Start up: hologram phones!, Apple’s 64-bit future, Windows 10’s tablet trouble, Moto Z’s missing jack, and more

“Captain Future” was written by a human, but a computer has now written an SF screenplay. Should we worry? Photo by hatwoman on Flickr.

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A selection of 14 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The iPad Pro is hobbled by software, and why iOS 10 could knock it out of the park • Lou Miranda

Miranda points out that iOS 10 will probably drop support for 32-bit processors in favour of 64-bit only:

»This graph shows the incredible performance increase from the A5 to the A6: we’re not talking a 10% or 25% or even 33% faster CPU, we’re talking about a CPU that’s 2.5x faster!

Since iOS 10 will almost surely drop support for these older devices, it can now be prodded to do a lot of things that iOS could never do before. Things like allowing Mail to tag junk mail. Things like showing Smart Albums in Photos. Things like making the Photos app more like iPhoto or Aperture on a Mac. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use an Apple Pencil to mask images in the Photos app to apply changes just to select portions of a photo? Wouldn’t it be great if you could script Photos or Mail to do things using snippets of Swift or JavaScript code? Wouldn’t it be great to automate apps, the way desktop OSes can? Wouldn’t it be great if Siri were faster and maybe did more on-device, rather than always having to go to the Internet?

I’m not promising any of these things, but these are just some of the possibilities that you can envision once the shackles of old hardware are removed from iOS.


So that’s the 5S and onward.
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Siri and context • All this

Dr Drang:

»Siri doesn’t seem to take advantage of what it knows, or should know, to give reasonable responses. I agree and find Siri’s inability to put requests in context far more frustrating than its mistakes in voice recognition. In fact, just before I listened to The Talk Show, Siri displayed for me a particularly egregious example of contextual ignorance.

I was driving up through central Illinois, a trip I’ve made more times than I can count. I was not using Siri/Maps to give me turn-by-turn directions. I was just listening to some podcast or another and watching the scenery, such as it is, go by. Somewhere south of Effingham, I realized that I’d lost track of how far away it was. Not a big deal, but Effingham is about the halfway point of my trip, and I usually stop there for gas, a bathroom break, and to text my wife an ETA.

My iPhone was charging and sitting upside-down in a cupholder in the center console. I pushed the home button, waited for the Siri beep to come through my car’s speakers, and asked “How far is it to Effingham?”

Siri’s response: “Which Effingham? Tap the one you want.”

On the positive side, Siri recognized the word “Effingham” and recognized it as a place name. But those successes made its two context failures even more annoying.

First, I’m driving north on I-57 in Illinois between Mount Vernon and Effingham. Which effing Effingham do you think I want?!


As he points out, Siri absolutely knows this – the phone knows the car’s location and speed, and nearby locations. I feel that phones have so much of this data on board, and nearly enough processing power that they barely need to consult the network.
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Forget 3D: holograms are coming to smartphones • TechRadar

Jamie Carter:

»Forget FaceTime – why not say hello with a hologram? Imagine making a holo-call on your phone, with a 3D image of the caller appearing to leap out at you from the phone screen.

“The basic idea of using hologram technology in a smartphone is that you would be able to project a 3D image into space at a certain short distance away from the device,” says Waiman Lam, VP for global marketing at ZTE Mobile Devices, who told TechRadar that holo-phones are at the pre-research stage.


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Can subscriptions cure Apple’s iPhone problem? • Bloomberg Gadfly

Shira Ovide:

»Of course, hooking people on subscription apps benefits Apple, too. It is harder for iPhone owners to ditch their phones for Android devices if it means giving up the ability to access a beloved app. (I suspect developers will figure a way around this.) Apple also must know the financial firepower of inertia and loyalty. People who sign up for a subscription tend to forget to cancel before their credit card gets charged the next year, or people stick around for years and years if they grow to rely on Netflix, their local newspaper or their home Internet connection. The whole tech industry has fallen in love with subscriptions, actually. Even Larry Ellison talks about software subscriptions.

I’ve been skeptical of Apple’s ability to shift the company from its dependence on selling more iPhones and other hardware to making bigger chunks of its sales from apps, Apple Music subscriptions, AppleCare warranties and digital movies.


