Start up: Google’s little big VR, teens in 2016, TalkTalk arrests, Italy v Google, and more

Death to trolls! Except when they’re human. Photo by Roshan Vyas on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Survey: GOP voters want ‘testicular fortitude’ » NYMag

Gabriel Sherman:

On February 1, Iowans will cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential election, and the only thing that’s clear is that this Republican primary is the most unpredictable and surreal campaign in recent memory. But why? To understand the swirl of forces buffeting the party, we traveled across New Hampshire and Iowa and spoke to more than 100 Republican-primary voters. We met them in their homes and at town halls, at a motorcycle dealership and an auto-body shop.

My personal favourite of the many entries is this one:

Claude Greiner, 67, owns several farms
From: Kalona, Iowa
Supporting: Undecided, considering Trump and Rubio

“I don’t think anybody should go hungry — unless they don’t want to work. And I think everybody ought to have health insurance. But I think they ought to work for it and pay for a little of it, too. And we have given a lot of money to charity, because we have been successful, and we’ve tried to give back. But I have one philosophy: Teach a man how to work, don’t give him a fish. Teach a man to fish, don’t give him a fish.”

Uh-huh. By the way, the original phrase was “intestinal fortitude“.
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Five million Google Cardboard VR viewers have shipped » TechCrunch

Lucas Matney recycles a Google blogpost:

Over five million Google Cardboard viewers have been shipped globally. These come in all shapes and sizes, the NYT Cardboard, the Star Wars Cardboard, Mattel Cardboard etc. Google has effectively invaded the VR scene and given people something to say “wow” about with what is now in many ways an iconic product.

Another milestone is that there have now been more than 25 million downloads of VR compatible apps, and that figure is just from the Google Play store. Google’s first wave of VR has left the company acting as more of an enabler of experiences than a provider of them, we’ll see how that shifts in the future but for the time being it seems it’s being successful at what it has sought to do.

Another interesting stat released is that nearly 350 thousand hours of YouTube content have been watched in Cardboard viewing mode. That’s another number you can expect to see increase; YouTube just hired a former Jaunt exec to act as their “Global Virtual Reality Evangelist.” In a similar vein of content viewing, the company also detailed that nearly 750 thousand VR photos had been taken with the Cardboard Camera.

Pump priming? Cardboard is far and away the most-used VR viewer, and may remain that way for some time to come.
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Death of a troll » The Guardian

Alina Simone:

It had taken Eris two days to create an entire fake news site to host his fake obituary. The suicide note wouldn’t be enough, he realised. What if his friends thought he had just overdosed on pills, and was alive somewhere, half-comatose? Without convincing evidence that he was already dead, they might try to save him. So he made up a name, bought the “Sullivan County Tribune” URL, and seeded it with articles from other news outlets. He took care to mention that his remains would be cremated (no body, no grave), and fudged some of the details about his family (who had no idea of his “death”), and his exact location (he said he had died in a nearby town).

In Epic Mafia, there is a word for the act of scanning someone’s messages for clues as to whether they are mafia: scumreading. Careful inspection of the Sullivan County Tribune website might have revealed that listed among the newspaper’s staff was one Nikita Petrov – a Russian historian acclaimed for his books about the Soviet secret police, who Eris was known to admire. But no one scumread Eris’s suicide note. Or his obituary. His clues were never found.

A long read – give yourself some time – that gives an insight into the strange minds of people who troll relentlessly.
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Walgreens tells Theranos to stop sending lab tests to California lab » The Verge

Arielle Duhaime-Ross:

The drugstore chain Walgreens told Theranos to stop sending clinical lab tests to its Newark, California lab today. Walgreens has also decided to immediately suspend Theranos laboratory testing services at its store in Palo Alto, California. The decision, which will affect Theranos Wellness Centers located inside Walgreens, comes a day after a warning letter sent to Theranos was made public by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Walgreens informed Theranos that tests collected at 40 Theranos Wellness Centers located at stores in Arizona must be sent only to Theranos’ certified lab in the Phoenix area or to an accredited third-party lab for analysis,” a Walgreens statement explains. “No patient samples will be sent to the Newark lab until all issues raised by CMS have been fully resolved.”

Theranos is in trouble. The trouble is deep. It is going to struggle to get out of it. The fascinating part is how long it had been bobbing along without any public questioning – or scientific examination – of its tests.
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AlphaGo vs. Fan Hui 2p » GoKibitz

The final position of one of the winning games by DeepMind’s AlphaGo against European Go champion Fan Hui. You can replay it; if you don’t understand Go, don’t worry. But it’s a game where an average player (such as me) can’t tell the difference between moves made by the human and by the computer.
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What teens are like in 2016 » Business Insider

Maya Kosoff:

Too often when writing about what teenagers like, we neglect to talk to the most important group of all: teens.

So we decided to put together a “State of the Union” on the American teenager. To learn what American teenagers in 2016 really like (and what they don’t), we polled about 60 teens from across the country. We spoke with teens ages 13 to 19, in middle school, high school, and college.

We asked them about their digital lives and habits, the apps they use and the games they play, pop culture, and politics. Their answers offer a glimpse into what it’s like being a teenager in 2016. We’ve drawn out the highlights below — along with some data from other sources — so keep scrolling for our guide to teenagers in 2016.

Small sample, but probably representative. Seems like using Facebook wouldn’t be the way to profile them.
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Q4 2015: smartphones grew 9% annually, driven by LTE, Apple & Chinese brands » Counterpoint Research

Tarun Pathak:

• 3 in 5 smartphones shipped in 2015 were LTE capable i.e. 900 million LTE smartphones were shipped globally in 2015, a breakout year for the mobile industry
• 3 in 5 smartphones shipped in premium segment (>$400) in 2015 were iPhones.
• Close to 850 brands are competing in the smartphone market
• however, the top 20 command almost 85% of the total smartphone shipments in 2015
• The entry-level and premium smartphone segment contributed to a combined more than half of the total shipments in CY 2015
• Local brands, especially from China and India, showed promising growth in smartphone shipments.

I’d guess that pretty much all of the iPhones were in the premium segment, which gives you an idea of its size. One thing about that “entry-level and premium” stat: if they were more than half, then the “middle segment” must be about half too.
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TalkTalk call centre workers arrested in India » BBC News

TalkTalk has confirmed that three of its India-based call centre workers have been arrested.
The London-based telecoms provider said that it alerted police after carrying out a data security review.

However, a spokeswoman stressed that it had seen no evidence that the suspects had been involved with a high-profile cyber-breach last October.

Nearly 157,000 of TalkTalk customers’ details, including bank account numbers, were stolen in the breach.

The unnamed suspects do not work for TalkTalk directly but are instead employed by Wipro, a local call centre provider, in Kolkata (Calcutta).

“Following the October 2015 cyber-attack, we have been conducting a forensic review to ensure that all aspects of our security are as robust as possible – including that of our suppliers,” the company said.
“Acting on information supplied by TalkTalk, the local police have arrested three individuals who have breached our policies and the terms of our contract with Wipro. We are also reviewing our relationship with Wipro.”

This always looked like an inside job.
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Grieving family’s horror as hardcore pornography played at funeral for father and baby son » Wales Online

Harrry Yorke:

A City of Cardiff Council spokesman, said: “The council has forwarded a written apology to the family and is carrying out an urgent investigation. There were four television screens used to display visual tributes as part of this funeral service.

“The television screen which showed the inappropriate content was recently installed, replacing a screen which was broken. We are trying to establish if the new screen – which is a SMART television – could have accepted or picked up a broadcast by accident via blue tooth or across a WiFi network.

“The other three screens which aren’t SMART TVs were unaffected. We are clear that it isn’t possible for any member of staff to play or download anything on the computer that links to the screens in the chapel. The screen has now been completely disconnected until audio visual engineers carry out a thorough investigation.”

Hmm. Do we trust this to have been down to the smart TV?
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Italy tax police believe Google evaded 227 mln euros in taxes -sources » Reuters

Sara Rossi and Manuela D’Alessandro:

The Italian finance police believe Google evaded €227m euros ($247.5m) in taxes in Italy between 2009 and 2013, investigative sources said on Thursday.

The finance police report was due to be delivered to the Internet giant later in the day and comes amid an increasingly angry debate across Europe over taxation of multinationals who park earnings in low-tax nations.

Asked about the Italian report, a Google spokesperson said: “Google complies with the tax laws in every country where we operate. We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities.”

Google’s latest figures show it paid €2.2m of tax in Italy in 2014 on revenues of €54.4m generated in the country. Italy’s Communications Authority estimates Google’s Italian revenues at around 10 times higher.

“Evaded” is pretty strong: that’s used for knowingly misrepresenting your tax affairs. Normally what Google et al do is described as “avoidance”. Note though how this row is not going away, but only intensifying. (Possibly it’s seasonal.) Apple also made a back payment recently in Italy.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Apple’s conundrum, watch birds migrate!, the 5am startup, and more

A Go endgame: where would you play next? DeepMind’s systems would know. Photo by chadmiller on Flickr.

Only humans can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. They need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

Apple wants to be a services company » Business Insider

Jay Yarow with a neat summary of Apple’s conundrum:

So, Apple is in this weird cycle: It wants to grow services revenue, but services revenue depends on iPhone sales. Currencies are falling because the global economy is weak relative to the US economy, which is leading Apple to raise prices on the iPhone, which is hurting iPhone sales, which will limit services revenues.

Apple could lower prices of the iPhone to sell more units and then grow services, but it doesn’t seem to want to do that.

Cook said Apple already had a variety of price points, from the low-tier iPhone 5s to the high-end iPhone 6s Plus.

“I don’t see us deviating from that approach,” Cook said.

This makes sense since Apple is a hardware company. If it were a services company, it would lower prices, go for smartphone unit volume, then get more money from that. But it is not a services company.

It is not principally a services company. The money it does make from services is actually pretty substantial, and threatens to overtake iPad revenue. Poor iPad.
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iPhone Headwinds » Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

Apple also increased iPhone channel inventory by 3.3m over the quarter compared to a decline of 0.2m in the same quarter last year. Keeping in mind that Apple reports sell-in (shipments), not sales to end users, this implies that iPhone sell-through actually declined by 4.3% YoY, from 74.7m to 71.5m units. This is the first such decline in the history of the product.

In addition to this sell-through decline, Apple’s revenue guidance for the next quarter implies a steeper YoY decline in unit sales. And finally, this was accompanied with a YoY increase in average selling price (ASP) which suggests that the iPhone mix is shifting towards higher end models…

…As Clay Christensen is fond of saying, “Disruption is a process, not an event”. The mechanics of low-end disruption have been working ever since the first Android smartphone was unveiled in 2008. The key test for the iPhone will be the iPhone 7 cycle, starting in fiscal Q1 [Oct-Dec] 2017. In a “redesign year”, it will be easier to gauge whether meaningful product improvements can continue to generate increased demand or if today’s smartphones have already reached “good enough” territory.

The sell-through point is valid (only BlackBerry also gives the same data). The odd thing is that rising ASP: it points to people having the disposable income to buy the pricier models, which argues against the “low-end disruption” thesis.

But the gap between the average selling price of an Android handset and the average selling price of an iPhone has never been larger. That must have knock-on effects. But what?
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Google AI algorithm masters ancient game of Go » Nature

Elizabeth Gibney:

DeepMind’s program AlphaGo beat Fan Hui, the European Go champion, five times out of five in tournament conditions, the firm reveals in research published in Nature on 27 January. It also defeated its silicon-based rivals, winning 99.8% of games against the current best programs. The program has yet to play the Go equivalent of a world champion, but a match against South Korean professional Lee Sedol, considered by many to be the world’s strongest player, is scheduled for March. “We’re pretty confident,” says DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis.

“This is a really big result, it’s huge,” says Rémi Coulom, a programmer in Lille, France, who designed a commercial Go program called Crazy Stone. He had thought computer mastery of the game was a decade away.

The IBM chess computer Deep Blue, which famously beat grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, was explicitly programmed to win at the game. But AlphaGo was not preprogrammed to play Go: rather, it learned using a general-purpose algorithm that allowed it to interpret the game’s patterns, in a similar way to how a DeepMind program learned to play 49 different arcade games.

