Start up: Bitcoin’s nightmare, the cheating economy, how Snapchat took off, Oculus spurns Macs, and more

SIM swaps are leading to bank fraud. Photo by mroach on Flickr.

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

How Snapchat built a business by confusing olds » Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Max Chafkin and Sarah Frier:

»Compared with Twitter or Facebook, Snapchat can seem almost aggressively user-unfriendly. If you’re new to the app and looking for posts by your kid, your boyfriend, or DJ Khaled, good luck. It’s hard to find somebody without knowing his or her screen name. This is by design. “We’ve made it very hard for parents to embarrass their children,” [Snapchat founder Evan] Spiegel said at a conference in January. “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display.”

Spiegel, who declined to be interviewed, has been cagey about Snapchat’s business prospects. Its annual revenue is small—perhaps $200m, according to several press reports—but it has already drawn many big-name advertisers. Earlier this year, PepsiCo, Amazon.com, Marriott International, and Budweiser paid more than $1m to have their ads appear within the company’s Super Bowl coverage, according to a person familiar with the deals. And because Snapchat has yet to really try to sell ads to the small and midsize businesses that make up most of Google’s and Facebook’s customer base, there’s a lot of potential.

As Facebook has transformed from a slightly wild place to a communications tool for parents, teachers, and heads of state, Snapchat’s more playful ethos, and the fact that anything posted on it disappears in 24 hours, has made it the looser, goofier social network. “You’re sending this ephemera back and forth to your friends,” says Charlie McKittrick, the head of strategy at Mother New York, an ad agency. “It’s the detritus of life. But it’s really funny.” Last September, while Mark Zuckerberg hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Facebook’s campus, the big news at Snapchat’s offices in Venice was a feature called Lenses, which makes your selfies look like you’re vomiting a rainbow.

«

link to this extract

 


We’re moving away from torrents, so whats next? » Strike

“Andrew”:

»As you can see if just a teeny bit taxing on my server, so as of today I wanted to officially annouce that Strike will no longer focus on torrents, in fact I’ve decided to phase Strike into creating open source utilities that help every day life. Our first project is already under development and called Ulterius, an open source C# based framework that allows you to remotely manage windows based systems, all from any HTML5 enabled browser…

…Q: Will you ever do torrent related things again?

A: Most likely not. It’s easier to create completely original content than to attempt to ride the tails of existing content. While I found P2P technology fun, and I’ll continue to follow it and maybe develop stuff around it. I don’t foresee myself ever hosting Anything as a service in the future.

«

Combination of lawsuits against others, and the gigantic bandwidth demand on his site. Mostly the bandwidth, it seems.
link to this extract

 


Will we compile? » ROUGH TYPE

Nick Carr:

»Getting machines to understand, and speak, the language used by people — natural language processing — has long been a central goal of artificial intelligence research. In a provocative new interview at Edge, Stephen Wolfram turns that goal on its head. The real challenge, he suggests, is getting people to understand, and speak, the language used by machines. In a future world in which we rely on computers to fulfill our desires, we’re going to need to be able to express those desires in a way that computers can understand…

…Computers can’t choose our goals for us, Wolfram correctly observes. “Goals are a human construct.” Determining our purposes will remain a human activity, beyond the reach of automation. But will it really matter? If we are required to formulate our goals in a language a machine can understand, is not the machine determining, or at least circumscribing, our purposes? Can you assume another’s language without also assuming its system of meaning and its system of being?

«

Very deep questions underlying this. And speaking of controlling machines through spoken language..
link to this extract

 


Amazon adds the $130 Amazon Tap and the $90 Echo Dot to the Echo family » Techcrunch

Sarah Buhr:

»The Echo has received more than 33,000 Amazon reviews at a nearly five-star rating since launching in late 2014 and was one of the best-selling items going for more than $100 over the holidays. Amazon has not released sales figures for Echo, but its rise in popularity and the ability to build upon and integrate with the companion Alexa API have moved the Echo front and center as a must-have device for the smart home.

Amazon is now introducing two new members to the Echo family with slightly different uses in hopes of achieving a similar reaction: Amazon Tap is a portable version of the original Echo, and Echo Dot is a tiny, hockey-puck-sized version that includes a built-in line-out connector to hook into your choice of speaker.

«

link to this extract

 


Online break-in forces bank to tighten security » BBC News

Shari Vahl:

»Two major high street banks will change security procedures after journalists from BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme broke into an account online and removed money.
Recently bank customers accounts have been successfully attacked by criminals who divert mobile phone accounts.

Criminals persuade phone providers to divert mobile phone numbers in what is sometimes called “SIM swap fraud”.

Some banks text security details when customers forget their details.

The activation codes sent by text to mobile phones also allow payments to be made from an account.

The scam works by blocking the genuine phone. The owner is unaware of why the phone has been blocked and allows the criminal – who now has control of their phone – to syphon money from their bank account.

You and Yours has been contacted by dozens of people affected by the scam. All say they have never revealed their security details to anyone, and the that first they knew something was wrong was their mobile phone going dead.

«

Wow.
link to this extract

 


Chinese ISPs caught injecting ads and malware into web pages » The Hacker News

Rakesh Krishnan:

»Chinese Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been caught red-handed injecting advertisements as well as malware through their network traffic.

Three Israeli researchers uncovered that the major Chinese-based ISPs named China Telecom and China Unicom, two of Asia’s largest network operators, have been engaged in an illegal practice of content injection in network traffic.

