Start up: EC v Android in detail, how neural networks spot nudes, Xbox 360’s black ring of death, and more

But now you can get a smart one with a remote app which doesn’t work! Photo by 1950sUnlimited on Flickr

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A selection of 12 links for you. Jumping beans for moving goalposts. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Spring cleaning at CNET’s Smart Home starts with a new smart washer and dryer » CNET

Megan Wollerton:

»Here’s how it’s supposed to go:

Select “Add Appliance” in the app and follow the seemingly straightforward step-by-step tutorial. This includes selecting the type of appliance you want to connect – either a washer, dryer, refrigerator or dishwasher – then the app lists the compatible models. Next, you choose the model number that corresponds to your unit, enter the SAID pin (this number is listed in small font on a sticker when you open the washer and dryer’s lid), connect to Wi-Fi, enter your home address and finally, hit the “finish” button.

Unfortunately, I experienced a couple of hiccups during what should have been a 10-minute process. The first time I tried to add the washing machine, the app crashed and would not let me log in for another 2 hours, saying, “Problem Signing In: Please try again Later.”

Once I was able to log in again, I ran into another road block when I hit the “finish” button — the very last step before the machine is connected and you can start using the app. This time the app said, “Registration Error: We couldn’t register the appliance. Please try again later.”

«

Ooh, I love the future. Love it. (Guess they had to get a woman to review it because none of the male writers would know what a washing machine was.)
link to this extract

 


Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on Android » European Commission

Obkects over licensing of proprietary apps, “exclusivity” and “anti-fragmentation”, here:

»if a manufacturer wishes to pre-install Google proprietary apps, including Google Play Store and Google Search, on any of its devices, Google requires it to enter into an “Anti-Fragmentation Agreement” that commits it not to sell devices running on Android forks.

Google’s conduct has had a direct impact on consumers, as it has denied them access to innovative smart mobile devices based on alternative, potentially superior, versions of the Android operating system. For example, the Commission has found evidence that Google’s conduct prevented manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices based on a competing Android fork which had the potential of becoming a credible alternative to the Google Android operating system. In doing so, Google has also closed off an important way for its competitors to introduce apps and services, in particular general search services, which could be pre-installed on Android forks.

«

That “prevented from selling” is stated as fact; either it’s Amazon’s Fire Phone (Android OEMs couldn’t make the Fire Phone without breaking the Open Handset Alliance agreement) or something involving Cyanogen and a rival app store.
link to this extract

 


Android’s model of open innovation » Google Europe Blog

Kent Walker, Google general counsel:

»Android has emerged as an engine for mobile software and hardware innovation.  It has empowered hundreds of manufacturers to build great phones, tablets, and other devices. And it has let developers of all sizes easily reach huge audiences.  The result?  Users enjoy extraordinary choices of apps and devices at ever-lower prices.

The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition. We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices.

«

Sure, but that isn’t what the EC is worked up about.
link to this extract

 


The EU’s Android mistake » Beyond Devices

Jan Dawson:

»If the Commission’s main focus is on OEMs rather than consumers, it’s worth evaluating that a little. The reality is that OEMs clearly want to license the GMS [Google Mobile Services] version of Android, because that’s the version consumers want to buy. As Amazon has demonstrated, versions of Android without Google apps have some appeal, but far less than those versions that enable Google search, Gmail, Google Maps, and so on. Vestager’s statement alludes to a desire by at least some OEMs to use an alternative version of Android based on AOSP (presumably Cyanogen), but doesn’t go into specifics. Are there really many OEMs who would like to use both forms of Android in significant numbers, or is their complaining to the Commission just a way to push back on some of the other aspects of Android licensing they don’t like?

It’s certainly the case that OEMs and Android have a somewhat contentious relationship and Google has exerted more power in those relationships over the last recent years, but the main reason for the change in leverage is that Android OEMs have been so unsuccessful in differentiating their devices and hence making money from Android. Inviting the Commission to take action may be a roundabout way to change the balance of power in that relationship, but it’s not the solution to OEMs’ real problems.

