Would you put yourself in front of a rifle underwater?
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A selection of 10 links for you. Proceed in a westerly direction. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.
»While that [blogpost signature] looks legit, according to experts, the evidence Wright provided seems to actually be worthless. As it turns out, Wright simply reused an old signature from a bitcoin transaction performed in 2009 by Satoshi.
Dan Kaminsky, a well-known security researcher, wrote in a post debunking Wright’s alleged evidence that the whole thing is a scam. “Satoshi signed a transaction in 2009. Wright copied that specific signature and tried to pass it off as new,” he added on Twitter. “He’s lying. Full stop.”
Longtime bitcoin developers also pointed out that this signature could have been copied from a public source, and does not prove that Wright controls the associated addresses.
“It would be like if I was trying to prove that I was George Washington and to do that provided a photocopy of the constitution and said, look, I have George Washington’s signature,” Bitcoin developer Peter Todd said.
Todd added that someone contacted him by email two weeks ago, claiming to be Satoshi, and using the same signature trick as proof. He says he ignored the email.
In the space of a few hours this story went from “Bitcoin inventor found!” to “HOAAAAXX!”, leaving a lot of very puzzled citizens in the middle. The point about the “ignored email” could be key: if Wright, or someone, has been hawking this around, something is fishy.
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To demonstrate the difference between air and water resistance, Norweigan physicist Andreas Wahl decided to plonk himself in front of a submerged rifle and pull the trigger.
Fantastic. Turns out that if you search on Wahl’s name on YouTube, he’s done a ton of these sorts of experiments.
It does however show that Leonardo DiCaprio need not have been so worried when he jumped into that river while being pursued by rifle-wielding enemies in The Revenant. Bigger risk was hypothermia.
»Take Zynga, the gaming company responsible for Farmville, which has earned the moniker “Scamville” for its allegedly deceptive advertising. The co-founder of Zynga, Mark Pincus, famously said, “I knew I needed revenues…. Like I needed revenues now. So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book … just to get revenues right away.” While Pincus, incredibly, made this statement in public, he expressed the private sentiment of countless entrepreneurs faced with the ticking of the VC clock. (Disclosure: our law firm, Edelson PC, has brought class-action lawsuits against Zynga and some of the other companies mentioned below, but not for the conduct discussed in this article.)
This is bad for investors, including venture investors who care just about growth. (Fraudulent companies are, at best, an unreliable source of revenue.) But the reckless pursuit of growth often comes at consumers’ expense as well. That’s because the way that companies grow rapidly is to expand their user bases by hook or by crook, in a process called “growth hacking.”
One of the most common examples of this involves “spam-viting,” or hijacking a consumer’s contact list to blast them with text messages or emails, knowingly in violation of various federal and state statutes. Companies spam-vite because it works. Sending millions of text messages or emails to consumers, dressed up as if they came from those consumers’ friends, is a viable, illegal way to grow a business quickly. LinkedIn, for example, settled a lawsuit for $13 million over its practice of repeatedly sending “add connections” emails to a new user’s entire email contact list. And TextMe, a text-based social network, generated its growth by sending a large volume of text messages to new user’s phone contacts, although it eventually won its legal battle with the Federal Communications Commission.
The pressure to growth-hack begets pressure to disregard the law, at least temporarily.
This is a terrific essay; you read it and think “wow, that’s so true”. The saying in Silicon Valley is “it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission”; it’s how so many of today’s giants got started – Google, YouTube, Uber and AirBnB being particular examples. All broke, or break, the rules in many ways regularly.
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»Microsoft today is facing a very different business ecosystem to the one it dominated in the 1990s. It needs to adapt. And it appears to want to do so by positioning itself at the heart of what Satya Nadella describes as “systems of intelligence”.
Explaining this concept at Hannover Messe 2016, Nadella defined systems of intelligence as cloud-enabled digital feedback loops. They rely on the continuous flow of data from people, places and things, connected to a web of activity. And they promise unprecedented power to reason, predict and gain insight.
This is unbridled Big Data utopianism. And it is a vision that brings Microsoft squarely into Google territory. So maybe Microsoft is pulling out of regulatory battles because it doesn’t want to shoot itself in the foot. For emeritus Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff, this gets to the core of the Google-Microsoft deal.
Zuboff is a leading critic of what she calls “surveillance capitalism”, the monetization of free behavioral data acquired through surveillance and sold on to entities with an interest in your future behaviour. As she explained to the Guardian: “Google discovered surveillance capitalism. Microsoft has been late to this game, but it has now waded in. Viewed in this way, its agreement with Google is predictable and rational.”
Nick Carr, musing on Jason O’Beirne’s post (linked yesterday) about the changes in Google Maps over the years:
»O’Beirne is a bit mystified by the changes Google has wrought. He suspects that they were inspired by a decision to optimize Google Maps for smartphone displays. “Unfortunately,” he writes, “these ‘optimizations’ only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances [between levels of detail] already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn’t more. Less is just less. And that’s certainly the case here.”
I’m sure that’s true. Adapting to “mobile” is the bane of the modern interface designer. (And, you’ll note, the “cleaner” Google Map provides a lot of open space for future ad placements.) But, when it comes to maps, there’s something more profound going on than just the need to squeeze a map onto a tiny screen. Implicit in the Google changes is the obsolescence of the map as a navigational tool. Turn-by-turn directions and automated route selection mean that fewer and fewer people ever have to figure out how to get from one place to another or even to know where they are. As a navigation aid, the map is a vestigial organ. So why not get rid of the useful details and start to think of the map as merely a picture or an image, or a canvas for advertisements?
