Start Up: Facebook’s worried about you, Apple’s adblocking bites, Volvo’s self-driving detour, and more


Some Americans are receiving packages from China they didn’t order. Why? An e-commerce scam. Photo by Crouching Donkey on Flickr.


Charity time: ahead of Christmas, I’m encouraging readers to make a donation to charity; a different one each day. Today’s is:
BookTrust: give £10 and a child in social care will receive books for Christmas.


A selection of 14 links for you. Got your tree yet? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook conceded it might make you feel bad. Here’s how to interpret that • The New York Times

Farhad Manjoo:

»

The blogpost pointed out several recent and coming changes to Facebook that the company said encouraged active interactions on the service. That’s the real message: Once you discover how much more you can get out of Facebook with this new stuff, you’ll feel super.

O.K., sure, the post can be read this way. But I’m more optimistic about it, because it’s in line with an evolving corporate posture from the company.

After initially dismissing Facebook’s role in the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, has spent much of the last year publicly grappling with Facebook’s role in the world. He published a lengthy letter to Facebook’s community attempting to establish new social goals for the company. He apologized for glibly dismissing the idea that Facebook could have altered the outcome of the election. And in the company’s last earnings report to investors, he said he was willing to risk the company’s profitability to improve its community.

To be sure, Facebook is putting its own favorable spin on these studies. Yet its willingness to shine a light on critical research, and its pledge to take the findings into account when it designs its products, has to be welcomed as something new.

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link to this extract


Silicon Valley techies still think they’re the good guys. They’re not • WIRED

Erin Griffith:

»

Talking to tech founders every day, it’s clear how little their lives have changed in the last year, even as the world around them has shifted. Even top bosses who’ve noticed the change in public opinion aren’t willing to adjust. On his blog, Y Combinator president Sam Altman argued that political correctness was damaging the tech industry. “This is uncomfortable, but it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics,” he wrote. On the ground, the startup kings haven’t changed their behavior. They’re still pitching me their companies with the same all-out exuberance. They’re continuing their quest to move fast and break things—regardless of what broken objects are left in their wake.

Outside the bubble, things are different. We’re not egging on startups that willingly flaunt regulations. We’re wary of artificial intelligence and its potential to eliminate jobs. We’re dubious of tech leaders’ promises to make their products safe for their kids to use. We are all sick of the jokes that no longer feel funny: lines about the lack of women in tech, about obscenely rich 20-somethings, about awkward coders with bad people skills, about “hustling” and growth at any cost. It all feels inappropriate.

But this backlash against tech is difficult to see from inside the Silicon Valley bubble. And it’s not hard to understand how we got here. In the late 2000s, just after the financial crisis, the world was eager to hear positive stories about tech. The fast rise of services like Twitter and Facebook was thrilling—a spot of optimism in the gloomy aughts—and their geek genius founders made better heroes than the greedy Wall Street jerks that had just tanked the economy.

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link to this extract


Google Tango augmented reality project is shutting down • Business Insider

Matt Weiberger:

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Google has announced that it will be “turning down” Tango, its ambitious augmented-reality project for redefining what a smartphone camera can do, in March 2018.

First launched in 2014, Tango (formerly Project Tango) was a design for a camera that could actually detect depth and motion, opening up all kinds of new applications. The problem, and Tango’s biggest obstacle to success, was that you needed a special, high-tech, Tango-compatible camera to take advantage — a normal camera just wouldn’t do.

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A formality – Google has shifted to doing this on any (capable) smartphone with ARCore. The losers are Lenovo and Asus, which put time and (perhaps?) money into building Project Tango hardware which absolutely nobody bought. Unless Google subsidised it, which I would have thought the OEMs might have asked for.
link to this extract


March 2017: Maybe Android tablet apps will be better this year • The Verge

Dieter Bohn, back in March:

»

There’s a new Android tablet you can go and buy, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Here’s our review of it, where Jake notes that apps freeze if they’re not in the foreground. Which is a good reminder: Android apps on tablets have never really been very good. They usually end up feeling like stretched-out phone apps.

Things have gotten better in the past couple years, but it’s still a problem. In fact, it has always been a problem. I wonder if anybody ever told Google that it was a problem and it should try to do a better job incentivizing developers to make apps that work better on tablets.

Oh, wait, somebody has.

«

There follows a list of times when it’s been pointed out since 2011 that Android’s tablet apps really could do better. One concludes this isn’t going to happen, if it hasn’t happened in six-plus years.
link to this extract


Criteo tumbles on impact of latest iPhone web ad limiting tech • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:

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Web advertising company Criteo SA dropped the most in more than two years after announcing that its previous forecast underestimated the effect of Apple Inc.’s latest iPhone software update on its business.

In September, Apple released new versions of its iOS and macOS operating systems, the software that runs on iPhones, iPads, and Macs, that included a feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention in the Safari web browser. The feature limits advertisers’ abilities to collect data on users such as the websites they visit. Criteo, and other ad targeting companies, collect user data in order to show people ads more relevant to their interests.

Criteo said Nov. 1 it anticipated Apple’s changes to have a 9% to 13% net-negative impact on its 2018 revenue, but now expects the impact to be about 22% net-negative. Apple’s iOS 11.2 software update, released earlier this month, “disables the solution that some companies in the advertising ecosystem, including Criteo, currently use to reach Safari users,” Paris-based Criteo said Thursday in a statement. However, the security changes began rolling out in September with the release of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra.

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That’s really pretty big; suggests that Criteo must be very reliant on the US market.

link to this extract


Scientists link Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall to climate change • The New York Times

Henry Fountain:

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Two research groups found that the record rainfall as Harvey stalled over Texas in late August, which totaled more than 50 inches in some areas, was as much as 38% higher than would be expected in a world that was not warming.

While many scientists had said at the time that Harvey was probably affected by climate change, because warmer air holds more moisture, the size of the increase surprised some.

“The amount of precipitation increase is worse than I expected,” said Michael J. Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and an author of a paper on his group’s findings, which included the 38% figure. Based on how much the world has warmed, Dr. Wehner said, before the analysis he had expected an increase of only about 6 or 7%.

The other study, by an international coalition of scientists known as World Weather Attribution, found that Harvey’s rainfall was 15% higher than would be expected without climate change. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the lead author of the second study, said that climate change also made such an extreme rainstorm much more likely.

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Important finding – this sort of determinism is unusual. (But did it have to be Henry Fountain?)
link to this extract


AI can be a tough sell in the enterprise, despite potential • WSJ

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are expected to boost productivity across all industries in the years ahead. Yet, as many early-stage applications falter, they can run into resistance in the workplace, from the shop floor to the executive suite.

Take Monsanto Co., which expects a vast majority of its early AI and deep-learning projects to fail, says Anju Gupta, the agricultural giant’s director of digital partnerships and outreach.

A 99% failure rate with a current slate of 50-plus deep-learning projects is acceptable because “that 1% is going to bring exponential gain,” Ms. Gupta told a crowd of enterprise IT managers gathered here at an AI industry conference.

The stakes are high, according to Heath Terry, a managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. It estimates that AI-enabled processes will result in up to $20bn in annual savings in the agricultural sector alone, he said.

Across the board, Goldman Sachs expects AI to add between 51 to 154 basis points to U.S. productivity by 2025, the most significant boost in productivity in decades, Mr. Terry said. Already, he adds, 13% of S&P 500 firms have mentioned AI in earnings calls, as of the second quarter, while venture capital funding for AI has doubled this year to more than $10bn.

Still, failures in early tests can risk creating a backlash to AI deployments across a company, despite the potential gains, Ms. Gupta said.

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link to this extract


Amazon’s fake review problem • Brian Theodore Bien

Bien was looking for a sunrise alarm clock:

»

Here, we see both the top and bottom review with the sentence,

The light can be pretty bright, you can adjust it where it’ll be dim and slowly brighten 30 minutes before the alarm time.

Did “Becky” and “Dione Milton” really both happen to write a review with the exact same 23-word sentence? Or, is it more likely that they are agents sourcing reviews from a script, and they sloppily pasted their reviews without rewriting them (as they were presumably instructed to do)? Note also the post dates: December 12, 2017. “Becky” and “Dione Milton” both had private profiles, where their 5-6 reviews were hidden – very similar looking.

Amazon – who has some of the world’s most advanced ML – really needs to step up its review fraud detection game. Imagine how great the Amazon shopping experience would be if we could trust its reviews.

Third party meta review sites like Fakespot will identify problems for us (in this case, the product got an “F” grade) – so why doesn’t Amazon?

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As one of the commenters says, Amazon has a problem just like Google had – has? – a spam problem back in 2010 or so.
link to this extract


Americans are receiving unordered parcels from Chinese e-criminals – and can’t do anything to stop them • Forbes

Wade Shepard on an e-commerce method called “brushing”:

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Chinese agents shipping ridiculous amounts of hair ties to [Pennsylvania resident Heaven] McGeehan is merely an unscrupulous way for them to fraudulently boost sales and obtain positive feedback for their clients’ products on e-commerce sites.

Basically, a “brushing” firm somehow got hold of McGeehan’s name and address – she imagines this happened from placing legitimate orders on AliExpress, the international wing of China’s Alibaba – and then created user profiles for “her” on the e-commerce sites that they wish to have higher sales ratings and favorable reviews on. They then shop for orders via the fake account, compare prices, and mimic everything an actual customer would do, before finally making a purchase from their client’s store. When delivery is confirmed, they then leave positive reviews that appear to the e-commerce platform as “verified.”

The hair ties that McGeehan receives are more than likely not the actual items the Chinese brushers are leaving reviews for. Basically, they are low cost stand-ins for the real products. It doesn’t really matter what is shipped in the packages in this case, as the person receiving it has nothing to do with the exchange. But at least McGeehan is actually receiving packages that contain something. I’ve also been receiving reports from unsuspecting and often confused people in the U.S. whose mailboxes are being filled with parcels from China which contain nothing.

Due to the unbalanced pricing policies of the United Postal Union and subsidies from the U.S. Postal Service, it costs people in China virtually nothing to ship small packages to the U.S. That, combined with the super cheap price they pay for the junk they ship, makes brushing a quick and cost effective way to move up the sales rankings – which means everything for e-commerce merchants.

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link to this extract


Volvo’s Drive Me takes detour on road to full autonomy • Automotive News

Douglas Bolduc:

»

Volvo’s Drive Me autonomous driving project is taking some detours compared with promises the automaker made when it announced the program four years ago, but Volvo says the changes will make its first Level 4 vehicle even better when it arrives in 2021.

In early announcements about Drive Me, Volvo promised to have 100 self-driving vehicles on the road but that has been downgraded. Volvo now says it will have 100 people involved in the Drive Me program within the next four years. Initially, the people taking part in Drive Me will test the cars with the same Level 2 semiautonomous assistance systems that are commercially available to anyone who purchases the vehicle in markets such as Europe and the U.S.

Drive Me is a public autonomous driving experiment that now includes families in Sweden and will be extended to London and China later. The goal is to provide Volvo with customer feedback for its first model with Level 4 autonomy, which means the car can drive itself but still has a steering wheel and pedals so that the driver can take control when needed.

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“When needed”? I don’t like that phrase. How quickly might I be needed?
link to this extract


There never was a real tulip fever • Smithsonian

Lorraine Boissoneault:

»

According to popular legend, the tulip craze took hold of all levels of Dutch society in the 1630s. “The rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade,” wrote Scottish journalist Charles Mackay in his popular 1841 work Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. According to this narrative, everyone from the wealthiest merchants to the poorest chimney sweeps jumped into the tulip fray, buying bulbs at high prices and selling them for even more. Companies formed just to deal with the tulip trade, which reached a fever pitch in late 1636. But by February 1637, the bottom fell out of the market. More and more people defaulted on their agreement to buy the tulips at the prices they’d promised, and the traders who had already made their payments were left in debt or bankrupted. At least that’s what has always been claimed.

In fact, “There weren’t that many people involved and the economic repercussions were pretty minor,” [professor of early modern history at Kings College London, Anne] Goldgar says. “I couldn’t find anybody that went bankrupt. If there had been really a wholesale destruction of the economy as the myth suggests, that would’ve been a much harder thing to face.”

That’s not to say that everything about the story is wrong; merchants really did engage in a frantic tulip trade, and they paid incredibly high prices for some bulbs. And when a number of buyers announced they couldn’t pay the high price previously agreed upon, the market did fall apart and cause a small crisis—but only because it undermined social expectations.

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OK, a tulip flu then? But one can see parallels with bitcoin: there’s only a small number of people who own it, and yet the coverage of it is bonkers.
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q2vq2 • Ghostbin

“Dr Cyborkian a.k.a. janit0r, conditioner of ‘terminally ill’ devices”:

»

I am now here to warn you that what I’ve done was only a temporary band- aid and it’s not going to be enough to save the Internet in the future.

The bad guys are getting more sophisticated, the number of potentially vulnerable devices keep increasing, and it’s only a matter of time before a large scale Internet-disrupting event will occur. If you are willing to believe that I’ve disabled over 10 million vulnerable devices over the 13-month span of the project then it’s not far-fetched to say that such a destructive event could’ve already happened in 2017.

YOU SHOULD WAKE UP TO THE FACT THAT THE INTERNET IS ONLY ONE OR TWO SERIOUS IOT EXPLOITS AWAY FROM BEING SEVERELY DISRUPTED. The damage of such an event is immeasurable given how digitally connected our societies have become, yet CERTs, ISPs and governments are not taking the gravity of the situation seriously enough.

ISPs keep deploying devices with exposed control ports and although these are trivially found using services like Shodan the national CERTs don’t seem to care. A lot of countries don’t even have CERTs. Many of the world’s biggest ISPs do not have any actual security know-how in-house, and are instead relying on foreign vendors for help in case anything goes wrong. I’ve watched large ISPs withering for months under conditioning from my botnet without them being able to fully mitigate the vulnerabilities (good examples are BSNL, Telkom ZA, PLDT, from time to time PT Telkom, and pretty much most large ISPs south of the border).

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HE seems to be the author of “Brickerbot”, an IoT-attacking malware strain which just seems to wreck them. If history is a guide, he’s releasing the code for this (linked earlier in his post) because law enforcement is close enough that he’s about to be caught, so he wants deniability – he uploads the code somewhere and then downloads it, and denies he wrote it. (Paras Jha, who recently pleaded guilty with others to writing the Mirai IoT bot, did the same.)
link to this extract


25,000 children in Britain are problem gamblers, report finds • The Guardian

Rob Davies:

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Fruit machines remain the most common introduction to gambling for young people at 24%, followed by the National Lottery at 21%.

But the Gambling Commission said children were increasingly being exposed to gambling in less traditional ways, such as through eSports (computer games competitions) and via social media.

The report found that 11% of children took part in skins betting, whereby online gamers can bet using in-game items, such as weapons or outfits, which can have real monetary value if traded.

Skins betting, an industry worth up to $5.1bn (£3.8bn) last year according to one US report, is a common feature of games such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

And earlier this year, two men were convicted for running a website that allowed children to bet on the Fifa series of online football games.

More than one in 10 children reported having played casino-style games, which simulate roulette or fruit machines, on Facebook or smartphone apps.

The commission’s statistics indicate that children who play such games, many of which have a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) 12 age rating, are more likely to gamble in real life.

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A downward spiral, started early. There’s a lot of nonsense pleading by the companies that run the gambling machines, and gaming generally, about “jobs at risk”. Gambling like this quickly goes out of control, and puts livelihoods at risk.
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The Amazon machine • Benedict Evans

Evans points out that a key to big companies is how well they’re able to make the things that make the things they offer; in Amazon’s case, it’s teams to sell stuff:

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Amazon, then, is a machine to make a machine – it is a machine to make more Amazon. The opposite extreme might be Apple, which rather than radical decentralization looks more like an ASIC, with everything carefully structured and everyone in their box, which allows Apple to create certain kinds of new product with huge efficiency but makes it pretty hard to add new product lines indefinitely. Steve Jobs was fond of talking about saying ‘no’ to new projects – that’s not a very relevant virtue to Amazon.

For both Amazon and Apple (and indeed Google or Facebook), this means that there are certain kinds of project that they can deliver very well and very repeatably and predictably, but also, crucially, that there are certain kinds of project that they are much less well suited to deliver. Google doesn’t tend to be better at cloud platforms than Apple and worse at UIs because there are better or worse people in each team, but because each company is set up to deliver certain kinds of things, and the closer a project is to that machine’s direction the more reliable the result. If the machine is designed to do X, it will struggle at Y no matter how clever the people. A lot of the story of Amazon for the last 20 years is of how many Ys turned out to by Xs – how many categories that people thought could not be sold online and could not be sold as commodities turned out to be both.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: how democracy ends, call an ambUberlance!, the porn ad spawn fraud, Amazon blinks, and more


The US FCC killed net neutrality, sorta kinda. What next? Photo by silver marquis on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. On time, unlike yesterday’s. (You’ll get two today.) I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How democracy ends • Talking Politics

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Worst-case scenarios for democracy – especially since Trump’s victory – hark back to how democracy has failed in the past. So do we really risk a return to the 1930s? This week David argues no: if democracy is going to fail in the 21st century, it will be in ways that are new and surprising. A talk based on his new book coming out next year. Recorded at Churchill College as part of the CSAR lecture series.

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This is an hour-long talk by David Runciman, professor of politics at the University of Cambridge. It’s a remarkable outlining of the blind spots that we aren’t aware of, the traps in our thinking that make us think history repeats – rather than rhymes.