That point about subs making it harder for people to give up is an excellent one.
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Sunspring : a sci-fi short film starring Thomas Middleditch • Ars Technica Videos – The Scene

»In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created “Jetson” and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.


This is quite weird. Can a computer write a screenplay? Yes, it sort of can. Does it make sense? No, not at all. Is it like a lot of sci-fi films, in that way? Yes, it absolutely is. You realise that the actors’ trade is largely about making unbelievable dialogue sound as though people really would say it. (Middleditch is the wispy hero of Silicon Valley, the TV series; see below.)

Question is, will the AI take notes (the comments from producers/directors/etc about what needs to change)? Watching this you realise that a lot of humans who write sci-fi screenplays probably need to up their game just a little – this thing is just getting started.
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The three big reasons Windows 10 tablets don’t cut it • The Guardian

Samuel Gibbs:

»Apps and resolutions aside, the real big flaw for Windows 10 tablets is battery life. I’m not talking about active use battery life – I got a full day of work without plugging in the TabPro S – but standby time.

When you hit the power button to put an iPad or Android tablet running Marshmallow to sleep, you can be sure when you come back a day later that it’ll still have charge. Time and time again I’ve put Windows 10 tablets to sleep over night only to find them dead by the morning.

Microsoft’s built-in battery saver mode helps, but Windows 10 needs much tighter control over the power state of the device when asleep, particularly when users expect an instant-on response when coming back to their tablets.

Both Android and iOS excel here. The iPad Pro lasts a week on standby, as does Google’s Pixel C. I’m lucky if I managed to get a day of standby out of the TabPro S, which has one of the longest battery lives of any Windows 10 tablet I’ve tested.


I was amazed by this, but people on Twitter confirmed it. (Though note too it has to be an “Android tablet running Marshmallow – emphasis added. Before that, Android tablet standby life wasn’t too hot either.)
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This nine-year-old little girl is WWDC’s youngest attendee • Fortune

Leena Rao:

»Anvitha Vijay had a dream of building a mobile app. With only $130 in her piggy bank (which took her entire lifetime to collect), she realized that she didn’t have enough money to pay a developer to build the app for her. So she spent a year watching free coding tutorials on YouTube and the web, and learned how to program.

“Coding was so challenging,” Vijay said, now two years older. “But I’m so glad I stuck with it.”

This year, Vijay, who lives in Australia is fulfilling another dream of hers. She is the youngest attendee at WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference. Like many of her fellow attendees, Vijay has created a handful of apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPad. But the biggest difference between her and the thousands of other developers who will flock San Francisco’s Moscone Center on Monday is that Vijay is now only nine years old.

Vijay is attending WWDC as part of Apple’s scholarship program, which gives hundreds of free tickets to developers from around the world who are creating apps for Apple devices. This year’s group of recipients saw the most winners under the age of 18, and a more diverse crowd than years past. Out of 350 recipients, 120 of the lucky winners are students under the age of 18.


Minor headline question: “little girl”? Wouldn’t “This nine-year-old is WWDC’s youngest attendee” work just as well?
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Why I quit Twitter — and left behind 35,000 followers • The New York Times

Jonathan Weisman (who made visible much of what had seethed beneath many peoples’ radar):

»The blocking or deleting of accounts on Twitter is a pointless exercise if Twitter won’t police itself for flagrant violations of its terms of service. As I wrote this, I took time out to open a new account on Twitter. My handle: @Jew_Hater, my Twitter name HitlerAnew (I_Hate_Jews, Josef_Goebbels, Heinrich_Himmler and Hitler_Returns were already taken) — and, hey, no problem!

Facebook users can make up names, but they at least have to sound legit. Twitter, not so much. Yes, Twitter’s free-for-all has advantages: parody accounts, anonymity for the persecuted and such. But that only means Twitter assumes more responsibility for policing its accounts.

I have been encouraged to return to Twitter, and told that I should continue to fight, that my exit was cowardly, that I let the haters win. And I might. I miss the quick rush of a scan through my time line.