Chinese ISPs had set up many proxy servers to pollute the client’s network traffic not only with insignificant advertisements but also malware links, in some cases, inside the websites they visit.
If an Internet user tries to access a domain that resides under these Chinese ISPs, the forged packet redirects the user’s browser to parse the rogue network routes. As a result, the client’s legitimate traffic will be redirected to malicious sites/ads, benefiting the ISPs.

«

link to this extract

 


TensorFlow for Poets » Pete Warden’s blog

»I want to show how anyone with a Mac laptop and the ability to use the Terminal can create their own image classifier using TensorFlow, without having to do any coding.

I feel very lucky to be a part of building TensorFlow, because it’s a great opportunity to bring the power of deep learning to a mass audience. I look around and see so many applications that could benefit from the technology by understanding the images, speech, or text their users enter. The frustrating part is that deep learning is still seen as a very hard topic for product engineers to grasp. That’s true at the cutting edge of research, but otherwise it’s mostly a holdover from the early days. There’s already a lot of great documentation on the TensorFlow site, but to demonstrate how easy it can be for general software engineers to pick up I’m going to present a walk-through that takes you from a clean OS X laptop all the way to classifying your own categories of images. You’ll find written instructions in this post, along with a screencast showing exactly what I’m doing.

«

Warden was at Jetpac, which was bought by Google because of its expertise at machine learning and image classification. This is the one to follow to dive into deep learning (aka machine learning, aka AI).
link to this extract

 


Oculus’ Palmer Luckey will consider Mac support if Apple ‘ever releases a good computer’ » Shacknews

Daniel Perez:

»We spoke to Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey recently during an Xbox press event where we took the opportunity to ask him some questions regarding the future of his company, and his product, the Oculus Rift.

One question we were dying to ask is he sees a future for the Oculus Rift with Apple computers. When asked if there would ever be Mac support for the Rift, Palmer responds by saying “That is up to Apple. If they ever release a good computer, we will do it.”

Palmer continues to clarify what he meant by that blunt statement by saying “It just boils down to the fact that Apple doesn’t prioritize high-end GPUs. You can buy a $6,000 Mac Pro with the top of the line AMD FirePro D700, and it still doesn’t match our recommended specs. So if they prioritize higher-end GPUs like they used to for a while back in the day, we’d love to support Mac. But right now, there’s just not a single machine out there that supports it.”

«

There aren’t that many Windows PCs that support it, either. Wonder if this is a high priority for Apple just now.
link to this extract

 


The cheating economy » Medium

Doug Bierend on Studypool, which lets students “hire” tutors for “help understanding their homework” – which the students of course translate into “doing their homework”, and give bad grades to those tutors who don’t comply:

»Rarely is the sharing model of enterprise, epitomized by the likes of Uber and Airbnb, sensitive to the costs incurred by its host system — those two companies are hardly compelled to preserve the integrity of the “legacy” cab companies and hoteliers they are undercutting. Likewise, success for this platform isn’t determined by whether it actually helps people learn. After all, optimizing and reducing the latency in busing information from one place to another makes sense — a lot of sense — for servers and data, but where brains and ideas are concerned, learning isn’t always efficient. And any approach that offers a backdoor — knowingly or not—where intellectual honesty is concerned is bound to reap the patronage of the many people willing to buy an answer or grade rather than earn it.

«

A passing thought: Bierend is a professional journalist (it shines through in this piece – read it all), and this appeared in “Bright” – which is funded by the Gates Foundation, and subsumed into Medium. The brave new world where a non-profit created from the money out of a brief technology monopoly pays for journalism published on a site created from the money paid to the creator of free publishing platforms (Blogger and Twitter) that were funded by advertising. Who says there aren’t new business models for journalism?
link to this extract

 


Bitcoin’s nightmare scenario has come to pass » The Verge

Ben Popper:

»Over the last year and a half a number of prominent voices in the Bitcoin community have been warning that the system needed to make fundamental changes to its core software code to avoid being overwhelmed by the continued growth of Bitcoin transactions. There was strong disagreement within the community, however, about how to solve this problem, or if the problem would ever materialize.

This week the dire predictions came to pass, as the network reached its capacity, causing transactions around the world to be massively delayed, and in some cases to fail completely. The average time to confirm a transaction has ballooned from 10 minutes to 43 minutes. Users are left confused and shops that once accepted Bitcoin are dropping out.

«

Remember how Mike Hearn, who saw this problem coming and proposed an increase in block size which would have headed it off, was criticised to hell and back for being “misleading”? I bet he’s feeling vindicated now. Wonder how his then-critics feel. (Update: not great, apparently, since the Pond Politics page I referenced has been deleted in the meantime.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

2 thoughts on “Start up: Bitcoin’s nightmare, the cheating economy, how Snapchat took off, Oculus spurns Macs, and more

  1. “The brave new world where a non-profit created from the money out of a brief technology monopoly pays for journalism published on a site created from the money paid to the creator of free publishing platforms (Blogger and Twitter) that were funded by advertising”

    as much as i enjoyed this line, are you really trying to suggest that microsoft enjoyed a “brief” technology monopoly? for the pace at which tech moves, it was more of an epoch.

    • Brief in the context of queens or empires, epochal in the context of internet-age technology. (The bow and arrow had a pretty good run.)

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