Start up: Android root attacks, Silicon Valley doesn’t click ads, Wikimedia tries search, videogames v culture, and more

Is Twitter a polluted pool? Stephen Fry thinks so. Photo by Dee West 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 8 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Android malware spread via porn websites to generate fake ad revenue » Grahamcluley.com

David Bisson:

»Researchers have spotted a new type of mobile malware that roots Android devices with the purpose of generating fraudulent ad revenue for its operator.

Earlier this month, Andrey Polkovnichenko and Oren Koriat, two members of the Check Point Research Team, wrote in a blog post about how they detected the malware, which they have named “HummingBad,” as part of a drive-by download attack served by porn websites against two customers’ Android devices.

Curious, they decided to dig into the malware and figure out what makes it tick.

As it turns out, HummingBad is a complex rootkit whose components are encrypted, in an attempt to avoid being flagged by security solutions as malicious.«

link to this extract

 


Knowledge Engine: Wikimedia Foundation takes aim at Google with $3.5m search project » ABC News

»Online encyclopedia Wikipedia is preparing to tackle Google’s dominance of internet search with the launch of a $3.5 million program to build a “Search Engine by Wikipedia”.

Wikipedia’s parent organisation, the Wikimedia Foundation, had in September been awarded a $US250,000 ($A350,000) grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, but only publicised the grant in the past week.

The grant is to be used “To advance new models for finding information by supporting stage one development of the Knowledge Engine by Wikipedia,” the Knight Foundation’s grant letter to the Wikimedia Foundation read.«

Table stakes for a search engine back in 2003 were $100m (that’s what Microsoft put into it), though maybe they’ve come down a little since then.

Come back in a year or two and see the wreckage.
link to this extract

 


Too many people have peed in the pool » Stephen Fry

Fry made a sarcastic quip at the Baftas about someone (who turned out to be a friend of his); he then got hell on Twitter; he then deleted his account:

»let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know. It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same. It makes sensible people want to take an absolutely opposite point of view. I’ve heard people shriek their secularism in such a way as to make me want instantly to become an evangelical Christian.

But Stephen, these foul people are a minority! Indeed they are. But I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it. 99.9% of the water may be excrement free, but that doesn’t help. With Twitter, for me at least, the tipping point has been reached and the pollution of the service is now just too much.

But you’ve let the trolls and nasties win! If everyone did what you did, Stephen, the slab-faced dictators of tone and humour would have the place to themselves. Well, yes and they’re welcome to it. Perhaps then they’ll have nothing to smell but their own smell.«

link to this extract

 


People in Silicon Valley don’t click on ads » Medium

Rob Leathern:

»Using Facebook’s Audience Insights tool (free to anyone who buys Facebook ads), I compared people from San Francisco and Palo Alto/Mountain View to those in New York City, Boulder/Denver and the nation as a whole.
In short, San Francisco / Silicon Valley people don’t click on ads…

San Francisco, California Activity Profile (Source: Facebook)

The average user in the United States has a value of 12 for “Ads Clicked” whereas a San Francisco user has only clicked 1 ad. Similarly, they appear not to be commenting or liking posts as frequently as the median national user. The story is very similar for the Mountain View / Palo Alto audience.«

This is like those people who work at junk food companies who would never eat their own output – they know what goes into it. (Leathern is working on a new approach to web advertising at optimal.com.)
link to this extract

 


Take video games seriously! Yes, they’re fun, but they matter culturally too » The Guardian

Naomi Alderman:

»Why do video games receive so little coverage in mainstream cultural media? It’s a question that’s troubled me for years – I even made a programme about it for Radio 4. Games are the largest entertainment medium in the world. And yet newspaper culture pages tend not to cover them (pace Observer Tech Monthly). Cultural programmes on TV and radio do a fun segment about games once a quarter at best while reserving discussion and analysis for interpretive dance or experimental opera.

It’s very weird for me: my novels, which sell tens of thousands of copies, are shortlisted for prizes that appear on the news. My games, which have sold millions of copies, don’t make the news. Film and TV Baftas are a news story. Games Baftas are an industry event.

I think this is a shame. It affects the way people think about the medium.«

OK, I’ll bite: a reason games aren’t treated as mattering culturally is because they have very little to tell us about our culture. Take a film like The Big Short or The Revenant or The Martian (the latter perhaps closest, in plot, to a video game).

Besides the mechanics of plot, each takes us into another person’s, or other peoples’, experiences: Steve Carrell’s character in Big Short is consumed by loathing of the vile business, yet unable to withstand the desire to profit from the dumb money. Leonardo Di Caprio’s holds onto life to avenge a death; Matt Damon’s goes through the emotions of loss, resignation, elation, and near-resignation. And like life, each film surprises us but tells us about the human experience.

And where’s the game that could evoke the same emotional reaction as ET – made in 1982 (that’s 34 years ago)?

Just because games sell in large numbers and generate lots of money doesn’t mean they have equivalent status as cultural artefacts as films. Fishing is the most popular (as in “has the most participants”) sport in the UK. Yet you don’t see it reported in newspapers (Fishing Times apart), whereas tennis is.
link to this extract

 


Why Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei can’t compete with Apple » Tech in Asia

Charlie Custer:

»Chinese handset makers did quite well in 2015. But can they climb that cliff? Could they actually beat out Apple?

