Start up: Twitter gets AI too, Apple’s photo AI, would Brexit raise roaming prices?, Spotify’s 100m, and more


Presenting! It can be so easy, but can be so bad. Photo by Alice Bartlett on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Now that the summer solstice has passed in the northern hemisphere. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Alicia Keys is done playing nice. Your phone is getting locked up at her shows now. • The Washington Post

Geoff Edgers:

»On a cool Manhattan night, DJ Walton, who helps manage Alicia Keys, steps outside the Highline Ballroom to tell the guy at the door who, exactly, he may allow to bring a cellphone into the singer’s sold-out gig. The list is very short.

“Like, Queen Latifah,” says Walton.

Benji Spanier nods and spreads the news to everybody else. This is a “phone-free event,” he tells fans waiting in line. And that doesn’t mean airplane mode. Spanier holds a gray, rubbery pouch in his hand. Your phone goes in here, he says, and then we lock it.

“What?” one fan grumbles.

Quickly, Spanier adds an important addendum.

You keep that locked pouch with you. Spanier also explains that if you need to use your phone, you can just come outside and he can quickly unlock it by tapping it on a metal disk slightly larger than a bagel. The tension breaks.

“If you had told me you were going to put it in a locker, I’d have been pissed off,” Kevin Schmidt, 37, tells him. “This is okay.”

«

Special pouch, called Yondr. Good business for them.
link to this extract

 


Did Jeep’s recalled gear shifter contribute to the death of Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin? (Updating) • Jalopnik

David Tracy:

»Earlier today, we learned about the tragic death of Anton Yelchin after the Star Trek actor was found pinned between his car and a mailbox. Now news from TMZ indicates that Yelchin’s car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, leading us to wonder whether it was among the 1.1 million cars recalled in April due to a confusing shifter that owners often inadvertently left in neutral instead of park. [Update: it was.]

In mid April, Jeep recalled 1.1 million vehicles equipped with ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission because, according to the automaker’s recall notice, “Some drivers… exited their vehicles without first selecting ‘PARK,’” ultimately causing the cars to roll away uncontrollably.

«

Lots of maybes, but this looks like a case where poor design led to death.
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Twitter buys machine learning start-up Magic Pony • FT.com

Hannah Kuchler:

»Twitter has acquired Magic Pony, a London-based machine learning start-up, as the messaging platform tries to bolster its video and live streaming capabilities.

Magic Pony specialises in creating algorithms that can understand pictures, which could be helpful to Twitter as it pushes further into live streaming and moves away from a chronological timeline to a more curated Facebook-style news feed.

The startup was set up in 2014 and has 14 engineers, including 11 with PhDs and expertise across computer vision, the ability to understand pictures, machine learning and computational neurosciences…

Twitter acquired Magic Pony for an undisclosed sum. Its investors include Octopus Ventures, a UK-based venture capital firm that has invested in other artificial intelligence companies. These include Evi, which was acquired by Amazon, and SwiftKey, which was bought by Microsoft.

«

Airplanes to San Francisco await the chief executive Rob Bishop. Congratulations to that team.
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Speaker style bingo: 10 presentation anti-patterns • Troy Hunt

Hunt nails the ten awful habits of speakers you wish hadn’t got the slot you’re attending, and offers this advice:

»seriously, you’ve got to rehearse these things like crazy and also recognise that your pace changes between private rehearsals and public presentations. On that point, I always have a timing sheet in large letters next to my iPad with a timer in an easily glanceable location:

This is invaluable. I refine the timing on subsequent rehearsal and ensure it’s accurate to the minute with two or three minutes to spare at the end just in case I start late or have an issue. I glance at it very few minutes and either slow down the pace (usually by embellishing on a topic) or speed it up to get back on track. But here’s the key – this has to be something you can check with a glance.

«

Then again, I think all of us who have spoken in public could do a similar one about the audience – the ones checking their phones, checking their laptops, etc.
link to this extract

 


Behind Apple’s advanced computer vision for Photos app • Medium

Kay Yin:

»[iOS 10’s] Photos app recognises and distinguishes the following 7 facial expressions. Expressions are distinguished after forming a “faceprint”. These distinction are used for searching. They are also rated and indexed for generation Memories and montages.
•Greedy, Disgust, Neutral, Scream, Smiling, Surprise, Suspicious

Photos app will generate Moments that falls within the following 33 categories. Default name of the moment will be automatically generated using metadata from the photos and tags from analysis of photos.

