Start up: Apple v Trump, Ev Williams v text, Google’s learning bet, Snapchat’s magazine plan, and more


iOS 10’s notifications are different – but there are plenty of other changes forthcoming in September (or so). Photo by tualamac on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 14 links for you. Save some for later – don’t bloat. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ev Williams is the Forrest Gump of the internet • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»“The worst world, the scary version, is if the tricks to get attention are a skill developed and owned primarily by profit-driven companies,” [Ev Williams] told me. “I’d go back to the food analogy. What are people going to be consuming most of the time? They’re optimizing for clicks and dollars. Can a person who has a unique perspective play that game? Are they just going to get trounced?”

This is Medium’s reason for existing: to protect individual writers in the fierce and nasty content jungles. Resistance to the centralization generally is futile, he believes, citing Wu. “That’s the way the Internet works, and that’s the way humans work,” he says. “Efficiency and ROI and economies of scale and user experience—they’re all going to drive more things to consolidate. I kind of look at that as a force of nature. But if things consolidate, does that mean that everything is shit?”

That is the Medium appeal, in a nutshell. Keeping everything from being shit. It wants to do so by adopting many of the tics and habits of the original blogosphere—the intertextuality, the back-and-forth, the sense of amateurism—without being the open web. It will use its own custom metrics, like time-spent-reading, to decide who sees what stories; and it will tend to show your friends something if you “recommend” it. Medium, yes, will just be another platform, but it will run the open web in an emulator.

«

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Google’s bold move to reinvent every device on the planet • Forbes

Miguel Helft:

»the techniques used to recognize images in Google Photos are able to power StreetView’s ability to “read” signs and Project Sunroof’s ability to identify rooftops that are suitable for solar panels based on aerial images. It’s also enabling a small experimental team at Google to effectively detect diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that can lead to blindness, by looking at iris scans. “It’s a pretty significant shift,” Dean says. “Word is spreading throughout the company that there is this new capability to solve problems in this way,” he says, in reference to the new AI techniques.

What started as a research project with a handful of people has grown to perhaps hundreds–Dean refuses to say how many–who have developed algorithms, computer systems and, more recently, Google’s own chips, all customized for these AI approaches. (Google Brain’s software tools are known as TensorFlow and the chips as Tensor Processing Units.) As a result there are now more than 2,000 projects inside the company applying Google Brain’s capabilities to scores of products. Dean’s group has held machine-learning office hours, and thousands of Google engineers have gone through internal courses that can last weeks. “It went from being a research project to a mainstream engineering activity,” says John Giannandrea, an AI expert appointed by Pichai to lead the company’s search efforts.

«

You have to wade through a certain amount if you’re familiar with Google, but there are useful insights here too.
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Facebook is wrong, text is deathless • Kottke

Tim Carmody on the suggestion from Facebook that “video is going to take over from text”:

»Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable – you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral – text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

«

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And another thing about Theranos… • LinkedIn

Sten Westgard lists the ten stories about Theranos you may have missed last week, which range from negative to more negative to neutral:

»There’s so much that’s happened that it’s hard to know where to start. Indeed, most of the stories have been covered by other news outlets already, and by real journalists. About the only additional insight we can add here is a closer reading of the lightly redacted inspection report. Because buried in that are some performance details that no one else seems to have noticed.

Let’s start with the QC [quality control] failure rates. The inspection report details that there were significant out-of-control results for many tests, sometimes up to 87% of QC results were out more than 2 standard deviations!!

«

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No Signal (and other cellular drama) • YouTube

After last week’s wonderment about whether people in Star Wars are post- (or pre-) literate, here’s how screenplay writers deal with those damn mobile phones which could scupper plots in which people are meant to be out of contact and able to call help. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never had to deal with this (though probably would have in a scene like this).
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‘Could he actually win?’ Dave Eggers at a Donald Trump rally • The Guardian

Dave Eggers went to a Trump rally in Sacramento, California, incognito, and found it more mixed (racially, sexually) than you’d expect, and more relaxed, but found this:

»He has reversed himself on nearly every major issue, often in the same week, and has offered scant specifics on anything in particular – though in Sacramento, about infrastructure, he did say, “We’re gonna have new roads, bridges, all that stuff”.

His supporters do not care. Nothing in Trump’s platform matters. There is no policy that matters. There is no promise that matters. There is no villain, no scapegoat, that matters. If, tomorrow, he said that Canadians, not Mexicans, were rapists and drug dealers, and the wall should be built on that border, no one would blink. His poll numbers would not waver. Because there are no positions and no statements that matter to them. There is only the man, the name, the brand, the personality they have seen on television.

Believing that Trump’s supporters are all fascists or racists is a grave mistake. This day in Sacramento presented a different picture, of a thousand or so regular people who thought it was pretty cool how Trump showed up in a plane with his name on it. How naughty it was when he called the president “stupid”. How funny it was when he said the word “huge” the peculiar way he does, without the “h” (the audience yelled back “uuuuge!”, laughing half with him, half at him). In the same way we rooted for Clay a few years ago when he showed up as an actual actor in a Woody Allen movie, the audience at a Trump rally is thinking, How funny would it be if this guy were across the table from Angela Merkel? That would be classic.

«

It’s long, but eminently worth reading. My next question is: will Eggers go to a Hillary Clinton rally, and what would he think of what he found there? I’d like to know.
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Apple won’t aid GOP convention over Trump • POLITICO

Tony Romm:

»Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he’s singled out Apple for particular criticism – calling for a boycott of the company’s products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple’s stance on encryption.

«

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Understanding the DAO hack for journalists • Medium

David Siegel, with a long long long explanation of how someone hacked a cryptocurrency (another event that’s becoming everyday) and siphoned off a ton:

»I will call the attacker a lone male, even though I have no idea if he is one. What happened next was interesting. In an open letter to The DAO and Ethereum Community, the attacker supposedly claimed that his “reward” was legal and threatened to take legal action against anyone who tried to invalidate his work. Several people pointed out that the cryptographic signature in this message wasn’t valid — it could be fake. But it’s well written and, from a certain point of view, well reasoned: the premise of smart contracts is that they are their own arbiters and that nothing outside the code can “change the rules” of the transaction.

Later, through an intermediary, the attacker claimed that he would put a stop to the organized “theft” of his property by rewarding miners (nodes) who don’t go along with the proposed soft fork, saying:

»

[S]oon we will have a smart contract to reward miners who oppose the soft fork and mines the transaction. 1 million ether + 100 btc will be shared with miners.

«

This is clearly a complex dynamic system. These messages from “The Attacker” cannot be verified, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Next, I will try to categorize the responses from the community.

«

I’m really glad I’m not the person writing the story about this if this is the “understanding” bit. First explain to a newsdesk what DAO is; then what Ethereum is; then smart contracts; then…
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Ericsson Mobility Report Q1 2016 • Ericsson

Lots and lots of things in this, such as this:

»although teens reported the lowest cellular data consumption for video streaming apps among all age groups in both July 2014 and October 2015, the higher reliance on smartphones for video viewing at any time of the day means that teen video data consumption over cellular networks is growing rapidly.

Only 30–35 year olds have a higher growth rate than teens for cellular video streaming data usage. However, the overall mobile video data consumption (including both cellular and Wi-Fi) among this group is around 2.5 GB/month. That is only a fth of the teens’ data consumption and the potential for further growth is limited due to the fact that 30–35 year olds are still rooted in traditional TV viewing behavior.

Overall, teens are the heaviest users of data for smartphone video streaming apps and have the second highest rate of cellular video data consumption growth. Since we are witnessing a generational change, current teens are likely to increase their appetite for cellular data as they grow older – making them the most important group to watch for cellular operators.

«

But plenty more, such as the internet of things outnumbering smartphone subscriptions by 2018.
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Snapchat is starting Real Life, an online magazine about technology • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»In a blog post today describing the new initiative, Snapchat employee and social media critic Nathan Jurgenson writes that “Snapchat is now funding Real Life.” In an email to VentureBeat, he declined to elaborate on the nature of the funding, but he did confirm that Real Life is “owned” by Snapchat.

“Real Life will publish essays, arguments, and narratives about living with technology,” Jurgenson writes. “It won’t be a news site with gadget reviews or industry gossip. It will be about how we live today and how our lives are mediated by devices.” (This sounds a little like the turf of New York Magazine‘s recently launched Select All.) The publication will cover beauty, power, privacy, and relationships, among other things, and “we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself,” writes Jurgenson.

So now Snapchat will technically have web content that is visible on desktop computers. No longer will Snapchat be constrained to mobile devices. And, at least initially, the medium will be primarily text, unlike the video stories and snaps the Southern California company has become known for.

«

Unfathomable. How does this do anything for Snapchat?
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The Talk Show ✪: Live From WWDC 2016, With Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi • Daring Fireball

»Recorded in front of a live audience in San Francisco, John Gruber is joined by Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi to discuss the news from WWDC: WatchOS 3, MacOS 10.12 Sierra, iOS 10, and more.

«

There’s also a transcript. Last year it was just Schiller. (“Just” Schiller.) I guess they can pick from Schiller, Federighi and Eddy Cue for a few years before it has to aim for the top with Cook. After whom, what?
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All the hidden, awesome stuff in iOS 10 Apple didn’t announce • Lifehacker

Thorin Klosowski:

»iOS updates aren’t as exciting as they used to be, so the best stuff is often the little features that slip through the keynote cracks but make your iPhone or iPad work much better. Case in point, some of the hidden stuff in early iOS 10 betas is way more exciting than what Apple actually announced this week.

«

It isn’t all but it’s a few of the more fun things – alarm redesign, Maps remembering where you parked if you used it to navigate in a car, no more “slide to unlock”, a few more. I think the death of “slide to unlock” (and its companion, where Music controls in Control Centre are now to the right) is going to be the one that causes the most perplexity.
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The elements of stickers • Andreessen Horowitz

Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz:

»What is surprising — especially when compared to the more mature messaging ecosystem in Asia — is that many people still tend to treat stickers (i.e., the ability to easily incorporate pre-set images into texts) as just-for-fun frivolity, when they’re an important visual digital language fully capable of communicating a nuanced range of thoughts. For example, a single sticker could convey very different messages: “I’m so hungry I could collapse” or “I miss you” or “I’m sound asleep snoring”. Complex feelings, actions, punch lines, and memes are all possible with stickers.

They are an acceptable response to “end” a real-time back and forth conversation (great for punchlines). They are a low-risk way of saying hi and initiating a chat with an acquaintance. And they reduce the social friction of saying something emotional in text form; this is especially helpful in a culture that is known to be less outwardly expressive even to one’s own family members and friends (where it is far less awkward to send a virtual-fistbump sticker than it is to tell someone directly that they’re a wonderful friend).

And sometimes stickers can convey what words cannot! This form of visual communication has become so popular in Asia — especially in China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINE — that it is not uncommon to see a deep thread of multiple messages without a single word. They’re not just for those crazy young kids. More notably, stickers are commonly used in professional, not just personal, chats as well. Not so frivolous after all. In fact, stickers are so core to the success of Line, that its CEO actually credited them as the “turning point” for that app. He shared that it took Line Messenger almost four months to find its first two million users … but after stickers were launched, it took only two days to find the next million. The company now makes over $270m a year just from selling stickers.

«

This is essential to understanding why Apple has gone so big on stickers for iOS 10’s iMessage. Chan is highly worth reading on all these topics.
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How hired hackers got “complete control” of Palantir • BuzzFeed News

William Alden on how Veris Systems was hired to hack into Palantir:

»Even Palantir’s defense efforts were visible to the red team. The intruders found an “InfoSec Onboarding” page on the wiki that detailed Palantir’s security infrastructure. They monitored security devices and “ensured that their actions were not being logged.”