Countries to think about in terms of “democracy”: Turkey, Venezuela, Brazil. (He doesn’t mention any of them, but they’re worth considering.) If you need a technology fix, he does talk about Facebook – and whether robots can make up for Japan’s falling fertility rate. Click through to the page for the player link, or find the podcast “Talking Politics” on iTunes/Acast/Stitcher. (This is episode 71.)

(David is a friend, via my time spent at the Technology & Democracy project at Cambridge. I’d certainly be recommending this even if he weren’t.)
link to this extract


E pur si muove • Sam Altman

Altman thinks that it’s harder to talk about radical ideas in San Francisco than China:

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Restricting speech leads to restricting ideas and therefore restricted innovation—the most successful societies have generally been the most open ones. Usually mainstream ideas are right and heterodox ideas are wrong, but the true and unpopular ideas are what drive the world forward. Also, smart people tend to have an allergic reaction to the restriction of ideas, and I’m now seeing many of the smartest people I know move elsewhere.

It is bad for all of us when people can’t say that the world is a sphere, that evolution is real, or that the sun is at the center of the solar system.

More recently, I’ve seen credible people working on ideas like pharmaceuticals for intelligence augmentation, genetic engineering, and radical life extension leave San Francisco because they found the reaction to their work to be so toxic. “If people live a lot longer it will be disastrous for the environment, so people working on this must be really unethical” was a memorable quote I heard this year.

To get the really good ideas, we need to tolerate really bad and wacky ideas too.

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This seems a fundamental confusion of two things. Talking about radical ideas is one thing; they’re not unethical in themselves. If they’re bad you refute them. But genetic manipulation could have dramatic, far-reaching physical effects that you can’t reverse – it’s not like changing a law on same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Anil Dash eviscerates Altman’s suggestions in a Twitter thread which deals much more directly with the “speech” (rather than “doing stuff”) idea.
link to this extract


Uber reduces ambulance usage across the country, study says • Mercury News

Tracy Seipel:

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In what is believed to be the first study to measure the impact of Uber and other ride-booking services on the U.S. ambulance business, two researchers have concluded that ambulance usage is dropping across the country.

A research paper released Wednesday examined ambulance usage rates in 766 U.S. cities in 43 states as Uber entered their markets from 2013 to 2015.

Co-authors David Slusky, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas, and Dr. Leon Moskatel, an internist at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said they believe their study is the first to explain a trend that until now has only been discussed anecdotally.

Comparing ambulance volumes before and after Uber became available in each city, the two men found that the ambulance usage rate dipped significantly.

Slusky said after using different methodologies to obtain the “most conservative” decline in ambulance usage, the researchers calculated the drop to be “at least” 7%.

“My guess is it will go up a little bit and stabilize at 10% to 15% as Uber continues to expand as an alternative for people,’’ Moskatel said.

«

Here’s the kicker for Britons saying “huh? Ambulances are free though”:

»

Slusky added, with health care taking a big chunk out of most people’s budgets, many consumers these days have to weigh a few factors before calling an ambulance. “They have to think about their health — and what it’s going to cost me,” he said. “And for many of us with high-deductible plans, an ambulance ride would cost thousands of dollars.”

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link to this extract


This is how visiting a porn site can make you a pawn in an ad fraud scheme • Buzzfeed

Craig Silverman:

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The technique used by DingIt, as well as a growing number of mainstream sites, is outlined in a presentation published this week by [ad fraud researcher Augustine] Fou. He has for weeks been documenting what he calls “Bot-Free Traffic Origination Redirect Networks.”

Fou told BuzzFeed News these networks can “originate traffic out of thin air” and direct it to a specific site thanks to code that instructs them when to load a specific webpage, and how long to keep it open before automatically loading the next website in the chain. No human action is required to load webpages or redirect to the next site — it’s a perpetual-motion machine for web traffic and ad impressions.

Ad fraud detection company Pixalate documented this activity in a recent investigation and dubbed the web properties using it “zombie sites” due to their ability to automatically generate traffic without human activity.

This form of ad fraud was also detailed in two recent BuzzFeed News investigations, which serve to highlight how the technique is growing in popularity and is now being used on more mainstream sites.

In one case, Myspace and roughly 150 local newspaper websites owned by GateHouse Media said they were unwittingly part of redirect networks that racked up millions of fraudulent video ad impressions. Both companies told BuzzFeed News the offending subdomains on their sites were managed by third parties, and that Myspace and GateHouse received no revenue from any fraudulent impressions. The pages have since been shut down.

“How were [these subdomains] getting all those video views? Well, they just originated it. A user is not doing anything, but the page is just redirecting by itself,” Fou said…

…On porn sites, as well as on many illegal streaming and file-sharing sites, it starts with a visitor clicking anywhere on the page. Regardless of what they meant to click, the site clickjacks the action and uses it to open a pop-under window behind the user’s main browser tab.

As the user watches porn or other content in the main window, unscrupulous ad networks use the hidden window to load different websites at timed intervals, racking up views and ad impressions. A user often has no idea this is happening in the background, and in some cases porn sites load the pop-under as an invisible window that can’t be seen. (That window will load websites and ad impressions until the entire browser is closed, or until the computer loses its internet connection.)

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link to this extract


Switching views on consoles • Bloomberg Gadfly

Tim Culpan:

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Apparently the games console isn’t dead. Yet.

Despite numerous distractions for consumers – from smartphone games to Netflix – Nintendo Co.’s Switch has a chance of becoming the Japanese company’s best-selling gaming machine in a decade.

With the 10 million mark recently surpassed and Christmas ahead, it’s possible Switch may beat the 17 million mark set by the Nintendo 3DS in the 2011/12 fiscal year. Selling another 7 million units in the next four months will be a stretch, but even even if it comes within a few million, Nintendo will be able to celebrate.

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The Switch is a strange beast: it’s a very portable console, but also works as a stationary one. And it’s got a hell of a battery. No wonder it’s selling so well. Yet without the Nintendo content – hello, Mario – it would be nowhere.
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You can log out, but you can’t hide • Axios

»

A new study from Ghostery, an anti-tracking tool, shows that an overwhelming majority (79%) of websites globally are tracking visitors’ data — with 10% of these sites actually sending user data to 10 companies or more.

• Tracking scripts from Google and Facebook are by far the most pervasive. Together, those two companies collect more data than most other companies combined.

• The US, Russia and UK have more trackers per page load than the global average, while Germany, France and India have fewer. (Germany and many European countries are known for their culture of strong data privacy.)

• The advertising supply chain represents the vast majority of tracking companies.

New regulatory efforts to protect consumer privacy will significantly hinder these companies’ ability to collect data via tracking scripts. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect next year in Europe, will require companies to get explicit permission from consumers to collect their data.

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link to this extract


Android Oreo review: conclusion • BirchTree

Matt Birchler:

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Honestly, if I could run all of my iOS apps on the Android operating system I think I’d feel a lot better about Android. It’s a lack of consistent quality software on the platform that really drives me away. The vast difference in quality software from non-Google companies is just depressing for someone coming from the iOS world. Websites like MacStories exist almost completely to talk about third party apps on iOS, and there is enough new and exciting software coming out on a regular basis that they can make a business of it. You simply don’t have that on the Android side, as Android-centric sites instead focus mostly on hardware, sales, and what updates Google themselves are making. In the past 2 months with the Pixel 2, the only “exciting” app releases have been AR Stickers for the Pixel 2 camera app and a new file management app made by Google.

As I return to iOS full time, I do intend to keep carrying the Pixel 2 with me for a while. I’ll carry it mostly for the camera, which is indeed quite excellent, but there will also be a few Android features I’ll miss. I’ll miss the superior notification management. I’ll miss the far superior do-not-disturb options. I’ll miss having Google Assistant as my main digital assistant. And I’ll miss picture-in-picture on my phone. I will miss these things, but as I think is very clear by now, I’ll miss those things less than I missed all the goodies iOS brings me.

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Nails it about Android news sites. There’s really very little to chew on there. (Still waiting for David Ruddock’s article about what he doesn’t like about iOS after using Android for 10 years. Perhaps it’ll land next week.)
link to this extract


Ajit Pai thinks you’re stupid enough to buy this crap [Update: one of the 7 things is dancing with a Pizzagater] • Gizmodo

Tom McKay:

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The [net neutrality] plan is immensely unpopular, even with Republicans. This type of situation would typically call for a charm offensive, though Pai has apparently decided to resort to his time-honored tactic of being incredibly condescending instead. In a video with the conservative site Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson—the dude who got fired from BuzzFeed for plagiarizing Yahoo Answers—Pai urged the country to understand that even if he succeeds in his plan to let ISPs strangle the rest of the internet to death, they’ll let us continue to take selfies and other stupid bullshit.

“There’s been quite a bit of conversation about my plan to restore Internet freedom,” Pai says in the cringe-inducing clip. “Here are just a few of the things you will still be able to do on the Internet after these Obama-era regulations are repealed.”

Pai then pantomimed things users will supposedly still be able to do, like being able to “gram your food,” “post photos of cute animals, like puppies,” “shop for all your Christmas presents online,” “binge watch your favorite shows,” and “stay part of your favorite fan community.”

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Pai’s backstory is interesting: he’s a lawyer who was appointed to the FCC by Obama at the urging of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. He’s no slouch, and he has had a consistent position on this.

The GIF stuff is stupid; he’s badly advised.
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Facebook will launch pre-roll video ads in 2018 • Recode

Peter Kafka:

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For years, Facebook executives have said they don’t want to run “pre-roll” ads — ads that run before you get to watch the video you want to play — because users don’t like them.

Now, Facebook is going to start running pre-roll ads.

Important: That doesn’t mean your News Feed is going to be full of video ads you didn’t ask to see. The pre-rolls, which will run for up to six seconds, will only appear on videos in Facebook’s “Watch” hub, where it is hoping you will go and hang out because you want to watch Facebook videos.

Facebook says it will start formally testing the format next year. (Ad Age first reported the change.)

Facebook launched its Watch hub earlier this year, using “mid-roll” ads (another ad format Facebook tried to avoid for a long time). The fact that they have added pre-rolls — the format used around the web and the one advertisers are most comfortable with — should be read as an admission that the mid-roll ads aren’t generating significant revenue for Facebook or the publishers putting video into Watch.

«

I wonder – just an idea here – whether it could just be that video isn’t actually the saviour of everyone’s business model?
link to this extract


The FCC just killed net neutrality. Now what? • WIRED

Klint Finley:

»

Most immediately, the activity will move to the courts, where the advocacy group Free Press, and probably others, will challenge the FCC’s decision. The most likely argument: that the commission’s decision violates federal laws barring agencies from crafting “arbitrary and capricious” regulations. After all, the FCC’s net neutrality rules were just passed in 2015. Activists and many members of Congress, including at least six Republicans, pushed for a delay in the vote, but apart from a brief delay due to a security issue, the vote occurred as planned.

But as capricious as the current FCC’s about-face may seem, legal experts say the challenges won’t be a slam-dunk case. Federal agencies are allowed to change their minds about previous regulations, so long as they adequately explain their reasoning. “It’s not carte blanche,” says Marc Martin, chair of law firm Perkins Coie’s communications practice. “You can’t make it obvious that it’s just based on politics.” Martin says the burden of proof will be on net neutrality advocates challenging the agency.

The FCC’s main argument for revoking the 2015 rules is that the regulations hurt investment in broadband infrastructure. But, as WIRED recently detailed, many broadband providers actually increased their investments, while those that cut back on spending told shareholders that the net neutrality rules didn’t affect their plans.

«

That the US has more competition in wireless than wired broadband say to me that the wired market has reached an end state. Not a good one, either. The FCC’s tinkering here isn’t going to make a difference. The US needs proper local loop unbundling so that ISPs and telcos can compete at the local level; in that case it doesn’t matter whether you impose net neutrality because someone will offer it.

link to this extract


Amazon to start selling Apple TV and Google Chromecast • CNET

Ben Fox Rubin:

»

Amazon said Thursday that it will again be selling Apple TV and Google Chromecast devices, two video-streaming gadgets the e-commerce giant removed from its site two years ago and that compete with its own Fire TV products.

“I can confirm that we are assorting Apple TV and Chromecast,” an Amazon spokeswoman told CNET on Thursday, referring to the company’s plans to stock up on the devices. She offered no further statements.

Amazon added product listing pages for the Apple TV and two versions of the Apple TV 4K, as well as the Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. The gadgets aren’t available for sale yet, but customers should expect they will be shortly.

Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

«

Background: Amazon hasn’t been selling these for ages; then Google pulled YouTube from Amazon hardware (Fire Stick, Echo Show); then Amazon tried to reinstate them; then Google really blocked them.

And now Amazon seems to have blinked. Expect the next move to be YouTube being reinstated on Amazon devices.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified. You didn’t even complain about my posting yesterday’s post 8hr late.

Start Up: paying for news, Chromebook cautions, Patreon reverses, dissing Pixel Buds, lost snow and more


The Mirai botnet was initially built to attack Minecraft servers. Then things grew and people got arrested. Photo by John Baichtal on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. 0.7% approve. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Net giants ‘must pay for news’ from which they make billions • Agence France-Presse

»

Nine European press agencies, including AFP, called Wednesday on internet giants to be forced to pay copyright for using news content on which they make vast profits.

The call comes as the EU is debating a directive to make Facebook, Google, Twitter and other major players pay for the millions of news articles they use or link to.

“Facebook has become the biggest media in the world,” the agencies said in a plea published in the French daily Le Monde.

“Yet neither Facebook nor Google have a newsroom… They do not have journalists in Syria risking their lives, nor a bureau in Zimbabwe investigating Mugabe’s departure, nor editors to check and verify information sent in by reporters on the ground.”

“Access to free information is supposedly one of the great victories of the internet. But it is a myth,” the agencies argued.

“At the end of the chain, informing the public costs a lot of money.”

News, the declaration added, is the second reason after catching up on family and friends for people to log onto Facebook, which tripled its profits to $10bn (€8.5bn) last year.

«

One to watch.
link to this extract


Buying a Chromebook? Here’s what you need to worry about • WSJ

Wilson Rothman notes that Chromebook sales have doubled in the US, and that they’re cheap, but note:

»

When students log into a Chromebook using their school-issued accounts, the school’s settings govern how they use the Google apps, and Google doesn’t target educational accounts for advertising. Yet that login doesn’t necessarily prevent children from visiting unsafe websites.

For now, if you want to lock down a Chromebook, you have to create supervised user accounts, which let you add websites to naughty or nice lists, monitor history, block apps and extensions, and tweak other settings.

But they’re too hands-on: There are no simple filters built on a child’s age, nor anything resembling Apple’s iOS restrictions, which let you turn off a wide array of specific services, from cameras to in-app purchases.

What Google really needs to do is add Chromebooks to its Family Link, a new user-friendly way to monitor and set limits on children’s internet use. At press time, Family Link was compatible only with Android devices, but the surge in Chromebook sales should pressure Google to expand it. Kan Liu, Google’s Chrome OS product-management director, said Google is thinking about how to integrate Family Link into Chromebooks.

(Note: Built-in parental controls are ideal, but there are also third-party controls like Circle for your home network.)

«

link to this extract


We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change • The Patreon Blog

Jack Conte is CEO of Patreon:

»

We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

I’ve spent hours and hours on the phone with creators, and so has the Patreon team. Your feedback has been crystal clear:

• The new payments system disproportionately impacted $1 – $2 patrons. We have to build a better system for them.
• Aggregation is highly-valued, and we underestimated that.
• Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

«

Better late than never, but some people have lost sponsorship from this already.
link to this extract


No, Google’s Pixel Buds won’t change the world • 1843

Leo Mirani:

»

I took the Pixel Buds to Buckow, in Brandenburg in eastern Germany, with the intent of trying them out in the wild. Reader, they remained in my bag. This is not, therefore, a conventional product review. It is small contribution to the vast corpus of complaints about what happens to product design when an engineer’s focus on problem solving blinds them to the norms of the social interaction. However effective a gadget is, it will fail if it makes its user feel like a chump.

It is bad enough that mobile-phone signal when roaming in the EU can often be spotty (the translation service needs internet connectivity to work). It is worse that Germans possess an inherent distrust of Silicon Valley firms so asking them to speak into a phone while you’re wearing earphones is an invitation for abuse. But worst of all is the sheer awkwardness of the whole thing: hang on a second while I put in these ridiculous things, fire up the app, make sure everything’s synced up, and then speak into my phone while holding it up to your ear, bitte, just so I can hear your response in my own ear.

Danke, but nein danke. This is not how human beings interact with each other. It is telling that this product comes from the same people who brought us Google Glass, an ugly, invasive face-mounted camera that evoked hostility wherever it was worn.

«

link to this extract


Popular destinations rerouted to Russia • BGPmon

Andree Toonk:

»

Early this morning (UTC) our systems detected a suspicious event where many prefixes for high profile destinations were being announced by an unused Russian Autonomous System.

Starting at 04:43 (UTC) 80 prefixes normally announced by organizations such Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitch, NTT Communications and Riot Games were now detected in the global BGP routing tables with an Origin AS of 39523 (DV-LINK-AS), out of Russia.

Looking at timeline we can see two event windows of about three minutes each. The first one started at 04:43 UTC and ended at around 04:46 UTC. The second event started 07:07 UTC and finished at 07:10 UTC.

Even though these events were relatively short lived, they were significant because it was picked up by a large number of peers and because of several new more specific prefixes that are not normally seen on the Internet. So let’s dig a little deeper.

One of the interesting things about this incident is the prefixes that were affected are all network prefixes for well known and high traffic internet organizations. The other odd thing is that the Origin AS 39523 (DV-LINK-AS) hasn’t been seen announcing any prefixes for many years (with one exception below), so why does it all of sudden appear and announce prefixes for networks such as Google?