This means that similar techniques could be applied to other AI domains that require recognition of complex patterns, long-term planning and decision-making, says Hassabis. “A lot of the things we’re trying to do in the world come under that rubric.” Examples are using medical images to make diagnoses or treatment plans, and improving climate-change models.

This is a gigantic result; being good at Go requires a subtle intuition and feel for space. (At least, for a human.) It’s far, far more complex than chess. And that this was done by a non-specific program has colossal implications.

As Nature’s leader on the topic comments, as these systems spread into our lives, “The machine becomes an oracle; its pronouncements have to be believed… Intuitive machines will need more than trust: they will demand faith.”

As a side note, DeepMind looks like one of Google’s smartest purchases – perhaps after YouTube.
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Nest thermostat goes from ‘Internet Of Things’ darling to cautionary tale » Techdirt

Karl Bode:

[Tech writer Stacey Higginbotham’s] Nest device began trying to cook her family in the middle of the night, something Nest first tried to blame on her smart garage door opener, then tried to blame on her Jawbone fitness tracker (Nest never did seem to pinpoint the cause). Her report suggests that an overall culture of “arrogance” at Nest shockingly isn’t helping pinpoint and resolve bugs:

“One Nest partner, who declined to be named to preserve his business relationship with the company, said that Nest being quick with the blame didn’t surprise him, citing a culture of arrogance at the company. When something went wrong during integration testing between his device and Nest’s, problems were first blamed on his servers and team.”

And fast-forward to last week, when researchers putting various internet of thing devices through tests found that the Nest thermostat was one of many IOT devices happily leaking subscriber location data in cleartext (with Nest, it’s only the zip code, something the company quickly fixed in a patch). Granted Nest’s not alone in being an inadvertent advertisement for a product’s “dumb” alternatives. In 2016, smart tea kettles, refrigerators, televisions and automobiles are all busy leaking your private information and exposing you to malicious intrusion (or worse).

It’s a fascinating, in-progress lesson about how our lust for the sexy ideal of the connected home appears to be taking a brief pit stop in reality.

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Vigilant solutions and the spread of police surveillance » The Atlantic

Conor Friedersdorf:

Throughout the United States—outside private houses, apartment complexes, shopping centers, and businesses with large employee parking lots—a private corporation, Vigilant Solutions, is taking photos of cars and trucks with its vast network of unobtrusive cameras. It retains location data on each of those pictures, and sells it.

It’s happening right now in nearly every major American city.

The company has taken roughly 2.2bn license-plate photos to date. Each month, it captures and permanently stores about 80m additional geotagged images. They may well have photographed your license plate. As a result, your whereabouts at given moments in the past are permanently stored. Vigilant Solutions profits by selling access to this data (and tries to safeguard it against hackers). Your diminished privacy is their product. And the police are their customers.

Sounds a bit similar to the UK police’s Automatic Number Plate Reader network, which extends around the UK, except this is historic too. (Then again, the UK’s ANPR system probably is too.)
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How to wake up at 5am and build your startup » Medium

Patrick Park (once he’s got past the stuff about how to, you know, get up at 5am, and gets on to the stuff about building your startup):

It’s hard to admit, but no one really knows what they’re doing at first. Even the largest startup unicorns in the world, took a long time to find their footing. AirBnb survived by selling political themed cereal Obama O’s and Cap’n McCain’s. #Slack came out of a failed game “Glitch.” Even YouTube began as a video dating service “Tune in Hook Up.”

Micro-startups work well with the Lean Startup methodology. Not only are micro-startups easier to implement, but provide a shorter feedback loop that keeps you more in touch with your audience. With 75% of all startups failing, would you rather spend 100 days in a basement building a product your customers “might” like or connect with your audience everyday “while” you adapt your startup to address your customer’s pain-points? Don’t build another Blockbuster.

Start with the assumption that you’re wrong. Constantly validate your theories through micro-experiments. When I first started “Krown.io”. I explained the service as an “Annotation Blogging Platform.” That was, until I found out the majority of people have no idea what “Annotations” are. We tried a variation of “Smart Blogging,” “Highlight Blogging,” “Feedback Blogs,” and “Contextual Blogging Platform.” Which surprise, surprise. People still had no idea what we were talking about. So we added a bare-to-the-bones explanation, “Highlight a text and add comments directly on the highlighted text.” Validate your hypothesis.

The startup advice is fine. Waking up at 5am isn’t that hard, but he makes it sound like one of the 12 tasks of Hercules.
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Lenovo used 12345678 as hard-coded password in SHAREit for Windows » Graham Cluley

Cluley is amazed – as you will be:

The first vulnerability [of four, all of which could be exploited remotely] (CVE-2016-1491) is perhaps the most infuriating. CoreLabs discovered that whenever SHAREit for Windows is configured to receive files, this process creates a Wi-Fi hotspot that is ‘protected’ by the password “12345678”.

Not surprisingly, this password just recently earned a top spot on the latest list of worst passwords you could possibly choose.

What is surprising is the fact that Lenovo would incorporate such an insecure password into its application — and one that does not change, no less!

Then again, I suppose the issue could be worse. In the second vulnerability (CVE-2016-1492), which applied only to SHAREit for Android, there is no password set up to protect the Wi-Fi hotspot when the app is configured to receive files.

To be sure, it doesn’t say much when Lenovo could have mitigated two separate vulnerabilities by adhering to the most basic principles of password security.

But moving right along. The third vulnerability (CVE-2016-1490) discovered by CoreLabs builds upon the insecure Windows password issue discussed above

When elephants do software while dancing. Yes, it was Lenovo which preinstalled Superfish.
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Mesmerizing migration: watch 118 bird species migrate across a map of the western hemisphere » All About Birds

Pat Leonard:

For the first time, scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have documented migratory movements of bird populations spanning the entire year for 118 species throughout the Western Hemisphere. The study finds broad similarity in the routes used by specific groups of species—vividly demonstrated by animated maps showing patterns of movement across the annual cycle.

There’s also a version showing which species is which.
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Apple India enterprise head Sharad Mehrotra quits, starts up with Hyve Mobility » timesofindia-economictimes

Muntazir Abbas:

Sharad Mehrotra, iPhone maker Apple’s enterprise mobility head in India, has quit and set up a handset company to compete in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. Mehrotra, who was with Apple India since October 2007, has cofounded Hyve Mobility , which will launch smartphones using Android, the operating system that rivals Apple’s iOS, by March.

“While consumers today have a lot of options to choose a smartphone, the element of customer delight is seriously missing,” he told ET, adding that it was high time to get into the smartphone market…

…”In the current Android scenario, no brand enjoys customer loyalty and we want to bring the change with our path-breaking products portfolio and service offerings,” said [Aditya] Agarwal, MD of Hyve Mobility.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none noted.

Start up: Apple stalls, Japan’s zombies, Samsung on iOS?, the truth about terror, and more

But what are your respective ratings? Photo by ChrisGoldNY on Flickr

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple’s iPhone growth era comes to an end » FT.com

Tim Bradshaw:

Total revenues for Apple’s fiscal first quarter ending in December rose by just 2% to $75.9bn, a marked slowdown compared with 30% growth in the same period a year earlier, as iPhone sales in the US and Japan declined.

Apple increased net profits to $18.4bn, beating its own record set a year ago for the most profitable quarter in US corporate history, with earnings per share up 7% to $3.28, in line with expectations.

However, iPhone unit sales for the holiday quarter were less than 0.5% higher than the same period a year ago at 74.8m, despite chief executive Tim Cook’s firm insistence three months ago that the iPhone “will grow” in the most important period in the Apple calendar.

Wall Street’s fears that the March quarter would see iPhone sales drop for the first time since its 2007 debut were confirmed by Apple’s revenue guidance, which was below analysts’ consensus of around $55bn.

According to a note by RBC Capital Markets before the release of the results, $50bn in sales would imply iPhone unit shipments of 45m, down 26% on the same period a year earlier.

Sic transit gloria mundi. Like many premium smartphone makers, Apple is now hitting the point where the slowing market, combined with the slowing economy, creates a ceiling for sales. Apple legitimately blamed currency, but that’s hurting everyone.
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Japan must let zombie companies die » Bloomberg View

Noah Smith:

Imagine that you’re a Japanese 26-year-old with big dreams. You graduated from Waseda University, an elite private school, with a degree in electrical engineering. You and your college buddies used to hang around your apartment, watching anime on your LCD television, which was made by Sharp Corp. — the world’s 10th-largest LCD TV manufacturer. Even then, you had ideas about how to improve the product.

Now, after graduating and working for four years in the research division of an LCD manufacturer, you’re sure that you have figured out how to make LCD panels more cheaply, at higher quality. You also believe that you could market these TVs more effectively to young people with cool, fun designs. Instead of giving the idea to the higher-ups in your giant corporation — which, knowing Japan, might get you little more than a pat on the head — you decide to leave your job and start a business with your college buddies. You just know that you can beat lumbering, struggling incumbents like Sharp.

Sharp, which is perennially struggling. But is to be bailed out by the Japanese government. Which makes it a zombie which is blocking progress.
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I found out my secret internal Tinder rating and now I wish I hadn’t » Fast Company

Austin Carr:

Referred to inside the company as an “Elo score,” a term the chess world uses to rank player skill levels, Tinder’s rating system helps it parse its user base in order to facilitate better matches…

…Tinder CEO Sean Rad confirmed the scoring system to me while I was reporting Fast Company’s recent profile of the company. Rad, who tells me his Elo score is “above average,” stresses that the rating is technically not a measure of attractiveness, but a measure of “desirability,” in part because it’s not determined simply by your profile photo. “It’s not just how many people swipe right on you,” Rad explains. “It’s very complicated. It took us two and a half months just to build the algorithm because a lot of factors go into it.”…

…Rad teased me about it several times over dinner one evening, gauging what my score might be as he swiped through a slew of Tinder profiles on my phone. It was one thing to know my Uber rating, but did I really want to know my Elo score on Tinder? When I asked whether he could look up my rating, Rad responded, “Do you want me to do it now?” All he needed was my email address.

But of course Sean Rad is above average. And that’s not a worrying security hole. Is it?
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Exclusive: Samsung plans to bring almost all its apps to iOS » SamMobile

Asif S:

We’ve recently received information from our trusted insiders that Samsung is planning to bring most of its apps (if not all) to Apple’s iOS platform later this year.

According to the information that we’ve received, Samsung is working on Gear Fit Manager for iOS. This will allow people who own the Gear Fit to pair it with an iPhone. To compliment the Gear Fit Manager and Gear Manager apps, Samsung will also release the S Health app for iPhone. S Health app can be used to log daily activity, workouts, food intake, and sleep.

In terms of home entertainment, Samsung is bringing iOS support for the Galaxy View. The company is developing the Remote Control and Family Square apps for the iOS, which can be used to remotely control the Galaxy View using an iPhone and allow different users to stream content to the movable display. There are plans to release the Level app for Samsung’s Level audio devices as well, which will enable iPhone users to use these devices and make use of various effects and an official way of control.

Looks like a way of expanding the total addressable market (TAM) for its peripherals and other products to iPhone users. Sensible.
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The Google Pixel C Review » Anandtech

Brandon Chester and Joshua Ho were really, really unimpressed:

On top of the issues with this specific Android build, Android itself is simply too far behind the competition as far as functionality and apps are concerned. I have commented on this in several Android tablet reviews, but the fact that Google is shipping their own tablet makes it important to go over it once again. Quite frankly, I still have yet to see a single app that has an UI that is both optimized for tablets and is as fluid as its iPad counterpart, and with the iPad offering multitasking while Windows offers an entire windowing system, there’s absolutely no way for the Pixel C and other Android tablets to be competitive. This applies just as much to Google’s own apps as it does to third party ones, and it’s really not a stretch to say that they behave like you’re using a blown up smartphone. In the past few years both Apple and Microsoft have stepped up their games with their respective tablet OSes go, but it feels like Android has never really advanced past the first generation of tablet OSes, which leaves Android badly lagging the competition.

Statements from Google engineers make it clear that Google has some changes coming to Android in the future to bring features like multitasking, but at this point it seems to me that either nobody Google really understands what a tablet should be, or they are unable to come to a consensus to get something developed. Adding multitasking doesn’t do anything to fix the fundamental issue with application quality, and Google doesn’t want to take the first step in making proper applications so that other developers can follow.

