Start up: flat design problems , ad tech stocks drop, life inside HP, LG’s challenge, and more


Google’s got a new motto. Photo by vizeur_photos on Flickr.

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

Flat design: its origins, its problems, and why Flat 2.0 is better for users » Nielsen-Norman Group

Kate Meyer:

Google’s Material design language is one example of flat 2.0 with the right priorities: it uses consistent metaphors and principles borrowed from physics to help users make sense of interfaces and interpret visual hierarchies in content.

The Evernote app for Android is a good example of the possible benefits of flat 2.0. Despite having a mostly flat UI, the app provides a few subtle shadows on the navigation bar and the floating plus button (‘add new’). It also makes use of the card metaphor to display content as flat, layer-able planes in a 3D space.

As with any design trend, we advise balance and moderation. Don’t make design decisions that sacrifice usability for trendiness. Don’t forget that—unless you’re designing only for other designers—you are not the user. Your preferences and ability to interpret clickability signifiers aren’t the same as your users’ because you know what each element in your own design is intended to do.

Early pseudo3D GUIs and Steve-Jobs-esque skeuomorphism often produced heavy, clunky interfaces.Scaling back from those excesses is good for usability. But removing visual distinctions to produce fully flat designs with no signifiers can be an equally bad extreme. Flat 2.0 provides an opportunity for compromise—visual simplicity without sacrificing signifiers.

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Ad tech stocks keep falling » WSJ

Jack Marshall notes they’re down by 17%-50%:

Serious questions about the future of ad tech and online advertising are also mounting. Some online publishers say they’re now actively avoiding working with third-party ad tech firms, for example, because they argue the vendors devalue their ad space.

Meanwhile the industry is struggling to come to grips with major challenges such as the growth of ad-blocking technologies, and the ongoing problem of fraudulent or “non-human” Internet traffic.

The latter problem might be the one that really does for ad tech companies.
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Autonomy ex-boss Lynch tells of poisonous life within HP in High Court showdown » The Register

Neil McAllister:

The suit asserts that many parties within HP “viewed Autonomy negatively,” including HP CFO Cathie Lesjak, who had never liked how the merger looked on paper; HP’s then-software boss Bill Veghte, who hadn’t played a role in the acquisition and reportedly felt snubbed; and the bosses of HP’s hardware division, who viewed Apotheker’s software-centric strategy as a threat.

Even where there was no direct animosity at play, other HP divisions were given perverse incentives to undermine Autonomy, Lynch claimed.

“In Autonomy’s case, other HP business units did not receive ‘quota credit’ or commissions for sales of Autonomy products,” the suit reads. “As a result, HP business units were incentivized to market and sell competing third-party products rather than Autonomy software.”

When HP did sell Autonomy to its customers, the suit alleges, it often did so at deep discounts, without Autonomy’s knowledge. In other cases, HP sales teams would jack up Autonomy’s price tag to boost their own bottom line, which had the result of making competing software look like a better bargain.

Similarly, sales of HP hardware to Autonomy didn’t count toward the hardware division’s sales quota. Thus, Lynch’s suit alleges, the hardware group refused to certify Autonomy on its machines. Dealings with the hardware group were so fraught, the suit adds, that even obtaining HP hardware on which to demo Autonomy proved impossible, and the demo machines were ultimately sourced from competitors, such as Oracle.

Read all about it. Seems like quite standard corporate politics, especially in a sales-driven environment like HP.
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Apple’s clever tech makes the iPhone 6s nearly waterproof » WIRED

Brian Barrett:

The phones that have offered this level of water resistance, though, haven’t exactly been chart-toppers. The Samsung Galaxy S6 Active; the Sony Xperia Z3; the HTC Desire Eye; these are phones (or variants) you may have heard of, but their aquaphobia hasn’t demonstrably made them any more desirable. Besides which, the new iPhones aren’t necessarily more water-resistant than others, at least not in any way that’s easily perceivable to consumers; they’re just water-resistant in a more clever way.

Even if it’s largely invisible to its customers, that cleverness could pay off soon for Apple. “Now that you can pay a small monthly fee and get a new iPhone every year, Apple’s going to be getting a lot of iPhones back,” says Suovanen of the company’s new iPhone Upgrade Plan. “In the long run this may help them save money. Because the iPhones are less susceptible to water damage, they’re getting them back in better condition.”

