Tech News : Google Offers Job Interview ‘Warmup’ Tool

The new AI-based interview Warmup tool from Google uses questions from a series of industry experts to help users prepare for job interviews.

Tech Jobs And Skills Gap 

Googe says that this news Interview Warmup tool was developed as part of its own Google Career Certificates programme which offers professional-level online training. The programme was designed to address the problem, as identified by Burning Glass’ Labor Insight, that there are 1.5 million tech job vacancies in the U.S. These jobs are in fast-growing fields like data analytics, digital marketing and e-commerce, IT support, project management and UX design. The Interview Warmup tool is, therefore, an add-on to the training that could provide vital help for those whose tech job applications have reached the interview stage.

Even though it was developed for Google Career Certificates, the Interview Warmup tool is open to everyone.

How It Works 

Built in collaboration with job seekers, the Interview Warmup tool lets users practice answering questions selected by industry experts and uses machine learning to transcribe the answers in real time to help the user to discover ways to improve their interview technique.

Google says: “You’ll also see insights: patterns detected by machine learning that can help you discover things about your answers, like the job-related terms you use and the words you say most often. It can even highlight the different talking points you cover in each answer, so you can see how much time you spend talking about areas like your experience, skills and goals.” 

UK Tech Skills Gap 

Here in the UK, government figures showed that there were 1.2 million job vacancies in the three months to November 2021 and that around 82 per cent of all jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement. There’s been a tech skills gap in the UK for many years now which has particularly affected SME’s and, at the same time, new tech industries have been growing, e.g. AI. Back in 2020 the government launched The Skills Toolkit offering free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses. Also, the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ white paper promised that by 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have increased in every region of the country.

Skill In Itself 

Although learning the skills for a job are essential, knowing how to come across well in interview is a skill in itself and could provide the competitive advantage that’s vital to gaining employment. It is in this crucial last stage that Google’s new Interview Warmup tool could be of real benefit.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Finding staff with the digital skills that are so important in today’s business environment can be a real challenge, particularly for SMEs. Interviewing provides the opportunity to examine candidates in much more detail and it would be great shame if technically qualified and competent candidates who may well be suited the job were rejected simply because they were less effective in interview situations. The Interview Warmup tool, therefore, has a value both to candidates wanting practice and hone their interview skills, and ultimately for the businesses that need to uncover the relevant information from interview candidates that could lead to employing someone who provides real benefit to the business going forward.

Tech News : Free Translation Via Firefox – Even Offline

The new, free Firefox Translations browser extension translates websites in the browser without using the cloud, using machine learning.

Client-Side Translations 

Firefox Translations provides automated translation of web content but, unlike cloud-based alternatives, the translation is done locally, on the client-side, so that the text being translated does not leave the user’s machine. With Firefox Translations, the engines, language models and in-page translation algorithms reside and are executed entirely in the user’s computer, so none of the data is sent to the cloud. This enables use of the tool offline thereby making it convenient in any situation and frees the user from any worries about privacy concerns relating to using cloud providers.

How It Was Made 

The new Firefox add-on/extension was developed by using a high-level API around the machine translation engine, ported to WebAssembly (a new type of code). The operations for matrix multiplication were then optimised to run efficiently on CPUs (a computer’s central processor). This enabled Mozilla to develop a translations add-on that allowed the integration of local machine translation into every web page so that users can perform free-form translations without using the cloud.

Part Of Project Bergamot 

Firefox Translations was developed as part of EU-funded Project Bergamot (2019) which saw Firefox work as part of a consortium including the University of Edinburgh, Charles University, University of Sheffield, and University of Tartu.

Competitors

There are several other widely used competing machine learning-based web translation tools including Google Translate (website interface, mobile app and API), Microsoft Translator (machine translation cloud service using the using the Translator API and Speech service), and DeepL Translator (a neural machine translation service).

The big differences between them are that:

– Firefox Translations works offline and doesn’t use the cloud, so some users may see it as a more private option.

– Firefox Translations covers fewer languages, only 12 compared to Google Translate’s 100+ languages.