• Memories from areas of interest, Best of past memories, Memories that break out of routine, Celebration in history, Contextual memories, Crowd, Day in history, Holiday in history, Location of interest, Nearby, New contextual memories, New memories, Person’s Birthdays, Person’s memories, Recent events (calendar, crowd, holiday, people, person, social, trip, weekend), Region of interest, Social group memories, Sometime memories, Special memories, Favourited, Trips, Week in history, Weekend, Year summary, Last week, Last Weekend

Photos app supports detecting 4,432 different scenes and objects. These scenes or objects can be searched for in all languages.

Additionally, you can search for various landmarks.

«

He doesn’t specify how he knows this – possibly from using the macOS beta and digging into the accompanying files. It seems like a limited number compared to what Google must have; Google’s scenes/objects list is probably growing by 4,432 every day.
link to this extract

 


Could Brexit result in higher roaming charges? • CCS Insigh

Kester Mann:

»Should the UK vote for Brexit, mobile operators would no longer be accountable to Brussels’ regulation on roaming. Under pressure from declining revenue in traditional areas such as voice and messaging, they would be foolish not to at least consider seizing an opportunity to reapply charges.

In reality however, this would be much easier said than done in a hugely competitive market that includes a number of strong virtual providers. Indeed, some operators have already gone a long way toward abolishing roaming ahead of the ruling next June. Backtracking would be extremely unpopular and probably only work if operators moved in unison. Even then, Ofcom may still be within its rights to clamp down if it deemed the move unnecessary.

Already more than 3 million customers of Three have taken advantage of inclusive roaming since the operator launched its Feel at Home offer in 2013. Significantly, it includes popular tourist and business destinations beyond Brussels’ jurisdiction, such as Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the US. In my view, this demonstrates a long-term strategy to offer low-cost roaming charges, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Other UK providers have followed suit. Carphone Warehouse currently offers inclusive roaming in 29 countries, including Australia and the US, through its virtual service, iD. Meanwhile, Vodafone last month moved to largely abolish roaming across Europe. Tesco Mobile has a similar offer, although it is only available during the summer, a possible indication that it will review its options after the UK goes to the polls.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this debate is Swisscom’s recent decision to virtually abolish roaming within the EU for its Natel Infinity Plus subscribers. Given that Switzerland is not a member state and has a hugely dominant market position, this was a surprising move that suggests the value of roaming may be overestimated by some commentators.

«

(My family loves Three’s “Feel At Home” international roaming for no extra cost.)
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One million machines, including routers, used to attack banks • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:

»Akamai’s Ryan Barnett reports on two attacks against the service’s financial customers last year: attackers used nearly 1m compromised systems to attempt to log in to users’ accounts using logins and passwords from earlier breaches.

Many of the attacks originated from proxies, but the response team found a high number of Xyxel and Arris home routers – provided by ISPs in an insecure state and not patched after deployment.

While distributed attacks are common, this story is a kind of trifecta of infosec badness: hacked, headless IoT devices rented to customers who aren’t allowed to reconfigure them; email/password breaches leaked from insecure services being leveraged on the assumption of password re-use; and attacks originating from a million IPs – all directed to financial accounts in a way that could clean out its victims of their life’s savings.

«

There must come a point where the sheer firepower is going to overwhelm any protection, surely? And what happens after that? Here’s the full Akamai report.
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Get more out of your battery with Microsoft Edge • Windows Experience Blog

Jason Weber, director of Web platform team, Microsoft Edge:

»We connected a Surface Book to specialized power monitoring equipment and measured the actual power usage during typical browsing activities in Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. We then automated each browser to perform the same series of activities: opening websites, scrolling through articles, and watching videos, opening new tabs for each task. We used the same websites you spend your time on – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia and more.

Average power consumption in milliwatts for identical workloads in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera (with battery saver mode enabled). Unless specified, all browser settings were left at their defaults.

For these browsing activities, our tests show Microsoft Edge is a more energy efficient browser on Windows 10, with up to 36%-53% more battery life to get what you need done —whether you’re studying at the library, researching dream vacation destinations, or checking in with your friends on social networks.

«

Bet Apple would get the same for Safari on an Apple machine. Chrome is a battery hog – no two ways about it.
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Google vs. Apple: contrasting approaches to app store evolution • Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

»Instant Apps and Google Now On Tap are mildly interesting products when looked at individually. But when combined, they have the potential to reshape the app interaction model as we know it. That said, this is a risk because a change on this scale will take quite a bit of time to diffuse through to developers and consumers at scale. But if executed correctly, app downloads could be a thing of the past within five years.

