Start up: iPhone 6S ain’t no scale, Samsung’s tablet TV, Theranos woes worsen, smartphones slow, and more

The Computing Scale Co
You’ll have to stick to this rather than your fancy smartphone. Photo by Kenny Louie on Flickr.

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A selection of 8 links for you. Eat, drink and be lairy. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Turning the iPhone 6s into a digital scale » Medium

Ryan McLeod had the idea of making a weighing app using the “3D Touch” capability of the iPhone 6S screen. It sorta worked (using a spoon as a scale), but…

To make a long story short the final answer over the phone was that the concept of a scale app was not appropriate for the App Store.

We were—and still are—bummed to say the least, but we understand some of the reasons Apple might not be allowing scale apps at this time.

Maybe it’s because the screen could get damaged if people tried dropping heavy weights on their phone—thing is that the sensor won’t weigh beyond a maximum weight of ~385g (0.85 lbs) and you’d be hard pressed (har) to damage the screen with that little weight (Gravity also flashes a bright red warning). In addition to that it’s hard to balance heavy objects on a spoon, but then again people will be people and we completely understand why Apple didn’t advertise the 6s’s new water-resistant properties.

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License plate readers exposed » Electronic Frontier Foundation

Dave Maass and Cooper Quintin:

Law enforcement agencies around the country have been all too eager to adopt mass surveillance technologies, but sometimes they have put little effort into ensuring the systems are secure and the sensitive data they collect on everyday people is protected.

Case in point: automated license plate recognition (ALPR) systems. 

Earlier this year, EFF learned that more than a hundred ALPR cameras were exposed online, often with totally open web pages accessible by anyone with a browser. In five cases, we were able to track the cameras to their sources: St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Kenner Police in Louisiana; Hialeah Police Department in Florida; and the University of Southern California’s public safety department. These cases are very similar, but unrelated to, major vulnerabilities in Boston’s ALPR network uncovered in September by DigBoston and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. 

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Cutting sugar improves children’s health in just 10 days » The New York Times

Anahad O’Connor:

The new research may help shed light on a question scientists have long debated: Is sugar itself harming health, or is the weight gain that comes from consuming sugary drinks and foods mainly what contributes to illness over the long term?

In the new study, which was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published Tuesday in the journal Obesity, scientists designed a clinical experiment to attempt to answer this question. They removed foods with added sugar from a group of children’s diets and replaced them with other types of carbohydrates so that the subjects’ weight and overall calorie intake remained roughly the same.

After 10 days, the children showed dramatic improvements, despite losing little or no weight. The findings add to the argument that all calories are not created equal, and they suggest that those from sugar are especially likely to contribute to Type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases, which are on the rise in children, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Benioff Children’s Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco.

This seems so staringly obvious, yet politicians and industry lobbyists in the US and UK resist the idea of reducing sugar intake fiercely. It’s as if they’re more interested in money than health – because the health costs are offloaded elsewhere, onto health services. Such are externalities.
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In Tanzania, you can now get your birth certificate by mobile phone – Quartz

Omar Mohammed:

More than 90% of children in east Africa’s second largest economy [Tanzania] have no birth certificates. This is despite a law mandating that new babies be registered.

For some rural families, however, bad roads make it prohibitive to travel the distance to government agencies to secure birth certificates. So a lot of families simply forgo the process. The mobile phone is about to change all that.

First launched in 2013, in a partnership with the mobile carrier Tigo and UNICEF, a mobile-based system by Tanzanian government now allows health workers to deliver birth certificates in a matter of days using SMS. The approach is now operational in 10 of the country’s 26 regions.

The way it works is health workers send a text that includes a baby’s name, sex, date of birth and family details to a central database managed by the Registration Insolvency & Trusteeship Agency (RITA), a government body. Once received, an automated response allows them to issue the document soon after. The government is now looking to expand the initiative into the rest of the country in the next five years.

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Samsung Galaxy View hands-on review » The Inquirer

James Archer on Samsung’s 18.4in “tablet”:

Evidently, this is something that needs to be placed on a table, not held up by hand. The stand does include a carry handle, and the hinge feels strong enough to comfortably take the weight, but it’s still heavy enough that we wouldn’t want to lug it around, even in the included carry case. It’s easily as heavy as a large laptop, and with that stand it takes up more space than one as well.

Perhaps it’s just us being used to flat, easily portable slates, but the Galaxy View’s general design seems a bit, well, awkward. The fact that the stand can’t be removed means that it’s always flapping around, adding bulk and threatening to trap our fingers whenever we wanted to move the device around. Also, other than the front panel, which is made from glass, the entire thing is constructed with cheap-feeling plastics that are a far cry from the premium metallic bodywork of Samsung’s smartphones and more recent tablets.

As for connectivity, there’s a standard microUSB port and a microSD slot, as well as Bluetooth 4.1. Some form of display connectivity, like mini HDMI, might have made sense here, but at least the Galaxy View is big enough to be watchable from a good few feet away.

The Galaxy View’s screen is 18.4in diagonally, but it has a relatively low pixel density of 119ppi owing to the 1920×1080 resolution.

Clearly designed to be viewed from a distance; not so much a tablet as a Google TV. But where’s the remote?
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Inside Apple’s perfectionism machine » Mashable

Lance Ulanoff with a long piece on Apple’s fastidious approach to design:

Apple, however, is growing at a time of sea change in the PC industry, where devotion to a piece of hardware may be less important than connection to files, content and services. As the cloud looms larger, will the hardware we use still matter? Schiller rejects this notion.

“No. 1, the importance and value of great hardware has not diminished in any way,” he said. “Across the board, our goal is to make the best in the categories we choose to compete in. It’s what we’re doing and it’s reflected in customers choosing our products over anyone else’s. So I do think people are showing with their choice that they do value quality and beauty of the hardware and that is not diminishing.”

“I have never heard anyone say, ‘Because I like to keep my stuff in the cloud, I will take a cheap piece of hardware and I want it to be ugly.’ All things being equal, of course, nobody wants that,” Schiller said.

He also rejects the idea that there’s a growing market for hybrids, or, to be more specific, laptops with touch screens that also happen to be tablets. 

“There certainly are more offerings today, more people trying to create a market. But based on all the data that I’ve been able to see, it is still incredibly small and niche and may not be growing to anything significant. Time will tell,” he told me. 

“Time will tell” is one of those Apple phrases that Steve Jobs used to use which meant “we’re already making one.”
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The FDA’s notes from its visit to Theranos’ labs don’t look good » Business Insider

Lydia Ramsey:

The FDA has released documents related to its visit to Theranos’ labs, and they don’t look good.

Theranos, a $10bn company that says its blood tests can be done accurately with a single drop of blood, has come under fire after a lengthy Wall Street Journal exposé questioned just how revolutionary the startup was.

The reports are Form 483s, which are issued at the end of inspections when investigators see anything that may violate the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act. They are from an FDA visit that took place between August 25 and September 16, and they are heavily redacted. Nevertheless, they are worrisome.

Basically, they’re saying that Theranos’s “nanotainers” don’t have regulatory approval and aren’t sufficiently documented. This isn’t looking in any way good.

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Smartphone shipments reach second-highest level for a single quarter » IDC

According to the latest preliminary results from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 355.2m smartphones worldwide in the third quarter of 2015 (3Q15), up 6.8% from the 332.6m units in 3Q14, marking the second highest quarter of shipments on record. The 3Q15 shipments were slightly below IDC’s previous forecast of 363.8m units, largely due to slightly lower than expected iPhone shipments, as well as Android flagship introductions from several top-tier OEMs with price points outside the consumer sweet spot.

“The vendor landscape and product offerings are really unique at the moment as many markets are seeing consumers become more aware of alternative buying options when it comes to paying for their smartphone,” said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Couple of things: this is the slowest growth for six years (third quarter of 2009 was equally slow, during the world financial crisis); Samsung’s colossal total of 84.5m is a record, though achieved very much by stuffing the channel and cutting prices; it is losing share in the US and China, and pushing phones in Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and central Europe. And Huawei is growing enormously fast – up 61% in a year.
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2 thoughts on “Start up: iPhone 6S ain’t no scale, Samsung’s tablet TV, Theranos woes worsen, smartphones slow, and more

  1. I love the Gravity scale story Charles A. Thanks – what do you think will happen and why do you think that Apple rejected it?

    There must be some fear of screen breakages!


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