– Mozilla says that Firefox Translations includes two novel features. These are translation of forms, to allow users to input text in their own language that is dynamically translated on-the-fly to the page’s language, and quality estimation of the translations. This automatically highlights where low confidence translations are on the page, thereby notifying users of potential errors.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

In a global marketplace, translator tools can be very convenient and useful whereby technologies such as machine learning have given them the greater value and functionality that users require. There have, in recent years however, been data security and privacy concerns based around web translators and apps, e.g. the Translate.com data breach, worries about cloud connections to translation tools and how trade secrets, and intellectual property could be exposed. Having a translation tool, such as Firefox Translations where translation is all done locally, on the client-side, with no need for a cloud connection does appear to be a possible advantage in terms of allaying fears about privacy. Although both Google’s Chrome and Firefox browsers are both now based on Chromium and Firefox is popular, Google is still dominant in the browser market and its translator tool, which offers many more languages than Firefox Translations is, unsurprisingly, the leading competitor. However, for businesses that would value a possibly more private and very convenient (work offline) alternative, Firefox Translations may be worth looking at.

Tech Insight: What Is A Blockchain Domain?

In this tech-insight, we look at what a blockchain domain is, what it is used for, how to buy one, and what may bring them more into mainstream usage.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s co-founder Nic Carey described Blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”. Blockchain is the technology upon which cryptocurrencies are built.

What Is A Blockchain Domain? 

A blockchain domain could be described as an easy-to-remember, human-readable name (easier than remembering a string of numbers) for crypto-wallets, to and from which cryptocurrency is sent and received.

Blockchain domains are not stored on a sever but are stored in a public ledger, i.e. they are stored in the blockchain. They are purchased and not rented – they are bought outright / there are no renewal fees (unlike other internet domain names where an annual fee is payable to the registrar), and only the owner can make changes to the domain, e.g. choosing to trade it. Blockchain domains are part of a decentralised system, i.e. no single organisation such as ICANN or other registrars has control over blockchain domains, and websites with blockchain domains are also on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) which is a type of decentralised World Wide Web. Instead of calling up a central database when a website is visited, the browser searches the ledger to find the services associated with the domain. Blockchain domains are, therefore, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), which is why the technology is also called NFT domains.

Where And How Do You Buy One?

There is a limited number of marketplaces for blockchain domains but there are some established providers. To buy a blockchain domain, users need first need to create a crypto wallet and have cryptocurrency in it.  For example, purchasing a domain from Unstoppable Domains (a provider) are written to the Ethereum blockchain so buyers need a crypto wallet including Ether. Also, before buying a blockchain domain, it must be transferred to the blockchain for a fee which is paid to the blockchain operator.

To choose the domain name, providers have a tool to check if the name is available. Different providers have different extensions for domains e.g., .888, .bitcoin, .blockchain, .coin, and .crypto.

How Much Do They Cost? 

Shorter, generic names can be traded for thousands of pounds, whereas longer and less popular domains can cost as little as £20.

What Are They Used For? 

Blockchain domains have many uses including:

– Replacing bulky personal crypto wallet addresses (which would normally be a long string of numbers).

– Trading them (they are NFTs) by buying and selling using smart contracts.

– Building apps on them.

– Making websites available via blockchain domains.

Threats 

With areas of crypto-currencies still requiring regulation and with the anonymity which blockchain can provide, some have warned that bad actors could exploit blockchain domains and crypto-wallets, e.g. for tax avoidance or storing the proceeds of crime.

Web3 

Most Web2 users, however, will need a plugin or specialist browser, e.g. ‘Brave’ to see blockchain domains and they may not move into the mainstream until the development of Web3. This (a term coined in 2014 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood) is the next phase in the evolution of the Web and is based on blockchain technology, the same technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Blockchain domains are still very much in their early stages, and it may take some time and the development of Web3, more information, and a consolidation of the cryptocurrency market (there are 18,000 cryptocurrencies) for them to become popular. However, some may be surprised by how many well-known businesses are now accepting payment in cryptocurrency, e.g. (Tesco UK, Starbucks, Subway, Gap, Lush) and how, therefore, the market for blockchain domains may be starting to take hold. Many businesses in the UK, however, may still be unaware of the advantages and ease of using cryptocurrencies, may not yet see how they could be used in their business, and may still be influenced by negative news stories about volatility (Bitcoin) and security issues. It is true that the growth of the sales of blockchain domains is linked to the growth and fortunes of cryptocurrencies but, as was the case for normal domain names, some businesses may at least see a case for getting into cryptocurrencies to the extent of buying the blockchain domain for their company name or a generic name to trade later. For bigger businesses and those with global markets and customers, the need to compete may have already driven them to move into dealing with cryptocurrencies and blockchain domains. For many businesses, particularly smaller businesses, however, this may still be an area on the to-do list that needs more looking in to, and if the process through trusted providers is easy, this could help boost take-up.

