Start up: the ad deception, why your Wi-Fi is lousy, will Android OEMs follow the iPhone SE?, and more

Maybe this is the way that you crack an iPhone passcode. Graphic by inju 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.

My take on FBI’s “alternative” method » Zdziarski’s Blog of Things

Jonathan Zdziarski:

»Many firms have outright denied that they are the one, however there are at least a few firms that are not denying it, or not talking at all. The one that is the most tight lipped is, of course, the one people are paying the most attention to. I’m not at liberty to specify who, but you can count on reporters to be banging on doors in the middle of the night for this kind of information.

Speaking of middle-of-the-night, the brief was dated for Sunday, suggesting perhaps it was put together Sunday night. No forensics companies in the US are likely up and working at that hour, which seems to at least hint that it’s possible this company may be based overseas, where it would’ve been Monday morning. This is speculation, however worth investigating as a number of such DOJ contractors are based overseas.

We also know, based on the submitted court brief today, that FBI believes two weeks will be sufficient time for them to test and verify the soundness of this alternative technique. This tells us two things: 1. Whatever technique is being used likely isn’t highly experimental (or it’d take more time), and 2. Chances are the technique has been developed over the past several weeks that this case has been going on.

So what technology could be developed and reliably tested within say, roughly a month?

«

Quite a complicated but potentially effective one, it turns out.
link to this extract

 


How Spotify solved for the ‘paradox of choice’ » Medium

John McDermott:

»Discover Weekly creates playlists by analyzing a user’s listening behavior and comparing it to that of other like-minded users. Let’s say you’ve been listening to lots of Gary Clark, Jr. lately, for instance. Discover will find other Gary Clark, Jr. fans and identify the songs and artists they’ve recently added to their personal playlists (e.g. The Black Keys, “Them Shoes,” Heartless Bastards). Discover filters out the artists you’ve already heard, reducing the list to 30 songs (about two hours worth of music).

Perhaps the biggest key to Discover Weekly’s success has been this limited selection. “[30 songs] felt like a very digestible amount of music and that really made a difference,” Ogle says. “We also decided that it should feel special — kind of like a gift someone made for you.”

Discover is in stark contrast to Pandora’s exhaustive taxonomy process (known as the Music Genome Project): Each song is ascribed up to 450 distinct musical characteristics — such as “electric rock instrumentation,” “punk influences” and “minor key tonality” — and Pandora recommends songs that share characteristics. But Spotify’s relies on the hivemind of its users rather than a thorough dissection of each song’s elements.

«

I thought that Apple would take this approach in Apple Music; it has so much data already from the Genius system.
link to this extract

 


PC World’s cloudy backup failed when exposed to ransomware » The Register

John Leyden:

»The shortcomings of consumer-grade backup services in protecting against the scourge of ransomware have been exposed by the experiences of a UK businesswoman.

Amy W, who runs a small business in the Newbury, Berkshire area, was convinced that the KnowHow cloud was the only backup technology she’d ever need1 when she bought a laptop from PC World.

Eight months later, however, in the aftermath of a ransomware infection, Amy discovered that the KnowHow cloud backed up all her newly encrypted files and didn’t keep any revisions, leaving her unable to restore files from a historic clean backup.

PC World told El Reg that 30 days of historic backups should have been available through KnowHow cloud but this is contradicted by the victim herself, who said only two backup points, each from the same day she was infected with the CryptoWall ransomware, were available.

«

Oops.
link to this extract

 


This is Android N’s freeform window mode » Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

»We’ll get to the instructions, but first let’s talk about what’s actually here. Freeform window mode is just what we imagined. It’s a dead ringer for Remix OS—multiple Android apps floating around inside windows—and it might be the beginnings of a desktop operating system. It works on Android N phones and tablets, and once the mode is enabled, you’ll see an extra button on thumbnails in the Recent Apps screen. To the left of the “X” button that pops up after a second or two, there will be a square shape—the same ugly placeholder art Google used for the split screen mode in the Android M Developer Preview.

Press the square symbol for an app and you’ll be whisked away to a screen showing that app in a floating window that sits on top of your home screen wallpaper. The windows aren’t floating above the Android desktop; the background is just a blank wallpaper without any of your icons or widgets. The floating apps all have title bars like in Recent Apps. You can drag the apps around by the title bars or use the “close” and “maximize” buttons. Apps can be resized exactly how you would expect—press or hold on the edge and move your finger, and you’ll see the app change shape.

«

The picture accompanying this article perfectly fits ex-Microsoft manager (and now Microsoft analyst) Wes Miller’s description: “Every mobile operating system evolves to the point that it looks like Windows 3.1”.
link to this extract

 


Deception funds your online news » Medium

Rob Leathern:

»The aforementioned [junk] ad I saw was distributed by a company called Revcontent, on the news website International Business Times (ibtimes.com). You’d never fall for this clearly-fake site. But someone would, and does, otherwise this tactic wouldn’t still be showing up, 9+ months later after (presumably) someone else got shut down trying it. This deception increases conversion rates on these offers, and helps companies like Revcontent pay publishers “between $3 and $40 RPMs” (Revenue per thousand impressions). Sad to say, these numbers are a good return for websites’ online advertising in today’s climate. Buying online ads is far too easy, it seems.

I wouldn’t fall for it, so why should I care?

The most vulnerable among us are falling for these offers. They’re the ones spending hours on the phone in endless phone trees or with credit card companies trying to reverse a ‘free-trial’ that became an $87-a-month recurring charge.

In essence, these people are paying for the free news and content you consume. Every time you don’t become the victim of one of these fraudulent ads, you’re benefiting from someone else who isn’t as lucky. Lucky? I mean smart — they’re just not as smart as you knowing to avoid these things, right? Hmmmm. As a society, we should care.