Note too that Chester points to terrible graphics transitions – and yet in the GPU benchmarks, the Pixel C beats everything else. Another case where benchmarks don’t tell the whole story.
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Unpacked: global ad blocker usage on smartphones » Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin (on a paywalled piece, hence no diagram below) has data much the same as Global Web Index:

over 20% of the global internet audience is already using an ad blocker on their smartphone. 16.1% have not begun using an ad blocker but are interested in doing so. Just over 30% haven’t used an ad blocker and aren’t interested in going through the trouble to install one.

In light of what Matt and I discovered, I decided to slice the answers by demographic to see how different age groups answered the same question.

In line with the discovery Matt [Richman] and I made, ad blocking is most common among the millennial demographic. I can’t stress enough how valuable this demographic is from an advertising standpoint. As ad blocking becomes more the norm with this group, on smartphones and on PCs, it will require significant adjustment. What is also interesting is many of these ad blocking services are not free. Currently over 25% of millennials using an ad blocker paid for it. This has massive consequences for this with advertising-supported business models.

I’ve articulated before my conviction that free-with-ads business models may become things of the past. They certainly are no longer viable in emerging markets.

The point about emerging markets is important: India is a big source of adblocking on mobile, for example.
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OPPO sold 50m smartphones in 2015 » Gizmochina

OPPO’s R7, R7S and R7 Plus constituted 15m units in sales alone which is an incredible figure. Specifically speaking the smartphones priced between 2000 Yuan [£210,$300] to 3000 Yuan [£320,$450] segment were highest selling smartphones.

That’s up 67% year-on-year. That would put it around fifth in the world, nudging LG and Sony and behind Xiaomi, Huawei, Apple and Samsung. The big Chinese name nobody in the west has heard of.
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The threat is already inside » Foreign Policy

Rosa Brooks (formerly a senior advisor at the US State Department):

By now, the script is familiar: Terrorists attack a Western target, and politicians compete to offer stunned and condemnatory adjectives. British, Chinese, and Japanese leaders thus proclaimed themselves “shocked” by the Paris attacks, which were described variously as “outrageous” and “horrific” by U.S. President Barack Obama; “terrible” and “cowardly” by French President François Hollande; “barbaric” by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; “despicable” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and “heinous, evil, vile” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who possesses a superior thesaurus.

The Paris attacks were all these things. One thing they were not, however, was surprising.

Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism — and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves — we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as an ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”

Politicians don’t like to say any of this. But we’re not politicians, so let’s look at 10 painful truths.

Essential reading, really.
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Xavier Niel explores move to enter UK mobile market » FT.com

Niel set up Free, a French mobile network which has been a great hit, as Daniel Thomas explains:

Interest from Mr Niel’s telecoms group in the British market will worry rivals, given its record of offering low prices that deeply undercut existing offers.

The launch four years ago of Free, Iliad’s mobile offering in France, disrupted the market, leading to an intense price war that slashed profits among the existing three operators. Orange’s proposed acquisition of Bouygues Telecom is an attempt to reverse the effects of the introduction of the low-cost rival.

A similar deal is being proposed in the UK with the purchase of O2 by Three, the UK’s smallest mobile group, which is owned by Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison. If the deal were to go through, it would reduce the number of competitors from four to three.

However, the deal is set to be challenged in the next week by the European competition regulator, which will set out a range of objections given the potential loss of competition for customers as well as third-party mobile providers that use the two networks under wholesale contracts.

The UK mobile market really is very competitive. Adding Free would shake it up even further.
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Internet of Things security is so bad, there’s a search engine for sleeping kids » Ars Technica

JM Porup:

Shodan, a search engine for the Internet of Things (IoT), recently launched a new section that lets users easily browse vulnerable webcams.

The feed includes images of marijuana plantations, back rooms of banks, children, kitchens, living rooms, garages, front gardens, back gardens, ski slopes, swimming pools, colleges and schools, laboratories, and cash register cameras in retail stores, according to Dan Tentler, a security researcher who has spent several years investigating webcam security.

“It’s all over the place,” he told Ars Technica UK. “Practically everything you can think of.”

We did a quick search and turned up some alarming results [of a sleeping baby in Canada, kitchen in Spain, classroom in China, someone’s house].

The cameras are vulnerable because they use the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP, port 554) to share video but have no password authentication in place. The image feed is available to paid Shodan members at images.shodan.io. Free Shodan accounts can also search using the filter port:554 has_screenshot:true.

Shodan crawls the Internet at random looking for IP addresses with open ports. If an open port lacks authentication and streams a video feed, the new script takes a snap and moves on.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Apple’s phone expectations, Amazon’s giant backdoor, mobile adblocking grows, and more


Virtual reality attracts interest, but where’s the storytelling? Photo by Nick Habgood on Flickr.

Shh! It’s a secret, but you can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Not attributable to tributaries. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple 1Q16 Earnings Preview » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

Investor anxiety heading into Apple’s upcoming earnings report is at a multi-year high. Fears surrounding slowing iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sales have morphed into broad questions about the iPhone’s long-term viability. While investors are looking for answers that won’t likely be provided this week, management has a very clear goal with its 1Q16 earnings report and conference call: set expectations for 2016.

Cybart reckons in the just-gone quarter to December (Apple’s first fiscal quarter of its financial year) Apple has sold around 77m iPhones, 18m iPads and 5.7m Macs. He also gives gauges for what is low and high. Apple announces its earnings on Tuesday evening (and LG will have published its own by the time you read this).
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IAB chief blasts Adblock Plus as an ‘immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes’ » Adweek

Christopher Heine:

When Adblock Plus said it had been “disinvited” from this week’s Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Summit, it raised virtual eyebrows across the Web. Wasting little time and mincing no words, the IAB’s leader kicked off the event by firing back.

“Now, you may be aware of a kerfuffle that began about ten days ago, when an unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes at a for-profit German company called AdBlock-Plus took to the digisphere to complain over and over that IAB had ‘disinvited’ them to this convention,” CEO Rothenberg told the audience in his opening keynote Monday. “That, of course, is as much a lie as the others they routinely try to tell the world…”

…Eyeo GmbH-owned Adblock Plus’ ticket was pulled, Rothenberg said, “for the simple reason that they are stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less — and less diverse — information. AdBlock Plus claims it wants to engage in dialogue. But its form of dialogue is an incessant monologue.”

Well, they had an invitation (which they had to pay for, like everyone else), and then it was withdrawn. Clearly, no Christmas cards between these two. (I’m going to go to Adblock Plus’s meeting in London in a week or so.)
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37% of mobile users are blocking ads » Global Web Index

Jason Mander:

According to GWI’s latest wave of research, it’s a significant 37% of mobile users who say they’ve blocked ads on their mobile within the last month. That’s a pretty sizable number if you consider that these tools have only relatively recently come to the attention of consumers. It also shows just how keen users are to improve their mobile experience and to prevent their data allowances and battery lives from being drained.

No less striking is that another 42% of users say they haven’t blocked ads so far but are interested in doing so in the future. That means almost 80% of the mobile audience could be engaging with blockers before too long – a stat which underlines why this is a trend which is unlikely to burn out any time soon.

Big numbers. People have responded by saying that they’re not seeing those figures, but equally adblockers often block Google Analytics too – so adblocking users are ghosts; you’d have to check against server logs to see what’s really happening. GWI has a large sample base, weighted towards the US and UK, though it doesn’t say how many were sampled for this particular survey.
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‘iPhone 5se’ likely to have faster A9/M9 chips & always-on Siri, come in 16/64GB capacities » 9to5Mac

Mark Gurman:

Last week we reported that Apple is preparing to announce a new 4-inch iPhone dubbed the “iPhone 5se” as soon as mid-March. Our report noted that the new iPhone is essentially an upgraded iPhone 5s with a faster processor, Apple Pay, new camera features, and curved glass edges instead of sharp chamfers. Now, we have a few additional details about this new iPhone model. First, we are told that there are different prototypes of the device floating around Apple’s campus: some with the A8 and M8 chips that we discussed in our previous report, and some with the iPhone 6s’s A9 and M9 processors. We’ve now learned that the iPhone 5se is more likely to include variants of the A9 and M9 chips instead of the A8 and M8 lines…

Because the iPhone 7 will include a faster chip potentially known as the A10 processor, Apple likely does not want its new 4-inch iPhone to fall two processor generations behind in just six months.

Gurman has an excellent track record on this stuff. So you can pretty much take this as being what’s on the shipping box. Next question: why has Apple decided to renew the 4-inch phone?
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Why VR “storytelling” does not currently work. And can it ever work? » Medium

Mike Cartel (who has experience in creating VR experiences):

Storytelling is a RETROSPECTIVE thing. It always has been. People didn’t sit around the campfire telling stories in the timeframes that they actually occurred. And i’m not aware of realtime books. Linear narrative mechanisms have evolved to break down the constraints of time and emotive viewpoint.
But herein lies the VR Storytelling anachronism.

The hardware has raced forward at an incredible speed. It’s barely three years between Oculus Rift DK1, and Oculus Rift CV1, but the change is extraordinary. But with this charge forward brings a storytelling problem. The new Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR headsets behave and look close to real life. Screen door and latency has been nearly obliterated. The hardware is challenging our brains to differentiate with real life.

Hardware mimics real life, and real life timing. Whilst current non-gaming VR content relies upon existing forms of linear narrative. These things do not co-exist. Yet. But will they ever? Can they ever?

Like him, I recall a time when we were assured that CD-ROMs would usher in an age of “choose your own storyline” storytelling. Instead, we got video games – while storytelling has remained much the same.
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The muscular dystrophy patient and the Olympic medallist with the same genetic disorder » ProPublica

David Epstein, who wrote a book about genes and sport, and was then contacted out of the blue:

It seemed absolutely crazy. The idea that an Iowa housewife, equipped with the cutting-edge medical tool known as Google Images, would make a medical discovery about a pro athlete who sees doctors and athletic trainers as part of her job?

I consulted Harvard geneticist Robert C. Green to get his thoughts, in part because he has done important work on how people react to receiving information about their genes. Green was open to discussing it, but he recalls a justifiable concern that had nothing to do with science: “Empowering a relationship between these two women could end badly,” he says. “People go off the deep end when they are relating to celebrities they think they have a connection to.” I was skeptical too. Maybe she was a nutjob.

I had no idea yet that Jill, just by investigating her own family, had learned more about the manifestations of her disease than nearly anyone in the world, and that she could see things that no one else could.

Open this in another tab, and make the time to read it today – you’ll need about 15 minutes. It’s stunning. And (for any criticism of Google’s tax affairs below) it’s also testament to the power of Google Images and search engines and the power of having the world’s scientific information available to everyone. Jill extended two peoples’ lives, including her father’s (and probably her own), because she could access information easily.
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Two Y-axes » Kieran Healy

Healy takes to task those who would plot using a single x-axis and two sets of data using two y-axes:

When you’re just looking at data, though, it’s enough to bear in mind that it’s already much too easy to present spurious—or at least overconfident—correlations. Scatterplots do the job just fine, as you can see. (Just don’t pay much attention to the sudden clumpy vertical bits in the plot.) Even here, we can make our associations look steeper or flatter by fiddling with the aspect ratio. Two y-axes give you an extra degree of freedom to mess about that, in almost all cases, you really shouldn’t take. Guidelines like this won’t stop people who want to fool you with charts from trying, of course. But they might help you not fool yourself.

Read and take to heart, graph-plotters. (Including Dr Drang.)
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Google obeys tax laws, and gives us awesome services for free. Why complain? » Spectator Blogs

Fraser Nelson:

If Google hoped for some good PR in offering £130 million to settle UK tax claims dating back to the Labour years, it was a miscalculation: Labour regards the offer as “derisory” and the BBC is leading its news bulletins the better to sock it to its rival. Why did Google bother? It has run up against the standard anti-business narrative: that the social worth of businesses can be measured only by how much cash they give to the government. In fact, Google provides its services to millions of Britons (worth at least £11bn, by some estimates) at no cost at all: this is its contribution to society. As for its contribution to the government’s coffers, Google has – from the offset – been following the rules. And for this, it has been lambasted.

