Start up: Euler programs, adblocking wars redux, Android M’s security measure,


At last: HTML5 iPlayer on the desktop. Only a beta for now.. Photo by Julie70 on Flickr.

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

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

(No, there aren’t any links about the new Google offerings – two phones and a tablet – because I couldn’t find any useful analysis of them beyond “they’re phones” and “it’s a tablet with a keyboard”. If you do want to know about them, try “The nine most important things from Google’s Nexus event” from The Verge.)

About » Project Euler


What is Project Euler?
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.

The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.

Who are the problems aimed at?
The intended audience include students for whom the basic curriculum is not feeding their hunger to learn, adults whose background was not primarily mathematics but had an interest in things mathematical, and professionals who want to keep their problem solving and mathematics on the cutting edge.

The first problem should feel pretty easy if you’ve done any programming. If not, give yourself a little time to solve it. (A different sort of programmer hacked its database in August.) They’re presently up to problem 527; No.528 is up on October 3.
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IAB enters publicity, engineering war against ad blockers – Special: Advertising Week 2015 » Advertising Age

Nat Ives:

The IAB has come up with code, for example, that it said will help small publishers detect consumers who show up with ad blocking activated. “We believe this script will actually help enable them in their fight just by enabling their ability to detect,” said Scott Cunningham, senior VP at IAB and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab, at a press conference during the annual IAB Mixx conference, which coincides with Advertising Week.
Related Stories

Some publishers that see ad-blocking visitors arrive greet them with dialogue boxes encouraging a change of heart or, failing that, perhaps becoming paid subscribers. But the open architecture of many web pages has allowed ad blockers to hide even those dialogue boxes, Mr. Cunningham said. The IAB is recommending that publishers switch to more secure protocols to prevent that.

Going to war with people because they’re not your customers isn’t the way to persuade them to become your customers.
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Medium: PR Newswire revisited » Business Insider

Biz Carson:

“With this [$57m funding] round we aim to make Medium the dominant pipeline for connecting quality content and conversation,” Andy Doyle wrote. “We don’t focus on page views, unique visitors, or click metrics. We don’t litter the platform with ads that are low-quality, high-clutter.”

That part is true. There are no ugly ads that flash advertising before crashing your browser.

Instead, everyone from San Francisco’s local supervisors to the White House are publishing articles, essays, and press releases, surrounded by the same swaths of white and clean fonts. The bylines are tucked away in the top left corner.

Companies may call this “content.” A lot of it looks like advertising.

And let’s face it: Medium has become a dumping ground for a different generation’s press releases.

Seems harsh, but Carson has a point. Then again, that makes Medium a pretty good “native advertising” supplier; there’s lots of other non-advertising, desirable, readable content in there. I keep finding links to it.
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New HTML5 Player beta trial for BBC iPlayer » BBC Internet Blog

James East, product manager for media playout:

Although we’ve been using HTML5 to deliver video to iOS devices for some time, until recently we felt that the consistent experience and efficient media delivery offered by Flash outweighed the benefit of moving to HTML5 on the desktop. However, we’ve been regularly evaluating the features offered by the most popular web browsers and we’re now confident we can achieve the playback quality you’d expect from the BBC without using a third-party plugin.

To opt in, visit our HTML5 Player beta page. This will allow you to set a cookie in your browser so you can access our HTML5 player on BBC iPlayer. If you clear your cookies or switch browsers, you’ll have to return to this page to re-enter the trial. You can also visit this page if you want to opt out and return to our non-beta player.

At last. Alternatively, do what I do: uninstall Flash and invoke the “developer” option in Safari (Preferences » Advanced » “Show Develop menu in menu bar”), and when you visit the BBC and it wants Flash to play a video, change the user-agent to “iPad”. (Via Stef Pause.)
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Android Marshmallow’s best security measure is a simple date » The Verge

Russell Brandom:

Android security has always faced a daunting challenge — scrambling to get users, manufacturers, and carriers in sync — but the new Marshmallow operating system has a small feature that could make a big difference in that fight. You’ll find it in the Settings menu, a header titled “Android security patch level,” followed by a date. As of that day, your device is protected with all known Android patches.

Championed by Adrian Ludwig, Google’s head of Android security, the date represents a public bet on the industry’s ability to keep Android devices updated. “It should make it really simple for users to understand the state of the device,” Ludwig says, as part of Android’s larger push toward “making sure that security information and patch level information is available to users.”

That’s going to be a good one to watch.
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You can now turn off ads on Techdirt » Techdirt

Mike Masnick:

We’ve even been approached by multiple companies who claim to offer a form of ad blocker blocker, that will either insert new ads even when users have ad blockers, or otherwise pester users with ad blockers turned on.

This seems like the exact wrong approach. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the way the RIAA and MPAA reacted to the internet challenging their business models. Rather than listen, recognize what the public wanted and adapt, they whined, screamed about ethics and went to court. And how’s that worked out for everyone? We’ve always said that those who adapt to these challenges are likely to do better, and part of that means actually listening to your fans and helping them do what they want. So that’s what we’re doing: if you choose to disable ads, you just need to go to your preferences and click a button and that should do it.

Such a smart move. Masnick has built a strong community at Techdirt, and so offering this – while pointing out gently that it costs money to run the site, and there are ways to donate – is a terrific way forward.
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The dark, scammy history of JustFab and Fabletics » BuzzFeed News

Sapna Maheshwari:

while JustFab has revenue streams befitting a unicorn, its predecessor companies were less ethereal beasts. For more than a decade, starting at MySpace’s parent company, [Adam] Goldenberg and [Don] Ressler’s customers have frequently complained of getting tricked into recurring credit card charges and fooled by deceptive advertising and misleading promises — promises the FTC said sounded “like magic pixie dust” in a warning to consumers regarding the diet product Sensa. It made more than $300 million in sales before the federal regulator intervened.

The ugly hallmarks of those past enterprises live on in JustFab: The company and its affiliates, for all their happy customers, have often been accused of deceiving shoppers who think they’re making a single purchase into signing up for a subscription that automatically charges them each month unless they opt out within a five-day window. The sites use terms like “VIP Membership” instead of “subscription,” and JustFab and Fabletics in particular downplay the options for avoiding charges each month; cancellations require lengthy phone calls.

Ugh. Inertia marketing – such a horrible, scummy business model, and doomed to failure once customers get wise. The only question is how long that will take.
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Axel Springer buys Business Insider » Re/code

Peter Kafka:

The deal values Business Insider at $442m — we had previously told you it would peg the site’s value at $560m — but Springer already owned 9% of the company, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who had previously put his own money into the company, will leave it in there. When factoring out the cash still on the books, the value comes down to $390 million. Springer will end up writing a check for $343m when the deal closes; it says Business Insider has 76 million readers and 325 employees worldwide.

However you count it, the deal sets a new mark for native digital publisher sales, previously held by the Huffington Post, which AOL acquired for $315m in 2011. While several big digital publishers have taken on financing that values their companies above Business Insider’s sale price, none of them have actually sold at those levels yet.

That’s a big vote of confidence in people carrying on reading content online. 76 million readers is substantial.
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Marissa Mayer’s take on ad blocking: ‘It hurts the Web experience’ » Digiday

Ricardo Bilton:

The Yahoo CEO told an Advertising Week audience that ads, particularly those tied to people’s interest and browsing history, actually improve the experience of using the Web rather than hurt it.

“I think that for anyone that uses their browser’s incognito mode and starts getting untargeted ads or no ads at all, the experience on the Web becomes a lot less rich. I personally think it’s a mistake to install ad blockers,” she said at an IAB event during Advertising Week in New York City on Monday. “If I have friends or family members asking if they should install them, I tell them ‘please don’t because I think that your experience on the Web will get worse’.”

As Bilton then points out, Yahoo was responsible for serving malware to millions of people through its ads for nearly a week in August. Those using adblockers will have been fine.

But, you know, tell people what they want to hear.
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Start up: Apple Music for Android enters beta, how many Ubuntu phones?, Samsung’s dead Milk, and more


If only it were as simple as this for phones. Photo by Bradford Timeline on Flickr.

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

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

Google brings you closer to your customers in the moments that matter » Inside AdWords blog

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President, Ads and Commerce:

Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience.

Let’s say you’re a travel brand. You can now reach people who have joined your rewards program as they plan their next trip. For example, when these rewards members search for “non-stop flights to new york” on Google.com, you can show relevant ads at the top of their search results on any device right when they’re looking to fly to New York. And when those members are watching their favorite videos on YouTube or catching up on Gmail, you can show ads that inspire them to plan their next trip.

Using Customer Match, you can also generate Similar Audiences to reach new customers on YouTube and Gmail who are likely to be interested in your products and services. For example, you can drive awareness on YouTube for new non-stop flights by showing TrueView ads to prospective customers who have similar interests and characteristics to your rewards members.

The quest for “relevant ads” must be pursued continuously. (Facebook already has a similar system.)
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Bringing the Internet to more Indians—starting with 10 million rail passengers a day » Official Google Blog

Sundar Pichai, Google CEO:

on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our U.S. headquarters, and in line with his Digital India initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India.
 
Working with Indian Railways, which operates one of the world’s largest railway networks, and RailTel, which provides Internet services as RailWire via its extensive fiber network along many of these railway lines, our Access & Energy team plans to bring the first stations online in the coming months. The network will expand quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, with the remaining stations following in quick succession.

Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day.

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Microsoft announces changes to financial reporting structure » Yahoo Finance


Beginning in fiscal year 2016, the company will report revenue and operating income based on three operating segments: Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing.   

The Productivity and Business Processes segment includes results from Office and Office 365 for commercial and consumer customers, as well as Dynamics and Dynamics CRM Online. 

The Intelligent Cloud segment includes results from public, private and hybrid server products and services such as Windows Server, SQL Server, System Center, Azure, and Enterprise Services. 

The More Personal Computing segment includes results from licensing of the Windows operating system, devices such as Surface and phones, gaming including Xbox consoles, and search.

This is surely going to obfuscate things more than ever; the latest scheme, which had seven reporting segments, had only been in place for three years – replacing one with six segments. The fewer reporting buckets, the less help it is trying to understand what is and isn’t working at the company.
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Apple Music for Android beta invites spotted in the wild » Techaeris

Justin Jelinek:

The e-mail comes from a service called Betabound, a site that allows users to request access to different varieties of beta programs. In this instance though, it’s a doozy. The notice — in its entirety below — simply states:

We’re excited to invite you to come test Apple Music for Android. If you’re a current Android user that would like to join the beta for the new music streaming service, you won’t want to miss this opportunity. To learn more and apply, click the link below. Best of luck! The Betabound team.

Once you follow the link, you’ll be hit with a series of music related questions, some of which are real head-scratchers.  For example:

If you could only listen to 5 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

How do you even answer that? I’d be hard pressed to come up with an answer, though if the successful completion would get me into the Apple Music for Android beta I’m sure I could come up with something.

If you want to try your luck and see if you can get into the beta, you can sign up on Betabound’s website.

Yup, it’s really there. Big questions:
• will it follow Android’s Material design, or look like an iOS app?
• Will it try to integrate iTunes content, or just offer streaming/DRM downloads?
• How will it avoid the relentless one-star trolling of Android fans that greeted the “Move to iOS” app?

And now…
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Apple Music’s functionality failure » Lefsetz Letter

Bob Lefsetz is an acerbic viewer of what’s happening in the music business, and he doesn’t like how Apple is handling its own shift:

this is death in tech. If you’re not willing to destroy the old business model on the way to the new, you’re gonna lose in the long run.

Yes, Apple has zillions of credit card numbers. Yes, Apple is the world’s most valuable company, a juggernaut. But IBM is a shadow of what it once was, as is Microsoft. Nothing is forever. When the great disruption comes you’ve got to sacrifice what once was, however profitable it might be, or you will die in the future.

The problem with streaming in the United States is that most people just don’t see the need to subscribe. Furthermore, they don’t see the need to experiment. Getting someone to try something is the hardest part. And when they do try something and they get less functionality than before, they’re out.

This is what’s happening with Apple Music, and this hurts not only Apple, but the music business at large.

It’d be like having a CD player that spins vinyl. Actually, they tried this. Needless to say, it failed.

