Start up: Facebook’s real origin, Apple’s political underspend, Samsung’s unbranding, the electric oil crisis, and more

Nintendo’s 3DS: not propping up sales so well as in the past. Photo by Ian Muttoo on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cratering portable sales can’t prop up Nintendo’s business anymore » Ars Technica

Kyle Orland:

»A new revision to Nintendo’s projected earnings, released [on Friday], sees Nintendo reducing its expectations of Nintendo 3DS sales for the full fiscal year, which ends in March. Nintendo now expects to sell 6.6m 3DS units during the 12-month period, a 13% drop from previous projections and a 24% decline from the year before. That drop (and the accompanying drop in 3DS software sales projections) is a big reason why Nintendo is now also saying that its annual profits will be 50% lower than it had projected, though the company blames some of that decline on the weakening Japanese yen.

You might think this kind of decline is natural for a system like the 3DS, which is, after all, approaching its fifth birthday. But previous Nintendo handhelds have looked much more robust at this point in their lifecycles. The Nintendo DS was still near the peak of its hardware sales dominance in its fifth and sixth years, selling a whopping 31.18m units in the 2009 fiscal year (and a healthy 27.11m the next year). Game Boy Advance sales were still near a steady peak in the 2005-2006 period, bouncing up and down in the 15m to 18m annual sales range, thanks in part to the successful Game Boy Advance SP hardware refresh.

The 3DS, on the other hand, seems to have peaked earlier and lower than other Nintendo handhelds.

«

In short, Nintendo is predicting that its revenues in FY2016 will be lower than its profits in FY09. It’s taken a while, but smartphones are beginning to undermine it. (Might it be that those who had a Nintendo handheld in 2009 are now updating with a smartphone?)
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The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook » Business Insider

Biz Carson:

»In the Hollywood-stylized version, a Harvard student needed a tool to date girls.

The real version couldn’t be further from the truth, Mark Zuckerberg told Mathias Döpfner in an interview with “Die Welt am Sonntag.”

At the time, he already had a girlfriend — Priscilla Chan, now his wife — and he was obsessed with the internet. Google was great for searching for news and Wikipedia was great for searching for reference material, but there was a gap.

“There was no tool where you could go and learn about other people. I didn’t know how to build that so instead I started building little tools,” Zuckerberg told Döpfner.

He built a small tool called Coursematch where people could list what classes they were taking. He did build the Facematch tool, as seen in “The Social Network,” but that was just a prank, he says.

«

Rewrite of an interview with Die Welt am Sonntag (The World On Sunday).
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Here’s how electric cars will cause the next oil crisis » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Tom Randall:

»In the next few years, Tesla, Chevy, and Nissan plan to start selling long-range electric cars in the $30,000 range. Other carmakers and tech companies are investing billions on dozens of new models. By 2020, some of these will cost less and perform better than their gasoline counterparts. The aim would be to match the success of Tesla’s Model S, which now outsells its competitors in the large luxury class in the U.S. The question then is how much oil demand will these cars displace? And when will the reduced demand be enough to tip the scales and cause the next oil crisis?

«

A crisis in the form of a glut.
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When the “Apple Encryption Issue” reached Piers Morgan » mobilephonesecurity

David Rogers does mobile phone forensics and teachers a mobile systems security course. Piers Morgan (who used to edit the Daily Mirror, which has apologised to some people for phone hacking) did however claim that he could take the FBI/Farook iPhone “to Tottenham Court Road [an electronics mecca in London) and they’d get into it” – suggesting that he might have confused carrier unlocking with PIN unlocking. Here’s Rogers on the tricky rapids to be navigated in deciding if we can force companies to unlock encrypted devices:

»Remember, someone who has actually committed a crime is probably going to say they didn’t do it. The phone data itself is usually more reliable than witnesses and defendant testimony in telling the story of what actually happened and criminals know that. I’ve been involved with digital forensics for mobile devices in the past and have seen first-hand the conviction of criminals who continually denied having committed a serious crime, despite their phone data stating otherwise. This has brought redress to their victim’s families and brought justice for someone who can no longer speak.