I don’t quite buy Google as a “rival” to the BBC. The £11bn (one-off?) calculation comes from an analysis released by – surprise! – Google, compiled by Deloitte. But it’s reasonable – jobs created, work done, and so on.

But at the same time, that rests on the argument that Google’s services aren’t fungible; that if it didn’t exist, that there wouldn’t be other companies offering platforms for digital advertising (leading to the need for SEO), for creating content, for writing smartphone apps and so on. I suspect Yahoo, Microsoft and others wouldn’t necessarily agree.
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That Google tax deal » Waiting for Godot

Jolyon Maugham:

Well, here’s what Google UK Limited does.

Now, that doesn’t sound much like selling advertising. And it isn’t. Its business is selling services to other Google companies. And it will charge a modest uplift on its costs – and that modest uplift will comprise its profits.

A consequence of this is that Google UK Limited’s accounting profits will never bear any relationship to the profits Google Inc chooses to report to its shareholders as having been generated in the UK. Those profits generated in the UK will never show up in Google UK Limited’s accounts and be subject to UK tax. Google UK Limited is never going to be hugely profitable.

Indeed if Google Ireland Limited and Google Inc were to choose to buy those services from some other jurisdiction, Google wouldn’t generate any accounting profits here at all.

The accounting profits they generate here they generate because they choose to buy services from here. They choose to make profits here.

We’re all being inculcated into the winding roads of multinational tax planning.
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Asustek, Gigabyte to ship 4.2-4.5m own-brand motherboards each in 1Q16 » Digitimes

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai:

With demand from the PC DIY market continuing to decline, global motherboard shipments dropped from 69m units in 2014 to 54m units in 2015, while shipments in China also slumped from 28m units to 26m.

As for second-tier players, excepting ASRock which was still profitable in 2015, Micro-Star International (MSI), Biostar, Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) and China-based Colorful all saw their profits from the motherboard business in 2015 drop sharply from 2014.

As for 2016, global motherboard shipments are expected to drop below 50m units, while Asustek and Gigabyte will both be able to maintain their shipments at around 17m units.

Note that point about the DIY market shrinking. (Will VR change that?) Remarkable that two companies have over 60% of the whole market.
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Amazon’s customer service backdoor » Medium

Eric Springer:

As a security conscious user who follows the best practices like: using unique passwords, 2FA, only using a secure computer and being able to spot phishing attacks from a mile away, I would have thought my accounts and details would be be pretty safe? Wrong.

Because when someone has gone after me, it all goes for nothing. That’s because most systems come with a backdoor, customer support. In this post I’m going to focus on the most grievous offender: Amazon.com

Amazon.com was one of the few companies I trusted with my personal information. After all, I shop there, I used to work as a Software Developer and I am a heavy AWS user (raking up well over $600/month)

Truly horrendous story. Moral: don’t use a publicly-visible email for your Amazon account. (Now go and change it.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: weather-forecasting phones, MPs v BT, Google’s UK tax row, Apple Street View?, and more


Smartphones are transforming life in Myanmar. Photo by Timothy Neesam on Flickr.

All the cool kids sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Not sure if they’re viral or bacterial. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The Facebook-loving farmers of Myanmar » The Atlantic

Craig Mod:

For six weeks last October and November, just before Myanmar [formerly Burma] held its landmark elections, I joined a team of design ethnographers in the countryside interviewing forty farmers about smartphones. A design ethnographer is someone who studies how culture and technology interact. A common mistake in building products is to base them on assumptions around how a technology might be adopted. The goal of in-field interviewing in design ethnography is to undermine these assumptions, to be able to design tools and products aligned with actual observed use cases and needs.

Myanmar is especially fertile ground for this kind of work. Until recently the military junta had imposed artificial caps on access to smartphones and SIM cards. Many of the farmers we spoke with had never owned a smartphone before. The villages were often without running water or electricity, but they buzzed with newly minted cell towers and strong 3G signals. For them, everything networked was new.

Fascinating points: brands, how the price of data has dived, apps, and how mobile shops have become pivotal.
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Clever app turns everyone into a roving weather reporter » WIRED

Tim Moynihan:

With a free app for iOS, Sunshine wants to be the gold standard for weather accuracy. It hopes to achieve this ambitious goal by using altogether different meteorological instruments: People, iPhones, algorithms, and the draw of community and gamification. The app needs your location to work correctly, but the tradeoff is receiving hyper-local weather reports—Sunshine calls them “Nowcasts”—and becoming part of the data-aggregation process.

Using crowdsourced reporting, readings from the barometric pressure sensor in the iPhone 6 and latest iDevices, and predictive algorithms that overlay all that information on a map to deliver 18-hour forecasts, Sunshine generates what Stroponiati calls “weather forecasting at the street level.”

“It’s a weighted scheme of a user’s experience, community appreciation [you can upvote other users], and how much activity,” Stroponiati says. “Users that update often but also get a lot of upvotes get more weight. There is a whole gaming scheme behind it with local leaderboards and titles … As you get more points, you change titles and climb higher on the leaderboards.”

Was liking it until the gamification stuff. (Perhaps that’s necessary?) When she was still at Google in July 2009 I interviewed Marissa Mayer, who put forward exactly this sort of idea as what smartphones would enable.
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Can DCMS safely ignore over 120 MPs protesting over constituency broadba[n]d » Computer Weekly

Philip Virgo:

The British Infrastructure Group report publicised in the Daily Telegraph today uses available data (assembled by the House of Commons Library) but puts on it a rather different interpretation to that recently used by BDUK to boast of its achievements to date and thsoe in the pipeline. The consequent call for action is backed by 120 MPs. Whether the break up of BT is the right action is another matter. If it were to be the right “answer” that raises the more interesting questions of whether “merely” separating out Openreach would achieve the objective of stimulating BT to invest in infrastructure (back haul as well as local loop) as opposed to content (alias subsidising premier league football) and whether that would be enough.

Can BT afford the scale and nature of investment necessary to build the communications infrastructure needed to underpin a “smart society”? A ‘smart society” is one in which everything is interconnected: from smart phones, TVs, toys and consumer goods, through smart meters, cars, buildings, telecare and telemedicine to smart grids and cities. It is also one in which those dependent on on-line medical devices (for example) may die when networks go down.

It is not just that BT has not maintained its previous rate of investment in recent years – it does not appear to have plans to increase it in the future and may find it hard to do so.

The BIG report, and others that have come out over the weekend, do make it seem like Openreach is very unloved, not just by customers but also by legislators.
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How to save Wikipedia: Start paying editors … or write for machines » The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

Imagine that one giant manufacturer dominated the car market. The cars it made weren’t very good, but they were much cheaper and easier to buy than cars from anyone else, so the car company had ended up dominating the market.

These cars would often break down, spew noxious gasses, and a lot of the time, didn’t go where you wanted them to go.

Car travel was unreliable and sometimes even dangerous. People kept using them hoping that the crashes would happen to somebody else, and the health consequences of the pollution wouldn’t hit them for years.

For us, it isn’t difficult to imagine a better world, a world of reliable and safe cars.

Wikipedia at 15 is the monopoly car company of digital knowledge.

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Apple Maps vehicles » Apple

Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates.

We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication.

As Benedict Evans points out, the blurring and publication mentions immediately point to a Street View competitor. (Microsoft also has a Street View product, as I recall, which even came before Google’s.)
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Keeping up with Tim Cook’s Apple » Delusions Of Grandeur

Rob Rhyne:

Apple is moving at a blistering pace. Everywhere you look, a bearded neck slams Apple’s software quality. I agree that Apple has shipped some terrible bugs the past few years, but what did you expect? Apple is shipping software at an absurd rate.

When you consider the amount of technology they’re putting out to support new hardware and the number of people who use their software, it’s a mathematical reality that bugs will get out. Some of them can be nasty.

Those assailing Apple’s software quality fail to recognize the particulars of what Apple has shipped and how they have to ship it. If you take time to understand the problems facing a platform vendor and consider Apple’s scale, you might wonder how more bugs haven’t slipped out.

What Apple has accomplished in the past few years is astonishing, but you need to understand the details of how software frameworks are developed and shipped before you can truly appreciate it.

What we need is a graphic of how the hardware and software frameworks have expanded over the past few years. There really isn’t a company that is doing this much on so many fronts at such scale.
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How Larry Page’s obsessions became Google’s business » NYTimes.com

Conor Dougherty:

Many former Google employees who have worked directly with Mr. Page said his managerial modus operandi was to take new technologies or product ideas and generalize them to as many areas as possible. Why can’t Google Now, Google’s predictive search tool, be used to predict everything about a person’s life? Why create a portal to shop for insurance when you can create a portal to shop for every product in the world?

But corporate success means corporate sprawl, and recently Google has seen a number of engineers and others leave for younger rivals like Facebook and start-ups like Uber. Mr. Page has made personal appeals to some of them, and, at least in a few recent cases, has said he is worried that the company has become a difficult place for entrepreneurs, according to people who have met with him.

Part of Mr. Page’s pitch included emphasizing how dedicated he was to “moonshots” like interplanetary travel, or offering employees time and money to pursue new projects of their own. By breaking Google into Alphabet, Mr. Page is hoping to make it a more welcoming home for employees to build new businesses, as well as for potential acquisition targets.

It will also rid his office of the kind of dull-but-necessary annoyances of running a major corporation. Several recently departed Google staff members said that as chief executive of Google, Mr. Page had found himself in the middle of various turf wars, like how to integrate Google Plus, the company’s struggling social media effort, with other products like YouTube, or where to put Google Now, which resided in the Android team but was moved to the search group.

Observation by Above Avalon’s Neil Cybart (former Wall Street analyst): “The continued lack of focus is noteworthy.”
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Yes, Google’s UK back-tax payment is derisory. Here are the numbers that show it. » The Overspill

I used the public data to do some calculations:

The UK is the only region besides the US for which Google breaks out revenue in its quarterly earnings, because – for whatever reason – the UK represents 10% or more of Google’s total revenue. (Public companies are generally obliged to cite countries or regions which generate more than 10% of revenue in their results.)

Google doesn’t, however, break out profits for any region; it just gives a single figure for operating and net profit.

But what if we were to try to estimate how much profit Google has made in the UK, and then compare that to the tax it has paid, and the tax that it recently paid in a settlement with the UK’s tax authorities, HM Revenue & Customs?

This article from The Register is good background too.

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Google’s 2.5% UK tax rate » ITV News

Robert Peston:

Google and HMRC would of course argue that for taxable purposes my calculation of its UK profits is wrong.

They would say that there is a global convention that the profits in the UK should be measured as a margin or increment on top of what it would cost Google to operate here if all its operations were subcontracted to a third party.

Those notional taxable profits would appear to be a bit more than a couple of hundred million quid for for the 18 months to the middle of last year.

And the British taxman would want credit for increasing that margin or increment in its latest negotiations with Google, to capture (in a way that I freely admit I don’t understand) a new assessment of the maturity of its UK business and the low risk of operating here.

They would argue that it would be wholly inappropriate to tax Google on profits measured as I suggested, because most of the costs and business risks of developing Google were taken in the US – and therefore it is only fair that the bulk of the taxable profit of this global giant should be attributable to the US.

In other words, the British taxman and Google would both insist that the Chancellor and the Exchequer are getting quite as much tax as they deserve – perhaps even more – given that multinationals conventionally pay most tax in their homeland (or America in this case).

Here is the punchline. George Osborne, who is struggling to reduce the government’s deficit and needs every penny of tax he can lay his hands on, would seem to concur that he is not being short-changed by mighty Google.

Peston’s calculations are the same as mine.
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Google paid Apple $1bn to keep search bar on iPhone » Bloomberg Business

Joel Rosenblatt:

The revenue-sharing agreement reveals the lengths Google must go to keep people using its search tool on mobile devices. It also shows how Apple benefits financially from Google’s advertising-based business model that Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has criticized as an intrusion of privacy.

Oracle has been fighting Google since 2010 over claims that the search engine company used its Java software without paying for it to develop Android. The showdown has returned to U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco after a pit stop at the U.S. Supreme Court, where Google lost a bid to derail the case. The damages Oracle now seeks may exceed $1 billion since it expanded its claims to cover newer Android versions.

Annette Hurst, the Oracle attorney who disclosed details of the Google-Apple agreement at last week’s court hearing, said a Google witness questioned during pretrial information said that “at one point in time the revenue share was 34 percent.” It wasn’t clear from the transcript whether that percentage is the amount of revenue kept by Google or paid to Apple.

