Start up: Swift v Apple, Beats gets heft, Aibos’ mortality, why Upworthy pivoted, and more


A number will get you into many peoples’ emails. Photo by Kohei314 on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. I mean, do you even? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

To Apple, love Taylor » Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift (yup, her):

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.

This looks like an obvious one, but it isn’t. Lots of streaming services (all of them?) offer a free month initially, and the evidence suggests they don’t pay artists for those streams. (I’ve yet to confirm that absolutely.) Apple’s three-month deal seems to have come at the cost of higher royalty rates for those who sign up.

So Taylor Swift may be completely right – but that new artist or band might just want the exposure. It would certainly be good if Apple did pay in those three months. But that might then fall foul of antitrust.

Update: oh, internet, you do move fast. At 4.29am Eddy Cue tweeted that Apple would after all pay. More detail by Peter Kafka.


How It’s Made series: Beats By Dre » Medium

Avery Louie:

One of the great things about the [Beats] solo headphones is how substantial they feel. A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30% of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.

The two larger parts are cast zinc. Cast parts are similar to injection molded parts in that there is a tooling cost and a per-part cost. Compared to injection molding, the tool is marginally more expensive, but the per-part costs are higher, and the tools do not last as long.

The brilliant thing here is that the two large metal parts are not mirror images of each other- they are actually the same part!

The parts give them heft. And do nothing else at all.


How to hack into an email account, with just your victim’s mobile number » Graham Cluley

A bad guy – let’s call him Malcolm – is keen to break into Alice’s account, but doesn’t know her password. However, he does know Alice’s email address and phone number.

So, he visits the Gmail login page and enters Alice’s email address. But Malcolm cannot correctly enter Alice’s password of course (because he doesn’t know it).

So instead he clicks on the “Need help?” link, normally used by legitimate users who have forgotten their passwords.

Rather than choosing one of the other options, Malcolm selects “Get a verification code on my phone: [mobile phone number]” to have an SMS message containing six digit security code sent to Alice’s mobile phone.

This where things get sneaky.

Because at this point, Malcolm sends Alice a text pretending to be Google.

This is very sneaky, and would probably work against lots of people. Beware.


A robotic dog’s mortality » The New York Times

Jonathan Soble on the death of the Aibo – which is running out of juice:

They didn’t shed, chew the sofa or bite the postman, but for thousands of people Sony’s Aibo robotic dog was the closest thing to a real canine companion. So when the Japanese company stopped servicing the robots last year, eight years after it ended production, owners faced a wrenching prospect: that their aging “pets” would break down for good.

Sony introduced the Aibo in 1999, at a price of 250,000 yen (about $2,000 at current exchange rates). The beaglelike robots could move around, bark and perform simple tricks. Sony sold 150,000 units through 2006; the fifth and final generation was said to be able to express 60 emotional states.


Platform Patched – The Awl

John Herrman with a great analysis of why Upworthy has been forced to pivot: because Facebook turned its unique selling point into a feature of the platform:

Upworthy was succeeding according to metrics favored by Facebook, but not necessarily by doing the things Facebook believed those metrics would cultivate. A reader might spend five minutes watching a video on Upworthy and leave satisfied, but the site neither created the video nor hosts it—it would have been created by yet another party and hosted on YouTube, a site owned by Google. For Facebook, this is fine but not optimal: Why not just embed the YouTube video directly into News Feed with the same headline and description? Better yet, why not just host the video directly on Facebook?

Facebook-native video took off with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the success of which Facebook summarized in August and later used in explaining its vision for video. Seeing opportunity, publishers started publishing more videos, and more professional videos, as soon as they could.

And here’s The Awl’s graphic of Upworthy traffic:
Upworthy's falling traffic


1Password inter-process communication: a discussion » Agile blog

Jeff Goldberg, in a long blogpost about the “malicious OSX apps could grab inter-app comms by registering to receive them first” vulnerability:

Neither we nor Luyi Xing and his team have been able to figure out a completely reliable way to solve this problem. We thank them for their help and suggestions during these discussions. But, although there is no perfect solution, there are things that can be done to make such attacks more difficult.

