Start up: Google’s antitrust expansion, Morocco goes solar, Apple Music revealed?, IoT hacked again, and more


What makes a great selfie? Ask a neural network. Photo by Verónica Bautista on Flickr.

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

EU antitrust chief Vestager speaks about Google and other key cases » WSJ

Amazing to think it’s a year since Vestager took over (and the Google case[s] still aren’t resolved…). She tells Tom Fairless and Stephen Fidler in a long interview that with the cases against various bits of Google’s operations:

what they have in common is that the name Google appears in each one, but apart from that they are very different. And therefore I do not think of it as one Google case but literally as different investigations and different cases.

WSJ: So there’s not a read across from the shopping case to the others?

MV: Well, there may be a lesson learned. It’s a very fine balance. The shopping case may have similarities when we eventually look at maps and travel and a number of other related services, because the complaints sort of tell the same story. People feel or experience that they are either being demoted, or Google preferences its own services. But there is no such thing as you have done one, you’ve done them all. You can’t do that. On the other hand, if you look at the shopping case then there will be insights that will probably also be valid when it comes to other neighboring markets. But it’s a very, very fine balance, because we cannot do one case and then say the rest is the same. In a union of law and with due process, this cannot be the case.

WSJ: But equally, Google has many business lines besides shopping and could have many more in the future, and you would presumably not want to open a new case each time. So you would want to establish some sort of precedent?

MV: Yes, but still whatever precedent comes out has to be taken from the finalization of the case. And since we’re not there yet, it is very difficult to see where that will take us.

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What a deep neural network thinks about your #selfie » Andrej Karpathy

Karpathy set a neural network to examine a few million not-liked and well-liked selfies, and draw conclusions:

A few patterns stand out for me, and if you notice anything else I’d be happy to hear about in the comments. To take a good selfie, Do:

• Be female. Women are consistently ranked higher than men. In particular, notice that there is not a single guy in the top 100.
• Face should occupy about 1/3 of the image. Notice that the position and pose of the face is quite consistent among the top images. The face always occupies about 1/3 of the image, is slightly tilted, and is positioned in the center and at the top. Which also brings me to:
• Cut off your forehead. What’s up with that? It looks like a popular strategy, at least for women.
• Show your long hair. Notice the frequent prominence of long strands of hair running down the shoulders.
• Oversaturate the face. Notice the frequent occurrence of over-saturated lighting, which often makes the face look much more uniform and faded out. Related to that,
• Put a filter on it. Black and White photos seem to do quite well, and most of the top images seem to contain some kind of a filter that fades out the image and decreases the contrast.
• Add a border. You will notice a frequent appearance of horizontal/vertical white borders.

You can also tweet your selfies to @deepselfie and get a score (100% is top!).
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Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project » The Guardian

Arthur Neslen:

When they are finished, the four plants at Ouarzazate will occupy a space as big as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and generate 580MW of electricity, enough to power a million homes. Noor 1 itself has a generating capacity of 160MW.

Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, believes that solar energy could have the same impact on the region this century that oil production had in the last. But the $9bn (£6bn) project to make her country’s deserts boom was triggered by more immediate concerns, she said.

“We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget,” el-Haite told the Guardian. “We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”

Solar energy will make up a third of Morocco’s renewable energy supply by 2020, with wind and hydro taking the same share each.

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Lawsuit accuses Apple’s iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist of burning through $5M+ in data » Apple Insider

Neil Hughes:

Apple was slapped with a class-action suit on Friday, claiming that the company failed to properly warn users that the new Wi-Fi Assist feature in iOS 9 will use data from their cellular plan.

In the complaint, plaintiffs William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips allege that because of costs related to Wi-Fi Assist, the “overall amount in controversy exceeds” $5m. Filed in a U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday, the suit was first discovered by AppleInsider.

Once users update to iOS 9, Wi-Fi Assist is turned on by default. Its goal is ensure a smooth internet experience, switching to cellular data in the event that the user is connected to a weak Wi-Fi signal.
The lawsuit claims that Apple “downplays the possible data overcharges a user could incur” from Wi-Fi Assist.

Some who don’t understand how Wi-Fi Assist works, or even that it exists, have alleged that the new feature has caused them to use more cellular data than anticipated. But the new class-action suit alleges it should be Apple who should reimburse customers for any overages [excess data use].

Default-enabling something that could burn through your mobile data is plain stupid. Why not offer people the chance of whether to use it the first time the chance comes up? This is poor focus – putting user experience in the narrow field of device use ahead of the wider user experience of “how big is my mobile bill?”