Featured Article : US Supercomputer Breaks The ‘Exascale’ Barrier

The world’s first ‘exascale’ computer, called the ‘Frontier’ computing system (i.e. a supercomputer) from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, has smashed the exascale computing speed barrier.

What Is The Exascale? 

The exascale is a computing system threshold / level of computing performance of a quintillion calculations per second, i.e. a computer that’s capable of at least one exaflop or a billion billion operations / mathematical calculations per second i.e. 1018  or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000. Each individual mathematical calculation (of a number containing a decimal) is known as a ‘floating point operation’ or ‘FLOP’ for short. That’s an awful lot of FLOPS! By way of contrast in terms of how far we’ve come, the first electrical computer in the world was the Colossus vacuum tube computer, which was a 500,000 FLOPS supercomputer built in Britain during WWII.

To put things into perspective, to do what an exascale supercomputer can do in one second, you’d need every human on the planet to calculate 1 FLOP every second (for 24 hours a day) without a break for more than four years!

A computer capable of breaking the exascale barrier is, therefore, around 50 times faster than the most powerful supercomputers being used today.

Scale 

First announced back in 2019 as project by the U.S. Department of Energy and Cray Inc., the Frontier supercomputer is housed in 74 separate cabinets, comprising 9400 CPUs, or standard computer processors, 37,000 GPUs, and has 8,730,112 cores capable of parallel computing tasks.

No.1 In The ‘Top500’ 

Breaking the exascale barrier has put the Frontier system in the no.1 position at the very top of the Top500, the international collaboration to rank the world’s most powerful supercomputers.

What is particularly impressive is that the Frontier supercomputer represents 25 per cent of the total performance of the whole list!

To try and put the speed and power of the Frontier system in context, whereas the Frontier has 8,730,112 cores capable of parallel computing tasks, a typical laptop only has between five and nine. Although a typical laptop (currently at best) is capable of an impressive sounding few ‘teraflops’ (a trillion operations per second), this is still millions of times less than the Frontier system.

Could Get Even Faster 

Even though the Frontier system has smashed the exascale barrier, it is expected that with further optimised software it could become even faster in the near futire and could reach a theoretical peak of 2 exaflops.

What Can It Be Used For?

An exascale computer of this size can be used as powerful tool by businesses, scientists, and academics to accomplish a vast range of tasks. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which developed the Frontier system, sees exascale computers as playing important roles in enabling scientists to develop new technologies for energy, medicine, and materials, also to deliver breakthroughs in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and even (US) national security. Supercomputers with the capability of the Frontier system could also be used for brain mapping, weather and climate forecasting, product design, astronomy and other applications.

The Frontier supercomputer is also second-generation AI system (following on from ORNL’s the ‘Summit’ system) which means that it can also provide new capabilities for deep learning, machine learning and data analytics for applications ranging from manufacturing to human health.

Environmental Issues 

There are, however, some environmental issues around the operation of supercomputers like the Frontier system. For example:

– Supercomputers require a massive amount of electricity to operate them meaning, ironically, that although they may be capable of helping to speed up solving of some of the world’s biggest challenges, they could contribute to the global warming that is producing the changing weather conditions that they are capable of predicting. Back in 2020, for example, The Met Office invited potential providers to come up with low-carbon options and it is likely that much of the processing work could be located in countries with easy and abundant sources of clean energy within the European Economic Area, e.g. Iceland (geothermal energy) or Norway (hydropower).

– Supercomputers also require massive amounts of water. For example, at peak power, the Frontier supercomputer generates so much heat that it needs four high-powered pumps to send more than 25,000 litres of water around the machine each minute. This means that new supercomputers may need to be located near large water sources and use renewable energy for their pumping systems.

Other Threats and Concerns 

In addition to the enormous potential benefits that supercomputers offer in solving complex problems in dramatically reduced timescales, there are concerns about computers becoming so powerful that they may be a peril to humanity, unlocking frightening new possibilities, or may be a security-threat if used by bad (state) actors. Some of the concerns include:

– Ethical issues about the possible development of creating computers that have a kind of ‘consciousness,’ and what a kind of artificial brain could and should be used for. Also, there may be an ethical debate about whether a computer powerful and complex enough to be a kind of ‘artificial brain’ should be brought into existence.

– Possible unforeseen moral issues which could arise from the use of super-computers when they are developed.