It’s a good point: if Apple is so critical of Google’s business model, why is it happy to take money to let it run that business model on iOS? True, Safari blocks third-party cookies (including DoubleClick, the ad network Google owns) – until you sign in to Google. But still a point of contradiction, rather like iAds.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none noted (though tax manoeuvres are notoriously complicated, so I’m expecting feedback on that).

Yes, Google’s UK back-tax payment is derisory. Here are the numbers that show it.


Google UK: it’s either gigantically expensive to run, or there are tax shenanigans going on. Photo by osde8info on Flickr.

The UK is the only region besides the US for which Google breaks out revenue in its quarterly earnings, because – for whatever reason – the UK represents 10% or more of Google’s total revenue. (Public companies are generally obliged to cite countries or regions which generate more than 10% of revenue in their results.)

Google doesn’t, however, break out profits for any region; it just gives a single figure for operating and net profit.

Update: note that this post doesn’t take into account any of the amazing workarounds that companies use to shift “activity” from one place to another; for example, Google doesn’t even accept that it has a “place of activity” in the UK. For instance, look at Jolyon Maugham’s analysis, and especially the comments that follow it.

But what if we were to try to estimate (in a fag-packet way) how much profit Google has made in the UK, and then compare that to the tax it has paid, and the tax that it recently paid in a settlement with the UK’s tax authorities, HM Revenue & Customs?

Tax, of course, is payable on profit, not revenue. And it’s helpful too to compare Google with other UK media companies which sell advertising and have other activities.

So take a look at the tax paid by another UK-based media company of comparable size – ITV.

ITV’s interim results (for the six months to end June 2015) show six-month revenues of £1.53bn, with profit before tax of £391m, compared to profits for the same period in 2014 of £312m. And here’s the profit before tax figures (for six months).

Screenshot 2016-01-24 17.29.39On which it paid tax of £81m (first six months of 2015) and £64m (first six months of 2014) – an effective tax rate, as it points out, of 21%.

Screenshot 2016-01-24 17.29.27.png

Now let’s move on to Google. Its UK revenues are as follows – all given in US$:

Screenshot 2016-01-24 17.35.09

Note that these are a LOT more than ITV’s. But how do we get from this to its profits? The simple way is just to adopt the overall profitability of Google, the corporation. As a rough-and-ready way of approaching Google’s UK profits, it will have to suffice. The UK doesn’t have the expense of the “moonshot” operations such as self-driving cars; most of the activity is around advertising, though there is also an Android development team (whose work is allegedly actually “happening” in California for tax purposes) and various building works which will all affect immediate profitability because they’re expensive.

But let’s try anyway. Let’s use Google’s overall operating profit margin for each quarter, and use that to calculate the UK profits. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

I’ve done that in the table below, using the data from Google’s accounts, and its operating profit/revenue (hence operating profitability margin) to calculate a notional profit; then I’ve multiplied by the prevailing exchange rate (which has varied a lot over the years); and then I’ve multiplied the notional profit by 21% to get the “tax payable”.

Screenshot 2016-01-24 18.19.02

Screenshot 2016-01-24 18.31.14

The numbers are staggering. Google’s UK division has probably made profits of more than 7 billion pounds since the fourth quarter of 2005 (which I used simply because I couldn’t get exchange rates going further back) on revenues (stated) of $39bn – generating an assumed profit of $11.56bn, or £7.11bn.

And the tax payable on that amount? Assuming that same 21% rate as ITV, the total tax payable would be just short of £1.5bn.

And.. how much tax has Google paid in the UK?

The latest stories to emerge of the deal with HMRC suggest that Google is paying back tax to cover just that period to 2005.

“We have agreed with HMRC a new approach for our UK taxes and will pay £130m, covering taxes since 2005,” a Google spokesman said. “We will now pay tax based on revenue from UK-based advertisers, which reflects the size and scope of our UK business.”

How much tax has Google paid in the UK? A total of £200m if you include this latest £130m amount, apparently. Which works out to a tax payment rate of 2.8%. Sure, there may have been lots and lots of costs involved in setting up Google, which are offset against tax. But I doubt they’re bigger than ITV, for instance, has to pay.

Google’s deal with HMRC has been called “derisory”. The figures here suggest that that description is absolutely correct. If Google is generating this much revenue in the UK – a fact which it states in its earnings reports, for which its executives are legally liable – then it would be terrific if it could explain quite how it is so dramatically expensive to run such a business that it generates such pitiful profits. Update: the explanation given by tax experts is that the revenues are *generated* in the UK, but *booked* in Ireland, so that the “profit” arises in Ireland, which doesn’t tax it. This “generated in UK but booked in Ireland” point is the one which led to an almighty furore in 2013 when Matt Brittin of Google

stood by evidence he gave last year that all the company’s European sales were routed through its operation in Ireland and so were not liable to UK taxes.

To which the committee chairman, Margaret Hodge, responded:

“You are a company that says you do no evil and I think that you do do evil in that you use smoke and mirrors to avoid paying tax.”

Among the criticisms of the deal with HMRC are that it must have been done with some sort of principle in the minds of those who agreed the deal for HMRC – in which case it would be useful for other companies to know what principles exactly are in play. It’s time for transparency on this.

Start up: Google’s ad stop, hacking phishers, the lost phone mystery, the adblocking browser and more

A game with these will give you an insight into production processes. Photo by judy_and_ed on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why is your team falling behind? Ask ‘The Penny Game’ » Atomicobject

Eric Shull:

The book Velocity describes an enlightening simulation, a model of a simple manufacturing line. The game uses pennies and dice to represent pieces of work flowing through stations in a factory. It may be simple, but the penny game can improve our understanding of how software teams work, how the interaction of variable processes affect the system as as whole.

In the penny game, pennies come in at one end of the line, are processed by each station, then exit at the other end. This would be rather mundane but for one complication: each station does not always process the same number of pennies.

In the simulation, rolled dice indicate how many pennies each station is allowed to move.

This is fascinating – and gives you real insight into the problems that have to be overcome in manufacturing to tight deadlines. Imagine now if you were processing millions of “pennies”, except they were phones.
link to this extract

 


Google disabled 49% more ads in 2015 » WSJ Digits blog

Alistair Barr:

More than 1,000 of Google’s 60,000 employees monitor and remove ads, an important task because the company gets about 90% of its revenue from advertising. It’s also been hit financially for not adequately monitoring ads. In 2011, the company agreed to pay $500m to settle allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice that ads for Canadian online pharmacies contributed to the illegal importation of prescription drugs. In the settlement, Google acknowledged it acted “improperly.”

Google blocked more than 12.5m ads in 2015 for drugs that were unapproved or that made misleading claims, up from 9.6m a year earlier.

Ads making misleading weight-loss claims were a big source of user complaints last year, prompting Google to suspend more than 30,000 websites from its ad systems. It declined to give a comparable number for 2014.

Rob Leathern has the growth figure for ad disabling: it’s growing by 50% annually, but still a long way short of catching them all.
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How I stumbled upon thousands of Facebook passwords » Medium

“Rukshan”, a Colombo-based medical undergrad and hacker, received a Facebook phishing email and twiddled around with the phishing page:

after modifying the url I checked the folder which contained the php script that handles the post requests and I knew at that moment I hit the jackpot.

There was no index.html file to make sure no one else see the files in that directory or any .htaccess modification, well like I said phishing people are too bored to do all these tech stuff anyway, they’d rather get the passwords and go away.

So I opened the password.html file and I was greeted to the sight of hundreds of Facebook passwords, and by looking at the credentials one there was a pattern:

•Almost all of these accounts belonged to girls who are in their early 20s or teens.
• Almost all of the accounts belonged to females who are from Colombo.

Neat idea; neater still would be to wipe the files. But that would be one sizeable hack further (and probably illegal).
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Why don’t you have an Android version? (Or why we develop for iOS first) » Impossible Ventures

Joel Runyon:

Android users may download more apps, but they spend less money than iTunes users.

But that’s not just fake studies either, in our experience with Paleo (io) – a top 20 app in iTunes and ranked even higher in Google Play – we make about 3x the sales on our iTunes listing as we do on Google Play (even though we have a higher ranking in Google Play than iTunes).

Which brings me to the next point: apps are not free to make.

As an app developer, you have to spend time & money on this concept that you have in your head to bring it to reality. The  MVP on an app can cost anywhere between $2k and $20k to build and launch. It might not seem like much if you spend all your time raising VC money and have a $1M+ in the bank, but it can add up if you’re bootstrapping.

In fact, with every dollar you spend, there’s a very real cost (along with another equally as real, opportunity cost).

Of course the argument is completely different in Asia, where it’s generally Android-first (except in Japan, and who knows in China?).
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Finding the tennis suspects » Medium

Russell Kaplan, Jason Teplitz, and Christina Wadsworth:

The tennis world was sent reeling when BuzzFeed News and the BBC jointly published The Tennis Racket, which revealed “evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis”. But BuzzFeed refused to publish the names of those players.

We dove into the data and found the names ourselves.

Unless you follow tennis really closely you won’t have heard of any of the names but one, and I do wonder if that one is thrown up by some weird quirk of the analysis. Seems robust, though. I think this might dissuade players – and administrators – from trying to hide this in future, knowing that there are people analysing public data for oddities. Will it put off the gamblers, though?
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Why do people keep coming to this couple’s home looking for lost phones? » Fusion

Kashmir Hill:

It started the first month that Christina Lee and Michael Saba started living together. An angry family came knocking at their door demanding the return of a stolen phone. Two months later, a group of friends came with the same request. One month, it happened four times. The visitors, who show up in the morning, afternoon, and in the middle of the night, sometimes accompanied by police officers, always say the same thing: their phone-tracking apps are telling them that their smartphones are in this house in a suburb of Atlanta.

But the phones aren’t there, Lee and Saba always protest, mystified at being fingered by these apps more than a dozen times since February 2015. “I’m sorry you came all this way. This happens a lot,” they’d explain. Most of the people believe them, but about a quarter of them remain suspicious, convinced that the technology is reliable and that Lee and Saba are lying.

“My biggest fear is that someone dangerous or violent is going to visit our house because of this,” said Saba by email. (Like this guy.) “If or when that happens, I doubt our polite explanations are gonna go very far.”

It’s billed as “a tech mystery”, and it really is.
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Brave is the name, ad-blocking the game of new browser » Computerworld

Former Mozilla CEO (for 11 days) Brendan Eich is behind a new browser for desktop and mobile which blocks all ads and tracking by default:

“We are building a new browser and a connected private cloud service with anonymous ads,” Eich said.

In effect, Brave will first scrub websites of most of their ads and all tracking, then replace those ads with its own. But the latter will be aimed not at individuals but at the anonymous aggregate of the browser’s user base. If enough people gravitate to the browser, Brave will share its ad revenue with users and content publishers.

“We will target ads based on browser-side intent signals phrased in a standard vocabulary, and without a persistent user id or highly re-identifiable cookie,” Eich said. “By default Brave will insert ads only in a few standard-sized spaces. We find those spaces via a cloud robot.”

No user data will be recorded or stored by Brave, Eich promised.

Elsewhere, Eich said that 55% of Brave’s revenue would be shared with site publishers, and 15% with users, who could then turn that money over to their favorite sites or keep it.

Al Hilwa, an analyst with research firm IDC, applauded the concept of creating an alternate revenue stream from traditional advertising, but wondered whether the browser could compete, even in the niche that Eich described. “This is a laudable idea, but fighting ‘free’ is always risky,” said Hilwa in an email reply to questions.

Not sure the world has an appetite for a new browser, but one can envisage adblocking becoming built in and then enabled, just as pop-up blocking in browsers went from “pop-up what?” to “optional” to “on by default”.
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Apple pushes to bolster market share in India » WSJ

Newley Purnell:

India’s smartphone market is expanding quickly and by next year it should overtake the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest behind China, according to research firm IDC.

Just 35% of mobile phones sold in India now are smartphones, meaning there is room for growth as people upgrade from basic devices. Indian consumers, however, tend to purchase inexpensive devices: The average smartphone selling price in the country is likely to fall to $102 in 2018 from $135 in 2014, IDC says.