This was when, according to the report, the red team intruders had “complete control” of the Palantir domain. Their final task was to break into the Mac laptops of information security employees — the fortress guards. This they did, using a system that typically sent out software updates, and soon were able to get passwords and screenshots, review saved files, and “observe all user activity,” the report says.

They were finally caught while attempting to upload a screenshot to one of their own servers, according to the report. A piece of security software called Little Snitch — which regulates data sent out from a computer to the internet — was installed on one of the information security employees’ laptops, and it flagged the suspicious upload attempt, the report says. Little Snitch, while popular in the cybersecurity world, was not standard software for these employees, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Soon, Palantir security employees identified the red team’s attack tools and set up firewalls to block communications to the red team servers. These defenders “successfully demonstrated the ability to trace malicious activity across the domain and take the appropriate steps to neutralize an insider threat,” the report says.

But the red team still had an edge.

«

Veris was let through the firewall on purpose, to see what would happen if someone was spearphished. Turns out: a lot.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notifed.

Start up: the American iPhone?, China’s dying satellite, Snapchat’s filter fiddle, spammer jailed, and more

Sure, he’s good with a light sabre. But can Star Wars denizens read and write? Photo by Eva Rinaldi on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

The all-American iPhone • MIT Tech Review

Konstantin Kakaes:

»imagine that Apple persuaded one of its Chinese manufacturers to open factories in the United States or did that itself. Could it work? Apple could profitably produce iPhones in America, as some high-end Mac computers are produced, without making them much more expensive. There’s a catch, though, that undermines Trump’s and Sanders’s arguments. This becomes clear if you carry our thought experiment to its most extreme conclusion.

«

It’s impossible because the US just doesn’t have the infrastructure or labour force to offer the factories and supply chain close enough to make this viable at the volumes in which Apple offers the iPhone. You can make some of them, but not all of them.
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With watchOS 3, Apple Watch gets a do-over • Six Colors

Jason Snell:

»I wear an Apple Watch every day and I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of using watchOS 3. It’s truly Apple’s second take on how the Apple Watch should work, based on a year of real-world use by millions of people.

It’s tough to admit that you were wrong. With watchOS 3, that’s what Apple is doing on numerous fronts. I get why someone might have thought that using the watch’s side button as a gateway to a miniature contacts list was a good idea, but in practice it was readily apparent to be a misguided use of one of the device’s only physical controls. watchOS 3 admits the mistake and re-tasks that button for something far better: a dock of important apps, already loaded and ready to run.

Sometimes you’re wrong because you have an idea that you think will work, but it just doesn’t come together or mesh with the way people want to use your product. I think that’s what happened with the Friends button. Reality collided with that vision, and reality has won. (Full credit to Apple here: I thought it was distinctly possible that they’d double down and try to tweak the Friends view rather than kill it.)

«

Definitely; I can count the number of times I’ve used the “contacts” side button during the past year on the hands of two hands.
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How Yahoo derailed Tumblr • Mashable

Seth Fiegerman:

»Top Yahoo executives clashed with Tumblr, or just flat out confused employees. On one occasion, an executive overseeing Karp and his division perplexed employees by saying he thought Tumblr had the potential to “create the next generation PDF,” according to multiple sources. At other times, a top Yahoo sales exec spoke down to Tumblr’s advertising team and pushed aside a beloved leader, according to multiple employees. Tumblr staffers fled by the dozens, cutting into the company’s momentum and morale.

Yahoo tried to make things right a year later by separating the ad teams again, but the damage was done.

Tumblr has fallen out of the top 100 list of free iOS apps in the U.S. as of the beginning of June, according to data from AppAnnie, an app analytics service. Research firm eMarketer projects that “the gap [in users] between Tumblr and its competitors will widen through 2020.”

In short, Tumblr is no longer the hot new thing for consumers – or marketers.

«

It’s a familiar story, well-told by Fiegerman. Not even Mayer has been able to stop Yahoo’s careening ad culture, which drives all before it into the sea.
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Is Snapchat stealing for its filters? • The Ringer

Molly McHugh:

»Since discovering the Snapchat filter that resembled her work, Mykie has become an advocate for other artists in a similar position. But she’s still attempting to work with Snapchat. “Most recently their support team has not responded to my tweets [as well as tweets from others] wanting answers on this recurring issue,” she told me via email. “I also filed a report through the app with my particular case when the filter first appeared and their response was that they ‘Don’t believe that the filter infringes any copyright.’ That would ultimately be up to a judge to decide if the work had been altered enough to count as a new work.” As in Pinal’s case, the filter disappeared soon after Mykie posted evidence of the app’s copycat work to her Instagram feed.

Graphic artists have long seen their work lifted and reused in various ways — a Target T-shirt here, an Urban Outfitters print there. Artist Lois van Baarle says that Snapchat repurposed her work as a sticker, which she noticed “purely by coincidence” while installing the app for the first time.

«

Snapchat subsequently responded, basically fessing up. It’s the usual Silicon Valley saying – better to ask forgiveness than permission.
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Chinese borrowers told to post nude photos as collateral • FT.com

Lucy Hornby:

»Chinese loan sharks are demanding nude photos as collateral from female borrowers which can be used for blackmail if they fall behind on their repayments.

The aggressive tactics are an example of the drastic debt recovery measures that are being employed in the slowing Chinese economy.

The democratisation of finance in China via peer-to-peer lenders and the vast shadow banking system, with interest rates sometimes topping 30%, have proved an inflammatory mix and fuelled a surge in souring loans.

Female college students in the southern province of Guangdong were told to hand over naked photos of themselves holding their ID cards, with lenders threatening to make them public if they failed to repay their microloans, according to the Nandu Daily, the local newspaper.

While these loans were brokered on Jiedaibao, the P2P online lending platform denied direct involvement as the two parties subsequently agreed terms over another channel. “This is an illegal offline trade between victims and lenders who did it by making use of the platform,” a representative said when contacted by the Financial Times.

«

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Verizon Moto Z Moto Mods pricing details leak: definitely not cheap • Tech Times

Alexandra Burlacu:

»The leak surfaced on Reddit, purportedly showing the Moto Mods’ prices as listed on the My Verizon app. According to the screenshots posted on image-hosting website Imgur, the alleged Moto Mods prices are as follows:

The Insta-Share Projector will apparently require a hefty investment of $299, the TUMI Wireless Charging Power Pack will cost $99, the TUMI Power Pack will be $89, the JBL SoundBoost will cost $79.99, while the Kate Spade shell will retail at $79.

In other words, it seems like none of the Moto Mods will be cheaper than $79, which basically shuts down any expectations of affordable modules for the Moto Z.

LG already received criticism over its pricing scheme for the LG Friends modules for the G5 flagship, but Motorola fans hoped the Moto Mods would be more decently priced.

The Insta-Share projector, for instance, sounds like a decent gadget for a smartphone although it only has a 50-lumen projection output and a 1,100 mAh battery, but at $300 it seems awfully overpriced.

«

This stuff always looks expensive compared to the phone; that’s how integration works out. (That’s also why Project Ara hasn’t got a hope of being affordable.)
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Guccifer 2.0 DNC’s servers hacked by a lone hacker • GUCCIFER 2.0

»Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.

Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?

Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.

They mentioned a leaked database on Donald Trump. Did they mean this one?

«

One always wonders about people who refer to themselves in the third person. But these look pretty legit. (I’d be wary of downloading them even so unless you’re certain of your antivirus.)
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“Spam King,” who defied nearly $1B in default judgments, sentenced to 2.5 years • Ars Technica

Cyrus Farivar:

»A Las Vegas man known as the “Spam King” was sentenced Monday to 2.5 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty last year to one count of fraud.

The federal judge in San Jose, California also ordered Sanford Wallace to pay over $310,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors wrote that by his own admission, Wallace executed “a scheme from approximately November 2008 through March 2009 to send spam messages to Facebook users that compromised approximately 500,000 legitimate Facebook accounts, and resulted in over 27 million spam messages being sent through Facebook’s servers.”

«

Wallace is spam-famous back to the 1990s; constantly annoying, not giving a damn about anyone. Even 36 months isn’t going to make much difference, I’d wager. There’s a book extract about him here.
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Introducing the Internet Creators Guild • Medium

Hank Green, “internetainerpreneur”:

»I started paying my bills with YouTube money around the time I hit a million views a month. My content was admittedly low budget and “views” isn’t necessarily the best metric (what it means changes drastically based on platform), but I want you to take a guess at how many YouTube channels now get more than a million views a month? A couple hundred? A thousand?

How about 37,000.

For context, Facebook has 12,000 employees.

At 100,000 views a month, you’re still making a fairly significant bit of income from YouTube. If you can do it consistently, about $2,500 per year. How many people hit that barrier this month?
300,000.

Gone are the days when every successful creator got their own New York Times profile. Nowadays, professional internet creator is just another job…a job that thousands of new people have every month. If “internet creator” were a company, it would be hiring faster than any company in silicon valley…

…There is no system for protecting creators, many of whom have no experience in any industry, let alone the notoriously cut-throat entertainment industry. I’m ten years into this and I kinda can’t believe that there’s still no centralized organization representing creators.

«

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Amazon’s high hopes for Echo sales • The Information

Amir Efrati:

»Amazon is hoping to sell as many as 10 million of its voice-activated Echo devices next year, which would make it a roughly $1 billion hardware business, according to a person with direct knowledge of the projections.

That would be an increase from the 3 million units Amazon hopes to sell this year—a number that was projected before the beginning of the year, said the person, who doesn’t have access to actual sales figures. That’s up from 1 million devices Amazon is thought to have sold in the latter half of 2015, after it became widely available in the US. Amazon hasn’t released sales figures for the device.

As a comparison, Apple’s video-streaming device Apple TV sold 25 million units between its 2007 launch and the end of 2014, Apple has said. Google’s cheaper video-streaming device, Chromecast, sold 10 million during its first year and a half on the market, starting in mid-2013.

The 10 million mark is one that Amazon believes will open the floodgates for the voice-controlled speaker category, this person said. That would help the broader “smart home” industry because such a speaker can act as a hub to control other web-connected devices in the home.

But Echo will soon face more competition.

«

To hit that 10m mark, Amazon would have to start selling outside the US, and until it starts working in languages other than English, that would mean its only real target market would be the UK. I’m not sure about the level of demand for this.
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When will China’s ‘Heavenly Palace’ space lab fall back to earth? • Space.com

Leonard David:

»A Chinese space lab is bound to come back to Earth relatively soon, but when and where this happens is a matter of debate and speculation.

For example, some satellite trackers think China may have lost control of the uncrewed 8-ton (7.3 metric tons) vehicle, which is called Tiangong-1. That’s the view of Thomas Dorman, who has been documenting flyovers of the spacecraft using telescopes, binoculars, video and still cameras, a DVD recorder, a computer and other gear.

“If I am right, China will wait until the last minute to let the world know it has a problem with their space station,” Dorman told Space.com. [See photos of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab]

“It could be a real bad day if pieces of this came down in a populated area … but odds are, it will land in the ocean or in an unpopulated area,” added Dorman, an amateur satellite tracker who has been keeping tabs on Tiangong-1 from El Paso, Texas since the space lab’s September 2011 launch. “But remember — sometimes, the odds just do not work out, so this may bear watching.”

