Start up: Google open-sources machine learning, Adele v streaming, Facebook’s Belgian problem, and more


Steve Reich’s Piano Phase, as a video, by Alexander Chen.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Made without nuts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Preserving security in Belgium » Facebook

Alex Stamos works on online security for Facebook, while a Belgian court has ruled that the “datr” cookie it uses is not legal. Stamos isn’t happy:

The reason I’m bullish on the datr cookie is because for at least the last five years we have used it every day to defend people’s accounts through the following actions:
• Preventing the creation of fake and spammy accounts
• Reducing the risk of someone’s account being taken over by someone else
• Protecting people’s content from being stolen
• Stopping DDoS attacks that could make our site inaccessible to people

If the court blocks us from using the datr cookie in Belgium, we would lose one of our best signals to demonstrate that someone is coming to our site legitimately. In practice, that means we would have to treat any visit to our service from Belgium as an untrusted login and deploy a range of other verification methods for people to prove that they are the legitimate owners of their accounts. It would also make Belgian devices more attractive to spammers and others who traffic in compromised accounts on underground forums…

The datr cookie is only associated with browsers, not individual people. It doesn’t contain any information that identifies or is tied to a particular person. At a technical level, we use the datr cookie to collect statistical information on the behavior of a browser on sites with social plugins, such as the Like button, to help us distinguish patterns that look like an attacker from patterns that look like a real person.

Tricky.
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Why streaming doesn’t really matter for Adele » Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:


Looking at mid-year 2015 consumer data from the US we can see that music buyers (i.e. CD buyers and download buyers) are still a largely distinct group from free streamers (excluding YouTube). While this may seem counter intuitive it is in fact evidence of the twin speed music consumer landscape that is emerging. This is why ‘Hello’ was both a streaming success (the 2nd fastest Vevo video to reach 100m views) and a sales success (the first ever song to sell a million downloads in one week in the US). These are two largely distinct groups of consumers.

As a reader of this blog you probably live much or most of your music life digitally, but for vast swathes of the population, including many music buyers, this is simply not the case. Given that the mainstream audience was so key to ‘21’s success we can make a sensible assumption that many of these will also fall into the 27% of consumers that buy music but do not stream.

This is also why it was so tricky for Apple to move into streaming: lots of iTunes users simply don’t. And also why Adele’s audience and prospects are very different from Taylor Swift’s.
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Facing pressure in China, Xiaomi also stalls in India » The Information

Amir Efrati:

the domestic Chinese market has slowed, while Xiaomi has dropped to No. 2 there after Huawei Technologies in terms of market share for the third quarter of this year, according to research firm Canalys.

The results in India seem to bear out the bear thesis on Xiaomi’s expansion plans: that it will be harder to succeed outside of China because it would have to work within the bounds of Google’s version of Android, where it can’t customize the software—and run an app store—the way it does inside of China, where Google mobile apps are almost completely absent.

In India, Xiaomi is “just another low-cost phone hardware company,” says one rival executive.

One Indian e-commerce executive whose firm sells smartphones says Xiaomi has “stagnated” online and that sales of Samsung and Motorola phones were much stronger during a recent period of online promotions known as “Big Billions Days.” Xiaomi, bucking its traditional practice of selling phones only online, has been willing to sacrifice some margin and sell phones through some retail stores in India.

If you have to offer Google Mobile Services, in the end your differentiation will be whittled away.
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Tim Cook: Apple CEO on the company’s latest venture – the iPad Pro » The Independent

David Phelan bagged an interview while the Apple chief was in London:

The iPad Pro is the most expensive tablet yet, £679 and up. At a time when iPad sales are flat, was he tempted to do as some competitors have done and released, say, a £50 tablet? “No, there are no good £50 tablets. We’ve never been about making the most, we’ve been about making the best. This was a way of making a product that people can do a lot of things with. I think it will attract a lot of PC users and people who are not currently using Apple products. And I think it will be a reason for people to upgrade who love iPad and who have been waiting for something very different and now here it is.”

Along with the Pencil, there’s a keyboard cover. Cook says it’s different from rival keyboards because with none of those would you say it “came from the same parent” as the tablet itself. “Now all of a sudden you have a keyboard that has been perfectly designed for the iPad, it’s integrated and then you’ve got the software with split view and it’s inherently very productive. I’m travelling with the iPad Pro and other than the iPhone it’s the only product I’ve got.” 

