Start up: the smartphone generation, OLED for iPhone?, VR’s Atari moment, and more


A new paper says this might not be enough to give an accurate measurement of your blood. Oh, hello, Theranos, didn’t see you there. Photo by biologycorner on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. (Ooh, are those turkey sandwiches?) I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The generation that doesn’t remember life before smartphones » Popular Mechanics

Jacqueline Detwiler:

Zac [aged 18] probably started developing memories around 1999, the year Napster upended the music industry by turning songs into sharable files that nobody owned. Or maybe in 2000, the year Google became Google. Regardless, he is part of the first generation of human beings who never really lived before the whole world was connected by pocket-sized electronic devices. These kids might never read a map or stop at a gas station to ask directions, nor have they ever seen their parents do so. They will never need to remember anyone’s phone number. Their late-night dorm-room arguments over whether Peyton or Eli Manning won more Super Bowl MVPs will never go unsettled for more than a few seconds. They may never have to buy a flashlight. Zac is one of the first teenagers in the history of teenagers whose adult personality will be shaped by which apps he uses, how frequently he texts, and whether he’s on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat. Or whatever comes after Snapchat. Clicking like, clicking download, clicking buy, clicking send—each is an infinitesimal decision in the course of the modern American teenager’s life. They do this, collectively, millions of times a minute. But together these tiny decisions make up an alarming percentage of their lives. This generation is the first for whom the freedom to express every impulse to the entire world is as easy as it used to be to open your mouth and talk to a friend.

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Samsung Gear VR review: virtual reality finds its Atari moment » WSJ

Geoffrey Fowler:

unlike other phone-goggle contraptions, the Gear VR headset has its own motion sensors, so it does a much better job of tracking your head movements when you’re turning or looking up. And it pushes the Samsung phone’s processor to cut motion delay to under 20 milliseconds, reducing the nausea-inducing blur. (My test Galaxy S6 Edge Plus worked so hard when mounted, it could blow through its huge battery with an hour or two of intensive VR.)

Other improvements also make Gear VR much more comfortable: The headset itself is less heavy—slimmed 19% from an experimental headset Samsung debuted last year. You can comfortably fit glasses inside, and there’s also a focus adjustment that makes the view more pleasurable for aging eyes.

Yet there’s still some discomfort. Wearing anything on your face for an hour can get old. Also, I occasionally encountered what appeared to be a flicker in the brightest parts of the screen. (Samsung says that’s rare, and has to do with the way my brain processes the screen refresh itself.)

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Home Office meeting re IPBill » RevK’s rants

Adrian Kennard (who runs an internet service provider) went to talk to MPs about their Draft Investigatory Powers bill:

At the start of the briefing the the bill was explained, and we heard a story very similar to Theresa May’s comments along the lines of:-

“Consider the case of a teenage girl going missing. At present we can ask her mobile provider for call records before she went missing which could be invaluable to finding her. But for Internet access, all we get is that the Internet was accessed 300 times. What would be useful would be to know she accessed twitter just before she went missing in the same way as we could see she make a phone call”

Now, I am sure this is a well-practised speech, used many times before. I am sure the response has been nodding of heads and agreement with how important “Internet connection records” are, obviously.

However, I, and other ISPA members immediately pointed out the huge flaw in this argument. If the mobile provider was even able to tell that she had used Twitter at all (which is not as easy as it sounds), it would show that the phone had been connected to Twitter 24 hours a day, and probably Facebook as well. This is because the very nature of messaging and social media applications is that they stay connected so that they can quickly alert you to messages, calls, or amusing cat videos, without any delay.

This seemed to fool them somewhat and they had no real answer – we were not just nodding and agreeing, and that was unexpected 🙂

Not much wisdom on any other point either – including whether he could be compelled to lie if he were to use a “canary” over search warrants.
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Apple to adopt OLED display for iPhone from 2018 » Nikkei Asian Review

Apple plans to introduce organic light-emitting diode displays for iPhones starting in 2018, sending suppliers racing to fine-tune the technology and invest in capacity expansion.

In light of the decision, South Korea’s LG Display is already planning capacity upgrades. But securing enough panels for the more than 200m phones Apples ships globally every year will likely prove difficult. The US company is thus likely to opt for offering OLED iPhones alongside those using LCD screens.

There are technical challenges as well. The brightness, energy-saving capacity and other functions of OLED panels tend to degrade over time. Apple has begun consulting with display makers and their suppliers of manufacturing equipment about the technology. The companies will work over the next year or so to see whether those drawbacks can be eliminated and a stable supply of screens secured…

…Apple’s shift to OLED displays will have major implications for two Japanese suppliers – Sharp, which is scrambling to rebuild its faltering operations, and Japan Display, which relies on the technology giant for 30% of its business.

2018? That’s a long way off. Why not jump to AMOLED? (Note: LG is spending $8.7bn on a new OLED plant to begin production in the first half of 2018. Coincidence?
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New study spills doubt on some fingerprick blood tests » Ars Technica UK

Beth Mole:

Tiny blood droplets that leak successively from a pricked finger can have widely variable contents, researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology. In some cases, test results on such finger-bled droplets had nearly eight times more variation than vein-harvested blood samples—the gold standard. Only when the authors tested upwards of five drops combined (60 to 100 microliters) were they able to get accurate results. The study raises concerns that new diagnostic tests that rely on blood drops may yield inaccurate results.

