Start up: China’s Uber ripoff, Microsoft’s maps and ads exit, Google v Oracle redux, and more


Low power, but still pretty powerful. Photo licensed from Apple, I guess, on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

One driver explains how he is helping to rip off Uber in China » Bloomberg Business

To create a fake trip, an Uber driver has essentially two options, according to drivers interviewed by Bloomberg, who asked not to be named discussing information that may get them barred by the company.

The first is a do-it-yourself option where the driver buys a hacked smartphone that can operate with multiple phone numbers and therefore multiple Uber accounts. Drivers use one number to act as a rider and request a lift, and then accept the trip as a driver with another phone number.

A driver like Li, for example, may know that he has a legitimate fare waiting for him at the airport, but he doesn’t want to make the trip there without getting paid. He could then request a trip as a rider, let the booking show up on Uber’s GPS tracking software as his car heads to the airport and then get paid by Uber for taking a “customer” on the route.

The second option involves working with other scammers over the Internet. If a driver doesn’t have a hacked phone, he can go into one of several invitation-only online forums and request a fake fare from professional ride-bookers. These bookers are referred to as “nurses” because they use specially tailored software to put an “injection,” or location-specific ride request near the driver.


Uber acquires part of Bing’s mapping assets, will absorb around 100 Microsoft employees » TechCrunch

Alex Wilhelm:

Uber will acquire assets from Microsoft Bing, including roughly 100 employees focused on the product’s image collection activities. In short, Uber is absorbing data-collection engineers from Microsoft to bolster its own mapping work.

The companies confirmed the transaction with TechCrunch, but each declined to name the terms of the agreement. Microsoft handing Uber part of its operating expenses is minor, given the financial scale of the firms. The technology transfer is far more interesting.

Uber’s app is essentially a map with add-ons, so that it would want to pick up engineers — currently the hottest Silicon Valley commodity1 — isn’t surprising. And that Microsoft might want to shed some talent that isn’t precisely core to its larger platforms and productivity efforts doesn’t shock.

So that’s one cost centre gone (and a nice win for Uber). One shoe drops..


Microsoft said to exit display ad business, cut 1,200 jobs » Bloomberg Business

Dina Bass:

Microsoft Corp. is shutting down its Web display advertising business and handing operations over to AOL Inc. and AppNexus Inc., a person with knowledge of the matter said.

About 1,200 jobs at Microsoft will be impacted, with some positions to be moved to AOL and AppNexus, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the deal hasn’t yet been announced. Some people will be offered other positions at Microsoft, while other jobs will be cut, the person said.

The software maker is shedding the business as Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella works to sharpen focus on three key areas: personal computing, cloud platforms and business productivity.

And now we wait for the other other shoe to drop. Note how these disposals have come just ahead of the end of the fiscal quarter; Nadella is cleaning house.


CVE-2015-3113 (Flash up to 18.0.0.160) and Exploit Kits » Malware don’t need Coffee

Patched four days ago (2015-06-23) with Flash 18.0.0.194, the CVE-2015-3113 has been spotted as a 0day by FireEye, exploited in limited targeted attacks.  It’s now making its path to Exploit Kits

In other words, if there’s a Flash installation on your network that hasn’t been patched in the past four days, it’s vulnerable. (In this case, to malware aiming to exploit IE11 on Windows 7.)

If you haven’t removed Flash from your computer.. why not? YouTube will work fine (it goes to HTML5).


Reddit is an incubator of hate » BuzzFeed News

Charlie Warzel, pulling no punches:

At the core of the problem is Reddit’s newfound vow to police hate only when it manifests into real-world harassment — that is, to create a distinction between ideas and behavior that doesn’t actually exist. Ideas inform and incite behavior; we see this both in the physical world and on Reddit, where the ideals and discussions of its thousands of communities are reflected in the actions — both good (raising money for a Kenyan orphanage as well as a terminally ill cancer patient) and bad (Violentacrez, r/creepshots, and The Fappening) — of its members.

What’s more, there’s credible research to suggest that right-wing extremist online communities are frequently linked to hate crimes. An April 2014 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center found that more than 100 murders have been linked to Stormfront.org, a white nationalist website and forum that first emerged in 1995. The author of the report, Heidi Beirich, told The Guardian that her research showed that online hate forums helped nurture and strengthen already formed prejudices and, in the case of Stormfront, transform them into real-world violence


Benchmarks show iPhone performance difference when iOS 9’s Low Power mode is activated » Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

Without Low Power mode activated, an iPhone 6 Plus scored 1606 on the single-core processor test and 2891 on the multi-core processor test. When Low Power mode was turned on, the same iPhone 6 Plus scored 1019 on the single-core test and 1751 on the multi-core test, suggesting there’s a significant performance reduction when Low Power mode is enabled to save as much battery as possible.

Results were similar on an iPhone 5s, with performance reduced by about 40%. We saw single/multi-core scores of 1386/2511 without Low Power mode and scores of 816/1405 with Low Power mode turned on.

Low Power mode activates when an iPhone is at 10% or 20% battery level, providing a popup that lets users toggle it on quickly. It can also be turned on via the new Battery section of the Settings app. When it’s turned on, in addition to lowering CPU speeds, Low Power mode also disables Mail Fetch, Background App Refresh, motion effects, and animated wallpapers.

At a guess, most people won’t notice the difference in processing power of engaging Low Power, but will like the battery life difference. And iOS 9 (in my own early testing) has remarkable battery life if you don’t have the phone baseband running, ie on non-LTE iPads and phones with Airplane mode engaged but Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on (so mobile calls and data aren’t on). And it’s still only beta 2.