«

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Most citizens of the Star Wars galaxy are probably totally illiterate • Tor.com

Ryan Britt:

»Attack of the Clones sees Obi-Wan Kenobi go to the Jedi Library, but again, this research facility seems less about books and more about pretty colors, interactive holographic maps, etc. The amount of actual reading even someone like Obi-Wan does is still limited. Now, I imagine Jedi can probably read and are taught to read, as are rich people like Princess Leia and Padme Amidala and Jimmy Smits. But everything in Star Wars is about video chat via holograms, or verbal communication through com-links. Nobody texts in Star Wars!

It seems like this society has slipped into a kind of highly functional illiteracy. Surely, for these cultures to progress and become spacefaring entities, they needed written language at some point. But now, the necessity to actually learn reading and writing is fading away. Those who know how to build and repair droids and computers probably have better jobs than those who can’t. This is why there seems to be so much poverty in Star Wars: widespread ignorance.

The idea of education becoming obsolete due to cultural changes isn’t without a science fiction precedent. In the Star Trek pilot “The Cage,” Vina speaks of a culture that “forgets how to repair the machines left behind by their ancestors.” I’m postulating that the same thing happened with literacy in the Star Wars galaxy. People stopped using the written word, because they didn’t need to, and it slipped away from being a commonly held skill.

«

If the Star Wars films were documentaries, this would make sense. But they’re films, and a scene showing someone texting is high up there with the most boring things to show. Film is all about “show, don’t tell”; reading is about tell.

It’s an interesting point though about what a functionally illiterate society *might* look like, though. (Via Charles Knight.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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.

Start up: hacking Dems, Theranos loses another, Apple’s non-chatbot chatbots, slimmer Xbox!, and more

Remember when Obama had a BlackBerry? He doesn’t any more – though he’s not saying what he does have. Photo by rowdyman on Flickr.

Don’t you dare sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. No, really.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump • The Washington Post

»Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.

The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some GOP political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.

A Russian Embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of such intrusions.

«

link to this extract

 


The evil that is VPAID ads • Google+

Artem Russakovskii:

»A few months ago, I complained about the insane state of today’s advertising and the evil that is VPAID ads.

These ads destroy performance, leech bandwidth by 10s of megabytes, and are served by major ad networks, including Google’s own AdX and AdSense.

Today, these VPAID ads are as popular as ever – and that is just disgusting. They’re the real cancer of the advertising industry.

To showcase just how evil they still are, I took a single AdX ad tag and put it on an otherwise empty page. A static image ad loads, but it’s secretly a VPAID one. It then randomly switches to a video, then back to a static image, then back again – it’s like a never-ending self-reloading cascade of garbage.

Right now after several minutes of just leaving this one single ad open, I’m at 53MB downloaded and 5559 requests. By the time I finished typing this, I was at 6140 requests. A single ad did this. Without reloading the page, just leaving it open.

«

link to this extract

 


Obama finally upgraded from his BlackBerry • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»President Obama has finally been allowed to replace his BlackBerry with something more modern — but he apparently isn’t thrilled with this new phone either.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it,'” Obama said during an appearance on The Tonight Show this week. “Basically, it’s like, does your three year old have one of those play phones?”

Obama’s been joking about his awful phone situation for years now. While his BlackBerry was considered surprisingly high-tech when he came into office, the situation quickly changed. As far back as 2010, Obama called using his BlackBerry “no fun,” and then a few years ago he lamented that security concerns prevent him from using an iPhone. While discussing his BlackBerry on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, Obama started laughing after a single person applauded. “The one old guy there,” Obama said, “He’s my age. Somebody my generation.”

«

Obama came into office eight years ago, and so was campaigning as much as ten years ago, when his use of its seemed radical. Times change. The unanswered question: what is he using?
link to this extract

 


Walgreen terminates partnership with blood-testing firm Theranos • WSJ

Michael Siconolfi, Christopher Weaver and John Carreyrou:

»Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. formally ended a strained alliance with Theranos Inc. as regulators near a decision on whether to impose sanctions against the embattled Silicon Valley firm.

Some officials at the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. unit had grown frustrated at not getting more details and documentation from Theranos after learning it had corrected tens of thousands of blood tests, including many performed on samples collected from patients at Walgreens pharmacies, according to people familiar with the partnership.

In a news release late Sunday, Walgreens said it had told Theranos it was terminating their nearly three-year-old partnership, effective immediately, and that it was shutting down Theranos lab-testing services in Walgreens locations…

…The move is a significant blow to Theranos. The 40 Theranos blood-draw sites inside Walgreens stores in Arizona, which the company calls “wellness centers,” have been the primary source of revenue for Theranos and its conduit to consumers, analysts say. The tie-up also has given the blood-testing firm a stamp of credibility since it was publicly announced in September 2013.

«

This feels like the third act of a Greek tragedy; Theranos certainly sounds like it should come from a Greek word, perhaps meaning “the aching desire to find a cheap way to test blood”, but I can’t find a meaningful translation anywhere. Presently being turned into a screenplay, with Jennifer Lawrence slated to play Elizabeth Holmes, so the big question is: will Bradley Cooper play John Carreyrou of the WSJ who exposed it all?

link to this extract

 


Apple’s response to the chatbot craze doesn’t involve any chatbots • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Microsoft has been letting developers build integrations into Skype, and Facebook has been doing the same with Messenger. Google has revealed related plans for its forthcoming Allo app. Kik, Line, and Telegram have begun accepting outside integrations, as well. Even in the parallel universe of enterprise software, this trend is playing out — Slack is the greatest example there.

But all of these companies have chosen a text-messaging interface through which people will talk to other services — namely chatbots. Apple, in its infinite Apple-ness, is circumventing the hype around bots and will be simply letting developers build app extensions that live inside of a new “app drawer,” which users will open in Messages on iOS 10 by tapping the little blue A button that historically stands for App Store.

Developers can build these iMessage Apps using the iOS software development kit (SDK), which became available today in the beta release of Xcode 8. It’s possible to fine-tune the look and functionality of these mini apps, so that they don’t just look like the rest of Messages. (Documentation is already available.)

Onstage today, Apple’s Craig Federighi talked about a Square Cash iMessage app. It’s a bright green widget that pops up in place of the keyboard. A user selected $200 as the amount on a scrollable dial and then hit the pay button to pay that amount to the message recipient. The result was a box right underneath an earlier text message with a big $200 bill and a link to “tap here to deposit this cash.”

Federighi also demonstrated a DoorDash iMessage App through which multiple people could collaborate on one food delivery order. In a message bubble, this iMessage App displayed a dish from San Francisco restaurant and food truck operator Curry Up Now, with a little red DoorDash logo in the top left. Underneath that, there was some text — “3 people,” “Brian Croll added 2 items,” and a grand total so far of $48.68. “So I could just tap in and see what’s going on,” Federighi said. After tapping on the widget he was confronted with a full screen showing more detail, courtesy of DoorDash — a menu, prices, estimated delivery time, and a “view group cart” button. From there, Federighi checked out the cart and then added to it. When he was done, the DoorDash widget that had originally appeared in his Messages group chat was updated to reflect the changes to the order.

«

In other words, you don’t need to talk to machines to get machines to do your bidding. I don’t get the chatbot thing; it seems like wasted effort.
link to this extract

 


iOS 10.0 • Apple Developer documentation

»In iOS 10, the NSUserActivity object includes the mapItem property, which lets you provide location information that can be used in other contexts. For example, if your app displays hotel reviews, you can use the mapItem property to hold the location of the hotel the user is viewing so that when the user switches to a travel planning app, that hotel’s location is automatically available. And if you support app search, you can use the new text-based address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet, such as thoroughfare and postalCode, to fully specify locations to which the user may want to go. Note that when you use the mapItem property, the system automatically populates the contentAttributeSet property, too.

To share a location with the system, be sure to specify latitude and longitude values, in addition to values for the address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet. It’s also recommended that you supply a value for the namedLocation property, so that users can view the name of the location, and the phoneNumbers property, so that users can use Siri to initiate a call to the location.

«

So you can switch apps and have Siri call the hotel you were just looking at. Quite neat. Also notable in the documentation: “True Tone”, the ambient display adjustment presently only on the 9.7in iPad Pro, becomes part of the OS. It’ll surely be on the forthcoming iPhones.

And why link to this but not the Android N documentation? Because this will be on about half of iOS 10-capable devices within a month of release. Android M, released last year, is on perhaps 100m devices after nine months.
link to this extract

 


Intel gets chip order from Apple, its first major mobile win • Bloomberg

Ian King and Scott Moritz:

»Apple’s next iPhone will use modems from Intel Corp., replacing Qualcomm chips in some versions of the new handset, a move by the world’s most-valuable public company to diversify its supplier base.

Apple has chosen Intel modem chips for the iPhone used on AT&T’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, said people familiar with the matter. IPhones on Verizon Communications’s network will stick with parts from Qualcomm, which is the only provider of the main communications component of current versions of Apple’s flagship product. Crucially for Qualcomm, iPhones sold in China will work on Qualcomm chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public.

«

So this seems like Qualcomm keeps the CDMA versions, but Intel gets the GSM market. China might be a toss-up.
link to this extract

 


Devices able to run iOS 10, biggest iOS release ever • Apple

»iOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 5 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation.

«

Ah, so that’s a lot clearer. There seemed to be suggestion on Monday that it would run on the iPad 2 and iPad 3; but they’re explicitly not in the list for the iPad. (Nor is the first iPad mini.)

The minimum iPad spec is the iPad 4, or iPad mini 2; for the phones, it’s the iPhone 5/C (which are the same thing).
link to this extract

 


Microsoft reveals the new, slimmer Xbox One S, coming this August • TechCrunch

Brian Heater:

»The system the company showed off today arrived in a bright white color (“robot white,” according to press materials), a lightening up of the previous console. The device will come with a vertical stand, so users can decide how they want to orient it on their shelf.

The Xbox One S is 40% slimmer than the last version. Inside you’ll find a hard drive sporting up to 2TB and an integrated power supply. The new console features a built-in IR blaster, front-facing USB port (there are still two on the rear) and does 4K video. The One S also features HDR video support, for a more vibrantly colored gaming experience and higher contrast between dark colors and light.

«

One area that smartphones and tablets haven’t quite swallowed up. Notable how much more storage they’re offering; even as games are increasingly downloaded from the cloud, gamers want more local storage to keep data.
link to this extract

 


This USB adapter is Microsoft’s final admission that Kinect failed • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»Hardware planning takes years, and it’s clear Microsoft quickly realized that bundling Kinect was a mistake. The new Xbox One S doesn’t even include a Kinect port, and Microsoft has created a USB adapter that you’ll need to use if you want Kinect support. It’s a free adapter if you already own an Xbox One and Kinect…

…Microsoft is now working to bring Cortana to the Xbox One in an update this summer. While it was originally supposed to debut last year, Microsoft announced Cortana would require Kinect at E3 last year, before mysteriously delaying the feature. It’s clear part of that delay was related to getting headsets working with Cortana, and you won’t need a Kinect to use the digital assistant this summer.

The removal of the Kinect port on the Xbox One S is the final admission that Microsoft’s accessory is dead. It’s hard to imagine that the Project Scorpio console will re-introduce a Kinect port next year, and the accessory wasn’t even mentioned during any of Microsoft’s demos on stage. Microsoft claimed at E3 last year that “there are games actually that are coming out for Kinect,” but at E3 this year the only mention is a USB adapter that admits Kinect failed.