On the other side of course, we’re carrying these objects around with us every day and the information can be intensely private. We don’t want criminals or strangers to steal that information. The counter-argument is that the mechanisms and methods to facilitate access to encrypted material would fall into the hands of the bad guys. And this is the challenge we face – there is absolutely no easy answer to this. People are also worried that authoritarian regimes will use the same tools to help further oppress their citizens and make it easier for the state to set people up. Sadly I think that is going to happen anyway in some of those places, with or without this issue being in play…

…This is the same battle that my colleagues in the mobile world fight on a daily basis – a hole is found and exploited and we fix it; a continual technological arms race to see who can do the better job. Piers Morgan has a point, just badly put – given enough time, effort and money the San Bernadino device and encryption could be broken into – it will just be a hell of a lot. It won’t be broken by a guy in a shop on Tottenham Court Road (see my talk on the history of mobile phone hacking to understand this a bit more).

«

link to this extract

 


Apple’s $120M jury verdict against Samsung destroyed on appeal » Ars Technica

Joe Mullin:

»Apple’s second high-profile patent win against Samsung was appealed, just as the first was. And in an opinion (PDF) published today, a panel of appeals judges entirely wiped out Apple’s victory and its $120 million verdict.

The new decision found that out of three different patents Apple became famous for winning with, one wasn’t infringed and two of them are invalid.

The ‘647 patent described how to turn phone numbers and other software “structures” into links, allowing users to take actions like calling a number with one “click” rather than copying and pasting. The jury awarded Apple $98.7 million based on that patent, but the appeals judges today held that the patent wasn’t infringed at all. They held that “Apple failed to prove, as a matter of law, that the accused Samsung products use an ‘analyzer server’ as we have previously construed that term.”

Appeals judges also invalidated one of Apple’s most consistently ridiculed patents, the ‘721 “slide to unlock” patent. Jurors awarded $3 million based on infringement of that patent, but the appeals panel said the patent is invalid because of prior art.

«

This whole patent thing ends up as Bobby in the shower. “Patent trials? What patent trials?”
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Six Hot Media Startups to Watch in 2016 » Al Jazeera America

Sadly this piece by @ProfJeffJarvis (in reality Rurik Bradbury) was deleted by Al Jazeera, which either didn’t recognise its satirical slant ahead of publication, or did and then got cold feet. But it’s still here at the Internet Archive, with gems like this:

»

The New Republic

The oldest startup here, it went through a significant reboot with its March 2012 purchase by Chris Hughes, tech mogul and co-founder of Facebook. It has since innovated so quickly that it is about to be re-rebooting under even newer ownership (name TBD), a great example of the rapid iteration that is characteristic of the best startups.

Instead of the old questions about subjective, qualitative measures, Chris Hughes brought in Yahoo! wartime consigliere Guy Vidra to ask fresh questions, such as: How well did this piece travel? And does this meme even lift our metrics?

I’m excited to see the New New The New Republic, and hope they re-embrace Walter Lippmann’s original mission of nextifying the bewildered herd using hot takes.

«

Nextify your thinkfluencing.
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(UPDATE: China, too!) Korean Galaxy S7 to go without Samsung branding on front » AndroidAuthority

Matthew Benson:

»Carrier branding is arguably the bread-and-butter of free promotion: crudely referred to by some as a so-called “tramp stamp” these images tend to irritate customers who would prefer their devices to be free of all superfluous clutter. Even so, manufacturer branding tends to crop up most everywhere, be it the infamous HTC “black bezel bar” or the ever-visible under-the-earpiece location that companies like Samsung opt for.

Strange then, that Samsung’s South Korean website has pictures of its new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge…devoid of such a front-facing claim to fame. Take a look:

The front Samsung logo is clearly missing from the image. In fact, it’s missing from all the renders pictured, yet the rear logo is clearly present, as can be seen above.

