things may not turn out that way. The US Navy has started preliminary work on a new manned fighter attack aircraft called the FA-XX.

The F-35 was also supposed to be a fine example of multinational cooperation. Certainly the US’s European partners, including the British, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Italians and the Danes, all had memories of successful collaboration with the US Defense Department on projects in the past. America’s foreign partners are already suffering from “sticker shock,” but as they have already invested considerable sums in the program, probably few of these partners will choose to walk away.

Any real stealth secrets inherent in the F-35 will almost certainly leak out through these foreign partners. They may have already leaked. However since the classified technology dates from the mid-1990s, it can hardly be considered truly “cutting edge.”

Many Americans believe that Stealth technology is still an exclusive US military advantage and that the “Secrets of Stealth” must be preserved at all costs. Stealth, or as it is sometimes called, Low Observable Technology, has acquired an almost mythical significance. This myth tends to blind both political leaders in Washington and many media commentators to the true value of what is misleadingly referred to as invisibility. During the 1980 Presidential campaign, the Carter administration announced that it was working on an invisible bomber, which turned out to be the very expensive B-2 bomber, of which the US Air Force managed to buy a grand total of 21.

In the late 1970s, the US Air Force was working on a smaller Stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk, which secretly entered into service in 1982. Publicly unveiled in 1989, the US Air Force hailed it as a giant breakthrough in its military technology. That was nearly quarter of a century ago, it is hard to see why anyone expects that the secrets of stealth are still secret.

Dystopia and Israel’s Tomorrow

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

There’s a sort of detached, surreal feeling one gets upon entering the President’s Conference on ‘Facing Tomorrow.’ The men in expensive suits and ties, and the women wearing fancy dresses; the rich and powerful hobnobbing alongside the young and energetic; people of all types, from all over the world gathering together; and the amount of staff seems endless.

It was like walking into a fantasy wonderland. And perhaps it was, in more than one way.

Two themes dominated the evening, peace and technology.

I enjoyed the speeches on technology, or more accurately, the vision of where technology is taking us. Eric Schmidt of Google stood out in particular. His vision was plausible and very much grounded in reality.

On the other hand, when the speakers spoke of peace, we entered the fantasy aspect of the conference.

It began with Professor Daniel Kahneman’s lecture.

Kahneman spoke of Hawks and Doves, the long time and extremely controversial theory he propounds regarding why nations go to war. His conclusions were that while the positions and analyses of the Hawks often seem to be correct, it is only seems so because people are internally biased and prejudiced to sooner believe and/or follow those positions and observations for a variety of cognitively distorted reasons or personal benefit (such as not looking stupid historically after they leave political office). And while the position of Doves seem too often to prove to be wrong, in reality they aren’t. The speech and theory was obviously far more complex than that, but I think that sums it up succinctly enough.

As an example, he spoke of the Egyptian peace treaty that has lasted 30 years. When he mentioned that example, I couldn’t help but think of the recent terror attacks emanating from Egypt, the massive weapons smuggling operations running from Egypt to Gaza, the hatred of Egyptians for the Jewish state – which never subsided in those 30 years, and the strong likelihood the treaty will soon be history. And then my thoughts went on to Oslo…

Kahneman would presumably say all these thoughts were examples of bias and cognitive dissonance.

Following the reception, we saw Henry Kissinger receive the President’s medal from President Peres to a standing ovation, and somehow Kissinger was transformed into the greatest and most unwavering friend Israel ever had. I admit, his speech was indeed emotionally compelling.

But I have to say that the biggest irony of the evening was hearing the orchestra begin to play “Imagine” by John Lennon, as an ever-smiling Tony Blair got up to speak (and what an incredible speaker he is).

The irony was not that Blair spoke about open immigration – tempered with some regulation – and how wonderful it has been for Europe. It wasn’t that Blair spoke incidentally of the terror attacks that began after Oslo (I imagined some people cringing as that deeply buried memory was dug up).

The irony was that as the orchestra began playing ‘Imagine’, I started getting alerts about rockets from Gaza hitting buildings (and eventually people) down South.

There’s no doubt that the President’s Conference is a beautiful and exciting affair. I look forward to the panel with Caroline Glick and Naftali Bennett on Thursday – the only political panel that appears to be actually balanced between left and right.

The visions and displays of the future of technology are certainly inspiring.

At base, one gets the distinct impression that the conference has a very left-leaning bias, which makes sense since it is our President’s conference.