You have to love Cook’s rejection of “why did you do a stylus?” “It isn’t a stylus, it’s a Pencil.” Hear the capital. And his description of his youth as a trombone player is hilarious.
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DTEK by BlackBerry » Android Apps on Google Play

Interesting move by BlackBerry: DTEK looks at how often and to what extent other apps have been accessing your location, contacts and so on:

In this world of interconnected apps and networks, controlling what is shared and who it’s shared with can be a challenge. BlackBerry® DTEK for Android™ allows you to view and improve your privacy level and monitor application access to your camera, microphone, location and personal information. Take control with DTEK by BlackBerry.
Key Features:

• Monitor – Know at a glance the overall security rating for your device, as well as for specific security features. You can identify whether or not you need to take any action to improve the security of your device.

And so on. For Android 5.0 and up; seems like it would be a useful app for anyone on Android. Certainly some of the folk at UTB blogs found Facebook taking amazing liberties – such as Facebook accessing the phone location 561 times in 60 hours. That’s roughly every 6 minutes. You were asking about your battery life? (Apparently there’s a version coming for iOS too.)
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TensorFlow: smarter machine learning, for everyone » Official Google Blog

Sundar Pichai:

It’s a highly scalable machine learning system—it can run on a single smartphone or across thousands of computers in datacenters. We use TensorFlow for everything from speech recognition in the Google app, to Smart Reply in Inbox, to search in Google Photos. It allows us to build and train neural nets up to five times faster than our first-generation system, so we can use it to improve our products much more quickly.

We’ve seen firsthand what TensorFlow can do, and we think it could make an even bigger impact outside Google. So today we’re also open-sourcing TensorFlow. We hope this will let the machine learning community—everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists—exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code rather than just research papers. And that, in turn, will accelerate research on machine learning, in the end making technology work better for everyone. Bonus: TensorFlow is for more than just machine learning. It may be useful wherever researchers are trying to make sense of very complex data—everything from protein folding to crunching astronomy data.

No quibbles: this is excellent news. Main site is http://www.tensorflow.org. Written in Python; binaries available for Linux and Mac. I’m sure there’s another desktop OS, isn’t there?
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RECONSIDER » Medium

David Heinermeier Hansson (he usually goes by “DHH”), who founded Basecamp which – yawn! – is just mildly and continually successful:

it’s hard to carry on a conversation with most startup people these days without getting inundated with odes to network effects and the valiance of deferring “monetization” until you find something everyone in the whole damn world wants to fixate their eyeballs on.

In this atmosphere, the term startup has been narrowed to describe the pursuit of total business domination. It’s turned into an obsession with unicorns and the properties of their “success”. A whole generation of people working with and for the internet enthralled by the prospect of being transformed into a mythical creature.

But who can blame them? This set of fairytale ideals are being reinforced at every turn.
Let’s start at the bottom: People who make lots of little bets on many potential unicorns have christened themselves angels. Angels? Really?

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Piano Phase » Alexander Chen

This site is based on the first section from Steve Reich’s 1967 piece Piano Phase. Two pianists repeat the same twelve note sequence, but one gradually speeds up. Here, the musical patterns are visualized by drawing two lines, one following each pianist.

The sound is performed live in the browser with the Web Audio API, and drawn in HTML5 Canvas.

This is really wonderful. Chen is a creative director at Google Creative Lab – he has done lots of other visualisations of music.
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The consumerization of the automobile supply chain » DIGITS to DOLLARS

Jonathan Greenberg:

Last week I saw an interesting post on Venture Beat about Acer Launching an Electric All-Terrain Vehicle [quad bike, for UK readers]. This struck a chord because Taiwan-based Acer is a manufacturer of PCs and other consumer electronics (CE) devices. Acer is one of the most prominent companies in Taiwan’s CE complex, which builds almost all of our consumer gadgets. They are closely tied to some of the industry’s most important ODMs, component vendors and contract manufacturers. It is not that surprising to see a consumer electronics giant diversify into higher priced devices as they move up the value chain. However, if you don’t look at Acer as an device maker, but instead view them as a flagship of the Taiwanese electronics industry, the announcement has broader implications.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none reported.

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