Apple’s problem has been that the sweet spot for smartphone sales in India has been handsets that cost less than $150. In a country where the average person earns about $1,500 a year and even middle-class consumers make less than $8,000 a year, the standard iPhone — which usually costs between $500 and $1,000 without a data plan — was just too expensive for most people to consider.

“Buying an iPhone is so expensive,” said Sakshi Maurya, a 20-year-old university student in New Delhi. She said she doesn’t understand why an iPhone is five times as expensive as some locally available Android phones. “It’s a luxurious thing.”

India poses a particular marketing challenge for Apple: it’s a mixture of very tech-savvy buyers and low-income buyers. Which does it target first, and how?
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iPhone 6S/6S Plus underperform year-ago sales » Consumer Intelligence Research Partners

CIRP finds that the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus accounted for 67% of total US iPhone sales, with iPhone 6s at 48% and iPhone 6s Plus at 19%. In the December 2014 quarter, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus accounted for 75% of total US iPhone sales with 30% iPhone 6 Plus.

“The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus did quite well,” said Josh Lowitz, CIRP Partner and Co- Founder. “Yet, they did not dominate the same way that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus did a year ago. The total share of the new flagship models fell below the share of the then-new phones in 2014, and the large-format iPhone 6s Plus share of sales dropped compared to the iPhone 6 Plus as well. Customers continue to choose the year-old iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and even the two-year old iPhone 5S.”

CIRP can’t say whether total sales are higher or lower (it samples 500 buyers of Apple devices in the previous quarter), just the mix. This looks like a subtle price deflation of the iPhone as people opt for 2014’s models over 2015’s – after all, they look the same to other people, even if the newer models has extra features.
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Issue 3434 – android – Add APIs for low-latency audio – Android Open Source Project – Issue Tracker

On Tuesday, Apple released its “Music Memos” app, which is intended to let musicians (of any standard) record little musical thoughts that come to them on the guitar or piano directly to their iPhone or iPad, and add musical accompaniment.

Android doesn’t have that, because as has been noted here before its audio latency is too long – over 10 milliseconds, which is the longest pro musicians can bear. So how long have developers been prodding Google to improve Android’s audio latency?

I am developer of real-time audio signal processing applications. I am interested in creating
applications for sale in the android marketplace, but found that android has no method for real-
time low latency audio.

This is the first entry in a bug/feature request which continues to the present (latest entry is June 2015). The date of the entry? July 31, 2009 – slightly over nine months after the first Android phone. Is six and a half years a long time for a feature request to lie open? (And here’s Google’s official list of device latencies. Look for any at 10ms or below.)

Apple effectively gets 100% of the professional audience through this feature.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: the open data economy, Samsung sued on software updates, Google v Isis, deaf developing, and more

Zano drone: hardly any were built

Zano’s much-promised drone turned out to be a flop, not a flyer. Photo: Torquing Industries.

Hell, you might as well sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The economic impact of open data: what do we already know? » Medium

Jeni Tennison and Jack Hardinges of the Open Data Institute:

Open data fuels economic growth. Many believe in the theory and ask for the proof. A new report by Nesta and the ODI adds to the evidence of the impact of open data. The report’s analysis, undertaken by PwC, examines the effects of the Open Data Challenge Series (ODCS) and predicts the programme will result in a potential 10x return (£10 for every £1 invested over three years), generating up to £10.8m for the UK economy.

Seems amazing that ten years ago I was having to fight government departments tooth and nail to persuade them that releasing open data could have an economic benefit.
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‘Hateful Eight’ producer on piracy: “Aspirin ain’t curing the plague” » Hollywood Reporter

Richard Gladstein, producer of Hateful Eight:

the “Fair Use” provision and debate has also proven to be an extremely useful tool for those looking to distract from or ignore the real copyright infringement issue: piracy.

Such distractions include Google’s recent announcement that they will be offering legal support to “a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns.” Fred von Lohmann, legal director of copyright at Google, noted in a recent post on Google’s Public Policy blog: “More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” As the third most visited site on the web, YouTube occupies an important place in the discussion of online copyright infringement.

The criteria and definition of what constitutes fair use is a long-cherished and worthy debate. In fact, I agree with Mr. von Lohmann when he says, “Some of those uploads make use of existing content, like music or TV clips, in new and transformative ways that have social value beyond the original.”

However, it should be noted that the search behemoth won’t be defending every takedown notice, but said they will select a “small number of videos” they believe “will make a positive impact.” Would you care to guess how many videos they’ve selected? Turns out, it’s four. Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today points out, “That’s 0.0000005% of all users.”

As Stephen Carlisle, Copyright Officer of Nova Southeastern University, describes it:

“The new policy is really nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to encourage more people to upload to YouTube videos of dubious legality, while at the same time acting as an intimidation tactic to discourage the filing of valid takedown notices.”

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Being a deaf developer » Cruft

Hollie Kay:

I’ve been deaf since infancy. It is not profound; my hearing loss is described as moderate to severe and is mostly problematic at higher frequency ranges, the range at which most human speech happens. I rely on lip-reading and identifying vowel patterns to understand spoken language. Particular struggles are:

• recognising consonants, especially sibilants and unvoiced consonants (all consonants are high frequency sounds, and the unvoiced and sibilant consonants don’t activate the vocal chords)
• the beginning of sentences
• the end of sentences

Some deaf people successfully become programmers. It’s mostly thought-based, often solitary work, where all your output is written down. Specifications and bugs come to you (in an ideal world, at least) on paper and in ticketing systems instead of through other people’s noiseholes. Some areas aren’t quite so fabulous (I’m looking at you, interminable conference call meetings involving 15 people sitting in a circle around a gigantic table), but adjustments are always possible.

The stereotype of a programmer as a solitary eccentric who’s allergic to human company is unfair and inaccurate. As a group, we’re a very social bunch.

The Tim Berners-Lee quote about accessibility further down in the article is worth bearing in mind.
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Vladimir Putin’s internet adviser owns a torrent site » TorrentFreak

“Andy”:

Last week Putin signed a decree that officially enlisted [Herman] Klimenko and it didn’t take long for him to address the issue of Internet piracy. However, instead of tough talk, Klimenko criticized web-blocking and suggested that copyright holders should wait for a better economic situation before “terrorizing” on the issue of piracy.

“Consumption of copyright content increases with economic growth, and when the situation is very serious, I think people do not have to unnecessarily terrorize these issues,” Putin’s adviser said.

“Pushing hard now on this topic, I think, is not worth it. When the economy improves, you should return to this issue.”

While Klimenko’s comments at least in part sound reasonable, copyright holders would’ve been disappointed by his lack of support. What they will be even more disappointed over is the allegations now surfacing about Klimenko’s links to online piracy.

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How Zano raised millions on Kickstarter and left most backers with nothing » Medium

Mark Harris:

bumps in the road kept popping up. In late May, Crowther posted that some of Zano’s plastic parts had been delayed due to a tooling issue. The decision not pursue a pilot build was coming back to bite Torquing. Additions that Reedman made to his initial design, and the fact that some of the plastics supplied were heavier than expected, had ballooned Zano’s weight from 55g as a prototype to 70g in pre-production. With the original propellers, the Zano could now fly for only a couple of minutes between charges — a far cry from the 15 minutes that Reedman had promised.

A bigger battery could increase flight time, and Reedman told me he was trying to boost the battery size from 750 mAh (milliampere hours, a measurement of discharge capacity over time) to 1,000 or 1,100 mAh before he left Zano. A review of comparable batteries designed for drones (from makers and third-party replacements) finds even custom-fit modules would weigh at least 30g for 1,000 mAh, seemingly impractical without further design changes.

His solution at the time was to send back the original propellers for larger ones. However, says Reedman, “As far as [the Chinese supplier] was concerned, the propellers did work so therefore are not faulty and would not accept returns.” Torquing was left having paid for tens of thousands of propellers it could not use.

Harris is a terrific journalist (he’s done sterling work on Google’s self-driving car problems) who was commissioned by Kickstarter itself to dig into what happened to the biggest-ever Kickstarter funding and flop. Earlier, he doesn’t say the promo video was faked, but if anyone could explain how it was not faked, I’m all ears. (I was a Zano backer. Win some, lose some.)

The key lesson seems to be: cap the amount you’ll allow to be raised, especially for complex devices. But there are lots of other lessons too.
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Google: ISIS must be ‘contained to the dark web’ » Wired UK

Matt Burgess, reporting on a talk called “Waging a Digital Counterinsurgency”:

[Jared] Cohen, who heads up the Google department that is building products to help against oppression, said the “echo chamber” created by hordes of fake social media accounts “shouldn’t be neglected. He said: “The reality is what Isis is doing with technology ranges from communication to spamming, to all sorts of tactics that you’re probably more familiar with fraud and spam and various scams you’ve received in your inbox.”

“To me Isis is not a tech savvy organisation.”

One possible tactic, according Yasmin Green, also of Google Ideas, is to show targeted advertising to those who have been identified as looking at the propaganda.

Green said adverts may be able to “connect, distract, disrupt, and maybe sell a different product” to those with fighting for Isis in their eyes. The approach is also one that has been endorsed by the British government with internet minister Baroness Shields saying tech companies can do more to promote anti-extremist messages on their services.

If Cohen thinks Isis isn’t tech-savvy, then how has it got so much social media going on that a “digital counterinsurgency” is needed? And a solution consisting of targeted advertising? This is truly seeing nails everywhere because your toolbox only contains a hammer. In a few years, will Cohen be suggesting self-driving tanks to fight the war?
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Samsung sued by consumer watchdog for failing to update its phones » AndroidAuthority

Bogdan Petrovan:

Consumentenbond, an influential non-profit organization looking after the interests of consumers in the Netherlands, is taking Samsung to court over its failure to provide [software] updates in a timely manner.

In a press release (PDF, English language), the group says it reached out to Samsung on December 2, but in the absence of a proper response, it “issued injunctive relief proceedings against” the Korean giant.

Consumentenbond considers Samsung is guilty of unfair trade practices, as consumers are not informed upon purchase how long they will receive software updates. The group demands “clear and unambiguous information” on updates and security patches, and wants Samsung to actually release updates for at least two years from the date of purchase.

Consumentenbond says 82% of the Samsung phones it checked were not updated within two years of their introduction. All manufacturers should be held to this high standard, according to the consumer watchdog, which noted that Samsung is the “undisputed leader” of the Dutch phone market.

This last demand seems rather hard to put in practice. Consumentenbond wants Samsung to support every device it sells for two years, regardless of how old it is. In practice, that would force Samsung to ensure updates for four years or even more.

And this would be bad because..? Definitely a lawsuit to watch, especially if other consumer organisations take up the same cause around Europe.
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HTC denies plans to spin off VR business unit » Digitimes

Wei-Yan Lin and Steve Shen:

HTC has denied a media report indicating that it plans to spin off its virtual reality (VR) business unit to form an independent company in a bid to boost its VR business. The company said it will continue to dedicate resources to the development of VR products to create maximum value for its shareholders.

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When Will We See A New Apple Watch? » TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

Several things that I’ve heard (from several sources) indicate to me that we won’t see a major new hardware model of the Apple Watch in March. Design partnerships, accessories, that kind of thing maybe but not a “Watch 2.0” with a bunch of new hardware features. I could be wrong, of course, but I’ve heard enough to put it out there.

I’ve now heard a bit more that suggests that Apple might ship a minor revision of the Apple Watch that includes a FaceTime camera and not much else — but still that it would not be a full “Watch 2.0” with casing changes and major improvements. Still no word on timing but that could explain the reports of a camera have been showing up. Like I said, tea leaves!

I spoke to Creative Strategies analyst Ben Bajarin, who says that supply chain checks are showing no movement that would indicate a new Watch model in production as of yet.

Which makes it sound like June (WWDC) at the earliest, September more likely. That would give time for the technology to improve enough to make it an obvious replacement for those who want an upgrade, and a more attractive product for those who wavered.
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‘No layoffs … this week’: Marissa Mayer’s twisted joke kills morale » New York Post

James Covert and Claire Atkinson:

“She said there are going to be no layoffs ‘this week,’ and many of the employees laughed at her,” said one insider, who, fearing retribution, asked not to be named.