That helps explain, too, Apple opting not to coat the case itself. The same features that make a waterproof case effective make it hell to take apart or repair.

“Nearly waterproof” is a nothing phrase; it’s like “nearly pregnant”. It’s water-resistant to a higher IP rating than previous models. That nothing has been bruited about this seems anomalous.
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Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ becomes Alphabet’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ » WSJ

Alistair Barr:

“Don’t be evil” is so 2004.

Alphabet Inc. posted a new code of conduct for its employees Friday, after Google completed its transformation into a holding company. There were few substantive changes in more than 20 documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Alphabet code of conduct, posted on its website, is among them.

Google’s code of conduct, of course, is best-known for its first line, which was also included in Google’s 2004 filing for its initial public offering: “Don’t be evil.”

Alphabet’s code doesn’t include that phrase. Instead, it says employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries “should do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”

“Don’t be evil” marked Google’s aspiration to be a different company. But the phrase also has been held up by critics who say Google has not always lived up to it.

Google’s code of conduct is much longer than Alphabet’s. It includes idiosyncracies about drinking alcohol at work (OK but not too much) and taking pets to the office (dogs are cool but cats are discouraged).

The Alphabet code sticks to the basics: avoid conflicts of interest, maintain integrity and obey the law.

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Apple patent for iPhone with wraparound screen » Business Insider

Lisa Eadicicco:


The patent, which was published on September 29, is a continuation of various patents Apple has filed in the past. It’s not necessarily a new idea — Apple has been filing similar patent applications since 2013. Regardless, it’s still interesting to speculate that the company may still be experimenting with these types of ideas.

In the document, Apple says that a design like this could change the way we use our iPhones. If the screen of your iPhone were extended, you wouldn’t be limited to interacting with the device’s screen only on the front of the phone.

Apple notes that other aspects of the device found along the side — such as the mute switch, power, and volume buttons — can’t be used with apps since they’re only programmed to perform one task.

Apple’s been doing this since 2013, which implies it thinks it’s a fruitful thing to follow. Notice there’s no home button. (10yo’s opinion: “they haven’t thought this through. People drop their phones and if you have a wraparound one it will break.”)
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FBI: We unmasked and collared child porn creep on Tor with spy tool » The Register

Luis Escobosa, of Staten Island, admitted to Feds he broke federal child pornography laws by viewing depraved photos on a hidden Tor service. Unknown to Escobosa, the Feds were running the hidden server, and were using it to feed him spyware.

The child porn website’s systems were seized in Lenoir, North Carolina, after agents got a court order in February. The Feds continued to keep it in operation for two weeks afterwards to catch perverts using it. The site had nearly 215,000 users.

Because users had to use Tor to access the warped website, the web server’s logs were of little use to investigators – they simply listed the nodes of the anonymizing network. Instead, the FBI deployed a NIT – a “network investigative technique,” or what in the hands of criminals would be termed spyware.

The FBI has been using NITs for over a decade. While the Escobosa indictment doesn’t give details, other court documents have stated that the software was developed by adapting a tool written by white hat hacker HD Moore called the Metasploit Decloaking Engine.

A NIT works like this: a file, typically a Flash file, is hosted by a seized child porn website, and sent to web browsers when perverts visit the hidden service via Tor. This Flash file is run in Adobe’s plugin, and establishes a direct connection to an FBI-controlled server on the public internet without going through Tor.

The Feds can then, in most cases, read off the user’s real public IP address from this connection, unmasking the scumbag.

Hmm – maybe keep Flash just for Tor sites? Wait, this is complicated.
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Apple Pay’s grim reality » PaymentsSource

Daniel Wolfe:

Drilling down to individual financial institutions, there is still little movement among consumers, even at major debit issuers like SunTrust.

“Adoption numbers are pretty small at this point,” said Shannon Johnson, SunTrust’s senior vice president of consumer deposits and payments, in a separate presentation at PayThink. “At SunTrust, about 15% of iPhone 6 owners have provisioned their card and about 25% of those have done [at least one] transaction.”

First Financial Credit Union also presented Apple Pay adoption figures at the event. Of its 65,000 members, 9,000 use mobile banking and 48% of those use an iPhone. Of the iPhone users, just 8% – 345 members – use Apple Pay.

