Start up: Twitter’s ongoing API cull, NSA v Hillary, life without Facebook, Apple’s cloud moves, and more

Boston Dynamics robot dog

“A Boston Dynamics robot is for life, not just for Christmas.” Photo by jurvetson on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Still, it’s Friday, somewhere. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

U+1F647 PERSON BOWING DEEPLY 🙇 » Medium

Matthew Rothenberg:

»Nearly three years since they officially blessed it with “partner” access (and after 14 billion emoji tweets tracked), Twitter has decided to shut Emojitracker down.

To be more accurate, they are removing its elevated access to the Streaming API that Emojitracker depends on in order to operate at its high volume

«

Twitter continues to cut off developers’ noses to spite its face.
link to this extract

 


NSA refused Clinton a secure BlackBerry like Obama, so she used her own » Ars Technica UK

Sean Gallagher:

»[US State Department coordinator Donald] Reid was tasked with trying to find a “BlackBerry-like” solution that would allow Clinton to be able to check her e-mail while in the secure office suite. The problem was that the solution supported by the NSA—its SME PED (Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device)—was hardly BlackBerry-like. SME PED devices are based on a secure version of Windows CE, and they’re only rated up to “Secret” classification. And as Clinton was taking over at State, the SME PED was only just becoming available. “The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive,” Reid noted in one e-mail.

The NSA refused to give Clinton a device similar to the one used by Obama: a modified BlackBerry 8830 World Edition with additional cryptography installed. And while Clinton’s predecessor Condaleeza Rice had obtained waivers for herself and her staff to use BlackBerry devices, Clinton’s staff was told that “use [of the BlackBerry] expanded to an unmanageable number of users from a security perspective, so those waivers were phased out and BlackBerry use was not allowed in her Suite,” an e-mail from the NSA’s senior liaison to the State Department noted.

«

It’s basically the fight that everyone has with their IT department, but with state secrets involved.
link to this extract

 


Google puts Boston Dynamics up for sale in robotics retreat » Bloomberg Business

Brad Stone and Jack Clark:

»Executives at Google parent Alphabet Inc., absorbed with making sure all the various companies under its corporate umbrella have plans to generate real revenue, concluded that Boston Dynamics isn’t likely to produce a marketable product in the next few years and have put the unit up for sale, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans.

Possible acquirers include the Toyota Research Institute, a division of Toyota Motor Corp., and Amazon.com Inc., which makes robots for its fulfillment centers, according to one person. Google and Toyota declined to comment, and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Google acquired Boston Dynamics in late 2013 as part of a spree of acquisitions in the field of robotics. The deals were spearheaded by Andy Rubin, former chief of the Android division, and brought about 300 robotics engineers into Google. Rubin left the company in October 2014. Over the following year, the robot initiative, dubbed Replicant, was plagued by leadership changes, failures to collaborate between companies and an unsuccessful effort to recruit a new leader.

«

OK, I’m astonished. The intersection between AI/neural networks and robotics seems so obvious that this points to deep problems within Alphabet – specifically, inability to create collaboration (as it mentions).
link to this extract

 


The secret life of a Silk Road 2.0 mastermind » Motherboard

Joseph Cox:

»In the real world, Dread Pirate Roberts 2 explained to me, people often made judgments about others before a conversation had even started. But in the dark web, where most people act pseudonymously thanks to the protections offered by Tor, the only social cue to go on is people’s actions.

“In this environment, you only heard what people were saying,” he told me. “There was nothing to judge them on other than what they did.”

Take Defcon, who offered his services as a programmer to DPR2 in a private message. DPR2 was intrigued by Defcon’s calm tone among the chaos of Silk Road being shut down, and put him to the test.

Within a few hours, Defcon had put what would become the Silk Road 2.0 forum online, along with a host of security features that others often neglect.

“He knew what he was doing, I could tell instantly,” DPR2 said.

Defcon did make a mistake, however. It would later be revealed that he registered a Silk Road 2.0 server with his personal email address.

«

He knew what he was doing. I could tell instantl… oh.
link to this extract

 


A Facebook experiment » Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:

»I deleted Facebook off of my iPhone six months ago. I had one simple reason in mind: I thought I would be able to analyze Facebook more accurately and completely by not using it or its companion apps, cold turkey. Purchasing an iPhone 6s Plus at launch gave me the perfect opportunity to begin my experiment. My initial assumption proved true. In just the first eight weeks, I learned more about Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, than the last eight years. I’ve reached a number of observations over the past six months on Facebook’s value and vulnerabilities and a definite answer to what was once a seemingly difficult question: Are Facebook and Apple becoming competitors?

