Start up: Facebook’s video hope, Amy on Outlook, Apple’s neural nets, a Trump rally in Greensboro, and more

06

Deleting the default apps on iOS 10 will get rid of them, right? Wrong. Photo by tuaulamac on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word • Quartz

Cassie Werber:

»Facebook has arguably made us all writers, since it has become the medium of choice for millions to share their views and life experiences. But in five years that creativity may look very different. Facebook is predicting the end of the written word on its platform.

In five years time Facebook “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, who heads up Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at a conference in London this morning. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has already noted that video will be more and more important for the platform. But Mendelsohn went further, suggesting that stats showed the written word becoming all but obsolete, replaced by moving images and speech.

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

«

Not buying this.
link to this extract

 


How ‘deleting’ built-in Apple apps works in iOS 10 • iMore

Rene Ritchie:

»when you delete a built-in app, you don’t really delete it. You do remove the icon from the Home screen, the user data is flushed, and the hooks into the system for things like default links and Siri handling are removed. But, it doesn’t delete the actual app binary.

There are two reasons for this:

• Apple’s built-in apps are very, very small, taking up only 150 MB of storage. That’s because they wrap a lot of core functionality and so don’t introduce a lot of extraneous code or assets.

• When a version of iOS is released, Apple signs it so your iPhone or iPad can verify it’s legitimate and hasn’t been tampered with by a third party. That code signing covers the entirety of iOS, including built-in apps. If everyone had different apps, some present, some not, the current form of signing security wouldn’t work.

«

Deleting the user data might save a fair amount of storage, though.
link to this extract

 


X.ai works with Microsoft Outlook.com • Business Insider

Matt Weinberger:

»For the last two years, the popular x.ai virtual personal assistant has been helping Google Calendar users manage their meetings.

Today, x.ai is finally coming to Microsoft calendars, with support for Office 365 and Outlook.com, as the company moves closer to the release of its paid business edition later this year.

«

Amy is a really terrific system – I don’t know why Google or Microsoft hasn’t snapped up x.ai.
link to this extract

 


BNNS • Apple Developer Documentation

»Basic neural network subroutines (BNNS) is a collection of functions that you use to implement and run neural networks, using previously obtained training data.

«

Embedded in all four platforms (iOS, tvOS, watchOS, OSX/MacOS):

»BNNS supports implementation and operation of neural networks for inference, using input data previously derived from training. BNNS does not do training, however. Its purpose is to provide very high performance inference on already trained neural networks.

«

Does Android have anything comparable?
link to this extract

 


The perils and promises of gene-drive technology • The New Yorker

Michael Specter:

»Normally, the progeny of any sexually reproductive organism receives half its genome from each parent. For decades, however, biologists have been aware that some genetic elements are “selfish”: evolution has bestowed on them a better-than-fifty-per-cent chance of being inherited. But, until scientists began to work with Crispr, which permits DNA to be edited with uncanny ease and accuracy, they lacked the tools to make those changes.

Then the evolutionary biologist Kevin Esvelt, who runs the Sculpting Evolution Group at M.I.T.’s Media Lab, realized that, by attaching a gene drive to a desired DNA sequence with crispr, you could permanently alter the genetic destiny of a species. That’s because, with crispr, a change made on one chromosome would copy itself in every successive generation, so that nearly all descendants would inherit the change. A mutation that blocked the parasite responsible for malaria, for instance, could be engineered into a mosquito and passed down every time it reproduced. Within a year or two, none of the original mosquito’s offspring would be able to transmit the infection. And if gene drives work for malaria they ought to work for other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, yellow fever, and Zika.

This is tremendously promising news, but nothing so powerful comes without risk—and there has never been a more powerful biological tool…

…Pretty soon, we are going to have to make some of the most pressing decisions we have ever made about how, whether, and when to deploy a new technology.

«

link to this extract

 


The end of reflection • The New York Times

Teddy Wayne:

»By 2012, Google engineers had discovered that when results take longer than two-fifths of a second to appear, people search less, and lagging just one quarter of a second behind a rival site can drive users away.

“That hints at the way that, as our technologies increase the intensity of stimulation and the flow of new things, we adapt to that pace,” [author of The Shallows, Nichola] Carr said. “We become less patient. When moments without stimulation arise, we start to feel panicked and don’t know what to do with them, because we’ve trained ourselves to expect this stimulation — new notifications and alerts and so on.”

What this often translates to in the discourse of the internet is demand for immediate and perfunctory “hot takes” rather than carefully weighed judgments, whether they’re about serious or superficial matters.

Mr. Carr also noted counterarguments: Formulating relatively simple thoughts on the internet can yield more complex ones through real-time exchanges with others, and people whose reflex is to post a notion hastily rather than let it sit may not have been the most deliberative thinkers in a pre-smartphone time, either.

Nevertheless, he sees our current direction as indicative of “the loss of the contemplative mind,” he said.

«

link to this extract

 


What is Differential Privacy’? • A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering

Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University, explaining the system Apple says it’s using for its machine learning system:

»A much more promising approach is not to collect the raw data at all. This approach was recently pioneered by Google to collect usage statistics in their Chrome browser. The system, called RAPPOR, is based on an implementation of the 50-year old randomized response technique. Randomized response works as follows:

• When a user wants to report a piece of potentially embarrassing information (made up example: “Do you use Bing?”), they first flip a coin, and if the coin comes up “heads”, they return a random answer — calculated by flipping a second coin. Otherwise they answer honestly.