As for streaming sound quality, Clayton Christensen went on to say that the new solution may not equal the quality of the old, but it’s good enough and it’s cheap. If you’re an iTunes customer you’re going to go to streaming, you just don’t know it yet. Because streaming is cheaper if you’re a heavy buyer, and owning nothing you can gain improvement along the way.

His argument that you want different apps for music you “own” and for “streams” feels right. Apple’s problem though would be how do you make people start to use the “streams” one? There must have been big fights over this internally. The present system feels like a compromise that hasn’t quite worked.
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Samsung’s Milk Video to be shut down November 20 » Variety

Janko Roettgers:

Samsung is shuttering its Milk Video service in November. The company announced the shut-down on Google Play Monday, writing: “While we remain committed to providing premium entertainment services, we have decided to end support for the Samsung Milk Video app as of November 20, 2015.”

A Samsung spokesperson declined to comment on how the closure will affect Milk Video staff.

The closure comes almost to the day a year after Samsung launched Milk Video as a mobile-focused service focusing on short-form video content. Samsung at one point envisioned Milk Video as part of a larger suite of content-focused apps for mobile devices, which also includes the company’s Pandora-like Milk Music service.

Samsung struck some deals with Vice, Funny or Die and others for exclusive short-form content, and complemented these clips with aggregated videos from YouTube, Vevo and other sources.

Roettgers wrote about layoffs in those units back in May. Is this the end of Samsung’s content strategy?
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The Apple Watch is perfect. On paper. » getwired.com

Wes Miller (who generally likes his Apple stuff) is taking his Apple Watch back, after a week, because he can’t find anything really relevant that it does for him:

The former product manager (and former development manager) in me sees how we arrived at this point. The Apple Watch team was established long ago, and started on their project. At one point, pressure from above, from outside, from investors, who knows… forced Apple to push up a launch date. The hardware was reasonably ready. But the software was a hot mess.

Traditionally, Apple excelled when they discarded features that weren’t ready, even if competitors already did them in a half-assed way – winning over consumers by delivering those features later when they’re actually ready. Unfortunately, you often get a product manager in the mix that pushes for a feature, even if it can’t really be implemented well or reliably. The Apple Watch feels like this. It offers a mix of checkbox features that, yes, you can argue, kind of work. But they don’t have the finish that they should. The software doesn’t respect the hardware. In fact, it’s giving a middle finger to the hardware. Even WatchOS 2 fails to deliver adequate finish. The list of features that the Watch promises sound nifty. But actually living with the Watch is disappointing.

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Apple iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6s Plus Water Test! Is it secretly waterproof? A waterproof review » YouTube


If you don’t want to watch – he dunks the new phones in some bowls of water for an hour. They keep working. Apple has said nothing about the waterproofiness of the new iPhones.

Moving on…
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Sony changes stance on waterproof phones: do not use underwater » Xperia Blog


Sony Mobile has made a hugely controversial change to its advice around Xperia waterproof devices. Despite most recent Sony Xperia waterproof devices achieving an Ingress Protection rating of IP68 for water resistance, the highest possible, Sony now says that they should not be used underwater.

If you head over to Sony Mobile’s support page on water and dust protection, you will find several statements on Sony’s new policy including: “Remember not to use the device underwater” and “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.”

Specifically: don’t put it in seawater or chlorinated water such as swimming pools. Or in juice. Distilled water might be OK. It’s not quite the selling point it used to be, is it? Especially as it had promotional campaigns showing the phones being used to take photos underwater. And people *do* use them to take photos underwater – and like them for that.

Kudos to the Xperia blog, which has pulled together a slew of ads where Sony has shown the phones in water to push that “waterproof” idea. Over to you, Sony.
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How many Ubuntu Phones are there? » RPadovani

Padovani, an Ubuntu contributor, does some maths:

As app developer, and mainly as big supporter of the project, it’s a question I ask myself often.

I don’t have the answer, but I can try to make a guess using a useful statistic I have: the number of times the Calculator App has been updated.

The statistic I have access is the number of unique users that have updated the calculator app at least once. The last update of calculator is from 8 Jun ‘15. So phones that have been sold later probably already included the update. Let’s say then the number of users I guess is updated to end of July ‘15.

This means the only market we consider is Europe. Russia, India, China and the rest of the world have started to have available the phones later this year.

His conclusion: probably about 25,000 by the end of September. Yes, twenty-five thousand. Remember when Ubuntu/Linux/Firefox OS was going to be the future third/fourth mobile ecosystem?
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CEO John Chen shows off the BlackBerry Priv, gets lost » SlashGear

JC Torres:

Just because BlackBerry has finally admitted that it does have an Android smartphone doesn’t mean everyone might be on board with the plan. And “not everyone” might even include CEO John Chen. The chief executive gave the Business News Network an exclusive glimpse at a working BlackBerry Priv, the company’s first “true” Android smartphone. But in trying to demo the smartphone that “runs Google”, Chen is visibly seen struggling to figure out how to actually use the device, as well as probably some hints of unresponsiveness with the touch screen.

In his defense, Chen is, after all, the CEO of BlackBerry, not of Samsung, of LG, or Motorola, or any other Android device maker.

That’s not a defence. Can you imagine any tech CEO struggling so badly as this with the device they hope to make money on? They haven’t even sorted out the naming: Chen pronounces it “Priv”, with a short “i” (as in “privet hedge”), and then talks about it offering “pryvacy” (with a long “i” as in “prying”). Can’t operate the phone, isn’t on top of the marketing. That’s bad. BBN took the original video down and offered it in a non-embeddable view on its site, hence this link to a YouTube re-upload.


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Start up: ad traffic fraud, adblocking goes paid and free, US v Google?, BlackBerry to Android, and more


Perhaps this one isn’t better as a Live Photo, but parents will like capturing “moments”. Photo by Meigs O’Toole on Flickr.

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

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

The fake traffic schemes that are rotting the internet » Bloomberg Business

Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein:

[Ron] Amram is at Heineken USA now, where the annual ad budget is in the $150m range. In 2013 the company replaced its old stubby bottles with a fashionably long-necked version that supposedly keeps the beer cold longer. “We had a healthy investment in TV, local media, and digital,” he says. “We thought digital would come close and compete with television in terms of effectiveness.”

Late that year he and a half-dozen or so colleagues gathered in a New York conference room for a presentation on the performance of the online ads. They were stunned. Digital’s return on investment was around 2 to 1, a $2 increase in revenue for every $1 of ad spending, compared with at least 6 to 1 for TV. The most startling finding: Only 20% of the campaign’s “ad impressions”—ads that appear on a computer or smartphone screen—were even seen by actual people.

“The room basically stopped,” Amram recalls. The team was concerned about their jobs; someone asked, “Can they do that? Is it legal?” But mostly it was disbelief and outrage. “It was like we’d been throwing our money to the mob,” Amram says. “As an advertiser we were paying for eyeballs and thought that we were buying views. But in the digital world, you’re just paying for the ad to be served, and there’s no guarantee who will see it, or whether a human will see it at all.”

Stunning journalism, and a must-read (allow some time). The team finds people who have set up junk sites which attract huge amounts of machine “traffic” which is monetised through ads set up by more-or-less honest ad networks. It’s a house of cards.
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On Acceptable Ads » Murphy Apps

Dean Murphy, author of the Crystal content blocker:

There has been a lot of confusion and mis-reporting going on today regarding Crystal allowing advertising. I’m hoping this post will clarify the information.

-What will be changing? 

In my first update (6-10 weeks time?) there will be two new features. A user managed whitelist, where you the user can specify a list of domains that you would like to support and an option to enable/disable Acceptable Ads on the websites you visit.

You are totally free to use all/any/none of these features as you see fit.

-What are acceptable ads? 

Acceptable Ads is an initiative, supported by 3 of my favourite websites  (Reddit, DuckDuckGo, Stack Exchange), that encourages and promotes the use of better advertising on the web. They have 5 rules for publishers and advertisers to stick to: 

• Acceptable Ads are not annoying.
• Acceptable Ads do not disrupt or distort the page content we’re trying to read.
• Acceptable Ads are transparent with us about being an ad.
• Acceptable Ads are effective without shouting at us.
• Acceptable Ads are appropriate to the site that we are on.

His reasoning: as a lone developer, he can’t keep up; Eyeo, maker of Adblock Plus, can. Eyeo will pay him an ongoing fee.
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Live Photos are a gimmick — says nobody who has young kids, ever » Medium

Jeremy Olson:

Sometimes hiding behind a bad photo is a beautiful moment. These moments are elusive. They happen too fast to catch on video. You can’t catch them intentionally. The only possible way to catch them is … accidentally.

Sure, I might have been able to record a video of my daughter playing peek-a-boo with me but that is not the point. I’ve only had Live Photos for a day and they are already surfacing the hidden treasures behind both good and bad photos. If I keep Live Photos turned on, I am inevitably going to capture precious moments of my daughter growing up that I would have never captured intentionally.

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Wait, what? Mobile browser traffic is 2x bigger than app traffic, and growing faster » VentureBeat | Mobile | by John Koetsier

John Koetsier unpicks a not-quite-apples-with-apples comparison from Morgan Stanley:

Mobile users spend massive numbers of hours in Subway Surfer or Game of War, blowing 80% of their time in just five favorite apps, while they might also visit 10 or 15 mobile web sites of companies that they’re checking out, and spend just a few moments on each. Mobile “traffic” — read unique visitors — are up on mobile web, but mobile time is also up on apps.

The questions proliferate: Why is this happening, what’s best, and what matters most? And, what should brands, companies, and media properties do?

The answer is pretty simple: Deepest engagement for the longest period of time happens in apps, so apps matter, and they matter desperately for brands who want to connect to customers. But since, as we’ve seen in our research, apps-per-smartphone users is maxxing out at an average of 50-60, and no-one besides Robert Scoble is going to install an app for each company, service, or site he or she interacts with, your mobile web experience has to be good, and it has to be strong.

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FBI wants better automated image analysis for tattoos » IEEE Spectrum

Tam Harbert:

In June, the six groups [chosen by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology] reported on how well their algorithms performed in five different types of searches. The algorithms did well in three of these searches, achieving success rates of 90% and above in detecting whether a given image contained a tattoo; identifying the same tattoo on the same person, over a span of time; and identifying a small segment of a larger tattoo.

The algorithms performed poorly — with hit rates as low as 15% — at two tasks: identifying visually similar tattoos on different people, and searching for similar tattoos across a variety of media, including sketches, scanned prints, and computer graphics.

Tattoos are hard – much harder than faces.
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Native advertising is a bad solution » The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks:

here’s another scenario I see playing out all over the web: a small app is reviewed with great gusto and praise by a site, and a few weeks (or months) later that app is paying for a sponsorship on the site. Now, those are likely two unrelated events — perhaps the app didn’t know about the site before the review, but now they know about the site and the exposure was great, so why not get more by paying for advertisement?

But now the site publisher is in a hairy situation. They know the review was genuine because they wrote it long before they were ever contacted by that developer, but will people still believe it was genuine if they accept this sponsorship? Or will everyone just yell “conspiracy” and find another review site? Will the people who read the review long before the sponsorship rethink that review? Will new readers finding that review disregard the objectivity of the entire site because of this one ad?

There’s no easy solution, unless you don’t ever want to write about products or companies.

Brooks evidently hasn’t ever written for a major online publication: writing about anything and offering a positive or negative view will instantly bring accusations of bias. It happens all the time to every writer. Native advertising, in that sense, is like Churchill’s view of democracy as a form of government: the worst – apart from every other one.
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Avi Cieplinski: “This morning I received…” » Twitter


This morning I received the end product of 5 years of work at Apple. Can’t believe I’m really 3D Touching it. 🙂

Cieplinski’s Twitter bio says he’s “co-inventor of Apple’s Force Touch and Taptic Engine”. He’s now at Twitter. The “co-” would have been with lots of others. But it’s the timescale that makes you think: that means this started in 2010, when everyone was excited about the iPhone 4.

What other interaction is five years away now?
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Adblock Fast » App Store


Adblock Fast is a free, open-source ad blocker!

Just as webpages grew bloated with ads, so too have ad blockers grown bloated with little-used filtering rules and features that sap their speed and hog your device’s disk space, CPU cycles, and memory. Adblock Fast runs an optimized ruleset to accelerate pages more but consume less system resources than other ad blockers do.