«

The answer to the latter is no, but the things he found out along the way about Facebook use ring very true.
link to this extract

 


The journalist and the troll: Benjamin Wey spent two years trying to destroy me online » Bloomberg Business

Dune Lawrence discovered a “news” site set up by a Chinese entrepreneur who had decided she had wronged him in articles she’d written for Bloomberg:

»The site’s other articles were an odd mix of celebrity gossip, entertainment news, and stabs at reporting on serious topics such as drug marketing. It wasn’t exactly high journalism, but it looked professional, not like some amateur blog. Google seemed to think so as well, because the story instantly went to the top of the results when I searched my name.

In September 2015 the FBI arrested the man behind TheBlot, one Benjamin Wey. Not for smearing me or the other people he imagined were his enemies. He’s primarily a financier, and he was charged with securities fraud and other financial crimes involving Chinese companies he helped to list on U.S. stock markets. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Wey pocketed tens of millions of dollars in illicit profits that he funneled through associates overseas and back into accounts in the U.S. Wey denies the charges. A trial has been set for March 2017.

«

Lawrence is brave here, and Wey comes across as an utter scumbag – but also someone who is completely hyperactive, willing to spend hours cooking up totally libellous nonsense about people. That’s the problem online: the hyperactive idiots drive out the rational people.

One other point: Google really favours that junk site Wey created. Searching on duckduckgo, TheBlot is some distance down the results.
link to this extract

 


Cloud makes for strange bedfellows: Apple signs on with Google, cuts spending with AWS  » CRN

Good scoop by Kevin McLaughlin and Joseph Tsidulko:

»Alphabet’s Google has quietly scored a major coup in its campaign to become an enterprise cloud computing powerhouse, landing Apple as a customer for the Google Cloud Platform, multiple sources with knowledge of the matter told CRN this week.

Since inking the Google deal late last year, Apple has also significantly reduced its reliance on Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run parts of iCloud and other services, said the sources, who all requested anonymity to protect their relationships with the vendors.

Apple has not abandoned AWS entirely and remains a customer, the sources said.

According to the sources, Google executives have told partners that Apple is spending between $400m and $600m on Google Cloud Platform, although this couldn’t be independently confirmed. Also unclear is whether this range refers to an annual spending rate or a set amount of capacity.

AWS said Apple’s move to work with Google does not signify “competitive defection.”

«

Apple is in the position where it can get the big cloud providers to bid against each other. (Microsoft’s Azure was also said to be a supplier when iCloud started.) The question is, should Apple be trying to supplant them all with its own infrastructure – as Dropbox did to exit AWS? Well, let’s see…
link to this extract

 


Google adds Apple iCloud storage to cloud platform » Re/code

Mark Bergen:

»Apple has announced three data centers opening soon, and spent an estimated $1bn last year on AWS. It’s a logical move for Apple if it wants more independence from its tech rivals. And it’s one Apple should make to store the growing media libraries from its mobile, TV and TBD products.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Apple already has a team working on this; it’s known internally as “McQueen,” as in Steve. It’s unclear if that project will materialize or when. But a source tells Re/code that the codename refers to Apple’s intent, sometime in the next few years, to break its reliance on all three outside cloud providers in favor of its own soup-to-nuts infrastructure.

Apple has reckoned, one source says, that given the fees it is paying Amazon and Microsoft, it could break even with its own data centers within about three years and not have the headache of negotiating with companies it considers rivals in other areas of its business.

«

Pretty remarkable if Apple can build all that infrastructure and serve everyone and make it pay off that quickly. That would make the shift to Google just a temporary thing to drive down prices from those suppliers.
link to this extract

 


Observations on switching to the Galaxy S7 Edge from a non-Galaxy user » AndroidAuthority

Kris Carlon:

»The first thing I noticed when switching to the Galaxy S7 Edge is how bad the touch responsiveness seems to be (although I might just be unlucky). It’s not so much the screen, although it does kind of “grab” at your finger as you swipe on it compared to the Nexus 6P, but rather the touch response itself.

Quite often, when swiping away notifications the S7 Edge registers it as a press and launches the app instead. Likewise, when tapping UI elements it occasionally doesn’t register any press at all and I have to give it a serious press to get a response. Feel free to tease my ability to use a phone if you like, but something here is not right.

«

Quite a few of Carlon’s complaints (they’re mostly complaints) fall into the 1% category – is it really such awful news that the back of your phone shows fingerprints? – but the touchscreen point, and his complaint that “it’s laggy” seem like gigantic points, which are lined up as being just as important (or unimportant) as how crowded the folder UI is.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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