«

I won’t pretend to understand this, but they don’t think it’s good.
link to this extract


The big melt: the Alps and artificial snow • Time

Jeffrey Kluger:

»

From 1960 to 2017, the Alpine snow season shortened by 38 days—starting an average of 12 days later and ending 26 days earlier than normal. Europe experienced its warmest-ever winter in the 2015–16 season, with snow cover in the southern French Alps just 20% of its typical depth.

Last December was the driest in 150 years of record keeping, and the flakes that did manage to fall didn’t stay around long. The snow line—the point on a slope at which it’s high enough and thus cold enough for snow to stick—is about 3,900 ft., which is a historic high in some areas. But worse lies ahead as scientists predict melt even at nearly 10,000 ft. by the end of the century.

All this is doing terrible things not just to Alpine beauty but to Alpine businesses—especially ski resorts. Globally, the ski industry generates up to $70 billion per year, and 44% of all skiers—and their dollars—flock to the Alps.

Imagine the Caribbean culture and economy without beaches and water; that’s the Alpine culture and economy without snow…

…the Dolomites have changed—their snow quickly vanishing—and that transformation is what caught the eye of Italian photographer Marco Zorzanello. A onetime student of literature, he found himself growing less interested in the lit part of his education and more interested in the human part—particularly the damage humans as a whole are doing to ourselves and to our world through climate change.

«

They’re remarkable pictures, and quite eerie; and scary if you like skiing.
link to this extract


Mirai IoT botnet co-authors plead guilty • Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs, who named two of the people he believed – through online sleuthing – were behind the original Mirai botnet (which is not the one that knocked Twitter, Reddit et al offline last year; the original was built to attack Minecraft servers):

»

In addition, the Mirai co-creators pleaded guilty to charges of using their botnet to conduct click fraud — a form of online advertising fraud that will cost Internet advertisers more than $16bn this year, according to estimates from ad verification company Adloox. 

The plea agreements state that Jha, White and another person who also pleaded guilty to click fraud conspiracy charges — a 21-year-old from Metairie, Louisiana named Dalton Norman — leased access to their botnet for the purposes of earning fraudulent advertising revenue through click fraud activity and renting out their botnet to other cybercriminals.

As part of this scheme, victim devices were used to transmit high volumes of requests to view web addresses associated with affiliate advertising content. Because the victim activity resembled legitimate views of these websites, the activity generated fraudulent profits through the sites hosting the advertising content, at the expense of online advertising companies.

Jha and his co-conspirators admitted receiving as part of the click fraud scheme approximately two hundred bitcoin, valued on January 29, 2017 at over $180,000.

Prosecutors say Norman personally earned over 30 bitcoin, valued on January 29, 2017 at approximately $27,000. The documents show that Norman helped Jha and White discover new, previously unknown vulnerabilities in IoT devices that could be used to beef up their Mirai botnet, which at its height grew to more than 300,000 hacked devices.

«

Click fraud by IoT. Things pretending to be people to click ads.
link to this extract


Is AlphaZero really a scientific breakthrough in AI? • Medium

Jose Camacho Collados is an AI/NLP research and international chess master:

»

We should scientifically scrutinize alleged breakthroughs carefully, especially in the period of AI hype we live now. It is actually responsibility of researchers in this area to accurately describe and advertise our achievements, and try not to contribute to the growing (often self-interested) misinformation and mystification of the field. In fact, this early December in NIPS, arguably the most prestigious AI conference, some researchers showed important concerns about the lack of rigour of this scientific community in recent years.

In this case, given the relevance of the claims, I hope these concerns will be clarified and solved in order to be able to accurately judge the actual scientific contribution of this feat, a judgement that it is not possible to make right now. Probably with a better experimental design as well as an effort on reproducibility the conclusions would be a bit weaker as originally claimed.

«

He has a number of questions about the AlphaZero/Stockfish matchup. Some seem a bit weak, or easily answered, but the question of reproducibility is important. Deepmind is making big claims, but this isn’t how you do real science.
link to this extract


It’s official: ADSL works over wet string • RevK’s rants

»

Broadband services are a wonderful innovation of our time, using multiple frequency bands (hence the name) to carry signals over wires (usually copper, sometimes aluminium). One of the key aspects of the technology is its ability to adapt to the length and characteristics of the line on which it is deployed.

We have seen faults on broadband circuits that manifest as the system adapting to much lower speeds, this is a key factor as a service can work, but unusually slowly, over very bad lines.

It has always been said that ADSL will work over a bit of wet string.

Well one of our techies (www.aa.net.uk) took it upon himself to try it today at the office, and well done.

He got some proper string, and made it wet…

«

Flipping biscuits, he got 3.5Mbps down. That’s more than I get at home.
link to this extract


Exclusive interview: Apple’s Phil Schiller on how the iPhone X ‘seemed impossible at the start’ • T3

Dan Grabham:

»

We say to Schiller that we’ve been surprised at how good Face ID is for Apple Pay. “Yes. That was on a long list of things we knew we had to deliver. The home button, at the beginning, really did one thing. Maybe two. It woke up your screen, and then it let you go to the home screen from any app. And then over the years, we’ve layered on many, many uses – the multitasking capabilities, evoking Siri, you being able to use it for Apple Pay, creating Touch ID for your fingerprint. So Face ID had a much harder job for its first version than the home button had for its first version.”

Apple notoriously doesn’t talk about products in advance (unless it’s the 2018 Mac Pro, when it did), but regardless we ask whether Face ID could appear in more Apple products beyond phones? “We try not to get ahead of ourselves,” says Schiller with the look of someone who may have been asked this question before. “While we have many plans throughout the year for many things, we also are realists in that we need to create something, and that we need to make it great, and that we need to study, and we need to learn… all the user cases all around the world from everybody in every situation, before we then imagine some of the other things we might do.”…

Why the pause [in delivering HomePod]?

“It’s really very simple. It’s a brand new product. It’s a lot of engineering to make it be the product we’ve described, and for it to be what we all hope it can be.

“And I’m actually really proud that we’re a company that will take the time to do something right. Our goal is always not to be ‘most’ but to be ‘best’, and we set high standards. We often exceed those, but not always. And we need to be self-honest if something’s not ready, and continue to work on it until it is.”

Schiller is also frank about AI-driven speakers being still very much a developing product category. “Nobody really knows how we all want to use these kinds of products.

“There might not be one product for everybody. And our [focus is] on having great sounding music wherever you place it in your room or your flat, or a great interaction with Siri for a music experience – we think that that’s a great [starting] point for a whole new kind of product in our lives.

“I think others have different perspectives on the things that they’re making, and we’re all going to learn together what we think.”

«

Also covers AirPods, Apple Pencil, and iPad Pro as a desktop/laptop replacement. I think what he’s saying about HomePod echoes the Apple Watch introduction – Apple had an idea for how that would be used which quite quickly coalesced around the fitness angle rather than apps. What’s HomePod’s one?
link to this extract


Apple to invest $390m in Finisar to ramp up chip production • Reuters

»

Apple Inc will give Finisar Corp $390m to increase production of chips that power high-profile iPhone X features including Face ID, Animojis and portrait-mode photos…

…The investment is Apple’s second from its $1bn advanced manufacturing fund that seeks to foster innovation and create jobs, Apple said. The first investment was a $200m infusion into Gorilla Glass maker Corning in May.

Finisar will use the money to transform a previously closed 700,000-square-foot plant in Sherman, Texas to make high volumes of laser diodes called vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, or VCSELs.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Apple said it would buy 10 times more VCSELs than were previously made worldwide over a similar time period.

«

That’s a big ramp in VCSELs. Do they have any other uses?
link to this extract


I used to be a bitcoin bull — here’s why that changed • Ars Technica

Timothy B Lee:

»

Now we’re in the midst of another big bitcoin bull market, and I’m much more worried that the market is getting into unsustainable territory. At the beginning of the year, bitcoins were worth $1,000 apiece, and all bitcoins in circulation were worth around $15 billion—still quite small as global financial assets go. Today, each bitcoin is worth $17,000, and all bitcoins in circulation are worth a much more substantial $280 billion. That seems like a lot for a payment network that only processes about four transactions per second.

Meanwhile, there are growing signs that ordinary, unsophisticated investors may be getting in over their heads. Anecdotal reports suggest that people with no real technical or financial expertise are getting interested in cryptocurrency, and some people are even borrowing money to invest in bitcoin. The market is starting to feel like the final month of the dotcom boom, when people started getting tech stock tips from their taxi drivers.

I don’t necessarily think the market is over-valued, and it might still go up further. But I’m pretty sure investors won’t enjoy the kind of outsized gains that earlier investors have enjoyed. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the market crash in the coming months…

…The big question is what will people use bitcoin for, and how big will the resulting markets be?

A big challenge, however, is that the network is becoming increasingly congested. Right now, the network is struggling to process more than about four transactions per second, and intense demand for network capacity has pushed the average transaction fee above $20. There are various proposals to relieve this congestion, from increasing the size of Bitcoin blocks to developing new technologies to allow many transactions to occur outside of Bitcoin’s blockchain.

Nevertheless, capacity limits are likely to limit the Bitcoin network’s growth for years to come.

«

I get the slight feeling that this is the response to an editor’s call of “find me someone who used to be a bull on bitcoin and is now bearish!”, but overall it’s solid.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: monitoring Google, iMac Pro pro enough?, AI-faked celeb porn, email money machine, and more


Grand Theft Auto got its big push via manufactured outrage. Photo by Smade Media on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Contains no Star Wars spoilers. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Meet the man trying to catch Google search at its worst • The Outline

Jon Christian:

»

There is one group working on a concept for a system that would establish a record of search engine results. The idea is similar to the Internet Archive, which downloads periodic copies of websites, but more complicated since search engines display different results depending on the time as well as the location and history of the user. The solution for tracking such a complicated system is described in a prospectus for the Sunlight Society, founded by a group of 20 researchers under the banner of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology (AIBRT), a nonprofit in Vista, California that conducts research in psychology and tech.

The concept is similar to Nielsen Media Research’s longstanding system that collects information about audience size and demographics of television viewers through meters installed in households around the country. But instead of monitoring TV habits of real people, the system would monitor their internet use. This would require a worldwide network of paid collaborators who would provide the Sunlight Society with access to their search results.

“This is about new methods of influence that have never existed before, and that are affecting the decisions of billions of people every day without their knowledge, and without leaving a paper trail,” said Robert Epstein, a 64-year-old researcher, book author, and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.

«

Ambitious scheme. But important.
link to this extract


iMac Pro available to order december 14, starting at $4,999 • Mac Rumors

»

iMac Pro is a powerful, top-of-the-line workstation designed for professional users with demanding workflows, such as advanced video and graphics editing, virtual reality content creation, and real-time 3D rendering.

“iMac Pro is a huge step forward and there’s never been anything like it,” said John Ternus, Apple’s VP of Hardware Engineering.

The all-in-one desktop computer has a 27-inch Retina 5K display within a sleek space gray enclosure. Apple also includes a space gray Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 in the box.

Apple said the iMac Pro is the fastest and most powerful Mac ever, at least until the modular Mac Pro is released.

The machine can be configured with up to an 18-core Intel Xeon processor, up to 4TB of SSD storage, up to 128GB of ECC RAM, and an AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 graphics processor with 16GB of HBM2 memory.

«

That’s quite hefty. The thinking is that Apple was going to let this be its top-end “Pro” model but that the outcry about the lack of modularity got it to go back and revamp the cylindrical Mac Pro, which will be completely renewed in 2018.
link to this extract


Facebook to stop booking ad sales through Irish HQ • FT

Hannah Kuchler and Madison Marriage:

»

The world’s largest social network said next year it will move towards a local selling structure. Advertisements sold will be booked as revenue in the 25 countries across the world rather than at its international headquarters in Ireland.

The move could mean the company faces higher taxes as it books revenue in countries such as France, Germany and Italy. But depending on how it accounts for its expenses in each jurisdiction, it may not pay much more tax overall. Revenue from its self-serve platform, where millions of small advertisers buy inventory, will continue to be booked in Ireland.

Dave Wehner, chief financial officer, said the move will require “significant resources” to implement and will only be finished at the end of the first half of 2019.

“We believe that moving to a local selling structure will provide more transparency to governments and policymakers around the world who have called for greater visibility over the revenue associated with locally-supported sales in their countries,” he said.

«

Or is it to do with the new General Data Protection Requirements coming in to Europe next year? Then again given when it will finish, perhaps not.

link to this extract


AI-assisted fake porn is here and we’re all fscked • Motherboard

Samantha Cole:

»

There’s a video of Gal Gadot having sex with her stepbrother on the internet. But it’s not really Gadot’s body, and it’s barely her own face. It’s an approximation, face-swapped to look like she’s performing in an existing incest-themed porn video.

The video was created with a machine learning algorithm, using easily accessible materials and open-source code that anyone with a working knowledge of deep learning algorithms could put together.

It’s not going to fool anyone who looks closely. Sometimes the face doesn’t track correctly and there’s an uncanny valley effect at play, but at a glance it seems believable. It’s especially striking considering that it’s allegedly the work of one person—a Redditor who goes by the name ‘deepfakes’—not a big special effects studio that can digitally recreate a young Princess Leia in Rogue One using CGI. Instead, deepfakes uses open-source machine learning tools like TensorFlow, which Google makes freely available to researchers, graduate students, and anyone with an interest in machine learning.

Like the Adobe tool that can make people say anything, and the Face2Face algorithm that can swap a recorded video with real-time face tracking, this new type of fake porn shows that we’re on the verge of living in a world where it’s trivially easy to fabricate believable videos of people doing and saying things they never did. Even having sex.

«

“Not going to fool anyone who looks closely”. You think people watching that sort of stuff are going to look closely?
link to this extract


Want proof that patience pays off? Ask the founders of this 17-year-old $525m email empire • Inc.com

Maria Aspan:

»

MailChimp, which grew out of a discarded web business, is profitable, still entirely owned by its co-founders, and growing by more than $120m every year; [co-founder and CEO Ben] Chestnut estimates that in 2017 it will post $525m in revenue.

That’s despite the fact that some undisclosed percentage of his customers never pay MailChimp a cent. In fact, MailChimp started succeeding when it stopped charging everybody – when it deliberately tied its fortunes to the small businesses that make up its core customers. It’s kept growing at a torrid pace for years – this, while many more prominent tech companies are losing money, customers, CEOs, and credibility. MailChimp has never taken a dollar from venture capitalists or other outside investors. And long before entrepreneurship was cool, it made itself crucial to the ecosystem of new and emerging businesses. For all those reasons, in 2017, MailChimp is Inc.’s Company of the Year.

Still: Email? In an era of Instagram stories and Snapchat filters and Facebook ads, Inc.’s 2017 Company of the Year is focused on email?

It is. And for a good reason. “It’s not the shiny new thing, but more the steady thing that actually works,” says Neeru Paharia, who was on the founding team of Creative Commons, which developed standards for internet publication, and is now an assistant professor of marketing at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. Maybe that’s why small businesses still allocate about 10% of their marketing budgets to direct marketing, including email, according to Forrester, which estimates that US business spent $2.8bn on email marketing in 2017.

«

Given that pretty much every single website you land on demands you SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER, maybe that’s not surprising. By the way, if you’re reading this on the web page, have you signed up for the daily email?
link to this extract


Bitcoin arbitrage and tax math • Bloomberg

Matt Levine:

»

We talked yesterday about the launch of bitcoin futures at Cboe Global Markets Inc., and about the fact that a January bitcoin future was going for about $1,000 more than a bitcoin today. “When regular trading hours start today,” I said, “you might expect more professionals to come in and arbitrage away some of the price differences,” but nah: As of 8:15 this morning, the futures were still more than $1,000 above the spot price. You could borrow $16,889, buy one bitcoin, sell a future for $18,000 on Cboe, wait a month, sell the bitcoin and deliver the cash to settle the future. The extra $1,111 – minus your cost of borrowing – would be risk-free profit. Everyone finds it a little odd…

«

But he thinks the reason is probably just inefficient markets:

»

There’s a big gap between the futures and the spot because the market is not yet working right. Perhaps there are not enough arbitrageurs in the futures market: The contract is brand new, not all brokers are offering access to it, and those who do offer access often don’t allow short selling. (You need to short the futures to do the arbitrage.) “Right now the big boys haven’t come in yet,” says one trader. Eventually that will settle down and the spread will narrow.

«

Once again we expect people to lose their shirts and more on bitcoin. But that saying about “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”? Applies in spades to bitcoin.

The rest of Levine’s column is worth reading too. (Thanks Walt for the link.)
link to this extract


People are taking out mortgages to buy bitcoin, says Joseph Borg • CNBC

Michelle Fox:

»

Bitcoin is in the “mania” phase, with some people even borrowing money to get in on the action, securities regulator Joseph Borg told CNBC on Monday.

“We’ve seen mortgages being taken out to buy bitcoin. … People do credit cards, equity lines,” said Borg, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, a voluntary organization devoted to investor protection. Borg is also director of the Alabama Securities Commission.

“This is not something a guy who’s making $100,000 a year, who’s got a mortgage and two kids in college ought to be invested in.”

«

As someone pointed out on Twitter, isn’t it the banks’ responsibility not to lend money foolishly (since the money they lend actually belongs to other people, not the banks), rather than the responsibility of people not to ask for money foolishly?
link to this extract


GTA: “Max Clifford made it all happen” • GamesIndustry.biz

Rachel Weber:

»

David Jones and Mike Dailly, the creators of the original Grand Theft Auto, have revealed just how pivotal PR guru Max Clifford was to the game’s success.

“Max Clifford made it all happen,” Dailly told The Sunday Times.