Well that was pretty rapid price deflation.
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Google said to be under US antitrust scrutiny over Android » Bloomberg Business


The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with the Justice Department to spearhead an investigation of Google’s Android business, the people said. FTC officials have met with technology company representatives who say Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform, while restricting others, added the people, who asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential.

The inquiry is in its early stages, and it could end without a case against the company. Regardless, it shows the FTC is again turning its attention to one of America’s biggest companies, two years after it closed a separate investigation into Google’s Internet search business. The FTC’s handling of the earlier probe left some technology companies skeptical of the agency’s willingness to bring a case, according to the people.

Spokesmen for the FTC and Google declined to comment.

I thought that a similar case (or class action) had already been tried and failed in the US. I have trouble seeing how the FTC would make the US’s required triumvirate of antitrust proof – dominant position, annexing of adjacent market, harm to consumers – stick. The first two might be true, but the third feels like a hell of a stretch.
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Ad-supported is 56% of US streaming revenue » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

According to the IFPI ad supported streaming accounted for just 19% of all US streaming revenues in 2014, down from a high of 30% in 2011.  Which points to the success of subscriptions.  Except that those numbers ignore a major part of the equation: Pandora (and other semi-interactive radio services).  The IFPI has Pandora hidden away with cloud locker services, SiriusXM and a mixture of other revenues in ‘Other Digital’.  Extracting the semi-interactive radio revenues that count as label trade revenues wasn’t the most straight forward of tasks but it was worth the effort.  Once Pandora is added into the mix it emerges that 56% of US streaming revenues are from free, ad supported services.  While that share is down from a high of 66% in 2012 it remained flat in 2013 and 2014.  Which means that however fast subscriptions grew Pandora, Slacker, Rhapsody UnRadio and co grew even faster in order to offset the decline in on demand ad supported income.

Sneaky of the IFPI. Pandora is a listed company in the US – can hardly call it core. And this is before you include YouTube, which many teens use to stream entire albums while not actually watching the screen.
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BlackBerry’s Android move may be too late » Jackdaw Research

Jan Dawson:

being an Android OEM is a pretty uncomfortable place to be right now. Competition is intensifying, the biggest players are struggling, and small lower-priced vendors are taking increasing share. The big question is whether BlackBerry can really turn handsets around at this point, or whether it’s simply too late for the brand, which has been tarnished by all that has happened over the last few years. My sense is that many users have moved on at this point, and that even if enterprises like the BlackBerry platform, employees won’t. The reality is that there are still some industries where BlackBerry devices are the only option, and therefore I think it’s likely that BlackBerry will continue to make devices for some time to come, but the question is whether that can ever be a profitable business for them again.

Ooh, I know this one! It’s “no”: by my calculations BlackBerry’s handset business has lost money (quite a lot in some cases) for 15 quarters in a row. Android won’t solve that.
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Start up: adblockers v retailers, robot nail technicians, who killed Nokia?, the SKU wars, and more


Apple Watch owners might get left behind with new phones unless they back up. Photo by Ian Muttoo on Flickr.

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Symantec employees fired for issuing rogue HTTPS certificate for Google » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

Symantec has fired an undisclosed number of employees after they were caught issuing unauthorized cryptographic certificates that made it possible to impersonate HTTPS-protected Google webpages.

“We learned on Wednesday that a small number of test certificates were inappropriately issued internally this week for three domains during product testing,” Symantec officials wrote in a blog post published Friday. “All of these test certificates and keys were always within our control and were immediately revoked when we discovered the issue. There was no direct impact to any of the domains and never any danger to the Internet.”

The post went on to say that the unnamed employees were terminated for failing to follow Symantec policies. Symantec officials didn’t identify the three domains the test certificates covered, but in a http://googleonlinesecurity.blogspot.com/2015/09/improved-digital-certificate-security.html, Google researchers said Symantec’s Thawte-branded certificate authority service issued an Extended Validation pre-certificate for the domains google.com and http://www.google.com.

“This pre-certificate was neither requested nor authorized by Google,” they wrote.

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How to swap iPhones and not lose Apple Watch data » Finer Things in Tech

David Chartier:

When you unpair an Apple Watch from an iPhone, your iPhone creates a backup of your Watch data and configuration, then wipes the Watch. Since so many people will be getting a new iPhone 6S [from Friday], I wanted to see if there was an easy way to pair an Apple Watch to a new phone and restore all important data.

According to this Apple document (thanks to Rob Wensing), iPhone includes your Watch backups when it runs an iCloud backup. So, in theory, and supported by a few of my Twitter followers, here is the easiest way to switch your Apple Watch to a new iPhone and keep all your data. I don’t know what your schedule is like, but it might be best to start this the night before you get your new iPhone.

It’s a five-step process but it could take a while; crucial to it is making iCloud/iTunes backups.
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Apple’s ad-blocking move is hurting retailers like Walmart » Fortune

Dan Primack points out that the Crystal adblocker doesn’t play nicely with some US retail sites:

Walgreens.com had a similar problem to Sears, when using Crystal. The homepage worked, but the Safari browser went blank after clicking the “Shop Products” link.

And, as Mason said, this issue goes far beyond just image rendering. For example, everything (mostly) loaded just fine on the mobile sites for Lululemon and Walmart with Crystal enabled. But it was impossible to add any products to the shopping cart. So if you just went to browse the pretty pictures, then there’s no problem. If you want to actually buy something, however…

Even for mobile websites that are working properly from a customer perspective, such ad-blocking technology also can strip out back-end code like Google Analytics or Adobe’s Omniture, which provide retailers with real-time insights into customer behavior. And then there is the whole matter of how retailers generate around 60% of their mobile web traffic inorganically, via online ads that Crystal and other ad-blockers are designed to eliminate.

“Retailers can work around it on the consumer side by doing a lot of recoding, but a lot of them freeze their codes on November 1, ahead of the holiday shopping season,” Branding Brand’s Mason says. “So that gives them just over a month or so to get it done. On the back-end they could use different sources of information for sales — kind of like checking the cash register instead of receipts — but it is a different process and also depends, in part, on if the sites are hosted on servers in-house or not.”

Do these retailers have any of the world’s smallest violins in stock? I feel I need one. A few things: Crystal isn’t the only adblocking app; Dean Murphy, Crystal’s developer, is looking at the problem; and as for “real-time insights into customer behaviour”, well, tough. Looks like it might be back to interpreting logs.
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Preemadonna turns your smartphone into a nail salon » TechCrunch

Megan Rose Dickey:

Preemadonna just unveiled the Lacey Nailbot, a nail decorating robot, at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015.

The Lacey, which will retail for $199, uses your smartphone’s back camera and prints full color art on nails in just a few seconds. The only thing you have to do before putting your finger under the Nailbot is prime your nail with white polish.

The Nailbot uses inkjet, and will eventually use actual nail polish, that is controlled through its system over wireless connection (BLE) to decorate the nail with a swipe or through a motorized solution. The Nailbot utilizes Hewlett Packard’s thermal technology, your phone’s camera, machine vision, computer vision and other technologies. In addition to the Nailbot itself, users can create, design, modify and share their art with the accompanying app.

Wow. If there were a job I would have thought was safe from robots, it would be nail salon worker. Side note: how great to see a story about something involving a service for women.
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Who killed Nokia? Nokia did » INSEAD Knowledge

Quy Huy, INSEAD Professor of Strategy and Timo Vuori, Assistant Professor of Strategy, Aalto University:

Nokia’s fall from the top of the smartphone pyramid is typically put down to three factors by executives who attempt to explain it: 1) that Nokia was technically inferior to Apple, 2) that the company was complacent and 3) that its leaders didn’t see the disruptive iPhone coming.

We argue that it was none of the above. As we have previously asserted, Nokia lost the smartphone battle because of divergent shared fears among the company’s middle and top managers led to company-wide inertia that left it powerless to respond to Apple’s game changing device.

In a recent paper, we dug deeper into why such fear was so prevalent. Based on the findings of an in-depth investigation and 76 interviews with top and middle managers, engineers and external experts, we find that this organisational fear was grounded in a culture of temperamental leaders and frightened middle managers, scared of telling the truth.

Ex-Nokia people on Twitter disagree pretty strongly. And it’s hardly as if Apple was led by a gentle consensus-seeking always-relaxed paragon. (We don’t know how frightened its middle managers are/were, either.)
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More BlackBerry layoffs: 200 Venice devs binned amid Android shift » The Register


Reuters reports that around 200 hardware and design staff have been laid off, following the completion of work on an Android device codenamed “Venice”. It’s the latest in a succession of “resource reallocations”.

BlackBerry has struggled to achieve significant volumes since BB10 launched in January 2013, with only 1.1 million units shipped last quarter. The total number is shipped is probably lower than 10 million.

BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen has repeatedly said that BlackBerry will only continue to develop handsets if it’s profitable to do so, and that the break-even point hadn’t yet been reached. Chen has shied away from committing to enhancing BlackBerry’s own BB10 platform, and various indicators suggest it’s now Android or bust for BlackBerry phones, with BB10 placed in maintenance mode while continuing to receive critical security updates.

BlackBerry continues to hire in its QNX embedded systems division, but hasn’t advertised for BB10 developers for some time. While the company released a redesigned Passport in August, it hasn’t revealed any significant enhancements to BB10 this year. Its BB10 developer program is gathering cobwebs.

Chen has also qualified a commitment he made at MWC in March to produce four phones this year. It may just be one annually.

BlackBerry announces its second-quarter results at 0800EST (1300BST). Analysts reckon its revenues will be $611m, down a third from a year ago – its lowest figure since the same period in 2006.
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Mail Online digital advertising slows down to 16% annual growth » The Guardian

Mark Sweney:

Stephen Daintith, finance director at DMGT [which owns the Daily Mail and Mail Online], said the company expects Mail Online to “comfortably” pass £70m for its full financial year to the end of September.

The company has previously said that it was aiming to make £80m in revenue this year, although it has said this is not a “hard target”.

The slowdown prompted analysts at Exane to publish a note to investors earlier this month warning that Mail Online was likely to miss its stated revenue target of £100m by the end of next year.

“We see the recent revenue slowdown of Mail Online (despite strong audience growth) as more structural than cyclical, with mobile, ad blocking and social media all bringing new challenges to monetisation,” said William Packer, analyst at Exane. “We now expect Mail Online to miss their £100m revenue target.”

Daintith admitted that given the slowdown, hitting £100m next year was now a “big goal”.

Never seen adblocking mentioned before in an analyst note, but this is quite a slowdown; previously it was 50%.
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Note to readers » Toronto Sun

James Wallace, vp editorial, Toronto Sun:

As a paper, we pride ourselves both on dishing out and taking criticism – especially when the latter comes from our readers.

And part of that conversation has taken place on our online comment boards.

However, the increasing use of Sun comment boards for anonymous, negative, even malicious personal attacks, albeit by a minority, has led us to conclude our current commenting system is not serving the interests of the majority of our readers.

Therefore we have decided, for the time being, to no longer allow commenting on most online articles until we sort out a better and more accountable way for our readers to interact with us and each other.

Like a growing number of news organizations, we are also moving away from anonymous commenting because there are other options that encourage respectful, civil debate.

Much of that debate already takes place on social media.

Should we call this “reader-blocking”? “Comment-blocking”?
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Why aren’t some smartphone makers simplifying SKU count to increase profitability? » Forbes

Patrick Moorhead:

many OEMs who never thought they could compete on the global market are now directly competing with Samsung Electronics and Apple for market share and consumers’ mind share. To compete with Samsung Electronics and Apple, many upcoming OEMs are wasting millions of dollars creating too many SKUs that they may eventually never sell. We created an economic model that shows that through SKU consolidation, one could see an 8% margin improvement through aggressive SKU management. This column is a flyover, but you can find more information here.

Apple has 6 SKUs, globally (different models; memory capacity and colour aren’t counted as SKUs) while Samsung’s SKU count is 14 for the Galaxy S6, 13 for the S6 Edge, 6 for the Edge Plus and 1 for the S6 active. That’s 34 SKUs, even before you look at the Note 5 and all the others.

Too many SKUs are an obvious problem because you have to match production, distribution, demand and sales – else you’re left with inventory or other writeoffs.
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Start up: a shorter rounder Pebble, VW v DMCA redux, Lenovo’s other spyware, IAB defends ads, and more


This bloke’s car might offer some clues about Apple’s future offering. Photo by Konabish on Flickr.