«

Kinect is such an odd footnote in tech history: the fastest-selling piece of tech ever, considered a potentially useful tool for surgeons, and now an undesired add-on.
link to this extract

 


Follow the sun • The Economist

»Led by big projects in these two countries [China and India], global solar-energy capacity rose by 26% last year. More remarkable is the decline in its cost. Studies of the “levelised cost” of electricity, which estimate the net present value of the costs of a generating system divided by the expected output over its lifetime, show solar getting close to gas and coal as an attractively cheap source of power. Auctions of long-term contracts to purchase solar power in developing countries such as South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Peru and Mexico provide real-world evidence that such assumptions may even prove to be conservative (see chart).

In sunny places solar power is now “shoulder to shoulder” with gas, coal and wind, says Cédric Philibert of the International Energy Agency, a prominent forecaster. He notes that since November 2014, when Dubai awarded a project to build 200MW of solar power at less than $60 a megawatt hour (MWh), auctions have become increasingly competitive.

«

And that’s because the price of solar panels has fallen by 80% since 2010. Hell of a thing.
link to this extract

 


Yes, there have been aliens • The New York Times

Adam Frank, who co-wrote a scientific paper on this vexed question:

»Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, we asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left us with only three unknown factors, which we combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.

You might assume this probability is low, and thus the chances remain small that another technological civilization arose. But what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.

To give some context for that figure: In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

«

So howcome they haven’t got in touch asking to borrow money? (The paper is available in full for free.)
link to this extract

 


Motorola confirms Moto 360 Gen. 1 will not receive Android Wear 2.0 update • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»While you may have seen reports via Motorola’s Twitter account that the Moto 360 Gen. 1 would not be receiving Wear 2.0, we decided to follow up with Motorola’s official PR this morning on this news and received direct confirmation: the Moto 360 Gen. 1 won’t get Wear 2.0.

The Moto 360 was heavily hyped leading up to its launch nearly two years ago, and understandably so: a [semi-]circular display made it stand out from pretty much any smartwatch that had been released previously. While LG’s G Watch R was, in my opinion, a better take on the circular watch, the Moto 360 still stood out with its small bezels and minimalistic, lugless style. It really was, and is, a striking device.

Still, it seems more than a bit frustrating that Android Wear devices – which Google has time and again implied shouldn’t “age” like your smartphone does as new OS updates launch – are seemingly little-different in terms of support windows than smartphones. Watches, after all, are supposed to last for years, especially watches that cost upwards of $300.

«

Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola completed in October 2014, having been announced in January 2014. The Moto 360v1 was launched in September 2014, and would have been in the works for at least a year before. Lenovo is now losing money on its smartphone business.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo/Motorola quietly dropped out of the Android Wear business at least until that specific sector shows signs of life. Speaking of which…
link to this extract

 


How will the $34bn wearables market combat wearables fatigue? • Forbes

Paul Armstrong:

»Some sobering stats:

•50% of consumers lose interest in the product within a few months. [Endeavour Partners]
•More than half of US wearable owners who have owned a device no longer use it. [Pew Research, 2013]
The wearables market will be worth $34bn in 2020. [CCS Insight]


SOURCE: CCS Insight

It takes 66 days to make a new behaviour stick – that’s a long time in the fast-paced, notification saturated world we live in. Wearable devices can help but the person has to have a decent amount of willpower or the behaviour wanes. Successful apps usually demonstrate a good combination. For example; a fitness tracker and something like MyFitnessPal which monitors macronutrients food intake and can give you some great data points but it doesn’t give tailored advice. Based on the data above there may be trouble ahead if consumers don’t begin seeing value in wearable devices. The issues are clear – either the tech doesn’t work or it’s not of value.

«

Wearables’ biggest problem is battery life, no doubt. Means you have to take them off.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: searching Hillary, Microsoft buys LinkedIn, delete iOS defaults!, what to ask your parents, and more


Apple now offers a neural network API. Developers will have to show us if it’s any good. Photo by pennstatenews on Flickr.

There’s always the daily Start Up post, delivered by email. Why not?

A selection of 11 links for you. Groooovy. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

There’s no evidence that Google is manipulating searches to help Hillary Clinton • Vox

Timothy Lee:

»

The video points out that if you type the phrase “Donald Trump rac,” Google will suggest the word “racist” to complete the phrase. But if you type “Hillary Clinton cri,” Google will suggest words like “crime reform” and “crisis” but not “crimes.” This despite the fact that Google Trend results show that people search for “Hillary Clinton crimes” a lot more than “Hillary Clinton crime reform.”

So what’s going on here? The folks behind the video suggest that this reflects an unholy alliance between the Clinton campaign and Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO and current chair of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. But there’s a simpler explanation.

«

Because autosuggest never offers “crimes”. Oh, research, you are such a stranger.
link to this extract


Apple now has a neural network API • Popular Science

Dave Gershgorn:

»

Neural networks are all the rage recently—they’re a way to get software to make decisions based on an overwhelming amount of data and the fundamental component of deep learning, which allows computers to recognize photos, speech, and text with unparalleled accuracy.

Apple has traditionally kept its artificial intelligence research under wraps, but now is allowing developers to build neural networks by calling on the company’s simple API.

Those developing with Apple’s neural networks, called Basic Neural Network Subroutines, won’t be able to train on their own data. Instead Apple has pretrained them for certain tasks, and from the documentation the API seems very focused towards image recognition.

«

Images are a lot of what people want to analyse, of course.
link to this extract


LinkedIn is Microsoft’s sales software play • The Information

Steve Nellis:

»

LinkedIn is a go-to tool for business-to-business salespeople doing research on how to penetrate an organization. For years, Silicon Valley has buzzed with chatter about its inevitable collision course with Salesforce and other purveyors of sales software. 

The Microsoft deal brings this tension into focus. Microsoft has been looking to make a big move into enterprise software and to land a major presence in Silicon Valley, where its reputation was essentially non-existent for many years in terms of recruiting top talent. The chatter about Microsoft’s intentions to make a big move only intensified when it left open the top spot at Dynamics, its sales and finance software unit, after its chief Bob Stutz left for Salesforce in November. Many thought Microsoft’s big move would be to purchase Salesforce. While the two companies may have talked, Salesforce’s high asking price reportedly stymied a deal

To be sure, LinkedIn in its current form is not a direct competitor to Salesforce. Its so-called “social selling” tools are mostly an adjunct to more traditional systems. However, Microsoft does have a direct Salesforce competitor called Dynamics. LinkedIn’s data—essentially, a social graph of most professionals—could augment Dynamics strongly.

«

Microsoft has a terrible record with big-ticket purchases – aQuantive (written off), Nokia (written off), Skype (nobody knows if it got $8bn+ of value), so $26.2bn, which is a quarter of its cash, has to be more than a bet. It has to make a radical difference.
link to this extract


Apple restricts iOS 10 to iPhone 5, iPad 2 or newer • Apple Insider

»

As noted at the bottom of Apple’s iOS 10 preview website, the upcoming mobile operating system is compatible only with newer devices, leaving legacy models like the iPhone 4S and original iPad stuck with older iOS versions. Specifically, hardware powered by second-generation A5 chips, and the iPad 2’s A5X, is the new minimum requirement set by iOS 10.

«

So it isn’t just 64-bit chips – it’s 32-bit too. Wonder how much of the AI capability will be on those lower-power devices. It’s amazing that the iPad 2, from early 2011, is *still* hanging in there, while the iPhone 4S, from October 2011, isn’t. The A5 seems to be the same between them.
link to this extract


Apple File System: introduction • Apple developer documentation

»

Apple File System is a new, modern file system for iOS, OS X, tvOS and watchOS. It is optimized for Flash/SSD storage and features strong encryption, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and improved file system fundamentals.

Important: APFS is released as a Developer Preview in OS X 10.12, and is scheduled to ship in 2017.

«

Lots of fascinating detail: nanosecond timestamps, instant snapshots, crash protection, and plenty more. Yet that “ship in 2017” is odd: if the updates to these platforms is coming around September, then what’s going to happen in the next few months? Are they not shifting to AFS because the backward compatibility would be horrendous? I’m sure John Siracusa will have plenty to say on the topic.
link to this extract


Apple unbundles its native apps like Mail, Maps, Music and more, puts them in the App Store • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

»

Apple today has made a big change to its suite of native applications for iOS devices, like Mail, Stocks, Compass, Calculator, Watch, Weather and others: it’s now making these available as standalone downloads in the iTunes App Store. What that means for end users of iOS devices is that these apps will be updated more often – just like third-party applications are today.

Before, Apple’s apps were only updated when the company issued an iOS update. That slowed Apple’s ability to add new features, fix bugs, address security issues, or make other changes. This has been a massive headache for Apple’s internal development teams.

However, not all of Apple’s apps have been subject to this limitation. The company already made many of its apps available as standalone downloads, including iTunes U, iMovie, the Apple Store app, and those in the iWork suite (Pages, Keynote, Numbers.)

Now it’s adding the following to that list with the following: Podcasts, Maps, Compass, Tips, Calculator, Watch, Voice Memos, Contacts, Stocks, Weather, iCloud Drive, Calendar, Mail, Music, Reminders, Videos, FaceTime, and Notes.

«

Like Google does for its apps on Android. Long overdue. And you’ll be able to delete them, it seems.
link to this extract


The Chinese hackers in the back office • The New York Times

Nicole Perlroth:

»

Drive past the dairy farms, cornfields and horse pastures here and you will eventually arrive at Cate Machine & Welding, a small-town business run by Gene and Lori Cate and their sons. For 46 years, the Cates have welded many things — fertilizer tanks, jet-fighter parts, cheese molds, even a farmer’s broken glasses.

And like many small businesses, they have a dusty old computer humming away in the back office. On this one, however, an unusual spy-versus-spy battle is playing out: The machine has been taken over by Chinese hackers.

The hackers use it to plan and stage attacks. But unbeknown to them, a Silicon Valley start-up is tracking them here, in real time, watching their every move and, in some cases, blocking their efforts.

“When they first told us, we said, ‘No way,’” Mr. Cate said one afternoon recently over pizza and cheese curds, recalling when he first learned the computer server his family used to manage its welding business had been secretly repurposed. “We were totally freaked out,” Ms. Cate said. “We had no idea we could be used as an infiltration unit for Chinese attacks.”

«

“..with our internet-connected computer reachable from anywhere in the world running old software.” Fascinating piece, though.
link to this extract


New electronic ‘smart skin’ lets you control virtually every aspect of your life • Futurism

»

A team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed “the world’s fastest stretchable, wearable integrated circuits.” This technology would allow hospitals to apply a temporary tattoo to each patient, making a wireless intensive care unit (ICU) possible.

But it could do a whole lot more than that.

This “smart skin” could monitor your vital signs, control your music, track your workout, and even let you control the temperature and lighting in your home—all wirelessly.

These wearable electronic patches are constructed using interlocking segments, like 3D puzzles, that support frequencies from .3 to 300 gigahertz. This falls within the 5G standard that would make it possible for patients wearing them to wirelessly transmit vitals to doctors.

Within the hospital, this could mean that ICUs and emergency rooms could finally be free from cables, clips and wires. Further down the line, this kind of technology could allow doctors to monitor patients from their homes.

«

“Doctor, my living room lights have gone off – is it fatal?”
link to this extract


Questions to ask your parents before they die • Medium

Rossalyn Warren offers a list of questions – from “how did you fall in love?” to “what do you think of the world we live in?” – to ask your parents, because, well..

»

I can’t pick up the phone to talk to my mum, and I‘ll never be able to get to know my dad. All I can do is encourage others — my friends, family, you — to find out the answers to those questions you’ve never asked your parents before it’s too late.