“He designed all the outcry, which pretty much guaranteed MPs would get involved… He’d do anything to keep the profile high.”

The game was developed by DMA Design and published by BMG Interactive, who hired the controversial media manager. According to Jones, his provocative plan included planted stories and knowing which politicians and papers could provide the game with free press fuelled by outrage.

“He told us how he would play it, who he would target, what those people targeted would say.” Jones adds, “every word he said came true”.

«

Outrage and attention: the two key drivers. The world is full of Cliffords now. Yes, in both senses. (He was imprisoned for sexual assault, and died in prison last weekend.)
link to this extract


Fingerprints of Russian disinformation: from AIDS to fake news • The New York Times

Linda Qiu:

»

Called Operation Infektion by the East German foreign intelligence service, the 1980s disinformation campaign seeded a conspiracy theory that the virus that causes AIDS was the product of biological weapons experiments conducted by the United States. At the time, the disease disproportionately afflicted gay men, and the Reagan administration’s slow response had escalated into suspicions in the gay community that the United States government was responsible for its origins.

“The K.G.B. picked up on that, and added a new twist with a specific location: Fort Detrick, Md.,” where military scientists conducted biological weapons experiments in the 1950s and 1960s, said Douglas Selvage, the project director at the Office of the Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records in Berlin.

The K.G.B. campaign began with an anonymous letter in Patriot, a small newspaper published in New Delhi that was later revealed to have received Soviet funding. It ran in July 1983, under the headline “AIDS May Invade India: Mystery Disease Caused by U.S. Experiments” and pinned the origin of the disease to Fort Detrick.

The choice of Patriot was deliberate, said Thomas Boghardt, a military and intelligence historian who traced how the campaign unfolded. “It had no explicit links to the Soviets and was an English-language newspaper easily accessible to a global audience.

“The Soviets intuitively understood how the human psyche works,” Dr. Boghardt said. He said the playbook was simple but effective: Identify internal strife, point to inconsistencies and ambiguities in the news, fill them with meaning and “repeat, repeat, repeat.”

«

link to this extract


That viral story about Alabama drivers license offices is from 2015, and it’s missing one key point • The Washington Post

Christopher Ingraham:

»

late last year, the state [of Alabama] agreed to expand license office hours in a number of rural, predominantly black counties in response to a federal Department of Transportation investigation.

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, there are driver’s license offices in every Alabama county except for one: Lauderdale County, which is 87% white and is served primarily by an office immediately across the Tennessee River in Colbert County.

Many of the offices in smaller counties are open only during limited hours each month. In Cherokee County (pop. 25,897, 93% white), for instance, the office is open only the first Tuesday of each month. The office in Chambers County (pop. 34,018, 57% white) is open only on the second Thursday.

But the primary determinant in a license office’s hours of operation appears to be population, rather than race.

«

My fault for not checking the date on the original post which I quoted in yesterday’s edition. Such an easy mistake, yet such an important one to take care about. My apologies. (Notable that some publications, such as The Guardian, will warn you when you’re reading an old story on their site. Of course, it was much harder to make this mistake with print.) (Thanks Fabian and Wendy for pointing out my error.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: Apple’s Shazam purpose, Spotify’s Muzak plan, re-buying Gawker?, exploding asteroids and more


Time to take Iran’s state hackers seriously, experts say. Picture by Dalantech on Flickr.

Now with links which open in new windows/tabs! Really.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The problem with Muzak • The Baffler

Liz Pelly:

»

Spotify loves “chill” playlists: they’re the purest distillation of its ambition to turn all music into emotional wallpaper. They’re also tied to what its algorithm manipulates best: mood and affect. Note how the generically designed, nearly stock photo images attached to these playlists rely on the selfsame clickbait-y tactics of content farms, which are famous for attacking a reader’s basest human moods and instincts. Only here the goal is to fit music snugly into an emotional regulation capsule optimized for maximum clicks: “chill.out.brain,” “Ambient Chill,” “Chill Covers.” “Piano in the Background” is one of the most aptly titled; “in the background” could be added to the majority of Spotify playlists.

As an industry insider once explained to me, digital strategists have identified “lean back listening” as an ever more popular Spotify-induced phenomenon. It turns out that playlists have spawned a new type of music listener, one who thinks less about the artist or album they are seeking out, and instead connects with emotions, moods and activities, where they just pick a playlist and let it roll: “Chillin’ On a Dirt Road,” “License to Chill,” “Cinematic Chill Out.” They’re all there.

These algorithmically designed playlists, in other words, have seized on an audience of distracted, perhaps overworked, or anxious listeners whose stress-filled clicks now generate anesthetized, algorithmically designed playlists. One independent label owner I spoke with has watched his records’ physical and digital sales decline week by week. He’s trying to play ball with the platform by pitching playlists, to varying effect. “The more vanilla the release, the better it works for Spotify. If it’s challenging music? Nah,” he says, telling me about all of the experimental, noise, and comparatively aggressive music on his label that goes unheard on the platform. “It leaves artists behind. If Spotify is just feeding easy music to everybody, where does the art form go? Is anybody going to be able to push boundaries and break through to a wide audience anymore?”

«

This approach is reminiscent of the “relaxing” videos that some people adore on YouTube – though those are like a sort of visual Muzak.
link to this extract


Why Apple just spent up to $400 million on song-identification app Shazam • CNBC

Lora Kolodny:

»

With its large user base comes a staggering amount of data, and data is the new oil. Shazam knows what people are listening to, where and when, and how those trends are shifting over time.

With this kind of attentional feedback, artists, labels and other businesses can learn where fans are listening in the real world, and make better decisions about where to promote their songs offline.

Shazam faces competition, including from SoundHound and China’s QQ Music. But Shazam has been granted over 200 patents around its audio recognition and other technology.

The app is best-known as a song identifier, but Shazam can also be used to scan movie posters or other images to “unlock” extras, like behind-the-scenes video clips or augmented reality content from a celebrity or brand.

Now all of that intellectual property in audio recognition and advertising becomes Apple’s.

«

Expected exit price of $400m, way below its supposed valuation of over $1bn in 2015. Competition with Spotify’s capabilities as being developed above.
link to this extract


Alabama sends message: We are too broke to care about right and wrong • AL.com

Note: this post is from September 2015.

John Archibald:

»

Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters. That’s Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. Alabama, thanks to its budgetary insanity and inanity, just opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them. All but Dallas and Montgomery will be closed.

Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.

It’s not just a civil rights violation. It is not just a public relations nightmare. It is not just an invitation for worldwide scorn and an alarm bell to the Justice Department. It is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen. It is a slap in the face to all who believe the stuff we teach the kids about how all are created equal.

Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75% of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.

«

Discovering new ways to implement racism is one of the US’s growth industries. Oh, and there’s an election there today, Tuesday.
link to this extract


New bitcoin futures suggest breakneck price gains to slow • Reuters

Saqib Iqbal Ahmed, Jemima Kelly and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss:

»

Chicago-based derivatives exchange Cboe Global Markets launched the futures late on Sunday, marking the first time investors could get exposure to the bitcoin market via a large, regulated exchange.

The one-month bitcoin contract opened at 6 p.m. local time (2300 GMT) on Sunday at $15,460. By midday on Monday in New York, it was trading at $17,780, roughly 10% above bitcoin’s spot price of $16,335 on the Bitstamp exchange.

But given bitcoin has almost tripled in value over the past month, and was up more than 10% on Monday alone, the futures pricing suggested investors see price increases moderating.

«

Or else that investors are going to lose their shirts on margin calls.
link to this extract


Ex-Gawker employees launch crowdfunding drive to buy website • WSJ

Jonathan Randles:

»

Former employees of Gawker.com’s defunct publisher are raising money through a new crowdfunding campaign in a bid to purchase the blog out of bankruptcy and relaunch the website.

The campaign was launched Monday on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter and seeks to raise at least $500,000. Gawker ceased publication in August 2016 after losing a lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan.

“This is a testing of the waters,” said James Del, a former vice president of programming at Gawker Media LLC who is organizing the crowdfunding drive. Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers is also advising, while other former employees are providing input on the project.

«

Ambitious, but the world has missed Gawker. Maybe they’d choose more carefully in the future.
link to this extract


YouTubers made hundreds of thousands off of bizarre and disturbing child content • Buzzfeed

Charlie Warzel:

»

Before YouTube pulled the ads from “Ted”’s channel, it was making him tens of thousands of dollars a month.

The father of two, who asked to use a pseudonym for fear of retaliation from YouTube, left a job with a six-figure salary to make YouTube videos of his young kids. These videos feature his children being “scared” by clowns, and adults mock-wrestling and handling a diaper covered in fake poop. As such, they fall into the broad category of “family-friendly” content — that is, home videos featuring children in situations ranging from merely silly to potentially exploitative — which YouTube recently began cracking down on after public outcry and media attention.

According to screenshots from the YouTuber’s account reviewed by BuzzFeed News, in the past two months, Ted made more than $100,000 on his videos — after YouTube’s 45% cut. Emails obtained by BuzzFeed News also show that twelve videos from the channel — videos that included “suspenseful” scenarios — were manually deemed “suitable for all advertisers” in November. (At least three videos were deemed unsuitable, at least one video was deleted, and another age-restricted.)

And then, suddenly, YouTube pulled advertising on the channel — with what Ted described as “no communication, notification, [or] reason … and no way to appeal or request review” — as part of its effort to remove and/or demonetize (remove ads from) hundreds of thousands of questionable and exploitative kids’ videos on the platform.

«

After YouTube’s cut. Of 45%. Both amazing facts.
link to this extract


iPhone X: the rise of gestures • Nielsen Norman Group

Raluca Budiu:

»

The lack of a Home button does incur usability costs, as we’ve hinted above. First, existing iPhone users will have to unlearn all the habits they’ve formed on previous devices. Second, they will have to remember more gestures and their corresponding outcomes. They will make mistakes in the very beginning, but after enough experience, they will eventually become as proficient as they were with their old devices. Last but not least, designers have to worry about this new form factor and about how their app will look on this device.
However, the question is not so much whether there are any costs, but whether the costs of this design are outweighed by the benefits. In this case, there is one potentially huge usability benefit: more screen space. Screen real estate is very expensive on mobile, so every additional millimeter has a positive impact on the user experience. That extra space might mean less scrolling and higher chances of actually seeing relevant content. (Also: how often do users use the Home button? Very often. But less often than reading content in an app or on the web. )
Right now, the extra space may not seem that generous — if you compare the visible area on an iPhone 8 Plus and on an iPhone X, you can see at best one extra line of text. Yet using a gesture instead of a visible button has the potential to open up more user-experience improvements in the designs to come — from Apple and from others.


The NNgroup.com webpage as seen on an iPhone X (left) and on an iPhone 8 Plus (right)

Apple is in a unique position to push this kind of gesture-based innovation and could even go beyond that to create a standard vocabulary of gestures that can be used by other apps or phone manufacturers, because the Apple brand  is so strong that people will put up with the hurdles of learning a new system and unlearning what they know for the sake of using its products.

«

link to this extract


Solved: Are you aware? Comcast is injecting 400+ lines of … • Comcast Xfinity Help and Support Forums

Angry User:

»

just learned of this dispicable Comcast practice today and I am livid.  Comcast began injecting 400+ lines of JavaScript code in to pages I requested on the internet so that when the browser renders the web page, the JavaScript generates a pop up trying to up-sell me a new modem.  When you call the number in the popup, they’re quick to tell you that you need a new modem, which in my case is not true.  I later verified with level-2 support that my modem is pefectly fine and I don’t need to upgrade.  As deceptive as that is however, my major complaint is that Comcast is intercepting web pages and then altering them by filling them with hundreds of lines of code.  Even worse is that I’ve had to speak to 7 different supervisors from all areas of Comcast and they have either never heard of the process, or those who were aware of the practice don’t know how to turn it off.  

«

Jonathan Livingood, Comcast staff member:

»

This is our web notification system, documented in RFC 6108 https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc6108, which has been in place for many years now. It presents an overlay service message on non-TLS-based HTTP sessions. If you click the X box or otherwise acknowledge the notice it should immediately go away. If that is not the case let me know and we’ll have a look at what may be happening.

[re the modem]: We are not trying to sell you a new one. If you own your modem we’re informing you that it is either end of life (EOL) or that you are about to get a speed upgrade that the modem will be unable to deliver.

«

Comcast can’t win: customers will be annoyed with it for injecting code and putting in popups, or for not telling them about new modems and giving them speed upgrades.
link to this extract


This country’s hacking efforts have become too big to ignore • Cyberscoop

Chris Bing:

»

Multiple cyber-espionage groups attributed to Iran became increasingly active over the last 12 months, as at least four entities with ties to the regime have broken into a wide array of organizations, according to private sector cybersecurity experts and three former U.S. intelligence officials with knowledge of regional activity.

“For the first time in my career, I’m not convinced we’re responding more to Russia or China,” FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia said in a report published by the company on Thursday. “It feels to me that the majority of the actors we’re responding to right now are hosted in Iran, and they are state-sponsored.”

This surge in digital espionage — which has predominantly come in the form of spearphishing emails, strategic web compromises and breached social media accounts distributing malware — saw Iranian groups attempt to covertly gather business secrets and sensitive personal communications, according to Eyal Sela, head of threat intelligence with cybersecurity company ClearSky Security.

The targeted organizations range in location, with some strictly based in the U.S., some U.S.-based with locations in the Middle East and others solely located in Europe. Among the hardest hit were U.S. companies with a presence in the Middle East.

«

Nukes and cyber-attacks: the two proficiencies that modern nations want.
link to this extract


US Treasury admits tax plan won’t pay for itself – Axios

Dan Primack:

»

The US Treasury Department today released a one-page analysis of the GOP’s proposed tax reform plan.

Bottom line: The report acknowledges that the tax plan will not pay for itself via increased economic growth, despite Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin having regularly made such a claim. Instead, getting into the black would require both the tax plan and “a combination of regulatory reform, infrastructure development, and welfare reform.”

Moreover, the analysis uses the White House’s previous economic growth estimates (made before the tax plan was written) and works its way backwards into the math, rather than analyzing how the actual tax plan would affect economic growth.

The backstory: Mnuchin spent months talking about a detailed Treasury analysis of the GOP tax plans, but the NY Times reported in late November that no such analysis actually existed.

«

It sounds as though Mnuchin and the UK’s David Davis could have an entertaining conversation about non-existent analyses.

I do think Mnuchin should be played in the film – surely there’s going to be a film – by Rick Moranis.
link to this extract


Why do asteroids explode high in the atmosphere? • Bad Astronomy

Phil Plait:

»

Computer models of how asteroids break up in the atmosphere show that the main mass must have been far weaker overall than the pieces found, by a factor of a hundred or so!

How can this be? New research indicates that the answer is, once again, air. Up until now we haven’t been treating it correctly in the physics.

What was thought to happen was that the rock slams into the atmosphere and the pressure in front of it screams up. This huge force is so great it flattens the asteroid in a process literally called pancaking. The stress breaks the rock up into smaller pieces. Each piece now has more surface area, and therefore more area to slam into air and glow. They each pancake, and the process repeats, giving you a rapid cascade into disintegration and energy release. kaBOOM.

But it turns out that the computer code being used didn’t really treat how the air gets into the rock, literally finding its way at high speed and pressure into cracks and voids inside the rock. That’s where the new research comes in. Using a more sophisticated code (developed at Los Alamos National Lab to simulate air flow at high velocities), they were able to add in the asteroid material permeability to see how it changes the impact physics.

What they found is that increasing the permeability increases the amount of pancaking, which increases the efficiency of breaking up the rock.

«

Just in case you’re asked by a national leader to help decide what to do about a giant asteroid heading for the earth.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: China’s LinkedIn friends, notching Huawei?, gender pay improbability, bitcoin redux, and more


Longer tweets are more popular – by some metrics – than short ones, new data suggests. Photo by Corine Bliek on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 15 links for you. Things just kept coming. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

German intelligence unmasks alleged covert Chinese social media profiles • Reuters

Thomas Escritt:

»

Germany’s intelligence service has published the details of social network profiles which it says are fronts faked by Chinese intelligence to gather personal information about German officials and politicians.

The BfV domestic intelligence service took the unusual step of naming individual profiles it says are fake and fake organizations to warn public officials about the risk of leaking valuable personal information via social media.

“Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkedIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way,” including seeking data on users’ habits, hobbies and political interests, they said.

Nine months of research had found that more than 10,000 German citizens had been contacted on the LinkedIn professional networking site by fake profiles disguised as headhunters, consultants, think-tankers or scholars, the BfV said.

«

link to this extract


Huawei P11 might also have a notch • GSMArena

“Yordan”:

»

Huawei is preparing to launch its next flagship the P11 in February and first leaked firmware files suggest a surprise is on the way. According to XDA Developers, the Chinese manufacturer is going to introduce the phone with a notch on the front screen, similar to what we’ve seen in the iPhone X, Essential PH-1, and Sharp Aquos S2.

The overlay image comes from a reference in a configuration file that defines the “RoundCornerDisplay”. Multiple files are associated with this definition, all of them appearing to assist in avoiding drawing over parts of the screen to accommodate the unique display.

Another file has the word “notch” in its name “ro.config.hw_notch_size” with the value set to “258,84,411,27”. It might represent left, top, right and bottom offsets in moving screen content.