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Pebble debuts its first round smartwatch with the Pebble Time Round » TechCrunch

Greg Kumparak:

Pebble is thus far known for its solid battery life; in a world where most smartwatches last a day or so at best, Pebble’s lightweight OS and e-ink display traditionally let it crank on for closer to a week.

Curiously, though, the Pebble Time Round has shaved off a fair bit of that signature battery life in favor of a lighter, slimmer design — instead of five or six days of battery life, Pebble Time Round promises two days. A quick charge feature lets you add 24 hours of juice with just 15 minutes on the charger — but you won’t be taking this one for week long camping trips.

Less battery life?
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You have the right… to reverse engineer » getwired.com

Wes Miller:

This NYTimes article about the VW diesel issue and the DMCA made me think about how, 10 years ago next month, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) almost kept Mark Russinovich from disclosing the Sony BMG Rootkit. While the DMCA provides exceptions for reporting security vulnerabilities, it does nothing to allow for reporting breaches of… integrity.

I believe that we need to consider an expansion of how researchers are permitted to, without question, reverse engineer certain systems. While entities need a level of protection in terms of their copyright and their ability to protect their IP, VW’s behavior highlights the risks to all of us when of commercial entities can ship black box code and ensure nobody can question it – technically or legally.

Miller advised Russinovich on whether he could publish. The VW case is surely going to lead to a lot of questions about the DMCA and engine control unit (ECU) software – as highlighted yesterday.
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What will the Apple Car look like? Jony Ive’s taste for Bentleys and Aston Martins could influence design » IB Times

David Gilbert:

So what will Apple’s car look like? By talking to the people in the industry and those who know Ive and his work, IBT gleaned some idea.

“If you look at the Apple philosophy of less is more, then apply that to a car then you would have an Apple product,” said Chris Longmore, founder if U.K.-based automotive design consultancy Drive. Longmore, who has worked with Ford, Nissan and Rolls Royce who believes it is a huge benefit for Apple to be starting with a blank sheet of paper. “If you take the iPhone and move into different areas, because the building blocks would be common throughout that, the DNA would be common across all the products and that’s how they should be looking to do it,” he said.

That too is the view of Ive’s former boss, Martin Darbyshire, CEO and founder of London-based design company Tangerine, who worked with Ive for 18 months before he moved to Apple.

“Sometimes coming at something with a fresh perspective is fundamental to finding something new and developing a paradigm shift. Of all the design teams in the world one would expect Apple to do something interesting and different,” Darbyshire told International Business Times.

Smart move asking Darbyshire. When you look at all the fan-generated renders of the “iWatch”, you realise the gulf between what people wish for and what Apple really does.
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Lenovo collects usage data on ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation PCs » Computerworld

Michael Horowitz:

The task that gave me pause is called “Lenovo Customer Feedback Program 64”. It was running daily. According to the description in the task scheduler: “This task uploads Customer Feedback Program data to Lenovo”.

I have setup my fair share of new Lenovo machines and can’t recall ever being asked about a Customer Feedback program.

The program that runs daily is Lenovo.TVT.CustomerFeedback.Agent.exe and it resides in folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Lenovo\Customer Feedback Program.

Other files in this folder are Lenovo.TVT.CustomerFeedback.Agent.exe.config, Lenovo.TVT.CustomerFeedback.InnovApps.dll and Lenovo.TVT.CustomerFeedback.OmnitureSiteCatalyst.dll.

According to Wikipedia, Omniture is an online marketing and web analytics firm, and SiteCatalyst (since renamed) is their software as a service application for client-side web analytics.

So, while there may not be extra ads on ThinkPads, there is some monitoring and tracking.

Lenovo confirms in a support note that it does this, but says it’s non-personal. It seems the purpose is to see which applications, service and offers you go for during system setup. Which says something about the parlous state of crapware on Windows PCs in its own right.
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The Apple bias is real » The Verge

Vlad Savov, bravely:

The next time you read an iPhone review, keep all these biases in mind. The iPhone is the favored tech product of a vast swathe of our planet’s population, serving both utilitarian and aspirational purposes. It is the catalyst for and sole supporter of entire ancillary industries. It is the nexus where communication and commerce blend most easily, and it is the surest harbinger of the future that is to come. Any review that doesn’t account for all of these factors might be considered technically objective and ubiased, but it would also be frightfully uninformative. Assessing an iPhone against a blank canvas is akin to describing Notre Dame or Sagrada Família as old, large, religious buildings.

Apple bias exists in reviews because it exists in the real world. The company’s track record with the iPhone and other products like it — characterized by a great deal more right decisions than wrong ones — encourages optimism about its riskier new ventures today. The Apple Watch is credited with greater potential than the Samsung Gear S2 because of the two companies’ different histories. The Huawei Mate S has Force Touch similar to the iPhone 6S, but only Apple’s phone is expected to turn that technology into a transformative new mode of interaction.

That’s justified bias. That’s relevant context derived from history and experience. Without it, we’d be reciting facts and figures, but no meaning. Megabytes and millimeters matter only after they’ve been passed through the prism of human judgment, and we shouldn’t pretend that it can, or should, ever be unbiased.

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Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time » Phys.org


Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears – essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.

The gear teeth on the opposing hind-legs lock together like those in a car gear-box, ensuring almost complete synchronicity in leg movement – the legs always move within 30 ‘microseconds’ of each other, with one microsecond equal to a millionth of a second.

This is critical for the powerful jumps that are this insect’s primary mode of transport, as even miniscule discrepancies in synchronisation between the velocities of its legs at the point of propulsion would result in “yaw rotation” – causing the Issus to spin hopelessly out of control.

“This precise synchronisation would be impossible to achieve through a nervous system, as neural impulses would take far too long for the extraordinarily tight coordination required,” said lead author Professor Malcolm Burrows, from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

“By developing mechanical gears, the Issus can just send nerve signals to its muscles to produce roughly the same amount of force – then if one leg starts to propel the jump the gears will interlock, creating absolute synchronicity.

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Ad blocking: the unnecessary internet apocalypse » Advertising Age

Randall Rothenberg is president and chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau:

Let’s take these challenges in order. Advertising (as everyone reading these words knows well) pays for the ability for nearly anyone around the world to type in any URL and have content of unimaginable variety appear on a screen. Advertising also subsidizes the cost of apps, which can take hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce, but are often free or low-priced.

Without advertising, digital content and services either will vanish, or the cost for their production and distribution will come directly from consumers’ wallets.

Of even greater importance is the impact on the economy itself. Advertising represents $350 billion of the U.S. gross national product, and consumers depend on it to help make $9 trillion of annual spending decisions. “Advertising helps the economy function smoothly,” said Nobel Laureate economists Kenneth Arrow and George Stigler. “It keeps prices low and facilitates the entry of new products and new firms into the market.”

Ad blocking disrupts this engine of competition. I wish I were crying wolf, but I’m not. Some websites, particularly those with millennial audiences, are already losing up to 40% of their ad revenue because of ad blocking. Our own IAB research found at least 34% of U.S. adults use ad blockers.

Good grief, where to start?
(1) Content was online long before advertising shoved its sweaty arse in front of us;
(2) Advertising doesn’t pay for smartphones, PCs or internet connectivity;
(3) advertising doesn’t subsidise the production, it subsidises the presentation of many apps – but substantial numbers are simply paid-for (think of UsTwo’s Monument Valley);
(4) the cost of content etc already comes from our wallets, because the cost of advertising is a factor in any company’s costs and so its products
(5) adblocking isn’t going to kill the whole advertising industry, just the bit that behaves unreasonably online
(6) adblocking actually intensifies competition, because it creates a new space where would-be advertisers have to figure out how to get their message across
(7) wouldn’t it have been good to notice that your members were pissing people off before desktop adblocking had been adopted by a third of one section of your audience, Mr Rothenberg?
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Shut Up: Comment Blocker » iOS App Store

Richard Romero:

Shut Up spares you from Internet troglodytes by hiding all comment sections when browsing the web in Safari. You can even set your favorite websites to show comments by default.

This stuff is only just getting started.
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Malware with your news? Forbes website victim of malvertising attack » FireEye Inc


From Sept. 8 to Sept. 15, 2015, the Forbes.com website was serving content from a third-party advertising service that had been manipulated to redirect viewers to the Neutrino and Angler exploit kits.  We notified Forbes, who worked quickly to correct the issue.

This type of malicious redirection is known as malvertising, where ad networks and content publishers are abused and leveraged to serve ads that redirect users to malicious sites.

I promise that FireEye is not paying for its position here or in the next links. It’s just on top of the relevant news. Also: pretty good case for desktop adblocking there.
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Protecting our customers from XcodeGhost » FireEye Inc


Immediately after learning of XcodeGhost, FireEye Labs identified more than 4,000 infected apps on the App Store. FireEye has since updated detection rules in its NX and Mobile Threat Prevention (MTP) products to detect the malicious apps and their activity on a network.

FireEye NX customers are alerted if an employee uses an infected app while the iOS device is connected to the corporate network. It’s important to note that, although the CnC servers have been taken down, the malicious apps still try to connect to them using HTTP. This HTTP session is vulnerable to hijacking by other attackers.

FireEye MTP management customers have full visibility when a mobile device is infected in their deployment base. End users receive on-device notifications of malware detection and IT administrators receive email alerts of the infection.

Four thousand is a lot. Does Apple have any means to killswitch those apps? It can’t kill them based on the developer certificate, because there are lots of developer certificates involved – it’s not a single malicious developer, it’s a single malicious library (or set of libraries) used by many developers.
Apple also has an FAQ up about the exploit.
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Guaranteed clicks: mobile app company takes control of Android phones » FireEye Inc


FireEye Labs mobile researchers discovered a malicious adware family quickly spreading worldwide that allows for complete takeover of an Android user’s device. This attack is created by a mobile app promotion company called NGE Mobi/Xinyinhe that claims to be valued at more than $100M with offices in China and Singapore.

The malicious adware uses novel techniques to maintain persistence and obfuscate its activity, including installing system level services, modifying the recovery script executed on boot, and even tricking the user into enabling automatic app installation. We have observed over 300 malicious, illegitimate versions of Android apps being distributed, including: Amazon, Memory Booster, Clean Master, PopBird, YTD Video Downloader, and Flashlight…

…has infected 20 different versions of Android from 2.3.4 to 5.1.1. Victims with 308 different phone models from more than 26 countries and four continents have been infected.

Another day…
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Start up: DMCA v Volkswagen, cruel opt-outs, self-parking cars win, HP’s irrelevance, and more


The tsunami that hit the Fukushima reactor nearly led to a meltdown – but how many people died from radiation release? Photo by NRCgov on Flickr.

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Researchers could have uncovered Volkswagen’s emissions cheat if not hindered by the DMCA » Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kit Walsh:

Automakers argue that it’s unlawful for independent researchers to look at the code that controls vehicles without the manufacturer’s permission. We’ve explained before how this allows manufacturers to prevent competition in the markets for add-on technologies and repair tools. It also makes it harder for watchdogs to find safety or security issues, such as faulty code that can lead to unintended acceleration or vulnerabilities that let an attacker take over your car.

The legal uncertainly created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act also makes it easier for manufacturers to conceal intentional wrongdoing. We’ve asked the Librarian of Congress to grant an exemption to the DMCA to make it crystal clear that independent research on vehicle software doesn’t violate copyright law. In opposing this request, manufacturers asserted that individuals would violate emissions laws if they had access to the code. But we’ve now learned that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Volkswagen had already programmed an entire fleet of vehicles to conceal how much pollution they generated, resulting in a real, quantifiable impact on the environment and human health.

This code was shielded from watchdogs’ investigation by the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA. Surprisingly, the EPA wrote in [PDF] to the Copyright Office to oppose the exemptions we’re seeking.

With a headline like that, it sounds like an episode of Scooby-Doo. The EPA’s argument in the linked letter is actually reasonable: you know that people will hack the ECM, especially if they get the source code.
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The Cruelest Opt-Out Forms » Tumblr

A project in which @lydialaurenson collects all those forms where, when you decline, you’re meant to feel guilty for doing so. Such as this:

Of course you don’t have to read it. You could just miss the best chance of your life.
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Self-parking cars are better than humans at parking » Fusion


A new study from the AAA put human drivers who considered themselves adept at parallel parking in a “park-off” against five models of self-parking cars. The result? Human drivers got absolutely destroyed by the automated cars in a test of basic parking skills.

