Start up: EFF accuses Chromebooks, Public Enemy in Focus!, OnePlus’s iPhone extra, and more


Remember when these weren’t standardised on phones? It wasn’t long ago. Photo by dankit on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Google deceptively tracks students’ internet browsing, EFF says in FTC complaint » Electronic Frontier Foundation

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a complaint today with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Google for collecting and data mining school children’s personal information, including their Internet searches—a practice EFF uncovered while researching its “Spying on Students” campaign, which launched today.

The campaign was created to raise awareness about the privacy risks of school-supplied electronic devices and software. EFF examined Google’s Chromebook and Google Apps for Education (GAFE), a suite of educational cloud-based software programs used in many schools across the country by students as young as seven years old.

While Google does not use student data for targeted advertising within a subset of Google sites, EFF found that Google’s “Sync” feature for the Chrome browser is enabled by default on Chromebooks sold to schools. This allows Google to track, store on its servers, and data mine for non-advertising purposes, records of every Internet site students visit, every search term they use, the results they click on, videos they look for and watch on YouTube, and their saved passwords. Google doesn’t first obtain permission from students or their parents and since some schools require students to use Chromebooks, many parents are unable to prevent Google’s data collection.

Yes, we have been here before. Are we just inured to this stuff, as we are to millions of peoples’ details being stolen in hacks?
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Thunderbird “a tax” on Firefox development, and Mozilla wants to drop it » Ars Technica

Andrew Cunningham:

You might know Mozilla primarily for its Firefox browser, but for many years the company has also developed an e-mail client called Thunderbird. The two projects use the same rendering engine and other underlying technology, but Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker has announced that Mozilla would like to stop supporting Thunderbird, calling its continuing maintenance “a tax” on the more important work of developing Firefox.

“Many inside of Mozilla, including an overwhelming majority of our leadership, feel the need to be laser-focused on activities like Firefox that can have an industry-wide impact,” Baker writes. “With all due respect to Thunderbird and the Thunderbird community, we have been clear for years that we do not view Thunderbird as having this sort of potential.”

Translation: nobody pays to appear in Thunderbird. It’s a money pit.
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Flash, HTML5 and open web standards » Adobe

“Corporate Communications”:

While standards like HTML5 will be the web platform of the future across all devices, Flash continues to be used in key categories like web gaming and premium video, where new standards have yet to fully mature. Moving forward, Adobe is committed to working with industry partners, as we have with Microsoft and Google, to help ensure the ongoing compatibility and security of Flash content. In that spirit, today we are announcing that we are working together with Facebook to help ensure Flash gaming content on Facebook continues to run reliably and securely. As part of this cooperation, Facebook will report security information that helps Adobe improve the Flash Player.

This does not sound to me like “Adobe tells people to stop using Flash” – a statement that The Verge made without bothering to actually speak to anyone at Adobe. Instead the writer just leaned on his own interpretation of this (ambiguous) blogpost.

Meanwhile, in the comments on The Verge’s article, people tell it to stop using Flash for its videos. Just like Flash, irony is not quite dead.
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Introducing Microsoft PowerApps » The Official Microsoft Blog

Bill Staples, cor vp, Application Platform:

What is the cause of this business app “innovation gap” [on mobile]? Working closely with our customers, we have identified three key problems:

1) Not enough skilled mobile developers. Gartner predicts, “through 2017, the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organization capacity to deliver them.*” There simply aren’t enough skilled developers to keep up with demand for business app scenarios.

2) Business data proliferation. Business data has proliferated spanning on premises systems and beyond the firewall to SaaS clouds. With data stored in many systems, it is difficult to connect to and consume related data from within an app.

3) IT agility and app sharing. Mobile app distribution typically happens through app stores, or through mobile device management, governed by IT.  This creates inherent friction in getting apps onto employee phones.

Today, we’re excited to introduce Microsoft PowerApps as a unique solution to these problems. PowerApps is an enterprise service for innovators everywhere to connect, create and share business apps with your team on any device in minutes. And PowerApps helps anyone in your organization unlock new business agility.

For employees,

• Quickly create apps that work on any device using a Microsoft Office-like experience, templates to get started quickly and a visual designer to automate workflows.
• Use built-in connections, or ones built by your company, to connect PowerApps to cloud services such as Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive and on-premises systems including SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases, SAP and more.
• Share PowerApps like documents. It’s as simple as typing an email address and your coworkers can take advantage of an app you created.
For developers and IT professionals,
• PowerApps includes Azure App Service for employee-facing apps, so native web and mobile apps get into employee hands faster than ever.
• Build additional data connections and APIs to any existing business systems, thus empowering any users in your organization to create the apps they need.
• Data security and privacy controls are respected by PowerApps, so you can manage data access and maintain corporate policies.

Are these basically web apps? Seems that way.
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A new way to save data with Chrome on Android » Google Chrome Blog

Tal Oppenheimer, product manager:

Accessing mobile websites on a slow connection can be frustrating: it can eat up your data, and it takes work to keep track of your usage. With that in mind, we created Data Saver mode in Chrome, which reduces the amount of data used when you visit a webpage.

Now, we’re updating this mode to save even more data – up to 70 percent! – by removing most images when loading a page on a slow connection. After the page has loaded, you can tap to show all images or just the individual ones you want, making the web faster and cheaper to access on slow connections.

First implementations in India and Indonesia. I recall this being an option in (desktop) Mosaic, and then Netscape, in the days of dialup. Isn’t now, of course.
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Android phone maker OnePlus launches ‘Sandstone’ iPhone case just in time for Christmas » TechCrunch

Jon Russell:

OnePlus has put its signature sandstone finish into a case that’ll house an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s.

Why, you ask?

I have my own thoughts — it’s a fun promotion for publicity (like this story) and also a way to raise the brand among Apple customers — but OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told TechCrunch that is a gesture for those in the world who are “stuck” with iPhones.

“Although most of my friends have converted to the OnePlus family, there’s still a hand full stuck with iPhones. This is for them. I think a lot of OnePlus fans can relate,” Pei said in a statement.

Priced at $19.99/£15.99. As David Barnard points out, maybe it’s because there’s more profit to be had from iPhone accessories than Android phones. (It’s true – accessories often carry margins of 50% or better, compared to Android phones, which now struggle to get past single digits.)
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Sheffield fan gives Public Enemy a lift to their arena gig in his Ford Focus – The Star

Dan Hobson:

A Sheffield photographer became chauffeur to the stars after a taxi gaffe left rap legends Public Enemy stranded – moments before their arena performance.

Gig snapper Kevin Wells had to ‘fight the power’ of traffic in his Ford Focus to get rappers Chuck D, Flavor Flav and entourage to the Motorpoint Arena ahead of their show with The Prodigy.

Simply awesome. Love it. And read about what happened as the car came through Attercliffe.
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Leaving the Mac App Store » Sketch Blog

There are a number of reasons for Sketch leaving the Mac App Store—many of which in isolation wouldn’t cause us huge concern. However as with all gripes, when compounded they make it hard to justify staying: App Review continues to take at least a week, there are technical limitations imposed by the Mac App Store guidelines (sandboxing and so on) that limit some of the features we want to bring to Sketch, and upgrade pricing remains unavailable.

We should also add that this move is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent certificate expiration problems that affected so many Mac App Store customers. However, in light of what happened, we can’t help but feel vindicated in our decision that the Mac App Store is not in our customers’ best interests right now.

The lack of upgrade pricing and trials could burn the Mac App Store to the ground if Apple doesn’t listen and act. Sketch could be the first of a stampede if its business isn’t hurt by this move – and there’s no reason to think it will.
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Distraction is hurting your career » Middle Class Tech

Curt Robbins:

About ten years ago, my wife and I did the cord cutter thing, before anyone was familiar with the term or it was a trending topic. Removing Time Warner Cable from our home saved us $95 a month (which has added up to about $11,000 at this point, more than enough to pay for my fancy British speakers). More important, it also eliminated the obnoxious ads that used to emanate from our TV and derail our thoughts.