«

I think the aim of this is just to make the screen look like the iPhone X because it’s so striking, and in China – Huawei’s biggest market – it’s a status thing. See also: Huawei offering Force Touch (but then not following through).
link to this extract


Twitter users like long tweets more than short ones • Buzzfeed

Alex Kantrowitz:

»

Given the deluge of complaints about Twitter’s 280-character limit when it debuted this fall, you’d think people would be ignoring the new, lengthier tweets.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Early data shows tweets above 140 characters are being liked and retweeted at a rate approximately double that of their shorter counterparts. BuzzFeed News obtained the data from SocialFlow, a publishing tool used by approximately 300 major publishers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

SocialFlow reviewed tens of thousands of tweets published between Wednesday 29 November and Wednesday 6 December, analyzing clicks, retweets, and likes. It determined that tweets above 140 characters are being retweeted 26.52 times on average compared with 13.71 times for tweets of 140 characters and below. The company also found that longer tweets are being liked — again on average — 50.28 times compared with 29.96 times for shorter tweets. Clicks per tweet for the time period analyzed were about even.

«

I’d have liked to see a comparison from before there were 280-character tweets, though Twitter claims to have done something like that itself. I’m not sure if I engage any more than I did before.
link to this extract


The point of Patreon isn’t how many people earn a full-time living • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow responds to last week’s article about how many/few people make anything like a living via Patreon:

»

Art is an irrational market; artists make art without regard to the laws of supply and demand. There are — and always have been — more people who’d like to make a living in the arts than the arts will sustain. That means that artists produce material without any rational expectation of any meaningful return on their investments, and this puts them at great risk from the distributors (retailers, platforms) and financiers (publishers/studios/labels, ad networks, etc) who have historically been key to connecting them to their audiences.

What’s more, there’s returns on scale in both financing and distributing, which is why (for example), we’ve ended up with five publishers, one major online bookseller, and one major brick-and-mortal bookseller. This anti-competitive concentration in both sectors has the effect of eroding the share of income from successful work that goes to the creator, moving an ever-larger slice to the other parts of the art industry. In 1999, first novels were selling to science fiction publishers for about $7,000 (about $10,200 in 2017 dollars). Today, first novels are selling for…about $7,000. And yet, if anything, more writers are producing first novels than in 1999…

…The right way to look at a 2% success rate in delivering a full-time living to creators on Patreon is to first compare that number to the percentage of people who, for example, send a demo to a record label and then get to quit their jobs to be full-time musicians (that’s a lot less than 2%). The right way to look at the remaining 98% of Patreon artists who earn some money from the service is to compare how much money they get, compared to how much money they’d get if they had to rely on more indirect (and less artist-friendly) sources like ad brokers and traditional retail channels.

On both of these metrics, Patreon is performing beautifully. On these metrics, Patreon is a fucking godsend to artists.

«

link to this extract


Cluster of UK companies reports highly improbable gender pay gap • FT

Billy Ehrenberg-Shannon, Aleksandra Wisniewska and Sarah Gordon:

»

The gap between wages paid to men and women has become a hot political and corporate issue. Seeking to hold employers accountable, the UK government this year began requiring companies and public sector bodies with more than 250 employees to publicly report their median and mean gap. Roughly 9,000 companies must submit their numbers by April 1 but as of Thursday only 311 had done so.

Experts on pay said that it was highly anomalous for companies of that size to have median and mean pay gaps that were identical because the two statistics measure different things. The mean gap measures the difference between the average male and female salary while the median gap is calculated using the midpoint salary for each gender.

Of the 16 companies that said they had no pay gap, eight also said that they employed exactly the same number of men and women in the four pay grades that must be reported.

“While it is certainly possible for organisations with 250 or more employees to have no gender pay gap, common sense dictates that it is entirely implausible that they would have no gap on both the median and mean measure, while having exactly equal numbers of men and women in each of the four pay quartiles,” said Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London.

«

So having demanded them, will the government actually take any action and look into these extremely unlikely figures?
link to this extract


Please invest responsibly — an important message from the Coinbase team • Coinbase

Brian Armstrong is co-founder and CEO of Coinbase:

»

Despite the sizable and ongoing increases in our technical infrastructure and engineering staff, we wanted to remind customers that access to Coinbase services may become degraded or unavailable during times of significant volatility or volume. This could result in the inability to buy or sell for periods of time. Despite ongoing increases in our support capacity, our customer support response times may be delayed, especially for requests that do not involve immediate risks to customer account security. You can read more in our Coinbase User Agreement.

We also wanted to remind customers of some of the risks associated with trading digital currency. Digital currencies are volatile and the prices can go up and down. Due to the rapidly changing price of digital currencies, some customers may not have sell limits that are sufficient relative to the value of total digital currency they are storing on Coinbase.

«

TL;DR: don’t play in the futures market if you can’t handle a margin call when things go south. Even shorter version: you could lose it all.
link to this extract


Andy Rubin has returned to his company weeks after he took leave amid allegations of inappropriate behavior • Recode

Theodore Schleifer:

»

Rubin as of Friday ended the personal leave that he took in November after dealing with personal issues, according to two people familiar with his activities. His leave was reportedly only shared with employees on November 27, though a company representative said at the time that he began his leave earlier that month.

The CEO of Essential last month took leave as The Information was about to report that an “internal investigation determined that he had carried on an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate,” when he served as a top executive at Google.

Rubin has denied any wrongdoing and stressed that the relationship was consensual.

The decision to return to Essential will likely calm jitters about the future of the phone company, which has raised $330m to develop its highly anticipated product. Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system, is a dominant figure in the phone industry.

Even while on leave from Essential, Rubin was still able to show up to work at the same physical workplace. That’s because he did not take a similar leave from Playground Global, the venture capital firm he founded, which shares the same office space as Essential.

«

What sort of nonsense is this? Essential PR person claims he’s on leave of absence where he’s not actually absent just as questions are asked in media? Uh-huh.
link to this extract


Android to iPhone, part two: What I’ve liked about switching to the iPhone X • Android Police

David Ruddock has been trying out the iPhone X for a month or so, having never used iOS before. Here’s his bit on notifications:

»

I will get this out of the way: notifications on iOS are terrible. Actually bad. Just not good. I will cover that in my next post.

But! iOS does do one thing right with them, at least for me: it cuts down on information overload. Just looking at my Android phone’s notification bar practically compels me to clear it out. I don’t really like that feeling – it’s a distraction and keeps me from focusing on whatever I’m actually trying to do with my phone in a given moment, constantly sending me back and forth between apps and clearing out the bar.

iOS requires you to authorize an app to send notifications on its first run after install. What I’ve noticed is that, oftentimes, I really don’t need many apps to send me notifications… ever. I don’t need to hear from the Kindle app, the Amazon app, Google Maps, Dropbox, the New York Times, YouTube, or Yelp. The list goes on, but you get the idea: I get fewer notifications on iOS than I do on Android because iOS has forced me to think about which apps I actually want to get them from.

Not only that, the lack of notification icons in the status bar area means that unless you pull down the notification tray, you just don’t see your notifications all that often. You might catch a glimpse of them when you go to unlock the phone, but as soon as your swipe up, they’re gone.

I don’t find I’m any less effective at responding to emails or messages on iOS than I am on Android. I do find I am significantly less mentally burdened with the task of managing my notifications. It’s going to make me take a long, hard look at how I manage my notifications on Android when I switch back.

«

There’s plenty more to digest in this post. His next one, later this week, will be about the things he hasn’t liked with iOS, and he says it’s going to be longer.
link to this extract


Android Oreo review: performance and stability • BirchTree

Matt Birchler, continuing his series comparing his experience using Oreo on a Pixel 2 with his experiences on an iPhone; though he’s usually an iOS user, he’s also very familiar with Android:

»

In day to day use, Android on the Pixel 2 does not feel much slower than the iPhone 8. Apps launch quickly on the Pixel, sometimes even faster than they do on the iPhone. Part of this is due to the shorter animations on Android, but other times it is just that the Pixel is just as fast or faster than the iPhone. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say this before, but apps actually tend to launch a tiny bit quicker on Android than they do on iOS.

Once you get into apps, the experience changes a bit. While iOS takes milliseconds longer on average to load apps, once you’re in apps everything seems to go in iOS’s favor. First is general performance things like scrolling, which holds steady at what appears to be 60fps much more often than Android. Scrolling through lists or websites is where this is more noticeable, as Android has a slightly harsher feeling to moving around pages. It’s not bad by any means, and may be a preference thing, but i just feel more like I’m directly manipulating content on iOS than I do on Android.

Adding to this feeling of direct manipulation is the touch response on the Pixel 2 is noticeably slower than it is on the iPhone. There’s a slight delay in my finger moving and the screen updating behind it on iOS, but on Android the delay is much more pronounced. This lends to the overall feeling I sometimes get that I’m imputing commands to the phone rather than directly moving around the content on screen.

Finally, I have had some inconsistency when tapping a notification on my lock screen to go straight to that app. Usually it’s fine, but there have been dozens of times where the phone locks up for about 5 seconds between entering my fingerprint to unlock and the app actually coming up.

«

He’s also not complimentary about Android stability, or third-party apps. The latter is a situation that seems to be unchanging over time.
link to this extract


Amazon, Google and Apple top the biggest tech disappointments of 2017 • CNBC

Todd Haselton with his list of things that he wasn’t happy about. Those mentioned are Amazon, Google, LG, Fitbit, Apple and Essential.

However there’s one key difference between the Apple product, and the products from the others. See if you can guess what it is before you click through.
link to this extract


YouTube to launch new music subscription service in March • Bloomberg

Lucas Shaw:

»

The new service could help appease record-industry executives who have pushed for more revenue from YouTube. Warner Music Group, one of the world’s three major record labels, has already signed on, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. YouTube is also in talks with the two others, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, and Merlin, a consortium of independent labels, the people said.

Paid services from Spotify and Apple Music have spurred a recovery in the music business, which is growing again after almost two decades of decline. Yet major record labels say the growth would be even more significant if not for YouTube, which they criticize for not compensating them enough, considering how much people use the site to listen to tunes. Music is one of the most popular genres of video on YouTube, which attracts more than a billion users a month.

YouTube hasn’t had the same success as Apple or Spotify in convincing people to sign up for its paid music services, though it’s not for lack of trying. Google introduced audio-only streaming service Google Play Music in 2011. YouTube Music Key came along in 2014, giving subscribers ad-free music videos. That morphed into YouTube Red in 2016, letting users watch any video without advertising.

The new service, internally referred to as Remix, would include Spotify-like on-demand streaming and would incorporate elements from YouTube, such as video clips, the people said. YouTube has reached out to artists to seek their help in promoting the new service, one of the people said.

«

I was going to say – isn’t this what Google Play Music is already meant to be? Though I’ve never seen a single statistic for the number of signed-up users for that.

However, if this gets going it will be the final nail for Pandora, which looks ropey anyway. And what about Soundcloud and Deezer?

link to this extract


The Bulgarian government is sitting on $3bn in bitcoin • CoinDesk

Nikhilesh De:

»

A crackdown on organized crime by Bulgarian law enforcement in May resulted in the seizure of more than 200,000 bitcoins – an amount worth more than $3bn at today’s prices.

According to a press release dated May 19 from the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center (SELEC), a regional organization comprised of 12 member states including Bulgaria, a total of 213,519 bitcoins were seized that month. Twenty-three Bulgarian nationals were arrested during the operation, and officials said at the time that the arrests and subsequent asset seizures followed an investigation into an alleged customs fraud scam.

As of press time, the amount seized is worth approximately $3.3bn, at a price of roughly $15,524, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index (BPI).

«

The seizure was because some hackers tried to evade $6m in customs fee on some imports. At the time, the bitcoins were worth $500m – still nothing to sneeze at.
link to this extract


Bitcoin is hot, but good luck using it • Bloomberg Gadfly

Stephen Gandel:

»

The idea, though, that bitcoin is being rapidly adopted, or even just gradually, is a myth. In 2013, a number of retailers and companies, large and small, started accepting bitcoin. Four years later, shoppers can’t use it at any large physical retailer. What’s more, not only have Walmart and The Gap not adopted bitcoin, many of the places that said they would no longer do.

A long list of merchants that take bitcoin has circulated the Internet for the past few years, published most recently on 99bitcoins.com. But the list is mostly bogus. Many of the businesses on the list no longer take bitcoin or never did. There is a bitcoin payment button for online electronics retailer Newegg.com, but when I tried to use it for a Nintendo Switch, it didn’t work. Even Bloomberg is on the list, but my colleagues in billing say you can’t pay your terminal fee in bitcoin. Nor can you get a subscription to BusinessWeek or any of Bloomberg’s other publications or services…

…a number of sites that track bitcoin, like Blockchain.info, show that use is up. On average, the daily value of bitcoin transactions has risen just more than 400% this year compared with the first 11 months of last year, according to Blockchain.info. But given the fact the number of places accepting it is falling, that seems hard to believe. The number is supposed to track just the volume of bitcoins used to buy actual goods or services. Even bitcoin believer Burniske thinks the figure has likely been inflated by all the people who have rushed into bitcoin as an investment. Worse, the cost to complete those transactions is rising even faster, with fees charged up nearly 2,200% this year, although it’s still minuscule on an absolute level, a fee of just 0.05% of the average transaction this year. 

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link to this extract


The simple thing people miss about cryptocurrencies • The Information

Jessica Lessin:

»

Given the technical nature of these tokens, it shifts power to engineers not bankers. And it treats money as a product that can be improved and optimized for different purposes.  

Thinking of currency as product is a big leap for most traditional investors to make. Of course, you can invest without making that leap. You can make or lose money by buying the tokens just because you think they will go up or down without understanding anything about them. It’s also true that most tokens issued today are flawed products, with limited utility that aren’t worth trying to understand let alone betting on over the long-term.

But discussing cryptocurrencies based on how much bitcoin has appreciated this month (or year) misses the big picture. Technology is changing every industry and it is impossible for me to believe it won’t change our financial system. That’s particularly true because our current system—while stable—is imperfect.

Cryptocurrencies can be more secure and more efficient to exchange. They can be inflation-proof and are easier to settle and easier to interoperate. Those advantages, more than the relentless rise in bitcoin’s price, is what drives the true bitcoin believers. They believe bitcoin could be a superior financial product…

…Consumers may not even notice the impact of the technology. Most of the benefits of cryptocurrencies will play out of the back end of the financial system. You may still transact with your credit card. Everything that happens once you swipe may be different.

While certainly a disruptive idea, evolving our current financial system to take advantage of cryptocurrencies is not a crazy one. When you use a dollar or a euro, you are deciding to trust the U.S. or the EU. When you buy bitcoin or ethereum, you are choosing to trust the community of people who maintain the software and the system that keeps track of the transactions (the ledger).

«

This is a much more reasonable take on bitcoin and the interest in it.
link to this extract


Later iPhone X release hurts Apple share • Kantar Worldpanel

»

In the three months ending October 2017, iOS share fell in key markets, making clear the impact of the flagship iPhone X not being available to buy in the month of October. And, as Windows continued to drop in share, Android was able to gain 4.3 percentage points in the big five European markets, 8.2% in the USA, and 7.5% in Japan. Urban China remained a bright spot for Apple, with its share edging up 0.5% in the latest three months to reach 17.4%…

…Urban China, a market once overrun with new challengers, is maturing, with the top five players all posting strong growth and the long tail of challenger brands falling away rapidly. In the three months ending in October 2017, the top five brands – Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple, Vivo, and Oppo – made up 91% of sales, compared to 79% a year earlier.

“Chinese brands like Meizu, LeTV, Coolpad, ZTE, and Lenovo were once on the same trajectory as the like of Xiaomi, but any momentum they once had has abruptly stopped, with many struggling to get past a 1% share,” Sunnebo said. “Samsung’s performance in China continues to deteriorate, with its share now down to just 2.2% of that market.”

«

The crunch in China is quite a thing, unnoticed (mostly) in the west. (Neil Cybart of Above Avalon picked up on it, though.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: AlphaGo conquers chess, enter Amazon, Silicon Valley’s model problem, bitcoin’s future, and more


This will probably pay better than a Patreon account, data suggests. Photo by humbert15 on Flickr.

You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Now with record approval ratings! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it • The Washington Post

Geoffrey Fowler (and no, the boss – Bezos didn’t force him to do it or be nice about it):

»

The good news is nobody ran off with my boxes — or burgled my house.

The bad news is Amazon missed four of my in-home deliveries and charged me (on top of a Prime membership) for gear that occasionally jammed and makes it awkward to share my own door with people, apps, services — and, of course, retailers — other than Amazon.

“Amazon Key has had a positive reception from customers since its launch last month,” Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish said. “There have been situations where we haven’t gotten it right with a delivery and we use these situations to continue making improvements to the service.”

Big tech companies love building walled gardens, in ham-handed attempts to keep customers loyal. But for an ask this big (total access to your home, after all), Amazon needs to make Key better…

…When you use Amazon Key, you get a phone alert with a window when a delivery might occur. If no one is home, the delivery person taps an app that grants one-time access to unlock your door, places the package inside, then relocks the door. (They don’t recommend Key if you have a pet, and won’t come in if they hear barking.) The moment the door unlocks, the Cloud Cam starts recording — and sends you a live stream of the whole thing. It’s a surreal 15 seconds.

«

Not only but also: finicky setup, occasional bugs leading to fake warnings, and a door that ended up with Schrödinger’s Lock.
link to this extract


From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon • Law and Political Economy

Frank Pasquale:

»

Economists tend to characterize the scope of regulation as a simple matter of expanding or contracting state power. But a political economy perspective emphasizes that social relations abhor a power vacuum. When state authority contracts, private parties fill the gap. That power can feel just as oppressive, and have effects just as pervasive, as garden variety administrative agency enforcement of civil law. As Robert Lee Hale stated, “There is government whenever one person or group can tell others what they must do and when those others have to obey or suffer a penalty.”