Nearly 80% of survey respondents contacted by the AAA said they were “confident in their parallel parking abilities.” But self-parking cars hit the curb 81% less often than human drivers in the road test, and parked themselves with 47% fewer maneuvers. Self-parking cars were also able to park 37% closer to the curb than human drivers, and—to add insult to injury—they did it 10% faster than the humans.

“Self-parking cars” somehow doesn’t sound as sexy, you know? But the clincher is: only one in four of the people in a survey said they’d trust a car to do the parking. This is the knowledge gap that’s so crucial: we don’t know how good robots are at things.
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One million Android users infected with malware through an IQ testing application » Softpedia

Catalin Cimpanu:

The app is called Brain Test and is a simple IQ testing utility, which comes packed with a combination of complex malware strands.

According to Check Point’s research staff, the application was detected via the company’s Mobile Threat Prevention system, first on a Nexus 5 device.

Because its owner, after receiving the malware alert, did not manage to uninstall the malicious app, this prompted Check Point’s team to have a closer look at the source of the infection.

By reverse-engineering the Brain Test app, researchers found a very well-designed piece of malware, which allowed attackers to install third-party applications on the user’s phone, after previously rooting the device and even managing to become boot-persistent.

Brain Test came with a complex detection avoidance system

Looking even further into the issue, researchers found a complex system that allowed the malware to avoid detection by Google’s Bouncer, an automated app testing system that checks for known security issues.

The malware contained code that prevented it from executing if it detected it was being run from certain IP ranges, or domains containing “google”, ”android”, ”1e100.”

After managing to get around Bouncer’s checks and getting installed on a user’s phone, Brain Test would execute a time bomb function whenever the user would run it for the first time.

Even after Google zapped it, the app was re-uploaded five days later. Software that detects when it’s being tested really is the flavour of the month, isn’t it?
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London Collision Map Beta


Discover where road traffic collisions have happened in London since 2005; then filter by year, road user, collision severity and age group.

Figures for 2014 show that the number of people Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) on London’s roads fell to the lowest level since records began. Safe Streets for London, London’s road safety plan, set out the ambition to work towards roads free from death and serious injury and the Mayor’s new target is to halve the number of KSIs by 2020 compared to the Government baseline.

Nice idea, but it’s pretty hellish to use. Heatmaps might have worked better.

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Why HP is irrelevant » Om Malik


A few years ago, in a conversation with my friend Pip Coburn (who spent a long time as a tech-stocks strategist for UBS before starting his own firm, Coburn Ventures), I mentioned that a certain company was dead, though not many realized it. And by “dead,” I didn’t mean that it was bankrupt, out of money or out of business. I meant it was dead in its ability to find growth, excitement and new ideas. Any positive energy had flattened and turned negative. “With that lens on, HP has been ‘dead’ for 15+ years,” Pip emailed me this morning.

Pip says that “companies have a space and time and purpose and when those fade the company would be wise to steadily shut itself down.” Like some other large tech companies, HP fits that bill. In a note to some of his clients, Pip pointed out, “The company [HP] doesn’t even do a good job of pretending to have a strategy.” And he is right.

It’s true: HP hasn’t made a market since, what the inkjet printer? Bubblejet printer? Laser printer? Whichever, it’s been a long time.
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When radiation isn’t the real risk » The New York Times

George Johnson:

This spring, four years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima, a small group of scientists met in Tokyo to evaluate the deadly aftermath.

No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming years is expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise.

But about 1,600 people died from the stress of the evacuation — one that some scientists believe was not justified by the relatively moderate radiation levels at the Japanese nuclear plant.

None of the workers who went into the stricken plant has died of radiation poisoning. The biggest problem for those workers is heatstroke caused by the extra protective equipment they wear.

Truly, the media reaction to Fukushima was enormously overblown; we are all bad at evaluating risk, but the media perhaps worst of all because “if it bleeds, it leads”.
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BT pledges better broadband for UK » BBC News


BT has hit back at rivals calling for its break-up, with a strategy to make the UK the fastest broadband nation.

It revealed plans to connect 10 million homes to ultrafast broadband [300-500Mbps] by the end of 2020 and raise the minimum broadband speed for homes that cannot get fibre to 5-10Mbps (megabits per second).

It comes in a week when rivals have denounced the quality of UK broadband.

In a letter to the Financial Times on Monday, they said BT should be split.

Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk were among signatories to the letter which claimed that millions of customers currently have a “substandard” broadband service.

Homes currently passed by fibre, according to Ofcom: 23.6m (with 30% takeup, ie 7.1m users).
Households in UK: 26.4m.

However, the gap between that pledge of ultrafast and minimum is just absurd. And it’ll be those who need the faster speeds – in rural areas – who won’t get it.
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Soft underbelly » Asymco

Horace Dediu suggests that existing carmakers are underestimating the threat they face from computer-industry entrants:

Traditional car making is capital intensive due to the processes and materials used. There are however alternatives on the shelf. iStream from Gordon Murray Design proposed switching to tubular frames and low cost composites.  BMW has an approach using carbon fiber other composites. 3D printing is waiting in the wings. All offer a departure from sheet metal stamping.

With new materials, costs for new plants can be reduced by as much as 80% and since amortizing the tooling is as much as 40% of the cost of new car, the margins on new production methods could result in significant boosts in margin.

There is a downside however. What is usually compromised when using these new methods is volume and scale of production. So that becomes the real question: how many cars can Apple target? 10k, 50k, 100k per year? Could they target 500k? That would be 10 times Tesla’s current volumes but only a bit more than the output of the Mini brand.

Now consider that the total market is 85 million vehicles per year. For Apple to get 10% share would imply 8.5 million cars a year, a feat that is hard to contemplate right now with any of the production systems. On the other hand selling 80 million iPhones and iPads in a single quarter has become routine for Apple and that was considered orders of magnitude beyond what they could deliver. Amazing what 8 years of production ramping can offer.

Given that cars are increasingly computers with fancy cases on wheels, you really don’t want to rule out low-end or even high-end disruption.
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Ad tech always wins: Ad blocker users are the new hot ad-targeting segment » Digiday

Lucia Moses:

“We want to find ways to reach these consumers in ways that suit how they want to be communicated to and with,” Laura Mete Frizzell, gm of search/analytics/media at 360i. “They are part of an audience for which the brand is relevant and can offer utility.”

The potential to target ad blockers is “on the radar,” said Jon Anselmo, senior vp, managing director of digital innovation at MediaVest. “People’s behaviors, including ad blocking, do provide us insights about who they are and what they care about. A tech-savvy nature could absolutely be one such insight.”

On the seller side, too, the idea of targeting blockers is starting to pop up in conversations with publishers like Complex, said its CEO and founder Rich Antoniello. “Those are the hardest to reach people,” he said. One response by Complex has been to use the space normally given over to ads to present ad blocker users with a message asking for their emails to target them regardless.

Mark that last one, because it must surely be the dumbest thing you’ll see today. (Via Rowland Manthorpe.)
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How big (and bad) adblocking could get – and why news sites should sell adblockers

Diffusion of innovations: segmentation

Stages of adoption of innovations. Source: Wikipedia

“I’ve got something to show you,” I told Horace Dediu as we chatted the other day. “I think it’s a logistic curve.”

Dediu’s face lit up. He of course is the one who has predicted smartphone adoption in the US with remarkable accuracy by using the straightforward maths of the “diffusion curve”, or “logistic curve” as it’s also known. That’s one up there at the top in yellow.

The logistic curve can be used to model all sorts of things: disease, populations, growth. It’s the integral of the bell curve (in blue at the top), and so it’s about “normal” populations.

Dediu has built a terrific series of presentations around data he has collated about the adoption of various technologies – refrigerators, cars, PCs, tablets, microwave ovens, smartphones. Pretty much all of them follow a logistic curve. There’s a slow uptake at first as only those in the know find out. Then there’s a sudden takeoff, and a rush that then leads rapidly upwards, until you come to the laggards who are the last to hear, or the least willing to adopt. (Don’t hassle me with your science oven.)

The graphic I wanted to show him? Adoption of adblocking. The picture below, taken from the Wall Street Journal’s writeup of the Pagefair report, shows the classic inflexion point of adoption: the rapid upward sweep that keeps building.

The growth of adblocking to 200m

Pagefair data suggests there were about 200m people blocking ads by mid-2015. Graphic: Wall Street Journal

Question is, how big is it going to get? You can fit the diffusion curve to this data in lots of ways.

The optimistic view takes the sheer number, and gives it a straight-ahead fit.

Adblocking: the optimistic forecast

On this measure, we’re about halfway through the diffusion of this technology.

This looks quite encouraging for those worried about the adpocalypse. The current number of adblock users is 200m, and it looks to be about halfway up the curve, so that’s 400m total once it saturates. OK, not great, but tolerable.

Dediu himself wrote a commentary this week, wondering about what has taken adblocking so long to take off:

What we never know is how quickly diffusion happens. I’ve observed “no-brainer” technologies or ideas lie unadopted for decades, languishing in perpetual indifference and suddenly, with no apparent cause, flip into ubiquity and inevitability at a vicious rate of adoption.

He argues that for takeoff, you need both a “push” and a “pull”. The push has now happened with the availability of adblockers easily installed via the App Store; now he wonders how fast the “pull” from users will be.

(I think, actually, that the key push happened before that, in mid-2013: that’s where that Pagefair curve suddenly moves upward. What happened in mid-2013? The Snowden revelations about tracking by governments. I don’t think the rise of adblocking after that point is a coincidence.)

That graph above might say “well, quite soon we’ll be done, and it’s not going to be that bad.” Ah, but we’re not done. When I showed the WSJ graphic to Dediu, he said “OK, but you have to adjust for internet population.”

While the number of adblocker users has been growing, so has the total internet population. Adblocking as a percentage of total users hasn’t grown quite so fast. Arguably, people in countries such as China and India who are on mobile more than PC have a greater incentive to adblock than people on unmetered desktop systems.

Here’s how that growth chart looks like when you present it as a percentage of the internet population (data sourced from internetworldstats.com):

Adblocking as a percentage of intenet users

Data from Pagefair shows adblocking as a minority sport – so far

And now with the diffusion curve roughly fitted to it:

Adblocking: the less rosy view

If you compare adblocking penetration to the internet population, it looks like it’s got a lot of potential to grow

On this graph, 200m users adblocking is perhaps 10% of those who will eventually use it. So yes, we’re saying that 2bn people could be adblocking eventually. Which would leave us wondering, as Dediu puts it, “how quickly will ads disappear from the internet?” (The current internet population is about 3bn users.)

Put it another way:
the data suggests there are going to be between 400m and 2bn adblocking users within a few years.

OK. How much is that going to lose? Or put it another way, using data we can adduce: how much are visitors to ad-funded websites worth at present?

The value of a reader

Below, I’m going to use data from The Guardian, because it’s easily available (not because I’m a contributing writer). I’d welcome figures from another other news site such as the New York Times or Washington Post.

In March 2014, the Guardian hit 100m browsers for the month. In July 2014 it managed 137m. (“Browsers” aren’t the same as “views”, nor the same as “users”. A single browser could do multiple page views; a single user might use multiple browsers, such as a mobile one and a desktop one at different times of the day. If you’re feeling wonkish, the Audit Bureau of Circulation has more data at appendix 2.1 of its measurement requirements: “This metric measures each browser on a given device; it does not measure a person.”)

There’s a spreadsheet with the past year’s figures for browsers for the main UK national papers.

According to that spreadsheet of ABC-audited browser figures, in the ten months from June 2014 to March 2015, the Guardian’s average monthly browser figure was 111m.

So how does that compare to its digital revenues (which are broken out separately from print)? I’ve chosen the Guardian because its browser stats are available, and there isn’t any confusion caused by a paywall. But there are a couple of confounding elements:
• its “membership” scheme. I’m assuming there’s no significant income from that compared to the number of visitors. This is a gloss; the income from “membership events” is definitely non-zero.
• there’s a Guardian app for iOS and Android, which offers in-app purchases (IAPs) ranging from £3.99 to £11.99, including six- and 12-month subscriptions (£3.99 and £4.99 respectively). We don’t know how many of those have been downloaded, nor what the average payment is. Obviously it’s non-zero, and might materially affect our assumptions.
• the Guardian has “sponsored content”, which again is definitely non-zero in revenue terms – it has signed at least one deal worth a million pounds. This will reduce the contribution from plain advertising.