«

Subtle messaging: Samsung really does seem to be getting rid of the visible “Samsung” name on the front of the device in China, Japan and Korea. In the first two, it has struggled recently to keep sales up in the face of competition. But why Korea? And is this an evolution of its branding (more confident) or is it concern?
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Invisible porn-clicking trojans invade Android’s Google Play store » Tripwire

Graham Cluley:

»many bogus versions of a wide range of apps (ranging from Toy Truck Rally to Subway Surfers 2 to GTA San Andreas and Tinder) have been distributed by fraudsters who wish to use your bandwidth to earn themselves affiliate income by clicking on adverts for pornographic websites.

Of course, if the apps popped up a copy of the Chrome browser to click on the X-rated ads then chances are that you would notice something unusual was afoot. Criminals have learnt from experience that announcing their presence so obviously only hinders their money-making plans.

So, in the case of “Porn Clicker”, the apps spin up an invisible browser window – meaning that any ad-clicking is invisible to the naked eye. And then, a minute or so later, it clicks again.

The money soon begins to earn cash for the criminals – which is a truth especially evident when you consider that some of the bogus apps have been downloaded thousands of times.

«

Android is following exactly the same malware growth path as Windows did on the desktop.
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Android phones are easier for police to crack than iPhones » CNN

Jose Pagliery:

»A Google spokesman said that encryption is now required for all “high-performing devices” – like the Galaxy S7 – running the latest version of Android, Marshmallow. But only 1.2% of Android phones even have that version, according to Google.

By comparison, most Apple products are uniformly secure: 94% of iPhones run iOS 8 or 9, which encrypt all data. Apple makes its devices, designs the software, and retains full control of the phone’s operating system.

“If a person walks into a Best Buy and walks out with an iPhone, it’s encrypted by default. If they walk out with an Android phone, it’s largely vulnerable to to surveillance,” said Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

New York City’s top prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, has noted that Android phones have been easier to crack in the past, especially because Google can reset passcodes on older models.

Android is running on 105 million Americans’ smartphones — slightly more than the number of iPhones in the United States, according to industry trackers at comScore.

But there are ways in which an Android phone could actually be made more secure than an iPhone.

Android software can be tweaked to add all sorts of security features, like a password for a particular messaging app.

Google’s operating system also starts up only after the phone’s owner enters a passcode. That’s not true for the iPhone, which starts up as soon as you hit the power button. That’s an important detail: When confronted with a locked iPhone, police can take it to a trusted Wi-Fi connection and potentially copy the phone’s contents to iCloud on Apple’s computer servers, where investigators can then comb through the data.

Android phones won’t back up to the cloud until they’re unlocked.

«

link to this extract

 


Has Apple been neglecting politics? » tofias dot net

Michael Tofias:

»To understand Apple’s efforts at persuading legislators of various issues, I compiled a measure of political footprint which combines a company’s own federally registered lobbying expenditures from 2015 with the campaign contributions they made during the 2013-14 election cycle from their corporate PAC as well as any employees who made campaign campaign contributions (and listed their employer). This data comes from the Center for Responsive Politics.

In 2015, Apple spent $4.48m on lobbying efforts and while they don’t maintain a PAC for campaign contributions, Apple employees gave a combined $130,579 in FEC-regulated campaign contributions. This adds up to a $4.61m political footprint.

In contrast, Apple’s main rival in the market for smartphones, Google, spent $16.7m on lobbying in 2015, gave $1.65m in campaign contributions via its PAC, and another $2.25m via employees during the 2013–14 election cycle for a combined $20.5m political footprint – over four times the size of Apple’s.

Apple’s political footprint is also on the small side when compared to other large companies (as measured by market capitalization on on December 31, 2015 as reported by YCharts).

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link to this extract

 


Platforms, postcodes and pushing services live: a year in the life of our platforms team » UK Ministry of Justice Digital

»Many of our services need info about postcodes, such as what addresses they cover, where they are on the map and what admin areas they fall under.

A year ago each team had used a different commercial solution, with different charging models, so our first platform was a postcode lookup service.

This combines Ordnance Survey and government data to provide one authoritative way for our applications to look up information for any postcode.

«

Astonishing. This already exists in the outside world, with APIs so you don’t have to laboriously enter things by hand. And this was thought a good use of anyone’s time?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none specified.

One thought on “Start up: Facebook’s real origin, Apple’s political underspend, Samsung’s unbranding, the electric oil crisis, and more

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