We are familiar with that power in employer-employee relationships, or when a massive firm extracts concessions from suppliers. But what about when a firm presumes to exercise juridical power, not as a party to a conflict, but the authority deciding it? I worry that such scenarios will become all the more common as massive digital platforms exercise more power over our commercial lives…

…For example: Who needs city housing regulators when AirBnB can use data-driven methods to effectively regulate room-letting, then house-letting, and eventually urban planning generally? Why not let Amazon have its own jurisdiction or charter city, or establish special judicial procedures for Foxconn? Some vanguardists of functional sovereignty believe online rating systems could replace state occupational licensure—so rather than having government boards credential workers, a platform like LinkedIn could collect star ratings on them.

In this and later posts, I want to explain how this shift from territorial to functional sovereignty is creating a new digital political economy. Amazon’s rise is instructive.

«

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Frank at Cambridge University earlier this year when he was a visiting fellow. He’s very incisive. His talk is here (on YouTube), if you have 16 minutes to spare. You do, right?
link to this extract


Three ways to remake the American economy for all • The Guardian

Senator Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat senator who might be a candidate for president in 2020. She gave a speech at the Open Markets Institute about dealing with monopoly power, especially in technology:

»

Donald Trump used to talk about the danger of monopoly. But that talk has pretty much disappeared now that he is president. Once he took the oath, he began stacking his administration with a who’s who of former lobbyists, Wall Street insiders, and corporate executives committed to tilting the scales even further in favor of their powerful friends and against everybody else. And just days ago, the Republican Congress handed out a giant tax giveaway to Wall Street corporations and the super-rich, leaving working families and college students to pick up the tab.

To rebuild an economy that works for everyone, not just the big guys, it is critical to reduce concentrated power in our markets. The federal government has the tools to do it; Congress handed antitrust enforcers those tools over a century ago. But those tools have been sitting on the shelf for decades, gathering dust.

Antitrust enforcers placed those tools on the shelf when they adopted Chicago School principles that narrowed the scope of antitrust laws; they moved away from the goal of protecting competition. It’s time to demand that antitrust enforcers pick up those tools, dust them off, and start enforcing the law again…

…It’s time to hold those corporations accountable for these competition-killing practices. And let’s be clear: holding everyone accountable means everyone. The investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election has exposed how influential giant tech platforms can be. There is no exception in antitrust laws for big tech.

It’s time for antitrust enforcers to start looking critically at the ways in which massive amounts of data can be manipulated in ways that choke off competition.

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link to this extract


Google’s AlphaZero destroys Stockfish in 100-game match • Chess.com

Mike Klein:

»

Chess changed forever today. And maybe the rest of the world did, too.

A little more than a year after AlphaGo sensationally won against the top Go player, the artificial-intelligence program AlphaZero has obliterated the highest-rated chess engine. 

Stockfish, which for most top players is their go-to preparation tool, and which won the 2016 TCEC Championship and the 2017 Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, didn’t stand a chance. AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72 draws, and zero losses.

Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry humans, you had a good run.

That’s right – the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly, AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between center pawns and side pawns…

…GM Peter Heine Nielsen, the longtime second of World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen, is now on board with the FIDE president in one way: aliens. As he told Chess.com, “After reading the paper but especially seeing the games I thought, well, I always wondered how it would be if a superior species landed on earth and showed us how they play chess. I feel now I know.”

«

The article includes one of the games. It feels quite different from how a human plays. AlphaGo seems to play as though it has all the time in the world; that it’s not particularly worried by threats, but equally wants to make exchanges on its own terms. Stockfish never seems to force it. AlphaZero even shows which openings are best. Queen’s Gambit and English Opening, apparently. (I prefer Bird’s Opening. Get things started.)

As Eric David notes at Silicon Angle:

»

What makes DeepMind’s latest accomplishment is noteworthy is the fact that it conquered three games with very different rule sets using a single AI. AlphaGo Zero, the latest version of AlphaGo, began “tabula rasa” without any prior knowledge or understanding of Go, shogi or chess, but the AI managed to achieve “superhuman performance” in all three games with stunning speed. IBM spent more than 10 years perfecting Deep Blue before it successfully mastered chess. AlphaGo Zero did it in just 24 hours.

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link to this extract


Critical security flaws remain in smartwatches for kids • Forbrukerrådet

Norway’s Consumer Council on Mnemonic’s smartwatches, the “Gator” model:

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Gator Norge gave the customers of the Gator2 watches a new Gator3 watch as compensation. The Gator3 watch turned out to have even more serious security flaws, storing parents and kids’ voice messages on an openly available webserver. The new watches also came with a significantly more expensive phone subscription.

In October, GPSforBarn launched the new app (GPSforalle) that works together with the watches. It contains similar security flaws as described with their previous app, the SeTracker. [in October 2017]

It is disconcerting that manufacturers, importers and retailers do not have better control over the products that they are selling. This is especially worrying when regarding safety-related products directed toward children, that could instead put the child in harm’s way, [Norway’s digital director of the Consumer Council] Finn Myrstad says.

«

The previous complaints were that “strangers can easily take control of the watch and track, eavesdrop on and communicate with the child. They may be able to track the child as it moves or make it look like the child is somewhere it is not. Some of the data is transmitted and stored without encryption.”

And they managed to make it worse?
link to this extract


After noon: digitalization wins the day – Nautilus Labs Logbook • Medium

Anthony DiMare on the strange way that ships report back to shore only at nautical noon:

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On one particular voyage, a shipping company using Nautilus Platform noticed that the data collected directly from the ship’s engine showed a surprising variance in speed: the vessel ran at a higher speed during the day and at a lower speed overnight, while the average of the two was reported at noon.

If the shoreside teams had relied only on these reports, they would have misunderstood the vessel’s true performance. Total consumption would have been compared against the averaged speed — even though a ship requires exponentially more fuel to raise speed linearly.
In this case, the shoreside operator called the crew and inquired why they were seeing this behavior in the auto logged data. The operator had a simple request: please travel at a lower, consistent average speed for the rest of the journey. The net result was thousands of dollars of fuel saved — in that one leg alone of that one journey.

For most shipping companies, the prospect of saving a few thousand dollars on bunkers in one voyage isn’t that interesting. But it’s important to understand the long-term implications of this improved insight, as it impacts every decision our client would have made about the vessel in question. Let’s consider what would have happened, if the operator in this case didn’t have real-time visibility into the vessel’s actual performance.

If the crew continued to repeat the behavior without the operator’s knowledge, that vessel would have over-consumed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fuel over the course of a year — and millions of dollars in its practical lifespan.

«

So easy to forget how big savings can come from increased granularity in systems which have previously had the bare minimum.

link to this extract


Making Money from Data • DIGITS to DOLLARS

Jonathan Goldberg:

»

We recently spoke to the CTO of a large industrial company that manufactures big industrial systems. Like everyone else, they were trying to develop an IoT strategy. We sat with him while a software vendor was pitching their vision of the future, full of monetization possibilities. He was polite, at first, but after a while he broke in and said, “Before you go any further, you have to realize that almost all the data we capture is wort nothing.” That conversation only went down hill from there. However, he made a valid point. His company have been adding all kinds of sensors to their equipment for years.  They could capture petabytes a day, probably more. But 99.9% of that data essentially translated into “Status: Unchanged”.

We are not arguing that all data is worthless. However, we think it is clear that capturing value from data in the physical world is still a very poorly understood process. During the last Bubble in the 1990′,s we read a profile of a software company that had pitched its order system to a mid-sized produce distributor. After months of evaluation, the distributor determined that their existing fax-based system was still much more efficient than the fancy web-based system. It probably took another decade for software to bridge that gap. We think it may take that long for machine learning to make much difference to most companies.

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Another decade of all the hype?
link to this extract


No one makes a living on Patreon • The Outline

Brent Knepper:

»

despite the revolutionary rhetoric, the success stories, and the goodwill that Patreon has generated, the numbers tell a different story.

Patreon now has 79,420 creators, according to Tom Boruta, a developer who tracks Patreon statistics under the name Graphtreon. (He has his own Patreon — “Graphtreon is creating Patreon graphs, statistics, and history” — which earns more than $500 a month.) Patreon lets creators hide the amount of money they are actually making, although the number of patrons is still public. Boruta’s numbers are based on the roughly 80% of creators who publicly share what they earn. Of those creators, only 1,393 — 2% — make the equivalent of federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $1,160 a month, in October 2017. Worse, if we change it to $15 per hour, a minimum wage slowly being adopted by states, that’s only 0.8% of all creators. In this small network designed to save struggling creatives, the money has still concentrated at the top.

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This is the way of all networks, the way of the world: there are very few who are good at anything, and it’s always a pyramid. The only question is how wide the pyramid is; how sharp the slope from financial success to abject poverty.
link to this extract


Silicon Valley is sneaking models into this year’s holiday parties • Bloomberg

Sarah Frier:

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Local modeling agencies, which work with Facebook- and Google-size companies as well as much smaller businesses and the occasional wealthy individual, say a record number of tech companies are quietly paying $50 to $200 an hour for each model hired solely to chat up attendees. For a typical party, scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 8, Cre8 Agency LLC is sending 25 women and 5 men, all good-looking, to hang out with “pretty much all men” who work for a large gaming company in San Francisco, says Cre8 President Farnaz Kermaani. The company, which she wouldn’t name, has handpicked the models based on photos, made them sign nondisclosure agreements, and given them names of employees to pretend they’re friends with, in case anyone asks why he’s never seen them around the foosball table.

“The companies don’t want their staff to be talking to someone and think, Oh, this person was hired to socialize with me,” says Kermaani, who’s sending models to seven tech parties in the same weekend.

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Now they’re just going to suspect it of everyone, though.
link to this extract


CBOE to begin bitcoin futures trading December 10 • CoinDesk

Omkar Godbole:

»

The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) has announced that its planned bitcoin futures product will begin trading on Dec. 10.

In a statement published today, the firm said that trading would commence at 5 p.m. CT, with the first full day of trading starting that Monday. Trading on the CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE) under the “XBT” ticker, the company added in its release that trading of the futures product would be free through the end of December.

The announcement is a notable one given that a bitcoin future being launched by CME Group will go live the following week on Dec 18.

Ed Tilly, CBOE’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement: “Given the unprecedented interest in bitcoin, it’s vital we provide clients the trading tools to help them express their views and hedge their exposure. We are committed to encouraging fairness and liquidity in the bitcoin market. To promote this, we will initially offer XBT futures trading for free.”

The launch confirmation comes months after the Chicago-based exchange first detailed its plans to create a bitcoin futures product. At the time in August, the CBOE was working with New York-based bitcoin exchange Gemini, which is run by investors Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, ahead of the launch.

«

Hmm. Can you have a working futures market in something that everyone – a phrase used loosely – seems to think will only increase in price? (Note I don’t say “value”.) Though it might create something of a brake if there’s enough money in the futures market betting on lower prices.
link to this extract


Bitcoin marketplace NiceHash gets hit by hackers who make off with millions in bitcoins • Mashable

»

NiceHash announced the thievery on their Facebook page, saying, “Clearly, this is a matter of deep concern and we are working hard to rectify the matter in the coming days.”

NiceHash’s head of marketing Andrej P. Škraba told the Wall Street Journal that an estimated 4,700 bitcoin were taken from the company’s bitcoin wallet.

One thing to note: as the value of a bitcoin continues to go up, so, too does the value of the heist. As of post time, the value of a single bitcoin has surpassed $15,000 (with prices on some local Korean exchanges already topping $19,000), meaning the value of the heist has, for the time being, surpassed $70m.

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A couple of years ago it would have been $70,000. Timing is everything.
link to this extract


Don’t blame the US election on fake news. Blame it on the media • Columbia Journalism Review

Duncan Watts and David Rothschild:

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While it may have been the case that the 20 most-shared fake news stories narrowly outperformed the 20 most-shared “real news” stories, the overall volume of stories produced by major newsrooms vastly outnumbers fake news. According to the same report, “The Washington Post produced more than 50,000 stories over the 18-month period, while The New York Times, CNN, and Huffington Post each published more than 30,000 stories.” Presumably not all of these stories were about the election, but each such story was also likely reported by many news outlets simultaneously. A rough estimate of thousands of election-related stories published by the mainstream media is therefore not unreasonable.

What did all these stories talk about? The research team investigated this question, counting sentences that appeared in mainstream media sources and classifying each as detailing one of several Clinton- or Trump-related issues. In particular, they classified each sentence as describing either a scandal (e.g., Clinton’s emails, Trump’s taxes) or a policy issue (Clinton and jobs, Trump and immigration). They found roughly four times as many Clinton-related sentences that described scandals as opposed to policies, whereas Trump-related sentences were one-and-a-half times as likely to be about policy as scandal. Given the sheer number of scandals in which Trump was implicated—sexual assault; the Trump Foundation; Trump University; redlining in his real-estate developments; insulting a Gold Star family; numerous instances of racist, misogynist, and otherwise offensive speech—it is striking that the media devoted more attention to his policies than to his personal failings. Even more striking, the various Clinton-related email scandals—her use of a private email server while secretary of state, as well as the DNC and John Podesta hacks—accounted for more sentences than all of Trump’s scandals combined (65,000 vs. 40,000) and more than twice as many as were devoted to all of her policy positions.

To reiterate, these 65,000 sentences were written not by Russian hackers, but overwhelmingly by professional journalists employed at mainstream news organizations, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: limiting chatbots, online media meltdown, Steam dumps bitcoin, Oracle v Google, and more


How much energy is bitcoin mining using? Let’s have a geothermally heated debate! Photo by Nathan11466 on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Yes, it will get fixed soon. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Drawing invisible boundaries in conversational interfaces • Remains of the Day

Eugene Wei on how text chatbots keep disappointing us, where voice ones (usually) don’t:

»

none of the voice assistants to date sounds close to replicating the natural way a human speaks. These voice assistants may have more human timbre, but the stiff elocution, the mispronunciations, the frequent mistakes in comprehension, all quickly inform the user that what they are dealing with is something of quite limited intelligence. The affordances draw palpable, if invisible, boundaries in the user’s mind, and they quickly realize the low ROI on trying anything other than what is likely to be in the hard-coded response tree. In fact, I’d argue that the small jokes that these UI’s insert, like answering random questions like “what is the meaning of life?” may actually set these assistants up to disappoint people even more by encouraging more such questions the assistant isn’t ready to answer (I found it amusing when Alexa answered my question, “Is Jon Snow dead?” two seasons ago, but then was disappointed when it still had the same abandoned answer a season later, after the question had already been answered by the program months ago).

The same invisible boundaries work immediately when speaking to one of those automated voice customer service menus. You immediately know to speak to these as if you’re addressing an idiot who is also hard of hearing, and the goal is to complete the interaction as quickly as possible, or to divert to a human customer service rep at the earliest possible moment.

[I read on Twitter that one shortcut to get to a human when speaking to an automated voice response system is to curse, that the use of profanity is often a built-in trigger to turn you over to an operator. This is both an amusing and clever design but also feels like some odd admission of guilt on the part of the system designer.]

It is not easy, given the simplicity of textual UIs, to lower the user’s expectations. However, given where the technology is for now, it may be necessary to erect such guardrails. Perhaps the font for the assistant should be some fixed-width typeface, to distinguish it from a human. Maybe some mechanical sound effects could convey the robotic nature of the machine writing the words, and perhaps the syntax should be less human in some ways, to lower expectations.

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link to this extract


Israeli device banishes finger-pricking for sugar levels in diabetes patients • The Times of Israel

Shoshana Solomon:

»

Caesarea-based startup Cnoga Medical Ltd. says it has come up with a way to track blood glucose levels without pricking or pain. Its glucose meter, already approved for use in numerous countries worldwide, uses a camera to provide a diagnosis of blood glucose levels by observing the changing colors of the user’s finger.

During a short training period, the device learns to correlate the user’s skin tone with previous glucose level readings.

The technology got the green light on Monday from one of the world’s leading diabetes specialists, Prof. Andreas Pfützner, MD, PhD, who came to Israel to present the company with his findings after having tested the technology in two clinical studies in Germany.

“The results were surprising,” he told The Times of Israel in a phone interview.  Pfützner held two clinical trials at his institute to validate the performance of the technology, and in both studies he found that the medical device performed “with a surprising level of accuracy,” the same as that of needle sensors.

“Cnoga achieved the same level of monitoring as the invasive devices,” he said.

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It’s quite big – about the size of a 9V battery pack – but non-invasive is a big plus.
link to this extract


Steam is no longer supporting Bitcoin • Group Announcements :: Steam Blog

»

As of today [December 6], Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin.

In the past few months we’ve seen an increase in the volatility in the value of Bitcoin and a significant increase in the fees to process transactions on the Bitcoin network. For example, transaction fees that are charged to the customer by the Bitcoin network have skyrocketed this year, topping out at close to $20 a transaction last week (compared to roughly $0.20 when we initially enabled Bitcoin). Unfortunately, Valve has no control over the amount of the fee. These fees result in unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin. The high transaction fees cause even greater problems when the value of Bitcoin itself drops dramatically.

Historically, the value of Bitcoin has been volatile, but the degree of volatility has become extreme in the last few months, losing as much as 25% in value over a period of days. This creates a problem for customers trying to purchase games with Bitcoin.

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Store of value and/or medium of exchange or just speculative instrument?
link to this extract


Serious faults in Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index • Zorinaq

Marc Bevand:

»

The author of the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index makes fundamentally flawed assumptions, causing it to demonstrably overestimate the electricity consumption of Bitcoin miners by 1.5× to 3.6×, and likely by 2.0× to 2.5×.