From the Guardian’s statement for the year to the end of March 2015:

GNM [Guardian News and Media, the publishing arm] total revenue grew by 2.6% to £214,600,000 (2014: £209,000,000) with increases in digital and new product revenue more than offsetting declines in print revenue. GNM divisional digital revenue for the year increased by 20.1% to £82,100,000 (2014: £68,300,000).

If you assume every month was equal, that’s £6.84m per month in digital revenue. If you assume 111m browsers per month on average, that’s 6.16p for each “browser” visit (which isn’t, remind yourself, necessarily a user or page view; a browser might be part of a user, and might do multiple page views. So if you view it on your desktop, and then on your mobile, that’s two “browsers”; the Guardian gets 12.32p from you).

My impression, not knowing much about monetisation, is that the Guardian is monetising its visitors pretty well. Others who know the ad business better can update me.

Spread across a year, that’s 73.95p per browser. In other words, £0.74, or $1.14 per browser per year.

Note that there’s going to be gigantic variation in the actual value to the Guardian of those “browsers”. If it’s the same 111m browsers visiting each month then that might be as few as 55 million people (“few”, huh) around the world, or even fewer if they’re showing up as more than two browsers – perhaps they view the site from a work PC, then their mobile on the train, and then their tablet and their home PC at the end of the day.

Or it might be 111m different browsers, each run by a different person, each month – so 1.330 billion people. As that latter figure is pretty much half the internet population, we can say with certainty it’s not true.

Given that £0.74 per year average figure, it’s pretty clear that anyone who subscribes to the Guardian app is way more valuable than the average. Anyone who accesses by more than one method (mobile plus desktop) is more valuable than the average.

But the average is really pretty low in sheer monetary terms, and that’s with the best that the advertising business has to throw at people – and that’s before we subtract the income from the app, the membership scheme, and the sponsored content, which probably come to a few millions.

All in all, you’d have to say that the per-browser value of you, as an individual who doesn’t have the app, isn’t a member and isn’t reading sponsored content (actually you don’t care about the latter – the Guardian gets paid for it anyhow), is probably pretty low; maybe in the 5p per browser range, or 60p per year.

Take that spread

Spread that figure across the 400m people in our optimistic take on adblocking, and you have £240m taken out of the online advertising business. That’s doesn’t sound very much – except each of those people is abstracting their per-site payment at every site. So you have to multiply that impact across every site that those 400m people go to. How many ad-supported sites is that? Well, 400m is about 12.5% of the internet population. Basically, slice 12.5% off the ad income. For some, that might make the difference between positive and negative.

It’s trickier if you take the pessimistic outlook and assume 2bn people take up adblocking, because that’s two-thirds of the current internet population. It would have become such a mainstream pursuit that the online ad business would have been destroyed.

For a news site getting 60p per year on average from users, but seeing that inevitably being eroded by adblocking, the obvious path is – since you can’t beat ’em – to join them from the front by making an adblocker and selling it. Disrupt yourself before others do. A one-off price of £1.29, say, would yield 90p after Apple’s 30% cut; that’s 18 months of your “lost” ad-supplied visitor paid for. (Yeah, yeah, you have to support the app too. Perhaps IAPs? Easily switchable settings to allow the ads on your site? Ways for people to vote on ads they do and don’t like which gets fed back to you, the publisher, rather than invisibly back to the ad networks which will ignore it?)

In that 18 months, you might be able to figure out a better business model, because there’s no reason this should get smaller. iOS is a key platform, and adblocking apps are already taking the food out of news sites’ mouths – to the tune of probably a million pounds in less than a week.

Again, that might not sound like much; but every single time those users visit those sites in future, they’ll not be making themselves available for monetisation. An adblocker is a one-off purchase, but its effects are repetitive.

Who’s to blame? Make no mistake: using an adblocker is a natural reaction to the intrusive, annoying, and even dangerous ad-tech industry. Concerns about tracking have amplified it, and created a perfect storm. It’s the ad industry’s own fault.

Sure, you can argue that people shouldn’t use adblockers on your site if they love you. But lots of people might love your site, but consider the ads an unacceptable intrusion, because you didn’t choose them. They just got inserted, often by a real-time bidding process choosing from inventory matched against the tracking profile of you (which could have your age, gender and interests completely wrong).

So the diffusion has begun. Quite where it ends, we don’t know. I do know though that I’m very much looking forward to Pagefair’s next report on the size of the adblocking market.

Start up: explaining XcodeGhost, Monument Valley goes VR, will Venice sink BlackBerry?, and more


What’s the common factor in iOS devices bricked by trying to update to iOS 9? Photo by marc falardeau on Flickr.

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

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Monument Valley’s creators just made a stunning VR game » WIRED

Liz Stinson:

Like most early VR games, Land’s End is in many ways an experiment designed to discover what does and doesn’t work in the medium. Ustwo’s Ken Wong, Peter Pashley and Dan Gray spent more than a year developing the game, with many stops and starts and do-overs along the way. “It took a long long time to reinvent all these fundamental things about how you move around a world and how you interact,” says Wong.

Things like navigation took some toying with. “We spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best way to let people move around these worlds in a way that felt kind of almost subconscious,” says Pashley. You make your way through the levels by glancing at “lookpoints,” shimmering spheres of light that burst open and propel you forward when you look at them. The motion is slow and controlled; it feels almost like a moving sidewalk at the airport.

This looks terrific. Presently for Samsung Gear VR + Oculus only. I’d happily buy the soundtrack.
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BlackBerry Venice » YouTube

A pretty much full-size touchscreen Android phone sort of running some sort of BlackBerry software. With a big keyboard that slides out from below. See for yourself.

Notice that he never actually tries to type anything. This may be significant: the top end of the phone would have to be very light to stop it overbalancing.

I wonder (with @charlesknight) whether this is John Chen’s last attempt at hardware; if this flops – which seems pretty likely – there’s little point carrying on. In a few quarters, BlackBerry should have swallowed Good Technology completely and can live on software and services revenues, which are much more profitable.
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What you need to know about iOS malware XcodeGhost » Mac Rumors

The story so far (which I did notice over the weekend; I apologise for not including it in Monday’s Start Up): impatient iOS developers in China downloaded hacked copies of Xcode from Baidu servers because the ones from Apple came over slow-as-snails links from the US. The hacked copies included malware libraries that were included by default in any apps developed with them. The apps got through Apple’s approval process – and were then noticed by Palo Alto Networks, which itself noticed it on Weibo after analysis by Alibaba researchers.

Q How does XcodeGhost put my iOS devices at risk?
iOS apps infected with XcodeGhost malware can and do collect information about devices and then encrypt and upload that data to command and control (C2) servers run by attackers through the HTTP protocol. The system and app information that can be collected includes:

• Current time
• Current infected app’s name
• The app’s bundle identifier
• Current device’s name and type
• Current system’s language and country
• Current device’s UUID
• Network type

Palo Alto Networks also discovered that infected iOS apps can receive commands from the attacker through the C2 server to perform the following actions:

Prompt a fake alert dialog to phish user credentials; hijack opening specific URLs based on their scheme, which could allow for exploitation of vulnerabilities in the iOS system or other iOS apps; read and write data in the user’s clipboard, which could be used to read the user’s password if that password is copied from a password management tool.

Q Can XcodeGhost affect users outside of China?
Yes. Some of the iOS apps infected with XcodeGhost malware are available on the App Store in countries outside of China. CamCard, for example, is a popular business card reader and scanner app available in the United States and several other countries, while WeChat is a popular messaging app in the Asia-Pacific region.

Q Why would some Chinese developers download Xcode from Baidu?
Xcode is a large file that can take a long time to download from Apple’s servers in China, leading some developers to download Xcode from unofficial sources.

Q How are Apple and Chinese developers dealing with XcodeGhost?
Palo Alto Networks claims that it is cooperating with Apple on the issue, while multiple developers have updated their apps to remove the malware.

There’s a list of affected apps.

This is a significant attack, but it’s also a remarkably hard one to do more than once. I suspect the next attack will involve some sort of man-in-the-middle on security certificates that Apple will surely enforce on Xcode downloads.

Rich Mogull has a great writeup in which he says it’s about the economics of security:

Apple doesn’t believe all attacks can be stopped, and certainly not those from governments or well-funded criminal organizations, but if you make the cost of attack higher than the benefits, you knock out entire categories of bad guys and reduce the impact on users.

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French regulator rejects Google appeal on scope of ‘right to be forgotten’ » WSJ

Sam Schechner:

France’s Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, said that Google must now adhere to a formal order in May directing it to apply Europe’s right to be forgotten to “all domain names” of the search engine, including google.com—or face possible sanctions proceedings.

Established just over a year ago by the European Union’s Court of Justice, the right to be forgotten gives European residents the ability to request that search engines remove links that appear in searches for their own name. Google has applied the ruling, but insisted on only removing results from European domain names, such as google.fr, not from google.com.

Google on Monday reiterated that it doesn’t believe the French regulator has the authority to expand the scope of the rule. “As a matter of principle we respectfully disagree with the idea that one national data protection authority can assert global authority to control the content that people can access around the world,” a spokesman said.

Ever so tricky. The US has claimed jurisdiction over sites that are hosted and authored elsewhere in the world that use the “.com” suffix; is that the same?

One suspects that Google will – if it loses in any appeal – work around this by offering filtered content to any IP address identified as being in France, just as it does to identify who to serve .fr content to.
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Apple iPhones, iPads BRICKED by iOS 9’s ‘slide-to-upgrade’ bug » The Register

Shaun Nichols:

Reg reader Carlton told us today: “I have just updated my iPad to iOS 9 and found to my horror that once it has ‘successfully’ installed and then gone through the initial setup phase, I cannot progress past the second request to ‘slide to upgrade’ page.

“The setup order is ‘passcode’ – ‘slide to upgrade’ – ‘select Wi-Fi’ – ‘slide to upgrade’ at which point no further actions are possible.”

He was eventually able to upgrade his device to the new iOS using Apple’s suggested clean install procedure, though he said it took multiple attempts to accomplish.

Other fans reported similar problems when they tried to get the latest and greatest version of iOS on their iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch players.

While the issue appeared to be largely relegated to devices running iOS 7 skipping over to iOS 9, Apple would not confirm if that was in fact the case. No word yet on when a fix for the bug will be released.

Apple already has its hands full patching flaws with its firmware updates.

Commenters seem to concur: works fine if you’re just going from iOS 8, kills the device if you’re trying to skip upwards from iOS 7. An Apple support note says “This will be resolved soon in an upcoming iOS update”. Let’s see. (Meanwhile, Apple said in an aside in its press release about the release on Friday of the new iPhone that 50% of devices contacting the App Store as of September 19 were using iOS 9. In less than a week?!)
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How to record a phone call on your iPhone – no additional kit of apps required » BBC College of Journalism

Marc Settle discovered (via Mashable) a terrific way to record a call:

A statement is never as good as an interview, which is where the ‘advanced’ function comes in, even if it needs a little willingness from your guest.

Call them from your iPhone and explain what you plan to do. Press ‘add call’ and then call the phone number you’re ringing them from. Yes, you did read that correctly: you need to call your own number from your own phone. As you’re on the phone, your answerphone will kick in. At this point tap ‘merge calls’: you and your interviewee will now be recording your conversation on your answerphone. End the call and then proceed as above to access the recording.

This reminds me of the “huh??” method that used to exist for running (old, old) pre-OSX Macs entirely from RAM, no disk access required, which meant gigantic battery life: you loaded a minimal OS, and then dragged your hard drive into the Trash. Honest. You just had to remember not to empty it.
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Why we need a competition inquiry into the UK broadband market » TalkTalk BlogBlog

Dido Harding, TalkTalk chief executive:

Over 500 telecoms companies exist in the UK, but most depend on a shared set of wires that connect individual homes to our networks. When BT was privatised, it was allowed to keep control of this network on behalf of the whole industry, and it is managed today by Openreach, a BT company. It’s like one gas supplier owning the national grid, or one airline owning Heathrow.

