Start up: debunking 2015’s fake pics, wearables grow, Apple’s 800 camera people, and more


The Internet of Things might help warn about this. Photo by freefotouk on Flickr.

You’re not too late to sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. Think of it as a Christmas present to yourself. Actually, it’ll stop for two weeks after Christmas, but anyway.

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

76 viral images from 2015 that were totally fake » Gizmodo

Matt Novak:

We debunked dozens of fake photos this year, covering everything from Charles Manson’s baby photos to John Lennon’s skateboarding skills, and everything in between. It was another busy year for anyone spreading fake images on the internet.

Below, we have 76 photos that you may have seen floating around the internet in 2015. Some are deliberate photoshops created by people who want to deceive. Others are just images that got mixed up in this big, weird game of Telephone we call the internet.

76! That’s more than one a week. Actually, there’s only one fake a week?
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US probes Theranos complaints » WSJ

John Carreyrou:

U.S. health regulators are investigating complaints about laboratory and research practices at Theranos Inc. by two former employees of the blood-testing startup company, according to people familiar with the inquiries.

A complaint filed in September by a former Theranos lab employee to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services alleged that management instructed lab employees to keep testing patients with the company’s blood-analysis devices despite indications of “major stability, precision and accuracy” problems with those devices.

The second complaint was sent to the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month by another ex-employee, who alleged that the study submitted by Theranos last year to win the agency’s approval for a herpes test was tainted by breaches in research protocol.

Really not going well for Theranos. All been going downhill since the WSJ article in October.


Worldwide shipments of wearables to surpass 200m in 2019, driven by strong smartwatch growth » IDC

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC ) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker , the worldwide wearable device market will reach a total of 111.1m units shipped in 2016, up a strong 44.4% from the 80m units expected to ship shipped in 2015. By 2019, the final year of the forecast, total shipments will reach 214.6m units, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28%.

“The most common type of wearables today are fairly basic, like fitness trackers, but over the next few years we expect a proliferation of form factors and device types,” said Jitesh Ubrani , Senior Research Analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “Smarter clothing, eyewear, and even hearables (ear-worn devices) are all in their early stages of mass adoption. Though at present these may not be significantly smarter than their analog counterparts, the next generation of wearables are on track to offer vastly improved experiences and perhaps even augment human abilities.”

One of the most popular types of wearables will be smartwatches, reaching a total of 34.3m units shipped in 2016, up from the 21.3m units expected to ship in 2015. By 2019, the final year of the forecast, total shipments will reach 88.3m units, resulting in a five-year CAGR of 42.8%.

“In a short amount of time, smartwatches have evolved from being extensions of the smartphone to wearable computers capable of communications, notifications, applications, and numerous other functionalities,” noted Ramon Llamas , Research Manager for IDC’s Wearables team. “The smartwatch we have today will look nothing like the smartwatch we will see in the future. Cellular connectivity, health sensors, not to mention the explosive third-party application market all stand to change the game and will raise both the appeal and value of the market going forward.

Apple Watch forecast to continue dominating through to 2019, though Android Wear coming up strongly. Tizen not going anywhere.
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‘Internet of Things’ technology powers an interactive flood map and sensor network » Nominet

Nominet, in association with the Flood Network, is today launching an interactive, online map which visualises river and stream levels around Oxford. The map, showing how technology can be a part of flood defence systems anywhere, has been developed following a successful pilot project with the Oxford Flood Network. The project has been focused on exploring the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) to create an extensive, localised, early-warning system for flood-prone areas for the first time in the UK.

The Flood Network is powered by two pieces of innovative technology developed by Nominet:

• A set of IoT tools to help innovators build and scale IoT applications in real environments. The tools utilise existing internet standards, such as DNS, to provide proven scalable solutions with an existing support eco-system.

•The use of TV white space to connect a number of hard-to-reach devices in the network. Nominet’s recently qualified TV white space (TVWS) database performs complex calculations that informs devices what frequencies they can use in which area, at what power and for how long.

The map, an application built on top of the tools, is being released as a beta version today to gather feedback from local residents and encourage further community engagement.

First use I’ve seen of TV white space (analogue frequencies left over by the switch to digital TV). And, finally, the Environment Agency providing data from its sensors at river locks – after years when the EA resolutely refused to release its data to public use.

Also: an IoT application that really makes sense.
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‘Unauthorized code’ that decrypts VPNs found in Juniper’s ScreenOS » The Register

Simon Sharwood:

Juniper Networks has admitted that “unauthorized code” has been found in ScreenOS, the operating system for its NetScreen firewalls.

The code “could allow a knowledgeable attacker to gain administrative access to NetScreen devices and to decrypt VPN connections.”