Now let’s take a look at Apple’s approach to the app store. Apple appears to be doubling down on the existing app distribution / discovery paradigm. The only change on this front was the introduction of app store search ads (which have been available on Google Play for a year, with no major impact). Instead, Apple’s major announcements focused on subscription-based revenue models to help developers better monetize digital content. Of course, it also helps that app revenue is the lone bright spot for the company as iPhone sales continue to decline.

Apple’s moves will certainly improve monetization in certain app store categories, notably Productivity, but it could hardly be called a drastic change to the app store model. This serves some developer needs, but it does not solve the app discovery challenge faced by consumers and the conversion rate issue that plagues developers. Time will tell if this was the right approach.

«

Is app monetisation more important for developers, or being able to get their apps onto peoples’ devices? The latter is comparatively easy, though neither is a cakewalk. Apple seems to be focussing first on the former, and fixing that quickly. Though Google could follow it quickly too.
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Spotify monthly active user base reaches 100 million • Reuters

Mia Shanley:

»Swedish music streaming service Spotify said on Monday its user base had grown to 100 million, up from 75 million previously, as it pushed into new markets and despite competition from the likes of Apple Music.

Spotify has the music streaming industry’s biggest paid subscriber base, with 30 million users paying to listen, but the vast majority still tune in for free with commercial breaks.

Competition is fierce with Apple Music launched just last year and already claiming 13 million paid users while Alphabet’s Google competes with Google Music and Youtube.

«

Apple claimed last week to have 15 million subscribers – time to update the database, Reuters. Quite how it counts them (is each member of a family membership a “subscriber”, or only the main paying member?) isn’t yet clear.

What is clear is that Spotify can’t let a single Apple Music statistic go past without upping the ante. Notably, that 30m paid subscriber number hasn’t shifted since it released it in March. Possibly it is being conservative with its numbers, and only releasing bigger subscriber numbers when it needs to.

A related problem: those 70m non-paying listeners have to be monetised through advertising, and that growing inventory (= ad spots to fill) inevitably means falling ad prices, which means worse losses.
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#THEDAO: Failing fast vs Failing unnecessarily • Preston J. Byrne

Byrne is extremely unimpressed with the setup which allowed millions of dollars worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency to be drained away, unlike some VCs who are saying “ooh, it’ll get fixed next release!”:

»Having lawyers – or legal-coders- involved in this is absolutely critical. The future doesn’t belong to the guy who just slings code or the guy who does the front-office function, but someone who can bridge the gap and do both – bringing the best of Silicon Valley’s approach to life to the professional services which run the rest of the world, and doing so in a way which gybes with local rule-frameworks. (Note, I run into this all the time when speaking with the banks – architects and front-office guys aren’t accustomed to talking to each other, or even considering themselves as part of the same team. I suspect this is a large contributor to most banks’ heaps of technical debt.)

Bridging the gap becomes especially important if you want to take your idea and turn it into an investable business, as many Solidity programmers do.

With respect to the DAO, there was a similar breakdown in communication – only this time between the wider community and the developers doing the codeslinging. Serious professional objections, from persons extremely well-versed on every layer of this conceptual stack, were made known very early. And not “this is a silly idea which will never work” kinds of objections, but “this is technically bankrupt and flies in the face of all best practice for what you are attempting to do” kinds of objections.

«

I still find the story around this impenetrable, but Byrne’s angry headshaking sounds like what ought to be the reaction.
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Top ten reasons to doubt Trump is even a billionaire • Talking Points Memo

Josh Marshall, with the aforesaid ten, of which this is striking:

»During the research for his book Timothy o’Brien received estimates of Trump’s wealth ranging from $250m to $788m. Trump himself originally told O’Brien he was worth between $4b and $5b before dramatically revising down his estimate to $1.7 billion the same day. If we take $250m, $788m and $1.7b together and rough average them out we can get around $1 billion circa 2004/05. Today Trump claims he is worth $10 billion. This would require a tenfold run up in Trump’s wealth over roughly a decade. Even if we take Trump’s own estimate of $1.7 billion it would require a five fold run up over a decade. The problem is that Trump hasn’t done anything over that period that would account for that kind of wealth accumulation. Trump does very few major building projects these days and the few he does he does mainly with other people’s money. After the bankruptcy crises of 25 years ago, Trump shifted his business model from high profile real estate development to licensing and television. He licenses his name for hotels, buildings and golf courses on the high end and steaks, water, ties and more on the low end. This probably generates a massive amount of income for us mortals. But not many billions of dollars over a decade.

«

There must be a moment of truth, rather than truthiness, coming. Also: Trump fired his campaign manager on Monday. Things aren’t looking too clever.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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