«

You could always write the answers down for the future. Or ask your parents, if that’s possible. Oral history has its own value.
link to this extract


Is YouTube building a new music industry? • Music Industry Blog

Mark Mulligan:

»

Back in 2011 Google bought royalty reporting company RightsFlow to help it identify rights holders on YouTube. RightsFlow’s team and technology were widely recognized as best-in-class and Google paid handsomely, swiftly integrating the team into the YouTube organization. My theory is that this was one of the first steps in a much bigger journey. Since then, Google has invested in next gen publisher Kobalt and next gen label 300 Entertainment. It was even reported to have looked at buying the Jackson Estate’s 50% share of Sony/ATV. Most recently YouTube announced its implementation of the DDEX Digital Sales Report Flat File Standard (DSRF), an open source digital supply chain standard aimed at faster, more accurate royalty reporting and distribution. Each component in isolation paints one picture, but put them together and you have the makings of the foundations for a full service music company. What I think could happen is for YouTube to turn its platform into a self contained music business, taking care of everything from rights through creation to monetization.

«

YouTube really is the dark matter of the digital music business: nobody’s entirely sure of its size, velocity or direction, but they know it’s damn big and makes a difference.
link to this extract


Twitter wasn’t hacked, but you’re at risk unless you do this • Tom’s Guide

Paul Wagenseil:

»

“In each of the recent password disclosures, we cross-checked the data with our records,” [Twitter security office Michael] Coates added. “As a result, a number of Twitter accounts were identified for extra protection. Accounts with direct password exposure were locked and require a password reset by the account owner.”

Coates also reaffirmed that Twitter stores user passwords hashed with the very strong Bcrypt algorithm, which, as of yet, no one has been able to reverse.]

The upshot is that you should never let your web browsers save login credentials for important accounts, such as social networking, bank or other online financial accounts, webmail or online retail accounts such as Amazon.

Chrome and Firefox store login credentials in plain text, making them ripe targets for hackers. Internet Explorer, to Microsoft’s credit, stores then in encrypted form in a separate application.

«

Plain text? A Google browser which is widely used on Windows stores passwords as plaintext? Safari stores them in encrypted form and has done since at least Safari 5 (we’re now on Safari 9).

Browser hacking looks like the next big threat surface on home PCs.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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.
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


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.

«

Nope.
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


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?
link to this extract


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?
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


‘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.

«

link to this extract


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?” 🤔
link to this extract


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?
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


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.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: the USB-C screwup, faster pages with annoying ads!, celeb fattening, thermostat wars, and more

Flying Car
Come on, this stuff has been around for ages. Well, maybe not. Drawing by Josué Menjivar on Flickr.

A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Public service announcement: USB-C on Apple’s new MacBook is a circus • 9to5Mac

Jordan Kahn:

»It would be fine if all of those USB-C accessories you purchased for your 2015 MacBook were firmware upgradeable and received updates like Apple’s own products, but many of them are not. So if you have accessories purchased for the 2015 MacBook, there is a good possibility they won’t work with your 2016 MacBook or any other new USB-C device. Accessory makers also tell me Apple changed power protocols in the 2016 MacBook meaning 5W-12W battery packs that could be used with the 2015 model over USB-C no longer work with the new 2016 model now requiring at least 18W. And if you grab a USB-C cable or other accessory, don’t expect it to just work with your Mac. Not such a great situation for a standard that’s supposed to, you know, standardize compatibility of products using the spec.

Want to run a 4K display over USB-C— a feature that is technically supported— on your MacBook? Good luck…

Even if everything wasn’t a complete mess with USB-C, there is the issue of 4K displays and the new MacBook. Apple doesn’t support 4K at 60 Hz refresh rate, although Jeff recently discovered a hack to get it working at your own risk. That’s if you can even find a monitor, like this one from LG, that will support your MacBook.

«

Jeez. Apple strongly hinted, with the 2016 MacBook, that its future models will use USB-C too: the MacBook is “our vision for the future of the notebook”, says the quote. Hmm.
link to this extract


Welcome to Larry Page’s secret flying car factories • Bloomberg

Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone:

»Zee.Aero doesn’t belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. It belongs to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. Page has personally funded Zee.Aero since its launch in 2010 while demanding that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to 10 people with intimate knowledge of the company. Zee.Aero, however, is just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalized air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.

The Zee.Aero headquarters, located at 2700 Broderick Way, is a 30,000-square-foot, two-story white building with an ugly, blocky design and an industrial feel. Page initially restricted the Zee.Aero crew to the first floor, retaining the second floor for a man cave worthy of a multibillionaire: bedroom, bathroom, expensive paintings, a treadmill-like climbing wall, and one of SpaceX’s first rocket engines — a gift from his pal Musk. As part of the secrecy, Zee.Aero employees didn’t refer to Page by name; he was known as GUS, the guy upstairs. Soon enough, they needed the upstairs space, too, and engineers looked on in awe as GUS’s paintings, exercise gear, and rocket engine were hauled away.

«

Sure to be a success just like Verily. Um, like Nest?
link to this extract


Google is bringing new ad types to AMP, including those annoying flying carpet ads • TechCrunch

Frederic Lardinois:

»Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) ads are probably the closest to the platonic ideal of having ads on AMP pages because they are meant to load as fast as the AMP page itself. These ads are written in pure AMP HTML, which is the main component that makes AMP posts load as fast as they do.

Sticky ads, which will stay either at the top or bottom of the page as you scroll through an article are pretty standard outside of AMP pages and tend to be relatively unobtrusive.

It’s sad to see that the AMP project will soon allow for pages to feature one of the most annoying new ad types we’ve seen pop up recently: flying carpet ads. Those are the ads that hijack the page’s scrolling behavior so a large ad can scroll by instead.

Publishers will be able to use this ‘flying carpet’ effect for showing regular images or other content as well.

«

How quickly the “platonic ideal” erodes and turns instead to “meh, just do what the advertisers want.” Here’s how Google’s blogpost on this change starts:

»When the AMP team set out to help make mobile experiences great for everybody, the objective wasn’t just to improve a user’s engagement with content. We knew the experience people had with ads was equally important to help publishers fund the great content we all love to read.

«

Um.. it feels more like “we knew the experience people had with ads wouldn’t affect whether or not we served those sorts of ads.” Because those are annoying ads.
link to this extract


What the iPhone SE taught me about the smartphone market • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin switched from an iPhone 6 Plus (5.5in screen( to an iPhone SE (4in) for a week, and found he didn’t want to change back:

»Bigger screen personal computers allow us to do more and be more productive. However, the tasks which require more screen real estate are generally not the most common tasks. What my time with the SE made me realize was, in general, the benefits I got from the larger screen, in terms of productivity, were things I did less frequently. Perhaps most surprisingly, this experiment caused me to reconsider the productivity and efficiency I lost in being able to operate my smartphone solely with one hand. This is the real stand out observation of my time with the SE.

My conviction that the larger the screen, the more productive I could be, was made without fully understanding the trade-offs of losing one-handed operation. The Plus sized iPhone requires two hands to do just about anything unless you have extremely large hands. Being able to reach every aspect of my screen while holding the phone one-handed might actually be the most productive and efficient scenario for a mobile device.

If I was weighing one-handed operation against the many other trade-offs I’ve come across using smartphones of all shapes and sizes, I think one-handed use is the one thing not worth compromising on if possible.

«

Which then has implications for the rest of the smartphone market. (Paywalled: you can buy a one-off login or subscribe.)
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The explainable • ROUGH TYPE

Nick Carr:

»[Author of a book about the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Denis] Boyles points out that the Britannica’s eleventh edition underpins Wikipedia, and in Wikipedia we see, more clearly than ever, the elevation of and emphasis on measurement as the standard of knowledge and knowability. Wikipedia is pretty good, and ambitiously thorough, on technical and scientific topics, but it’s scattershot, and often just flat-out bad, in its coverage of topics in the humanities. Wikipedia’s editors, as Edward Mendelson has recently suggested, are comfortable in documenting consensus but completely uncomfortable in exercising taste. The kind of informed subjective judgment that is essential to any perceptive discussion of art, literature, or even history is explicitly outlawed at Wikipedia. And Wikipedia, like the eleventh edition of the Britannica, is a reflection of its time. The boundary we draw around “the explainable” is tighter than ever.

“Technical and scientific advances became confused with progress,” says Boyles, and so it is today, a century later.

«

link to this extract


Study reveals which celebrities are paid millions to endorse junk food and soda • ScienceAlert

Peter Dockrill:

»After going through Billboard’s ‘Hot 100′ song charts from 2013 and 2014 to make a list today’s successful acts, [the scientists at New York University] then catalogued 15 years’ worth of endorsements recorded between 2000 and 2014 by advertising database AdScope, which tracks ads on TV, radio, and print. The researchers also looked at YouTube and other online sources.

What they found was 65 pop stars who had made deals with 57 different food and beverage brands. Among these, some of the most famous and lucrative deals are Beyonce’s arrangement with Pepsi – estimated to be worth $50 million – and Justin Timberlake’s “I’m lovin’ it” contract promoting McDonalds, thought to be worth $6 million.

Timberlake was also among the pop celebrities with the most endorsements, which also included Baauer, will.i.am, Maroon 5, and Britney Spears, Pitbull, and Jessie J. But you can see more – including Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Katy Perry, and more – along with the products they’re signed up with in the study published in Pediatrics.

«

There’s also an image embed from the study which shows all the endorsements. Scary list.
link to this extract


[Update: June OTA does not contain fix] Some Pixel C owners are reporting random reboots after the May Over-The-Air update • Android Police

Michael Crider:

»Google’s commitment to Android in the form of monthly updates for its own branded hardware is pretty great… until it’s not. That’s the case with the May security and stability update for the top-of-the-line Pixel C tablet, which has created some serious headaches for owners. Some (but by no means all) owners of the Pixel C are reporting more or less random reboots of the tablet, usually occurring every five to thirty minutes when the Pixel C is off its charger.

«

As the headline says, the June update doesn’t fix it either. None of Apple, Microsoft or Google has sorted this “updates which work perfectly to update your own-brand devices” thing: there have been iPad Pros bricked by 9.3.2, Surfaces with graphics issues, and this for Google. Not sure there is a moral – except perhaps “don’t accept the update until you’ve seen what happens to everyone else”?
link to this extract


Analysis of Twitter.com password leak • LeakedSource

»This data set contains 32,888,300 records. Each record may contain an email address, a username, sometimes a second email and a visible password. We have very strong evidence that Twitter was not hacked, rather the consumer was. These credentials however are real and valid. Out of 15 users we asked, all 15 verified their passwords.

The explanation for this is that tens of millions of people have become infected by malware, and the malware sent every saved username and password from browsers like Chrome and Firefox back to the hackers from all websites including Twitter.

The proof for this explanation is as follows:

• The join dates of some users with uncrackable (yet plaintext) passwords were recent. There is no way that Twitter stores passwords in plaintext in 2014 for example.
• There was a very significant amount of users with the password “” and “null”. Some browsers store passwords as “” if you don’t enter a password when you save your credentials.
•The top email domains don’t match up to a full database leak; more likely the malware was spread to Russians.

«

Websites including Twitter. That’s worrying. There’s also a list of the passwords used. Guess which six-character one comes top?
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App Store subscription uncertainty • Daring Fireball

John Gruber points out that Apple VP Phil Schiller saying “any app can be a subscription app” clashes with Apple’s own marketing material, which says subscription apps “must provide ongoing value”:

»I don’t think subscription pricing — even if Apple clarified that subscriptions are open to any app, period — is a panacea. There is no perfect way to sell software. The old way — pay up front, then pay for major upgrades in the future — has problems, too, just a different set of problems. If I had my druthers Apple would enable paid upgrades in the App Store(s), but I get the feeling that’s not in the cards. That leaves us with subscriptions.