His main error, amongst others, is making the wrong assumption that a fixed “60%” of mining revenues are spent on electricity. “60%” is pulled out of thin air and miscalculated due to a misunderstanding from the author. As of 22 November 2017 he still has not fixed this incorrect assumption.

«

The BECI is the thing which makes one think that bitcoin mining is going to be a serious challenge for the electricity grid in a few years. Here, Becand takes it to task. In detail.

But, but, but! That’s not the end of the story. “Digiconomist” arrives in the comments to make defend his (I assume) case. Bevand fights back. Digiconomist responds.

This has been going since February 2017, and they keep updating it. (Latest update: 22 November.) It reminds me of this Star Trek episode.
link to this extract


Native Mobile Apps Part 1 • David Bressler

Bressler has hit the age everyone eventually hits: he needs glasses for reading, but not for other stuff. But it’s hard to read text on his phone:

»

I remem ber when Apple first had a sys tem font pref er ence that worked across apps. Before then, using a Black ber ry or Win dows Mobile, I remem ber hav ing to change the font set ting for each app indi vid u al ly (if the app sup port ed one). It was awk ward at best. Font sizes between apps were incon sis tent dri ving the OCD (fig u ra tive, not diag nos ti cal ly lit er al) part of me insane.

I remem ber the relief that I could go to one set ting on the iPhone and nev er have to think about it again.

Here’s the thing.

I now have the sys tem font set to the high est size. It works great, most ly. How ev er…

Respon sive apps either can’t, can’t eas i ly, or have devel op ers that don’t care to imple ment the sys tem font set ting in their apps. I could call out banks, hos pi tals, and even Coin Mar ket Cap (where I track my cryp to port fo lio dai ly) and Telegram (where I learn more about Cryp to) that don’t sup port the sys tem font.

It dri ves me insane when peo ple don’t accept that their crap py respon sive apps are crap py. I under stand why they have to be some times done (some apps just aren’t that impor tant)… but that’s not the case with the ones I’m most ly using.

«

link to this extract


Inside Oracle’s cloak-and-dagger political war with Google • Recode

Tony Romm:

»

Oracle’s aggressive legal maneuvering has evolved into a political campaign against Google, sources say.

Take the fight over online privacy, which consumed the U.S. Congress this spring. At the time, lawmakers had just rolled back rules that would have required companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon to obtain permission before selling their customers’ web-browsing histories to advertisers. Some Republicans said the rules targeting ISPs were heavy-handed and unfair because they didn’t apply to tech giants like Facebook and Google in equal measure. To that end, one GOP lawmaker, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, introduced a bill that aimed to subject both industries to tougher privacy regulations.

Naturally, Google opposed that idea — and speaking through one of its trade associations, the search giant pledged to fight. Days after Blackburn introduced the bill, however, Oracle publicly praised the lawmaker for her work product. Many in tech saw it as an odd move for a company with no search or advertising business.

Then, Oracle purchased mobile billboards in Blackburn’s home state, Tennessee, in an apparent bid to rile locals about the power and reach of Silicon Valley, two sources told Recode. “Internet companies betrayed you,” the ad began. It didn’t mention Google by name, but it still charged that the industry had “sold your most sensitive and personal information for $125bn in advertising revenue last year.”

“Paid for by Oracle,” it read in fine print at the bottom.

«

link to this extract


Mecklenburg computer servers held for ransom by hacker • Charlotte Observer

Steve Harrison:

»

Mecklenburg County government has been paralyzed by an unknown computer hacker after a county employee unknowingly opened an email attachment Monday that unleashed spyware and a worm into the county’s computer system.

County manager Dena Diorio said Tuesday night that the hacker has essentially frozen the county’s electronic files. The hacker is seeking $23,000 for an encryption key that would release the files.

The hacker’s deadline: 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“The files on the servers are being held for ransom,” she said before a commissioners meeting Wednesday.

Diorio said the county is working with a third-party technology company to decide what to do. She said she is open to paying the ransom, which would be paid in bitcoin.

But Diorio said that paying the ransom would present a number of other potential problems, not including rewarding the hackers.

“If you pay the bitcoin, there is always a risk they won’t give you the encryption key,” she said. “And they could go back for more (money).”…

…Diorio said the hackers don’t have access to people’s health records, Social Security numbers or credit card information.

“Social Security numbers are protected and health information is protected,” she said.

She said an example of the problem is the county’s code enforcement office, where much of the work is done electronically. Employees no longer have access to their records. But she said they are switching to paper records for work on Wednesday.

«

Well, you could always consider how much you spend on having airgapped backups. Also: “unknown hacker”? Is that different from “known hacker”? They probably just put the ransomware together like Lego. (Thanks JC for the link.)
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Analysis: Facebook performance declined for news published in 2017 • Medium

Matt McAlister:

»

we may be witnessing a decline in Facebook’s influence on news. The new numbers are hiding it in plain sight.

The median average engagements number, the 50th percentile or half of all articles, has been declining most of the year. In Spring the median engagements figure was 36. And now in December that number is down to 23.

Total month-to-month engagements may look encouraging, but the highest performers are the only ones to benefit. The bottom 90% of articles are all in a steady decline.
While it may appear as if the company is obscuring an overall decline by introducing a topline increase, we don’t know what Facebook’s intentions are with this change. It’s conceivable this pattern started well before the change and that we are only now seeing truth with more accurate figures than what we had access to before.

Sampling would surely skew toward flatter growth in a viral system, and now that they report ‘real’ engagements, as they claim, we might be seeing patterns that have been there for years.

Regardless, the larger trend is not good news for news. If most of the news is getting shared less and less on Facebook then publishers will likely also see a reduction in an important source of customer visits, both new customers and loyal customers.

«

That is absolutely tiny amounts of sharing, and implies huge numbers of articles are thrown into a void as deep as the Marianas Trench.
link to this extract


Ziff-Davis has bought Mashable at a fire-sale price and plans to lay off 50 people • Recode

Peter Kafka on the sale, priced at about $50m (after a recent funding round valued it at $250m:

»

Mashable’s new owners plan on keeping the site running but want to refocus the company on tech and tech-lifestyle content. That will mean laying off about 50 of the site’s employees and offering other Mashable employees jobs at other Ziff Davis publications, according to a source familiar with the company’s plans, who says founder Pete Cashmore will stay with the company.

Ziff Davis specializes in running low-cost publishers that generate a significant amount of their revenue from “affiliate commerce” — usually executed via in-text links which pay the publisher when a reader clicks on the link, or buys something after clicking on the link. Last year, the company made a bid for the Gawker Media sites when those properties were in a bankruptcy auction.

Mashable’s collapse comes amid increasing skepticism about online publishers that depend on digital advertising, as Google and Facebook eat up increasing amounts of that market. Last week, BuzzFeed said it was laying off about 100 people — around 6% of its workforce — as it looked for new revenue streams to augment its core “native” ads business.

«

Mashable started in Cashmore’s bedroom, and at this rate it’s going to end up there too. Its recent “pivot to video”, when it laid off a ton of people who just wrote words, clearly didn’t do the trick.
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Pivot to subscriptions • Medium

Nick Hagar on TheStreet moving to a subscription model:

»

Companies across digital media are reaching a moment of truth, one that’s been coming for the 10 years they’ve failed to turn a profit. But while other publications are now pivoting to video, TheStreet’s already been there, done that, and it didn’t work. According to Digiday, “while video views have grown substantially, according to former employees, boosted by the liberal use of autoplay, consumer advertising revenue grew just 2% during the most recent quarter, per the company filing.”
Instead, it’s banking on the value it provides to readers, focusing on events and subscriptions. I think this is a smart move for a niche publication with a dedicated audience, and it’s the approach places like Digiday and The Information rely on.

«

TheStreet (and sister publication The Deal) now have fewer than 40 editorial people, having cut about 10 recently. The noose tightens…
link to this extract


Zeta Global acquires commenting service Disqus • TechCrunch

Frederic Lardinois:

»

Marketing tech company Zeta Global is making good use of its recent $140m Series F funding round. After acquiring Boomtrain earlier this year, the company today announced it has acquired Disqus, a service you’re probably familiar with thanks to its ubiquitous online commenting service that powers the commenting sections of sites that range from TMZ to The Atlantic and Entertainment Weekly.

A source close to the two companies tells us that the acquisition price was close to $90m. This marks Zeta’s eleventh acquisition since it was founded in 2007.

Zeta Global’s acquisitions have typically focused on more fundamental technologies like AI and machine learning, customer lifecycle management and other adtech related services. At first glance, Disqus doesn’t quite seem to fit into this list, but Disqus sits on a huge data set that goes beyond your favorite troll’s political comments.

“Marketers typically have to make trade-offs between reaching engaged audiences on social platforms with massive reach and using tools that give them control and access to granular targeting capabilities,” said Zeta Global CEO, chairman and co-founder David A. Steinberg. “Disqus strengthens Zeta’s ability to offer the best of both worlds with the scale, visibility and performance marketers have been asking for.”

«

“Granular targeting capabilities”. In other words, ads (and other profiling, to be sold on to who knows which company and used for who knows what) based on what you comment on. The case for not commenting on anything – or trying to delete your Disqus profile – just grew sizably.
link to this extract


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Start Up: Russia’s fake Twitter news, Facebook for kids?, cracking iOS 11, Google v Amazon, and more


We don’t have a picture of data leaking from a database, so here’s the aquatic equivalent. Photo by THomas Good on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. No, target=_blank to open the links in new windows/tabs isn’t implemented yet. Give it a day or so. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How the Kremlin tried to pose as American news sites on Twitter • Bloomberg

Selina Wang:

»

The Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency operated dozens of Twitter accounts masquerading as local American news sources that collectively garnered more than half-a-million followers. More than 100 news outlets also published stories containing those handles in the run-up to the election, and some of them were even tweeted by a top presidential aide. These news imposter accounts, which are part of the 2,752 now-suspended accounts that Twitter Inc. has publicly disclosed to be tied to the IRA, show how the Russian group sought to build local communities of followers to disseminate messages.

Many of the news imposter accounts amassed their following by tweeting headlines from real news sites, while others sought to represent certain communities. They targeted a diverse set of regions across the political spectrum, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Several of the accounts were impersonating local news outlets in swing states, like @TodayPittsburgh, @TodayMiami and @TodayCincinnati.

«

How soon before the US rules that Twitter is an agent of a foreign power?
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A popular virtual keyboard app leaks 31 million users’ personal data • ZDNet

Zack Whittaker:

»

Personal data belonging to over 31 million customers of a popular virtual keyboard app has leaked online, after the app’s developer failed to secure the database’s server.

The server is owned by Eitan Fitusi, co-founder of AI.type, a customizable and personalizable on-screen keyboard, which boasts more than 40 million users across the world.

But the server wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone to access the company’s database of user records, totaling more than 577 gigabytes of sensitive data.

The database appears to only contain records on the app’s Android users.

The discovery was found by security researchers at the Kromtech Security Center, which posted details of the exposure alongside ZDNet…

…The company also promises to “never share your data or learn from password fields,” but we saw one table containing more than 8.6 million entries of text that had been entered using the keyboard, which included private and sensitive information, like phone numbers, web search terms, and in some cases concatenated email addresses and corresponding passwords.

…”It raises the question once again if it is really worth it for consumers to submit their data in exchange for free or discounted products or services that gain full access to their devices,” [Kromtech head of communications Bob Diachenko] added.

«

It’s like Dirty Harry. “This is a multi-gigabyte server which could blow your passwords and typing all over the net. In all this excitement, I can’t remember whether I set a password on the server or not. Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, DO YA?”
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Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ lets under-13s chat with whom parents approve • TechCrunch

Josh Constine:

»

It’s important to understand that kids under 13 still can’t sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, parents download the Messenger Kids app to a child’s iPhone or iPad (Android coming soon). Once the parent has authenticated it with their own account, they set up a mini-profile with their kid’s name and photo. Then, using the Messenger Kids bookmark in the main Facebook app, parents can approve anyone who is friends with them as a contact for their kid, like aunts and uncles or godparents. Messenger Kids is interoperable with the main Messenger app, so adults don’t actually have to download the Kids app.

Kids still can’t be found through Facebook search, which protects their privacy. So if a child wants to be able to chat with one of their classmates, their parent must first friend that kid’s parent, and then will see the option to approve that adult’s child as a contact for their own kid. This is by far the most clumsy part of Messenger Kids, and something Facebook might be able to improve with a way for Messenger Kids to let children perhaps photograph a QR code on their playmate’s app to request that their parents connect…

…One thing that might surprise some people is that there’s no way for parents to secretly spy on what their kids are saying in their chats. Instead, parents have to ask to look at their kids’ screen, which Chung says is a more common behavior pattern. The exception is that if kids report a piece of objectionable content, their parents will be notified but still not shown the content in their own app.

«

Facebook did a ton of research with parents (including those in the military) to find out the best approach here. It found that kids already had access to hardware: 93% of 6-12 years olds in the US had access to a tablet or smartphone, 66% had their own device, and 60% of parents surveyed said kids under 13 used messaging apps, social media or both.

But at its core, it’s about getting people – even those under age – to use Facebook more. In the end, that’s not working out well for adults already. Why should it be any better for children? If they want to call the grandparents, there’s Skype or Facetime.
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iOS 11 leaves iOS devices more vulnerable to edge-case attacks, says phone-cracking company ElcomSoft • 9to5Mac

Ben Lovejoy:

»

Anyone wanting to access private data from an iPhone used to face two challenges, says the company in a blog post (which was experiencing loading problems at the time of writing). First, they had to access the device itself, which usually requires knowing or cracking the passcode. Second, even with the passcode, you could not access all the data on the device unless you could also crack the password used for the encrypted backup of the device.

It is the encrypted backup that contains Keychain data, allowing you to easily access any account used by the phone’s owner, as well as application data and more. Indeed, in many cases, authorities and other attackers focus their efforts on cracking the backup rather than the device itself, as it provides easier access to more data.

Prior to iOS 11, if you made an encrypted backup to iTunes, the password protecting that backup was used every time in future, even if you switched Mac…

…Apple documents this process, so it’s clearly a deliberate decision rather than a bug.

It seems likely that Apple is balancing convenience against security here, taking the view that anyone who has the device passcode usually has legitimate access to the device. The new behavior would be helpful to anyone who forgot their encrypted backup password, as well as families of anyone who passed away but had shared their passcode with family members.

My personal view is that the change makes sense. The risk created by it is real edge-case stuff: someone has physical access to my device and knows my passcode. The benefit is that there’s an escape plan for the many people who forget rarely-used passwords – like, in this case, an encrypted backup password that is typically only needed when upgrading devices.

«

Elcomsoft has a point. Question is, how many people give up their passcode to those they shouldn’t?

link to this extract


Fun with Facebook ads? • ZGP

Don Marti:

»

Most of the ads that I was getting to start with were for free-to-play NSFW games, so I changed my profile to “female”. Jackpot! All of a sudden I started getting much more professional ads, including IT products and services for big companies, and training classes for online marketing skills (yes, including a Facebook ad for a class on how to advertise on Facebook). What I guess happened is that the more business-focused advertisers put in gender-neutral bids, and while I was “male” on the site, they got outbid by the game companies specifically targeting male users.

(Dudes, I highly recommend going “female” on Facebook if you haven’t already, especially if you might be embarrased about people seeing too much décolletage in the ads when they walk by. So there’s your personal infotainment tip for today.)

But what did I do? I had fixed a problem, so I broke it some more. I went ahead and stayed female, but increased my age to 88. Big mistake.

«

It’s quite remarkable what you then get.
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Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future • Grist

Eric Holthaus:

»

As bitcoin grows, the math problems computers must solve to make more bitcoin (a process called “mining”) get more and more difficult — a wrinkle designed to control the currency’s supply.

Today, each bitcoin transaction requires the same amount of energy used to power nine homes in the U.S. for one day. And miners are constantly installing more and faster computers. Already, the aggregate computing power of the bitcoin network is nearly 100,000 times larger than the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers combined.

The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge — an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year.

That sort of electricity use is pulling energy from grids all over the world, where it could be charging electric vehicles and powering homes, to bitcoin-mining farms. In Venezuela, where rampant hyperinflation and subsidized electricity has led to a boom in bitcoin mining, rogue operations are now occasionally causing blackouts across the country. The world’s largest bitcoin mines are in China, where they siphon energy from huge hydroelectric dams, some of the cheapest sources of carbon-free energy in the world. One enterprising Tesla owner even attempted to rig up a mining operation in his car, to make use of free electricity at a public charging station.

In just a few months from now, at bitcoin’s current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what’s available, requiring new energy-generating plants.

«

Though I linked to the data about bitcoin mining using so much energy, the fact of its exponential increase in demand had passed me by. Only if fewer people mine will the difficulty come down, and then the demand. But that’s only going to happen if the price drops precipitously.
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YouTube is gone from Amazon Fire TV and Echo Show again, as Google vs Amazon heats up • BGR

Yoni Heisler:

»

In a bold strike against Amazon, Google earlier today pulled support for its YouTube app from both the Amazon Echo Show and the Fire TV. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because we previously went down a similar road this past September. Back then, Google explained that the Echo Show’s implementation of YouTube lacked integral features and created a broken experience for users. YouTube ultimately returned to the Echo Show in late November, though sources familiar with the matter tell TechCrunch that Amazon at the time implemented a workaround that wasn’t authorized by Google.

So now we’re back to square one, with Echo Show users left unable to access any YouTube content. Fire TV users, meanwhile, will lose access on January 1. In a statement on the matter, Google accused Amazon of refusing to sell certain Google branded products.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services,” Google said. “But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

«

It’s telling that Google’s (only available) reprisal for not having its hardware sold on a store is to make its services unavailable on that store’s hardware. Who do we think loses more here?
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How brands secretly buy their way into Forbes, Fast Company, and HuffPost stories • The Outline

Jon Christian:

»

Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists, ranging from individuals like Satyam to medium-sized “digital marketing firms” that blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement.