«

These are all fair points. Though there’s a certain circularity to the argument of “GMS is what people want to buy, so that’s what is sold”. Dawson does note the above point about the “prevented” development. Was it Amazon? Cyanogen?
link to this extract

 


September 2012: Why Google’s clash with Acer and Alibaba strains China’s Android market » The Guardian

By me, back in September 2012:

»The search giant lobbied Acer last week to halt its scheduled press showing of a new smartphone aimed at the Chinese market, pointing out that membership of the Open Handset Alliance – the group of companies forming the device, carrier, semiconductor, software and “commercialisation” sides of the Android ecosystem – forbids Acer from making devices that offer forked, or incompatible, versions of Android.

Acer cancelled the launch abruptly, leaving Alibaba fuming publicly at Google’s actions. John Spelich, Alibaba’s international spokesman, told CNet that “Aliyun is different” from Android – dismissing remarks aimed at him by Andy Rubin, head of Google’s mobile efforts including Android, saying to Spelich that “Aliyun uses the Android runtime, framework and tools. And your app store contains Android apps (including pirated Google apps).”

The upshot has been that Acer has withdrawn from the partnership with Alibaba, at least for now. But Digitimes, the Taiwan-based news site for the IT supply chain there and in China, says there is unease on the part of a number of ODMs (original device manufacturers) who would otherwise aim to benefit from making both Android-compatible and forked versions – the latter principally aimed at China.

«

This point is key. To break into or out of China, OEMs needed to be able to have different sets of services in different countries. And some OEMs wanted to be able to offer forks.
link to this extract

 


What convolutional neural networks look at when they see nudity » Clarifai Blog

Ryan Compton:

»Automating the discovery of nude pictures has been a central problem in computer vision for over two decades now and, because of its rich history and straightforward goal, serves as a great example of how the field has evolved. In this blog post, I’ll use the problem of nudity detection to illustrate how training modern convolutional neural networks (convnets) differs from research done in the past.

*Warning: this blog post contains visualizations corresponding to very explicit nudity, proceed with caution!

«

When it’s *other peoples’* very explicit nudity then it’s worrying, of course, but not if it’s your own. NSFW, unless your work involves teaching neural networks to recognise naked people, I guess.
link to this extract

 


The Democratic Party now belongs to Hillary Clinton » The American Conservative

Lloyd Green:

»Up until now, [Bernie] Sanders drew rock star crowds as he raged against the machine. Two days before the primary, 28,000 people showed up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to watch the candidate and to listen to Grizzly Bear. The Wednesday before, a crowd of 27,000 filled Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park for Sanders and Vampire Weekend. Who needed Coachella when you had Bernie, people asked.

But opening acts aren’t the same thing as organization, concerts aren’t elections, and grand gestures don’t necessarily make you a winner. As Clinton pointed out in her victory speech, “it’s not enough to diagnose problems. You have to explain how you actually solve the problems.” Left unsaid was Clinton’s hand in making the messes she was complaining about. But never mind, Clinton clearly conveyed the message that Sanders was not ready for prime time.

In hindsight, Sanders’ jetting to the Vatican just days before the primary looks like showboating, and his ill-prepared interview before the New York Daily News editorial board seems reminiscent of a stoner trying to ace a college biology exam. And Sanders paid for all of it.

«

Just keeping you up to date on the US elections. You know.
link to this extract

 


Intel to cut 12,000 jobs, puts focus on cloud » WSJ

Don Clark and Tess Stynes:

»Makers of handsets overwhelmingly chose chips based on designs licensed from ARM Holdings PLC, which are available from a plethora of suppliers, and Google Inc.’s Android software, which is available free. No matter how good Intel or Microsoft products became, they could never counter those fundamental changes.

Sales of PCs, meanwhile, have been mainly declining since Apple’s iPad emerged in 2010. The market recently seemed to plateau, but sales again dropped in the first quarter, falling nearly 10%, Gartner Inc. estimated.

The continuing decline has forced Intel to focus on growth areas such as computers for data centers and noncomputer devices outfitted with data processing and communications capabilities, known as the Internet of Things.

“They’ve looked at the decline of the PC market and clearly decided that they are going to put most of their effort elsewhere,” said Rob Enderle, a market research who heads the Enderle Group.