DF reader Sean Harding framed the problems with subscription pricing well, in a short series of tweets:

»

I think the new stuff is good, but I don’t think it really solves the upgrade pricing problem from a customer standpoint. A sub forces me to effectively always buy the upgrade or stop using even the old version. I don’t dislike subscriptions because I don’t want to pay. I just want freedom to decide if the new features are worth paying for.

«

«

That “what if I don’t want the new features?” question – and the allied one, “what if the developer of a subscription app falls under a bus” – seems like a new set of teething problems. Alongside paid search, of course.
link to this extract


Tesco Mobile lets customers reduce bills by viewing ads • Total Telecom

Nick Wood:

»Tesco Mobile announced on Thursday it is giving customers the option to lower their monthly bills in return for watching adverts.

The scheme is called Tesco Mobile Xtras, and has been brought about by a partnership between the U.K. MVNO and mobile advertising platform Unlockd.

Unlockd has created an Android app that serves targeted offers and content at various times when the end user unlocks their smartphone. By viewing the ads or marketing offers, customers can lower their monthly bill by up to £3 (€3.83)…

…Many others have attempted to woo customers with the promise of free or cut-price mobile service in return for consuming adverts, with limited success.

First came Blyk, which offered free service to 16-24 year-olds provided they clicked on ads. 200,000 signed up in the first year, but momentum stalled, and the MVNO shut down its mobile service in July 2009.

Samba Mobile, another ad-funded free MVNO, gave mobile data to customers who interacted with adverts. It closed down after it failed to negotiate a lower wholesale data price with its network provider.

«

And there are plenty of others. If your bill is really high, £3 isn’t going to make a difference. If it’s really low, will you view enough ads to make the differential worthwhile – and are you a worthwhile target of those “targeted” apps?
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Inside the bitter last days of Bernie’s revolution • POLITICO

Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel DeBenedetti with a (very) long insight into the Sanders campaign:

»Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.

They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that, or on the real questions about what kind of long term organization to build out of his email list. They know they’ll have their own rally in Philadelphia – outside the the convention hall—but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

“He wants to be in the race until the end, until the roll call vote,” Weaver said.

Aides say they’re going to discourage people from booing Wasserman Schultz, who’s emerged as public enemy number one among Sanders supporters, when she takes the stage at the convention. But they think it’s going to happen anyway.

Meanwhile, they’re looking into trying to replace the Florida congresswoman as the convention chair with Gabbard, and force Wasserman Schultz to resign as DNC chair the day after the convention.

«

Viewed from afar, it seems like both political parties in the US are undergoing upheavals. Perhaps some good will come of it.
link to this extract


Magic Leap denies patent drawings depict secret product • Mashable

Adario Strange:

»When I met with Magic Leap last year, I spent a great deal of time hammering away for a description of what the device looks like and how it works. And while I don’t have an image of the final Magic Leap product, which has been described as delivering interactive augmented reality, the device shown in the drawings looks nothing like what was described to me during that meeting.

To that end, I reached out to the company and got an answer regarding the new drawings. Magic Leap’s vice president of public relations, Andy Fouché, told me that the patent drawings were in fact “part of [Magic Leap’s] R+D and experience validation” and that “it’s not at all what our product will look like.”

link to this extract


Comfy raises $12m for app to end office thermostat wars • TechCrunch

Lora Kolodny:

»Building Robotics Inc., better known as Comfy, raised $12m in Series B funding for building automation software that helps companies save energy on office air conditioning while gathering employee-contributed data about the use and occupancy of a workspace.

Emergence Capital led the investment, joined by real estate services company CBRE and Microsoft Ventures.

According to company president Lindsay Baker, letting employees tweak the temperature around their cubicle can improve productivity and happiness. “It’s a very real thing that temperature and light can slow us down, distract us, make us hungry or impact our hormones,” she said.

Baker explained that Comfy is a simple-to-use app that employees put on their phones and use to request warm or cool air in a zone where they work. The app uses employee-contributed data, and combines it with usage data and patterns, to tune every zone in an office building based on the routine preferences of people who work in each zone there.

«

Except of course there won’t be any agreement between the people in adjoining cubicles about what temperature is the right temperature. This reminds me of the experiment where every bus passenger was given a steering wheel, the input from which was aggregated to steer the whole bus. Fairly sure the bus crashed.

(Spare a thought too for Kolodny, whom one can imagine writing this and risking narcolepsy.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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Apple’s paid search experiment shows there’s still no PageRank for apps


Hey, over here! Paid ads need to be relevant. Photo by Michael Rehfeldt on Flickr.

So Apple is doing it: introducing paid search ads to the App Store. People will go to the App Store, search for something, and if a developer has bought an app ad (it can only be an app; no links to content outside the store) and it’s deemed relevant by Apple’s algorithm, then one will appear at the top of the results, backgrounded in blue and making it clear it’s not part of the organic listing. Apple has put up more of the detail.

Of course this has riled developers, for reasons I’ll explain. But a few things first.

There will only be one ad because, Phil Schiller told me, people are going to be searching on mobile, and “we don’t want to push organic search results too far down the list.”

Schiller’s rationale for introducing paid search goes like this. People who want to get apps find them through searching: there are hundreds of millions of searches every week on the App Store. Two-thirds of downloads come via searches. If you want to advertise your app to people who are looking for your app, or something like it, where would you want to advertise?

Logic would suggest you’d do it right there, around search. But until Monday (when it starts in the US, in beta) that avenue hasn’t been available. So developers have resorted to all sorts of tactics – social media, plying reviewers with downloads in the hope of good reviews, paying reviewers for good reviews (on some of the scuzzier sites), buying ads that redirected to the App Store (which I think indirectly drove Apple’s introduction of content blockers), trying anything.

So Apple says: hey, stop spending your marketing money where you can’t be sure anyone will see your efforts. Instead, do it on the App Store, where you know they’re searching!

The mechanics are pretty much identical to Google’s AdWords (the mechanism that puts up ads against searches on Google). It’s an auction system, where the winner pays only what the second-highest bidder offered (so you bid $4, I bid $5, I win but pay $4), and pay-per-click – you only pay if someone does click. No minimum bid, no exclusivity.

“We look at it as giving every developer the chance to drive downloads through marketing,” Schiller said.

Meritocracy has been delayed

This, then, is Apple’s answer to developers’ and users’ repeated complaints that “search in the App Store is broken”. The basis of the complaint is that when you search for apps, you get too many junk results for apps that aren’t relevant, or are outdated/un-updated, or which are straight-up ripoffs.

In other words, there’s still no PageRank for app search. But that’s what people really, really want. Developers and users want a meritocracy; by going for paid ads, Apple is instead giving them an oligarchy.

Ahead of the call with Schiller, I contacted various developers, and some users on the Above Avalon Slack channel (you have to subscribe; totally worth it in my view). I didn’t say that Apple had any changes coming; instead I just asked what three things they’d like to see improved about the App Store ahead of WWDC.

Top of everyone’s list? “Better search”. But what do we mean by “better”?

When I pressed Dave Verwer (who runs the excellent iOS Dev Weekly list) on this, he admitted that

“search is hard. However Apple has a huge amount of data not only on the apps that we buy, but on those that we use, where we keep them on our device home screen. I’d love to see Apple personalise search results in order to provide customers with more relevant results.”

James Thomson (of PCalc and DragThing fame) was also in favour of “better search and discoverability”. But this is a motherhood and apple pie response. How do you do it?

“I’d like to see old apps that haven’t been updated in years gradually retired from the store. I don’t want to search for apps and find ones that won’t even run properly on the latest devices,” Thomson said. “I would (unscientifically) guess that over half the apps on the store are ancient and broken and if you cleared them out of the search results, that would improve matters enormously. I think paid search on keywords is a terrible idea for indie developers and will only benefit the big companies with deep pockets, rather than the users. It will make the playing field even less level. Search should return the best and most relevant results, not the results that have the biggest marketing budget.”

That last is the strongest point. Schiller told me that nobody will be allowed to buy out a keyword; and you can be sure that Apple will have learned from the experiences of Google, where rows over ads bought against trademarks have been many and vicious.

Even so, I wonder if Apple is quite prepared for it. I think policing ads for scam apps which put in fake metadata is going to be a giant effort in its own right.

What about users? David, a user on Above Avalon, put it like this:

“Discovery is the big thing I’d like. It’s just like Spotify – they have all the music, but I still just use my playlists I built some 6-7 years ago. Then they launched Discover Weekly – and finally it was a format where I could truly discover new music again. I feel like being sixteen again (I’m 32), finding bands and even entire genres.

“So if Apple managed to actually get me to download new apps that are not just “my bank released a new app for managing my index funds” or “this city council has their own parking meter app” – I think they and app developers would benefit. I rarely these days truly discover new things in the store. I doubt it is because new things aren’t released. They don’t even have to be new. Just new to me.”

Or ask Daniel Jalkut, another developer:

“I think for discovery, there is a great potential in tapping social trust networks. I know Apple is famous for “not getting social” but imagine if there were an incentive to both review and rate apps because people trusted your point of view, and there was some payoff in the form of fame or fortune? I think Amazon gets a bit of this in the fact you can rate reviewers and they get some kind of “top reviewer” status after a while.

“Similarly, what if I could click a little ‘trust’ icon next to Charles Arthur’s review byline, and from then out whenever I searched … for anything … apps you had rated well floated up? I would click the “trust” icon for friends whose tastes I share, prominent bloggers who I’ve seen thoughtfully review apps, and random strangers whose reviews and rating keyed into my same tastes. By having some kind of opt-in trust system, you would reduce the risks of gaming, because nobody could game their way into your trust network except by your approval.”

The rudiments of searching

As Bloomberg had already discovered that Apple was thinking about paid search, developers have had time to ponder what might happen. Marco Arment was unforgiving back in April:

Such a system would exacerbate much of the App Store’s dysfunction, disincentivizing improvements to organic search and editorial features while raising the cost of acquiring new customers above what many indie developers and business models can sustain.

But then he seemed to relent:

Assuming the system would be auction-based by keyword like Google AdWords, for less-contested keywords, marketing apps could become much easier. Buying a few good phrases could inexpensively put your app at the top of the list to help you get off the ground and start to seed organic growth.

More significantly, we could buy increased exposure to the most likely customers to buy our apps. More paid-up-front apps could become viable, and prices could rise.

What’s almost certain to happen is that the money that used to flow into social media campaigns and ads on various other media will instead flow to buying ads on the App Store. Apple thus will capture more of developers’ marketing budget. And (per the point above about the 65% of installs) it can argue that that’s as it should be. I would guess that Facebook and Google are likely to be the two who won’t be significantly hit. (Google might lose a little.) Ben Thompson says the same – Facebook will be fine. Update: Thompson backs that up with an excellent point: Google has offered paid app ads in Google Play for a year already, and that’s had no appreciable effect on Facebook’s app install revenues, even though Android has the larger number of downloads overall.

Just to reinforce that, one of the developers I spoke to said that they use Facebook to target people who they know will be interested in their games; the way it can deliver the ads to the right demographic works for them.

If Apple selling paid search ads skims off those scammy ads which take over mobile pages and dump you in the App Store – looking at you, deadline.com – then some publishers will lose out, but other and better ads can replace them.

What it isn’t: “better” search

This isn’t the PageRank for apps that people had been hoping for. But the problem is that despite so many people thinking and talking about the need for “PageRank for apps”, we still don’t seem to know what it looks like.