«

link to this extract

 


Why your home Wi-Fi is lousy » WSJ

Christopher Mims notes that home Wi-Fi networks increasingly have to struggle with the “noise” from others, and growing demands from streaming and more devices:

»One solution would be to add more antennas, or nodes, throughout your home. Unfortunately, Eero’s units currently cost $200 a pop.

A new competitor announcing itself on Monday, called Plume, has gathered wireless-industry veterans to create what it claims is a new kind of Wi-Fi, protected by 14 patents. The company calls it “adaptive Wi-Fi.”

Fahri Diner, CEO of Plume and a veteran executive of Siemens and Qtera, says Plume’s system will consist of many cheap, “dumb” antennas, enough for every room of a house, for a total cost of about $100.

If Plume can do that, it would be enough to make a wireless-networking geek swoon. But we won’t know for a while, because the company doesn’t plan to unveil its product or partners until the third quarter of this year.

Essentially, Plume and most of its rivals aim to take the technology behind expensive, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi systems for offices and make it cheap enough to use in your home.

«

link to this extract

 


The absolute horror of WiFi light switches » Terence Eden’s Blog

Eden bought a cheap Wi-Fi light switch originating in China which runs, of course, on Android and has an Android app which, let’s see, wants to take pictures, directly call phone numbers, read your contacts, record audio, read your texts, read your USB storage..

»Those are some ridiculously scary permissions! I can understand wanting microphone access (voice control) and maybe GPS (turn lights on when I get home) – but why does this want to send SMS or place calls? Why does it need my contacts and the ability to take photos?

A quick virus scan showed nothing overtly malicious – but I decided to offer up a sacrificial tablet to run the app on. No way am I risking my main device with this software!

The software is of the usual sub-standard quality I’ve come to expect from cheap electronics. No set-up wizard, just dumped into a complicated screen.

«

Oh, did we mention that it also connects to a fixed IP in China and sends the light switch’s ID number to it, listening for.. something? Eden concludes:

»I’m guessing, with a small amount of effort, you could toggle strangers’ lights to your heart’s content.

«

This probably reminds you of those Android hotel light switches from last week.
link to this extract

 


August 1997: how UK TV covered the death of Diana, Princess of Wales » MHP Redux

VM_Phil“:

»As most of the world now knows, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris in the early hours of Sunday, 31st August 1997. This page shows highlights of how the British television and radio services covered the immediate news that Sunday, with particular emphasis on the BBC TV news coverage.

«

What makes this worth looking at, on the day after the Brussels killings, is the way that TV and radio were effectively the only way for this news to spread. And it was for the most part really accurate.

Now imagine what it would be like today: all over social media, photos from the crash, all manner of craziness. I was working on The Independent at the time; everyone who could came in on the Sunday to work on a special. (I used the search engine AltaVista to find an expert in survivability of car crashes if you are and are not wearing a seatbelt in the back; there was no Google then. He lived in the US. I was the first to tell him the news.)

Now wonder how 9/11 would have been covered if today’s social media and connectivity were available. Different, yes, but better? Worse?
link to this extract

 


Editorial: The iPhone SE is the good small phone that could finally create good small Android phones » Android Police

David Ruddock:

»When it comes to Android smartphones, you don’t have much shopping around to do if you even want a device under 5″ at the moment. In the US, I can think of a single Android phone under 5″ that is officially distributed here that I’d want – the Moto E is a bit old at this point, and the Idol 3 is stuck on Android 5.0, probably forever. Samsung’s A-series isn’t sold here, and so Sony’s Z5 Compact ($429.99 on Amazon at the moment!) is literally the only viable option I’d have.

And along comes the iPhone SE. There had been some suspicion this would just be a slightly upgraded iPhone 5S – things would be changed where necessary to keep the device modern. Nope. It’s basically an iPhone 6s stuffed into a 5S chassis. Which is exactly what so many people on the internet seem to be absolutely screaming for Android OEMs to make: a flagship phone, downsized. Dramatically. The iPhone SE has the same processor as the 6s, the same camera (downgraded FFC, though), Touch ID, Apple Pay, the same sensors, and Apple even estimates it gets substantially better battery life than the standard 6s, likely owed to a reduced display resolution (granted, no 3D touch and reduced contrast ratio are trade-offs). For $399, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal. And the iPhone SE really has no direct analogs in current Android phones, just phones that are sold at a similar price.

«

Sony tried, but simply didn’t get the uptake for its 4″ phones. I doubt whether anyone but Apple can make it work, and even Apple is going to struggle to make this an expanding market – the number of 4″ phones sold shrank in the past year.
link to this extract

 


Apple in “advanced talks” to acquire Imagination Technologies for PowerVR GPU » Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:

»Apple is in “advanced talks” to acquire British chip design company Imagination Technologies, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. When Ars sought comment, Imagination Technologies refused to deny any such planned takeover.

«

Apple, however, did say later in the day that it was not planning to buy Imagination “at this time”. (Imagination’s customers for its PowerVR chips include Samsung and Intel, both key suppliers to Apple.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

One thought on “Start up: the ad deception, why your Wi-Fi is lousy, will Android OEMs follow the iPhone SE?, and more

  1. Yeah the 4″ phone market is decidedly niche. Ironically my reading vision has recently declned to the point I need to hold stuff further away – so this long-term iPhone 5 non-upgrader may decline the SE and wait for the 7.

    I think the new iPhone SE is important though as it’s the first time someone can get the premium Apple ‘experience’ (Touch ID, Apple Pay etc) without having to fork out 5-600 quid. (Or concomitantly pricey contract) Meaning Apple can make further inroads into the mid-end phone market as well as dominating the high-end.

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