The blogpost goes into a lot more detail; this is a really tricky problem. Though “keep process running all the time in the background” turns out to be a good solution.


Analyzing 10 yrs (and 5TB) of OpenStreetMap » Mapsense

Many fun insights to be found, but this one will ring true for any crowdsourced effort:

Insight #3- Very few people contribute the vast majority of features

We know the OSM community is growing, but we wanted to know what the impact of that growth is on the map that we all use.  

We segmented users into the top 5% of committers and the bottom 95%.  Here’s how their edits compare:

Open Street Map contributors

The number of commits in the bottom 95% is growing nicely over time, but even at its peak, their commits are orders of magnitude fewer than the commits of the top 5%. These power users are incredibly prolific, often importing large swathes of data such as building outlines or roads.

These users are making a huge impact on OSM- how can we encourage more of this to accelerate OSM’s quality?


Apple vs. Samsung: Samsung asks court to reconsider appeal » San Jose Mercury News

Howard Mintz:

Samsung urged the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case with its full 12-judge roster, arguing that a three-judge panel erred earlier this year when it left intact a jury’s verdict that the South Korean tech giant’s smartphones and tablets infringed on Apple’s design patents.

That part of the verdict – which has been pared from an original judgment of $1bn – accounts for about $400m of the $548m in damages Samsung still must pay Apple from their first trial.

Samsung’s continued interventions make this now officially the most boring court case in history. (Thanks John Molloy for the link.)


UK private copyright exception ‘unlawful’, rules High Court » Out-law

Prior to introducing the private copying exception, the UK government argued that it did not believe the private copying exception would result in lost sales for rights holders. However, the new regime was challenged by music industry bodies. The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), the Musicians’ Union (MU) and UK Music claimed that the government should have to compensate them and other rights holders for the harm caused to them by the new exception.

Mr Justice Green said that that the UK government was entitled to “implement a private usage exception” and to define the scope of that right. He said, though, that the government was obliged to introduce a “compensation mechanism” for rights holders if the harm caused to them by the introduction of the private copying exception was above a “de minimis level”.

Here’s the judgement. Not sure how this is going to be implemented – a surcharge on systems that can rip CDs? It’s the very definition of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, moved to another town, brought up foals, and died peacefully in its sleep.


Sizing up the suitors for Here, Nokia’s map business » TechCrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

One former longtime senior employee of Here estimates there are around 300 different location attributes, with corresponding historical databases, that can be tracked using Here’s technology. They include more obvious mapping and location-based applications such as driving directions and street maps, but also spatial data technology used in video and gaming applications.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get the type of mapping data that Here has. Base geometry and 20-40 road attributes are relatively easy to collect. However, to collect the 250+ attributes needed for the best navigation experience requires a combination of field teams and user-generated content,” notes entrepreneur Kurt Uhlir.

“Here has proprietary collection hardware and software that is unmatched, even by Google. Plus, they have the most extensive patent portfolio covering collecting and creating spatial content for current generation of maps and dynamic data. Here also has the foundational patents covering usage of spatial data for creating video games, movie content and the upcoming ADAS vehicle applications.”

Unmatched even by Google? Protected by patents? Such talk is heresy.


2 thoughts on “Start up: Swift v Apple, Beats gets heft, Aibos’ mortality, why Upworthy pivoted, and more

  1. Changing the deal on Apple Music so soon after launch suggests that the notion they were getting some shrewd music insiders with the Beats purchase was somewhat overplayed.

    The revelation that Beats headphones had unnecessary weight added to them to make them ‘feel’ more valuable merely adds some hilarity to the whole Beats deal – given Apple’s obsession with making things as thin and light as possible.

    I look forward to the MacBook Air Beats edition with kilograms of metal welded onto each corner.

  2. The metal parts are in the hinges, are we totally sure they are there only for weight and nothing else. I would assume that if they only had been plastic the hinges (they are after all foldable) might have been worse.

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