Is it downloads times activity? One developer I spoke to recalled a time when their app was downloaded millions of times in a single weekend; when they looked on the Monday, their app ranked in the late teens. “I may be biased, but I’d think we should be No.1, because we know people were using it,” they said. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Downloads? Rate of increase of downloads over a minimum? Activity per download? Apple can get all those numbers, as indeed do a number of the meta-services like AppAnnie.

I asked about this. Schiller replied that simply biasing search towards download numbers times activity, and not having ads, would mean that the big established players would remain. (Think of Instagram and Facebook.) There wouldn’t be a way for small apps to break through. There’s some truth in that, certainly. Perhaps there just isn’t a PageRank for apps. (Sameer Singh at App Annie reckons that Google Now on Tap, in Android 6.0, is going to turn into PageRank for apps, but thinks it’s “a few years out”. We’ll have to wait and see.)

The other stuff, with subscriptions, is potentially going to help a lot more companies achieve long-term business success: halving the take by Apple in the second year of a subscription is helpful. There’s no more data sharing, but at least there’s more money. Plenty will be happy with that, at least.

Another point to consider: how will this be done? I wondered if this will take an iOS update to achieve, since the App Store isn’t decoupled from iOS in the way that Google Play is from Android. Schiller demurred on this. There’s more to come at WWDC. The really amazing thing would be if Apple is going to decouple bits of iOS from the system apps, as Google does. That would be remarkable. But now I’m really speculating.

Finally, why announce this now? Schiller said it’s because there’s “so much” to come. Well, sure, but there always is; content blocking, which arguably is huge, wasn’t in the keynote speech (except as a line in a word cloud on one slide), and people only slowly came to realise how important that was during the week. Apple could, for example, have preannounced that. But didn’t.

No, I think that Apple saw how concerned people were about paid search ads when the Bloomberg story came out, and decided that rather than having the entire discussion post-keynote be about that, they would instead announce it formally, along with improved subscriptions and the already-happening “faster review”. Let the storm clear, and then move on.

Start up: the world in 2045, Apple’s App Store revamp, Magic Leap’s hat show, app downloads pause, and more

0

What would you put in a time capsule to remind the future of what it got from us? Photo by marcmoss on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Subscription-free (unless you’ve subscribed). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The world in 2045, according to DARPA • Tech Insider

Paul Szoldra:

»So what’s going to happen in 2045?

It’s pretty likely that robots and artificial technology are going to transform a bunch of industries, drone aircraft will continue their leap from the military to the civilian market, and self-driving cars will make your commute a lot more bearable.

But DARPA scientists have even bigger ideas. In a video series from October called “Forward to the Future,” three researchers predict what they imagine will be a reality 30 years from now.

Dr. Justin Sanchez, a neuroscientist and program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, believes we’ll be at a point where we can control things simply by using our mind.

“Imagine a world where you could just use your thoughts to control your environment,” Sanchez said. “Think about controlling different aspects of your home just using your brain signals, or maybe communicating with your friends and your family just using neural activity from your brain.”

«

I’d really prefer not to do that. Would that be OK?
link to this extract

 


Apple to launch major overhaul of App Store with paid search ads and subscription changes • The Telegraph

Hey, it’s by me:

»The iPhone maker Apple is revamping its App Store, with a surprise move to introduce paid search ads for apps, as well as a new subscription model and faster reviews before approval.

The move to introduce a single paid ad at the top of search results in the App Store, initially in the US, could prove controversial both with developers and users, who told The Telegraph that they would prefer to see better “organic” search results rather than paid ads.

«

Every one of the developers (and users) I contacted ahead of the announcement – without saying Apple had anything planned – told me they wanted “better search”. None said they wanted paid search ads. Is this Apple getting the disquiet out of the way early? (I think that the principal effect will be to pull revenue from other media – though probably not Facebook, because its targeting is better.)
link to this extract

 


Google will offer app developers the same revenue sharing terms Apple just announced — with one big advantage • Recode

Mark Bergen:

»On Wednesday, Apple detailed major shake-ups coming to its powerful app store. Those include a new revenue sharing model that would give developers more money when users subscribe to a service via their apps — instead of keeping 70% of all revenue generated from subscriptions, publishers will be able to keep 85% of revenue, once a subscriber has been paying for a year.

Now Google plans to up the ante at its app store: It will also move from a 70/30 split to 85/15 for subscriptions — but instead of requiring developers to hook a subscriber for 12 months before offering the better split, it will make it available right away.

«

Except it’s not saying when it will bring this in. (Probably soon.) Will this make a big difference to app revenue for developers from Google in real terms? I’d love to know how many subscriptions there are through Google Play. The obvious one would be music services; I doubt there are that many business services.
link to this extract

 


We’ve seen Magic Leap’s device of the future, and it looks like Merlin’s skull cap • The Guardian

Danny Yadron:

»The much-hyped startup Magic Leap – backed by Google, Warner Brothers, JPMorgan Chase and others – recently won a patent for the design of an augmented reality headset. The device, according to a report in Wired, would let users superimpose calendars, kids pictures or jellyfish over day-to-day life. So-called mixed reality or augmented reality is seen by many as consumer technology’s next big wave.

Magic Leap’s design patent, which was granted on Tuesday, could offer the first look at what some say may be the most revolutionary tech gadget in years. It could also illustrate a stubborn problem that’s been holding augmented reality back.

It’s hard to imagine looking cool while wearing the devices.
«

Point of order, Madam Speaker, the author has seen a sketch of the device, not the device itself. But those drawings are usually pretty close – it was for the Segway, for instance. And this does look super-dorky. (The Guardian prevents image embeds.)
link to this extract

 


Hacking the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV hybrid • Pen Test Partners

»What’s really unusual is the method of connecting the mobile app to the car. Most remote control apps for locating the car, flashing the headlights, locking it remotely etc. work using a web service. The web service is hosted by the car manufacturer or their service provider. This then connects to the vehicle using GSM to a module on the car. As a result, one can communicate with the vehicle over mobile data from virtually anywhere.

«

Much fun has ensued, with Mitsubishi po-facedly saying it “takes it very seriously”. Given that people can randomly disable your car alarm, that is good.

This recalls the hacking of the Nissan LEAF back in February, of course. That was more internet-based, but still poor security at its heart.
link to this extract

 


Are you bored with apps? Some of the biggest apps around are seeing downloads plummet • PhoneArena

Stephen S:

»for some reason, there seems to be a widespread trend where growth is seriously slowing down – and in many cases, declining – for all but the very most popular apps.

For big players like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter, app downloads are way down from last year’s figures. Some of those dips are are pushing upwards of 20% declines, representing millions of fewer downloads downloads each month.

Internationally the situation’s not particularly dire, and a good number of these apps are close to holding level, or even showing small growth. But there are definitely signs of a slowdown, especially among the big three of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger – all three are seeing download figures tank.

In the US, however, things are quickly going from bad to worse, with nearly all the biggest apps seeing major growth fallout.

“Nearly,” we say, because there are two big exceptions to this trend: Snapchat and Uber.

Both relatively new and with their stars still on the rise, they’re the only two big apps capturing major growth, both in the US and aboard.

«

There’s a slideshow too, which shows big slowdowns in many apps. But there’s a simple explanation: the number of people new to smartphones is diminishing very rapidly, and those who are joining are the ones who aren’t that interested in downloading apps. (Thanks @elvengrail for the link.)
link to this extract

 


On reading issues of Wired from 1993 to 1995 • The New Yorker

Anna Wiener:

»Today’s future-booster events, like the annual Consumer Electronics Show, tend to prize stories of novelty and innovation—and yet, reading early Wired, it becomes clear that many of the inventions that claim to be new today are simply extensions of what came before. A sidebar on Wacom’s ArtPad, from 1995—“If you’ve ever sketched with a pencil, you’ll be able to use ArtPad”—made me wonder why it took Apple so long to roll out its Pencil stylus for the iPad. A 1994 article on continuous voice recognition—a core component of responsive products, like Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri—effused, “IBM has some mondo hot technology on its hands here.” (Google, Microsoft, and Nuance Communications seem to have caught on since.) Early versions of 3-D printers, endless varieties of virtual-reality headsets, and remote-controlled, camera-laden helicopters abound. Perhaps the heart wants what it wants, and the heart has always wanted V.R., A.I., drones, and entertainment straight to the face.

In “Scenarios,” a special edition from 1995, the guest editor Douglas Coupland took it upon himself to compile a “reverse time capsule,” which he deemed “not a capsule directed to the future, but rather to the citizens of 1975.” What artifacts, he asked, “might surprise them most about the direction taken by the next 20 years?” Included in the capsule—alongside non-tech items such as a chunk of the Berlin Wall, Prozac, and a Japanese luxury sedan—were a laptop (“more power in your lap than MIT’s biggest mainframe”), an Apple MessagePad (“hand-held devices are replacing secretaries”), and a cellular phone. Scanning my apartment, I can spot progeny of all three.

«

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The web’s creator looks to reinvent it • The New York Times

Quentin Hardy:

»“It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites — that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create.”

So on Tuesday, Mr. Berners-Lee gathered in San Francisco with other top computer scientists — including Brewster Kahle, head of the nonprofit Internet Archive and an internet activist — to discuss a new phase for the web.

Today, the World Wide Web has become a system that is often subject to control by governments and corporations. Countries like China can block certain web pages from their citizens, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services hold powerful sway. So what might happen, the computer scientists posited, if they could harness newer technologies — like the software used for digital currencies, or the technology of peer-to-peer music sharing — to create a more decentralized web with more privacy, less government and corporate control, and a level of permanence and reliability?

«

I feel like I’ve heard this song before; file under “nice idea”. Berners-Lee is a big name, but getting a new technology to proliferate is much easier when there are barely any users of the rivals than when it has been established for decades.
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Yahoo lines up bids for about 3,000 patents • WSJ

Douglas Macmillan and Dana Mattioli:

»Yahoo Inc. has kicked off an auction for a portfolio of about 3,000 patents expected to fetch more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, the internet company sent letters to a range of potential buyers for the patents, which date back to Yahoo’s initial public offering in 1996 and include its original search technology, one of the people said.

Yahoo has set a mid-June deadline for preliminary bids, this person said, and hired Black Stone IP, a boutique investment bank that specializes in patent sales, to run the auction.

«

Meanwhile the auction for the core of Yahoo looks like it will go to Verizon for $3bn. Will the last person to leave Yahoo sell the light bulb?
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Fire Phone, two years later: Yes, a few people are still using Amazon’s ill-fated smartphone • GeekWire

Monica Nickelsburg:

»In the summer of 2015, Don Driscoll, an associate professor of physics at Kent State University, was ready to renew his Amazon Prime membership. He noticed Amazon’s Fire Phone was on sale for $130 and included a year of Prime. He decided to purchase the phone — which only cost $30 more than an annual Prime subscription — as a backup.

Later, when his LG Leon screen cracked, he switched to the Fire Phone and has been using it ever since.

“Why am I still using the Fire Phone? I guess I am just a cheapskate,” he said. “My family has stayed with T-Mobile for so long despite numerous coverage issues because it is cheap…The only thing stopping me from getting a new phone is cost.”

«

Neat idea to search out these users. Doesn’t stop it being a brick that gradually heated up, though.
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The Fiksu acquisition in four words: ‘it’s tough out there’ • AdExchanger

Allison Schiff and Sarah Sluis:

»In early 2015, Fiksu claimed a $100 million run rate for 2014, was reportedly planning to go public and said it was gearing up to nearly double its headcount to 500. But by March 2015 those plans had fizzled. The company scrapped its IPO dreams and announced that it would be laying off 10% of its existing 260-person workforce. (Headcount today stands at 119.)