And on The Register’s reading of the situation, the unauthorised code may have been present since 2008, an assertion we make because Juniper’s notice about the problem says it impacts ScreenOS 6.2.0r15 through 6.2.0r18 and 6.3.0r12 through 6.3.0r20. ScreenOS 6.2 was released in 2008. Screen OS 6.3 came out in 2009.

We’ve asked Juniper if it has any theories about the origin of the code and have been told the company has nothing to say on the matter beyond the post we’ve linked to above and canned statements from its PR team.

Just what happened is therefore obscure for now, but the obvious scenarios aren’t good news for Juniper.

Or, indeed, its customers. Two views on this: (1) shows terrible effects of having backdoors because it means those “knowledgeable attackers” can read everything; (2) what effects has it had, exactly?
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The iPhone’s camera is so good because 800 people are working on it » The Verge

Chris Welch writes up the CBS 60 Minutes interview with Apple, which mostly revealed nothing the tech world hasn’t obsessed over for years, but for this:

the episode did reveal one semi-interesting new detail: Apple now says there are 800 people solely dedicated to working on the iPhone’s camera. That team of “engineers and other specialists” is led by Graham Townsend, who took Rose on a tour of the camera testing lab.

“There’s over 200 separate individual parts” in the iPhone’s camera module, Townsend said. Then he demonstrated how Apple simulates various conditions to test out the camera’s performance, from sunsets to lousy indoor lighting. “We can simulate all those here,” Townsend said. Apple’s competitors certainly conduct many of those same tests, but the sheer size of Apple’s camera team shows you how high up on the priority list it’s risen. Apple has built entire ad campaigns around the iPhone’s camera, and always makes it a point to highlight improvements with each new iPhone revision.

Generally, the interview lacked anything else noteworthy.

Love to know how that 800 breaks down between software and hardware. And beyond a certain minimum, is it just sheer numbers of people beavering away that makes good? How many do Samsung and LG have on this?
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Toshiba Revitalization Action Plan and FY2015 forecast (PDF) » Toshiba

Following its accounting scandal, the company is cutting thousands of jobs and selling off its TV business, and reorganising its PC business:

The Personal & Client Solutions Company will be split off from Toshiba Corporation and merged with a BtoB PC sales company in Japan.

• Headcount reduction of 1,300, about 30% of its global total, within FY2015.
• Close and sell Ome Complex, the Japanese development base of PC and visual products.
• A 60.0bn yen [US$490m] cost for structural reform is forecast for FY2015.
• Reduce total fixed costs by more than 30.0bn yen [US$245m] in FY2016 against FY2015.
• Downsize global sales scale to 3 million units a year, and make the business profitable.

The split will happen in January, and be effective from April. A separate PDF of the reorganisation for the PC business alone suggests that it had sales in the year to March 2015 of 97.3bn yen (US$800m) and operating profit of 209m yen (US$1.7m) – which, on 3m PCs sold, would be an average price per PC of $266 and operating profit of $0.56 each.

Toshiba was the first company to produce a mass-market laptop, in 1985. Lots can happen in 30 years.
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How the online hate mob set its sights on me » The Guardian

Jon Ronson:

A train crashed in Philadelphia [in May 2015]. Passenger cars were ripped apart. Eight people died and 200 more were hospitalised. A survivor emerged from the wreckage and tweeted: “Thanks a lot for derailing my train. Can I please get my violin back from the 2nd car of the train?”

In the early days, Twitter was a place of curiosity and empathy. Back then, people might have responded to this woman: “Are you OK?” or “What was it like?” But that’s not how Twitter and Facebook responded in 2015. Instead, it was: “Some spoiled asshole is whining about her violin being on that Amtrak that derailed. People died on that train” and |“I hope the violin is crushed” and “I hope someone picks it up and smacks it against the train” and…

And worse. Much worse. But as Ronson asks, why are hate mobs so much quicker to form? Why are people being unpaid shaming interns for Twitter and Google too?
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Ericsson and Apple sign patent deal, settle litigation | Reuters

Olof Swahnberg:

Ericsson did not specify how much it would earn from the deal but estimated overall revenue from intellectual property rights in 2015 would hit 13 to 14 billion crowns ($1.52-$1.64 billion), including positive effects from the settlement with Apple, up from 9.9 billion crowns in 2014.

Investment bank ABG Sundal Collier said in a note to clients it believed the deal meant Apple would be charged around 0.5 percent of its revenue on iPads and iPhones by Ericsson.

Ericsson Chief Intellectual Property Officer Kasim Alfalahi said the agreement was broad, covering the latest 4G-LTE generation of mobile technology, as well as the earlier 2G and 3G technologies.

Quick settlement for a patent row: case was filed in January 2015.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: in yesterday’s links it said that Linux was vulnerable to the 28-backspace hack for passwords. That should be GRUB.

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