No. At least not in the sense of eating into Apple’s specific chunk of the market.

Why? For one, they don’t share a clear target market with Apple. Say what you will about Apple – and I’ve said some bad things in the very recent past – but it knows its market. And so do you, probably. Quick, picture an iPhone user. You’re probably picturing somebody young-ish, urban. Somebody who likes a simple user experience that doesn’t change much from model to model. Somebody who admires good industrial design, and who has the money to fit a $600-$800 phone into their budget.

Now, picture a Huawei user. It’s much harder because they’re all over the place. The prices range quite a bit, and the company offers dozens of different handset models. Lenovo is pretty similar. Even once-simple Xiaomi now offers three different major product lines with a confusing assortment of models in each line (do I want the Mi 4 or the Mi 4i or the Mi 4c?).

That’s not to say that none of these devices have clear target markets, of course, but none of them really overlap with the iPhone market. All three companies offer lower-priced devices, and because of their split focus they really can’t hope to compete with Apple’s single-minded focus when it comes to the iPhone market. They may be able to boost their numbers by picking up more users in developing regions, but none of the three is likely poaching any of Apple’s market anytime soon.

Plus, they’re not competing in the same ecosystem. Technologically speaking, there’s nothing on the iPhone that you can’t get on a dozen Android handsets except for one thing: iOS. And while I’ve argued that a lot of the native iOS apps are getting worse, there’s still no doubt that once a user buys into an ecosystem, it’s difficult to get them out of it.«

link to this extract

 


2017 to be the year of dual-lens cameras, says Sony » Android Authority

John Dye, noting that Sony has started a separate platform to support dual-lens cameras on phones:

»This seems to line up with some recent rumors trickling through the grapevine that the iPhone 7 Plus will be using a dual-lens camera module. However, Sony was quick to point out that they don’t believe this new form of camera will be anything close to mainstream for at least a year. The high-end smartphone market is slowing down globally. As a result, the demand for smartphone components is slackening, so Sony is banking on this new technology getting a start a little later than we may prefer. Chief financial officer Kenichiro Yoshida put it this way:

»Well, for next year, our so-called dual lens – dual camera platform will be launched by, we believe, from major smartphone players. However, as I said previously, recently, our smartphone market is growing and particularly, our high-end smartphone market is now slowing down. So, that may impact the demand or production schedule of dual camera smartphones by the major smartphone manufacturers. So, we believe the real start, the takeoff of smartphone with dual lens camera will be in the year of 2017.«

«

I read that “takeoff” as meaning “phones that aren’t iPhones”. Fingerprint sensors weren’t mainstream in 2013, but the iPhone 5S had one. And so on. (Though ZTE has a dual-lens camera on its top-end Axon phone, released last year.)
link to this extract

 


Verizon will now let users kill previously indestructible tracking code » ProPublica

Julia Angwin:

»Verizon says it will soon offer customers a way to opt out from having their smartphone and tablet browsing tracked via a hidden un-killable tracking identifier.

The decision came after a ProPublica article revealed that an online advertiser, Turn, was exploiting the Verizon identifier to respawn tracking cookies that users had deleted.

Two days after the article appeared, Turn said it would suspend the practice of creating so-called “zombie cookies” that couldn’t be deleted. But Verizon couldn’t assure users that other companies might not also exploit the number – which was transmitted automatically to any website or app a user visited from a Verizon-enabled device – to build dossiers about people’s behavior on their mobile devices.

Verizon subsequently updated its website to note Turn’s decision and declared that it would “work with other partners to ensure that their use of [the undeletable tracking number] is consistent with the purposes we intended.” Previously, its website had stated: “It is unlikely that sites and ad entities will attempt to build customer profiles.”«

Not quite a commitment not to track the hell out of you, though.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none supplied.

4 thoughts on “Start up: Android root attacks, Silicon Valley doesn’t click ads, Wikimedia tries search, videogames v culture, and more

  1. Regarding coverage of computer games in the media, I agree that a lot of games don’t have much to tell us about our culture, however neither do a significant number of books/films/songs that get released. The ones that get media coverage are the few that challenge the reader/viewer/listener, provide information on a topic or have something new to say about a subject. I would guess that the biggest selling books/films/songs are often not the ones which have something to tell us about our culture, but are the ones which are easiest to digest.

    The same is true of video games, the biggest selling titles probably don’t have anything to tell us about our culture in themselves (the reason for their popularity might be of interest) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of innovative games that are worthy of discussion that will never be big blockbusters.

    I would also suggest that the reason they are not talked about in the media more widely is that the majority of people have point of reference in that field. Everyone has seen a film, or watched TV or heard a song and therefore can probably understand how a new film/book/song is different, challenging or innovative even if they have no intention of buying it. However, most people have no experience of playing computer games and therefore how can you describe a new game and why it might be interesting.

    There also might be a bit of a Catch-22 here, the most innovative computer games get little media coverage and therefore there is little incentive to innovate.

    I hadn’t really thought about this in depth until just now, but something about your reasoning behind why games get less media coverage didn’t seem to fully add up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s