«

Let it be recorded that Rob Enderle said something sensible.
link to this extract

 


Antitrust: e-commerce sector inquiry finds geo-blocking is widespread throughout EU » European Commission

»Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said “The information gathered as part of our e-commerce sector inquiry confirms the indications that made us launch the inquiry: Not only does geo-blocking frequently prevent European consumers from buying goods and digital content online from another EU country, but some of that geo-blocking is the result of restrictions in agreements between suppliers and distributors. Where a non-dominant company decides unilaterally not to sell abroad, that is not an issue for competition law. But where geo-blocking occurs due to agreements, we need to take a close look whether there is anti-competitive behaviour, which can be addressed by EU competition tools.”

More and more goods and services are traded over the internet but cross-border online sales within the EU are only growing slowly. The Commission’s initial findings from the sector inquiry published today address a practice, so-called geo-blocking, whereby retailers and digital content providers prevent online shoppers from purchasing consumer goods or accessing digital content services because of the shopper’s location or country of residence. This is one factor affecting cross-border e-commerce.

«

Pretty much unnoticed among the hubbub about Android, but likely to have more real effect. More details (and pretty graphs!) in the accompanying factsheet.
link to this extract

 


Huawei P9 Leica-branded dual-cam actually made by Sunny Optical » Digital Photography Review

Lars Rehm:

»When the Huawei P9 was launched recently, its unusual dual-camera grabbed headlines for a couple of reasons. On one hand, its innovative technological concept, with one 12MP sensor capturing RGB color information and a second 12MP chip exclusively recording monochrome image information, had not been seen in a smartphone before. On the other hand, a Leica badge next to the camera module had imaging enthusiasts speculating about just how much technology from the legendary German camera-maker had made it into the Chinese smartphone.

Huawei later provided additional information, saying the P9’s camera module had been certified by Leica but the German company had not been involved in development or production of the optics. Now it has been revealed that the camera module in question is actually made by the Chinese company Sunny Optical Technology of China, which, according to “insider sources”, is authorized to do so by Leica.

«

Reviewers praised the P9’s camera to the skies. Wonder if they’ll revisit what they wrote?
link to this extract

 


Achievement unlocked: 10 years – thank you, Xbox 360 » Xbox Wire

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox:

»From the original Zero Hour launch event, to the incredible reaction received last year at E3 when we announced that you could play your Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, the soul of Xbox 360 was about putting gamers at the center of every decision we make – and we apply this principle across our business to this day.

Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us. Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. We will continue to sell existing inventory of Xbox 360 consoles, with availability varying by country.

We know that many of you became gamers on Xbox 360 and are still active, so it’s important to us that while the overall Xbox gaming experience will evolve and grow, we will continue to support the platform you love in multiple ways.

«

During which time it sold not quite 90m units, and was the cause of $1.15bn in writeoffs over the Red Ring of Death.
link to this extract

 


Is Firefox search worth $375m/year to a Yahoo buyer? » Tech.pinions

I dug into Yahoo’s and Mozilla’s financials:

»Who stands to lose if Yahoo is sold — besides of course Marissa Mayer, who will probably lose her job along with a fair number of Yahoo staff? The surprising, and unobvious, answer is Mozilla and the Firefox browser.

That’s because Mozilla is highly dependent on a five-year contract with Yahoo, signed in December 2014, where it receives about $375m per year to make Yahoo the default search provider in the Firefox browser on the desktop. From 2004 to 2014, that contract was exclusively with Google; now it’s Yahoo in the US, Google in Europe, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China.

How much is $375m per year compared to Mozilla’s spending? Most of it.

«

Is a Yahoo buyer really going to think that is a deal worth continuing with?
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

3 thoughts on “Start up: EC v Android in detail, how neural networks spot nudes, Xbox 360’s black ring of death, and more

  1. Great article and love the newsletter. But now that I have seen your WordPress site, I might just come here instead. The formatting on the newsletter makes it hard to read. BTW, I would definitely be a paid subscriber if such an option were available. Kind regards.

    • Apologies for the newsletter formatting – that’s not quite in my power to fix (though I’d hoped that the addition of the » and « signs helped show what was quote and what was not). Paid subscriptions, ah. Now there’s a thought. If only WordPress enabled that sort of thing.. Thanks for the kind words.

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