Carr has such a deliciously sardonic tone, yet deployed so sparingly and precisely, it’s shocking he isn’t British.
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»On Friday (April 29), Beyonce’s Lemonade became the biggest album of the year so far in the US.
Within another 24 hours, Drake’s Views had surpassed Lemonade’s entire week-one album download figure, with around 600,000 sales.
Views is now easily on course to smash through a million North American sales before the weekend.
Drake and his team will have breathed a big sigh of relief at this news – early vindication for a digital strategy which was by no means a safe bet.
Aside from its status as one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the year, Views (previously ‘Views From The 6’), is a complete Apple exclusive.
In its first week, it’s available to stream on Apple Music and buy on iTunes, but not available anywhere else – including physical stores.
Significantly, fans can’t ‘un-bundle’ Views on iTunes, as they could with Beyonce’s Lemonade last week; they only have the option to buy it as one package, with the exception of recent singles One Dance and Hotline Bling.
Drake took a sizable risk with this approach.
Really interested by how some artists can still hit it out of the ground by going for the download-only/one-service-only approach, while others can’t. It’s not just about age, either.
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»Why do so many startups fail?
Why are all the hosts on CouchSurfing male?
Are we going to be tweeting for the rest of our lives?
Why do Silicon Valley billionaires choose average-looking wives?
What makes a startup ecosystem thrive?
What do people plan to do once they’re over 35?
Is an income of $160K enough to survive?
What kind of car does Mark Zuckerberg drive?
And there’s more. This is splendid.
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»The American Dental Association (ADA) says it may have inadvertently mailed malware-laced USB thumb drives to thousands of dental offices nationwide.
The problem first came to light in a post on the DSL Reports Security Forum. DSLR member “Mike” from Pittsburgh got curious about the integrity of a USB drive that the ADA mailed to members to share updated “dental procedure codes” — codes that dental offices use to track procedures for billing and insurance purposes…
It had a launcher which would take a PC to a site which would try to download malware; and few antivirus checkers would find it.
In response to questions from this author, the ADA said the USB media was manufactured in China by a subcontractor of an ADA vendor, and that some 37,000 of the devices have been distributed. The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, with more than 159,000 members.
“Upon investigation, the ADA concluded that only a small percentage of the manufactured USB devices were infected,” the organization wrote in an emailed statement.
One should now routinely assume that anything involving (a) Flash (b) USB drives is potentially a malware route. Fortunately, both are avoidable in normal life.
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»In some ways, [Yahoo CEO Marissa] Mayer’s strategy has worked. Yahoo’s apps have received stellar marks from both reviewers and users, and the company has created new lines of business that accounted for $390m in revenue last quarter. “Mavens as a revenue source didn’t exist at all in 2011 and was nascent in 2012,” Mayer said proudly on the February earnings call, using an acronym that stands for “mobile, video, native advertising, social.” Yahoo has more than 600 million mobile users, up from about 150 million before she took the job.
But those improvements are nowhere near big enough to turn the company around. “Marissa likes to present Mavens as though it should be compared to some nascent startup,” says SpringOwl’s Jackson. But startups, he points out, don’t begin with a billion users. “It’s as if Yahoo took an above-ground pool, dumped it into a bucket, and said, ‘Wow, we’re really filling up this bucket fast,’ ” he says.
And that traffic isn’t necessarily users delighting in Mayer’s new products and telling their friends; much of it comes from Yahoo paying ever-larger sums to other companies to direct their users to Yahoo’s sites and apps. It paid almost $900m in traffic acquisition fees in 2015, up from $200m in 2014. Predictably, Yahoo users are spending less and less time with its sites. A report by The Information, a tech news site, showed that as of early December, the average time spent on Yahoo properties had declined 32% for Yahoo Mail, 29% for the home page, and 20% for Tumblr over the previous 12 months.
»Last week, I tested the Waze vulnerability myself, to see how successfully the UC-Santa Barbara team could track me over a three-day period. I told them I’d be in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and where I was staying—the kind of information a snoopy stalker might know about someone he or she wanted to track. Then, their ghost army tried to keep tabs on where I went.
The researchers caught my movements on three occasions, including when I took a taxi to downtown Las Vegas for dinner:
And they caught me commuting to work on the bus in San Francisco. (Though they lost me when I went underground to take the subway.)
The security researchers were only able to track me while I was in a vehicle with Waze running in the foreground of my smartphone. Previously, they could track someone even if Waze was just running in the background of the phone. Waze, an Israeli start-up, was purchased by Google in 2013 for $1.1 billion. Zhao informed the security team at Google about the problem and made a version of the paper about their findings public last year. An update to the app in January of this year prevents it from broadcasting your location when the app is running in the background, an update that Waze described as an energy-saving feature. (So update your Waze app if you haven’t done so recently!)
The only way not to be trackable is to choose to be “invisible”. Or not to use Waze, of course. Once more, it’s a theoretical risk – you’d need clever, determined hackers to use it against you – but it also shows how much data these apps leak intentionally.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.
Did you miss yesterday’s Start up: Overspill? Google’s health data grab, Intel’s mobile halt, satire wars, iPad Pro beats Surface Pro, and more.