*turns slowly to look at Theranos*
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OnePlus concedes that its USB type-C cables are out of spec, will offer refunds » Android Police

Ryan Whitwam:

Google engineer Benson Leung recently started a crusade against bad USB type-C cables, and one of the cables he warned people to stay away from is the one sold by OnePlus. Now OnePlus has responded to the uproar, saying that it will offer refunds to customers who purchased these cables. Well, you can apply for a refund. It’s not clear how long it’ll take.

The issue is that OP’s type-C cable and the type-C adapter both have a 10kΩ resistor, which as Benson Leung has been pointing out, is potentially dangerous to use with some devices. A proper type-C cable has a 56kΩ resistor, and OnePlus says it is in the process of designing a new version of its accessories that have this resistor. OnePlus’ Carl Pei stresses that the cable and adapter are safe to use with the OnePlus 2 because it only pulls 2A of current. However, a phone like the Nexus 5X or 6P draws 3A, and that can cause damage to the power source.

Seems like a big oversight to miss getting the correct resistor.
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Reader’s Digest and other WordPress sites compromised to push Angler EK » Malwarebytes Unpacked

Jérôme Segura:

We’re seeing another uptick in WordPress compromises, using a slightly different modus operandi than the EITest campaign we recently blogged about, being responsible for a large number of infections via the Angler exploit kit.

The attack consists of a malicious script injected within compromised WordPress sites that launches another URL whose final purpose is to load the Angler exploit kit. Site owners that have been affected should keep in mind that those injected scripts/URLs will vary over time, although they are all using the same pattern (see IOCs below for some examples).

The website of popular magazine Reader’s Digest is one of the victims of this campaign and people who have visited the portal recently should make sure they have not been infected. The payload we observed at the time of capture was Bedep which loaded Necurs a backdoor Trojan, but that of course can change from day to day.

Solution: don’t read sites on desktop? (Thanks Ivan Ivanovich.)
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Macbook charger teardown: the surprising complexity inside Apple’s power adapter » Righto

The wonderful Ken Shirriff, who does electronics teardowns of fabulous sophistication and insight:

The Macbook 85W charger costs $79 from Apple, but for $14 you can get a charger on eBay that looks identical. Do you get anything for the extra $65? I opened up an imitation Macbook charger to see how it compares with the genuine charger. From the outside, the charger looks just like an 85W Apple charger except it lacks the Apple name and logo. But looking inside reveals big differences. The photos below show the genuine Apple charger on the left and the imitation on the right.


Inside the Apple 85W Macbook charger (left) vs an imitation charger (right). The genuine charger is crammed full of components, while the imitation has fewer parts.

The imitation charger has about half the components of the genuine charger and a lot of blank space on the circuit board. While the genuine Apple charger is crammed full of components, the imitation leaves out a lot of filtering and regulation as well as the entire PFC [Power Factor Correction] circuit. The transformer in the imitation charger (big yellow rectangle) is much bulkier than in Apple’s charger; the higher frequency of Apple’s more advanced resonant converter allows a smaller transformer to be used.

Also included: a microprocessor with as much power as the original Mac.
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The Telharmonium was the Spotify of 1906 » Atlas Obscura

Ella Morton:

Invented by lawyer Thaddeus Cahill and initially known as the dynamophone, the telharmonium made use of telephone networks to transmit music from a central hub in midtown Manhattan to restaurants, hotels, and homes around the city. Subscribers could pick up their phone, ask the operator to connect them to the telharmonium, and the wires of their phone line would be linked with the wires emerging from the telharmonium station. The electrically generated tunes would then stream from their phone receiver, which was fitted with a large paper funnel to help pump up the volume. (The electric amplifier had not yet been invented.) 

The music was generated live at what Cahill called a “music plant,” which was located at Broadway and 39th Street. An entire floor of the building, which came to be known as Telharmonic Hall, was filled with the 200 tons of machinery required to generate the telharmonium’s tunes. With its banks of spinning rotors, switchboards, transformers, and alternators, the behemoth instrument gave “the impression of nothing so much as a busy machine-shop, or the center of a considerable manufacturing industry,” according to a 1906 article in McClure’s Magazine.

“Facebook, invented by Thaddeus Zuckerberg..” Why isn’t anyone called Thaddeus anymore? Notice also that this is an American publication, yet it uses “Spotify” as its shortcut for “streaming service” rather than, say, Pandora.
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Jonathan Mayer, well-known online security expert, joins F.C.C. » The New York Times

Natasha Singer:

Among digital security experts, Mr. Mayer is known, among other things, as the Stanford computer scientist who reported in 2012 that Google was bypassing privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser by placing bits of code in digital ads that tracked the sites users visited. Google subsequently agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that the company had misrepresented its privacy practices.

Now Mr. Mayer, 28, has a new handle: federal regulator.

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission said it had hired Mr. Mayer as chief technologist in the agency’s enforcement bureau.

Impressive hiring.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

One thought on “Start up: the smartphone generation, OLED for iPhone?, VR’s Atari moment, and more

  1. A great set of links as always, Charles.

    It strikes me that the Investigatory Powers Bill is going to be out of date soon, if not already. The concepts are based on the Internet with Web pages, email and maybe some instant messaging. That doesn’t really reflect the Internet as it is now with apps for significant interaction, or how it will be in the future as more and more devices are connected to the Internet. When your connected fridge talks to the supermarket to order more milk, can the police/government access those records to determine your whereabouts, even though that action was automatically generated by the fridge?

    The Popular Mechanics piece (which I have yet to read) seems well timed in that respect. What it means to be connected is going to change very quickly.

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