Next, I quit playing the radio in my car. In fact, I’ve never played the radio in my current vehicle. As a music lover, it was easy to fall back on compact discs or plugging in my iPod. This freed time to think about career strategies and current projects or listen to educational podcasts, leveraging that valuable and quickly accumulating commute time…as opposed to being mentally jostled by mediocre voice actors trying to sell me carpeting or tires.

But what about those pesky web-based ads, like the stuff you see on Facebook and other sites?

Yeah, you know where it’s going. The idea that ads (especially the TV ones) are intrusive and annoying seems to occur to surprisingly few Americans. Or is that just my impression? It’s the form of cultural appropriation that feels most objectionable, yet also most subtle.
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Samsung Electronics names new smartphone head as heir apparent makes mark » Reuters

Samsung Group said 54-year-old Dongjin Koh will take over as president of the mobile communications business from 59-year-old J.K. Shin, who will remain head of the overall mobile division for Samsung Electronics and focus on long-term strategy and developing new growth businesses.

The move diminishes Shin’s influence on the mobile business as the former cash-cow battles to reverse a slide in its market share to rivals like Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi.

“While it’s true that Shin delivered remarkable performance in the past, it’s indisputable that the Galaxy S6’s results fell short of expectations so a new leader was needed,” Hansung University economics Professor Kim Sang-jo said.

“Today’s appointments appear to acknowledge the need to develop a management system that can more proactively respond to challenges from Xiaomi and other Chinese companies.”

The group’s annual announcement of management changes also saw another top executive moved into a strategic role, with TV and appliances division chief Yoon Boo-keun shifted out of the day-to-day operations of the appliances business.

Shin was in charge of the mobile business since 2009; he took Samsung to mobile glory, but arguably his heritage will be the futzed years of the S5 and S6.
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iPhone 6S/6S Plus launch echoes 5S launch » CIRP

CIRP does relatively small samples (n=300) for US iPhone buyers, but its data tends to reflect what subsequently turn out to be general trends there. In this case it found that about 30% of iPhones being sold after the 6S/Plus launch were the older ones; compare that to the 5S launch in 2012, when 36% bought the 4S or 5C (there was no iPhone 5 to buy).

But there’s also this:

Android owners accounted for a larger share of iPhone buyers after the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launch (26%) compared to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch (12%) (Chart 2). Android owners accounted for a similar percentage of iPhone buyers (23%) at the iPhone 5S launch.

Previous Operating System of iPhone Buyers (last three launches)
CIRP 2015 iPhone 6 Android moves

“The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launch attracted a greater percentage of Android owners compared to a year ago,” said Mike Levin, Partner and Co-Founder of CIRP. “This says a little more about the very hot iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch, which motivated more iPhone upgrades than in previous years. The share of buyers coming from the Android platform for this launch more resembles the long-term trend in Android and iOS switching.”

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Phone Finder Results for 2.5mm and 3.5mm headphone jacks » Phone Scoop

You know all the rumblings about Apple abandoning the 3.5mm headphone jack in a future iPhone? About how that would be a classic abandonment of hardworking families (or something) that will let the enemy win?

Via R. Travis Atkins, here’s what you get when you search for phones with 2.5mm headphone jacks or 3.5mm headphone jacks.

It turns out that Apple helped standardise the 3.5mm jack on smartphones; everyone from Samsung to Palm to Kyocera and so on was using the non-standard 2.5mm jack.

Or has everyone forgotten how Sony Ericsson phones and Nokia phones all had totally non-interchangeable, non-standard connectors for their headsets and power?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

2 thoughts on “Start up: EFF accuses Chromebooks, Public Enemy in Focus!, OnePlus’s iPhone extra, and more

  1. re: Samsung’s patent loss to Apple is appealed to Supreme Court

    I agree Samsung’s argument seems nonsensical, but they aren’t wrong that patent law is hopelessly outdated.

    The look and feel of a product properly belongs in trademark court, which is consumer oriented. Be it a logo, a name, an iPod or a Coke bottle, a design meant to muddy the waters can be addressed under current laws and precedents.

    Patents are more about how something works, and any and every innovation is seen to need one. As no modern technology has been invented from complete scratch, you must either negotiate with any and all claimants to bring a product to market or prep

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