– Quantum computers, which will be the next new generation of technology use quantum algorithms to accelerate digital computation could be a staggering 150+ million times faster than the most sophisticated supercomputers. Despite this staggering potential for good, there is a fear that someone (e.g., threat actors or a foreign power) could use a functioning quantum computer to break the kind of encryption that we trust to secure our data, transactions, and communications. This fear is often called the ‘quantum apocalypse.’

The Future 

Following on from exascale and quantum computers, further down the line (some predictions say by 2035) zettascale, data-centric computers look likely to be developed, i.e. one zettaFLOPS, equal to 1,000 exaFLOPS. Some tech commentators have even considered that decentralised computing may be a possibility, although it may have many challenges.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

There is no doubt that developing this exascale barrier-busting system is a massive achievement that could bring huge benefits and breakthroughs in so many critical areas such as medicine and energy. For US-based ORNL (and Cray Inc) this milestone is also likely to be an important victory over competitors in Japan and China, and it is likely that the race and competition to build more powerful computers will continue at a pace (although some say it is slowing down). Despite the huge benefits they can bring, there are clearly some environmental issues around the operation of supercomputers like the Frontier system, i.e. huge power and water requirements, and the need for these to be supplied in a way that can minimise the environmental impact. There may also be some ethical and moral concerns about trying to develop future generations of computers that are more like ‘brains’ or that could create unforeseen problems and/or pose a threat to our own existence. That said, for the time being, the potential for good and for being able to solve some our biggest challenges quickly at time when we are facing huge challenges with climate, weather, and health, should be celebrated. It should also be recognised that exascale computing holds enormous potential for businesses in multiple industries around the world and could contribute to significant innovation.

Tech Tip – Share Your Location With A Friend On WhatsApp

If you’re meeting up with someone, or you want a friend to know exactly where you are (which can be a useful safety feature) WhatsApp has a fast and easy way to share your location with someone at the tap of a button. Here’s how to use it:

– Tap on the + sign or the paperclip next to the message box.

– Tap ‘location’.

– Agree to continue and tap ‘Share Live Location’.

– WhatsApp will share your exact location with the other person.

Tech News : Finally! Google Drive Gets Copy, Cut And Paste Shortcuts

Google has announced that users of Google Drive can now use the familiar keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + C (or ⌘ + C on Mac), Ctrl + X and Ctrl + V to copy, cut and paste Google Drive files via the Chrome browser.

Timesaving And About Time 

By (finally) introducing what is now a decades-old feature to Drive, Google says it will save users time by allowing them to copy one or more files and move them to new locations in Drive, and across multiple tabs, with fewer clicks.

Easily Paste Into Document Or Email 

Google also says that a link to the file and its title will be captured when copying a file, which allows the user to easily paste them into a document or an email.

Shortcuts 

To help users more easily organise files in multiple locations without necessarily creating duplicate files, Ctrl + C, Ctrl + Shift + V will create shortcuts.

Tabs Too 

Google also says that, with the update to Drive, users can open files or folders in a new tab using Ctrl+Enter. This will allow users to easily view multiple files at once or use different tabs to organise files more easily between two different folder locations.

OneDrive and Dropbox

Introducing the shortcuts to Google Drive adds a little more flexibility than rival cloud file storage platform Microsoft’s OneDrive, which doesn’t support the cut, copy and paste shortcuts. It does, however, offer ‘copy to’ locations on right-mouse click. Dropbox offers some keyboard shortcuts by clicking ‘Files’ and pressing the question mark key to access the keyboard shortcut menu. However, this is still unlikely to be a convenient and familiar to many as offering straightforward cut, copy and paste keyboard shortcuts.

Copy and Paste From The 70s

The cut/copy-and-paste commands to move and copy text first came into use with text editors at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1974. “Larry” Tesler was credited with proposing the terms ‘cut’, ‘copy’, and ‘paste’ for these actions.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Using cloud-based platforms for collaborative work as well as secure and convenient storage has become much more popular since the lockdown and with the advent of hybrid working. Any time-saving, straightforward features are likely to be valued by businesses, and it may be a surprise to many that it has taken so long for Google to introduce such an old and widely used set of commands. However, it is better late than never, and the introduction of these keyboard shortcuts are one of a constant stream of updates and improvements that Google is making to try and retain users and compete against rival platforms like Dropbox and OneDrive.

Each week we bring you the latest tech news and tips that may relate to your business, re-written in an techy free style. 

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