But the fact is, giving up one social media space wasn’t exactly martyrdom. It wasn’t much of a loss at all. I have found myself reading whole articles through The New York Times and Washington Post apps on my phone — imagine that. I can actually look at the profiles of people requesting to be my friend on Facebook to see if they are, in fact, trolls. If one slips through, I not only can “unfriend” him but can delete his posts. It feels liberating.


This is a key problem for Twitter. It’s a private company; the First Amendment doesn’t (have to) apply. But trying to work through all that hate would require more staff than any company could afford.

Another observation: we get this piece from someone, usually female, every two months or so. Shouldn’t Twitter get the message?
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Riot Games: Assessing toxicity in the workplace • re:Work

»The Riot team hypothesized there’d be a correlation between highly toxic in-game play and workplace toxicity; if a Rioter received lots of in-game complaints, the team assumed they’d have more friction with workplace teammates too. This is not to say Riot had a problem with workplace toxicity. Ranking high on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work For list, it was quite the opposite. But as a quickly growing company they were concerned about strengthening and scaling their culture.

Riot looked at the preceding 12 months of gameplay of every employee and discovered there was a correlation between in-game and in-Riot toxicity. They determined that 25% of employees who had been let go in the previous year were players with unusually high in-game toxicity. The most common bad behaviors they found were passive aggression (snarky comments) and the use of authoritative language, sometimes using their authority as a Riot employee to intimidate or threaten others.

Riot also found that a player’s toxicity was a fluid thing and not immutable. Like moods, toxicity levels can fluctuate. Riot could measure and predict toxicity trajectories of players over time, and so they set about seeing if they could improve the player behavior of their employees.


Happily, they could. But that 25% figure doesn’t quite point to total correlation.
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‘Bluetooth 5’ to be announced next week [Update: bringing 2x speed, 4x range] • Mac Rumors

Tim Hardwick:

»It’s unclear whether Bluetooth 5 will come to existing devices as a firmware update or require new hardware, but the latter is more likely. Previously, Bluetooth 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 devices were not upgradeable to newer versions of the standard, but Bluetooth 4.0 devices could be upgraded to Bluetooth 4.1 via software patches.

In October last year, Apple quietly added Bluetooth 4.2 support to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, bringing 2.5x faster speeds and up to ten times higher data capacity to the devices.

Rumors of impending upgrades to Apple’s MacBook range typically make no mention of wireless protocols, while iPhone 7 leaks and speculation are also usually silent on the subject.

However, given the increasing likelihood that Apple will remove the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Bluetooth will become the primary means of connecting headphones for most users unless wired Lightning earbuds are included in the box.


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The Moto Z doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack • Android Police

Ryan Whitwam:

»Lenovo and Motorola unveiled the 2016 Moto flagships today at Tech World with a line of modular back plates and a few months of Verizon exclusivity (boo). That’s not the only thing to be annoyed about. According to Motorola’s spec sheet for the Moto Z devices, it only does audio over the Type-C port. We’ve checked out the device in real life to confirm, and there’s no headphone jack to be found. This does not seem like a good idea.

The Droid-branded versions of the phones will come out first, and right there on the spec sheet is the following: “USB-C port for headphones, charging and data transfer, 3.5 mm to USB-C headphone port adapter included”

This isn’t the first attempt to do away with the venerable headphone jack. LeEco announced a few jack-less phones recently, and there have been rumors that Apple would ditch the port as well. The Oppo R5 also lacked a headphone jack. However, the Moto Z is by far the most mainstream phone to skip the standard 3.5mm jack.


Prompting lots of questions in the comments: “how do you charge your phone while listening to the headphones?” 🤔
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Gawker files for bankruptcy, will be put up for auction • WSJ

Lukas Alpert:

»Overall traffic to the company’s seven websites had fallen 14% year-on-year in April, according to comScore, largely driven by a steep decline at Gawker, which underwent a pivot towards political coverage last year.

At trial, a Florida jury was told that the company was valued at $83m.

Gawker will sell its business at a bankruptcy court-supervised auction. It has arranged a $22m bankruptcy loan to stay open pending the sale. The company listed Mr. Bollea as its largest creditor with a $130m claim. He also was awarded an additional $10m in damages from Mr. Denton.