The lack of use stems, in part, from a lack of creativity among Apple partners, Johnson said. For most issuers, Apple Pay abruptly appeared on the scene with little warning but a clear message to get on board.

“Prior to that it was conceptual, the option of mobile wallets; it then became real,” she said. “We’re so early in the stages in terms of understanding the opportunity.”

Low use isn’t surprising, because until last week in the US you could just swipe your card to make a transaction: quicker than Apple Pay. Now, people will have to insert their cards into readers (“dip”) and sign, at least; or dip-and-PIN. This has already led to longer queues, apparently. So Apple Pay might appeal as a quicker way to do things. Being ready to catch markets just as they take off is the key.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘privacy is a fundamental human right’ » NPR

The full interview is on the page; there are short transcript extracts, including this:

Let me be clear. If you buy something from the App Store, we do know what you bought from the App Store, obviously. We think customers are fine with that. Many customers want us to recommend an app.

But what they don’t want to do, they don’t want your email to be read, and then to pick up on keywords in your email and then to use that information to then market you things on a different application that you’re using. …

If you’re in our News app, and you’re reading something, we don’t think that in the News app that we should know what you did with us on the Music app — not to trade information from app to app to app to app.

That latter part is the real distance between Apple and Google. Question is, which leads to the better customer experience over time?
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Will LG’s V10 flagship be able to shake China’s and India’s smartphone market? » Strategy Analytics

Woody Oh of the analysis company takes an overview of LG’s new phone:

it’s getting clear that LG has put the utmost efforts in creating V10 in the following aspects.

1. Dual Screens : While it is estimated to be an extremely hard task to implement dual screens with one LCD panel, LG did a great job in creating the small, but “always-on” secondary display where you can make your smartphone usage better and more diversified.

2. Dual Cameras (5MP+5MP, Front-facing) : While we have to wait for LG’s updates on the applicable usages by this dual front-facing cameras, the purported function to be able to widen the angle when taking the selfie would be regarded as a differentiator, requiring no need to bring the selfie stick when you are in a hurry.

3. Separate 32bit Hi-Fi Audio DAC (Digital to Analog Convertor) supporting 384kHz and Headphone AMP : Listening to music on smartphones are becoming a common habit for almost all smartphone users, young generation in particular, so users are naturally keen to seek for better audio quality while listening. LG’s new bid for integrating the separate Hi-Fi audio chip and headphone amplifier will be a clear differentiator in this respect as more and more people are inclined to carry only one multi-media focused device these days.

4. Professional Mode of Camera and Video: Needless to say, LG is one of the best smartphone makers who can create the best still image quality with its differentiated software, enabling an even novice to take the best picture with very easy mode setting. With V10, LG is expected to make a step further, making the common users become the best movie maker with its easy, but professional setting mode.

I look at that list, and I think: if Apple put those into a new phone, which would it make a noise about? Which would reviewers and customers make a noise about? I think the audio and “camera pro mode” things are gimmicks: you’ll never, ever, ever hear the difference in sound (young users have never, ever sought “better audio quality”; ironically, that’s for oldsters, whose hearing is already deteriorating). Camera pro modes are recipes for confusion.

The dual screen? Depends how useful it really is. The dual front cameras? Might be popular.

The real question is: what’s the difference between a truly useful feature and a gimmick? I don’t think it’s self-evident. (The whole SA note is worth reading for its points about branding too.)
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Taiwan market: Toshiba no longer selling consumer notebooks » Digitimes

Aaron Lee and Adam Hwang:

Toshiba has shifted its notebook marketing focus from consumer to business-use models in Asia, Latin America and Central Europe, and has stopped selling consumer notebooks in Taiwan, according to the vendor’s Taiwan sales agent Grainew.

However, Toshiba will maintain marketing of consumer and business notebooks in West Europe and North America markets because consumer models are still profitable there, Grainew said.

In the Taiwan market, Grainew sells about 1,000 units of a Toshiba high-end business notebook model a month currently and expects monthly sales to increase 10-20% in 2016, the company indicated. While unit sales has decreased after giving up the consumer segment, overall gross margin has increased significantly, Grainew said.

Tiny numbers; smaller companies like Toshiba will increasingly withdraw completely from the consumer PC market because the margins aren’t there.
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