Unfortunately, that system isn’t working because BT has used its sole control over the network to its advantage, rather than to benefit the network or customers. Openreach makes a lot of money, but it hasn’t invested enough in maintaining the network, leaving customers suffering from poor quality of service and facing long waits to repair faults or install new lines. It allows BT to abuse its control to restrict choice for customers. It also makes it harder for the regulator to enforce the rules and be a powerful consumer champion. Put simply, it’s a tired model not fit for a superfast future.

Openreach is TalkTalk’s biggest supplier; we couldn’t operate as a business without it. So naturally, I’ve got a vested interest in this debate. But what matters about today’s letter is the breadth of the coalition calling for change. It includes some of the biggest companies in the industry who have tried – and failed – for years to improve the system, as well as smaller players battling to bring innovation and choice to the market, but let down by Openreach.

Agree. Where do I sign up too?
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600 ad companies blacklist The Pirate Bay » Music Week

Coral Williamson:

The Pirate Bay has been blacklisted by more than 600 advertisers.

The blacklist, comprising 10 sites so far, is the result of a partnership between anti-piracy group Rights Alliance and Swedish Advertisers, an association of advertisers with more than 600 member companies.

Swedish Advertisers has published a list of  recommendations designed to keep advertisers away from unlicensed sites, including observing good ethics, avoiding advertising contracts that include bulk sales, and considering where ads are ultimately placed.

OK, I have to ask. Is it unethical to use adblockers on torrent sites?
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The number of people using search engines is in decline » Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:

search is facing a huge challenge. The paid search business was built on a desktop browser model. And consumers are increasingly shifting to mobile. On mobile, consumers say they just don’t search as much as they used to because they have apps that cater to their specific needs. They might still perform searches within those apps, but they’re not doing as many searches on traditional search engines (although Google, Bing, and so on do power some in-app search engines.)

It sounds obvious, but there’s new data to show it’s a trend that’s really happening. And it could have a severe impact on Google’s (and Bing, and Yahoo’s) core search business. Indeed, data from eMarketer shows search ad spend growth is set to decline from 2014 through to 2019.

Speaking at digital trade show Dmexco in Cologne earlier this week, global communications agency ZenithOptimedia’s chief digital officer Stefan Bardega and research company GlobalWebIndex’s head of trends Jason Mander gave a mobile trends presentation. It was the slides on search that made the audience really sit up and start taking notes and photos.

And it’s this:

App usage and voice search both contribute too. How do you sell an ad beside a voice search?
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Advertising is unwanted, day 2 » Scripting News

Dave Winer, in a followup to a post of a day earlier, suggesting news orgs need to find new ways to bring their readers together:

Here’s an idea for a geography-based news org (i.e. a newspaper) – give readers a place to talk about movies, and then sponsor movie nights based on their interests. Encourage people to provide lists of their favorite movies and do some collaborative filtering. Then collate the reviews and present them alongside your professional reviewer’s post. Work with the movie industry. It can have incredible promotional value, for the movie, the theater, you, the whole idea of going to the movies (as opposed to watching on your home TV, phone or tablet). What’s great for your community is they get to meet people who like the same kinds of movies they do. And you get to know who they are! It’s such a huge, easy win, all-around. That more local news orgs haven’t done it tell you how stuck in old print models we still are. This is an example of a kind of idea that really can only blossom online.

Creating community is a great idea. But what if the community lives all over the world? How does this physically-based idea work?
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Start up: more PC market woe, tons more adblocking, Android One comes to Europe, and more


No longer the kids’ dream? Photo by LesPaulSupreme on Flickr.

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

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

PCs: Citi sees deeper 10% decline; is a sustained recovery possible? » Tech Trader Daily – Barrons.com

Tiernan Ray:

Citigroup’s Jim Suva this afternoon cut his estimates for the personal computer market to a decline of 10% in unit shipments versus his prior forecast for a 7% drop, while noting that there’s a nascent PC recovery that could help.

Suva, however, reiterates his Buy ratings on Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Lenovo Group (0992HK), endorsing the former because of its pending split, and the latter because of it’s restructuring effort. “We expect Lenovo and HP to continue to gain share from other PC companies,” writes Suva.

Suva, citing “finalized” PC data from Q2, after all vendor data has been gathered, now models the industry having sold 27.9m desktops last quarter and 37.5m notebook computers, down from his prior projections of 28.7m and 39.7m, respectively. 

He notes the 10% drop he’s looking for is worse than research firm IDC’s projected 9% decline.

For 2015, he now sees total industry volume of 277.2m units, down from a prior 287.2m forecast. His tablet computer estimate goes to 213.7m, which is up from his prior forecast of 205.1m. That’ still a 7% decline in tablet sales.

Smartphone sales growth is slowing too. Is this indicative of something broader? Also: smaller players in the PC market are going to get squeezed out.
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EPA says VW intentionally violates clean air standards » Associated Press

Matthew Daly:

The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that Volkswagen intentionally skirted clean air laws by using a piece of software that enabled about 500,000 of its diesel cars to emit fewer smog-causing pollutants during testing than in real-world driving conditions.

The agency ordered VW to fix the cars at its own expense. The German automaker also faces billions of dollars in fines, although exact amounts were not determined.

The cars, all built in the last seven years, include the VW Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models, as well as the Audi A3. The vehicles all contain a device programmed to detect when they are undergoing official emissions testing, the EPA said. The cars only turn on full emissions control systems during that testing. The controls are turned off during normal driving situations, the EPA said, allowing the cars to emit more than the legal limit of pollutants.

The internet of intentionally sneaky things.
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Just doesn’t feel good » Marco.org

After two days, in which his adblocking app Peace (which used Ghostery’s blocklist) had been top of the App Store, Marco Arment pulled it:

I still believe that ad blockers are necessary today, and I still think Ghostery is the best one, but I’ve learned over the last few crazy days that I don’t feel good making one and being the arbiter of what’s blocked.

Ad-blocking is a kind of war — a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides. I see war in the Tao Te Ching sense: it should be avoided when possible; when that isn’t possible, war should be entered solemnly, not celebrated.

Even though I’m “winning”, I’ve enjoyed none of it. That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market.

His key problem, I think, was that it blocked the Deck ads on his own site, which he’d approved, and he couldn’t reasonably allow an exception for just that. I’m sure he’ll continue using one, though. (He just installed Ghostery on his wife’s desktop.)
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iPhone launch weekends are getting silly » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart on Apple’s reluctance this year to offer a figure for how many iPhones were sold in pre-orders:

Critics will say Apple stopped releasing sales because of weaker sales growth. While iPhone sales growth may very well slow, I rather look at it as Apple is now a much bigger company in a different landscape. The Android/iOS activation wars are over. There are other ways to convince the world that iPhones are popular and worth buying besides releasing opening weekend sales. In addition, opening weekend numbers aren’t even a good measure of iPhone growth. If we compare the change in opening weekend sales to the corresponding iPhone growth over the following FY year: 

2010: 70% growth in iPhone opening weekend sales (81% iPhone unit growth in following year)
2011: 135% (73%)
2012: 25% (20%)
2013: 80% (13%)
2014: 11% (38%)
I look at that discrepancy as reason for why opening weekend sales is not the most useful parameter to judge iPhone sales. 

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iOS 9.0 to tvOS 9.0 API Differences » Apple Developer Library

As has previously been noted, there’s no WebKit (ie no way to have an app that’s just a “web wrapper”). Makes sense – have you ever seen a decent web browser interface on a TV?

Notably also missing: iAd, Apple’s advertising system. Among others removed: AddressBook, HealthKit, CoreAudio, CoreMIDI, CoreTelephony (durr), and – weirdly – HomeKit.
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Active malware campaign uses thousands of WordPress sites to infect visitors » Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

“If you think about it, the compromised websites are just means for the criminals to get access to as many endpoint desktops as they can,” [Daniel] Cid [of security firm Sucuri] wrote. “What’s the easiest way to reach out to endpoints? Websites, of course.”

On Thursday, Sucuri detected thousands of compromised sites, 95 percent of which are running on WordPress. Company researchers have not yet determined how the sites are being hacked, but they suspect it involves vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins. Already, 17 percent of the hacked sites have been blacklisted by a Google service that warns users before they visit booby-trapped properties. Interestingly, Cid added, the attackers have managed to compromise security provider Coverity and are using it as part of the malicious redirection mechanism.

Checked this site with Sucuri. It’s fine.
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YouTube’s biggest threat to the music industry isn’t what you probably think it is » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

At the Future Music Forum, Frukt’s Jack Horner observed that because most music genres, and indeed media as a whole, are becoming age agnostic, which means that it is really hard for Generation Edge to find music that they can own, that their mum and dad aren’t going to sing along to too. This is the price to be paid for media and brands having successfully convinced aging 30 and 40 somethings that they are still young at heart and in the pocket.  So with no music subculture to cling to Generation Edge has instead gravitated to YouTube stars.

For those not familiar with this wave of YouTubers, it is nothing short of an entire new culture in which the platform, medium, format and talent blends into a single entity. Where the term ‘YouTube’ represents to each one of those aspects.  The type of content created is as diverse as fashion vloggers, slow motion film makers, online gamers, pranksters and comedy.  The unifying factor is that these creators are young and have build personality brands and audiences that not only owe nothing whatsoever to traditional media, but that often far surpass that of traditional TV film and music audiences.

It ain’t about having a Gibson without a case any more.
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ADNAUSEAM – Clicking Ads So You Don’t Have To


As online advertising is becoming more automatic, universal and unsanctioned, AdNauseam works to complete the cycle by automating all ad-clicks universally and blindly on behalf of the target audience. Working in coordination with your ad blocker, AdNauseam quietly clicks every blocked ad, registering a visit on the ad networks databases. As the data gathered shows an omnivorous click-stream, user profiling, targeting and surveillance becomes futile.

Nice idea; presently only a browser extension in Firefox. Not yet in Chrome or Safari, or of course on mobile. (How would it work?)
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Apple meets California officials to discuss self-driving car » The Guardian

Mark Harris:

Last month, the Guardian disclosed that Apple had looked into booking a secure car testing site in California to road-test its vehicle, codenamed Project Titan. Maletic wrote the mutual confidentiality agreement signed by GoMentum Station, a disused military base near San Francisco with miles of empty streets for driverless cars, when Apple inquired about testing there in May.

The department would not comment on what was discussed at the August meeting, beyond saying that “the Apple meeting was to review [the] DMV’s autonomous vehicle regulations.”…

…If Apple does seek a testing permit for its Project Titan self-driving car, it will have to sacrifice much of its legendary preference for secrecy. Manufacturers applying for a permit have to detail the make, model and vehicle identification number (VIN) of cars they want to test, share details of autonomous features and capabilities, and identify test drivers by name.

They will also have to explain how these safety drivers will be trained to cope with any malfunctions of the car. Manufacturers need to report every “disengagement” where the car unexpectedly hands control back to the driver, as well as all accidents it is involved in.

So the cat’s out of the bag: definitely a self-driving (or at least, autonomous) car. Harris has done great work on this story and on Google’s efforts in the field.
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AdBlock Plus offering money to competing companies to use its “Acceptable Ads” policy » Business Insider

Max Slater-Robins:

Ben Williams, a spokesperson for Eyeo, confirmed the practice in an email saying that the company did offer people who develop iOS ad-blocking software “compensation for their work in implementing Acceptable Ads.”

Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 9, makes it possible to block ads through third-party apps, such as Peace (which uses technology from Ghostery) or Crystal. If you download these apps, they strip the ads out of any webpage you look at on your iPhone. That usually makes browsing the web faster. It blocks advertising trackers, and it means that less of your data plan is spent downloading ads you don’t want.

This has led to a surge in development of ad blockers for iOS. While Adblock Plus is the largest, its dominance is limited to desktop. An increase in use from other developers on iOS could reduce its position, especially if the Adblock Plus Browser doesn’t take off.

Adblock Plus currently charges companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, “30% of the additional ad revenues” they would’ve generated through unblocked ads. Presumably, if the company’s dominance in that market is eroded by a large number of competing, smaller apps then big internet advertisers are less likely to pay ABP to let its ads through.