In a memo to staff, Ziff Davis chief executive Vivek Shah said the auction will likely take place at the end of July and that he expected the bankruptcy court to set a schedule to take other bids soon.

“There’s a tremendous fit between the two organizations, from brands to audience to monetization. We look forward to the possibility of adding these great brands—and the talented people who support them—to the Ziff Davis family,” he said.


Gawker didn’t “undergo” a pivot; it might have undertaken one, though, which the traffic implies was not a good idea. Somehow doubt that its acid tone will remain within Ziff-Davis. And what happens to the Kinja commenting software?
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How “Silicon Valley” nails Silicon Valley • The New Yorker

Andrew Marantz:

»Every summer, “Silicon Valley”’s writers and producers take a research trip to Northern California. During one visit to Google’s headquarters, in Mountain View, about six writers sat in a conference room with Astro Teller, the head of GoogleX, who wore a midi ring and kept his long hair in a ponytail. “Most of our research meetings are fun, but this one was uncomfortable,” Kemper told me. GoogleX is the company’s “moonshot factory,” devoted to projects, such as self-driving cars, that are difficult to build but might have monumental impact. Hooli, a multibillion-dollar company on “Silicon Valley,” bears a singular resemblance to Google. (The Google founder Larry Page, in Fortune: “We’d like to have a bigger impact on the world by doing more things.” Hooli’s C.E.O., in season two: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone makes the world a better place better than we do.”) The previous season, Hooli had launched HooliXYZ, its own “moonshot factory,” whose experiments were slapstick absurdities: monkeys who use bionic arms to masturbate; powerful cannons for launching potatoes across a room. “He claimed he hadn’t seen the show, and then he referred many times to specific things that had happened on the show,” Kemper said. “His message was, ‘We don’t do stupid things here. We do things that actually are going to change the world, whether you choose to make fun of that or not.’ ” (Teller could not be reached for comment.)

Teller ended the meeting by standing up in a huff, but his attempt at a dramatic exit was marred by the fact that he was wearing Rollerblades. He wobbled to the door in silence. “Then there was this awkward moment of him fumbling with his I.D. badge, trying to get the door to open,” Kemper said. “It felt like it lasted an hour. We were all trying not to laugh. Even while it was happening, I knew we were all thinking the same thing: Can we use this?” In the end, the joke was deemed “too hacky to use on the show.”


This is a wonderful article from top to bottom; “Silicon Valley” could be the best thing to come out of Silicon Valley, except it’s made in Los Angeles. Be sure to read it for what happened to Peter Thiel at the afterparty of the first episode’s private screening. And how the daft made-up ad for Pied Piper predated an equally daft one for Uber.
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Executive shuffle at Cyanogen amid challenges • The Information

Amir Efrati:

»Now three years old, Cyanogen only has around 3 million users, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. That’s compared with 1.4 billion users for Google’s version of Android. Cyanogen generates an insignificant amount of revenue. CEO Kirt McMaster said the user numbers are “pretty good,” especially compared to how many users the Android operating system had after its first year in production at Google.


Hmm. Cyanogen has raised $100m, and has about half that left in the bank. It reckons that as the smartphone market slows down, people will want more AI, and that it can deliver it. But it feels more like its moment has passed; that the time when it could have broken through was three or four years ago when the upslope was much steeper.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

1 thought on “Start up: hologram phones!, Apple’s 64-bit future, Windows 10’s tablet trouble, Moto Z’s missing jack, and more

  1. Re subscriptions solving an iPhone problem.

    First, quelle probleme? Apple make more money than anyone else from their phone sales. And gain more sales from other platforms than they lose.

    Sorry I also disagree with the logic about app subscriptions making it harder to switch phone platform.

    Having, myself, purchased dozens of apps outright, I’d be loathe to switch from my current iPhone platform of choice and, as a result, have to repurchase them all over again. If they were monthly subscriptions it wouldn’t matter what platform they were on. (Some subscriptions may be annual but most will surely be monthly to avoid ‘sticker-shock’.)

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