“This is the reason employee morale is so low,” the insider added, noting that most workers took the scary remark as twisted confirmation that Yahoo!’s embattled chief executive is sharpening the ax.

Mayer, who returned to her duties at the struggling Internet pioneer just a few weeks after giving birth to twins on Dec. 10, made the less-than-reassuring comment in response to a question at an internal “Friday FYI” meeting on Jan. 8, sources said.

Word of the gaffe has been “spreading like wildfire” through Silicon Valley, another insider said, calling it the latest example of a chronically tone-deaf CEO in a crisis.

Nothing is going right for Mayer with Yahoo. Nothing at all, anywhere. But then, when did it last go right for Yahoo in anything? 2005?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: the tech productivity gap, adtech fraud to pass $7bn, the stacked chart delusion, and more


Sexual harassment is a problem even in large tech companies. Photo by ghedo on Flickr.

Why read it on a web page when you could sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email? You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The future is here. It just needs a big push » WSJ

Christopher Mims:

Past technological revolutions—the steam engine, electricity, the automobile, the telephone—have brought gains in welfare to all corners of the world. Continued sharp declines in poverty in Asia and Africa can be traced to the belated adoption of these old technologies.

But if the automobile, to take one revolution, helped make possible one of the greatest sustained economic booms in U.S. history, one that led to unprecedented prosperity for the middle class, why isn’t the more recent tech revolution doing the same?

Economists and economic historians think they have an answer. To put it bluntly, they say, the problem with the current technological revolution is that, despite multiple Internet booms, we have yet to figure out how to allocate enough capital to information technology and all it enables.

I was ready to say “but everyone has smartphones, even those fleeing countries”; however Mims’s argument is much more subtle: see the graphic below. Productivity isn’t rising. Why not, given all this technology?

Year-over-year change in U.S. labor productivity (output per hour), five-year moving average


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Ad fraud to cost brands $7.2bn this year » FT.com

Shannon Bond:

The advertising industry’s rapid shift to digital formats is providing a boon to fraudsters, who will cost brands $7.2bn this year, up from $6.3bn in 2015, according to new research.

Marketers are losing money to fraudulent viewing by “bots”, or automated computer programs, that mimic human behaviour. Advertisers pay for those views even though they are not seen by the real people campaigns are intended to reach.

The study by the US’s Association of National Advertisers, whose members collectively spend more than $250bn a year on marketing, and White Ops, an online ad fraud investigator, attributed the rise in projected losses to an expected 15 per cent rise in digital ad spending this year.

Comparatively small survey, but big advertisers – and they all saw “bot traffic” getting worse. One ad-tech exec was upset at yesterday’s link on this topic, but ad fraud matters: this might appear to represent only 3% of spend, but it’s a huge amount of money, and this is only the loss you’re sure about.
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What I learnt from being sexually harassed at Google » Gadgette

Julia Chou:

A recent study reported that 60% of women in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed. Of those, 65% have received advances directly from a superior. These statistics caught me by surprise, though they probably shouldn’t have — I am one of them.

While at Google — a company well-known for its “Do no evil” culture — one of my managers sexually harassed me and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. In the span of a week, I went from feeling excited and motivated about my job to feeling lethargic, anxious, and unenthused. As the youngest member of my team and the only woman, I felt stupid and naïve.

In that week, I was kissed on the cheek, asked to sit on my manager’s lap, told about my manager’s sex life and virility, and told that “all men go through an Asian fetish at some time,” among other wildly discomfiting, work-inappropriate things. Then I was asked to dinner alone. After a week of feeling confused and disrespected, my fight or flight reaction kicked in, and I immediately took the next shuttle home…

…During the HR investigation that ensued, I remember being shamed by a female colleague who thought I was blowing the situation out of proportion. She thought I was being overly sensitive, and that it was wrong of me to report my manager. That hurt. I thought she would’ve naturally supported me.

Concerning story. As a side note, Gadgette is clearly trying to shift subtly away from the conventional “here’s what a company announced in a blogpost today” output of the overwhelming majority of (male-targeting) tech sites.
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Hypocrisy and why Mike Hearn will not be missed by Bitcoin » Pond Politics

John Hardy:

Another complaint [Hearn, who left the bitcoin community after his proposal to increase block size was rejected – whether by fair means or foul including DDOS attacks] makes is that Chinese miners have a majority of network power, and consequently do not want to increase the block size because it will make it harder for them to compete. This to me is either naive or wilfully misleading. If an increased block size struggled to pass through the firewall, the side of the firewall with the greatest hashing power would benefit most (the Chinese side), as the other size would end up producing more orphan nodes. Nobody wants this, including Chinese miners, because it will damage the integrity of Bitcoin and people are willing to wait and try other solutions first.

Hearn: Even if a new team was built to replace Bitcoin Core, the problem of mining power being concentrated behind the Great Firewall would remain. Bitcoin has no future whilst it’s controlled by fewer than 10 people. And there’s no solution in sight for this problem: nobody even has any suggestions. For a community that has always worried about the block chain being taken over by an oppressive government, it is a rich irony.

The rich irony here, is that increasing the block size through XT would actually exacerbate the problem, and that Mike seems oblivious to this.

Ultimately, having lost in the battle of consensus, Mike Hearn has taken his ball and gone home. Bitcoin XT could not gain consensus because enough people believe in the Core team’s vision for a more graceful and innovative solution for scaling Bitcoin, rather than clunkily just bumping up a number and hoping for the best.

Yes, its fine to be sceptical of Core’s vision, but the beauty of Bitcoin is that if SegWit and LN do not deliver on their promises, consensus will soon form around an alternative. In the mean time, if transactions slow down and the network fails, consensus may form sooner. Bitcoin is not dead, people recognise it is in an experimental phase and will be prepared to be patient. One day Mike may well regret not having a little more of it himself.

There are reasonable criticisms on both sides of the block size debate, the censorship and DDOS has been concerning, but so has the wilful misinformation coming from the other side.

I’ve linked to Hardy’s post rather than Greg Slepak’s point-by-point rebuttal because Hardy seems to offer a broader overview that deals directly with the issues.

I’m still unconvinced that Hearn is wrong. Hardy’s point that Chinese miners wouldn’t want to have their capacity locked behind the Great Firewall, and the fact that there was a DDOS campaign to block Hearn’s Bitcoin XT proposal (miners running XT were hit with DDOS attacks) suggests there is money, not just principle, behind the status quo.

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It’s Wikipedia mythbuster time: 8 of the best on your 15th birthday » The Register

An excellent list from Andreas Kolbe, which ends with this one:

But Wikipedia needs money, doesn’t it?

That depends on your definition of “need”. Wikipedia’s article writers work for free. The Foundation’s employees, however, don’t. Their number has ballooned from eleven in 2007 to almost 300 today (17 in Fundraising alone). Internet hosting, once Wikipedia’s main expense, cost less than $2m last year; at the same time, the Foundation reported net assets of $78m, including $35m in “cash and cash equivalents” and $29m in “short-term investments”.

But the Foundation has long planned to set up an endowment; these plans are now going ahead. Secondly, with alternative knowledge delivery systems like Apple’s Siri and Google’s Knowledge Graph on the rise, some feel the days of the encyclopedia are numbered. Resources are being invested in Wikidata and a new “Discovery” or “Knowledge Engine” project said to have been a contributory factor in the current dust-up between the volunteer community and the Wikimedia board.

The question of what happens as usage shifts more to mobile is probably the biggest for Wikipedia’s next 15 years. (Via Seth Finkelstein.)
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Microsoft shares new details on HoloLens: up to 5.5hr battery life, device link and more » Petri

Brad Sams:

At an event in Tel Aviv, Bruce Harris, a Microsoft Technical Evangelist, shared new details about the company’s upcoming Hololens. The highly anticipated device will start shipping to developers this quarter but the company has not announced yet when the device will generally available to consumer or enterprise clients.

Bruce notes that any universal application that can currently run on Windows 10, will run natively, out of the box, on Hololens and the device is “totally wireless” and uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for communication. In fact, there will not be a wired option for this device.

Battery life, while it depends on your usage, can run up to 5.5 hours and under heavy load is closer to 2.5 hours when pushing the device to its limits; anything can connect to the device, as long as it supports Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Field of view is similar to a 15in monitor about two feet away from your face and the reason for this size on the field of view is because of cost and battery life. Harris notes that as manufacturing improves, the company intends to expand the field of view once it makes sense from a pricing perspective.

Harris also says that they are manufacturing the device themselves but it is not being made in the US like the Surface Hub.

I think five and a half hours would be more than enough time to be wearing a device like this. I’d like to know what optometrists think of the potential long-term effects. (One writeup said the 5.5hr life would be “when working on Word documents.” If you’re using a Hololens to work on Word, could I suggest you’re doing it wrong?)
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iOS code shows Apple experimenting with ultra fast, light-based Li-Fi wireless data for future iPhones » Apple Insider

Sam Oliver:

Beginning with iOS 9.1, the operating system’s library cache file makes mention of “LiFiCapability” alongside other hardware and software capability declarations. The change was spotted by Twitter user Chase Fromm and independently confirmed by AppleInsider.

Li-Fi works in a way not entirely unlike a traditional infrared remote control. Data is transmitted by rapidly modulating a light source, and received with a light sensor before being reassembled into an electronic signal.

Unlike your television remote, Li-Fi uses visible light and the modulation happens in a manner imperceptible to the human eye: that means the same bulb that lights your hallway can act as a data access point. It’s also much faster, with theoretical throughput capacity of up to 224 gigabits per second.

Indoor use only, obvs.
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After Dark in CSS » Bryan Braun

Classic Mac screensavers, rendered in CSS. Which I’m afraid means you can’t use them as screensavers, unless you put your browser into full screen. Code available on Github for the CSS-inclined.
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I hate stacked area charts » All this

Dr Drang:

I keep seeing stacked area charts in my travels around the ’net. Horace Dediu at Asymco, for example, seems particularly fond of them. It’s easy to see why. They have big blocks of color to attract the eye, and they don’t look as stodgy as their sibling, the stacked column chart. But I find them often misleading, even when their creator doesn’t intend them to be.

Here’s a fictitious example to show what I’m talking about. It’s a timeline of the change in market share, in percent, of three companies that are the only manufacturers of a particular device. We’ll call the companies Orange, Green, and Blue and use those colors in our charts. Let’s look at this chart.

Obviously, Orange started out dominating the market, but Blue expanded rapidly and took over. But here’s the harder question: How did Green do over this period?

Answer first, then read. Strong argument. You can, as he says, move them around so Green is on the bottom, but what if you have a four-way split and you’re trying to get them to represent correctly?
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HTC reportedly to set up independent VR company » Digitimes

HTC plans to spin off its virtual reality (VR) business unit to form an independent company in a bid boost its VR business operations, according to a Taipei-based Central News Agency (CNA) report.

HTC and its chairperson Cher Wang will hold a 100% stake in the planned VR company initially, the report said. HTC did not comment or confirm the report.

Wang said earlier on the sidelines of CES 2016 that HTC will set up an independent business unit to develop and operate VR platform products with the possibility that the unit may operate outside HTC.

Remember when HTC bought a chunk of Beats and then sold it – making an overall profit of $80m? Maybe this could be like that.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Apple’s $8bn tax bill?, the tech funding squeeze, Friends Liquidated, Samsung ‘Live Photos’+ more


At least you knew that the advert might be seen by real people. No such assurances in the online world. Photo by University of Pittsburgh Libraries on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

Why you should never consider a travel planning startup » Tnooz

Nadav Gur, principal at NG Vanguard Enterprises:

First, you need to acquire users. Guess what — if they’re not planning a trip, they’re not interested in travel planners. They don’t even acknowledge their existence.

People are bombarded by new websites/apps/brands all the time, and they filter for what’s relevant.

That’s what you see GEICO ads on TV all the time – cause the only way to get your attention those 1–2 times a year when you give a damn about insurance, is to be in front of you all the time.
No matter how much press/word-of-mouth/viral exposure you’re getting, it only registers if/when it happens to be relevant.

Inevitably this means that you too have to advertise a lot. And no, free user acquisition schemes like SEO do not work in 2015 at scale in established markets.

The Priceline Group spends over $2bn per year on Google Ads alone. Guess why?