• The server then collects answers from the entire population, and (knowing the probability that the coins will come up “heads”), adjusts for the included “noise” to compute an approximate answer for the true response rate.

Intuitively, randomized response protects the privacy of individual user responses, because a “yes” result could mean that you use Bing, or it could just be the effect of the first mechanism (the random coin flip). More formally, randomized response has been shown to achieve Differential Privacy, with specific guarantees that can adjusted by fiddling with the coin bias.

RAPPOR takes this relatively old technique and turns it into something much more powerful. Instead of simply responding to a single question, it can report on complex vectors of questions, and may even return complicated answers, such as strings – e.g., which default homepage you use. The latter is accomplished by first encoding the string into a Bloom filter – a bitstring constructed using hash functions in a very specific way. The resulting bits are then injected with noise, and summed, and the answers recovered using a (fairly complex) decoding process.

«

I think “it’s complicated” will probably do as a first pass.
link to this extract

 


Android share growth slows after historic gains last period • Kantar Worldpanel

»“In Great Britain, both Android and iOS had higher market share in the three months ending April 2016. Android represented 58.5% of the market in that period, a gain of 4.1% year-on-year,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “And for iOS, this term showed the first increase since October 2015, though modest at just 0.4%, from 34.7% to 35.1%. Android gains came from Windows phone owners switching, a trend that produced nearly 10% of new Android customers, while 21.8% of new iOS buyers switched from Android.”

«

In other words: Windows Phone, the platform, is burning, and not in a good way. This will sound familiar to students of history, and not in a good way either.

»

“In Urban China, Android share rose 4.8% year-over-year, and 1.1% period-over-period, to capture 78.8% of smartphone sales in the three months ending April 2016,” noted Tamsin Timpson, Strategic Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia. “While movement from featurephones to smartphones has slowed significantly in developed markets like the US and EU5, this still makes up a significant proportion of smartphone sales in Urban China. Nearly a third of Android users during this time were purchasing their first smartphone, in contrast to iOS buyers, of whom only 14% were first-time smartphone customers.”

«

That doesn’t tell us whether Chinese iOS buyers were moving from Android in any measurable quantity. But clearly Android is still effective at gaining from featurephones.
link to this extract

 


A Trump rally in Greensboro • · Storify

Jared Yates Sexton went along and tweeted what he saw and heard, with this as the tagline:

»”Anger in here is palpable”: in which a sane man live tweets insanity.

«

It really is scary. (Over 170,000 views at the time of tagging.) A question one might like to consider is whether Trump would let his wife walk unaccompanied through the car park following one of his rallies. (There’s more of Sexton’s work on this blog.)
link to this extract

 


OnePlus X series is no more, says CEO • Engadget

Richard Lai:

»While it’s common practice for smartphone makers to offer two or three product lines to cover all the bases, OnePlus has recently decided to go from two to one. At the OnePlus 3 launch event in Shenzhen today, CEO Pete Lau confirmed that his company’s more affordable offering, the OnePlus X, will not have a followup model. That’s not to say it was a bad phone (even we liked it) nor was it unpopular, but Lau reasoned that OnePlus will instead focus on just one “true flagship” line from now on, in order to strengthen its foundation – something that Lau admitted his team neglected last year – rather than fighting the low-end price war.

«

OnePlus is on thin margins and (comparatively) low volumes, so it has to shift towards premium pricing to survive.
link to this extract

 


Now Peter Thiel’s lawyer wants to silence reporting on Trump’s hair [Updated] • Gawker

J K Trotter:

»But if you were under the impression that praise-worthy journalism [investigating whether Donald Trump’s hair is a $60,000 wig/weave – which I would think is very likely indeed] is somehow inoculated against campaigns like Thiel’s, you’d be mistaken. Last week, Thiel’s lawyer-for-hire, Charles J. Harder, sent Gawker a letter on behalf of Ivari International’s owner and namesake, Edward Ivari, in which Harder claims that Feinberg’s story was “false and defamatory,” invaded Ivari’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed “tortious interference” with Ivari’s business relations. Harder enumerates 19 different purportedly defamatory statements—almost all of which were drawn from several publicly available lawsuits filed against Ivari.

Harder’s demands included the immediate removal of the story from Gawker, a public apology, the preservation of “all physical and electronic documents, materials and data in your possession” related to the story, and, notably, that we reveal our sources.

«

Thiel’s lawyer’s filing is nonsense; and Gawker now does not give a flying one how much it offends either of them. When you’re on Death Row, death threats hardly scare you.
link to this extract

 


Shutterbugs, rejoice: Apple’s iOS 10 will shoot raw photos • CNET

Stephen Shankland:

»Apple’s next-gen iOS 10 software adds a new programming interface that will let camera apps retrieve unprocessed raw photo data from the camera hardware, according to Apple developer documentation. Google’s Android has supported raw photos since the release of the Lollipop version in 2014.

There’s a good reason Apple didn’t include raw photo support in its top-10 list of new iOS 10 features unveiled at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) Monday. Raw photography is complex and too much of a hassle for most people to bother with. But with photography now so central to mobile phones, and with photo enthusiasts being such an active and visible type of customer, raw photo support is a major improvement. Raw photos should help Apple’s iPhones keep their place atop the list of most popular cameras on Flickr, the photo-sharing site.

«

link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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