Doesn’t seem to be a lot though – low four-figure sums.
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Apple wins patent ruling against Samsung in U.S. appeals court » Reuters

Andrew Chung:

A US appeals court on Thursday said Apple should have been awarded an injunction barring Samsung from selling products that infringe its patents, handing Apple another victory in its ongoing smartphone fight with its biggest rival.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. said the lower court abused its discretion when it denied Apple Inc an injunction after a jury ordered Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to pay $120m in May, 2014 for infringing three of Apple’s patents.

The case involved Apple patents covering the iPhone’s slide-to-unlock, autocorrect and data detection features.

The 2-1 appeals court ruling said that Apple’s proposed injunction is narrow because it does not want to ban Samsung’s devices from the marketplace, and that Samsung can remove the patented features without recalling its products.

“Apple does not seek to enjoin the sale of lifesaving drugs, but to prevent Samsung from profiting from the unauthorized use of infringing features in its cellphones and tablets,” the court said.

The case was sent back to a federal district court in San Jose, California, to reconsider the injunction.

Does Samsung even still sell the phones that were the subject of this? And this isn’t an injunction – the lower court now has to “reconsider” its lack of an injunction. Entire species have evolved and died out in the time this case has been going back and forth.
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Google expanding Android One to Europe, starting with Portugal and Spain » Android Police

Martim Lobao:

Android One phones have typically been targeted at developing markets, so far launching in Asia, the Middle East, and recently Africa as well. However, yesterday Google Spain announced the Aquaris A4.5, — a phone made by Spanish manufacturer bq — thereby expanding Android One into the European market for the first time.

The Aquaris A4.5 has many of the features and specifications common to other Android One phones: a MediaTek quad-core CPU, dual SIM support, and a MicroSD slot. It also includes a 3-month subscription to Google Play Music All Access and an impressive 5-year guarantee. Unfortunately, those five years do not cover software upgrades, with Google and bq nonetheless promising 24 months of those.

I find this odd. Android phones already sell terrifically well in these two countries: Kantar’s numbers consistently show it having sales share close to 90% in Spain, well above any other country in its sampling – including China. (There’s no reason to think Portugal is different.) So what’s Google’s purpose in offering cheap Android phones in countries which have already been buying cheap Android phones in bulk for years?
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Start up: Facebook’s AI ambitions, it’s the Galaxy S7!, the value of comments, Apple goes Android, and more


Peace began the new war. Photo by ‘Lil on Flickr.

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

A selection of 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook’s problem: Its algorithms aren’t smart enough » Fortune

Mathew Ingram:

Zuckerberg said: “Under the current system, our community reports content that they don’t like, and then we look at it to see if it violates our polices, and if it does we take it down. But part of the problem with that is by the time we take it down, someone has already seen it and they’ve had a bad experience.”

The promise of artificial intelligence, said the Facebook founder, is that some day computers might be able to filter such content more accurately, and allow people to personalize their news-feed. “But right now, we don’t have computers that can look at a photo and understand it in the way that a person can, and tell kind of basic things about it… is this nudity, is this graphic, what is it,” he said.

Zuckerberg said that in the case of the Syrian child lying dead on the beach, he thought that image was very powerful, because it symbolized a huge problem and crystallized a complex social issue. “I happen to think that was a very important photo in the world, because it raised awareness for this issue,” he said. “It’s easy to describe the stats about refugees, but there’s a way that capturing such a poignant photo has of getting people’s attention.”

Any AI that could make the right call about that photograph, though, would be as wise as the super-experienced editors around the world. It would have passed the Turing test and then some.
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New ad blocker “Peace” tops iTunes paid apps chart within hours » Marketing Land

Danny Sullivan:

For months, marketers have been worrying over the possibility that consumers might embrace ad blocking that’s made easier in iOS 9. Now iOS 9 is out, and within hours of its launch yesterday, a new ad blocker called “Peace” became the most popular paid app.

The Peace app was created by Marco Arment, former CTO of Tumblr and founder of Instapaper. It sells for $2.99 in Apple’s app store. Within hours of the app going live, it topped the iTunes chart for paid apps for iPhone.

In addition to Peace, Purify Blocker also made the charts ranked fifth for iPhone. The Blockr app is ranked 28th. Crystal, which had some attention earlier this month, is listed at 110 in the free charts. It’s supposed to change to a paid model shortly.

As for iPad, Peace was the number two paid app (Purify is further down at 22; Blockr at 36):

The app is technically a “content blocker,” because it blocks not only ads but other types of tracking codes and anything that is deemed worth blocking based on a list that Ghostery maintains.

Ads are only blocked in Safari, not in other browsers like Chrome. It also doesn’t block ads within apps.

So the outbreak of war began with Peace. But not in other browsers like Chrome, because they don’t use the new WKWebKit viewer, available since iOS 8, which is really fast and powerful and, in iOS 9, enables content blockers. Wonder if Google has considered it? Read on…
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Issue 423444 – chromium – Use WKWebView on iOS 8+ » Chromium Project

Stuart Morgan of Google’s Chromium project discussing, in October 2014, whether to use WKWebView instead of UIWebView in Chrome on iOS:

Unfortunately, despite the advantages of WKWebView, it has some significant technical limitations that UIWebView does not, which means we can’t simply drop it in as a replacement. A partial list of regressions relative to UIWebView that we’re currently aware of:
– There is no cookie management API, which means there is no obvious way to clear/manage cookies
– Protocol handlers no longer work, which breaks several very important features
– POST bodies are missing from delegate callbacks, which breaks certain aspects of form handling

We’re still actively investigating WKWebView, looking for possible alternate approaches, and providing feedback to Apple about issues. We certainly hope to use WKWebView in the future, but there’s currently no way of knowing if or when that will be possible.

The thread continues through the introduction of iOS 9, right up to 10 days ago. Still no movement. It seems remarkable that the newest, most powerful webview on iOS should be so behind in things that Google sees as essential. So Chrome on iOS uses the old – creaking, now – UIWebView instead of WKWebView. No modern compatibility (and lots of crashes, according to some) but equally, no adblocking on Chrome on iOS. (Thanks @reneritchie for pointing it out.)
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Trash talk » Popbitch

The article (byline unprovided) does useful work in estimating the cost of moderating comments at the Mail Online and Guardian (it’s remarkably high) and then looks at sites that have shut down comments, and notes:

A number of journalists from across the political spectrum have spent this last week voicing their displeasure at Twitter, talking about how unpleasant it’s all become. It used to be fun and productive and helpful, they say, but the conversation nowadays is just vicious fighting.

Those reporting on the Scottish referendum last year complained of the same thing too; many threatening to quit social media in the face of brutal Cybernat campaigns. The sheer volume of vitriol leveled at them became unbearable, unmanageable.

Sadly, this will be the inevitable result of shutting down comments sections. People aren’t going to suddenly want to stop voicing their opinions. That’s one genie that won’t ever go back in the bottle. Instead those displaced commenters will simply take up an alternative platform, and the most obvious one of those is social media.

They can do that anyway, of course – the option has been open to them for as long as Facebook and Twitter have been around – but it’s no coincidence that the current trend for editors wanting to direct the conversation away from comments sections and onto social media correlates exactly with journalists’ growing dissatisfaction at the level of discourse on social media.

Comments sections are easy to avoid when you know where they are.

This I don’t agree with. People will find you on social media regardless of whether there are comments sections. The big advantage? There, you can block them. I prefer Mic Wright’s characterisation: comments are the radioactive waste of the web, there effectively forever, and never really useful. (And I speak as someone who has left a fair number of comments all over the place.) Gresham’s Law applies.
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Welcome to hell: Apple vs Google vs Facebook and the slow death of the web » The Verge

Nilay Patel:

with iOS 9 and content blockers, what you’re seeing is Apple’s attempt to fully drive the knife into Google’s revenue platform. iOS 9 includes a refined search that auto-suggests content and that can search inside apps, pulling content away from Google and users away from the web, it allows users to block ads, and it offers publishers salvation in the form of Apple News, inside of which Apple will happily display (unblockable!) ads, and even sell them on publishers’ behalf for just a 30% cut.

Oh, and if you’re not happy with Apple News, you can always turn to Facebook’s Instant Articles, which will also track the shit out of you and serve unblockable ads inside of the Facebook app, but from Apple’s perspective it’s a win as long as the money’s not going to Google.

This is the dynamic to keep in mind — especially when you see Apple bloggers like [John] Gruber forcefully discount the notion that Apple’s decisions will affect small publishers. The Apple vs. Google fight has never been more heated or more tense, and Facebook’s opportunity to present itself as the savior of media has never been bigger — through hey-it’s-just-about-speed Instant Articles, which will almost certainly be featured higher in the News Feed, and huge things like its massive video initiative, which is a direct assault on YouTube. And oh — Apple’s new tvOS, that huge bet on bringing apps to TV? Doesn’t support WebKit at all.

Malicious view of Apple adding content blocking to Safari: it’s trying to kill Google.
Non-malicious view of Apple adding content blocking to Safari: it’s trying to kill ads which take over the mobile browsing experience, bouncing you to an app or putting up a non-removable screen (because the close button is off the screen), and/or trying to keep enterprise buyers happy that they can restrict what their users view.

Patel portrays this as a knife fight, but overlooks the fact that ads will work perfectly well inside iOS apps (annoying as they might be). Apple’s trying to do two things here: stop annoying, intrusive ads on Safari and in Safari web views, and trying to keep apps at the forefront of what people do on iPhones.

Both of those have collateral damage for Google, but it’s a stretch to think of this as a desperate fight to the death. He’s worried for his site, sure. And so he should be. But as I’ve said previously, web ads have to evolve. Nobody said they were somehow protected.
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Sony shuts down its UK online retail store » AndroidAuthority

Andrew Grush:

Sony has never had a major presence in the US, offering most of its products either through its website or a partnering retailer. Sony has also had a carrier presence, but it has generally been limited to just T-Mobile or Verizon. This summer, Sony shut off one of these channels: its retail store. This meant that Sony fans had to either go through a site like Amazon, or turn to carriers. And now they are essentially doing the same in the UK.

Effective immediately, Sony shoppers will now be reliant on carriers or Sony’s partnering retails for Sony devices in the UK. The Japanese giant’s UK website will continue to offer advice on their phones but will no longer sell them, similar to what we have seen with the US website.

Sony gets so much right with the design of their phones, but unfortunately fails at the areas that matter most to average consumers: pricing, availability, and marketing.

That last sentence reminds me of a famous cricket writeup: “there are only three things wrong with the English team: can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field.”
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Move to iOS » Android Apps on Google Play

Would it surprise you to hear there are lots of 1-star reviews? (But also, weirdly, lots of 5-star ones, though rather outnumbered by the 1-stars.)

Sample 1-star: Poor functionality:

I attempted to switch to iOS (apparently zombies ate my brain) and my iPhone 3G would not accept my data. Also, my micro USB would not fit.

Sample 5-star:

Reading all these reviews about people who say “1 star because I don’t want to move to Apple” ticks me off! THIS APP WAS NOT MEANT FOR YOU! Unlike everyone else who thinks Android is all that, there are people who make the jump to Apple. There are also people who switch to Samsung from Apple. (Using Samsung smart switch). Working for a MAJOR US cell phone carrier; this app is perfect!!!! Before we had to use stupid Celbrite machines or our made transfer app. Thank you Apple for making this!

So, you know, horses for courses.
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Exclusive: first Galaxy S7 details emerge, codenamed Project Lucky » SamMobile

Abhijeet M:

Our insiders tell us that the Galaxy S7 is being tested with Samsung’s screaming fast UFS 2.0 storage, but the company might have found a way to make it work with SD cards. As we explained earlier this year, the memory controller on SD cards and the UFS 2.0 storage aren’t compatible with each other, making it impossible for them to co-exist on the same device. Samsung probably is trying out interfacing techniques to get around the limitation, though it would be best to not get too hopeful that the final product will bring back expandable storage to Samsung’s flagship line.

Finally, Samsung is supposedly testing a new 20-megapixel ISOCELL camera on the Galaxy S7, and also a project called the “all lens cover.” We have no idea what this project is; it’s perhaps a cover that will add additional lenses for the camera on to the phone, but we admit we’re in the dark about what the actual purpose will be.

The SD card explanation didn’t get much traction, did it? It makes complete sense, but Samsung sacrificed the broader principle of forward feature compatibility for a hard-to-see benefit in read/write speed. How many people say “wow, the read/write speed on this phone is great!” compared to the number who say “I can still use my SD card in this one!”
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