Not so easily disrupted. And that’s before you get to the question of how many people spend enough on travel for any affiliate amounts to be worthwhile.
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Tech faces hour of reckoning as fundraising drops, layoffs rise » USA Today

Jon Swartz:

Is tech in for a rude awakening this year after a magic carpet ride the past few years?

The numbers, and recent actions by once-highflying start-ups, would seem to suggest so.

Consider: Mega-rounds, defined as funding of more than $100 million for venture capitalist-backed companies, are in free fall. The rate of private start-ups attaining unicorn status — a valuation of at least $1 billion — are grinding to a crawl. Friday layoffs at tech start-ups, deemed Black Fridays, are increasing. Bellwether tech stocks such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon have been taking it on the chin.

“It’s a time to re-calibrate — so many companies can’t burn extraordinary amounts of money forever,” says Sunil Panel, co-founder of Sidecar, a pioneer in the crowded ride-sharing space that shuttered operations on Dec. 31.

Last year, Silicon Valley projected unbridled swagger. Today, “there is definitely an era of reckoning,” says Chris Sacca, a venture investor with stakes in Uber and Twitter. “Reality is setting in.”

Not sure about “grinding to a crawl” (note to USA Today subs: things grind to a halt, or slow to a crawl), but the slowdown in stupid ideas is palpable.
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European antitrust chief takes swipe at privacy issue » The New York Times

Mark Scott on the EC’s Margrethe Vestager’s speech at the DLD conference:

“If a few companies control the data you need to cut costs, then you give them the power to drive others out of the market,” Ms. Vestager said at the DLD conference, a gathering of digital executives and policy makers.

She said that “it’s hard to know” how much data is given up when using an online messaging service.

“But it’s a business transaction, not a free giveaway,” she continued. “As consumers, we need to be treated fairly.”

Ms. Vestager’s warning shot in the often-rancorous privacy debate comes ahead of a Jan. 31 deadline for Europe and the United States to reach a new data-sharing agreement…

…A number of European executives echoed Ms. Vestager’s fears about how a small number of American tech companies could use their large-scale data collection to favor their own services over those of rivals. Among them was Oliver Samwer, the German entrepreneur who co-founded Rocket Internet, one of the region’s most high-profile tech companies.

“If someone like Google or Facebook has all of the data, then that’s not good,” Mr. Samwer said here on Sunday.

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Whatsapp goes free, says it won’t introduce ads » Mashable


Whatsapp readily acknowledges that killing its only source of income will raise questions about introducing third-party ads. But the company has a different idea.

“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight,” the post reads.

We reckon Whatsapp will charge organizations and business for establishing channels with their users through the service, though no details were announced. The idea is by no means new; a Bloomberg report in May 2015 claimed Whatsapp might foray into B2C messaging in the “longer term.”

Perfectly sensible business idea, and could also turn it into a platform like WeChat (whose capabilities and inclusions dwarf those of any western app).
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Friends Reunited website to close down » BBC News

Zoe Kleinman:

Friends Reunited launched in the year 2000 and was bought by broadcaster ITV for £175m ($250m) in 2005.

However, it failed to keep pace with other social networks.

It was sold to comic publisher DC Thompson for only £25m in 2009 and Mr Pankhurst wrote in a blog post that the company had offered it back to him a couple of years ago.

Pankhurst and business partner Jason Porter agreed to take on the site for a trial period to see if they could revitalise it.

“It became clear that most of the actual users coming to the site were using it purely as a messageboard,” wrote Mr Pankhurst.

“And I also realised that of the more than 10 million users registered, a lot had done so over a decade ago and hence their contact details were out of date. But importantly – it hasn’t covered its costs and like any business this can’t continue indefinitely. Therefore, whilst it’s sad, I believe it’s time to move on and put Friends Reunited to bed.”

Quite why ITV or DC Thompson bought it is one of those mysteries of business; it was never remotely a fit with either. So after ruining many marriages (of people who looked up old school flames), it’s handing that particular torch over to Facebook, where people can do exactly the same…
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Pakistan lifts ban on Youtube after launch of own version » Reuters

Tommy Wilkes:

Pakistan said on Monday it had removed a three-year ban on YouTube after the Google-owned video-sharing website launched a local version that allows the government to remove material it considers offensive.

Pakistan banned access to YouTube in September 2012 after an anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims”, was uploaded to the site, sparking violent protests across major cities in the Muslim-majority country of 190 million people.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom said in a statement that under the new version of YouTube, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority can ask for access to offending material to be blocked.

“On the recommendation of PTA, Government of Pakistan has allowed access to recently launched country version of YouTube for Internet users in Pakistan,” the ministry said.

“Google has provided an online web process through which requests for blocking access of the offending material can be made by PTA to Google directly and Google/YouTube will accordingly restrict access to the said offending material for users within Pakistan.”

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November 2013: Bitcoin under pressure » The Economist

The Economist doesn’t name writers, but I happen to know this is by Glenn Fleishman, writing back in 2013:

Server farms with endless racks of ASIC cards have already sprung up. But as part of Bitcoin’s design, the reward for mining a block halves every 210,000 blocks, or roughly every four years. Sometime in 2017, at the current rate, it will drop to 12.5 Bitcoins. If the returns from mining decline, who will verify the integrity of the block chain?

To head off this problem, a market-based mechanism is in the works which will raise the current voluntary fees paid by users (around five cents per transaction) in return for verification. “Nodes in the peer-to-peer network will try to estimate the minimum fee needed to get the transaction confirmed,” says Mr Hearn.

Bitcoin’s growing popularity is having other ripple effects. Every participant in the system must keep a copy of the block chain, which now exceeds 11 gigabytes in size and continues to grow steadily. This alone deters casual use. Bitcoin’s designer proposed a method of pruning the chain to include only unspent amounts, but it has not been implemented.

As the rate of transactions increases, squeezing all financial activity into the preset size limit for each block has started to become problematic. The protocol may need to be tweaked to allow more transactions per block, among other changes. A further problem relates to the volunteer machines, or nodes, that allow Bitcoin to function. These nodes relay transactions and transmit updates to the block chain. But, says Matthew Green, a security researcher at Johns Hopkins University, the ecosystem provides no compensation for maintaining these nodes—only for mining. The rising cost of operating nodes could jeopardise Bitcoin’s ability to scale.

Following Mike Hearn’s farewell the other day, I think Fleishman is allowed to say “told you so”.
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“Bitcoin Boulevard” no longer booming » Marketplace.org

Elizabeth Miller:

It’s been almost two years since a group of businesses in a Cleveland suburb started accepting digital currency bitcoin as a form of payment. The response at first was huge.  Visitors from around the world stopped at what became known as “Bitcoin Boulevard.” But now, the bitcoin hype has subsided. 

Along a lane of small retail stores, restaurants and bars, nine independent Cleveland Heights businesses banded together to form Bitcoin Boulevard in May 2014. But today, two of those businesses have closed, one is not actively accepting bitcoin, and a wine shop ceased most of its bitcoin transactions after the Ohio Division of Liquor Control banned alcohol purchases with the digital currency.

Mitchell’s Fine Chocolates is one of the original nine businesses. Owner Bill Mitchell says he started seeing a drop in bitcoin payment when its value dwindled at the beginning of 2015.

“Since the latter part of the winter of this year going through the end of October, it’s been deader than a doornail,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell isn’t the only one seeing a drop in bitcoin business. Shawn Paul Salon says it has only had six bitcoin transactions in the past 18 months. That’s a lot less exciting than everyone had hoped.

Reality check.
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The problem with Adgorithms’ prospectus » Investors Chronicle

Alex Newman, on the AIM-listed ad tech company whose shares have plummeted by 80% from their IPO:

So what went wrong? This is what the company said in its first profit warning, on 9 October, explaining a “significant” and indefinite impact on revenue:

“In recent weeks, the online advertising market has experienced severe disruption, resulting in a loss of supply for major online advertising exchanges and a drop in demand from major media buyers.”

In fact, this disruption had begun several months before, even prior to Adgorithms’ listing. In April, media trading platform news site adexchanger.com reported that AppNexus – which, together with fellow ad exchange Adap.TV related to the majority of Adgorithms’ 2014 revenues – had started screening out unverifiable media inventory. AppNexus’ chief executive, who followed several other ad exchanges when he launched the clean-up in November 2014, later acknowledged that more than half of the impressions flowing through his platform were failing the test. This has had the dual effect of suppressing Adgorithms’ revenues and – according to Peel Hunt analyst Alex DeGroote – increasing the cost of digital media.

Adgorithms certainly should have known about AppNexus’ clean-up plans before listing, and was aware that at least one of its peers had been hit by the broader changes. In April, fellow Israeli ad tech group Matomy Media (MTMY) issued a profit warning, citing the “implementation by one of the leading media trading platforms [this was AppNexus] of a new media verification and screening tool that resulted in an immediate decrease in the amount of digital media available for purchase”.

“Unverifiable” inventory is what can also be called “fraudulent” ads – shown to bots on sites that humans never visit. It’s worth visiting the AdExchanger link (“screening out unverifiable…”) which points to just how much junk and fraud there may be going on.

Seriously, online ads have ended the age of “half of what I spend on advertising is wasted”. Now you have no idea what proportion it may be if you’re using an ad network.
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Samsung to launch Live Photos rival called Vivid Photo with Galaxy S7 » Android Geeks

Marius Maria:

Back in September, Apple launched the iPhone 6S which comes with Live Photos, a feature which captures 1.5 seconds of video before and after a picture is taken. HTC’s Zoe Capture was capable of doing the same thing long before Live Photos, but this gimmick only became cool now because Apple has it on its phones.

But Samsung wants to jump into the Live Photos bandwagon, too. According to one of our sources the software engineers of the South Korean phone maker are testing a Live Photos-like feature that is supposed to debut with the Galaxy S7 later this year.

Not sure about the “But” beginning that second paragraph. All sorts of words fit better: “Now”, “Predictably”, “Unsurprisingly”. Cold comfort for HTC.
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App economy jobs in the United States (Part 1) » Progressive Policy Institute

Michael Mandel:

Is 1.66 million a reasonable figure for US App Economy employment? This figure is based on our estimate of roughly 550,000 core app economy workers. That’s out of roughly 5 million people employed in computer and mathematical occupations or as computer and information systems managers. In effect, core app economy workers make up roughly 11% of the tech workforce.

Informal discussions with tech executives suggest that it’s reasonable to attribute roughly 11 percent of the tech workforce to the App Economy in the United States. Large portions of software development involve backend systems, such as financial and operation databases, which are not mobile specific. On the other hand, software development focused on online consumer or individual interactions must necessarily involve apps, because Americans increasingly access the Internet via their smartphone or other mobile devices. Going forward, mobile is likely to become more important rather than less, further pushing up the number of App Economy jobs.

We can do another comparison. In 2007, before the introduction of the iPhone, there were roughly 3.9 million people employed in computer and mathematical occupations or as computer and information systems managers. Since then tech employment has risen by 1.1 million, suggesting roughly half the net gain in tech occupational employment since 2007 has come from the App Economy.

For the job breakdown, it puts iOS at 1.4m (87%), Android at 1.1m (70%), BlackBerry at 107,000 (6%) and Windows Phone/Mobile at 45,000 (3%). Adds up to 166% because some people (two-thirds?) work on multiple ecosystems. (Via Horace Dediu.)
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Apple may be on hook for $8bn in taxes in Europe probe » Bloomberg Business

Adam Satariano:

The European Commission contends that Apple’s corporate arrangement in Ireland allows it to calculate profits using more favorable accounting methods. Apple calculates its tax bill using low operating costs, a move that dramatically decreases what the company pays to the Irish government. While Apple generates about 55% of its revenue outside the US, its foreign tax rate is about 1.8%. If the Commission decides to enforce a tougher accounting standard, Apple may owe taxes at a 12.5% rate, on $64.1bn in profit generated from 2004 to 2012, according to Larson, a litigation analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

Apple is perhaps the highest-profile case of US companies facing scrutiny from officials in Europe. Starbucks, Amazon and McDonalds also have had its tax policies questioned.

Several senators came to the defense of US companies on Friday. In a letter to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, bipartisan members of the Senate Finance Committee asked the administration to make sure that European regulators won’t impose retroactive penalties like those that would hit Apple.

Odd if Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter aren’t also in this.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: