Facebook ad pranking, Samsung’s design wars, Wirelurker arrests, web: alive or dead?, and more

1952 Illustrated Food Ad. This is not targeted to you at all. Honest.

A selection of 11 links for you. Do not spray on pets. I’m on Twitter as @charlesarthur. Do ping me links, opinions, etc.

Pranking my roommate with eerily targeted Facebook ads >> My Social Sherpa

Brian Swichkow:

I don’t do anything half-assed and he knew that. So about two months later I was experimenting with different ways to use Facebook’s Custom Audience targeting and having quite a bit of success. I was using a list of about 10,000 people and getting some of the highest click-throughs I had seen in a long time. Being a fan of the Mythbusters where they believe that anything worth doing is worth overdoing – I asked myself how I could take this to the next level. I realized that stepping things up a notch was actually stepping them down a notch in this case and I asked how targeted I could make my audience. I said to myself, “What if I only had like five people in an audience? What if I only had one person in an audience? … I should test this … I should test this on my roommate.”

The amazing thing here is the cost of doing it. You’ll have to read the article. Try guessing how much first though.

Pearl: the Compact Mirror Battery Project that started on Kickstarter but ended with Indiegogo >> Daniel Chin

Pearl™: Compact Mirror + USB Rechargeable Battery Pack was originally a Kickstarter project that was supposed to run from November 10 to December 3, 2014. In less than 48 hours since the project launched, it raised over $41,000, surpassing its $30,000 funding goal.

Then all of a sudden, we were informed by Kickstarter that our project was suspended due to a DMCA copyright infringement claim. It is a ridiculous, unfounded and fraudulent claim which Kickstarter did not bother to verify with us.

The allegations in the blog post are serious. One wonders how much of this goes on and simply never surfaces. Kickstarter doesn’t come out of it looking much good.

Alleged creators of WireLurker malware arrested in China >> SecurityWeek.Com

Three individuals suspected of being involved in the creation and distribution of a recently uncovered piece of malware referred to as “WireLurker” have been arrested and charged, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security said on Friday.

The suspects, identified by their surnames as Wang, Lee and Chen, were taken into custody on Thursday based on information provided to law enforcement authorities by the China-based security company Qihoo 360 Technology.

WireLurker, a threat designed to target devices running Mac OS X, iOS and Windows, was recently uncovered by Palo Alto Networks. The network security firm’s researchers identified a total of 467 malicious OS X apps which by mid-October had been downloaded by Chinese users over 350,000 times from an app store called Maiyadi. Cybercriminals distributed the threat by packaging it with popular games and applications.

Ditto creator says Samsung phones are “crammed with complexity and redundant features” >> PhoneArena

Parallel to the launch process of Ditto, the simplest notifications wearable device there is, its product designer Bob Olodort opened up about his small-time gig as a consulting designer at Samsung. He told VentureBeat that he’d pay the Korean chaebol a visit four times a year and show them “elegant, innovative phone designs” – each one “optimized to provide an ideal set of features for a […] target customer” and an example of “simplicity and elegance”. So why are our faithful Samsung phones the exact feature-stuffed opposite of this fine concept? 

Olodort has the blunt answer: “They would louse it up by putting in everything — that’s their style at Samsung. A few young Samsung engineering managers would each add their own pet features. Later, the carriers Samsung sold to would insist on another set of features. Pretty soon the phones would be crammed with complexity and redundant features.” Unsurprisingly, the simplicity-obsessed Oledorf left to do his own thing.

This is hardly news to anyone who’s tried a Samsung smartphone. It sounds much like LG’s approach to Smart TV – every manager is desperate to get their own pet project in.

What happens when pirates play a game development simulator and then go bankrupt because of piracy? >> Greenheart Games

Old (well, from April 2013) but good. Greenheart Games intentionally uploaded a cracked version of their game to torrent sites:

The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:

“Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.

The online responses are predictably hilarious as pirating players complain without irony that piracy is hurting the profitability of the pirated game they’re playing.

Apposite today with PCalc developer James Thomson noting that around 70% of the copies of his app in use on iOS are pirated. (The suggestions for how to fix that – read the tweet replies – are quite fun.)

How Apple creates leverage, and the future of Apple Pay >> stratechery by Ben Thompson

I hadn’t come across BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement – before, which Thompson uses earlier in this piece to explain how Apple uses what it has to succeed in negotiations, and then in new spaces such as Apple Pay:

Presuming this works out as well for Apple as I expect it to, there are two key lessons to be drawn. First, all of Apple’s leverage ultimately – either directly or indirectly – stems from consumer loyalty, which itself is based on Apple’s focus on the user experience. Second, the reason why Tim Cook so confidently called out Apple Pay as a new category is that he knew it was an area where Apple could bring that leverage to bear, just as they did in music and telephony. This is in marked contrast to the Apple TV, which is still a hobby: TV remains a much stronger business that is far more resistant to disruption than most people in tech appreciate, and until Apple has a means of obtaining leverage it will only ever remain so.

Welcome to the “Million Smartphone Club” of India >> Counterpoint Technology

Looking at India’s burgeoning smartphone market in Q3 2014:

The growing need for consumers flocking to the internet using mobile phones coupled with rapidly declining average selling price (ASP) of smartphones has been the key drivers of uptake of smartphones in India. The declining smartphone ASPs is as a result of proliferation of firstly not only local brands entering a price-war but also the highly price-competitive Chinese brands such as Xiaomi or Lenovo entering the Indian market. These brands are employing cost-effective distribution strategies such as online e-commerce channels to keep the costs fairly low in order to gain price competitiveness which is a boon to consumers

India smartphone market still has a room for vendors to grow exponentially as it expands deeper beyond urban India. However going forward only the vendors need to find faster and innovative ways to reach out to the end consumer. We estimate that going forward three out of four smartphones in the country will be 3G smartphones.

The idea that American icon Motorola would effectively be saved by selling into India would have seemed weird even a couple of years ago. Now it’s a major player there.

The web is dying; apps are killing it >> Wall Street Journal

Christopher Mims:

even the Web of documents and news items could go away. Facebook has announced plans to host publishers’ work within Facebook itself, leaving the Web nothing but a curiosity, a relic haunted by hobbyists.

I think the Web was a historical accident, an anomalous instance of a powerful new technology going almost directly from a publicly funded research lab to the public. It caught existing juggernauts like Microsoft flat-footed, and it led to the kind of disruption today’s most powerful tech companies would prefer to avoid.

It isn’t that today’s kings of the app world want to quash innovation, per se. It is that in the transition to a world in which services are delivered through apps, rather than the Web, we are graduating to a system that makes innovation, serendipity and experimentation that much harder for those who build things that rely on the Internet. And today, that is pretty much everyone.

Mims’s article has come in for a lot of rejoinders and rebuttals – such as this one on Quartz. But just because an app has a web view, does that mean you’re using “the web”? The navigation idea is all different. And in the end, you almost always end up still inside the app.

Twist: A ultra-portable universal adapter for your MacBook by Oneadaptr >> Kickstarter

What is Twist?

Twist is a universal adapter with four optional USB ports designed to work with the MacBook adapter. It offers much more functions than the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit and makes charging your mobile devices much easier. 

Note that this Kickstarter isn’t live yet; I was sent the link over the weekend (but tried at once to order some). I like the idea of it. I’m hoping to get some to test, but I’d have already put my money in if that hadn’t happened. I particularly like the idea of not having to scoop up multiple plugs and cables when leaving a hotel room; and the bright yellow model would be hard to miss as you check you’ve got everything.

10 cities visualized by how cleanly their streets are laid out >> Co.Exist

Artist Steve Von Worley plots cities according to their orderliness.

One can guess, without seeing them, that younger cities (such as those in the US) will score highly because they are so new, so that they existed when horse-drawn traffic already did. London and especially Tokyo look like a mess, but you also have to consider geography – particularly height and rivers.

That said, what would a city developed now look like in these terms?

Samsung hunts next hit with internet push as phones fade >> Yahoo Finance

To demonstrate the Internet of things, the company is using its Samsung Innovation Museum, a glass-walled building across from its headquarters, about 30 miles south of Seoul. The five-story, 11,000 square-meter structure looks a bit like New York’s Guggenheim museum, painted almost entirely in white with words carved into the walls: ‘smart living’ and ‘inspiring others.’

In an open space on the second floor, booths stand side by side. Each is decorated with different interiors to show off connected life in hotels, planes, shopping malls or living rooms.

In the hotel booth, you can check in by pressing a key-patterned button on an Android smartphone without having to wait in line. Upon entering the room, the window blinds automatically roll up and the television turns on.

In the booth for home technology, lights, appliances and a robot vacuum cleaner are all connected online to mobile phone app. The idea is you can flick on the lights, warm the oven or even clean your living room from your phone before you come home. Samsung has started offering a rudimentary version of the service in Korea and will expand it globally.

This might be me being stupid, but why would you want to turn the lights on before you get home? Isn’t that what we have switches for? As to turning on the TV when you go into the room, what if you don’t want the TV on and the blinds rolled up? So many assumptions and so much effort that is more easily solved through simple human action.

Links: why Google split Inbox, BBM’s Indonesia problem?, Glass’s cloudy future, iPad Air v Nexus 9, and more

This is captioned “Planter on BBM frame”, so don’t blame me.

A selection of 9 links for you. Do not deploy near wormholes. I’m on Twitter as @charlesarthur. Do ping me links, opinions, etc.

Why did Google decide to split Inbox from Gmail? >> TechCrunch

Marat Ryndin gives an insider’s perspective:

As is the case with all Google products it was first released internally as “dogfood” to let Googlers themselves digest all the new features, or as was the case with this particular redesign, the removal of most of the advanced features.

The Gmail team did not have to wait for the reaction for long. And it wasn’t very “googly.” It caused an uproar teeming with disgust for just about every decision the Gmail product/design team made. Phrases like, “You guys just completely destroyed Gmail!” and “What are these crazy designers doing over there?!” were everywhere. From being spoken at many of Google’s cafes to every internal online forum.

Google engineers, in typical OCD engineer fashion, wrote long internal Google+ and forum posts detailing every single use case that was no longer supported, no matter how obscure. Hell hath no fury like a product team removing a feature an engineer had been using on a daily basis. Add to that the decision to turn words into icons and add white space between rows and Google engineers were ready to storm the Gmail product/design team office with torches, swords and in full knight armor (you’d be surprised how many Google engineers own that stuff).

In response, the head of the Gmail design team made a presentation entitled “You Are Not the User.” If you were not lucky enough to witness the carnage in person you could view its archived version on the internal Google+.

This is such an excellent point, so often missed by the commentariat (both above and below the line): most users aren’t power users. Though that does leave open the question of “who serves the power users, then?” I’ve often been frustrated by the over-simplicity of Gmail’s web-based filters (there’s no “send stuff with these characters direct to spam”, for instance).

WhatsApp becomes more dominant among chat apps in Indonesia >> Tech In Asia

At a Mobile Marketing Association forum event in Jakarta today, Indonesian telco XL Axiata released data that confirms WhatsApp is the most dominant chat app used by its domestic customers. Based on slides presented at the event, WhatsApp accounts for nearly 70% of its customers’ daily chat app usage, while Line accounts for 39%, WeChat clocks in at 35%, and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) holds 9%.

If this is a trend, it’s bad news for BBM – for which Indonesia has long been an important market. Then again, a Nielsen study says 79% of Indonesian smartphone users use BBM for about 23 minutes per day – well ahead both in percentage and use of WhatsApp and Line.

eBay and an email scam >> BBC News

Rory Cellan-Jones:

For several years now I have been running an annual auction of gadgets in aid of the BBC’s Children in Need appeal.

The gadgets are review units supplied by some of the big names in tech, and they fetch some good prices. This year one of the products was the new Blackberry Passport smartphone, and I was delighted to see that, after an intense bidding battle, it went for £410.

Then the winner contacted me to ask for my PayPal details and some further photos of the item. This seemed mildly curious – other winners just clicked and paid – so I had a closer look at the buyer.

He was called Tommy, gave an address in London which I couldn’t find on a map and had only joined eBay the day before making the bid. I sent him a message requesting payment but also forwarded his message to eBay to see if there were grounds for concern.

The critical element in this is email, and how hard it is to validate an email’s origin. Cellan-Jones was suspicious, but many others would not have been. And, as he points out, email programs should be smarter at spotting phishing. There’s a huge space waiting for someone to solve it.

Apple Pay gives glimpse of mainstream appeal for mobile payments >> NYTimes.com

Whole Foods, the high-end grocery chain, said it had processed more than 150,000 Apple Pay transactions. McDonald’s, which accepts Apple Pay at its 14,000 restaurants in the United States, said Apple Pay accounted for 50% of its tap-to-pay transactions. And Walgreens, the nationwide chain of drugstores, said its mobile wallet payments had doubled since Apple Pay came out.

Apple Pay is still far from a dominant payment system. But the retailers’ numbers are the first faint signs of a mainstream willingness to stray from cash and cards. Apple, analysts say, has tapped into something.

“Quite frankly, a lot of it has to do with the strength of the Apple brand and how much merchants and customers love how easy the experience is,” said Denée Carrington, an analyst with Forrester Research. “I’m not saying it’s changing the landscape overnight. But this has never happened with other mobile wallets.”

Compare and contrast the method where you present customers with a fully worked-out end-to-end solution with the following…

Google Glass future clouded as some early believers lose faith >> Reuters

Sergey Brin turned up at an event not wearing Google Glass, which Reuters points out isn’t encouraging…

coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.

It’s increasingly obvious that Glass is not a consumer mass-market product, but one that will chime with a small number of business uses.

Nexus 9 vs. iPad Air 2: A [Mostly] Subjective Comparison >> Android Police

David Ruddock:

I’ve owned an iPad Air since the original model came out last year (my first iPad), and when the Air 2 came out late last month, I dove right in and bought another. Why? My biggest issue with the original Air was speed: occasional stutters and lackluster multitasking performance (I use that in an absolute, not relative sense) were thorns in the side of an otherwise fantastic tablet. The new Air 2 plucked them effectively with the addition of a third CPU core and doubling of RAM (to 2GB).

The Nexus 9, though, has intrigued me from its earliest rumblings.

This is a fantastic piece of work: Ruddock makes it clear he’s going to be subjective, and goes right ahead and does it. It doesn’t matter if you disagree; he’s at least always got a reason for his opinion. This is what reviewing ought to be: a personal trip through an experience, not some milquetoast “objective” description of appearance or weight. (The commenters seem happy to take this on its face.)

More generally, Android Police does some great reporting on the Android ecosystem. Worth a follow.

The Smartest Bro in the Room >> San Francisco Magazine

Ellen Cushing with a long (your long read for the day) profile of Uber and founder-CEO Travis Kalanick:

At this point, Kalanick has learned enough from his public stumbles to emphasize the company’s positive impact on the world: He argues, convincingly, that Uber has reduced drunk driving, made car ownership less necessary, lowered greenhouse gas emissions, and generated tens of thousands of jobs. When he says, as he often does, that his company is “changing the way cities operate,” it’s impossible to disagree with him.

However, it’s clear that on an emotional level, he is driven by a purpose not quite as high as his handlers might hope. This is Kalanick at his essential, pragmatic core. According to Gurley, Kalanick is fond of the Valley idiom “one truth”—that is, “he’s always pushing the organization to identify the exact right answer.” He has become an avowed enemy of cabs not because of any ethical outrage over the industry’s failings, but because they’re a staggeringly inefficient way to get the “one truth” of transportation: a fast, safe, and reliable path from here to there.

The desperate struggle at the heart of the brutal Apple supply chain >> The Guardian

I looked into what Apple was trying to achieve in its deal with GT Advanced Technologies:

had the GTAT deal succeeded, Apple would have cornered the market for cheap sapphire, giving itself a notable lead over rivals such as Samsung, which boasts super-AMOLED screens that it makes and uses exclusively. Though Kyocera of Japan and the super-expensive Vertu offer sapphire screens, neither makes them in the gigantic numbers that Apple does for its iPhone.

Cornering supplies is often key for companies trying to control a market. In 2005, Apple bought up huge amounts of flash memory for its iPod Nano music player – shutting most rivals out. It demanded an exclusivity arrangement with Toshiba, maker of the 1.8in hard drive in the first iPod.

Though it doesn’t actually own any factories, Apple pours gigantic amounts of money – about $12.5bn in the past four quarters – into “plant, property and equipment”, the majority equipping its suppliers to make its products. [This quarter] It is spending about $3bn – nearly as much as chipmaker Intel, though far less than Samsung Electronics, which has factories making screens, hard drives, and memory chips as well as phones, tablets and computers.

You’ll find that suppliers to other companies don’t talk either. But Apple has a special role because it can be a kingmaker, as one supplier explained to me (see the article).

The Nexus 10, Lollipop, and the problem with big Android tablets >> Ars Technica

Andrew Cunningham:

The Nexus 10 took 10in tablets back to the “blown-up phone” version of the UI, where buttons and other UI stuff was all put in the center of the screen. This makes using a 10in tablet the same as using a 7in tablet or a phone, which is good for consistency, but in retrospect it was a big step backward for widescreen tablets. The old interface put everything at the edges of the screen where your thumbs could easily reach them. The new one often requires the pointer finger of one of your hands or some serious thumb-stretching.

If anything, Lollipop takes another step backward here. You used to be able to swipe down on the left side of the screen to see your notifications and the right side of the screen to see the Quick Settings, and now those two menus have been unified and placed right in the center of the screen. The Nexus 10 is the most comfortable to use if it’s lying flat on a table or stand and Lollipop does nothing to help you out there.

Our biggest problem is the way apps look (1) on a screen this large and (2) in landscape mode. Even Google’s first-party apps don’t make great use of this space in their Lollipop and Material Design updates. Basic building blocks like the Home and Google Now screens (we’ve installed the Google Now Launcher on our Nexus 10, though it’s not included by default) have big swaths of completely useless space to their left and right. The Settings app is mostly a big, white field with a few buttons in it.

As Cunningham also points out, Google’s apps don’t obey its own design guidelines for tablets. Reading the comments here confirms that lots of people don’t *use” Android tablets for much more than viewing video, though – so is app design a moot point?

Links: tablet woes, Samsung <3 BlackBerry, YouTube's advantage, US gov's iOS Masque warning, and more

The HTC-made Nexus 9 tablet: could be in for an interesting time this Christmas

A selection of 8 links (and one picture explanation) for you. Do not use in unventilated space. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Send links, thoughts, etc.

BlackBerry and Samsung team up to beef up security on Samsung devices >> CNET

At an enterprise event in San Francisco on Thursday, Samsung and BlackBerry announced a partnership that couples Samsung’s Knox platform with BlackBerry’s enterprise know-how. It’s all built on BlackBerry’s upcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Services 12 platform, and aims to bolster Android security by leveraging BlackBerry’s end-to-end encryption expertise.

This seems like a strange move for BlackBerry, as executives were keen to point out: BlackBerry CEO John Chen went so far as to joke that he was torn on whether or not to wish Samsung well in the future. But the partnership makes a lot of sense: while BlackBerry’s smartphone market share has declined, the company’s reputation as an enterprise-and-security powerhouse remains strong.

Very strange – though fits into Chen’s strategy of making money from software. But selling off your USP, as this seems to be?

You can make a living from a thousand true fans — Ben Thompson is proof >> Gigaom

Mathew Ingram:

Those 1,000-plus members are paying $10 a month or $100 a year for access to what Thompson calls the Daily Update, which is a collection of several posts with his take on or analysis of topical events — such as singer Taylor Swift removing her songs from Spotify and the implications for the music industry, or the future of the Uber car service. Members can access the content online, or via email, or through a private RSS feed.

So Thompson will soon be bringing in over $100,000 from membership-based subscriptions, and has managed to get recommendations from fans like Gruber and Box CEO Aaron Levie along the way.

Well now. Ben’s extremely smart (and a friend). The former is why his subscribers stay with him. This does call into question the limits for larger publishing systems: how big do they have to be, if one can piggyback on them so effectively?

10 thoughts on YouTube Music Key >> Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

Google just announced its long anticipated YouTube Music Key. You can find out all you need to know about its potential impact on the wider market in MIDiA’s report ‘Unlocking YouTube: How YouTube Will Change Music Subscriptions’. Here are 10 further thoughts..

Ah, but you’ll have to read them. (Basically: a game-changer, but not without problems, though certainly a dramatic rival to Spotify.

Google to retire Wallet for digital purchases API, affecting third-party merchants >> Android Central

Google quietly announced today that it would shut down Google Wallet API for third-party digital goods purchases on March 2, 2015, citing a changing landscape in digital payments. Wallet will continue to function, however, for Google Play purchases. While the service for digital purchases made over the web for third-party merchants will shut down, Google Wallet will still exist and consumers will be able to make purchases for goods in physical retail stores using NFC for payments.

In a note to Internet merchants, Google stated that Google Wallet will continue to work for Google Play after the shut off date, but not for other web-based transactions.

Odd, just as Apple is expanding Apple Pay into web payments. What’s Google going to replace this with? (Especially as the number of in-store Google Wallet purchases is, well, small.)

US government warns on bug in Apple’s iOS software >> Reuters

The US government warned iPhone and iPad users on Thursday to be on the alert for hackers who may exploit a vulnerability in Apple Inc’s iOS operating system that would enable them to steal sensitive data.

There was the potential for hacks using a newly identified technique known as the “Masque Attack,” the government said in an online bulletin from the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Teams…

…Such attacks could be avoided if iPad and iPhone users only installed apps from Apple’s App Store or from their own organizations, it said.

So, basically, don’t do what you weren’t already doing. But this attack is surely going to be used via social engineering quite soon – links that appear to be from within an enterprise, etc.

‘Masque attack’: Don’t panic but do pay attention >> iMore

Nick Arnott:

Apple has a lot of safeguards built into iOS. A Masque attack tries to get you to circumvent those safeguards and install malicious apps anyway. In order to make a Masque attack work, an attacker has to:

• Have an iOS Developer Enterprise Program account or the universal device identifier (UDID) for the device they want to target.
• Make a malicious app that looks like a popular, existing app. (A fake Gmail app that simply loads the Gmail website in FireEye’s example.)
• Get you to download their fake app from outside the App Store. (For example, by sending you an email with a link in it.)
• Get you to agree to the iOS popup that warns you the app you’re trying to install is from an untrusted source.

Getting a device’s UDID is non-trivial and this approach would limit how many devices could be targeted. For this reason, attackers try to get iOS Developer Enterprise Program accounts instead.

Outlook grim for US consumer tablet market as holidays draw near >> LA Times

The US tablet market posted an 8% decline in revenue during the back-to-school season, leaving the once-thriving product category in a tough spot as the holidays draw near. 

The number of tablets sold during that period rose 3.5% compared to last year, suggesting shoppers were more interested in cheaper tablets, according to market research company The NPD Group.  

The bad news has continued into the fall. Over the last eight weeks, tablet unit sales declined 16% and revenue dropped 18%.

Tablet unit sales declined across operating systems – both Android and iOS unit sales sank 16%. While Windows’ unit sales dropped 23%, revenue increased 11% compared to this period in 2013, due to the success of the $799 Surface Pro 3, one of the most expensive tablets on the market. 

“The slowdown has been pervasive, and even the launch of the new iPads at the end of this period has not served to reignite sales growth,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group. “With the holidays fast approaching, the potential for a positive tablet sales season appears grim.”

Android tablet sales took the hardest hit during the last eight weeks as the market for small-screen products waned. Android’s 7in tablet saw unit sales decline 40%. The figures reflect what analysts have expected as the number of large smartphones, such as the iPhone 6 Plus, increases.

iPad sales in total (worldwide) fell 13%, and revenue by 15% (ie, the average selling price declined slightly). The drop in Windows tablet sales won’t please those who reckon the Surface Pro 3 is setting the world alight; the problem is that last year, tehre was a fire sale on Surface RTs.

Xiaomi: just a hardware company? >> Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:

Ultimately however, I believe Xiaomi is still laying the critical groundwork to be the internet services company they desire to be. Being in the hardware business alone is not a sustainable business for many global OEMs. I have spoken with several high-up execs at Xiaomi and was told that, as of late 2014, they are generating around $21m in revenue from their app stores (game app store, mobile app store, and books app store). Which means it is likely 2014 profits should have quite a bit more balance between hardware and services. Xiaomi is on pace to again increase handset shipments ~200% — yet the WSJ report only estimated a 75% increase in profits this year. The curious variable of why profits are not more closely matching explosive YoY handset shipments is a concerning element of the overall Xiaomi story.

Xiaomi is definitely the most intriguing of the Chinese companies because it manages its supply chain so differently. But on the services side, if it installs Google Play outside China, how does it preserve the profit margin extra that services yield?

Thanks to Duncan Sinclair who pointed out that the artist of yesterday’s picture is Karl Jilg, commissioned by Vägverket.

Here it is again…

Links: EC v Google, iPad Air GPU, forget Shingy!, should (could?) AOL buy Yahoo, Samsung v NVidia and more

A selection of 10 links (and one picture) for you. Proceed with caution. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter.

Chris Bruntlett on Twitter: “Brilliant depiction of the sad state of walking in our cities. (Artist unknown, via Daniel Sauter at #2WalkAndCycle)

Artist unknown. (Let us know if you know.)

Samsung’s new Smart TV development platform runs on Tizen >> TechCrunch

Samsung is hoping to make it easier for developers to build apps for its smart TV devices. As part of that effort, the consumer electronics giant has decided to enable developers to leverage the Tizen operating system to do so.

Good luck with that one. Not that anyone will notice either way.

European antitrust regulators to hold discussions with Google’s rivals >> NYTimes.com

James Kanter:

European antitrust regulators will hold discussions with the companies most concerned by Google’s business practices before deepening existing investigations or resolving them, the new competition commissioner for the European Union said Tuesday.

Google has faced an increasing barrage of criticism in Europe, where there is widespread concern about how United States technological dominance could affect personal privacy and the ability of European rivals to compete effectively.

“I need to know what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say,” Margrethe Vestager, the new commissioner, said in a statement after a question about Google earlier in the day from a member of the European Parliament. “I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps.”

Vestager clearly isn’t going to be rushed into anything; but given that her predecessor tried and failed at amelioration, she isn’t likely to follow the same path.

Apple A8X’s GPU – GXA6850, even better than I thought >> AnandTech

Ryan Smith:

Working on analyzing various Apple SoCs over the years has become a process of delightful frustration. Apple’s SoC development is consistently on the cutting edge, so it’s always great to see something new, but Apple has also developed a love for curveballs. Coupled with their infamous secrecy and general lack of willingness to talk about the fine technical details of some of their products, it’s easy to see how well Apple’s SoCs perform but it is a lot harder to figure out why this is…

…as we have theorized and since checked with other sources, GFXBench 3.0’s fillrate test is not bandwidth limited in the same way, at least not on Apple’s most recent SoCs. Quite possibly due to the 4MB of SRAM that is A7/A8/A8X’s L3 cache, this is a relatively “pure” test of pixel fillrate, meaning we can safely rule out any other effects.

With this in mind, normally Apple has a strong preference for wide-and-slow architectures in their GPUs. High clockspeeds require higher voltages, so going wide and staying with lower clockspeeds allows Apple to conserve power at the cost of some die space. This is the basic principle behind Cyclone and it has been the principle in Apple’s GPU choices as well. Given this, one could reasonably argue that A8X was using an 8 cluster design, but even with this data we were not entirely sure.

GPUs are the new frontier for computing improvement. Equally, the niche-ness of this article is amazing.

Apple’s Mac resilience in a mobile world >> Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

A curious thing happened to Apple last quarter: Seven years after launching the iPhone and four years after launching the iPad, Apple reported the best sales quarter ever for Mac. The belief that Apple would never sell as many Macs as it did during the first quarter of 2012 (known as “Peak Mac”) was busted.  Tim Cook and Apple are as bullish as ever on Mac. I don’t think it’s a stretch to theorize that Mac’s resilience is born from the phones and tablets that many assumed would make the Mac irrelevant. As mobile devices continue to invade our culture, the Mac may find an attractive computing niche thanks to its special use cases and design.

Cybart was until earlier this week better known on Twitter as @SammyWalrusIV; he was a Wall Street analyst (though not of Apple) who, via his Twitter persona, commented on Apple. Now he’s starting a sideline – or mainline? – in Apple analysis. (You can subscribe on his page.)

Yet another amazing thing about Apple is that it can generate so many people who focus so intently on what it does – and are rewarded with readers.

Forget Shingy. ‘Digital prophets’ only sell optimism to a terrified tech industry >> The Guardian

Jess Zimmerman:

Today’s big joke is tomorrow’s irreplaceable utility – ask anyone who scoffed at Twitter as a mere engine for broadcasting what you ate for lunch. And of course, today’s massive, secretive, world-changing project is tomorrow’s Segway.

Consistently, the only people who end up being right about the future are the ones shouting warnings at us not to repeat the past – and who, of course, are roundly ignored. These Cassandras could have told you about Snapchats not being as secret as you thought, or hotel Wi-Fi being vulnerable to attack, or Facebook’s troubling real-name policy. In fact, they were telling you, but you weren’t listening.

And if you’re AOL, you couldn’t be bothered to listen because you were following a prophet of your own. He was offering an optimistic, if confusing, future. He wasn’t a Cassandra. And, well, there are only two kinds.

Mozilla re-negotiates Google multi-million dollar sugar-daddy deal >> The Register

The Firefox browser-maker is in talks with Google to extend an agreement that has funnelled millions of Mountain View dollars into the not-for-profit web idealist shop, The Reg has learned.

Hardly surprising – the three-year contract length and expiry date is known. I’m certain that no matter what price Mozilla demands (it presently gets about 90% of its revenue from Google kickbacks on searches), Google will pay it.

Why? Because the cost of losing 20% of the desktop to Microsoft search at once is far greater than the odd millions it shovels Mozilla’s way. Remember, Google’s voting shareholders are inside its boardroom. The rest are just along for the ride.

Exclusive: Some unhappy Yahoo investors asking AOL for rescue >> Reuters

At least two top-10 Yahoo shareholders are so unhappy with Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s turnaround efforts that they are making a direct plea to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong to explore a merger and run the combined company.

Their move follows an activist campaign by hedge fund Starboard Value LP, which is pushing Yahoo to consider a deal with AOL and unlock Yahoo’s valuable stakes in Asian Web companies.

Armstrong has been receptive to these Yahoo shareholders and acknowledged the potential benefits of a deal, the Yahoo investors said.

But he has downplayed the possibility of a transaction, according to the investors and two sources close to AOL. There are no talks between the two companies and Armstrong has indicated he would only consider a friendly deal, the investors said.

This is slightly reminiscent of “two bald men fighting over a comb while falling out of a plane with only one parachute”. Activist investors are terrible judges of which mergers will work, generally.

And yet… AOL and Yahoo are both ad-focussed, and if they could make the merger work it could be effective. Pity that this is a merger that could have worked in 2004, before mobile. Now? Facebook and Twitter are eating both companies’ lunches.

Samsung sues Nvidia for faking benchmarks comparing the Tegra K1 to the Exynos 5433 >> SamMobile

The Tegra K1 has been touted by Nvidia to be a “desktop-class” SoC, so powerful that it’s only meant for tablets (though nothing is stopping a manufacturer from using it on a phone.) However, Samsung is now alleging that the Tegra K1 is not as powerful as those benchmark scores indicate, and has sued Nvidia for misleading consumers in benchmark figures that compare the SHIELD Tablet with the Galaxy Note 4.

The suit is, in fact, a countersuit against Nvidia’s lawsuit against Samsung earlier this year that said the latter had infringed on some of Nvidia’s graphics-related patents in its mobile chips (which has caused the US ITC to investigate some Samsung devices.) Samsung’s lawsuit against the popular GPU manufacturer alleges that Nvidia also used six Samsung patents without licensing them; Samsung is also suing Velocity Micro, a company that uses Nvidia’s graphics cards and hence is being accused of using two of the Korean manufacturers.

1) I’m shocked, shocked that people might seek ways to fiddle benchmarks (2) does anyone with any sense actually care about benchmarks on mobile processors, when some companies tie boat anchors around them by skinning Android?

Trojan SMS found on Google Play >> Malwarebytes Unpacked

The Trojan tricks its victims by requesting permission to send premium SMS messages in exchange for downloaded content.

This tactic has been seen since malware started appearing on Android devices.  If you visit the developer’s website from the link provided on the Google Play page, it takes you to a page with two banners and a couple of links.

Remember when Trojan diallers were a thing during the dialup internet days? They were viruses that silently changed the number your modem dialled (ask your parents, kids, and they’ll sing it to you) to one in a far-off land. People lost hundreds of pounds, yet British Telecom wouldn’t do anything. This is much the same model.

Trojan diallers died when people moved to broadband. I wonder if Trojan SMS is a similar early-stage thing.

Here’s one theory for why Samsung profits are getting demolished >> Business Insider

Jim Kovach:

Part of the reason why scrappy startups like Chinese smartphone makers OnePlus and Xiaomi are able sell their phones at rock-bottom prices and eat into Samsung’s sales is because they spend little on marketing and sell directly to consumers through the web. 

These companies rely mostly on social media and word of mouth to market their products. And it works. For example, Xiaomi sells more phones in China than both Apple and Samsung. OnePlus, which has only sold its smartphone in limited preorders, has sold at least 500,000 phones, with thousands clamoring for an opportunity to buy more.

But it’s probably not a model Samsung will be able to follow any time soon.

Carl Pei, a cofounder at OnePlus and the company’s global director, said Samsung’s marketing costs and protection of its margins make that nearly impossible.

Selling phones through flash sales and online-only might not scale very well; and it doesn’t satisfy the “walk into a store and buy” desire. Yet it looks like a promising model. (Of note: Apple offers online-only, own-store and carrier store models.)

Links: why Taylor Swift really sold 1m, Android user tries an iPad Air 2, robot AI risks?, what slowed Samsung’s metal phones, and more

“And here’s a song I wrote about social media…”
Taylor Swift at the O2. Photo by Tom O’Donoghue

A selection of 9 links for you. Keep out of reach of children. (This is life advice.)

artificial intelligence is a tool, not a threat >> Rethink Robotics

Rodney Brooks:

I think it is a mistake to be worrying about us developing malevolent AI anytime in the next few hundred years. I think the worry stems from a fundamental error in not distinguishing the difference between the very real recent advances in a particular aspect of AI, and the enormity and complexity of building sentient volitional intelligence. Recent advances in deep machine learning let us teach our machines things like how to distinguish classes of inputs and to fit curves to time data. This lets our machines “know” whether an image is that of a cat or not, or to “know” what is about to fail as the temperature increases in a particular sensor inside a jet engine. But this is only part of being intelligent, and Moore’s Law applied to this very real technical advance will not by itself bring about human level or super human level intelligence. While deep learning may come up with a category of things appearing in videos that correlates with cats, it doesn’t help very much at all in “knowing” what catness is, as distinct from dogness, nor that those concepts are much more similar to each other than to salamanderness. 

My (lengthy) review of the iPad Air 2 after 2 weeks of use as someone who mainly uses Android >> apple Reddit

I own an HTC One M7, previously owned an S2, I owned a Note 10.1 2014 edition tablet for 4 months before reselling it, and I tried out a Nexus 7 2013 for 2 weeks before returning it since I felt it was too small. I picked up the iPad Air 2 because I have generally enjoyed using my mom’s iPad in the past and considering the specs and form factor I was excited to try it.

This is a great review – honest, thoughtful, and a fresh perspective. And the comments too, which don’t take sides, aren’t point-scoring, aren’t snide. Perhaps because they don’t think of them as comments?

Here’s why the Samsung Galaxy A3 and A5 were leaked so often but announced very late >> SamMobile

Well, being Samsung’s first attempt at making smartphones with full metal bodies (ones that take away the traditional Samsung feature of removable batteries), the company was met with low production yields while manufacturing the metal casings. According to our source, the casings did not meet the quality requirements Samsung was aiming for, and only around 50 percent of the yield came out right. Samsung is a big company with a lot of resources, but it’s not that surprising that they had problems with making full metal devices as the company’s usual production lines have always been geared at making mostly fully plastic smartphone shells, and since very recently, those with metal on the sides.

The low yield is also a reason why the Galaxy A3 and A5 will initially be launched only in Asia – there are simply not enough units to go around, and given the popularity of low-cost devices in the Asian region, it’s the region where Samsung is focusing on in the beginning.

Never thought of “low yield” being something that affected metal shaping before. Also, gotta love “traditional” Samsung feature of replaceable batteries.

BlackBerry CEO sees fewer new devices, focus on profitability >> Reuters

“Once we turn this company to profitability again, I will do everything I can to never lose money ever again,” Chen told Reuters in an interview this week. “That is definitely something I am very focused on doing.”

The Hong Kong-born executive, 59, made his name at Sybase, a struggling database software firm that he rescued and sold a decade later to SAP for $5.8bb in 2010.

“If you look at my track record at Sybase, I think we made money for some 60 quarters in a row, even when the dotcom bubble blew up we were profitable. I like that philosophy,” said Chen, who added he believes the worst is now behind BlackBerry.

“We will survive as a company and now I am rather confident,” he said. “We’re managing the supply chain, we are managing inventories, we are managing cash, and we have expenses now at a number that is very manageable. BlackBerry has survived; now we have to start looking at growth.”…

…Morningstar analyst Brian Colello said: “Overall we think John is doing a solid job, but our concern continues to be: how will BlackBerry drive demand for its product. The demand side of the equation is still a concern, both around selling millions of devices each year and converting enterprise software users into paying buyers in a very competitive market.”

Chen has done an amazing job, yet even he hasn’t quite got BlackBerry out of the woods yet. Still, a year ago there were doubts the company would be here now.

Exclusive: Taylor Swift on being pop’s instantly platinum wonder… and why she’s paddling against the streams >> Yahoo Music

Chris Willman spoke to Swift, who described this element of her social media “strategy”:

And the thing with me posting pictures on Twitter of my fans holding the albums, that was an idea I had five minutes before I did it for the first time. On Tumblr they’ve been joking for months about how I’m always just lurking around the Internet, stalking their blogs. Predominantly, for the most part, most of these ideas were not thought of in some conference-room marketing meeting.

People always talk to you about marriages and relationships, and they say relationships take work, and you have to keep surprising each other. And that I think the most profound relationship I’ve ever had has been with my fans. That relationship takes work, and you have to continue to think of new ways to delight and surprise them. You can’t just assume that because they liked one of your albums, they’re going to like the new one, so you can make it exactly the same as you made the last one. You can’t just assume that because they were gracious enough to make you a part of their life last year, that they’re gonna want to do the same thing this year. I think that core relationship needs to be nurtured.

This is why she sold a million albums – not because she pulled it from Spotify. She’s using social media to get personal with her millions of fans.

Uber and its shady partners are pushing drivers into subprime loans >> Gawker

Nitisha Tiku:

The subprime lending market that plunged America into the Great Recession is back and as unscrupulous as ever. Instead of mortgages, this time a bubble has formed around auto loans, and reliably ruthless Uber is in the thick of it. Two “partners” in Uber’s vehicle financing program are under federal investigation, but Uber hasn’t slowed its aggressive marketing campaign to get drivers with bad credit to sign up for loans.

Regulators started looking at subprime auto lending this summer: General Motors and Santander Consumer USA—both partners in Uber’s vehicle financing service—received subpoenas from the Department of Justice in August…

…Here’s how Uber fits into all of this. The company’s financing program connects drivers with poor credit to auto lenders and dealers, promising better rates. Uber does not finance the loans itself. Rather, Uber introduces drivers to partners like General Motors, Toyota, “and several unnamed financial institutions.” Why? The startup wants drivers with nicer cars, but it badly needs more drivers overall to meet demand and feed its growth spurt. Human drivers aren’t as easy to scale as servers, causing competition between rivals like Lyft and Sidecar.

Terrific journalism by Tiku, refusing to be fobbed off by roundabout phraseology. This is what technology writing should be about – not just regurgitating press releases. (Though the headline would work just as well – perhaps better – without “shady”.)

This device diagnoses hundreds of diseases using a single drop of blood >> WIRED

Davey Alba:

One small drop of blood is dropped into a small receptacle, where nanostrips and reagents react to the blood’s contents. The whole cocktail then goes through a spiral micro-mixer and is streamed past lasers that use variations in light intensity and scattering to come up with a diagnosis, from flu to a more serious illness such as pneumonia—or even Ebola—within a few minutes. There’s also a vitals patch that users can wear to get continuous health readings—EKG, heart rate, body temperature—delivered to their smartphone or the rHEALTH device itself via a Bluetooth link. An app called CHAS (Comprehensive Health Assessment Unit) can walk the user through the process of self-diagnosis.

The real innovation of rHEALTH, according to Chan, is in getting all the diagnostics technologies packed together into one handheld device. By shrinking its components so much compared to traditional devices, Chan says, patients will need to give 1,500 times less blood than they would for regular tests.

It’s a portable handheld device. I do wonder if it could diagnose pneumonia (bacterial lung infection) from blood, though. But a huge step forward for non-expert diagnosis.

Amazon has knocked Tesco off the entertainment sales top spot >> Management Today

If Tesco’s embattled chief exec Dave Lewis was hoping that a Christmas rush for the latest Xbox hit would do anything to improve the supermarket’s fortunes, he might want to think again. Amazon is now the UK’s biggest seller of films, games and music after its market share jumped to 22.5% from 17.6% a year ago – knocking Tesco from the top spot.

Supermarkets have all suffered this year as more and more consumers armed with smartphones and tablets have headed online. Tesco’s share fell the most – from 20.6% in the three months to September last year to 15.1% for the same period last year, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Asda’s fell from 14.4% to 11%, Sainsbury’s fell from 7.9% to 7.2% and Morrison’s from 3.4% to 3.2%.

Is this one of those “he went bankrupt slowly, and then quickly” stories? (Note that it’s entertainment, and only content at that, not hardware.)

A tablet world away: Where Samsung and Apple lose out to brands you’ve never heard of >> ZDNet

Andrada Fiscutean:

Romanian brands’ marketing strategy is straightforward. “The tendency is to offer the lowest possible price and to launch new tablets every quarter,” the IDC analyst says. “The consumer market is focused on price and this is why local brands retain an important market share.”

The three local companies, who put their names on white label Chinese products, have helped the tablet became available to the masses in Romania. They offer mainly Android devices at an average price of $135, according to IDC, while their most affordable tablets are less than $60, a price Apple or Samsung cannot, or will not, compete with.

Romanians would have to work for three weeks to be able to afford the cheapest iPad, sold through official channels this October at around $375. The average monthly pay in the country was $486 in August, according to The National Institute of Statistics.

“Our mission always was to allow all Romanians access to technology, regardless of their budget,” Alexandru Dragoiu, CEO at E-Boda, told ZDNet. “Our public includes consumers living in large cities, as well as in towns and rural areas, who have limited budget and don’t need the highest possible specs.” The company is focused on selling 7in to 7.85in Android tablets at prices ranging between $70 and $230…

…Sociologist Marian-Gabriel Hancean, lecturer at the University of Bucharest, believes the rise of the local brands is not an effect of a romantic tendency to support Romanian products, but rather a pragmatic choice dictated by costs. “Their success has nothing to do with some sort of highly-developed patriotism,” he says. “Before the recession, bank loans generated a significant increase in the purchases of foreign products. I doubt people became patriots in such a short period of time.”

Links: iOS Masque attack, Shingy?!, Lenovo struggles, explaining #RTBF, Apple’s second comeback, and more

Don’t jailbreak your device. No, not that sort of jailbreak, sir.

A selection of 9 links for you. Do not use near rotating machinery.

Masque attack: all your iOS apps belong to us >> FireEye Blog

We have notified Apple about this vulnerability on July 26. Recently Claud Xiao discovered the “WireLurker” malware. After looking into WireLurker, we found that it started to utilize a limited form of Masque Attacks to attack iOS devices through USB. Masque Attacks can pose much bigger threats than WireLurker. Masque Attacks can replace authentic apps,such as banking and email apps, using attacker’s malware through the Internet. That means the attacker can steal user’s banking credentials by replacing an authentic banking app with an malware that has identical UI. Surprisingly, the malware can even access the original app’s local data, which wasn’t removed when the original app was replaced. These data may contain cached emails, or even login-tokens which the malware can use to log into the user’s account directly.

Serious problem. The advice for now seems to be “don’t install stuff from a website or third-party app store onto your iOS device.” Perhaps the walls around the walled garden are there for a reason. So, don’t jailbreak your device either.

Google fitness app climbs to top of China rankings >> Bloomberg

Google Fit, which tracks activity and connects to health-monitoring devices, debuted late last month at No. 24 on the Android charts in China. On Nov. 1, the app reached the top ranking in the country and has stayed there since, according to App Annie’s Distimo analytics service. The app peaked at 69 in the U.S., 38 in the U.K. and 272 in Japan.

Google in June unveiled its “Google Fit Platform,” a software suite that connects compatible apps and Android Wear devices, allowing a user to track activity and fitness data. While Google’s search service is unavailable in China, its Android operating system dominates the market ahead of Apple’s iOS.

Google doesn’t operate its own application download store in China, with Android apps distributed by third parties, said Robin Moroney, a Singapore-based spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based Internet company. He declined to comment on why the Google Fit app is at the top of the charts.

No actual numbers, and the Android devices inside China are almost all AOSP. Perhaps the Chinese love fitness. Perhaps it’s for air quality monitoring in some roundabout way. Perhaps the numbers are vanishingly small. Anyone know?

How Bitcoin helps Afghan girls achieve financial freedom >> Coindesk

At least 2,000 WAF [Women’s Annex Forum] users in Afghanistan are paid in bitcoin. Their average income falls between $250 and $400 monthly.

The country’s average annual income is US$680, according to 2012 data.

Payouts to the girls in Afghanistan were problematic before bitcoin was integrated this February. It compensated users in US dollars via bank wires that required hefty fees or PayPal, which isn’t supported there. They would send the money to Mahboob in one lump sum, Forough recounted, who would then cash it and find a place to pay all her users in a given locaton.

“Imagine … it’s dangerous if a girl has a lot of cash in her pocket walking around the city,” she Forough. “And sometimes the family takes the money and there’s nothing for the girls.”

This is currency as internet protocol: it routes around blocking.

Lenovo Shares Dive To Four-Month Low As Xiaomi Accelerates In China

Shares in Lenovo, the world’s No. 1 PC brand, dived for a second day in Hong Kong on Friday after the company said smart-phone sales fell in the three months to September amid intense global competition that is also pressuring better-known Apple and Samsung.

Lenovo’s shares fell 4.8% on Friday to HK$10.26, their lowest close since June 24. That follows a drop of 5.1% on Thursday.

Lenovo’s sales of smartphones declined by 6% in the latest quarter from a year earlier to $1.4 billion, according to media reports. The company is facing rough competition on from Beijing hometown rival Xiaomi, which ranked No. 3 globally for the quarter ending in September, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

This is from last Friday, and Lenovo now includes Motorola (the sale concluded after its fiscal quarter ended, making the retrofitted “Lenovo is No.3 in world smartphones!” headlines a bit odd. Even so, if its own handset business is struggling, and it means to make Motorola profitable – which it isn’t – this could be something to watch.

Notable too how Lenovo is becoming the maw into which Western brands – IBM PC, IBM Server, Germany’s Medion, Motorola – disappear.

Beyond the hype: The big issues in the European Court’s ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling >> Privacy International

Anna Fielder and Carly Nyst:

European journalists and media outlets have played into Google’s hands, as some are claiming that the decision has resulted in Google casting journalists “into oblivion” with articles being “scrubbed” and sent “down the memory hole”.

And then of course there is Google itself, which is doing its best to stir up fear around the decision by claiming that the CJEU ruling “will be used by governments that aren’t as forward and progressive as Europe to do bad things” and has been accused of sabotaging the decision by being overly responsive to requests received since the decision. As privacy scholar Paul Bernal noted, such a response has created “an atmosphere in which people feel more censored.”.

This fear-mongering has obscured the true nature of what is a rather straightforward legal judgement which has incredibly complex implications. We have already explained the reasoning behind the decision and here, we look beyond the hype to tease out the big issues and challenges underpinning the ruling.

This is a great writeup of a topic that is almost wilfully misunderstood by many.

Deregister and turn off iMessage >> Apple Support


You may need to turn off iMessage if you are now using a non-Apple phone and can’t get SMS or text messages someone sends you from an iPhone.

This can actually have uses for people who have temporarily got other phone numbers (eg PAYG Sims) which they’ve used for iMessage and now don’t want to be associated with it.

I suspect the arrival of this tool is linked to the class-action suit ongoing against Apple over precisely the fact that this was so hard to do. (The support document hasn’t been updated with a pointer to the new tool.)

January 1991: The second comeback of Apple >> Businessweek

I found this while looking for a completely different article on Businessweek:

Apple also is forgoing fat profits to win back business lost to IBM and Tandy Corp. in schools. It recently was the low bidder by $2m in a $12.5 million contract with the Broward County (Fla.) School District. The school system bought 3,520 Macintosh LCs–low-cost color Macs introduced with the Classic. Apple’s pricing, predicts Hambrecht & Quist Inc., should boost sales by an industry-beating 18%, to $6.5bn in fiscal 1991. But earnings will grow just 5%, it figures. And that’s possible only if Apple pares its overhead. Concedes Apple President Michael H. Spindler: “The low-end strategy only works if we can manage expenses as gross margins move down.”

…To make the comeback last, Apple must hit on all cylinders – promoting affordable Macs to build market share while developing leading-edge machines that big-business customers demand. Sculley sees no problem with that: “In 1991, we’re going to catch up. In 1993, Apple will be in a position to be shaping the industry, much as we were in the `80s.”

That Spindler quote is so apt today for many smartphone makers.

Meet Shingy, AOL’s “Digital Prophet” >> New Yorker

His business card has a microchip embedded in it, and it reads “Digital Prophet, AOL.” It also says “David Shing,” but, unless you knew him when he was a kid in Australia, you should just call him Shingy, which is also his Twitter handle and his URL. AOL pays him a six-figure salary for — for doing what, exactly? “Watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape,” Shingy says. “I fly all around the world and go to conferences.” Last month, he was in Singapore, Brazil, and Germany. “I listen to where media is headed and figure out how our brands can win in that environment.” In 2002, AOL had more than 25m subscribers; it now has fewer than 2.5m. Shingy calls it “a company in transition.”

Just in case you’re thinking “no, really, he might be doing something essential”:

…Shingy stopped by the office of Erika Nardini, the chief marketing officer of AOL Advertising, and handed her an iPad Mini. “Wanted to show you a little brain fart I had on the plane,” he said. It was a cartoon he had drawn of a bear wearing zebra-print pants and a shirt covered in ones and zeros.

“Love it, love it, love it,” Nardini said. “I’m thinking of the bears more as a metaphor.”

“A thousand per cent,” Shingy said.

Half the people reading this are thinking “KILL HIM” and the other half are thinking “How could I get that gig?”

Unethical uses for public Twitter data >> Adrian Short

After outlining how there are many analysis methods which can reveal more than you think (and they’re worth reading for themselves), Short points out:

This is the tip of the iceberg. Even if you’re a professional data analyst, you’ve got no way to know how any one of these techniques could be used, either in good faith, recklessly or maliciously, to invade the privacy and damage the lives of people who have done nothing more than post to Twitter.

I hope it’s clear that your tweets can reveal your legal identity, relationships, group memberships, interests, location, attitudes and health even where you haven’t explicitly or obviously volunteered that information. This can, and of course is, being used to change people’s lives, very often for the worst. It can affect people’s job prospects, relationships, health, finances, it could cost people their liberty or even their lives.

There is no meaningful way to consent to this, no way that any one person could comprehend the genuine risk from their social media exposure, either in the light of current known techniques or of data analysis methods yet to be devised. Increasingly, opting out isn’t an option either. At best you lose the benefits of being part of social networks online. At worst, your absence flags you as an outsider or someone with something to hide.

Links: Office365 rebates, Box unboxes, Wirelurker’s lessons, LG G Watch R tested, and more

Cat in a cardboard box. This is not an offering from Box.

A selection of 13 links for you. Not to be inhaled while driving.

Microsoft offers prorated Office 365 refunds to paid subscribers after making mobile editing free >> VentureBeat

Following Microsoft’s announcement yesterday that you can now create and edit documents using its mobile Office apps for free, there is some good news for Office 365 subscribers regretting their purchase. The company is offering prorated refunds, though you’ll have to apply, and there’s some important fine print.

First of all, this only applies to Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscriptions purchased on or after March 27, 2014 (when Office for iPad was released) and activated before November 6, 2014 (when the changes were announced). Other Office 365 subscriptions are aimed at businesses, and those licensing terms are a bit more complex.

Box’s Aaron Levie: we’re misunderstood >> The Information

Q: Are Google, Dropbox, Microsoft and Box targeting the same customers?

Aaron Levie: Most companies have to choose a breadth or depth approach to these kinds of problems. Google has a breadth approach—they have email, documents, Hangouts and a very broad set of tools to deliver to customers. And they’re very good tools. But if you go to a hospital or retailer, the depth of capability they need around managing their critical content and tying that critical content into workflows is very different. They care much more about the security of the content, managing the metadata, admin capabilities, the previewing of image files. We’re not in the email space; we’re not in the calendar space and we’re not in the photo space. We’re going much deeper within the enterprise.

Q: Why shouldn’t people think of Box as a storage company?

AL: I’d point to how our customers actually use us. If you have our business edition, you have unlimited storage. We see a future where storage is free and infinite. The value proposition for customers using Box is the value on top of storage and compute. The result is being able to pull up medical information. A movie studio can produce a new trailer for a film. A record company can produce a new album.

This is similar in some ways to my interview with Levie. Extra: he recommends following Ben Thompson on Twitter.

What You Need to Know About WireLurker >> Jonathan Zdziarski’s Domain

What can Apple do to help prevent it? I have a number of ideas ranging from easy fixes to difficult design changes.

On the easy side:

…2. Disable “Enterprise” app installation entirely without an “Enterprise Mode”

A vast majority of non-enterprise users will never need a single enterprise app installed, and any attempt to do so should fail. So why doesn’t Apple lock this capability out unless it’s explicitly enabled? This could look like a switch in settings, or even just prompting the user so that they understand they’re accepting applications that are not sanctioned by the app store. Again, there is a user education component here, but also just like a “developer mode”, it would make sense for non-supervised devices to have an “enterprise mode” or “ad-hoc mode” that has to be explicitly enabled before any third party software can be installed.

Zdziarski published a widely-reported paper on iOS attacks ahead of iOS 8, and has a deep knowledge of iOS’s security strengths and weaknesses. The above suggestion seems like the most obvious, and more effective, to prevent Wirelurker-style attacks going wider.

LG G Watch R review: good looks and improved battery are a step in the right direction >> Engadget

James Trew, in a generally positive review of the LG G Watch R (whose name seems to have at least one letter too many):

One other new feature is actually not specific to the G Watch R, but it’s new to Wear, and we’ve not covered it before on Engadget beyond the news: the ability to store and play music directly from the watch. So, if you want to go running (for example), you no longer have to bring your phone along if you want some music. I followed Google’s instructions for transferring music to the letter, and nothing happened. The LG G Watch R later prompted me that there was an update, so I installed this. I tried following the instructions again (basically there’s a tick box in the Play Music Android app) and again nothing. Then some time later, a card popped up saying it was transferring music. Great. Despite the unclear setup process, it’s definitely nice-to-have functionality, and it shows that Android Wear as a platform is growing with the hardware that’s running it. It’s still pretty basic for now – you can’t choose exactly which music to sync, for example – but hey, it’s progress.

You can’t choose which music to sync? On a $300 device? But he did get about two days of use, and thought he could push it to three. That’s important.

Profile of Hayden Hewitt, founder of LiveLeak >> Business Insider

James Cook:

With its graphic violence and notoriety, does LiveLeak’s sole public founder consider the site to have a positive impact on the internet? Hewitt isn’t sure it has any impact at all. “If you look at the wider world, it certainly couldn’t make it any worse. It depends what you take out of it, what the experience is … Me personally, I don’t think it has any impact on the greater world whatsoever, and if we look around us, it’s relatively small-fry in terms of any nastiness.”

LiveLeak returned to prominence in August after ISIS/Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley on Aug. 19. The video was quickly removed from YouTube, as it violated the site’s policy on violent content. But LiveLeak, which chooses not to censor violent content unless it’s overly gratuitous, decided to host the video. Site traffic soared as people searched for the video.

It’s all about that last sentence. (Side note: Cook is doing remarkable work at BI.)

How I reverse-engineered Google Docs to play back any document’s keystrokes >> James Somers

To produce the embed, I used a website I made called draftback.com, which I suppose I’m launching right now. With Draftback, you can play back and analyze any of your own Google Docs, or, for that matter, any Google Doc you have permission to edit.

(Everyone I’ve talked to about this has been surprised, and maybe a little unnerved, to discover that whenever they share a Google Doc with someone, they’re also sharing an extremely detailed record of them typing the thing.)…

…The data that Google stores is, as you might expect, kind of incredible. What we actually have is not just a coarse “video” of a document — we have the complete history of every single character. Draftback is aware of this history, and assigns each character a persistent unique ID, which makes it possible to do stuff that I don’t think folks have really done to a piece of writing before.

It’s sort of implied through the ability to wind back changes, but being able to visualise changes in documents like this could be very useful.

Malvertising is here; how to protect yourself >> Tom’s Guide

Ads have been used to spread malware for years, but only recently have criminals started adopting the method en masse. In 2013, 12.4bn malicious ad impressions occurred — a 225% increase from 2012, according to the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), a Bellevue, Washington-based nonprofit that develops guidelines for online businesses.

This September, the so-called “Kyle and Stan” malvertising campaign placed ads on Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Grooveshark, as well as on 70 other websites. Later that month, another malvertising campaign used Google’s own DoubleClick ad service to infect visitors to Last.fm and the Jerusalem Post.

“This is an attack happening at Internet scale,” [Rahul] Kashyap [chief security officer at Bromium] said.

Michael Bastian x Hewlett-Packard >> Gilt

This is Hewlett-Packard’s watch. Click through and consider when the last time was that you saw a digital watch where you can see the pixels and the antialiasing is so-so.

Why a Google Fiber deal fell apart in Kansas >> CityLab

Michael Grass:

Google has been fairly vague about the reasons for its decision to pull out of Leawood, a fast-growing Johnson County suburb with a population of around 33,000 people. In a recent email to potential fiber customers in Leawood, Google said expansion there would “require a much more difficult construction effort and schedule than planned,” according to The Kansas City Star, forcing it withdraw.

City officials told local media that a confidentiality agreement with Google kept them from disclosing what led to the deal’s demise.

But documents obtained by The Star and KSHB-TV through public records requests confirm what many had suspected: Leawood’s ordinance that mandated that any new utility infrastructure be installed underground created difficulties for Google, which has stated that one of the key elements for fiber expansion is the ease of using existing local infrastructure.

Google wanted to join everyone else by putting the fibre on telegraph poles; the city doesn’t want any more aerial pollution.

So – local regulations, Google unhappy with them, non-disclosure. Got it? Now read on.

Fire-safety concerns sank Google’s barges >> WSJ

Jeff Elder:

Foss [Maritime, the contractor for Google] told the Coast Guard that no more than 150 [people] would be on board at any time, but Coast Guard officials weren’t reassured.

“I am unaware of any measures you plan to use to actually limit the number of passengers,” Mr. Gauvin wrote in the March 27 email about fire safety. He criticized the effort by Google and Foss to seek quick approvals. “While I understand there is a sense of urgency, I am concerned that significant work has already been performed without full consent of the Coast Guard.”

Google wooed government officials, including organizing field trips. “The good folks at Google want to give us a tour of the barge that is currently under construction (it’s almost done) at Treasure Island,” wrote Rich Hillis, executive director of the nonprofit Fort Mason Center to National Park Service managers on Aug. 19, 2013. “They can pick us up in a special Google speed boat.”

Ooh, a speed boat! That’ll make government officials forget about silly fire safety regulations and the potential for people to have to choose between drowning or burning. Note too that those officials were asked – well, required – by Google to sign non-disclosure agreements, a move they later regretted.

My name is Dan and I had a bent iPhone >> The Verge

Dan Seifert:

From the time that I discovered my iPhone was bent to having a new phone in my hand was about 12 hours. Apple replaced the damaged phone under warranty at no cost to me, even though I had originally purchased the device from AT&T and not Apple itself. I’d never paid for any extended warranty or AppleCare Plus.

It’s important to note that I scheduled the appointment using my personal email address and did not identify as a journalist at the store. It didn’t appear that any one at the store recognized me as such, either. By all accounts, it was just a routine Genius Bar appointment and resolution. I asked the particular employee that helped me if they had seen a lot of customers complain of bent devices; they said of the thousands of people they’ve helped, they’d only seen it a couple of times. (They also noted that the other instances where a phone had come in bent, it had significantly more damage than my device, such as a cracked screen.) Apple PR declined to comment on this story when contacted by The Verge.

I’m not thrilled that my iPhone 6 bent under normal usage, but I can’t say I’m unhappy with the resolution.

(I’ve been using an iPhone 6 Plus for about two months now. Completely flat. But it’s the customer resolution that’s important too. Though I expect Apple is tearing these phones down and figuring out changes in the internals as you read this.)

What happens in your brain when your virtual body is threatened? >> Mel Slater’s Presence Blog

Professor Mel Slater, ex of ICREA:

In this study we looked at what happened when the virtual body was threatened. When someone anticipates that a knife might stab their hand that is resting on a table they would be likely to attempt to move the threatened hand out of the way. They would expect to feel considerable pain should the knife actually stab the hand. In this work we considered what happens when a person’s real body is visually substituted by a life-sized virtual body, and they see a threat or attack to a hand of this virtual body seen from first person perspective. Our experiment investigated brain activity in response to events that would cause pain to the observer were these events to occur in reality.

Of course, to round out the study shouldn’t they actually stab some of the people in the hand while they’re wearing the telepresence system and measure response? Huh? What ethics?

(Definitely a blog to follow, by the way.)

My favorite iOS 8 features, big and small >> DanFrakes.com

A great, in-depth list; if you use an iPhone or iPad, there’s bound to be something in here that you didn’t know but will go “aha!” about. (I liked the idea of using the Medical ID screen for the contact/reward method, and the “send last location” for Find My IPhone/iPad when its battery is almost dead.)

Friday links: ecommerce discrimination, Android’s year class, WatchKit, free Office, and more

“Supermarket nightmare” by Paul Townsend on Flickr

A selection of 10 links for you. Do not use near rotating machinery. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Personal site: charlesarthur.com

Buyer beware, online shopping prices vary user to user >> The Conversation

Home Depot served almost completely different products to users on desktops versus mobile devices. A desktop user searching Home Depot typically received 24 search results, with an average price per item of US$120. In contrast, mobile users receive 48 search results, with an average price per item of US$230. Bizarrely, products are also US$0.41 more expensive on average for Android users.

Why do sites do this?

Initially, we assumed that the sites would not personalize content, given the extremely negative PR that Amazon, Staples, and Orbitz received when earlier cases were revealed. To our surprise, this was not the case!

The study says price discrimination and steering on e-commerce sites is becoming more prevalent, and more sophisticated and that “it’s almost impossible to know whether the prices you are being shown have been altered, or if cheaper products have been hidden from search results.”

(Re the “more for Android”, the study mentions “iOS”, not “iPhone” or “iPad”. Surprise: Travelocity lowers prices for iOS users.)

Why BuzzFeed doesn’t do clickbait >> Buzzfeed

Ben Smith:

BuzzFeed has never sold a banner, and I couldn’t even tell you how many monthly page views we get. And so our business model at least moderates that incentive to drag every last click out of our audience.

The worst form of this online is on a pennies-per-click business model in the transactional netherworld of outsourced sponsored content sitting at the bottom of articles around the web. All that matters in that space is the snappy headline. Grab the reader’s attention, get the click — even if this isn’t the craziest thing Ted Cruz has said yet; even if “Paris Hilton – topless” is in fact demurely dressed and riding in a convertible; if this one easy trick won’t actually lose you weight; and if you actually can believe what happens next.

If your goal — as is ours at BuzzFeed — is to deliver the reader something so new, funny, revelatory, or delightful that they feel compelled to share it, you have to do work that delivers on the headline’s promise, and more.

Few people understand this aspect of Buzzfeed: it’s actually a method of creating viral content; it then sells that method to advertisers.

Year class: A classification system for Android >> Facebook Engineering Blog

Chris Marra and Daniel Weaver:

With so many different types of phones in the world, being able to segment people and their devices to understand usage patterns and performance is a significant task. Historically we relied on cuts by Android OS version, looking at how Gingerbread behaved differently from Ice Cream Sandwich, how Ice Cream Sandwich behaved differently from Jelly Bean, and so on. However, the recent explosion of affordable Android devices around the world has shifted the median, and the bulk of devices we now see are running Jelly Bean. In order to segment based on actual phone performance we decided to look more closely into the specifications of the phone – RAM, CPU cores, and clock speed – to characterize things. Using these three specifications, we’ve clustered every phone into a group of similarly capable devices to make understanding performance easier.

We call this new concept “year class” – essentially, in what year would a given device have been considered “high end?” This allows teams around the company to segment the breadth of Android devices into a more understandable set of buckets, and as new phones are released, they’re automatically mapped into the representative year. For example, the Alcatel T-Pop I bought at a market in Mexico is immediately recognized as a 2010-class phone, despite its 2012 release. Overall, about two-thirds of the phones connected to Facebook are equivalent to something released in 2011 or earlier.

That last sentence is amazing – but remember, Facebook has a huge number of mobile users outside the US. Telling too that the “most popular by year class” list has the Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4 for 2011, 2012, 2013 – and then 2013’s Note 3 for 2014. The SGS5 clearly hasn’t made a substantial impact.

Expectations for WatchKit >> David Smith

Apple has said we can expect for there to be a two-phase rollout of the WatchKit APIs. The most concrete exposition of this is the Press Release announcing the Apple Watch (emphasis mine).

Apple introduces WatchKit, providing new tools and APIs for developers to create unique experiences designed for the wrist. With Apple Watch, developers can create WatchKit apps with actionable notifications and Glances that provide timely information. Starting later next year, developers will be able to create fully native apps for Apple Watch.

So to start with we will be given the ability to implement actionable notifications and Glances. This is what I believe we are getting with the SDK release this month.

It will only be later next year that full apps will be possible. It is not a stretch to think that later next year is code for WWDC next June.

More Office. Everywhere you need it >> The Official Microsoft Blog

John Case, corporate VP for Microsoft Office:

Today we’re taking the next major step to bring Office to everyone, on every device, and I’m excited to announce that Office apps customers love are coming to Android tablets with the start of our Office for AndroidTM tablet Preview. We’re also delivering Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for iPhone® and updates for the iPad apps–to ensure a consistently beautiful and productive Office experience on every device. Our vision of Office everywhere wouldn’t be complete without Windows, so I’m pleased to confirm that new, touch-optimized Office apps for Windows 10 are in the works and we’ll have more to share soon.

No Office365 subscription required. You read that correctly. Office is moving to a freemium model. (Here’s what’s missing in the free version.) Do we conclude that Google’s mild erosion via Google Docs has been successful in chewing away at Microsoft’s pay-for-software model?

Fourth quarter 2014 tablet update >> Chitika

iPad users generated 79.9% of North American tablet-based web traffic over the month of September 2014 – a share down from the 81% figure observed one year ago, but a gain of 1.9 percentage points since July 2014. Meanwhile, Amazon and Samsung tablets are, respectively, still the second- and third-largest sources of tablet Web usage in the US and Canada after both posted slight quarter-over-quarter share drops over the study period.

That’s web traffic to Chitika’s ad network, not installed base. Clearly, the iPad over-indexes (shows up more than its installed base). Most telling stat: Windows tablet share up by 60% (from 1% to 1.6%, behind Amazon (6.7%), Samsung (6%), Google (1.7%) – this is before the Nexus 9 release.

Amazon Echo – Official site >> Amazon

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more. Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, “Alexa.” It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.

Invitation-only at present, but a clear shift into the Google Now/smart device/intelligent assistant space. (Is this the thing Charlie Kindel has been working on?) As Jan Dawson of Jackdaw says, this makes a lot more sense than the Fire Phone, because it’s a move into a space that’s opening up – but where Amazon could make a difference.

Brings new light to Eric Schmidt saying that he sees Amazon as Google’s biggest competitor.

CD-Loving Japan Resists Move to Online Music >> NYTimes.com

Ben Sisario (in a great local colour story):

Japan may be one of the world’s perennial early adopters of new technologies, but its continuing attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry. While CD sales are falling worldwide, including in Japan, they still account for about 85% of sales here, compared with as little as 20% in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.

“Japan is utterly, totally unique,” said Lucian Grainge, the chairman of the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music conglomerate.

That uniqueness has the rest of the music business worried. Despite its robust CD market, sales in Japan — the world’s second-largest music market, after the United States — have been sliding for a decade, and last year they dropped 17%, dragging worldwide results down 3.9%…

…The hugely popular girl group AKB48 pioneered the sale of CDs containing tickets that can be redeemed for access to live events — a strategy credited with propping up CD sales, because it can lead the biggest fans to buy multiple copies of an album.


Will.i.am’s Puls smartwatch is the worst product I’ve touched all year >> The Verge

Dan Seifert:

The Puls’ main pitch is that it can determine your emotion and mood via your voice. It comes with an app called Vibe+ that listens to you for twenty seconds and then determines your emotions based on the intonation in your voice. It works with 32 different languages and is the result of 20 years of research and development by Beyond Verbal, the company that makes the app. It rewards you for being positive with different gems that display on the Puls’ screen and points that can shared with other users to “spread positivity.” Beyond Verbal will be bringing the Vibe+ app to iOS and Android devices early next year. It’s pretty awkward to have to speak random things to your wrist for twenty seconds (the app doesn’t require you to say anything specific) and I’m having trouble picturing anyone using this in the real world.

That’s probably fine anyways, since nobody should really buy the Puls watch. AT&T and O2 in the UK are going to be selling it in the coming weeks for an unspecified price, but it’s safe to say that you should probably just spend your money elsewhere. Will.i.am will get over it.

Why would you need your watch to tell you your emotions? Still, it has a full QWERTY keyboard. (Two presses per letter. Don’t complain.)

The wait for a good wearable goes on.

Crypto attack that hijacked Windows Update goes mainstream in Amazon Cloud >> Ars Technica

Underscoring just how broken the widely used MD5 hashing algorithm is, a software engineer racked up just 65 cents in computing fees to replicate the type of attack a powerful nation-state used in 2012 to hijack Microsoft’s Windows Update mechanism.

Nathaniel McHugh ran open source software known as HashClash to modify two separate images—one of them depicting funk legend James Brown and the other R&B singer/songwriter Barry White—that generate precisely the same MD5 hash, e06723d4961a0a3f950e7786f3766338. The exercise—known in cryptographic circles as a hash collision—took just 10 hours and cost only 65 cents plus tax to complete using a GPU instance on Amazon Web Service. In 2007, cryptography expert and HashClash creator Marc Stevens estimated it would require about one day to complete an MD5 collision using a cluster of PlayStation 3 consoles.

The 2012 exercise was Flame, which was espionage malware (almost certainly from the US).

Links: Xiaomi profits, Samsung Galaxy 6 codename, wearables forecasting, and more

A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m on Twitter @charlesarthur

Smartphone maker Xiaomi’s 2013 profit nearly doubled >> WSJ

Xiaomi, which a few months ago surpassed Samsung Electronics Co. as the biggest smartphone vendor in China by shipments, presented the document to banks in its recent pitch to raise $1bn in loans for overseas expansion or acquisition.

A table in the document showed that Xiaomi’s net profit last year rose 84% to 3.46bn yuan ($566m) from 1.9bn yuan in 2012, while its revenue more than doubled to 27bn yuan. Another table included a forecast of a 75% net profit increase this year.

Possibly due to its very low marketing costs; only spent 3.2% of revenue on sales and marketing in 2013. Great in China – but hard to replicate abroad. If it can, it’s going to be huge.

Exclusive: Samsung’s Next Big Thing is codenamed Project Zero >> SamMobile

Yes, it’s that time of the year, when we start talking about the next-generation Galaxy S device and, it’s going to be epic, that’s for sure!

According to our sources, the Galaxy S6 is in its early stages of development, so they weren’t able to confirm new specifications or features at the moment. However, what they did tell us was its codename; Project Zero. And, that right there is one interesting bit of information. This is the first time Samsung has decided to go with such a unique codename. In the past, Samsung has always used letters as codenames for its flagship devices, for example: Project J (Galaxy S4), Project H (Galaxy Note 3), Project K (Galaxy S5) and Project T (Galaxy Note 4). So what is the real reason behind Samsung opting Project Zero as the Galaxy S6’s codename? Our sources report that Samsung is probably developing its next-generation flagship device from scratch, with an entirely new vision, hence the codename.

Project Zero is an indication that Samsung is trying to achieve something unique and different with the Galaxy S6, which is exactly what we wanted from the Korean giant.

Can you be unique and the same?

A new wearables forecast >> Tech.pinions

Bob O’Donnell:

Despite all this news and excitement around the wearables category, I’m still not convinced it’s going to be as big a market as many have made it out to be. The primary, over-riding problem is that no one has really been able to provide a compelling reason why the vast majority of people would want a wearable, let alone feel that they “need” to have one. Sure, there are good cases to be made for fitness junkies, the whole “quantified self” movement and bleeding-edge early adopters, but for most people, smart wearables still feel like a solution in search of a problem.

If that wasn’t enough, many of these early products suffer from limited battery life, offer only semi-accurate sensor readings, and lock you into working with only certain smartphones.

Forecast for whole of 2015: 40m units. Wearables have been disappointing so far, because they definitely aren’t applicable in enough situations.

Bitcasa Personal Account Update FAQ >> Bitcasa Help Center

As part of this transition, Bitcasa will no longer offer or support the Infinite storage plans. This is due largely to the lack of demand, but also because of persistent abuse of our Terms of Service. Only 0.5% of our accounts require more than 1TB, and less than 0.1% require more than 10TB. The reality is while we have tried to make our vision of infinite work, the low demand combined with the growing number of suspected abusers, means that supporting an Infinite plan is not a viable business for us. To help provide a solution for large storage needs we have increased our Pro plan from 5 TB to 10 TB to accommodate all but the largest accounts.

Oh, you promised “infinite” and then people treated as though it was, you know, infinite? How unsurprising. (Apparently only 0.5% of accounts need more than 1TB, and under 0.1% more than 10TB.)

Video by lanceulanoff >> Instagram

Lance Ulanoff using Apple Pay in a New York taxi. Tip already added. NFC readers turn out to be more widely distributed than people thought.

American Airlines yanks their app from Windows Phone, reportedly drops support >> Windows Central

Living with Windows Phone tends to be a war of attrition. We make gains, but we always tend to lose something as well, causing frustration amongst users who have to deal with this chicken and egg problem.

This afternoon, American Airlines is the latest to take their ball and go home as their app for Windows Phone is no longer available.

Reader of our site Andy tried to grab the app recently but noticed it was no longer available. He reached out to American Airlines who noted that they no longer support Windows Phone.

Oddly enough, American Airlines just updated their Windows Phone app back in September (of this year, natch) with the ability to add boarding passes to the Wallet. However, when we click on the direct Store link, we get the familiar “this app is no longer published” message seemingly confirming the move by the #9 Forbes-ranked airline.

That’s really odd. As the article says, it could even add boarding passes.

This drone-shot porn is beautiful (NSFW) >> Motherboard

The film features people—straight, gay, and lesbian—having sex on the beach, on a farm, in the mountains, on a forest, on the side of the road, in lots of places (much of it is simulated). Even then, not everything made the cut: One of the more thought-provoking shots, which had to be left out because of the difficulty of filming it, would have brought drones to the suburbs, where they’ve already been shot down by people who were worried about their privacy.

“One of the shots was supposed to be in a quiet neighborhood where you see a barbecue happening in someone’s backyard,” LaGanke said. “Then, the camera pans over and there’s people fucking in the next yard over.”

But stay with it (if you can) for the director’s comment on whether drones are really any good for porn.

With Moore’s Law receding, design is how we decide >> Gigaom

John Maeda:

There’s a signal inside our heads going off today — we instinctively know that we don’t need more storage or speed because we don’t have any real use for it. In absence of the normal cues of “better,” which used to be as simple as knowing the CPU’s clock speed, or how much RAM it has, or how big a screen to pair with it, we now are choosing based upon something else: design. Because Mo(o)re computing power no longer makes technology feel better — in fact, the pile-on of new features that Moore’s Law has enabled makes us feel confused. And in this new universe, we have come to count on design to cut through the clutter and make things feel better.

Unfortunately, since “good design” is defined by the user it’s intended for, it’s not just about creating more, and there is no algorithmic “law” for how to get it. It suffers from the phrase that all technologists and investors hate to hear, which is “… it depends.” Whether we want “more” or “less” doesn’t have a single right answer. An example I like to use is about doing the laundry versus eating a cookie. You always want less laundry, but more cookies. One person’s laundry is another’s cookie. And so on.

Good design is even harder to define in the digital age.

I visited a local phone shop earlier today – it was empty of customers – and asked one of the assistants if there was any sign of people switching from Android to iPhones with the new models (prominently displayed in the front window). Not at all, he said – more the other way. The Samsung Galaxy S5 was doing far better. “It’s the same price as the iPhone, though?” I asked. He frowned. “It’s got better specs,” he replied.

Design isn’t quite the whole story for everyone yet.

Apple Pay: 1 Million Cards Down, 599 Million To Go – ReadWrite

Owen Thomas:

That [1m cards enrolled in Apple Pay] sounds impressive—until you consider that there are more than 600m credit and debit cards in the United States, and Apple has sold an estimated 20m Apple Pay-compatible iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units.

There are some factors limiting Apple Pay’s reach. Not all banks work with Apple Pay yet, and Apple Pay is only available in the United States. Also, some users likely added more than one card to their Apple Pay wallets. So it’s difficult to come up with a clean figure for Apple Pay’s market share among eligible iPhone 6 users.

Not all of those 20m iPhone 6 units are in the US, so it’s probably a bigger slice of them than zero. There are about 200m US credit card holders (July 2014 data), so that’s an average of three each; probably more if you’re affluent.

Which means it’s 1m out of 200m potential users accounted for. OK, not a lot yet.

Google Wallet use grows after Apple Pay launch >> Ars Technica

Megan Geuss:

Now, a person with knowledge of the matter tells Ars that Google Wallet, which launched back in 2011 and saw tepid success in the ensuing three years, has had considerable growth in the last couple of months. According to our source, weekly transactions have increased by 50%, and in the recent couple of months, new users have nearly doubled compared to the previous month.

Classic Google – as numbers-free as Amazon. When I looked into this, sources were happy to confirm my estimate of 20m downloads of Google Wallet. But usage numbers? No way. Other sources told me that it would be miraculous if 2m of those 20m were using it. Tim Cook’s claim – that getting 1m cards registered for Apple Pay outdistanced others – suggests Google Wallet might have had well under 1m using it regularly. That’s out of 90m Android users in the US.

When, do you think, will Google share some actual numbers about Google Wallet? For a data-driven organisation which has a mission to make the world’s information accessible and useful, it’s pretty bad with its home-grown stuff.

(By the way, the above paragraph comprises the entirety of the new information in the 470-words piece. That’s not to disparage Geuss, who seems to have done good work in this space; more to point out that Google’s not exactly got a lot to say, despite a three-year headstart.)

A month in, the iPhone 6 Plus was the right choice >> Quartz

Dam Frommer:

Yes, it’s still “too big”—in the best way. It’s not going to fit in your hand or pocket the same way a smaller phone does. But that’s the point—I’ve been very happy with the tradeoff. The big screen, which displays more text than before, and makes photos look amazing, has come to feel luxuriously comfortable. It’s like driving a SUV instead of a Prius. My old iPhone 4, which I use as a kitchen radio, feels like a miniature toy.

My phone isn’t bent. At all. But it’s amazing how many people asked me about that, ranging from family members to random strangers at a Paris restaurant. Apple truly is mainstream news.

He also cites battery life. I’ve certainly noticed, using a 6 Plus, that one stops thinking about the battery. You just charge it whenever it’s convenient. (This probably won’t be news to owners of the larger Android phones.)

Digitimes Research: global top-6 notebook vendors to share 81.7% global shipments in 2015 >> Digitimes

The world’s top-six notebook vendors, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lenovo, Dell, Apple, Acer and Asustek Computer, will together occupy 81.7% of global notebook shipments in 2015, increasing 1.7pp on year, according to Digitimes Research.

With the exception of Lenovo and Asustek, other vendors will barely sustain significant shipment gains in 2015 during which Lenovo is expected to continue adopting an aggressive strategy to maintain its leading market position, while Asustek will try to generate more revenues by ramping up shipments of low-priced models.

HP, Dell and Apple will see their combined shipments decline slightly in 2015 as the buying activities triggered by the expiration of Windows XP and Sony’s phasing out from the notebook market will dwindle. However, the three vendors will take a combined 40% share.

Unclear why it thinks Apple is going to see a fall (did it benefit from XP’s end?) but there’s clearly now a shrinking pool for everyone else.

Adam on Twitter: “CNN commentators using Microsoft @surface tablets as iPad stand. Facepalm

“These things are really convenient for leaning my iPad against.” Hilarious, yet so indicative. The iPad smart cover is only so-so as a sit-up-and-beg stand; if the iPad had something like the Surface any-angle kickstand, that would be cool. But also heavier, so it won’t happen.

However, it does open an accessories opportunity for Microsoft…

Links: Nexus 9, Nexus Player, the homeless near San Jose, concrete failure, and more

concrete fissure texture
Concrete fissure texture by Grégory Legeais, on Flickr

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. Comment at the end if you want. I’m on Twitter as @charlesarthur.

Low post >> All this

Chicago-based Dr Drang (who one suspects is a civil engineer) came home to find the basketball post outside his house had blown over, because:

The post was almost all rust, with little if any competent steel left. This kind of rusting at the bases of posts and poles is pretty common. Water runs down and collects in little crevices, where the rusting initiates. In this case, the soil around the post, combined with the buried concrete in which the post was embedded, conspired to keep moisture in contact with the post, accelerating the corrosion process. A more common problem is hollow poles that don’t allow drainage of the moisture that collects inside. These are insidious failures because the steel rusts from the inside out, giving no visible indication of how far it’s progressed until the pole falls over.

Read on, though, to find out how steel and concrete aren’t actually very good playmates, and why old bridges look like they do underneath.

Nexus 9 review: a little better on paper than in practice >> Android Police

David Ruddock, in a review that struggles to find anything good to say:

Anyway, for example, if I’ve been sitting in Chrome reading a few articles for 10 or 15 minutes and go to pull up the multitasking UI, there can be a delay of anywhere from 2-4 seconds before it appears. The home button, too, will occasionally exhibit similar lag, though that’s nearly gone with the OTA I think. Or sometimes I’ll pull up the recents menu, then hit home, and the launcher is gone and takes a couple seconds to come back. There’s one correlating factor I notice when I have these problems, too: the Nexus 9 gets warm. The SoC sits at the top of the device just behind the speaker grille, and it gets warmer a lot more often than I’d expect. Just browsing web pages can noticeably heat it up.

Lots of reviewers seemed to have this problem with a hot spot on the Nexus 9. Shouldn’t that be a solved problem by now on tablets?

Amazon Prime members can now enjoy free unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos >> Amazon Media Room

Amazon today introduced Prime Photos, the newest benefit for Prime members, which provides free unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive. Most people have a lifetime of birthdays, vacations, holidays, and everyday moments stored across numerous devices. And, they continue to create billions of photos every year. Now, Prime members have a simple, secure place to store them all for free. Starting today, members can securely store their existing photo collections, automatically upload new photos taken and access them anytime, anywhere, at no cost. Members can start using the Prime Photos benefit today by visiting http://www.amazon.com/primephotos.

Clever: effectively letting you hold your own photos to ransom if you don’t stick with Prime. The storage and bandwidth will be much, much cheaper for Amazon than the profit it makes from Prime.

Send SMS from your Mac… in 2002 >> O’Reilly Archives

Via @lrs on Twitter, a reminder that Apple had the “new” (in Yosemite) function of sending SMS to people straight from the desktop in 2002 – but inexplicably killed it with the 10.5 release of OSX:

Although Apple has done a good job supporting Bluetooth technology, not much has been done to educate users about what it can do. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the little nifty Address Book (in Mac OS X) has built-in Bluetooth functionality that allows you to send and receive SMS (Short Message Service) messages through your Bluetooth-enabled phone, all via your computer!

Everything old is new.

Riffsy raises $3.5m for GIF Keyboard on iOS >> Inside Mobile Apps

Mobile app company Riffsy has announced it has raised $3.5m in seed funding for its GIF Keyboard app on iOS devices. The funding round was led by Redpoint Ventures, and will help Riffsy transform the process of sending animated images to friends into one that’s as simple and “everyday” as sending emojis. To date, Riffsy has passed 500m monthly GIF views.

I use Riffsy and like it a lot (it’s here). I could see it becoming a social app which could easily go viral; if it could work out its monetisation method correctly, it could do OK.

Inside San Jose’s largest homeless encampment, the Jungle >> San Jose Mercury News

Keeping body and soul together is a daily struggle for Mama Red and her neighbors, but a close observation of the Jungle makes obvious why it – and nearly a hundred smaller places like it around the city – keep rising again despite San Jose’s efforts to knock them down.

The Jungle works for the people who live there, providing a sense of community, a support network, even a meager livelihood. The Jungle has its own crude system of governance, with order often maintained vigilante-style, residents say. “Any time people break the rules, they’re asked to leave,” said a longtime inhabitant, known as Giggles. “As much as we don’t like rules, you have to have them.”

Most of the people who live there didn’t choose to be homeless, but now that they are, the Jungle meets their most basic needs.

After a failed flower shop in Felton swept away the last of her savings, Mama Red — she declined to give her full name – took care of a friend’s invalid mother until the woman died. With no place to turn, she tumbled into the social safety net and wound up in a homeless shelter for several weeks. That was 13 years ago, the last time Red lived indoors.

Just as a reminder, here’s Google co-founder Larry Page, in the FT on Saturday: “The idea that everyone should slavishly work so they do something inefficiently so they keep their job – that just doesn’t make any sense to me. That can’t be the right answer… Even if there’s going to be a disruption on people’s jobs, in the short term that’s likely to be made up by the decreasing cost of things we need, which I think is really important and not being talked about.”

The Jungle is 18 miles away from Mountain View.

iOS 8 Share extensions will *only* show up if they explicitly support *all* of the provided activity items · Issue #5 · tumblr/ios-extension-issues >> GitHub

Here’s how we think this should work, using the Tumblr app as an example:

The user long-presses on a photo
We put the image data, the posts’s URL, and maybe a text summary of the post, all in the activity items array
We’d expect share extensions that support either image data or URLs or text to all show up in the activity controller
What actually happens is that only share extensions that explicitly support images and URLs and text will show up.

Hard to figure out if this is something which Apple should tweak, or where developers just have to knuckle under and roll with. (The latter will probably happen.) That said, I’ve found Extensions on iOS 8 to be just right – not too many, not too intrusive.

Google’s Nexus Player: more prototype than finished product >> Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo on the Asus-built $99 (+$40 gamepad) device:

Unfortunately for Google’s living room ambitions, the Nexus Player isn’t very good. Despite the company’s experience with Google TV, the Nexus Player and Android TV are first-gen products with lots of first-gen problems. The hardware/software combo flops on many of the basics—such as playing video smoothly—and doesn’t deliver on any of the compelling experiences “Android on your TV” would seem able to provide. Apps and games are presumably supposed to be the big differentiator here from the Chromecast and Apple TV, but the Play Store interface is clunky and, instead of 1.4m Android apps, you get access to about 70. It’s also pretty buggy…

…Given the emphasis on apps, that 8GB of storage is a disaster, though. After the OS and pre-installed apps, you’ve got about 5GB of storage free out of the box. Let’s install some games! Modern Combat 4 (a generic first-person shooter) is 1.9GB, Asphalt 8 (a racing game) is 1.3GB, The Walking Dead: Season 1 is 1GB… and we’re nearly out of space…

…The app selection here, though, is really sparse. You would think the whole point of Android on your television would be to have a decent chunk of the 1.4 million Android apps on your television, but Android TV has about 70 apps.

This will no doubt improve quickly, but if Android TV does gain a lot more apps, it will become more difficult to use because the “Play Store” on Android TV is awful. There’s no search, no top lists, and no free or paid filters. There are five categories you can browse though—and that’s it.

It always feels as though Google is in a rush to get these TV-related products out of the door, and it shows. Nobody is cleaning up in TV devices. Why not take the time to get it right?