The borrowed cash seems to have created a problem. As business slowed, the money went toward keeping the company afloat rather than sustaining growth.

In the end, Bridge Bank essentially owned Fiksu’s assets at the time of the sale to Noosphere, which bought Fiksu directly from Bridge Bank. Essentially, the bank had called in its loan and the result was what one source called an “ugly bank takeover.”

Fiksu declined to comment on specifics other than to say that it disputes this version of events.

Fiksu’s acquisition is “a symptom of companies in the space that have raised a lot of money and there is an investor community pressuring them for an exit or next steps,” said Kochava’s Manning.

«

Essentially it seems to be an “incentivised installs” company which ran aground; the app install market is facing a crunch.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: TeamViewer sorry for hack, UK allows encryption, Uber’s car gamble, Google v Oracle redux, and more

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. It’s the way of the world.

A selection of 10 links for you. Small print applies. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

TeamViewer: So sorry we blamed you after your PC was hacked • The Register

Shaun Nichols:

»Beleaguered remote support tool maker TeamViewer has apologized for blaming its customers for the recent spree of PC and Mac hijackings.

While TeamViewer maintains there was “no hack” on its end, public relations head Axel Schmidt told El Reg that the software house was sorry it used the term “careless” to describe folks who reused their TeamViewer passwords on other websites that had account logins stolen, such as LinkedIn and MySpace.

“What we intended to make clear is when you use a tool like TeamViewer you need to take extra care,” Schmidt added.

(Reg translation: Sorry we called you careless when you didn’t take care.)

Schmidt said a “significant” number of customers claimed they were compromised, judging by the number of support tickets filed. However, the affected users are an “incredibly small” portion of total customers, we’re told. He wouldn’t give an estimate on the total number of cases.

Late last week, TeamViewer pushed out new security protections designed to help stem a tide of attacks in which PCs were remotely hijacked and used to make fraudulent money transfers and purchases using their locally stored account credentials.

Schmidt said that development on the tools began weeks ago when the first reports of account thefts emerged, but the features did not make it in time to catch last week’s deluge of takeovers.

“I wish we would have released those features earlier,” the PR boss admitted, in what is possibly the understatement of the year.

«

Given that TeamViewer and its ilk are often used by the “Microsoft virus” scam calls gangs, this is even worse than it appears at first viewing.
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There’s now a robot that can check your bags at Geneva airport • Quartz

Mike Murphy:

»One of the most convenient changes in the modern era of air travel has been the ability to check in online, drop your bags at the counter, and stroll off to security, potentially without having to speak to a single human. But when everyone else started doing the same thing, the lines at check-in got shorter, but the drop-off line got longer.

SITA, a Swiss telecoms firm specializing in the air transport industry, working in parternship with robotics firm BlueBotics, has a solution: Autonomous robots that check your bags at the curb.
SITA’s robot, called Leo, is being tested at Geneva Airport, the company said in a release late last month. To use the bot, passengers with luggage tap a few buttons on Leo’s touchscreen, scan their boarding passes, drop their bags in its cargo bay, and affix the luggage tags that Leo prints out. The bot then closes up its cargo area—so that no one can tamper with your bag while it’s in transit—and drops the bags off at a loading station, where a human drops the bags on a conveyor belt to be scanned and loaded onto the correct plane.

«

I worked on a focus group of sorts considering what an (extremely large) airport for 2030 might look like. One of the questions we wrestled with was why you should have to drag your bags along to the airport. Why not check them in at your hotel back in the city, or somewhere else? If you’re trying to plant bombs, they’ll either be found or not, but that’s not affected by where the bag is checked in.
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Inside Uber’s auto-lease machine, where almost anyone can get a car • Bloomberg

Eric Newcomer and Olivia Zaleski:

»[Uber’s short-term lease offering] Xchange isn’t intended to be a moneymaker, said an Uber spokesman. But it has plenty of critics who accuse the company of looting the pockets of its drivers. The program is plagued by a lot of questions that surround other subprime lending programs aimed at risky borrowers with bad credit. Is Xchange really offering good deals? Does it ensnare drivers with commitments they can’t meet? “You can buy the car for what they’re charging you in weekly payments,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal-finance website Bankrate.com. But for many drivers who sign up with Xchange, it’s their only option.

The terms of an Xchange lease run 28 pages. Drivers pay a $250 upfront deposit and then make weekly payments to Uber over the course of the three-year life of the lease. As the video promoting the arrangement puts it: “The best part: Payments are automatically deducted from your Uber earnings.” At the end of three years, Uber keeps the $250 deposit to release the drivers from the lease. If they want to buy it, they’ll need to fork over the residual value of the car, which could run many thousands of dollars. Uber declined to provide an average figure.

«

Sub-prime, sub-optimal.
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Artificial intelligence will make advertising obsolete • Medium

Rob Leathern:

»The job of a human assistant is far less prevalent today than it once was, but still widespread among senior individuals in the corporate world. One reason for that, as laid out in an HBR article in 2011, is the economics of an assistant who works for a highly-paid individual:

»

Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo — for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek. In reality, good assistants save their bosses much more than that.

«

The author correctly concludes that “After years of cutting back, companies can boost productivity by arming more managers with assistants.” There should and will not only be work for more human assistants, but also, a lot more software AI “bots”.

These AI bots will probably have a lower tolerance for deceptive practices, won’t be responding to those SEO emails, and will learn based on the ongoing feedback we provide to them (and will learn some fractional amount based on what other users are telling their software ‘cousins’ filling similar roles).

The future is about filters, and though ad blocking and spam filters might be where it begins, artificially intelligent software agents and AI bots are where it’s going.

«

Did I mention that Leathern used to work in advertising?
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Google’s text messaging strategy: try everything • The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

»In messaging, Google has very long race ahead of it, and in many ways it’s already been lapped by multiple competitors. But when you make the dominant mobile operating system on the planet, dropping out of the race isn’t really an option.

Instead, Google is just betting on as many horses as it can and doing its best to whip them into catching up. Google has so many messaging strategies because it doesn’t have an option that’s an easy win: there’s a next-gen SMS standard, its own messaging app, and a (somewhat plaintive and naive) hope that it could convince other companies to agree to interoperation.

So it wasn’t a surprise to see that, at the end of a wide-ranging interview with Google CEO Sundar Pichai by our own Walt Mossberg at Code 2016, messaging came up. And here’s what we learned: if you were hoping that Google was going to swoop in and keep you from having eight different messaging apps scurried away in a folder, you should probably stop.

«

That’s pretty much it. Google is going to support as many standards as it needs to until one wins out.
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Apple’s encryption looks safe as UK Commons passes spy bill • Bloomberg

Jeremy Kahn:

»The U.K. House of Commons on Tuesday passed a controversial bill giving spy agencies the power to engage in bulk surveillance and computer hacking, but ceded some ground to protests from the technology industry and civil liberty groups.

The bill, which was introduced by the Conservative Party-led government in March after modifications to address concerns from tech companies and privacy advocates, passed by a vote of 444 to 69. Most of the opposition Labour Party voted with the conservative majority to advance the bill to the House of Lords, while the opposition Scottish National Party, citing concerns about privacy and civil rights, voted against it.

Many of the surveillance techniques – such as scooping up the metadata of communications and using malware to gain access to the computers and mobile phones of terrorism suspects – have already been in use by U.K. spy agencies and the law now gives them explicit authority…

…The version of the bill passed Tuesday makes clear that companies aren’t required to build backdoors to their encryption and will only be required to remove such code in response to a government request if doing so is technically feasible and not unduly expensive.

«

Everyone else’s encryption is safe too, but whatever.
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Why plan sponsors need professional (independent) advice • The Big Picture

»I went on to share the recent story from Bloomberg BNA News (October 30, 2015) on class action lawsuit directed at the Intel 401k Investment Committee – specifically addressing changes made by that IC which were so poorly conceived, expensive, and probably inappropriate per regulatory standards as to give the members of that Investment Committee a lot of sleepless nights. And it should…the story is a cautionary tale.

In a span of less than four years the Intel Investment Committee took the plans investment options and changed them by a magnitude of 10 fold, taking $50m of “Alternative Investments” and raising that amount almost $700m in just a few years. Worse, they (the investment committee) ‘directed’ that these expensive and not exactly appropriate ‘securities’ be added to the seemingly vanilla Target Date Funds that they themselves designed.

Did Intel plan participants truly – rank & file workers – understand what was under the hood of those Target Date Funds? As the complaint states, the Investment Committee “invested a significant portion of the plans’ assets in risky and high-cost hedge funds and private-equity investments.”

«

For non-American readers, 401Ks are basically retirement/pension funds. If Intel, which has just laid a ton of people off, is shifting those into risky assets, you have to ask how assured the payouts to thousands of people recently laid off is going to be.
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Google’s new iOS app Motion Stills stabilizes your Live Photos • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Google today announced the launch of Motion Stills, a new iOS app that takes your existing Live Photos made with an iOS device — essentially several frames automatically captured before and after you hit the camera app’s shutter button — and stabilizes them in order to make shareable GIFs and video clips.

The app is available today on the App Store. But Google may well end up adding the technology into its other applications, like the Google Photos cloud-based photo storage app, Ken Conley and Matthias Grundmann of the Google Research Machine Perception team wrote in a blog post.

The app works offline, and you don’t need to sign in to any service in order to use it — just give the app permission to access the photos on your device and you’re good to go.

«

Live Photos has never quite hit the spot for me. Possibly it’s an age demographic thing. I turned it off; now I have lots of stills.
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Silicon Valley has a “problem” problem — Life learning • Medium

Riva-Melissa Tez:

»Some 800 million people across the globe have limited access to food or water. That’s about one in nine people on the planet. Now, that’s a problem. The lack of affordable housing and support for San Francisco’s poorest communities remains a problem. It’s a socially harmful situation that needs to be dealt with and overcome. Our healthcare systems are riddled with such complex problems that even huge sums of capital cannot resolve even basic first-principle issues. Our financial systems cripple society with the psychological gamification of credit that leads to mass debt.

Not knowing if you can get sushi delivered at 10pm to your exact location is not a problem. Not knowing where the nearest dry cleaner is, exactly, is not a problem either. Recognizing these obstacles or inconveniences and being able to avoid them are privileges — a special right enjoyed as a result of one’s socioeconomic position. They are perks that enable us to further our level of highly efficient living.

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Why Oracle will win its Java copyright case – and why you’ll be glad when it does • The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

»why is the jury’s broad application of fair use in reality bad news for open source? How did Google win last week? And why will Oracle ultimately prevail? Let’s take these three questions in reverse order. And strap in for the ride: The Register is not responsible for any disorientation or cognitive dissonance experienced over the next two pages.

Oracle will ultimately prevail over Google for a very simple reason: Google is guilty. Google copied 11,000 lines of someone else’s copyrighted code without a license to do so. It could have chosen some other code to copy; or it could have obtained a license; or it could have not copied anything and created every single line of Android code from scratch. All three were options that Google didn’t take. It’s really as simple as that.

So on to the next question. How is this verdict bad for open software, when almost everything you’ve read insists that you reach the opposite conclusion?

«

Sure, you’re thinking “Andrew Orlowski is just being contrarian”. Except for this: Peter Bright, who isn’t particularly contrarian (in my experience; argumentative perhaps) has pretty much the same view.

Also, it does feel like the appeals court will rule for Oracle rather than Google. Though at this point there’s a sort of numbness around the whole issue, as though one had been beating one’s head against a wall repeatedly.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Donald v Hillary. Ain’t that something.