The secret to groovy drumming may be math » Science/AAAS

Kerry Klein:

Holger Hennig, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany, and colleagues decided to analyze the technique of prolific drummer Jeff Porcaro, one of the more famous musicians most people have never heard of. For more than a decade he drummed for the band Toto, and as a session musician he kept time for an extensive list of musical icons including Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. Porcaro died of a heart attack in 1992. Hennig and his colleagues chose to study Porcaro’s technique because the paper’s lead author, physicist Esa Räsänen of the Tampere University of Technology in Finland, is himself a drummer and admires Porcaro’s work.

As a representative sample of Porcaro’s timekeeping skills, the research team focused on the studio recording of the 1982 hit “I Keep Forgettin’ ” by singer Michael McDonald. The rapid, high-pitched tink-tink-tink-tink keeping the beat is the hi-hat, a clamshell arrangement of two small cymbals that a drummer opens and closes with a foot pedal and simultaneously strikes with a drumstick. With one hand, Porcaro hit the hi-hat four times on every beat, in subbeats known as sixteenth notes, and motored out almost 400 of them in every minute of the song.

It turns out that fractals are lurking. (Though when did he drum for Pink Floyd, exactly? I thought that was Nick Mason’s job.)


Hacker News » Premii

If you ever read Hacker News, you’ll have been frustrated by the way you have to click away to read the article, then click back (or to another tab) to read the comments on the story.

No more: now it’s in a convenient interface on Premii.


Do you trust Google to be the gatekeeper of your kids’ content? » Digital Content Next

Chris Pedigo (who is SVP of government affairs at DCN):

Google’s YouTube for Kids service is getting some attention recently from regulators and policymakers in Washington, DC. The FTC and now Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) are asking questions about how content is selected for YouTube for Kids and how Google helps young viewers understand the difference between content and advertising. It has been alleged that some content is not appropriate for children and that some advertising in or around the content may not be labeled clearly enough for children and their parents.

While Google has a history of innovation, upending old business models and creating new opportunities and experiences via the internet, their “developer mentality” of breaking things to create even better new things may not work the same when it comes to products targeted to kids.

YouTube is great if you’re an adult, a disaster area (from a parent’s point of view) if you’re a child. Dividing the world into “over 18/under 18” really doesn’t work.


Oracle v. Google Android-Java copyright case goes back to San Fran: Supreme Court denies Google petition » FOSS Patents

Florian Müller (who has followed the ins and outs of this case over the years):

Now that the Supreme Court has denied Google’s petition and appellate attorney Joshua Rosenkranz (of Orrick Herrington Sutcliffe) has once again shown why he was dubbed the “Defibrillator” (for bringing cases back to life that appeared to have been lost), the sizable litigation caravan that had gone from California to Washington DC for the appellate proceedings–where an amazing reversal of fortunes occurred, with Oracle now having the upper hand–can finally head back all the way to the West. There, “fair use” will be the topic du jour. And, provided that Oracle wins (which I’ve always believed it will), remedies. This means injunctive relief more than anything else. The strategic implications are not described accurately by portraying this as a billion-dollar case.

On this occasion I do wish to say a few things about fair use. About a year ago I explained why I ultimately concluded that Google Books probably should fall under the “fair use” exception, but Android should not. What is really the idea of “fair use”? At a philosophical level, it’s all about whether, on balance, an unauthorized use of copyrighted material does more good than harm.

It’s difficult to get a handle on this case, but Müller is fairly sure that Google is going to have to pay something – perhaps quite a large something – to Oracle. (Note: Müller acts as a consultant to Oracle, and others. But his line on this case has been consistent since before Oracle hired him.)


Sky reveals evidence of Openreach service failure and calls for market investigation » Sky

In the submission, Sky sets out details of the standard of service delivered to consumers by BT’s Openreach division, which operates and maintains the UK’s national telecoms network. The evidence highlights how a history of under-investment has led to range of service quality problems including an excessive number of network faults, failure to meet targets for repairing faults, long waits to have new lines installed, appointments that are missed and jobs that are not completed. 

Key findings from Sky’s submission include:

More than 90% of new line installations, which require an Openreach engineer to attend, take 10 calendar days or longer. Almost one in ten installations takes longer than 30 days.
• Openreach changes the agreed installation date for Sky customers on average around 36,000 times a month.
• Openreach misses over 5002 appointments each month to install new lines for Sky customers and fails to complete a further 4,000 jobs per month.
• Fault rates across Openreach’s network increased by 50% between 2009 and 2012, the last year for which reliable data is publicly available.
• Openreach’s performance in fixing faults is consistently below the targets set out in agreements with service providers.

BT Openreach is such an anomaly. The electricity grid is owned separately from power generators; the railway lines aren’t owned by the train operators. So why does the dominant landline provider get to own the company doing landline upkeep and determine its budgets?


Galaxy S6 sales to reach 45 mln units in 2015: report » Yonhap News

“Samsung continues to struggle at the low-to-mid end, while the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge combined look on course to reach a respectable 45m units this year,” EE Times said, citing a report released by Deutsche Bank.

If the sales estimate is accomplished, the Galaxy S6 will manage to catch up with the Galaxy S4, which holds the current annual sales record at 45m units.

The latest estimate, however, falls behind expectations made earlier by other market analysts.

Industry tracker DRAMeXchange had earlier estimated combined sales of 55m units for the new lineup, while Hong Kong-based researcher Counterpoint had offered a 50m sales figure for this year.


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