But having lived through the dystopian “Tomorrow” that Oslo (and Peres) dragged Israel into, it’s simply not a “Tomorrow” I’d like to go through again.

Google Chief Eric Schmidt, Dr. Ruth, and Nobel Laureate Prof. Daniel Kahneman Offer Recipes for ‘Better Tomorrow’

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Nobel laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman headlined the first plenary session of the Israeli Presidential Conference, presenting their prescriptions for bringing about “a better tomorrow.”

The panel also featured world record-holding Paralympic swimmer Keren Leibovitch, Yuri Milner, a leading Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the renowned sex therapist.

Several of the panelists focused on the tremendous potential offered by technology, including social media, the rapid growth of smartphones and mobile devices and the widening of Internet access in the developing world.

“The smartphone revolution will be universal,” said Schmidt, emphasizing the need to increase Internet access in the developing world. “There are only one billion people with smartphones and two billion with access to the Internet. The World Wide Web has yet to live up to its name. Technology does not produce miracles, but connectivity, even in modest amounts, changes lives.”

Dr. Ruth spoke of her personal motivations and the lessons she would impart to the next generation.

“Young people need to get out there, stop complaining and do something productive,” said the 84-year old Dr. Ruth. “I survived the Holocaust, whereas 1.5 million children didn’t. I knew I needed to commit myself to Tikkun Olam (fixing the world).”

Technion Sues Microsoft for $6.5 Mil. over Intellectual Property

Monday, June 11th, 2012

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has filed a NIS 25,000,000 ($6,500,000) lawsuit against the Microsoft Corp, reports the website Calcalist.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the District Court in Petach Tikvah, alleges that Microsoft used intellectual property developed by Technion professor Ran Smorodinsky.

The extraordinary lawsuit opens: “For years, Microsoft has taken aggressive enforcement steps against anyone who held software belonging to Microsoft without legal permits, regardless of from whom and when it was purchased, their geographic location and whether they were rich or poor.”

The Technion is going up against the technology giant, citing illegal uses of technology which was developed by the institution’s staff.

This is a unique suit with which the Technion is marking its overall intent to receive a portion of intellectual property developed by its faculty.

The suit was submitted two and a half years after the state of Israel had filed a similar suit against the drug company Omrix and its founder Robert Taub, arguing that the development of “biological glue” is a product of research done by Prof. Uriel Martinovic, a state employee at the Tel-Hashomer medical center.

In 2008, Microsoft acquired the intellectual property of the startup YaData for approximately $150 million. The Technion now argues that all the intellectual products of the company resulted from research work done by Rann Smorodinsky, a full-time tenured professor in the School of Industrial Engineering.

“Intellectual property rights, technology and knowledge products belong to the Technion – like all fruits of the labor of faculty members,” reads the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the restriction on the transfer of intellectual property did not escape the notice of the original company founders. In September 2006, the Technion gave a limited approval to Professor Smorodinsky to transfer the company’s intellectual property, provided that the counseling that he himself gave was limited areas of commercial business.

“If the request to expand the areas of counseling beyond the scope of commercial business, please fill inform us and the issue will be explored,” says the same permit.

In retrospect, the Technion now argues, the company violated the permit and engaged the professor in developing its products. Smorodinsky contacted the Technion in October 2007 to extend the permit, without success.

The Technion says that all one has to do to refute “the claim that there is no connection between the scope of Professor Smorodinsky’s area of specialty at the Technion – game theory (the study of strategic decision making) – and his activity at YaData and later at Microsoft, is to quote the professor himself.”

Microsoft Israel has issued a statement saying they were studying the suit and will respond shortly.

The Face That Launched A Thousand Apps: Yours

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Israeli startup Umoove will soon offer a gesture-recognition technology for mobile devices that will control and steer devices by reading gentle facial and head movements, according to a report by NoCamels.

The mechanism uses a front-end camera, which is available on most smartphones, to detect and read facial and eye movements such as smiles, winks, or stares in real time, using those signals to operate games, TVs, computers, applications for reading, tablets, or phones.

According to the NoCamels report, Umoove CEO Moti Krispill told Israeli website Newsgeek that the company hopes to revolutionize the use of mobile devices like Kinect technology did with gaming.  The company is currently focusing on optimization for Android platforms, and is cooperating with Microsoft for the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/the-face-that-launched-a-thousand-apps-yours/2012/05/31/

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