It puzzles me how implementations like this get through Apple’s processes. (See also: the pain of being the person working on Wi-Fi inside Apple.)
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TalkTalk boss says cybersecurity ‘head and shoulders’ above competitors » The Guardian

Josh Halliday:

TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding has insisted the company’s cybersecurity is “head and shoulders” better than its competitors in the wake of the massive hack attack affecting thousands of customers.

In an interview with the Guardian, Harding conceded it would be “naive” to rule out the prospect of the telecoms firm suffering a similar cyber-attack in the future, describing the threat from hackers as “the crime of our generation”.

Asked about claims by an IT researcher that he raised concerns about TalkTalk’s security with her office last September, Harding said its security had “improved dramatically” in the last year.

TalkTalk’s customer account details (excluding bank details, but including usernames and phone numbers) were stolen from an India call centre last year, and again, and now it has been hacked in a big way. The hackers are miles ahead of the companies here – which is becoming a depressingly common refrain. Also see the blogpost from last October showing how poor TalkTalk’s cybersecurity was.
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Content paywalls on the agenda for digital news sites » FT.com

Matthew Garrahan:

Business Insider, which was acquired by German media group Axel Springer last month for close to $390m already charges for its research service and is now on course to be one of the first digital only news operations to erect a paywall around some of its general content. John Ore, Business Insider’s product manager, said in a recent blog post that the company was planning a broad “subscription offering” for readers “who prefer to pay us directly”.

Sweeping changes to the online advertising market mean other free news sites may follow suit. Sir Martin Sorrell thinks all newspapers should charge for content: the chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising group said this week that paywalls were “the way to go”.

The problem, he says, is the lack of growth in digital advertising — an issue which is likely to get worse as ad blocking software grows in popularity. Ad blockers pose a real threat to the revenues generated by news sites. Meanwhile, rampant online ad fraud and the fact that brands often do not know whether their campaigns are being seen by real people, has shaken confidence in an industry that could do without the additional anxiety.

Would Business Insider try to block people using adblockers, as Axel Springer has?
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New screenshots purportedly show Apple Music for Android ahead of release » 9to5Google

Mike Beasley:

In bringing its software to Android, Apple has taken a slightly different approach from Google’s own iOS apps. While Google’s apps attempt to mimic the company’s Material Design principles—even going so far as to include custom-made toggle switches and other elements—Apple relies on UI elements built into Android rather than attempting to recreate the iOS versions of them. The main navigation has even been moved from an iOS-like tab bar to a more Android-friendly slide-out sidebar.

Despite this, the company hasn’t managed to stick completely to Google’s design guidelines and has injected some of its own style into the app. For example, the For Me page almost identically mirrors its iOS counterpart.

The images appear to be legitimate and match up with the design Apple teased during the Apple Music announcement at WWDC this year. Not every feature of the app is shown off in the screenshots below, but you can get a feel for how the app will look and behave from our gallery of screenshots.

Looks quite Android-y, though not a full dive into Material.
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DoJ to Apple: your software is licensed, not sold, so we can force you to decrypt » Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:

The Justice Department lawyers argue [in a case where a defendant’s phone has been seized but they won’t give up the passcode; Apple has however acknowledged that it can bypass the code in pre-iOS 8 devices] that because Apple licenses its software – as opposed to selling it outright – that it is appropriate for the government to demand that Apple provide assistance in its legal cases.

To my knowledge, this is an entirely novel argument, but as I say, it has far-reaching consequences. Virtually every commercial software vendor licenses its products, rather than selling them. If the DoJ establishes the precedent that a product’s continued ownership interest in a product after it is sold obliges the company to act as agents of the state, this could ripple out to cars and pacemakers, voting machines and tea-kettles, thermostats and CCTVs and door locks and every other device with embedded software.

Might work in this particular case, but devices running iOS 8 onwards it won’t. That of course doesn’t apply to the many more internet-enabled “things”. Though those bring their own associated problems…
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Compromised CCTV and NAS devices found participating in DDoS attacks » Slashdot

the security firm Incapsula [reports] that its researchers discovered compromised closed circuit cameras as well as home network attached storage (NAS) devices participating in denial of service attacks. The compromised machines included a CCTV at a local mall, just a couple minutes from the Incapsula headquarters.

According to the report, Incapsula discovered the infections as part of an investigation into a distributed denial of service attack on what it described as a “rarely-used asset” at a “large cloud service.” The attack used a network of 900 compromised cameras to create a flood of HTTP GET requests, at a rate of around 20,000 requests per second, to try to disable the cloud-based server. The cameras were running the same operating system: embedded Linux with BusyBox, which is a collection of Unix utilities designed for resource-constrained endpoints.

The Internet of Compromised Things is growing faster than our ability to cope with its effects.
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