People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands.

One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site.

«

I’ve heard about variants of this for a while, specifically around the Forbes “contributors” (who aren’t staff; in effect they’re outside bloggers). After I’d left the Guardian, I saw claims that there were similar paid links at The Guardian. I investigated them via those who claimed to have paid for links: they didn’t check out. (I think the middlemen selling links claimed it so they could charge more for the places where they could sell links.)

It’s an unsurprising wrinkle. Good journalism by Christian to pin it down.
link to this extract


Apple’s HomePod isn’t about Siri, but rather the future of home audio • Apple Insider

Daniel Eran Dilger:

»

Apple’s intent for HomePod isn’t just being a copy of Echo. Despite a dubious “tell-all” report for Bloomberg by Mark Gurman (the same person who likes to announce on camera how far ahead Amazon is over Apple in its Alexa voice app partnerships) that portrayed Apple’s HomePod as a disjointed, incompetently run skunkworks project, the reality is that HomePod is doing something very different than Amazon.

It does not appear that anyone at Bloomberg understands anything about Apple’s strategy, but rather only views the company through a distorted lens of other companies’ marketing nonsense. That explains why Gurman earlier insisted in 2015 that his sources had confirmed that the second generation of Apple Watch would get a low-quality camera just like Samsung’s failed Gear smartwatch. This made no sense at all for many reasons but was received and propagated by other outlets as reliable news, before being forgotten. Years later, there’s no camera on Apple Watch.

Like the original Mac, NeXT, iPhone and iPad, HomePod isn’t an attempt to merely clone the status quo, but rather an effort to take very expensive new technology and make it affordable to the mass market. HomePod is the pinnacle of Apple’s resurgent efforts to push advanced audio technology since its acquisition of Beats. It’s not just a wireless speaker with Siri.

«

HomePod is miles from “mass market”. Echo, Dot, Google Home: those are priced for the mass market. Trying to drive mass market purchasing of high-quality audio because it’s high-quality audio is doomed to failure. (CDs offered higher-quality audio, but it was their convenience that made them sell.)

There’s a legitimate question about how big and how useful the “smart speaker” market can be, but Apple’s definitely playing in it. Coming so late to the game, it doesn’t have the luxury of redefining the market.
link to this extract


HP, Asus announce first Windows 10 ARM PCs: 20 hour battery life, gigabit LTE • Ars Technica

Peter Bright:

»

Just shy of a year after announcing that Windows was once again going to be available on ARM systems, the first two systems were announced today: the Asus NovaGo 2-in-1 laptop, and the HP Envy x2 tablet.

Branded as Always Connected PCs, the new Windows on ARM systems are positioned as bringing together the best of PCs and smartphones. They have PC form factors, with the productivity enabled by a real keyboard, touchpad, and general purpose operating system capable of running regular Windows software, but they bring with them the seamless switching between LTE and Wi-Fi, instant on, multiple working day battery life, and slimline, lightweight packaging that we’re accustomed to on our phones.

The Asus laptop boasts 22 hours of battery life or 30 days of standby, along with LTE that can run at gigabit speeds. HP’s tablet offers a 12.3 inch, 1920×1280 screen, 20 hours battery life or 29 days of standby, and a removable keyboard-cover and stylus. Both systems use the Snapdragon 835 processor and X16 LTE modem, with HP offering up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage to go with it…

…The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the program should be faster, as they can skip the translation). Moreover, system libraries—the various DLLs that applications load to make use of operating system features—are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling them “Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables” (or “chippie” for short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls.

While processor-intensive applications are liable to suffer a significant performance hit from this emulation—Photoshop will work in the emulator, but it won’t be very fast—applications that spend a substantial amount of time waiting around for the user—such as Word—should perform with adequate performance.

«

Seems like a better approach than the first time round with ARM. That’s quite some battery life, too.
link to this extract


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Start Up: social media explained, Oreo reviewed, cheaper iPads?, make your own Brexit!, and more


Is the BBC approaching the end of the line? Photo by l-b-p-2011 on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. None co-written by Paul Manafort. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

A simple theory of Moore’s Law and social media • Marginal REVOLUTION

Tyler Cowen, here in part:

»

6. Consider a second distinction, namely between people who are too sensitive to social information, and people who are relatively insensitive to social information.  A quick test of this one is to ask how often a person’s tweets (and thoughts) refer to the motivations, intentions, or status hierarchies held by others.  Get the picture?  (Here is an A+ example.)

7. People who are overly sensitive to social information will be driven to distraction by Twitter.  They will find the world to be intolerably bad.  The status distinctions they value will be violated so, so many times, and in a manner which becomes common knowledge.  And they will perceive what are at times the questionable motives held by others.  Twitter is like negative catnip for them.  In fact, they will find it more and more necessary to focus on negative social information, thereby exacerbating their own tendencies toward oversensitivity.

8. People who are not so sensitive to social information will pursue social media with greater equanimity, and they may find those media productivity-enhancing.  Nevertheless they will become rather visibly introduced to a relatively new category of people for them — those who are overly sensitive to social information.  This group will become so transparent, so in their face, and also somewhat annoying.  Even those extremely insensitive to social information will not be able to help perceiving this alternate approach, and also the sometimes bad motivations that lie behind it.  The overly sensitive ones in turn will notice that another group is under-sensitive to the social considerations they value.  These two groups will think less and less of each other.  The insensitive will have been made sensitive.  It’s like playing “overrated vs. underrated” almost 24/7 on issues you really care about, and which affect your own personal status.

9. The philosophy of Stoicism will return to Silicon Valley.  It will gain adherents but fail, because the rest of the system is stacked against it.

10. The socially sensitive, very smart people will become the most despairing, the most manipulated, and the most angry.  The socially insensitive will either jump ship into the camp of the socially sensitive, or they will cultivate new methods of detachment, with or without Stoicism.  Straussianism will compete with Stoicism.

«

An excellent analysis. (There are 13 points in all.) Though I think it’s Metcalfe’s law, relating to networks, that’s more relevant than Moore’s.
link to this extract


Android Oreo review: an iOS user’s review (Introduction) • BirchTree

Matt Birchler:

»

I have been using the Google Pixel 2, which is the latest and greatest Android phone out there. I chose this phone for my experiment because I wanted to leave no room for my conclusions to be colored by a bad OEM skin on top of Android or by a lower quality phone as my comparisons to iOS should be as fair as possible. Since I wanted to review Oreo, a Pixel was my only option in October, and thankfully that Pixel has top of the like specs and the best Android camera out there. This is Android how Google intended it.

The very, very TLDR version of my review is as follows:

Android has grown up considerably over the last decade. It’s no longer a complete disaster of a user experience, and some elements have actually surpassed what Apple is doing with iOS. Notifications are much better than they are on iOS and Google Assistant is more accurate and more helpful than Siri. that said, there are a million little (and not so little) things that truly make Android a sub-par experience for me. Your milage may vary, but the abysmal third party software available for the platform, poor inter-app communication, and countless stability issues make Android a place I only want to visit for a month or two per year, not something I can see myself using full time.

«

Everyone praises Android’s handling of notifications. Birchler’s points about inter-app communication (in the second part of this series) may surprise those who think it’s an Android strength.
link to this extract


Brexit options: interactive diagram • Brexitoptions

»

Click on the buttons above to explore some Brexit scenarios — relevant sections will turn purple

«

This is a terrific illustration of where the UK would (will?) sit under various outcomes. Most of them look worrying to me. (Guess which one puts the UK on the same side of the fence as Turkey. Some irony there.)

Beautiful graphics, too.
link to this extract


TV channels have ‘up to 10 years’ to meet tech threat • FT

Matthew Garrahan:

»

concerns are growing across Europe that the central role of public service broadcasters, or PSBs, will diminish.

“The growth and dominance of these companies is a threat to our entire media ecosystem,” said Noel Curran, director-general of the European Broadcasting Union, which represents PSBs. “Everybody in European media needs to ask: where are we going to be in five to 10 years?”

In Britain, programming delivered via broadband and made available on-demand has shaken television’s hierarchy, under which PSBs were the first ports of call on a television’s remote control and were easily regulated.

“What we have taken for granted as critical to the health of UK television is coming under serious threat,” said Jonathan Thompson, chief executive of Digital UK, which is owned by the BBC, ITV and Arqiva, the company that owns and operates the national transmitter network.

Under UK broadcasting regulations, public service channels must be prominently displayed in the electronic programme guides of cable and satellite providers.

But no such regulations exist for programming viewed on-demand: global digital subscription services such as Netflix “with deep pockets and big ambitions . . . are quickly muscling their way into prime position,” Mr Thompson said.

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F-35 stealth fighter caught spying on its owners • News Australia

Jamie Seidel:

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While privacy is a concern when it comes to personal internet and smartphone use, it’s becomes a whole different matter when applied to the military.

“Due to national considerations, there is a need for a filter where the user nations can exclude sensitive data from the data stream that is shared by the system with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin,” Gjemble told ABC Nyheter.

An unidentified participant walks past a poster advertising US defence equipment manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth multirole fighter at the 2017 Berlin Security Conference in Berlin.

At the heart of the problem is the F-35’s artificial intelligence dubbed ALIS: it is responsible for logging performance data, as well as monitoring and optimising the aircraft’s sophisticated equipment. To do so it ‘phones home’ to Texas.

Norway says it has become impatient with continued delays in the promised provision of a data “filter” by Lockheed Martin. So it’s started its own project to find ways to block its new F-35s from reporting back to their former US masters.

It’s also worried that it won’t be able to optimise — or protect — the extremely sensitive Mission Data Files. These data packs optimise aircraft performance under different conditions, as well as provide a database of regional challenges and conditions.

Again, Norway wants Lockheed Martin out of the loop.

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Apple agrees to deal with Ireland over $15bn unpaid tax issue • WSJ

Natalia Drozdiak:

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Ireland will begin collecting €13 billion ($15.46 billion) in back taxes from Apple Inc. as soon as early next year after both sides agreed to the terms of an escrow fund for the money, Ireland’s finance chief said Monday.

The European Union in 2016 ordered Dublin to retrieve the billions of euros from Apple in uncollected taxes, which the EU said Apple avoided paying with the help of sweetheart tax deals from Ireland.

A year after that decision, however, Ireland still hadn’t recouped the money, leading the EU in October to refer Dublin to the bloc’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for failing to implement the decision.

Ireland has said the money collection was held up by negotiations over the escrow account, which will hold the company’s dues while both Apple and Ireland appeal the EU’s 2016 decision in court.

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe Monday said he expected the flow of money from Apple to begin in the first quarter of 2018 once they complete the tendering processes to determine who would operate the account and who would then manage the fund.

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Apple’s still disputing it, but this gets the money a little closer to Ireland’s exchequer.
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I tried emailing like a CEO and quite frankly, it made my life better • Buzzfeed

Katie Notopoulos:

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On a Monday morning, I began my experiment. I opened my email, deleted a few purely mailing list items, and got to work. For all the PR pitches I wasn’t interested in, I fired off a quick, “Thanks, but this is a pass for me.” It felt empowering.

The week before the experiment, I sent 21 emails total.

The week I started the experiment, I sent 84. (To be fair, about 25 of those were replies to people who emailed me specifically after I tweeted out that I was doing this experiment. I got a bunch of jokey emails, which I dutifully replied to.)

The other key part of boss-style email is doing a lot of email on the phone. This meant goodbye to my old crutch of “I’ll reply when I get to a computer.” I would fire off emails from my phone on the subway, walking around at lunch, on the toilet at the office. For the first time, I actually started using the suggested Gmail replies, which are actually pretty useful in the sense of purely transmitting information.

That first Monday, as I fired off a bunch of not-super-important emails, something strange happened. I felt…extremely good. I was high on the fumes of efficiency. No longer did a little cloud hang over me, the nagging feeling you get when you know you’re supposed to do something and can’t remember what.

The high didn’t wear off after that first day. It lasted all week. I applied the method to my personal email as well, and although I don’t get as many personal emails, I found it worked even better there.

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FINALLY.
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No, I don’t want to configure your app! • Quils in Space

“Quil”:

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There seems to be a very interesting trend re-emerging in software development lately, influenced by Node’s philosophy, perhaps, where to use anything at all you first need to install a dozen of “dependencies,” spend the next 10 hours configuring it, pray to whatever gods (or beings) you believe in—even if you don’t. And then, if you’re very lucky and the stars are properly aligned in the sky, you’ll be able to see “Hello, world” output on the screen.

Apparently, more configuration always means more good, as evidenced by new, popular tools such as WebPack and Babel.js’s 6th version. Perhaps this also explains why Java was such a popular platform back in the days.

HYPOTHESIS: The popularity of a tool is proportional to the amount of time it makes their users waste.

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Though this post is from January 2016, it’s still true. I did try an app called Focos, which shows the output from the depth-mapping systems on the iPhone, and it has a different approach to making you configure the app: it doesn’t even begin explaining how to use it until you press some element. (Then it shows you in detail.) Much better than forcing you to sit through an intro.
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Spam is back • The Outline

Jon Christian:

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an individual who posted on a blackhat hacker forum that he could sell a database of tens of millions of US phone numbers, complete with associated email and postal addresses, told me that though he himself is annoyed by robocalls, he does what he needs to in order to earn a living. He obtains phone numbers from data sellers and lead generation sites that offer users free stuff in exchange for giving up their contact information, he said, and insisted that though he’s been slapped with fines in the past, he now complies with laws governing the sale of phone numbers.

“I mean I see it as a tool to help marketers find the right person,” said that man, who identified himself as Brian Masin during a Skype chat interview.

Masin, who said he’s based in the DC metro area and made as much as $160,000 per year in the internet marketing business, though not all from selling phone numbers, also mused that “if you buy homesec[u]rity online then you deserve” to get “duped.”

In addition to the FTC, a number of app developers and people like telecom consultant Roger Anderson, who created a posse of phone bots designed to waste robocallers’ time by pretending to be human, have all taken up the fight — but today, the calls still persist.

The second coming of spam isn’t just robocalls, of course. It’s rampant on Twitter, for example, where vast botnets boost follower counts for money and push political propaganda. It crops up on Tinder and OkCupid, where bots with voluptuous profile pictures stumble through flirty banter — “I am totally a sex addict” — and inevitably send links to websites that demand credit card numbers. Ashley Madison, a hookup site for extramarital affairs that gained notoriety when its user data was stolen in 2015, harbored millions of “sexbot” accounts intended to sucker users into paying for premium membership.

The volume of spam email has leveled off overall, and Google says it can detect 99.9% of spam and phishing attempts in Gmail. But what email spam is left has become more sophisticated and criminal.

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Spam never went away, it just mutated. It’s like E.coli – its presence is an indicator of a sort of health.
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Video: Seoul taps citizens for ambitious solar power goal • Tech in Asia

Here’s the transcript (via Steven Millward):

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South Korea is building a “solar city.” In Seoul, mini solar panels are installed on apartment balconies. One can produce enough energy to run a fridge, which means lower electricity bills.

Goal: 1 million households with mini solar panels.

Target: Seoul’s citizens will produce 1 gigawatt of power by 2022. That’s about the same as one nuclear reactor

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It doesn’t look particularly pretty, but you have to admire the determination.
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Apple plans new inexpensive 9.7in iPad for 2018, says sources • Digitimes

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai:

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Apple is considering a new inexpensive 9.7in iPad priced at around US$259 for 2018, according to sources from related upstream suppliers, which added that the device should be able to attract more demand from price-oriented consumers, allowing Apple to maintain its present 10 million-unit tablet shipments a quarter.

With the new device, the sources expect the tablet market to witness a new wave of price competition among first-tier players including Samsung Electronics, Amazon, Huawei and Lenovo.

With the tablet market already becoming mature, Apple has been seeing weakening sales for its iPad series, while Android-based tablet shipments have also been declining. Most second- and third-tier brand vendors had already stepped out of the market, while China-based white-box tablet players had also shifted their focuses to other product lines after Intel stopped providing subsidies for using its CPUs.

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To be precise, the non-iPad market has shrunk for the past two quarters (per IDC) while iPad sales have grown for two quarters, but it’s too soon to call a trend – though total tablet sales, including Windows tablets (by IDC’s definition, ie “slates”) have been falling for 12 successive quarters. Given that, any sort of growth is good. If Apple is going after the cheaper players, that could drive some out. Lenovo has no business selling tablets: it’s too small and doesn’t make money on them.
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Australia to probe Facebook, Google over media disruption • Reuters

Jonathan Barrett and Tom Westbrook:

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Like their rivals globally, Australia’s traditional media companies have been squeezed by online rivals, as advertising dollars have followed eyeballs to digital distributors such as Google, Facebook and Netflix Inc.

The government ordered the probe as part of wider media reforms, amid growing concern for the future of journalism and the quality of news following years of declining profits and newsroom job cuts and the rise of fake news.

“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The inquiry also would study how Facebook and Google operated to “fully understand their influence in Australia”, he added.

A Google spokesman said, “We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant.” Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The idea for an ACCC investigation was hatched during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year, which resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country’s big players to boost their market share to better compete against online disruptors.

Independent media analyst Peter Cox told Reuters it was unclear what measures the competition regulator could recommend to the government even if it found the country’s media sector was increasingly anti-competitive.

“You could see this as a stepping stone towards another type of reform, such as tax,” said Cox.

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So some means of getting them to pay taxes? Still not sure how that would work. And it’s completely obvious what they’ve been doing. (Thanks Oh Aye for the link.)
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